Friday, September 10, 2010

Guinea Pig Lap Time

It's Eid al'Fitr, a national holiday, and today I celebrate the first time our pet guinea pig Moonball got Lap Time!

Every day my sister and I would scoop her up and give her some liquid vitamin C via syringe, and at first she would struggle. Eventually I got the hang of handling her by the shoulders so she wouldn't slip from my grasp - I'd wrap her quickly in a soft face towel and Joy would feed her the vitamin C. Moonball is a warm little thing, with a little round belly, so I try to be as gentle as possible and not give her a fright.

While I was out having lunch Joy discovered that she could pet Moonball on her lap if she gave her carrot peels to munch. Moonball allowed herself to be stroked and occasionally nodded off. Naturally my little niece Lilo was delighted; her hands were too little to hold Moonball properly, so she just patted Moonball while she was on Joy's lap.

This afternoon after returning from errands Joy surprised me by putting Moonball on MY lap. She ate two or three little pieces of carrot peel and snuggled on her face towel. I loved stroking her! She purred and chirped and made these little sounds of contentment. She even fell asleep a while. "We just have to get her used to the idea that she will get carrot peels whenever she has Lap Time," Joy said. We figured twice-a-day Lap Time would be sufficient. Before this she was a frisky little thing that kept trying to evade us unless she smelled grass in our hands.

We used to have dogs, and I miss having them, but having a little guinea pig to pet is almost quite as good.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Some Feel Rain, by Joanna Klink


by Joanna Klink

Some feel rain. Some feel the beetle startle
in its ghost-part when the bark
slips. Some feel musk. Asleep against
each other in the whiskey dark, scarcely there.
When it falls apart, some feel the moondark air
drop its motes to the patch-thick slopes of
snow. Tiny blinkings of ice from the oak,
a boot-beat that comes and goes, the line of prayer
you can follow from the dusking wind to the snowy owl
it carries. Some feel sunlight
well up in blood-vessels below the skin
and wish there had been less to lose.
Knowing how it could have been, pale maples
drowsing like a second sleep above our temperaments.
Do I imagine there is any place so safe it can't be
snapped? Some feel the rivers shift,
blue veins through soil, as if the smokestacks were a long
dream of exhalation. The lynx lets its paws
skim the ground in snow and showers.
The wildflowers scatter in warm tints until
the second they are plucked. You can wait
to scrape the ankle-burrs, you can wait until Mercury
the early star underdraws the night and its blackest
districts. And wonder. Why others feel
through coal-thick night that deeply colored garnet
star. Why sparring and pins are all you have.
Why the earth cannot make its way towards you.


Monday, July 12, 2010


I "un-friended" someone today. That's such an unwieldy - yet very precise (in this age of social networking) term.

I don't tolerate people spewing negativity on my Facebook wall, especially if said negativity has nothing whatsoever to do with the topic or status at hand. When we make friends we let them into our personal spaces, and into our thoughts. If a person is on my friends list on Facebook that person is a guest in my personal space. As a guest that person is enjoined to behave with the courtesy and respect he/she equally expects of me, when I am a guest on their wall. When people know me from way back, that does not give them special privileges to behave badly towards me, or forget their boundaries.

It's so easy to be an asshole when one is halfway across the world, or to engage in some delicious schadenfreude. It's so easy to disregard social graces when the persons you relate with are separated from you by a modem. Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but that feeling of entitlement does not extend to bad behavior.

The person I "un-friended" had injected out-of-place commentary on my super-mundane, non-inflammatory posts on three separate occasions. Nobody was stopping him from taking it up elsewhere (apparently he couldn't get an audience on his own, he had to choose my wall). Reminders to discuss issues on his own wall were ignored. When others ignored the direction he was trying to take with his comments, he claimed "Men are from Mars, women are from Venus." I'll take that with a grain of salt - there are civilized means of discussion where nobody has to create an argument where there was none in the first place. It is useless to remonstrate with someone who only listens to his own voice. Well, I don't like my wall hijacked with unsolicited negativity.

I'm not talking about one of those jejemon idiots who like to spam offensive but meaningless posts in different venues. This is someone I knew when I was a kid, who has intelligent opinions but otherwise has a Mel Gibson-like streak. He just couldn't get the fact that, "we can discuss that, but I don't think this is the right venue for it." He wasn't picking on me, he just liked dumping on my Wall. He was like the playground bully who shoves your ice cream cone into the mud. Troll, if you like. If he thought he could be aggressive, then I can be aggressive back. But you see, all that's unnecessary to begin with. Life is too short to be spending it fending off the Mel Gibsons of the world.

Actually, he's the second person I "un-friended". The first one insisted on posting his gory video on public feed, I suppose he thought it made him look cool. Of course I could just have hidden his posts and not "un-friended" him, but no amount of reasonable communication could make him reconsider his actions. I don't give a flying frak if he enjoys tentacle porn hentai, but I certainly don't ask to see gore - or his sick enjoyment of it - on my early morning Facebook feed. I mean, who does?

I treasure my real friends. I don't add many people I don't really know to my contacts lists, so if I "un-friend" somebody there's usually a very good reason. I may never speak to them again; some people are recidivists. No amount of remembering that you were kids together, or that there once was a bond, excuses the adults they have become. I won't be their enabler.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Montblanc Resurrection

Last May I was chatting with my fellow fountain pen lovers Chito and John, and complained to them that the pen I had been given for my college graduation, a Montblanc Meisterstuck, had developed flow issues. The thought of sending it to an authorized service center was frightening, as I had no idea how much flow adjustments would cost. I've had this pen since 1990 and I definitely would not be able to afford this pen at present day prices. I've been careful with it and still have the box and papers. I couldn't understand why such a pen would NOT perform the way it's supposed to.

Chito and John mentioned checking the space between the tines, and the space between the nib and the feed. We discussed flossing the tines and soaking in an ammonia solution, what we normally do with our other pens. The discussion got really geeky, which I enjoyed a lot. I decided to do more research last weekend, and embarked on the safest course of home-based action.

(Along the way I discovered that what I thought all the while was a Montblanc 145 Hommage a Frederic Chopin was actually a 144 Classique. (See pictures of MB models throughout the years on the very informative German site My papers and box (including the original price tag) did not indicate the model name. It has a push-in converter and also fits international standard cartridges. I selected it from the Duty Free MB Boutique because it seemed the right size for my hand.)

This pen was supposed to write a wettish Fine line. I cleaned it the usual way (repeated flushings with cold water using the converter) and filled it with Waterman Black, supposedly one of the "wetter-flowing" inks available. What came out was a grey line, with lots of shading. Ok, I thought, I know 14k MB nibs are supposed to be hand-ground so there will be variations in line, but getting grey instead of something darker made me very unhappy. I remember it writing much darker and wetter before. As I kept writing in my journal I noticed the writing getting alarmingly more and more dry, with some skipping. At a certain point I got really angry about why a much-hyped brand would perform so poorly, after previously writing so well.

If you could read the rant above, it's true I have some modestly priced vintage pens that write better than the MB 144. Heck, I even have a Hello-Kittyish Japanese plastic pen that writes better than the MB. That's downright embarrassing.

More testing: (Definitely not black ink, that.)

It took me two whole days to figure out what to do, being in a mild panic. I flushed out the weak Waterman Black. I replaced it with Pelikan Black. It wrote much darker, but was still drying out and skipping. After sleeping on it, I flushed it again the following morning, and filled it with some Pelikan Black which I had in a sample bottle, mixed with a few drops of dishwashing liquid - a solution for lubrication, suggested in the Fountain Pen Network forums. I then twisted the converter counter-clockwise to let about 3 drops fall back into the bottle, which allowed the enhanced ink to run along the feed (a flat feed with vertical fins, similar to a Pilot 78G). Then I tested it on my journal. SUCCESS!!!

Imagine my relief! Now I've decided to use it more regularly.

When I was in college all I used was a Pilot 55 with a cracked cap, bound with black electric tape. Pretty pathetic looking, but it wrote so well. I love my dad for giving me this MB 144, when I barely knew what I know now about using and maintaining fountain pens. I can't believe I've kept it safe for 20 years now. I'm glad I did.

[Edit: In September I sent the pen to nibmeister Mike Masuyama at via my friend Caloy, and it came back to me a wetter, clearer writer. He adjusted the flow by widening the feed channel. I'm so glad I had it professionally serviced! I now have it in regular rotation. It's sooo good to be able to use my graduation gift more often!]


(The journal pictured above is a red Scribe pocket-size journal with unlined off-white paper. The Waterman and Pelikan inks, if used with a fine nib, do not feather or show through the paper. Other inks and nib sizes may feather or bleed. Scribe notebooks are available at all Powerbooks outlets and at Scribe Writing Essentials at the Eastwood City Mall.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

FPN-P Meet at Conti's

We thought it would be a mini-pen meet with less than ten members, but the event was so well-attended it became a full-size one. Not in pictures: Caloy (late), Mona (took pix).

Those who were able to join us (we were 15 in all) included John, JP (TOJ), Butch (DOB), Beng, Clem, Chito, Joseph, and Caloy. There were also a number of new faces: Cesar, Tato, Raffy, Paul, Winston and Sonia. The Conti's function room could barely contain us as well as the waiters, hahaha!

One of the original reasons we decided to organize a mini pen-meet was that John needed help resaccing his Sheaffer 875 Balance. Fortunately I had a spare size 18 sac, shellac and some pure talc from Woodbin, and we very quickly put his pen together. (Since I started buying relatively inexpensive vintage pens on Ebay, I figured I would invest in a basic resac/polish kit. My order arrived in the mail early this year.) Clem's Eversharp Skyline also needed resaccing, as the sac it came with had fallen off for some reason. The cap of the copper Esterbrook SJ Clem bought from Cindy also had some dried up shellac marring its finish, so that was the very first pen I used my micromesh (also from Woodbin) on.

Pidoy arrived, bringing Adring Silverio with him. Mang Adring is an experienced pen repairman and vintage pen dealer from Sampaloc. He brought with him some items to show the group (mostly an assortment of Parkers). Despite the fact that we didn't have much time to look over the pens for sale, some of us were able to have a very interesting discussion with him over lunch.

We raffled off only 4 items this time because we didn't expect such a huge turnout. Winston won the disposable Japanese fountain pen, but Chito won a Japanese notebook from Saizen, Joseph won the Wality 69T eyedropper fountain pen and Clem won the Rhodia notebook. Caloy arrived after lunch, so Chito, John and I stayed to have dessert with him.

All in all, it was another very successful pen meet! We may meet again some time in July.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Memory Palaces

Sebastian Faulks writes in his novel Charlotte Gray: "When you reach the age 40 there is no cell in your body that you had when you were 18." You are the same person, and yet a new person, and yet an older person. And thus there are limited slots to be filled by new data in your short-term memory; there's always the need for things like a smart phone scheduler and directory and Post-its. Only the most significant or the most-repeated bits of data find a place in long-term memory as you grow. Memory and learning require will, and we are the architects of that process.

In the last couple of months I read a couple of books that mention the term "memory palace" - Daniel J. Boorstin's history book The Discoverers (a personal favorite), and Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence. What an evocative, romantic term, I thought. Also called "method of loci", a memory palace is a mnemonic technique that involves assigning data to virtual place-holders in an imaginary structure in one's head. It's a mental map, a prompt. Associating a memory with an item located in a specific area in that map makes it easier to return to it and retrieve it, among the plethora of other related memories.

I believe high school students in the US who join geographic contests create memory palaces based on National Geographic maps they've studied. Even people who quote the Bible, chapter and verse, have a version. Teachers, students taking exams, craftsmen, professionals and performing artists need them too. I remember singer Christian Bautista being so nervous at Manny Pacquiao's boxing match that he forgot the entire second stanza of our national anthem and just repeated the first! Would you need a teleprompter just to sing the national anthem? We're human, surely we only need help when our senses are so bombarded and we are overwhelmed by information.

In Rushdie's fable the protagonist "Il Machia" (the erstwhile Niccolo Machiavelli) regularly visits a courtesan's salon in Florence to see an exotic noble-born beauty, recently freed from the Turks. He is curious about her identity, and why she knows a story from his childhood, and stories from the genealogies of the Mughal emperor Akbar. He coaxes the stories out of her, because he wants to solve a mystery to his potential benefit. She plucks them out of her prodigious memory like Scheherezade in The Thousand and One Nights. I suppose if you were a prisoner of war you'd rely on some type of mental discipline to keep going until you've achieved your purpose.

Lately I've been dreaming again of the house I grew up in, in UP Campus. I can remember the floor plan, even every significant tree that grew on the property, and I would remember details from when I was a kid. When I dream of "home", it's always of that house, not where I currently live. The stories and the personal details from 1970-1989 remain in my long-term memory. Beyond that period, I'm pretty selective. So yes, I've used the floor plan and furniture location of the UP house for my personal memory palace. It becomes helpful when I write.

Memory palace? Priceless. For everything else, there's Google... and possibly Facebook.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

First Quarter Blahs

The first quarter of this year had some interesting events in it. And a lot of self-imposed drudgery. And somehow my online presence dwindled.

I left Plurk. I mean, I have Facebook and Twitter and Multiply and sometimes I post the same posts there as I do here. In an era when we are flooded by information, we in turn flood information REDUNDANTLY, and with glee. Some people probably have different audiences/contacts on each social network, depending on the mode of communication, so that works for them. For me, well, it's mostly the same people. The same real people I actually know and like and occasionally buy things from. I liked the way I could have extended conversations on Plurk, but hanging onto conversations takes up time I prefer to spend doing something else. Does leaving Plurk make me feel less connected? Not really, because the same friends are on Facebook, and commenting is conversation too.

While other friends move to other blog sites like Tumblr, it's for efficiency of communication. I'm staying put on Multiply because it fills my needs. Migrating information is hell; my mirror sites in Wordpress and Blogger haven't been updated in ages. I really should update them, but I really should be blogging actively here first.

I haven't been taking new photographs. I mean, I have, but not as much as before. It's another sign of information fatigue. I have raw videos of my niece's FIRST moving-up ceremony, a friend's Boracay wedding and an alumni race in my video camera that haven't been finalized or off-loaded to digital storage because things just tend to PILE UP. So don't let it pile up, you say, do it at once. It never ends :) (That was a wan smiley. It's wan because it's summer and it's hot and I'm whining.)

There are reviews lined up that ought to be here in Multiply. I just haven't gotten around to writing them (I'm editing an engineers' handbook at the moment). It's amazing I manage to journal by hand. I actually remembered (belatedly) to schedule salon pampering time for myself. I renewed my passport recently, and could've written about that, but didn't, and so the moment passed. And I realize, that while I entitled this rant "First Quarter Blahs" it's already the MIDDLE of the Second Quarter. How's that? Do I need more caffeine in an IV drip? Or would a halo-halo or mais con hielo do?

There are days I feel like a zombie headless chicken being marinated. Oh well, at least I can look forward to being tasty.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Road Trip with Lilo

6 January 2010

It's Lilo's third trip to Baguio, the second one that she can remember. It's her first trip without her Ate Belinda, who would follow a day later with Lilo's grandparents. On this road trip I'm the babysitter.

We left the house at 8am, making good time on the SCTEX (Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway). A few weeks earlier there had been a multi-car pileup on this fast stretch of road, caused by the smoke of a brush fire obscuring driver visibility. We took it easy, not exceeding 100kph. It was a bright, sunny day with clear skies. We were congratulating ourselves that Lilo had gone to the toilet at the rest stop at the Shell gas station and was unlikely to want to pee for the next few hours.

"Where's Baguio, is it near?" Lilo said. "Are we near now?" she'd ask, every five minutes. "It's far, honey," Joy would say. We'll get there after lunch." "But why after lunch?" Lilo would say, "Why not in a few minutes?" "Because we're still in the car, sweetie. We're still riding to get there. Riding in the car on the way to Baguio will take us about five or six hours. So that means we'll get there after lunch." Tristan very patiently explained. At four years old, Lilo doesn't really have a concrete concept of time and its measurement yet. The easiest way to explain travel time would be in terms of meal times.

"But why?" Yes, she is at that age where every question has a "why" in it. At times the conversation would get circular, but that's how road trip conversations with young children go. When Tristan ran out of answers, he'd say, "Auntie! Help!" That's what aunties are for, it seems, to distract the little ones and keep them in a good humor. I try to take my role seriously.

"You know what, Lilo? When mommy and I were little girls going up to Baguio, we used to have this game. We'd count cars! Mommy would count red cars and I would count blue cars the moment we passed the first toll gate. The toll gate is that place where we get the road ticket, remember? Anyway, the first person with the most number of cars counted by the time we reached Baguio would be the winner." Lilo looked suitably impressed, but then she can't count up to a hundred yet without losing her place several times. You'd have to count with her. Before she got in another "why" in the conversation, I quickly added, "If we got tired of counting cars, we counted churches instead, because there's a church in every town and city along the highway." These were Iglesia ni Cristo churches, with their gothic spires, very easy to pick out in a bucolic landscape. "And - oh, look! White birds in the ricefield! They're called herons."

Occasionally Tristan would say, "Champion auntie!" Joy was coughing and had a sore throat since the New Year and wanted to conserve her voice, so she let me do most of the storytelling. At the Tarlac City exit Joy and I switched seats, so she could navigate while Tristan drove. We also removed Lilo from her car seat, which she was about to outgrow. She was ready for a regular seatbelt. On either side of her was Uling ("charcoal") the toy cat, and Browster (we don't know where she got that name) the fat yellow pillow cat.

We were driving by ricefields, which, several months earlier, had totally been drowned by typhoons Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma). That was an entire harvest lost. "Where's the rice? Isn't that grass?" Lilo asked. She knew rice was a soft white grain, but had no idea what plant it came from. "Rice is a kind of grass, Lilo. The plants those men and women are planting is a young rice plant. When it grows bigger it will bear seeds. When the seeds are dry and brown ready to be harvested, the farmers cut the seeds from the plant. See the black nets on the side of the road? That's where the farmers put the brown seeds to dry. Then they take the seeds and pound them and polish them to remove the brown skin and that's how you get the white rice." Auntie's note to self: When we get home, try looking for "palay" so Lilo can recognize the rice with the brown husks on.

I took her little hand and put it between my hands, and said, "The white rice is inside the brown husk. Your hand is the rice, and my hands are the husk. When the farmer pounds the rice, the husk comes off," I said, removing my hands and raising up her little hand, "then what is left is the rice grain!" She loved that part. She made me do it over and over, until she saw haystacks for the first time, and some white cows, and THEN she wanted to sleep.

I made sure her seatbelt was secure, and she fell asleep on Browster the pillow cat shortly. In fact, she fell asleep somewhere in Cuyapo, Nueva Ecija and woke up when we were in Binalonan, Pangasinan. Peace and quiet! Fortunately we were near a town plaza when she announced she wanted to pee. Joy and I quickly dressed her in pull-up diapers, cleaned her up and dressed her again with military precision. Tristan disposed of the diaper in a trash can at a nearby store. In the back of my mind I remembered when we were little, and had to stop on the side of the highway by a ricefield to pee behind a malong (printed cotton tube skirt) our mother used as a privacy screen. On all other road trips after that we learned not to drink too much water and to tell our dad we wanted to pee at the next gas station. In those days gas stations were not as conveniently located as they are now. We learned how to be roadworthy pretty quickly.

Around 1pm we arrived in Rosario, La Union. Lilo was hungry, and wanted noodles. Fortunately, there was a Chow King near the Shell gas station, where she wolfed down her bowl of beef noodle soup. Then she started her "why" questions again. Tristan said, "Let's play a game! The first one who says the word why will have to give up a scoop of her ice cream to all the other members of the family! So you're not supposed to say the word why, ok?" She nodded, challenged. Fifteen minutes later, she forgot she was still playing the game and said, "Why aren't we in Baguio yet?" We all laughed, and she got mad and said, "I don't want you to eat all of my ice cream!" Then she started to cry, so we had to cancel THAT game. Well, she lasted all of 15 minutes without asking "why". It was a record on this drive.

Then she asked where Baguio was. "It's a city in the mountains where your grandpa grew up, sweetheart. You remember the first time you rode a horse? That's where Baguio is. We went there last year with your cousins." That, she remembered. Tristan thought he'd try a game again. "Ok! Let's play another game! The person who says the word Baguio will lose!" This time Lilo kept asking me where we were going. I realized she was trying to get me to say the word "Baguio"! Sneaky little thing. This time she lasted for 30 minutes, before blurting out, "When are we getting to Baguio?" But this time she realized we really didn't want to get all her ice cream, we just wanted to see if she could keep her mind on the game. So she covered her mouth in surprise and started laughing.

We got to our hotel around 230pm. Everyone was tired from the long drive. She saw all the cars and jeeps and traffic. I suddenly saw Baguio through her eyes. If it weren't for the pine trees and the cold weather, it would be just like any crowded city in Metro Manila. When we were growing up, going to Baguio was a special, magical trip. So many things to do, to eat, to see, while bundled up in a thick jacket! It was almost like travelling to a different country!

She looked at us and said, "Ok, that was fun. Now let's go back home!"

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Gift For A Stylophile

What do you give a writer and stylophile (as in stylo lover, one who appreciates fountain pens) like Reggie? Why, another journal, of course. Can't have too many of those.

As you can see, I tried out different pens on this page, all of which agree very well with the quality of the paper. What is this mysterious notebook? Clue: It's a black hardcover notebook with a marker ribbon, and it's not the brand that you think it is.

You gotta love a notebook with a flexible enough cover and spine to let the pages lie flat. It's also got very high quality paper. 90 gsm lined, creamy white Clairfontaine paper, to be exact! No feathering, no bleedthrough, and best of all, loves ALL fountain pens and inks! Yes, those are some of my vintage Sheaffer fountain pens in a case above. I decided to give this journal to Reggie at the Fountain Pen Network - Philippines Christmas Pen Meet last Dec. 30th. About 18 enthusiasts attended the meet, bringing together various pens, inks and papers. We'd just raffled off some very nice items, and Reggie won the blue J. Herbin glass pen I donated to the raffle. I thought I'd raise the excitement level some more by giving her this:

The Quo Vadis Habana Notebook!

This excellent 6" x 9" notebook came to me, on a very long journey, from the very generous Karen Doherty of Exaclair, Inc., distributors of Clairfontaine, Exacompta and Rhodia paper products in the US. I first heard of the Quo Vadis brand online, from various reviews. This year my friend Clem Dionglay, whose blog was recently included in the Carnival of Pen, Pencil and Paper, mentioned that she had written Karen for products to review, and was surprised to receive the Habana, despite being all the way in the Philippines. I started following @exaclair on Twitter, and one day, I read that they were again offering paper products for review.

I emailed Karen and then kept my fingers crossed. To my great big shock, the items I emailed Karen about arrived two weeks into December without getting lost in the Christmas postal backlog! (It arrived with a plain Clairfontaine notebook with a maroon morocco cover, plus J. Herbin inks Poussiere de Lune and Lie de The. I'll describe these in later reviews.)

Now if the Habana is so excellent, why am I not keeping it? I'd just won 2 different Clairfontaine notebooks in previous FPN-P pen meet raffles. Reggie just got a new job teaching World Literature at the College of St. Benilde. She needed a notebook JUST LIKE THIS! She's had plenty of the other brand, now's the time to try something new.

Now check out that big smile :)


Clairfontaine paper products are available at all branches of Fully Booked. The Quo Vadis Habana is not yet available in the Philippines, but other Quo Vadis and J. Herbin products are available at Scribe Writing Essentials at the 3rd Floor of the new Eastwood Mall, Libis, Quezon City.

This blog has no affiliation with any of these outlets.