Little Adventures

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


I am not going to buy one, let's get that straight right from the start. But since it is much talked about nowadays, at the very least among Canon shooters, I cannot deny that it has aroused my curiousity as well. So here's what I think of the new EOS 400D / Rebel XTi.
It came as a surprise to me because I was expecting a 1Ds MKII replacement and I have heard rumors about a Canon EOS 3D. But, none about a 350D upgrade. It cannot be denied that the kind of technology that Canon has put into it is nothing short of impressive.
The anomaly here now is that the EOS 400D has a higher resolution than the higher spec and higher priced 8.2 Mp EOS 30D. Other than a high speed shooting rate of 5 FPS vs 3 FPS, there really aren't much REALLY meaningful features which the 30D can offer over the 400D. The 30D has a more rugged magnesium alloy body, but to most users (especially those who treat their cameras like babies), to what extent is this an issue? The 30D has a slightly larger and brighter viewfinder but it also has a bigger and heavier body. The 400D with an effective dust removal system, a higher resolution, and a sub US$ 1,000 price tag, it may actually be a very compelling proposition over the 30D, especially if you don't shoot at 5 FPS.
It is, therefore, interesting to note that Canon has chosen to seriously improve the Rebel line in favor of the 2 years old 20D. (The 30D is really a 20D with a bigger LCD screen and a few minor updgrades.) I believe that marketing has a big part to do with such a move. I think Canon got caught up with the introduction of the Nikon D80 and the Sony Alpha A100 - both are 10Mp and both are compelling competitors. The 350D was simply outclassed.
Of course there's also the Nikon D200 for Canon to challenge BUT, Canon must have realized that the real commercial battlefield is at the lower end of the market, not the higher end. Add to the fact that the 1Ds MkII is now 2 years old or a full 4 years since the 1Ds was first introduced and the difficulty of competing in all markets becomes quite clear, even if you're the superpower of the DSLR industry.
It is, therefore, not likely that a 20D/30D replacement, not even a 3D, will be announced at this time. Perhaps in another 6 months or so. It has been observed that Canon seems to put new technology to their lower end cameras first, than implementing the things that work to their higher end and pro level cameras on their next generations. I think this will be the case with the new dust removal system and higher resolution sensor. Think about it, with the small photo sites and greater fill factor found in the 400D sensor, a full frame sensor with this technology would produce something between 22 - 24Mp. But the Digic II processor cannot support high enough frame rates at this data volume to meet the demand of professional users. (Which is why there's the 1D MkIIn for pro speed shooters). And so a Digic III has to be developed to solve that problem.
Oh dear . . . I hope this does not start a rumor of what the next 1Ds will be like.
With that said, a new 1D series body is also unlikely for another 6 months at least.
*Photo source:
*This article can also be found in

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Photography While Driving

The traffic lights seem to change a little longer today. I was feeling bored so I thought of taking this picture. But make no mistake - this not in any way to encourage you to do the same. Photography is as hazardous as drinking while driving. PLEASE DON'T TRY THIS AT HOME!!! Cheers, alexdpx
P.S. Please excuse the way the photo was posted. For some reason, despite pre-rotating it to the proper portrait format, the K800i still posted it as landscape. 'Something for the guys at Sony Ericsson should fix. Yup, this blog CAME STRAIGHT FROM MY PHONE.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken

Lentil soup.

The usual recipe is hot and spicy but you can always order for a grille with lemon and herb marinade. Then you can control how hot you want it to be with the peri-peri sauce. They have 2 kinds - hot and mild. But let me say that the mild sauce is still hot. Chicken is juicy and tasty. We always order breast and well done because the inner meat of the thigh does not cook very well. You can order for chicken only 1/4, 1/2 or whole chicken. If you decide to go for the set meal, the chicken will be served with your choice of two side dishes - rice, coleslaw, grilled vegetables and chips to choose from. The rice is nice and complements the chicken very well but I've been trying to eat light nowadays so I usually order a quarter chicken and 1 Potuguese roll.

Lemon & herb marinated quarter chicken with Portuguese roll.

Nando's Peri-Peri Chicken has been a favourite restaurant of ours since our first arrival in Doha. We have held many celebrations here - birthdays, anniversary's, triumphs, promotions, salary raise or simply because it's a weekend.

Even the mild peri-peri sauce is hot.
It's a specialty restaurant - you can not order anything else other than grilled chicken. So if you're looking for variety, then this restaurant is not for you. But for those who want a different chicken recipe, then come on in.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Souq Al Asiery - Pilipino Souq to Pinoys

A line of shops in the Pilipino Souq selling Pilipino products. Pilipino Bakery being the most prominent one because of its famous siopao, hopia, and pandesal products.

I don't really know why. But whenever I go to a new country, for work or short visit, I'm always glad to see a fellow Pilipino. And even more glad to know where they all hang out. Here in Doha, you'll find them everywhere. Malls, restaurants . . . parks. But if you've just landed in Doha and have no idea how or where to start, the Souq Al Asiery, otherwise known as the Pilipino Souq, would be the best place to go.

Looking to the other end, there's more shops. Here you can see the Pilipino Food Stuff grocery.

Arabic food may be strange to new comers so they would really look for familiar tastes. There are several eateries and restaurants serving Pilipino food within the area. One of them is called "Pilipino Bakery" which is popular not only for the meals but also for its siopao and other Pilipino style bread. They sell pandesal, mongo bread, and even hopia.

That's my wife looking into buying some pandesal and hopia at Pilipino Bakery.
Need a haircut? Damascus Int'l Saloon is just next door with Pilipino barbers. 'Forgot to buy some personal supplies before flying to Doha? There are two groceries selling Pilipino stuff. Are you looking for your church (Catholic, Born Again, Iglesia, etc...)? Just ask around. Need a place to stay? Again ask around, or better yet ask the restaurant people. Most kabayans post an advertisement there.
Another grocery at the corner, Manila Supermarket sells Pinoy stuff.
Going there is not even a problem. There are now plenty of Pilipino taxi drivers who can take you there. If, by chance, you got a non-Pilipino driver, that's not a problem too. Just say "Pilipino Souq" and they would know. In fact I am amused with how these drivers are familiar with common Pilipino directional words such as 'kaliwa', 'kanan', and 'diretso'. Quite useful when you already know the roads.

My wife inside Manila Supermarket. Notice the Doritos and Chippy in the background - they're all from the Philippines.



Monday, August 21, 2006

Spam In Your Cellphone: My Rant

Text message spam.
You know that feeling when you check your mail and you get a notice that says something like, "You have 12 unread messages." And then you start to feel excited because of anticipation that those messages are from your loved ones or friends, or maybe an approval for an application you made somewhere with someone. Afterwards, you click on the Inbox with much delight - and then - you scrolled through the 12 unread messages and find out they were all unsolicited advertisements - SPAM! Not a single one from the people you are expecting to hear from.

How would you feel during such an event? How do I feel about such an event??? I feel irritated and have wasted a good deal of my precious time. Not only that, they have eaten up a good portion of my Inbox space and now I have to waste time deleting unwanted messages. Why would I care for a new car when I don't need one, or worse, for teen girls from the other side of the world who want to have sex with me? Will they come to my place at their own expense? No I don't want any of those things that the spammers advertise to me.

Spam has been there since the electronic mail was invented, I think. Fortunately, people recognize that this is a problem and measures are being made to control them, if not totally eradicate them. Of course, spammers are developing new ways of getting their ads to your Inbox but there are also those who are countering their attacks.

Another text message spam sent indiscriminately. Why would they think I can read in Arabic?

And I'm fine with that. BUT WHAT ABOUT MY PHONE???

Telemarketing has been around for quite some time. You know, those people who call you on your land line and are really friendly and then suddenly push you into buying their products. I find it annoying most of the time because I get interrupted from what I am doing whenever I have to rush to pick up the phone only to hear a stranger sweet-talk me into buying something from him. I suppose telemarketing is more common in the US than anywhere int he world. My brother get so many in a day that his whole family has gone into the habit in letting the answering machine to answer the call even when they are there. They'd pick up the phone only when they recognize the caller. Well that looks like an easy solution to me. How about text message (or SMS as more popularly known in some parts of the world) advertisements? How do you stop those?

Not long after text messaging became mainstream, advertisers recognized its potential as another medium to promote their products. It couldn't be any easier, just compose a standard ad campaign and text it to every single mobile phone there is. What annoys me more is that the network provider encourages it. Some even offer "business SMS" at cheaper rates. Just apply for this plan and the network provider will take care of sending the message to every subscriber they have - indiscriminately! I know that's big business for them, the SMS advertisers and the network provider. I know it doesn't cost me anything, BUT it does not benefit me, the paying customer. In fact it disturbs me especially during a peaceful solitude of relaxation. I don't think it's right for the network provider to disclose your mobile number to advertisers.

Another thing that annoys me is that the network provider sends their own spam as well, advertising special promos thru text message. And that, despite all of their aggressive media campaign. C'mon, I have a cell phone to stay connected. It does not mean that I am out of touch with the world.



Saturday, August 19, 2006

Our Nissan X-Trail - Ageing Gracefully

I've had this Nissan X-Trail for more than three years now and it is still nearly as good as it was the day I collected it from the showroom. I said nearly because, c'mon, an old car is an old car.
Since I bought it more than 3 years ago, the car has suffered some scratches and small dents. It's a shame but I guess, in Doha, it is impossible to keep your car spotless. A lot of the people here, locals and expatriates alike, just don't care about other people's property. They open their own car doors carelessly and don't care if it hits the car parked next to theirs. There's just nothing you can do about it. Even if you parked at a safe distance from the other cars, you'll never know how close another car will park next to you.
The X-Trail was not my first choice, actually, when I went looking for a new car that time. I've just accepted a job offer here in Qatar and figured out that with the salary package I am being offered, I could afford to buy a small 4x4 SUV. My search for a new car actually started in Brunei, a few weeks before I left. I thought then that cars couldn’t be that much differently priced and configured from place to place. So just to have an idea, I looked around in Brunei. I looked at Toyota RAV-4, Honda CRV and Renault's Scenic RX4. I didn't even bothered to checkout the X-Trail simply because its boxy looks did not appeal to me.
The Toyota RAV-4 was my first choice because we had one as a project vehicle in Brunei. I'm quite impressed with it and thought it was just suitable for my wife and me. But I did not expect that Toyotas in Qatar, any model, cost considerably more than other cars in their respective ranges. A Toyota RAV-4 was just a little cheaper than a fully loaded, V6 engine, bigger and better Ford Explorer. If I could afford it then, I would have gone for the Explorer. But a 4-cylinder engine car was all I could afford then.
I looked at the Jeep Liberty (Cherokee in this part of the world) but they only had V6 models available. It's the same thing with the Ford Escape. I think the CRV is too common and Mitsubishi's Outlander looks very gimmicky yet cheap. Then I noticed the popularity here of Nissan's Maxima, Patrol and Pathfinder models. The X-trail was a relatively new model here. Introduced to the Qatari market to replace the ageing Terrano. I thought that it might not be such a bad car at all. So I visited the showroom to have a look.
What they have on display was a silver colored fully loaded model (exactly the same car I bought). Its external looks started to grow on me. For a small car, it looks pretty big. The straight lines and boxy looks that I once thought as dated now looks rugged and very masculine to me. I went on to open the door. I liked my grip on the chunky chrome finished door handle - not one of those flimsy door flaps. As I stepped in and sat on the driver's seat, I immediately liked the well-appointed interiors. I know, it's still mostly plastic but the dash is really well made and did not felt cheap at all.
But its best quality is the price. It's about 10,000 riyals cheaper than the base model RAV-4. I said to myself, this is the car I'm gonna get.
After more than 3 years now and I still love every bit of this car. It's not perfect but I have never had any complaint major enough to think about getting rid of it urgently.
With the next generation RAV-4 already out plus new models coming from the Korean manufacturers, the X-Trail is already showing a little bit of its age. Inevitably, time will come for me to replace this car soon and I've been contemplating on what to replace it with. The new RAV-4 is bigger but more expensive and looks ugly to me; Honda has not released a new CRV, I'm not at all impressed with the Outlander, the Jeep is expensive to maintain and I have heard of Ford's reliability issues. The Korean brands? I don't like any of them at all.
For now, it looks like it's going to be another X-trail for me.
The photos featured here were originally posted in my flickr photostream. Please click on the photos to go to their respective links. Thank you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

3G Arrives in Doha

The launch of 3G in Doha was made a few weeks back. Initially, people with 3G phones can avail of video calling only and within Doha only. However, Q-Tel, the sole telecommunications provider in Qatar, assured that as partnerships with other networks worldwide is made, video calling will be available for international calls and more services will be launched before the Asian Games in December. I've tried video calling with some friends who has 3G phones as well. Doha is not such a big place and it's easy to just call someone you haven't seen in a while and arrange for a face to face meeting, in a coffee shop or somwhere. Until I am able to call my parents and friends in the Philippines or my brother in the US, I'll stick to voice calls. The price per minute is not unreasonable though. For just QR 0.10 (US$ 0.03 / PHP 1.40) on top of regular voice call rates, I think video calling among family members, especially video calling your children, would be quite fun. Not long after the launch of video calling, mobile internet was made available even to pre-paid card subscribers. Q-Tel boasted a speed of 8 times faster than GPRS for 3G phone users. That sounded impressive until I realized that's also more expensive. In the press release, they said something like QR 10 (US$ 2.74 / PHP 140.00) per 1 Mbps. I could not actually imagine what that meant until I tried it this morning. I'm a pre-paid card subscriber so I checked first how much I have left in my credit balance and it was QR 30.12 (US$ 8.25 / PHP 421.68). I browsed at my own blog, Little Adventures, for exactly five minutes and quit the browser. That 5 minutes using mobile internet cost me QR 11.68 (US$ 3.20 / PHP 163.52). QR 11.68 for five minutes!!! That is an expensive way to surf the net. I've got ADSL at home and at work that I can use anytime and for as long as I want with a fixed rate to pay. And it's faster than 3G and more comfortable to surf with a mouse and a keyboard. Yes 3G works. Yes, I can do video calls and yes, I got mobile internet. But I can't use either effectively and practically at the moment. It's disappointing to think that I bought a 3G phone because of my excitement with 3G technology. I just didn't expected it would cost that much. I understand, of course, that it costs that much because it is today's cutting edge of technology. But a big part of the reason is Q-Tel's monopoly of the industry. As it becomes mainstream, prices will come down naturally and more people will be able to afford it. I'm just concerned that by the time that happens, a new technology will be introduced and I will have to keep up again. (sigh) Cheers, alexdpx

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I've Got 3G Mobile Internet . . . Finally!

Just testing my phone's mobile blogging capability. This photo was taken with my Sony Ericsson K800i and blogged here directly from it!
Cool don't you think?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My Job's Simple Rewards

I love my job. Other than the usual perks, my work on the airport does have some additional rewards.
After conducting an inspection one day, I stopped by at Costa Coffee Shop in the DIA's (Doha International Airport) Departure Hall. I was wearing my gate pass around my neck when I ordered for a latte. When I paid, I was surprised that I was being charged less than the listed price. Seeing the puzzled look in my face, the cashier explained that he's giving me 25% discount because I'm an airport staff. Well, technically not, but practically, I guess I am.
The other night, because of the gate pass I hold, I was able to send a friend off and got to stay with him right up to the boarding gate - like he's some kind of a V.I.P.
My job's simple rewards. Nice, don't you think?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Biella - Great Food, But What Is It?

"Salmone en Padella" at Biella Caffe Pizzeria Ristorante, The Mall, Doha, Qatar.

I am not quite sure what to make of my dining experience at Biella Café Pizzeria Ristorante, located at the ground floor of The Mall in Doha, Qatar - just opposite Chili's. I mean, I think the food is nice but the serving is not enough; the place was cozy but the waiters annoy me; the menu has a wide variety of choices but they are pricey.

The restaurant entrance, mall side. Glass partitions and blue theme looked inviting.

Before I walked in, I found the entrance rather inviting with glass, blue hues and all that stuff. Once inside, the interior is quite stunning and has plenty of nice touches. It felt rather expensive though, with some tables draped with white and blue cotton tablecloth, provided with white table napkins and complete set of silverware. Curiously, an equal amount of tables are plainly laminated and informal - not as elegant as the others. Contradictions, contradictions. Although it says pizzeria in its name, I did not see any pizza in the menu. This restaurant is starting to look to me like a confused one, unsure of its identity. Is it a diner, a fast food, fine restaurant? I have no idea. An Italian restaurant perhaps that does not look like one.

Blue and beige color scheme. Cool to the eyes and friendly but a rather common color scheme.
The menu, however, offers a wide variety of choices. Lots of appetizers to choose from. Lots of soups to choose from. Lots of main course, lots more of desserts, cold and hot drinks and cocktail drinks (none alcoholic though).
The food I ordered was something called "Salmone in Padella". The description in the menu says, "Pan-roasted salmon fillet with grilled aubergine, fennel and herb salad with citrus butter." It was well presented, as you can see in the picture below, and looks palatable. There's plenty of tomato though, and that was not in the menu description. Not that I don't like tomatoes. It's just that there are people who don't and such people might complain when the food they ordered is served not as they expected. Anyway, I liked it. I can't describe how it tasted but the description above should give you a good idea of how it was. There was a thick slice of eggplant under the fish. I think it has nothing to do with the taste. It was there to elevate the fish from the surrounding sauce. While this made the presentation look good, I would have preferred if they did away with the eggplant and let the fish soak into the sauce. I think that would make the sauce seep in better into the fish.

"Rosso" fruit cocktail drink at Biella Caffe Pizzeria Ristorante, The Mall, Doha, Qatar.

The drink I ordered is called "Rosso". It's basically fresh banana, muddle with coconut cream and strawberry puree shaken with pineapple and orange juice. No complaint about the drink. I think it's quite good but it was served to me not quite chilled enough.

Some of the decorations that adorn the informal tables.

For the taste of the food alone, I would recommend this restaurant. Their menu is different from many of the restaurants I've tried so far in Doha. It's rather pricey but I guess that's the cost you have to pay for good food. The whole dining experience though is not quite as good. As mentioned, I'm a bit confused with what image the restaurant is trying to project. Although the waiters are friendly, I think they are too friendly to the point that it becomes annoying. I don't mind being asked what I think of the food on the spot but to be asked twice . . .



Friday, August 11, 2006

Just A Friday Morning

Tatooine-like. Photo by alexdpx. This scene reminds me of planet Tatooine, home of the Skywalkers.

Rope on Rust. Photo by alexdpx. Small fishing boats are tied to this.

It's Friday today. Weekend in Doha. I got up rather early with a good feeling. I'm not sure why but I did. I usually wake up early even on weekends but today was a little different. No, nothing special about the day. Just a weekend.

Doha Sunrise. Photo by alexdpx.

Fisherman. Photo by alexdpx. This man has a different idea of enjoying his weekend. But just like me, he got up early.

Anyway, it was 5:10 a.m. and I can see the warm glow of the sun starting to rise and paintine some lovely patterns in the sky. Cloudy skies are rare in Doha. Usually it's clear blue sky. On impulse, and almost in one motion, I got up, cleaned up, dressed up, kissed my wife good morning (that's important and I never forget that), picked up my gear, got into my car, and headed out. It's a good day for photography.

Harbor. Photo by alexdpx.

Morning. Photo by alexdpx

And it was. What's featured here are some of the photos I took this morning. I feel a sense of satisfaction whenever my photos turn out quite good.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Proud To Be Their Uncle

Joshua (on the left) and Jodiann (on the right), my nephew and niece, respectively. Both of them swimming champs.

I don't have kids of my own yet. However, I do have a brilliant niece and an equally brilliant nephew. They're both swimming champions. They both compete for the Strathmore Swim Team in New Jersey. Both of them had a good Summer Swim Season this year. Check this out - both won all the gold medals in their respective events. If that's not impressive, then I don't know what you call it.


Joshua showing off the ribbon he was awarded with after winning an event.
My nephew, Joshua, the younger of the two is only 6 years old (going seven this September) and is already beating competitors, 2 years older than him. This year, he won 2 gold medals in the championships for freestyle and backstroke events.
His inspiration for getting into swimming is his 'Ate' (big sister in English and pronounced as a-te, not eyt.) I remember being there with them during the YMCA Swim Team Banquet in early April 2005 when Jodiann was presented an award for winning a silver medal in one of the championships she competed in that year. Joshua held on to her Ate's plaque and wished he had one of his own. And now he has his own achievements. Ribbons, medals, trophies . . . and I believe, more to come. He's just getting started.
Joshua with the younger members of the Strathmore Swim Team. He's standing, middle row at the far right.
I am amazed of his achievements this year (there were, of course, previous achievements prior to this season) considering that just over a year ago, when my wife and I visited them in New Jersey, he was just starting to learn and was actually front crawl swimming "like a shrimp" as my brother and niece would fondly tease him.
Outside of the pool, he's a typical 6-year old boy; laughs all the time, plays all the time, watch TV all the time and always seems to be in high energy mode.
Jodiann with her team mates, standing tall in the middle.
My niece, Jodiann, the elder of the two has even broken all team records in her age bracket by 2 to 7 seconds faster than the previous ones. Except for her weakest event which is breaststroke, but still she managed to break the long standing record by 0.20 seconds. To illustrate the idea of how fast she was with the records she has set, if she's to compete against the previous record holders, she'd be ahead of them by about a quarter to half of the swimming pool length. These were her achievements in the local Aberdeen/Matawan area in New Jersey, competing against swimmers from other clubs within the area. At the end of the season, during the Swim Team Banquet, she was awarded as the team's "Most Valuable Swimmer" for the 2nd year in a row. But her talents are not limited there.
Actually, she also swims for the YMCA team which competes beyond the local area. This year, she competed for 1 invitational meet and she won 2 silver medals. She also competed in the New Jersey State Championship where she won a bronze medal in the 50m freestyle event and she could have won her first State Championship (gold medal) in the 50m backstroke event if not for a technicality in the rules. Apparently, after the starting kick from the pool wall, there is a certain point in the pool where the swimmer has to resurface and proceed with the backstroke. She held on a little longer under water and that became ground for disqualification. But still, in her age bracket, Jodiann is now one of New Jersey's top ten swimmers.
Jodiann receiving her "Most Valuable Swimmer" award during the banquet.
Her achievements in the State Championships has earned her the right to represent the State of New Jersey in the Eastern Zone Championships this week in Buffalo, New York. But because of the backstroke disqualification, she may compete in one event only - the 50m freestyle. My brother, the children's, personal trainer and coach and manager, felt that it may not be worth it to fly or drive all the way to Buffalo for one event only. They decided to back out and be better prepared for next year.
In contrast with Joshua, Jodiann exhibits some maturity for her age. She's quiet, gentle and listens to elders' advise.
But mind you, these two are not just all about swimming. They're also achievers in school and maintain high grades in their academic subjects.
Six years from now, the Summer Olympics will be held in London (would have been even better for us if New York City won that bid). By then, Jodiann will be 17 and primed to compete in the biggest sporting event anywhere in the world. I don't know about the Olympic's or the US Swim Team's age requirements but I can see our Jodiann swimming for that team in that Olympics. If not, then in 2016 along with Joshua.
Sadly, I don't get to spend that much time with them because they live thousands of miles away from where I am right now. But we do have a lot of fun whenever we get together. The last time was in Manila, Philippines last April 2006.
1. Information sources: My brother's email and Strathmore Bath & Tennis Club website.
2. All photos are property of Strathmore Bath & Tennis Club.

Monday, August 07, 2006

I Write For Flickers Photo Club Too.

I just want to announce here that I write for Flickers Photo Club as well. As the name implies, the target readers are members of that group in flickr.
There I write topics on what little knowledge I know about photography, however, I think that only serious hobbyists, enthusiasts and amateurs will find the topics interesting. They're not for the average snapshoothers.
So ---- if you feel like learning more on photography, or simply want to improve the way you take pictures, we welcome you there. Other contributors there include ronrag, neiltot and hocchuan - all accomplished photographers in their own right.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Totally Dig Storm Large

Storm Large - Copyright Laura Domela

Say who??? That will probably be the reaction of many who will read this article. That was my reaction when I first heard of her. Perhaps some will think that Large is Storm's (the X-Men mutant) family name. But no, Storm Susan Large is a real person. She's one of the contenders in the ongoing search for a lead singer for the newly formed rock band, Supernova. It's the second season of the rality show Rockstar. Last year it was INXS looking for a new lead singer. This year it's a new band called Supernova. But I'm not here to talk about the search. I'm here to talk about Storm. You can find out more about the show Rockstar: Supernova in the show's website. I first took notice of Storm early in the show mainly because of her physical looks. Long blonde hair, deep green eyes and a killer, 6' tall body. Absolutely stunning, absolutely gorgeous. Then her name was announced (Say who??? - my reaction) and I was intrigued. So far, I can see a wnning package - a gorgeous lead singer with a name befitting a rock star. All we need now is hear if she can sing and what she can do on stage.

Storm Large - Copyright Laura Domela

In the first 4 weeks, I think her performance can be generally described as wild and at some point, a little bit lunatic. But she can definitely sing and at the same time, grab the audience's attention and maintain a high level of excitement throughout her performance. My favorite part was when she jumped into the audience and let the audience catch her at the end of the song. I'm sure it's been done before but, it's the first time I've seen a woman do it. Supernova thought her performance was overwhelming that the following night, decision night (it's when the band decides who's eliminated for that particular week) she was given the encore performance - meaning she was asked to repeat the performance prior to deciding who's eliminated. But this time, perhaps she thought that repeating the jump would not have the same impact as when she first did it. So at the end of the song, she just simply dropped dead on stage like she's been shot. And that was just as great.

Storm and The Balls - Copyright Laura Domela

For 5th week, she shifted gears and turned off her wild side to show a softer side. That she can also do slow rock as well as hard rock. She chose to sing David Bowie's 'Cheers'. She changed her appearance as well. For this performance, she wore her blond hair straight with a more conventional makeup and an outfit that looks more like a business suit. Lovely, classy, and once again, the band loved her performance. In an earlier performance, Tommy Lee (yeah, Pamela Andersons former husband and the one with her on the sex video) - the band's drummer, commented that he just want to see more of her. To which, Storm replied with a six-letter word - Google. So, like the rest of her fans, I googled her and found out that she has been rocking for quite some time and her band, The Balls is already a popular one in Portland, Oregon. At the same time she has been doing some photographic modelling - basically to promote her band, Storm and The Balls but there was a photoshoot of her by photographer Laura Domela . Well, she is model material so I don't see why she won't venture into that type of art.

Storm Large - Copyright Laura Domela

Some people question whether fans watch her perform because of her killer good looks or her singing talent. I watch her performance because of both. I hope she wins this gig and succesfully lead Supernova to greater heights. Then we'll be able to see more of her without having to google. I am no fan of rock music, but then, I really have no particular preference to any type of music. I simply dig what sounds good - rock, pop, jazz, alternative or even classical. You may view Storm Large's profile in the show's website and some of her photos here.

Her performances during the past weeks:

*Copyright notice: All rights reserved by their owners.



Friday, August 04, 2006

Pancake Combo - Dairy Queen Revisited

In my previous article about Dairy Queen in Doha, I said that it is a favorite breakfast place among Filipinos especially during weekends. By the way, weekend here means Friday and Saturday. Not the usual Saturday and Sunday. The picture above shows what a typical Friday morning at Dairy Queen looks like. Yeah, that's busy. I know that a typical day would look busier than this in a Manila fastfood, say Jollibee. But here, this is busy enough. This was around 8:30 in the morning - right after the Friday mass.

And this is what I had for today - Pancake Combo meal with beef hotdog and hash brown and brewed coffee. They don't have the best coffee here but I'd take it over instant coffee.



Thursday, August 03, 2006

Architecture: What I Do For A Living

The West Stand of the newly renovated Khalifa Stadium. This is the largest project I have ever been involved with to date.

This is my profession. This has always been my childhood dream. For as long as I can remember, I've always wanted to be an architect. When I graduated from high school in 1985, I've set my sights taking architecture as my college course. I've got discouragements from relatives and others. They say it's a difficult course and most who graduate end up being just draftsmen for the entire span of their career. Those made me worried but at the same time I believed I can rise through the trials and went on. Shaken but not stirred, 007 might say.

The design team of Al Wakrah Hospital behind the scale model. It has a footprint nearly as big as Khalifa Stadium. I'm one of the architects who contributed into its design development.
Fortunately for me, my parents did not believed in forcing me to do something that I will not be happy with and so, they supported my studies in architecture despite their wish for me to become a lawyer instead. Architecture was indeed a gruelling and challenging course - mentally and physically. Lots of sleepless nights, field works and research. Even our teachers were discouraging us. "If you don't think you've got what it takes to complete this study, might as well shift now." Words they used to say to us. But I persisted and held on to my dream.
Five years later, of the 100% enrollees during the first year in 1985, only 25% remained during graduation. I was one of them. Another year after, I took the Board Exams. I knew that the Architecture Board Exams has one of the highest mortality rate of all professional licensure exams. An average of only 22% (during my time) of the examinees get to pass. Again, I made it and finally became a full pledged architect.
At the West Stand vomitory of the Khalifa Stadium.
16 years after graduation, here I am working abroad as a senior architect for one of the worlds largest consulting firm with perks and a few other small, but nice privileges. I'm not at the peak of my career yet. I'm still struggling for my way up there but I'm quite happy with the way my career is going, with the choices I made and the path I chose to take.
With Ronnie, a Filipino architect as well, and a major player in our construction supervision team of a 25 storey apartment building.
I'm not that rich yet and I don't believe I've achieved enough to stop working. But I'm glad I held on to my dream.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Photography: What I Do For Fun

When I bought by DSLR in New York City in Spring of 2005, I took it to the still freezing temperatures of Niagara Falls in Buffalo, New York to give it "baptism of fire" in snow. Photo by my wife, Denden.
I got into photography when I was still very young. I can't remember now my exact age and when but the memory of the first time I ever held a camera is still quite vivid in my mind. During my uncle's birthday celebration many years ago, he handed me his Kodak Instamatic camera and asked me to take a picture of him and his friends while holding a bottle each of San Miguel Beer. The sound of the plastic shutter clicking, the flash cube firing, and the sound of the sprocket as I advanced the film to the next frame; all of those amazed me. I took a couple more shots because some of them thought they blinked in the first shot. I was even more amazed after seeing the prints and thought they all looked handsome in the picture. Most of my relatives thought the same and since then I have always been asked to take pictures during family events. In all that time, I've never held an expensive camera but I knew then that I'd be happier to take pictures rather than have mine taken by others. To be honest, I never liked most of my pictures when I was younger and none of them made me felt I was handsome in some way. My first acquaintance with an SLR camera was in high school. I had a friend who has a Canon (can't remember what model) and it looked very professional to me especially when I looked through the lens via the viewfinder. It was incredible to see things get in and out of focus as I turned the lens' focusing ring. I never had the chance to see the pictures he took but his camera reminded me of reporters I saw in movies. I said to myself, "If I am to call myself a photographer, this is the kind of camera I should have."

My main camera at the moment. Canon EOS 20D shown here fitted with a Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens. Photo by Patrick Hocchuan.
So, for my birthday, I asked my parents to buy me my own camera as a present. I said I want one with the interchangeable lenses. My parents are very accommodating and I knew in their heart that they would love to give me one, but like I said in "My Peter Pan Syndrome", we were not rich and an SLR is just one of those expensive, unaffordable toys I was asking for. But they did have me a camera. It was Ricoh 35 EFL. It was not what I expected. The whole thing was made of plastic (but it's alright), it had built-in flash, manual focus lens (since the viewfinder is not thru-the-lens, you can't see whether your subject is in focus or not so it required some skills in judging distance accurately) aperture control, a light meter - and it uses 35mm film. Great! That's professional enough for me. All those manual controls helped me a lot. For instance, I first learned of the concept of aperture / shutter speed combination from reading books during my weekly visit to National or Goodwill Bookstore back then. I would always go to photography books section and read whatever book was not wrapped in plastic. Although I learned, it was all theoretical and did not understood very much what it really was. With my all manual camera, I got to understand what the books were trying to tell.

They say that beautiful women are the reason why so many young men are drawn to photography. Photo by Patrick Hocchuan.
At one time, I thought that the beautiful girls are the reasons why I really got hooked up into photography. I remember a classmate / friend of mine in 4th year high school telling me that she wanted some nice pictures of her and her friend from another section so she asked if I could go with them one time and take their pictures. She said, they'd pay for the film and will take care of developing/printing. Of course I said yes. It was about living a dream and she and her friend were both absolutely gorgeous. The photos turned out really nice and we were all very happy about it. That was my very first photo shoot assignment, ever. Not long after that, my friend's friend and I dated and fell in love. She was my first kiss, first embrace and first love. So other than nice pictures, I would say that photography did brought me much, much more. In college, I chose to study architecture (which will be the topic of my next post). A very expensive 5-years course. Due to financial constraints, again, I had to put my photography experiments on hold. Back then, I did not see photography as a serious professional career as architecture is so giving it up in favour of the other was not that difficult. I have no regrets with the choice I made because nowadays, I have the luxury of doing both. But if I have to make the same choice today, I'm sure that it's going to be a very tough one to make. I love both architecture and photography so I hope I do not ever have to make that choice again.

I shoot any subject that I find interesting. Photo by Patrick Hocchuan.
Since graduation from college, my passion in photography slowly crept back in and has purchased several cameras out of my own income. The first camera I bought for myself was a Minolta Dynax 500si, an SLR - the camera I've always wanted. Afterwards, I also bought a Pentax Espio compact camera for convenience. My first venture into digital photography came with a purchase of a Minolta Dimage digital compact. Not a very durable one and it broke down after I dropped it from a height of only 12". I replaced it with a Canon Powershot S30. I absolutely love that camera and in fact, after 4 years, I still use it. But I have outgrown its features. Not very long ago, I found myself in a position where I can now afford to buy a DSLR so I bought a Canon EOS 20D along with 3 Canon EF lenses and a few other accessories that could fit in the gadget bag. And lately, I bought a SonyEricsson K800i Cyber-shot cameraphone. Not a full-blooded camera, but it has the heritage of a camera manufacturer (I have come to recognize Sony as one) so I now have a camera in my pocket virtually anytime, anywhere. Advances in technology has made me even more hooked up in photography and I am now addicted with both photography and sharing my photos in a photo sharing website called flickr.
A street kid happy to see his photo instantly. Baywalk, Manila, Philippines. Photo by Andrew Villasis.
Will I ever someday lose interest in photography? A former schoolmate told me once thru Yahoo! Groups FEU High School Batch 1984-1985 that the reason I love to take pictures is that I appreciate the world God created around me. In many ways, she’s right and for that reason, I don’t think this addiction will stop.
Will I buy another camera in the near future? My Canon EOS 20D's shutter has a life expectancy of about 100,000 shots. With the way I'm shooting, that would last for about 30 to 37 years. Unless new technology renders this camera obsolete before then or the next generation of cameras proves to be very compelling, I intend to wear down my EOS 20D very well and use up all 100,000 shots.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Bulalo at Florian Cafe

Florian Cafe, Filipino food in a French restaurant.

It's rather strange at first because you'd never expect a popular Filipino dish in a French themed restaurant.

Bulalo is beef leg (meat, bone and bone marrow included) boiled with garnish until the meat is tender. Florian Cafe originally started as a French themed restaurant. However, realizing the growing competition from other restaurants with nearly the same offering they decided to diversify. They must have recognized the significant size of the Filipino community in Qatar and the shortage of decent Filipino restaurants that they got the idea of offering Filipino cuisine as well. Nowadays, depending on the customer who come in, they would usually offer one of their two menus - the French cuisine menu to everyone else and the Filipino cuisine menu to Filipino customers. Filipinos come here for Filipino food anyway. But one can always ask for the French menu if one wishes to.
The Filipino menu consist of the ordinary food - tapsilog, daing na bangus, fried chicken, chopsuey, pansit canton to name a few - none of the more complicated dishes like kare-kare, palabok or paella. And no pork dishes. Anyway, people come here mostly for the two specialties which are bulalo and sinigang (both beef) available alternately each day. In other words, if bulalo is available today, sinigang is not but will be available tomorrow.
Today, I had lunch at Florian Cafe with a colleague and bulalo happened to be the one that's available. The bowl is very large and one order is suitable for two people to share (which me and my colleague did) or for one big eater. To me, the broth is what I'm paying for - absolutely delicious. The nicely cooked cabbage as garnish, the tender meat, the bone marrow; they're all secondary to me. The broth alone will do.
Bulalo at Florian Cafe
A bulalo meal includes a plate of rice and a softdrink of your choice which costs QR 20 (US$ 5.48 / PHP 280). I said I shared this with my colleague so we ordered an additional plate of rice and one more softdrink. That cost an additional QR 9 (US$ 2.46 / PHP 126) which I think is rather expensive.
If you (Filipinos) ever come to Doha, if it's your first time ever in the Middle East and if the local food tastes too alien to you, Florian Cafe is the place to go.
Florian Cafe is located at the 3rd Floor of the City Center Mall, Doha, Qatar.
*All photos taken with a Sony Ericsson K800i Cyber-shot.

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