A Sony Experia Z2 review of sorts

sonyz2I have been very lucky to be working for an organisation that provides everything that an employee could ask for. In the connected age, there is just no excuse to be unreachable through any electronic means, and so even small fries like myself enjoy the benefits of “sponsored” connectivity and best of all–gadgets!

After ending my two-year love affair with work BlackBerry, I opted to get an Android phone to supplement my semi-personal iPhone 5s, and asked for the best yet most reasonable item on the list of gadgets I could choose from.  Having been let down by Samsung in the past, I chose Sony Xperia Z2, the purple one. Life in full colour, shall we say?

A few things attracted me to Z2–screen size, battery life, and powerful camera that packs a 20.7 MP that can capture 4K video. And have I mentioned that the Z2 is also waterproof?

With a 5.2-inch screen, it gives enough real estate for reading or editing documents, spreadshhets or slides that I need to access on the go. For an occasional road warrior, this is valuable, next only to carrying around a tablet. For personal use, using social media apps, such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram is much better, granted they do not have bugs that typically plague Android versions.

Sony knows a good deal about cameras, and it shows with the Z2 that also comes with a variety of apps to make taking and editing photos easier. My favourite is the background defocus, which allows for taking photos with blurred backgrounds as if with a DSLR.

Speaking of display, the Z2’s IPD LCD screen makes viewing better no matter the angle, whilst the  Live Colour LED technology makes colours come alive on screen. Suffice it to say that I have also been enjoying watching movies and series on this phone.

Where it works best for me is that should I wish to view media files on a bigger screen, the Throw features of both its native video player and Walkman music app makes sharing files on smart TV or wifi-enabled speakers very easy. In this, I am just happy to have subscribed to PLDT Home broadband, landline, and internet TV bundle which runs on Android too.

System-wise, the Z2 still runs on Android 4.2.2 Kitkat and boasts of 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor. This translates to almost fluid multitasking and fuss-free navigation between apps. Speaking of which, the phone allows you to sort app display alphabetically, by use, or whether they were installed or native to Xperia.

Lastly, waking up the phone is as easy as double-tapping the screen, which is rather convenient for checking any notifications or just the time on your still-locked phone. Unfortunately, double-tapping only works to wake up the phone and not to put it on sleep mode.

Overall, this phone is no slouch across performance, display, entertainment, media capture, and conectivity departments.

When art comes to life and gets a visit from a time lord

 There is a particular episode of the revived Doctor Who series that I am especially fond of, and I believe it is the same for many of the sci-fi’s followers. While I had often heard about it, I never really got into watching the series, much less follow it nearly religiously, until I saw Vincent and the Doctor, which depicted Vincent Van Gogh’s works as inspired by a visit from the Doctor and Amy in the last year of the artist’s tumultuous life.

At the exhibition of the painter’s works at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, the Doctor noted something in one of Van Gogh’s paintings that was not supposed to be there: a monster peeking out of a cathedral window. This prompted our time traveller to take the TARDIS back to 1899 Provence, where the artist spent most of his time filling his canvasses with visions of the world around him in a way that only he could see. Unfortunately, these visions also involved aliens that are invisible to everyone–including our visitors from the future–except him.

 

Suffice it to say that Van Gogh saw the world differently; that the evening sky was not just a space filled with stars set above the dark outlines of the French countryside. Instead, it was a stage whereupon everything came to life and the stars moved in a parade of lights. The artist captured the show above with his lively, and at times, angry strokes in his work, Starry Night.

Ever since I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night even without knowing about its history or its creator, I thought it was special–a radical work through which its maker depicted the world as living and breathing; it was sad, it was angry, but more importantly, it was alive.

More than anything it is a reminder that each person has a  of seeing the world around them and we should allow for these differences. Conformity is a sad idea.

As Vincent’s life ended tragically, the episode did not shy away from the fact that he took his life one year after the supposed visit from the Doctor and his companion, although not before learning that a century on (the Doctor and Amy took him on a TARDIS joyride into the future), the world would behold his works in awe and he would be called the greatest painter who ever lived. Tony Curran played Vincent particularly well.

This post is a response to Daily Post’s writing prompt of the day.

Breezy, quiet evenings call for runs at the park

…where the next headquarters is looming in the background. 

I’ve been back to running again, on top of working out at the gym on a regular basis. But since I want to run longer distances than my current 10, I figured I needed to spend more time on track and not just on the treadmill.

Sunday evenings are the perfect time to strap on my runners and go to nearby Ayala Triangle where the usual crowd is absent and the amount of fumes from vehicles isn’t so terrible; I still prefer, taking the pathways within the park, however.

I could afford to skip the first set of tonight’s Roland Garros men’s final between Nadal and Djokovic. In fact, I could skip it altogether.

Eats Boracay

Notwithstanding the misadventures with my choice of hotel, everything went well with the latest trip to the island. It did not feel like it had been more than three years since my previous visit until I decided to venture outside Station 1. There are new hotels, shops, tiangge, and restaurants, all of which I did not recall having seen in previous visits. Most of all, there are more clubs now than I can remember–all right, I knew only places like Cocomangas or Epic, but the new ones are just proof of how alive the night scene is on this island.

On our first night, we hit Club Paraw, which takes quite a long walk along the beach if you are staying in the more crowded/popular sections of the island. While it was already open by the time we arrived at past-11, the party did not start until midnight. By then, the place was packed with partygoers–mostly inebriated–grinding to lively dance beats.

Inside Club Paraw

One upside of my hotel’s location is that there are a number of food stalls selling pancakes, waffles, hotdogs, sliders/bugers, and dimsum. Sometimes, eating street food can be really comforting. I tried the Korean hotdog, having no idea what exactly it was, initially. It turned out that it was a sausage dipped in sweet batter, fried, dipped in batter again, and fried again. It must have been the most unhealthy mix of carbs and oil that I had in many months, but to a hungry traveller, it might as well be manna from heaven.

Korean hotdog is served with a sprinkle of sugar and a dollop of ketchup.
Super sweet lemonade. The only thing missing was vodka.

Dinner on the first night was at Steakhouse Boracay on Station 1. I loved my beef steak (medium rare), served with tartar sauce and stir fried veggies. While the menu is a bit high-end or pricey, the serving sizes are massive; I could not even finish half of my steak.  It goes without saying that the steak was best consumed with a glass of red…or two.

Steakhouse Boracay, steak
Did someone say, huge serving of steak?

California red Steakhouse Boracay
I had nearly finished my glass before I remembered to take a photo for posterity (i.e., blogging)

I could not find Zuzuni’s, one of my Boracay favourites, so I ended up at Cozina, which I think is what now occupies the former Greek restaurant. The Spanish restaurant has only been around since January, according to their Facebook page. For lunch, I had chicken with bacon slices and herbs inside, set in tomato sauce, and garnished with fried potato strips and some greens.

Cozina Authentic Spanish Restaurant Boracay
Grilled chicken with bacon, herbs, and tomato sauce. Yum!

Cozina serves one of the best mojitos I know. It’s a must if you’re in Boracay.

Mojito Cozina Boracay
Mmmmmmojito!
Cozina Boracay red wines
Want some red to go with your tapas? Cozina has a few selection.
Cozina Spanish Restaurant Boracay
Inside Cozina. I love the simple unpretentious interiors.

Besides food, what I like about Cozina is the service. They have among the friendliest and efficient attendants and they never fail to smile or ask if there is anything you need. They ask how you like your food, and such. The only time I remember someone asking me how I liked my food was when I was in New York, and that was years ago! I give Cozina two thumbs up for both food and service, and I am definitely going back on my next visit to the island.

For Italian fare, the slightly fancy Don Vito Restaurante on Station 2 in front of Mandarin Island Hotel is worth a visit. I thought I had enough of meat for the weekend, but then again, I knew it was okay to be a little naughty with my diet once in a while, so baby back ribs and Chardonnay sounded all right. I would pay it back with more time doing cardio and Body Combat, plus good old-fashioned strength training session with my Fitness Trainer.

Don Vito Boracay
Baby back ribs. Just the right serving size for a hungry traveler.
Don Vito Boracay
Don Vito Boracay
Chardonnay went well with the ribs. Not a famous pairing, but it was fab.
Don Vito Boracay
Outside Don Vito.
Where I did not stay, hah! Mandarin Island Hotel.
Don Vito Boracay
One of the guys explained that he did not knew Cosmo was a “pa-girl” drink. I don’t blame him; he missed all of Sex and the City.
Don Vito Boracay
Watermelon Shake. No alcohol.

Cure for Hangover

After having too much to drink the first night, I woke up with a massive hangover. Unfortunately, there was no food served at the hotel, so I had to crawl out of bed hungry and force myself to walk in blinding sunlight for a good meal. My search was rewarded with a fabulous American breakfast served all day at the Bamboo Chinese Lounge: more bacon than I was willing to finish, two eggs (I asked the staff to serve only egg whites), fruit slices, jam, butter, wheat bread, and orange juice. Coffee was an additional order, and diners have options between Lavazza and local brew. I decided that my coffee didn’t have to be fancy.

American breakfast, Bamboo Lounge Boracay
Bamboo Lounge’s American Breakfast. Not in the photo: jam, butter, and bread slices.
Orange Juice served at Bamboo Lounge Boracay
It’s real orange!
Bamboo Lounge Boracay
Inside Bamboo Lounge

Afternoon Coffee

Coco Cafe is a good alternative to “that coffee chain”. The place is right beside Coco Bar, where one can also ask for fish and chips.

Coco Cafe Boracay
I would guess they’d ran out of cup sleeves, so they served my to-go coffee in double cups.
Coco Cafe Boracay, Fish and Chips
Fish and Chips are okay. On the other hand, I wasn’t excited about the mayo-and-ketchup dip. 

As much I as I love their coffee and their fish-and-chips is not bad at all, I just enjoyed the place’s interior, for some vague reason. Maybe it has to do with the massive logo installed on the ceiling and the fact that it’s not packed to the rafters like Starbucks.

Coco Cafe Boracay
Inside Coco Cafe.
Boracay Coffee
Coffee is hard to come by early in the morning. 

I anticipate your needs*

Sandbar Boracay

Can this day be any better? After having my brunch at nearby Bamboo Lounge, I decided to rent a beach chair and got very lucky to find one available at The Sandbar for only 100 pesos for a day’s use. Unfortunately, there was no available beach umbrella, so the attendant manning the place moved my rented chair in the shade and promised to get me one once it became available.
While I was out in the water, he found me an umbrella and immediately set it up beside my chair. I don’t normally get this kind of service anywhere else, as a lot of attendants merely pay lip service when they tell you they would do something for you. Say, it’s a way for them to dismiss you.
Sandbar Boracay
When I was reading under the shade of my umbrella, he offered water spritzer to keep my skin hydrated. I didn’t realize that even under the shade and wearing sunscreen at SPF 100, the noontime sun could still be terribly harmful. So after spritzing cold water on my arms and legs, he left the spritzer with me, but not before making sure that its contents were kept cool by placing the bottle in a bucket of ice. 
Twice during the rest of the afternoon, he moved my umbrella to make sure I was in the shade properly and replaced the ice bucket to keep my water spray cool. Having the kind man around also meant there was someone to keep an eye on my beach bag, book and gadgets whenever I had to take a dip in the water,  and he did.
That was just excellent service unlike any other that I encountered anywhere, especially the pricey joints in Makati. I didn’t have to ask him for more assistance yet he was kind enough to offer them, and so I couldn’t be more glad to give him a good tip when I left.
Sadly, I failed to ask for the Kuya‘s name. But if ever you feel like lounging by the beach on Station 1 in Boracay, choose Sandbar and look for the middle-aged gentleman who usually sits by the juice stand beside Bamboo Lounge. He will keep a good eye on your belongings and make sure you are comfortable. Don’t forget to give him a fat tip.
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*According to some literature that I have read in relation to my work, anticipating a customer’s needs is one of the behaviours that lead to advocacy, whereby people have a higher probability of recommending your business to their peers.