Friday, March 31, 2006

Reunions

Over the last few weeks, I've had some pleasant reunions with people I haven't seen in some time. One friend Mark, left Manila last year, and came back on a business trip last month. It was lovely to catch up and we met his partner (Mark is truly in love, and glows to prove it) over dessert. Then a former schoolmate got in touch and we have had a few dinners again. Last weekend he joined our group on a day dive in Anilao. Probably the nicest reunited moment was seeing a former Alliance Francaise classmate of mine, strangely enough she hasn't moved and I just lost her contact numbers. So tomorrow we are having breakfast in Salcedo Market. I'm looking forward to hearing all her news, plus I hope she still bakes cookies!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Foresaking penguins for the sake of music and travel

A good friend lent me her DVD of March of the Penguins, a movie I've been dying to watch since it was released last year. I'd prefer to see it in an IMAX theatre, but a free viewing is better than nothing. She mentioned that the extra features were also worth a look-see. Last night was my planned Penguins night.

After getting home and having a quick ham and arugula sandwich for dinner, I turned the telly on, and got hooked on American Idol. Last night's show had the remaining contestants singing songs from the 1950's, and some of the songs are favorites of mine. But few of the contestants sang the songs with much panache. The one performance I fully enjoyed was Chris, the bald rocker dude, who sang I Walk the Line. It was the only rendition I fully enjoyed. Ace's whiny over the pop schtick ruined In the Still of the Night. I texted friends to ask why Ace is still around and all they could tell me is that he's got a nice smile.

Luckily the night's viewing improved when I found myself in the middle of the 4th episode of the Amazing Race. I'm glad the format has returned to the pairs, as I'm sure so many fellow race fans have mentioned. The hippies are a joy to watch, and although they get on my nerves, I'm glad Fran and Barry are still in it. I hope the nerds pick up the pace a little. I'm just annoyed that the jocks keep winning or staying at the top of the pack, and am disturbed by Lake/Michelle's improved standing. Haven't these people learned after 8 seasons that being ugly Americans doesn't help win the race? The mix of personalities does make the show more fun to watch, and you can't help but root for those you hate to mess up.

By the time I caught the first half of the race on another channel then the next episode of CSI followed by some decorating tips from Nate on Oprah, my penguin plans were long gone. Will it be tonight?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thai tasting, a long night's slog

After weeks of trying to get a band of eaters together, I finally made it out to Som's on Algier St, near Rockwell. Recommended by a number of bloggers/divers/friends, I met up with two friends for a long night out of al fresco dining (complimentary diesel fumes).

Fine dining, Som's is not. It's a makeshift canteen the owners opened up in the front of their home. The neighborhood is residential, back of a long row of restaurants facing Rockwell Drive/Kalayaan Extension. According to one of my fellow eaters, the place has been around for years, as the owner/chef is a transplanted Thai chef, formerly of Sukothai restaurant, married to a Filipina (I wonder how many restaurants are set up in that same pattern: foreigner married to Pinay, opens up restaurant? I imagine a lot in this country.). Som's is the name of their child, but we weren't sure if we met the namesake that night.

We arrived before 7:30 and we were one of three tables occupying the raised sidewalk cum eating terrace. By 10 p.m., there were additional tables set up on the street and a good rate of takeout orders filled. On a Monday night too.

I had been told to order the curries and the ice tea. We also tried the tom yum, the phad thai, and one of the fried rice with shrimp and basil. Other dishes on the menu included a good number of noodle soups, chicken in oyster sauce, spring rolls, and fried tofu. The most expensive dish was P70, so you can eat a lot here and not spend a great deal.

Of our choices, the curries were a hit, I enjoyed both the green and the red, although I'll follow the tip to ask for it extra spicy next time. The Shrimp fried rice with basil was an odd combination of whole shrimp with basil in an onion slathered sauce with a scoop of white rice (not fried at all) and a fried egg on top. And the phad thai used egg noodles or some other rice noodle, not the flat noodles usually used for the dish. It was also strangely orange with not that much in terms of tofu/legumes/shrimp or peanuts. Not one of the better dishes.

I'd like to see more green vegetable choices, but knowing an inexpensive and tasty curry is available makes Soms a good place to return to. Note to self: wear pants or bring Off Lotion next time.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A book from the bin, 'bout baboons

National Bookstore in Cubao has a floor dedicated to their overflowing inventory. You scan through the bins and shelves and wonder why they decided to buy too many copies of How to Be A Cattle Rancher or Culture Shock for Dummies. Do they learn from their mistakes or figure that when it's time to cull these gems from their outlets, they'll find a special audience from those bookworms who visit Cubao.

I've gone there a few times, usually with a good friend who has a "To Be Read" list in the thousands of books. She combines the best of a bookaholic and a shopaholic. We get her updated tbr list every quarter to help her get through the list, as they tend to overtake her life a bit.

On my last visit, I came across a book called A Primate's Memoirs, by Robert Sapolsky. It lay on my bookshelf for a few weeks before I finally got around to reading it and within a few pages it has become a major part of my favorite reads of all time. I can see myself reading, laughing, and crying over Dr. Sapolsky's stories for years to come.

He writes of the nearly 20 years he spent in Kenya documenting the stress hormones of baboons. He shares his favorite stories about the baboons, detailing characteristics, quirks, social and anti-social behaviors. Every other chapter or so, he also shares his life with the tribes like the Masai, travelling around Eastern Africa, and his personal relationships with people who impact his life over those learning years. If Bill Bryson were a bio-psychologist and learned how to dart primates, then he'd be Dr. Sapolsky.

Laura Hillenbrand made me fall in love with race horses, especially Seabiscuit; now Robert Sapolsky has enamored my senses with his tales of living out in Africa with baboons. Books that get under your skin like that deserve to be on any favorite books list.

How to clean

Living solo is a lovely thing. Peace and quiet, no one to bug you about leaving dirty dishes in the sink, leaving personal messes all over the place, vacuuming ala Melanie Griffith in Working Girl (can't do it in stilettos though, the pain!). Or not cleaning for weeks if one can stand it.
However, I can't stand it for more than one week. Usually, my allergies (dust) tell me that it's time to get the broom, the duster, and the vacuum ready. Cleaning day is here!
Over the few months, I've picked up a few personal favorites in the cleaning arena. I like using Domex for general kitchen and bathroom surfaces. I like the multi-purpose nature of it all, grime, soot, muddy foottracks, mold, all flora and some er fauna that shouldn't be found in a modern day kitchen and bathroom, all attended to by one trusty bottle. Even when the floor isn't that dirty, but I just need to feel like the house is germ free, I get a bucket of water and cleanser ready for a 30 minute death to germy attack.
I also found a cheaper version to Swiffer, same idea with the flat duster with attacheable dust clothes. The dust clothes only cost P70 a pack from the NBC tent bazaar, unlike the more expensive version in supermarkets and hardware stores. As I stocked up last year, I'm not sure if the supplier still sells them for P70 a pack, so I guess I'd better plan to pay more for my next supply. I LOVE dustwipes, they pick up anything and the dust doesn't go flying around, especially up my nose where I start sneezing and wheezing. I use them to wipe the screens, window sills, doorknobs, all surfaces where dust will settle. I just wish Manila wasn't so dusty. I don't remember dusting this much in some parts of China.
And for all the other particles that just won't be dusted or washed out, I turn to the vacuum. Rather, my housemate's vacuum. Lucky for me, my housemate is rarely at home so I can feel like I'm living alone, but paying half what I'd be spending if I were living alone. His vacuum has lots of attachments and bits, which I rarely use. Give me the basic option which picks up all the nonsense that gets into the crevices and nooks. Even on a non-carpet floor, it's good to have a vacuum to suck out all the dustbunnies that grow in the dark.
A recent article I found in Real Simple magazine spoke about cleaning strategies like setting a timer so you feel motivated. My motivation's up my nose, when I can't breathe without sneezing, then I know it's time to turn into Charlady Warrior Princess.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Johari Window

Arena

(known to self and others)

intelligent

Blind Spot

(known only to others)

adaptable, bold, dependable, independent, knowledgeable, mature, self-assertive, sensible

Fa├žade

(known only to self)

idealistic, quiet, shy, tense

Unknown

(known to nobody)

able, accepting, brave, calm, caring, cheerful, clever, complex, confident, dignified, energetic, extroverted, friendly, giving, happy, helpful, ingenious, introverted, kind, logical, loving, modest, nervous, observant, organised, patient, powerful, proud, reflective, relaxed, religious, responsive, searching, self-conscious, sentimental, silly, spontaneous, sympathetic, trustworthy, warm, wise, witty

Dominant Traits

100% of people think that Watergirl is knowledgeable
100% of people think that Watergirl is mature

All Percentages

able (0%) accepting (0%) adaptable (50%) bold (50%) brave (0%) calm (0%) caring (0%) cheerful (0%) clever (0%) complex (0%) confident (0%) dependable (50%) dignified (0%) energetic (0%) extroverted (0%) friendly (0%) giving (0%) happy (0%) helpful (0%) idealistic (0%) independent (50%) ingenious (0%) intelligent (50%) introverted (0%) kind (0%) knowledgeable (100%) logical (0%) loving (0%) mature (100%) modest (0%) nervous (0%) observant (0%) organised (0%) patient (0%) powerful (0%) proud (0%) quiet (0%) reflective (0%) relaxed (0%) religious (0%) responsive (0%) searching (0%) self-assertive (50%) self-conscious (0%) sensible (50%) sentimental (0%) shy (0%) silly (0%) spontaneous (0%) sympathetic (0%) tense (0%) trustworthy (0%) warm (0%) wise (0%) witty (0%)

Created by the Interactive Johari Window on 15.3.2006, using data from x respondents.
You can make your own Johari Window, or view watergirl's full data.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Student visa orientation in April and May

The press releases will be out soon, but I thought I'd scoop myself on this. My office will hold a US student visa orientation on April 1 and May 6, both Saturday mornings, for all and sundry. Speakers will be from the US Embassy's visa section, and we'll have homemade brownies and coffee.

Email me for details.

Office bonding for the month

At the start of the year, our organization's fearless leader decided that we would hold a monthly gift exchange, very much like an extended Secret Santa. We then came up with a list of the gift themes per month. As March heralds St. Patrick's Day, we chose green, but with a twist. I am now wracking my brain to figure out a gift, P50 or more, that is green + long! I've thought of scarves, ties, vegetables, but honestly, what I'd like is to find a gift I've stored away for recycling to pop up out of the blue, perfectly suited for the occasion.

I am a gift recycler. I dare anyone to say they are not. It started in 2000 when I began unloading all my 30 years of accumulated junk, selling off books, clothes, trivial things that take up space. Each year, when I receive gifts for birthdays and other events, I think of who I can pass it on to, as it's not going to be something I'd keep. I gave up a Palmpilot at one point. And I think the only thing I wouldn't give up is a free airplane ticket or something involved in travelling. Sometimes I feel like a middleman, sorting through gifts and deciding where one bit will end up, who it would suit, and making sure the gift doesn't go back to the same person (probably the hardest part. Always, ALWAYS, double check the first few pages of a book for inscriptions and love notes.).

I will spend the day checking for a requisite greenish/longish gift, then if all else fails, head to the stores for some leeks.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Browniesicecreambrowniesicecream ad nauseum plus musings

Did you ever have a day when you get sick of the smell of sugar? When you feel it's coming out of your pores, oozing out of every orifice?

That happens when you spend the day baking, and then eating what you've baked. In my case, it was making too many batches of brownies, testing the recipe until I found one I really liked, then doing another set for friends, and eating it with more chocolate and ice cream. Honestly, I was a walking sugar bomb by the day's end.

I won't scoop a fellow blogger on something she put me on track to last Saturday, but I got to try a new local ice cream maker and it was fab! Check out DessertFirst blog in the next few weeks to read all about the ice cream sensation.

Afterwards, I'll be on a no-sugar zone for a few weeks. Maybe a no carb zone. Oy.

Review: had dinner with friends at Behrouz over at Metrowalk. Prices were reasonable and the kebabs were decent. However, the owners need to update the restaurant innards (to use another blogger's favorite term). The walls need a new lick of paint, the seat upholstery needs to be overhauled, and the waitresses look slatternly. Even the menus look like they need to be dusted off for reprints. For the amount of food we had, and the price, we shouldn't have had to deal with the canteen atmosphere.

Am half-happy, half-bummed with the Oscars this year. I'm relieved that Ang Lee won the Best Director award. He should have won it for Crouching Tiger! I'm sad that Brokeback Mountain didn't win the best picture award, however, it was heavily hinted at the pre-show that something was in the works. It wasn't as big a surprise, I was far more taken aback when Roman Polanski won Best Director a few years ago.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Re-lent

Growing up, there were certain things I had to do during Lent: go to mass on Ash Wednesday to get my forehead marked with charcoal, give up something I liked (usually sweets or chocolates or food that made me happy) for 40 days, buy the palm to wave at the priest on Palm Sunday, trek around Manila to get our 14 churches pilgrimage on Maundy Thursday, try to sleep in on Good Friday because there wasn't anything good on tv anyway unless my mother strapped us in front of the tv to listen to the 7 Last Words, then look forward to ice cream cake on Easter Sunday. Year after year, that was my commitment to the faith, and it gave my life some form of structure and discipline which, I must admit, it sadly lacks these days.

Now, I am older, not necessarily wiser (more sarcastic though), and I have cast off religious convictions. No more Sunday masses, no more tithes, no more communion services. I don't find myself torn if I don't confess my sins to some anonymous male voice who tells me to say the Holy Mary 100 times for wanting to lobotomize my older brother when I grow up. The penalties for modern life don't seem too guilt-ridden these days, and I can breathe freely, except when on Edsa.

There will be as much sugar, meat and such over the next few weeks as I want or need. And when it gets too hot to even think about walking around churches, I will suffer inside with the aircondition on, reading about baboons (an amazing book I just picked up, reviews to come).

Faith is not about the structure and the frou-frou of palms, incense and atonement, it's about something that is planted and sown inside you by your parents, teachers, religious leaders, and the community. My seed withered away and I have not replanted it.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies