Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Birthday celebration part 1

I just turned 31. And surprisingly enough (or well maybe not really), I still don’t feel the same, er, despair that other people feel when they hit this age. After all, as some people say, next year, my age will no longer be in the calendar (unless maybe you follow a different calendar and not the one where each month has only 31 days at most. But I digress…)

The celebration has once again been one that is spread out over several days, and in fact it isn’t over yet. It began last Saturday when my “office” barkada (of course we are all now spread out over different companies, hence the quotes around office) treated me to dinner in Zigurrat. I was actually late for dinner because I was cleaning my place (we were going to head there after dinner to play poker) and when I got to the resto, most of the folks were comfortably seated on the floor with their shoes off to the side and the food had already been served – Pia (who organized the event), Joh, Raffa, Chris, Che, Hannah, and Tim (who was actually on a call when I arrived and he hadn’t eaten so I guess for all intents and purposes I got there before he did. Not that it matters). A few minutes later, Meann arrived so the only person (among those of us still here in Manila) who was missing was Peegee, who had a prior engagement. I’m not really a fan of eating while sitting on the floor, mainly because I can’t sit still for very long and sitting on the floor makes me fidget a lot. The good thing though was that I found a cylindrical pillow that doubled as a stool, so I ended up eating fairly comfortably without having to stretch and re-stretch my legs every so often. The food was good, but it was quite expensive (not that it was a surprise since (1) most Indian and Persian-type restaurants are quite expensive and (2) Pia did download the . And since our tradition is that the birthday celebrator gets treated for dinner and everyone else pays, I actually felt awkward when I found out that everyone had to shell out almost P800 each!!!

So I easily agreed when the gang asked me to buy them dessert, which ended up being 94% fat-free Selecta ice cream which we just took to my pad. I had to ask both Hannah and Joh the ice cream would have that fat-free taste (i.e. not very good), and they both said that it wouldn’t so I agreed with our choice. But after trying it, I have decided that unless I go on a diet, I am steering clear of fat-free foods (except Coke light and Diet Pepsi).

When we got to my place, we ended up playing several rounds of no-limit Texas hold 'em (for those of you who don't get sportsplus, that's poker). Hannah was tired and just snuggled up in bed and had one half-asleep eye on the poker game and the other half-asleep eye on the TV. Everyone else was in the game. We decided before starting that we wouldn’t put any money in the game. Which essentially meant that people ended up being thoroughly aggressive with their betting. We had people throwing inordinate amounts of money, if not going all in even when they had awful cards, but that made for a more interesting game coz you couldn’t really tell what was gonna happen. First one out was Chris, followed by Pia. Che got pulled into an issue in the middle of the game so Chris subbed for her after he was eliminated, and after a few more rounds he got eliminated once again. By then it was quite late by our standards, and so the remaining people – me, Meann, Joh, Raffa, and Tim – decided to play one last round. I was the short stack, and when I went all in, everyone else decided to call to make it a fun final round. I was lucky to get two pairs (aces and deuces) and so I ended up one of the big winners along with Joh (we never really counted the chips we had so we don’t know who had the most “money” at the end of the game).

So that was part 1 of my celebration. The rest will follow in separate blog posts…

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Canadians rule. At least in Rockstar.

Well, well, well. Last week, the second season of Rockstar Supernova came to an end, with what was to me a surprising result. Lukas Rossi was selected to front the band. I figured that either Dilana or Toby would take top honors. Dilana has been incredibly strong throughout the competition (from a performance standpoint at least) and her intensity on stage and unique vocal identity made her a shoo-in for the top two (she did land there of course), but her emotional breakdowns due to the negative portrayal she received on the show put question marks on what I thought was a sure thing. And of course there always is that question as to whether the band would really pick a female to front them. Toby Rand was an early frontrunner before turning in a couple of lackluster performances in the middle of the season. But he pulled a few killer performances out of the hat towards the end of the season and came up with an amazing original. And the fact that he is a chick magnet and has a musical style that is well suited to Supernova’s made me think he may just prove to be the upset of the season.

The upset did come of course (at least to me it was an upset) but not in the form I was expecting. I knew Magni wouldn’t make the top 3 (in fact, I felt that the only reason he made it this far was so that the show would rake in massive voting revenues in Europe, particularly in Iceland). But if I had to put money into it, I would have bet that Supernova would end up choosing between Dilana and Toby. Good thing I didn’t.

Interestingly enough, the winners of the two seasons of the Rockstar, er, “franchise” came from Canada - JD Fortune who now fronts INXS and now Lukas. With JD, I feel the selection was made mainly because his style of music matched that of INXS more than anyone else in that season. With Lukas, however, I feel the decision was made for two reasons - because he was consistent throughout the season (Supernova could count on him putting in one solid show after another), he wouldn’t breakdown emotionally like Dilana (or at least he hasn’t shown any signs of it), and he was never in the bottom three at the end of voting (which meant he had a very strong following which could translate to more sales for the band later on). Of course, I still agree with Jason – Lukas’ singing sounds too constricted, and in fact in a lot of cases I don’t actually understand the words coming out of Lukas’ mouth which means I personally don’t think his performances were all that solid. But well I guess it’s all a matter of preference. To each his or her own, as they say.

All in all, a pretty great season with a lot of great talent. My favorite of the season has to be Ryan Star, who I believe was eliminated prematurely (my favorite performance of the season has to be his ‘Losing my religion’ coz prior to that I actually thought he wasn’t good at all and then all of a sudden, just like that, I turned into a fan. I put the video below...). So it was cool that he ended up being a fan favorite and won for himself a car. Dilana is naturally up there, probably my second fave. And for someone who hates singers with pitch problems, I am quite surprised that I actually really enjoyed watching Zayra (or well okay maybe I enjoyed watching her and not listening to her).

I wonder whether there will be another season of Rockstar. And if there will be one, will it be for another band that, together, has never come up with an album prior to the show. I guess the band is a bit lucky that they have the popularity of reality TV to ride on because I really think that their originals are not too good. Ryan, Storm, and Toby all had originals that are so much cooler and edgier. Good luck to everyone on the show. I hope they all got the jumpstart to their careers that they all would have wanted.

Oh, and for those of you who don’t know who I am talking about, here are some videos for your enjoyment:

Ryan Star performing REM’s ‘Losing my religion

Dilana performing Nirvana’s ‘Lithium

Zayra performing Tommy Tutone's '8675309 Jenny'

Sunday, September 17, 2006

What a difference a year makes

About a year ago, I was arguably in the best physical shape of my life. This was due mainly to the amount and to the frequency of exercise I was doing at the time. Gym three times a week, tennis three times a week, and a long distance run on the weekend meant I had a pretty intense level of athletic activity every day of the week.

With my schedule getting freed up quite a bit recently, I decided to replicate that exercise schedule. So I started hitting the gym again, with three workouts every week. I alternated that with tennis lessons twice a week. Then I would play badminton during the weekend. So not as intense as last year’s regimen, but it definitely isn’t a sedentary lifestyle.

Unfortunately, I cannot say that my fitness level is anywhere near where it was last year. It seems that the frequency of my physical activity now leaves my muscles feeling sore most of the time. If I had to guess, I would say that this can mainly be attributed to the fact that my body is not repairing itself as quickly as it used to and I end up exercising even if my muscles still haven’t recovered 100% . I’ve started to feel better much more quickly now than about a month ago, but I do wish I didn’t feel sore as often as I do.

Of course, it could also be due to the fact that my tennis lessons are tougher now. Which is good because it would seem to indicate that I have marginally improved. Something must have clicked in my brain too (or with my coordination), because my backhand is now stronger, more accurate, and more consistent. I can’t say the same about my forehand though. Hopefully I can get that to change soon enough.

Then again, my gym workouts aren’t as hard as they were last year. Or at least I don’t think they are. I am probably bench-pressing about 70% of what I bench-pressed last year. Maybe I had bad form last year (although I did have a trainer so I am guessing that wasn’t the case). Or maybe the stress I experienced at work led me to lose muscle mass and strength.

I could spend a lot more time trying to come up with a lot of theories as to what’s going on. But at the end of the day, I wouldn’t arrive at any useful conclusion. In truth, I shouldn’t dwell too much on the difference between where I am now and where I was before. I should just focus on trying to be as fit as I can.

I have decided though that I should already start training for next year’s marathon. The plan: run 5km on a treadmill (which I did last week) and increase that each week by one kilometer. If I can keep this up, then by the time we get to next year’s Milo marathon, I should be in fairly decent shape. Or at least hopefully in better shape than I was last July.