Saturday, May 30, 2009

Counting airplanes

Ernie used to count sheep, as suggested by Bert, when he couldn't sleep. Then The Count comes into the scene and he and Ernie start counting fire trucks, to Bert's dismay. 

I thought of this scene from Sesame Street while queued in the southbound clogged Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX). I got stuck in the traffic jam right after passing the northbound toll gate. This was one of the afternoons that I regretted not bringing my camera with me. Not one, not two, but seven airplanes passed overhead on their landing approach at the international airport, which was just on one side of the expressway.

Thankfully, more than two hours later, I finally reached SM Sta Rosa. :)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Harold Valera's IRRI farewell party

The last ice cream party for Harold in the grain quality laboratory. See you around, Harold!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Lizzie's 7th birthday party

Family time in Marikina :)

Ingat sa pagmamaneho!

I visited my aunts and grandma in Sta Cruz this evening. The trip going there was uneventful, and I'm glad that the road repair being done in Pila was finished. The trip home, however, was a different story.

The first accident was in Brgy. Anos, Los Banos. Two motorcycles looked like they were involved in a head-on collision, and were left in the middle of the road. The accident must have happened just a few minutes before I drove past it because the crowd was just starting to grow, and people were picking items that were thrown off the motorbikes. I hope that no one was seriously hurt in this case because people are required to wear helmets, and this rule is being enforced quite strictly in Los Banos.

The second accident was located just before Brgy. Halang, Calamba City (northbound), right across the intersection going to Colegio de San Juan de Letran. A car and a motorbike were involved. Apparently, the car was negotiating a turn towards the gas station when it collided with the motorcycle (which got stuck on the car's front right tire) at the outer northbound lane. There were police officers in the scene, so it appears that the accident happened earlier. I hope that the motorbike driver wasn't badly hurt because in Calamba, the traffic enforcers don't seem to apply the helmet rule as consistently as in Los Banos, judging by all the people on motorbikes without helmets.

With motorbikes increasingly becoming the mode of private transportation due to their more affordable prices, I hope that owners would consider purchasing the appropriate safety equipment: helmets, high-visibility clothing (the fluorescent ones), and protection for their chests, backs and limbs. Plus, since it's more dangerous to drive at night (even with a car), motorcycle drivers and passengers would be safer if they were more visible: functional headlamps, taillights, and fluorescent clothing would help other commuters see motorcycles in the dark. 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Time flies fast

My nephews and nieces (my cousins' children) are growing up. Lizzie turned seven on the 21st, and Jon-jon will be 14 in a few minutes. Julo has started pre-school this year, and Nisa is coming into her third year in engineering school (if I'm not mistaken). Justine is entering her third year of high school while Ara is on her fourth. The youngest, Miggy, turned one in April.
I am getting old...

Review: Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009)

Genre: Comedy

The Ben Stiller show had made the audience laugh again. This time, his team was reinforced by the presence of Amy Adams and Hank Azaria, who both have great comedic timing. It's such a pity, though, that Robin Williams did not have a bigger part in the sequel.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

September 2, 2008

The day I submitted my thesis manuscript... I remember personally handing in the digital copy of manuscript at the Uni Printery after the toughest week of my life so far (stressful enough to make me look really haggard). And one of my supervisors, Bob, aptly described writing the PhD thesis manuscript as like contracting a terminal illness. :)

These comic strips are once again from

Titles, titles...

Once again, comics from This set reminded me of the recent PSM convention, where all the prominent attendees with PhD's (the professors) were called by their titles. It was just weird for me because my supervisors in graduate school had insisted on me addressing them by their first names.

A minute in the life of a PhD student :)

From July 25, 2005 (thereabouts) to September 2, 2008... and up until now. But from the second year onwards, I no longer jump in surprise. Hehe :)

The good thing is, I've received a copy of my thesis yesterday! All that hard work printed in 300+ A4 pages and bound between two blue-covered boards.

The life of a PhD student in a picture

This comic strip has made me smile tonight. 

The artist at was able to sum up what is inside a PhD, or even MSc, student's head. In fact, I have felt exactly like the student in the picture. Life revolved around the laboratory... and how to finish the thesis manuscript was the top priority. All other activities were shunned, to give way to the write-ups and the additional lab work. 

Now that I'm done with it, I can look back at the fond memories of thesis-writing.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

David Cook and David Archuleta Live in Manila

May 16, 2009
SM Mall of Asia concert grounds

Anna, Justine, and I had a blast. :) Before the concert, we had to make a stop in Makati because I had to visit my orthodontist. And at the venue, the seated patrons went ballistic, and stood on their chairs. Pity the poor silver and bronze ticket-holders... they had to rely on the big screens to get an idea of what's onstage.

PSM Convention photos

May 14, 2009. Hyatt Hotel and Casino, Manila

David Cook and David Archuleta in Manila

I just got back from David Cook and David Archuleta's Live in Manila concert. The concert grounds at the SM Mall of Asia was filled to the brim with people who wanted to see the Top 2 of last season's American Idol. There were no front acts; David Archuleta started his set, and then followed by David Cook. The audience were thrilled during their performances. :)

People couldn't seem to get enough of the singers because they crowded at the gate where an SUV was about to enter, apparently to get people from backstage. Anna, Justine, and I left the crowd as soon as we could because a stampede was a real possibility (some people were angry, others were crying, as people jostled and squashed each other to get closer to the gate).

The concert was a huge success. It looked like the two Davids didn't know what they had signed up for until they started performing. :)

Click here to see the pictures (the acceptably clear ones... I didn't bother uploading the really blurry ones.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Taft Avenue as a playground

Two dingy children goes up a bus in front of the Philippine General Hospital. They distribute empty envelopes without explaining why. The bus conductor doesn't seem to mind their presence, as long as passengers get seats and they don't scare the commuters off. Clearly, these kids are oblivious of the dangers of playing tag inside and outside the bus. One day, they may fall off a bus and get squashed by another vehicle. If they are lucky and grow into their teens, they would start depending on induced highs to get by the lack of food.

Taft Avenue is their playground; their home. What does the future hold for them? I sure hope it is not as grimy as the pylons of the Light Railway Transit, and not as dark as the puddles after the rain along Pedro Gil Street.

Eighth year of driving :D

Today, I celebrate the eighth year since I was allowed to drive my dad's car to school. Every year, I get to eat ice cream on May 15th; this year, my ice cream came as a side dish with the cheesecake during lunch at the second day of the Philippine Society for Microbiology Annual Convention. It's quite ironic that today (and yesterday) I didn't drive to Manila, but that's because driving to Manila is stressful, the toll fee and the parking fee at the hotel is expensive, and I don't know my way around the one-way streets in the area. 

Quotable quotes at the PSM Convention (May 14, 2009)

Normally, I doze off when I get lost in translation. This time, though, there was enough humour going around the ballroom to keep me awake. Here are some lines that made my day... 

Dr Espie Cabrera on her experience as a Microbiology instructor

"After you've written on the board, you have to erase it." 
 - on why lecturing using board and chalk is slower than using slide presentations

"I allow students to answer in any language... that I can understand."
 - on how students are supposed to answer exams, handle recitations, etc.

"They may speak in English and I don't mind if they start with 'actually' or even with 'in fairness,' as long as they speak only in English..."
 - still on how to communicate in class (emphasis on using only one language, and not a mixture of two)

"Thank you microorganisms for our profession."
 - in acknowledging everyone who contributes to the growth of the profession

Dr Wang June Kim on lengthening the shelf life of kimchi

"If people eat kimchi instead of drinking yoghurt, I will be a billionnaire."
 - on making kimchi a more popular healthy food than it already is

"Say kimchi!"
 - on what Koreans say during a picture shoot

"Korean government does not allow the use of purified bacteriocin. Why? Ask them!"
 - on why the Korean government prohibits the addition of bacteriocins to kimchi

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fish out of water at the PSM Annual Convention

After five long years, I had the opportunity (and the boss' permission) to attend the Philippine Society for Microbiology 38th Annual Convention at the Hyatt Casino and Hotel in Manila. In the membership update form, there was a portion where members had to justify their absence in the conventions that they've missed; so I listed my reasons down...

2005, I attended the American Association of Cereal Chemists Intl (AACC) annual meeting
2006, I was in Uni
2007, I attended the International Network for Quality Rice workshop
2008, I attended the STARCH conference and the AACC annual meeting

After writing all these down, I realised how long I've been absent; the last microbiology meeting I had attended was the symposium held at the De La Salle University in 2007. Back then, I was starting to feel out of place in the midst of all the microbiologists because I couldn't understand the terminologies anymore. Since getting immersed into my post-grad research topic, my scientific vocabulary gradually shifted from microbiology and immunology, to biochemistry and cereal science.

When the plenary session of this year's convention started, I felt like fish out of water. Bacteriocins, cell-mediated immunity, lactic acid bacteria... these were the terms I was quite comfortable using while majoring in Microbiology back in college. Not anymore, though. While listening to the talks, what my current supervisor had said (when I was struggling to understand what a SNP chip is**) came back to me: just accept that I'm a cereal chemist now. True, the convention's topics being discussed are no longer as relevant to my current work as when I was still in the food manufacturing industry. 

Nevertheless, even though I understood almost zilch (because it takes time to shift my mind back to microbiology) of what were presented earlier today, I enjoyed being there because it was nice to catch up with friends and former professors, and get updated with where the trends in Microbiology lead in the Philippines. It appears that research is focusing on food and medical microbiology, based on the topics in the plenary session and the keynote address (by Dr Jaime Montoya, of the Philippine General Hospital). I can't wait for tomorrow's talks; hopefully, there would be more talks on structural characterisation, or biochemistry.

** SNP chip: some high-tech way of characterising an organism genotypically 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Flood in 15 minutes

A six-inch flood can form in 15 minutes. That's what I've learned tonight as I rushed from Los Banos to Calamba late at night to retrieve my house keys that I accidentally left inside the office. I unfortunately realised that my keys weren't with me when I was parking the car in the garage at home.

So I drove back to work to get my keys. The highway was absolutely drenched; but there was no evidence of flooding, except near the bridge between barangays Parian and Paciano Rizal (in Calamba). The way back was a different matter, though. Water had started overpouring onto the road in Junction and in Lalakay (both in Los Banos), and only 15 minutes had passed since I passed by Junction. But traffic slowed down dramatically in Bucal, Calamba because the water on the road rose up to about six inches. People with houses close to the highway were on the street because of the flood.

I hope that tomorrow the road to Los Banos would not be flooded anymore.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Cheering squad practice... again

A few weeks after the IRRI cheering competition, we were back to rehearsals for Saturday's IRRI-UPLB dual meet. The great thing: people from other groups joined us! Yey! :D

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Lost in Batangas

I brought Lola Bats (my 93-yr old grandma, my dad's mom) to Padre Garcia, Batangas to visit the old house and her friends. As with every Lola's-day-out trip to Padre Garcia, we just had to visit her hometown of Cuenca and visit my cousin and his family in Alitagtag (still in Batangas). However, the bridge at one barangay (Pinagtung-ulan, San Jose), which links Cuenca to Lipa City, was not passable to traffic. We went through an alternate route, one which starts at Palanca, San Jose and ends at the heart of Cuenca town. The road was far from flat; the narrow road led us up the mountain and then down a ravine to a stream, then up again, and across four bridges... all in a lush forest. We reached our destination, barangay San Felipe in Cuenca after an hour.

It was night when we left Alitagtag; I decided to follow my cousin's advice and use the same route to get to the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway (which is a 20-km drive straight to Sto Tomas town). The dark made me disoriented, and I think I must have missed the turn to Palanca because the road I was at was a more open road; no ravines, no bridges. I asked the barangay tanods and policemen for directions to the STAR Tollway. Everyone I had asked said I was on the right road. At the end of this narrow road is the Tollway.  If I remember correctly, we passed through Bungahan (Cuenca), Natunuan (which I am sure is in San Jose), some other barangays, I think, then Balete and Balagtas. These two barangays I've never heard of before. Even Lola Bats was clueless, but then again, she's 93 now.

Finally, the narrow road ended at an intersection with a police station. I stopped again and asked where the STAR Tollway was. The man pointed across the road, but I just stared at the signboard of the police station: we were in Batangas City! All along, I thought we were going to either San Jose or Lipa City! I was shocked that instead of turning north, we headed due south!  If I had made a left turn somewhere, we would have ended up in Bauan town, nowhere near any tollways, and closer to Tagaytay City than I intended. The interchange at Batangas City is the very end of the STAR Tollway; very close to the Batangas Port, the gateway to the Philippines' nautical highway.

I have always wanted to drive the whole stretch of the STAR Tollway once it's open to traffic. And in this instance, I did, not because I intended to, but because I accidentally came across it.