Are you the Man of Steal?

(Blog originally intended for my alma mater’s blog site.)

I was thinking of a better title for this blog and I remember a high school classmate whom we tagged as “Man of Steal.” Not that he’s a professional thief, but it’s just that he had this annoying habit of not returning things he borrowed or worse, keeping small petty stuff that our classmates possessed and valued—such as David Pomeranz cassette tapes (yes tapes!), books, etc.

I’m quite sure we’ve had our share of petty thievery way, way back in the past. We’ve sneaked into our nanay‘s wallet to fund our Masskara escapades. We’ve kept extra resistors from the lab to support our home-made audio amplifiers and boosters. We’ve raided the stock room to pick extra welding rods for our bike’s frame. And we’ve, intentionally or unintentionally, grabbed one lumpia or burger from Claire without shedding a single centavo.

Those who are guilty, please raise your hands. Wait, I can’t type one-handed.

Mr. Genito’s reminder prior to our last OJT still stays fresh in my mind, ”INDI pagkuhaon maski bato sa inyo ulobrahan (DO NOT take even a single rock from within your company).” I will always remember that briefing every time I’d see gravel in the parking lot and would ask myself, ”Maski ini? (Even this?)”, ”Oo, maski ina! (Yes, even that!)”, my good side will respond immediately.

As the technology around us gets more advanced than it was before—and becomes affordable to almost everyone—another form of stealing gets so rampant and so common that one wouldn’t know that he has actually participated in it. Even those with the best of intentions, regardless of social status, religion, or profession are victims. Even friends.

This is film piracy. Once again I’m guilty as charged. But that was more than eight years ago. I remember the last bootleg copy I bought was Tom Hank’s Cast Away which I got from one of the malls in Alabang. That day, I also grabbed some beer, pulutan, and then went home so eager to watch it with my wife. Sadly, I almost crushed our VCD player in disgust when in the middle of the movie it started pixelating and ruined our night altogether. And that was it, I had enough.

I guess it was one of my wake-up calls to end the illicit practice once and for all. And as if trying to justify my life-changing decision, I read the papers, watched the news and attended company-supported training sessions related to this. It was then when I became more aware of things such as Intellectual Property and Copyright laws.

Of course, everyone knew how costly (some may find it even ridiculous and stupid) it is to stop buying pirated products nowadays. It’s the reason my Core 2 Duo still has the genuine Windows ‘98 OS in it and until now the dual core processor is concentrating its power on the free solitaire game—dasig gid eh (very quick), if you will ask.

Since then, my wife and I also started saving to buy the CDs and DVDs that we like. If the budget isn’t available we’d content ourselves to listening to our favorite music over the radio and watching movies on the cable channels or in the cinemas.

Although feeling good about doing the right thing, I’ve kept mum about it. Pushing this anti-piracy advocacy in front of most people I know would either get me booted out of my circle of friends or get raised eyebrows at the very least. (I even discovered that one high position expat got a whole shelf of “Quiapo” DVDs in his home. It’s disappointing and frustrating.)

Until now I still wonder if there will come a time when the government and other concerned organization will eradicate or significantly lessen this illegal trade that’s been killing almost the whole industry—even food, toys, books, textiles and other consumer products in the market are affected. Wishful thinking? If and when that time comes, I’ll be one proud man.

And by the way, if after reading this one might wonder if I’m the OMB chairman, Edu Manzano, I wish but I’m definitely not. I’m just one concerned individual hoping to influence at least one. Yes, at least one who might influence another.

So are you the Man of Steal or not?

Rio and Gino

 “The owner doesn’t pick the car, the car picks its owner” – Transformers, The Movie

This week Rio and Gino captured my attention. Rio is good. Gino is bad.

My recent promotion gave us hope to start considering a new car. So last week, despite my nagging headache and pouring monsoon rain, we dropped by the car showrooms near our place. I never knew that the idea of picking a prospective car would be more exciting than I imagined. Nope these are not Jeremy Clarkson’s favorites, but new cars nonetheless.

We dropped by Toyota first and inside I noticed that the saleslady was attractive…err, the cars I mean. Unfortunately, the car model we are looking for wasn’t on display as the sales agent said that we actually dropped by just a day ahead of its launching date. So instead we were given a catalog and an invitation for the next day’s unveiling event. (We weren’t able to attend it.)

Our next stop was Kia. From outside the glass door, I peered at the red shiny car but with my mind playing images of the Top Gear’s hosts sneering at it. Then someone from the poorly lit office led us in for us to take a closer look at the Korean underdog.

It was then that we were introduced to and greeted by Rio—Kia’s 2007 subcompact model. (I learned later that it is this year’s COTY for its category). Upon closer look and subsequent discussion with the sales agent we realized that it is within the price range of Toyota Vios’ base model. What make it standout from its Toyota counterpart are its features–power locks, windows and yes, the engine. Based on these, it seems like it could give the Japanese manufacturer a run for their money. Well, it looks like Kia’s “The Power to Surprise” tagline is proving itself true.

A couple of days after that, I received an unexpected invitation to test drive it. And of course, I’m not that foolish to let such opportunity slip away. I was so excited that I arranged for it to be done first thing on a Tuesday morning. On that day, I arrived on time for the test drive and learned that I’ll be driving a silver automatic Rio. Actually, any color will do for me, but the red one on display would have been better.

Since it was my first time to drive an automatic transmission car, I had a couple of minutes familiarizing myself with its gear shift and getting used to the weird feeling that one pedal is missing. The rest after that went smoothly. The car performed great on rough roads and executed an almost seamless acceleration. It was sweet.

The drive ended at their factory as the dealer was kind enough to let me see the other color schemes and likewise try out the manual models. I think they’re really considering me as a potential buyer. I hope the same way too. Fingers crossed.

***

If Rio completed my week, Gino ruined it. My wife and I went south the other night to de-stress ourselves, have a beer, a pizza, and a bit of bonding time away from work and our humid home.

In Tagaytay, we were able to fulfill our long-time curiosity to see and feel how it is to be inside Café Lupe–a bar just a couple of steps away from Starbucks Coffee. It wasn’t that bad, but I’d rather go next time to Cowboy Barn in Robinson’s Dasma. The ambiance there is better and the band we’ve seen so far didn’t disappoint us. But that’s another story.

After a couple of hours inside the bar we checked out the view outside. One thing that amazes me most of the time I’m there is that I rarely get bored looking at the Taal lake from that vantage point be it on a sunny day, gloomy day, starry and/or moonlit night. Any condition has its own fascination to offer. Ah, life’s simple pleasures.

Unfortunately, these natural wonders are lately threatened by the irresponsible acts of man. Take for example Gino who happens to afford a Starbucks cappuccino but didn’t have the manners to throw his cup in a trash bin after enjoying his caffeine load. Grrr. Tado.

Well did I meet the man face to face? Nope. But the unlucky cup which my wife accidentally stepped upon while on threading on the gravel has his name written on it (too much CSI?). I’m now thinking, how many Ginos out there are making this irritating mistake? I know the answer and it’s a depressing thought.

If I’d be chosen to perform environmental vigilante jobs, I’d be happy to oblige and get those other Ginos out of this wonderful planet. (Evil smile). Dear lord, let there be more Rios and less Ginos, please.

Blog’s 1st Year

 

I can’t believe that a year has passed since I started writing and blogging. It was Aug 30, 2006 when I first got myself out of the couch, turned the TV off and approached my then lowly but dependable PC and started composing my Rockstar post. The result was actually surprising. I wrote one that actually made me pat myself on the back even with the uncertainty that grammatical errors could exist and await for one keen grammar Nazi’s eye or any smart elementary kid to take notice.

But there’s always something for encouragement to just do it. As if by coincidence our Daily Quote calendar has this for Aug 30: “A life spent making mistakes is not only honorable but more useful than a life spent doing nothing – George Bernard Shaw”. So timely, so appropriate. One more reason to make mistakes, or in this case, write blogs. I smiled and nodded when I read it. This calendar was given to me by my wife.

My wife. Two words that I’ve been including in most of my blogs either consciously or unconsciously . Well it’s no wonder, she’s the one who inspired and encouraged me to try writing. As far as I know, she is the leader of my few readers who visit my blogspot every now and then. My Technorati rank will attest to that – Rank: 3,915,745 . Ti abi.

The Ship is Sinking

 

After almost a week of rainfall due to tropical storm Chedeng I was amazed to see the sun once more yesterday. So instead of settling on my seat and trying to get some sleep while on the bus to work, I opened the curtains and tried to savor the afternoon sun.

I was anticipating an interesting ride all the way and was already imagining a beautiful sunset on the horizon. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. Even if it did, I didn’t notice it anyway. My daydream unfortunately turned neither to fantasy nor something romantic. The sun rays instead opened my eyes to a depressing sight just a couple of meters from departure at the bus stop until I eventually got to work.

It was actually not the first time that I’ve been pondering on the state of our country every time I’m on my way to work. But yesterday I had a handful. Sadly, a handful of bad observations that made me ask the endless whys.

At the first intersection the lights turned red. I saw the pedestrian overpass’ construction is almost coming to its completion. And just while I was about to ask the cliché “will it ever be used?” a familiar ambulance siren grabbed my attention. Well, someone must be hurt. “God bless him,” I softly uttered as I usually do every time I hear one coming. The wish though was gone too soon. It wasn’t an ambulance but it was coming from scooter rider who sped by and turned left ignoring the red light and the police nearby. What’s more depressing, the police didn’t even made a fuss about it. Not even a radio call for help or an obvious effort to apprehend the erring driver. But then again, he may not even have a radio (or the balls to do so) at all. Speaking of being ill-equipped.

A couple of kilometers after the trip resumed, a colorful bunch of things came into view outside my window. I would really have wished it were blooming flowers yet not. It was a pile of plastic bags and trash irresponsibly tossed and accumulated on one corner of the road. Is poverty a good reason for this insensitive act? I just don’t think so.

I thought I was uncontrollably shaking my head in disgust when I realized it was actually the bus bouncing and weaving left and right of the road to avoid the potholes. Damn. One week of rain made all these? Blame it on the rain then? Milli Vanilli would have said it but not me. I’ve been honestly paying taxes and I know where and when some of it should be spent. Most likely somewhere out there, some politicians and/or contractors must be happily drinking booze and probably counting kickbacks. Screw the road. Cheers!

If it weren’t for the seat belt and the person beside me the preceding event would have sent me into a yoga stance right then and there. Now where is my golden sun? It’s getting dark outside. Figuratively and literally. As if all those weren’t enough, we got stuck in traffic. Another intersection maybe? Breathe in, breathe out. Stay calm. But it’s not. Just outside I saw several public jeepneys on the opposite lane idling and vying for passengers unmindful of the long queue of other vehicles behind them. So why is our lane stuck too? That’s because another mindless driver felt smart enough to counterflow. And surprisingly he isn’t a jeepney driver. He’s driving a shining Honda. He’s smartly dressed. I rest my case.

The sky outside was overcast when we reached the front gate of our campus. Despite the poor lighting the worsening condition of the facilities didn’t escape my eye. In photography, enthusiasts use filters and lenses to capture what they want to achieve. My eye and mind yesterday was like that. Only I didn’t do that on purpose. It was as if I have a “bad” filter that was meant to see…well, “bad” things. Paints are peeling off, roofs are rusting, and the once regularly well-trimmed lawn has weeds coming out from everywhere.

The people themselves changed a lot since then. I can count the people who got off the bus with enthusiasm to work for yet another day. The contractors around are working with incomplete PPEs. And a lot of bad sentiments are present anywhere I go. Something is just so wrong. Something must be done.

I got into some discussion with my co-workers about this and there was one phrase mentioned that struck me the most. “The boat is sinking”. Probably it is. Sadly, I’m in it. I’m sending an SOS.

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.