Friday, October 29, 2004

Road Trip!

SeaView

My brother, Brat and I will be taking a road trip to our hometown. It's not such an easy task considering our hometown is not in the same island where we live in. In fact, the trip will take approximately 17 hours and that's assuming everything goes according to plan.
The trip can be divided into 4 segments. The first leg will be a 2 hour ferry ride, followed by a 3 hour drive, then a 4 hour ferry ride, and the last leg will be a leisurely(?) 5 hours drive to our parent's house. The remaining of the 17 hours are spent waiting for ferries to arrive and processing travel documents and necessary permits. We leave the initial port at 2:30pm and should arrive sometime in the morning the following day.
This type of trip will be the first time for me and I'm not exactly used to driving long distances. Naturally, I am feeling a bit apprehensive but I will be taking my other car to my mother so taking a plane is obviously out of the question and having the car shipped was a bit expensive. My brother was convincing me for the longest time to try this route and I reluctantly agreed that it is the best option available for us.
I have asked around of course. Some of my colleagues have tried parts of my route and it was a mixed set of feedbacks. While one said that he had taken this route 3 times now without encountering any problems, another would recount tales of missed ferries, waiting the following day to cross the next island, uncomfortable accommodations, dirty toilets and the like (my officemate spoke of the dirty toilets with such passion that I could only imagine what horrors she must have witnessed). Definitely not very reassuring. I consider myself to be a good planner and I suspect that most of their woes could have been prevented by careful planning. And besides, I don't mind filthy toilets... At least not that much.
So anyway, here I am now on my 3rd leg of my journey, writing in my PDA, impatiently waiting for the boat ride to end. It's 1 in the morning and I am feeling a little bit tired and yet I can't sleep like the people around me (how could anyone sleep with the ship's engine making all that noise). I have decided therefore to amuse myself by telling you what happened earlier. (to be continued)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Another party, a bit of ranting, barbecue and "the revelation"

For somebody who is a self proclaimed anti-social I seem to be attending a lot of work related parties lately. Just the other week, our department scheduled a welcome dinner for the 2 new guys that will be joining us in the department (the *German guy* who just left was their previous manager so they will be reporting to my boss). This get-together was also supposed to be an opportunity for the department to do some "bonding", whatever that means. The invitations (actually it was an MS Outlook meeting request) were sent out early the previous week and everything was set. On the day before the event, an urgent e-mail popped in my Inbox informing me that the party is hereby moved that very same day at 6pm. I don't know about the rest of my colleagues but I wasn't too thrilled about this sudden change in schedule. Call me a bit anal but I do get upset most of the time when things don't go according to plan. The reason why I was really pissed off however is more than that. I felt that these people (who made the decision) doesn't have any consideration whatsoever of our personal space. We could have had other plans for the night (and in fact 4 people in the group did) and they didn't even bother asking us. It's a feeling that the company owns my time after office hours and that's what I hate the most. I didn't really have any plans that night and I was just going to watch some anime on cable but that's not really the point. My own time after office hours, including weekends is sacrosanct and I expect the people I work for should respect that. I have nothing against these types of activities. As a matter of fact I think the workplace should have more after office interaction to promote teamwork and camaraderie but not in a way that it feels like it's being rammed in our collective throats. As it turns out the actual reason why it was moved is so idiotic that I wouldn't bother talking about that here.

Anyway enough of that, I digress. The night didn't look particularly promising for me and to make matters worse, a meeting I had that was scheduled right after lunch was moved to 4-6pm. That meant that I didn't even had the time to go to my flat first to freshen up (and more importantly, configure my video capture card on my computer to record that anime episode).

The meeting ended around 10 minutes past 6 p.m. One of my colleagues was already at the designated place (he was trying to reach me through my mobile phone) and was beginning to doubt if he remembered the venue correctly. I went there straight from the office and we just spent the time reading the newspaper waiting for the others to arrive. That's another thing I noticed at parties. Everybody seems to be fashionably late and I still haven't figured out the right timing for this sort of thing.

The place was called "Bay View". It's called that because it's the highest place in the compound and one could see the harbour a few miles further on a clear day. I suppose it is a nice enough place if you could actually see anything. The sun sets early this time of year and the glare of overhead spotlights illuminate a spot of grassy area just next to us obscuring most of the view ( a lone golfer was practicing his putting skills a few meters away). People started to arrive. I was extremely hungry at this point that I was feeling a bit light-headed. Thankfully, the food was also served a few minutes later - barbecue and pasta.

The food was ok I guess. At this point I wasn't really too concerned about that. All I know is that I am extremely hungry and I need food! Unfortunately there were also a lot of bugs flying around so I had to eat a bit more carefully than I wanted. This is to eliminate the accidental ingestion of bugs - definitely not a pleasant experience!

After dinner it was time to play games or group dynamics as they would like to call it. The first activity was charades. We were told to divide into 2 groups and to act out movie and song titles. Our group won the first event. It was relatively easy and during my turn, I acted out "The little mermaid", "Tayo'y mag Ocho-ocho" (This was easy. All I had to do was to put my hands on my knees with my butt sticking out and... well, I will spare you the details but I could guarantee you that it is a lot more wholesome than it sounds), and Superman (another easy one).

After the charades, the sing along video machine was fired up and the singing contest -- which is almost like a tradition in these parts -- officially started. The same grouping was maintained and we were to sing a predetermined play list one by one. There were no judges. We relied on the automatic scoring system of the machine. Who knows what's the criteria for the automatic scoring but some people believed that it has something to do with the loudness of the voice or perhaps correct timing. Anyway, trust a bunch of engineers, a couple of IT guys and a chemist to come up with technical solution for the lack of judges - we averaged the individual scores to come up with a team score. We lost by about 0.2 points (maximum score is 99). I was going to suggest a weighted average wherein we multiply each score with our weight and divide the total number with our aggregate weight since I noticed the high scorers on our team were the "heavier" ones but obviously the other team objected. So at the end of the day, the overall result was declared as a tie. this means everybody gets to take home the grand prize! And the grand prize? A gift certificate for the canteen :( Bummer...

After that we just chatted with each other and sang a few more songs. The few songs became a long queue as it became late (I don't recall exactly when the song requests began to pick up but I suspect it was when our boss left early). We left nearing midnight after about 15 or so "last songs" were played and eventually we abandoned the mic and did group singing. My colleagues were so not used to me singing that they were quite literally surprised that I did. One of them kept teasing me that I was the "revelation" for the night and somehow the name stuck. So for the next couple of days, every time they see me at the office they would call me "The Revelation". It was mildly annoying. Fortunately it just went away eventually. Perhaps my pointedly ignoring them when we pass each other in the corridor might have contributed to that? I guess I'll never know.

Of reptiles and organizing photos


Reptile
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
Since I seem to be posting a lot of animal pictures recently, I would like to add this to the series. I have no idea whatsoever what it is beyond that it's a reptile and it's green. Just like the picture of the turtles, I took this picture when I was in Berlin.
It was kind enough to approach the side of the glass enclosure and pose for the camera. This reminds me of another lizard photo I have somewhere. I will try to search for it and post it here. One of my biggest problems is how to effectively catalogue pictures for quick retrieval (both prints and digital photos). It has been an ongoing project for as long as I can remember. In the meantime my photo collection gets bigger and bigger. Organizing digital photos is easier compared to managing prints and negatives. Using APS helped a bit with their handy negative canister organizer and contact prints but 35mm is a bit difficult. Right now they are stashed in shoeboxes in no particular order and I may have to go through them all in order to search for this one picture of a lizard I took several years ago *sigh*. I once tried to convert them all to digital but using a flat bed scanner for this number of photos is just crazy. Having an autofeed picture scanner would be nice. My next camera will definitely be a digital SLR! Hey Santa! You listening?... :/

Monday, October 25, 2004

The Amazing Askal Archon


Info booth
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
Woohoo! Askal Archon, my super hero character in the MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) City of Heroes ranked 3rd in the Top Victors in Steel Canyon for the month. Yeah you heard me right. Not for the week or for the day, the whole month! I feel so happy. I know it's strange. It's like I have this feeling of accomplishment. My hours spent vanquishing dastardly villains finally paid off. Sorry, it occurred to me that you probably have no idea what I'm talking about. To put it in simple terms:

* I play a game online with hundreds of other players.
* The game involves playing as a superhero character of one's own creation (complete with outrageous costumes, masks and super human powers).
* My character was included as the top 3 player for the month in a particular area.
* I am currently ecstatic about said "accomplishment".

Hmm... it's suddenly not so interesting when I put it that way. I actually find it a bit disturbing that the highlight of my week includes making the top 3 rank on an online game. It could be a sign that I should improve my social life a bit more. Having characters with names like Acid Man, Mr. Sparky and McEleven in my friend's list in the game hardly qualifies as normal social interaction.

My brother was observing me playing the game the other day. He found it odd that our team wasn't talking to each other during the game aside from the usual, "Attack!!!", "[Please] heal me", "Waaaaah!" (that could either be my battle cry to lead my men into battle or my cry of retreat with a bunch of enemies hot on my heels). Just how much social interaction could you get from an online game anyway? A typical team would start with somebody approaching you and asking "Team?" and you would reply with something like "k" then viola you're now a team! Ok I have to admit that some players do attempt to have a decent conversation and I'm probably more laconic than most players in the game. You then start running around killing.... err, I mean "arresting" villains and pester other players you pass by to make them join your team.

In the game, you can be whoever you want to be. Chances are you don't even know how old the other person playing the game. He or she could be 14 or 41 and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference - I have seen my nephew played the game and he's about 8. The only thing that clued me in was that he kept bumping on stuff. You probably don't also know what timezone he is playing from. I joined this team once where I had to leave because I had to eat dinner. One player exclaimed "It's way to early for dinner man. Haven't eaten breakfast yet". I told him that it was already 9 in the evening and I was very hungry. He said "What!! 9pm?? That's crazy!". I guess nobody told him yet that the earth is round. And lastly, you can't even be sure of that sexy heroine you are playing with (I mean the game) is actually a "She" and the other way around.

Social interaction or not, the game is fun and I can't wait to play again tonight. Hmm... perhaps I could even make a mini blog for Askal :D

Saturday, October 23, 2004

More Turtles


Turtles
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
Turt's Relatives? They could very well be. Several red eared sliders from Berlin zoo. When I first saw them, I was surprised on how big they were. Turt was significantly smaller back then but now she's about as big. The turtle habitat at the zoo inspired me to buy Turt a bigger tub to give her more space to swim about. I also put in more rocks and a halogen basking light for her to dry on.

Booo!


Pumpkin
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
It's fast approaching halloween and I thought it would be nice to put up some decorations. Every year, kids from the compound go house to house knocking on doors to ask for treats. Notice the "No Solicitors" sign on the top of my door? It's my way of saying: "Have a happy halloween kids but sorry no treats from me ." Actually I will be out of town for the holiday weekend but the kids probably don't know that and would think I'm keeping all the goodies to myself. I was in the children's committee last year and it was our responsibility to accompany the kids. I sure am glad I'm not in the committee this year. The costumes are cute but our company's residential compound is huge!

Monday, October 18, 2004

Purple Sky


Purple Sky
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
An interesting picture of the sky I took a few years back. The central cloud formation looks like a bird in flight. I was in a vehicle with tinted windows which explains the purple shade. And in case you were wondering, no I wasn't driving.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Finally! A cat's blog

I am pleased to announce that Brat's blog is finally up. I have been snapping at his tail for a long time to finish it but he refused to release it untill he was fully satisfied with the overall look and feel of the site. He could have just chose a standard blog template just like what I did but noooo... he just had to have a custom built design. Oh well, cats are naturally picky I suppose.

View Brat's blog at bratkun.blogspot.com . I have also conveniently placed a quick link to his website in the sidebar. For you cat lovers out there, you might also want to check out his online photo gallery at http://www.flickr.com/photos/bratkun/ to see pictures of Brat with his friends. Want to know more? If you have a friendster account, check out Brat's profile there under bratkun@hellokitty.com and get to know his online kitty friends.

I have been convincing 2 other friends to start their blogs. They haven't started because of something or the other. Excuses, excuses, excuses... *tsk* *tsk* *tsk*

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Monday, October 11, 2004

Oktoberfest *hic* (excuse me) and balloon animals

Every October for the past 5 years or so, a german colleague hosts a beer drinking fest for the rest of the employees. We had this year's activity a few days ago which also coincided with our colleague's send off party (he's off to greener pastures so to speak). Lots of german sausages, sauerkraut, pretzels, cheeses and other dishes with weird sounding names. And of course, free flowing beer!... :)

There were also a lot of activities. Beer drinking contest, armwrestling, a contest on who could pound a 6" nail on a piece of lumber the fastest (I joined this event and lost. I'm still convinced that the lumber was harder on my end that's why I lost.), and lumber sawing. To tell you the truth I was a bit skeptical with the authenticity of these games. I suspected that these games weren't really traditional games in Germany and that somehow our german host was just having a private joke at our expense. I wasn't too concerned however since it was all in good fun and everybody seems to be enjoying themselves.

I was sitting in one of the back tables with a friend of mine. We arrived just as the food was being served and the program wasn't going to start until most have already eaten. Beside our table was another officemate and his wife. Family functions such as this is not that common and although I knew his wife's face, I just couldn't remember her name. So we spent the next few hours in polite conversation carefully phrasing our words to conceal the fact that we didn't know each other's name (It would have been strange to ask her husband outright and my friend was just as equally clueless). Fortunately, we were near the end of the room where most of the kids are playing. So to break this awkward setting, I would offer my friend's son (a toddler) some sauerkraut and blue cheese and watch him make these funny faces. That didn't last for very long though since he ran off to join the other kids playing with some balloons.

The decorations of the room included blue and white long balloons (the ones you could twist into silly animal shapes). The kids were tearing the balloons off the walls and soon I also joined in along with some fathers whose children are still too young to get balloons for themselves. I made a balloon dog and gave it to one of the kids. I went back to watching the activities (it was the women's armwrestling event) when one of the mothers approached me and handed me a balloon and whispered that the kids were fighting over my balloon dog and could I make several more so they won't fight. I began making balloon dogs, rabbits and bears much to the delight of the kids.


After exhausting all the balloons in the room I continued eating the rest of the sausages (I had loads of sausages on my plate and I think I may have overdid it a bit). I was examining a piece of bratwurst on my plate suspiciously since it sounds very similar to our cat's name for comfort, when my name was announced to participate in one of the events. As I mentioned earlier I lost that particular competition but it was probably the most exercise I had for the week. The next event was the sawing competition and turned out less exciting that I initially thought. Two contestants were on either side of a large piece of lumber who began sawing after a predetermined signal was given. Sawdust began flying all over the small airconditioned room where the party was held (did you think it was done outside in the open air?). A minute has passed... 3 minutes... they were still at it. So we just went back to eating and talking amongst ourselves leaving the 2 poor contestants to finish what they are doing for a couple of minutes more.

I knew it was time to leave when they fired up the video sing-along machine (videoke) and I saw somebody hold up a big sausage up the side of his face like a mobile phone. I wasn't entirely sure whether he was just making a bad joke or if he was really trying to communicate with the poor sausage. I too was feeling a bit tipsy. One thing that's a bit weird about this sort event is that although it is a beer drinking event, getting drunk is not such a good idea or at least it's something I would not recommend most especially if your boss is just on the other table. So I bade everyone goodnight (I think they planned to actually empty out the beer fountain) and hitched a ride to my flat (it was just about a hundred meters away so I just walked coming to the venue earlier). Never drink and drive!

Earthquake! Waaaaah!!!

Last Friday evening, while I was chatting with my brother and sister through IM, a strong earthquake shook the building I was living in. The earthquake was strong enough to topple some books on my bookshelf and cause my computer table to give off a disturbing creaking sound. Probably what distressed me more was the fact that I couldn't afford a new 19" monitor at the moment (I could imagine myself using my nephew's 14" monitor with the words "comuter" scrawled at the top with a blue marker *shudder*). I immediately left the building (with the presence of mind to put on more, errr... "decent" clothing) and waited outside with another colleague who also lived there until we were sure there were no more tremors.
What was interesting is that in spite the fact that I was in near panic when I realized what was happening, I still took time to type on my keyboard something very similar to the following:

Me: Aaahhh!1! earthquajke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Me: waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1 :(


Of course they were probably mildly alarmed by this so my sister (who is in fact quite literally on the opposite side of the world) called my mother (who lives in the same country as myself but on another island) who in turn called me on my cell phone to ask me if I am OK. All of that within a few minutes! This connectivity thing is quite amazing. Don't you agree?

I included a photo collage "zeitgeist" from Flickr. Tell me what you think about it. :)

Friday, October 08, 2004

Not much photos


Candles
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
A friend pointed out that I haven't posted any new photos on this site. I have to agree with her. All the photos that you see here are in fact recycled. Most are available in my other online photo gallery. The truth is that I haven't used my camera for a very long time. I thought starting this photo blog (yes my original idea for this site was for a photo blog) would somehow encourage me to start taking pictures again. I'm looking forward to having a new digicam. That should do the trick. Hmm... perhaps I should change the title to "Random Ramblings and Occasional Photos".

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Turt the Turtle and the great flood


I woke up the other day and found my room flooded! I have 2 pet turtles (Turt and Jr.) and I keep them in a large plastic tub with an external activated carbon/anthracite filter. Sometime in the middle of the night, the filter got clogged up and began leaking into a small pail I strategically place beneath the filter for just this situation. When I woke up the pail was full of water, but so was the rest of my flat. The submersible pump was on the bottom of the tub and it managed to suck out most of the water. The turtles were scurrying about, trying to catch the panic stricken guppies in the shallow water.

I quickly surveyed the damage and found my carpet and huge floor pillow (in the shape of a burger bun) soaked with greenish water from the turtle pond (eewww!). Fortunately the sun was out so I took the carpet and pillow outside so I could wash and dry them in the sun.

All of that had to wait however since I was already running late in going to the office. I replenished a pail of water in the tub (I could almost imagine hearing the guppies breath a sigh of relief). Then I was off to a meeting for the rest of the morning.

I came back during lunchbreak, and after a few pails of greenish water sqeezed off from the mop and about a half can of disinfectant spray later, my room was almost back to normal although a bit damp and smelling like fresh laundry (it says so on the can but I have to admit my laundry doesn't smell anything like that).

The only problem left is to make sure the carpet and pillow dry properly or else they might stink.

On a positive note, I finally got to use my super absorbent wonder mop. It's one of those things you see in infomercials that claim to be 300% more absorbent than your ordinary mop. When I saw it on sale in a hardware store, I couldn't resist buying it. I've actually had it for about 2 years already but I didn't want to get it all dirty on just any spill. So I thought, "Finally! A spill worthy of my mop!"


TURT2


The turtles are Red Eared Sliders. A female measuring about 9 inches named "Turt" and a male measuring about 4 inches named "Turt Jr." Yeah I know. They have rather unimaginative names. But hey, you don't exactly call your pet turtle to come to you so I guess any name would suffice.

The picture above was taken with a Canon EOS Rebel 2000. I used a close-up filter since I have yet to buy a decent macro lens. The keychain was placed on top of a sponge with a strong flashlight beneath creating an orange glow in the shadows. The light overhead comes from the screen of a computer monitor.

Pictures of my pet turtles.


Friday, October 01, 2004

Of mobile phones and work-life balance at the office

A recent activity at work made it necessary to give out my mobile number to my colleagues so they could contact me in case I am needed at the office. At first I was a little hesitant. I wasn't too keen on people from work calling me at night or on the weekends, but they assured me that it will be used for emergency purposes only. There was an impending strike at work and they wanted a quick way to "call me in."

That's when I started to get "work spam" on my mobile phone. I would get sms (text messages) about an after office singing contest I have no intention of watching, much less participate in. Reminders from people at work about non-work related things. Ironically, the singing contest thing was part of an initiative of the company to promote "work-life-balance" at the office. The idea being that employees need stress relieving activities after work. My idea of work life balance however is - having not to do with anything remotely associated with work after office hours. I could think of a dozen things to do after work other than hearing my colleagues sing. Now that is stressful.

I was actually tempted to reply to that message something along the lines of: "I'm sorry. This phone number is private and is strictly for non-business use only. Please refrain from using this number in making work related announcements. Kindly use other means of communication such as the company's e-mail or my office voicemail unless the message is really urgent or in the event of an emergency". I mean it's not like they are paying for my phone and my bills right?

If they can impose something like limiting internet use in the office to strictly for business use, can't I do the same?

This post was sent via my Dell Axim X5 Pocket PC and a SonyEricsson Z600. I could have done it using just the phone but I'm not comfortable typing anything more than 160 characters on it. Isn't this sort of technology great? :)