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random text message

"Hi. Nasira cp ko, burado lahat ng contacts sa phonebuk. Me listahan ako pero hindi updated. Pls reply if ur stil using your n0. Tnx. - CHING,O.P." I received this text message from cellphone number +639176233734 on December 30. I'm quite sure I don't know this person because the people named Ching who know my phone number do not write SMS like this. So I thought that this message is a prank: the person was waiting for someone to actually reply to the message before the joke could continue... or the sender is a con artist. People whose cellphone phonebooks are erased would typically collect people's numbers through social networking sitesPeople who list down phone numbers on paper MOST LIKELY put a name to connect to each phone number. They don't normally list down phone numbers only.Now this I found funny: "Please reply if you're still using your number." Does this mean that if I don't reply I'm no longer accessible via my current phone…

I started and ended the year watching the LOTR trilogy

Over the Christmas holidays, I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy one last time before the year closes. The difference this time is that I'm watching the movies on the big screen while in January, I was watching it in my computer's miniscule screen.
I take something new out of the films each time I watch the whole series. This time, I noticed that Frodo tested the leaders' desire for the Ring. Gandalf didn't take it early on, before the story moved away from the Shire, when Frodo was handing it over to him. Boromir failed the test when he wanted to bring the Ring to Gondor. Galadriel passed when she ultimately decided to head into the West. And when Frodo offered the Ring to Aragorn, he did not take it, vowing that he would go with Frodo if he could (but then he had to save Merry and Pippin from the Orcs so they separated). 
The special effects and the landscapes have never failed to impress me. That's another reason why I watch it over and over. :)

Holiday traffic

I guess that this is the story of my holidays this year: never-ending traffic jams! What else is new? 
Last year, I had the very same complaint. The difference was that last year, I was complaining about heavy traffic in Metro Manila because I did the bulk of the Christmas shopping there (particularly in the Mall of Asia and in Glorietta). This year, I thought I successfully outwitted the traffic jams by avoiding Makati and Pasay altogether. 
I was very wrong. It looks like traffic jams have migrated south, thanks to the opening of new shopping malls and supermarkets along the national highway. To avoid all the chaos on the road, I dropped by during the last shopping hour of the malls. That way, I had less competition for parking space and the queues at the payment counters were shorter.

Fe and Sobun in Ocean Park HK

On the last day in HK, the group toured Ocean Park. Still with Sobun and Fe, I opted to see the animals than to ride the scary roller coasters... and had a look at the ocean, of course.






Fe and Sobun in Disneyland HK

On our visit to Hong Kong Disneyland last November, I got grouped with Fe and Sobun... and became their official photographer. Since we had only half a day in the park, we wanted to ride and to see many of the attractions as we could. By the time the fireworks have started, we had enjoyed the theatrical shows and the rides (even those kiddie ones in hunny pots).
Here are some of the photos of that field trip:








The coins that spun round and round

I attended a basic photography seminar in IRRI in December, organised by Chris Quintana and Gani Serrano. One of the photo shoot assignments was to take photos of motion using coins. It was a tough assignment since I decided to do it at night while tuned in to the news feature about Hubert Webb's (and the other suspects') Supreme Court acquittal from the Vizconde massacre case. 
Poor coins. They must have been REALLY dizzy after this photo assignment.



I decided to forego any more attempts at the assignment until morning when I can get additional lighting from the sun. However, even sunlight wasn't enough. I gave in and used the flash. Finally, I was happy with my blurred coin shot. 
Here it is:
The next challenge is quite harder: a photo story.

GQNPC's last lunch for 2010

People in the lab normally eat lunch together on the last work day before the Christmas break... and this is after the Christmas party. This year, we trooped to Kamayan sa Palaisdaan rather than eat in the lab's meeting room. What made the lunch unique was that our boss, Melissa, and her family, was there for the first time (if I remember correctly). Also, this served as our farewell party for Jing Tan, a colleague, who is leaving for China with her family.

UPLB as Christmas town

What could I say? Just as I thought that the UPLB decorations last year were the best, the decorations team this year outdid themselves. This year, the Christmas tree by the Admin building is white, the Nativity scene was placed in a two-floor stable (with the sheep on the second floor), and Santa Claus almost ready to fly off the College of DevCom's lawn.
Next year ulit!



Chillin' at Chili's

I felt cold, ironically, in Chili's when Ate Maddie and I dropped by. The temperature fell a few degrees lower by the time dessert finally came in the form of Ate Maddie's highly recommended High and Mighty Pie. Basically, it's chocolate cookie crust topped with a huge slab of vanilla ice cream and lined with chocolate and caramel syrup.


I was shocked when it finally arrived. It was HUGE! Four people could split a cake! 
It's good, very good. The smoothness of the ice cream contrasted against the crumbly crust. There were bits (chocolate chips and some other stuff) within the ice cream that further contributed to the flavour and the texture of the cake. 
The pie, overall, wasn't too sweet; perhaps that taste perception was due to what we had for dinner: tortillas with salsa and mushroom fajitas. Or was that because ice cream's low temperature numbs the tongue, hence the reduced capacity to detect sweetness?
I thought of Minas Tirith when the cake arrived, just…

Calamba-Sto Tomas SLEX link now open!!

December 16
Yahoo! My day started out better than expected. The sign board just before the Batangas exit showed the good news. My Christmas wish #1 was granted!! I'll use this route out tomorrow. =)
December 17 I clocked segments of today's drive to see how long it would take to get to work via the SLEX extension.

(0:00)Leaving the house. Timer starts now!(0:13)I drove through the SLEX at ~80 kph on average. Didn't note how long the trip was from my exit to the Sto Tomas exit; I think it's probably around 8 km. The bulk of the trip was going to the closest exit to my house.(0:38)Got stuck in traffic in Sto Tomas en route to the MakBan road. This route took too much time; it doesn't looking too promising.(1:13)Stop the clock! I've parked... at last!!
In contrast, my typical route to work takes about 45 min to traverse and it includes the mountainous stretch of the PCARRD-Jamboree Road. I therefore conclude that the SLEX extension won't be part of my daily rou…

Dinner concert for a scholarly cause

Anna and I had were in luck. The reason we went to Diliman was to watch the UP Singing Ambassadors' performance at the Bahay ng Alumni. The event was sponsored by the University of the Philippines Experimental Democratization Scholars (UP XDS) Association. Ate Liza bought the tickets (thank you!) and we were joined by Ate Eleanor, Jon, and Matt.
The UP XDS is a group of scholars admitted into UP Diliman from 1977 to 1981. At the time, according to Ate Mayang (one of the recipients of the scholarship), the university was plotting ways to ensure that the different regions of the Philippines were represented in the studentry (hence the policies governing UPCAT today). She also mentioned that given the right training and support (aside from passing the qualifications for college freshmen), the university believes that students from the provinces or rural areas would be able to compete with those from the cities, particularly Manila. 
Three decades later, the former scholars formed an…

Chocolate Kiss, U.P. Diliman

So that was what all the fuss was all about! Noan only had praises for the food. Now I understand.
After that drive up to UP Diliman, Anna and I were just famished. So before we had a taste of the famous cakes, we thought of eating something resembling lunch first. I had lugaw and tokwa't baboy while she had dinuguan with puto (and extra rice). Ate Eleanor arrived shortly after with Jon and Matt (and we were still waiting for the food). 
For dessert, Ate Eleanor got samplers of three cake flavours while the rest of us had the full-sized slices of other cakes. They were all GOOD! Dessert was definitely the highlight of my visit to Chocolate Kiss. If it weren't too far away, I'd be visiting often.

Kuya Ferdie's birthday celebration

After work, Kuya Ferdie gathered a few of us in the lab who were available to celebrate his birthday with him. The initial plan was to eat at a budget restaurant. However, we couldn't come up with a good restaurant for birthday purposes with that kind of price range. So Dara made the suggestion to eat at Mio Cucina (just outside UPLB, along Lopez Ave.) instead. There were six of us altogether and it was quite a challenge to seat us in the tiny restaurant. After everyone has squeezed in, Dara took charge of selecting the food... 
We ordered pako salad with white cheese and lemon vinaigrette. It was heavenly! The cheese was so creamy and readily melted in the mouth while the pako offered a contrast in texture with its rough leaves and stems. The vinaigrette, on the other hand, contributed a tang to the dish which was watered down by the hint of sweetness of the singkamas (Mexican turnip).

Then there's the steamed sole fish. Another winner! The sole was cooked just right; it was…

Giant insect?!?

Walking back to my cubicle from the lab one sunny December afternoon, I saw this and I had to run to get my camera. The December sun sets a lot earlier, and I knew I would be losing my light fast! A few clicks, and I drew a sigh of relief; I caught it on camera...


It looks like the shadow of a giant insect!! Once again, I remembered Aragog (thanks to HP7's first installment). However, it is not what it seems...

Drive to U.P. Diliman (for the first time)

Overpass, underpass lang yan.
That was what Daddy said to Biboy and me many years ago when he gave us instructions on going to UP Diliman via EDSA. Suffice it to say that we predictably took the wrong overpass and ended up lost for hours somewhere near Wack-Wack Village. We eventually found our way back to EDSA via Aurora Blvd., thankfully. After that misadventure many years ago, I normally go to Diliman via public transportation; never have I driven to the campus... I am intimidated by the traffic situation on EDSA (I could barely tolerate the Saturday evening southbound traffic from Ayala Ave.). 
2010. Anna and I went to UP Diliman on Saturday afternoon, with me behind the wheel (I had no choice). This time, we hit all the right roads. I didn't get lost along EDSA! Yey! Traffic wasn't so bad there that time, probably because I passed by while most people were staying in the malls. I had a good time driving, except for those pesky taxi drivers who insisted on cutting my lane ev…

Joke time with Miggy

Miggy can speak in short sentences now. During lunch on Sunday, I got to listen to his joke for the first time. It went something like this:

Miggy: Anong sinabi ni Santa Claus? Us: Ano? Miggy: Ho, ho, ho.
Waah! Sakit sa ulo!

Hong Kong sidetrip -- Night 3

Hong Kong (Nov 14, 2010) -- After seven days overseas, it was time to fly back to Manila. As we ate dinner while waiting for our evening flight, I reviewed the weekend's tour (that excludes Disneyland and Victoria Harbour) around Hong Kong.
City Tour Shopping A part of the city tour we signed up for was the shopping stops. In this trip, there were two: JW Jewellery and Global Export Outlet, Ltd. Many pieces in the jewelry shop were beyond my price range, and it's not surprising that many tourists end up buying the cheapest of the lot (bracelets that are said to ward off arthritis and other joint pains). I got myself one, not to improve blood circulation, but because I found a pretty coiled two-colour bracelet among the mix. After buying this particular piece, I saw what I really wanted... a white-gold tennis bracelet. Here's the catch: it cost HKD 238,000. That's roughly P1.3M!! That's one Honda CR-V right there! Di bale na lang! The shocker of a tennis bracelet fa…

Hong Kong sidetrip -- Night 2

Hong Kong (Nov 13, 2010) -- Disneyland at night was MAGICAL! Indeed a place where dreams do come true!
Main Street, USA was dark and was clogged with people all looking towards Sleeping Beauty's castle by the time I stepped out of a souvenir shop. The fireworks had began! Each streak of light, each explosion, was perfectly timed to the music that made Disney cartoons the classics that they are. A fitting way to end a day in the park that was spent racing for boat rides, theatrical shows, and thrill rides (yes, including one involving honey pots). Every attraction reminded me of what I loved to watch as a child: Winnie the Pooh, the Lion King, Pirates of the Caribbean, Sleeping Beauty, and Mickey Mouse of course. I also had a go at zapping monsters with Buzz Lightyear, as well as listening to the orchestra under Donald Duck's baton.

As the last of the fireworks overwhelmed my camera and as we walked back to the coach returning us to Tsuen Wan, I'd expected that the rest of…

Hong Kong sidetrip -- Night 1

Hong Kong (Nov 12, 2010) -- We visited this bustling city over the weekend post-Hanoi. And what better way to start this part of the adventure than a trip to the famous Victoria Harbour? 
We were staying at the Dorsett Far East Hotel in Tsuen Wan (in the New Territories, north of Kowloon). As soon as we checked in, I did a quick recon trip around the area to know where the train station, the convenience stores, the parks, and the malls were in the vicinity. Later that evening, it was time to test what I'd learned from my walking tour because we were going to eat dinner near the Harbour, to celebrate Tita Dory's birthday.
A few bloopers here and there... but we finally arrived!
The lights on Hong Kong island, as seen from the Kowloon side of the city, is nothing short of breath-taking. What caught my attention is the towering 2 International Finance Centre in Central... it was featured in The Dark Knight (2008), one of my favourite movies. The other buildings, I noticed later, wer…

Google Map directions... just for kicks

This set of instructions from Carlo Sandoval is seriously funny. Have a go at it. =)

1. Go to Google Maps (maps.google.com)
2. Go to "Get Directions"
3. Type "Taiwan" as the start location
4. Type "China" as the end location
5. Read STEP 23 of the directions6. If you laughed, then repost this. =))
Your thoughts?

'Tis the season to be jolly

In anticipation of the big day, people in the lab have started the "Monito Monita" gift-giving activity. Basically, we drew lots to know who will be receiving our weekly gift. To add to the suspense, everyone had to give an alias. Weekly gifts should be at least P20 and must conform to the theme.
I have no idea who I picked; however, the alias makes for a lot of creative gifts. =) Example: on Monday, we need to give something long. The person I'm assigned to might be receiving something based on his/her code name.
The Christmas winds are yet to come but the UPLB campus is starting to feel the season as the giant Christmas tree and the Nativity scene appeared again. The photo on the left is of the tree (and the giant gifts) from last year... the prettiest so far. Would this year's tree top that?

Happy 31st anniversary, Mommy and Daddy!

Anna and I are absent once again. Sixth year running now. Hindi kayo uuwi e.

Dahil wala akong bagong picture nila (2009 or 2010), ito na lang (circa 2008):

Night shopping in Hanoi

Hoan Kiem Lake (after the puppet show) -- Aside from the famous tourist attractions, people also flock the shopping areas in the district. I tagged along as the GQNPC people went shopping for pasalubong and for souvenirs after the IRC wrapped up for the evening.

They mainly concentrated on the bags... and there was a huge selection! For my group, North Face backpacks proved to be popular. After a few hours into the shopping expedition, they ended up with bags of similar designs but of different colours. On the way back to Hong Kong and then to Manila, they were already breaking in their bags. Crumpler wasn't as popular with this group as many of the bags on display were not backpacks. Kipling bags and wallets proved to be elusive; apparently, we were in the wrong place (the shops might be somewhere further off the lake).
I wasn't too keen on buying a backpack because my luggage was already filled to the brim with my suits and the heavy-duty tripod. However, I did get some trin…

Burn, paper, burn.

After the theatre lights had dimmed and the tourists had left, several shopkeepers gathered in front of the puppet theatre and started praying by a makeshift altar right there on the sidewalk. I didn't want to intrude into the solemn activity, so I hung back as they burned incense sticks and paper money. Just as I thought that they were finishing up, I was shocked to see them set a papier-mache horse on fire! That one I caught on camera (with their permission).
One of the participants in the ceremony explained to me (non-verbal communication trumped language once again!) that what I have witnessed was a prayer for happiness and for prosperity in their businesses. It was fascinating to watch the ceremony because it's so different from the culture I grew up in. The incense sticks burning on the altar were certainly familiar; I've seen them amid the fresh fruit and the flower offerings in cemeteries back home with significant Chinese portions...
Hmm. The prayers and the offe…

The water puppet show

So, finally, we arrived at the puppet theatre. Ana and Crystal decided that they'd rather go shopping right outside the venue, and the rest of us had taken our seats. The place was packed! Tourists from different parts of the world were with us as we waited for the show to start. As the houselights dimmed, the voice over began. 
I was excited! Would handheld puppets come out? Were they anything similar to the Muppet Show's human-arm puppets? 


Nope, there were no residents of Sesame Street in sight. Water puppetry involved wooden puppets dancing on a pool of waist-deep water. They looked more like old-fashioned marionettes (sans the strings). The performance was sung and spoken in Vietnamese; in short, I did not understand any of the dialogue. However, the scenes were easy enough to decipher: they were about daily activities in rural Vietnam. Puppets depicted rice-planting, horse-racing, what looked like buffaloes playing. Then there was a wedding and coconut-picking. A dose o…

In search of Hanoi's water puppets

"You've never been to Hanoi if you haven't seen the water puppets," Jojo Lapitan said over lunch on the last day of the International Rice Congress in Vietnam. I guess I have experienced Hanoi then, since I went to the puppet show on my third night in this vibrant city...

_o_  _o_  _o_  _o_ /_\   /_\   /_\   /_\
Getting there was nothing short of a challenge...

It was the night after the Grain Quality and Nutrition technical session. People were ready to go out and relax, as we have finished our presentations. A large group in a foreign city, with different agendas, and only one Vietnamese among us... that certainly spelled disaster – we couldn't stay together as one group. We were supposed to eat a buffet dinner, but the place we went to was packed. The group decided to split up: the shoppers and the tourists. Tran, the sole Vietnamese in the group, went with the shoppers; while the tourists (including me) wandered off armed only with road maps provided by …

City of Lakes

San Pablo City in the Philippines is known as the "city of the seven lakes". Hanoi (Vietnam), on the other hand, is nicknamed "city of lakes". According to the Vietnam Tourism website, the city has 18 lakes! In my week's stay in the city, I was fortunate to be in proximity to three of them.

The Royal Gate Hotel (where I stayed with the INQR and the GQNPC people) is found very close to two famous and adjacent lakes: Truc Bach Lake and the West Lake, both in the French Quarter (Ba Dinh District). These lakes are said to be walking distances away from interesting cultural tourist spots such as temples. True enough, there's a pagoda somewhere between the two lakes that could be seen from the hotel. I wasn't able to explore these areas during my stay, though.
As afternoon turned to dusk on my first day in Hanoi, I wanted very badly to photograph these lakes because I was going to miss the sunset. However, after a whole day of travelling (from Manila to Hong…

We don't eat gelatinisation temperature, but we cook rice.

That's how Dara Daygon began her talk on gelatinisation temperature, that range of temperatures in which rice is cooked, as a response to Harold Corke's previous presentation ("We do not eat gelatinisation temperature.").
(Dara, on gelatinisation temperature classes.)
Dara concentrated on the genetics behind gelatinisation temperature, showing the distributions of samples with high and low gelatinisation temperature. However, breeders aim for intermediate, a class not explicitly seen in the distributions. The gene associated with high- and low- gelatinisation temperatures is identified, but what pulls the values up or down into the intermediate range is still unknown.
Why is gelatinisation temperature important if it can't be eaten? This property is directly proportional to how long it takes to cook rice. And that is related to fuel consumption, water use, etc. that falls into the realm of the social sciences.