Sunday, August 24, 2008

Passing Through Mumbai

I am posting from Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, as I wait for the announcement to board my flight to Pune. I'm a few hours short of sleep, since going by Dammam time I am still safely in my bed right now.

The flight coming here was uneventful, the only excitement I got was that my buddy missed the turn going to departures at the Dammam airport and we had to take the scenic route. Travel to Bahrain was a bit light, so I didn't have to jostle other people like I did when I traveled to Chennai. The flight to Mumbai was even less crowded, and I even had the pleasure of chatting it up with one of the cabin crew who was a Filipina. We would have probably chatted longer but her co-workers noticed her noticing me. It's really nice to chat with someone from back home on these travels. She even gave me a 1.5 liter bottle of water as her parting gift since she knew I had a four-hour layover in Mumbai.

Such is the kindness of strangers. I didn't even get her name. Maybe I'll meet her again on the flight back. One can only wish.

Seeing Mumbai from the top, as she awakens in the sunrise ,one is oddly reminded of Manila. While India is an emerging economic powerhouse and Mumbai transforming itself into a global metropolis, the signs are all there of the struggle these people have undergone and are undergoing. Going by shuttle from the international terminal (work still ongoing) to the domestic one (work completed), I watched a parade of shanties along the perimeter of the airport complex.

Much like Manila, Mumbai is a study in contrasts --- burgeoning wealth is trumpeted all over but the hardships of poverty, of overcrowding, of past cruelties sound out a dissonant note. Within this metropolis and its environs more people live and work and eat and love and play than in the entirety of Saudi Arabia.

I know it's not right for me to judge --- the Indian people have their own particular challenges to face in the transformation of their society. Even so, the path of this wealth so flagrantly displayed has been paved with so many poor people trodden underfoot.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Culinary Experiments, 1

I've turned to a little cooking the past few days since I am getting bored of buying too much cooked food. Last night, some of the boys "ambushed" my place (naturally, I invited them) and since I didn't have a lot of time to prepare, I had to make do with the ingredients I had in the house.

Here's my recipe for "INSTANT CARBONARA":


1 kg spaghetti noodles
3 cans tuna flakes in sunflower oil (185g can)
1 big can evaporated milk
250g fresh button mushrooms (or canned if none, drained)
1 medium-sized red bell pepper, diced
1 medium sized green bell pepper, diced
1 large bulb garlic, or at least eight cloves, crushed and diced
1 medium-sized white onion, diced
200g chicken hotdog, sliced into strips
2 tbsps sunflower margarine
Cooking oil
Garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste, sugar (optional)
Two cheese slices or grated cheese (parmesan cheese preferred)
One egg, slightly beaten

Pasta preparation

The normal ratio for water to pasta is 4 liters to 500 grams, but you can get away with 2:1 if you manage things correctly. For this recipe, I went with 2:1, and added a tablespoon of salt and two tablespoons of oil.

Bring the water to a vigorous boil (together with the salt/oil) before adding all of the pasta that can reasonably fit in the pan. Make sure of all the pasta is submerged and then stir to make sure nothing sticks together. After about 10-12 minutes (max of 15 depending on the brand), remove from heat and drain the pasta through a colander. Wash the pasta quickly with tap water, and then add a little margarine or butter and stir through the cooked noodles. (For this recipe, I put in a little Italian seasoning with the noodles while stirring in the butter).

Sauce preparation

Start your pan on medium heat before putting in the margarine. As soon as it bubbles, saute the garlic lightly before putting in the onions. Cook then to a light brown color before putting in the tuna. You can use Spanish-style tuna if you want extra spice but having plain flavor is better so that you can season to your desired taste. Mix well before adding the bell pepper and the mushrooms. If you are using canned mushrooms, cook the bell peppers well before adding. Add about half a glass of water to the sauce, cover and let simmer for five to seven minutes.

After simmering, add the hotdog strips and the evaporated milk together. If I had a choice I would have had boiled chicken breast instead of the hotdogs, but this is what I had to work with. Season the mixture with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and sugar.

Before removing from heat, stir in the egg and cheese.

Serves 6-8.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Fiddling at the Desk

One of the Damocles' swords in my line of work is that one can get inured to the sums of money being haggled for by employees, being given by managers, and general expectations of raises. One apt comparison would be that of obstetric surgeons who get to look at the birth cavity every single day it deadens their compulsion for sex (or at least breeds some strange or perverted sex behaviors. But I digress...)

Talking about money doesn't mean I have to earn less of it, or appreciate it less. But it ticks me off why some people in our organization have an obsession to make more so much that they follow up on a daily basis (Don't these people have any work to do?) . . .

It also makes me think what exactly is my worth to this organization. Hmm . . . time for some heavy thought. Maybe later.

A fit song would be the solo from "Fiddler on the Roof" featuring the lead character Tevye. I've seen only one version of course, that featuring Chaim Topol and directed by Norman Jewison. And it's a song I could sing too.

If I Were a Rich Man
(Music: Jerry Bock, Lyrics: Sheldon Harnick, Book: Joseph Stein)

"Dear God, you made many, many poor people.
I realize, of course, that it's no shame to be poor.
But it's no great honor either!
So, what would have been so terrible if I had a small fortune?"

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

I'd build a big tall house with rooms by the dozen,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine tin roof with real wooden floors below.
There would be one long staircase just going up,
And one even longer coming down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show.

I'd fill my yard with chicks and turkeys and geese and ducks
For the town to see and hear.
Squawking just as noisily as they can.
And each loud "cheep" and "swaqwk" and "honk" and "quack"
Would land like a trumpet on the ear,
As if to say "Here lives a wealthy man."

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

I see my wife, my Golde, looking like a rich man's wife
With a proper double-chin.
Supervising meals to her heart's delight.
I see her putting on airs and strutting like a peacock.
Oy, what a happy mood she's in.
Screaming at the servants, day and night.

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like Solomon the Wise.
"If you please, Reb Tevye..."
"Pardon me, Reb Tevye..."
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi's eyes!
And it won't make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you're rich, they think you really know!

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack
To sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I'd biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn't have to work hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

"They Call Me Stacey!"

Watch "That's Not My Name" on YouTube - I'm looking for a copy that will allow me to embed in it my blog post, but this one doesn't allow it.

A little taste of punk and indie pop, and somewhat of a throwback to the days of Toni Basil and "Mickey" (a trite song, but something guaranteed to get you twiddling your fingers at least) - I just discovered the Ting Tings just a while back.

Now, I'm not into my music critic mode so I'll allow myself a few indulgences here. The Ting Tings' sound has elements of old and new, with a lot of cheekiness thrown in. They're DIY-ers with loads of big ideas, but not too over-produced so their songs come out fresh instead of manufactured from the hit-making factories of the music industry.

Maybe they'll be forgotten in a few years, but this particular hook will always wake up old memories somewhere, sometime.

In Search of the Green

Following the Euro

Just an interesting thing to nitpick on --- basketball players crossing over to Europe instead of the other way around.

Signs of the times --- Americans are used to smirk over their dominance in the game that they created, but they have not won a world-class basketball competition since the 2000 Sydney Olympics. They were a poor sixth at the World Basketball Championship in 2002 (which earned Paul Pierce and Baron Davis their "selfish" labels), third at the Olympics in 2004 (a team with a bickering Larry Brown underplaying his best young stars), and again third at the Worlds in 2006 (a better-prepared team but without an alpha dog).

It's not the end yet of American basketball --- the players that have left, while almost-stars in their own right, are not the players that the leagues heavily pushes and covets, and that seven of these nine players were formerly based in Europe already. And who knows, with an established pecking order and more commitment to hustle on defense, the 2008 Olympics may just be a stroll in the park for the U.S. team.

But the stage has been set that basketball is more of a global product and talent from all places can, with the proper coaching and opportunities, rise to the top. With economic power now swaying East to Europe and further East to China, Russia and India, the Americans can no longer pay top dollar anymore.

It's also a sign of the hard times the dollar has taken in the changing global economy. In search of the green denied to them, people will always seek better places where they feel more wanted.

Now imagine if LeBron and Kobe were to move...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Waning Days

Russian author Alexander Solzhenitsyn dies at 89 - Yahoo! News

I have to admit it --- I was once enamored with the concept of Communism and investing in the people's welfare.

I still believe we have to invest in the people's welfare, but at the risk of being called a revisionist and sell-out, I believe that Communism is not the answer.

People are created equal in that they represent one number in a statistical chain. Otherwise, they are fundamentally different. Treating them the same way in a mass-produced environment only means one course: stultification and death of individual initiative. We have to realize there is no egalitarian utopia, if so we must acknolwedge that only equality of opportunity is the one thing we can provide.

I read Solzhenitsyn's works when I was very impressionable (I was 12 and had nothing to do since I hated physical activity) and today his account of Stalinist repression remains imprinted on my mind. While his rise to world fame had more to do with Khruschev doing a demolition job against his predecessor Stalin, there is no doubt that he communicated an elemental truth about the human spirit: it cannot be broken by the environment around it, but only by the person who holds it.

However, much like the heroes who struggled against dictatorship, his aura was more powerful only in opposition to repression. This is a maxim that revolutionaries must heed --- the dialectic must be preserved in order to have a stronger whole. In other words, there are no true victories and resolutions, only true passions.

These are waning days indeed, of the glories and the infamies of the 20th century. The generation that waged two wars to define the right of all peoples to self-determination is now exiting the world stage. And now, we their pampered successors, weaned on cheap drugs, television, free love, and a sense of entitlement, have much to do to make this world a better place.

The Baby Boomers had their chance and squandered it. I hope Gen X doesn't make the same mistake.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Day 213: Total Eclipse (of the Heart)

Total Solar Eclipse in Mongolia

No, I'm not developing a sudden fascination with all things related to space. It is rather unfortunate that this particular eclipse's penumbra is further north - it would have just have driven some of the orthodoxy over here bonkers just because a regular astronomical occurrence would blot out the daylight for a few hours.

I did post about Saturn once, but outer space, for all its charms, has ceased to fascinate me as much as inner space.

Congratulations to me for finishing July in one piece and coming off with a prolific (for me, at least) number of posts up to now. I find the fifteen or so minutes I use to post these tidbits help me to decompress my brain and focus more easily on the tasks I have at hand. I'm still way behind with so many of my assignments but it just isn't as bad as it should feel --- my work still hasn't approached Sisyphean proportions, and there are ways to keep things on an even keel. There's the magic word: delegate!

This is Day 213 of this year. It has been one of the fastest years in my life --- even with all of my dramas, things just haven't managed to slow down.

Yesterday, one of my buddies here punched his ticket for a well-deserved (and oft-delayed) vacation back home. I hope he comes back (I have every reason to believe that he will, but still...), else he will just about help sink me into the debt trap. It would have been nice if his management had realized his disenchantment earlier and sent him home as soon his vacation was due. The man left home just as his wife was about to deliver his first child and they couldn't give him a break? Incidentally, that baby turns two in a few months. Almost two years. I'm glad, just for the burden of separation, that I am not in his shoes.

For the heart that yearns for the time of reunion is the heart that is in the darkness of an eclipse, seeking the light but still suffering in the dark.

In many ways I wish I were, too. Tomorrow is my youngest nephew's first birthday. I left him off this space when he was born --- the memories of leaving Manila were still fresh at that time --- but since my last time back home, I knew that it would be impossible not to miss him. He is not my child, but he is special to me not only because he lives under the same roof as I do (back home), but because of the special circumstances surrounding his coming-to-be. They say that the child most special to you is the one that needs you the most.

Now that I am in the age of parenthood (though not a parent myself), I believe this to be true. The special ones are the ones who keep on stumbling but keep on getting up, the ones who hurt you more because they don't seem to return your love, the ones over whom you spend sleepless nights, the ones who have the label "No Return on Investment" but on whom you keep pouring your love.

I am privileged to be in the position of giving to my family. Sure, it gets to be a drag sometimes, but I am thankful that I am in this position. I expand, and the heart of provenance expands with me, because hard as it is for me to learn, generosity does not come because you have much, but that you have given your all and still feel it is not enough. I didn't ask for this, but am blessed to have been served this life.

Seven months gone and just two off after my last jaunt back home. My heart can't wait to be home --- in fact, it always IS there. These are the days when one wishes burdens are lighter, but in some way, thankful that they are there. Like racing cars needing downforce, we do much better with some amount of responsibility. We stay true to ourselves and find ourselves more deeply rooted in our lives.

I've been lacking in some inspiration and this insight cannot come at a more opportune time. And there is, of course, the possibility of meeting someone out there. I haven't thrown in the towel yet, and while so many would say I don't deserve it, someone in this world has a place in her heart where I can find solace and bountiful silence, home for all intents and purposes, wherever we may be, with the light of love that eclipses all loneliness and hurt.