Tuesday, May 11, 2004

The Calm Before the Storm

A Rational Technology repost.

I live a block away from the EDSA Shrine, and my high-rise studio affords me a good view of its surroundings. From time to time I look out the window and see what I usually see: vignettes of typical urban life -- yuppies rushing to work, shoppers ambling to the mall, and weekday traffic zooming by.

Nowadays, I look out the window expecting to see something different. More than just a chapel in the middle of the city, the EDSA Shrine is also a lightning rod, owing to its origins and its colorful history. I wonder how long it will be before a chanting mob gathers around again. Ah, sweet democracy.

These are quiet days thus far. The billboards have been pulled down and the theme songs have disappeared. The ballots have been cast and the snail-paced count is in progress. It's a suspenseful last mile as we watch the two leading contenders race towards the finish line in ultra-slow motion. One moment, one is leading; the next moment, the other. We wait with bated breath.

There are, of course, no losers in Philippine elections. There are the winners, and there are the cheated. If it ends in such a close fight, the verdict is sure to be contested. Will the contenders wait for a recount? Hardly. The recourse is the streets of which we got a sneak preview last Monday evening.

That's why I'm anticipating a big crowd outside my window sometime soon. As early as next week, perhaps, and at most a month from now. I'm hoping I'm wrong, but if it doesn't come to pass, I'm likely to be worried for at least a year. Sooner or later, we are going to get another dose of EDSA-style democracy. Again. Groan.

It could be that I'm wrong altogether, that we're mature political animals or at the very least inured citizens, and that nothing will happen. But I doubt it.

Yes, yes, I promise to send pictures.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Off the beaten track, part 3

A Rational Technology repost.

Independent medical transcription and comicbook artist: these are two non-traditional professions that I wrote about in the past two weeks. What's amazing is that you can do them from a home-office anywhere in the world, Dumaguete included, and still manage to generate income in dollars. They make for interesting models for other types of outsourced work.

My own experience off the beaten track came in the form of writing. I've always wanted to write -- and possibly make a living off writing -- but it wasn't until recently that I've started to get the formula right.

I wrote a couple of articles for short-lived computer magazines, but my first big break was writing for Inq7.net, the online edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. Disappointment soon set in: these publications were so prestigious they expected writers to write for them gratis. I persisted, if only for the recognition.

One fateful day, a colleague from the US suggested we write a technical article together. It took a week of writing on our spare times, but we got accepted for publication on the IBM developer web site. I was pleased at the international exposure, but I was even more pleased by the payoff: $600.

Since then, I've followed up with other articles, sometimes alone and sometimes with collaborators. A short article, written in an afternoon, brought in $75. A couple of longer ones reeled in $1,200 and $1,600 (before taxes, dammit), plus seeing actual print in an international magazine. Whoopee!

It's tempting to jump full-time into writing, but I realized my batting average isn't that high yet. In between actual publications, I've also received rejections. So, no, probably not a good idea to give up my day job just yet. Someday....

So there you have it, folks, three alternative occupations to ponder. They're dependent on persistence, talent, knowledge, and a fast Internet connection. There are several other possibilities out there, ones that don't include a corporate ratrace or an H1B visa. It just takes a bit of exploration and a little bit of luck.

Think about it. Maybe, just maybe, you can make a living off them, and still manage to enjoy the Dumaguete sunrise everyday.