Snaps of life

I was going through my phone’s photo gallery and found these pictures I’ve taken in the past. I have, at one time or another, intended the photos to be part of a blog entry but they have somehow been forgotten.

Kids do crazy things everywhere but we see them mostly on trains. The boys on the left were looking out the open windows into an oncoming train going in the other direction. Dangerously crazy. The girl on the left always have her feet on the seats opposite her when we see her reading her glamour magazines. One would think that sitting properly would be part of being glamorous, I suppose that kind of thinking maybe from another era. Right now, all I see is attitude.

I usually get the mail from our post box when we get home from work and I’ve always hated having to stick my hand into a dark box and feeling around it to see if we got some mail. That is until I MacGyver-ed a solution. I bought this small LED light and stuck it inside our mail box. Now, all I have to do is push on it to turn the lights on, see if we received some mail, take them out of the box and push the light’s covering to turn it off again. No more feeling around in a box that may contain deadly insects and who knows what else?

This photo was taken at either Sydney or Melbourne airport (can’t remember which now). It’s an AVRO 504K (not sure if it’s a replica or the real thing) that Qantas flew when it was just starting out. Talk about humble beginnings!

Next is this photo of a sign outside betting agency TAB stating that horse meets were cancelled for the day due to Equine Flu. Punters are still worried that this would affect the Spring Racing Carnival and it’s a bit of a wait-and-see situation right now.

Then there’s this photo of an elderly woman playing Scrabble with a boy in the local library. If you think the boy was getting his ass kicked, think again. Although the old lady was winning the game, the boy wasn’t trailing far behind. There was an official Scrabble dictionary nearby to settle disputes and a librarian on hand to help both players think up some suitable words. We stayed for a few minutes to watch and I just thought that it was a good idea to set up the board and had people play on that particular lazy afternoon. Brilliant work indeed!

I left all my usual train reading materials and had nothing to do for half of our journey home last night. After staring out the window for a few minutes and doing some people watching, I took this snap of hubby who was busily reading a graphic novel he borrowed from the library. It was supposed to be a candid shot but my phone’s auto-focus light tipped him off to what I was doing. Too bad that the photo came out blurry too as the train jolted on the exact moment when I took the photo. I forgot my reading material again today (why do the books I want to read have to come in hard-bound editions anyway?) and might drop by the library to pick something handy to read later.

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Published in: on August 29, 2007 at 8:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Deathly Working Conditions

On the topic of job seeking in Australia, there are two news articles headlined in The Age newspaper’s website that are of particular interest to any Filipino planning to work as a skilled worker in Australia.

Here are the links to the articles:
Death in the Outback
Foreign Workers ‘Enslaved’

The two articles basically refer to the story of Pedro Balading, a Filipino with a 457 working visa, who was hired for a job in the Australian outback. He had a university degree and was promised work as a supervisor in a farm here in Oz. When he got here, he was forced to do menial and dangerous work instead. He was allegedly discriminated against and verbally abused by his Aussie coworkers at the farm. Three months later, he fell dead on a dirt track in the outback.

To quote the article, Death in the Outback:

Together the deaths represent a disturbing pattern of exploitation and coverup. These three men – Filipinos Pedro Balading and Wilfredo Navales and Chinese man Guo Jian-Dong – were brought to Australia on a skilled migration scheme but made to do work that was unskilled or dangerous, or both.

They were harassed in the workplace and died in incidents that contravened occupational health and safety rules. Their families have been left without income or information, or any real idea how to apply for their entitlements.

Now, I’m not saying that all working conditions for migrants in Australia are as bad as what was depicted in the two articles. However, I just want to remind you, if you are interested in working here, to be extra vigilant. Don’t be lulled into thinking that working in Australia is without any risks. Do your homework and do not let yourself be abused. I strongly urge you to read the two articles in its entirety to get some ideas of what to watch out for.

Published in: on August 28, 2007 at 10:28 pm  Comments (2)  

Job Seeker’s Reality Check

We’ve been talking to friends and relatives from the Philippines and very often, they would ask as if there are a lot of jobs here in Australia. We were wondering why there seemed to be a sudden interest in Australian jobs in the Philippines. Then Raquel pointed me to the article RP to set up labor office in Sydney–official from the Philippine Daily Inquirer, dated August 20, 2007.

Here is a short snippet from the article:

Following the projected influx of Filipinos seeking work in Australia, the labor department is preparing to set up a Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Sydney in two or three months’ time, said an official who has been tasked to head the office as labor attaché.

From the article, we learned that Senator Jinggoy Estrada (I still cannot believe he is now Senate President pro tempore) wanted a labor attache posted in Australia. More details can be found from the recent Press Release on the Philippine Senate’s website titled Jinggoy wants two labor attaches posted in Australia.

Here is a short quote from the article:

In 2006, the Australia Department of Employment and Workplace Relations identified and offered at least 20,000 additional jobs for skilled foreigners that included health workers, engineers, trade persons and other professionals. Similar job demand identification programs are expected in years to come.

Well, if I was still living in the Philippines and I’ve been reading news like these, I would certainly think that finding job vacancies in Australia is quite easy. And I suppose it’s true that there must be a lot of jobs one can apply for. However, the problem is that there is also a lot of competition right now and Australian companies tend to hire people with local experience first.

That means, it may probably be easy enough to find jobs to apply for but actually getting hired is a different matter entirely.

What I do know from experience is that if you intend to migrate here, be prepared to play the waiting game, a long waiting game. After asking other Filipinos here, it seems like that it’s very common to get a job not later than three months after intense job hunting. Writing from personal experience, it took me almost exactly three months before I landed a job not in Sydney, which was my preference at the time, but in far-away Canberra (think Tagaytay, I suppose). Raquel similarly took roughly three months to get a job.

A friend of mine from Sydney spent over a year applying for a job as a computer programmer and last I heard from him, he was still looking. A recent Pinoy migrant I met recently is already in their fourth month in Melbourne and he cannot land a job as an accountant. And this is a person who had worked for a multinational company in the Philippines and graduated from a top tier university.

I’m not writing this to discourage any of you who may want to migrate here in Australia in the hopes of building a better life for you and your loved ones. I just want to present to you the facts so that you would be prepared for the worst possible scenario.

Assuming you don’t already have a job waiting for you here when you arrive, be sure to bring enough cash with you that will carry you through six months (at the very least!)of no income. You may be lucky and get a job on your first week here. Sadly, not everybody can be so lucky.

If you are planning to move here your family and children with you, I strongly advise that whoever is the breadwinner go to Australia on his/her own and seek out a job first. This way, that person can live as cheap as possible until he or she gets a job and start earning money again. After that, then by all means, bring the rest of your family here.

Additionally, I strongly advise against coming over here on a tourist visa then applying for a job. The immigration officers at the airports are very strict about this kind of thing as evidenced from a very popular TV programme here called Border Security on the Seven Network. If they catch you, you risk getting deported and banned from returning to Australia. Sure, they won’t jail you, but all that money you spent getting that expensive airfare will have been wasted and you won’t get another chance.

My last advice though is that when you do get here and you start looking for that first job, try not to be very picky. You may find that getting a job that is exactly like the job you once had in the Philippines is not quite so easy. I think the important thing is to get that all-important “Australian work experience” first. That first job may not be the best job out there but nothing’s stopping you from applying for other jobs once you are hired. At least, you’ll be earning some cash in the meantime and earning local experience at the same time.

With that, good luck and God bless to any of you wishing to give Australia a go.

Published in: on August 26, 2007 at 9:39 pm  Comments (5)  

Why me, Psyme?

I noticed something weird going on with our website these past few days. On occasion, my antivirus software, AVG, would detect a virus when I load a page from Palabok.com. I just ignored the warning whenever it came up. I figured it might be one of the embedded pages I have on the website that’s causing the problem or my antivirus software just returning false positives.

But then, Godie from the Corrupted Partition blog left a comment saying the following:

Godie Says:
August 24th, 2007 at 9:06 pm e

This page has an embedded JS/Psyme virus, if your anti-virus didn’t catch it, MAKE A FULL SCAN NOW WITH ANOTHER ANTI-VIRUS

Reading that comment made me worried. It means that it’s just not AVG messing up. After a bit of investigation, I discovered that there was a bit of foreign Javascript code inserted at the bottom of index.php pages in my website!

I copied the unknown code and pasted it into my text editor, saved it and allowed AVG to scan the saved file. AVG reported that the file was indeed infected by the JS/Psyme virus. The little piece of Javascript code was the reason AVG was alerting me to a virus whenever I browse through our own website.

Here is a short description of JS/Psyme as taken from the Sophos website, if you are interested:

Name: JS/Psyme-AN
Type: Trojan
How it spreads: Web browsing
Affected operating systems: Windows
Side effects:
– Downloads code from the internet
– Exploits system or software vulnerabilities

JS/Psyme-AN attempts to load a web page infected with Troj/Psyme-AN by creating a new object element within the current document/HTML page.

For further information please refer to the Troj/Psyme-AN description.

I have since removed the malicious bit of code from our website. The virus should no longer pose a threat to our readers.

Even so, I feel sort of violated by the existence of this virus code in my webpages. I certainly didn’t put it there. So how did the code get there? Did some hacker guess my password and inserted the code in my index.php pages? Was it an insider working for my web host who ran a sort of batch file that inserted the malicious code to all index.php pages hosted there? Did a hacker place the code in the Fantastico installer used by my web host?

Adding in malicious code for a low level trojan isn’t so bad, in my opinion. But if that person could do that, he or she might have accessed more important personal stuff in my hosted space. I’ll definitely investigate further. I don’t want this kind of thing to happen again.

Published in: on August 24, 2007 at 3:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Malu who?

I received an off-line instant message from B, a friend living and working in the US yesterday morning. The message simply contained this link with no other explanation of what it was about. I didn’t click on the link straight away as I had other matters to attend to but was intrigued. B usually just forwards links of her online photo albums, funny emails and other fun stuff. She’s certainly not the kind to read blogs, much less forward something that has “seething with anger” as its title.

I finally got round to checking the contents of the link around noon and found out that a certain Malu Fernandez from the Philippines has written an article for People Asia and has whinged about having to share her pleasure flight to Dubai with Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Complaining of having to squeeze herself into a tiny seat and having to endure

sounds of gum chewing and endless yelling of “HOY! Kumusta ka na? At taga saan ka? Domestic helper ka rin ba?” Translation: Hey there? Where are you from? Are you a domestic helper as well?”

Then there’s also

On my way back, I had to bravely take the economy flight once more. This time I had already resigned myself to being trapped like a sardine in a sardine can with all these OFWs smelling of AXE and Charlie cologne while my Jo Malone evaporated into thin air.

Now, OFWs are publicly hailed as modern day heroes in the Philippines because the money they send back to their families keep the economy afloat. Most Filipino families have at least one family member living or working abroad. Those who don’t are in the process of becoming OFW themselves or may just be dreaming of becoming one in the future. The Philippines is turning out to be a nation of overseas workers, its chief export being its people.

So you could probably guess that this Malu Fernandez, who fancies herself a cultured socialite, got the ire of a lot of people. Blog posts a-plenty have been dedicated to this incident, some from people who are OFWs themselves. Also there’s a campaign right now to get her to apologise, with calls of boycotting The Manila Standard, where she currently works as a columnist. This was her response. I don’t agree that the whole newspaper daily should suffer from her careless remarks. I mean, not everyone working for the paper would share her views so why should they be punished for her error?

I messaged B this morning, asking if she even read the link she forwarded to me, to which she replied ‘Of course!” I was interested to know what she thought of it and asked her. Her response? ‘Sarap ipakulam, parang hindi siya pinoy.’ (How great would it be to put a curse on her, she acts as if she’s not Filipino). I laughed, clearly this Malu Fernandez got to my even-tempered friend as well. As for me, I don’t think she would ever apologise (nor am I entirely sure she should). She calls her comments a product of her ‘ascerbic wit’. I call it ignorance and utter disregard for others. She has shown herself as someone who’s shallow, spoiled and suffers from tall poppy syndrome. Perhaps the best response would be to ignore her and her crass pronouncements and then maybe she’ll finally shut up.

Published in: on August 23, 2007 at 12:15 pm  Comments (7)  

Catching the cattle train

We’ve been taking an earlier train since hubby started on his new job and I must say that the train system is in terrible need of reforms. To illustrate, we arrived at the station bright and early Tuesday morning. We had to find parking in the quickly filling parking lot then rush to the platform from our out-of-the-way parking space to hear that the 7:46 limited express service has been cancelled.

Groaning, I nervously hoped that the 7:51 express service don’t get cancelled as well as it’s now only a few minutes before the train was supposed to leave but there’s not a train in sight in any of the platforms. Waiting in the cold with the other commuters, I also realised that this would be one crowded trip as most of the passengers of the cancelled service are also taking this service. With just a couple of minutes left, we finally heard a train approaching but relief turned to disgust as we saw “the clanker” (Mitsubishi train) pulling into the station.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I prefer an old, dirty train to no train at all but it just doesn’t give me the confidence that it would get me from point A to B comfortably. This train has no heating, rattles and vibrates at every turn and has less seats than the newer train models.

With the cancelled service and having to wait twenty minutes for the next one, you could bet your boots that everyone on the platform got on to the clanker despite their misgivings. Who knows if the next train would even show up? I’d take a miserable service that’s already there anytime rather than hope for a better one that don’t have any guarantees of running.

Half the seats were taken by the time the train pulled out of Werribee and the remaining half were filled by the time the train left the first stop, Hoppers Crossing. By the time we got to the second (unscheduled) stop, Aircraft, there was no chance of getting a seat and everyone was standing on the aisle. Shivering and all squished in, the thought of cattle being transported on a truck to the slaughterhouse came to my mind. Interestingly, we pay for this privilege and subject ourselves to the same predicament everyday. You’d think any sane, self-respecting human being would have learned that it does not get any better and clamour for change or get the hell out to find a more humane way of getting to work.

With worries about the environment, rising cost of living and another interest rise looming, people are trying alternative ways of travel without their cars. Add to that the rising population of the state and you can see why the current system is now at breaking point.

The only consolation for us right now is that at least the services in our line start at our station and we get first dibs on seats on trains that do show up.

Published in: on August 16, 2007 at 1:00 pm  Comments (3)  

First Day

I’ll keep this short. I started work at my new job yesterday. First half of the day was spent in a long orientation session with the HR. We were toured around the building and showed how to work the coffee machines and printers. I’ve never had to go to an orientation since my first year in university. Nevertheless, it was all very interesting.

Come noon, we newcomers were treated by our supervisors for lunch. Even though I didn’t pay for the food, I still thought what I had was a bit expensive.

The second half of the day was spent catching up on the system I’m going to be working on. By the end of the day, I felt mentally exhausted after trying to absorb all of that new information. Today is day two and I feel like I’m not even learned a tenth of what I needed to know about how the system works.

At least, my new colleagues, including my new boss, were all very accommodating and encouraging. They keep telling me that they also had a hard time learning the system when they started working for the company themselves. They also told me the mistakes they’ve made and some-such. It really made me feel more at ease.

Two days in, and I feel like I’m going to like working at my new job. The office area and the view are nice. The people are nice. The work seems challenging and interesting. The only thing that’s not to my liking is the company’s seeming obsession with HR paperwork. That’s fine though. Nothing is ever perfect.

Published in: on August 14, 2007 at 10:06 pm  Comments (2)  

Pixar at the ACMI

When we heard that there was a Pixar exhibition in town, Raquel and I rushed to the ACMI at the Federation Square in the CBD to see it. As a wanna-be artist/cartoonist, I found the exhibition itself very educational and inspirational. It was amazing to see the miniature figurines (called maquettes) and the various pastel-drawn work used as reference by the Pixar artists and animators.

It’s just too bad we weren’t allowed to take photos of the actual exhibit so the best we could do was take photos of the replica of Pixar movies’ characters such as Sulley and Mike from Monsters, Inc., Sally from Cars and Luxo Jr., Pixar’s mascot.

By the time we were finished at the exhibit, it was already dark outside but not too dark. So, we figured we might as well take a few more photos of Melbourne just as the light in the horizon was fading. I’ve added a few of those photos with the Pixar album if you are interested.

Pixar at the ACMI

Anyway, for those of you interested in seeing the Pixar exhibition, the event is officially called Pixar: 20 Years of Animation and will end on October 14. Here are some pertinent details of the exhibit from the ACMI website:

Until Sunday 14 October 2007
Full $15 Concession $10
Book your exhibition tickets online

Family tickets available from $44 (2 adults, 2 children).
Phone 03 8663 2583

Published in: on August 13, 2007 at 10:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

Our Sydney 2007 Photos

Since I was given an extra week off before I officially start at my new job, Raquel and I decided to go out-of-town for a few days. Who knows when I will get vacation time again once I started at the new company, right?

After a lot of discussion, I asked that we fly to Sydney. I just wanted to see what it is like again after all these years. Well, I wasn’t that impressed anymore. It seems a lot dirtier and grittier than when I was last there some years ago. For a start, I was disappointed with the state of the train we took on the way from the airport to the CBD. It was dirty and the train windows were filled with scratches made by vandals. Not exactly a good first impression for newcomers to Sydney.

I remember Sydney as being much cleaner and nicer. But that was like over six years ago. Maybe it looked spiffier because Sydney just came out of the Olympics event of 2000. That’s just my guess though. Whatever the reason, I feel like it’s not as nice as I remembered it.

We didn’t go to a lot of places while there because, frankly, we’ve been to most of the more notable sights already. So, we limited our sight-seeing to places that didn’t cost a lot or any money. We mainly walked around the still beautiful Darling Harbour, Circular Quay and the Rocks. So, most of the photos we had of Syndey was from those areas.

I’d like to write more about our short trip but I just don’t have a lot of time tonight to go on about it. Just look at the photos for now and read the captions for now.

Sydney 2007

On a totally unrelated note, if you remember, we are on the look out for bollards ever since finding out about them when we went to Geelong some months ago. Just when we thought we’ve seen all of them, we found one more at the Avalon Airport when we flew back in from Sydney. I wonder how many more of these bollards are out there somewhere in Victoria.

Published in: on August 12, 2007 at 8:49 pm  Comments (2)  

The Simpsons Photo-op

When we went to the movie theatres a few weeks ago to catch the latest Harry Potter flick, I, Raquel and a couple of friends of ours noticed a tangible little-larger-than-life-sized versions of the Simpsons family on display along the hall leading to the cinemas. There was a vacant seat beside Homer so it must’ve been meant to be for fans to sit on and have their photos taken with The Simpsons.

However, the small area was cordoned off to the public. Although it may seem campy, we still wanted to have our photo taken beside the Simpsons on display. I asked the nearby usher if it was Okay to do so. She said no. Apparently, a few weeks earlier, the public were allowed to pose beside the figures but some inconsiderate individuals thought it would be fun to damage and vandalise the display. From then on, the area was off-limits to anybody. Great! It must be them darned kids!

Just when we thought we would never get a chance to have our photos taken beside the iconic characters, we saw an identical display at the Hoyts cinema in Fox Studios in Sydney when we visited there earlier this week. This time, the display wasn’t off-limits to anybody. And it shows, too, because the cardboard seat was starting to show signs of wear and tear.

We don’t care though. Here was our chance and we took it.

Published in: on August 9, 2007 at 2:38 pm  Comments (4)