(4) Days of Summer

I’m on the fourth day of my summer break. This is part of what I love about my day job. We get breaks. But so far, it’s been a double-edged blade.

On the up side, I have lots of time with my kids. I swear, they grow up every time you blink! It seems that every other second they’re able to do something new. The safety of items on our dining table has expired. Apparently, Gray is now a couple of inches taller than the table, and all he needs to do is tiptoe to see what’s  on it. Grabbing things near the edges of the table is expected, but he showed us recently that he can use other objects as limb extensions to get to the items in the middle of the table. It’s always a perplexing thing to think about. I’m betwixt being a proud father to a smart cookie and being fearful of the implications of his new-found skills. Did I mention he can now use a fork to spear morsels of food and nimbly bring them to his mouth? Yeah, we’re afraid. We’re very afraid, especially when he has that mischievous smile on his face like he knows something we don’t.

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Rune is also growing up fast. How well she can articulate her thoughts is amazing! Sometimes, she says things and uses expressions that leave us dumbfounded. Not that they’re inappropriate, it’s just that we have no idea where she gets them. She’s also becoming more and more independent. Okay, she did get an award for being the most independent in her preschool two years ago. But we always thought it was just a euphemism for being excessively willful. It may be partly true, but she’s also living up to the title. She can pretty much survive on her own. She’s also been a big help to us over the last couple of months. We can count on her to be a big sister to her brother, and she is very open to helping out around the house… sometimes to a fault. But I’m not complaining. I can’t wait until she’s a bit older, so I can teach her how to draw properly and how to play the guitar. Who knows, I may have a complete studio by then. I’m sure she can learn to play drums and keys too.

On the downside, I don’t really get any more time with the missus since our summer breaks hardly overlap. They start their school year in a couple of weeks, which means she is now busy preparing for that. I, on the other hand, was really busy with the closing of our school year for the most part of her break. It sucks, but we make the most of it. Though we can’t go out as often as we’d like at the moment. Maybe soon.

Another downside is that, outside of the family-man aspect, I feel very, very bored and unproductive. Don’t get me wrong, I am in complete agreement with my esteemed colleague, Dr. Etlevs S. R. Wolf, on his definition of boredom. I’m all for grabbing life by the testicles and really living (excuse the metaphor, it’s Bob’s fault) . However, my problem is that I don’t want to grab life by the testicles in just any way. I am very particular about the manner… okay, maybe we should just drop the testicles? I meant the metaphors. To put it in more concrete terms, I want to continue recording my material for my one-man band, Tandem. The problem is, that endeavor has very specific requirements. Requirements that I cannot fulfill at the moment.

On top of the list is one necessary purchase. I found out a month ago that all support for my external sound card have been dropped by the manufacturer. This complication requires some new hardware. I was able to go around Araneta Center (which I love because it is home to 6 music stores. Six.) and found the audio interface that will suffice. What’s more was that it will be on sale for the month of May. I have the money too. Win, right? Wrong. There was some mishap regarding the name on the check, which made it impossible to deposit or cash in. This pushes the availability of the funds back considerably. And guess what, it’s the last day of May. Which means I’ll have to buy the interface at regular price. Boo!

The departed.

New blood... hopefully.

And then there’s the time requirement. Recording audio needs a significant block of uninterrupted time. We’re talking a minimum of 2 hours here. Mixing and mastering is more flexible because it’s mainly tweaking stuff on the computer. But for recording tracks, you need enough time to do several takes just in case you don’t nail it in one go. And since I am by no means a real singer or a very good guitarist, I’ll need those extra takes. Also, that uninterrupted block of time has to be a silent block of time. That’s a tall order considering there is a toddler and a preschooler in the house. I also don’t know if belting it out in the wee hours of the morning is a sound idea (See what I did there?). Ho *expletive* hum. But not to worry, I’ll find a way. By hook or by crook. And I am a good crook. I can make pretty good hooks too.

Well, got to go. Thanks for reading!

And, no I have not seen the movie whose title I am ripping off. Just saying.


This Is What You Hear When You Put a Seashell to Your Ear

Here are this week’s three. What with all the metaphorical references to seas and oceans that seem to abound in the recent days, this is the list I came up with. Enjoy!

1. Ocean Avenue by Yellowcard

Yellowcard is a punk band from Jacksonville, Florida. They started in 1997, though I didn’t know about them until 2003 when they released Ocean Avenue. They’re the only punk band I know who have a violinist in the line up, but it works. The video gets plus points for its narrative. It’s nonlinear and some events repeat with the character changing his actions because of prior knowledge of the events that unfold. Pretty cool.


2. Beyond the Sea by Robbie Williams

Robbie Williams is an English singer-songwriter who was formerly a member of the boy band Take That. He left the group and started a solo career in 1996, which would eventually become a huge success and catapult him to superstardom. Recently, he rejoined Take That and are currently working on new material. His rendition of the 1946 contemporary pop song came out in his album Swing When You’re Winning. It was also used in the end credits of the animated film Finding Nemo. This video is from his concert in Albert Hall. This guy rocks in my book not only because he’s got talent, he’s also got an equally large, if not greater, heap of attitude. The guy’s entertainingly arrogant and irreverent, as you will see in the video.


3. You’re an Ocean by Fastball

Fastball is an American rock band from Austin, Texas. I first heard them when their song, The Way, got heavy airplay on rock radio back in the late ’90s. The Way is their most popular song, and quite justifiably so, but this one’s my favorite. It’s from their album The Harsh Light of Day, which was released in 2000. Everything’s right with this song, even the video. I am not talking about all the babes in bikinis… though they help. Neither am I talking about the guys in board shorts. The whole video is good, okay?


Still Reeling from Hitting the Ending

Pieces of the past two weeks with some glimpses of the near future.

And so it ends once more, just like thrice before, with the graduation. And there lies the downside of my situation – teaching the graduating class only on their last year. It’s really a very complicated tale, but I’ll try to tell it as best I can. And no, I did not mean to rhyme in the first two sentences.

Part of the message Ishha wrote in my copy of the yearbook says that I don’t seem to at first, but I actually have a heart. That’s not verbatim because the actual line will just kill my rep. Note that some appearances need to be put up and kept up. It’s for the greater good. And don’t bother taking a closer look at the picture. The message is not there. I specifically chose the page with incomprehensible-at-low-res messages (I meant that in a good way). But going back to what Ishha wrote, she actually got it spot on. Of course, I take the compliment with a hefty dose of modesty, but me seeming to be heartless at first is really spot on.

In the 4 years I have taught in the middle school, I have always had the eighth graders. Because I have to teach a group of first-time teenagers for the first time, I have to be a little Machiavellian in my approach. A little fear is necessary to establish boundaries and that you mean business. Thus far, the approach has worked. So well that my reputation for being strict and scary has trickled down all the way to the little kiddies in the primary years. Sweet.

The downside to this approach is that the students and I only get a few months to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment. I’m actually very glad to have been with the 8s on their Sagada trip because those 7 days were probably worth thrice their value in school days. I still wish every last one of them could have gone, but some battles we just can’t win. And as we approached the end of the school year, just as I was really getting to know them and how great they are, it was time for them to go. No doubt we’ll see each other from time to time, but it won’t be in a classroom with all of them there. Seriously, another year with them in class (whether it’s Mathematics, Ethics, or I dunno… Mathemethics) will definitely be a mind-blowingly awesome ride of exploring, discussing, learning, and FUN. But that’s the price I have to pay to teach the level I prefer and to teach my classes well. One year. Hell, it’s really just 9 months if you do the math.

The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Mixer (20/05/2011): A fitting title for this group, for this moment.

Yesterday morning, I put all my school stuff in order. As I went through my clutter, deciding what to keep and what to toss out, I came across a poem I wrote for the 8s at the tail end of the first term. It was their first time to take one of my Math exams. To cheer them up a bit (emphasis on bit), I wrote some silly verse to remind them to not take the grueling experience too seriously. That was probably the turning point; the day I was certain the boundaries were set, the day I retracted the claws and concealed the fangs, the day I allowed them to grow on me. And everyday after that, the 8s just grew on me exponentially, continually challenging me to be a better teacher, if only to keep up with their curiosity and their insight.


That math exam left me harassed

The minutes flying by so fast

I noticed not that time had passed

Woe was I to finish last

And thus I feel the die is cast

A ship on waters fierce and vast

Waves split asunder hull, sail, and mast

My mind a wreckage of that horrid past


Curses! Curses! That math test!

I broke my brain to do my best

That one last problem, was that a jest?

Was it of chance or was it of sets?

Oh! How I toiled till beads of sweat

dropped from my brow, got newsprint wet

Should we feel cursed? Should we feel blessed

that there are more of such math tests?

And so, to my just-turned-former-students, I salute you! I thank you all from the bottom of my heart (which I really have, both figuratively and biologically) for making the school year an absolute blast! I thank you for challenging me to be better at my day job. I thank you for every piece of wisdom I picked up from your brilliant minds. I thank you for the good company and all the great memories and keepsakes. And know that I am one among many who believe in the great things you will do when the time comes.

The Guessing Game

Is it worth it?

Is this one of those whens that

ought to be answered by a resounding yes?

Should doubt not even exist?

Is it wise?

Will seeking confidence bring clarity?

Or will trust merely feed that which festers

unwanted but is begrudgingly nursed?

Are there accidents?

Is it just happenstance breathed life?

Or is it a behemoth built piece by piece

sustained by roots clinging to the past?

Is it clear?

Will voice be the key that cracks the code

freeing understanding from the tangled mass?

Or is perspective obscured by the color of slant?

Will it hurt?

Will the fear of failure make the task insurmountable?

Is it even worth weighing the odds?

Or is the possibility of success

a strong enough tooth to bite the bullet?

Is there hope?

Will this be the day that change is effected?

Is dialogue the catalyst that brings to bear accord?

Or is harmony the endeavor of one

amidst the crowd at status quo?

Devilish Beats, Angelic Voices

Trip hop week. All duos. All UK. All female vocals. ‘Nuff said.

1. Teardrop by Massive Attack

Massive Attack is a duo from Bristol. They’ve been around since 1988 and are still active. This song is from their 1998 album Mezzanine and features Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins on vocals. Lip-syncing fetus FTW!


2. Life in Mono by Mono

Mono was, ironically, a duo from London. They only released one album, Formica Blues (released in 1997), and less than a handful of singles. This song came out in the soundtrack of the 1998 film Great Expectations, and is their biggest hit. This is probably what nostalgia sounds like when it happens.


3. Gorecki by Lamb

Lamb is a duo from Manchester, though they later on expanded to include new members. This song is their biggest hit. It is included in their self-titled debut album that was released in 1996. Gorecki has been used in a Guinness ad and for an ad of the video game Tomb Raider: Underworld. It was included in the soundtrack of the movie I Still Know What You Did Last Summer, and some lines of the song were used in the movie Moulin Rouge. This song is so good, it hurts.


I Know There’s an Irony Lying Around Here Somewhere, Now If I Can Just Find It…

February 15-18 2011:

A fire engulfed the fifth floor of the apartment building we lived in. No fire alarm went off, and the acting building supervisor apparently turned tail and ran without even calling the building owner to tell  her what was happening. It was a good thing none of our things were damaged. So, we moved. Same owner, different building, record time.

May 20-21, 2011:

There was no fire in the building, but we had an hour’s worth of fire alarm, thanks to faulty circuitry. The guard on duty called the owner to report it. He was told to turn it off. But naturally, he couldn’t. The guard and I tried to call the owner again, many times, but just got a busy signal. Apparently the phone wasn’t put down properly (I’m thinking not by accident). After an hour, the guard called the barangay authorities (tanod). One of them was able to dismantle the alarm to make it stop. However, electricity was still flowing into the alarm. It was already starting to smell of burnt plastic. The guard didn’t know if there was a circuit breaker for the alarm. What eventually happened was that they found the electrical main for the hallway.

A couple of weeks earlier, the lights of the elevator in our building started flickering and gave out after a few days. Now, the lights are brand-spanking new… But you step out into the hallway just a tad bit short of having to grope your way to your door. And that goes for everybody in the building. The electrical main they switched off turned out to be for all the hallways of the whole building.

Yesterday morning, the owner visited the building to find out what happened. The guards had changed shifts, so the one on duty had absolutely no idea about what happened. Fortunately, I was doing some chores in the hallway and was able to tell the building owner what happened. This would be the part where she tells me the phone was probably left off the hook by accident (likely story). Afterward, she promised to send an electrician over to fix things. That evening, the guard told me that the electrician did come in the afternoon but was not able to do anything because the owner said she would be there when the fixing happened. The poor guy waited an hour, only to be told his boss wasn’t coming due to some guests she had to entertain.

Another tenant in the building, with some know-how in electrical stuff, opened the switch of the broken fire alarm and disconnected it from the wires. Good job! But no. Remember the guards changing shifts? Previous guard knows where the electrical main for the hallway is, new guard is in the dark (pun intended). And so remain the rest of us.

When Life Gives You Lemons, You Make Lemonheads

The only constant lemon.

The Lemonheads are an American rock band formed in 1983. Yes, 1983. Evan Dando, founder/vocalist/guitarist,  is the only constant in the band’s lineup. The band got mainstream popularity in the early ’90s with their rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s Mrs. Robinson. It’s really hard to choose just three songs from this band. Sure, there are bands I like more than the Lemonheads, but it’s harder to pick my top three Lemonheads favorites. They have a good number of songs that I really like. So, I’ll just pick three that I think will give a pretty good idea of this band’s sound. I’ll also steer clear of their more popular songs like Mrs. Robinson and Into Your Arms.

1. Confetti

This comes from their 1992 album, It’s a Shame About Ray. While not my favorite song in the album (Rudderless was not a single), it’s a good upbeat song that shows the punk side of the Lemonheads. But I’ll have to admit that the video’s kind of lame, what with all the unplugged instruments, obvious lip-syncing, and the campy paparazzi. Ah yes, the ’90s!


2. Big Gay Heart

This song is from their 1993 album, Come on Feel the Lemonheads. This song has guts. I also like the fact that it’s brave theme is juxtaposed against a very traditional folk and country tune. I cannot find the official music video for this song anywhere! Below is a live version that has the lyrics all intact. I encourage you to listen to the album version of this song.


3. The Outdoor Type

This song came out in 1997, from their album Car Button Cloth. This is another Lemonheads song that has a country vibe but with a theme that’s tongue-in-cheek. I like it because of the humor in the lyrics. You could also say it’s a nerd’s love song. Once again, I cannot find an official music video. I’m not even sure if there is one. Do try to listen to the studio version because the guitar work there is better than the one in this live performance.


End Note: I’ve got a feeling I’ll have to do another Lemonheads week sometime.

A Day in the Life

My morning started with a weird dream. Yet again, my students populated the dream. I woke up because one of them was babbling like a baby, which I found strange even in a dream. Upon waking I realized that Gray was the one supplying the dubbing in my dream, asking for milk.

Fast forward to noon. I’m at Glorietta 5 with my whole family plus youngest sister. Scholastic Philippines and National Bookstore held this event for a book series, Geronimo Stilton. We passed by the venue for a hi and hello before looking for a place to eat. We decided on North Park. I hadn’t had their toasted noodles in quite a while, so that was what I ordered. And because it had been quite a while, I had forgotten how gigantic the serving was. In fact, none of us were able to finish what we ordered. We ended up having our leftovers wrapped up to go.

When the event started, my wife helped out in the activities. Rune was pretty much all over the place having a good time, but Gray was an entirely different matter. He walked around like he was at home, not even bothering to look if someone was watching over him. It got worse when he discovered the escalators. Those damned automatic staircases! No matter where I took him, the minute I put him down, he would find his way back to an escalator. I cannot count how many times we went up and down those things. Later on, I had to carry him to make it easier for me. But unfortunately, it was not so easy for my arm. He’s almost 11 kg now, and after an hour it felt like my arm was about to fall off.

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What was good though was Gray eventually got tired and decided to take a nap. In fact, both Gray and Rune got so tired they slept towards the end of the event. My sister and I were sitting in those circular “benches” near National Bookstore. The kids used our laps as pillows. My arm was relieved, but it would be another hour before the event ended. It was a loooong hour. I was soooo bored. So bored that I started gathering statistical data of shoes that passers by wore. Apparently, Nike is the most popular brand followed by Adidas. Crocs were also quite frequent. Only three others sported Golas like me, and oddly enough all three were predominantly black. Bored.

When the event finally ended, we stopped by Golden Spoon for some yoghurt (everybody except me, of course). On the cab ride home, it was my turn to feel tired and want a nap. It was so hard to fight off sleep. But there is no rest for the wicked… or the working parent. As soon as we got home and got the kids into a change of clothes, off we went, the missus and I. I ordered my outfit for grad and had my measurements taken. Then my wife shopped for some work clothes. Then it was dinner time.

Dinner was (surprise, surprise) North Park leftovers. I was (really) surprised at how much of the toasted noodles I still had to finish. There it was, a mound of noodles, pork, fish, and mushrooms sitting on my plate. Oh, the mushrooms! Just how many mushrooms are in that thing? I reached a point where the mushrooms outnumbered the noodles three to one! The noodles! The dish is called toasted NOODLES! Come on!

Anyway, I finished that mound of mushrooms garnished with noodles, with a fork and willpower. Even with the help of good-old Coke, it still felt as if my dinner was sitting just below the back of my tongue. I won’t need to see North Park again until maybe July. But there was something good about dinner. I only had a few dishes to take care of.

Now, it’s almost Sunday. I’m still full. What’s worse is there’s a karaoke party going on in the next building. Let’s just say “in-tune” and “beer” don’t really go together without “not” before “in-tune” and “because of too much” before “beer”.

Return Ticket

Stepping out at sunrise to start the long commute

Overcast skies mirroring overcast mood

Pavement hands out complimentary trinkets

to downcast eyes and spirits just as gray

Fare paid for in little stabbing heartaches

affords a vacant seat but not the comfort

Boarding from the platform of a misunderstanding

to alight at the terminal of a promise to be broken

with only a pocketful of trust to catch a ride home

Common Ailments, Fairytales, Machiavelli, and Star Wars

Today is the sixth day that I have had this cold, which I caught by way of my children. The worst is over, and I am now slowly recovering. But having my normal voice replaced by a hoarse, guttural excuse for speech for all of six days is just plain irritating (no pun intended). Up until today, I still sound like a croaking toad. An eloquent toad, mind you, but a toad nonetheless. It also looks as though I’ll be a toad for at least another day.

Oh, if only life were a fairytale and a single kiss from my one true love would dispel my toadly curse and return my voice to its charming princely tone. But alas, the world is not so. The only result kissing my one true love seems to have yielded is her catching the cold too. So yes, the common cold has been elevated to a family affair. In coughing and nose-blowing we are united.

My profession as a teacher adds another layer to my disdain for this cold. When you’re a teacher, even with frequent student-led discussions, your voice is still a primary tool of the trade. It’s much like how a light saber is indispensable to a Jedi Knight or Sith Lord. And a toady voice, just like a broken light saber, just doesn’t cut it (no pun intended still). Not being aptly equipped for what you are supposed to do can feel anywhere from slightly weird to downright depressing.

Today, I felt as though I did not exude my usual aura of authority when I reminded some students about school regulations. My voice just didn’t have that edge that makes me come off as a Sith Lord who can manipulate the Force with ease. Even in the faculty meeting in the afternoon, it felt odd speaking in my garden-variety-amphibian voice. And for the better part of the day, I had to teach. But it turned out that it was not necessary to go Sith Lord. I did not have to use the Force. My students listened to what I had to say, discussed what needed to be discussed, and prepared for their exam tomorrow. All that despite my diminished vocal capacity. They were even open to speaking on my behalf. It actually made me feel better and not mind my state of toadliness so much.

And so, I thank my dear students. Maybe toads can be princely. Maybe victories can be had with nary a light saber. Maybe love and fear can rule side by side. Maybe this line of work is not about attaining and maintaining power anyway.