Philippines Government Teaches Popular Dim Sum Has Chinese Names

Whenever the news from the U.S. is too depressing, there’s always the news from the Philippines.

One needs to keep in mind that the Philippines recently placed third worst in a poll titled The Most Ignorant Countries in the World. This was a study in which people were asked about topics such as murder, terrorism, teenage pregnancy, health issues – not that they got the answers “wrong” but that their perceptions of prevalence of these issues was far removed from reality. There’s probably no direct link from that to this next bit, but somehow I think it’s not too far off.

On Friday, the news was that the Philippines government thought it necessary to inform the public that various Chinese dishes popular in the Philippines also have Chinese names and therefore the public should not be upset that China is giving Chinese names to places claimed by the Philippines.

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My Daily Life in Manila

Some of the comments I get are people saying that they enjoy my description of daily life as an expat in Manila, so I thought I’d write a little more about that. Warning: you may be bored.

Waking Up

I’ll usually wake up around 7 AM (even though my alarm is set for 8). I go downstairs and grab a can of Coke Zero out of the fridge (I rarely drink coffee), go back up to my lair (it can’t be a dungeon if it’s on the second floor, can it?), switch on the computer, light up a cigarette, and find out what the day has in store for me. Personal email (90% gets deleted without reading), news (depressing), stock prices (depressing), social media and finally business email. I’ll get washed and dressed (I don’t eat breakfast) and sync my phone to make sure I’ve got the latest episodes of the various podcasts I subscribe to (latest addiction: NPR’s TED Radio Hour – the episode from December 15th titled Going Undercover is killer).

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Jeez I Must Be Getting Old

I don’t mind telling you that I’m exhausted. Aside from the stress of starting a new job – which means learning not just people but also products, technology*, process specific to the company – there’s also the stress of commuting daily in Manila. I figure I’m spending 2-1/2 hours in the car per day, 4 days per week. Podcasts and audiobooks are helping me to feel productive during that time but it’s not exactly a civilized way to spend one’s life.

*technology – I think this is worth noting. At my last job, when the new owners said I would be included in the lay-offs, I asked why and the new CEO said to me, “Well, we’re going to move everything to Amazon Web Services and you don’t have any experience with that, do you?” And he sat back with a smug smile. I replied, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years. Do you seriously think Amazon has anything that I couldn’t learn inside of a week?” His smile went away; he had no response. And now I’m managing an environment that includes AWS, Docker, Kubernetes and all sorts of fun new tools that I didn’t have in my last place. (And also managing two other teams aside from the hosting team.)

Anyway, “excuses have their uses but now they’re all used up” – so no excuses for not posting in so long. I actually did start a post three weeks ago and haven’t had the time to catch my breath and finish it off. So here it is:

Sunday in the Philippines. And at the end of the day I turned to my wife and said, “I know we didn’t do much today, but it was pretty close to a perfect day for me.” So what did I do today?

Not really much. Got the car washed. A little shopping. Dinner and a movie – at home.

And I told my wife it was almost a perfect day. I told her we got to spend the day together. I felt like I accomplished stuff. I had some time along to do some of my crap. We got out of the house for a little bit. We didn’t spend much money. There was almost no traffic getting to or from the places we went to. And mostly the day was completely stress-free, something not to be undervalued given the pressure at work.

I mean, I think about my Sundays 10 or 15 years ago (and those of you who’ve known me a long time or been reading my stuff for a long time know what I mean) and I’m not sure if it’s a sign of growing old, of changing priorities, or of figuring out what’s really important.

Though inversely … while we were sitting at the car wash, I was flipping back and forth between Twitter, Instagram and WeChat. Different stuff. Some guy in China I met last year asking me for career advice. Reading some news about the government shutdown and came across an article about The Lost History of the Yiddish Typewriter  and an editorial in The Times titled They Were Bad. He May Be Worse. (No bonus points for guessing what that’s about.)

My wife looked over at me and said, “You’re always busy. How do you manage to stay so busy?”

It’s funny because lately I’m reaching the decision that being “always busy” is not a good thing. Because I rarely leave time to just sit and think. I mean, even now, as I’m sitting here writing this, it’s a distraction from just sitting and doing nothing except thinking. And I believe I’m worse off because of that. I need to be less busy.

 

Oh, Hai

Who knows where the time goes? I see my last post was on December 24th, so belated Happy New Year to all!

I finally got my car on the evening of December 27th. I’m really very pleased with it so far. It’s nice going back to a sedan after almost 3 years in an SUV, though it takes some time to get used to sitting lower. The car is filled with technology that many of you may take for granted but that I didn’t have in my last car – backup camera, remote start, some more buttons here and there. No ashtray in the car and so I’ve decided, based only partly on that, to not smoke in the car. I’ve even managed to stick to that when stuck in some pretty bad traffic. Podcasts are helping me keep my mind off both traffic and smoking.

One pain in the butt is that the car has Apple CarPlay, which is very nice, but not as nice as I was expecting, for two reasons:

1 – When playing music, the car’s screen just shows artist, song, album in text. I was hoping to see the album cover as well. Curiously, the artwork does appear, thumbnail size, in the “computer” section under the tach/speedometer, just not on the big screen.

2 – Waze will not display on the screen at all. Apparently Apple’s rules for CarPlay disallow any navigational apps except their own, humongously bad Apple Maps (which couldn’t find my office building even though it’s huge, not new, and on a main street in BGC). I can have the audio directions play through the car’s stereo but the app won’t display on the screen. (This is not an issue with Android but I’m not ready to switch to Android … yet. Let’s see what they do with the Galaxy S9 when it gets announced presumably next month.)

All of that aside, I’m now one month into the new job. I won’t lie – I’m pretty much exhausted by the time I get home every night and not feeling like doing much on the weekends other than lying around watching movies (so far this year Coco, The Beguiled, Lady Bird, I Tonya, The Disaster Artist and mother! for the second time) and TV (Black Mirror season 2, The End of the Fxxxing World). I assume things will even out once I get more used to the daily commute as well as all of the new stuff I’m dealing with at the office. I like my boss, I like the people I’m working with, there’s a ton of work but so far it’s all good.

So that’s about it for now. Nothing exciting going on. Work, sleep, work, sleep, the occasional nice meal or shot of whisky. I’ve been working on a post on my favorite music of 2017, not sure when I will be able to finish it. So for now, here’s a photo to share, took it on the way home a few days ago, I don’t think I’d mind if I could do this during my commute too ….

New Job – New Car (Someday) – Happy Holidays

I’ve been at my new job for two weeks now. I was hoping to push my start date back to January 2nd (in order to get a few things ready) but they wanted me in there ASAP and three weeks of pay in December ain’t nothing to sneeze at, so I started on December 11th. So far I have nothing to complain about job-wise. The company (which I previously worked for in 2011 and 2012) has grown tremendously, I like my manager and the people in the teams I’m managing (there are three), and there’s a lot of getting up to speed, learning new tools and techniques, which is something I’ve always found fun (nerd alert?).

My only complaint has been my commute.

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My Favorite Films of 2017

This year I started keeping a list of films I watched so that I’d be able to do a proper review at the end of the year. As of today, I watched 116 films – which includes older films on video and a few things that I’ve watched more than once.

How things have changed. In the early 80s when I worked in a video rental store, I must have watched 2 or 3 movies a day, and probably 500 or more per year. Of course a lot of my “watching” time is now devoted to TV series. This is a true golden age of television and I’m finding a lot of the things there that are missing from films in recent years.

That being said, here are the films I loved, liked and hated from 2017.

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I Went to Dallas to Look for a Job and Found One – In Manila

Life’s like that, isn’t it?

As I mentioned here and here and here and especially here, I’ve been searching for a new job ever since finding out on May 4th that I would be laid off from my job effective September 30th. I’d had my share of ups and downs in that job, but overall I had very little to complain about. I had great relationships with my boss, my peers and the CEO, I really respected the company’s products, and I had a strong team underneath me. But the new owners decided to drastically reduce the company’s footprint in Asia.

[Side note: It turns out that the amount of the legal minimum redundancy payment in Hong Kong was set in 1968 and not updated since then. So after 4-1/2 years with the company, I received less than one month’s salary as my severance payment.]

Searching for a new job became my job. I decided to focus on Hong Kong and I came close a couple of times.

But when September 30th rolled around, I still hadn’t found anything. I figured I had two strikes against me – my age (I’m over 60) and my lack of business-fluent Cantonese and Mandarin. My wife and I discussed it and I decided to take something of a gamble – go to the U.S. and search for a job there.

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72 Hours of Highs and Lows

Yes, some random bitching and moaning, but hopefully some of you will find some of this somewhat interesting. Life anywhere is filled with minor annoyances. The trick, I suppose, is to control how you react to them. I’m getting better at this. But part of that means getting it out of my system by writing about it.

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My First Alexa – And Getting It To Work on Hotel WiFI

Remember this scene from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home? They’ve gone back in time, Scotty tries to work a computer by talking to it? Funny stuff. Science fiction then, science fact now thanks to major advances in voice recognition technology.

For legacy users like myself, it requires a bit of a mental reset. I’m someone who is so used to opening a new tab in a browser and typing a few words and looking at the result. It’s just in the past year that I started getting into using Siri on my i-devices.

I’ve been very curious about Amazon’s line of Alexa-enabled devices since the first reviews started coming out – was it a year ago? I wasn’t sure how useful it would be to me in Manila or Hong Kong – a lot of it seems to be tied into being an Amazon Prime member, which I’m not. I was also very curious about the sound quality if I was going to use the Echo as a bluetooth speaker for music.

(Amazon Echo 2nd generation)

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Spike in Texas

I don’t intend to post a day by day, blow by blow description of my current trip to the U.S. Things are going well and I need to remain focused on the tasks at hand. But a few brief things to bring you up to date, just in case you were wondering what happened to me.

This is my second time in Texas, but the first time I never left the airport, I was only transiting, so really this is my first time here.

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