-a sour soup. a distinct Filipino comfort food for the soul. as unique as its people. as diverse as its culture. a blend of ingredients prepared to its sour perfection, exciting the palate, soothing the nerves, rousing the senses, bringing back memories of scenic greens, warm sun, blue waters, and the solace of home.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Welcome 2008!

Just sharing some snow your way...
am still dressing up my new homepage in Wordpress! It will be up very soon... :-)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Holiday Cheers... With Food, Food, Food!

What do you most look forward to this Christmas/Holiday? That's the question I asked in my mini poll. Survey says: It's food, food, food! tallied at 66%. Why, am I not surprised?! Food is a major factor in what makes a great holiday! It can make or break the entire occasion!

In the Philippines, we go all out by serving good ham and fine aged cheese and other special foodie. Then there's whole roasted pork or a heavy heaping of roasted calf and some other Filipino delicacies. In the US, well some also have the good ham and special cheese, or the good ol' turkey! (not again, we just had it on Thanksgiving day!) and then a mix of Italian, American, Asian, Mediterranean and other cuisine.

Second o
ff in a tie at 52% is exchange gifts galore and Christmas / year end sales! Hmmm, are we really commercializing even the most glorious of celebrations, the birth of Christ? This is asking the Christians of course, including me! Just a thought to ponder...

And what do you know, the reunion with family comes in only at third with 47%! Priorities, priorities, priorities...

Last but not the least, huh, holiday? what holiday? with 19% of the total votes. Well, Christmas really is a religious Christian holiday and for non-Christians, it is nothing but any other day and for most, just a holiday off away from work. For some, it is just the celebration of the commercial aspect of it. That's nothing to be surprised about.

Like here in America where people are so diverse with different beliefs, it is imperative that everyone has an open mind that not everyone share the same meaning of Christmas as the other. So much so that some States actually have an unwritten law in commercial places like offices and retail stores to NOT greet people you don't know with Merry Christmas so as NOT to offend them but rather, greet them simply with Happy Holidays!

In a Christian nation like the Philippines, it may come almost as a shock to hear that one would be offended when being greeted with Merry Christmas! We almost always assume that everyone is Christian so it's ok to say it. Yet, if we look deeper, if we're not sure if the person we're greeting is a Christian or not- don't you think it is best and polite to simply say: Happy Holidays! instead of Merry Christmas? Just another thought...

On a different note:

Between now and the new year, I will be officially moving my blog to Wordpress, getting my own domain and the works! I'm really getting sick and bored here in Blogger.
I need change. Change should be good.

The shift would be a major challenge for me though as Wordpress is way different than Blogger but I already did it with my other site, The Postcard Collector. What a pain that was! Nonetheless, should be worth it in the long run.

With that said, you might be getting error messages or something like, the page can't be found or something. The new site may even be unreachable. Bear with me. Know that I'm doing my all to make the transition as smooth as possible for me and you. Please come back again and don't be a stranger here! Thanks!

I'd like to leave everyone with a note here :-)

© 2007

Monday, December 17, 2007

Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness, 12-17-2007

I've been seeing the campaign for weeks, calling all bloggers to unite for acts of kindness to do offline and blogging about it thru words, pictures or videos. Today, December 17th is the day to tell the world about the good deed done.

I wanted to be a part of it but I wasn't sure until late last week that I was joining because I didn't know what to do. For sure I wanted it to be something meaningful yet something I've never done before.

I attended a Christmas party last weekend and I met someone who belonged to a Filipino non-profit organization here in Massachusetts, Bagong Kulturang Pinoy, Inc. whose main mission is to spread children literacy through books in poverty-stricken areas in the Philippines. Their slogan is: Helping Filipino children read their way out of poverty. The history of the organization is inspiring. It spurred from a simple idea of one person wanting to give something back to her community in the Philippines. From putting up one mini-library, now 10 years later it is supporting 100 libraries (still says 90 on the website) and counting- with 80,000 books sent out each year benefiting thousands of kids who eventually become habitual readers.

I got into real good talking with her and showed my interest about the program. We exchanged contact information and told her that I'm willing to volunteer anytime they need a hand. I got an email on Monday asking me if I wanted to come for Saturday, December 15 to help out. I didn't think twice and said yes right away! I drove for an hour to get to the place, in the cold Saturday and with snow from the days before. I get to the place and spent a very good afternoon with very nice people whom I was meeting for the first time. They took me like a friend and I helped stamping out each book (labeling that it came from here), sorting them out and placing them in the famous, distinctly Filipino Balikbayan boxes (care package).

Having had 'training' in stuffing just about anything to put in my own Balikbayan boxes I sent out each year for my family back home, they commented how good my packing was making sure every inch of space is utilized and not an air left to breathe inside the boxes. They said I was able to put the books that could have gone in three boxes to fit into one! That was an exaggeration I think but I was pleased they were happy with my work.

We finished packing 8 huge boxes containing hundreds of books by the time we were done! The books are going to 6 different mini-libraries in the Philippines and I can imagine how excited the kids will be once they see the various selections we've included on the boxes. This is the kind of thing one would find fulfilling because you can actually see the work in action. You know that every book you donate and ship, kids back home will read and treasure the opportunity because having books in depressed areas in the Philippines is a luxury. It doesn't come by very often.

I went home with an utterly light feeling and with a smile on my face! It feels so good when you're doing an act of kindness especially if it's something not planned and sort of just happened. I never knew such a Filipino organization existed here in Massachusetts. Now, I am hooked! I am going to continue volunteering for this great mission and I promised to visit one of their mini-libraries in the Philippines on my vacation in early 2008 so I could report on its progress. This has truly been an opener. I have been helping in my own little way to give something back to my home country and I just added another one that truly is making a difference in the lives of children in the Philippines. What a way to start my holiday, volunteering and spreading the good cheers around!

Note: I encourage you to visit the Bagong Kulturang Pinoy website to learn more about the organization. Just reading through the different programs and how they're impacting the lives of poor kids in the Philippines is amazing. Perhaps you may even find it uplifting to share some books or make financial contributions. Help is always needed in whatever form. © 2007

Did you blog about Bloggers Unite: Acts of Kindness? Leave your URL here so we can visit your site! Don't forget to leave a note :-)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Are You a Do Follow Blogger Yet?

I chanced upon the term "do follow" about a month ago and I'm quite surprised that it hasn't really taken off when I found the whole idea 'nonconforming' and even defiant of Google! I embraced the concept instantaneously!

My previous post here has been about my growing discontent with Google in general and Blogger in particular. Google launched the "rel=nofollow" tag in early 2005 to combat spamming in blogs. Major search engines like Yahoo and MSN liked the bit so they followed suit. It was initially seen as a great idea because really, spamming has become uncontrollable at that time.

What is the rel=nofollow tag?

Rel=nofollow according to wikipedia
, "is a non-standard HTML attribute value used to instruct search engines that a hyperlink should not influence the link target's ranking in the search engine's index. It is intended to reduce the effectiveness of certain types of search engine spam, thereby improving the quality of search engine results and preventing spamdexing from occurring in the first place."

Simply put, the rel=nofollow tag aims to blacklist spam comments left on message boards, forums and blogs. Spam comments are comments with no relevance to what the post is all about and is usually just a link URL pointing you to a site selling or promoting something- unfortunately, most sites are of obscene nature. Spammers come in huge numbers and it is a pain to remove the comments one by one when they come by the hundreds in your various posts. Blogs where the comment moderation is turned off are the ones mainly targeted.

Why do spammers love to spam blogs?

The reason is simple. Blogs have a wide, diverse audience and usually has huge content. Most blogs also have strong PageRanks (another Google owned trademark!) and spammers want to benefit from that. When you link with a blog, search engines crawl that link and will consider that link almost as important when attached to a page that has a PageRank. So then when one is searching for something and that blog shows up, most likely that spam comment will show up in search engines as well.

With the rel=nofollow tag attached to a template by default, spam comments WILL NOT be indexed by Google or other search engines thereby will be ignored by the search engines and will have no value at all whatsoever. It render t
he comments totally useless from a search engine's point of view.

Now you see where I am driving at here.

While the objective is firstly seen as a deterrent for spamming, it is not totally beneficial to any blogger who cares about its readers and its blog's ranking because the search engines CAN NOT determine what a spam comment is from a legitimate comment. What it does is totally ignore all comments- legit or not!

With the rel=nofollow tag on, the reader's comments are never included when search engines rank a page's importance. So from the standpoint of PageRanking, the blogger gets nothing from the comment and the commenter gets not
hing back. It's a dead end for both.

Is Do Follow the answer to rel=nofollow?

I strongly believe it is! Do Follow, writes a supporter, "is an action or a step a blogger initiates to remove the attribute rel=”nofollow” in its blog codes, either by installing a plug-in: Wordpress plugin or this Wordpress plugin, or manually for blogspot and for movable type. Most bloggers would refer to it as a campaign or a movement against rel=nofollow."

Google does not prohibit one from removing the nofollow tag. It is therefore a choice we can make. I choose to reward my readers for taking the time to comment on my posts. Personally, I only try to leave comments now to blogs that support Do Follow. We all are busy people and there are millions of blogs out there. It's impossible for us to visit all of these blogs so why not just visit the ones that will also benefit us in some way? I'd like to be able to give that to my readers and perhaps may encourage them to leave a comment knowing that their URL link will be counted by google and other search engines.

I've read that even with the rel=nofollow tag on, spammers are still out there! It doesn't stop them from doing what they're doing. So why not remove the nofollow tag to benefit us and our readers?

Blogs have other ways of fighting spams now like entering a word or sets of letters and numbers before submitting a comment or just having to enter information manually and clicking submit; these are moves a spam-robot can't do automatically hence preventing the spam from occurring. One can also turn on the comments moderation to filter comments before appearing and going live on your site. I like the idea of comment moderation because it gives me control over what's going to be attached to my site before it hits the blogosphere! I have had a small number of spam comments which I'm truly thankful moderation is on since the comments were nothing but objectionable links leading you to lewd sites!

Again, I think every blogger should make a choice and support Do Follow. It's a win-win and the benefits definitely outweigh Google's reason- that of punishing spammers. Why would we punish OUR readers?!

(Now is a great time to become a Do Follow blogger. Rob from Blogs that Follow whom I met on Blog Catalog and MyBloglog and whom I've exchanged a few emails with on the subject, is giving out Grey's Anatomy 2008 calendars to bloggers who become Do Follow supporters! Kindly visit their website to know more about the ongoing promo.)

© 2007

Friday, December 07, 2007

What HaloScan Wouldn't Tell Us! Please Pass!!

Ok, I was just raving about Haloscan on my last post. Now, I am going to rant about them!!

1. They imperceptibly cover the fact that when you install Haloscan, all your old comments will not show and will not be integrated with the new one!

Although the comments are not deleted and still with Blogger, it's not showing! Their excuse,
"Unfortunately HaloScan cannot read the Blogger system to access any of the comments left using the Blogger commenting system. You should be aware of this before installing HaloScan."

No I wasn't aware of it because the stupid warning is located somewhere in their HELP section. Why would I go to Help when they had me sold from their convincing ad upfront and all you can see on your member's page after signing up is this:

Wouldn't they be more credible if they placed the disclaimer just underneath that like: Warning: Please read before installing Haloscan. Even on their Install page itself, a warning or disclaimer couldn't be found! Isn't that trying to be deceptive?

2. Haloscan's annoying solution to the above is a code you can enter that no matter how and where I put it, doesn't work!

I found the code on their forum and there are many versions of it from people trying to find a workaround. So one help leads you to one page, and another goes to another page- until you get dizzy from all the alien codes and confusing instructions.The thing is placing the code VARIES from template to template and the more mashed up your template is, the harder to find where you're supposed to place it! I somewhat fall on that category! I just wasted an hour of my life trying to figure out something that doesn't work on my template!

3. The comments are archived after four months! So you will no longer have access to it beyond that point.

That statement is unclear and vague because I just read that on their forum and Haloscan does not make any formal statement about it which to me is another way of being cunning! This important thing plus the disclaimer should be among the ones you see prior to installing. Of course they won't tell you because they want to draw you in! I feel like a fool!

Some say you won't get access to it BUT it is still there on your comments page. With not being able to access, it just means you can't edit or delete it anymore after such time. BUT then it could also mean that it will be gone forever on your comments page after four months! No one knows for sure because Haloscan evades the question and does not address it formally.

4. They have a $12.00 PER year upgrade which supposedly will help you solve some if not all of the above issues!

Who the heck wants to pay $12.00 a year for something like a comments page? I've got enough bills to shoulder on my internet hobbies- I don't need another annual expense to add!

I am Back to my stinky blogger comments page!

Sob. Sob. Sob. For a while there, I thought I outsmarted Google!!! Haloscan has really some neat features like managing trackbacks and being able to put images on the comments page!! I apologize my dear readers for jumping on a quick solution to my Blogger woes and worse, I encouraged you to do the same!! Please help me disseminate
that this is now: INSTALL HALOSCAN WITH CAUTION. I think it may work for those willing to pay $12.00 for an upgrade and those who are starting to blog- meaning no comments yet to deal with from Blogger.

The good news is: it is also such a breeze to go back to your old template!! I'm assuming when Haloscan asked you to back up your old template that you did!! Please tell me you did because going back to your previous one is so easy!

Go to your Template and then edit HTML. Click Expand widget template.
Upload a template from a file on your hard drive. Browse on the template and hit Upload. Save it and your done!

Cut and paste the new comments you received from Haloscan. Enter manually to the stinky Blogger comments page. You're done.

I AM NOT HAPPY about all these and I am seriously considering moving to Wordpress. Wordpress bloggers seem to be happier bloggers! Perhaps, I'll do that as part of my new year's resolution. My issue on moving is that I have to change URL and resubmit my new URL to the world again!! And then I'd have to figure out Wordpress itself. It seem like a complicated platform and something totally new territory for me! We'll see. Maybe Google will be a little bit better in a month! I doubt it...

Wordpress users, would you tell this Blogger user how easy Wordpress is? I need encouragement! LOL

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Sneaky Google How Could You Do This To Blogger?!

Related Post: What Haloscan Wouldn't Tell Us! Please Pass!!
Update at the end of the article. 11 December 2007
Update at the end of article. 13 December 2007

I've loved Google and all its products from the very beginning. I think they're far superior in Search than any other search engines. When they introduced gmail, I was among the first to use it as a secondary email though I still keep Yahoo!Mail as my primary just because I've used it forever and it's a hassle to shift things.

They developed Picasa- a photo organizing and editing tool and I use it all the time for quick editing of my photos. I have been using their toolbar even before Mozilla Firefox partnered with them as the browser's default search engine! I use Google adsense for all my blogs and sites. I prefer Google checkout when shopping! I love Google Earth and I use YouTube all the time! All my internet surfing and computing involves Google in one way or another. I'm practically a walking ad for them as I always recommend Google products to my non-geek family and friends.

The recent events with Blogger however, makes me rethink if Google actually deserves all my adulation and support! First, Google placed the "rel=nofollow" tag in our templates as default so every comment we get goes nowhere and just dies in our posts- meaning, the links left on the comments page would not be crawled by search engines for page ranking- rendering that comment practically useless to the person commenting! Second, it penalized sites who are doing pay per post and those selling text links in terms of their page rank. I don't do both so I'm not really affected by it. My website is also only 2 months old for me to even vie for a page rank!

AND NOW THIS: Google deviously and cunningly incorporated a new stupid rule they have for commenting on posts using the Blogger platform. They're making commenting almost exclusive to just Blogger readers. Other platform users like Wordpress and LiveJournal would have to contend to leaving their name either as anonymous or nickname that doesn't mean anything because there is no way of entering a URL link. Basically, non-blogger users comment wouldn't amount to anything with this kind of setup. This is discouraging for non-Blogger users obviously and makes receiving comments even harder to come by. And when we Blogger users don't do anything about it, then we probably end up with no more comments at all.

So Sneaky Google just went ahead on their own and started this thing if I'm not mistaken two days ago! Most bloggers haven't noticed this yet to react! Google didn't announce it. What were they thinking? That we users wouldn't care and if we did, just accept it?! I don't really see the logic in this! If someone outside of Blogger leaves me a comment, I wouldn't even know how to contact her back or how to get to her website because she couldn't leave her URL. Google owes bloggers for making them bigger than they already are and we don't deserve these restrictions!

The good news is there IS ALWAYS a workaround just like the "rel=nofollow"!

1. If you don't have a blog yet OR just starting: Get Wordpress!

They're a far better platform than Blogger in all counts! For one Wordpress has very classy, easy on the eyes, neat layouts! I could have chosen Wordpress but I thought I was being loyal to Google. And this is how Google repays me!! Now, it's too late for me to shift. I have gazillion links and widgets and I've submitted my URL to gazillion sites, it's too tedious to redo it all again...

2. Type in your URL on the comments page.

If you're a non Blogger user, make sure to type in your URL when you leave a comment. That way, the Blogger can still contact you or visit your site for reciprocity.

3. Rant, bitch and screw Google on this until they listen us!

They probably won't do anything but at least we let them know that what they're doing stinks! Blog about it! Share it! If you find this article informative or you've read about it here first, I appreciate your link back to this article.

4. Install **HaloScan! A Weblog commenting and trackback service.

This is the best workaround! It saved me and though I've found it by googling, I still hate Google for making me do all the trouble of changing my comments page and searching for it. Don't get me wrong, installing Haloscan was a breeze!! You can customize the look of the page and you can even put an image to it! I had mine installed and working in less than 5 minutes on both this site and The Postcard Collector site. Check out my comment page now and while you're at it, leave a comment for me. You'll see your URL and I have the "rel=nofollow" turned off! You'll sure to be rewarded by commenting on this site and at The Postcard Collector. :-)

Boo boo and thumbs down for you Sneaky Google! How could you?!!

**Author's note: Please read the updated article regarding Haloscan before installing the comments page. I now recommend installing with caution. I'm endorsing: caveat emptor or buyer beware!

UPDATE: As of today, 11 December 2007- we still have not heard from Google what this change in the Comments page is all about. Of late, I have seen some comments page with a drop down menu where you can choose which platform you use and would then require a login to get your ID. I understand this is all part of the move to end spamming- I'm all for that! Never mind if it's a bit of an inconvenience for non-blogger users. This is better than 'anonymous' or 'nickname' and not having any place to put a URL link.

What surprises me is this new drop down feature isn't available to all bloggers yet! I don't see it on either of my two blogs! I wonder if it's because I've mangled my template over and over and so Blogger can't auto-configure it. Maybe it only works for the regular templates. Bottomline, I don't have the new version, I'm dissatisfied with Blogger and I'm still bitchin'!

UPDATE: As of 13 December 2007- Finally Blogger updates it's official blog today after being silent for two weeks. Their latest blog is about the recent change on the comments page which I pointed out over a week ago. If your comments has been set to comment: anyone, then you don't have to do anything with it. To check the settings of your comments, simply go to settings, then comments and from there you will see options on who can comment. Please see photo below.

I will still be on the lookout for more Blogger changes and will rant or rave about it here! I am still undecided if I should shift to wordpress... too much hassle! Sigh.

© 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

It's Officially Winter in Boston!

Hence, the suffering begins. My suffering anyway.

We had the first snow of the year today. Every time the temperature drops to 0C (32F), it reminds me again why am I still in the coldest part of the East coast? I hate Winter. I hate the cold weather! But Boston is truly a beautiful place to be at in the Spring and the Summer! So goes my cycle and dilemma. In the Winter time, I want to move out of this State! In the Summer time, I don't want to be anywhere else but in Boston.

Today was just a mild snow storm, (a major would be about -20C) but the thing with mild is everything gets iced the next day. You don't wanna walk on ice! I've slipped here and there walking on ice, literally fall flat on my back! That happens when you step on an unsalted area and yeah, when you're as clumsy as I am. You can't let that happen to anybody walking in front of your house because if they break a bone or something, you can get sued! Seriously.

While living in the cold area has its advantages (no flies, rodents, mosquitoes, you don't sweat! food aren't easily spoiled, everything looks extra
nice when covered in snow...) I find more disadvantages to it.

The nights are longer and colder (4pm is like 8pm at night)! Driving is awful and doubly dangerous when caught in a snow storm especially at night. Others like the idea of hiding in layers under one's clothing, not my style! I'm a beach girl! Even with tons of layers, my hands and feet are still icy, my lips chapped, face flushed and since I always forget to wear a hat, my nose and ears- frozen! The air is dry so my nose tends to bleed a little.

Much as I love not sweating, some people think it's all right NOT to take a shower in the Winter. When you're in a crowded and enclosed area like the train or elevator, there's an almost suffocating smell in the air! I think it's also because they think it's all right to wear the same clothing for days since it's still 'clean'. The heating bill is outrageous, you wish you'll just hibernate to skip turning up the heat! In an article from Forbes it mentions the 20 most expensive cities to heat in the United States and Boston ranks first. Oh and did I almost forget to mention that you're responsible for cleaning up your own driveway and dig into the snow to get your car so you can get to work... So you're outside for an hour or so shoveling and clearing up your area especially the sidewalk for people to pass. You can hire someone to clean for only $100.00 each time!

Snow taller than me! The smile is only for the photo op. Believe me, you'll hate winter too!!

Ok, I must admit the first Winter and snow experience were exciting! I felt like a kid who discovered "Neverland." But only lasted a day... I'm miserable in the Winter. Really.

Massachusetts and the East Coast are not really the most popular areas Filipinos would choose to migrate (except perhaps for New York) primarily because of the weather. There are only about 10,000 Filipinos in Massachusetts as opposed to the warmer and always sunny California with over a million Filipino migrants. Yet, the 10,000 seem to love it here because it makes them feel like they belong to the "upper class" (sosyal) as one Filipina I met said to me; While living in California seems like you've never left the Philippines at all because it's too Filipino congested, she further added (meaning what? "lower-class"). I found the comment rather amusing if not shallow and ignorant. I wanted to make a snowman out of her! But I will not rattle on that now.

It's officially Winter in Boston. Let me out of here!

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© 2007