August 16, 2006

Bulk view

The room

Simon Law reminds me that a camera is not essential, and that I can
draw pictures with my words. Here is the room I find myself in.

A single fluorescent tube lights the room. It sits above a small desk,
which is too high for me to type comfortably on if I use the provided
chair. I sit on the bed instead, over a light blue bedsheet secured by
crisp hospital corners to a bed that seems—if it is at all
possible—just a bit shorter than the twin-sized bed back in my dorm.

The cotton is rough against my skin. For a moment, I think of a friend
and her difficulties with bed bugs. Then again, even the best of
hotels are infested with them, so I do not worry too much about being
penny-wise and pound-foolish. I think positive thoughts and assume
there are none.

Both the blanket and the radiator are superfluous this summer night. A
large window admits the slightest hint of a breeze, along with the
sounds of Boston at night: the constant whir of airconditioners,
sirens trailing off into the distance, cars rumbling past. I can see
into the windows of the Northeastern University, and find myself not
particularly caring that they can see in, especially as I wouldn’t be
able to do much about it anyway. These roughly-painted wood and glass
windows have probably never bothered with luxuries such as curtains or

I am glad that I packed a light nightgown instead of a flannel one. I
regret forgetting to bring slippers. I hesitate for a moment before I
grit my teeth and tiptoe gingerly towards the communal bathroom. After
all, I survived other dormitory floors. While I’m at it, I also
fill a paper cup with water from the bathroom sink.

I think this just might be the most bare-bones place I’ve ever stayed
in. Well, except for the Internet cafe that I spent the night in one
time—yes, Internet cafes can sometimes come out cheaper than hostels,
particularly when in Japan. It’s doable, though, and doesn’t bother me

Hostelling International will have room tomorrow, but that means
bringing my stuff to IBM, and I’ll have to call ahead to make sure I
get the spot. I think I’ll stay here another night if the room is
available. This might even work out better for now than, say,
couch-surfing—although I’m certainly looking forward to couch-surfing
next time around.

To bed. I’ll dream about my presentation and work out the details tomorrow.

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All set up

It’s interesting, flying without knowing exactly where you’re going to
end up. I hadn’t been able to get in touch with friends in Boston in
the days leading up to my departure, so I flew without any concrete
plans for accommodations. Meep!

I first headed to Hostelling International on 12 Hemenway St. They were fully booked, so they referred me to Oasis Guest House a short walk away. Oasis was a bit out of my starving-grad-student budget, though, at over USD 100 for a single room with a shared bath. The proprietor was kind enough to refer me to YMCA, and even let me use his phone for free. Awww!

So I’ve checked into the YMCA on 316 Huntington Ave (+1 617 536 7800).
The rates are still a bit ouch (USD 49 per night including taxes), but
I feel less guilty now about my research supervisor’s budget. I wish
I’d brought a swimsuit, as the facilities include a swimming pool, a
steam room and a sauna!

The library that I’m blogging from is a few blocks away. Northeastern University Library has free wireless and airconditioned comfort, and all you need is a photo ID. Sweet. They’re open until 11.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll find out whether I’m okay with staying at the Y
for another day and whether I can book another day there. It’s not a
bad place: no frills, but totally workable. (And they have towels and
soap, even! I should’ve brought my slippers.) If I can’t make that
work, then I may have to throw myself upon the mercy of IBMers and/or
the local tech scene and find a couch I can crash on tomorrow night.

I’ll need to forage for food and plan my 2-3 minute spiel sometime
later tonight, but it’s nice to know that I’ve gotten that sorted out.
I need to also buy travel-sized toothpaste. (Darn you, airport security!)

But hey, we have a plan…

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Richi’s visit

Richi Plana flew in from Calgary just to
celebrate my birthday. Aww! I didn’t have much time to hang out with
him this weekend, but I really enjoyed the time that we did have –
rockclimbing, running around Chinatown looking for bagoong, catching
up on the boardwalk near the lake… He did my dishes after the party,
too. =) Awww! He’s awesome.

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Merienda madness and my 23rd birthday

Last Saturday (2006.08.12) was my birthday, and every Filipino knows
that birthdays mean lots and lots and lots of food. Things didn’t go
exactly according to plan: they turned out even better! It was the
first time I tried cramming over 15 people into my suite, and it
worked out surprisingly well even though we were constantly washing
mugs and everything.

Plan A was to spend the morning preparing a traditional
merienda of Philippine delicacies. I woke up late and spent the rest of
the morning celebrating my birthday with a virtual party thrown by my
family and friends in the Philippines. That was totally worth it.

Plan B: buy traditional delicacies from a Filipino bakery or something
like that. Except I had *no* idea where to find one of those downtown.
Google wasn’t helpful, either. The one Filipino restaurant I
remembered along Yonge turned out to have closed a while ago. I asked
Joey de Villa, but he couldn’t think of any
off the top of his head. Meep.

Plan C, of course, was to declare cookies and brownies traditional
Filipino treats. ;) As long as the other Filipinos played along, I’d
be home safe! Also, I was totally craving tropical fruits, so it was a
good excuse to splurge on mangoes, pineapples, and other good things.
Richi Plana and I raided Chinatown and
Kensington Market for assorted foodstuff, also picking up ingredients
for champorado and palitaw.

What could be better than that? Plan D: Have your *guests* cook! ;)
That was just amazing. Friends demonstrated their l33t pineapple
carving / brownie making / champorado-from-scratch cooking /
dishwashing skillz. I did actually manage to cook something: palitaw,
one of my favorite Filipino snacks.


Glutinous rice flour, shredded coconut, sugar, sesame seeds

  1. Add boiling water to glutinous rice flour, kneading it into dough. Don’t make it sticky!
  2. Roll the flour into balls and flatten them with your hands into small pancake-like shapes.
  3. Slip the cakes into boiling water.
  4. Scoop the cakes out when they float.
  5. Toast sesame seeds until they turn golden.
  6. Mix shredded coconut, sugar, and sesame seeds on a plate.
  7. Coat both sides of each cake with the mixture.
  8. Enjoy!

Preparing all this food kept me a bit too busy to connect with
everyone, and I wish I had a bit more time to spend with people who
had to leave early. Maybe I’ll figure out a better way to do this next

Anyway, after I made sure everyone had something to eat, I took a
break from the kitchen and got to the main part of the party. I talked
about the past year and how my 22nd year of life was mainly about
learning to live on my own. I then asked them to help me brainstorm
cool things to do in Canada so that I can make the most of my time
here. I also asked for help figuring out what I can do after
graduation, and I got a number of suggestions that I hadn’t considered
before but which seem like pretty good fits. I’ll blog about these later.

I asked for letters instead of gifts, and the letters I got were
really, really, really heartwarming. =) I also received some
absolutely wonderful chocolate, an interesting book, and a beautiful
set of cat-themed dishes. (I’m behind on my thank-you cards and
letters, but I’m looking forward to catching up soon!)

I demoed my strange street-performing-ish hobbies, too. (Thanks,
Kathy, for getting me into that stuff!) Then we headed over to the
Linux Caffe for dinner and more relaxed conversation. I *love* the
Linux Caffe to pieces. It’s so nice knowing and being known by a

Anyway, that was how I spent my birthday. I can’t think of any better
way to celebrate finishing a year and starting a new one than in the
company of such good friends. =)

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Virtual birthdays, real friends

(Backlog: 2006.08.12)

“How many geeks does it take to…” is a standard joke whenever my
barkada (close group of friends) in the Philippines gets together.
Just like last year, they celebrated my actual birthday with a
tele-party. Instead of hanging out at some wireless cafe in Glorietta,
they trooped over to my parents’ new place, bringing flowers for my
mom. (Awwww! After all, she did all the hard work on my zeroth

It took me a while to get my side up and running. I hadn’t figured out
how to set up sound under Ubuntu, so I booted to Microsoft Windows.
Troubleshooting a network connection in a Japanese language operating
system was Not Fun, though. Through trial and error I figured out that
I needed to disable the firewall. Then I realized that the network was
blocking my MAC address because it detected a duplicate registration.
The network had worked under Linux because I’d cloned the MAC address
for my Lifebook onto my Vaio, but I hadn’t set it up under Windows. I
switched back to copy the MAC address and then figured out how to set
the MAC address under Windows (again, still working in Japanese).
Skype kept crashing, too, which was decidedly not fun.

So we decided to go with Yahoo Messenger. My friends set up the
wireless router and got three laptops on the network. It’s a good
thing, too, as we needed all three just to keep up with the chatter!
We set up the webcams and made funny faces at each other. There was
also that interesting bit with the identity musical chairs. Heh.

It was so nice to see and talk to my friends again. I so miss them and
my family. Iba talaga ang barkada. I guess Canadians might know what
it’s like. Still… Maybe it’s just the people I know or the culture
here, but it still doesn’t have quite the same feel as our
hell-or-high-water crazy-as-anything barkadas with gimmicks and dramas
and in-jokes galore. I miss my friends back home, and I love them them
to bits!

Clair and Peppy blogged about the party, too. Check out their stories!

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I’ll be off to Boston tomorrow

I’m not quite sure how the next three days are going to play out, but
hey, it’ll be an interesting story for sure. I’ll try to check my mail
at least once, and I’m bringing my wifi card. I don’t know if roaming
will Just Work. We’ll see…