June 2006


The Miami Heat wins the 2006 NBA Championship. No surprise there.

What was surprising was the great effort displayed by the Dallas Mavericks throughout the season.

Miami had the Big Two: Shaquille O'Neal and Dwayne Wade. Add to that was championship veteran coach Pat Riley. Public opinion and support easily favored the Florida team.

In contrast, Dallas was unknown to many until Avery Johnson's wild new plays debuted on the hardcourt that led the team of young and eager players into its first Championship attempt.

In fact, the Mavericks put a real scare to those rooting for Heat (me, included) when it posed a 2-0 lead early in the Finals.

And for all that, I respect Dallas Mavericks as much as I congratulate and celebrate Miami Heat's win.

True, they lost. But they are winners in my book, too.

As a kid, I used to read a collection of books about Aesop's Fables where, at the end of each story, a lesson is imparted. Perhaps because of that, I tend to assess a week's progress through lessons learned.

So what lesson did I learn the past week? Well, I didn't exactly learn but I did realize that communicating is easy to learn in books but tough to practice in realtime. Sure, theorists Shannon and Weaver deduced the communication process with the all-too-simple sender-message-receiver structure but in reality, it is far too complicated than that.

Take for instance a job interview. As the sender, I put across the message of 'I am qualified for the position, hire me!' The message is pretty simple and even straightforward to a fault. As the receiver, the employer — usually represented by a stuck-up, Psychology degree-holder, Human Resource personnel — would take the message and, ideally, respond favorably.

But unless I'm the son of the company's CEO, that isn't how communication works.

In reality, an interplay of charm, wit, confidence, and (to a restrained degree) agressiveness operates in the communication process during a job interview. By interplay, I mean they complement each other. One can't stand alone and let you breeze through the interview with flying colors. Take it from the quote below from someone once famous:

You can get by on charm for about 15 minutes. After that, you'd better know something."

Oh, and patience, too. However obnoxious the interviewer is with his me-myself-and-I stories, affiliations and past achievements, patience coupled with an arduous smile and fixed eye contact (never roll your eyes) are one's best approach to consistently show interest.

And preparation. You might think your ability to carry a conversation with your buddies could easily let you find the right words to construct the right answer to any question. Wrong! Prepare a list of best answers to possible questions and practice aloud in front of a mirror the night before the interview.

Jesus! I sound like a career advisor.

Well, if don't get to nail that job I sat an interview through, I'd perhaps consider a lateral career shift, then.

Sam Javanrouh's photo blog Daily Dose Of Imagery featured a rather disturbing, albeit artistic, macro-shot picture today that seems to have been extracted from a Neil Gaiman's work of fiction:

It's a dried pomegranate, if you haven't figured it out yet.

But my Gestalt-of-an-impression of this is (however twisted it may read): a decaying snipped nipple.

In true Gaiman sense of imagination, I see spiders crawling out of a dried and wounded breast.

Amazing how a picture can be deconstructed in varied, often differing, sometimes twisted ways, yeah? Although, on the side, I think I may have read too much Gaiman novels and watched too many CSI episodes…

Clogged and oily.

No, I’m not talking about car troubles. I’m talking about zits on my face. Not the big and sore kind where pus oozes out when you try in sheer desperation to eliminate any unsightful trace before a big weekend date; just small dots that resemble a constellation from afar.

What can I say? My adolescent years are catching up with my twenty-something life.

While either in front of the bathroom mirror or in bed in a pensive (worrying) state, I have tried to pinpoint the precise reason for this untimely skin outbreak: Stress, perhaps? Toxin build up? Weather change (summer isn’t exactly my favorite season, you know)? Probably.

Hmmmm, how about my frequent work outs in the gym of late? Maybe. You see, zits are considered as an abnormal response to men’s normal testosterone levels. So if I lift more weights and develop more muscles, does it follow I’d get more zits?

Ah, I give up. I need not fuss over zits as Freud did on narcissism.

Truth is, if it weren’t for the job interviews ahead, I would care less. As one career-related cliche goes, first impression lasts. And having zits doesn’t exactly bring about confidence to leave a more mature, less juvenile demeanor, does it? Think about it: If zits are related to acne, and acne is known in scientific jargons as acne vulgaris, then I’d be sitting opposite a company’s HR personel with a face that screams in vulgar proportions: Don’t Hire Me, I’m A Piece Of Zit!

Darn.

Well, I’m hoping this is just a phase. Something I’d forget about when my skin clears up.

Hopefully real soon, though.

I received an email from an acquiantance the other day about a concerted effort by an alliance of private companies here in the US to help victims of the recent earthquake in Yogjakarta, Indonesia. The effort is to provide long term relief support to displaced children and families with vitamins and medicines. The alliance is disseminating the email for additional contributions from individuals and companies willing to extend financial support to the cause.

Now this practice is one proof that people are not really indifferent to social issues; that there are individuals and organizations who feel making a contribution translates to making a difference in the lives of many in need.

That feeling could be made into an equation: making a contribution = making a difference.

The equation, unfortunately, is non sequitur or the inference or conclusion does not follow the premise or evidence.

Cases in point: Last year's Asian Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina disasters.

CNN reported in drop-off locations for relief contribution that people donated goods displaced families and individuals found no benefit from. And these include:

(1) Cosmetic items such as lipstick and make-up; (2) Canned food with weeks left before expiration; (3) Winter jackets, tattered clothes, evening dresses ; (4) Stiletto shoes, soccer cleats, and high-heeled boots; (5) Embroidered drapes and table cloths (6) Shower curtains and caps, loofas, and bubble bath soaps; (7) Thong panties and underwear with worn-out garters, and; (8) Medicines such as Viagra and Lipitor.

However good the intentions people have to help others mired in times of crises, making a contribution requires not only a great deal of sensitivity but some common sense as well.

An aid official interviewed by a reporter emphasized the relief operations best by saying:

We don’t mean to be ungrateful, but it would be appreciated if people take a little more care before just unloading their basements and garages […] [the victims] are not beggars, [they] don't need hand-me-downs."

Perhaps, if one can't contribute through financial means, a prayer for the victims would suffice. That would amount to something significant than having victims receive contributions and feel more disappointed and nuisanced than relieved.

It took an aspiring underdog to defeat a hotshot bully.

The Dallas Mavericks eclipsed Phoenix Suns in Game 6 (102-93) yesterday to win the NBA Western Conference Finals, 4-2.

German import Dirk Nowitzki rallied the Mavericks offense (a 12-0 run at the start of 4th!) and instensified its defense against a Steve Nash-led second half threat-of-a-comeback and finally ensured the Texas franchise of its first NBA Finals appearance.

California perhaps finds this development as a sweet revenge of sorts after Phoenix Suns railroaded the sunny state's chances of a Finals berth with its early Playoffs wins against Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger may have dropped his signature line 'Hasta La Vista, Baby!' to Phoenix Suns after Josh Howard sank a three that pushed the lead back to ten with less than two minutes remaining in the 4th. The game was thus sealed in favor of Dallas.

And so the NBA Finals begin Thursday with the Dallas Mavericks playing against Miami Heat. Interesting match. Duo versus duo. Nowitzki-Howard versus O'Neal-Wade.

No underdogs or bullies this time around. The playing field is leveled.

No Raja Bell and his notorious clothesline fouls; No Steve Nash and his superstar to-a-fault-offense; No Suns, at last. Period.

I was an hour early.

The sun was out and I felt it was okay to wait. But I had to sit. My toes were sore in my new leathers. My armpits were working up a sweat under a starched long-sleeved polo shirt. My right arm was spastic from the tug between gravity and my Dell briefcase. I needed to sit.

The endless chatter from behind made me turn. Hmmm, American bourgeoisie having late morning coffee at Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.

I found two unoccupied alfresco seats around a table canopied by a large green awning. I took a seat, placed the briefcase on another, and relaxed my wearied legs. And as nature let a cool breeze slip like a manna of sorts for the tired soul, I thought I heard Bono singing 'Beautiful Day'.

And then there was the sign.

This table is reserved for Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf customers only. No loitering!

The exclamation point threatened my peace.

I checked my watch. Gee, I still had 50 minutes to kill. I needed to sit some more — a lot more. And I was at peace with my seat, my canopy, and my breeze.

I'd hate to spend for anything. I had a hearty breakfast a good two hours ago. Besides, if I wanted a caffeinated beverage, I'd have diet Pepsi instead, thank you.

Darn, need I find another spot without a stupid sign, I pondered.

Bah! Who cared? Everyone minded their own business: a housewife sipping a decaf while browsing her bills for a long errand later; a columnist typing his thoughts on his MacBook with a double latte on the side; a teenager drowning her misery (from a breakup, perhaps?) with a Vanilla Chai Tea blend on one hand and a mobile phone on the other. Who would have suspected I was loitering around the premises? Who would have suspected I wasn't patronizing a coffee product? Not even this middle-aged guy, who stood nearby and looked around like one of those usual Hollywood stalkers, would have had the slightest clue whatsoever. Or so I thought.

His mobile rang. He flipped it open and spoke.

Hello, this is David, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Coastal Village Manager speaking, how may I help you?…"

What the f*@#!?! Was he on the lookout for loiters? Was he looking at me with a suspicious mind?

And so, begrudgingly, I reached out my wallet, headed towards the counter, paid six bucks for a tall mocha ice blend and sulked and sipped the next 40 minutes away. On my way out, David, the manager, retreated inside the shop and let out a faux cough that sounded like 'Cheapskate!'

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