Contradiction in Terms
You say to-may-toe; I say toh-mah-tah. Deal with it.
Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Riddle Me This

I have a pair of brothers who happen to be fraternal twins*--which means they were born within minutes of each other, but don't look any more alike than the rest of us siblings. Growing up, they weren't particularly "twinnish". They shared a mutual interest in comic books and martial arts, but then, so do a lot of boys. So do I, for that matter! They did sort of have their own "twin-speak"... but really, they were just speaking in low tones, and the other three of us understood them just fine.

Anyway, eventually they grew up, as people do. One of them became a pilot and later a physical therapist; the other one, a physical fitness instructor and later an actor. Which is sort of parallel, but still not all that "twinly", right? Yet for some reason, in the same year, they married two unrelated women who happened to be born on the same day, within minutes of each other. One of these women used to joke that the two of them were "astral twins" who married real twins. We all thought this was very funny because the two women were then very different from one another.

Flash forward to the present day, thirteen years later, by which time both sisters-in-law have been undergoing recurrent psychiatric issues, for which they have been treated with everything from medication to therapy. Within the span of one month, one of them has asked for an annulment; the other, a divorce.

It boggles the mind that two people can be so unhappy being married to two of the nicest guys in the universe. (Well, you know, once the guys got done with tormenting their baby sister.) But leaving my personal opinions aside and just looking at it from an objective standpoint... It still boggles the mind, doesn't it?
Naturally, I need to explain the difference between identical and fraternal twins, because, you know, I'm just nerdy that way. Identical twins are born from the union of a single egg and a single sperm. Sometime during the pregnancy, the fertilized egg then splits, creating two embryos with exactly the same DNA--hence the term "identical", duh! Fraternal twins are the result of two different eggs fertilized by two different sperm during the same period of conception, creating two babies that are born at the same time, but which have different genetic mixes. So they're no more identical than any other siblings--except that they were, as my brother likes to put it, "womb-mates". This means that, theoretically speaking, fraternal twins can actually have two different fathers--which has happened more often than you'd think in the history of the world.
Nikki bit in at 1:30 PM :: ::
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Menggay's Magical Chicken: a short story for children

Part Two of Three

“I do not know this blue-skinned man,” said the farmer next door, when Menggay asked him. “But here, I will give you this milk from the carabao you helped cure. It is thick and goes down smoothly; maybe it can help make your journey smoother.”

Menggay thanked the farmer and put the bottle of milk in her little bag, where it clinked gently against the bottle of water her mother had prepared for her.

“I do not know where he lives, but that blue-skinned man is a siokoy, a merman,” said the town albularya. “Here, take this magical ring you helped me find. It is made of gold, so you can sell it or trade it if you need to. But never put it on, because only an albularya like me can wear a magic ring like that without strange things happening.”

Menggay thanked the albularya and put the ring on a string around her neck.

“I know where to find that siokoy!” said the fisherman from the shore. “He lives at the bottom of a big whirlpool. It is very strong and has been known to destroy many boats, so no one goes near it. But because you helped me find true love, I will take you there in my fishing boat, and we will see if we can reach your chicken.”

So Menggay thanked the fisherman; climbed into his boat; asked the fisherman’s washer-woman girlfriend to please tell her parents where she had gone; and set off to sea.

It took quite a while before Menggay and the fisherman reached the siokoy’s whirlpool. Luckily, Menggay had her baon of pandesal, which she shared with the fisherman; and they made the bread into sandwiches with his stock of dried fish. They were a bit tired, but not hungry at all by the time they spotted the big, strong whirlpool.

It was very scary-looking, spinning quickly and roaring hungrily, as if it wanted to eat up the little fishing boat and the people inside it as well. Way, way down at the very bottom of the whirlpool, Menggay thought she could see a small figure on a dry patch of sand, standing over an even smaller figure that might be her beloved chicken.

“Down there!” she said, as politely as she could while shouting to be heard over the sound of the water.

“I see them!” the fisherman shouted back. “But the whirlpool is too rough and too strong! Our boat will be torn to pieces if we can’t find a smoother way down!”

Menggay remembered the bottle of milk that the farmer next door had given her, and the words he had said while giving it. So she took the bottle from out of her small bag; opened it; and spilled the thick, smooth carabao milk over the side of the boat and into the whirlpool.

As she and the fisherman watched, the white carabao milk spiraled down into the depths of the whirlpool, making the angry waters calm wherever it touched them with its creamy smoothness, and showing a thick, white, safe path down to the bottom of the sea.

Quickly, the fisherman guided his boat along the path marked in carabao milk; and he and Menggay went down, down, down, and down. The little fishing boat sailed upright and unshaken, in spite of the rushing waters all around them.

to be concluded next Tuesday!

Check out the rest of the posse!
the Tuesday Writers' Webring
Tobie Abad
Gabby Lee
Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos
Nikki bit in at 12:00 AM :: ::
Thursday, June 23, 2005

Chicks, Dicks, Etc.

I've always found it strange that men are reputed to have these eeevil locker-room discussions about sex, when, in my experience, they don't. I mean, sure, they'll talk about it in general; they'll boast about past exploits (assuming they've had them) with all the requisite preening and "hur-hur-hur"-type laughter. But it doesn't actually happen all that often, and it almost never involves the women who actually mean anything to them.

Whereas we women talk about everything. In sordid detail. All the time.

When Dean and I first started dating, for instance, he was shocked to discover that, since I was friends with two of his ex-girlfriends, I already knew, sight unseen, practically everything about his preferred sexual positions, what he's likely to say in moments of coital extremity, and the size and shape of his genitalia. He was even more appalled to discover that everyone in our little girl gang knew as well. The first time he dropped trou in front of me, I stunned him further (on purpose, I admit it) by saying, "Ohmigod, so that's what she meant!" (Not that this gave him any kind of significant pause, mind you.)

Sex and the City happens every day, Dear Reader. Among women you know.

For instance, I know:

- that Girl A gets paid 10,000 bucks by her boyfriend every time she consents to have anal sex
- that Guy B has pubic hair so lushly extravagant my friend had to tell herself, "Once more, dear friends, into the breach!" before plunging in to perform fellatio
- that Girl C makes her boyfriend tie his t-shirt over his face before they make love
- that Guy D is so big that his girl simultaneously adores it and complains about it
- that Girl E, despite a scandalous reputation for being hot to trot, has never actually had a non-masturbatory orgasm in her life

One of these examples involves me, by the way--and if you're one of my close girl friends, you can ask me in person and I will tell you aaalll about it.

Because we talk. We talk dirty, and we hold nothing back, and yes, I'm afraid we laaaugh. Some of us (like me) think "What the fuck, it's just sex." To others, sex is something sacred and profound... which means, all the more reason to discuss it with your gal pals. So we just don't understand why men don't regularly do the same.

Come on, guys. Are you not amused?
Nikki bit in at 1:38 PM :: ::
Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Menggay's Magical Chicken: a short story for children

Part One of Three

Once, a little girl named Menggay had a pet chicken that could do magic.

It was a odd-looking chicken--black where it should have been brown, and brown where it should have been black--and it acted oddly, too. While all the other chickens in her family’s yard would rush forward at feeding time and gobble up every grain of chicken feed that Menggay scattered on the ground for them, the odd-colored chicken would eat only some of the grains that she spread in front of it.

It would leave most of the chicken feed where it fell; but it would pick up several grains one by one in its beak, then put them down carefully in different spots on the ground. And Menggay would look at this pattern the chicken made, and read important messages in it for her family and their neighbors from the nearby farms and town.

When it rained early in the season, Menggay was able to tell her father in advance, so he could decide the best times to plant and harvest. When the carabao of the farmer next door got sick, Menggay knew it was because the carabao had stepped on the home of a nunô; and that the farmer should offer gifts of salabat and milk candy, so that the dwarf would stop being angry. When a fisherman from the shore thought he was in love with a mermaid he had spotted at sea, Menggay learned that it was really only a friendly dugong; and after the fisherman got over his embarrassment, he started courting a nice young washer-woman instead. And when the town albularya, despite her charms and potions, could not find her missing magical ring, Menggay and the chicken found out that she had accidentally baked it into a bibingka meant for her merienda that afternoon.

So more and more people started coming from farther and farther away to see Menggay and her chicken. The strangest one was a blue-eyed, bluish-skinned man who never asked any questions as others did. He would just stand outside the chicken yard every afternoon, watching Menggay feed the chickens. Menggay, who had been taught to be very polite, would always bring him a glass of water to drink; and the man would take a pinch of salt from somewhere in his pockets, sprinkle it into the glass, drink the water down in one long gulp, and hand the glass back to Menggay without saying a word.

One especially hot day, Menggay went into the kitchen to get the man his water, and decided to save him some effort by putting a little salt in the glass herself. So she took just a bit longer than usual inside the house; and by the time she went out into the yard, the strange man was gone… and so was her pet chicken.

Menggay was so upset! She ran and asked her mother to please help her, and together they looked all through the house; across the front yard, back yard, and chicken yard; and around the nearby fields. But the chicken was nowhere to be found; and by the time Menggay’s father had come in from their field and joined the search, they all had to agree that the chicken was missing and that the strange man had probably taken it.

This made Menggay even more worried. She missed the chicken terribly and knew that her pet must be missing her, too. So the next morning, she asked her parents if she could go and look for her chicken; and her parents, who knew that they had raised her to be able to take care of herself, gave her their permission, some words of caution, and a few pandesal to take along.

“Be careful,” her father reminded her, as he prepared to leave for work himself.

“And don’t forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’,” said her mother, handing her a small bag containing the pandesal, a bottle of water, and a change of clothes.

“Yes, Papa. Yes, Mama,” said Menggay. And she set off on her search.

to be continued next Tuesday!

Check out the rest of the posse!
the Tuesday Writers' Webring
Tobie Abad
Gabby Lee
Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos
Frickin'-frackin' blogLinker refuses to display my links list! And after I said such nice things about them, too... To everyone who followed my example and switched to blogStinker, my profound apologies. I'm now back on BlogRolling myself (I'm sorry for my infidelity, BlogRolling! Please love me again!)--which means that, more likely than not, the people I most recently added to my list will slip through the cracks. If you're one of these, please let me know and I will link you again, haste-posthaste!
Nikki bit in at 1:52 PM :: ::
Wednesday, June 15, 2005


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Elbert will be the first to tell you this isn't actually quite me--too "nice", too squeaky-clean. However, if you just imagine that the left hand, tucked discreetly downward, is secretly making a Very Impolite Gesture with the fingers, then it represents me quite admirably: waving on the outside, smirking on the inside.

Because my feeling is, life is too short not to make fun of it. I'm a flash and the world is my pan.
Nikki bit in at 10:02 AM :: ::
Tuesday, June 14, 2005

My name is Nikki, and I'm a Beauty Addict.

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It all started when I was eleven, I figure, when my French friend Nathalie introduced me to Noxzema at a sleep-over. It was a revolutionary idea in itself: that I might want to do more for my face than just scrub it with whatever soap happened to be in the shower stall at the moment. I dutifully tried it out, however; and, as promised, my skin did seem instantly healthier, glowier, just all-around-prettier... and I was hooked.

Since then, admittedly, it's been a downhill slide through facial washes, gels, and foams; body lotions, body scrubs, body butters; eye creams, neck creams, AHA and BHA creams; lip glosses, lipsticks, and lip slicks. In parallel fashion, I have gone from the relative teenage innocence of Noxzema and flavored Bonne Belle lip balm, through the finally-I-have-my-own-money-to-spend L'Oreal/Max Factor makeup madness, to my current never-you-mind-how-much-it-costs obssession with Philosophy and Skin by Alison Raffaele.

Up to a point.

A few months ago, I was actually contemplating buying my very own jar of that Holy Grail of skin treatments, Creme de la Mer. To those of you unversed in such matters (read: males), Creme de la Mer boasts super-special seaweed, unbelievably incredible enzymes, and a price tag of Php8,000. And that's just for the basic version of the stuff.

Thankfully, my social conscience and common sense caught up with my overly-obliging wallet just as it was opening up to dispense the astronomical sum. "Okay, waitasec," they said to Wallet. "Now we all know Nikki enjoys being a girly-girl, and we certainly champion her God-given right to girly-girlness: Hurray! But can we really go around smearing her skin with stuff that costs more than many people (including, in lean seasons, Nikki herself) earn in a month!?"

No, Virginia, we could not. And we can not. And what's more, we have realized, after long and intense scrutiny, that you know what? I actually have pretty good skin. It doesn't break out all too often; and it's a nice, tea-with-cream color, which seems to be what God intended, and which never (despite unstinting advertising campaigns to the contrary) responded to any of my earlier ill-intentioned attempts to whiten it anyway. And it's just ludicrous to live in an unrelentingly tropical country and persist in trying to achieve a matte complexion. Given the amount of money I have spent in pursuit of that last goal over the years, it would actually have been cheaper to just move to Arizona, where the air can simply suck all the oils out of my skin the natural way.

It's not that I have given up on vanity products--Heaven forfend! But I have been trying to be a little more sane about my choices. I'm still addicted to my scrumptiously-scented Lemon Meringue body wash by Philosophy, but I've switched from my Php600+ L'Oreal Visible Results facial wash to the Php100+ St. Ives Apricot Radiance scrub--which, I'm happy to report, works just as well and smells yummier, to boot. The equally-expensive Visible Results toner has been replaced by Clean and Clear, which costs under a hundred bucks. And I've successfully pared the makeup down to what I actually use: tinted moisturizer, eyebrow pencil, cheek gel. And, okay, whatever lip thing happens to catch my fancy and doesn't actually cost more than I would shell out for a really good book.

As for fragrance, I have officially sworn off the mega-expensive designer stuff, which is why my latest purchase has been--wait for it--Barbie Lolly Pop body spray. I actually meant to get it for Sage, but the stuff really does have the lime-mandarin-vanilla scent it claims to; and since I do like to spritz myself every half hour or so, it's perfect! I don't have to worry so much about the cost, and I don't end up choking my poor husband to death on the fumes. (Because body sprays are neither as strong nor as long-lasting as perfumes or even colognes--again, I have to explain that part for the boys.)

So Dean's happy; I'm happy; Wallet, Common Sense, and Social Conscience are all happy. Yes, thanks to Barbie, I am now finally convinced that Being Beautiful and Being Girly do not necessarily have to equate to Being Spendthrift.

And you'd think I could have figured that out at eleven.

Check out the rest of the posse!
the Tuesday Writers' Webring
Tobie Abad
Gabby Lee
Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos
Nikki bit in at 12:46 AM :: ::
Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Of Linkage and Thinkage

It's been a stellar week for the Comic Quest crew. First, there's my soon-to-be-published story (which I finally managed to dig up; thanks for the concern, everyone!) in the Sawi anthology.

Then there's Andrew's selection as one of the Philippine Daily Inquirer's Top 20 Under 20. Andrew is a 19-year-old writer/artist, and he totally rocks. Secretly, I'm being really good friends with him right now so that in the future, when he's as famous as Madonna, I can proudly say, "Oh, yeah, Andrew? I've known him for, like, ever." Ha.

And last but hardly least, Jason has been shortlisted for Stanford University's Digital Vision Program. Out of 300 applicants from all over the world, he's made it to the semi-final 45, which will later be winnowed down to 15. If he doesn't make it, I'll bet it's just because he's applying for a scholarship as well, but if he does make it--Woohoo! Ivy League (-ish*) Jason! (New from Mattel...)

Just to let y'all know: you do not really have to ask me if you can link my blog on your site. Of course you can, y'great big sillies! Your link list is a reflection of your taste: the blogs, sites, and whatnot that you happen to enjoy. Whether or not the owners of such whatnot approve of your enjoyment should have little to do with your right to list it as part of your preferred thoughtspace, if you will.

On the other hand, I get that you may be asking me permission as a "subtle" way of asking me to link you back. Which means obviously you are not looking at my links list properly! Check it out--to the left and down a little--and you'll see a little notation at the bottom that allows you to go ahead and add your site to my list. This is because my list is powered by bloglinker, a nifty system that allows you, Dear Reader, to interact with my links list. Also, it automatically creates a reciprocal link back to me whenever I put another bloglinker member's site on my list. Since I and the person I linked have the option to delete these links if we want to, I think this is a pretty nifty feature... Dean, of course, finds it terrifying, sigh.

Speaking of Dean, all you good people who have him on your link list--as his Official Fairy BlogMother, I would just like to point out that it's Notes from THE Peanut Gallery, not Notes from A Peanut Gallery. Okay? Just so's ya know...

*And yes, I am aware that there are officially only eight Ivy League Schools, and that Stanford is not one of them. But it's considered on par with the Ivy League, so there.
Nikki bit in at 11:47 AM :: ::
Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Oh, Fuck!

No one told me that the writers' webring thing was starting today! Or, as shatterbrained as I've been recently, someone did tell me and I missed it. Gah.

Anyway, this is the Tuesday writers' webring, brainchild of Jonas, and officially named Slinging Ink (the webring, not Jonas). The simple premise is that you have five of us writer-types, and each of us pledges to post something (hopefully interesting, entertaining, informative, or all three) every week on Tuesday. I had nothing to do with the title, but it amuses me to think of Tobie and me pulling a pair of six-guns out of their holsters and slinging ink at each other. Yeah: "This Internet ain't big enough fer the both of us, pardner."
Things You Never Knew You Never Knew

1. According to Bill Bryson (A Short History of Nearly Everything), 1% of the static that you see on unassigned TV channels is leftover radiation from the Big Bang. This seems pretty irrelevant until you realize it means that, at some point or another, you have actually witnessed, in your own little way, the creation of the universe. Sadly, it just wasn't all that exciting.

2. According to Llewellyn's Magical Almanac, fish can lead you to true love. All you have to do is eat a salted herring in three bites before going to bed. Do not speak or drink afterwards; and the love of your life will appear to you in your dreams, offering water to quench your thirst. Having tasted salted herring myself, I'm inclined to believe that this works, because (a) I find the taste of herring so horrendous that being deprived of a drink after eating the stuff would certainly cause me to have delusional dreams; and (b) I would therefore be willing to love anyone who would give me a drink to wash the horrid taste out of my mouth. If he were really my dream lover, though, he'd offer me Coke or a mint julep instead.

3. According to some source that I no longer remember, the word "jewelry" is derived from the Jewish practice of converting money into wearable gold and gems, thus making it easier to tote their wealth around in an itinerant lifestyle. I'm not sure how true this is; but if so, then perhaps we should start calling cell phones "Pinoyelry", since that is what a lot of us have sunk our dough into. I promise to start wearing my phone around my neck as soon as you do.

Have a great day, and check out the rest of the posse!
the Tuesday Writers' Webring
Nikki Alfar
Tobie Abad
Gabby Lee
Andre Mischa Cleofe
Cathy delos Santos
Nikki bit in at 2:45 PM :: ::
Monday, June 06, 2005


(adj.) like “scatterbrained”, only rather more destructive

Things Only a Shatterbrained Eedjit like Me could Accomplish, part one:
The good news is: the wonderful editors of the upcoming Sawi anthology have selected one of my stories for inclusion in their book. I’m a genius!

The bad news is: when my hard drive crashed a few months ago, I lost a ton of my work, including the aforementioned story. I’m an idiot.

The really fortunate news of life-saving magnitude is that I’m pretty sure I can reconstruct said story if I just pummel my recalcitrant memory hard enough and tenaciously enough. But the point is: I wouldn’t have to go through this self-abuse if I just backed up my files like a person with an actual brain in my head instead of candy floss. Let this be a lesson!

Things Only a Shatterbrained Eedjit like Me could Accomplish, part two:
I misremembered the date on one of the postdated checks I issued for our rent. I thought it was for the 30th of June, but it cleared on the 1st, meaning that our budget for the next two weeks is shot, especially with Sage starting school on the 15th. I’m just lucky I don’t have the kind of husband who would blitz out on me over this sort of thing, because heck, I’m tempted to blitz out on me for this. I’ve always thought Dean is probably better than I deserve. But don’t tell him I said that.

Speaking of the Superb Spouse, check out his interview at Pinoy Book Reviews. I always find it strange that he sounds so see-ree-ious in these things, like an August Author or something. You’d never guess that he’s actually addicted to gossip magazines.

Oh dang, did I say that out loud? This shatterbrained phase has got to go!
Nikki bit in at 12:05 PM :: ::
Thursday, June 02, 2005

Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions

The French manage to have an elegantly apposite term for just about everything, and that includes this one: l’esprit d’escalier, or the spirit of the stairway. The phrase refers to clever comebacks that occur to you when it’s a little too late, like when you’re trudging down the stairs in the aftermath of a doorway confrontation.

In my case, it’s less a case of things I wish I’d said, and more of things I wish I was actually mean-spirited enough to say in certain circumstances, such as:

when someone asks “Going up?” when the elevator panel clearly indicates that said elevator is going down (or vice versa):
“No. Actually, right now this elevator is headed for a twelve-day pilgrimage through the Holy Land. Are you coming?”

when someone says, after I’ve just told them something, “Really?/Talaga?/No kidding?”
“You got me; I am kidding. I just make these things up to test your mental acuity. Congratulations, you clearly have a triple-digit IQ!”

when someone whom I know can recognize my voice rings my cell phone and just has to ask, “Hi, is this Nikki?”
“No, this is her evil twin, Skippy. I’ve just sliced Nikki open and strangled her with her own intestines. Would you like to leave a message?”

when someone asks me (and they have, believe it or not), “Do you mind if I ask what size your boobs are?”
“Yes, I do mind; but since you’ve already asked, I’ll tell you: they’re bigger than your brain, and smaller than mine.”

when someone calls me on my landline at home and says, “So where are you?”
“Orbiting Jupiter. Luckily, the aliens that kidnapped me have altered my physiology in such a way that I can now transmit my thoughts as electrical currents. So how’re you?”

This last one, I’m proud to tell you, I actually did say, when a white man patronizingly said, “You know what? You speak really good English.”
“Thanks; so do you. Did you learn it from TV?”

Obviously, I can be a challenging person to converse with, although I rarely actually utter the snarkiness that so often occurs to me. Some people, however, deserve it.
Nikki bit in at 1:21 PM :: ::
Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Elevator Action

It's not about what you're hoping it's about, you libidinous kibitzers.

I've counted at least four elevators now in the Metro Manila area that feature the combination of touch-sensitive keypads and floor numbers marked in Braille.

Am I the only person who realizes how stupid this is? Think about it: here's some poor blind person trying to get to their desired floor, so they run their hands over the keypad, looking for the right number. "Ah, here it is," they think to themselves, not realizing that they have also unwittingly pressed every other number their fingers have traveled over. So the door opens and closes, opens and closes--and unless the elevator is also equipped with recorded voice messages for each floor, how does this blind person even know when to step off the elevator? It's both hilariously and tragically absurd.

Yesterday, I saw an elevator in which the numbers run from right to left instead of left to right--presumably to make things easier for Japanese people, or simply to confuse the hell out of everyone else, so that people keep hopping off on the wrong floors and the building administrators can have something to laugh about on a regular basis. Hey, you have to take your kicks where you find them, right?

Then there's Dean's office building, where the number keypad is on the outside of the elevator instead of inside it. You have to press the floor you want to go to before getting on; then the little screen on the keypad tells you which of three elevators you should ride. This seems simple enough, but you would not believe the number of people I've spotted (a) standing outside the elevator and looking at the keypad in dismay; (b) unwittingly entering the elevator and, after the doors have already closed, looking about frantically for something--anything!--to push; and of course (c) meekly getting off on the wrong floor and trying to pretend they were really just dying to take a tour of the stairwell from the get-go.

Once, I was getting on the elevator at Dean's office when a girl standing next to me grabbed my elbow. I was all set to jam said elbow into the presumed hoodlum's face when she stammered, wide-eyed and trembling, "Puh-please, c-can I take this elevator to the s-seventh floor?" I took pity on her and showed her what to do.

I dunno; given that there continue to be people who have trouble distinguishing the "up" button from the "down" button (appalling but true), maybe we should require all public buildings to use a standardized elevator type? Yes--from now on, we will decree, everyone must use Schindler's Lift.

If you got the joke, then possibly you, too, can actually manage to get where you want to go.
Nikki bit in at 1:54 PM :: ::
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