Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Twitter Wishlist: Addendum

Around four and a half months ago (after a month of using Twitter), I came up with a Twitter Wishlist with three items, none of which have materialized so far. * sniff! *

Now I've got two new items to add, although frankly I consider these to be even lower in priority than the items on my original list.

  1. Finding out which of my posts have been starred, and how many times. I see this as a way for followers to give feedback. After all, each star means someone took the trouble to explicitly mark a 'tweet' as something that they liked. That seems like valuable feedback to me.
  2. Getting a local (i.e., Philippine-based) number to send Twitter updates to. Most of the local mobile content providers charge P2.50/message for value-added text services, where the revenue is split between the content provider and the telco. Since I'm used to that charging scheme, I frankly wouldn't mind paying that kind of money to send a Twitter update. It sure beats the fee I'm charged right now each time I send an SMS to the UK server!
Still on Twitter, I'm eagerly awaiting the day Jazzbo finishes setting up his PhilMusic Twitter feed. Once he gets it up and running, PhilMusic will be the first Philippine-based site I know of that uses Twitter to send updates, and it would be free of charge to 'followers' too. * Thumbs up! *

Update (March 4): PhilMusic's Twitter feed is now officially up.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Worrying about the Fragile Web

I have to admire Jason Goldman for the passion that he feels towards his work.

In a recent blogpost, he asked the question, Does working on the web truly matter? and immediately answered with a resounding Yes!

And you know what? That got me thinking.

Deep down inside, I believe that working on the web does matter. Perhaps that's why I'm always surfing the 'net, forever adding new blogs to my RSS subscriptions, and endlessly creating one more account on yet another new website so I can explore the features for no real purpose other than the intellectual stimulation of having my curiosity satisfied.

At the same time, however, I can't help but worry about the fragility of the web. Perhaps living in a newly industrialized country such as the Philippines has made me more sensitive to how easily bits and bytes can be destroyed or rendered inaccessible. Heck, in the past few months alone, I've experienced losing all the basic utilities (electricity, water, and Internet access), sometimes for extended periods. When you have no 'up time' guarantees for the basic stuff, well, the web by necessity takes a back seat.

Perhaps that's why so few of my friends here have even heard of 'Web 2.0' or 'User Generated Content.' Frankly, most of them will have to work to stifle their yawns if I try to explain the idea. They're more concerned about balancing their budgets, raising their kids, managing their businesses, and doing other things out in the real world.

Add to all this the fact that anyone with a web browser can easily find the location of Google's mega-data center in Oregon, and well, you have to wonder how susceptible this blog is to getting blown up in some freak terrorist attack.

I know, I know... I'm sounding delusionally paranoid now. But that's the direction that my mind naturally takes when I realize just how many of my eggs have (over time) been moved into this single basket called Google.

Having said all this, I return to the original question: does working on the web matter? My answer is still Yes... but (and there's a but) the work is simply too high up on Maslow's pyramid to benefit the Filipino everyman, and frighteningly far too susceptible to damage and sabotage in our increasingly unsafe world.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


My apologies to the handful of people who follow this blog via RSS.

I was doing a bit of experimentation these past couple of days by transferring some posts from one of my blogs to this one, and I'm afraid things got a bit messy with the timeline in the RSS feed.

I realize now (sheepishly and belatedly) that the RSS feed doesn't use the Blogger 'post date and time' and instead uses 'date of last update'... which I guess makes sense from a reader's standpoint.

Anyway, after sleeping on it for a while, I finally decided yesterday to set my other blog as private (now that Blogger has that feature) and will be moving posts that are more suitable for public consumption from the private blog into this 'public' one.

So if some weird things start showing up in your RSS feeds over the next week or so, please bear with me. Some of the stuff will seem really out of context (since my now-private blog has entries dating all the way back to 2003!) but hopefully the dust will settle soon and RSS life will be back to normal.

Again, sorry... and thanks for your patience.

Saturday, February 24, 2007


Love the photos that Flickr has picked for their 3rd anniversary benefit auction from amongst all the folks who contributed their pictures.

I find these two photos particularly lovely (click any image to visit its original Flickr page).

by Zachstern. North Potomac, Maryland

by Sixsteps. High Park, Toronto

Kinda awakens what little wanderlust there is in my system. hehe.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Coming Around Again

Was channel surfing tonight and caught the music video of Simon Webbe's Coming Around Again on Channel V.

Had never heard it before but it's got such an accessible pop feel to it that I stopped to listen... and instantly fell in love with the lyrics.

Found the music video on YouTube.

Will try to buy the album this weekend.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Twittering saved me money

Quite unexpectedly, my use of Twitter has saved me some money.

I had been browsing through my older 'tweets' last night, and I came across one particular entry, which I had twittered exactly two months earlier...

And that's when I remembered! I had received my rewards confirmation via snail mail last month, but I still hadn't gotten around to claiming the reward itself -- which was P800 (around $16) in gift certificates!

Rifled through my snail mail pile and found the confirmation letter. Apparently, I have less than two weeks left to claim the gift certificates or else I lose 'em. So my plan now is to go pick them up tomorrow over lunch.

And I already know what I'm going to spend the P800 on too. ;-P

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Feedburning in Progress

Thanks to a recent post on the Google Reader Blog, I finally went through the trouble of signing up for a Feedburner account and adding RSS subscription buttons to my sidebar.

Doing this was a lot easier than I thought it would be, thanks to some lovely widget integration between Feedburner and the new, improved Blogger.

I don't really expect to have a lot of subscribers, but I like getting a feel of the different nuances involved in running a blog, without the pressure of actually managing a professional one.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Music and Lyrics

Watched Music and Lyrics yesterday, and must admit to having mixed feelings about the movie.

Obviously, I laughed at all the 80s-style antics, particularly all the gyrating that Hugh Grant performed with such gusto. haha! Just the thought of it still brings a smile to my face even now.

Having said that, I must admit that I didn't enjoy the movie as much as I thought I would, partly because of the stress from driving 1.5 hours to the theatre through a construction-induced gridlock, partly because we missed the first 10 minutes of the movie, and also partly because a friend had raved about the movie just a couple of days before and had really raised my expectations.

But I'm still glad that I watched it. The traffic jam also gave me an opportunity to spend time chatting with my gal-pal E, who was such a good sport despite being stuck in traffic right smack through the lunch hour. Plus any movie with Drew Barrymore is automatically a must-see for me anyway, especially if it's a chick-flick! hehe.

Quest for Perfection

Read a very long but interesting article on the life story of Sergey Brin, one of Google's co-founders, on Moment Magazine's website.

Couldn't help but laugh when I got near the end of the article, which recounts a speech that Sergey delivered to a high school for gifted math students near Tel Aviv, in Israel:

"I have standard Russian-Jewish parents," he then continued in English. "My dad is a math professor. They have a certain attitude about studies. And I think I can relate that here, because I was told that your school recently got seven out of the top 10 places in a math competition throughout all Israel."

The students applauded their achievement and the recognition from Sergey, unaware that he was setting up a joke. "What I have to say," he continued, "is in the words of my father: ‘What about the other three?’"
By golly, that's just exactly what my mother would say!

In fact, she said something almost exactly like that to my sister many years ago, when she came home from school with an exam score of 98. Mom's question was -- "what happened to the other two points?" haha!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Cedula - para que?

I only learned this week that every barangay treasurer is authorized to issue a cedula to anyone who walks in and is willing to pay for one.

I had tried getting one from our barangay two days ago, only to learn that it had to be issued by the treasurer and s/he was out for a meeting. One of the guys there advised me to try at any of the nearby barangays, so I did. Drove a couple of blocks south and asked the first tricycle driver I saw for directions to their barangay hall. He was really helpful (and accurate too).

Walked in the barangay office and got a cedula for myself (and two other people in the family) in less than ten minutes. I was so happy because I hadn't realized it would be that easy to get this requirement out of the way.

* * *

Now that I've got fresh, first-hand experience on just how easy it is to get a cedula, I can't help but wonder why we even have such a thing.

It can't possibly be a valid form of identification because they only ask you to fill up a slip of paper with the relevant information, and they copy your data as-is onto the cedula form. They don't ask for a photo ID, or any proof that you're declaring the correct address, birthday, or income.

The barangay treasurer who gave me my cedula the other day had certainly never met me before; I had walked in off the street and I actually live in another barangay, which would have been apparent to her since she copied down my address.

If it's that easy to get a cedula, and there are no safeguards for the correctness of the information on it, why are we even required to have one for contracts and agreements?

Other than to generate extra income for the city and barangay governments, I can't imagine what the point would be.

Thursday, February 15, 2007


Watched my friend's graduation recital tonight for her degree in music, major in piano. The repertoire included concertos by Bach, Mozart, Ravel, and Chopin.

None of the pieces were familiar, but I particularly enjoyed the last two, which were Mozart's Concerto No. 19 in F major and Chopin's Concerto No. 1 in E minor

It was two hours of wonderful music and I'm glad I attended. Congratulations, Y!

Recent Sidebar Updates

Made a couple of updates to my blog's sidebar this week.

I updated the Twitter widget so it now displays the three most recent 'tweets' instead of just one. Also changed the display order somewhat by putting the time before the text. It was fairly easy to do, thanks to this great blogpost from Jon Aquino, which I found via Twitter's FAQs.

What I'd love to do eventually is to restyle the display to look like the Twitter widget in Brad Kellett's blog, Pantsland. He groups his entries by day and displays the actual time, rather than the relative time after each text blurb.

Also added a Google Reader widget to the sidebar, under 'Recent Reads'. This widget displays items that I've opted to 'share' while reading through my various RSS subscriptions using Google Reader.

It does not yet look quite as nice as I'd like... but I'm fairly confident I can prettify it once I've got some time on my hands, since it just takes a bit of CSS.

I can't help but feel happy when I look at the sidebar now, because these two recent changes really complement my existing Flickr widget, which displays my most recent public photos.


Update - Feb 16:
Finally have my 'Recent Reads' widget styled, thanks to bits of CSS from the Google Reader Blog.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Twitter US Shortcode: No Good in Asia

It occurred to me today that Twitter's shortcode in the US (40404) would be a particularly bad shortcode for Twitter to use in many East Asian countries due to tetraphobia.

To be fair, the current shortcode is still infinitely better than 41414, given the meanings associated with the number 1 and the number 4.

A little something for Twitter folks to think about when they eventually make Twitter servers available via shortcodes in Asia.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Guilty Pleasure

Finally had some time in the past few days to indulge in reading a bit of 'chick lit' -- a guilty pleasure that I've had very little of in recent months.

Since I couldn't spot any new work from my usual favorite authors, I decided to expand my horizon a bit by trying a different writer. My new pick was Susan Carroll.

Bought one of her books (The Bride Finder) and breezed through the whole thing in one night, although I must admit that it was 4am by the time I finished reading.

I was so happy to find a more traditional romance novel, without the mystery/murder/slasher angle that's been creeping into all the more recent writing (I believe the official term for the latter is 'romantic suspense').

As it turns out, the book had been written in the late 90s, so it was just perfect, IMHO.

I'm already planning to hit the bookstore the first chance I get to pick up the sequel to The Bride Finder. I hadn't realized until I reached the ending that it was actually the first in a trilogy (although technically the story stands alone and is complete).

* * *

When my sis-in-law learned about my new find, she was quick to lend me another Carroll novel the next day (Winterbourne), which had been written several years before the other novel.

It was another enjoyable read, although I felt that there was way too much plot crammed into a single book. Our poor hero had to go through too much (court intrigues, accusations of treason, castle sieges, becoming a prisoner of war, and so on) before he finally got to his happy ending.

I guess the author was constrained by actual historical events and had to stay true to the setting of the story, and therefore had to ride out the plot until a logical stopping point could be reached.

After two books, I think it's safe to say that this author is a good find. I am happy to have found a new name to add to my list of 'authors to buy'.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Preparations Underway

I have to hand it to my friends.

They're really going all out with the preparations for our barkada's 10th anniversary party this coming Sunday.

There's talk of a video presentation and people are looking for overhead projectors and screens and such. Luckily, I was able to borrow a projection screen from the office so at least that problem is solved.

It will be an interesting experience to have everyone over at the house since we rarely open our doors to parties, anti-social beings that we are. ;-P

What's amazing to me is that this group has been together for 10 years. Man, we're really growing old.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Unable to Checkout

Stumbled across the Google Checkout blog today and was immediately interested in this Google service, since I'd not heard of it before.

From what I can see, it's being positioned as an alternative to Paypal.

It's just too bad that the Philippines isn't listed as one of the countries which can use this service. It's a truly sad state of affairs when users from Zimbabwe are welcome, but Filipinos aren't.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Vicarious Happiness

I was in a meeting yesterday where one of the attendees was this guy who's based in the US but by necessity has been travelling around Asia the past three or four weeks.

We were asking him if he has plans to extend his stay here since there's a big event coming up in a day or two, and he quickly shook his head and said, "No, my wife would kill me."

I don't know how to describe it... but he said it in a tone that gave me the impression that he really missed his wife and that he was longing to head back home. And I must admit, I found myself happy to see this jet-setting, successful, yuppie husband worry about the feelings of his wife. :)

For some reason, I can't imagine ever having that much 'power' or 'influence' over a guy.

The Machine is Us/ing Us

Found this little gem of a video via Evhead.

It blew me away. Will blow you away too.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Now on Google Reader

I realized the other day (as I was migrating all my RSS subscriptions from Bloglines to Google Reader via OPML) that I had really fallen behind on my Blog and News reading.

I had finally decided to try Google Reader because of a post about the "Attention Economy" that I had seen on Sam Sethi's blog about European Startups, Vecosys. The statistics that they collect and report back to you are particularly interesting and on that basis alone I decided to switch.

The user interface didn't take much getting used to, most likely because it is a bit reminiscent of Gmail and it behaved how I would have expected it to -- allowing me to expand and collapse posts as needed, among others. The ability to tag and star things also helps.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Firefox Crop Circle

It's been up for a while, but it was only today that I stumbled across this blogpost about a bunch of guys who decided to make a Firefox Crop Circle.

It's pretty amazing what lengths passionate people will go to. Kudos to everyone involved!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


The short trip is over and I'm happy to be back home where I belong.

Although most of the trip was devoted to work, I enjoyed myself. The meetings were fruitful and we got to meet interesting people.

As a city, Singapore seems like a place that I'd want to visit again, especially with all the different tour options that are available (all of which I haven't tried). The ones that I'm particularly interested in are the walking tours, which I only read about this morning while standing around the hotel lobby waiting for our airport shuttle.

Dinner last night was with some work colleagues at the Jumbo Seafood Restaurant in Clark Quay. The view was lovely and the river breeze was refreshing. The food itself was fine, although I wouldn't consider it anything special -- it's the same quality that you'd expect from any authentic Chinese restaurant here in Manila.

Some parts of the city remind me of Kota Kinabalu, in the sense that the streets are wide, with a lot of trees, and the architecture has Asian influences stamped all over it. The people are also more gracious than Hong Kong or mainland Chinese residents. They're in less of a rush and walking on the street isn't a 'mad crowd' experience. I can immediately understand why people would seriously entertain the idea of moving there to work or to live.

Had a little bit of adventure after dinner last night by walking back to my hotel alone. The entire journey took over thirty minutes since the hotel is around three bus stops away from Clark Quay and I didn't try to rush myself. I enjoyed the exercise -- all those weeks of hitting the exercise machine at home helped -- and the walk back home tired me out enough that I slept like a log afterwards.

I think at the end of the day, what I appreciated the most was being able to get away from the current project and clear my head for a couple of days. It was a true break, which I think I really needed.

Saturday, February 03, 2007


I really should be sleeping already since I have an early wake-up call tomorrow, but I'm not ready to drift off to dreamland yet.

Today was fairly quiet. Was home most of the time going through the stuff that I wanted to bring on my three-day-two-night trip to Singapore. I think I've got almost everything squared away. The flight leaves tomorrow afternoon.

Should be an interesting experience, since I've never been to Singapore before.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Writer's Block

Am going through a bit of writer's block these days.

I know exactly what I want to write and what I need to write, but I can't seem to actually sit down and write it because I can't find the words or the proper train of thought.

The last time I had this much trouble writing was almost a decade ago, when I was working on the book.

Sigh. Hopefully the upcoming change of scenery will help clear my head.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

List Flame

I couldn't help but shake my head in disbelief when I read the recent messages in the linuxjobs mailing list.

Some poor chap who posted a job ad is getting flamed because some of the list residents think that the salary being offered (P20k- P30k) is too low for the position that's to be filled.

Some of the comments are uncalled for, IMHO. For example (copied directly, typos and grammatical errors included):

why would anybody hire a PROFESSIONAL and give him/her "UNPROFESSIONAL FEE"?

your not looking for an admin, your looking for a house boy who can do all the jobs you like him/her to do, and with that kind of rate? thats exploitation already.
I can't help but think less of the people who made these remarks. Employment is voluntary. No one is being forced into slave labor here. It's a simple job posting, for crying out loud. There's no need to be snippy just because the salary doesn't fit your personal expectations. Frankly, if I were a hiring manager, I'd really think twice about hiring a couple of these guys as full-time employees, simply because of the attitude.

I wouldn't be surprised if somewhere out there, there's someone who will take that job for the money that's being offered, and will be grateful for the employment. Salaries are dictated by market dynamics, not wishful thinking.