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. :-(
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
My permanent SSS Id card arrived yesterday.
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
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.
Saturday, September 23, 2006
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 – taking 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 cliché 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 – you 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
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.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.
It also allows you to restore open tabs and windows across different machines and browser sessions.
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
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.
- computergames.ro: 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...
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
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.
- Dictionary.com. 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 dictionary.com. 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.
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.
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
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 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 breakthechain.org or snopes.com 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
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.
- 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.
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
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?!
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Sometimes, the simplest things can make me happy.
- climbing into a bed with freshly laundered sheets
- the taste of real butter on a piece of toast
- walking into a building just seconds before the rain starts to fall
- listening to a talented choir sing a beautiful piece of music
- learning about a friend's promotion
- hearing that people see value in my wild and crazy ideas
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Was at the cashier of a bookstore the other day paying for a copy of House Beautiful: How to Paint (A complete guide to painting your home) when the boss came by and plunked a copy of Watchmen in front of me, asking if I'd read it before.
I'd never heard of the book, frankly; but since the cover says it was a Winner of the Hugo Award and one of Time Magazine's 100 Best English-Language Novels, my interest was immediately piqued. The fact that the book was marked down 20% as part of an ongoing book sale clinched the deal for me. I bought a copy.
Turns out Watchmen is a graphic novel which was first published by DC Comics in 1986. The story is written by Alan Moore, who is also the author of V for Vendetta (which, I've now learned, originally appeared also as a graphic novel).
Watchmen begins with the mysterious murder of a former masked hero / vigilante. I'm only in Chapter 3 now, so I'm eager to reach the end of the book and find out where all this is going to lead.
Reading this book brings back memories of high school, when I used to borrow copy after copy of DC and Marvel comic books, following the adventures of The Uncanny X-men and the heroes in the Justice League of America (among others).
It surprises me to realize that I now find it difficult to read a story that is told primarily through images. Words have become so much a part of my life over the years that it really takes an effort of will to stop and look at each image before reading the words in the character's thought bubbles. I find myself rushing through the pages, not giving myself enough time to appreciate the beauty of the artist's work.
Which is why reading this book is one of life's "full circle" moments for me. We all started out as little kids looking at picture books before we ever learned what the alphabet was. And now here I am, having to relearn the value of images as a form of story-telling, and reading a novel that some people might easily dismiss as just being a spectacularly thick comic book. Haha!
Life can be funny sometimes.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Aarrggh. Don't have enough time to check out all the neat new things that have been popping up all over the web!
Will have to settle for making a list here and getting to it when I have more time.
- GroupLoop. It may sound like a cereal, but it's actually a web-based software for small groups. Haven't figured out what makes it different from Yahoogroups.
- 37Signals. All the neat little project management and coordination tools offered by 37Signals, including Basecamp, Campfire, and Writeboard.
- Vox. Haven't had a chance to return to my brand-spanking-new account there to explore the other features.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Looks like Blogger is in the process of beta-testing a new version.
From the initial cursory look that I got this afternoon, I think I'm really going to love this new release.
Was hoping to get a little more exploring done this afternoon, but I think new changes are still being uploaded even as I type, so it's probably best that I wait until later tonight or maybe tomorrow evening before I go full blast exploring all the new and nifty features.
For the curious, you'll find my initial uber-positive impressions on the test blog that I created.
After months of not keeping up, I finally revisited Odeo, the new company that Evan Williams decided to start after leaving Google/Blogger.
I was aware of the plans to do podcasting from way back, so seeing it actually up and now working wasn't a surprise. What caught my eye instead was Twitter.
I have no idea, though, how this affects my phone bills. Since we're not used to paying to receive SMS messages here, I'm not certain how Globe will react if I were to suddenly receive a lot of SMSes from outside the country (I hope I don't get charged for them).
I'm also leery of sending messages from my phone to Twitter's SMS gateway in the US (with the +1 country code) since I know from experience I'll get charged roughly P20 a pop. So for now, I really don't expect to be updating my Twitter status via my phone, which is a rather sad state of affairs considering that's what it's designed for. The cost involved is prohibitive, at least for me. Therefore, my updates will still primarily be web-based, I think.
Now, if they had a Philippine gateway that I can use to send my latest status update to (for say P1.00 or P2.50 per message), I'd probably use it more religiously, and I'd be more predisposed to inviting my friends to this.
Come to think of it, Twitter reminds me a lot of the Ktext and Fanatxt services of local entertainment talents... you know, the one where you subscribe to receive SMS or MMS updates on their new gigs or events. The difference is that Twitter is for the masses (well, the mobile and web-aware masses, that is) and for now it doesn't support MMS-based updates.
Wouldn't be surprised if Globe or Smart think about implementing a localized version of this service once they get wind of this.
Update: I decided to send a Twitter update through SMS so I can check how much it will actually cost on my next bill. Interestingly, there's a noticeable delay before the update gets posted. I sent the text msg at 9:29pm and it finally appeared on my Twitter archive at 10:16pm -- a lag of 47 minutes.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Just got an invitation to try out VOX, the new blogging platform from Six Apart.
The templates they've got are so pretty! haha! Makes me want to change my Blogger template, despite the fact that I love it as it is.
From what I can tell, Vox isn't as flexible as Blogger, since the latter allows you to completely change your template and add whatever you'd like to your blog, while Vox is still parameter-driven.
But Vox is a far cry from the uber-restrictive interface of Friendster blogs (something I find somewhat ironic, since Friendster blogs are powered by TypePad, another SixApart service).
Anyway, since my VOX account is new, I've still got five (5) VOX invites to give away. If anyone would like to try this new service, please send me an email or leave me a comment.
Oh, and here's the link to my Vox blog in case you'd like to check out the template I chose. No need to bookmark it, though. For now, Blogger is still my homebase.
Finally got around to applying for a Social Security ID last week.
Apparently, the social security service won't honor any requests for services without this ID, so getting one is more important than I originally thought. Aside from giving you access to SSS services, an SSS Id is also a valid government ID that can be used for identification, kinda like a passport or a driver's license.
Anyway, the ID application process was a lot easier and less of a hassle than I expected. Just fill up the correct form, then line up so someone can verify that your SSS number is a valid one. Once you pass validation, you line up at a different queue to have your photo and finger prints taken.
In all, the process took around half an hour start to finish (I went around 2pm on a Thursday). At the end of the process, you get a little stub that you can use as a temporary ID while they haven't mailed you your final one yet.
If you ever feel like checking your SSS contributions online, the SSS website also has an online inquiry feature that's actually quite informative -- it lists all your contributions, the total amount contributed, the employers you've had, what outstanding benefit applications you have, and so on. You just need your SSS number, last name, and birthday to login... no password required.
Friday, September 01, 2006
I realized today just how clueless I am about what people I know do for a living.
It all started because one of my cousins asked me last week if I knew of any printing companies that can print magazines, and I drew a complete blank. I couldn't think of one single person that I knew who did this for a living.
So I posted an inquiry on my high school batch's yahoogroup to see if any of them offered this type of service.
I could only shake my head in disbelief and surprise when someone replied to refer me to one of our batchmates who runs a printing company.
Why is that such a strange thing, you may ask? Well, as it happens, the batchmate she referred to is someone that I actually see and talk to on a weekly basis at church!
To make matters even more embarrasing, the friend who made the referral is currently halfway across the world somewhere in the United States. haha!
I really should interview the people I know more often.