Thursday, July 02, 2009


It seems like there has been an unusually high number of celebrity deaths the last few weeks. Each one reminds me about my own impending mortality -- and a day I do not look forward to.

Other than watching them on TV as a child, I admit I do not have many memories to tell about them. My brothers had posters of David Carradine (as Caine in "Kung Fu") and Farah Fawcett. Karl Malden filmed a scene for "The Streets of San Francisco" in front of the building where my father worked. My grandmother used to order books and magazines while dreaming of the day Ed McMahon would knock on her door and present her with a big check from Publisher's Clearing House.

I had to fly half-way around the world to almost have something in common with one celebrity. I was standing on the balcony of The People's Palace in Bucharest, Romania and pretended to wave to an imaginary crowd while enjoying the scenery.

At that point, the tour guide pointed out that Michael Jackson was one of the first people to stand in the same spot I had been. He had a large audience of real people, of course. But apparently while waving, he yelled out, "I love Budapest!" Fortunately, I did not make the same mistake about the city name.

I imagine one benefit famous people have is that they will always be remembered, and in that sense they are immortal.

Friday, June 26, 2009

TMI: It was 20 years ago today...

... a scrawny young college graduate walked into a shiny little office building in Belmont, California for his first day of work. He had been hired despite some people raising reservations that during the interviews a few days earlier, he came across as possibly being too shy to talk to customers on the phone. But others argued that the kid knew Unix, networking, and SQL and thought logically about a question even when given a vague problem description with no clear cut answer.

Fortunately, that department I interviewed with was desperate for employees, and I was desperate for a job, so apparently, it was a match made in heaven. I was even hired as an hourly temp so I could start quickly while the official papers were still going up the management chain for approvals.

Recently, I have been delivering technical presentations to a few groups of people around the country (and having the unenviable task of following Tom Kyte in some cases). Each time, I have tried to come up with a different way to introduce myself. The opening line starts out the same, then I improvise an ending. The attempts that were worth remembering went a little like this:

"Hello, my name is Roderick Manalac, and I'm N days away from celebrating 20 years here..."

- ".. and I hope with 5 more years of good behavior, I will finally be granted parole."
- "Thank you. But little did I know this would be my longest relationship with anybody in my life. I just hope this qualifies me to get a decent percentage of Larry's wealth in a divorce settlement."
- "And yes, it does feel like 140 in dog years."
- "I've thought about resigning and driving away in a convertible, but I fear that while I'm packing my bags, someone will gas my room, knock me out, strand me on an island, and the people there will only refer to me as Number 6."

In all seriousness though, I feel very fortunate to have landed a great job with a consistently successful company. I have met a bunch of nice, intelligent people within the corporation and at customer sites around the world. The technology evolves so quickly that I still learn several new things each day. And I have grown up from a shy nerd who could barely say "Hello" on the phone with a very shaky voice to a computer geek who could stand in front of hundreds of people and confidently tell a series of dumb jokes interspersed with a few nuggets of useful technical information.

I have enjoyed the experience, and I hope this gig continues for many more years.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Travel: The World is Flat

Someday I will start publishing more photos of my travels over the years. The hard part is most of my pictures were taken with old-fashioned film so I will have to spend time digitizing them. And then I might pay for a photo hosting site. I am leaning towards sticking with flickr.

Not sure why I am starting with this photo. It really does nothing to show where I am. But I thought it was interesting to see a US citizen of Filipino descent enjoying a traditional South American beverage in a Ukrainian Cafe (Kofein) with an African decor.


Sunday, October 26, 2008

Amazing Race 12: Final Episodes

I only recently caught up with season 12 of the Amazing Race and I am 4 or 5 episodes behind on season 13. That is one downside of having a DVR -- I can delay watching something practically forever. The technology is still not perfect. I may have missed an episode or 2 along the way, and I think I lost my notes on another episode.

I will only make my comments brief, so I can start watching Season 13. Hopefully, I will figure out how to balance work, housework, a social life, and all my various interests and hobbies so I can write more in my blog in the future.

First of all, congratulations to TK and Rachel for winning this race. It is always great when the team with the most good karma wins. I think they were my favorites from the beginning (it has been a long time and I did not go back to review my notes from Episode 1). Those two really had a cool way approaching life, the challenges of the race, and each other. It is sort of an attitude I strive for and hopefully achieve from time to time. Perhaps being cool and nice does not create many dramatic, exciting scenes, but it would be nice to see more of that on TV and in real life for that matter.

Jen and Nate were practically a polar opposite of TK and Rachel. They were focused so much on winning each leg and were pretty much selfish and self-centered to the point where they could not work with other teams or with each other. But as annoying as they were portrayed, I still felt bad that they were eliminated on Jen's birthday. When the race ended for them, I did get a gut feeling that they realized what their problems were, and that learning from their experiences would help them mature.

I hated Ron in the first few episodes of the season. Fortunately, it turned out he was a good man at heart. It was interesting that as his attitude toward his daughter improved, the team's standing in the race improved. They may not have won the race, but the father and daughter developed a bond that is worth more than a million dollars.

The funniest moment of the final 2 episodes was Nate thinking that he would get great Thai food in Taiwan. I am sure there are good Thai restaurants in Taiwan (and the rest of the world for that matter). Hopefully, Miss Teen South Carolina 2007 gives Nate a map later.

Another slightly funny moment, that happened so quick you could miss it,was when Ron was filleting a huge cod. He told his daughter not to stand so close because he was not sure how to handle a knife. I am not sure why I thought it was humorous. Maybe because I don't trust myself with a knife either...

I probably would have made my teammate ride the jeep underwater. I think I can hold my breath for 15 or so seconds, but that water just looked very dirty. I wonder how many people ruined their cars trying the same thing at home and not knowing how important it is to have a car with a snorkel attached to the engine.

Someday I hope I can get back to Anchorage, Alaska. I booked a helicopter tour there that included walking on a glacier, but the weather was unsafe only day I was there. The speed boat ride looked fun too. If I do take another cruise to Alaska I will try to check out the Icy Strait Zip Line. It may not have existed when I was there.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Travel: San Francisco Bay

Been a while since I posted anything here. Someday I'll even comment on the final two episodes of the Amazing Race which I still have to watch. Hopefully, I will get that done and post my comments before the next season starts.

In the meantime, I have been keeping my nose to the grindstone at work. I have not been on a plane in months, but if I had to be stuck anywhere, the San Francisco Bay Area is the place to be. I recently had the privilege of going on a bay cruise on a "Blue and Gold" ferry (Go Bears). It allowed me to see the sights from a different perspective. It was a nice tour of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Alcatraz, Angel Island, and McCovey Cove behind AT&T Park.

This photo is of the Golden Gate Bridge about an hour or so before sunset. With all the wildfires going on in California it made for a surreal scene. I thought the Bridge might blend into the background, but it turned out okay.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

TV: Amazing Race 12: Ep 8

After last week's episode, this week seemed a bit more tense. Maybe because the teams visited the busiest city in the world. Maybe because the Goths had a penalty to serve and it was guaranteed to be an elimination leg. I did not even note who came in first. The whole show was basically a race between the Goths and Nate/Jen for second to last place. In the end, Jen got a friendly bit of help while Kynt misread directions completely and lost.

The leg began with all the teams trying to book flights from Florence, Italy to Mumbai, India. Fortunately not too much time was spent on airport drama as it turned out all the teams would get bunched together waiting for a news stand to open in Mumbai.

I spent a day in that city a few years ago, and it is true that the first thing that hits you is the smell from the pollution and the crowds and various other things -- especially around the International airport. Some of the teams wore masks while waiting for the stand to open.

Jen / Nate were the last to find a clue hidden as an ad within a newspaper. It was not the hardest task in the world, but they never figured out how to divide and conquer the search. Fortunately for them the Goths had a pretty bad taxi driver and immediately had to perform the Speed Bump penalty. They were sent off to a different part of the city to perform Yoga exercises. Maybe it was a good penalty for them since they had gotten so tense in Italy.

The next challenge was a detour involving putting up a movie poster or stringing a flower necklace together. This is one of the few times in this race where the teams divided almost equally between the two tasks. The grandfather / grandson team finished the poster first since the grandfather had some experience with billboards. TK and Rachel finished the flowers first working well together as a team. Ron and his daughter took longer with the poster with Ron acting mean again. Finally Nate / Jen struggled with the flowers almost as bad as they did with the newspaper with the Goths making up a bunch of time.

The roadblock challenge was very similar to several others in this race. Deliver items to certain addresses in a part of town where the streets might be hard to navigate and pick up proof of delivery. This was one of the few times where physical strength was needed with TK being able to carry a bunch of propane tanks at once and finishing in first ahead of the grandson.

Ron risked aggravating his hernia but still finished before the last two teams would fight it out to avoid elimination. Somehow the Goths arrived at the final challenge moments before Nate / Jen but then committed a huge tactical error by choosing to enforce the U-turn -- but on the wrong team. Had they chose Nate / Jen, they would still be racing. But trying to take out the Grandfather / Grandson team was a mistake since they were already ahead, and at that point they incurred the wrath of the karma gods. Both Kynt and Jen misread the directions. Kynt was exchanging the order with the receipt when he should have kept both, while Jen forgot to pick up the receipt from the door completely. The two even crossed paths insind one building where Kynt picked up additional bad karma by keeping an elevator stuck on the second floor to temporarily prevent Jen from making a delivery to the 5th floor. Eventually one of the customers reminded her to pick up the receipt. At that point she realized she had to go back to the first customer and pick up that receipt as well. Kynt did not realize his mistake until he thought he had completed the task. By then it was all over, though they could have gotten lucky with the taxi ride to the Pit Stop. But it was not meant to be.

In the next episode, it appears TK and Rachel choose a road less traveled. But will it pay off? I cannot wait to watch it but I will be on the road myself.

TV: Amazing Race 12: Ep 7

This leg of the race turned out to be scenic but fairly non-eventful. The granfather / grandson team took a fast forward that involved getting tattoos and ended up winning a trip to Cancun. The Goths may have gotten lost on the roads of Italy and finished last. Luckily it was a non-elimination pit stop but they face a new twist of a Speed Bump (an extra challenge) in the next leg.

The teams were bunched up pretty quickly when taking a ferry across the Adriatic to Italy. At that point teams had to drive to a town called Empoli. Some of the teams did not know about road construction and ended up either waiting in traffic or taking some windy side roads to the next clue box.

From there, the Road Block challenge had one of the team members riding an ultralight plane over Tuscany in search of a clue from the sky. It was almost a needle in the haystack style challenge. Either TK had a particularly hard time seeing the clue, or he just loved the scenery so much that he went back up three times while all the other teams passed him up. I do not have much of a fear of flying, but I imagine that in an ultralight I might have grabbed something so tight, there would be a hand shaped dent in it.

TK and Rachel had a tough time overall. First they left a clue behind before going to Empoli and had to turn around and retrieve it. But they were fortunate someone told them a faster route to take with the construction going on. Then TK could not see the clue from the sky that told them to go to Vinci. Then they had a flat tire driving to the pit stop.

Somehow TK and Rachel still beat the Goths who had their own car breakdown and started to snipe at each other. Ron also seemed mean to his daughter again. Nate and Jen continued sniping at each other yet always managed to finish near the top.

The tattoos seemed kind of small. It was funny to hear the grandfather hope they would have to shave their heads instead. Tattoos supposedly can be removed these days, but I have little clue on the details of cost. As much as I avoid getting a tattoo, I suppose I might keep the FF under the circumstances.

Next week we get to see if the Goths can survive doing an extra challenge. Somehow they don't seem to be very long or require much physical endurance this season. Maybe that changes next week.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

TV: Amazing Race 12: Ep 6

In this episode, it was another case of airport drama as teams tried to catch early flights from Lithuania to Croatia. Not listening to details probably cost the race for the brother / sister team who had one several of the early legs. They were booked business class seats instead of economy by a travel agent. It was hard to tell if the agent was just upselling or if the economy seats for a flight other teams were on were all booked anyway. In any case, the order of arrival in Croatia mostly determined the order of finish for the racers.

Actually Nate and Jen kept messing up and still finished 3rd in spite of themselves. They arrived in Croatia first but got lost trying to find the first clue box, which allowed the father / daughter team to go into first. Then they were turned down by a taxi driver for being too wet. They were so frustrated by this, they desperately broke the rules and coaxed a local to become a taxi driver to the pit stop. They were caught and had to go back to hire a real taxi. That allowed the Goth team to pass them up for second place. The editing made it look like their relationship has no hope. But maybe they do belong to each other despite the arguing. They sort of remind me of The Needlers from Saturday Night Live. Nate also had the quote of the episode with his reference to a "cherry on top of a melted sundae."

TK and Rachel cruised into 4th place. They and the grandfather / grandson team (5th place) missed a connecting flight in Prague. It is a beautiful city to be stuck in I must say, but I suspect these poor teams never saw anything outside the Prague airport. I never saw the airport myself since I took a very scenic train ride to that city from Berlin back in 2001. The teams had to rebook through Vienna to travel to Dubrovnik. Vienna is another beautiful city, just a short hop by plane, train or automobile from Prague I suspect. My visit to Vienna actually occurred way back in 1991 or 1992 when a co-worker and I drove there from Paris, France with several stops along the way. We were going to drive all the way to Budapest, Hungary but we were turned back at the border because my co-worker did not have the right dates in his visa paperwork. Fortunately, the conference we attended was in Vienna, so we did not get into trouble.

Anyway, it looks like Dubrovnik is another cool European city to visit. All the remaining teams saw a nice view as they drove to the harbor and rode a zip line from one turret to another in the fortress near the harbor.

I probably would have decided to do short / long instead of long /short because I do not know how well I would have rowed around the city walls.

TJ and Rachel were checking out the prize they had one in the previous leg. Looks like they will be staying at the New Otani in Tokyo. I stayed there way back in 1994. Luxurious hotel with a nice garden and convenient location (well my company has an office in Japan that is practically next door). Well I did almost mess up my back when I slipped in the bathtub. But that was the only one of two lowlights of a fun trip. I will save the other lowlight for a future blog entry if it ever enters my mind again.

Hopefully Hendekea has learned that knowing how to say, "There's a party in my pants" in Bosnian is not a huge advantage over other teams.

Next episode: Grandpa gets freaked out.

TV: Amazing Race 12: Ep 5

This was probably one of the more uneventful episodes of AR I can recall. However, one team went from almost worst to first and another team was eliminated after earning bad karma in the previous leg, so it was not a bad episode overall.

It seemed like most of the leg had the teams scrambling for flights from Burkina Faso in West Africa to Vilnius, Lithuania. I imagine it is not a popular flight route so the local travel agents had difficulty finding fast flights from Point A to Point B without having a couple of layovers perhaps.

Once in Lithuania, teams had to deliver messages to people in some old town square. I guess the beauty salon was hardest to find since it was a little bit tucked away. Anyway, it was very similar to the road block challenge from the last episode. Then a product placement opportunity arose when teams had to find a particular gnome used as a mascot for a travel web site in some farm land.

Finally, came the detour challenge. Counting posts or walking on stilts. Seeing people try to master the stilts was sort of funny but I know I would have had a very hard time of it myself. Counting never makes for exciting TV, but seeing some teammates get snippy with each other was mildly entertaining.

It was good to see the calm, quiet TK & Rachel win this leg.

I do not think the bus was very close to hitting the wannabe bombshells. But it did remind me of a scene from one of the few episodes I have seen of Life, where the main character's car was involved in a side collision.

I did have a chuckle when one of the contestants said they should do some research at an Internet "buffet."

Hopefully more action and tougher challenges are in store in the next leg.

TV: Amazing Race 12: Ep 1 and 4

As I stated in a previous blog entry, I lost a few episodes of this season's Amazing Race. I believe they were 2 and 3. This means I can comment only on 1 and 4 and hope I do not lose any others going forward.

The 12th Amazing Race started at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. I guess it was as good a place as any to start since most of the teams were from Southern California. I did not pay close attention to see if most of the LA teams took the shortest route to the 405 freeway and LAX (a left according to Google Maps). I have been on that stretch of highway several times, though never because . I was kind of surprised the traffic was not worse.

The producers tried to bring some new types of couples to this race. Interestingly, there were no teams this season with two young guys. The only married couple were the lesbian ministers. There is a grandfather / grandson team this time around. The Goths might be interesting or annoying depending on my mood. The Miami sisters are the cutest but I already know they will not be around long.

The teams immediately have to find flights to Shannon, Ireland. Because a flight gets delayed the teams that were on an earlier flight out of LAX actually arrive later than the teams on a later flight. One gets to see how green Ireland is, but the Amazing Race is still not filmed in HD. Hopefully this will change in the future.

The restaurant worker team decides to steal a taxi reserved for another team. The bad karma they earn from that move bites them in the ass in the form of the most stubborn donkey on the planet. It did not help that they had no "donkey whispering" skills preferring to just yell and pull instead. Hence they came in last and were eliminated. Another couple who seem to have an unstable relationship also had trouble with their donkey, but eventually figured out how to push him/her down the path and arrived in second to last place.

The team that won this leg looks like they could be the toughest team in the competition. But if they are anything like my sister and me, they will be at each other's nerves after a few days together.

The only fun challenge in this race was biking along a high-wire with a teammate suspended below to help keep the bike balanced on the wire. I think there was another wire above for safety. With my discomfort with heights, I am not sure if I would want to be the one biking or the one hanging out on the bottom. At least the scenery might have been nice enough to make me live with the fear.

Fast forward to Episode 4 where the teams are in Africa. It appears we have lost the ministers and the sisters in the prior two episodes. Young kids seem to be everywhere and are usually helpful to all the teams. The teams have to temporarily adopt a chicken and one team names theirs Phil, which seems appropriate given Phil's hair style.

At the detour teams had to choose between dancing and gold panning. I would have chosen mining for a couple of reasons. One: I cannot dance. Two: With the price of gold rising, I would have mined a few extra ounces of gold and tucked it in my pocket. Given how easy it was for teams to find gold out in the open like that, I wonder how real the gold was and how much was actually placed there artificially. I had a similar experience in Alaska where the tour guides admitted that they had to add the gold into the mud. It was fun, but I am not even sure if I eventually misplaced the tiny gold flakes I found or gave them away to my relatives.

None of the judges in the Dancing competition came across as tough as Simon Cowell. But it was funny that one of the teams that incurred a 10-minute penalty for not being creative enough included a former L.A. Clippers cheerleader. That penalty could have cost them the win in this leg, where they lost in an exciting photo finish to the brother and sister team.

The team eliminated in this leg seemed like a nice couple. They fell victim to a U-Turn penalty used by the wannabe Blond Bombshells.

Africa is a continent I have yet to visit. I do want to see the pyramids of Egypt and/or some nature preserve (with nice accommodations since I have never slept inside a tent / sleeping bag -- It even took me a long time to remember the word for this -- Camping).