20% off at Dymocks Melbourne

Starting today till the 6th of August (Sunday), Dymocks Melbourne (at 234 Collins Street) would be holding a sale. 20% of all full priced books, excluding CDs, DVDs, videos or anything that’s already on specials.

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Published in: on July 31, 2006 at 12:41 am  Leave a Comment  

I’m Going to Doujicon

I just recently discovered from another DeviantArt artist that there’s going to be a comic convention right here in Melbourne this coming Saturday! It’s called Doujicon. For the longest time, I’ve been wishing I was in the US so I could go to comic conventions and I almost missed going to this one.

If I had known about it earlier, I could’ve prepared some stuff to sell there. I could’ve maybe even got myself a table or something. The best I could do is print some bookmarks that I can give away at the convention while walking around. I made a 6×4 image that I can print at the local digital photos machine. Each 6×4 “photo” costs 29c. After printing, I cut it in two. So that’s like $2.90 for 20 bookmarks.

Anyway, I should really keep tabs on the happenings in the Australian comics scene. I certainly don’t want to miss out.

Published in: on July 27, 2006 at 8:38 pm  Comments (2)  

I got the book!

Although I’m a self-confessed horror fiction fan, I concede that reading terrifying stories for a sustained period of time could be tiresome, even boring and depressing. I have to space them out over a long period of time, something I could get to later when I need my dose of horror again.

So what do I read in the intervening time? I try to read anything that piques my interest and not be limited to certain genres. At the very least, I would try a highly rated book in a particular genre and see if I like it. Currently I’m reading Another Day in the Frontal Lobe: A Brain Surgeon Exposes Life on the Inside by Katrina Firlik, a neuro-surgeon. In this book, she talks about the different aspects of her job – how she got into it, the emotional side of medicine, the intricacies of the brain and how little we still know about it and even lawsuits. I’m still halfway through it but I’m enjoying it so far.

Another thing I’m into is detective fiction, specifically Sherlock Holmes. The first Holmes story I read was The Adventure of Three Garridebs, which was included in my grade school literature book. I liked it so much, I’ve re-read it a dozen times. It wasn’t until I met Geejay that I found out there are more stories about Holmes out there. I saw him with his nose buried into a thick paperback, Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories. When I saw the cover of the book, I nearly snatched the book from him. I didn’t of course, as I didn’t know him well then. But you can bet that I hurried to a local bookstore to find the same book. Imagine my delight when I saw that there were 2 volumes of them! Needless to say, I bought both books and had a terrific time reading more about my favourite detective.

I later discovered that several writers have written stories based on the characters Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has created. Heaps of new tales have been now been printed which features Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Professor Moriarty and Irene Adler which Conan Doyle have no hand in creating. The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a copy of which I bought in a book shop in Canberra, boasts of new Holmes tales written by Edward D Hoch, Stephen King, John Lutz and other authors. The compilation was a good one, but it never reached the quality of Conan Doyle’s creations.

A couple of weeks ago while I was looking for new stories to read, I found out that Conan Doyle’s son, Adrian (with John Dickson Carr), had tried his hand at creating new mysteries for Holmes to solve. It was an old book and although it has been re-printed lately, it’s only available in online bookstores such as Emporium Books. Not sure if I wanted to shell out nearly $20 for the book (including shipping), I started to look in second-hand bookstores around the CBD without success.

Then I remembered Penny Syber’s book shop along Chapel Street, which has a big collection of old books. Last weekend, we went there and I headed straight for the crime fiction section and there, waiting for me, is a copy of the book! Sure, it has creases on its cover and the pages are yellowed with age but so what, I could still read what’s printed. It was selling for a mere $5 (except one could argue we spent money on the petrol and parking too going there from Werribee but hey, we made an afternoon of walking along Chapel Street and browsing the other shops too).

So, have I read the book yet? Nope, it’s now nestled in our bookshelf, waiting for me to finish with brain book I’m currently finishing. I’m already excited though, imagine, 12 new adventures with Holmes! I sure hope they’re all good stories and worth the trouble and the wait.

Published in: on July 27, 2006 at 7:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Miss Universe 2006

In true Pinoy form, we spent 2 hours watching the broadcast of the Miss Universe 2006 pageant on TV last night. Unlike in the Philippines where the pageant is shown live, it’s even a wonder the event was shown here at all.

We knew Miss Puerto Rico would walk away with the crown from media announcements but we thought we’d watch the show anyway. Both Miss Australia and Miss Philippines (who won Miss Photogenic) were eliminated early on when they didn’t even get to the top 20. Miss Japan, Kurara Chibana, was our early favourite from the start when she dressed as a samurai in the national costume segment. From the crowds’ cheers, we’re guessing that she’s a crowd favourite as well. I thought she would have gotten the crown too, had she answered the question in the interview segment a bit more cohesively. Hubby thought she was short-changed by the interpreter, who stammered mid-way into the translation. Tough luck, as she’s very pretty and seems like she’s a lot of fun to have around.

Overall, I think Miss Puerto Rico deserved her win. She’s beautiful and did well on all the competition’s categories. A complete package, as they say.

Published in: on July 26, 2006 at 8:05 am  Comments (4)  

No stories

I know I haven’t been all that active in the blog lately. Raquel is actually pushing me to write something… anything. Unfortunately, nothing comes to mind. Sure, there are things I can probably write about but there isn’t something that I’m really that passionate about.

Well, there’s the thing at the office the other day that really got me pissed. But since I don’t want to get dooced, I couldn’t write much about it. The good thing though was that I was able to get everything worked out in the end. Apart from that non-drama, nothing exciting has happened in the past few days.

I was mostly pre-occupied with thinking of a story to write for a comics anthology project organised by the Ponju online community. The intended final product is a 100-200 page comic book in the same format as graphic novels except instead of one massive story, it’ll be a lot of short comic stories created by different members of the community compiled together.

Ideally, we’ll be able to sell the published books in anime and comic conventions and get a decent return of investment. I’ll just be happy to have a work of mine published out there.
The bad part is that the deadline for story submissions is drawing near and I have yet to come up with a story for the anthology.

It would be easier if the story could be about anything but we’ve decided to go with a specific theme: a quest. I thought it was a good idea at the time but now I’m finding it difficult to think of a quest-themed story that will fit 15 comic pages.

I already have a number of possible story ideas written down. I just couldn’t decide which to flesh out. Or if any are worthy of fleshing out for this project. Darn it.

Published in: on July 24, 2006 at 10:44 pm  Leave a Comment  

Phone fitting

Although I make my living working in IT, I never had the overwhelming desire to own the latest in gadgetry. Unlike hubby whose heart goes a-flutter everytime he sees a sexy piece of hardware – if it’s electronic, chances are, he’d like to gawk at it, handle it and dream of owning it. Not so with me. As long as it does its job for as long as I need it to, I’ll be happy with it.

Which may be why I’ve hung on to my Nokia 6250 for the past four years. It may no longer be the coolest thing around but it’s small, functional and reliable. However, with its battle scars showing and its battery life gradually decreasing, it became apparent that it’s time for a long-overdue upgrade.

I wanted a mobile that’s relatively small so I’ll surely bring it with me at all times. It has to be a camera phone so I won’t have to miss those incidental snaps and it’ll have to have an FM radio for those times when I’m waiting in queues with nothing to read or listen to. MP3 player capabilities would be a bonus but not really essential. Of course there’s the budget to consider too as I want to buy the phone outright and it has to be less than $500.

I started looking at the Nokia range as I’m used to the interface plus previous Nokia phones I’ve owned have proven to be reliable. I thought I’ve found just the right thing with Nokia’s 6280 but didn’t find the sliding mechanism to my liking. What really stopped me from going down that path though was the quality of the phone’s camera output (nothing impressive there).

Reading the reviews for other mobiles, I came across Sony Ericsson’s k800i with its fantastic 3 megapixel autofocus camera with flash, MP3 capabilities and radio, it’s just seems too good to be true. As its the latest in Sony’s mobile technology, it’s priced beyond my reach. Besides, since its using a new generation of proprietary memory card (memory stick micro), getting an extra card to store photos and MP3s to my heart’s content may be a very expensive proposition indeed.

Which led me to look into its predecessor, the k750i. It has a modest 2 megapixel camera but sample photos available on the internet look good enough for quick shots. It also uses the memory stick pro duo, which is widely available and cheaper than the newer memory stick micro. Retailing at $499, it’s also within my budget. What cinched the deal for me, however, is that we saw the k750i on clearance at a local Dick Smith shop, selling at $399! With only 2 units left in stock, I got the last non-display unit.

The interface took a while to get used to. Keylocking is now * then Menu instead of the other way around (with Nokia phones). There are no timed profiles, which could be handy for people like me who put their mobiles in silent when watching a movie then forgetting to set it back to normal afterwards. Accessing shortcuts through the shortcuts menu would still involve scrolling through a list instead of being able to assign a number to the shortcut within the menu. With all those features packed tightly into a small package, it’s fairly difficult to change the SIM and memory cards (not a problem really, as it would be a rare occurence anyway). Then there’s the uncomfortable earphones that came with it which constantly falls out of my too small ears and I worry about that joystick too.

Overall though, I was quite happy with the purchase. My last two blog entries which included photos were taken with the phone’s camera and was sufficient enough for my needs. As well, I found an earphone adapter in Ebay that allows me to use any headphones with the mobile. I also bought a 2 GB memory stick at a good price, also from Ebay.

My new, shiny gadget is now loaded with several themes, screensavers, MP3 ringtones, audio books, podcasts and Java games to amuse me for hours. I even found a great software to convert text ebooks to Java applets, if you don’t mind the miniscule font, that is. All that and I still have room for photos! Ah, be still, my heart.

Published in: on July 22, 2006 at 1:58 am  Comments (4)  

Money in, money out

The bank started it. The letter advised us that from this month on, the minimum balance we need to maintain in our account to avoid account keeping fees would be increased from $1,000 to $3000. That gave us the extra push to finally consolidate finances, closing our individual payroll accounts and redirecting everything to/from a single joint account.

With that sorted out, we received another letter from the bank. With the recent increase in interest rates, we were advised that our mortgage payments would increase from the 1st of July. Not long afterward, we got another correspondence from the bank, this time stating that from September, the fees for our offset account would increase. It seems like nothing good comes from our mailbox anymore.

Then, it happened. The electric company sent an advisory saying that starting this month, their rates would DECREASE in July. Ooh, is this actually true, a decrease?

My joy in that piece of news was short-lived though as we soon got another letter, this time from the water company. July seems to be the month to make changes as they announce their price increase. Would there be no end to this? Retrieving letters from the mailbox has started to feel like a gamble, would there be any more letters from service companies and would it bring good news or bad news?

As the first of July finally came in, I consoled myself that at least there’s that tax break to offset all these increases in our monthly expenses. As expected, we got a few extra bucks in our pay today. It seems like everything has cancelled out anyway. But are we out of the woods yet?

As it turned out, we got another announcement today in the form of an email from our ISP. Although there is no price increase per se, they said that due to the higher cost they are paying their wholesale service provider (Telstra). Instead of a price increase, our plan speeds (upload/download) would be halved so essentially it’s the same price for less service. They gave us the option to “upgrade” to a plan with our previous plan speeds for an additional $20 per month. After much research and deliberation, we decided to stay with our downgraded plan as transferring would mean a slew of transfer charges with only a small savings in monthly fees.

At this rate, it seems like that tax break (and more) is just going straight to the corporations. Oh well, better than no tax break at all and still having to contend with higher fees. It may hurt less, but it still hurts.

Published in: on July 21, 2006 at 11:15 pm  Comments (2)  

The horror of it all

I’m a horror fiction fan, there I said it. I remember telling one friend that I like reading scary books and he had this disappointed look on his face. He looked like he wanted to ask why I would bother reading such rubbish but thought better of it. He’s into non-fiction books and classic literature. I guess he felt I’m wasting my time with those pulp fiction stuff and should get into loftier subjects.

I discovered the genre when I went to a friend’s house to watch a video with a group of friends. I got bored with whatever it was were watching and my eyes wandered to the bookshelf just beside the television. My friend’s brother had this whole shelf of Stephen King books and I picked up the one titled The Shining. I read it while my friends endured the movie and I borrowed the book after I realised I wouldn’t be able to finish it then and there. From then on, I was hooked. I’ve read most of Stephen King’s works and enjoyed most of his earlier works. Among my favourites are The Shining, Bag of Bones, Skeleton Crew, Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Everything’s Eventual, Four Past Midnight, The Dark Half and Needful Things. Other works of his that I’ve watched but haven’t read (but would still recommend) are Misery, The Stand, The Dead Zone, Carrie, Thinner, The Langoliers, The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption.

Yes, I guess you could say I’ve been a Stephen King fan since that fateful day when I got my hands on The Shining. However, I still find Edgar Allan Poe‘s stories chilling particularly The Pit and the Pendulum, The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado and the unforgettable The Tell-Tale Heart. Then there’s also Ray Bradbury with his Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man and I Sing the Body Electric to keep me busy during my university years. More recently, I’ve also enjoyed I am Legend by Richard Matheson. On the other hand, I found Dean Koontz’ kind of horror lacking and has avoided his books after plowing through a couple of them.

Lately, I’ve been haunting the bookstores to find new authors to read and realised that there is truth in what some horror writers (and readers) say, the genre is marginalised. It’s easy to walk into a bookstore and find the Science Fiction or Crime section, in fact there are just rows and rows of shelves dedicated to these sort of books. Horror fiction, on the other hand, is lumped up with general fiction or only has very limited shelf space devoted to it. Either way, the choices are dismally small. The only book shop I’ve seen that has a respectable selection of horror fiction is Borders at Jam Factory.

Even the libraries follow the same pattern, thus making the hope of browsing through shelves to discover a new author who specialises in horror a remote possibility. Sure, some of the books have stickers indicating the genre they belong to but not all of them do.

What’s a horror fiction fan to do? Right now, I’ve been trawling at Amazon.com’s horror fiction category, taking note of the author’s name then going to the shops to try and find the book. Failing that, I’d search for the author’s works from my library’s online catalogue and putting in a request for it. There is some good news though if the work is no longer protected by copyright laws and are available online. Horror Masters, Project Gutenberg and East of the Web have proven to be a treasure trove of short stories that should keep me busy for quite a long time. Now, if only I could find the time to read them.

Published in: on July 20, 2006 at 9:40 pm  Comments (3)  

What we had for lunch today

We frequently have our lunch at Tokio, located at The Causeway in Melbourne’s CBD. Although we’ve tried several of the dishes they serve, the Teriyaki Don (Chicken Teriyaki on rice) remains our favorite. At $7.50 per serve (if memory serves correctly), it’s quite a filling dish. It comes in large (shown here) and small bowls. Since the shop specialises in take-away, there are limited seats in-store so be sure to arrive early if you plan to dine there. Service is fast and courteous. Highly recommended!

Published in: on July 18, 2006 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

Out of Action

I haven’t been posting for a while now. Reason? Well, let me count the ways.

Been Sick
Yes. I was sick, for real. I took a sick leave two Fridays ago because I had a bad case of hayfever or something I thought was hayfever. Because a week later, I still had a blocked-up nose and couldn’t stop from sneezing. It was terrible. My nasal passages were making odd creaking noises whenever I took breath. I was pretty sure my officemates noticed it during one of our meetings.

Watching Movies
We watched the Pixar/Disney CG movie, Cars, last weekend with our friend Irar. I liked the movie and i thought it was hilarious (almost as hilarious as Dreamworks’ Over the Hedge, in my opinion). I think I would’ve enjoyed the movie better though it my head throbbing and my eyes watering (because of my illness mentioned above). We were planning to eat out with Irar after the movie but because of my not-feeling-well, I had to cut our outing a little short.

Bought Magic Sing
Magic Sing is basically a microphone with a video karaoke machine built-in. I think it is quite popular in Manila and Pinoy expats. I found out about it from our friend and neighbor, Milkshake. He has one and we’ve used it a couple of times. It made me want to have one, too. Unfortunately, that meant waiting till we fly home to the Philippines to buy one.

But, as fortune would have it, we just discovered that Magic Sing was actually available locally in Australia. We saw one on eBay and bought one including a chip that plugs in to the mic that contains about 900+ songs in Tagalog. The Magic Sing mic itself has about 2000 English songs already. I’d say that is a better deal than having to buy the Singstar mics and song games for the Playstation2.

So, we ended up “testing” it after I received it in the post. And we’ve been “testing” it ever since.

Caught Up to Star Trek Enterprise Season 4
Yes, Enterprise ended a long time ago in the US. Here in good old Australia, Enterprise Season 4 has just begun showing every Tuesday midnight (Wednesday, actually) on Channel 9. Then, for several weeks, Enterprise disappeared from Channel 9 without notice because of the Wimbledon tournament telecast.

In the end, we sought another way of finally catching up to the last season of the Enterprise series. So, when we weren’t testing the Magic Sing mic, we were watching episodes from Enterprise season 4. Too bad it had to be cancelled just when it finally lived up to its story premise and setting. I have to say that I liked most of the episodes but I hated the last episode of the series. They should’ve just ended it with the episode before last.

Watching our Favourite TV Shows
Our current faves on TV are 24 (good on Channel 7 for doing double-episodes twice a week), House, Prison Break (season finale last week and I felt short changed), Stargate: SG-1 (season 10 at last! About bloody time, Channel 7), NCIS, Numb3rs, Desperate Housewives, CSI, Ghost Whisperer (a reluctant fave), Beyond Tomorrow, Catalyst, What’s Good For You, Lonely Planet Six Degrees, Lost (actually, we’ve seen it all through to the last episode of the current season but eh), Honey We’re Killing the Kids, Border Security, Medical Emergency, and Mythbusters. Yeah, we’re such a couple of couch potatoes.

Working Out
Since we are such couch potatoes, we figured we need to work out. Watching shows like What’s Good For You and Honey We’re Killing the Kids actually motivates me to work out and eat healthier as well. Anyway, we have The Biggest Loser – The Workout DVD and we’re following the workout plan outlined in the DVD.

We had to workout for around 45 minutes six times a week for six weeks to see results. We’re currently in week number three and we haven’t exactly done the recommended six days in one week. Still, better some exercise than none. I can already feel the workouts becoming easier and less painful. At the very least, my joints don’t make as much noises as when I started out.

Drawing my Webcomic
And when I’m not testing the mic, watching TV, movies or DVD and working out, I’m drawing pages for my Lovarian Adventures webcomic. I had to draw a page that has horses in it and set in a forest. So, I had to do research on trees and horses. In the end, I faked most of it. Here is the end result.

And now, I finally had some time to write something up for the blog.

Published in: on July 16, 2006 at 11:04 am  Comments (1)