Friday, February 25, 2005

Essayists

Cementing my reputation further as a jack-of-all-trades, I acted this week as a judge for the essay writing competition of the Dumaguete Catholic Schools Week.

Now I don't know if I'm qualified to be one, the weekly drivel on technology that I write notwithstanding.

A lifetime ago, I was a teacher at the University of Asia and the Pacific. After a week, I quickly gave up on the idea of essay questions for my exams when I discovered how atrocious the grammar and spelling of the swaggering conio kids were. It took me ten minutes per paper to decipher what they were trying to say. Ultimately, I resorted to multiple-choice questions that I could check in ten minutes per class.

All right, so maybe I was wrong in that approach.

It was a pleasant surprise, then, to see such beautiful, comprehensible English from the contestants of the local essay writing competition. True, there were occasional lapses in grammar, but on the whole they were quite readable. Perhaps there is some truth to the claim that English skills in Dumaguete are better than those in Manila. I think we can all applaud ourselves for this.

Nevertheless, I do have two nits to bring up with regards to our young essayists.

First is the matter of voice and style. This may be purely subjective, but the tone of many of the essays were somewhat bombastic and ponderous. Many read as if they were for a speech, and thus they felt a little awkward.

This shortcoming isn't unlike that which afflicts the contestants of our overly numerous beauty pageants. For example:

Q: What do you believe is the role of women in society today?
A: (Pause, look at he audience) I Be-lieve (pause) that the Wo-Man of To-Day (pause)...

I exaggerate a bit, but you get the idea. They could just say "world peace" and be done with the matter. But I digress.

Whence comes the unnatural pomposity? Perhaps it comes from the airy speeches of politicians who always seek to impress; perhaps it comes from archaic forms taught in schools. I'll leave that to the English experts to affirm or deny.

On the other hand, those essays which swung to the opposite end -- too informal, too chatty -- weren't much better. In fact, they were much worse, in my opinion, because they used the style to mask the fact that they really didn't have too much to say.

And this is related to my second observation: many of the essays could have been more coherent in their flow of ideas. As it was, I saw several jumps from one topic to another. Perhaps this stemmed from the impromptu nature of the essay contest, but I do feel that our students need more training in developing their thoughts in logical sequence.

In this regard, I think that for many there was no clear "theme" and without this important underying message, it was easy to get lost.

With a central idea to guide them, it would have been an easier task to build up the related ideas around it, leading to essays with more impact to the reader.

This second bit is more important. Grammar can be corrected, style can be developed, but having something to say, and saying it in a way that is lucid and logical, takes more time, more training, and more work.

Again, something for the English experts to look into; I am only a dilettante, after all.

In any case, these two points can be corrected over time. It's important to start the correction process soon, because it's such a shame to waste the wonderful resources we have in these young pliable minds.

Erratum: CICT Commissioner Dondi Mapa was not from St. Paul University, as I wrote in last week's column. He was actually from Don Bosco.

Announcement: The World Bank is running an essay-writing contest on the role of youth in solving problems of the world today. Top prize is $5,000 and a trip to Netherlands to read the winning essay at a conference. For more details, contact Mrs. Danah Fortunato of The Village Bookstore.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Hectic Days

Apologies to all for the quiet five days that just whizzed by. As you can probably guess, I've been really busy. Busier than I've been than when I was working (now there's a scary thought); and technical problems with my home computer didn't help matters, either.

I arrived in Dumaguete last Saturday. What greeted me was a PC that wouldn't boot, so I spent most of the afternoon trying to get it to recognize the hard drive. It turns out that my motherboard is so old (about 7 years, in fact) that it won't recognize drives bigger than 10GB. I didn't figure that bit out until Monday, though, so I was preoccupied for nothing.

Sunday: Aunt M. could only manage two-hour intervals at the store, so I had to be cashier for most of the day. At the same time, it's the weekly house-cleaning with A. so I have to switch between the store and the house. To top it all off, Dad didn't leave the keys to the big gate so I couldn't get the car out!

Monday: tried to get more writing done, with not much success. Also had to commute between the house and the store. In the afternoon, I spoke to some folks about getting into the comic book business. Gadzooks! They even sent in people from drafting courses, for crying out loud!

By a stroke of good luck, I found spare keys to the big gate, so I could now bring the car along.

Tuesday: Meeting with Silliman computer department in the morning. In the afternoon, blog workshop for the writers of Dumaguete. Nothing fancy, I just showed them the tools to get them started. I also toured them through some popular blogs. Interest is quite high, and I was quite happy with the turnout. The DTI folks really outdid themselves with their projector and Thinkpad; next time, we should do it on a proper computer lab setup.

Post-dinner get-together at D.'s place in the evening. Lots of laughs.

Wednesday: woke up late, and really cranky. Visit to St. Paul's computer department, which was a bit of a bomb, because my contact didn't bother showing up. My visit to Foundation U turned out better because C. really knew his stuff and we could talk shop. Most of my afternoon got eaten up wrestling with the computer again so I could get my application to the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop ready.

Late afternoon, marking my third straight session at the DTI offices: a short talk for students participating in the World Bank essay writing contest. Why does it have to be me, anyway? Doesn't Dumaguete have enough professional writers? Fret! Fume! Nevertheless, I did acquit myself quite well. I do have a good stock of knowledge to pick up from.

Oh yeah, one other thing: I'm so absent-minded these days. Forgetting keys, memory cards, and other stuff. So frustrating!

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Meanwhile, at the eServices Trade Show...

Rational Technology column for Feb 20, 2005

Manila -- It's an encouraging sign of recovery when we see a vibrant information technology trade show. Trade shows had all but died out in the aftermath of the DotCom Bust, mere shadows of their former selves. This year, though, we're seeing an IT trade show that's making a big splash. This is the eServices Philippines 2005, a two day event running from February 17 to 18 at the posh EDSA Shangri-La Hotel featuring CEO forums, breakout sessions on the outsourcing market, and hundreds of
participating companies eager to strut their stuff and impress potential customers.

And guess what? Dumaguete has a presence in this event.

On February 17, Team Dumaguete -- composed of DTI Provincial Director Javier Fortunato, Jr., TVB President Danah Fortunato, Foundation University Chairman Dean Sinco, DTI Staff Aracelli Maypa, and myself -- hosted several call center and business process outsourcing executives in a two-hour forum to review the "ICT Outlook for Dumaguete City and Oriental Negros" as a small breakout session. The forum was sponsored by Innove, Globe Telecom's data services arm. Although Governor George Arnaiz could not make it because of prior commitments as chairman of the
Regional Development Council, Negros Oriental Business Development Foundation board member Ernesto Quiamco, Dumaguete-transplanted Norwegian technopreneurs Rolf Reierskog and Sveintor Sigvaldsen, and call center pioneer Bob Baray were on hand to lend their support.

DTI Undersecretary Carissa Cruz gave the opening remarks, apprising the audience about her department's initiatives to bring more development outside of Metro Manila and Metro Cebu. She spoke in glowing terms about her experiences working with Dumaguete City. Undersecretary Cruz is the very model of the modern civil servant -- intelligent, driven, dynamic, and in-touch with the issues of modern technology -- and having her as an ally in our drive to bring ICT investments into Dumaguete is a significant plus.

Jong Fortunato then highlighted Dumaguete's key strengths in the outsourcing market. Key points raised were: (1) our unique status as a university town in the Philippines, thus assuring investors of a good supply of competent talent; (2) our telecommunications infrastructure with generous bandwidth allocations, owing to our position as a nexus for telco interconnections; (3) our abundant supply of geothermal power; (4) our lower cost of doing business; and (5) our quality of life.

The highlight of the forum, however, was Mr. Paul Hartley's presentation on his company's experiences in the province. Mr. Hartley is the Operations Director of SPI Publisher Services, which started its operations in Bacong in October 2004 and now employs over 80 well-trained Dumaguete locals to handle copyediting and typesetting for scientific and technical journals. The most notable of these journals is Science, a prestigious European publication for scientists.

Mr. Hartley related to the group the reasons why SPI chose to locate their services in Dumaguete. Foremost in this list were skills. Copyediting, contrary to images that may form in some people's minds as being rote boring work, actually involves a deep understanding of the nuances of the English language in both their American and European flavors. A visit to the universities of Dumaguete confirmed to them that the skills they were looking for were in this province. And while they were originally planning to base only their copyediting unit in Dumaguete, they ultimately
decided to bring their entire operations to the city to make use of the human resources available.

Other reasons Mr. Hartley cited mirrored the points that Jong Fortunato listed. And one other: that the local government organization and the community was very easy to work with.

Nevertheless, Mr. Hartley was not shy about pointing out some of our deficiencies as well. Notably, the number of people that outsourcing companies can employ remains woefully low. Being the first outsourcing company to set up in Dumaguete, this issue was not particularly worrisome to them, though this will be significant as more companies come in. Additionally, we lack experience in handling commercial enterprises and have a limited ability to support multiple enterprises.

These are issues that we will all have to face and adapt to if we are to be successful in our bid to become an e-services hub.

Two more presentations rounded out the forum: a telecommunications overview by Innove Network Head Robby Tolentino, and CICT Commissioner Dondi Mapa's review of the government's 10-point agenda for growth. As an added bonus, Commissioner Mapa revealed his ties to Dumaguete as a product of St. Paul's University.

So, in a nutshell, this was our showing at the eServices Philippines tradeshow. Other cities sent delegations to present their local software development services, clearly something we must do in the near future. But we were the only province accorded a slot as a breakout session. This shows that we are getting attention from the industry and the government.

Citizens, we are on the map. More work ahead; so let's get to it.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Love as an ACM problem

It's Valentine's day, and My Girlfriend(tm) just happens to be in Japan and won't be coming home until the end of February. So that means there'll be no candle-lit dinner or roses or chocolates or a good-night kiss. At least we'll get to talk via Skype.

Knowing how much she loved puzzles, I prepared a nice coded message for her, using a simple substitution cypher (with a little extra).


1 88 22 2 14 8 18 25 15 21 13 88 8 2 11 14 25
20 9 20 18 25 12 14 88 13 16 16 23 12 24 88
15 7 88 23 2 11 23 13 19 13
20 9 7 88 15 15 7 88 20 9 17 24 11 13 26 88
20 9 3 23 88 19 22 21 23 5 14 20 26 88 13 6
19 17 20 12 18 12 88 23 10 14 15 88 19 16 17 17 88
18 6 22 24 22 19
9 88 12 16 24 8 88 25 16 23 88
4 6 3 21 9 24 26

19 15 17 26 88 2 13 3 17 15 10 26 12
12 88 5 2 20 23 12
23 10 22 11 88 2 2 22 8 8 88 2 19 7 4 24 13 88
9 20 88 23 2 11 23 13 19 13
6 16 20 88 19 17 20 12 18 12 88 19 88
5 25 18 15 19 24 15 22 22


So here's her reply:


4 3 25 21 18 20 8 23 20 13 15 4 16
23 2 23 11 22 1 20 10 17 14 17 15 6
0 23 7 16 14 22 4 21 0 19 0 1 20 5 19
1 16 4 24 25 21 8 16 18 15 6 24
15 25 15 5 19 19 11 10 18 22 19 21
11 10 21 6 12 1 21 14 4 9 5 20 13
16 24 1 15 24 25 14 19 18 18 19 0 21
16 24 10 14 10 5 16 25 18 7 24 5
16 7 1 14 17 5 23 0 18 22 19 4 1 13
23 12 21 2 11 2 0 10 1 14 12 10 23
25


And her clue:

4 13 1 0 10 1 15 12 19
is "dominique"

However, I preferred:

23 13 0 13 0 4 5 23 17 9 13 20 11 18 9 24 11 23 12
7 16 18 21 8 25 6 17 8 9 16 1 9 7 5 15 9 17 1 17 6 3


Geeks do fall in love! And it's very hard work, too!

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Qtub Minar

Another entry for Eggplant.:


Travelling on business is very different from travelling on holiday. On the bright side, your company will shoulder almost all the expenses (and they'll even pay you!) On the downside, your time really isn't your own and you have to adapt your schedule to the needs of the business. All the same, that doesn't mean you can't squeeze in some fun by being flexible. I applied this philosophy when I went to India some years back.

My company gave me a very hectic schedule that would take my colleague Farhana and me through seven cities in nine days. I can still name them all: Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Kolkata, New Delhi, Pune, and Mumbai. India is a wonderful country with a very vibrant culture but we travelled through it so fast I could take only small samples at best.

Fortunately, Farhana and I did have a three-day stop at New Delhi, and one of the days coincided with a Sunday. And what should you visit when you go to New Delhi? That's right, the Taj Majal! Only...we didn't go to the Taj Majal.

The Taj Majal is actually a three-hour drive from the city proper of New Delhi. We did plan on going, but at the last minute we had problems with the transportation arrangements. Admittedly, we were very disappointed but we made up for it by touring the city of New Delhi instead. It turned out that there was still a lot to see.

Being a place with a long and rich history, New Delhi is dotted with ancient temples and monuments. Many of them are within the city itself and are accessible via taxi. But decidedly, the most fascinating was Qtub Minar.

Built entirely out of red sandstone, the Qutb Minar stands at a dizzying height of 72.5 m, roughly the equivalent of a modern-day 25-storey office building. Its base is 14.32 m in diameter and it tapers upwards to a diameter of 2.75 m at the top. What's even more impressive is that it was built in the 12th Century! Talk about ancient!

The Qutb Minar has a long and colorful history. It is so named because it was ordered built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the first Muslim ruler of South Asia. Qutb-ud-din was a Turkish slave who rose through the ranks to become a general. As general of the Turkish army, he conquered most of Northern India. At the death of his king, he in turn was elected as the new sultan. He then moved his capital to Lahore, then onwards to Delhi. He was known as a fair and just king who established an efficient administrative system of government.

After he defeated the last of the Hindu Kingdoms, Qutb-ud-din decided to erect the Qutb Minar as a symbol of the invincibility of Islam. Its purpose, as the inscription on its base says, is "to cast the shadow of God over the East and West." The tower was based on the design Muslim prayer tower from which muezzins would issue the calls to prayer. The tower itself stood within the complex of the Quwwatual Islam mosque.

The Qutb Minar, however, seems to have a symbolic rather than a functional structure. At a height of 72.5 m, the muezzin would hardly be heard by the Muslim faithful. And to climb up the 379 steps of the tower five times a day seems like excessive penance for a holy man.

Qutb-ud-din laid the foundation in AD 1196 but he only lived to see the first storey finished. Qutb-ud-din died in 1210 after he fell from his horse while playing a game of polo. His successor Shamsu'd-din Iltutmish continued the construction of the tower, adding an additional three storeys.

At its height, the Qutb Minar was a veritable lightning rod. According to the Nagari and Persian inscriptions at its base, it was damaged twice by lightning. In AD 1368, a bolt finally knocked off the top floor. The then-sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq restored it and added two more storeys so that its present structure stands at five storeys.

The tower also survived several earthquakes. In the early 19th century, an earthquake damaged its crowning cupola. A British engineer, Major Robert Smith, replaced it in 1829 but it looked so out of place that the governor had it removed in 1848. Architectural faux pas notwithstanding, the earthquakes have taken their toll and the Qtub Minar actually leans two feet from its perpendicular axis.

It's not just its height or its age that impresses, though. The Qtub Minar itself is a thing of beauty to behold. Its red sandstone surface is buffed smooth and it is decorated in the Islamic fashion of carved leaves and Arabic script. Marking off every storey is a balcony encircling the tower and supported by stone brackets. The balconies are decorated in honey-comb sculpture. All told, the work is very consistent and finely finished, indicating that it was a labor of love for the artisans who took part in its construction.

A gate and anteroom, similarly decorated with sandstone carvings, leads to stairs inside the tower. Although it would have been a hearty challenge to climb up the 379 steps to the top, the tower has long since been closed off to public access. Several people have died, falling off the top of the tower. In 1979, several schoolgirls died in a stampede when an earthquake struck and people panicked.

While the tower is the highlight of the complex, it is by no means the only edifice. Next to the tower is the Quwwatual Mosque, also built by Qutb-ud-din. It is the earliest of the surviving mosques built by the Delhi sultans. The mosque is a rectangular courtyard enclosed by cloisters erected from the carved columns taken from Hindu and Jain temples that Qutb-ud-din's armies destroyed.

A bit to the north of the Qutb Minar stands the incomplete Ala'i Minar. Alau'd-din Khalji, another sultan, wanted to build a tower that was twice the size of of Qutb-ud-din's tower. However, he could only complete the first storey. All that remains of this foiled ambition is a rough unfinished edifice that stands 25 m, or roughly the height of an 8-storey office building.

Other constructions of note in the area are the Iron Pillar dedicated to a king, the tomb of Iltutmish, and graves of various other unknown figures.

All told, the trip to the Qutb Minar was a worthwhile and satisfying one. It's easily accessible and won't take a large chunk of travel time to get to. I highly recommend it as one of the stops in your New Delhi itinerary.

Next time, though, I will have to visit the Taj Majal.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Software Outsourcing

Rational Technology for February 13, 2005

It was doubly hard getting in touch with DTI Provincial Director Injong Fortunato this past week. With good reason, I suppose, as Dumaguete once again played host to several visiting executives from call centers. Notwithstanding Epixtar's change of heart with regard to the planned building along Real St., there's still good reason to be optimistic about Dumaguete's prospects in the outsourcing market. Case in point is SPI Technologies' expansion plans in the city.

Although the battle for our share of the call center and services outsourcing business is by no means at an end, we must now look at the other avenues of outsourcing. Increasing our portfolio of skills will increase our visibility and attractiveness to the overall outsourcing business. A next logical step for Dumaguete City is Software Services Outsourcing.

As with the other forms of outsourcing, Software Services Outsourcing is predicated on finding skilled resources who can perform a project or task better and less inexpensively than the outsourcer can. As with other forms of outsourcing, operations are independent of geography so long as the proper telecommunications infrastructure are in place; this is precisely one of the main selling points we are advertising to potential investors.

Unlike other forms of outsourcing, the skills requirements in Software Services Outsourcing are squarely on software design and software development. Software outsourcing companies may invest some time in training their new hires in their methodologies, but they will also require these new hires to have the skills and training in software development. Correspondingly, it is much harder to get into Software Services Outsourcing; correspondingly, the premiums that skilled resources command are much higher.

A good example of Software Services Outsourcing is WebWorks OS, a local operation founded by a Filipino whose previous company was bought over by Microsoft. After two years, WebWorks OS is expecting to hit $1-M in revenue. Not bad for a local company that started out with only 12 people.

Admittedly, the local outlook for Software Services Outsourcing still pales in comparison to call centers. Total IT investment in the Philippines for last year was at P8-B, out of which 80% went to contact centers. The remainder went to nascent businesses in software development, engineering design, medical transcription, business process outsourcing, and animation. Yet investments in these five growth areas is expected to grow by another 60-70% in 2005.

Yet the figures above are only reflective of Philippine industry. Globally, the software outsourcing market is worth $50-B. Philippine share is currently at 0.1%. While these figures may sound disappointing, I offer two ways of looking at it: (1) 0.1% of $50B is $50-M, and $50-M is $50-M; (2) at this market share, there's no way to go but up.

Where do we want to go tomorrow, Dumaguete?



Flash Fiction: Antediluvian

I wanted to keep this under 55 words, but I had trouble cutting it down. So I just kept it as is.

"I swear, by Aton, if that old man keeps up that racket tonight, I'll kill him!" Belaam wrung his pudgy fingers to show just how he would do it.

"I wish you'd do something about that horrible smell from his animals!" Leela seconded with a pout.

"Luckily, neither has stopped the customers from coming, my dear." Leela's always managed to put him in a good mood. "They still line up for my number one attraction, after all."

"Are we expecting a busy night, Belaam? I'm always raring for some action." She flashed that suggestive smirk that had brought him so many shekels.

"Maybe not," Belaam muttered as he looked out the window. "Looks like we have some rain coming."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Bye-bye, Carly!


Wow, I didn't think it would happen so soon, but it looks like Carly Fiorina is out.

What took you so long?

So what now, HP?

From the news articles, it looks like HP might split into two companies, one to focus on business customers and another to focus on consumers. It's a complete reversal from the consolidation that Fiorina's been trying to manage. I foresee corporate chaos over the next few months.

Oh, yeah, HP stock price went up 11% on the day she left. What does that tell you?

"...they promised me a pony."


Amusing ad from Novell, pertaining to the impending withdrawal support of Windows NT come end of 2005. Doubly amusing is the fact that I can visualize my former customers in the video.

Not that they're ever going to diss Microsoft. As we all know, Microsoft is perfect, and it's the hardware guy's fault.

Thanks to Clair for the link.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Fiction: The Dark Place

Now for something a little longer.

This story is a little sad, and I use offensive words over and over again. But it felt right for the mood I was trying to capture.

Our beagle Terence was being his usual unruly self, and that put me in a foul mood. So foul I thought of doing bad things. But then I thought what would a simple-minded animal be thinking anyway?

Hence, the story below.

I do not like the dark.

I have been here for what feels like forever and ever. My fur is sticky and I smell very bad. I have been sleeping in my piss and in my shit. I want to go out into the sun to run with the green grass between my paws and to wag my tail and to bark how happy I am. But all I have is my piss and my shit.

I remember days when I had meat and bone in my dinner. Master would throw down scraps from his table and rub my head and scratch my jaw and tell me how good I am. And I would chew my bone and look at Master and I knew how proud he was.

Now all I have is moldy bread and water. It does not taste very good. It tastes like my piss and my shit. But I eat and drink anyway, because I am hungry and thirsty. Maybe the door will open, and Master will come, and I can have meat and bone for dinner again. And I would chew my bone and Master would be so proud of me.

But now I only feel sad.

One day Master came home angry. I knew he was angry because he hit me and kicked me. Maybe I did something bad. I don't know. I told him I would be good, very good, but the more I barked, the angrier he became and he hit me and kicked me. He hit me so bad that he hurt my leg. Now I cannot walk with my leg, and I have to hop and skip with the other one. When I lie down I have to lie on one side, because it hurts. I lie down on one side in my piss and shit.

I feel very sad.

Master held me by the neck and took me to this very bad place where it is dark. I do not like the dark. I was hurt and I snarled and I bit Master and he hit me again and again. I am sorry, Master, so sorry. Then he closed the door and it is very dark and I do not see the sun anymore. And all I have is my piss and shit in this dark place.

I whined to master that I was very sad, that I was sorry, and that I would not be bad anymore. But Master got angrier and hit the door with a stick. I wish Master could understand, but Master could not. I still feel very sad, but I try not to whine anymore, because Master only gets angry.

It doesn't matter if I whine, because Master doesn't hear me anymore. Master just throws me stale bread and water, which tastes like piss and shit. And he leaves me in this place which is dark. I do not like the dark.

If Mistress were here she would open the door and hug me and kiss me and we would go out and play in the sun. If there is anyone in the world I love more than Master, it is Mistress. She smells good and her hands are soft. They taste sweet. I know. I licked them once. They taste better than meat and bone, and they taste better than the stale bread and water which taste like piss and shit.

I have not seen Mistress for a long time. I miss Mistress very much.

Mistress would take me hunting every night. She would put the rope on me, and I would sniff out game. Mistress was always very slow, and I would pull and pull, even though it hurt my neck. Mistress would laugh, and she would rub my head and tickle my jaw and I would feel very proud. Mistress loved me more than Master did, and I loved Mistress more than I loved Master. I miss Mistress very much.

Maybe when Mistress comes she will let me out of this dark place, and we can go play chase like we always do. Maybe, with my bad leg, she will be able to catch me. Mistress is so slow she is never able to catch me. It's a game I love, and Mistress loves it, too. I run and I run and I run and she can never catch me. Oh, she tries, but she never can. So all she can do is call out, and I get excited and run some more. It's such good fun.

I miss Mistress very much. I love her more than I love Master. All I have now is piss and shit.

But I am afraid of the Big Bright Noisy Thing. More than anything in the world, even more than Master now, I am afraid of the Big Bright Noisy Thing. It growls like a big angry animal and it runs faster, much faster, than I can. The Big Bright Noisy Thing, so angry, and so noisy. Mistress and I were playing chase, and the Big Bright Noisy Thing rumbled by. I ran and ran, and the Big Bright Noisy Thing kept chasing me, and Mistress came, and the Big Bright Noisy Thing came and hit her.

The Big Bright Noisy Thing stopped, and Mistress was under it. Strangers came out of the Big Bright Noisy Thing to look at Mistress. I was afraid but I was very brave. I smelled Mistress' hand, and it was wet and sticky with blood. Mistress wasn't moving, even though I licked her face. The Strangers made frightening noises, but I wasn't afraid. I stayed with Mistress even though she wasn't moving.

Then Master came to see Mistress. I heard Master howl. And I knew Master was sad.

They took me away and I didn't see Master or Mistress for a while, for a long while. I missed the meat and the bone, and the long nightly hunts, and the games of chase, and the pats on the head and the rubbing on the jaw. But I still had my good leg, and I did not sleep in my piss and my shit.

Then one day, Master came home and he was very angry, and he kicked me and he beat me. Maybe I did something bad, but I don't know why.

Then he put me in this dark place where the sun doesn't shine. All I have is piss and shit.

I do not like the dark.


Just so you know, I didn't do actually do anything to Terence, okay? My perspective changed after I put myself in his shoes...er, paws.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Flash Fiction: Some People Never Learn

Drip. Drip. She focused on the slow steady rhythm of the IV tube. How long had she kept vigil over her husband? Two days? Three?

He stirred and groaned.

"Honey!" she whispered, elated.

"Where am I?"

"Hospital. Stroke. Three days ago."

"I'm hungry."

"Yes, yes, anything you want. You'll get it."

"Chicharon would be nice."

Flash Fiction: Money Changes Everything

This is a story I've heard in so many forms I don't know who actually wrote the original. Dalgoda, maybe?

She's gone. Nothing left. Nothing. Nothing but the cold muzzle of this gun against my temple.

Ring. Ring. Danged phone.

"Hello?"

"Good afternoon, sir. Would you be interested in buying...?"

"No!" Click! Bang! Gosh-danged telemarketers! One more reason to quit this life.

Ring. Ring.

"Hello! What now?"

"Mr. Gomez? Kim Johnson from Publisher's Clearinghouse..."

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Flash Fiction: Dancer

My friend Aris swears this is a true story from one of the dance clubs in Cebu.

She cut the dance floor like an arc welder through sheet metal. Danny was clearly smitten. "She's a goddess, man!" he gushed.

"Want her number?" I offered.

"You know her?"

"Classmates in high school."

Danny's jaw dropped. The dude was ecstatic.

Then, realization hit him like a brick: "Didn't you go to an all-boys' school?"

Flash Fiction: Goodbye, Goldie

Another one:

Dr. Lee pronounced with somber finality: "I'm sorry, there's nothing more I can do for Goldie."

Stunned, my only thoughts were on Gina. The grief she must be feeling! How do you explain death to a four-year old?

She took it well, the trouper. "May I be the one to flush her, Daddy?"

Flash Fiction: Flash

I wanted to write some short stories for the Dumaguete Workshop, but it's so hard to get started. So I'm using Sacha's old tricks to jumpstart the process.

"Writing doesn't have to be so hard, honey," she said consolingly. "Not everyone can write sweeping novel."

"I don't have a clue how to get started!" he wailed.

She grabbed hold of his hands, placed them on the keyboard. Under her prompting, he began to type: "'Writing doesn't have to be so hard, honey...'"

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Blogthings: What age do you act like?

Psylocke sent me a link to this quiz: what age do you act like?

What do you think I got?




You Are 12 Years Old



12





Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.



Hmmm, suits me rightly!

An early draft


Early draft of the illustration. I was pretty pleased with the expression I got on the knight, but then I realized the composition wasn't so good. It would have resulted in too much white space.

Then I thought of using the looming dragon as the 'frame' for the picture. That turned out much better.

Do you really think that's a good idea?


Sort of a sequel to the picture of the reckless knight charging a quiet and studious dragon.

Kathleen and Sean asked for a couple more pictures to help the younger readers visualize the events in the story. I didn't think I could do it, but then I thought: what the heck? If I want to be a comicbook artist, I will have to learn to draw a story. Why not a second panel, at least? So the result of that challenge is what you're seeing.

Regular No. 1 Mongol Pencil, inked over with Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5. I decided not to add any shading so as to save myself time. I like how this came out, though. It could be released as a color-it-yourself activity page.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Insomnia

Coffee is an evil thing.

Joel is here on a business trip, and being one of my best buddies from college, I took time to show him the sights and enjoy his company. We had a nice long dinner with his colleagues at Venue's Whistle Top restaurant, and capped that off with coffee at Matina Town Square's Blugre.

I urged him and his friends to try the durian-flavored coffee. Being the gracious host, I also partook of the drink.

So now, three hours later, I am still feeling the effects.

Tomorrow is going to be a tough day to keep awake. Then again, what's retirement for anyway if you can't sneak in a nap every now and then?

Not that I regret the evening of companionship. Conversation was free-flowing, ranging from family to business to local politics to technology. So much to catch up on, but tonight, it was just like old times. As I like to say, the years melt away.

But I still say coffee is an evil thing.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Blogstorm, Part 2

Rational Technology for February 6, 2005

You know that blogs are big when they begin to be featured in magazines like BusinessWeek.

Last year, BusinessWeek ran a story on how CEOs and venture capitalists were using blogs to drive business. At first glance, it seems highly unlikely. After all, what does a personal online journal have to do with driving a dollar stream?

But apparently, it does work. Blogging helps these businessfolk network, boost sales, and garner media mileage without the limitations of traditional media. Blogs essentially become tools of promotion. They work because people interested in a particular topic, issue, or business will always be hungry for information.

The case of Jeff Pulver illustrates the power of blogs for driving policy. Pulver is founder of Free World Dial-Up, a company that promotes Internet telephony. He was featured in a recent issue of Newsweek.

Pulver's business is so far on the leading edge that it's pushing the limits of telecommunications regulation in the United States. He recorded his thoughts on the issue on his daily blog stating his case against regulation of Internet calls. Through his blog he garnered enough support from government such that the Federal Communications Commission ruled that calls would not be regulated.

Now, think about how blogging can be used to promote Dumaguete City.

Right now, there's a dearth of real information on Dumaguete City. The first page of cursory search on Google on the keyword "dumaguete business" for the most part lists only hotel accommodations, some press releases, and a couple of real estate ads. Majority of them are not even written from the city, but are instead tour information from operators outside of Dumaguete.

So, if I'm a potential investor, student, or retiree, how much information can I really get about the city? Will the information provided here be of any use to me? Will this information be sufficient for me to decide to take my money to Dumaguete? Is there a real person behind this piece of information that I can talk to? Or is it just a web page that someone put up two years ago and forgot about?

An active blog addresses all these issues because it is current, it is relevant, and reflects the opinions of a real person. A person looking for information on Dumaguete will at least have some reference point regarding a particular issue. Cold statistics never tell the whole story; neither, perhaps, will someone's opinion, but it is by far a better story and a more compelling one that just simple numbers.

A blog can also be a rallying point for issues that affect people within the city. In my search for blogs about Dumaguete City (and I tell you, there are precious few), I came across howtolive.blogspot.com, which lamented on "The Dying of Dumaguete." Having been away from Dumaguete for far too long, and being of a sedate sort so easily satisfied, it was quite refreshing to read this blogger's opinion:

"Then again, this is Dumaguete, where progress is essentially a four-letter word, where there is a 2:00 a.m. statute of limitation on any idea of fun, where anyone can run for mayor on the platform of non-performance and flatlining of progress, and win hands down. Every night, at 10 o'clock, the sirens screech its appeal for curfew; it has gone beyond that, I think; it has become symbolic of cultural decay.

"I used to have an idea of a Dumaguete beautifully combining a graceful old charm with contemporary sensibilities. Lately, there are gnawing doubts, the way one casts adverse suspicions over a dried-up old maid, an old fart, a dinosaur, a relic that the train has left behind.

"Lately, there are only these: a crawl of traffic that defies logic and any semblance of order and safety, crumbling asphalt streets, and an invasion of grime and smudge that decorate haphazard buildings and that ambushes you for measly peso coins for "watching over" your parked motorcycle."


Whether or not you agree with these statements, you must admit that it gives far more insight into Dumaguete than the Sun.Star Online headline which goes: "Chamber bats for infra, port facilities to boost economy." And if you think that nightlife has nothing to do with business, think for a moment: if you were a globetrotting venture capitalist, used to the fine life of New York or Shanghai, would the idea of visiting a small town described above interest you?

Don't agree with the statement above? Don't get angry; start your own blog.

Art Wanted

Blog surfing just now, and stumbled upon a local comic book artist's site. Sigh. Why can't I ink like these guys? More practice needed!

On the same site I stumbled on a link to Artwanted.com, a gallery site for professional artists. Leastways, the work looks all professional. Heh, it'll be sometime till I dare open a gallery here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Here There Be Humans


Otherwise known as, "Somebody's really gonna get it...." Inked using a Pilot Hi-Tecpoint V5, Higgins India ink, and a Chinese brush. Somehow, I really need to work on my shadows.

Time for real art lessons. Real soon now.

Someone's Really Gonna Get It


I invited Sean to write for Kathleen's Eggplant Magazine for kids. I thought his story "Here There Be Dragons" "Here There Be Humans" would make a good submission to the magazine, and I offered to illustrate it.

This is the rough pencil draft. I've actually finished inking it, and I'm pretty pleased with the results.

Dwarven Orc Killer


Duwalin Orcsbane they called him, and right it was. His arms were overlong, reaching close to his knees, and they were tightly corded, ready to spring. Each hand held a deadly saber which could slash an orc's head clean off its neck. In battle he was a veritable tornado....

Unfinished pencil drawing which I think came out quite well anyway. I was going to color this but didn't have the time. Someday....

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Self-Assessment

It's the 1st of February 2005, some two-and-a-half months since I decided to call it quits at my former employer, and a little less than six weeks since I packed my bags. How, one might ask, have things been?

I'm writing this little self-evaluation from Davao, and not from Dumaguete, as I thought I would. That, by itself, should speak volumes. I was originally planning to spend most of my time in Dumaguete, managing the store there, helping out with the investment promotions group, and doing some programming work for the Silliman University Marine Lab. Davao was just supposed to be a way station, a temporary vacation over the Christmas holidays.

I was already to go to Dumaguete on January 3, but owing to my Dad's long stay at the hospital, I got waylaid. Dad's all better now, his usual busy and irascible self, but I suppose we were all pretty stressed out that it took my folks a couple of more weeks to recover. And thus, I'm still here.

But it's quite all right. I now have a DSL connection from home, and it's really going to be very hard to pry me from my seat. I've claimed a small section of the house, a converted art table, a computer chair, and I've turned all of this into a small home office. I'm as happy as a bug in a rug.

Mom and Dad are in Dumaguete, leaving my youngest sister and me to hold the fort. I'm back to an early schedule, and the day starts with preparing breakfast for our small kennel. Then I walk the German shepherd and the beagle around the neighborhood for our morning constitutional.

My sister really does most of the management of the business affairs now, so the rest of the day, I'm banging away at the keyboard either at home or at the store. Her plans for medical transcription didn't really materialize, and the cybercafe looks a long ways off, but that's all right. They'll come when they come.

I'm still helping out my friends in Dumaguete with the outsourcing plans. In fact, I'm scheduled to be with them for the eService Symposium in Manila from Feb 17-18. In the meantime, I'm drawing out the Software Services Outsourcing Plan for the city. It's promising, too, since I have my ducks lined up: IBM, Microsoft, and a couple of other interesting programs. I hope to get cooperation from the universities there.

If the Software Services Outsourcing Plan works out, I may get a piece of the action. But most of this is still a long way off, extending up to the end of next year. We'll see.

Kathleen Yao wrote me to ask for story contributions to the kids' magazine she's launching in Singapore. How could I refuse? So for a couple of days I did some research on the history of the cellphone and on Nikola Tesla, and I had a pretty fun time of that. Although the writing assignment turned out to be a bit of a chore, it's also gotten me fully back into writing mode. The words are flowing more easily now, thank goodness.

Writing for the Linux magazines will have to be delayed a bit longer. I have a couple of writing goals I'm setting for myself, the results of which I probably won't be posting anytime soon. All in due time.

I got three calls for help in total, two from my old company, and one from EMC, pertaining to IBM projects. I didn't turn them away like I said I would, and I did give whatever helpful advice I could. I think it all makes for good karma. But Mom's been bugging me in jest about a bet we made on whether my old company would call or not before the end of January. She likes to remind me that I owe her P20,000 already.

Not for a moment, though, do I regret leaving my old company. I'm more relaxed, more focused, and most importantly, I'm happier. I don't have to worry about customers, business partners, or my other colleagues calling me to do a presentation on a topic I only learned about yesterday or to fix a problem that wasn't ours to begin with. I don't have to worry about any more flak about customer satisfaction.

Sure, I don't earn as much as I used to -- heck, I'm not even earning at all -- but for someone whose needs weren't much to begin with, that's not such a big deal.

Sure, I do have to clean sh*t every now and then, but my new customers love me no matter what, and now and then, I get a lick on the face or playful puppy-dog eyes.

Maybe I'll get tired of this further down the road. By then I might need to get back on the IT track again. But if my luck holds out, I won't need to, not for a while longer.

In the meantime, I'm happy.