Monday, October 31, 2005

Eagle Point Resort, Batangas

Originally uploaded by ton2fig.
I have lots of stories from this amazing weekend vacation. But for now, just check out the flickr pics and see for yourself. More posts in the next few days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Aqua Sock

We'll be going to Anilao, Batangas for the long All-Saints weekend. I've been warned that the beach is quite rough so I went out to buy aquasocks. I checked out Speedo in Podium. They sell these aquasocks for around P1295.00 (Toby's has the same kind and price).

They look like this:
I guess it does the job pretty well though I didn't try it on. I noticed that the little rocks or sand could get into the holes so I looked around some more. My officemate Randy tells me that I can probably get one from sports stores like Nike or Adidas, so we head to Nike Park.

Sure enough, there were nice ones there and that's where I finally bought a pair, which look like these:

Let me assure you that they aren't Nike brand Kung-fu shoes. I tried them on, they fit nicely. There's almost no way sand can get through except where I put my feet in (and that part's pretty tight). It has cushioning so soft that I can wear it on the beach or underwater and my feet will thank me for it. On the other hand, my wallet isn't thanking me for it. It's all right anyway, I don't buy stuff that much. [As I wrote that last sentence, I looked around in my room and saw 5 Nike boxes stacked up near the door (that'll be the Shox, Zoom Air Vapor, Free, AirForce One, and this one)].

This is the first thing I bought using my Ateneo Alumni credit card. Nike Park also gave me a frequent shopper card thing (D'oh!). It says, after I buy 4 more pairs of shoes, I get the 6th pair up to half the price (D'oh! D'oh!). Anyway, this thing's transferable (Woohoo! I think). I'll tackle my shopping habits in another post. Meanwhile, I'm all set for the weekend.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Podcast: ABC's Lost - The Transmission

I tried podcasting today though I didn't really subscribe to the feed, I just downloaded some episodes. For those who're to lazy to click the Wikipedia link (sigh),
Podcasting is a method of publishing audio and video programs via the Internet that lets users subscribe to a feed of new files (usually MP3s). It became popular in late 2004, largely due to automatic downloading of audio onto portable players or personal computers.
As I mentioned before, I've been following the second season of Lost (cause we just can't wait!) even before it's shown on local or cable TV here. There's a popular podcast related to the show called The Transmission, hosted by Ryan and Jen. They're two Hawaiian locals (since the show is being shot in Hawaii) who keep saying that they're amateur broadcasters, and it shows. Basically, they recap the show, put in their observations, respond to listener feedback, and discuss what's in store in future Lost episodes. So this podcasting works just like a radio show, with one important advantage: you can listen to it anytime, anywhere, as long as you can play the mp3 file. I can see how this works perfectly with the iPod, and with a device like the iTrip, you can play it in the car while driving. We consumers always like to have choices. The podcast selection is pretty wide, ranging from Kids Disney podcasts to Sports to Travel.

Sigh, if I do get hooked, I may need a high-speed Internet connection to download the podcasts. Dial-up just won't do for two-digit megabyte files. An iPod would be nice too (here I go again).

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Corpse Bride / Wallace and Gromit

I have seen two delightful movies in the past two weeks: Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

Corpse Bride

Did you know this movie was a musical? Going into the theater, I didn't. The trailers for it pretty much established the story but the singing and the dancing was quite a surprise. The musical number was quite catchy sometimes although it does disrupt the flow of the story (then again, what musical number doesn't?...Wait, don't answer that). The movie was quite entertaining, and the animation superb. The story was a bit predictable though the humor works most of the time. I don't think this is still in cinemas at the time of this writing, but do try to catch it if you want to watch something light-hearted.

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

I didn't really know what to expect of this movie. I don't really know claymation outside of Gumby and Chicken Run. That is, I don't really know claymation.

I don't want to spoil the movie for anyone but I have to say that you should watch it. It's very funny and witty. There's comedy for both kids and adults, and everyone in between. The characters are adorable, especially Gromit who has more facial expressions than your average dog (then again, he's obviously no ordinary dog, even if he still walks on all fours). They both run a pest-control service called Anti-Pesto (Mmm...pesto) for an agriculture-centric community, initially infested by rabbits (also adorable). Go! Watch!

As an added bonus, there's a movie short based on the Madagascar penguins. I didn't see the Madagascar movie, and all I could say is that I don't like these penguins.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Troubleshooting with a screwdriver

Imagine, if you will, a perfect hassle-free world. My Logitech Wingman Rumblepad, the one that I use to play NBA Live 06, is not functioning well. Its 'R' button doesn't seem to be responding. I'd call technical support and they'll probably tell me to bring it over to one of their satellite stores or service centers. They will ask me to return in a few days to pick up the repaired unit, for a small fee of course. Then, I will be merrily playing my PC games ever after.

Back to reality.

First, I find out that Logitech has no service centers in the country. I couldn't return the unit to Villman since the warranty expired months ago. I'd rather not wait for an indefinite amount of time for them to have it shipped somewhere else to have it repaired. Lastly, I'd rather not be told to just buy another unit or an even cheaper one and thus render this controller 'R'-less for eternity (since this was so expensive to buy in the first place).

Fortunately, the butingting [can anybody translate this?] genes of my father, and his father, and his father's father (and his father's...) , kicks in just in time before I think of giving up. There are screws at the back of the controller; therefore, the solution lies in the screwdriver.

My experiences with using a screwdriver started with my cousin teaching me how to switch G.I. Joe heads and limbs by removing the one screw at the back that holds it all together. Doing this to Transformer toys were too advanced for me at the time. Good thing I skipped that part and I had moved on to replacing PC parts when I got a little older.

So this controller was relatively simple to dismantle, except for the middle screw that was covered in a rubber "screw-cork" behind a "QC [quality control] passed" sticker. That was the point of no return. If I remove that sticker, they may never accept the product to be repaired or replaced.

I did it anyway, and I removed the cork to with another screwdriver. The problem was that the little foam that pressed the "real button" on the controller wasn't aligned because the adhesive that was supposed to hold it in place caused it to slip due to overuse (I guess).

Now, all is well, and all that took was a screwdriver and a little determination. But the real lesson was: before you even start to complain, do the damn thing yourself first. It's really very satisfying to know that you've beaten the red tape just because you tried to do it yourself.

[Disclaimer: lesson does not apply to all things. Do not try to fix anything that bites, sparks or causes infertility.]

Video iPod

Now here's an iPod I would consider of thinking of trying to buy (see how hard it is to convince myself?). After giving us a lot of head-fakes, Steve Jobs finally announces the release of the Video iPod. The link I provided here is the arsTechnica review, a pretty comprehensive one, and it ends with them dissecting the unit.

Of all the iPod generations, including mini, shuffle and nano, I actually found myself wanting to buy one of these; yet there is still one important missing element: access to iTunes. Also, the fact that acquiring music and videos cost money. There is still ripping CDs and P2P but I find that I will probably get the most out of owning an iPod if I have a high-speed Internet access. That way, I can download podcasts (which hasn't grown on me yet) or occasionally purchase songs.

Despite the nudge it gave me to the direction of almost buying one, I still find that I don't need it. Again, maybe when I have money to burn. Make that, "if" I will have money to burn.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Sosyal networking

I'm not much of a fan of social networking services such as Friendster, MySpaces, or Orkut. I even had to read up on Wikipedia to know these sites, except for Friendster of course, which probably reached its peak last year 2004. I don't know how popular it is now or if it's become passe already.

I remember way, way back in 1997, it was the time when I first got online using my Netscape 3.0. I kept getting email from a, which is of course based on the theory that I will quote (from Wikipedia again):
Six degrees of separation is the theory that anyone on the planet can be connected to any other person on the planet through a chain of acquaintances that has no more than five intermediaries. The theory was first proposed in 1929 by the Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy in a short story called Chains.
(And from this of course, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon)

In my opinion it was one of the first incarnations of organized spamming that probably spawned Internet viral marketing. It was a fun and novel thing to participate in at first but then I was reminded of chain letters. My sister got one for real, as in a snail-mail from a "friend". I read it and saw right through the scam the first time. The giveaway was the "success stories" in the very same mail that recounted the incidences of good luck to those who had sent the letter and bad luck to those who didn't. "Mr. X sent this email and tripled his wealth in a matter of ...". An obvious waste of time of course, apart from simply being annoying.

So anyway, when Friendster entered the scene a few years ago, I dismissed it as a fad. A well-executed one, though, and building over the ruins of sixdegrees. Almost everyone I know has a Friendster account (or two) and it seems to be going along fine although the new developments are a lacking in uniqueness: photo albums, blogs, and the like. Anyway, if I need to take a peek into the network, I can still use my old buddy Mark's account that Noel made.

As a postscript to this, I have tried using Yahoo 360 and sent invites to anyone who cares; but clearly, it's a piece of sh*t. I don't really need an integrated service to unify blogging, RSS feed management, photo sharing, and whatever else I do online.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

flickr and Blog Clutter

Nice little application/website, this flickr. What particularly got me hooked are the upload tool and the tie-up with Blogger (among others), and the fact that it's tied up with Yahoo. I might as well upload a lot of my pictures because the limit for the free account is 20MB per month. I also got that nifty flickr badge (somewhere on this page) which shows random pictures from my collection.


With the flickr badge, the shoutbox, the technorati searchbox, the googleads, the archive links and the blog links, this blog's looking a bit cluttered.

So I resolve to redesign this blog (personalize it as well) by, say...a realistic target of... June of next year. I'll give it a nice look so that the elements will flow seamlessly on the page. Of course, all of this is hard without inspiration. I'm not that creative anyway and it's hard to code as well.

Time to do inspiration surfing... My favorites?

Any other suggestions?

Monday, October 17, 2005

A grandfather computer

My grandfather asked if I could help him buy a computer since "Bachelor of Science, Major in Computer Science" automatically means I can.

He's doing it for the right reasons, by the way. He's buying a computer because he can't find any more typewriters around, and he's going to have someone type for him. That means computer and printer. I was also told that they may need to connect to the Internet. At least this computer will give me something to do when we go to Bulacan instead of loafing around pretending to read books or staring at the ceiling.

Choosing one will be easier than the time I wanted to buy my own computer. I just get the cheapest package, give that don't-mess-with-me look and watch out for the salestalk.

Greenhills is still the place to go for your computer shopping needs. Since they're still renovating the Mecca of computer shopping, Virramall, the next best places to look is either Shoppesville Plus or the Annapolis Carpark. We went for the latter since it's easier to load things to the car afterwards.

The cheapest package these days is an AMD Sempron 2200 with 256 MB DDRAM with shared video memory, a 40 GB IDE hard drive, a 52x CD-ROM drive, floppy drive of course, speakers, keyboard, mouse and auto voltage regulator. The new term I heard them describe monitors is "refurbished", which essentially means recycled, and thus, cheap, probably riskier. This comes in at around a bit less than P15,000. Printer is an additional P2350.00, we're getting a computer table too.

The guy at the shop tells me they've run out of Sempron 2200s and tells me I could get a Sempron 2500 and he'll cut a few hundred from it. He tells me it's 64-bit ready and that when Windows XP 64-bit edition, I'll be ready. To let him know I'm no chump, I tell him "bakit ko gusto nun? [why would I want that?]". He starts to go into this "be at the forefront of technology" bit, but I cut him off by saying that it's really just for my grandfather. He's all business afterwards, running down the available parts, sometimes discounting them without me asking. They assemble the thing in front of us, taking the parts out of the box and into their corresponding place inside the PC case, wires and cables and all. The printer's pretty decent, an Epson C45, at a hundred bucks less. Gives me the modem for free.

My mom mentions the internet connection, and this guy jumps to suggest Smart Wi-Fi at P1000.00. I immediately shook my head. My grandfather won't need it, heck, even I don't really need it. I mean it's nice to have, except it's more of a luxury for me who spends around 2 online hours a day at home. They'll just take their chances with prepaid dial-up connection. I also tell the guy to format the hard drive and make it bootable, since they're against piracy and all that. You can guess how I solved the operating system problem.

My grandfather was prepared to spend around P25,000.00 for it, we got ours for P19,250.00 w/ printer and table. A pretty good deal.

Since they'll be bringing the computer to Bulacan, and I won't be there until the All Saints break, we label all the wires at home (in Manila) so that they can figure out where to put what when they get there. I'm a little scared that they'll start calling hours later so that they can get tech support from me. (shudder). My dad reassures us, "marunong ngang magpatakbo yan ng tren, eto pa kaya [he (my grandfather) knows how to make trains run, he can make this work]". My grandfather was a railroad engineer. I'm a different kind of engineer. The kind that saves relatives a few thousand when buying a computer.

Friday, October 14, 2005

PBA Cry-babies

ABS-CBN Interactive has this article about local professional basketball players whining about the league's move to grant amnesty to Filipino-American players. Usually, the league doesn't allow them to play, although a few may have "slipped" past "vigilant" eyes.

My take on this is: let the Fil-Ams play.

If I was a pro basketball player, I'd say "bring it on". Let the league worry about the legality.

Part of the reason of the waning support for the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) is the fact that it's not exciting to watch, or more accurately, it's not worth the money to pay to watch (more on this later). Players lack both intensity and talent. Part of the reason they allowed some obviously non-indigenous talent is that they play better, play faster, play bigger and they bring the crowd in. When you're up against these people, they'll force you to work harder, be better prepared, train longer.

These people are just looking for an excuse to be the best among the mediocre. How do we expect to challenge Asia's best with these kinds of athletes? Raise the bar, open the floodgates. Bring in the fans.


One good thing the PBA has done this season is to sell upperbox and bleacher tickets for a measly 5 pesos. Sure enough, it does bring the crowd. Good idea. It was embarrassing to see previous seasons with empty bleacher/upper box seats that the cameras have to come in close at everything so that the unoccupied places won't be shown on TV. This is the people's game, a game for the masses. Now, the masses can afford it.

Mmm...Chicken Nuggets

Through an intricate network of associates, I got hold of frozen chicken nuggets from a famous fastfood establishment for P250.00 a kilo. It tastes exactly like when you buy them from the restaurant. There are about 50+ pieces in a kilo. Very good value for money. I don't even have to go out of the house in case I feel like eating some.

Too bad you have to come up with your own sauce.


Hey I got myself a myshoutbox. It's on the right, where it says "leave a message". So please do leave a message. Friends, wellwishers, acquaintances, distant relatives...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ateneo Alumni Visa Credit Card

A few weeks ago, someone from the Ateneo Alumni Association office called to ask if I'm interested in getting a credit card. I already have a Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) Edge Mastercard, and my Equitable Visa Electron but I was planning to get a Visa credit card. Hong Kong Savings (HSBC) did call me and I tried to sign up for the Mabuhay Miles Visa but that was months ago and I don't know what became of that. So for weeks I was thinking of getting a Citibank Visa. Good timing for the alumni office.

I let the representative talk her guts out over the phone how a percentage of the annual fee goes to Ateneo scholars, how it's pre-approved and that they don't need any documents or requirements from me. So I did sign up for one. Two birds in one stone: something good for the alma mater, and financial flexibility for me.

My card arrived a few days ago containing my plain-looking Ateneo Alumni Unionbank Credit Card. The design is more simplistic than simple. I don't really like the look. I didn't even give an authorization letter to the one that received it at home but they gave it anyway (although, I still have to have it activated). Maybe they figured out that I'm still the same guy that lived in that house and went to Ateneo for 16 long years. No loyalty award for me, though. I guess the school doesn't go for that thing. Weirdly enough, the spam that comes with the credit card is all about life insurance, unlike the BPI, which is full of perks, 0% interest on installment and various other discounts. The card also comes with a list of establishments that I can get discounts from. Unimpressive lineup, though, and the Visa Gourmet Perks promo ended last March.

One good advantage of my Alumni card is that I can pay for it over my Equitable ATM.

Why do I need so many credit cards? I don't exactly need them, but having them around and occasionally using them will be good for my credit history. It's good for me to get used to managing my finances. Also, for emergencies.

From time to time, I read up on credit card stuff like this MSN Money article on "How many credit cards is too many?"

The website's full of useful articles like that but I don't know if it applies to our country and culture. We're not exactly a consumer economy like the US.

Geek on Stun: Marios. 64.

Bored guys putting costumes on Super Mario. Hm, I don't seem to have a favorite. Maybe the Kamatari Damacy Mario, the fifth one from the bottom of the leftmost column.

UM frosh changed game, America

An interesting read on the The University of Michigan Fab Five of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King, Ray Jackson. Three of which were certified NBA all-stars.
Before the Queer Eye guys but after Freddie Wildstyle'd and Yo'd, for a larger part of America, the five brothas that graced the floor in Crisler Arena that year -- that day -- were something they had never seen before. Everything about them was new. Different. Fresh to death.
Read up if you're into basketball culture.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Savage Earth Week: Mt. Pinatubo

Last Monday, National Geographic Channel, in their Savage Earth Week series, featured the Eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

I can't say I vividly remember that time. I remember the ashfall, and the news about lahar, and evacuations. I even collected some ashfall from our car and it's probably in a small packet somewhere in the house (if it hasn't been thrown away yet).

Watching the feature, I realized how terrible that disaster really was, and how its effects were felt all over the world for years (temperatures dropped a few degrees for over two years because of the ash spewed in the atmosphere). Also how it created that lahar wasteland that is most of Pampanga.

It had that story of an Aeta village that sought refuge in the caves. Only one family survived, after they covered themselves with bat droppings (guano!) to escape the fiery heat. There were also stories of news correspondents escaping the avalanche of rock and mud, as they caught it all on film.

Anyway, the world didn't end then. But I don't think we've fully recovered 14 years after.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Watch the 40 Year Old Virgin!

What a riot of a film! Go, watch! Now!

We caught The 40-Year-Old Virgin in Greenbelt 3 and I was just laughing myself off my seat most of the time. Sure there were some slapstick scenes, and references I didn't get. But the comedy really got my funny bone. Steve Carell was perfect for that role, and the supporting cast led by Catherine Keener (who was excellent in Being John Malkovich, one of my all-time favorites). He better follow it up with another good one or else he's a fluke.

What else can I say? Well this movie draws comparison to American Pie and Wedding Crashers. And while I didn't see Wedding Crashers, I think that this movie is a lot better than American Pie. The protagonist is a much more lovable loser, you kinda cheer him on throughout the movie. I found the script a lot wittier, and smarter, maybe even insightful.

I don't mind watching this one for a second time. Although, I fear it may not be the same kind of experience as the first (rimshot).

Sunday, October 09, 2005

With the 1st pick in the Yahoo Fantasy Basketball Draft, the 12th Men select...Lebron James from Cleveland

So the guys at the office decided to play fantasy basketball (courtesy of Yahoo!). Wikipedia says,
A Fantasy sport is a game where fantasy owners build a team that competes against other fantasy owners based on the statistics generated by individual players or teams of a professional sport.
As you can guess by the title, I got the first pick, which I used to get the stat cruncher and phenomenal athlete, Lebron James. Other notables in my roster include Ray Allen, Elton Brand, Stephen Jackson, Carmelo Anthony and then of course, other two-bit role players. Everything's a gamble here. Hope I win overall in March, when the season ends. Oh yeah, money's involved :P

MBL Vector Cup Epilogue

So whatever happened to the MBL Vector Cup saga?

Anyway, the our record was 1-4, and we were outright eliminated. Sitting on the sidelines, I realized how important teamwork was, also moving without the ball and making plays for teammates. It was somebody else's job of course. I never had wished to be a coach, or even a star player, just a reliable role player. Of course I'd think a little more differently had I been about 5 inches taller.

So how did I do? I played 3 games out of five (the 3 middle games), shot 5-of-14, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc (merits a brief one week stint on top of the 3pt % leaders). Decent Steve Kerr slash Fred Hoiberg numbers. I really need to develop an inside game, and a midrange shot. These two I just mentioned are very difficult to do since I usually play guard. Also need some upper body strength.

Company sportsfest is coming up in a month or two, I guess I better go back to weight training. But playing NBA Live 06 more satisfying (just kidding).

The hardest part is getting the ball rolling.


What did we get out of the MBL experience?

Spankin' new basketball jerseys and shorts.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

All at Once

One of those "Only in the Philippines" posts.

The other week, I remember going into Watson's in Podium and looking around buying office snacks and supplies. The store speakers were playing the Whitney Houston song All At Once. (I seriously had to look the lyrics up.)

And, only in the Philippines will the Watson's staff burst out into song at the chorus.


Civilization IV

Anyway, after NBA Live 06, before the end of the month, I'll probably be moving on to another game that I am already eager to buy (original, even). That game is Sid Meier's Civilization IV.

The entire series is based on a simple enough idea: guide a tribe, and grow an empire across thousands of years of rewritten history. It's turn-based, which means that it plays like a chess game, you don't win because of speed but rather planning and placement. If had to stay in my room for weeks with only food and access to a bathroom, I could play this and The Sims 2 all day and all night.

This game is so great, that I could still play the original 1990 version and not be bored by it. How many games are timeless like that?

NBA Live 06

I got myself a copy of the new NBA Live 06 game for PC. I like it a lot better than the previous ones. The main improvement that I think transcends all the rest is the Freestyle Superstar. Compared to the last one, NBA Live 2005, this adds swagger, and attitude. Why I just made Lebron James slam a one-hander in front of Kevin Garnett, and I mean SLAM! (and the accompanying hang on the rim for a few secs). Wouldn't you like Michael Redd to fire a bank shot? Or keep your arm up after shooting (a la The Shot, by Michael Jordan against Utah) Or a behind the back pass from Steve Nash. I could go on and on. Also it's easier to shoot mid-range jumpshots. I haven't thrown an alley-oop to myself, though. It's hard to do that even in practice. Blocking shots inside is a lot more difficult, so is stealing (other people find it easier)

Anyway, I prefer to play NBA Live in Dynasty mode,which for you who aren't familiar with it, is playing a franchise over many seasons. It includes trading players, signing contracts, and drafting rookies among others. My team of choice is also THE team to watch this 2005-06 NBA season, Cleveland Cavaliers with Lebron James, Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall and Damon Jones.

I'm gonna go find some complete PC controls for the Superstar Triggers. This game rules!