Farewell, b5media

I guess by now you've heard about the "mass layoff" at b5media, one of the largest blog networks in the world. There's no shortage of stories popping out of the woodwork. If you haven't already read one, take your pick from the list below:

Mass Firings At b5media: Entire Entertainment Network Shut
b5media Dumps Women Bloggers
Goodbye to b5Media
The End of My b5media Days

Now it's my turn to write about my sad departure from the community I have grown to love and loved to grow.

For those who didn't know, I handled a blog called MMOtaku on b5media's EveryJoe. The blog covered the market niche known as massively multiplayer online games, one of my passions as a husband to a wife who plays MMORPGs with me, as a father who teaches his daughter the responsibilities that go with the use of computers, as a friend who has taught his best bud the finer points of playing MMOs as opposed to just PC games, as a journalist who keeps an open mind and holds judgment until all facts have been uncovered and published, and as a guild officer in some MMORPGs who realizes that he must keep the peace in the community he holds sway over.

Well, my days with b5media are gone, but I am, even as I type this, carrying on my work on MMOtaku to a new blog called The MMOsh Pit. It's not the same, yes, but I find myself optimistic that whatever ground I have covered and held in my days blogging for b5media won't be lost as long as I continue blogging about the things I hold dear (yes, even if it's on a free blogging platform like Blogger).

I may feel sad and disappointed with the way things turned out between me and b5media, but I am grateful for the opportunity to work for the network.

[Image: The MMOsh Pit]

Sleepless in Leyte

No. Sleepless in Leyte is not the title of a new movie or the Philippine adaptation of that wonderful Hollywood-produced romantic comedy starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. What it is, though, is what I'm experiencing now. I can't sleep, and believe me, I've been trying to get a date with the sandman for the past three hours.

So what does a regular Joe/Juan do on nights when he can't sleep? Here's a list of activities that I engage in whenever I can't seem to pull ol' Morpheus down to earth:

Eat Comfort Food. Sure, it's unhealthy, especially if you have a sweet tooth, but what the hey! Eating your favorite comfort foods can do wonders for your mood and probably help set the stage for sleep to set in. Just remember not to give in to sleep's embrace when you're still full.

Watch Television. Naturally, you need a television, preferably one that is in the bedroom or an area of the house that has a comfortable sleeping surface like a sofa, to do this. Scan channels with the goal of looking for the most boring television show imaginable. That should be enough to send you to dreamland.

Surf The Internet. It's fun and entertaining, particularly if you know which sites to view, and your eyes will tire faster than you can say "surf the internet." Just don't get too engrossed in surfing as you may find yourself drowning in a wave of information.

Play Video Games. If you're a video games fanatic, it won't long before you find yourself in front of the computer or console. The problem with this activity is you might not get the sleep you want as you tend to go on and on. This is so true when it comes to playing massively multiplayer online games. Tons of activities, so little time, not even for sleep.

Read A Good Book. I usually resort to reading a book whenever I feel I'm at the edge of sleep but need a little push to get me snoring. After reading one chapter of a good book, I often find myself at Morpheus' door—yes, even when I get to the exciting parts of a book.

Indulge In A Hobby. Right now, my hobbies include blogging, despite the fact that blogging is also a profession for me. So whenever I can't sleep, I sit in front of my trusty computer and type away or do a little blog tweaking. I also find the time to network with the help of reliable social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook.

Study Something Of Interest. What interests you? When I was a child, I was fascinated by all things scientific, often rifling through pages of Scientific American and my family's entire encyclopedia collection. This is probably the reason why I experiment a lot. So I spend time studying, and later applying what I learn.

Write About ... Anything. This is how the literati get off, by writing just about anything under the sun, and where their passions lie. I am fortunate that I am both a journalist and a blogger. I get to flex my writing muscles by writing about anything I fancy and posting them on my blogs.

Annoy Someone Who's Asleep. Do this at your own risk. I'm not recommending it for people who value their physical well-being as people who are asleep and rudely awakened are often explosive. It's fun, though, in an odd sort of way, but you shouldn't do it more than once a year ... if you value your life.

[Image: Transitioning.org]

Anti-Social Philippine Websites

I've been heavily experimenting on social networking these past few weeks with very encouraging results. If you're a social networking or search engine optimization genius, this post is probably not for you. Laymen or everyjuans, however, are very welcome and I encourage you to either react or contribute to this short blog posting.

Going back to the encouraging results: At the moment, I'm using two social networking platforms. The first one, Twitter, has been active for quite some time, but it is only now that I'm tapping its resources to market not only one of my blogs, MMOtaku, but also the network that it belongs to, b5media.

The second one is Facebook. It's a bit more on the personal side but serves the purpose of publicizing content to a wider audience. The problem with my experiment on Facebook, though, is that all blog entries that I share on the wall are shared only to friends and family, all 300-plus of them, so it's a little difficult to gauge if it's having any impact on traffic for the blog. This is why I have decided to create a fan page for MMOtaku, although it isn't active yet.

Now, what's with the title? Recently, I've created a new blog called Leyte Blog Network, which is destined to be an anchor blog for several of my blogs and, hopefully, a few more blogs owned and edited by residents of this southern Philippine province. I also want it to be an aggregator of news and features about Leyte.

With this in mind, after writing the customary welcome post for Leyte Blog Network, I started searching for worthy news to place on the blog. What I found was discouraging. Most news sites, even those owned and managed by large media organizations or the Philippine government, do not present ways on how to share content.

In today's fast-paced, information-driven world, websites and blogs should be equipped with such a feature if they are to compete for the people's attention. Sure, some content may be up for sale, but this shouldn't be a hindrance. Instead, it should be viewed as the ultimate marketing tool for this day and age.

AddThis seems a great way to share content on the Internet.

Pinoy Journeylist Back Online ... Hopefully

I'm seriously considering the relaunch of my pseudo-blog network, which includes this blog, Ceskypooh's World, Cribs and Rides, and PR Depot. Why? Frankly, there are several reasons and time will come for me to reveal these reasons. For now, let's settle on a question to answer a question: Well, why the hell not?

Seriously now, I really want to restart posting on my blogs and write regularly. At present, I'm drawing inspiration from a few friends who have managed to balance their day jobs and personal lives with regular posting on their blogs. On top of this "inspiration" list are Kevin Constantine Codamon, who amazes us mundane folk in his role as Online Platforms Manager at Philippine-based online games publisher and operator Level Up! Games, and Carlo Ople, also one of the most reliable managers at the online games pioneer. What these people do on a daily basis is a mean feat that I wish to emulate.

Almost a year ago, I launched and relaunched a couple of blogs that I thought I could handle. I had dug up Cribs and Rides from my projects cellar, gave it a new look and feel, started posting more or less regularly, and felt good about the entire episode. I felt so sure that I could make the blog thrive that I relaunched Ceskypooh's World, a blog I used to "co-write" with my daughter, Cesky, on the Wordpress platform back when Pinoy Big Brother was reigning on the local boobtube.

Alas, I could not sustain regular posting, partly because of my daughter's month-long hospitalization due to pneumonia. I didn't lose hope, though. In November 2008, I launched Pinoy Journeylist as my personal blog and anchor blog for my pseudo network.

As you can see, I've only managed to post four articles before going into an indefinite hiatus, thanks to my employment at APAC Customer Services, a call center that set up shop in Palo, a municipality in the Philippine province of Leyte.

What about PR Depot? Actually, this blog is just an SEO (search engine optimization) experiment gone awry. I planned to convert it into a real blog, a company or corporate blog that would have launched my career as a blog and SEO expert catering to companies in the Philippines interested in establishing a presence on the World Wide Web. So much for dreams, eh?

Now, I'm back where I started two years ago—mulling the launch and relaunch of a pseudo blog network.

Iceflow Studios' great Photoshop tutorials

Prior to watching the dozens of Photoshop tutorials that Iceflow Studios posted on the Internet via Tutcast and YouTube, I had thought that I was a good, if not mediocre, Photoshop user. I've done professional digital imaging in the past, for a daily newspaper and for several websites and blogs.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered several Photoshop features through the Iceflow Studios videos that I never knew existed. For example, I knew that you can create water drops and make them appear on images for them to look like they're, well, wet or cold. But I didn't know how to do this ... until (yes, you guessed it) Iceflow Studios came into my life.

What's even better, my wife Joyce is taking a keen interest in developing her Photoshop skills, with the help of the Iceflow Studios tutorials, of course.

Here are three of our favorite tutorials:

Oh, wait! Before you run off and follow the tutorials, check the version of the Photoshop installed in your computer. Adobe Photoshop CS3 or CS4 works best.

Making apak in APAC

Strange title, especially for readers who aren't from this little tropical country I call home. Don't worry, just read on. You'll get it soon enough.

About a month ago, my father in law, Jun (actually, he's Vicente, but he's called Jun, short for junior, because he carries his father's name ... think "mac" in old Irish names), gave me a tip that a call center was opening its doors to the job-hunting populace of Leyte, particularly those residing in Tacloban City and nearby towns like Palo and Tolosa. Since I didn't have work yet, I decided to give it a try.

Now, before I proceed, you have to realize how hard it is to find work in this central Philippine province, especially for those who haven't been staying here overly long. I've been trying to land a job in the past 11 months, to no avail. So it's quite fortunate that I've come across the tip of ol' Dad, who works for the Leyte II Electric Cooperative Inc.

So in mid-October, I found myself in the midst of other job-hunters, at the third floor of a local hotel. APAC Customer Services Inc., the call center that was hiring qualified personnel for supervisory and rank-and-file positions, had come to town, and it seemed dead serious in its bid to establish a base of operations in the town of Palo, about 13 kilometers from Leyte capital Tacloban City.

I applied for the position of Team Leader despite not having any previous call center experience. Needless to say, I got turned down. Fortunately, they asked me to come back a month later and try my hand at applying for a frontline position, the dreaded Customer Service Representative.

Yes, dreaded. For those of you who have no inkling about what I'm talking about, check out this video featuring a conversation between a Philippine Long Distance Company customer service representative and a client. My apologies for those who don't know how to speak in the vernacular. I suggest grabbing a Filipino friend to translate for you.

Customer service representatives, a friend who works in the business process outsourcing industry says, catches all the shit, ranging from taking rude or obscene calls to getting cursed and cussed on a daily basis. With this in mind on that fateful October afternoon, I was thinking of quitting on my application, right then and there. Unfortunately, I didn't have that luxury. Finding work and landing a job were on the top of my priority list.

So I came back a month later. That was two days ago, a Friday. I got the job! At least I think I did. I got this note saying APAC Customer Services would give me a call to tell me how to proceed with my application.

Does this mean I have my foot in APAC's door? The word "apak" in my title means "to step," by the way.

I tried to clarify this with one of the managers present at the job fair, Nizette Navia. All she said was that I need not worry as "You're SO in."

Wonder what that means.

The body craves adventure...

And the brain hungers for the puzzles that go with adventure. This idea busted through the doors of my shifting thoughts about an hour ago as a torrential downpour destroyed the thinning canvas that protected my in-laws' house's terrace from the sun and rain. My wife, Joyce, and I had to act fast; if we let rainwater in, we'd already have a foot-deep wading pool.

So where's the adventure in that? Well, for starters, the rain—and, of course, the water—made it hard to climb up the terrace half-wall where water kept pouring in the large, uhmm, window. The canvas was also in tatters, making it difficult to hoist it into position again and to hold the damn thing in place. If we were not careful, we would probably have skewered each other with the pairs of scissors we were carrying.

The puzzle? Well, like I said, the canvas was almost in tatters. The trick was to pull it taut over the top part of the window, lash it onto the grill, and hope it holds and not rip itself into pieces. Doing this in fair weather is challenge enough. Doing it in the middle of a downpour is a bit crazy.

The entire episode pulled on the strings of my memory, back to 1990, when I was in Baguio City, studying at the University of the Philippines campus there. For those who don't know, a strong temblor shook the very bedrock of the Philippines' Luzon island on July 16, 1990, and Baguio City was one of the most devastated areas, probably next only to Dagupan City in nearby Pangasinan province.

Going back to the story, I was at the boarding house on that fateful day, relaxing with friends after a long day at school. Then the earthquake hit, and everybody panicked. Fortunately, I had the good sense to stay under the door frame. Some of my pad-mates were not so lucky as they fell off and rolled down the stairwell, from the third floor to the second floor mezzanine.

To make a long story short, I was stuck in Baguio City for a week, surviving on rations or whatever my friends and I could get our hands on with what's left of our money. We also slept on cold pavement or damp earth at the campus of the University of the Philippines. Water was a precious commodity, so precious that prices of bottled water soared to more than double, forcing us—and probably the lot of earthquake survivors—to gather rainwater in containers and drink the putrid stuff.

How did we while away the hours and the days? We walked around Baguio City and surveyed the destruction wrought by Mother Nature. Here's a stark reminder in dull 1990s color:

Image of the destruction caused by the July 16, 1990 killer quake in Baguio City

Sigh. If I go on and on about my adventures in Baguio City before, during and after the quake, you'll probably doze off from viewing fatigue. Need a different perspective? Go check out the July 1990 earthquake entry of Ramny from Winnipeg in Manitoba, Canada. Many thanks to Kylee, owner of the site Nifty 1990, for the photograph.