Friday, November 4, 2011

Trying Out This Thing...

If you think I'm deep into social media, my uncle is as deep into it as anyone else. He's into everything I think... Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Tumblr, and now, I was intrigued when he started promoting his site on Facebook and thought it was a great, unique concept. Basically, one chooses the online content he or she is most interested in, adds it to their list, and lets "publish" the content automatically into their very own online "newspaper".

I started my own paper yesterday, and I named it, "The Passion Fruit Juicer". Not much to the name, really. The paper will revolve around, and feature my very diverse interests and passions: the Brigadier General Vicente Lim page, The Old Soul Store, this blog, golf and the NFL. My limited understanding of RSS feeds tells me that with it, you get the latest updates from the websites you follow, squeezing out the stuff you value most --- much like a fruit juicer.

Check out The Passion Fruit Juicer here. Seems like an intriguing experiment. Let's see where this goes! Enjoy!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

No Space To Run

My Facebook status the other day read:
There was a time when we could just pick a field, and play or do sports to our heart's desire... Today, you get guards telling you that you have to sign a waiver and receptionists saying you need to write management to play a game of catch in an open field. Not quite the message you get if you look at the Nuvali website: "A vibrant landscape springs forth, freely shared by all." Guys, you might as well just drop the photos of kids playing in open spaces, and replace them with a picture of an iPad-toting kid. Oh, might as well drop the words/phrases "space", "sound health" and "nature" too.
In the bustling city of Manila, there aren't too many open spaces anymore. It's rare that you find a patch of green big enough to play in, where you don't have to worry about collisions with other groups of people. For a guy like me who likes getting out, running around and doing something physical, it's a big deal when you find these open spaces. My girlfriend, friends and I thought we found a great new spot to go to out of town, but it turns out we were wrong.

We visited a place called Nuvali, just about an hour outside the city. We heard a lot about it from friends ---great eating places, a man-made lake where you could take short boat rides, feed the koi, enjoy the wide open space. Well, we love to eat, and we love to play. It looked promising, the prospect of doing both. We had our gear ready: empty stomachs, comfortable playing clothes, water, extra clothes and good old pigskin footballs. The whole feeding the fish thing sounded nice, but our main agenda was to eat and to play our own little version of American football.

The eating part was great. We ended up eating at a place called "Pig Out", which serves all sorts of pork dishes (they have other, non-pork dishes too). Needless to say, we were quite satisfied after that. We went on to check out the lake, and got entertained by the desperate behavior of the koi jockeying for position to get to the food thrown in by on-lookers. We even saw someone flying a model jet over the lake.

Again, the main agenda was to play football, so it didn't take long before we decided to go to what the developer of Nuvali proudly calls "The Fields", which is described in the website as, "10 hectares open area". It sure sounded enticing to me when I read up before our little weekend getaway.

"The Fields" at Nuvali --- The dogs were welcome, we were not.
We were surprised to find that there was an on-going event on one of the 4 or 5 soccer pitches there. It was a dog competition, and we weren't complaining. It was added entertainment! We started playing after seeing a few dogs go through the obstacle course.

To warm up, we just started tossing the ball around to let my friends get a hang of throwing and catching the ball. We did that for a good 40 minutes or so, until they felt ready to try a couple of plays. We laid out the rules --- 3 downs, the field boundaries, two-hand touch that counts as a tackle. I even told one of my friends how jamming a receiver at the line would work to his advantage. But even before we could get a play off, a security guard approached us and told us to stop playing. He informed us to secure a waiver from Nuvali's administrative office first. We even heard him going on his radio, saying that we were playing softball. "Softball my a**," I thought, "if you're going to report us, at least get it right!"

We grudgingly packed up, deciding that we might as well comply. We weren't doing anything wrong anyway, neither were we disturbing anybody, nor vandalizing anything. Might as well sign the waiver, and get back to playing.

When we got to the office, I asked the receptionists what we had to sign. To my surprise, they told me quite a different story from what the guard said. No waiver, they said. You CAN'T PLAY. Period. Management only gave clearance to use "The Fields" for events. Write a letter to management if you want to play. And oh by the way, write on a weekday. No one's here to receive your letter now. The dogs? They're part of an event. They could stay.

So much for vibrant landscapes freely shared by all.

Here we were, doing sports, getting healthy, enjoying the clean air, not consuming electricity, staying out of trouble, just having plain, clean, fun... and that's what we get. Write management? Really? I mean, the guy with the model jet was more likely to cause trouble! It goes without saying that we went back to Manila disappointed. Luckily, there's social media. I wasted no time visiting Nuvali's Facebook page and posting what was on my mind. I really don't care that they didn't answer my post. I really don't care if it gets any likes or not. I made my point. I'm making it again here. And I mean it: Nuvali, you might as well just drop the photos on your website of kids playing in open spaces, and replace them with a picture of an iPad-toting kid. You might as well drop the words/phrases "space", "sound health" and "nature" too. Stop highlighting the wide open spaces if no one can use it anyway. If you're going to advocate that kind of lifestyle, do it all the way. This generation is not going to embrace that lifestyle if you're not going to allow it.

I really pity today's children, especially those whose idea of entertainment is facing a computer or tapping away at an iPad. I pity them because their creativity and imaginations are limited to a 10-inch screen. Many would rather play around in a virtual world, than in the real one. Like my friend lamented, they probably won't have the same sense of freedom and wonder that we enjoyed in our early youth. It certainly doesn't help when you're not given any space to run.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


After finishing the last entry, I decided that I would send a tweet to D'Arcy Maine so that she could check out the blog. Here's what she had to say:

and, I finally got her to follow me...

...just plain cool.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

D'Maine Event Monday Night Football fix from a two-inch screen

The trouble with loving a sport that isn't played in your home country (or continent for that matter) is finding a mainstream sports channel that would actually air the games.

I think it was about 5 years ago when ESPN Asia stopped airing Sunday Night Football and Monday Night Football. Even a local sports channel that used to air NFL games stopped showing doubleheaders of the afternoon games. Well, I guess I'm used to it in a way. Golf is shown on TV a lot, given its popularity in Asia, but very few from my generation (or even my workplace, surprisingly) actually play the sport, let alone love it like I do. I'm not complaining, but I'm left to play with my dad and his friends. But at least I can play AND watch golf on TV! For me, "playing" American football means coercing some friends to toss a football around with me and run the occasional go route. Watching, on the other hand, means checking out the and highlights after all is said and done. Quite pathetic, as you could probably imagine. Luckily, I stumbled upon "The Maine Event", a live blog by D'Arcy Maine, which is now my favorite non-TV source for my football fix.

Since I live on the other side of the world, Sunday games fall on Monday mornings here, Monday nighters, on Tuesdays. I'm usually on the shuttle van to work while the games are on-going, and I follow the games live (well, as live as it gets anyway) using my suddenly obsolete Nokia 6120c which has a (whopping) two-inch screen. I go to, click on the game I want to "watch", then hit the refresh button every minute or so to get the latest from the play-by-play text.....
3-4 NYJ 19 (6:42) 42-B.Green-Ellis right tackle to NYJ 15 for 4 yards (24-D.Revis). 
1-10 NYJ 15 (6:12) (Shotgun) 12-T.Brady pass short left to 83-W.Welker for 15 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
 ...then let my imagination do the rest. It's certainly a poor substitute to watching on TV, but I've had to make do. That was until, I curiously clicked on a link under ESPN Mobile's header which said:
The Maine Event: LIVE From The Best Sports Bar in North America For MNF
I had no idea what I was clicking into. But certainly, the first line that I read gave me a little laugh, and kept me glued:
7:55 PM: We're sitting the VIP area typically reserved for Maple Leafs, Raptors or any visiting team players. A number of people have looked over hoping to see someone famous. They don't seem too thrilled when they see me. Weird.
...before I knew it, it was line after funny line. Not exactly the play-by-play I was expecting. In fact, I almost forgot to check the play-by-play! As it turned out, D'Arcy's game commentary turned out to be just as entertaining as the game itself!
9:09 PM: No doubt about it. This is a Pats bar. Hockey air horn going off for BJGE's TD. Current score: Pats, 10, Jets 0, D'Arcy 3 pounds gained. 
10:22 PM: Debating whether or not to try the Hail Mary challenge. It does not require me to throw a football. It does require me to eat a 67 ounce steak, a pound of fries and a pound of coleslaw. This will end well. If I stop blogging, I more than likely had a heart attack. 
10:38 PM: My boss emailed me telling me to stop eating. Hope this doesn't come up in my annual review. I guess I will not be participating in the Hail Mary contest. Next time.  
In sloppy, boring games D'Arcy once called "field goal conventions", the live blog proves to be even more entertaining than the game.

Now, one has to realize, D'Arcy is a New England Patriots fan. Of course, I'm not too sure she can say it outright, being a writer for ESPN and all, but it's not hard to figure that out. I, on the other hand, can say it outright. I LOVE the Patriots. Now that makes it doubly fun to read the blog... especially when the Pats are blowing out the Dolphins on Monday Night Football (which has happened two years in a row, mind you):

10:56 PM: These fans are leaving faster than Angelina. At least they have a good reason to leave. 
11:03 PM: Fan just featured on the jumbotron with a "We Can Do This" sign. I'm not sure what exactly "they" can do. But I don't think it's win. 
11:13 PM: So, apparently it can get worse if you're a Dolphins fan. Patrick Chung with the interception and 51-yard TD. Patriots 41, Dolphins 14. But it is a palindrome. So at least there's that. 
11:33 PM: Loudspeaker playing "Don't Stop Believing". I can think of about 98879874983274 songs that are more appropriate right now.
9:51 PM: Announced paid attendance: 66,860. This will be questioned next during the Tea Party debate. 
9:54 PM: Down goes Henne. As well as his dignity, pride and life expectancy. 
9:56 PM: ...As well as the crowd attendance. Mass exodus has begun. I'm still surprised Fergie's signing didn't have that effect earlier. 
10:16 PM: I think the cheerleaders are leaving. This can't be a good sign. 
10:25 PM: Fergie. Still here. Smiling and dancing in her suite. Just like all NFL owners do during the final minutes of a loss. 
10:29 PM: If you switch over to ESPN2 to watch the Raiders-Broncos, I won't judge you. You've made it longer than all of the Dolphins fans at the stadium.
I guess these blowouts really induce some inspired writing. Apparently, we all get a little extra when the games are played in Miami. D'Arcy usually has quite a bit to say about LIV...

8:57 PM: The press box is conviently located next to Liv Nightclub. Not exactly the same crowd. Although a lot of middle-aged guys in both. I would go check it out (for you, of course) but it costs $15,000 to sit on a couch at Liv. Yes, $15,000. Leading me to believe there are no worthy charities in the Miami area. But there sure are a lot of fist pumpers. 
9:59 PM: Someone from LIV tried to crawl into the press box from the outside window. Reason #9834 putting a nightclub next to a press box isn't the best idea. 
11:22 PM: Scene at Liv Nightclub: "Fans" alternating between texting and taking pictures of themselves. Money well spent.

...and the Florida Marlins:
11:06 PM: The mass exodus continues. Crowd is now at about 30% capacity. Starting to look like a Marlins game. 
11:19 PM: A Patriots chant has broken out. This really is just like a Marlins game.
I'm sure you realize by now why I love D'Arcy's humor so much, and why I've continued following her blog (not to mention following her on Twitter). Speaking of following... Well, I don't actually have a "personal" Twitter account. I have one for The Old Soul Store (by the way, follow the store! @oldsoulstore). I usually try to keep personal comments to a minimum (like any good storekeeper should when using a "company" account), but after reading this:
4:04 PM: That does it for me from the Meadowlands. Although I'll be rushing to catch McCown's press conference so I'll make to post any quotes on my Twitter feed (see link above). I'll be back here tomorrow night as the Giants host the Rams. Hope you'll join me then as well. Enjoy the rest of today's games! And go Pa...uh, passer ratings! Yeah, that's it.
I just couldn't help it. I had to tweet. I broke my own rules on using the "company" Twitter account. But hey, I got rewarded for it!

Still haven't gotten her to follow me (well, the store) in return though (HI D'ARCY!). I'm hoping this post would... Hmmm...

ANYWAY... Between the Marlins jokes, the subtle (and not-so-subtle) Patriots references and the flat-out hilarious takes on the goings-on in the game from a fan perspective, this blog has just got me hooked. It matches the entertainment value of any good, accurate NFL play-by-play out there. Now, don't get me wrong, nothing can truly replace the excitement of watching the games themselves... but while I don't have that luxury, I'm certainly counting on "apostrophe Maine" and her witty one-liners to help keep my football sanity intact. Perhaps in the future, I'll have the pleasure of watching the game, while keeping tabs on the other "Maine Event".

Quoted lines courtesy of D'Arcy Maine and The Maine Event on ESPN Mobile. Visit ESPN Mobile and follow D'Arcy Maine on Twitter: @darcymaine_espn

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Christmas is for children... or is it?

My mom never fails to say it every year... "Christmas is really for children!" No one could really blame her for doing so, especially after seeing the glow in the bright, wide eyes of my younger cousins after they receive their presents. Apparently, there's even a Glen Campbell song from 1968 which says exactly that. But, is it? Well, I'm an unabashed lover of the Christmas season, so I have my doubts.

In my part of the world, we have arguably the longest Christmas season of any country that celebrates it. Everyone watches out for the coming of the "-ber" months, and radio DJs start playing Christmas songs when they do. The twinkle lights and the Christmas lanterns soon follow, and everyone rejoices when the weather starts to cool. The parties are countless, and you go to them anyway even as the traffic gets heavier. No one really takes their Christmas decor down 'till after the New Year, and sometimes, all the celebrating even goes beyond December!

My Christmas season usually starts at the end of October. It's become a tradition at home to put up the Christmas tree for my birthday, because as a kid, I was content with that being my birthday present. My birthday happens to be around Halloween, so you can just imagine the confusion when it comes to the decor. But my mom has always been good at getting the house ready for the holidays, so for anyone who sees it, it's a joy to look at either way. At age 26, I still get excited knowing the tree would be up soon. Just seeing the twinkle lights on the tree gives me a certain feeling that I've always associated with Christmas. You can call it nostalgia or even just excitement, but I just know there's a certain feeling.

Clan and family reunions are a big thing during the holidays, and I attend at least four of them every year. Eating, of course, is the main event at these gatherings. Christmas isn't Christmas without roast beef, lechon (roasted pig), salami and cheese. At this time of the year, the term "overindulge" always seems to disappear from our vocabularies!

I live in the tropics, so the thought of a "white Christmas" just stays that way (although I have experienced one white Christmas). Either way, we all welcome the cooler weather, and often pray it would stay a bit longer than the last Christmas. With every cool breeze that blows, I would rejoice quietly just as I did as a kid.

Well, at this point I have to confess that a lot of the joy I associate with Christmas actually has to do with toys. Yes, toys. Toys are, and will always be a part of that "Christmas cheer". I don't think I've ever outgrown toys, and I doubt that I ever will. I don't think there's any shame in that. I certainly don't complain when I receive gifts that happen to be some sort of toy! As a friend and I would always say, "return to the joy of toys!"
A snowman I made when I was 23.
No, I did not make it for some kid... just for me.
...but aren't we all children?

...I guess by now it's easy to figure out why the thought of Christmas evokes so much nostalgia in me. It just never gets old.

I had never heard of Campbell's song before I started writing this entry, but after I looked up the lyrics, I realized that the song actually sums this all up quite well...

"That same tale is told, 
every Christmas Eve again...
We may think we're old, 
but our hearts can almost believe again...
Christmas is for children
...but aren't we all children?"

I was watching the late night news with my Mom the other night. Before the news anchor signed-off, she announced, "let the countdown begin... 100 days 'till Christmas"!

I'll be counting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

'tis the Season!

I just posted a teaser on the store's Facebook page and tweeted the same a while ago, but for you who check out the blog once in a while, you get an advanced look at what all this is about!

Spread some joy and cheer and add your own holiday greetings HERE!

Enjoy, and spread the holiday cheer!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Goodbye August!

Well, that's that... August is over, and the so-called "-ber" months are here. Well, it's not just any August, but the end of an extraordinary month for The Old Soul Store --- its best ever! Sales spiked to its highest level since the store went online in December 2008. The big spike put the 8-month sales total for this year already above the whole year's totals for 2009 and 2010! And, as if to put icing on the cake, The Old Soul 2012 New York Calendar which was launched at the end of the month got a Today's Best Award and made it to the Top 10 Calendar Views list!

Since I opened the store, the annual surge in sales would usually come in September, because it seems to be the time of year when a certain Linda from Fenton, Missouri would visit the store and purchase hundreds of copies of this postcard:

This year, she made her big purchase in August.

Over the years, Linda has purchased about 1,300 copies of the postcard (300-500 copies at a time)! I've always wondered what she does with it... Perhaps she owns a souvenir shop over in Fenton and sells these there? I have no clue. Linda, if you happen to stumble across this blog, I would love to hear from you (! Thank you so much for being such a great and loyal customer to the store! You practically, single-handedly put this postcard at the top of the search results for New York postcards on Zazzle. You really put the store on the Zazzle map! I did leave a message on the product wall, so maybe you'll see that the next time you purchase the postcard (and I do hope there will be many next times!).

But aside from Linda's big purchase coming a month earlier than usual, many other buyers came to the store getting more than just single copies of products like they usually do. More took advantage of the volume discounts available. There was hardly a day that went by in August where I did not wake up to email notifications telling me that I made a sale...

Postcards are truly the bread and butter of The Old Soul Store , but a number of customers came in August and liked other types of products as well. I was so happy to have sold my first iPhone 4 case:

I would like to think that this design has some promise, so I used it for other products too:

Anyway, the "-ber" months usually get people thinking about the Christmas season, and I hope that's enough to keep the momentum going for the store. I have a couple of ideas already to take advantage of the Christmas rush, but I hope I get to work on it before I get caught up in the rush myself! Speaking of momentum, looks like someone from California found the store and bought 35 postcards just now... The momentum builder here has quite a familiar look to it if you ask me:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Today's Best!

I was a definitely a happy camper yesterday. Just a day after I released the Old Soul 2012 New York Calendar into the digital marketplace, it gained immediate recognition on Zazzle. It was the only calendar to receive a Today's Best Award for August 29 (August 30 in my side of the world), and it also got into the Top 10 for Calendar Views on the same day! Fellow Zazzlers took a look at the calendar and left a number of comments, others joined the Store's Fan Club, and one even featured the calendar on his Squidoo lens. The lensmaster promised to feature the product in his lens for the remainder of 2011.

One of my older calendars also received the TBA almost two years ago (it was also the only calendar to get the award that day), but this recent one feels a bit more special considering the amount of work I put into it. The nature of my day job and the number of other responsibilities and activities I currently have limit the time I could really dedicate to designing products for the store (I think I currently have about a dozen designs that haven't had the time to publish yet). So, doing all this had me squeezing out every bit of time I could so I could get it done before the so-called "-ber" months arrive (one day to go!). It took me about a month to make the Calendar --- adding an artistic twist to the photos, looking for the right elements to make the calendar look nice, putting together the whole thing on Picnik and Photoshop... down to double checking if everything was spelled correctly! It was quite tedious and I would sometimes get impatient as I wanted the calendar out as soon as possible. Well, it's out now, with two little red ribbons to boot!

In the end, winning the award may not really seem like a big deal. These awards are given out daily, meaning thousands of other products get the same award. But at least for a day, yours was one of those that stood out among 15 billion products on Zazzle... for a day, your product got featured on Zazzle's home page. You get a number of congratulatory comments, 5-star ratings, new fans for your store, but most important of all, more site traffic for that day... all enough to satisfy one's vanity. Well, I certainly rode the wave as soon as I found out about the awards. I put up an announcement on both The Old Soul Store's Facebook fan page and Twitter page immediately after, and now here I am on the blogosphere. HAH! With that, I'm keeping my fingers crossed for what this will do for my sales!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Starting to look like something...

One of the most useful things I learned in high school was the basic logic behind HTML, or putting up a simple website. Of course, today's websites are much more sophisticated, with a multitude of layers, languages and protocols behind them. XHTML, XML, CSS, Java, Java Script, Flash... the list goes on! Thankfully, HTML is still relevant and remains one of the more popular languages out there. Despite that, what I know isn't really much... but at least for now, it's enough. In putting up this blog, I've used all the HTML tags I could muster, and more. And with that, somehow, the blog is finally starting to look like something!

I finally turned to a blog because of my frustration with the limitations of other sites, including Zazzle (the fine folks who make the products when you order from The Old Soul Store). On the store's homepage for example, I couldn't change the paragraph alignment to "center"! Nope, the "p align" tag didn't work. Neither could I use the Twitter widgets I wanted. Facebook only allows you to do so much. I once tried Google Sites, and actually had fun setting up that page (it's still up! Click here to see it). The problem was, it wouldn't allow me to include "unsafe content"... a.k.a. cooler features. I could't even display Zazzle panels (see the bottom of this page)! Of course, any Tom, Dick and Harry out there with slightly more technical know-how would probably tell me I could have used Flash, Java or maybe even a WYSIWYG application to do just that. I could have used Zazzle's "Store Builder" too... But obviously, I know nothing about PHP or CSS. Whether it's a lack of programming skills, the absence of the needed software or just plain laziness, I've stuck to what I could type, copy or paste.

I can't quite figure out why I've been hesitant to go on the blogosphere in the first place. I'm guessing it was because I didn't really know how I wanted to do it. Should I post as the store or as a real person? Use the third person (like I do on Twitter and the store's Facebook fan page) or the first? What would I write about? How would I write about it? Well, here I am... questions answered and starting to discover what I've been missing all this time; posting stuff just the way I imagined. I've always wanted to tell the Old Soul story. Finally, I get to tell it the way I've always wanted to.

Add gadget > input social plug-in content and preferences > copy code > paste > CLICK > Instant Twitter widget. Add gadget > create Zazzle Panel > customize panel > copy code > paste > CLICK > Instant Zazzle panel. No unsafe content here. Pure awesomeness.

With all this new-found freedom, it's hard not to put too many gadgets and features on the page. But I'm certainly happy with my current list:

- Catchy blog name? Check.
- Nice header image? Check.
- A good blog description? Check.
- Easy-on-the-eyes font? Check.
- Links to The Old Soul Store? Check. (yup, one right there!)
- Comment boxes? CHECK.
- Social plug-ins? CHECK.
- Widgets? CHECK.
- Zazzle panels? CHECK. (see the foot of the blog)
- Good reading material??? Hopefully.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased

Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased 
You recently sold 30 customized copies of your product, San Francisco Cable Car.

There aren't any words more powerful than these for a Zazzle store owner. It doesn't matter if you earned just an $0.08 royalty from a single postcard sold... All you really care about is that, somebody out there thought enough of your design to actually buy it... especially in this economy! It becomes even more exciting when you start asking, "how did he/she find my design? Where in the world-wide web did it show up?" Today, Kelly from San Francisco bought 30 of them.

Thank you, Kelly.

In a case like this, I begin to think, "I wonder what she'll use it for? Will she sell them again in a little souvenir shop in the Bay Area? Where will these postcards end up?" I've had people buy more than 100 copies of a postcard of mine at a time, so this isn't something new (not that I'm complaining though)... But every time I sell copies of this one, it takes on a special meaning somehow, as it was the first of my designs to actually sell. Five days after I opened my store, I was still unsure whether or not Zazzle was the real deal...until I got that first magical email. Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased.

I must be doing something right... I've gotten more of these emails in the past month than I ever have! Makes me start to wonder though, will it ever be able to replace my day job...?

Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased.
Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased.
Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased.
Sold! Your Zazzle product(s) have been purchased.
Sold! Your Za............

...maybe someday.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hello! (prosaic...I know)

Well, here it is! My first shout-out into the blogosphere, blogiverse or whatever you choose to call it... It's not much, I know, but that will change (I think?). In the meantime, here's a rundown of what I do and don't know:
  1. I know what I want this blog to do for me and my little online store
  2. I have a slight idea of what I want this to be as a blog
  3. I have an idea of what I want the blog to look like 
  4. I have no idea how to do #3...
  5. I know I want this blog to "click"
  6. Again, no idea how to make #5 happen... the end, I know that things will probably work themselves out somehow, and that this will be fun and interesting... so, stay tuned!