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.


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


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.)

Inhale, Excel

Any day out of the ordinary is always welcome. Yesterday was one of those that break routine and I would say it was about breathing fresh air…or hoping to get one.

All schedules aligned, Marcus finally had his chance to undergo the tests that’s been suggested by his doctors years ago. The first one was easy peasy although relatively expensive. The 2D Echo test at the heart station of St. Frances Cabrini Hospital was a breeze. As expected, Marcus finds the procedure ticklish and at the same time interesting. He smiled when the doctor made him listen to his own heartbeat. I smiled when she said Marcus’ heart is normal for now.

Happy heart.

However, it was a different story at the pulmonary function test. Marcus had difficulty sustaining at least three seconds of the required prolonged breathing. Perhaps it was stressful for him to have his nose clipped and be asked to breathe normally, then suck air on cue, and then exhale continuously until the technician says stop which by the way is just half of the process. It took almost an hour to prep Marcus and I was eventually advised that we could come another day when he is ready for the test.

Then there’s me at work. Incidentally, I went to the office wearing a shirt with a print that says “Inhale…Excel.” It was a gift from my current boss that I like–vague subject-verb arrangement intended. But the interesting part doesn’t end there. It was also on this same day I went for an interview for another job position. My first this year. Sigh, inhale, exhale.


While Marcus no longer walks and haven’t engaged in something athletic ever since, it doesn’t stop him from understanding sports. For one, I find it amusing that he knows skateboard moves despite lack of experience or even exposure to extreme sports shows on TV. And recently he discovered more on game pass. This past days we’ve been on fairways and football fields. We can now score some pars and have had our winning moments with the Chelsea team. Thanks to Xbox, Marcus can run around sans the need of real life stamina.


Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Fingers and toes and heart crossed.)

I, Termite

Last weekend must have been the toughest parenting week for us. Details I choose to withhold for now but as the cliche goes, all’s well that ends well. To cut the story short some small kid is grounded and so we’re all back to basics at home. Checkers, dominoes, and Jenga are ongoing favorites.

This afternoon Marcus asked again if the Jenga blocks could be eaten, and out of boredom I complied and searched for it on MyFitnessPal. Guess what, the app has an entry. A Jenga block is one calorie. No kidding. I don’t know now if which one is weird, me thinking of trying a Jenga block or me surviving another Sharknado movie on Netflix.

One-calorie diet?


Mood: 3/10 Honks! (I can’t wait myself for this video games ban to end.)

Fortnite Craze

(Image from Google.)

Early this year Marcus picked up on the ongoing Fornite Battle Royale craze. It’s a co-op sandbox game almost close to Minecraft so he didn’t do much adjustments before he mastered the moves using his Xbox one console. Graphics, animations, and game rules differ a whole lot from the boxy Minecraft though. Fortnite game is played in three modes: solo, squad, or 50 vs. 50.

Either game starts with all the players jumping out of a floating bus and skydiving (first hint why I love this game) towards their preferred locations in a fixed map. The players then must find and collect stuffs hidden in vaults that are randomly placed in houses, barns, bars, or other structures. Some stuffs come thru a supply drop.

The goal is to survive–as always in most games–which means some form of violence in the form of smashing, whacking, and shooting are involved but thankfully it’s not gory like in COD games. Fortnite designed the game with players dying sans the bloodbath.

The game’s initial weapon is a pick axe that may be changed depending on player’s skill level and credits. Anyone could upgrade as their game level progresses. Watch out for the boogie bomb which happens to be my favorite weapon.

What sets Fortnite Battle Royale apart from other video games is the storm. Besides keeping an eye on their enemies, players need to pay attention to the shrinking storm and should stay within the eye as it shrinks at a preset time and anyone left outside the circle dies. Victory is claimed by a player or group eliminating the last standing opponent before the storm closes in on everyone.

Fortnite Dance Emotes app available on Google Play.

Fortnite has something more up its sleeves. The players have emotes or dance moves. And this is where I come in, or forced to. Some of the moves are actually fun and simple to do that I would oblige when Marcus asks me to do it for him. He himself can do some like the Disco Fever while seated or lying in bed and he moves with grace better than I could.

This afternoon wifey discovered that she could download on her iOS the Fortnite game. I was expecting I could do so too but Android doesn’t have it yet. I found something interesting though. It’s the Fortnite Dance Emotes app that shows all the dance moves of the game. Guess this means I could improve on my awkward Floss dance soon.


Back in April we showed a carabao my best mates dance moves.


My Minecraft tattoo seems lonely so my next one is likely something out of Fortnite.


Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Under the weather so I’m taking this chance to rest my cracked fingers from the pull-up bar.)


Before Netflix and Xbox.

There was once a time when Monster Inc. ruled the TV. Not Xbox, not Netflix. Just Monster Inc. It played a lot that I could almost memorize the lines, I almost know most of the characters. Marcus would watch this Pixar film day in day out and his reactions remain the same as if it is his first time every time. And I would pretend the same thing. I would act scared when the robotic kid would shriek during the scare simulation scene. I seem to miss those days.

Marcus has since upped his entertainment. It’s now Xbox with Call of Duty series leading his choices–shooting game, I know. More so recently that we finally had success in redeeming the Xbox Live Gold prepaid subscription which by the way was purchased out of his coin bank. Yes, he had P2000 out of it. It was a matter of talking with Microsoft’s chat support agent who incidentally was Filipino. The solution was just to change the region on my account from Philippines to United States and voilà, no more error. Nada. Nil. Gone! Funny but Microsoft’s current online FAQs related to this error do not mention anything about this very simple solution. I wonder why.

The activation happened on a Labor Day. It was while I cherish my first ever legit Labor Day time off after a long time working in the BPO. This time there is no need to compete with anyone for vacation slots, no need to fake sickness or get creative with alibis. It’s one of my few new benefits. A day off away from monitoring calls all day is always a bliss. It was one day sans the monsters disguised as bad English, moody agents, rude customers, and anything in between. I felt bad that I ended the chat after realizing too late that I need to answer a survey for the very helpful Microsoft chat support agent. Thanks a lot anyway dude, you made our son very happy. Now we know what to do when we redeem another code when his subscription ends 12 months after. 

Mood: 5/10 Honks! (Dark clouds ahead on a hot summer day.)

Xbox One Love and Hate

One of the free stuffs Marcus brought with him from our Christmas vacation is an Xbox One. It was something he has been asking for for since he heard about its existence even if he still has the older Xbox 360. When he showed me YouTube videos of what this Microsoft game console can do I too secretly wished that his dream to own one would come true or at least he gets to play with it someday even just temporarily. And it was granted. Less than 24 hours after we set foot in the US he played with the one installed in our bedroom and when I saw the graphics the stronger I fell in love with it. Unknown to us, there’s already one packed and waiting to be opened on Christmas day. It’s a pre-owned unit from his cousin’s boyfriend but it made his day like he won a lottery.

Similar to his routine in the Philippines, most days he would just play Xbox games but only this time the experience was way better. My in-law’s AV setup complemented the gaming console. Their big flat screen TV plus the hi-fi sound system provided Marcus his own mini arcade. It was all his for the entire three weeks stay. Although I knew that we’d have a simpler version when we return home, my expectations with the Xbox One alone remained high. It was one of the very few reasons that made me excited to go back home.

Setting up the Xbox One was among the top priority when we finally arrived in our humble red house. I tried to ignore the urge to catch some sleep, I set aside sorting the chocolates and other free stuffs and left wifey to get things in order. It was then when we discovered that our new game console has lots of downside. Getting it to work was a challenge.

All in a day’s work.

Missing the original manual was a trivial issue as Microsoft’s website provides the needed details. Sadly, among these info reveal the cons of a seemingly flawless game console. First discovery is that  the Xbox One cannot be installed in a vertical orientation unlike the Xbox 360. Based on forum threads, the only way to make it work is to place it flat. It’s the only position in which it would read its game CDs.

Backwards compatibility is the next problem and maybe the one that I hate the most. The Xbox One does not play old games or at least in our case, almost all of the Xbox 360 games that Marcus loves to play. Xbox 360 Call of Duty, Minecraft, Lego games and Halo series cannot be used on the Xbox One. It was a big disappointment. Not to mention that I cannot sell the old console. My evil enterprising plan foiled.

Another issue that hounds us to this day is the Xbox One’s network dependency. We brought several Xbox One games–Fallout 4, Destiny, Forza 5, Call of Duty Ghosts, Assassins Creed Black Flag, and Halo Master Chief collection–just to realize that each game would undergo an installation and/or update process each time before it can be played. Sometimes in a few minutes, sometimes it takes forever. Given our country’s poor internet service, this would require much patience, patience that Marcus and I normally lack. The workaround to this is to set the console’s network into offline mode.

Last but not the very least of the woes is its controllers. My in-law purchased two brand new Xbox One controllers as the pre-owned console did not include any and one of which we tested immediately after Amazon delivered it after a day it was ordered online. Since then Marcus started using his own controller to make sure it works while the other unit was kept in the box after a quick check for physical defects. Six thousand miles and a short Forza 5 game later, the other unit conked out. We now have a brand new Microsoft Xbox One paper weight. Online sources show that this problem affects others worldwide.

Mods are easy on Xbox One. This is a Fallout 4 mod that Marcus installed himself.

All is not lost however. Again, graphics is the selling point of the Xbox One. Once the games start playing,  the characters and stuffs just appear life-like beating whatever the 360 has to offer. The quality of colors and textures are more vibrant and defined than the old games. Cars run faster and smoother. The bloodshed in the war games are gorier. Oops, one of my parenting lapses. But yes, the overall gaming pleasure compensates for this console’s limitations.

Maybe it is true after all that we cannot have everything. It may even be true that while the best things are free, it does not apply to the Xbox One. We love it but it could have been better if only our network runs like the one in the US and if we can claim warranty for the second controller unit without questions asked. Or maybe even better if we could return to the land of milk and honey for good which by the way is Marcus’ other wish that the three of us mutually share.

Another Fallout 4 mod that allows Marcus to insert Darth Vader and change Dogmeat’s appearance.


Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Had Marcus take an afternoon stroll and it appears my left leg is healing.)

A Sandbox Game Sans the Sands

The things anyone can do with Minecraft is limitless. What I once perceived as one ordinary game eventually hits me as more challenging than any other games we have at home. It may sound like an exaggeration but it’s not. Our eight-year old son has Halo and Call of Duty (oopps, bad parent) wherein we are able to see his progress. He is also almost done with his Lego Marvel game but not Minecraft. That’s because Minecraft is categorized as a sandbox game which means that in its environment anything goes, sky’s the limit and its boxy white clouds. It is a game that right out of the package does not have any goal to complete before a player moves on to the next level.

Marcus gives the concept, I build the stuff. Here’s a rendition of the compound’s dog, Den Den.

Three heads are better than one. It took the three of us to build this house. Instructions on how to build this is available online.

To create something out of single block is the main objective the game. The output could be a simple boxy dog up to more complex designs that resemble famous landmarks and even vehicles. The game continues to evolve and gain popularity which is not surprising that Microsoft invested billions to take ownership of this game.  Minecraft is a virtual building block game that my generation once wished we would have. So props to Mojang for finally giving our kids the option to build stuffs without us parents emptying our wallet although in the process we need to expect them begging for new skins and texture packs. I have so far resisted most of it plus the fact that my credit card won’t allow me to purchase anything anymore.

We created this plane one year ago today.

Gamers who want more excitement have options other than Minecraft’s creative world. The game also has survival and adventure worlds, each of which has its own challenges. I honestly can’t distinguish between the two but the shrieks and yelling I have heard from our son Marcus tell me that he has switched to either of these options. This game has its hell and creepers so trust me, it could be scary. On days when Minecraft Xbox turns boring, he would play its PC version where he spends hours on different Minecraft servers interacting with players somewhere in the globe. More screaming happens here.

Parents and kids alike would find a wide range of Minecraft references and resources available online. On Youtube.com there are channels of popular users like DanTDM and EthanGamerTV (who recently turned 10) and PopularMMOs. Our son is a big fan of these Youtubers. He would love to see DanTDM and his pugs but he has set his eyes to meet PopularMMOs once we get in the US. There’s also Minecraft Forum that I have used to troubleshoot most Minecraft PC errors. Marcus started his own Youtube channel last month so you might as well check it—maybe after five years from now.

Books have also been published for Minecraft. Yes, books like those made of sheets of paper that you flip to transfer to the next pages. Books with hard covers that are meant to protect the paper pages. And we recently bought one for Marcus to encourage him to read more but last night I found out that he peeled off the spine of one of his books. Thankfully it is not the Hacks for Minecrafters book but I told him that he is banned to play his newly upgraded Minecraft Xbox for a day anyway. It slipped my mind though that he has Minecraft PC. Parenting is tough, isn’t it?


Mood: 3/10 Honks! (If we could only switch the weather like in Minecraft.)

Hello Halo

Two years ago a friend of wifey gave Marcus toys he brought from Canada. One of those is a box of buildings blocks which would have been perfect for him since he’s already into Lego–he got his first Duplo from my sis–but the age label on the box says 8+ so we decided to keep it.

Halo toys. Sometime around midnight, 8/16/14.

Yesterday, dropping by SM with the main intent to get a replacement for wifey’s laptop charger that our cat chewed, Marcus kept on asking me to buy him a toy. I gave a condition–as long as it is cheap but as expected, the ones he wants aren’t. He pointed at an Iron Man action figure, a battery-operated gun, and like a good hound dog, ended at the spots where there is a Halo 4 XBox game and other Halo merchandises. “Marcus, all those have four numbers after the P sign on the price tag. We can’t buy them now,” I tried my best to stress on ‘now.’ He surrendered and obediently followed back to the parking lot after I told him that I have something in store at home.

All the while since I wrapped the building blocks box in black plastic bag I was thinking that it’s a Transformers robot. When I opened the traveling bag where it was hidden it was then that I realized it’s a Mega Bloks Halo 96869 Covenant Brute Prowler set. You can just imagine his surprise–it was the perfect toy for his favorite game. Thanks to it, we killed more Covenant that night.


Mood: 3/10 Honks! (It will take some convincing to get him to review for exam tomorrow.)