Daily Archives: August 10, 2008

US Mint offers special coin collection to Asian American Communities

by Miko Santos/AJPress
SAN FRANCISCO – To celebrate the ostentatious event of the date 8-8-08, the United States Mint released a new set of gold coins targeted primarily for the Asian American community

US Mint Director Edmund C. Moy, the 38th director of the US Mint and the first Asian American to hold the post, discussed the significance of this new set of gold coins, saying, “The 8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for coin collectors and the general public.”

The sets go on sale August 8, 2008 or “08-08-08.” This date was chosen since the number “8” is traditionally associated with prosperity in many Asian cultures. A date with the “triple 8” only occurs once every 100 years.

To mark this occasion, this is also the first time the United States Mint has paired two gold coins in custom-designed packaging, making this set a unique product for the Asian-American community.  The sets will be priced at $1298.95. There is no production limit placed on the sets.

The American Buffalo One-Half Ounce Gold Uncirculated Coin contained in this set is one of the newly-released fractional weight options in the expanded American Buffalo Coin Program.  The coin bears the classic portrait of a Native American in profile on the obverse and the magnificent American Buffalo, or bison, on the reverse.  Noted American sculptor James Earle Fraser, a student of Augustus Saint-Gaudens, originally designed both images for the redesigned five-cent coin (nickel) released in 1913.

The American Eagle One-Half Ounce Gold Uncirculated Coin displays Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ enduring full-length figure of Liberty with flowing hair, holding a torch in her right hand and an olive branch in her left.  The coin’s reverse, by Miley Busiek, bears the endearing image of a male eagle clutching an olive branch while soaring above a nest containing a female eagle and her hatchlings.

Both coins in the 8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set are legal tender with a nominal face value designation of $25.  But their gold metal content and artistry make them worth far more.  Inscriptions on the coins include the “W” mint mark for the United States Mint at West Point , the date, the fineness and the weight.  The coins are packaged in an attractive hardwood box with a Certificate of Authenticity signed by Director Moy.

Customers may order the 8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set at the United States Mint’s secure Web site at http://www.usmint.gov.  Orders may also be placed at the toll-free number, 1-800-USA-MINT (872-6468).  Please add $4.95 shipping and handling fee to all domestic orders.  There is no set product limit for the 8-8-08 Double Prosperity Set.


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Historic Filipinotown Festival: A celebration of a community

by Gayle Gatchalian/AJPress
Two blocks of Temple St. was barely enough to contain the 6th Historic Filipinotown Festival last Saturday, August 2. Spearheaded by the Historic Filipinotown Neighborhood Council (HFNC), this year’s festival has been the biggest so far and has opened its arms to embrace people of all color and creed, making it an event truly for the community at large.

Since its inception, the Festival has been drawing crowds of Filipinos from all over Southern California and beyond. The one-day extravaganza of food, culture and fun used to reside in small alleys but it proved too big to stay there for long. The festival also catered to the current residents of Filipinotown, not just its namesakes. With 65 percent Hispanic residency in the district, they had to take it to the streets. The 2008 festival provided an action-packed schedule to those who attended. About 800 runners participated in the 7:30 a.m. 5K Run/Walk followed by eleven hours of non-stop stage time. There was dancing and singing that kept the multi-cultural crowd entertained. There were carnival rides for the younger kids to enjoy and numerous booths of organizations and commercial entities active in the FilAm market. No festival would be complete without food of course and not surprisingly, food was to be found aplenty. Filipino superstar Nora Aunor graced the evening, topping off the long day’s celebration of Historic Filipinotown.

Alvaro VanEgas from Proyectos Saluda, is media chair and promoter for this year’s festival. Proyectos Saluda is actually an organization that promotes Hispanic cultures, but VanEgas could ignore the similarities between Hispanic and Filipino cultures. His involvement is paradigmatic of the inclusive, welcoming nature of the festival and Filipinos themselves. Cross-cultural sharing is an important part of the festival and the Latin component could be felt throughout the day.

“It used to be on a small community level, but now we have gone big-time with a massive campaign and plenty of sponsors,” VenEgas continued. “We want Historic Filipinotown to be a model for all other Filipino communities and this festival is the first step in a long-term project to promote the area.”

Historic Filipinotown has gone a long way since its incorporation in three years ago. The HFNC has a vision to make Historic Filipinotown, HiFi as it is fondly called, a tourist destination in the city of Los Angeles. HFNC President Cecille Ramos explained, “This is an opportunity for the community to get together, discover and embrace each other’s culture.” She added, “A miracle is happening in HiFi. Everyone is coming together, enjoying diversity and the happenings.”

HFNC was responsible for putting up the freeway signs indicating HiFi’s downtown location. Their next project involves adopting 125 city posts upon which will hang a parol, those ornamental star-like lanterns that grace every Filipino home during Christmas. Mrs. Ramos disclosed that “there’s a lot of excitement in the families we’ve spoken to and the pledges are coming in.”

The community can only look forward to more in the coming years. “We are looking into a bigger street closing, more booths and more runners for the Run/Walk,” revealed Mrs. Ramos. This one-day street party might even see another day added to its schedule.


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Talk is cheapest now

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/AJPress
It is a fact that the way we communicate with the rest of the world has been dramatically changed since the invention of the Internet.

In the past, getting the message through was a struggle, especially when we were entirely dependent on postal mail, a.k.a., snail mail.  Also, gone are the days of expensive phone calls, again, thanks to the Internet.  Aside from the usual voice chats or conversations, the introduction of the Voice over Internet Protocols (VOIP) has given people the chance to keep in touch on the cheap.

Saying ‘hello’ over the Net

Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP or Broadband phone service as it is often referred to, has changed the telephony world.  It has slowly phased out traditional phone lines as businesses and households around the world embrace the benefits.

The technology started as far back as 1995, when a small company called Vocatec released what was believed to be the first Internet phone software.  Designed to run on a home PC, it was simply called “Internet Phone.”  It had initial success, but the lack of broadband availability in 1995 resulted in poor voice quality when compared to a normal telephone call.  By 1998 however, VoIP traffic had grown approximately 1% of all voice traffic in the US.  Businesses were jumping on the bandwagon and started to create devices to enable PC-to-phone and phone-to-phone communication work.  By the year 2000, VoIP traffic accounted for more than 3 percent of all voice traffic.

By 2005, all major voice quality issues have been addressed and the system was able to ensure reliable, clear sounding and unbroken calls.  It is forecasted that revenue from VoIP equipment will be over $8.5 billion by the end of 2008, driven primarily by low cost unlimited calling plans and the abundance of enhanced and useful telephony features associated with the technology.

Snail mail vs e-mail

It has been a longstanding debate – which is better, snail mail or e-mail?  However, in a survey conducted by the International Communications Research (ICR), it was a mixture of results.  Although the survey concluded that respondents overwhelmingly prefer promotional messages via snail mail, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are persuaded by them.

Electronic mail, or e-mail is a natural use of networked communication technology that developed along with the evolution of the Internet.  It was, in fact, already in use in the early 1960s, developed for the ARPANET shortly after its creation.  It has now evolved tremendously into the powerful e-mail technology, a widely used technology on the Internet today.

E-mail provides a way to exchange information between two or more people with no set-up costs or less paperwork.  It is also a convenient way to send the same message to multiple addressees, with a swift click of the ‘send’ button.

A number of people however still see the e-mail as ‘too impersonal’ or business-like.  This is probably because handwriting a letter, putting it in an envelope and actually mailing it out, takes more effort, thus the personalized touch.  Still, the advantage of time and cost overthrows the reasoning, making the e-mail an essential part of our lives – business or personal.


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Strange Brew

by Nickee de Leon/AJPress
Wherever in the world the globe-trotting Pinoy may be, one alcoholic beverage has remained sine qua non — a satisfying brew known as beer. For Filipinos in the United States, it’s practically euphoric to be living in beer heaven, with hundreds, maybe even thousands of varieties and brands to choose from.
In the Philippines, beer is a staple drink in every gathering — be it with family, friends or colleagues. It’s customary to have several bottled or canned beer chilling in the fridge as Filipinos are known to be strong drinkers.  After all, beer catalyzes one’s courage to belt out a few songs in videoke– yet another fixture in every Pinoy affair.

For most yuppies, the most anticipated time of the day is the “happy hour.” Filipinos are ardent lovers of the nightlife and what best way to spend it than to indulge one’s self in the “buy one, get one” special offer for beers. It’s getting the “buzz” without going over the budget.

But what is a refreshing bottle of San Miguel, Red Horse or Cerveza Negra without pulutan? The Filipino concept of pulutan (or barchow) is a sub-culture in itself. Being hefty eaters, Pinoys definitely won’t settle for a mere bowl of peanuts. Picking the right pulutan is perhaps, as equally crucial as drinking beer itself. Take your pick from all-time favorites such as sisig, chicharong bulaklak and calamari to the more daring papaitan and calderetang kambing. For most male drinkers, the choice of pulutan is actually a gauge for masculinity and machismo. The more daring you are with your choice of beer and pulutan, the closer you are to becoming the quintessential alpha male.

However, it’s not only Pinoys who enjoy these flavorful brewskies. Beer is a universal concoction — the proverbial grog that’s enjoyed by different cultures across the globe. It has become both an elixir for pain and a catalyst for pleasure. In the United States, watching Superbowl or the NBA playoffs seems incomplete without beer in hand. In Germany, the Oktoberfest is the most famous and highly-anticipated  Bavarian tradition of the year —  a sixteen-day festival that attracts about six million people annually.

So what is beer exactly? And why has it become the celebratory drink of choice?

An ancient brew

According to wikipedia.org, “Beer is an alcoholic beverage produced by brewing and the fermentation of starches derived from cereals. The most common cereal for beer brewing is malted barley, although wheat, corn, and rice are also widely used, usually in conjunction with barley. Most beer is flavoured with hops, which adds a slightly bitter taste and acts as a natural preservative. Occasionally, other ingredients such as herbs or fruit may also be included in the brewing process. Alcoholic beverages fermented from non-starch sources such as grape juice (wine) or honey (mead) are not classified as beer.”

Possibly one of the world’s oldest alcoholic beverages, detailed recipes of beermaking were found in Babylonian clay tablets that date back to 4,300 BC. The ancient Chinese, Assyrians and Incas were also known for brewing beer, says Didyouknow.cd.

Britannica.com says that beer may possibly date back to the 6th millennium BC and is recorded in the written history of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

The University of Pennysylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology’s Earliest Chemical Evidence of Beer states that the earliest known chemical evidence of beer has been traced to circa 3,500–3,100 BC — from the site of Godin Tepe in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran.

“As almost any substance containing carbohydrates, mainly sugar or starch, can naturally undergo fermentation, it is likely that beer-like beverages were independently invented among various cultures throughout the world. The invention of bread and beer has been argued to be responsible for humanity’s ability to develop technology and build civilization,” says wikipedia.org.

Founded in 1294, The Augustiner brewery in Munich is the oldest brewery in the world. An Augustinian monastery was established at the Haberfeld upon the order of the bishop of Freising. Munich became world-famous for its breweries which were operated by monks.

“In 1506, beer was given a makeover when the German Purity Law made it mandatory for beer to only have four ingredients: water, barley, wheat and hops,” says Microbrewery-mgi.com.

Beer ingredients

The four key ingredients of standard brews was also described in the same website.

“Barley is a key ingredient that adds a certain amount of color and flavor, depending on the roasting time. Barley is responsible for the sweet taste in beers.”

“Hops come in several different varieties. The type used, as well as the length of time it’s included in the brewing process, affect the bitterness, aroma and flavor of the beer. Hops are called the ‘spice of beer.”

“Water may be flavorless, but this main ingredient’s chemical components often affect the final flavor of the beer. Hard water produces bitter ale, while softer water produces a bitter lager.”

“Yeast comes in various strains and affects the flavor and aroma. This ingredient converts the sugar in the malt into alcohol.”

Beer style

In Michael Jackson’s seminal book, The World Guide to Beer, published in 1977, he categorized “a variety of beers from around the world in local style groups suggested by local customs and names,” says wikipedia.org. His book has become a significant influence to the modern theory of beer style.

Various elements constitute beer style — appearance (which includes color, clarity and nature of the head); aroma, flavor(brought about by bittering agents as hops, roasted barley and herbs), mouthfeel (based on the smoothness and viscosity of the beer in the mouth), strength (from the amount of fermentable material converted into alcohol), yeast,grains, hops, water and other ingredients.

Ales and Lagers

With the onset of more innovative brewing technology, several variations of beers have proliferated across the globe, with over 20,000 brands of beer that can be grouped into 180 styles. However, the most common types of beer can still be classified either as ales or lagers.

A top-fermenting yeast strain called saccharomyces cerevisiae which is fermented at higher temperatures (15-23 degrees Celsius or 60-70 degrees fahrenheit) is responsible for giving ale higher alcohol content. The warm temperature is suited for the production of esters or acidic chemical compounds and robust and fruity flavors and aromas that resemble those of apples, pears, pineapple, grass, hay, bananas, plums or prunes.

Amber ale, barleywine, brown ale, pale ale, porter, stout and wheat beer are beers that can be classified as ales.

On the other hand, lagers use a bottom-fermenting yeast called saccharomyces carlsbergensis, fermented at temperatures ranging from 45 to 55  degrees Fahrenheit and stored at temperatures between 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooler temperatures inhibit the growth of esters and produce a smoother, crisper and more elegant taste. Lagers are the most highly-consumed beers in the world.

Indeed, beer is no longer regarded as a mere beverage — it has become a thriving pop icon. Beermakers as Budweiser, Miller and Roling Rock have taken giant leaps and strides in advertising  to elevate people’s perception of this frothy beverage. Beer-drinking has become a lifestyle in itself — an indispensable part of popular culture.


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