Holidays

Tomorrow would be the beginning of our vacation in New Zealand. We’re in the midst of packing and planning. We’d be in the land of the Kiwis for 10 days and we have no idea whether we would be able to get online at all so no guarantees we could update this blog either. In any case, happy holidays to all of you! Cheers!

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Published in: on December 18, 2005 at 7:59 pm  Comments (2)  

New Alto Recorder

I’ve been craving for an alto recorder ever since I’ve tried tooting a few notes on an alto recorder displayed at Allans Music in the city. I found its notes much more mellow and relatively quieter than the soprano recorder. I should say it has a sweeter voice.

With all the tasks we had to do that involved the move to the new house, I had to set aside my recorder playing. That meant that my soprano recorder learning was placed on hold last week. And since I didn’t even had time to pursue my soprano studies, I knew I couldn’t possibly devote time to learn the alto which uses a different type of fingering technique than the smaller soprano.

Now that we’ve settled in our new home, I started doing research on the alto recorder again. Which brand is better? Do I really want an alto or do I want a tenor recorder instead? What are the available music sheets and method books for the alto at the nearby music shops? I at least found out from other recorder players that the Yamaha 300 series alto recorder is a strongly recommended plastic recorder. There were other brands and models but they weren’t available in the shops I go to anyway. So, I guess it is fortunate that the most recommended brand and model is available at Allans Music.

Then yesterday, Raquel surprised me when she pulled out of her bag a Yamaha YRA-302BII alto recorder. I was all giddy. For the past few days, I’ve been thinking of various ways to convince her to allow me to buy one and here she bought it for me. It was my Christmas present, actually. She would’ve rather given it to me near Christmas day itself but she was afraid that I would buy an alto recorder without telling her.


My two Yamaha series 300 plastic recorders: the YRA-302BII Alto/Treble and the YRS-302BII Soprano/Descant.

I quickly pulled it out of its case, assembled it and promptly played a few tunes using the fingering technique I learned from using the soprano recorder. The low soft mellow tones were indeed lovely. Of course, to properly play it, I will have to learn the F-fingering technique as the alto recorder is an F type instrument.

Today, I bought a method book (instruction book) specifically for the alto/treble recorder. I realised that it will take me a while to get used to the different fingering technique. I also have to get used to stretching my fingers more as the holes are now farther apart as compared to the soprano’s.

Anyway, as you can see, I’m quite excited with the new instrument. I can’t wait to learn it. Once I’ve learned most of the fingerings on the alto, I’m going to record (no pun intended) the two recorders playing the same tune and post the mp3 files on the site to give you an idea of what each one sounds like if you didn’t know.

Published in: on December 15, 2005 at 10:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

You Can Never Leave!

As you know, we’ve just moved to a new place so we didn’t need the services we were using in the apartment anymore. So starting last Thursday, I’ve tried to have my broadband and phone services (they were bundled services) disconnected from iiNet. There wasn’t a way to end the service using their online toolbox so I had to call them up personally.

I requested that they disconnect all of my services by Monday as I won’t be needing it anymore. It was straight forward enough and the lady I was talking seemed to have understood my simple request.

Come Monday, I logged on to the iiNet toolbox and it said there that my broadband and phone were both still active. I thought that maybe it’ll all be disconnected by the next day. So when Tuesday came, I logged on again to see that my services were still active with them.

So I called them again. The man I talked to told me that there was indeed a reminder that my account would be disconnected. He explained that the person I talked to last time was probably on leave and that was why it wasn’t actioned as promised. Okay, fair enough. I asked him to end the service that day and he said he would do it.

Later, I checked my toolbox again and saw that the broadband service was now flagged as cancellation pending. The phone, however, was still pretty much active. Okay so maybe they needed to have the broadband deactivated first before they can do anything about the phone line.

The next day, yesterday actually, I called iiNet up again to complain that the phone line is still active. According to the lady I talked to, they couldn’t disconnect my phone line. They told me to call Telstra instead (where the line originally came from before I had iiNet take over it) and have them disconnect it for me. At the time, I couldn’t believe it. I had a similar arrangement done with another ISP before (iPrimus) and they were able to disconnect my phone line for me with no problem.

But okay. Maybe the rules have changed since two years ago so I called up Telstra. The Telstra lady on the phone told me that they couldn’t disconnect the phone because according to their records, the telephone line was under iiNet’s control. She told me to call iiNet back because she couldn’t do anything from her side. Great.

So I called iiNet again. The iiNet lady (a different one) told me that they couldn’t disconnect my line and that I should have Telstra “churn” the phone line back to them and then have Telstra disconnect it.

I said my goodbye and called Telstra. Now, apparently, there is no problem with having to churn the phone line back to Telstra but in order to do so, I have to select a home plan first. What that meant was that it’s as if I’m starting a service from scratch with Telstra just to have my phone line disconnected. That meant that I was going to be billed for connecting back to Telstra. And since I was going to disconnect the line immediately afterwards, I will incur an early termination fee with Telstra to boot!

No way! The Telstra lady also told me that the churning could take 10 to 21 working days so in the meantime, I will have to continue paying iiNet for the phone line I wasn’t using and when it does come over to Telstra, I will have to pay Telstra for the phone line rental and the early termination fee! And all because I want to disconnect the bloody phone!

Fortunately, the Telstra lady was very helpful in this case. I explained to her the situation then she talked to a Telstra communications technician. She couldn’t believe that iiNet couldn’t disconnect the line for me. And the technician agreed that iiNet should have the power to disconnect my line.

So Telstra canceled my attempt to have the line churned back to their service with no dramas. I mean, they could have easily just done what I asked them to do and they would’ve taken some money off me. But they didn’t. And so I appreciated their assistance there.

I called iiNet once again. I was ready to ask for the manager if the person I talked to wouldn’t do what I wanted. I was all psyched up to shout at whoever was on the phone if he or she was going to be difficult.

I started the conversation by plainly stating my request. “Could you please disconnect my phone line? End it? Cut it off? For good?”

And that was it. The guy told me they could do it and would do so as soon as possible. What the?! Then why did the first two iiNet people I talked to said that they couldn’t disconnect my line?

Well, I was glad that I finally had iiNet’s assurance that my phone line will be disconnected.

I just hope that the guy I talked to was telling the truth. Because when I looked at my iiNet toolbox this morning, it indicated that my phone line is still active. I just hope they deactivate it soon.

I wonder what will happen if the new tenants of the apartment decided to have a phone line connected in that place and the iiNet phone line is still in place.

It’s just so frustrating.

Published in: on December 15, 2005 at 4:05 pm  Comments (3)  

The old apartment

There was no rest for the weary when last night saw us cleaning out our old apartment. Today is the last day of our lease and we wanted to make sure that we pass the final inspection in order to get back our bond in full. We took out the rubbish then wiped, scrubbed, vacuumed and mopped everything from top to bottom. The keys has been returned and the apartment is now ready for its new tenant.

In fact, it has already been advertised a couple of weeks after we gave our notice. Here’s the link for the curious. The pictures used where stock photos and are the same ones we saw in the ad we answered a couple of years ago. The unit photographed is also not the one we lived in – the photos show a unit in the ground floor, ours was the second unit in the upper floor. The rent has also been slightly increased.

As we locked the door for the last time, there was a still a slight feeling of loss. Goodbye to the 2 young ladies with the very friendly cat, the couple next door who’d also bought their first house and would be moving out soon and the neighbours downstairs we never really had the chance to talk to. Goodbye to the great cafes a short walk away from that apartment, goodbye to 5-minute walks to the train and goodbye to a good and fun neighbourhood that has been home to us for almost two years.

A chapter has ended and a new one begins. Goodbye apartment, hello house!

Published in: on December 14, 2005 at 11:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Moved

Yesterday was moving day and we are now officially residents of Werribee. Before the move, we’ve been busy lock and light fixture shopping. We’ve been doing a lot of work on the house lately that there seem to be no room nor time for anything else. In fact, I think we’ve been dealing with door knobs and locks all of last week that it has the makings of a bad joke, how-many-programmers-does-it-take-to-change-a-lock sort of thing.

We purchased a variety of deadbolts, privacy sets, patio locks and sliding door locks at Bunnings and Mitre 10 over the week and tried changing everything ourselves. Unfortunately, in our haste we neglected to match our new locks with the old ones. Only after attaching one privacy set to the ensuite did we realise that we should have bought locks with a polished chrome finish instead of the ones we got that have a satin finish. D’oh! There was also this problem with door hole being too close or too far from the edge of the door that we either have to plug the hole, drill another one then paint it over afterwards or leave them be. Another d’oh moment. Fortunately, both Bunnings and Mitre 10 agreed to a refund or exchange despite the packaging being torn in one case. Re-keying the old locks would have also worked but seeing that there’s nobody at home most of the time to deal with the locksmith, we thought changing the locks ourselves would have made better sense.

After the locks fiasco, we decided that the bare bulbs in each room leave a lot to be desired. Off we went to Beacon Lighting to get some DIY batten fixtures. While we were at it, we thought it might be a good idea to change the globes as well and got ourselves some compact fluorescent lamps (CFL) to save on electricity bills. Of course, not all CFLs are created equal and different brands have varying ideas of what “warm white” means. We got some Nelson and Philips lamps, reused some old GEs and found out when we got home that we couldn’t use 2 different lamps for the open plan kitchen and dining area because it just looks too different. We also realised that we preferred a warmer light for the living areas and the whiter ones for rooms such as the laundry and study. We thought the GE lamps gave off the best light, followed closely by Philips and lastly by Nelson. All our lamps would have been GEs if we could find them but only Nelson and Philips are widely available, with the Nelson Aladdin minis being small enough to fit the closed ball-shaped DIY batten fixtures we already got. This resulted in another trip to Bunnings to exchange the ones we already got and went back home to put in the lamps.

As we only bought a few lighting fixtures, we also went back to Beacon at one point to buy more. While there, we took advanatage of their lighting design service to plan the downlights we wanted to have installed in the living areas and the kitchen. With only one light in the middle of the room illuminating the kitchen, it is not enough to cast light in the counters where most of the work would be done. We bought 13 downlight kits and 2 sets of security lights with sensors. Geejay was hoping that we could have an electrician install them even before we move in but no such luck with electricians very busy these days and quite expensive as well, so we had a re-think of the whole idea. Believing that we would be better off cooling our heels before getting the lights installed, we returned the downlights but kept the security lights.

On our initial trip to Bunnings, we also got a pair of solar-powered path lights to illuminate the backyard but these turned out to be a huge disappointment. With only 2 LEDs giving off a faint blue light, the area were we’ve put it in was still mostly dark. Bunnings took them back, fortunately.

Next, we thought of getting the carpets shampooed professionally before the move, but with nobody available to wait around for the carpet cleaners to show up on a work day, we decided to hire a carpet steam-cleaning machine from Safeway for $28 a day instead. We bought the cleaning products, read the instructions and did it ourselves. Or rather, Gj did the cleaning while I moved boxes out of the way. I don’t know if the machine cleaned as well as the ones professionals use but the carpet feels and smells clean enough. Hubby said the machine was easy to use and seemed to have sucked out a lot of dirt from the carpets so I’m guessing it still did some good.

We’ve been sleeping at around 1-2 in the morning for several days now and with still a lot of cleaning to do and most of our belongings still in boxes, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. No matter, at least now we have a place to call our own.

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

Edwin, Have Fun in Sydney

I just found out today through e-mail that a friend of ours is on his way to Sydney. And from the sound of it, he’s staying there for good. I don’t know all the details yet as it was a bit sudden.

I first met Edwin when our small group went out for dinner at Crown Casino some time ago. He told me that since he read my blog (this one), he was able to recognise me from the photos I posted online. So even though he didn’t know anybody else there, he was able to spot me making it easy to locate us in the food court area.

After that first meeting, we only met a few more times. It’s just unfortunate that I didn’t really had the opportunity to know him better. Not like Elmer and Badminton Chairman Ron whom he seemed to have become close buddies with. At least it’s good to know that he wasn’t very lonely while he was here in Melbourne.

Now Edwin, if you’re reading this, I hope you have fun in Sydney. Best of luck not only from me, but from the rest of our group.

Published in: on December 7, 2005 at 11:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Our Group’s First Christmas Party

Party games, karaoke singing, a buffet dinner and even an exchanging of gifts. It’s your typical Pinoy Chirstmas party and it’s our small Melburnian group’s first. Wilma, the group’s de-facto organiser of events, made the Christmas party possible. She pushed for the get together and I’m not sorry she did. It was great fun.

The party started with risque party games typical of Pinoy Christmas parties. Or so I was told. I couldn’t give a first hand account of the start of the party because we arrived late. We were shopping for stuff we needed for the new house and left for the party from Werribee later than first hoped.

We travelled for an hour and a half from Werribee (west of Melbourne) to Dandenong (east of Melbourne). Basically, the other side of town. Early on, we settled for Tiya Maria’s Pinoy restaurant in Dandenong as the venue for our party. Tiya Maria took care of our Pinoy buffet dinner. The authentic Pinoy dishes certainly made the party more enjoyable as it made us feel like we were celebrating Chirstmas back home in the Philippines.

The restaurant served kare-kare, adobong manok, chopsuey, chicken lollipops and sinigang all with eat-all-you-can rice. The main dishes were complemented by Mike’s famous Chicken Macaroni salad, Elmer the Concert King’s crispy pata and Alma’s yummy chockie cakes. Of course, to wash it all down, there were drinks provided for by Ted, Beah, Maricel and friends.

Now, to back track a bit, karaoke singing followed the opening party games. We arrived at the party midway through the singing with Elmer at the mic. It looked like he was taping the whole party so I could probably still see the start of it later on.

After being forced to sing a couple of songs, Wilma declared that it was at last dinner time. We cheered and promptly took our places on the queue. Having filled my plate, I sat down to have a wonderful dinner.

Dinner was followed by the exchanging of gifts. We were told to buy gifts that represented us in some form and it should be less than $10. Actually, I’m no longer sure if it was supposed to be less or over ten dollars because we saw gifts there that couldn’t possibly be less than ten dollars. Anyway, the gift I bought was a Yamaha YRS-24B Descant/Soprano Recorder. Yeah, I thought I’d try to get somebody else into my new hobby. Raquel didn’t have the time to get anything but since we were often at Bunnings Warehouse lately, she just bought one of those gift voucher cards there.

A little confusion at the random drawing of gifts meant that Ray ended up with his own gift. But that was promptly remedied by having to switch gifts. He ended up having the recorder I bought. I hope he liked it and learns it.

Another round of party games followed and this time, we were there to join in. The games were lastly followed by more karaoke singing. By then, the people started going home leaving only the avid singers behind.

All in all, I enjoyed last night. I didn’t realised how much I missed the Pinoy-flavoured Christmas party until afterwards. Kudos to Wilma and everybody who helped to make last night’s party wonderful.

Published in: on December 5, 2005 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Isn’t Over Yet

We drove to Werribee tonight to pick up the keys to our shiny new home from Martin, the real estate agent. We originally decided to pick up the keys in the weekend but after looking over our list of to-do’s, getting the keys earlier from Martin seemed like the way to go.

See, we wanted to call in an electrician as soon as possible to add downlights, power points, an antenna point, a telephone point and an exhaust fan in the laundry room. It is better to have this sorted out before we actually started living in the new house. The problem was, in order to get an accurate quote from the electrician, we had to know what we want to have done.

And since we’ve only seen the house for a three or four times, we only have a vague recollection of where the existing lights and sockets were placed. We wouldn’t be sure of what we needed unless we see the house again to determine how many power points we wanted to have installed and where. Same went for the downlights, antenna point and so forth.

Because we wanted to have the electrical bits finished off before we our move in a fortnight’s time, we have to get the keys from Martin ahead of schedule.

At Martin’s office, he asked us to sign off on some sheet of paper. Afterwards, he asked us whether we prefer red or white wine. Since we weren’t really drinkers, it didn’t really matter to me. We have tried white wine before, though, so we we went with red. With that, he handed over the keys and a bottle of red wine. That was nice of them.

We drove to the house and parked the car by the driveway. Since, it was my driveway, it was okay. Just the idea of being able to park on my own driveway gave me some satisfaction.

Across the street, the neighbours were playing with their pet dog. I greeted them with a “how are you going?” and a wave. Much later, I urged Raquel to come with me and meet our neighbour. I figured it was a good time as any to introduce ourselves, especially since they were already outside and we didn’t even need to knock.

The guy playing with the dog turned out to be just a guest of the actual owner of the house across the street. Anyway, he called out the real residents of the house and we introduced ourselves (again). They were migrants as well. They came from Africa four years ago and has been in the neighbourhood for seven months.

It was a very interesting experience. I never had to introduce myself to neighbours like that in my entire life. My Mum did it for us. She was very outspoken and friendly. When we got back in the house, I just realised that I did what Mum would have done if she was in that situation. Like mother, like son, I guess.

We went through all the rooms of the house taking note of where the power points were and some such. Afterwards, we discussed what we wanted to have the electrician to install and where. We also had to figure out which keys opened which lock.

By the time we were done, it was almost midnight and I still had to drive us home to Balaclava. Although it was a tiring exercise, the thought of living in the new house certainly carried me easily through the night.

Now that we’re back home in the apartment, I just realised the amount of things that still needed to be done. We still have to change our address details in our different accounts like banks, Medicare, insurance, and so on. We still have to transfer our broadband connection to the new address. We still have to move our stuff from the apartment to the new house. I even have to call the bank and ask why our loan amount was larger than expected.

I just can’t wait to get all of these things over with so that we can finally start to enjoy living in the new house.

Published in: on December 3, 2005 at 12:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Precious copper wires

Called up Telstra today to organise a new phone connection in our new house. The lady I first talked to said she was having some problems with her computer system so she transferred me back in the queue. My call was picked up by a man named Kingsley who then asked me the usual questions like my name, Gj’s name, birthdays, address, alternative contact number (mobile numbers) and if there’s an existing phone line in the house. I should have suspected something fishy might be going on when he asked for an alternative contact number but thought that maybe there’s a valid reason for it. What if they have problems connecting the home phone and need to let me know?

Alarm bells didn’t start to ring until we got to the part where he asked if I have a credit card. Hmmm… why, oh why, would the phone company care if I have a credit card? I asked him why he need to know this bit of information and he said that he doesn’t need to know the number. Fine, yes. Mastercard or Visa? I answered, all this time thinking that maybe I should have said no, that I’ve lived all my life on top of a mountain and have no need for a rectangular piece of plastic as a mode of payment. Next, he asked how many people would be living in the house and what sort of work I do. Again, I gave my answer. I have a nasty feeling that I was being profiled for those telemarketers who’d be calling this new phone line soon.

After several more questions, he started asking about my calling habits. What sort of calls do I make? Uh, local calls. But truth be told, I don’t make many phone calls at all. I only need the blasted phone to connect to the internet and I need Telstra’s copper lines to do it. But of course I didn’t say that. He was pushing one of two phone plans, HomeLine Plus, which has the most expensive monthly phone rental but has cheaper call rates and HomeLine Complete, which has a slightly cheaper monthly rental but pricier call rates. What the guy didn’t know is that I’ve already checked out the phone plans at their website and know of one more phone plan that he never mentioned, the HomeLine Budget. It has the cheapest monthly rental by far but the most expensive call rates. For someone like me who doesn’t make much calls, this is the ideal plan to subscribe to. I asked for it and he said he’ll organise it.

He then proceeded to say that there would be a $59 connection fee (ouch), to which I agreed (no choice). Next, I was asked if I’d like the number to be unlisted in the phonebook and the number to not show up in caller IDs. Hmmm… nifty feature, I’ll get me one of those. Okay, that would be another $2.93 tacked on to my monthly bill. By now, I’m beginning to understand why some people love to hate Telstra, every single thing has a dollar value and if my experience is any indication, customer service equates to targeted tele-marketing with some “service” thrown in.

After talking to him for about 20 minutes for a call that should have taken half the time, the man finally said that the phone line would be activated on Monday, gave me the new phone number and then asked one more question. Do you have an internet connection? I thought the question laughable since the only way I could get my internet connection is by getting a phone line through them (unless I get a cable or wireless connection). Is this a trick question? Out loud I said no, not yet. Big mistake, as this caused him to launch into a sales pitch for BigPond broadband (which is also owned by Telstra). I said I’ll think about it. Needless to say, I was much relieved after we hanged up. Maybe I should have given the man a fictional phone number as my alternative contact number after all.

Published in: on December 2, 2005 at 2:36 pm  Comments (1)  

Hanged

Van Tuong Nguyen was hanged this morning at Singapore’s Changi Prison for smuggling heroin into the country while in transit to Australia. There is no doubt as to his guilt, the bag of heroin, after all, was strapped to his body. He claimed that he agreed to be a mule to pay off his debts owed by his twin brother (a former heroin addict). It was his first and last run-in with the law.

The bell tolled 25 times for him (one for each year of his life) at precisely 9 A.M. local time, the time of his execution. Yes, he did wrong. Yes, he could have ruined a lot of lives had he been successful in bringing in the heroin he was carrying into Australia and the drugs he was carrying was sold in the streets. Yes, he was foolish. Yes, he should have been punished for his crime. Yes, it was unfortunate that Singapore penalises drug traffickers with death. Yes, the government seemed to have done everything it could for him. Yes, I was glad that his mother was able to hold his hand during her last visit.

On the other hand, no, I don’t agree that he should be honoured as there was nothing honourable in what he did. No, I don’t think a boycott of Singapore’s products and services is the right thing to do. No, I don’t think one country should dictate nor attempt to bend a neighbouring country’s laws just because one of its citizens got in trouble. No, I don’t think the Howard government could have done anything more for him. No, I don’t believe in making a scapegoat out of him. Saying that a drug trafficker is responsible for the deaths of the many addicts that they supply drugs to is almost akin to saying that gun sellers should be held responsible for all the murders or suicide of people who died from the use of a gun.

After all has been said and done, I’m not sure if I support the type of punishment he got or not. I’ve heard and read about the views of both sides and understand each camp’s reasons for supporting or not supporting his hanging. What I do know is that people learn by making mistakes and that people could change.

I’m deeply saddened that Nguyen would never have the chance to redeem himself. My sympathies to his family and friends.

Published in: on December 2, 2005 at 12:00 pm  Comments (6)