May 31, 2013

Music and Moments

Earlier this morning during my commute to the office, I decided to play some of the old songs from my mp3 collection.  I'm a 'discography' type of collector, meaning that if I hear a song that I like, I would tend to download acquire all the albums of the artist, even the demo and pre-mainstream ones (I still have an album of Maroon 5 when they were still Kara's Flowers, and I absolutely love their songs).

I was in a John Mayer mood then; the album queued on my music player was Room For Squares. When the intro of No Such Thing played (this was the first song of the album), I felt a sudden rush of sadness, as if the song triggered some emotional memory from my past.  Well, it did and I'll tell you what it is in a bit.

It was then when I realized that songs (well for me it's usually the whole album) are like pictures: they can serve as testaments of the past.  And if you allow them, they can be powerful enough to immortalize not only your memories, but also the emotions that you were feeling at that particular point in time.

Here are some of my "musical time capsules," and I swear, each time I hear the songs I can remember not only what happened during that time, but also how I was feeling... and even snippets of sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of that past experience.

(I've embedded Soundcloud tracks of some of the songs; please feel free to sample them as you read along to this blog post.)

John Mayer - Room for Squares. This album came out during the latter part of my years in the university, and was frequently in my playlist even until the first couple of years after graduation. My sister and I enjoyed listening to the album, even if we observed that the songs in the album had a lot of hang-ups. Quite appropriate for me, I guess, because this was the album I was listening to during that time when things weren't going that well with my first boyfriend. When we broke up, I remembered bawling out each time I hear Back To You because I knew that that's never going to happen to us.  There was even a time when I was afraid to queue one song of the album because even the first few riffs of the songs were enough to bring back all the hurt and bitterness I was feeling post-breakup.


May 29, 2013

WTFs of Filipino Culture

I'm feeling a bit rant-y today, but instead of spewing out all sorts of negativity in my social media outlets, I've decided to be a little more productive and write.

Before you misinterpret the title of this post as something anti-makabayan, please understand that I have no intention of bashing the Filipino culture.  MY culture. I was born and raised here in the Philippines; this is my lupang tinubuan. As much as I love to travel, there's no place I'd rather live in but here (I know, labo). I just want to put into writing some observations of mine, regarding some of the behavior of Pinoys that I don't quite get. Malay natin, pati pala ako guilty dito.
  1. Aversion to queues. This lack of simple self-control can be seen ANYWHERE, and is already a part of a Pinoy's everyday life. Take for example, in the morning commute. Passenger A gives his payment to the dispatcher/cashier, and is waiting for a change. Passenger B has the exact payment. More often than not, Passenger B would cut in front of Passenger A, giving this exact payment and getting into the vehicle, taking the seat that should've been Passenger A's. Don't tell me you haven't done that once in your life. And it's not just in commute. You can see this in fast food establishments, groceries, pedestrian crossings, driving scenarios, and even in Church. What I really can't understand is why WHY WHYYYYY people are in a hurry during communion, trying to be the first to get to the host, when everyone still needs to wait all the same for the final blessing. Anong point nun??  
  2. Tactlessness. Pinoys take pride in being friendly, hospitable and cheerful. They are able to make friends easily, and apparently we have a great attitude when it comes to interacting with others. But why, for the love of God, do we greet long-time friends with, "O, tumaba ka 'ata?" It doesn't end there. Reunions are witnesses to all sorts of inappropriate salutations. Relatives and friends, even those  whom you've never seen for an entire year, would like to know why you're still single, why you're not yet married, why you're not yet pregnant, or when are you going to have your next kid. I have no idea why people think that inappropriate personal questions like that qualify as small talk.

May 28, 2013

Musings

Sometimes I wonder what my ten year-old self would say if she saw me now, all grown up.  Ten was the year of the Koosh Balls, slumbooks, stationery trades, Stay Fresh mints and toasted corned beef.  Ten was the year when my favorite color is violet, my first kiss (and love) was my mom, and my life's ambition is to be a zoologist.  Ten was the year when I met my two best friends in the whole world. 

And now, twenty years later, I sit here in front of a computer, fixing "bugs" that are most definitely not within the scope of the zoological world.  I hardly play outdoors, except for when I walk the dogs (even that has become a chore nowadays).  I rant about going out in the sun because it makes my skin dark.  I rant about the rain because it causes traffic jams.  I rant about attending beach events because the salt water damages my hair.  And it has been ages since my best friends and I hung out together.

The so-called life around me isn't that great, either.  People are always in a hurry to get somewhere and to be somebody, but no one really seems to be enjoying the ride.  

Relationships that are expected to last, don't, or worse, just pretending. Relationships that shouldn't happen because they're wrong are the ones given priority. Everyone always has an opinion about something, but no one really cares enough to listen to anybody else but themselves.  I often find myself confused, stuck in a moral dilemma, but I have no idea how to work my way out of it.

May 23, 2013

The Theory of Freewill

Growing up in a Catholic environment, I've always been taught that humanity is blessed with the gift of freewill. We can choose our own path and decide how we should live our lives... granted, of course, that we adhere to what is written in the fine print: we must not sin or do anything to offend our neighbor or our God. "Be free, but act responsibly," is what they say. Having all these restrictions when exercising freewill made me wonder: what does it really mean to be free? 

The essence of being "free" is being able to obtain--or to experience--something without cost, or without expecting anything in return. It is not barter, nor is it collateral. Thus, something that is free should not be restricted to any sort of liability, accountability or responsibility. If anything happens to you as a result of obtaining or experiencing that thing that is free, there should be no loss nor need for regret. Nakuha mo nga ng libre eh.

Most of us would want freewill to work this way, and some of us actually believe it. It would be a romantic notion to think of ourselves as makers of our own destiny, but the harsh reality is that we will always be prisoners of something bigger than ourselves: social norms, our own principles, rules of the institution, gravity, mortality, economics, or even the simple fear of what others may think. We, as humans, are expected to behave rationally--tamed, if you may--and this doesn't really mesh well with the *real* meaning of being free.

May 17, 2013

Lessons From the Star Trek Universe

Yes, I just got back from watching Star Trek Into Darkness in IMAX 3D, and I'm still a bit high from the movie. I love the Star Trek universe, even if my knowledge of the franchise is not sufficient enough for me to be called a Trekkie. Still, I'm proud to say that I was able to identify a lot of Trek tributes within the movie, even when Benedict Cumberbatch is distracting me with his smolder and voice.  Haaaaaay.

But!!! I'm not here to give a review or a plot summary of the movie, there are a lot of blog sites that do that (because Wak is my friend, check out SAN's review hehehe).  Instead, I'd like to share some reflections, realizations, and explanations as to why Star Trek, for me, is the ultimate science fiction that celebrates the triumph of the human race--which should also be the future of the real world!
  1. A Utopian future IS a possible future. Most Hollywood blockbusters thrive on plots of a chaotic future. Alien invasions, self-aware robots, zombie apocalypse... most of these movies focus on the exploitation of science that results to the near-destruction of humanity.  However, Star Trek sees things differently.  Humanity is at the pinnacle of science, and against all odds, man manages not to destroy the Earth.
  2. World Peace is definitely achievable. Sure, in the Trek universe, political conflicts still exist in some parts of space.  Vulcans vs. Romulans, Klingons vs. Humans, Borg vs... everyone, but in this universe, the Federation prioritizes diplomacy over warfare.  As much as possible, territories are at peace with each other--and with the rest of the universe. Warfare should never be the first option for engagement... unless you're engaging with the Borg.

May 15, 2013

Tokyo, Japan 2013 (Day 10 & 11)


Hakone is the only non-Tokyo district in our itinerary (well, technically we also have Osaka but that's because our returning flight is via the Kansai Airport), which was chosen because, 1) it is relatively near Tokyo--just a 2-hour train ride), and 2) it is known for its wonderful view of Mt. Fuji. We were in Tokyo during the cooler part of spring, so going to Mt. Fuji itself might mean that we have to pack warmer clothes and bring hiking gear as well... not really jiving with our "travel light" plans.  So we settled ourselves for the view instead.

Planning the trip, or rather when to go to Hakone, has been a bit of a challenge for us especially because of the unpredictable weather. Hindi naman kasi sulit kapag pumunta ka doon sa kasagsagan ng ulan, or even if the forecast is partly cloudy. For those who've been to Albay to view the Mayon Volcano, or even perhaps just Mt. Makiling in Laguna, you'll know what I mean.  Viewing a mountain that is covered by clouds isn't fun.

Thankfully, during our trip, the forecast from Wunderground was clear.  As in CLEAR, with the sun icon shining on the screen.  It was a blessed day.

Tokyo to Hakone

The Odakyu Line offers a Hakone Freepass, which is very advantageous for tourists, as it offers a round trip ticket from Tokyo (via Shinjuku Station) to Hakone-Yumoto Station, as well as unlimited rides in selected modes of transport within Hakone area (i.e. local train, bus, cable car, ropeway, etc). Plus, the freepass also includes discounts on various facilities in Hakone.  The freepass can be availed for 2 days (5,000 JPY for Adult ticket) or 3 days (5,500 JPY for Adult ticket).  We availed the 2-day freepass, but only did a day trip since we're a bit pressed for time.
Hakone Travel Tips:
  • Plan your trip to Hakone on the best weather possible.  Some of my colleagues who went to Hakone, on an earlier date, were there during the rainy/cloudy days and did not see Mt. Fuji at all. Lugi.
  • Take the earliest train possible.  You can sleep during the trip, anyways.  Mt. Fuji is best seen before noon, when the clouds haven't condensed on the mountain tops and the sun isn't obstructing your view.
  • Upgrade your Shinjuku to Hakone-Yumoto trip to Limited Express Romancecar (+ 870 JPY).  This is reserved seating, so its best to buy them at the same time you buy your freepass.  This makes the trip way more convenient, as there is no need to change trains in Odawara.  The Hakone Freepass can be bought at any Odakyu Line Station, or for a more tourist-friendly service, go to the Odakyu Sightseeing Service Center at the Shinjuku Station.
  • Wear a good pair of walking shoes. You need not use hiking shoes for this trip, as the paths are already tourist-friendly.  But as much as possible, wear shoes with a well-cushioned sole.

When we arrived at Hakone, we just followed the Hakone Model Sightseeing Course, which already contains the best route possible to enjoy the tourist landmarks in the area.  My favorite sightseeing spot would have to be in Owakudani, which has the best view of Mt. Fuji.

Tokyo, Japan 2013 (Day 9)


Back to Tourist Mode

Only a couple of days left in Japan, and thankfully the forecast for the rest of the trip was a sunny spring weather. We spent this day going back to the places we were not able to enjoy fully because of the rain.

Asakusa

It was reaaaaally sunny that time, and partly because of the volume of tourists it was getting hot in the area as well. Asakusa is best for souvenir shopping at bargain prices (there's no haggling in Japan, though), and souvenir shopping we did.

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The building with the golden tae on top of it is the Asahi Beer Hall, or something.


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Tokyo, Japan 2013 (Day 8)

Skytree from Below

Tokyo Skytree is another observation tower, much higher than the Tokyo Tower and significantly newer--it just opened last year.  However, it was waaaay too foggy that time so we didn't went up the observation deck.  Good thing, too, since the ticket price is exaggerately high for our liking.

We just hung around the mall area to do window shopping, and also had a late lunch at the food court, where we had our first taste of the famous Ippudon Ramen.

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Apologies, I wasn't able to take a lot of pictures of the area.
I wasn't able to whip out my camera as often as I should because of the weather.


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May 14, 2013

The Theory of Happiness

Everyone wants to be happy, including me.  But now, I'm not sure.  Is it really happiness that I should be seeking? 

I've seen people being happy.  See is the operative word, because more often than not, happy people can't help but show the world that they are happy.  They blog, post pictures, post status updates, and even share unsolicited stories about their happiness.  Good for them; I'm glad that things are going their way.

Thing is, 'yun nga... things are going their way, so much so that some of them have become oblivious to what's happening around them.  They forget everything else -- the world, their family, their friends, and even themselves.  In attempts to preserve this happiness, they blindly fight to keep things going their way, even to the point of losing everything else that *used to* matter.  They stop listening to other friends' advice, blissfully unaware that there are, in fact, other things to be concerned about.  Eh sa masaya ako eh. Why can't others be just plain happy for me?

Me, me, me.  That's what they all start to think about. ME AND MY HAPPINESSI am happy, so others should be happy for me or else shut the f*** up.


May 12, 2013

Tokyo, Japan 2013 (Day 7)


Sumo Morning

Yesterday burned quite a hole in our pockets, so we decided to take it easy for today. The weather was still cooperative, so we decided to check out our hostel's bulletin board for any free activities for that day.  Luckily, there was a free sumo wrestling tournament scheduled for that day, held in Yasukuni Shrine (near the Imperial Palace area). Supposedly, this event happens every year during April. Nice timing.

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That is one HUGE Otorii.

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Sumo wrestlers preparing themselves.  There's already a huge crowd by the time we arrived,
so we weren't able to get "good" seats.

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Paparazzi shot of the wrestlers waiting for their turn.


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Tokyo, Japan 2013 (Day 6)


Fish for Breakfast

The weather was getting better by Day 6, so we decided that it was time to go around the city once more and experience what Tokyo has to offer.

Our first stop was to have breakfast at the Tsukiji Market, a fish/wet market famous for its fish auctions.  See, the Japanese take seafood seriously--especially their fish.  Fresh catches of the morning are unloaded to the port just beside the market, where auctions are held as early as 4 o' clock in the morning. Wholesalers and restaurant owners are the usual clients for those auctions, and tourists/passersby are not normally allowed to watch (I think they have to secure a pass/ticket, or they have a cut-off of some sort).  We didn't bother to go to the auction because, well, because it was too damn early for us hehehe. What we're really interested in is what happens around the area.


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Looks yummy. I bet one leg packs more meat than our local alimasag.

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Left: Map of the Tsukiji Market area
Right: Various precautions for tourists to follow

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Even when the auctions are over, the place still looks busy.

The freshest seafood you can imagine are served at the restaurants surrounding the market.  Food bloggers already have picked their favorites, which can be observed by the looooooong line of people waiting to enter the restaurant.  Restaurants in Tsukiji Market are also counter-style, where the sushi chefs serve your food in front of you.

As we were pretty hungry by the time we arrived at the market, we did not bother queuing up the famous restaurants, and we just chose the first one that can accommodate us.  Malamang, whatever sushi they serve us will be a hundred times better than the sushi served back in the Philippines.  You can't get any more fresher than the fish in Tsukiji Market.

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One of the curious things we found in the market; 
I think this is one of those ingredients that make your food taste Japanese.

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Queue on one of the famous sushi restaurants in Tsukiji Market.

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Wasabi IRL!!! I'm so happy to have found these.  Naturally, I bought one to bring back home.

Oops, I just realized that I wasn't able to take pictures of the restaurant that we ate at.  I think we used Ge's camera for that.  Apologies, I was too busy enjoying my breakfast that I forgot to take a picture of it.  Tsk tsk.


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Around the City

After our breakfast, we headed out to view the other tourist spots of Tokyo.  Most of the day was spent walking (and taking the train); I must say that we were able to make the most of the weather, and nabawi naman namin 'yung mga araw na hindi kami nakapaglibot dahil sa ulan.

May 03, 2013

Dirty Bokeh

Just recently, I got a Canon EOS 500D (or Canon EOS Rebel T1i for those who follow the American branding). This is my first DSLR since I've taken interest in photography.  See, for the longest time I've been practicing SLR photography using film cameras, so to instantly witness captured images as they are translated into digitally-rendered pixels is an experience that is both gratifying and terrifying for me. 

Transitioning to Digital SLR Photography

This transition is gratifying because, now I can be as carefree as I want when taking shots.  I don't have to worry about optimizing 36 exposures, because now I can store all of my shots in a 16GB memory card.

However, this transition is also terrifying because, now I REALLY have to take care of my camera and its accessories.  Before, I had no worries about getting dust into my lens, because blemishes somehow add character to the film output.  Heck, I don't need Photoshop to give my images the vintage effect.  I'm using film, dammit! You can't get any more vintage-y than that.
But I digress.  Moving on...

Incidentally, the lenses that I'm using in my film SLR can also be used in my DSLR.  And thanks to the high-definition quality of digital images, I've come to realize how bad I was in maintaining my camera gear.

Dirty Bokeh


Notice the dark spots in these light balls. (click) 


Using my Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II lens to capture digital bokehs, I've noticed dark spots inside the light balls.  I've had this lens with me for over a year, and I've never had this kind of output before.  Only after showing it to my sister, I learned that this could be a result of fungal growth inside the lens.

How can camera lenses have fungal growth?

Fungi are attracted to dark, damp, and oxygenated places.  We see mushrooms sprouting more often during the rainy season, bread mold can be found on abandoned bread, and there's Athlete's Foot... you get the picture.  And camera lenses, when left unmaintained, are also likely targets for fungal growth, especially if we always leave our gear untouched inside camera bags.  The first part to get *infected* is the glass element of the lens.  And once the fungus reaches the phase where it is able to spore, you will have a fungal ecosystem inside your lens in no time.
Here are some images from my sister's badly infested Sigma lens:

Vintage Finds

**Edit: updated entry with link/samples of developed shots from the Yashica rangefinder. 

I have come to realize how old our house was; reflecting upon the various vintage stuff that we were able to unearth AND bring back to life again.

Old, but not in a bad way.  I was actually surprised how well preserved these finds are, as all that were needed were new batteries (assuming that the required battery model is still in production up until now) and some cleaning, and everything works like new again... so to speak.

1) Minolta SR-T 201

Matanda pa 'yan sa akin. 

This film SLR was actually my lolo's camera, passed on to his youngest son, then to my cousin, then to my sister and me. The first shots of this camera from us were taken by my sister, and during that time we were all reacquainting ourselves with film again, thus our n00b blunders while trying to work this thing.

Then came my interest in pursuing film photography.  Since the Minolta was the only working film camera in our house that time, my practice shots were mostly done on this camera.  I've tried color negatives, cross-processing, and even red-scaling on this one.

 

Only until recently I was able to discover how to work the zoom on the lenses.  Unfortunately, my discovery put significant stress on this old camera... suffice to say, I accidentally broke the lens.  The barrel came out of the mount, and mechanical camera pieces came out of the barrel.  I was able to put things back together decently, but unfortunately wasn't able to make the zoom work again.  Luckily, things were put back into order during my recent trip to Hidalgo.  The damage was 800 PhP, but at least I now am able to use Minolta like new again.


2) Yashica MG-1


Yes, this one's STILL older than me. 

This film rangefinder belongs to my dad naman.  I vaguely recall my mom bringing this out from the proverbial baul, when she noticed my sudden interest in film photography.  Back then I was only interested in SLRs, so I really didn't take any notice on this one.  Only when my sister showed this to me again did I realize that this may indeed be a worthy treasure.  300 PhP to the Hidalgo camera cleaners, and this one sparkled like new again.

We just loaded a roll of film (36 exp) last weekend, which still hasn't been used up.  The split-screen focus on the viewfinder is proving itself to be a challenge.  I will update you with the pictures... if any good ones get developed, hehe.


More pictures in my Flickr account. 

3) Pop Swatch Star Parade - PWB168


Children of the 80's unite! 

This watch was my sister's, given to her by our relatives living in the States.  According to the website I found, this model was released in the 1992 Spring Summer Collection... finally, a vintage find that isn't older than me!  The plastic mold that holds the watch face isn't as flexible as it was before, but the watch still works.  All it needed was a battery replacement (150 PhP in Swatch Kiosk - Mall of Asia), and some cleaning on the contact points on the battery, and voila, you can tell time with vintage style.  You gotta love these Swiss watches.

... So, what's my next vintage project?

 

You can't get any more vintage than THIS. 

I've been eyeing the vinyl records being kept in the cassette-tape player-recorder-slash-am-fm-radio-slash-phonograph, which is currently being used as a makeshift computer table (tsk, tsk, talk about disrespect to the classics).

Phonograph, pare.  Old school to the max.  The name in the component says National AM/FM Stereo Cassette System Royce SE-70, but I am unable to find such model in the internet (not even in Google images).

Just imagining being able to work this thing - placing the needles on the vinyl records, experiencing analog sound quality, complete with the faint rustle of the needle being in contact with the record... sigh, I'm getting goosebumps thinking about it.

I'm just wondering how much it would cost me to revive this thing.  Hope it wouldn't cost that much.

Hitback Hitback! The CDX Song

Fellow SPLers, sing with me if you remember this. :)

This one's gone viral during our pre-Oracle days, when we were still SPL, and CC&B was still called Cordaptix (CC&B v1.10?).

I think the song was inspired by one of Johnny Cash's songs, and was composed by the US counterparts.  Enjoy!




May 01, 2013

Where in the World...

...am I? 

As of this moment, I am leeching wi-fi Internet from the Lagnes Airport in Tromso, Norway.  My flight leaves in a couple of hours, and since I have some time to kill, I figured that the most productive way to do so is to blog.

Ah, blogging.  I remembered posting an entry lamenting on how I've been neglecting this blog for the most part of the year.  Being swallowed up by the micro-blogging hype, I paid more attention to my social networking accounts, and contented myself with giving out short bursts of updates to those interested in the happenings of my life. I concluded the entry with a pledge to go back to my blogging roots, and to write purposefully for a change.

Hmm.  THAT didn't happen now, did it?

I can come up with a few million excuses as to why I was not able to follow through on my promise.  Lack of time, lack of inspiration, lack of things to blog about... yadi yadi yah.  Regardless, the fact still remains that I was not able to keep up to that promise.  And now, here I am again, attempting to redeem myself.

There are a LOT of things I want to write about, especially now that I've had the opportunity to travel to new places for the past couple of months.  See, I was given an opportunity to go to Warsaw for three months, where I'm to support a client during their testing phase of the product (zzzz.... enough about that.  Work is the boring part of the adventure, anubaaa).  Since Warsaw is a part of the Schengen Area, my onsite opportunity also became an opportunity for me to explore the rest of Europe.  Europe, pare.

And boy, did I explore.  This year is most definitely MY year to travel, with my backpacking trips to Korea and Japan starting off the year:



As I was applying for my Schengen visa, I was able to catch up with friends in Singapore... 




...AND do some planking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 




I learned about the what really happened during the Holocaust, when I visted Krakow, Poland. 




Had my own taste of adventure, backpacking in Paris, France... 


I've Neglected this Blog Long Enough

Hardcore blogging may seem to be a dying medium versus micro-blogging.  With all the rage on Twitter, Tumblr, Plurk, Facebook, and what-else-is-there's, people can now give a snippet of their daily lives by answering the question, "What's on your mind?" 

For newbies, 140 characters (for Twitter, 420 characters for Facebook) may not be enough to fully express one's thoughts.  Fortunately, we humans are well-known for being adaptable, and in a short span of time we have mastered the art of suppressing our thought process just so we can broadcast to the world what we just had for dinner, or how many kilometers we were recently able to run.  Ain't that neat.

I got my first taste of micro-blogging through Plurk, and I really had a blast with it.  Not only was I able to instantly share stuff I found in the Net, I was also able to receive instant gratification from friends who respond to my posts.  But wait, there's more!!! Plurk also had this sassy way of ensuring that its patrons never get bored of micro-blogging: Karma.  Suddenly, petiks got promoted to being a social activity.

Enter Facebook, now the most widely-used social networking site, surpassing Friendster, MySpace and Multiply.  I was a bit of a late-bloomer to this site, having created an account just last year.  Facebook had no concept of Karma or any point system for that matter, but people are still able to instantly comment to your post, or even 'like' it and 'share' it to other friends.  News travels faster around Facebook.  Friends get reconnected here, as well.  And since Facebook also has its photo albums, old pictures start to resurface again, bringing back nostalgic memories every now and then.

Sure, we were all drawn into the flexibility of social networking, especially now that it also has the ease and convenience of micro-blogging.  Knowledge and information are literally at the fingertips of every user in the world.  Fame and influence can easily be attained by one click of the 'upload' button.

Look at the potential for greatness which can be found here in front of our screens.  Imagine how advanced our civilization could go, had the ancient philosophers and other great minds have given access to this technology.  And yet, why, WHY do I feel that we were given so much power, but we have no idea how to use it?


Backpacking Europe Part VI: More Warsaw

My apologies for the SUPER late post; it seems that I have re-acquired the habit of procrastinating. :(
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My last weeks onsite were spent walking around central Warsaw, trying to visit all the other tourist attractions and historical landmarks that I haven't gone to while living in Warsaw for three months.  Granted that Poland isn't THAT as magnificent when compared to its European neighbors, it also had its own share of rich history, both regal and somber.

WARSAW'S ROYAL CASTLES

Poland was ruled by monarchs up until the 16th century, when the country underwent various conquests and was divided up into different parts.  For at least a century, "Poland" as a nation ceased to exist, and the lands were claimed by neighboring countries.  Isn't that tragic?

There are two major castles-turned-museums that are open to the public; fairly easy to go to via public transport. These are the Royal Castle and the Wilanow Palace.

The Royal Castle

The Royal Castle was the official residence of the Polish monarchs, much like how Malacanang is to the president of the Philippines.  It is situated in the middle of Old Town, right next to a huge... well, in the Philippines we call it a plaza, but I think the correct term is a castle square.

Note that, as with the other structures in the Old Town, the Royal Castle is NOT the original castle as it has been rebuilt after Warsaw's destruction during World War II.  Still, there are a lot of artifacts that were preserved, worthy to view.  In these websites you can find information on the museum hours and ticket rates, and I think it will be helpful to note that admission is free (on certain areas) during Sundays.

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Left: One of the chandeliers in the Royal Castle.  Amazing how they are able to retain the details.
Right: Tourist viewing the paintings in the Royal Castle.  Artwork is impressive there, too. 


Wilanow Palace

Wilanow Palace was built for one of the Polish monarchs (I think).  This palace is larger in floor area than the Royal Castle primarily because of its courtyard, which supposedly is beautiful during the spring or summer.  Too bad I went there during late autumn, so what welcomed me is a depressing vastness of grey. Boo.

This palace is situated somewhere on the edge of the city center, but is still commutable by bus.  Museum hours can be found here, and ticket rates here.  The Palace is supposedly free of charge during Sundays, and the Park on Thursdays, but during my visit the palace was closed off (probably because of some renovation--a lot of those were going on during may stay, maybe because they were preparing for the Euro Cup) so all I got to do was to roam around the forlorn courtyard.

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Left: Wilanow Palace from the front.  That is one HUGE lawn,
and there are cherry blossom trees scattered, but none of them are in bloom. Boo.
Right: Sculptures in the courtyard.  Next to balding trees and shades of grey, the coutyard looks haunting. 



I Am Number 29

The clock strikes twelve and I am 29.  Well, if I want to be REALLY accurate, I'll officially age at around 5 o'clock or so in the morning.  But as far as birthdays go, now is an acceptable time for me to increment my age. 

29. Twenty-nine. Veint y nueve anos. Dios mio.

I'll have the entire year to mope at my sad, sorry state of having one year left to savor my being in the twenties, so enough about that.

As far as quarter-life crisis goes, I should be well over that phase, now that I'm actually past that mark by, say, a good four years or so.  True, I still live with my parents, I don't have my own car, I don't earn six digits a month, I'm still quite far from having my first million worth of savings, I'm far from being  married (or engaged) and I don't own an iPod, iPhone, or any Mac product for that matter.  But now that I'm about to be a year older again, and another step closer to the big three-O, I guess it's high time to stop regretting and holding on to those hang-ups, and start feeling good about life, and everything that has brought me here.

So what better way to start appreciating life, than counting your blessings?  Let's do 29:
  1. I still sleep on a nice, comfy, and warm bed that I don't want to get out of every morning.
  2. I live in a house with cable, internet, and three malls within a 30-minute radius.
  3. The village I live in has the best isaw... well, next to the orange isaw at UP.
  4. I have two alternatives to commuting; one actually stops one block away from my street, during the ride home.
  5. We have Sereni-days in the office!
  6. Despite the hectic workload, I am still able to take leaves if I want to. Or even work from home, if necessary.
  7. I am able to travel for leisure.  I have been to Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
  8. I have been to Korea...
  9. ...and I am going to Japan!
  10. I have seen snow, and even fell on my butt on it.  Ouchies.

Hey, Hey, Hey! Tabulas is Back!

...but is it back for good? That I don't know.

Finally, Tabulas was able to put their site back up again (http://tabulas.co), but I'm not sure until when.  They're still trying to complete migration of entries for all accounts, and there still are some bugs here and there. Nevertheless, I'm glad that I am able to access my old entries again, whee!

(Shameless plug of my old blog: http://blog-mo-mukha-mo.tabulas.co... the latest blog post that they were able to migrate was from September 10, 2010.  Pwede na, at least they were able to salvage my Backpacking Europe posts.)

The backup functionality still isn't working, but I'm hoping they'll be able to fix it soon.  For the moment, I'll be going back to some of my Reblog posts, and patch up any entries with missing texts.

Oh, and get ready for another spammage of From the Baul reposts, while I migrate some more of my favorite entries from Tabulas to here. Rest muna ako from posting about Japan hehehe.