Jun 26 2016

The city with the worst traffic in the world

Adel Gabot

WIRED_2016-Jun-26

9:20AM

All right, now we’ve gone and done it. We got ourselves declared the city with the worst traffic in the world. See here.

Of course I don’t dispute it. Manila does have the worst traffic in the world, bar none. It comes from too many cars, and too little roads. Secondarily, from lack of discipline. It wouldn’t be so bad if we only followed the rules, but most Filipinos are thick-headed and look out only for themselves.

I don’t feel it much these days, because I sold my car and take public transport. I feel it when I take the cab sometimes, but my commutes are usually short, and for the long ones, like to the Makati Commercial Center or downtown Manila, I usually take the train. The few times I have to travel during rush hour and the trains are packed, I take the air conditioned bus and just sleep through the traffic.

But often, even the short rides are unbearable. Sometimes, the short 2.5 kilometer jeepney rides to Cubao take 30-45 minutes, particularly during rush hour. I could literally just hoof it, and it would take much less time. Believe me, because I’ve actually done it.

When you have to sit out hours-long traffic to traverse what should take you 30 minutes, you know something’s definitely wrong. Even President-Elect Rodrigo Duterte is planning to exercise emergency executive powers to finally solve the problem, I hear. I didn’t vote for you, but good luck, sir.

I’m reminded of one particularly horrible day when I was coming home from work and still drove a car. We were living in a quiet subdivision near Congressional Avenue back then. I was relatively near the house already, but the damn traffic wasn’t moving at all.

I got to maybe just six blocks from the house, and that was around 6PM. By 8:30 I had just moved a few car lengths ahead, and by 9:30 I decided to just leave the car on the curb and just walk home and come back for the car later around midnight.

I came back around 12:30, and the traffic still hadn’t moved much. I couldn’t believe it. I just went home again and slept, and came back at 6AM. Sometime in the early morning the traffic had cleared, and Congressional Avenue was nearly deserted, with just my car up on the sidewalk. I drove it back home and took the friggin day off.

I never did find out what caused that jam, and I never will. But when the world says we have the worst traffic in the world, I believe it.

 

 

 


May 26 2016

Zzzzz…

Adel Gabot

Bacx11_402_03_0001

2:59PM

I have long wondered if I snore or not.

Or if I do, how loudly? I mean, you never can tell yourself, you’re friggin’ asleep!

I suspect I do.

I fit the type, certainly. I’m a big, strapping guy in my early 50s, how could I not snore? With big, earth-shatterring gulps of air, rattling the floorboards and sending the dogs outside in a frenzy. And keeping everybody awake.

Or was I a quiet snorer, with a light, comforting buzz that actually lulls other people to sleep?

I haven’t had complaints though. My wife surely never did. Not once. But then again, she could have just been very polite.

So this week, I set about finding out.

Just before I fell asleep at night, I set my iPhone to record and set it beside me. To make sure, I did it for several nights in a row.

The iPhone, using the app Voice Memos, recorded the sounds I made while asleep—which, I found out, was not much. In fact, at first I had trouble telling if I was really recording anything.

Leafing through the file, it was a while before I heard myself shifting around to find a better position in my sleep, which was damned loud. The third time I recorded myself, I heard the dog outside barking in the middle of the night around 3:30AM, and that’s when I realized: I. DON’T. SNORE.

In fact, I’m so quiet, I could be dead for all you cared.

So there. Another of life’s mysteries solved.


May 13 2016

Rethinking selling the MacBook Pro

Adel Gabot

screenshot_234

7:47PM

Ever since I got an iPad (again), I’ve been halfheartedly trying to sell my old MacBook Pro online—to no success. All I’ve been getting are dozens of lowball inquiries and many scammers trying their level best to scam me out of my notebook. The few serious buyers have all panned out for one reason or another, and as such, the MacBook is still with me.

It’s not that it isn’t being used. Well, not as much, anyway. The iPad took much of the MacBook’s usefulness away, so it just sits in its bag, being charged up every couple of weeks just in case I actually needed it, and regularly getting updated and backed up even if it’s not being used (because that’s how I roll, man).

I do most of my work on the big-ass iMac at home, and in the event that I have to take the work outdoors, I bring the iPad mini, which is much more convenient than lugging around a heavy MacBook Pro with a short (relatively) battery life; much shorter than the iPad’s anyway.

But it’s not a bad unit, really.

It’s a mid-2010 13-inch model, and I’ve upgraded the old hard disk it came with to a 256GB SSD, which makes it work wicked-fast. I wish the big-ass iMac was more like it, actually. But SSDs are damned expensive (especially large ones), and getting the iMac’s drive replaced is an involved process involving a huge amount of disassembly and reassembly best left to someone with more experience than me. I thought about replacing the MacBook’s ancient battery, but it was still servicable if a bit limited in longevity, so I let it be for now.

So for a long time, the MacBook just wallowed in my room, a white elephant that I didn’t really need to use.

Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago, when we set up some outdoor patio furniture in the open-air garage outside in our yard, and began spending a lot of time there because it was cooler in this summer heat than my stuffy old room. At least I thought so, anyway.

Thing is, what do you do in an outdoor situation like that? How do you spend the time?

Knowing me and knowing I don’t like to be offline a lot, the best solution was: get the MacBook Pro out of mothballs and bring it down with you and work and surf at leisure!

Of course!

So the MacBook is enjoying a second life now as my secondary (my iPad mini is demoted to tertiary). I’ve set it up to mirror the big iMac as much as possible, so that my computing experience is the same no matter where I work, and it’s fine! I’ve actually done a couple of articles outdoors in my new “office.” And on days where I don’t have work, I run the old battery down surfing, Googling, checking my Twitter and Facebook feeds and writing blog entries like I’m doing now.

So I’m seriously rethinking whether or not I should really sell this notebook. The old coot finally found its second wind, and I don’t know if I should take down the ads on TPC and OLX.

What do you think? Sell or not?


May 6 2016

Clean-shaven

Adel Gabot

11:09AM

This morning in the shower, apropos of nothing, I shaved my face clean.

For the first time in what, over two decades, I shaved off my Van Dyke beard, and became clean shaven for the first time in a long time.

I don’t know what possessed me to do it.

I just thought it might be time for a slight change. Just like that fateful day a long time ago when I decided it might be good to grow a beard and have a slight change in the way I look.

A totally random, arbitrary decision. Both times. Although that first one stayed with me for over 20 years. Christ, I have good, longtime friends who have never known me not to have a beard. It’s been that long.

I call it a beard, but that’s really stretching the definition, I think, especially in the beginning.

It was, to use a word, sparse. I had an adequate mustache, but the rest of it proved wanting. I could grow a workable chin, but the sides barely grew and didn’t connect to the temples. I had to cultivate and encourage it for months before it became passable. In time I had a Van Dyke, that type of beard that grew around the mouth area—because that was the only thing I could grow.

And so it went. I had to trim it often, first every two weeks, then every week, and when it finally got growing, every couple of days. But that happened in the space of a couple of years in the beginning.

There were times I would trim it neatly and assiduously, and other times I would let it grow wild and free. But I had to keep it as neat as I could, otherwise I looked like a homeless bum.

In the later years, the beard would have its share of gray hairs, much more than my head, which had practically none. The last couple of years it would take on a salt-and-pepper look that betrayed my actual age. If I didn’t have the Van Dyke, I could pass for someone in my late thirties, instead of a ripe old 54.

So this morning, I figured, why not shave it off, and in the process look a lot younger. So I did.

And I needn’t have worried about how different I looked now. My brother and father didn’t even notice anything had changed at breakfast. Karla, the manager at Starbucks where I was at this morning, gave me her usual cheery hello and didn’t even bat an eyelash.

I thought I’d have a reverse 5 o’clock shadow for a while, because the sun-deprived skin under the beard wouldn’t have the color of the rest of my face, but apparently I looked exactly the same as before.

Hmph.

I’ll try out this new look for a week or so, and if it doesn’t pan out, well, I’ll just grow it back.


Mar 15 2016

Seeing auras

Adel Gabot

Migraine-With-Aura-How-To-Monitor-Migraine-Auras

8:17AM

I just had another visual aura episode.

It usually lasts for ten to 15 minutes. It starts at a small spot in my field of vision, anywhere there, and it slowly develops and expands, a shimmering ring or aura that soon covers my entire field of sight. It obscures my vision, and I usually have trouble seeing clearly when it starts covering a significant portion of what I can see. And I can’t do anything about it—I can’t see people’s faces, can’t read, can’t drive.

Mercifully, the episode is usually short. about a quarter of an hour, before it disappears completely and my sight is restored.

Then follows a bad migraine attack.

A visual aura is what precedes a migraine, so I know an attack is coming.

Anyone who experiences migraines report some sort of visual aura phenomenon. Some are weak, some really bad, but they’re there. The aura announces the arrival of his boss, the bad headache. They come as a matching pair, an aura and a migraine, a diabolical duet concocted by whatever force creates these debilitating headaches.

This is what an aura looks like:

GR_Animation1_en

It used to happen once a week or so, ever since I can remember, and I got kinda used to it. There is no real trigger as far as I could see, it would happen at any time, in any situation, whether I was stressed or not, even when I was resting and completely at ease. The aura would come, and soon after, the inevitable migraine.

It became routine to me, although the migraines really, truly sucked balls. It was hell on earth. The slightest movement, the slightest noise would send me into paroxysms of pain, and I’d bang my head against the wall if it wouldn’t make it worse.

I would have to retire to a cool, quiet, dark room and wait it out, and it would usually last several hours or so, sometimes a day if I was really unlucky. One time a really bad one lasted three whole days, and I thought I was going to die.

The migraines began back when I was a teen, around 14 or 15, and lasted well into my adulthood, into my late 40s. An average of a migraine a week, for 30 years or so. I tried all sorts of remedies and medicines, but none really worked.

I learned to live with it. You learn to live with anything, if there’s nothing else you can do.

But the migraines disappeared after I had my stroke.

That was what, six years ago? At least some good came out of it. The migraines just… stopped, and I haven’t had one since November 2009, knock on wood.

But the visual auras are still here.

It comes usually every week or two, at random intervals, and last for ten to 15 minutes, visually incapacitating me as it usually did. I would feel like my head was stuffed full of cotton, that I was on the verge of getting a bad headache again. But it wouldn’t ever get that far.

No accompanying migraines.

After half an hour, I’d go back to normal and become my usual self.

I just had an aura episode, and now everything’s fine again.

It’s still a nuisance, but I’d gladly take it over a migraine any day.