Monday, July 30, 2007

Something old, Something new

I migrated today to the north end of the office. Same office, same project, same people I have been working with for the past 3 years. Just new computer, new printer, new office and yes, new boss.

The morning began with the drama. The new computer did not have any of my music files so I worked on that first thing (soft soothing music very important to a stressful job). Then I discovered my Lotus Notes was coming without its familiar workspace buttons - not my address book, not my archived emails, not my shortcuts. Worse, the new printer assigned to me did not have a CD for the driver and the online download was complicated to install. The closest network printer was a mile away so. Well, I managed by typing email addresses by memory (my brain memory, not the computer's) which surprised me most of all. It was a sure sign that I have been in the project too long. I also decided to use my previous printer which had a simple driver to download.

Drama over by lunchtime, I settled to my new responsibilities, new adventure. The new boss was easy to work with. He was familiar with much of what the project was all about and was open to learning what he didn't know. He was low key, very humble and smart enough to already focus on what items were crucial for his immediate attention.

I have always loved my job but now I love it more. A new challenge. New learning experiences but something I am eager to tackle. Most of all, being with the people I still call my family away from my family. AHHHH, great day!

Now about that new apartment....

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Major Squeegee Job

From the conference room at work, we have a good vantage point of the site of the steam explosion at midtown last Wednesday, 18 July. The expanse of the damage was isolated to a few buildings within close perimeter of the blast site. The other effects that it had caused, mud splattered windows and the extent of the initial frozen zone that limited vehicular and pedestrian traffic was wider. The day after the accident Park Ave to Third Avenue and from 34th Street to 47th was impassable to all kinds of vehicles. 42nd Street was crowded with emergency and support vehicles (see previous post).

On Saturday, 3 days after the accident, the tow truck was finally removed from the site. The city reported that they would open most roads back to normal operations with the exception of 41st and Lexington Avenue where they will continue to repair and test the utilities that were affected. Hopefully, they can prevent another such accident from happening.

The video shows how thick the mud had covered the windows on the building immediately next to the blast and how windows on the lower floors were shattered. On the background, the tall dark building demonstrates the height the dirt has flown. On Friday, window cleaning crews were already at work.

Tests done by the government state that no asbestos were airborne post-accident and that most of traces of the material was found on the desbris on the ground. My architect friend notes that old steam pipes (before 1987) were usually wrapped in abestos for insulation. The pipeline that gave way was laid in the 1920's. Go figure.

I'm not whining or contemplating packing up to move to Timbuktu. I have accepted that part of living in Manhattan involves some risks, different from that I would have encountered in other parts of the world but risks just as well - just some quite unique to this city (refer to previous post again).

Inspite and despite of it all, I LOVE NEW YORK!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Living Dangerously

Images, c/w: mud covered windows, 42nd Street closed to traffic, site of the explosion with towstruck still in the hole and broken windows on the building across the site.

After five years of living in the city it feels like
I’ve become what they call the seasoned New Yorker. Admittedly, I am slightly paranoid, slightly oblivious to the familiar and the trivial, constantly in a hyper state of mode and almost always immune to the wackiness that is customary of the daily life in the city.

Some years ago, New York City was famous for its notoriety and it took a long time before Manhattan to get cleaned up of homeless vagabonds and reach a level when criminality is at its lowest. These days, very few areas of the metropolitan can be considered ‘unsafe’ any time of the day.

Just when you thought it is safe to go back out there however, comes new dangers that lurk everywhere. Grates that line the sidewalks that can catch your stiletto heel and cause you to fall and break your nose (really happened to someone I know!). These same grates fatally electrocuted a dog in Chelsea and a woman in the East Village early this year. ConEd has admitted that there are more than 1,000 stray voltage sites in the city. In May, a woman in midtown survived a fall when the grate gave in after she stepped on it. And then what about A/C units falling from high-rise buildings? Terrorism? Mentally deranged people randomly pushing people off the subway platform and onto the path of an incoming train? Too much partying?

The antiquated infrastructure of the city is starting to give way and there are warnigs. Last year Astoria, Queens suffered several days of power outage at the height of a heatwave after manhole fires. This week, ConEd claims that condensation have caused the steam to build up and thus explode in a geyser cocktail of mud, steam, water, asphalt and asbestos in midtown at the height of rush hour. This was a block away from my building. The tow trcuk driver that was trapped in the midst of the accident suffered 80% burns on his body and as of this time is still in a medically induced coma. A 51 year old woman running away from the scene in panic suffered from a heart attack and did not make it to the hospital. In all, the city reports that there were about 20 people rushed to hospital because of the incident.

So now when I walk out of my apartment in the morning, I just hope that I would make it back in one piece later. In New York, you just never know what is waiting out there.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Baby Love

Last Saturday, 14 July, my friend Thereza gave birth to her baby boy Hunter at 9:27 AM. It took a whole lot of urging for Hunter to come out into the world but eventually, the little sweetheart made his touchdown.

Weighing 9.6 pounds and measuring 21.5 inches at birth, he is truly the most awesome little baby boy.

Congratulations to my my skydiving friends Thereza and Drew on their brand new bundle of joy. Hoping that they will have fun with the nappy duty (but hey, I am always on call!!!).

Mom and baby share a quiet moment of bonding

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Workout Sunday

I have been complaining that my summer had been very lazy so far. Last year, I started hitting the tracks of the Reservoir even before the winter was over and quite regularly in the weekends would so 3 to 4.5 miles every weekend. And when springtime '06 came along, my friend Wally and I were at the tennis courts in Central Park at least three times as week. We were relentless that even on the hottest day of the heatwave we were hitting the courts. On top of this I was also regularly going to gym!

This year however, my body seems to have had no motivation to move. I am hardly doing anything at all but walking and at this point in my life when my metabolism is in slow motion seems the 'just walking' is not good enough.

Well, today I dragged myself out of bed at 8AM, jumped into my sweats and was immediately back to the park enjoying a lap around the Reservoir with a brief stop at the tennis courts to reserve a court for 4PM. Once started, my body was immediately familiar with the great feeling of cardio workout and another lap was an easy progression.

My intention was to run through the bridle path and then exit at 89th Street so I could grab some groceries before heading back to my apartment before the weather got too warm. Instead, I found myself heading straight for the gym and spent another 45 minutes lifting weights to firm some parts that have given way to gravity.

By the afternoon as we had planned, my friend came over my apartment and together we headed for the courts for a set of tennis. It wasn't competitive tennis but just keeping the ball at play and an excuse to hang out after.

So tonight I am sitting at home, wallowing in so much in pain and so tired death seems a relief but would you believe it - I am feeling good. Tomorrow I am packing my gear and spending lunchtime at the gym. Yeah, I love this. And then I will be lean and mean again.

I feel good.... you know that I would now....(singing).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Weehawken/West New York

View of Manhattan from West New York side of Blvd. East.

On a perfect weekend day, I took the bus from 42nd Street with Desiree and we headed for the stretch of Weehawken and West New York in New Jersey.

More than 4 years ago, Desiree used to live in West New York. I used to spend weekends with her, strolling the promenade or just enjoying the flavors of the area before she decided to stop throwing away money on rent and become a homeowner. I have always loved it here. I love that it is conveniently close to the city but still far enough. And nowhere in the world can you get such a vista.

The sweeping views of Manhattan are breathtaking and Hamilton Park lines the length of Kennedy Boulevard East (or simply Boulevard East). It is a dreamy town dotted by bench parks, fountains and playgrounds. Weekhawken and on its northern border, West New York are townships of the Hudson county and is perched on top of the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. It is located just outside the Lincoln Tunnel and is conveniently a mere 15 minutes commute to the city.

The rent is not cheap, though, almost similar to that of Manhattan's but comparatively, the floor space is about double what you would get in the city. More closet space as well for the clothes whore such as yours truly. The decision to move here has opened up many times previously as an option but still tied to a lease on the studio, I have only kept promising myself that I would seriously look into it when the time is right. And now the time is right.

What? Leave the city? What is wrong with me? Yes, I have thought about it. Friends have tried to dissuade me from my relocation decision. I assure them it is not Kansas. In my Manhattan studio sometimes it feels like I am the coed who is residing in a tiny dorm. Ergo, moving out is the equivalent of me getting a bigger, much more grown up space. I long for the living space where my bed is not actually sitting in the middle of the room when I have guests come over. I would like to have to cook at home and not have to make sure that all my clothes are moved into the closet so that it wouldn't smell like chicken teriyaki.

Do I love the city less? No way! I love Manhattan eternally and I don't think I can be infatuated with any other location as much as I have learned to love it. However, being across the river doesn't at all alienate me from it. It is actually closer to midtown than where I live right now on the Upper East Side.

It is a big move and even a major change for the city girl but something I have been contemplating for a while. There are days when I hesitate and wonder if it is a decision I would regret. I know however that the city will always be there and if things do not go well, I can always come back. For the meantime, it is something that I have to seriously think over. If I find something that suits my needs at the price that I can afford then chances are, yes, this is the year I will lose residency in the city but gain an extra room across the river.

This be continued (when the lease ends).

Picture right: Sunset reflecting on the skyscrapers of Manhattan as seen from the Weehawken side of Boulevard East.

Friday, July 13, 2007

On Crushes

Shamelessly, I confess that I still have crushes. Major ones - the kind I'd swoon about and obssess about. The kind that when they come up to talk to me I know my face brightens up a slightly redder tinge and then I start to act juvenile and lose my sanity temporarily. It used to drive my boyfriend up the wall with intense jealousy until eventually he may have confirmed that they were innocuous so he resorted to just teasing me about them.

There are certain qualities that I am most attracted to - tall (5'11" to 6'4", beyond that I think is TOO tall), a nice lean athletic build and an unaffected sense of confidence that I seem to find common among men who are intelligent and accomplished in their field. And there is, of course no bigger turn-on than power.My crushes change day to day but the basic qualifications that attract me stay the same. No, I do not obsess about them so much that my boyfriend is ever threatened. He calls them childish whims that he has learned to find well, 'cute'. He says he finds it amusing and at the same time entertaining that I can be giddy about someone, talk about him endlessly one minute and then lose interest the next.

I have had crushes since I was in 3rd grade, so do I have plans of stopping soon? Heck, no. Whatever makes life fun and makes us young is good. As long as I know I am not hurting anyone, right?

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Padme Amidala

I have probably have nagged the boyfriend long enough so finally today he came home and brought me a beautiful pot of blooming phalaenopsis orchids. It was a wonderful gesture after I told him he had 'hurt my feelings' for not sympathizing with a recent devastating discovery I had made with regards to some past mistakes (review: Twitter entries). But of course any woman knows such 'fretting' is only staged, with the purpose of creating some leverage for future objectives. Well, it worked!

I worry though that I will kill the plant since I travel often and it seems I have absolutely no hint of a green thumb. As a matter of fact, frightfully, every living thing I touch seems to die an immediate death: plants, pets, even fish.

Anyway, but what abode of a genuine Asian would not be without a pot of such a beautiful orchid, right? At work, I had brought in a very real-looking stem of pink orchids which I had put in an empty bottle of some fancy Italian sparkling water. Officemates thought it was the real thing for about 3 days but after noticing that it has not withered/died/browned/changed they just declared that I was busted.

And so, just as my aunt used to do with her orchid collection in San Francisco, I have decided to name my first pot of orchid. She is now Padme Amidala. Yep, the Star Wars princess because to be an orchid under my care she'd need to be really tough.

When the boyfriend told the florist about my gardening reputation and he says she had a very strange advise: when in doubt, do nothing.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

E-Group it!

The internet is the easiest way to stay in touch with people. It is the Petri dish for maintaining social connections. My most favorite social networking tool are my e-groups, which allow people to send out messages to others who are subscribed to a common mail list.

My first e-group was started in 2000 and is composed of friends I worked with for ten years in Manila. It was during a great time when the Philippines was experiencing a construction boom and cement was making a killing not just in the country but in the region as well. We were exporting cement and expanding operations. The company was generous to us with bonuses, training and other benefits. Management was composed of young entrepreneurs who knew how to motivate staff and who inspired us to reach for accomplishments beyond our imagination. When the peso plunged against the dollar in 1998, however, things changed. Management changed and it enforced several phases of ‘downsizing’ the company. Many of the oldtimers were the first to get retrenched while those who management chose to keep eventually took their skills with them and moved on to other companies, mostly abroad. We had set up the e-group to stay in touch and as its membership grew to those outside of the cement company but within the same group of companies, so has its significance. While some members continue to be employed with our previous cement company which now goes by a different name, many are now based abroad – in the Americas, in the Middle East, some are even in Australia or in Europe but the exchanges continue to bridge the distance, 6,000 emails later. We have a photo album site where everyone contibutes regularly and where the years passed are noticeable in receeding foreheads and expanding waistlines.

And there were those that were set-up and just died an almost immediate death immediately after including my high school group and another one with people I worked with in Manila.

I also have a group for my grade school class which was set-up in 2002. While it is fun to put together a majority of the awkward prepubescent people I shared grade school angst online, for a while it was also exhausting as the exchanges were fuelled by teasing, cajoling and not always the immaculate kind of exchanges. Many times I had to enforce the role of moderator to prevent a word war from erupting. Membership is currently at 48 but after 5 years and a little more than 4,800 messages it feels like it is dying slowly out of apathy, its value only to announce birthdays and spring sporadic greetings.

Proudly, the most successful e-group I belong to is that of previous workmates from New York. We had set it up on the week prior to our biggest farewell party in October 2003 and just months before the project was dissolved. Almost immediately, word was spread about it and previous colleagues who were involved in the project many years before and have moved to other countries found ways to get in touch with the moderators to be included in the mail list and it has been a party since. Membership is currently at 117.

I think the continued relevance of the e-group depends on the members’ efforts and interest to stay connected to each other. Of late, one of the moderators of the New York group has initiated a poll of where the next Grand Reunion should take place and when. The responses have been overwhelming and varied but the interest to meet up and get together is fuelling more exchanges and even more enthusiastic suggestions on how make sure that it happens.

With the internet, it is a small world after all.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


New York’s new “Noise Code” quietly takes effect starting today.

I am sitting in the apartment with the windows open and oooops, there goes a car alarm loudly blasting off. But wait, it is quickly shut off. Once again except for the music of Van Buuren from my iTunes, I only hear the whiz of speeding cars along the avenue and the laughter of children from the swingset in the playground across from me. And the tweeting of birds. What happened to Mr. Softee? No ice cream trucks on this Sunday summer afternoon? No Jennifer Lopez screaming “Let’s Get Loud” emanating from the car parked downstairs?

The city’s Noise Code hasn’t been updated for 30 years and so the mayor’s initiative is much appreciated by the near-deaf city dweller. Nevermind that we walk around oblivious to the world and immersed in our iPods. It is our choice of listening genre that we are basking on. Not someone else’s chacha music or karaoke.

Of course, when you live in the city you learn to deal with it and yes, I can sleep through the activity that a car crashing into the building next to mine can create. Firetrucks and police cars and news trailers were parked downstairs they said. I only saw it on the news the next morning of course, and what remained of the commotion when I stepped out of the building to go to work. It did not bother me that weeks prior to that, I didn’t wake when firemen barged into one of the apartments in the building because the fire alarm had been set off and no one was home. My landlord was concerned. I shrugged it off, pleased that I had my eight hours of rest.

With the new law, ice cream trucks are required to turn off their music when they park on the curb (that usually means downstairs from me and right in front of my window). Dogs cannot bark more than 10 minutes (explain that to Fido!!!). Nightclubs and bars will limit their music to a certain decibel. Construction areas will have to make their equipment quitter (soundproof those jackhammers!). Garbage trucks will have to stay away from residential areas between 11PM and 7AM (the one in my area used to come by at 5AM Mondays and Fridays). Those loud mufflers from vehicles and motorcycles are also banned. Stereo music/TV noise from apartments should not be heard more than 25 feet and your iPod tunes should not be audible to someone 5 feet away. A sigh of relief.

There are however some noises that will persist – what they call regular city noise. Conversations from people passing by, the subway, the buzz of the hydraulics of a bus kneeling to pick up disabled passengers (a bus stop in front of my building) and sirens from fire trucks, police cars and ambulances.

But a little bit goes a long way, I guess. Living in the city has its pros and cons and if the minimized urban noise still ticks you off the wrong way you always have the option to walk away. So either you move to a retirement community in Florida or take the long road to the suburbs.


Came upon your post today on the new NYC noise code. Interesting point of view.

Sincerely,Todd A. Hamo
Chapter Member, Noise Free America