Sunday, January 01, 2012

The New Year smacked me in the face this morning. Enough to end my 3 year bloggin hiatus. I didn't want to fill Facebook with my anger this AM, so if you dare, read on. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> This just in. Mitt Frikken Romney, aka "The White Guy that might have a chance against Obama" is actually leading the polls in Iowa. He is absolutely no different in any way to Obama of course. He loves to remove our freedoms for security, be the boss of the world, and pay off big business at the expense of the tax payer. He wants to fight Iran, and keep places like Guantanamo open, and put people in jail for smoking marijuana. Of course, so does Obama, so a vote for Romney is really just an anti-black man in the White House Vote. Maybe you can wear your little pointy white hats and cloaks to the booths, Iowans. The guy "looks" presidential. If that means like a liar, connected political crony, a thief and figure head for the elite, then yeah, he fits the bill nicely. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> The next logical step to the Patriot Act, the latest NDAA was signed in by our king president "with reservations" yesterday under the cloak of NYE. Well, glad to see his conscience is clear now, this year's NDAA budget and language gives another near trillion for waging wars in places like Libya, Pakistan, Iran, etc. and giving some extremely sharp teeth to the powers that be, AKA our Senate/President and their pointy end of the sword to label and go after any of us "domestic terrorists" (political opponents) right here, in our own country, for whatever perceived threat we might be exhibiting. >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> In case you really think there is some difference in political ideology, take a look at the voting of this when it was a bill in the senate, and the chilling highlights allowing the military to detain Americans under suspicion in very vague and broad reaching language. Will they start sending us to Guantanamo as well? >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> At this point, I would insert one of the thousand Ron Paul references that completely stand up against what I see in my observations, above. I'll stow it for now. You make up your own mind. You will start hearing crap like this soon from the incumbent ---The recession is over! Gas prices are down! Let's just put our heads down and work hard, like we always do! The middle class is optimistic! JOBS EVERYWHERE! >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I am placing the link to this great little video, as in my opinion, it still gets to the root of everything that is wrong with our country right now. Unfortunately, the message is unpopular, as ultimately, we are to blame. Sad but true, if you have seen it before, watch it again.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


I wish I could say that lots has happened lately, but it hasn't. We are closing in on our last semester here. Technically of course, as I still need two minor subjects to get my piece of paper. That is going to tack on an extra couple of MONTHS to our stay, unfortunately. Anyway, there isn't a whole lot else I can do about it.

We get nothing but "doom and gloom" news from back home lately, so maybe we are not missing much. Well, except for our families and friends, as usual. Economy be damned, we are ready to go home!

Karen just had her B-Day. She was a bit depressed this week about her "Age". I had to laugh, but perspective is everything I guess.

We were not able to go to Sagada this year for Xmas. Our school didn't post our schedule earlier than a week in advance, and our efforts to book in this tiny, popular mountain destination were dashed. We called all over, and everyone has snatched up the few rooms here.

We have a couple of 2nd and 3rd choices we are kicking around. And there are some pretty decent "defaults" that feature completely pristine beaches, all to ourselves, etc. Not a bad fall back position, right?

My mom got Karen a pretty nifty cell phone for her birthday/Xmas. (Inadvertently, but that is what she got). She is pretty stoked about it, and I hope this one lasts longer than its 6 predecessors. (Just kidding babe.... But seriously). We had a minor scare when it just "shut off" randomly, but since that episode, it has been OK.

Speaking of episodes, we have found television again. We have really enjoyed House this year, and just saw the season finale. Also, Sons of Anarchy was enjoyed (a gritty biker/sopranos type show), and I am catching up on Curb your Enthusiasm. We were referred to "Big Love" by our friends at Bliss Cafe, and it is so far not doing it for Karen, though I do enjoy the Utah references. I need to give it a couple of more episodes. I am officially not one of those "I don't watch TV" snobs anymore.

We saw a few good movies, so I will just run down the list off the top of my head, and give you my opinion:

The Fountain- Good
The Fall- Good
The day the Earth stood still- Bad
Righteous Kill- Bad
Eagle Eye- Bad
Burn After Reading - Good
Cashback- Good
Thank you for Smoking- Good
The Complete History of my sexual failures- Good

Well, I will leave it at that for now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A eulogy for Grampa Budd

My maternal grandfather passed away yesterday. I knew the man well, and had occasion to have many conversations man to man, enviable to anyone who has not had the chance to really get to understand the wisdom that comes from age, experience and perspective, as I know all too well in that I was only able to glimpse at briefly, with the early passing of my paternal grandfather a long 14 years ago.

Budd was a man who was not my biologic grandfather, but rather my grandmothers third husband, married to her out of pure love it would seem, and not out of responsibility or duress (with no disrespect implied or intentioned). During our several meetings, he enjoyed imparting many viewpoints perhaps unfamiliar to many, as he had a perspective of life that was both pragmatic, and interestingly mischievous, or perhaps a delicate balance of both. At any rate, he played a graceful balance of both well, and left a legacy that my mother's family had not known; a patriarch with a good heart, not afraid to express openly how he felt on a subject, and not afraid to show affection, and not afraid to show disdain appropriately, when called for. This quality was unfamiliar before him, as the predecessors where foreign, distant and unreachable at best. Out of context, this description could be construed as simple, but if you took the sum of the parts, it equaled to me, what it means to really be a man. To live your life unapologetically, for need or reason. I will recount one particular event that was a definitive, but certainly not defining story in the life of this man.

***I apologize for any inaccuracies***
He was over Germany in 1943 in a B-17 when they took heavy AA fire. According to his recollection (and mine as this story is detail for detail what I remember hearing it about 10 years ago), there was a lot of noise, smoke and wind when the 4 remaining crew who survived the initial damage bailed out about 15 miles on the wrong side of the war. When he landed, he badly twisted his ankle, and another crewman had fractured leg. The two others who did bail out were not found or recovered. These two men found each other on the ground in the twilight of dawn, and immediately got themselves to cover in a forested area. They drug each other out to the front, and were captured and taken as prisoners by the allies, thinking that it was strange to see a couple of blond haired German family named individuals coming from the wrong side of the battlefront. They spent 2 weeks in the camp until the mess was sorted out. Later, he served in Korea and later still, worked as a civilian for the military, the remainder of his whole employed life. I wanted to share the story, and a pic of the flying fortress that he fondly adored. I don't have the bomber group he was in, but there were a few notable missions and bomber groups, and his was among the notable ones that sustained big losses.

We will miss Budd greatly. I am sure, though I doubt if he believed in any of it, that he is sitting ontop of his riding lawn mower, with a nice glass of ice with “water” (vodka to you and me) and his akita. Oh, maybe grandma too. (Love you grandma(.

Thanks for reading. Find a WW2 vet if you are lucky enough, and thank them and their generation for doing a job, not looking for thanks, and generally having to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, without even batting an eye.

There are many more great stories about Budd, and we will share them with each other mostly with a big laugh and moist eyes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The WHOLE nine yards

Sorry about the gap. I seem to be falling behind in the blog.

Anyway, I have some stuff worthy of reporting to my loyal readership (up to 7 entire people, by now!)

I will first talk about the great mini weekend that my mom treated Karen and I. We had ourselves a much needed evening at the spa, and dinner out. I have talked about spa before in the Philippines, but it is really affordable and quite soul reclaiming. I went for the native foot massage, followed by an epic sauna. Karen got a bunch of other stuff, then we had a nice pasta dinner overlooking the city. What a great little place. THANKS MOM!

The preceding was followed by a week's hospital duty in Abatan, about a 4 hour van ride towards Sagada. This place is "on top of the world" in terms of the Philippines, and as compared to anywhere else. The wind and rain and fog rolls through here pretty violently, but it makes for some breathtaking scenery and of course, as green as it gets. We had the 12-8AM shift, and that was crappy, but somewhat tolerable. We had very "toxic" patients in the wards. My last day, I had a 11 year old kid with acute renal failure (glomerular nephritis). He was swollen like a balloon, with a BP of 180/110. Headaches, nausea, vomiting and of course, no peeing. Poor kid. I talked his mom into going to Baguio General, and did my best to help him out, but really, all I could do was administer IV meds and monitor his vital signs. I though he was going to have seizures, but lucked out. He was in an ambulance that morning and hopefully on his way to better (read:advanced) care. He needed a lot more than this district hospital could provide. He was my first patient that I thought might not make it during my shift.

On the much more positive side, I delivered a baby. We had a 17 year old girl and her family (and the father) in when we started our shift, and I was up for the delivery (my group rotates the procedures among us) . As a typical overenthusiastic rookie, I ran and put my scrubs on. She was a nulliparous, so This was to be a long night, in actuality. We walked her up and down the halls for about 2 hours, then brought her into the DR. Though she was fully dilated, she wasn't effaced, and her membranes had not ruptured. Myself, the midwife and the soon to be mother hunkered in for about 3 hours of regular contractions. then it seemed that she backed off a little. The midwife ruptured the membranes manually, but it seemed like there was not a lot, and it did little to accelerate the process. Then, the contractions came back with a vengeance. She poked the membranes again, and this time a good spurt of amniotic fluid came out. I foolishly thought this was what all the hubub was all about. I was wrong. Also, I thought that my role as "Actual delivery nurse" was merely to assist the midwife, I was REALLY wrong about this. The good midwife basically handed me the steering wheel, and talked me in like a corny pilot passed out/control tower movie ending from 1972. Then I was instructed to dilate the cervix. I will spare the details for the uninitiated. After 3 minutes of the longest 3 minutes of my life, the contractions where coming in like crazy, and though she was not a screamer, she was obviously in a lot of pain. The midwife went in with an episiotomy and then all hell broke loose. First, the REAL bag of water burst. And I am not talking about a little fluid here, I am talking about 12 ounces or more of a giant white explosion (this is the "mucus plug" that I was not really looking forward to). I performed a matrix like maneuver to avoid the discharge, and was mostly successful. Then, with a huge yell (hers, not mine), the head came out. I was then instructed to grab on and pull her out. We got over the shoulders after a short time, then I caught her. (real fast). I passed the clamps and scissors to the MW, and we got a cry as we held her upside down for a few seconds to drain. We passed the baby over to the just arrived Doc and the cord tie/assist nurse. Then, (far, far, from over) I delivered the placenta. At this point, I was in a surreal world of all kinds of fluids and an incredible amount of blood. Oh yeah, and this is normal. We got her uterus to fully contract finally to slow the flow of blood, and then sutured the episiotomy/ repair (this procedure would be birth control if we taught it to our children). After some time, we were finished, and the mother and baby went to their room to their family. I was in a euphoric daze for about an hour afterwards. (similar to my total hysterectomy case a month before, but more profound)

Shockingly to me, I am actually looking forward to my next delivery. I doubt if I will have another great "hands on" experience like I did again, as most facilities do not allow students to do what I did. The experience was amazing.

Monday, June 02, 2008

6 easy tips to save water

I spent most of my childhood growing up in drought years, or near drought years in Northern California. Even though the exact location that I did was serviced by a very deep, clean and ever plentiful well, we were constantly bombarded with news from the San Joaquin Valley area cities about the booming population, agricultural demands, dwindling Sierra Nevada snow pack, etc. As children, we would see our beloved river rise and fall, ( the south fork of the Cosumnes River ) but it was always accessible to us. The overall color of Northern California at that time was some green, with some beiges and tans being the majority. Something like this color. Anyways, this news always frightened me as a child. What if the river went down too far? I would have lost the best playground that any kid could ask for. I guess it was this that started me off doing things unconsciously to preserve water. I get asked a lot, "What are you doing?" when it comes to water use, and it always catches me off guard, until I realize that most people simply take for granted that since it has always been around, that it will always be around. I would like to illustrate the ways that you to can help reduce water usage. This will not likely translate into any significant reduction, but I cannot see it hurting, and when it becomes "second nature" to you, perhaps it will become second nature to your children, and so on. In no particular order:

#1. Brushing your teeth. Some people leave the sink running when they brush their teeth. I have never been able to figure this out. During the 2-3 minutes that you brush your teeth with the sink running, you are wasting at least a gallon of water. I have a cup that I exchange on a weekly basis, fill it, and use that for the whole procedure. Just a quick splash at the end is the only time I turn the faucet on again. Savings per week average: 14 gallons.

#2. Washing dishes. We never had a dishwasher growing up. So all dishes were done by hand. Though I believe that hand washed dishes are using less water, most new dishwashers use about 10 gallons of water, not including your "pre-rinse routine". Just like in the tooth brushing principle, I could never fathom how someone would have a double sink, and simply have the tap running on one side, while they scrub away at something on the otherside. I would venture to guess that 10 gallons of water is wasted this way every day. If you have a dishwasher, DO NOT PRERINSE. Here is why we do this. Because about 25 years ago, dishwashers were crappy. And out of habit, we still do. Plus, the "energy efficient" cycle that most people like to use, often poorly washes the dishes. Here is my source. If you do not have a dishwasher, or use it infrequently, here is my suggestion. Get the largest dirty bowl that you have to wash, and place it inside the sink. Fill it with hot soapy water, and then begin to place your least dirtiest dishes (usually cups and glasses) in and scrub them, (with the water off of course), place the scrubbed and soapy dishes into the other sink. Go progressively dirtier until you are finished. Then, go to the other side, and rinse everything. This will cut your water use by 90%. Notice someone who is doing the dishes and you will see that only a few seconds is spent actually rinsing, and the majority of the time is spent scrubbing. Savings per week: 70-100 gallons a week

#3 Shaving. Nearly exactly like the toothbrushing scenario, gents will run the tap while they are lathering up, shaving and looking at themselves in the mirror. A large heavy coffee mug or deep corning wear bowl will work just fine, and save gallons of water every time you shave. It's easy.
Savings per week: 10 gallons a week.

#4-Laundry- I am like a lot of people in my position. I hate "Laundry day" Too much time is spent waiting for cycles to finish, then waiting for dryers to finish. So, a solution is to do the loads, "as they come in" throughout the week. This has a problem though. You end up washing loads that are "not full" or at best, you have a "load size selector", but I doubt that they save any real significant amount of water, and therefore, waste water. To beat this, I always make sure that I have exactly a full load in the basin. But, I also separate and bleach my whites. So how can I do this, especially as a often single or with one other person type guy? I found my solution watching people hand wash. I notice they utilize a soaking period in the washing routine, and there it was. So I have a bucket, that I put about 1.5 gallons of water in. Then I put a TBSP of bleach in. Next, I put my whites in and let them soak for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, I put the washer to full, and fill with my usual colored clothing. Then, I dump out the water from the "bleached whites", and rinse them for 10-15 seconds. That about does it, then I toss them in with the regular load. I have never had any "residual bleach problem" and the whites are always brilliant when they come out. 20-50 gallons of water per week.

WARNING here is where I get "exotic" by some standards in water conservation

#5 Showering- First of all, if you take a bath in this day and age every time you bathe, you are outrageously wasting water. I can't see the harm in the occasional weekly "treat", but to do this day in and day out smacks of greed and insensitivity. Also, who the heck has the time to do this everyday, and what about the other people in the house that may need to use the bathroom? I digress. But we can do so much more with our daily shower than we believe.

1. Go into the shower.
2. Turn on the water and soak your head, then immediately turn off the shower
3. Shampoo
4. Turn on water and rinse, then immediately turn off the shower.
5. Soap up a loufa, or whatever you use if anything, and "soap up"
6. Rinse off and turn it off.

Not only can and do I complete a shower in less than 5 minutes, but I probably use 1/10 the water that most people do. I like a relaxing shower as much as the next guy, adn usually treat myself to one "normal" shower per week. My total "on time" for the water is usually about 1 minute or so, or about 3-5 gallons of water, saving: 24-45 gallons of water with each shower.

6- The Toilet.- Yes, I am going there. First off, I was an early adopter in the day, for putting a bottle of water inside the tank. Nowadays, the Johns are all low flow. Of course, if you have an older toilet, go ahead and stick a 2 liter jug of water inside it. You will reduce volume significantly. But as a child, I saw that this was not enough. This was never more apparent than going to the aforementioned river with my brother, and coming back home late in the afternoon. The first thing a kid does when he returns from the chh-chh-chilly snow pack fed river is pee. This routine went on, where one of us would get there first, then followed by the other one. Right there, is two complete flushes for a couple hundred MLs of urine. One day, I knocked on the door and said, "Hey, don't flush, I will". After all, 5-12 year old boys are not known for their modesty anyways. This tradition has followed my brother and I for years. I don't know if he adopted it, but I always request others if ever convenient, to let me "piggy back" on their flush. I can't see everybody doing this, but urine is the only product allowed for this maneuver! And it isn't really that gross. Urine is "sterile" after all. Savings: 20 gallons a week

It all adds up.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Make your own Italian herbed crusty bread in 25 easy steps

This is a recipe to make a crusty on the outside, light and airy on the inside bread. You will rightly think "pizza crust taste" when you begin to smell it. That is because this is a pizza crust recipe. Maybe it's the beer lover in me, but I love the taste of yeasty bread. As a kid, I would eat the crust side first of the pizza. Anyways, one of the few things in a kitchen I have not had much experience in, is baking bread, or really any type of baking. Many people are turned off by the "rules" and complex "procedures" of bread making, so they avoid it.

A few weeks ago, Karen and I had talked about how bad we wanted pizza. (we are both on diets and have lost a lot of weight in the past few months, so obviously, nearly half of our conversations revolve around food). I decided then and there to finally overcome the last cuisine obstacle that truly sets apart the masters from the apprentices. I consider myself an excellent judge of good pizza, so there it was. A challenge. A quick run to the store, and I got the one part missing in my kitchen since forever. Yeast. And not just any yeast mind you, but a giant, one year supply of it for $3. I then got home, and began the work, and made insanely good pizza. I came to the conclusion that if I can make pizza crust, I can make really big pizza crust that is something like bread. This is a recipe for approximately a dozen large, yeasty, crusty, herbed rolls.

I first assembled the ingredients and various instruments. I get a nice big heavy pot, and put about 1.5 cups of water in it. Then I put the pot on the stove, and heat it until it is just slightly warm to the touch.

I put the pot on the counter, mix in one TBSP of sugar, and then pour in about 2 TBSP of yeast and mix it up for about 10 seconds with a whisk. Notice I am not measuring anything at this point, just eyeballing it.
After about 5 minutes, the yeast/water should be quite foamy and thick.

Next, I start dumping in the dry ingredients. First the flour, about 2 cups (I use 1 cup of whole wheat flour, and a cup of plain white), 2 TSP of "Italian seasoning", 1 tsp coarse black pepper, 1 tsp of onion powder (I like a real herby type bread, so you can just adjust for your taste and what you intend to use the bread for) , 1 tsp of salt and a TBSP of oil.

At this point, I just dive right in. Start mixing.

As you get it smooth, you should likely start adding flour in a little at a time. I like to do it this way because it is easier to adjust from a start of too wet, to hit the perfect mark, then to go from too dry to to perfect... I hope that made sense. ;) I got Karen to sprinkle it for me,because my hands at this point are insanely sticky.

As you progress, you should at some point be comfortable with your ball of dough. It should start picking up all the loose flour in the pot. Add you flour very slowly being careful not to go too dry.

At this point, you can take it out. If it is a little bit too wet, that is OK, because we are going to fix that momentarily. Sprinkle some flour onto your counter top. And plop your dough down. Now the kneading. This is where you need to get your wet/dry ratio just right. begin kneading and sprinkle with flour every so often. This should take about 5 minutes. Its a pretty good workout. At the end, you should have a nice, smooth"ish" dough ball.

Get it all smooth, and lightly coat it with some olive oil, then place inside a large bowl and put a towel over it. The yeast will begin to consume the starches in the flour and poop out C02. The C02 is what makes your dough rise to the occasion!

after about 20 minutes....

After about 40 minutes or so, take it out, and punch it once or twice! It should deflate like a balloon. Form it into a ball, and place it back inside for another 30 minutes.

OK, so you have your dough all ready. Get whatever you call an oven (I have a counter top convection) up, hot and ready.

Next, take a knife, and cut yourself off pieces of dough. I just cut around it, creating crescent shaped pieces. Be careful not to flatten your dough at this point. you want to keep it as fluffy as possible.

OK, so you have your pieces.

Next, grease your pan. I use a foil covered paper plate.

Put your pieces gently on the pan, and brush very lightly with olive oil.

Set everything aside for 5-10 minutes, hopefully they will rise a bit more.

I love garlic. So I take a few cloves............

And grate them onto the tops.

I then sprinkle yet more Italian seasoning.

At this point, you oven should be rippin' hot. Pop them in. In about ten minutes.....

After about 20 minutes (you might have to turn down the oven a bit).......

Another 5 minutes or so and here they are. I recommend you put on a wire rack for about 5 minutes so they cool properly. The steam will make the bottoms mushy is you don't. These are great with salad, soups, as sandwich rolls, with pasta, with eggs for brunch, etc...etc.

the pizza is the same, except you roll it out as thin as you can, drop it onto a foil covered paper plate (or toss if you want to have fun), make your edge, brush very lightly with olive oil, put a very thin layer of sauce, (recipe below) then cheese and bake for about 20 minutes on highest heat until cheese browns slightly. To emulate the "pizza stone effect" I just drop my near finished pizza onto a hot, dry skillet and cook for about 5 minutes, this will crisp up the bottom perfectly. Always let your pizza settle for about 5-10 minutes. I learn this rule every time I go for my second piece, because I rarely wait for the first one. It is MUCH better!! Always have a glass of red wine with this.

Sauce for Pizza
I make a simple sauce using a half a yellow onion, a small handful of celery tops and a few cloves of garlic, minced, sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and some capers. When the veggies are about to turn brown, I add a good scoop of tomato paste, and about 2 cups of water. I simmer this down until it is nice and thick. You could blend it at this point to get a nice consistency for your pizza, but you could also leave it "chunky". A few basil leaves are not unwelcome either.

Bon appetito!!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A "conspiracy theory" a few months ago.. now its a fact

More pain for the people who would just love to see some real "change" not just great speeches.

read more | digg story

Monday, March 17, 2008

Even More Exciting updates!!

We are officially done with 3rd year! We wrote our diagnostic exams, ended our OR and Skills labs, and wrote our final exams! Did pretty well as usual, though no academic scholarships this semester.

Also, my official duties as 3rd year coordinator of the SB CON are nearly over. I am happy with my contribution, but in all honesty, relieved. I wrote several letters on behalf of our student population. Likely nobody will give me any certificate for it, but I also participated in the decision making processes of our Student Body heavily. My list of accomplishments included:

1. Active participation and attendance of 90%+ of all scheduled meetings with SB. (out of approximately 30 or so scheduled meetings). Signatory on a corresponding number of duly witnessed and written resolutions.

2. Participation in protection and maintenance of student rights such as protection of student participation in extra curricular projects, creation of an RLE syllabus, tuition fee increase consultation and discourse with the administration and Supreme Student Council meetings regarding future student body participation.

3. Participation in projects such as Nursing Day (a lead coordinator, participant), Tanghal Galing II (team coordinator) Recognition Ceremony semester 1 (team coordinator), Recognition Ceremony semester 2 (Emcee, coordinator), CON website (originator, lead coordinator), T-Shirt (delivery coordinator), Orphanage Outreach (participant, volunteer coordinator), NCP Seminar (coordinator)

With all that wrapped up, Karen and I have been enjoying our vegetarianism (though I am still a student in this regard). A recent trip to Bliss Cafe got us invited to Jim and Shanti's house for a wine and cheese party. We had a great time there, met new and interesting people, and played a marathon game of Cranium, a game I had played with my brother et al once before. Karen was invited to show some of her art in Bliss Cafe. I have put the links on my link section, and they can be seen at her portfolio site here. I am real proud of her, and her work is just great. I talked her into creating the portfolio online just for the heck of it. This is just the stuff she has done in the past 2 weeks, mind you. Another work in progress, I guess you could say.

Our friend Al came back for a vacation from Iran, in between semesters and the Iranian new year. I think the time away was a bit hard on him in some way. He seems a bit "off". Anyways, we and the gents downstairs are thrilled to have him back. We have had a few sessions with them already. Amir seems to have met a good match recently, Sheen, a nice English major also studying at UB. We hope him the best, he was unlucky a few times, but he "got back on the horse" and seems to be enjoying himself.

Grace and Mao invited us to join them in Burgos again. We have to reluctantly decline. Too much to get done before our guests arrive only 7 days from now!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Some updates

Well, another couple of weeks, and it will be another year down, and one to go! I can't wait to see my mother and grandmother who will be visiting when we are finished for our mini summer break at the end of this month.

We rearranged our living room, with the help of our landlord who allowed us to store some stuff in the attic area. We have more of a lounge zone, rather than a sprawling living room now, with our Persian carpet as a featured piece, and we closed off the second opening of our hallway to warm up the home, and add some interest to the room.

We spent a wonderful day last week with very "in need" children at an orphanage. We organized a group of the college of nursing officers, got some much needed supplies such as disposable diapers, antibiotics, and other items, and set out early in the morning. When we arrived, the children were REAL amped up and excited to get visitors. The orphanage is an aging facility, with an infant wing of 10 infants, and a toddler/child wing of about 30. These kids are either abandoned, or have been seized by the government due to poor living conditions. When they walked by you, they would touch you as they walked by. Many would just attach themselves to your legs. They really seemed to thrive on human touch. The tireless people running the facility were very thankful and appreciative of our help that day. We went food shopping, and bought a large amount of fresh vegetables and fruits, as the facility director requested that they are usually under stocked with such things. The condition is entirely ironic, because La Trinidad is the proverbial capital city of the "Salad Bowl" of the Philippines. We cooked up chicken/pork adobo and chop suey, and left behind 20-30 kilograms of vegetables and fruit. After, we played games, sang songs and held, rocked and changed babies.

Inevitably, one is faced with a plethora of inner thoughts when visiting such a place. Why is the government not providing more for these few numbers of neglected innocents? How could someone have such poor communal or familial ties to allow this to happen? And on and on. Apparently, government funds are dispersed to the orphanage through an agency, that further lines the pockets of several sub agencies until it reaches it's final destination, usually 1/10 of the original amount. If there was ever a good argument against government funding, here it is loud and clear. Ease the taxation of businesses, and allow an orphanage to be directly sponsored by unburdened corporate entities (such as my school, formula companies, etc). The orphanage told us that even though they are a government agency, the majority of their funding and ability to survive comes from private contributions. Considering the huge amount of bureaucratic tendencies of government agencies here and everywhere else, they likely consume most of their government allowance just keeping up with paperwork.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

On a happier note

Karen and I went to Bliss cafe for Valentines. They held a limited engagement vegetarian buffet, with two sets of music from a wonderful vocal quintet. It was a real nice and romantic evening. We are hoping Jim, the owner, will be able to open his other business idea, a "canteen" style food offering at the Buddhist temple about 100m from our school. The place is great, there is a Zen rock garden, lots of interesting books, real good music and free weekend art films. It is a fairly unknown establishment among locals so it is funny to go there and see all these Swiss and Germans and Americans packed into the place from time to time. Jim is an American Ex-Pat from Chicago. He and his wife have been all over SEA for the past 20+ years, or so. They have settled in Baguio, and now they run what must be the most pleasant restaurant in the city. All the food is prepared by his wife Shanti, and from scratch, on the spot. Even the rice. That makes for a long evening, which actually turns out to be perfect, as the number of local art exhibition, interesting books, posters and artifacts from Jim and Shanti's travels engages the mind in pleasant ways, and puts the prospect of food on temporary hold, at least until it is served. The menu has many offerings, but most notably to me are the set meals. They consist of entree, salad, dessert and beverage for about $5. They are either Indian, Korean, Mexican (yes, Mexican!) or what I don't exactly know called simply and wonderfully, "Heaven" and "Earth", but we love it. There is NO MEAT whatsoever in any of it, and Shanti has a knack for making some pretty accurate interpretations of meat products out of Soy, gluten and who knows for sure. Anyways, we are going tonight to eat and watch "The Elephant Man".

My charmed life

I always seem to be at the center of disaster... Eathquake, flood, landslide, typhoon... Now fire... Part of my school burned down yesterday right before my eyes. Nobody was hurt thankfully. I have never seen a large building engulfed in flames before in person. Brought back some unpleasant memories. It was pretty unreal. Waiting for the locusts that should be arriving any minute now...