Wednesday, December 27, 2006


There's literally been a lot of earth-shaking reported on the news the past few days.

So naturally I wanted to do a bit of research online to get a little more information.

It surprised me to learn that over 120 earthquakes have been recorded in the last seven days alone, according to the Recent Earthquakes page on the US Geological Survey website.

When I add to the mix all the active volcanoes that have recently been making their presence felt, I can't help but wonder if all this activity is truly noteworthy or if our increasingly wired and informed world is simply making it easier to know what's going on in the world.

New Flickr Badge

It took a bit of experimentation, but I was finally able to update my Flickr badge today. I had gotten a bit tired of the old Flash-based badge, and wanted to do something a little more fun.

Thanks to a bit of web surfing, I found Veerle's wonderful blogpost that describes how she tweaked the generic Flickr html badge code so that it would display four Flickr images in a 2-by-2 grid.

I had wanted to display six images in a 2-by-3 grid, so her CSS/XHTML code was exactly what I needed.

Now that the badge is there and displayed in a fairly prominent spot on my sidebar, I guess I'll need to upload new photos more often.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Repeats and Greets

A lot of the people I've talked to in the past week have said that they don't quite feel the Christmas spirit this year. I found it interesting how I've heard the exact same comment from friends in different social circles. The feeling seems to be present regardless of age or social circumstances. I find myself half-wondering if there is something in the air we're breathing or the water we're drinking that's making everyone feel this way!

It might be that my friends are all getting older... and the many "repeats" have worn away the polish and shimmer of the holidays, leaving only things that are faded, familiar, and almost chore-like. It's got a nice homey feel, yes, but it lacks the zest and the sparkle.

* * *

Earlier today in church, I remember thinking to myself that pastors must have a really hard time figuring out how to keep their Christmas sermons relevant and fresh with each passing year.

It takes a lot of effort to dig deep down inside for some new insight to re-ignite that feeling of wonder, appreciation, and love. Especially when you're preaching to people who have read the Christmas Story a gazillion times already.

I guess if there's anyone whom I expect should be able to find the Christmas Spirit every year, it would be our spiritual leaders.

Strangely enough, I find Easter a lot more moving than Christmas, perhaps because Easter is a lot less commercialized and there area very few social expectations attached to it. Plus it is traditionally a time for reflection. During the Christmas holidays, there's very little time to think when we're all running around like the proverbial headless chicken.

* * *

Merry Christmas! May we all rediscover the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Crisis of Faith

Warning: Long and Rambling Entry.

Have lately been reading a book by Max Lucado entitled "It's Not About Me: Rescue from the Life We Thought Would Make Us Happy."

The book was a birthday present from a couple whom I've known socially for quite some time, although I guess it would be a bit of a stretch to say that we're close friends. Not that I wouldn't want to be a close friend; it's more a lack of opportunity than anything else.

Anyway, it's a highly readable book, and I agree with most of the things that are in it (I'm only half-way through so there's still a chance that I'll find something really disagreeable before I finish it).

* * *

What I particularly like about the book is that it touches on the one aspect of the Christian faith that's my stumbling block: the fact that God has done and will do everything for His glory.

Below is a passage from pp.40-41. The Chapter Title is "Divine Self-Promotion."

God exists to showcase God.

He told Moses: "By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; and before all the people I must be glorified (Lev 10:3 NKJV).

Why did he harden Pharoah's heart? "I will harden Pharoah's heart, and he will pursue them [the Israelites]. But I will gain glory for myself through Pharoah and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord (Exo 14:4 NIV).

Why do the heavens exist? The heavens exist to "declare the glory of God" (Psa 19:1 NIV).

Why did God choose the Israelites? Through Isaiah he called out to "everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory" (Isa 43:7 NKJV)

Why do people struggle? God answers, "I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for My own sake, I will act" (Isa 48:10-11). "Trust me in your times of trouble, and I will rescue you, and you will give me glory" (Psa 50:15 NLT).

He spoke of "this people I have formed for Myself; they shall declare My praise" (Isa 43:21 JKJV).

The prophet Isaiah proclaimed, "You lead Your people, to make Yourself a glorious name" (Isa 63:14 NKJV).

Christ taught us to make God's reputation our priority in prayer: "Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name" (Matt 6:9).

Every act of heaven reveals God's glory. Every act of Jesus did the same. Indeed, "The Son reflects the glory of God" (Heb 1:3 NCV). The night before his cruxifixion, Jesus declared, "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!" (John 12:27-28 NIV). Paul explains that "Christ has become a servant of the Jews... so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy" (Rom 15:8-9 NIV).

And Jesus declared his mission a success by saying, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do" (John 17:4 NIV).

God has one goal: God. "I have my reputation to keep up" (Isa 48:11 MSG).

Surprised? Isn't such an attitude, dare we ask, self-centered? Don't we deem this behavior "self-promotion"?
And by golly, that last question encapsulates the biggest struggle I have with my Christian faith.

According to all of the above, God created us for His pleasure and for His glory. Yet by creating us and giving us free will, He surely created the possibility of sin. By virtue of His omniscience, He surely must know that many will choose not to accept His offer of salvation, and consequently, countless millions will be condemned to hell in the process.

Given all this, why did He still do it? Why create man and give man free will if He knows that souls will spend eternity in hell as a result? Is it a good enough answer to say that He simply did this for His pleasure and glory?

Are we nothing more than laboratory rats in a complex puzzle called Earth, placed there for the amusement of a divine being who is indulging Himself in an elaborate experiment?

I find the mental image difficult to accept.

Mr. Lucado does spend some time in the book to explain the virtue of Divine Self-Promotion. And while I am not completely satisfied with his answer, I do greatly appreciate the fact that his book actually raises and addresses the question. It is the first time I've actually encountered a book that tackles this issue head on. I am gratified to know that I'm not the only thinking such potentially sacrilegious thoughts.

* * *

Edited to Add:

I wrote the above entry a couple of days ago, but I didn't quite know how to end this post... until now.

Because tonight, as I was discussing this issue with my cellgroup mates, I came to the realization that I am way too proud and too full of myself and my own worth -- and that my pride is the barrier that prevents me from accepting that I exist primarily to praise and worship God.

I rebel against the idea because I want to believe that my life has more meaning than simply being an instrument of praise. I want to believe that I am important enough in my own right, that I deserve to exist for a purpose beyond just worshipping God. At the core of my angst lies the fact that I can't accept the notion that I'm really nothing.

In stark contrast to my attitude is the worldview of one of my cellgroup mates. I'd have to say that she's probably one of the most humble people I know. She attributes every little success or victory to God's provision. She praises God for every trial she encounters because she perceives every solution as evidence of God's grace. I often find myself marvelling at her child-like faith when she shares her experiences with the rest of the group. She truly believes that she is powerless, helpless, and yes, even worthless when she's without God.

Tonight, I realized that her life embodies the title of the book: "It's Not About Me."

So finally, after months of intermittently wresting with this issue, I find myself feeling better. Because I've come to realize that when the day comes that I have finally learned true humility, everything that was so hard to accept about "Divine Self-Promotion" will suddenly make perfect sense to me.

I just hope that humility will not have to be too painful a lesson to learn.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I'd been longing for quite some time to migrate my Blogger blogs to the new Beta version, especially since my initial exploration into the new Beta was such a positive experience.

Well, after three months of waiting, I finally saw a link on my Blogger profile today inviting me to migrate my blogs to the new Beta! Of course I clicked yes right away! The whole migration must have taken less than a couple of minutes.

Turns out that I couldn't be invited to migrate earlier because I am a member of a team blog, and that was among the last of the features to be migrated to the new Beta.

So with the migration completed, I literally went through all 60 of my blogposts on this blog to apply labels (aka tags) to each post. If you're following this blog on a feed, some of my old posts may reappear as "new" entries (my apologies for that).

It helps that I had just recently viewed a video interview with Eric Case, a Google developer who's been working on the Beta version. Watching that interview gave me a lot more confidence about the migration process (especially since there was a warning that there's no turning back after migrating). haha!

After publishing this post, I plan to explore the layout options with the new Beta. So don't be surprised if you see a few changes to the look and content of the template. :-p

Updated 8:30pm: Happy with the new look. Also updated my Twitter color scheme to match. Woot!

Ticked Off

While I can easily shrug most things or situations aside without a second thought, there really are a few things that can make me instantly lose my temper.

Things like...

  • People who barely know me, and yet are presumptuous enough to assume that I will do what they say, simply because they say it.
  • People who think that I don't mean what I say when I say no. How complicated can it be to understand a two-letter word?
  • People who make public, sweeping generalizations about me on the basis of little or no information.
And nothing makes me blow my top faster than having all three types of incidents occur in the span of 24 hours.

I tell you, it's enough to make a saint swear (not that I would ever consider myself a saint).

I'm glad life isn't normally this complicated.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Following More

Yesterday, while surfing the Twitter Public Timeline, I saw a Twitter post by web designer D. Keith Robinson, whose blog I had been following on-and-off for over a year now.

Of course I couldn't resist checking his Twitter page, and by golly, it was a pleasant surprise to realize that quite a number of A-list web designers are long-time users!

Clicking through the various icons yielded a few more interesting names, so now I'm also following...

I'm sure there are a few more designers out there whose Twitter profiles are waiting to be discovered. Will do some exploring this weekend.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

They said 'I Do'

One of my officemates tied the knot today. In the weeks just before her wedding, she seemed a bit stressed out with all the preparatory work. But on her wedding day, she truly looked beautiful. I am really happy for her.

Although I'd known months ahead of time that she'd be getting married, it was still a bit of a surprise to finally see the girl who used to be our company's "baby" now all grown up and married. Time does fly by so quickly.

But it's a really nice feeling to see my friends making life-changing commitments and starting their own families. There's a sense of progress there that I can share in, however vicarious the sharing may be.

To A&J, my heart-felt wishes for a long and happy marriage.

Note: this blog entry is back-dated.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


The past couple of weeks have gone by in a really quick whirlwind. I've actually had a lot of "bloggable" thoughts in that time, but it was much too tiring to sit down and think.

Thank goodness for Twitter; reading my cryptic entries over the past couple of weeks allowed me to remember enough of recent events to actually write a coherent entry here. hehe.

* * *

Had a long lunch with friends on November 25. We were at the restaurant literally for several hours, just chatting and watching the kids chase each other around the tables.

I miss this particular group of friends because I don't see them nearly as much as I used to, or as much as I'd like to. It also surprised me to realize during lunch that everyone there was already married, and except for one newly married couple, everyone already had kids. I guess my friends are also getting older too.

* * *

One of the highlights of the past two weeks was the church's Praise Night on November 26.

I think the choir spent over 350 man-hours rehearsing just for that single night. A week before the event, I was overwhelmed by dread because we really sounded so bad during rehearsals. We were just plain awful -- I can't quite put into words just how bad it was.

But on the final dress rehearsal, things really fell into place... which was such a big surprise. In retrospect, I think everyone knew that the event was just hours away so everyone had to stay focused. It would have been nice if everyone was focused 100% right from the start, but I guess that's too much to expect from a volunteer choir.

* * *

Another recent highlight was a reunion dinner with my long-lost college gal-pals on November 28. I had so much fun at this dinner, partly because of my friends, and partly because of the way this dinner came about.

M had flown in from the US to attend her sister's wedding, while D, who is based in Hong Kong, was coincidentally in town for a three day visit. We were joking that the "planets have aligned" just so the three of us could get together for the first time in more than 10 years. I still get a huge smile on my face whenever I think of that get-together. And thankfully, M had the foresight to bring a camera, so we have photographic evidence. hehe.

* * *

November 29 was turkey day at the office. I think this is the fourth year in a row now that we've had our own version of Thanksgiving.

I can never tell whether people really enjoyed the meal or not. I suppose there's a really good chance that they're just being polite when they say that the meal was good. At this point, I'm not going to second-guess myself and will just take what they say at face value. hehe.

* * *

Typhoon Reming thankfully changed course and spared Metro Manila on November 30 and December 1, but it sure battered other parts of the country.

I have to confess that I really dreaded the arrival of the storm, especially after what we experienced with typhoon Milenyo just two short months ago. I literally felt my chest tighten at the news. I was overwhelmed with sheer relief when they announced that Manila would not be hit.

* * *

December 1 was the church's annual Thanksgiving luncheon for co-workers. It was my first time to attend such an occassion, and while it was fun to be with friends, I found that I didn't enjoy it as much as I expected. And that's all that I'm willing to say about the matter on a public blog.

* * *

My sis-in-law invited me to go shopping on December 2, which was perfect timing. I was able to buy Christmas presents for my godchildren, for which I'm soooo thankful. I'm finding that it gets tougher over the years to find the right presents, especially since the kids are growing up.

Thanks to my sis-in-law's encouragement, I will not be that hopeless ninang who cops out of gift-giving by just giving cash this year. hehe.

* * *

Then on December 3, we all trekked to one of the nearby subdivisions for my niece's kiddie pool party for her birthday. While it the venue was warm and a bit humid, the food was great, especially the bibingka. It was almost a diet breaker, to be honest! haha!

I'm glad my dad had the foresight to charge his camera batteries, because as it turns out, he and I were the only photographers at the party. At least my niece will have some photos to remind her of this year's birthday.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


Had a good experience renewing my driver's license today.

Upon the recommendation of a friend, I headed to the LTO Driver's License Renewal center that's located at the Ayala Avenue MRT Station. The place was small, but it was laid out efficiently and there were no more than 5 other people waiting to get their licenses processed, so it didn't feel cramped.

Perhaps it helped that it's a Thursday and I arrived at around 10.45am, when most people would be at work.

Anyway, the entire process took around 45 minutes. The procedure includes a mandatory drug test, a vision test, a quick photo session using a simple webcam, and the actual printing of the card. I think the longest part of the process was waiting for the drug test result, which actually didn't take that long either.

All in all, it was a smooth and fairly efficient experience. The place was cool, well-lit, and clean. The people were friendly and helpful. It's such a far cry from my previous experience renewing my license at the LTO's main office three years ago. Maybe there's hope for our government yet. haha!

Saturday, November 18, 2006


At cellgroup this week, the discussion revolved around the fact that so many of our relationships with people never get past the superficial level, and that a sense of community in church cannot truly exist if people do not make an effort to deepen their relationships with one another.

I had some resistance to the idea of indiscriminately deepening all my various relationships because for the most part, I am really much happier keeping things at the superficial level with most of the people I know.

To be blunt, there are a lot of people whom I find totally uninteresting, and there are even more people whom I'd rather keep out of my affairs because I consider my life to be none of their business.

It sounds really harsh when I put it in writing, but that's how I feel.

* * * *

There are people who, for reasons unknown to me, will feign interest in my life and my opinions, but time eventually demonstrates that they're not truly interested at all.

Relationships with people like this are a real source of disappointment for me. When the truth is revealed, I have to resist the urge to ask why they even bothered to go through the charade in the first place. It's such a total waste of time.

I think that's why I'd rather be upfront and make my disinterest in other people obvious. I may be perceived as being unfriendly or aloof, but IMHO that's better than being fake.

* * * *

I think it's obvious enough to the people that I care about that they matter to me. Perhaps that's the saving grace in my attitude about all this.

It's so easy to be open with people with whom I have more than just a superficial relationship. There's no effort involved at all. Maybe it's because I feel like the interest is genuine, and therefore the motivation to be open and to share is there.

* * * *

I know this entry seems really weird, and my thoughts on this are somewhat jumbled and disorganized. It's partly because I experienced both extremes this week.

Sometime this week, I came to realize that someone I know is not being truly honest in their interactions with me... and I'm not sure what their motive is. I guess at this point I don't really care, because the reason doesn't really matter.

In stark contrast, two different friends (who don't know each other) emailed me this week to ask how I'm doing because I have been unusually quiet lately. It warms my heart more than I can express that they would be concerned and would write just to make sure everything's okay.

* * * *

At the end of the day, I think superficiality in relationships can be a good thing, and I will go so far as to say that it can actually be a healthy thing -- especially when used in the right context and to the right degree.

There's no point being fake about relationships, because there's too much effort involved to keep up the pretense, and the truth will reveal itself in the end.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I freely admit it... After two months of regular use, Twitter is now very much embedded in my life.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Twittering Anew

Twitter has released yet another round of updates and of course I immediately took advantage and tweaked my settings so that the color scheme on my Twitter home matches my blog.

Some thoughts:

  • Statistics. I like! It surprised me to realize that I am just one more post away from making my 100th "status update" using Twitter. haha! Obviously, I'm addicted.
  • Mini-thumbs. I like the fact that the avatars are all shrunk down to mini-thumbnails in the sidebar. Efficient use of space, especially for the uber-popular people who have 4,000 friends (mild exaggeration there).
  • Tabs. I like the faux-tab interface. Simple but snazzy.
  • Sleep. Had a laugh when I saw the new "Sleep Time" option. I used to wake up in the middle of the night when Twitter updates arrived. haha! But that stopped being a problem when I changed my incoming message tone to something less intrusive.
Anyway, I really liked the new updates, which is why I felt motivated to use the invitation feature today to invite a few more people -- mostly folks in the Philippines whom I don't see often enough. Since it's free for us to receive text messages, I figured it was about time I spread the good word around.

Unfortunately, no one has responded yet (it's been over 12 hours!), which makes me wonder whether or not the invitations even got sent in the first place! And the main reason that I'm wondering is this: I had added one of my own email addresses to the list of invitees and I haven't received the invite email yet. :-(

None of the items on my Twitter Wishlist have made it into this round of updates. But considering how quickly they're putting new features out, I have reason to hope. :D

Monday, November 06, 2006

Untag Me, Please

I couldn't help but laugh out loud when I saw the corporate write-up for

Tagged provides a fun, safe, and exciting environment for teens to showcase their personalities and talents, and to connect with friends and meet new ones. Tagged maintains this great environment by only allowing teenagers to register on the site.
They've got to be totally kidding about that last statement! I've received four or five "You've been tagged" emails already and they're all from people who are either in their 30s or older!

Anyway, if you've tagged me and you're wondering why I haven't replied, please don't take it personally. Until I see a compelling reason to sign up, I'm staying untagged.

A parting thought: if you really want to 'play tag' with the unwired generation, you're better off signing up with Twitter.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

New Find: Food Blog

Just found a food blog today called Dessert Comes First.

It's incredibly pretty, and it looks like the type of blog that can provide hours of fascinating reading. Now I know where I will look the next time the family wants to try a new lunch venue.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Prestige

Oooh-lala!! What a mind-bending movie!! I walked out of the theatre with my mind still reeling from what I'd seen.

Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star as bitter rivals caught in an escalating tangle of one-upsmanship in The Prestige, a Christopher Nolan adaptation of a 1995 book written by Christopher Priest.

IMDB's message board has incredibly enjoyable discussion threads about the movie. Worth a visit after you've watched it.

And since I don't want to risk letting any secrets out, I will end this post here.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Going, going, gone!

After months of having the game box just sitting on my shelf (it was a Christmas present!), I finally unwrapped my copy of Modern Art: High Stakes Bidding in the Galleries while we were at the cemetery yesterday. It's a board game designed by Reiner Knizia, and it is manufactured by Mayfair Games.

Here's a little excerpt from the box:

Welcome to the high-risk world of art auctions! You seek to earn profits by selling the works of up-and-coming new artists. Players take turns running auctions of different styles, with the highest bidders claiming the artwork to sell at the end of the round. Do you have the insight to invest in the artists that will have the most staying power? Can you manipulate the art market so that your favorite artist will give you the greatest return?
It was funny how we all started out so tentatively, making bids that were rising in increments of $1,000 each time. By the fourth round, we all had a better understanding of the game and the bids were opening at $52,000. haha!

Since the game was new to all of us, we were learning the nuances as we went along, and it's amazing how the simplest action can have consequences ranging in the hundreds of thousands of dollars!

While it's definitely not a game for everybody, I really enjoyed it. I look forward to the next round, whenever that may be.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Paying our respects

Just got home from the cemetery where the clan trooped en masse to pay our respects to my grandfather, who had passed away a few years ago.

I feel kinda sad, because I've lately been realizing more how so much is lost when someone dies, especially when it's someone elderly. When I think of all the stories, life experiences, lessons, and even bits of history that were lost forever when my grandfather died, I feel bad because we have so little left of him to hold on to.

Lately, I've been thinking of my parents and everything that they've achieved both personally and professionally, and I can't help but wonder whether their grandchildren or great-grandchildren will one day know just how proud they should be of their grandparents.

I guess it's the job of my generation to ensure that the future generations know, understand, and appreciate.

Vital Friends

Stumbled across a podcast interview of author Tom Rath whose second book, Vital Friends: The People You Can't Afford to Live Without, is out. The podcast is available courtesy of 800-CEO-Read and is hosted on Odeo.

The Vital Friends book has a companion site which lists the 8 roles that different friends fulfill in our lives -- and emphasizes that expecting one single person to fulfill all 8 roles is a guaranteed recipe for a disastrous relationship.

The roles are (see Vital Friends site for full descriptions):

  • Builder. Motivators. They invest in your development and genuinely want you to succeed.
  • Companion. Always there for you, whatever the circumstances.
  • Connector. Bridge-builders who get to know you -- and then connect you to others.
  • Collaborator. Friend with similar interests; you share a passion.
  • Energizer. Your fun friends. You have more positive moments when you are with these friends.
  • Mind Opener. Friends who expand your horizons with new ideas, opportunities, cultures, and people.
  • Navigator. Friends who give you sage advice. You go to them whenever you need guidance, and they talk through the "pros" and "cons" with you until you find an answer.
  • Champion. Champions stand up for you, and defend you until the end.
I find the concept behind the book interesting (although I haven't actually read the book yet) and I am seriously tempted to buy a copy because it's a drill-down on yet another Gallup book that I had read a few years ago, entitled First, Break all the Rules. That book forever changed the way I think of my role as a manager (but I won't go into why for now since that's a subject for another post. hehe!).

Anyway, I'm glad that I can actually name at least one person in my life for each of the above roles, with the possible exception of the Connector role... which I guess isn't that surprising since I've yet to master the fine art of networking.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Podcasting hits the mainstream

According to an IT Conversations podcast featuring Doug Kaye, podcasting has been around for three to four years in some form, even though the term didn't really come into existence in a big way until more recently.

But you know that podcasting has really hit the mainstream when has launched its own monthly podcast, Amazon Wire -- "an original, free podcast about books, music, movies, and those who create them."

A quick look through Odeo also shows a number of channels with several instantly-recognizable names: BBC's Documentary Archive, The Economist Magazine, and Business Week. It's great how the rise of broadband internet connectivity has sparked a revival of old-style communication methods, i.e., audio only.

One of these days (when I finally have the time!), I'm going to have to try recording a sound clip to see how easy it is to go from recording, to editing, to publishing, and finally to actual listening -- without any professional equipment.


I decided to check out Odeo Studio to see just how much of a no-brainer it would be to use their recording and publishing features with my clunky home microphone. And as it turns out, it was very much a no-brainer! Took me all of maybe four minutes to do everything from start to finish. It helps that all the buttons are large and clearly labeled. haha!

Here's the finished product, which I've entitled Hello, World. If you're a programmer who "grew up" in the 1980s, you'll get the inside joke. hehe.

powered by ODEO

The recording is pathetically simple, but it does prove that Odeo Studio works like a charm. Oh, and I would like to go on the record and say that I find the primarily-pink-themed flash player really pretty.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Solo Lunch

I relish those rare days when I get to have lunch alone at a restaurant.

Not that I'd want to be eating lunch alone everyday, but there are times when you just want some alone time with your thoughts, a magazine, and a favorite meal -- especially when you've been bombarded with 'interrupts' for several days on end.

I am reminded of a conversation I had some time ago with some gal pals -- many were of the opinion that women who eat alone at restaurants are a sad lot, so they avoid being that kind of person at all costs.

For some reason, I've never really experienced that kind of hang-up. I guess it's because I don't spend time checking out the people seated at the other tables, and I simply assume that no one else is bothering to check out what I'm doing.

Maybe if it were the evening of Valentine's Day and the rest of the tables had couples being all lovey-dovey, I might feel a tad out of place. But for the most part, this kind of quiet time is welcome and refreshing.

Recent Movements

I've fallen so far behind on my blogreading lately that I missed a few notable movements:

  • Vox has launched (Oct 2006). After being in "limited membership" mode for a few months, this brand-spanking new service has officially launched. I am seriously tempted to move my blog to it, because Vox allows me to flag who gets to see which entry (in the same way LiveJournal does). The only thing that stops me from really switching is my lack of access to the actual template code.
  • Ev and Biz start Obvious (Oct 2006). In a move that's very much the reverse of a "built-to-flip" mentality, Ev and Biz have set up a new company called Obvious, and acquired Odeo and Twitter from their venture-capital funded business Odeo Inc.
  • Mark Fletcher has left Bloglines (June 2006). Serial 'net-preneur Mark Fletcher has left Bloglines in the hands of its acquirers, Ask. It's a move that's similar to his own departure from eGroups after it was acquired by Yahoo (and rebranded as Yahoogroups). It also reminds me of Evan Williams leaving Blogger a couple of years after it was acquired by Google.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just Like Old Times

Went to a wake for the father of one of my former choir conductors last night. I had not seen V in such a long time, and while it was great to hug her again, I do wish it was under happier circumstances.

At her request, around 20 of her former choir members (myself included) got together last night to perform one song for the wake. And although it has been years since many of us had sung together, once we did start singing, it felt like we had stepped back into the past.

The old blending was still there, amazingly. The singing techniques learned through hours of rehearsals long ago all came roaring back. Lyrics that I thought I'd forgotten, melodies that I had not heard in years... all of it was still there, just dormant and buried at the back of my brain.

Hearing the blending and feeling once again the many nuances of the song made me remember why I loved being in choir so much all those years ago.

It was just like old times, and it felt really good.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I attended a luncheon today where the corporate sponsor paying for lunch was also was the speaker for the session. Sadly, the content of the talk was pure fluff. The best description I can think of is that the speaker took their corporate brochure and converted the content to a 10-slide powerpoint presentation and called that a 'talk.'

Afterwards, my seatmate politely commented that she expected there to be more to the talk than what we saw, something I felt rather gratified to hear. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the other attendees felt the same way.

Lately, I seem to find myself in situations (like the one today) where I get the impression that the average client can sense the difference between quality consulting and mediocre consulting, but they don't care enough about the difference, and certainly aren't willing to pay for the difference.

After all, in these tough financial times, why pay P200 for a bottle of Perrier at a restaurant when they can also serve you regular tap water that's been filtered and chilled at no extra charge?

Do the extra care, attention, and thinking that we put into our consulting advice actually translate into a difference that the client will take into account when they choose a consulting services provider?

I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with a fellow choir member at church. We were talking about the many improvements that the choirs can still make (musically speaking), and how it would be great if we can actually make these changes. He shared with me his wife's reaction to this line of thinking. She asked, do you think the average church-goer can appreciate the difference between a professional choir and a volunteer church choir? And if they cannot, is it still worth it to invest so much time, energy, and emotions into pursuing choral excellence?

At what point are we making sub-optimal decisions by focusing so much on being 'perfect' that we automatically reject what is already 'good enough'?

And if we're so used to compromising and just delivering what's 'good enough,' how sure are we that we haven't already crossed the invisible line that separates 'good enough' from 'mediocre'?

I really wish I knew.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Before I forget, I wanted to make this little entry about the sermon last Sunday at church, which touched a bit on the subject of generosity.

I enjoyed that sermon a lot. Basically, the pastor was saying that we can easily find it in our hearts to be generous if we keep in mind (among other things) that:

  • everything we have comes from God; and
  • if God really meant for us to have something, nothing and no one can stop us from receiving it.
What an interesting and eye-opening perspective with which to look at the world!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sources of Power

I'm currently in the middle of a really interesting book entitled Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein.

It's an interesting read, because it dispels the notion that the best decisions are always made after listing all the possible options, weighting and rating each option, adding up the ratings, then selecting the highest-scoring option.

As it turns out, highly experienced people in high-stress, time-sensitive roles (think firefighters, air force pilots, emergency room doctors, ICU nurses) who have to make rapid-fire decisions with very little information on hand do not go through the motions of enumerating and then rating their options. Instead, they use what the author calls a Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) making model.

With RPD, decision-makers take in the situation, immediately come up with a candidate action, check mentally if it will work, and implement it right away if they believe it has a chance of success. If they're not convinced their candidate action will work, they just come up with another, evaluate it, discard it, and so on until they find one which they believe it will work.

There's no weighing of multiple options to find the 'best' one. There's simply weighing one option at a time and going with what (given the information and time available to decide) looks like a decision that will work.

I'm not sure yet how this is supposed to apply to me in real life, but then, I'm only on p.58 at the moment. Should be interesting to read it through all the way to the end.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Peril of Professional Services

This week, the boss and I found ourselves receiving three different requests for help from three different groups of people. Each one entailed reviewing and providing feedback on IT plans, strategies, and budgets. Each entailed some degree of reading, analyzing, and formulating recommendations. Each one was framed as a "favor."

The timing could not have possibly been worse since we were chasing deadlines on a number of items, plus the boss and I were both downed by this cold/cough thing, which slowed us down significantly, and made any kind of heavy thinking difficult.

As I was reflecting on the situation (and the not-so-amusing timing of it all), I realized that this is the peril that everyone in professional services faces. If you're a doctor, a lawyer, or a consultant in similar fields of professional services, you'll always be approached by people who want your advice, but are not willing or not able to pay for it.

Doctors probably know this best of all, since I know from personal observation that people will ask for medical advice at the strangest places -- while you're in line getting into a movie theatre; while you're eating at a restaurant; while you're sitting on a church pew; heck, even while you're in the rest room! If you had made an appointment to see the doctor and asked exactly the same set of questions, you would have been billed a consultation fee. If you bump into your doctor at some social function and ask for their advice, then you're getting it for free.

Personally, I'm more than happy to give people advice about most things that don't require a lot of work. Want my pasta recommendation for a particular restaurant? I'm game. Want to know what TV shows to watch? I've got an opinion that I'm happy to share. Wanna know if the laptop you're thinking of getting is good enough for you? I'll be happy to take a look. Wanna know if the new Google spreadsheet service is any good? I'll be happy to give you my $0.02 (assuming of course that I've tried it already). Heck, I even get a kick out of giving people (unsolicited) career advice, although of course I always attach a disclaimer to that.

Bottomline, there's a world of difference between advice that you can dispense casually over a meal, and advice that you can provide only after wading through stacks of paper and thinking things through. And that's where the situation gets really tricky.

Most people don't realize that when they ask for free advice from someone in professional services, they are actually depriving the person of income.

If my business is selling Product X, then it may make sense for me to give you free advice that will help justify your purchase of my Product X. So when a large hardware company comes along and tells you they'll be happy to do a free study of your data center and give you recommendations, it makes absolutely perfect sense to me. After all, by the end of that study, they'll probably be recommending that you upgrade or dispose of some of your current hardware and procure some brand-spanking new machines (preferably from them).

That's not the case in professional services. All you really have to sell is your time and your thoughts. Any time that I spend giving someone free advice is time that I cannot devote to a paying client. There's an opportunity cost involved. And if I've already given you the advice that you need, what other income can I hope to make out of that?

* Sigh * If I were not drowning in work right now while trying to shake off this cough/cold, I'd probably feel really flattered that people want to know what I think, and this mini-rant probably would not exist. Unfortunately, I feel really tired, and I can't help but think that the best form of flattery anyone can give me right now is to say that they value my advice so much, they're actually willing to pay for it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Under the weather

You know you're getting old when pulling a single all-nighter lands you with a cough and a cold two days later.

I hope I get over this cough/cold soon because work continues to arrive and there seems to be no end in sight. I'm starting to wonder if someone has hung a large neon sign over my head that reads: "Dump more work on this sucker!"

Thank God we have a holiday sometime next week.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

easyPDF to the Rescue

As the sun was coming up this morning, I found myself in dire straits because my Adobe Acrobat trial version had expired and I desperately needed to produce PDFs for the association's October 2006 newsletter.

I visited, hoping to buy a copy of the software online. I was so determined to finish this issue that I was even willing to spend a few hundred dollars just to get Acrobat. So you can just imagine my dismay when I learned that only a handful of countries can buy Acrobat online. Apparently, the rest of us have to go through resellers or distributors.

With the deadline hanging over my head, I couldn't afford to wait until Monday to contact the Philippine distributor. So I did a quick Google search for Word to PDF converters. After less than five minutes of searching and following links around, I managed to stumble across a product called easyPDF Printer Driver.

I downloaded their trial copy and by Jove, it worked like a charm! The resulting PDF was perfectly WYSIWYG, right down to the positions of text boxes, frames, images, headers, and footers.

From there, it was a no-brainer for me to pull out my credit card and plunk down $14.95 for a single user license. The license key appeared on screen right after the card transaction went through, so it was fairly short work thereafter to generate the PDFs with password protection on and content copying disabled (and also without the trial easyPDF watermark). By the time I emailed the files to our association webmaster, I felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. Whew!

I'm sure Adobe Acrobat has got a lot more features compared to easyPDF, but since I only need very basic Word-to-PDF conversion right now, easyPDF fits the bill perfectly, and costs only a fraction (less than 3.4%!!) of Adobe Acrobat.

Frankly, I can't remember a time when I've been this lucky with an impulse online purchase before... which is why I found the experience worth blogging about.

A few conclusions from this experience:

  • It's really true that when you're the brand leader, people will pay (and in fact will not think twice about paying) a premium for your product.
  • Even if you're the market leader, you can lose sales when your product isn't available for purchase at the time and place when people need to buy it.
  • Given how easy it is to find anything on the web, doing a quick Google search before you buy anything online can save you a whole lot of money.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Twitter Wishlist

Have been using Twitter for over a month now, and I must say that I've really grown to love this service. It's such a quick-and-easy way to post an update to my blog, especially when I have no time to post a real meaty blog update. I feel less guilty that way. :-P

I still haven't seen the effect my recent mobile twittering will have on my phone bills, though, so perhaps my opinion will change when the next bill arrives. haha!

I know that less is more when it comes to web applications (I've been reading 37Signals' Getting Real book, so yes, I really do get it). But I still can't help but wish for a few enhancements:

  1. Getting messages on my phone with the correct timestamp for my timezone. Right now, I'm getting text messages from an SMS center somewhere in the UK (at least I think I am, since the country code is +44). So when I receive the message, they're timestamped 7 hours earlier than my equivalent time (since my timezone is GMT+8). That's downright disconcerting, especially when I'm scrolling through my Treo's inbox (which sorts the messages by date-time).
  2. Sending an MMS (not an SMS) as my Twitter update, so that photos can be attached to the message. The photo should, of course, be different from my profile photo so the latter doesn't get overwritten. I suppose what I'm looking for sounds a lot like photo-blogging, but hey, if Twitter is a form of mini-blogging and each twitter post deserves to have its own permalink, then why can't I use it as a photo-blogger as well, especially since so many phones and phone networks now support MMS? Ev's vacation twitter messages from Marrakech, Milan, and Santorini would surely have been even more interesting if photos came with them. And I could have twittered some photos of the damage wrought by typhoon Milenyo.
  3. Finding out how many people have actually visited my Twitter page, i.e., knowing which of my friends (and how many non-friends!) have actually been checking in. Think of it this way -- I can add a visitor counter to my blog, but I can't do that with my Twitter page.
So there you go. The top three items on my Twitter wish list. I'm sure I can think of more but everything else is of lower priority to me right now.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Burning the Midnight Oil

Yes, as the title implies, my work backlog is still there, feeling as overwhelming as it did last week, despite my recent attempts to get my schedule back under control.

In fact, I am so tempted to skip choir rehearsals tomorrow night just to gain back three hours of productive time because I need to focus on more urgent items. When I first joined the choir at my current church (which I don't regret -- let me just get that on the record), I really didn't expect that we would need two nights of rehearsals each week.

But that's been the case so far whenever a special event is in the works. And you know how it is in the Christian calendar... there's always a special event just waiting to pounce on you. If it's not the Church Anniversary, then it'll be Easter, or Missions, or Christmas (the crowd favorite). Right now, it appears that our next special event is Praise Night.

Under normal circumstances, I actually don't mind since I love singing (it's therapeutic!) and I generally enjoy our song selections. But right now, I've got one thing that's really hanging over my head (like the proverbial Sword of Damocles) -- the October issue of the IDQ Newsletter, which I would have released more than a week ago if not for the disruption caused by typhoon Milenyo.

So why am I blogging about the work that I have to do instead of just buckling down and actually doing the work itself? Well, frankly, I needed the break. Just finished working on one article, and I find myself dreading the thought of diving into the next one (which from experience will probably take me an hour and a half to go through).

Hay... God, please grant me the discipline, patience, and concentration I need to finish this tonight.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Path with Branches

One of the recurring thoughts that I've had this week is the notion that your life can be completely different depending on who you end up marrying. Meaning, you can be completely compatible with two different people, but your life will be completely different (and happy in a completely different way) depending on which person you end up being with.

Or you could end up marrying someone totally wrong for you. :-(

And that's the scary part, I think. How do you know that the person you choose is the right person? How do you know that you won't actually be happier, living a completely different life with someone else?

It's a lot like walking along a path and finding at some point that it branches off in different directions. Once you've chosen one of the branches, the way back is closed forever, and now your universe of options has shrunk to what's left of the path that you've chosen.

I sometimes think this is why people are so afraid of making commitments. It's the fear that you may choose the wrong path, then spend the rest of your life wondering where the other path(s) could have taken you.

Life is so much simpler when you have less opportunities and less options. When circumstances limit you to a simple, single path, no further thought or reflection is required. You simply go with the flow. No angst. No drama. No big decisions to make.

Having said all that, I still prefer a path with branches, though. Life seems richer that way, despite (or perhaps because of) the tough decisions that have to be made every time the road branches.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Finally got around to watching The Sentinel today, which I had purchased on VCD more than two weeks ago. Typhoon Milenyo had a way of putting so many of my plans on hold. hehe.

It was fun to watch! The story is straightforward and the plot reminds me a bit of The Fugitive (i.e., one good guy chasing another good guy while the latter is trying to prove his innocence without getting caught).

I'm so comfortable now seeing Kiefer Sutherland in this type of role (thanks to 24) that he seemed perfect for the role of David Breckinridge. Eva Longoria's role could have been a little more meaty, but at least she was slightly more than just mere eye candy on the movie.

Anyway, it turns out the movie is based on a book by Gerald Petievich. I'd never heard of the author or his writing before. The reviews of the original book aren't particularly good on Amazon, but the plot is certainly interesting enough. Guess I now have another name to watch out for the next time I visit the bookstore.


This week whizzed by so quickly. And despite that (or maybe because of it) I feel so utterly exhausted right now -- both mentally and physically.

After the events of the past week, I can so totally relate to something that my mom often says -- how worrying about life's day-to-day logistics can be so draining, and yet at the end of the day, you feel like you've not really accomplished anything important.

That's why I have so much respect for people who are effective as Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants, Chiefs of Staff, or have similar roles. They clear away all the little obstacles that slow you down, so that you're free to focus only on the things that really require your attention. They allow other people to operationalize strategy or worry about the big picture.

Another thing I realized this week: obsessive-compulsive people tend to create their own monsters, or inadvertently create crosses that in the end, only they can bear. It's so much easier to be the type of person who doesn't care if things aren't "just so," or who doesn't mind if everything is all helter-skelter. No wonder we are frequently advised not to sweat the small stuff.

And now, I'm totally zonked. Time to hit the sack.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Handful of Milenyo Photos

Finally had a chance to upload some random shots taken during typhoon Milenyo.

Didn't really take that many, mostly because I was more focused on keeping things running at home while power and phones were out. But I figured I might as well post the few that I have.

Downed power line on Timog Ave.

Still on Timog, from opposite angle.

Several days after the storm, New Manila was cluttered with large trees that had to be cut down to clear debris from the streets

Damage near a Honda dealership at Magallanes.

Same dealership in Magallanes, taken from another angle.

A lot of bloggers have also been posting about their own experiences.

For more photos of Milenyo's aftermath, check out over 700 photos uploaded to Flickr.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Finally got back online today for the first time since typhoon "Milenyo" hit the country on Sep 28. Power is still out at my home, but I am thankfully able to get online at work starting today.

While we haven't fully "recovered" from the effects of the storm, it has been a rather enlightening experience for me. Had a lot of time on my hands when it was too dark to do anything and too hot to consider moving. That gives you a lot of time for reflection.

Some idle thoughts during this period:

  • When I can't watch TV for days on end, it's actually not that stressful and in fact can be somewhat relaxing.
  • When you're unable to communicate through phone or mobile for extended periods, you can quite literally go batty because communication is so integral to socialization and coordination of effort.
  • It is quite relaxing (maybe hypnotic?) to just sit safely indoors and watch the trees waving about in high winds.
  • So much of life's conveniences are so electricity-dependent, including refrigeration, cold drinks, hot showers, proper ventilation, internet, and mobile technology.
  • I found it difficult to "abandon" my home despite the lack of electrical power. While people were checking into hotels in droves, I found that I'd rather stay at home where it's more uncomfortable because I'd have more peace of mind that way. Now I understand better why people will stubbornly refuse to leave their homes even when the simmering volcano just a few short miles away is threatening to erupt, and why so many people disobey evacuation orders.
  • I am lucky to have many friends who are gracious and generous enough to invite me to sleep over at their homes when they learn that electricity is still out at my house.
  • I am lucky to have relatives and godparents who check in on me every day just to make sure I'm okay.
  • I have a lot more loyalty to Globe Telecom after this experience. Considering how long power has been out in my area, I was still able to send text and call, even though signal was (and still is) occassionally spotty. They're certainly a lot more reliable than PLDT -- my landlines have been dead more than 80% of the time in the 108 hours that I've had no electricity at home.
  • There's nothing quite as thrilling as getting your portable generator repaired and returned to you on the same day that you reported a problem. ;-)
  • Reading by candlelight or dim lamplight is just so plainly a gosh-darned-awful experience.
  • Necessity and adrenaline can make you capable of completing tasks that you ordinarily would have thought you can't do.
  • The yellow pages are the best search engine there is when you have no electricity!
I'm sure there are a lot more stray thoughts floating around in my head, but I guess this will do for now. :-D

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

SSS Id, Redux

My permanent SSS Id card arrived yesterday.

I had applied for a permanent SSS card on August 31, so it took just a little over three weeks for the entire process, start to finish. Not bad, considering all the applications that they process every day.

My only complaint -- the application form allowed you to indicate if you wanted your birthday printed on the card, and I had ticked NO. My card still has my birthday printed on it, though. :-(

Monday, September 25, 2006


I had a chance today to update my list of god-children.

It may sound like I have a lot of godkids, hence the need for a list. In reality, though, I just have a really terrible memory for this type of thing, so I have to rely on record-keeping and my PDA.

Anyway, I only realized today that I seem to get new godchildren at the rate of one every two years. And while I'm genuinely happy to be ninang, I must admit that each year the challenge of finding an appropriate gift seems to become more daunting. haha!

The saving grace is that they're all girls, and it's certainly much easier to buy gifts for little girls than it is for little boys.

Until now, that is. ;-) My first male godchild is very much on the way and is due to arrive late this year. A new challenge awaits! haha!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

TSA-Approved Padlocks

I first heard about TSA-approved padlocks a couple of days ago.

Apparently, the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is the entity responsible for screening checked luggage and inspecting baggage in the US. They've worked with lock manufacturers to design a special kind of padlock, which people now call TSA Approved Locks.

These locks all have a number inscribed on the bottom, which corresponds to a specific type of master key. The TSA has all the master keys and will use the correct one to safely unlock your bag in the event that they need to inspect your baggage. After completing the inspection, they will relock your bag and include a formal notice that your bag had been opened and inspected.

Without a TSA-approved lock, the lock on your bag would simply be clipped open and after inspection, your bag will be closed but now without a lock. If you're the type of traveller who likes to keep things locked, especially if you're travelling into the Philippines, then you'll want to use a TSA-approved lock.

As it turns out, it's not that easy to find these locks in Manila because they apparently sell quite well. A few hours of research have turned up these options:

  • Victorinox. They're known more for their swiss army knives, but they also make TSA-approved locks. The only branch I know of is located at The Podium, on the second floor. It will be good to call first to check if they have any in stock.
  • True Value. This chain of hardware stores carries TSA-approved locks with the Master brand. Again, call first to reserve because the locks are often out of stock. Shangri-La Mall branch: 635-0410 to 12
  • Ace Hardware. Another chain of hardware stores, affiliated with the SM chain. Megamall branch: 633-1471, 633-1485
  • Luggage Brands. Some luggage brands that sell travel accessories have also started carrying TSA-approved locks. Example: Samsonite.
Travel safe!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Truck Driver's Gear Change

I laughed my head off when I stumbled across the Truck Driver's Gear Change website earlier today.

Apparently, Truck Driver's Modulation or Truck Driver's Gear Change is the slang term for the now-sneered-at-habit of songwriters to modulate their songs a half tone or whole tone higher when they repeat song sections (usually the chorus as the song fades).

Dominic Pedler's essay on the same site provides an interesting (and perhaps ear-opening) write-up on the phenomenon. The part which really struck me was an excerpt from George Michael's autobiography Bare, which reads:

Jerry Wexler (of Atlantic Records) told me, whatever you do, avoid making a one-note key change Рtaking everything up one key at the end of a song. All it means, he said, is that you can't think of anything else to do and you want people to notice that something else has happened in the song. He said it's the oldest and worst clich̩ in the book. And since that day I have never put a one-key progression at the end of my songs. But you hear it everywhere Рyou hear it on every Whitney Houston record.
Guess that shows how plebeian my musical tastes are, because I usually enjoy these key changes and feel that they do add an extra bit of ooomph to the songs.

Bottomline, I'm not a song-writer or composer. And until I can actually compose a song myself, I think I will refrain from sneering at people who can, even if they do use the Truck Driver Gear Change. ;-)

Side thought: By the above standard, Baba Yetu is a truly fantastic song because while there seem to be a couple of key changes during the orchestral interlude (roughly 2min 15sec in), the song returns to the original key just before the choir resumes singing. The song also ends in the same key from which it started.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Google Browser Sync for Firefox

What happens when my top two favorite brands collaborate? The result is one really incredible product (and a very happy user)!

I'm talking, of course, about the Google Browser Sync for Firefox which is...

... an extension that continuously synchronizes your browser settings – including bookmarks, history, persistent cookies, and saved passwords – across your computers.

It also allows you to restore open tabs and windows across different machines and browser sessions.
I found out about this utility a few days ago and for the first time in literally years of web surfing, I found it worthwhile to actually invest some time in organizing my bookmarks.

I'd long ago given up on browser-based bookmarks and had already been using my Google homepage instead, because I needed the same bookmarks on my home PC and my work laptop. But the Google homepage interface is somewhat cumbersome and not at all conducive to organizing tons of bookmark entries.

Google Browser Sync is therefore a godsend. The best part for me is the fact that I can end a session of web browsing on one machine and literally resume it on another. There's no awkward mental shift when you face an empty browser window at the start of a new session.

With the Browser Sync I can easily pick up from the train of thought that I had when I ended the previous session. For this avid web surfer, that's like manna from heaven! Haha!

It also helps that I didn't need to create a new Google account to use this. My current account works just fine and literally took less than a minute to get everything installed, configured, and working.

All software should be so painless and so useful.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Baba Yetu

Am now listening endlessly to Baba Yetu, a Christopher Tin composition which is known to gamers across the world as the opening menu music in Sid Meier's Civilization IV from Firaxis Games. Vocals were performed by Talisman A Capella, a Stanford University a capella group.

The lyrics happen to be The Lord's Prayer in Swahili. You can download your own copy of the mp3 (legitimately!) from the samples page on the composer's website.

Glowing reviews all around from the gaming world:

  • Gamezone: I don't know when I've enjoyed in-game music more, especially the introductory music.
  • Matt Slagle, Associated Press: I can't say enough about the excellent soundtrack.
  • The theme from the main menu (Baba Yetu) is the piece de resistance - I liked it so much that I listened to it for days on end
  • Amped IGO: The title track is an awesome, up-beat song that is definitely the highlight of the soundtrack...
  • Yahoo Games: Special mention goes to the music, which is shockingly good.
  • IGN: ...the music really steals the show.
  • Gamespot: Civ IV also presents itself well with a distinctive title-screen track...
If you want to sing along in Swahili, the lyrics are available at this blogpost at Sushi Delight.

And endless thanks to Ants for sending me the link, and giving me a reason to add music back to my blog's sidebar. ;-)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Brand Loyalty

Have been reading a lot of branding and loyalty articles lately, mostly out of personal interest after attending a talk about customer loyalty a couple of weeks back.

It made me stop and think of the brands that I am particularly loyal to, and why am I loyal to them in the first place.

Brands I love

Here's my list of favorites:

  • Google. Definitely #1 on my list. I honestly cannot think of a single day when I'm online and do not use a Google service, whether it's to search for something, to check my Gmail, to update my calendar, or simply to blog (Blogger belongs to Google). Strangely, I do not feel the same loyalty to Yahoo, despite the fact that I use Yahoo Messenger more than I use Google Talk.
  • Firefox. The multiple tabs were what first hooked me with the Firefox browser, and all the subsequent updates since then have just kept me loyal. It irks me when I have to launch Internet Explorer to log into my online banking site!
  • Flickr. I have a Flickr pro account. Enough said.
  • Bloglines. My favorite RSS reader, not that I've tried any of the other readers, to be honest. The big thing for me with Bloglines is that it's all online and I can switch from my home computer to my work computer to any other internet cafe computer and still stay up to date with my RSS subscriptions. You'll also find that the blogroll on this blog is powered by Bloglines.
  • I think it's safe to say that any netizen who has to do a lot of writing in the English language will automatically love haha!
  • Fortune Magazine. Have been a Fortune subscriber for more than five years and I expect to continue being one for the forseeable future. The articles are informative, eye-opening, and well-written. I occassionally wish they'd be a little more "new economy" but I do get enough of the latter from other sources, so at least that craving is sated.
Brands I use but don't love

There are a lot of other services that I use regularly, but my user experience has colored or tempered any loyalty that I may feel about the service.

The prime examples in this category are:
  • Friendster. Even though improvements are continuously being rolled out on Friendster, I visit it only very briefly each time. The ads are such a turn-off.
  • Orkut. Orkut is a Google service, yes, but it's one that I never quite got around to using. LinkedIn launched at right around the same time and I ended up using it more simply because the network effect was more interesting there.
  • Yahoogroups. I moderate 14 Yahoogroups and am a member of 43 more, but I just don't feel passionate about the service. It's useful, and I am glad it's there, but it's a constant battle to keep groups on track and limit the presence of trolls. Perhaps that has unfairly colored my appreciation too much.
Current interests, which at the moment can still go either way, are: Twitter, Odeo, Wikipedia, and Vox.

Monday, September 18, 2006


One of my former college professors, Dr. Pablo Manalastas (aka "Doc Mana") is retiring after 30 years of service at my alma mater.

A fund is being set up in his name, according to an email that I received last week.

I had such a hard time passing his probability and statistics class! But I do remember him as a patient teacher... with occassional off-color jokes. haha!

I hope they throw him a really wonderful retirement party. Heck, if they decide to allow alumni to attend, I will go.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


Watched Scoop today with S.

The movie is definitely a chick flick plus a whodunit, with snippets of comedy thrown in.

The story was entertaining! Hugh Jackman was suave, debonaire, and such absolute eye-candy. I lost track of the number of times that I found myself thinking that he's such a good-looking guy. haha! Woody Allen was endearingly funny. Loved all the British accents. Loved the beautiful shots of the English countryside.

In fact, it seems like the only thing that's stopping me from saying that this is a great movie is Scarlett Johansson's acting, as well as the character that she portrayed, Sondra Pransky.

I guess the easiest way to explain it is I didn't find Sondra likable. She failed to engage me and make me feel sympathetic to her plight. I didn't think she was a particularly wonderful heroine -- you know, the type who's deserving to have a happily ever after.

Perhaps it was a deliberate decision on the part of the writer to make her character a commentary on the morals (or lack thereof) of reporters, and that colored my impression of her too much.

But, for an afternoon's entertainment, the movie was fun to watch. And rather than spoiling it for you by revealing the ending, I think I will end my entry here. ;-)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Out of Practice

Was finally back at choir rehearsals tonight after missing two sessions due to my recent dental woes.

Man! I'm so out of practice. It took so much effort to hit the right notes and project my voice, even though the song is something I'm already familiar with, and the range wasn't particularly difficult. Almost three whole weeks of no vocalization does that, I guess.

Better wake up bright and early tomorrow so I can at least warm up the vocal cords.

Friday, September 15, 2006

I Love My Dentist

I have a new dentist. And after three visits over the course of two weeks, I have to say that I'm really happy to have found her.

It all started two weeks ago, when I started getting pain in my right jaw. The pain was mild at first, but it steadily got worse over the course of three days. By then, I had pain in my right ear, and it hurt to even swallow. I could barely open my mouth enough to fit a spoon. Lost two pounds in three days (the bright side of the story!).

Visited an ENT first to make sure there was nothing strange going on (the ear ache was misleading). But when I checked out okay there, the logical next step was to visit the dentist.

My parents recommended a family friend who's a periodontist. She checked out my dental x-rays and it turns out I had a slightly impacted wisdom tooth. Had to take anti-inflammatory medication for five days to get the swelling down enough so I could open my mouth properly. Six days after my first visit, I went in for the procedure, which went like clockwork. I was literally in and out of the chair in 20+ minutes. That was last Friday.

Yesterday, I paid her another visit to remove the equivalent wisdom tooth on the other side, which apparently is recommended to keep my teeth from shifting. It was another quick, fairly painless procedure. On both instances, I had some discomfort after the anesthesia wore off, but the discomfort wasn't even enough to warrant taking a pain killer.

So overall, everything went smoothly. I'm already back to a normal diet -- just avoiding any heavy chewing on the newly-extracted side.

Through it all, my dentist was the epitome of efficiency and proficiency. She had a great "chair-side" manner that inspired confidence. I think I will keep going to her now for annual visits. And I will gladly recommend her to anyone who needs dental work! Just drop me a line if you're looking for a dentist of your own in Manila.

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Well, it took a few days longer than expected, but my blog has finally been unlocked and cleared from Blogger's "suspected spam blog" list. So the five entries that I had written during that time are all published now. Hooray! :D

Spam has got to be one of the most irritating things about the online experience, so I'm glad Blogger is doing its best to eliminate spammers who use their free blogging service to clutter up cyberspace.

The second most irritating thing about being online, IMHO, is the endless parade of chain letters that continue to be forwarded by good-intentioned people who don't do a Google check or visit or to verify whether or not the message they're reading is true.

I guess we're too much a product of our educational system. It's hard to get over the notion that if it's printed or "looks" printed (i.e., on the computer), it must be true. It's exactly that same mentality that makes it possible for phishing attacks to work on unsuspecting users, I think.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Deep Blue

Just finished reading Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant, a book by W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne.

It was an enjoyable read.

They provide a top-down framework with corresponding diagramming techniques to take you through the steps to define your "blue ocean" strategy. Each diagramming technique is designed to highlight or enlighten one aspect of your thinking.

While a lot of the the concepts presented is plain ol' common sense, the Strategy Canvas does help a lot in crystalizing your company's positioning vis-a-vis the positioning of your competitors.

Will try to find some time this week to make the firm's Strategy Canvas to see how it looks.

Monday, September 11, 2006


There are so many things that I know I have to eventually get around to doing, but for some reason, I'm not in the mood to organize anything right now.

Things like:

  • My music library. Need to look for cds that I know I should have but can't seem to find.
  • My photo library. Get back-ups written to CD and free up some much needed disk space.
  • My magazine subscriptions. Because the clutter on my side table is actually starting to bother me.
Inertia has gotten the better of me the past couple of months.

Maybe by mid-October, my schedule will be a little more forgiving and I'll actually be inspired to do something about all this.

Or maybe not.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


Attended a concert tonight presented by The United States Embassy and The Union Church of Manila in memory of victims of terrorism. The timing was appropriate, as it is the eve of September 11.

Tonight's presentation was Mozart's Requiem, with choral performances by the Ateneo Chamber Singers and the Union Church of Manila Chancel Choir. Rachelle Gerodias (S), Agnes Barredo (A), Ervin Lumauag (T), and Rainer Pagcaliwagan (B) were soloists. Accompanying them was the Strings section of the Manila Symphony Orchestra, and Brasses and Woodwinds Sections of the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra. Jonathan Velasco was conductor.

All the drama of Mozart's music came roaring back to life in the one hour it took to perform the entire composition. I find myself marveling at the way such complex musical compositions written more than 250 years ago can still move people today. That's when you've got to hand it to humanity for our ability to preserve our history and the relics of our lost civilizations.

I quite literally felt sad when the performance was over.

Perhaps if enough people show interest, they can perform it again on another evening, so as to maximize the output from all the hours of practice that no doubt went into tonight's performance.

Saturday, September 09, 2006


I'm shocked and disturbed to hear that Delia Gutierrez, the President and Chief Executive of Media G8way Corporation was found stabbed to death in her office.

While I don't know her personally, I'm familiar with the work of her company -- it's hard to be in IT in the Philippines and not be familiar with their publications and events.

Such a sudden, sad, and brutal way to go.

I hope her killer is found and brought to justice.

Friday, September 08, 2006

A Mark Of My Own

Sometimes inspiration comes from the strangest of places.

Never really felt a need to put my mark on anything before, but today I gave into the urge to create an avatar for my Twitter account. Since an avatar is only 48 x 48 pixels small, I figured I should be able to slap something together.

Since I don't have any real drawing skills, I turned to Powerpoint. Started with a simple capital letter M. Then scrolled through the fonts available on my PC and picked Script. Added periods before and after the letter, then used Word Art to shape the whole thing into a circle.

Figuring that less would be more, I chose one color for both the edges and the fill.

From there, I used good ol' Alt-PrintScreen to capture the image and paste it into MS Paint. Once in Paint, it was a simple matter to lower the letter M a bit, to create the impression that the dots are cradling it somehow.

The entire process took less than 10 minutes, including experimentation. Here's how the finished product looks:

I'm quite happy with it. :)

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I'm still a bit dizzy from flipping through five or six different books on typography and publication design today.

It was such an eye-opening experience because it made me realize just how little I know about the visual design a great document.

Heck, I didn't even know that professionals use grid systems to guide the layout of their pages, whether these be annual reports, newsletters, books, catalogs, or any other publication you can imagine.

I didn't realize that typography was such a rich topic, and that there can be so many things to understand about it.

I suppose if I were a journalism major all this might be old hat to me. But since I'm not, I find myself quite excited at the prospect of exploring yet another whole new world.

Why is there never enough time to explore all the interesting things that I manage to stumble across?!