Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Exit Interview

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Conducting exit interviews – that’s one part of my job that I find extremely difficult to do. Like saying goodbye, which most of us hate and whose inevitability has taught us not to question it anymore, I dread that time when I need to face and talk to a departing employee.

Most of them get very emotional during the interview. Some weep silently; some sob uncontrollably; but no one leaves the room with dry eyes. When they start weeping, I’m at a loss on what to do. Should I remain detached and poker-faced like it is all business? Or do I hold their hand and hug them with unveiled empathy and compassion? Unable to think of the right words to say, I usually end up just nodding silently while waiting for them to compose themselves.

Some say how hard a decision it was to make, how they’d miss the friends they made in the company and that they don’t really want to leave. And I think to myself, if you don’t really want to leave then we wouldn’t be having this interview right now, would we? Of course you want to leave. So don’t tell me that you don’t want to as if it wasn’t your decision. Just stick to your choice and go.
We just got to do what we got to do, right?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Connectivity Problems

Monday, September 29, 2008

My internet connection has been going berserk since Thursday night. It comes and goes and goes and comes. I was in the middle of writing a post using my notebook when the connection first went bye-bye. After several maddening hours of troubleshooting and hoping and waiting for the connection to come back, I thought of transferring the Ethernet adapter to my ever-trusty, Jurassic desktop. I did and voila! I’m connected! I wondered, was there internet all along? The problem must be with the notebook. Then last Saturday, as D and I were chatting about the qualifications of Sarah Palin, I got disconnected again. Not again! So I called my provider’s hotline. The tech support personnel said that my base station (wherever or whatever that is) is having technical problems, which is the reason why I am also having connectivity problems. And they do not know when it will be resolved.

On the brighter side, since I wasn’t in front of the computer the whole time, I was able to finish two books over the weekend. Not being connected wasn’t really a problem after all.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Siak Ti Agngina

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Has it been a year now since you sent those flowers with the little siak ti agngina note? To this day, I can still feel the all-enveloping rapture I felt during that moment – that moment when the virtual became real. You were no more than a stranger then but I realized how far you’d go and how much you’d risk just to win the heart of the flaky girl you’ve met
online. For painstakingly making us possible, for daring to turn a mere folly into the central theme of our story, for the other delightful moments with you that are sure to come- once again, I thank you.

Yet again, all is gladness in my soul.

Quoting David Foster Wallace

“…You can be in the middle of a creative meeting at your job or something, and enough material can rush through your head just in the little silences when people are looking over their notes and waiting for the next presentation that it would take exponentially longer than the whole meeting just to try to put a few seconds' silence's flood of thoughts into words. This is another paradox, that many of the most important impressions and thoughts in a person's life are ones that flash through your head so fast that fast isn't even the right word, they seem totally different from or outside of the regular sequential clock time we all live by, and they have so little relation to the sort of linear, one-word-after-another-word English we all communicate with each other with that it could easily take a whole lifetime just to spell out the contents of one split-second's flash of thoughts and connections, etc. – and yet we all seem to go around trying to use English (or whatever language our native country happens to use, it goes without saying) to try to convey to other people what we're thinking and to find out what they're thinking, when in fact deep down everybody knows it's a charade and they're just going through the motions. What goes on inside is just too fast and huge and all interconnected for words to do more than barely sketch the outlines of at most one tiny little part of it at any given instant. The internal head-speed or whatever of these ideas, memories, realizations, emotions and so on is even faster, by the way – exponentially faster, unimaginably faster – when you're dying, meaning during that vanishingly tiny nanosecond between when you technically die and when the next thing happens, so that in reality the cliché about people's whole life flashing before their eyes as they're dying isn't all that far off – although the whole life here isn't really a sequential thing where first you're born and then you're in the crib and then you're up at the plate in Legion ball, etc., which it turns out that that's what people usually mean when they say 'my whole life,' meaning a discrete, chronological series of moments that they add up and call their lifetime. It's not really like that. The best way I can think of to try to say it is that it all happens at once, but that at once doesn't really mean a finite moment of sequential time the way we think of time while we're alive, plus that what turns out to be the meaning of the term my life isn't even close to what we think we're talking about when we say 'my life.' Words and chronological time create all these total misunderstandings of what's really going on at the most basic level. And yet at the same time English is all we have to try to understand it and try to form anything larger or more meaningful and true with anybody else, which is yet another paradox.”

- David Foster Wallace, Oblivion, 2004

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Walking to a Healthier Life

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

At the end of the day when I get home from work, with my feet tired and aching, I always wonder how much time I spend walking everyday. In high heels.

I used to count the steps I take from my apartment to our office building, but it gets interrupted by the flight of ideas in my head. And sometimes while walking, I like to hum Ode to Joy under my breath to match my pace with its tempo - which again competes with my counting. It’s not so easy to keep track of all the walking I do. Thanks to D who sent me a pedometer (to motivate me in becoming as thin as Gwyneth), keeping track has now become easier.

With the gadget clipped to my waist, I found out how many steps I’ve accumulated throughout the day, how far and how long I have walked, and most importantly, how many calories I have burned because of all that walking. Here’s the day’s pedometer reading:

Number of Steps: 6,036 steps

Distance Covered: 3.907507 kilometers

Length of Time Spent Walking: one hour, 12 minutes

Number of Calories Burned: 168 calories

The numbers may look remarkable (even I could not believe I’ve accumulated as much) but fitness experts say that to get us walking to a healthier life, we should walk 10,000 steps a day (or 12,000-20,000 if we want to lose weight!). So I’m 3,964 steps short of that goal. Hmmm, so what should I do to achieve 10,000 steps a day and even better, lose weight? Maybe I should include climbing the stairs all the way to the 29th floor as part of my daily routine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I went home to Cavite last weekend. My short stay there somehow recharged me. It felt good to be surrounded with family once again. My sister’s nonstop chatter, the house’s messy yet comfortable lived-in look, the sound of the television in the background, the delicious smell of my mother’s nilagang baka – everything just felt so comforting. It’s great to be home.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Greed, Imprudence and Living Beyond One's Means

Friday, September 19, 2008

Greed, imprudence, and living way beyond one’s means. It doesn’t take a Wall Street genius to figure out that those three are what lies at the rotten core of the US financial crisis. For instance, why would people get loans that they obviously wouldn’t be able to pay back? Is there an iota of logic behind the NINA loans? Why would lenders lend money to people who evidently cannot afford to pay their mortgages? Why would insurance companies like AIG and Lehman brothers insure these bad investments by offering credit default swaps without having the adequate capital reserves to ensure that they can pay their insurance obligations? Why weren’t these insurance-like credit default swaps not subject to federal regulation? What were all these people thinking?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gwen,Gwyneth and Calista

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What do Gwen, Gwyneth and Calista have in commo
n? They’re all blonde, fashionably thin and fabulous. And they’re my boyfriend’s type. So how come he ended up with a fat, far from-fabulous girl like me?

It’s funny how we fall for a person who doesn’t fit our conception of who or what is physically alluring. Or maybe when we fall in love, the surface doesn’t really count that much.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Happy Days, Unhappy Days

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"There were days when she was very happy without knowing why. She was happy to be alive and breathing, when her whole being seemed to be one with the sunlight, the color, the odors, the luxuriant warmth of some perfect Southern day…

There were days when she was unhappy, she did not know why—when it did not seem worth wile to be glad or sorry, to be alive or dead, when life appeared to her like a grotesque pandemonium and humanity like worms struggling blindly toward inevitable annihilation."

- Kate Chopin, The Awakening, 1899

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Comm 10

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

As one of the requirements of our Comm 10 class in college, we were made to fill out--from edge to edge--a 7x10 inch, 120-page notebook. We could write anything we want as long as they're made up of words, phrases, sentences and paragraphs.

Below is an excerpt from my Comm 10 journal:

3:15 in the afternoon, November 21, 1996. My classes at present? Well I can’t say much about them yet because today is only the eleventh day of the semester. By the looks of it, I’m not going to enjoy any of my subjects. Let me focus on Comm 10, known as Advanced College Writing. If not for this subject, I will not be doing this - trying to kalkal my mind to find something to write about. Why do I have to take this course anyway? Because it’s required. So much for this Comm 10 talk.

This journal writing exercise turned out to have such a tremendous and lasting influence on my life that until now, though I won’t be earning credits or good grades for it, I’m still doing it. And I do it for pleasure. I didn’t know it then, but Comm 10 - with its emphasis on prodigious, bordering-on-the-obsessive writing - was the perfect training ground for me.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thinness of Existence

Monday, September 15, 2008

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments. (Oriah Mountain Dreamer)

With the bulk of my everyday life conducted in solitude, I think of my friends who are alone—or who feel alone—like me. There’s this friend of mine who hates to go home to her empty apartment. I wrote a post about her before. Another dear friend, who once called to pour her heart out, said in a mournful voice: “Pasensiya ka na ha, wala kasi akong makausap dito.” And then a few days ago, I received a message from another close friend bemoaning that until now she is still not used to being alone despite her living in a foreign country for quite some time now.

Solitude, and my love-hate relationship to it, is one of the recurring themes of my writings. I realized that that it is not simply the manner of my being but of others’ as well. Have we all become atomized individuals, living a thin and solitary existence as described below?

“When you live alone, your furnishings, your possessions, are always confronting you with the thinness of your existence. You know with painful accuracy the provenance of everything you touch and the last time you touched it. The five little cushions on your sofa stay plumped and leaning at their jaunty angle for months at a time unless you theatrically mess them. The level of the salt in your shaker decreases at the same excruciating rate, day after day.” (Zoe Heller, What Was She Thinking? [Notes on a Scandal])

Quoting from a previous post, “being alone does not indicate thinness of existence.” The moments that we spend alone are never empty. “What we do in solitary gives color, vibrance and texture to our existence. Our capacity for solitude is what sustains our ability to deliver ourselves fully to another person.” If we cannot learn to be alone with ourselves and learn to like our very own company, who else will?

For my friends and I, it is not that we have been disconnected and deprived of meaningful ties to the people who mean a lot to us. The separation is simply physical. The ties are still there, incessantly providing meaning to our otherwise thin and empty existence.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Malunggay in my Teeth

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I was working on my new blog template since Friday – adding and removing gadgets and going back and reformatting every single post I wrote to make sure that it looks perfect with the new look. Then last night, as D and I were chatting I realized how deluded I was:

Me: So honey, do you like the new autumn/fall color motif?
D: There is no motif.

Me: Huh? Doesn’t it show there?
D: It is just plain white background.
Me: But it has flowers and leaves in fall colors. Oh no, what’s the problem? How come here it shows everything?
D: It is probably cached. Your page is in a local pc or your graphics are not accessible by the world

And there I was, oh-so-proud of my supposedly new, rescued-from-a-fashion-rut look, not knowing that ONLY I could see it. It’s like having malunggay stuck in my teeth, in plain view of everyone, while I continue to beam and smile and grin in the middle of a party. And everybody was tact
ful enough not to mention it to my face.

At first I got frustrated but then I realized how funny it really is. D and I had a good laugh over it.

Friday, September 12, 2008

A New Look

Friday, September 12, 2008
After 352 posts, I guess it's time for a new look. We don't want Muffled Solitude to be stuck in a fashion rut, do we?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Typhoon Marce and Purple-Colored Ice Cream

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Soaking wet and shivering from having to walk back to work in the middle of the storm after taking my lunch at home, there I was inside the elevator dumbfounded by the sight of a man, probably in his late 40s and wearing a business suit, licking chocolate ice cream like his life depended on it. I had to hide my smile. Ice cream is ice cream no matter how bad the weather is.

He reminded me of my boyfriend who loves ice cream—the purple-colored one--so much that his idea of a great dinner (or breakfast, because it doesn't really make any difference to him) is ice cream and beer and, i dare to presume, me for company.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Artemis tagged me to list down the things that make me happy and those that make me sad. Since I’ve already written about the things that bring joy to my life, I decided to ditch the rules and just write about what makes me sad, instead. Here they are:

  • The song And So It Goes by Billy Joel
  • Thinking about what mess my life has become
  • Seeing my mother wear that mask of benign sufferance
  • That I don’t live in Baguio anymore
  • My inability to give my D a hug whenever he needs one
  • That things change though I would want them to remain the same; that things end though I would want them to last.
  • Witnessing forms of injustice and inequality
  • Missing my closest friends, the Pilak Girls

And the list stops there for thinking about what makes me sad is already making me sad.

The Great Twitch

“For I have a story. It is the story of a man who lived in the world and to him the world looked one way for a long time and then it looked another and very different way. The change did not happen all at once. Many things happened, and that man did not know when he had any responsibility for them and when he did not. There was, in fact, a time when he came to believe that nobody had any responsibility for anything and there was no god but the Great Twitch.

At first that thought was horrible to him when it was forced on him by what seemed the accident of circumstance, for it seemed to rob him of a memory by which, unconsciously, he had lived; but then it gave him a sort of satisfaction, because it meant that he could not be called guilty, not even of having squandered happiness…”

- Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men, 1946

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A World of Their Own

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Several years ago, there’s this improvised shack made up of pieces of discarded carton, torn tarp, worn sackcloth and an old, broken umbrella--partially hidden amidst the pine trees by the side of the mountain along Loakan Road. Every single day, seated inside the speeding bus on my way to work, I’d crane my neck just to get a glimpse of that shack - that shack where a man and a woman, both mentally ill, live. Although far from being raving lunatics, both suffer from some form of mental or psychological disorder.

"Bahay ng mag-asawang baliw.” That’s how people used to call it. I envied them. Being “crazy” as they are, i thought then, how lucky of them to have found each other in this crazy world we live in.

That couple could’ve been merely an urban legend but I always wondered what their life is like. They must have a great life together, oblivious to material comforts. They have a world of their own free from the shackles of convention, normalcy and morality and the burdens of societal expectations. Inside those muddled brains must have been the kind of serenity and clarity we’ve always longed for.

In their alternative mental state and lifestyle, can they understand such concepts as love, relationships, fidelity, wealth, family, I wonder. Perhaps it’s better that they don’t, for they are not encumbered by the need to possess, uphold, and maintain such elements. Considered by most as taong grasa in addition to being loonies, does the couple feel that they’re poor? How can they when all that they want and need is already there within their reach? Would something be lacking if in the first place they do not have any idea that it exists? Or if they do, they just don’t feel any need for it or even give a damn about it.

One would think that the state they’re in is a complete deviation and denunciation of everything normal, good or right; or perhaps they just gave up on life as we know it, slipping to dementia to escape the harshness of reality and needing nothing and no one else but each other. They’re too crazy to comprehend the value of taking a bath and the risk involved in eating garbage but with how things are going on in our world right now, those two must think that we, not them, are the crazy ones. They are the ones laughing at us. They may have lost their sanity, but inside that mad couple’s ramshackle home is something utterly sane.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Elegiac Lament

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

While struggling to live in the now, I—and others, too—still wax nostalgic about the good has-beens and the great once-was. What is happening seems to pale in comparison with what has already happened. They say it’s not healthy to compare things because relationships and even life, itself, are forever fluctuating. That may be true, but once you’ve had a taste of something good, you’ll know if the succeeding ones come up mediocre.

Those simple yet endearing things you used to do that always lend gladness to my soul are slowly dwindling away; I’m afraid they will just disappear completely, sucked into the irrevocable void of oblivion. Divided priorities, preoccupations, temporal constraints – we make time for the things we want to do in life, don’t we?

I say all these in my usual querulous voice, an elegiac lament for what used to be, hoping that the words be heard beneath the whining and believing that the best has yet to happen.

a froth that resembled love

Actually we did not have the feelings we said we had until we spoke them—at least I didn’t; to phrase them was to invent them and own them. We whipped our strangeness and newness into a froth that resembled love, and we dared not play too long with it, talk too much of it, or it would flatten and fizzle away.

- Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus, 1957

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Blind Date

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Anticlimactic – that’s how one colleague described the blind date she just had. As she was relaying its details, I couldn’t help but recall with fondness--like some Proustian revery--the last blind date I went out on. It was much, much more than what I expected. It turned out to be the first of a series of dates that will last for the rest of our lives.

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