Monday, August 06, 2018

Goodbye, Ludo Makati

Another sad moment for the Metro Manila board gaming community. Ludo: Boardgame Bar and Bistro in Makati is now closed. They shared this post on facebook a month ago:

My friends and I spent many fun evenings in Ludo Makati so we decided to play there one last time before it closed. While we normally play the games that are available there, this time around, we brought a couple of games with us, although we only got to play one of the games we brought: Radiers of the North Sea. Cla had been raving about this game so a lot of us were very interested to try it. In this worker placement game, you have Viking warriors and you try to gain the most points by raiding the most valuable settlements, increasing your military strength, and going up the Valkyrie track when your Vikings perish during raids. We got to play it twice that night. I won the first game and placed a close second in the next game (I lost by only 2 points). Thankfully, the game lived up to the hype and I enjoyed it. It's currently ranked 117 on BoardGameGeek so I guess many other people enjoy playing this game too.

Raiders of the North Sea

The other new game I got to play that night was Bärenpark. This is a tile-laying game where players try to build the best bear parks :). The tiles are of different shapes and sizes so the strategy involved is figuring out where on your park to place any of the tiles currently in your hand so that you get the tiles that you want that will fit and cover as much of the space left in your park. It's a cool, quick game and despite the fact that all of us had not played it before, we picked up on the gameplay quite quickly. In fact, we ended up playing it three times. I won on my third try, and it was a pretty good win because in the previous games, everyone completed their bear parks once end-game was triggered but in this last game, I was the only one able to completely fill my park. I ended up with the highest score of the night in that game - 107 - which was also the only time any of us breached 100. Cool! Cla has now gotten her own copy of this game so I am sure we will get to play this again.


We started the afternoon with me teaching Kat how to play Sagrada  and we ended the night playing Puerto Rico. In Puerto Rico, another game I really like, I did my coffee plantation approach, which is the same thing I did the last time I played this game (also in Ludo). This must be a good approach because both times that I employed this strategy, I won. :)

It's too bad Ludo: Boardgame Bar and Bistro is now closed. I guess if I want another Ludo experience, I can gather my friends who are based in the North to play in their QC branch.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Manila Pen Staycation

After I stayed at Hotel Intercon a few years ago, I got reminded of the Peninsula Manila, or more popularly called Manila Pen, and how I used to stay there quite a bit. Not because I had lots of money to throw away LOL but because the company I worked for had a fantastic corporate rate with Manila Pen. In fact, I wasn't the only one who did this; many of my colleagues did the same. Anyway, I was looking for hotel rooms recently because I wanted to book a place for a game night I was hosting when I saw that Manila Pen had some good rates. While I didn't originally plan on booking a room here, after thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided to book a room here for a weekend staycation.

It's been such a long time since I stayed at the Manila Pen so my memory could be deceiving me but the room I booked seems to be a bit more modern than what I remember. I don't know if this is because they renovated in the last decade. In any case, the room looked really good.

My booking didn't include breakfast so I was initially toying with the idea of just paying for it but I think the buffet breakfast cost P1,600++ so I decided to just sleep in and skip breakfast altogether. :) I do remember enjoying the breakfast spread at the Manila Pen so maybe the next time I am there, I will make a booking that includes breakfast. I have to say that the lobby still remains one of the best hotel lobbies in Manila, with its very high ceiling, its spaciousness, the lighting, and the atmosphere. Every time I passed by the lobby, whether when I was checking in or out or heading out for dinner, it was full of people enjoying the hotel lobby service.

I found my weekend staycation at the Peninsula Manila to be very cozy, comfortable, and luxurious and the vibe in the hotel is still great. If I see a good deal online, maybe I might just book a room here again.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Que Jianyu Juggles and Solves 3 Rubik's Cubes!

Wow, I am lost for words. It's hard enough to solve a Rubik's cube under time pressure, much less three of them simultaneously. But to do so while juggling all three of them? I am absolutely blown away. This kid, Que Jianyu, is not only a genius, he is also extremely adroit with preternatural hand-to-eye coordination.

video uploaded in youtube by Guinness World Records

The interesting thing is that the Guinness World Record he got is for the fastest time to solve three Rubik's cubes while juggling them. Does that means other people can do it and have held the record before? I guess if this kid can do it, it's not hard to imagine there are at least a few other geniuses out there in the world like him. Gotta, I loved his reactions when he completed the task and then again when his Guinness World Record was confirmed. Congratulations, Que Jianyu!

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Kanban, Grand Austria Hotel, and Other Games

One of the most interesting new board games recently is Kanban: Driver's Edition. This is one of the most complex games I had played in a while. The premise of the game is that you are a worker at a car assembly line company and you are looking to achieve the strongest results that will be noticed by plant manager and the board of directors. These results can be in the form of the number of cars, car part upgrades, and tested designs you have, certifications you've attained, and performance goals you've achieved.

Kanban: Driver's Edition

It's really quite complex since you need to keep track of so many things at the same time. I had to ask our game master to explain how to get tested designs and do upgrades on more than one occasion. So I was pretty shocked that I ended up winning since I didn't think I was being that competitive. I guess my strategy of getting as many tested designs as possible - even without knowing how they were scored LOL - and getting seats at the board and achieving many performance goals helped.

The Kanban board gives you an idea just how busy this game is

Kanban: Driver's Edition is from the same maker as The Gallerist - Vital Lacerda - and a friend of mine asked me whether I preferred The Gallerist or Kanban. I had to tell him that it at this point in time, it feels like I like Kanban more, but I'm not sure if it's because of the car theme, because I played it more recently, or because I won. That said, I do think The Gallerist is not as complex (although it is complex enough as it is) and I do like the premise of that one as well. I would definitely like to play Kanban again.

While we're on the topic, I also broke a promise I made to myself late last year: that I wouldn't any new board games until I had played 75% of the games and expansions I had. I hadn't reached that target quite yes - I have only played 2/3 of my games and expansions - but an opportunity presented itself that warranted this oath to be broken. Someone posted on a social media page I follow that he was selling three games at a steal price - Dinosaur Island, Grand Austria Hotel, and Super Motherload - and two of them were games that I really wanted to get. Grand Austria Hotel had been in my radar since last year and none of my friends have it. I also thought my other boardgaming groups would enjoy Dinosaur Island because of it's theme and its gameplay. As such, I decided to forego my promise to myself and get those games. The cool thing is that soon after I made this purchase, I got to play both Dinosaur Island and Grand Austria Hotel already.

My new games

While I had played Dinosaur Island before, I hadn't played Grand Austria Hotel yet so in our July game night, I read the rules and taught my friends (not very well, unfortunately) how to play. The object of this game is to run the most successful hotel by having the best and the most guests stay in your hotel rooms, hire the best staff, and achieve game objectives. I ended up in second place but I was happy that I got to have the most guests. It was the first time any of us played Grand Austria Hotel and I didn't explain the rules well enough so my friends said that we should play it again soon.

My hotel and staff in Grand Austria Hotel

The problem with getting new games is that it kinda opened the floodgates a bit. It didn't help that Ludo in Makati was closing so all games had 20% discount when paying with cash (and 10% with card). Because of this, I ended up getting a couple of new expansions as well -Scythe The Wind Gambit and Dungeon Petz Dark Alleys. With so many new games and expansions, I need to be a bit more disciplined and not get more of them LOL. Hopefully, I get to achieve my 75% target by the end of the year. :)

Friday, July 27, 2018

More Reunions

This year continues to be the year of reconnecting for me, and I'm very grateful for the many opportunities I've had to spend quality time with so many wonderful people. The biggest reunion I had this year was with the department I worked in in my second company. It was multiple generations of our department, but as I did work there for many years, I actually recognized majority of the people who were there. I hadn't seen many of them in more than a decade so it was tremendously satisfying to spend a wonderful evening catching up with many incredibly amazing people like Angel, Ces, Ella, Led, Afi, Vei, Romi, Benj, and many more. It was also the first time I got to see Kleng since she returned to Manila, despite a couple of attempts for us to meet up prior to that.

There was a smaller version of that reunion a few weeks earlier. Amy and Duncan were in Manila and they had very limited time to meet up with friends so they organized dinner one stormy night in BGC. I got stuck in bad traffic so I only made it for dessert. Not only did I get to catch up with both of them (and their kids who are now both really big), I also got to hang out with Shawie, Michelle, Marion, and Celle. I think the last time I hung out with Michelle and Marion was during team events. With Shawie, it was even longer, because it must have been when we were still working on the same project maybe 16 or 17 years ago. Wow!

I also had dinner with Kat, Sol, and Aren in Spatzle in Shang Mall. Aren requested that we meet in Shang Mall and I suggested Spatzle because it is one of my favorite restaurants there. The last time I saw Sol was more than a year ago - we both resigned on the same day - and I last saw Aren during the wedding of Auds and Primo a few years ago. It was a lot of fun hearing the new challenges each of us were facing since all of us were now working in different places. It was also really fun to hear Sol talk about her recent furniture purchases. :) I'm happy that the folks also enjoyed the food in Spatlze. I normally order the Roesti Complet when I'm there but that night, I ordered the Risotto con Maiale, which is creamy truffle risotto with crisp pork belly and asparagus. It was really good!

Risotto con Maiale from Spatzle

Not all my recent get-togethers were done over dinner, though. One of them, with my college friends, was done over brunch. Lala went to a wine sale and she took orders from many of us. She had a few boxes of wine so she suggested that we have brunch in Ortigas so everyone can get their orders. We had breakfast at Wildflour in Podium and it was good that Jed was able to join us because he had a flight that afternoon.

I also got to catch up with Krizel for coffee at UCC on a day that I didn't have work. It was funny because this was the second time we were having coffee together and each time, there are just so many stories to share before she had to go back to work that we always forgot to take a photo of ourselves. The cool thing was that after coffee/brunch with Krizel, I had dinner with AJ and Tin later in the evening. It had been more than a year since I had dinner with AJ and Tin and it's always great catching up with these two because there are always a ton of stories to share. AJ is getting married soon and she is really busy with the preparations so thankfully, we found a schedule that worked for all of us. Tin wanted to have dinner somewhere not too near her office so we ended up meeting in Little Flour, which is Wildflour's little sister. Funny how I ended up catching with two separate sets of friends in the "flour" sisters in a short period of time. :)

Finally, another brunch reunion. (Can you say Titos and Titas of Manila? LOL) Alvin was in Manila and was staying in the Rockwell area so he asked if anyone from our high school batch was free for brunch in that area. A few of us were so we joined him in Refinery. I see Joyce a lot and I've seen Elaine a few times over the last few years but I can't really remember the last time I saw Alvin so it must have been many years ago. We met at 10:30 and while Alvin had to leave at 1pm for another appointment, the rest of us hung out together until almost 2:30pm. There were some discussions about more plans that our high school batch has so I'm excited to see those plans brought to fruition.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Kitchen Sink Catastrophe

So I was pulling stuff out from the cabinet underneath my kitchen sink when I felt that it was warm inside. I wasn't quite sure why. That is, until I started moving things around and I noticed that a paper bag was soaking wet. It was at that point that I realized that there was a leak somewhere.  I immediately asked a plumber to take a look. When he checked my plumbing, he told me that the flexible hoses were leaking and that I had to replace them with new ones. It was late in the evening with no chance to buy the hoses until the next day so the plumber told me to just call again once I had the hoses.

The next day, I got the correct hoses from a hardware store and I asked the plumber to come back. However, it was a different guy who came (the one who visited me the previous night had already gone home that evening) so I had to explain to this new guy what the problem was. He said that it was only one of the two flexible hoses that had a problem so he replaced just the one and told me to keep the other as a back-up. I thanked him for his help.

A couple of hours later, I felt that my cabinet would already be dry enough for me to put back all the stuff in it when I notice that a puddle had formed underneath the hoses again. There was still a leak. I asked the plumber to come back and he said that the other hose was apparently also leaking. I hand him my second hose and he proceeded to remove the leaky one that was still currently installed to replace it.

Then, disaster. Apparently, the plumber didn't turn the water source off so as soon as he removed the defective hose, water started to come out of my plumbing, much like water coming out of a faucet that was fully turned all the way up. It badly drenched the bottom of my cabinet and very quickly, water started pouring outside the cabinet. The plumber initially stuck an empty water bottle underneath the nozzle and told me to hold it in place while he turned off the power source. Unfortunately, the water flow was so strong that the water bottle filled up really quickly. I swapped it with a bucket. After several seconds, the bucket was close to being filled when finally the water stopped flowing. To say that was stressful was a big understatement.

It was 11:30PM when this happened and while I was initially very thankful that the plumber was helping me late at night, I was now quite irate. After all, it should be in a plumber's standard operating procedure to make sure that the water source is shut down before trying to repair any plumbing problems. I now had to dry my cabinet and the surrounding areas at close to midnight on a week night instead of getting ready to go to bed. It was around 12:30am when I finished cleaning up but I was still in a pretty foul mood, which meant that I couldn't even sleep immediately.

The positive thing is that at least the leak in my kitchen sink has been repaired. I also ended up noticing quite a few items in my cabinet that I didn't need anymore so I ended up doing some decluttering and throwing out stuff I didn't need anymore. Still, it was quite an unpleasant experience in the middle of the week at a very inopportune time. Hopefully, I don't have any other similar problems in the near future.

Friday, July 20, 2018

MSJO win 1st place at the Summa Cum Laude Festival!

This is more than a week late but this piece of news made me very happy. The Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra (MSJO) returned to Austria this year to compete again at the Summa Cum Laude International Music Festival and they finished in First Place with outstanding success in the String Orchestra Category. Congratulations!

I became fans of the MSJO when I saw them perform last year. It was already an incredible honor that they represented the Philippines at this prestigious international festival so I felt that their second place finish in 2017 was already a massive achievement. Little did I know that a year later, they would go a step further by winning 1st place. Amazing!!!

My friend texted me late this afternoon asking me if I was interested to watch the performance of the MSJO and other orchestras at the CCP tonight but I wasn't available. It's been more than a year since I got to see them perform so I am hoping I can watch them again soon.

Congratulations again, Manila Symphony Junior Orchestra!