Food, fun, fiesta!

A Filipino-style fiesta will be held on November 26 and 27 at Laverton, here in Victoria. Celebrating Pinoy food and culture, there would be a charity beauty pageant, music, dance and variety shows complete with visiting Filipino celebrities. Here’s the schedule of activities from the organiser’s site. For foodies hunkering for some lechon (roast pig) and other Filipino delicacies, here’s your opportunity to taste some without going to the Philippines. Wonder if there would be some palabok on sale?

Although we could theoretically go on both days, I think we’d just pick one day. We still have to make arrangements for a final inspection before the settlement date for the new house on the 30th, so whichever day we won’t spend on inspecting the house would be the day we attend the fiesta. Nevertheless, we’re keen to go and see what’s on since we’ve never been to a Philippine fiesta here in Australia before. See you there!

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Published in: on November 16, 2005 at 11:06 pm  Comments (4)  

Me and the Recorder

I haven’t posted anything new in a while now. The reason being that I’m very preoccupied with something at the moment when I get home from work. That is, I’m self-teaching myself to play the recorder properly. By recorder, I meant that flute-like musical instrument that is almost usually mistaken by the uninitiated as a flute.

I actually picked up the recorder when I was still in Canberra and I needed something to do to help pass the time. I hadn’t touched my old cheap plastic recorder for quite some time but recently, something — I cannot remember what — triggered my desire to pick it up again. Only, this time, I’m going to learn it more properly. Well, as properly as I could without the benefit of a music teacher.

Although I was taught to play the piano when I was younger, I never really took to it. I was just overwhelmed by it. Later on, I self-taught myself to play the basic chords on a classical guitar. That was at least something I felt I could get into but I found carrying a guitar around to be rather cumbersome. So, one day in a music shop in Canberra, when I was thinking of picking up another musical instrument to study, I decided I wanted an instrument that is portable, low maintenance and monophonic (I don’t have time to master an instrument that could play multiple notes at the same time).

Then I saw a bunch of cheap unnamed-brand plastic recorders on the cashier’s counter. Hmm. It was selling for something like less than five dollars. I thought that if I didn’t like it, I could always go for another instrument. Another thing that influenced me to pick up the recorder was me remembering that my brother had a Yamaha recorder back in the Philippines. I thought, it must not be that difficult to learn if he played it.

I’m fairly sure my brother intended to play pop tunes on his recorder. I, on the other hand, intended to be fairly competent on the recorder enough to be able to play solo renaissance folk music or classical music with it (which I like, by the way). Sure, I also play pop tunes on my recorder now which I learned by ear but I think such an instrument is better suited for those old tunes of yore.

I discovered that some of the notes were difficult to play on my recorder. And some of the notes I could play didn’t sound as nice as I’d hope. Anyway, I didn’t devote much time to studying it when I was in Canberra and I completely forgot about it when I moved to Melbourne last year.

But this month, my interest in the recorder was renewed unexpectedly. Maybe I was inspired by the city musician buskers. Maybe it was a movie I watched recently. Maybe it was because I saw these recorder lesson books at the library by coincidence. Whatever the reason, I decided to continue teaching myself the recorder. I started from the beginning again and this time, I’m making sure I learn to read the notes and execute them properly.

So now, I try to devote an hour a day (at least) to practicing the musical instrument. And when I’m not doing that, I’m doing online research about the recorder: its history, free score sheets for it, mailing list for it, etc. From my research, I discovered that the recorder was used as an introduction to music in schools. Well, not in the Philippines, as far as I know. If that’s true, then I’m learning a musical instrument that is considered by many here or in the Western world as a kid’s toy. And that’s probably why the flute I bought in Canberra was selling for cheap.

After doing further research, I also discovered that although plastic recorders were considered by most serious recorder players to be inferior to wood-made recorders, there were branded plastic recorders that played quite well and is sometimes even better than the cheapest wooden recorder. The Yamaha brand was recommended by some so one day, I took a trip to Allans Music Store in the city to look for a Yamaha plastic recorder.

I was able to buy one for $38 which was slightly more expensive than my older recorder but still quite inexpensive. When I got home, I played the same tunes I played on the old recorder and was pleasantly surprised to find out that the notes sounded a lot better on the new recorder. Also, I found that some of the notes I had difficulty with on the old recorder to be easily playable on the new recorder.

Now, armed with a new plastic recorder, I intend to master it to a certain degree. I have no illusions of becoming a professional/master recorder player but I hope to be competent enough on the instrument that I could comfortably play it wherever I go and not get thrown at with eggs and tomatoes. When I’m skilled enough with the recorder, maybe I could perform in one of those renaissance fairs or even along one busy sidewalk in the city.

Published in: on November 16, 2005 at 10:17 pm  Leave a Comment  

Big Afternoon Picnic

It felt good to be with friends again. It’s been a while since we’ve gone out with the gang for anything. We were just too busy with other real life stuff to go out with them the past few weeks. So, it’s good to be able to go to this big afternoon picnic in Altona the gang planned a while back. It was good to see the old gang there, as well as new people the others brought with them. It’s always good to meet new people.

Everybody brought something for the picnic. Raquel and I provided the drinks. The others brought salads, Pinoy-style spaghetti, chicken adobo, KFC fried chicken, cookies, crisps, and lots lots more. They also brought balls, badminton rackets and freesbies. And some were supposed to bring the cutlery, cups and plates but in true Pinoy fashion, they were arrived late. Yeah, you know who you are. It’s okay though. Raquel and I already had lunch. Too bad for the guys who didn’t though.

Anyway, I thought that the picnic was a success overall. We had our fill of food and we got to play some ball in the park. I only joined in when they started to play old-school Philippine-style kickball using a soccer ball instead of the small plastic ball you buy at the palengke. For those of you who don’t know what kick ball is, it’s basically like baseball. But instead of a batter, you have a kicker and instead of pitching a baseball, the pitcher bowls the ball towards the kicker. The rules are pretty much the same from there. Well, not exactly the same but quite similar. I didn’t realise how tiring that game was. I was panting and sweating profusely after each run around the diamond. In the end, even though I was barely able to walk, I still loved every second of it. It’s always nice to be reminded of something from one’s childhood.

When we were not eating or playing, we were busy chatting with each other catching up with what everybody was up to, as it were. We were also able to give some tips to the new guys about migrant life and so forth. We packed for home at around 7 pm and only because it was starting to get dark.

It was an enjoyable day. I hope we could do it again sometime.

Published in: on November 15, 2005 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Never In

While eating lunch one day, I had come to the realisation that whatever I’m into wasn’t usually the the “in” thing. Did I make sense? Let me explain.

I like to draw. In fact, I draw a lot but my style of drawing is a bit on the cartoonish side. By that, I mean I draw in a comic-book/animation influenced style. Sure, the cartoonish style is very popular with the regular folk but in the art world, cartoonists seem to be looked down upon. We are classified as “not real artists”.

I used to study the piano and then the guitar when I was younger. But in the end, I want to master a musical instrument that is easy to learn (since I don’t have a lot of spare time) and easy to bring along with me wherever I go. And so, I took up playing a recorder which is a kind of flute, for those of you who don’t know what it is. The problem is, I just found out that recorders are considered kids’ toys by the musical world. Playing a recorder doesn’t carry the same prestige as the other more professional instruments like the flute or violin.

I’m a programmer by trade and my specialty is Microsoft Visual Basic (or simply VB). However, in the programming world, VB programmers are sometimes considered not real programmers because C programmers find VB to be a very simple computer language.

So, if I was actually a painter, I could be classified as a real artist by my peers. If I continued to play the piano or the guitar or took up playing the flute or violin, I could’ve been seen as a real musician by my peers. If had specialised as a C++ or Java programmer instead, I might have been deemed a real programmer by my programming brethren.

Okay, maybe being classified as a real artist or a real musician or a real programmer is not that important. Just as long as I’m having fun with what I’m doing, it should be okay, right? Well, still, maybe, just maybe, next time, I try to get into something that is actually “in”.

Published in: on November 10, 2005 at 12:43 pm  Comments (8)  

My Quick Fling with Sudoku

I recently got drawn in by this quirky maths game called Sudoku. Here is a quick description of the game from Wikipedia:

The aim of the canonical puzzle is to enter a numerical digit from 1 through 9 in each cell of a 9×9 grid made up of 3×3 subgrids (called “regions”), starting with various digits given in some cells (the “givens”). Each row, column, and region must contain only one instance of each numeral.

The day before I had to show up at the Victoria County Court in Melbourne for my Jury Service, Raquel and I dropped by the local bookshop (as usual) and I happened to come by a rack of books dedicated to Sudoku. I was mildly curious so I read the first few pages just to understand how the puzzle works.

I found out that it wasn’t too difficult to play, actually. It just involved a lot of lateral thinking, especially on the more difficult puzzles. When I finally understood how to play the game, I got hooked.

I printed out pages of the puzzles and even brought them to Jury Service the next day so that I had something to do while waiting to be enpaneled. A good thing, too, because I spent most of that day just solving the sudoku puzzles I brought along.

I think I may have overdid it for the past few days though because, now, I no longer hold much interest in it. Still, I recommend you give sudoku a go. It’s a fun way to pass the time.

You can get your fill of sudoku puzzles from the following sites:
Web Sudoku
Sudoku Online
Sudoku Puzzles
Sudoku Fun (I found the ladder puzzles very challenging.)
Fiendish Sudoku

Published in: on November 9, 2005 at 3:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Mail, follow me

About three weeks ago, Geejay received a shiny new credit card as a replacement for his old one which was set to expire at the end of October. Strange that I didn’t get my supplementary replacement card as well but I reasoned that maybe they’re sending out the cards for the main account holder first and send the supplementary cards in another batch so I wasn’t worried. The end of October and the inevitable expiry date came and went with still no credit card for me. Maybe a delay with the postal services, what with the Melbourne Cup excitement and all. Last week, I finally asked Geejay to call up the credit card company and ask what’s going on. I reasoned that maybe they want him to confirm that the main account holder still wants me to share his account and they’re now holding off sending the card. Well, today he did ring them up and was told that according to their database, my mailing address was still supposed to be our previous address in Canberra. What the –?!?

Now, this is the first time I had to share a credit card with anyone so I don’t really know the usual process. All the bills, online login and correspondence regarding this account has been and still are solely addressed to Geejay. I mistakenly assumed that when Geejay updated his details when we moved last year that I don’t need to ring them up to give them the same information since we’d surely be sharing the same record in their database anyway, right? Wrong. The customer service operator told him that my new card was most likely sent to the old address at the same time that his card was sent to our current address. Additionally, as a security measure, the current card number was invalidated and we’ve been given a new one. Bummer. Now we have to change our credit card details with the companies we’ve set up direct debit arrangements with. The operator also told Geejay that I should be the one calling the customer service line to change my details because Geejay can’t request it on my behalf.

A couple of minutes later and I was on the phone talking to a cheerful customer service assistant. She asked me for my access code and I thought blankly, what access code? I think I said it out loud while scrambling my brain for an access code. Brain nearly died with no codes to give. She then asked me if it was my first time to call them. Uh, yes. Very confused now since I didn’t even know that I could call them concerning this account a few minutes ago! She then asked me some questions regarding my details and asked if I want to set an access code. I said yes and gave her a string of numbers. Hah, now I have an access code!

Next came the question and answer of previous address, new address and phone number (for the telemarketers, perhaps?). She sounded slightly distracted while I recited our current address. She then said okay and said that she’s just waiting for the system to update and that it seems to be taking it’s time. I commented that it usually does when you need to do something with it. Slight chuckle and an agreeement. Stupid system still not updating. She commented that I totally changed states there, referring to my change of address. To which I replied, that yes, it happened about a year ago and I didn’t know I need to have my details changed since I thought my details might have been changed at the same time that hubby changed his. She said that the company’s policy is only in line with the privacy law and that they couldn’t assume that I moved and am still with hubby. Fair enough. I said that yeah, I guess this is a better way of doing it and it’s just that I didn’t know I had to have my details changed. System finally updated and we hung up.

According to hubby, our new credit cards should be in the post in about 3 weeks. Hmm, just in time before we need to move houses again. Perhaps I need to draw up a list of the companies we need to inform about our change of address before the move. Let’s see, there’s the government (Medicare, ATO, VicRoads, etc.), bank, credit card company, superannuation companies and others I can’t remember right now. Fun, fun, fun. I dream of the time when people could create a central, secure portal where they could change their details and the government and the companies they subscribe to would be informed of their change of details. Sounds fabulous? Well, I’m quite certain loads of tech-savvy users would agree, but then again, so will a fair number of hackers.

Published in: on November 8, 2005 at 6:12 pm  Comments (2)  

Summoned for Jury Service

I didn’t have to go to work yesterday. Why? I was summoned by the Victorian Juries Commissioner’s Office (which I’ll just refer to as JCO from here on) to appear at the County Court Victoria building in the city for Jury Service. Yes, I was called in for Jury duty.

When I was first informed by post that I was selected for Jury Service a few months ago, I was very excited about it. Back in the Philippines, we didn’t have Jury duty and so, I thought, this was going to be my first time ever to be in a Jury. Images of court room scenes from TV crime dramas flashed before my eyes. I know that most people would probably feel that being called for Jury Service was a big waste of time but I certainly didn’t feel that way when I got selected.

According to the JCO’s letter, they would send out a Jury Summons around three weeks before my Jury Service appointment. The original letter didn’t give an exact date but a date range of when my services would be required. If I remember correctly, they could summon me as late as mid-December. Come October, I was starting to hope to be summoned soon. I didn’t want to be summoned in mid-December and get empaneled in a trial that will run till January. I already have plans for the Christmas vacation.

I received the official Jury Summons from the JCO in mid-October stating that I was required to appear at the Melbourne Jury Pool Room of the County Court Victoria building at 9:15 am on Friday 4 November 2005. According to the Summons, I would be excused from work for the duration of my Jury Service. I would be paid by the JCO $36 per day for the first six days and $72 per day from day seven onwards with my company paying for the rest of my normal wage.

I went there a bit early to make sure I don’t get into any unwelcomed trouble. This is the courts we’re talking about here, after all. I went through a full-on security check then proceeded to the Jury Pool Room for further instructions. I showed them my Summons and ID, as instructed, and I got a ticket stub with my designated Panel Number and profession written on it.

The pool room was actually two rooms for the Jury pool (that’s us). There was a literal pool table, an easel for artists, phone jacks for laptop users who wanted to go online, lots of seats, lots of reading material and even a couple of jigsaw puzzles. They’re just making sure we don’t get too bored while waiting to be empaneled.

At about 10 am, we were all called to the main pool room area with the two overhead TV monitors. It was time for our orientation. The details of duties were explained to us as well as what to expect during the day. We were told that we should forget what we’ve watched on TV cop and law shows. It was nothing like those shows. For one, most law TV drama are made in the US and we’re using the British system here. The orientation talk ended with us watching a pre-recorded jury selection scene on the two TV’s.

There were seven cases (five criminal cases and two civil cases) to be tried that day. We were told to be prepared to be called when the any one of the seven trials was about to start. I prepared to be called any minute but the wait went from mere minutes to hours.

At around 12 noon, I was wondering if we would ever be called. Then we were called back to the main pool room for an announcement. Three of the seven cases were dismissed early. The defendant settled in one case; the defendant pleaded guilty in another; and we don’t know what actually happened with the third but it was out of the picture, nonetheless. So we were down to four cases that day.

The fourth case needed a jury though so twenty-four of us were randomly selected to appear before the court for jury selection. Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t called. I say “unfortunately” because I was really looking forward to being selected as a juror to get a first hand experience of being in a jury. Ah, well.

After the selected twenty-four people were led out of the pool room, we were told to go for our lunch break which was supposed to be for only one hour but we were given an hour-and-a-half instead. Must’ve been a slow day.

I returned early because I didn’t have anywhere to go. I rather be reading in the pool room than wandering aimlessly around the city, anyway. Then, I waited there up to 3 pm before we were called in the main room again.

We were told that the remaining cases for various reasons didn’t need jury anymore. So, after we got our $36 cheques, we were all sent our merry way. And so endeth my Jury Service. I’m now exempted from being called for Jury Service for the next two years.

I wanted to blog about being selected for Jury Service for a long time now but I was a bit worried that posting about it might get me into trouble, legal or otherwise. So, I decided to just wait till I’ve finished my Jury Service before posting about it. Anyway, maybe next time I could be a juror in an actual trial (just as long as it’s not a case that involved Melbourne’s gangsters).

Published in: on November 5, 2005 at 8:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Don’t speak

Very talkative – that’s what my grade-school teachers comments were at the end of each grading period while I was in Grades 1-4. At first, my parents didn’t really mind those comments at the back of my class cards, as they were mostly just a footnote to the good grades I got. As long as I got good grades, they don’t have any complaints. However, things started to take a turn for the worse when my Conduct scores started to take a dive. They theorised that maybe the teachers found my habit of chatting up my seatmates as disruptive and equate it with being impolite. Following this logic, she further surmised that the teacher might have further translated impoliteness to having a bad conduct. I promised my mom I would talk less during class hours for the umpteenth time but she didn’t seem convinced.

One day in fourth grade, a fellow classmate (who was my then-rival for a spot at the top 3 honours list) was made to monitor who talks the most during class hours. Needless to say, I got the top spot for the noisiest kid in her list most days of the week. Unfortunately for me, one teacher dreamt up this brilliant idea as to how the noisiest kid should be punished. The kid who gets the most strikes against their name in the list would have a coloured paper ribbon pinned to their hair and made to stand alone in the school stage during recess. I guess the teacher reasoned that making an outcast out of the noisiest kid would do the trick – and it did to an extent. I started to talk less, preferring to listen to the conversation around me, only chiming in occasionally. Regardless, I still topped the noisiest kid list. Looks like the evil class monitor is enjoying seeing me in the stage during recess and the teacher is too busy to monitor the class herself that she never noticed that I am now starting to keep my mouth shut.

By the following year, I have started my policy of keeping my silence unless I am directly spoken to. All my seatmates could talk among themselves all they want and I’d just listen, preferring to think about what I have to say instead of actually saying it out loud. Needless to say, most of them got their turns standing on the stage during recess while I play with the other kids. When it came time to distribute the class cards, I was a bit apprehensive. This is a new year after all and I don’t want to see my scorecard marred by another horrible comment. I quickly scanned the grades next to my subjects and saw that they’re okay, even Conduct (such a silly subject). I held my breath and flipped the card over, running over what I would tell my mom if another nasty comment is written there. Lo and behold, there was none! There was only a short note from the teacher saying that I should keep up the good work.

Nowadays, I doubt anyone would associate the word talkative to me. Like a mice in a laboratory experiment, I was taught that talking only when spoken to is the right thing to do. No talking equates to no punishment and a pat on the back. I’ve learned that getting into other people’s business by speaking the truth when they don’t want to hear it could cost friendships. An innocent remark could be twisted or taken the wrong way by someone to use against me and that saying something in anger could mean hurt feelings long after you’ve apologised for it. So, if you meet me in person and I seem withdrawn, don’t take it personally. I don’t talk much anymore; the system seemed to have beaten it out of me.

Published in: on November 3, 2005 at 7:26 am  Comments (4)  

The Magical Regurgitating Toilet Bowl

Warning: The following post may find the subject of the following post distasteful. If you cannot stomach gross topics, I suggest you stop reading this post now.

We got a day off yesterday due to the annual Victorian holiday, the Melbourne Cup. Being a typical Pinoy couple that we are, we spent the day at the mall where we had our lunch, watched a movie (the Exorcism of Emily Rose is a great movie, by the way), bought some clothes and read books and magazines at Borders.

When we got home though, we were greeted by a nasty surprise in our bathroom. There is this humongous turd in our toilet bowl! After some discussion between Raquel and me, we agreed that it didn’t belong to neither of us.

How do we know that? Here are a couple of reasons. One of which was that the toilet was excrement-free when we left for the mall. And didn’t I already said that the turd was humongous? It was big enough that neither of us would have the abdominal strength to expel such a monstrosity from our bowels.

Well, once we’ve established that it wasn’t from either of us, we sought to come up with an explanation for the virgin turd. At first we thought that maybe there was an intruder and decided to use the toilet but forgot to flush. But, nothing was missing from the house. The intruder could’ve easily taken the laptop at the very least but it was still there when we got home. Or maybe the intruder just really really needed to use the toilet. That was unlikely though.

So, we thought that maybe the landlord decided just decided to drop by to inspect the apartment, had a dump and just forgot to flush. That, too, was unlikely because the landlord should’ve given us prior notice that he/she would be dropping by. And he/she would’ve left an inspection report of some sort.

The only explanation we can justify is a phenomenon we dubbed as the Magical Regurgitating Toilet Bowl. When we get home from work and we look at the toilet bowl, we notice that the water is a bit yellowish. We concluded that maybe, just maybe, the contents of the sewage get partially regurgitated back into the toilet bowl’s basin. We then hypothesised that maybe, yesterday, the sewage reflux was stronger than usual that it regurgitated not only sewage fluids, as is usually the case, but a whole whopping turd.

Having an explanation for it didn’t make us feel any better though. The image of that unwelcomed turd may forever be emblazoned onto our eyes. Whenever we have to go to the toilet, we are now forever reminded of that eventful turd. Curse that turd!

Published in: on November 2, 2005 at 12:09 pm  Comments (4)