Finally

After a lot of troublesome work, I was finally able to move all the posts from the old Palabok site to this one at workpress.com. It also took a while for me to iron out the problem with the URL forwarding for palabok.com itself so that it will point to this new URL.

So, for now, this is Palabok.com’s new home.

And like I said in the old blog, I’m feeling in the mood to start blogging again after spending all that time setting this one up.

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Published in: on March 16, 2009 at 9:52 pm  Comments (4)  

Melting away

I was back home in Manila just over a year ago around Christmas time. Now, I’m back here for more punishment. My memory of my previous stay was not the most pleasant. I was actually surprised at how much better it is to visit Manila outside of the Christmas season. Reasons? Less traffic, less crowding and less heat.

I couldn’t believe that it is less hotter here in September than it was the last time I was here in December two years past. I suppose it’s due to the rainy weather. It’s still rainy season, after all. Thankfully, it hasn’t actually rained much since we’ve arrived. I never had the need to bring out my umbrella from my bag.

Although it may be heaps cooler right now than previously, I still found myself sweating. A lot. Heaps! I couldn’t stop sweating the moment I step out into the open, beyond the range of cool air-conditioned air. Trying to keep myself dry with a help of a hand towel was like trying to bail out water from a sinking boat. I’m not sure where all that water is coming from, actually. It’s really a bit much.

When I’m finally back in the comfort of an air-conditioned area, it takes a while for me to stop perspiring. In the end, I still end up with a wet shirt, wet hair and sticky skin. Disgusting, I know. But that’s how it is since my arrival in Manila a few days ago.

Whenever I’m in shops, the security guards (for you non-Filipinos reading this, there are security personnel for mostly every shop) would look at me suspiciously. I don’t blame them. I look like I was guilty of something the way I was perspiring profusely.

Raquel found it funny that we came across some people who were wearing jumpers and jackets in this warm weather. It wasn’t even remotely cold outside! Even at night. I must have been away from Manila for far too long. I remember my previous American employers complaining about the same thing. And now we’re the ones doing the complaining.

I was hoping that these sweating episodes would last a maximum of four days. But it’s day six now and I’ve only started to adjust to the humidity and heat. That’s a bit of good news, I guess. I don’t feel the need to change my shirt yet.

In the meantime, I’ll probably continue to take refuge at air-conditioned malls and hotel lobbies until I finally stop melting in this humid place I call home. The only things that make this trip worthwhile was that I get to be with family, relatives and long-time friends again. And probably the chance to do some inexpensive book shopping. If not for these, I’d rather be back in good old Melbourne.

Published in: on September 19, 2008 at 7:01 pm  Comments (6)  

Workaholic? Me?

I’ve never been the workaholic type. Sure, I’m used to devoting endless hours to personal projects and gaming but not actual office work. At the office, I’m usually aching to get out of there when it’s the prescribed close of business time.

Lately, I’m finding myself staying later than usual to finish off some loose ends at the office. The thing is, I don’t actually mind in those instances. I feel like work is becoming a game I need to win. I also felt the least stress at work I’ve ever been for years.

I think I’ve become a workaholic when I wasn’t paying attention. I feel proud for what I’ve accomplished at work and what I’m continually accomplishing. I also take it seriously if I make mistakes. I want to be the best that I can be.

If my past me could see what I’m like now, he wouldn’t believe it.

I guess striving to achieve a sort of promotion at work is keeping me very motivated to work hard and smart. It’s like a game where I’m trying to get my character to the next level up.

Unlike games, I have no real gauge as to how close I am to going up a level. I’ll just have to keep working at it in the hope that I’m making a difference. The good part is that it doesn’t feel like work. I find myself having fun right now.

Okay, it may be fun but I still hope that there is an added benefit for me at the end of the day. Having more disposable income is, of course, always welcome, specially when having a family.

Published in: on September 11, 2008 at 6:28 pm  Comments (2)  

Photography course: Day 6

This is a delayed post for the sixth day of my photography class. I’ve had a lot of things on my plate lately that there just hasn’t been time enough to type this up and post it. However, I want to type this up before completely forgetting about the session so here it is. The topic for this particular night is people photography.

The lecturer started the session with a challenge for us to be photo heroes. By this he meant that we should capture an image that the subject would be proud to show off and would show the subject’s personality and zest for life. The question is how we could achieve this. He suggested that we look at books for inspiration to start off with and try to achieve something similar to what we like.

He then went into giving us tips on how to take photos indoors with soft natural light coming in from windows, shooting in the shade outdoors and how to meter when the subject’s face has light and shadows. He also mentioned using a large aperture to throw distracting elements in the background.

Next, he stressed that subjects should be at ease and that the photographer should gain the subject’s trust. He suggested talking to the subject and telling them what you as the photographer want to achieve. This might include deciding what goes in the photo, what the subject should wear and how they would pose. However, he also stressed that the photographer should be mindful not to invade the subject’s personal space. He also mentioned that we should get our act together technically because models would quickly lose interest if they see that the photographer isn’t ready for the shoot.

Next, the instructor delved into how to take group photos at a party. He said that the usual tendency of lining up people against a wall is a big no-no because the flash would bounce off the wall and you’d end up with a horrendous photo. Instead, he suggested that the photographer be the one standing against the wall to get rid of the big shadows around the subjects. Another tip is that a blend of existing light and flash work best and that apertures should be wide open to let as much light in. He also showed examples of bounced flash and how it could put dark shadows under subjects’ eyes.

As well, he showed the class some samples of his work. He also touched on framing the subject diagonally instead of the usual vertical format. Cropping could also make a huge difference and re-enforces his mantra of focusing on the subject and not wasting space.

Lastly, the lecturer suggested that sometimes a simple change in the photographer’s point of view could make a huge difference in a photo. He said that we should take as much photos as we could but stop when we feel that the models are becoming tired. Again, this emphasises the major role of communication and putting your model at ease. As he kept saying, if you’re model’s uncomfortable, it will show!

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 12:48 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: Day 7


Click here to view photo album

We had our final photography workshop yesterday at Melbourne Uni. The first exercise called for architecture shots around the square and we were only given 45 minutes to complete the task. The course coordinator explained that learning to shoot on a limited time frame would also be good exercise in preparation for times when we need to join a tour group where stops are scheduled.

Aside from the architecture shots, we were also required to make a self-portrait, one that made me go, uh-oh, mainly because I wasn’t carrying a tripod with me. Even if the point of the exercise was for us to learn how to use the timers on our camera, I still had the problem of where to put my camera while taking the said self-portrait. To see what I dreamed up, please see the photo album above. Even though the focus was off, I was a quite happy with the first shot.

Since the previous lectures leading up to the workshop were about composition and people photography, we had our group portrait taken by the club member who’s known for his work in portraits. He took the photos from a balcony and had us in a rough circle below looking up at him. The course coordinator explained that this trick works because it’s easy to organise, relative heights of the subjects don’t matter as much and is flattering (mostly to avoid double chins).

After that, we practised taking solo portraits and were mentored by another club member who works in fashion photography. He had the model standing casually against a wall with plenty of light coming in through the arches along a hallway and he discussed how pointing the flash either to the left or right when taking the shot vertically affects the resulting photograph. He also mentioned that we need to talk to the model and make her/him feel at ease. We took turns taking the model’s photograph. When my turn came, it was then that it dawned on me that not only do I have to make the model comfortable, I would have to be comfortable with the situation as well, which I wasn’t. Anyway, the model was gracious enough to let me take her photo twice and I thought they turned out well. However, I don’t think I would like to do a lot of portrait photography after that, specially on total strangers. I’m just too awkward with it and art direction’s not my strongest suit either.

The session was fun overall and I learned a lot by taking the advice of several club members and being able to try the advice straight away.

Published in: on September 1, 2008 at 9:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bubblegum soda

When Raquel and I went to Japan last year, I discovered this wonderful softdrink called Mitsuya Cider. It tasted like a cross between 7-Up and Juicy Fruit. That’s right, the chewing gum. I was an instant fan.

On the day we were to fly back to Melbourne, I came to a sad realisation: I wouldn’t be able to drink anymore Mitsuya Cider. That is, unless I can find a shop in Melbourne that sells the drink. Unfortunately, I’ve looked all over the place and couldn’t find an Asian shop that sold it.

Today, we went to the big Asian shop in the city to get some siopao and siomai. Since I was already there, I decided to look for the drink again I’m their drinks section. Well, it wasn’t there, as expected.

However, there was a drink being sold there that caught my eye. It was drink that I saw numerous times in Japanese animation. It was a variation of Ramune, the drink that’s sold in a glass bottle with a glass marble in it. Except the one in the shop was sold in a can and was called Ramu Bottle instead.

I’ve been very keen to try the drink since seeing it in anime and now’s my chance to sample it. I know I should’ve tried it when I was on Japan but I just totally forgot about Ramune and it wasn’t a drink I noticed being sold there. I would’ve instantly recognized the odd bottle.

Anyway, I bought it had a sip of it. To my delightful surprise, it had the same Juicy Fruit taste I loved about Mitsuya Cider! At last! Although I couldn’t find Mitsuya Cider anywhere in the city, I at least have a nice substitute for my favourite bubblegum soda in Ramune.

I’m so happy! I can’t wait to get back to the shop and get some more.

Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 9:43 pm  Comments (3)  

Gone to the Dark Side

I had been contemplating on getting a new mobile phone for some time now to replace my old Sony Ericsson k750 that I inheritted from Raquel. I wanted a phone that can basically replace my wonderful iPod Nano as my main mp3 player so that I just have one device to carry on me instead of two.

When I discovered that the new iPhone 3G was coming out in Australia, I became naturally interested. What better device to replace my iPod than a device closely related to it. As I was reading up on the features of the iPhone and the potential mobile plans that were going to be out there, I became even more excited to get one when it finally comes out. The Optus iPhone plans looked particularly nice as it allows me to use 3g and Internet access without having to take on a very expensive monthly plan. I amd my friend, Justin, who was also very keen on the iPhone, were constantly discussing the wonders of the iPhone leading up to its launch.

However, as time passed, I had a better think of what disadvantages the iPhone had. Here are some of it’s drawbacks:
– No copy and paste! That’s right. No stupid copying and pasting of texts across the iPhone’s different apps. It can’t even do copy and paste within the same app. What was Apple thinking?!
– The SMS app can’t delete individual messages. It’s ridiculous! You can delete whole conversation threads between you and any one person. But you can’t delete one of the messages any person sends you.
– As of right now, it has fewer available free apps than a Windows Mobile phone. Hopefully, that’s something that can be remedied in time.
– It only has a 2 megapixel camera when most modern phones would at least have a 3 megapixel camera.
– Stuck to using only one method of inputting text: the iPhone’s signature virtual keyboard. The keys looked small. How does Apple expect its customers to accurately hit those keys?
– Battery can only be replaced by Apple. This one just slightly annoying for me as don’t usually buy spare batteries for any of my older devices.

That made me look for an iPhone alternative like the HTC Diamond Touch that my other friend, Marty, recommended (he owns one). I’ve been a Windows Mobile PDA user for many years so a phone powered by the same OS like the HTC Diamond Touch really appealed to me. Marty allowed me to freely play with his phone because he just didn’t want any more people joining what he calls the Dark Side that is Apple. I was getting more and more convinced to go with HTC as it had more features than the iPhone. I even made a list of the HTC’s and iPhone’s features and scored each according to my preferences. The HTC scored way more than the iPhone.

I went to Organiser World two weeks ago to get an unlocked HTC phone. They were unfortunately sold out so I had to have the shop reserve me one when new stock came in. My iPhone buddy Justin found this out and declared me a traitor. I just had to laugh.

It took Justin 3 weeks of waiting to get his iPhone from Optus in the city. Apparently, if I got one from Optus, I had to sign up first and start using their mobile plan as I’m waiting for my iPhone to arrive after 4 week’s time. Too long, I thought.

Friday of the same week, I got the call from the shop that told me that my HTC was ready for pickup. I can get it that Friday or the next day only. After that, they’ll just sell it to somebody else.

The new phone was well within my reach and I didn’t have to wait 3 weeks to get it. I planned to get it on the Saturday so that I have a little more time to make sure that I was making the right choice. I went to OW’s website to look at the price again. It was over $800 and I was then finding that to be a bit expensive. That made me doubt my choice a little.

I then looked for a suitable 3G mobile plan that could take advantage of the new phone’s features but still be inexpensive. The problem was that there wasn’t a cheap mobile data plan out here. It seemed like the best mobile deal to be had was tied to the iPhone. That meant that the different Australian telco carriers don’t offer those mobile plans unless you got an iPhone. Unfair, I know.

So, getting a new phone seemed like it was going to be a very expensive endeavour. That made me question my need for a new phone at all. Having noticed my apparent confusion about the whole thing, Raquel asked me what was it that made me think of getting a new phone anyway. I considered the question for a moment then replied that all I really wanted was to merge my iPod with my phone. That was why I wanted to get an iPhone to start with.

Sure the HTC had more features according to my score sheet, but in the end, I didn’t want to get a new phone for those listed features. I wanted a good iPod replacement that was also a phone. Using just that criteria, the iPhone wins hands down. Everything else I would get on top of that is just gravy. Also, it would turn out to be a much cheaper proposition to just go with an iPhone than with HTC.

After having decided to go with the Dark Side, I called up the Optus shop in the city to ask about the availability of the iPhone. They said it would take 4 weeks to get one, as expected. So, I then called up the Optus shop in Werribee to ask if they had the black 16gb iPhone at their shop. The person on the phone said yes. I couldn’t believe it. I had to rephrase my question and he again confirmed that the iPhone I wanted was available in their shop that very second!

I went to the Optus shop that day, signed up for the $29 Yes Plan that offered a 250mb monthly data allowance and free wifi access to Optus hotspots, and got myself a new shiny black iPhone! All on the same day.

Justin was understandably upset that I didn’t even have to wait for my iPhone. Marty, on the other hand, was just upset that I went with the iPhone anyway.

Now, I’ve been using it for 2 weeks and I’ve come to this conclusion: I absolutely love it! I don’t know why. It’s certainly lacking a lot of must-have features, but what it does have, it does it real well! Like the keyboard which I thought had very small keys, it actually works pretty well! And with a thumb, no less. I’m so comfortable with this method of text entry that I’ve typed this whole blog post and me previous one entirely on my new iPhone. I found that to be a big chore with my Windows Mobile PDA.

On paper, the iPhone may look weak but when I finally got to use it, it turns out to be a very delightful device. No wonder a lot of people are big iPhone fanatics. And a lot of these people were like me who thought that the iPhone wouldn’t be as nice a phone as it turned out to be.

I’m not saying you should get one too. All I’m saying is that I’m glad I got one.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm  Comments (6)  
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Close call

We were out pretty late one weeknight because Raquel had to go to her Photography class which ends at 9pm. There were some roadworks at the freeway that night so some lanes had to be closed.

I had to do a merge when we got on the freeway like I usually do and it always made me slightly nervous each time. You have to come in at 80kph and make sure that there isn’t a car on the lane you’re merging into by the time you need to do the merge. Otherwise, crash!

There we were attempting the merge with slow vehicles in front of us which always makes merging a tad more challenging. I looked right and there was an approaching car. I’d make the merge if I could just gain more speed. So I sped up while ensuring I don’t hit the slow car in front of me. I merged just at the right moment. Whew.

Then I noticed that the lane I was on would become closed-off a few metres down the road so I quickly switched to the right lane (and only lane that would remain open) to avoid worrying about another more challenging merge later. After the switch, I stepped on the gas to get up to the posted speed limit and avoid being rear-ended by the fast-moving oncoming car behind us.

However, the car that was in front of us in the previous lane decided at that moment to switch lanes and get right I’m front of us. The car in front of that car also had the same idea but did it more slowly than the one in front of us.

Suddenly, the car in front of us braked to avoid hitting the car in front of it. I had to suddenly pull my foot away from the gas pedal and slammed it on the brake pedal with all my might! We continued to skid forward anyway! I can see the bonnet of the car quickly closing in on the front car’s rear and the only thing I could do was to continue to floor the brakes. I looked at my rear view mirror and the speeding car behind us also hit the brakes but was skidding right for us.

If I hit the car in front of us and force us to come to a halt, I was sure that the car behind us would hit us as well. So for the next few seconds, I was trying my darnest not to collide with the car ahead. As I floored the brakes, I steered the car to the right hoping that angling the car diagonally would give us slightly more space between us and the car in front of us. But I had to control the steering to make sure I don’t crash against the freeway’s right-most railing.

It was amazing! We didn’t touch the car ahead of us and we weren’t rear ended neither! It was the closest thing to drifting I had ever done. Once the car in front started to gain some speed, I realigned our car and stepped on the gas. And then all was well again.

Talk about close calls. It was so close to becoming a roadside disaster and I’m thankful Raquel and I came out of it in one piece.

Thinking back, there were two things that may have contributed to our lucky escape: all those years playing video games prepared me to react quickly to sudden changes in environment; and I remembered that before I drove off the car park, I prayed that God bless our trip. I usually don’t pray before driving but I did that night. I leave it to you which of the two contributed more to our safe ride home. I’m just glad we got out of that whole incident safe and sound.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Photography course: Day 5

Before we started our first class for our photography course, the course coordinator had us fill out a survey which included questions about the main reason we decided to attend the course. Last week, the coordinator told us that a big portion of the class chose the usual answer of wanting to find out how to work a new camera and improve personal snapshots but a huge majority said they wanted to learn more about the art of photography. So with that introduction, the coordinator eased us on to the topic for that night, composition.

I have to admit I didn’t think the class would last the full one and half hours just talking about how to compose a photo but the time just flew by. The lecturer talked about elements in composition like lines, shapes, colour, size and perspective and how they could be used to improve a photo. He also mentioned how to be aware of how warm colours advance and catch a viewer’s attention first and contrasted it with how cool colours recede.

However, the best part of this lecture was when the instructor showed us examples of famous photos and asked us to think about why the composition works. The examples included David Moore’s Migrants arriving in Sydney and Sisters of Charity, Max Dupain’s The Sunbather, a work by Elliot Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare St. Lazare and Hyeres, Arnold Newman’s portrait of Igor Stravinsky and finally Dorothy Lange’s Migrant Mother. The instructor drew our attention to the use of triangles in Migrants arriving in Sydney, The Sunbather and Igor Stravinsky’s portrait, the implied diagonal line in Sisters of Charity, spirals in Hyeres and the rule of thirds in Migrant Mother. As well, the instructor stressed how we should make use of the rules of good composition and then break them. To support the breaking the rules bit, he also showed us a couple of photos which broke the rules but still worked.

Before ending the class, the instructor explained that because most people read from left to right, we also have the tendency to look at a photo from left to right. With this in mind, he showed us how horizontally flipping the picture could affect a viewer’s perception.

Wrapping up, he said that we should study successful photographs and figure out why it worked. He recommended the books below before wrapping up one of the best lectures in the course so far.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: day 4


Click here to view photo album

When I woke up last Sunday, it was raining and gloomy outside so I considered not showing up for our scheduled outdoor photography workshop at the Treasury Gardens. I don’t like shooting in the rain and since it’s supposed to be about shooting outdoors, there really isn’t any point huddling under cover is there?

Hubby won’t have any of it though, he thought I would be missing out on a great opportunity if I don’t go. So I went and was glad I did. The rained stopped just as we were being handed the list of the exercise photos we were supposed to take.

The exercises involved taking photos of a single person standing up, then sitting down then filling up the whole frame with just the subject’s face. Next is to take the same sort of photos with two people in the picture, then again with a statue. We were also asked to take photos of flowers and Cook’s cottage using a big then small aperture. I took some of the required photos and then some. My favourite part of the workshop though were the extra exercises not on the list like practising panning, taking portraits with rim lighting and using environmental objects as reflectors (i.e. putting your subject beside a white wall).

We finished just before noon and it was good timing too as the skies darkened once again.

Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment