New Nifty Gadget

Having the right tools is an important thing in order for us to do our work properly. You cannot build a house if you only have a hammer. You need a lot of tools and the proper equipment to do so. And if you have power tools, that would be great.

One thing that make humans rise above other creatures is our ability to create or invent tools and instruments to improve our lives. Like the invention of the wheel that started the era of mechanization. Or the development of the pointed weapons, like the spear and arrow, that started the arms race. Look how far we’ve come.

One duty that I have, or more so a responsibility, that I do every week, requires using the right gadget. However, the old one that I have is so worn out. I have even used duct tape to fix it to keep it working, yet it is plainly giving out. It is not as powerful as it used to. Afterall the equipment is almost 30 years old.

So I told my boss, oh I forgot I am my own boss, that I needed a new gadget to replace the old one. For how can I do a good job, if I am using a sub par tool?

But before you think, that my task is something critical or life-and-death undertaking, or something grand of a project that I needed some sophisticated power tool, what I am pertaining to is my mundane task of cleaning our floor, and what I need is a new vacuum system.

At least I can say that I own the floor that I clean. Even so, I take pride on doing my work.

By the way, the vacuum cleaner is not a modern machine. Its development dates back to the 1860’s. It revolutionized how we clean our homes. When it first came out it was more of a luxury equipment as it was so expensive. After World War II, with the drop in the cost of production, the middle class were able to afford the vacuum cleaner. Nowadays, it is in most households.

Here’s my old equipment that is dying on me:

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For my readers especially from my homeland, I want to let you know that we don’t have any house helpers here in the US. We do most of the house chores ourselves. If you have young children, please let them participate in house work and not rely every thing to the house help. Work is good for them. It builds character and it trains them for life.

So one weekend we headed out to the local vacuum store and I got a shiny and up to date central vacuum system. Here it is:

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I know it is just the same-old same-old vacuum that I got and not a high-tech or futuristic gadget. Yet it is still an upgrade of what I used to employ back in the Philippines, the walis and the bunot.

Of course I still have my robot vacuum, iRobot Roomba, that remains functional. But it’s too slow and in some areas of the house, the Roomba does not do a good job. So I still rely on good old human-powered cleaning machine. That’s me!

It is inaccurate if I would claim that I am the only one who is doing the cleaning in our house. My wife and my kids do as well. Except my eldest is now away in college, and not too long from now my youngest will be too. So I will be retaining the title of “floor manager,” that is in-charge of keeping the floor clean, for a long time.

For my new vacuum, “you suck!” And that’s a good thing.

Three Wishes for the New Year

I know January is almost half-way, but I hope this New Year’s wishes are not too late. My wishes for you, yes you who are reading this, are:

1. To remain in good health.

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Being healthy though is not an accident. It is a constant choice of having healthy habits and lifestyle. It is well-known that the top new year’s resolution is about getting healthier. We also know that membership to local gyms spikes in January. Unfortunately, some of the people who were so eager to “live healthy” at the beginning of the year fall off the wagon, so to speak, in a few months or even weeks after their resolution.

Joining a local health club might help motivate you, but it is not really needed to stay healthy, as there are a thousand other ways to do it. The key is sticking to whatever resolution you made.

2. To experience warmth and love in your family.

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In today’s society, in our pursuit of our dreams, sometimes we forget the more important things in this life. What does it mean to have a job promotion, or a better pay, or a bigger house, or a more luxurious ride, if our relationships with our spouse, or our children, or with our family in general are wanting?

Invest more time with your family, for that’s what really matters. Nobody in their deathbed wishes that they should have spent more time in the office or that they could have had a bigger TV. It’s the failed relationships that they are regretful of.

3. To live a life with a purpose.

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To have a meaningful existence, we should have a purpose in this life. Whether that be to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, or to save the Galapagos penguins, or to be the best shoe repairman in the world, or be the best dad to your children are all good ambitions.

That purpose in life cannot be decided by somebody else. You have to determine that for yourself.

Actually the above wishes and aspirations are for myself. But I’m glad to share them with you. May we all have a prosperous new year.

 

(*all photos taken with an iPhone)

Chasing Sunrise

Today is winter solstice. That means here in the northern hemisphere, this day has the shortest daylight hours, and tonight will be the longest night. Where I live right now here in Iowa, it will be almost 15 hours of darkness tonight. Though in Barrow, the northernmost town in Alaska, they don’t see the sun for 67 days in the winter. I’m sure the next sunrise will be much-anticipated after such a very long night.

I like to see the sunrise. Many people do. Somehow for me, there’s something magical to this daily event. There’s something more than just a spectacle.

Few summers ago when we went to Grand Canyon in Arizona, we were told not to miss the chance to see the sunrise there, as it has a peculiar appeal. That entails we have to wake up before four in the morning (sunrise during summer time is just a little past 5), drive to the advised “best” viewing area, which was almost an hour away from where we were staying, just to capture the grandeur of the sunrise.

Was it worth it? Definitely!

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watching the sunrise

When I was young, my father encouraged me to take running for my exercise and as a form of sports. If you know Manila, with its heat and smog, the only tolerable time to run is early in the morning. That is just before the sunrise.

So my dad and I would weave our way in the dark streets of Sampaloc, running in the morning, while the rest of the neighborhood were still snoring. It was not a long run, perhaps 2 kilometers or so. Though the roosters were already crowing, and some dogs may already be up and would bark as we pass through.

My father told me that during this time of the day, the only people we would encounter in the streets were good and hard-working people, who were trying to get a head start of the day. Sure enough, we would see newspaper boys delivering their stocks, vendors preparing their goods, and other folks scuttling their way to work even before the sun rises.

Back when I was in highschool, my family ventured into the business of bangus (milkfish) farming. We leased a small area in Laguna de Bay, where we have erected a fish pen to raise the bangus. Though that business of ours only lasted less than 2 years as we barely broke even, just enough to pay what we borrowed.

During one occasion, I accompanied my father to buy the bangus fingerlings from a fish nursery somewhere in Pasig or Pateros, I don’t really remember. I was 13 or 14 years old at that time. These fingerlings were what we would place and grow in our fish pen.

We left our home in Sampaloc, Manila around 3 o’clock in the morning to commute, so we could be at the fish nursery way before the sunrise. After purchasing the bangus fingerlings, which were smaller than my pinkie, we then travelled with our hundreds of fingerlings aboard a large banca (pump boat), via the Pasig River into Laguna de Bay.

As we approached to enter Laguna de Bay in our rented banca, the sun was just peeping in the horizon. It was one of the most glorious sunrises I could remember. And it’s not that we were even vacationing or sitting idly on the beach. In fact, my father and I were working.

I know there are more hard-working people, like the taho vendor who have to get his supply around 4 or 5 in the morning so he could sell them that day. Or the baker who needs to get up in the wee hours of the morning to prepare and bake the bread, including our favorite pan de sal. Or the flower vendors of Quiapo who have to get their merchandise from Dangwa, way before the crack of dawn. Or the palengke vendors of Divisoria and Baclaran, and other markets for that matter, having to haul their merchandise very early in the morning. Or the jeepney drivers already plying the streets of Metro Manila before daylight. These people are continually chasing sunrise.

And it’s not just in the Philippines, but all over the world, there are men, women, and even young kids, who are already up and working before the first ray of sunlight appears in the sky. To them greeting the sunrise is more than just a spectacle. It is their means to survive.

To all sunrise chasers out there, I salute you. May all your labors bring you what you’re pursuing in this life. And may you all have a very good day!

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view of the sunrise from our place

 

(*written after reading an entry of a fellow Filipino blogger)

Christmas in June

Sunday is a day of chores and house cleaning in our home. Unlike the norm of the middle and upper class families in the Philippines where they have house helper or maid, we don’t have one in our home. So me, my wife, and my two kids share in all the household chores. Having your kids share responsibilities for regular chores around the house teaches them the virtue of work. And it does not mean that we could not have fun while we are working. Because we do.

I usually have my iPod on and listen to my collection of 80’s music when I clean the floor. Yes, “Floor Manager” is my designated title. My 80’s music (from my highschool and college days) includes songs from Spandau Ballet, Tears for Fears, Sting, The Cure, A-Ha, Depeche Mode, REM, Mister Mister, Pet Shop Boys and many others. It makes me feel young again.

My teenage daughter will most of the time listen to her music on her iPod too, while she does her chores. She loves Classical music and only listens to these. I am not sure where she got her genes for the appreciation of the works of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, Chopin, Vivaldi, Debussy, and others. Maybe we really have a highly cultured and aristocratic bloodline coursing in our veins. It just skipped me.

For my son who is now nine years old, he is in charge of dusting the window blinds and furnitures. He likes to listen to music also while working. So he have our CD player at full blast when he is working. And what kind of music he listens to? He plays Christmas music! His favorite album is Mannheim Steamroller Christmas Symphony. And he even dances with it as he performs his tasks. It does not matter whether it is Christmas season, or it is in the month of June and in the middle of summer, we have Christmas songs blaring in our radio.

Does music help us do our work better? Studies have shown that music increases workers’ productivity  by about 6 to 10%. It appears that music helps us work harder too. In one British study performed in healthy college students, they let them ride stationary bike while the tempo of the music they are listening to are adjusted 10% faster and 10% slower. The researchers found that speeding up the music increased how fast and how hard the participants pedaled while slowing the music has the opposite effect.

Music uplifts our spirit and puts us in the right mood as well. And what kind of music can make you feel jolly? Christmas songs of course!

I don’t mind having Christmas music in the summer, as long as my kids do their work and have fun completing their chores. I just hope the neighbors will not hear “Deck the Halls” in midsummer, or they will think we are a bunch of weirdos. Or maybe they will just think that we are a bunch of hardworking Christmas elves.

(* image from here)

iWork, iPlay, iPay

Having a recent vacation myself, I can say that coming back to work after a time off can be at times difficult. Sometimes your trip is so exhausting that you need a vacation from a vacation.

So you’re back at work, but your mind is still on vacation mode. You forget all your passwords to get into your office computer. You forget your officemates’ and employees’ names. And sometimes you even forget how to do your work!

Many times you wish you could extend your vacation, until you get all the bills you racked-up during your leisure trip, then that will kick you back into work, work, work mode once again. You even sing the 7 dwarfs’ song: “I owe, I owe, so off to work I go, I owe, I owe!”

If  we only look forward to having a vacation to get out of our work, or we only work to pay for our vacation, then I believe something is wrong.  We just live in a vicious cycle and we are not living right.

“We work to become, not to acquire.” – Elbert Hubbard