Tuesday, November 21, 2017

History on the beaches of Tacloban

The venue for a workshop we attended in Tacloban last week was Patio Victoria near the airport. Upon arriving at the venue, one couldn't help but notice the historical marker on what appeared at first as a big piece of rock on the property. The 'rock' turned out to be a pillbox constructed by the Japanese forces along what was part of the beaches of Tacloban as part of the defense against the impending landings of the American forces who were to commence the liberation of the Philippines in World War II.

Pillbox at the Patio Victoria parking lot
Another pillbox at the beach
These are what remain of the defenses constructed during the Second World War. You can just imagine how the place looked like back then and perhaps think about how many people died in the area from all the fighting that took place there. My friends and I were joking that perhaps there were ghosts in the area and its not a place where you would want to take a stroll after dark. Further along the same coast is the place where Gen. Douglas McArthur landed on the beaches of Leyte to declare hist return to the Philippines.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Chocolate review: Cicada Artisan Chocolate Salted Caramel

Another chocolate bar I got from Sydney is this salted caramel from the same artisan chocolate maker from the bazaar. It is a milk chocolate and therefore is an exception to the series of articles on dark chocolates that I posted here.

Salted caramel chocolate from Cicada
Details on the chocolate
Close-up of details including nutrition information
The maker states that the bar may contain nuts and gluten. I think this is a very honest statement considering all the hype about others being 'gluten-free' or 'nut-free'. This is good milk chocolate and those who love chocolate shouldn't be too conscious about the nuts and gluten unless, of course, they are specifically allergic to these. I would definitely buy this chocolate again if I see them in a shop here or abroad.

On "phone zombies" and road safety

[This is my post for the World Day of Remembrance for all the victims of road crashes]

You see a lot of people these days who are always on their smart phones. Many are walking while doing something with their phones whether making a call, typing away, listening to music or perhaps attending to social media. Many are not aware of what are happening around them and this puts them in a situation where that increases their vulnerability. There are those who cross streets without checking for oncoming traffic. There are those walking along the roadside who are not mindful of the likelihood of being sideswiped by vehicles. As such, there is a need to address this behavioral concern to reduce the occurrence of incidents that could lead to deaths if not injuries.

There is a nice article I read recently about an initiative in the Netherlands where they installed pavement traffic lights:

Scott, G.L. (2017) "Dutch City Installs Pavement Traffic Lights to Help 'Phone Zombies'," Inverse, https://www.inverse.com/article/38472-dutch-city-installs-pavement-traffic-lights-to-help-phone-zombies?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=culture&utm_campaign=photo, (Last accessed 11/19/2017).

The assessment for this initiative is quite limited - one day as mentioned in the article - but is promising especially from the perspective of innovation. We need such innovative thinking in order to address the issues about safety. This is but one example of many aimed at curbing road crashes that lead to injuries and deaths particularly with respect to the most vulnerable among us.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Of collections and model airplanes

I have several hobbies collecting various items of interest to me. When I was much younger I had several collections, too, including stamps (I was pretty much into philately at one time) and coins. My stamp and coin collections started with the stamps and coins Tatay brought from his trips overseas particulary from Japan and Indonesia. He made a lot of friends from different countries and they exchanged greetings on Christmas and New Year for a few years. It was later when he participated in an international training program in Tokyo when suddenly we had mail coming from many countries including Africa, Europe and Asia when I was encouraged by my mother to start a collection. She and a close cousin even bought me albums for where my stamps can be organized.

My coin collection started with Japanese coins but I eventually got more from various countries thanks to an uncle who was a seaman. His pasalubong to me were coins from the countries whose ports their ship called on.

Fast forward to the present and I now have a few active collections including my humble watch collection (mostly Swatches that I use regularly) and model airplanes. The planes aren't the kind you assemble from so many parts but rather the ones airlines and shops typically sell as scale replicas of their own aircraft. I only collect planes from airlines the wife and I have flown on. And so there are not so many of them but they have already occupied a good amount of space on my office shelf.

British Airways model plane being assembled. This was purchased by the wife during her most recent trip.
Qantas and Cathay Pacific model planes mounted, and British Airways model underway. I got the Cathay and Qantas models from a toy fair where one booth was selling models. I was tempted to purchase others but I had to keep by my code about airlines we have flown on.

The challenge for me is to find models of planes I've flown in the past and that includes one of the now defunct Northwest Airlines (acquired and now flying as Delta) and another of Egypt Air. I also don't have JAL and ANA planes. I hope to get one from each airline soon as well as those from Asiana and Korean Air.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Chocolate review: Ghirardelli Intense Dark Toffee Interlude

We haven't had some Ghirardelli chocolates for quite a while. This was mainly because we opted to get some new chocolates - those we haven't had before - during our trips abroad. But then the opportunity presented itself when I spotted a small shop selling Ghirardelli's and decided to purchase a couple of bars. One of them is this relatively sweet one for a dark chocolate.

Intense dark toffee interlude
Details at the back
Description of the chocolate and the general process of its production
Nutrition information
This is supposed to be dark chocolate but the % is not indicated in the box. I mentioned this was relatively sweeter than other dark chocolates but the sweetness (due to the toffee) blends well with the bitterness you'd expect from dark chocolates. Despite that, the wife doesn't really like it as she thinks its still too sweet. I bought this for 250 pesos (about 5 USD), which I thought was quite fair for good quality chocolates.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Chocolate review: Cicada Artisan Chocolate Almond & Sea Salt

I continue with the recent series of posts on chocolates. It may seem as if we are having too much chocolate but these are ones we tasted weeks or days ago and we do try to manage our "cache" so that we have good chocolates to enjoy whenever we want to. Among the good one we got to enjoy is this artisan chocolate from Sydney.

Cicada Almond & Sea Salt packaging looked quite quaint
Details on the chocolate at the back
Close-up showing the ingredients, info on the maker and nutrition information

This is really good chocolate and my only regret is not being able to buy more of these when I was in Sydney. The taste and texture were just right and not raw as you might expect from an artisan chocolate. I have written before about the chocolate and sea salt and the saltiness here is just right and does well to enhance the chocolate.

Chocolate review: Venchi Nocciolato Fondente/ Dark Chocolate & Hazelnuts

Another bar the Clairvoyant bought from the Venchi shop in Rome is this dark chocolate with hazelnuts.

Venchi's Nocciolato Fondente
Information on the chocolate at the back
This chocolate claimed to have at least 56% cacao.
Nutrition information on the bar
This was another hit in terms of quality. The chocolate was just right in terms of the mix of smoothness and bitterness. This was definitely another good buy from the trip to Rome and the Clairvoyant, who recently was in Hong Kong, made the observation that Venchi chocolates at HKIA seemed to be significantly more expensive than those she bought in Rome. I guess that's because the shops at HKIA have a margin of profit? I was a but surprised though because you can get Venchi chocolates at Bacchus at a relatively good price.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Chocolate review: Valrhona Christian Lacroix Grand Crux Noir

I almost forgot writing about this box of chocolates and so I'm posting this on this All Saints' Day and perhaps try to put some "Undas" angle to this article.

The box is already quite enticing and perhaps what led to this being purchased at the duty free shop
Details at the back of the wrap-around packaging
I enlarged this a bit to clearly show the four type of bonbons
Nutrition information and the price tag on the cover
The box after the removal of the fancy cover
As if the suspense was not enough there's another cover for good measure
Removing the cover reveals 16 bonbons
A close-up of the bonbons

Priced at 35 USD when it was purchased, this was definitely a good buy. The exquisite chocolate bonbons seem more appropriate for Valentine's Day but is perfect for any day including today. As mentioned in the movie "Forrest Gump", life is like a box of chocolates. At times, it can be simply sweet. Some times it can be quite spicy. I don't think you really don't know what you'll get because in many cases, you can have a fair expectation of what you'll get or what you can look forward to. But then the latter cases are those brought about by one's actions and the consequences are to be expected if not wanted or desirable. That is life and how those who went ahead of us lived it. We remember them today and with love.


Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Chocolate review: Vietnamcacao Valentine Chocolate

We close October with another chocolate I got from the trip to Ho Chi Minh City. This is a dark chocolate from Vietnamcacao curiously called Valentine chocolate. I guess, this is being marketed as something you give for Valentine's Day?

Vietnamcacao's Valentine dark chocolate
Details at the back of the package
The chocolate claimed to contain 75% cocoa powder but only 24% cocoa butter
Information on the maker

At 2.50 USD (about 128 PHP), this chocolate is better than the company's Origin, which I featured in a previous post. It doesn't taste as raw as it is more refined even for a 75% cacao content. However, it is not as smooth as the Henk chocolate we ate before this one. And so among the three Vietnamese chocolates I have written about so far, this will be #2.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Swatch diver's watch 2 - Cuttlefish

We have three Swatch divers' watches. Two are with me and one with the Clairvoyant. This is the latest one that she gave to me as a gift for our wedding anniversary 3 years ago. It is a newer model that she got while traveling to London and is called the Cuttlefish.

The watch has a plastic cover, a rotating bezel and silicone strap with plastic buckle.
The transparent face shows the watch movement.
Like the other watch, you can easily replace the battery from the back using a coin or screw driver to open the encasement. Be careful not to lose the rubber seal that's under the battery encasement cover.
This is a 20bar watch that you can use for swimming, snorkeling or diving. We have used it while swimming in Palawan and Cebu in our more recent trips. There's some sign of corrosion when I last changed batteries and shown in the photo above.
I am not sure if this will be my last Swatch but it will be for a while as I juggle the watches I already have. There's just too many designs for Swatch watches and I prefer the ones I can use when I do fieldwork or swimming so it has to be waterproof like these divers watches.

Friday, October 20, 2017

My first divers' watch - Swatch Radar

I got my first divers' watch along with my first automatic watch back in 2004. I got this also from the same shop at Akihabara (Laox) where I got my other Swatches from 2004. I had wanted a watch that I could swim with. I don't dive but we enjoy going to the beaches or the swimming pools of the better hotels we stay at.

This watch is called the Radar.
Instead of a plastic, metal or silicone strap, this one had a textile strap with velcro
Water resistance is at 200m and I have used this watch for swimming in Bohol, Palawan, Cebu, Iligan, Sarangani, Bali and other places where I could take a dip. You can easily change the battery from the back.
A close-up of the watch face doesn't allow you to see when it was madebut an even closer inspection of the bottom with a magnifier shows it was made in 1997.
This 20-year old watch is another favorite of mine and which I often take along with me to trips where I could expect to have an opportunity to swim. It is also among the watches I prefer to take on field work as it is a reliable watch and looks regular enough not to catch unwanted attention.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Another old Swatch automatic - Aniak

I wrote about my first Swatch not too long ago. This time around, I am featuring another Swatch automatic watch that is my wife's. I did get this initially for myself but it ended up with her. Maybe it was the design? I was intrigued by the design when I saw it in a pile in a Japanese shop. I did not hesitate to include it with my purchases that day.

The design was apparently inspired by ancient cave paintings
The watch face is transparent and shows the movement. This model is called Aniak.
A closer look reveals the model that was released in 1995. This makes it a couple of years 'newer' than my 1993 Swatch automatic. It's still an old one at 22 years.
A close look at the bracelet shows more creatures.
Here's a photo of the movement from the transparent back. The ETA 2840 automatic movement uses 23 jewels and runs at 21,600 beats/hour with a power reserve of 48 hours.
These watches had a default 3bar water resistance meaning you could use it for washing hands or some exposure to rain.
While this is only occasionally used, we consider it one of our favorites in our collection and one that our daughter will probably like to wear when she's of age.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chocolate review: Venchi Dark Chocolight 75%

The Clairvoyant returned from her trip to Europe with several bars of chocolate from Venchi. We first tasted Venchi chocolates I purchased from local wine shop Bacchus and were delighted by the quality of the chocolates. And so when she happened upon the Venchi gelato shop in Rome, she remembered to get a few bars to bring back home.

Venchi's Chocolight 75% is good dark chocolate
Details on the chocolate at the back
Nutrition information on the chocolate

The chocolate did not disappoint. It was a smooth one considering 75% cacao. I didn't ask how much this bar cost but since it was bought at the Venchi shop itself, it would be less expensive than the previous Venchi chocolate I featured here. That was priced 125 pesos (about 2.5 USD at current exchange rates).

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Chocolate review: Twenty squares 55% cocoa dark chocolate blood orange

The haul of chocolates from Australia in July included a bar of Twenty Squares chocolate. As we have already found that dark chocolates and oranges go quite well together, this was a no-brainer purchase for me. It did not disappoint. I bought this one from the convenience store at the ground floor of my hotel in Melbourne and as I wasn't able to open it while there, I decided to get another bar in case it was good and we wanted to have another.

Twenty Squares 55% dark chocolate with blood orange
Details on the chocolate at the back
I like a good story about the chocolate I am eating and there is one for this chocolate, which claims to be gluten free with no artificial ingredients.
Nutrition information

Needless to say, we enjoyed this chocolate, which was smooth at 55%. It was as expected for dark chocolate with orange. Its a good thing we have another bar in our cache. This series on chocolates I bought from my trip to Australia will be overtaken by posts of chocolates I brought from my more recent trip to Vietnam. Then there is also the haul of Italian chocolates from the earlier European trip the Clairvoyant had in May. I will try to post about each of these chocolates as we eat them from time to time.