16 hours and counting (and still packing…)

November 21st, 2007

Less than 16 hours to go before my flight to London, and I’ve just barely finished packing.  It’ll just be a 5-day trip, and I’ve got a fully loaded carry-on size bag that I won’t really be carrying on the plane. I’ll check it in since I have another fully loaded backpack — the gadget bag — to carry my SLR camera and notebook computer. I guess having all these gadgets really precludes one from traveling light.

I’m not sure if I’ve overpacked again for this trip. I consider myself a recovering overpacker as I’ve been a chronic overpacker, but for the last few trips I had, I tried to pack just enough clothes (and gadgets). For this trip it doesn’t help that I have to pack bulky cold-weather clothes so it was a little more difficult to pack in everything that I think I’ll need.

I haven’t fully arranged my itinerary. I’ll try to do that as soon as I finish this post. I do already have a general outline that includes the days when I’ll be making trips out of London, particularly for my day trip to Paris on the Eurostar. Tough luck for me if the transit strike in France is not yet over by Saturday. I’ve been checking the news on the strike everyday and frankly, I’ve never been this concerned about a transit strike in another country. I may have to junk my plan to go around Paris using the Metro. Instead, I’ll swallow my pride and get on one of those hop-on, hop-off tourist buses.

“Masteral” is not a word. Or is it?

October 28th, 2007

Go ahead. Go to Google and enter the word masteral. Or if you’re lazy, just click here. The first few pages all list sites coming from the Philippines or written by Filipinos.

I admit I may have used that word myself before, and today I’ve heard someone say it again. I don’t think I’ve heard that word uttered while living in the U.S. for more than 3 years now. Not surprisingly, today it was a fellow Filipino who said it.

I decided to look it up online, and I think I can safely say that this word is a purely Filipino concoction. It isn’t on the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Nor is it in the Oxford English Dictionary. It may not be an official word by the OED’s standards. Judging from the results from that Google search though, it is a word that is definitely in common use in the Philippines. It most definitely looks like applying the -al suffix in doctoral (which definitely is an official word), to master — hence, masteral. I’m sure linguists have a term for such type of word form. If I may follow the OED’s definition of doctoral, then:

masteral, a.

Of or belonging to one who has received the degree of Master.

Its use in the Philippines is such that even universities and government officials use the word as if it is an official English word. It may not belong to the OED, but if there’s such a thing as a Dictionary of Filipino English, it should definitely be in it. To be fair though, I’ve found at least one U.S. site that uses the word though I won’t be surprised if that site’s webmaster is a Filipino.

London for Thanksgiving: Applying for a UK Visa

September 27th, 2007

A few days after my parents flew back home to Manila, the travel bug seemed to have bitten me again. I’ve been seeing ads offering relatively affordable airfare between New York and London (as low as ~$450 roundtrip with taxes). The idea of spending the 4-day Thanksgiving weekend in London came to mind.  The more I thought about it, the more the idea became attractive, and the more it became seemingly possible.

But, first, I had to get a visa to be able to enter the UK. I went to the website of the British Consulate in New York where I got the needed information on how to apply for a UK visa. The application fee was a whopping £63 plus return postage of $12 (total: $144). That is just for the regular 6-month visa. I decided to apply by mail since I’m not sure what appointment dates would be available. Applying by mail also wouldn’t require me to take time off work to go to the British Consulate.

So on the weekend of September 8, I decided to try my luck applying for a UK visa. I went through the list of requirements:

  1. Passport - Check!
  2. Passport photo - Check!
  3. Bank statements - Check!
  4. Airline reservation - Check!
  5. Certificate of Employment/Student Status - Check!

The worst thing about applying for the visa by mail is that lingering feeling that my travel documents (passport, I-20, I-94) could get lost in the mail. Replacing those documents is not only a lot of hassle; it is also expensive. I mailed the documents from the Farley Post Office on 8th Avenue. Although 1st-class Mail and Priority Mail would both take only 1-day to the British Consulate in Manhattan, I opted for the more expensive Priority Mail, hoping (without basis) that the likelihood for loss is less. I also added the Certified Mail option (not as if that would prevent it from getting lost). I could have chosen to send it using the Express Mail option, or even by FedEx or UPS, but I’m too cheap for that. I mailed it on the 10th. After checking the USPS tracking page every 5 minutes the next day, I learned that it was received at the consulate around noon on the 11th. Finally I could relax a bit. At least I know (or believe) that my travel documents are safe in the hands of the British Consulate

I was hoping to receive some kind of confirmation email from the consulate that they indeed received my documents and that they’re processing my application. That would’ve certainly added to my peace of mind. But I got not such email. I just relied on their promise that the typical application turnaround time is 5 business days, and that the passport will be returned by FedEx overnight. Counting from the day after they received the package — Wednesday (9/12), Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday (9/18) — 5 business days. An hour past noon on the 18th, I got an automated email saying my application has been approved, and that the passport will be delivered by FedEx. The tracking number was also given in the email with estimated delivery before 10:30 A.M. the next day.

Now that I have my UK visa,  I can start planning for the trip. Unfortunately, the cheap airfare offers from Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, and British Airways have expired, and the fares have risen by about $50. More on where I got my reservation in another post.

Blogging hiatus over

September 26th, 2007

It has now been three months since my last post. I’ve been a little busy with work and bit of vacation time. Anyway, I’m back.

DHL 2nd Day beats UPS 2nd Day Air

June 26th, 2007

(… or When UPS Says 2nd Day Air, they really mean it.)

I ordered a few items from Amazon.com — same item but different colors.  Apparently, Amazon didn’t keep stock of the same item in one workshop, since one package shipped from Tulsa, OK and another shipped from Coffeyville, KS. According to Google Maps, they’re just 73 miles from each other. Since I have an Amazon Prime membership, both packages were shipped using 2-day shipping. The one from Tulsa used UPS, while the one from Coffeyville, KS used DHL.  Both shipped out on Friday, so both were scheduled to be delivered today (06/26/2007).

The UPS package was already in Philadelphia, PA by 11:51 AM on Sunday, 6/24/2007.  On the other hand, the DHL package scanned in Allentown, PA by 11:42 PM on the same day. I would think that it would be more likely that UPS could deliver the following day, ahead of the Tuesday schedule. The destination is Elmsford, NY

But, as the title of this post implies, only DHL delivered yesterday. UPS takes the name of its 2-day service too literally, as I’ve posted here before.

D.C. Food Trip: Ethiopian Food from Dukem

June 16th, 2007

So here I am on my last night in D.C. before I head back to New York. I’ve tried a few cheap eats that are popular in D.C. I’ve tried burgers Five Guys, chili dog and chili from Ben’s Chili Bowl, cheesesteaks from Philadelphia Cheesesteak Factory, and deep dish pizza from Armand’s. So for dinner tonight, I set out to try another cuisine that D.C. is apparently famous for: Ethiopian food.

I didn’t know about the large Ethiopian presence in Washington until my Eritrean friend told me about it. I decided that I had to try it out before I go back to New York. I browsed around Chowhound to look for restaurant recommendations, particularly restaurants that offer take-out food to bring back to the hotel, since I would just be by myself. I read favorable posts about Dukem, and that it has a separate market and carryout section aside from the main restaurant. I first saw Dukem and other Ethiopian restaurants when I went to Ben’s Chili Bowl on U St NW.

I guess the most distinctive feature of their cuisine is the injera. It is some sort of pancake-like bread, with a slight sour taste. One side of the injera has a tripe-like appearance because of the air bubbles that form on its surface when it is being prepared.

I had the Dukem kitfo


and a combination meal of lamb wot and alitcha fitfit.


I had the kitfo done medium-rare (I heard the lady said lebleb.) since I wasn’t brave enough to have my first taste of Ethiopian food include something totally raw. The yellowish stuff on the kitfo tray seemed like mashed potatoes or something similar. The whitish stuff on the kitfo was Dukem’s own cottage cheese.

The lamb wot of course had lamb meat, and tripe — not sure which animal the tripe comes from. The fitfit is hard to describe, but it was equally tasty. Both dishes were spicy, but not hot enough to make me perspire the way Thai green curry makes me sweat.

All in all, I find my adventure into Ethiopian food satisfying, and I’m open to try it again.

Five Guys Cheeseburger

June 14th, 2007

I had another burger from Five Guys for lunch today. This one had green pepper, fried onions, and sauteed mushrooms.


Missed the Mark (Pun intended)

June 13th, 2007

Missed the Mark

I stayed in Room 667. I imagine the AC in the other room must be totally busted.

Hotel Hopping across New Jersey Avenue

June 13th, 2007

I moved into the Holiday Inn on the Hill yesterday. It’s just across the street from the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill on New Jersey Avenue NW. I had to jump hotels since I booked the Hyatt on Priceline. I booked the trip way back in early May, and at that time, it was difficult to get a good price for hotels in my preferred neighborhoods for this particular week. I tried a number of combinations and tried to split my stay until I got the Hyatt within my maximum bid (which actually slowly crept up).  Trying to extend it further wasn’t successful so I had to find another hotel for the rest of my stay. I found a good price for the Holiday Inn on Venere.com, and had that price matched on the Holiday Inn’s website by availing of their Lowest Rate Guarantee. It was just my luck that the two hotels were just across the street from each other.

So how do the two hotels compare?

Hotel Rating (on Priceline): The Hyatt’s a 4-star hotel on Priceline, while the Holiday Inn’s a 3-star hotel.
Internet Acces: I consider this the most important amenity. Holiday Inn wins this round as it offers FREE high-speed Internet access. Although it’s a wired connection, it’s much better than Hyatt’s dependence on the T-Mobile Hotspot service, which is NOT FREE.
Room Size: I think they’re about the same. I got a a 2-Queen Bed room at the Holiday Inn, and a 1-King Bed room at the Hyatt.  The work desk at the Hyatt is a little bigger.
Bathroom: The one at the Hyatt’s bigger, but it only had a shower enclosure, while the Holiday Inn had a tub.
Bottled Water Price: The Hyatt had a 500 ml  bottle of Poland Spring for $3.75. The Holiday Inn had a $3 710 ml bottle of Dasani. Needless to say I didn’t drink either.
Laundry. The Holiday Inn has a self-service laundry room on the 3rd floor, and, lucky me, my room’s on that floor. Since I decided to extend my stay in D.C. to do more sightseeing (I’ll have to switch hotels again.), I got to use it to wash some clothes since I only packed enough for a 5-night stay.

My Verdict: I’m leaning towards the Holiday Inn because of it’s free Internet access and laundry facility.

Overheard in D.C.

June 12th, 2007

Right by the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro station, a woman apparently being interviewed on video by The Politico said:

“… so who do I want to punch in the face? Hillary Clinton! …”