Masked Mall Rats

Things seem to start going back to normal. Thanks to the ongoing vaccination program, COVID-19 cases have significantly gone down, at least what the government statistics say. (But hey, props to them. Give credit to whom credit is due.) So in the past weeks we’ve been seeing traffic volume building up—not that we’re happy about it. Businesses are opening again one after the other. And people flock to the malls once more. Us included.

Done!

Two weeks after Marcus finally got his second COVID-19 vaccine we packed ourselves in the car and headed to the destination we once frequent before the pandemic hit. With a wee bit of anxiety, we set foot on Festival Mall’s ground, almost two years after. All three of us in the mall just like the good old days.

Our own T-Party.

The mall no longer requires contact tracing forms to be completed upon entry but restaurants maintain their own policy for precautions. Yellow Cab for one allows only fully vaccinated customers to dine in— the cashier did check our vaccination cards. Activities inside the mall are close to pre-pandemic days with difference of masked mall rats and the ubiquitous social distancing signages. We agree it’s an inconvenience but this is the new norm so let’s deal with it.

***

What makes yesterday more special? Taylor Swift’s birthday! Among the things we did in common at home during the quarantine period—and continues to this day—is karaoke with Marcus on weekends. Early days during start of social distancing and isolation Marcus grew fond of singing and big chunk of his repertoire are Taylor’s songs—then some BTS and couple of rock, to indulge wifey and me, respectively. He’s still working on the tunes but it’s been fun all the time. I even learned—or forced myself—to dance while he sings. Good way to burn midnight snack.

***

Except for Saturday, two days this long weekend we skipped the karaoke. Sunday was finale of the F1 2021 season where we saw ourselves screaming especially when Max Verstappen stopped the championship streak of Lewis Hamilton on the last lap of the Abu Dhabi race. It’s been a long while since F1 was this exciting. Actually both drivers deserve the title but this time we were rooting for Max who is now the first ever Dutch F1 driver champion.

Then last night, coming from the mall and powdered by Starbucks Americano I found myself glued watching Taylor Swift’s Fearless video on Blu Ray. Interestingly, we realized that Blu Ray is a technology that is no longer supported even by major appliances stores but thankfully Xbox still plays it.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Cold kettlebell workout)

Wistful and happy

If your 2021 were a playlist what would it sound like? Mine would be wistful and happy. At least, according to the data collected by Spotify about my music choices which by the way I discovered from Marcus yesterday. Apparently, Spotify had been tracking my favorite songs and genres since day one of 2021–without my consent or maybe I just missed the fine prints.

My Spotify Wrapped 2021

Spotify captured that I have spent 93,000 plus minutes (and counting) since January this year or an average of 282 minutes per day listening to music on their streaming service alone. It also recorded that close to 3,000 artists have played on my phone during this same period and interestingly, Spotify Wrapped shows that while I have explored other genres like Chill pop, hardcore rap, and even Taylor Swift’s, and yes, BTS’ songs too, New Wave continues to be my top genre. Age alert.

So if you have been stuck fiddling from one playlists to another on your Spotify, check out that icon that shows Spotify Wrapped and learn what Spotify had been spying about you and your music. See if like me you’ve been listening to wistful and happy music. Take note, guilty pleasure songs you’ve repeatedly played in your car while driving alone are there but thankfully, Spotify doesn’t record moments we sang out of tune. Well, not yet.

Find this on your Spotify

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (All three of us are now fully vaccinated.)

I Survived November

Ever had those days when paranoia sets in because the series of events do not make sense? That was November for me, my stuffs were breaking one a time like I was cursed. And oddly enough , after I posted about my streak of bad luck, a couple more were added on the list of things I broke clearly unintentionally.

Following my Apple Watch was my AfterShokz Titanium headset. It just snapped while I was cleaning it after my 5K. Then last Monday my work desktop just stopped leaving me unproductive almost majority of the day. And that wasn’t the worst part but it was the thought that I would need to report to work the next day—which means I would be driving. I was thinking Final Destination scenario.

Been a fan of Mighty Bond lately.

I made it back home the next day despite having to stay up all night at work to conduct an 8-hour training—my first time to talk nonstop for almost the entire shift.

Wednesday was next, Thursday, and finally Friday. Then the final weekend when I had an uneventful drive to my 2nd COVID-19 vaccination, then the 29th, and then the 30th. Yes, I was counting the days until November will be over.

So last night I can’t recall being more than excited to see the calendar show December 1 finally. It was a holiday and I spent more time playing The Hunter with Marcus while keeping to myself that I’m on the the lookout if I’d break something—maybe a glass, my Xbox controller, the door knob even. But nothing happened. I stepped out of Marcus’ room two hours past midnight. November’s over and I survived it. Whew. That night, Jim Bean and Netflix never felt that good.

***

I had my progressive glasses fixed which only required frame replacement. I paid for a cheaper one this time just in case I break it again. Knock on wood.

An accessory I found on Lazada also gave my Apple Watch a new lease on life. I paid only P141 including shipping from China. I regret discovering it late but at least it now covers the crack and makes the watch look like brand new.

No more crack.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (So this is how it feels to be 48.)

Clocking in, clocking out

Clock starts now. It was almost a month ago when I stopped posting on Facebook. Cold turkey. No hints, no drama. I feel like it was the most appropriate thing to do. While leaving just like them also seems like apathy, during the times when friends need consoling, need uplifting, or some needing validation, I just woke up one morning saying “no more.”

The last weeks with Facebook was dreary. Couple of friends or friends posting about people they personally knew either dead or dying of COVID-19 was creeping in on me as well. I have extended help to some in my own little ways but there would be more coming in on my timeline. Different persons.

Then there’s that guilty feeling after realizing that I could actually do more. Last post I had was me testing my MIG welding machine. An innocent post but when I scrolled down there were others once again telling stories, asking assistance. And I just spent P6K for an item I would eventually store. An amount that could‘be been used for someone else’s medication.

So yesterday after reading in the news about some ex-FB employee squealing about privacy issues being left unaddressed I decided that it was a good reason to deactivate. So I did and it feels good. Now I have more time to put to good use. Like writing again. Clock stops.

Twenty minutes for this post. Need to practice once more. If procrastination doesn’t strike.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (I’m an ex-FB prisoner and now I’m free)

Lobster trip

A couple of days ago my wife and I were having lunch of chicken liver and gizzard adobo when we talked about trying new menu for a change. A thought out of having to eat same thing over and over again, not being able to dine out together since this pandemic hit.

What about lobster? “Nah, that likely tastes like regular crab,” I answered her suggestion. But I listed lobster anyhow among my next to-buy list on my next trip. I already had on my OneNote Cubi wafers, peanut butter, and CoQ10–all items for Marcus. Yes, just three.

I arrived earlier than usual.

This morning that trip happened. I left early wanting to beat the crowd especially now that variants of COVID-19 have started to spread. I arrived at S&R 30 minutes before it opens.

I tried to stick to what I had on my list but just like any trip to this membership shopping, I grabbed stuff from here and there though I made sure I’m still within budget if I find a lobster.

Few minutes at the frozen section didn’t yield any lobster so I looked for an alternative. Maybe a king crab. Yes, a king crab like those from Discovery’s Deadliest Catch. And I found one. Eureka! But what’s the price tag? P3,999 for about 4-5 claws. Shoot. Ended grabbing sushis for lunch. Maybe next time I’d find a lobster or could already afford eating a king crab.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Few minutes before Marcus starts his weekend videoke)

Garmin or Apple Watch?

Another day, another activity involving my car. This time I’m exposed in the open and just under the shade of a tree at a parking lot somewhere in Solenad Nuvali. No TV, no comfy leather couch like I had in Honda Santa Rosa last Monday. No complaints, at least I’m free from mediocre Filipino comedy movies. Hoping this backup camera installation gets done faster. So far my Mickey Mouse watch face shows an hour since installer guy started.

Finally, I now have a Mickey watch.

I need to do something instead of checking my watch back and forth and thinking if I change my watch face to Explorer or Minimalist or one the would show my photo. Or bugging the guy if he’s able to do it or not, a review of Garmin versus Apple Watch would be more productive.

It’s been couple of weeks since I received my Apple Series 4 Watch so I think I have enough to write about it. I was racking up 5K runs with goal to hit 505 kilometers by end of March for one of the Garmin challenges so I had some anxiety giving up my 5-year old VivoactiveHR when the Apple Watch arrived after being held by customs. For several days I wore both watch, each on different arms, wanting to know if both would record similar pace and distance. Eventually I realize I look silly even while running indoors.

Seeing double.

Day one with the Apple Watch I achieved the elusive sub-30 5K run but my Garmin shows otherwise as it displays I hit 5K 32 minutes and few seconds later. As much as I’d like to believe the data by Apple, its app suggests running outdoors for 20 minutes to calibrate it. So there, not Apple’s fault. (Had my first outdoor run last Friday and it confirmed the watch was off. It now calculates close to Garmin’s data.)

First outdoor run map.

Then comes data sharing. The Garmin Watch paired with the Garmin Connect app allows sharing run statistics with an option to overlay it on photos. This is what Apple doesn’t offer. At least the Series 4 model doesn’t but still a shame considering it came out two years after my Garmin. Apple Watch Activity app data show as much as Garmin’s Connect app but it’s boring to share. Garmin-1, Apple-0.

This is only image you can share. Colorful but too much numbers is still boring.

How about the look and feel experience? The Apple Watch is slightly heavier and bulkier than the Garmin VivoactiveHR and it’s because the material of the Series 4 watch is mostly glass plus its sensor at the back is metal (it is charged wirelessly through a magnetic charger). The Garmin is mostly rubber and tough plastic which makes it lighter. In this aspect, I’m torn between liking or hating Apple so I will leave this part a draw for now even if the Series 4 can be easily replaced and customizable.

But the Apple cannot lose, right? Setting aside running comforts and statistics accuracy, the Series 4 model has definitely more to offer than the VivoactiveHR watch. Let me count what I’ve used so far: It has ECG to measure heart activity sans the sticky electrodes; Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity are available separately; Writing pad is cool as it allows me reply using my own handwriting that watch converts to text; Spotify can be accessed from the watch. And so many others that my current Garmin doesn’t have. Garmin-1, Apple-1.

And of course there’s that X-factor Apple devices exude and only Apple users, me now included, know this. In a matter of days I swallowed whatever negative I said about it. I concede, now trying to save for my next Apple. Free ones preferred of course.

***

Realized I haven’t published this post I drafted weeks back and I have just added new images showing recent dates.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Had a good 4-day rest. Back to the rat race later.)

Expensive Apples

My Apple story started with an interesting chat. “Cris, I’d like someone who would appreciate the features of an Apple Watch. Would you use it?” It was a question that only merits a yes. Few moments later the offer went further and better. “I realize it needs to be paired with an iPhone. Are you willing to let go of your Android?” Some hesitation on my end but another big yes followed. An Apple for a Redmi? Go figure. I’d receive the package in a few days.

It was all excitement and anticipation until that fateful call from FedEx. “Sir, we have your package but it exceeds the allowed value and you don’t have an importation license. There would be Customs fees and duties. “

Customs. Fees. Sucks.

What could have been a week or less of delivery soon dragged. I had to accomplish an itemized list of the package contents that I don’t have any idea what were exactly packed. I waited while my package undergoes customs process. Physical inspection among them. It was uncertain if they’d open the box. Whatever they plan to do I was only interested in the two costly Apples—phone and watch. The process felt like an eternity. Like bad constipation.

Sender was bugging FedEx in the US for not setting clear expectations—blame fine prints? While I stay still and helpless, avoiding Philippine Customs from doing something that could be to my disadvantage. I was going with the flow.

Three weeks later I heard from FedEx Philippines. I was advised I’d be paying almost Php18,000 COD on top of what was paid in the US. I didn’t dispute, just wanting to be done and over with it. Besides, I wouldn’t get an iPhone XS and an Apple Watch, even pre-owned, with that price. Just an unexpected expense but still worth it. Been thinking of getting a new Garmin anyway.

The package arrived intact. Looks like it was never opened nor tampered. I was also surprised that sender actually had the Apple Watch and iPhone in their original packaging like it was brand new. I was Impressed. I won’t regret paying Php18K.

Cleared by our own sniffing dog.

Remember how this all started? Well there’s more to it as eventually I got a refund. Not from FedEx, not for Customs either—never in our lifetime these guys will do that. Sender was so kind enough to make sure I don’t spend anything out of my shallow pocket. So I’m now here at a Honda dealership for a scheduled maintenance of our 11-year old City using the money I got back. Thanks again!

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Under the mercy of mediocre Filipino film on TV)

100th Video…With Voice

For a couple of years already Marcus has maintained his own Youtube channel. Called 11 AM Guy, his channel houses videos he personally created which are mostly about his favorite games and lyrics videos of Taylor Swift songs. He’s a big fan.

Today, over lunch, he introduced to us his 100th video since he started the channel in 2018. With his recent rate of uploads, 100 videos was just bound to happen this year so what really surprised us was in this latest video, he talks. He recorded his voice for the very first time.

https://youtu.be/n1qAaB096Tw

Like any other first times, the voice over could definitely be better, however, what’s remarkable here is that Marcus was able to control his stutter on the recording. In this past months Marcus has been stuttering more and more–one of the signs of DMD progression–so I was listening closely if it’s going to be evident. There were some wheezing but nothing very significant. Good job son! We are proud.

***

Coincidentally, today is the 7th day after I had Marcus’ Youtube channel logo tattooed on my left arm. As expected the scabs are starting to fall off and overall the tattoo is healing nicely. Only issue is that I had it placed to cover an area that itches and sheds skin a lot–I suspect it’s psoriasis, no thanks to Google self-examination. First couple of days my hopes are up that the head will hold but as the first week approaches the ink was obviously fading away. I can live with that but I need another tattoo design soon.

Day one

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Long weekend is bliss)

Tech Booboos

There’s such thing as digital karma. Last weekend I jokingly posted on Facebook: “Good news: vaccines are here. Bad news: I got used to working at home.” It was half meant. Well, more like 90-10 in favor of working at home. But soon enough, karma reared its ugly head as it didn’t last long before I had to report to work after more than six months.

My HP laptop died on me while I was  working, close to ending a Monday night shift. There was a click before the monitor went black, keyboard backlights out too, and never to be turned on again. All files worth most of my 2020 gone just like that. Joke was on me.

On Tuesday night, against my will, I was back at the office with the hope to get a replacement. Bummer our IT can only give me a desktop and cannot commit if I could get another laptop again. Next day though I returned to find out I’m getting a small form CPU which I actually liked. (Also learned that I have free shirts, a jacket, and a Timex watch from Christmas so I called it even. I’m easily pleased you know.)

Then today I discovered something that I should have had a year back. While inside my idling car, waiting for my turn at the veterinary clinic (with my ever whining dog, Shadow, in the backseat) I played around with my phone to kill boredom. For a change, I switched back to the phone’s default SMS app instead of Messenger, then gave my BDO bank app another try, anticipating disappointment. But guess what, I was in for a surprise that a simple switch fixed a year long issue.

I’ve had several of this error and already gave up.

So if there is anyone out there with the same issue adding their device to their BDO app, here’s a solution: Do not use your Messenger as your SMS app. You can thank me later.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Survived the week of lost Excel files.)

2020, 50/50

Another year is about to end in four hours and counting. Most, if not all, will surely agree that 2020 wasn’t an easy year. A year we all want to forget. Or so it seems.

But not all is lost in 2020. For one, mine started with a trip to the US. My second business trip which lasted for a week like one I had in Wisconsin back in 2001. Kansas was colder though in January.

Had the chance to experience this.

On my return flight was when things started to get freaky. While onboard the plane I learned Taal volcano spewed large volume of ashes. Flight was diverted to Cebu but I eventually got home on the same day. Weeks that followed we had to wear masks and little did we know that it was an introduction to the what will happen in the next months.

Park close to work used to have grass.

The ashes soon disappeared, the roads were no longer dusty. But 2020 had more bad tricks up its sleeve. COVID-19. This time it’s not just people within the 15-20 km radius of Taal who are affected and had to wear masks. This time the whole country went on panic mode to stock up on surgical masks–and alcohol. March was the beginning of what everyone would soon realize as the new norm.

Isolation became the name of the survival game. We soon got used to hearing and talking about social distancing and working from home started to be popular. Thanks to our company’s business continuity efforts, we soon saw ourselves among those who’d be doing our jobs in the confines of our own home. Have I mentioned I got promoted?

Beating boredom and so called cabin fever–which I’m sure is a term most of us only heard in the movies before COVID-19–internet challenges trended. People were baking, concocting Dalgona coffee, doing TikToks, and some took on physical challenges.

Wifey’s Dalgona

Having started working at home since years ago, I took on the #25pushupchallenge immediately after I got tagged. It wasn’t easy, to be honest, but it was fun. I completed the required 25 days and learned other pushup varieties along the way.

Like finishing a Netflix series, the end of the pushup challenge left some sort of void. Many times I pondered running again, maybe early mornings will do, but the thought of picking up and bringing home the virus had me cancel all plans of hitting the road again. But then comes online shopping and the mysterious relevant Facebook ads. I soon found one that sells treadmills.

To cut the story short, wifey approved and pitched in to purchase a NordicTrack S20. The treadmill alone initially costs Php72K but I got it for just about Php62K (AVR included). It was bang for the buck. I was soon back to running after more than seven months hiatus.

First weeks on the treadmill and face tells the effort.

Routines at home also changed. A lot. Our bedroom also soon functioned as my office on weekdays. I had to relocate to avoid crowing roosters from joining my meetings. Thankfully, wifey willingly gave up her freelance job station to me in exchange for a simple chair and desk setup.

Perks of working at home is I can make faces during meetings

Our son’s schedule altered as well. Few weeks after I started working at home his sleeping time changed significantly. From the usual 2 AM it extended until 5 AM–almost a full night shift. It took me some months to adjust to his recreation time yet I somehow managed to adapt to it. It is now common for me to stay up around past 3 AM on weekends for Xbox games with him.

Weekends are raw and simple

All things considered, 2020 wasn’t bad at all. There’s no point caving in to fear of the ongoing uncertainties of the lingering pandemic. Like most things, the sooner we accept change, the faster we transition to the new norm. We all hope of course that we get the COVID-19 vaccine so we can face 2021 with more sense of security and confidence. Fingers crossed.

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Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Happy New Year!!!)