Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Modify your Nintendo Wii in Greenhills

Brought our U.S-bought WII console to EYO Sales & Technologies in Greenhills Virramall. The shop was very crowded but I managed to catch the eye of one of the techs. Handed him the Wii and with no fanfare he quickly sat down to disassemble it.

Turns out that EYO sells two kinds of modchips that they install depending on the type of chip installed in your wii. There's the wiikey which costs P2000 and the more expensive D2Ckey which costs P5000. You can buy the wiikey mod chip cheaper online for only about $29 but then you'd have to solder it yourself so I'd rather let the experienced guys at EYO do it.

Anyway ours was the older D2B chip so the helpful tech went about soldering the wiikey. The unit was reassembled, had a software upgrade (via wi-fi) and and I was out of the shop within two hours.

Our wii can now play pirated CDs for P150 instead of the P2000 price tag of an original! It even connects to the internet and has no problem with Nintendo firmware updates.

1. Get to EYO early in the morning. It's a very popular repair center and it can get crowded with all the people bringing in their defective XBOX360s and PSPs.
2. Be careful of the pirated wii games. Some of them are actually old Gamecube games! Look carefully at the label. If you see a gamecube logo, then it was made for the Gamecube and not for the wii. It will still work with your console but it won't make full use of the wiimote "actions".

Here are pirated games that I've tried with the modified wii:
1. Metroid 3
2. Resident Evil 4 - highly recommended. Highly enjoyable with more than 100+ hours of gameplay.
3. Wii Boogie - It's a much simpler version of dance-revo where you just have to tap the wiimote to the beat. Successful tapping will let your character make fancy dance moves. It's very silly but I find it strangely addicting.
4. Sonic the hedgehog - Poorly designed menu system but once you get through the tutorials, it's fun to play. It's a bit too complicated for me because your character zips through so fast and you've got to have quick reflexes.
5. Legend of Zelda - doesn't work. Disc read error.
6. Prince of Persia - verrrry good game!

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points for the prompt attention that we received from the techs at EYO. Minus points because it's so crowded. It seems like they're the only ones offering this service which is why they can charge so much for it! But so far I'm happy that the wii works and I'm willing to pay for a job well done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Robbie Johnson Quartet at the Green Dolphin

"Excuse me waiter, which one is Robbie Johnson?"
"He's the one with the respirator."
I chuckled quietly at what I thought was the South African waiter's funny English. Was he calling the old man's instrument a respirator? Then I looked more closely and I saw the plastic tubes running into the singer's nostrils...
Some friends and I decided to drop by the famed "Green Dolphin" at the waterfront to catch some live jazz music. We took a table on the second floor overlooking the stage during the night Robbie Johnson Quartet was playing and I had a great view of the action.

Mr Johnson is this old gentleman whose spirit for jazz is far stronger than his failing lungs. He'd bellow out a couple of songs then he'd have to stop and catch his breath. After his set, I started shouting "more!" but my companion told me not to ask for more because he might over-exert himself! He was taking deep breaths and a doctor from the audience went up to ask him if he was alright.

After a 15 minute break, he was back on stage but the piano solos were noticeably longer than his singing. Lots of soul in the performance and I'd definitely be back.

The food is expensive and of average quality. During that night I went, patrons had to order a two-course meal which was a bummer for me because I did not feel like having a big dinner. If you decline, you'd have to sit way behind by the bar where you won't have a view of the band.

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points. Skip the dinner and come here for the jazz and drinks. I've heard that on some days (Sunday night?), they clear all the tables and replace it with comfy lounging chairs. I can imagine myself sipping an Amarula (with crushed ice) while listening to some excellent jazz.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My Top 6 Pinoy Web 2.0 websites

When I started working on whatsikat.com I started wondering what are the other pinoy versions of those popular "western" websites and here's what I came up with. Maybe you can add some more...

1. digg.com -> pinoybee.com- konti pa lang yung users but it looks promising. I like the "hukayy.com" name better (but it has significantly less members) or the now defunct oks.ph. I hope pinoybee will last longer than these others.

2. popurls.com -> whatsikat.com - a newcomer with lots of localized content. it doesn't have as much as other aggregators (netvibes, my yahoo) but it's very Pinoy. my favorite is the 'celebrity bloggers' section that shows fresh links to blog posts from stars like bianca gonzalez, chuckie dreyfus (!?), jim paredes, etc...

3. ebay/craigslist -> sulit.com.ph - has a big, thriving community and a catchy name!

4. rapidshare -> pritoshare.com i always give up when using rapidshare because of all its restrictions. i've never encountered that problem with pritoshare so I hope it's able to keep up with the huge bandwidth requirements.

5. youtube -> pinoytube.com it's fast and doesn't focus just on 'scandals' (meron din videos of the macabre like mga nasasagasaan or nasa-salvage.). It doesn't have the big youtube community and it feels a bit 'heavy' with its black background vs. youtube's fresh white but I like how the content is so (for lack of a better word..) pinoy.

6. instant messaging -> chikka.com didn't really make it as an IM platform like YM or MSN but it is *the* service for free sms and i know so many people who use it.

Eto yung mga wala pa akong nakitang successful pinoy counterpart:
1. social networking like facebook - hindi nag-click ang pinoyster at pinoy-friendster. bakit kaya when so many of us are online on friendster/multiply?

2. paypal - when will we have our own payment gateway? hanggang gcash na lang ba forever?

3. streaming audio on-demand and recommendations like pandora.com or last.fm - pinoys love music so bakit hanggang soundclick.com lang? If pandora could negotiate deals with the record labels, we should also be able to do the same since it's the same companies anyway. (universal, sony-bmg, etc..)

4. social bookmarking like del.icio.us

5. flickr photo sharing!

I wonder when we will get to start something and have the west copy us for a change.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I Ate A Worm at Nyoni's Krall, Cape Town

"Waiter there are worms on my plate!"
"Those are not worms sir. Those are caterpillars."

Great. An aborted butterfly. So why was it called a Mopane worm in the first place? I guess chewing on a caterpillar is better than chewing an earthworm.

Seeing that I have a penchant for eating aborted animals (see Balut) I shrugged and ate it anyway.
Nyoni's Krall on Long Street is another one of those African-themed restaurants (see Mama Africa). It's decorated in the style of a krall which is one those round African huts. Flat screens show videos of traditional music and dance. It feels touristy but surprisingly there are lots of locals.

The menu is intense-- among the side orders are amatumbu (sheep's intestines), amagine (chicken feet) and mopane worms (ZAR25).

I imagine amatumbu to be like chicharon bulaklak and chicken feet is standard street-food fare in the Philippines so I decided to start off my meal with Mopane worms. (They're actually caterpillars that eat the leaves of a Mopane tree. Protein-packed little buggers that are the staple of Africans who can't afford beef.)

They were served deep fried on a bed of salad. I stabbed one with a fork and popped it in my mouth. I expected it to be crunchy but it was surprisingly chewy and hollow like a calamari. Other than the different texture, I'd say it tastes like chicken. (Yes, I finished the whole plate.)

The spicy chicken liver (ZAR30) was so-so. I still prefer the one from the Butcher's Grill. Beers were at ZAR12 each. Try the game medallions (ZAR85) for your main course and top it off with a traditional brandy pudding (ZAR35).

Rating: 0
Four pawikan points! The service was excellent (as I've come to expect from Cape Town) and the ambience is warm and cozy. The food though is not for the faint of heart. Definitely an interesting menu that could read like a biology lesson highlighting the different parts of an animal. Bonus points because it's decidedly unusual and was the only restaurant that I encountered in the whole of Cape Town which served Mopane worms.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Fountain Hotel, Cape Town

Maybe my stay at The Southern Sun raised the bar and spoiled me rotten. Every time I compare the Fountain Hotel hotel with them, the Fountain just doesn't measure up. As a guest who stayed for three months, they should have gone out of their way to make sure I enjoyed my stay. I had no such luck.
The room
Because I was going to be here for quite some time so I stayed in a suite with a kitchenette at a discounted ZAR17,000/month. No microwave but I had an electric oven, stove top and complete kitchenware.

The bed had a queen sized width but a strangely short length-- my feet dangled at the edge whenever I lay flat on my back!

If you're the sort of person who likes to fall asleep while watching the TV, you're out of luck because it won't fit the room. The TV is outside in the living room and only has a couple of sports and movie channels. (The Southern Sun definitely had more channels.)

The bathroom had a shower/tub combo and it passed my will-walk-barefoot test. Towels were not as big and fluffy as I'd want them to be but I figured for the cost of this room, it should have been as luxurious as the Wild Mushroom Guesthouse at Stellenbosch!

To welcome me, I had a small basket of fruit and a plate of cheese and crackers. For some reason, I never got around to eating the fruit and it remained rotting on the table until I checked out three months later. I purposely did not throw it out just to see if housekeeping would notice it.


What amenities? The pool? Hahaha! What a joke! It allegedly had a heater but even after my many complaints, the water never warmed up. Despite it being winter, I decided to give it a chance anyway and went for a swim.

Big mistake.

It's longer than it is wide and I cut my hand along one side as I tried to do my laps. (As of this writing, I still have the scar on my wrist.) After 15 minutes, I had to stop because my eyes were stinging very badly! The cloudy water should've given me the hint that there was too much chlorine. I couldn't open my eyes the next day because they were still so puffy and caked with the salt from my tears.

Oh and don't get me started on the gym! I complained and complained but during my whole stay (three months!), they never got around to fixing the broken rowing machine. The lone weights machine is a safety hazard with no operating instructions and is in dire need of oiling.

The staff is friendly and I honestly believe that they try very hard. Unfortunately it's the result and not the effort that matters.

Every morning for three months, I gave my room number to the same lady at the breakfast buffet. It seems that she could never remember me. Maybe to her, all of us asians look alike. TO her credit however, she finally got it right during my last week but she never greeted me by name. In fact, none of the staff ever took the trouble to learn my name!

The breakfast spread is good but I missed the free apples that the Southern Sun always had for its guests. The coffee and tea is self-service so you get it instantaneously but it's not as fancy as the Sun's made-to-order cappucinos and latte.

Some tips:
1. Request for a room on the higher floors. The streets are very busy and very noisy. Every 8pm, there's a honey truck that drains the septic tank across the street and it's very loud and annoying.
2. Use the do not disturb sign! Housekeeping will come and clean your room at 8am. Even on Saturdays. And Sundays. WTF!?!
3. Laundry is very expensive. For the price of washing a shirt, I can do a whole week's worth at the same-day service Nannucci laundromat right behind the hotel.

Conclusion: 0
There was always a lot of Mandarin speaking tourists while I was there so I guess that's a good sign. If you're just looking for a place to stay while you're vacationing in Cape Town, The Fountain Hotel would be a good choice. The daily rate is cheaper than the Southern Sun's and if you're willing to overlook the pool and gym, it's really not that bad.
If you liked this review, you may also want to read my review of the Southern Sun: Cape Sun.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Abakhaya at Mama Africa, Cape Town

African beats fused with jazz and an unbelievable vocalist who sings in an operatic tenor. It's a voice built for the opera crossed with African chutzpah. (bonus points for the rhyme?)

My mouth was agape with incredulity. Here was an African man in a sleeveless shirt hopping up and down a makeshift podium made of a pair of overturned plastic coke cases.

I wasn't surprised at the tourists hopping up and down with him and swaying rhythmically as if in a trance. I couldn't help myself either. The playful marimba complemented by the various percussions and jazz trumpeteer was just a rocking good time!

And such a familiar playlist! Sexual Healing, Don't Worry Be Happy, No Woman No Cry, Fallen; these songs were all performed African style with percussions, a killer marimba, trumpet solos topped with an opera-tenor voice and it just worked!

This is a mash-up to end all mash-ups!

I bought a CD from them but sad to say, it's just not the same. Abakhaya has played in many international venues and they are best experienced live.

Anyway let's talk about the food at Mama Africa. Surprise, surprise it is typically African. For starters, try the Snoek pate (ZAR32.5) which is similar to an open-faced tuna sandwich. If you're feeling a bit adventurous, order the wild game mixed grill (ZAR165) that has grilled kudu, ostrich, crocodile and springbok. You've seen them in the wild, now you can eat them.

For dessert, I recommend the banana flame (ZAR37) just for the theatrics. Finally, to top it all off-- order a double Amarula on crushed ice. Yum.

Rating: 0.5
Bonus points for the Michael Jackson-esque exclamations of "eeeheee!" (minus crotch grab) that punctuated some of the faster songs! This is a must-see if you're in Cape Town. Visit Mama Africa on Long St. Abakhaya performs during Wednesdays. The place gets packed really quick so make sure you call and reserve a seat.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Balut - Most Terrifying Food In The World?

"They are typically sold by street vendors at night, out of buckets of warm sand. You can spot the vendors because of their glowing red eyes, and the faint, otherworldly sound of children screaming."

In cracked.com's funny tongue-in-cheek article of "The 6 Most Terrifying Foods in The World", Tim Cameron reviews ant eggs, baby mice wine, boiled sheep egg, casu marzu and balut. Can you guess which gets the top spot as the most terrifying food?

I think he's over-reacting but it definitely put a smile on my face. Read his review and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

How To Renew Driver's License in Alabang Quickly

My favorite way of spending my birthday is with the bureaucrats at the LTO in Alabang. I get to spend some quality time with a good book, rub elbows with the masses, make fun of the cono kids, pee in a tiny cup and have a photo-op!

Here are some tips on how to do it in one hour.

1. Bring your old license and old receipt.
2. Drink 2 glasses of water an hour before. (You will need to pee for the drug test.)
3. Bring Php600. (P250 for license, 350 for medical/drug exams)
4. Make sure that you have not taken any marijuana or shabu.
5. Bring a pen and a good book.

When to renew your license:
Renew it before or on your birthday or else you pay an extra Php30 fine. Go on a weekday because there are less people.

What time you should go:
Get to the LTO first thing in the morning at 8:00am sharp. This is the secret to having it fast and easy. Processing is done by batch so if you arrive at 11am, you will have to wait for them to do their lunch break. Don't bother to go at 3pm unless you want to return the next day.

Process for renewing your driver's license
1. Go to window 1 inside the LTO, take a form and fill it up.
2. Take the form to the drug testing center and pay Php350.
3. Fill up the form that the drug test encoder gives you, give this to the technician in front of the toilet and pee into the small bottle.
4. Return bottle to technician and wait for your results. (Your name will be called.)
5. When you have your drug test results, proceed to doctor. He will take your BP, weight and height. Then you will be given a form that says you're healthy.
6. Go back inside LTO, give all the forms to window 1.
7. Your name will be called for cost assessment, photo, payment and collection of license. You will get your laminated card on the same day.

Tips and Tricks
1. Right before you pay, you will be asked to take a protective sleeve for your license. They won't tell you right there but it's not free, it costs Php25.
2. The regular license costs Php248 but they don't give change.
3. The bottleneck is with the drug and medical tests. They ask you to fill up the whole bottle which is difficult to do if you don't feel like urinating. There is only one technician processing everyone so you really have to wait. This is the reason you must be early.

The useless medical test takes 5 minutes and costs Php100. The drug test is overpriced and not exactly fool proof. Clearly just a big raket.

Bonus points though for the relatively smooth process. No fixers required here and no one jumps the queue. Rich or poor, pipila ka talaga. This is how it's supposed to be anyway. Minus points because of the sungit and unsmiling civil servants. But with such a tedious job as theirs, could you really blame them?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Carpool by Jerrold Tarog

Rating: 5/50
This movie short (10 minutes long) won 1st place in the short feature category of the 19th Gawad CCP for Alternative Movies and Video. It was also an exhibition film at the 2006 Cinemanila International Film Festival. It's in Filipino but a version with English subtitles is also available. Directed by Jerrold Tarog, cinematography by Ruel Dahis Antipuesto.

After watching it, I just had this big silly grin on my face. It's just so... real! (Thanks Javi for sharing this with me!)

Friday, September 21, 2007

New music by Josh Verdes

Josh Verdes is a cross between John Mayer and Jack Johnson. Check out my favorite song of his, "Save Me". He's a Fil-American and the performers in the video below are his sister (back-up vocals) and brother (on bass).

If you liked this video, you may also want to check out Happyslip's short "Boypren" which features the song.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

New music by Blue Ketchup

My sister never fails to introduce me to these fabulous new Pinoy bands. Blue Ketchup is one of them.

I specially like Indyanera which has some rhythmic pianos and a bossa-feel. There are more videos on youtube and you can download some of the MP3s from thedigitalpinoy (registration required.)

New music by Jose Vanders

I stumbled upon the music of British Jose Vanders and I think she's the female pianist equivalent of Brett Dennen.

Jose's (pronounced Josie or Jaws) myspace page lists her musical inspiration as: "...boys
who have broken my heart . and boys who have stuck it back together with pritt stick and glitter . so its kind of sticky . but still nice and shiny...
" How very artsy fartsy!

Listen to her music, compare it with Brett Dennen and let me know what you think.

Animoto: Create music videos with your photos and music

I've discovered Animoto, a new idiot-proof service on the net that lets you create music videos with your photos and music.

Simply upload your photos (or have it import from flickr, picasa, etc...), upload your MP3 and within 5 minutes it will whip-up a fancy slideshow set to your music. Flashy/jazzy effects, very professional looking and very user friendly.

The trial version lets you make 30second clips for free but it's USD3 per full video or USD30 for a year's worth of unlimited clips.

I can think of so many uses for this-- prom videos, your travel photos, a gift for an anniversary or for a birthday--it's relatively cheap! Why spend Php30,000 for a slideshow of your wedding photos when this site will do it for less than php150?

Check out a quick and dirty 30sec sample I created below.

Bonus points for Animoto because the name makes it sound... oh, so Lasallian. Animo!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Melissa Shoes, Elianto Blusher, Mascara

Liza took up computer science in university but is now a budding make-up artist. Talk about career change! Check out her reviews about make-up (which I absolutely know nothing about!).

So far she has written about:

Tanya has a review of Melissa Shoes, a Brazilian brand that makes shoes that are "are funky, colorful, fashionable, and most important of all, comfy." They also have a "candy-like, tutti-frutti smell." It's Php3,000 a pair so Tanya recommends that you ask someone to buy for you from Singapore or Thailand where it's cheaper.

Girl power! Yay!

Friday, September 07, 2007

Quiz night at Pirates Steakhouse and Pub, Hout Bay

See if you can figure out this sample question from yesterday's quiz night (every 1st Thursday of the month) at Pirates Steakhouse and Pub at Hout bay. The champion team was able to get 13 out of the 14.
To make the story semi-readable, insert the names of well known bands and artists-- some old, some new. The number in parenthesis indicate how many letters. Good luck!

*right said fred* (5,4,4) as he pulled the bedclothes from us. It was 7am and we were on a surfing holiday. Fred continued "let's go down to the *beach boys* (5,4)-- there's great surf running". I put on my *pink* (4) bathing suit and headed down to the *Sandy Shaw* (6,4)

We soon spotted a group of local lads playing volleyball *Who* (3) were all art lovers-- they were known as the *Culture Club* (7,4). This part of the beach was for men only and was known as the *Boyzone* (7). As soon as we joined them, the tide rose quickly and we got *Wet Wet Wet* (3,3,3)

Dick was the first to get hungry and wanted some breakfast, but rather than use the path back to the top, he decided to climb the rock face. Someone shouted, "don't climb the *Cliff Richard* (5,7), some *Rolling Stones* (7,6) may fall down and hurt you". Unfortunately, he did slip and fall but luckily he was not badly hurt-- a *Deep Purple* (4,6) gash and a few scratches which were covered with a *Band Aid* (4,3).

On the way home, we were stopped by *The Police* (3,6) who told us that we would have to find another way home as there were some *Men at Work* (3,2,4) on the road ahead and there was no way through.

(Highlight the space between the *asterisks* for the answer.)
I always enjoy quiz night at Pirates-- the questions are creative, difficult, but just difficult enough so that you're kicking yourself and saying "I knew that!!!"

What color is an archer's bull's eye? Who was paid $10million for a 10 minute appearance in Superman, which among rose, mike, charlie and juliet is the odd one out, what's a word that begins with A that is used unchanged in over a thousand languages... This is jeopardy in a steak house!

Try the tender rump-bites and ribs combo (ZAR 50) or the pirates beef burger (ZAR 26). Wash it down with a Katemba followed by a Jack & Lime and you'll be drinking like a local in no time.

Conclusion: 0
Three and a half pawikan points. It's good, clean fun best enjoyed in large groups. Minus points because i've gone to quiz night three times and I still haven't won anything!!!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Nalu Beach (Bar), Scheveningen

Nalu Beach is smooth like a freshly powdered baby’s butt.
Plywood floorboards, wooden tables, comfy nylon chairs, muted lights, roaring open fires complemented by acid jazz/lounge-y beach music—these are the reasons why Nalu Beach Bar is one of my favorite hang-outs at Scheveningen Beach.

There’s just this laid back vibe about this place that I can’t quite put my finger on but picture this: sitting back with your legs up, the sun shining in your face as it casts its rays as it goes through its slow descent—blissful relaxation.

It's great during sunset but even better at night with the flickering fire and the accompanying shadow play. The food is average (burgers, fries, ribs, etc...) and the bar really isn't that big but I like the place anyway.

Must try: ask for the traditional Dutch kopstoot (roughly translated as headbutt)!

Conclusion: 0
Four pawikan points! Bonus points for the steady wait staff who are friendly, efficient and unobtrusive. Pay them a visit and tell bartenders Natasja and Sasja that reviewsbyp sent you.