Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Turning back the clock

Scrap Daylight Saving Time. Last Sunday at 2 a.m., the clocks were set back an hour again.

Today's 24 hour forecast from bbc.co.uk:
0700 Partly cloudy
1000 Sunny
1300 Sunny intervals
1600 Sunny intervals
1900 Partly cloudy
2200 Clear

Sunrise: 0650
Sunset: 1637 (ang aga at aaga pa in the coming days!)
Temp range: 5-15° C

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Surprise show

In honor of the four (plus Chisom) birthday celebrants, the residents put on a surprise show. And what a show it was! Elaine and Lee Meng were the emcees for the night. Emily did a traditional Chinese dance that was hard to match. Anna and her sister sang On My Own while I accompanied them on the piano. Oli did a Mastermind game show with the celebrants. Anna and Alice sang So Young with Ria on the guitar. Mary did a puppet show. Mary, Anna, Cecilia and Sara did a skit on phobias. Lee Meng and Emily danced to a Chinese version of Don't Stop. Yiya led the salsa with Alice and Mel W., then called everyone up to the stage to dance the Macarena before the chocolate birthday cake was wheeled in. I'm sure there's a lot of talent that we haven't tapped yet, but we had a lot of it in one night.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Karting at Streatham

The three birthday celebrants (Carmen, Raquel and Ana F.) treated us to karting at Streatham Kart Raceway. As much as I hate driving, I just had to go. And it was great! We had 25 heats, 5 racers doing 4 laps per heat. We all did 5 heats, then the top 10 racers by points went on to the finals.

As expected, I was always the slowest. By the second heat, I wanted out. Still, I'm glad not to finish last (ok, 18th out of 25--24 girls and a guy). I don't think I'd do another grand prix again (partly because it's it's tiring and partly because it's expensive--our three hours were worth over £1000), but I had a really cool time.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Bruce Willis, like you've never seen him before

But then, I don't recall ever watching any of his movies before. This is a very late reaction to 16 Blocks, which we saw two weeks ago (at home--it costs between P600 to 1300 to watch a regular movie in the cinema). Bruce Willis is Jack Mosley, a very tired NYPD cop with a past. Mos Def plays Eddie, the witness Mosley is trying to protect. We couldn't understand what Mos Def was saying, so we had to turn the subtitles on. But I have to say that he fits the character perfectly. 16 Blocks is a bit formulaic, but has a surprisingly good story.

Les Choristes (The Chorus)

Last Friday, the French film Les Choristes (The Chorus), which was nominated for an Oscar in the Foreign Film category (it lost out to Spain's The Sea Inside), was shown in the sitting room. Les Choristes is very simple, like Mga Munting Tinig with a male teacher. Haha! I think it's the third French film I've seen that's set in a boy's school, so the story gets predictable, but no matter. It's still beautiful.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

House talks

A couple of talks we had at Ashwell last week.

400 years of Rembrandt

2006 marks the 400th anniversary of Rembrandt van Rijn's birth. Our speaker was an art historian, a retired surgeon. He went through Rembrandt's life story, showing slides of paintings as we went. The second part of his talk focused on Rembrandt's religious paintings, most notably Abraham and Isaac, The Feast of Belshazzar, and The Return of the Prodigal Son.

The image above shows two of Rembrandt's several self-portraits. The left one was painted in 1640 and the other, 1669. You can see the change in his outlookfrom the way he sees himself. These two are in National Gallery, which has a good number of Rembrandts.

The future of Latin America

Alan Gilbert, head of Geography at University College London, and Diego Sanchez Ancochea, also from the University of London, spoke to us about Latin America. I thought it would be good to know about it, as we have a shared Spanish colonial history with them. There were many similarities in what the speakers said, especially in terms of globalization and neoliberalism. The latter worked in some countries, but not in others. What is common in the region is the increase in inequality, the gap between the rich and the poor.

How do we address inequality? I would say education, but I could be too optimistic. There is no single solution and many factors are at play. Whatever happens, the speakers believe that Latin America will survive, as it has always done. And that is good to know.

Sunday service

Mass organist
I never thought I'd ever do this, but I played the organ at Mass yesterday. There were only two hymns, which I practiced with Ana B. last Saturday. I knew my nerves would get the better of me, so I recorded the left hand parts to be safe, only to find that the recording gone on Sunday morning. I fumbled over every other measure, but the volume was so low that nobody noticed. Practice, practice, practice!

Sunday club
Spent about an hour and a half in the crypt of St. John's Parish in Islington, where there is a weekly soup kitchen (more of a sandwich kitchen) for the homeless. I have mixed feelings about the project. On the one hand, it could encourage people to rely on the generosity of others. On the other hand, it could be the only place where they could have food and a roof over their heads.

The welfare system isn't foolproof, but at least it's there. I still think that the people I talked to are much better off than many in the Philippines, who live a hand-to-mouth existence, without no decent clothing to speak of. But in a developed country such as the UK, it is unfortunate that poverty exists.

I could also have seen some drug dealing activity, but I'm not sure. On a rainy day like that, it's much better to have them indoors, not soaked to the skin outside.

Worth noting: of the 50 or so who went, only 3 were women.

Caroling tayo!

For one reason or another, I've always avoided being in a choir. Not anymore. Sunday afternoons before high tea are reserved for choir practice. We first met our teacher, Marjorie, three weeks ago. The first song we sang was Here, There and Everywhere by The Beatles. We learned four carols yesterday, as we're gearing up for the Christmas concert, which we'll have in our hall in December. It should be interesting.

This is the facade of our house, showing the front door. The ghostly reflections are probably coming from St. Matthew's, the building in front of us, which used to be a hospital. But I could be wrong. We joke about the house ghost all the time. Not unusual, London being such an old city.

Monday, October 23, 2006

British Museum, part 3: Prints, drawings and Bengal myths

Here are a few picks from the temporary exhibits of French drawings and the Myths of Bengal at the British Museum. Singit lang yung Rosetta Stone.

I haven't ventured out to the Asian collections, so I will be back.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Bank of England Museum

The Bank of England Museum is suitable for students learning about money and the economy. The museum traces the bank's history, which is intertwined with British history, of course, plus the different issued bills and coins in glass cases. There were schoolchildren huddled before the lift-the-gold-bar interactive display, so I couldn't hold the P12M gold bar in my hand.

Somehow I like the trip to Bangko Sentral more. Seeing how money is made is a "wow" moment. I don't really remember the Central Bank Museum, though Ambeth Ocampo required us to go there and to the gold collection of the Met.

Photo from the free museum guide.

Friday, October 20, 2006


It's certainly not a megamix, just a chop suey of clips.

Music: Finale, Aida by Elton John and Tim Rice

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My study desk

If I'm not in school on a weekday, I'm probably studying at home. This is my cluttered desk, with a bottle of water from Tesco (Evian was the cheapest at 40p), books (won't read all of them), notebooks, the alarm clock, brochures I haven't discarded yet, and my laptop. Luckily, there are long desks in the house library where I can read and take down notes.

I work as much as I can on weekdays so that I can take weekends off (and take pictures for you). Then I de-stress by doing the laundry. No kidding.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Twenty-five minutes in Kensington

On our way to the Serpentine Gallery, there was a seven-storey crane (not the bird) on Oxford Street and a Moslem funeral procession past Marble Arch. It took us an hour and a half to get to the Serpentine Gallery Pavilion. The way back was also stressful. There was Diwali (the Indian festival of light) at Trafalgar Square and the bus took forever to arrive. Lin and I thought we were going to miss high tea, but we arrived in the nick of time. We would have otherwise starved, as no shops are open on Sunday night.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Shopping in Hackney

We went on the long route of the 394 bus to East End suburbia, where whites are the minority. I had looked up the location in Journeyplanner, only to lead our tiny band of four to the wrong direction on Mare Street. Our goal was to get to Primark, the famous discount clothes store. The merchandise was strewn all over the floor when we got there, but there were good bargains to be had.

I picked up a pair of boots from a store across the street. What sealed the deal was the reaction I got from a Fat Joe figure (plus metal teeth) who saw me try them on. "It looks good," he said, smiling sincerely. I don't think he was employed by the store, so I took it as an honest opinion.

We took the 55 bus on the way back. That cut our travel time in half.

(That's Old Spitalfields market, open since 1887. Sorry, no Hackney photos!)

Monday, October 16, 2006

Museum of London

This museum charts the history of the city from prehistoric to Roman to Saxon to Medieval to Tudor to Stuart to 18th century and modern times. The best bit: the map of poverty from the 1800s, showing that the street I live on was occupied by "low and vicious, semi-criminal" elements. Does that explain why there's a police station nearby?

London fog

The past two mornings looked like this. It's the view from my room (of the neighbors' flats). Can you hear the siren?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

I love Pret

Jenn Simons introduced me to Pret A Manger (Ready to Eat, in French) in high school when she listed it down as one of the places I should try out in London. I remember my first visit; the outlet was near Tower Bridge. I didn't like the sparkling water (I didn't know that it was carbonated water) and the sandwich I had was tasteless. I still think their sandwiches are bland, but I still go there anyway. Seeing row upon row of freshly made food makes me happy.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Regent's Park

With the days getting colder and rainier, I knew I had to take advantage of the infrequent sunshine to visit Regent's Park. I only had half an hour, but I sure had a lovely time. I shall return.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

British Museum, part 2: Ancient Egypt

The mummy returns. Actually, it's the other way around. I returned to the mummies. After listening to the museum guide talk about Nubia and Egypt (how very Aida), I wanted more. Although I prefer the Egyptian display of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, I guess I will have to see the Louvre before I decide which Egyptian collection is my favorite.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


So Hee, who is Korean and studying at Instituto Maragoni, arrived in London last week. She studied in Milan last year and she found it quite a change. I offered to take her around to see a few sights before her classes start. We went to museums and to Harrods, where we talked fashion while passing by clothes by all the major designers (I didn't dare touch the clothes lest I damage them in any way).

The sandwiches at Harrods102 are remarkably affordable. I had to squeeze myself into the bar beside Krispy Kreme to eat them, though.

We went to Selfridges on Oxford Street afterwards to look at more of Chanel, Prada, Gucci et al. In other words, I just admired things I don't think I will ever buy in my lifetime. Hey, looking is free.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Four Asians at Hare & Tortoise

Two Japanese and two Filipino women--an interesting combination.

When I met Eka, Masako and Marian at the institute inductions, we instantly got along, just talking about Japanese pop culture. We had dinner at the Brunswick centre a few days later, discussing more seriously this time, touching on the future of Japan and the power of media.

Incidentally, Eka was approached by a Briton on our way to the bus stop. He said he had not eaten for three days, which we found quite odd because he was a huge man and looked perfectly alright. Eka said he smelled of alcohol.

This is us in front of the biggest Waitrose in London, also in Brunswick, near Russell Square station. Once all the shops open, it should be a beautiful, lively place.

Monday, October 9, 2006

British Museum, part 1: The Great Court

I remember coming here six years ago. Ma and I were in a hurry because we were going to catch a matinee that afternoon. We went inside the back door and peeped in. We saw the Asian collection and thought, hmm, this is not what we came half-way around the world for. So we went out. There was a lot of construction going on.

This is it.

The Great Court was built to coincide with the millennium. There is so much space, and rightly so. The rainy Thursday afternoon that I went, there were so many schoolchildren and people of all nationalities. The cafe and restaurant were both doing brisk business. And there was still a lot of space for the collections. I took note of the free guided tours so that I can drop by before or after classes (school is just two blocks away).

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Another Pinay in London

I asked the woman with me in the school elevator if she was Filipino. Good thing I got a positive response. Joyce has been in London for two years now. She taught math in the Philippines and is now taking up Education while juggling two jobs. It turned out that we were both going to speak to Lizzie, the International Student Coordinator, so we waited for each other to have a chat in the student union cafe. (The union also runs a bar in school.)

Joyce told me to watch out for persistent men after relating the incident when a man semi-stalked her in Hyde Park. I told her that while she was in Lizzie's room, three men hoping to speak to Lizzie had talked to me, but I guess they couldn't wait so long because they saw that I was next in line. The first one was a Nepalese Erasmus fellow in Lifelong Learning; the second, a Pakistani LSE MBA student who wanted to ask something for his sister; and the third one, a Taiwanese Philosophy PhD student. Had they spoken to me in the street, I would have probably ignored them, but since we were in school, no harm done.

Joyce also narrated her backpacking trip with a friend across five European countries. Inggit ako!

I took this photo during the programme induction in the evening. These are the wines served during functions. A matter of re-labeling, but the effort was still there.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Free newspapers

In London, you don't just pick up free copies of the news--they hand it to you personally. In the morning, there's City A.M. and Metro. In the afternoon, there's London Lite from Associated Newpapers and News International's thelondonpaper. All of these are in tabloid format, easy to pick up and read while in the public transport. The paid newspapers must feel the pinch. Some give out free CDs and bottled water, which probably cost more than the paper itself. One wonders how long all these can last.

Friday, October 6, 2006

String quartet at Covent Garden

I was passing by Covent Garden on Monday morning when I heard these musicians. While I was taking the video, their accomplice asked me if I would like to give something for them. Napabigay tuloy ako ng £1. These guys also have a CDs of their music for £10.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Taking photos

A friend e-mailed to ask how she can take better photographs. Hmm. Thing is, I've never taken photography classes (in the next few years, probably), so I can't really say for sure. Anyway, this is how I do it with my 6MP point-and-shoot camera. Hope this helps.

-I avoid using flash. Turn it off whenever possible, especially for night shots.
-Consider cropping. If the photo doesn't look right, there's always a way of splicing away the unnecessary fat to make it lean and mean.
-Sorry, folks, but I stick to cliches. This is alright if you're taking photos for memory's sake, but try to find a new way of looking at your subject.
-Look at how other people take pictures to develop you eye for it. Visit sites like Flickr and photoblogs.org.
-Take advantage of good weather. A little sun makes almost everything better. I find it hard to take nice pictures where I am now.
-Even if it requires you to flip through the manual, find out the modes of your camera (ex. auto, manual, sports, night, portrait, macro) and what they're for.
-If you're not satisfied with the lighting, fiddle with the white balance (ex. auto white balance, sunny, cloudy, flourescent).

That's it, pancit.

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

SpiralFrog takes the big leap in December

Free, completely legal downloads. Hear, hear! But don't go clapping yet. SpiralFrog.com will offer ad-supported music and video content. What's the downside? Ads and the WMA file format.

SpiralFrog will be launched in the United States and Canada in December, Britain and other European countries next year. What about us? We haven't the foggiest.

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Autumn trips

A mishmash of clips I took with my camera.

I will try to blog daily whenever possible, but I may have to skip some days because of schoolwork. We'll see.

Music: Time of your life (Good riddance) by Green Day

Monday, October 2, 2006

The last weekend before school starts

On Friday night, we went to the exhibit of a Japanese photographer in front of City Hall. We had drinks at Butler's Wharf Pier and saw the lower part of Tower Bridge opening up for a passing boat.

The following morning, Ria, Marina and I went to Portobello Market. It was packed with people, like Quiapo on a fairly busy day. Sunday morning, I went with Cecilia, Marina and Marianna to Petticoat Lane, where I bought a bag for a fairly good price (read: almost like Manila).

Sunday, October 1, 2006

A walk along the Thames

A stroll along the banks of the Thames, passing by Lambeth Palace, London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. I joined one of the guided tours at Tate Britain, which is probably more of my thing than Tate Modern.

In the evening, we met a guide in front of the Royal Exchange for a two-hour walking tour of the City of London, the capital's one-square-mile financial district.