The Great Outdoors

Not everything on Netflix are created equal. And not all that involve guns are excessively violent movies or series. Like Meat Eater. I’ve seen this on my profile long time ago but never really opened nor previewed it just because its cover hints it‘s about hunting. Yup, I’m one of those “hypocrites “ who eat meat but loathe the sight of animals getting slaughtered or killed and our son Marcus shares the same sentiment. But it was a thing of the past we discovered just recently.

Several weeks back over dinner my wife randomly picked Steven Rinella’s series but was quietly observing Marcus’ reaction knowing that he would easily cry over shrimps being cooked for food. I myself was waiting for his protest, gladly willing to stop and find another film to watch. Minutes past but there was nothing from Marcus. He was watching the show.

We finished our first episode of Meat Eater and even watched a couple more. Everyone in the house was surprisingly hooked on a hunting show and in fact we are now on its second season.

Meat Eater breaks the bad reputation about hunting. It’s more educational than violent but be warned it shows animals getting shot, skinned, and butchered. Yes, there’s blood too. Despite all the seemingly gory details, what makes Meat Eater a must watch is it tells us that there’s more to hunting than just killing animals. Legal hunting entails discipline, patience, respect for nature, and even acceptance that bad days happen—when all our best efforts yield nothing.

As much as we’d like to, we do not have plans to purchase guns or hunting clothes yet—probably won’t happen in our lifetime—but thanks to XBox Marcus found a free hunting games through his game pass. The Hunter: Call of the Wild is as close as we can get to real life adventure. The game has impressive graphics of the great outdoors and its challenges are similar to what Steven Rinella encounters on Netflix’s Meat Eater. The Hunter Call of the Wild is so random and unpredictable that I’ve had days when I haven’t seen or shot an animal yet still enjoy playing it. (FYI, I got attacked by a wild boar yesterday. I plan to track him one of these days after shift.)

Can be played solo or multiplayer. Try it.

***

With and without mask and face shield.

Well, Marcus went outdoors for the first just couple months short before being inside the house for two years since COVID-19. Just this weekend he finally got scheduled for his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. It was administered at the office during the dependents vaccination program. I learned ours was the first site of the company to have vaccination for minors.

Marcus received Moderna vaccine. We didn’t expect that it would happen so soon because of his condition but thankfully his doctor who knows about his Duchenne Muscle Dystrophy was kind enough to send medical clearance online. It’s been three days since he got injected and so far only complaint from him was some hint of dizziness before bedtime plus some soreness on his left arm. Thank God he responded well to the vaccine.

Wish we posed without the mask and shield but no complaints.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Hot Monday afternoon)

Fiber: Faster, Bitter

Things happened fast at home when we heard that Fox Sports is leaving Asia. No more UFC, no more Monster Jam, and sadly, no more Formula One. We didn’t care if Disney goes along with it, we’re not into Mickey Mouse anymore. Losing Formula One was compelling reason for the change to come.

Barely a week after the news we found ourselves dealing with PLDT to get fiber connection. The installation (the PLDT agent making rounds in our area at that time was like heaven sent) was fast that at some point we both had PLDT and our local service provider, Galaxy Cable, all at the same time running at home. We just kept the latter until Fox Sports’ final live broadcast of the Formula One race in Sochi.

Race day on Sunday, September 24, 2021, was bittersweet. Vettel had a strong performance as he was able to recover from his engine swap penalty and finished 2nd next to Lewis Hamilton who on that day achieved his 100th Formula One win. We are no (longer) Hamilton’s big fans but we concede that he earned it. We realize that it would take years, probably not even in our lifetime, before someone beats Hamilton’s record. Love it or hate it. We witnessed our generation‘s own Fangio.

The sight of the Asian Fox Sports hosts and staff saying goodbye was heartbreaking too. And as one thing leads to another. there’s that separation anxiety that followed on Monday when I completed the de-installation of our local ISP’s router and cable TV boxes—five years with them wasn’t easy to let go but that’s life, we move on. Our dependency to PLDT fiber starts.

Router and cable TV boxes ready for return
Last shot of Fox Sports on our TV

***

PLDT’s fiber speed was fast. Way too fast than Galaxy Cable’s analog plan. No contest. Well, only while the connection works.

After being so elated that our Speedtest results show past 300 Mbps for both download and upload, the router’s LOS red light appeared. What sucks was it was just less than half a day since the installation crew left. Resolution dragged for six full days and guess what caused it? Loose connection because, just as I suspect, some service crew who were also working that day must have touched our line. Imagine if we didn’t have Galaxy Cable’s subscription as back-up back then.

That wouldn’t be the last experience with a disconnected line though. Just this week it happened again and it helped that this time we learned from the recent experience so we had wifey’s phone installed with a Smart Telecom’s SIM which now makes us call PLDT‘a hotline for free anytime. We kept our fingers crossed because the last time we received an advisory that someone would pay us a visit in 24 hours actually extended up to six days. Thursday morning I accepted the possibility and had my mind set to work in the office in the succeeding days.

Having already unsubscribed from our local ISP, we had an unproductive Wednesday night. Marcus can’t play online, while wifey and I can’t connect to work either. Globe’s cellular data sucks as it only allowed me to check on my work-from-home team through Teams chat. Using our bandwidth-demanding tools was out of the question.

It was the night we re-discovered UHF TV. I realized we have a digital up our roof and all we need to do is connect our TVs to it and watch the channels available. Best we had that night was a basketball feed because GMA channels do not have any appeal—for the record, I will avoid watching any of it if I can avoid it. I can’t recall the last time I spent time watching a basketball game but that unholy hour WE were all glued to it. And to think it was women’s basketball in which China overwhelmed our country’s Gilas team. Loss of internet was interesting, isn’t it?

Thankfully, close to noontime the next day helped arrived and the guy fixed it fast, like less than 10 minutes. FYI, second person we permitted to set foot inside the house since the pandemic in 2020 and just like the first crew, Lysol was sprayed all over Theo trail. Blame COVID-19 for my strange behavior.

So what was the cause this time? I figured that PLDT disconnected our connection automatically when I tried to access the router’s super admin setting in an attempt to open the NAT type and enable all the LAN ports. Following an instructional YouTube video, I briefly accessed the router’s UPnP and LAN Bridging menus when the ping stopped responding. I’ve done this in the past on several routers but this is the first time it happened. Soon I learned from PLDT’s customer rep that these now require request and waiver to enable the features. Shame but if it’s what works then I concede and will follow the process unless I want another extra night off from work. Kidding.

***

Back to school, this time for COVID-19 vaccination.

My number one blog fan—nobody else but the only female in the house—asked me to post soon so I thought that my lull time at the vaccination center yesterday would be best spent posting one. But the transfers from one classroom to another at STA Santo Tomas was distracting plus the fact that I’m surrounded by people who would wonder who writes long text on phones nowadays. So I quit and saved draft.

And today, 24 hours after my first dose of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine I start to feel a nagging headache so running is not an option and finishing this post comes next while tuned to CNN Philippines which we realized is also available on UHF TV.

***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (Can’t run)

Marcus Can (Still) Draw

The house has been free of bullets zipping past from left to right and grenades exploding like they were nearby. We played one Call of Duty Zombies last weekend but that was it.

Marcus had his sight back on Minecraft and that’s a good thing. I’m an eager block builder on his command. Creative games are good breaks from shooting games.

I sensed he got bored winning over me in Call of Duty as there was a day when he was just hunched over his phone longer than other days. I soon discovered he was sketching a plan. Something he will soon build on Minecraft.

The plan.

I was impressed when I saw the sketch thru a drawing app which he soon tested how it would appear on Minecraft Xbox One by building it on his Minecraft phone app.

The draft on his phone app.

Next step was more challenging. He finalized his concept by doing it on survival mode. Minecraft players know how tough it is to build while on this mode. The resources are limited, the health degrades, you can’t fly, and there are creepers and other annoying creatures to deal with. And the character has to sleep (this I like).

The final build.

The colored blocks are the hardest. Unlike in creative mode wherein these are readily available, on survival mode each colored block must be crafted using different materials depending on the color. His build has several colors and I can’t imagine myself doing it. I can’t even craft in the first place after all these years of playing with him.

While Marcus has been out of school for years already, he still continues to surprise me given his lack in mobility. Despite lack of books he learns from his games and online. He is smart and that is good enough for me.

***

Drafted this weeks ago and I just got time to publish this. I’m on long weekend and it’s my birthday, that’s why. And by the way, we started playing Call of Duty again and yes,I’m still settling for second place on a good day.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (No cakes, no big celebration but still happy to be with Marcus and wifey.)

Jump Around

We kept our house (or try to) minimalist so we’d have enough space for Marcus’ wheelchair and there is benefit to doing it. As I progress along my home workout routines I discovered I have room to do skip ropes indoors and I have been doing this for years now.

Once I thought I’d be happy to do crossover jumps but it got boring soon. Then I was able to achieve double unders though only sparingly and just in between fast skips. Nowhere to run, literally, this quarantine period I upped the skip rope difficulty.

Thanks to YouTube, I saw a video that got me interested. It was a CrossFit challenge featuring 45 double unders done in succession. One after the other. Next day I attempted it and found out I can do it. I have improved my double unders count since then but not yet halfway close to 45.

Like anything else, there’s a technique to double unders. It’s not just all about jumping high but rather it involves coordination of movements. The flick of the wrist to make the rope go around faster is key.

A lighter and smaller rope also presents a good challenge than using a heavier rope. Unable to just go back to my favorite sports store, Decathlon,  whenever I want to, I found Jump Manila on Facebook. The page promotes jumping rope activities and also sells skipping ropes.

I was happy with Jump Manila’s skip rope but two months later it revealed its weak spot.

That dark band is a sign it will break.
Break point.

Jump Manila’s very simple and lightweight design has an Achilles heel.  Without a bearing like Decathlon’s Domyos skip rope, the constant motion of the rope results to friction at the area close to the tip of the handle and over time a nick formed until the rope snapped.

Domyos skip ropes have bearings to prevent the rope from rubbing the edge of the handles.

Now I’m left using my trusty old Domyos skip rope. It’s slightly harder to flick but I’m good with it until I find another. I have my eyes set on buying from Decathlon ‘s online store as Ive seen on Facebook they have a weight adjustable skip rope. We’ll see how this goes.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Weekend again.)

I Survived the #25PushUpChallenge

The words were once just lyrics to a song playing over and over again back when I was in elementary. 19 was one of my faves among the popular radio hits. Like other boys I used to like playing soldiers so a song mentioning Vietnam was cool.

“According to a Veteran’s Administration study
Half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered
From what psychiatrists call
Post traumatic stress disorder
Many vets complain of alienation, rage, or guilt
Some succumb to suicidal thoughts
Eight to ten years after coming home
Almost eight-hundred-thousand men
Are still fighting the Vietnam War” (genius.com)

Post traumatic stress disorder doesn’t mean anything then. But I was curious, I tried to understand 19’s lyrics. There was no internet available in the 80s so it was from our trusty medical books at home where I learned that post traumatic stress disorder is PTSD in short. It was basically a form of long-term nightmare observed to be experienced by American soldiers coming from their Vietnam tour of duty.

PTSD is nasty. More so its suicidal effect if left untreated as this is the ultimate point of no return. What’s more concerning is that PTSD doesn’t happen to Vietnam war veterans alone. It can affect anyone who has experienced something painful and terrifying in their lives which according to Mayoclinic even children can have PTSD.

So when I was nominated by someone on Facebook to do the #25PushUpChallenge which raises awareness about PTSD I was up for it though I broke some rules. I hate bugging people so I didn’t nominate anyone. Night shift had me lose my orientation of a 24-hour day so there were days I had two posts. But hey, I did 25 posts with hashtag #25PushUpChallenge which is the main goal of all this–to contribute to raising awareness.

Doing pushups for 25 days seems daunting at first. Hitting boredom was a concern. Fatigue was another.And then there’s that part of posting videos of it on Facebook (made me feel narcissistic at the end). But the challenge rule doesn’t dictate doing just strict military pushups so my personal goal was to vary the pushup routine over 25 days.

A screenshot of my #25PushUpChallenge Facebook album

And I succeeded. I am proud to say that not one #25PushUpChallenge video I posted shows the same set as the others. While the a pushup variation appears in several videos,I made sure the sets I do every day is something unique. I was raising awareness and at the same time testing myself to do something new each day.

Last Friday I hit day 25 of 25. Weird, it feels like ending a Netflix and I’m left wondering what’s next. However, if there’s something I learned from #25PushUpChallenge is that commitment is always important in beating any challenge. As my favorite workout mantra goes, “Know the whys so you can endure the hows.” Happy Sunday everyone.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Got paper airplanes to build, new Xbox games to play with Marcus. Thanks to American Santa Clauses.)

High Score

One of the Netflix shows we watched with Marcus recently was High Score. The show features the history of gaming, though selective platforms only, from the early days of the then almighty NES and Atari.

High Score is only one season. It only highlights the classic games like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Doom. Show also mentions about arcade games as well famous block game, Tetris. And this posed a challenge to Marcus who tried his hand-eye coordination on the spin-off of this iconic game and he didn’t fail. Last night he recorded the highest in our province in the game Block Out.

***

Hand movements

In the recent days I noticed that Marcus prefers me brushing his teeth instead of him doing it. He’s been using an electric toothbrush which requires less hand motion but the downside is that it’s heavier than its manual counterparts. So last night I was so elated to realize that Marcus can still clap his hands while we were watching TV. Hope his strength stays longer.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Had Starbucks America after a long while.)

Of Masks and Pricey Dispenser

Few more days and we’d be under quarantine mode for five months already. It doesn’t matter what quarantine version we’re at (there’s ECQ, GCQ, and now MECQ) but the fact that the number of cases continue to rise only means that extra paranoia is much welcome. If 126,000 positive cases (and counting) don’t alarm you, I don’t know what will.

On top of the minimum safety measures to avoid getting infected with the dreaded COVID-19 virus like wearing masks, effective washing of hands, and social distancing we have started to do more at home. I’m the one who has the quarantine pass and the only one who can drive–stress on the ‘can drive’–so I’m the designated errand person. And whenever I return home there’s always that feeling of uncertainty if I brought something that could make wifey or Marcus sick. Maybe it’s just me but I won’t be surprised if equally paranoid people feel the same thing. And so habits have changed.

For one, my bath habits. Back in the pre-COVID-19 days I would always take a bath whenever I need to drive somewhere as I’d feel sticky if I don’t. Now I don’t care. People nowadays wear masks so if ever I stink it would go unnoticed anyway, and if someone does think I reek like hell, I’m all masked plus with cap and a face shield so I’m like a villain skunk whose identity is fully protected.

Take note of the double masks while I wait inside the car for my Jollibee to go.

Don’t judge yet, I still do take a bath but it now happens when I arrive home. That is, after I have sprayed my car’s interior with disinfectant and wipe everything I take out of the grocery bag like erasing an evidence from a crime scene. Yep, that’s new norm for me.

Then there’s more. The drinking water we use at home comes from a nearby mineral water station. For four years since we transferred here, we’ve been a regular customer. But lately I have been more observant than ever on how the water containers are refilled and I can see potential source of contamination– the store assistant has not been wearing masks. So last week I finally approved wifey’s decision to order a costly water dispenser which has filters in it.

Never thought I’d agree to buying a P20,000+ water dispenser.
Tested and passed.

I don’t trust the quality of our tap water just like my mistrust on how our current government is handling this pandemic. Oops, can’t help it but that’s how bad. I do think though that the Waters(TM) water filter will deliver. The dispenser includes a kit to test water quality and so far it passes with flying colors. I drank water from it yesterday after setting it up and so far no upset stomach. I’d miss the workout I get from lifting two 5-gallon containers every other week.

***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (Saturday again, I deserve a Bacardi.)

Minecraft Weekend

Me working at home in Minecraft world.

I made some progress this weekend in Marcus’ Minecraft game. Fighting off the call of the bed, I helped him build crazy roller coasters. In the real world I’d probably pass out barely midway of what he built and to think it doesn’t have any loop yet.

Our dining area in Minecraft.

We capped the night, actually early morning already, with us doing a version of our home. Then Marcus finished my room with me seated in my work at home corner. Nice way to introduce another workweek.

***

This weekend was also the most awaited by Formula One fans. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed this race season back for months and today it finally happened despite an obvious change in so many aspects of the game. For one, the grandstands of Austria were totally empty of F1 race audience and so the three of us were among the millions who had to contend ourselves watching the game live on cable TV. Race wasn’t that bad as wifey’s bet, Norris, made it to his first podium at 3rd place. Marcus also had his fix of live race, a break from Xbox’s version of the race. For me, I enjoyed the nachos and dips.

Huddled for the Formula One race.

Next race will be in Austria still which is another first (as far as I know) for Formula One to race on the same track in the same season. No thanks to COVID-19.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Almost 2 AM, I need my Bacardi.)

Release the floodgates

It’s now the sixth month but it feels like the New Year just started. For months everything seems frozen and in our lifetime this is the first time life came to a standstill–no thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Everyone stayed indoors since March. Jobs for the majority stopped against their will. It was a tough choice against getting paid or getting infected by the Wuhan virus as others call it. Lucky for some, working from home became a viable option.

Today the government set to jumpstart the economy back to life. This despite many Filipinos saying the move is premature especially that we really haven’t flattened the curve like other countries. In fact, the numbers of those tested positive for COVID-19 continue to rise based on latest news.

But it looks like we just need to bite the bullet. We need to trust the authorities, however hard that is. Life has to go on even if it won’t be the same norms as we used to know it. Release the floodgates and we’ll see what happens next.

***

Usually Sando.

Most times we did stay at home but we didn’t really sulk. I still work weekdays sans the driving to and from the office. Thanks to our company that allowed us to bring our desktops at home and continue earning from there.

I realized soon though that it wasn’t easy as most of us ever imagined. Working from home has its own set of challenges. Distractions, for one, are all over. Roosters crowing at the exact time when there is a meeting. Dogs running around like the Tasmanian Devil. And most times they’d block the ergo chair as they’d settle right below it when their energy ran out.

To be honest, I looked forward to the weekend more than when I was reporting to the office. Home office set up is draining. The first weeks, even until now, I felt like I need to work early just because the desktop is just right there. It was always tempting to take a peek of what’s happening at work–if someone replied to my email or if the bosses had asked something from me.

Slowly, thankfully, I have started to control and manage my time. I just want to spend it more with wifey more so with Marcus because he hasn’t stepped out of house since the enhanced community quarantine started. I’m sure he misses the mall although he’s denying it. Good thing he discovered singing.

Must be the Bacardi.

For several weekends already we all clustered every night inside Marcus’ room to listen to him sing, mostly Taylor Swift songs and anything pop. Not to be left sitting and listening, I also found that I can dance along the songs. So weekends have been fun despite off key singing and awkward dancing.

***

Mood: 5/10 Honks! (GCQ starts now.)

Spring Roll

We are now entering the fourth week of enhanced community quarantine and the things to do at home are becoming uber repetitive.

For the first time in my entire life the Holy Week felt like months. I didn’t even realize that last week we already had Holy Monday that dragged on to Maundy Thursday. This COVID-19 pandemic just erased that distinction between regular weeks and the Holy Week.

Times like this creativity is a survival tool. Like yesterday Easter egg hunting was all in the confines of our house. Wifey hid plastic eggs where Marcus in his wheelchair can access and find. I think he enjoyed it, the dollars and pesos stuffed inside the eggs made his experience better which I think he got enough to afford himself a new Xbox game, Kerbal Space Program, and some extra amount to spare.

Last year’s bunny got out of the pile of plush toys.
Wifey’s Easter Sunday idea.

Also the first this year was Marcus taking a seat in the dining area. If I’m not mistaken, last time he was here was New Year’s Eve when we posed for our mandatory celebration picture. What got him there this time was the interest in helping prepare spring rolls with his mom. There were some challenges getting his hands up the table but with wifey’s assistance he made it and he ended finishing two spring rolls.

Marcus preparing veggie spring rolls.
Our simple Easter Sunday lunch which includes the spring rolls Marcus made.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Drafted while waiting in line in Shopwise Sta. Rosa.)