Make sure I have the right kind of money for a trip to Cambodia?


As it turns out, the currency of choice in Cambodia is the U.S. dollar — the newer the bill, the better. I’m writing this in my hotel room (Almond Hotel — not bad by the way; it has free Wi-Fi) while on the sixth day of a business trip to this country of sweet, smiling, friendly people.

Cambodians -- a sweet, smiling, friendly people. Photo by J.I. Angeles.

A sweet, smiling, friendly people.

Cambodians will not accept soiled or damaged U.S. bills. Even tuktuk (motorized pedicab) drivers who charge about a dollar per trip will not accept your $1 if there’s a tear in it or has some kind of stain. Prepare for your trip by having on hand $1, $5, $10 bills.

The greenback is king in Cambodia.

The greenback is king in Cambodia.

I had a hundred dollars worth (from a money changer in Singapore’s Changi International Airport). I don’t know if local money changers will do this for you in Phnom Penh. What I do know is that every time I got change worth less than a dollar, they always gave it to me in Riel, the local currency.

Almond Hotel Phnom Penh
N 128F, Sothearos Blvd Corner of Russian Embassy
Tel: (+855) 023 22 08 22. Fax: (+855) 023 22 07 22
Hotel Manager: (+855) 12 91 00 22

My twin-sharing room cost $46 a night, with free a la carte breakfast. Hot water, cable TV, free Wi-Fi, small refrigerator, queen size bed, air conditioning. Meals in the hotel run from $4 all the way to $20, plus tax.

Some other useful things to know:

  • Taxi from international airport to downtown Phnom Penh, US$9.This is a marked taxi with a “Taxi” sign on it (they usually give receipts). Private car owners also moonlight as “taxis” — for about $10-$13.
  • Exchange rate as of this writing is 4,100 Riels to $1, but you really don’t want to be stuck with too much of the local money.
  • It’s cheaper to buy a local SIM card and put it in your cell phone, rather than use your international mobile service to make local calls. But, buying a SIM card in Phnom Penh requires you to produce a residence ID card. A local can buy the SIM for you. Or you can borrown a SIM card from a resident who has an extra one. Phones are “loaded” with minutes of use. You buy “refill” cards from street vendors. Make sure you buy a card that matches both the network (or service provider) and the first three digits of the phone number (like an area code). I used a borrowed SIM card which I “refilled” with $2 before returning it.
  • There is no McDonald’s in Phnom Penh, but look for Lucky Seven, a fastfood that serves good sandwiches.
  • A new recordable CD-R (no-name brand) costs about 2,000 Riel or 50 cents. I bought mine in a street market stall. I think you can buy branded CD-Rs but they’re only sold by the box.
  • Contact info for a car rental company I used in Phnom Penh: H.R. Car Rental Service. Look for Mr. Him Virak, mobile (855) 012 923 913.  Address: No. 540, Street 369, Chba Ompov, Meanchy, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Very reliable and safe service.

Know when it’s OK to use a split infinitive in a sentence?


What’s an infinitive? “To do” and “to go” are infinitives – that is, consisting of “to” and the base form of the verb.

A split infinitive is when a word or phrase comes in between “to” and the base form of the verb. For example, “to quickly leave” or “to not fail the test.”

There’s an old school rule of grammar that says we should never split our infinitives.  Nowadays, this is considered a myth or superstition.

Obama InaugurationThe most recent instance of this myth is during President Barack Obama’s oath taking. The U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice who was administering the oath changed the position of an adverb in a line that should have correctly read,

solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States.

Instead, the Chief Justice said,

solemnly swear that I will execute the office of president to the United States faithfully.

In a January 21, 2009 op-ed piece in the New York Times, Steven Pinker (a psychology professor at Harvard and the chairman of the usage panel of The American Heritage Dictionary), says “any speaker who has not been brainwashed by the split-verb myth can sense that these corrections go against the rhythm and logic of English phrasing. ” He goes on to explain:

The myth originated centuries ago in a thick-witted analogy to Latin, in which it is impossible to split an infinitive because it consists of a single word, like dicere, “to say.” But in English, infinitives like “to go” and future-tense forms like “will go” are two words, not one, and there is not the slightest reason to interdict adverbs from the position between them.

A famous use of a split infinitive is in the opening sequence of the Star Trek TV series:

These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission–to boldly go where no man has gone before.

According to the old rule, this is ungrammatical. The adverb “boldly” shouldn’t be inserted in between “to” and the verb “go”.  But do these versions sound any better?

Its five-year mission–to go boldly where no man has gone before.

Not quite the fluidity of the original (we’d call it indayog in Filipino), although it’s not too bad.

Its five-year mission–boldly to go where no man has gone before.

Sounds terrible.

Find an IKEA reseller in Manila?


My daughter told me about two stores in Manila that resell IKEA products. My wife and I got to visit one of them — IKEAph — at 129 Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City (look for a shop called “5 Corners” just before you enter White Plains Subdivision if you’re coming from the direction of Ateneo de Manila University). We found the items on sale to be reasonably priced — even cheap actually.

We got a boxed set of 6 glass tumblers for less than P200. Not bad. We ended up buying quite a number of items, including a reading floor lamp for P1,050. IKEAph has another store at 120 Kamias Road, Quezon City. It also has a website on Multiply ( Here’s a screen shot:


The other store, which I haven’t visited, is Mayflower 1620 Enterprise. It has a Multiply site ( The address is 3rd Fl., Eastman Bldg., 4977 Enrique St., Palanan, Makati, Makati City. Tel: 833-5590. Cell phone: 0917-8131201.

Trivia — the acronym IKEA is made up of the initials of the Swedish founder (Ingvar Kamprad) plus those of Elmtaryd, the family farm where he was born; and the nearby village Agunnaryd.

Hire a healthy food caterer?


Irene Carlota R. Versoza runs a small catering service that specializes in healthy (vegetarian, fish, no meats) cuisine. She calls her enterprise Red Rice, Etc. The office I do some consulting work for got her to cater our 2008 Christmas party and the food, without exception, was exceptionally good – even for non-vegetarians. I came back for seconds and thirds.

Contact Red Rice, Etc. at 27-C Mapagsangguni Street, Sikatuna Village, Quezon City. Phone/fax: +632 996-1227. Cellphone: 0916-511784 and 0918-4324942. Email:

Listen to truly free Internet radio?

Go to Sky.FM at Works with iTunes and Real Player. I use Real Player (the people at Sky.FM say they prefer Winamp but this is for Windows users only since as far as I know a native version of Winamp for Mac OSX isn’t available).

Screen shot of Sky.FM homepage.

Screen shot of Sky.FM homepage.

Categories include smooth jazz, smooth jazz uptempo, top hits, best of the 80’s, all hit 80’s, oldies, mostly classical (my favorite), classical guitar, solo piano, new age, world, roots reggae, datempo lounge, country, piano jazz, bossa nova jazz, alternative rock, classic rock, indie rock, simply soundtracks, contemporary christian, modern jazz, urban jamz, classic rap, salsa, love music, a Beatles tribute, channels.

Read the original short story of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”?


You can read the short story on which the 2009 Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett movie is based at Project Gutenberg, which is an online library of free electronic books. Here’s the link:


Once you’ve reached the Project Gutenberg main page, you will see a search box on the left. Enter Fitzgerald in “Author”. This will bring you to a list of authors. Select “Fitzgerald, F. Scott (Francis Scott), 1896-1940”. This will bring you to a new page with a short list of F. Scott Fitzgerald titles. Select “Tales of the Jazz Age (English)”.

Photo of F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1896-1940 (photo by E. Hazebroucq).

F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1896-1940 (photo by E. Hazebroucq).

This is the collection of short stories first published in 1922 containing the full text of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” as well as ten other pieces. Among the ones I like, aside from Benjamin Button, is “The Diamond as Big as the Ritz.”

First edition cover.

First edition cover.

Fitzgerald explains in the book how he came to write Benjamin Button:

This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. By trying the experiment upon only one man in a perfectly normal world I have scarcely given his idea a fair trial. Several weeks after completing it, I discovered an almost identical plot in Samuel Butler’s “Note-books.”

The story was published in “Collier’s” last summer and provoked this startling letter from an anonymous admirer in Cincinnati:


I have read the story Benjamin Button in Colliers and I wish to say that as a short story writer you would make a good lunatic I have seen many peices [sic] of cheese in my life but of all the peices of cheese I have ever seen you are the biggest peice. I hate to waste a peice of stationary on you but I will.”

Movie poster.

Movie poster.

Poster from the Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett movie.

Use Motorola Q9h phone as MacBook modem?


I own a MacBook running Leopard (OSX 10.5.4) and a Motorola Q9h cell phone with Smart Philippines GPRS. Here’s how I configured the Q9h as an internet modem for my Mac via Bluetooth:

Motorola Q9h paired with a MacBook

Motorola Q9h paired with a MacBook

1) Open System Preferences->Bluetooth. Make sure phone is paired. Select “gear” icon at the bottom of the Bluetooth window. Select “Edit Serial Ports”.

2) Click “+” icon to add a new Bluetooth Serial Port. Set Protocol to “Modem” and Service to “Dialup Networking”. Check the box that says “Show in Network Preferences”.

3) Go to System Preferences->Network. You should see a new entry listed for your Bluetooth Serial Port. The “Configuration” should say Default.

Leave “Telephone Number”, “Account Name”  and “Password” blank.

Click “Show modem status in menu bar”

4) Select “Advanced” at the lower right corner. Select the “Modem” tab and enter the following:
Vendor: Generic
Model: GPRS/3G
APN: internet [for Smart Philippines only]

Click OK. This will return you to the Network Preferences menu.

5) Click “Apply” at the lower right corner. Then click “Connect”.

You should be online. The speed tends to be slow but better than no connection whatsoever.

After entering these settings, you can connect to the Internet through Smart Philippines using your Q9h by following these steps:

1 – Switch on Bluetooth on your Q9h and your MacBook.
2 – Open Network Preferences.
3 – Select the name of your Q9h device in the list of devices on the left of the menu.
4 – Click Connect.

To disconnect:

1 – Click Disconnect and wait for the disconnection process to complete. This might take a few seconds.
2 – Disconnection is complete when Status says “Not Connected”
3 – Switch off Bluetooth on your Q9h and your MacBook.