Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Calls To Mom in the Philippines

Ok, so this blog appears to have taken a vacation over the Christmas week. Either that or I was being lazy or even maybe I ran out of things to talk about in my uninteresting and boring life. This is probably the month in the past couple of years that I have posted the least.
Would you believe that I talked to my mom in the Philippines two days in a row? On Christmas Eve and Christmas day there (they are 16 hours ahead of the U.S.), I was able to get in touch with her on the phone which is a Christmas miracle in itself, because all the Filipinos in the U.S. seems to be calling there at the same time the whole day. It’s not a surprise if you get a busy signal or the call doesn’t connect at all on Christmas day. So the first time on Christmas Eve, we talked about our holiday plans – any party invitations or going to church. She said her only plan was to go to mass and have a quiet Christmas at home, which didn’t turn out that way (I’ll tell you more about that later). During the call, it occurred to me to ask her how she and my father met. During elementary school before World War 2, they were schoolmates but other than that, they didn’t really talk to each other, she said. After surviving the war and finishing high school, my mother started working in the box office of a movie theater in Jolo, Sulu, Philippines, with my dad’s mother. That’s when they really started talking and the courtship began. My dad would often go the theater to pick up my grandmother and when he drove his passengers (my dad was a jeepney driver at the time) in the part of town where mom lived, he would stop by and visit. I wish we were able to get into more details but the long distance call was getting lengthy. I hope I would be able to explore that part of mom’s life at a later date and ask her about things we never knew while growing up.
The next day, Christmas Eve here and Christmas day there, I tried calling my mom again while I was at a family party at my uncle’s house. The first three tries, nobody answered maybe because mom was still in church or the call didn’t go through. When she finally answered, she said she had gone to church and was invited to lunch by very close family friends (that's her in the red dress, with the Pabellon Family and their Christmas at KFC - photo courtesy of Jing :-)) , after which she went home to prepare to go to another party. I tell you, my mom has a more active social life than I do despite her osteoporosis and osteoarthritis J. During the call, I passed around my cell phone to my relatives to talk to mom, not caring about minutes because it was Christmas after all and it’s not often that they talk to her. Since she rarely gets to talk to them, I’m sure she was pretty happy about that. Soon we had to say our goodbyes again so she could rest before her next party (she is 79 after all), while we continued our festivities here. The dinner feast consisted of kulma (a native Tausug dish related to curry), potato/macaroni salad, ham, turkey ham, lumpia shanghai, bistek, kilawin shrimp, poached salmon, fruit salad, pecan pie, ube, lemon cheesecake, and cream puffs, plus others that I don’t remember anymore. It was a gustatory and calorie ridden delight!
          As I end this post, let me ask you: how did you spend your Christmas and have you ever asked your parents how they met and got married?

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wimp Out Due To Rain? Or Rational Decision?

Saturday morning’s scheduled AREC run was 10 miles for one group and a longer 18 miles for those training for a marathon. All that to be done in the forecasted rain. Based on my injuries earlier this year, 10 miles appears to be the breaking point of my leg joints and muscles so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I set all my running rain gear out Friday evening: shoes, socks, shorts, long sleeved shirt, Goretex jacket, hat, gloves, GPS watch, ID, cell phone, hard candy, MRE’s. Oh, wait, not the last one. Should I run very easy like last week? Do the 4:1 Galloway method? Wimp out because of the rain and run on the treadmill instead? In the end, my final decision was not made because of the distance or the weather but because my ankles were still aching from last Thursday’s unplanned fartlek workout.
 Let me explain. It was supposed to be a GPSless slow and easy run, but 15 minutes into it, I decided to pick up the pace for the length of a block then recovered on the next turn. Well, instead of continuing in an easy pace, I kept doing the block-long pickups and recoveries until I finished an hour of what I considered an impromptu fartlek workout. It felt really good picking up the pace but the downside is that increases my pounding against the ground so much nowadays that it overstretches my already tender ankle joints. I was hoping that they would recover on Friday so I could join AREC on Saturday morning, but it was not to be. My ankles were hurting too much and I didn’t want them to get worst. Instead, I just repeated Friday’s recumbent bike workout plus 5 more minutes. This was the workout for Friday and Saturday: 4 minutes fast cadence on easy gear, 3 minutes on medium gear while trying to keep the cadence up, 3 minutes on heavy gear = 1 set. Repeat to finish 4 to 5 sets. Not the same feeling as running but it was gentler to my ankles while keeping my pulse rate up and my breathing heavy. Good enough. I might not try to run again until next Tuesday. In the meantime, ice, ice, baby.

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Random Thoughts for December 2010

            Ever since I injured my left index finger due to the garage door accident, touch typing on the computer keyboard has been a hit and miss exercise. I can’t feel the bump of the F key and I keep hitting the R and T keys together when I type one of those letters.
            When you blog and share it on social networking sites, are you considered a bloggart?
Last week, before I did my gift card shopping, I wrote notes, addressed and stamped Christmas cards while watching a TV program called The Sing Off (acapella competition between singing groups). After I bought the gift cards days later, I stuffed them with the Christmas cards in envelopes, ran to the post office, dropped everything in the mailbox then continued my run. Another one of my errand runs. On a similar note, I ran to a friend’s apartment to update her computer then ran back home, achieving another negative split in the process.
Last weekend I watched what I consider a powerful movie called For Colored Girls. I’m just wondering why it had a poor box office result and a low IMDB rating.
                 You’ve heard of the Clydesdales division in road races? If I remember correctly, if you are a runner who is 200 pounds or more, you are considered a Clydesdale (like the Budweiser horses). Even though I’m almost half that weight I run like a Clydesdale because my stride is so heavy. A lot of those heavy runners are probably much lighter on their feet than I am.
My netbook battery is not holding a full 9 hour charge any more. At best it gives me 6 hours, and even lesser if I’m connected to the internet. The hospital I work in now has Wi-Fi in the main building. Unfortunately not in the building I work in. How can they give us Wi-Fi and we are not supposed to surf the internet at work? Go figure. I guess the restriction only goes for direct patient care staff, while office personnel and visitors are allowed to do it.
I love pumpkin pie because it reminds me of when my mother used to bake them at home in the Philippines. I had four store-bought pies in the fridge and I overdosed on one of them one night because I didn’t want it to spoil. I was hoping that the pumpkin had a good dose of fiber but it was only 1 percent per serving. Oh, well. 

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Friday, December 17, 2010

Stomach Expansion

Ever experienced this problem? You overeat at a party (in this case, Thanksgiving),so much so that it distends your stomach and during the next several days, your stomach seems to have gained extra capacity, and you tend to eat more before you feel full. Well this happened to me this past couple of weeks and I’ve been trying to fight off the lack of satiety, and not too successfully at times. The food was so tasty at the party that I overate beyond the point of fullness, which was an uncomfortable feeling in itself. Sometimes it’s hard to stop what your tongue wants to taste even though you are uncomfortably full already. Maybe I should blame my cousin for being such a good cook and preparing all those culinary delights that my eyes, tongue and stomach couldn’t resist. Perhaps I should lie and say that she put a gun to my head and forced me to eat.
I have a similar experience when carbo loading. In an effort to bump up the glycogen levels in the muscles, there is a tendency to overeat with the excuse that I’m going to burn off those calories in the marathon anyway. The trouble is that I continue to eat more than usual in the days after a marathon because my stomach capacity had expanded and it takes several weeks for the eating to normalize to pre-marathon levels. For those non-exercisers who read this, even some endurance sports participants also have to deal with diet matters.
                By the way, here is something I was wondering about: In your experience, has it been more difficult to shed weight during the winter than the summer? Is it nature’s way of protecting the body from the winter cold by storing more fat?

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tales of Spinning and Running

Other than the errand runs I’ve been doing lately, here are a couple of workouts that happened in the past week. In terms of energy expenditure, calorie burn, and sweat rate, my back up workout to running in recent weeks has been the spinning bike. Because it has a heavy flywheel, you can feel yourself working even when you don’t increase the tension. Let me tell you about the self propelled workout I had last week. I pedaled on an easy tension for 10 minutes as a warm up, then for one minute I increased the tension slightly and pedaled while sitting, another minute I increased the tension more to do stand up pedaling, then one minute on easy tension for recovery. I kept repeating those intervals until I reached an hour. To say the least, it was an exhausting workout. Some days I would do two minutes of stand ups with one minute recovery. All that while reading the newspaper. Since my watch has an interval timer, I change positions or increase/decrease the tension of the pedals when I hear the warning beeps.
Last Saturday morning I was back running with the AREC winter group. I was slightly concerned of having tired legs because of the spinning workout I mentioned above which I did the day before. That concern faded into the background when I was able to run alongside Rich S. from start to finish on an 8 miler. He told me about his and wife Colleen’s recent trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, and I had a lot of questions for him about the place. So for the first half of the run, Rich told me about how to get there, where they stayed, the hiking and climbing they did, the tourist season, and people who lived on reed islands on a river. It was very enlightening to learn about another culture. The second half of the run was spent talking about plans for retirement. We are both the same age and he had planned on retiring when he reached 55 (as did I when the stock market was soaring in the 90’s and mid 2000’s). He remains on track with his plan which is very admirable. In my case, I will have to wait a little longer. I told him my emergency plan was to retire in the Philippines if my nest egg will not suffice if I stay in the U.S.
With everything that we talked about, the 8 miles passed rather quickly and almost effortlessly. Rich - my lungs, legs, and ankles thank you and your stories for a nice leisurely run. The 8 miles would have been much harder without your company.

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Monday, December 13, 2010

A Delayed Christmas Shopping With Certain Advantages

My co-worker asked me last week if I was ready for Christmas and I told her I was not. I already knew I was going to be slightly delayed this year and all having to do with money (or lack thereof) management. Although I’ve already purchased my Christmas cards, gifts were another matter altogether. The only gift buying I do is in the form of cards. Did you know that thieves can copy the serial numbers of those cards, then check them online frequently if they are activated then do their stealing/shopping? When your recipients try to use the cards that you gave them, they find out that the funds have already been spent. What’s this, a public service announcement??? Anyway, I hope none of the ones I’m buying has that problem.
So I’ve been taking a glance at the gift cards when I shop at the grocery store to get an idea on the choices available and what do I see but Farmville gift cards. Really?! What will they think of next? No, I didn’t plan on buying one of those. Anyway regarding the money management aspect, here is the explanation. It has something to do with the next billing period of my credit card. Having had to charge the insurance co-pay for my emergency room visit 3 weeks ago to my credit card placed a slight crimp on my budget, so I had to wait for the next billing period before I wanted to use it again.
This past week, Albertson’s grocery store had a special offer. When you buy $100.00 worth of gift cards, they give you a $20 coupon good for your next shopping visit (with certain restrictions). You can receive as many as five of those coupons if your heart and wallet desire to buy $500 worth of gift cards. This offer was supposed to expire on December 12th. The new billing period for my credit card also started on the 12th so off to Albertson’s I went for my Christmas gift shopping. After picking out some choices for the kids and a few others for adults, my shopping was done for the year, while also getting two of the $20 coupons to boot. Payment for the credit card will be due February of next year. Now I’m ready for Christmas.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Float To The Emergency Room

Saturday night was my turn to work in the emergency room because there were only a few patients on my home unit. I can’t remember the last time I worked there so it was with some apprehension that I showed up at the ER. The night started out slow as I only had to watch one patient who was rather quiet. By 10:30 p.m. others started to show up – a manic woman who talked and laughed loudly, and a doctor from another part of California. Let me just make clear that these were psych patients that I had to watch. I escorted the woman via hospital van to another building at about 1:30 a.m. On the way out of the parking lot after dropping off the patient, what do I see but 3 raccoons foraging for food near the gate! I don’t recall ever having seen a raccoon before in my life but this night more than made up for that by seeing three of them together. That seemed to make an already unusual night even more unusual. Upon returning to the ER, the doctor had been transferred to another unit and my next patient was just being wheeled in a guerney by paramedics. Speaking of mother natures’ creatures like the raccoons I saw just minutes before, this woman was drunk as a skunk. She was brought in the ER because she fell on her face after a bout of drinking. She had a bloody forehead and her nose was slightly swollen. With the x-ray technician, I escorted the patient for a CT scan of her head. She had a bump on her forehead and the scan confirmed a broken nose. This woman was very loud and complained incessantly of pain in her face, neck, back, legs. You name a body part and she probably would have complained on any of that too. Shortly after, a handcuffed man was brought in by 2 police officers. I don’t know the circumstances of his case. All I know was that the cops confiscated his guns. I didn’t ask the patient about what happened as I didn’t want him to be incensed. He was already in a bad situation as it was. Fortunately, he was pretty cooperative and quiet. He spent a few hours watching Law and Order on the TNT network. I could probably have given him a quiz on the show and he would have given me all correct answers. Poor guy had to report to work at 8 a.m. but couldn’t leave because the police put him on a 5150 hold.
Based on the patients I had to watch, the night in the ER wasn’t so bad at all except I didn’t get my 30 minute break until 6:15 in the morning. All I could do was walk to the corner doughnut shop to buy an apple fritter (one of my guilty pleasures that I rarely partake of any more), then return to the ER to wait out the end of my shift at 7:30. Except it didn’t turn out that way. The nursing supervisor called me at 7:05 to let me know that the person who would relieve me of my duties would be late because there was a staffing snafu. Well, I didn’t have too much choice but wait. Fortunately, he arrived at about 7:40 a.m. and soon I was on my way home. Which brings me to the last unusual sight of my day: a man running on the center stripe of a street I was driving on. I think that was even crazier than all the psych patients I had to watch all night.

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Monday, December 6, 2010

Dual Purpose Runs

The rechargeable battery on my 3 year old Vivitar camera has not been charging fully lately so I thought it was time to shop for a new camera. I didn’t want anything complicated since I’m just a point and shooter (gone are the days when I was an amateur photographer and owned a couple of SLR’s during the analog age). After reading reviews for 2 cameras which were on sale (one at Best Buy and the other at Office Depot), I decided that Best Buy’s store brand - Insignia was my better option. So on a chilly Cyber Monday morning (even at 8:30 a.m.), I put on my running shoes, bundled up, pocketed my credit card and I.D., then ran to Best Buy which opened at 9 a.m. Instead of shopping online on this day, I went to a brick and mortar store instead. I got there shortly after they opened, purchased the camera, then ran back home while cradling the box in the crook of my arm, like a football hold. It was a 6.5 mile turnaround and by the time I got home, the edge of the camera box was soaked with my perspiration. My pace going out was 10:10 and coming back was 9:46. A negative split with a half pound load in hand! Shopping and running - a couple of birds hit with one stone. What else did I accomplish during the run? Camera savings = $30, gasoline saved = 1/5 of a gallon, endorphin high = priceless.
Another dual purpose run happened on Thursday morning. I had an unplanned idea of printing out a couple of pictures to send to my mom along with her Christmas card. I remembered I still had some photo paper from more than 5 years ago so I looked for them. Upon finding them I was surprised to also find some Jolo pictures which I printed out a long time ago. When I tried looking for the scanned copies, I couldn’t find them so I probably deleted them from an old computer which I had since donated to Goodwill. Anyway, I digress. For my mom, I printed out a Thanksgiving picture with my relatives here in the U.S., and another taken months ago with my new niece, Noelani and my uncle. Having done that, I drove to the LBC courier service and sent the card, photos, and some money. After doing all those, I went out for a run from the courier location in Cerritos towards Orange County. A half mile after I crossed the border, I turned around and ran back to where I started from. A pretty good 6 mile cross-county run. Because of the impromptu activities, I didn’t get started running until 10:00 a.m. and finished at 11. By then it was time for lunch and more turkey at home. My run felt a little rough but I enjoyed finishing it. I hope mom feels as much joy when she receives the Christmas card, pictures, and money.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Being a Couch Potato, etc.

Great! Another excuse to becoming a couch potato. The new cordless mouse which I bought on Black Friday has a range that reaches from the computer desk to the coffee table in the living room. No more having to get up from the couch to pause the movies that I’m watching, or to click ‘like’ on Facebook. See, my laptop is connected to my big screen TV. Oh, the mouse? It came from Staples Office Supplies and that’s my only surrender to the Black Friday madness and only because Walmart was out of the $198 laptop and $99 19 inch TV.
Why was I even looking for the TV or the laptop computer when I already have those? I don’t remember if I mentioned before that my back up laptop screen is damaged so either I needed a new really cheap computer like Walmart had or a TV with a VGA input I can connect my broken computer to. Why not just a regular flat screen monitor? Because a 19 inch monitor cost almost as much as a 19 inch TV, so I might as well buy a dual purpose device. Since my choices weren’t available, my last option was way more affordable as seen in this photo: . I bought a laptop table on sale instead, which I can position near my bedroom TV. See the broken monitor on the bottom and the clear image on the TV? I just set the dual display setting on the computer so the output goes to the TV too. Problem solved.

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few Virgin Mobile Incidents

While at work last week, my touchscreen cellphone got unlocked while being jostled around with pens in my pocket, and inadvertently ordered some data packs, twice. When I got home, I checked my account for any activity but it didn’t show any, so I deactivated the data function. Upon checking my credit card transactions the next day, it showed that I ordered the two data packs after all, albeit unintentionally. Each cost 21.95 for a total of 43.90 for 10 megabytes of data. Now, I have never used the internet on my phone other than to download email messages which cost only a few cents, so I had no use for those data packs. I immediately sent an email to Virgin Mobile to explain what happened.
This is what I told them: I have two transactions in my Visa account for $21.95 each for a total of $43.90. The other day, my phone which was in my pocket with a couple of pens, inadvertently ordered what I think were data packages. This wasn't done intentionally and I have no use for those packages. You can probably check in my history that I don't use the internet on my phone. Can you please cancel those transactions and reimburse my credit card account? Thank you very much.
This was their response: Regarding your request, we have carefully reviewed your account and saw that both data packs were activated through the web site, not the phone and since both of them were already deactivated, there's no way we can refund them. If you had contacted us immediately to let us know without deactivating them, we could have done something about it, but they were unsubscribed already. We sincerely apologize for this inconvenience and we would love to help you out with this. Your understanding will be highly appreciated. 
                So I called them right away and explained my plight again. The call center representative (in the Philippines) apparently consulted with a supervisor and reiterated that they could not give me a refund because I deactivated what I supposedly ordered. Not only that, if I wanted to avail of those data packs after all since I couldn’t get a refund, I couldn’t use them anymore because I deactivated them. In short, I’m giving them $43.90 in exchange for nothing! As a consolation prize, they offered to give me 100 anytime minutes which only cost less than half of what I was charged on my credit card. I forewarned them that I will be filing a dispute with the credit card company and that was the first thing I did after hanging up the phone. Via the credit card company website, I disputed the two charges and explained the situation.
So here is the update. The credit card company contacted Virgin Mobile and they agreed to cancel one of the transactions while they negotiated on the other one. A few days later, I noticed that both charges had been taken off my account. Virgin Mobile, it appears as of this writing, has allowed me keep the 100 minute consolation prize that they gave me.
A week after I thought I finished writing the draft of this post, Virgin Mobile is up to more shenanigans. A couple of weeks ago, I topped up my load and added $20 worth of minutes. Suddenly on Monday morning I received an automated text message from the company saying my auto top up failed (auto top up is a setting where if my minutes fall below $5.00 worth, my credit card is automatically billed $20 so I don’t run out of minutes). How can it fall below $5 when I hardly used the phone? I called up customer service and they said they were going to “escalate” my inquiry to find out how my $20 disappeared. Then I checked my account on their website later in the day. Well, since my credit card company didn’t pay Virgin Mobile (VM) the amount that I disputed, VM took it upon itself to deduct $21.95 from my account! Wow, the nerve! Since they gave me 100 minutes free (see above), I figured we could call it even. The next day, I checked my account again and they had readjusted it by giving me back the $20 I put in. I hope that’s the end of that or else I’m switching to another provider after I use all my minutes.

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