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.

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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.