What’s in your bag?

I was surfing the other day and came across the what’s in your bag meme from Flickr. It was interesting to see what people are lugging around in their daily packs – a bit of voyeurism I guess. So, Gabriel and I took out the contents of our bags and photographed the lot.


Pretty basic things in my bag: Reading material borrowed from the library, magnetic clip-on sunnies, earphones, lip balm, pen, comb, USB cable for PDA, keys, Pocket PC with case, LG camera phone with case, wallet (with card, cash and some change), stuff for those times of the month, tissue, hair clips and camera of course! Click photo to view full size.


Gabriel’s daily pack: Reebok backpack with brolly on top, various brochures/vouchers, Finding Nemo OST borrowed from the library, spare battery, sunnies with case, blue mesh bag from Suga, screwdriver with some screws, receipts, medicines, hand lotion, folder and plastic envelope to hold important documents with cap and gloves on top, PDA in case, phone charger, ear buds for PDA, gum and snack bar, various pens/pencil/eraser, USB cable for PDA, old Constantine ticket, movie vouchers, packet of cotton buds/tips, black drawing book and small notepad for ideas/lists. Not in the photo are his keys, purse, wallet and Sony Ericsson camera phone. Click photo to view full size.

How about you, what’s in your bag?

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Published in: on March 30, 2005 at 11:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Robots

Yesterday was another Tuesday and that meant it was movie night again! We watched 20th Century Fox’s new 3D Animated Feature Robots voiced by actors Robin Williams and Ewan McGregor, to name a few.

We were aiming for the 7:30 pm showing at the Jam Factory. It’s a good thing that it was after 6 pm as it was easier to find a free parking space along Chapel St after that time. The shops close early here, remember?

We got the car parked at around 7:15 pm and speed-walked our way to the cinemas. The Village Cinema at the Jam Factory assigns the customer a fixed seat so if you buy your ticket late, you’re going to be left with very crappy seats. And that’s what happened. The only available seats left were for the first and second rows (too close to the screen) so we opted to take the 8:40 pm show instead.

It was a good thing that Borders close shop at 11 pm so we got to hang out there while we wait for the next showing. Anyway, there were books I wanted to read.

Unlike the last time, the price of the ticket was $6 each. It was $1 more expensive than last time but it was still $6 well spent as the movie was absolutely great! For starters, it was hilarious. I liked the story and I certainly liked the quality of the animation, effects and 3D-ness (if there is such a word). Dare I say it? I think I loved this more than the Incredibles.

I guess this post is sort of a review so it wouldn’t be complete without a summary of what the movie is about. Here goes: The main protagonist is Rodney Copperbottom (voiced by Ewan McGregor) who is this country boy/robot who wanted to go to Robot City and be an inventor. With the encouragement of his parents, he went off to see the most beloved inventor robot in the city, Mr Bigweld (Mel Brook), but Rodney found that Bigweld was missing and that his company was now under new management. It’s up to Rodney and his new found city pals to save the day from the new evil corporate manager Mr Ratchet (Greg Kinnear). That’s essentially it.

So, if you haven’t seen this movie yet, I strongly recommend you watch it. See ya again at the movies.

Published in: on March 30, 2005 at 11:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

The story of your meal

Gabriel has always have this predilection for hamburgers, either store bought from fast food stores or from the frozen meat section in the supermarket. In fact, one of the more vivid memories I have of his grandmother is her saying, “Ang alam lang kainin ni Gj ay puro hamburger o hotdog” (The only things Gj knows to eat are hamburgers or hotdogs), referring to his food choices since his youth.

Even at home, whenever I ask him of his preference of what to include in the weekly menu, he’d name Beef Stroganoff, Bistek (Filipino beef steak) and Picadillo (Minced beef with vegetables) right off the bat. As you can tell by now, he loves his beef.

I, on the other hand, prefer seafood, chicken and pork (in that order). Although I also eat beef, I would usually opt for something else given the choice. I just don’t understand how some people could eat a slab of beef in one sitting. No matter how tasty, juicy and tender it is, I just can’t imagine eating all that much beef.

Anyway, after reading the Fanatic Cook’s blog regarding beef production and being directed to Eric Schlosser’s Fast-Food Nation: The True Cost Of America’s Diet article, I don’t think my beef consumption would increase anytime soon. In fact, I’m seriously considering refraining from eating any more beef. Part one of this article takes you through the history of the fast-food industry in America and the realities of how businessmen keeps the industry profitable. It was a nice read with very interesting tidbits about how the founding fathers of fast food made it big in the business from almost nothing – real rags to riches stories.

Part two discusses the dark side of the industry, taking you through the plight of the small time potato farmers and through the slaughterhouses of Greeley, Colorado. The latter reads more like a horror story than anything based on reality. Here’s an excerpt:

The speed of the production line at a slaughterhouse is largely responsible not only for the high injury rate but also for the contamination of the meat. The problem starts in the feedlots. A government health official, who prefers not to be named, compares the sanitary conditions at a modern feedlot to those of a crowded European city during the Middle Ages, when people dumped their chamber pots out the windows, raw sewage ran in the streets and epidemics raged. The cattle now packed into feedlots get little exercise and live amid pools of manure. Far removed from their natural habitats, the cattle become more prone to illnesses. And what they are fed often contributes to the spread of disease. The rise in grain prices has encouraged the feeding of less-expensive materials to cattle, especially substances with a high protein content that can accelerate growth. About eighty percent of the cattle in the United States were routinely fed slaughterhouse wastes – the rendered remains of dead sheep and dead cattle – until August 1997. The USDA banned the practice, hoping to prevent a domestic outbreak of mad-cow disease. Millions of dead cats and dead dogs, purchased from animal shelters, are being fed to cattle each year, along with dead ducks, geese, elk and deer. Steven P. Bjerklie, a former editor of the trade journal Meat and Poultry, is appalled by what often winds up in cattle feed. “Goddamn it, these cattle are ruminants,” Bjerklie says. “They’re designed to eat grass and, maybe, grain. I mean, they have four stomachs for a reason: to eat products that have a high cellulose content. They are not designed to eat other animals.”

Now, if only I could encourage Gabriel to try something else other than beef…

Published in: on March 29, 2005 at 12:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Happy Easter

Today is Easter Monday (and a public holiday) in Oz so it’s still not too late to greet everybody (or at least every Christian) out there a Happy Easter.

Yesterday, we heard the 5:30 afternoon Easter Mass at St Mary’s Parish here at St Kilda East conducted by, I think, Father Barry Moran. I definitely have to get the name of that parish priest. He’s all right and doesn’t make attending mass such a chore.


St Mary’s Parish in East St Kilda

Anyway, he didn’t start the Mass right away, yesterday. There were only maybe only twenty to thirty of us attendees inside the church at the time and we were mostly sitting scattered at the back of the church. He urged everybody to sit near the front so that he can see everybody at least (and probably to make it feel like there were more of us in there).

During the Homily, he mentioned that he read an article from a newspaper (I can’t remember now whether it was The Herald Sun or The Age) about the lack of Sunday church-goers in Australia today. I recall the figures he quoted correctly, there are something like 1.5 million people going to church on Sundays. Of the 1.5 million people, 700-something thousand are Catholics. I found this fact rather sad.

My theory behind this is that in countries that are more progressive and more affluent, people find little room for faith. They’re not going to church yet they’re lives still seem okay, after all. Another factor behind the continuing decrease of church-goers, I think, is because of all the bad press and misinformation the Christian faith is receiving nowadays, from the child-molesting priests to the Da Vinci Code novel by Dan Brown.

Fr Barry continued his homily by asking us whether we think the crucifixion was historic fact or not. Of course, it was a fact as a lot of respectable historians would attest to. Then he aske whether the resurrection was historic fact or not. He said that it is unfortunately not. I wasn’t really surprised as I like reading about theological themes in my pastime. In fact, the story of Jesus’s resurrection was only spread by witnesses to the event (Jesus’s disciples and followers).

Of course, not everybody nowadays believe that Jesus actually died and was resurrected, Fr Barry continued. There were other theories such as Christ didn’t really die on the cross but was only unconscious and that he was never really buried. He was able to live a full life and so forth. Another theory was that he was taken by the Essenes (a Jewish orthodox sect believed by many to be the precursors to early day Christians) and taken to Qumran (near where the Dead Sea scrolls were found). There was another one he mentioned but I forgot now.

The point he was trying to make is that nowadays, people are more willing to believe that Jesus is just another philosopher/teacher like Buddha than as a Son of God who died on the Cross for our sins and was resurrected. And some of these people actually call themselves Christians. If you do not believe about Jesus being the Messiah, the Christ, then why do you even call yourself a Christian? I don’t get that myself.

Anyway, I liked a priest who was actually aware of all these other ideas people had about Christianity and its history. In my book, it’s good to know about these other heretical ideas so that when I’m confronted by somebody trying to push this alternative view about Christianity on me, I won’t be caught off guard. It also made me think that I actually knew all the theories presented by Fr Barry during the sermon.

It made me think that maybe I should do more in terms of evangelising others. In the past, I’ve researched a lot about these alternative ideas and the counterproofs against them. I have some skills and resources available to me to help me send out messages to the public. It’s time I do more.

Published in: on March 28, 2005 at 6:21 pm  Leave a Comment  

The One With the Flat Tyre

Today, we thought that maybe we could take another round of house-hunting but this time, to the east. Unfortunately, we had stuff we need to buy at the shops now that they are open again (they were closed yesterday because of Good Friday). Anyway, this time round, Raquel took some photos of the inside of Chadstone Shopping Centre. You can look at them by clicking on the photo below.


Chadstone Shopping Centre
Click image for more photos

After buying what we went there for and taking our fill of snapshots, we got on the car and started the drive for home. We hadn’t gone far when the lady in the car beside us was waving at us while we were holding behind a red traffic light. Raquel opened her window to find out what she wanted. She told us that we had a flat left rear tyre (as they spell it here in Oz).


Me, loosening the rear left tyreIt suddenly made sense. It was probably the flat tyre that was causing the steering wheel to continually turn left and that I had to fight it since yesterday. That made me realise that maybe we had the flat tyre since yesterday. And the whole day we were travelling around Point Cook and Werribee, we must have had this flat tyre. I couldn’t believe our good fortune that nothing bad happened to us while on the road.

Anyway, I decided to turn the car around. We found a good spot in the mall parking lot where I could replace the tyre (where there weren’t a lot of people around). See, this is the first time I had to change a flat tyre by myself. Well, Raquel was there with me but this was the first time I had to do it with nobody else who knows how to change tyres on a car. It’s a good thing we had the car manual in the glove compartment.

It wasn’t too difficult to follow the instructions on the manual but it was still a lot of hard work. Trying to fit the new tyre onto the car was particularly difficult and tiring. The tyre weighed heavier than I expected. In the end, I got it done with the help of Raquel, of course. After wiping the perspiration off my face and the grease off my hands, we finally drove home. For real, this time.

As for tomorrow, I have to go take the spare tyre somewhere to have it fixed or something. Can’t risk driving around with a faulty spare tyre, after all.

Well, I’ve learned a lesson today. Something I should’ve learned when I first got the car (because I’ve read about it already). That is, to check the car tyres before any trip. If I’d done that, I could’ve discovered the flat tyre even before we left the house… yesterday.

Published in: on March 26, 2005 at 9:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Westward, ho!

Yesterday, Raquel and I decided to go west to Werribee and the nearby suburbs to look at the neighborhood as part of our house-hunting research. Using Realestate.com.au, we have determined that with our planned budget, houses that would meet our criteria are only affordable further away from the city centre like the southwestern suburbs of Werribee and Hoppers Crossing.

We took the Princess Freeway due west to Werribee but we decided to take a little detour and exited at Point Cook Road. Partly because there was a petrol station along the exit and we wanted to refuel the car. While along Point Cook road, we consulted the map and discovered we can still reach Werribee if we head south down that road and turn right at Sneydes Road.

While on southward journey, we came along the entrance to Sanctuary Lake Resort (which is what we Filipinos call a “subdivision”) and decided to take a look-see. And what we found was just marvelous!


Sanctuary Lake Resort in Point Cook
Click image for more photos.

The serenity! The wide open spaces! The similarly designed houses! The roundabouts! It reminded us a lot of a Canberran suburb. I didn’t imagine there was a place near Melbourne where we can reside in and still feel like we’re in Canberra. Unfortunately, the prices of the houses there are beyond our budget at this time.

After driving around Point Cook, we decided it was time to move on to Werribee at last. We got lost a little bit but we were able to locate Werribee Plaza (the nearest mall they have, we think), Werribee Train Station and a bunch of shops near the station.

We did notice that there were a lot of crows around this part of Victoria. It was the only time I was really able to look at crows up close. I didn’t realise that these birds moved with such grace. At the same time, we found it somewhat disturbing that the crows we saw at the carpark were feeding off raw meat somebody left behind on the ground. I just had the odd thought that if these crows are willing to gnaw the raw meat on the ground, what’s stopping them from attacking people and gnawing off their flesh?


Crows feeding off raw meat somebody conveniently left in the carpark.

Anyway, soon we decided to go home but not before we take another detour via Yarraville, Kensington and Footscray. We just passed through this time and we didn’t get off the car. It was getting late. We just wanted to get home and have dinner by then.

Published in: on March 26, 2005 at 9:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Home buyer’s starter kit

I’ve been spending a lot of time today surfing the net. If you’ve been following our previous posts here, you’ll know that we are currently starting to think of buying our own home soon. And of course, as with most important undertakings, there are stages or milestones we have to go through. I strongly believe in being informed and considering all angles before taking the plunge so we’re currently in phase 1 of this home buying thing – that is, research.

I’ve found quite a number of resources online and just thought I’d share them here for the readers who may also benefit from this information (and also to serve as my notes!)

  • Realestate.com.au is a searchable site of national property listings. Users could enter different search criteria to limit their state to a particular state, suburb, price range and property type. Neat.
  • Domain.com.au is also another site that features property listings. The organisation of the listings here are not as numerous nor as well organised as Realestate.com but it’s still worth a visit.
  • fhogOnline is a government maintained site that provides information regarding the First Home Buyers(FHB) grant.
  • State Revenue Office Victoria is where you’d learn about land taxes, first home buyer grant and first home buyer bonus for the state of Victoria. I was surprised to learn that the state of Victoria offers a FHB bonus of $5000 in addition to the usual $7000 FHB grant bringing the total amount of government grant to $12,000. That would surely help the FHB pay for the $13,000+ stamp duties for a $300,000 property! Sadly for us though, the $5000 FHB bonus would only last till June 30 this year. There’s just no way we would be able to buy our home by that time! Well, here’s to hoping that they extend the offer for another year, or better yet, abolish the fee for the stamp duties! I know, I know, keep on dreaming…
  • The Land Channel provides a wealth of information and services about land and property in Victoria. I specially like the Preparing to Buy section listing the steps to finding the right property, information about the property market and the facility to locate the schools, libraries, health services, etc. within a particular area.
  • Consumer Affairs Victoria offers a downloadable guide called Real Estate – a Guide for Buyers & Sellers to guide the home buyer through the steps of home buying/selling. There are also some informative articles within the site to inform you of your rights and duties as a buyer/seller and a facility to lodge an enquiry or complaint when something goes wrong.
  • And finally, if you’re still not convinced that it is worth your while to purchase your own property than pay rent, you could try this Rent vs Buy calculator from YourMortgage.com.au. There’s an item in the calculator called Cost of buying and borrowing, I used this calculator from eChoice and this article from AICNSW in trying to estimate those “hidden costs” in getting your mortgage and buying your home.
Published in: on March 25, 2005 at 11:34 pm  Comments (1)  

Jesus is Condemned to Death

I was intending on drawing all 14 Stations of the Cross before Easter but since I was only able draw one and it’s like only a few days left till Easter Sunday, it’s more than likely that I won’t be able to draw the rest of the Stations of the Cross. I was thinking of drawing all stations as a form of panata for the Holy Week.

Some of the other stations are pretty similar where Jesus is essentially carrying the Cross but only with different people surrounding Him. So what I’ll probably do instead is to maybe choose two or three more stations to draw.


Jesus is condemned to death.
Click image for Full View.

On a related note, I “painted” digitally a couple of Holy Week/Easter themed images last year, too. And here they are:


Iesus moritur in cruce.
Click image for Full View.

In Die Sancto Paschae.
Click image for Full View.
Published in: on March 24, 2005 at 12:06 am  Comments (2)  

To Dream of a Dream Home

Recently, Raquel and I were thinking of getting a house of our own. Rather than paying monthly rent for a home that will never be ours, we could be paying for monthly repayments on a home loan for a house that is truly ours.

Then, we’ve read Ka Uro’s post regarding the economics of renting vs owning a house and that made us more adamant about owning our own house some time real soon. Even though we’re paying for repayments that would be costing us more than rent payments each month, at least at the end of, say, 30 years, we’d have a house that is totally ours rather than have extra cash with no house.

Let me just quote Ka Uro on this point:

Para mas madali ang pag-kumpara ng renting versus owning, isipin mo na lang na naglalabas ka ng $395.94 kada linggo. Kung nag-rerent ka ng $270 per week, ang $395.94 minus $270 ay $125.94. Eto ang savings mo kada linggo. Multiply mo ng 52 weeks at 20 years, you get $130,977 after 20 years. May pera ka, pero wala ka pa ring bahay. Yan ang take home money mo sa Pinas after 20 years. At kahit lagyan mo pa ng interest ito, hindi ito aabot ng 200k.

Eto naman kung binili mo ang bahay. Nagbabayad ka ng $395.94 kada linggo. Wala kang savings per week. After 20 years, wala ka ngang pera, PERO, may bahay ka. Magkakaroon ka lang ng pera kung ibebenta mo ang bahay. Ang halaga ng bahay after 20 years, hindi lang magiging doble, kung minsan triple o higit pa. Sa doble na lang: 2 x $210,000, e di $420,000 ang pera mo, at taymis 40 na lang = P16.8 MILLION PESOSES ang iuuwi mo sa Pinas!

Conclusion: You’ll be better off buying a house than renting in the long term.

It all seems like getting a house is the best thing to do.

Raquel and I started our research on buying houses in Australia in general and Melbourne in particular. But, as we recently found out, it’s not that easy as we’d hope.

We found Your Mortgage Magazine’s Website and in there are informative articles for Australian home buyers such as the 12 Steps to Home Ownership.

Another great source of information for us regarding owning a house in Australia was the thread titled Best Way to Buy a House in Philippines.com.au.

The first hurdle we now face as home buyers is the lack of cash. See, it’s typical for lending institutions to require a minimum of 10% downpayment of the cost of the house. Originally, we thought of getting a house that costs around $350k. So this would mean that we need a deposit of at least $35k. This amount excludes any taxes, stamp duties and fees. Where would we get $35k? We didn’t even have enough money to buy a $26k Toyota Corolla last year.

I then went to our bank’s website and decided to use St George Bank’s Home Loan calculator to get a more accurate idea of how much we would be able to borrow given our current financial situation.

Assumptions Max Borrow Amt Max Monthly
Repayment
No dependants, 10 years $312,501.00 $3,831.90
No dependants, 20 years $450,001.00 $3,827.49
No dependants, 25 years $487,501.00 $3,834.73
1 dependant, 10 years $290,626.00 $3,564.02
1 dependant, 20 years $418,751.00 $3,562.04
1 dependant, 25 years $453,126.00 $3,564.68
2 dependants, 10 years $268,751.00 $3,296.14
2 dependants, 20 years $387,501.00 $3,296.59
2 dependants, 25 years $418,751.00 $3,294.64

Just to give for everybody some context regarding the montly repayments, we currently pay approximately $1,000 monthly for our rent in a cramped 2 bedroom apartment near the city. Granted that paying $3k every month on a house of our own that will be much better than our current apartment is fair, setting aside $3k every month for 20 or so years would mean sacrifices on our part.

We probably won’t be able to afford to go on holidays abroad, including return trips to our home country. We should not eat out if possible. We should buy only the absolute necessities when shopping. And probably, we should wait a bit more before trying for a baby. I don’t know. These are things we still have to figure out later.

So, after determining what is the potential maximum amount we can borrow from one of the banks (namely St George), we then searched RealEstate.com.au for three bedroom houses around Melbourne that fits the price range we decided: $250k or less. Most of the houses that fit our criteria were a bit far from the city like maybe 45 minutes away by train and longer by car.

This weekend, we’d try driving by the different suburbs around Melbourne to see for ourselves which area would appeal to us. Like, is there a rail station nearby? Is there a nearby shopping centre, church or school? Does the neighborhood look safe?

Anyway, there’s time. It’s not like we’d be able to buy a house tomorrow if we feel like it. We don’t have the money yet for downpayment on a home loan. We’ll save for that first then maybe we can actually start applying for loans next year. Then, we can actually hunt for houses.

Until then, we’ll just have to make do with dreaming about our dream home.

Published in: on March 23, 2005 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Of banks and robbers

When we first moved here in Balaclava, I always have this image of balaclava wearing bandits hiding in the alleyways waiting to pounce on unsuspecting victims. However, as time went by, I realised that maybe I was just being silly and that the name was just an unfortunate coincidence.

Well, not today. In the news today is the balaclava clad bank robber who held up a bank just a few blocks away from our apartment. He entered the bank brandishing a gun at 9:45 this morning and took a large amount of money. Unbeknownst to him, the teller has hidden an ink bomb with the cash and it exploded when he was making his escape near Inkerman Street, of all places. Police are now hoping to catch him “red-handed” as the ink would have stained the cash, his clothes and skin.

Now if that is not coincidence, I don’t know what is.

Published in: on March 21, 2005 at 7:11 pm  Leave a Comment