Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Since I don't have anything worthwhile to post lately, here's a video I took last year:

I've been thinking of taking daily snapshots of the things I see everyday, and add some of my thoughts as part of the text description. Since I haven't gotten around to that, this will do for now.

Anyway, I remember going to this event with Lyn, her bro and a couple of other friends. We arrived at the venue hungry because we were in a hurry and didn't have time for a bite before leaving. Jagermeister was one of the sponsors at this event, so they had girls handing out ice-cold samples in chilled test tubes to patrons.

Having nothing in my stomach at the time, I immediately felt the effects of the drink as it felt like it went straight to my bloodstream and to my head. Fortunately though, we had something to eat afterward and the buzz I got thankfully wore off after some time.

We got ourselves a bottle of the stuff about a few weeks later but it didn't taste as good when served semi-chilled. Sadly, we couldn't get our own Jagermeister cold enough to appreciate how it was meant to be taken.

As for that night however, we had fun listening to the music and getting buzzed from the booze. Good times.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Is this not the most surreal thing you've ever watched?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

I am listening to the audiobook version of "Ender's Game", probably the single greatest novel I've read so far in my life. Though superbly written, I'm not sure I've read a great deal of other books to make a solid comparison. For all I know, there are far better books out there that I am unaware of.

But that is beside the point. Again, "Ender's Game" in itself is well-made, but the sentimental value I've attached to it weighs far more in my heart and mind than the actual skill that was put into making it. Anyway, I decided to download the audio version for the simple pleasure of having someone with a masterful command of spoken English to read the book to me instead. I find joy in hearing a voice other than the one in my head read a piece of literature that's beloved to me.

As I've read the book over and over since the fifth grade, I've committed select chunks of dialogue and passages to memory. Hearing a deep, powerful voice reading these favorite parts out loud sends chills down my spine and makes my hairs stand on end.

I am thankful that at the very least, my mind can find sanctuary in the imaginary worlds Orson Scott Card has created. There is bliss to be found in wandering the cold, metallic halls of Battle School or spending time aboard the space cruiser that took Ender to Eros, the blackened planet shielded from prying eyes.

I am glad that there is a place I can retreat to when the physical world can sometimes wear my sanity thin, as what is happening now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009
Perhaps it's true when they say that at the end of the day, what you do for a living doesn't define you. Yet, I'm beginning to realize that the qualities you espouse in order to DO well at your job (such as courage, integirty and respect) says a lot about your personality.

Take my Dad for instance. As a kid, I looked up to him because let's face it, flying airplanes is a cool job. The perk of being able to hang out in the cockpit is definitely something other kids would wish for. As I got older though, my sense of respect for my father only deepened when the other aspects of his work dawned upon me. Just imagine operating a huge contraption (and in the sky no less) as the lives of hundreds of people depended on the choices you made.

Now, that takes a serious pair of cojones to be able to do that for longer than I've been on this Earth. Can you imagine the kind of steely character it takes to pull that off?

As I was saying, maybe I know my dad as way more than a pilot, but the fact that he has the guts and brains to do such a demanding job says a lot about his personality in general.

I suppose the point I'm driving at is this: while your job is but a mere fraction of who you are as a person, HOW you treat your work is another story. The next time you tell yourself that your work isn't who you are, I won't disagree with you. So maybe it isn't as glamorous or as fulfilling as you hoped it would be - it's cool to feel that way.

Hell, you don't even have to emotionally invest yourself in the job. Just get it done and enjoy the rest of the day afterwards. But that isn't a reason for you to do a half-assed job or slack off for any reason.

Just remember that people will know you by the WAY you did it (regardless of what your type of work is). Even if you are not your job, the quality that you put into your work is what defines you.

Monday, August 10, 2009
There comes a time in your life when you want to turn a new leaf and abandon a certain set of counterproductive habits that are bogging you down. The toughest part is when the pleasure and ease associated with these habits seem to overpower the reasons why you want to change in the first place.

Just when you think you've taken the high road, the folly of your old ways suddenly doesn't feel so significant compared to the allure of your forsaken life. And so, you go back to how you were before, ultimately frustrated that you're back to square one yet again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

When does it end?

As time goes by, it becomes more and more apparent that doing what's easy and doing what's right are mutually exclusive concepts.
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Marko took the The Watchmen Personality Profile Quiz quiz and the result is:

Nite-Owl - The Most Human Hero

You are intelligent and resourceful. You have a fondness for gadgets and technology. You often make cautious decisions and have a backup plan. You analyze a situation before you act. This is both a virtue and at times a flaw. You are kind to others and loyal to your few friends. You are codependent and do your best work with a partner. You can be bold and passionate, but you have a tendency to feel helpless in overwhelming situations.

Despite your achievements, you are an introvert, and often crippled by self-doubt and loneliness. You respect power, but you are unable to go after it. In time you will learn to be comfortable with yourself as a normal person and find socially constructive ways to enjoy your passions. Some words that could describe you: intelligent, resourceful, introverted, self-conscious, kind, loyal, codependent.

Saturday, April 04, 2009
Partial Book Review: Ender's Shadow

*Warning: unedited version - misspellings and grammatical roadbumps ahead.

The problem with getting bitten with the so-called "writing bug" is that it strikes at the most unexpected of times. To make matters worse, it's hard for me NOT to immediately write down these fleeting thoughts, because I might forget them if I wait too long. That's why I'm up, writing this at an ungodly hour. I would like to point out that I'm doing my best not to look at the bottom right corner of my screen where the time is displayed. It's easier for me to get up in the morning not knowing exactly how late I stayed up the night before. I guess I'm just weird like that.

Anyway, I just plowed through about sixty pages of Ender's Shadow, which takes place roughly along the same timeline of the book that started it all, Ender's Game. In Shadow, the story focuses on Bean, an expectionally brilliant (like Ender) but woefully small child who will eventually become one of Ender's most powerful allies. The basic premise of the book is to depict the same intergalactic war between humans and buggers; this time however, the story is told from Bean's perspective.

As I said, I read a good chunk of the book and of course I'm hooked. Right off the bat, Orson Scott Card has already woven in a lot of cool stuff with this parallel novel. What I dig about it is that it's excellent as a standalone book, which means that foreknowledge of the original book is just icing on the cake. But for those that have read Ender's Game (like me), man, what sweet icing it is. In my mind, I was already comparing Ender and Bean's experiences side-by-side, which is what I think Card intended.

If Ender had Peter and Valentine to grow up with before he went off to battle school, Bean has Achilles and Poke as his "siblings". Bean doesn't share any blood relations with the two, but the dynamics of his relationship with Achilles and Poke mimic that of Ender's, but on a much more brutal scale. While Peter and Achilles are both cold-blooded and capable of murder, the main difference between them was their circumstances. Peter had to deal with living in a sheltered, suburban enviroment which I believe held him back from actually killing Ender. If he were made to wander the streets as a homeless kid however, he could just as easily kill like Achilles has. The real threat of dying from starvation merely amplified the same inborn, calcualting nature that Achilles' shares with Peter.

Poke and Valentine also serve the same role, which is to protect their respective brothers (Bean/Ender) from the wrath of their elder tormentors (Achilles/Peter). Of course, Poke literally dies for her heroics (unline Valentine), but both girls have put themselves in harm's way in the same selfless manner.

Let's not forget the name of the officer who verbally praises Bean during the shuttle launch to Battle School. His name escapes me at the moment, but I'll bet you a million bucks that Card fashioned him in the same way as General Graff, Ender's father figure. Like Graff, this officer inwardly has a respect and admiration for Bean but is obviously obligated to subtly segregate him from the other students. This is to acheive the same kind of psychological training that Graff had successfully encoded into Ender's brain. The child must NEVER think for a second that anyone will come to rescue him when he's surrounded by a horde of enemies. When the time comes that Bean/Ender finally has to come face-to-face with massive fleets of alien warships, no adult will come to break up the fight.

As an aside, I liked how many of the characters' names are historically inspired: Nero, Ulysses, Achilles, etc. It adds a tad more subtext that I appreciate although I know little about the actual stories behind those namesakes. Regarding the rest of the street urchins that Bean lived with, they're easily comparable to politicians or society in general. With all the mind games and backstabbing going on among those hungry kids, I couldn't help but draw parallelisms with our current geopolitical landscape. Then again, we've been scheming and plotting as soon as we developed enough grey matter to do it (which goes back to who-knows-when).

Even for a work fiction, the thought of a one-year old like surviving three years on his own is difficult to believe. But I suppose Card wants to challenge us by making us think about the real orphans roaming the cold streets. For all we know, there could be thousands and thousands of children as smart and as strong as Bean who have to deal with the perils of homelessness. Unfortunately for them, they aren't imaginary characters whom the author has to keep alive for the purpose of plot advancement. They're made of flesh and blood and could die at any given moment.

Lastly, if my powers of social observation were as powerful as Bean's during my high school days, I would've been the most popular/powerful guy on campus. The way he uses his ability to suss out the hierarchy of power and make his move to come out on top was just awesome.

Well, that's all there is to be said for now but I'm sure there's plenty more to talk about after I've read a few more chapters.
Monday, March 30, 2009
*The following is a warm-up exercise intended to break myself out of a creative dry spell that's been plauging me on and off for the past twelve months or so:

Back when I merely dabbled in writing (read: not my main livelihood), I was gratified by the fact that I was actually getting paid - chump change as it was - for putting words together that people would actually fork over money to read. It was also gratifying to know that my name would be printed in a medium that is, from a certain point of view, more mainstream than an online journal. That meant that my work would be thrust into a large, non-blogging public and that alone gave me a short-lived sense of satisfaction.

At the time, my sideline work as an article writer made me distastefully smug with the knowledge that I was only working as a customer care specialist (a kinder term for "phone monkey") to get by. I was close to bearing that title for over five years and naturally I came to resent my job with each passing day. Therefore, I kept my ego inflated over the self-delusion that slaving away as a call center drone was "beneath" what I really wanted to do. In short, I felt that I was meant for better things and that answering phones was demeaning.

While I don't see myself returning to my previous line of work, my reasons for not going back are different from why I left it in the first place. As I said, it came to a point where I looked down my last job and so the career shift was, in my mind, a more dignified step forward. Looking back today, I choose not to get back into the call center business because I now realize that it was merely time to do something else. Besides, I wouldn't have lasted that long if I didn't derive some small measure of satisfaction from helping people over the phone.

What I'm really trying to say is that I no longer want to think that I changed jobs because I'm above being a "phone monkey". There is no humiliation to be found in an honest job, and I should never be ashamed that I was able to generate steady employment for myself for so long. To think otherwise would be an insult to the people and companies that offered me the gainful employment which allowed me to sustain my family's material needs. And let's not forget the character-building experiences I incidentally picked up along the way.

What made me realize all of this is on account of the current dissatisfaction I've wrestled with during my current job as a full-time writer. As I've detailed in my previous posts, I've come to find that writing for a hobby (or as a part-time job) is very, very different from doing it full-time. It's not so easy, cool or glamorous as it's cracked up to be, but I can't argue with the paycheck. What puzzled me was how I was slowly beginning to resent this job just as much as I did with my last. How ironic it was to think that this was more dignified than answering phones when I was slowly becoming just as disgruntled as before.

When I began conceptualizing this little piece you're reading today, I intended to start off by ranting how much the current place we're living at is driving me nuts. The street across our gate and along our house both go uphill, which is no big deal unless you live in a village where the residents are dependent upon tricycles. Do you know what a two-wheeled motorized vehicle sounds like when it's struggling to move along an inclined surface? Each strained rattle from its labored engine feels like a cheese grater being raked over my nerves. Now multiply that by everyday. When your work is affected by noise, it doesn't help when you live in a place that thrives on it.

But then I thought, is it right to blame everything around me for my frustration? When they built this community about twenty years ago, did they go and say, "Hey, why don't we make these streets slope upwards to torture the hell out of the writer-to-be that's going to live in this exact spot"? Of course not.

I realized that for all of the things that I moaned and whined about, the only constant variable in the equation was ME, or my attitude to be precise.

That's when I thought that I should just suck it in since I'm moving out of this place in a few months' time anyway. I also realized that at the end of the day, work is just work and it doesn't really define who you are. As long as you're doing an honest job that doesn't violate someone's rights (including your own of course), there is really nothing to complain or be ashamed about. Whatever your job is, find pride in it. If you feel like you're not earning enough or are better suited to something else, then move on to another job and be thankful for the learning experiences you've had with your current line of work.

Ultimately, you are responsible for the quality of your life and no one else can change it for you. I'm not going to deny though that there are random, uncontrollable circumstances and problems that get in the way. However, the way you react to, or work around it is really up to you. As a great author once said, humans are the only animals that say, "why me?" when the shit hits the fan. Other creatures, like your pet dog for instance, won't complain or fight against their pain like it was some disorder. They simply move on with their lives and ride out their anger or depression until it blows over.

In a way, it's good to feel those emotions because it reminds you that you're alive. It simply has to occur to you that you have what it takes to bring yourself back into being happy again. Like Mazer Rackham once told Ender (and I'm paraphrasing here), "The human race does not ask us to be happy. The priority is to survive first, and then happiness as we can manage it."

While those lines were said in the context of an intergalactic war threatening to extinguish all human life, it's just as relevant to me now. As such, I hope that it brings to light all the things you may be taking for granted at this very moment. Be grateful for what you have, because there are millions of other people who are nowhere near as blessed as you are.
Monday, February 23, 2009
One of the inadvertent effects of meeting and interviewing people from different walks of life is that you can get sucked into their personalities if you let them. It's kind of like acting really - you get absorbed into another individual's character until you empathize with them so much that it seems like their thoughts and emotions are your own.

Honestly, it feels like my moral compass gets screwed up a bit after I start questioning my principles and compare my value system against their own. Is their way of thinking better than my own? Or vise-versa? The whole process of encountering someone with a different view of the world can be either:

- inspiring
- disgusting
- a little bit of both

And there lies the rub. It's a double-edged sword of sorts as you take in the good and bad parts of their lives. How can you write something meaningful if you insist on being detached from the person you're writing about? You really have no choice but to cross that barrier and honestly put yourself in his/her shoes.

Take this guy I met just today. This sixtysomething dude recounted the details of how he started his company from scratch, reached the peak of his success and then lost it all. Then, he rose from the ashes and made even more money than before. I spent the rest of the day subconsciously trying to feel what he might have felt at the lowest points in his life, which of course affected my emotions as well. As I drove back home, I also couldn't help but recreate and visualize the not-so-flattering things he did in the past. So much so that I didn't spend that much energy thinking about his achievements and milestones.

Sometimes I'm thinking, "Boy, and I thought I was screwed up." At other times though I'm telling myself, "Now THAT'S what I should be doing with MY life." Therefore, the challenge is to identify with someone's beliefs, experiences, values and other aspects of their humanity without letting it get to you.

The most positive approach to a situation like this is to treat it as a healthy exercise wherein you re-evaluate the things that are important to you. At the same time, you can also apply the positive traits of that other person and discard the other parts that don't apply to your own situation. What works for one guy won't necessarily do the same for someone else. In case it does however, why not be open enough to that other person's way of doing things?

What I'm really getting at I guess, is that meeting new people should always be a learning experience. Some part of me believes in fate, destiny, or whatever else you want to call it. As such, there is a reason why you run into the people that make up the cast from the movie of your life. You have the choice to use these encounters for your personal growth and to become a better human being.