Thursday, September 29, 2005

Goodbye, Monster Allergy

Very sorry to see Monster Allergy end its run. The magazine quietly grew on me as the storyline progressed, and I actually have all 14 issues. In my view, MA had a much stronger story and richer characters than WITCH, which I also collect. Sad, really, because MA had more promise, I think.

I hope this is only a brief hiatus for the magazine. I know that they're only just picking it up in the US and Canada. Maybe when it becomes a hit there, kids down here will realize what it is they were missing.

So till then, I'll say goodbye to Zick, Elena, Timothy, Bombo, and company.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Owing to my web site project, I've gotten to know the GIMP fairly well in recent days. Today, I tried out Inkscape, the vector counterpart to the GIMP. Pretty neat, I must say. I think it's a good CorelDraw substitute. A bit of a memory hog, though.

Yes, this is a suman post.

Digital Pinay Reloaded

Silly of me to have forgotten to buy a copy of Computerworld On Campus, where Sacha is a columnist. This is what her column looks like.

The title is a bit of an in-joke. After brewing a storm of sorts early this year with the Digital Pinay brouhaha, Sacha has co-opted the title. Her site gives a brief explanation of the choice.

Oh, and note the canonical picture: Sacha with wearable computing gear, something which I think she will forever be associated with. Borg-ette.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Goodbye, Agent 86

At the height of the popularity of James Bond spy flicks in the 60's, it was inevitable that a variety of spoofs would follow. The best of the bunch, in my opinion, was Get Smart. Slapstick, yes, but what else would you expect of Mel Brooks? But it was all good, clean fun. After a while, it developed its own mythos and its catchphrases made its way into American pop culture.

And would you of the show's success was the distinctive voice of its lead actor, who later went on to voice Inspector Gadget?

Today Don Adams, who played Maxwell Smart, passed away at age 82. I sort of wish he had lived for another four years.

Missed it by THAT much. Sorry about that, chief.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Road connections

This morning I decided to try the Camanjac road for a change from my usual Batinguel route. The last time I tried it, I stopped at the water treatment plant; this time around, I wanted to see the whole length through (or at least go farther than I did before).

Surprise, surprise, I end up in Candau-ay, right at the road leading up to the Sisters of Mt. Carmel. From then on, it would be easy going up to Palinpinon or even Valencia. I headed back through Batinguel anyway as I had a web site to finish.

Camanjac, it turns out, is a far better option for my Valencia and Palinpinon expeditions. The uphill climb is gentler, and there's less traffic. Of course, my return route to the city will always be through Batinguel.

IE sux0r big time / Ironies

I'm on day two of my new job as freelance web developer. I'm enjoying the irony of my first assignment: it's a web site for a festival in favor of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god. Outsourced to a Filipino, who just happens to be a Catholic.

I had the look of the site nailed down in Firefox, but thanks to Clair, I found out that it was severely broken in Internet Explorer. Transparent PNGs, apparently, do not render well in IE. And their CSS support is non-standard.

IE sucks big time.

Another ironic twist: I was discussing the hosting requirements with the contractor and when I learned that the server would be in Windows, I panicked. Seriously. Because I don't do Windows anymore.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The one about the pistols

So anyway, I was much enthused with the toy sword that I bought so I could play with my four-year-old nephew. But something was missing. It didn't take much thought to point it out: I needed a pistol to complete my space pirate persona. I headed up to the toy section and bought a pair of water pistols which came as a set.

Later that evening, my nephew Neo comes in and I proudly brandish my pistol. His eyes lit up. His Grandpa, my uncle, was coaxing him to ask me for the gun. And here goes the conversation:

Grandpa: Neo, tell him: "Are you going to give it to me?"
Neo (wide-eyed): Are
Me (evil grin): Hmmm? Are you asking for it?
Neo (doubtful): Mmmmm....
Me: Well, are you? Are you asking for it?
Neo (hesitant): Ye-eesh...
Me: Ah! You asked for it!

And I promptly squirt him with the loaded pistol.

I am so bad. But it feels good to be bad. Mwa ha ha ha!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Palinpinon again

Close to a week after I got back to Dumaguete, I finally managed to take my bike out for an extended morning spin. By now I'm quite taken with the pleasures of the Batinguel route, and so that's exactly where I started again. Today, I paid another visit to Palinpinon.

Palinpinon is about 8 km. from the city, high up in the hills and surrounded by cliffs and greenery. Owing to its height, the air is a bit cool; because of the surrounding mountains and the forest cover, it's pleasantly shady.

I made an interesting discovery today: a small lily pond high up. I just had to take a snapshot.

Friday, September 23, 2005

What ails the Filipino novel?

Response to Ian Casocot's two-part essay, A Dream in Novels.
Dear Ian:

Thank you for your two-part survey on the shape and state of the Filipino novel. As an amateur writer and confirmed bibliophile, I look forward to sampling some of the works that you mentioned in your article. I do, however, have my own theories as to why things are the way they are. Permit me, if you will, to share them with you and with the world at large.

While Rizal's influence is considerable, I think you overstate his role in the shaping of the Filipino novel. The Noli and the Fili are colorful windows into the past and an essential part of our culture and history. But as novels they often feel like pale imitations of Alexander Dumas' Count of Monte Cristo: the narrative is weak and unwieldy (at least in the translations I've read) and the characters, with some exceptions, are mere caricatures. I like to think that we've outgrown the form if not the content of those novels.

Yes, there is a problem with the excessive bent of our literature towards social realism, but even that is only a symptom and not the cause. Social realism, if written in the right way and for the right audience, does not need to be tedious, as the works of Pearl S. Buck have shown.

I think that the heart of the problem of the Filipino novel lies in the attitudes of the authors writing them. Filipino novelists, at least the ones I've sampled, miss their mark by a wide margin. Why? Because they do not write to entertain, they write to win an award or the praise of critics.

It's an oft-repeated excuse that Filipinos are not a reading culture. But I think that is simply not true. If it were, specialty stores like Powerbooks, Fully Booked, A Different Bookstore, and Ink and Stone would have no business at all. And neither would bargain bookstores like Book Sale and Books for Less, nor hybrid shops like National Bookstore. There is a reading audience out there. They're simply not reading Filipino literature because authors and publishers have not made it interesting for them.

Filipino authors can get so caught up in their art that they forget that they have to write for an audience, and in fact, that they effectively have to sell to an audience. If you look at the bookshelves which line the Filipiniana section, you'll realize that there's very little concept of packaging let alone marketing. Perhaps they expect the strength of critics' praise to sell the books? I don't think so.

I think that Summit Publications is one of the few local publishers that understands this concept, and that is why their line of chick lit books are selling briskly. They've identified a target audience, they've put together the product, and they've packaged accordingly. Unless other authors and publishers understand this, we will always have a paltry output of Filipino literature.

It's in this spirit that we need to review the admonition "Primum est vivere" and turn it on its head. Filipino authors, if they expect to earn a living from their writing, cannot simply expect to do so as a privilege of their talent. It is something that must be earned. One does not need to be a full-time writer to write a bestseller or a masterpiece: John Grisham wrote his first novels while working as an attorney; Stephen King made a living as a security guard while churning out his short stories; even J.K. Rowling had to squeeze in Harry Potter in between her duties as an unemployed single mom. The luxury of writing full-time comes at the end of one's journey as a writer.

(And I might add, there is another meaning to "Primum est vivere." If one is to write, one must first live in terms of life experiences. Literature taken from life experiences, I think, will usually be far richer than literature conjured in a garret.)

So, do I look forward to reading Filipino novels? Not particularly. I won't pick up the novel simply because it's Filipino. I'll pick it up because it's compelling, because it's amusing, because it's exciting, because it's startling, because it's fresh, and because it has the picture of a bug-eyed monster slobiverating over a scantily clad nubile. In short, because it's entertaining.

And if it pains Filipino writers that they have to pander to my plebeian tastes instead of the connoiseurship of an established critic, well, tough. Because, unlike the established critic, I vote with my wallet. So do the hundreds of other reading Filipinos like me.

Here we are now. Entertain us.

A bit of controversy

Rational Technology for September 25, 2005

Analogies, like rubber bands, are tools of approximation. Just as you wrap a rubber band around the cross section of an object, you can also use an analogy to describe a situation. In so doing, you might need to stretch them a little. Stretch too far and they break.

I bring this up because last week's editorial in this paper made use of several analogies to raise a caveat regarding the first mover advantage that the city council is considering. And well that it should. Decisions like these should not come lightly. The city council's foremost responsibility is to the people of Dumaguete.

Perhaps in an effort to shock, the editorial compares the local government to a doctor or to a policeman. Would the local government, the editorial asks, not be remiss in its duty if it declined to issue a business permit? Just as a doctor would be so remiss in refusing to treat a patient, and likewise a policeman who lets a criminal go scot-free.

How apt, really, because in the same issue we read of a pending shortage of doctors in Negros Oriental. Perhaps the analogy would have been better directed at this situation, in which case, it would be no analogy at all.

Rather than examine the matter by way of imperfect analogy, let us instead take it head on. Is it the duty of the local government to simply issue business permits on demand? Or isn't the welfare of the citizens its ultimate goal? We can appreciate the need for a level playing field in business, true, but what if there was no playing field to begin with?

In the case of the first mover advantage proposal, there are really three separate questions that bear answering.

First: would the entry of a large call center in Dumaguete be a good thing or not? A large contact center would employ 300 agents from the city and bring in P40 million of investments into the city, not to mention a whole host of auxiliary businesses in food, transport, travel, and entertainment. Or would we prefer to go on as we are now, content
with job fairs that draw our pool of talent to Manila, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, and Cagayan de Oro?

Second: could we get a major contact center into Dumaguete without the first mover advantage program? Most likely not. As I mentioned in my article "Outsourcing 101: People" published last year, the number of qualified potential agents in Dumaguete is too small to support more than one large call center. True, we might have the fiber connections, and we might have the quality of life, but a contact center moves by dint of its talent pool first and foremost.

If you have two or more of such contact centers in close proximity, employee retention becomes a problem for both.

Besides, none of the other contact centers has really raised a hue and cry over our proposed ordinance. The ordinance itself may have prompted other contact centers to evaluate Dumaguete, as one did this week.

Third: is Teletech the right contact center as our first mover? Or would it, as last week's editorial says "be closing the door for bigger and better call centers who may want to invest in Dumaguete?"

The answer to the third question is still up in the air, of course. But let's take a brief situationer:

1) Epixtar, our previous suitor, is currently in the midst of a major lawsuit in the United States. One of its board members is wanted for fraud in several states.

2) PeopleSupport's president Bong Borja has repeatedly said on record that small cities like Dumaguete -- especially Dumaguete -- have nothing to offer contact centers.

3) Primary interest of other call centers in Dumaguete thus far has simply been for recruitment.

4) Teletech is willing to begin operations as early as October this year. The ICT Group is looking at perhaps the first half of next year.

And as to bigger and better, I invite you to look at the market capitalizations and P/E ratios of the major multinational contact centers in the accompanying table whose data I pulled from (not from Teletech). In terms of market cap, Teletech is at number two. What about Convergys? So far they have not shown any interest in setting up shop in Dumaguete.

The editorial, in my opinion, took the sensational and alarmist track. That's unfortunate, because it paints the proposal in a bad light; and doubly so, because a proper advice of caution would have been better served by tempered approach.

In the final analysis, yes, the city would have to enter into this agreement with due caution. We shouldn't have to agree to the terms of the multinational company -- whether Teletech or some other -- so completely without regard for the common good of the citizens of Dumaguete. Entering into this agreement, we will have to study the conditions, amend what we feel would be disadvantageous to us, and negotiate towards terms that are mutually acceptable and beneficial to the city and to the company. But that does not mean that the spirit or intent of the agreement is wrong in itself.

Finally, some disclosure: Teletech Business Development Manager Veneeth Iyengar, a leading proponent of his company's entry into Dumaguete, is a close friend. Teletech has also indicated that they might wish to hire me for an executive position, though we have not moved that idea forward (and even then, I would have to give the matter some serious consideration simply because I am too attached to Dumaguete's bike routes). Friendship is a factor in my opinions here; but -- as I would like to think -- the promise of employment is not.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

On the Microsoft Booth Babes

Near the end of LinuxWorld 2005, I made the acquaintance of one of the controversial Microsoft booth babes. Microsoft's Mark Yambot made the introduction as I went up to him to greet him. Her name was Chrissy, and she stood out because she was the first booth babe I encountered on the first day of LinuxWorld, handing out the green flyers that promised a shot at an Xbox. She was also the smiling-est among their trio.

Later, as they were handing out free Starbucks coffee -- Yukon Blend, so they said, to match their "Yukon" database -- I chatted her up a bit. I asked her if anyone had started an argument with her over the past three days. "No," she said with a mock pout, "they wouldn't dare." Then I asked her what she did when she wasn't in these events. "I'm always doing this", she said, "because there are always these events. Most times, I'm modelling at the race car track."

At that point, I got called away. In the rush of successive events, I never managed to continue our conversation. Which was a shame because I had all these questions about her radically different world. Questions like: how did you get started in this? Is there a modelling school that you have to go through? Are the hours long? What do you plan to do after modelling? It's very rare that geeks like me catch a glimpse of the world of models like Chrissy.

Oh, to be sure, it might have looked like I was trying to get her number, but I like to think I'm beyond that for a very good reason. Believe it or not as you will, but all I was trying to do was to get to know another person, to catch any interesting stories she might have had to tell.

More importantly, at that moment, she wasn't Microsoft Booth Babe #1 anymore. She had a name, and it was Chrissy. Probably not a person I would hang out with (or who would want to hang out with me), but an interesting person nonetheless.

I have to hand it to Chrissy and her partners. She was there the entire three days handing out those flyers and posing with guys for the Microsoft gimmick. It was an event she most likely didn't care about personally. But she stuck through it like a real trouper, and very cheerfully, too.

I'm wondering how many other people see it this way.

Chrissy and her teammates were dressed in signature Microsoft shirts and plain blue jeans. To be sure, their clothes, tight as suman, accented their figures, but other than that there was nothing provocative about their gear. In fact, nothing that a young woman on a shopping trip wouldn't wear. Yes, they were pleasant to look at; very pretty, in fact, and admittedly, a little distracting. But could I honestly accuse them of hawking Microsoft wares through sex? No, no, no.

Not that there wasn't any such manner of selling in this event. Microsoft itself was a perpetrator, having contracted Martha Daniels, the Trust condom endorser, in all her revealing big-boobed glory on the first day. But that was only on the first day, thankfully not repeated on the second and the third. That was just cheesy.

And it wasn't just Microsoft. Red Hat also had a gigantic poster of a nearly naked Carmen Electra with the invitation to FSCK ME. That was equally cheesy. In the future, I hope exhibitors can be a little more circumspect in their choice of gimmicks and display material.

If Chrissy and the other models were pushing Microsoft wares through sex, it was all happening in the minds of the people who think that way. That happens when you objectify a person instead of seeing that person as a person. One group will drool at the luscious specimen of humanity before them; another group will deride them as a tawdry gimmick. I confess that I was in the first party at the start, and that was why I made it a point to get to talk to one of them before the conference ended.

That way, in the future, I'll be party to neither.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago today, I wrote:

So, here I am again. Blogging has taken off and every other person that I know, from the veteran to the tyro to the hot chick has got a blog.

I haven't really shown the drive to maintain blogs, with the possible exception of my weekly column on Rational Technology, published in Dumaguete and on my own web site. Well, there's also the moblog at TextAmerica but that's a slightly different story.

This time around, though, I think things will be slightly different. Tools are better developed, and my occupations and preoccupations are a bit better defined.

So here goes again.

I was initially afraid I'd start this blog, lose interest, and leave it to gather virtual cobwebs as I did with previous attempts. Thankfully, that hasn't happened. As it turns out, I've had a good year's run with I hope to be writing for a great many years to come.

It's been a year so a little retrospective is in order. Why did this blog live when my earlier attempts failed? A couple of reasons, I think.

First is the significant improvements on Blogger since I first tried it more than three years ago. It's much more user-friendly and the ads are gone. Kudos to Google for doing a fantastic job with the acquisition.

Second, and more important, is the community around this blog. Granted, this blog isn't as popular as others, but it's nice to know that I'm being read. It's nice to know that some readers care enough to leave comments, too.

Which came first? The community or the blog? The community, of course. What a conceit it would be to think that I was such a fine writer and that my words were sufficient to attract an audience. But the fact is, I'm not.

This blog came about, I think, as a way to let My Girlfriend(tm) know what was going on while she was away in Japan. It just so happened that several of our friends -- whom I made friends through her -- were also blogging. That was the primary community. It was a bonus that My Girlfriend(tm) is way more popular than I am, and since she wrote the occasional link to my blog....

Along the way, though, I've made some new friends via this blog. And for that, I'm very thankful, too.

As the title suggests, I originally wanted this blog to feature my sketches. However, I really don't sketch as much as I thought I did, so I've had to content myself with more essays and random musings. Looking back at some of the sketches that I did post, I do see improvements over the period of a year. So I am much encouraged.

Finally, this blog has seen me through some important milestones: Leaving IBM, moving back home, Dad in critical condition, getting settled in Dumaguete, wandering around the Cordilleras, and discovering a new hobby.

All within a span of a year. Like, wow.

So there you go. I'm pretty happy with the blog. It's been a wonderful outlet for all those pent-up emotions. It hasn't taken the form I originally wanted it to, but it's been a great vehicle for travelling to parts unknown.

Happy birthday, Blog!

Friday, September 16, 2005

LinuxWorld 2005

Rational Technology for Sept. 20, 2005. A little dumbed down, but it's written for a general audience.

September 16, 2005, Makati City--It's the third and last day of what is turning out to be the biggest open source conference in the Philippines in recent memory. The event has drawn people from all over the country and from different industries, showing that open source -- and in particular, Linux -- is no longer just a fringe phenomenon among hackers and hobbyists.

What exactly is open source and how is it different from proprietary software? As the name suggests, open source is software whose code is freely available: anyone can use it, anyone can distribute it, anyone can study it, anyone can modify it. Contrast this with proprietary software like Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office whose inner workings are a closely guarded secret.

A fine illustration of this dichotomy popped up in one of the conferences, using a cupcake analogy. With open source, you can get the cupcake and the recipe for the cupcake. Not only that, you can make changes to the recipe to the cupcake as well. This leads to a number of different cupcake flavors. Proprietary software, on the other hand, keeps the recipe of the cupcake a secret in the hopes of selling more cupcakes.

While the economics of open source may be counterintuitive at first glance, its widespread use over the past 20 years has shown that it is a development model that works. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Linux, which has been adopted by heavyweight IT companies like IBM, HP, and Oracle. It has also spawned a new industry of rising stars like Red Hat and given new lease on life to companies like Novell.

But to a large extent, community is what open source and Linux is all about, and that is what's brought me to the conference. I came here to give two presentations, one on the value of open source, and the other on the use of the Ubuntu distribution as a strong alternative for Microsoft Windows. Over the past two days, though, it's been one big reunion with friends I've made in the open source community. Some have come from Cebu, some from Davao, and surprisingly some from as far as unlikely places as Daet. And surprise, surprise! I also run into Foundation University's Joel Balajadia at the conference.

LinuxWorld 2005 isn't nearly as large as the other trade shows I've been to during their heyday in the late 1990s, but it's certainly turning out to be one of the best I've attended locally. Whereas other trade shows have focused almost exclusively on vendor products, LinuxWorld has somehow avoided that trap with its refreshing mix of vendor-independent topics and speakers. To be sure, there are still vendor-sponsored topics, but this is thankfully a small minority.

The conference is divided into four tracks: an introductory track, an systems administration track, an experts track, and a policy/advocacy track. Surprisingly, the policy/advocacy track, organized by the UP School of Law's Internet and Society Program, and featuring speakers from NGOs like the Foundation for Media Alternatives and the EU-sponsored POSITIVE, is turning out to be one of the more popular tracks. Topics included open source licensing, intellectual property rights, security, computing for health organizations, and IT for NGOs.

When a technology starts intersecting with law and policy development frameworks, that, I think, is an indication of its maturity.

As has happened in recent years in several other LinuxWorld events worldwide, Microsoft is a major sponsor in this event. That strikes many people as odd because Microsoft is usually at loggerheads with open source groups, primarily because their philosophies are antithetical. Perhaps it's really just the old adage at work: "Keep your friends close; keep your enemies closer."

Shifting back to Dumaguete: I find it strangely apt that, as I write this column, I am receiving reports of NBI raids taking place in the city. Having written about the impending Great Raid last week, I can only say:


But we are one community, after all, so we shouldn't leave it at that. This situation is everyone's concern. We can fix it. I mentioned four options last week: 1) License your Windows and Office; 2) Move to Linux; 3) Hide; and 4) Scoff.

Option 4 is obviously no longer an option. It can happen in a small town like Dumaguete. Our bluff has been called. Option 3 is untenable in the long term.

So that leaves Option 1 and Option 2. Option 1, if you can afford it. If you're open to listening to Option 2, email me for details or stay tuned for an announcement on a small seminar to be run jointly by Foundation University and The TVB Group.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Excerpt: On GK Chesterton's Father Brown Mysteries

My first introduction to G.K. Chesterton came by way of a short mystery that made its way into a Reader's Digest compilation called "The Fireside Reader." "The Hammer of God," so reminiscent of a Sherlock Holmes mystery on the surface, was in fact unconventional in many ways.

The story involves the murder of one Col. Norman Bohun, a drunkard and a womanizer. The method of the murder was obvious enough: a small hammer bashed his skull in. But the manner of the murder was inexplicable, for how could such a small hammer so completely obliterate the colonel's skull as well as the helmet that he was wearing? Obviously, only someone with supernatural strength could have done it, and in retribution for all of Col. Bohun's sins. Thus, the title "The Hammer of God."

In our world of CSIs, such a plot would be cliche. In fact, such plots were already well-worn at the time the story came out, having been popularized not too long ago by the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But with some suspenseful buildup, witty dialogue, and an eye for descriptive detail, G.K. Chesterton still manages to deliver a detective story that leaves you saying out loud: "Now, why didn't I think of that?"

Yet for all that "Hammer of God" would still be a conventional mystery if it weren't for its very unconventional detective, the unassuming yet very astute Father Brown. Like Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is several steps ahead of the other characters and the reader. But unlike Sherlock Holmes, Father Brown is a Roman Catholic priest. His province is not crime but the human soul. As such, Father Brown is less interested in the method and more in the motive; he is less interested in bringing the criminal to justice and more in bringing the sinner to repentance. Ultimately, the key lies in his understanding of human nature.

Take the following exchange from "Hammer of God", for instance, when Father Brown confronts the criminal with his deed. Horrified at his discovery, the perpetrator attempts to commit suicide.

[He] threw one leg over the parapet, and Father Brown had him in a minute by the collar.

"Not by that door," he said quite gently; "that door leads to hell."

"How do you know all this?" he cried. "Are you a devil?"

"I am a man," answered Father Brown gravely; "and therefore have all devils in my heart...."

The last line sent shivers down my spine when I first read it. In just one line Chesterton had summarized so succinctly the source of human evil, that is, the human heart. That we are neither angels nor supermen. That we are driven by passion and desires. That even the best among us traverse life dancing a delicate dance between good and evil.

Friday, September 09, 2005

The Great Raid

Rational Technology for September 11, 2005

September 16 is marked on a great number of people's calendars. It's supposed to be the day when local law enforcement agencies will swoop down on business establishments nationwide to crack down on illegally-installed software, said software specifically being the different iterations of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office.

Now, this is supposed to be confidential information, of course. Raids like this, to be effective, should be prepared in secrecy and rely on the element of surprise to net the greatest number of miscreants. And being confidential information, in the Philippines anyway, everyone already knows about it.

Seriously, though, the element of fear is of probably greater use in this situation, precisely why the rumor is already making the rounds of the IT community. Microsoft, being the multibillion dollar business concern that it is, has less interest in making crooks of potential customers and more in making these potential customers legalize their software. By paying the necessary fees, of course.

Let's take a step back and review what this is all about. The following guide questions should help.

1) Are you running Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows 2000, Windows XP, or any other flavor of Microsoft Windows on your computer? If the answer is no, congratulations, you don't need to read the rest of the article. If the answer is yes, proceed to question 2.

2) Are you using a branded computer (IBM, Compaq, Dell, HP, Toshiba, etc.)? When you got this computer, was Windows pre-installed? If the answer is yes, proceed to question 3. Otherwise go to question 5.

3) Did you or anyone install a different version of Windows on your computer? Example, perhaps your computer came with Windows 98, you might have decided to install Windows XP. If the answer is no, proceed to the bonus question below. If the answer is yes, proceed to question 4.

4) Did you install your new version of Windows from a licensed upgrade pack? Did you pay for your upgrade pack? Do you have the necessary papers to prove it? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you are in violation.

5) Since you are reading this question, most likely, you had this computer assembled in a shop. Did you buy an operating system license with your computer? Do you have the necessary papers to prove it? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then you are in violation.

6) Special question for Internet cafe operators: Even if you passed questions 1 through 5 with flying colors, did you sign up with Microsoft's special licensing agreement for Internet cafes? No? Then you are in violation. You see, the license you bought to use Windows only allows you, the buyer, to use it. You are not allowed to rent it out to other people.

Bonus question: Are you running Microsoft Office on your computer? If so, did you purchase the license? Do you have the papers to prove it.

If you are in violation of the Microsoft licensing agreement in any way, what are your options?

Option one: you can legalize your software by buying full licenses of Windows and Office. This means paying anywhere from P5,000 to P8,000 for each machine on which you are running Windows, and P15,000 for each machine on which you are running Microsoft Office. And of course, you would do that, because we can't live without Windows and Office, right? I mean, it's ingrained in our very DNA, we drink the instructions along with our mother's milk, and our brains are simply far too atrophied to learn anything else.

Option two: move to Linux. But really, this isn't an option, right? Linux is simply too difficult to learn because the icons are all in the wrong places and it simply just kills you that they are in the wrong places. Because Linux doesn't run Windows viruses and spyware. And we can't live without viruses and spyware, right? After all, viruses and spyware, like Windows, are part of our DNA.

Option three: hide. This whole week, bring your computers home. When the Microsoft people come asking, tell them: this is Dumaguete, so please explain to me what a computer is, because I've heard so many great things about it but I don't have any idea what it looks like. And just in case they decide to visit you at home, make sure you have backups of all your important data.

And there's the fourth option: scoff at rumors. This is just another scare for Microsoft to increase sales. After all, these raids really don't happen in a small town like Dumaguete anyway, right?

It can't happen here. Can it?

Kitchie Nadal: More Than Just a Rock Chick

By Dominique Cimafranca with interview by Lorraine Marie M. Evasco, Marianne Catherine F. Tapales, and Rodrigo Bolivar

All of 25 years old, Kitchie Nadal is a genuine Filipino superstar in her own right. Starting out as a replacement lead singer for the popular band Mojofly, Kitchie went solo after a brief hiatus to finish her studies. In short order, she caught the ear of the listening public with her single "'Wag na 'Wag Mong Sasabihin", theme song of the hit Koreanovela "Lovers in Paris." Kitchie cemented her place in modern Filipino alternative music with "Bulong" and "Same Ground."

Thus it was with great anticipation that local music fans awaited Kitchie Nadal's first concert in Dumaguete on September 3, 2005. Kitchie proved herself a true professional, attending to a local press conference, a radio interview, and a motorcade around our fair city despite a gruelling touring schedule.

But where Kitchie really shone was in her performance that night at the Macias Sports Coliseum with hundreds of fans in attendance. After the front act by local band Koo Fellas, Kitchie Nadal came on stage to thunderous applause belting out her latest hit, "Breathe."

Midway through the concert, the alternative rock diva issued an invitation for a fan to join her on stage to sing "Same Ground", an invitation that Silliman University nursing student Paula Jasette Anne Tumulak bravely met, matching her idol note for note.

By "Ulan", the stadium was alit with cellphones swaying to Kitchie's beat. And by the last few numbers, Kitchie had come off stage to join her thronging fans, much to the chagrin of local security and her manager Roca Cruz. Fortunately, Dumaguetenos are a well-behaved bunch, and the singer was all smiles.

Who is Kitchie Nadal? What is the personality behind the rock-artist persona? Catch glimpse of her from her Dumaguete interview.

Q: When did you start singing?
Kitchie: I started singing professionally, 19 years old with another band.

Q: And how old are you now?
K: Twenty-four – and turning 25 this September 16. (Laughs).

Q: Prior to your professional singing career, what were you doing?
K: Ah, so you mean other hobbies? Before, I was into sports. If I have extra time, I paint. That’s what I love to do. And reading books. That’s pretty much it.

Q: How do you define your kind of music?
K: There’s a term called “Kitch pop.” I just learned that a couple of weeks ago. It’s like a fine line between -- how should I say this? -- it’s like pop music and “astig” music na parang “masa” music and then parang there’s an edge.
Roca: In between baduy and ano....
K: (Talking to Roca) If I’m gonna say that I’m gonna ruin my reputation.
K: Astig, that’s “Kitch pop.” (Laughs).

Q: Where do you find inspiration when you compose your songs or when you sing?
K: When it comes to song writing naman eh it’s just like any – I don’t know – for me, I treat it like any other job. Of course, it’s something that I really love to do but I don’t really look for an inspiration to write. Like you guys, a lot of you are writers, you know, hindi kayo masyadong dependent sa inspiration. Parang you just happen to be doing what you’re good at and you just do it. But it’s good also ‘coz there are times that we also get inspired and then write songs. ‘Yun.

Q: Haven’t heard about your love life. Do you have a boyfriend?
K: Wow, straightforward man! (Laughs). Ah, no, no, no. No love life.

Q: You don’t have a boyfriend, right? So, where do you get the creative impulse to write songs?
K: Well, I get inspired with, of course, the fans. And then -- well, what else, inspirations? -- well, as a Christian kasi, parang I think mostly talaga, I get inspired by my faith, my spiritual life. I believe that what we’re doing has a purpose, that’s what keeps me going.

Q: How about your musical influences?
K: Musical influences. It would be my Mom because she’s a classical pianist. I grew up singing for her all the time.

Q: You started off as a member of a band?
K: Yes, professionally, but ever since I can remember, I’ve been singing na.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you were in a band before and you left that band, Mojofly, in favor of your studies. Now that you’re back in the music scene, why did you choose to go solo?
K: Why? The reason why I left that band is because it’s so... well, it’s really a logistical nightmare because we work around four members. And then, we work around our schedules. For this band, since I’ve gone solo, uhmm.. we work around my school schedule. So that’s the difference. But I can’t say it’s easier because in a way, I almost do everything like musical direction and all that. I can’t say it’s also harder because it’s easier because at least now, parang there’s an understanding na, okay, we’re gonna work around my school schedule whether we like it or not. It has to be my priority.

Q: How often do you perform?
K: Now, four times a week. But there was a time na almost everyday. Now we’re reaching the end of our promotion of our album, so medyo, kumunti na siya.

Q: Have you gone overseas with your concerts?
K: We went to Japan and Canada.

Q: Well received?
K: Yes, yes, yes! They were very nice. Two great gigs. Unforgettable gigs.

Q: How do you handle your popularity nationwide and how has that changed your life?
K: It’s ano eh, it’s life changing. We grow up and then yung ano...ang interest mo... changes. Kasi before, I have this tendency to go out everywhere. I go to Palawan alone and then... But now, ‘yun nga lang I can’t do that anymore. I think ‘yun ‘yung pinakamahirap for me to let go. That freedom to go anywhere I want. Because in Manila like from my house to my school, I used to commute. Now I can’t.

Q: Where did you study?
K: I studied in De La Salle.

Q: You have a double degree in Psychology and Education. Do you have any plan to pursue a career in Psychology or Education in the future?
K: Some people think kasi that it’s a fall back. But actually, for me, no eh. Parang it conspires with what I do now. It helps me with my writing and because it’s education also. It’s about relationships also and you know with people. And it’s also my taking up Psychology as well. Parang nagco-conspire talaga siya not only with my writing and also my relationship with...'yun nga – people.

Q: You’re very popular in the music scene, a lot of people have you as their inspiration, how about you? Do you have a role model or someone you look up to?
K: I look up to a lot of people in my church. Our pastors and our pastors’ wives. (Laughs). Ayun, I’m pretty much...well, I make it a point kas, that there’s also a conscious effort na to make Jesus my role model.

Q: First time in dumaguete?
K: First time in dumaguete.

Q: One last question: how do you find Dumaguete?
K: well, you guys have good food. (Laughs).

Q: Thank you very much.
K: Welcome.

Yes, this interview is in keeping with the trend this week for blogging the unexpected. First, National Geographic-type shots of reproduction in the insect world. Now Kitchie Nadal. What can I say? I have many talents.

Lorraine, Marianne, and Drig are MassCom students of Silliman University.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Wind Elemental

I mentioned to Sean that I wanted to illustrate some of his Antaria stories. With recent time constraints coming into play, I've had to put off this pleasant task for a bit. Soon, I hope, soon!

In the meantime, I was trying to decide which story I would've liked to draw. Rewards, I thought, would fit the bill for its its mix of action, dialogue, and humor, as well as its relatively short length.

Then a problem had me stumped. One of the main characters in the story was a Wind Elemental. So how do you draw THAT? I mean, an Earth Elemental would probably be a mass of mud or rock. A Water Elemental would be, well, water. And a Fire Elemental would be, well, fire. But a Wind Elemental? If I had a hero fighting a Wind Elemental, how do I make sure he doesn't look like he's just throwing rocks into the wind? A tornado, maybe? I didn't want to resort to the cliched rings of the typical cartoon tornado.

So after some thought, you see the result above. I chose to draw the effects of the Wind Elemental instead. Drawing it convincingly, especially given my level of drawing skill (which is to say, low), was a challenge. But I'm fairly happy with the result. Maybe when I get better.

I'm not sure if the floating mask is what Sean had in mind, but I sort of liked the effect. An impassive mask, empty blackness where the eyes and mouth should be, is sufficiently terrifying, I think.

So, Sean, submitted for your approval (or otherwise).

Things I wanted to blog, but haven't yet

The past week has been so eventful in many pleasant ways that there's simply just far too many items in my backlog of blog entries. Since I've been spending most of my writing hours trying to finish the major revisions on my paper for UP-ISP I'm usually spent by the time I want to do my blog entries. So that's why I've been stuck posting grasshopper porn.

Things I wanted to write (in no particular order):
  • City Council Meeting today concerning the first-mover advantage with a call center
  • Conversations with Fr. Bartholomew Sun
  • Biking to Palinpinon
  • Learning to enjoy Dumaguete
  • Authentic Italian pizza and pasta in Dumaguete
  • Waiting for Kitchie Nadal
  • Careless driving
  • Autism and the MMR vaccine
  • Homeopathy and acupuncture

    And a host of others. I really need to sit down and write.

    Sigh. Maybe the rejection slips I got recently really did some damage.
  • Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    Grasshopper update

    Three hours later, the hot couple is still at it. I just had to take more shots. Yeah, baby!

    I'm the Larry Flynt of the entomological world.

    Young grasshoppers in love

    As I stepped out of the house this morning, what should greet me but the sight of two grasshoppers in the throes of passionate lovemaking?

    Wrapped side-by-side, he had his eadegus encased in her ovipositor. Glistening emerald green in this cloudy morning, they looked like two sticks of suman.

    The voyeur in me couldn't help but snap out my digital camera. Those hoping for insect porn will be disappointed. Apparently, reproduction in the world of Caelifera is a meditative process.

    Slow, yes. But beautiful, too.

    According to the Wikipedia:

    During reproduction, the male grasshopper introduces sperm into the vagina through its aedeagus (reproductive organ), and inserts its spermatophore, a package containing the sperm, into the female's ovipositor. The sperm enters the eggs through fine canals called micropyles. The female then lays the fertilized egg pod, using her ovipositor to insert the eggs about one to two inches underground, although they can also be laid in plant roots or even manure. The egg pod stays there through the winter, and hatches when the weather has warmed sufficiently. The first nymph to hatch tunnels up through the ground, and the rest follow. Grasshoppers develop through stages that progressively get larger in body and wing size. This development is referred to as hemimetabolous or incomplete development.

    Tuesday, September 06, 2005

    Unintended Pet

    Driving into the garage last night, I caught sight of this gigantic lizard that lives in the rafters of our house. Quite a fascinating sight, really, so I quickly whipped out my camera. Too bad she scrambled into the gutter before I could take a good shot. Fortunately, she stayed still long enough for me to snap this pic.

    I think I'll call her Gloria.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    Aaargh! complete

    Oh, looky, I made a complete strip.

    Kitchie Nadal in Concert

    Just came from a Kitchie Nadal concert. Front row seats, woooo! Ears still hurting.

    I have more high-res pictures, in case anyone's interested. Knowing the readership of this blog, though, I find that highly unlikely.

    Sacha's been published!

    Check out the issue 138 of Linux Journal.

    Fanboy mode!

    Friday, September 02, 2005

    Reverend Yakky

    I'm feeling a bit of a mean streak today. It didn't help matters any that Mom foolishly decided to bring up the topic of religion when talking with a pastor. Aiyee! It was like winding someone up.

    So I was sitting there behind the cash register, trying to ignore the one-sided conversation. I just couldn't help sketching what I felt at the moment.

    See? I told you I had a bit of a mean streak.

    Oriental Negros Innovation Awards 2005-2006

    Rational Technology for September 4, 2005

    This year marks the third year that the province is holding the Oriental Negros Innovation Awards. The brainchild of DTI Provincial Director Javier Fortunato and then-Peace Corps volunteer Veneeth Iyengar, the business plan competition has already seen its 2003 grand prize winner, Boni Comandante's Buhi fish anesthetic, reap international awards and at the same time grow into an international company. The Innovation Awards contest by itself should also be a source of pride for Dumaguete as it is now used as the template for other similar competitions, most notable the Philippine Entrepreneurial Startups Organization (PESO) contest.

    What exactly are the Innovation Awards? In a nutshell, it is an competition that aims to discover and encourage that aims to discover and develop innovative business ideas. Focus areas are businesses concerning agriculture, health, environment, science and information technology. The contest is open to all entrepreneurs, but the stipulation is, of course, that the business must be set up in Oriental Negros. This is spur the further economic development in Oriental Negros by creating more jobs and bringing in additional capital investment into the city.

    There's a prize money of P50,000 to the first place winner. Runners up will also receive cash awards. The end goal, of course, are not the prizes themselves. The prize money actually constitutes seed capital that must go into starting up the business.

    In the scale of things, P50,000 might not sound like much to start a business, but one should consider it only as an initial incentive. As with the Buhi project, winners will receive guidance in refining their business plan, visibility with potential investors, and nominations for participation in other competitions.

    What does it take to participate in the competition? Well, to begin with, think of an innovative idea. Start, if you wish, with a problem that you wish to solve, and come up with an innovative way of solving it. The plan should be realistic and achievable, and it should have good revenue potential. Examples of past winning entries include: a round-the-clock solar fish dryer, bricks from waste calcium carbonate (calburo), soya-based computer ink, an electronic advertising board, and coconut milk processing.

    Then, draft the idea into a concept paper. The concept paper is a general overview of the business idea, no more than 1,000 words long. It explains the idea, the problems it solves, and why it is unique. It also should explain how the idea would make money.

    Take note that the concept paper is at most 1,000 words long. Participants, however, should not make a virtue of extreme brevity. As a judge in the preliminaries in the last two competitions, I was often at a loss because some papers did not explain enough as to why they should be considered worthy ideas. I was told that some entries consisted of only one or two sentences. Ladies and gentlemen, this is certainly not the way to participate, let alone win, a business plan competition.

    For the truly innovative ideas, the concept paper is just the start. Ten participants go on to the next round, where they will participate in workshops to help them flesh out their ideas further. These ten contestants will go on to produce a more detailed business plan that will be brought for the consideration of the final judges. The final judges are typically successful entrepreneurs who have some gut feel as to what makes an idea successful or not.

    There's so much more to be said of this exciting competition. I highly encourage people to participate. Deadline for the team registration is September 22. Deadline for the concept paper is on October 19. Get those gears working, folks!

    For more information, please visit the Innovation Awards web site at