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Monday, 26 September 2005

I went to the meadows to do some thinking......


Cabrón que pasa? says my horned four legged friend, seen here fishing for trout. I scream "Shark! Shark!" but these Oxonian cattle are very bright and pay me no attention. I then try to sell him my idea about "Instant Moo-sseging Service" for tech-savvy cows.....

I tried to convince Mr. Heifer here that I prefer goat's cheese and that a single pierced ear is so last year. I played touch football with the cows but it's hard to get past a 1000lb defender.

Customs inspectors make sure that I am not smuggling milk. I tell them the "Hey, have you 'herd' about the mad cow......" joke but for some reason they did not find it very funny.

The equines are not too impressed with my 0.25 horsepower transport. And a word of advice, it is not wise to try to outrun a horse, even if you are on a bike, they normally win......trust me, I found out the hard way........

What did the cow say to the horse? "So, why the long face?"......mooooowahahahahahah....

Sunday, 25 September 2005

True stories from the mountains

Three nuns from the St. Louis Girls High School went to a cucumber stand in the Baguio market one day. They asked how much the cucumbers were. The merchant said that they were "Uppat ti lima a piso" (Four for five pesos) . The nuns agreed to purchase four. The puzzled vendor asked why they needed four cucumbers when there were only three of them. A nun answered back, "Ket, mabalin mi met kanen diay maysa." (Well, we could always eat one.)

Friday, 23 September 2005

Ocassionally, I can compose a text message on my cellphone while cycling. But for the past two mornings during rush hour, I have to hand it to this guy I saw who can cycle while drinking coffee (may kasama pang croissant). And to top it off, on my way home, I came across another cyclist who was playing the silindro (harmonica). Both I can add to my growing list of bicycle nutters.

Nothing worked for me this week. Helen taught me how to stain my samples with a solution using very depleted uranium. (Yes, it is safe as long as you don't get it into your DNA. No, you can't make an atom bomb with it). I gave it a go but my sample withered impotently under an electron microscope. For this I carry the "L" sign on my forehead.

When I need to run away from my own lab, I visit my friends' labs and submit myself as a guinea pig. Yesterday, I was inside a sound isolation chamber listening to audio clips of macaque monkeys for my friend Kerry's experiment. Basically, I was made to listen to three audio clips of amorous macaque monkeys and to determine which two were the same. This experiment was designed to determine how well the human brain can pick out variations in tone and pattern. I listened to 200 sets of these and my results were better than average. (A talent I now attribute to my music teacher Mrs. Bañez who made us repeat the note produced by a melodica wind piano..Do...Ti....Re.....Do...So...I can do two octaves) This is a skill which should come in handy when I visit the tropical jungles. I can distinguish friendly from hostile monkeys. Wahoo! I wonder, in the planet of the apes, do they mount operas? I suppose the gorillas would be tenors and the chimps could belt out a mean vibrato......

Wednesday, 21 September 2005

Three Self-Portraits reflected on a Dying Medium - the Blackboard

1. Me and Brian Eno's Blackboard
Perhaps it is no coincidence that I like flamenco and blues music - they are both rooted in Arabic singing. This blackboard shows the diaspora and metamorphosis of Arabic singing into popular music. Very very informative.

2. Me and The Fuzzy Haired One's Blackboard
This is Einstein's blackboard circa 1931 explaining the expansion of the universe. Here, Albert suggests that the age of the universe is ~10 billion years.

3. Me and Tony Benn's Blackboard
You can cleary see my outline holding my cheap digital camera here. I have no clue who Tony is but he puts a very interesting argument here.

Sunday, 18 September 2005

We often wonder how people in the olden times managed to live without the trappings of technology. True, there are a few modern contraptions that have become ubiquitous that we don't dare leave home without them.....here are three must have accessories for a fashionable homo sapiens sapiens -

1. A personal digital assistant to hold important dates and appointments

2. A GPS transceiver so you know where you are in the galaxy

3. A 5-megapixel camera to take pictures of the world...

Saturday, 17 September 2005

Hungry

Booh. Nothing scares me anymore, not even dark passages in old buildings....

It has been raining all morning and I overslept. In fact I had a weird 'horror movie'-type dream but it wasn't scary. I guess that's why I slept for so long because I was hoping my dream would have an interesting storyline. It didn't - the usual vampires, "Ring"-type faces, and the cliche poltergeist (I think there was even a levitating coffin somewhere). If I were still 12 years old maybe I would have been frightened but I clearly remember myself sarcastically saying "Is this all you got?" in my dream. Oh well, I guess we all outgrow a few things. The grim weather in Middle Earth has made me homesick. In fact, it has made me hungry. So what easy meal can I do that would remind me of that lofty city in the sky called Baguio? (Which is slowly descending into the bottom of the pits with the way it's being mismanaged.) And the answer is Giniling! A very easy viand to cook. Any self-respecting carinderia in the Philippines will have it. There are many ways to cook giniling. The dodgy areas (some parts of Hangar, Quiapo, New Lucban) serve giniling which is coloured deep-orange. It is best to avoid this. (I have once seen an entire carinderia selection which was coloured orange). But today, I will cook giniling the way I like it. To a pan, add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, saute the minced garlic briefly then add the chopped onions, allow the sweetness of the onions to escape over low heat. Then, add minced beef followed by torn bay leaves, some saffron, coarse ground black pepper, lots of ground cayenne pepper, rock salt, and chopped potatoes. Mix well and leave on low heat so that the ingredients get to know each other well. When the potatoes are nearly done, add a dash of worcestershire sauce and some Kikkoman soy sauce. Leave till the potatoes are cooked. When ready, turn off the heat and add chopped parsley. Viola! True peasant food done in less than 30 minutes! Top over rice and "Mangan tayo!" And in true flipping Pinoy way, this is best accompanied by a glass of very cold Coke.

The ingredients of good Giniling

My giniling ....

Monday, 12 September 2005

D'oh

So there I was at the appointed time. The lecture hall was packed. Impressive for an 8pm lecture. The odd thing was, I looked out of place in my football t-shirt and everyone seemed to be much much "wiser" than me. That sinking feeling came in when a gentleman sat next to me and introduced himself as a theologian. Bam! I was at the wrong lecture hall - Big time. I meant to be in a talk about Michael Faraday's brilliance as an experimentalist but I was in a conference lecture tackling "God and Einstein". There was no escape as I was sat smack in the middle. I just had to grin and bear it. Apparently, I gatecrashed a conference that was looking at the concept of "time" in science and theology organized by the Science and Religion forum, of which I was not a card-carrying member. And so for 1.5 hours I listened to the Gowland Lecture entitled "Einstein for the Terrified". To my surprise, I generally enjoyed it. The speaker spoke eloquently using simple analogies and explained Einstein's general theory of relativity in a manner that even lower life forms like me could easily grasp. (And he only showed one mathematical formula!). It was meant as an introductory lecture to the theologians/non-scientists which made up maybe 75% of audience to whet their appetite for further discussions on how "God" or a "Creator" figures into the origin of the universe. I found myself drawn to the discussions regarding where God was before the Big Bang (when time did not yet exist) and the futility of endeavour when we know that the future already exists. On hindsight, maybe I was meant to be in this lecture after all. (I am reduced to fits of laughter when I remember a similar situation a year ago, during a brief stint as an undergrad lecturer, when a student went up to me and said he was in the wrong class towards the end of the lecture when I was about to give a quiz. Apparently he was supposed to be in an English class. I was teaching a computer class. Go figure.) Maybe I should gatecrash tomorrow's session.

For some weird reason that could not be explained by any scientific theory, tonight's near-disaster triggered an overpowering craving for tapas. And so, off I went to get Manchego cheese (which is made from sheep's milk of the La Mancha region in Spain), chorizo, and Birra Peroni (they were out of San Miguel). Metaphorically, I must be pregnant. (Quite literally too as I notice a slight bulge of my tummy. Time to go to the gym......)

His Royal Orangness Karl Willem enjoys tapas.

Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Birmingham

I did not bother to unpack when I got back to Oxford because I was quickly off to Birmingham (I did my laundry in Basildon) for another conference. Some really cool presentations including astrobiology (life on Mars) and a virus which apparently we've all had in our lifetime. Hotel life is very unhealthy, I have been pigging out on the buffet breakfast for the past 7 days on the road and I must have gained a kilo (all fat). Thankfully, I had a room with two double beds this time. I used one as a trampoline (we all need to bring out the kid in us). Broad street Birmingham and the area around it reminds me of Makati/Ortigas. They are eerily similar in many ways. We passed a group of flyovers that looks uncannily like the Edsa/South Expressway interchange. Anyways, night life was limited to bars close to our hotel. I do not know if it was on purpose, but our hotel was right next to a Gentleman's Club......

Birmingham has its own Ferris Wheel

The canal is lined by bars, cafe's, and restaurants.

At dinner I found myself sat on a table named Clever Dicks for a quiz show...where we lost miserably. Nothing clever about that.....

The bar where we spent a small fortune of our grant money.....

Alcoholic doctoral students. Booze indirectly funded by the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). The bar is where clever ideas are hatched. (This is scientific fact).

Sunday, 4 September 2005

Spent two days in greater London after Brighton . And the best thing was the weather was still gloriously tropical. I could not resist ordering take-away, eating it at the park, then having a siesta. Went window shopping, listened to the debates at the Speaker's corner in Hyde Park, people-watched and just bummed around. I am so frigging lazy........

In the stifling noon day heat, I wanted to jump in these waters

The other famous Nash. John Nash the architect.

Kid cooling off at Trafalgar

Why do they sell surfboards in London?

My lunch at the park. Took off my shoes and walked barefoot.


The last burst of summer

Thursday, 1 September 2005

Brighton Day Two

"It's brain food mon, 'coz it's what them fish eat mon", said the bar manager with dreadlocks as he taught me how to make Jamaican "viagra". Not that I needed it, but he wanted me to have it, on the house. It's actually made of seaweed called "Irish Moss". The seaweed on its own is tasteless so it is flavoured with chocolate. "This make your girlfriend happy mon" he exhorted. "Too bad I don't have one" say I. I was drawn to this Carribean cafe facing the beach by the chill out musique and the knowledge that Carribean shops serve the next best thing to New Lucban BananaQ - deep fried bananas. Unlike the hopelessly sweet version we flipping Pinoys have, them Carribeans serve it with chili sauce to enhance the natural sweetness of the banana. I must say it was good. Sun. Sea. Me chilling out to cool Jamaican grooves. Could anything be better?

Starting the day with a very greasy meal, including black sausage made of pork blood and cereal. Enough brain food to last me the conference morning sessions.

At low tide, the waves break close to the pier. I could only watch with envy as these guys get stoked. You need a dry suit to ride these cold cold waters. I haven't surfed for ages!

Memorabilia at Brighton's Surfing Museum. Lots of interesting wooden boards. These are very heavy compared to boards today that come with built-in mp3 players and internet access....

The iconic surf transport. A VW combi....I want one of these bugs for my roadtrip.

Watching the sunset with chilled beer. Two white lagers and a Budvar. This the real Budweiser from the Czech Republic. Budweiser is a geographical apellation for beers brewed in České Budějovice. The one brewed by Anheuser-Busch is a pretender.

After a heavy Thai Dinner, a nightcap in the Greene Room (named for the author Graham Greene) above the Cricketer's Pub (which looks like a brothel with its red walls). I downed a refreshing Cuban Missile (50ml Sputnik Horseradish Vodka, dash of Chambord, trace of Orange Hope Bitters, dash of syrup de gomme, fresh mint, basil and raspberries....)