Happy Halloween

I wanted to draw something for this year’s Halloween but I waited too long to start. All I was able to do is digitally paint a Jack-o-lantern and add the words “Happy Halloween” on top of it. I still have plans to finish it though.

Anyway, Happy Halloween to those who celebrate this day.

EDIT:
I was able to finish it just now. Hope you guys like it.

Click here to see the unfinished image

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Published in: on October 31, 2007 at 11:55 pm  Leave a Comment  

Zapped!

Before moving to Australia, the only time I have the feeling of being electricuted was when I touch an electric appliance or device that wasn’t properly grounded. Now, whenever it starts to get colder, I often get zapped with static electricity when I touch anything conductive.

Supposedly, it has something to do with the dry cool weather. When it is warm and humid, the moisture in the air helps disappate any static electricity charge you have. When it is cold and dry, the only way the static electricity gets discharged is when you touch something conductive resulting in a slight electric shock.

So, getting zapped is something you should come to expect if you are someone planning to migrate to Australia from the Philippines.

Over the years, I’ve tried of different ways to avoid getting zapped. I try to discharge the static by touching my palm on a brick or wooden wall first before touching the metal door knob. For a time, I thought it worked but I still get zapped sometimes.

Recently though, I’ve discovered a method that works the best for me. Before I touch something metallic, I would hold one of my keys and use that to touch the metallic object. I still get zapped, sure, but it isn’t as painful as touching the object directly. The key seems to distribute the charge more evenly. And before writing this short blog, I’ve read that you can do the same using a coin instead. It’s good to know that something similar to my method was something that was being recommended by others as well.

Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Environment and jobs

I try to avoid posting about politics in here as much as possible but a recent statement made by Prime Minister John Howard really troubled me. He said, “It’s a plan for reducing Australian jobs and not reducing Australian emissions.”

There are already a lot of arguments amade about how reduction of emissions meant those people who work for coal and oil would lose jobs and how introduction of alternate power sources will generate new jobs.

But at the end of the day, it all boils down to this: If we don’t act now to save the planet we live in, everything else won’t matter as we would all be dead anyway. It should be a no-brainer. Saving the environment should be the top most priority. Our very lives (and our children’s) depend on it.

Published in: on October 30, 2007 at 12:39 pm  Comments (2)  

What creeps me out?

There was a question posed to the hosts of ExtraLife Radio, one of my favourite podcasts, on its Halloween episode: what creeps you out? Since, it is nearly Halloween anyway, I thought I might also share five things that creeped me out when I was younger.

1. Baby dolls. I hate them even now, specially those with very shiny eyes that close when you tilt their heads back. Imagine a bedroom filled with dolls at night with the lights out except for the moonlight shining through the window. That little bit of light is then reflected in the eyes of these creepy baby dolls just sitting there on the shelf, always smiling and looking straight at you while you try to sleep.

2. Department store mannequins. I guess this is somewhat related to my repulsion toward dolls. When I was very young, I couldn’t stand even looking at mannequins whenever my Mom would bring me along with her to the department store. They looked very unnatural to me because, although they looked human, they were inanimate like some petrified dead person.

3. Windows without curtains (or blinds). I was afraid of opening my eyes in the middle of the night and see somebody (or something) staring down at me from the bare window. Actually, the curtains have to be thick so that I wouldn’t be able to even see the silhouette of someone standing behind the window. What did I think would be standing behind the windows? I was afraid to see a hovering aswang (Philippine vampire/ghoul) or a ghost staring at me.

4. Big old portraits like those serious black and white photos of somebody dead or religious iconographic paintings, specially those ones where the person in the portrait has eyes that seem to be looking straight at you wherever in the room you might be.

5. Odd noises in the middle of the night. One night when I was maybe ten years old while I trying to fall asleep, I heard what seemed like the cry of a very young child from afar. It was crying repeatedly, “Dad! Dad! Dad!” I looked at the clock sitting on top of the desk nearby. It was exactly midnight! What kind of father would leave his child outside at this hour, I thought. If that wasn’t suitably creepy enough, the cry started to grow louder, as if it was getting closer and closer to my bedroom window. I put my pillow on top of my head to cover my ears until I fell asleep. I guess that’s where I got my habit of sleeping with a pillow on my head. In hindsight, I now believe (or at least I want to believe) that the crying was probably just some shrieking cat.

There you go. How about you? What creeps you out?

Published in: on October 29, 2007 at 12:30 am  Comments (5)  

The drawing that keeps on giving

I’m so glad I joined my Company’s Artist of the Year competition. I’m also glad that I started at the Company just a few weeks before the competition ended or I wouldn’t even have had the chance to join this year’s competition. As you may already know by now, I won the competition and I’m very thankful for the recognition, the award and prizes I got for winning.

However, just when I thought I have nothing left to be thankful for, I got this email from our division’s administrator (I’ve reworded the actual email, of course):

To: Gabriel
CC: Executive Director, HR Director, Executive Assistant
Subject: Melb (Department name) Recognition – Congratulations

Melbourne (Department name) Recognition Program

Rewarding you for your Spectacular Performance for your achievement in winning the Artist of the Year.

Congratulations on your award Gabriel! You have been nominated by the executive director and awarded a JB HI-FI voucher valued at $100.

Kind Regards,
(Department) Administrator

I couldn’t believe it! I’m very thankful to the executive director for nominating me for an additional award. A hundred bucks at JB Hi-Fi is nothing to sneeze at, too. I can buy more iPod accessories, CDs, DVDs or games with that money. I’ll most likely spend the voucher on more iPod gear though.

I told my friends at work that the drawing I submitted was like a drawing that kept on giving. And when I told Raquel about this, she said the exact same thing. Just goes to show how well we know each other, doesn’t it? I now wonder whether there will be any more future surprise prizes or awards for this one drawing. I highly doubt it but who knows?

Published in: on October 26, 2007 at 12:01 am  Comments (2)  

Free snacks

I admit, I love my current job. I love the work and I love the other opportunities the Company is providing (such as the recent Artist of the Year competition). But there is one more thing I like about the Company (albeit a bit on the shallow side): free snacks.

That’s right. Each floor has a pantry and the pantry has these two wells, if you will, full of snacks free for the taking. There are individually wrapped Arnott’s bikkies of different types, crackers, tiny boxes of sultanas and fruit bars. The wells get refilled at least once a week.

Apart from the snack well, each pantry also has two crates sitting on the counter filled with different fruits. These boxes get emptied very quickly. Bananas seem to be the all time favourite because those disappear from the box the fastest. The trick is that once you see bananas there, take a couple immediately. Don’t wait till you feel like going for a banana as there probably won’t be any in the fruit box by the time you want to have one.

To help wash down all the free snacks, there’s free espresso from the espresso machine, free milk and free tea that comes in four flavours.

Apart from these standard free goodies, there’s the occasional free gourmet sandwiches or muffins sitting on the pantry counter. Whenever a group holds a big meeting, they will usually order sandwiches or muffins from the Company’s catering service to feed the attendees. As is usually the case, there would be a lot of left-overs from these meetings and the excess food get moved to the nearby pantry.

Lastly, there is the rare times when a visiting client from abroad decides to bring some goodies from their home country. Like this week, our client friends from the US brought back Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Nestle’s Butterfingers. How I missed those. The only time I can get these is if we buy them at USA Foods at Bentleigh.

I have recently decided to lose weight but as you can see, it is very very challenging to do so while working for this company with all these temptations. Not that I’m complaining though.

Published in: on October 25, 2007 at 12:00 pm  Comments (3)  

Did we jinx the office?

As you may well know by now, I joined The Company as a software developer about eleven weeks ago. Actually, there were three of us developers who started that day. It seemed like the managers were thinking of expanding the team. Including us newcomers, the team was nearly twenty people strong.

I like the idea of working with a bigger team. It meant that the project and product knowledge is probably spread out a bit more. It’s going to be rare that only one person knows about a bit of technology or module and such. It also meant less pressure as everything won’t hinge on only one person (specially if that one person is me).

Anyway, maybe a couple of days after joining, I discovered that one of the contractors was leaving. Well, I wasn’t too surprised by that bit of news because I already knew that there was someone from the team who applied for a job in my old company. It turned out to be that contractor who was leaving.

Then, a few days later, while going down the lifts with one senior member of the team, I discovered that he was leaving the team, too! So, that’s two people who are leaving at about the same time.

But that wasn’t all. Later on, I found out that there was another contractor who wanted to move on to a different client. He left a few weeks after the first two. The team was down three people two months since we started working there. I supposed management already knew about the three people leaving even before we got the job. So, three people joining offset the three people leaving.

However, just when I thought that we probably need more new people to compensate for those that had left, our manager, the guy that hired me, informed all of us that he had accepted a reassignment to the UK. He announced his move during our Friday team-building event at a lawn bowling club. He would still work for the Company but he would no longer be our boss or part of our team. It was certainly a shock when I heard it. He’s a very cool boss and I was partly convinced to take the job due to my interactions with him during the interview stage of my job application. I hope that if they do find a replacement for him, it will be someone who is just as cool.

Come Monday, some of us were still shaken by the news of the manager’s move to the UK. But we were to receive more shocking news. Our director announced that our team leader was retiring in a few weeks’ time. Our team leader admitted that the timing was a bit bad but she had already planned this for some time before our manager’s announcement to move.

During one morning developers’ meeting, we joked that there should be a moratorium on people resigning after the news of our team leader’s retirement. But, there was one person who didn’t get the memo. Just this week, another senior member announced that he was leaving, too.

That’s three people who have left and three people who are leaving soon. We joke that maybe we newbies jinxed the team by triggering this mass exodus of senior people. I just hope that nobody else leaves in the near future. Not until we get more knowledge and develpment experience on the product.

At least our director was kind enough to remind us of the bright side of all these senior people leaving: there would now be more window-side desks available for the rest of us.

Published in: on October 24, 2007 at 10:27 pm  Comments (2)  

The Fat Nano and Me

As winner in The Company’s art competition, I got a the new black 80Gb iPod Classic (I know that using new to describe a “classic” device seem like an oxymoron but eh). I was stoked when I first got it. It had 80Gb of storage space and it can play video!

However, it had one big down side. It was cumbersome, specially compared to my second generation iPod Nano. I wanted to like the new iPod but I just found it heavier and harder to conceal. I usually have the ipod connected to a lanyard which I wear around my neck. With the iPod Classic, it felt like I have a dead weight strapped to my neck all the time.

So, I wanted a lighter and smaller iPod but now that I’ve experienced video, I couldn’t go back to using my previous iPod Nano. The only other alternative available is to go for the third generation iPod Nano with video, or as some techies call it, the Fat Nano. It got that nickname because it is shorter and wider than the older slimmer and taller iPod Nano.

Although the new Nano looks almost ridiculous in photos, it does look amazing in person. The screen is also not that much smaller than the heavier iPod Classic which means that I can comfortably watch video on it as much as in the Classic. It is also super thin, depth-wise. It also inherited the new generation’s user interface along with its games. In short, I wanted it.

The plan was to sell off the Classic and use the money from that to buy the Nano. But since I didn’t want to go on without an iPod (yeah, I’m dependent on it now), I bought the Nano first. I will just sell the Classic after I got the Nano.

Another perk of working for The Company was that we get a discount on Apple products. However, we have to buy the products online to avail of the promotion. That meant I couldn’t just drop by the nearest Apple shop or JB Hi-fi and buy the Nano from there. That also meant there’d be waiting time involved while I wait for the item to be shipped from the online store’s warehouse and received in the office.

I made the order early Wednesday morning hoping I can get the Nano by Friday. After going through the online purchase, the store sent me an email confirming my order and that it was being prepared for shipment. According to the message, the estimated shipping date was from October 17 (Wednesday) to October 18 (Thursday) and the estimated delivery date was from October 19 (Friday) to October 22 (Monday!!! I guess it’s because there are no deliveries on weekends).

According to the Apple Store’s help pages, I will receive another email once the order has been shipped. The email will contain a new estimated delivery date, it also read. In the event that the item doesn’t get shipped within the estimated shipment dates, the store will send another email providing me with a new estimated shipment date range. I seriously hoped that wouldn’t come to that as I really wanted to get my hands on the new Nano before the week ended.

I waited whole day Wednesday for a shipment confirmation via the email but it didn’t come. That’s OK, I thought. Even if they ship it on Thursday, there is still the slim chance that the item can reach me by Friday. Yeah, I’m optimistic like that. Thursday came and I waited for the shipment confirmation again. I figured they still have until 5PM to let me know they’ve shipped the item otherwise it’ll probably be a late shipment. I still didn’t get a confirmation email by the time I left work. Yet, I was still hopeful that the email was just delayed or something.

Well, I finally got the shipment confirmation email I was longing for at about 8PM. Ha. I’ll probably get the item on Monday if it was shipped that late. I read the email and it said that the item was estimated to be delivery on or before October 19 (Friday)! On or before? What? It’ll get delivered to the office before midnight? Not that I was complaining but I thought that was funny. I only wished it were true.

This morning, the friendly internal post guy happily greeted me. He informed me that I seem to have a gift in the mail. I couldn’t believe it. The Apple Store came through. I got the new shiny black iPod Nano third generation (aka Fat Nano) this morning. I had it charged and loaded up with some songs and a video to test it. It worked great! Now I can’t wait to take it home to load it up with podcasts and more video.

Published in: on October 19, 2007 at 12:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Account regained

A week after my Yahoo! account got phished, I’ve finally regained control of it today. I’ve made several attempts in the past to request a new password from Yahoo by filling up relevant information for the account in the Yahoo! ID/Password Recovery form but was unsuccessful each time. Digging around Yahoo’s help forum, I found out the email address for their account security and sent a request to get a new password, reporting that a phisher is using my account to try and con people. Here’s the contents of the first email I sent.

To: account-security-help@cc.yahoo-inc.com
From: AnotherAccount@yahoo.com

Hello,

My other account, StolenAccountNameHere@yahoo.com, has been phished about a week ago. As I could no longer remember some of my registration information, I could not get a new password to recover it. Is there an alternate way of recovering the account (perhaps by answering some security questions)?

If not, is it possible to disable the account? A friend recently contacted me and said that the phisher, posing as me, was asking her to purchase recharge cards and send codes to the account.

I’m concerned that the scammer could use my name and account for illegal activities.

Cheers,
Raquel

I didn’t have to wait long before I received an automated email requesting some pertinent information about the account including the ID, name, birthday, alternate email address, secret question and answer, city/state, zip code entered during registration and country. The email also clearly specified that I should not alter the subject line in any way when replying.

Of all the information needed, the most difficult one to answer is the one about the security question and answer. I had to remember the exact security question on my own and then provide the correct answer. How the heck would I know what security question I chose all those years ago? Well, hubby suggested one security question that I could have used when creating the account. I wasn’t too sure about the security question he suggested but thought that it is likely that I could have chosen that so I decided to give it a go.

Next is the problem regarding zip code and country. I have moved around a lot since creating this particular account and it could have been any of the numerous zip codes and one of the three countries I’ve lived in during the more than 10 years I’ve had this account. However, I remember that I signed up for the account when Yahoo! wasn’t as big a company as it is now and could quite clearly recall that I had some issues with the registration form then. If I recall correctly, Yahoo! didn’t even have any other country to choose from other than US or Canada then. It’s highly likely that I might have used US as my country when I signed up. But which zip code did I use? I surmised that I might have used a zip code from an American TV show I used to watch regularly.

A day after receiving the email requesting me to confirm my account’s information, I filled up the form and answered it to the best of my ability. In questions where I was uncertain whether I’ve updated the information, I’ve put in two answers. For instance, I answered US or Philippines for the country.

I replied to the email and thought I would have to wait for a day or two for Yahoo to get to my request. Happily, I didn’t have to wait long until I got another email from Yahoo! This time, it was signed by a real name (as opposed to the earlier mail which was just had Yahoo! Account Security Customer Care). This email basically asked for the same question as the previous one – ID, name, security answer (note that it there’s no mention of the security question), birthdate on the account, zip code and country. In addition, I was asked to provide a copy of a state/government issued photo ID, an alternate email address to contact me and permission for them to enter my account.

I answered all the questions and faxed the entire exchange of emails plus a photocopy of my passport to a number they provided last night. When I checked my alternate email address this morning, several messages from Yahoo! were waiting. One of them had a title of “Your new requested Yahoo! password. Please reset your password now” which contained a temporary password to my compromised account. I quickly used that to login to my old account and gave a big sigh of relief when I was able to finally see my inbox.

After inspecting the contents of the account, it didn’t seem like the cracker had any interest in my incoming mail. All incoming mail since last week seemed to have been unread, no outgoing messages in the Sent folder (although the scammer could have deleted them to cover his tracks) and no important emails were forwarded. I was amused and a bit horrified to see though that everytime I reported the account as having been phished, Yahoo! has replied to the account!

I also logged in to the Yahoo! Messenger and looked at my friends list (which has more names than I remembered) to see who the impostor would have contacted. Fortunately, most of the IDs listed were really old and those friends either no longer use those accounts or I have lost touch with them a long time ago that they may suspect someone posing as me asking them for favors. At any rate, only one of the names regularly goes online and that friend has contacted me to verify that it wasn’t me she was conversing with last weekend.

One area the scammer definitely got into was the account settings. Here’s the screenshot of my settings (items have been pixelised to protect my email addresses). The cracker changed the account name to some rubbish text and changed the postcode for my work address. Whoever it was didn’t change the postcode to my Philippine address. Why he/she would want to change the account name is anyone’s guess. I suppose it’s just a marker for them to determine if they have already harvested the contacts list for an account should they encounter it again.

So yeah, I’m quite happy I got my mailbox back. I just wish I could help some friends to recover theirs too.

Published in: on October 18, 2007 at 12:20 pm  Comments (5)  

7 interesting things

We got tagged by Linda to divulge seven interesting things about ourselves. This meme was a bit difficult for me to answer mainly because I couldn’t think of anything interesting to share! Anyway here goes, enjoy!

1. Unsure of what degree to take up in university, I did the easiest and laziest thing to do: copied from my friends. We all took the entrance exam at the university at the same time and I was the only one who got accepted!

2. If I hadn’t taken up a course in computers, I think I would have been a starving writer.

3. I was once challenged to a fight by this girl in high school because she overheard me teasing my male friend about her. I don’t know why I did it but my reaction was to smile, which made her even angrier, she stomped off and the fight never happened.

4. My mom loves to cook, I used to tease her about building a library full of cookbooks. She’s an excellent cook, by the way.

5. I cook mainly because it’s economical and practical rather than having a real love for it.

6. I used to have these nightmares everyday where I would wake up screaming when I was about five. I remember our pet kitten would sometimes climb up to my bed and lick my face to wake me up.

7. I hate having hayfever. I used to scoff at people complaining of their terrible hayfever until I got it too. I think it’s a terrible waste of my day to have to suffer blocked sinuses, headache, a runny nose, watery eyes and having to sleep it off to at least ease the symptoms. Nasal sprays and Claramax doesn’t do a thing to alleviate nor prevent it. I am suffering from it at the moment and am wishing for spring to be over soon.

And now I tag Ivy of Phenomenonemone, Alma of Spilling my own thunder, Fatima of From the sidewalk and Jennie of The sassy Melbournite.

Published in: on October 17, 2007 at 7:16 am  Comments (3)