Thursday, December 22, 2005

Robot is self-aware?

According to a Japanese scientist, they have created a robot that may be regarded as 'self-aware' or recognizes itself and distinguishes from others. If this is true artificial intelligence (AI) then this is a big step indeed. The article in the Discovery Channel News said that:
The ground-breaking technology could eventually lead to robots able to express emotions.

Under development by Junichi Takeno and a team of researchers at Meiji University in Japan, the robot represents a big step toward developing self-aware robots and in understanding and modeling human self-consciousness.

I sure hope this is a positive thing that could genuinely help humanity and not become a nightmarish situations as espoused by the horrific scenarios in sci-fi movies like The Matrix or Terminator.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Black Eyed Peas London concert

Black Eyed Peas concert tickets
I'm still buzzing from the great time we had in the Black Eyed Peas' London concert tonight that I thought I just had to blab about it. Although I like a number of BEP's songs I'm not really into it as my two older kids (14 & 13 yo). I was thinking I'm just going there to be a chaperone but no, I did enjoy it more than them. And I even outlasted them both, by about 10:30 PM my daughter was already complaining she's tired while I was still raring to go. Hah! they did not reckon their mum was a veteran party goer. ;)

The concert hall was packed to the rafters. I was sheepishly looking at other concert goers in case I was the only middle aged one. I need not have worried, there were a number of oldies plus lots of kids even younger than mine. The crowd was great, responsive and was almost consistently on their feet singing and dancing to the music.

The show was fantastic, not only were the music and the singing/rapping very very good but I didn't know they all could dance very well. (the Pinoy one) could really break dance then Fergie did a belter while doing several one-handed somersaults - wow!! I really really love their show. But what made it more special for me is when Apl rapped 'Bebot' - their all-Tagalog song! I just want to say to Apl - I AM SO SO PROUD OF YOU, man!!! Unlike some Pinoy performers who chose to ignore or hide their heritage, this man celebrates and flaunts it. Well done, Apl, I know this is redundant but - I'm so proud singing/rapping that song at the top of my lungs! I know I know, my kids were cringing saying I was embarassing them but really, I couldn't care less.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Water of Life

I’ve always believed that plants react to their environment including people and their prevailing emotions. Several times when I was in high school I experimented with my mother’s plants talking everyday for several weeks to one plant while ignoring the other identical plants in identical pots sited on the same place in the yard. The one I talked to without a doubt looked more lush, healthier, and grew faster than the rest. After about 2 months I stopped talking to it and it sort of regressed to the same average state as the others.

Now in Jaime Licauco’s column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, he discusses not just the effect on plants of human thoughts and emotions but also of a Japanese research on the effect in water. Yes, that’s right – water. Click here for the full article.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

And Now the End Is Near

We’ve been handed our marching papers today so officially my last day of work should be 8th of March 2006 (I have 3 months’ notice period). But my very last day of being here on site would be 23rd December. After that none of us are required to come in to work.

*sigh* Such an ignomious end to a 10-year tour of duty in this company. Despite knowing for about 2 years, since it was taken over by a large banking group, that we had to go most of us are still kinda wistful in leaving this company. We surely are gonna miss the heyday of our IT dept. The time when we didn’t have enough man power and resources to fill our growing business requirements, the time when our customer base were soaring, the time when everybody was eager to work towards a lofty goal – to be the very best company in our industry.

Our old CEO was very charismatic and he was in the thick of things. You often saw him walking around talking to people and he took time to listen to gripes and complaints. There were certainly problems and troubles, afterall there’s no such thing as a perfect company. However, a lot of our former colleagues who’re now employed in other firms often say that our old company was the best working environment they’ve been in. Certainly among us IT people, there was this palpable feeling of trust from the business people that we will do all we can to help them in the resources available to us because ultimately that was our role – to support the business. Unlike a lot of IT people I know who keep dissing users and generally want them all to go away. The work environment that I recall was that in say projects – the budget, resources, and deadline are all agreed with all parties. After that we were generally left to get on with the work. Not many managers micro manage their staff. It’s one of the reasons why most of us are multi skilled. Sometimes one may be resolving some technical issues with an intranet server when his main job was project management – that sort of thing.

Well so much for my reminiscing. I’ve got to wake up to the truth that I have to find work again. One thing I hate about it is the interviews. It just gives me the jitters so much so that often I get mental block especially in technical interviews. And god help me if it’s a panel one. Once someone asked me something about ‘triggers’ and for the life of me I couldn’t remember a thing while just the day before I was using it! Duh! Then one time I kept on nodding while the interviewer chatted on and then he stopped he was waiting for me. It turned out he was asking a question and just kept on nodding. Hehehe. Must be because of his heavy Indian accent. I think I have to learn to relax, yeah right relax … just don’t let my mind drift to the fact that if I don’t land a job my kids would be starving – talk about pressure.

These days I just quote the US $1 bill – In God We Trust. :)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Music Time Tunnel

Funny how old songs you haven't heard for at least a decade takes you vividly on a trip back to a time and place of your youth. It's sort of like a time tunnel. The sights and sounds and even the smell comes back as if you're right in that moment.

Beast of Burden by the incomparable Rolling Stones has always been a favourite of mine. I love love the soft guitar riffs of Keith Richards and the great melody in that song. I heard it for the first time last month since ... oh about 15 years ago. And I was dumbstruck to feel all the things flooding back once I listened and sang with it. Memories of me coming home after classes, sitting on a JAM/RJM bus waiting for passengers in one of the shady tree-lined side streets of Plaza Lawton. Warm gentle wind wafting through the window ruffling my hair. Me sitting there listening, gently tapping my foot to the music. Feeling satisfied that my final exams has finished. Looking forward to the school vacations and chill out with not a care in the world. It's one of those moments in time in my life that everything is in balance, everything is just right. I hope there would be more of them. :)

Beast of Burden

I'll never be your beast of burden
My back is broke, my feet are hurting
All I want is for you to make love to me

I'll never be your beast of burden
I've walked for miles my feet are hurting
All I want is for you to make love to me

Am I hard enough
Am I rough enough
Am I rich enough
I'm not too blind to see

I'll never be your beast of burden
So let's go home and draw the curtains
Music on the radio
Come on baby make sweet love to me

Am I hard enough
Am I rough enough
Am I rich enough I'm not too blind to see

Oh little sister
Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, girl
You're a pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Pretty, pretty
Such a pretty, pretty, pretty girl
Come on baby please, please, please

I'll tell ya
You can put me out
On the street
Put me out
With no shoes on my feet
But, put me out, put me out
Put me out of misery

Yeah, all your sickness
I can suck it up
Throw it all at me
I can shrug it off
There's one thing baby
That I don't understand
You keep on telling me
I ain't your kind of man

Ain't I rough enough, ooh baby
Ain't I tough enough
Ain't I rich enough, in love enough
Ooh! Ooh! Please

I'll never be your beast of burden
I'll never be your beast of burden
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be

I don't need no beast of burden
I need no fussing
I need no nursing
Never, never, never, never, never, never ever be

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sense and Sensibility

There was a conspicuous dearth of English literature in my education. In high school, we were taught the basics and rigors of the structure and grammar but on the literary side almost all the short stories, plays, and poems we discussed were third-world centric. Works by noted Filipino writers like Nick Joaquin or other Asian or African authors (all of which I can't remember now) were what we read and discussed. Nothing wrong with that in fact I got to appreciate that English writing talents also exists in these non-English-native-speaking countries. My college English lessons, on the other hand, were all single-mindedly directed towards technical writing. No flowery words or langous description, everything is precise, measured and concise. That definitely killed the writer in me that was budding in my first year in high school.

In the light of this, I've always longed for knowing all these English classics that are often quoted, referred to, or alluded to by a lot of writers that I planned on reading them one by one 'til I keel over from old age. This spurred my initial headway in collecting classics like Jane Austens novels. I tried reading some Shakespeare but the olde English gave me a headache! Most of the time I couldn't make heads or tails of what he's trying to say. If I constantly refer to annotations it inevitably banishes the fluid poetry of the magic of words. Half of the greatness of works of art is in the appreciation of people. If I can't understand what the writer wants to say it's a cinch I wouldn't enjoy it and what good is a piece of writing if nobody can understand or relish it.

I picked up my first Jane Austen when I was about 15, when a cousin pressed a copy of Pride and Prejudice in my young hands. At first I found the Victorian language tedious but as I got used to it I excitedly reveled in the mellifluous witty funny prose of Miss Austen. After several decades, it's only now that I picked up another Jane Austen - her first novel Sense and Sensibility.

What struck me in that novel was how everyone wass obsessed with money or how much money someone has. Although arguably, the Dashwood sisters put a higher premium on love, honor, and integrity. But still at the back of their romatic minds they cleverly calculate if their inamorata has enough money to allow them to live decently. I can't blame them since at that time (mid-1700s) middle to upper class women are not allowed to work. It is virtually a social suicide if they as much as expend any energy in earning money. So all their lives (in my opinion) were spent in idle talk and gossip and frivolous things besides the management of the household which I think was the only practical thing they do and even with that they have servants to do everything for them. I don't know, I think I'll be bored to death if I were living as a woman in England during that time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Smithfield Market

Smithfield MarketWe had a chance one Saturday afternoon to visit Smithfield Market near the financial centre of London. I totally forgot that they are open only very early in the morning and close at around 9AM. So by the time we were there the market itself was closed and we just walked around the vicinity to see some interesting spots.

Smithfield Market, a meat and livestock market, has been in existence as far back as 14th century over a large open space just outside the walls of the old City of London. The current building where it is housed was completed in 1868. Good thing they managed to preserve this beautiful Victorian structure.

Besides the market, it also has a gruesome history being a place of public executions for people convicted of heresy, treason, murder, etc. Nearby we saw a big plaque for Scotsman William Wallace more popularly known as Braveheart. His marker was festooned with fresh flowers, candles, and Scottish flags.

Also in the vicinity is the old church of St. Bartholomew established as a monastery in the 12th century. The abbotts built a hospital as well of the same name which is now popularly known as St.Bart's hospital. Though the monastery was dissolved in Henry VIII's dissolution of all Catholic churches in the mid 16th century, it survives today as a quaint old church no doubt because it transformed itself into an Anglican church.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Bebot's Monkey Business

My eldest daughter goes every Saturday for her dance lessons in central London in Europhil, a group managed by a bunch of Filipino British parents to give dancing and singing lessons to their children. I got hold of them purely via word of mouth and so far inspite of the little resources they have, they have been successful in teaching both Filipino native dances and street dance to Filipino British kids ranging in age from 3-16 years old. I am impressed with the dedication of the parents to give the kids a wholesome and fun activity. They do look after the kids so I don’t have any qualms in leaving my daughter there while I go gallivanting around town. A lot of the kids on the other hand are quite talented and very good looking – I guess they might be beauty contest fodder later on.

So much for the introduction, actually I want to blog about a song I heard in their street dancing class. It was from Blackeyed Peas’ new album – Monkey Business. And I can’t help grinning ear to ear (sometimes even laughing) while listening to it. Unlike their previous album’s Apl’s song, this one has an all-Tagalog lyrics. The song is very good I tell you and very danceable with an infectious beat. ‘Bebot’ – the title, btw, is a slang for girl or female. Loosely translated it’s ‘chick’, ‘tottie’, etc.


Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ay

Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino!

Hoy pare pakinggan nyo ko
Eto nang tunay na filipino
Galing sa baryo Sapangbato
Pumunta ng LA nagtrabaho
Para makatulong sa nanay
Dahil sa hirap ng buhay
Pero masaya parin ang kulay
Pag kumain nagkakamay
Yung kanin, chicken adobo
Yung balot, binebenta sa kanto
Tagay mo na nga ang baso
Pare ko inuman na tayo

Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino!

Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ay

Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino!

Masdan mo ang magagandang dalaga
Nakakagigil ang beauty mo talaga
Lambingin di nakakasawa
Ikaw lang ang gustong kasama
Yung bahay o kubo
Pagibig mo ay totoo
Puso ko'y laging kumikibo
Wala kang katulad sa mundo ko
Pinoy ka sigaw na, sige
Kung maganda ka sigaw na, sige
Kung buhay mo'y mahalaga, sige
Salamat sa iyong suporta

Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino!

Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino! Pilipino!

Bebot bebot be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ang aking
Bebot bebot be bebot bebot
Be bebot bebot be
Ikaw ay

Pinoy ka sigaw na, sige
Kung maganda ka sigaw na, sige
Kung buhay mo'y mahalaga, sige
Salamat sa iyong suporta, sige

Pinoy ka sigaw na, sige
Kung maganda ka sigaw na, sige
Kung buhay mo'y mahalaga, sige
Salamat sa iyong suporta

...Pilipino ...Pilipino ...Pilipino ...Pilipino

La la la la la la la la la la la la looo [x2]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Milton Keynes Filipino Festival

A few weekends ago we braved the traffic strewn expanse of the M1 motorway to trek to Milton Keynes for a Filipino festival. Yes people, the thought of eating (what else?) halo-halo, bopis, dinuguan, pork barbecue, among others, is enough incentive for us to endure more than an hour’s drive to there. We thought after hurdling the M1 and once inside Milton Keynes it would be a cinch to find the festival park. How wrong we were! After going round and round endless roundabouts and avenues that look eeriely the same, we had to call for SOS from a Filipina friend who lived nearby. While shouting down at her mobile phone, she directed us (husband was driving) by pointing out landmarks –

'Pagnakita nyo yung estatwa ng taong baligtad kumanan kayo. Tapos pag nakita nyo yung building na yung bubong parang baked beans can na nakatumba malapit na kayo!'

Her instructions were colourfully descriptive ;) it did not take long for us to find the place.

Milton Keynes Filipino Festival groundsFirst time I saw it, I liked it. The park was built like an amphitheatre with the stage located down low in the centre of concentric graduated grassy levels where people can sit picnic-style. At the upper level are some fairground rides plus lots of space where kids took advantage of the lovely sunshine and biked around or flew kites. (Next year we’ll make sure to bring kites). On stage, the regular mainstay of Filipino festivals – Europhil – did their singing and dancing although they stuck to an all-Filipino repertoire here. There were other performers like the group of teeners who did an excellent street dance – very very good!, several kids who sang, a kids beauty pageant, a beauty pageant for married ladies, and another one for gays which only had 2 contestants and judging from the looks of the 2nd gal/guy there who looked like he/she just entered for a laugh, essentially there was only 1 contestant – who would automatically of course is the winner. Why do we have these inane beauty contest in festivals?

Filipino Fest Food 1   Filipino Fest Food 2

There are the usual food and goods stall. But most of all there were none of the hoards of people we encountered in Hounslow. The crowd size was mercifully just allright. Not too much not too thin. I hate crowds … really. I go out of my way to avoid them. That’s why when we went to Disneyland Paris in a Christmas weekend it was like a holiday from hell for me. But I digress…

There was also this photogenic colourful jeepney that kids and adults alike loved to see and board.

Pinoy jeepneyThe food was the typical festival fare but we spied several that we don’t normally see in these festivals. The likes of – itlog na pula, green mangoes, daing na bangus, among other things. Needless to say, we enjoyed our brief stay there so we’ll definitely be back next year !

Thursday, August 18, 2005

One Year Ago I Started Blogging

It’s been a year now since I discovered the world of blogs and started blogging myself. I’ve been surfing the internet for years but found very few personal websites. Must be due to the daunting task of coding the site yourself and the dearth of free webspaces around.

Around 2003, features in several online newspapers led me to being a regular reader of several political/news blogs. It was only when the Sassy Lawyer was featured in the online version of the Philippine Inquirer did I learned of this whole new world of Pinoy blogosphere. When I combed thru Sassy’s links, I realized that a lot of the tech savvy Pinoys are knee-deep into it – since then they became my daily read. Then in Tito Rolly’s blog, I tried commenting but anonymous commenting was turned off. So I was forced to create a login in, and consequently create a blog. Sassy is the one I credit in ‘introducing’ me to pinoy blogs but Tito Rolly led me to that extra step in creating one. The fact that there are a number of sites offering free webspace for bloggers plus free online blogging tools also helped convince me to give it a go.

At first I really don’t know what I would do with it much less what to put in. But a peek at Sassy’s Pinoy Cook (previously Radical Chef) food blog fired up that passion in food in me. I have always longed for somekind of a ‘scrapbook’ for the recipes of dishes I cook – both the tried and tested and the experiments. A food blog would just be perfect and that’s how I started blogging with English Patis.

We travel around and visit places during weekends and I wanted to record and show friends and relatives of where we’ve been, what we’ve been up to. But I don’t want to mix it up with my recipes in the food blog, thus born this Desarapen Tales. I couldn’t come up with a better title so I just got a word from a Filipino children’s nonsensical song. When I was young we used it to figure out who is ‘it’ in a game, just something different from the usual ‘pompiyang’ and ‘jack en poy’ (paper scissors stones) – but I digress.

I’ve enjoyed blogging since day one starting with trepidation, even in just commenting in other blogs I was quite nervous. It’s a good thing the blogs I frequented early on answered even the most mundane hi or hello I put in their comment section. I have to thank also Batjay for encouraging me and emphasising that the most important this in a blog is content. I agree wholeheartedly.

Blogging has improved my writing skills immensely (if ever I have one). Why I haven’t written anything ‘creative’ or essay-like since I was in high school. College writing was just a series of technical jargon blurbs after another so I really can’t count that. But other than letters and long emails to friends, it’s only now that I got to crunch down and pour my mind’s content into the pensieve of blogs. It has also heightened my awareness of the food I’m cooking and eating, of the places where we go, of the people I meet, of the situations I’m in. It also introduced me to the technical side of web design and programming. I’ve been a constant user of PCs and web browsers but the magic behind it is much covered in haze for me. And with the limited time I have as a working mom I couldn't really cover much in terms of learning webpublishing and design unless it's needed at work.

The best best best of all rewards of blogging for me are the warm, friendly, funny, helpful online people I met. Some of whom I have met in person, some of them already phone pals. Yet still a lot are regular email buddies. They come from different backgrounds, ages, genders, professions, persuations, and what have you. I can tell you they made my life so much richer. Thank you my dear online friends and here’s to more years of blogging. Cheers!

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Blue Peter Proms

We treated the kids to a Blue Peter concert in this year's BBC Proms. Every year most of the Proms concerts are performed in the Royal Albert Hall and this kid's concert is no exception. We thought we were going to be late but we arrived with only 2 minutes to spare. There was not much time to enjoy the great architecture of the RAH and the surrounding buildings. Fortunately, I was able to quickly snap pictures of the Royal College of Music (see above left) which faces the back of the RAH along Prince Consort Road and the RAH itself (above right). I've always loved this circular building which superbly combines aesthetic beauty with being highly functional. And the acoutics, ah the acoustics of the place is excellent. Even if you're standing at the very back of the gallery, you can clearly hear even the softest notes from the orchestra. I particularly like those big round things hanging on the ceiling looking like a giant's buttons (see pic below).

The kids concert began with the Star Wars movie theme splendidly played by the BBC orchestra conducted by Jason Lai. It was glorious to hear and strengthened my opinion that there's really nothing better than listening to live music. The pieces were short and lively - Nutcracker Suite, Cinderella, some others by Britten and Debussy - designed with kids' attention span in mind of course. Then culminating, as usual, with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance with the audience singing lustily the Land of Hope and Glory. There was also a short performance by a magician and his apprentice fittingly done while the Sorcerer's Apprentice was being played. Like in any party, they let out a whole lot of balloons after the concert which means a free-for-all grab down at the arena.

Those were the best seat we had in RAH. We were right smack in the middle with no one in front and none at the back. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and I could see my kids did, too. Although by the middle of it J3 was taking more interest in stacking up the programs on the floor. ;)

Friday, July 22, 2005

Scaredy Cat

A day after the spate of failed bombing attempts in central London (really they could have tested it on themselves first) and on the same day when a suspected bomber was shot dead by the police, I was in my usual route home sitting pretty at the top level of a double decker bus. It was uneventful until a young man boarded and went upstairs. He walked down the aisle and paused by the empty seat in front of me. With wide eyes he asked me if it was mine while pointing to something on the floor. I sat upright and craned my neck toward the seat in front, that was the only time I saw a black rucksack on the floor apparently abandoned by its owner. I shook my head in the negative while we exchange worried glances. Could it be a bomb? He immediately went down and informed the driver who stopped right away at a bus stop a few meters away. The driver came up, took one look at the bag and told us to evacuate. Within seconds the bus was empty. I strongly suspect it was left by the absent minded teenager who sat in front of me. But during these times it's best to err on the side of caution and be prudent.

You could see the worry and mild sense of panic among us passengers. Everybody was quick out of the door and good on that young man who was vigilant and conscientious enough to inform the driver. I have to admit I was a bit shaken. I just hope things can be done so we can go on with our lives peacefully. My mind says - no need to worry there's nothing to it - but my feeling of anxiousness doesn't leave me even now and I don't know why. I hate feeling like this simply because it means something bad is or is about to happen. My eternal problem is to whom is it happening? Myself? My family? A friend? From the frequency of the 'rumble' it had something to do with the collective society we're in but in all honesty I've got no clue babe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Harry's Magic

*** Warning Spoilers ***

I find it funny that not only the latest Harry Potter book enchanted us with a great novel but also wove its magic in our household. After buying 2 copies of the HP6 book first thing in the morning on the first day that it was out, J1 and J2 and me were deep in speed reading what happened next to the boy wizard. For 2 days the whole house was eerily quiet. Heehee. I definitely am not complaining though they were even uncommonly subdued after finishing it. I only found out why when I finished it last night after a lot of housework interruptions – you know inconsequential things like cooking, laundry, and sweeping the floor. ;) This is probably the only HP book that left me feeling crestfallen afterwards. We were comparing notes and observations at dinner time and the three of us felt like we lost a relative or something. The shock of finding out a central character died, who was much more lovable and respected than Sirius Black, plus the realisation that circumstances is forcing Harry to grow-up and go it alone probably sobered all of us up and now grasped that the next installment will be more adult like in content rather than your usual happy-fantasy-magical world.

HP6 is good though the third and the fourth book are still my favourites. There are the funny bits like the quidditch commentary of Luna Lovegood and Ron’s sarcastic quips. Even in the dangerous bowels of the cave with Dumbledore, the author still managed to sneak something comical. Snape came out as an unmistakeable baddie in this one though I think there’s more to his character in the next installment. Slughorn, the professor, was quite a good character insert. However, that scene on Bill’s hospital bed when Tonks and Lupin professed their undying love to each other was simply corny. Excuse me folks while I retch in a second. Yeeeccchhh!! Over-acted love scenes like those of old romantic movies like Gone With The Wind? Nah, shouldn’t be in an HP book. And what with all those snogging? There’s no need to hash it over and over again although I’d think mid-teeners might like them. So as far as the lovefest was concerned – it’s Ron and Hermione, Tonks and Lupin, Harry and Ginny but they broke up in the end. Actually, I am still hoping that Harry and Hermione end up together – they complement and would be brilliant for each other.

Reading this book was a pleasure and we in our family dearly hope that JK Rowling would not take another 2 years to come up with the next and (hopefully not) final installment of Harry’s adventure. Waiting was so tormenting.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

How I Get to Work

In 6 months' time I probably won't be coming to my current place of work because of the impending redundancy we're facing. For posterity's sake, I'm showing here how I get to work in the last 10 years that I've been in this company. It was a hard slog the first few months but I got used to it in the long run.

First off, I walk or take a short bus ride to the train station from home. Walking takes about 10-15 minutes while the bus ride is about 3-5 minutes if there's no traffic. At the train station, I take a train towards the direction of London for about three stops.

Then I take this relatively new tram system. This is a favourite of commuters around the area because of its accessibility (no need to go up and down stairs) and efficiency (almost always punctual). It's a short 2 stops for me before I get off and take a ...
double decker bus for the final leg of my journey. I always take a seat upstairs. So nice to sit high up and have an eagle's eye view of things happening on the ground. The bus goes to all high streets, main streets and winds thru cork screw roads for, oh about 6-7 miles before it drops me off almost in front of our building. So this is what I might go thru every day - 2 buses, 1 tram, and 1 train. Then I do it all over again on the way home. All in a day's work ... ;)

Thursday, July 07, 2005

After the Euphoria Comes the Grief

Because I was busy fielding calls, text messages, and emails from concerned loved ones and friends I completely forgot to blog about the bombing this morning in central London. First of all, to my relatives and friends I just want you to know that we're all doing okay here. I just hugged them a little tighter tonight. Thank you to all who contacted us, we deeply appreciate your concern.

It was not a nice feeling though of being greeted by talks of bombs, terrorists, death before you even sit down for work first thing in the morning. When just yesterday we were punching our fists in the air in jubilation. Once again I feel so sad for the way people treat with utmost disregard the lives of their fellow human beings.

Inspite of the carnage and mayhem in the capital, I take my hat off to the utter professionalism of the London emergency services (fire, police, ambulances) in the swift, calm, and efficient manner that they attended to those affected. Their diligence in preparing and rehersing in the past few years for this inevitability has positively paid off. And you have to hand it to the British public as well when hysteria and panic may be justified in the turn of events, they chose to deal with it in a calm and rational way.

These terrorists may think that this atrocities will break the spirit of the country, ironically it brought about the reverse. Like in America after 9/11, it incensed and brought together people of differing and opposing views to fight these terrorists and refuse to be bowed by them.

I'm glad to see as well that bloggers were one of the first ones to report and express outrage at these despicable cowardly acts.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

London 2012 Olympics

London won the bidding for the 2012 Olympics! Woohoo!!!
It was announced at around 12:46BST today in Singapore. It took sometime before the whole of our office learned about it since I think all the local news websites came to a standstill probably due to record number of hits. I for one, kept on clicking at the BBC site but just a few minutes before the announcement no one can access it. So I had to call home and ask my husband to switch on the telly. Sure enough there were scenes of jubilation both in Singapore and Trafalgar Square.

Paris was the early favourite and was expected by many to win it. But at the end, the London delegation pulled through. Besides the excellent presentations they made, they also bombarded the voting delegates with lobbying from a number of sporting heroes and celebrities like David Beckham and politicians like Tony Blair who took a whistle stop visit to Singapore from his hectic schedule as the host of the current G8 meeting in Scotland. Well done chaps! And here's to the next 7 years of building and preparation for the big event.

Hopefully this would mean more jobs (especially IT ones) and business opportunities in the greater London area.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

White Stripes

Saturday night I was watching recorded performances for that day in the Glastonbury festival. I was about to turn in for the night but couldn't shut off the TV due to the mesmerising performance of White Stripes. I first heard this Detroit-based duo (just read somewhere that they are not brother and sister afterall) in Jools Holland's show years ago. They were okay, I thought but the performance they did in that muddy festival was really great. They had me enthralled. Never have I enjoyed head banging rock guitar riffs since college days (and I thought I was getting old for this).

Their on stage dynamics were magnetic with some sexy undercurrents what with drummer Meg sultrily looking over her shoulder to Jack or their one on one face-offs. Pardon me, but it looks like watching a passionate love act. I do find Meg's dumming antics quite sexy. While Jack, oh the great Jack, is a revelation to me. He has obvious talent in the guitar and the combination of the two of them making it sound as if there were more than 2 people in the band. His vocals reminded me a lot of the young
Robert Plant. I love their passion on the way the 'attack' their instruments and it was so good to see this kind of performance where they look like they're giving their all for the audience. Love it !

Friday, June 24, 2005

Free Stonehenge

I didn’t know that Stonehenge has free entrance during summer solstice?! According to an online article in the Guardian:
English Heritage has opened the site to the public free of charge for the summer solstice since 2000. "It's great the way people can come here now. I'm all for it," King Arthur said.

I wonder if they do this in the winter solstice as well? But then, who would want to be among the throng of 21,000 people unless you want to party. I hate crowds I go out of my way to avoid it, just not my cup of tea. Though it must have been awesome to see the summer sun rising up on the ‘heel’ stone of the megalith.

I’ve been there several times and whenever our car reaches the brow of the hill approaching it, the sight of these enormous stones formed in a circle never fails to take my breath away. Mind you, that’s not the only stone circle here in Britain. A notable one is that in nearby Avebury, where there is a village *inside* the circumference of the circle. There are lots lots more however, they are smaller making Stonehenge the biggest of them all.

I hope in the coming months I could see and revisit some of the stone circles I’ve seen and put up pictures here. They may look like ‘just’ stones arranged in a circle but I’ve always been fascinated by it and wondered on its actual use.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Good timing?

My glazed look at my monthly payslip suddenly turned into wide-eyed incredulity. Am I seeing what I'm seeing? I used to absentmindedly look at my netpay box, knowing that only a miracle can make the figures change. Now, I was actually a few hundred pounds richer. I did not rejoice and dared not spend it lest the next month they take it away and say they made a mistake. Only when another colleague who was in the same boat as I am remembered that we were due for our 5 and 10 year long service awards did the dawn of realisation set in. Aha! So that's what it's for! In the previous incarnation of our company, we used to receive letters way before the award is given. People are invited to a champagne reception at the personal office of our CEO who gives the gift/award with a commendation letter, 1 week extra holiday, 50% off our main product, plus a bust of his favourite hero - Churchill. Now the new company (who took over from the old one) just wanted us to take the money and run. :sigh: Well, what can you expect. They're just biding their time 'til they got rid of us.

But getting back on the money, great ideas were already dancing in my head on what to do with it such as:
  1. Holiday trip to Venice
  2. A new cooker/oven!
  3. Jewelry
Then the unexpected happened - our old reliable Sony TV died yesterday. Boohoohoo! There goes my 10-year award. :-(
My son and husband are very busy now canvassing prices in the internet. Plasma TV looks like a good idea although I would need about 3 times more than what I got to afford one. Ah, it's a good thing my family is not so keen on TV watching these days. So probably one of those generic TVs will do or probably scratch it altogether since we still have a wee bit of a 12-inch TV to get us by. Would that mean I would have my new oven and be able to bake tarts without setting it on fire?! *eyes widen* Hope beckons me ... *big grin*

Monday, June 20, 2005

A trip to Switzerland (part 3)


[... continued]

By Thursday (2nd June) we have to say goodbye to our nice free beds (with sinangag and Lucban longganisa breakfast) in Geneva. ;) My sister was leaving for the Phils. while we have to journey towards the Lucerne-Zurich area then on to our long drive home. After the hardwork of packing back our tons of luggage in our old van, we said goodbye to Geneva and drove towards Interlaken. On the way we decided to have a picnic lunch by the banks of small but pretty Lac de Bret near Vevey where me and my husband also had a lovely dinner the night before with some friends. As you can see in the pictures above, the place is tranquil and very pleasant.

We then proceeded to the Interlaken area via a very steep twisting road called the Jaunpass. There were lots of lovely sights to behold - green valleys, lush farmlands, waterfalls, great mountainscape. So nice to breathe clean mountain air. We were quite (camera) trigger happy in that jaunt.


When we got out of that tire-wearing twisting road, we found ourselves looking at the twin lakes of Interlaken. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to visit the beautifully set town but instead diverted to the hiking village of Kandersteg unless we wanted to see a major tantrum from J1. He wanted to show us around the place where he and his scout troop went camping last year and we were not disappointed. J1 had very fond memories of those times and wanted to share it with us. Kandersteg town centre is quite charming with the air of a small village. There were quite a number of small upscale hotels which belies the variety of outdoor activities available in the area such as hiking, skiing, mountain biking, camping, etc. It is also where one of the camping sites of the World Organization of the Scout Movement is located (where J1 camped last year). That website of the scout camp is quite useful because they have a live webcam onsite. What we used to do is to make J1 stand there in front of the webcam after his daily phone call to us so we could see him on the internet - what he's wearing, who's with him, etc. Isn't that neat?! I remember we used to interrogate him about his clothes - "Didn't you wear that the other day? How come your shirt and trousers don't match?" :LOL:

pictures courtesy of Ernie Endrina

After swanning around for some time in Kandersteg it was time to leave. It was getting late and I thought we might have to take the easy route to Lucerne (where we are supposed to spend the night) instead. But I'm glad we decided to push on to our original plan - that to pass thru the superlative Sustenpass. If ever you want to go to just one place in Switzerland to see mountain views go there !! Sustenpass is even more steep and twisting than Jaunpass and more tire-wearing, too. When we stop we could smell burning rubber what with all those countless steep hairpin bends we had to negotiate. But don't worry 'coz soon enough you will be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Swiss Alps. Although your pictures would look like you stepped in front of a poster. LOL! Really superb views of majestic snow-capped peaks.

What I like most with our time there is that we practically had the route to ourselves. Besides the daredevil powerbike riders, there were hardly any cars enroute. You know me I don't like crowds so it was pure bliss. Also as we were climbing, I could see dark clouds closing in on the mountains. I said a little 'request' to the goddesses and guardian spirits of the Alps to please give us a little window of sunshine to better appreciate the beauty of the place. And what do you know, the clouds parted the sun came out and we had a glorious time! On our way down I looked back and saw the clouds moving back in. The short show was over and I said a silent heartfelt prayer of thanks to them.

Tired from the long drive that day (which included probably the longest tunnel we've been in), we hit our beds right after we checked in a hotel in Lucerne. Early the next day we toured picturesque Lucerne with its lovely location right at the edge of the lake of the same name. The old part of the city is quite small with the oft photographed Chapel Bridge and Water Tower dominating it. The former has been here since the 1300s but unfortunately most of it were burned in the devastating fire in 1993. They have restored it completely although they chose to include some badly charred murals to remind people of the ravages of the fire. It seems like a place with lots of touristic things to do like go up in Mt. Pilatus or Mt. Titlis. It was a nice relaxing day by the river bank where we had a idyllic lunch. We also met up again with our friends Helen & Ellery and their family right before we left.


Lots of old structures are clustered along the riverbank. On of them is this Jesuit church in Lucerne, made distinct with its twin onion shaped domes. On the right you could see its fabulous Baroque interior.

After lunch and saying goodbye again to our friends, we motored on to the homestretch of our trip. Unfortunately, we hit the combined rush hour traffic and countless road works in Zurich and in the A35 towards Strasbourg just outside the Swiss border. Our plan to spend the night in Boulogne was ruined because of this. So we decide to drive thru the night straight to Calais/Dunkirk area. It wasn't much of a problem since there were 3 of us alternating on the driver's seat. We must have drove a bit too fast since we arrived in Calais at 4 AM! Our schedule with the ferry is not until 12:45PM. What to do? After circling around the Calais area trying to find an open restaurant or fastfood to relieve our grumbling stomachs, we decided to go for it in the ferry. When we arrived in Dunkirk, there was hardly any queue. Good thing they allowed us to board. Hooray! Hot breakfast for everyone on board. Pretty soon we were back on British soil and welcomed by the comfort of our own home.

This our old van in the belly of the ferry from Dunkirk. You have to hand it to this Toyota oldie. It travelled close to 2000 miles in the span of a week. Even at one point running for about 500 miles almost non-stop with nary a glitch (except for the aircon on timer :LOL:). It did not disappoint on the contrary it just went on and on and on ... thanks Lucida for taking care of us in our trips. Here's to more travels and adventures - cheers!

Saturday, June 18, 2005

A trip to Switzerland (part 2)

[Continuation ...]

We arrived in Geneva in the evening and settled down for the night in the flat where my sister is staying. Next day was a Sunday so decided to get down to the business of serious sight seeing in central Geneva before we go to church in the evening. We walked along the promenade of Lake Geneva (Lac Leman) and imbibed the beach-like atmosphere. Sun was fiercely hot which made all the summer clothes and activities come out in force. Nothing like a fiesta ambiance to perk your mood. Lots of ducks, swans, sunbathers, rollerbladers, ferry tours to keep us occupied.

We walked around the old cobbled-stone area of Geneva. Saw the old Cathedrale St. Pierre - one of the dominating presence in the old quarter. It was sparsely decorated inside probably echoing the Calvinist doctrine of non-indulgence of wealth which was prevalent here in the 1500s. We also saw a lot of United Nations (UN) buildings and its agencies. Though when we tried going to the main UN HQ building, it was such a long walk from the car park that we decided not to.

Geneva is a pleasant city to walk, very clean and orderly with lots of smart upscale shops. General feel of the place is that of a small cosmopolitan city. Now and again you see the reminders of one of Switzerland's main industry - banking. Prices of everything is so expensive - it's true! And that's coming from me living in costly London.


Next up in our itinerary is that castle precariously built on a promontory in Lake Geneva near Montreux - Chateau de Chillon. It gained fame when Lord Byron wrote about a supposed prisoner in its dungeon in his poem The Prisoner of Chillon. For me, what's notable about this medieval structure is its beautiful silhoutte like that of a fairytale castle enhanced by its romantic location at the edge of an equally beautiful lake surrounded by snow-capped mountains. Unfortunately we did not choose to go inside because of the prohibitive entrance toll. But we were more than satisfied enough with just touring outside.


The following day we were up earlier than usual for we have to drive up to Broc near Bulle to see one of the big highlights of our trip - a chocolate factory. I blogged about this in my food blog so have a peek there on the culinary side of the visit. Highlight of this was being able to eat as much chocs as we can in the tasting room. I wish I brought a plastic bag with me. ;-) Also here we met up with our friends Helen & Ellery and their kids who were all with us throughout the day's touring.

We then proceeded to the tiny cute town of Gruyere built with a castle on top of a hill. Nice to see a typical Swiss village with its wooden houses with intricate carved decorations. Local delicacies like its meringue were very nice, too. The surrounding areas are very green farmlands it conjures up that cow-milk-pasture image of Switz. What it doesn't include is the stink of cow dung fertilisers hanging in the air. Iiikkksss!!


It was getting late but the sun was still up so we drove on to Bern. The old part of the city had a medieval feel about it what with the cobbled stone streets, lots of old buildings even in the shopping area. Its got a dramatic setting as well with the river Aare running thru it. UNESCO has included it in its list of World Heritage sites - I'm not surprised. We were not able to explore it as much as we wanted to because of the late hour when almost everywhere is closed. Above left is the 600-year-old clock tower that used to mark the western entrance to the city. On the right is the tram lined flag-festooned main street. I bet that place is delightful to do a complete walking tour.


More pictures from Bern ... on the left is a communal water fountain/tap. We found these taps almost everywhere in any town or city centres in Switz. Most of the time the water is drinkable. During the days when it was scorching hot you can find us wetting our faces and arms with the cold mountain waters from these fountains to cool us down. Picture on the right shows what big horn he has! An old man giving a free performance in the cathedral square.

By the time we left it was already dark and drove 2 hours back to our soft beds in Geneva. It was a long, tiring but enjoyable day.

[To be continued with the 3rd and last part ...]

Monday, June 13, 2005

A trip to Switzerland (part 1)

I've been itching for an overseas holiday for a looong time. Something about being in a different environment and seeing new things revitalises me. That's why I love this European 'tradition' of going on holiday at least once a year. It does your body and spirit good to relax and wind down. Resting, relaxing and being 'away from it all' really do decrease stress levels.

I haven't blogged for sometime partly because of being very busy and partly because we went on a driving holiday to Switzerland. As soon as I heard that my sister C, is moving to Geneva and calculated that we had enough funds, nothing can stop me from planning this. :)

We chose to drive because there's five people in the family plus a family friend who wanted to come. With these numbers in mind, the cheapest way to go is by car. It may be slower and tiring but we've got time and we get to see more sights along the way. For me the holiday starts with the journey and not just when you get to the intended destination. Something about the adventure and the discovery of new places/things during the travel itself that appeals to me.

[Click on the pictures for a bigger view]


Of course we started off on a cross English Channel crossing from Dover, Kent. I made certain that we left the house early to give ample time for the 1.5-2 hour travel from our house to the coast. I DO NOT want to repeat our escapade fiasco of 3 years ago to Belgium where we had to queue in the road to Dover for 7 hours !!! We joined the queue at around 9:30 AM and got on a ferry at 4PM. Imagine we were barely 1.5 miles away from the ferry.

After packing our old Toyota van to the rafters, we left early and found the traffic thankfully light. We were so early that we were one of the first ones on the queue. Yehey we're early for once! Our ferry was Norfolk Lines which left the white cliffs of Dover at 5:30PM then disembarking in Dunkirk, France at 8PM instead of the usual Calais. It was only about 30 minutes drive from Calais.

From there we drove towards Reims, France and spent the night there. Hotel Ibis at the city centre was quite good for its price and very clean. Early next morning after buying breakfast at a kiosk at the nearby train station we set off to see the old part of the city briefly.


The centre-piece of this medieval city is its glorious Cathedral of Notre Dame. Being the place where most monarchs of France were crowned, it had a major role in France's history. As you can see the soaring gothic structure still retains its aura of grandeur and magnificence that rightly deserved its UNESCO World Heritage Site award.

Now, Reims is not in the champagne region for nothing. Almost every other shops are champagne houses and we could not resist buying a few. I was already homing in on several well-known well-packaged brands in a shop when we happen to ask the sales clerk on his recommendations which we direly need because we're wine nincompoops! Very interesting to note that he did not recommend *any* of the well known brands saying that most of them were actually terrible. One exception was Krug, which he said still retained its excellent quality but at an average of £100 a bottle it was not good value for money. He recommended several to us which were actually cheaper than the famous brands. At this point I trust his opinion already since if he only wanted money from us he would have pushed the more expensive famous ones in our hands which in our ignorance we would gladly take. Confirmation of this came when we gave the champages to wine loving friends who heartily approved of 'our' choice. (I think I should be blogging this in my food blog!)

After a brief tour of Reims, we reluctantly went back on the road. It was one of the hottest day of the year (so far) as it reached 32C and probably more on the road. I'm always lucky in having nice weather when holidaying. Unfortunately for us, our old van's airconditioning system seems to have a timer. After an hour it promptly turns itself off. So we have to roll down the windows and bear the heat. :(


One pleasure in driving on French motorways (highways), besides the fact that the roads are very smooth, is that they have a lot of 'aire' or rest areas where you can get off the road, rest, go to the bathroom, or have something to eat and drink. As you can see above left, they have a very pleasant tree-lined park-like atmosphere. Some even have children's playgrounds or picnic areas. I couldn't resist taking a picture of one of their toilets in the Jura region (not all are like this). It's not often that I see these 'hole in the ground' types (above right). But they are clean and stink free.

People could argue that it's just right that French motorways should be good since we have to pay to use most of them. Why, our total road fee for the onward trip was 57 Euros! It can be a shock in the system to pay this much since our British motorways are all free.

[To be continued ...]

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Fishy Fishy

We got a new source of obsession at home in the form of an aquarium. Now everyone fusses over these goldfish (oranda-like) we got one weekend. Actually we had five then a day after 1 died. It probably got so stressed with the move from the pet shop to our globe fishtank. We replaced the casualty with another one and a black one. Total population right now is 6 goldfish, 5 gold and 1 black.

This is the first time we've had a tank, or pet fish for that matter, so we don't know how much or how often to feed them. First few days we put in about a teaspoon of pellets everyday. The water quickly turned cloudy and dirty while all the fish kept on pooing. We had the water tested at the pet shop where you give a water sample, they mix it with some chemicals and a coloring emerges. It was supposed to be very light pink but ours turned nearly purple! The guy testing asked - "Are they still alive?" Of course they're still alive - just. We had to replace 1/4 of the water right there and then and repeat the procedure every week to clean it out. The pet shop boys (pun intended) said we probably have too many fish in the tank. We're thinking of getting another bigger rectangular tank to move these goldies and just get very small fishes for the globe tank. Ayayay, once you start it's getting more and more expensive. Wish us luck, hopefully these goldies stay alive.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Magic Mushrooms

I always see this shop on my way to work. It's only now that I got the chance to take a picture. All along I thought magic mushrooms or psylocybe mushrooms were illegal since they are hallucinogenic. According to the Transform Drug Policy Foundation, it seems farmers and retailers found a loop hole in the law
which classifies the active ingredients in the mushrooms as Class A drugs,
(and therefore illegal)
but not the fresh mushrooms themselves.
A widely circulated letter from Ian Breadmore (Home Office drug licensing section, 17 February 2003) stated that 'it is not illegal sell or give away a freshly picked mushroom provided that it has not been prepared in any way' and has been taken by vendors as official permission for their activities.

Hmmm, very curious situation. I'm just not sure if I'd be willing to try these in my stir-fry. :LOL:

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

the Webbies

The 9th Webby Awards has announced its winners! One of my favourites, the Guardian, which I read almost everyday won the best Newspaper website category. I noticed my one other favourite site, the BBC, was nominated in several other categories. While the blog category was won by the prolific Have a look at the winners and the nominees you might discover new, exciting and informative sites in the outstanding list of sites there. Case in fact, I love that winner in the humor category – Dooce (warning colourful language!). She’s not only hilarious but also unselfishly shared some blogging and photography techniques. I discovered the Webby several years ago and through it I was led onto a lot of note worthy and useful sites that made my working life bearable. ;-) 'Hope it will do the same and more to you.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

British Library, King's Cross, & St. Pancras

My eldest daughter, J2, is attending a dance lesson class in central London. So every Saturday we have to take her there at 1:30PM and come back for her by 5:30PM. I don't want to hang around there for 4 hours and I certainly don't want to go home and come back again for her. What to do? Well, explore London of course! We've gone to the 'big smoke' countless of times but there are still pockets that I haven't explored.

Last weekend me and J3 just walked around the vicinity of where J2 was dancing. The walk was not that far but I was feeling so fatigued on the way back due to the heavy backpack I'm carrying. Feels like a ton. It must have been with all the 'abubots' of J3 crammed in there. Anyway, just about a block away is the British Library. I seem to remember some controversy surrounding it during its inaguration. Can't quite recall what it was. That afternoon it was a sparsely populated place. We just got to view the main reception lobby and their small museum of showcase pieces in their collection. Unfortunately, cameras were not allowed.

Among the impressive items they have in the John Ritblat Gallery are the Magna Carta, Shakespeare's first collection of his plays circa 1623, Codex Sinaiticus - earliest New Testament manuscript in Greek, Gutenberg Bible, da Vinci's notebook (not code), handwritten lyrics and notes of the Beatles, among other things. They also have another gallery where they show how book making and publishing evolved. Very educational, indeed. We did not go in the inner sanctum of the library because you have to register and provide documents, etc. to be given access.

Avoiding lots of hassles so we kept putting one foot in front of the other which led us outside to St. Pancras train station that was only a few metres away. Currently it's closed for renovation. Of all the trains stations here this is my favourite - a classic Victorian Gothic Revival building. Beautiful and majestic. You might find its sight familiar due to it being used in Harry Potter 2 movie when Harry and Ron rode the flying car. And right beside St.Pancras is its ugly sister, the King's Cross train station. Low, squat, very functional, unelaborate mass of concrete, steel, and glass. Roads and subways (pedestrian underpasses) are being built and renovated so there are loads of scaffolding and contruction palaver about, which made it even uglier. Despite this, it's famous for its non-existent 9 3/4 platform - you know from the Harry Potter books. We were tempted to go in and see if they made anything special between platform 9 and 10.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

AWOL Pellet

The dreaded thing happened, my youngest daughter's favourite beanie baby Pellet (which I blogged here before) disappeared. It has been misplaced before but we always manage to find it for J3. Though this time we turned the house inside out we still couldn't find the fake hamster. My guess is it fell off the car the last time J3 brought her. Poor J3 was crying and whimpering for more than 2 days running especially during bedtime when she would always ask, "Where is Pellet?" After 2 days, I couldn't take it any longer I decided to look for another Pellet from the shops. Problem is, that model was released last 2000 and they don't make them anymore. I thought of giving J3 a different substitute like a beanie dog or cat. But Pellet is what she was crying for. Good thing I remembered eBay has lots of beanie baby resellers. After ordering one , soon enough it came through the post. You could just imagine J3's joy when she opened the envelope. Now they're together again day and night. She even takes pictures of it (see pic above). I'm even considering buying another one in case this Pellet goes missing again.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Deep Breathing

Feeling of tiredness and exhaustion often takes over me from the early evenings onwards even if I am just puttering around the house. Stress is the main culprit coupled with fatigue or plain overwork. When it comes, I usually catch myself sort of holding my breath in my upper chest area and I am often doing shallow breathing. This causes me to expend unnecessary efforts to keep things in that upper area. It’s no surprise then that tiredness soon set in. Typically my lower ribcage will ache and pain in the whole of my torso will follow. I analysed what I was doing and thought that one of the things I definitely have to change is my breathing.

I called on an old friend who mentioned to me before the benefits of deep breathing. He extolled the benefits of it such as – stress reducer, tension reliever, and promotes good functioning of our internal organs through the proper oxygenation of our blood – among other things. The following deep breathing exercises he passed on to me. Undoubtedly it helped me a lot in relieving tiredness and stress even if I only do it once in a while in a day (well actually should be ideally done all the time). Once I start noticing the beginning of exhaustion I do deep breathing which more often than not starts to reverse the state of things at the time.

* How to do deep breathing:
  1. Sit up straight or stand with your spine straight. Relax.
  2. Inhale by starting to fill up your lower lungs. Your belly should expand. This is breathing with your diaphragm.
  3. Next fill up your upper lungs. You should see your chest area expand. DO NOT raise your shoulder while you do this. The chest will expand naturally (and your shoulders slightly rise) as you inhale. Fill up your lungs to the max that you can until you feel like bursting. These 2 stages of inhaling should be done in one continuous motion.
  4. Exhale air from the upper lungs slowly.
  5. Then expel air from the lower lungs completely by contracting abdominal muscles.

You can start doing the above in the count of 3: breathe in to the count of 3, pause to the count of 3, exhale to the count of 3, pause again to the count of 3. Once you get the hang of it increase count to 4 then to 5.

There are some very informative websites complete with illustrations on how to do this. Click here, here, and here for more info.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Strange and Funny Names 1

I've been living here in the UK for quite awhile and even in the first few months I was struck by how strong the influence of language to their culture. It's no wonder that in such a small country, with everyone more or less speaking the same language, you can find a lot of different accents depending not just on the region but also on the socio-economic level they're in. In just one city alone, London for example, you find so many variations of the English accent. This language-centric trait is also reflected in their love of the written word which accounts for their rich literary heritage and their first-rate theatrical traditions. But for me, the most intriguing and interesting consequence would be the use in everyday colloquial terms. Often when travelling all over the country I would delight or laugh out loud at the strange and funny names I encounter.

With this post I hope to chronicle via pictures all the weird, bizzarre, or sometimes hilarious names not only here in UK but from all over the world. Mind you these are authentic and not at all 'photo enhanced'.

Let's start with something that even an NHS hospital tried to rename as a 'Spotted Richard':

As you would have guessed, Spotted Dick (or Spotted Dog) is not some man's private parts with a bad case of chicken pox. But a suet-based steamed dessert (pudding) with raisins (the spots) and served with custard.

Faggots are not some un-PC name for a maligned member of the society but meatballs made of pork liver, bread, and spices. Welsh in origin though I think some English counties would contest that.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Wardrobe Problems

I was looking lately in the shops for a dress or at least a top that I could wear to a formal evening do. I completely forgot that most of the evening attires for ladies have either plunging necklines or backless or both. The backless part I can live with (I just probably have to do more scrubbing while in the bath) but the plunging necklines - arrrgghhhh! I have a foot long scar going down in the middle of my chest and I'd rather not have people stare at it. What to do?

Well my choices are either go with a very conservative jacket or get a halter top. The latter would cover up my scar but reveal my chunky shoulders and arms. Maybe I'll just wrap up with a shawl. This just goes to show my frustrations in the wardrobe department. I'm not of a model silhoutte then I have a wormtape-like scar on my chest to contend with. Ho well ...

Weight Sentinel Week 10

It's been 3 weeks since I last posted my weight and I almost forgot to again this week. It’s now – dyan-dyaran-dyaran … 14 stones 5 pounds. Well after all that time it’s just about right I lose more than 2 pounds. But it’s not been easy my friends, oh no not at all. What with all those confections that I’ve been doing for the IMBB and SHF entries of in my food blog. Plus the back to back parties of my friends where I have to contribute at least 1 dessert or dish. The impulse to splurge completely was too hard to resist. My solution to this is to give away the tempting dessert as much as possible. My dear work colleagues and friends have now been benefiting from my dieting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Spring in HG Wells country

My poor blog hasn't been updated for 2 weeks now. I've been very busy lately with real work, mummy work, achay (maid) work at home (where else) plus my unrelenting obsession with baking and cooking. Somehow these take precendence over blogging here. But nevertheless, hopefully from now on I can update this at least once a week.

We've had a respite from the cold since it started getting warmer last week. Spring is here! It's about time. The endless biting cold, overcast skies were beginning to affect my moods. Only the snow was welcome and it did indulge us with longer than usual visit. Normally, it snows here 2 days a year max. This year there was a stretch of almost 2 weeks with medium to light snow. I know my friends in the NE USA were cursing them what with back to back blizzards that dumped about 4-5 feet of snow at its height. Thankfully they're thawing already.

This sign I see almost everyday at the high street of the town in Kent where I work. It's only now that I remembered to take a picture of it and share it here.

Herbert George Wells or H.G. Wells is a giant in relatively contemporary English literature. He authored works ranging from science textbooks to comedy to science fiction (The War of the Worlds, The Time Machine). A man known for his inventiveness, he nevertheless showed much compassion for the plight of the common man with his works touching on his hope for social progress and human evolution.
For more insight on the man and his life and works click here and here.