Tuesday, November 30, 2004

A Trip To Valencia

My team at work occassionally go for a night out about once every two months. It used to be once a month but it's become slower now what with the ax we're facing. Normally it's dinner with drinks (of course) that's before or after a theatre show, salsa dancing lessons, comedy show, go-kart racing, concerts, etc. - you get my drift. Very very occasionally we go on a very short trip abroads in something like once a year. Last time they went to Amsterdam. 'They' because I wasn't able to go - I think I was recovering from my operation back then. This time, one was organised for a weekend trip to Valencia. Why Valencia? Because it's got the best deal at the time we were booking which was at least more than 1 month ahead. The main criterias being - cost 1st and warm weather 2nd. My travels are recorded here while the culinary side of the trip is in my food blog. Click on the pictures for a bigger view.
The city of Valencia lies in the eastern coast of Spain an area called the Costa Blanca (white coast) in the Region of Valencia. As the third largest city in Spain, it has been inhabited by Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, the Moors (who introduced Spain to olives, oranges, cumin, saffron, among other things), and the Aragonese. It is where the paella (rice dish) was invented. The city is not very touristic which is a pleasant surprise and the temperature when we arrived (late November) is a balmy 18C/65F. It is almost always sunny which makes a nice setting in exploring this lovely place.

We arrived in around 4:30PM with nary a glitch in our flight (BA) and sailed through immigration and baggage control. By 7:30PM we were on our way to the old part of town to have our first night out in Valencia!

I then encountered the reason for the bruises on my knee and legs - the Torres de Quart. It was so ginormous (about 10 stories high) and looking like chess pieces that I was in awe while walking towards it. I didn't realise the ground I was walking on dropped 5 inches lower suddenly. So my legs decided for me to kiss the ground. Hehehe! But I'm okay now just a few scraches here and there. As you can see on the right, it is pock marked by cannon balls from the many wars it witnessed mainly in the 18th and late 19th century.

We hit the pubs and bars but was quite puzzled why there were few people around. It was already 8:30PM, restaurants and bars were open but all are virtually empty. We walked in bars and staffs give us strange and puzzled looks as if saying "What are you doing here?" They did serve us but with much prodding. It was only later when we were at a restaurant that people start coming for dinner at 10PM and bars start getting lively at 12 midnight. Oh so ... this is Spanish time! So we went bar hopping and ate dinner where we had great pans of paella. Half of our group (of 8) decided to call it a night at around 12:30 while the other half carried on bar hopping 'til I think 4AM.

Next day we walked to explore the old city again this time in broad daylight. Above left is an old building beside the central market while the one on the right is a street scene. We visited the Mercat Central (central market) see below left.

I was so excited (nataranta ako) in the market seeing all the great variety of fresh produce and they were all so cheap compared to London prices. I left with several kilos of jamon serranos, morcillas, chorizos, saffron, etc. If I can lug it around I would have even bought jugs of olive oil. We then walked towards an area with lots of shops and that's where I encountered these 2 buskers (above right) playing classical guitar music. Wow it was heavenly! They were very very good musicians and the acoustics of the place added to the experience. I was actually reluctant to leave.

After the market it was a long trek to the beach promenade of Valencia. We tried getting taxis but we made the mistake of travelling midday which is the Spanish siesta time. There were no taxis in sight so we decided to take the train and tram. When we got to the area it was deserted. "Where is everybody?" It's a good thing we asked a guy fixing his car and he pointed us to the direction of the restaurants. It was 3PM and some of us haven't even had breakfast and were absolutely starving. We walked some more for about 'media kilometros' (half kilometer) according to the guy and found the cluster of restaurants we were looking for. It was like an oasis in a desert. An area where there was nobody around no shops open and suddenly you come to a spot teeming with people. What a relief !

After lunch we decided to go back to the hotel and have a siesta ourselves and then regroup at 8:30PM. On the way back we passed by the old Turia riverbed. The Turia River used to run right in the middle of the city but because of disastrous floods in the 1950s, it was diverted away from the centre with the old riverbed transformed into parks, childrens playgrounds, and sports playing fields. They are welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.

It's a shame I wasn't able to take pictures of our second night out and you'll know why my male companions refused to budge from the bar of a club. All because the bartenders there are really seriously gorgeous girls in obligatory tight plunging neckline clothes. Just because of that! :) We seem to be "buena mano" lucky early customers because wherever we go to, the place seem a little thin on people but after awhile the hordes come rushing in. We went back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning although the night scene we left was just starting to go full swing.

The morning saw us walking again (we did a LOT of walking) to complete our final day's tour of Valencia. On the way to the tourist spots we passed by green lush parks and dancing fountains with no music. Can you see the rainbow on the pix above right?

Then we came to the Torres del Serranos. I believe this together with the Torres de Quart are the only surviving remnants of the defensive wall around old Valencia. The stairs and steps to this tower were rather steep. I didn't go to the highest part because I was feeling height sick mainly because the railings were quite low. One wrong lean over it and you'll be free falling.

Above left is the former palace of the king of Valencia (yes they used to have their own king) now used as the seat of government of Valencia. The road leads to the Plaza de la Virgen where we were lucky to watch a cultural show of traditional dances and music (above right). The costumes reminds me a lot of the Filipino "baro't saya" dress which is heavily influenced by our Spanish colonisers. The dancers were using castanets and their movements are very similar to our traditional dances, too.

The one on the left is the Real Basilica of Our Lady of Holy Innocent Martyrs and the Abandoned - did I translate it right? 'Nuestra Senora de los Santos Inocentes Martires Y Desamparados'. It has a circular central hall inside from which small side chapels radiates from. Although it looks relatively stark outside it is completely the opposite inside with its over the top baroque designs and decorations. Unfortunately I was only able to photograph (above right) the fabulous ceiling because there was a mass at the time.

The cathedral (above left) is right beside the basilica. I wasn't able to go inside but my colleagues said it was fab as well. Above right is one of the celebrated symbols of Valencia - an orange tree. Remember the ads - 'made from Valencia oranges'. They grow everywhere in the area.

We had paella lunch (again) at a restaurant right behind the cathedral. As you can see above left paella pans can be as big as 2-3 feet across. After having paella overload almost everyday my colleagues said they don't want to see a bloody paella at least for a while. We carried on walking to a nearby market due to the fact that it's siesta time and we can't find a taxi again. On the right above is an unusual fountain in the centre of a circular market. The water looks so clear and cool.

We were walking rather aimlessly outside that market when Steve managed to nab 2 taxis. Yehey! And we zoomed to the Ciudad de las Artes y de las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) to gaze at the marvelous modern futuristic architecture of this cluster of museums, cinemas, aquariums, etc. Above left is actually the top of the car park - (sosi ano?) posh isn't it? There are still parts of it that are under construction like the above right where it positively looks like the head of a Japanese robot character.

One of the buildings looked like a bug with wings (garapata?). Above right is another view of the ensemble of structures in this centre. Beautiful isn't it?

Overall impression: I was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of this city with its numerous leafy squares and parks. Things I like: the absence of hordes of tourists; the fab balmy temperature and mostly sunny weather; delicious food - seafood especially; lower prices on almost everything; very friendly and helpful locals even if we were mangling their language. Mind you I can survive here (and so can most Pinoys) because I can read the signs. Numbers and money counting is a piece of cake (dos cuarenta'y cinco). If they talk moderately slow enough I can understand them (hurray to 4 semesters of Spanish classes!). The problem is when they talk rapid fire or when I try to talk - I cannot express what I really want to say. So I would really recommend Valencia although if I come back I would definitely brush up on my pidgin Spanish. Vamos amigos !

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

The Things We Do For Our Kids

I made the mistake of gifting my youngest with a Care Bear movie DVD. Now she wants to watch it over and over again which is not a problem except everytime she wants at least one of us to sit with her and watch this saccharinely cutesy movie. Uggghhh!! Oh whenever I watch it, it really makes me want to puke. My husband has since hidden the offending DVD – all of us feigning innocence when J3 asks where it is. Out of sight out of mind.

Years earlier when her two older siblings were toddlers, they used to torture me with those Barney videos. ‘I love you, You love me, We’re a happy family’ … oh give me a break! Get a life Barney !! Did you know there was a Usenet group called Barney.Kill.Barney.Die.Die.Die.Die.Die (or something like that)? I wonder what they discuss there, maybe different ways to exterminate Barney?

What about the Teletubbies? I find them cute actually although it would really turn your brain to mush in no time at all. I can’t see the reason why babies – that’s right babies – love those bubble shaped alien-like tubbies. The first time my youngest saw it on TV she was only 6 months old and she was sitting rapt in attention and not even blinking while watching. There must be some truth in what they’re saying that the electromagnetic waves TV is emitting can be hypnotic. The kids certainly seem like in a trance when they watch their favourite TV programs.

During the height of the Pokemon craze, my kids requested to watch the movie version in the cinema. It was a pointing game between me and my husband on who would take them. Unfortunately I lost (he got a better excuse) so there I was sitting for 2 hours feeling positively suicidal controlling myself from running out screaming like a banshee. God I miss Sesame Street! Hey there are adult friendly kids show out there other than Sesame Street, there’s the all-time classic Tom & Jerry, Looney Tunes. Pixar and Disney movies are always enjoyable, my favourites are Toy Story and Finding Nemo. Actually they’re too good to waste on kids – hahaha! That’s why I’m hogging the DVDs of these. ;-)

Monday, November 22, 2004

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Adwares, Malwares, Spywares, Tupperwares

Which is the odd one out above??
I blogged the other day about the Internet Tourbus. I decided to feature them mainly because of the predicament that our PCs were in, in the past few days. We got infected by these adware viruses that changed the toolbars of our IE browser, having lots of annoying porn pop-ups, and really creating havoc in the system. It even resetted (turned off and on) the PC! The Internet Tourbus has a good explanation on what these new pesky viruses are and what it does to your computer - read here.

To fight it, they suggested to use
SpyBot and Ad-Aware softwares which are downloadable free! We ran both of it in our PC and it did the trick. Took out all of the hidden viruses and restored sanity in our ancient computer. They had an "immunize" feature which basically prevents all the known viruses from infecting your system ever again. I say "known" because it only shields you from the viruses it knows (at the moment). That's why it's important to download periodic updates for these anti-viruses and for that matter you also need regular Microsoft updates to plug all the numerous security leaks in Windows and Internet Explorer.

Mind you, our PC was infected while I was logged as an administrator and trying out the changes I made to the Norton anti-virus/firewall by surfing to some select website like this blog. Apparently this is a security hole in Norton. So if you've got this brand of anti-virus don't surf the web as an administrator more so in Internet Explorer. Use or create another login ID for your usual computing activities.

Our friends' laptop that my husband has been trying to fix for several days now, was also crawling with viruses of the same kinds. He ran SpyBot and Ad-Aware, cleaned most of it but was still showing signs of infections. So here I am again to rescue (naks! ala Incredibles) to give him the URL for Hijack This. A nifty downloadable freeware that zaps the remaining viruses infecting you registry files. Finally it did the trick - laptop now virus free. Moral of this long sorry story is: use all 3 mentioned spyware removers for slaying viruses, update regularly your Windows patches (if you're using), use an anti-virus software, and as much as possible use web browsers other than Internet Explorer like Firefox (download it free!).

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

The Internet Tourbus

Every week I get an email from a duo tandem in America calling their team the Internet Tourbus. That’s Patrick Crispen and Bob Rankin for you. They send a newsletter/tutorial where you get a lot of tips on how tos, the whys, the wheres in cyberspace and in computing all written in a straight forward, sensible, lucid, mostly non techie jargon prose. They’re quite funny too. They used to have this Southern word for the day and tracked the adventures of the power-line addicted squirrels of the University of Alabama. Every week there is a different topic where they explain details of new things in computing – from hardware issues to viruses to the latest Internet browser. They’re one of my choice sources of information especially if the techie sites are not making any sense to me and I just want a basic explanation of whatever I am interested in. They always put in links to other sites with more in-depth details.

You can subscribe to their newsletter through their website:
Internet Tourbus. There you can also peruse their FAQs and archives of articles going all the way back to 1995 when they first started.

So if you want to read something technically informative but non brow furrowing, go and subscribe or visit their site.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Disney Florida Had Pinoy Animators

I read an article in Philstar from a link in CaT’s blog about a talented Filipina animator in Pixar (the creator of Finding Nemo and Incredibles). It is indeed good to laud her achievements and more so being a woman and a Filipino in a premier Hollywood movie outfit. This made me remember probably equally talented Filipino animators in Disney Florida whom I was privileged to meet when me and my family went there a few years ago. You see my younger sister is married to one.

Mikey Ilagan, my brother-in-law, and a few Filipinos were ably showing their talents in the animation hallways of Disney. Unfortunately Michael Eisner’s faction decided to hack off the whole of the traditional (as opposed to digital) animation department based in Disneyworld in Florida just this last March. And when I mean the whole dept. I mean the whole lot – from admin people to the head honchos including all the furnitures! What a shame.

The Filipino group there was headed by Ruben Aquino who was a Senior Supervising Animator. He was the key person who did characters like Shang in Mulan, Nani in Lilo and Stitch, etc. As far as I know he was born in Manila and moved to the US at a very young age. Others like Mikey was an Key Asst. Animator, Armand was a Layout Artist, and Gerry an Animator. All very talented Pinoys. They were involved in the creation of Disney movies like Mulan, Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear, John Henry, etc. They are also very good artists in their own right, creating artworks in a number of mediums including illustrations for comics and children’s books, sculpting, painting in watercolor, oil, charcoal, or mixed media, photography, even digital/computer graphics.

Here's one of Mikey's artworks:

That one above is a children’s book illustrated and written by him. Click on the link - Baba and Friends to see more info on this.

Below is another sample of his artwork in the comics genre:

You can see his portfolio at Animatrix Studio.
I wish I could put Armand's, Gerry's, and Ruben's work here so you could see that we have a lot of unsung talented Pinoys in the animation world.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Birthday Jazz and MG Blues

It was my youngest's (J3) 4th birthday last Sunday (7th November) and we had a small dinner party at home. We invited only 2 Pinoy families (neighbors actually) to help us celebrate. J3 was in her elements, she was chatting away on the phone and telling everybody who cared to listen that she's 4 that day. She even sang "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" and "Without You" while accompanied by her Dad on the piano. (OT: the last song was popularised by Harry Nilsson and later by Mariah Carey). I'm glad that she was happy about our modest celebrations. Happy Birthday my little one! You have always brought joy in our lives!

In the food prep front, I was not happy at all with everything I cooked. (Maybe I should blog about this in my food blog.) I completely underestimated the effect of my Myasthenia (MG). I did not realise or completely forgot that I get tired easily nowadays and it has a great effect on my stamina. Not just plain tired but really incredibly tired as in I cannot lift my arms or my lower rib cage ached. I cooked from morning 'til afternoon. Before I had MG, this was a piece of cake, no problem at all. This time I did not expect to get tired so early. By lunchtime I was just pacing myself so I could cook everything needed otherwise it would be a disaster. I hid my exhaustion because I did not want to alarm my husband though I was ready to collapse. Fortunately I was able to hang on enough to finish all of it but I did not like my cooking results at all. The brownies were overbaked, there was too much liver in the caldereta, some of the lumpia was burned, the pinakbet were overcooked, too little sauce in the sweet & sour fish, etc. I couldn't even chat well with our guests because I felt so fatigued. By bedtime I was so dog-tired I couldn't sleep right away. I had to have a back rub from hubby.

At least now I know and acknowledge that I cannot do it all as I used to. I told myself, from now on I will only cook 2 dishes or prepare everything way ahead and just buy or have the rest of the food catered (or harass my friends to cook for me). It is humbling knowing my limitations. I am not a supermum anymore. Hikbi! (Sob!) I am mortal, vulnerable, weak, bound by physical constraints, finite. What a sobering realisation of my frailties. Either I deny and try to fight it or accept, learn to live with it and adapt. I chose the latter. As they say the only constant in this world is change, so I change to suit my needs.

When I am stressed out like this I try to relax by listening to music and one of the things that often comes to mind are the first few lines of this song:

The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)
(Simon & Garfunkel)

Slow down, you move too fast.
You got to make the morning last.
Just kicking down the cobble stones.
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy.

Hello lamppost, What cha knowing?
I've come to watch your flowers growing.
Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?
Doot-in' doo-doo, Feelin' groovy.

Got no deeds to do, No promises to keep.
I'm dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.

I especially like the line there "Life, I love you". Y'all be groovy, people ...

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Promdi Tales 3

More and more funny experiences in being new to a place ...

German Shopping Habits [from Ting-Aling]

A Pinay nurse and her friend came to Germany to work. It was their first time and they cannot speak nor read in German. It was also their first winter there. She and her friend decided that they have to buy some coats. So they entered a shop and pointed to the rows and rows of coats and jackets hanging. The shop owners didn’t want to sell them anything. The girls were puzzled, they’ve got the money, the shop has got the goods - why they won't let them buy? It turned out they went into a dry cleaners !!


Soup ala Tide [from BongK]

During our study in ROC (Taiwan), we were invited to an exclusive dinner by the big bosses (officials of the host country). On the dining table there were a number of bowls already prepared that had lots of different things in it. My Pinoy friend (there were 2 of us) saw one bowl containing what looked like creamy soup. Naturally he thought the first course of the meal was soup, so he spoon-scooped and tasted it. “Wheeew, lasang sabon” (“It tastes like soap”), he said. Then the waiter came to us and said “Sir you need not taste it, it’s for washing your hand !”

Leaving On a Jet Plane [from Ting-Aling]

My friend was flying in first time to the US on board Japan Airlines. When he was served food, the very first thing he wanted was the icing in the box. He was actually a bit peeved that the Japanese served icings in so little quantity. In short, he spooned all of the wasabi in his mouth all in one go !! (Water ! Water ! Gimme water!)

The First Time Gardener [from Ting-Aling]

Here is my life story, I first came in the US at the tail end of winter and start of spring – March 31. Trying to be a good guest to my hosts, I donned my boots and gloves and went out to the garden and swept all the dried leaves and pulled out all the dead weeds. My host wept when she saw that I pulled out all her favourite seasonal plants. They were meant to lose their leaves in winter and grow again in spring ! She even said she had been cultivating them for several years. Waaaah! I made sure of course to replace all her beloved plants.

Baby You Can Drive My Car

My father-in-law (FIL) was quite new in California. He was driving along the I-5 and came at the tail end of a group of cars. You know how it is in those situations, you tend to drive with the flow not realizing that you’re speeding. Long story short, a patrol car came up and nabbed him. He was explaining and complaining at the same time on why he was speeding and why he was the only one stopped. The police office said (metaphorically), “Well if you’re fishing do you catch all the fish?” feeling smug and went back to scribbling. My FIL retorted, “Well yes – if you’re good !” It’s a good thing the officer just looked at him and didn’t answer. Nahuli na nang insulto pa! (He already got caught but he still insulted the police officer!)

Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery

A barrio-mate of mine boarded a plane to London to be reunited with his nurse wife. It was his first time to fly and his first time to be out of the Phils. He actually felt very nervous because he did not know what to do or how to behave in the plane. He eyed up his British seatmate and thought that he looked like a seasoned traveler. So he decided to follow whatever his seatmate does. And when he said “whatever he does” it means everything. When the guy ordered chicken for the meal, he ordered chicken, when the guy opened the lid of his food, he opened the lid of his food, when the guy asked for water he asked for water, when the guy pierced and cut his food, he pierced and cut his food even mimicking the number of times the knife was slid back and forth! He even didn’t finish his dessert though he likes it because the seatmate didn’t finish his. (I think I’ve seen this in a Dolphy movie). And this is all true! Hehehe!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Turning Japanese, I Think I'm Turning Japanese I Really Think So

I got this from my email inbox:


Manok - Sekken
Mamaya - Sakana
Joke - Biru
Stereo - Akai
Cook - Giza-giza
Ghost - Momo
Ayos - Furo oke
Fingernail - Koko
Laughed - Anata-wa
Flirt - Kire
This - Itto
Small piece of cloth - Retasu
Cornfield - Mais-san
Madali - Ishi Hindi
Masyado - Natsu
Cigarette - Yoshi
Ipagpaumanhin - Kamisori
Gay - Shyokki
Is this your property? - Arimoto?
Yes, this is my property - Arikoto
Is this yours? - Sayobato?
This is mine - Sakinitu
Can I have it? - Akinato?
You can have it - Sayonato
Can we have it? - Saminato?
You can have it - Sanyonato
You haven't washed your face - Mimutamatamo
You've grown so thin! - Kitanabutomo!
We saw each other - Kitakami
We had a big get-together - Kitakitakami
Have a drink before you go - Tomakamuna
That was my assumption - Inakarako
Let's go quickly! - Bachi-na-yota!
We will boycott the election - Kaminoboto
Underarm odor - Kirikiripawa
Are you a victim of discrimination? - Minamatakaba?
I give up - Sukonako
Ouch! - Haraiku!
What a sad life it is - Hainaku
Is this your car? - Otomoto?
Is this my car? - Otokoto?
Is this your noodles? - Mikimoto?
I'll take this - Kukuninkoto
This is my desk. - Itodesko
Speechless? - Wasabe?
I have a lot of things to do - Hironako
An ampalaya (bittermelon) - Kurukurubot
What are your thoughts? - Kuru-kuromo?
I am thinking - Munimuniko
Are you playing the guitar? - Gigitaraka?
Is this your underwear? - Jakeemoto?
Are you annoyed already? - Iniskanabane?
You're crazy!!! - Sirauromo!!!
You're drooling!!! - Turorawayka!!!

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Going Out Of My Head Over You ... Day & Night, Night & Day & Night

Nyemet. Ano ba ito, dalawang araw na pero umiinog pa rin sa utak ko. May dala si Deng na CD mula Pinas, pinakinggan namin sa van, tawa kami ng tawa. Pero hanggang ngayon nadidinig ko pa rin sa utak ko yung kanta ...

Si-ge na (a-hay)
... At kung seksi 'kat maganda baka libre pa. (ayyy)

Ano bang title niyan? Canton? Lekat na yan, dahil asar ako sa kanta eh malakas ang recall sa akin. Kung bakit naman yan pang novelty song na napang-asar ni Joey de Leon at Sexbomb gels ang natipuhan. Kaya nakikinig ako ngayon ng ibang oldies baka sakaling ma over-write para matantanan ang peace of mind ko. Paano kaya kung parang CD-R yung utak ko, puedeng write pero wala ng bura? Ngek!

Eto ang isang peborit oldie ko na matagal ko ng hindi napakinggan:

Tell Mama
(Savoy Brown)

Quit my job, aint got no money
Seems I have to leave this town
Packed my bags, run to the station
Board the train thats eastward bound

Tell Mama
And all the folks back home
Sometimes a man just feels
He's got to make it alone
Tell Mama
Why I'm leaving so soon
Because this life I live
Has got me sick through and through

Nothing to do, thats why I had to go
Seemed no use in hanging round
I can't stop now, the tickets in my hand
Board the train thats eastward bound

Quit my job, aint got no money
Seems I have to leave this town

Hindi ko alam na dito pala nagsimula sa UK ang Savoy Brown. Pero sa original line-up ay si Kim Simmonds na lang ang natira. All the rest are Americans and they are now based in the US.