something Conservatives admire about me

I couldn't think of a blog title that sounded less egotistic, but whatever. Sometimes my brain isn't that creative.

I've had a recent Zoom convo with a gentleman who's very interested in joining the US Coast Guard Auxiliary. Hopefully, he will end up joining my flotilla because he sounds like a very mature, giving type of guy. He openly said he's Catholic (which is cool), and contacted me thru LinkedIn which is a first in regards to Aux-related inquiries. In our Zoom, he said that he reviewed my LinkedIn profile and there was some approval in his voice in regards to all of the volunteering activities I listed.

Looking back, I've noticed that other conservatives seem to have a similar stance about me in that aspect.

I'm no expert on Christianity. But from what I know, Big Man Jesus himself was very much into helping others especially those who are less fortunate. And I guess that's what conservatives I know like about me.

Even though I'm a registered Democrat, I get along with them and I've known them for quite some time now. And I'm pretty sure they know that I'm more liberal than them overall, but that's never stopped us from getting along. We just don't really talk too much about politics, ya know? And if we do, we usually keep it civil.

John and Arthur are both Caucasian men whom I've met thru the Auxiliary and although I don't ask them whom they vote for, I wouldn't be surprised if they are both Republican. John is a real gentleman and Arthur is also a respectful guy (he can be quite blunt, but if he sees you in a positive light, he's not afraid to go to bat for ya).

Both the "Bob's" from work (altho one of them went to another company) are also Caucasian and I know they're both Christians. They're both friendly, intelligent, funny guys.

Arturo is also from work -- he's a Christian and a US Army OIF vet.

Then there's HP whom I've known since college. She's Christian and is in the military, and so is her husband.

These people are ones who come to mind first when it comes to conservatives who've known me for a long time. Thus, they're well aware of my long history of active volunteering and my passion of helping others.

Sometimes, even if they haven't known me for a while, they know about my said history. One of my former managers (MSJ, whom is also Christian) comes to mind: one year, when I went to volunteer for Cali wildfire relief efforts, he admired that. So he said I didn't have to use any of my PTO for volunteering on weekdays. As much as I like my current manager, I have a harder time seeing him letting me do that. Indeed, when I asked HR, they said nope, you can't do it on official company time. They're so effin' by-the-book. Screw 'em.

Ofc, that doesn't necessarily mean that I'll go to Heaven b/c I'm rather agnostic, but that's another matter.

So for me, it's a reminder that regardless of where we sit on the political spectrum, there's some common ground and that includes helping others who are less fortunate than you. There are different ways to go about that (some more controversial than others, esp when it involves spending public $$).

But at least in the smaller context of things such as on an individual basis, no one can decry you for volunteering.

3rd Time's a Charm: the NREMT

I've been feeling high these past several days. Hopefully, it'll last for a while without it getting to my head.

That "Impostor" feeling

All these years as volunteering as a First Responder, especially with the Red Cross's First Aid Services Team (F.A.S.T.), deep down I kinda felt like.... an impostor. Sure, I can say that I had field experience in "dirt medicine", and that's extremely valuable. But for a lot of medical organizations/groups out there, they never heard of an EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) certification, which was where I was at. I had to explain to them what an EMR was, and that it was almost essentially the same thing as an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician).

But unlike EMT, EMR is not a national certification. So if I wanted to volunteer or work a gig in some First Responder type capacity, the minimum level of skills was usually EMT. Sometimes, I was able to volunteer for, let's say... the wildfire relief efforts... then I would be able to get into it with just an EMR cert. Again though, I had to initially explain to the volunteer coordinators what an EMR was. O_o

Matthew from F.A.S.T. was right: if you have your EMT cert, then it opens sooooo many more doors, with people asking a lot less questions.

In my early years of volunteering for F.A.S.T., I also remember Gary admonishing me, "You don't have your EMT yet? C'mon, Derek!"   And another time, Matthew thought I had my EMT, but I actually didn't; not his fault -- he didn't know at the time b/c I was too embarrassed to say I failed the notorious NREMT, which is an exam certification all EMTs need to have.

Deep down, I was too scared of the NREMT for a # of reasons:  I didn't feel like taking classes and studying again; and I was a bad baaad test taker. Looking back, my fear of the NREMT probably stemmed from the fact that I didn't do too well academically in college. So I think I let that held me back. Eventually though, you get sick of being scared.

And that's what happened to me.

First failed attempts

Finally in 2015 or so, I signed up for a "EMT Boot Camp" at Unitek College. It was $$$ because it was an accelerated 2-week EMT course: 14 days, and 12 hours a day including weekends. Generally speaking, the shorter the overall EMT class, the more expensive it is. Because they have to pack in the same amount of course materials as other longer EMT classes, but in a more condensed period of time.

The "EMT Boot Camp" was ran by mostly military veterans, and the "Trauma Lanes" scenarios did actually feel like a boot camp to say the least (not that I'd know since I've never served). So it was a good experience, and I'm glad to say I did it. But 2 weeks is not a lot of time to absorb all those EMT materials and is very very rushed. Even for someone like me with my background from volunteering with the Emergency Response Team (ERT) at my company.

After Unitek, I just went straight back to work, thinking that my current day job didn't hinge on me getting the NREMT, that the NREMT was just a personal goal, and I could take my time in taking it. In other words, it wasn't a priority.

Bad idea.

The longer you wait after completing the EMT course, the less chances of you passing it the first time around. And I think it was a few months before I actually first took the NREMT. Not only did I not fully absorb the materials from that 2-week "boot camp", but I didn't really study for the NREMT either. So it came as no shocker that I failed it. A second attempt several months later yielded the same outcome, again with me not really having a good grasp of the materials nor prepping for the NREMT questions. It wasn't surprising, but still demoralizing nevertheless.

Enter Foothill College

Fast forward to Jan 2020: my EMR certification was about to expire in a few months. So I signed up for the quarter-long EMR course at Foothill College, as my colleagues in the Red Cross wasn't hosting one at that time. Given my years of volunteer experience, I coasted thru Foothill's EMR for the most part. Most of the class were kids, and I was one of the older students as being in my mid 30s. But I still really enjoyed it. I knew full well that it was the prerequisite for Foothill's EMT program, and I was already considering signing up for the latter.

Then the pandemic hit.

Towards the tail-end of the class, it pretty much moved online, just like the rest of the world. For us newly EMR graduates, Foothill decided not to host another EMT course right away like they normally would because of the virus.

As 2020 rolled on, thoughts started creeping into my head: I'm not getting any younger, and I don't want to later look back on my life with regrets ("I wish I did this...."). Lord knows that I have some already, and some is enough. And one thing I've wanted to do for a while was get my EMT cert.

So when I found out that Foothill was resuming its 6-month EMT program in Jan 2021, I signed up. It was now or never.

In Dec 2020, I spent some time studying to get ahead -- namely with the human anatomy chapter. The human body is an amazing machine, and very complicated. I knew that that was one of my weak points. So I focused on that chapter during the holidays.

6 months at Foothill was going to be a while. But I was determined to get it right this time. It was going to be a far cry from Unitek's 2-week "EMT Boot Camp", and that was a good thing in a way because then I'd have more time to better absorb the materials. Which a lot of I already knew, but there was still a lot that I didn't know. Just like the EMR class in 2020, I entered this EMT class with an open-mind and a dose of humility -- even though I knew more than most of the kids in the class, I didn't know everything. And I didn't want to have a cocky attitude. Any good/competent instructor would nail you to the wall for that.

Just like EMR, I was designated as my Squad's team leader in each quarter. I tried to be a good mentor and lead by example. Sometimes, it worked; other times, not so much. But I did my best.

Tuesdays were primarily Zoom sessions thanks to COVID. Thursdays were in-person lab sessions.

In the Zoom sessions, I made it a point to keep my camera on most of the time, and ask the instructor Qs. I confess, there was an ulterior motive for this, and it wasn't really me wanting to be a teacher's pet or anything. See, most of the rest of the kids didn't really keep their cameras on. So you only saw their names or some profile pic on-screen. If you kept your camera on, that alone decreased your chances of getting randomly called on by the instructor b/c you're already visible to them. For other students, it conversely increased their chances of getting called on. There many have even been a few instances where they stepped away from the Zoom classes.

Hey, if you don't want to get randomly called on, turn on the damn camera.

There were a few times where Instructor "A" called on me and a few other more seasoned students for our opinions about how the class did after group activities. I think that was a sign that she respected us for our maturity and experience, which was cool. The one thing I remember saying on Zoom to the rest of the class was that making mistakes in the EMT program was a good thing -- that means you can learn from them so you can avoid making them out in the field on an actual patient. Instructor "A" thought that was "well said." I took that to the bank.

So yeah, the 6-month EMT program at Foothill wasn't incredibly hard or rocket science, especially with my familiarity with some of the materials.... but it still took a lot of work. And you had to stay on top of everything with all the quizzes, tests, assignments, lab skills, final exams, etc. Falling behind would invite a world of hurt.

In addition, I had my job (first world problem). It just happened to be that during Feb thru May 2021 were some of the most challenging, stressful months I've ever experienced at work. I remember on one particular Thursday, I had to get up at 6am for work, work till class which ended at 9:30pm…. my eyes were stinging even by the time class started. Maybe it’s because I’m older, and/or I’m not used to long days like those blah blah blah. But I didn’t want to lose focus.

A lab skill assignment... believe it or not

Thus, as much as I enjoyed the EMT program, having to work full time with night classes eventually got tiring especially towards the end.

But it was worth it.

The NREMT... again

At one point during the EMT course, I mentioned to a fellow student, "It's not over until we pass the NREMT."   He agreed.

After we "graduated" close to the end of Jun 2021, us fresh EMT grads were given tips and instructions on what to do next -- how to register with the County of Santa Clara, what further requirements are needed to work at an ambulance company, etc.  But what I cared most about was how to study for the NREMT. I took it 5 years ago, and I wanted to succeed this time. Not to fail, and retake it over & over again.

The # of attempts allowed for the NREMT is like this:

  • You're allowed a total of 4 tries. Each costs ~ $90.

  • Each time you fail, you have to wait 15 days to schedule a retake of the test.

  • If you fail the first 3 times, you have to take a refresher course.

  • After said refresher, if you fail that 4th attempt, you need to retake the entire EMT program.

Instructor "D" also told us that if we don't take the time to prep for the NREMT within the 30 days after completing the class, there'd statistically be a 30% chance of passing it the first time which is pretty damn low already. And one's chances of passing decreases after that failed first attempt. I can relate all of this to personal experience.

Then, he explained to us that studying from class notes and reading from the textbook is a terrible way to study. The best way to prep was to study the types of questions that would be on the NREMT. The instructors recommended some NREMT study tools, a few of which saved my @$$.

Now, I know what you're thinking -- why can't the EMT class just prep you for the NREMT? And can't class just include taking the NREMT at the end and be done with it?

There are probably valid reasons why that ain't so. But I sure as hell wish it was. I guess it's because EMT local jurisdictions all over the States are just too different from one another.

As for what makes the NREMT so nerve-wracking? Well, some folks may not perceive it that way. But for the uninitiated, let me describe how it works (more or less)...

  • The NREMT is a computer-adaptive test.

  • Based on how well you do, it decides how easy or difficult the next Q will be. And it can go either way.

  • The NREMT may cover all the areas one learns in EMT class (Cardiology, Medical, EMS Operations, etc). Or maybe it covers half of those. Or just a few of them. Who knows?

  • Usually, a test-taker will get 60-80 Qs; 150 Qs on rare occasions.

  • Regardless of the # of Qs you get, the computer will decide when to cut off your exam: it may think that you know your stuff well enough to pass, or that you don't and you're wasting its time.

  • When the computer ends your exam, you don't know right away if you pass or fail (#@$&Y#$*&#^@$*&!!). For the results, you have to wait about 24 hours, or 2-3 business days even.

  • If you pass, the NREMT website will just simply state that. If not, then it'll post how well you did in each category ("Above/Near/Below Passing")

After class ended, I gave myself a week break -- I still had a full time job to tend to, and my brain needed a respite from studying. But I didn't want to wait too long for the NREMT. So eventually, I scheduled the exam date just under the 30-day mark after our last official EMT class. Then I spent 3 weeks studying, 1.5 to 2 hours a day taking practice quizzes and questions that came in NREMT-style. No small thanks to my good virtual study-buddy, Darren, that's for sure.

Yours truly paid a little bit more money for and the EMT Pocket Prep app. Whenever I got a question wrong, or even if I got one right but it was just a lucky guess, I read the given explanation as to why. I did a lot of Google searches ('cuz you know, Google knows everything) and on occasion went to my EMT textbook to zone in on certain sections of the subject/term I was looking up. As a result, I actually became more familiar with some things that I simply glossed over in class.

Google history searches... medical terms galore!

Then came The Day.

Arriving at the testing site, it was like deja vu all over again. It was the exact same place where I took the NREMT (and twice failed) 5 years ago.

Welps... 3rd time's a charm!

This time around, I felt a little more confident but was still nervous. Several Qs were still tricky. And a few felt like shooting in the dark. For some others, I knew the answers straight off the bat. But yeah, overall, it was still no piece of cake. Sigh... confidence.

The silver lining (if you want to call it that) was that the computer ended my exam around 70 Qs or so. For my first 2 attempts all those years ago, I remember one or even both of those attempts having 100+ Qs. Which even back then didn't feel good. So at least this time, ~70 Qs felt more or less aligned with all the numerous practice quizzes I took.

I do feel that all those practice quizzes helped... not for every Q on the NREMT obviously, but if it weren't for those practice quizzes, I wouldn't have been able to answer those NREMT Qs on pregnancy-related emergencies, Cushing's Triad, or "Rules of 9's" for BSAs (Burned Surface Areas). Even though the Qs on those subjects weren't large in numbers for my NREMT exam, hey, I was still able to answer them correctly.

I'll take it.

Feeling High

Since my exam date was on a Fri, I was dreading about not finding out about my results till the following Weds (2-3 business days later, as it was officially stated). But probably like every other EMT student in the past, I kept checking the NREMT website the following day. Natta, which wasn't surprising.

On Sun, the first thing I did after waking up was in fact checking the NREMT site again. It was like becoming a ritual.


It's funny how one simple sentence can bring so much sadness. Or, in this case, pride and joy.

I literally "w00t!"ed in my room with arms in the air. I still can't believe I passed!

Then I took a snapshot of the NREMT screen formally wishing me Congratulations, and sent it to my parents and some of my closest friends.

Granted, thousands of kids before me have passed the NREMT (it doesn't require a bachelor's).
Granted, this isn't a nursing, a master's, or a medical degree. So getting the NREMT may not seem that hard for most.

But it still means the world to me.

Even Huda, my former housemate who is now a 3rd yr resident, said to me after I completed the EMT class: "I've gotta hand it to ya, you've done something productive during this pandemic."  And this coming from someone who's gone thru med school! So just the passing of the class still counts a lot in her eyes.

I don't know where exactly this will take me down the road. But I feel proud of all the hard work I put into it. It's the accumulation of a 10-month effort: 6 months for EMT, 1 month of studying for NREMT and even the 3 months for EMR... even tho the EMR course was back in 2020 and is now no longer a prereq for Foothill's EMT program. But heck, I had to take it before COVID reared its ugly head, so I'm counting the EMR's 3 month period. In any case, I haven't hit the books this hard for this long a duration for..... well, a long time. Maybe even compared to my college years.

Again, working full time and doing all that concurrently -- I know I'm not the only one who has done it and others have done it for far longer.

Nevertheless, this is a longtime personal goal finally fulfilled.

I'm not feeling like an impostor anymore!

Bravo Zulu. 
  • Current Mood
    accomplished accomplished

political commissars

Years ago, I was watching the opening battle scene of the Chinese war film Assembly with my childhood friend, David. Just like in the present, he was in the US Army back then.

Assembly is depicted from the Communist soldiers' POV during the Chinese Civil War. In the opening battle, a Red Army poltical commisar (aka political officer) gets blown to bits by artillery. Right after that, David shook his head in disgust: "I hate political officers. They just get soldiers killed."

While I understood what he was saying, I found it a little amusing because the US Army has never had political officers. Public Affairs? Yes. But that's different from political commissars.

Even though he never thankfully had to serve with or under a polical officer, David wasn't far from the truth. From what I read, political officers primarily cared about maintaining discipline amongst the soldiers regarding their political ideaologies. "Fight for the Motherland!", they would goad the troops but perhaps not risking their own lives.

Ofc, this doesn't necessarily mean they were all like that. That slain political commissar in Assembly actually fought in combat (did instances like that that happen in real life? who knows).

And there have been accounts for commissars in the Soviet Union also fighting during World War II (and even getting KIA).

But in other films -- namely Enemy at the Gates -- politlcal commissars were portrayed very negatively. They'd shoot retreating soldiers ("cowards and traitors", in their eyes) without fighting the Germans themselves. They'd try rousing the troops with propaganda, which I wonder if that got old after a while to the Red Army soldiers whom were the ones doing the actual shooting and dying in Stalingrad. I wonder how much of the depicictions of the poltical commissars were accurate, and how much of them were pure-Hollywood.


But yes, if there's any truth to them, I can absolutely see why David is disgusted with political officers. It seems like that mostly armies of Communist countries have them -- China, North Vietnam, and the Soviet Union.

UPDATE: Ok, so I just read an article about a Russian World War II film -- The Last Frontier. I might've spoken (or rather blogged) too soon. Apparently, the Red Army looked out for its own in ways that are more fair and compassionate than depictions such as in Enemy at the Gates. Considering that this website is very Russia-centric, I'm kind of not surprised about this particular opinion. BUT... who am I to argue with them?
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative
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Avengers: Endgame

Back in May, I blogged about the Snyder's Cut of Justlice League.

I realized that I've never blogged about Avengers: Endgame.

Fortunately for those of us who enjoy the MCU films, we didn't need a Director's Cut of Endgame.  The 2019 mega-hit did well enough at the box office with audiences worldwide, and didn't have the troubled production that the DCEU's Justice League had.

Having said that, there were a few things -- minor things, really -- that I wish were a little different about Endgame.

1. Captain Marvel

I know a few people whom aren't very enamored with the Captain Marvel, mainly due to Brie Larson's acting (or her "woke" views that have oh-so-threatened all the masculinity of online alpha males). It doesn't really bother me. While I do think Brie doesn't exactly have the most facial expressions, I still like her and I like the character. Which is why I was hoping to see more of her in Endgame. I thought she'd have a bigger role in the Avengers' battle against Thanos, especially with that post-credit scene of Infinity War that paged Captain Marvel.

But I get it -- Endgame is about the OG Avengers (for the most part). And having a powerful character like Carol Danvers around all the time would make fighting Thanos too easy. That's probably another reason why she was written out for most of the film.

2. Captain America's ending

As for the other Captain, I was really, really hoping that he'd go out in a blaze of glory by nobly sacrificing his life, stopping Thanos, and therefore saving the universe. I mean, that's just Steve Rogers for ya.

So in Endgame's climactic battle, when Cap was facing with The Mad Titan's ENTIRE army, I was like, "Hell yeah!!"

But I read somewhere in an interview where the Russo Bros explained why they didn't have Cap go out that way -- because that was EXACTLY what the audience was expecting. And you never want to do what they were expecting.

The Russos Bros also went on in saying how Tony Stark's journey started off as him being a selfish prick back in Iron Man and ended up as the unselfish hero. Whereas Cap, whom was always unselfish, decided to do something that HE wanted to do deep down (for once) which was to end up with his true love, Peggy. That's not to say he was being selfish in a bad way per se, as he spent his entire life up to that point serving others.

So with that logic, the way Cap's story ended makes sense. IMO, it was the next best thing other than his sacrificing himself to save the universe.

And besides, the way Endgame ended (pun intended) was PERFECT -- very simple, poignant, and touching. Especially for a huge film that concluded an 11-year saga. (Hayley Atwell sure said so.)

3. More Team-ups please!

One thing I wish Endgame had more were teams-up like those we saw in Infinity War. In IW, you saw all these different MCU characters meet for the first time -- such as Iron Man and Doctor Strange, and Thor with The Guardians of the Galaxy. It was great to see all of those interactions on the big screen (similar to Captain Kirk and Captain Picard working together on Star Trek: Generations). It's like every Marvel's fanboy/girl's dream come true. This is another reason why I wanted to see more of Captain Marvel working with the Avengers in Endgame.


But again, Endgame was more about the OG Avengers. And besides, most of the other characters -- save Rocket, Ant-Man, and Nebula -- were "dusted off", so to speak.

Regardless, seeing all these characters team up in the climactic battle was good enough.

And yes, that includes the "girl power" scene that some felt was just another over-the-top femininst moment. (Sorry/not sorry, trolls)

Again, all very minor things about how Avengers: Endgame could've been a slight bit cooler in my eyes. But all in all, it was a fantastic film.
  • Current Mood
    geeky geeky
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Drought Déjà vu

Well, that was quick.

The Golden State is back in a drought. Again. I think we had an approx 2-year respite from the 5-year drought that Cali suffered through. And here we're back at it.

Thank you, fucking climate change. And all those whom passionately deny it.

Anyways, I try to think of ways that I can incorporate water-saving habits into my daily routine. Some of which, I've already done even when we weren't in a drought. And for some folks out there, some of these can be gross.

1. Don't take too long showers, and/or shower every other day. And/or wash just the hair every day by dipping your head in the shower's water stream. But do a full-blown body wash every other day.

2. Don't always flush the toilet. As the saying goes, "When it's yellow, let it mellow. When it's brown, flush it down."   At the same time, even for the latter, it stains the toilet bowl faster. Plus, it can smell.

3. Wash clothes less. Heck, I already only wash it like once a month anyways. (I should change that if I get serious with a girl.) And when I do wash clothes, I do it at night when water consumption is (supposedly) less.

4. Don't keep the water running while brushing teeth -- this, I already do.

5. Try to use less water when washing dishes. Hmmm, I try not to let the water run full-blown while I'm slathering the dishes in soap. I turn the faucet up when I actually need it.

I don't really have plants at my place to worry about.

I should flush my hot water tank soon. It's around that time of year again (I gotta do it every 6 months, as opposed to once a year for some reason). Not looking forward to using more water just for that. Hopefully, the water I dump from my tank into the sewer will get reclaimed somehow.

Really, that's all I can think of in terms of daily-water-conservation habits. I can't save the world myself, but hopefully I'm doing something to help with this drought.
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful

when a guy looks at her

I wasn't a regular viewer of Conon O'Brien by any means, but whenever I see his videos on YouTube, they're pretty funny. I can see why he's popular.

And the majority of these clips are from a long time ago. Take this one for instance, where he was caught looking at the breast of one his female guests (YouTube clip here). And no one's really offended because... well, he's Conan.

As much as I find this video funny, it kinda reminded me of a very cringe-worthy moment several years ago. It was at a Chinese restaurant, at a big group dinner to celebrate the union of Ted and Jyh-Shiuan. They hadn't tied the knot yet, and their respective families/relatives/close friends were mostly there.

At a table nearby, there was another group (of Asians, ofc) and one of them was a pretty young attractive female.

Sigh. She caught me looking at her and I turned my gaze away. But after a few seconds, I saw her still looking at me, with this expression of major disgust showing on her face.

I mean, I can't really blame her (and I'm sure other females out there would side with her for sure). But man, that was like someone's gaze drilling into your soul, emasculating you. Was it the worst thing in the world, what I did? No. But it was a very cringe-worthy moment, something you don't want to dwell on.

I want to say that as a guy, it's natural for me to find myself looking -- not gawking -- at attractive females out of the blue. When girls catch a male stranger do that, it can be creepy/offensive.

But when it's the other way around, not so much. I wish that type of double-standard didn't exist, if it is that. And I say this knowing full well and in appreciation of the fact that harrassment usually happens from men towards women. And that's a serious subject -- women do deserve to feel safe, just as anyone does. Especially in the # metoo environment.

Nevertheless, I feel bad that that pretty Asian girl was so disgusted with me when she caught me looking at her. At the same time, I didn't mean to do it to come off as creepy or disrespectful (that's the last thing I want). I did it because she was attractive.

Anyways, hopefully something like that doesn't happen again.

  • Current Mood
    embarrassed embarrassed

Feeling Alive

Traveling solo. There's something thrilling about that. Albeit a little scary. But thrilling nonetheless.

The best instance that immediately comes to mind is that journey to Iceland in 2016. Granted, it didn't start off as a solo trip. My sis and her family were living in England at the time. I flew with her and her two sons from the States. Her husband stayed in England due to work, while she and her boys visited us, mom, & dad here in the Bay for a month. Anyways, for her, flying with two little ones was a bit much to handle. So she wanted me to fly with them.

I spent a few days with them in England. Then (with some advance travel planning help from my Mama Bear), I flew to Iceland, to which I've never been. Traveling solo is thrilling, especially when it's to a new spot. I remember waking up when we landed in Iceland, navigating through the crowded airport, paying extra attention to all the signs (that's what happens when it's a new destination for ya), and finding my way to the bus.

Exiting the airport to the bus was when that thrill kicked in -- it was dark, windy, and maybe even a little rainy? I don't recall the exact time, but it was around midnight. But man! That was exciting, especially when you're all alone. What an adventurous feeling!

The bus made a few stops, and I think I was one of the last ones off. When I offloaded the bus, I felt like I was in the middle of nowhere. Again, it was dark, you're somewhere new. All I knew was that I was somewhere in Reykjavik. I set off in search for my "loft", which was the Centric Guesthouse. Thank God by that time, I had converted to Smartphones (I was one of those folks whom long resisted from getting one until 2014). And the entry to the Guesthouse required a numeric code which was in my email. If I didn't have a Smartphone with connection (obviously), then I'd be one homeless tourist out in freezing Reykjavik for that one night.

So I was able to get in successfully, and then onto my room. I think Centric is privately owned, and no one was manning the front desk at that wee AM hour. You just read the sign posted there and follow the instructions on getting the key to your room.

Other solo trips I had were to Canada and then to Japan/SKorea. But as cool as that was, Canada is "domestic" and an English-speaking country. So it wasn't as thrilling, although still adventurous, if you know what I mean. (Iceland has English speakers too, but their primary language is Icelandic.)

As for my trip to Japan/SKorea, that was also thrilling. But by that time, it was my 3rd trip to Japan and 2nd to SKorea, respectively. So yes, it was thrilling/adventurous/exciting. But because I've been to those spots before and knew somewhat what to expect, that trip wasn't as much so at least compared to my vacay to Iceland.

A slight con to traveling solo is that it can get a bit lonely. Especially when it comes to eating out alone. But eh, that's just part of the journey I guess.

I hope I get experience those exciting sensations some day. With the pandemic (hopefully) improving, I'd like to travel again. Ofc, wherever I go to, I'd like to go back and explore more, even though I like visiting the same places. Japan/SKorea/Iceland, included.

Justice League: The Snyder Cut

A few months ago, Alberto and I had a "bromance" movie date -- I went to his pad, we ordered some BJs Pizza, and watched the Zach Snyder's Cut of the Justice League, or better known as ZSJL. We watched the 4-hr film in its entirety. And  it's a good movie. I enjoyed it and I think overall is a better film than the theatrical Justice League that was released in 2017. Although, the latter had some tidbits that I enjoyed too.

What I liked about The Snyder Cut:
Overall, it was more coherent movie than "Josstice League" (a somewhat portmanteau of Justice League and Joss Whedon, who primarily directed the 2017 theatrical version), storyline and all. In ZSJL, the characters were more fleshed out, such as Steppenwolf, Aquaman, Flash, and ofc Cyborg. And there were less cheesy lines than Whedon's cut.

Then, there was Darkseid! Need I say more? Ok, I will.

- The scene where WW discovers the truth about Darkseid was a really neat scene. It was a haunting moment in foreshadowing how a monster from the ancient past is coming back to threaten the modern world.
- Darkseid's morphing, lava-dripping "molten steel statue" which he used to communicate with Steppenwolf. That was kick @$$.
- And the last scene where Darkseid faces off with Justice League (esp with the Man of Steel) was awesome. You could see how pissed off he was at the heroes for thwarting his plans.
- Although I wish we could see Darkseid himself actually battling the heroes, at least we got to see him in ZSJL. In "Josstice League", he had no appearance whatsoever and there was only 1 mention of his name there. Lame, Warner Bros, lame.

The action scenes were better in ZSJL. Esp how Batman kicked more Parademon @$$ at the climatic battle; and earlier on in the film, the Amazons were battling them + Steppenwolf. When they chanted, "WE HAVE NO FEAR!!".... man, you get goosebumps.

And it was just great to simply see Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill as Batman and Superman, respectively, again after all these years. WB continues to majorly screw up in not keeping these 2 guys as DC Comic's most iconic superheroes.

Speaking of Batman, Ben Affleck seems much healther than he did in the "Josstice League". Probably because he was going through alcoholism and personal issues during reshoots of the latter.

The Knightmare epilogue scene with Jared Leto's Joker was a cool surprise. I enjoyed the dialogue between him and Batfleck, although I'm sure the rest of the superheroes standing around in that scene must have been like, "Let's get the F out of the open!!"

It was nice surprise to see Martian Manhunter, although personally I'm not too invested in that character.

Soundtrack: I love it in ZSJL, esp during the opening credits and the Batman theme in the climactic battle. (Although, it was kinda cool to briefly hear the original Batman and Superman themes in "Josstice League", but I know many DCEU fans probably beg to differ. I guess "fan service" doesn't necessarily mean you'll make the fans happy.)

Mera: I slightly like this Mera better than the one in Aquaman. They're both hot in different ways, but the Mera in ZSJL seemed more rugged and a lil' more bad @$$. And yes, that British accent is kinda hot too. Admittedly, this creates DCEU continuity problems with the Mera we saw in Aquaman, including the character's backstory. I hope to see this version of Mera by Amber Heard in future DCEU films.

Alfred: I enjoyed the small scenes he had with WW and Superman, as brief as they were. He was such a gentleman to both of them.

What I liked about the "Josstice League":
As unpopular as Joss Whedon's cut was with Snyder's fans, there are still several minor parts of it that I liked and I wish were in the ZSJL.

Small tidbits: the Green Lantern Yalan Gur had a cooler display of his powers with his Ring, Venelia's face right before she did her horse stunt (cuz you know... Doutzen Kroes is hot), and Batman's POV when he was rappelling in the climactic battle.

Alfred's dry sense of humor towards Batfleck while they were on the jet. He had some great Whedon lines:

- "One misses the days when one's biggest concern is exploding wind-up penguins."

- "Oh, perhaps I should fly to Paris with a handwritten note -- 'Will you be Bruce's teammate? Check Yes or No?' "

Parademons: when WW was narrating to the audience of the big battle between Earth's Defenders and Steppenwolf, she mentioned Parademons and then there was a haunting-but-nicely-done shot of one. In ZSJL, there was no such shot. So to the general audience watching ZSJL, they might be like, "What's a Parademon?"

Batman bringing Lois Lane as "The Big Guns" to disarm Superman, so to speak, after bringing Supes back from the dead. I didn't have a problem with this, as it showed how Bats thinks ahead and plans for contingencies, which is exactly what he does in the comics.

Post-credit scene race between Flash and Superman... yeah yeah, a lot of Snyder fans didn't like it. But this scene left a smile on my face, esp seeing Cavill's Superman having a sense of humor in teasing Barry (The Flash).

And this is probably what I missed the most from the "Josstice League".  In Whedon's cut, Superman was optmistic, light-hearted, humorous. There's less of the grim, brooding persona that we've seen him in Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice. Even Henry Cavill himself expressed this sentiment. Presumably, he was referring to Whedon's cut (but it's possible he was referring to ZSJL).

In Whedon's cut, Superman also retains original costume's colors. In ZSJL, the black suit was cool, but I still like the original. Besides, there's no explanation in the ZSJL as to why Supes was wearing the black costume. Sure, Zack Snyder explained the reasoning in interviews, and there's also a theory that that Superman's black suit is better at absorbing NRG from the sun (therefore healing him faster). But again, ZSJL didn't mention any of that. So as cool as it was to see Superman in the black suit (in the Reign of the Supermen comic storyline, Supes comes back from the dead with a black suit), it didn't make much sense in ZSJL.

Thematically speaking, I see the black suit as representing the darker feel that has marked (or plagued, depending on who you ask) Snyder's DCEU films. And Superman's original blue/red/yellow suit -- that reflects a more optimistic, vibrant feel. But that's just me.

And yes, even though WB did a screwed up job in trying to CGI-erase Cavill's mustache (that he couldn't actually shave off due to Mission: Impossible -- Fallout), the first scene where it showed Supes talking to little kids via cell phone video clip... that was cute.

We need more of this version of the Man of Steel!!

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"I just called the phone # to McDonald's!" -- for Ron

Years ago at work, an engineer came back to his cube and found a note that simply said, "CALL ME: 510 - ### - ####"

That's it. No name, nothing. So the engineer did as he was "instructed" and spoke into the phone: "Hi, this is so-and-so. I was told to call this number?"

A few seconds passed. His face contorted into confusion. Then he hung up and laughed. "I just called the phone number to MCDONALD'S!" He shook his head and smiled. "Sigh, Ron...."

There were numerous pranks Ron committed at work back then, and that's just one of them.

I was also a prank victim. One day after work, I walked to my car, all tired. This swath of bright pink on my windshield caught my eye. "A PARKING TICKET?? WTH, I have a permit. AT WORK!!"

Upset, I ripped the ticket away from my car, examining it over and over again with 4-letter words cursing thru my brain. Then, I noticed the ticket wasn't even for MY car.

Owned. By Ron.

Of course, there were times for payback in some form or another, or should I say "karma". One time, a company-wide email went out. And this was one of those emails where someone would "REPLY ALL" with an annoying question or comment, and the rest of the world would unnecessarily see it. Before long, dozens of emails from people all over the globe would be pouring into everyone's inboxes: "STOP REPLYING ALL", even though that was exactly what they were doing. *rolls eyes*

And in one of these cases, Ron not only hit "REPLY ALL" (I still don't know why he did that), he also accidentally selected the Outlook setting, "Request a Read Recept".  And his inbox became flooded with EVEN MORE unnecessary emails! Haha! That tied him up for a whole day at work. I never let him forget that.

Those were some of the things Ron and I reminisced about over lunch in Oct 2019. Unfortunately, it was one of the few times I saw him after he got laid off by BSC (stupid move). And even more sadly enough, it was the last time I would see him again.

Not too long before our last meet, he texted me: "Got some bad news. I've been really sick for about 6 or 8 weeks...."

Sigh. Fuck cancer.

In Ron's case, colon cancer. When he got his diagnosis, it was already at Stage 4. Ron said he was feeling severe abdominal pains/runs/weakness. But as per his usual self, he wanted to be optimistic:

So we decided to meet up at Sizzling Stone. Already by then, I could tell he was a little tired and somewhat weak. Probably because of all the chemo he was under at the time. But yeah, that was when we reminisced all the years we worked together at BSC. We shared a lot of good laughs, including recalling all the fun jokes & pranks we and our friends at work pulled on each other back then. Good times. (Ron noted, somberly enough, that such things probably wouldn't be allowed at work nowadays.)

There were other things we had in common, especially our years together volunteering at our company's Emergency Response Team (ERT). We also served in that similar capacity outside of work, with him at the East Bay Regional Park Search & Rescue, and me at the American Red Cross. We didn't talk about those much. But in a way it felt like we were volunteering together, just with different groups in different roles, but still under the umbrella of emergency first aid. If that at all makes sense.

Ron was also a fellow kid at heart. He always sent out light-hearted stuff at work that helped brighten your day a little bit. A complete 180 when I first saw him back in Apr 2007. As a kid whom didn't know anything back then, he looked kinda like a mean guy to me! But nothing could've been further from the truth as he was one of the nicest guys on the planet.

But yeah, back to Ron's silliness... he added me on Facebook and I know that I wasn't the only person to whom he sent really funny content and vice versa.

Ron was also supportive as he was nice. There were a few times at work when I confided to him my doubts about my own job performance. But he said, "I think you're doing a great job." And I'm sure he meant it, as opposed to just offering lip-service.

I'd imagine that none of this comes as a surprise to anyone whom knew Ron well.

It's hard to believe that he's gone.

Just like the rest of the world in 2020, Ron and I didn't meet up. Something about a virus that was spreading around. We did KIT thru several apps, such as WhatsApp or FB Messenger. There were a few times when I said we should meet up again via social distancing or via just a simple video chat. But I didn't want to press it too much out of concern of making him feel uncomfortable. Besides, he had bigger things to worry about, such as fighting cancer and going to church.

I'm just glad I was able to see him "relatively" recently in Oct 2019. In addition to that, we had lunch Aug 2019 at Dishdash. I'm going to miss our lunches. I'm going to miss him. It was a real honor and privilege to be considered his friend for the past 13 years.

I know everyone else feels the same way. Ron was definitely a very gentle soul, always kind, always helping others.

I can still see his face, hear his voice and most importantly, hear him laugh, ESPECIALLY when he witnessed you realizing that you were just his latest victim of one of his silly pranks. >=)

That makes me smile.

And I'm sure he'd like that.

Miss you already, buddy. Please watch over us from up there.

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volunteering != sexy

In another entry, I wrote that one of the constants in my life is volunteering.

Some years ago, I had a convo with Suzanne. Ofc, one of the things we talk about is dating. I conveyed to her my realization at that time that while volunteering is a noble thing to do, it's generally not considered "sexy" by females. Now, this isn't to say that there are no girls out there whom wouldn't find it as such. But when you compare it to other "classic" examples such as a guy playing sports or a musical instrument, or is good at fixing cars, volunteering isn't as "sexy" or attractive I guess. And Suzanne agreed.

This doesn't mean I stopped volunteering, however. I volunteer b/c I want to help others. If that makes me seem attractive to girls, that's great b/c I'm coming off as attractive when doing something I excel at and am passionate about. But... that's not my main intention for volunteering.

And when previous matchmakers have told a girl about me, one of the things they said is that I volunteer a lot. I can remember at least one case where the girl thought that was cool. No, this doesn't mean that the guy volunteering a lot will sustain a romantic relationship... it sure didn't with my last relationship, but eh, I don't care about that one. It's not worth going into details. 

In any case, Suzanne knew what I was saying: volunteering is definitely noble and worth doing, but on a superficial level it tends to not have that "wow" factor if you know what I mean.

And that's okay. It's nothing for me to be ashamed about and I'll keep volunteering where I can. It's just something I'm aware of. 
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