Monday, December 28, 2009

Fort Myers Resto - Canon 7D short film - 24p PC workflow

So I got my newly unpacked gift, the new Canon EOS 7D DSLR camera. As an owner of the full-frame 5D camera and Rebel series cameras, and as someone with some photography experience, it was nice to feel 'at home' when using the Canon 7D. A lot of the functionality I was used to remain the same. Thank you Canon!

Canon 7D field test: video + low lighting
With my camera in hand, my new 35mm f1.4L lens, AA batteries and a Canon 7D battery grip, I was prepared to test out the video functionality of this camera right out of the box.

I posted the video results below of my field test. If you want to learn about my workflow (I use a PC), you can check it on Camera7D.com.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

First terrorist attack since 2001 foiled: Northwest flight 253 from Amsterdam




It's official, it is the first terrorist attack since 2001. As we know, since 2001, there has been no terrorist attacks as Bush-Cheney policies pushed the limits on constitutional surveillance (wiretapping), terrorist detention (Guantanamo Bay), and advanced interrogation techniques (water boarding).

Strangely enough, in the first year of the new presidency, in the spirit of change and wanting to have audacious hope to separate himself from the evil Bush-era policies of making terrorists uncomfortable, coincidentally, the first terrorist attack in U.S. territory happened. Thank God it was foiled.

So here's what we know based on U.S. official statements and press reports:

  • A White House official has confirmed with Reuters it believes its an official act of terrorism.




  • The New York Times named the suspect as Abdul Farouk Abdulmutallab.




  • ABC News and NBC News reported that he attended the University College London, where he studied engineering.




  • Congressman Peter King of New York (R) said the explosive device was "fairly sophisticated". Bloggers and security experts suggest something was mixed on flight vs. prior to boarding.




  • Rep. King also reported that the suspect is 23 years old.




  • Rep. King also reported that there is now a "worldwide alert to make sure this is not part of a larger overall scheme."




  • Canadian airport officials reported that there have been new regulations placed on all U.S. bound flights and it may affect travel delays. This includes physical searches of carry-on baggage and pat downs. This also includes limiting passengers to only one carry-on baggage instead of two.
  • Sunday, December 20, 2009

    Dell Online Store: Order verification nightmare!



    Dell Online Store: Order verification nightmare!

    I'm providing feedback to Dell's online store as a loyal Dell customer. Dell's online store stinks compared to other online retailers. If Dell needs feedback on why their online store is being kicked around by the likes of Amazon.com, I will breakdown some of the process problems on what I thought should have been a straightforward transaction. I shop on Walmart, Amazon, and a variety of online e-tailers with no issues. Even when I travel and surf internationally. But not Dell. They are so strict that they drive legitimate customers like me away from their store.

    PROBLEM 1:
    I wanted to order a Canon 35mm/1.4L lens today for my brand new Canon 7D but apparently Dell Financial Services (DFS) has to authorize my charges.
    I have to dial DFS' order verification line at 1-866-821-0266. That's fine, it's all anti-fraud. It's all good. So I dial and about 7-9 minutes later everything was resolved. They had to dial my phone number just to verify that I was the one who I claim to be.

    PROBLEM 2:
    DFS authorized my charges! Yey! So I dial back the normal customer service line at 1-800-624-9897 and I checked up on my order. It's still on HOLD! This time it is held up by another department called the credit card order verification group. To think I even used my debit card for this. I said, hey no problem. The phone agent gives me the following number 1-866-383-4713 to dial. If it was going to be a 'breeze' like the DFS notification, I can actually get this lens by 12/30.

    PROBLEM 3:
    The agent gave me the verification number but he forgot to mention one tiny detail. They're closed on Sundays.

    PROBLEM 4:
    I call back at 1-800-624-9897. Apparently they are not given any empowerment tools to verify and finally I gave up. I said, please cancel the order because my bank shows it is being charged, DFS shows it is authorized --- yet the order still is on HOLD. I have no idea if it is going to reach my house in time before I travel.

    OVERVIEW:
    The Dell Store payment and verification process is tedious and annoying.

    Friday, December 18, 2009

    Iraq insurgents hack Predator drones through SkyGrabber



    Interesting news today, apparently unencrypted video feeds from the Predator drone has been downloaded by Iraqi insurgents/terrorists on the ground.

    SkyGrabber, a $26.00 software that you use with any satellite dish, can give you a view of satellite feeds...designed mainly to listen in to video, images, and entertainment, it apparently was used to listen in to military communications. Ouch.

    An embarrassing incident for the Pentagon, but unencrypted communications happens anywhere and everywhere -- from cell phones to satellite phones to emails to whatever. I'm just kinda shocked we didn't even encrypt it...

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    How to change drive letter assignments in Windows 7, Vista, and XP

    I had to change drive letter assignments for my external Iomega Prestige 1 TB USB 2.0 Desktop External Hard Drive 34275. I saved some video and wanted to make sure that when I opened it in my video editor on my laptop, the paths would remain the same. Unfortunately, the laptop assigned it a different letter than what I wanted. After a few tries, I figured out where to do it on Windows and documented it below. (Just right click Computer, click on Manage, go to Disk Management, change drive letters.)

    I made a video below to help others who are looking for a similar solution.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    The hidden cost of green technology: lithium dependence



    For years I believed that green technology could reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce the influence of cartels like OPEC. With new wind farms and large solar farms, we could start utilizing energy freely available to us. We could stop paying outrageous gasoline prices at the pump by buying fully electric cars or at least reduce it significantly using hybrid cars like the Prius (Prius uses NiMH not lithium-ion batteries).

    But there's a roadblock to total energy independence. We need lithium batteries! Yes, those crazy little critters that run our hybrid and electric cars, that store our solar and wind power, are all in need of lithium-ion based batteries. Even our consumer electronics need them.

    Lithium is a metal that needs to be mined on foreign soil and most of the supply is located in countries like Bolivia, that more or less have the same policies and anti-American leanings as Venezuela.

    As we start weening away from foreign sourced fuel like oil and leverage more of green technology like electric cars, more lithium will be needed.

    And unfortunately, we will still be depending on foreign sourced fuel.

    Sunday, December 06, 2009

    Windows Security Essentials - Free Antivirus Protection by Microsoft




    Microsoft Security Essentials is the best thing since slice bread!  I always like things FREE and have been using AVG's Free AntiVirus program for a long time.  But with Microsoft offering of their very own anti-virus program, who can resist?  Backed by one of the largest corporations in the world that knows the ins and outs of your operating system --- why not go with the obvious choice?  No more McAfee or Norton AntiVirus subscription fees!

    This is also a smart "anti-piracy" move on Microsoft's part, ensuring that you have not only the latest operating systems (Windows XP minimum required), but that you also have a legitimate copy of it.  



    What I like about it so far...
    • So far it's stopped viruses and malware on one of my 'shared' PCs.
    • It seems faster than AVG / Norton AntiVirus / McAfee.  It blends in with Windows well.
    • It's free.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Jason Ivler: Nationwide Manhunt



    A man linked to two murders is currently under a nationwide manhunt.  But the PNP/ NBI has yet to post any pictures online!  It's been 5 days now!

    I have taken the liberty to put his picture online to aid in identifying him and to bring him to court.  If he is innocent, he can settle it there.

    Ivler has allegedly killed the following individuals:
    In the Philippines, you can dial 117 or text a message to 2920 to alert the police.   All suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

    Sunday, November 22, 2009

    2012 film, near miss asteroid, and end of the world

    I'm a big fan of science fiction films like 2012, partly because filmmakers produce creative graphics and computer imagery not found anywhere else.  I'm more than willing to buy a $19 DVD to view graphics that were made from $200 million movie budgets.

    In these films you can look at what super volcanoes could potentially look like to how the world's continents could be split to how tsunamis affect buildings and skyscrapers.

    It is thought provoking to imagine how disasters took place in the past and how Earth was once just a single continent, moved into the body of continents that we know now.  Then there's the ultimate question about human existence.  These disaster movies always reminds me how precious time is.

    Yet as the movie credits roll on and as you turn your DVD player off, did you ever wonder how factual these movies were?  Is the sun actually dying?  Are there asteroids coming our way?  The truth is, all of the above.  The imaginations of the best scriptwriters are often grounded on scientific reality.




    (Courtesy: NASA)

    For instance, just this month, a space rock named "2009 VA" narrowly missed Earth by 9,000 miles.  It was so close that the trajectory of the rock actually was affected by Earth's gravity.  According to NASA's public update, the Catalina Sky Survey based in the University of Arizona was able to detect it 15 hours prior to approaching Earth.  Talk about a close call...

    Now don't worry, the size of this asteriod was only about 20 feet long, it wouldn't hurt as much as the 90 foot rock that impacted the Siberian forest in 1908 which devastated 500,000 acres and was equivalent to 1,000 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  (Comforting...)

    What both religion and science are saying about Armageddon


    Our life on Earth as a species is finite.

    First, the sun is dying, it will get hotter, redder, before it turns into a dwarf.  Our moon will look like a bloody moon (from the red sun) then it will no longer give its light as the sun darkens.  This Earth, the animals, and our existence as we know it, will be non-existent.

    This is not about belief, it is a fact.  It is not a question of if but a question of when.  The world will end at some point and life 'as we know it' will cease to exist.  The scientific community and religious community agrees together on these points.  For example, take these statements attributed to two popular people in their specific fields of study:
    The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet. Sooner or later, disasters such as an asteroid collision or nuclear war could wipe us all out. But once we spread out into space and establish independent colonies, our future should be safe. There isn't anywhere like the Earth in the solar system, so we would have to go to another star.


    –Stephen Hawking, physicist
    Quoting an 800 year old prophecy from Isaiah:
    Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken (Matt 24:29).

    -Jesus Christ
    Stephen Hawking and Jesus agrees that there is an end of the world scenario. 

    At some point in time, we need a new earth.  A new way to colonize outside of our current state of existence and to develop a method to ensure that our human race endures forever.  The silliest thing I hear all the time is that the sun will die out "billions of years" from now and we shouldn't worry...  But that's expecting everything will go according to plan!  What we don't know is what would happen if either the Sun or the Earth is hit by a large enough rock. 

    Thankfully, the Creator does promise us a new earth:

    "As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, "so will your name and descendants endure." (Isaiah 66:22)




    Illustration by: asampogna/www.sxc.hu


    Sunday, November 15, 2009

    Pacquiao is the most powerful boxer in recorded history. Pacquiao vs. Cotto.

    I have yet to see all of the world's future professional boxers, so I cannot honestly say that Pacquiao is the greatest of all times. What I can say is this: he is the most powerful professional boxer in world history.

    For a man to come from nothing, from poverty to win seven titles in seven weight classes is unheard of. It is abnormal. It is legendary. And because of Cotto's defeat, Philippines will now be known for something else aside from Imelda Marcos' shoes.  But back to my main point, I consider Pacquiao the most powerful professional boxer in known history not only because of his speed and his strength in the ring, but because he managed to influence an entire nation of 80 million people to stop fighting for a moment and unite for peace. Such power cannot be measured by mere analysis of boxing techniques and pay per view subscriber counts.

    Just to name a few things that Pacquiao had indirect influence of:

    Do you know of any other boxer past or present that's able to command such respect that even ideological hatred is ignored?

    But above all of these factors I named off, there is one main aspect of Pacquiao that I consider the best power of all: his ability to stay meek and humble despite the world grasping for his attention.  He was only around 19 years old when I met him flying over the Pacific, and I'm amazed that his personality is exactly the same. 





    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Skillet Hero Lyrics and Fan Video



    For those looking for the music video, this is not the one. But if you are looking for a good remake, this would be it.

    Hero by Skillet
    Lyrics // Songwriters: Cooper, John Landrum

    I'm just a step away
    I'm just a breath away
    Losing my faith today
    Falling off the edge today

    I am just a man
    Not superhuman
    I'm not superhuman
    Someone save me from the hate

    It's just another war
    Just another family torn
    Falling from my faith today
    Just a step from the edge
    Just another day in the world we live

    I need a hero to save me now
    I need a hero, save me now
    I need a hero to save my life
    A hero will save me just in time

    I've gotta fight today
    To live another day
    Speaking my mind today
    My voice will be heard today

    I've gotta make a stand
    But I am just a man
    I'm not superhuman
    My voice will be heard today

    It's just another war
    Just another family torn
    My voice will be heard today
    It's just another kill
    The countdown begins to destroy ourselves

    I need a hero to save me now
    I need a hero, save me now
    I need a hero to save my life
    A hero will save me just in time

    I need a hero to save my life
    I need a hero, just in time
    Save me just in time
    Save me just in time

    Who's gonna fight for what's right?
    Who's gonna help us survive?
    We're in the fight of our lives
    And we're not ready to die

    Who's gonna fight for the weak?
    Who's gonna make 'em believe?
    I've got a hero, I've got a hero
    Living in me

    I'm gonna fight for what's right
    Today I'm speaking my mind
    And if it kills me tonight
    I will be ready to die

    A hero's not afraid to give his life
    A hero's gonna save me just in time

    I need a hero to save me now
    I need a hero, save me now
    I need a hero to save my life
    A hero will save me just in time

    (I need a hero)
    Who's gonna fight for what's right?
    Who's gonna help us survive?

    (I need a hero)
    Who's gonna fight for the weak?
    Who's gonna make 'em believe?
    I've got a hero

    I need a hero
    A hero's gonna save me just in time

    Does the Philippines media overdramatize?

    This is an actual bomb crater in Iraq as reported by MSNBC:



    This is a bomb crater as reported by the Philippines media:


    I'm seriously beginning to think that some of the Philippines' journalists have the same reporting standards as the gossip columnists and tabloid writers in the United States.  This type of sensationalism in the mainstream media creates a perception problem for the country, especially when it comes to foreign investment and foreign relations.

    The Western intelligence community do not typically have front line assets in friendly countries to filter through the garbage to verify reports.  Whether these newspaper editors know it or not, the mainstream media headlines are translated into executive summaries, little one liners for heads of state and foreign ministers to read on their daily or weekly intelligence briefings.

    For instance this article of  predawn explosions in Manila could be taken and translated as military grade bombs against key infrastructures in the country's capital, instead of what it truly is.  They are low grade, gasoline-in-a-Coke can pranks.

    Multinational corporations also have their own risk and security assessment teams that scour through the Internet and media reports to send executive summaries to their employees abroad. Imagine this, if you are an employee of a Fortune 100 company working in Manila for the first time in your life, excited to see a new culture, and absolutely impressed with the megasize malls in Metro Manila....and then you get an email on your Blackberry --- YOU ARE UNDER ATTACK. HIDE FOR COVER, BOMBS IN MANILA! Stupid, right? But it happens all the time. From the unfair negative remarks against Mindanao to the bombs that's "rocked the capital" --- let's get real, shall we?

    Friday, November 06, 2009

    How the U.S. could create jobs in Philippines' Mindanao region with one single sentence


    Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney visited Sutherland's Davao call center in July 2009


    Good news, Secretary Clinton is visiting the Philippines next week. I hope President Arroyo and the folks in Manila's United States embassy can offer some insight on how to increase foreign investment in the country.

    Of course, short term foreign aid is welcomed in the wake of the recent typhoon disasters, but long term sustainable foreign investment is preferable.

    Here's my suggestion on how to increase jobs in the Philippines, especially in its southern regions without spending a single dollar of U.S. taxpayers' money.



    Dear Secretary Clinton:

    There is an opportunity for the United States to be able to directly impact an entire region of the Philippines and reduce poverty by simply changing one sentence in a paragraph.

    As an American working in the contact center business in the Philippines, I would like to offer this suggestion.

    I would like to request that the State Department’s travel advisory in Mindanao exclude safe cities like Davao City and Cagayan de Oro. Designating these cities as the same level of risk as Manila and Cebu would be enough. In fact, these cities have lower crime rates than most U.S. cities, yet they are arbitrarily discriminated against with the advisory.

    The arbitrary travel advisory on Mindanao is stopping a significant amount of foreign investment coming into Mindanao. There are thousands of potential jobs available in the call center industry, excess of 5,000 or more full time positions if those advisories are revised to exclude Davao City and Cagayan de Oro. With nearly 92% of the contact centers located in the Luzon region alone, the industry is looking to diversify itself to reduce risk especially from typhoon prone regions of Luzon.

    God bless,

    Don Sausa



    Comparisons -- Philippines' Mindanao vs. Egypt

    I recently traveled to Mindanao and visited cities like Cagayan de Oro and even "unsafe" areas like Iligan. I spent almost three days there. I'm happy to report that I absolutely felt safe. There were no bombs, no grenades, and absolutely beautiful scenery...yet the entire region has a travel warning. It not only scares Americans and foreign investment, but even uninformed Filipinos are scared to travel there.

    I couldn't but help and compare this to my two day visit in Egypt last month, where the State Department has no travel warnings but I felt a little bit unsafe. I went to Cairo and Alexandria. Just to give you some context, I required a full time security escort with automatic weapons the entire time. I was hassled and annoyed by street vendors who were very disrespectful. Colleagues that were with me had incidents of theft in broad daylight. Yet Egypt has no travel warning!

    I am confounded to why the State Department continue to discriminate against Mindanao, issuing travel warnings and not specifically excluding safe zones like Davao City and Cagayan de Oro.

    The fact on the ground is, terrorism is limited to remote islands southwest of Mindanao. Saying the entire region of Mindanao is dangerous is tantamount to me saying the United States's western coast is dangerous because Hawaii has kidnap for ransom bandits. (To my HI friends, this is just an example, I'm not saying you have bandits.)

    I hope at some point the new administration is able to adjust the advisory based on facts on the ground. Even Ambassador Kenney visited Davao and Sutherland's call centers there.

    But hey, what do I know... I just live, work, and travel here. ;-)

    Saturday, October 31, 2009

    Fourth typhoon hits the Philippines, help out and also reduce your taxes



    The Philippines got hit again by a typhoon, the fourth in just one month. Fortunately, Typhoon Mirinae moved quickly through Luzon without dropping a lot of rain.

    If you want to help, you can donate through ADRA's Emergency Response Fund.

    We're almost at the end of the year and if you are looking to reduce your tax liability plus help other people along the way, you can donate to charities like ADRA or the Red Cross. Your contributions to these charities like ADRA International, a tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code, are deductible for computing income and estate taxes.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Windows 7 upgrade for less than $30!



    Windows 7, Microsoft's new operating system, is available for sale for individuals that have a valid U.S. college e-mail address. This heavily discounted offer was designed for students.

    Available online for download is either the Home Premium or the Professional version, 32-bit or 64-bit for $29.99. These programs if sold at retail will cost $119 for the Home Premium and $189 for the Professional.

    I chose the Home Premium version and the download size is approx 2GB! For more information, you can access https://windows7.digitalriver.com.

    Why would I choose to upgrade?

    After eight long years, Microsoft has finally launched an operating system that actually has performed well in benchmark tests and is really really fast.

    The hardware incompatibilities and the steep requirements of installing the previous operating system, Windows Vista, created an uproar among Windows users. Despite having gigs of RAM and duo-core processors, Windows Vista made your PC experience seem like you were running a Windows ME operating system on a 486 processor (yeah, you geeks out there now what I'm talking about).

    I disliked the operating so much, I personally chose to run Windows XP on my PCs and netbook. I only have one laptop that has Windows Vista and it wasn't downgraded mainly because of some specialized programs that I wouldn't be able to utilize in an XP environment.

    If you have Windows Vista right now and you are in that painful environment of having to wait for long boots or for your windows to actually render the graphics properly, it's time to upgrade to Windows 7...and if you are lucky, you could do it for less than $30.00.

    Monday, October 05, 2009

    Travel Tip: Getting your boarding passes faxed


    Frequent Flyer Travel Tip

    Have you ever been in this situation? You want to check in ahead of the busy lines at the airport and want to print boarding passes but you don't have a printer anywhere in the hotel. However, the majority of the hotel rooms do have one thing in common for reservations: They all have fax machines.

    When you check in online at Northwest Airlines (owned by Delta) or other airline sites, they will give you the ability to fax these boarding passes anywhere in the world for free.

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Teleperformance Bacolod - Top Employer of Western Visayas


    The Bacolod branch of Teleperformance was recently cited by Social Security System as the Top Employer in Western Visayas. This is the first time for a call center in Bacolod to receive such recognition from SSS.

    They were recognized as balikat ng bayan awardee for large-sized corporation in Western Visayas, while Coca-Cola was cited as top employer for medium-sized company.

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    Reflection - dc Talk's In the Light (1996)





    Jesus Freak: In the Light (1996)
    I was cleaning out one of my old offices and found an old CD: dc Talk's Jesus Freak album. Funny how you find things when your not looking for them.

    One of my favorite songs is in this album. It's called In the Light and the song brings back some good old lessons that I think is worth sharing. I especially found this particular verse very instructing...

    The disease of self runs through my blood
    It's a cancer fatal to my soul
    Every attempt on my behalf has failed
    To bring this sickness under control


    dc Talk when they made this song, wanted to express their desire "to be walking in the light of our Lord Jesus". The song everytime I heard it on the radio or in a CD player, kept me in check, that despite all of what I have learned on this earth, I'm still lost without God and anytime I'm bent on using my own understanding, especially with my ego, I tend to make mistakes.

    Historical context, analogy, and practical application
    The analogy of being "in the light" comes from biblical texts like John 8:12, John 12:35-36,46. In these conversations, roughly 2,000 years ago, Christ said to His disciples that He is the "light of the world" to help everyone lost in the "darkness". He also stated those in darkness were ignorant of where they were going.

    Those that heard Christ lived in an era with no electricity and street lights. They clearly understood this illustration. They also understood the concept since a thousand years prior to Christ, King David wrote about God's teachings being a guide in their lives. David wrote in Psalms 119:105 that "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path".

    This song always reminded me to look back into biblical truths and principles. For one thing, to actually open the Bible and read what those truths are. :-)


    VERSE 1:
    I keep trying to find a life
    On my own, apart from You
    I am the king of excuses
    I've got one for every selfish thing I do

    Tell me...
    What's going on inside of me?
    I despise my own behaviour
    This only, serves to confirm my suspicions
    That I'm still a man in need of a Saviour

    CHORUS:
    I wanna be in the Light
    As You are in the Light
    I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
    Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
    Cause all I want is to be in the Light
    All I want is to be in the Light

    VERSE 2:
    The disease of self runs through my blood
    It's a cancer fatal to my soul
    Every attempt on my behalf has failed
    To bring this sickness under control

    Tell me...
    What's going on inside of me?
    I despise my own behaviour
    This only serves to confirm my suspicions
    That I'm still a man in need of a Saviour

    CHORUS:
    I wanna be in the Light
    As You are in the Light
    I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
    Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
    Cause all I want is to be in the Light
    All I want is to be in the Light

    BRIDGE:
    Honesty becomes me
    [There's nothing left to lose]
    The secrets that did run me
    [In Your presence are defused]
    Pride has no position
    [And riches have no worth]
    The fame that once did cover me
    [Has been sentenced to this Earth]
    Has been sentenced to this Earth

    Tell me, what's going on inside of me?
    I despise my own behaviour
    This only serves to confirm my suspicions
    That I'm still a man in need of a Saviour

    CHORUS:
    I wanna be in the Light
    As You are in the Light
    I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
    Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
    Cause all I want is to be in the Light
    All I want is to be in the Light

    I wanna be in the Light
    As You are in the Light
    I wanna shine like the stars in the heavens
    Oh, Lord be my Light and be my salvation
    Cause all I want is to be in the Light
    All I want is to be in the Light


    About dc Talk
    dc Talk is a four time Grammy Award winning Christian music group. The group formed around 1988, consisting of Toby McKeehan, Michael Tait, and Kevin Max Smith. They have released five major studio albums together: DC Talk (1989), Nu Thang (1990), Free at Last (1992), Jesus Freak (1995), and Supernatural (1998).

    I saw them a few years back on a WAY-FM music tour in Fort Myers, FL. They are probably one of my all time favorite music groups because of:

    1. Their music and meaningful lyrics.
    2. Their ability to win secular industry awards (Grammys) that helped highlight the strength and creativity of Christian contemporary artists.
    3. Their achievements brought record companies to further study and invest in the Christian music industry.

    Wednesday, August 19, 2009

    Travel Review: Lakawon Island Resort, Philippines



    RATING: * (1 out of 5 stars, poor)
    Phone: +(63) 34 433-0808 / +(63) 34 434-7737 (To dial from U.S., 011-63-34-433-0808)
    Web site: N/A
    Price: $20/night USD (May 2009)

    Review

    Pro
  • The beach. Lakawon's beach is pleasant. During the day time, if you don't mind a couple of stray dogs walking about, the beach itself is enjoyable. Roughly 3 of the 15 hectares on the island is part of the "resort". Volleyball and swimming are common activities. You may find weekend visitors coming in with their own boats and jet skis, though the resort does not offer any rentals. At night, there is no bar scene (perfect for families) and the sky had a clear view of the stars ... a nice and romantic evening ... until the kids from the squatters village blew up fireworks besides us.

  • Adventure. The drive to the resort from Bacolod City's Lacson St. brings you to towns like Talisay, Silay, Victorias and finally Cadiz. There's a few Spanish era buildings in those towns and each one has their own specific customs and festivals. Restaurants along the route offer fresh sea foods as most of the towns are near the coastline. You could have a few side trips that make the drive worth it!

    Con
  • Air conditioning. Prepare to sweat. There's air conditioning in the lodges but it depends on a generator. Supposedly the schedule starts around 5pm, but due to issues with the generator, it didn't turn on till around 8pm. It abruptly ends around 7am in the morning.1 star off.


  • Critters. The lodges are surrounded by ant hills, mosquitoes, and spiders. There are no mosquito nets; hence, if you have young children -- do not bring them with you as you will not sleep. You will have to literally kill the bugs off their face. 1 star off.


  • Room service. No phone system. If you need room service, you have to find someone near the restaurant. Since they do not wear uniforms -- you may be asking a total stranger.1 star off.


  • Cleanliness. While the island boasts 15 hectares, roughly 12 hectares are filled with squatters. You cannot just simply take a stroll on the beach as you will start seeing small squatter areas with bottles and trash lying around. Plumbing is unorthodox. The sink drips into a hole which drips into a trash bin. 1 star off.

    Location/Directions
    Lakawon Island is a 20 minute boat ride north of Negros Island. Roughly 15 hectares in size and shaped like a banana, you can walk around the island's entire circumference in a few hours.

    To get here, you have to fly to Manila, Philippines (MNL) then to Bacolod, Philippines (BCD), a city located on Negros Island. Taking a taxi or rental car from the airport to this resort and vice versa will cost you $100 USD total for the round trip. Using public transportation like a Ceres bus will cost you less than $20 USD round trip. The time to travel will take roughly 1 hour by private car/taxi, and 2 hours by bus, depending on how many passengers they pickup along the way!

    Accomodations/Activities
  • Beach
  • Swimming, snorkeling
  • There are air conditioned lodges from 7pm-7am. (If generator has fuel.)
  • Please note there is no television or Internet connection on any of these rooms.
  • Room service available generally up to 10:00 PM.
  • Bar/picnic area

    To note: If you must absolutely have Internet (like me), I have been able to utilize a popular pre-paid Internet service by Smart called SmartBro. It is USB device that connects your laptop to GPRS/3G cell towers. Expect dial-up speeds though they advertise otherwise. Its $45 USD for the device and about $0.50 USD/hour.
  • Sunday, July 19, 2009

    Congress Didn't Get the Memo? I Knew About the CIA Program and so did America




    There's a lot of headlines popping up lately that's slightly annoying me as they seem to be attacking people who are simply doing their jobs. Apparently, some Democrats in Congress have been surprised that the CIA has been wanting to hunt down terrorists with paramilitary assets. They are now criticizing the agency for acting improperly for not telling them that they were "planning" to do so.

    I must be missing something.

    In 2002, the New York Times published a generic summary of the plan to kill terrorists and Bush's authorization to go after them. The title of the article was, "Bush Has Widened Authority of C.I.A. to Kill Terrorists", dated Dec 20, 2002 by James Risen and David Johnston.

    In fact, here's an excerpt of it:



    President Bush has provided written legal authority to the C.I.A. to hunt down and kill the terrorists without seeking further approval each time the agency is about to stage an operation. Some officials said the terrorist list was known as the "high-value target list." A spokesman for the White House declined to discuss the list or issues involving the use of lethal force against terrorists. A spokesman for the C.I.A. also declined to comment on the list.



    Democrats in Congress are now ordering an investigation on why they weren't told about the program.

    To my elected officials, and I ask this with respect -- but can't you read between the lines? If the White House gives the CIA the authority to hunt down terrorists, don't you think you need people to hunt them down with? Don't you think you need to gather intelligence by arresting low level terrorists or have localized paramilitary personnel (not uniformed soldiers) so you can blend in the field?

    I dunno...was I the only one that got the memo that national security agencies have a mandate to arrest or kill terrorists?

    Saturday, June 13, 2009

    Iran's presidential elections - hope slashed by corruption



    After reading about Iran's presidential debates and the huge voter turn out, I was hoping to see a clean election between former Prime Minister Mir Hossein Mousavi and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    If he won legitimately, Ahmadinejad would have continued on his second term with a greater and stronger mandate to continue his anti-West and anti-Israel policies. Yet with all indications that he actually lost to Mousavi, and that the Interior Ministry more than likely swapped the results -- he is left being the president of a nation that hates him.

    Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's support of the alleged rigged results places him in a very precarious situation. Most will fall in line and heed his instructions to accept the results, partly in fear of the Revolutionary Guard and the paramilitary. But this type of obedience is temporary as we have seen in the original revolution.

    If there is no more respect and love, there is no real power. When respect is traded in for fear and loyalty is traded in for slavery, the nation is ripe for a revolution.

    Friday, May 22, 2009

    Travel Review: Punta Bulata Beach Resort, Negros Island, Philippines








    RATING: *** 1/2 (3.5 out of 5 stars, above average)
    Phone: +63344335160 (To dial from U.S., 011-63-34-433-5160)
    Web site: Punta Bulata
    Price: $40-$65/night USD (April 2009)

    Review

    Pro
  • The View. Punta Bulata is an above average beach resort located on the western coast of Negros Island. Facing west, it offers a breathtaking view of the calm Sulu waters. You can also see nearby islands and an interesting rock formation on the right side of the resort. I rented a kayak ($1.50 USD/hour) and observed some of the wildlife nearby. I was amazed to find a wild fruit dove, with a distinct blend of greens and red feathers. Its body type is similar to that of a pigeon or dove but the color patterns are definitely different than anything I have seen. Perhaps the near extinct Negros Fruit Dove (Ptilinopus arcanus)? Who knows.

  • Adventure. The drive to the resort is an adventure in itself. Negros Island's foothills, mountains, and S-curbed roads make it a fun drive. At one point I parked besides a cliff and was able to witness a decent sunset (see picture above). And as you go through the final stretch of unpaved roads, you suddenly find a modern resort in the middle of nowhere.

  • Solitude. The municipality of Cauayan, where Punta Bulata is located, is essentially a small village. It isn't a party town and is a bit more peaceful compared to some other beach resorts in the country that mainly attract the bar hopping and night club culture. The resort's rooms have no television sets, not even for a news junkie like me wanting to see the midnight news. Here time is slown down a bit.


  • Con
  • Room service. The hotel rooms badly need an internal phone system. You have to go to the nearest hotel desk to order food and drinks, which makes it less than ideal if you are already in your pajamas. 1 star off.

  • Cleanliness. Overall the hotel and my room was clean, but the wooden architecture does invite certain types of pests that needs to be regularly checked and cleaned. I saw some wood damaging insects from time to time. You can often see the after effects of this if you see the insects' "saw dust" on your bed. Half a star off.

    Location/Directions
    Located in Negros Island, Philippines, Punta Bulata Island resort is one of those in the middle of nowhere resorts. To get here, you have to fly to Manila, Philippines (MNL) then to Bacolod, Philippines (BCD), a city located on Negros Island. Taking a taxi or rental car from the airport to this resort and vice versa will cost you $250 USD total for the round trip. Using public transportation like a Ceres bus will cost you less than $20 USD round trip. The time to travel will take roughly 2.5 hours by private car/taxi, and 3-4 hours by bus, depending on how many passengers they pickup along the way!

    Accomodations/Activities
  • Swimming pool, kids area and adult
  • White sand beach
  • Kayaking, swimming, snorkeling
  • There are air conditioned hotel rooms and cottages available.
  • Please note there is no television or Internet connection on any of these rooms.
  • Room service available generally up to 11:00 PM.
  • Restaurant/picnic areas/guarded parking areas

    To note: If you must absolutely have Internet (like me), I have been able to utilize a popular pre-paid Internet service by Smart called SmartBro. It is USB device that connects your laptop to GPRS/3G cell towers. Expect dial-up speeds though they advertise otherwise. Its $45 USD for the device and about $0.50 USD/hour.
  • Friday, April 10, 2009

    My e-mail to President Obama: Stop Somali pirates



    I'm a firm believer of individual citizens still being able to contact their elected officials, including the President. While there's an infinite number of concerns out there such as this current economic crisis to the different issues in foreign affairs, one of the most annoying issues that I consider to be simple to resolve yet its still not fixed are the Somali pirates.

    So here goes my email...


    Dear President Obama --

    I would like to see action against Somali criminals once and for all aside from watching sea lanes. We are not attacking the root cause of the problem and to respond saying that we are doing everything possible would be an insult to everyone's intelligence.

    Please destroy land-based bases of Somali criminals so they don't have the capability to attack Americans again in the high seas. You cut the snake's head and it will no longer be a viable threat.

    While this option is already available for some time with a United Nations resolution authorizing such actions, I suggest the administration actually start doing something about it and letting the American people know you took care of it.

    What's the worst that could happen? The virtually non-existent Somali government filing a protest?

    Thanks, -Don

    Wednesday, February 25, 2009

    Obama's Assault Rifle / Weapons Ban Is A Worthless Facade



    Recently, the Obama administration announced they were going to attempt to reinstate the Federal Assaults Weapons Ban (AWB) that was passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton on September 13, 1994. The ban called for the prohibition of "look likes" of real military weapons for 10 years -- President Bush let the ban lapse since he apparently knew this was one of the most worthless laws ever created. Keep reading and find out why.

    What's the difference between a semi-automatic .223 hunting rifle and a .223 civilian "assault rifle"?

    For the most part -- cosmetics.

    An AR-15 "assault rifle" will look like an M-16 military rifle, but it is a single fire, semi-automatic rifle and in most cases, less accurate than a semi-automatic .223 hunting rifle. This is why every single person that owns a civilian "assault rifle" knows how stupid this proposed ban is. It is merely political grandstanding. Obama is perhaps attempting to "please" his own liberal base, which for the most part are not educated enough to differentiate that the ban being tossed around and being debated on is to ban paint color, molding, and magazine type.

    The fact is -- fully automatic weapons and machine guns in the United States are already banned!

    Please share the knowledge to your friends so they can no longer be ignorant.

    Tell your friends. Educate them so before they open their mouth about the "assault rifle ban" they do not look like an idiot in front of a gun owner. There is no major differences between a hunting rifle and civilian assault rifles. Only cosmetics. Fully automatic rifles are already banned for civilians. Let's tell our senators and representatives to stop wasting our tax dollars with all the useless speeches, ink, paper, and congressional salary on cosmetic "assault rifles" debates. Please work on real problems like you know...the recession?

    The real debate.

    The folks pushing for the ban that are not ignorant should just come out instead of hiding in the closet. Bring the real reason why you want to have the ban. Just say the question: Should civilians be allowed to own guns? Should only the government and criminals have them? That is the true debate. Government will always have guns to keep peace and respond to criminal disturbances within 5-10 minutes in most U.S. cities. Criminals will always have guns because they don't respect the law and criminals can make a gun with a simple machine shop.

    If gun violence is what we are trying to stomp out -- address the root cause: the fallen nature of man. He is sinful and without the Holy Spirit, he has the capability to murder. Address the root cause and you will never have violence issues in society. And even if the knowledge of how to create a gun is gone from man, you can always kill with cars, knives, swords, rocks, bats, kung fu, hands, feet, cyanide, fire, etc. Are we going to ban those too?

    And if someone smart is reading this wants to dabble with statistics and deaths related to guns...we should criminalize fried foods and junk foods (heart attacks), cars, tobacco and alcohol first before we even get to banning guns. :-)

    Spread the knowledge, let's stomp out ignorance. Share this link: http://www.donsausa.com/2009/02/obamas-assault-rifle-weapons-ban-is.html.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Time - a precious gift


    Today, I had my Sabbath service at the Seventh-Day Adventist church in Pasay City, Metro Manila with my wife and my baby Kaycee. It was a bit hot inside so I left as soon as the sermon was over, but the message stuck to me today. I don't even really remember the title and for the most part, the pillars of the church covered the PowerPoint presentation. But the core message, which was based on Psalms 90, stuck to me...enough to write about it.

    Summary
    God gave us this precious life, this precious gift called time. Most of us will average to live around 75 years, that's roughly about 27,375 days. So if you are 20 years old, you have roughly 20,000 days to live. If you are 30 years old, you have 16,425 days to live. If you are 40 years old, that's about 12,775 days to live. If you are 50 years old, you only have 9,125 days to live.

    The message of the sermon was pretty clear, count your days and be responsible for it -- because your time is short on this earth. While I cling to the promise of eternal life through Jesus' sacrifice on the Cross, I realized today to pause and appreciate the precious time that have been given on this earth. As I travel through the passage of time, and as my kids (baby Kaycee and the future baby Don) some day grow up -- I hope they learn this lesson at an early age: Count the days of your life, so you can always know how precious it is.

    Saturday, January 10, 2009

    Free Barnes and Noble Coupon

    To all the folks that love to read paperbacks, here's a free coupon below with Barnes and Noble. You can buy two paperbacks and get one paperback free. Enjoy.

    Buy two paperbacks, get 3rd FREE

    Friday, January 02, 2009

    Charity Spotlight: ADRA - The little charity that could...

    Charity Spotlight - Quick Review

    Congratulations to ADRA for making Razoo's Top 100 most effective charities around the world! Though it isn't the largest charity in the world, it makes a tremendous impact across the globe and its financial transparency is better than most charities in the United States.

    As a firm supporter of fighting world hunger, I invite anyone that has a few extra dollars to donate to ADRA. They have a gift catalog that can help you decide what you want your gift to do...you could even buy a pregnant goat so a family could eat in the Philippines plus start a business.