Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Holidays are coming...

All the symptoms are starting to show: Christmas songs on the radio, parols on display, the belen being set up in UPLB, the cool wind in the middle of the day, early sunsets... and then, there's the typical "Holidays are coming..." hum of the Christmas Coca-Cola advertisement on the telly that I saw over the weekend.

Once the Nescafe Christmas ad comes out, I'll be convinced that Christmas has finally arrived.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Marnee Thai Restaurant

Cuisine: Thai
Location:2225 Irving St, San Francisco, CA
Another restaurant review... I ordered the tom yum chicken (as usual) in Marnee Thai, and I find that this version has a milder taste than what I'm used to. The tom yum version in Los Banos is more sour, while the version in Sydney (Thai Times 9) is more on the chili side. Yet another good meal for me!

Funny picture

Tyrannosaurus rex, the real threat to California's biodiversity? I took the picture at this angle while on queue to the rainforest exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. 

Stuck in traffic

I decided to drive home unusually early one Saturday afternoon, right after my visit to the dentist (opting to skip the typical stopover in Glorietta), with the intention of beating the traffic jam on EDSA. Obviously, I was unsuccessful on this attempt; I was able to whip out the camera and take pictures, seen here, because the queue wasn't moving fast enough.

The slow movement was beneficial to the road vendors... This man was able to sell a lot of bottled water because it was so hot and humid inside the tunnel (the photo was taken mid-May, hence the heat). Other people were selling battery-operated fans, towels, and caps.

Anyway, the traffic jam disappeared just as suddenly as it appeared... driving was a breeze after the Magallanes overpass.


Cuisine: Asian
Location:Calamba City, Laguna, Philippines

I loved the halaan soup, which was what I had intended to order because of the restaurant's name. The food is a bit pricey, but well worth it. Plus, the place is well-lit, and very clean. A place I would definitely eat in again... specially since it's easily accessible, and the parking lot isn't too crowded during the dinner hour.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Wine-tasting at the Sterling Winery in Calistoga

This trip just assured me of one thing: I don't have an appreciation for the taste of wine. Four out of five wines were too bitter. The last one was sweet, almost a dessert wine, which I liked.

Despite me not liking the taste of wine, I liked going over the process of wine-making, which is really an interesting activity. Grapes are pressed, the juice is fermented, aged, and then bottled. Although I was introduced to the concept of fermentation in my Microbiology courses, being in an actual winery puts things into their proper scale. That, and the spectacular view of the Napa Valley under the yellow-orange tints of the late afternoon sun, plus the beautiful Tuscan-inspired architecture of the facility, made my day.

The icing on the cake was the cable car ride from the parking lot to the winery itself. This reminded me of the cable car ride in Taronga Zoo and the monorail trip to the gates of Magic Kingdom in DisneyWorld. I enjoyed the view of the vineyard and the pond below as the cable car traversed to the winery.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Farewell party for Che, Kuya Mitchie, and Miggy

October 19, 2008 -- The family dropped by to say good bye to Kuya Mitchie, Che, and Miggy because they were flying off to New Zealand two days later. And the spotlight is on five-month old Miggy of course! Couldn't help but think about how the baby girl Mary was doted on by her dads in "Three Men and A Baby" just before she was temporarily whisked off by her Mom.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Review: Swing Vote (2008)

Genre: Comedy

It's a funny take on the upcoming US elections... The future of the most powerful country in the world rests upon the vote of a man who was never concerned about anything other than himself. The political machinery of both prominent candidates descended upon an unknown town in New Mexico all to get that man's vote. The movie questions the willingness of candidates to put principles in the backburner just to get the vote, and gives a glimpse of how outsiders, particularly international media, would react to the political mudslinging. It also touched upon the relevant issues the two real-life candidates must address in their campaigns prior to November's polls; some of these issues are the influx of immigrant workers and the debate on pro-life vs pro-choice. In the end, the results of the election is never shown, and the movie never suggested which of the two candidates won.

The day of my kuya's wedding

Kuya Rico, my cousin who I haven't seen in 20 years, got married on September 26, 2008. And I was able to drop in and attend it! The schedule was quite tight: I collected my luggage in Chicago's O'Hare close to 9am, after an overnight flight from Honolulu (with a connecting flight from Minneapolis at 7am), and Kuya Rico's wedding was at 4pm in Mundelein, a suburb about an hour's drive north from downtown Chicago. Good thing Kuya Allan, who is based in Michigan, was available to fetch me from the airport... naturally, my mom, ninang, and brother were with him! Daddy and Ninong Romy were not with them because they were playing golf.
As soon as I set my bags down at the hotel, the kuyas, and Biboy hauled me to the reception venue, a barn that Charlenne's (the bride) relatives were decorating. I helped out with setting up the bar with drinks arranged by type. I then had lunch with them, and caught up with my parents and godparents before preparing for the afternoon wedding.
I took a lot of pictures during the wedding. The day was sunny with a few clouds in the sky. Despite being the end of September, I didn't see many orange leaves signalling the start of autumn. It was a shame my DSLR did not have a memory card yet; I could have used that instead of my handy point-and-shoot camera, but just as well... I still didn't know how to use the DSLR anyway. Aside from me, Biboy and Kuya Allan were the other family shutterbugs. Instead of staying close to them, I ventured to other areas of the venue, so that we had different pictures, with minimal duplication. I also was tasked with the second reading. Apparently, my parents knew all along and rightly assumed that I would gladly do it. So it was just a matter of Kuya Rico telling me about it.
The toll of the travel, the jet lag from the time difference with Hawaii and Manila, and the actual event drained me by the time dinner began. Daddy and Mommy wanted me to go back to the hotel because I was starting to look grumpy. But back at the hotel, I couldn't sleep immediately... I fell asleep while uploading pictures of the wedding online for the family back home to see, only to be jarred awake by my parents' arrival. And the story-telling began again!

The AACC Annual Meeting 2008 Experience

My Talk
This is the first time I had to talk twice in a conference! The first time was expected... I was scheduled to talk on Monday. However, as soon as I started to relax, my IRRI supervisor, Melissa, popped the surprise to me: I was presenting a second time! In the next few hours! I felt like iced water was thrown at me at that moment... I was dumbstruck!

So naturally, I had to go through the motions of getting nervous for a talk once again: loss of appetite, clammy hands, butterflies in the stomach (and I ate a heavy breakfast of bagels and cheese a few hours before too), the works. And then there's the absolute requirement: I had to go for a long walk... so I ended up going back to the hotel to retrieve my presentation.

In the end, I was happy with both presentations, although I think I performed better in the first one (and attribute that to the unexpected nature of the second one). However, the second one generated a better discussion session, even though I had the last talk. That's always good... and both supervisors had good things to say about the presentation. Whew!

Meeting People
The AACC is always one of the best ways of meeting people in different industries concerned with cereal chemistry. During my first attendance (in Florida) I met US-based Filipinos, mainly; I didn't mill about to talk to people as much because I was more interested in seeing the sights right after the sessions and meetings end at 5pm. This time, however, I met a lot of interesting people... Filipino scholars based in the US, students based in Europe, professors, and research- and industry-based people. Talking with people is becoming easier as I get used to meeting new people, and being in international conferences does help a lot.

There were a lot of activities provided allowing attendees to meet up: there were the dinners hosted by different divisions of the AACC, the Young Professionals' Event which was slated right after the talks, and meet-and-greet sessions sponsored by corporate members of the AACC.

Breakthrough Science
The conference allowed me to keep updated with research going on around the world. Although reading journal articles helps me with this, it is certainly much better to actually listen to the authors. Too bad I missed the symposium where Bob, my Uni of Qld supervisor, was speaking in; I would have learned a lot from that session. My first talk happened to be scheduled at the same time slot as his, so I wasn't able to attend his discussion.

Not only were the talks informative, the posters were equally enlightening. Too bad the authors were not by their posters; I was only able to talk with a few authors. Nevertheless, the posters were all good.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Seeing sea lions

A picture of sea lions in San Francisco's Pier 39 was captured by a satellite camera and uploaded in GoogleEarth. I came across this image as soon as a high resolution image was available (about the same time the picture of elephants walking across the savannah in Africa were observed by avid GoogleEarth users). Naturally, I was excited to see the sea lions up close as soon as details of my trip to San Francisco were finalised.

My first, and unexpected, encounter with sea lions in the US was actually at the Lincoln Park Zoo. An aquarium contained quite a few of these swimmers, and while observing them, the discussion on what the difference was between a seal and a sea lion started in the family. Everyone was stumped by the question; leaving that unanswered, we went into the indoor observation section of the seal aquarium. Little did we know that behind me was the answer:

It just shows that we need to keep our eyes peeled for the answer... we were in a zoo, after all!

A few days later, Joycelyn and I ended the day at the Embarcadero, and since I wasn't able to see the sea lions there in 2005, I could hardly wait too see them this time. There was a whole lot of them there!

It still amazes me that these animals adapted to the presence of humans, and actually thrive in the area. Right behind their sanctuary is one of the most expensive places to live in. And to think that these are not caged in zoos! I can't help but think about the giraffes at Taronga Zoo... they have some of the most expensive pieces of real estate as well (in Sydney, which have a beautiful view across the water of the Sydney Opera House on the left, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the right).

I was able to take a decent shot of the huge population of sea lions thanks to my new Nikon D60 DSLR (thanks, Mommy and Daddy! Now I just have to learn how to shoot with a DSLR). If I were using my point-and-shoot digital camera, the sea lions would not be as clear.

Charlotte's farewell party

Photos taken at Tita Dory's house.

Chan's birthday 2008

Five days in Nottingham, England...

i thought i could stand the cold in my shorts. but i was wrong; after standing there for a few minutes, i just had to go to the loo and change into a pair of jeans... still freezing though

and only two hours to see the city. I was there for the STARCH conference at the University of Nottingham in March 2008.

In Birmingham International Airport:

Immigration Officer (seeing me in t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers): Do you think it's summer here?

Rochie (just arrived from Manila): Why, isn't it summer yet?

Immigration Officer: No. It's still winter.

Rochie (who just left the tropical summer of Manila and of Brisbane) --> O_o

AFSTRI Food Fair 2008

The host said that this was a food tasting event, and NOT dinner. But the amount of food given per person was too much even for my appetite. Everyone had a lot of fun tasting food from different countries... it's like going around the world in two hours!

Photo credits: Dara Daygon

Undergrad interns in IRRI

On one of their last days at work, the interns took a few minutes off to party, and to be captured on film by international media persons visiting the lab.

Celebrating my birthday at Max's

with Tita Ising, Tito Seving, and Lola Bats.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

In Brisbane, twice!

Bleeding Love (by Leona Lewis), the song that kept being aired by this morning radio show in Brisbane, made my ears bleed.

Pictures from my visits to the Sunshine State in 2008.

Kicking the unhealthy habits

This year has been one of the toughest for me because of the time constraint in finishing up my thesis. As a result, I haven't been playing any sport, I rarely slept for more than four hours a day (but this started in September 2006), I was typing away almost non-stop for more than 12 hours, and my diet has shifted towards caffeinated, high-sugar foods to keep me awake during the extended writing periods. I have only refrained from consuming salty food because I was too scared of having a repeat attack of urinary tract infection (specially since I drive myself to work, and I wouldn't want to make a mess in the car), although I was really tempted to binge on chips.

But I passed the toughest part, which was the week running up to my submission date. And now, I'm slowly going back to the sane schedule; sans the jet lag from my last trip, I could now sleep continuously for six hours and I am back to eating normal, high-fibre food. The return to my normal diet has actually started in Brisbane where I opted to eat Subway sandwiches and sushi rolls from the noodle bar for snacks instead of my nine-month staple snack: choco chip cookies. And I am no longer drinking thick black coffee, and has replaced it with water.

And then, yesterday, I once again gripped my badminton racket for some warm-up practice with a fellow beginner, Harris. I was actually looking forward to be on the court again after so many months... badminton's such a good exercise. After a year of not playing seriously, my limbs were painful, but the persistent shoulder pain that I developed while writing my thesis (which I attribute to stress) vanished!

Looking back, Bob, my supervisor at the University of Queensland, was right: finishing up the PhD thesis manuscript is like suffering from a terminal illness. The unhealthy habits I developed during the run up to my submission made me sick, literally... And now, I'm finally starting to recover.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

At Enchanted Kingdom (take two)

It rained the last time we were there, so we were given Rainy Day passes. We went back two weeks later; the nephews and niece absolutely loved it! Anna and I thank Ate Liza for giving us tickets to the park. :D

My one afternoon in Chicago

Photo album:

First stop, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and then a city tour courtesy via public transportation (bus, what else?), and then capping the day off at Millennium Park. A great summer day in the windy city... although I was quite surprised that it wasn't windy at all.