Camera Crazy

Before we got our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P73 last December, I’ve had my eye on the Olympus C-765 for the longest time. It has everything I wanted in a digital camera and more. It’s compact, could record movies with sound and more importantly, has 10x optical zoom. What’s not to like? Well, the price. It was selling at around 700+ then and our budget only allows for a camera with a price tag of $500 or less. So we settled on the Sony DSC-P73 – it’s small, uses AA batteries, got good reviews and was selling within our price range, retailing at $397.

But did that stop my lustful looks at the Olympus camera everytime we go to an electronic shop? Heck, no. In fact, I even told Gabriel I’d like to buy it come June (when all the stores would be doing their stocktake/inventory sale). Don’t get me wrong, the Sony camera takes decent photos and I like the fact that it could fit into my jacket pocket and let me take photos everywhere I go. Still, it’s not a sin to pine away at the one that got away, is it?

Well, it took a trip to the Werribee Open Range Zoo for Gabriel to finally see the merit of having a camera with 10x optical zoom. Most of the photos we took had too much background and too little animals in them because they were simply too far away. He muttered, a camera with a better zoom definitely. Yay!

Several days after that trip, I did some research on the internet on the best cameras around with better zoom capabilities. I briefly considered getting digital SLRs but the price was too steep and I can’t imagine lugging all that equipment around everyday so I went back to looking for compact cameras with at least 10x zoom. The shortlist consisted of Canon’s Powershot S1 IS, Panasonic FZ5 and the C-765’s higher end cousin, Olympus c-770. The Canon one was quickly eliminated from that list since only a few stores stock it and is in the same price as the Olympus C-770. I flip-flopped between the Panasonic and Olympus ones because they both had wonderful reviews. Panasonic is a 5 MP camera with 12x zoom with image stabiliser selling at about $700 to $750
while Olympus is a 4 MP camera with 10x zoom with no image stabiliser retailing at $599 to $699. Price and feature-wise, I thought the Olympus is a better fit. I asked Gabriel which one he liked better, he looked at online sample photos and said that he liked the photos taken with the Olympus one better (I should have known, he has a long standing preference towards Olympus). “Parang mas maganda ang mundo pag Olympus ang gamit (The world looks better through an Olympus),” he claimed. He was talking from experience, with good consistent good photos taken from our Olympus film camera and my old Olympus C-960 Zoom camera.

So last week we started browsing at electronic and camera shops, hoping to find the best bargain for a new Olympus c-770. We first went to Myer, where it was priced at $699. Next, we went to Elizabeth Street’s Camera Action shop. The place was busy and Gabriel quickly approached a guy manning the counter and asked how much the Olympus C-770 is. The man glanced at the brochures I was clutching and asked, “What’s the best price you’ve been offered?” To which I answered, $699. Which isn’t exactly true as we haven’t negotiated a price with anyone yet, we just looked at the price tag and walked away prior to this. Anyway, the guy posed a question to us again, “When are you planning to buy?” Uh oh, we’ve been put on the spot now because we haven’t really discussed when we’d be buying exactly. We’re thinking of buying when we get a good deal, there was really no set date by which we absolutely had to buy.

So even I was surprised when I said, “Oh, early next week.” To which he answered, “Ok, I’ll could sell it to you for $579.” I hope we didn’t look too shocked, I mean the guy just dropped the price without us really trying to haggle for it. I asked if we could have a look at a demo unit and he obliged. He wasn’t like most salesmen who’d talk a mile a minute while you examine the product, he just asked, why not buy now? To which we both answered, we don’t have the money yet. Not really true since we plan on buying on credit anyway but that would give us time to think it over and perhaps get a better deal elsewhere. He gave us his card and we thanked him.

When we got out of the store, Gabriel and I were puzzling over why the price at the Camera Action guy just quoted was more than $100 less. We even thought he misheard the price I quoted or perhaps he thought we were after a lower-end model? But no, the demo unit I got my hands on was definitely a C-770 and we both heard him say $579. What’s up with that? It wasn’t until we visited the Ted’s camera store across the street that we understood. The Olympus C-770 is selling for $599 at Ted’s. I guess he realised we’d be going across the street after visiting their shop that he thought he’d just quote a lower price than that of the competition. That way, we might not even try to negotiate with Ted’s anymore and just go back to him. Hmmm… nice strategy!

We visited several shops during the weekend and the prices of the same model in other stores doesn’t even come near the price that Camera Action guy gave us. Almost all that is, except for Dick Smith. The store was advertising the same model for $599 but most shops here would try to beat a competitor’s price if you tell them the best offer you got so we approached a salesperson and asked her if she could give us a better deal. She said she would match the price and give us a discount on the price of the memory card as well if buy both the camera and the memory at their store.

We indicated our interest and approached the glass case where the memory cards were stored. There weren’t any 512 MB memory cards in the case and she went to the back of the store to check if they have any more in stock. When she came back, she told us the lowest they could sell the camera to us would be for $577 and she’d give us $10 off the price of the 256 MB memory card (they’re fresh out of 512 MBs). And there’s one more hitch, they’re also out of stock of C-770s, the only one left is the one on display. We approached the demo unit and inspected it. The lens was left open and there were dozens of fingerprints on it, it looks okay but I was a bit wary of manhandled goods. She was trying to convince us that the unit has never been turned on and that it’s almost as good as new. We said we’ll think it over and thanked her, she was quite gracious about it.

Yesterday, we went back to Camera Action, approached the guy we talked to last week and told him we’re ready to buy the camera from him. He seemed to remember us and gave us a $10 discount on the 512 MB memory card we bought with our new Olympus C-770. He also said that we would receive a V.I.P. card in the post from Camera Action in about 2 weeks and we’d could print 50 photos for free. I imagine it’s for ordinary sized ones but hey, it’s free! Ain’t that a good deal?

Making the purchase made us think about what to do with the Sony digicam now, we certainly don’t want to hold on to it like we did with Gabriel’s first digital camera (
Kodak DC3200) or my first digital camera (Olympus C-960 Zoom) so we’re selling it off. Hope we find a new home for it soon and still get a good price for it. In the meantime, I think I’ll have a bit of fun fiddling with our shiny C-770 and plan where we could go to test it on the weekend.

Published in: on May 31, 2005 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Sausage Lady

Yesterday, Raquel and I went to Megamart (a supposedly low-price electronics and furniture only line of Myer shops) at Chadstone to browse at digital cameras. We just wanted to know how much an Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom camera at the shop. Yes, we’re about to replace our relatively new Sony Cyber-Shot DSC-P73 mainly because we wanted a digital camera with higher optical zoom capabilities (C-770 had 10x while DSC-P73 has 3x).

While there, we also looked at current TV models. We’re thinking of getting another one with a bigger screen size (68cm or bigger). We’ll probably end up buying some cheap 68cm Sanyo or Philips TV instead of those very expensive digital HD LCD TVs that are priced at a minimum of $1999. Anyway, we were just browsing with no real intention of buying a new TV.

I also looked around for a USB Headset so that I can voice chat with people playing online on the Playstation 2. The PS2 doesn’t seem to support text-chat with a keyboard during an actual game session so the only way to communicate with teammates in team-based online games is with a headset (unlike in PC games like Counter-strike). I was also looking around for USB keyboards and mice hoping that I could connect those to my PS2 and make first-person shooting games easier to play. It’s very difficult to play FPS games with the controller, let me tell you.

Anyway, by the time we were finished with all the in-store browsing, I was feeling a bit hungry. The smell of barbecued sausages wafting through the shop’s exit only made me think more of buying something to eat than getting something electronic.

So when Raquel and I got out of the shop, I stopped by the sausage stand (also called a “sausage sizzle”) right by the shop entrance. Although I can already see thin sausages, “jumbo” hotdog sausages and sliced onions cooking on the grill, I was curious to know what exactly was for sale and for how much so I stood there to read the “menu” on the banner.

The jumbo hotdog was $5 while the sausage was for $3 on roll and $2.50 on bread. Condiments and onions were free of charge. I wasn’t finished reading the “menu” when the sausage lady asked me what I wanted.

I wasn’t ready to order but she was rushing me somewhat. The way she asked me what I wanted, it had the tone of “are you ordering or not?” But wait a minute. $3 on roll and $2.50 on bread? Erm, what was the difference? Isn’t a roll also bread? I saw hotdog buns on a plastic container on their table but I wasn’t sure if that was the roll or the bread.

So, I asked her, “what is the roll and what is the bread?”

“Yes,” she replied. “That’s $3.”

What? That didn’t make sense so I asked her again. “What bread is that?” I asked while pointing at the hotdog buns.

“Those are rolls,” she said. “This is bread,” she added in a irritated tone of voice while holding up a slice of loaf of bread. She certainly was in a sour mood. It’s not my fault I didn’t grew up in Australia. Maybe it was obvious to Aussies that the bun was the roll and not bread but it wasn’t obvious to me. Although I was thinking that maybe the bun was the roll before hand but I was still curious what the “bread” was if the bun was the roll.

Anyway, she was still rushing me so I just decided on the $5 jumbo hotdog-like sausage which wasn’t really like the hotdogs I grew up on but tasted close enough. I also asked that onions be added. There was also a container with shredded cheese on the table so I asked her, “is the cheese going to cost extra?”

“Yes,” she replied curtly. “It says so right on the board, mate.”

I would’ve found that out for myself if she wasn’t rushing me and hadn’t interrupted me from reading the said board! If she didn’t like selling sausages, she shouldn’t be selling sausages!

Anyway, there was a table nearby with three condiments: tomato sauce (a.k.a. ketchup), mustard and barbecue sauce. I added tomato sauce first but discovered that the barbecue sauce actually goes better with these sausages. The sausage actually tasted great which sort of balanced out the negative experience I had with the sausage lady.

Even though I didn’t enjoy my interaction with the sausage lady, I’d probably buy sausage rolls again from a sausage sizzle stand in the future. I just wouldn’t buy from her again.

Published in: on May 30, 2005 at 5:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

Esprit Privilege Card Disappointment

Here in Australia (and most likely in New Zealand), the Esprit clothing shops have this promotional discount card called the Esprit Privilege Card which would give a qualified card member discounts and other benefits.

Here are the benefits as listed on the Esprit website:

  • 15% off all full price merchandise at Esprit stores in Australia, New Zealand and selected stores in Asia *
  • 15% off all full price merchandise at selected Red Earth stores in Australia and New Zealand
  • advance notice of sale events
  • exclusive offers, bonuses and competitions
  • Sounds great, right? Well, before you become a card member, you’d first have to spend an accumulated total of $300 in their stores within a three month period.

    Three hundred dollars may not be a lot of money to spend on clothes for some people but for Raquel and me who aren’t really much into brand-name clothes, it had been difficult. It was difficult in part because everything was much more expensive than when you purchase something real similar in Target or Kmart. Granted that the quality of the products you would buy in Esprit may be better than those in Kmart but I’m sure that it isn’t that much better.

    The other difficulty was that we were having a hard time picking stuff we actually liked. The stuff they’re selling weren’t cheap so we really have to like what we’re buying. In the past, I’ve bought two shirts from them and I hardly wear them. Sure, I buy shirts from Kmart that I also hardly wear but at the Kmart shirts didn’t cost me as much as the Esprit shirts.

    Last week, we had purchased a total of about $248 in a span of almost three months (short of one week). We needed to buy something worth $52 before the week ended last week or we would miss the opportunity to qualify for the privilege card. So, we’ve visited Esprit shops in the city, DFO, Chadstone and Southland trying to buy something — anything — worth $52 just so we could meet the $300 purchase requirement.

    Last Friday, Raquel was finally able to buy a decent $55 black shirt from Esprit in Chadstone. Finally, we were qualified to get this coveted Esprit Privilege Card. She filled out the membership form and passed it on to the cashier. The cashier started writing at the bottom of the form to complete it.

    This was the disappointing part: the cashier wrote the expiry date on the form. I was not really paying attention at the time but I noticed that in the year part of the expiry date, he wrote “05” in the blank. Excuse me? As in, year 2005? The so-called Esprit Privilege Card only lasts for less than a year?

    Not only was it less than a year but it was actually only effective for three months! We would only be able to benefit from this card for three short months after we spent three difficult months accumulating $300? To top it off, the cashier told us to expect the actual card within two months’ time. So worst case scenario, we only get to hold on to the actual card for one month before it expires? I thought such a membership privilege card would last a year at the very least. Unbelievable.

    In the meantime, we have this temporary cardboard cutout for a card that we can show Esprit shops that we are actual card members. We must now buy often in Esprit just to get the full benefit of the discount card. I don’t think so! I will only buy something from Esprit if something catches my eye, regardless of a discount card. After this one expires, I don’t think Raquel and I will actively try to get another one from them. I think we’ll just rather wait for seasonal promotional shop discounts instead.

    Three months duration. They should put that on their website.

    Update (27/06/05): Read this update on the Esprit privilege card.

    Published in: on May 30, 2005 at 7:00 am  Comments (2)  

    Remembering the nameless others

    These past few weeks have been filled with news articles, television features and radio airwaves featuring 3 women who were and still are in very difficult circumstances.

    The first one was Vivian Alvarez Solon, the Filipino Australian mother who has been wrongly deported to the Philippines in 2001. The mistake was realised in 2003 but it took an email sent by Vivian’s ex-husband to Immigration Minister Amanda Vanstone on April 4 to start the publicity that paved the way for her discovery, read my previous entry here. A Senate hearing is now underway to determine what exactly happened.

    Tuesday last week, news about Kylie Minogue’s breast cancer diagnosis hogged the headlines. Her much anticipated sold-out Showgirl concert tour was postponed. Understandably though, nobody complained. Instead, well-wishers converged on her website, which crashed after too much traffic. Much space and airtime was also devoted to breast cancer information, detection and statistics – suddenly people can’t get enough information about breast cancer. Amid paparazzi concerns, engagement and baby rumours, she had the cancer removed and is currently recovering.

    The media coverage for accused drug smuggler Schapelle Corby culminated today with her conviction in an Indonesian court. She is a 27-year old beauty student from Queensland who was arrested for possession of narcotics at the Bali airport late last year. Schapelle always maintained her innocence, stating that she didn’t know how a 4.1 kg bag of marijuana ended up in her boogie board bag. A remand prisoner’s testimony, allegations of airport baggage handlers involvement and a letter from the government helped little as Indonesian judges handed down the guilty verdict. Shock and anger greeted the verdict both in Australian and Indonesian shores (if the interview of the Indonesian prosecution team on TV is anything to go by) amid talks of an appeal and even a possible prisoner exchange deal.

    These cases are wildly different yet similar. Vivian’s case is about citizenship, Kylie’s is about health while Schapelle’s ordeal is about drugs and law. Situations don’t sell newspapers, it’s the personalities involved in those situations that do. Which is why the media has given the public a face to attach the issues to and with it the sobering message – it could be you. Yes indeed, it could have been anyone of us and that causes us to empathise with these women and what they’re going through. On the other hand, we should keep in mind that these brave ladies are not the only ones facing these problems, there are countless faceless, nameless others out there who share a similar (or worse) fate. Remember them too.

    Published in: on May 27, 2005 at 10:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Busy Past Few Days

    I’ve been busy for the past few days and hence the reason for the lack of blog posts from me this week so far. I recently bought a first-person shooter (FPS) game (like Half-Life 2 and Unreal Tournament) called Killzone for my PlayStation 2 and I’ve been spending the past few nights getting used to playing FPS using the PS2 controller. It’s definitely more difficult to target an enemy using the controller on PS2 than using a more familiar keyboard and mouse on the PC. I’m slowly becoming more proficient with it. And when I wasn’t playing Killzone, I was watching TV and DVDs with Raquel.

    There wasn’t really much of anything to write about these past few days anyway except for last Sunday when Raquel and I and a bunch of other Filipinos in Melbourne decided to go on a trip to the Werribee Open-Range Zoo west of Melbourne which would be followed by lunch/dinner at Milkshake’s house in Werribee.

    The people who confirmed that they will be coming along for the trip were Milkshake, SilentSentinel, Chinita, Chinita’s cousin J, Irar01, Raquel and myself. RChristian wasn’t able to go because he had a final exam the day before and probably needed a rest. SS’s friend S wasn’t able to go because he had work that day. Irar01 nearly didn’t commit to coming along for the trip but decided to go in the 11th hour to get out of a trip with her relatives.

    It was agreed that we first meet at the Werribe train station at 10.30 am. From there, we’ll be taking our car and Milkshake’s car to the Werribee zoo. Since SS lives in South Yarra, Raquel and I picked him up on the way to Werribee from St Kilda. We were able to get to Werribee before the designated 10.30 am meeting time. Milkshake was already there to welcome us to his hometown.

    If I recall correctly, Chinita and J arrived at the station at around 10:45 am by train. It couldn’t be helped though as there were only train services every 30 minutes on Sundays. Miss the one you want to take and you’ll have to wait half-an-hour for the next one (if that one doesn’t come late or get cancelled). Unfortunately, Irar01 missed the bus that will take her to the Footscray train station and then missed the train when she did get to the Footscray station. She was the last one to get there at around 11:30.

    It wasn’t a big deal though because she kept us informed of what was happening so we knew that she was still coming. That also allowed us some time to walk around the Werribee shops while waiting for her. And that led to some impromptu shopping by the girls at a Rivers Clearance Super Store. I was tempted to buy these really cool cheap pair of shoes but unfortunately, they didn’t have a pair my size. Ah, well. Maybe next time.

    When Irar01 reached Werribee, we divided the group into two. Irar01 and Chinita rode in Milkshake’s car while SS and J rode in our car. Milkshake, being from Werribee, led the way to the zoo with me following behind him closely. It wasn’t really far from the station as we got there a few minutes later.

    We got at the Werribee Open Range Zoo just in time for a Safari Tour. The tour took us around the zoo’s open-range areas that represented grasslands from different parts of the world such as Africa, America, Mongolia and, of course, Australia in a “Safari Bus.” Each area featured animals that live in the habitat that the area represented.

    The bus tour also included a guide that pointed out all the animals to us along the way. She also mentioned additional information about each animal we saw and even passed on to us some artifacts like the hair of a camel or a broken-off horn of an eland for example. It was a very informative and educational 50-minute ride around the zoo’s open plains.

    However, food and drinks were prohibited during the actual tour so even though I was already very hungry (it was already past 1:00 pm then), I couldn’t even take a bite of something to eat. Also, whenever the bus sped off, it would kick up a lot of dust and fine dirt into the air which made it difficult for me to breathe. By the time the tour ended, I had a splitting headache and an overwhelming urge to have lunch.

    Milkshake told us not to eat anything for he had something special waiting back in his house. Just to satisfy my hunger, I bought something light to eat at the Meerkat Bistro in the zoo. Actually, I ordered fish and chips so it really couldn’t be considered light but Raquel shared the dish with me so that meant I only ate half-an-order of fish and chips. SS also bought fish and chips and ate with us. The others who didn’t eat got their cameras out and took lots of photos of the cute meerkats that’s just beside the Meerkat Bistro.

    Afterwards, we took Pula Reserve Walking Trail walk around the zoo which, according to the zoo map, takes 40-minutes. It was still worth taking the walk even though we already took the Safari bus tour earlier. We saw some lions up close from behind a glass wall. There were also some interesting structures there, like an African village, to enhance the feeling of being in a safari.

    The last stop-off point for us was the souvenir shop called the Safari Shop. We browsed around for some time in there but ended up not buying much. I think the girls may have bought some postcards but that was it.

    Next, Milkshake led our two-car caravan to the Victoria State Rose Garden. Too bad it is autumn now in Australia and so the roses weren’t all in full bloom when we visited. Still, there were some roses worth taking photos of so we stuck around.

    After some group pics were taken, we all left for Milkshake’s home in Werribee where we were treated to some traditional karaoke sing-along. However, everybody was still shy with each other so we ended up not singing at all. The ackwardness was at least broken when Milkshake told us that it was time to eat the prepared meal.

    And whoa was it a meal! It was a feast! There were lechong manok (roasted chicken), caldereta (beef stew), pancit (dry noodles), lumpia (vegetable spring rolls), melon and watermelon pieces, and pasta salad. It was like food served at a fiesta back in the Philippines! I had to thank Milkshake’s Mom for the wonderful feast!

    For a moment, it really felt like we were back home in the Philippines again in the company of Pinoy friends. Milkshake’s house with the way it was decorated also reminded me of a typical Pinoy home and it added to illusion of being back home.

    After the marvelous early dinner, everybody was so full from the meal that nobody had the energy to sing. We just ended up talking to each other planning for the next trip. Nothing concrete was agreed upon but we’re all pretty sure we could agree on something in the future.

    We went home early because we figured we needed the rest for the next day is a work day. Milkshake drove Irar01, Chinita and J as far as Footscray while Raquel and I dropped SS in South Yarra.

    When we got home, my headache worsened and I became very sick. Nothing a short nap didin’t cure though. So, even though there was that bad end to the day, I’d say the day as a whole had been a great experience!

    Published in: on May 26, 2005 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Falling off the face of the earth

    If you’ve noticed that I haven’t blogged anything substantial for a couple of weeks now, I’d just like to say that, nope, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Yet. I’m too busy with work that I haven’t had any spare time to blog. I’d rant and rave about schedules and priorities but I don’t want to be dooced. So let’s not go there.

    I’m also seriously considering studying for the Microsoft certification. In fact, I’ve started Chapter 1 of the training guide I’ve bought last week. Sadly though, I had to switch reading materials when I had to quickly learn about a certain technology I need to use for work. Why, oh why, did I ever get myself into computer science? Being in this industry means studying the technologies Microsoft and the likes of them kept churning out at seemingly break-neck speed. Perhaps I could have been better off as an accountant instead. But that’s another story.

    Some may argue that certification is not worth the money and effort, employers look for solid hands-on experience over certification anytime. True, some employers even look at certifications suspiciously because they think that only those who lack experience would go through the certification process.

    But that’s beside the point, I’m not currently looking for another job anyway. I want to get the certification to force myself to study the new technology. Without that as an end goal, I’ll just be too lazy to read up on it that I’ll never do it at all. As my previous boss said, a worker is only as good as his mastery of his tools. I certainly want to learn as much about the tools I’ll be using if not be a master of it.

    Earning my previous MCSD certification was also a positive experience for me since it made me aware of what’s possible or not for the tool I’m using, enabled me to understand why something behaves a certain way, be able to get around a limitation if I need to plus being able to speak to my peers with confidence. Which is why I’m keen on renewing my certifications now, I feel like I’m getting left behind. Time to catch up and devote some serious time to it. If only it could be a little less painful!

    Published in: on May 24, 2005 at 11:03 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Don’t Get Stuck in a Timewarp

    When I was young, my Dad, who worked abroad in Saudi and Brunei, would invite me, my Mom and my brother to fly over to where he was to spend our summer vacations there with him. On these stays abroad, we’d got to know my Dad’s Pinoy buddies and workmates there.

    One thing I noticed about these Pinoys who stayed long periods of time abroad was that when it came to Pinoy entertainment, they stuck to what they were familiar with when they left home. So even if there were newer Pinoy songs, for example, they’d still be playing their cassette tapes (CDs still weren’t that popular back in the 80’s) of albums they’ve originally bought or owned before they left. Even after returning several times to the Philippines for vacations, they’d still stick to what they knew back when they first left. They were also only familiar with the movie/tv stars they knew when they left home.

    I thought it was funny back then, but not so much now. I found that I’m now in the same predicament as those Pinoy overseas workers I knew when I was young. The only Pinoy bands I know are Eraserheads, Rivermaya and Parokya ni Edgar. I heard that there are new ones but I don’t know them or their songs.

    I’m only also aware of the Pinoy pop culture from when I left the Philippines back in late 2000 from familiar catch phrases (taken from movies, TV and commercials) to showbiz rumors. I believe there are now new popular catch phrases taken from shows or commercials I’ve never even seen or heard of. When my Mom talks about the new in-thing back home over the phone, I couldn’t relate.

    That’s just how it is living abroad, I guess.

    However, there were things I could’ve done to be more up to speed with what’s going on back home from here in Melbourne. Let me list them below.

    Listing to streaming radio

    To keep up with what’s hot in terms of music back home, nothing beats listening to FM radio being broadcast direct from the Philippines. Unfortunately, Australia is too far away to pick up the FM transmissions from Manila. However, there is what’s called streaming audio on the Internet. I don’t want to go into technical details about how it works but it should be enough to say that it will allow you to listen to radio broadcasts from back home provided the radio station you want to tune in to has made available a streaming audio service.

    Go to Ex-Desingz for a list of AM and FM Filipino radio stations that provides streaming audio on the Internet. Here is a list of the stations I tune in to whenever I’m in the mood for some Filipino radio: DZBB, DZRH and Monster Radio RX 93.1.

    Read online newspapers

    Although news from home sometimes get airtime here in Australia, it is usually only the real terrible ones that get shown. When you see the news here, you get very frightened of the situation at home. But when you call up your relatives about the same news, they just shrug it off and said it wasn’t really that big a deal.

    So, to get a better idea of what’s really going on back home, I just read one of the many Filipino newspapers available online. I especially like to read the Opinion section which gives me a quick idea of what news really matter back home. Because if it didn’t matter much, then why devote an Opinion article about it?

    The two Filipino newspapers I tend to read online are The Philippine Daily Inquirer aka INQ.Net and The Philippine Star aka There are several more Philippine online publications you can read instead and you can see a list of them at Yehey’s Newspaper Directory.

    Watch Filipino TV News

    In Australia, there is a day-late Filipino News program is shown on the SBS Channel at 6:50 AM everyday except Sunday and Monday. I haven’t watched it for a while so I’m not sure what the actual news program was called but I can tell you that it was in Tagalog and seemed to have been made in the Philipipnes.

    If you think that getting up at 6:50 AM to watch Filipino news is too much of a burden, you can just do what I do and watch the GMA News program 24 Oras hosted by Mel Tiangco and “Kapuso” Mike Enriquez on the Internet by going to INQ7’s Video Archives. Sometimes, you’ll also get the opportunity to watch S-Files and Unang Hirit from there, too.

    Also on the Internet is ABS-CBN Now! where you can subscribe for US$4.95 a month to watch their shows. Here is a description of their service as provided by their website’s FAQ:

    ABS-CBNnow! is a video and audio streaming service on the Web that provides Filipinos worldwide with access to the best news and entertainment content from ABS-CBN, the Philippines’ largest media network. abs-cbn now! provides the following:

    On Demand: You get unlimited access to the best news and entertainment programs of ABS-CBN such as TV Patrol, The Buzz, ASAP Mania, Maalaala Mo Kaya, and MTB. You can also choose from our wide selection of Star Cinema blockbusters and UAAP games.

    Live Broadcast: You can watch live broadcasts of the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) and listen live to the Philippines’ leading AM (DZMM 630kh) and FM (WRR 101.9) radio stations.

    ABS-CBNnow! News and Entertainment. Online. Whenever you want.

    In Melbourne, there’s also Channel C31 where there is a 30-minute segment called Pinoy TV shown at 3:00 PM on Mondays and 6:00 PM on Sundays. There is a news segment in there, too, anchored by somebody who looks Filipino but the accent seems to be Australian that’s Americanized — if you can imagine that.

    Another way to watch shows from home is to get cable with The Filipino Channel in there. Unfortunately, even after my research, I couldn’t find a cable network that offers any Filipino channel. I’ve seen options though where you can contact ABS-CBN and have a dish installed in your backyard to get the shows directly. It was discussed in the forum a while back.

    Read Pinoy Blogs

    Blogs are so popular lately and I’m sure you’ve heard about it by now. And in case you are not aware of it, what you’re reading now is actually a blog, too. Anyway, there are a lot of Pinoy bloggers out there who discuss about the Philippines, Filipinos and anything related to us. To get you started, you can go to The Philippines According to Blogs and read through the latest post summaries of numerous Filipino blogs out there then bookmark the blogs you like.

    That’s all I have. Hopefully, you now no longer need to rely on a loved one’s phone call from the Philippines to be up-to-date with what’s hot and what’s not back home.

    WARNING: Using audio streaming or watching video from the Internet causes you to download a steady stream of bytes per second. So if you are watching a 60-minute video feed that is transmitting at 100kb per second, you will have downloaded a total of 360Mb after watching the video feed! So, do not do this in your office specially if they have download restrictions in place as you may get into a world of trouble. Instead, get a fast broadband connection with at least an allowed 10 Gb download limit per month and just do this at home.

    Published in: on May 21, 2005 at 11:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Park hopping

    The weather’s getting cooler here, proof that autumn is really here. I’ve often seen great photos featuring trees and fallen leaves taken during autumn so I thought that it would be a great opportunity to take some photos of my own. We went to Flagstaff Gardens last week, thinking that surely the park’s trees would be shedding their leaves by now. Boy, was I wrong. There were no fallen leaves in sight and there is only lushness and green everywhere. You’d be forgiven if you think that this photo was taken at the height of summer.

    Today we went to an area near the city called King’s Domain. There were 3 parks in the area – King’s Domain Gardens, Queen Victoria Gardens and Alexandra Gardens. This time we were successful. Leaves are falling everywhere and we snapped away. Numerous sculptures dot the park and there were people walking, jogging and biking everywhere, there was even a lady doing yoga on a mat of leaves. It was very tranquil and all the stresses of the day simply falls away.

    Anyway, it’s good to go park hopping this time instead of being mallrats as we’re wont to be. No worries though, there’s still a lot of parks and gardens around Melbourne to discover and explore.

    Published in: on May 18, 2005 at 10:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Killing Me Softly With Your Smoke

    One of my biggest pet peeve is smoke. Cigarette or cigar smoke to be exact. I hate it with a passion. Although I do not actually hate smokers personally, I’m absolutely revolted by the smell of cigarette smoke they blow my way. I just can’t stand it at all. The smell of it makes it very difficult for me to breathe and staying in an area filled with smoke also makes my eyes irritated and heavy.

    Other than my personal dislike for the smell of smoke, I’m also very worried of the health risks involved. I’m not a smoker but thanks to the secondhand smoke I unavoidably inhale everyday while in the Melbourne CBD, I’m still at risk of contracting the various diseases associated with cigarette smoking.

    Here is a list of health risks involved with cigarette smoking:

    • Cardiovascular diseases like coronary thrombosis and cerebral thrombosis. Apparently, this is the main cause of death due to smoking.
    • Kidney failure.
    • Gangrene (that could lead to amputation of limbs).
    • Cancer like lung cancer, bladder cancer, cancer of the esophagus, cancer of the kidneys, cancer of the pancreas and, for females, cervical cancer.
    • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). This include emphysema and chronic bronchitis.
    • High blood pressure.
    • Fertility problems.
    • Aggravates asthma for those with asthma.

    Now, I certainly don’t mind people smoking as long as I’m not in close proximity to them. However, there are times that I cannot avoid being beside or behind a smoker, specially in the city. If I need to walk from Swanston St to Elizabeth St along Flinders Lane, for example, and there’s a smoker walking in the same direction in front of me, I’m inhaling this person’s secondhand smoke! In order to avoid this situation, I’d have to walk faster than the smoker and try to overtake him. Unfortunately, more often than not, there’s another smoker walking in front of me again after overtaking the first one. Then, there are also those smokers who are walking in the other direction — towards me — that I try my absolute best to avoid.

    And if there is no smoker walking away from me or towards me, chances are, there are groups of people smoking right in front of buildings along the streets. I’m just getting tired of having to hold my breath for prolonged periods of time to avoid inhaling secondhand smoke. I really wish that there’s some sort of ban or restriction on smoking in public areas such as city sidewalks.

    Raquel and I are also subjected to secondhand smoke even at home. Our neighbor loves to smoke and he often does so outside his door which is, unfortunately for us, beside our door. So whenever he smokes outside, his cigarette smoke would seep into our living room! Why couldn’t he just smoke inside his own apartment. There ought to be a law.

    I’ve heard a smoker said that they have the right to smoke. Fair enough. If you want to kill yourself, be my guest. But, mate, leave us non-smokers out of it. We have the right to live! Whenever I breathe in your smoke, you make me sick — figuratively and literally. If you want to smoke, do it in your own house or in an area where you won’t be subjecting others to your disease-causing habit. Please.

    Published in: on May 18, 2005 at 10:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

    Weekend with Friends

    Last Friday, Raquel and I met again with other Filipinos in Melbourne from the message board. We’ve met with two of them the Friday before last and one of them from the first eyeball back in October 2004. After a while of no personal contact with other Pinoys, it sure had me craving for some social interaction.

    I’m not sure if the people I’ve met would want to have their real names mentioned in this blog so I’ll just use their pseudonyms in the message board to protect their true identities for the time being.

    So, the arrangement was we’d meet at around 6:30 pm in front of Myer along Bourke St. However, we didn’t really discuss where in the front of Myer we’re supposed to meet (there were like three main entrances along Bourke St). Fortunately, some of us had exchanged mobile phone numbers so we were able to send text messages to one another in case of emergencies. Those that confirmed to be at that Friday meeting were Chinita, Irar01, SilentSentinel (or SS), Milkshake, Raquel and myself.

    The first I met was Chinita who had come a long way just to meet with the rest of us in the CBD. She had brought her cousin J (not her real name) with her. More, the merrier. Next came Milkshake who came all the way from Werribee. Next along was SS.

    Since there were already a few of us then, I figured it would be easier for the others to find out where we were. All they had to do was look for a group of Asian looking people chatting in Tagalog. However, Irar01 needed just a bit of help locating us. But, like I mentioned earlier, we had mobile phones handy in case of such events. She was able to find us quickly afterwards. Next came RChristian whom we totally didn’t expect to come at all. Good thing we didn’t leave earlier than 7 pm or we would’ve missed him completely. Or rather, he would have missed us.

    What came next was the usual discussion of where to eat. Chinita suggested we eat at this self-serve Chinese bar along Chinatown. The self-serve Chinese food was at $7 per plate where you get to choose dishes from a buffet. Though it may sound like it, it wasn’t really an eat-all-you-can deal. You could fill your plate but you couldn’t go back for seconds. So it was kinda like that thing we have in the Philippines when we order the Wendy’s salad and everybody tries their best to fill the plate without the contents spilling on to the tray to get the most out of your buck except with Chinese food.

    From the time we met at the front of Myer till we got to the Chinese bar, we were swapping stories and life experiences like there was no tomorrow. I think I may have talked more than my fair share, actually. I guess, I just really missed the company of other Pinoys. But socialising with just any Pinoy probably wouldn’t have cut it. It was really great that they were around my age bracket (mid 20s to late 30s) and very friendly to boot. Some of them were also into movies, comics and computer games. Great!

    After dinner, we went to Starbucks to buy coffee and continued our chat all the way to Federation Square where we settled till around 9 pm. Although it was cold, we braved the nippy weather just to be able to continue talking to one another. At around quarter past 9, SS’s friend S (not his real name) was able to join us as he just got off work.

    A few more minutes and everybody proceeded to walk back to Swanston St to try to get in one of the night clubs so we could continue our conversation in there (where it was potentially warmer than out in the open night air). Raquel and I decided not to join them as it was getting pretty late. That and we are both sort of allergic to cigarette smoke. Going by my experience inside night clubs, I bet it was going to reek of second-hand cigarette smoke so we thought that maybe it was just as well we said our good-byes then.

    While waiting for the Sandringham train at the train station, we noticed that RChristian was there, too. He had to go home then as well because he still had a class early the next day. That and he wasn’t too keen on cigarette smoke neither. At least we were able to talk some more while waiting for our respective trains to arrive.

    I was very pleased with the Friday get-together. I got to meet new Pinoy friends who all seem to be the type of people I’d like to hang out with. We decided to form a Yahoo! Group so we can email each other and easily arrange any future get-togethers. In fact, the next get-together would be a trip to the Melbourne Zoo followed by a barbie at Milkshake’s place. We’ll see what happens then. I can’t wait.

    Then Sunday, Randolf, my friend from Canberra came to visit us in Melbourne. Actually, he and his housemate came to visit Melbourne, period. But since he was here, he wanted to visit us anyway. The agreement was that we would meet him in the morning in St Kilda and have lunch. By St Kilda, we thought the Luna Park area. And by meeting for lunch, we thought before 12 noon.

    So, that morning, Randolf rang me saying they’re on their way to St Kilda via tram. Okay. Raquel and I got dressed and waited for his next call saying that we could meet him at so-and-so. It was almost 12 noon, I was getting real hungry and still no phone call. I said, bugger it, and left for St Kilda anyway as it might be difficult to get a free parking space there.

    After a lot of circling around, we finally found a 2-hour free parking space just across the road from McDonald’s in St Kilda. I think it was past 12 then and still no phone call. So I texted him to find out what’s going on. He called and he said that he was nowhere near Luna Park and that he was at the St Kilda Beach port area. AND that he already had lunch with his housemate. Nice. So we walked around to find him and getting hungrier by the second. A few more minutes and another phone call later and we finally found him.

    We ate at this Italian restaurant right in front from where we parked. We were able to catch up on stories then. He talked about what it was like in the Philippines nowadays (he just came back from a three week visit vacation there) and his employment situation in Canberra. And I talked to him about… hmm… not much really. He did most of the talking as was typical of our get-togethers back in Canberra. Some things don’t change.

    When we got in the car, he wanted us to switch the radio off and turn the CD on. As we didn’t have any CD that he liked, he just told us to turn off the radio completely. And if I recall correctly, he did told us and not asked us to do so. Sheesh. If I were the one riding in his car, I probably wouldn’t be able to order him to switch off the radio or change the music. We just let that one slide, as always.

    Anyway, I decided to take us to Brighton Beach afterwards for those colourful technicoloured cottages always shown on Melbourne tourist guides. Raquel and I haven’t been there ourselves so at least we had another reason for travelling there. During the drive south, I wasn’t sure which parking lot to turn to get to the part of the beach with the colourful cottages and we ended up driving along St Kilda St all the way to Sandringham. When we realised that we had in fact reached Sandringham, we turned back and turned into the first parking spot we could find that seemed to lead to the beach.

    The first one was a miss. We still got off there though to take some photos of the rocky — I could probably say, craggy — beach. From there, I discovered that the colourful cottages were further north from where we were. We could probably walk all the way to it but we all didn’t want to walk on the beach and get sand in our shoes. So, we just took the car and drove to the parking lot nearest that part of the beach. We got there and took some more snapshots. Since there wasn’t really much there, it didn’t take long before we went back to the apartment.

    At the apartment, we were able to finally have a long overdue rematch of SoulCalibur II on the Playstation 2. Back in Canberra, I didn’t have a PS2 of my own and Randolf did. We’d meet almost every week at his place for a SoulCalibur II match or a Capcom/SNK match or a Tekken 4 match. Every time, he’d have more wins than I would except on some days when I was being really lucky. By yesterday, I was already able to practice some moves on SoulCalibur so I was feeling a bit confident.

    However, he had more man-hours playing SoulCalibur than I did so ultimately, he still had the upper hand. I was only able to beat him like 18 times and he beat me like 40 times. Ouch. Anyway, I had a great time. It’s one of those things I missed, that was, to play against another person in a fighting game. Although Raquel also plays, she doesn’t really aim to be the greatest fighting game player by memorising all the moves and relies more on the “button mashing technique.” And the computer AI at a very hard setting is still not as smart as an experienced human player.

    Soon, it was past 6 pm. We drove Randolf to the city and met with his housemate there. We had dinner in Chinatown where we were able to talk some more before parting ways afterwards.

    It was a tiring weekend overall but at least I was able to replenish a little my need to socialise with my fellow Pinoys. I keep saying to Raquel that I’m really an introvert but she insists that I’m an extrovert. After that weekend, I feel more energised and I’m now inclined to agree with her.

    Published in: on May 17, 2005 at 12:10 am  Leave a Comment