Tuesday, August 30, 2005

No kidding? (I dont look anything like the picture.)

... The pic looks like grif.

Pure Nerd
65 % Nerd, 4% Geek, 26% Dork
For The Record:

A Nerd is someone who is passionate about learning/being smart/academia.
A Geek is someone who is passionate about some particular area or subject, often an obscure or difficult one.
A Dork is someone who has difficulty with common social expectations/interactions.

You scored better than half in Nerd, earning you the title of: Pure Nerd.

The times, they are a-changing. It used to be that being exceptionally smart led to being unpopular, which would ultimately lead to picking up all of the traits and tendences associated with the "dork." No-longer. Being smart isn't as socially crippling as it once was, and even more so as you get older: eventually being a Pure Nerd will likely be replaced with the following label: Purely Successful.


Thanks Again! -- THE NERD? GEEK? OR DORK? TEST

My test tracked 3 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 56% on nerdiness
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 0% on geekosity
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 28% on dork points
Link: The Nerd? Geek? or Dork? Test written by donathos on Ok Cupid

Friday, August 26, 2005


We have a pet human. My girls have always been pestering me for a pet--any pet--for the past couple of years and I've always hedged in my replies, although I did get them seeds once. Pet plants. Lately Ive taken them hunting for bugs in the garden. We look for slugs by following the slime trails and caterpillars by looking for leaves with holes in them. Grasshoppers are more difficult to catch.

They have become adept at catching caterpillars, putting them in their emptied-out Play-Do jars with holes in them and stuffing it with fresh leaves for the critters' sustenance. They have successfully nurtured a few caterpillars to pupa-hood, but havent succeeded in nurturing them to butterfly-hood. My guess is that the caterpillars need fresh leaves and the plucked out leaves my kids give them for food dont have enough nutrition for them to develop into butterflies. Or maybe they need sunshine and air and freedom. They probably change into pupas as a matter of course, knowing full well that they won't change into butterflies in which case they give up all hope, weave their cocoons, and wait for death, their cocoons at the same time their death shrouds and coffins. Pretty convenient to be able to weave your own death shroud and coffin when all you have to look forward to is death without fulfilling your potential.

Anyway, back to our pet human. The wife came home from Masbate and she brought some fresh-milk-and-pili-nut pastillas, barako coffee, and sisi. These are oysters preserved in salt and oyster juice. My oldest daughter loves them. "They look like eyeballs," she said. She also brought some dried fish, imported clothes from the ukay-ukay, and a two-month old baby boy. Her cousin, she said, got some Japayuki pregnant and she left him with the baby and he couldnt take care of it so would my wife please take the little tyke? She didnt consult me about it and I was a bit upset by this of course since the care and feeding of 2 daughters isnt easy, especially if one of them eats like a construction worker. ("I'll go on a diet when Im 8," she said. She also said the same thing when she was 6, "I'll go on a diet when I'm 7.")

What can I do? I cant ask the wife to take the baby back, so what the heck. Baby stays. Cute little bugger. He gurgles and coos when you talk to him and he has a dimple on his left cheek, and his right ear is slightly larger than his left ear. We hope his ears would even out eventually. He also has this baby smell that's a cross between caramel and cheese, especialy on his neck and between his little fingers. His head smells like coconut husks and cheese. His name is A.J., the wife says, but me and the girls decide to call him Stinky.

The girls can't get enough of Stinky. They take turns smothering him with kisses and pass him around like a puppy, which is a bit scary sometimes because they might drop him on his head. But I let them play with him although sometimes they might get a bit rough with him. (I dont think there's an English word for gigil.) Ive taken to the little tyke as well, checking him from time to time to make sure he's still alive and all that. It's amazing how everyone's maternal instincts get piqued by the presence of a baby, even though genetically, we dont have enough stake in keeping the baby alive. I guess nature hard-wired us with instincts that would make us respond to babies like we do to ensure their survival. My girls are 7 and 9, and they have those instincts too. Amazing.

So thrice a week, Im off to the supermarket buying diapers and formula; something I never thought I'd do again. The first thing I do when get home from work is to check up on Stinky and smell his fingers. He's at that stage where he's trying to put his fists in his mouth but he keeps missing. I say Hi and he stops trying to put his hands in his mouth and says something unintelligible and mostly vowels but I understand what he's trying to say. He's saying, "Great, youre here. Me too" and he'll show off his one dimple then tries to put his fist in his mouth again and ends up poking his eye. What a weirdo.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


"Please dont sleep with Ms. Hallmark. I beseech thee."

[Blank] and I have taken to calling her Ms. Hallmark because of her penchant for sending me saccharine SMSs (Sample: "You are the sunshine in my rainy day.'). For some reason the topic turned to FBs. She was telling me about her calamitous relationship with--itago na lang natin sya sa pangalang Dick. Her problem she said was that she hoped too much. What she needs, she said, is an FB. No emotional involvement. Just boinking. I could use one of those, I joked. Heaven knows how long it's been. Ms. Hallmark would be perfect; she's expressed willingness. Im kidding. Ms. Hallmark would not be perfect. Like [blank], her problem is she hopes too much. Even if youve made it clear to her that all she is is an FB, she'd be in denial.

"Ive been there before. I went with a married man and I felt justified at the time because the man I was living with then was a jerk. It was a disaster. I dont want anybody to take you away from your kids."

"No one's taking me away, [blank]," I said.

"I mean it. What if she's hot and smart and makes you laugh and is good in bed?" [Blank] hasnt met Ms. Hallmark.

"Nobody's that perfect. Unless youre talking about you. Naks."

"Please dont sleep with Ms. Hallmark."

"Ok, I won't. Yet. Hahahaha."

Long pause. Then...

"You know in theory we'd make perfect FBs. We both live in different worlds which would make things more discrete, we obviously have a connection, we share the same predicament (the lack of boink), and we want the same things (someone to talk to and be with, and perhaps, later boink). We're even compatible geographically. Or am I being too presumptuous?"

What to say, what to say? Oh she is perfect. She's smart and gorgeous and everything she said is true: we'd be perfect FBs, at least in theory. But I dont look at her that way. Well Ok sometimes I do, but not once did I ever think of even suggesting... I KNOW that Notting Hill was just a movie that couldnt possibly happen in real life. Im just a regular schmoe and she's... So I said, not quite in the manner of Hugh Grant when she decided to reject Julia Roberts's offer, "I cant make an objective assessment on that right now. Im too boinky." Which turned out the be the wrong thing to say because she said:


Ouch indeed. I tried to salvage the sitch by saying, "Dont get me wrong. It would be an honor to boink you, and could we please stop talking about this because I won't be able to sleep."

"Haha. I didnt think the words 'honor' and 'boink' could belong in the same sentence," she said.

"[Her name] and [my name] dont belong in the same sentence either, but it sort of works, no?"

"You know life would be so much simpler if we were squirrels. Their memories dont last to the next day. Please, please make like a squirrel and forget everything we've talked about today and dont bring it up again. It's too embarrassing."


Monday, August 22, 2005

The Chocolate Factory

Don't get me wrong. I like Tim Burton. I like him when he's quirky and playful and running loose and flouting convention. I loved Edward Scissorhands and Mars Attacks and Nightmare Before Christmas and Big Fish. But for the second time now, he has decided to mess with a classic. Who can forget his disastrous 're-imagining' of Planet of the Apes? Everyone!

But now, as if he hasnt learned his lesson, he decided to make a movie based on Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, starring the incomparable Gene Wilder, happens to be one of the best-loved kids' movies ever. Tim Burton insists his movie is not a remake. He says his movie is more faithful to the book. Right. He bit off a lot more than he can chew this time. I can see Gene Wilder and all the fans of the first movie looking over Burton's shoulders while he was making this one, and waiting for him to screw up.

And screw up he did. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a lot more visually stunning, thanks to modern technology and Burton's quirky vision. But that's all it has going for it. It doesnt have the heart of the first movie. Gene Wilder, being Gene Wilder, has an avuncular aura that kids can find fun, and at the same time loving. Johnny Depp tried his take on the Wonka character, but he ended up just being weird. The backstory on Willy's childhood helped a bit in making the audience empathize with him, but it was done by breezing through what happens to the kids. It felt like Burton just wanted to get the rest of the kids out of the way so he could get on with Willy Wonka and Charlie's story. And the songs. The songs in the Burton movie were just forgettable. They were quirky all right. All dazzle and cleverness, but again they didnt have the heart of Candy Man or Pure Imagination of the first movie.

But I have to say that my kids liked the Burton movie. But they didnt love it. They werent singing the songs on their way home or re-enacting scenes in it during playtime the way my brother and I did after we saw the first movie. The movie didnt have that much of an impact on them. Im looking for a DVD of the first one so we can see it.

Let's hope that Tim Burton learns his lesson and leaves the classics well enough alone.

Stinky Tofu

I love Chinese food. At its best it could rank right up there with the best cuisine in the world in terms of creativity and flavor. Sadly that is not the case in the Nanjing office cafeteria. The Nanjing office offers its employees free lunch, and if youre working overtime, free dinner. At first I found the food in the cafeteria kind of exotic. The presentation was nothing to write home about--they were served in metal mess trays--but they were ok. At first. But after about a week or 2 of tofu in all its shapes, sizes, and textures, after an assorted stew of eels, frogs, squid, all served in the Sichuan style, after star-anise flavored pork with 2 inches of fat on them, after an assortment of unidentifiables, I just want to throw in the towel. The lethal fat-and-MSG combination accumulates in my system such that after 2 weeks, my body says Enough! and I get bouts of headache and nausea which I can only remedy by skipping dinner in the caf and buying dinner elsewhere. Usually fruit, which the palengke near the office has in a rainbow array. They have pears in three different colors, peaches, plums, nectarines, dragon fruit, grapefruit, and kiwi fruit (the Chinese ones are cheaper, but arent as good as the New Zealand ones), melons, watermelons, etc.. These sustain me in a 'cleansing diet' until I could eat in the caf again without throwing up. And I swear the food in the cafeteria interferes with my body's ability to absorb Vitamin C because everytime I go to Nanjing, my gums swell up and bleed after 2 weeks which I could remedy by OD'ing on ascorbic acid. Sometimes up to one-and-a-half grams a day.

Not the height of culinary excellence. Posted by Picasa

Once, a Chinese colleague said something to me that under different circumstances would seem almost banal, but at the time she said it, seemed almost zen-like. She said, 'The food in the cafeteria is not very good.'

But the most profound culinary experience I had occured not in the office cafeteria, but in a restaurant near the Confucius temple, an area well-known for traditional Chinese cuisine and entertainment. The office treated us to dinner one day and it had the works. Multiple courses piled on the lazy susan in huge platters, plus individual bowls of soups, appetizers, sweets, and exotic victuals that arrived without the western pattern of courses. We had duck tongue with huge green chili peppers, black chicken tinola with ripe papaya, a shellfish that none of us could identify but was very delicious.

Dont know what this is but it's yummy Posted by Picasa

But the most lasting impression came from the stinky tofu.

'It doesnt smell good, but it's delicious,' a Chinese colleague said. Ive heard all about stinky tofu. And Ive smelled all about stinky tofu. It's one of the more popular street foods in Nanjing. It's made from fermented tofu. I guess you could call it the Chinese version of cheese. Cheese is made from curds usually treated with the stomach enzymes of whatever animal the milk came from and left to 'ripen' sometimes even left to fester til molds grow in it or til bacteria work on the milk proteins. I like cheese even if the process of making natural cheeses could be described as vile to someone who hasnt eaten cheese before. So I thought, Fermented tofu with chili sauce? Why not? So I took the plate of stinky tofu, noticing the texture as my chopsticks cut off a piece, taking a whiff of the distinctive smell, noting how the white tofu contrasted with the red chili paste quite nicely. I lifted it up with my sticks, and put it gingerly in my mouth...

... and it was the most horrid thing Ive ever tasted ever since I fell in a drainage ditch when I was five. Imagine a sewer in the dead of the Manila summer. How the heat evaporates the water in the canal, concentrating the organic material in the sewer water to a high degree. Imagine the fumes that emanate from that water and taking a good whiff of that. Imagine taking that sewer water and solidifying it with unflavored gelatine. That was the flavor explosion that burst into my mouth. Acquired taste? You bet! Although right now Im disinclined to acquire that taste.


The City of All Around Opening Up, one poster proudly proclaimed on the side of the bus. Nanjing isnt the same city I went to for the first time in 1999. It has more or less exploded with new buildings, new shops, new attitude. Opening up indeed. I counted at least 4 branches of Starbucks. In a country of tea drinkers, that's a lot.

Back in 2001, I was there with an international cast of colleagues: from Belgium, Portugal, the U.K., the U.S., and everywhere we went we were stared at like a traveling freakshow. Not me, actually. I have dark hair and unmistakable oriental features and could blend in more-or-less if I kept my mouth shut or if Im not being mistaken for a Japanese. But the others were loudly occidental. N.G.'s flame-red streaks in her blonde hair didnt help any. People would turn their heads and stare. "I'll never get used to this," J said in his Ah-nult Schmarzemeneggerberger accent as he had to endure people on the streets treating him like a novelty item.

Fast forward to 2002. The streets were being torn up and houses were being torn down to make way for new construction. The 2-lane 'main' street near the office was now an 8-lane highway, which led me to wonder what happened to all the houses that used to stand there. My Chinese colleages assured me then that they were relocated and compensated. New businesses were being put up and a lot of foreigners were finding their way to Nanjing as students or business people. Westerners werent being stared at anymore as they got used to them.

By 2003, Nanjing's development was well under way. More streets were being torn up and more buildings were beign torn down and more people were being evicted from their apartments to make way for new developments. The new subway system was taking shape and malls were being planned. The office wasnt spared. They were given notice that the government had other plans for the land it was on. It had to go. Along with the farmers who were planting vegetables in the fields outside the office. (They use organic fertilizer which gave the area around the office a distinctive organic smell.)

By the time we got back there in July this year, the demolition of the houses around the office was proceeding apace. I was back in Nanjing again with an international cast of colleagues from Thailand, Indonesia, the U.S., the U.K., and Portugal and when we went out, no one paid us any mind. We werent that strange anymore as more and more westerners were findign their way to the city. But there was something else I noticed. This was the openness of our Chinese colleagues to discuss China's problems. Two years before, I remember one Chinese colleague starting to tell us a story about her parents' experiences during the Cultural Revolution that began with 'My mother hated it.' Another colleague sort of sushed her. He spoke in Chinese and I didnt understand what he said, but she abruptly ended her story right there. But now, China's problems with corruption, with their environment, and the increasing gap between the lives of the rich and the poor, are openly discussed on TV (CCTV-9 is in English), and this has somehow changed the attitude of the people. Our colleagues now discuss the problems inherent in Nanjing's rapid development openly. This includes the displacement of people from their homes and sources of income, the inadequacy of the compensation, and the corruption that could be taking place. With that subtle change in the openness of the people to discuss problems their country is having, I thought that China might be well on its way to becoming the next superpower. Fifty years, tops.