Friday, May 29, 2009

Zappin' 'em termites

Middle of last year, we had the electrical cables inside the ceiling of our house replaced because they were rather old and exposed, meaning they’ve been there since the mid-1980s when the house was built (we bought the house in 1997), and they weren’t placed inside electrical PVC pipes, which is for added protection. When the electrician (who was also a carpenter) went to work on the cables, he found a few cables that were already inside PVC pipes.

But he wanted to replace those old PVC pipes, too. And that’s when he found the termites that had been living comfortably inside the pipes. Inspection on the surrounding wood of our ceiling revealed some more termites feasting on the wood.Before the electrician could replace those pipes and the damaged wood, I had to look for a pest control person. A friend referred someone to me. After evaluating the damage, the pest control guy installed in our ceiling Sentricon, which was a termite-zapping chemical placed in a box, almost 3 x 6 inches in size. I was used to seeing liquid termite chemical being used, mainly because we had a lot of termites in our former wooden house in Manila (our house now is mostly concrete). So I was quite amazed that such a small box could be so powerful as to wipe out a termite colony in a short time, with no mess and strong smell typical of termite chemicals, and especially zeroing in on the “queen” of the colony.

I can’t remember now exactly how long Sentricon was able to exterminate the termites in our house, but it wasn’t very long. And the extermination process was monitored by the pest control guy by the amount of chemical that was still in the box. If the chemical was no longer being reduced in size/amount for a few days, that meant that the termites weren’t feeding anymore on the chemical. The colony would have been wiped out by then. And so, soon enough, the electrician was back to work in our ceiling. Well, it’s been a year this May 2009 that Sentricon was applied to our house. And if I remember correctly what the pest control guy said to me, the chemical needs to be applied again after a year. But there doesn’t seem to be termites infesting our home right now. I sure hope there would be no need for me to purchase Sentricon again right now because of the expense. But, of course, "cheap" isn't always another word for good--and necessary--home maintenance.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Note to God by Charice

Charice Pempengco, the young Filipino singer who has been carving her niche abroad particulary in the USA, has her first single in America. It was launched on May 18 in "Oprah," the show of her main American supporter Oprah Winfrey.

Watching Charice sing this song by Dianne Warren makes me really proud to be a Filipino, too. Many Filipino singers have tried to break ground abroad, mostly in the USA, but very few have made much headway. Not because they lacked talent but good opportunities didn't seem to be coming their way. Charice has got both talent and the good breaks now. It's her moment. May her success continue, and also pave the way for more talents from her homeland to become recognized internationally.

Thanks to huntress2024 for this YouTube link, with credits to Harpo Productions.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Farrah Fawcett's story

Just yesterday, I read on the Internet that "Farrah's Story" will be showing on US television this week. It's a documentary of the story of Farrah Fawcett and her struggle with cancer, which started as anal cancer and spread to her liver, despite some periods of remission and vigorous forms of treatment. Farrah, of course, is one of the original cast of "Charlie's Angels," the super-hit show of the late 1970s to early 1980s. This show was one of my favorites back then, as it was also the favorite of other teeners who grew up enamoured at the adventures of three women who emerged with nary a scratch after tracking down and battling criminals. Of course, there was also the reliable Bosley, the other "angel" cum alter-ego to Charlie, the "boss" whose voice over the telephone was the nearest thing that the angels could have of him as he gave the marching orders to the angels on every assignment. Now that I'm an adult watching reruns of Charlie's Angels on TV or on DVD, I can understand, digest, and appreciate the show more than I was still younger. I think it's really not all jiggle as some critics then were saying, but the show did try to put across the idea of empowered women, able to use brain and even brawn--aside from or despite their looks--in solving crimes and what-not. There were even episodes that were nicely written and acted well, including scenes that were light enough to be humorous thus a welcome diversion from all the drama and suspense.

David Doyle (Bosley) passed away in the mid-1990s. And now, Farrah is terribly sick, under heavy medication to ease her suffering. She has gained the admiration of many for her bravery in facing her situation, as she also gained the admiration of so many women before who became Farrah look-alikes, wavy hair and all. Her family and close friends are still hoping for the best for Farrah, and they are asking for prayers.

In 2006, Farrah, Jacklyn Smith, and Kate Jackson--the original cast--got together in a rare reunion in paying tribute to then newly departed Aaron Spelling, their former producer. This was at the Emmy Awards in the USA. Shortly after this appearance, Farrah was diagnosed with cancer (Jacklyn and Kate has their own battles with cancer earlier). Here is a YouTube video of that Emmy reunion, courtesy of Mamobox. I'm reposting it here as a little tribute to the show, and to Farrah.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Check the receipt

I don’t usually check receipts I get from groceries. And I don’t think anyone else takes time to check this usually long list when she or he gets home, except maybe for a special reason. Well, I had my special reason last Monday when I looked for the receipt of my previous day’s shopping at the Landmark supermarket-Trinoma mall, Quezon City branch. I was looking for the price of one item I bought. It was when I noticed that the cooking oil that cost PhP89.00 (about $2.00) was double-punched by the cashier. So that was the reason, I immediately thought, that I paid the cashier a higher amount than what I had computed when I was still inside the grocery. And then I wondered how many times this has happened before, the double-punching, without me, or any other customer of this supermarket, noticing it. Except, maybe, an always alert shopper who never takes her or his eyes off the LCD of the cashier’s terminal while each item’s barcode/price is scanned. But I seldom do that, too, as I usually only look at the final amount that appears on the LCD, aside from not checking my receipt after.

The complaint
I would have let this incident pass if not for the rather high cost of the cooking oil and also that I wanted to make a point to Landmark about this carelessness on their part or maybe even a glitch on their point of sales (POS) system. I usually do my groceries on Sundays at Landmark, but since I was in the area last Wednesday, I already went to their customer service (CS) personnel to complain. After a few minutes of them verifying my complaint and looking over my receipt, and checking their logbook for the name of the cashier who had attended to me, they declared that the cashier who had to personally process my “refund” was on leave for a few days. The CS people asked for my name and number and said that they will get back to me as soon as they’ve talked to the absent cashier. I gave them what they wanted but also told them that I’ll just get my refund the following Sunday, and there was no need to call me. The refund will actually be a piece of paper that I can show to the cashier on my next purchase to deduct the amount from my payment.

Another double-punch
Funny thing though, when I went inside the grocery to get a few items after I had talked to the CS, the cashier attending to me double-punched or double-scanned again another item. Again I didn’t notice this because I wasn’t looking at the LCD as I was busy getting money from my bag. But the cashier was alert enough to notice it right away and made the appropriate corrections on her machine, which appeared on the receipt afterwards. She advised me of this, and I said to her that, in fact, I had earlier turned over to the CS a receipt with a double-punched item. I mentioned that the concerned cashier was absent so I had to go back later for my refund. She related to me that in cases like that, the concerned cashier will have to suffer a three- to seven-day suspension because it’s really the cashier’s look-out for any discrepancies in scanning the purchased items. I was surprised that there was such a thing as suspension for the cashier for double-punching. I thought that the management will just give the cashier a memo or a verbal reprimand. Now, I’m quite hesitant to follow up my refund at Landmark because if it’s true that the cashier-at-fault could be suspended for some days, then I think I wouldn’t want her to be suspended at all, with a loss of her income to boot.

Point to ponder
A friend of mine said that the cashier’s being suspended isn’t my concern anymore. That this cashier needs to be taught a lesson so that she will be more careful next time. Well, I’m seriously considering telling the CS that I’ll not anymore get my refund if it will result in the cashier’s suspension for some days. I think the cashier will still learn her lesson even without suspension. And I’ve learned my lesson, too—keep my eyes on the LCD of the cash terminal as each item that I purchase is scanned. Don’t rely on the cashier to be exact. That way, I’ll avoid the hassle of having to talk to the CS (especially if the grocery is far from my home--fortunately, Landmark isn't too far away, and I regularly go there on weekends).

P.S. When I came back last Sunday to Landmark about my refund, the CS told me that the concerned cashier isn't working there anymore because her contract had ended. I got my refund back by receiving a bottle of cooking oil that was double-punched in my receipt.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The A/H1N1 flu: What not to do


1. Don't Rush to the ER
With the cable news networks reporting nonstop on swine flu, it feels like the disease is lurking everywhere, and that your slightest sniffle is a sign that you've contracted the virus. That would explain why people with no outward symptoms of illness are flooding emergency rooms in swine flu–affected states, afraid that they might be sick. That's a really bad idea.

First of all, having to examine people who aren't really sick only stresses the already strained resources of hospitals that are trying to prepare for a pandemic. Plus, going to an emergency room unnecessarily may even pose a slight risk to you. In past outbreaks, including SARS in 2003, hospitals were actually loci of infections — all those sick people in close proximity — and the same could be true of swine flu. If you actually have flu-like symptoms — a fever above 100 degrees F, headache, sore throat, body aches, chills or fatigue — and you live in an area where there have been confirmed swine flu cases, by all means report to your doctor. Otherwise, leave the hospital to the sick people.

2. Don't Be Afraid to Eat Pork
On April 29, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) announced that swine flu would no longer be referred to as swine flu, but as the "2009 H1N1 flu." It's less catchy, but more accurate. For one thing, there is no evidence that this virus makes pigs really sick. And the H1N1 virus actually contains genes from swine, avian and human flus. The virus also cannot be spread through pork products — you can't contract swine flu by eating bacon, hot dogs or anything else that was once a pig. Nor will culling pigs, as authorities did in Egypt, do anything to stem the spread of the disease. H1N1 has jumped to humans and is passing easily from person to person, so it's now a human flu that needs to be controlled in us, not the pigs.

3. Don't Hoard Antivirals
The H1N1 virus has so far proven vulnerable to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, which is good news. A cornerstone of the government's pandemic preparations was the stockpiling of 50 million doses of those drugs over the past few years, enough to ensure that doctors would be able to respond sufficiently to new outbreaks. But that capacity could be compromised if people begin stockpiling antivirals for their own use. Already there are reports of pharmacies running short of Tamiflu, and many hospitals in the U.S. have begun restricting the power to prescribe antivirals to just a few doctors. Also, the misuse or overuse of Tamiflu or Relenza by patients can promote resistance in the flu virus — effectively removing the only bullets from our gun.

4. Don't Leave Home If You Feel Sick
In the absence of a vaccine, the only defenses we have against the spread of H1N1 are simple ones. Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough (with your arm, not your hands, to avoid spreading the virus through handshakes) and wash your hands frequently. Buy a pocket-sized bottle of hand sanitizer and use it — it's the easiest way to avoid getting sick.

But when it comes to slowing the overall spread of a pandemic flu, the best thing we can do is keep sick people away from everyone else. It's called "social distancing," and studies of the deadly 1918 Spanish flu showed that cities that instituted distancing measures quickly suffered lower death tolls than cities that did nothing or reacted slowly. So if you're feeling sick, don't go to work until you feel better — even though that may not be the most welcome advice for the nearly 50% of private-sector workers in the U.S. who don't get paid sick days.

5. Don't Panic
TV anchors can't stop asking the question: "When is it time to start panicking?" How about never? Panic can only lead to stupid actions — on a personal and national level — that would likely make a pandemic worse.

As worrying as the epidemic has been, keep in mind that only one person so far has died of swine flu outside Mexico. Many scientists are beginning to think that even if we do have a full-fledged pandemic on our hands, it may likely be a mild one. A computer model by researchers at Northwestern University estimated that even if nothing were done to slow the spread of the disease from now on, by the end of May the U.S. would have only about 1,700 cases. The good news is that H1N1 is hitting North America at the tail end of its flu season. It's possible that the virus may peter out and re-appear next autumn, but that gives us months to prepare.

As WHO and CDC officials keep reiterating, influenza is an enigma, and H1N1 will keep evolving, keep changing — so we can't predict how the epidemic will progress. But one thing is certain: Panicking will only make the situation worse. "This is a cause for deep concern, but not panic," said President Barack Obama in his April 29 news conference. In the midst of all this anxiety, that's the best advice there is.