Monday, December 17, 2007

Driving in the U.S.

The United States of America is one of the most car-centric countries that I have been to or I'd say the most car-centric. In the past four years that I have been able to travel internationally into Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the US, it is only here in the land of Uncle Sam where a car is a necessity to travel from one place to another.

In Vietnam, Malaysia, and China, taxi cabs are easy means of transport. In Singapore, the public transport system is too organized that it is easy to hop from a bus and MRT to get from one place to another. But in the US, it would be a pain if one doesn't have a car.

In my past two business travels to Texas, my company had to provide us car rentals for us to drive ourselves from the hotel to office. Buses is not a common thing to see around. On my first vacation visit in California, we depended on car rentals or personal cars to get around.

The good thing about having a car in the US is driving. Driving in the US is very much different to the normal driving that I experience in the Philippines. In the US, traffic rules are strictly implemented and many street crossings are being watched by traffic cameras. Cars maintain their own lane and they follow proper right of way.

The first time I've experienced driving in the US is during my second visit to Austin. We rented a car from Hertz and they lent me a Mazda 6. While on my California visit, we had to rent a car from Avis and they lent us a Chevrolet Impala. Most cars in the US are automatic transmission.

Having automatic cars compared to manual transmission, driving is less challenging as one would not need to think of using the clutch to change gears. Also cars are usually power steering.

US roads are generally neatly paved and wide making driving less straineous. In Texas, roads and highways are very wide that traffic is not usually heavy. In California, traffic is a bit heavier. But anyways, with the US freeway system, one can get from one city to another in a quicker way. US Freeways allow an average of 65 miles per hour speed while streets generally have a 45 miles per hour limit. Compared to the Philipines where traffic is heavier and roads are narrower, driving here is a lot easier.

One would easily feel the need for speed while driving here specially while on freeways. With the smooth roads there are less noise produced by cars. And with all cars speeding on the highways, one would usually not realize that you are driving very fast already at 70mph or more. In the Philippines, driving at 90kph is already fast. And a 20mile destination can be reached in 20 minutes in the US unlike back home that takes about 2 hours.

Boy, I hope the Philippines also build freeways for quicker travel.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Prepping for US Vacation

Tonight, I'll be boarding the Korean Airline flight 624 en route to Seoul-Incheon and then connecting to Los Angeles on board flight 001. It will be the start of a month-long vacation with my family in the US. Unfortunately, I can't bring my wife with me, but there's always a next time.

But preparing for this trip is a bit strenuous and tiring for me. Since it's not often that someone flies over to the US, my parents and relatives sent out their lists of things to bring from home. I had to prepare a box full of stuff plus another big luggage for my clothes plus other stuff.

They requested for seasonings, noodles, canned goods, powder mixes, nuts, medicine, and other items. Cross-Pacific flights from Asia to the US usually permit 2 luggage of 70lbs each. And with all the stuff that I had to bring along, I had worries of having over limits.

Aside from buying a list of items, packaging all these items had also posed a challenge. Trying not to go over limit. My back ached on loading the packages on a weighing scale making sure every luggage is within limits. Next I'm thinking of how I'd be able to carry all those things going to the airport and upon my arrival in LA. heheheh... It will be a challenge.

Before this day, I also had to ensure all my bills are paid. I also had to leave my ATM to my wife so that she can manage my bills while I'm out of the country.

Aside from all this work in preparing for my trip, I also had to start researching of places that we can visit while there. Hoping that we can see Lake Tahoe, Alcatraz, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, and San Francisco. I've also sent out a temporary itinerary. I have also purchased my train ticket from LA to San Jose. We also bought plane tickets for the trip back.

Well, after all these preparation, I'm sure that the coming days will be fantastic and memorable. I just hope that I have brought enough dollars for the whole US stay of mine. Also, I hope that I can make the most of what I target to accomplish while in Uncle Sam's land.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

My Precious Janine

Last November 24, my wife and I went to Glorietta Mall. Not to go on shopping, instead, we visited the In My Womb clinic where they offer 3D/4D ultrasound services.

Since Jen is now in her 7 months of pregnancy, we decided to have this kind of ultrasound. Aside from ensuring the gender of our baby, but also to have this very lasting memorabilia of our baby in her mom's womb.

In My Womb offers different ultrasound packages which varies in costs from Php 1,000+ to P10,000+ depending on 2D, 3D or 4D ultrasounds. We opted on taking their Ruby packaged costing Php3,300 which includes a DVD video of the 4D ultrasound, some B/W ultrasound pictures and sepia-toned pictures. The DVD is normally available after 7-10 days.

When Jen's turn came in, we were led to a regular ultrasound
machine. A television is set up on a wall and there is a bench on one side of the room for the expectators. First the OB-Gyne took the regular ultrasound of our baby, measuring her, etc. And then came the first 4D shots of our baby.

In the 4D shots, our baby moves, waves, yawns and even opens her eyes. I was deeply amazed and fascinated. It was a great experience to be able to see the face of our baby even before she was born to this world. The OB even took a 4D shot of our baby, Precious Janine's genitals to give her 100% confirmation that it's a girl.

It was great. We'll be getting her DVD video tonight and will watch her short movie.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Starbucks Planner quest now completed!

Last week, we have finally completed all the needed stickers for us to acquire Starbucks' 2008 Planner. Yoohoo!... And we were told by the barista that we were the fourth to claim the planner from their branch in Bonifacio Global City.

We were able to complete it after we have asked 8 officemates to purchase their coffee after lunchtime. We ordered a Coffee Frappe, 5 Toffee Nut Frappes, a Machiatto, a brewed coffee and a Mocha Frappe. We also had to pay extra for two drinks so that we can get upgrade the stickers for the regular drinks to their season special drinks. =)

Well the planner looked good. It's a lot thinner than what they had last year. It has a thin leather cover which looked elegant. And since it is thinner, it is easier to put in a bag like a regular notebook.

I'd have to see if my wife will be able to use this a lot more regularly than this year's planner.

Why is it Google has not crawled my blog yet?

For the past few weeks, I have been trying to update my travel blog and this blog. In updating my blogs, I'm wondering how does my pages appear in the Google search. Unfortunately for the past 2 weeks, it seems that it is still not properly linked to the world wide web.

I've checked out the Google Webmaster Tools to see what I should do to let others know of my site. I read that other websites should have links to my blogs. This will allow Google's web crawlers to see my site. I also read that I can send my link to Google to be added to the list of sites that they'd analyze and crawl into. I also submitted my links to Yahoo! to be sure.

I have put up links in my email signatures, my forum signatures, and in my multiply account. But it still seem that my site is not yet indexed. haaahhhh.... Well.. I think I'll just need to keep my patience up and wait 'till my blogs are indexed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Another Project Ends...

Another project ends. And like what we have done, as a tradition in our team, the main lead will be treating the whole team for a "power lunch". During our current work project for Dell Computers deployment to their new factory in Poland, I lead a team of 16 testers for the EMFP Start-up project.

For the past three years of testing for this group, I have already stood up as the Test coordinator to our Austin Leads for 3 projects now. And like in the past, I have given a power lunch for my team. This is our way of thanking the whole team for their hard work. Well, it's feels good to finish a new project and happy to have a great team working along with you the whole way.

And so, today at lunch time, I have invited all my team members plus some guests for a power lunch to Shakey's Pizza in Glorietta. All in all we are 22 and we have grouped ourselves into four cars to drive all of us from here in our Global City office to Glorietta in Makati.

Getting there has become a challenge. Probably due to the explosion that happened in Glorietta 2, people evaded the Park Square building causing other parking areas to be full. And so after routing around Makati looking of a parking place, we ended parking in Park Square 2.

And so, everybody had fun during lunch and I was thankful for everyone who have come.

Preparing for a Holiday Vacation

This year will be a unique holiday vacation that I will be experiencing. Due to my trip to Austin, Texas last May, I was granted by the US Embassy a 10-year B1/B2 multiple entry to the US. And with that we have made plans on having a grand reunion with my parents in L.A. My brother, who's a permanent resident in Singapore, with his family also vowed to apply for visas to come to L.A. for the holidays. And with God's blessing, my brother had an official trip to Milpitas for his work for 3 months sent by his Singporean company. He was granted the same type of visa that I had. His family also has just recently granted a visa.

And with that, we are all set to have a great reunion in the U.S. My brother is currently in Milpitas, while his wife and son will be flying there on the 15th. I got my own plane tickets last August from my accumulated airline miles (Worldperks) and credit card points. I'll be taking a Korean Air flight to L.A. on December 5 this year and return January 5 in return. Unfortunately, I won't be able to bring with me my wife due to her current pregnancy which is on the 6th month now.

Well anyways, with just a few weeks left for this month long vacation, I'm now starting my preparation for the trip. I'm asking my family for all the things they want me to buy from Manila to bring to L.A. Since it is rare for someone from here to go to the US, they make most of sending their wishlist. Anyways, aside from that, I'm now starting to think of what to do and where to go while there.

With a month of stay, plus Christmas and New Year, we need to make a good travel plan. Anyways we plan to go to San Francisco, maybe stay a short while in Milpitas, to San Diego where my aunt's family lives, to Las Vegas to see the place, to LA's parks (Disney, Universal, etc), and maybe to Lake Tahoe where I heard has snow this time of the year. Boy, I'm getting excited as days pass by. I hope this will be a great holiday. =)

I'll be posting our travel details in Pau's Travel Blog starting next month when I get there.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Quest for the 2008 Starbucks Planner

It's that same time of the year again when Starbucks is offering the chance of getting their annual planner. And just like every year one would need to buy a certain number of regular and season special Starbucks drink. This year one need to purchase any 12 regular and 12 season special drinks of any size, hot or cold for a sticker. The special drinks this year are Praline Mocha, Peppermint and Toffee Nut.

And so yesterday (11/08), we started the quest on grabbing one by asking some friends to buy some drinks. We were able to convince 6 colleagues to donate their stickers. Our friends bought 6 different regular drinks, my wife Mocha Frap, and I tried their Toffenut Frap. So on our first day we already got 8 stickers (7 regular, 1 special). But oh, we were able to see a card with 1 sticker whom a customer left on the table. We used that card to stick in our 8 stickers, giving us 9 stickers in total.

Today (11/09), we again go back to Starbucks for another set of drinks. I convinced another colleague to buy one and give us his sticker. We bought a Chocolate Cream Chip, a Coffee Jelly and I tried the Praline Mocha flavor. 12 more stickers to go!

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