Saturday, September 29, 2007

Saturday notes

Dodging rain bullets outside (typhoon Hannah is in our vicinity, but she will not hit Manila directly); rainy mornings are soporific. Barely made it out this morning, not that it was that encouraging for any outdoor activity, but the bills have to be paid and promises kept.

Back at home, I clean up my feline companion's litter box and find the backyard full of pots filled to the brim with water. Dengue Alert! I spend the next 30 minutes draining every potential mosquito condo development and make sure the drain spout is clear of obstruction. It's a good idea to check on this more than once a month since mozzies aren't picky about where to lay their eggs.

I tuck into a sandwich, coldcuts and cheese. Tasted the beef sausage from Mickey's, a new deli. You can tell that they make their sausages by hand, based on the uneven sizes of the sausages. The taste is a bit overly salty, but paired with pickles and vegetables, a decent late lunch.

For dinner, I decide to make or toss together a sesame noodle dish. For more precise instructions, there are tons of recipes online, but I'm doing what I do best: check what I've been keeping in my refrigerator and cupboard, see if I can make something out of something (honestly, where does the line make something out of nothing even make sense?). I find a questionable sesame vinaigrette that's been in the ref for sometime (sniffed it and found it to be in good shape). A couple of plugs from that in a mixing bowl, a tablespoon of chunky peanut butter, a glug of soy sauce, several shakes of indonesian chilli sauce, take a taste, find some white vinegar for additional texture, and pour over reconstituted noodles (ramen do fine, but if you have canton noodles, or linguine, or chinese egg noodles, actually any noodle that is long/stringy does the trick). Ah wait! I find a bottle of minced ginger, toss half a teaspoon in. Mix. Taste. Freshly grated black pepper. Good cold or hot, but no matter. It's perfect for a quiet night. Me, my noodles, and a book.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Final frontier

Take one salmonella bacteria, dress it in blue body suit, red briefs, and paste a big S on it's chest, don't forget the cape! Look! Up in the atmosphere! It's a chicken, no it's an egg, no it's SuperBug!

Scientists tested what happens when you take bacteria, salmonella to be exact, up into space, give it something to chew on, then bring it home and test it's virulence on lab mice. The result: the mice infected with space raider salmonella got sicker, faster, and deadlier than mice infected with earthborne bugs. Ay caramba, Mickey Mouse and Minney got sick!

So now what? Whither man goeth, so doth the bugth. If we dream of eventually colonizing Pluto, or whatever took it's place in the line of planets, we're sure to bring along our dregs. And I'm not talking certain politicos, but basic one or two cell organisms that love to break us down to our mortal coils. Just like Captain Cook brought forth the destruction of the dodo bird, when we head up and outward, we're likely to expand the nature and power of our wonderfully symbiotic bugs and viruses.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First of many

The New York Times first food review was published on New Year's Day 1859, with a byline "Strong-minded Reporter of the times" - anonymous food critics at the very start. I found the long essay to be a great insight into NYC life then, plus wonderfully humorous, rather Wodehousian in tone. The pathway for Craig Claiborne, Ruth Reichl, and Frank Bruni, et al was born.


A week's gone by. What have I to show for it?

A "Tuscan" dinner with friends last Wednesday. The food was decent but not outstanding, the wine seemed to taste all the same except for the sparkling rose, but strangest bit of all was the lack of presentation of the sponsor's discussion points. They spent time setting up a lcd/computer, and a large screen, but I doubt anyone in our side of the room paid any mind to it. Why didn't the sponsor keep us in the alcove where we had been sipping the spritzers and munching on salty nuts and talk to us there? Why did they think that it was better to "plug" their products while no one was listening? Marketer's head on a plate I say.

Long business meetings that last 3 hours or more do not make sense. Especially when the agenda talking points look suspiciously like the ones at the last meeting a month back.

Roasted chestnuts, shelled, packed in little bags of 100g each look like a great convenience, a healthy option. But when they turn out to be the source of 3 hours of toilet time, it's time to find another option. I missed out on a lunch for a friend (a lunch I ORGANIZED for her); but no way was I going to survive a trek outdoors in that condition. I am blessed to have friends who care enough to drop off a six-pack of Gatorade for a dying friend (hehehe, teensy exag).

Speaking of friendship, there are friends who you can count on to nourish you, and there are reasons to cut certain friends out of one's life. When someone disrespects you, why keep them around? I'm too old to be paying court to everyone, pick and choose those who make one's day a joy, not a stressful mess. Faretheewell.

Tsinelas, flipflops. I have two pairs for the house. One I've used for shuffling around the house and for use in the bathroom, the other I got as backup. Yesterday, at the US embassy fair, I found myself another pair. Didn't plan to buy one. And it's definitely an inessential purchase. For P100.00 (or $2.20), I bought a pair of black tsinelas with a cute row of sequins and beads along the strap. Why would I need to pay hundreds of pesos more for brandname rubber slippers when inexpensive alternatives exist? Would have been even more sense, money-wise, if I had trekked down to Quiapo, where I could probably find 3 or 4 tsinelas for the price I paid yesterday. But they served their purpose. I had been walking the bazaar hall for two hours, my footsies hurt, and changing to the cutely embellished flipflops kept me going for another 2 hours of shopping. Priceless.

Oh and I bought a rattan chair.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Apocalypse tomorrow

The World Without Us by Alen Weisman looks at what will happen if humans die out. Think homo sapiens on the extinct list. Without us, as the book describes in great detail, nature regains control, and Mr. Weisman plots out who wins supremacy or survives. If you believe that in the event of a nuclear war the only creature that would make it out of the bomb shelter are roaches, well. read on and take a new perspective of our synergistic relationship with la cucaracha. You might feel sorry for squishing one the next time ... probably not.

What saddened me, but was understandable, was that our domestic animals with the exception of cats, would turn into prey for larger, more instinctive predators that don't expect a handout from a canned or boxed food item. All those crazy dog coats and boots? Ditch 'em! Teach your dog how to live in the wild!!! Give them survival training! Stop coloring their hair pink, silly billies.

On the website related to the book , you can also watch the eventual timeline of what happens to a city or to one's house after it's no longer being kept up. I found it a bit odd that it takes 40 years for mushrooms and fungi to start growing back in profusion, maybe because in the rainy season, it doesn't take long for those tiny white caps to sprout on the root of my front yard tree. And at the 400th year, when the house has collapsed back into the fold, they could have added a bit more foliage. Still looked a bit too urban for my taste.

Naturally, plastic will be around for more than a millenia or two. The microbes that will mutate to break down plastic into its basic petroleum and chemical elements need a hundred thousand years to develop and build a taste for plastic. So, cockroaches may not be the king of the world, but plastic will keep our legacy alive for any aliens who plan to land on our blue planet in 74000 AD.

Sans - wich

Does a sandwich have to be made of bread? Would you call it a sandwich if it were between waffles or pancakes? Isn't a quesadilla simply a grilled cheese sandwich (and fixings) "sandwiched" between two tortilla shells?

A query about what makes a sandwich is posted on Serious Eats today, from a post that includes a picture of a potato-ham sandwich open faced sandwich on a waffle. I guess no one bothered to send a photo and review of the pancake-sausage sandwich at Jollibee recently.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Spendthrift September. Not.

Shopping opportunities this September:

Tru is on sale at Rockwell (2nd floor, Lifestyle section). Stylish handbags, subdued, no loud brand label, and real leather. Up to 70% off.

Furnitalia at Fort Bonifacio has a 5 day furniture sale. I haven't bought furniture in years, and cannot say whether this will be worth an effort to visit.

Brother's Burger is having an anniversary sale, 50% off their pounder on September 14.

Bazaar at the Intercon this weekend, a friend suggested checking out "couture cookies", and other girly items.

NBC tent will be packed this weekend. Same old same old. But for outlet items, time to start planning the stocking stuffers for the holiday season.

Aroomatherapy at Legaspi Sunday market (every Sunday, 8 to 3 pm) has a sale on their fragrances this month. I like their vanilla mist, and the olive spritz.

The US Embassy is holding its annual (semi-annual?) fund raising bazaar at the World Trade Center on September 22, Saturday. According to a friend, there will be more vendors than previous years. Wear comfortable clothes and walking shoes.

Toast, the wine festival, is holding dinners and wine tastings all through the end of September. Likewise, Sommelier Selection sent out emails about a Food and Wine Festival, which doesn't state the date, but did say "Reserve by September 30" - would someone at SS please resend with the date of the event? Merci.

Any other suggestions for spending money this month?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Crime and punishment

A perfect crime is one that is never discovered, and will never need to be solved. Robberies are hard to miss. Eventually, the item/s being salted away will be noticed or the sum of money discovered. Murder, however, may go unnoticed. Only the loss of someone's presence would lead others to ask and perhaps investigate the cause of their disappearance.

In European news, a Polish writer has been thrown in jail for murder. He was found out based on a book he wrote, which was close enough to the actual events of the murder leading the investigators to the author's door. What egotism on the writer to indulge in a crime and then profit from it by writing and selling the story.

My morbid streak is partly fed by a steady stream of mystery novels, which began in my childhood with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Ngaio Marsh, and any young adult series that centered around detection and mystery (Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Bobbsey twins, etc). As a twelfth birthday present, my father gave me the complete Sherlock Holmes collection, a book I still keep, albeit taped together after years or reading again and again. I've read a good number of European mystery writers' work, and a fair share of American ones. I haven't found a cache of Asian mysteries yet, and should probably do my bit for the local literary economy by trying out a pinoy detective series (do they exist?). All I want is a sound plot, dead body or two, ambience that is gothic worthy and either a plucky detective or someone who is full of angst and humanity.

Saturday, September 08, 2007


As a bookish child (and adult) my school library was my shelter, refuge, harbor. In the elementary building, we had a seperate library that contained all of Andrew Lang fairy color fairy tale books, the Black horse series by Farley, countless books on animals, stories on witches and warlocks, worlds that lived in our imagination.

When I moved up to Middle School and High School, we were introduced to the larger library, a two story level repository, where I soon found more wonderful stories like Desiree, Beauty (by R. McKinley), the gothic side of Louisa May Alcott, and the books by Madeleine L'Engle. A Wrinkle in Time and the Austin series were all at one time or another borrowed, read, reborrowed, and enjoyed with happy memories. She tied in fantasy with science fiction, however they didn't seem too difficult to read or too fantastical. They were about families who loved and fought, daughter saving her dad, moms caring for the kids. Normal everyday things we do, but with added dimensions and extra-sensory powers thrown in. Ms. L'Engle was a believer in science and introduced theory of relativity to her work, but never made it overbearing in the stories. I recently found out that her books are considered contentious and controversial among many conservative societies, and A Wrinkle in Time was or may still be on the banned books list.

Ms. L'Engle died at the age of 88 last Thursday.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Music, lights, puppets!

Quick, what images come to mind when I say PUPPET? Do you see Sesame Street? Muppets? The Lonely Goatherd from Sound of Music ("those were marionettes not puppets!")? Sherri the Lamb? Candice Bergen's father and his ventriloquist act? Maybe it's time to update your mental paradigms. And if you like Broadway musicals, award winning ones at that, then it's time to head to the Carlos P. Romulo Theater at the RCBC Plaza in Makati for the latest Atlantis Productions performance of AVENUE Q!

The plot of Avenue Q is spotted with the urban grittiness of Big Apple living. However, many of the themes are downright hometime hokey: it’s a boy who loves a girl, she loves him, but he’s trying to find purpose in life (what a schmuck). There’s a boy who loves his roommate, but can’t tell him, so ends up throwing him out of the apartment. There’s a monster who knows the basic truths in life (sex and money), but is misunderstood. And there’s Gary Coleman.

The show and the music are an experience and one doesn’t want to spoil any of the plotlines. So let’s share some highlights: look out for the wonderful performances that make you pause and think "am I reacting to the puppet or the actor?", the darn good singing from most of the cast (a few weak links won’t spoil the broth except for the overly picky), moments of feeling transported back to childhood/young adulthood/actually most of life’s roller coaster moments throughout the show, and laughter that won't stop till that last encore. With a few exceptions, the songs are going to at least make you smile (come on, let me see those corners of the lips lift a bit); hopefully the more sensitive and easily offended stay away. This is not for the prissy and prim. It’s on the poster – full frontal puppet nudity. But there’s also raunchy lyrics, profanity, and well, promiscuity. Plus dangerous monetary behavior that nearly beheads someone (how Shakespearean!).

Keep an eye out for small moments: the playbill that Gary Coleman is looking through, references to classic movie moments, the digs against establishment and Tom Cruise.

Bravo to the cast, I loved Rachel Alejandro and Joel Trinidad’s double trouble efforts. I loved the pastel neon zaftig of Frenchie Dy's cake of a wedding dress; it reminded me of an over the top event I attended as a child. And I want a mini Trekkie Monster!

Go watch a musical today!

(Avenue Q is on a limited run of 12 shows from September 7 to 23, at the RCBC Plaza's Carlos P. Romulo Theater, Makati. Bobbie Garcia and Chari Arespacochaga codirect for Atlantis Productions.)

Monday, September 03, 2007

Plane pants

Project Runway's Tim Gunn says that what turns him on is a good pair of jeans that make you look long and lean, and none of those cuts, rips, holes. Dark washes. I agree, I just can't find jeans that fit a smaller waist to a larger hip/butt ratio. Deep sigh.

What this article reminded me of was a recent trip to Zamboanga. At the airport, while waiting for the plane, my friend E noticed a woman walking around the airport with a rather odd looking rip to her rather torn up pair of jeans. They were pretty tight, skin tight, and she had a couple of rips on the thigh, while on the back, she had more rips and cuts down the leg. What made us both look twice was a hole that we thought we had mistaken for a patch, but turned out to be a hole, right on her right butt cheek.

We couldn't imagine sitting in a public place, much less an airplane, wearing pants that showed the world that you are either wearing no panties or a thong. Somehow, I just want those parts protected.

Talking with T

Saturday afternoon spent on a long transpacific phone call with my oldest childhood friend. We've seen each other through elementary school to post-graduate school and beyond. Travelled the continent together and seen our families go through all sorts of ups and downs.

Last Saturday, she told me about her new crossroads: buying a house. After ten years living in Sacramento, she's finally going to do it. But there's a catch: the house she put a bid on has an asbestos problem. Removing it will cost her; so will not having it removed only to have to sell it later on. She's also stressed out over the whole idea of buying a house and is hating every minute she's having to worry over this matter. "This is the reason why I never wanted to buy a house in the first place!" she rants "Why go through this? For the tax refund? Is it worth it?"

I can't really answer her, since I don't own property. And I fully agree with her. If you're a single gal, making enough to live on and put aside enough for miscellaneous stuff and some travel or whatever rocks your boat, do you invest close to 40% of your annual income on house payments each year for a tax refund that only comes close to paying off the bathroom remodeling expenses? I didn't want to ask her if that meant our previous plan to travel to Italy and France for our 40th birthdays is kaput. She might be funnelling all her savings for the next ten years into the house and extraneous travels are on hold for now. She's stressed enough as it is.

We also talked about our aging parents. Mine are infirm and having to deal with life on a day to day scale. Each day is a blessing. Hers are just about to enter their late 60's, a difficult period for workaholics like her dad. With all their kids on the West Coast, does it make sense for her parents to maintain a household in the Philippines? It's less costly, but eventually, they will probably end up moving over there. As they age, the kids are going to have to prepare for some form of assisted-living facility, or at least pay for elderly-care nurses. She told me about one of her aunts, who recently had a massive stroke at 52. Her uncle is now faced with possibly caring for his invalid wife for up to 30, or 40 years. One option the family is considering is sending her to live here where the cost of care is much less. But what of her family? They are all born and raised in California, the idea of one of them moving here with her is probably not going to work out.

This article raises some issues about aging and cost of caring for an aging population. While the aspects and fees are US based, it is not impossible to assume these same concerns will affect the Philippines in the next few decades.

Pike Market Peonies

Pike Market Peonies