Bubblegum soda

When Raquel and I went to Japan last year, I discovered this wonderful softdrink called Mitsuya Cider. It tasted like a cross between 7-Up and Juicy Fruit. That’s right, the chewing gum. I was an instant fan.

On the day we were to fly back to Melbourne, I came to a sad realisation: I wouldn’t be able to drink anymore Mitsuya Cider. That is, unless I can find a shop in Melbourne that sells the drink. Unfortunately, I’ve looked all over the place and couldn’t find an Asian shop that sold it.

Today, we went to the big Asian shop in the city to get some siopao and siomai. Since I was already there, I decided to look for the drink again I’m their drinks section. Well, it wasn’t there, as expected.

However, there was a drink being sold there that caught my eye. It was drink that I saw numerous times in Japanese animation. It was a variation of Ramune, the drink that’s sold in a glass bottle with a glass marble in it. Except the one in the shop was sold in a can and was called Ramu Bottle instead.

I’ve been very keen to try the drink since seeing it in anime and now’s my chance to sample it. I know I should’ve tried it when I was on Japan but I just totally forgot about Ramune and it wasn’t a drink I noticed being sold there. I would’ve instantly recognized the odd bottle.

Anyway, I bought it had a sip of it. To my delightful surprise, it had the same Juicy Fruit taste I loved about Mitsuya Cider! At last! Although I couldn’t find Mitsuya Cider anywhere in the city, I at least have a nice substitute for my favourite bubblegum soda in Ramune.

I’m so happy! I can’t wait to get back to the shop and get some more.

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Published in: on August 31, 2008 at 9:43 pm  Comments (3)  

Gone to the Dark Side

I had been contemplating on getting a new mobile phone for some time now to replace my old Sony Ericsson k750 that I inheritted from Raquel. I wanted a phone that can basically replace my wonderful iPod Nano as my main mp3 player so that I just have one device to carry on me instead of two.

When I discovered that the new iPhone 3G was coming out in Australia, I became naturally interested. What better device to replace my iPod than a device closely related to it. As I was reading up on the features of the iPhone and the potential mobile plans that were going to be out there, I became even more excited to get one when it finally comes out. The Optus iPhone plans looked particularly nice as it allows me to use 3g and Internet access without having to take on a very expensive monthly plan. I amd my friend, Justin, who was also very keen on the iPhone, were constantly discussing the wonders of the iPhone leading up to its launch.

However, as time passed, I had a better think of what disadvantages the iPhone had. Here are some of it’s drawbacks:
– No copy and paste! That’s right. No stupid copying and pasting of texts across the iPhone’s different apps. It can’t even do copy and paste within the same app. What was Apple thinking?!
– The SMS app can’t delete individual messages. It’s ridiculous! You can delete whole conversation threads between you and any one person. But you can’t delete one of the messages any person sends you.
– As of right now, it has fewer available free apps than a Windows Mobile phone. Hopefully, that’s something that can be remedied in time.
– It only has a 2 megapixel camera when most modern phones would at least have a 3 megapixel camera.
– Stuck to using only one method of inputting text: the iPhone’s signature virtual keyboard. The keys looked small. How does Apple expect its customers to accurately hit those keys?
– Battery can only be replaced by Apple. This one just slightly annoying for me as don’t usually buy spare batteries for any of my older devices.

That made me look for an iPhone alternative like the HTC Diamond Touch that my other friend, Marty, recommended (he owns one). I’ve been a Windows Mobile PDA user for many years so a phone powered by the same OS like the HTC Diamond Touch really appealed to me. Marty allowed me to freely play with his phone because he just didn’t want any more people joining what he calls the Dark Side that is Apple. I was getting more and more convinced to go with HTC as it had more features than the iPhone. I even made a list of the HTC’s and iPhone’s features and scored each according to my preferences. The HTC scored way more than the iPhone.

I went to Organiser World two weeks ago to get an unlocked HTC phone. They were unfortunately sold out so I had to have the shop reserve me one when new stock came in. My iPhone buddy Justin found this out and declared me a traitor. I just had to laugh.

It took Justin 3 weeks of waiting to get his iPhone from Optus in the city. Apparently, if I got one from Optus, I had to sign up first and start using their mobile plan as I’m waiting for my iPhone to arrive after 4 week’s time. Too long, I thought.

Friday of the same week, I got the call from the shop that told me that my HTC was ready for pickup. I can get it that Friday or the next day only. After that, they’ll just sell it to somebody else.

The new phone was well within my reach and I didn’t have to wait 3 weeks to get it. I planned to get it on the Saturday so that I have a little more time to make sure that I was making the right choice. I went to OW’s website to look at the price again. It was over $800 and I was then finding that to be a bit expensive. That made me doubt my choice a little.

I then looked for a suitable 3G mobile plan that could take advantage of the new phone’s features but still be inexpensive. The problem was that there wasn’t a cheap mobile data plan out here. It seemed like the best mobile deal to be had was tied to the iPhone. That meant that the different Australian telco carriers don’t offer those mobile plans unless you got an iPhone. Unfair, I know.

So, getting a new phone seemed like it was going to be a very expensive endeavour. That made me question my need for a new phone at all. Having noticed my apparent confusion about the whole thing, Raquel asked me what was it that made me think of getting a new phone anyway. I considered the question for a moment then replied that all I really wanted was to merge my iPod with my phone. That was why I wanted to get an iPhone to start with.

Sure the HTC had more features according to my score sheet, but in the end, I didn’t want to get a new phone for those listed features. I wanted a good iPod replacement that was also a phone. Using just that criteria, the iPhone wins hands down. Everything else I would get on top of that is just gravy. Also, it would turn out to be a much cheaper proposition to just go with an iPhone than with HTC.

After having decided to go with the Dark Side, I called up the Optus shop in the city to ask about the availability of the iPhone. They said it would take 4 weeks to get one, as expected. So, I then called up the Optus shop in Werribee to ask if they had the black 16gb iPhone at their shop. The person on the phone said yes. I couldn’t believe it. I had to rephrase my question and he again confirmed that the iPhone I wanted was available in their shop that very second!

I went to the Optus shop that day, signed up for the $29 Yes Plan that offered a 250mb monthly data allowance and free wifi access to Optus hotspots, and got myself a new shiny black iPhone! All on the same day.

Justin was understandably upset that I didn’t even have to wait for my iPhone. Marty, on the other hand, was just upset that I went with the iPhone anyway.

Now, I’ve been using it for 2 weeks and I’ve come to this conclusion: I absolutely love it! I don’t know why. It’s certainly lacking a lot of must-have features, but what it does have, it does it real well! Like the keyboard which I thought had very small keys, it actually works pretty well! And with a thumb, no less. I’m so comfortable with this method of text entry that I’ve typed this whole blog post and me previous one entirely on my new iPhone. I found that to be a big chore with my Windows Mobile PDA.

On paper, the iPhone may look weak but when I finally got to use it, it turns out to be a very delightful device. No wonder a lot of people are big iPhone fanatics. And a lot of these people were like me who thought that the iPhone wouldn’t be as nice a phone as it turned out to be.

I’m not saying you should get one too. All I’m saying is that I’m glad I got one.

Published in: on August 29, 2008 at 6:11 pm  Comments (6)  
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Close call

We were out pretty late one weeknight because Raquel had to go to her Photography class which ends at 9pm. There were some roadworks at the freeway that night so some lanes had to be closed.

I had to do a merge when we got on the freeway like I usually do and it always made me slightly nervous each time. You have to come in at 80kph and make sure that there isn’t a car on the lane you’re merging into by the time you need to do the merge. Otherwise, crash!

There we were attempting the merge with slow vehicles in front of us which always makes merging a tad more challenging. I looked right and there was an approaching car. I’d make the merge if I could just gain more speed. So I sped up while ensuring I don’t hit the slow car in front of me. I merged just at the right moment. Whew.

Then I noticed that the lane I was on would become closed-off a few metres down the road so I quickly switched to the right lane (and only lane that would remain open) to avoid worrying about another more challenging merge later. After the switch, I stepped on the gas to get up to the posted speed limit and avoid being rear-ended by the fast-moving oncoming car behind us.

However, the car that was in front of us in the previous lane decided at that moment to switch lanes and get right I’m front of us. The car in front of that car also had the same idea but did it more slowly than the one in front of us.

Suddenly, the car in front of us braked to avoid hitting the car in front of it. I had to suddenly pull my foot away from the gas pedal and slammed it on the brake pedal with all my might! We continued to skid forward anyway! I can see the bonnet of the car quickly closing in on the front car’s rear and the only thing I could do was to continue to floor the brakes. I looked at my rear view mirror and the speeding car behind us also hit the brakes but was skidding right for us.

If I hit the car in front of us and force us to come to a halt, I was sure that the car behind us would hit us as well. So for the next few seconds, I was trying my darnest not to collide with the car ahead. As I floored the brakes, I steered the car to the right hoping that angling the car diagonally would give us slightly more space between us and the car in front of us. But I had to control the steering to make sure I don’t crash against the freeway’s right-most railing.

It was amazing! We didn’t touch the car ahead of us and we weren’t rear ended neither! It was the closest thing to drifting I had ever done. Once the car in front started to gain some speed, I realigned our car and stepped on the gas. And then all was well again.

Talk about close calls. It was so close to becoming a roadside disaster and I’m thankful Raquel and I came out of it in one piece.

Thinking back, there were two things that may have contributed to our lucky escape: all those years playing video games prepared me to react quickly to sudden changes in environment; and I remembered that before I drove off the car park, I prayed that God bless our trip. I usually don’t pray before driving but I did that night. I leave it to you which of the two contributed more to our safe ride home. I’m just glad we got out of that whole incident safe and sound.

Published in: on August 28, 2008 at 7:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Photography course: Day 5

Before we started our first class for our photography course, the course coordinator had us fill out a survey which included questions about the main reason we decided to attend the course. Last week, the coordinator told us that a big portion of the class chose the usual answer of wanting to find out how to work a new camera and improve personal snapshots but a huge majority said they wanted to learn more about the art of photography. So with that introduction, the coordinator eased us on to the topic for that night, composition.

I have to admit I didn’t think the class would last the full one and half hours just talking about how to compose a photo but the time just flew by. The lecturer talked about elements in composition like lines, shapes, colour, size and perspective and how they could be used to improve a photo. He also mentioned how to be aware of how warm colours advance and catch a viewer’s attention first and contrasted it with how cool colours recede.

However, the best part of this lecture was when the instructor showed us examples of famous photos and asked us to think about why the composition works. The examples included David Moore’s Migrants arriving in Sydney and Sisters of Charity, Max Dupain’s The Sunbather, a work by Elliot Erwitt, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Behind the Gare St. Lazare and Hyeres, Arnold Newman’s portrait of Igor Stravinsky and finally Dorothy Lange’s Migrant Mother. The instructor drew our attention to the use of triangles in Migrants arriving in Sydney, The Sunbather and Igor Stravinsky’s portrait, the implied diagonal line in Sisters of Charity, spirals in Hyeres and the rule of thirds in Migrant Mother. As well, the instructor stressed how we should make use of the rules of good composition and then break them. To support the breaking the rules bit, he also showed us a couple of photos which broke the rules but still worked.

Before ending the class, the instructor explained that because most people read from left to right, we also have the tendency to look at a photo from left to right. With this in mind, he showed us how horizontally flipping the picture could affect a viewer’s perception.

Wrapping up, he said that we should study successful photographs and figure out why it worked. He recommended the books below before wrapping up one of the best lectures in the course so far.

Published in: on August 25, 2008 at 10:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

Photography course: day 4


Click here to view photo album

When I woke up last Sunday, it was raining and gloomy outside so I considered not showing up for our scheduled outdoor photography workshop at the Treasury Gardens. I don’t like shooting in the rain and since it’s supposed to be about shooting outdoors, there really isn’t any point huddling under cover is there?

Hubby won’t have any of it though, he thought I would be missing out on a great opportunity if I don’t go. So I went and was glad I did. The rained stopped just as we were being handed the list of the exercise photos we were supposed to take.

The exercises involved taking photos of a single person standing up, then sitting down then filling up the whole frame with just the subject’s face. Next is to take the same sort of photos with two people in the picture, then again with a statue. We were also asked to take photos of flowers and Cook’s cottage using a big then small aperture. I took some of the required photos and then some. My favourite part of the workshop though were the extra exercises not on the list like practising panning, taking portraits with rim lighting and using environmental objects as reflectors (i.e. putting your subject beside a white wall).

We finished just before noon and it was good timing too as the skies darkened once again.

Published in: on August 21, 2008 at 8:06 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still life, take 2


Click here to view photo album

My work mate liked my photos of the worker statues yesterday that she asked me to bring my camera with me today. We went out together at lunch time and took another go at shooting the statues with our own cameras then swapped cameras. Here are my own shots using my Nikon D40x.

Published in: on August 19, 2008 at 1:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Still life


 

A work mate brought her Canon 400D today and I had a bit of a play with it. Most of the photos I took were fuzzy, dark and had the focus on the wrong thing. It was a bit frustrating because I wanted to test the lens, a 50mm f/1.8 prime lens, which is supposed to be tack-sharp and allows heaps of light. I guess it goes to show that a good understanding of how your camera works is the foundation of taking good photos.

Anyway, these are the best of the batch and I loved the depth of field on these. It’s a bit of a cliche but I just couldn’t resist taking photos of these businessmen statues!

 

Published in: on August 18, 2008 at 11:55 am  Comments (2)  

Estoy aprendiendo español

I’ve been studying Spanish for the past few weeks now. It’s something I had wanted to pick up since I was very young. I had wanted to be able to read the old history books, documents and literature from the Philippine Spanish era.

I only picked it up because I was itching to master another language apart from Tagalog and English. I thought that maybe I could continue learning Chinese or Japanese but changed my mind about the two.

After watching Spanish films like El Espinazo del Diablo (The Devil’s Backbone), Labirinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) and El Orfanato (The Orphanage), my interest in Spanish was rekindled. I watched the films with the English subtitles but I realised that I could pick up a lot of what the characters in the film were saying even without looking at the subtitles. I knew some of the words because these words are part of the Tagalog language, Tagalog words loaned from the Spanish tongue.

That got me thinking. Instead of Chinese or Japanese, maybe I could learn Spanish first instead. I might be able to master Spanish faster than Chinese or Japanese. I’m very keen on learning Spanish to begin with anyway.

After a few weeks of studying, I did find that Spanish was a lot easier to learn than Chinese or Japanese thanks to all the Spanish words I already know. I also found the pronunciation easy too because of its similarity with Tagalog. In the end, I’m enjoying myself and feeling really motivated.

I want to be able to watch more Spanish films without the assistance of any subtitles. I want to be able to read Jose Rizal’s letters and works in the original Spanish. I want to gain a better understanding of the culture we Filipinos share with the rest of the Hispanic world.

Speaking of the Hispanic world, as an aside, I found this funny film clip of an advertisement from Spain about their Metro trains:

I really liked the commercial but apparently there were Filipinos who found the ad offensive, for some reason. I can’t see why. The Philippines in the ad looked tranquil and charming. The townsfolk all seem very pleasant and in the end, they were able to make their own Metro!

Anyway, I got to get back to my studies. ¡Hasta luego!

Published in: on August 16, 2008 at 10:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

Tale of the tinned tuna


It all started when Gabriel opened a tin of tuna to prepare our breakfast sandwiches for the next day. He was in the kitchen and I was in the rumpus when he exclaimed that something’s not right with the tin he just opened. Imagining the worse, I thought there was something dead and rotting inside the tin, or something that shouldn’t be there, like maybe a dead insect or something. There was something inside the tin that shouldn’t be there alright, but it was not a disgusting insect or anything rotten.

You see, the tin he opened was labelled Caramelised Onion and Tomato and yet the contents of the tin had a white sauce instead of the expected red. We were so dumb-founded that we both stared at the tin on the counter for several seconds, maybe even a minute or two, trying to reconcile the label with the contents and wondering what the hell has gone wrong?

We ran a fork into the center of the tin to see if maybe half of the contents are right but all we saw was tuna, mustard seeds and white sauce. I was still staring stupidly at this suspect tin while hubby got another tin marked Caramelised Onion and Tomato from the cupboard. He opened that and breathed a sigh of relief as he saw the expected red sauce. Looks like the first tin of tuna was an aberration after all and didn’t affect the whole batch.

Curious as to what the first tin contained, I proposed that we eat it. Horrified, hubby said that maybe I shouldn’t and maybe it’s not safe. Well, if curiosity killed the cat, this cat could have been killed by a tin of tuna because I ate it anyway. I poked around the can some more, smelled the contents, tasted it and proceeded to spread it onto a slice of bread. It tasted like tuna with mayonnaise and mustard and a later search in the manufacturer’s site made us conclud that the tin actually contained the Seeded Mustard Mayonnaise flavour. It was nice and hubby actually liked it but we were still disappointed that we now have one less Caramelised Onion and Tomato and we were already looking forward to that for our breakfast the next day.

The next day, I showed the tuna of the photo to a work mate and she said that I should write the manufacturer expressing my concern. I was planning to send the company a proper snail mail complete with a print of the photo I took of the two tins side by side. Having to compose the letter, print the photo and then mailing the letter just seemed to be too much work though and I finally settled on filling out the online form on the manufacturer’s site.

It took a couple of days for them to reply. The contents of the email basically had a reference number on it, inviting me to call their customer service lined on weekdays from 9am-5pm. At this point, I just couldn’t be bothered anymore and replied to the email that I have given them all the information they needed to rectify the problem (I sent them the barcode number and the numbers stamped on top of the tin, but not the photo as there isn’t a facility to attach photos in their online form). That was a couple of days ago and I thought that was the end of it.

However, I got an envelope bearing the manufacturer’s name yesterday containing a letter, a page of recipes flogging their corned beef and a mail order cheque for $3. Here’s part of the body of the letter.

Incorrect labelling is very unusual because of the strict precautions taken to ensure that each container has the right label. What may have happened in this case is that an error has occurred either in sorting or in feeding labels into the machine, and this has been missed during final inspection before packing.

As a result of your report, our Quality and Production staff have been advised so that corrective action can be taken.

We are concerned that you have been inconvenienced as a result of this incident and, as a gesture of goodwill, we have enclosed reimbursement for your purchase. We value your custom and trust you will continue to enjoy our products in the future.

Should you require further information do not hesitate to call us on our Consumer Services Helpline (number given).

And with that, I suppose that is the end of the whole tale. I’m still a bit wary of their product though and haven’t bought anything else from them since the tuna incident. I buy things from manufacturers expecting that I get what I paid for and that it has passed stringent quality checks. Although package mislabelling doesn’t seem to be such a big deal in this instance, it somehow casts a shadow of doubt on what else could go wrong or has gone wrong in their production process.

Would I buy from their brand again? Not if I can help it.

Published in: on August 15, 2008 at 12:23 pm  Comments (5)  

Madeira cake out of a box

I’m not a fan of anything pre-mixed but figured I should probably try some before I knock them so when the local supermarket had a promotion of 2 cake mixes for cheap, I bought two. This is the first of the two I’ve baked. I followed the instructions on the box exactly, going as far as timing the mixing on the stop watch function of my mobile phone. It’s pretty much fool-proof I guess, just add two eggs and milk.

The finished product came out looking just like the photo on the box and the cake was moist and had a very nice texture to it. We weren’t too keen on the lemony taste of the cake though and I bought most of the batch to work. A work mate rated it “very nice”.

Hmmm… maybe this pre-mix thing isn’t too bad after all? Don’t know about that though as I scanned the ingredients list on the box and saw several ingredients with numbers in them (477 or some such thing). I guess they’re okay for when you’re in a pinch or just can’t be bothered making things from scratch but I won’t make a habit of it.

Published in: on August 14, 2008 at 7:59 am  Comments (3)