Monday, March 28, 2011

F1 season begins

The Formula One 2011 season kicked off with the Qantas Australian Grand Prix. Picking up from where he left off last season, Sebastian Vettel blazed ahead of the pack and won the race ahead of McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Renault's Vitaly Petrov. With 18 more races in the season, it should be interesting if both Vettel and Red Bull Racing can build on their 2010 success and win both the drivers and constructors championships this year or if Hamilton and McLaren, or someone else for that matter, can steal the show.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Name a movie that begins with 'R'

I'll give you two: 'Red Riding Hood' and 'Rango'. I got a chance to watch both these movies recently, which is great given that my workload has been immensely hectic. I wanted to see 'Red Riding Hood' because I found the trailer and the concept really interesting, while 'Rango' had a really high rating from critics in Rotten Tomatoes so I thought I should go see it as well.

Strangely enough, my reactions to both films were quite the opposite of the ratings they got from both critics and general audiences. I though 'Rango' was just okay. The story was good and the animation was fantastic. In fact, it is probably one of the most well-animated films I have ever seen, and the man in that scene where Rango talks to the Spirit of the West looked so real that it had me - and still has me - wondering if the man is real or animated. Nevertheless, I wasn't as entertained by it as other people who have seen it. I guess that might be partly due to the fact that I've never really been a fan of Westerns.

On the other hand, I found 'Red Riding Hood' really entertaining despite the film being panned by critics and most other viewers who watched it. I liked the fact that this werewolf film got its inspiration from, and built its story around, a fairy tale from which it took its title. It took several elements from the classic children's story - from the big bad wolf to the grandmother and her house to the actual red hood - and weaves all that into a murder-mystery framed against a love story. I wasn't necessarily inspired by the romantic angle and I correctly guessed who the werewolf was early on. Despite this, I liked the drama, the tension, and the conflict in 'Red Riding Hood', and I thought the period setting, along with the stunning cinematography and visual effects, made it a really good watch. When I think about it, though, I think the solid performances from the cast, specifically Amanda Seyfried, Gary Oldman, and Julie Christie (who played the grandmother) truly sold the film.

I still tend to miss a lot of movies that I want to see (example: Adjustment Bureau). Hopefully I can find time to visit the cinema more often.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Amazing Race: Kids Edition

CSR, or Corporate Social Responsibility, has been a really huge part of my life these last 4 years. I currently lead the CSR initiatives of my entire company and also of my department. Obviously, the company-wide efforts are more major and our department works on supporting this. However, once in a while, our department organizes our own CSR activities to provide opportunities for more employees to volunteer and to enhance organization-building.

Last March 19, the CSR team of our department organized an event for kids from the Children's Joy Foundation. We fetched 35 kids from their home in QC and took them to the La Mesa Eco-Park. Our activity was inspired by the reality TV series 'The Amazing Race' - five teams composed of kids and adult volunteers had to go through six different tasks before making their way to the pit stop. As such, we named our event "Amazing Race: Kids Edition". All tasks were all simple enough for the kids to do and were designed to maximize interaction and cooperation among the kids and the volunteers. The final task each team had to complete was putting together a simple jigsaw puzzle.

After all tasks were complete, food was served and prizes and loot bags were given to all the kids. I put together the loot bags and made sure that they had items that would help aid in the learning and development of the kids. As such, the loot bags contained pens, pencils, colored pencils, a notebook, modeling clay, an eraser, a sharpener, a small toy, and some biscuits. That way, they could enjoy these items even weeks after our event which would make the impact of our event more long-lasting than just on that day. Before we left La Mesa Eco-Park, the kids surprised us with a beautiful song number that expressed their gratitude to us and left a few volunteers teary-eyed.

It took a couple of months of planning, organization, and execution to pull off this event but in the end, it was a massive success. The 57 volunteers was the most we've ever had for a CSR event for our department and on our way home, I overheard a lot of kids say this was the most fun activity they ever had. One of the adult supervisors from Children's Joy Foundation sent me a text message thanking us and saying this was the first time the kids attended something like this and it made them truly happy. I'm just happy that I have the opportunity to be involved in efforts to give back to the community.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lucky year?

In early February, I managed to catch a ponkan during a Chinese New Year lion dance while I was in Singapore. Apparently that meant I would have a lucky year. Well, it looks like I'm going to get even more good fortune.

I was in church last Sunday but there were no more seats inside so I stood outside, underneath a tree. Then, SPLAT! Something fell on my shoulder and when I look at it, I see bird droppings. Ugh! I had to clean the droppings with what I think was dirty water from a large water container in the restroom (there was no running water from the faucet) but it was the lesser of two evils. I made sure to get cleaned up right after mass. It is said though that having bird droppings fall on you is a sign of good luck. I guess my luck is already starting to show. The droppings could've fallen on my hair and not on my shirt. :)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Big eating

Food seems to be such a big part of my life nowadays. A lot of it. Started out with a buffet lunch in Heat on Saturday with my high school friends. Lia, Ferdie, and their son JC were in town and were staying in Edsa Shangri-La hotel so they suggested we just have lunch there. Joyce, Anna, Mitch and Aidan (plus Ferdie's sister) and I joined them and feasted on the wonderful spread of food in Heat. I think the buffet costs about P1,250++ which I felt was a good price for the quality and variety of food there, but lucky for us, Lia and Ferdie took the bill.

Immediately after lunch, I walk over to CPK in the Shangri-La mall to attend Lexi's first birthday party. Raffa and Joh always have really cool parties for their kids, and this was no exception. They had a kid-friendly puppet show with a whole variety of very colorful and entertaining puppets and someone who made the most clever and unique "balloon animals". They also prepared more than enough food for all the guests. I was still full but managed to have some pasta, pizza, and salad.

Later that night, I had dinner with Tim in Empire Deli in the Piazza in McKinley Hill. We opted to split a burger (50/50 I think it was called because it is a split between beef and bacon and it was pretty sizable) and a salmon dish. I had Eggs Benedict in Empire Deli before and I thought it was pretty good. The burger and the salmon were equally delicious. Looks like I will have to try the other items on their menu soon.

On Monday night, Joyce organized a night out with Lia and Ferdie since they were leaving in a few days. The initial plan was to go to Music Match in Ortigas Home Depot but a lot of people backed out at the last minute so it ended up being just Lia, Mitch, Joyce, and Iona (minus Anna who had already left for SG). Mitch suggested we just have dinner in her house and as is often the case, she prepared a lot of food, including lasagna. I love Mitch's lasagna, and I ended up stuffing myself silly with it plus a lot of the other dishes there.

I've said it before and I'm saying it again, I need to start hitting the gym again to make sure I don't start gaining too much weight. Its all talk right now, though, so I need a lot more discipline to make sure I lead a healthier lifestyle despite my very busy schedule.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Junior MasterChef Australia

One of my favorite TV shows now is Junior MasterChef Australia. I find cooking shows interesting to watch because (1) I love food haha and (2) it's amazing to see people's creativity and what they can come up with in a kitchen and under time pressure. So when you see kids ages 8 to 12 put together dishes that look like they can be served in a top-level restaurant.

The cool thing about this show as well is that the judges are very positive in their critiques without being patronizing to the kids. It would be so easy to overpraise the contestants because they are so young, and obviously you do get to hear a lot of compliments given out for fantastic dishes. And obviously, the contestants are still in their pre-teens so it doesn't make sense for the judges to give out scathing critiques. Instead, you get to hear the judges provide very constructive feedback to help the kids improve, like "if you had a bit more time and kept the pastry in the over a bit longer, it would've been perfect." The show really does maintain a very positive atmosphere and it focuses on the actual talents and output of the contestants. I wish more reality TV contests would take their cue from Junior MasterChef.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

"Never miss a beat" by The Kaiser Chiefs

Ace tune from an ace band! And the video is pretty cool too. :) video uploaded in youtube by user LiberationMusicAus

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Liverpool beat Man Utd!

Liverpool are not having a good season right now and the odds are slim that they make the top 4 and get into the Champions League next season. Still, this season has had a couple of high points. Beating Chelsea back in Feb was one of them. Thumping Manchester United is another. Woo-hoo! It was a convincing 3-1 win, with Liverpool the dominant team throughout the match. Man Utd managed to score a consolation goal at the 92nd minute but this result is a truly great result for Liverpool. While they may not have been stellar against lesser teams, they've managed quite well against the top tier teams. I just wish they could display a bit more consistency throughout the season. If they played this way most of the time, they'd be near or at the top of the league.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Keeping house

I've been staying in my place now for more than 5 years and I guess at some point things are bound to break down and need maintenance or repair. My flat is no exception. First to "go" was my bathroom sink. It started to get a bit clogged and I tried to de-clog it myself by pulling out stopper and clearing all the stuff that had accumulated there over the years. The only problem was that when I pulled out the stopper, a tiny piece of the pop-up assembly fell into the drain which prevented the stopper from popping up when I needed it to. I had to ask for a plumber to come in and fix it LOL.

Second was my microwave. It stopped working. Thankfully Whirlpool do home service so I didn't have to leave my house for them to take a look. Apparently my microwave keypad was broken and needed to be replaced. Cost including labor would be P1200++. Ouch. But well I guess that's better than buying a new microwave. So I had the defective keypad replaced a few days later.

Then I had to have my washer-dryer cleaned. I found that out when I went to use it one day and realized that the fabric conditioner I put into the tray in my last wash was still there. I had LA Germania service (which once again does home service) check out my washer-dryer and they said that my machine needed cleaning. It would take a week so I made sure I washed all my laundry before having them pick it up. They returned it the week after - cleaning cost P1,850 but I was thankful for the P500 discount since the quoted maintenance cost was P2,250 - and it was great to see my machine cleaning and drying my clothes better than it has in the last couple of years.

I also needed to replace a couple of light bulbs and have my aircon cleaned. So all in all a lot of stuff in my house that needed some sorting out. Took quite a big chunk out of my paycheck but it is nice to have things in order again.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

My new iPod Touch

The major project I completed with dozens of other people at work a couple of months ago was a huge success, arguably our biggest success last year. It was a incredible effort but the great thing about it was that everyone who worked on it got a pretty snazzy gift. I was one of the dozen or so key contributors, and all of us ended up getting a 32Gb iPod Touch. Cool! I haven't been able to set it up yet, though. Hopefully, I manage to do that in the next few weeks. After all, it'll be a lot easier to use than my current iPod.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Bartender" by Dave Matthews Band

One of my favorite DMB songs.

video uploaded in youtube by user mrneonshuffle

The song is a bit long but I love the passion in this song, especially when Dave wails from around 5:43 to 6:50. Awesome!