Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Pulan-Tubig

I got up early this morning to explore more of the road I discovered yesterday. This was the road going to Pulan-Tubig, which is fast becoming the new residential center of Dumaguete. Lots of trees in the area still, and plenty of cows and goats grazing in its open fields.

The trail was somewhat insidious. It was a low grade going up, so you never really notice that it's actually an uphill climb. Except maybe for the difficulty in pushing the pedals.

Of course, between this kind of road and Valencia's, I think I'd prefer this. The trail is actually perfect for biking: good road, but not too many cars, trucks, tricycles, or pedestrians. You just have to watch out for the occasional cow.

Apparently, there's a road going to Sibulan further along the interior. I will have to try this one day after I get my stamina back up. It seems a safer route than taking the highway.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Fillings, nothing more than fillings

My biking trip this morning was something different. Instead of taking my usual route along the boulevard, I took up Jong Fortunato's challenge and travelled some new paths. Apparently, there's another route up to the mountains of Valencia through Pulantubig, and one that's closer to where I live. The route isn't as scenic, though, because it's mostly a residential area.

I had my tooth done today. This particular tooth had gone through a root canal several years ago. It doesn't hurt, but it's considerably weakened. I thought it was the filling that chipped off, but the dentist told me it was actually the surrounding tooth. It's probably good for a few more years until it needs to be crowned.

Teeth are one of the things I treasure. I hope to enter old age with all my teeth intact. Argh, I can't imagine wearing false teeth, and I certainly hope I won't have to.

In other news, I have an irate letter-writer from Banaue who thought I was slighting her hometown. In retrospect, my words may not have been too kind, though malice was never intended. Ah, these are the travails of a column-writer: I thought I wouldn't offend anyone, but it seems that position is an impossibility.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Back to the Drawing Board

After participating in two art contests over last week, the hard truth has finally hit me: I need a great deal of improvement in my work. I need to review how I ink my work, most especially. Anyway, here are two samples, following cues from Jonas, Jac, and Diane on inking style.

I cook, therefore I am

It's a fine Sunday afternoon here in Dumaguete. The sun is up in full force, so it's a bit warm, but there's a light refreshing breeze that's blowing so the heat is tolerable. It would be nice to just laze around, but I have to be off to the store soon to bring lunch for my Dad.

I did some cooking a little while ago. I bought some ground beef the other day, marinated it in Worcestershire and Italian seasoning. I grilled it in my George Foreman Lean Mean Fat-Grilling Machine (tm), now only on its second use.

Unfortunately, I think I may not have rolled it in enough corn starch so the meat is a bit loose. Ah, well, there'll be time enough for a second try.

The amount of fat that dripped off the grill was simply unbelievable. I think I shall have to be careful about the burgers I eat the next time around. That's a bit of a shame because, well, burgers are my comfort food. I may have to learn to make my own.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

A Lazy Dumaguete Saturday

I took my bike out for a spin today. I didn't go very far as I have been away from the saddle for more than a month. I'll have to build up my stamina again.

The city had a Santacruzan parade, and mobs of people showed up to ogle at the male starlets that had been flown in as escorts. My friends were quite annoyed at this practice, though, because the religious significance had largely been overshadowed by the secular display. Perhaps I shall write about it in my column next week.

A funny incident: the queens and their escorts were rather short, and it was hard to see past the heads of the crowds around them. Some folks took to sitting on a makeshift fence along the road to ogle at the parade. Kibitzer that I was, I balanced my way up a slanted supporting beam. Two seconds later, the fence started to sway and tilt. The fence-sitters jumped off in fear while I, the culprit, bashfully walked the other way.

My friend Paddy and I played a couple of rounds of Vs. Paddy used a slightly modified Sinister Syndicate deck, while I used the Arkham Inmates. He beat me by a narrow margin on the first game, owing to my flawed strategy. On the second game, I beat him soundly, -22 to 33. Now I feel really bad gloating about it the whole time. There are such people as poor losers, but I am afraid that I am a poor winner. Oh, well.

I visited our old parish priest, Fr. Chi, in the hospital. Fr. Chi had undergone dialysis. Sadly I had not visited him much in recent weeks, but now I think I will have to make my trips more frequent. I caught him in high spirits, and we spoke about my trip to Manila, the ship accommodations, and cats. It was good to see him smiling.

I think it is time to finally put his story into writing. I had been planning to do that since two years ago, but I kept delaying. I must do it soon before time catches up.

Tempus fugit.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Chalk Art Competition

Not 24 hours after I set foot in Dumaguete, I get drafted to a chalk art competition.

I was just going to meet Paddy for a game of cards at the bookstore when I learned he was at the boulevard. Globe had a little event at the park to promote their G-Cash product, and one of the activities was a chalk art competition.

I don't know how I got involved. My friends just swept me forward, gave me a T-shirt and some chalk, and led me to an empty section of the boulevard.

In any case, here are my entries.

At Sea with A Thinkpad

Despite Veneeth and Von's urgings I felt compelled to push through with my plan to return home yesterday. Not that I was doing anything urgent in Dumaguete, it just so happened that I've been away from home too long already. More's the pity because Mos Eisley night at the Hard Rock cafe was just around the corner.

Nevertheless, I think it's important to set down my roots once again. Over the past month, I've been living the vagabond life: Cebu in the first week of May, followed by Davao; Manila on the second week; Cebu again on the third week; and Manila once more on the fourth. It gets bothersome not to be able to sleep in one's own bed.

In keeping with my second-guessing nature, I'm beginning to wonder whether taking the ship home was wise. A few thousand pesos more and I'd be back in Dumaguete quicker by plane. But really, if I think about, it's just half-a-day that I would gain that way, what with the usual airport rush that eats up the morning anyway.

So far it's been quite restful. I woke up late, I had breakfast late, and I slept again. Whatever sleep I may have lost over the past month I think I've made up for. Now the inactivity is getting to me so much so that I have to pick up the Thinkpad and write again.

Ah, what a handy thing to have, this Thinkpad. I'm sitting on the forward deck of the ship, taking in the fresh air and on occasion raising my head to look at the calm sea.

And thus, I write.

Rational Technology: Breaking Conventions

Not more than a week after I'd arrived from Manila I was back there again. It seemed quite a frivolous trip to make because this one wasn't for business. Instead it was a promise I made to some friends that I would be there.

What was this trip about?

My friend Ranulf Goss is president of the local chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA). Last year he organized the first UGotGame convention, a gathering of local game developers and game enthusiasts. Following up on that event, IGDA and other computer organizations ran the second UGotGame last May 21 at Greenbelt.

Two days later, on May 23 and 24, the New Worlds III would also be holding their science-fiction convention in Glorietta. The convention, third year in the running, would be a showcase for science-fiction buffs. Sci-fi books, movies, games, costumes would be up for display, hawked by the fans who love them most.

So there you go, two events right up my alley: how could I pass up the opportunity to make new friends and talk shop with like-minded people?

UGotGame wasn't just a convention for gamers, it was also a chance for local game developers to show off their wares. It may come as a surprise to some, but yes, there are small companies and individuals struggling to make it in the multi-billion dollar game development industry.

The group isn't large, mind you, and for the moment it's driven more by passion than by profit. Students, artists, musicians, programmers, and IT professionals by day, they turn in several nights crafting games that they themselves would like to play. And maybe, just maybe, they can gain entry into the prestigious elite of game developers, or even find a publisher for the game.

And these weren't just shoddy copies of existing games, these were professional-quality productions. Locally-developed games in the showcase were: Away Agila, a fighting game with a Filipino twist; Truck Defender, a shooting war between tanks and UFOs; Robobots, with dogfighting space robots; Chaos, a horror game in a maze; and Republika, a robot war with Megamall in the background. All games were in stunning 3D.

Of course, the local gaming mainstays were in the convention. Philippine gaming leader LevelUp was promoting its new game, R.O.S.E. Intel also sent a representative to talk about the gaming industry, something they have a strong vested interest in because most popular games run on PCs. One of the Japanese developers of Final Fantasy IX even made a surprise appearance (even the
organizers didn't know he was there); he spoke onstage twice, commending the efforts of the Filipino game developers.

Arguably, one of the main draws of the event were the cosplayers. Cosplay, or costume play, is one of the more popular subcultures among the Filipino youth. For events like this, they dress up as live versions of game or anime characters. The quality of costumes varies, but for the more well-made ones, the visual effect can be quite stunning.

After UGotGame came the science-fiction convention. Cosplayers were again one of the main attractions, this time with a traditional sci-fi/fantasy bent. The first day was dedicated to the Star Wars universe, and Darth Vader and his stormtroopers invaded the mall to capture Princess Leia and the Ewoks. The second day was more free-flowing and featured characters from Star Trek and
Lord of the Rings.

But New Worlds III wasn't just about costumes. Science-fiction fans from across the different sub-genres came out in full force to meet kindred spirits. The biggest groups, of course, came from the Star Wars, Star Trek, and Tolkien fans, but other worlds were fairly well-represented.

For those with eclectic tastes, there were: Arkham Philippines, for lovers of horror-fantasy along the lines of H.P. Lovecraft; Philippine Harry Potter, for the Hogwarts fans; the Order of Narnia, for fans of the C.S. Lewis books; Highlander Philippines, for devoted followers of the immortal McLeod; Charmed Philippines and Philippine Slayers for the fans of "Charmed" and "Buffy the
Vampire Slayer"; Matrix Philippines, for the action/philosophy fans; and the catch-all Sci-Fi Philippines for those with interest in multiple genres.

Organized on a shoestring budget, the fans' love for their respective books and movies really shone through and gave the event a professional shine. Trivia contests, scavenger hunts, Elven weddings, and swordplay enlivened the proceedings.

So, yes, I had fun. All this was a guilty pleasure. At the same time, I couldn't help but think how necessary this all was. Games, stories, books, and movies: granted, to a certain extent, these are escape mechanisms, but more than that, they are expressions of how the world could be. Leisure, as the philosopher Josef Pieper once said, echoing Aristotle, is the basis of culture.

Everyone I met on both events were cheerful, articulate, intelligent, and well-adjusted people, a far cry from the stereotypical image of withdrawn geeks who could quote sci-fi trivia from memory. I am quite sure the structure of the make-believe worlds, coupled with support from fellow fans, had a lot to do with these happy dispositions.

Which leads me to wonder if there aren't a few science-fiction fans lurking out here in Dumaguete. If you're one of them, I bring you good news: you are not alone. Drop me an email at dominique-dot-cimafranca-at-gmail-dot-com, and we'll see what we can do about breaking conventions in this rather mundane and unimaginative town.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Budbod from Dumaguete


In Dumaguete, suman is known as budbod. There are a great many varieties. Pictured here is the sticky-rice variety, but with a chocolate stripe running across it. Goes great with tsokolate (or sikwate, as it's locally called.)


Jonas
Clair
Iris
The Captain
Dean
Elias
Sean
Dominique
Kel
Banzai Cat
Jac

Friday, May 20, 2005

The End of an Odyssey

May 18, 2005. The velvet blackness of space tilted and gave way to the breathtaking view of the golden planet Coruscant. A gigantic space battlecruiser streaked over the planet, firing beams of lethal light. Then, the battle was fully engaged: hundreds of ships came into view, hammering away at each other with lasers and missiles.

Thus opened "Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith," and my mouth was agape with awe.

Whatever transgressions George Lucas may have committed with "The Phantom Menace" and "Attack of the Clones" are finally forgiven. By the end of the movie, one finally understands what the saga was about: the rise, fall, and redemption of Anakin Skywalker.

And it's about time, too, because it was nearly thirty years in the telling.

I admit it: I am THAT old. I caught the first "Star Wars" (later retitled as "Star Wars: A New Hope") in the theater in 1977. I watched it with my godmother. My most vivid memory outside the theater was of an actor in a Wookiee costume. I think I slept through part of the film, but I'm sure I caught the thrilling end as X-wing fighters swept down the trench of the Death Star.

If we thought Lucas was done with the story, we were wrong. Three years after "A New Hope", the sequel "The Empire Strikes Back" followed. It left off with a cliffhanger ending with one of the heroes captured and the others on the run. This, of course, left us with the promise of the conclusion with "Return of the Jedi." But we had to wait another three years for that.

After "Return of the Jedi", the Star Wars phenomenon faded into the subculture of geekdom. By then, phrases like "Use the Force" and "Luke, I'm your father" had come into popular use. After all, there's a little geek in all of us.

Was the saga at an end? By no means. In the early 1990s, a number of novels came out, following the story of the heroes after the movie. There was a mini-revival of sorts, but it was followed primarily by the hardcore fans. There was one explicit command from Lucas: do not write stories set before "A New Hope."

In 1997, Lucas re-released the original trilogy with enhanced digital effects. Special effects technology, he said, had finally come to the level at which he could make the film the way he wanted to. Cynics like me thought it was a way to milk more of the franchise.

I watched them again anyway, one week after the other, in the theater. It was my way of atoning for my viewings of "Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" on bootleg video.

Fans weren't satisfied with the re-release, however. They clamored for new movies, and Lucas delivered in 1999 with "The Phantom Menace."

Yes, it was fun, but it wasn't quite what fans expected. We were lukewarm to a cutesy young Anakin, we were turned off by medichlorians, and we all hated Jar Jar Binks.

"Attack of the Clones", with its sappy love story and whiny teenaged Anakin, didn't fare much better. Yoda's display of mad lightsaber skills was the happy exception.

Preceded by these two films, hopes weren't very high for the third film. Would Lucas disappoint yet again? How would he pull off Anakin Skywalker's transformation into the dreaded Darth Vader? How would he tie the last two films with the original trilogy from almost three decades ago? The cartoon series "Clone Wars" on Cartoon Network seemed to be much more satisfying.

But it didn't really matter how bad it would be, because I would watch it
anyway. I suppose other fans felt the same way. "Just get it over with" seemed to be the general consensus.

Then, sitting in that darkened theater, the opening exposition started rolling on screen, vanishing into the distance as was the "Star Wars" trademark.

I felt an overwhelming feeling of sadness: yes, I had waited for this final movie not with great anticipation but with obsessive-compulsive impatience and dismissive disregard for the mythos. In that theater I was a fan again, and 28 years of fandom were rushing back.

And this was going to be the last time I would see a new "Star Wars" film on screen.

Only two things remain to be said: first, George Lucas does not disappoint with this final outing; and second; any viewing of this opus on a medium other than the big screen with Dolby or THX sound system rightly deserves to be a crime.

So for all you "fans" planning to watch this on bootleg video, may Darth Vader crush your trachea, may Chewbacca pull off your arms, and may you be sent down to your miserable end on the garbage compactor of the Death Star.

See this film in a good moviehouse. May the Force be with you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Flash Fiction: Memories of Mother


"Why do you spend so much time making that? Can't you just buy it from Aling Siony?"

Carding always asks me that question each time I go through my weekly ritual. It's not so much petulance, I think, as it is concern. Boiling rice over our woodfire stove, pounding ginger, adding a dash of chocolate and pinipig.... It's a long process, molded by years of tradition.

I say nothing, though, I only smile, and Carding shuffles off to another household chore, as if to show what else I could be doing. I calmly wrap the rice in the banana leaves and put it on the clay pot.

But I know in an hour's time, when the fragrance of the sticky rice wafts through the house, his mood will mellow down. When I remove my work of art from the pot, he will be at the table waiting silently.

Then he will say: "Ah, Neneng, this brings back memories of mother you know. Aling Siony could never really get it right."

And I know it will all have been worthwhile. Suman latik, just like mother used to make.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Suman Latik


Suman sa latik, gi-unsa tika pag higugma?
Kada buntag, ikaw ang akong ginatinguha
Ang akong ilong, kahumot nimo ang paglaum
Ang akong dila, gahulat sa imong pagkaun

O Suman Latik, O Suman Latik
Ang akong tinuod nga higugma
Sa tinuod: wa'y atik!

For Dean Alfar, as inspired by Clair; photo by Sassy Lawyer

Rational Technology: iBlog, The First Philippine Blogging Summit

You know that a movement has come of age when the first major conference is announced. Such is the case for blogging in the Philippines with iBlog: The 1st Philippine Blogging Summit, held at UP Diliman last May 7, 2005.

The blog summit drew over 200 participants from the local blogging community: writers, artists, students, teachers, librarians, IT professionals, and various other walks of life. It was partly an eyeball party as many of the bloggers had never before met in person: many, in fact, were only identified by their blog names and URLs.

But it was also a showcase of the best bloggers in the country. The conference featured several local luminaries. Among them:

ICT Commissioner Dondi Mapa (http://1mjobs.blogspot.com/), the highest ranking Philippine official who blogs (and no stranger to the people of Dumaguete) who talked about blogging in both his personal and professional life. The commissioner revealed his plans to use blogging as a tool for promoting the country initiatives for ICT.

Five-time Palanca winner Dean Alfar (http://deanalfar.blogspot.com/) who gave a very spirited talk on blogging as a literary effort. He imparted several various tips not only on how to blog but how to write as well.

Sassy Lawyer Connie Veneracion (http://houseonahill.net/), arguably the most read blogger in the country, gave tips on how to draw traffic to one's blog site. Veneracion runs both a cooking blog as well as a political commentary blog.

Though the summit drew mostly Manila-based participants, it's extremely likely that the next ones will visit the provinces. Perhaps Dumaguete can be in the itinerary soon.

Visit the iBlog website at http://www.iblogph.org/wp/.

Leaving IBM...Again

When I left IBM last December, I did so with mixed feelings. I was sad that I was leaving my home for the past eight years; I was apprehensive that I was going forward to face the unknown; and I was happy that I was free to do as I pleased.

Well, alright: I was much much happier than I was sad and apprehensive, for reasons that many people are already well aware of.

Yesterday, I wrapped up my five-day xSeries class. As I came to realize that it was going to be my last day at IBM yet again, the same ecstasy of happiness and excitement that visited me last Christmas pounced yet again with the same vigor.

I am so happy to be out of IBM.

Oh, it wasn't the class at all. The xSeries class was tiring to run, yes, but it was also instructive and exciting. It being my first time with the materials, I wasn't quite sure how I was going to proceed. But in the end, my students and I pulled it off. I even came away with very good evaluation marks.

Rather, it was hearing all the old catchphrases that I had lived with for several years but was never quite comfortable with:

"Our pipeline is weak."

"What's your commit?"

"Are you making plan?"

"This is our must-make number."

"I have a cadence call with my vertical."

"I work with R3, R4, and R5. That other fellow works with R6."

Familiar words but alien words. After four months I was hearing them again for the first time. And they sounded strange.

Without prejudice to my former co-workers, many of whom are very good friends, I must say that IBMers must really sound strange to people around them. Yet they never realize it because they live in that atmosphere of strangeness five days a week (or more likely, seven).

Me? I'd rather be biking.

But really, here's the thing: I was so happy to leave IBM yet again that I'd gladly take on new contractual assignments just to be able to experience the joy of leaving again and again. And in order to remain worthy of that privilege, I'd readily forego opportunities with all other competitors.

I've been a denizen of Strangeland for too long.

First Foray with my Thinkpad

I'm sitting in an airport waiting for my flight to Cebu. As in the days of old, I've whipped out my Thinkpad to while away the time. It's a strange feeling, after having gone without one for four months; but it's a familiar one, too.

The Thinkpad is almost everything that I wanted it to be: it's cheap, it has IBM stamped in front, it has a little red trackpoint, and it runs Linux smoothly. Even the wireless card registers under Linux, though I still have to enable and configure it properly. The only drawback is that it's heavier than the one I was using in the past. But between weight and cost, I would put more consideration on the latter.

And this Thinkpad is mine, truly mine. There's no IT group to tell me what to do with it or what to load in it. There's no sales tools that need to go inside. I can run anything I darned well please.

But I also have to take very good care of it, with more conscientiousness than I did with the one assigned to me. With any luck, I'll have it in good condition for five years or more.

Oh, Thinkpad, little Thinkpad, we are going to have so many adventures together!

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Return of the Thinkpad

Ah, my precious-sss!

After months and months of comparison-shopping, I finally decided to make the purchase. For a moment, I was afraid I would have to get an icky Compaq Presario 2202 because, not only did it run Linux, it was also priced at just under P40,000.

Luckily, one of my students worked for a distributor and mentioned in passing that the Thinkpad R50e Model 1834-MA4 was going for about P40,000, too! No Windows pre-installed, just DOS. Sight unseen, I asked to buy one.

No sleep for the wicked tonight, as I will be loading it up with an operating system.

Ah, precious-sss!

Stumble...and recovery

Well, looks like the master of the blades spoke too soon. I brought my class to the IBM Blue Room and told them to proceed with the laboratory exercises. Having built up the confidence with Remote Deployment Manager, they could now proceed to apply the same to the BladeCenter.

The first PXE boot screen went as we expected, with the preliminary software loading correctly on the blade. The second one bypassed PXE completely and went straight to the hard disk operating system.

For those of you who think I am speaking gibberish (and in reality, I am, but IBM trains us very well for that), it simply translates to: I was screwed.

I was up the creek without a paddle.

I was lost in the desert without a map.

I didn't have a clue.

Several retries produced the same thing. I dismissed the class at 5:00PM to mull over the problem.

Finally, I discovered what was causing the glitch. Wake-on-LAN startup was configured to jump directly to the hard disk, instead of running PXE. More gibberish, yes, but this translates to: problem solved.

I am so buff. Yeah!

Okay, I better duck and take cover before the Universe decides to throw something else at this boastful fool.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Winging it

It's the end of the third day, and I come to it with much relief. I've passed the midway milestone of this assignment, and I can foresee that it'll be smooth sailing from here on.

Yes, I'll admit that I've been winging it. I've strayed far from the comfortable confines of the course material to explore areas of interest to me and to my students.

There were several close calls when I thought what I was going to try in the laboratory try was going to fail. But it worked all so beautifully! Case in point was Remote Deployment Manager which could detect PXE-enabled servers and automagically deploy them with your operating system of choice (Linux or Windows in all their different flavors).

When we did fail the class was quite forgiving. My software distribution example didn't quite work out the way I thought it would, but that was because of the software that I chose.

Tomorrow we tackle the BladeCenter, and I am approaching it with much confidence. Over the past year-and-a-half, I have become master of the blades and I can run the class with my eyes closed. Ha! Ha! Ha!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Happiness Rediscovered

Riding into Eastwood City refreshes my sentiments and memories as to the reasons for my Foolish Move last December. I've come to realize that I really am quite happy with my life as a bum.

I can talk to people bare-faced that I'm not currently officially employed anywhere (a bit of a surprise to some), and that I'm spending my time biking, writing, and drawing. And invariably, a twinge of guilt passes over me: should I be tempting them with this lifestyle of mine?

Nevertheless, I tell them that this is my year off. And next year, I will be back on the circuit again.

But that's still next year.

In the meantime, mountains and trails await.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Friends

I can't say enough how ironic it is that Sacha would be in Cebu while I am in Manila. I thought the thought had sunk in, yet I seem to manage plumb new depths on this small but subtle cosmic joke. The truth is, I don't know whether to laugh or to cry.

The class went fairly well, in my opinion. Oh, I made some gaffes, but if I judge by how well I held the students' attention, well, I think I was quite successful. Overall, it's been a good technology review for me, and it's probably the spur I needed to get started on some of the other projects that I've put on hold.

It was great to meet some old friends from IBM. As it turned out, the technical support team from Malaysia whom I interacted with so often in the past was also in town. Hi-hello-how-are-things flew fast and furious. And I'm getting the hang of telling people that I'm a bum. Yay!

I visited Ranulf's office / apartment and exchanged comics with Jac. I then had dinner with Ranulf, and was soon joined by Rael. We had a lot of laughs about my fanboy impressions whenever cosplayers were mentioned. Ranulf says he might get me as a bouncer for the event, but -- he, he -- I think I'll be too far engrossed watching Someone to be of any good to anyone else.

I met one of the contestants for UGG. Interesting fellow named Chris, and his job is industrial automation. That is way too cool.

So, yes, I'm a bit tired from a whole day of teaching and talking, but it's really been quite fun.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

i Blog: The 1st Philippine Blogging Conference

Laden with manuals for next week's class and a box of Davao-made siopao, I walked into the UP NISMED auditorium. Who should I see on the mike stand but dear ol' Sacha talking about wikis. Talk about good omen.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. This was the i Blog summit, the first Philippine Blogging Conference, populated by the country's leading and very vocal bloggers. I wouldn't have been able to attend if it weren't for the class I'm teaching next week, so I'm very thankful for these small blessings.

It was part reunion of sorts as the whole gang was there: Sacha, Marcelle, Clair, Sean, Ranulf, and Diane. Some old faces, too: Janette Toral, Dean and Nikki Alfar, Dondi Mapa and Jessie from OHSI.

It was also part eyeball as I finally got to meet some people I only knew through their blogs: Jonas Diego, Head Geekete, and Cha Gascon.

The contents of the conference will probably end up as a Rational Technology article for this week, so I'll save the details for later.

Barbecue at Migs' place after the conference. I finally got to see the second half of the Clone Wars.

Good fun yesterday.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Rational Technology: Cool Cities

For quite some time now, we've associated Dumaguete City with “university town,” highlighting our unique position as the only city in the Philippines whose main economic activity is built around education. We've put that to good use in attracting outsourcing companies into the city.

At some point, though, we have to ask ourselves: what's next? “University town” describes what we are in the present. What do we want to be?

How about a “Cool City?”

DTI Provincial Director Jong Fortunato brought up the idea of a “Cool City” in one of our friendly discussions as to what the future of Dumaguete could look like. Though it sounds frivolous, the “Cool City” brand is something that many cities in the US are shooting for.

Michigan is leading the way for the “Cool Cities” campaign. Gov. Jennifer Granholm started the “Cool Cities” initiative in June 2003 as a key component of her economic vision for the state. The campaign aims to revitalize communities, build community spirit, and retain knowledge workers.

Retention of knowledge workers is really the crux of the “Cool Cities” plan. A census bureau report revealed the alarming trend of migration of young adults to other cities: one in every 20 people ages 25-34 moved away over the two-year period that the study was conducted. This level of flight is usually followed by a downturn in economy.

Cool cities provide these energetic twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings incentive to stay where they are, and perhaps attract others like them. So how do you appeal to this demographic? Work opportunities would top the list, of course, but it's work that's balanced by quality of life.

In specific detail, the top three traits of a cool city are: a walkable community, business development, and arts and culture.

A walkable community is one that pedestrian-friendly, with easy access between commercial and residential areas. This means allocating lanes for walkers, bikers, and skaters.

In terms of business development, young people want a traditional downtown which generates a positive atmosphere and attracts business, customers, residents, and visitors. Young people and business pioneers should be recognized as part of the economic community. Business development should also be tied to arts and culture.

And finally, in arts and culture: entertainment activities should be available at all hours, most especially, a vibrant nightlife. Special events like concerts and festivals also play an important factor.

How do we rate now? How much farther would we have to go?

For more information, visit: www.coolcities.com.

Which book are you?

Lord of the rings
J.R.R. Tolkien: Lord of the Rings. You are entertaining and imaginative, creating whole new worlds around yourself. Well loved, you have a whole league of imitators, none of which is quite as profound as you are. Stories and songs give a spark of joy in the middle of your eternal battle with the forces of evil.

Somehow, I knew this is what would pop out. But, no, I did not rig my answers.

Thanks to Clair for the link.

Tuning xSeries Servers for Performance

I'm preparing for an xSeries class in IBM next week. One of my worries was the lack of coherent material on the Internet to properly explain all the technologies currently involved in todays Intel-based servers. That is, until I found this wonderful IBM redbook entitledTuning IBM eServer xSeries Servers for Performance.

The book is simply fantastic. Chapters 4 to 8 cover the essential components of Intel-based and Intel-compatible servers, namely, processor and cache, I/O bus, memory, disk, and networking. The authors cover everything in great detail, without the typical marketing hype.

Check it out!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Because I just had to know....


I am nerdier than 99% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Thanks to Clair for the link.

Review: Bone #1: Out from Boneville


Image from Powell's Bookstore
I read of Jeff Smith's "Bone" series from my earlier days of reading comics but I never managed to find a copy. Not until now, more than ten years on, under the Scholastic imprint. Was it worth the wait? Yes! Absolutely, yes!

Smith's art is a real pleasure: clean, cartoony, and with just the perfect balance of fantasy and realism, reminiscent of a Disney cartoon that's grown into adolescence. His pacing is near-perfect, with nary a panel wasted. The gags range from giggly funny to laugh-out-loud riots.

Out from Boneville kicks off the adventures of the Bone cousins as it places them in the middle of the desert running away from the irate people of their town. There's Fone Bone, charming and heroic lead character; Phoney Bone, irascible and greedy; and Smiley Bone, amoral and happy-go-lucky.

The three get separated in a locust swarm and individually find their way into a strange valley in the middle of the desert. In the valley, we meet the other characters: the beautiful and childlike Thorn, the tough-as-nails cow-racing Grandma Ben, a stogie-chomping dragon, three opossum brothers, and quiche-loving rat creatures. There's also a Death-like creature that's after Phoney, but his real agenda is yet to be revealed.

There's also the talking leaf. Oh, wait, he's not a leaf. He's a bug.

"Bone #1: Out of Boneville" is the first in a series of nine books reprinting Smith's underground classic. You can bet I'll be waiting for the other nine.

Learn more about the world of Bone from the Boneville site.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Review: The Orange Girl


Image provided by Powell's Bookstore
I have a long-standing history with Jostein Gaarder. Ever since I read Sophie's World almost ten years ago, I've been compulsively buying his novels. While I obviously have some favorites in his lineup, I haven't really been disappointed overall.

Gaarder's latest outing, The Orange Girl utilizes his familiar device of a story-within-a-story. The main story is that of Georg, a 15 year-old boy who receives a letter from his father who died 11 years ago. The story-within-a-story is the letter itself. Skillful craftsman that he is, Gaarder peels away the layers of the mystery while gradually building up the suspense.

The letter is a heartfelt confession of a father to the grown-up son he knows he will not live to see. The main thread follows his father's obsession with the titular Orange Girl whom he bumps into one day on the train. Badly smitten, he begins an extensive search for the Orange Girl, painting various fantastic scenarios in his mind all the while.

Yes, it's a textbook case of obsessive stalker behavior, but it's charming and not sinister. Gaarder perfectly captures what it is to be in love. A common refrain in the book is: "...in life we must all learn to yearn a little."

Along the way, Gaarder touches on several familiar topics that old readers will instantly recognize: the universe as a lottery and man as the pinnacle and purpose of creation. Fortunately, he doesn't drive those points overmuch and chooses instead to focus on the blooming love story.

There's a final question that pops up near the end of the book, one that I won't spoil in this review. It's a simple question that's worth well asking yourself.

But you'll have to read the book to find out what it is.

Fifteen Minutes, starting now...

Cupid is a geek, the story I submitted to Philippine Daily Inquirer last February, came out in today's issue.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Literary Scorecard: Zero

As I suspected, I didn't get into the Dumaguete Writers Workshop. Perhaps the fellows are not yet ready for microfiction. More likely, perhaps my work just stinks.

That leaves me with three weeks to do something else. Like earn serious money from teaching a class in Manila. And writing a technical book that will, I hope, earn me some serious money. And meet old friends and visit new places, all of which will take some serious money.

I only wish they'd been nice enough to let me know that I didn't get in, instead of making me wait in limbo.

Ah, well, ce'st la vie.

Biking Up Valencia

Feeling that I needed a change of pace from all the mad typing I did over Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, I took my bike up to the hills of Valencia on Sunday morning.

I started out early, leaving the house at a quarter to 6:00am. I biked down my usual path to Rizal Boulevard: Piapi, then Hibbard, then up to Silliman Avenue before hitting the boardwalk. But then I proceeded to Tinago, and from there onwards to Calindagan.

I also did this on Saturday but I only ended as far as Lee Plaza Hypermart. This time, I was going to go the distance.

On and on I rode, into Barangay Junob, then to Talay. The elevation started to rise gradually, and untrained and unfit biker that I was, I decided to shift to easier gears. Somewhere in the middle of Junob, I was already huffing and puffing, despite being on the softest gear.

Past Talay, I decided to get off my bike and just walk it alongside of me. My shirt was drenched. A few minutes ago, another biker passed me by, riding merrily along and giving me a biker's salute. Ouch, the indignity of it all.

I did reach the plaza of Valencia, my ultimate goal. I must have climbed 500m in total over a distance of 20km. All in all, it took me about an hour. Not so bad in my opinion.

I lingered a bit, taking some photos, then headed down.

What I paid for in exertion on the way up, I gained back in speed on the way down. Travelling down the 35-degree incline where I marked the halfway point of my journey, I sped down at a bone-rattling, butt-shaking, white-knuckle speed of over 60 kph.

I easily overtook several motorcycles on my way down. I applied just the smallest bit of pressure on my brakes to slow down. Anything rash would probably have sent my flying off.

I arrived at the boulevard in half the time it took me to get up. It was an exhilirating ride, and hairy as it might have been, I'm game to do it again.