Archive for the miscellaneous Category

Taxi drivers weigh in on Pacquiao-Bradley fight

Posted in miscellaneous on June 11, 2012 by gohelpyourself

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Do you want penetrating and insightful analysis of any boxing match?

Just ask taxi drivers. You’d be surprised. I confirmed this theory about boxing expertise again yesterday just after the much-awaited Manny Pacquiao – Tim Bradley fight.

Na-mafia ang laban (It was influenced by the mafia),” said one driver.

Niluto! (It was fixed!),” said another.

My survey was done just after the fight as I rode taxis from one place to another. I was out the whole day yesterday. I didn’t care about the fight. To be sure, I’m not the one getting $50 million, and the event won’t exactly make the Philippine economy jump like a gazelle.

But with the nimbleness of a gazelle, the drivers spryly explained to me why the fight was probably rigged. There was no way Pacquiao could have lost, they say.

It was all a farce, a travesty. There really was a date set for the November rematch. Manny wants the rematch because it will make him richer, millions of dollars richer. There is no one left interesting or profitable enough for Manny to fight. Floyd Mayweather is in jail, probably shadowboxing with an imaginary Manny. Bradley, by showing a mock-up ticket for a November rematch, couldn’t help keeping the “planned” rematch to himself. Bob Arum wants this rematch, too. He wants all the moola he can squeeze out of Pacquiao. Manny was unscathed. Bradley had to be brought out in a wheelchair. Manny won at least eight of the rounds. Etcetera.

It’s interesting to see how many of these views were repeated in the next day’s papers and in many other news sites. I learned all I needed to know by talking to these experts.

Of course, they may just be echoing the views of radio commentators or other people. But still, you get the same insights and views.

So the next time you want boxing insights and analysis, just hop on some taxis and talk to the drivers. You’ll get expert opinions at no cost.

Just remember to pay the fare.

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Secrets of great moms

Posted in miscellaneous, parenting on May 18, 2012 by gohelpyourself

By Anthony O. Alcantara

They must have secrets. Great moms offer blood, sweat, and tears for their children. Even the “blood” is plentiful. All of us, at some point in our lives, threw up on our moms, peed on them, defecated, and farted enough gas to worsen global warming. We drove our moms insane with our crying and whining. We’ve hurt them with our words and deeds.

And yet, our moms are still there, ready to give us a hug, and kiss our hurts goodbye.

So what is their secret to sainthood?

My guess is that they have been abducted by aliens from outer space. These higher life forms looked kindly on us. They thought that our tremendous capacity for stupidity and folly need to be cured, or at least tempered.

So that’s what they did. They kidnapped our mothers and implanted undetectable devices in their brains that allow them to accomplish superhuman feats of kindness, patience, and love.

It has been like that since mankind’s first UFO sightings thousands of years ago. Each mom, just before giving birth, is implanted with the “mom” device.

Many years ago, when I had a fight with my brother and looked into my mom’s eyes, I saw a momentary flicker, a gleam in her eye. Perhaps it was a signal from the device implanted in her brain telling her to be kind to an ill-tempered child. I was saved.

My mom always moved with purpose and dedication. A full-time housewife, she loved to do house chores, cook delicious and nutritious food for us, and iron our clothes.

My mom would be the first one to wake up. Her routines were almost impossible to shake off. Her habits, unshakable. It was the sameness of incredible discipline. She always reminded us to be on time. When we had trips, she would prepare everything well in advance. All we had to do was dress up.

In our family, she was the crucial piece of the puzzle that made the picture complete. She never complained. Her role was to assist us in everything that we do.

Perhaps it was the alien device at work. I wouldn’t know for sure. But alien device or not, there’s a little secret my mom couldn’t hide – her unconditional love for me and my brothers.

I guess it’s the same with most of us. This is just a simple tribute to the greatest mom, Milagros Alcantara, whose little secret I will hold and cherish in my heart forever.

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My “Four Fingers”

Posted in health and fitness, miscellaneous on May 11, 2012 by gohelpyourself

I just love my “Four Fingers”.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

“Nice shoes,” said the man in the next urinal as I was about to shake off my thing. I was at theAIMConferenceCenterto attend a panel discussion on K-12 education.

Now I don’t think he was gay and that he was trying to pick me up. But it’s not really an exciting topic of conversation in the toilet. Come to think of it, maybe he noticed how big my feet appeared in my Fila Skele-Toes. And you know what they say about men with big feet.

So I simply said, “Thanks.”

The shoes in question are not really shoes. My Fila Skele-Toes are knockoffs of Five Fingers. For those who haven’t seen Five Fingers, they’re like gloves for your feet. They have thin and flexible rubber soles and Spandex-like material to cover the rest of your feet. Because they are “foot gloves”, you can wiggle your toes freely.

Many thought that my Fila Skele-Toes were Five Fingers, which, at P4,000 to P5,000 a pair, are expensive. A lady doctor in a hospital recently said, “Nice shoes, Sir. Five Fingers.” But I told her that they are actually “Four Fingers”, and that they are much cheaper at less than P2,000 a pair.

And why “Four Fingers”? Well, instead of having five digits, each “foot glove” has only four. The pinky toe and the toe next to it (what do you call them anyway?) only have one opening. But if you look at them, you’d think they have five digits because of the design.

They look ugly. If you compare them with slippers and other shoes, they are aliens. So why would you want these ugly looking things?

For one thing, they are very comfortable. They provide you enough warmth for your feet, and they are oh so light. You can leap in the air while on the street and don’t have to worry about small pieces of rock piercing your feet.

For another, they make you feel stable. You should try running using these ugly things. When I had a treadmill test recently (the doctor found nothing wrong with me, by the way), I felt so stable and free. The traction was excellent. It was like running barefoot but with less of the jarring impact on your feet and knees, and better grip on the ground, or the treadmill in my case.

It felt so natural walking and running with my “Four Fingers”. I felt like a Kenyan marathoner running after a gazelle.

Oh well. If only my office would allow me to wear these things. I’m not an endorser of Fila or Five Fingers, by the way. I’m just a very happy customer.

In the future, I hope our shoes would look and feel more natural, just like my “Four Fingers”. And when that happens, we would be admiring each others’ feet. And you know what they say about people with nice big feet.

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Things I learned and did in the hospital

Posted in miscellaneous on May 4, 2012 by gohelpyourself

You can learn things in the hospital, too. (Photo by Robert Linder; taken from http://www.sxc.hu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

We were supposed to be in Boracay. I was supposed to be chasing my wife at the beach like a stallion galloping after a coquettish mare. And my baby Aria was supposed to be building and eating sand castles, while her Nonna, her grandma, sipped piña colada under the sun. Sadly, however, some pesky E. coli bacteria decided to take over Aria’s tummy, causing high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.

A five-day vacation in Boracay turned into a vacation in the hospital. I’m not complaining, though. I always believe that everything that happens is an opportunity for something else.

Anyway, I just wanted to share some things I learned and did:

  1. I learned self-control and patience together with my wife as we waited helplessly for doctors to stick a needle in Aria’s hand for the IV fluids. No one was allowed in the room except the doctors and nurses. Naturally, Aria screamed and cried. Knowing how strong Aria is and how she resists attempts to hold her still, I know that the doctors struggled. My wife said she’d barge in if they’re not finished in five minutes. Fortunately, it didn’t take that long. But it was close. When they opened the door, Aria was in tears, her face contemplating revenge.
  1. I learned how to put on Aria’s shirt while a small tube, connected to a plastic bottle of dextrose IV fluids, protrudes from her hand. It was a challenge, especially since Aria’s shirts have small holes for the arms.
  1. I enjoyed having Aria sit on a small wheelchair and pushing her around the pediatric ward of the hospital. We watched and counted the fish in the aquarium, greeted nurses and doctors in the hallway, and listened to other kids scream as doctors stick needles for IV fluids.
  1. I also amused myself by listening to the endless and repetitive questions of nurses and doctors in training. They barged in our room often. “How many times did baby poop?” “When was the last time she pooped?” “Did she poop today?” “How much milk did baby drink today? Oh, she’s breastfeeding?” “How many times did she breastfeed?” “Is she breastfeeding?”
  1. I also had the privilege to overhear conversations and listen to annoying sounds from the other room, even though we were in a private room. Apparently, there’s a small gap between the edge of the shared wall and the window. It’s perfect for amplifying sounds in the other room. So we endured an old lady singing the theme of SpongeBob Squarepants to her grandchild. We retaliated by laughing loudly at appropriate times.
  1. I enjoyed reading e-books to Aria and showing her flash cards using her iPad. She knows the alphabet already and can count to 20. She does it on her own and at unexpected times. If we ask her to repeat it, she never does. Sometimes, she sleep-talks and recites the alphabet or begins to count. Then she laughs. Weird kid.
  1. I cuddled a lot with baby and mommy. We were in a small private room perfect for cuddling. Better than Boracay indeed.
  1. I learned how to scrutinize the hospital bill carefully. I realized that it’s always a good idea to assume that the nurses and doctors are billing you for things they didn’t give you.
  1. I was surprised to learn that nurses have bad handwriting, too. It’s not only the doctors. Are these people genetically predisposed to this malady? The spelling is terrible, too.
  1. I also learned how to count the drops of IV fluids. Sometimes, the nurses are not careful. They lack sleep. So it’s a good idea to ask them what they are doing exactly.
  1. Of course, I learned to count my blessings again. My daughter Aria and my wife Em are my greatest treasures. There will be another time for Boracay.

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This is not Boracay. But there are fishes here, too.

Love your cubicle

Posted in miscellaneous on August 13, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Designing cubicles is an art and science. (Photo by a_kartha from http://www.sxc.hu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

There’s got to be a formula for creating an ideal workplace. You can’t just put cubicles together and expect people to beg that they be allowed to live in them.

I found one promising formula recently while browsing an issue of the Harvard Business Review. It was from an article entitled “Who Moved My Cube?” by Anne-Laure Fayard and John Weeks. The title looked vaguely familiar. Then I remembered that there’s a book called “Who Moved My Cheese.” There must be something to these adaptations of titles. Maybe “Who Moved My Chair” is next.

Anyway, the authors of “Who Moved My Cube” found out that there are three “Ps” that should be present in an ideal workplace: proximity, privacy and permission.

Proximity means there should be shared spaces with shared resources such as coffee machines and photocopiers that allow informal chats. This can encourage innovation and exchange of ideas. I would like to add that people should also share other office tools that are much more intimate, such as ballpens, rulers and even chairs’ arm rests.

The conversations in these shared spaces can go something like this:

“Do you know that jerk at the engineering department?”

“Oh yeah, I’d love to wring his neck.”

“There’s an easy way to do that. Just feed his tie to the paper shredder.”

Yes, the paper shredder is indeed a very useful shared resource.

Privacy is pretty obvious. People must not be afraid of being interrupted or overheard. They must also be able to avoid interactions if they want to.

Here’s a sample scenario if this rule is violated:

“Have you heard that Dingba is having a relationship with Dibo the Gift Dragon?”

“Dibo the Gift Dragon? You mean that cartoon character who indiscriminately opens his zipper to surprise people? How did you know about that?”

“Dingba’s speakerphone is always on. Everyone knows except you.”

Permission means that the space itself as well as the company’s leaders and culture convey the message that casual conversation is encouraged.

Here’s a sample of open communication:

“Hi Mr. President. You said you have an open door policy, right?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“Then why do you have an alarm that automatically goes off whenever I’m 10 meters away?”

“The alarm is especially designed to warn me when an idiot is nearby.”

And that is how most of us find solace in our cubicle.

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Football Madness: The search for new sports idols

Posted in miscellaneous on February 15, 2011 by gohelpyourself

Girls' eyelids flutter at the sight of Phil Younghusband. But my eyelids refuse to budge. He's my Idol Number 2, though.

By Anthony O. Alcantara

It is the perfect seat. Next to the area of the VIPs at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City, it is the best place to be. I make myself comfortable in the first row of the grandstand where the hoi polloi are supposed to be. This is going to be an amazing experience, I tell myself.

I’ve never watched an international football game before. Though I’ve heard about the Azkals, especially with the hype generated by Phil and James Younghusband, those two very good-looking bastards, I’m not much into kicking balls. I prefer to smash them with a paddle on top of tables.

Sadly, however, table tennis is not so cool in the Philippines. Not enough good-looking players I suppose.

Nevertheless I’m excited to see a great game of football between the Azkals and the Mongolian team, whose compatriots have won a lot more Olympic medals than Filipinos have. I’m also excited to see the new sports idols that many Filipinos have come to worship.

Soon, however, people start congregating at the area just in front of the first row. They can’t find vacant seats anymore. The pathway is there for people to walk on so they can get to their seats.

But nobody’s walking. And they seem to think that the people behind them would be entertained by their jiggling buns. Instead of pinching those buns, some people seated on the first row ask everyone to sit on the floor instead.

It worked. But not for long. Just before the game started, they stand up again to get a better view. So those of us on the first row get up on our feet, too. Earlier, I was told there were 16,000 tickets given out and sold.

I suppose there are more than that number of people at the stadium. The announcer introduces the players. Loud cheering spews out from the crowd. I squint my eyes to see their faces. I barely recognize anyone, even the good-looking bastards, especially since they’re just the size of my right thumb’s fingernail.

Maybe it’s better to watch the game on TV, I tell myself. There are about five rows of people in front of me. The game starts but I still can’t get a good view. I tiptoe. Every 10 minutes or so, I sit to relieve my calf muscles.

The Azkals warm up before the game as their German coach, Hans Michael Weiss, looks on.

I see a girl wearing a football shirt with “J. Younghusband” printed at the back. Another is wearing a white t-shirt filled with signatures, which I assume belong to the players. I’m with fanatics. And it’s not a good idea to mess around with these people.

Suddenly I hear loud cheers. I see Chieffy Caligdong running and rejoicing. Later on I learn how he made the goal. He kicks the ball up over the head of a charging opponent, then he kicks the ball again right between the legs of the goalie.

How could the goalie let that happen? Between the legs? Ridiculous. But it was a brilliant move by Caligdong. He has become my Idol Number 1.

Disappointed by not  seeing that first goal, I decide to find a way to squeeze my way to the railing so nothing will block my view. After about 15 minutes, I manage to get to the third layer of the crowd before me. The view is better, but still not ideal. I see the numerous near goals of the Azkals and I yell together with the crowd.

Finally, during the break after the first half, some of the people in the first two layers of the crowd take a leak or get a drink. So I quickly advance to the railing. At last, the perfect view.

I come to enjoy the people around me. One radio reporter gives a blow-by-blow account of the game. I can’t imagine people listening to a game of football over the radio. Golf or chess would have been okay. Not football.

I see Marc Nelson and Dyan Castillejo at the VIP area. I take pictures.

The Azkals don’t make much progress in scoring another goal, though they seem to dominate the game. So I take a break and take pics and videos of things I find interesting around me.

That’s when Phil Younghusband makes another goal. Shucks, I missed it again, I cry out. I find out later on in YouTube how Phil made the goal. It’s not as impressive as Caligdong’s, but it’s a goal nonetheless. Phil Younghusband has become my Idol Number 2.

The jubilation is electrifying and infectious. I have never thought that watching a football game live, even if I don’t see much of the players, can be this exciting and satisfying.

The Azkals' bus doesn't get much publicity. So I'm including it here.

Later on at the victory party at the Azkal’s hotel, the fans, particularly the girls, surround the players, especially the good-looking bastards, and ask them if they could have their photographs taken.

I see the girls flutter their eyelids at Phil Younghusband. And I see them tilt their heads as if offering their necks to a vampire.

After the first batch of fans leave, I approach Phil Younghusband and say, “Can I have a picture with you?” He smiles. But he fails to make me flutter my eyelids and tilt my head.

I now have a pic with my Idol Number 2.

I fail to get a picture with Idol Number 1, though. The crowd is getting crazy, and I see the next batch of fans line up. The half-Filipino players, who share the same table, get a disproportinately huge share of the traffic. The players who have no English accents get a trickle. They lump at another table.

Am I seeing a cultural divide? I ask myself. These guys need to gel more.

In any case, the Azkals have played an outstanding game. May their quest for excellence be an inspiration to Filipinos.

I feel like fluttering my eyelids now. It’s time to sleep.

 

Philippine flags are everywhere. Some are on people's faces.

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Why celebrate Christmas?

Posted in miscellaneous on December 5, 2010 by gohelpyourself

 

Why do we have Christmas trees? (Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu)

By Anthony O. Alcantara

Last year, I wrote about Ramon Sabilo, a vendor, around Christmas time. For months, I returned to the place where I found him, hoping to give him the money he needed to go home to Bacolod. I failed in my quest. I just hope he’s okay now, wherever he is.

Anyway, since almost a third of the world population probably celebrate Christmas, and probably more are affected by it, I just thought of why people celebrate Christmas at all.

I remember this story about five monkeys. They’re all in a cage with a ladder going to the top, where a bunch of ripe bananas dangle tantalizingly. Soon enough, a monkey climbs the ladder. As the monkey reaches for the bananas, the four other monkeys are hosed with cold water.

This goes on for some time. The monkeys soon learn that the bananas on top of the cage are off limits. Then one monkey is replaced with a new one. Having no idea about these forbidden bananas, the new one promptly climbs the ladder. But the other monkeys pounce on him and beat him up. So the newcomer learns his lesson.

Then another one of the original monkeys is replaced. This newcomer quickly climbs for the bananas. But before he reaches simian nirvana, he’s beaten up by the others. So the newcomer learns his lesson, too. This goes on until all the original monkeys have been replaced.

The ripe and delicious bananas are still there, but the monkeys don’t have any idea why they can’t have them.

I don’t know if this story is true, but it’s still a good parable.

So if we don’t plan on becoming monkeys this Christmas, we can ask ourselves:

1. Why do we shop for gifts for other people for Christmas?

2. Why do malls put on the “Christmas air” months before Christmas day?

3. Why do we spend so much for Christmas parties?

4. Why do we give gifts to people who will probably give us gifts in return?

5. Why do we spend money on new clothes?

6. Why do we buy new gadgets?

7. Why do we buy jewelry?

8. Why do we have a Christmas tree?

9. Why do we have Christmas lanterns?

10. Why do we have Christmas lights?

11. Why do we sing Christmas carols?

12. Why are there Christmas bazaars?

13. Why is there a Christmas sale?

14. Why are there so many Christmas music albums?

15. Why do we plan for vacations during the Christmas holidays?

16. Why is there a Christmas bonus?

17. Why is Christmas day a holiday?

18. Why is Santa Claus part of the Christmas season?

19. Why are Santa’s elves so busy wrapping presents for kids all over the world?

20. Why do we have Noche Buena?

21. Why do we celebrate Christmas?

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