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Jewelmer: A Short Primer on the South Sea Golden Pearl

On the geeky side: I’m using the new Samson Go Mic to record the voice over for this short amateur documentary. It’s an amazing device for PHP 2,300.00. It’s small, lighr and super affordable and can very well replace your professional USB studio mic if you aren’t too meticulous.

Transcript and photos follow.

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DIVE AND SHOOT: Tourism! Underwater Photo Contests! Growing SCUBA Community!

I found this Moray Eel peeping from the hard coral while shooting for an underwater segment of Born to be Wild | Dive 7000 Resort, Anilao | January 2011.

Dammit! I live in such a beautiful country! :) Anna Oposa would agree.

Last week our underwater photography dive group (check us out at NUDI.PH and our more active Facebook group at FACEBOOK.NUDI.PH) got together once again for an evening of friendly competition. Yep, this happens once a month, and we all meet up, realizing that most of us have day jobs. Heh!
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Geek Orgasm Trifecta: Sandy Bridge. Portal 2. Sixense Motion Sticks

Sandy Bridge. Portal 2. Sixense motion controllers.

Several months ago, a friend showed me some benchmark tests for the new Sandy Bridge video cards. You see, about two years ago, desktops — and even laptops would be equipped with what I would call “poor excuses” for video cards. They sucked. And this would always require card manufacturers like NVIDIA and ATI to sell you a dedicated graphics card. You could get decent ones between PHP 3,000.00 – PHP 6,000.00. Times have changed. Intel’s latest Core processors (they’re really pushing the mid-range Core i5) have video cards that outperform some of today’s current high end GPU’s. In other words, if you buy one of these processors for your new rig, you will need to buy a video card above PHP 10,000.00 else you’ll just have redundant hardware.

In the video above, we have a guy from Sixense playing Portal 2 on a dedicated Core i5 graphics chip. He’s using the new motion sense sticks (basically your PC is now a Wii) to play.

Bottomline: I can finally justify spending for a Core-based processor. It’s like I’m spending for both the processor and the video card.

Portal 2. Awesome.

When gaming respected you: a pseudo-rant

I finished Dead Space 2 on the PC a few weeks ago. I would have finished it sooner, but I was playing this in tandem with The Witcher, which is now easily in my “Games You Should Play Before You Die” list. Other games in this list include Final Fantasy VII (or III if you have the Japanese version), The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Baldur’s Gate, Deus Ex, and Chrono Trigger. I digress.

The former is sci-fi horror, the latter fantasy role playing. Both have won numerous accolades: the former for its gore (see video above) and the latter a “2007 Game of the Year” award (to be fair, The Witcher is based on a rich series of books-turned movie by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski).

As I browse through the catalogue of upcoming games, online reviews and YouTube walkthroughs, I can’t help but agree with a common observation from old school gamers such as myself who grew up playing text-input adventure games such as Police Quest and Zack McKraken: we’ve been dominated with too many first person shooters — dominated to such an extent that the gaming industry demands shorter developing times, thus dumbing down the total single player experience and making up for it with online multiplayer. Case in point:

In the video above, we go through the COD: Black Ops stage on HARDENED difficulty without firing a single bullet. HUGE REALIZATION: You think you’re being challenged but you’re actually in one huge cinematic. You’re being taken for a ride. The industry think you’re stupid.

In the video below, Tbiscuit demonstrates a similar rant with the single player version of Homefront.

I have nothing against the genre per se. In fact, games like Call of Duty, the ‘Battlefield’ franchise and Bulletstorm (“Dick!”) have really helped the industry further mature. OK maybe not Bulletstorm. But my point remains.

I just got my copy of Dragon Age II. Part I (Dragon Age: Origins) did really well: it brought back the roots of what made gaming respectable: an award winning story, a lot of customization, strategy. The list goes on. The game respected the player and you could really immerse yourself in what seemed like a real world. With today’s shooters, well .. it’s almost like the same thing over and over again: watch cinematic, aim down sight, kill the enemy, get hit, hide behind a box while you regenerate to full life … if you play these games, you know the drill. Dragon Age II was weighed in to be a rushed job, dumbed down, combat-centric work of art. It speaks of the industry.

Somehow I get the feeling that the mainstream gaming industry has been bitten by the sad realities of business models that rely on faster release dates, half-hearted sequels, “promo items” and “special editions” which in truth don’t add much value to gaming at all. In truth, the now big publishers may not even know what gamers really want anymore.

I don’t know. I’m probably ranting. But I do state my case that when games that aren’t like Modern Warfare are released, I take a keener interest: And yeah, Dead Space 2 — I enjoyed the gore and the horror.

Going paperless with press releases

This March 26, the world celebrates Earth Hour. At its worst, it is a commercialized gimmick to make us feel like we’re really doing something for the environment. At its best, it can be a means for a society to achieve greater things and effect real change. This 2011, Earth Hour’s theme is all about “Going Beyond the Hour.”

As a media person for both print and online publications, I have noticed that there is one behavior in the PR industry that hasn’t evolved well into the digital age: the giving away of physical press releases during events. It comes with no secret that a good number of people in the media prefer digital copies of press releases and photos emailed to them since actual physical copies merely take up space and contribute to clutter. My room is filled with such envelopes, folders and press releases that I recycle them as scratch paper. Eek, what a waste!

In today’s media, we merely email the material to the editor in charge, which in turn gets sent to the graphic artist, which then gets copy+pasted into the layout (which is also most publications prefer text in .rtf format FYI).

At a time when we have the means to use more effective ways to send data through the Internet, maybe we should revisit the practice of PR material, limiting the physical and going full on digital.

I have talked to a number of (current and former) PR practitioners and they give me two sides:

a. It does not cost a lot to print these press releases so it should be an easy thing to transition towards.

b. Agencies add printing of PR material as part of their cost to clients as a way of making additional money.

To address letter B , maybe an agency could still charge the same amount and use the allocation to fund a “green” campaign in the office. Or something. Anything!

To transition to digital, there are so many ways you can ensure that your press release gets sent and published.

Scribd
Scribd is the “YouTube of documents.” Instead of sending the press release via email to online publishers, why not upload the PR material onto Scribd.com and send the embed link to your online publication contacts. That way, all they need to do is copy+paste the link onto their sites. As an addded bonus, you will also be able to monitor statistics / views.

YouSendIt / SendSpace
These are two good services to use if you are sending big files. Sending huge files via email can choke your server. These 2 services allow you to send files below 100MB for free (SendSpace allows up to 300MB) to anybody via an email download link. This is YouSendIt. This is SendSpace.

Dropbox
For the more creative, you can also start a Dropbox group. Dropbox is perhaps the most efficient way of sharing files within a group. When you sign up (it’s free!), you get about 2GB worth of space and you can share folders with other Dropbox users. Since the service also works on your desktop, you can simply drag and drop files to your Dropbox folder (i.e. “tech media”) and the files automatically sync with the folders of everyone in your list.

These are but three ways PR practitioners can transition to more effective ways of delivering their releases. It isn’t just about “doing our part” — it’s also more about being effective. Think of the paper you’d save and think of a more effective way of delivery! If you have any suggestions on how this can be improved, do chime in! If you like this idea, share it with others! :)

Date a girl who blogs

UPDATE: Date a girl who blogs is now part of a NY-based theater performance by Lively Productions

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Date a girl who blogs. Date a girl who finds solace in sharing her most private letters to the noises of the world. She has a rhythm to the writing, as the sounds — the tap-tap-tapping — are touched with every bit of emotion she can muster. She’s writing, ignoring the 9% battery warning as she tries to add a little more perspective to your world.

Date a girl who blogs. Find her that new restaurant and wait for her, patiently, as she skims through the menu, to cherish the Serifs and italics of the posh, and the Arials and doodles of the diner. Watch her order, and question the waiter, and then the head chef to hear a story you’ve never cared to hear before. You will learn. Watch her envelop her tongue at the morsel awaiting judgement, then chew, her face barely betraying a smile as she takes down notes on a torn paper napkin. She forgot her notebook. Buy her one. And seal it with the URL of your new blog.

Today she’s doing more than just writing. She’s moving the widgets, repositioning the ads and maybe doing a bit of SEO. Help her. Buy her a new domain — buy it for 3 years with a promo code — and then maybe configure a forwarding email address, because you know deep down that self-hosted email servers are a thing of the past.

Share her posts on Facebook. Like them. Create a hashtag for your affection to her and let her come to this knowledge through the Internet, but follow through in real life. Your story deserves to be written down.

Suggest her for #FollowFriday.

Go out on dates. Let her heart open up to you and digest these memories into a single post which will be remembered in the archives of our search engines. Kiss. Change your relationship status. Kiss some more. Add her friends. You now have more mutual friends. Tag your photos together. Add her on Farmville. Harvest her farm. Poke her.

You are no longer forever alone.

Marry a girl who blogs. Propose to her by making a website with animated gifs and MIDI background music; she will show you the secret journal she’s been writing for years for you, and you alone. You will find that it comes with no ads, no links, no page rank. Only her trust rank. You will be overjoyed to read the fondness she has had of you, and realize that this, and this alone is the memory she chose to keep from her readers.

Have kids with a girl who blogs. Let her post photos and status updates about your children. Share them with your friends. You will see that she has saved everything onto a USB drive and printed the most fond ones for a real family album because the grandparents are not on the Internet.

Date a girl who blogs because she will find interestingness in the most uninteresting of things. You deserve to be interesting and that this life you live, though monotonous in its day to day is the perfect testament to why she loves you.

—————-

As inspired by Date a girl who reads and You should date an illiterate girl

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Saving Secret Bay


Baby cuttlefish (1 inch in total length) shot in Secret Bay, Anilao November 15 2010 3.34pm

Lembeh Strait in Indonesia is famed for being the best — if not one of the best sites for muck diving globally. No corals, no reef fish, no plants. Instead divers are rewarded with the most bizarre creatures in muck sites: mimic octopus, flamboyant cuttlefish, garden eels, flounders … it’s the weirdest of the weird.


Although shot in 3 locations, most of this footage was taken in Secret Bay.

Foreigners who dive Secret Bay in Anilao say that it rivals Lembeh for the best muck diving experience.

I dove Secret Bay countless times. It probably ranks as the number one site I’ve frequented in my two years of diving so I got to see some of the best it has to offer. In addition to this, Secret Bay is home to several hot spring nodes that can burn your hand underwater. Above ground, the springs are used to boil eggs for surface interval time between dives.

I recall sometime in the middle of last year one trip we made to the area. After going down to about 40 ft I noticed that the water was silted up and not just in one area but across a whole stretch. We went deeper to 70ft and still didn’t see anything — it was as if the entire area was fished out. Bad dive. We didn’t see anything save for dozens of flying gurnards which were common to the area and patches of anemone with their respective clownfish residents.

After 50 minutes of bottom time and our 3 minute safety stop we made our way up. Getting on the boat, we noticed a small argument ensuing by the shore. There were men with very wide rakes tied to ropes. We found out from our boatman on that the man was another diver reprimanding the locals for raking up the ocean floor for fish entangling everything as by-catch. It was horrid. And tense. No wonder the bottom was all silted up.


A flounder’s “one half” hiding in the sand. Taken in Secret Bay November 15 2010 3:26PM.

Maybe I’m coming from a jaded perspective as a diver who comes once in a while to enjoy the dive weekend. Maybe I can’t relate to the fishermen who need to survive their day to day. But I also cannot ignore the fact that Anilao, which more emphatic divers call AniLOVE is struggling to stay beautiful. The newly constructed Korean resort fronting Secret Bay SHOULD protect the area (and the adjacent site called Toro Point) and turn it into a marine sanctuary. Sayang.

The truth is, Anilao charges a daily PHP 100.00 dive pass for recreational divers. The pass serves as a tax for the conservation efforts.

Where does this money go to?


Diving Secret Bay (starts at 1:39) in January 2010. This was the only sighting I’ve had of a rare baby flamboyant cuttlefish.

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Last year, I was thrilled to have been chosen by Coca-Cola to become part of their Live Positively campaign for their Energy Management & Climate Protection program. After getting my open water SCUBA certification in 2009 I went all the way to disclose the beauty that lies beneath the Philippines. I have since then become a volunteer for the WWF for their coral triangle projects and now for Coca Cola. The Live Positively campaign is really more of a permanent movement that is engraved into the company’s mission more than anything.

If you would like to learn more about Coca-Cola’s Live Positively Campaign, check out their Facebook page +) .

Ok let’s talk about my finger.

OK so not a lot of you know this but my left pinky has been getting the pins and needles since August 2010. I’ve consulted a doctor about this condition and it seems to be linked to well … posture on the computer specifically while playing first person shooters and excessive typing (hence the need for a tablet). It’s not Carpal Tunnel syndrome. It’s more closely linked to Guyon’s Canal. i was a tad relieved to find out that another friend from the Internet also has a similar condition but on her feet. It’s not numb — it’s … pins and needles. It doesn’t hurt. So I was advised to take 1,000mg of Vitamin B a day, which I’ve been doing. But apart from that remedy, there are two other home remedies that seem to work: a basin with hot water and salt AND this thing that was given to me by Phiten during an event way back last year. It’s called “e-Water” and pretty much contains the muscle relaxant you find in Phiten products but in liquid form. That’s it alongside all the other pain relievers I have at home. I’m aware of Phiten being a “controversial” muscle relaxant as most consider it to be a placebo, but heck it works for me. So I’m not complaining.

I’d like to know if anyone of you have similar conditions because of the computer and how do you treat it?

This video deserves to be viral: Child cries over Mara Clara

Super cute. This little girl loves Mara Clara so much, she thinks it’s real.

Hands on with the Canon Powershot S95 Underwater

The stable of cameras at Casa Fernandez include a Nikon D40 with over 10 legacy lenses, a Canon 350D used exclusively for underwater shoots and a Panasonic Lumix LX3. So as you can see it’s really impractical for this geek to go out buying more cameras. When I saw Canon’s S90 release several months ago I snickered — not because this was a bad camera — in fact it was pretty good. But this was Canon playing catch up with Panasonic’s purely “viral” DMC-LX3. Many months later, Canon releases the Powershot S95 and I must say I’m floored with the results.

I took two cameras to Mobile World Congress but ended up using the S95 for everything because it was light and it fit into my pocket. It produced stunning images on Aperture priority (the default I use for attending conventions since I don’t have time to really care about settings) and like most cameras does really well in natural light. With the flash turned on, it seemed a bit sub-par compared to my Lumix flash, but hands down, this camera is a natural winner. If you want a compact camera that takes good photos and video, look no further. Just ask Winston.

All the photos taken at the Mobile World Congress were shot using the S95. All videos too.

If you’re choosing between a Canon G12 and the S95, you need only to consider two things: if you already own an external Canon flash and would like to use it with your point and shoot too, then you should settle for a G12. If not, get the S95.

So many blogs have reviewed the Canon S95 but it is rare to find a review of how the camera fares underwater. So here it is. The video above consists of snippets from depths between 15-40 feet (the more vivid videos) and 60-80 ft (the more “blue-ish” ones) because the deeper you go, color vanishes. Red is the first to vanish. I shot this using an Ikelite S95 casing which I borrowed from my instructor. Compared to my JVC Ikelite setup, I have nothing but envy for the S95 rig because it takes so much better video and excellent battery.

The only problem with the underwater setup is the casing: Ikelite has a design flaw with the knob used to rotate the dial to change settings. That’s why I don’t have photos: I couldn’t move the dial to enter photo mode!

I have to reiterate that this is one good camera. You won’t go wrong with this purchase. But please research price as you will find these to be much cheaper in Hidalgo than in your commercial establishments.

Driving a Ford Fiesta: How I select my favorite radio station …

I’m a happy Honda City owner. Bought it last year. I’ve been hearing news about new cars especially about the 2011 Hyundai Accent which everybody seems to love. I’ve been listening to podcasts in the USA talking about Ford’s Sync (renamed and upgraded to the MyTouch system) technology which really turns your car into a new digital ecosystem. I sent Anika Salceda-Wycoco (congratulations on newly married life!) a text asking if she has any more information about this. Nothing on My Touch yet but the Sync technology is alive in the Ford Fiesta.

I recently bought a car. If I let this go in the next 5 to 10 years this will be a ripe time to buy into the new technologies that turn your car into a real computer. The current My Touch system from Ford allows iTunes tagging, HD radio, built in WiFi, several LED screens, RSS feeds, Internet browsing and much more. If all things remain constant, Ford is definitely top of the list.

I’d like to know: does anyone own a Ford Fiesta? How is it as a car? How’s the after sales service? Is it competitive with the current offerings? I was only able to drive it for a few days but for me this wasn’t enough to form a full opinion about the car because the geeky features blew me away. :)

The irony with MWC ’11 was …

Despite being the venue for telcos and everything wireless, the irony of it all was that Internet in Barcelona was a tad crappy. I guess that’s what happens when you have 60,000 people trying to connect at the same time. You should have seen the behind the scenes — my blog posts were written in TextEdit and pasted on to WordPress when it finally loaded. I’d wait for the opportune moment for Internet to kick in (c/o trusty Menu Meters) and then press publish. Hence it was next to impossible to upload YouTube videos (I was only able to squeeze in one or two). So now that we’re back in Manila, we have over 150 videos in 24 gigs shot using two Canon S95′s. Andi and I have a bunch of vides to show so I decided to start with an appetizer…

This video is guaranteed to brighten up your crappy day

You know what would suck? If you were the next in line and the truck left. HA! But yeah this is pretty cool. It was inspired by another ‘Happiness’ video done in a school campus:

The World is Just Awesome (Boom De Yada) done WWF Philippines style

Thanks to Joanne Ignacio of WWF Philippines for sending me the raw file on Facebook. Hamilo Coast in Nasugbu, Batangas is one of the areas heavily tended by WWF Philippines for conservation projects. I had joined the WWF team before for a giant clam seeding SCUBA run in December 2009 and a crown of thorns extraction / cleanup in Hamilo in May of last year. WWF Philippines is composed of a brilliant team of visionaries. . :)

Add WWF Philippines on Facebook for several projects you may want to be involved in.

Original text from Facebook:

Chances are, you’ve already seen Discovery Channel’s “The World is Just Awesome” station ID – the one with the catchy “boom de yada” lyrics. Yes, this is the one where their hosts as well as people from different walks of life proclaim why they love the world. And, chances are, the song probably stuck around as your “Last Song Syndrome” for a couple of days.

This year, Discovery Channel is airing a different version of their popular “The World Is Just Awesome” station ID – WWF-Philippines style! Of course, our National Ambassadors Marc Nelson and Rovilson Fernandez and even staff from WWF and Hamilo got in on the action!

Thank you Discovery Channel Philippines and Hamilo Coast for helping us make this happen!

NUDI Night: Even for non-divers!

Even for non-divers!

If you’re interested in diving and photography, NUDI Night is probably something you can add to your list of to do’s. Although we’re mostly divers, we also have non-diver friends join us for our monthly meetup. If you’ve always been curious about SCUBA and have been wanting to try it out, this is a good venue to get together and meet the community of divers, instructors, dive masters and their non-diver friends. :)

So, if your Tuesday evening is still free, do drop by! There’s a small charge of PHP 500.00 to cover for food, beer and the venue.

When: Tuesday, February 22 · 7:00pm – 10:00pm
Where: Unit 217 (Closed Pavilion) 2nd Flr. LRI Design Plaza 210 N. Garcia St. (formerly Reposo St.), Bel-Air II Makati, Philippines

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