Friday, February 29, 2008

Why couldn't it have been a whole number?

Today is leap year day. Here's a simplified explanation of why and when we have it.

  • The Earth orbits the sun every 365.2425 days.
  • To make up for that .2425 day, one day is added to our calendar every 4 years.
  • But one-fourth of a day does not equal .2425.
  • Therefore, years which are divisible by 100 are not leap years, unless they are also divisible by 400, in which case they are leap years.
  • 1600 and 2000 were leap years, but 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not.
  • 2100, 2200, 2300, 2500, 2600, 2700, 2900, and 3000 will not be leap years, but 2400 and 2800 will be.

Image from the Creation Museum

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Urban Pac

Last Sunday afternoon, my husband decided to go shopping for a new backpack to replace the one that got stolen the day before. I'm no shopaholic, but I do enjoy purposeful shopping, so I tagged along. Good thing I did, because when he got to the Sumdex store, he couldn't decide which of these two he wanted:

The one on the left is a sporty-looking jacquard and suede backpack and the one on the right is a water-repellent nylon twill bag you can carry three ways. Here's what they look like at the back:

I was iffy about the curved straps of the bag on the left. So I asked him to put it on. And sure enough, it just wasn't him. The curved straps made it look like he was going on a trek—all it lacked was the strap you buckle around your waist. Didn't quite fit his dapper English professor look. The straight straps of the bag on the right, and it's more urban shape and material, fit him better. Plus, it can be used as a tote, a messenger bag (notice the ring to the left of the zipper—that's for the shoulder strap it comes with), and a backpack (the backpack's straps tuck into that zippered compartment at the back when you're not using them).

But the clincher was this:

Look at all those pockets! It's an OC's dream bag. Three large compartments, one of which is padded with a securing strap for a laptop, and the other two each with a gazillion pockets. Every item in it's own place. Plus there's a zippered compartment in front and if you're using it as a backpack, there's that extra compartment at the back where the straps would have been.

Needless to say, my husband's very happy with his Urban Pac (the name of the bag). Now if Sumdex can just make a smaller, more feminine version for me…

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Google Image Search

Here's another very useful, specialized search tool from Google—this time for images. It's been there forever, and most of you probably know about it already, so this post is for those who have not heard of it or used it yet. I don't think I need to explain what it's for.

Monday, February 25, 2008


Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo
The video that captured the mood of the 1986 People Power Revolution

A video created by Edward Fatal using the song "Ten Thousand Fists" by Disturbed

Learn more about the 1986 People Power Revolution from these websites:

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pin me!

On the wall in front of my desk at home is a 2 ft by 3 ft corkboard where I pin anything and everything I (1) want to keep in front of me all the time, (2) don't have a proper place for, or (3) have a place for but don't want to bother with immediately.

Anyway, I was staring at it earlier, thinking that I really have to clean it up—transfer the telephone numbers and email addresses, get a folder for the newspaper clippings—you get what I mean. And also that I really have to get some prettier pushpins and replace the yicky cheap plastic ones I currently have there. Who says utilitarian has to be boring, right?

So I went surfing and looked for some unique and whimsical pushpins. Here's what I found:

People-shaped aluminum pushpins
CB2 from Crate and Barrel

Etched nickel silver

Jim Clift Design

Colorful pushpins designed for children
Cottage Classics Design

Japanese-inspired wooden toadstools

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Glam Exchange

I've never been much for browsing fashion blogs or sites (or fashion magazines, for that matter). When I was younger, yes. But now, they just don't talk to me anymore, and they make me feel old, fat, ugly and poor.

Then a girl friend put up Glam Exchange (the source of yesterday's silver bath recipe), and now I'm hooked again. Aside from the fact that she's a very good writer and that she chooses the most luscious images, Glam Exchange's choice of topics is as quirky as the woman behind it. Take those high-fashion designers for example. Instead of just showcasing the new season's designs, she greets you during the Chinese New Year with Marc Jacobs' whiskered shoes, shows you the beautiful Prada video "Trembled Blossoms" and only mentions the bag and shoes in passing, and features the New York fashion show "FutureFashion" because many of the designers in the show made extensive use of the Philippine fabric piña.

All fashion is Glam Exchange's purview. Accessories, of course. Jewelry, yes, including a piece about how you can have yourself made into a diamond after cremation. Even bling for gadgets—laptops, cellphones, iPods and their ilk—because they are now part of our over-all look after all.

Have I started surfing fashion sites and buying fashion magazines again because of Glam Exchange? Have I become a shopaholic? No. My fashionable girl friend is probably despairing of me…

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Give your silver a bath

I got this recipe for removing tarnish from silver from Glam Exchange, which says it was concocted by Anne Marie Helmenstine, who has a Ph.D. in Chemistry. She calls it a "non-toxic electrochemical dip."

Since Glam Exchange is a fashion blog, it was presented as a way of caring for silver jewelry. But if it works for silver in general, it should be great for silverware too. Also silver teapots, serving trays, chafing dishes, whatever. Of course, you just might have to use your bath tub, rather than just a pan or the sink.


  • Sink or glass pan
  • Hot water
  • Baking soda
  • Salt
  • Aluminum foil
  • Tarnished silver
  1. Line the bottom of the sink or a glass baking dish with a sheet of aluminum foil.
  2. Fill the foil-lined container with steaming hot water.
  3. Add salt (sodium chloride) and baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to the water. Some recipes call for 2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp salt, whereas others call for 2 tablespoons each of baking soda and salt. Personally, I wouldn't measure the amounts… just add a bit of each substance.
  4. Drop the silver items into the container so that they are touching each other and resting on the foil. You will be able to watch the tarnish disappear.
  5. Leave heavily tarnished items in the solution for as long as 5 minutes. Otherwise, remove the silver when it appears clean.
  6. Rinse the silver with water and gently buff it dry with a soft towel.
Silverware by Oneida

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Your bra should not make you look like this!

Warning, boys: this is one post for the girls only. So if you insist on reading it, please resist the temptation to write a smart-alecky comment.

I am risking some ire from others by saying this, but I just have to say it: I totally abhor this!

Rolls of back fat oozing over and under bra straps. The thing is, it's not limited to just fat women. I've seen it on skinny and average-sized women. I've seen it on young girls, old women, and (otherwise) smart-looking corporate types in their prime. Really, sometimes I get very tempted to go up to these women and tell them, "Lady, your bra's too tight. Please loosen it or change it."

Because that's all it is: a bra that's too tight.

There are lots of websites that have tutorials on measuring yourself correctly, choosing the right bra, even tutorials on how to wear them properly. I especially like O, The Oprah Magazine's "Bra Intervention" article because of the before and after bra makeover pictures. It's a three-part article with more pictures than text, and with four related articles. All very easy reads. Back fat rolls are just one problem (but my particular pet peeve because it's relatively easy to address)—there's the hardly-there problem and the cup-overfloweth problem. All are tackled in the article.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Seafood tomato soup

An un-recipe. Because when I say "pack," it's how my local grocery packed it and I won't have the weight of it for you. Because I decided to use parsley as the main flavor, rather than my usual basil, oregano and rosemary, which I added anyway. Because you can pretty much substitute any other kind of seafood for what I used and list here. And because the only cooking instruction I can give you for this is: fill a pot with water, add the first five ingredients and simmer for about half an hour, then add the remaining ingredients one by one, simmering for five minutes after everything looks cooked.

After ladling the hot soup into bowls, you might want to sprinkle some grated cheese on it before serving.

one large onion, chopped
one pack parsely, chopped
one small garlic, minced
2 tbsp soy sauce
12 tomatoes, chopped

one pack scallops
one pack shrimp
one pack creamy dory fillet, sliced into bite-size pieces
dash pepper, basil, rosemary, oregano

one head cauliflower florets
one head broccoli florets
one pack green beans, sliced into half-inch pieces
one pack frozen corn and carrots, thawed

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Näiveté, part 1

I do not understand why some people always think that they're right and others are always wrong.

I do not understand how someone can harm a helpless, innocent child.

I do not understand why people don't take pride in their work and do it the best they can.

I do not understand why it is so hard for some people to say "It's my fault. I'm sorry."

I do not understand why people can't be kind to one another.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

May you be transformed by the love around you

    somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
    any experience,your eyes have their silence:
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near

    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously) her first rose

    or if your wish be to close me,i and
    my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
    as when the heart of this flower imagines
    the snow carefully everywhere descending;

    nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
    the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
    compels me with the color of its countries,
    rendering death and forever with each breathing

    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens; only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
    nobody,not even the rain, has such small hands

    ~e. e. cummings (1931)

    pink heart gem

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Kissed by the Snow Queen

I always use lip balm before I put on lipstick. The moisturizers they put in lipsticks are never enough for me—I always end up with dry, chapped lips without the balm. I finished my tube of lip balm last week so I had to get another over the weekend. And I discovered this in our neighborhood drugstore:

ChapStick's Peppermint lip balm. Ooh! Sure enough, it makes my lips cool. Only for half an hour after application, though—I wish the sensation lasted longer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

This ad zapped.

That bit of text started popping up in all of the websites I was viewing at work two weeks ago. At first I thought that something was wrong with my Firefox or my computer, then I saw it on a colleague's screen while she was checking her email. They weren't showing up at home though, so being who I am, I Googled the entire phrase.

Okay, so now I know that it's caused by an ad-zapping program installed on the web server. So our networking guys installed it without telling us. Fine. It actually makes web surfing faster because the pages don't need to wait for ads to load from ad servers. But does it really have to identify my Multiply header image as an ad?!!

Stupid program. I guess I just have to be thankful that it didn't touch my Blogger site.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A 'thank you' from the love of my life

My husband writes a men's lifestyle column for a Philippine national daily, and last December, all the columnists were told to make their piece for the Christmas week thematic. This is his column for that week. It's only the second time that he has included me in one of his essays, and it is definitely the first time that I got thanked so publicly.

A sweet gift from the love of my life that I am sharing with you just because Valentine's Day is this week.

    Thus spake the Grinch
    For section ‘M’ of the Philippine Star, 26 December 2007.

    Sometimes I feel that the Christmas season sprouts around me like so many weeds. They spring up where you don’t want them, they’re awful to look at, and no matter how hard you try to stop them, they just keep spreading. They’re weeds, after all.

    This is what Christmas in this country, in this metropolis, has become: just another thing you don’t really want, can’t get rid of, and try to tolerate with all the patience that you can muster (and unless you have the patience of a Buddhist monk, you will fail). It is a season of obligation, pursued with supremely resentful perseverance. Among the obligations I have come to resent is the forced good cheer I must put on simply because the weather turns nippy. The voices of tone-deaf but earnest carolers at my gate are supposed to fill me with a warm, tingly, Christmasy feeling. They fill me with annoyance. “Isn’t this just another form of begging?” I ask myself, closing the jalousies then slinking away. The envelopes from the garbage collectors, the mailman, the men on their bikes who deliver the bills and can’t be bothered to say a half-polite greeting any other time, multiply on the kitchen counter like libidinous bacteria. (The thought that dousing them in Lysol might actually make them disappear crossed my mind the other day.)

    I suppose this makes me sound like a Grinch, and I suppose I am. (My colleagues might be happy to inform you that my disposition this time of year isn’t very different from what it is the rest of it.) Heck, what’s the point of being cheerful? Don’t we already do, at all times in the year, a smashing job of insisting that everyone around us be happy, even in some superficial way? When we see a friend moping, don’t we ask, “Why the long face?” as if he didn’t have the right to be morose once in a while. It isn’t true that misery loves company. Misery is something you’re supposed to hide from others. You bear it alone. Happiness, now that’s something you must share, even if you don’t have it. Decorum dictates that it, or a suitably convincing facsimile, must be put on display. And decorum’s voice gets loud and strident during these holidays. Cheer is part of the season’s props, like the blinking lights and lanterns we adorn our houses with, gaudiness be damned.

    How about those of us who aren’t thrilled to glutinous bits by the season? What happens to those of us who dread the “-ber” months because it means hearing those dreadful Chipmunk carols in restaurants everywhere? (Once, sitting in a restaurant early in November, I heard those familiar voices that sound like eunuchs being tortured, and I resolved: one day I will strangle Alvin and his fellow rodents.) I suspect there are more of us than I think. After all, what explains those long faces at the stores, the mirthless attendants who wear silly red Santa hats their supervisors ordered them to wear? And those shoppers madly careening down corridors and into and out of shops, fulfilling their Christmas-shopping duties with their lips set in a grim line?

    Christmas bites when the cabdriver refuses to take you where you want to go unless you give him a little extra for his pains. Hey, you’re supposed to be generous—it’s Christmas! Office giveaways are nice, but really, I don’t need any more umbrellas. (Or mugs, for that matter.) I like a good party, but one right after another, sometimes on the very same day? And all those sweets? Cut me and I’ll bleed sugar.

    And what words can describe the insanely heavy traffic the season spawns? Whoever said that Christmas is for children doesn’t drive around this city in December. At this time of year, push carts in groceries go faster than cars on our roads. Really, why can’t others just stay home when I need to get someplace? Christmas traffic makes sense only for a hardy kind of person, the kind the Robert Duvall character in Apocalypse Now might have been had he grown up in Manila (“I love the smell of gas fumes in the morning!” he might say, striding shirtless down the stairs.)

    And then there’s the bank. My thirteenth month pay came on the fifteenth of December (Yes! I’m rich!), but I couldn’t touch it right away because my bank’s ATMs always go offline during paydays. If Santa really does exist, he would make me immensely happy if he gave the bank bosses who make these decisions a none-too-serious but truly painful disease, preferably of the gastrointestinal variety, this holiday season.

    * * * * *

    My wife has just been looking over my shoulder reading what I’ve just written. She makes unhappy noises behind me. “So what do you want me to say about Christmas, huh?” I mutter. “I suppose you want something happy.” No answer, just the sound of her steps as she walks away and goes back to the study to continue wrapping gifts. I’m used to this. When I’m grumpy, she simply ignores me. It’s part of her attempt to civilize me, a project she realizes will take longer than she probably first thought. (I have the sinking feeling that it will never reach a satisfactory conclusion.) Then from across the hall she says, in a gentle but firm voice, “Weeds can be pretty, you know. Some of them have flowers.” This is true, I admit, but I can’t write it here because it ruins the metaphor I opened this essay with.

    I take a break from the computer and walk around the living room. The Christmas tree is up, decorated simply in green and gold. She buys lights for the tree that aren’t colored or flicker or play some insipid tune. Some years she adds touches of silver to the tree, or unfurls a spool of gold sinamay around to give it more texture. Not for us the massive trees bedecked with ostentatious finery.

    The decorative bottles on a side table are gone, replaced with a manger scene with figurines that have been in her family for a long time. When we sit to dinner these days the placemats are green and red, the plates we use from the Christmas set her sister sent her once. The advent wreath is out, a red cloth underneath it. The banister is covered in the green of tree branches, a thread of gold running through it, icicles like crystal hanging from it. Soon the gifts to family and friends will be ready, wrapped artfully in the way only she does it. (She buys unique Christmas wrappers wherever she finds them and rarely settles for the thin and cheap kind you can get easily.) She asked me weeks before who I would be giving presents to among my friends and work mates. I haven’t had to lift a finger, and shopping bags with the neatly wrapped gifts inside them appear by the tree, ready for the Santa of the family (who else?) to deliver.

    Every so often she will go to the mall early on a Sunday morning (a Sunday morning!) because, she says, she “needs gifts.” She buys gifts for family and friends, their birthdays in her datebook. She gives things away, something I ribbed her about before. Once early in our marriage we had friends over, and we happened to have some very good cake in the fridge. “Oh, we have some cake,” she said to them. “Want some?” I didn’t say anything, but when they had left, I asked, “Why did you offer them the cake? It’s ours!” She looked at me as if I’d been a bad boy in school. Coming from a family of six children I’ve lived with the feeling that there was never enough to go around. And here she was, offering it to others with the lightest touch. Reconciling her generosity of spirit with my lack of it hasn’t been easy. But it’s always been clear, I realize now, which side needs to give.

    Without my noticing, another kind of Christmas has sprouted up around me like some wonderfully lush garden you hadn’t realized you lived in, one you didn’t deserve in any way for anything you did, yet you stand in it astonished at its completely superfluous and necessary beauty. It happens every year, but I’m too busy, cranky, or just plain dim to see it. I go over to her and ask, “Is there anything I can do to help?” She looks at me, puzzled. “No.” Then I say, before I turn to go back to the computer, “Thanks for taking care of everything.” She says, “You’re welcome, love,” and smiles, a smile that turns me into a child again.

    I sit at my keyboard and turn this essay into what I didn’t think it would be: a small token of my gratitude.

Image from Dr. Seuss' "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" from Horror-Wood

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Kids and teenagers love the games. Adults like the exercise factor (my friends swear by boxing). Now, physical therapists join the Wii's already enormous fan base. Tempting.

Click the title to read the complete article.

    Doctors use Wii games for rehab therapy
    By Lindsey Tanner, AP Medical Writer
    Sat Feb 9, 6:24 AM ET

    CHICAGO (AP) – Some call it "Wiihabilitation." Nintendo's Wii video game system, whose popularity already extends beyond the teen gaming set, is fast becoming a craze in rehab therapy for patients recovering from strokes, broken bones, surgery and even combat injuries.

    The usual stretching and lifting exercises that help the sick or injured regain strength can be painful, repetitive and downright boring.

    In fact, many patients say PT—physical therapy's nickname—really stands for "pain and torture," said James Osborn, who oversees rehabilitation services at Herrin Hospital in southern Illinois.

    Using the game console's unique, motion-sensitive controller, Wii games require body movements similar to traditional therapy exercises. But patients become so engrossed mentally they're almost oblivious to the rigor, Osborn said.

    "In the Wii system, because it's kind of a game format, it does create this kind of inner competitiveness. Even though you may be boxing or playing tennis against some figure on the screen, it's amazing how many of our patients want to beat their opponent," said Osborn of Southern Illinois Healthcare, which includes the hospital in Herrin. The hospital, about 100 miles southeast of St. Louis, bought a Wii system for rehab patients late last year.

    "When people can refocus their attention from the tediousness of the physical task, oftentimes they do much better," Osborn said.

    Nintendo Co. doesn't market Wii's potential use in physical therapy, but company representative Anka Dolecki said, "We are happy to see that people are finding added benefit in rehabilitation."

    The most popular Wii games in rehab involve sports—baseball, bowling, boxing, golf and tennis. Using the same arm swings required by those sports, players wave a wireless controller that directs the actions of animated athletes on the screen.

    The Hines Veterans Affairs Hospital west of Chicago recently bought a Wii system for its spinal cord injury unit.

    Pfc. Matthew Turpen, 22, paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident last year while stationed in Germany, plays Wii golf and bowling from his wheelchair at Hines. The Des Moines, Iowa, native says the games help beat the monotony of rehab and seem to be doing his body good, too.

    "A lot of guys don't have full finger function so it definitely helps being able to work on using your fingers more and figuring out different ways to use your hands" and arms, Turpen said.

    At Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the therapy is well-suited to patients injured during combat in Iraq, who tend to be in the 19 to 25 age range—a group that's "very into" playing video games, said Lt. Col. Stephanie Daugherty, Walter Reed's chief of occupational therapy.

    "They think it's for entertainment, but we know it's for therapy," she said.

    It's useful in occupational therapy, which helps patients relearn daily living skills including brushing teeth, combing hair and fastening clothes, Daugherty said.

    WakeMed Health has been using Wii games at its Raleigh, N.C., hospital for patients as young as 9 "all the way up to people in their 80s," said therapist Elizabeth Penny.

    "They're getting improved endurance, strength, coordination. I think it's very entertaining for them," Penny said.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

So that's what it's for!

I noticed that little shiny square beside the camera lens of my cellphone immediately when I got it almost a year ago, but I only found out what it was for last month. It's a mirror so you can position yourself correctly when taking a picture of yourself (alone or with a friend).

Just another Duh! moment.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Google Blog Search

I discovered this search engine only last week, and it seems that I've had my head in the sand because a girl friend told me that it has been around for about a year already.

Aside from just searching blogs, what makes it different from the regular Google search—and what makes it wonderfully useful to me—is its sort by date function. You can even choose to display posts published only during the last hour, 12 hours, last day, past week, past month, or any range of your choosing. Or even a particular date, if you remember that but not the title or url of the post.

So what's it for?

I don't know about other people, but for me, this is particularly useful for reviews—of shows, movies and performances that I'm thinking of watching, or of books that I'm thinking of reading or buying. Sure, there are experts out there, but I'd also like to know what the blogger-on-the-street thinks. Google Blog Search will also help when I'm looking for the results of a particular game—games too obscure to be televised or written about in the national dailies.

Of course, you can also use it to find out if anyone's been writing about you.

I took this screen shot soon after I posted the "Cat's Meow" video. So, of course, it was right on top when I blog-searched for the Philippine Madrigal Singers.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Year of the Earth Rat

Gong Xi Fa Cai!
Kung Hei Fat Choi!
Keong Hee Huat Chye!
Congratulations and Be Prosperous!

The Rat is the first sign of the Chinese zodiac and signifies new beginnings. This year is thus an appropriate time to start new ventures, especially groundbreakings. This includes new ideas, directions, and ways of doing things.

Earth favors those who are tied to the land, do a lot of routine work, deal with practical matters, or perform work of a spiritual nature.

The Rat tends to take a lot of risks, while Earth is associated with practicality and stability. This creates balance and can lead to good profits, increased productivity and all sorts of accomplishments. Looking at the characteristics of both Earth and Rat, it could be a very good year for those with careers in business, construction, engineering, academia, planning and the clergy.

Image from The Magnificent Paper Cuts found in

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dies Cinerum

Remember, O man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.
~ Genesis 3:19

Ash Wednesday. Carl Spitzweg, German.
Oil on panel, c. 1860.

Image from MuseumSyndicate: Experience Art and History

Carl Spitzweg painted several versions of "Ash Wednesday," as he was captivated with the theme of the lonely outcast harlequin for a number of years circa 1860's. The composition in each of the versions are similar, in that they depict the isolated clown, contemplating the passing hours in a dark, shadow-filled cell, with only a slight ray of light to sustain him.

Ash Wednesday figures in this work as a metaphor for this isolation. Spitzweg was a devout Christian, who grappled incessantly with the notion of transience in life. In the Christian church, Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and it was the practice in Rome for penitents to begin their period of public penance, obliged to remain apart until they were reconciled with the Christian community on the Thursday before Easter. When this practice became outdated, the beginning of Lent was symbolized by the placing of ashes on the foreheads of the entire congregation.

The notion of separation without reconciliation or redemption was not lost on Spitzweg, consequently symbolized in his harlequin series. In Spitzweg's diary, he recalled the ceremony of Ash Wednesday and the intensity of his priest's words, "Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return." Indeed, in the Old Testament, ashes were used as a sign of humility and mortality, sorrow and repentance for sin. For Spitzweg, the harlequin in jail offered a way to reflect on humanity in general, and expose the constant struggle between moral and immoral tendencies within the self. The figure of the harlequin was celebrated in many European countries through traveling theater productions, and Spitzweg had the opportunity to specifically watch the festive and colorful Commedia del'arte. Additionally, he read much literature on the topic of the harlequin in its manifold symbolism. The harlequin's pointed cap, and bright costume sets up a strong contrast to the sombre cell, presenting a most poetic and powerful work.

Text from Artfact

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

If only cats caterwauling sounded like this

Cat's Meow
Philippine Madrigal Singers
Chonan, South Korea
January 24, 2007

Monday, February 4, 2008

Christmas shopping's halfway done

It's been two years that my husband and I give Christmas gifts that benefit poor communities (read Gifts that give). This is going to be the third year, and I've started really early.

The Ateneo Center for Educational Development (ACED) is one of our favorite beneficiaries. They help the teachers, principals and other school officials of our public education system by providing continuing mastery of subjects (most of our teachers cannot afford further studies on their own) and management workshops for school officials (most of whom were not trained for their positions). And with the state the Philippine public school system is in, they need all the help they can get!

Anyway, last December, ACED was selling cakes, Christmas cards and planners to help raise funds for their programs. We bought cakes for some of our friends, but since I already had Christmas cards, we didn't buy those. But I told them that if they had any left over in January, to give me a call and I'd buy them. Last week, I got an email from them saying they had 25 boxes, so I went over to get them. They were offering me a discount, but I declined—what for, if part of our purpose is to help them. Later in the week, I got another email saying that more had been returned by groups which helped them sell the cards last Christmas. I'm thinking of getting them all, but I'll consult my husband first—it's as many as the first batch!

ACED's cards are based on artwork made by students in their partner public schools. They come eight to a box, and the boxes are green and red and pretty enough as gift boxes. And that's what we'll be using them for this year—as early gifts to our friends. Maybe one red and one green box, tied together with a gold ribbon, and a tag saying that it's an early Christmas gift so they can use it for their own Christmas gifts. We'll give them mid-November, before most finish their shopping.

My only problem now is to find a spot to store them well, a place that doesn't get hot or moist—very difficult, considering Manila's climate.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Almost summer

The nights are still cool, and though the sun is much stronger—especially at noon—even daytime breezes are still cool too. But I know that summer's on it's way in this part of the world because of two things:

ONE Our dog's shedding like crazy! Has been for the past two weeks. I give him a good brushing everyday, but I still have balls of hair all over the living room, dining room and kitchen. Finally brought him in for grooming last weekend—a summer cut, which means his hair's just half an inch long now. Doesn't mean he has stopped shedding, but at least I don't have tumblehair in the house anymore.

TWO I'm flaking! Though I use a wash cloth or a loofah in the shower until I scrub myself raw, when I put on my body moisturizer, rolls of skin still peel off. I have to wait until the moisturizer dries then I dust myself off. Otherwise, I feel like I have lint all over my body.

Summer. Heat and sweat, yes, but also a reprieve for my scalp, which absolutely hates cold weather. So does the rest of my skin, actually. After this peeling, my skin will be having a wonderful season!

Friday, February 1, 2008

January 2008: Happy elsewhere

Aside from my job, shopping, errands, and eating out with family and friends, these are what took me out of the house in January 2008:

Tanghalang Pilipino
Written by Mustapha Matura • Translated by George de Jesus III • Directed by Floy Quintos

If It Ain’t Baroque, Don’t Fix It: The Bach Family Business
Clarion Chamber Ensemble
Johann Sebastian Bach • Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach • Johann Christian Bach • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Johnny Alegre Affinity
Johnny Alegre, Guitar • Colby dela Calzada, Bass • Ricky Posadas, Drums

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Directed by Tim Burton