Bad and Good Emails

“Good things comes to those who wait” – Anonymous

Today was almost perfect. But sadly another great creature passed away. Upon opening my email this afternoon, I saw this subject: Baby the Bull- dog! 5/18/98-7/29/07. At first I hesitated, but then opened and read it still. It’s confirmed Baby died. The inevitable did come. I’ve been a fan of this lovable bully since we had Styro who was also an English bulldog just like Baby. I’ve been receiving email updates and occasionally in contact with Dan (his owner) who himself is a very talented guy. Aside from being a good pet owner, he’s also a construction estimator, author and sculptor. He’s so fond of Baby that he dedicated a famous website for him and the rest of his four-legged gang.

I just can’t imagine his sorrow right now after having Baby for 9 years. We “lost” ours after just a year and we we’re almost devastated. Please drop by http://bullybaby.com to appreciate their wonderful companionship.

Goodbye Baby.

****

After one heartbreaking news it seems hard to for me to compose what I initially planned to write. Anyway, today was actually a very good day for me.

It started last week with an unofficial SMS on my application update. “That’s good,” I thought but I tried to be reserved than usual. Then as if by coincidence the priest’s homily on Saturday’s anticipated mass mentioned “I’m not believing, until I see it.” Well, when I opened my email at work the following day, the subject Congratulations! – Application Update almost made me jump out of my chair. That first word alone made my day.

Now I know that the maroon shirt’s jinx has been washed off indeed. When I was called for this position’s interview I was having doubts if wearing that shirt was a good idea as it was the same shirt that I wore when I got dumped by a supposedly good employer. But of course I know that wearing the black shirt would be sending a bad sign as well. Come to think of it, I only have two pairs to choose from. So, that leaves me no choice.

And so today, I started my training as a new leader. I’ve been waiting for this chance for so long and now at least my efforts and my wife’s prayers paid off. There’s still four more days of training and I can’t wait to start and meet my own team.

Definitely Not SSDD

One of the movies that influenced me somehow is Dreamcatcher. I actually read the book first which my wife gave to me as a gift before I was compelled to look for its VCD as there’s no genuine DVD yet that time. Other than the fantastic plot, storyline, setting and characters, I love the word that it introduced to me–-SSDD. I don’t swear a lot but I love it anyway. Same Sh#t Different Day. You see most days lately have been SSDD. No choice, but it’s been like it. Work. Home. Work.  Home.  Off.  Play.  Mall.  Those things even done in pleasure become SSDD.

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My Dreamcatcher book.

But July 20, Friday, wasn’t meant to be.

10 AM. After waking up late and a brunch meal at home, I was on my way to work. Driving my car for a quick trip so I could be on time for my 11 AM interview. This has been one of the much-awaited moments in my career. Just another chance to step up. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

Along the way, I was mentally playing over and over again the answer to the question “how do you deal with difficult people?” You see I dread this trick question. The last time I was asked this I fumbled, I failed.

The interview came late but I knew I did fine. The dreaded question didn’t come. Whew! And For the delight of it, I got my wife and I a to-go lunch from Tokyo Tokyo on my way back home. Japanese food for small victories.

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The small guy will be missed.

Past 7 PM. This was supposed to be a routine one. I was doing the weekly cleanup of our hamster’s habitat. I was almost done putting back his trails and he was the usual jumpy rodent eager to check it out. Surprisingly, on his way out in the middle of the trails, he sled and looked stunned while resting on top of the his Space Explorer’s stopover point. So I grabbed and raised him to see what was wrong. Once I laid him down though, my wife saw that he was panting, breathing heavily and stayed still.

I once again lifted him up and checked for pulse. There was none. My wife tried her luck. It didn’t work either. Hollie was gone. It was heartbreaking for us. I did shed a tear (it’s funny how a small creature can mean so much) while I complete the assembly the whole trail. It’s empty now. No more running and cage-biting noise for days to come. He was two years and more than a month old.

Past 8P M. Hating to leave home with just the recent loss, I pushed myself to take a bath, get dressed and was on my way to a coworker’s house. It’s his farewell party. He’ll be leaving for abroad by Monday to work at another company. It’s been like this at work. People leaving. Those left behind enjoying the party while it lasts. And more would probably be leaving anytime soon.

Well, that’s life. Sometimes it’s just the same things going over and over again. Sometimes new things come, sometimes they go. Sometimes it’s SSDD, sometimes it’s not.

Die Hard on A Sunday

After a hearty buffet lunch at Cabalen, my wife and I headed for Festival Mall’s cinema ticket both and picked movies to watch. Out of the nine cinemas there were only three others not showing the latest Harry Potter. Since I’ve never been a Harry Potter fan (though my wife is), we only had three more movies to choose from and those were Transformers, Die Hard 4.0 and a pinoy film, Tiyanak.

Transformers. We’ve watched it already on its second day. We like it a lot that we viewed it twice in a row. The last movie we watched several times in the cinema was Saving Private Ryan.

Tiyanak. I avoided it at first glance. I knew CGI’s would rule this movie. And I have a thing about pinoy CGI’s especially if done on horror films–it sucks. I can count the pinoy thriller’s I’ve watched with my one hand.

So Die Hard was it.

More often than not, I’d get sleepy on the first quarter of most movies especially when viewed right after lunch. I even joked about it with my wife that I would rate movies depending on how long I stayed awake during the whole film.

At first I was trying to convince myself that despite being shown in a movie house with stiff and short seats, the story will make up for it. And it appears like so. Just right after the start, the explosion and fireballs so typical of Die Hard series reverberate in the theater when some geek was blown out of his house as a super penetrating virus made its way into its PC. Not bad. Good concept. This could be interesting. I was beaming with anticipation. More explosions please!

However, as the movie progresses the story turned ridiculous. I was starting to see the faces of Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savages of Discovery’s Mythbuster as if debunking the stunts every time one is shown. It started when John Mclane threw a fire extinguisher at the bad guys and guess what? I was right. He shot it and a far bigger explosion happened that threw the villains into kingdom come. Damn. That one ruined my day.

After that one bit, I started seeing the movie as a quilt made from past movies. I saw Matrix in the highway interchange scenes. I saw Crouching Tiger in the fight scenes. I saw Rambo superimposed in John Mclane’s face. Before I dozed off, I knew I even saw Mr. Bean. I saw utter stupidity in the bad guys too. And the last few scenes remind me of typical pinoy movies that when the police come in the end credits would soon follow. It was that bad. It’s a pity because I knew the stars could have done better roles. Mclane’s daughter was hot. The Asian bad chick was foxy. Even Bruce Willis could have even made a better come back without having to appear in this poor Die Hard film. So I now wonder who’s to blame for this messy movie experience? The producer? The director? The scriptwriter? Or the Mythbusters? Definitely not the ginataang kuhol I had for lunch. This movie should have been titled “Sleep Hard.” Such a waste.

Meeting The Most Hated Person

A difficult conversation you have been dreading will go a lot better than expected today — it turns out that other people have been whispering in this person’s ear and have been warning her or him about the thing you have been wanting to talk about. So this person is ready to talk to you, and ready to work with you. There is going to be a great deal of positive collaboration in this day overall. Every idea will lead to another, more exciting idea. Keep going!” – Sagittarius Horoscope, June 19, 2007.

Working in a company that is (or was?) known for being a great place to work, it is surprising to know that there is one person that stands out as the most hated. He’s known as SH. And I’ve been thinking, the acronym happens to mean So Hated. Well that was what it really seems to be until the day I met him.

On June 19, I was one of those privileged (or doomed they say) employees to meet SH for a forum. The moment I learned he’ll be on the “hot seat” for this meeting, I had mixed feelings of eagerness and anxiety to be in it. Since he joined our company a couple of years ago, he had created so much confusion and fear in most of the meetings he would attend. Ask any person and more often than not, you’ll hear bad comments about him. This time its my chance to meet him up front.

Upon his arrival in the room everyone seems to tense up a bit as he started calling the names of those present–getting to know the enemy, I presume. I was the first one to shoot the question as others are starting to gauge the atmosphere of the meeting. Some are probably composing their statements as it would have to be in English–SH is an expat.

For a first time meeting and to say the first question “…I’ve heard terrible things about you…What do you think is the morale of the people working with you…” seems to have been shocking if not improper. But it had to be done. It had to be asked.

Almost without blinking an eye, he seems to have anticipated that such question would come up. I guess he is fully aware that he’s one hated man indeed. I won’t elaborate on his answers but he did well. It was direct, convincing and rational. He explained his strong policies and management style. He mentioned that the very least thing on his list of working as a manager is to be a pleasant and popular person. He’s now among the strong leaders I look up to.

After the meeting all 11 attendees walked out as a convert. All seems enlightened. He’ll need to talk to 3000 more. Hopefully he can turn the tides for the company. But that’s another story.

Got Hooked On Numbers

I hate to admit it, but I hate numbers. Ever since I started going to school, I despised any activity that has something to do with it. That goes on without saying that I hate math. As a graduate of a course related to electronics engineering (and just last year, as a computer engineer) I had to bear with the fact that I can’t escape the reality that I have to face and deal with problems involving calculations and computations on a regular basis. Thankfully, I didn’t fail any of those “numbers-related” subjects (That doesn’t include my previous Mechanical Engineering course which was spent learning BMX freestyles in- stead. Come to think of it, it deals with some Physics anyhow). But I didn’t excel in it either. So until now I’m still amused every time I remember a classmate mentioning that he’s been peeking at my Calculus test papers for “clues” and was able to pass the exams because of it. How I pulled it off, I don’t know.

By the start of this year, my wife bought this weird puzzle booklet from the supermarket and upon seeing that it was about matching several numbers, I avoided it right away. Had it been a crossword puzzle, I would have been her rival in an instant.

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Sudoku.

Since that time, I would regularly see her with this booklet and a pencil. I would wonder every now and then if what makes her attracted to play Sudoku puzzles and if it is really worth the time. It went on even during our trip to Malaysia. She also convinced her brother and he got hooked just like her or even worse.

A couple of weeks after we arrived from that vacation (which was a wonderful one, despite the Sudoku distractions), I eagerly asked for the weird puzzle and tried my hands and brain on it. Just like a car’s engine left idle for a long time, my brain’s number sector hesitated for a couple of minutes before engaging on the problem at hand – i.e., solve the puzzle rated as one-shuriken. In Sudoku speak, it is the easiest. Time went by and after several mind-boggling hours, and after our floor (and bed sheet) collected mounds of eraser shavings, I realized that I was hooked on this numbers game. I timed my puzzle-solving and clocked 5 minutes or less on some one-shuriken problems. My wife said she has done better. I don’t care. She’s not my competition. My rival is myself. I have likewise solved two- to four-shuriken problems. For how long? Don’t ask. What matters most is that I solved it anyway.

Last night we bought our third booklet. It is rated intermediate. The first page starts with four-shuriken problems and I peeked at the last ones, most of it has diagonal-odd puzzles. In plain words, It can make one crazy. Hehe- hehe. Hahahahahaha. Huhuhuhu. Am I drooling yet?

Day 8: Putrajaya Drive-By

We were all awake by 2 a.m. and checked out an hour and forty-five minutes later. As we approached the lobby Badri was already waiting for us. He offered his service the first day (Lake Garden day) we met him. I was a bit reluctant to push through with it at first, as his offer was just too good to be true. He’s asking only half the price compared to the hotel’s taxi service. I don’t know if Jericho was a reason for this.

Since we left the hotel ten minutes earlier as planned, Badri was kind enough to give another offer we can’t refuse. He’ll drive us to KL’s new city, Putrajaya. I heard from other guests that this place is a must see especially at night when its lights accentuate the buildings and the rest of the structures.

Putrajaya’s cable bridge.

We arrived at Putrajaya less than an hour later. There were just a few people around and I can count them with my fingers. Badri by then was multi-tasking as a taxi driver and a tourist guide, pointing from left to right and trying to discuss every detail of the whole place. The sight of the illuminated steel bridge was awesome. I had to shift my eye from the video camera’s LCD to appreciate the real thing towering proudly as we passed beneath its mighty steel cables. We likewise passed by a building with the shape resembling a cobra’s head. And true indeed, its lights on top look like one that is ready to strike. (Unfortunately, I haven’t got any good pictures of the place.)

Departing Malaysia.

After another 20 minutes, we were at the airport. Before we got out of the taxi, I got Badri’s address. We have one good person to thank for.

Our departure was past seven in the morning and we arrived after four hours. We’re back to work. Back in the Philippines, back to reality. Cue Psycho movie theme please.

Day 7: Where to Now?

Not Batu Cave but good enough.

This was supposed to be Batu Cave day but with our Malaysian Ringgits running low, we got our heads together after breakfast and discussed how to get the most out of this last day.

With the help of our trusty tourist map, we found a place with a description that reads “Cosmos, Indoor Theme Park” and with a roller coaster image on it. Park ride lovers as we are, my wife and I decided that this will be it. With Noel and Lani, clueless on what to expect, they tagged along nevertheless—the word ‘mall’ in the description also convinced them.

Luckily, we got Badri again. Just like before, he’s still loaded with insight as he describes the places we passed by with great enthusiasm and pride. He got us to Berjaya Times Square in a jiffy.

The place was huge and high as it is actually a hotel and mall in one great package. (Badri dropped us in front of the hotel entrance which sent the bellboys rushing to open our cab. They learned in an instant that we’re not hotel guests when I asked where the roller coasters are.) Sadly, their food court ruined our fascination. The food booths weren’t that accessible because one has to go a long way around the atrium to transfer to the other sections of the food court. It must be their way of getting the appetite going, I assume.

Three of 10th Avenue Food Mall’s customers.

As if trying to test our stomach my wife and I decided to check out the theme park immediately after lunch. We aimed for the roller coaster right away but it’s a no-go, for Noel and Lani this time. We learned that they got dizzy just looking at the coasters in motion.

We eventually found ourselves sitting in one of the cars. There was a bit of mixed emotions once we got ourselves strapped in and the few minutes of waiting just killing us as we were impatiently waiting for the roller coaster to get going so we can experience the G-force. Then the time came.

The indoor theme park.

The coaster ride took less than two minutes. There were some exciting moments but it didn’t meet our expectations. We came out amazed but disappointed—we got out not dizzy and not swearing.

A part of the roller coaster’s loop
Looks harmless but this is better than the roller coaster.

We tried the rest of the rides anyway. Good thing we found some favorites and we were dizzy and smiling again. There was one ride, however, that got us pumped up. It was the innocent-looking Ooort’s express that at first glance, someone looking for a rush would snob it right away. We we’re wrong. This one speeds up like a cat on fire. And its speed was enough for both of us to be squeezed in one side of the cart the whole time. My head and stomach was turning and my hips were aching after the ride. We got what we paid for. Redemption.

It was raining hard when we got in a cab. It was time to go home. It was time to pack up.

Day 6: The Twin Towers

The imposing Petronas Twin Towers.

A tourist’s bragging rights for visiting the Twin Towers isn’t complete if he hasn’t been to the Sky Bridge. So today, as discussed since our day one, we convinced our lazy bodies to move out of the mattresses, left the comfy cool bedroom behind and braved the hot and humid Malaysian climate to be on time for the Petronas Sky Bridge’s pass issuance.

Our group arrived at Petronas past 7 a.m. Seeing that the area is somewhat clear of people we thought that we were the early birds. Good thing we smelled something fishy just after a couple of minutes—who would want to come in late for the opportunity to visit the Sky Bridge? No one.

Instruction on how to queue up.

We were right. After asking for directions and following the way to the visitor’s entrance, tourists have started to queue and accumulate. We estimated that there were already 70 plus visitors including ourselves. The pass per day only accommodates around 200. We were included in the 9:15 a.m. batch.

The Sky Bridge visit we learned wasn’t only just about going straight up and then it will be over. It started with a 3D movie presentation in a small theater and followed by an interactive visit to an activity center where several aspects of the towers’ construction were shown. There is also one display wherein visitors will find their own height compared to the towers by positioning in a portal that automatically computes the comparison at a push of via button. Cool.

The view of the park from the Sky Bridge.

The Sky Bridge visit is limited to approximately 10 minutes only to allow the rest of the visitors for that day. Even then, it was worth enough as the view looking down from the bridge is just as awesome as the view from the outside looking up. One thing I learned from the guide was that the movie Entrapment’s tower scenes weren’t actually shot there but were rather filmed in a studio with a replica of the Twin Towers. That made me hate the movie even more.

At the end of the tour, another place we paid a visit to was the shopping area at Jalan Bunus, which to our surprise and dismay sells mostly textiles for typical Muslim clothing. The whole group didn’t find anything interesting so we checked our map and saw that Central Market is just a couple of blocks nearby.

Despite Lani’s protesting legs we proceeded with the transfer anyhow. We passed by picturesque mosques and buildings along the way that I was busy taking photos and shooting videos. Even one of the public buses didn’t escape my wife’s attention. It has an F1 paint job on it. So posed she did right in front of the curious crowd.

Upon reaching the Central Market, the gloomy sky poured down which gave us a better reason to enjoy a mug of hot coffee and noodles. We found a nice coffee shop in the middle of the shopping center called Old Town White Coffee. Their coffee menu was diverse and unique. Of course, more importantly, the price tag is cheaper than the rest of the cafes in the Central Market and this is one of the cases where you-get-what-you-paid-for line doesn’t apply. The coffee was really good, so good that it could give Starbucks a run for their money.

Coffee and noodles time in Old Town White Cafe.

The cheap but tasty coffee gave us some ringgits to spare for a last minute souvenir shopping. There was this one stall called KL Idea where we spilled our spare bills/coins. The store owners were nice and accommodating and I learned from them that this year is actually Malaysia’s 50th anniversary as a nation. Philippines celebrated our 100th year a couple of years ago. Just saying.

KL Idea in Central Market Malaysia.
The four of us with the owner of KL Ideas.

Day 5: Taman Tasik Perdana

Since we arrived late at the Lake Garden the last time we decided it would be a good idea to explore it more by early morning. Today is the day and we’re going to have a picnic.

Once we finished breakfast, Noel cooked a typical Filipino picnic food—pansit. Peanut butter sandwiches were also prepared and again, I was just the eager kitchen onlooker.

Our taxi driver to the Lake Garden was Badri who just like any other Malaysians we met is a Jericho Rosales fan. He was so delighted when he learned that we’re from the Philippines. He openly told us that he likes Jericho’s movies a lot that he spent several tear-jerking moments watching it. Badri was fun to be with as he talks and smiles a lot. I can sense from the way he talks about everything that he’s one proud Malaysian.

We were supposed to go start our day at the KL Bird Park, which is one of the sections of the garden, but had to cancel it when they saw that the entrance fee would cost each of us RM 35. With me protesting mentally, the three voted to check other attractions around for free or cheap attractions. We did not regret scrapping the Bird Park tour as we soon discovered that some of its birds and aviaries can be seen just along the road.

Sometimes overwhelming directions will get you nowhere.
We got the perfect spot to eat pansit and peanut butter.

Settled in on one of the park’s tables and after enjoying our picnic food, we started to look for the ‘lake’ in the Lake Garden. At first what we saw was somewhat disappointing as the lake appears to have accumulated moss and looks as if it had been stagnant for a long time.

Not to be deterred by the ugly sight we pushed further south and that’s when things began to get interesting once more.

We passed by the Fantasy Planet playground where for a moment we turned into kids as we appreciate the sight of colorful slides, play bridges and spiral bars.

Adults here are allowed to be children again.

As we neared the boathouse, the sky went a bit gray and started to drizzle. So we took shelter, the girls were at the swing while Noel and I under a shed. It was where we got to chat with Rosman who is the area’s security guard.

We talked about a lot of things from park birds, cars, gadgets and even religion. And the more we talk with him the more I learn about what Muslims seem to be like. At this point of our trip, I’ve conversed with a lot actually and I haven’t found any rude ones. They’re actually just like us Catholics, not so different after all.

The sun eventually got past the gray clouds and we continued with our tour of the garden. After quickly finishing our food, the park’s shuttle driver arrived and we got the chance to completely cover the whole Lake Garden paying only RM 0.50 each.

The park’s shuttle bus.

Once the shuttle tour was over we decided it was time to leave. We needed a taxi going back and someone advised that we can just go straight further and we would get a cab from there. That direction led us to an underpass. Not knowing what to expect, we pushed through anyway and soon discovered that we’re heading straight into the National Museum.

And sometimes getting lost is when you discover interesting places.

We checked and it was just 4 p.m. and we still have a couple of hours before closing time. Entrance fee was only RM 2.0 each. One thing I liked in there is that we were allowed to take pictures and videos. What I hated though, was its low light condition and that I was running low on video 8 cartridge space. Ti abi.

Wifey and her bro checking out the National Museum.

To cap the day, we stopped by KL’s biggest mall—Mid Valley Megamall. The myth, actually overheard from colleague, that there’s no big and good mall in Malaysia is now busted totally.

Day 4: Chow Kit & The Monkeys

Chowkit is a contrast of KL’s urban setting.

Just RM8.0 away via teksi from our hotel is Chow Kit where the overwhelming modern urban KL transitions to a more subtle setting. This area is just the ordinary wet market where cheap produce and meat are sold and this is where Filipinos like us will surely find ingredients to cook our favorite adobo—sorry, except for pork.

What makes this place great is that most of the people here are accommodating and easy to deal with. In fact, one market vendor even gave us free chicken asses, or tongking (it is how it sounds to me), probably after noticing my reaction when it was separated together with the head from the poultry we bought—they explained that both are actually sold separately and usually cooked as kebab. (I’m ilonggo so I love this chicken’s rear part. Back home we call it isol. Yummy!)

We hurried home right after buying all the ingredients that we need and after grabbing the opportunity to buy a box of cheap mineral water—like beer, it is expensive in the city proper. It’s time for our first home-cooked meal and time to exploit our lovely kitchen in our hotel room.

The hearty lunch of fried fish, adobo and ampalaya with coconut milk prepared by the group, except me, made us lethargic and left us nothing to do but to monkey around. It was also the best time to open the veranda’s door and let the smell of fried fish out—they forgot to turn the oven’s exhaust hood on. ti abi.

A monkey right outside our window.

We discovered that just outside our room’s balcony is a rich monkey habitat. We spent almost several hours just observing them and at some point offered banana slices which they eagerly retrieved and ate. They’re not alone though in these trees and foliage. There were also squirrels and some endemic birds gliding back and forth along the branches.

***

Enjoying Petaling street at night.

By nighttime, we decided to go back to Petaling Street. The decision was worth it. Chinatown was busier than it was in the morning and more vibrant and colorful as well. The red rounded Chinese lanterns dominating the area and the neon signs glowing with Chinese characters made me feel like a host of a famous travel channel or in a scene of an adventure movie.

Where to find and drink beer although pricey.

The sight of beer drinkers (mostly expats) in front of the restaurants added the sense of delight and longing. I kept reminding myself though that beer is expensive but later grabbed my beers from the nearest 7-11 store. My shopping-addicted companions finished with their haggling just in time for them to accompany me to buy a 1GB Sony memory stick at a mall before it closes. We’ll need the extra memory size tomorrow.