My Lucy…

My Defender 90 newly washed...

My Defender 90 newly washed…

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Another photo of Lucy… miss her a lot!!

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She is a special edition…

This next photo is of my all-time favorite ride, my 1997 Land Rover Defender 90. This was the last year that the Defenders were allowed into the USA due to in part the lack of catalytic converters. From what I understand, there was no place to put them.
The Defender pictured is a special edition, number 25 of 300. Whats special about these editions? The color is a ‘Willow Green’. The diamond plating and the roof rack and ladder on the back. And air-con. Oh yeah, her name was ‘Lucy’.

To be honest, Lucy was a bit uncomfortable for passengers. It is, after-all made to go almost anywhere. But to drive it is like heaven. At least for me… My kids didn’t really appreciate Lucy like I did. We would drive it to the mountains for camping, snow, desert, the grocery store.
Not that my ego needed any more boosting, I was sitting in a Starbucks drive-through after work one evening. Three young women, (very pretty I might add), approached my rolled down driver’s side window and and preceeded to tell me how cool my ride was! Needless to say, I was over the moon for quite a while, sharing this encounter with anyone that would listen.

Sadly, as I was preparing to move back overseas, I sold the Defender. I made a profit of $12k after close to three years of driving it. I didn’t want Lucy to sit in a garage somewhere. She has a good home though…

I miss Lucy still to this day…

See you around…

Mike

Sari-sari stores- Philippines

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Lisa’s sari-sari store in Apalit. Stores like these provide necessary items for daily living. People also gather here to gossip or just meet up. Notice the close proximity to the road.

This first photo in my series is of a sari-sari store in Apalit, Pampanga. Sari-sari means variety. These stores are everywhere! There are four just on my block in Makati. However, in the provinces, where small hamlets are a distance from larger towns with chain food stores, these small convenience stores become invaluable. Sari-sari stores carry pretty much everything. Canned goods, clothes detergent, bread, cakes, meat, both canned and fresh. Candy, water and sodas and of course, beer and locally made liquor. I buy my phone cards here as well. Most product sold here is locally made. Cost is of the utmost importance.
Sari-sari stores in some hamlets and villages tend to be used also as a local hangout for kids as well as adults. Some have bars and karaoke areas. It all generates cash and provides necessary provisions.
The photos I chose to use are of Lisa’s Sari-sari in Apalit. Lisa is from Davao and her husband Tommy is local. They have three lovely children, one of which is seen under the table.

By the way, I have stopped to ask directions on more than one occasion. I have always gotten good directions and smiles from people hanging out at these stores. If you are having a bad day, go hangout at one! t always cheers me up!

See you around-

Mike

Lisa waiting for the customer. One can buy almost anything for daily living.

Lisa waiting for the next customer. One can buy almost anything for daily living. She also knows everything going on in and around the neighborhood!

Photo based shorts…

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Guy sleeping on a hammock in the back of a moving livestock truck…pretty cool idea…

I’m going to write a series of shorts based on some photos I have taken over the years. As I have lived many places throughout the world, I have ‘collected’ stories, experiences and photos. I want to share some of these with you all. Part of this exercise is to re-collect these times of my life. But I want to share some of the cool and crazy things I’ve seen. I have hard drives full of photos and video. This will be no easy task. I know though that I will enjoy the journey. I hope you will as well. These stories are not in chronological order. Its what I find and want to share at the time.

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January 2015
I love the ingenuity of the Filipino people. Almost everyday I see something different. Solving a problem or finding a way to do something with little or no money is normal and not the exception here. The photo below is a prime example. I was driving from Makati to BGC (Global City) a few weeks ago. As we were passing by this truck I noticed the guys in the back of the truck. There were three people; one of which constructed this hammock to rest in. I shot some video as well. As the truck moved down the road, the hammock swayed back and forth. To be honest I was a bit envious. I was on my way to a meeting, late of course. This guy had the right idea. Chill out. Relax. We get there when we get there. Whats the use of stressing if you can’t do anything about it?
I have all my devices and gadgets to make myself more efficient and productive. But to what end? I race to meetings and appointments. Always in a hurry. So much to do. Do I ever stop and take the time to enjoy where I am? How is the quality of my life, especially compared to guys like these? I may have more possessions. I may have a nicer house, (its all relative) But who is happier? Content? Less stressed? I dare say its not me.

Look, all I am saying is that we tend to fill our lives with meaningless stuff. Junk. Things that break or become obsolete within a short period of time. I buy a new smartphone and I am bored with it after 2 weeks. Same with other things in my life. I need to take stock in my life, prioritize things and people. Whats really important?

These guys I see on the streets of Metro Manila, well, its perhaps not as bad as I think. I may be wrong however, I think we can learn a lot about ourselves by looking into the lives of these fine people. Its not, after-all the clothes we wear but whats inside. Our hearts. Our minds. Our souls. Fashion changes. Our hearts and souls are eternal. Forever.

See you around-

Mike

Journals- I just got a new one

The Lechtturm1917 is the gray journal at the top of the photo. Check them out if you have the time...

The Lechtturm1917 is the gray journal at the top of the photo. Check them out if you have the time…

I starting using a new writing journal this week. Its the Lechtturm1917 brand from Germany. Although it does look like the Moleskine, the journals I have used for over 10 years, there are some major differences. The journal itself is set up with chapter/content pages, numbering and cool labels to attach to the cover. I like the colors as well. I’m using this pocket notebook for taking notes for future blogs and subjects for short stories. I wanted something new and exciting in my life…!

As a geoscientist, I’ve used the “Rite in the Rain” since my university days. Most geology senior year camps require them. They are water resistant, tough, and if dirty, doesn’t affect the performance of the journals. These journals come in a wide variety of styles, materials, page formats- totally up to your use and desire.

 I have used Moleskines for around ten years. I first found them at a now defunct national chain bookstore in Milpitas California. I was attracted by the build and feel of the journal. There was and is ALOT of ‘stuff’ on the net about these notebooks. The product was bought out by an Italian marketing company and have made some questionable boosts concerning their history. But all in all a decent journal.

Back in January I bought a pack of “Field Notes” brand journals from an online store in Makati. I liked their website a lot. But to be honest, the notebooks are not very strong. Stables and thin covers. Not many pages as well. I paid a lot for what I got.

Having played a lot with journals and in all kinds of conditions, I will continue to use the “Rite in the Rain” for my field work and the Lechtturm1917 for my more creative endeavors.

Now, writing instruments. Moleskine I use Pilot Pens and a couple of Faber-Casells. For the RITR and Lechtturm1917 I use a mechanical pencil. Mostly as they won’t smear and I need to make corrections sometimes. I also prefer to write with a pencil as I like the feel of the lead to the paper. It’s cool…

I would visit each website and get a feel for their products. Find a local retailer and get a feel for them. However, the best way to evaluate them is to put out the cash and write in them. Carry them around and use them hard.

By the way, for traveling nothing beat the RITR. Its nearly indestructable, in as far as paper journals go.

See you around-

Mike

I’m Back…!

Ok…here we go.

I’ve been out of touch for almost a year. I’ve dropped all of my writing and frankly I didn’t care. I suppose the best excuse is being ‘busy’, but in fact, I just lost interest. I had no idea what to write and my living circumstances had changed. I was focused on surviving and not writing. Although if I had continued to write during this time I might have figured ‘things’ out sooner.

One of the reasons I am back to writing is that I bought a macbook pro and bought a very cool writing app for it, Scrivener. I wanted a minimalist app but also I needed help in organizing. This does it all.  Sooooo….lets start again.

Ive spent the greater part of the year in the Philippines. Most of my travels have centered around Luzon. Baguio is my most frequent destination. Baguio is nice due to its location in the mountains. Its cool and more pleasant. Agriculture abounds here. Organic veggies are a norm as well as great highlands coffee. I’ll drive the 6 plus hours to Baguio, get a hotel suite in a fairly quiet place. Go shop for vegetables and coffee. Both by the kilo. Many kilos. Go back to the hotel and clean, juice the veggies. Make coffee and eat the local sweet bread. Fruits are abundant as well. Then hike. Lots of nice trails and places to hang out. If by the off-chance you are into biking and off-road travel, there are a plethora of trails and routes to go. The outdoor sports scene is thriving in Baguio.

Another great place to hang out is Baler. Just north of Metro Manila; its about a 2+ hour drive. Well known for surfing. Yep…surfing. Look, you won’t get Maverick type of surf, but for kicking around during a weekend, its great. Plenty of places to eat and one can even sleep (camp) in a tent near the beach. Many do. Younger folk. As for me, I need a simple, clean hotel/motel. Age, man, age…!

If you come out here, grab a newer released map, your smartphone GPS and a spirit of adventure. Many places outside of MM to visit. Remember safely and to negotiate pricing for EVERYTHING. I mean it. If not, you will be paying extra and its not all cheap thrills here. It can get expensive.

So, this is my first blog in about a year. I’m rusty…and in need of some serious motivating.

Talk to you next week.

See you around-

It’s been a while since my last post…

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Its unbelievable how busy I’ve been. No time for a social life. No time for anything but business and work. In fact, as I am sitting here, at my desk, I have realized how little time I have had for myself. Its the office or gym. Sometimes field work. Philippine holidays I have blotted out. USA holidays? Nah….

I am wondering how many of us is there really? Technology, at least in my case, has made me busier. I am using technology to assist with my work; the free time I gain I put back into other work endeavors.  To be frank, my social life here isn’t all that great. Lately, my social skills have been used either at the sari-sari store (local mini-marts) or conversing with the taxi drivers. Even the people I ‘work’ with with…

So, starting next week, ( I need time to change my thinking) I will commit to being sociable. I will talk to people about things other than business. I will go out of my way to greet people and to make new friends. My business travel demeanor will be downright pleasant and I will go about my business cheerfully! As I am the only one reading this, I will be reminded of what I am writing.

So Michael…realize you are not getting any younger. You have no real relationships other than business. Get out and spread your friendship! Make new friends! Do something nice for a stranger!

Lets see how long this goes…

 

See you around…

(again, I’m speaking to myself…)Image

geek city

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I’m a geek…yea..yea…
So, I was up at 2am this morning waiting for the iOS7 to be available for download. My iPad lives with me, my research, my writing, my entertainment. My business data, all forms of social and business communication apps. Everything. Oh yea, 181 books. I had two outside appointments for the day. Canceled. I’m hiding out in my office playing with the new OS and the features.
The apps are the same. It’s the interface and the new way the device interacts that is so much fun! I will tire of the newness soon enough, I suspect. But until then, all bets are off on whether I’ll make my next two days business meetings! This is the best part of working for yourself, I can goof off a little if I choose.
In my life and chosen profession I get to travel a lot. This iPad is great for this lifestyle as it afford me the opportunity to travel light yet take everything with me. In the old days, I’d basically needed porters to carry everything for me! Now, it’s my iPad , cell phone (android based) and some specific geology and chemistry gear. That’s it. Most measurements I can use one of my two devices. Maps; topos and road maps are all part of my iPad apps. Communications, data transfers everything done within my device.
Why this post? I don’t know…I got re-inspired by this cool new OS. Again, within a week or two, I’ll be bored with it. But until then, my phone is busy, I’m not answering emails or texts! A new, freshly pressed OS…ahhhhh…life is looking up again!!!

See you around…

August 31

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The storms of 3 weeks ago hit Central and northern Luzon pretty hard. Many towns are still flooded and many families are without food and a place to live. Seeing kids on the street looking for food in trash bins, plastic trash bags is a sight you don’t want to experience. The following week was devoted to finding donations and figuring out the logistics of feeding so many families. Tito and Tommy Vallo from Apalit, Pampanga where the floods hit the hardest were crucial in assisting in locating the families in need. So having secured donations, both cash and in kind, we proceeded Friday night to Apalit. Tito had assigned chits with the names of the families. Each family was given a chit and asked to show up at a local elementary school Saturday, Aug 31 at 2pm. At 7am my group arrived at the school, where we proceeded to unpack all of the goods, and re-pack in plastic, bio-degradable bags. 3kg of premium rice, 7 packages of noodles, biscuits, OTC medicines, were packaged and set aside. At 2pm, we were ready.

This was by far one of my favorite birthdays ever! The kids lined up with the parents. I was able to bond with some of the kids. We spoke a little and played around as we were handing out the food packages. There was nothing prideful or embarrassing about this. We were all together, helping each other out. Believe me when I say I think I benefited more. Seeing these children happy and being able to relate together as people, no race, no economic status crap, just people coming together for the blessings of God.

After everything was over and everyone left, two little girls lingered around. We were swapping glances and smiles. As we all were boarding the truck to leave, the girls waved at me and smiled with the biggest smiles I’ve seen in a long time. Needless to say I had tears in my eyes; my sunglasses covered my emotions as we were departing the school.

I’ll be back…

See you around…

Storm!

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Metro Manila and much of Luzon is being hit with a monsoon and a tropical storm, Maring. The result is massive flooding, especially where I live. It’s now 2:53am on Monday and I have not been to sleep. Seven hours ago I was wading through waist deep water on my street. The smell and look of the water is not really describable. Needless to say when I got home, I showered and scrubbed completely. The carport which is partially enclosed is flooded. The contents of this area were moved indoors a few hours before this. All we all have to do now is to wait out the storm.The Philippines islands are situated such as we get the worst part of the storms that come in from the pacific. The archipelago divides the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. Storms brew and move west. If they are south enough we are the first reasonable land mass to be affected. The poor urban planning and irrigation system does not help. Water backs up quickly and rises into torrents of black, polluted water. The chemical and biological contents I will not even hazard to guess. However, as I am writing this, my legs have patches of redness and are itchy. Another crazy sight to watch are the cockroaches trying to stay ahead of the rising water. They make for dry land, which, is the part of the patio closest to the entry doorway. I had to close the door, take wet towels and block the gap between the door and the floor to help detain the eventual rush of roaches into the house.The newest marketing and media slogan for the Philippines is… “Its more fun in the Philippines”…yep… It sure is!On the lighter sideThere is a beach town south of Manila called Puerto Galera. It’s on a small island called Mindoro. Roughly 2 hour drive plus a ferry ride. Apparently in April a security guard filmed a foreigner and a local woman engaging in sex on the beach. At 1am. It’s now August. Local residents are quite upset that this happened. This begs questions and comments as:

  1. Sex on a beach? Really? In the Philippines?
  2. Why did the guard wait so long to report it? What did he do with the video, April through August?
  3. And…why is this so news worthy? What was interesting about the video was that in the video, (yea, I watched it!) there are local residents standing nearby watching and taking photos, ( and I swear, taking notes! Seriously..)

And on the not so light sideAnother ferry sinking has claimed several hundred lives. A ferry with 608 people collided with a cargo ship, killing many aboard. We need to pray for the families that were affected. Other than that, not much else we can do. Sad…Gotta go. Think Ill take a swim this morning..See you…

Stuff…

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The word ‘stuff’. Personally, I love this word. It conjures up so many boyhood memories. I had a university professor in astronomy that used to use this word a lot. ‘Star stuff’. There is a really cool online store called ‘Zappos’ that has models demo’ing computer bags. You can take a Tumi bag and fill it with your stuff. I like that…stuff…
Curious on the actual definition, I looked up the word.
**stuff |stʌf| noun
1 matter, material, articles, or activities of a specified or indeterminate kind that are being referred to, indicated, or implied:
2 the basic constituents or characteristics of something or someone:**
Not exactly the most romantic definition. But definitions, by definition, are usually not exciting…hmmm..

So what does the word stuff convey? It’s an informal word; for example you probably wouldn’t hear the word used by high browed socialites or brits…(just kidding, about the socialites, that is!)
Stuff can mean anything to anyone. But to me (cos its my blog) it means anything I can shove into my jean pockets or my computer bag. Keys, phone, chapstick, pieces of paper, small rocks and shells from the beach. You name it. Oh yes, money, if I have it. Stuff, after-all, is just stuff. I love stuff. Not things, but stuff. My stuff. If you see my desk at home, its got stuff on it, stuff that would normally be in my pockets. Except, of course, for my desk lamp.
When I was a practicing geologist, I had the coolest stuff in my pockets and backpack. Little pocket knives, streak plates, bottles of chemicals, rocks, sand, mineral identification books, writing notebooks, you name it, I had it somewhere on me. Stuff.
These days, I have my iPod nano, pocket Moleskine or Rite-in-the rain… mobile phone, ear buds. My iPad if I carry my backpack. Oh, and my wallet, sometimes with actual money…
I love my stuff, but mostly I love saying “stuff”. Stuff, stuff, stuff…its a really cool word. Conveys so much in so little space. Everyone has their stuff. We are all unique this way. Same but different.
So what stuff do you carry? How do you carry it? Do you have organized stuff or chaotic stuff, like me. Structured chaos. My stuff is important, to me, only. No one bothers with my stuff. Know what I mean?

See you around…