25 November 2014

Parol making in the spirit of the season

It truly is quite an experience celebrating Christmas in the Philippines, especially if you are a kid.  There's the early morning masses where you get up real early, then have hot pan de sal with butter oozing all over, or puto bumbong afterwards.  The anticipation of the special day when Jesus as an infant would appear on the Belen on Christmas Day, and the Christmas lantern that would glide its way across the Church to where the manger is... it's all so special.  And in school, we do arts and crafts, and make Parol, which we have only during this time of the year!

19 November 2014

I found the Black Box! (or rather, it found me)

I signed up for a Black Box many moons ago. To be honest, my expectations with receiving one is not high, mainly because I do not have much luck with such things. So imagine my surprise when I received an email saying that I have been chosen for a Men and Adult Snacking Black Box, and one turned up at our doorstep shortly!  It sure was a pleasant surprise.
The box was quite heavy.  I secretly wished there was beer inside.
Oooh, wraps!  My wife was delighted to see that.
Underneath the wraps were more goodies.  And I saw a beer bottle!  Yay!

01 October 2014

The Silver Bullet and the case of selective amnesia

I had the good fortune of watching the movie adaptation of Stephen King's The Silver Bullet a couple of nights ago.  It's been a while since I first watched this film; in fact I was still in high school back then!  But I consider this as one of my favourite films so I was truly delighted to be able to watch this again after so many years.

I think that one of the more memorable parts of the film is the main character's wheelchair.  Marty (played by Corey Haim)  owns this souped up wheelchair that runs like a motorbike.  Motorised wheelchairs are a rate sight in my hometown back in the Philippines so I think this is why this image stuck.  I also remember the main plot (and who the killer was!), the scene at the abandoned bridge, the fireworks, and the action-packed ending.  How the story unravels itself is the hazy part.

As the movie progressed, I was mildly surprised at how much of the film I forgot (considering it's one of my favourites!).  I do not remember it being as blood-and-gore graphic as it was.  Selective amnesia?  It was like my mind decided to keep the parts which involved road chases and explosions.  Not sure where the bloody bits went off to.  It may very well be likely that I had my hands clasped tightly over my eyes at those times!

But what an enjoyable trip to memory lane it was!  I felt the same sense of wonder when Marty got his new 'motorbike' (aptly named the Silver Bullet), and elation when the killer was discovered.  It's good old storytelling without the CGI.  Admittedly, I've never read the book from which this movie was based on, but when I hear the name 'Stephen King' it's this movie that always comes to mind.

If you like watching werewolf movies, this one is an easy pick and fun to watch (not too serious with itself, and who doesn't love an 80s flick?!)  And the effects are not too shabby.

Now, to get my hands on another Stephen King movie adaptation, 'Christine'...

(image credit: movie poster from dvdactive.com, Marty on the Silver Bullet from disabilitymovies.com)

09 September 2014

Happy 10.16th Anniversary (to me!)

This is quite a momentous occasion because it's been ten years since I started blogging!  Well, ten years and 2 months give or take a few days in this case.  Exactly a month after my 10th (my first post got published on 7th July) I said I was going to celebrate.  Nothing fancy, just a couple of beers perhaps, and post a photo for posterity's sake.  And then time just flew, and before I know it, 2 months has passed.  Hence I'm writing this post to remind myself that a celebration is way overdue!  I have a couple of Guiness bottles in the ref, so this makes my weekend celebration more likely to happen.

28 July 2014

Call of Duty. Jury duty, that is.

It came as a surprise when I received my summons. After all, a number of friends have been in New Zealand longer than I have, and yet they've never been summoned! I would just like to share my experience in case you get your summons and wonder what it is about. While the website explaining the jury process is quite comprehensive, I do not see much in the way of narrating personal experiences, save for anecdotes.  So here's mine.

To be honest I was excited to do jury duty because it's something I've never done before. But people who I asked about it said that those who do jury duty are usually the unemployed because it's extra income for them. However, that did not deter me from asking our office if I can perform jury duty and our HR Manager told me to go for it and do our bit for the country!

While only 12 are needed, the court summons more than twice the number. In the court room, the charges are announced and how long the trial will take. Names are then drawn via ballot. If your name is called you stand up and proceed to the jury chairs. At this stage the lawyers can challenge you. No, there'll be no fistfights and such. They'll just say 'challenge' and that's the end of your duty. You go back to the audience chamber. There's quite a bit of suspense as each name is called and you wonder if they will be challenged or not. Once the person sits on a jury chair, he/she can no longer be challenged.

A couple of people from my group actually approached the judge and then, after a brief discussion, they returned to their seat. And that's that. I guess they asked to be excused, which can be granted if there is a perceived conflict of interest based on the trial that was read earlier.

 With my rotten luck at raffles and anything involving winning anything, I just sat there and expected to be back at work by lunchtime. But it seems the Fates had something else in mind as I got called and was unchallenged.

The day of a juror is spent mostly sitting at the courtroom and listening and pondering on the cross examination. I guess you can react to the drama unfolding before your eyes but the lawyers would keep looking your way, perhaps gauging if the proceeding is going for or against them so I tried to keep a passive 'what are you looking at?' face. I'm sure most of my fellow jurors were doing the same. Speaking of which, my companions were of varied backgrounds and everyone held full-time jobs, so that debunks the unemployed impression! We had some pretty good discussions between breaks and everyone got along quite well. We're a lucky bunch, said one juror, because she had done duty years ago and they could not agree with one another and was quite a mess, as I can imagine.

Note that you have to bring your own lunch (or eat out). Coffee, tea, and biscuits are provided for morning and afternoon tea.

At the end of the cross examinations, we were told to stay in the jury room and deliberate on the counts. We had to be unanimous on our guilty or not guilty verdict. I actually thought we were going to be holed up in a hotel room somewhere, never leaving until we reach a decision and getting food to order like they do in the movies. But it did not work out that way. We stayed in the room where we adjourn, with our phones confiscated for the day. Lunch was provided though, so that's one less thing to worry about. And we went home in the evening.

After reading the verdict on the final day, we all went to a local pub for drinks and chitchat, then it was back to normalcy. We had a great run. Wish I asked if they have Twitter accounts.

My overall experience: certainly thought-provoking and insightful. I recommend anyone who receive their summons to give it a go (provided your work schedule permits you!)

There are only 2 downsides I can think of:
- the jury seats are not comfy. After a couple of hours, we tend to squirm around. It was a topic in a couple of our tea breaks. We think it is designed to prevent the jurors from falling asleep.  Good thing there's the lunch break, and morning and afternoon tea.  It breaks up the day's session quite nicely.
- You can't tell anyone about the case, not even your significant other. You also should not read write-ups about it, lest it influences your decision-making. You should base it on the evidence supplied in court. It was a bit challenging not to disclose to friends what the case is about, but I guess it's for the best.

21 July 2014

Oh dear...

It's been a while since I last blogged, and here is the reason why (see photo). Well, one of the reasons anyway!
My daughter has discovered the joy of YouTube. And she has discovered some time back that she does not have to wait for her favourite TV shows as scheduled. All she needs to do is sit beside me and, with her cutest pleading eyes and voice, say 'Pocoyo please!' Sometimes her dialogue changes to 'Peppa Pig please!' With all her viewing am quite surprised that we haven't exceeded our  monthly internet limit yet!
I am actually typing this using the Blogger app on my phone. It's not too bad, but I am not exactly sure how this post will look like until it's published.Maybe I should get the old Windows XP desktop up and running again... most likely for me!

On the upside, this little distraction has given me an opportunity to check out my Twitter account. If you have an account, do follow me at @nickballesteros and I will be happy to reciprocate.

30 April 2014

Lego Mixels Electroids

Mixels are a new series for Lego this year, and I believe there is a tie-in series with Cartoon Network (their logo on the blister pack has given it away!).  Here in New Zealand, each pack costs $7.99 which is a good price (considering that the minifigs are $4.99 each).  And there's the occasional sale days which is usually a  20% deal or a buy-one-take-another-50%-off.

There are three sets in Series 1.

09 April 2014

In search of Emmet (part 2)

Because we really wanted to have an Emmet figure and 'failed' with the first batch of blind bags (though the set was really an awesome addition to our minifig collection), we decided to buy another half dozen and try our luck.

There were duplicates in this set though.  We got 2 President Businesses, another Larry the Barista, and the Panda Suit Guy.

Our new minifigs are as follows:

President Business
We haven't watched the movie yet (out on 17th April!) but we know that he is the bad guy in the movie.  His headpiece is unique and has 2 faces.  He has a mug for accessory and labeled 'Octan'.  He's got a nice suit for printing.  Actually, I think I have a suit of that colour too!

25 March 2014

Eighties songs that are not from the '80s

I adminit, I'm hopelessly stuck in the 80s.  I am so notoriously known for this that my friend would turn up the radio on the way to work in Manila on Fridays as one radio station plays 80s songs all day, and then he would ask me the title and artist of each song (I get most of it right!).  Here in Wellington, my friends also know this particular quirk of mine, but they do not mind listening (and singing!) to 80s songs while at our home.

But once in a while a song catches my ear that exudes an 80s vibe.  And I stop, and say, 'I've got to have that.'  I've bought a number of music CDs for that purpose, and I have amassed quite a number of CDs.  I left most of them back in the Philippines and I sorely miss them, but I plan to get all of these back.  There's something about the rhythm and tone of songs that take us back to a familiar time, and to me these are quite special in that way.

Here is a number of songs I would like to share with you.  Thank goodness for YouTube and its treasure trove of music videos!  8 songs that's not from the 80s, but sound like the 80s to enjoy!

Title: This used to be the future
Artist: Pet Shop Boys
Album: Yes
Released: 2009

Not surprisingly, the Pet Shop Boys are still making great music long after the '80s.  I own a number of their albums and listened to 'Suburbia', 'What have I done to deserve this', and loads more of their songs... even the b-sides!  'This used to be the future' is my favourite song from 'Yes'.

14 March 2014

The 15th of March is Microvolunteering Day!

Microvolunteering Day is a unique opportunity for microvolunteering platforms, volunteer involved organisations & individuals to join together in a synchronised effort to promote their contributions and demonstrate the power / potential of the microvolunteering concept. It is primarily aimed at:
- engaging individuals in micro-tasks
- inspiring charities to embrace the idea
- stimulating discussion on the concept
- sharing pics + stories via #microday

(If you're thinking whether I just copied the above description off their website, you are correct.  This is a rush post because this event is already tomorrow!  But I'm heading right back there after this post to see how I can microvolunteer.  So... see you there?)

Learn more at the Microvolunteering website

12 March 2014

In search of Emmet

With the impending release of The Lego Movie in New Zealand (still coming out in mid-April - seriously?!), we've been excitedly watching movie trailers, reading reviews, and watching a host of YouTube Videos about it.

And of course, we would like to have an Emmet Lego minifig for our collection!  We're pretty sure he is the hero in the movie, although we haven't watched it yet.

So over the weekend we went minifig hunting!  We bought six blind bags with the hope of getting an Emmet (we heard he's quite a common figure, which is good).

And the first minifig we have is... Abraham Lincoln!

24 February 2014

Lego Star Wars Microfighters 75028: Clone Turbo Tank review

We were excited for the Millenium Falcon and the X-Wing Fighter and the TIE Interceptor of the Microfighters series, but not so much with the Star Destroyer (looks too simple to justify the price) and the AAT (not a fan of the Droid army), but the Turbo Tank is in middle ground.  It's not as iconic a vehicle as the others but it sure looks good, and the stormtrooper minifig is a nice addition.  After some deliberation (and realizing that these sets are flying off the shelves), we finally bought one.

This set did not disappoint.  The Clone Trooper minifig is great, and it has a bigger-than-usual gun.

19 February 2014

Lego Star Wars Microfighters Millenium Falcon review

When the Star Wars Minifighters featured in December 2013's Lego catalogue, we were more than excited.  We were jubilant!  Well, the full-size Millenium Falcon set is quite expensive, AND since such sets tend to stay as is, space/storage can be a problem.  So this Microfighters series is truly good news, as they are on a much smaller scale and are definitely more affordable (it is $17.99 at Toy World, with 20% off on special days).

The Millenium Falcon (Model No. 75030) is one of the sets we are after, chiefly because this is such an iconic ship.  And having the Han Solo minifig with this set is such a sweet bonus!

Here is the Han Solo minifig:
Nice print details on the front, pretty much faithful to the movie costume.  Han has a happy face...
...and a passive-aggressive face.

08 February 2014

Summer fun at the Raumati Marine Gardens and Beach

On the final weekend of the school holiday, we spent a day with friends at the Raumati Marine Gardens and Beach.  Jo-Lo and I have visited this place a couple of years before with Jo-Lo's friend Russell and his Dad.  At that time, there was a big wading pool at the playground area.
While the playground was fun and so was the wading pool, I think that one of the popular attractions to this park is the miniature train ride.  There were around 4 beautiful trains at that time that were making their rounds and giving rides to the public (for a minimal fee).

30 January 2014

Lego Build with Chrome

My son and I are excited to try this out over the weekend.  Good thing our preferred browser is Chrome too!  Head over to the Build with Chrome website to check this out!

28 January 2014

Lego Star Wars Microfighters

Of the many sets Lego is releasing this year, we are most excited about the Star Wars Microfighters.  Granted that the Star Wars branded Lego models are quite expensive, we hope that this mini versions will be more affordable.

The Microfighters will be available here in New Zealand in March.  We are keen to have the X-Wing Fighter, Millenium Falcon, Star Destroyer and the Tie Interceptor.  Fourth on the list is the Clone Turbo Tank.  The AAT is at the bottom of the list, it just looks wierd.
(photo credit: MightyMega)

The minifigs look cool as well, so we would not mind having more of those!

20 January 2014

Family fun at Victoria Esplanade Gardens in Palmerston North

Sometimes the trip that took the least amount of planning are the ones that push through.  Like yesterday's trip to Palmerston North, which is a couple of hours' drive from Wellington.  We were informed of the trip just the day prior but by the afternoon 5 families have confirmed attendance.

10 January 2014

Inspired by Terry Fox

Last month, a special holiday edition of Reader’s Digest arrived in the mailbox. It contained 17 of the best stories published in the magazine. One of the articles that particularly caught my attention is the story of Terry Fox, and how Nelson Mandela found inspiration in this same article many years ago while he was in prison.

“Terrance Stanley "Terry" Fox CC OD (July 28, 1958 – June 28, 1981) was a Canadian athlete, humanitarian, and cancer research activist. In 1980, with one leg having been amputated, he embarked on a cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Although the spread of his cancer eventually forced him to end his quest after 143 days and 5,373 kilometres (3,339 mi), and ultimately cost him his life, his efforts resulted in a lasting, worldwide legacy. The annual Terry Fox Run, first held in 1981, has grown to involve millions of participants in over 60 countries and is now the world's largest one-day fundraiser for cancer research; over C$500 million has been raised in his name.”
(source: Wikipedia)

Having read the story in one sitting, the first thing I felt was admiration for Terry Fox. He knew what we wanted to do, prepared for it, and did it. He did not expect any glory for himself, rather he thought that something must be done about cancer research and he set a goal for himself.
(photo credit: 98.1CHFI)

But I also felt sadness. He was too young to have left the world. He was only 23 when he died. I was just finishing my university degree at that age, wondering what lay ahead while Terry at the same age was battling cancer.

But above all, he is an inspiration to the people of Canada, and to all people from all walks of life, and I am fortunate to have read his story too.  His marathon is an extraordinary feat, performed by an ordinary person.  It's a powerful message for everyone: we can effect change, and we must take action no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, to make this place better.

Visit www.terryfox.org/ to learn more about Terry Fox and the Terry Fox Foundation.

03 January 2014

We're gathering Facebook "likes" for my son

Hi everyone.  My first post for the new year is a request to "like" my 8 year old son's poster on Facebook.  It's his entry to Pinoy Stop's first anniversary poster making contest.  He mad it to the top ten, and voting is done by earning Facebook likes.

If you would like to help, please click on the link below which will display a scan of my son's poster entry, then "like" it.


Thanks in advance and happy new year!
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