My Bookcase

The Lightning Thief

My blog looks sad. The first page is completely devoid of photos. None of my five recent posts have any pictures included. It reflects the sad fact that I haven’t been spending a lot of time taking photos, again. I haven’t even caught up with my Project 365, my albums in Facebook and Flickr are probably gathering dust by now… It doesn’t help any that my weekends are turning out really bad too. I was down with headache again the past 36 hours. 🙁

There is one good thing that came out of this weekend though. I finished Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief!

I haven’t seen the movie, but we’ve had the book for probably over a year. Alfred read a review of the book on the paper so we went ahead and found a copy. Kaya lang, I never got the chance to read it until now.

It’s really a book for children, it’s pretty much straight to the point. There’s no long description of the setting or the characters, so they’re not giving you much time to get bored. On the downside, there’s really not much room to let your imagination roam either. Oh they did take a few lines describing Hades’ realm, and then briefly Olympus.

I don’t know how I feel about this series yet, it is an award-winning novel after all. I’m not sure if I like it enough to read all the books, though I’ve already got them from a book sale in the office. It’s a good read yes, and I would recommend my nieces to read it, and even share it with my nephews. It would actually be nice to turn it into a picture book. 🙂

It did kind of force me to think about mythology, a subject that I haven’t thought much about since reading my brother’s high school book of mythology when I was a lot younger. Here in the Philippines, Greek and Roman mythology is discussed in third or fourth year high school, but our English curriculum didn’t seem to have adhered to that. We tackled only a few stories, if I remember correctly. So I’ve forgotten much about mythology, and Percy Jackson is a good review. If you want your kids interested in mythology, Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a good way to start.

Click on the image above to read some reader reviews and even an interview with the author, from

Start Saving Now!

This post is inspired by the article of the same title, from the magazine Entrepreneur, January-February 2010 issue.

Lately, I have been browsing through magazines quite a lot. I even bought some back issues of Yummy and Food magazine, while the boyfriend got himself copies of old Maxim and FHM. I try not to buy too many because I still have quite a number of books that I haven’t even touched since I bought them. Besides, I figured I should try at least one or two recipes from the foodie magazines before I bought additional ones.

Two weeks ago, while waiting for the boyfriend to meet up with me at the 7/11 store outside my office building, I was compelled to purchase a magazine so there’d be something to do while waiting (he made me wait for almost two hours!). There were a lot of showbiz magazines on the racks, but I didn’t want to spend on those. So I picked Entrepreneur.

On page 29 of this issue is an article by Henry Ong, President and COO of a financial consulting firm called Business Sense. In it, he outlines how he suggests one may setup a savings plan.  That’s exactly what I need! Okay, that’s not really the reaction it elicited from me.  Personally, I had an idea for how I could save, and a year or two ago I was really following a budget that I would set every payday. But I’ve fallen off the bandwagon and I want to get on again, and this time take the boyfriend along with me.

So here’s what we’re going to do, patterned after Ong’s advise:

Start immediately. Easy enough. I commit to starting right away so I’ve already transferred the money I got left from my previous paycheck to my savings bank account. Check (did on payday Friday). I signed up the boyfriend to commit to saving as well. He’s onboard.

Allocate savings. For starters, I’ll commit to saving 10% of my paycheck. Ong suggests starting at a lower number and then incrementally ramping up to your ultimate goal. Start with 3% for example, and increase it to 6% after three months. This is to get yourself accustomed to it. Makes sense, specially if a lifestyle change is in order. In my case, I think the need to save is more urgent. I don’t want to have to wait.

The article also mentions that the amount you allocate for savings will also vary, depending on your age. If you’re already 50, perhaps 20% would be a good target.

For the boyfriend, I have asked him to turn over 3% of his next pay. Regardless of how much he gets and how much he needs for his expenses, he will have to give me 3% so I can keep it for him, as savings. Imposing am I not? Yes. We need to do this, for both our sakes. 🙂 He’s agreed. He also expects this to get bigger eventually. We both know it’s doable.

Pay yourself first. The 10% from my paycheck and the 3% from his, will be deducted even before any expenditure is done. This will be deposited to a separate bank account. I have my own and that’s where mine will go. We’ll open a separate account for him.

Contribute more to your savings. We’ll classify our expenses – needs versus wants. I’ll also draw up a budgeting plan. At the end of the two weeks (normally the time it takes until the next payout), whatever is left will go to savings. We each are supposed to get performance bonuses. That’s where we’ll get money for rewards. No bonus, no rewards. We’ll still try to keep some of the bonus and add it to our savings.

Monitor your plan. This is a plan, it may work, but it could also fail. What we have at this point is a commitment to make it happen. We’ll re-evaluate it after sometime. Adjust our goals according to our needs and actual expenditure. In time, if there’s enough to invest, we’ll study our options.

Sometimes it also helps if you have something concrete that you’re saving for: a house, a car, a wedding, or in preparation for a baby. Say for example, you’d like to get yourself some life insurance. First thing to do is to get some information on life insurance rates that would be suitable for you, once you have an idea then you divide that amount by the number of payouts that you have to make up the budget (or for the monthly payable, for example). That should give you an idea how much you really must set aside from your salary. Makes sense?

I hope I’ve helped give you an idea on how to start your own savings plan. Do feel free to share your best practices too. 🙂

Books for Christmas

Since losing a whole lot of books when Typhoon Ondoy wreaked havoc in our home, I’d been really sad and disappointed about their fate. I haven’t even read many of those books, while others were books I wanted to keep. One of the children’s books I lost was a treasure – I Can Tell Time. It’s no classic, but it was the very first book I received as a birthday present from my parents. The inscription inside, in my mother’s handwriting is something I cherish. The exact words are lost to me, but I will remember the message forever: now I was being introduced to books, and they will teach me many things and take me to different lands.

Of all the books we’ve had to throw out the morning after, it was that one that pained me most.

I told myself I would stop compulsive book-buying – something I do almost every other week when I passby the second-hand bookshop at The Loop. I won’t buy books faster than I can read them anymore. Here I am though, three months later, and I’ve already accumulated a (tall) pile or two.

Yesterday, I picked up four more bargain books. I would have taken six but I didn’t want to spend all of my money. I had the two reserved, waiting to be picked up next week. I listed them on my wishlist for the Kris Kringle we’re having with one of our teams… I hope whoever picked my name hasn’t chosen a gift for me yet. I hope he/she just gets me those… 🙂

Last year, I got a book (Confessor/Goodkind) and chocolates for Christmas. At the non-agent Christmas GA this year, I also got the book I wished for (Certain Girls/Weiner). We’re having a year-ender party on Sunday and I am expecting another book (or two) and chocolates. We’ll exchange gifts with my Tier2 team next Friday, that’s where I hope to receive the two books I put up on my wishlist.

I’ve found it easier to list books as my Christmas wish. So long as there’s a fixed budget, I can find a book to match. It’s easier than me asking for perfume, or a piece of clothing. Those things I’d rather shop for myself. Gadgets would be cool to list too, but none of my groups would raise the budget higher than 500 pesos! 🙂

Next comes another dilemma – where to put all these books? My mom has been taking our books to her office and her guests are free to take them. They don’t have to take them back. My dad doesn’t really care about collecting the books (not even the Cusslers or Ludlums, though my mom leaves those untouched), once he’s read them, they can stay on a bookshelf forever and he wouldn’t pick them up again. He has been known to purchase a book we already own though, haha. I’m not that way. I’d rather keep all of them for myself. I think of rereading them again someday. Or of accumulating enough books for a vast library where my future kids will grow up and revel in. But we don’t have space for a library.

There are some books though that wouldn’t be too difficult to let go of. I wouldn’t mind not owning them forever. But those are very very few (at least from the ones I bought myself).

So I’m thinking, after reading a particular book, maybe I’ll blog about it somewhere and sell it. Or lend it for a fee. Or something. Or maybe I’ll leave it lying around somewhere and anticipate until someone finds a way to get it back to me.

Legend of the Seeker

Had I known that this series has been out since 2008, I’d have looked all over the net to watch it. I was finally able to watch the catch-up marathon at the Sci-Fi Channel the day after Christmas. My dad suffered through the day watching with me, LoL.

The series is loosely based on “The Sword of Truth” series by Terry Goodkind. This series is one of two epic fantasy series that my brother and I followed through the years, the other one being “The Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan. I used the word loosely because they didn’t strictly adhere to the books for the serialized TV version. Once you reconcile yourself with that, a true fan would be able to sit back and enjoy the shows. Of course, I’d still would prefer the original, but it isn’t so bad really.

Seeing this fantasy world on-screen made me want to reread the books. I haven’t even read Phantom and Confessor, the last two books, partly because I don’t really want the epic to end yet. Haha. My brother lent the first book, Wizard’s First Rule, to a friend and I don’t think we got it back so if I want to read them again I’d actually have to make another purchase. I wouldn’t mind that. Perhaps I’ll try looking for it in second hand bookshops 😉

Anyway, I can’t get enough of Bridget Regan; I love Kahlan, even when I’d much prefer to pronounce her name as Kah-lan, rather than Khay-lan as they do. They picked the perfect actress. I might just go ahead name a future daughter after her. 🙂

Here’s another fan-made vid:


The Innocent Man – John Grisham

The Innocent Man was the book that kept me company on my trips to the hospital in the past few weeks (oh and also French Women Don’t Get Fat). Since we don’t have our TV here in the living room in the aftermath of Ondoy, and the PC wasn’t setup yet (like I’ve said before, we’re still not done with the cleanup and our living room is still a mess), I had the chance to sit down and finish Grisham’s first work of non-fiction on Saturday last week.

In the beginning, it was dragging. It’s a lot like reading a legal brief, as I would imagine it (though I wouldn’t really know). But as the story unfolds even further, you would really want to read it through to find out how the truth will eventually come out.

My thoughts? If this injustice can happen in small town America – what of those suffering in the Philippine justice system?

Here, there was no graft and corruption included. Simple incompetence. Or law enforcement’s sheer will to find their scapegoat to get the public off their backs. In the Philippines, you have cops, lawyers and judges on payola (allegedly).

One of the most oft used arguments for the death penalty is its power as a crime deterrent. But how many of those executed in the past really were guilty beyond reasonable doubt? Until the state can guarantee a fair justice system, more so for the poor, then the death penalty will not be effective. Then of course there’s the right to life argument.

The book does not talk about the death penalty though it did give us a glimpse of Ron Williamson’s horrifying experience at The Row and the H Unit. It also shows how dreams are accepted as confessions, and how jail house snitches will say just about anything just to get off their own crimes.

It’s also about prejudice. And how some people on trial are presumed guilty until proven innocent.

The stories of Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz, as well as of Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, should be an example of how law enforcement and the prosecutors ought not to act.

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