Monday, March 31, 2008

Manila during Earth Hour 2008

Not bad. Quite a few cities in Metro Manila joined Earth Hour 2008. I just can't figure out which areas these pictures are of. There are no landmarks I can distinguish, there were no 'before' photos, and the captions didn't identify them either.

How'd your city do during Earth Hour?

Photos by Rolex dela Peña from the web article In photos: 'Asia-Pacific Earth Hour' published in m&c

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Our O.C. dog

Every now and then, our dog doesn't finish his meal in one sitting. Like last night—he only ate half at 6pm then finished the rest at 9pm. This is what his supper dish looked like after he ate the first half:

dog dish

Friday, March 28, 2008

Designer soda

I've never been much of a soda drinker. When we were growing up, we only had water to drink at home, and sometimes, fruit juices. We'd have soda ("softdrinks" to Filipinos) only when we had visitors, so it was always a treat. Now that I'm older, I still don't drink soda much—bad for hyperacidity.

Pepsi DeluxeBut last December, my husband came home with freebies from Pepsi: two cartons (six cans per carton) of Pepsi Deluxe. Zero calories. One flavor was Creme Caramel and the other was Strawberries and Cream. They were down to four cans last weekend and I finally decided to try them out.

They're good. Creamy is the correct word for them, and the fizz adds a nice tartness.

Why designer soda? I have no idea. At the bottom of the can, it says: "Uncover more at" See, the problem is that I didn't check it early enough and the Pepsi Deluxe page at Armani is gone. Now I'm left wondering what that whole thing was all about.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Dinner, anyone?

Sigh. I have gained some inches over the past couple of months. The jeans that were beginning to become loose enough to become hipsters now fit snuggly around my waist again.

And it's not just the fault of those cupcakes—though I'm sure they didn't help! I have to confess: I'm a stress eater. It's not that I begin munching when I'm stressed out, unlike most people I know at work. But I do tend to eat larger servings and choose food that's not as healthy. More meat, less fresh vegetables and fruits. The past two weeks alone, I had McDonald's spaghetti and chicken nuggets four times. Add the pastries and the chips, and I'm looking at a 10-pound gain (minimum!) by the end of the year.

So last night, just before drifting off to sleep, I made the decision to stop all the junk, have more salads for lunch again, and go back to my cereal drink for dinner. Nestle's Nesvita. Whole wheat, soya and rice flour in skimmed milk and buttermilk. It's got sugar though but I guess I can't have everything. And yes, I actually like Nesvita's taste, and I've done this before so it's not going to be difficult at all. So here's to loose pants and saying good-bye to this heavy, bloated feeling—cheers!

Sunday, March 23, 2008


After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, approached, rolled back the stone, and sat upon it. His appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. The guards were shaken with fear of him and became like dead men. Then the angel said to the women in reply, "Do not be afraid! I know that you are seeking Jesus the crucified. He is not here, for he has been raised just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, 'He has been raised from the dead, and he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him.' Behold, I have told you." Then they went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce this to his disciples.

~ Matthew 28:1–8

The Morning of the Resurrection
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, English, 1833–1898
Image from the WebMuseum

Happy Easter, everyone!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Manila

Since I actually spend more time outside the house than in it, I decided to start yet another blog: My Manila.

I will begin taking our point-and-shoot digicam every time I go out and take pictures of the Manila I experience everyday. This is not going to be the exotic or historic Manila that the Department of Tourism would like to promote, with its 19th century historical sites, glorious Manila Bay sunsets, or modern office buildings and hotels. I hope to be able to take pictures of those too, but this will mostly be pictures of the roads I walk, shops and theaters I frequent, homes I visit, and whatever else I see along the way.

I hope you like my Manila. Despite its many flaws, I do.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, "Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us." The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, "Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." He replied to him, "Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

It was now about noon and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon because of an eclipse of the sun. Then the veil of the temple was torn down the middle. Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;" and when he had said this he breathed his last.

~ Luke 23:39–46

The Crucifixion
Pieter Brueghel the Younger, Flemish, 1564–1638
Oil on Panel, Church of Saint-Nicolas-du-Chardonnet, Paris, France

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

His final odyssey

I just want to say good-bye to one of my favorite science fiction writers: Arthur C. Clarke. I hope you enjoy your newest adventure!

The world will be a much poorer place without new stories from him.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How long does it take

…for a scar to completely disappear when you're religiously applying Hydrocortisone Cream to it mornings and evenings?

Back in September 2007, I had a sebaceous (there's that word again! honestly, I've the oil glands of a teenager) cyst removed from my chest. No big deal, took all of thirty minutes including waiting for the anesthesia to take effect. A month later, the wound had closed but I noticed that it was starting to form a keloid. Panic attack! I know that keloids are not dangerous or anything, but the location of the scar is really inconvenient. When I wear a scoop or V-neck shirt or a button-down blouse, the thing peeks out.

So I ran to a dermatologist, who prescribed Hydrocortisone Cream with directions to apply it every morning after my bath and every night before sleeping. It's been almost five months, and I'm happy to say that the keloid didn't continue (thank goodness! the other solution is a Cortisone injection) and the angry red color is gone. But there still is a slight mark and my girl friends say it looks like a hickie, of all things.

Summer's here. The time for tank tops and bathing suits. So I just want to know how long before the scar disappears completely, or if it ever will. Does anybody know?

Monday, March 17, 2008

New old books

After visiting a friend in the hospital, my husband and I decided to go to our favorite used books shop to go treasure hunting again for a couple of hours. Our last similar trip had been way back in November, so it was high time we did it again. Here are the newest, old additions to my piles and piles of yet-to-be-read books:

    stack of old booksTales of the Giraffe by Alexander McCall Smith
    detective fiction - the second book in The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series set in Botswana

    To Weave a Web of Magic by Claire Delacroix, Lyn Kurland, Patricia McKillip and Sharon Shinn
    fantasy - four novellas of fantasy romance

    Legacies: A Chinese Mosaic by Bette Bao Lord
    non-fiction - stories of diverse experiences of men and women in China during the past fifty years as told by a woman born in China, raised in America, wife of a former American ambassador to China and resident of Beijing in the late 1980s

    The Princes of Ireland by Edward Rutherford
    historical fiction - an epic saga of individuals and families set against the backdrop of Irish history from its tribal, pagan past to the time of Henry VIII and Ireland's invasion of England

You can see the titles of my previous hunt here. And no, I have not yet read a single book from that expedition.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palm Sunday

On the next day, when the great crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him, and cried out: "Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel."
~ John 12: 12–13

Date Palm
Phoenix dactylifera

The Date Palm is a palm extensively cultivated for its edible fruit. Due to its long history of cultivation for fruit, its exact native distribution is unknown, but probably originated somewhere in the desert oases of northern Africa, and perhaps also southwest Asia. It is a medium-sized tree, 15–25 m tall, often clumped with several trunks from a single root system, but often growing singly as well. The leaves are pinnate, 3–5 m long, with spines on the petiole and about 150 leaflets; the leaflets are 30 cm long and 2 cm broad. The full span of the crown ranges from 6–10 m.

History of dates
Dates have been a staple food of the Middle East for thousands of years. They are believed to have originated around the Persian Gulf, and have been cultivated since ancient times from Mesopotamia to prehistoric Egypt, possibly as early as 4000 BC. There is archaeological evidence of date cultivation in eastern Arabia in 6,000 BC. In later times, Arabs spread dates around South and South East Asia, northern Africa, and Spain. Dates were introduced into Mexico and California by the Spaniards by 1765, around Mission San Ignacio.

Photo of Phoenix dactylifera from Murcia, Spain by Seweryn Olkowicz from Wikimedia Commons. Text from Wikipedia.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Earth Hour 2008

It started with a question: How can we inspire people to take action on climate change?

The answer: Ask the people of Sydney to turn off their lights for one hour.

On 31 March 2007, 2.2 million people and 2100 Sydney businesses turned off their lights for one hour – Earth Hour. If the greenhouse reduction achieved in the Sydney CBD during Earth Hour was sustained for a year, it would be equivalent to taking 48,616 cars off the road for a year.

With Sydney icons like the Harbour Bridge and Opera House turning their lights off, and unique events such as weddings by candlelight, the world took notice. Inspired by the collective effort of millions of Sydneysiders, many major global cities are joining Earth Hour in 2008, turning a symbolic event into a global movement.

Created to take a stand against the greatest threat our planet has ever faced, Earth Hour uses the simple action of turning off the lights for one hour to deliver a powerful message about the need for action on global warming.

This simple act has captured the hearts and minds of people all over the world. As a result, at 8pm on Saturday, March 29, 2008 millions of people in some of the world’s major capital cities will unite and switch off for Earth Hour.

As of March 14, cities involved include Aalborg, Aarhus, Adelaide, Atlanta, Bangkok, Brisbane, Canberra, Chicago, Christchurch, Copenhagen, Dublin, Manila, Melbourne, Montreal, Odense, Ottawa, Perth, Phoenix, San Francisco, Suva and Lautoka, Sydney, Tel Aviv, Toronto and Vancouver.

All text, images and video from the Earth Hour 2008 website. Visit and get involved.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The evil gas station

Okay, okay, so it's not really the gas station that's evil (though that's not too far off, what with gasoline/petrol prices nowadays).

A new gas station opened a few months ago that's right at the route we take going home from work and the owners decided to build a strip mall on the lot. All the shops opened soon after the gas station did, and one of them is my favorite doughnut shop: Go Nuts Donuts. It's not even their doughnuts that I'm crazy about (though I do like them too). It's their cupcakes. Specifically these two:

Scream Cheese is butter cake with a cream cheese center smothered in fluffy cream cheese and with butter-flavored sprinkles.

Chocolate Peanut Butter is creamy chocolate cake spread with chocolate fudge and topped with a dollop of peanut butter cream.

I think I've already gained an inch around my waist since that store opened. Evil, I tell you.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Snacking on wasabi

wasabi-flavored potato chips and peas

Have you tried wasabi-flavored potato chips and wasabi-coated green peas? I swear, they're some of the yummiest snacks around. (If you like wasabi, that is.) My husband and I were perfectly happy with these, then I went to Tokyo two years ago and discovered this:

Deep-fried soba (thin Japanese buckwheat noodles) sprinkled with wasabi powder with wasabi-coated soramame (a Japanese broad bean). Even better than the potato chips and peas. The problem is, I have not seen it being sold here in Manila, unlike the other two. I sure hope someone decides to import them in commercial quantities soon.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dazzling Dozois

Gardner Dozois has been my favorite SF&F editor for the past two decades. I especially look forward to his "The Year's Best Science Fiction" every year. Unfortunately, I only discovered this series in the mid-eighties when bookstores other than that one big chain started operations, so I'm missing the earlier books.

I can never remember what month the book for the year comes out. So last Sunday when we passed by the bookstore where I usually buy it, I left my name and number with instructions to call me when the book arrives. When we got home, I did a web search and it turns out that the 25th annual collection (2007 stories) will be published in July. Hee, I'm early. That's okay though—I want to make sure I get a copy. The market for SF here is still rather limited so the bookstores never buy a lot.

Here are the 32 stories in "The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Fifth Annual Collection" edited by Gardner Dozois. I can't wait for July.

  • David Moles: "Finisterra"
  • Ken MacLeod: "Lighting Out"
  • John Barnes: "The Ocean is a Snowflake, Four Billion Miles Away"
  • Gwyneth Jones: "Saving Tiamaat"
  • James Van Pelt: "Of Late I Dreamt of Venus"
  • Ian McDonald: "Verthandi's Ring"
  • Una McCormack: "Sea Change"
  • Chris Roberson: "The Sky is Large and the Earth is Small"
  • Greg Egan: "Glory"
  • Robert Silverberg: "Against the Current"
  • Neal Asher: "Alien Archeology"
  • Ted Chiang: "The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate"
  • Justin Stanchfield: "Beyond the Wall"
  • Bruce Sterling: "Kiosk"
  • Stephen Baxter: "Last Contact"
  • Alastair Reynolds: "The Sledge-Maker's Daughter"
  • Ian McDonald: "Sanjeev and Robotwallah"
  • Michael Swanwick: "The Skysailor's Tale"
  • Vandana Singh: "Of Love and Other Monsters"
  • Greg Egan: "Steve Fever"
  • Kage Baker: "Hellfire at Twilight"
  • Brian Stableford: "The Immortals of Atlantis"
  • Pat Cadigan: "Nothing Personal"
  • Elizabeth Bear: "Tideline"
  • Keith Brooke: "The Accord"
  • Nancy Kress: "Laws of Survival"
  • Tom Purdom: "The Mists of Time"
  • Kristine Kathryn Rusch: "Craters"
  • Ted Kosmatka: "The Prophet of Flores"
  • Benjamin Rosenbaum & David Ackert: "Stray"
  • Robert Reed: "Roxie"
  • Gregory Benford: "Dark Heaven"

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Easy match

During the past decade, I've stopped buying gift wrappers made by Hallmark, Fiesta/American Greetings, and other large companies. It's not because I don't like their designs or find them expensive, but because I've been finding some beautiful and unique wrappers from other places. One time, I bought the prettiest apple green and white checkered wrappers with orange and pink flowers from a Chinese restaurant (I have no idea why they were selling them). At one Christmas bazaar, I found laminated kraft paper with bold red swirls. At the warehouse of a wholesaler of gift items, I got several rolls of Picasso-like sketches of flowers.

The only problem with these unique gift wrappers is that they don't come with matching gift tags so I have to make my own. I used to spend a lot of time on my gift tags and cards, but now, I just don't have as much time to spend on them so I've developed a quick and easy version that anyone—even someone who has never done any papercraft—can do:

For the tag on the left, all you need is a piece of card stock (about 2" wide by 3" high), a scrap of the gift wrapper you're using, a pair of fancy-edged scissors and glue. If you have to buy just one pair of scissors, get a deckle edge. It's naturally uneven so even if you can't cut straight, it won't matter at all. All you have to do is cut the edge of the scrap paper, glue it onto the bottom of the card, then trim the excess.

Sometimes, I only use plain tissue paper to wrap a gift (especially awkwardly-shaped ones without boxes), and that's what the card on the right is for. This time, all you need is the fancy-edged scissors and a colored marker. Cut the bottom of the card then color the edge, following its contours. What color to use? I always try to match the color of the ribbon I'll be using.

Then the last step. Since I don't have corner punchers, I just cut the top corners diagonally (to avoid dog ears). To attach the tag to the gift, I use double-sided tape. If I'm using a ribbon, I punch a hole in one corner of the tag and run the ribbon through it before tying.

That's it for the tags themselves. You can now write whatever message you want to. But since it's already in the photo, I might as well describe how I do my lettering too.

First, the colors. For the one using the scrap, I always use black (or white if the card stock is dark) to write "happy birthday." Then I choose a second marker that matches one of the colors on the wrapper for the name of the recipient. For the colored deckle edge, I just use the same marker for the name as I used on the edge. I write my name (or my husband's or both) using the black/white marker again.

As to the lettering itself, basically, I just use my normal block handwriting but give the loops some swirls and flourishes. All lowercase for the greeting and all uppercase—and slightly larger in size—for the recipient's name. I purposely do not try to write in a straight line or make the size of the letters even. Since all my markers have fine tips, I thicken the strokes of the recipient's name and again, I do not try to make them even. This way, even when I've the shakes from too much coffee, I know my lettering will still look good.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

What is 40 Philippine pesos?

  • About one U.S. dollar
  • Three hours of parking at the mall on a weekday
  • One order of large fries at Jollibee or McDonald's
  • One bottle of local beer at our neighborhood bar
  • One Pilot retractable ballpen

Forty pesos will not get you a full lunch at our school cafeteria. It's not enough to get you the smallest cup of coffee at Starbucks. You'll need a few pesos more to buy one liter of gasoline for your car. You'll need ten times the amount to buy a paperback of one of the bestsellers. And you'll need a hundred times forty pesos to buy a very good leather bag or pair of shoes.

What is 40 pesos?
According to the latest (2006) official poverty statistics report of the National Statistical Coordination Board, released on 5 March 2008, 40 pesos is what more than 27 million Filipinos have to subsist on for an entire day.

Read the ABS-CBN report here.
View the numbers here.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Believe it or not…

I don't watch TV.

Zero. Zip. Zilch.

The last TV series I watched regularly were E.R., Friends and X-Files. If I do get to watch new series, it's because my brother-in-law would lend me DVDs—none of which I asked for and which I'd finish in a week so I got my life back immediately (though I did enjoy them: 24, Heroes, Dr. Who, Rome).

We don't have cable TV either. When it first became available here, it was just too expensive and we weren't willing to shell out that much for it. It's gotten much cheaper now, of course, but we still haven't subscribed. We're probably the last hold-outs. My husband feels the lack during baseball season, but contents himself with various websites and blogs. I know I'll enjoy Discovery Channel, National Geographic and the DIY and cooking shows, but there are always books and the world wide web.

Not getting cable was (and continues to be) a conscious decision. We both acknowledge that we have addictive personalities and if we have cable, we know that we will easily get glued to the boob tube again. Gone will be the reading, writing, performances and crafts. Things which we both feel make our life tremendously richer. So, no cable TV.

I hope we can continue to resist the temptation.

The illustration above is from Trash Your TV! When you're ready to do so, this is the place to go.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Ambient movies

Most people put on music while doing their chores. I pop in movie DVDs.

Yes, I know it's weird. I can't really watch when I'm changing bed sheets, putting away clothes and linens, or giving myself a manicure or a pedicure. But that's what I do anyway. Here are my top three movies while I'm doing any of those things:

The Matrix (1999)
Only the first one, mind you. I abhor both sequels, especially the third (Revolutions). My favorite scene: when Neo and Trinity enter the building where Morpheus is being held to try and rescue him. The shootfest in the lobby is awesome!

The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)
Any of the three movies will do, but more often than not, I pop in "The Two Towers" (the second) because of the Battle of Helm's Deep. I especially love the scene when the elven archers arrive. If you've watched the movie as many times as I have and/or listened to all the commentaries in the special edition DVDs, you'll have noticed that each of the races has a particular music associated with it. Howard Shore's music for the elves has a haunting, ethereal melody, and he gives it a martial beat for the archers. Still makes my hair stand on end after all these years.

Batman Begins (2005)
Two words: Christian Bale.

Needless to say, I stop whatever I'm doing when I get to my favorite scenes. It's a good thing we don't have a TV and DVD player in the kitchen.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

February 2008: Happy elsewhere

An embarrassing richness of plays this month, aside from one ballet and the Japanese drummers. Two of the plays were by university theater groups, and I have to say that the best of the year so far was by one of them: Dulaang U.P.'s "Orosman at Zafira." Awesome!

Skin Deep
PETA: Philippine Educational Theater Association
Written by Vincent de Jesus • Directed by Nor Domingo • Music by Lucien Letaba and Arranged by Melvin Corpin • Choreographed by Christine Crame-Santillan

Hakbang sa Hakbang
William Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure"
Tanghalang Ateneo • Ateneo de Manila University
Translated and Directed by Ronan Capinding • Choreographed by Ina Luna

Repertory Philippines
Written by William Shakespeare • Directed by Ana Abad Santos-Bitong

Le Corsaire
Ballet Manila

EJ: Ang Pinagdaanang Buhay nina Evelio Javier at Edgar Jopson
Tanghalang Pilipino
Written by Ed Maranan • Directed by Chris Millado • Music by The Dawn

Wadaiko: The Drums of Japan
Ryo Shiobara and Daida
Ryo Shiobara:

Orosman at Zafira
Dulaang U.P. • University of the Philippines - Diliman and
Written by Francisco Baltazar • Directed and Choreographed by Dexter Santos • Music composed by Carol Bello