Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tracy, CA and Cagayan de Oro, Mis. Or.

We now divide our time of the year between Tracy and Cagayan de Oro. In terms of living conditions, no two places could be as diverse, in my personal opinion. One is in the tropics and the other in a temperate zone. Thus, while Tracy may be heating up at this moment in the low 50’s, registering 80’s in Cagayan de Oro would be quite normal even during this time of the year.

The wife just flew back to Tracy, via San Francisco, and should be arriving any hour soon, while I had just bathed here in Cagayan de Oro after a sweaty jog around our park at past 7 this morning.

We have just recovered in the morning after from the noisy and raucous fireworks that brought the New Year in last night, but the wife will have arrived on the same day she left, New Year’s Eve, after logging in a total flight time of over 15 hours throwing in some waiting periods between flights. Credit that to the still-confusing (to some) datelines one crosses amid-flight.

To highlight a stark contrast, once the wife gets home to Tracy and prepares for bed early if the planned celebration is for the following day, a quick and complete change in attire and sleeping habits will immediately ensue. She will have to bundle up even inside the well-insulated house if the heater has not been turned on. And batten up under blanket and thick covers when getting to bed. Quite a drastic change from what she has gotten used to doing in the over 6 months she spent in Cagayan de Oro, where we are down to our shorts, or even naked from the waist up for me, when we prepare for bed even if the electric fan and air-con both do double duty to make the room comfortable. Only a very flimsy poplin blanket will provide cover should the air-con misfire from its med-cool setting.

But we have done this several times already.

Now to the geography of both places.

Tracy sits as part of the wide and fertile San Joaquin valley that stretches from northern California all the way to the central valleys in the south. It is one of several cities under the San Joaquin County. It was essentially a farming town before creeping housing developments started carving up the huge flatlands to perimeter-fenced housing tracts accommodating new residents spilling out from the crowded parts of the Bay Area.

Only the housing bust and global recession have frozen the almost unstoppable urbanization of Tracy. It now boasts of a population of about 80,000.

Our development sits closest to the western boundary of Tracy and from the ramps of Highway 205, which connects with Stockton and the Sacramento areas. The lot cuts are sizeable enough to allow for some miniature gardening in a number of streets. Thus, we have been able to plant some fruit trees and some flowering shrubs.

And one of our choicest advantages is that we can access the fabled Baghdad By The Bay, San Francisco, easily and within an hour going west.

On the other hand, Cagayan de Oro sits at the northern coast of the big island of Mindanao, land of promise and questionable security issues, in some parts of it anyway. No doubt from its vantage view, it is the premier city and is the unquestioned gateway to the rest of the island.

But it has own many redoubtable shortcomings – such as too many people, too many poor people, governments are ineffectual and lazy in serving constituents properly and adequately, its southernmost portions continue to be wracked with violent encounters with rebels and militias, between them and government forces, etc.

The city itself has a population maybe topping a million or a little less. Nobody really knows for sure. Many residents belong to the squatting class, people/families living on shanties built on either government lands or unused private lots, or even on shoulders or sidewalks of streets. It has a teeming population cramped within a relatively small city. Though it still has far-flung barrios, they call them barangays now, considered remote and rustic.

Our old house is inside a subdivision situated less then two kilometers from the heart of the city. One can literally walk from the house to the city’s premier plaza. Built in the 70’s, this squat one-storey and timber-frame building still reveals after some cosmetic work the cruel ravages of nature’s harsh tropical elements – like humidity, termites, and the blistering sun, etc. Now it has more concrete components than when it was first built – used to replace wooden panels, joists, and posts obliterated by fast-working and hardly detectable termites.

But we call it home, the first home that sheltered our emerging family then. And we also call our Tracy house home because it is in the place where we spent decades watching the kids grow and the grandkids added to the growing extended family.

This is called living bi-coastally. I think.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Pigs Weren’t Flying!

Neither were these pigs issues of super-sized sows.

They materialized from a measured mixture of flour, sugar, water, yeast, eggs, etc. crafted to look like their real versions.

Pretty soon they will all look the same, the whitened ones following after the seared-brown ones after their little trip to the white-heat ovens.

For these, the taste will be like any bread one picks from one’s breakfast table. But they could be customized to the taste preferences of prospective consumers. With cheese fillings or ground meaty chicarones mixed with the rest of the ingredients. Or whatever one fancies.

Update: (01/01/10)

Over the few days leading to New Year’s Eve, we baked over 200 of these and they are all gone. One got as far as Manila, but could have ended in San Francisco.

Hello, PETA disciples, wouldn’t this be great for your cause? A way to curb the “slaughter” of these dear animals. Much like the Internet curbing the dead-tree media’s unnecessary use of a natural resource.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Loaves To Feed A Thousand

A local church aspires to feed loaves to a thousand children.

Miracles not necessarily required. Simply order and overnight, a thousand loaves are ready for delivery.

Note: The video traces visually the route that we take each day to get from the house to our little business in the old poblacion.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

All -Time Favorite Song(s)

For a change of mood, something quite light and fluffy.

Without question it would have to be for me an Elvis Presley creation, any which song recorded prior to the 60’s. For a man whose professional life spanned mere 20-some years, he was quite prolific recording about 700 songs. He also performed many songs live during his many concerts, which were subsequently recorded posthumously. Even his many out-takes and informal recordings found their way to commerce and sale success.

But what is being asked is the all-time favorite ONE song (of a male vocalist).

Okay, but I would qualify. For me, it would have to be an all-time favorite song for each of my all-time favorite singers. And I would have several, all coming from the 50’s and 60’s. Among them would be Marty Robbins, John Tillotson, Johnny Horton, Sonny James, Roy Hamilton, Ricky Nelson, Tommy Sands, Jimmy Clanton, and Gene Vincent. And a host of others.

Anyway for Elvis, it would be grudgingly the relatively unknown country song, Poor Boy, performed by Elvis in his first movie, Love Me Tender. I chose it not for its quality, lyrics, or any such musical measurement. I chose it only because as a kid I could not wrench myself away from listening to it every time it was played regardless of the place, time, or occasion. I listened to it maybe until ennui set it. Except it never came. And to this day, I continue to listen to it every time I get the chance. But to be fair, I listen to it with most of the old songs of Elvis, especially those recorded under the classic Sun Sessions.

For Marty Robbins I chose the very soulful song, Streets of Laredo. Marty’s poignant and plaintive voice fitted the song perfectly.

And for Johnny Tillotson, I chose Send Me The Pillow That You Dream On, for the same reason above. His very distinctive voice was just right for this song. And I would add, so would the Everly Bros’ haunting and perfectly blended duet combination.

For Sonny James, easily I chose A World of our Own.

And For Tommy Sands, hands down it is That’s All I Want From You. I searched far and wide for this song, for many years, until I found it at YouTube. In the meantime, in frustration consoled myself listening to the version of Jaye P. Morgan, who sang this song originally.

Same case with Ricky Nelson’s Half Breed. Found it after many tries. No wonder it was difficult to find, it had originally been included as one of a couple of selections in Ricky’s first movie with John Wayne, named Rio Bravo. But was cut from the final version, thus the song never got the promotion it needed. But when I heard it once, I was hooked.

Jimmy Clanton’s seeming hoarse voice was ideal for his rendition of Don’t You Know. He always sang sounding like he had a perpetual cold.

Roy Hamilton’s powerful voice delivered so effortlessly gave me lots of joy and inspiration listening to his You'll Never Walk Alone.

And of course, Gene Vincent with his BeBopALula, a classic on the slap-back echo method used in recording. Sam Phillips of Sun Records used it extensively during his sessions with early Elvis.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Man In The Middle

You see him in this busy intersection, and his similarly dressed partners in most other besieged cross streets in the city.

During most hours of the day, and especially as the traffic thickens during commute periods, he looms fearlessly in the middle of the road literally trying to bring a semblance of order to the otherwise otherworldly traffic mess that characterizes this city’s infrastructures. His arm motions are crisp and snappy as harried vehicles respond and whiz by barely missing him by inches.

He is a member of the unheralded group of traffic enforcers under the umbrella of the local RTA.

His faded green shirt labels his station in life and his weather-beaten features are written history of how difficult and hardy life is in the streets, especially in a torrid cauldron like equatorial Philippines where the hot sun beats mercilessly all day as swirling road dust garnishes one’s exposed features and clothes.

The RTA acronym stands for the city’s Roads and Traffic Administration. And it is to be differentiated from the police force which in tandem provides a visible presence in the chaotic streets. The former as one can readily deduce has a bare-minimum uniform and carries no side-arm, no hat, and so quite laidback and casual in dress and demeanor.

Somehow he gets certain things done. And as nighttime descends, some order is brought back to the streets. And just as quickly he disappears into the night, only to return another day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A River Runs Thru It

In one of its rare moments, old weather-beaten Cagayan River for once is showing this Sunday morning passably pristine waters as it lazily winds through from the ever-moist mountains to the warm welcoming arms of Macajalar Bay. This in spite of a hard but short burst of December rain yesterday afternoon.

For once gone is the now-expected dirty brown water with liberal dose of garbage and debris, which gloomy condition has currently characterized this once navigable waterway.

It is also heartening to see the parched riverbanks ceding to the rush of ample clear water on its journey to the sea. For now gone also is the picture of an angry river bursting with floodwaters gulping down any obstructing objects along its dreaded paths. For now one can conjure anew idyllic thoughts of a river where we in our youth used to spend hot summer afternoons immersed in its cool clear waters, in fun and frolic without a care of the world.

This river truly runs through the city, cutting it into east and west sections. A river richly fed by the waters originating from the generous bosoms of stately Kitanglad ranges in Bukidnon Province.

Like the rich and abundant island of Mindanao, it once held great promises of beauty and prosperity.

From all indications, both have veered far from the promises of their anointed futures, people choosing instead to heap undesirable developments on them pushing them both to the path of loss and disaster.

Can they recover and focus anew on edging toward their anointed futures?

A Way To Feed A Teeming Population

What about a bulk display of neatly stacked meat in a local mall meat market?

Early this weekend morning, we both hied away to a local mall for some grocery shopping. Being the proverbial extra body that just went along for the chore, actually the body that drove the car, I had ample opportunity to simply look around – much like a fly on the wall. And to snap the short attached video.

Before the onslaught of the typical weekend rush of humanity primed for weekend shopping, the wide-awake mall staff members in the meat market were chopping at the bits (pun intended) all ready to serve – with tons of freshly cut meat neatly stacked in their lines of open freezers filled to the brim.

With enough meat to whet the voracious appetite of an entire town! But definitely not the kind of displays one finds in a US grocery chain.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Perfect Line Fitness Gym in Cagayan de Oro

Get sweaty, lose pounds, and win back those curves!

Get down to the gym, at the corner of Velez and Tiano Bros. Sts., opposite Dynasty Court Hotel.

Get acquainted with Cindy Crawford and a trio of California girls. And of course, with your old vivacious selves.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Pen Lettering In The Old Times

introduced us to calligraphy, or pen lettering, in our youth. It taught us Gothic, Roman, Old English, Text, Manuscript, together with pens and India ink. And gave us interminable pride in our improved penmanship and classy letter writing.

Today, the company is still at it, marketing the same products that we had learned to love and treasure.

From the personal ancient archive comes this basic lettering book that came with the pens and a supply of India ink, published in the 40’s.

And with the advent of computer technology, pen lettering has been relegated to the dustbin of things discarded or not taught extensively.

Even in our little hometown, movie and business ads are now done mostly in computer-made tarp billboards. Almost gone are the days of hand-painted signs with images.

Holdouts can still be seen around the city practicing their dying art in small, cramped and dilapidated quarters.

Their lights are dimming and pretty soon they will be extinguished.

And my favorite, Old English, will really look older.

Saturday, December 05, 2009


Having read through the latest FICCO Newsletter, it can only be inspiring going through the lead article with its articulation of its clear and unmistakable twin messages. That this union can continue to grow only through its membership; and that these continuing hard times require extraordinary measures and efforts from both the organization’s hierarchy and the general membership.

Though implied but not expressly mentioned, one could also take pride in where real strength and stability lie in the organization – in the collective membership where individually, one member on average accounts only for 23,347 pesos in deposit. Meaning therefore that ownership and stakeholding are well distributed among the many members of the union, rather than ensconced in a small elite group accounting for a great majority of the ownership.

Having been a longstanding member through all these many years, one is also heartened by the two graph insets, tracing the growth of membership and total assets. When I left the city in 1980, indeed total membership counted in the single thousand, and assets were mostly in loans and cash in bank. But look at the very big and diverse picture now!

Truly this credit union is where many dispossessed people, people unable to be properly serviced by mainstream financial institutions, can go to seek relief for their many and multifaceted credit needs, rather than to the informal underground institutions which cater and prey on a people weakened by stubborn ignorance and very emaciated economic conditions.

It is an organization that will also aside from providing credit, teach one how to secure and manage debt, and to build a good credit record and history.

But beyond that, it is also the organization where one can truly learn to manage one’s family and business finances – in the areas of saving for the future, saving for business expansion, etc.

In short, it teaches the entire panoply of good and sound personal finance, which is the only basis for hoping and building for a better future, especially in a land filled with asset- and cash-strapped families.

It is therefore quite a damper listening to some current and prospective members recount their initial dealings with FICCO employees where emphasis is placed too much on first building a good credit history to aim for that Class A label. Thus, the recommendation is for members to start borrowing early even before being able to build a good deposit history, so they can become proud Class A members quickly.

Imagine for a moment what kind of a credit union it would be if the driving motive for becoming a member is so one can borrow, typically an amount way beyond what one has put in deposit?

The union would quickly run out of funds to lend, since loanable funds come essentially from members’ deposits.

For a union to continue to prosper there has to be a very delicate balance between those who borrow because they need to, and those who will deposit so they can build for their future and/or in anticipation of some future needs that will be financed or collateralized by their accumulated deposits.

There has to be enough numbers of the second kind, so that the union can continue to have sufficient funds to lend to those truly in need of credit.

In balance therefore, it should be easy to see why both kinds of members are exemplary members, and not that one is rated better than the other. Consider their symbiotic relationship, one cannot live without the other.

In fine, this is the simple and pure logic why financial institutions exist and survive. They pool the community’s savings which in turn will be lent out to those with legitimate needs but lack enough savings to profitably finance them.

All can be member depositors all the time, but not all can be member lenders all the time.

Think about that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

On The Streets Where People Live

Real estate definitely is a very scarce and valuable commodity, especially in a place teeming with people not only exponentially expanding through runaway birth dates but with added growth accounted by the influx of migrants from different beleaguered parts of the big island of Mindanao.

Thus, the purchase and acquisition of real estate for housing hereabouts is simply beyond the dream of this unfortunate segment of the population.

Cagayan de Oro is a place bursting with people, reaching a nadir where one believes total population for now defies accurate census counting. I have never gotten a definite answer to the question about the current population of the city. Voter registration records should only reveal an incomplete picture, since it clearly does not include non-voters like children which number in great hordes.

A basic societal dilemma then is where to decently lodge all these people with their families. Where and how to provide sufficient and adequate places where people can live and raise their burgeoning families.

Given the gargantuan size of this problem in this particular context, one can only sadly wonder how.

But we do see daily where many of them “live”, not far from the streets that we negotiate daily in our workaday lives. Actually, many of them live partly on the streets that we use daily – parts of the street where their kids play, laundry and bathing are dutifully done, etc.

This video typifies many such streets in the city where residents live lives in their cramped and precarious worlds.

A messy situation exacerbated by the fact that these houses or shanties that people build on these sites are actually squatting on tiny strips of public land separating the actual paved streets from the boundaries of private land. In the process erasing whatever necessary provisions for road shoulders and sidewalks were planned.

Creating a scenario where a narrow street of two lanes, one lane for each direction, has not only been deprived of necessary shoulders but where parts of both lanes have been co-opted by squatter residents coming out of their reed-thin houses and their lives literally spilling into the street proper. Add to that all their parked vehicles of assorted construction – motorized or pedal-powdered, etc., garaged flushed to their shanties’ sides. And some house furniture to boot.

Imagine then how the passing vehicles have to expertly negotiate thru those extremely narrowed streets replete with impediments both human and otherwise.

Even in the terribly busy national highway that traverses the city, one can find street lanes embedded with metal spikes where clandestine vendors would attach ropes to hold down temporary tarp roofing/siding.

Life under bridges in this benighted place is another matter best suited for exposition at another time. Or what about life in a river island created by silting which has now enough residents to merit the label of a barangay?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Cry For Me, Cagayanons?

Old Cagayanons pining for familiar sights in the old hometown may have to brace themselves for a visual jolt.

View these short videos taken Saturday late in the afternoon. See if you can recognize from the maze the old familiar haunts very reminiscent of your youthful memories.

Many probably would not recognize these places.

These were shot along Divisoria Park as I walked along the middle of R N Abejuela (So. Divisoria) St. inching toward Xavier University or positioned at a corner of Velez (Del Mar) and the former.

The chaotic frenzy that is now the infamous hallmark of the weekly two-day nite café has ominously masked the once rough jewel we treasured anyway as our premier park, centered right in the heart of the old poblacion. A truly distinctive landmark we used to proudly attach to our beloved hometown.

Now, it might as well be a huge disorderly movie set depicting a tent city of refugees, or a dreary scene of displaced merchants forcibly ejected from their establishments by some natural calamity, like a conflagration or a bad flood. Except this nightmare recurs every week, with the eager players showing up earlier and earlier than allowed, and showing up even during regular weekdays.

But no, for this is an actualization of a method of madness, executed with design and promoted with flagrant political self-interests by the city government. Proffered with, one is sure, some expressed sham Christian concerns for the less fortunate of the citizenry, providing them rare opportunities not otherwise enjoyed in a competitive business environment.

But in the process social order, equity, and the respect and compliance with laws be damned for the rest of the city residents, especially those who are duly licensed and taxed and also in the business of providing the self-same merchandise and services provided by the purveyors in the café.

Never mind that the countless fly-by-night (literally) bazaar-like purveyors there may be unlicensed, untaxed, and maybe selling contraband. Small pesky details really in the general scheme of things where voting constituencies are the paramount concern. Political power at all costs, that’s the price to pay.

But for whom?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Wet And Wild In Cagayan de Oro

After several days of pounding from hard incessant rains, Cagayan de Oro succumbed to extensive floodings in various parts of the city. The likelihood in populated places close to rampaging creeks and the bloated river. And in many streets and highways which either had inadequate drainage or no provision for drainage at all. Which for this city is the rule rather than the exception.

Rain damage and the ensuing human suffering likened to the dire results of last January’s similar event. So what else is new?

It was a wet and wild week for the city and its residents. The pounding rains cleaned and bleached the city’s many concrete streets, and converted to muddied potholes those that weren’t so blessed. And what city garbage collection has never done adequately the indiscriminate rains summarily collected strewn and assorted garbage and dumped them into the many creeks and riverways. Hurray for garbage collection and another minus grade for the environment and ecology. Par for the course in a third world country.

Even our sacred subdivision went underwater temporarily, in some low-lying areas at least. The rains were massive enough to close the two guarded main entrances which were temporarily converted to churning swimming holes, or more aptly, riverways.

Sequestered in our downtown building for a while, one could only record the rains beating down on the hapless residents and challenging motor vehicles which continued ripping through the soggy streets.

At least we had a healthy respite from the heat and humidity. What’s a wet shirt from the rain compared to a wet shirt from smelly and irritating sweat? No contest.

Now the sun has peeked out, undaunted by the rain’s last hurrah earlier this morning. And streets have dried up, save for those with inches of rain still on them. The passing vehicles still have their job cut out for them, in turning the unlikely mixture to muddy goo. Once dried and powdery, we then will have the nose-curling dust to reckon with.

No rest for the wicked?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Old Hometown Blues

Wrapping up preparations for another trip back to the old hometown - Cagayan de Oro. To the land of grinding poverty amidst scattered opulence guarded by very high fences or guarded gates. To the land of heat and humidity even in the wee hours of the morning.

Away from the subdued but orderly living of a northern California city, still blessed with the accoutrements of first-world amenities inspite of a fearsome recession, very high unemployment (all things considered to include those giving up on finding work or are only working part-time by force of circumstances, California is said to register a 20% unemployment rate), unsteady markets, etc.

But it is still the old hometown. Warts and all!

So here I come. To the land of hardy people unfazed by inborn hardships.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Wow! What a blessed life Obama and his young family must be living. And it started all too recently. Inauspiciously starting as a community organizer, then moving forward politically as a state official, then quickly as US senator. And barely warming that seat on his very first term, being thrust into the most powerful office in the world, the US presidency. And now we learn, after even barely warming that newest seat, being crowned with the Nobel Peace Prize.

Unabashed adulation by the rest of the world is almost a given with this much-coveted award already garnered by Obama.

But beyond the largely amorphous desirables of adulation, admiration, and deference, Obama’s life is also financially blessed. Regardless of whether he sits one term or 2 terms as US president, he is made for life, everything already neatly cut out for success. He now is entitled to all the future respect, security, and necessary accoutrements befitting and accorded ex-presidents for life. He will then have ready access to all the lucrative speaking engagements reserved for his acquired stature and equally lucrative however token membership in big corporations eager to acquire more prestige by using his well-known name.

Add to that the US$1.4 million he earns as Nobel Prize winner, and the Nobel medal that’s probably worth its weight in price-soaring gold.

From all observable measures, he has accomplished everything. Not to mention the added bonuses, the two bestsellers he penned before becoming president. No need after the presidency to scurry back to humble beginnings like any southsides of any city like Chicago, or seedy districts like the Tenderloin in San Francisco. Only the best for an ex-president.

So what’s left to accomplish? One could say, sit back and enjoy the manifold perks of the vaunted presidency – the comforts and amenities of the palatial White House, planes and helicopters at your disposal, security escorts wherever you wish to be, a big bully pulpit to address the public and the world should the occasion arise, surrounded by a veritable army of intelligent people ever ready to give erudite counsel on any possible concern, etc.

What a blessed life!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Thrift Vs Spendthrift

The classic dilemma of nature or nurture stares us in the face again with this issue. Is being thrifty or frugal observed and learned from the people around us? Or is it hardwired in our genes? Is it a learned virtue or packed into our heredity luggage from which there is no escape?

NY Magazine does battle with this hefty issue while reviewing a book on the subject.

Examples abound of families where siblings are divided on being thrifty or being spendthrift, despite the parents being themselves frugal and consciously teaching their kids to also be frugal. Thus, situations like those argue well for the claim that frugality or being a spendthrift is in the genes, rather than learned from mentors or parents.

A heretofore unheard-of facet injected to this age-old question is the hypothesis that pain is associated with the purchases of goods (though not true to all). And what determines whether an item will eventually be purchased is the threshold of pain that a purchaser has developed. And I could personally attest to this. It is truly painful to part with money, especially hard-earned money, if the item purchased sits astride between being a want or a need. Add to that the extra concern that the money could be saved for an anticipated future expense that definitely is both crucial and necessary.

But of course not all people feel the pain; others simply not tuned in either to the future or to the many ramifications tied up with a purchase. Or maybe others do not want to be bothered by such details. Others I am familiar with can dismiss any unnecessary or extravagant impulse purchase with the cavalier caveat, not to worry about the future, someone else will take of it, or worse, God will provide.

A blog devoted to issues of money and personal finance has a couple of entries delving on the issue of frugality. In one blog entry, the author solicited information from his readers on the manifold “motivational factors” why frugality is practiced, apart and other than for money considerations or as a money-saving tool.

Since it is quite relevant during these very difficult times to be a prudent spender when money is even scarcer, here is an enumeration of all the possible motivational factors as extracted from the blog entry and from its comment section from readers:

1. Saving Time – like what walking is to driving in certain situations.

2. Attitudes as the Priority – wearing old clothes until they are unwearable because one prefers it or is attached to them. Or because of one’s dislike for shopping.

3. A Question of Preferences – Brownbagging lunch to work to avoid the hassles of buying at work.

4. Lack of Resources – This forces or conditions one to be frugal. Maybe due to meager finances or absence of means like a car to allow for more frequent purchases.

5. Individual Habits or Quirks – Like squeezing the last drop from a toothpaste tube, the last drop from a soda can, or catsup bottle.

6. Environmental Advocacies – Likes being “green”, so no wastage of nature’s resources.

7. For a Healthier Lifestyle – Drinking water instead of soda, using manual tools instead of power tools.

8. Stress Reduction – Buying less equals to less to worry about.

9. A Feeling of Superiority – Over those who waste money?

10. Gaining Control – Doing or making things yourself allows better control over the outcome – food more nutritious, garments fit better, investments earn more.

11. Getting Comfort – A rented DVD played at home rather than going to a movie house allows enjoyment of the comforts of home and control of other factors like sounds, noise, warmth, etc.

12. What about Laziness – Cooking larger volumes or portions at one sitting, to be consumed for say an entire week, or eating at home rather than eating out.

13. Ethics and Spirituality – Aiming for a simple life absent many material trappings.

14. As Creative Challenges – Testing determination and resolve in doing things untried. Or being resourceful with what one already has.

15. Cultural Predispositions – Arguably in certain cultures the frugality trait is inculcated as a necessary virtue for everyday living.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Palin Pens Preprint Bestseller?

Bloggers are abuzz with the news. Sarah Palin has rushed publication of her book to reach the stands before the holidays. It is expected to hit the stores November 17th. Reports trickling in show that advance sales have pushed the soon-to-be book to Number One. I suppose on-line places like Amazon are sourcing these reports. And the very amazing thing is that the initial printing will be at 1.5 million copies. Wow!

Her many detractors in media and politics have to be giddy with puzzlement, agonizing on occasion how a blithering and irrelevant idiot (their words) could command such an audience to listen to her on print. And this time not for free, for now they have to shell out almost $30 if bought from a bookstore, or half of the price if ordered on-line. But that is too kind, maybe they are just livid with rage why some nobody like Palin could weave words together and have people read her. Maybe the purchasers are just naïve, or easily manipulated? Or too ideological? But the title of the book suggests she is not beholden to any side.

One hopes that the book is more than just an autobiographical primer of the life of Palin, rather that it should also expose in good prose who Sarah Palin is and what she truly stands for. And some concrete plans on how this country can be put back on track, if perceived to have been derailed. Yes, it ought to contain honest and earnest accounts on the last contentious presidential campaign amidst the many internal controversies and adverse claims between staff and candidates. I hope she truly goes rogue, and expresses what she truly feels and believes about the many events ushering her abrupt debut to the national stage.

If not all these and more, then what is to differentiate it from the two autobiographies penned by the current WH occupant?

It could be judged as too self-serving, or too arrogantly self-assured, as to be both inspirational and humbling.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Why We Want To Be SUPERMAN

I just saw Superman Returns, the latest on the caped, blue and red superhero, on HD TV. Overall, it inspired and entertained. (Better late than never.)

In this movie, there is a dramatic scene, where a controllably piqued Lois Lane chides the returning Superman for his earlier sudden departure with nary an adieu; and we learn later that that stealthy departure, more than just a cruel disregard of her love for him, had also left her with child to raise on her own. So justifiably she blurted out in subdued anguish that she did not need a savior. And this she shouted to the world by writing an item that won her a Pulitzer Prize, entitled Why the world does not need Superman.

The cryptic defense of the visibly unmoved Man of Steel came and ended with the following statements, as paraphrased, and dramatized with the two hovering above the night-darkened clouds. Lois, do you hear anything? After her negative answer, the stoic Man of Steel ends with: But I hear all the people down there, all asking for a savior.

How true. All of us have need of a savior. All of us during countless times in our wearied lives need some assistance or comfort, or rescue – whether emanating from family, from friends, or anybody. Or, God, maybe?

Regardless, our lives are never meant to be lived alone, in the lonely isolation of our little worlds. And in this regard and as an altruistic exercise of our learned Christian charity, we wish we ourselves in return can provide all the assistance and comfort to any and all of humanity. And we do at times wish we were super rich or possessed of mysterious super powers so we are able to provide all the necessary assistance and comfort to as many people as are needing them. We can only imagine the stupendous possibilities if we had those boundless capabilities. The realities that can be had, well beyond the fuzzy worlds of our wistful thinking!

As kids we dream or fantasize about these things simply because of the unbounded novelty, the uniqueness, and the awesomeness of such mythic experiences to our unformed worlds. But as adults?

I look at public personalities like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. And I truly imagine them as Superman, not simply because of their exceptional accumulated wealth. But more because of the awesome power that wealth can generate and effect in righting this huge globe burdened and precariously listing by vicissitudes galore. Sometimes we wonder if life is worth living. With so much poverty, wars, killings, every conceivable type of violence, etc, at every turn.

But with his billions under the sagacious rein of his huge philanthropic organization, Bill Gates singly can undertake to finance the elementary education of all children in an entire impoverished African nation. He can strategically spread his wealth around in scholarships and commendable projects that will benefit huge numbers of people in places needing assistance.

This is a job for Superman. Up, up and away.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Fingerlickin’ Nonsense

This blog has not seen an update for a wee while. It’s because not much out of the “ordinary” has been happening in my temporarily-induced monastic life. From the outside one might be tempted to say that it’s one that seems listless or adrift, though I would fiercely dispute that without arming it with any defense. It’s just that my current nagging concerns are not for public consumption. Except to say maybe that pretty soon my eventual “resurrection” can be expected.

Anyway, though I had been able to muster some slack time at some point, time enough to put fingers on keyboard and start grinding inanities, still the appropriate subject(s) eluded my wandering ken.

Since I spend a good portion of my free time scouring the web for political news and blog posts, still I could not get myself to write commentaries on the piping-hot items cascading in the confusing worlds of media. There are tons of very experienced, savvy, and articulate bloggers out there churning out promptly their Aristotelian analyses of political news as they break. Even the countless and at times nameless commenters continue to share their precious nuggets of ideas into the mix making one’s head spin uncontrollably trying to accommodate and soak them in.

So one is prompted to exclaim: what could my puny mind add to the current slew of masterful discussions from clearly more qualified sources? I would say nothing much. I would only either be embarrassing myself or reduced to mouthing off ideas already beaten to death somewhere. So might as well stay off the topic, and be content playing the passive role of observer and learner. And that serves me fine.

But something has to be written. The US economy? Wall Street and Main Street issues? The fields are stacked with the brightest and most analytical minds to inhabit this world. One can only gape in awe at the parade of data and charts that daily floods our social consciousness.

But surely, there must be a topic where I can reign somewhat, because I could be considered the authority or expert of it, and maybe the only one disposed and available.

Given my circumstances, it would have to be something trivial. Something of little value and concern outside the confining premises of my own life.

Now I know! a layman look, or call it pseudo-analysis, on the fingers of my left hand which rather inadvertently went through a bad accident some six months ago, and which to this day continue to restrict the hand’s full function and flexibility.

Though the visible wounds are now completely healed, having seen the last of the scabs some 2 months ago, the hand is far from satisfactory operation. Typing with it is still a challenge, holding stuff with it tentative, and the skin around them seems tender and not as sensitive to the touch as before, or when compared with the other hand.

After consulting with two doctors, one focused on physical therapy and the other specialized in surgery, I have come to the inadvertent conclusion that the convenient path for me would be through some kind of physical therapy – but to be performed by me! Decided in no small measure after the latter doctor opined that if I had wanted my hand to be restored to full function I would have to undergo a procedure that involved kilometric incisions in my hand and fingers and many months of my time both for the procedures and recuperation.. To which I blurted out reflexively, no way.

I confess I went into those two sessions more or less decided on what I wanted to do with my situation and already armed with the possibilities. After all, I have had 6 months to think about it. And how can one miss a day, or any wakeful hour, not being reminded of the sorry situation when it stares back at you right in front of your very nose?

But I did learn something new and important enough. It concerns this stealthy and pernicious condition called bone arthritis, which comes unnoticed and starts residence in one’s joints; and which typically will remain unnoticed and untreated until pain is added into the equation. A condition that will begin to manifest its dominance as one advances in years, regular exercise notwithstanding.

In my case, the accident was the perfect storm that allowed both trauma and signs of arthritis to take over and do their thing. X-rays showed that in some finger joints, the bones have started to fuse limiting the fingers’ flexibility. Funny I said that this condition is duplicated in the small finger which was not involved in the accident. Blame arthritis solely for that.

An elder brother suffers from a more serious form of arthritis and gout. And again, almost all so suddenly. Caused by a sudden change in routines?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Lemoncito Blooms In Tracy

Though arguably a native of the Philippines, the lemoncito (Sp. diminutive for lemon), or more popularly known in the Philippines as calamansi, does grow and fruit in temperate climates like in California.

The lemoncito is a shrub or a small tree known to grow as high as 3 to 6 meters and is better adapted to tropical areas. Known in the West as the calamondin, its scientific name is citrofortunella microcarpa. Aptly termed microcarpa because of the fruit’s small size, looking like a small orange orb when ripe.

Old childhood memories prodded one to transplant a growing lemoncito shrub from foggy Daly City to our new abode in sunblest Tracy, CA. Nostalgic recollection points one to childhood experiences where the fruit and its many uses figured prominently.

One such use could be classified as medicinal or therapeutic.

As I easily recall we were a family of nine kids, living in cramped quarters in the middle of a bustling city and whose young members were thus most prone to ordinary ailments children were heir to – colds, coughs, sore throats and other irritating EENT conditions.

Our ever resourceful doting mother was always ready with the concoction she called agridulce to treat those minor distractions. And preventatively dispensed with at times when the climes were ripe for them to visit us, like the rainy season, or the very humid nights spent inside our shuttered rooms curled inside our musty mosquito nets.

Agridulce, which is Spanish for sweet and sour, was blended from the juice of the lemoncito, with hot or tap water added, flavored with a liberal dose of sugar, and stirred with all the fruit’s pits swimming in the pale mixture. The fruit’s very sour taste blended well with sweet cane sugar, creditably acquitting its name of agridulce.

Our present lemoncito tree, which grows proudly side by side with a regular lemon tree, appears stunted in growth though abloom with fruits that are now ripening. I blame that on negligent maintenance, due to the long absence of the resident gardener, me.

Still I eagerly look forward to the day when I can harvest the lemoncito’s fruits and make me an agridulce.


Saturday, July 04, 2009

Sarah Palin Stuns US Politics

Fresh from a revealing interview with Runner’s World which is accompanied by an impressive pictorial(many dainty desk-bound lady pundits and politicians would die for), Sarah stuns anew the political world and the kibitzing blogosphere with the unexpected announcement not only not to seek reelection as governor of Alaska, but to resign from her current term – effective within a few weeks.

Point guard Sarah Barracuda passes the ball to her trusty Lt. Governor.

Not one used to taking the beaten path this surprise move by Sarah, shrouded in a bit of mystery and vague in the actual reason(s) for its abruptness, has thrown the political “establishment” (from all sides) into a writing uproar. Memeorandum is hard at work cataloguing the items devoted to scrutinizing and analyzing this sudden turn of events.

Expectedly, the pointed pens of grossly obsessive detractors have been blindly thrusting at anything that moves – ranging from a rehashed rumor that an indictment is forthcoming against Sarah, to parsing and diagramming the written text of the rushed announcement.

But to date nobody can point a finger to what exactly is the reason(s) that prompted Sarah to make such a pivotal announcement on the eve of July 4th and the start of a slow-news weekend.

But wherever the chips may finally fall, as a supporter of Sarah we stand by her, because of what she stands for us.

More power to Sarah Palin.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vignettes Of Life In A Busy Intersection (Cont.)

The Taho Vendor

Shouting out in baritone key as he passes along, this itinerant vendor makes his rounds in our busy intersection during mornings on the weekend. Above the din and when carefully cocking one’s ears in his direction, people can actually make out his shouts of taho!, the snack food product he is hawking.

Slung on one shoulder is a pole typically made of resilient bamboo where two stainless-steel deep and large-mouthed containers are balanced at its ends. One can contains the taho itself and the other the ingredients needed to complete this soupish snack food.

But what is taho?

Classified as one popular street food:
Tahô is a Philippine snack food made of fresh soft/silken tofu, arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup), and pearl sago (similar to pearl tapioca).[2] This staple comfort food is a signature sweet and can be found all over the country. The Indonesian and Malaysian equivalent of this dish is Tahu.[3]

And tofu?
Tofu (豆腐), also tōfu (the Japanese Romaji spelling), doufu (the Chinese Pinyin spelling), toufu, or bean curd (the literal translation), is a food of Chinese origin,[1] made by coagulating soy milk, and then pressing the resulting curds into blocks. There are many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu that has been processed in some way. Tofu has very little flavor or smell on its own, so it can be used either in savory or sweet dishes, and is often seasoned or marinated to suit thedish.

This particular morning, the next door neighbors answered the sonorous vendor’s pleas and asked for two orders. One order is for 10 pesos, served in a smallish plastic cup.

The vendor settles his burden on the side of the street and opens both containers. With a scraper, he gently shaves small thin slices of the taho and layers them in the cup, adds the other ingredients and tops it off with a little pour of condensed milk from an opened can.

After repeating the routine and having received his payment, the pole balancing act is ready to hit the road, preceded by his baritone shouts.

BTW, our little conversation yielded the following snippet: that he himself does not prepare the stuff but is simply consigned to him by the maker. Too much time and trouble in the preparation, he reasoned out.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Vignettes Of Life In A Busy Intersection (Cont.)

Motorbike As Family Sedan

In this land of million-peso four-wheeled cars (and I do mean your typical Toyotas, Hyundais, Nissans, Kias, Suzukis, etc) which is affordability beyond the reach of your average Filipino family, the notion of the family sedan most times taxes and stretches one’s ordinary perception or definition of what it is or should be.

In this country it can be anything with wheels, transport that rolls and moves by its own power. With four wheels or even less, like just two.

In this same busy intersection a most unique type of family sedan is on parade daily, sharing traffic with the bigger and heftier transports like jeepneys and SUVs. They are motorbikes with 2, 3, 4, or even 5 family members sitting astride, machines rated as single cylinder engines of 100cc or 125cc; most passengers riding bare-headed, sans helmet, passenger restraint, or any head protection.

The economic logic behind these choices is quite iron-clad and unquestionable. Bikes of such sizes are within the 40-50,000 peso price range, an outlay many straggling families could well afford if only through an installment plan. Definitely much more below wistful thinking about buying a brand-new four-wheel vehicle.

Here’s a pictorial sampling of the family sedan, local version, seen in busy intersections, and even amidst fast-moving traffic on multi-laned national highways where passenger perils are grossly multiplied and aggravated.

To be continued.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Vignettes Of Life In A Busy Intersection

The north-south main city thoroughfare originates from the pier area, cuts through the busy poblacion area, and winds down south and merges with the ramp leading to the city’s newest concrete bridge. Across the river and beyond one is brought either to the old western part of the city, or further up in elevation to the newly-developed upscale uptown where many modern subdivisions have sprouted.

The east-west crossing street passes through the city’s busiest marketplace area, through the biggest Jesuit university this side of the big island and ends at the other end skirting another old school run by nuns. This arterial is the official route for public utility vehicles bound for the western part of the city, crossing over the oldest steel bridge of the city.

Imagine then the craziness and chaos that daily visit this benighted intersection, old and two-lane narrow and peppered with indiscriminate parking on both sides of the street. And of course, the otherworldly traffic behavior of both motorists and pedestrians.

But daily its pulsating and chaotic pace goes unsupervised, unmindfully moving countless vehicles and unfazed people to their appointed destination. Solicitous mothers with uniformed children in tow. Rowdy clusters of students out of school, some bound for home and waiting for their rides, others simply sauntering about enjoying their friends’ company. Office workers labeled by their nicely-tailored office attire (suits for ladies and polo barong for gentlemen) gingerly making their way through the mess. And a bunch of permanent fixtures like watch-your-car boys or itinerant vendors forming part of the landscape. And scores of other players that daily find themselves with roles in the many interesting vignettes of life in this busy intersection. Like the many assorted business establishments with their employees lining both sides of both streets.

The Naked Man

A daily spectacle, for its unavoidability factor, is the unnerving sight of this buang, vernacular for crazy guy. Who on regular occasions strips himself butt naked and unashamedly walks around surveying his domain, that is, the busy intersection he has decided to call home. He literally lives off the street, sleeping and functioning in that environment, feeding himself from scraps in garbage heaps, and never straying far from this intersection. And the weirdest part is that he never accepts voluntary offers of food and clothing from passersby and residents. He would rather forage and scavenge. In a recent foray, police authorities had carted him off in their lorry. But a few days later he was back on his beat, none the worse, or should I say none the better.

The story is that once this was a lucid man unfortunately hooked on the local drug called shabu. An overdose may have likely brought him to this stage. He has not acted violent, unless threatened or talked down. So people simply leave him be. Ladies and small children simply turn their gazes away from him especially during his bare days. And on occasion unruly or uncouth men riders or passersby shout teases at him, impishly sneering while doing so.

But one can see that amidst all these, this man lost in his own world does not mind.

To be continued.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Laptop Running on AA Batteries

…….and costing under $200. And maybe as low as $135 if acquired bare-bones.

Such could describe the newly-introduced Gecko EduBook produced by Norhtec.

Bundled like a regular small laptop with an 8.9 inch screen configured at resolution of 1024x600, it runs on 8 rechargeable (NiMH) batteries that can be recharged while installed inside the notebook. Using a regular power cord without the heavy adaptor appendage.

Its core chip module with the CPU and RAM, called the Xcore86, another product of NorhTec, is the size of a typical full-featured cell phone. Updating the unit simply requires removing and changing the module.

It operates quietly without any whirring fan. It has instead a heat sink to dissipate heat generated.

Features include the following:
CPU 1GHz Xcore86 Device on Chip™
Graphics Integrated Graphics Chip
Memory 256MB / 512MB / 1GB DDR2
Display 8.9" WSVGA 1024 x 600 resolution TFT LCD screen with LED backlight
HDD SD Card or IDE Flash Disk
Audio Line-out, Mic-in, Internal Mic, Internal stereo speakers
Ethernet Built in 10/100 Base-T
USB 2.0 ports External : 3 ports, Inernal : 1 port (reserved for WIFI, GPRS,
CDMA, 3G or 3.5G USB dongles)
I/O D-sub 15 pin VGA out, integrated SD card reader, touch pad
Power / Battery Rechargeable AA Battery - NiMH 8 pcs (4 hours max) or Li+3S (4 hours max) or Li+3S2P (6 hours max)
AC 100V-240V (no external adapter)

As seen here even amidst all the negative repercussions of a very deep global recession, we still see fearless innovation in the forefront. Creative minds continue to look for products that are not only cheaper, but adaptive to changing consumer needs.

Lately, I have shifted my usage to rechargeable batteries – for my digital cameras, flashlights, and other consumer electronic products requiring batteries. In the long run, one saves quite a lot adopting the change.

While initially the change will involve additional outlay, in the long run it will redound to considerable savings. A pair of AA rechargeable batteries will cost over 300 pesos compared to about a 100 pesos for standard batteries. A dependable Made In China battery charger will cost an additional 125 pesos. Suggest you get an extra charger for convenience.

Now both standard and rechargeable batteries last almost the same time as tests have proved. But guess what happens next?

Dead standard batteries are thrown away, but rechargeable batteries come back again, and again, and again, etc., fully charged and good as new.

Bye, Bye, Birdie

In the morn of June 15th, Monday, as I hustled up the dizzying spiral staircase for my daily visitation to the roof deck, what greeted me left me with some deep loss and longing for two feathered cuties which had for the past three weeks tugged at the brittle strings of my jaded and cynical self.

An empty nest stared back at me, this time riddled with a horde of tiny black ants feasting on the former occupants’ unconsumed food and dried-up droppings. A shiny little egg sat solitarily in the middle of the chaotic frenzy, looking like the dud that it probably was and simply left behind by the laying bird.

So in summary, in the short span of less than 3 weeks, eggs were hatched and the issues developed sufficiently enough within that time frame to fly from the coop and be on their own.

Comparatively, humans take what seems like a lifetime to develop sufficiently enough to be able to live independently - without their parents’ assistance.

A little lesson of life learned.

Then in an ironic twist my regular Internet incursions accidentally brought me to this YouTube item:

A dead gecko attacked by a rampaging horde of ants reducing the carcass to a skeleton, using time-lapse camera.

Another little lesson learned, this time in the cycle of life.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What A Difference Four Days Make

Four days have elapsed and my feathered friends have grown in leaps and bounds. But still confined to their very cramped quarters, unable to stretch their long legs or flap their fast-growing wings. Definitely the fastest developing parts of their young bodies. To make do, they have had to twist and curl around the tiny space, or hang upside down, or tumble around contorting their feathered bodies.

But one cannot help exhibiting sustained interest and excitement watching how these two have shown tremendous physical improvements over these last three weeks.

Like watching creation sped fast forward.

I have now taken to gingerly patting their heads with a finger and feeding them crushed toasted bread.

I expect any day now these fledglings will be airborne and bound for soaring heights to join their kind. A dream any aspiring human will hanker for.

And that will be the last of them.

I continue to take pleasure in enjoying this first time experience.

Here are the last four days in pictures.

June 10th Wednesday

June 11th Thursday

June 12th Friday

June 13th Saturday