On holidays

All our bags our packed and we don’t think we’re forgetting anything. We’ve arranged for a good friend to keep an eye on our house while we’re away, have all our travel documents with us and have all the things we want to bring back home in our luggage. So how come I still feel like we might still be forgetting something? Maybe it’s just the excitement?

We’d be leaving for Manila tomorrow and would be spending three weeks with family and friends after being away for three and a half years. As we expect to be pretty busy, we might not be able to post anything new until after the holidays. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Be safe and have fun!

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Published in: on December 14, 2006 at 12:00 am  Comments (7)  

Getting citizenship isn’t so easy anymore

If you are a would-be migrant with the intent to become an Australian citizen in the future, you’ll now have a tougher chance of becoming an Australian than before. The government is introducing an English language test and an Australian values quiz that applicants for citizenship would have to take and pass first. On top of that, the waiting period to become a citizen is now raised to four years instead of two years previously.

A lot of people, specially people who were naturalised citizens, strongly object to the new laws proposed by Prime Minister John Howard. I’m no fan of Howard but I do see their point in wanting the application for citizenship a little more tougher. It could help sort out people who aren’t really all too serious in taking on the citizenship of Australia.

On the other hand, these new laws would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for people who are illiterate (not by choice) to become citizens such as humanitarian refugees.

Here are a couple of articles regarding the new laws:
Citizenship test ‘discriminatory @ ABC News Online
Rush to beat Aussie values test @ News.com.au

So, if you are already a permanent resident and have plans to become an Australian citizen, you better apply now while the laws are still not enforced (as far as I know).

Published in: on December 13, 2006 at 11:15 pm  Comments (2)  

Victoria Burning

There have been several bushfires around the state of Victoria since last week but it really came to a head during the weekend when temperatures peaked at over 40 degrees Celcius. We went to city for a spot of shopping Saturday and was shocked to see that the city’s skyline was covered in smoke and haze. There were even reports of delayed flights coming in and going out of the city because of the poor visibility. With Christmas approaching and everyone wanting to get out of the heat, everyone flocked to the shopping centres. There were too many people in the mall that even the shopping centre’s airconditioning is struggling to cool the building and its many visitors. A cool change came Sunday evening and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.

The temperature was quite moderate for the past few days ranging from about 12 degrees in the morning with a top of about 28 at its highest. There might also have been a change in wind direction as the smog around the city lifted. Yesterday’s news of several small fires merging into a big one was a bit scary though. A thick smog has enveloped the city today, accompanied by the smell of smoke and the sight of a weak, red sun occassionally peeking from behind the haze. Tomorrow’s forecast of over 30 degrees isn’t bringing any comfort either with conditions already expected to get worse.

Published in: on December 13, 2006 at 12:42 pm  Comments (2)  

Red Sun over Melbourne

“Hey! Have you seen the sun outside?” asked my officemate. “It’s like a small red disc!”

The bushfires I’ve mentioned before are still blazing away across the Victoria and its effects could be observed from Melbourne even though we’re several kilometres away from the firestorm. The city is covered with smog and the smell of burnt wood is in the air. The smell of smoke even gets through our office’s air-conditioning system.

But I guess the weirdest effect of all that smoke in the air is that it changes the colour of the sun from bright yellow (in reality, it should be white) to orange-red. The sunlight bathed everything around us in an orange hue which reminds me of near-evening afternoons in the Philippines (I don’t really notice the sky turning all that orange here at sunset).

Anyway, maybe I should’ve been more impressed or, at least, weirded-out by the way the sun looked today. But, we were still living in Canberra during one of its worst firestorm events a few years back and I’ve seen it all before. And how much worse it could get.

It just angers me to think that all of this wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for some bloody arsonist bastards that maybe thought it would be amusing to start a little fire in the middle of the forest. Thanks to them, there are a lot of people without homes, trees and important structures got burnt down, we are using up our much needed (and depleted) water supplies to put out the bushfires, and our water catchments are getting polluted from all the airborne ash. When these people get caught, they should be tried in court as terrorists for all the mass destruction they’ve done.

Thankfully, it’s still quite cool today so hopefully this will help our brave firefighters a bit in combatting the firestorm raging just beyond Melbourne.

Published in: on December 13, 2006 at 12:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bargain at the Music Shop

I was very disappointed to discover that the Billy Hyde music shop here in the CBD was closing down for good. I only found out when I dropped by their store last Friday to look at Recorder-related books and music sheets. That Friday was supposed to be the last day for their sale that we mentioned in an earlier blog. When we got there, we then realised the actual reason for the sale.

They were going to relocate to Blackburn and December 8 was their last day in the CBD. I’ll miss that shop. They’re the only music shop in the city that carried its more than fair share of recorder music books and sheets. The Allans music shop in the city didn’t carry as many recorder titles (unlike their branch in Kew). And so, I’ll sorely miss the Billy Hyde shop.

Anyway, the original deal was that the newer books were 25% off and the older books were 80% off. But that Friday being the last day, they slashed the price even further. The newer books were now 30% off. The older books, while still 80% off, could be taken for free with a purchase of a newer book.

I couldn’t believe it.

I was interested in two of the new books they have on sale: Enjoy the Recorder Descant Tutor book 2 by Brian Bonsor (because I already have the first book) and Recorder Excellence by Bruce Pearson and Wendy Barden (only because it comes with a CD and a DVD). To be absolutely clear that I understood their bargain deal, I went to the cashier with the two new books in tow as well as three old books.

“So, if I buy these two new books, I get these three old books for free?” I asked the cashier tentatively with one eyebrow raised.

“Yeah,” he answered cheerfully. “You can take the lot.”

Take the lot, huh?

I went to the bargain boxes and grabbed two more old books that interested me and soon returned to the cashier. Again, I asked the same question with a slight ammendment. “So, if I buy these two new books, I get these five books for free?”

With no hesitation, he agreed. I then quickly pushed the books toward him before he changed his mind and said, “I’ll take them!” Maybe a little too loudly, though.

In the end, I was able to take home seven books from the shop for the price of two books that were both discounted by 30%. It was a pretty good deal.

It was only later that I realised that maybe I should’ve also looked at the old books for other instruments as well like for the piano, guitar, violin and flute! D’oh! At the very least, I could’ve sold those free books at eBay for something. Ah well.

Published in: on December 12, 2006 at 12:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hottest Day Ever

Yesterday was the Melbourne’s hottest December day in 53 years at 42.1 degrees Celsius. Even a few days before yesterday, bush fires all around the state of Victoria began to spread. With the record high temperature and wild winds compounding the problem, the firestorm continued unopposed and threatened to burn down the communities beyond Melbourne nearer the blaze. This event reminded me of the firestorm we experienced while still living in Canberra but on a larger scale.

It’s of some relief to firefighters and the communities near the wild bush fires that today and tomorrow are both predicted to have day temperatures no higher than 27 degrees. For the sake of the communities in the path of the firestorm, I pray that the blaze could be controlled before Thursday when the temperature is expected to rise again.

On a different note regarding the summer heat, I was pleased to discover that the house handled the heat well. While it was hot as hell outdoors, it remained relatively cool indoors. The ceiling fan we had installed really helped circulated the air around the dining and rumpus areas.

We were originally thinking of having central cooling air-conditioner installed but that would be a bit costly. Now, I’m thinking that maybe a couple more ceiling fans might just do the trick in beating the heat in the coming summer days. Or at the very least, we might just need to get a couple of industrial-strength stand fans.

Published in: on December 12, 2006 at 7:56 am  Leave a Comment  

Is Anybody Still Reading?

We haven’t updated the blog frequently enough over the past few weeks now. So, Raquel and I couldn’t help but wonder if anybody is still going to our site. It couldn’t be helped though. There are just a couple of days now before our flight to the Philippines and we have spent our free time packing our luggage or shopping for possible pasalubong (home-coming gifts by home-comers).

Our lack of updates doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything going on in our lives worth blogging about. We just don’t have the time to write it down and post it here.

However, today, I have a bit of time to spare so I’ll just write a few paragraphs on separate posts later about the goings-on in the past few days. Then after that, this site will probably be quiet until we return from the Philippines in early January.

Published in: on December 11, 2006 at 11:59 am  Comments (5)  

Tooting Again

A year ago, I was very much into playing the recorder (a fipple flute) but after a couple of months at it, I stopped practicing. However, I’ve picked up practicing the recorder again just a few months ago and I’m pleased with my current progress.

However, I’ve put my learning on hold temporarily to concentrate on practicing some Christmas tunes. I hope that I would’ve already mastered the songs enough so that I can go through the tunes without making a mistake if I do play for my family over the Christmas season in the Philippines.

As it is, though, I don’t have a lot of time to practice because of the stuff I have to do when I get home from work. If I have time to spare, I might record (no pun intended) myself playing a couple of Christmas tunes and post it here.

Published in: on December 6, 2006 at 9:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Nuggets

What’s white inside but golden brown, breaded and crispy on the outside and goes well with tomato sauce? Nuggets, of course. We had some nice nuggets with last night for dinner along with some rice and tinned soup. What’s different about these nuggets though is that there is no meat in sight.

We first had our taste of Beer Tofu when we were invited for a homecooked meal by a vegetarian friend. I’ve been making it occasionally since then and had enjoyed having it each time. It’s easy, simple, cheap and delicious. Definitely a keeper!

Published in: on December 5, 2006 at 1:13 pm  Leave a Comment