Friday, June 26, 2009

Coffee Break: If you forget me

by Pablo Neruda

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Coffee Break: New Stock Market Terms

From my friend Ben.

CEO - Chief Embezzlement Officer.
CFO - Corporate Fraud Officer.
BULL MARKET - A random market movement causing an investor to mistake himself for a financial genius.
BEAR MARKET - A 6 to 18 month period when the kids get no allowance, the wife gets no jewelry, and the husband gets no sex.
VALUE INVESTING - The art of buying low and selling lower.
P/E RATIO - The percentage of investors wetting their pants as the market keeps crashing.
BROKER - What my broker has made me.
STANDARD & POOR - Your life in a nutshell.
STOCK ANALYST - Idiot who just downgraded your stock.
STOCK SPLIT - When your ex-wife and her lawyer split your assets equally between themselves.
FINANCIAL PLANNER - A guy whose phone has been disconnected.
MARKET CORRECTION - The day after you buy stocks.
CASH FLOW - The movement your money makes as it disappears down the toilet.
YAHOO - What you yell after selling it to some poor sucker for $240 per share.
WINDOWS - What you jump out of when you're the sucker who bought Yahoo @ $240 per share.
INSTITUTIONAL INVESTOR - Past year investor who's now locked up in a nuthouse.
PROFIT - An archaic word no longer in use.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mental Notes: Kill Bilbil and other ways to die

David Carradine, the actor of “Kung Fu” and “Kill Bill” fame, was found dead in his hotel room Thursday. He was found with a rope around his neck and his genitals, and so far Thai police have not come close to any solid conclusion.

If you don’t remember David Carradine from his “Kung Fu” days like me, you may remember him from the dark comedic gore-fest “Kill Bill”. He played “Bill” of course, and his character did not die in any conventional way.

In Vol. 2, The Bride (Uma Thurman) strikes Bill with the “Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique”. But he had the most peaceful death of all in the movie that shows just how many gory ways a person can die.

Ironically, although we watch many films about death and dying, most of us don’t like to talk about it.

“Fight Club”, a book by Chuck Pahluniuk that got turned into a cult classic thanks to the movie, spoke about how when someone dies, his body is quickly covered with a blanket and hauled away from sight – as if death was some highly-contagious disease.

But the point is, we are all going to die someday, somehow. It is the only thing certain apart from change.

So if you don’t want to read about death, close your eyes or look away and think happy thoughts – but remember – even Bambi’s mother died.

My friends and I used to talk about death. Although we’re not suicidal, the hazard of our job gave us a constant awareness of it. A few good friends of ours passed away of natural causes or because of some other tragic circumstance.

Although we were all half-expecting to die with a bullet in the brain -- we all hope to write 30 in a dignified manner -- and not in some pathetic freak accident like slipping on our pens and accidentally stabbing ourselves in the heart, or being hit by a runaway golf cart or struck down in the prime of life by a blimp.

Another good friend of mine, who has suffered from asthma from childhood, told me he thought he was going die one night due to a severe asthma attack. “I figured, if this is it – I might as well have one last cigarette.”

Surprisingly, the cigarette made him feel better and he survived the night. Indeed, “bad grass die hard,” he told me the next day.

Being Pinoy, it’s easy to tell that most of us will die of some lifestyle disease. Diabetes, heart disease, you name it.

We are told not to eat lechon, but we can’t help ourselves. No crispy pata. We eat it anyway. We love out sweets. We love our beer because as we like to sing, “In heaven there is no beer…that’s why we drink it heeerrreee!” *hik*

We love our gin, even when it smells like rubbing alcohol and was rejected for export because it was found to be “not fit for human consumption”.

We like our street food, though we joke about it being Hepa food.

Another friend of mine, who has been warned by his doctor time and time again not to indulge in lechon, said he doesn’t mind his bulging waistline. “I’d rather die happy”, he said, in a half-joking manner.

Another friend told me a story about an old woman who constantly chewed on tobacco and a man who lived healthily all his life. The young man kept telling the old lady to stop chewing on tobacco or she would die. The old woman outlived the young man because a truck hit him during his jog the next morning. So much for that.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Writer's Block: A case of online euthanasia

It's time to let 360 die. After a about two years of having 360 on life support, we're pulling the plug.

If you haven't heard already, 360 is going to be killed in July and will be replaced by a new product - something like a simple version of Facebook with a blog platform -- or at least that's what it looked like the last time I viewed it.

As a late bloomer when it comes to this online social networking stuff, I sometimes need to force myself to catch up with the trends. Frankly, I've always been just an email and search user from the time I got my hands on the Internet. The most I ever really did as a user was to look for an e-card, when I was not doing something related to work.

Today, I am a different mammal. I'm so hooked to the Internet, you could say I'm over-logged. Only less than three years ago, I couldn't care less about anything that went on outside my inbox. Now I always use messenger, blogs, and most recently -- social networking tool, Facebook.

I refused to get on any social networking tool for years, but finally succumbed to peer pressure and found myself on Facebook. Thankfully it's not a totally useless tool. I managed to get in touch with some old friends, colleagues and former editors on that tool. It makes it easier to keep track with what's going on with my friends' lives even when we're not even in the same continent.

But apart from that, I still have the odd feeling of wanting to blog more than network. And as a sentimental schmuck, 360 holds a special place in my heart being my first blog tool. Yet as the song says, some good things never last', and it's time to just let the poor thing die.

After years of neglect, being what seems to be the child unloved, the time has come to just say goodbye and welcome something new. I wish I could say the same thing about my Facebook account, but I have to keep in touch with my old friends and colleagues somehow.

As a socially retarded person, I find social networking to be an odd tool, but it is a necessary evil in these modern times. Now apparently, I need to get on Twitter, though the concept somewhat escapes me. But I did hear its a pretty good tool to keep abreast with news even before it breaks. So I'm probably gonna give that a shot and see where it takes me.

Blogging was initially odd to me, but after leaving journalism and most of my friends/family behind, it has become my only outlet of self expression.

Writer's Block, which used to be the title of my weekly column from back in my newspaper days, has turned into an online diary of sorts.

These days, I only write for self expression, nothing more. I may not be able to call myself a journalist anymore, but I am a writer. Printer's ink runs in my veins, even when I'm just writing about my mundane days.

I will always miss the times I used to write about things that made more sense -- things that matter. My life as it is does not really matter in the bigger scale of things. I'm not suicidal. I am just realistic.

I have no disillusions about becoming famous. I've had more than my fair share of by-lines, there's really no need to prove anything. A writer is a writer, and becomes a journalist by profession if he doesn't become a novelist.

I often wish I could write about something more substantial. A day in a life of a former journalist is boring, and it really doesn't matter. Maybe someday soon, I will get to write about something worth printing again. Until then, I blog.

Unfortunately it looks like Blogspot will have to contain my ramblings for a while. Hopefully the new product can offer something that Blogspot can't, as a hybrid of a social networking tool and a blog platform.

In the meantime, it's time to say farewell to 360 as it takes its last few breaths. RIP and go to that cyberheaven in the sky...or wherever 404'd websites go.

Mental Notes: Meet my new hubby

I'm in love. After years of drooling, I finally got my hands on this baby: the Mark II 1Ds.
Sure, its old -- but it's handsome, strong and powerful -- just the way I like 'em.
For those who have no idea what all the fuss is about - this baby is a professional DSLR that shoots full frame at 5fps. It is resilient against the elements and can be relied upon when shooting under difficult lighting. It's a photojournalist's dream.
Before I got my hands on this baby, I was lugging around a pretty decent camera already: the Nikon D200.
As a Nikon user from the beginning of time, I do believe that comparing a Canon and a Nikon is like comparing apples and oranges. In terms of performance however, a pro series trumps a semi-pro by far.
Photographers know that it is possible to take decent pictures with a simple camera, and crappy ones with a good DSLR. Most of the work is really done by our brain, but it does help when you already have a good tool in your hands.
Thankfully I got to do a comparison of my trusty Nikon and the Mark II.
I borrowed a slightly more advanced model of the Mark II 1Ds, the Mark II N, and found that it really does make a world of difference.
The images are sharper, colors are more vibrant, and lighting is hardly an issue in contrast to my D200. Same subjects, same lighting conditions, different results.
Now I'm in love and I'm kissing my old Nikon goodbye.
The 1Ds is just slightly slower than the Mark II N -- which shoots up to 8.5 fps and has more advanced controls plus a bigger LCD. But it's still a very good, powerful camera. Hands down.
Excuse me while I drool some more.

Writer's Block: Holiday

It was raining on the way to the mountains. I had only a few hours of rest from my flight, but was up early, raring to get into the car and make my escape.

Except for moments that I visit my family, this is how I usually like to spend my vacations -- driving off to another world where I can forget about my troubles.

I'd never been a resort type of person. Never have, and I doubt if I ever will be. I don't particularly care about being a tourist, though I know I am one. Something about being on a bus with a bunch of people with a guide has never really appealed to me.

So I left for my holiday alone with a last-minute ticket, my camera, and a backpack of clothes. I had phoned a friend a few hours before to see if he was in town, and I was off.

The weather was lovely. Not too hot, not too cold. Perfect weather, with a bit of drizzle as we drove southeast.

We were headed for a small village in the mountains, about 400 kilometers away, but made it a bit late as we passed a few other villages.

As a Baguio girl -- these things are not new to me. Being in the mountains bring to me a sense of comfort that everything is going to be alright.

Its hard for friends and family to understand how a woman like me would be so drawn to such places. This is why no one ever goes on a holiday with me. I tend to go where the wind takes me, and it usually isn't near the comforts of home.

So I go by myself and meet up with good friends, who introduce me to their friends and give me a glimpse of what their world is like -- and I rarely come back disappointed.

As we disappeared from the foot of the mountains, it felt good to remember that life is not all about money and things that these little paper notes can buy.

In some parts of the world, money is just money -- used to buy food and drink -- not temporary happiness.

Although I cannot complain about my life, I like to be constantly reminded about such things -- that life is about passion and finding happiness in what really matters.

There's a sense of comfort in knowing that I have nothing to prove because I am not defined by what I do, how much money I make, or where I work. Nobody cares.

I am just a visitor who they welcome into their home and exchange a few laughs with while enjoying sips of tea and a few of nature's treats.

There are no expectations, no ill-thoughts, no pretensions.

Photo by Wendy Ferrer (2009) All Rights Reserved