Transition 2: One Day in Venice

The whole of 2015 has been about travel, travel, travel.

Writing, too.

But here are pics from the day self and her niece Irene went to Venice, early this month. Venice is only two hours away from Florence by fast train. Self and niece are such adventurers!

The train pulled into the Ferrovia Train Station, across from the very old church of Santa Lucia. From Ferrovia, we took the vaporetto to San Marco Square, where we shared a dessert at one of the outdoor cafés.

2nd post on this week’s WordPress Daily Post theme: TRANSITION


Niece and self shared a sundae at an outdoor café on San Marco Square, early November: The weather was beautiful, like fall in California!

Self took these pictures from the vaporetto on the way back to Ferrovia (which lurched so much: hence, these blurred pictures), late afternoon:


On the Vaporetto to Ferrovia from San Marco: early November


Another From the Same Vaporetto Ride

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.



Still More Trios! Florence

More from the trip to Florence, more on this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge, TRIO.

While self and her niece were in Florence, niece booked us on a tour to the surrounding towns of Siena, San Gimidgiano, and Pisa.

The church (or Duomo, the word Italians use to refer to a cathedral) at Siena was beautiful. The front of the church has three entrances:


The Duomo at Siena: So beautiful!

And here’s another museum, whose name completely escapes self, but anyhoo: It’s in Florence, which has 62 museums.

Each wall facing a central courtyard has three arches:


A museum. Somewhere in Florence.


Three figures above a door to one of the smaller chapels next to Santa Maria del Fiore

Deepest apologies for being so lame about specific museums and what-not. Self is in New York City, and she still hasn’t fully unpacked from her last trip (to San Francisco). Will fill in the names when she gets a breather!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


More Trios in Florence

Lovely, lovely Florence.

Self encountered the city for the first time, early this month.

Today, self is browsing through her photo archives to find pictures that fit this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge: TRIO.

The first picture is the display window of a bakery that faces out onto Piazza della Repubblica. Look at the piles of pastry on the three plates! In Florence, self was able to indulge her sweet tooth to the max!


Florentine Bakery Near the Piazza della Repubblica

According to the tourist brochures, Florence has 62 museums. Niece got the idea of purchasing a 3-day Firenze card, which lets you into any of the museums, free of charge, for 72 hours (Be advised: They calculate down to the very last minute: say, you purchase the card at 10:56 a.m., it will expire at exactly 10:56 a.m., three days later.)


Three columns in some museum or other (Self will add the name as soon as she has a little more time to browse through her notes from the trip)


Approaching the Uffizi Gallery on the Piazza della Signoria: The front loggia boasts three arches!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Self Is Learning New Things Every Day! Today, at the Palazzo Vecchio

Self has seen a lot of museums in just three short days in Florence.

This morning, she found her way to the Palazzo Vecchio. Well, it’s not as if she had any actual destination in mind this morning. She simply pointed her steps toward the Dome of the Santa Maria del Fiore and, armed with her Firenze Card (Irene’s idea, of course. Thank God for Irene!), she stopped at:

  • the Cathedral of San Lorenzo (the oldest church in Florence, consecrated by St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, in 393)
  • the Palazzo Vecchio

She paid 5 euros for an audio tour at the Palazzo, and boy, was it ever worth it.

Before entering the Museum proper, she wandered around in the lobby, noticed posters for a conference celebrating the 10th anniversary of the death of Monsignor Luigi Giussani and, out of sheer nosiness, asked a woman wearing a name tag who Monsignor Giussani was. The woman told self that the Monsignor was a highly respected teacher and member of the Church, whose writings were very influential.

She also gave self a brochure about the man.

Self began to read the brochure, and she found the man’s teachings exceedingly interesting. Here’s an excerpt from a section called LIVE REALITY INTENSELY.

“There is an experience, hidden yet implied, of that arcane, mysterious presence to be found within the opening of the eye, within the attraction reawakened by things, within the beauty of things, within an amazement, full of gratitude, comfort, and hope — how can this complex, yet simple, this enormously rich experience of the human heart — which is the heart of the human person — how can it become vivid? How can it become powerful?”

Self loves that he used the word “vivid” to describe the intense experience of reality.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

First Sentence, New Story/ And Self’s Discovery of a New Fantasy Book Series

  • Let me tell you about wind.
Self was going to take a picture for this week's WordPress Photo Challenge, instead she got distracted by bars of light . . .

Self was going to take a picture for this week’s WordPress Photo Challenge, instead she got distracted by bars of light . . .

It is a red-letter day. Self started a new series by Christopher Paolini. The first book of the series, Eragon.

Over the years, she has had much cause to thank various nieces, nephews, sons of friends who tell her, “Read this! You won’t regret it!” She thought it would be fun to compile a list of series she started because niece/nephew/children of friends brought them to her attention. Here goes:


  • The Hunger Games: Thank you to Niece G, who saw self reading Twilight and told her: “You should read The Hunger Games.” Self put off finishing Book 1 (the last 50 pages) because she thought Peeta was going to die. Until, one fine day, she spilled her angst to Niece G and Niece G said, “Peeta makes it.” Then self had to rush back home because she needed to finish the last 50 pages she’d put off reading. For three years. Two books later, self was a goner. How deep into this stuff is self? She even entertained the notion of meeting up in Dallas for a convening of Everlark fan fiction writers)
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief:  Thank you to son of Gayo A.
  • The Infernal Devices: Thank you to niece in Calgary, Karina Villanueva.
Karina in Calgary: So Adorbs!

Karina in Calgary: So Adorbs!

  • Eragon: Thank you to Isaac S. At first self thought she would never get over The Infernal Devices — the angst! The Victorian Steampunk! London and York! — but Isaac thought she just might like this new series, so anyhoo, she gave it a shot. Hoooooly Smoke !!!! The Prologue was — mind-blowing.

Also just began reading Kass Morgan’s The 100 (which she heard is very different from the CW TV series). The plot goes something like this: 100 juvenile delinquents get sent to Earth to re-populate it. YAY!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Never Forget This

Self was about to start grad school at Stanford University.

Dearest Mum went with her. We did a jaunt to LA and stayed with a distant relative in Glendale.

The relative’s name was Lucy. She was living with an American guy named Bob. She drank a tall glass of green liquid every morning, she said it was good for you: pure chlorophyll.

Self tried a bit and it tasted disgusting, the consistency of mucus.

One night, Dearest Mum and self returned to Lucy’s home to find it dark, locked, nobody home. We drove around for hours, just waiting for Lucy to show up. This was the era before cell phones, so the only recourse we had were to use payphones.

Dearest Mum spied one in front of a liquor store. She said, Get in there and use the phone.

Self said, What? No! It’s a liquor store!

Nevertheless, self being a very obedient 21-year-old, she got down from the car and used the payphone that was right in front of the entrance. Dearest Mum remained in the car. When self turned around after making a series of fruitless calls to Lucy, she saw that a car had pulled up right next to Dearest Mum. Two men were inside that car, staring intently at Dearest Mum, who was clutching the steering wheel with both hands. Self would call that “a white-knuckle clutch.”

Whereupon, self jumped back into the car, Dearest Mum va-voomed out of the parking lot with screeching tires, and we drove around and around for two more hours, until we were pulled over by a policeman.

The policeman walked over to Dearest Mum’s window and shone a flashlight straight into her face.

What is it, Officer? Dearest Mum coo-ed in her sweetest, most girl-y voice.

Ma’am, we pulled you over because we thought you might be drunk.

What? Me? Drunk? Dearest Mum’s voice dripped outrage.

Well, the Officer said, I see you’re not drunk, Ma’am. But here’s the thing: me and my partner have been following you for a bit because: A) You braked on a green light; B) You switched lanes in the middle of an intersection; and C) This is the fourth time you’ve passed this corner.

BWAH. HA. HA. HAAAAA! Self had to assume her best poker face during the exchange.

Now I’ll tell you what, Ma’am, quoth the cop. You see this big intersection right here? You make a left at that intersection, and you keep going, and you keep going, and you don’t stop until you see this big hotel, and you wait in that hotel for your friend to get home.

Self doesn’t know why it never occurred to her to share this story before.

Stay tuned.

Various Achievements, 2014

Self’s been to southern California a lot this year. And one of the nice things about being in southern California is: There are a LOT of her Dad’s side of the family living there.

Had dinner with one branch of the Villanuevas at Max’s in Glendale (There’s a branch in South San Francisco that was one of son’s faaaavorite restaurants when he was growing up), which included Llana, the daughter of self’s first cousin Eddie Villanueva (or Estoy, as everyone in Bacolod calls him), Llana’s husband, and Llana’s stepson. Oh joy!

Llana (in the middle) is the daughter of my Manong Eddie, which makes her my niece!

Llana (in the middle) is the daughter of self’s Manong Eddie, which makes her self’s niece! She is absolutely adorable.

Another thing readers of this blog might have gleaned is that self has a weakness for ice cream. She loves discovering new ice cream flavors and new ice cream stores. One of the places she’s been hearing about FOREVER is Mitchell’s Ice Cream in San Francisco. Even though it’s right around the corner from the place where her writers group sometimes meets, she’s always been too intimidated by the line snaking out the door to stop for a look-see.  Finally, though, self decided she just couldn’t let more time go by without trying Mitchell’s ice cream. She went in and ordered “young coconut” (buko) Oh my, it was heavenly:

Mitchell's Ice Cream is Nirvana!

Mitchell’s Ice Cream is Nirvana!

This was also the year when self saw her first hedgehog! Self spotted it at the San Francisco Zoo.

Self seems to have terrified this adorable little hedgehog, huddled in a pen in the San Francisco Zoo.

Self seems to have terrified this adorable little hedgehog, huddled in a pen in the San Francisco Zoo.

This is an event of some significance because self has been on such a tear, writing story after story after story, and in one of her new stories (science fiction, started while at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Ireland), hedgehogs play a very important role (Just because self had never, ever laid eyes on an actual hedgehog wasn’t an impediment to writing a story featuring hedgehogs). A very mean boss who happens to be Earthstar makes pejorative remarks at a peon and calls him a “lousy hedgehog.” Which is just about the worst insult one can utter, in the year 2104.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

On Top 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

As the week wears on, WordPress bloggers invariably start getting creative with the photo challenge.

Here are a few bloggers’ interpretations of this week’s theme:  ON TOP

Niece G lived and taught in San Francisco for five years.  She moved back to New York City last year. This was the last time self visited her at her apartment on Folsom Street.  Self really misses her.

Niece G lived and taught in San Francisco for five years. She moved back to New York City last year. On the day self took this picture, her niece was in the process of packing up her things. Self really misses her.

One of self's fondest memories of Summer 2013 was the picnic before the Cal Shakes production of "Romeo and Juliet." It was her birthday, July 14. Son spent his first summer home in almost 10 years.

One of self’s fondest memories of Summer 2013 was the picnic before the Cal Shakes production of “Romeo and Juliet.” It was her birthday, July 14. Son spent his first summer home in almost 10 years.  This year, she wants to see at least two Cal Shakes plays.

Wall Frieze Over a Door in the Daku Balay, Bacolod City

Wall Frieze Over a Door in the Daku Balay, Burgos Street Bacolod City.  Dear Departed Dad grew up in the Daku Balay (Literal Trans. “Big House”). At the time of the house’s construction (in the 1930s), it was the tallest structure in the whole of Bacolod City.

Tomorrow is a busy, busy day, as self will be traveling.  But she will have her laptop wherever she goes, so she’ll keep blogging.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Law # 13 of Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power

Why, why, why when self has a ga-zillion things on her mind — like leaving the day after tomorrow for London, and figuring out how to use her new external hard drive, and leaving comments on a friend’s book-length short story collection, not to mention poring over those just-so-good-it-hurts Everlark stories on (the one she’s most obsessed with right now involves Peeta working the Capitol as a male escort while a clue-less Katniss tends to her two children by Gale back in 12) — why, with all of these things going on, does self still feel the nead to reach up to the shelf above her Mac-Mini and pull down The 48 Laws of Power, by Robert Greene?  What could be the reason, what could be the attraction?

Nevertheless, open the book she does, and lands on Law # 13.

Keys to Power:

In your quest for power, you will constantly find yourself in the position of asking for help from those more powerful than you.  There is an art to asking for help, an art that depends on your ability to understand the person you are dealing with and to not confuse your needs with theirs.

Most people never succeed at this, because they are completely trapped in their own wants and desires.  They start from the assumption that the people they are appealing to have a selfless interest in helping them.  They talk as if their needs mattered to these people — who probably couldn’t care less.  Sometimes they refer to larger issues: a great cause, or grand emotions such as love and gratitude.  They go for the big picture when simple, everyday realities would have much more appeal.

(This sounds almost word for word like something one of her Bacolod cousins told her last year.  What very smart relatives self doth have!)



What, what, what is self saying.

Time to go to bed.

Stay tuned.


Week Before AWP Exhaustion and Self Is Already Exhausted

So, what better way to lose herself for a few minutes, or even an hour, than in reading Hunger Games fanfiction?  She found a really good one today.  Dear blog readers will probably laugh but it is no joke:  one of self’s bookmarked sites is

No, self will not go there.

Instead, she continues with Divergent.  Because the movie — well, the movie stars Shailene Woodley.  And self loves Shailene Woodley.  She’s loved her ever since The Descendants.

These are the young actresses self particularly loves:  Jennifer Lawrence, Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt (well, she’s a bit older; still, self loves her), Jena Malone and Shailene Woodley.  Oh!  She also likes Felicity Jones.  She liked Natalie Mendoza in The Descent.  She likes Lilly Collins. And Lupita Nyong’o who was absolutely incandescent in 12 Years a Slave.

Where were we?

Oh yes, Divergent.

On p. 33, self finds out a little bit more about the world of the book:

The narrator’s father has returned from a hard day at work.  He is some kind of political leader.

The narrator explains:

The city is ruled by a council of fifty people, composed entirely of representatives from Abnegation, because our faction is regarded as incorruptible, due to our commitment to selflessness.  Our leaders are selected by their peers for their impeccable character, moral fortitude, and leadership skills. Representatives from each of the other factions can speak in the meetings on behalf of a particular issue, but ultimately, the decision is the council’s . . .  It has been that way since the beginning of the great peace, when the factions were formed.  I think the system persists because we’re afraid of what might happen if it didn’t:  war.

Self loses herself in conjecture.  To tell the truth, self belongs in a faction like Abnegation.  But she longs to break out of it because it is just, so, so — limp. For instance, p. 34:  “We aren’t supposed to speak at the dinner table unless our parents ask us a direct question, and they usually don’t.”

Members of Abnegation must be humble and self-effacing all the time.  They must not take pride in their looks or in their character or in their intelligence or in their creativity.

What. A. Terrible. Way. To. Be.

Self knows, because she spent — oh, about 80% of her life doing all those self-abnegating things.  And it did her not. One. Bit. Of. Good.

Until self suddenly had this mind-blowing revelation, courtesy of Manang Marilou of Bacolod:  Nobody cares if you are miserable.  So you might as well be happy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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