my new macbook is old

So the rumors buzzing in Mac-themed sites are true after all. One month after getting my white MacBook (which I named Zak), Steve Jobs and friends launch new and improved MacBooks!

Swanky aluminum case. Glorious glass screen. Multi-touch (and buttonless!) trackpad. Faster. Better. Cooler. See for yourself here.

Someone needs an extra-strong shot of contentment.

ad-vantage

If you’re like me when you go see a movie, you make sure you don’t miss the trailers before (or after) the main feature. Trailers are works of art all their own—so much fun to watch, dangling before us the promise of adventure, drama, or what not. Of course, in function they’re nothing more than ads, the perfect marketing ploy to keep us movie buffs coming back to the dark room: We see a coming-soon film that catches our fancy, and we declare, while licking popcorn cheese stains off our fingers, “I am so gonna watch that!” That’s exactly how it was for me when I saw the trailer for Vantage Point last month.

This weekend, I finally saw Vantage Point, starring Dennis Quaid, Sigourney Weaver, Matthew Fox, and Forrest Whitaker. And I’m still trying to catch my breath. The last time I had to remind myself to breathe in front of the wide screen was while watching Matrix 2’s breathtaking freeway chase scene. (I still get dizzy thinking about it!)

The drama and action of Vantage Point are so palpable I had goosebumps and a lump in my throat almost all throughout the film! I’m no film critic, but I think I know good storytelling when I see one. And this one’s fantastic! Although I think the ending wasn’t able to measure up to the bombastic start and middle, it did tie all the loose ends in a beautiful knot that could leave your mouth gaping, while your pulse is still elevated from the previous scenes’ adrenaline rush. I guess there has to be a point when the wild ride ends and your blood pressure normalizes. Otherwise there’ll be reports of heart attacks in cinemas worldwide!

Don’t wait for the DVD. Go spend your hard-earned moolah on this one. It’s so worth the ride—if only for when the tiny hairs on your nape stand on end every time the bomb explodes! While you’re at it, don’t miss the trailers.

friday hits and misses

I missed a day. Grrr. My Friday was so full I forgot about my blog challenge.

I took a leave from work Friday to help out at Samaritana, a Christian ministry that reaches out to “vulnerable and exploited women.” My friend Jean works as program coordinator there, and she asked me two weeks ago if I could lend a hand in the Valentines Party that she was organizing for their women. I said, “Sure ba!”

My task was to “serenade” the women with a few love songs. I’m not a great singer at all, but I do love singing. Earlier this year, I made a commitment to use the gifts that I have, no matter how meager, to serve others. And last Friday, that commitment meant singing to a group of women who have had a rough life on the streets, and who, by God’s grace, are now beginning to experience the beauty and the purity of True Love. It was my honor to serve them.

The first song was Parokya ni Edgar’s Harana. I had sung this before at my officemates’ wedding so it didn’t take much to prepare for the number. But nothing prepared me for the women’s warm (as in “blush-inducing”) reception. Good-natured cheering and screaming, flowers and handkerchiefs handed to me ala TV variety show, and smacks on the cheek had me missing my accompaniment cues! But it was all in the spirit of fun. I could only manage a joke with them afterwards, after my face had turned all shades of red: “Feeling Sam Milby naman ako nito! See you in Araneta!” Yeah, right.

The guest speaker spoke on the Five Love Languages, a concept popularized by Dr. Gary Chapman. Essentially, the idea is that there are five different ways by which people express and receive love: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Gifts. One’s love language is that which, when expressed by him or shown to him, meets his deepest emotional needs. It varies from person to person. So it’s possible that a wife who is showered with gifts by her husband may still feel “unloved” if her love language is, say, quality time. You can see that there’s bound to be misunderstanding, conflict, and frustration between two people who speak different love languages–unless they work at understanding and “speaking” the other’s love language.

The speaker expounded on the five, helping the women think through each one and then identify which love language is their own. As for me, I’m not quite sure what my love language is yet. I think I’ll settle for Gifts meantime. Haha. Seriously, I should read the book (which, incidentally, is being distributed by our publishing house.)

And that’s the highlight of my post-less Friday. I may have missed my post for the day, but I’m thankful I didn’t miss the chance to minister to, and be blessed by, the staff and women of Samaritana.

techie bits

Agggh. I can’t access my WordPress account tonight! (If I were paranoid, I’d think someone is attempting to sabotage my little blog marathon. Gasft.) I’m typing this in Google Docs, for pasting onto WordPress later.

Speaking of Google Docs, have you tried using it yet? Google Docs can be a convenient way to do your “office” stuff–creating documents, spreadsheets, or presentations–online! Imagine having your important documents stowed in cyberspace, all ready for you to access and work on wherever there is an Internet connection. You just need a Gmail account, and then you’re good to go. Google Docs comes with a host of features, including an option to share your docs with others, who can edit, comment, or simply view your material. A recent feature of the spreadsheet that I discovered are the forms–quite nifty for doing email surveys and what not. Coolness!

But that’s old news. I bet you already knew about Google Docs.

Since we’re in the turf of techie stuff, may I enjoin all ye who are geeks at heart to click over to this uber-cool site: lifehacker.com. Fun, fun, fun! (Thanks, Besp, for tipping me about this site! It’s become my daily fare.)

Hey, this seems to me a good-enough post already. I’ll stop writing now, and head over to Lifehacker. See you there?

waiting with books

My favorite place to meet friends, say, before we head off to watch a movie or have dinner, is the bookstore. It seems the bookstore is the only place where I don’t mind waiting longer than I should for friends arriving late because of traffic, overtime work, a coup d’etat, or any one of 101 reasons.

In fact, I usually make it a point to come earlier than the meeting time so I can browse more books. And if I chance upon a really good read (which usually comes with a price tag that promptly reduces my love for reading to mere infatuation and hopeful pining), I secretly wish my friend would come much later so I could cover as many pages as possible.

On one such waiting and browsing episode, I gravitated towards the travel section. I’m quite the late bloomer, both reading- and travel-wise, so travel books have only been a recent delight. I took notice of a particular book that had for its cover a view through an airplane window; it’s titled The Art of Travel, by Alain de Botton. Part of my marketing job is directing and evaluating book cover art, and so I was drawn to Botton’s book because of its cover – a strong one, I must say. The topic seemed interesting as well, and the back cover blurb hooked me:

“…Few activites seem to promise us as much happiness as going travelling: taking off for somewhere else, somewhere far from home, a place with more interesting weather, customs and landscapes. But although we are inundated with advice on where to travel to, we seldom ask why we go and how we might become more fulfilled by doing so….”

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swamped? read before you drown

I had written the following article, a book review, for Business Mirror‘s “Executive Readings” column. It appeared in the November 10, 2006 issue.

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A quick glance at my computer screen tells me that six items on my To-Do list are inherited from last week. Hand on mouse, my start-of-the-week instinct is to swoosh the cursor onto the To-Do field and key-in six more “urgent” items for the day. But even that won’t make it an exhaustive list. There’s a big white board to my right that details the progress (or non-progress?) of marketing projects, most of them needing to take off in time for the Christmas buying season. So much to do, so little time. Or so I think. The Bangles’ song rings in my ears, It’s just another manic Monday….

Or is it? Will Tuesday—or the countless work days thereafter—be any different? Any better?

Todd Duncan, author of New York Times bestseller Time Traps (Thomas Nelson Publishers), doesn’t think so. Not unless I “fight” to secure the most productive use of my time. Thankfully, I—whom Duncan would classify as a “swamped professional”—am not alone. “Nearly every professional has a challenge with time,” writes Duncan. “It is the most pervasive and repetitive problem I’ve come across in fifteen years of speaking and training, and it doesn’t just go away. To-Do Lists never get done on the day for which they were intended. Post-It Notes lose their stickiness, and the dream of productivity fades into a state of harried and hurried multitasking.”

Touché! So what does Duncan propose to us, swamped professionals, whom surveys reveal are productive only—gasp!—25% of the time despite the longer hours and the generally industrious attitude? Will more overtime hours (and more colored Post-Its) effectively redeem the 75% “wasted time”? The answer, Duncan proffers, does not lie in the oft-praised time management paradigm; instead, the solution begins with task management. “The majority of disorganization is not the result of character flaws, too much work, or too little time,” the author clarifies. ”It is primarily the result of investing time in meaningless tasks.”

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reading list

I’ve cluttered my bedroom (and part of the living room) with my new books–none of which I bought, except for one. I hope to finish them all in the next month or so, as they all seem to be interesting reads. Here’s the rundown:

Jack’s Notebook by Gregg Farely. The subtitle says it all: “a business novel about creative problem solving.” I don’t usually read business books, but this one’s pretty interesting. Gave me some good insights to ponder when I read it while having a late lunch at McDonald’s today. The fiction isn’t bad either.

Skin by Ted Dekker. Dekker made my head spin with Thr3e, had me catching my breath with Blink, made me teary-eyed (yeah,yeah) with The Blessed Child, and then confused me with Saint. The last book had engaging portions, but the entire plot left much to be desired, methinks. But I am not giving up on the guy just yet; that’s why I have his newest work, Skin, by my bedside.

A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by W. Philip Keller. I’ve heard preachers allude to this work, and I’ve skimmed through the spin-off devotional book. Now it’s time to read it for myself. I’m excited to discover the richness of meaning that a modern-day shepherd can elucidate from perhaps the most well-known chapter in Scriptures.

Creative Nonfiction: A Manual for Filipino Writers by Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, and its accompanying Reader. These are gifts from Ram, a friend who’s taken masteral courses in creative writing at UP. He’s leaving for the US next week to take part in a three-month training conference with the Navigators. I am keenly interested in the creative nonfiction genre (a discovery I made after reading all of ten pages of the “manual” just this afternoon!). These textbooks should help put some “science” into my writing.

Chasing Daylight (formerly titled Seizing Your Divine Moments) by Erwin McManus. I’ve been plodding through this book for at least one month. It speaks to me on a very personal level, so that I have to read it slowly, almost as if I don’t want to reach the last page.

So there. Blogging about my reading list should help me remember to shut down Kierk (my computer) more often so I can retreat to good, old-fashioned book reading. I like to read when it’s raining (that is, if I’m not sleeping); maybe I’ll be able to turn more pages now that the rains have come.

tech notes

And now for some tech updates from me and Kierk, my HP notebook.

I’ve finally decided to subscribe to a DSL package. I did a little mental computation: I figured the money I spend for ISP Bonanza dial-up cards, and for coffee during frequent wifi sessions (wifi itself is free, thanks to a friend who’s letting me use his airborne access account) can actually be spent for a basic DSL subsricption. (Note: My favorite wifi-coffee hangout is Gloria Jean’s in Araneta Center, Cubao – more than enough power outlets and not too many people, even during weekends.)

After extensive googling to learn about other people’s experiences with their respective DSL providers, I decided to go with Bayantel. It was a major factor too that I have been a Bayantel landline subscriber for a few years now. No complaints too.

There’s a lot of frustration posted online about DSL subscription here in the Philippines. Most of the complaints have to do with fluctuating speeds and customer service. From surfing blogs, forums (okay, “fora” for the strict grammarian), and message boards, I say Bayantel gets the least blows. It’s a toss-up between PLDT and Smart Bro for the most “battered” provider in terms of negative feedback, not to mention elicited expletives from irate customers. Again, this is a subjective estimation, based on the general sense I got from gathering info before I took the DSL plunge.

So far, I’m happy with Bayantel’s DSL service. I should say though that there were some glitches with the scheduling of the installation. But I attribute that to one irresponsible account executive; his peers, when I called to complain and follow-up, were efficient and helpful.

We’ll see after a few months if my math – that is, coffee + prepaid = dsl subscription – serves me right. I hope I won’t have to skip meals just so I can cope with my new internet expense. On second thought, maybe that’s a way to force me to lose the few stubborn pounds. Hmmm…

One last bit: Bayantel (now rebranded as “Bayan” telecommunications, with new logo to boot) has instated a money-back policy that guarantees rebates for every day of delayed repair service. I think that’s a good move, as it gives customers a sense of security and value. Have you seen their recent TV commercial? I think it’s clever, in a gross kind of way.
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pandora’s (music) box

Not too long ago, a few friends were gushing about the internet radio site created by the Music Genome Project called Pandora. I’ve visited the site once or twice before, but never really got around to exploring because of the erratic internet connection.

Wanting to fill my hot Saturday afternoon with soothing music (and after the radio features of Yahoo! Messenger and iTunes have refused to cooperate with me), I paid Pandora.com a return visit.

And I’m glad I did. The site’s design is clean, sans bells and whistles (in stark contrast to other internet music sites that have album covers all over their home page). The idea behind Pandora is simple. Acting as your “personal DJ,” Pandora plays the kind of music that you like. Cool! But how does it know what you like? Well, the site prompts you to enter a song title or an artist’s name. It then uses this bit of info to create a “station” for you that plays similar and related songs from its vast database of music.

I was in the mood for good mellow melodies, so I typed in “Josh Groban.” Naturally, one of his songs was the first on the playlist, followed by others that Pandora thinks is “genetically” similar to Groban’s songs (including “You Raise Me Up” in almost all its incarnations).

Much to my delight, I stumbled upon newfound artists that caught my fancy, like David Phelps, Russell Watson, and Adam Watkiss. My music library hasn’t had an infusion of new tunes in quite a while. So I took down the names of the interesting artists and made a mental note to hunt for their music.

Of course, Pandora’s musical ESP is not fool proof. I’ve had to click on the “Next” button a few times to skip a song that I didn’t feel like listening to (Sorry, Barbra Streisand – perhaps another day?). I expected an abrupt end to an unwanted song after I clicked “Next”, but Pandora accepted my rejection with class by fading out the song and smoothly fading into the next. Ah, I feel the love 🙂

There’s a “Guide Us” button on the Pandora player. I’m assuming this is for getting feedback from users as to why, in their opinion, a particular song does not belong to the “station” the Pandora system has created. I haven’t clicked it though.

Pandora has other cool features that I haven’t tried out yet. I’m hoping to spend more time exploring the site. Meantime, it’s good enough for me that it’s playing just the kind of music I want on this Saturday afternoon that has found me reading and writing.

Give it a try. You just might find some delightful treasures in this Pandora’s (music) box.