Friday, September 30, 2011

Going through my Ipod part 2

In August of last year, I decided to start listening to every song in my ipod (read about part 1 here). There are currently 5212 songs in it. (I've purchased several CDs since then that I haven't added to my ipod yet.) More than a year later, I have yet to listen to everything at least once. While you'd think that I should already be done by now, I guess I don't get to listen to my ipod all that much now. My schedule over the last year has been peppered with meetings so not much chance to work while listening to music.

I'm currently on song # 4,506 which means I still have about 700 songs to go. By my count, that's about 35 hours of listening left. My upcoming trip to Korea should trim that down by at least 10 hours. I'm pretty sure that I should be able to go through my entire playlist before the end of the year. :)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Birthday gifts

Every year, my birthday wishlist consists of CDs or DVDs. This year, I wanted only one CD. Since a lot of my friends were asking for my wishlist but I didn't really have any, I ended up getting a bit of a mix of gifts. Some of the stuff I got:

  • Power Hits 2011. It's the only CD I wanted to get and my best friend decided to get it for me because he feels I need to update my ipod with more recent music LOL. It includes 'Super Bass' by Nicki Minaj, 'Telling the world' by Taio Cruz, and 'Party Rock Anthem' by LMFAO feat. Lauren Bennett and Goonrock. I've been listening to this CD over and over again.
  • Torta Delos Reyes. One of my favorite desserts (you can get it from Aristocrat).
  • Wine. I got three different bottles of red wine. Perfect because I sometimes tend to open a bottle at home and drink a glass or two before going to bed. I don't drink the whole bottle in one sitting so I keep the rest of the wine in my ref for a few days until I consume it all. I'm sure it doesn't taste as good and the quality is no longer preserved, but since I'm the only one who drinks it, I don't really care. :)
  • The Spa Gift card. A few friends pooled their resources together to give me a gift card to The Spa. Definitely something I need right now given my stress level and crazy work hours.
  • An Adidas Climacool sports shirt. It's one of those quick drying shirts that are perfect for sports or situations where you expect to sweat a lot, like outreach activities or out-of-town trips.
Pretty cool that a lot of the stuff I got are things I enjoy or will definitely use. This, even without having my traditional wishlist. Thanks to my family and friends!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

An afternoon in John and Yoko

I have saved a lot on my birthday this year because of all those restaurant discounts that I purchased from online deal sites. I decided to celebrate with my family in John and Yoko in Greenbelt 5. I love this resto and got a few discount vouchers there. I was initially thinking this wouldn't be enjoy a meal with my family because my grandparents aren't really adventurous when it comes to food but I realized that John and Yoko has a very wide menu that features a lot of teppanyaki items which I am sure everyone would enjoy.

Since I was ordering for everyone, I decided to pick a few items that I had been wanting to try there, such as the Salmon Wasabi Cream Sauce (or in Sumo Sam; the two restos are owned by Marvin Agustin and they share almost the exact same menu with items priced the same. I think this is just Greenbelt's way of marketing their malls in a way that makes you think that restaurants there are not found anywhere else.) Everyone seemed to enjoy the food, including my grandparents who I was initially concerned about.

I was initially thinking of ordering dessert there but unfortunately they did not have any coffee. So I paid the bill and we headed to Cafe Breton where I got my coffee fix. We also shared a couple of crepes (my grandfather loves mango and he really enjoyed the La Pinay we ordered). We decided to hear mass in Greenbelt since we were already there. It was late afternoon when we headed back home.

It was a really good birthday spent with my family and I'm especially happy that I was able to bring them to a new place that they enjoyed.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Avengers

I can't wait to see this in May 2012! I hope it lives up to the hype...

uploaded in youtube by user 16dylan2

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Baby bottle brush

The plus side of using tumblers when purchasing coffee is that I reduce my use of paper cups. (And before you say that using reusable mugs actually saves trees but wastes water, it is important to note that to produce one paper cup, you actually need not just paper but energy and water as well, so you end up using about the same amount of water washing a tumbler as you do using a paper cup. Check out the sustainability is sexy site for more info on using reusable mugs. But I digress... :))

The flipside is that it's really difficult to wash a tumbler just because you can't get your entire hand in and your fingers are not long enough to reach the base. What I have been doing all this time is using a spoon to force my sponge into the base of the tumbler to clean it. But it's just such a cumbersome process.

I tried looking for a sponge with a handle that I could just slot into the tumbler to clean the base but I couldn't find one. Then, an idea. A baby bottle brush! LOL So I now have a baby bottle brush to clean my reusable tumblers with. Never thought I'd be purchasing baby products for personal use. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

UP wins the 2011 UAAP Cheerdance competition!

Congratulations to the UP Pep Squad for winning the 2011 UAAP Cheerdance competition! UP has been a top contender in this competition for several years now, winning 7 times (second only to UST's 8 titles). But in all cheerdance performances I have seen over the years, this is truly the one has taken things up a few (several?) notches. Check it out!

video uploaded in youtube by user onnybengan

While a lot of other cheerdances in this year's tournament or even in the past display a similar level of athleticism, UP just leaves everyone behind with their speed which was just absolutely astounding. You haven't caught your breath yet from the awe of one stunt when suddenly the squad is showcasing another breathtaking stunt. It was one 'wow' moment after another. Add that to the uniqueness and difficulty of their routine, and you have a champion that is definitely head and shoulders above the rest of the field.

Congrats, UP! :)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Animal haven

For the last few year - or has it been several already? - we have been taking care of one cat at home. There used to be a lot more of them but we realized we couldn't take care of all of them well enough so my brother gave all but one to a friend of his. My nephews named our cat Petal, and for the most part, she has been our only family pet. Recently, however, my grandparents' dogs gave birth, and both my nephews wanted a puppy each. So now we have Petal the cat and our two dogs, named Cheetah and Wolf.

A couple of weeks ago, as I was parking my car, I saw Petal and was horrified to see that she had a deep, nasty wound in her neck. It was so bad that some of the skin was hanging from her neck. My brother knows a veterinarian so I told him to take our cat to the vet the next day. Unfortunately, it's impossible to keep a stray cat still and with Petal moving in and out of the house, my brother couldn't bring her to see a vet. A week later, Petal's wound was still deep and it didn't look like it was healing. I was deeply worried now that infection would set in and she would die, and while I know that pets do have to die at some point, I just didn't want her to die this way. I immediately drove to a nearby vet to ask them if they did home visits, but they said it would be better for me to bring our cat there since they would most likely have to administer antibiotic through a needle or something, and with our cat always moving in and out of the house, there was no guarantee she would be home if the vet did a house visit.

So I rush to the mall and looked desperately for a cage. I found one in Animal House that cost P1,400 but I couldn't find any other cage so I decided to get it. The next day, my brother texted me while I was at work to say that he was able to bring Petal to the vet. She was sedated and given an antibacterial bath, and the vet prescribed a pretty expensive ointment (the vet said it can also be used for people, actually). When I finally saw Petal a week after, her wound was almost fully healed. Thank God!

I later on found out that my cage helped save the life of one of our puppies and helped the other one get better. It was that same week when we took Petal to the vet that our dogs may have eaten something that caused them to be sick. Cheetah must have eaten more of it because he was a very active dog and one night, he just looked completely despondent, almost near-death. My brother was able to bring Cheetah to the vet as well using my cage and he was given three injections that got him back to full health. Wolf, on the other hand, just seemed to throw up a bit and was given just one injection.

A week or two later, someone dumped a kitten next to our house. As we didn't really have the capacity to take care of another animal (much less keep a newborn kitten away from two dogs that might rip it apart), we kept the kitten in the same cage for a night before my brother brought it to one of his friends.

So while that cage may have cost P1400, the fact that it was used to save the life of two or our pets, helped the other get better, and was used to bring another animal to a place where it would be taken care of, I am happy I bought it and it was well worth every cent.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

International Coastal Cleanup 2011

The International Coastal Cleanup happens every year on the 3rd or 4th Saturday of September. It is organized internationally by Ocean Conservancy, and given that the Philippines' coastline of 36,289 kilometers is the 5th longest in the world, it makes sense for Filipinos to be involved.

video uploaded in youtube by oceanconservancy

I organized/joined my first International Coastal Cleanup last year. It was good, but given that it was our first time organizing this activity, we left it to the resort - which was partnered with Ocean Conservancy - to outline the schedule of activities. As it turned out, our cleanup effort lasted only 20 minutes and even in that time, we managed to fill 7 garbage bags with trash that we picked up along the beach. We decided then that the actual clean-up effort in our next International Coastal Cleanup (i.e. this year) would last a lot longer than that. And it did.

We left Manila around 5am. But while it took us about 3 hours to get to Anilao last year, our trip this year was shorter by almost an hour because SLEX now connects directly into the Star Tollway. A couple of the organizers from last year were still involved this year, and since we now knew better, we made sure that we were given a couple of hours to cleanup - an hour before lunch and another hour after. Our venue this year was Planet Dive and they actually split us into six teams - Blue A and B, Red A and B, and Green A and B. In the morning, all B-teams cleaned up the resort coast while all A-teams were brought by boat to nearby shores to collect garbage there. The teams swapped cleanup sites in the afternoon. This increased the scope of our trash collection efforts and made it a lot more interesting for the volunteers. This also meant that we collected a lot more garbage than we did last year. Probably about 5-6 times more!

The cool thing this year was that we were given a couple of villas to rest in and since I had very little sleep the night before - maybe just under 2 hours! - I managed to get a about an hour's worth of rest after lunch. It was a great experience and hopefully, next year, we can mimic this year's success, if not exceed it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

0 for 6. Ouch.

This is incredibly demotivating. Both to Rafael Nadal and to all his fans, including myself. While Rafa did get to the final of the US Open for the second year in a row, he was unable to stop the juggernaut that is Noval Djokovic. This means that Novak has now beaten Rafa six straight times. All of them in finals.

There are a few of positive things that Nadal and his fans can take away from this. First, he was able to reach the final of the USO again. This was considered the most difficult slam for Rafa to win because it came relatively late in the year, during which time Nadal was often succumbing to injuries or a loss of form, and because the surface made it easy for big-hitters to take massive swipes at Rafa's high bouncing balls. For him to reach the final again means he has now figured out how to play on this surface.

Second, the last 3 times they played, including the Wimbledon final, Rafa seemed to fold meekly against Novak when things got a bit tight. In the US Open final, so many games went to multiple deuces, and Rafa fought really hard in all but a scant few of them, despite him ending up on the losing side of a lot of those tightly contested games. If he wasn't mentally ready to fight, that match would've have gone 4 hours.

Third, we know what he can work, or re-work on: his serve. That match could've gone his way if he managed to clock his serve at the 120s like he did last year. Instead, his serve failed him several times, and he must've averaged about 105 mph. If he can somehow regain his add 15-25 mph to his serve, he will prevent his opponents from teeing off on his serve and putting him on the defensive immediately.

Finally, despite the pain that that loss, Rafa bounced back in Davis Cup where he completely thrashed both Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet in two very easy straight sets wins. Most other people who would have suffered 6 straight devastating losses to their new nemesis would not have had the nerve to get back on court and whip the living daylights out of two top players.

Here's hoping that Nadal can take away a lot of positive things from that loss and help him regain some confidence when facing Novak Djokovic. I do wish someone in Nadal's camp can remind him that Martina Navratilova once beat Chris Evert 13 straight times but Evert eventually figured out how to win against Martina again and won a few more slams after that terrible losing streak. Hope Nadal can turn the tables a lot more quickly than that.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years since 9/11

Everyone who was cognizant at the time remembers where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. I am no exception. I was actually in a plane flying from London to Amsterdam when the first tower was hit, and I was in the Schipol airport in Amsterdam when the second plane crash into the second tower and when both towers collapsed.

It was a surreal experience. I went to the UK on a 10-day holiday as gift to myself for completing an incredibly difficult project that left my sleepless for many a night over 6 months. I was supposed to have a business trip in Vietnam on September 12 but I wanted to maximize my holiday so my plan wast to fly straight from London to Ho Chi Minh. I was pretty relaxed and still buzzing with excitement from my first international trip that was purely for leisure when I arrived in Schipol airport from Heathrow for my stopover.

When I got there, all TVs in the airport were showing a building with smoke coming out of it and everyone there was watching. At first, I thought it was some movie or TV show but it quickly dawned on me that this was actually happening in Manhattan. It was while I was in Schipol airport that I saw another plane crash into the second tower. It was unbelievable! And scary. I started thinking about those global domination movies were a lot of major cities are attacked at the same time and I worried that maybe Amsterdam would also be attacked. My stopover was supposed to be for only about an hour but all flights were delayed so I was still in the airport when both towers collapsed. It was beyond belief.

When I reached the Bangkok airport - my second stopover - someone from the airport was holding up a sign with my name on it and told me that my company had called them. Apparently, my company had put a travel ban in place so everyone had to stay where they were. That meant I had to stay in Bangkok for the night. My boss informed the next day that I could fly again, but since our business trip to Vietnam was postponed due to the travel ban - it was our entire team flying there - I now had to return to Manila.

I still recall media being filled with news related to 9/11 weeks after that horrific event. And now, 10 years later, the families of everyone who was impacted by this unimaginable act of terror return to Ground Zero to celebrate the memory of their loved ones. I can only hope and pray that we see less suffering in the world brought about by war or acts of terror.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Don't stop me now: Mime version

Who would've thought a mime version of one of my favorite Queen songs would be so entertaining? :) Check out this awesome video.

uploaded in youtube by user BBC

Friday, September 09, 2011

Advanced birthday celebration

Since a lot of folks were still in town shortly after Steph and Tim's wedding, I decided to have a really early birthday dinner with everyone. Joh's birthday celebration a few weeks before in Zong gave me the idea to look for vouchers online that I can use. I spotted a pretty cool deal in 50% on food in Little Asia so I decided to treat my friends to a birthday dinner in Little Asia in The Piazza in McKinley Hill.

It was great celebrating with a lot of my friends - Steph and Tim, Suzanne, Joh and Raffa, Alvin and Doray, Hannah, Mike, and Me-ann (it could've been more but Peegee got sick so he and Randee couldn't make it and Chris had to bring his son to the doctor so he and Shar couldn't make it either). I can't recall the last time we had that many people from our circle of friends present in my birthday celebration. For some folks, it was their first time in Little Asia and they thought the food was really good (something the rest of us already knew). Suzanne, Tim, Steph, and Nenen (who couldn't join us because she was in Bacolod) gave me a National Geographic book on travel ideas as a gift. I'm looking forward to reading it and getting a few more ideas on places to visit.

It was raining so we decided to stay in The Piazza after dinner. We opted to have coffee and dessert in Old Vine. The problem was that a lot of their dessert options were not available that night. I picked what was probably my 4th choice - can't remember what it was though - but the important thing was the fact that I was with great friends.

photo taken from my friend Tim's camera

It's a good start to my birthday celebration season. And thanks to online deal sites, it'll be slightly more economical for me, too. :)

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Steph and Tim get married

My good friends Tim and Steph got married and it was a really good wedding on a lot of levels. Obviously, it's great to be part of a wonderful celebration of love and commitment, especially when the union is between two good friends. Second, the evening served as a reunion of folks from my previous company. I saw a lot of people whom I haven't seen in ages like Mabel, Romy, Eugene, Patrick and Quennie. Naturally, a lot of our circle of friends were there, including folks who flew in from the US like Suzanne and Nenen and those who flew in from Singapore like Hannah and Alvin.

It was also a unique wedding for me in that for the first time, I choreographed a wedding dance. No singing for me this dance. :) A few months before the wedding, Tim and Steph emailed me saying that they wanted their reception to open with a dance number that would include themselves and their entourage. It would take the place of the traditional entrance and introduction of the secondary sponsors leading up to the grand entrance of the couple. Tim told me that he had always wanted to do something like this for his wedding so he was a bit upset that Glee featured such a dance number during the wedding of Finn's mom and Kurt's dad which led to several couples doing the same thing in their wedding receptions.

Tim said that they wanted to use the same song - 'Marry you' by Bruno Mars - but he wanted me to create different steps and not copy the ones on Glee. Knowing that there would not be a lot of time to practice, I figured I would come up with fun steps that would be very easy for the entourage and Steph and Tim to learn. We had a couple of practices before the event and also practiced in the reception venue a couple of hours before the program started. In the end, it turned out to be a fun number, although I have to say the party poppers didn't pop at the right time and they sort of fizzled. Nevertheless, it was still pretty cool and I'm happy that I was able to do this for Steph and Tim.

Aside from the great food, for which I had more than one serving since the others in my table couldn't eat all that they were served, I also ended up leaving with a prize. I got a mini-box of Godiva chocolates as well as a USB drive for correctly answering when Tim's birthday was.

A lot of food, laughs, catching up, and good fun. This was certainly a great wedding and I am happy I was a part of it.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

"No Good Deed" from 'Wicked'

This is a song I just discovered while listening to my newly purchased original Broadway cast recording CD of 'Wicked'. This song is called 'No good deed' and is performed by Idina Menzel in her role as Elphaba, the 'Wicked Witch of the West'. It's fast becoming one of my favorite songs from a musical.

uploaded in youtube by user kikki5183

It's such a powerful and emotional song and I absolutely love how expressive Idina's voice is here. No wonder she won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for this role.


'Wicked' the Musical is going to run in Singapore from December 7, 2011 to January 29, 2012. I wonder if I should head on over to SG just to watch it. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that someone can bring this musical to Manila...)