Sunday, October 30, 2005

A History of the Filipino People for High Schools

To be fair about the matter of textbooks on Philippine history, I do know of at least one book whose treatment is a little more balanced than the ones I used in my time. It's Paul Dumol and Ernesto Grio's "A History of the Filipino People for High Schools." I've been fortunate to have made Mr. Dumol's acquaintance many years ago so I trust his work implicitly. A reading of the text only serves to confirm my initial impressions.

The central theme of the textbook is the development of a common cultural identity for the Filipino people. Early on, the authors already establish that at the time of the arrival of the Spanish, there was no common Filipino people, just various tribes. Their story of a more organic development of the Spanish colony is far more believable than the image of out-and-out slavery that seems to be the common mental image.

Even more interesting, Dumol and Grio also tackle the impact of the Dutch Wars and the British invasion of the Philippines. Both of these had a significant impact on the relationship of the colonial Spanish with the Malay natives.

As the story progresses to the 19th century, we see the maturity that the country is going into, along with the attendant problems. This, of course, leads to the the period that is the typical focal point of Philippine history as taught in schools. But by then, we have a more complete picture.

My only complaint of the textbook is that it is rather thin and lacking in the details. It reads like an outline, really. I was able to read through it all in one night.

It would have helped greatly if there was a more extensive treatment of pre-Hispanic Philippines as well as presentation of the broader view of the developments in Europe from the 17th to 19th centuries that affected the colonies. But I guess that's what further reading is for.

Unfortunately, there's no online reference to the book, but economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas did write an extensive review in the Manila Bulletin a year ago.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Thoughts on Philippine history

This is Philippine history leading up to Independence as I remember it from my lessons in high school and college.

Ferdinand Magellan came to these islands on March 16, 1521 with the intent of conquering them for God and for Spain. He befriended Humabon and convinced him to become a Christian. However, in the neighboring island, Lapu-Lapu refused to have anything to do with him. In a fit of pique, Magellan fought with Lapu-Lapu but lost. His men retreated, leaving him for dead.

Knowing of the location of the Philippine islands, the Spaniards came back some years later and began a program of systematic conquest. They destroyed everything they found of the native culture and began 300 years of subjugation. They enslaved the Filipino people and did many other bad things, the worst offenders being the friars. That was why there were so many uprisings. In fact, the whole of Philippine history is simply a list of failed uprisings.

Before the Spanish came, the Filipinos were a brave and honest lot. Chinese traders could leave their wares on the street untended, and when they came back, they would find its fair equivalent in gold. But the Spanish destroyed all that, bringing their vices of drink and sloth.

Then Jose Rizal and the propagandists came into the picture towards the middle of the 19th Century. They wrote many things against the colonial masters. Chief of these was Jose Rizal's Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, which exposed the abuses of the friars and the colonial government. This drove the people to revolt, a movement led by Andres Bonifacio. Bonifacio, unfortunately, was killed by one of his own men. In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence for the Philippines.

This synopsis would probably earn me an 'F'. I will have to thank my lucky stars that I am no longer in school and no longer subject to the tyrannies of history teachers. Ignorance is bliss, so they say, and I am now free to wallow in it.

Before you excoriate my cavalier attitude towards my own country's history or the quality of the schools I went to (Stella Maris Academy of Davao and University of San Carlos, if you must know), I challenge you to take any ordinary fellow from the street and see if you can get a better synopsis. I will bet you that you cannot. This is the picture that is painted in Filipino students' minds by the time they finish school.

I don't know if things have changed dramatically for the better since I was last in a classroom 15 years ago. I doubt if it has. There is something terribly wrong with the way that history is being taught in schools, much in the same way as there are many things terribly wrong with my four-paragraph capsule history of the Philippines.

For one thing, Philippine historians, at least the ones who write the history textbooks, would have us believe that the Philippines enjoyed a golden age of nobility before it was so sadly ruined by the colonizing Spanish. But was that really the case? Really, how would they know, if the friars destroyed all evidence of Filipino-Malay culture as they found it?

In the history books, the Spanish are consistently portrayed as villains (or at least that is the impression one receives). Everything that is wrong with Filipino culture today is attributed to the bad influence of the Spanish: the poverty, the laziness, the superstitious and hypocritical religiosity. I have known some people to say that it would have been better if we had been colonized by the British instead. But how much of this can we really believe?

I am not saying that there were no abuses on the part of both the colonial administration and the so-called frailocracy. Yet these things do happen in any cultural disparity where one is treated as inferior and the other treated as superior. This was a fairly commonplace occurence in all colonial expansions, be they Spanish, British, French, Portuguese, or American. But to go to the opposite extreme and say that everything the colonizers did was bad? I think that does history a great injustice.

If there's any group of people who have destroyed history, it is not the Spanish friars who purportedly exterminated traces of native Filipino culture. It is the people who write the Philippine history textbooks.

Why does such a skewed picture of the colonial past needs to be perpetuated today? Is there some underlying agenda that demands this view of history? Or is this simply inertia that continues to give life to a socio-political perspective wrought by the propagandists so many years ago? What were the reasons in keeping those views alive?

I think it's high time we painted a balanced and reasonably objective view of our own history. As it stands, the history we are taught in school is inadequate, and worse yet, erroneous. Without the proper understanding of who we are and where we come from, without the proper appreciation that we are an amalgam of Malay culture shaped through three centuries of dynamic colonial rule (with all the good and evil entailed therein), we will continue to have a fractured psyche.

Nanowrimo

I have no idea what I'm going to write about (well, there were a couple, but I'd get in trouble for writing them) but what the heck! Visit the Nanowrimo web site if you want to join the fun.

Fifty thousand words over 30 days is roughly 1,700 words per day. Do-able! But just don't expect any masterpieces from me.

Friday, October 28, 2005

News.com: Microsoft to take Windows from South Korea

According to News.com, Microsoft is planning to take Windows from South Korea because of antitrust issues raised by the country pertaining to the media player and instant messaging.

I don't know how much of this is brinksmanship, but I am wondering what this bodes for the game industry? South Korea is a major force in online gaming, and all of that runs on Windows. Will Microsoft blink? Or will the South Korean government?

Or will this mean that we might finally see some games running on Linux?

Anatomy of a swindle

Earlier this week, I got a story from a source in the Department of Trade and Industry regarding a swindle operation that targetted a local resident of Dumaguete. I posted an abridged version of the story in my blog, and a few days later, the victim sent in a more complete version with details.

When you read about a swindle affair, you think it never happens to you. But for one resident of Dumaguete, it did. And this is how it happened, as recounted by the victim.

"We had been planning to sell our house and lot for some time and had advertised so on the Internet and on our front gate. Two weeks ago, a Mr. Jimenez introduced himself to us indicating his interest.

"When Mr. Jimenez said our property was ideal for his brother-in-law, a sheik from Dubai. He said the sheik would come with his trustee and engineer to look over the place.

"They came on a Sunday, the sheik in full Arab dress, cutting an impressive figure. He was around 45 years old, very tall and very handsome. He was softspoken and dignified in manner. He said he liked our place.

"The trustee, a Danny Liwag, in the course of their conversation introduced their business. They said they were making plastified lining for damaged pipes. They had a factory in Manila. The Arab boss had many investments and he wanted to invest in Dumaguete. In fact, they were discussing a project on low-cost housing in the city. They needed a place for their office and for their boss to stay when he visited.

"We agreed to the terms of sale. They were to come back with their lawyer and the Filipina wife after a week to sign the papers. They said they wanted to move in by December 15 and spend their Christmas here.

"Liwag then proceeded to share with us that their factory in Manila had a hard time with a supply of raw material, tricresyl phosphate, a plasticiser. The factory of the Chinese supplier of the SEAHORSE brand had burned down, he said, and they heard that Malaysians had bought all the stock. He asked if I would I know who could supply this? The price per box was P24,000. On top of that, they would give me a broker fee of P1,000.

"It just so happened that I ws previously in touch with Ruel Bulatao, a trader. He would be coming the day after. I promised that I would ask him. Previously, Bulatao, had also been looking for a lot for his friend, a Filipino trader married to a Malaysian woman.

"Bulatao came the following day with a Ronald Villeza. Villeza was interested in the place. His father-in-law, a Malaysian would finance the lot. And what do you know? They knew where to get the SEAHORSE plasticiser. They came back and brought a sample right away. It was for P20,000.

"I suggested bringing the two parties together so they could deal directly with each other, but Villeza said did not want that since he did not know the other party. I later called Liwag and he was so pleased and thankful I found him a supplier. He bought the sample right away. I earned P5000 for that.

"He said he needed 1000 pieces so as to have a year's supply. That was P5-M profit for me! I felt like being caught in a whirlwind. First, the sale of our property for a good price, and now a chance to earn so much money with being broker. What was the risk? None!

"The trader came on a Wednseday morning without notice. He brought 250 boxes of stock in 50 carton boxes. He said he had gone all the way to Iloilo to get it from other suppliers. Two cartons were from other suppliers, the rest were his. He asked if I had the payment already, especially for the two boxes he had gotten from the other supplier. He wanted P2-M right that day.

"I said, 'You did not inform us you were coming! How could you expect to be paid right away?' I then called Liwag who said his boss the Arab was in Coron island and could not be reached. He said he would arrange that the payment by Friday. They would pay 2% on top of the price for the suppliers to hold it. He even came to inspect the stock.

"Villeza played his role of trader well. He looked liked the tired supplier who went all day and night to get the stock to supply for the customer. He said had to put the money together that day, at least P500K.

"I did not want to lose the deal. I had succumbed to some kind of avarice. He asked me what I could put together myself. Somehow, I felt some kind of responsibility having put myself in the middle of the transaction. That day I grudgingly put together almost half of that amount and gave it to the trader. All that time time, I was sure that Liwag and his Arab boss would be there by Friday.

"The trader left me a carton of 50 boxes as security. After I had paid out the money, I was still in contact by cellphone with Liwag. He kept assuring me that his boss was coming over. Little did I know that he had left his hotel that very day.

"At no point did I suspect a plot between these 2 parties. By Friday, nobody came with the money. Liwag said they were delayed in Manila, using a rally as an excuse. It was only by Monday, when the parties who had said they would come to sign for our property deal did not arrive, that I realized that I had been swindled."

"I am a respected citizen of this city. I mean what I say. I also expect this from people who deal with me. But this time I was taken in by the novelty, the promises, and the chance to earn a staggering amount of money in so short a time. I write this as I experienced it.

"The names here are the names that were told to me but may be fictitious names by this syndicate. They probably different scenarios. I urge all citizens of the community to take care."

Bird Flu

Rational Technology for October 30, 2005

Watch the news these days and you'll always hear some mention of bird flu. The spread of the disease is being closely monitored worldwide, and with good reason. Bird flu, or avian influenza, as it is otherwise known, can spread globally and has the potential to mutate into something more fatal. Thus that also begs the question whether the Dumaguete community is taking steps to cope with such a pandemic if, God forbid, it should take place.

What exactly is bird flu? It is a class of contagious diseases caused by a viruses that normally infect only birds. Wild fowl are asymptomatic carriers and can host the virus without harm to themselves. However, they can transmit it to domestic poultry which are susceptible to the effects of the disease. The viruses have also been known to cross the species barrier and have infected pigs, horses, seals, whales, and humans.

Migratory wild birds are one cause of the global spread of bird flu. However, domestic poultry transported as cargo are also another source. Bird flu can spread in a number of ways: through saliva, through fecal matter, and even through the air. It can also be transmitted by contaminated feed, water, equipment and clothing.

In affected birds, there are two forms of the disease. The low pathogenic form commonly causes only mild symptoms such as ruffled feathers and a drop in egg production. The highly pathogenic form is far more dramatic, spreading very rapidly through poultry flocks, and causing disease affecting multiple internal organs. The mortality rate approaches 100%, often within 48 hours.

In humans, bird flu causes symptoms similar to other types of flu. These include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and conjuctivitis. In severe cases, it can also cause pneumonia that may be fatal. The severity of the infection depends to a large part on the state of the infected person's immune system.

H5N1, the strain of the virus that is thought to be spreading today, was first shown to have passed from birds to humans in 1997 during an outbreak of avian influenza among poultry in Hong Kong. The virus caused severe respiratory illness in 18 people, of whom six died. Since January 2004, there have been 47 confirmed cases of H5N1 and 34 deaths in Vietnam and Thailand. H5N1 has mutated so that it is now deadly in chickens and mice. It can now infect cats as well. Furthermore, H5N1 is becoming resistant to drugs commonly used to treat flu.

H5N1 has affected birds in Korea, Viet Nam, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Indonesia, China, and Malaysia. Work is underway to create a vaccine for H5N1, but this is something that will take time. In the meantime, the primary means of control of avian influenza is through extensive culling of infected poultry, as has been done in Japan, Malaysia, and Korea.

An important thing to note is that while the current strain of bird flu has been known to pass on from birds to humans, it has not yet done so widely. Human-to-human infection has thus far not been demonstrated. Nevertheless, those working with live poultry should exhibit due care.

Other than that, the drive is towards national preparedness in order to reduce opportunities for a pandemic virus to emerge. An early warning system, implemented through close monitoring of birds, can delay initial spread. Something as basic as monitoring of poultry should be in place in Dumaguete.


Top Tips
  • Only those who work or live in close proximity to birds are at risk.
  • Influenza A H5N1 has so far only caused problems in Asia.
  • Those working with ducks and poultry should wash their hands after contact with the birds.
  • Don't touch your face with your hands. If you don't touch your face
    with your fingernails you should stop the virus entering your body through
    the mucous membranes of your eyes or nose.
  • Wash and dry your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water every time
    you go to the toilet and any time you handle live birds, raw poulty or
    uncooked eggs.
  • Regulary perform warm facial dips to inactivate virus cells and wash
    them out of your nasal passageways.
  • Children are at particular risk from bird flu, and should be kept away from poultry and ducks.
  • If you develop symptoms of flu talk to your doctor.
  • Those who are particularly at risk from flu and its complications, such as the elderly and those with respiratory or heart disease, should consider vaccination each year.

    Supplemented with information from one of the commenters to the original story.

    Sources
  • BBC
  • WHO
  • Wikipidia
  • Thursday, October 27, 2005

    'I am not an option'

    In yesterday's headline for Philippine Daily Inquirer, Noli de Castro, the alleged Vice President of the Philippines, was said to have said: "I am not option."

    Yes, of course, Mr. Alleged Vice President. You are not an option. You never were. You look good in a suit and your Tagalog is announcer-perfect, but other than that, what?

    You were chosen as a running mate because of your popularity as TV host. In this country, apparently, no other qualification is necessary. And now, even the circumstances of your election are suspect.

    You are not an option.

    That's what is so sad about the whole matter.

    Wednesday, October 26, 2005

    Hello Kitty Wedding

    How's this for an innovation? In Tokyo, for $10,000, you can have a wedding where Hello Kitty and her boyfriend Daniel will walk you down the aisle. The thinking behind this, apparently, is that more people will attend the wedding and therefore the couple will get more gifts of which cash is the norm.

    I shudder to think what happens when today's Jollibee generation grows up and the food conglomerate does a me-too. Can McDonald's be far behind?

    Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Rosa Parks, 92

    Dear Mrs. Parks,

    I am not your countryman, so several people will think it pretentious of me to be writing to you when we have so many other heroes. But it doesn't matter, because I think you're too big a hero for just one country. You're a hero for the world.

    When you refused to be bullied around that December of 1955, did you have heroism on your mind? I don't think you did. You were tired and your feet were sore. All you wanted was to get home. And here come these men telling you to move to the back of the bus. I can imagine the indignity!

    But you're a hero to me because you calmly stuck to your guns. Your three other seatmates, not wanting any trouble, shuffled along as they were told. You didn't. You didn't start a scene, but you didn't budge either.

    And what did they do to you? They arrested you and they fined you $14. What would they call it in my time and in my country? "Upholding the rule of law." Yes, that's it. Upholding the rule of law.

    Mrs. Parks, you're a hero because you refused to budge. And you're a hero because you did so in a calm manner. You're a hero because you stood up for your rights. There are folks just like you down where I live, though I wish there could be more.

    Vaya con Dios, ma'am.

    Hornswoggled!

    This is a local story from a friend in the know, so you can at least be assured that it's true. I am posting this just as a cautionary tale.

    A couple in Dumaguete was offering their lot for sale. A potential buyer approached them, Arab financier in tow, claiming they were interested in buying. In the course of their conversation, the potential buyers let drop that they were looking for suppliers for a particular chemical of which a Malaysian producer had a monopoly.

    Coincidentally, the couple also gets a call from someone purporting to sell said chemical. The seller was in a rush to dispose of his supply because of some financial emergency. He would give the couple his stock, even for just a downpayment.

    I guess you can already tell where this story is heading: The couple bought the stock, and the buyers disappeared, leaving them with boxes of chemicals that they don't know what to do with.

    I don't know how I might have fared under a similar situation. Perhaps they were blinded by the prospect of an easy sale, and additionally misdirected with the promise of the purchase of their lot. But I guess the moral of the story is: one should not be too eager in these transactions.

    Take care now, y'all.

    Monday, October 24, 2005

    Finished with Personal History

    Finally, I finished Katharine Graham's Personal History today. It's been a long read, partly because of its small print and its 600+ page thickness, and partly because she peppered her memoirs with so many names that it was sometimes hard to keep things straight. But it was an enjoyable read, nonetheless.

    What was amazing about the book as a whole was that it covered more than 70 years of personal history of Mrs. Graham. Substantially more if you include the biography of her mother and father, who are significant historical figures in themselves. It shows you what can unfold in a person's life in that span of time.

    I would probably slice Mrs. Graham's autobiography into three phases. The first phase covered her childhood all the way up to young adulthood, ending with her marriage to Phil Graham. The second phase covers her life with Phil Graham, coincidentally starting along with second world war, and ending with Phil Graham's suicide in the early 60s. And the third phase covers her struggle to keep The Washington Post and other companies afloat.

    I particularly liked her account of the development of the Watergate scandal as The Washington Post covered it. I also liked her narrative of The Washington Post strike in the mid-70's. These, of course, are found in the last third of the book. No doubt, there will be other versions of both stories, so I will be sure to track them down soon.

    Seventy years is a long time, and Mrs. Graham covers it with great candor and skill. You can literally feel the change of time periods as you progress through the story, but this is an effect which she achieves with great subtlety. As I've said in a previous entry, it's a great mirror by which to gauge one's own life, though we can hardly aspire to the circumstances that Mrs. Graham found herself in.

    The book was published in 1997 and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1998. Sadly, Mrs. Graham passed away in 2001 when she slipped and hit her head. I would have wanted to send her a note to say how much I enjoyed her book.

    So, who wants to borrow it next?

    I shop, therefore I am

    Stuck in Metro Manila for two weeks, with nothing much to do, I suppose I can be excused somewhat if my shopping instincts kicked into high gear during that duration. As an additional defense, I will point out to the temptation wrought by the mall operators with their simultaneous three-day sales and the impending implementation of the EVAT. Better buy now while I can still afford them, I reasoned.

    Still, I may have bought more than what I would normally apportion for myself on trips like this. I shall have to impose a two-month period of self-imposed poverty in atonement for the recent excesses.

    And these excesses include:

    1) Books, books, books. I couldn't resist the P50 books being sold at National Bookstore: Katharine Graham's Personal History, Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the World Wide Web, a novel, and some management books. And I just had to pick up a copy of "In Search of the Pre-Hispanic Filipino" by William Scott. And my most expensive impulse buy, 99 Ways to Tell a Story by Matt Madden.

    2) Magazines: Latest issue of Fudge, Scientific American special issue on the Mind, Computerworld on Campus, Story Philippines (later sold to Ian Casocot, unopened).

    3) Comics: A Powermark compilation, and assorted back issues from Filbar's and Comic Quest. Lots of assorted back issues.

    4) He-Man action figures, because they're so darned cheap: Skeletor, Fisto, and Roboto, the last one planned as a Christmas present to my nephew Neo (um, because I already have one).

    5) The remainder of the P50 Mage Knight inventory from Neutral Grounds. Thirteen boxes in all.

    6) Crimson Skies starter pack, because it was selling at half price at Kidz Station.

    7) Magic: the Gathering Starter Set, 9ed Core Game because I want to know what the fuss is about. Oh, I do know what the fuss is about. I want to get in on the fuss.

    8) Pirates of the Crimson Coast constructible card games, because I am a sucker for pirate games.

    9) 2-port KVM switch for my two computers at home.

    10) Team America: World Police on VCD. Filthy movie, but funny as heck. I'll never look at another Jerry Bruckheimer movie in the same way again.

    So there, my purchases for the past two weeks. Have I become a shopping zombie? Yes. I plead guilty by reason of insanity.

    Now, all I need is someone to play the games with here in Dumaguete....

    Sunday, October 23, 2005

    How do you say goodbye?

    Our four-year old German shepherd, Riley, is gone.

    The end came unexpectedly, though in hindsight there was some warning. Some weeks ago, there was blood in his stool and in his urine. But the vets couldn't find anything wrong with him. They just fed him some antibiotics, and it made things a little better.

    Then we were all gone for two weeks. My sister went to Europe, my Mom and Dad and me in Manila. All that time, the caretaker told us that Riley wasn't looking too well, but that he was eating. Our minds occupied elsewhere with more urgent things, what could we do?

    My sister arrived yesterday. She got Riley out of his house, which was really our patio. He looked thin, she said. He followed her out and went into our house. He flopped into his usual corner. By then he was shivering. He looked piteously at my sister, unable to move.

    My sister decided to take him to the vet. They put him on IV drip. This was at 5:30PM. He expired at 7:00PM, though we didn't know about it until this morning.

    Ah, Riley, we are so going to miss you. You were such a hardheaded stubborn dog, but so lovable and so affectionate. Remember the time you scampered into the car and wouldn't come down because you wanted a ride? Or the time you were so upset that you didn't take the prize at the dog show?

    But it's not these big events that matter, it's the small ones. Like how you insist on picking up a rock or something before relieving yourself. Like how we have you insist on staying in the airconditioned room.

    Our hearts will break everytime we look at the empty cage. Because it's a reminder that you're gone.

    Oh, dog, how ever do you say goodbye? I'm sorry I never got to see you before you went.

    I hope it's true that all dogs go to heaven.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005

    Excerpt: Evolution of a Linux User

    To be published in Computerworld on Campus, December 2005 issue. I hope.

    While some people complain that they're so used to Windows and therefore find it impossible to use any other operating system, I found I was in the opposite situation some weeks ago. A friend had just offered me a web development contract and when I thought I heard that it would run on a Windows server, I panicked. "I only use Linux! I can't do Windows!"

    So how, you might wonder, do I find myself in these straits?

    Some four years ago, in a fit of guilt, I wiped out Windows 95 from my home computer and replaced it with Red Hat 6.2, then the most popular Linux distribution. The guilt stemmed from two reasons: first, I was supposed at the forefront of local open source initiatives for the company that I was working for; and second, because the copy of Windows running on my PC wasn't exactly legit.

    I had been dual-booting between Windows and Linux for some time, but I always found myself defaulting back to Windows. Why? Because that was the operating system and the mindset that I was used to. By forcing myself to work exclusively with Linux, at least at home, I would be in a better position to extol its virtues.

    In hindsight, that move paid off rather well. I wrote about my experiences with Linux and out of that came Linux Links, weekly column in Inq7.Net, the online edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I made several friends because of Linux Links, and it's quite gratifying to hear some people say that they liked what I wrote, even two years after I stopped the column.

    Entries for Innovation Awards 2005-2006

    Rational Technology for October 23, 2005

    Having been involved in the screening committee of the Innovation Awards in its two previous runs, it was with some anticipation that I awaited the list of final entrants for this year's competition. I'm not a judge this year as I prefer to work on other aspects of the contest, but I already have a feel of what I think are good candidates for businesses.

    This year's registration netted 28 entries. Thus far, the number of participating groups has held steady at around thirty. I think that's a good sign of the vitality of the contest. I do hope to see more in the subsequent years.

    The entries are divided along academic lines, quite an understandable phenomenon as Dumaguete is a university town. Foundation University and Silliman University tie each other with six groups each, followed by ACSAT with four groups, St. Paul University with three groups, and two groups each for COSCA and NORSU. Happily, there are two groups with mixed memberships, extending as far as Cebu. Again, the latter trend of inter-university cooperation is one that I hope to see in the future.

    Reflective of the nature of Negros Oriental, roughly a third of the entries clearly pertained to agriculture and farming, majority of them coming from Foundation University. Similarly, with recent concerns about dengue, quite a few also touched on pest control.

    Another third of the entries concerns itself with electronic technology solutions, with most coming from Silliman University and followed by ACSAT. This is another promising trend, but for the moment, most of them are concerned with automation. I do hope to see more software-oriented solutions in the coming years because this is the direction that the world of outsourcing is taking.

    Finally, the age demographic: almost all the participants of this year's Innovation Awards are in their early- to mid-20's. However, it's good to see some more experienced members in the groups as this provides a great degree of maturity and insight into the competition.

    Gentlemen (and ladies), start your engines! Good luck!


    1 4-in-1 Coconut Husk
    2 Ambulant Copra Dryer
    3 Anti Dengue Soap
    4 Automated Egg Incubator
    5 Automated Flush Bowl
    6 Automated Rice Seedbed
    7 Biodegradable Insect Repeller
    8 Biodegradable Plastic Manufacturing Using Gmelina
    9 Charcoal Brickets
    10 Coco Tiles
    11 Coin Slot Toll Gate
    12 Customized Prepaid Card Accessing
    13 E-Saver
    14 Ginger Lemon and Candy Beverage
    15 Island Coco
    16 MA Organic Negros
    17 Mosquito Killer
    18 Mosquito Trap
    19 Nature Craft Giveaway
    20 Odor Free Hog Raising
    21 Oyster Flouride Paste
    22 Pre-Motherhood Training Institute
    23 Sound Energy to Electricity
    24 Stagnant Water Purification
    25 Touch Alarm Electric Shock
    26 Watchdog 24
    27 Web Mall

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Lord of War

    Penultimate night in Manila, and I decide to catch Lord of War starring Nicolas Cage. Shudder! What a terrifying movie!

    The posters might make it out to be an action film in the tradition of Jerry Bruckheimer. But really, it's not. It's a drama piece of the price that a man pays for his amorality. Yuri Orlov (Cage), gunrunner-extraordinaire, manages to justify all his actions by maintaining moral detachment from his trade. But he just gets drawn in deeper and deeper until he's left with...nothing. Nothing.

    It's not a spoiler to say that he lives to sell another day. The descent itself is what makes the whole movie worthwhile.

    Threaded into political commentary about the reality of global violence, the movie will forever change the way I see an action movie.

    More Katharine Graham

    Although I had a slow start with Katharine Graham's Personal History, I'm now heavily engrossed in the book. It really is a fascinating read.

    At first I was turned off with what looked to be a memoir of the de facto American aristocracy. Mrs. Graham was the publisher of The Washington Post, after all, and daughter of one of the most influential men in early 20th Century America. Her husband, Phil Graham, was a confidant of the Kennedys. But somewhere along the way, she just draws you in with story after story.

    It's a very candid view of her life. To be sure, it was a privileged life to begin with, but it's not one without any problems. And it's these events, missteps, and resolutions that really make it an interesting memoir.

    What really caught me was the chronicle of the development of her relationship with her husband, starting from courtship through early years of marriage and to his depression and self-destruction. It's one mirror through which I can view relationships, both my own and other people's.

    And to think that I picked it up for only P50!

    Monday, October 17, 2005

    Back in the Land of the Living

    I started feeling the sniffles on Wednesday afternoon and I promptly dismissed them as the product of the airconditioning here at the mall. But in hindsight it wasn't, because by Wednesday evening, after dinner with Clair, Chona, and Marcelle, I was down. Seriously down.

    Thursday my nose was clogged and my head was stuffy. Friday, more of the same, only worse. I had to put off writing my Rational Technology column as well as a deadline for a literature magazine (as if I could get something published in this artsy-fartsy world). Thankfully I was up and about by Saturday, albeit still with a heavy head, so I could deliver my talk for Dominic Medenilla's class at the Ateneo Professional Schools.

    Late Saturday afternoon had me at the PLUG general assembly. I caught most of Eric Pareja's excellent talk on localization, delivered mostly in Filipino. All told, it was good to meet up with old friends. And, my, my, it looks like I might be on the board of PLUG for 2005-2006.

    In the course of my illness, I couldn't really get anything done. I was starting to get hooked on Katharine Graham's autobiography, finally having caught its cadence, but in between blowing into the tissue paper and popping pills, I didn't have much zest for anything.

    About the only thing I did was play Nethack. What a great excuse, eh?

    Wednesday, October 12, 2005

    Starfleet 1


    Commanding the U.G.A.S. Defiant on a sweep of the Deneb III system, my orders were to hunt down and destroy 63 enemy ships in 58 days. So far I had made good on my mission. But I was trickling down to the appointed deadline and I had just one more Krellan ship to take down. It just so happened that that last Krellan ship was pounding me with phaser fire and I was down to my last few mega-ergs of power. The Defiant was all but crippled.

    Redirecting all power to the forward shields, I ordered Defiant to hobble close to the Krellan. Another broadside of phaser fire whittled away my ship's defenses, leaving her a flaming hulk. Propelled by inertia, the Defiant came to rest beside her attacker.

    The Defiant was holding on but the end was inevitable. I then drew my last trump card.

    "Computer: Initiate self-destruct sequence."

    Moments later, the Defiant turned into a small supernova, taking the Krellan down with her. My ship was gone, but my mission was a success.


    And that, ladies and gentlemen, was my most memorable gaming moment. I'll admit that I sound like a dweeb, but nothing beats the thrill of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, real or otherwise.

    The year was 1988 and the game was Starfleet I, a PC-DOS game by one Dr. Trevor Sorensen that was a thinly-veiled reference to Star Trek. I was a Trekkie and so were my friends. We passed around a bootleg copy of the game on 5-1/2" floppy disks.

    It was text-based, archaic even for its time, but darn it! it was fun. It captured the mood of what it felt like to command a starship. The screen gave you a rundown of all the resources at your disposal: navigation, sensors, ship status reports, damage and repairs, shields, torpedoes, and phasers. You hopped from quadrant to quadrant, hunting down packs of nasty Krellans and their invisible allies, the Zaldrons.

    One day, that floppy got hit by a virus and I kissed the game goodbye. Such a shame, too, as I had already hit the rank of commodore. For some reason, never got around to getting another copy from my friends. I think I was too traumatized at the prospect of restarting my Starfleet career from the bottom of the ladder.

    A few years later, I saw some Windows-based knockoffs. They already had fancy graphics, and even the ship representation looked exactly like the USS Enterprise. But they never could capture the thrill that I felt with the text-based Starfleet.

    So now, almost twenty years later, I discover that the original Starfleet game is available online and playable in Linux using a DOS emulator called DOSBox. I cannot adequately express how happy I am.

    With several years of gaming behind me, and a better understanding of what makes a game great, I'm re-evaluating what it is that made Starfleet so exciting for me.

    1) Tactical problem-solving. Starfleet placed you in a situation where you had to solve spatial problems with a bit of geometry and luck. The problems were very similar to each other -- combat, after all, took place in a 10x10 grid, with the only variables being your coordinates and your ship orientation -- but they were never the same.

    2) Resource management. At the heart of it, Starfleet is a resource management game. Your starship takes in a maximum amount of 5000 units. You use some amount of power for each action that you take. It could be a small thing like firing torpedoes, firing a probe, or repairing damaged subsystems. Or it could be a big power drain like maintaining shields or going into hyperspace. The challenge then becomes one of maximizing power use until you can refuel at the next starbase.

    3) Balanced gameplay. Oh, to be sure, Starfleet did not feature great AI, but for a game of its kind, it didn't need to. The combat situation were adequate puzzles in themselves. The random events -- saboteurs running loose on the decks, ion storms, probes, attacks on starbase -- heightened the tension. But the game was never too easy or too difficult. The deadline set for completing a mission was more or less adequate.

    4) Flavor. Never mind that they couldn't say Klingons instead of Krellans, or Romulans instead of Zaldron. Everything about this game was really Star Trek. Engineering, Science Officers, shuttles, torpedoes, transporters, all the way down to the redshirts that the computer would blithely list as casualties after a direct hit.

    5) Intuitive design. It was a major feat to be able to fit in all the information that you needed to play the role of starship captain on a screen that was only 80 columns by 25 rows. But Sorensen managed to do just that. One glance told you everything you needed to know: the strategic macro situation, the tactical combat situation, critical ship status, etc. All commands were one or two keystrokes away, with a helpful computer to guide you as to what the functions were.

    Finally, I think it actually helped that the game was in text, instead of sporting fancy graphics as other knockoffs attempted in later years. Presented in text, the die-hard Trekkie could abstract the imagery from the symbols, and actually play out the visuals in his head. That, I think, ultimately allows players to write their own stories as they play the game.

    And that's what makes a great game.

    Beam me up, Scotty!

    A History of Violence

    Moving along with my movie binge this week, I caught A History of Violence starring Viggo Mortensen. I ordinarily would not have opted to see it, but when I learned it was adapted from a graphic novel, well, that clinched it for me.

    Violence is a taut little drama that keeps you on the edge of your seat. No overdone histrionics here, just a very effective economy of acting. Even the camera work looks bland with their eye-level shots, but this blandness only serves to highlight the suspense.

    The plot is simple: Tom Stall (Mortensen) is a proprietor of a small-town diner who finds himself thrust into the limelight after he swiftly dispatches two killers who attempt to rob his shop. That's when his troubles begin as mobsters from Philadelphia pay him and his family a visit. They say he is not who he claims to be.

    The suspense draws largely from the sinister undertones of the mafiosi. It's never overt, always implied, up until the last moment. You feel for Tom and his family. The action, too, is quick, simple, and effective. There are no drawn out gunfights. That simply reinforces the atmosphere.

    Of course, underneath this story is they typical male power fantasy which draws from Tom Stall's effectiveness as a killer. Who wouldn't want to turn into an efficient cold-blooded killer when their family is threatened? But this, in turn, is counterbalanced by feelings of dread and loss.

    Certainly worth a watch.

    Hell

    From Inquirer:


    "Believe you me, [businessmen] are really sick and tired of politics," Favila told reporters in MalacaƱang yesterday after joining Ms Arroyo in a roundtable discussion of positive developments in the economy.

    Favila said businessmen were after the passage of only three measures -- the antiterrorism and anti-smuggling bills and the bill on fiscal incentives.

    He said businessmen would rather engage in making money.

    "Kung may pera sa impiyerno, pupunta doon ang negosyante (If there's money to be made in hell, they'll go there)," he said.


    Oh, don't worry, Mr. Favila, that's where we're headed already. Thanks in no small part to your boss.

    Tuesday, October 11, 2005

    WiFi at Bo's Coffee Club in Galleria

    WiFi access from Bo's Coffee Club in the basement of Robinson's Galleria. Pretty fast links. I love it. I downloaded tons of updates for my Ubuntu instalation. I think I've just about overstayed my welcome, and my battery is running out. But I'll be back here more often.

    Powermark


    I've tended to avoid modern Christian literature because most of them treat the subject matter with a heavy hand and have an unhealthy obsession with The Last Days. It was with this frame of mind that I saw a copy of Powermark in the newsstands some years ago. After flipping through it, I decided it wasn't worth my time.

    Last week, I found a black-and-white manga-style compilation of Powermark Series 1 selling in Book Sale for P100. What the hey, I thought, the price was sufficiently low, so I picked it up.

    Reading through it changed my opinions. There is some worthwhile modern Christian literature out there after all.

    Powermark, for those who don't know it, is a comic book about a superhero who leads a group of kids in recreating scenes from the Bible. Yes, it's a corny premise, and the costumes on both sides are fashion disasters, but underneath there's still a compelling storyline worthy of Marvel Comics. The art isn't bad, really.

    What really got me was the recreations of the stories from the Bible. Our Lord Jesus Christ, for once, does not get the effeminate treatment that He usually gets in children's literature. This Jesus Christ is true Man, whose pathos is captured beautifully. The other biblical heroes also get a fair shake. They really do look like warriors.

    The stories of the team isn't bad, either. Not all are goody-goody characters, which leaves room for an angle on redepmtion. And they situate that story within St. Peter's betrayal of Our Lord and his subsequent repentance. Wonderful, really. The writer knows what he's doing.

    At a P100 a copy, you can't go wrong. Pick it up, if you can.

    Monday, October 10, 2005

    Help! I am trapped in a cookie factory...

    Well, not exactly a cookie factory, but trapped nonetheless. For family reasons, I am stuck here in Manila with my Mom, Dad, and sister. I have all these diversions to take my mind off my condition, but I still want to go home.

    The only problem is: I can't.

    Grumble, grumble, grumble.

    So in the meantime, I am taking advantage of all the diversions available to me to keep myself from going insane.

    Thus far, I have bought a tonload of books and magazines. Most notable are the P50 bargain books from National Bookstore in Eastwood. I picked up Katherine Graham's Personal History, Tim Berners-Lee's Weaving the Web, and Caleb Carr's Killing Time, the last of which has very bad reviews.

    In the last three days, I have also watched: Corpse Bride, The 40-Year Old Virgin, and Land of the Dead.

    Good movies all, however, I was deeply disturbed by The 40-Year Old Virgin. Yes, I laughed, but it was a bad movie. The eponymous lead drove a bicycle to work, had closetsful of action figures, and read comics. Seriously!

    Friday, October 07, 2005

    Caring Hands

    Rational Technology article for October 9, 2005. Some items rehashed from an earlier post, but largely rewritten and with additional details.

    Like most teeners her age, Aries Jane perks up at the mention of the name of her idol Sandara park. Her mother often uses it to gently cajole Aries Jane when she's being a little stubborn. But unlike other teeners her age, she is afflicted with mild autism, which in turn induces gravitation insecurity.

    Gravitational insecurity means that Aries Jane has trouble perceiving gravity. In fact, without extensive therapy, she would be unable to walk. Yet these days Aries Jane can, with some guidance, walk some distance. And that's thanks to the therapy that she's undergoing at the Great Physician Rehabilitation Foundation through its CHILD program.

    GPRehab, as it is more commonly known, is the brainchild of its executive director, Analou Suan. A physical therapist by training, Analou moved to Dumaguete from Oroquieta City two years ago. She wanted to do something meaningful and along the lines of her profession. And that's when she hit on the idea of helping children with disabilities, in particular, children from poor families.

    On the advice of a Norwegian friend, she put together a short proposal and submitted it to the Norwegian Disabled Care Foundation. Within two weeks, her proposal was approved and funding came by way of the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). All the more surprising, really, because the Philippines is not in NORAD's list of beneficiary countries. GPRehab officially opened its doors in Bagacay on September 10 last year.

    CHILD, a catchy acronym for Caring Hands to Inspire and Link with Disabled Children, is GPRehab's flagship program. The program offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, special education, and supplementary feeding for its beneficiaries. It also builds awareness for people with disabilities through community seminars and conducts training for community-based rehabilitation programs in selected communities.

    The target group for the CHILD program are children from poor families, between 5 to 18 years of age. This is significant because the type of therapy they provide is normally out of reach of the families of that income level. The children come from as far away as Bayawan and Mabinay. They have twice weekly personalized sessions with a therapist.

    CHILD started out with twenty children and have expanded to forty since then. Of these, 13 children have graduated from their special education classes and been integrated into regular classes in their public schools. They continue to come to GPRehab only for their physical therapy.

    Working with Analou are physical therapists, teachers, administrators, and volunteers. They are: Girlie de la Plaza (SpEd Teacher), Rima Erames (SpEd teacher/ Process of Inclusive Education [PIE]-in-charge), Cherrilyn Jamora (Occupational Therapist/Wholistic Functional Development Program Coordinator), Anci Lasta (OT), Rey Carreon (Physical Therapist/Workshop in-charge), Annelyn Gador (PT/Community-based Rehabilitation Training In-charge), Celda Dinoy (Community Organizer/ CBR Program Coordinator), and Annabelle Corsame (Social Worker). Volunteer PWDs are Cheryl Diamola, Saturnina Mariano,
    Rosalie Calantaol, and Vidal.

    By next year, the CHILD program will grow to 100 children, thanks to expanded funding from NORAD. GPRC, of course, continues to welcome donations from various benefactors. It costs P15,000 annually to put a child through their program.

    GPRehab also provisions special equipment for the children in the program. In GPRehab's backyard is a workshop where they turn out customized wheelchairs and walkers. The wheelchairs are sized more or less according to the frame of the person using it. The tiniest model, for example, measures a half meter in height and was built for a five-year old with cerebral palsy. As the children grow, they pass on their chairs to younger kids and move up to bigger chairs.

    GPRehab doesn't make a business of churning out wheelchairs, though. It's only a side activity, a necessity in their main enterprise. Rey Carreon, physical therapist for GPRehab, was trained by a Norwegian engineer to fabricate the chairs, but they only build as needed. A chair would take two weeks to build if he was working on it full-time; but coupled with his therapist duties, it takes him up to three months to complete a project.

    I caught the children of GPRehab last Tuesday when they all gathered for a farewell party for Norwegian visitors who had come to help them design better wheelchairs. They were a jolly, boisterous bunch, ready to sing and dance, and very childlike in their stubbornness. It was a hopeful sight, and an important reminder, I think, that we need not give in to the despair that the newspapers say pervades the country.

    A little hope and a little initiative can go a long way.

    If you wish to help with GPRehab, send an email to gprehab-at-yahoo-dot-com. I might also add that GPRehab needs hands to help with the manufacture of customized wheelchairs, something that should be right up the alley of Mechanical Engineering departments of the many universities here in Dumaguete.

    Wednesday, October 05, 2005

    A short mood piece

    Somewhere in the forest, a rustling of leaves disturbed the silence. Underneath the moonlight, a dark silhoutte scampered from tree to tree. Moving swiftly, the figure closed in on its prey, alternately hiding and moving forward.

    And finally, the end of the chase: a pathetic whimper, a deadly snap of the neck. No more would the elven spy run.

    This is a suman post, in case you didn't know it.

    Monday, October 03, 2005

    Four long posts in one night

    Whew, my fingers have been working on overdrive putting together four long posts about recent events. I just couldn't leave off writing them now, lest I forget a detail if I set them down later.

    However, knowing the chronological nature of blogs, some of the interesting articles I posted earlier might get overlooked. So I'm writing this short meta-note. And for good measure:

    I posted a potentially incendiniary post about wheelchair donations below, and that's the picture associated with the text. Please read it and tell me what you think.

    Also, more detail on rehabilitation center that's operating here in Dumaguete.

    And my adventures in converting a DTI office to Ubuntu. Slightly technical post, so I hope it doesn't bore the non-techies.

    Finally, I'm pretty proud of the concept paper presentation I put together today.

    Comments most welcome. Splogs not.

    Converting DTI to Ubuntu

    On the request of the provincial director, I began converting the provincial DTI office's computers to Linux last Friday. Though their resident IT guy already had Fedora running on one machine, I opted to use my current favorite distro, Ubuntu.

    The first conversion went smoothly, of course. The machine had a CD-ROM drive, so I popped in the disc and did my work. There were curious queries from the staff, but thankfully, their needs were neither esoteric nor frivolous. No legacy Windows applications to contend with, and no requests for Ragnarok or MU Online. Their requirements fell smack into the sweet spot of web browsers and office productivity suites.

    The second conversion was a bit trickier. The machine had no CD-ROM drive and no floppy. The only thing it had in its favor was that it was fairly new and therefore supported PXE boot.

    I knew the quickest way to run the installation was to do a network installation, but unfortunately, this is not a very well documented procedure in Ubuntu. I shall have to write a full to-do on this sometime, maybe after I figure out what I did right. I also did not want to set up another DHCP server on the local network as it might conflict with their real DHCP server.

    Searching through the Ubuntu forums was a real chore. Both on Google and on their local search facility, some promising results pop up; but they usually lead to broken links because of some renaming exercise. Very frustrating, really.

    My first attempt used a procedure to begin the installation process by booting GRUB from the Windows partition. Apparently, some folks have written GRUB for DOS and GRUB for Windows. Grabbing the requisite root disk (initrd.gz) from the Ubuntu archives, I set out to work. And what do you know, a few minutes later, I was actually looking at an Ubuntu install screen which I had booted into from Windows.

    But I hit a snag when I couldn't quite find the instructions to use a local server as the source of my installation files. What should I do? Set up an FTP server with anonymous access? Set up a TFTP server? Set up a web server? Do I need some other files? The installation procedure proceeded fine using the Ubuntu archives on the Internet, but it was darned slow. I couldn't get it to find my local source files.

    Further probrems plagued me when I somehow ruined the boot sector of the machine I was working on. No choice now but to work from PXE. I ended up installing a DHCP server, after all. And surprise, surprise, it worked.

    Why did it work? I don't really know. What did I do different? The second time around, I had a TFTP server and a web server running on my installation server. So it might have been these. I need to confirm using separate installation.

    Ubuntu, much though I like it, has some minor irritating quirks. Top of the list is poor sound card support. This is my problem with the systems on which I have it installed here at home. Next on the list, not directly Ubuntu's fault, is the tricky configuration of X.org.

    Yes, X.org works well enough, but not nearly so. I am frequently stuck to only one resolution under the default configuration files. So I have to go into xorg.conf to tweak a couple more settings, as I had to do with DTI's machines. I wish this process were easier.

    I'm thinking of the small scale cybercafes who are exploring the shift using Ubuntu. This will typically be the main snag that they will hit, never mind activating video acceleration. The problem becomes worse because these small cybercafes will have different video card configurations. I can only hope they persevere because Ubuntu has several other good things to offer beyond these hurdles.

    So at the end of the day last Friday, I had two DTI machines running Ubuntu, and at decent screen resolutions, too. When I paid a visit to DTI this Friday, they were still running and the staff were breezing through their work.

    A query did crop up: for some reason, working through the web-based Business Name Registration System snagged on a selection window based on Javascript. It was supposed to fill in three other fields automatically, but it wouldn't work. Luckily, I had identified the problem earlier in the afternoon.

    Cause: only works with Internet Explorer, not on Firefox (even on Windows), and not on Epiphany. Crappy Microsoft.

    Great Physician Rehabilitation Center

    This afternoon, I joined Danah on a visit to the Great Physician Rehabilitation Center (GPRC) in Calindagan. My original purpose was to gather information for a wheelchair article I was planning to write. Along the way, the scope broadened somewhat, something for which I am thankful. GPRC, I learned, is really more than just about wheelchairs.

    Fair warning: as I am poor with names, I shall have to leave surnames out and substitute descriptions where I cannot even remember the given names. This is just an outline, after all, to help me write the real thing.

    The GRPC is the brainchild of its director, Analou. A physical therapist by training, Analou moved to Dumaguete from Oroquieta City two years ago. She wanted to do something meaningful and along the lines of her profession. And that's when she hit on the idea of helping children with disabilities, in particular, children from poor families.

    On the advice of a Norwegian friend, she put together a short proposal and submitted it to NORAD, a Norwegian aid agency. Within two weeks, her proposal was approved. All the more surprising, really, because the Philippines is not in NORAD's list of beneficiary countries. GPRC officially opened its doors on September 10 last year.

    GPRC aims to provide physical therapy, occupation therapy, and special education to children with disabilities. Target age range are children from poor families, between 5 to 18 years of age. This is significant because the type of therapy they provide is normally out of reach of the families of that income level.

    The children come from as far away as Bayawan and Mabinay. They have twice weekly personalized sessions with a therapist. A number have cerebral palsy which seriously affects their mobility. Some have more specialized cases. The girl I met this afternoon, for example, had a mild form of autism which resulted in gravitational insecurity: she could not feel herself walking.

    GRPC started out with 20 children and have expanded to 40 since then. Of these, 13 children have graduated from their special education classes and been integrated into regular classes in their public schools. They continue to come to GPRC only for their physical therapy.

    By next year, GPRC will grow to 100 children, thanks to expanded funding from NORAD. GPRC, of course, continues to welcome donations from various benefactors. I learned that it costs P15,000 annually to put a child through their program.

    In GPRC's backyard is a workshop where they turn out customized wheelchairs, the original reason that I paid the center a visit. The wheelchairs are sized more or less according to the frame of the person using it. The model which immediately caught my eye was a tiny one, built for a five-year old with cerebral palsy. As the children grow, they pass on their chairs to younger kids and move up to bigger chairs.

    GPRC doesn't make a business of churning out wheelchairs, though. It's only a side activity, a necessity in their main enterprise. Rey, a physical therapist for GPRC, was a trained by a Norwegian engineer to fabricate the chairs. But they only build as needed. A chair would take two weeks to build if he was working on it full-time; but coupled with his therapist duties, it takes him up to three months to complete a project.

    I suggested to Analou that they work with the Mechanical Engineering departments of the universities in Dumaguete to manufacture the wheelchairs. I also offered to put up a web site for them.

    I'm invited to the farewell party for their Norwegian visitors tomorrow. I'll have more stories by then.

    On wheelchairs

    Two weeks ago, I had a conversation with TVB Group president and Village Bookstore proprietor Danah Fortunato about wheelchair donations of a wheelchair foundation coursed through the local Rotary Groups. The wheelchair foundation is an organization with patently good intentions and received positive publicity in last month's issue of Reader's Digest.

    Danah, however, is quite passionately displeased about the wheelchair donations. Why? Because they don't quite fit. wheelchair foundation puts the ubiquitous monobloc chairs on top of a wheeled platform. Now, monobloc chairs, as anyone who has ever sat on them will attest to, are not the most comfortable of seats. They're designed for stacking, and so typically have a fairly wide base. Fair enough for temporary seating, but stay on it for a long while, and.... Well, you get the picture.

    So translate that to a child whose frail frame has been ravaged by cerebral palsy, and what do you get?

    What's wrong with this picture? The child is not secured. She is too small for the chair. She is so small, in fact, that she could easily fall through the gaps in the backrest.

    Contrast this with a proper wheelchair shown below.

    See the difference? The proper wheelchair is a snug fit, with cushions and straps. The wheels should be bigger so as to provide a comfortable ride. They should have rims and grips so as to allow the passenger to propel himself forward, if he is so able. They should have proper push handles. And a little colorful decoration doesn't hurt either.

    The donations were coursed through the Rotary Clubs of Dumaguete, again, another organization with the means and the good will. However, they also have very little knowledge of physical specifications of proper wheelchairs. Their main function is distribution, and which they did to the different towns in the province.

    Danah strongly believes that these types of donations would be better coursed through organizations with the knowledge and the means to modify them into proper wheelchairs. Groups like the Great Physician Rehabilitation Center, for example, who provide physical and occupational therapy for children with disabilities from impoverished families. On the other hand, GPRC's requirements are significantly less than the chairs provided by the wheelchair foundation. And neither does GPRC mass produce wheelchairs as a business.

    I'll try not to come to any hasty conclusions or judgments on this matter. In the first place, everyone has come forward with good intentions in this matter, and attempted to solve it within the means given to them. I don't know much about the wheelchair foundation, either, other than what I have read and what's been said.

    From what I can tell, the wheelchair foundation aims to provide some basic amount of mobility access to people who might otherwise not be able to afford it. Their monobloc on wheels is the fastest and easiest way of doing so. But it's not a good long-term solution.

    If they did design their wheelchairs to standard specifications, they might reach fewer people but ultimately the wheelchairs would be more usable.

    There's no point crying over spilt milk, of course. The wheelchairs have been distributed, and I'm sure there are a number of people who are thankful for them. But the benefactors should realize that the chairs are not meant as a real solution and are only a stop-gap measure. And in the future, they should be a little more thoughtful of the gifts that they give, even if they are only the channel.

    Developing your concept paper

    Developing your Concept Paper, a presentation I put together for the Oriental Negros Innovation Awards.

    The critical page reads:

    A concept paper is a short written summary of your business idea. It captures the essence of the business. It tells your potential investors why they should invest money into your idea.


    The real reason I'm proud of it is because I came up with six business ideas in one afternoon. Just for discussion purposes, really, but now that I think about it, why not?

    Obviously, I'm a business guru now. Snigger.

    Saturday, October 01, 2005

    Caromata


    I was biking this morning, making another attempt at the Japanese War Shrine in Valencia. I didn't quite make it because I started out late and by the time I hit Purok Iba, the sun was already scorching hot. So I headed back down, defeated once more.

    On the way back, in Claytown, I met this old-fashioned carabao-drawn carriage. I only managed to snap it as it passed me by.

    Ermitanyo


    Or literally, The Hermit, one of the mentor archetypes of Philippine folklore. He is usually a mysterious figure who appears to give advice and sometimes a magic charm to a young hero.

    I was biking up the hills of Candau-ay the other day when I came upon this old gentleman. He had the weary look of one who had been through life's hard knocks. But his face showed a lot of character.

    I gestured if I could take a shot of him, and he acceded. Then he slowly shuffled away.

    Shot with my trusty Olympus D-150 1.3-Megapixel camera, cropped and edited in the GIMP using the Old Photo Script-Fu.

    Revelations

    Rational Technology for Oct. 2, 2005

    Perceptibly the most affected group with the crackdown on pirated software are the Internet cafes that litter the landscape of the Philippines. According to a local game publisher, there were an estimated 8,000 establishments of various sizes operating in the country. While there have been no high-profile arrests, quite a few have pre-emptively shut their doors in order to avoid any tussles.

    So are the Business Software Alliance (BSA) and NBI really serious about this endeavor? No one really knows, and that's what many find worrisome. Some will choose to blithely ignore the problem, thinking that as with many law enforcement drives it will be all light and sound with no substance. Many have taken steps to legalize their software, but ironically, because of the sudden spike in demand, licensed copies of Windows and Office are scarce.

    Some have banded together to form a lobby group before Congress and the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT). Last September 28, a group of cafe owners approached a congressman to for a moratorium on the ongoing government crackdown. Their aim is to find "win-win" solutions with Microsoft. But exactly what these solutions are is still not very clear. At best it will buy the cafe owners time. Now that it's quite clear that Microsoft has this industry by the balls, it's not likely that they're going to give any significant concessions.

    All the same, it's quite a revelation to see just how extensive piracy really is in the Internet cafe business. Now it can be seen that one of the reasons their rates are so low is because they have not been paying the proper dues. It really was only a matter of time before the hammer fell.

    And now that the hammer is about to fall, I find that I am callously unmoved as to their plight. Haven't they had a long honeymoon where they haven't had to spend on any licensed software at all? Besides, it's not as if alternative options like Linux and open source have not been available for quite some time.

    True, the shift to Linux can be difficult, but it is not impossible. However, the real reason Internet cafes feel tied town to the Windows platform is because of critical applications that do not run well or at all on Linux. Like what?

    Oh, massively multiplayer games like Ragnarok, MU Online, and Gunbound. Staple software like office productivity tools, Internet browsers, and graphics utilities run fine on Linux. However, it's now very clear that productivity is not the main objective of Internet cafes because it's not what brings in the money. What does this mean? That perhaps Internet cafes, as they are now, are really just a big waste of time.

    So really, I think this crackdown is a good thing. For too long, Internet cafe owners have been arrogantly complacent with the status quo. They have contributed little to our overall competitiveness in IT, and clearly, they are the wrong barometer of IT literacy. This shakedown will force them to find new solutions -- hopefully legal-- and flex a little ingenuity in the process.