Friday, February 25, 2011

thoughts on Facebook

Have you ever scrolled down your Facebook News Feed and wondered, "Who are these people?!"

And have you ever continued scrolling down and reading anyway?

Ha ha. That's what I thought.

It's amazing how Facebook has managed to get us to spend countless hours following the minutest details of the lives of people we barely know and never much cared about. So-and-so is eating ice cream. So-and-so ran this many miles today. So-and-so was in a relationship with someone, and now it's complicated, if not totally torn to shreds, with new bile spewing forth with every status update.

Don't get me wrong. On the whole, I Like it.

Wiser heads than I can explore and expound on (and actually have been doing so, for the past few years) the effects that social media has had on the way humans interact with each other. Some people shake their heads sadly, even disgustedly, at how we now spend more time facing a computer than facing each other. And I agree: a group chat or a series of comments is a poor substitute for sitting by a sidewalk cafe, talking and laughing and watching the world go by.

On the other hand, I like how I no longer have to attend a batch reunion to know what my old classmates are doing. I like that I can keep in touch with friends who are now living in remote corners of the world. I like how I can "Like" something a casual acquaintance said, without having to text her or call her or tell her personally ('cause, man, that would be weird). And I like how I am learning so much more about people -- their thoughts, their preferences, their principles -- than I would have from our face-to-face interactions alone.

For months after I joined Facebook, I had only one friend, and that person wasn't even an actual friend, just someone I worked with for a while. It was only when I tried to sign up for a second time that I realized I already had a Facebook account. Now I check it daily -- but not hourly, I'm proud to say -- and it has become as much a part of my online routine as is checking for airline sales. 

Has my life been improved by Facebook? Hmmm... I'd like to say no. In all honesty, though, I'd have to say yes. And as long as Facebook remains a tool and not an end in itself, there's no reason why it shouldn't continue to do so.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

enlightenment on a saturday night

Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my grandfather...not screaming and yelling like the passengers in his car.

I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.

Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.

If you think nobody cares if you're alive, try missing a couple of payments.

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.

How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

Did you know that dolphins are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pool and throw them fish?

A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says "If an emergency, notify:" I put "DOCTOR". What's my mother going to do?

I didn't fight my way to the top of the food chain to be a vegetarian.

Some people say "If you can't beat them, join them." I say "If you can't beat them, beat them," because they will be expecting you to join them, so you will have the element of surprise. 

Never get into fights with ugly people; they have nothing to lose.

Always borrow money from a pessimist. He won't expect it back.

He who smiles in a crisis has found someone to blame.

A diplomat is someone who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you will look forward to the trip.

When in doubt, mumble.

Just remember: if the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others, whenever they go.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not sure.

When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

If at first you don't succeed, skydiving is not for you!

(The website I got this from didn't cite sources, so I won't cite it either. Fair enough, right?)

Friday, February 18, 2011

mark strong and the inevitable

I confess: the whole time I was watching Mark Strong portray Lord Blackwood in the Sherlock Holmes movie, I thought he was someone else.

Am I the only one who thinks they look alike?
I bring this up because I just finished watching Mark Strong in his most un-Terry-Benedict-looking role as a Roman legionary in The Eagle. The Andy Garcia resemblance is practically zero in the film, mostly because you can barely see Mark Strong's face behind the Guern scruff. Actually, there were even times in the movie that Mark Strong didn't look like himself, i.e. clean-shaven and evil, as in Robin Hood (where he played Sir Godfrey) and Stardust (as Septimus).

The Eagle stars Channing Tatum, who my cousin always thinks of as the guy in Dear John, my husband as the guy in GI Joe, and I as the guy in Step Up.

Also in the film was Donald Sutherland, who has made so many movies that his Wikipedia entry does not even mention that he was most recently seen in The Mechanic with Jason Statham.

And, of course, we all know that they're all, inevitably, at most, only six degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

this is war

Dear Reepicheep,

I have the highest respect for you and your kin. But this.

You will kindly tell your kin to desist from further invasions into my kingdom (such as it is), or they shall be dealt with decisively.

(And for goodness' sake! There is nothing in my kitchen that is worth chewing off a metal screen, d@mmit.)

Regards to Aslan.

Your friend and fan,
LSS of N

Sunday, February 13, 2011

In a corrupt system, everyone loses.

To say I was shocked would not even begin to describe how I felt when I learned that former AFP Chief Angelo Reyes took his own life that Tuesday morning.

My first thought was: "Then it must be true." He had been accused of corruption in a Senate hearing, accused of receiving P50 million as a going-away gift when he retired from the AFP. But accusations of corruption are nothing new in the Philippines. Even the obviously guilty manage to get by: they deny, say they don't have time for all those silly allegations and would rather concentrate on their mission of uplifting the Filipino nation, keep a pseudo-dignified silence, and then run for Congress (and win).

Angie Reyes' final solution was new, baffling.

But now I understand.

Read THE FINAL WORDS OF ANGELO REYES: A warrior comes clean in last battle for honor by Malou Mangahas of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

A few excerpts:

The truth can cut two ways: 1. If you are guiltless, you can embrace the truth and hope that it will protect you; 2. If you are not guiltless, speak the truth and it shall set you free.

Honor is above all else. More valuable than freedom or even life itself. Therefore, honor must be guarded/defended with your life.

Living life without honor is a tragedy bigger than death itself.

Every day as you continue to live with the lie, you lose a little of your self-respect. And every day, as people look at you, you can read from their minds that they find you dishonorable, and you die a little.

I did not invent corruption. I walked into it. Perhaps my first fault was in having accepted aspects of it as a fact of life.

When we participated in many military campaigns, I would like to think that I showed courage…

I never thought I would shed tears for this person, but I have, minutes ago, when I read this story of an honorable man swallowed by a quicksand of corruption. I cried for people who died because of a system that cheats everyone: of hope, of honor, of peace. And I cried for my country, the biggest loser of all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

the scorpion and the frog

The story of the scorpion and the frog is probably one of my least favorite fables. I think I didn't like it that much because I couldn't really relate to it. Now I think I can.

For those who aren't familiar with the story, here is one version of it:

A scorpion and a frog met on the bank of a stream, and the scorpion asked the frog to carry him across on its back.

The frog asked, "How do I know you won't sting me?"

The scorpion replied, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog was satisfied, and they set out. In midstream, however, the scorpion stung the frog.

The frog started to sink, but he had just enough time to gasp, "Why? Now we will both drown!"

The scorpion shrugged and answered, "It's my nature."

It's been a while since I first read the story, and I have since learned that there really are scorpions. There are people who, no matter how nice you are to them, will not think twice about stabbing you, in the back or the front. There are people who can't put themselves in other people's shoes. There are people who only think of themselves. You wonder what the heck is wrong with them. You try to understand their family, their friends, their past, their present, but then there are a lot of other people who manage to be good despite being in similar circumstances. And you come to the inevitable conclusion: that's just the way they are.

What the story doesn't tell us is that transformation is possible. A scorpion who doesn't want to poison anyone anymore can certainly cut off his stinger, so to speak, if he so wishes. On the other hand, hang around with a scorpion long enough and you'll start to act like one, that is, if you don't get stung first.

One can blame everything under the sun for one's character, but in the end, it's all a matter of choice. And in the end you get what you deserve.

Monday, February 7, 2011

oh manila

Manila is an acquired taste. I've always felt that it would be awful if I had to actually live there, but there is something about the Philippine capital that beckons and beguiles all the same, enough to warrant repeated, even regular, visits. That, and the shopping, of course.

My mother and I were in Manila last weekend to visit my sister and attend to all sorts of business. We stayed at the Kabayan Hotel Pasay, which I would recommend to anyone planning to commute while in Manila. The hotel is right beside the Edsa and Taft stations of the LRT and the MRT, respectively, and there are nearby stops for jeepneys going to Divisoria, Mall of Asia, etc. There's no pool or anything like that, but (1) there's a complimentary ride from the airport, (2) the room comes with free breakfast and lunch, and (3) there's an actual fridge in the room, unlike the last hotel we stayed in. One could definitely do worse.

The overpasses, skywalks and railway structures make for a confusing cityscape. My sister is amazed at how I have come to Manila many, many times and still remain at a loss for directions. It's all that concrete. Everywhere I go, there is inevitably a 7-11, a fast food chain or other, street food vendors, wires of all sorts overhead, and some concrete infrastructure. It's hard to remember places when they look the same.

Still, Manila isn't all bad. In some ways, it is actually charming. An old couple belting out a tune in the middle of a skywalk for some loose change -- I find it cute, if a little sad. The triangular ceiling, big clock, and air of anticipation of a train platform -- we still don't have that where I live. And the possibilities of a jaunt to Divi -- endless. Even the sidewalks teem with bargains, impulse food trips, culture. I am beginning to understand why, for all its imperfections, Manila commands love and loyalty from people who call it home.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

February 3, 2002

My husband and I met 9 years ago today.

To be more precise, we spoke to each other for the first time just before the 10 AM Mass on February 3, 2002. (We'd seen each other around church long before that.) I was practicing my reading, and he was hanging out in the sacristy with his fellow acolyte.

Back then I had this planner that I used as a mini-diary. I didn't know then that the encounter would prove to be a fateful one, but I entered it in my planner just the same, and that's how I can recall the exact date of our first conversation. The moral of this story: keep a diary.

Luv u van. ^_^

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

talking the talk

Sales is not my strong suit. For starters, I am not good at fibbing or embellishing, and when I try I can hardly keep a straight face. Also, I don't like being pushy, mostly because I know how annoying it can be to be the object of someone else's pushiness.

So it makes me chuckle when I realize that I've been putting a lot of effort into sales lately.

The whole thing really started with me wanting to get health insurance for my family. When my friend Hershe mentioned that her boyfriend's father was in Caritas, I asked her to help me get a quotation for myself, my parents and my sister. Hershe later told me that her boyfriend's father had encouraged her to become a Caritas agent herself, and then sometime after that she said, well, why don't I become a Caritas agent?

It seemed like a good idea, so I went with Hershe one Saturday morning to an orientation in a small, freezing training room in a building somewhere in Jones Avenue. As I listened to the nitty-gritty, I realized: Hey! I know this stuff. (Remember I work for the California equivalent of PhilHealth, sort of.) And I actually thought that their health plans made sense mathematically. Sure it was a bit expensive -- it wasn't one of those things that sounded too good to be true -- but that's good. That means the company isn't likely to go bankrupt anytime soon. And I liked the fact that it was a health plan-slash-forced savings plan -- it makes one feel like a responsible adult twice over.

Anyway. It's been a lark: creating ads, a Facebook page, even a video. I sometimes see a nice stock photo, and the first thing that comes to my mind is, hey, this will make a nice ad.

I know I'm still probably gonna suck at sales talk, but it's interesting to see what will happen when I get out of my comfort zone and do something I'm not good at.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

the cooking adventures, 2nd edition

Hey! Hold that oh-no-not-another-post-about-cooking thought. Let me just say:

It is another post about cooking. But you don't have to read it. :-P So there.

Married people -- well, married women, mostly -- do tend to write about boring, domesticated stuff, such as cooking and curtains and kids. It's unavoidable. Those of us who write Whatever We Want, Just Because -- as opposed to those who write with a particular audience in mind -- write about our thoughts and experiences and lightbulb moments. When you're cooking three times a day, it's hard not to think about cooking, and, however ho-hum, those are Thoughts nonetheless.

For example, just a few minutes ago, I was thinking: what the heck is the difference between a shallot and an onion, anyway?

It turns out that a shallot, what we here call sibuyas bombay, is a variety of onion. The long green leafy thing that we call sibuyas dahonan is a scallion, although it can also be referred to as a spring onion, a green onion, or a green shallot.

And what is that chiffonaded parsley that Anthony Bourdain has extolled to the high heavens? Well, apparently, to chiffonade is to cut into long, thin strips. And since parsley is, well, parsley, the phrase "chiffonaded parsley" actually doesn't make much sense, to me at least.

I've been thinking about onions and parsley because I have just finished cooking carbonara. (Which my husband will not like, as pasta is not exactly his thing.) It's a no-brainer carbonara -- just bacon bits, chopped shallots, bits of parsley, and a pack of Del Monte carbonara sauce -- so no credit goes to me, unless it's for the chicharo and pineapple garnishing. Our soup tonight is also a no-brainer: cream of mushroom, the one where you dissolve a Knorr soup pack in a liter of water and, as the old TV commercial went, just add one egg, pak, pssssh! (There is nothing like Knorr real chinese soup!)

The other no-brainers in my culinary repertoire include:
1. Sinigang - meat, sinigang mix, leafy veggies, voila!
2. Sisig - Purefoods sisig, chopped shallots and tomatoes, calamansi juice, voila!
3. All those canned delights -- Holiday corned beef, Senorita sardines, Ma-Ling -- open, heat and voila!

Now that I think about it, my only valid cooking triumphs to date have been my fish masala and salpicao. But that's okay. There's still a lot of time to learn...and a lot of editions of The Cooking Adventures to come. So sue me.