December 21, 2011

Like Fish In A Barrel

It started out back in 2009 as a water feature -- a half-barrel to catch the water that flowed through the rainchain from the roof gutters. We found a waterproofed half-barrel at a garden center, where we also bought the marginal aquatic plants, Dwarf Giant Papyrus, Powdery Thalia, and Pickerelweed. We got a lotus bulb but it never woke up.


We weren’t really planning on having fish in the barrel but stagnant water would mean breeding ground for mosquitoes. So, I assigned a couple of Goldfishes and a Platy from our aquarium to take care of the mosquito larvae that could populate the barrel. All went well until winter came.

January 2010 was fierce; it froze the barrel, together with everything in it. I was devastated, not only because the fish and most of the plants died, but also because it didn’t even occur to me that I actually had the means to prevent the imminent disaster.

Frozen water. See dead fish in the center of the photo.

The following winter, I was prepared. As soon as the weather cooled down, I put an aquarium heater in the barrel and made sure that the setting was just right – no ice cube fishies, but no fish stew either. Everyone survived.

Last summer, I added more fish. I introduced a few tropical livebearers, both male and female, and let nature take its course. The barrel is now teeming with Guppies, Platys, and Swordtails.

We had our first chilly morning a few weeks ago, and no, we didn’t forget to install the heater. We won't let Mother Winter mess with our pets again, even if they are fish in a barrel.

December 8, 2011

Goodbye Auto Mode

A few months ago, Groupon offered a discount on a photography workshop to be held in Orlando, conducted by I took the 4-hour “The Ultimate Camera Experience” workshop with the matching 2-hour “The Ultimate Camera Expedition” location shooting scheduled for December 2nd. The lecture was at the Sheraton Safari Hotel, and the shoot at Downtown Disney, just 10 minutes away from home.

It was essentially a basic course on DSLR photography – understanding ISO, aperture, shutter speed, metering, etc., and knowing how to control them in your camera. I knew all that, since I’ve had my Canon Rebel T2i for more than a year and my Canon S3IS for a couple of years before that.  I was really more curious about the workshop itself (how it would be conducted) rather than the photography basics.

Surprisingly, at the end of the day, I actually learned something important and photography-related. Our wonderful (she was awesome!) facilitator was professional photographer Stephanie Adriana. After listening to her share her shooting techniques and personal experiences, I discovered that there was, indeed, an easy and methodical way to shoot in Manual mode.

Stephanie at location shooting.

My action shot in "shutter priority" mode.

So, wow, I can now shoot, quite confidently, in Manual mode! No more getting nervous and rattled and defaulting to Auto mode when shooting in a pinch! I would say that’s a lesson that was worth more than what I paid for that 6-hour workshop. The chance to mingle with fellow camera enthusiasts was a bonus. Getting a laminated cheat sheet from the workshop -- priceless.

Below are some of the photos I shot after the workshop, all in easy-peasy manual mode, without the headache from second-guessing the camera settings (click on any image for a high-res slideshow of all photos). Thank you, Stephanie!

Our bikes in the driveway on an overcast day.
The hot-air balloon ride at Downtown Disney, where we had our location shooting.

Mike's Boss bike. Shot with a zoom.

Our Blue-and-Glitter-themed Christmas tree.

My CD-ripping project workstation.

October 8, 2011

Your Ticket, Please.

What normal people would typically throw away, I keep. I always say to myself, "Someday I'll think of a way to turn this into a work of art."

One of the many things I've kept over the years are movie tickets -- those that the ticket collector at the theater entrance hand back to the patron. I wasn't able to save all the stubs of all the movies we saw because when Mike gets to hold those little pieces of paper, he tends to crumple them and throw them away. He's normal. When I get to hold them, I keep them safely in a pocket in my bag and later slip them into a little hoarding box.

After almost ten years, I suddenly decided I've collected enough of them to turn into a piece of art that I can hang on the wall. I gathered all the stubs and removed all the duplicates (I still kept the duplicates in an envelope, I don't know what for).

Then I looked for that picture frame of a frowning clown that I really meant to repurpose. I glued colored paper on the frame backing and taped the stubs onto them. It's very relaxing, gluing ticket stubs one at a time into a symmetrical structure. Yes, I know. OCD.

And this is the final product -- a glass-framed conversation piece of ticket stubs of some of the movies Mike and I saw together from 2002 to 2011.

What else have I been stashing around here? Hmmm.

September 26, 2011

More Shelves!

ADD. OCD. It took a while for me to wrap my head around the realization that I have a healthy affliction of both. ADD takes me from one project to another, one field of interest to the next, and one... oh, look, a squirrel! Then OCD grabs me and compels me to fix sort organize my belongings stuff in neat aligned symmetrical order.

That's why I need shelves. Lots of shelves. Because I tend to collect things. Assorted things. Especially those that mean something to me. Like colored glass. Matrioshka dolls. Crystal bells. And books. Lots of books. Some CDs. Some DVDs. A few pewter figurines. Japanese artifacts. And Darth Vader.

I must organize my things. I must. So I build shelves. I need shelves.

More shelves!

September 25, 2011

Puto and Dinuguan

Finding good puto (rice bun) here in the U.S. is hit or miss. So, I decided to try out a White King Puto boxed mix, which is much like the pancake mix that I always resort to for my comfort breakfast.

The White King Puto powder mix required a cup of water, half a cup of sugar, and 5 tsp of cooking oil. Instead of plain sugar, I used Splenda. I also used Canola oil. After a minute of hand-mixing the ingredients, I poured the batter into my muffin (silicone) molds. Our rice cooker doubles as a steamer, so I was good to go. The instructions said to steam for 25 minutes.

The puto came out just right. I dabbed some butter on top before I took them out of the steamer. My taste test revealed that next time I should put a little more Splenda, and spike the mix with a drop or two of vanilla flavoring.

So, why did I suddenly have the urge to cook my own puto? Because we had some Dinuguan ("Blood Stew") takeout from the Pinoy store, and everyone knows that Dinuguan is always best with puto.

January 21, 2011

Book Review: "Tapping the Source: Using the Master Key System for Abundance and Happiness" by Gladstone, Greninger, and Selby

Wouldn't it be great if life had an instruction manual? Fortunately, every now and then, someone writes a book that gives us, in no uncertain terms, step-by-step instructions on how to achieve success and happiness in life. Tapping the Source is that type of book.

Tapping the Source starts with how authors Gladstone, Greninger, and Selby serendipitously collaborate to expound on the wisdom of the Master Key System introduced by Charles Haanel in the early 1900s. Haanel had shared how meditation, manifestation, and being one with the Universal Mind (also known as Creative Spirit, Infinite Creator, or Divine) can influence the people and events around us into making our aspirations come true.

What makes Tapping the Source stand out from other self-help books is it draws from an expert who has been the role model of many successful businessmen and personalities over the past century. The book's authors, themselves, use Haanel's secrets in their own lives. Here, they present these secrets in practical, present-day, layman's terms, for regular people like us to use.

The book quotes Haanel extensively. The authors elaborate on Haanel's teachings and translate them into a manifestation process anchored on seven focus phrases that we can utter several times a day. This manifestation process works around the Law of Attraction, the secret of giving, the power of positive thinking, and direct communication with the Source. It may all sound nebulous, but the authors succeeded in presenting Haanel's concepts and teachings in clear and concise terms.

Tapping the Source is a life instruction manual. The manifestation logic and the actionable focus phrases serve as a blueprint for fulfilling our desires, achieving our goals, and tapping into the power of the Divine. This book empowers its reader with insights, awareness, and various mental tools to build material, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual perfection. In fact, this book takes away whatever possible excuse we may have to not succeed in life.

January 17, 2011

Life Coach 04: Ride the Winds of Change

Change doesn't always have to be hard to accept. Change can most often be a blessing. How do we learn to face and take advantage of a major change in our lives?

January 16, 2011

Life Coach 03: Choose To Be Happy

Studies show that you can consciously provide the mental and physical conditions that your brain will translate into feelings of happiness and contentment.

January 15, 2011

January 14, 2011

Life Coach 01: Count Your Blessings

When you think about it, bad days are actually the best days to focus on the good things we have. It doesn't guarantee that everything will suddenly be okay, but it gives us a better perspective of our circumstances.