Friday, March 31, 2006

Touring Dumaguete and nearby destinations

Summertime is here and now is probably the best time to visit Dumaguete and other nearby destinations. The rains are a distant memory and the sky is a clear blue canvas daubed with white clouds. The seas are invitingly calm this time of year, perfect for traversing the straits. And if you can just bear a little bit of the sun, then you're all set.

So what's to see and do around here aside from visiting Silliman University and eating litson manok?

Well, it so happened that one brave stranger dropped me a note via Yahoo Messenger, politely asking for help with their travel arrangements. Since she very nice about it, I decided to help out. And I learned a few details in the process, things that might escape a jaded Dumagueteno who hasn't bothered to go outside the city limits.

So without further ado, here are ten sights to see here in Dumaguete and nearby parts.

1) Take a walking city tour. Dumaguete is really a small town with almost everything clustered in the city center. Thus it's perfect for walking, though you can also choose to hail one of the ubiquitous pedicabs that ply the city. Walking or riding, you can visit Silliman University, the Bell Tower, the cathedral, the plaza, and the boulevard. You can stop for coffee or budbod at any of the cafes or painitans. Upscale or downscale, it's your choice.

2) Bike up to the town of Valencia. To me and my biking buddies, this is a daily treat, and yes, now you too can enjoy it. The trip to Valencia is an moderate uphill climb of anywhere from 10 to 15 kilometers, depending on the route you choose. You can either take the main roads or one of the many rough trails. Coming down is a rush! If you're up for a challenge, you can tackle the road going up to the Japanese shrine. Valencia is also home to the Forest Camp resort and the Casaroro Falls.

3) Watch the whales and dolphins frolic along Tanon strait. Bais is the city most associated with this activity, though nowadays you can also go a little further up north to Manjuyod where they also offer the tour. You take an outrigger canoe into the strait, and with some luck, you can catch pods of dolphins and whales. You can also take lunch at the white sand bar just off Manjuyod.

4) Swim in Lake Balinsasayao, and hike to its twin, Lake Danaw. The twin lakes are secluded high up in a mountain and can take a while to get to on a 4x4. If you're feeling adventurous -- though I don't recommend it -- you can hitch a ride on a habal-habal motorcycle. Balinsasayao is a fairly large lake, and you can choose to swim in it, boat on it, or fish from it. If you're up for a brisk hike, you can follow a trail up to Lake Danaw, about half-a-kilometer away through dense jungle foliage.

5) Spelunk in Mabinay or Bayawan. Mabinay is home to several caves, but the four most popular ones are Pangligawan Cave, Pandalihan Cave, Mambajo Cave and the Crystal Cave. Nearby Bayawan also boasts of some caves as well. I haven't been on either trip myself, but I'll make it a point to visit them this summer.

6) Go snorkelling in Apo Island. Apo Island is famous for its coral reef that surrounds that volcanic island. It's a marine reserve, and home to many different species of aquatic life. It's a tad pricey, though, because the boatmen all charge tourist rates, but what they hey. Also a trip I haven't made yet.

7) Go shopping in Malatapay. Looking for a cow? Some sheep, maybe? Or how about some goats? Malatapay, which is the gateway to Apo Island, also has a market and auction that takes place every Wednesday, a tradition dating back to just after World War II. Here, ranchers buy and sell cattle. And even if that's not your sort of thing, you can shop for some native handicrafts in the market. Famous designer Patis Tesoro makes it a point ot visit Malatapay every trip to Dumaguete, precisely for the handicrafts. There's seafood, too, but the prices are tourist rates, unfortunately.

8) Mix a love potion at Siquijor. Siquijor is famous for its witches and its faith healers, and Holy Week is the time they descend from the hills to make their potions. If you're not into that sort of thing, you can also visit the old church, explore some caves, or just stroll along its white beaches.

9) Watch some writers stare at paper until their foreheads bleed. May is when poets, novelists, and playwrights descend upon Dumaguete for the National Writers Workshop, the country's oldest such workshop. More information at Ian Casocot's website. (Whether I'll finally be part of the forehead-bleeding bunch is still in question, but hey, I submitted my application....)

10) Unwind for some good, clean fun in Dumaguete's nightlife. You can get some very good pizza at Hayahay while enjoying sea breeze or listening to a reggae band. If you're looking for a bit more variety, there's also Gimmick, El Camino Blanco, and Why Not.

The Dumaguete and Valencia attractions I mention above are all accessible by public transport. Siquijor, too, is a boat ride away.

For the more adventuresome attractions, talk to the folks at Dumaguete Outdoors as I've found them to be quite competent. They also rent out mountain bikes at a decent rate of P250 per day.

Hope you decide to come over and have fun, Dumaguete-style!

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Con Job

Rational Technology for April 2, 2006

What's the price tag for amending the constitution? The answer varies from place to place. In Valenzuela City, it's sacks of rice. In Davao City, it's porridge. And in our very own Dumaguete City, it's free snacks and door prizes. That's what they were offering for people to come to the Barangay Assembly.

While you can accuse me of resorting to hearsay when I mention Valenzuela and Davao, you cannot accuse me of the same when I talk about Dumaguete City. I was there.

I made it a point to attend the Barangay General Assembly (or Barang-Ass, as Arnie Kapilitan termed it) last Saturday because I thought it was something important. The day before, the news headlines and the blogosphere was abuzz with this new tactic. Since neither Constitutional Assembly or Constitutional Convention were likely to make any headway anytime soon, they -- that nebulous coalition of local government heads and congressmen, presumably following the wishes of the administration -- are resorting to what they call a People's Initiative.

Now this begs the question: can you rightly call it a People's Initiative if it is government that is initiating the move? And spending tax money in the process? Oh, right, maybe it was money from the fertilizer fund instead.

Be that as it may, the aim was to collect enough signatures to warrant a change in the Constitution. At the heart of it all is a shift from our present presidential system to a parliamentary system. Apparently, this matter is of utmost importance such that governors and mayors throughout the country had hastily to call for Barang-Asses last week.

And hastily called it was. Before the assembly, I chatted up the barangay secretary. She said that they were caught unaware by the People's Initiative, and that the whole week had been busy for them, with the governor holding meetings with the barangay captains. What could they have been meeting about, I wondered. I was to find out soon enough.

Amending the Constitution is not a task to be taken lightly. The constitution is the framework for the law of the land. It defines what how we as a people want ourselves to be, and what rights and responsibilities we ascribe to ourselves. As such, any moves at amendment require deliberation, careful thought, and even debate. Was this what I found at the Barang-Ass?

If the Barang-Ass had taken due care to outline to the pros and cons of the parliamentary system vis-a-vis the presidential system, with due care to establish the reasons for the shift, my faith in government might have been restored somewhat. That would have been an indication of sincerity and good faith.

Instead I found a mish-mash of innuendo and half-truths sugar-coated with promises so as to make the parliamentary shift easy to swallow without much thought. Perhaps I might have ascribed this to the overzealousness of our barangay captain (who is, after all, a family friend), were it not for the fact that he was reading from a mimeographed pop sheet.

According to the pop sheet, the parliamentary form of government is supposed to be the modern form of government in place in all progressive countries today. With that came a long litany of nations from Europe and Southeast Asia. What the pop sheet glosses over is the fact that the United States, arguably the most powerful and most modern nation on earth, still follows a presidential system. It also glossed over the fact that for a time have a parliamentary system courtesy of the late unlamented Ferdinand Marcos.

Furthermore, the parliamentary form of government is supposed to provide us with the stability of government by advocating a stronger party system. Presidents would no longer be removed by impeachment nor by popular revolt but rather by a vote of no-confidence. What the pop sheet conveniently ignored was the situation in Thailand which follows a parliamentary system but has nonetheless been rocked by demonstrations against Prime Minister Thaksin.

I found it sadly ironic the way our barangay captain explained to us how we would have better leaders under the parliamentary system. No longer would we select our leader based on popularity, he said, and therefore we would no longer have actors and newscasters sitting in office. And this to the very people who would elect actors and newscasters to the highest position in the land. In essence: you are not good enough or smart enough to choose your own leaders.

And finally, there was thinly-veiled contempt for the Senate, which seems to be the ultimate target of the parliamentary shift. The senate, the pop sheet said, was costing the Filipino people P200-M per senator in pork barrel funds, and by doing away with the body we would be saving money.

If I had to go with gist of the explanation, it could be summed up in this: a parliamentary system is heaven whereas a presidential system is hell. How much simpler can you get?

Except that it's not that simple. Yes, the unicameral-parliamentary system does have its merits but it has its own pitfalls; similarly, the bicameral-presidential system is not without its faults, but neither is it without its benefits (like checks and balances, for example). These are complex issues, and throwing the question for deliberation to Barang-Ass is, well, just asinine.

What did I just witness in last Saturday's barangay assembly? If someone offers you heaven but wants you to make a decision in a hurry, lest you lose the one-time offer, what do you call that? If someone offers you benefits but says nothing about your own commitment and responsibilities in return, what do you call that? See title above.

Let me go back to my original question: what is the price tag of amending the constitution? Rice, porridge, and door prizes, as I've said. You, dear sophisticated reader of the Dumaguete Metro Post, will most likely grin at the gullibility of poor folk. Very cheap, no? But there is something even cheaper than rice, porridge, and door prizes. It is so cheap that it cost the perpetrators nothing to move one step closer to their goal.

Your apathy.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Refilling the pen

Ian published a striking letter from his former student. In essence: is literature a dying endeavor in Dumaguete, the birthplace of English instruction in the country and the home of the venerable National Writers Workshop?

Three things immediately came to mind, and though this was my reply to his post, I thought I'd mention them here because they came out a little lengthy.

1) We're suffering from narrow overspecialization. This is not an observation on Dumaguete alone but on Philippine society as a whole. Literature should not be a specialized endeavor limited to AB English or MassCom students, but should be encouraged among everybody. Alas, the professionals have edged out the amateurs (and if we go back to the root of "amateur", it really means someone who does it for love).

2) We need to move with the times. Literature should no longer be limited to the printed word on dead-tree. Instead, Literature should begin to explore other media, such as comics, the hyperstory, and even film. As it stands, the way we tell our stories and even the stories that we tell have become stultified.

3) Together with point (2), we should explore the means by which writers can get compensated for their work. Case in point: someone from Guimaras writing erotica and earning $200 per month on AdSense. Love is one thing, and money is another.

And as I write this, a fourth comes to mind:

Kailangan ding palaguin ang kasulatan sa sariling wika; kinahanglan pud nga pauswagon ang mga sinulat sa kaugalingung sinultihan.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Trajectories

I find myself at a point when I'm asking why I am who I am.

Why was I born at this place and not in that? Things would perhaps work out a little better if I had come into this world at a latitude higher up on the other side of the world. But I didn't. And I'm here.

Why was I born at this time and not that? Perhaps I came in a decade too early. Things might work out better if I had been born in 1979 instead of 1969. But I didn't. And I'm here.

Why did I make this decision and not that? Perhaps if I had gone on with my Master's degree, I'd be a little more qualified to work in that place or gone for further studies in that place. But I didn't. And I'm here.

All senseless questions, because really, there's no choosing when and where we're born, and there's no turning back time. It's just...that.

I'm here. And that's what I have to run with.

And that's that.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Is it sedition if....?

News headline today: "Palace: To kill Arroyo at PMA real threat" and "AFP on alert amid GMA slay plot."

I want to know: is it seditious if I say "Who Gives a Flying Fee-fee?"

The problem with these slay plots is that they are just so...unimaginative. True to their brutishly military origins, it's always a choice between bullets or bombs. It's just so trite and cliched. Can't they come up with something more creative?

Yawn.

At the Barangay General Assembly

I took some time out to attend the barangay general assembly that was hastily called this week. The burning issue, as everyone knows, is Charter Change, most specifically, the shift from the presidential to parliamentary form.

Hastily called? Why, yes. I chatted up our barangay secretary as to the reason and mechanics of the general assembly, and she let slip that they only found out about it this week. If that isn't hasty, I don't know what is.

Our assembly was scheduled for 4PM, and thankfully, we didn't start too late. Who were the people who had come? Folks from the lower-income classes, predominanty housewives, some old men, some tanods, and lots of children. Did I mention that there were door prizes for attendance? How many people from the upper-middle class? One. Moi.

You can probably appreciate the shrewdness of the convenors of this general assembly. A barangay general assembly is not a gathering that blogoratti would go to. People who go to these assemblies tend to go along with whatever the barangay captains and kagawads suggest.

But this doesn't make such assemblies any less potent: in fact, they are moreso, because these is where plain folk go to air their humdrum grievances and resolve their disputes. If we the blogoratti opt out of events like this, then it's our loss.

The assembly started out with committee reports: from the health committee, from the peace and order committee, from the finance committee, and even the tourism committee.

And then on to pressing matters. The captain, who was a family friend, asked me to say a few words about Charter Change (the sly fox) even though I wasn't really prepared. I said something along the lines of being careful, of thinking through these things. Charter Change, I said, is being pressed on us. Why? What are they asking for in return? What about term limits, for example.

Then he whipped out a pop sheet and read on the differences of the presidential system and the parliamentary system. My golly, in my entire life, I have never heard of such a one-sided comparison! The parliamentary system was being made out to be heaven compared to the hell of a presidential system. This was by no means a balanced analysis. But really, what did we expect?

I think they expected me to hold my peace, but after the captain's reading, I had to go up front again. The gist of what I said: as you can see, it's all painted out so nicely. But you need to ask yourselves really what the issues are. Will the parliamentary system really solve all our problems?

The pop sheet made a virtue out of the selection process of the parliamentary system, that the choice of leader would no longer rest in the hands of the people but in their elected representatives. I asked the assembly: is this really what you want? don't you want to make your own choice? Don't you think you're being rushed? Please, think through before you sign anything.

It was hard to go into a drawn-out discussion. By nature, people in these gatherings are meek and non-confrontational. Besides, the captain was not-so-subtly hinting that my time was up.

Sigh. I hope I'm not just tilting at windmills here. I hope the folks appreciated what I had to say.

And after the event: door prizes. Gah. That's what people really came for, I think. Just another fiesta.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The anti-finger?


Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that the "Patalsikin Na" gesture the mirror opposite of the dirty finger?

The Patalsikin Na gesture: index, ring, and pinky outstretched, middle finger curved in, palm down.

The dirty finger: index, ring, and pinky curved in, middle finger outstretched, palm up.

Hmmm. Gets one thinking.

Art imitates life

Last night I was watching the second season finale of Battlestar Galactica and -- get ready for a cliche -- it really blew me away. Yes, there's a major plot twist and show direction for next season. If you're a Battlestar Galactica fan, you'll already know.

But it's not just that. Somewhere in the middle of the show, I got out of my seat and started cursing because Something Happened That Really Got Me Upset.

A minor spoiler follows, so to preserve the suspense for those people who plan to watch the second season, I'm blanking out my comments. Just press Ctrl-A to reveal what I have to say.

As established in the first season, the presidential election is already in the offing. President Laura Roslin, cured of her cancer, is running for re-election. Tom Zarek has stepped out of the race, knowing he cannot defeat Roslin. In his place: Dr. Gaius Baltar, still driven by his demoness and now, a growing persecution complex.

Things start out well for Roslin, who is still following the course she laid out at the start of the show. Baltar doesn't really have any significant platform, except for one minor point. And then, a search-and-rescue team accidentally discovers a habitable planet within a nebula, undetectable by Cylon sensors. Baltar seizes on the issue to declare that he is for a permanent settlement on this planet, something that Roslin is adamantly against. That turns the tide for Baltar's campaign.

Roslin already knows that Baltar is a Cylon collaborator, though she has no way to prove it. He should not -- must not -- win the election.

So what does she do?

She cheats.

That's right. She cheats.

Tigh is in charge of the operation. Dualla and two marines intercept a ballot box coming in from Zarek's home ship and replace it with another ballot box.

Dagdag bawas!

If you must know, it was at this point that I jumped up and started cursing.

Gaeta, in charge of tabulation, discovers the treachery and reports it to Adama. Adama confronts Roslin.

Their choices: they hush up the irregularity, keep Roslin as president, and follow the plan that has kept them alive thus far; or they honor the election results, install the deranged Baltar as president, and follow him to whatever unknown direction he takes them.

I won't say much more, except that I'm happy with the way they acquitted themselves.


I love this show because it explores a wide moral spectrum without pulling any punches. This season finale prompts the question: should you take a course of action which leads to the right, even though the action is not? or should you do the right thing, period? As in this life, the two do not always coincide.

In an earlier episode, Adama said: "It's not enough to survive. One has to be worthy of surviving."

That's all.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Stations

Rational Technology for March 26, 2006

Try as I might to alter the focus of the story, it's always the Fourth Station that gets to me. Every single time. How can it not? Listen:

The Condemned Man bears down the dusty streets, staggering underneath the load on his shoulders. He has not had any sleep the night before, dragged from one authority to another in their pretense of justice. He has been savagely beaten. His friends are nowhere to be found. One thing alone is certain: He is going to die. The road leading up to the hill is the final journey, and it is going to be along walk.

From among the crowd, a familiar and loving face appears, now stricken with grief. Mother! He pauses, and briefly the jeering mob falls silent as their hardened hearts give way to a brief moment of tenderness. They grant these two innocents a final moment of farewell.

Hers is a pain that only a mother can feel. Her only son has been savaged and flayed. His face has been disfigured beyond recognition. What have they done to you, my son? she asks through silent tears. And now the words of the old man come rushing back to her: "Thy own heart a sword shall pierce...."

His is a pain that only a son can feel, too. What son, after all, wishes to visit such anguish upon his mother? But this is His destiny, one which He has chosen to embrace, and now He will not shirk from it even though He could call upon a legion of angels to His defense. The words of His childhood come rushing back to Him: "Did you not know that I must be about my Father's business?"

The reunion is painfully brief. The crowd takes up their chants again, and once more He is on His way.


This is the scene immortalized in the Fourth Station of the Way of the Cross. Whether Jesus actually met His mother on that road to Golgotha is open to some debate. In the New Way of the Cross, which adheres more closely to the Gospel accounts, it is a scene that is dropped altogether. And while the New Way of the Cross has its own merits, I cannot help but think that it also lost something in the process of doing so.

Such a meeting would certainly have been in character for such loving but willful personalities, and it certainly makes the story more human. After all, how many times has this scene been repeated in one way or another in our experience?

Really, isn't that what the Way of the Cross is all about? This is the whole tableau of human suffering condensed into the space of a few hours: rejection, judicial murder, physical abuse, verbal abuse, desertion, unexpected friendships, a touch of comedy, loss of control, poverty, theft, and ultimately, death? And not just condensed, but divinized, too. God is saying: "Look! I suffer, too, because of evil! And as I suffer, I give meaning to your suffering...."

It's the season of Lent, and this is the time to consider these matters. The Way of the Cross is a valuable tradition of the Church, and too often it goes unused, or lost in the verbiage of communal prayer. And while communal prayer has its place, the Way of the Cross, like the Holy Rosary, ought to be foremost a tool of meditation.

So in this season, visit a church when it's quiet and spend some time travelling the Sorrowful Way. See what wonders there are to see. You don't need to be Mel Gibson to do it.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Robbery

Robbery tonight at 7:30PM at Kent's Store, corner of Perdices and Noblefranca. Four men on motorcycles burst into the cellphone shop, shot the guard, and absconded with cash and some cellphones. The robbers then left.

Disturbing, to say, the least. I wonder what the new chief of police will have to say.

I hope the guard was alright.

Update: Dropped by the store this morning and inquired about the events of last night. Thankfully, it seems the guard was only grazed on the side.

Total take: four cellphones. In this country, that qualifies as petty theft. Still, to think about what people would be willing to kill for....shudder.

Close to You

In what must surely be a record for Dumaguete, we had a film run for two weeks in the local theater. Ordinarily, they change programme every Sunday and Wednesday, and the longest a movie usually runs is a week. Apparently, this movie was extra special, hence, the extended run.

The movie in question? "Close to You" starring Bea Alonzo and...uh, two other guys. The story is about as trite as you can get and was already hackneyed to death by John Hughes in the 1980s. The acting and cinematic technique is equally pedestrian, consisting of troubled looks and inescapable piano music. What can I say? At least there was none of the requisite slapping and screaming that's the trademark of Star Cinema productions.

No, it didn't last this long because of its artistic merits. It ran well beyond normal because one of the many locations featured in the film was Dumaguete City.

Ah, yes, it was a little surreal seeing my beloved city up in celluloid. They had a concert scene in Silliman University, with the Presbyterian cathedral as backdrop and hundreds of Dumagueteno extras screaming in the background.

Then there was one scene with the bozos driving scooters down the boulevard. "No bikes allowed on that strip, you bums!" I wanted to scream.

I should have left after the Dumaguete portion, but Bea Alonzo's face was just hypnotic. She's especially cute when she wrinkles her nose and pouts. Ah, what a real beauty! The fact that her arms are a tad big and she looks a little lumpy in jeans in no way detracts from her appeal.

In fact, it took a very brave scriptwriter (and very brave actors) to explicitly work in those qualities in the dialogue. I certainly hope she doesn't travel the path of anorexia. Neither, I hope, does she just let herself go because, well, she obviously has the genes to be...big.

But, ah, yes, what a beauty, that Bea Alonzo.

And now as I write this, I'm not a little disconcerted. You see, Tetchie Agbayani also had some screen time in this film. It's disturbing to see one of the sex symbols of your generation (read: Playboy spread) playing the role of mom to a twenty-something.

Gah. I'm really turning into a Dirty Old Man.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Why is this woman smiling?

Updated version with lengthier explanation of "sell".


This photo brought a slight chuckle. "Corazon 'Dinky' Soliman (R)...." Would anyone think that it was Ms. Soliman on the left side of the picture? But then I suppose it's automatic for editors to label the people in a picture.

But on to my question: why is this woman smiling?

Because the boobies played right into her hands. What would have been a silly and ineffectual bourgeouis gesture of protest has just been conferred with some legitimacy. In pro-wrestling terms, this is the "sell". The fight looks more convincing if the opponent reacts convincingly. According to the Wikipedia:
In professional wrestling, the sell is the element of making the action appear to be at least somewhat realistic to the crowd, or at least the marks within the crowd. In other words, it has to do with the acting necessary to sell the storyline. Reactions to moves are often exaggerated, or "oversold", for maximum crowd effect.


And yeah, the police bought into it big time.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Killer Applications

Rational Technology for March 19, 2006

Contrary to any impressions that the title may give, the column this week is not about how one becomes P100,000 richer courtesy of the city of Dumaguete [a little in-joke: one councillor is adamantly proposing that killers be paid that amount to point to the mastermind of the crime]. Neither is it about the equipment of the councillors of Bayawan [another in-joke: Bayawan councillors voted to appropriate guns for themselves, courtesy of taxpayer's money]. Rather, it is about compelling applications that force people to adopt a particular piece of technology.

A killer application is slang in the computer industry about a piece of software that is so useful that people will buy the equipment just to run it. Of late, its usage has expanded to other forms of technology.

Take the well-worn case of the contemporary cellphone. What do you think was the killer application for today's mobile phones? The answer, of course, is the short message system. Up until the time that texting became widely available, not everyone felt the compelling need to get a cellphone.

The funny thing with killer apps, though, is that it is the end users who decide what really counts as the compelling feature. Designers of a technology may envision some grand scheme for their invention, only to have the consumers decide that a supplemental feature is really more useful. SMS, for example, was originally just a secondary function to second generation cellphones that allowed the phone company to alert their subscribers.

A true killer application has mass appeal, but it's not unusual for individuals to find their own specific killer applications. I can't think of a better example in this case than my own mother. While the rest of the world had already caught on to the wonders of the Internet by way of its first killer app, email, Mom was one of the last remaining holdovers. I wondered how I would ever get her connected.

For a time, I thought that the free phone calls with Skype would be the killer app for Mom, but when PLDT offered its P10-unlimited call promos, that notion soon went away. Oddly enough, it was blogging that finally got her hooked online. No, my Mom doesn't blog, but she's an avid fan of news bloggers like Manolo Quezon III, Ricky Carandang, Jove Francisco, and Ellen Tordesillas (and now I have to compete with her for the computer).

While it may have its origins in technology, it's useful to think of killer applications in whatever it is we're trying to sell. Take Dumaguete City or Negros Oriental, for example. We've said our edge over other places in the Philippine is our quality of life, our universities, and our abundant bandwith. But really, these are just the factors.

Given these, what do you think our killer application should be?

Response to an article

Dear Editor:

In his column "When open source thinks of revenues", Mr. Wilson Ng states that, based on a BusinessWeek article, the future of open source software could be grim. Conversely, then, might we not also say that the future of open source could be bright?

Mr. Ng does not identify the specific article in question, but I suppose it is the one entitled "Open season on open source" posted on March 13, 2006. The article ponders the situation now that big-name companies like Oracle are acquiring companies working on open source projects.

The BusinessWeek article is purely speculative. Nevertheless, far from being a negative mark on open source, couldn't this be taken as an affirmation of the quality of work produced in the open source method? A major IT vendor like Oracle does not buy companies willy-nilly, but acquires them because they produces something of value.

Open source is not of itself a business model but rather a method for developing software. It is not one big project but rather a modern method by which projects are undertaken. It is a collaborative manner of developing software whereby the software and its source code are made freely available.

As a software development method, we have to judge its success or failure by the quality of the products that has been produced under its model regardless of the motivations which prompted it. Mr. Ng himself points to the success of Linux, Apache, PHP, and other open source applications which run critical business and Internet systems.

Really, Mr. Ng should know because his company's own web site, ngkhai.net, runs on Linux, Apache, PHP, and an open source content management application called Wordpress.

Like any good idea, it is inevitable that some entrepreneurs would build a business model around it. Will all such business models be successful? Not necessarily. Will they all be failures? Not necessarily, either. As a successful businessman, Mr. Ng should know that as with any business venture, there are both opportunities and risks.

Is open source threatened because of the possibility of acquisitions? It depends on your view of the world. If you think that the number of problems for which you can address with software is finite and limited, and the number of ways in which to solve them is likewise finite and limited, then the future is grim indeed. But that is not the case. There are several needs, and therefore several opportunities, some of which can be addressed by open source software.

Software exists because it fills a particular need. As with any product, people pay the asking price because they perceive its value, whether that is for a software license or for service. As a matter of economics, if a similar product fills that need at a lower price (or even free, as in the case of some open source software), then the logical alternative would be go for the latter. People, as a rule, do not necessarily want to pay a good amount of money, especially when they do not have it.

Two other points in Mr. Ng's article that I wish to address:

* Mr. Ng says that the open source movement was created by programmers who were willing to stay late night hours writing code for the heck of it. Not so. Seminal work on open source was done by Richard Stallman who was appalled by greed of software companies and who thought that software should be free. The open source definition was put together by Eric Raymond, Bruce Perens, and a host of other people who studied the open source software development method in depth, and found it a viable alternative to a controlled development environment. Further reading in this matter can be found in Eric Raymond's "The Cathedral and the Bazaar."

* Mr. Ng implies that Sun and IBM are giving away their operating systems. More accurately, Sun has open sourced its Solaris in an effort to get more developers to contribute to its operating system. IBM has not open sourced any of its proprietary operating systems but has instead opted to contribute heavily to the improvement of Linux.

Thank you for your time.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The 500th Post


This is my 500th post. Thought I'd do something different to mark it.

Thanks to all who've accompanied me on this journey.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Daughter of Time

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York
--
Richard III, Shakespeare

The thing with used book sales is that you never really know what you're going to get. Most of the time, it's drivel that shouldn't take up space in your library. On some occasions, it's pure serendipity when you finally find that volume that you've been looking for all these years.

Case in point: Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.

To most people, the book would just be another detective story, and perhaps one with the driest of subjects. Scotland Yard Inspector Alan Grant, laid low after breaking his leg in a chase, is convalescing in a hospital. Grant is bored out of his wits until his friend encourages him to take on an unsolved mystery just to while the time away. The crime: Richard III's alleged murder of his nephews in the Tower of London.

As I said, a quaint little book of passing interest to most people. But this book and I have a long history. To fully appreciate that, you have to delve briefly into my education.

For the record, I took up Engineering at the University of San Carlos Technological Center (USC-TC) in Cebu City. Now, in Engineering in USC-TC, they spend five years beating the philosophical and literary nonsense out of you. A succession of cranks and cons, broken only by the rare light of dedicated teachers, showed you what the real world was like and how to get ahead in it. I lost all the good study habits I picked up in high school in that five years.

So I had to pick up the things that really mattered from the sources readily available to me: comics and science fiction.

More drivel, you might think, but in this you are wrong. In an early scene of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Kirk reads out loud from a book that Spock gave him: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times." Sheer poetry! I was enthralled. In the absence of the Internet, I had to spend a long time finding out that it was the opening line from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities.

And then there was issue #10 of Comico's Jonny Quest series. The title was "Winters of Discontent," a highly unlikely but fun romp into time travel. When I read the opening lines from Shakespeare's Richard III, which formed part of the opening sequence, I was again enthralled. I read the play not long after, and caught Al Pacino's underappreciated Looking for Richard in the theater.

The main story of that issue, however, dealt with the injustice wrought on Richard Plantagenet and perpetrated by Shakespeare's play and an account of the monarch purportedly written by Sir Thomas More. Writer William Messner-Loebs put in a reference to his source which was -- you guessed it -- Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time.

Popular knowledge of Richard III, owing in no small part to Shakespeare's play, paints him as a scheming hunchback who killed his brother to seize the crown. Everyone "knows" that he had his two nephews imprisoned and killed in the Tower of London. Everyone "knows" that he accused his mother of having an affair and that therefore his elder brother was illegitimate.

But was he? Richard III was an able administrator who ascended as regent with the untimely death of his brother Edward. Though he was named lawful king by a zealous supporter, he in fact made sure that his brother's son was next in line for the throne. Unfortunately, the line ended with his death at the Battle of Bosworth and the ascension of Henry VII.

And the murders of the nephews? They never happened, apparently. It was slander perpetrated by John Morton, the corrupt Bishop of Ely and enemy of Richard III many years after the king's death. It was rather Henry VII who was more methodical in the elimination of his enemies. Morton was also the source of Sir Thomas More's account of Richard III, which Shakespeare in turn used as the basis for his play.

Whichever version of the story is true is not particularly relevant for me as the lessons that The Daughter of Time offers for readers of history. For example, here are some lines I particularly like:
Truth isn't in accounts but in account books. The real history is written in forms not meant as history. In Wardrobe accounts, in Privy Purse expenses, in personal letters, in estate books. If someone, say, insists that Lady Whoosit never had a child, and you find in the account book the entry: 'For the son born to my lady on Michaelmas eve: five yards of blue ribbon, fourpence halfpenny' it's a reasonably fair deduction that my lady had a son on Michaelmas eve.

The book also introduces the term 'Tonypandy,' after an incident in the Scottish border.
The point is that every single man who was there knows that the story is nonsense, and yet it has never been contradicted. It will never be overtaken now. It is a completely untrue story grown to legend while the men who knew it to be untrue looked on and said nothing.

That leads me to think of how much of Philippine history really is bunk. Much of our own accounts are blatantly propaganda; and the historians who put it together afterwards weren't exactly bereft of their own agendas, either.

Ms. Tey isn't so kind to historians, at least the kind that wrote the books I read in high school and college:
"Historians should be compelled to take a course in psychology before they are allowed to write."

"History is toy soldiers...It's moving little figures about on a flat surface. It's half-way to mathematics, when you come to think about it."

All this also leads me to think about the current situation. The sitting president -- who has never fully addressed questions about her legitimacy -- and her cohorts may try to muzzle the press and all forms of negative public opinion; similarly, her political opponents may try to do as much damage by bringing in convenient bits of facts at the opportune (or inopportune) times; and even bloggers like me may weigh in with our opinions; but ultimately, the truth will come out. In the account books, in the pictures, in the testimonies. Not any amount of doctoring can alter the entire tale consistently.

Truth, as the old saying goes, is the daughter of time.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Being an Animator

Rational Technology for March 12, 2006

All right, I'll admit it: I have a long-running love affair with cartoons. I've been this way ever since my parents put me down in front of our black-and-white TV so the Road Runner and Wil E. Coyote could keep me company while they worked.

I should have outgrown cartoons, but for some reason, I haven't. I continue to find them fascinating in terms of story, technique, and motion, and moreso now that they've become more sophisticated. Really, I should have taken up animation when I was younger, but since my options were limited where I was, I ended up in engineering.

Some twenty-odd years later, the opportunity presented itself when Entheos/Foundation University and Top Peg Animation offered a three-month animation course in Dumaguete. Was I interested? You bet! I went through the screening program, as I wrote about in an earlier column, and apparently, I passed.

Early on, the folks at Entheos warned me that this would be traditional hand-drawn animation, and not the digital animation that many people were expecting. And that was perfectly all right with me, because that was exactly what I was looking for: old Disney- and anime-style animation, the kind I remembered watching as a kid.

And so it was. I joined some fifteen other aspiring animators from Dumaguete and Manila on the program.

Now, let me explain some things. When they mean traditional hand-drawn animation, they really do mean it. That may sound simple enough, but when you consider that it takes 24 frames to make up one second of animation, you're talking about a lot of drawings.

And you can't just draw any old thing that you want to draw. It has to correspond to a model sheet. Draw a curve wrong or a line of the wrong size, and, well, the character is wrong and it's time to break out the eraser or a new sheet of paper.

The movement also has to be synchronized from one frame to the next. If the position of a leg or a hand is off by a bit, well, time to break out the eraser or a new sheet of paper. It's for this reasons that animators work with a peg bar with three studs and special paper with holes to fit the studs. The peg bar keeps successive sheets in place so you can see what changes are supposed to occur between one frame and another.

Finally, there was also special notations that we had to learn. One notation had to do with the timings of the movement, another with lip-syncing, and yet another with exposure sheets.

Really, what my classmates and I were doing was in-betweening and cleaning: drawing every little bit of movement that happens between the two major poses of a character, and cleaning up so that the line work is neat.

I was always under the impression that in the hierarchy of the animation world, in-betweeners were on the lowest rank. In a sense, they are, but only because all aspiring animators go through this stage to hone their skills before advancing to other jobs.

But as to being rote, mindless work? Not at all! I found that in-betweening taxed my spatial sense and creative skills to the utmost, and moreso because I had to convert the results into neat pencil drawings. I found that I was so drawn (pun intended) into the job that the five hours of class would zip by quickly.

For now, computers would only come in at the end of the process. They would be used to color and assemble the drawings -- backgrounds, characters, and props -- into an animated scene. Really, a thankful improvement over the early days when coloring had to be done by hand on cels and finished frames shot painstakingly on camera.

The last third of the program was by far the most satisfying as the class finally put together a short animation sequence. This was our glimpse of the wider world of animators -- from story idea to character design to storyboard to layout to exposure sheets to frame drawings to assembly and to sound. Top Peg master animator Luis Maranan, jocular and slightly dishevelled but a true trove of animation lore, came to town to take us through this stage.

I've posted a shot of our resulting work here, a 30-second skit set in a gym. It's not top quality, not by a long shot, because our team still had a long way to go. But it was immensely satisfying to see our ideas and our drawings come to life. There are two other shorts, made by another two teams.

I took the course on a lark and because it was something that really interested me. Unfortunately, I'm too set in my ways to take it as a full-time career. My classmates, though, have already started work with Entheos where they do animation full-time.

Is there a future to being an animator? If a quick payoff and a guaranteed job abroad is what you're looking for, you might be better off in another course (I won't mention which, but you know). But if drawing is your passion and you're a kid at heart and you want to follow a dream, here's something to consider: according to the Animation Council of the Philippines, the country needs at least 25,000 new animators in the next five years. It's certainly a job with a market.

As for me, the adventure continues this March 20 when I start with the Digital Ink and Painting program of Top Peg and Entheos at Foundation University. Give it a shot if you're artistically inclined. (Disclaimer: I'm not getting free tuition to the program by plugging this; I'm doing this because I think it would be a good experience.)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Non serviam

The Self-Anointed One's recent statements call to mind a passage from Milton:

To reign is worth ambition though in hell:
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heav'n.

The Self-Anointed One

I had to make a special effort not to lose my breakfast when I read the Philippine Daily Inquirer's headline today.
'It's God's will that I am here'

Quote attributed to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Honestly, I don't know what to say. Messiah complex is the first thing that comes to mind, and according to the Wikipedia,
Messianic complex is a psychological state in which the individual believes him/herself to be the saviour of the world.


I don't deny that some people are chosen by God for some special role, but an essential quality of these few is humility. And humility is indeed a prerequisite, because oftentimes, this calling is a great burden, one that calls for sacrifice and self-surrender.

As it is, who has this woman sacrificed if not the Filipino people, and at her own altar of ancestor worship and predestination?

My only comfort is this: the last time she made a similar announcement, the wrath of heaven came down on her.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dibidi player

Okay, I am fighting blogger's block and the need to be consequential in my posts, so here's an entry that bucks both.

Our old el-cheapo Promac DVD player was starting to give up its ghost so I thought of scouting around for a new one. By now, appliances like these should be a no-brainer, but I was torn between buying another cheap no-name brand or getting a more prestigious name with accompanying warranty.

Mom suggested towards the latter so I checked out the more reputable names: Philips, Samsung, Panasonic, Sony, etc. They were a tad expensive, almost double the range of the el-cheapos. And the Samsung unit caught my eye. Looking over the labels painted on its pristene case, I saw that it supported Div-X, WMA, MPEG-4, and JPG.

Hmmmm, I wondered, would it support AVI?

The salesman gave me his spiel, reassuring me that it would. I said I would burn a CD and try it out. If it worked, I would buy it straightaway.

Much to his disappointment -- and mine -- it didn't. None of the other DVD players in the store did, either. Some snazzy Samsung component system with a USB port and 10,000W of speaker power did, though, but at P15,000, its price was out of my budget. I told the salesman sorry, and that I would consider getting a new unit when their cheaper model came in.

On a lark, I went to check out the cheaper brands. Then it caught my eye: Orange.

My first DVD player was branded Orange. It would have been a laughable purchase, but that old unit gave me over a year of solid service. It has since passed on to my sister, and it's working still.

I brought my CD with the AVI files on it, and told the salesgirl I would try it out. Doubtful? Of course! Why should an el-cheapo no-name brand fare any better than a Samsung.

Except that it worked.

Sure, it wasn't pretty, but darn it, it worked!

I bought the thing straightaways. The salesgirl said that the warranty was only three months long, but I guess I have to bite the bullet. My first player did last quite a while. Total expense: P2,468.

So anyway, I think I'll start my countdown for this player. I'll be pleasantly surprised if it lasts me a year, but it should be worth a number of movies.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A testimonial

Awright, I'm blushing.

Sacha wrote me a glowing testimonial and I'm not so sure I fully deserve the praise.

In any case, what she didn't mention and I feel that I should is that...she's largely the inspiration for all this.

And I'm still blushing.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Possibilities

Rational Technology for March 5, 2006

Procrastinator that I am, I'm writing this, as usual, just a few hours before my weekly deadline. I find that sometimes the pressure is helpful in squeezing out the ideas, and sometimes it just takes time to properly germinate the thought. This week is no exception, but added to that is that I am physically tired, the reason being two big local events for which I was drafted.

No, no, it's not that I'm complaining, because I'm not. I'm actually very proud to have been part of these events, and whatever physical weariness is more than offset by new ideas of new possibilities for the city. You'll have to pardon me if I exude more than my usual sense of optimism this week.

The two events of which I speak of are Silliman University's Engineering Expo 2006 and Foundation University's Digital Dumaguete Expo 2006. That they should come so close together might either be pure coincidence or institutional one-upmanship. Even if it were the latter, it's all played out to good effect because of the eventual interaction not only between the two universities but also the participation of other schools and local organizations.

Silliman's Engineering Expo was a one-day showcase of student projects from the different departments of engineering of the university. Whereas two years ago, the showcase was limited to computer engineering, this breakout year marked the first with full participation from electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and civil engineering.

And really, there was much to see in the expo. The folks from electrical engineering and computer engineering showed off projects revolving around RFID, programmable microcontrollers, robotics, and wireless communications. The mechanical engineers brought out their inventions for improved agriculture. The civil engineers whipped up their CAD-generated building designs and three-dimensional mockups.

The projects were a little rough, owing largely, I think, to budget constraints and time pressures, but by no means were they inconsequential toys. There are potential markets for these inventions, and if nothing else, the students who designed and built them have a good future in the industry because of the skills they demonstrated. Several of them could, in fact, be candidates for the next round of business plan competitions.

Now that I think about it, the episode leaves me a little upset. Why did Silliman University take so long to take these treasures out of their hoard? No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, and all that.

A day later and on the other side of the city, Foundation University ran Digital Dumaguete Expo. The expo had a slightly different flavor, aspiring towards a conference and trade show, but its impact was no less important. As a trade show, the Digital Dumaguete brought in several local IT companies to show off their products and their wares; in this regard, it succeeded: even I was surprised at the number of vendors who had come forward to make a showing.

Digital Dumaguete also succeeded as a conference, bringing in speakers from all over Manila, Cebu, and more importantly, Dumaguete. Joel Balajadia, head of Computer Studies at Foundation, working in concert with DOST's Gilbert Arbon, did a bang up job of pulling in these resources to talk about various aspects of IT.

The conference is important in raising local awareness about the industry, showing new paths of knowledge, and revealing possible career paths among the participants. And more importantly, it shows us that IT expertise within Dumaguete does exist, as evidenced by the local speakers (well, never mind that I was among the local speaking contingent).

So what makes me feel so optimistic?

First, these two events show us that, yes, we can run conferences and trade shows within the province. In fact, it's high time that we ought to be doing so. Conferences and trade shows are income-generating events for the province, and they bring in significant recognition and repeat business in tourism. Mind you, Digital Dumaguete and the Engineering Expo were not organized by professional events managers; how much more if they were? Pretty soon we're getting a trade hall set up, and we can hope that its calendar is consistently booked.

This should be a rousing call for locals students and faculty involved in the discipline of marketing to get out of their academic cocoons and get their hands dirty in organizing and promoting these events.

Second, it shows us that there's a skills base beyond the areas for which Dumaguete is traditionally known for. We're now looking at electronics design, information technology, architecture, and civil engineering, fields that haven't really received the publicity they deserve. What's more, this skills base is fundamentally important in our participation in the knowledge economy. We're talking about outsourcing opportunities here several notches higher than call centers and transcription, because these are skills that take a longer time to nurture and groom.

Where nowhere near that point as yet. These fields need to receive some form of critical mass, either in the number of qualified graduates we produce, or in some outstanding area of work that our schools become recognized for in industry. Even then, it's a glimpse of a possible future, and gives us something to work towards.

And as for me, I'm happy because I'll have so many more things to write about in the coming months -- about local innovations and personalities, at that -- that I won't have to agonize for too long about what to write.

MLQ3's blog is down

Why is MLQ3's blog down? I hope it's just a technical glitch, and not Something Ominous.

Meme Time

I haven't done memes in a long while. Then I saw this from Jute's blog. What caught my attention was the first line of this questionnaire. So here goes:

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 18, and find line 4.

"...only do small things with great love." --Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and it's all small stuff, by Richard Carlson.

The complete quote is from Mother Teresa: "We cannot do great things on this earth. We can only do small things with great love."

2. Stretch your left arm out as far as you can.

Done.

3.What is the last thing you watched on TV?

The GMA7 morning program, I'm ashamed to say.

4.Without looking, guess what time it is:

2:00PM

5.Now look at the clock. What is the actual time?

1:59PM

6.With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?

A passing tricycle. Birds chirping. Rustling of leaves in the wind.

7.When did you last step outside? What were you doing?

Ten minutes ago. Gave a lecture, dropped off a friend at a bus station, brought in the laundry.

8.Before you started this survey, what did you look at?

Bloglines.

9.What are you wearing?

Ubuntu t-shirt. P150. Email me for orders.

10.Did you dream last night?

Can't remember.

11. When did you last laugh?

Big laugh over lunch. Wordplay and light banter with John Clark Naldoza of Ce-GNU-LUG and Bud from the Peace Corps.

12. What is on the walls of the room you are in?

Shelves of books, calendar, and a light switch.

13. Seen anything weird lately?

The Microsoft presentation at Foundation.

14. What do you think of this quiz?

It's a waste of time, but fun. Gives new perspective on things.

15. What is the last film you saw?

Zathura.

16. If you became a multi-millionaire overnight, what would you buy?

My own open source project to help the community.

17. Tell me something about you that I don't know.

I had bangs as a kid.

18. If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?

The history of the Filipino people.

19. Do you like to dance?

Only with my tango partner. Slow-slow-quick-quick-slow....

20.George Bush:

is the most dangerous man alive.

21. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?

Deedee.

22. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?

Dexter.

23. Would you ever consider living abroad?

No.

24. What do you want God to say to you when you reach the pearly gates?

"Well don, my good and faithful servant." I can only hope.

25. 4 people who must also do this meme in THEIR journal:

Sacha, Clair, Marcelle, and JM. But only if they wish to.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

At Silliman's Engineering Expo 2006

Mr. Kim invited me to present Linux at a booth for Silliman's Engineering Expo 2006. That, along with Foundation University's Digital Dumaguete 2006, would keep me occupied for close to four days. But in light of all the good things that Mr. Kim was doing, how could I refuse, really? So this morning, I set up shop in the parade grounds, under the heat of the scorching sun, with only a tarpaulin tent for cover.

Wow, my first booth at an expo. All by myself. Without any organizational support from IBM!

The morning was a little disappointing as the students who dropped by were just interested in getting their visit sheets signed. Oh, well. I gave my spiel as best as I could. Now, young Dumaguetenos have this rude habit of politely standing there, pretending to listen to you. Except that they're not really listening to you, because their eyes are darting everywhere. Gaaah!

Now, how to explain Linux? Given that these poor people had never used any other operating system in their lives, I had no choice but to contrast it with Windows.

1) "You use Windows, right? But it's probably pirated, am I right? Am I right? (sheepish smiles from my hapless victim) Well, that is a Very Bad Thing. You're stealing. Linux is free software, so you're not doing anything wrong using it or giving it away."

2) "You get viruses, spyware, and trojans with Windows. I don't get that with Linux."

3) "All the applications you need to make your computer immediately useful are already part of many Linux distributions. Like the office productivity suite, for example. Not like Windows, where you still have to install MS Office. Which is also pirated, am I right? Am I right?"

I made a mistake of telling one guy that I was giving away the Ubuntu CDs for free. I told him the usual: if you're done with it, give it away to your friends, etc. But when I turned around, some folks had made off with three other CD packs. Without asking permission. Grumble, grumble.

After lunch, I had better luck. The harbinger was a group of grade school kids strolling around the grounds. I was all ready to settle in for a nice round of Wesnoth, when these curious kids dropped by. I had them play a few rounds of Abuse, and then I decided to try out gcompris on them.

They actually managed to use it! At first, I had them work with the jigsaw puzzles. I turned my back on them briefly, and when I got back, they were already putting together the countries of South America.

The afternoon netted a small handful of Linux enthusiasts who were really interested. That was immensely satisfying. I also met up with Chuchi, an instructor at the IT Department, and she said they were starting an open source lab. I think a Linux community in Dumaguete just might have a future.

Plenty of interesting exhibits all around. There's a lot of work being done on RFID, programmable logic controllers, and cellular phone interfacing. Much of this is, I think, due to Mr. Kim's efforts. This will probably form the bulk of my column for this weekend.

And finally, outgoing Silliman president Dr. Pulido shows us the latest in footwear.


In Dumaguete, comfort is de rigueur!

Ash Wednesday


Ash Wednesday jumped on me out of nowhere. I must have not been paying attention at Church last Sunday. In any case, I went to Mass this morning, and the priest announces that, yes, today is the day.

Today marks the beginning of Lent, the season of fasting and prayer. No meat on Fridays, and more importantly, find ways to deny yourself many little things throughout the forty days. Over the years, it's become a little game for me to stick to the spirit of the season.

I've always sort of liked Ash Wednesday. There's something innocent about smattering your forehead with ash. Yes, we look really silly, but that's exactly the point.

And what if I told you that the problems of this country -- Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, included -- would disappear, or at the least, seem bearable, if you went and had your forehead smacked with ash today? Would you believe me?

I know, I know, you're a member of the blogoratti, and believing in such medieval practices is so 9th Century. It's so unprogressive! Surely the answer to our problems couldn't be so simple! We blog! We protest! We take to the streets!

You've done all that, and...what? Time to try something else. It's just ash, it couldn't hurt.


And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.

But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, "Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean?"

So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, "My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?"

Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.

--2 Kings 5:10-14