A Laugh-Out-Loud Read for the Halloween

I just finished reading Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella and if I would rate it, I would give it 5 out of 5 stars!

My friend Anne was the one who first purchased the book around December of last year. Over the holidays, Anne told me she finds the book super hilarious. This is something I never expected because I thought the book deals about some ghost story.

I bought the book with a little interest over it last month. I did not care to read it because I was engrossed reading Eat Pray Love.  But when I finished the book today,  I was a bit regretful of not prioritizing it. It was an endearing yet a hell of a laugh-out-loud work of Kinsella. If you appreciated Kinsella for her Shopaholic series, you will love her more for this book. You will realize that Sophie Kinsella is more than the goddess of the Shopaholic series.

The story’s protagonist is Lara Lington. However, I think the story evolved much on her great aunt Sadie who was a ghost. So as you can see , there’s this ghost element which makes the book fitting for a Halloween read. Sadie kept bombarding Lara to help her find her necklace. Yes, it’s only a necklace and not some unfinished business or a kept secret of  a dead person. Since Sadie is a ghost, only a limited people see and hear her. Unfortunately Lara was the only one who could both see and hear her.

The initial mission of Lara was to fulfill her promise of returning Sadie’s necklace. The book cover of my own copy provides a sneak preview of the necklace.

However, a lot of things and events came in as Lara was fulfilling her mission with Sadie. Lara was left alone by her best friend Natalie to run their newly established recruitment or headhunting company. Lara was desperate to reconcile with her boyfriend, Josh, who broke up with her for no concrete reason at all. Lara also discovers some secrets of his business tycoon uncle, Bill Lington and daughter Diamante. In the course of the necklace hunt, great aunt Sadie forces Lara to date Mr. American Frown named Ed.

Aside from the adventures and misadventures, Lara finds her way realizing the importance of family and unintentionally falling with love with Ed.

Kinsella’s Twenties Girl embodies the typical humor element in her Shopaholic series. But what I appreciate in this work is the emphasis on family relationships, women empowerment and making me believe that somewhere along the way… one would always find love. (Damn!  I’m getting so cheesy!)

This now makes me realize that these three elements are always present in Kinsella’s works. Rebecca Bloomwood of the Shopaholic series, Emma Corrigan of Can you keep a secret?, Samantha Sweeting of The Undomestic Goddess and Lexi Smart of Remember Me are all females. Kinsella’s vision of the protagonists should always be a strong, hilariously stupid but a renewed and redeemed female character in the end. Family is always part of the characters’ line up and finding “the one” is part of her sweet happy ending.

Kinsella emphasized the important role of the family in Lara Lington’s character. When everything else fails, the family is always there. Your family loves you with all your failures and wrong decisions in life. Kinsella’s depiction of the family are people who will always love the perfectly imperfect person in you.

Every woman is destined to redeem herself amidst those antagonists and failures in life. Kinsella have shown in the novel that women are capable of doing those stupid, crazy and unnecessarily nasty things. But at the end of the day, she learns from it and stands up as a more empowered person. This is what exactly happened to Lara Lington. With the help of Sadie, Lara used her failures to cross the bridge leading to success.

Every woman will have her own unique and romantic fairy tale. This is I feel an implied message that Kinsella wants to communicate to her female readers. Somewhere, in your journey, the right man will come along. When this happens, all things will suddenly fall in the right place.

The only weakness I felt in the novel was a little element of predictability when Lara discovered that her Aunt Sadie’s portrait was sold to the London Portrait Gallery. I already had a feel that Uncle Bill was the one who sold it. I also then predicted that after all, his uncle’s concept of two coins as his path to business success was a fake.  Lara’s blooming relationship with Ed was also something I already expected. Ed by the way was responsible for the title of the book.

If you are looking for some light, hilarious but romantic read, then Twenties Girl is one of the best choices. It’s a chick lit that will leave you a laugh-out-loud, touching and romantic feel at the end of an ordinary or a tiring day.

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Sensor Machine Boo-boos, were you once a victim?

This is a complaint I’d like to address to all shop owners who are using sensor machines.

The sensors that I am referring are those metal poles situated in the entrance area of each shop. These sensors act as surveillance machines. They are used to detect if products are forcefully taken out of the shop. The passing or even slipping of the circular magnetic object installed in each item in the shop will cause the sensor machine to produce an alarming sound.

I don’t know if you shared the same experience with me. There were instances when the sensor machine alarmed when I am just about to enter the shop. Worst case is that the machine alarmed when I left the shop, without buying anything.  The next thing that happens is that the security personnel will force you to open your bag and inspect its every little space. Annoying and embarrassing, right? Though the security personnel are just doing their job, it’s humiliating for anyone to be placed in the situation when you are suspected for possibly committing a crime.

This is something I would like to address to all security personnel, managers and shop owners. I know your primary concern is to safeguard your store. But my simple request is to handle “alarming” situations in a more discrete and courteous way.

My first suggestion is to train security and sales personnel to politely approach customers who caused the alarming of these sensor machines. They can devise better words and approaches that would not make customers appear as suspected stealers.

In my experience, when the machine alarmed, the security personnel just called my attention and compelled me to open my bag. No words of courteous request and apology were heard thereafter.  What is further infuriating is that even though the shop is too small, I stayed for less than a minute, and the sales personnel have seen my every movement, they still asked me to open my purse that is less than a ruler in size!

Another suggestion for shop owners is to be responsible enough for the mistakes of their sensor machines. Please generate statistics on how many times did your sensor machines failed.  Count the number of incidents and report such to your service providers.  They could even produce a study on what other unknown factors would cause the sensitivity of the sensor machine.

A friend told me that signals generated by mobile phones could cause sensor machines to react, especially when there is an incoming or outgoing call. If a person also carries a book or any item that has a magnetic strip, it also causes the sensor machine to respond.

These concerns could not just be set aside. There has something to be done, both on the side of the shop owners and service providers of the sensor machines. The presence of mistakes always warrants the need for improvement!

Imposing a package counter? I don’t really know if this will work or customers will adhere to this old practice. Shop owners could instead request their customers to leave their bulky luggage before entering the shop. In that way, in case the sensor machine reacts, no inspection on bags would anymore take place. It would be very obvious that it’s the machine’s fault and customers will no longer be suspected of stealing.

How about an ordinance to penalize shop owners with malfunctioning sensor machines? Could this compel shop owners to monitor and highly maintain their sensor machines? Under this proposed ordinance, customers could complain to the local government incidents when malfunctioning of sensor machines occurred.  A proposed provision of the ordinance is to compel shop owners to pay damages to customers who were innocently victimized by their sensor machines. Penalty fees could also be imposed by the government or worst, temporary closure of the shop for continuous violation.

Photo source: http://www.harrygs.com

Book Preservation Techinques: Wanted

My books share the same love I give to my clothes, shoes and bags. However, the problem is that I don’t know how to take care of them. Taking care meant how I will be able to preserve them to the extent that when I am old and incapable, I would be able pass them to my nieces or when they will become priceless collectors’ items. (My super ambitious imagination invades again!)

All of my books are paperback editions because I cannot afford to purchase those regular hardbound releases. Another reason why I prefer the pocket-size paperbacks is the convenience it gives to commuters like me. The time I spent in the public transportation is usually my reading hours. The limited niche I own while riding the jeepney, FX Taxi and LRT is not really conducive to hold and read a bulky and heavy hardbound.

Whenever I have a new book, no hindrance could ever impede my reading. I immediately remove the book from its packaging and start my quiet adventure. In some instances, my reading comes with a bag of potato chips, french fries and soda. In effect, my book also has its fair share of eating. It has food stains, marks of liquid spills and a lot of folded pages.

The only book care rule that I know is to wrap books with a plastic cover. However,  I think this practice only prevents the wear and tear of the book’s cover. But for the inside pages, caring would always depend on the user.

I recently got envious with a friend whose books were neatly preserved. My friend owns a library of novels but she manages to maintain the physical condition of her books. Now I am starting to feel that I should also be obsessive compulsive with my own books.

But my dilemma is, apart from the plastic cover principle, I don’t know how to properly preserve my books.

Take a look at what happened to my copy of The Da Vinci Code

I cannot anymore count how many people have borrowed my first hard-earned book. If you have read my previous blog entry, this book was my first purchase out of my own salary.

It has torn pages, worn out spine

and

pigmented pages..

Pigments in pages! I remember once hearing my auntie telling my cousin not to borrow discolored or books with pigmented pages from the library. My auntie told my cousin that such books are being infected by bacteria.

Does my auntie have a point? Is there some truth behind her claim? Is it really bacteria or just a natural effect on paper when exposed to extreme sunlight and high temperature?

True or not, these pigments bother me because it deteriorates my cheap, priceless yet valued collection.

What’s worse is that my own copy of the Confessions of a Shopaholic is starting to manifest pigmentation!

Aside from the unexplained pigments, the wearing out of my book’s cover is another worry for me

Although I know that immediately wrapping your book with a plastic cover could prevent this. But I am just so hard-headed to strictly practice it.

I know that I will have more book purchases on the next years to come and no one could ever prevent me from that! My only wish is that while my collection is still few, I will be able to learn how to properly take care of them.

I live in a tropical country and my books are kept in a room with no air-condition unit. Does that affect?

My books are often suffering from dust. I just don’t have the luxury of time to regularly brush away the dirt and dust.  Do these cause the pigments?

How about sunlight exposure? Should I keep my books away from sunlight?

In the end should I just invest on those bulky and expensive hardbound copies? Are they more durable? Are they designed to last longer?

Only God knows and only time could tell

I have something to be proud off myself today. Finally, I was able to watch a movie on my own! I know this sounds as a “so what?” news, especially for a 26-year-old grown up. But for me, the experience could equate to surpassing my first day as a friendless student in the university or the first time I managed to travel on my own.

Call it a twist of fate but the movie that I have watched somehow fit into my first time experience. I watched Julia Roberts’ Eat Pray Love, a movie that talks about searching and finding yourself and your happiness. I initially invited one of my girlfriends to join me on this movie date. But I felt that she was not really interested over the movie. I decided not to insist this thing on her. I chose to let go. Let go of a companion and allow myself to experience a mini adventure. Yes and I’m calling it an adventure!

I know that I appear to be making a big deal out of this experience. The simplest reason that I could give is I am gradually conditioning myself that in the future, there will be no one left but me. I have no one to depend and lean on, except myself. Time will come that I can’t depend on other people to shop, go places, and try out first hand experiences with me.

I don’t know if I should be proud of being able to conquer a new experience or I should feel disheartened because I’m beginning to acquire immunity over my solitary life. People might say that everything always depends on how you view things. It’s a matter of perception. But in my case, the answer is always the same; it’s easier said than done and experienced. The audience and the actor do not see the same things. The audience’s view is limited on the output or performance. On the contrary, the actor sees and experiences more than the actual performance.

Whatever it is that I am undergoing right now, I hope and pray that a “better me” would always emerge in the soonest possible.  In the end I have nothing to hold on but to believe that it’s only God who knows and only time could tell.

Writing the 365 days of my life

Believe it or not, I started to own my first planner in my 26th year of existence. I was already in my fifth year of working on that year.  I bought my first ever planner on the first Thanks God it’s Friday of January. I intend to purchase a good read from National Bookstore for the weekend. After finding the right book, I found myself in the calendar section. Later on, I already took home this 2009 environmentally inspired planner.

Envy over my friends who are excitedly writing on their most coveted Starbucks Planner could explain why I was encouraged to purchase one. I initially wanted to complete the stickers in that infamous Starbucks card. But since I am no coffee addict, I accepted the fact that I can’t make it. If Starbucks will have a tie up with Esprit, Guess, Wendy’s or Taco Bell, then I will surely have the planner in less than 2 months.

I am an ordinary rank and file employee. So definitely, the entries in my planner would never contain the typical terms such as meeting at 5 pm with Company A, management committee meeting, monthly presentation, etc. What I rather have inside my planner are short chronicles of my daily activities. I would note some shopping and movie dates with my girlfriends, meet up with old friends, stupid moments, lousy days, minor accomplishments and some first hand experiences in life. 

Why am I suddenly writing this? It’s all because of the unintentional discovery of my buried 2009 planner. As I browse over my old planner, I found not just archives but living memories of the departed year.  I found entries that marked the day when my metal wires were installed, my graduate school graduation, cramming for my class lecture, penniless days, shopping splurge weekends, my first ever sprain, my grandmother’s last birthday, pestered workday, how I felt after purchasing my first smart phone, and some days when I just feel like crying.    

If I would write all the highlights of my daily activities, I should have 365 notes in my planner. But unfortunately, this is a something left unaccomplished for me. As I browse over the planner I found days with blank entries and I really regret this…

The blank spaces in my planner are like time that can never be recovered. I cannot totally recall what happened each day in those 365 days.  Unfortunately, I failed to realize that the planner serves as my own portal of what and where am I on the previous time. The planner will allow me to discover and learn from myself. Did I become a better person? Did I learn more? Did I change? I could have a basis in answering these self-questions, if only I have patiently devoted part of my time in building my thick and entry loaded planner. On the lighter side, I find enjoyment in reading entries from my old planner. I find myself laughing and learning on those stupid decisions and mistakes I made.   

For 2010, I bought myself a pricier planner. My current planner is more loaded than my previous one. It has discount coupons to my favorite shops and equipped with some useful materials for the females. My writing pattern was the same. My planner was loaded with entries on the first months. But the entries tend to diminish over the next months. I still have wasted months with a lot of blank pages. I never have learned my lesson.

My realization now boils down to the basic fact that without the memories, life would be like the wasted blank pages in my planner. Memories however need not to be limited on those blissful moments. Memories are both moments of heaven, hell, bliss and misery.  Wherever life takes me, I should not waste each of its pages. I must write them down and someday look them as living entries in the archive of my life.

Customer Service, Obedience and Discpline

The FX Bay of the Gateway Mall is my normal destination on the way home. Ever since I started working after college, the FX Bay has been part of my daily itinerary for six years. The FX Bay used to be a very disorganized and chaotic commuters’ area five years ago. I still remember seeing commuters rushing and fighting like ants to one arriving FX Taxi to get them home.

Over time, the management of Gateway Mall organized the area. More security guards were deployed and FX Posts were created to separate commuters according to their destinations. People in effect have to fall in line to their respective destination. The boxing out and semi-stampede experiences diminished, but commuters have to endure the long lines of waiting as a trade-off.

I take FX taxis bound to San Mateo or Montalban that passes through the Marikina area. FX Taxis bound in my area do not come that often. In effect, I’m always forced to wait longer.

Just this night, I noticed a new security guard deployed in my usual FX post. The security guard was stricter than those I see before. When the right FX taxi finally arrived, the security guard counted 10 passengers in line. I was the second to the last to be counted. When I was finally seated, I noticed one lady who overtake the other people in line and got herself inside the FX Taxi. The security guard noticed the lady and instructed her to move out and return to her original location in the line. The lady refused to obey the security guard. The lady further replied, “Nakasakay na ako, tapos paalisin mo pa ako.” (As you could see, I am already seated and you’re still asking me to move out.) The security guard got upset, slammed the back door of the FX taxi where I am seated and accidentally hit my right knee. This now explains the bruise in my left knee.

The incident that I encountered depicts three important aspects in this life, Discipline, Obedience and Customer Service.

I commend the security guard for doing his job. Except for two mistakes, I think you tried your best to exempt no one from obeying rules and regulations. Your first mistake was to let go of the “taking advantage” lady. In this case, you chose to be a gentleman  which caused a trade off for firmly implementing the law. Your other minor mistake was your inability to keep your cool. My knee unfortunately became a casualty of your anger.

My message to security guard, always keep your cool man! At the end of the day, always remember that Customer Service really pays off. Although no one can perfectly follow the rule, please recall this in those trying times. Be courteous and respectful at all times. In that way, you could prove that you are the civilized, educated and the better citizen. You would emerge to be the more educated, than those well schooled passengers, who don’t even know how to fall in line.  I am working at a service oriented insitution too.  Believe me,  practice the right customer service and you will always be saved whenever trouble arises.

Obedience is more than its definition of complying with rules.  For me, obedience also means being respectful to both the authority and your neighbors. I know that this is the most overused phrases, but obedience to the law is one determinant in achieving a more livable country.

This is my silent  appeal to everyone. If you are disappointed with your government or even your workplace, at the very least, please practice obedience even to simple rules and regulations in public places. Let us not anymore add up to the chaotic and tiring environment we have.  My plea to the lady is please,  practice obedience and respect the authority and other tired passengers like you.

Obedience also begets discipline. It’s not enough to be obedient. It’s rather important to be a disciplined obedient person. To be obedient means not only once, twice or just to selected authorities and instances.  Discipline is the main element that would create that sustainable obedience.

I know that after I write this article, my experience could reincarnate to you and even to me, again and again… The only difference that could be made is how people and authority would handle the situation. I just hope that next time, Customer Service, Obedience and Disclipine will prevail.