Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Trish Thuy Trang - M2M Cover

Performing 'The Day You Went Away'

Monday, July 30, 2007

A Bum's Guide to Being Happy

Everyone says they want to be happy, and chase it like some elusive goal. I can vividly remember those times when I was genuinely happy, only to let it slip away for some time period before I could recapture it again.

I wanted to figure out what my state of mind was during the happiest times. So I came up with a list of items that I felt were the precursors to happiness. The closest I got to this state, the more natural joy existed.

I found out that my list of items that contributed to the happy state go against what they tell you you ought to be in order to be 'successful'. Listen closely to what your internal voice tells you. And try not to be influenced by all the outside voices telling you what you should do and how you should act.

Here's the list:

1. Lower expectations

Many people maintain very high expectations of what they want to be and what they want to have. They want to be good-looking even if not all can look like Brad Pitt. They want to be rich and have nice luxuries even though they can't afford them. Many want to be popular and respected, and are willing to put on an act in order to get it.

When you lower your expectations for yourself and accept the way things are, you become more relaxed, easy-going and cheerful. I went through the phase when I just accepted that I would never be hunk-type handsome or own a multi-story house with several cars. I had the thought that what I had now was probably as as good as it gets. That I may never achieve anything else. And I was fine with that. The freedom and natural high I felt at that moment was indescribable. When in doubt, lower your expectations and let go of your wants.

2. Simplify your life

I was most unhappy during those times when my life was most complicated. I remember when I was trying to do several different things at the same time. I would have multiple projects and problems at work; then get home and watch and record a couple of TV shows I didn't want to miss. I juggled several different goals and kept watch over my daily progress.

From the outside, it looked like I was a big success, but in reality I was in terrible shape. I had made my life complicated to the point that I no longer called the shots for myself and had become a puppet to my activities.

On the other hand, those times when I had simplified my life to one or two of the most important things, was when I was most happy. Try this - limit yourself to one thing at a time, preferably the thing you enjoy the most or what is most important to you.

Rather than watching a lot of TV, just follow one TV program and turn off the rest. Instead of trying to accommodate everyone, just concentrate on your close friends for the time being. Instead of trying to follow the latest fashion trends, just buy one pair of pants and call it a day. See the effect.

3. Enjoy your family and friends

Early this year, I saw my mother and father again after almost three years away from home. They were having a rough time with health and money problems, but seeing them being happy again gave me an overwhelming sense of joy which I had forgotten how it felt. It is similar to the pleasure I feel when I see my friends do well for themselves and get what they want.

I love that sense of camaraderie and brotherhood when you're with your closest friends, and you can just relax and be yourself, go along with the flow, and not hold anything back. Having people who intimately understand you and who will celebrate your highs and commiserate your lows is priceless.

4. Don't worry

When all else fails, I am reminded me of the best advice I've ever heard: 'Don't worry'. Experience has taught me that nothing is really as bad as it looks. And that no one can predict the future. What may look bad now may look silly ten years later.

For instance, you may be worried about a lot of things. You might be worried about getting sick, or losing your job, or being alone, or not having enough money. You can take practical action to avoid those situations, but worrying will not do anything to improve it, so why worry at all.

The past few months, I've been in contact with a lot of people who always seem to give me something that I should worry about. The constant barrage of worry reminders did get to me, and I found myself getting scared and thinking that perhaps I should be more worried than I am. And then I came back to my senses. Do what you think is best and do not worry.

Your personal list of things that make you happy may be different. My list of items are based on my own personal experience. These things won't make you rich. It won't make you successful or popular. But it might make you happier.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Jeepney Inspiration

I'm rereading the book Seven Laws of Spiritual Success written by Deepak Chopra. For years, I've had this as a gift almost six years ago, and went over it rather quickly - too quickly in fact. It's only now that I'm starting to appreciate the concepts contained in the book. It's completely different from what they teach you in big corporations or in school.

I've had glimpses of inspiration in the past that I now realize were close to some of the ideas in the book. It was during these short instances where I had this overwhelming feeling of freedom and confidence that I could do anything.

I remember one time while I was lining up to ride a jeepney to either go home or go to work, I forgot which. All of a sudden, I had this emotion that I could just let go and let things stay the way they are, that I would accept whatever would happen to me in the future, while at the same time pursuing what I loved doing the best. It was this moment that I felt this sense of joy, that I could do anything I want and things will turn out alright.

Up to this day, I still remember this feeling vividly. And I would recapture part of it once in a while, but not to the extent that I had before. I believe Deepak refers to this in the book as the law of least effort and law of detachment. The concept where you can achieve great things through letting go and embracing uncertainty, not being attached to any result.

I'll write more about this in future posts. I also need to finish reading the book. If you're curious, there's a good summary of the seven laws here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

WinAmp and Enhancer Plug-In for Better Music

If you listen to music on your computer, you'll be interested to know that there's software that actually improves the playback quality of CDs, mp3s, and other media formats on the PC. I was shocked at how big a difference it made and how much richer the songs sounded.

To get this experience, you'll need to install Winamp with the Enhancer plugin. Remember Winamp? Back then it was pretty popular and it's still widely used as of the present time. It's a free media player that was designed to be extensible through plug-ins - software components developed by third parties that enhance and add new functionality. You take the basic player and optionally install whatever plug-ins you want. You can also add skins to the program, that is, add a user interface template to it to give it a different look. I remember back then my brother used Winamp with some sort of customized anime skin.

I was intimidated with the complexity and customizability of Winamp, preferring instead to use Windows Media Player, the default music player in Windows. I didn't really understand why other people would take the trouble to select different skins and experiment with various plug-ins on their Winamp when I could just simply double-click an mp3 file to open it in Windows Media Player, listen to the song, and close it when done.

I get it now though. There are many reasons why you would want to use Winamp, but let me tell you mine. The main reason is simply because if you use it with the Enhancer plug-in, it dramatically improves the sound quality of the music played. You'll have to try it yourself to know what I mean. Everything sounds sharper and more pronounced, and I can hear the different layers to the song.

The Enhancer plug-in also allows you more control over the equalizer depending on the type of song played and your musical preference. For instance, if you like deep loud bass, you can set it so that the bass is more pronounced. If you like drums and cymbals, you can isolate it so that it sounds louder. I discovered that I'm more of a Treble guy, and would adjust for a higher treble setting on some of my favorite songs.

There is also a nifty Volume function that automatically adjusts the volume when playing multiple songs in the playlist. A frequent case is having a list of songs queued up, with some songs recorded at a much higher volume than the rest, causing the sound to go loud in one song, then quiet in the next. With Enhancer, it adjusts the volume automatically so you don't have to do it yourself.

But the most important reason for using Winamp is because it's fun. You can try out new plug-ins, rearrange the window components (much like a stackable mini component stereo system), select different skins to reduce tedium and many other things I haven't experimented with yet. Winamp adds much enjoyment to the music listening experience.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)

Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)
written by Mary Schmich
music single by Baz Luhrmann

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

(original article by Mary Schmich c/o Chicago Tribune)

Monday, July 2, 2007

Coffee and Beer

Lately, I've started to appreciate the beneficial effects of drinking two well-known beverages: coffee and beer. I didn't realize just how stimulating they were until a few weeks ago.

I used to have coffee only when out with friends at starbucks. I'd order a tall 'coffee of the day'because it was the cheapest one you can order. Always plain black, no cream or sugar, to get the full effect of the caffeine. Once I tried getting the Javanilla shake and though it tasted good, I quickly regretted having it, as I didn't get the same buzz and hyperactivity I had with regular coffee. I found that getting the full black coffee effect makes me a better listener and table companion.

For some reason, coffee tastes best when drank from a medium-sized paper cup, and it goes well when it is drunk while waiting for something, such as in an a hospital, or auto-repair shop. It also goes surprisingly well with a burger and fries at McDonald's or Wendy's (try it instead of having a softdrink). Life is good when you can relax at home with a cup of coffee while watching TV or reading a book.

Many years ago while working in Ortigas, I was one of the most stressed out people at work. My former boss gave me a hard time and there were a couple of other unpleasant people to deal with in the office. During that time, I would relax with a beer or two when I got home. I don't know what it is about the properties of beer, but it helped me get through that tense period. Oddly enough, my job drove me to drinking, but in a comedic way.

There were also times in the past when I would feel sick, either with a cold or sore throat or some sort of ailment where you knew you would feel a lot worse physically the following day. On some of those days, my officemates would want to go out after work, and I'd beg off, saying I wasn't feeling well. To which they would promptly reply that several beers would wipe out the illness, and that if I wanted to get well it was in my best interest to hang out with them. And the amazing thing is that it actually worked - by some miracle, I would instantly feel better after a couple of beers. And more often than not, my sickness would be eradicated and I would be healthy and active at work the following day.

I used to think that it was actually the company of friends boosting my spirits, rather than the liquor, that helped me get well. But now I'm thinking that the beer itself must have something to do with it. Because lately, on some nights I wouldn't be feeling that great, then have a drink, and it would just reinvigorate me. Now I know that alcohol is supposed to be a depressant, but for some reason it has the opposite effect on me. After drinking, I actually feel like going running, or doing a lot of push ups and sit ups. Drinking beer while exercising is something entirely new to me.

This new awareness of these two wonder drinks makes me understand why people get addicted to caffeine or become alcoholics. The tendency is to abuse these two stimulants to the effect that you get desensitized to their benefits, leading you to consume more and more of it to get that extra buzz. For this reason, it is important to limit your consumption of coffee and beer to get the full effect when you do drink them. So you won't be seeing me having them every day. Maybe only every other day. Or only during Friday nights and the weekend. Drink up!

Sunday, July 1, 2007