30 July 2009

books to buy, as of July 2009 (part 2)

The title of this post is actually misleading because I went and actually bought the books already! Well, 3 out of the 4 books have been on my list for quite some time, so at least I'm able to cross them out from the ever-growing list in my notebook.

When I had renewed my Fully Booked discount card back in June, the customer service people gave me a 20% discount voucher which I could redeem before end of July. Whee! Book discounts = happiness.

The voucher was an excellent way to kick off what I'd call the book-buying season. August and September are my "Christmas months" because Powerbooks and Fully Booked (and sometimes Bibliarch) go on huge sales, and the annual Manila Book Fair is alway held around this period.

I imposed on myself, before stepping into the store this afternoon, a severe book-shopping price limit of Php 2,000. That would be the discounted price already. I was brimming with confidence, thinking, "Okay, I can do that. After all, I just need to browse for books that would amount to a total regular price of Php 2,500. That's roughly 4 to 5 books. I can do that!!"

Left the store 2 hours later after handing over Php 2,223 to the cashier.

Okay, so I went over my budget by Php 223. But that's fine, considering the long, internal struggle I had during those 2 hours in the store. I wanted to buy 7 books but I had to restrain myself and stick to my budget. This wasn't an entirely easy task; you're reading the blog entry of a girl who used to blow something like Php 5,000 at the bookstore every pay day. Of course, over the years, I've learnt to cut down my excessive book purchases and to valiantly ignore--as much as possible--the feeling of cold sweat breaking out all over my body every time I step foot inside a bookstore.

So here are the books that have officially kicked off Gina's book shopping season:

1. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien - Yes, I know, I know. I was supposed to have bought this weeks ago (see my previous post on this), but then I went to Bangkok, returned, had to buy other stuff. So I postponed buying it and was in fact rather complacent about the book not going out of stock immediately. After all, how many people do you know would be rushing to the bookstores to grab some stuffy book on old Nordic poems?

2. The Road to Middle-earth: Revised and Expanded Edition by Tom Shippey - This would be the Crown Jewels in today's loot. I have been looking for this book forever. I'm serious. Even Borders didn't have a copy, when I last visited. The Road to Middle-earth would be, for me, one of those books that you'd automatically look for whenever you'd enter a bookstore in the hopes that it would show up but never actually did.

Until today! I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it on the second-to-the-lowest shelf in the dimly-lit Classics & Literary Criticism sections (Why is this area so poorly-lit to begin with? Doesn't anybody read the classics anymore?)

The book was sealed, but the plastic wrapper itself looked old and pretty dusty; I'm beginning to wonder how long Fully Booked had this copy and why I was idiotic enough to have missed it on the shelves before. Blame it on the section's poor lighting.

Anyway, seeing The Road to Middle-earth on the bookshelf was, without any doubt, a pee-in-the-pants moment for me. Metaphorically speaking of course.

3. The Final Solution: A Story of Detection by Michael Chabon - Not buying this book when I saw it in Borders last year totally confirms my stupidity. I don't even remember why I dilly-dallied in the first place. Basically, this sin of omission has been haunting me ever since, because for some weird reason, I could never find a copy readily here in Manila. Thank God Fully Booked High Street had one copy left, and it's a good one. Mine now, at last. Hooray!

4. Notebooks by Leonardo da Vinci - Seeing a friend's brand new copy sparked my interest, and so I decided to get my own. It's always good to go back to the classics once in a while, as it helps maintain one's "discipline" (I don't know what else to call it) in reading books belonging to this genre. The nerd in me was scanning the pages of Notebooks and it definitely looks like an interesting read!

Why is it that the seemingly boring books that we were forced to read back in college (like Darwin's The Origin of Species and Smith's The Wealth of Nations) now look appealing to us--or to me, at least? Sorry, just wondering out loud.

Looking forward to the next two months. Will have to make my August book shopping list soon!

26 July 2009

Bangkok, I love you.

Oh yes, I do!

I've been to this city a couple of times already, and every visit always feels new and exciting. And I am so in love with the temples.

My ultimate Bangkok goal: to have my picture taken with a Buddhist monk. But this is, obviously, highly impossible.

P.S. Will see you again in September, Bangkok!

25 July 2009

Run For Home race results

Yeah!! Now that I can slightly breathe from last week's hectic work routine, am posting now my results from this race. Modest running performance. I've definitely had better runs than this. But the results are okay, considering that (a) I had not run in weeks; (b) I only had one practice run before this race AND got sick afterwards; and (c) my last race was the Microsoft IE8 Run on May 31.

So...not altogether bad!

This whole chip technology was great! Totally enjoyed poring over my run stats and seeing both the good and the bad in my performance.

My favorite piece of info? "For the record, you were ahead of about 59% of male finishers." Woot woot! Man, that's good enough for me. =)

Overall, the Run For Home race was nicely done and well-organized. The race packs were slick-looking and the singlet comfy enough, although I would have expected a better singlet design, considering it was such a huge event held by Globe and AyalaLand.

I wasn't too happy though about the long lines for the free water at the finish line; I was uber thirsty while waiting in line and my first thought was, "I ran only 5k but I'm thirsty and I'm forced to wait this long for water. What about the 10k and 21k runners?" I mean they have their hydration packs and all, but nothing beats getting free bottles of refreshingly cold water and sports drinks at the end of a race.

Don't know yet what's my next race, but I'm considering 10k.

24 July 2009


It's mid-year review season in UNICEF.

Which basically means all of the following:
- overtime
- barely any reading or blogging time
- numbers swimming in my head
- me as a possible victim of deep vein thrombosis because I hardly stand up from my desk anymore
- endless presentation slides

And all this eventually leads to death by PowerPoint.

So to de-stress, I will do some very quick blogging here. My officemate Tito recently came back from Istanbul and gave me pasalubong (souvenir gift). It was a traditional Turkish evil eye amulet which, he explained, is believed to protect people from harm.

I thought it was very pretty (albeit slightly creepy), and hung it over my desk in the hopes that I would be protected from all sorts of bad stuff.

Although I think the evil eye's currently not working, because I feel extra stressed these days, and well, stress is bad stuff in my book. But the amulet looks charming and mysterious and otherworldly, so it gets points in the aesthetics department.

Looking at it right now, I am reminded of how much I want to visit Turkey and Greece someday. All that history and Old World charm.

And speaking of Turkey, I have been forever stuck in Orhan Pamuk's My Name is Red, a story set in sixteenth-century Istanbul. Currently in chapter 19 (out of 59, I think). It's not that the novel's boring; I just haven't found time to finish it in two or three sittings. And so the momentum's kinda lost. Bought it more than a year ago, and I've managed to read several books in between. Argh.

I'm waiting until I reach the exciting part, so I can finish it in a matter of hours.

20 July 2009

good book hunting

In my office building, there's a small Books For Less branch right on the food podium area. So every time I get my bagel with cream cheese fix, I make sure to pass by Books For Less and do a quick scan of the new piles of previously-owned books--in the hopes that there's a great book out there that's waiting to be owned and loved by me. =)

I find the whole notion of book hunting exciting (even though the books are secondhand), because there are novels out there that people consider as useless junk (sad face) but are actually other people's treasure. I don't frequent shops selling secondhand books, although I happen to like Books For Less because they have a good selection of previously owned trade paperbacks. So going there every lunch hour is a treat, because I never know what might show up in their piles.

So far, I've managed to discover and purchase little jewels like Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin and Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled--and even the classic The Velveteen Rabbit, which I've placed on my office bookshelf for officemates' children to read.

I've also encountered in Books For Less novels like A.S. Byatt's The Game, C.S. Lewis' Perelandra, Joseph Campbell's The Power of Myth, Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient, and Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game--books which I already have and are actually great books. So why on earth would people want to sell these??? I am so horrified.

Actually, I regret not buying that secondhand copy of The Power of Myth; I should have used it as my lending-out copy, my tool for evangelizing people into Campbell fans. Some friends have actually asked to borrow my one and only copy, and selfish me has always been reluctant to part with it even for just a short while.

And while I'm in the subject of outrageously good finds, I was in Fully Booked High Street last weekend, and came across a pile of books that were marked with a 40% discount. I saw mass market paperback copies of Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union and David Mitchell's Black Swan Green, among others.

Okay, first of all, if there was a trade paperback copy of Black Swan Green at 40% off, I would have bought it right away. As it is, I'm not really a mass market paperback kind of girl, so I didn't give in to the temptation of buying it. Secondly and more importantly, I can't fathom why Chabon's Hugo and Nebula Prize-winning Yiddish was on the discount pile. I bought a hardbound copy of it, for cripe's sake. And it was pure verbal candy.

Sometimes, I don't understand the way the world thinks.

17 July 2009

Sense and Sensibility--and Sea Monsters?!

First, there was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Now there's Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, the latest literary spoof from Quirk Books to be published sometime in September.

Is this all the rage now? Are these tongue-in-cheek parodies supposed to spark renewed interest in the classics? Is it all a clever ruse to get the children from this PSP and Guitar Hero generation to actually sit down and complete their school reading list?

So what's next then? The Old Curiosity Shop of Horrors by Charles Dickens and 21st Century Cheeky Spoof Writer? Portrait of a Lady Vampire by Henry James and Another 21st Century Cheeky Spoof Writer?

Just wondering out loud.

I'm not against the whole thing, actually. Am no Jane Austen purist. I read most of her books (even the duller ones like Northanger Abbey and Mansfield Park) and found the film adaptations of Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and Sense and Sensibility a most refreshing alternative. Austen's nineteenth-century literary style can be quite suffocating and discouraging at times, but the themes and the situations of the characters are timeless. Even Alicia Silverstone as a modern-day Emma Woodhouse in Clueless was entertaining.

It just goes to show how enduring Jane Austen's works can be. So I guess the people in Quirk Books thought, okay, why not make Austen more hip and fun than she already is?

I have to confess that when I saw Pride and Prejudice and Zombies on a shelf in Fully Booked, I was stupefied. Then I started laughing. Read the first page and laughed even more. Although I wasn't quite sure at that time if the book was something worth buying. I mean, I've read a couple of literary parodies like Bored of the Rings and The Sillymarilion, but both were gifts, so I never had to spend on what I'd consider as novelty lit.

Books are so expensive already these days, and I'd rather pay full price for books that are the actual works of the writers themselves. But as I always safely say: To each his own. I guess if kids these days enjoy having Bronte, Austen and Dostoevsky with a bit of monster and robot action, well, there's a market for these books then.

I just can't imagine anyone reinventing Golding's The Lord of the Flies, for example. That novel is already brilliantly horrific, to begin with.

Manny Pacquiao and Nike

Came across this old Nike commercial with Manny Pacquiao in it--along with Roger Federer, Maria Sharapova, Kobe Bryant and a few more star athletes.

Watch him and his I'm-being-lightning-fast-as-usual punches. Way to go, Manny!

15 July 2009

another of them wounds

Tonight (Tuesday) was my first boxing session after getting back from Bangkok.

It was tonight that I found out that my new Everlast EverGel glove wraps weren't going to protect me entirely from injuries after all.

Was punching away as usual, and even learnt a new 9-punch combination. Ryan kept saying my punches remained strong even after the previous week of zero boxing, and, buoyed by that compliment, I continued to punch as hard as I could.

When I took off my right glove wrap, I then saw it. There was a small but deep wound just below one knuckle on my right hand. The skin seemed to have been cut open--probably because of the impact again of my knuckles on the hard mitts.

The scary part is realizing that I've been punching away happily, not feeling any pain because the glove wraps cushioned my knucklebones well--but without knowing or feeling it at all, I had gotten a small wound in the process. The wraps, in a way, give a false sense of protection because there's no sensory indicator to warn you that you're about to get wounded.

Lesson learnt? I will still have to bandage my knuckles with tape before I put on the glove wraps and the gloves.

14 July 2009

Billie Jean-ing--er, running, on the streets

Michael Jackson has been dead for over two weeks now, but the entire world still continues to mourn--and pay tribute--to the King of Pop in whatever way possible.

The whole day of Monday looked pretty dismal in terms of the weather (it was raining the whole time), but because of the upcoming Run For Home race this Sunday, I sternly told myself to stick to tonight's practice run to stay in shape.

Turns out I didn't have to convince myself too much. Loaded Michael Jackson music into my iPod and spent some 30 minutes or so running blissfully in the rain-slicked pavement of Legaspi Park. Because it had just rained, nobody was running in the park except me. One of the happiest runs I've had in a long time!

I realized how perfect Michael Jackson's music is for running. Did a warm-up jog first, singing "The Way You Make Me Feel." Hahaha. It was still easy at this point to sing because I wasn't breathless yet. And then I played "Billie Jean" (my all-time favorite MJ song) on full volume during the run proper and had to resist the temptation to slow down and dance. Although unlike MJ in the music video, I had no pavements lighting up--just a lot of puddles and some mud. As for "Thriller", well, everyone loves that song, so it was fun (and slightly creepy) running to the beat of "Thriller" inside an empty park.

Finished 5km in 33 minutes. The concrete running/jogging path was sort of slippery and there were puddles everywhere, so I had to run carefully. However, I suspect that my relaxed pace had nothing to do with the slippery track--but more with my tendency to slow down, bounce and wiggle, and sing at the top of my lungs: "you wanna be tough, better do what you can, so beat it, but you wanna be bad, just Beat it, Beat It, Beat It, Beat It---!!"

Note to self: Must refrain from singing out loud during race day. Don't wanna freak out the other runners.

13 July 2009

Run For Home: July 19, 2009

Something to look forward to this weekend.

When I got back from Bangkok, I was happy to discover that they've extended the registration period. Signed up immediately for the 5km category at the nearest Globe Business Center.

Why 5km instead of 10km? Because I'm not ready to do 10km, that's for sure. I haven't been regularly running these days due to the rain and the long work nights, so I consider myself not in good condition for a 10km.

Run For Home is shaping up to be the most exciting running event this year, as the race will make use of disposable electronic timing chips to track your running time. Basically your run starts the moment you cross the start line and not at gun start. This is a relief because it's so difficult for me to push my way up to the start line, considering how many race participants there are these days. And it's not like I'm a seasoned runner, so I'm a little shy to put myself at the front when I'm not one of the faster ones anyway. =P

The "downside" to this chip technology is that your run can be measured using RunPix, a program that provides data analysis of how you performed vs the rest of the runners in that category. Oh the pressure!

And speaking of pressure, I really need to start practicing tonight. Only 5 days or so to go before race day! Shame on me if I do so poorly on a 5km run.

12 July 2009

a weakness for laptop bags

I have some serious blog backlog here.

Just got back from Bangkok in the wee hours of Saturday morning, and I still feel a bit exhausted because I haven't exactly rested. But before I narrate the details of my Bangkok trip, I just want to share my latest purchase. Bought it the same day I landed in Manila.

It's a hellolulu canvas laptop bag which I got in PowerMac Center, which, by the way, has a nice selection of laptop bags for females.

The picture doesn't do justice to the bag; it's actually very pretty in person. It's my third laptop bag, although I don't see any reason why I should stop at three. I'm a bag person, really, and I like trendy laptop bags in particular, because--at the risk of sounding like an airhead--I believe that girls don't have to lug around those ugly, black, masculine-looking laptop cases.

For everyday use, I use a sensible pink-and-black canvas laptop bag which I bought from Powerbooks, but this coffee-colored hellolulu bag is my current favorite, and I can easily bring it to work or to the nearest Starbucks.

I also have this lovely pink [synthetic] croc leather laptop bag called "Workday" from redvanilla (it's the pink one at the right end of the picture), which I got a year ago and only use on certain occasions. One of the owners of redvanilla is a friend and former client of mine who has great fashion sense, and I'm super in love with her bag designs.

I am seriously considering buying (in the near future) another bag from redvanilla. The purple one from redvanilla's Chill line looks really sweet. But I'm also tempted to get the beige Workday bag because it'll go with a lot of my outfits.
Sigh. I'm being stupid and financially reckless here.

04 July 2009

happier fists

Just a quick update on my new Everlast EverGel glove wraps.

Of course, when Ryan saw them, he snickered, examined the pair with a doubtful look on his face, and predicted that my movements may be somewhat hampered by these gloves. I said to him that my punches would probably be not as quick as first, but I'd prefer to have injury-free boxing sessions and not wince every time my knuckles hit the mitts.

The gloves worked perfectly. I could hit as hard as I want without worrying about beating up my fists and seeing a bloody mess later on. The downside to wearing the gel-cushioned wraps is this: since my hands are so, well, very much cushioned, it was hot wearing all those protective layers, and my punches were indeed a tad slower, just as Ryan had predicted.

But hopefully in the next boxing sessions, I'd learn to adjust even better to the slight increase in the weight of my hands, and get back to normal speed.

UNICEF Philippines on Facebook!

Finally, we managed to publish the page. So if you're on Facebook, go to the UNICEF Philippines page and become a fan!

Just a few more screenshots:

I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out, especially with the Donate NOW! page, which I spent quite some time on. Will make a few updates this coming week, even though I'll be in Bangkok starting tomorrow.

Yes, I'll be in Bangkok once more; it is one of my favorite places ever, as I am eternally in spicy heaven. Will be with five of my colleagues in UNICEF for the annual regional fundraising conference and the joint meeting with Communication colleagues from various country offices.

So hopefully, everything will go well according to plan (read: none of us contract AH1N1 and we all make it to the conference heathy and intact, haha).

02 July 2009

Goodbye (hopefully) to knuckle wounds!

I am now the blissful owner of a spankin' new pair of Everlast EverGel Glove Wraps. Couldn't find actual knuckle guards in any of the local sports shops, but I tried on these glove wraps with gel cushioning (Php1,450 less 20%, as Planet Sports was on sale).

It was love at first fit. With these glove wraps, there'll be minimal damage to my knuckles. I'm sick of undoing my normal hand wraps and seeing my bloody, swollen fists.

Can't wait to wear them underneath my boxing gloves this Saturday. Ryan would probably sneer or laugh at me for being so fussy with my knuckles--but I'd rather go through life with scar-free knuckles than follow his old-school advice of soaking my wounded knuckles in hot water and salt.

Me: Um, wouldn't the salt make the wounds sting?!
Ryan: Yes. But it will toughen the knuckle scars.
Me: But I don't want scars!!!

So, yeah, I'm expecting he'll roll his eyes at the sight of my "bourgeois" knuckle wraps.