Friday, November 28, 2008

Christian Bautista @ Shangrila Mall

As has been our practice for the past few months at the office, all celebrants within the month would pool their celebration together at the end so that we can have only one party. Since my birthday is this month, I did the treating at the end of the month (today). For the party, Cols prepared chicken and salad. I had Jhonna (our admin) order spaghetti bilao's. Ethan and Yaya Rose brought the food to the office around 3:30pm with Cols driving to the Peak.

After eating a few bites, Caitlin came to pick me up around 4:30pm so we can get ready to go to Shangrila for Fliptunes' 2nd Popfest concert this year with Christian Bautista and the DLSU Pops Orchestra. We picked up Cols from home and headed straight to Shangrila EDSA Mall.

The show was held in the atrium/lobby of Shang. We got three (3) reserved right in front. The DLSU Pops Orchestra rendered about 5 songs before Christian was introduced. Of course, the excitement picked up when Christian came onstage and started singing. He plays the crowd really well; interacting with his "shrieking" fans. He did 6 songs, I think. Before the end of his last song, Jedi pulled us over and brought us to the backstage so we can have first crack at a photo op with him!


After the show, we did some more Christmas shopping and had dinner at a Korean restaurant at the top level.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Marikina City Engineering Office

After much delay, we still haven't received our clearance from the Marikina City Engineering office for our house's electrical system. Without this, Meralco refuses to process our application. I've been working with a contact of Tito Bert named "Rey" who claims to know people inside the City Hall, but the movement has been really sluggish.

I decided to take the afternoon off to get to the bottom of things at City Hall. I first went to the main Marikina City Hall where electrical permits are usually released. The City Hall is well kept and organized. There are people (city employees) roaming around offering strangers help if they look lost (like myself). Quite impressive.

When I got to the engineering window, the lady told me she does not know the name that Rey referred. As it turned out, the engineering office is in the City Hall Annex which is quite far. I took a tricycle going there. Cost me PHP20! I haven't taken a tricycle ride for a very long time and I was very surprised that it costs that much nowadays.

At the engineering office, I found the contact lady. Then we had to wait for the City Engineer to sign off on the papers. He was out on a meeting. So after what felt like a couple of hours, the contact lady offered to bring the papers inside to the restaurant from the Engineer was meeting another client to have it signed. At that time, it was also closing time already and I guess they were embarrassed that I was sitting it out there.

After a long wait, the paper came back and was signed by the supervisor who was also still there waiting. With the paper finally released, the next challenge now is to get our permanent breaker from Meralco.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

PayEasy is now PayPal Channel Partner

After a couple of months of working with PayPal in integrating Mozcom PayEasy to it via 3rd Party Merchant API, we finally made the official announcements today at our news site -- PayEasy is now an official PayPal Channel Partner.

In a nutshell, that means we can now officially and legitimately integrate a merchant's paypal merchant account as part of the PayEasy payment options. Through the 3rd Party Merchant API, we can just make Express Checkout calls in behalf of the original merchant. But all payments go directly to the merchant's PayPal account. PayEasy just earns incentives through the Channel Partner program.

Integrating to the API via SOAP was not so bad. I was able to recycle probably a good 80 to 90% of the original code I wrote to integrate PayEasy to the PayPal DirectPayment API (which has already been renamed to Website Payments Pro) before I switched to the Website Payments Standard model which only uses HTML. The Standard model plus the instant notification mechanism was just not very accurate. We would often get a couple of transactions which cleared in PayPal but did not properly post back to PayEasy. With the SOAP API, this problem will be permanently resolved.

So aside from the major credit cards, local ATM cards, mobile payments and direct bank debit from most of the banks in China, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, Mozcom PayEasy can now provide local merchants with direct PayPal payment capability.

I posted a free press release at:

Press Release: PayPal Integration Made Easier For Philippine Online Merchants

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Christmas Lights @ Rockwell

Sigh... I'm feeling nostalgic already thinking that this will be the last Christmas season we will spend at Rockwell. We're scheduled to transfer to our new home in Loyola Grand Villas, Marikina City before the year ends. Rockwell has been a comfortable and convenient home for the past six years, but I guess we've out-growned it.

Caitlin and I took our nightly after-dinner stroll to take some pictures of the festive lights. The trees are wrapped with red lights. The giant Christmas tree outside the Power Plant Mall is also filled with lights. I guess if you own the electric company (Meralco), you can afford to splurge on the lighting. I brought along my tripod so I can take long exposure shots using my Canon EOS 400D without the aid of flash and no hand shake.

From Rockwell Christmas 2008

Another Coincidental PictureBook Customer Sighting

I was processing a photobook order from one of our photographer-clients. She did the photo/video coverage of a child's baby party. While going through her layouts, I realized that the mother/baby is also a PictureShop customer for our full-spread picturebooks! The mom ordered their photo guest signbook for the party from us.

In fact, our 6x6 photo guest signbook was in the picturebook that the photographer-client layed out for this client. Very amazing coincidence. With so many potential customers in the Philippines, what's the likelihood of us bumping into the same client.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening

I watched M. Night Shyamalan's latest movie The Happening starring Mark Wahlberg tonight. I've followed most of the movies he wrote since Sixth Sense. However, I have to admit that most of them were disappointing, or at least, did not live up to Sixth Sense. The Village and Signs were so-so. Unbreakable was pretty much a dud. Lady in the Water is ho-hum.

A typical characteristic of M. Night's movies are the twists in the ending. He usually has this surprise ending such as when Bruce Willis realizes that he was dead in Sixth Sense; or in The Village where Joaquin Phoenix's found out their village was just a wall away from the rest of the present day world and that their elders were just scaring them so that they will not venture far away. With The Happening, the ending was very anti-climactic. The plot development was actually pretty good and had me at the edge of the seat eager to find out how it will pan out. But the ending left me hanging.

Another M. Night "signature" is his cameo appearances. He always makes these short appearances in some scene -- just as Stephen King appeared as a graveyard caretaker in his Sleepwalkers; or Stan Lee in Spiderman. With The Happening, M. Night did not appear visually but he was the phone voice of the guy pestering Mark's wife (they're having marital problems).

Mark Wahlberg is a pretty good actor. He can play tough guy roles (like in the new Max Payne movie) or like the nerdy high school science teacher in this movie. John Leguizamo is also another versatile actor. Although I normally think of him as a comedian, his dramatic performance in the movie as the friend/co-teacher of Mark was pretty darn good.

I guess the overall message of the movie is that if we don't take care of our environment, someday it will lash back at us. The likelihood of plants releasing neurotoxins that disables/inhibits the human self-preservation attribute is very far-fetched although its an interesting concept.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Off to GenSan for Grandpa's Death Anniversary

Woke up at 5:15am. Arggghhh! Hate taking the PAL flight to GenSan at 7am. It just screws up my body clock the whole day. Cols already went ahead yesterday. We're all going down to GenSan to celebrate her grandpa's 3rd year death anniversary. Technically, its really just been two years since he passed away, but they count the year of the death itself -- so that's 2006, 2007 and 2008 (or 3 years). And the 3rd year death anniversary is a big celebration for Chinese. It sorts of signal the end of the mourning period. And everyone can wear red again.

So anyway, the flight is about 2 hrs. But the Airbus was not full today so I think the the lighter plane was able to fly faster. I had the middle row all to myself. Actual flying time was only about 1.5 hrs. I watched my Sex and the City Movie download on our portable Sony DVD player. But because the first 15 mins or so of the plane's ascent (while the seatbelt fasten sign is on), you are not allowed to operate any electronic device, and also for the last 15 mins or so of the descent, I was really only able to watch about a little over an an hour's worth of the movie.

One thing I dislike about this portable player is it has no fast-forward on its control panel. You can only do fast-forward using the remote control unit. The remote control unit does not use standard AA or AAA batteries. Instead, it uses one of those round and flat battery typically used by watches. So we haven't gotten around to buying a battery for it and don't carry it around. So I guess I can only "resume" the movie when I get back to Manila and watch it on my regular Philips DVD 3455 Recorder/Player which I can fast-forward.

Since the plane arrived early, no one was around to fetch me at the airport. Waited for about 10 mins before Alvin arrived on the Starex. We headed over to Chester's house to rest and just pass the time. Time in the province is pretty slow. But I was able to resume my Doctor Who Season 3 marathon in the afternoon.

The big news today is Barack Obama winning the US presidency and making history as the first African-American to hold that position. It marked the end of 2 terms for the Repulicans under George W. Bush. Most people seem to think that John McCain was simply just too told to hold the position at 74 years old. While his running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, charged up the troops, she was also belittled for her lack of experience in national and foreign policies. Some view Obama's win as good for the Philippines since he can sympathize better with other races being of mixed blood himself; others think that he will not be as supportive in fighting Abu Sayyaf and MILF insurgents in the south unlike the Republicans whose "no borders" mantra under Bush fully supported all forms of war against terrorism.

In other news, one of my favorite author, Michael Crichton, passed away. He became a household name with Jurassic Park and the tv series ER. I have several of his novels. I even have the last two, "State of Fear" and "Next", in hardcover. Its sad to see him go.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trip to Star City

We took both kids plus their respective yayas to Star City along Roxas Blvd at 4pm. Caitlin has been excited about this for some time. Actually, the original plan was to take them to Enchanted Kingdom (since its "cleaner"), but we figured it was too far and the entrance + rides fee is more expensive than Star City's. So it was decided that we go instead to Star City.

The ride-all-you-can fee was PHP300. We bought that for Caitlin and her Ate Melanie. Then Cols and I took the "3-Cheers" at PHP275 which entitles us up to 3 rides only (since I had no plans of really doing a lot of rides with the kids around). Yaya and Ethan bought regular entrance tickets since they don't really ride. In addition to that, we all bought extra tickets for the "Snow World" attraction at PHP100 each.

Star City started out as a Christmas season-only carnival/fair. But over the years, it has become a main stay and was converted into a regular theme park for the masses. So expected, the crowd patronizing it is more of the Class CD, as opposed to the AB crowd of Enchanted Kingdom. I was pleasantly surprised at their more "extreme" rides. Their Sky Flyer ride is way much better than the roller coaster at EK.

Our first ride was a small roller coaster for kids. Caitlin and I rode on the same car, while Cols rode with Melanie behind us. Caitlin had her eyes closed most of the ride but I think she enjoyed it. It was pretty boring for an adult, of course.

Next stop was the Snow World for all of us. Its like entering a giant ice plant, I guess. We were all required to wear jackets because of the cold. With the number of people visiting the attraction (and I doubt if they really wash those jackets regularly), the jacket had a bad smell. Ethan refused to wear his despite the cold. So they exited shortly after entering the attraction.

Caitlin loved the place although she was also cold. We rode the ice slide. At first, she was afraid to give it a try. But just like almost everything else, she loved it after one try and insisted to go for it again (and again). Melanie couldn't stand the cold and went out. But Caitlin and I rode the slide one more time before leaving.

After Snow World, Caitlin still wanted to try several other slides. But we all wanted to go home because it was already past 7pm. We relented and let her ride the kiddie bump car and then the ferris wheel. We had to drag her out after that since she still wanted to try all the other rides. All in all, Cols and I only used 1 out of our 3-cheer ride. Only Caitlin really maximized her ride-all-you-can ticket.

We got home exhausted and had dinner around 9pm. Then Dad called from China to ask how things were.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Caitlin's First Cemetery Trip

Since the folks are on tour in China, the task of visiting my brother's plot at the cemetery for All Saints Day rested on us again this year. And since one of our maids took her day-off today, we dragged Caitlin along so that she will not bug Ethan at home.

My brother is buried at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City. Its actually walking distance from Loyola Grand Villas' (where we will transfer to once our house is completed) Barangka Gate. But since the folks were not around, they lent us their driver (Jobert) so that we don't have to worry where to park. We also brought their household help (Vicky) along.

Caitlin took the whole thing in strides. She felt it was one big picnic. We brought junk food and iced tea. Vicky brought her little chair. It was drizzling a bit so the big umbrella became her makeshift tent. She didn't seem to feel afraid being around dead people. Of course, she had these initial fear that perhaps they might rise up from the ground (not sure if they show that on cartoons). She also had all sorts of questions why the baby in our neighboring plot died upon being (still-)born.

We only stayed for about an hour because of the bad weather. We left after that and bought take-out lunch at our Yellow Cab store and brought it to Valle for lunch.