Weekly Ketchup 17 - Declining Invitations

I have this thing where I decline invitations to travel to places I've already visited, watch movies I've already seen, read books I've already finished, you get the drill.

I kid you not. I declined an invitation for a Boracay trip a couple or so years ago because I've already been there with pretty much the same people. Except for The Avengers and the first Captain America movie, I have never seen any of the MCU films more than once. I tried to re-read the Wheel of Time series in preparation for the final book and gave up. I could say that I feel sentimental about the initial experience but nah - I just always feel like I could be doing something else or something new with my time and money, rather than repeat a previous experience.

The reason I bring this up is because immediately after La Union, Urim wants to organize a trip to Baguio, which I already told him I'm not particularly inclined to visit since I've been there twice in my lifetime. I said I'd rather go to Sagada!

Similarly I've been declining invitations for quiz nights and game nights, though they are staple activities for me and my friends, these past few months in favor of gaming by myself or working on creative endeavors, personal projects, etc.

Just this weekend, I thought I would be working on a client's website but I didn't receive the necessary files, so I pretty much had a free weekend. The thing is I've been invited to a Pinoy 501st Legion trooping and a gaming day with an acquaintance from Plurk, both of which I declined because I thought I would be working. I didn't bother to revise my plans because I realized I would be pretty busy with the same set of friends next weekend. I elected to stay home instead and advance in one of the games I sampled last weekend:

Dust: An Elysian Tail
It's the first game that I tried from that batch and I fell in love with it instantly!
It's gorgeous and I love that I can just mash buttons together and voila! Lights, colors, action, blaze, dazzle!
Win! It's amazing!
As much as I want to be that guy who is always free and present at practically every event, I realized that I also have to be selective with my time, else I won't have much for other experiences. Of course, I will always be present for the big ones, birthdays for example.

Just this past week, Alec organized a surprise birthday party for Jon and it was epic - the organizing part, that is. We pretty much had a clear idea of how we were gonna pull it off. We had venue, time, motive, etc.

And then Jon invited us all to dinner at his place.

The past couple of days prior to the surprise were pretty stressful for Alec and Paul, who scrambled to keep things together even as Jon changed his plans. It all worked out in the end though. We got to surprise Jon at his place and at Boho. And a good time was had by all.

Look how happy he is!
See, I want to be present for times like these, and not just in the physical sense. I don't ever want to be that person whose body is at a gathering but whose mind is elsewhere, which happens a lot to me. I'd agree to a meet-up, only to silently count the hours and see if there's enough time for what I really wanted to do when I got back home. And that's not cool.

Case in point: I was just at Rocky and Tobie's earlier to pick up Rocky's tablet, which he graciously lent me so I can read the Invincible issues he got on sale from Comixology. Yes, old school physical lending still works on digital issues. Boo, DRM! Anyway, the guys offered to run a game of Cosmic Encounter with me and a couple of their friends. I was waiting for the sun to go down anyway (it was scorching), so I stayed and played. And sucked.

But I declined a second game because I still wanted to blog, which is just as important to me, plus I didn't want to miss the train home. If I stayed, I'd be tap-tap-tapping on my phone, with no focus on the game or what I'm writing, which would've been a bigger waste of time. Funny enough: Rocky had the same dilemma with his blog as we were setting up Cosmic Encounter.

Bottom line: If I'm going to balance making time for friends and catching up on experiences, both of which I covered on the same blog earlier this year, then I am going to have to decline some invitations, especially repetitive ones. And I feel like I'm in that stage of my relationship with friends where I can be honest about these things, which is great!

FYI: Invincible is one of those new universes that I've been meaning to explore now that I'm no longer following The Avengers. And it's likely that in the next few weeks, the reason I would decline any invitation is because I would rather read.


Weekly Ketchup 16 - Pet-caring Woes and Holy Week Activities (Editing Videos, Gaming)

My week started off a little somber. I got home Monday evening after an epic weekend in La Union, only to be told that the adorable kitten I've been caring for - the star of my Instagram for the past couple of weeks - suddenly died that afternoon. My mom says it's probably because of the dog's playful roughing but I have my doubts. The food I prepared for the kitty was barely touched when I checked. I get a feeling they didn't feed the kitten well enough while I was gone, despite the instructions I left.

Or maybe the kitten just really needs its mom's milk to survive its first few weeks. See, the kitten was just suddenly abandoned by its mommy who is actually one of our yard cats. Me being me, I ended up taking care of it. I fed it left over mashed potato, which it liked enough, for the first few days. Eventually I started dissolving bits of dog food in water along with some mingo, and it was a hit so I stuck with that. Sometimes I would even add whatever I can mash from the leftovers. Kitten lapped it all up!

For a while I thought it was gonna make it. Kitten started being playful, following me around the house. It also developed this habit of getting up on whoever's foot it can find and latching on, never letting go even if we started walking! It cuddled up to the dog and started eating solid dog food at some point. It was adorable!

Oh well, I guess it's just not meant to be. If you go through my Instagram feed, you'll find several pictures of kittens but you'll never see any of them grow up. I don't know why but I've never been able to raise kittens, especially un-weaned ones. Obviously, I've had much better luck with puppies.

And to think there was a time when we had 11 (or was it 13?) cats around the yard. Then again, we had a house help who can look after them while I was in school or at work. Now I'm the only one I trust with animals around the house. We lost my brother's Persian because my mom decided to sleep while work was being done around the house. My brother is set to get another cat and I overheard my mom telling our cleaning lady, who comes to the house twice a week at most, that it will also now be a part of her responsibility to look after the cat.

This after my constant protest to just adopt a shelter cat but I digress. Actually, I think I'll just end the family rant right there. The rest of the week wasn't so bad anyway. Brother's home for the extended break, which always makes the dog happy.

It's the Holy Week, after all - a very important season for the Christian faith, which for me is just another long holiday break to catch up on personal projects and other things.

(Hmm. Should I really be benefit from this season considering I no longer believe?)

Anyway, I spent the extra long weekend cobbling together my footage from last week's trip into one video. I've done quite a bunch of these and I didn't realize until now that it's a 24-hour process - everything from previewing clips and choosing music to editing and rendering, then finally uploading! I know not a lot of people understand, my travel companions included, but I really get a kick out of putting these videos up - even if sometimes they just look like random clips sewn together. Please, let me edit more videos! If you could let me shoot too, that'd be great!

Of course, all this free time means more time devoted to my new hobby: Gaming! I actually got to finish all the games I mentioned in my previous blogs:

Machine Knight
May I just say: I've been considering a handheld console just so I can get back to playing more JRPGs like Final Fantasy and Golden Sun but, if this game is any indication, all I really need are my cheap Android devices! It's weird playing with just full touch screen and no buttons though (not that there's anything I can do about it).

Age of Wonders
Don't get me wrong: I still love Heroes of Might and Magic but this is a great alternative! I was so close to finishing the damn thing a couple of evenings ago - but then I effed up with the last boss I had to beat and, as turn-based games go, I had to start the final mission over! Good times though!

Warlords Battlecry
Concurrently my real time gaming fix and also a great alternative to Warcraft, which was my intro to strategy gaming! I kept screwing up the penultimate level because I didn't know how to play the race I was dealt with (the Undead). Sadly, I had to check a walkthrough online, but I eventually finished the game!

Today, I actually have a bit of a gaming marathon. I have to install and try all the games I got from GOG.com a few weeks back to see if any of them would give me problems. Otherwise, I'd have to ask for a refund (their 30-day money-back guarantee is about to lapse). Thank you, free time!

(Hmm. I wonder if I should start another blog series about the games I play?)

Tonight, I also plan to get started on some ebooks just to ease my backlog. I'll see if, after Guy Gavriel Kay and Neil Gaiman, I can still get into young adult fiction. Maybe Artemis Fowl and/or Septimus Heap?

Anyway, that's been my week. How's yours?


Weekly Ketchup 15 - Books, TV Shows, and LA UNION!

Oh, look! Another delayed blog! Not sorry though - I spent the past three days riding the waves of La Union in one form or another. I thought I would have time to write while I was away but that obviously didn't happen. Though I did get to finish a bunch of stuff before I left.

First of, I finished Guy Gavriel Kay's "Lord of Emperors". It's the last book in his "Sarantine Mosaic" duology and it's a very satisfying conclusion. Actually, the series is a very satisfying read overall. Let me channel my inner Stefon here and say that this series has got everything: magic, political intrigue, war, sex, religion, and even a bit of real history thrown into the mix. What it doesn't have are heroes, warriors, "chosen ones", and many other character tropes that permeate the genre - but it works!

Whereas other writers bore me with their narration of how their world works - so much that I skip text and read forward to the conversations, this guy (pun intended) knows how to keep me hanging on his every word - even if the nature of the world he's building calls for him to be more technical with his description. The only other fantasy writer to have that same effect on my attention is Brandon Sanderson.

So yeah, I highly recommend "The Sarantine Mosaic" for those into fantasy fiction much like myself.

Fan rendition of the mosaic.
From one realm of fantasy into another, let's get into Game of Thrones! The second episode just aired yesterday actually but I haven't seen it yet, though I already know what's gonna happen. But I did catch the season premiere last week. It was a bit of a slow burn for me - it was just setting up the rest of the season after all - but Oberyn and Ellaria's intro, as well as Arya and Jaime's scenes won it for me.

As for the recast of Daario Naharis, my opinion is that he's still miscast. Or may it's just that how imagined him from the books just doesn't match what he looked like on the show.

Anyway, I have great expectations about the rest of the season. A Storm of Swords was really exhausting and exhilarating to read, so I'm looking forward to seeing more of the terrible things that happened in that book. Also: after this season, I'm gonna have to read A Dance with Dragons already as I suspect they'd merge that and A Feast of Crows in the next season.

Another show that I had to catch before we left was Marvel's Agents of SHIELD. Last week's episode tied into the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier and it was their best episode to date. I love how they pulled a fast one on people like me who thought we knew for certain the disposition of characters who were culled from the comics. That was genius!

Obviously the status quo of the show has dramatically shifted and it would be interesting to see what the creators plan to do with the story moving forward. Though I'm not sure how they can fill up another season worth of stories based on that premise. Whatever, I'm in it for the long haul.

Last Wednesday was the national Day of Valor and a holiday, so Mark invited myself and a bunch of friends to play games. I wanted to spend the break to finish Machine Knight and do some shopping for the trip and general supplies, but since Mark made the effort to see his friends all the way from ParaƱaque, I thought I'd make his trip worth it.

AND I WON ALL THE GAMES PLAYED THAT DAY: Cutthroat Caverns, Shadows Over Camelot (where I was one of the traitors that remained in the shadows much like a Hydra agent), and Smash-Up!

So I didn't get to finish Machine Knight - but I'm already on the final mission. I tried to finish the game on the road to La Union but sleep beckoned. And sleep trumps gaming. I'd just share my thoughts on the game and Android gaming in general in another blog once I'm done with it.

From Jovan's Plurk
Anyway, the night before the trip, Jon hosted his first quiz night at Boho and I teamed up with Dexter, Nabs, and Marge to form the Cumberbenders - another offshoot of our usual trivia night group name: the Hat Maddders and the Naked Fassbenders.

Jon managed to merge the mechanics of Geek Fight with all the perks of Quiz Night minus the steels. Of course, Jon being Jon, his questions were mostly from properties that were known to him, though I did appreciate the Broadway category. All in all, it made for a fun evening.

Oh, and yeah - we won!

From Dexter's FB
Which finally brings me to La Union!

The trip has been a long-time coming - one that stemmed from Macy's invitation to go surfing.

Flashback: Jay-r wanted to organize a similar trip a couple of years ago after our trip to Pagudpud, which we never got around to doing and then life took over (ie, het got married and had a baby) so it was never gonna happen... until last weekend.

We left Manila around 1am Saturday morning and arrived at Sebay Surfcentral in San Juan, La Union around 7am. It was the biggest contingency of geek friends on a trip I've ever gone on. At one point, there were 16 of us (Alec arrived early Saturday evening and left late Sunday night with Mark E. and Jovan). Our trip to Zambales only had 13 geeks on board.

We stayed for three days and two nights. There was just enough time to:

Go surfing!
Patton tried it for a couple of days and I tried it once while Macy and Mika did it for all three!
I wanna take it up as hobby and get better at it.
Those very few times I actually managed to balance on the board were very encouraging!
Many thanks to Patton for sponsoring me!
Go swimming!
Or just let the waves whip you around, whatever floats your boat.
Bury me in the sand. Again.
Enjoy authentic Greek food at Gefseis Grill!
Disappointed with the prices, choices, and service of our resort, I thought I'd look around for alternatives and found this nice little nook just across the street. Turns out a pair of Greek brothers own the place and they serve really great food to satisfy even the most discerning tastes among us. I had most of my meals there for the rest of the trip and I'd probably go back to La Union just to eat there again!

I also enjoyed breakfast at Fatwave Resort.
Nothing fancy there but it was cheaper than Sebay's.
Other places that my friends enjoyed but I didn't since it was out of my budget:

Coffee at El Union Cafe.
Pizza and Drinks at Flotsam and Jetsam
We also stopped by a couple of places on the way back to Manila:

agKAPEtayo - our friend Rem's coffee shop in Agoo.
Isdaan Floating Restaurant in Tarlac
This trip is unique in that it made me realize something about myself. See, some friends were disappointed by one thing or another mainly because of unmet expectations, all of which were perfectly understandable.
As for me, I realized that I can probably live with just the bare minimum when I travel. I just need a place to lodge my stuff if I'm staying the night. I wouldn't even mind sleeping under the stars granted I'm still protected against the elements. I can even subsist on sandwiches and/or cup noodles, if it came to that.

The only thing I require is a place to relieve myself properly  - none of that nature crap. I don't even need Internet. I survived (and thrived) the entire trip without it! As long as I have a fully charged camera with a large enough memory, then I'm good. I was actually losing both towards the end there and it made me miserable. Must remember to bring spare batteries and more memory cards on the next trip! Good thing my power bank, which I fully charged before we left, carried enough juice to last the entire three days and powered my camera, and a couple of friends' phones.

So that was my week. I have footage that I still have to cobble together for a vacation video, so ciao for now! Gotta edit!


Weekly Ketchup 14 - Questions and Answers

Kids, in the summer of 2014, all the quiz nights that my friends and I regularly attend all happened on the same week. Naturally, I took it upon myself to go to all of them - just because!

Cumberbenders, Relik Quiz Night, Tuesday
I even went to the Relik Quiz Night last Tuesday despite the public transport situation briefly hinted at here and the lazy situation expounded on here.

Hat Madders, Amici Quiz Night, Thursday
(photo from Lynn's FB)
So did we win any of them? No, we won ALL OF THEM!

You can say it was legen - wait for it - dary!

Team Sausagefest, GeekFight at Boho, Friday
A bunch of guys won in a women-themed night. LOL
(From GeekFight's page)
Coincidentally, it was also the same week that the series finale of How I Met Your Mother aired - a show that I only started following on the third season. I caught an episode on cable and liked it enough to follow the rest and even borrowed my brother's DVD of the first season (or was it the other way around?). Damn, I can't remember but I do know I missed the second season.

Anyway, moving on (because I don't wanna be the guy who "lives in his stories") to the finale. Obviously, Ted finally meets the mother of his children in this episode in one of the cheesiest scenes ever and it was great! I loved it so much I had to get the song that was playing in the background.

Maybe because I was transfixed by that single scene that everything else that happened in the episode didn't matter as much to me. A lot of the disappointment seemed to stem from unmet expectations about where each of the characters ultimately wound up. Me, I just wanted to see how Ted and the mom finally meet, which is probably why I was so zen about the whole thing. Thankfully, that scene came out really well.

Did I like it? Well, I didn't hate it. It's a good enough closure for me, so I'll just leave it at that.

One of my favorite scenes from the finale
Funny enough, this finale - as well as some announcements about hosts leaving one of my favorite YouTube channels - got me thinking about some recent events in my life. It occurred to me, as I was leaving the office some time this week, an hour or so after a rather awkward conversation with the boss and a client, that I've already accomplished many things in the last four years, both personally and professionally.

I feel like I've already worked out a lot of my issues, some of which I detailed in previous blog entries. Though there are still some bugs to work on here and there, I feel like I finally have it together (more or less).

I also feel like I've crossed off so many things on my to-do list that I keep making up random silly goals just to give myself something to look forward to. Of course, I could also just be over-thinking it.

And so I feel like there's only one last thing for me to do: Pack up and leave.

When my friends asked last Friday why I only booked a one-way trip, I replied "because that was always the plan". It was, supposedly right after college graduation nine years ago (around the same time that HIMYM premiered) - but then money mattered, and so here I am.

I just feel like that's the natural progression of my story. BUT, much like what many fans argued about the HIMYM series finale, so much growth has happened in nine years that sticking to the original plan just doesn't make sense.

Obviously I've already built up quite a life here, and leaving means I'll have to start over. And, if my 2011 trip is any indication, there's almost nothing on the other side that I can't get access to here. There's also no certainty that there'll be more opportunities for one of my skill set.

Just then I realized I wouldn't be leaving to get away neither would I be moving towards something in particular.

You see, kids, I already knew what I would be leaving behind. It's safe, sure, and convenient.
In other words: comfortable.

But what I have to look forward to? It's everything but. It's unknown, scary, risky.
It's gonna be adventure.