Archive of ‘inspired inventions’ category

pop goes the world: random act of coffee

NO COLUMN FOR March 28, Maundy Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD  By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  4 April 2013, Thursday

Random Act of Coffee

Buying coffee for the needy can be as easy as paying for an extra one the next time you buy a cuppa for yourself.

Last Holy Wednesday, a meme about the “pending coffee” charity concept went viral after it was widely shared on Facebook.

Caffe sospeso (literally “suspended coffee”) is said to be a long-standing custom in Naples and an “old tradition in Italy,” later adopted by “150 cafes in Bulgaria,” according to Examiner.com. Customers pay not only for their own coffee and food, but also in advance for one or more extra orders to be given, at the restaurateur’s discretion, to a needy person.

It’s a variation on the “pay it forward” concept, doing a “random act of kindness” for a stranger that that I’ve read about it being done in many places, where someone pays the toll fee of the car behind her, or for coffee for the next guy in line at Starbucks.

The “pending coffee” idea is different in that the act of charity is institutionalized through the cooperation of the restaurant. You don’t need to be there when it happens, but people get the same warm fuzzy feeling of having been generous without the awkwardness that besets some in that situation.

Within days after the concept was heavily promoted on March 27, I heard of at least one restaurant in the Philippines that will do this.

Blacksoup Café + Artspace in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City, announced on their Facebook page last Saturday that they will implement this concept on a 30-day trial basis from March 31 to April 30 this year. They will accept advance payment for coffee, sandwiches, and meals, and issue stubs for the “suspended” food, which can be claimed by those who need them.

If there are unclaimed stubs after two days, “Blacksoup will go around on a bicycle to give out unclaimed [stubs] to street people/families” who will then sign “tracking papers” which will be posted on the restaurant’s FB page, along with photos if possible, to document that the exchange actually happened.

Blacksoup’s general manager Avic Ilagan says on their page that they anticipate certain cultural norms will not make it feasible for homeless people (the truly needy who deserve to benefit from this concept) to step inside their restaurant, so they “will bring the coffee, sandwiches, and meals to the street people na karaniwan walang kain o isang beses lang kumain.”

This system also will prevent fraud and abuse.

To children, she says, they “will give milk tetra packs instead of coffee.”

As of yesterday afternoon, the post has been liked by 373 people and shared 429 times. Customer support in the comments on Blacksoup’s page has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic.

Blacksoup reports that as of April 3, they have on their “suspended” tally 19 sandwiches and 19 bottles of C-2, “plus a bank deposit from Australia.” They add, “two volunteers will distribute the unclaimed suspended items on Saturday at 5pm, and and Excel file of suspended items bought and their recipients will be posted and updated every week for all to see and check.”

For this to work, there has to be follow-through by customers and a certain dedication on the part of the restaurateur. Duplication by other establishments would be something to look forward to. Giving and sharing are traits highly valued in Philippine culture, and there is no reason why something like this can’t be adopted on a large scale, meaning nationwide.

This is a positive initiative that brings charity straight to the recipient and addresses an immediate need – hunger.

Sometimes a small act that one doesn’t even remember afterward can be the huge difference between hope and despair or life and death for another person, because some say everything and everyone are connected somehow, the way a butterfly flapping its gauzy wings in the Brazilian rainforest might set off a chain of events that culminates in a tsunami in Indonesia.

A smile, a “good morning,” a free coffee: who knows what kind gesture will touch another soul and kindle a flame of inspiration and transformation?

Check out Blacksoup’s page on FB, as well as a new page – Suspended Coffee PH – and “be a blessing to someone.” *** 

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pop goes the world: muscles and peace through yoga

NO COLUMN 5 Dec, Thursday

 POP GOES THE WORLD, by Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today,  9 December 2012, Sunday

Muscles and Peace Through Yoga

There are many studies proving that work-related stress is linked to many physical and mental health problems. The word “stress” comes from “distress”, which means “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain.” The term comes from a Latin term that means “to draw or pull apart.”

Certainly this is what many feel when laboring under the tension that modern life brings. We are pulled in many directions by work and home obligations, often feeling unable to cope and looking for a way to ease the strain.

Coping mechanisms can be destructive – alcohol, late nights, smoking, unhealthy lifestyles and habits – and positive – exercise, healthy eating, creative hobbies and sports, an interest in spiritual pursuits.

Increasingly popular nowadays is yoga. The word comes from the Sanskrit that means “to yoke, to connect” and its emphasis is on the mind-body connection, the interrelation between physical and mental fitness.

Yoga studios have burgeoned in the metropolis since the early part of the last decade, although yoga has been around since at least the ‘70s. I recall my father and his contemporaries in media attending yoga and meditation classes at Ananda Marga (still around in Quezon City) at that time.

Today, yoga studios offer a wide range of classes, from vinyasa to hot flow to anti-gravity yoga. Some emphasize physical fitness, others infuse a spiritual component into the practice with chanting of sutras and mantras.

In search of a sustainable activity suitable for an unfit, sedentary, middle-age person, I happened upon Bliss Yoga Manila in Jupiter Street, Makati, and have attended several classes there.

The front of the Bliss Yoga Manila studio in Makati. One wall is hung with three banners depicting the seven chakras.

Gentle Flow with instructor Jill Kobza is, as described by the Bliss Yoga Manila website, “a slightly-slower paced practice, with focus on the foundation and alignment of poses…emphasis is on awareness, control, and effective use of the breath, as well as on building strength and flexibility.” The class is good for those new to yoga.

The poses mentioned are called “asanas”, and look effortless in photos of advanced yogis and yoginis (male and female practitioners, respectively), but they are in truth difficult to do for the newbie. Merely stretching like a triangle in the “downward dog” position or in “plank” (full pushup) or chaturanga (half-pushup) makes you use muscles you probably haven’t felt since high school calisthenics.

Yoga, however, also ensures that each person practice at their own pace and perform comfortable variants of the poses until they get stronger.

Jill Kobza’s Gentle Flow class is perfect for beginners. She is gentle and patient and guides everyone through the surya namaskar – Sun Salutation sequence -  and other poses in a soothing voice.

Buddha has abs! This statue sits in a back corner.

Nancy Siy’s Jivamukti class may also be attended by people at all levels of physical fitness. It is a form of yoga developed by a Western teacher, and incorporates chanting from the Patanjali sutras; Nancy chooses one sentence that conveys a lesson on a trait, such as aparigraha or non-possessiveness. There is nothing religious here, only philosophical and moral.

Jivamukti is more challenging in terms of asanas, and Nancy goes around the studio to correct each student’s pose and help those who need to reach a bit farther or hike their hips up higher. In the latter part of each class, she puts students in the savasana (corpse) pose – lying flat on their backs in repose, with eye pillows for relaxation and to enhance meditation. A lecture tape may be played or silent meditation encouraged. Students are asked to listen to their bodies, to deliberately release any tension, to “let go” with each exhale.

Basic yoga gear: cotton strap (to help stretch the legs and arms), cork block (for elevation during certain poses, until the body gets stronger and more flexible), towel (to absorb sweat and prevent slipperiness), and mat.

Jivamukti, Nancy says, helped her “…calm (her) mind and deal with the external clutter of daily life…” At the time she started, in 2009, she was “irritable, angry, empty,” and “felt that there must be something more than the repetitive cycle of everyday life. Yoga paved the way for my healing and emotional growth.”

Nancy was “awakened to the reality of animal suffering” and has also adopted veganism as a way of life. She was drawn to Jivamukti and its emphasis on ahimsa (non-violence) and “compassion for all beings.”

Jill and Nancy end their classes with a chant of om, giving thanks to their students, and the valediction “Namaste” –  “the spirit in me greets the spirit in you.”

This door handle at the Makati studio is in the shape of a hand lifted in the abhaya mudra (seal/gesture of no fear, protection, benevolence, assurance).  

Yoga is beyond the current popularity it is experiencing as some sort of trendy fitness program. It is an ancient discipline, one of the “six “orthodox” schools of Hindu philosophy,” dating back to before the Common Era and given formal shape in the early centuries CE.

For us today in modern times, it can become a way of life, one that incorporates physical wellness and philosophy into an integrated whole. ***

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

Follow: Facebook (Bliss Yoga Manila), Twitter (@BlissYogaManila), and Instagram (@blissyogamnl).

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picture this

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” they say.

As a writer, I know this to be true. There are things and experiences that make you gasp like a punch to the gut or a slap in the face or a hug of exceeding warmth and lovingkindness and in that moment of speechlessness words are inadequate to convey with full nuance or intensity of meaning what they made you think or feel.

So I take pictures.

“Pages”, uploaded to Instagram on 10 Aug. 2012.

“Wind-Tossed”, tree and sky in Bohol. 13 Aug. 2012

“Patchwork Tile”,  floor of Aristocrat Restaurant,  Manila. 28 Aug. 2012

“Pearl Sun”, at the Cultural Center complex, Pasay City. 31 Aug. 2012

“Blue Pen”, closeup of a Lamy Safari’s 1.1 italic nib. 11 Sep. 2o12.

Gasp.

Oooh.

Wow.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S and edited with Snapseed.

Find me on Instagram: @jensdecember

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the shop of strange (flash fiction)

The strange shop sold only balls of all colors, sizes, materials.

In one corner he saw a crystal one with a watch within it.

“What does this do?” he asked the old woman behind the counter.

“It is the ball of time,” she whispered.

“Break it and you will go back as many years as you wind the watch’s hands to.

But choose wisely. Not all times are good, and you can never return to this time.” ***

Photo: “Timesphere”, original digital art by Jenny Ortuoste, 26 May 2012. 

Story and photo also posted on Instagram (follow me @jennydecember)

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yankee candle illuma-lid

The Illuma-Lid is an inspired invention by Yankee Candle. Exclusively made for their large Jars, the gadget helps shield the flame from drafts and prevents tunneling (when the wax melts faster in the middle, leaving high walls of unmelted wax around the sides).

The Illuma-Lids are made to fit exactly within the mouth of the candle jar.

Not only are they useful, they’re pretty too. Sometimes that’s all something needs to be, for it to have a place in your life.

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yankee candle food scents

I’ve loved Yankee Candle ever since I was introduced to it on a trip to the US East Coast about 12 years ago.

Here’s one of my latest acquisitions, just last year – Jelly Donut. It smells like a raspberry jelly-filled doughnut.

The Yankee Candle Illuma-lid is made of metal and is supposed to prevent “tunneling”. That’s when wax builds up around the sides instead of melting into a flat pool as it should.

I chose an Illuma-lid that depicts butterflies, my totem animal/insect/contingent being. They signify rebirth into a brighter and better life, where one can soar and reach dreamt-of heights.  

I love food scents. I got this particular jar of Vanilla Cupcake over ten years ago. The scent oils have darkened and become concentrated, and as a consequence the throw is very strong. Its smell is intense even when cold, more so when it is burning. In ten minutes, an entire room is filled with fragrance.

This scent was discontinued for many years, and revived only some time ago after popular demand.

Last year (2011) I acquired more food scents – Lemon Chiffon, Brown Sugar & Cinnamon, and Fruit Salad among them – and look forward to burning them, and having my room smell like a bakery or deli.

They’d smell stronger if I wait ten years, but you know what I’ve learned since the first time I bought Yankee Candles?

Life is short. Take the simple pleasures where you can, while you can.

 All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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moleskine pocket plain “le petit prince”

My first Moleskine notebook, a pocket ruled, took me three years to fill up. It had been with me on all my travels, was the repository of my secrets and shopping lists, and over the years got so battered and beat-up that I had to mend the cracked spine with pink duct tape from Bleubug.

With the new year and its potential for new beginnings and moving on, I decided to break open a fresh notebook.

It’s still a Moleskine pocket – it’s my favorite format. This one is a limited-edition “Le Petit Prince” design, shown here with a vintage 1930s Waterman Lady Patricia “Persian” lever-fill fountain pen.

The inside front cover is adorned with illustrations from the book by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Each Moleskine notebook comes with a multi-language insert that is a masterpiece of branding. Moleskine positions itself as a purveyor of fine quality notebooks and planners, keyed to the words “culture, imagination, memory, travel, personal identity”, which conjure up a wealth of potentials and possibilities for the user’s positioning and reinvention of self. 

The Le Petit Prince edition has a mobile of the title character on the back cover, with instructions for assembly.

A closer look at the mobile insert.

The mobile, fully assembled. I attached a length of gold thread and hung it from the whiteboard at my office.

I have other kinds of Moleskine notebooks, plain and with different artwork, but I chose this particular one to remind me that “what is essential is invisible to the eyes.”

And that which is truly essential cannot be written down in any notebook, but only on the heart.

All photos taken with an iPhone 4S.

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the starbucks planner 2012

The Starbucks planner for 2012 is a 180-degree turn from last year’s elegant design that came in red velvet and metallic finishes. This time around, it’s all about trees, evoked with natural materials – wood and coarse-weave fabric. It’s acquired through the usual means of stickers for each drink purchased during the designated holiday period (November to January).

There are five iterations shading from light to dark, each named after a tree. This one’s Cherry, the middle shade (#3).

What’s more, the design took more than a few cues from the Moleskine notebook.

This unboxing happened at Starbucks Harbour Square at the Cultural Center of the Philippines complex.

“Let’s give big hugs – and little gifts of hope.” Actually, I’m fine with the big hugs. Really.

The coarse-weave pouch is an innovation – it’s the first time it’s been done by Starbucks Philippines. The pouch keeps the planner clean, and is also handy for receipts, a pen, and other little items.

No worries that the planner inside will be damaged by things you might keep in the pouch – the covers are made of thin pieces of wood, with the siren design and edge text in bas-relief.

There’s a Moleskine-style elastic on the back. As always, the planner comes with coupons – nine, this time around, less than there used to be, at one per month, but then it takes less drinks to get the planner this season.

Instead of a Moleskine-type ribbon marker, a kraft-cardboard bookmark is provided. I love the horizontal layout. 

Now we come to the best thing about this planner – the paper. It is smooth, creamy, and fountain-pen friendly. The stiff nib of my daily-warrior Parker Jotter simply glides across the paper, as if it were glass. Or ice.

Another good thing for FP  users – there’s minimal show-through! 

As with every Starbucks planner, this one has magnificent photography.

A pocket attached to the inside back cover holds the coupons and bookmark. Again, just like the Moleskine. It’s handy-dandy for keeping more stray bits of paper and other ephemera. 

The size is smaller too, compared to previous editions. It’s about the size of a Kindle and fits neatly in my handbag, where I hope it gets along with all the pink things in there.

Photos taken with a 2MP Nokia C3.

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shoe up! by nielette’s doll shoes

Trying out the new trends in shoes is a simple way to get a fashion fix. There are trends I like, there are those I love (platform sandals, wedges, bakya). There are those that leave me cold – gladiator sandals? Blecch. Stilettos? Foot and calf pain, owww.

This particular design and brand, I love.

These “doll shoes” from Shoe Up! by Nielette, a proudly Filipino brand, are so comfortable and affordable that I own three pairs, in all the colors available at present – black, bronze, and gray. (I’m hoping they’ll come out in red.)

I’ve always had respect for the experience of air travel so I never wear flip-flops on my trips. On my most recent trip abroad (last month), I wore the gray pair; I looked neat and put-together. I managed to walk through the MNL, SFO, and LAX airports searching for my boarding gates and hauling my luggage without experiencing a single moment of foot strain nor pain, while still being able to easily slip in and out of the shoes during the security searches, being on my way in seconds while others were still fumbling with laces and straps.

I used to wear high heels all the time but with age advancing and work getting more hectic, I need comfort more than style. Shoe Up! doll shoes give me both. I wear these shoes exclusively to work now, and can face whatever the day might bring – a meeting at a fancy hotel? an inspection of office branches? Whether walking on plush carpet or crunchy gravel, these are the shoes that get me through.

Shoe Up! by Nielette reflects the personality of its owner/designer – fun, fearless, funky Nielette Tupas (daughter of former governor Niel Tupas of Ilo-ilo City). She is extroverted, outgoing, and interested in fashion to the extent of translating her ideas into reality through the shoes and dresses she designs and sells at her shops.

Shoe Up! shoes and handbags and Dress Up! fashions are available online and at her stores. (In Manila, at Glorietta beside the Landmark entrance and at Megamall; there are also stores in Ilo-Ilo City and in other locations in the Visayas and Mindanao.)

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nakaya piccolo kuro-tamenuri

A Nakaya fountain pen, no matter the price, comes beautifully packaged in a simple pauwlonia wood box with a pen wrap. It’s just one more instance of the company’s attention to detail, their commitment to giving their customers not only quality products but also a satisfying experience.

Every Nakaya fountain pen comes with a pen wrap like this one – its own kimono, if you will.

I prefer my Nakayas without clips. They have a tendency to roll on flat surfaces, but I find the sleek uninterrupted line true to the aesthetic, the finish gleaming unbroken along its length. 

The kuro-tamenuri finish is black lacquer upon red. In time, the lacquer will become more translucent, and more of the red underneath will start to show through. This pen is about four years old; its color was darker when I acquired it over two, maybe three, years ago from Leigh. 

The parts of a Piccolo: cap, barrel, nib and feed, and converter, filled with ink. See the ink bubble inside.

Writing sample with the stock flexible fine nib. There is good line variation, and I’d probably get more if I were better at calligraphy. As it is, it’s a modern nib that flexes much like vintage ones.

“Love is a Memory” is the title of an essay simmering on the stove (it’s what I had workshopped at this year’s University of the Philippines National Writers Workshop last April). Excerpts from the essay are here, here, and here.

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