Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Six Years and Counting

I got back just in time for our 6th year anniversary. Whew! That long already?!

HH, happy anniversary to us! Here's to spending more years with you! (as if he gets to read this?! hehe)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hong Kong Virgin No More

HK vacation is just around the corner. Wooohoooo! I'll be back in a few days.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hell days ahead

I wanted to post something positive and happy but then too many problems just kept on coming in more than what I am able to solve. I just wish that all these pressures and stress goes away soon.

My hell day started last week when I was forced into a time bomb project. My days are ticking and what's worse is that I can't do anything to defuse the bomb. Maybe this is my karma...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's the time of the year

I hate to admit it but I do have geeky tendencies. The technical problems that I sink myself into are ones that involve nontrivial answers. Maybe this is the same reason why I enjoy watching Dr. House and CSI because I am so obssessed with problem-solving. There are instances in our life that we get to find solutions to problems without knowing what caused the problem. Not for the lack of interest in finding it out but sometimes what matters is that we get things fixed and get over with quickly. Sheesh... Im not making any sense.

The other day, another project was in the brink of exploding. It's not a project of my team and it's not even a java project. Boss called me and requested that I attend the client meeting with them. I honestly did not know what the meeting will be all about and basically no idea what the project is about. I just said to myself, it's again the time of the year when my boss panics so he calls everybody to the meeting for an all-star cast. And so I ended up attending the meeting anyway. How did it go? I was just glad that they did not end up throwing their laptops at each other but it was indeed a very hot and infuriating discussion. I could never be more glad to have gotten out of there in one piece.

After the client meeting, boss spoke to me as to what my assessment was about the situation. I pointed out some facts that could have caused the shortcomings of the team. Above all, a failed project will most likely be caused by mismanagement of the Project Manager. When the dev team fails to deliver, or there's a failed release, or you weren't able to manage the client expectations or for whatever reason it is, it will always, ALWAYS be the project manager's ownership. Yes it's unfair but it's what he's paid to do... to manage the project, to make sure everything is on time, within scope and within budget, to get everything to work in production and make the client happy. To cut the long story short, boss told me that he's thinking of replacing the current PM with me. Haha. Funny!

Trust me, I am flattered. Really! When will he ever realize that I am no superhero? I can probably help put out the fire but then I know I can only do so much. Not to mention I really, really hate cleaning-up after a mess. Hayyy! I just hope he changes his mind. If he's just looking for somebody to blame and he can mention the person's name and equate it to the failed project, then maybe I can take the PM job. I am used to his usual failed project-PM bashing and not be affected by it although my name never really made it to his failure hitlist, thank God! Well, it's just probably his time of the year.

Current happenings in my life...

Have I mentioned that I am done with my driving lessons? Anyway, HH lets me drive the Starex for short distances only. He still doubts my driving skills or maybe just my parking skills! Haha. Yeah... he gets really restless when I start parking the car as if he's going to have a nervous breakdown. I've never bumped the car, not even a tiny scratch. He's like this when I start parking the car in front of our house...
HH: SLOWLY! (shouting at my ear and grips the handbrake tightly)
Me: It's already slow!
HH: Move it a little forward. STOP!
Me: Like this?
HH: NO! NO! Make it straight! See, it's not straight! STOP!
Me: It is straight!
HH: Move it more. 2 feet more.
Me: Like this?
HH: I said 2 feet not 2 centimeters. C'mon MOVE!
HH: STOP!!!!

See! He's a bad teacher. I am still wondering how I've managed almost 6years with this guy. Seriously, I admit my parking skills are really bad. Hahaha.

For the past months, I've been attending christenings of my friends' babies at least every other week so that's like twice a month minimum. In the next few weeks, I'll be attending kiddie birthday parties of my friends' kids. This is clearly a sign of old age. OMG!

It's the architect's 2nd death anniversary. Wherever you are, may you rest in peace.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Where the road ends and the rest of the world begins...

It's Friday the 13th. Do you believe that this is badluck day? I am not really a believer of this luck thing but I do believe in Karma. What you give is what you get returned as what Savage Garden said in one of their songs. Our decisions contribute to what may or may not happen to our lives.

A friend of mine is in a difficult situation now. He got his ex-gf pregnant and just recently gave birth to a healthy baby girl. This friend of mine already has a new gf but this happened prior to knowing that his recent ex was pregnant. It is unknown to me why this friend and his ex broke-up but im very sure that it was not related to the pregnancy because he was not aware of it in the first place. Anyway, so now the new gf is sort of selos with the ex and the kiddo. The new mommy actually went through the whole pregnancy all by herself. My friend was barely visible to the mom during her pregnancy because the new gf is really selosa. My friend was just there when the mom was in labor and when she gave birth. I think he also signed the kid's birth certificate. I'm just not so sure what their current arrangement is for the kid.

My friend is a doting father but the thing is, he is in a very complicated situation. I asked him last week if there was a possibility of reconciling with the ex for the kid and he told me they aren't going back together just because of the kid.

My two cents on this matter... My friend is right. Having a kid is not enough reason to be together. If I were the single mom, I wouldn't allow the father to sign the birth certificate because I have no relationship with the father anymore. I think it would complicate things if I were to get married in the future and my eldest would have a different surname than her siblings just because I let her use her father's surname. Well, it's not just about the name. I think above all, the fact I was the one who chose to continue the pregnancy alone and probably raise the child alone, then it just makes sense if I completely cut the father out of the picture. Yes, a kid needs a father but probably not the same person who wasn't there when they needed him.

I think most of the IT industry will agree with me that Java projects are depressingly decreasing these days. It's not just my company who's going through this sudden lie-low of java projects while the .Net industry is amazingly picking up new consumers. Let's just say 90% of my company's current project is in .net while 5% is in classic ASP and the remaining 5% in java. Sad no? Our team's major java client is still undergoing restructuring so there are really barely any projects for us except maintenance jobs. My boss is actually thinking of throwing most of the java team temporarily at doing business analysis work for the .net team's project. Hayyyy... What a waste of java techie minds?! From the numerous projects that I've been juggling last year, I am down to just 1 project to manage. Boring! Come to think of it, this must be the perfect time to let me go and fly to the US. I hope that L1 is moving.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Helsinki Shopping Guide Part 2

I guess my motive for writing a shopping related post is that I've been on a strict no-shopping policy for the last month so obviously, this deprivation is the root of all the evil. I've been trying to save money for the shopping spree I might(?!) do while in HK at the end of the month. I just hope this overly kuripot scheme will be worth it.

To continue with my Helsinki shopping guide...

Souvenirs
As far as I know, the cheapest souvenirs can be found in the Kauppatori Market Square. It is a flea market near the harbour. According to my former boss, if tinderas in the Philippines are as hot as those scandinavian vendor chicks , he wouldn't mind working as a palengke porter. Haha. No wonder people flock this market during summer. Fyi, in Finland, when the temperature goes 15degrees and up, Finn women start wearing summer clothes. And by summer clothes I mean sleeveless tees and two-piece (on the streets!). You can even see women sunbathing in the public parks wearing skimpy clothing. Anyway, the Finland shirts (t-shirts with Finland/Helsinki/Suomi prints) are cheaper here than anywhere else in the city center area. I also noticed that it's cheaper to buy these Finland shirts during summer season when it costs 20euros for 3 shirts while during winter it costs 15euros a piece!

Going back to souvenir shopping, you might also want to check out the souvenir shops near the Kauppatori Market along Etelaranta corner Etelaesplanadi. There are also a couple of souvenir shops along Pohjoisesplanadi but they're more expensive. This area is better known as the Esplanadi area which are the streets that surround the Helsinki Central Park. There are also a lot of souvenir shops within the Helsinki central area but I haven't visited all of them.

I think the best souvenirs from Finland are still the Nokia labelled stuff. You can buy these Nokia souvenirs in the Nokia House giftshop located in Keilalahti, Espoo. I am not so sure if outsiders can get inside the Nokia house but if you have Nokian friends, ask them to bring you to the Nokia house. It is Nokia's headquarters in Finland. I'm not sure if it's the biggest office they have but I think it's the best Nokia building I've seen in terms of architecture. Sale season in Nokia used to be sometime September-October. I am just not sure if it's still the same nowadays. They don't sell cellphones in their giftshop! FYI, buying cellphone in Finland is not advisable because it's still way cheaper to buy it here in pinas.

Helsinki Dining
In the city where everything is expensive, dining here is definitely pricey coming from a 3rd world country. The best cheap food that i've eaten is at the Kauppatori Market Square. There are these stalls selling paella cooked in huge paellera where I can fit in. It costs around less than 10euros/meal. When eating here, I usually order a bowl of paella and crispy fried small fish with sour cream sauce. This meal surely hits the spot! Of course, not to mention the hotties selling this paella whom my male colleagues enjoy gawking at while eating. Since this is an open-air market, be sure to bring jackets because weather in helsinki is sometimes erratic. It can be 15deg when you are under the sun but when you're on a shaded area, it might be 5degrees. Hehe. Also, watch out for flying seagulls that might swoop up your food.

If you want to try authentic Finnish cuisine, you might want to try Zetor restaurant where they serve reindeer meat. Yup! Santa's reindeer! I haven't personally tried the reindeer here but my former boss said it tasted good. I always order their Happy Tractor steak meduim well(which is not Finnish! maybe the cow is Finnish) that's so good. Btw, when ordering steak, when you say meduim well, it looks like meduim rare in pinoy standards so don't make a mistake of ordering medium rare... you might receive that uberly bloody live steak. Wallet damage is around 25-35euros/head.

A good italian fine dining resto in Helsinki is Papa Giovanni. Their pasta and steak is good. Dessert is very good especially the creme brulee. Wallet damage costs around 40-50euros/head including drinks.

I should just mention my big boss' favorite restaurant in Helsinki. It's an italian restaurant named Mamma Rosa near Scandic Continental Hotel where he usually stays in. Their pasta is good and of course the steak is good. Wallet damage is around 20-30euros/head including drinks.

Another italian pizzeria that we often go to is Pizzeria Dennis. They serve huge and great tasting pizzas which we often wonder how Finns are able to finish 1 whole pizza for themselves. When you get to your seat, you'll immediately be served with a free plate of salad which is also good. I love the pasta here especially the Spaghetti Pil Pil which is pasta with shrimps, garlic and parsley in spicy olive oil sauce. It actually sounds like Pasta Aglio Olio to me. Serving is good for 2 hungry Lisa's. You might even get a chance to meet the pinoy waiter working there. I totally forgot his name. Hehe. Wallet damage is around 15-20euros/head.

Another notable resto is Macu Restaurant at the ground floor of Crowne Plaza Hotel in Helsinki. It's a fine dining resto so expect paying a steep price. The carnivore me of course ordered the standard issue medium well steak. It should be good for 25,80€ a plate! I so love the ambiance here.

My favorite resto in Helsinki is Santa Fe which serves TexMex food. I usually order barbequed lamb chops or the king prawn skewer. This meal is usually accompanied with pear cider. Yummy! Wallet damage is around 20-30euros/head.

Did you notice the trend? My standard issue steak is the first thing that I order in most of the restaurants that I visit especially the fine dining ones. You think I am that rich to spend so much money paying for fine dining meals?? Nooooo! I am usually with my boss whenever we eat at those fancy restaurants so I really don't mind ordering steak. haha. I've also tried this Chinese resto near our apartment which sucks big time. I was really disappointed with the chinese food there. Villa Thai resto along Bulevardi was just so-so but it was pretty expensive for thai food. I've also tried Sandeep Indian Restaurant in Helsinki and it was ok.

Bar
I've been to a couple of bars in Helsinki but there is one place that we'd often go to. As in like out of 10, i've been to this place around 8 times. haha. The bar is named Belge Bar & Bistro and as its name suggests, it's a Belgian bar. In my opinion, this is one of the better interiored bars in the city. It actually looks like a big library with a bar. Don't ask me what this bar offers besides beer because I'm not a big drinker so I don't really know. I'd usually order 2 bottles of Smirnoff Ice and a Coke Light and that would be the end of a bar night for me. Anything in excess of that, I'm very sure I'd be drunk. I think a bottle of Smirnoff Ice costs around 7euros and beer costs around 3.5€-4€. On a heavy drinking night, expect to spend around 50€-70€ because I'm sure you'd be obliged to pay at least one round of drinks for your companions.

Zetor
Kaivopiha
Mannerheimintie 3-5, Helsinki

Papa Giovanni
World Trade Center
Keskuskatu 7, Helsinki

Mamma Rosa
Runeberginkatu 55, Helsinki

Pizzeria Dennis

Kansakoulukatu 1, Helsinki

Macu
Crowne Plaza Hotel
Mannerheimintie 50, Helsinki

Santa Fé
Aleksanterinkatu 15, Helsinki

Belge Bar & Bistro
Kluuvikatu 5, Helsinki

Friday, July 06, 2007

Helsinki Shopping Guide

I should have done this post a long time ago when I was at the peak of my shopping career (???) in Helsinki. Haha. For those visiting Helsinki and plan to do shopping, the best time of the year to go there is around late june until early august to take advantage of their end of season sale. Although shopping is generally more expensive in Finland, specific brands are really cheaper there than here in manila such as Zara and Mango. There are also european brands that haven't reached manila yet but have very good product line namely H&M, Vero Moda and Wedins. Although I am a shopaholic, I am still el cheapo. I don't buy unreasonably priced goods. I can't afford Class A shops such as LV, Chanel, Prada so I settle for the cheaper class B&C shops.

Tax-free shopping
There are shops that carry the tax-free logo. I personally don't avail of this tax-free shopping because:
1. You cannot open the goods that you bought until you are out of EU customs and have refunded your 12-16% tax refund.
2. This means you have to handcarry your purchases because there's no fucking way to refund them if they have been checked-in with your baggage.
3. Since you have to handcarry these purchases, imagine how many times you have to put them in all the x-ray machines you'll pass through just to bring them with you to Pinas. Let me count... 1 xray machine in Vantaa,Helsinki airport, 2 xray machines in Schipol,Amsterdam airport. Que horror!

I will only avail of the tax-free shopping in Helsinki if the 12-16% refund exceeds 3,000pesos and if all the hassle of carrying them around is so worth it. Otherwise, stuff them all in the check-in baggage.

Shoes
I love buying shoes in Helsinki because it's extremely rare that I will find somebody in manila wearing the same shoes. Walking shoes/sneakers are the ones that I mostly buy. The leather boots here are to die for but they are pretty expensive... around 100euros minimum.

El Cheapo me usually visit Wedins to buy shoes. If I am not mistaken, Wedins is a Swedish brand. They usually have 30-50% sale during the end of season. They carry a very nice line of walking shoes and sneakers. I usually buy my pasalubong for HH and pops here. Tip: the Wedins store located at Alexanterinkatu has a basement where they usually put their 70-90% off shoes!

Another great bargain place for shoes is at the K-citymarket (which is actually a supermarket!) shoes section in Kauppakeskus Ruoholahti. During sale season, rubbershoes and walking shoes are so cheap here. They carry the lines Nike, Reebok, Puma, Addidas, etc. I usually spend 1 to 2 hours rummaging their sale. Hehe.

Also inside the Kauppakeskus Ruoholahti mall is a shop named Brand Outlet Warehouse. I always try to visit this shop when they are on sale. They carry popular brands such as Diesel, Bronx, Miss Sixty, Pepe Jeans, Puma and Spirit. Do not buy Havaianas here because they're way too expensive. I love Bronx and Bianco shoes!

Clothes and Accessories
If there are 3 shops that I will max-out my credit limit, it would be Mango, H&M and Esprit (in that order!). Amazingly, it is cheaper to buy Mango and Zara stuff in Helsinki than in Manila. The newly opened Mango shop in Kamppi is the best place to visit during sale season because it's bigger than the other branch located in Alexanterikatu. They have more stocks and more fitting rooms. It is best to wait for the further reduction sale (which is around August) when doing your shopping because from the original 50% off, the prices go down to as low as 70% off. Mango is usually where my smuggled goodies come from. Hehe.

I am a big fan of H&M jackets. One thing I like about being in Europe is that they have the best jacket styles. I think the 4 seasons they have contributes to this mostly. There was one time when Pheng (my TL) and I went out to go shopping for summer clothes, we ended up buying 2 jackets each! Talk about summer clothes! Hahaha. Anyway, I think the biggest H&M store is the one along Aleksanterinkatu in Helsinki city center. Beware when going here during sale season, it gets pretty chaotic... long queues at the cashier and fitting rooms, ladies doing clothes fitting in every corner.

Although Esprit's headquarters is found in Germany, their sale season is not as exciting as with Esprit sale in the US. It's still way cheaper in the US (I'm not so sure if HongKong branch is cheaper though). There are these Esprit basic t-shirts that HH and I love to wear. These plain shirts are not sold here in the Philippines. I bought them for as low as 6euros each. The cheapest Esprit sale I've been to is in a shop named River Co. located in Itakeskus shopping mall which carries this brand.

There are also some notable clothes shop in Helsinki that I enjoy visiting once in a while: Vero Moda, Zara, Halonen, Aleksi 13, Seppälä, Anttila. When in a window shopping mood, I also visit Stockmann department store. Stockmann is a one-stop shop carrying the luxury and more expensive brands of clothes and shoes. It has its own supermarket, bakeshop, coffeshop, ice cream station, flowershop, etc. I rarely buy stuff from here because they're mostly expensive even on an end of season sale!

This is becoming a long post now and I'm getting tired. I'll cover shopping for souvenirs and dining in my next post.

Wedins Oy
Forum
Mannerheimintie 20, Helsinki

K-Citymarket
Ruoholahdenkauppakeskus
Itämerenkatu 21, Helsinki

Brand Outlet Warehouse
Ruoholahdenkauppakeskus
Itämerenkatu 21, Helsinki

Mango
Kamppi Center
Urho Kekkosenkatu 1, Helsinki

H&M
Aleksanterinkatu 11, Helsinki

River Company
Itäkeskus Shopping Center
Itäkeskus 5, Helsinki

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

It's Not Over

L1 papers are now moving. Boss told me that he has decided NOT to fasttrack my application because of some corporate reasons.

1. He's unsure about the future of the project that we have just recently proposed to a local client.
2. Buntis-5 (petname he uses to refer to my teamlead) just came back from her maternity leave and she's still trying to catch up after a long hiatus from work.
3. Fasttracking my application might endanger my scheduled HK vacation at the end of the month. Embassy interview might fall during the weekend I'm supposed to be in HK.
4. I haven't gotten my driver's license. Hehe
5. He's giving me 1.5months to settle everything I have to settle here in Manila.

Yep, you read it right. He's looking at sending me to the US next month. So far, his reasons are still valid so I wouldn't budge.

I've never really enjoyed rock music but after hearing Chris Daughtry, I think I'll be a convert pretty soon. I love his music!