Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hoppin' and Munchin'

It’s past 3 a.m. and I’m still awake from the happenings that begun around the late afternoon until 2:30 a.m. I left the house at 5:30 p.m. to catch my 7:30 p.m. seminar briefing in Makati. This was the first time I was going to ride the MRT by myself. To do this, I had to give myself time to walk all the way to the station, squeeze in through the MRT crowd during rush hour, make my way to the Ayala station to go to the greater Makati area and find that particular conference center near Greenbelt. I guess I asked the wrong people because it felt like it took forever (around 45 minutes) to reach my destination, more like I circled the whole 5 malls. Good thing I was wearing my reliable travel shoes for the ride. This first time was not so bad but I am planning to shorten my travel time to go here when I go for the actual seminar in November. I need to find that shortest route. I also found out that it is not a nice experience if you miss out your MRT stop. It’s either you pay double to get to the other side or find a stop that has a middle portion to switch to the other side.

It was time to go “bar-hopping” with friends when we were dismissed. I never actually survived this long whenever I go out. It was probably a mix of the company, the GCs and the locations that made this night one of the most, for me, enjoyable and fun-nest night out. I have been to Il Ponticello once and it will always be the place where I lost my first eyeglasses. This time though, the place was not packed so we had a nice chill-out mode going on. The songs that were played would make you groove, sway and sing your heart out with matching actions to the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. I think at some point, we all, boys and girls alike, liked, hummed and sang (sometimes even imitated the dance moves) those love songs of boy-bands and girl-bands of the 90s. It’s rare to be in a place where people dance and happily sing these “corny” tunes lyric per lyric (we also don’t find people singing them in karaoke nowadays and risk looking like an idiot). Next we visited Sidebar, which had wilder music and kind of like a semi-party posh crowd. What got my attention was the DJ and his digital player hooked to an Apple. I wish I knew what the buttons, switches and discs were for because I tried listening to the music but there was no or little difference. My conclusion was that a DJ was only needed during the intro of a new song. He looked cool though with his high-tech gadgets. One major issue though about Sidebar was that their glass washing station was exposed. The issue was not that it should be hidden but the way they (it got me thinking that it was the same for all bars) washed the glasses in the same soapy tub then to a water tub and let them dry upside down. The routine took about 5 seconds in all. So much for fast and efficient service. I am guessing the outside part where we drink from sometimes don't get washed anymore. I will be drinking with a straw from now on lest I want to contact some disease. Our party of four did not consume the GCs with all the alcohol we can order even though this trip was coined as “bar-hopping”. We decided to try out the food for a late dinner, particularly the Gambas and Pizza of Ponti and another Pizza with Gruyere cheese over at Sidebar. A good thing though about these “bars” was that they do not have entrance fees and you can dance quietly to the music all you want (dance at your spot, sitting on your seat or in a corner, no set dance floor). I liked the overall chill out session while we talked the night/morning away with our friends.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Hippo Story

Today I found out about hippos, anthrax and the historic event in Uganda that led epidemiologists to conclude that hippos are carnivorous (as opposed to the general knowledge that they are herbivores and only eat grass at night) and can eat the remains of another hippo especially during the dry months when they have nutritionally imbalanced diets. Some areas like Uganda have anthrax in the soil that can withstand the heat and can easily be eaten by animals then transferred to humans. In this epidemic, the whole story involved more than 300 hippos at a national park dying with a particular strain of anthrax virus that probably started with one hippo eating grass infected with anthrax then died. The rangers always found a group of hippos around a hippo carcass and eventually found out that they were eating the intestines that were exposed once the hippos die. The tribe people living around the park also died when they ate the meat of the dead hippo. Even with restrictions to hunting and eating hippos, the meat was a popular delicacy and was believed to aide women to be more fertile. The epidemic had a natural death and the world, especially those in Uganda, knew a thing a thing or two now about handling baffling cases like these that occur naturally in the world of hippos. Oh, and I learned that anthrax looks like a violet virus under the microscope. Anthrax will kill you and can be contracted through touch (a black spot in the area will appear), inhaling (it will target your lungs and do the damage there) and by ingestion (it will target your intestines).  

Communications and cooperation between the vet in Uganda, their research facility, the rangers, the local people who helped with all the labor-intensive stuff, a foreign volunteer veterinarian epidemiologist and a facility in Germany that specializes in identifying biological weapons led to the root cause of the problem surrounding the case of the dying hippos in the national park. It just made me think that dangers lurk everywhere even from the soil to seemingly harmless hippos. These people who worked this case actually had something to be proud of for their dedication to their chosen fields. I hope this new knowledge teaches me something but does not attribute to a fear that will send me running the opposite direction when an opportunity to travel to say, South Africa, comes along.


Today I found out about the shows 4 Ingredients and Extreme Cuisine in Lifestyle. The 4 Ingredients show seemed to liven up that craving to be able to cook meals for myself and for my future family. This yearning involves not taking much of kitchen space (no going here and there or cooking different things at the same time, less ingredients = healthier?), not spilling ingredients here and there (for easy cleanup), simple measuring (so I can toss the oh-so-plenty measuring cups), not hard-to-find ingredients (so I won't have to go to the supermarket all the time) and making everything taste good so that there will be no leftovers (or I don't eat them by myself). Oh, I am so much tempted to buy that iPhone application. Good thing I don't have the gadget or it's an extra expense if I tuck away the idea again.

Extreme Cuisine is a different matter. After the show, I was left with the thought that it would be nice to go to Morocco, not for some of the delicacies that were featured in the show but for the experience and the hospitality of the people. I am guessing that majority of the population were Muslims. Maybe it's the show, but I'd like to experience life in Morocco as he did, except for the direct drinking of the camel milk and the eating of the the eel, the pigeon and the entrails of the ram. I learned about the making of the expensive argon oil from the collection of argon seeds from the discharge of the goats, the cracking of the seeds, the mashing of the inner white parts of the seeds to a paste which eventually leads to the mixing, squishing and straining of the paste to get the precious oil. The show also featured the adventure-seeker eating corn couscous with eel and rolling them in a ball before eating with their hands, actually catching the big eel with the fishermen, making cheese out of camel's milk, preparing and eating somewhat like a pie with layers of pigeon meat and almond paste, buying meat from a butcher who placed it in a jar and added a special spice mixture including aged butter, going to a place near public baths to bury and cook that meat in a jar, traveling and even climbing elevated areas to get to the different villages in Morocco, placing the ram in an oven made of earth and sipping a mint tea with a Moroccan elder. I would so love to break out of my comfort zone and eat in one of those rooftops, even using only my right hand, as what was the custom, to eat what I can eat, while experiencing life, culture and tradition with the locals, maybe even learning some of their language.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Delish Night

I think the appropriate catch phrase to cap this wonderful night is My Kind of Oyster, My World. It was a nice lounge-like experience to be in Delish. For me, it was a perfect and memorable place for good food, good company and three new delectable dishes that will probably stay with me for a long time. For the record, I would like to state my three most gastronomical favorites, two of which I never thought I would enjoy in this lifetime. My least favorite foods ever are oysters and potatoes but I will go back to Delish anytime to eat those Baked Oysters with Spinach, Bacon and Herbs and the darling side dish of Mashed Potatoes mixed with cheese and carrots. All the food served was “Delish-ous!” from the baked oysters to the grilled eggplant and pumpkin soup to the glazed chicken with mashed potatoes to the crispy pata to the spicy chicken wings to the fish fillet with banana and tomato sauce to the pinakbet and all the way to my most favorite, Butterscotch Paklova dessert. I am sure I would drag somebody to go back and try the other dishes in no time. I would not hesitate to put Delish in my top faves and start raving about it from this day on.

The thought of having a known favorite place to eat my two least favorite food would mean that I have set a whole new record for myself to go out there and correct or somehow curb bad first impressions of everything - two point five in one night. I am not certain though that this negates my dislike for them. I am only saying that I can eat oysters and mashed potatoes now but I will only eat them if it tastes like or even better that Delish. And to have a new favorite sweet tooth craving in that same place makes stuff even better too. I guess when some things are presented differently and you are with the company of friends, even those you have only met for the first time, a whole new appreciation for good conversation paired with good food opens up. I might get used to this life, thanks to all the wonderful people, new friends. What I want to say is as simple as this, kidding aside, at this moment I feel as if the world is my oyster.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Budgeting by Instinct

Back in the days, it was always a personal choice to keep track of my finances every few months. I must have lost my way somehow and things weren't as neat and organized as I thought. This time, however, I had to make sure exactly how much I am free to spend due to the recent developments that will affect my cash flow. Like I always do, I clear out any pending credit card balances even before the due date and separate the payment so that I won't be tempted to use the money. I paid the ones I knew before I went on the two-week holiday, just in case. I also have to make sure the interests have not skipped as scheduled. 

I am not a fan of budgeting like allocating how much money to spend in this category. I base my expenses on what I want to do at the moment and the cash I have on hand. My instincts kicks in usually when the price goes over or occupies a huge chunk of my remaining money. Of course, the opportunity cost of an unknown future expense I might like even more than this thing I have now puts me in distress. Mostly to settle things, I leave things to slim chance. Chances are, after a while, I'm better off not spending at all. The incessant craving disappears in a few hours and everything is normal again.

Painful Scrub

They say it's all for the name of beauty. For me, it's curiosity and the pain that engulfs you and keeps you awake in the whole process. After the treatment, I concluded that spas are one of my least favorite places in the world. The GC specifically said whitening marine mud pack. No offense to the warm and accommodating lady who did the whole process, but the scrubbing made me cringe in pain and take it all in silence. I imagined the experience as that biology experiment where the frog is pinned down and exposed until it slowly died while one by one its parts were removed for study. This scrub, like all scrubs, are supposed to strip away dead skin cells and the results leave your skin feeling silky and smooth, in a finite moment that is. But the point of the matter is, our lifestyles never change and the brave ones eventually go back and gradually, the painful experience becomes a very relaxing experience for them - a complete 180 turn. 

As I let my body recuperate from this shock, one fact remains as an outcome of that experience. Pain keeps us feeling alive. It occasionally drives us out of our wits and keeps us hoping that it will soon stop. Ultimately, it leaves an invisible scar but what makes us maintain our silence at a recurring rate is that, from our experience or view of how things work, there are some things are really supposed to hurt before it gets better, very much like that injection of anesthesia or confronting the past to move on with your life.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Love Concert

We got a couple of last-minute lower box tickets to the BoyzIIMen concert! Sitting there in a corner, I watched while waves upon waves of love songs took me back to the most vulnerable moments of my life. There were brief flashbacks of my high school self and the general feeling of sadness. Loneliness was an old, old friend. It made me wonder why I was hooked to songs of heartbreak, separation and yearning. Why was I an avid fan of those kinds of songs anyway? They must have been there for me and spoke the depths of my mind aloud. Or at least in the song, there was a relationship that I didn't have.

I wished there were more songs of being in love and not of heartbreak. Maybe it could speak out my feelings at the moment with the love of my life and ignite that spark of romance. It is ironic that lovers would want to watch a love concert filled with songs of separation. In another light, it would be a good turnout to realize that they don't want to be in the situation of breaking up then listening to these songs. Or would it make things sweeter the second time around?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Traveling Habit

One day I was jotting down the things I wanted to do on a post-it note and crossing them out one-by-one immediately when accomplished. The key here was to scribble the simple little things you found important, find a way to do them, throw the list away once you're done and hope to get something out of that. I smiled when I realized that I was applying what I did abroad in my life right now.

I never thought I could experience it here, a whole new thrill to discover and do things you haven't tried before in something so familiar. Perhaps it is time to open my eyes and look for something else in my birthplace.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dissecting a Hard Drive

I was trying to finish my left-over work by scanning my external hard disk for previous policies that I could incorporate and I was surprised at how disorganized my files were. The idea of "clutter hidden in plain sight" did not surprise me when I read about it in the Unclutterer. I bought the hard drive to serve as backup just in case my laptop fails again. It did, twice, and while I was waiting for a new one, which took months, I used other computers to store my files. I collated everything I could in that hard drive and made a partial backup in my new laptop. I also use the hard drive as a backup for my new laptop so the data just piled under different folders. The thought that if I remove doubles and erase the more recent one bothered me so I just kept them both.

The hard drive was like a large magic drawer where I keep random stuff. I haven't even consumed half of the maximum GB. This is probably why I haven't thought about the cleanup. The circumstances have changed now, I have this gnawing feeling to separate my personal stuff with my previous work stuff, which I want to desperately turn over. I will still keep the work folder but I want to make things right by removing all the unusable drafts and duplicates. By the end of this arduous task, my hard drive will probably have more space for my future personal stuff.

Getting Things Done

The consequences of procrastination still haunts me to this day. I must be a self-made masochist leaving hopeless things to have fun but sometimes, you run out of time. You allot yourself a full day of plans, only to lose sight when you welcome distractions pleading for your attention early in the day. Regret comes after and my inner monster tells me over and over, "I should have stuck to my priorities." I hate the distractions, they should have made an appointment for my time. The next thing you know, your flight is tomorrow and naturally, what you have left behind extends the torture of moving on with your career.

I am stuck and they have me until I finish all of it. The only thing I can do is work under my own terms. Even under the circumstance and the constant uneasy feeling that my final freedom lies with me, I am glad that I can put an end to any additional tasks they throw at me now. To block the distractions, I have also blocked any invitations to stay a full day back to my former workplace. When I go there, I stick with the plan and plan a getaway after I finish my list. The bad thing about this gap period is that people think you are not doing anything so they push and try to do your schedule. When this happens, you must not allow yourself to get sucked back in. To move on, you would just have to tie up these loose ends. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

Cleaning Act

That next day after my return, I was determined to accomplish something as a free soul, something that I have put off for almost three years. I started rummaging through my two most basic closets. Finally, I had a pile for use-ables, donate-ables and repair-ables. The use-ables were arranged in smaller piles for easy access. The bags were stacked neatly and any extra things went somewhere except back to the two original closets. I put the donate-ables outside and vowed to let them go. Not seeing them helped and I completely forgot about the clothes in that pile before the temptation set in. My make-up kit, accessories, toiletry and medicine box came next. By the end of the day, everything that was tagged unusable was thrown out the trash and things that resembled each other were placed in the same pile. It was also a nice feeling to be reunited with my long-lost possessions hidden somewhere at the bottom of all the stuff.

Cleaning up is not so hard when you find time to get to things and never let anything pile. It also brings such relief now that things have an arbitrary order.  I have to make a conscious choice to stick to this new routine, for the better.