Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Papal Prophecies and Judgement Day

Just when you thought Dan Brown has milked the Catholic Church of all its controversial conspiracy theories, here's another one that I've never heard of before until now. James Rollins' The Doomsday Key prominently features St. Malachy in its storyline.

St. Malachy is a 12th century Irish priest who became an archbishop. It is said that on a visit to the Vatican, he had a vision which allowed him to see the last 112 popes up to the end of the world. The list he came up with is supposed to be very accurate with the most disturbing part being, the current Pope (Benedict XVI), is supposed to be the 111th already. So if his prophecies are accurate, the next pope (Petrus Romanus) will be the last already and its end of the world!

Of course, there are several interpretations to his visions. One of them was that he did not clearly say Petrus Romanus will come immediately after Benedict. The loophole is that there could be several more popes between then.

In any case, there are several skeptics who debunk his vision as something that was fabricated to favor certain priests at that time, to be elected as Pope (hence making it a self-fulfilling prophecy). Here's a good site to visit to learn more about the skeptical views of St. Malachy's prophecies.

Admittedly, the way he describes the Popes in his vision is through their birthplaces or papal seals. He does not really give their specific names. So some people say that with enough imagination, you can force anybody to fit his predictions. Well, you be the judge after you check out the hyperlinked references in this blog entry.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Doomsday Seed Vault

Cols and I are off to Gensan today to spend Christmas there. The kids went ahead last weekend so its just the two of us to the airport. I brought along the latest book by James Rollins, The Doomsday Key. I've been hooked to Rollins' stuff ever since Judas Strain. His stories are very fast-paced and have enough elements of science and conspiracy theories to go head-to-head with popcorn novelist, Dan Brown.

The Doomsday Key is no exception. It mixes Celtic rituals and Christian history with modern-day physics and biological warfare. This is part of the Sigma Force series, which is a fictional commando group working under DARPA.

A major part of the storyline involves a real place in northern Norway called Svalbard. Its a very remote location which is largely inhabited by polar bears and a small population mainly catering to research and tourism. Svalbard is home to something called the Global Seed Vault. Its lock a global safety deposit box for seeds coming from all corners of the world. The theory is -- should something go horribly wrong in the future and wipe out our plant system, we should be able to re-grow (or bio-engineer) the plant from the seed stored here. Hence, it is also sometimes called the Doomsday Vault.

This sounds like science fiction but its quite real. The Global Seed Vault "trust fund" is funded by several private companies including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is also subsidized and protected by Norway.

The vault is up in the mountains and way above sea level. So in case there is a major rise in sea level due to global warming, it will not easily get flooded. The major tunnels are buried inside a mountain, and with the geographical location very close to the North Pole, it is guaranteed of a freezer-like temperature to keep the seeds in a frozen state even if electricity conks out for weeks.

Still think its doesn't exist? Here are real video clips of the inauguration of the vault.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Checks to become extinct in UK by 2018

Here's an interesting piece of news I found -- the UK Payments Council has set a date of Oct 31, 2018 to phase out checks! The Council apparently will be shutting down the inter-bank check clearing house by that date. This is the strongest move I've heard of to push for online payments.

The author brings up an interesting point of what happens to the older generation who just don't want to go online? For e-commerce players, this is good news as this will open up more interest especially with direct bank debit payment options as it doesn't have the disadvantages of credit cards, and yet, have all the advantages of being able to do realtime payments.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

YCMK Christmas Party 2009

For our store's Christmas Party this year, we decided to hold it at our residence. As usual, we got Verleo to do our catering. The venue was our upper garden at the back, while the tables were set on the driveway area.

From YCMK Christmas Party 2009

The party started a bit late -- around 9pm. We had to close the store earlier than usual to give the staff enough time to clean-up and drive over to our place. Dinner was immediately started upon their arrival. Winston invited his barkada over to add to the merriment.

From YCMK Christmas Party 2009

During dinner, carolers arrived and rendered several Christmas songs to entertain the crowd. The kids and the guest (mom, grandma, Tito Bert and Tita Lucy) enjoyed the singing and playing of live instruments.

From YCMK Christmas Party 2009

The evening's program started with some ice-breaker games. The highlight, however, was the presentation of the three groups -- tele-cashier/managers, kitchen crew and the riders. While the hilarious antics of the riders brought the house down, the overall execution and costume of the kitchen crew (aka. Jabamonkeys) won them the nod of the judges.

From YCMK Christmas Party 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Cousin Sharon's Wedding

I took a leave from work today (Friday) as its Cols' cousin Sharon's wedding. The church ceremony was at 1:30pm. Ethan was the coin bearer. It was Ethan's first time to take part in a wedding entourage so we were a bit apprehensive if he will behave properly. Will he walk down the aisle? Will he cry? Will he get irritated by his suit and tie? Oh, the numerous possible things that could go wrong!
We arrived at the church just in the nick of time. The traffic along Katipunan and Boni Serrano were heavier than expected so Cols was panicking (as usual) that we won't make it. We arrived with still about 10 mins to spare. Caitlin did not go with us since she had school.
I'm also happy to report that everything went very smoothly. The little guy never complained about his suit. In fact, he seemed to like it. When it was his turn to march down the aisle, he performed his duty. The only scary moment was middle of his march, he turned around and started walking back because he could not find me (I was positioned in the front part of the church as I was the one taking photos of people walking down the aisle). After he re-established his sense of direction, we walked forward again and things went without any more hitches.
As there was a big gap between the end of the ceremony and the reception at EDSA Shangrila, we went back home first to rest. We left house again by around 6:30pm to attend the reception with both kids. Ethan looked very dapper with his suit and Caitlin wore her new gown.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Using RCBC Access One Internet Banking

I got my RCBC ATM card yesterday. It took them almost a couple of weeks to release an ATM card. With other banks like PSBank and Landbank, you get your card at the same time you open the account. I guess RCBC does not invest in the card embossing equipment for each branch and would rather have it centrally done.

The ATM card is needed to enroll to RCBC's internet banking, called Access One. Using the online enrollment facility was quite simple. You fill-up all the details and just click the submit button. It then tells you that they will need 1 day to manually verify the details. I kinda preferred Chinabank and BPI's method of just activating it through an ATM machine instead of going through this manual verification process.

In any case, I received an SMS at 8am on my way to work telling me Internet account is ready. So when I got to the office, I tried the id and password I defined to enter the system. The screen area where my account is supposed to appear was blank. I called up the call center and they told me that sometimes, the notification alert is sent too early -- before the account is really ready. That's weird.

Another little snag I observed is that their system sends out an email notification also telling you that your Access One account is ready. But in my case, I also received notifications meant for other people! The RCBC guys have to do a bit of debugging when it comes to notification.

Monday, December 7, 2009

What Are People Buying Online?

I came across an old (Jan/Feb 2009) issue of Entrepreneur's Masigasig supplement. There was an article there based on a Nielsen study that talked about e-commerce. According to the article, only about 10% of the world population (627 million people) has used the Internet to make a purchase 2 years ago. That number has increased by almost 40% to 875 million people.

What are they buying? Well, if the survey is to be believed (and I do question Nielsen data every now and then also):
  • Books (41%)
  • Clothing/Accessories/Shoes (36%)
  • Videos/DVD/Games (24%)
  • Airline Tickets (24%)
  • Electronic Equipments (23%)

The biggest increase has been on clothes. 2 years ago, only 20% of buyers have bought clothes online. It has almost doubled since. According to the same survey, more than half of Internet users are regular online shoppers (meaning they purchase more than once a month). The article did not specifically mention which markets the study was based on.