Sunday, April 17, 2016

Practical and less practical solutions for the Philippines power crisis


Image/joke: Pappy's


It's summertime in the Philippines, when temperatures take a sadistic spike from what you assumed was already summer and the electricity company takes away your fans, air conditioning and refrigerator power when you need them most. As well as energy for all those other appliances and devices you've foolishly allowed to become integral to your professional and personal life, rather than treating as luxuries that can be arbitrarily recalled.

This is already my third straight year of dealing with summer power out(r)ages, and while I'm no less bitter or more understanding about having my rightfully paid-for power taken away for several hours every day at random times for months on end (sort it out, monopoly electricity provider - you have all of our money), I've got better at handling the annual crisis and keeping it from completely destroying my career, comfort and sanity.

And it turns out I was being unfair to the authorities, who have finally taken an active stance towards resolving the crisis now that it's started to affect the country's main international gateway and become a source of embarrassment in front of other nations, rather than something that just ruins the lives of locals. Who gives a shit about the proles?

I just had to share this eye-bulging article from the Philippine Star, which tells you everything you need to know about how this crisis (and crises generally) is being handled. I swear the following excerpts have been copy-pasted verbatim, it's not a satire site, and this was posted a full week after April 1st. You'll naturally want to check the link to confirm its authenticity. Ready? Here goes:

"With the cause of a five-hour blackout still unknown, an official of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 has urged NAIA-3 authorities to consult a feng shui expert or geomancer to take away the “bad luck” that officials blamed for the problems that have hampered operations in the facility."

"The official said that the feng shui expert could identify what could be wrong with the building’s design and even exorcise the terminal of “evil spirits” with rituals to appease these spirits."

Saturday, April 2, 2016

The further adventures of self-indulgence: All my British homes



We've finally secured a reasonably good internet connection, so before I'm inevitably thrown back to the dial-up ages I've been making the most of those advanced, high-bandwidth services that you lucky people in the developed world take for granted, like YouTube videos above 144p, non-HTML Gmail and Google Street View, which enables less fortunate people to imagine they're wandering the real streets of wealthier countries in 2009.

I've thought for a while that when I finally make it back to the UK and visit the family, I might also take a tour of my childhood homes and haunts in search of overwhelming primal nostalgia or crushing existential despair about the transience of our brief lives. Any emotion would be fine really.

But since we just built a house, and that rules out travel for this year at least, I settled for a synthetic virtual substitute and spent an hour or so clicking along familiar routes to schools, playgrounds and newsagents where the latest issue of Dinosaurs! magazine with another free bit of glow-in-the-dark Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton isn't waiting for me any more. I didn't feel much of anything.

If you're ever in South Cheshire, Lancaster or Edinburgh and you feel like paying tribute to my life, here's where to light those candles.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Substantialreads: Goth Girls

Three potential terror tales by women, of all creatures! I'm seeing a pattern here. It wasn't intentional, but I can't abandon it now or I'll look pathetic. Hopefully there won't be much in the way of work come December.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Is it worth it?: Rubbish internet in the Philippines



I noticed it's been just over a year since my last comprehensive and reliable analysis of the cost of living in the Philippines that I didn't bother comparing to anywhere else, so here's another aspect of daily life I have almost enough experience with to write about authoritatively: Wi-Fi (or as it's known colloquially around these parts, "f*** off, dino!")




For some background, the Philippines apparently has one of the slowest and most expensive internet offerings in the Asia-Pacific region. That list doesn't include some territories such as Cambodia, Myanmar and East Timor (the other Catholic country in Southeast Asia that the Philippines is always forgetting about), but when you're trying to gain points by scraping those barrels, you know you're in trouble. That's like when they celebrated escaping the bottom 10 list of the most corrupt nations in the whole world. There were probably fiestas.

I make my living online, but that doesn't mean I know much about how it works. Still, travelling all over Asia (the cheap bit anyway) and connecting to Wi-Fi in my hotel rooms or stealthily checking emails several times a day around the corner from various cafes I strategically ate at on consecutive days to accumulate passwords, I am in a position to compare. Philippines internet is rubbish even if you're staying at a tourist-friendly hotel or condominium. When you're actually living among the people, it's a nightmare.

I live a few minutes from the highway in the fourth most populous city in this country. In terms of internet coverage it's the next thing to being in the jungle. I've had more reliable connections on remote islands. Here is my harrowing story of survival.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Dream journal: Evil edition



For once, there actually are recurring themes threading through some of these dreams: construction and financial anxiety, since we've been building our house during this period. I'm also borderline evil in a few of them, and the customary lack of entertainment is alive and well.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Best of 2015, in March 2016



I'm not overly concerned with keeping up-to-date with the zeitgeist, which includes writing end-of-year lists around the end of the year in question.

At the end of 2014 I did a round-up of things I'd enjoyed that year that were unfailingly made in other decades, but this time around I've endeavoured to be more current. Apart from writing this in March, obviously. And a couple of entries from the last century. I'm getting better.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Substantialreads: Transformers

Does antiquity add length? In case that's not substantial enough, I added a supplementary shortie to keep you/me/the Gods satisfied.


Ovid, Metamorphoses

8 AD / E-book / 480 pages / Italy

****

This seemed to get referenced more than any other text whenever I've read anything classical-themed from A-level onwards, so it was about time I got around to it. I would have done that a lot sooner if I'd known it was basically a Roman/Greek mythology anthology. The theme is transformation, which barely narrows the field at all since that happens absolutely all the time, and the segues between otherwise unrelated stories are as amusingly flimsy as those in an Amicus horror film.


Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

1915 / Audiobook / 96 pages / Czech Republic

***

I'm surprised I never properly read this one either. I did try to tackle it in the original German once, which probably put me off. It's less challenging having Benedict Cumberbatch read it to me like I'm blind or a child.

It seems that people have interpreted its metaphor for the socially repulsive, downtrodden Other all over the place, but that doesn't make any sense unless those minorities are associated with climbing up the walls. He's an insect, you idiots. Did you really not get that?


Sunday, February 14, 2016

The house that Dave "built"



...in as much as I paid local workers and distant in-laws a presumably insulting daily wage to build a house my wife designed on her own, bought all the materials for and managed day-to-day, while I sat in my air-conditioned apartelle on the other side of town playing Diablo II, watching Doctor Who and occasionally typing things to earn construction funds.

No, I'm not proud of myself. But at least by not bothering to offer any creative or practical input whatsoever, I didn't compromise my wife's dream design (yeah?) And those workers have Sundays off to travel home and see their families, rather than sleeping on cardboard in the ramshackle shack outside and showering with a bucket like they do the rest of the week. Awful, isn't it? I didn't design the system, I'm just taking advantage of it.

Even in her frantic rush to bring the house up to minimum habitable standard before our February rent payment was due, my wife conceded to take photos through every stage of construction so we'd have them for posterity and, more importantly, for this blog. And we're not done yet - "minimum habitable standard" means it's still far from complete and still pretty spooky when stomping around with the lights off, even though the only potential spirits around here would belong to the trees we cruelly butchered to spoil more of this island's dwindling nature with concrete. As I said, not proud, but I'm not going to live on the highway.

This has strengthened my argument that travelling is cheaper than staying at home. This has all been pretty expensive. But if I will insist on using durable materials that won't collapse every time there's an earthquake or typhoon.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Substantialread: Ain't Nobody Here But Us Conveniently Symbolic Chickens

I read a lot of books last year. Too many to really take in, but some of them stuck with me - usually the ones that were already certified as classics by popular approval, and were more involving simply by virtue of them being considerably longer.

This year, rather than not reading any books at all (which was the only other option available, obviously), I've decided to read exactly one good (I hope) book a month, like a normal person or something. And to rectify the sins of the past by reading more women authors and proper, paper books rather than this extremely convenient digital nonsense, ransacking the used book shops at Davao's malls in the flimsy hope of finding some decent titles amid the posthumously fake V.C. Andrewses and Millennium Bug survival guides, then working out exactly how to get rid of them since those places inexplicably don't accept donations unless they're shipped in from abroad.

Since I only decided all this a few days ago, this month's book isn't especially long. And it's an audiobook. By a man. You don't have the power to fail me, only I can do that.


Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables

1851 / Audiobook / 344 pages / USA

****

I related to the architectural focus, since we're currently building a house (right, like I've hammered a single nail myself). I also appreciated the open-minded narrator who's sceptical about the fanciful superstitions built up around the real macabre happenings, but still baits us with an undeniable pattern. It hardly even mattered that as a non-Christian I find its core tenet of ancestral guilt being passed down the generations offensive.

With its richly symbolic prose, it's not a book you can passively listen to while playing Slam Tilt, and after falling asleep and having to find my place twice in chapter one, it became a book for lazy mornings rather than atmospheric nights. It wasn't because I was scared, right?

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Tom (1998-2016)



Another legend has passed. Tom lived the kind of spoiled, indulgent life from start to finish that would be embarrassing in a human. He was a mass murderer who picked off small mammals indiscriminately for pleasure. But you couldn't help but love the guy.

I won't forget the time we played fetch with an elastic band for over an hour to test each other's patience, though I forget who eventually gave in. Or the time we ran out of cat food and he followed me all the way to One Stop and back, skulking under cars, to make sure I bloody well bought some. Or the time I walked in on him "cleaning" himself and visibly enjoying it a little too much.

Thank you to my mum for looking after him during his reign of terror, especially after I left for university and abandoned my duties. Nantwich's mouse, vole and rabbit populations can sleep easier now.