Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A long holiday weekend. I turned a year older :)

A lot has happened over the past few weeks and I am not sure where to start. There were a lot of Christmas parties I attended, and I turned another year older :) . My mother came over a week before my birthday to have her interview at the US embassy for her US Visa so thankfully I did not spend Christmas and my birthday alone. Unfortunately that meant my father spent Christmas alone at our house.

My mother and I spent most of my birthday shopping for her upcoming trip to the US. We bought a nice green checkered luggage (on sale) since she found my 2 week luggage too small. We bought a black double lined trench coat, several long sleeved cotton turtlenecks, a couple of bonnets, and a pair of leather gloves. It's not really that cold where she's going but she gets cold easily even complaining if an electric fan is pointed in her direction while she's sleeping here in the tropics. Sheesh! Hahaha. On our way home there was a huge traffic jam near a public market and it was past dinnertime when we finally arrived. We had a ball of ham, chicken-potato-macaroni salad (my mom was complaining that her fingers were stained red chopping beets for the salad), freshly baked high fiber low sugar bread we bought along the way, 3 types of cheeses (Emmental, Havarti and Gouda - I originally planned to make cheese fondue but decided to eat cheese cubes with the bread instead), jelly salad with nata de coco and kaong, and a bottle of sparkling grape juice. For Christmas the following day, we had a lot of leftovers (hehe) and just added some barbecued pork ribs and beef and mushroom stew. We were sipping vodka mudshakes that my mother seem to like but later told me she was getting a little dizzy :p

Orange monster


I got some nice presents this year from our office exchange-gift and from friends and family. My mother gave me a nice small stainless steel pressure cooker hehe (strangely enough I always wanted one). From friends, I got an egg shaped alarm clock that keeps on falling off the table (the time is displayed on a see through glass on the center of the egg), a 3 legged 1 eyed orange monster with suction cups for feet and bendable legs that has a motion detector and plays a recorded sound when activated (it's a cool gadget I think but I have yet to think of a practical use for it - perhaps a door greeter that will warn potential guests to my room to stay away?), a dancing wind up robot toy (weird), a small LED keychain flashlight (very practical), a very "kikay" decorative photo frame with colored beads and stones adorning the sides (this is probably the strangest gift I received - even surpassing that dancing robot thingie), and a Stephen King book. Hmm did I miss something? For those who haven't given me any gifts *cough* I'm sure you just haven't had the time to give it to me yet *grin*.

Of course I also had gifts for myself and my new apartment. For the apartment, I bought this very nice clothes drying rack. It has 2 bars that can be independently adjusted to your desired height and the lengths are also extendable on both ends. The entire construction has a sturdy feel to it even with the lengths fully extended. I finally got rid of the makeshift clothesline I made using a span of nylon rope spanning one window to the bathroom door. For myself, after much deliberation, I decided to buy a gaming console. :) Not one of those new generation types like the XBox360 mind you, just a plain Playstation 2 with the new slim form factor. I got it on a Christmas promo that included an extra controller, a memory card and 10 games in the package. I still haven't tried all of them but I should at least test out all the games before the warranty expires. The only problem I have is that the one game I really want to play is Naruto 2 and I can't make sense of the menus in Japanese! I can play the combat tournament just fine but I need to understand what is being said to unlock the special characters in the game :( I gues I will have to send screen shots to my brother for translation.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Saving up for Christmas


Piglets and smiley
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
I was in Toy Kingdom during the weekend and I spotted these nice piglet coin banks. They looked so cute that I impulsively decided to buy a pair. Here they are on top of the television set with my smiley stress ball.

The stress ball was a gift from last Christmas. As you can see it still looks quite new. It must be a sign that I am relatively stress free. Haha. I remember my nephew’s stress ball looking all battered and worn out. I also seem to recall a few bite marks as well… Oh wait! That wasn’t the stress ball. I was thinking about the fake… Oh never mind. *snicker*

I hope I can fill them up in time for the holidays :D

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Mouse and Cow


Mouse and Cow
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
A nice picture of 2 keychains I got in KL. Just the perfect subject matter to test out my new camera's macro functionality. My brother sent me a Panasonic D-Snap AS30 multifunction SD device. It's a 3 megapixel camera, an MPEG4 movie recorder, a digital sound recorder and a digital digital music player capable of playing MP3, AAC and WMA all in one compact and slim device. I have been playing with it the whole week and I am very satisfied with it. I do have some complaints but nothing major. All in one devices such as these usually have their compromises and I think this is one of the better devices out there.

Expect more photos (and a more in depth review) as I test this device (camera funmction) under different conditions.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Spooky Carved Out Head


Spooky Carved Out Head
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
No it's not a pumpkin. That's a picture of what is left of a soup in a breadbowl meal I had last weekend. It was a creamy potato and mushroom soup. The bread was nice and soft on the inside but crusty on the outside. It was so nice that it was a shame to leave out the crust (too bad I was extremely full). So I thought I'd entertain the service crew by leaving behind this lovely work of art. Hehe. :)

This was taken using a mobile phone so the image is a bit fuzzy.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Death in the Family

My aunt died last night. She has been sick for some time now and I knew that they rushed her to the hospital the night before because she was having difficulty breathing so her death didn’t exactly came as a shock. She had a myocardial infarction but her body has long since been weakened by cancer. I was woken up very early in the morning not with the usual sound of my 3 alarm clocks getting off (2 alarm clocks set to go off 10 minutes apart and the alarm function of my mobile phone) but by the ringing of my landline phone. And before I can even register in my mind who the person on the other end of the line was, my mother broke the sad news. She told me that my aunt died sometime during the night and that she died peacefully.

The other details I learned later when I called back my mother in the afternoon. I learned that there was a small debate before she died whether or not she should be connected to a lung machine. The fear of some of my relatives was that she would be just like those patients we hear about in stories that hover seemingly forever at the brink of death suffering needlessly. Thankfully she was conscious at the time and she gave her assent. It is good to know that she eventually passed away peacefully and not struggling for every breath had she not used the machine.

I remember declaring to everyone when I was still small that she was my favorite aunt (well to be honest, this particular honor passed on to several other aunts as I grew up) because we were both dog lovers. I got my dog Scamper from her. Their house is always full of barking, playful (and sometimes vicious!) dogs. But usually these dogs are the small furry kind so they don’t look too threatening. Scamper was a mixed breed but he looked very much like a Lhasa Apso. 

When I was in grade school, my cousins and I used to eat at her apartment near the school. She would greet us with her big smile and her curly reddish hair (the result of years of dying her hair I suspect). The last time I saw her was when my brother and I came for a visit last year in November (almost exactly a year ago). We were greeted by the familiar barking dogs, the same warm smile and the familiar peroxide bleached hair only much lighter in color and she walked with the aid of a walking cane. She will be dearly missed by all of our family and friends.

****************
Update: I also learned later that her companion at home also died a few days later almost as if they had an agreement to accompany each other beyond this life. I wonder what will become of the dogs.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sick Bunny


Sick Bunny
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
The PinkBunny is sick and I really hope she gets better. Everybody is praying for you. Take it easy and don't get too stressed out :D

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mildew Attack!

It has been raining on and off for the past few weeks and our house is feeling a little damp. There's an unvarnished book shelf in the living room and I noticed that it has a slightly greenish hue to it. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be molds of some kind. Yuck. About half a can of disinfectant later I was busy cleaning the rest of the house hunting for signs of fungal growth. I also bought a can of wax based furniture polish so hopefully the treated wood won't absorb as much moisture. I was wearing a dust mask hoping fervently that the fungal spores doesn't end up in my lungs. Yikes! I don't even sit on the sofa anymore. Our sofa is dark green and its very hard to tell if the dark green patch you are sitting on is part of the design or some fungal culture. I also bought some dust mite spray and fumigated the sofa and the throw pillows. Did I mention that I hate dust mites as much as fungus? *shudder* I just hope that I won't have this kind of problem in my new apartment.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Confetti anyone?

I am very pleased to announce that I am the very proud owner of a new paper shredder! I saw it in a display window of a bookstore and I just couldn't resist. It's a choice between a cheaper but bigger shredder that makes wide paper strips and a more expensive but sleeker and smaller model that makes itty bitty cross cut confetti. Well you can guess which one I bought. It was love at first sight. I'm now at home deliriously shredding away and I have never been happier. I just hope I don't get carried away and inadvertently shred something important. Excuse me, I'm going to look for more stuff to shred. Now where did I put those utility bills.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Powerless!

Something is wrong with the power outlets in the apartment near my place of work. I don't know what could have happened. I just came back from the weekend and the first thing I noticed is that the spot light for the turtle tub is not working. All the lights are working fine but all except 2 power outlets are working. One is powering up the refrigerator (thank goodness for that) and the other near the kitchen powering the exhaust hood. I managed to get my computer working by using a long extension cable from the kitchen to my computer's UPS.

I shouldn't worry about repairs since this is a company provided housing and I can call the maintenance department whenever I want. The trouble is, I can't call them with my room looking like this! I think I need to tidy up a bit before I call them. The room looks filthy.

The main victim of this incident are the turtles of course. the filters are down, the aerator is not functioning, the guppies are swimming near the surface gasping for breath and the turtles doesn't look too happy either. The turtles probably miss their basking light. Those turtles sure like to bask under the full spectrum lamp, even spreading their feet to catch more rays. Oh well, I probably should take them out to get some sunlight. I just hope the cats outside will leave them alone.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Learning how to use Blender


Blender
Originally uploaded by Jep F..
For the past few weeks, I have been struggling to learn how to use Blender. OK before you start thinking about how mentally challenged I am for not being able to figure out how to use it in just a few minutes, let me clarify my statement. I said I do not know how to use Blender and not "a" blender (for those of you who are so fond of correcting grammatical and spelling errors on my blog -- Hah! You thought you caught me with another one didn't you). No, it's not the kind you use to liquefy stuff. I'm talking about Blender3D [www.blender3d.org] or just plain Blender for short. It's a free 3D modeling and animation program supported by a dedicated open source development team and an enthusiastic online community sharing a passion for 3D modeling. It is a bit difficult to learn (even the interface was confusing at first) but all sorts of tutorials are available online made by the users themselves ranging from the very basic to advanced modeling techniques. If you happen to drop by on their site one of these days I highly recommend visiting the gallery section. Eye popping graphics and movies galore. If only I could learn how to do all those stuff!

I first stumbled on the site when I was searching for a free 3D layout visualization tool. I wanted to go beyond the 2D layout plans for my new apartment and wanted to visualize what the flat would look like in terms of layout decisions, color, choice of materials, furniture etc. Well it all started when my brother and I were debating over my choice of flooring material for my new flat. I wanted to have faux woodtile patterned ceramic tiles for the flooring but he said that it would be ugly. So I reasoned, what better way to present my ideas than to send him fully rendered 3D pictures of my ideas right? Well, it seems that I bit off more than I could chew and I realized that learning how to use a 3D modeling software was not going to be a walk in the park as I previously thought. My first project was to create a 3D model of a gingerbread man and I can tell you honestly that it was a total disaster - it looked more like a moldy lump of bread (I couldn't get the texture and color right so the shape was only vaguely humanoid and it had a decidedly greenish hue to it). I suppose it was all my fault. I was so excited and over eager to jump at the more challenging projects after seeing all those gorgeous samples. I thought why would I waste time learning how to make nice looking cubes when I should be doing that cool looking gingerbread man pictured at the end, right? err... boy was I wrong! After going through most of the newbie tutorials I started to be more familiar with the interface (it wasn't the usual windows interface and most of the menus were contextual meaning it changes depending on what object you are working with and what "mode" you are working on). The more I learn, the more addicted I became.

The only previous experience I had with 3D modeling and rendering was with Corel's Dream 3D [www.corel.com]. It came bundled with version 8 but has long since been discontinued [http://graphicssoft.about.com/library/extra/blwh_dream3d.htm]. I had it running in my old AMD 486 computer and render times were so long that I sometimes had to take a nap first before it finishes. That's how long it took! And all I did was make these spheres of different materials and textures suspended just above a rippling body of water revealing distorted reflections. This experimentation with the Blender 3D program is the first time I have actually attempted to model anything (the Corel package on the other hand came with a lot of ready made models that you can drag and drop and preset shaders that you just apply to the objects so it could take the properties of tinted glass or marble for example. So I was very much contented to play with those). It was obviously not practical for me to learn Dream 3D at the time because of my underpowered computer but after being introduced to Blender, I remembered why I was so fascinated about 3D modeling all those ago. I guess you can say that it's my artistic side trying to break free (I was wondering where you were all these years). There's hope for me yet I think ;)

OK I admit that it may have elevated to mere curiosity to a mini obsession (obsession is such a heavy word that I thought having the word mini lightened it up a bit). Last night I was busy trying to create a model of a toilet bowl and I had to force myself to sleep so I won't be late in the morning. I tried but I was thinking about toilet bowls most of the night, my mind was too hyperactive for me to sleep. I woke up on time but I felt sleepy the whole morning. I was sketching perspective views of toilet bowls during a boring meeting. I can't wait to finish that toilet bowl tonight. I already have ideas on how to model the fire extinguisher and the shower head.

*** NOTE: It took quite a while but I finally finished the blender model you see above. I just couldn't post this article without that crucial element. ;)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

What's new?

I was feeling a bit "slow" in the office today. I was feeling a bit sleepy and was halfheartedly trying to finish some reports I needed to submit to my boss. I went to the restroom to "take a leak" and noticed that the right most urinal out of 3 was out of service. I took the middle one and happily did my thing. Then our Human Resources manager walks in and occupied the urinal next to me and suddenly blurted out "What's new with you?". I don't know about other guys out there but for me I really don't like people talking to me while I'm peeing especially "small talk". I stammered a reply "Wha-what's new with me? What do you mean? Should there be something new with me? If there is, nobody told me about it. Do you know anything new about me?".

He just chuckled and said that it was not a "loaded" question and just left. I'm being too paranoid. And to think I haven't even taken coffee the whole day.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Backup, Backup, Backup!!!

Whew! I just finished reconstructing the Pink Bunny Blog after the original free hosting my brother used for the graphics turned into an exclusively pay service. It took me the better part of the evening today but it looks quite good now. Fortunately I found a backup copy of the files on my computer. I used to have a link of that blog here but some screw-up when I was tweaking my blog caused my blog template to be corrupted. I know, I know... I learned my lesson now. Always have backups! The posts looks longer than usual, that's because the code that limits old posts to show excerpts only is now gone. Loading times may be longer than usual.

Speaking of backups, I left my beloved PDA last weekend at our house and both the main and backup battery got drained. When I turned it on I was greeted with a recalibrate your PDA wizard! Ack!!! All my data gone. *sob* I never bothered doing a backup of my PDA so I don't even have older versions of my files :(

The primary reason why I bought a DVD recorder a few months ago was so I could finally backup my important files. I kept putting it off but something tells me that I should do that right away considering the bad luck I have been experiencing lately with my data.

I'm putting up a new blog and I'm excited to start. Be sure to watch out for that. Of course if you have been reading my change logs, I mentioned this as early as July but I was very busy back then. Oh yeah... the links to my change log is missing because of this template problem. :( I'll fix it when I have the time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

In search of a home

Soon to be homeless

The contract for our current rental apartment is nearing its end so we were thinking about our options. Since my brother was moving out eventually, I was the only person that will be left behind. I tell you that I'm definitely not looking forward to moving out anytime soon. We tend to be packrats in the family so we have accumulated a lot of junk over the years (roughly 13 years? has it really been that long?). The main problem will be what to do with all those stuff. I have thought about donating it to a rummage sale but that would still require me to sort it all out and I'm feeling too lazy to do that anytime soon. To give you an idea of how things are now, 2 of the 3 bedrooms are filled with stuff so much so that they are not useable as bedrooms anymore. And that's not counting the storeroom. My sister and her family used to live there (I was merely a weekend transient) but they have moved to live in another country. My brother on the other hand gave up his condo unit and stayed at that apartment long enough to dump all the stuff he can't bring with him when he goes abroad to study. It's a good thing they packed most of the stuff in big boxes before they left *sigh*. So the apartment unit became this big storage space that appears to be inhabited only during the weekends. I wonder what the neighbors are thinking.

I don't know exactly when I will need to vacate the apartment. My philosophy is that I will stay put as long as they do not give me notice to leave. That's the time when I will have a problem. The current plan is to get a shipping container and have the stuff shipped to my parents' house. I guess I should start asking around how much it would cost. I have absolutely no experience in such things. All I know is that they charge by the volume so you can fit in as many things as you like in the shipping container and it would still be the same cost. It should be large enough to accommodate the piano, a bed and the dining table.

I remember when we first moved into our current apartment. It's a 2nd floor unit of a "4 floor step up apartment complex" and carrying heavy stuff up to our unit was a challenge. I was helping the movers transport our piano and I nearly got squished when we were climbing the stairs. I don't want to go through that experience again *shudder*. I have to do that kind of thing again and what makes it worse this time is that I will be on my own. Hopefully my parents could fly here to help me when the time comes.

Too attached?

Then there's this other question: Do I really need to maintain another apartment in the City when I move out of this one? Most of my colleagues think it's a waste of time and resources to manage 2 households (I'm living in a company provided bachelor's flat during the weekdays). They suggested that I should just stay put in the company provided housing. Considering that my travel time to the city on a Friday afternoon could reach as long as 5 hours because of traffic jams (not to mention the rising cost of gasoline) I could say that I'm very tempted. However, I don't think I can stay here inside the company-housing compound for more than 2 weeks in a row. I have this feeling that when I go home at night, I'm never really too far from my work. Any problems and I'm just a call away. If my boss needs anything from me during the weekend then he would expect me to go to the office. I know it's only a few minutes away but come on! My weekends are for rest and relaxation and I don't think I could do that when I'm staying here. As they say "Out of sight is out of mind" and I truly believe in that. On the other hand, the location of the current apartment is conveniently located very far from work. It's a place where I could really rest and relax. It's a ways off from the main street so there's not much pollution (the area is surrounded by rice fields complete with water buffalos grazing in the background to give that rural atmosphere - quite nice actually) and yet also near to supermarkets, restaurants and malls should I feel like going out. Hmm... maybe I'm just being too attached to living inside the university. After all, I have lived there almost all of my life (My mother is a faculty there and we have lived there as far back as I can remember. I also studied there in grade school and in college).

In denial

So what then are my options? Renting a new apartment is just too expensive. The current apartment's rent is being partially subsidized by the university (it's located inside a sprawling university campus and is meant for faculty housing). In my opinion renting a house is such a waste of money. Live in a place long enough and soon you realize that with all the money going to your rent, you could have already bought your own house! But am I ready to buy my own house? Am I ready for that kind of responsibility? People who have housing loans are these old family people with kids. I'm too young to have a housing loan! Having a loan will mean having this commitment for 20 or so years! For some people, that's even longer than their marriage. Am I mature enough to have that kind of payment obligation? If I ever decide to purchase a house, that would be my single largest purchase decision I have made. That's not something to take lightly. I only bought my car because my brother in-law was leaving and they needed somebody to buy their car (and besides I got it dirt cheap hehe) so that doesn't really count.

I just bought a what??!

Just before my brother left, we accompanied our mother to see some condos under development so we could look at the possibility of getting a new house. If I'm going to be there during weekends only, a small condo will be enough. We decided to look around for low cost developments around our area. Finally we ended up in a place called SV. My brother and I were looking around the area while my mother was talking to an agent whom we met at the site. I don't know exactly the sequence of events that preceded it but before I could think clearly (call me slow but I rarely rush into things like this one, I need to think about everything especially when it concerns such a big decision for me as this one) my mother was already shaking hands with the sales agent (Oh Ma'am you really should get reservations right away. The apartment units are selling like hotcakes and I don't know if there will be still some left if you go back at a later date - yeah right, find me an agent who wouldn't say that). Still in a daze because everything was happening so fast, my mother was letting me sign the reservation papers and she loaned me some money to cover for the reservation fees. At the end of the day, I had reservations for not just 1 but 2 apartment units! One was for myself and the other was for my brother but both under my name. I'm supposed to take out a loan for his apartment and he would be paying me every month for the amortization - at least that's the plan, or should I say he should be paying me the monthly amortization or else. ;p

So now, the deed is done, the dye has been cast and there's no turning back now, I am at the point of no return (sorry I couldn't think of any more clich├ęs to add). I'm actually feeling very nervous. It isn't everyday that I'm up to my neck in debt. And yet I am also excited to plan for the layout of the new apartment and think about the furnishings I will need (if I could still afford those that is - worst case is that I will just have a mattress in the middle of a 30 sq.m. room).

Monday, September 26, 2005

Dead fish in the tank and an old journal

There's a dead fish floating around in my fishtank and I'm too lazy to scoop it out. It died a few days ago and it is starting to decompose. I thought about picking it up with chopsticks but I was afraid that at the present state it's in it will just disintegrate. Hmm, I wonder what the other fishes are thinking.

I found something interesting last weekend while I was cleaning around the house. It's a bunch of old computer paper printouts of some stuff I wrote 8 to 9 years ago! I used to keep an electronic journal of sorts writing down all sorts of things from how my day went to some short stories I attempted to do but never finished (too bad there was no blogger site back then). The following are just excerpts. I recognize my old style of writing particularly the overuse of the ellipsis



.
Ahh.. a graduate at last! No more classes, no more books, no more teachers... dirty looks!... well... almost. I still have to take the board exam this October. I should spend my time studying for it but bumming around is a temptation that is just too hard to resist. It started well enough in the beginning, a new graduate from college eager to finish the board exam and to finally jump into the exciting world of work and employment. I attended review classes 3 times a week and even go to the library twice a week. Then I began to skip classes (to a certain degree this is justifiable since floods often occur in the area after a downpour). Then I stopped going there during Fridays since I reasoned out that most of the students in the area goes home for the weekend hence the heavy traffic jam every Friday afternoon. The absences became more frequent mostly due to some dubious excuse or another. Eventually I hardly attended anymore, and I simply justified my action by reasoning that the lessons discussed in class would be in the handouts anyway so why bother going there at all? Besides, the exam was 4 months away, why worry? I have more than enough time to catch up later in my review. Now, I keep saying the same statement I told myself back then, but this time the 4 months is replaced by 2. Am I worried? Heck no! Although I know very well that I should be.


*************

Here I am playing with my computer at 3:00 in the morning when I'm supposed to be sleeping... The problem however is that I am not all sleepy and it has been this way for the past week now. Everyday I would sleep around 4 to 5 in the morning and eventually wake up at 11:00. That would just be fine if I spend the time studying for my upcoming board exam but instead I spend it watching TV or just using my computer. It doesn't matter what's on the set, I even find myself watching those home TV shopping shows.

Ah, those were the good times. I miss bumming around. As you can see I was extremely lazy back then. :)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Black ooze


Black ooze
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
A friend of mine took these pictures. It looks like a huge mountain when seen up close like this but it's actually just a few inches tall. It's what happens when trapped gas forces its way up sticky sludge. The whole area is actually a sludge pit with some organic materials present. Anaerobic digestion of the organic material by bacteria causes methane to form in pockets beneath the surface. When enough gas is formed, it pushes its way to the surface and voila these nice land formations are formed. Just think of them as methane vents. I wonder what will happen if I light one of those up :)

Methane from landfills have been known to cause explosions with an ignition source present. On second thought maybe that's not such a good idea.
Mound

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Red Hairy Thing


Rambutan
Originally uploaded by Jepster.
It looks like something that will crawl away when left alone but this red hairy round object is actually a fruit called rambutan. It tastes quite nice (very sweet and juicy). It's apparently in season again since I saw a lot of streetside fruit vendors selling it on my way home last friday. There are canned ones available but it's best eaten fresh and properly ripe. *yum*

I couldn't afford a decent macro lens for my camera so I bought this macro filter. This picture is one of the first few shots I tested it with.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Morbid thoughts

When we reported for work last Monday morning, employees at the 2nd floor noticed a foul smell emanating from the office pantry. They initially dismissed it as "stale" air since the central air-conditioning system conked out the entire week before and it was scheduled to be commissioned after it has been repaired over the weekend. Instead of dissipating however, the odor became more intolerable. The person who went up to investigate could not stand the stench and he was vomiting violently when he came back out. The smell was like that of a rotting carcass. Something is dead and decaying in the air ducts! Then I remembered that one of my colleagues was supposed to have a week long vacation starting that day. The last time we saw him was last Friday. How sure are we that he *really* went to vacation. What if he was murdered and chopped up to itty-bitty pieces and dumped into the exhaust ducts. Well, it turns out that the odor was coming from a dead bird that got sucked in by the ventilation system. It was located too high to be removed easily so the building administration opted for a temporary solution for the mean time. They sealed out the affected ducts totally isolating it from the other exhausts. They just used sheets of plastic and duct tape. I'm glad that's all sorted out now.

BUT what if the bird died from a highly contagious form of avian flu that can infect humans. What if it's in the air we are breathing right now. What if...

I think I'm watching too much CSI.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

I raised B$12 Million! I'm rich woohoo!

Well not really. I should say "I'm virtually rich" to be more accurate. By using the word "virtually" I do not mean the classic dictionary definition of "almost, but not quite" or "practically" or "nearly". I mean "virtual" as in "simulated" or as used in the internet "virtual worlds". I don't think I'm doing a great job explaining this so I better start from the beginning.


Have you noticed an icon at the bottom right side of my blog that says "Listed Blogshares"? Well, that's because I joined this virtual stock market simulation at www.blogshares.com. It's kinda like fantasy football but with a wall street twist. You are given B$500 (that's read as 500 blogshares dollars) and you are free to invest this virtual money in "stocks". The "companies" from which these stock shares are issued are actually blogs. Blogs are valued in terms of the number of links going out and the links going in (or the number of sites that has this blog for a link). Share prices are influenced by how the shares are being traded among other things. Sometimes stock prices crash and that's something you don't want particularly if you invested all your B$ to that single blog. If you own a blog and it's listed in the blogshares stock exchange, then you automatically get 1000 shares of that stock (out of 5000, the rest is publicly listed and could be bought and sold by everybody else). As proof that it's really your blog and to redeem the 1000 shares, you are required to place this icon in your blog's main page. It's a great way to discover interesting blogs and at the same time play the stockmarket (or something close to it) without really investing real money just your time.

The site was first created in 2003 by some guy with a lot of spare time and has since become the most popular and immersive online stock market simulation to date. He was interested in creating a social networking experience that ties weblogs with a stockmarket style of trading wherein you can buy shares of blogs that interest you or speculate on the future popularity of a blog (the more popular the more other bloggers will link that site and the more incoming links the higher the valuation). He also wanted to test the validity of the power law theory in this simulated environment. One of the key concepts in that theory state that 20% of the population will control 80% of the wealth. Cool huh?

I started playing last November 2004 and I have made my B$500 grow into B$12,332,788.57. I'm only a casual player doing transactions at an average of about twice per week. My overall rank is currently 2863 and although it doesn't look like much I'm very proud of it since the number of players are over 15,000. Not bad huh. The game also tracks down your percentage increase/decrease compared to the previous month.

My first big break was when I bought a lot of shares from the thepinkbunny blog and for some strange reason a lot of other higher ranked players began buying shares like hotcakes! The price of the shares I own skyrocketed and then it was just a matter of selling when it's high and buying when it's low. The share price for that one blog eventually crashed but I got rid of it a long time ago. One thing I learned is to watch out for the P/E ratio. That's the relative price per valuation defined as [(shares x price) / valuation]. If this ratio goes beyond the market tolerance threshold, better bail out. It means that the stocks are too overpriced compared to their actual valuation.

Hey, why don't you give it a try? It's fun and not so time consuming. And it's nice to imagine what you will do if you actually had that kind of money *sigh*

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Stranded!

Saturday evening was like a nightmare!

After spending the whole day in a water theme park (strange that I work near the best dive sites in the country and my work friends would opt to relax in the artificially generated waves and heavily chlorinated waters of a water theme park -- it was fun though) I was thoroughly exhausted and just wanted to stay at home and rest. We were very lucky. It was bright and sunny the whole day despite the weather forecast of heavy rains due to a big typhoon that veered off its course. We were not on the direct path of the typhoon but it was still expected to rain. At around 6pm I was already home and I thought I should buy something in the supermarket for dinner. A whole roasted chicken sounds just about right (I was going to eat the leftovers the next day, honest. I wasn't going to eat it all *wink*). When I was queuing up in the checkout counter it began to rain. That's not enough to describe it however. To say that it was like a dam bursting would be more appropriate. It poured unrelentlessly for the next 10 minutes or so and I couldn't even go to my car about 2 meters away without becoming fully drenched to the skin. I heard snippets of conversation from those that just arrived that portions of the main road was slowly flooding. I lived just a couple of minutes from the grocery but I needed to go further down that road for about a kilometer or so to reach a U-turn slot since all the intersections were closed off -- part of a traffic control scheme that was meant to improve traffic conditions by doing away with traffic lights. For me however, this meant that I will have to go through the flooded area twice so I can go back to the house. Knowing that the conditions might get worse, I braved the rain and proceeded to navigate the semi flooded streets hoping that my car wouldn't stall. I passed through the waters keeping the car on first gear all the time and hoping that the water wouldn't go through the exhaust. So far so good! On my way along the street I encountered an unusual sight. A column of water about 4 feet high is seen spouting from a manhole in the middle of the road! At first I thought I nearly bumped into something (visibility being very poor because of the heavy rains and the poor condition of my windshield wipers). If the drainage system is backflowing that much water pressure then things will definitely go bad very quickly.

When I was about to do the U-turn, I noticed that the cars going to the opposite direction was at a standstill. And then I realized that the waters at the other side was now waist deep! So here I was stuck in the U-turn slot with the rain still pouring from the sky like crazy. Only the big trucks and busses braved the waist deep waters. I mentally kicked myself for not waiting at the supermarket (I was more concerned with the dressed chicken - of all things) then I could have gone home by going counter flow to the traffic very close to the shoulder. I'm sure the traffic enforcers wouldn't mind. After all they were nowhere to be seen. I think they were taking refuge somewhere dry and warm.

After about 5 minutes of maneuvering, I managed to inch my way out of the U-turn slot with the help of a soggy plainclothes traffic enforcer (or at least I assumed him to be one, he could just be a good Samaritan trying to untangle the jam) I was able to go a different route but almost all the alternative routes ended up in a flooded area. The rain came so sudden and with such volume that the draining system couldn't cope. I ended up beside a fried chicken joint and as luck would have it, unbelievably, somebody was actually foolish enough to leave the store and face the traffic jam. Seeing my opening, I immediately parked on the space he vacated in case he realized how stupid he was. I'd rather spend my time eating at a fast-food store than sitting in my car in a traffic jam any day. The torrential downpour actually lasted for only a couple of hours but the water it generated was enough to bring traffic to a standstill about twice as long. After tasting almost everything on their menu (at least once) I finally decided that it was time to leave (mental note: if your stranded someplace without a decent toilet it's not a very bright idea to overeat). The main street is still not moving so I ventured to the alternative routes once again. I finally found a passable route (which was flooded waist deep earlier but is now only about a foot deep) but the problem is that everybody seems to have thought of using this route too. We began inching our way (well the word "inching" may be an exaggeration but what do you say when you move a foot at a time? "footing"?) home and what was supposed to be a quick trip back home became a long journey due to the circuitous route we took. I finally arrived at around 11pm dead tired from the ordeal and I couldn't think of any other time I was so happy to see the bathroom. And the chicken?... I felt a special bond with that chicken since I felt we went through a lot together. And well, let's just say that it was the best tasting roast chicken I had when I cooked it for lunch the next day.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Poolside Dinner Party

I did not participate in the activities on the second day (it was a videoke challenge - yikes!) so I just stayed in my room and played WoW the whole night. But on the last day, it was free food and that changes everything hehe. I purposely arrived what I initially thought of as a little bit late (so I could start with the eating and skip most of the pre-dinner program nonsense) but as it turned out I was still early. I really couldn't figure out this being fashionably late thing at parties hehe. I ended up helping the organizers string flowers for leis and man the entrance booth and distribute meal stubs. The venue for the dinner party was outdoors at the poolside and they constructed a stage across the center of the pool. A colleague was busy placing floating candles and flowers in the water. I feel sorry for the pool boy. He's the one who will clean up that junk afterwards.

The whole event wasn't so bad. The food was mainly grilled stuff (fish, chicken, pork) and assorted fruits. I think that they served far too few food for the number of attendees but hey that's just my opinion. I just love fresh coconut juice. OK I'll admit that some of the programs were nice. The kids from the residential compound had this dance number and it was entertaining hehe. I left around the time when the food was starting to run out (all they had left were boiled corn) and a little girl was doing a solo ukulele performance much to the delight of... err... her parents I suppose (I suspect that the rest of the audience weren't too thrilled).

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Movie Marathon and More Balloon Twisting

The committee for the employees club decided to go all out this year. Instead of having a one night club party where we have free food and live entertainment, this year they opted for a 3 day bash with various activities lined up. The first day will include the kid's art exhibit, a kiddie bingo, movie marathon and a mini fair. The second will be a singing contest and the third night will be a poolside dinner party. I was informed last week that I will have a booth during the mini fair. It seems that the kids liked my balloon animals so much (I have made them in previous parties) that they were requesting me to do a repeat performance.

I bought a bunch of balloons and a new double action hand pump. I couldn't find the balloon twisting book I got from my niece so I just tried to recall how to make the figures from pictures.

Yesterday was the first day of the fair. I started setting up the booth at around 1730H. Beside me was a booth selling compost fertilizer, a booth selling home made ginger extract and a snack bar grilling hotdogs. It was an outdoor event and they installed a tarp on the playground in case it rains. They installed a huge canvass by tying it to two trees which would serve as the movie screen using a digital projector. It was still very bright so they decided to do the kiddie bingo first. I have started out making some animal shapes and some of the kids started to approach my booth. Somebody announced on the PA system that the balloon booth is now open and soon there was a very long queue of impatient kids coming from my booth. I suppose the compost fertilizer booth or the ginger extract booth did not interest them a bit. I was alone in the booth and soon I was frantically trying to meet up with the demand. I was churning up pigs, dogs and bears as fast as I could. The line thinned out when they started playing bingo but there were still a handful of small kids who were more interested in the balloon figures than playing bingo so I still have a lot of backorder to fill up. It also rained so at that point we were huddling inside the tarp so we would not get all wet. I noticed that some of the older kids were not too interested in having balloon animals though. I think they were undecided if they should get one since their peers might think it's uncool. The movie marathon started shortly after. It was Star Wars episodes 4 through 6. Revenge of the Sith just played in the local theaters a few weeks back so they thought it might be a good idea to introduce the old series to the newer generation.

I got a few unusual requests like doing a balloon giraffe but unfortunately I didn't know how to do that much to the disappointment of the little boy who requested it (I suspect he just watched Madagascar). Some of the requests I could improvise like requests for flowers, dragonflies and balloon hats. One little girl requested a balloon sword which was very easy to improvise. When some of the kids saw what she was holding though, everybody wanted a balloon "light saber" even the older kids. Soon the line began growing again because of the demand for this new figure (which was thankfully easy to make) until I finally ran out of balloons to inflate. I though my work was done so I started packing up but then other kids approached me and asked if I could "change their pig into a sword please?". So I spent another half hour or so untwisting pigs, bears and dogs into disfigured balloon light sabers. Soon most of the kids were not even paying much attention to the movie. They were too busy playing mock light saber duels with their ex-balloon animals. Feeling tired I went back home early and grabbed something to eat. 2 more days to go... *groan*

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Burning Bananas

My sister bought me this exercise gadget a few months back. Well it's not an exercise machine exactly but a device that tracks down how much exercise you have done for the day. It's a pedometer that you attach to your hips and it will give feedback on how far you have walked, average speed, how many calories you have burned and how many steps you have made during the day, each of these information is displayable in the LCD screen depending on which option you set on the device. Mine is the istepX1 from www.sportbrain.com and it's really cool. Aside from being a step counter, the device has a USB interface that you plug into a computer. Your exercise history is then stored online and you can compare your progress against your set target and even with the average steps made by all users of this device worldwide in your age range (I always fall behind the average of my age range). They claim that seeing the average performance of your age helps motivate you to exercise more. The way I see it you're either motivated or get frustrated. Haha. The estimated calories burned is even converted to number of cheeseburgers or bananas burned if you are interested in that sort of thing. The way I use it right now, I just set a daily target and at the end of the day, I just run the remaining steps off the treadmill when I get home. So if I just sit at the office the whole day surfing the net or listening to MP3's I should compensate by running longer at the end of the day. But if I spend it going up and down the second floor of the office building then I should run less at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the probable reason why I would keep on going up to the second floor of the building is to go to the pantry upstairs to get some snacks. And I have this gadget to make me feel better at the end of the day. Look everybody! I managed to burn half a banana today! How's that for a sense of accomplishment? :D

Thursday, April 28, 2005

A close call

A few months ago, when I was alone at the house during a weekend, I was cooking dinner when suddenly the fire in the gas stove snuffed out. Puzzled, I came closer to investigate thinking that I ran out of LPG in the middle of the night. I noticed a faint hissing sound and the distinctive smell of mercaptan. I realized that the hose connecting the LPG cylinder and the oven has completely come off and it was leaking LPG into the room!!! I immediately shut off the gas cylinder and the oven. Conscious of the fact that I wasn't supposed to turn on or off any electrical appliance in a potentially explosive atmosphere, I refrained from turning on the exhaust fan and just opened the doors and windows of the kitchen to let the LPG dissipate naturally. This cold have been much worse since I sometimes go to my room while I let the food I'm cooking simmer for a long time. Luckily this time I was in the kitchen when it happened. I shudder at the thought of what might have been. The room could have filled with LPG and a tiny spark from somebody ringing the electronic doorbell or the phone ringing could have set it off. Kaboom!

The problem was that the hose connector to the oven was not put on tightly enough and over the years of use it must have slipped off. Opening the gas cylinder pressurizes the hose and the repeated pressurization over the years undoubtedly contributed to that also. Whenever a new cylinder is installed I don't usually bother to the end connected to the oven, I'm just concerned that the end connected to the cylinder and pressure regulator is snuggly fastened.

An interesting fact about LPG is that it's heavier than air. Composition is roughly 50-50 propane and butane which are both gaseous hydrocarbons with larger molecules (thus heavier) than air. So what does this mean? It means that LPG tends to flow and settle at low points of the house. It could be at the floor or if you have a basement it would flow down there too. Opening a high window won't dissipate the accumulated gas fast enough. It is better to open the doors too. I attended this safety seminar once where they demonstrated that LPG indeed flows and does not dissipate in open spaces by pouring LPG down a long half-pipe. They lighted the other end and sure enough I saw the fire climb up the half pipe. It was even done inside a hotel seminar room and there were nervous hotel staff with fire extinguishers on standby. Also have you ever wondered about the awful stench of LPG? It's actually added on purpose. Pure Butane and Propane are both odorless. A substance called Mercaptan is added to stench the LPG so that you know that there's a gas leak. Nice huh?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Seafood Paella

I love to cook. I don't know if I have ever mentioned this in my previous posts. I probably enjoy cooking more than eating. Hehe. What makes it more enjoyable is when you are cooking for somebody. Cooking for 1 is a bit more difficult and with my brother not living with me anymore, I almost exclusively cook for just myself both during the weekdays and weekends. I remember a time when a group of friends would meet at my house during the weekends and we would eat together (we would sometimes take turns cooking -- or at least those who knows how to cook). It became a semi regular activity that another friend eventually heard about it and accused me of having a party at my house every weekend and not inviting him. Haha. I assured him it was just dinner and told him jokingly to remind me not to invite him if ever I will throw a party in the future. :)

Last weekend, I tried cooking paella. It turned out to be a moderate success and I'm very pleased with the outcome. It had mussels, clams, crabs, squid, and prawns as main garnishing and mixed veggies for added color and flavor (corn, carrots, peas, and red and green pepper). This is also the first time I have used saffron in cooking. I read a lot about it but only after I cooked the dish and I learned some very interesting facts about it. Aside from its main claim to fame of being the most expensive spice in the world, I learned that it is poisonous in large quantities. However no case has ever been recorded of saffron poisoning (too expensive to use for suicide or for deliberate poisoning I suppose and chefs probably keep a watchful eye on their saffron stocks). The reason why they are so expensive is that each saffron crocus flower produces only 3 stigmas which is hand picked and then dried. It takes approximately 75,000 flowers to have 1 pound of this spice. I also found out that crushing the dried stigmas maximizes the aroma, flavor and color attributed to the saffron. I made a couple of mistakes in cooking the dish but I'm confident that I can cook a better paella the next time. My mistake is that I added too much chicken broth so the rice was a bit soggy and not fluffy as I would have wanted it. Thankfully I did not have any uncooked rice (that was my biggest concern) since I baked the dish to give it a more even cooking temperature.

For my next trial recipe, I will attempt to make Seafood Bouillabaisse with Saffron and Leeks. I'll tell you how it turns out when I give it a try.

This post does not fit in my recipe vault so I posted it here. I have several recipes for posting in the recipe vault but it's not yet finished. Be sure to watch out for that.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Nifty feature or stalking tool?

Can you imagine yourself going back to the lifestyle you had when you didn't own a mobile phone? For most of us I think not. Cell phones have been a necessary part of our daily lives that it's among the things you check you have with you when your leaving the house together with the house keys and your wallet. Coverage has also improved quite a lot since several years back with the addition of more and more cell sites. You don't hear about dead spots anymore even in basement parking lots in malls thanks to mini cell sites that they install in big buildings.

Interestingly, the 2 big mobile networks (GSM networks) here where I live just launched their new value added service wherein you can now "track" your loved ones wherever they are. The service isn't as accurate as a GPS device but it will do. It is more accurate in places where they have a lot of cell sites like in the big cities (the service can tell you in which particular building somebody is) and for the suburbs it can tell you the general location of the individual, or more accurately his or her mobile phone. It was initially marketed to parents so they could track their child. I don't know about the rest of you but I find all these a bit creepy. From what I understand (I have to admit I am not certain of these facts since I don't have a kid and I don't subscribe to this service, and their website isn't much help either) you purchase this special mobile phone + SIM pack and you register this unit with the mobile provider so that you and your spouse can track your kid (and vice versa). It's this registering that bothers me.

So what does the mobile provider know about you? Let's list them down. Your name for starters, your billing address, your proof of income (they require this prior to subscription), your birthday, your phone number (of course), and they know you have a kid, his or her name, age, phone number and location (well, actually they know your location too). Imagine these information stored in a database somewhere in the mobile provider's computer system. I wonder how much effort they spend in making sure this information is kept secured. From outside intruders (hacking) or even from their own personnel (insider). I could imagine somebody inside the company has the ability to query the location of any number in their network without having to register like a normal subscriber. I wonder if they have any internal checks in place to prevent abuse. Who else has access to this sort of information? The government? The police?

This reminds me of a news article a while back. Mediamen were in contact with some rebel groups who are holding some people in custody (sorry I really can't recall exactly what the situation was, it was the use of technology and its implications on privacy fascinated me). One of the TV crew mistakenly flashed his mobile phone in front of the camera to show an SMS from the group for all to see including the rebel leader's mobile number. The reaction was immediate. The rebel leader scolded the journalist as irresponsible over a radio interview later that day. I don't know if he is more concerned that the military will be able to track that number or that he will be flooded with unsolicited SMS messages. I think that they are technologically more savvy than most people think (at least a whole lot compared to the journalists mentioned).

Another more recent news story was about a jealous wife tracking her husband going to his [alleged] mistress. She caught up with them eating at a restaurant and she confronted them. The husband of course denied everything saying that she's merely a business associate and they were having a meeting. She should have waited for a more appropriate time when they were doing something more... err... inappropriate.

This "new feature" isn't actually new. It has been possible for mobile companies to track down the location of individual numbers in their network via the cell site the phone is using but they have just recently launched it as an added feature so now it is accessible to the general population.

So you want to track somebody huh? Well I have thought of a way to do it without the other person knowing it (works for my service provider I don't know about the other networks). It takes a bit of social engineering but it's not that difficult really, and it does have its disadvantages. The way my network does it, you need to send an SMS to a particular number that effectively gives your consent to another phone number to track you. So for this to work you need to get a hold of the other person's cell phone. This can be quite easy. Just say that your out of battery and that you just need to send a couple of important SMS to a person. You send *your* mobile number to this particular number in the prescribed format. You will get a confirmation SMS telling you that you can now be tracked. Delete the confirmation note plus all the SMS you sent in the sent items if the phone automatically saves it. And your done! The person doesn't get any additional confirmation messages when you track him/her. Scary huh? The people I told this to won't let me touch their mobile phones. I wonder why? hehehe.

There's a catch of course. Everybody has a way to know if there any active tracking permissions set up tied up to their number. You won't know it until you do that though. And when your caught, that person will know your number as well. :D And supposing that person knows somebody in the mobile phone company and tracks you down and hire somebody to beat you up or worse... well, you get the picture ;)

Right now I'm tracking one other phone (I like to track myself every now and then just to see what the service says - weird huh?) and it's one of my numbers mind you. I installed an old SIM to a much older phone and placed it in an inconspicuous place in my car. And presto! you have a cheap version of a car locator system. I don't actually expect my car to get stolen but you'll never know. Hmm... I just had an idea, so what if you place an extra phone to another persons car... hmmm... instant tracking device? But let's not go into that. Heh. :) Sometimes I scare even myself :p

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Travel Diary Part 1

Sunday 30 January 2005

Morning Panic
Woke up really late today. I'm leaving for Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon. I'm a bit excited. I haven't left the country for quite some time now and I have always loved traveling. I was timing my departure from the house so that I will arrive 2 hours before my flight. Upon checking my printed itinerary however, written in smaller font at the very bottom of the page was the advice that I should be there 3 to 4 hours earlier to avoid missing the flight! Must be for the additional security precautions. I panicked for a few moments and attempted to eat a slice of pizza in 2 to 3 bites. I then pestered my brother to finish his meal and to call a taxi right away.

I'm not hiding anything in there... honest!
On the way to the airport, I kept on glancing at my watch and imagining that I will miss my flight. I arrived 2.25 hours before my flight. When I reached the check-in counter, there was a very long queue at the airlines counter. And it's just my luck that there's a whole group of golfers going to KL probably for a tournament or something. After spending almost an hour and a half queuing for luggage check-in, immigration checks and additional security checks at the predeparture area (I was afraid they would strip search me when the metal detector kept on beeping even after I already removed my shoes, my watch and my belt. Lucky for me it was only my zipper or pants button - the lady security guard was looking at me a bit strangely though), I was finally in the predeparture area waiting for boarding.

Stain on the plane
The actual flight was pretty much uneventful. The teenagers from the golfing group were a little bit rowdy and they kept on blocking the narrow aisle of the 737 plane leading to the lavatories. I had an aisle seat so it was a bit inconvenient since the person in the window seat tend to go out every 20 minutes or so. I had an accident however involving a small tub of butter. I was expecting it to be chilled but when I opened it, melted butter dribbled down my shirt and most of it ending up in a yellow pool in my pants. I think I saw some people looking at me strangely at the arrival area in KL. Either it's because of the fact that I smelled like freshly popped popcorn or they were wondering what that yellow stain on my pants was.

In the Airport
KL airport is very big. I remember the first time I saw it I was very amazed that you need to ride a train from one part of the airport to the other. This is my third visit (I think) to KL but the last time was about 3 to 4 years ago (well technically I have physically been here quite recently but that was only a stopover for my trip to Europe and we didn't even have to de-plane). Upon arriving, I was pleased to note that there were no problems with my mobile phone's roaming access. I sent a couple of SMS to let people know I was still in one piece and I got SMS responses without any problems.

I was supposed to have dinner with one of my colleagues at the hotel but I decided to eat at the airport. Whenever I go out of the country, I usually play it safe on the first day and eat in a place I am familiar with. In most cases it's a fast food chain (some people find this very strange, they were shocked when I told them that the first thing I ate when I went to France was a McDonalds meal). So anyway, I was falling in line in a Burger King counter when this person on the other line began to talk to me. Where was I from, have you been in Malaysia before, what hotel was I staying in KL and if I will be taking a taxi to KL. I was moderately alarmed by his line of questioning so I just said that I'm staying with a friend and in fact I'm waiting for him to pick me up. I grabbed my meal, politely excused myself and immediately went to the far end of the store and ate quickly (glancing around every few minutes just in case he was going to sit on my table).

Bathtub Soak and some Door Trouble
KL is about an hour or so away from the airport and the taxi driver was a friendly sort of person. It was just a bit strange for me since he is in the wrong side of the car (in my opinion at least) and driving on the wrong side of the road! It must be very difficult to adjust to drive anywhere here when I'm used to driving on the right side (right as in the opposite of left and also right as in the correct way) of the road. When I reached the hotel, I paid a large amount for the deposit since I didn't want to use my credit card (I heard a lot of horror stories before I left).

The first thing I do when I go inside my hotel room is to look a round and inspect the room. I open up cabinets, drawers, find out where the bathroom is, test all the light switches, those type of things. One of the door turned out to be an adjoining door to the other room (there was 2 sets of doors both with only 1 knob on the outer part so that the other could not enter the other room without the other person opening the other door) and once I realized what it was, I carefully closed it. What I didn't realize is that the door didn't latch properly. More on this later.

What better way to relax after a busy day traveling than to soak in a hot bubbly tub. I brought my own bubble bath for just this occasion, so before I could unpack my stuff, I was already enjoying the hot tub. I was just relaxing there for a few minutes when the phone rang. I wasn't expecting any calls so I was a little puzzled. I thought it was my friend who was staying also in the hotel but it turned out to be the concierge telling me that there was a problem with my room. Apparently there was a lady next door who was just as curious as I was on the different doors inside the room and she accidentally pushed my side of the door and I imagine much to her horror, the door actually swung open and revealed the bed with some clothes on top of it. She might have imagined me parading inside the room stark naked. I cautiously peeked out the bathroom and making sure that her side of the room was closed, I closed the door making sure it's properly closed this time (both my clothes and the bathrobes where outside the bathroom and although the towel was large enough, I didn't want to scare her any further - she already sounded hysterical as it is). I could hear her complaining to somebody in the next room. She wanted some assurance that I would not be able to go to her room. Err... excuse me? I think I'm the one that should be complaining. Just think of the things she could have done to me when I was lying there vulnerable in the bathtub!

Friday, January 21, 2005

My Recipe Vault

Pancit Molo
Pancit Molo
Originally uploaded by
Jepster.
At long last, I am very pleased to announce the launching of my recipe vault (see right side panel for the link). It's actually an entirely new blog with its own URL but I would like to think of it as an extension of this main blog. I'm very excited about it and I had been busy the past few days setting it up. I have started off with 2 recipes and I would add to this gradually in the coming months. It won't be updated as frequently as this main blog but I will try my best to add recipes to it from time to time. The idea for this recipe vault is to feature our traditional family recipes. These are the food we usually prepare during family gatherings and special occasions. Sadly such gatherings are becoming very rare since the family are now scattered all over (my brother is also expected to go out of the country very soon). Hopefully we will still continue to enjoy these recipes wherever we are in the world. There's so many recipes I want to post including the sugar drop cookies my mother always bake at Christmas time when we were young (to eat and to give out as presents to our friends and teachers - haha no it's not a bribe!), the ever popular orange cake that my father still bakes whenever he feels like it (which is quite often), or even our extra thin home-made pizza crusts (we haven't made these for a long time), and a whole lot more. I started the vault with 2 very yummy recipes: Pancit Molo and Pot Roast. This is a chance for adventurous friends and visitors of this site to try out the recipes for themselves. Hope they enjoy trying those out.

I remember one time my niece asking for my mother's (or is it my father's recipe now?) orange butter cake. It's a cake that my mother baked on birthdays and special occasions all these years but lately my father is the one doing the baking. My mother eventually e-mailed the recipe to her. This is what made me think about this recipe vault. My niece is also very fond of baking and have started from baking ready made cookie dough to easy brownie mixes (just add egg and butter!) and then to banana cake and orange cake. She would be my assistant (also my nephew of course) whenever I baked and I would scold her when she tries to lick the pans and wooden spoon hehe. It reminds me when I was helping out my mother when I was young (also trying to lick the orange cake batter off the bowl -- oh and the drop sugar cookie dough is also yummy). I miss those times with my mother and my niece. I hardly bake these days anymore (the closest I could think of is making waffle cheese/hotdog). There was a time when I bake bread. The kneading and rising and kneading some more is time consuming but I found it relaxing and stress relieving.

Eventually I will set it up in such a way that the newest entries will also appear on the side of this main blog under a heading that says something like "what's cooking?". I will try to do that as soon as I figure out how to do it. I seem to remember an article on the Blogger knowledge base about that.

A big thanks for my brother who helped me edit the recipes.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Turtle Eggs

I'm so sleepy. I slept very late last night. It's a combination of arriving late last night and excitedly going through some packages sent by my sister (most of the stuff she sent wasn't for me but I still enjoyed perusing the items she sent for other family members though and trying on the colognes she sent my father hehe). Turt (my pet red eared slider turtle) was also being more active than usual throughout the night (it sounded like she was scratching the sides of the tub and making splashing noises).

Turtle Eggs

When I woke up this morning, 3 eggs were piled up on a corner of the tub! I'm expecting more eggs soon. The last clutch of eggs she laid were about 8 eggs or so. Sadly though none of the eggs hatched that first time. I'm hoping most of the eggs survive this time. I'm going to transfer turt later to a smaller tub just in case she feels like laying more eggs. Red eared sliders should normally lay their eggs on dry sand. She was forced to lay all the eggs inside the tub that first time because I didn't even realize she was pregnant that time. Hopefully I get it right this time. And I hope the three eggs she laid this morning is OK despite the fact that it was soaked in the water for a few hours. I also read somewhere that the eggs should not be moved after being laid or at least be in the same position. I can't wait to go home at lunch break to check for more eggs. :)

Monday, January 10, 2005

Wild Penguin


Swimming Penguin
Originally uploaded by
Jepster.
A friend of mine was asking for more "wild animals" posts. I do not exactly understand what he meant by "wild animals" so I just searched my photo archive and this is the best I could come up with. The penguin was not photographed in the wild (this particular shot was taken from the Singapore Zoo I think) nor is it particularly vicious. He was however flapping wildly about in the pond when I got this picture so you can say that he's somewhat "wild" in that respect. Sorry this is as wild as it gets. I seem to remember having some pictures of panthers and tigers but I can't find them. Hmm... I'll post those pics when I see them.

Penguins are a bit troublesome to photograph. Not only would they not stay still, most of the time they are underwater so that you can't get a decent composition. If you want something easier, try taking a picture of a cookabura. Now that's a bird that's easy to photgraph :)

Friday, January 07, 2005

Holiday ranting and some car trouble

I'm glad the year is over!

Things weren't going very well for me last December. There were a total of 4 non-working holidays that was on a weekday for the second half of December last year. Plus the weekends, that's just 8 days total until the new year. I should have been at home enjoying the time off from work. Instead, I was on duty at the office during most of the holidays. Bummer! Being on duty doesn't mean I have to report for work the entire day, although it meant waking up very early in the morning to attend a meeting at 7am in the morning. That's everyday. It doesn't matter if it's a weekday or a weekend, a public holiday, or even Christmas, you still have to attend that meeting which goes on for about 1 and a half hours. Working for a 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year manufacturing plant meant there should always be somebody on-call 24 hours a day. It's acually composed of a team, each with their own area to look into. If the plant operators encounter any problem, they will call us up and wake us no matter what time of the day it is. And all of that responsibility comes without any extra compensation *sigh*. We used to get a meal allowance during our tour of duty (which lasts for a whole week) but even that small amount of concession was taken away early last month. They told us that our stay in the company's housing compound free of charge is compensation enough. Well, they did provide us with cooking facilities after all. It's a good thing I know how to cook. Sadly, that's not always the case for the other bachelors working at our company. I wasn't actually scheduled to have my duty untill end of February but since the one on schedule was a senior person, well let's just say I was "volunteered" to go on duty during the holidays. Fortunately, my brother accompanied me during my duty through the holidays and my birthday so I wasn't too miserable at the time. We just cooked a lot of festive food and ate, then cooked again then ate again. And so on and so forth... you get the picture heh :)

To make matters worse, a colleague of mine crashed a pickup on my car right after Christmas! It was early in the morning and we were already just about to be late for the meeting. As I was going down the road, I noticed him backing out of his garage. I stopped the car since he may not have noticed me. I pressed on my horn a few times so that he will notice me. He just kept on going and going even when I was pressing the horn continuously at that point. The rear end of the pickup slammed on the front of my car. That finally got his attention. He jumped out of the vehicle and kept on apologizing. I didn't even wanted to look at the damage at first. I calmly suggested we proceed to the meeting and we talk about it later. Perhaps he's feeling just as miserable that morning at having to wake up so early in the morning during the holidays just to attend a stupid meeting. I was doing the minutes of that meeting and I couldn't write straight. My hands were shaking, the full realization of what just happened finally sinking in.

I wish my car gets fixed soon. Up until now I still haven't heard from the insurance people. They were supposed to send someone over to survey the damages.

I just hope this month will be a whole lot better.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Tardiness for the new year?


Originally uploaded by Jepster.
I woke up at 8:30 this morning! I panicked when I saw my alarm clock. I have been late everyday since coming back for the new year that my boss is beginning to take notice. Is it my imagination or is he frowning at me every time I see him. It could just be my overactive imagination but I can't be sure. I was supposed to go early starting today. Oh well, I suppose I could start that tomorrow. It's a good thing that I had a meeting taking up the rest of my morning. I only knew about it the moment I arrived (the phone was ringing in my desk when I was unlocking my door and quickly answered it trying to mask my heavy breathing from running through the hallway). So when a colleague asked where I was the whole morning, I wasn't lying when I told him I was in a meeting hehe.

I would then feel sleepy the whole morning with my productivity increasing only after lunchtime. I have long since stopped being a coffee addict so I didn't have the usual perk up in the morning brought about by a jolt of caffeine. I have nobody to blame except for myself. Well, aside from sleeping late playing WOW or chatting with friends, I just feel so tired these past few days. I have started jogging every afternoon starting off with 15 minute jogs at the start of the year and a 20 minute jog just yesterday (with brief periods of walking trying to catch my breath in between hehe). Ideally I will eventually bring it up to 30 minutes but I don't think I should push it so far just yet. I am hoping that I could sustain this sort of activity throughout the year. I just feel so out of shape lately. *sigh*

One thing I am concerned about is that this feeling of tiredness may also be caused by my body's inability to process the sugar in my body for energy. It is a common symptom with diabetics I heard. I just had my yearly medical check-up and the doctor scolded me for not coming back after a month from the first diagnosis. I took medication for about 2 months and didn't go back for the follow up. It's one of those things that you keep on postponing because you are currently busy with this or that and before you know it, one year has passed. I haven't talked to the company doctor yet for the interpretation of my medical results but I hope it has improved. In the meantime, I really should do something about my current diet and lifestyle. Hmm... I'm thinking that I should do other stuff besides jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes watching Spongebob on TV (strange I know but it's the show that's on Nick about the time I jog), like swimming or *shudder* badminton (I still haven't gotten over my dislike for this sport for some reason). We'll see in the next couple of weeks how it turns out.

The pic? Oh that's just the TV as seen from inside a mineral water bottle. hehe.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Some very sad news...



Originally uploaded by bratkun.



Brat, our cute and loveable Persian cat, died of pneumonia last December 14 after staying at an animal hospital for 2 days. He will surely be missed most especially by my brother who was his constant companion for almost 10 years. My brother and I enjoyed his company on our drive to our hometown. We left him with our parents since we were taking the plane going back. He was almost a part of our family and it's not the same without him around. My parents buried him beside a mulberry tree at the back of our house.


Cat in a basket Younger carefree days



One thing that was unusual about Brat is that he is afraid to go out into wide open spaces. He's so used to living inside the house that when we tried bringing him out to the lawn he climbed on top of my brother (claws clinging to his clothes) and perched on top of his shoulders glaring at him reproachfully.

My brother once made a comment that probably Brat doesn't even know that he's a cat. He lived with humans all his life and aside from a brief period where he ran away from home when they were in Japan (coming home days later dirty and disheveled), he never had another cat for a companion much less a mate (well a lot could have happened in those few days, who knows right?). So it may very well be that he died a virgin cat. hehe. I remember when he visited a few months ago a neighbor of mine, who owns a cute gray female Persian cat, introduced Coco (the gray cat) to Brat. Brat and Coco both scampered away from each other and they hid inside our respective apartments. Hehe. The funniest thing about Brat is that sometimes when my brother is asleep, he would sneak to his bed and position himself on my brother's arm and... *snicker* hehe... get ready for this... hump his arm! Hahaha I would burst out laughing and my brother would wake up (presumably due to the weird sensation in his arm) and scold Brat away.

All things considered I think he lived a good life. He stayed in Japan during his early years and then transferred to our province for another few years in our parents house. He even had his own room there with his litter on one side and his constant supply of cat food on the other with the occasional tuna treat. He uses all our furnitures as scratching posts and amuses himself with chasing lizards. He then lived next in my brother's condo unit all the way up in the 28th floor. He probably spent the whole day looking out the window contemplating the ant-sized people walking below. When my sister and her family relocated abroad, Brat and my brother moved in with me (I only live there during weekends). I remember that I would sometime pester him when he's just lazing on the sofa or the coffee table by tickling him on the tufts of fur in-between his paws. He would initially playfully swat my hand away and if I continue he would let out some more claw and hiss at me at the same time. That's the signal that he means business and I had the scratch marks on my hands to prove that too. *ouch* He would then just stare at me for a few seconds then go someplace else to take a nap. I only lived with him for a short time and yet I miss him whenever I go home. I could just imagine how much so for my brother who was his constant companion most of his life. While I was writing this, my brother sent me an SMS message telling me he dreamt about Brat going home and very hungry. Weird coincidence huh?

View more of Brat's pictures on his online photo album Page#1 and Page#2. Farewell Brat, it was a pleasure knowing you. We will definitely miss you.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

A very happy new year to all!


Sparkler star
Originally uploaded by
Jepster.
It's been a while since I last updated this blog since the early part of December. Hmm... strangely enough, I started that post with these very same words. It's not that there's nothing interesting going on in my life, it's just that between the time I spend playing online games, doing heaps of backlog work at the office, and time spent in the new mall which opened in the neighborhood, it's very hard for me to make the time to write in this blog. I just hope that none of you loyal readers thought I was kidnapped by aliens or something like that... (that..) hmm. that's strange. I thought I heard an echo... Hello! (hello...) Anybody there? (there...) Echo! (echo...). Hmm... makes me wonder if anybody still read these posts. Most readers probably got bored of all that WOW talk in the last few posts hehe. Anyway, I would just like to greet everybody who just might be reading this a very happy new year!