26 August 2011


My first month as an editor is nearly done.

The person I've had to edit the most is myself.

18 August 2011

Missing: Klaris Chua

Klaris was a relatively new employee, so I didn't know much about her, apart from the following:

  • She was a good writer and a pretty decent photographer.
  • She was polite to everyone in the room.
  • She often stayed late in the office to keep working.
  • She was quiet but could do a mean Up Dharma Down cover.

There are many other things I might have liked to know about her, but at the moment, I—and I guess we at the office—know just one other thing: Klaris has been missing since 07 August 2011.

Most of the details of Klaris's disappearance have been handily summarized by ABS-CBN here.

Since then, her parents have been along to the office to collect her things. We still don't know where she is or if any misfortune befell her (sana naman wala), but I hope she comes home soon.

If you've seen Klaris and have verifiable information about her whereabouts, let me know, and we'll relay it to her folks.

17 August 2011

Gmail and Thunderbird FAIL

I finally had time to go on with my project of deleting old attachments from my Gmail account and seemed to be making headway, until I noticed that something was wrong.

As I went through my old messages in Thunderbird, deleting attachments like crazy, I would keep Gmail open in my browser window also. I'm not sure how the folders in Thunderbird sync with Gmail, so I'd take breaks between batches of deletions and use Gmail's web interface to remove the newly stripped messages from my "Check Attachments" folder.

While I was doing this, I would occasionally look at the counter in the lower-left corner of the web UI. That's where it says "n% full" and "Using x MB of your y MB."

I expected these numbers to drop as I went on, but they were actually increasing. At first, I thought that it was just because I was receiving a lot of new e-mails and attachments, and I wasn't deleting old ones fast enough. Today, though, I saw the number go up (1) while I was deleting and (2) while there were no new messages for hours.

I did a quick search of a few stripped messages, and this is what I found:

For some reason, Thunderbird deletes the attachments, and then it (or Gmail; not sure which) creates a complete duplicate of the original messages with the attachments intact. So instead of reducing, the bug actually almost doubles the amount of space used by these old e-mails and files. :/

I've since filed a bug report and put this project on hold, while I go through all these e-mails and delete the duplicates one by one.

The dupes only show up in Gmail, by the way; they're not visible in Thunderbird, so add-on applications that claim to remove duplicates don't detect anything.

I've created this blog post in case anybody used my prior Gmail notes (sorry, Zoe) and they have the same problem. I'm also hoping to get the attention of someone who knows how to fix this, since within several seconds, my bug report got buried under all the new ones. :(


UPDATE: Someone responded to the bug report and said that it was likely a Gmail problem, not a Thunderbird problem. In the meantime, I've taken to this only-slightly-more-tedious way to delete old attachments:

1. Delete attachments in Thunderbird.
2. Search Gmail using the web UI for the just-stripped message.
3. Delete duplicates via the Web UI.
4. Remove stripped messages from Gmail label "CheckAttached."
3. Rinse and repeat. For ~4,500 messages with attachments.

11 August 2011

This changes things.

Of course a promotion changes things. It changes my plan, that big plan I wrote about earlier in the year: if nothing "big" happened to me career-wise or other-part-of-life-wise in Manila, this blob city, I would go home to Mindanao and see what would happen if I lived there for a while, possibly indefinitely.

Now, I find myself staring at a blank slate, erased by the two intra-office memos that got me this desk. I'm a little afraid because, while I know more or less how to keep things running smoothly here at the office, I'm no longer sure what to do once I step out of it.

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I went through a really long mopey phase—it had highs and lows, but even the highs were still on the mopey side of the emotional graph. I wanted permanence, and I somehow thought that it could take the form of a decent apartment (in Singapore, if possible) and an everyday life with Martin, and because I wasn't at the point where I could have either of these things, I stewed and stewed and stewed.

Then something Martin said made me ask if there wasn't something permanent, some rock I couldn't hold onto, already inside myself. It sounds really cheesy, but that's what got me out of my rut after more than a year. Since then, I've been able to enjoy work more, enjoy the present more, and generally stop worrying about whether I would get the future I wanted. Any answers to questions about the near future, at least, seemed to just magically click into place.

So once I was told I'd soon be promoted, they went on—click, click, click: I should be able to afford an apartment—a real one, not a boarder's room where I have to keep the microwave on the floor—once they adjust my salary. In another year, I'll start applying to grad school and working on a master's in development comm. or research. And once that's done—and Martin's done—I can start thinking about what happens next. But even if none of that happens, I'm fine with the way things are and will just take things as they come.

I could have gone on with this plan, and gone on not worrying, were it not for a couple of idle chats with officemates, benignly comparing stories of what led us to where we are now. And now, I find myself returning to these questions: Who did I want to be then? Am I that person now? Do I still want to be that person? If not, who do I want to be? Will things really be better with an apartment? Do I really want a master's in those fields? I feel happy; happier than I've been in months, maybe a year—What if that's an illusion? What if my books, my crafts, the Internet, and my boyfriend are just a distraction? What if "enjoying the present" is just pretending that there's no reason for me to strive?

If Martin were here now, he'd probably tell me that I'm overthinking things and being too hard on myself again (it seems to be a sickness with me), and he'd probably be right. Maybe I'm just shocked that I haven't asked questions like these in a while.

I feel like kicking myself, really. Why did I have to ask? Now that it's done, I know I'll lose sleep and happiness points looking for answers. Why couldn't I have just let myself be happy, however deluded that might have been?

I'm terrified now, though not so much by not finding answers as by finding myself back in the doldrums. I never want to go back there. Maybe I'm not sure who I want to be, but it sure as hell isn't that sad person.

Ha. Maybe that's something for me to hang onto, while I'm trying to reestablish my bearings; maybe just knowing what made things so bad for me will help me avoid that awful state again.

I guess we'll see.

10 August 2011

And Another Book

"And Another Thing..." is the sixth book in Douglas Adams's "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy, written by Eoin Colfer of "Artemis Fowl" fame.

While I support fanfiction for fun, for some reason, I don't usually like the idea of someone picking up where the author left off, even if it's authorized (in this case, Mr. Adams's widow Jane Belson gave the okay). I guess I'm generally skeptical that whatever the new guy/girl does won't really measure up to the original.

This was the case with Mr. Colfer's continuation of one of my favorite book series—but it doesn't mean I didn't have a good time. Once I got over my own disdain a few pages in, I was reconnecting with characters I loved, and the storyline itself was definitely something Mr. Adams might have cooked up himself.

I have only two complaints, really, though they're related.

First, some of the characters had out-of-character moments. For instance, the series' hero Arthur kept feeling really concerned about his daughter Random. The last time I'd seen him, he was still coming to terms with the fact that he had a daughter at all, and any actions out of fatherly concern were very self-conscious—I barely know this kid who showed up on my doorstep. I'm not even sure that I like her, much less love her. For goodness's sake, she throws rocks at me. I'm only trying to connect with her / save her life because it seems like something a dad would do, but I still have to get my head around the idea that I'm a dad at all.

When he's not freaking out about something weird and spacey, and before and after Fenchurch, Arthur's default emotion is the kind of stoicism one assumes because you know that actually freaking out will only cause you even more discomfort. The way I see it, his disconnect from his daughter is partly rooted in this default mode, and partly out of the fact that he barely knows her. In this new book, though, Mr. Colfer has Arthur moaning about being about to lose his daughter half the time—hardly a week after they first met.

It might be something to do with the psychological effects of travelling through dark space*, but then Arthur spent most of that journey chatting to the computer simulation of his lost love Fenchurch, and his post - dark space epiphany had more to do with moving on from his heartbreak than it did being a good father. He spends barely any time with Random at all in this book, so the moments where he suddenly acts very fatherly feel very superficial.

Second, there's not enough Arthur to begin with. Arthur is my favorite character in the series because he's an everyman. I'd like to be Trillian the astrophysicist-turned-journalist or Fenchurch the ordinary but sweet—the only female characters who undergo anything resembling character development in the series—but it's Arthur I want to succeed, Arthur I want to find roots in a strange galaxy after losing his home planet, Arthur I want to finally have a decent cup of tea.

"And Another Thing..." gives most of the action to the other characters. These characters are less ordinary, and their choices have always propelled the story more than Arthur's, but at least Arthur was usually around to give me the lost Earthling's perspective on some of these events. This time, whatever happens to Arthur kind of just bookends the plot, and I feel the book might have been better had Mr. Colfer written more for him.

That said, I did enjoy the book, and it was funny. I'd still recommend it to other H2G2 fans with the it's-not-Adams-but-it's-fine reservations.

Also, Arthur wasn't the only character I rooted for; do keep an eye out for "utter bastard" Constant Mown.

* "For a being of light, gazing even for a moment into the heart of dark space has an effect equivalent to a dozen near-death experiences. It's the Universe's way of telling you to get on with your life. Which is a good thing if the feeling budding in a person's heart is a good feeling." – Chapter 9, "And Another Thing...", by Eoin Colfer

Philippine Prudential's Shady Selling Tactics

Yesterday afternoon, I got this text:
FINAL NOTIFICATION: Gud day! Ds s Ms..SHIELA REYES,, from PHIL.PRUDENTIAL Claiming Area,Ur 3 REWARDS and PRIVILEGES For Free are still here n our ofs.U need to Claim and Activate TODAY because the management will finalize all the records of our recipients who don't claim their rewards. For your claiming code w/u will need to present upon claiming;you may call exclusively in our makati ofs from: 9am to 5pm for further information. Tel.(02)7551532 upon receipt of this msg.Many Thanks and GodBless! (DISREGARD IF CLAIMED)
I'm extremely suspicious of strangers who text or call me, especially if they're trying to sell me something. This message I got from Ms. Reyes (+639486506960) sounded especially scammy. "FINAL NOTIFICATION"? This was the first time I'd ever heard I'd won anything from Philippine Prudential*; how could it be the final one?

The first thing I did was to google the landline number, and it turned out to be legit. This contact page for Phil. Prudential was the third search result—and the first two were about a kind of scam.

I thought then that the scammers might be using Phil. Prudential's real contact number to trick people into thinking they were the real deal. When I tried calling the number just to verify whether it really belonged to Phil. Prudential, it just rang and rang; nobody picked up.

But after sifting through some confusing posts, I finally managed to dig this up from New Media Philippines's blog: The Philippine Prudential Life Plans "Scam"?. I suggest you read that post and the horror stories in the reader comments first, but they seem pretty clear: the text I received is a selling tactic actually used by the company to get people to listen to their sales talks.

Enticed by the idea of prizes, people call the numbers or go to the offices and end up sitting through hours of spiels, after which they often buy an insurance policy out of sheer fatigue (I sat through all that; there must be something I can get out of this), confusion (Wait, so that paper you made me sign says you can take things out of my credit card account?) or gullibility (Can I have my prize now?). And if they want their money back, they have to battle unhelpful and even deceptive customer service agents before they can fully back out of the whole thing.

ABS-CBN did an expose on this scheme, and New Media embedded the clips at the bottom of their post. Unfortunately, a rep from ABS-CBN is carrying out a takedown campaign, so I wasn't able to watch the first one. In the second one, though, there's a rep from the Insurance Commission who describes the whole thing as "deceptive marketing." He also said that if the company continued to "tolerate" these sales practices, the commission might issue a cease-and-desist order.

The clips were uploaded in December, though, so it's been about eight or nine months. Considering that I got the text yesterday, these practices are still going on, and people are probably still getting duped.

Phil. Prudential is still registered with the Insurance Commission and still has a certificate of authority for the year. The company released this official statement after the ABS-CBN documentary came out, and the company opted to focus on one disgruntled customer and their awards, while ignoring all the angry consumers who've taken to ranting online. There's also this terribly written looks-like-a-blog-post-but-smells-like-poorly-done-damage-control text that's getting regurgitated by online content farms.

I think this whole thing is less a scam (i.e. a ploy to sucker people into paying for nonexistent or snake oil products) than it is a really aggressive and deceptive sales approach tied to really awful customer service.

At this point, though, I don't care whether they're a real company or if their products are actually any good. I'm definitely not answering Ms. Reyes's text.

* As if to add to the confusion, Philippine Prudential Life Insurance Company (PPLIC; referred to in this post as Phil. Prudential) shares similar names with Prudentialife Plans, Inc.; Pru Life Insurance Corp. of UK (Pru Life UK); and Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. Doesn't the Securities and Exchange Commission have rules on this? :/

09 August 2011


This is me a few months ago, making my best T-Rex face with my cousin Trixi.
This is not the face one makes if they are about to become editor and would like to come off as mature and respectable.
Of course, I hadn't known I was going to become editor at the time I made that face. It's also possible that I would have made that face anyway, though I know for a fact that I didn't.
Here's hoping I don't make my predecessor regret her decision. :D

04 August 2011

30 Days of Books: Honorable Mentions

After a while, I started to get tired of that 30 Days of Books meme. I kept mentioning the same books and authors over and over because they seemed the best fit for those categories, but that meant not writing about a lot of other books that I've also enjoyed. It also seemed really limited to YA books or books I'd read growing up, because those still have the strongest memories.

So, here's a list of some books I've read in the last two or three years, plus the categories I'd invent just for them.

"A Visit From the Goon Squad," by Jennifer Egan
A trendy book I liked more than I thought I would (I loved it)

"The Martian Chronicles," by Ray Bradbury
Favorite short story anthology

"The Lathe of Heaven," by Ursula K. Le Guin
Sci-fi novel I wish I could emulate

"White Oleander," by Janet Fitch
Realistic novel I wish I could emulate / A book that reminds me of a place from my childhood (California)

"Persepolis," by Marjane Satrapi
A book that makes me homesick

"Einstein's Dreams," by Alan Lightman
Framework I wish I could pull off

"Shopgirl," by Steve Martin
A book that exceeded my expectations / Favorite melancholy book

"The Napoleon of Notting Hill," by GK Chesterton
Favorite old fantasy

"The Lady or the Tiger, and Other Short Stories," by Frank R. Stockton
A book I'm saving for my children (one of many, really)

"Good Omens," by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Favorite religion-related book / A book that reminds me of childhood

"The Little Prince," by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
A book that helps keep me in check

"The Know-It-All" and "The Year of Living Biblically," both by AJ Jacobs
Favorite contemporary autobiographies / Books in the style I'd probably use if I ever got around to writing an autobiography

"Stargirl," by Jerry Spinelli
Protagonist I wished I was more like as a teenager

"Shabanu" and "Haveli," both by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Favorite YA realistic fiction

"Brief Lives," by Neil Gaiman
Favorite graphic novel in a series of graphic novels

"Ang Mundo ni Andong Agimat," by Arnold Arre
Graphic novel I wish I could emulate

"The Graveyard Book," by Neil Gaiman
Favorite YA book that I first read after I'd already turned 20