personal notes

saying goodbye to my MacBook

damn… i just handed my 5-month-old MacBook Pro (13.3) to its new owners, and it feels like i’ve just sold one of my kidneys.

mac & coffeeit was just one of those things that had to happen. i’ve tried to postpone making this decision for as long as i could, but the time has come for me to cross this BRIDGE — in order to acquire a hardcore laptop that fits with the nature of my work, i needed to let my MacBook Pro go. the economics of my situation demanded it.

bottom line, i had to sell my MacBook because the bulk of my work hinges on Windows-based applications and my other laptop (a weather-beaten Dell that has fought too many wars) is basically giving out its death rattle. i needed a new laptop fast, and my all-important client decreed that i had to use Windows, or else…

my life's main course

and so, after a last fond tap on its silver polycarbonated casing, i accepted the money from the buyers and took a long walk.

later, there will be time enough for me to buy a new replacement (ASUS Zenbook). for now, let me mourn the departure of an old friend.

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morass

it’s tough when you realize you’re slowly sinking into the morass of your own disappointments.

i’m not normally the type to wallow in my misery; dwelling excessively on your problems can only make things worse but as christmas rolls in, things only seem to grow bleak. maybe it’s because i usually tend to get depressed whenever christmas comes around. i don’t know. i only know that it gets tougher these days to keep going, to believe that one of these days — soon, anyway — things will turn around.

i’ve been around the block long enough to know that sometimes these ‘down’ moments are bound to happen, but somehow when you’ve been creeping around in the dark too long you begin to wonder it it’s ever gonna end. *sigh*

here’s hoping the sun will come out soon. really, it’s hard work just to convince yourself that things aren’t as bad as they seem…

anyway, here’s an uplifting story that might perk up those who are also down in the dumps.

running out of steam?

these past few days i’d been wracking my fuzzy brain for something interesting to add to this pitiful blog — and unsurprisingly came up empty-handed. (it has been an unusually dry spell lately.)

nothing much to get hung about, except that lately i have come to this uncomfortable conclusion that i have become such a dead bore that i can’t even bear to hear or share my own thoughts (*eyes rolling*). bottomline — i have run out of interesting things to say.

well of course this doesn’t mean that things are at an all-time low. on the contrary, there has been a slew of good news lately that ought to brighten anyone’s day: manny pacquio‘s victory over barrera and the fact that the country’s economy is definitely on the upswing. and i now have all the time in the world to catch up on all the anime DVDs i’d been meaning to watch.

i guess it’s just me. *sigh*

zen vision m (60gb): a review

zvm2.jpgafter months of anticipation, the shipment my sister promised finally arrived. it contained several things including stuff i’d recently ordered online — books, DVDs, etc. after throwing things haphazardly in all directions, i finally dug out the item i’d been waiting for all this time: my new 60-gb zen vision m. yayy!

this isn’t my first Creative mp3 player. last year, my sister gave me this (my first) shiny, black 30-gb Creative ZVM, which tickled me no end. it took a me few days to figure things out (i had to learn an awful lot of things in a hurry) but it was worth all the aggravations i went through. what really clicked for me was its video capability, which was far, far better than the iPod’s, and the fact that it was compatible with more formats (MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, DivX, XviD, WMV9, Motion-MPEG), which is great time saver because it meant i didn’t have to convert my video files in order to view them. plus it had a gorgeous 262k color screen (as compared to iPod’s 64k screen) and an FM tuner to boot. it also had a slightly longer battery life and a voice recorder.

i loved that player. it was practically the first thing i took out of my bag as soon as i arrive in my work area, and the last thing i check before leaving home. so, you can imagine my horror when i accidentally dropped it last christmas as i was clearing the table. there was this dull, hollow thud and the sound of something cracking as it hit the floor. recovering from shock, i quickly  scooped it up and checked if it was still working. the glaring crack at its side was disheartening but i kept at it for hours, with zero results.

it flickered back to life the next day, and for a while i thought it was still possible to nurse it back to health. however, as days passed, it would often hang for no reason at all. 5 days later it blinked for the last time and it was like i had lost a friend. it took me a few days to finally decide to get another mp3 player. still,  i couldn’t face the thought of settling for an iPod, so i placed my order for another ZVM, this time for a 60-gb unit (it’s cheaper to order online; i got mine for $287).

and so, here it is. although it comes in a smaller box, it’s definitely bigger and heavier than the 30-gb variant. it has a similar set of controls, with a slightly longer battery life than the 30-gb unit (4 vs. 5 hours for video; 14 vs. 16 hours for audio). the box also includes an installation cd for windows media player 11. the only major downer for me (aside from the ZVM’s bulkier size) was the glaring lack of an AC adaptor, which you need to purchase separately. fortunately, i still have the old charger that was provided in the 30-gb version. the transfer of music, videos and images was quick, smooth and easy. all in all, it’s like my old mp3 player has never left.

along with the player, i picked up a ZVM docking station, which really makes things easier especially when i feel like watching some videos, and a leather case to keep the unit marginally protected from unsightly scratches and smudges.

shanghai notes

okay, it’s the weekend so i have no further excuse to delay this post. last week we flew to shanghai for a whirlwind 4-day visit. the prospect of savoring shanhgai’s cold winds in february may not sound like a good way to enjoy a short vacation, but we went on with our plans anyway.

for good measure, i brought a couple of thick coats and several sweaters. hah. big deal. the minute we stepped off the plane, we were met with this thick gust of cold wind that came as a rude slap of reality after the comfortable warmth of the plane’s pressurized interiors.

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we were met by our guide, lawrence, and after sorting us out (which took longer than expected), he herded us to our respective hotels. our temporary address was new asia hotel in tiantong street, just across the city’s historic post office building.

after settling down, we decided to go out to grab a bite. unfortunately, the direction which we chose took us deeper into the city’s older district so there was no fastfood joint in sight. after an hour, we gave up on our search and slipped into this roadside resto — we were starting to shiver despite our coats and mittens and scarves, etc., and on top of that we were simply hungry.

the girl at the door greeted us (i assumed they were words of welcome because she uttered it to everyone who came in) and directed us to a table. now comes the difficult part: how to order! with sheepish grins, we looked at the menu and heaved a sigh of relief when we noted the pictures in it; and below the chinese name of each dish was an english translation. and so when the waitress approached us, we were fairly confident.

what followed was a hilarious bout of free-for-all discussion and gesticulations that eventually drew the participation of a couple of waiters and the doorgirl as we struggled to communicate. some of the staff knew some english, but the challenge was to figure out what they actually meant because they simply pronounce things differently in this neck of the woods. this took about 10 minutes, accompanied by laughter, shrugs, baffled looks and head scratching — good enough for a movie scene. all of these, however, were forgotten as soon as they brought in our order

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i was only able to take a couple pictures. for some reason the waitress didn’t bring all of our orders at once; we simply devoured the dishes as they came. i’d have loved to snap all of them in one go, but that would’ve meant leaving some of the food to go cold. *sigh* clearly, there’s more to this picture-taking business than i’d previously thought.

the next day was a busy one. we went to a lot of places: the Bund, Xujiahui shopping district, and several other places whose names i cannot recall for the moment. we stayed out until 10pm, because some of our tour mates wanted to go bar hopping

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the peoples park looks well-cared for, but basically smaller than i had expected. we also dropped by at this quaint teahouse. i would’ve loved to stay longer and gawk at the tea articles there — the wares looked interesting — but lawrence said it was time for us to go. oh well.

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we also spent an hour at Xujiahui, which is dotted with high-rise shopping buildings you’d basically find in other cosmopolitan cities. store prices, as we had been warned, were simply high so we decided to keep our $$ for a bit longer.

we were also herded towards this state-run shop that specialize in jade carvings. some of the showcased items looked gorgeous. then we dropped by at st peter’s church to hear mass.

shanghai by nighttime is a much more impressive sight. we saw a lot of buildings that — more than anything — signaled the city’s recent ascendancy in the international arena. there were simply too many of them and what a picture they made. i took several snaps, despite my frozen fingers.

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the next day we spent strolling around, and buying souvenirs and pasalubong for our friends back home. (as is my usual practice when i visit a new city) i dropped by at a bookstore (xinhua bookstore) and purchased a couple of books. we also saw 3 caged peacocks being ogled by bystanders along the way. it’s a pity that they were in wire cages, but they looked impressive at closer scrutiny

pretty soon, it was time to go home. it took us an hour to reach pudong airport, so  we practically rushed through airport procedures to catch our plane back home. here’s our last glimpse of pudong as we taxied off from the runway.

shanghai suprise

shang1.jpgit’s been 2 days since we’d returned from Shanghai. my schedule is still kind of topsy-turvy right now, so it will probably take me till this weekend to sort things out — unpack all my gear and put things back where they belong, smooth out some ruffled feathers, review my financial state (waahh!), and most of all, upload some pictures with corresponding comments here.

in the meantime, let me direct you to a couple of travel notes that i’ve hastily scribbled for my other blog: We’re Back and Coming in from the Cold. i know it sounds like a convenient cop-out, but at least these gems will give you a bird’s eye view of our experience in China’s most westernized city.

until then, i’ll be up to my neck with a lot of things that need to be fixed. *sigh* just thinking about them makes my teeth ache…

more mandarin lessons

temple-1.jpgwe had our second weekly mandarin lesson yesterday. all in all, we’ve improved slightly; at least i’ve lost this irresistible urge to laugh whenever we parrot the instructor’s way of pronouncing things — although i couldn’t control my mouth from twitching every once in a while.

 

after talking to some of my batchmates while we waited for the rest to show up, i was surprised to learn that most them had opted to take this course on their own volition, and the fact that we all have this vague idea of heading to china one of these days (for business and pleasure). i guess it has become more obvious in the past 3 years or so that china is getting ‘bigger’ at a much faster rate than everyone assumed.

personally though, i’m not sure where all of this is heading but i’m always open to learning new things, especially languages. if i had the time and the resources, i would love to go other places and learn the language and get immersed in the local culture. and maybe blog about them. *sigh* if only it’s that simple.

okay, i’m digressing a little here. the truth is, i find mandarin a bit of a tough hill to climb. i guess i’ve been so used to writing/reading things the way they’re spelled — and a lot of chinese words are spoken differently than they’re written (in romanized letters), i tell you. and the fact that they sound practically the same *throws hands up* — well, for a clueless foreigner anyway — it’s enough to make you weep. okay, i’m exaggerating. i’m prone to do that when i can’t get a handle on things *grins*