Dead man to father a baby?

A Melbourne woman who lost her husband to cancer wants to be allowed to carry the embryos she and her dead husband conceived. The couple had been undergoing IVF treatments even before the husband passed away, so clearly, he consents to the idea of fathering a child. However, based on Victorian legislation, the use of sperm for assisted reproduction from a dead man is prohibited.

Other people argue that allowing the wife to use the dead man’s sperm violates the rights of the husband and of the future child, puts unnecessary pressure on Medicare since it pays for half the cost of each treatment (shouldering up to $5000 per $7000-$8000 treatment cycle) and raises a host of other ethical issues. On the other hand, you can’t help but feel for the woman who has suffered enough already. Should she just chalk it up to misfortune that they weren’t able to conceive before her husband passed away and move on with her life?

Before the advent of frozen embryos, this would be a non-issue because it won’t even be possible. The present technology has given many childless couples their own bundles of joy, miracles of technology really. But are we playing God? Where do we draw the line?

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Published in: on April 29, 2005 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

How I avoided taking the IELTS exam

A reader recently sent in a question regarding the necessity of taking the International English Language Testing System(IELTS) exam in connection to her family’s plan of migrating to Australia. Referring to the information on skilled migration from Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs website, it states that

Language assessment
The visa applicant may need to sit an IELTS test to demonstrate the English language ability of you/your spouse.

Note the words used, may need, meaning it may not be necessary in some cases. How would an applicant know if they need to take this exam before lodging their application?

In my case, I wanted to avoid the extra time, cost and effort that sitting an exam would require so I gathered all my other documents in an envelope and trudged to the Australian embassy in Makati. My intention was to prove that although I may not have an excellent grasp of the language, I am at least conversant in it. I mean, come on, every Filipino who has at least passed high school would have a passable grasp of the language. Well, turned out the lady behind the information desk wasn’t even interested in my other documentation nor is she inclined to have me prove to her that I don’t need to take the exam. In response to the question of how I could avoid taking the IELTS exam, she told me to get a letter from my university stating that the main language of instruction while I was studying there was English. I remember I was really incredulous so I asked again, I only need to produce this piece of paper from my school and I don’t have to sit this exam anymore? She looked at me like I’m some weird creature from outer space and said yes. Ok, end of discussion.

Still dubious that I could get this sort of certification from my university, I went there the following weekend and braced myself for more odd looks after asking for the letter from the registrar. Imagine my surprise when she calmly asked me how many copies I want, asked me to pay the cashier and told me to come back after a week. A week later and I went back to the registrar for my letter. Well, what do you know, I received an official looking letter with the university’s letterhead and seal, stating that English is indeed being used within the university as the main language of instruction.

When tht time came for me lodge my application, I included this letter to my other papers, thinking that I could always take the IELTS exam later if they so wish. True, going through this route may have delayed the processing of my application but I guess I thought it was a reasonable risk. Besides, the lady in the information desk assured me I won’t have any problems once I have this letter.

So, that’s the story of how I avoided taking the IELTS exam, the immigration department never asked me to take the exam. A word of caution though, if you plan on going through this same route, better check with the local Australian embassy if they still allow this. Remember that my experience was from 4 years ago and the rules may have already changed.

Published in: on April 28, 2005 at 12:33 am  Comments (4)  

To Speak Tagalog or English in Public?

We went to the post office this afternoon to submit some government forms. There were like five open counters and a single long queue of people that follow the first come, first served rule. That is, when a counter (whichever one) becomes available, the next one in the queue gets served in that counter. Anyway, that wasn’t really the important bit.

Raquel and I got a counter served by a caucasian lady. The counter beside her wasn’t “open for business,” so to speak, but was manned by a lady whom we both thought looked Filipino (or as we say back home, Filipina). We started to talk to the caucasian lady at the counter about our forms when the adjacent lady whispered to me, “Pilipino kayo? (Are you Filipinos?)” I responded that we were indeed Filipinos, in English.

This was when the dilemma started for me.

We were supposed to be talking to the caucasian lady at the counter in English but the Filipino lady was talking to us in Tagalog. So, do I reply to the Filipino lady in Tagalog or in English? If I conversed with her in English, the Filipino lady might think that we are so full of ourselves. However, if we talked to her in Tagalog, the caucasian lady might think that we are rude.

I mean, back in the Philippines, I dislike it when I have Chinese-Filipino acquaintances who suddenly talk in Fukien to each other even though they can speak perfect Tagalog and even though I was right there! I thought that was pretty rude of them since they know I don’t speak Fukien.

I do not want to be that which I dislike so I decided to talk to the Filipino lady in English even though she was talking to me in Tagalog. Well, most of the time, at least. I sneak in some Tagalog words here and there just so she wouldn’t think I’m *too* full of myself.

Anyway, I gave her my number. In Melbourne where we don’t know a lot of Filipinos yet, it’s always good to meet new Filipinos here.

Published in: on April 28, 2005 at 12:21 am  Comments (1)  

The Arts Centre

Last Sunday, Raquel and I went to The Arts Centre in the Melbourne CBD to look at the free exhibit featuring Melbourne’s own, Kylie Minogue or currently known simply as Kylie. To be precise, the exhibition featured Kylie’s wardrobe as seen on her videos and concerts.

Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed in the actual exhibit so we were only able to take photos of The Arts Centre’s surroundings. So, if you go to Raquel’s Photoblog, you’ll see more pics taken around The Arts Centre than what’s actually inside.

Anyway, in the Kylie exhibit, there were several costumes worn by Kylie, as I’ve mentioned. The clothes were fitted over mannequins that were supposed to be in the exact same proportions as the real Kylie. And that’s when we noticed how petite she actually was. It seemed like Raquel was taller, in fact. However, Kylie seemed to posses the proportions of a taller woman despite her shortness. It was like you have this taller woman shrunk proportionally down to her size.

After looking at the exhibit, we continued to the Arts Centre Sunday market along Southbank. I’m not sure if it’s actually called that though so don’t quote me on that one. In the market, they sold anything and everything — mostly inexpensive novelty gift items. So, if you wanted something cute and uncommon to give somebody (as birthday prezzies or pasalubong), you can drop by on a Sunday and buy it there.

Published in: on April 27, 2005 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

USB – PSX Controller Adapter Returned

In my previous post, I mentioned that I bought a Super Dual Box USB-PSX Controller Adapter (a gadget that allows me to plug in a Playstation game controller to my PC through the USB port) from Harvey Norman. I also wrote that it worked and I loved it.

Unfortunately, when I tried using it again the next day, my PC can’t seem to recognise the direction buttons of the game controller. I tried fiddling around with the hardware driver settings for the adapter and I still got nowhere. Finally, I decided to plug the adaptor to another free USB slot and that seemed to have fixed it.

But, after rebooting, the controller stopped working again. Plugging it to another free USB slot fixed it again but that meant that I was going to eventually run out of free USB slots (plugging it to USB port slots that was previously used by the controller doesn’t work). There is nothing else to do but return the gadget to Harvey Norman. I guess it’s just as well since I’m now strongly considering just purchasing an actual Playstation 2 gaming console (it had gotten real cheap lately).

One of the reasons why I bought the device from Harvey Norman was because, in my experience, they offer a full refund for devices bought in their store if you can convince the person at the Computer Service desk that the only option available for you is to return the device.

So, yesterday, I went to the Harvey Norman store at Southland shopping centre a bit worried that I wouldn’t be able to get a refund for the gadget. I first went to the lady at the cashier and told her the problem and that I was hoping for a full refund. She redirected me to the person at the Computer Service desk (as I expected).

The guy at the Computer Service desk was fortunately a pleasant person. I explained to him my experience with the device in question. He asked me some questions like my PC’s operating system and he concluded that the gadget may not work consistently with my PC. He wrote on my receipt that he recommended a full refund and signed it. Thank goodness, I told myself. Specially since I’m no longer that keen on having this adapter anyway even if it did work properly on my machine. Also, I could use the refunded $50 to help pay the cost of the Playstation 2 I’m thinking of buying.

So, I went to the cashier lady and showed the signed receipt. The cashier asked me additional questions regarding the problem. I wasn’t sure if she was asking me these questions because she was genuinely curious about the problem or was she just making sure I didn’t just pulled one over the Computer Service person. Huh. Nevertheless, I got my $50 refund and that was that.

Published in: on April 26, 2005 at 12:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

StepMania – Dance Dance Revolution Simulator

In my recent post, I mentioned that I love playing Dance Dance Revolution and that I recorded onto VHS some of the DDR songs I played on Raquel’s Playstation One (PSOne) so that I no longer need to load up the PSOne everytime I wanted to play DDR.

The idea worked well… for a while.

There were problems with the idea. First, after playing the tape over again a few times, the song selection and song sequence got pretty old. It was starting to become monotonous. Second, even if I make a mistake in the footwork, it doesn’t really matter as the footwork performance was pre-recorded. Even though it was my own footwork that was recorded, it was pretty static. Even if I improve in actuality, I wouldn’t get any feedback from the game (as it was now only just a record of the game).

So, I searched the Internet about getting some PSone DDR games. I was also specifically looking for the DDR 3rd Mix version of the game as it was my favourite from playing it in the arcades in Makati. I missed my favourite songs from the game like Butterfly, Boom Boom Dollar, Captain Jack, and Wonderland.

Unfortunately, my search yielded nothing. Although I know the older DDR games existed for the PSone, those games were quite difficult to find. The next best things were DDR Max and DDR Max 2 both for the Playstation 2 (PS2). Since we didn’t own a PS2, that also meant we’d have to buy the console, too. The consolation though was that we already own the dance pads for PSone and those would be compatible with PS2.

I canvassed at Electronics Boutique (EB), Dick Smith Powerhouse (DSE) and Harvey Norman for PS2s. A new PS2 is around $240 while a pre-owned PS2 is at $150. A pre-owned PS2 would do the trick. The problem was that, there doesn’t seem to be any DDR games for the PS2 for sale in Australia. I would probably need to buy in online and have it imported from the US or something. Anyway, if I wanted to play DDR on PS2, it would take a long while before I could start doing so and the DDR game I really wanted wouldn’t be what I would get.

There must be another alternative, I thought. Well, another item that popped up while I was searching for DDR games on the Internet was a freeware software called StepMania. The home site for the software described it as follows:

StepMania is capable of playing many game types. Currently, it supports games similar to Dance Dance Revolution, Pump It Up, EZ 2 Dancer, and Para Para Paradise. In the future, it will support games similar to BeatMania, Guitar Freaks, DrumMania, and more.

The games played by StepMania are rhythm games. Notes scroll up from the bottom of the screen, and the player must hit the corresponding button on the controller in time to the. All games can be played using the keyboard, but the real fun comes when using specially designed controllers, like a dance pad or hand sensors.


StepMania’s opening screen.

Very intriguing, I thought. So, I downloaded the software and had it installed on my PC. To my pleasant surprise, when I started the software, the user-interface that greeted me had the same look-and-feel of a DDR game!

I wasn’t able to play it yet though as I didn’t have songs installed, it said. I went back to the website and looked around. Apparently, given the right files, it could actually work like DDR. Look at these screenshots:

I got some songs from the Internet and I was able to run them on StepMania as expected. It was simply great! It can even be set to auto-play mode so that it would play the whole song and supply the correct footwork steps automatically without my help. This meant that it would run just like how the songs I’ve recorded on VHS. I could still keep up with the necessary footwork but I wouldn’t get any feedback on whether I was committing mistakes or performing very well.


Super Dual Box USB-PSX Controller Adapter.

I later found out that there is such a thing as a USB-PS2 adapter. That is, I could connect a PSone/PS2 controller to this adapter and have it connected to my PC’s USB port and I could use the controller on my PC! I bought a Super Dual Box USB-PSX Controller Adapter for $50 at Harvey Norman today. I was very excited to know if it’ll actually work.

When I got home, I quickly connected my dance pad to the adapter. It worked all right but it wasn’t as easy as I’d hope. Apparently, I couldn’t get the left and right buttons pressed at the same time. So, whenever I used it to play StepMania, I’d get a “Miss” on footwork that required me to step on both the right and left buttons. It was so frustrating but I was later on able to fix the problem.

After that, I spent like two hours playing StepMania! I was dripping in sweat afterwards. I hadn’t perspired that much in a very very long time. I was tired but at the same time, I had lots of fun. It was just like when I was still in the Philippines and I’d spend like an hour in Glorietta in Makati playing DDR 3rd Mix in the Timezone arcade. Well, at least now I’ll get some exercise done but at the same time, it wouldn’t feel like a chore.

Update: I have to add that I fixed the problem of not being able to get the left and right buttons to work at the same time by downgrading back to version 3.0 of StepMania. Apparently, the old stable version can get around it but the release candidate versions (rc1 and rc2) couldn’t.

Published in: on April 23, 2005 at 10:50 pm  Comments (7)  

My $500 eyes

The world is full of light and everything looks shiny but it all looks strange through my newly minted spectacles. I went for an eye checkup last week because I noticed myself getting closer and closer to the monitor whenever I use the computer, certainly an indication that my eyesight’s getting worse. Last time I had my eyes checked was about three years ago, I’m definitely overdue.

Unlike in the Philippines where eye exams are not done for free by the optical shop, optometrists here charge for this service seperately. I could either opt for bulk billed eye examinations where I would not pay anything out of pocket or have it done by non-bulk billing optometrists and shell out some cash. I think the second option would involve a more comprehensive exam where they would check for glaucoma and test the pressure of your eyes aside from usual test for prescription glasses. Since this is the first time I’d be doing this here, I thought perhaps it may be a good idea to keep it simple. I went with the bulk billing way, promising myself that I’d go for the comprehensive exam next time.

Two Fridays ago, I booked an appointment with the optometrist at Merrington’s and looked at their small selection of frames but didn’t find any to my liking. I then went to the other optical shops in Chadstone in search for a good selection. I found OPSM‘s range to be adequate plus they are currently offering $100 off the price of their glasses so I resolved to have my glasses made there. Next day, I had my peepers peered into by the optometrist and tried several lenses in reading those miniscule letters in the board. After the exam, the optometrist asked me what I’d like to do as my glasses doesn’t fit my prescription anymore. I politely asked for the prescription so he wrote the script and I went straight to OPSM after that.

After selecting a pair of frames, I talked to a sales person and we talked about the features and costs for my lenses. The lenses for my specs are supposed to be impact resistant, non-reflective (invisibles) and have thinner profiles. None of those Coke-bottle lenses for me, thank you very much. I was tempted to go for the sun protection feature as well but thought that it was way too expensive and that I might as well just get another pair of prescription sunnies. Here’s the cost breakdown for my new pair of eyes:

Revlon frames ……………………………. $299.00
2 Polycarb S/V Active Asp SV N …………….. $209.00
Total without discount ……………………. $508.00
(Less discount) ………………………….. $100.00
(Less frames benefit paid by health insurance) . $ 70.00
(Less lenses benefit paid by health insurance) . $ 70.00
Total out of pocket expense ……………….. $268.00
Cost of seeing clearly ……………………. Priceless!

Optometrists recommend that eye exams be done every 2 years and I guess that I’d be doing this again in 2007. Maybe I should consider LASIK eye surgery as it would treat my near sightedness as well my astigmatism, if only I would stop being so chicken about it. Maybe in a few years.

Published in: on April 23, 2005 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Dance Dance Revolution Workout

When Raquel and I were still in the Philippines, before going home from work, we’d go to the Timezone video arcade at the Glorietta mall in Makati. I was addicted to the game called Dance Dance Revolution (3rd Mix).

Here is a short description of the game from DDR Freak for those not acquainted with it:

Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) conceptually is a very simple game. There is a platform with four arrows: up, down, left, and right.


DDR Platform

There are four stationary arrows at the top of the screen. There will be arrows that scroll up from the bottom of the screen.


DDR Screen

When the scrolling arrows overlap the stationary arrows, you then hit the corresponding arrow on the platform. And that’s it! You have now learned the basics of DDR.

Those video games are also available here in Australia but they weren’t as cheap so I almost never played it in a while anymore. That was until Raquel came over from the Philippines around three years ago and brought her Playstation (PSOne) with her along with some DDR games and the dance pad.

It wasn’t the same as playing on the actual arcade machine. The games she brought didn’t contain the songs I’ve grown to love while playing on the arcade machine version. The dance pad tends to slide across the floor while I’m using it unlike the arcade machine that has the dance pad essentially bolted to the floor. Nevertheless, it had satisfied my DDR cravings.

Since the dance pad kept on sliding on the floor, trying to get a good score on the game was a bit of a challange. Also, trying to stop it from sliding with my feet while dancing to a beat made my shins hurt. Eventually, I stopped playing the DDR PSX games because of that.

However, I did notice that playing DDR does provide me with daily aerobic exercise that I really needed. So that I would no longer be at the mercy of the sliding dance pad, I played the game one last time and I recorded on VHS the songs I liked.

So now, whenever I feel like DDR-style workout, I just play the video tape I have of the games I recorded and off I go. Although I can’t really improve on the score anymore (becuase it was pre-recorded, remember?) I still try a much as I could to get a perfect score by using the correct footwork.

The problem with that is that choosing songs from the VHS involved a lot of rewinding and fast-forwarding. So as a solution to that problem, I recorded each song on the video on my PC as an MPEG file and burned those files on a VCD. So now, I can use the DVD player to easily choose songs. Too bad the DVD doesn’t have a random chapter option though.

Published in: on April 21, 2005 at 5:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Fluvax

Had another one-on-one with the doctor today. After being prescribed a week’s worth of antibiotics which ended last Friday, I was quite annoyed to note that I still have coughing fits till now. Sure the runny nose and headache is gone but the cough has become irritating. When I got there, she asked about my symptoms, took my blood pressure, peered into my ear and mouth and listened to my back.

She said that the infection has actually cleared and what I’m experiencing is what she referred to as “lingering drip” (translated by Gj as tumatambay na tulo) in my sinuses. After prescribing a nasal spray, she looked like she’s ready to usher me out of the door. 10 minutes and she can’t wait to get me out of her office already. Trying to maximise my visit, I asked her about getting a flu shot as I heard from an office colleague that he had to ask his GP to order it beforehand prior to his visit. So I thought, hmmm… might as well as her to order the vaccine for me now so I could come back and have it done next time. Imagine my surprise then when she said that she’s got some in stock and that I could have it done now, I guess the shortages in the vaccine has already passed or she was able to secure her supply before the shortage was announced.

Either way, I said yes to the vaccine since I’d rather have the momentary discomfort of the needle than the misery a flu brings. The vaccine cost $25 and Medicare does not re-imburse for the cost. However, I figure it’s $25 well spent as I would surely lose more than that amount if I take days off work because of the flu. Having the shot also reminded me of the time when I was still working in a hospital, when our section would go together to be vaccinated for free. You even get free lollies after getting the shot, how’s that for incentive? I miss the lollies, the doc didn’t offer any.

Published in: on April 21, 2005 at 12:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pain in the Neck Part 2

A few days ago, I’ve complained that I had this awful pain in the neck. That pain was on my left shoulder and the left side of my neck.

Well, just as I thought the pain was almost gone for good, I woke up on Tuesday with a similar pain but on my right side! I thought about just staying home then but decided that I could probably endure it for the rest of the day. I also wanted to try the neck massage given at the Australia on Collins mall during the lunch break.

I had a difficult time concentrating on my work for the better part of the day. My posture at work wasn’t helping me at all. I got a little reprieve right after the $10 neck massage though. It was an amazing thing! It was my first enjoyable neck and shoulder massage.

Before going to bed, I applied Deep Heat on my shoulders and neck hoping that it would heal away the pain by morning. Unfortunately, when I woke up this morning, the pain was still persistent. I then decided to just stay home and rest the shoulder and neck and take some pain medication.

In the afternoon, I decided to go have another neck and shoulder massage but I didn’t want to go all the way to Australia on Collins just for that. So I went to a nearby Chinese massage service (like when I was in Canberra) to have a neck and shoulder massage (for $20!).

During the massage section, the pain was almost unbearable but I toughed it out. The pain I was receiving from the masseuse was numbing the pain I was feeling from my shoulder and neck. After the session, I was pleasantly surprised to feel improvement. That is, there was less pain now. Hopefully, the pain will have completely disappeared by tomorrow.

Published in: on April 21, 2005 at 12:41 am  Leave a Comment