Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The days in between holidays

I've been up to a lot since I arrived back. Generally, it's fleshing out what the rest of the vacation would look like.

There's going to be a lot of family things, friends things and me things.

Family Things:
  • Spend Christmas Day at home
  • Visit my grandfather (and Lola Madre) in Bulacan
  • Go to mass
Friends Things:
  • Lunches, Dinners, and catchups
  • Go to Tagaytay
  • Basketball - not happening this time
Me Things:
  • Have jeans altered - DONE
  • Buy shirts
  • Buy (Filipino) DVDs
  • Buy OPM albums
  • Buy toiletries/groceries
Also, I need to be reacquainted with the food I haven't had in almost a year:
  • Jollibee
  • KFC
  • Max's - DONE
  • Teriyaki Boy
  • Charlie Wanton Special
  • North Park - DONE
  • Dunkin Donuts - DONE
  • Shakey's
  • Yellow Cab
  • Italianni's
  • Superbowl
  • Goldilock's/Red Ribbon
  • Razon's of Guagua
  • Various other eating places
All these activites could be a permanent "when-I-go-home" list so I'm keeping it somewhere.

--

However, next year might be quite different if plans to spend Christmas in the U.S. push through. It would be the first of its kind, a real winter Christmas.

--

Happy Holidays from our family!


Friday, December 21, 2007

Sa May Bahay

I just got back here in Manila. I really have to say, it's good to be back home. Not only would I get breakfast every morning, but I also don't need to wash the dishes, do the laundry, or iron clothes.

Two hours before the flight, the check-in queue was already snaking all over the departure area. 21kgs of luggage (all clothes) and I was good to go. Aside from that episode, the flight was relatively smooth. On the plane, I also got to watch perhaps the best blockbuster movie of 2007, The Bourne Ultimatum. [Spoiler] I loved that part at the very end where they reported that they haven't found his body and then the Moby music ("Extreme Ways") kicks in [End Spoiler]. You just knew you watched an excellent movie.

NAIA Terminal 2 surprised me in the sense that I didn't really expect it to be (just about) as orderly as it was. Luggage came out quick. There was no hassle at all at customs. Outside, the wind has that Christmas feel. And the best part was that there weren't a lot of people in the meet and greet area, unlike last year.

Traffic was hell, however. But I did spend a great time gawking at the billboards at EDSA, and looking at what buildings were newly-built.

I'll be using my old Globeline for now, until I have the line cancelled before I leave.

See you when I see you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Winter Solstice

Me: that's the thing around here. it's not a Christmas party, it's a last party of the year
Office-mate (from another part of the world): so they decided to do a peter pan theme!?
Me: exactly, who knows for what reason

So much for our Christmas Party Last Party of the Year. I accept that I cannot celebrate a proper office Christmas party while I work in Singapore. The mix of cultures, and sometimes the dominance of some, makes it difficult to pull off such an event. Everybody has to be accommodated.

I didn't like the party too much. In fact some aspects to it are annoying, especially people who can't hold their drink and act downright stupid. Case in point some idiot who took to the stage and demanded that the entire firm wanted to dance to a lot of Indian music. Rightfully, he was booed off the stage. I mean -- shit -- I don't impose Pinoy novelty dances on everyone ["OK, everybody, let's do the ocho-ocho"], much less the tinikling.

In Singapore, you learn about other cultures and share your own. But you have to know you bounds. These people clearly don't.

Fucking ruining Christmas.



Not even Tinkerbell can save Christmas.

--

A too-little-too-late internal announcement that reminded everyone of holiday behaviour in office functions came a day too late.

The worst part is that I haven't heard any outrage regarding behaviour in the party. If anything, I think they want more Indian dancing music next time. Verrrry Christmas-sy.

--

I've seen The Golden Compass and while I believe that the mythology is rich, I didn't feel that I was really amazed by the movie. I don't think it was presented too well. Dakota Blue Richards would make a fine actress. But she has that smug in the movie that says "I've got two more sequels, so you can't kill me".

Anyway, I just felt unprepared for absorbing the entire thing at one go. Maybe subsequent viewings will help? I don't feel like reading the book, so nuts to that.

--

I've posted a calendar event on Jan 31, 2008 about Switchfoot performing here in Singapore. Should be good. I think SISTIC will begin selling tickets on the 26th. Looking forward to that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Homecoming

This weekend, our high school batch of 1997 will have our 10th year homecoming. What can I say about it?

For starters, I was in danger of being sent to Aquinas School. No, this wasn't like when I started school, having a choice between Lourdes School Mandaluyong and Ateneo since I passed the tests for both. In this case, I was wait-listed in Ateneo High School (AHS) and we had to have a backup plan. Recovering from chicken pox, I worked hard to get the necessary grades to be reconsidered for eligibility. Then one day, they published the list of those that have been reconsidered. I was in that list of thirty-something names. Welcome to high school.

High school didn't start off well, academically, an effect of resting on my laurels. Eventually, I picked it up in later years to boost my chances of getting into college in the course I wanted.

There's barely anything I regret about high school. Well, at least nothing that turned out to be important. I mean, I don't regret the amount of effort I put in my studies. I felt that I had the right amount of fun and study. I remember that there is a gauge as to how to differentiate normal students to upperclassmen, measured by the amount of hours of study per day they do. (2 for normal, 3 for upperclassman. I think I was doing one and a half before attention-deficit kicked in.)

All in all, high school was pretty great. Everyday is a learning experience whether inside or outside the classroom.

With that, I leave to you, dear reader, to imagine how we went from pipsqueaks then...



...to fat fucks now.



--

Incidentally, my dad will receive the award for both of us being a Father & Son Jubilarian Pair

Dad: Grade School 1963, High School 1967, College 1971
Me: Grade School 1993, High School 1997, College 2001

Stupendous! It's even better than being valedictorian! (Not that I'd have a clue how that'd feel like)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

28

Northeastern monsoon has arrived. It's been windy in the recent days. For the first time, since I've been here, it's been comfortably cool, without the accompanying rains.

--

I don't know, I guess I just lost it.

The will to blog, that is.

The trip to the U.S. was a big milestone in life, and scratched a big itch, as I mentioned. There's probably nothing that could top it in the near future. So everyday just feels ordinary, events not so blogworthy, and pictures not flickr-worthy.

Nonetheless, I will attempt a post today just because I just celebrated (or not celebrated) my 28th birthday last weekend. This should cover most of the weeks I have missed blogging.

A special mention however to the trip two of my bestest friends took in Singapore. I haven't seen them in almost a year and I was glad to see them.

Jimelle, Me, Kat and gracious host, Dondi
--

It's not out of the ordinary to give yourself a gift on your special day. And for me, by virtue of good timing coinciding with SITEX, it only makes sense that I march off to Singapore Expo and buy something for myself. And that something turned out to be a Seagate FreeAgent Desktop Drive.

Sorry if I can't contain the excitement.

But like I said earlier, I've given as a no-occasion gift to myself that trip to visit my family in the U.S. How can I beat that?

I can't and I won't. Not in a long time.

--

I watched Enchanted this weekend. No spoilers this time. But I just like to say that I've known Amy Adams to be hot since Catch Me If You Can.

Ok, what I'd really like to say was that this movie had the potential to be the fairy tale to end all fairy tales. Unfortunately, it falters a bit at the end, to the cliche it came from. Still, it makes for a pretty entertaining movie, and Manhattan itself is ever enchanting.

--

Looking ahead to 2008, we're in talks to go to either Korea or Japan for a vacation. As it stands, Korea seems to be where we're headed.

I can't seem to get excited about a trip to Korea no matter how much browsing I do on Times (bookstore) or online in wikitravel.

--

God Delusion and The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. These are two of the books I have bought but not read yet.

D'oh.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Buy Then, Pay Now

<sarcasm>Don't you just love it when the bills arrive</sarcasm>

Bills, bills, bills. Big ones, little ones...

And yet, I just ordered Seasons 2,3, and 4 of Futurama, along with a good deal on Sealab 2021, season one from Amazon. It's scheduled to ship early-mid October, just around the time I need to pay for it.

Spending money you haven't gotten yet. Bad, bad, bad.

--

Current events. I'd like for Myanmar to get rid of their military rulers and try democracy, all for the selfish reason that I want to visit the Shwedagon Pagoda at some point in my life. Almost anybody can actually visit it anytime they want. But I personally don't want to go under this shroud of fear, and the idea of spending my hard-earned cash to support the junta.

--

One of the things that crossed my mind a few days ago, is thinking of the possibility of this life/work setup: Work for nine months of the year, Holiday/Study/Travel for the remaining three months. Sounds interesting, right? I haven't quite figured out how to pull off such a thing. Of course, you'd have to be earning a lot, and work on a contractual basis. The three months doesn't have to be all bumming around and doing nothing. I'd imagine, you can get special training, go back to school to teach and/or learn, set up a business, work a different type of job.

But let me think about it some more.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Aftershocks

Talking to a friend early in the morning:

Tonton (9/13/2007 7:53:16 AM): sheesh, lumilindol ata
Tonton (9/13/2007 7:57:09 AM): lumilindol nga, tagal din


If some experts are to be believed. There may yet be another big one coming.

--

It's been a lazy weekend that's always almost over too soon. I can't really say I haven't achieved anything this past two days even if I mostly just slept it off.

I got new glasses this week, after thinking it's the solution to my headache problems. Worked well anyway. I bought one with transition lenses, and I collected it a day later. I know I should have my eyes checked every year. This one's more than a half year due. So that's done.

As for the weekend itself, I was able to do way overdue house stuff. Washing/changing the bedsheets is one. Rearranging the bedroom is two. Bringing old stuff out is three.

The second one included printing out a lot of pictures to hang on the wall and to put in albums. Good memories. I'll print some in Manila to leave in an album there somewhere.

On that last one, I plan to send a big ol' box of junk home for them to give away or recycle or whatever. Junk would include clothes and shoes and whatever else I don't need.

---

Speaking of home, I made flight reservations to go home to Manila for Christmas and New Year. As usual, they've jacked up the prices for the holiday season. It's almost twice than what I would normally pay to fly back. Besides, I haven't gone back since January. My mom made me promise to go home, so there. They'll be back from the U.S. in late November, early December. I'll be there from December 21 to early January 2. I'm already planning side trips in Tagaytay and Subic. I hope Greenhills will already have iPod Touch units by that time.

---

Recently, I also realized that not only do I like Futurama, I love it! The problem is I only have season one and there aren't any DVDs of it in Singapore (as of time of writing). I've heard that they show it in Adult Swim, Cartoon Network, but I don't have the schedule.

SO. I'm seriously considering ordering seasons 2,3 and 4 online. Singapore Post has this thing called vPost, that allows you to order from U.S. online shops, have them deliver it at an address in the U.S., then have them ship it here for an extra fee.

As an added incentive, I think Amazon.com dipped down the prices for Futurama to about 40+% off retail prices. Think, think, think...

Monday, September 17, 2007

Sorry, I couldn't resist

*Disclaimer: I have friends and relatives who are De La Salle University Alumni including my sister.

You know, most of the people out there will never, ever understand the rivalry that exists between Ateneo and La Salle. So, not a lot of people will get why I find this extremely funny. But I just had to share.



It works on so many levels!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Jetlagged, so I might as well post something

So...

I arrived at two in the morning yesterday with one luggage more than when I left. The flight back was not so uneventful, but not too alarming either. It was bumpy going to and coming from Tokyo-Narita. I think there was also one passenger who fainted or something, which prompted the pilot to ask if there were any doctors on the plane. I just slept them off or ignored them totally while watching Ocean's Thirteen and Surf's Up.



I immediately went back to work a couple of hours later. The people in the office seem to like the 150 pieces of chocolates that I brought. And they have the impression that I just went to Las Vegas. I can't really imagine how you can spend more than a few days there.

--
Dear Ninong,

Thank you so much for flying over to see me and be my ninong.

...

See that? Not even a year old and she can write already. Just kidding. But I am looking forward to see her again next year, Christmas time. We're planning to have a Mickey Mouse Christmas.

This is a picture of me not knowing how to hold a two-month old baby:

--

The US 2007 photo collection is complete. I took pictures almost every day of nothing and everything. I should do a blog post on each set because I've got so much to say. I can do that this weekend, hopefully, unless my lazy old self takes over.



You might see some pictures there which are strange to the eyes, like Jollibee in one set. All will be explained in further detail soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Whoa-hoa

Hey, that was fast!

I'm off to the airport to fly back to Singapore.

I get to sleep a few hours after arriving home before bravely going back to work, jetlag and all.

So see you from Singapore, where I get to post more stuff like the trip to Yosemite Park.

It's been a great three week vacation! :D

Monday, September 03, 2007

Up to Speed

While I have all the time to go around, buy stuff, and do all the things that I want to do, what I don't have is the time to blog.

You can just about see what my camera sees, though, via flickr.

The last post in this blog was back in San Francisco, the second day I arrived. Since then, I've gone around San Francisco, touring the sights of the city and around it.

I also made a trip to various outlet stores. It's what makes the US so great to shop in, except that you have to travel a long (and expensive) way here to get to them.


And then there was the point of the entire trip, which was to be a ninong.

After that, it was off to scorching Las Vegas for a short two day getaway. I got to watch one of the Cirque du Soleil shows, Mystere in Treasure Island. I could've enjoyed it a lot more without the prevailing jetlag. Nonetheless, it was a trip to remember. And I'd gladly go back, maybe even if just to have fun and win some money. (I didn't get to gamble this time)

I had to shortly go back to San Francisco in order to fly out to New York because that's the way I arranged the trip. Las Vegas being a relatively last-minute decision.

And so, I am here in the Bronx, in the Hernandez household. Since I've been here, I somewhat went around Manhattan and had dinner with friends. The also gone around the uber-excellent American Museum of Natural History. Great stuff.

Another first for me is to be able to drive in this country. I drove some seventy-plus miles to Six Flags in Jackson, New Jersey. Also thanks to Noel for letting me borrow his brand new (just a 600 miler) Toyota Matrix. No problem with driving, just a little more alert with speed limits, stop signs, and merging lanes. That was a fun Six Flags day. We managed to ride on all the major thrill rides and get a sunburn as well.

And for those who see me online in Yahoo Messenger, you've probably seen me showing off my Homer plush toy, which I won in one of those water-shooting games. Woo-hoo!

If you haven't seen it, let me show it off one more time.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

First Family Picture in Years


Hey! So I'm here in San Francisco (after ten years). The flight wasn't so bad, except that it's really long (totalling around 17 hours). And since I'm just borrowing this connection from my sister. I've got to vamoose for now, and just hijack it again later.

For all my contacts around this part of the world, I've got myself a T-Mobile number which you can get on request ;)

Will upload pictures tomorrow.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

So...

Done packing.

I'm finally off to a three week leave, I guess :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

One Night in กรุงเทพมหานคร


IMG_7758, originally uploaded by ton2fig.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ton2fig/sets/72157601565188256/

Planned back in May, this Bangkok trip was a jampacked two-day getaway that covered a lot of ground. Arriving in Suvarnabhumi (which in Ancient Thai means "big-ass airport"), we headed straight into the heart of Bangkok.

I'll go into detail in future blogposts. For now, just have a look at the flickr album. I'm, uhm, a bit busy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Get Away From It All

My sister brought up a most brilliant suggestion to our ever-evolving itinerary:
Kitty Anne Marzan: tapos check mo din online ang yosemite tignan mo picture then let me know kung interesado kang puntahan
She's talking about Yosemite National Park, of course. And I'm very much interested in going. It's one of those places where you'd like to stay after getting tired of the rat race. Probably, like The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. By the way, I haven't read the book, but would like to. If it's any good or bad, someone tell me. I'd like to have a good book to read for while traveling or commuting.


See, now who wouldn't want to gaze on this view? (photo credits from http://wikitravel.org)

Weather permitting.

--

Of course, all over the world, it's wacky weather time. Floods, heatwaves, droughts and typhoons.

Over here, near the equator, we could be thankful in between rain showers. Walking at night is pleasant with the cool breeze. The kids could sport their cool weather clothes outside the chilly shopping centres.

--

And speaking of clothes, I window-shopped today, checking out the general prices of clothes. This way, I'll be sure that I'm getting a good deal when going to the outlet stores in the U.S.

For example, Banana Republic just opened their first store in Singapore. It sits right in fancy-pants Paragon Mall. Boy, is it expensive.

Anyway, here's a list of things I need-slash-want to buy for myself:
  1. Belt - the one I'm wearing is a bit old already. A brown one would be good as well to match shoes (see below)
  2. More long-sleeved shirts - for the office, to go as far away from "common" G2000 office shirts. Also, try to find french-cuffed ones (see next entry).
  3. Cuff links - makes me look more respectable and dignified.
  4. Leather shoes - another pair of black office shoes and brown gimik shoes.
  5. Rubber shoes - for basketball, maybe another for running/all-around
  6. Casual clothes - stuff you can't find anywhere around Singapore (for cheap).
Sorry but buying love or happiness don't make the cut on the grounds that I don't know where to buy them. If I do, I wouldn't buy them on discount.

--

You could say I'm changing wardrobe as well.

Old clothes and things are being put in a box and sent home to Lita, who will gladly distribute it among her relatives. How's that for charity? I've actually learned to let go of old things; especially things that could be better left in somebody else's hands.

In return, I'll have more space around the house for more new things.

--

Less than 10 days to go. I've washed my jackets and sweaters, and I'm ready to pack. I'll run a couple of errands during the week, like paying bills, finishing work, getting money. Pre-trip tasks like printing tickets, vouchers and documents can be done during office break times. At home, I need to clear up SD card memory, charge cameras, iPods, and laptops. I also may need to charge my cellphones. I think I'll bring two. One for the office line, and another for the prepaid card I'd be buying when I get there. I also need to have my aircon with the busted remote receiver pulled-out and fixed while I'm away.

Just to complicate things, I need to parallel-plan going to Bangkok on Saturday and Sunday. It's something that was booked way before the U.S. trip. So I need to figure out what stuff to wear and bring on that weekend. And after that, I need to do one last batch of laundry before leaving.

Then Tuesday night, hours before the flight, I should finish packing and cleaning the room. Get a few hours of sleep. I'll wake up at around 2AM, have a nice bath, pack the toiletries and head for the airport.

At the airport, probably go around and explore the facilities including the massage/spa centres if possible.

Six o' clock, Wednesday morning, I fly out. Next stops, Tokyo-Narita and San Francisco International.

Sweet!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Two Weekends To Go

Last night, we went to see Kjwan play near the Esplanade for Baybeats 2007. It was just a short set, running a little over half an hour. I thought it was really cool that they took the stage with a flag of the motherland.

A bit after the performance, I got to chat with Kjwan members and old classmates Marc and Kelley down at Glutton's Bay. They're hitting the road (flight) to Iloilo for another gig. So if you're in the area, go catch them.

--
The Summer months usually bring a vacation and you may be ready to make a big splash. With Mercury now moving through your 9th House of Journeys, it may be time to pack up and take that special trip you have been thinking about. Even if you can't get out of town, at least plan some activities over the days ahead that have nothing to do with work so you can enjoy yourself more.

Saturday, August 4, 2007
--

And just now, I gave up on joining the basketball team today and instead opted on staying home and watching TV and playing Wii.

Also, I'd be devoting some time on refining my trip plans for the U.S. Again, particularly, on the budgeting side.

And speaking of...

I still find it hard to believe that I'm going on that trip.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Let's See...

Well, your run-of-the-mill what's been happening sort of post.

I went to the dentist twice this week (once last week) to get another root canal. I'll be getting the permanent crown in two weeks. And it damn well costs a lot of money. But better to be done with it before the trip. Also, IT HURTS LIKE SHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

--

And the other things that hurt are my ears from hearing about the Big Ticket Kevin Garnett being traded to Boston. Let's see what happens to this one. I don't really care that much. Season's still faraway in November and my favorite teams (Warriors, Lakers, Cavaliers) are just chillin'. Nothing really exciting going on, except for that Tim Donaghy gambling fiasco. Ho-hum.

Anyway, Garnett is a workhorse but he needs people around him. So let's hope this turns out good for his career, because otherwise he'd have been stuck in that quagmire of a team called the Wolves.

--

The fallout for me from this year's Great Singapore Sale, which ended last July 22 was six pairs of G2000 pants. All bought for at least 30% off. It fits nicely, and makes me look slimmer as well. The shirts, I've resolved to buy in the U.S. if I find good looking ones. The thing with G2000 is that it looks great, except for the fact that everybody else is wearing the same thing in the office. So office pants are no problem, just keep the shirts unique. Here's to hoping I find a good deal on shirts over there.

All these remind me, of course, of how many people own Louis Vuitton bags all over the island. I see them everyday in the trains, malls, offices, parks, etc. It's because there was a big sale a couple of weeks ago. Huge discounts. Now if everybody has LV, how can an owner stand out anymore? I think that was the point of buying LV.

--

Speaking of slim, I've inadvertently managed to get my weight below 150lbs. I say "inadvertently" because I believe this is due to the late nights at work and the stress of the past few weeks. There's still a lot more work to be done but it's much, much lighter and much more manageable. Hey, just like me!

--

This would be another of my "must-see" list for New York City: Angel of The Waters Fountain.

--

I've got less than twenty days to go before the trip. It's getting ever-closer. I need to wash my coldwear clothes. I haven't washed them since London last year.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Today, part four of our series of the agonizing pain in which I live...

This blog won't be the same without the usual dose of angst.

But before we get to that, I feel it is my duty to tell you what I think about The Simpsons Movie (% on the biiig screeen %). The bottom line is, I like it because it feels like a movie unlike the usual problems that plague TV-to-movie ventures. Of course, you can't please everybody who's watched some of the 400 (and counting) TV episodes, spanning almost two decades. I felt there was a lot lacking, as a matter of fact, but I also thought it was forgivable. Sooooo, quick switch to the lists:

[Here be spoilers]

Things that I like:
  • The gags
  • The homage/nods to the fans
  • The self-referential humour
  • The pop culture references
Things that were OK:
  • Plot was OK. Nothing groundbreaking.
  • Characters who were involved (more on this later)
  • Using 3D animation ala Futurama, which, I maintain, is the only true logical and underrated successor to the show.
  • Shallow sight gags
Aaaand, to the Things that were bad/disappointing:
  • Mr. Burns' cameo-ish role
  • The story, in my opinion, could have been taken a lot further
  • Not the Best. Movie. Ever.
Recommendation: Go watch it... in 2-D!

--

Anyway, angst, angst. I'm twenty seven years old and I still have angst attacks. Around this age, my parents had already married and are about to have their first child. My sister had her first kid last month, not counting Christopher Dominic (God rest his soul). And I, I only have angst.

What's the difference between them and me? For one thing, they've got it all figured out, so to speak. While I (still) don't have a clue what to do and what to make of this life. What is it that makes you happy? or successful? or wealthy? or healthy? or content? Is it money? An acronym for a title? Friends? Family? Loved ones? Respect? Dignity? Recognition? Fame? Fortune? Enlightenment? Accumulation of knowledge? Broadening the mind?

The problem, of course, with life, is that it gives you a lot of choices and that sometimes choosing one path effectively seals all others. The worst case being, not being able to decide at all what you want.

Which is where I'm headed at this point.

There's that nagging feeling that I'm not good at what I do, even if that's the only thing I know how to do. Or at least, I won't be the best at what I do. So what now? Change careers? Move countries? Adjust anew? Keep running?

I mean, what's the point? [This is the typical angst question, by the way]

But let's turn this on its head. Who is the happiest person you know (or know of), and why? I'm dying to find out. If possible, none of the religious type people and deities.

--

Postscript:

There's a good chance I've been hit by angst because I've only just recently watched Cars. While this movie is not at all about finding out what you want, it touches on how wrong we usually are in thinking about what matters in life. Just a thought. Good movie, by the way.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Smashing Pumpkins? I love doing that!

[A little break from trip-planning]



I'm currently listening to the new Smashing Pumpkins album, Zeitgeist, which has some pretty cool tunes in it.

Also, I'm reading a couple of Amazon.com comments of how these are NOT the Smashing Pumpkins, of how it sounds like Zwan, and that people either hate Zwan or love it, etc.



I am not in any way an authority on the Smashing Pumpkins. I got hooked in the uber-excellent early 90s album, Siamese Dream (totally skipped Gish). In my personal opinion, this album should be in every rock/alternative lover's collection. I love each and every song, and so do a lot of people. The song Drown, which is in the Singles [movie] soundtrack (also a great album) was one of my early adolescent favorites. I wasn't into Pisces Iscariot a lot but I probably just need to give it a chance to grow on me, since I don't own a copy. On the other hand, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a brilliant collection of music that displays how the band makes great music. I don't think a great number of people liked Adore, but I appreciate it a lot. It's a bit somber and mellow, and it totally works for me. After that album, I sort of drifted away from their music but still heard from a couple of their songs like The End is the Beginning is The End (from the Batman and Robin) soundtrack, and One from The Aeroplane Flies High, which I think is another uber-collection of songs. Finally, The Smashing Pumpkins - Greatest Hits - Rotten Apples and Machina, the latter not so bad but still different.

After all that, came the breakup. Then came Billy Corgan's new band, Zwan which, and I share this with a lot of fans, is a good effort and their album Mary Star of the Sea is one of the albums in my iPod that I often listen to. I think Billy Corgan went solo after that, not being able to go away from making music.

Amidst all the debate, I think Zeitgeist is also a good album, but not great. Whether having half the original band makes a difference or if James Iha and D'Arcy Wretsky really count at all, the brand is back. I'll give it a couple more album listens to decide if I like this album or I love it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

In English, "The Meadows"


Kitty Anne Marzan: sabi taviks, mag-las vegas kayo. sayang naman daw. may $200 per person daw. kasama na hotel accom
True, true. What it costs to get to Las Vegas from San Francisco is just about the same as going to Singapore from Manila, and this is with accomodations.

With proper planning and budgeting, I might just be able to squeeze in a trip like this just before heading for New York. And as long as I'm spending, there's a good chance I'll swing by and do the Star Trek Experience (geeeeeeeek!). I'll just work off the money I will spend (gulp!) for that sidetrip in the next few months.

--
[10:39] mlauno: di ka abot ng 1st week of
september sa NY?
[10:39] mlauno: andun ako e
Talk about good timing.

--
Yo, Ton,

Come in around the same time so we can hitch a ride together at LGA [LaGuardia Airport in NY]. Start practicing cause we are playing ball and eating White castle.

Mark
This is turning out to be a small reunion of sorts. Basketball, eh? In New York? They'll eat me alive! Not only am I out of shape, but I got my ankle injured in a game just last Sunday. And for me, getting injured is the first step to not doing any healthy physical activity. Groan.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Planning Phase

Anticipating how big of a deal this U.S. trip would be, I've planned as early as last year, procrastinating until last month to push it forward. Getting the visa really got the ball rolling. Now, the real game plan has to be drafted ASAP.

For starters, I needed to book tickets. The original plan would bring me to San Francisco, Las Vegas, Dallas, Chicago, New York, Boston in a four-week triptastic holiday. Of course, the powers that be in the office wouldn't have it. So the longest I can have is three weeks. To add to that, I keep forgetting that I'm very, very far from being a millionaire (maybe in rupees or dongs, but not in pesos, much less dollars) and that going on a spending spree will greatly affect retirement funds. That brings it down to essential travel i.e. San Francisco (because of my newborn niece), and New York (because I want to go to New York). I was also determined to fly Singapore Airlines (SQ). However, after checking the prices, I decided against it. That way, an SQ flight from Singapore to San Francisco would even cost a bit more than what I ultimately got. The final flight plan is roundtrip from Singapore to San Francisco and roundtrip from San Francisco to New York, all the way via Northwest Airlines. Both of these booked through Zuji. And so it was written, so shall it be done -- on the 22nd of August.

--

Here's a draft of the ever-growing list of things to do over there. Now this is aside from most of the touristy stuff that I'll be doing (like going up the Empire State Building and riding the ferry to Liberty Island). Most of the things listed here I won't be able to do or go to. But listing them down allows me to plan the itinerary better.

Here we go:
  1. Great America
  2. Woodbury Common
  3. Six Flags
  4. Eat at Medieval Times - Cable Guy!
  5. Eat at White Castle - Harold and Kumar!
  6. Nathan's - Hot dogs! Hot dogs!
  7. NBA Store - Getting my jersey
  8. Napa Valley - Maybe not. I'm allergic to alcohol, after all.
  9. Vacaville
  10. Eat at Papa Johns - I saw this on TV
  11. Eat at Krispy Kreme
  12. Eat at Arthur's
  13. U.S. Open - asa pa. But after the epic men's final at Wimbledon last night (between Federer and Nadal), who wouldn't want to see them face-off again?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Different States

[Heads up. Long read/rant]

Just today, a nagging itch in my life finally got scratched.

You see I was stupid enough not to have renewed my U.S. Visa back in 1998, when I was in college. I didn't know what I was thinking at the time but it turned out to be one of the biggest regrets of my life. It came and bit a big chunk of my ass in 2003, when I absotively-posilutely had to be there for my sister's wedding in San Francisco.

--

Way back when we were kids (late eighties), we were denied twice already for a U.S. visa and opted instead for a trip to Hong Kong. It was a good consolation at the time, of course. I didn't know what the fuss is about in the U.S. except for what I see on TV. On the third attempt, it would be the first time we went to the U.S. embassy ourselves and smiled at the consul. I remember he was of Asian descent and not particularly nitpicky. My father did all the talking and me and my sister did all the smiling. And that was it. We were given 5-years, multiple entry.

We went there in 1992, went around in San Francisco, Virginia/Washington D.C., New Jersey/ New York, Florida then finally, Los Angeles. Maybe one of the best trips of my life.

We returned in 1994 for our grandparents' golden wedding anniversary which turned out to be a big success, even if I remembered I lost my coat/blazer before the night started and had to borrow from somebody else. I experienced the great American long drive to New York from Washington D.C. Aside from that, it's mostly lazing around the house in good old Manassas, Virginia where my cousins live. Suburbian living at its finest.

1997, I didn't know, would be the last trip over there. It was a packed three-week vacation, going back to Florida for another run at Disneyworld/EPCOT, MGM, and Universal Studios. At this time, I just renewed and was given a one year, multiple entry visa.

After that, the long exile.

--

My sister planned to get married late 2003; I wanted/needed to go.

I thought I'd still be able to renew my visa via dropbox since I was still just about in the period when I could still do that. But, after September 11, 2001, you know you just can't. In fact, on 9-11, watching TV, I truly thought, 'Now how the fuck are they going to give me a visa now?'

So we set out arranging everything for the interview, gathering requirements, and paying the necessary fees. The only thing missing was (get this), what the consul asked for. The lady had asked for an invitation to the wedding. Being as it was still relatively early, there were no invitations made yet. Bam! Denied.

Ok, so we get it. Try again. With wedding invitations this time.

Another $100 and a couple of weeks later, second try.

Standard questions: What is the purpose of the trip? To attend my sister's wedding (shows invitation). How long have I been working? How much am I earning? Where are my relatives at the moment? etc, etc , etc

"When is your sister's wedding?"
"November 29th"
(types something) "I'm sorry I can't give you a visa"
(me, speechless. then...) "You can't? Why not?"
"I just don't find you qualified"

Bam! Denied. In. My. Face.

I was pissed. My father was pissed. My family was pissed.

So I missed the wedding. I was alone on my birthday and on Christmas 2003. Well, it basically fucked up my life then and there. The whole not being there for the family on a once in a lifetime occasion. The whole thinking I'm not good enough. The whole thinking when will I ever be good enough. For us Pinoys, it's difficult not to take it personally. It wasn't any different.

--

Another thing about Pinoys is the infatuation with the land of opportunity. In some cases, it borders on obssession. Check out this conversation with my cousin:

Luis: lipat ka na ba dito tapos magtatago

Tonton: di ah. iba-blacklist ako sa bangko

Tonton: sabay sa buong banking

Luis: haha


Or this with my mom:

Mama: sabi ni Nanay ( ni Mike) ihahanap ka daw niya ng mapapangasawa dito.

Sigh.

As if being there is everyone's ultimate life goal. But true enough, it's what millions, maybe billions of people risk everything for: a chance to make it in the U.S. To wait decades for the petition to push through, to marry an American citizen, to give birth in the U.S., to unethically beef up the resume, to suffer long periods of unemployment and underemployment, to sneak across the border, to spend life savings, to leave family behind. Just for a chance.

Meanwhile, guys like me, who have honest intentions and earnest reasons get the disappointing and truly disheartening stamp on the passport. "Application received." Denied.

--

This time, however, armed with a new set of personal particulars, a couple of notable stamps on the passport, the glimmering surface of an issued U.K. visa, and the employment pass, things were looking good.

I booked the early morning appointment, wore my best office attire and smile, and waited for my turn. Answered the standard questions.

"You can pick up your visa on Monday, between 2:30 - 3:30, on the receiving window outside."

"Monday, 2:30. Thank you, Ma'am" [Face stapled with a smile that lasted throughout the day]

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More than Meets the Expectations.

I have seen, and I be-lieve, brothers and sisters! Testify! Transformers is one of the coolest movies of recent history.

I don't say that just because I'm admittedly a fanboy; but rather, like Spider-man and X-men, this movie was long overdue and yet it delivers!

[Spoilers start here]

Overall, if I hadn't been too obvious already, I liked the movie a lot. But similar to recent Star Wars installments and The Lord of the Rings, there's just too many humans and not enough fictional beings (robots in this case). Time for the lists!

Things that were good:
  1. Optimus Prime voiced by Peter Cullen. Iconic.
  2. Realism. Oh you'd believe that you're watching robots fighting. And that they change into vehicles.
  3. Oh my, Megan Fox and Rachael Taylor. Droooooool...
  4. Shia LeBouf who's everywhere this year. Fine actor.
  5. Blackout (the chopper), who I don't remember from the canon. But pretty cool entrance as the intro to the story. And good as a secondary character.
  6. Megatron being ruthless.
  7. The score. Good music for action.
  8. Action! Action! Action! Battle! Transform! Boom!
  9. Paid homage to the fans. "One shall stand and one shall fall", "Autobots, roll out", Megatron and Starscream hate each other, etc.
  10. The talk of a sequel. Droooooool...
Things that were OK:
  1. It's a Michael Bay film, so it's OK to have sappy humanoid storylines in between Transformer scenes.
  2. Supporting characters i.e. Transformers not named Optimus Prime or Megatron.
  3. Bumblebee as a Camaro (2008 concept car). Borders on things that were good.
  4. Bumblebee not being able to talk normally.
  5. Megatron as an alien jet fighter. Did you want him as a .38 pistol?
  6. Megatron voiced by Hugo Weaving. I heard the guy who voiced him in the cartoons doesn't have the same voice he had a couple of years earlier.
  7. Humor. Can't live with them, can't live without them.
Aaaaand, here's where the fanboy in me is brought out. Things that were bad:
  1. Exclusion of important characters in the cartoon (which will be completely unforgivable if they're not at all in the sequel), which deserves a list of it's own:
    1. Soundwave
    2. Laserbeak, Rumble and Ravage
    3. Wheeljack
    4. Perceptor
    5. Skywarp and other jets
    6. Constructicons and Devastator (a big Oops for the movie, since they named Brawl as "Devastator")
    7. Omega Supreme
    8. Dinobots!
  2. Optimus Prime does not say things like "my bad", ever.
  3. Optimus Prime does not need the fiery custom paint job.
  4. Where's Optimus's gun?
  5. Where's Megatron's gun?
  6. Not calling them Spike and Sparkplug.
  7. Why oh why did you kill Jazz? Was easily one of the coolest in the film.
  8. Frenzy was an annoying robot Ewok.
  9. Action scenes were usually dizzying and too zoomed in.
  10. The climax/resolution. Huh? Sige na nga.
Anyway, go watch it! I want to watch it again and again until 2009, when the sequel is released.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

It's Not All Bad

There's bound to be some good things in the world.

First of all, if you haven't seen Surf's Up, GO SEE IT! It's a bright spot in this year's awful movie season. Totally entertaining. Visually spectacular. Heartwarmingly funny. Any more cliches to add to the rave? Anyway, I can safely say that I love this film.

Also later this week, Transformers.

Harry Potter also looks promising.

And, like all fanatics, I have doubts on The Simpsons Movie. I just hope it's not too bad.

Give Me A Break

I'm tired.

We moved to the new apartment this weekend. It involved wrapping, packing, disassembling, carrying, pushing, pulling, placing, assembling, unpacking, and throwing away the junk. It also cost a lot of money, mind you. To add to that, we had to clean the old apartment; everything including the kitchen sink.


We're a bit more settled in already, two days after. I have two boxes of reject clothes for the Salvation Army or to send home.


Commute feels different, of course. It requires more walking under the humid weather and the morning sun. Serangoon MRT Station is just around 10 minutes leisure walk away. We can see it from good old twelfth floor.

I'm tired.



Two of my colleagues have decided to move on. That makes me the most experienced one in the team. Unfortunately, that event created a big hole in terms of system knowledge, and we have a big release coming up. One of the proposed solutions to mitigate that problem involved me possibly going somewhere again. But it's not likely to happen. Weirdly enough, I sense both disappointment and relief. Now the deadlines are inching forward, and the load ever increasing.

I'm tired.

I joined this basketball team in a tournament for Filipino IT people here in the country. I can't even join them in practice because I'm busy with work. Now, the tournament starts on Sunday. I haven't even paid my fees yet. The worst part, really, is that I'm not in shape to compete with younger, taller, stronger, faster, more driven and more talented opponents.

I'm tired. It's past 1am. It's raining hard. Please redirect all shit elsewhere.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Not just crap. It's Craptastic!

Just came from watching Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, which is anything but fantastic. Two cents from a comic book fan coming up next.

[Here be spoilers]

For non-comic afficionados, Galactus was one of the more interesting characters in the entire Marvel Universe. He was introduced to the comic world not unlike in the movie, through his herald, the Silver Surfer. It was a bit goofy at first (in the 60s, when the first comics about Galactus were published). In fact, Galactus was this giant humanoid with a helmet with antlers, who wore shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Anyway, he's eternally hungry and needs to eat planets to survive. Then the writers and eggheads figured out that he can be more interesting than just a planet-destroyer. So they kept bringing him back, giving him backstories and involving him in the great Marvel crossovers. What is intriguing about him is that despite being a demigod with no apparent care for lower life forms, there's something really human about him. Quite possibly, he is the focal point of the entire universe.

On to the movie. A complete travesty, with storm cloud Galactus (or Gah Lak Tus, whatever) and Silver Oblation, with an ending that just doesn't make sense. It's a movie satisfied by its star power and shallow jokes, plus wooden acting.

Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic - is OK but still doesn't quite capture the dignified genius of the character in the comics.

Chris Evans as the Human Torch - might as well be Luke from The O.C. The resident hunk.

Michael Chiklis as The Thing - who is known to be a great actor, is forced to suffer bad jokes and easy laughs.

Jessica Alba as The Invisible Woman - the consensus hottest chick in the planet (in the movie and in real life). Couldn't act to save her life, which is a pity because it's probably something you can improve on without cosmetic surgery. Even with over-tanned skin, over-bleached hair, you can't stop being hot, Jessica.

The Silver Surfer, voiced by Laurence Fishburne - which does NOT work. Laurence Fishburne equals Morpheus!

Dr. Doom, hot army chick, Alicia Masters, etc, etc...

I actually had hopes for this movie. But it all went up in smoke -- hey, just like movie-Galactus!

One more thing. The subtitle, Rise of the Silver Surfer, absolutely does not make sense. Unless of course he's an anatomically correct Silver Surfer.

Everybody who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer. Now am I right or wrong?

Guess where that last line came from? Google it up.

[END SPOILERS]

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the swamp...

Cavaliers suck. At least I still get a jersey from my bet with Noel.

They are just getting creamed from all sides and Lebron just looks lost. Like somebody reminded him that he's just a kid.

Anyway, big things are bound to happen for the Cavs this offseason just because they made it to the Finals, but weren't able to put up a fight.

It's at least something to look forward to.

--

We're due to move to the new apartment on June 23. I've arranged with the movers and now just need to secure the permits.

As for the old apartment, we need to dry clean the curtains, do some general cleaning, and basically pretend that it looks as it was before (yeah, right).

--

I'm fat, I need to exercise.

Good News Everyone!

My sister gave birth to baby girl Mia of 7 pounds and 20 inches at 4:45PM June 11, 2007 (US Pacific Time). I really hope to see them all soon in San Francisco. I'll post some pictures when I get them.

--

Of course, Nes has news of his own. Congratulations! Same to another friend who's yet to tell us last-to-know people.

--

Babies, babies, babies! Noel and Franny will have their own due in January. Congrats, congrats!

--

Old friends from work, Ryan and Juli are getting married this July. Congratulations!

--

Happy-happy, joy-joy!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

One Year Later

By some weird chance, I spent the one year anniversary of my arrival in Singapore, by arriving once more in Singapore (from Hanoi). I've grown a lot; there's no doubt to that. I've covered most of 2006 in my January posts, so I won't rehash any of them. 2007 is about looking and moving forward, and going places I've never gone before. Being at home with the world and looking at whatever it has to offer. To never forget my friends and loved ones, to meet more people and connect with them, learn from them. Accept that people get left behind and some move on.

Sorry for the rambling post. But it helps that every once in a while I reflect and refocus. It's good exercise for the soul.

Now on to the quickies...

--

Cleveland Cavaliers: Eastern Conference Champions. Somehow in the back of our heads, we knew. The Playoffs/Finals have gotten a bit more interesting. I just wish they show the damn games here in Singapore at a CONVENIENT time.

--

Three big things I purchased from the Hanoi trip: an Esprit shirt, a wallet from the Singapore Airlines Duty Free Krisshop, and a 100ml perfume from Singapore Changi Airport. If you didn't notice, nothing really Hanoi-ish.

Watched Casino Royale on the flight to Hanoi, Children of Men on the way back. Both are excellent.

--

I didn't get to go to the PC show. How a-bout that.

--

Called up a couple of friends who were celebrating their birthdays this past week. I miss them and it was nice to hear from them again.

--

"New" blog design. One year overdue, and better than nothing.

--

Pray for me and my U.S. visa application.

A Pen to Write the Blog With


IMG_7300, originally uploaded by ton2fig.

The OK-OK trip to Hanoi, a city that keeps taking and taking...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Off to Hanoi

Be back on Saturday...

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Satisfied

Two days ago, we handed over a cheque that would allow us to rent a two-bedroom apartment for two years. The condo is in Serangoon, some five minutes walk from Serangoon MRT Station, and is named Sunglade. It's got this funky resort-type pool that's really novel. Gym, sauna, tennis court. The station is about five stops away from the office (excluding the unopened cemetery stop, Woodleigh). Twenty-minutes tops, and I heard it's less crowded. The trip is an improvement of three stops from where I am currently. It's smaller than the one we're residing in now, Astoria Park. I'd like to think that there's less extra space instead.


For those I've invited over to Singapore and stay at my place, I'm afraid I haven't got a lot of room for visitors for the next two years. You may have to sleep on the couch. And if we're really close, you can sleep on my bed (and me on the couch, natch).

--

The other day as well, I got a hold of the final two season three episodes of LOST. Season three has been widely criticised as being the creative mind's idea of mailing it in. It got dangerously uninteresting and unengaging in the middle, especially during that hiatus they took last January.

BUT, without spoiling it for you. I'd just like to share this personal opinion: The last three episodes (four if you split the finale two-hour ep into two) were classic LOST. "The Man Behind the Curtain" added yet even more buzz and theories to the entire LOST mythology. "Greatest Hits" was heartwarming and redeemed one of the most boring characters on the show and made him likable. The finale, "Through the Looking Glass" is two superb hours of great TV that singlehandedly restored the viewer's -- dare I say it -- faith in the series and franchise.


See you and Jack's beard in seven months for season four.

--

Finally, the Great Singapore Sale has officially started yesterday and runs through July 22.

I've struck first blood by buying two pairs of office pants from G2000 that are marked down 30% WITH an additional 20% for using a DBS card.

There's a festive mood here since shopping is one of the national sports in the little red dot.

Not only that, next week we'll have the PC Show in Suntec, yet even more gadgets! May 31 to June 3.

So, come on over.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

It's About Time

Blizzard has announced Starcraft 2. It should be done in a few months or so.

Brings me back to the old days around 1998 or so when Starcraft arrived on the scene. Great gameplay, great sounds, great visuals. Great game, maybe one of the greatest ever released for the PC. Consistently in the list of Greatest Ever (Gamespot, IGN). The strategy was excellent. You had a choice between quantity and quality. You try out build orders like you were wine-tasting or trying out shoes. It works much like a chess game you lose when you make a few wrong moves, and yet until the very end, you still had a chance. And of course, a hallmark of a classic, you won't really get tired playing even until now.

And this thing is a phenomenon in Korea (South, naturally. They're only allowed to build workers in the North.). They cover tournaments like they do with football or basketball. So it is appropriate that they in fact announced SC2 in Worldwide Invitational (WWI) in South Korea.

I wasn't too bad a player myself. I play Zerg and you'll be sure that I will swarm all over your Terran or Protoss ass using various sentient insects.

--

The Simpsons reach 400 episodes.

I must confess I probably haven't seen much after 300. So do I turn in my fan badge and slingshot?

According to this, they've yet to jump the shark. I just don't have time to watch it regularly. I don't even think they show new episodes regularly here.

--

Last two payments for my laptop.

Sweet.

Monday, May 14, 2007

In Return


I got a letter today from Singapore's Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), informing me that I am eligible to apply for permanent residence (PR or SPR) status.

I've been thinking about this since before I came here. And this is what I cooked up so far:

Pros:
  • Central Provident Fund (pension plan)
  • No need to be employed to stay in the country (no need for work passes or visas)
  • Able to set up business
  • Fewer restrictions on purchasing property
  • etc, etc...
Cons:
  • National Service Liability (male children of PR will have to take part in National Service from age 16 to 40(!))
  • Tropical, humid weather 365 days a year
  • Cable TV is boring
  • Cost of living is rising
  • etc, etc...
What do you think?

--

Also, I've received my tax assessment for the year 2006. It's oh, oh, oh-so-low compared to other countries I've heard of. Philippines and India hovers to 30%, UK and Canada around 40%. In Singapore? Let's just say that they are fewer digits in the percentage, depending of course on the tax bracket.

--

I honestly don't know how long I plan to stay here, or if it's for good. Anyway, I don't have to decide yet. But the sooner the better. I kind of hate plans as of now.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mum's Day

Got a microSD card for my cellphone (which originally came with a lame 128 MB card). The official, retail store price hovers around $34.00 for 1GB (Challenger in VivoCity). I had to check Lucky Plaza for some better deals. In my opinion, Lucky Plaza is one of the most ruthless shopping places for clueless people. They WILL give you bad deals if you have not done your homework. Sim Lim Square is similar to a lesser extent, but has more choices.

Anyway, it hovered from $28 to 60-something dollars, depending on who you talk to. I had to scour almost the entire building. The idea, was simply to get something lower than the retail store $34. In the end, I got a $30 Kingston (the $28 one was Sandisk). Being patient pays off.

--

Got back to playing basketball last Wednesday. Two quick sprints at the start of the game, and I've already lost breath. Shame, shame, shame. Thank God for second wind.

Shooting's terrible.
Ballhandling's novice.
Stealing's still there.
Passing's not bad.

Need a lot of work to do. But I think the jersey I wore was excellent, which should count for something.

3 small injuries, and an almost-cramp from that session.

--

Speaking of jersey, Noel and I made a bet on the Eastern semi-finals series of New Jersey vs Cleveland. He goes with Nets, I go Cavs. The non-winning party gets to buy the winner an NBA swingman jersey. Simple enough. Right now, it's 2-1 Cavs.

Go Cavs!
Go Warriors!

--

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby is much, much better than Blades of Glory. But Jenna Fischer is a bit more girl-next-door than Leslie Bibb. Jon Heder, while funny, is no Sacha Baron Cohen.

--

Finally, Happy Mother's Day to my mom!


I hope the monthly remittance will more than make up for carrying me for nine months. (Just kidding!) I love you, ma!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Out with the old, in with the Nokia 6300

My almost one year love affair with the O2 XDA Atom ended last Sunday. It was the first big purchase for me in Singapore, ringing up to around S$1200, if I recall correctly. I got tired with it around December and has rarely been used since. First and foremost reason is that it's quite a brick to keep in the pocket. (Makes for good conversation, "why yes, that IS an XDA in my pocket"). Second important reason is that PDA/XDAs allow you only around a day or a day and a half of battery life before you have to charge it again.

Anyway, I like to keep it simple. So I chose to trade it in with a Nokia 6300.

It's quite a basic phone with FM Radio, MicroSD memory, bluetooth, 2MP camera. Nothing really fancy by today's standards. After the $300 value of my XDA, I just added $98 for it and $8 more for a screen protector.

I've been using it for a few days now. I like it a lot.

--

I'm reading this fascinating book, The Tipping Point. I'm halfway through it. Really good stuff.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Spider-Man 3: The Rant

It's around one AM and I just got home from a 9:45 PM screening of one of the big 2007 summer blockbusters, Spider-Man 3.

I'm trying to write this blog entry before I read any reviews. I tend to read a couple of critic reviews after I watch a film, just to see if I've missed something. It turns out that sometimes, it affects my recall of the experience in such a way that it may alter my opinion in some way. So just to keep me honest, this rant/review is all me.

I'll try to keep this spoiler-free.

OK. First thing's first. Spider-Man was good, Spider-Man 2 was excellent, Spider-Man 3 was not bad, but not very good either.

[Here be spoilers (what just after one paragraph?!)]

Things I like about it:
  • Bryce Dallas Howard - I've seen The Village and The Lady in the Water (unfortunately) and just who turned this lady into a hotchick?!?! Good lord, was she smokin' in this one. I didn't really know that she'd play Gwen Stacy. I might have seen that somewhere, but not really remembered. So when I saw her name on the credits, I thought, "ok, how will that work out?" Well, it DID work out. And sure as this movie blew the box-office wide open, she'll be back in the next installment.
  • James Cromwell - Not a big role here, but I just plain like this actor from Farmer Hoggett to Zephram Cochran. Should lend his talents to future installments.
Oh god, off the top of my head, those were the things I liked. Dismal, really. Let's get to...

Things which are pretty much OK:
  • Characters/Actors doing their thing - Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Robbie Robertson, Miss Brant, The professor guy, Uncle Ben, etc.
  • The Black suit - In the comic books, the suit was plain black, with white eyes and a white Spider-Man logo on the chest and that was good minimalism. This movie version was just his costume on monochrome, as you may have seen on the promo materials. Makes sense. Ive got nothing on the detailed suit.
  • The Sandman/ Flint Marko - OK, not bad. Loved the actor in Sideways, by the way.
  • The opening credits - You knew, watching the opening credits of Spider-Man 2 that that movie was going to be special. Alex Ross painted scenes from the first movie, brilliant. It was like looking at the first movie with a new set of eyes. In this one, actual clips from the previous two movies, it's more of like cheating. Not bad, but obviously somebody ran out of ideas.
  • The length of the movie - clocking in at two and a quarter hours, pretty much expected from a high-budget blockbuster. Wouldn't really have expected any less.

Things I hate about it (in no particular order):
  • Topher Grace/Eddie Brock/Eric Forman/Venom - I've got nothing against this guy. I like him in That 70s Show, Traffic, even cameos in Ocean's Eleven and Twelve. But he is simply not what I had in mind when I thought of Eddie Brock and Venom. I might be thinking of bulked-up Eddie Brock on steroids like in the comics, but certainly not this pimply-faced retro kid (dumbass!). In retrospect, it may have been better to cast this guy as Carnage instead if ever that comes along.
  • The drama - Where the hell is the action? Keep the drama brief except when it makes sense.
  • The comedy - The first two installments have bits of comedy. But this is just a mess. Plain idiotic at times. And the dancing, ugh.
  • The Evil Peter Parker look - Star Trek's Spock character revolutionized the way good and evil were depicted on screen. Good Spock: normal-looking. Evil Spock: normal-looking with goatee. In this movie, Good Peter Parker: normal-looking. Evil Peter Parker: crazy-eyed looking with bangs.
  • The Green Goblin II / New Goblin (as he is called in IMDB) - the change of heart, the acting, the costume, the amnesia, the steal-your-girlfriend angle. Doesn't work really.
  • The story. Black Spiderman? Venom? Sandman? Gwen Stacy? How could you go wrong? Oh wait.
[END SPOILERS]

Anyway, this is just me. I've gotta go read some reviews.

Oh, and go watch Spider-Man 3. It's probably not as bad as I think it is. ;)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Transience

It's almost been a year for me over here. It also means that our yearlong contract in this apartment we're renting is just about over. We recently learned that the owner is selling the apartment. So we may have to move out in two months.


To where? Who knows. Way up north? Way out west? Further East?

Rents are skyrocketing. Either we fork up more rental money or move to a more affordable nesting spot. So we've got around eight weeks to look again. But this time, we've got furniture to haul as well.

We might not be in any shape to accept visitors until then. The owner's agent frequently asks for time during the night for a potential buyer to view the apartment. That's been happening for the past week. Imagine me sitting, watching TV. And strangers go inside your room, peek at your cabinets, bathroom, bedroom, walking back and forth talking and whispering. At one time, the grandfather of one of the viewing families asked me if the sun shines straight inside or in a slant.



In a slant; the windows face southwest towards the city. Armed with feng shui compasses, they examine the unit. It takes all fifteen minutes but they usually come twice or thrice in a given night. Anyway, soon it'll be our turn to view other's apartments.

Let's hope the next one is as good as this one, which was superb to begin with.

--

Kuala Lumpur
Siem Reap

Hanoi's still on, as far as I know.

Yesterday, I've been handed out an invitation to go to Hong Kong by a friend this weekend(!) After considering for a while, I decided that while it's tempting and just about within a stretched budget, it wouldn't be practical. Sorry, dear. Saving up for a big trip later this year.

--

Met up with the Kid today. Welcome to Singapore! Have a good career!

Told me of an old friend that I failed to inform of by move to Singapore. I'll find a way to reconnect with him. We go waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back. As in first day of (prep) school way back. I shit you not.

Went to Courts Megastore today. Will it be the Nintendo Wii, The Xbox 360 or the PS3?

--

Golden State Warriors up 3-1 against the best of the regular season, The Dallas Mavericks. High energy, very emotional games. ALL HEART. Go Warriors! I believe!

Guess who's also rootin' for the Warriors. You can-NOT go wrong with this fan around.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

These are the Voyages...

Wow.

As it stands, I may be going to the following places in the near future:

  • April
    • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • May
    • Hanoi, Vietnam
  • June
    • Siem Reap, Cambodia
  • July
    • Siberia
Kidding on the last entry. Anyway, it looks as if I'm going on the great Indochina trip so soon after coming back from Thailand. A lot of it is still up in the air (so to speak). But it's fun to plan especially if a lot of people want to go (and seem intent to go, a big difference). Oh hell yeah, it costs a lot of money but I can't be doing this when I'm sixty and retired.

When I'm sixty and retired, you'd probably find me seeking enlightenment instead of material wealth. Probably somewhere in Tibet.

Before that, maybe stop by Bangkok, Laos and various other places. While we're young, while we're young...

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Thailand: Phuket & Phi Phi Islands Photoset


IMG_7004, originally uploaded by ton2fig.

http://flickr.com/photos/ton2fig/sets/72157600074985598/

More than five-hundred snaps for your viewing pleasure.

Descriptions and notes to follow.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

หมู่เกาะพีพี (Phi-Phi Islands): Prelude

Fresh off the Bintan trip, we thought of another opportunity for a holiday. And so it started as a question of where to go and what to do over the Easter weekend. Around here, Holy Week is not as observed as it is back home. It means that at most, we only get Good Friday off (in fact a radio DJ mentioned that it was Easter Friday). Now for the past twenty-six or so years, the Easter weekend to me means going to Bulacan and participating in the salubong on early Easter morn. Obviously, I wasn't planning to be anywhere near home for this year. Instead, a couple of people in the office and I decided to go Krabi, one of the many beach towns in Thailand. To short-circuit the [even more] boring story of correspondence with the travel agent, we ended up going to nearby Phuket and the much-hyped "most beautiful island in Thailand" Phi-Phi. Besides, there's a general consensus around here that you're never really on holiday unless you get out of the city-state. Away from the urban jungle and back to nature.

Fast-forward to the present.

It was a great holiday that left me rejuvenated and recharged. Once I get my flickr account sorted out, I'll post the two-something gigabyte collection of snaps I've taken during the trip, and put descriptions to boot. Tune in next time.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pregame Shootaround


For this weekend in the beaches of Thailand, I imagined myself lounging under the sun, getting some rays, listening to music, and maybe having a drink.

One thing is missing in that pleasant scene, though: a good book.

In preparation for the trip, I set out to find a good book to read that's not too heavy, not too light, not too dark, not too serious and definitely one that I would enjoy reading. So no Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things, no Lonely Planet travel guides, no 1492: How China discovered the U.S., no The Little Book on Investing, and definitely no books on Agile Methodology.

After a bit of looking around in Borders out on Orchard road, I came upon the sports section. This was a good idea. I haven't read a good book on sports as far as I can remember, and there are a lot of good ones on the shelf.

I took some time browsing through wrestling titles. And by wrestling, I mean professional wrestling. By professional wrestling, I mean the WWE, which is professional, yes, but hardly competitive (oh, you didn't know? ;) ). Rowdy Roddy Piper's book, Hulk Hogan's book (incidentally, there's a reality show called Hogan Knows Best, shown here on cable), Terry Funk's book, Mick Foley's book, etc.

And then there are the books about basketball. Unauthorized biography of Bobby Knight, Coach K's book, Michael Jordan's (hardly-a-book-more-of-promo) book, Charles Barkley's book.

In the end, I picked the book which I thought was a bit dated even if it was very recent.



Yes, I finally picked up Phil Jackson's book on the season the Los Angeles Lakers had four future Hall of Famers and lost.

I read the first few chapters on the train ride home and I was hooked! I bought the perfect book for me.

In the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson, "goooood motherfuckin' choice, motherfucker!"*

*actually it was Dave Chappelle as Samuel Jackson, but you get the point. Or maybe you need to see it yourself.

--

The ESPN Truehoops blogs mentions the best NBA commercials E-ver. And boy did it bring back the memories.

The List itself.

#45: 100 Foot Rim, was simple but memorable.

#37: Tastefully Done is pretty funny.

#17: That's a 90-footer. It made the rounds over the Internet rumoured to be actual footage.

#14 Coulda Dunk, Shoulda Dunk was pretty amusing as well.

#10 Nasty Dunk. Don't fake a funk on a nasty dunk!

#9 Freestyle. A marvel to watch!

#6 Like Mike. Gotta be like Mike.

#2 The Showdown. Nothin' but net.

And the number one entry, I have never seen before. But it is definitely one of the best ever.

Why? Because it touches the heart of every basketball fan like me. Non-bball fans won't get it.

Ladies and gentlemen, the commercial: XXI: Let Your Game Speak



--

One last thing. Gen-Xers, have a look at this.

I'm outta here.