Prey Got Accepted

Remember the short comics titled Prey that I drew last month? The eight page comics that I had to submit to a publisher for a possible inclusion in a literary magazine titled Going Down Swinging? Well, the editor of GDS finally got back to me. Here is a condensed version of the letter I received from him just the other day.

Thank you so much for submitting to Going Down Swinging. We were lucky to receive over 950 prose and poetry submissions for issue #24, as well as over 120 pages of comic art. This made for some interesting reading and, as you could imagine, a longer-than-expected selection process.

After all that reading, looking and deciding, it’s with delight that I can let you know that we’ve accepted the following piece of yours for publication:

PREY

This next issue will be our first in a while to be a book only (our last six issues have included a CD of spoken word), but in the place of the spoken word CD we are featuring the best in Australian comic art. So stay tuned!

We plan to launch the next issue in Melbourne, Sydney, Frankston, Geelong and Daylesford … and hopefully a few more places outside Victoria & NSW if we get the chance.

Many regards, thanks and congratulations.

I’m stoked! This will be my second published work in Australia and the first where I’ll get paid. It wouldn’t pay much, mind you, but paid nonetheless. That’s still better than doing comics for free which is what I mostly do for the time being.

I can’t wait for the book to get published and distributed.

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Published in: on October 31, 2006 at 11:19 pm  Comments (11)  

Zone 3 to disappear

A plan to restructure the fare system for Melbourne’s public transport is expected to be announced today. Read about it from this article from The Age. This would mean cheaper, simpler and a more flexible fare system for passengers. Makes me wonder though if this proposal has anything to do with elections next month?

I’m not one to complain as the proposal would benefit me as a regular train user. Could multi-level parkings at train stations, more bike lockers, additional express services, better trains, extensions to existing lines or introduction of new lines be in the cards? One is free to hope but I’m not holding my breath.

Published in: on October 26, 2006 at 8:41 am  Leave a Comment  

NCIS and Pinpin Pula

Raquel and I are both avid fans of NCIS (Naval Criminal Investigative Service), an American TV series about an criminal investigative branch of the US Navy. Although it might first have been mistaken for a CSI wannabe, NCIS deals more with cases that involve Navy personnel and Navy assets. They not only do forensics, but they are also federal agents so espionage and counter-terrorism action is also to be expected.

But the main draw of the show for us is the humourous banter between the lead characters and the common geeky exchange of the more geeky characters (such as Abby, Agent McGee, Palmer and Ducky). I gave this show a try when it was starting out only because Donald Bellisario is the executive producer of the show (as well as an old TV fave of mine, Quantum Leap).

Okay so it’s obvious that we love NCIS. But that’s not the reason why I wrote this post.

The second to the last episode of Season 3 titled Hiatus (Part 1) was shown on Channel Ten last night. Yes, for you Americans out there that are already into Season 4, Australia is usually behind on TV episodes so we only got to watch it last night. Anyway, at the beginning of the show, the NCIS gang were at a pier inspecting a ship and its crew.

One of the crew members showed his passport and guess what? It’s a green passport with the words “Pasaporte” and “Pilipinas” on the cover. Yep. It was a Philippine passport. It turned out that the passport was forged so the guilty “Filipino” made a run for it. Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs (just think of him as the Optimus Prime of the group) gave chase. Thankfully, it turned out that this seeming Pinoy bad guy was actually an informant and the chase was only for show.

It was a good start but I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief later on due to some of things shown in that particular episode. The main one is that the NCIS is after a Filipino terrorist that goes by the name of Pinpin Pula. What kind of Filipino name is Pinpin Pula? Okay, given that this supposed Filipino terrorist probably lives in Mindanao and not in Manila, maybe the surname Pula is popular in Mindanao but it certainly isn’t in Manila.

And the first name, Pinpin? From observation, most Filipinos would either have an old Spanish-sounding name (such as Gabriel, Mariano, Jose, Manuel, etc.), an Anglicised name (such as Peter, Jason, Dexter, etc.) or an Arabic name if he or she is a Muslim (though I don’t personally know a lot of Filipinos with Arabic names so I couldn’t give you a list of common examples). Pinpin sounds more like a Chinese name and Chinese-Filipinos would probably give their children Spanish names (to make it sound more Filipino) or Anglicised names.

Well, according to Dr “Ducky” Mallard (of the NCIS team), the name Pinpin Pula is supposedly Tagalog for “rice paddy dike”! Really? Where did they get this? Is it that difficult to find a Filipino in the USA that they couldn’t get a more authentic sounding Filipino name and get its meaning correctly? We had to laugh out loud when we heard the supposed meaning.

And so that one bit of inaccuracy sort of ruined the episode for me. I couldn’t take it seriously after that.

It was a bit funny that they pronounce Abu Sayyaf as Abu Sayyif but I guess Sayyif could be a more accurate pronunciation in Arabic. Locally, Filipinos pronounce and spell it as Sayyaf so it was just a bit weird to hear it pronounced another way. However, Agent Ziva David (an Israeli Mossad agent assigned to be part of the NCIS team) pronounced Sayyaf as is. And she also pronounced Pula as you would expect a Filipino would. Looking at the actress’s bio, I found out that Cote de Pablo (who played Agent Ziva David) was born in Chile and grew up in Miami. I suppose it’s because she speaks Spanish that she got the pronunciations “correctly”.

There was also a fun tidbit in the show. While the team was looking for leads, it was suggested that they talk to all the Filipino sailors. Then Agent McGee pointed out that there are over 250,000 Filipino sailors! I tried to verify the numbers but couldn’t. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true though as most Filipinos know at least one person who became a seaman.

Part 2 of the two-parter would be shown next week. I hope that I could suspend my disbelief again by then.

Published in: on October 19, 2006 at 12:34 pm  Comments (15)  

Krispy Kreme Krazy

We were in the vicinity of the newly opened Krispy Kreme shop near Spencer Street yesterday and thought we ought to at least check out the new place. The end of the queue was just outside the door so we figured it won’t be a long wait. Although the shop mostly sells their doughnuts by the dozen, people who want to try only one of the sweet treats could by it singly. $2.00 for original glazed and $2.50 for one of the assorted kinds. We decided to get an original glazed and shared it.

We liked the soft and tasty dough but didn’t like the glaze (we found it too sweet for our liking). If there’s a non-glazed/plain Krispy Kreme doughnut, then it would be just perfect. Hmmm… maybe we ought to go back and see if they have those. On the other hand, it may be better (for our hips and hip pocket) not to, those doughnuts have the potential to be addictive.

Published in: on October 17, 2006 at 8:59 am  Comments (5)  

Infected by a Trojan Horse

I used to work for a multinational computer antivirus company several years ago. So, I’m quite knowledgeable when it came to computer viruses and trojan horses. I know how they operate and I kind of know what to expect if my computer ever gets infected by them. Or so I thought. I unfortunately didn’t realise how cunning a virus could be nowadays.

Although I have an antivirus software installed on my PC, it’s not exactly top of the line. It was one of the two popular freebie antivirus software available on the Web today. Still, I was pretty confident that it would catch almost any virus that would try to infect my machine. It just turned out that it didn’t catch a trojan horse called Vundo or a variant of it.

At the time I didn’t know what it was. All I know is that I double-clicked on the installer of a trial-ware program I downloaded from the Web and then nothing. I looked at the folder where the program should be and it wasn’t there. Uh-oh, I thought. I then scanned my hard disk for viruses as a precaution but the antivirus software found nothing. I didn’t believe the results then but what if the AV was right? I carried on as normal for that evening.

The next night when I opened up Firefox, a pop-up window appeared instead of Firefox.

Now, I’m computer savvy enough to know that this pop-up dialog box wasn’t generated by the system. It was likely to be a javascript run from my web browser. What concerned me was that it run by itself even before I did anything. That could only mean that a virus or something has installed itself on to my PC and added this code so that this pop-up dialog would come out when I use my browser. After further investigation on the Web, I found a Wikipedia entry on WinFixer.

Every now and then, my current AV would alert me to the presence of a trojan on my PC. Apparently, it could catch some variants of the trojan horse but not all of it. The trojan horse variant I may have accidentally run was a polymorphic type. Meaning, it changes its own code so that AV scanners would have a tougher time matching the correct virus signature to the virus. So, I decided to downloaded three more AV programs to see if any of them could find all traces of the trojan on my PC and remove them.

The different AV scanners I used found variants of the Vundo trojan horse and removed them with no problem. However, I must have a newer version of it that the current AV programs can’t properly remove it all because after rebooting my PC, I still get the WinFixer problem when I use Firefox or Internet Explorer.

Well, according to the information I’ve read regarding the trojan, the risk and destructiveness ratings are on the low end. But, I couldn’t allow a trojan or virus living in my PC to be left unremoved. Sure, it doesn’t seem so dangerous now but from how I understand how it works, it may be possible that the trojan could install a more threatening hidden script on my web browser at a future time. I was more concerned that it would track down my usernames and passwords and send them to the maker of the trojan.

And so, I spent most of my spare time trying to get rid of the stupid trojan. All the AV scanners I’ve installed kept telling me that there are no more viruses on my machine yet the WinFixer dialog keeps popping up when I use Firefox. It just wasn’t acceptable to me. I continued my search on the Web on how I could possibly remove the trojan manually.

I came upon Symantec’s dedicated Trojan.Vundo Removal Tool. Exactly what I needed, I thought. And so, I foolishly followed the instructions on Symantec’s website including the part where I should turn off my Windows XP System Restore feature! I sure regretted that move.

I tried the tool and it didn’t find any Vundo trojans in my system. Yet, I still get the symptoms of the same trojan: uninitiated pop-up windows and the intermittent Vundo virus alerts from my AV. It was only after all that that I found a suggestion that I could maybe just use the System Restore to go back to a Restore Point when I haven’t run the trojan for the first time.

I could’ve tried that except all my old Restore Points were all gone now because I turned off the feature earlier. That was the last straw for me. It was then I decided that I’ll just reformat my PC and start over from scratch. It was going to be a long process but I’ve already wasted a lot of time trying to remove the persistent trojan in my PC. And I predicted that I was going to waste a lot more of my precious spare time cleaning it up by following detailed manual instructions like this: WinAntiVirus – FixVundo Solution.

I haven’t actually finished installing all the software I had before but at least I have now the peace of mind of knowing that my system is free of viruses and trojans. The only real hassle I’ve encountered so far was that Firefox (understandably) doesn’t remember the username and passwords I’ve saved for the websites I frequented. On the plus side, I got rid of all the unnecessary software that was installed with my PC when I bought it from Dell.

Now, I really feel good about reinstalling my PC and starting up from scratch again. I should’ve done it earlier.

If you haven’t been infected with a virus or trojan yet, read this: How to protect yourself from malware!

If you already got infected with a virus or trojan, read this:
READ & RUN ME FIRST post from MajorGeeks.com.

And if you are infected with a virus or trojan that requires special removal procedures, read this: Special Removal Procedures – TitanShield, Virtumonde, Qoologic, SpyAxe, Look2ME, etc.

Published in: on October 16, 2006 at 12:37 am  Comments (2)  

Can’t Stand the Heat?

Ever since watching Al Gore’s The Inconvenient Truth documentary, I have became more aware of environmental issues in regards to climate change. Whenever there is a TV feature on ABC or SBS regarding climate change that I’m aware of, I made an attempt to watch it.

Just recently, I watched this documentary about how the next type of refugees we’ll be seeing are the “environmental refugees” that will be coming mostly from the Pacific region. Although not from the show I watched, here is a quote from a related news article titled We must plan for climate change refugees: Labor on the Sunday Morning Herald:

Low-lying Pacific island states such as Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, and Tuvalu – which sit just a few metres above sea level – are at risk of being swamped as global warming forces sea levels to rise.

In fact, in the TV feature, it showed that some of their trees that were once near the beach are now submerged a few feet in water. The townsfolk fear that their whole island might be submerged underwater in a few years. And then, they will have no choice but to find a place to make their home somewhere else. Like Australia perhaps.

But is Australia any better off at the moment?

According to Australian Government’s Bureau of Meteorology’s
Annual Australian Climate Statement 2005
, year 2005 was the hottest year on record in Australia since 1910. Here are some excerpts from the statement along with the Annual Mean Temperature chart for Australia from 1910 to 2005.


Many of Australia’s warmest years on record (such as 1988, 1998 and 2002) had temperatures boosted by significant El Niño events. However, no such event occurred in 2005, making the record warmth even more unusual. The 2005 record is yet another sign that our climate is changing. Since 1979, all but four years have been warmer than average in Australia.

Australian temperatures have increased by approximately 0.9ºC since 1910, consistent with global warming trends. Scientific studies have linked global and Australian temperature increases to the enhanced greenhouse effect. Whilst this warming trend is expected to continue into the decades ahead, annual temperatures are influenced by numerous factors, including natural variability, so 2006 will not necessarily be warmer than 2005.

Okay. But what about 2006?

Here are a couple of articles from the Melbourne-based newspaper, The Age, that pointed out the coming heatwave and an “endless summer”: Victoria braces for heatwave (Oct 10) and Victoria in the grip of an endless summer (Oct 13).

Not only will it be hot here, but it will be very dry. It doesn’t help that the level of Melbourne’s main water supply coming from the Thomson Reservoir is at an all time low, according to The Age article Dam business — why the drought is really in store (Oct 8 ).

Here is a quote from the article:

The last time the water sat at 20 per cent capacity was in 1985, as the reservoir was being filled.

Geoff Crapper, a hydrologist who was responsible for Melbourne’s rainfall and river monitoring systems for 15 years, said that if Melbourne’s weather continued to mimic the big dry of 2003, the Thomson would be sitting at 13 per cent capacity by mid-May — at the “extreme minimum operating level”.

“It means that the water can’t be extracted in the normal way. This will be seriously uncharted territory with … an increasing likelihood of water quality problems,” said Mr Crapper, who points to potential blue-green algae blooms and fish-killing high levels of manganese occurring when the bottom of the dam is stirred up. “The reality is, I don’t believe Melbourne Water know what they’re up against because they’ve never dealt with anything like it.”

It is now feared that the agriculture industry will be in so much trouble that farmers’ businesses might fold up.

I think the government should really consider the matter of climate change more seriously. The current administration might be reluctant to apply measures to stave off climate change because it is likely to negatively impact the coal industry. But if we don’t do something about climate change now, not having coal would be the least of our worries.

If the current trend in climate change continues, a possible perpetual drought would devastate our agriculture. Where are we going to get our food? What would happen to the farmers? What about our shrinking water supply?

Unfortunately, a lot of people would rather just bury their heads in the sand.

Published in: on October 13, 2006 at 12:50 pm  Comments (2)  

Bohol bound

We’re going back to the Philippines for a much anticipated vacation in December and thinking that it may be a good time to visit some of the country’s tourist attractions as well, I originally set my sights on a 2 day/3 night stay somewhere in Palawan. However, the idea didn’t sit well with hubby, who wanted to go somewhere where there are more things to do and see than swimming and sun baking on the beach.

He wanted to see the tarsiers and the chocolate hills in Tagbilaran, Bohol and since its nearby island of Panglao is dotted with beach resorts as well, we thought it the best compromise for a travel destination. Knowing nothing about where to stay in Bohol, I lurked at Filipino forums PinoyExchange and Female Network for some ideas. Both have good threads on Bohol accomodations, tours and travel agencies.

Thinking that getting room, tour and airline ticket rates in this day and age of the internet would make everything a cinch, I emailed some travel agencies in the Philippines and even filled out online forms to ask for information. Things I’ve learned from this experience are:

  1. Most of the travel agencies and resorts never reply to emails.
  2. People who answer the email don’t read it properly or try to understand it. When I say I’d be needing a room for a couple, I didn’t expect the person to come right back and ask, how many people?
  3. Information is given piecemeal. If you ask for prices, that’s all you get. People who answer the emails won’t even qualify what the prices quoted is for (Is it per night per person? For the whole stay for all people? What are the inclusions?) Several exchanges of email would be required just to clarify these things.
  4. Some travel agencies push customers into choosing a particular resort. For example, I asked for room rates to two resorts and the agent said that the first one is good, then proceeded to give quotes. No mention of the second resort at all. Maybe because the first one is a bit more expensive, I don’t know.
  5. Some resorts quote their prices in US Dollars and nothing else. This one really irked me, why the hell would the prices be in US dollars when you’re in the Philippines operating a local business?!? This practice reeks of elitism and exclusivism. Owners are sending the message that your Philippine peso (or any other currency for that matter) is not as good as the US dollar. I glanced at their price list once and looked elsewhere.
  6. Other resorts have a different price list for Filipinos and another for foreigners (yes, in US dollars!). In most cases, the prices for Filipinos are a bit cheaper than the ones quoted for non-locals. Although I understand that this is to encourage Pinoys to visit local attractions than go abroad, it also made me uncomfortable. Why the discrimination? Filipinos are proud of being a hospitable people but asking a foreign guest to pay premium price suggests otherwise.
  7. I considered cutting costs by booking flights with smaller airline, Cebu Pacific, but changed my mind after reading MarketMan’s travel woes with them. With limited time to spend on holidays, I don’t think the cheaper price justifies shody service and lost time.

In the end, I booked our flight online with Philippine Airlines and if their online booking is to be believed, the booking is confirmed. As for accomodations, we went with Alona Palm through Accomline. It came out cheaper and hassle-free than if we went with any of the travel agencies who replied to my emails. Now the only thing to think about is organising the tour and finally getting there. Can’t wait!

Published in: on October 11, 2006 at 12:13 pm  Comments (7)  

The Proposition

It was the afternoon and I was running to catch the train home. My company sent me to one of our clients to help out with some technical stuff today. After I finished helping out, I knew that it was only a few minutes to go before the train for home pass by the train station nearby.

When I got on the station platform, I quickly looked over the rail tracks to see if there was an incoming train. There wasn’t. I then consulted the posted train time table and discovered that I had three minutes to spare. I was relieved. Missing the train meant waiting for another twenty minutes for the next one.

I just stood there on the platform to catch my breath when three young teenage school girls passed by. I guess it was that time of the day when the kids get off school. At 5pm, I’m still usually in the city so I’m not really used to seeing a lot of rowdy kids on the train home from work.

Anyway, the three teens were probably 14-16 years of age. I have a tough time determining the age of young Caucasians as they look more mature than Asians of the same age to which I’m more used to seeing. Two of them went on to the waiting shed where there were benches while one of them stood right in front of me.

She had blonde messy hair, eyes bordered with dark thick eyeliner and had a piercing just above her lip. She just stood there for quick moment then eyed me from head to toe. Just when I thought she was about to follow her friends she smiled and said, “you’re hot.”

I was taken aback. This was the first time ever that someone had said that I was hot right to my face. It didn’t take me too long to snap back to reality. It probably was some silly joke by these girls. Maybe a dare of some sort. I cautiously replied back, “oookay.”

“So, how old are you?” she asked.

“Thirty,” I said. I rounded down. “And you?” Of course, I didn’t really need to ask. She was obviously young.

“I’m actually 28. I just repeated school so many times.” She then left and walked towards her friends.

Good riddance, I thought. I don’t want to get into any kind of trouble. To avoid any possiblity of trouble what-so-ever, I retreated to the opening of the station where I started to pretend reading the time tables.

However, the same girl was back. She approached me and leaned on the pay phone near the time tables post. She asked, “so, what are you doing tonight?”

Uh oh. What was I supposed to say? How do I get rid of her? To be honest, I haven’t gotten myself into this kind of situation before, ever. I just replied, “uh, nothing.”

“So, do you, like, want to go out with me tonight? Take me to dinner? You know. Or maybe you can, like, take me shopping?”

“No.” What else do I say to that?

She looked at me in disbelief. “Are you — are you rejecting me?”

“I’m married,” I said hoping that would put a stop to that.

“Oh. Is she fat?”

“No!”

“Is she skinny then?”

“No. She’s just right.”

“Is she loose?” she asked all the while acting all flirty.

“Excuse me?” I said.

She turned and walked back to her friends. Good.

Meanwhile, I went back to my pretend-reading of the time tables. This time though, I put on my earphones. I can hear the girl calling me from a distance but I ignored her. At last she realised that I must have my mp3 player turned on (even though it really wasn’t).

I heard further giggling and talking among the girls. From what little I can hear from a distance, it sounded like the girl’s friends are urging her to go do something but the girl was a bit reluctant. She agreed to do whatever it was in the end.

I can see the girl approaching me again from the corner of my eye. But when she was only an arm’s length away from me, she retreated back to her friends saying, “I couldn’t do it.” Then they laughed.

Then from a distance, I heard the blaring horn of the incoming train. At last! The train was coming. It must have been the longest three minute wait I ever had to endure. I quickly got on board and looked back to make sure none of the school girls followed.

The train doors closed and then left the platform. Whew. It was a very weird experience. I totally didn’t know how to react on such a situation. Should I have just shooed them away like any grumpy old man? Maybe I should’ve just said, “Sorry, no speaka da engleesh!” That would’ve ended that right away.

I now wonder what other boys or men would’ve done if they were approached by the same girl in the same way?

Published in: on October 10, 2006 at 11:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Philippine-born Australian for Parliament!

I just got word that Maina Walkley, a Philippine-born Australian, is running for the Electoral District of Richmond in the Victorian Parliament. According to her official homepage, she was born and educated in the Philippines and migrated here to Australia more than 31 years ago. Among her achievements here in Melbourne was that she established the Philippine Community Centre at Laverton and the only Philippine Language School in Victoria.

Although I do not know her personally, I’ve heard good things about her. And her being Pinoy also makes me want to support her even though I’m not really much of a Liberal Party fan. Too bad I couldn’t vote for her as I don’t live in Richmond. I heard that the Labor Party has a strong hold on Richmond so it’s a bit of an up-hill battle for her at this stage.

So, if you know anybody who lives in Richmond, tell them to vote for Maina. You can read more about her platform and policies at her website. I wish her the best of luck!

Published in: on October 6, 2006 at 7:23 am  Leave a Comment  

White and Nerdy

While listening to one of my favourite podcasts, Geekson (a podcast by four geeks for geeks like me), I heard mention of a supposedly very funny music video by the famous comedian singer Weird Al Yankovic. The song is called “White and Nerdy” about this white guy rapping about being, well, white and nerdy.

Watch and listen to it now:

I think it’s hilarious. But only maybe because I’m a big nerd myself. It’s so funny because it’s so true. Most of the things he mentioned about being a nerd applied to me or to most of my nerdy/geeky friends. To name but a few geeky traits I possess that is mentioned in the song: I play D&D, I program JavaScript and Pascal (way back when), I used to collect X-Men comics, I love Star Trek, I have two of Stephen Hawking’s books in my bookshelf and I even used to own a soldering gun (I studied Electronics Engineering in University, after all).

So, yeah, I’m guilty of being a big nerd. And proud of it.

Published in: on October 6, 2006 at 12:54 am  Comments (2)