Friday, May 16, 2008 at Friday, May 16, 2008 | 0 comments
I'm starting to play chess again. I don't know what's getting on my head. But I feel like I need to exercise my brain more often. And chess would be the best way to do so since I'm already familiar with its rules. Although I know the rules, I didn't play the game as a sport or a hobby before. If my guess is right, I've just played more or less 50 chess games in 15 years since I first learned it when I was 13. It was my father who taught me the basics. I only played against high school friends who, like me, were very amateurs and didn't even know the rules of the game in a real tournament. No time control, no Reti or Sicilian opening, not even some special tactics. Nothing at all. Just plain capturing and checkmating. I beat almost all of them, and almost all of them beat me in return, much to my chagrin.

When I realized that I was neither gifted nor talented in the game to even become a decent amateur player, I simply gave it up and played no more of it. But now it's all coming back to me. Not the idea of becoming a master, but of beating the damn chess program in my computer and lording it over my friends. I simply figured that if there are many masters out there, there are even more low-level players like me around.

I started playing the game again last Wednesday. The first three games were very frustrating, I nearly cursed the chess software. I lost them all in no more than 30 moves. After the third game, I immediately looked into some of Grandmaster Wesley So's games in the Internet archives (particularly those of him being up against GM Susanto Megaranto and GM Ahmed Adly) and check their openings and tactics, and guess what? I improved! Well, at least that's what I thought of myself. I 'almost' managed to salvage a draw with my fourth and fifth games against the computer, but being a computer capable of knowing thousand to million possibilities of a winning game, I eventually lost the end games, another proof that some time in the future computers will outwit us. Remember when a computer chess program of IBM defeated then world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997?

It might be a little too late to study chess to improve my playing, but that's exactly what I'm planning to do. I don't know, but it kinda challenged me. As of now, I have learned the algebraic chess notation. Next in line will be the openings. Sounds ambitious. They said that during the Renaissance, chess was a part of noble culture and it was used to teach war strategy. Well then, it's applicable to life challenges, as it is about evaluating possibilities. It's nice being two to three steps advanced. It's like you have some power to read what your opponent thinks.
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The prices of goods and commodities have been soaring sky high lately. And coming from a lower middle class background with a roughly average standard of living, we're feeling the pinch. Veggies, meat, oil, cement — even pandesal! Life isn't as easy as I anticipated when I got married. Our plan of saving up a certain amount of money in the bank every month isn't likely to materialize in a time like this. Thankfully, we don't have to get frantic over apartment rental yet, since we decided to live under one roof with my parents for a while. Of course, we're no freeloaders. I'm still paying for our electric bill, sack of rice (now amounting to P1,700 — up from P1,200 two months ago) and LPG (now amounting to P700) once in a while, though we don't eat much in the house. Speaking of electric bill, we paid over P3,000 last month, 15% more than what we had paid the previous month. That's still what we paid for after almost burying our refrigerator in oblivion.

Whatever the motives of the MalacaƱang in criticizing the biggest power supplier in the Philippines that is Meralco — forcing them to reduce the price of power will be much appreciated. It would surely help us make both ends meet. Too bad oil price is also out of control and it seems that there is nothing we can do about it, except to cross our fingers and hope that OPEC will stop manipulating oil production rate. Ironically, the standard of living in the country is rising. I remember two years ago, we used to buy a cup of meal (meat) at a price of P25. Now it's P40. Even veggies can't be called "alternatives" now, since its now costly, too. After TV and laptop, I don't know if Kuchi and I will still push through the plan of purchasing a light motorcycle, an underbone (probably, a Honda Wave 125cc), which we can use around the town. We're wondering whether it is still practical, although we're not just after the practicality thingy (we don't want to miss the fun part).

There's so many things we wanna buy, but have little money to spend on. Even the thought of rearing a healthy baby — and bringing up a well-provided family for that matter — gives us some worries. Wish we could come up with ideas that would give us some fat checks. Because whatever jobs we have at this moment are simply not enough to chase the dreams we had envisioned a decade ago when still in college. But that's life. Who knows what's in store for us in the next 10 years?
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So the former Afro-sporting Kobe Bryant of Los Angeles Laker was named the NBA Most Valuable Player of this year (not officially announced as of this moment, though). At long last. In my honest opinion, it's a little long overdue. If you're watching his games, Bryant has matured and grown into a versatile, constant scoring machine, and if there's another individual worthy to be called the "next Michael Jordan," that's definitely Kobe. He can score, pass, rebound and defend, and has given his team three championship ring so far — things that make one an MVP. Maybe not as great as MJ once was, but Kobe is just 29 and he can still break some records that the former has been holding for a long time. Oh, how I love to see Kobe becoming MJ-incarnate. Fans need it. NBA without such superstars is boring.

Kobe Bryant believes he can fly...

Speaking of MVP, I heard that Jason Castro (not the dreadlocks-haired folk from American Idol), the extraordinarily talented point guard who became 2006 and 2007 MVP of the Philippine Basketball League signed up with the first Asia-based club in the NBL, the Singapore Slingers. This just made him the first Filipino to have signed up with a team in Australia's highly competitive National Basketball League. Slingers' operations manager Michael Johns (again, not that one from American Idol) said that Castro was really good. But I know John is a little exaggerating. I believe it's a marketing move from the team since there are large Filipino communities in Singapore and Australia. And they know how addicted the Filipinos are to basketball.

Not to put our fellow Filipino down, but there are many better players in the PBA to choose from, if the Slingers is really after the "talent." But as professionals, they will definitely have problems with the cost, hence they stick with a talented but an amateur Castro. It still sets a record, anyway. Unlike what happened to Johnny Abarrientos who, long time ago, figured in a proposition that might have made him the first Filipino and Asian to become an NBA player. Remember? The proposition, put forward by some publicity-hungry agent from United States had turned out to be a hoax. Many saw that coming, however, but it put Johnny in a bad light. Who could have believed that a 5-6 Filipino player could make it to the NBA?

But nothing is impossible in China, as the case of Batere Menk and Wang Zhizhi, who were really overhyped by both US and Chinese media (but where are they now?). Now, it's Yao Ming and Yi Jinlan's turn. With nearly a billion Chinese watching the game, that's really a sure big market for the NBA. That will generate a hell lot of money, one of the main causes why NBA exists. They mean business. If they can't get something out of a player other than the usual basketball skills, I don't think anybody can be in the NBA.

Menk Batere. "Overhyped?"
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Tuesday, May 6, 2008 at Tuesday, May 06, 2008 | 2 comments
I like pizza a lot. Whether it's Italian, New York or Hawaiian, nothing beats the oven-baked bread-based open pie topped with mozzarella cheeze, tomato, meat, pepperoni and Italians-know-what-else. It's not everyday that I eat pizza, so Kuchi and I make it a point to feast and gloat over it once in a while. An exception is this sort of pizza that's been creating some buzz in Vigan City. It's a "pinakbet-flavored pizza." Just the sound makes me eeew. Haha! Actually, I patronize pinakbet, but as a home-cooked meal, not a pizza. I heard that local restaurants in Vigan started serving this kind of pizza some months ago. Like any other pizza, pinakbet pizza includes usual flavors, except that its toppings include squash, eggplant, patani, okra and string beans. Don't forget ampalaya — which I can't imagine finding in a pizza, but yikes, it's there! And the bagoong!
Pinakbet Pizza
Pinakbet Pizza — Put the above veggies over this tasty pizza and that's what you'll get, LOL
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