Laptop Opus

Yesterday, I got myself a brand new full-featured laptop - the MSI CR410.

It wasn't really a purchase that was a long time coming, but what's interesting about it is the chain of events leading up to it.

First, my brother bought a ridiculously powerful laptop (4gb RAM, double core processor, NVIDIA graphics card). Same brother then asked for my help on how to use PowerPoint for a presentation he had to do to get a promotion at work. He eventually gets the job and was so grateful to me that he promised to let me use his laptop if I ever need to use its power for my needs.

Of course, that is, as long as he's not home or not using it.

Then, Beejay gave me a racket editing videos for his company's Christmas party. Naturally, I cashed in on the favor my brother owes me and had his laptop to myself just last weekend so I can work on it. I finished and delivered the project and got paid immediately. Then I gave the laptop back to my brother.

Last Friday was payday at the office, including our 13th month pay.

Then last Saturday, Beejay told me he had a few more videos that needs to get worked on. It's also a long three-day weekend, so I figured I'd have time to work on it.

Unfortunately, it's also a long three-day weekend for my brother despite that he works at a call center where their holidays are not usually synchronized with the local arrangements. He may filed a personal leave.

That left me with a bit of a problem.

Also yesterday, my netbook, which I've had for two and a half years, suddenly died.

So I was left with the following situation:
1. I have a requirement.
2. I don't have the equipment.
3. I don't even have a computer.
4. I have a bit of money.

What's a guy to do?!

I was saving up money to eventually buy a Mac, but evidently circumstances have forced me to forego that dream for a while.
Still given the influx of funding, I still only had enough to get me a netbook.
I went online and found that one of those eMachine netbooks could work for my short-term needs (ie, Beejay's project).
Then I headed to Greenhills where all the best deals are.
After less than an hour of searching, I came across the MSI CR410 at PC Gilmore.

I thought it was a long-term solution at the price of a short-term one.
It was probably priced the way it was because:
a. It used AMD processors, which are just fine for my needs.
b. It didn't come with an OS, which was okay because I had a genuine Windows XP installer.

The good people at PC Gilmore even gave it to me at a much lower rate.

This is my first full-featured laptop and I'm really happy with it. Aside from the specs, the brand is globally recognized and there is a local service center in case I run into trouble. Still getting used to the big keyboard. Eventually, I hope to upgrade to a 4gb RAM.

Amazing how things work sometimes. I never even encountered this particular model until I chanced upon it on a store window!
I guess it was just meant to be.
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Towers of Midnight: The Spoiler-FILLED Not-Review

This is where I get to rave and rage like a rabid fanboy. I will not hold out on spoilers. Be warned.

Towers of Midnight was the book that I needed to read to feel like the world of Wheel of Time is ready for the last battle to be chronicled in the 14th and final book, A Memory of Light.

I had less anticipation for it compared to The Gathering Storm maybe because there was a slightly less waiting time and I half-expected many of the plot threads and loose ends that would be tied up with this book. Still, Brandon Sanderson and Harriet Rigney managed to pull off surprises after surprises with every chapter.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Robert Jordan book without the long, drawn-out narrative. As a WOT fan, you learn to forgive that and just look past it and see the bigger picture. Even if many of what happened in TOM seemed predictable, it's really how they get there that makes up the most amazing parts of the story.

Some initial thoughts (SPOILERS GALORE):

- TOM should be retitled the Trakand-Damodred story. Not surprising given the absence of Elayne from TGS and Moiraine (She is a Damodred) since Fires of Heaven. Also great to hear from Galad and Gawyn after so long. Never thought I'd like Galad as a character until now.
- I still cannot bring myself to respect Elayne. Still ditsy. Feisty, but ditsy.
- Also, I was half-worried about Moiraine's return after having read through 90% of the book and it still hasn't happened.
- Galad and Berelain? Predicted.
- Danelle as Mesaana? Predicted.
- Graendal killing Asmodean? Predicted.
- Hopper's death didn't move me as much as Moiraine's and Verin's did. But the battle of Maredon was heartbreaking.
- Still no sign of Loial or the Ogier. They're probably lying in wait until the Last Battle.
- Also, Sanderson said there wouldn't be new characters in TOM. So Nakomi is somebody we already know.
- The ambush on the Whitecloaks, Perrin and Egwene's battle in the World of Dreams were much more epic than Mat's travails at the Tower of Ghenjei. The Aelfinn and Eelfinn were really scary though.
- Healing Asha'man madness and Power-wrought weapons. 'Nuff said.
- Rand, Perrin, and Mat are equal now:
    - Mah'alleinir = Callandor and Ashandarei.
    - Mat has one eye = Rand has one arm, Perrin has golden eyes
- I thought something was gonna happen when Elayne, Birgitte, Perrin, Mat, Galad, and Gawyn were all in Caemlyn. Of course, the Trolloc attack happened when all of them had gone to the Fields of Merrilor.

At the end of it all, we are only left with a few threads left to tie up (As far as I could count anyway):
- The Seanchan
- The Black Tower
- Demandred*
    *Adrian from the Wheel of Time Phils. mailing list already pointed out that he is not Mazrim Taim - Robert Jordan even said so!

    I know it's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 1 week, but I had also just today lifted the embargo on Towers of Midnight-related discussion over at the Wheel of Time Phils. mailing list. So there.


Towers of Midnight: The Spoiler-Free Not-Review

As the title implies, this blog is not a review. This is a summary of my thoughts, experiences and feelings leading up to the release of this latest volume in my ever favorite Wheel of Time (WOT) series, as well as the immediate aftermath.

First of all, what is up with our local bookstores?
Last year, The Gathering Storm (TGS) was released earlier than the announced international release date. That left many people looking for the book on the said date. Apparently, as soon as they get their supply, the bookstores release it. So basically, everything is a matter of luck - if you happened to stumble upon a copy, good for you. Otherwise, sorry!

This year, Towers of Midnight (TOM) was released a week delayed than the release date. Apparently the distributor was late with the supplies. Anyway, because of what happened with TGS, I made reservations with Fully Booked for my friends and members of Wheel of Time Phils. to make sure we get our copies. Luckily, they got their supplies earlier than the other bookstores. Unfortunately, that was the night before I left for Pinatubo.

Having had my copy transferred from the Boni High Street branch to Gateway, I only picked up my copy last Wednesday, along with another book I've been eying.
I started reading as soon as I got home. Then I realized this is the first time since I graduated from college that something else was interfering with my reading a WOT book: Work.

Yep. When I got Crossroads of Twilight, Knife of Dreams and TGS, I had no job. So it was easy for me to breeze through them.

With TOM, I actually considered not reporting for work just so I can continue reading. I didn't even go to Geek Fight last Friday and delayed my appearance at Komik Kon last Saturday just so I can read. Well, there was that matter of my Grandma's birthday and drinking with the cousins last Friday night, which delayed my reading, but that's okay. I also didn't catch up on last week's shows until I was done.

Plus last weekend was when some of my other friends went to Boracay. I declined to go with them, though circumstances almost had me joining them at the last minute. That didn't happen and I'm glad because I would rather be reading TOM than going to the beach.

I finished it last Saturday night. Was it all worth it?
One big resounding yes.


Trek To Pinatubo

I guess my friend Gen summed it up pretty nicely in a couple of text messages:
  1. What possessed you to join (the trek to) Pinatubo?
  2. Just never figured you to be the outdoorsy nature-tripper type.
To cut this story short, I first heard of last weekend's trip through Simon who wanted to see the crater lake while he's on vacation here in the Philippine. At P2,275 per person, I thought "Why not?"
It would be a trip I can chalk up to experience and was also prime opportunity to shoot landscapes with my new camera.

Snacks for the trip. Yes, it comes with different flavors now.
Honestly I wasn't excited about this trip. A huge part of me felt it was just something I had to do.
Maybe because Pinatubo just wasn't a dream destination. Maybe because I'm not the "outdoorsy nature-tripper type."
Streams of sulfur!

Nevertheless, I was amazed by what I saw heading up to the crater more than the crater itself.
Surrounded by these magnificent monuments and threading on what was once a river valley now full of sediments, it felt just like those journeys that I read about in fantasy novels. Like a journey through remnants long forgotten by history. In reality, a well-remembered recent history.

Of course, this stretch of the trek was what Travel Factor failed to include in its itinerary. It took about a couple of hours of endless walking through uneven, wet, sandy, rocky and downright messy terrain. The metropolitan boy in me was crying havoc the entire time as our assigned tour guide was leagues ahead of us. I didn't even get to take photos as I had to keep up. Thankfully, there were other trekkers and the trail was easy enough to follow.
This was a riot!
Then we get to a certain spot where the trek up to the crater actually begins. That wasn't so bad. The trail up the mountain is also easily navigable. Simon and I did well without a tour guide.

The reward after all that effort is the spectacular view of the crater. The site of a once massive explosion is now a serene green lake. Honestly I found it underwhelming. Then we head down to the lake and I had to face my acrophobia only to find out the lake is not really friendly towards amateur swimmers like me. It goes down deep really quickly. Bummer.

Still made for some nice photos though.
We spent about a couple of hours at the crater before deciding to head back down and go home.

The way back had just me, our guide and Luna with her sprained ankle. The other trekkers had gone ahead upon hearing about a landslide that leveled one of the 4x4's that drove us there. Since I wasn't in so much of a hurry, I was able to snap photos of the "valley of the gods". Thankfully, there was enough afternoon sunlight to shoot the scenery, which to me looked like something out of a Peter Jackson movie.
I suppose this journey to the Pinatubo crater lake just proved the adage that the journey is more important than the destination. I'm not keen on going back but I hope to see more sights like these in the country.

Here is video I took of our trip. Please excuse the audio.