Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Blog redesign

Sheer frivolity to spend so much time tweaking my custom blogger template. Once I got to work, it was just hard to stop. I had to get it just...right. The current template is as close to the final version as it's going to get. Perhaps a few more tweaks as I go along the way.

The whole exercise wasn't so much to come out with a new template as it was to sharpen my design sense and CSS coding skills. By and large, I think I've achieved the latter. I'm still no Douglas Bowman, mind you, but I can navigate the language much better now.

Thanks to everyone who gave comments on the look.

Blogger code is still a pain to work with. Over the past few days, though, I've managed to work out a system to modify the guts of Bowman's Minima code. That leaves me free to work with the other elements of the design. I'm fairly confident I can now whip out a new template in just under a day.

Not just Blogger but pmWiki, too. Aside from the photoblog, I also adapted the template for my wiki. I have yet to populate the wiki, but the undelying structure is all ready now.

Of course, I'm not saying anything significantly new from since two posts ago when I produced the draft of the new look. That's because my head is still spinning from working through all the code...manually. Pardon my lack of coherence.

In the coming days, I hope to document the things that I did. I hope that will help out other bloggers planning to come out with their own customized templates. At the very least, it should help ME out the next time I mess up big time. I should hope not, though.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Stick Man

At some point, the party just got too boring for Neo and me...

"This cake is...mine!"

My nephew, Neo, about to enjoy some cake. He's been quite shy around cameras lately (or is he just acting for attention?) and it took several shots before I got this.

Ice cream vendor

It's called "dirty" ice cream, though I don't really know the reason why. Perhaps to differentiate it from regular ice cream you get from the store? Discriminatory naming, if you ask me, which leads me to think that it was a monicker bestowed by the big ice cream vendors. Nevertheless, the regular customers don't seem to mind.

"Aprub!" this guy seems to be saying.

Sidewalk Hair Treatment


Whiling the time away in between customers, this vendor gets a hair treatment from her friend. Presumably, she will reciprocate later. I caught them unawares, otherwise, they'd be laughing and smiling (as they did after I took the shot.)

Midmorning Siesta

Weary of body (and perhaps of soul), a woman takes a quick rest on a makeshift bed on a sidewalk along Magallanes. The sign above says "Pissing here is prohibited. Fine: P50." Fortunately, it says nothing about sleeping.

Streetsweeper

Old streetsweeper along Magallanes. He seemed to be taking a break, though. He was just standing there, while his younger companions were hard at work.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lost in Cebu

So, can you guess where I am?

Behind me is Magellan's Cross, along the aptly-named Magallanes Street in Cebu City. How I got here involves an order of Chinese medicines that turned out not to be there. Regardless, it was too fine a day to get irked, and the culprit was my Dad, after all. I decided to wander around and found my way to the monument.

Since I had my spanking brand new Canon Powershot A540 with me, I decided to take a few photos. What better way to kick off my new photoblog?

I had a number of good subjects. There was an old streetsweeper, a fortune teller, a candlemaker, a fan vendor, and an ice cream man. They all gamely agreed to have their photos taken. As if they needed any encouragement. The Filipino is madly in love with the camera, you see, so the smiles came quite easily. I was quite pleased with my work.

Come to think of it, I have never really seen Magellan's Cross up close. To think that I studied here for College and worked here for three years! All in all, t'was a good opportunity to see something new.

A fine day it was.

Fans for sale!

One of the vendors plying her wares along Magallanes Street. Gotta love that smile!

The Fortune Teller

This fortune teller reminded me of an oil pastel painting I made a couple of years back. I'll have to look it up again.

Streetside candlemaker

Pass by any large church in the Philippines and you're sure to be accosted by pious old ladies who will light a candle for you for P1.00. Ah, but where do the candles come from? Now I know. And you do, too.

This candlemaker makes his wares on the street, coating strings of wick with layer upon layer of wax. He lays them out to dry on a wooden crate marshalled as a makeshift stand.

Photo taken near Magellan's Cross along Magallanes Street.

Ceiling detail of Magellan's Cross

The plaque at the bottom of the Cross says:
This cross of Tindalo Wood encases the original cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan on this very site [on] April 21, 1521.

Magellan's Cross

Magellan's Cross in Cebu. The monument houses the cross that Magellan planted in Cebu on April 21, 1521.

The commemorative plaque says:
From time immemorial, this spot has been set aside to commemorate the erection of a cross in Cebu by the expedition of Magellan, when King Humabon of Cebu and his queen, son, and daughters, together with some 800 of their subjects were baptized by Father Pedro Valderrama. This hallowed site was improved in 1735 by Rev. Juan Albarran, prior of San Agustin, and in 1834 by Rt. Reverend Santos Gomez Maranon, Bishop of Cebu. The image of the Santo Nino found by the expedition of Legaspi in a house near the present site of the Cathedral of Cebu is venerated by the faithful in the nearby Church of San Agustin.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Oops, pardon my dust...site under renovation

Last Tuesday, I ruined my old Blogger template. Yesterday, I had a fit of narcissism. Those two in combination resulted in a totally new template. The result is what you see on your screen right now.

I am so vain.

There's still a number of things that I need to fix up, so pardon me if not everything works. Sincere apologies if the site looks broken in Internet Explorer. As you might already know, I don't use Windows and so I only have Firefox and other Linux-based browsers to test the site with.

Then again, you really should upgrade to a better, standards-compliant browser. So there.

The graphics were largely done in Inkscape with some touchups in The Gimp. I'm happy to say that I'm getting better at both these tools. Many of the operations already come instinctively and I can now do all sorts of tricks. I'm especially proud of the icons I created.

I'll fix up the rest tonight, after I take a peek at how this all looks on IE. Shudder.

Update: Well, whaddya know? I just checked the site out on Internet Explorer and it doesn't look as bad as I thought it would. I had to do a couple of tweaks with CSS, but that was all.

Update: Comments boxes taken care of. Also fixed the little home icon near the bottom of the full post.

Next target: the links page. But that'll keep for tomorrow.


Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Feature article on Wikis and PmWiki

Upcoming article for PC Magazine Philippines, entitled Build a Web Site Quickly with PmWiki:

Whether researching the scholarly (like the reason behind the Sistine chapel's name) or the trivial (the title of the third episode of say, "The Six Million Dollar Man") one of the first resources that the Internet-savvy turn to is the Wikipedia. In a span of a little over five years, the free online encyclopedia has grown to over five million articles in several languages, including 1.4 million articles in English.

How did the Wikipedia grow so quickly? For one thing, any registered member -- and that means anyone who cares to register -- can add, edit, or even delete pages from the Wikipedia. It's for this reason that traditional educators doubt the Wikipedia's accuracy and neutrality. But no one can deny that its open editability is also its main strength.

Introducing Wikis
The underlying concept beneath the Wikipedia is, as its name suggests, a wiki. A wiki is a kind of website for collaborative authoring. Any word or phrase in a wiki article can be tagged to become a link to another article. It's in this fashion that Wikis grow over time.

Simplicity is key in wikis. Its goal is to make it easy to write entries. No knowledge of HTML is necessary. Instead, wikis use a simplified markup scheme for formatting and linking. For example, double brackets around a word, like [[this]], would turn that word into a link to another page.

Not all wikis have to be freely editable by everyone. Wikis might restrict membership to a group of people, say, team members on a project. Regardless, wikis usually employ some form of version control that lets an administrator restore the previous version of a page. It's a useful feature to have that protects to some degree against vandalism.

Cruel Joke

I should be working on an article for PC Magazine right now, but I'm not. I should be pleasantly smilingly right now because I'm home, but I'm not.

Instead, I have a splitting headache, most likely brought about by hypertension. Blogging seems to be the only way to unburden myself, never mind that I've ruined my custom template (thanks to Madame Chiang for the quick heads-up on the glitch.)

This is what happened: at around 10AM, I received a frantic call from my Mom. "They bombed Robinson's!" she cried. "I received a text from your aunt. 'Binomba ang Robinson's ngayong umaga. Madaming patay at sugatan na mga...' I don't know about the rest. It's been cut off!"

No mention of which Robinson's, but I immediately assumed the worst: Robinson's Galleria. When you have a sister who's living in the area, not to mention several friends, your mind races through the possibilities. Are they alright? Were they hurt? And then you hope that at that early hour none of them were in the vicinity.

I called out for my Dad. Not finding him around added to the tension. My Mom said she would make further inquiries, so she hung up. Finally regaining some presence of mind, I turned on the TV to search for news of the bombing.

ANC. None. GMA. None. ABC. None. Nothing at all. Just...nothing.

My Mom finally called back. "It was just a joke from your aunt," she said apologetically. "I'm sorry, I didn't read through the entire message. It actually said 'madaming patay na mga lamok.'"

Perhaps I might not have been so upset or concerned if my fears were not compounded by rumors last week of the Abu Sayyaf planning to bomb Megamall on Saturday. Though I didn't receive that email, a friend told me about it. Not that I want to give much credence to stories like these, but I like to think that it's better to be on the safe side. Nothing happened, of course.

Then, after the long setup, you receive the punchline to the joke. A very cruel joke. Only, I'm not laughing.

I'm a little upset at my mother for being too quick on the gun, for not reading through the whole message, and for calling me instead of the aunt who sent the message. But knowing how her feelings at the message mirror mine, I don't blame her.

I know the aunt who sent the message. If and when I do confront her about it, she's going to giggle and pat my shoulder and say, "Joke lang 'yun, uy!" And then I'm supposed to just forgive her.

Well, I have three words for her...though I won't say them because here they'll be too rude.

All Manila'ed Out

"Are you all talked out?" Dr. Edith "Mom" Tiempo would gently ask us after a lengthy dissection of our pieces during the National Writers Workshop. In a way, that became one of the catchphrases of our batch of fellows. A similar sentiment comes to mind as I make this realization:

I am all Manila'ed out.

As I write this, I'm sitting in the comfort of my old chair, clacking away on my old keyboard, in my old familiar living room in Dumaguete. Yes, I'm back. And for all the pleasures, stimulations, and temptations that Manila had to offer, it's good to be home.

For most of the six weeks, my calendar was full. Granted, the software engineering class took up most of my time, but there were the weeknights and weekends to take advantage of: meeting up with old friends, making new connections, participating in conferences and conventions, browsing in bookstores and toy shops, movies, eating out, even a day trip to Calamba and Tagaytay. Perhaps at the top of my list would be the weekend movie marathons with Science Fiction Philippines and Battlestar Galactica Philippines.

All of which would be very alluring enticements to move back to Manila. In all honesty, I was sorely tempted, and a return would have been just a resume away.

But...Manila isn't home.

Nowhere was it more apparent than in my last days. All of a sudden, Manila didn't seem as exciting. In fact, it seemed a bit wearying. Manila had grown tired of me, and I had grown tired of Manila. Like a torrid fling gone cold, Manila and I found each other too tired and too sterile. And all too readily, the old faults come to fore: the smells, the noise, the rudeness, the busy, hurried life. Even old friends seem a bit distant as each goes off to his or her own more pressing concerns.

And that's when I realized I was all Manila'ed out.

So now I'm back home. It's rustic, it's simple, it's backward, even. But this is where I've already set down my roots, and this, I think, is where I'll stay.

And Manila? I'll return from time to time, and we can rekindle our acquaintance. Still she beckons like a mistress, but I already know from past experience that we'll tire of each other soon enough.

A nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Six weeks down

So this is it, the last day of classes for my six-week Software Design and Development course, courtesy of PhilNITS. It's been a long program, more significant for its time investment than anything else. And it's been worth every minute of it.

The class was ostensibly meant to prepare the participants to take the JITSE Software Engineering certification exam. Throughout the six weeks, it's been a rigorous re-introduction into the foundational concepts of computer science: number systems, algorithms, queueing theory, network design, hardware, databases, project management, and risk management. In two words: geek heaven.

For someone who was never really into software development (now I hope that's not a surprise to some people), the real treat was the long section on object-oriented software development. Our instructor, CW Yee, was a real pro with extensive experience. All those concepts on software engineering that I had been futilely banging my head on suddenly seem so clear.

Not that it was an easy time getting there. For the first two weeks of the software engineering portion, all I could do was stare blankly at the charts. That's what happens with slow learners like me. But for some reason, by the third week, things started to click. I was finally getting it!

Now I have additional tools in my arsenal: mindmaps, ArgoUML, Umbrello, Mogwai ER Designer, PHPEclipse, Simpletest, and -- gasp! -- SharpDevelop. Yes, despite my best efforts at resistance, I can now do a bit of .NET.

So here's to old dogs learning new tricks.

Mrs. Arroyo and the Nursing Scandal

Was it with a sigh of relief that we heard from Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Court of Appeals last Monday permitted the nursing candidates to take their oath? Almost three months after the cheating scandal broke out, Malacanang had taken no definite steps towards its resolution. Mrs. Arroyo, in fact, vacillated on the retake position several times. The CA took the matter out of Malacanang's hands, giving the Palace some breathing space.

But no sooner had the ink dried on the CA decision than several parties filed for a temporary restraining order. The CA, it must be remembered, is an institution famous for being reversed. Another week passes and Mrs. Arroyo continues to drag her feet. The nursing scandal is to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo what Hurricane Katrina was to George W. Bush.

It's not that Mrs. Arroyo and her cohorts are not capable of acting with vigor and dispatch. Playing out simultaneously with the ongoing scandal this week is the drama with Mayor Binay of Makati. Now, there's an example of haste. But that's another story.

If Arroyo can't act decisively on the nursing scandal, it's because she's a most political animal. Ordering a retake will be a decidedly unpopular move, no matter what its proponents say. Then there's also the millions of taxable dollars in potential earnings that these future nurses will send home. Mrs. Arroyo, it seems, is not a person to make hard decisions, only expedient ones.

Continued in "Saving the Nursing Profession"

"Saving the nursing profession"

Continued from Mrs. Arroyo and the Nursing Scandal

Even as the retake question seems daunting, it's merely diversionary. To retake or not to retake, that is the question. But it's also the wrong question to ask.

The reason put forward in favor of re-examination is "to save the nursing profession." A retake will show that the profession is committed to the rigor of its standards. That it might, but it only manages to punish the least culpable in the crime, that is, the hopeful examinees.

Unlike, say, cheating an election, the examinees had no direct hand in bribing the examiners. The results were not previously rigged in their favor; they still had to take the exam. It might have given them an unfair advantage, but they nevertheless had to remember the answers to the leaked questions. This doesn't make the act any less odious, but it pales in comparison to the collusion between the examiners, the Professional Regulatory Commission, and the review centers.

Focusing on the retake also gives undue focus on the examination process as the be-all and end-all of the nursing profession. Passing the board exam is only one measure that a prospective nurse meets the minimum requirements, and only on paper, at that; it doesn't guarantee that the nurse will be a good one in practice. The onus is ultimately on the local health care industry to weed out the good nurses from the bad.

A retake does not address the prevailing ills of the profession. Nursing is a noble profession, but it has been prostituted as mere money-making machinery. It's not simply the thousands who see nursing as their way out of the country, though they too are part of the equation. Rather, it's the inevitable opportunism that grows like weeds in the face of such high demand: substandard nursing schools, predatory employment agencies, and, of course, review centers who dazzle hopefuls with leakage. This system is in need of serious overhaul.

A retake, if it takes place, will simply be a cosmetic remedy. What good is another examination if the structures are in themselves flawed? Indeed, what good is nursing as a profession if its primary intent goes no further than an export commodity?

If nursing as a profession is to be saved, some hard decisions have to be made.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

My iPod Soundtrack

Much as I want to write something pithy, my brain has shut off after two hours of an extremely difficult software engineering exam. I literally can't think anymore. And there's one more exam to go through tomorrow. Thank goodness it's only a mock exam.

To fill in this space, I'm just going to take on a meme from Jute's Friendster blog. The theme of this meme is a movie soundtrack. Instructions:

1. Open your music library.
2. Put it on shuffle.
3. Press play.
4. For every question type the song that's playing.
5. When you go to a new question press the next button.

And here are my results:
Opening Credits: True Colors by Phil Collins

Waking Up: Listen to Your Heart by Roxette

Falling In Love: Give My Your Love by Linda Herrick (from "City Hunter")

Fight Scene: Being With You by Smokey Robinson

Breaking Up: Talking in Your Sleep by The Romantics

Life's Okay: Queen of Hearts by Juice Newton

Mental Breakdown: Owner of a Lonely Heart by Yes

Driving: Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens

Flashbacks: Fire by Pointer Sisters

Regretting: Harden My Heart by Quarterflash

Final Battle: Written in the Stars by Elton John

Death Scene: The One That Really Matters by Survivor

End Credits: Something Happened On the Way to Heaven by Phil Collins


That should also give a (somewhat embarrassing) sample of what's on my music player. Some other bits of trivia: it seems I have 359 songs on my iPod. My iPod is a blue-colored Mini with 4GB, similar to the picture above, given to me by my Dad.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

NaNoWriMo 2006: Ready, get set....

Thanks to a note from Inez, I got reminded of National Novel Writing Month, lurking just around the corner some two weeks away. Am I joining again? You bet! God alone knows why, especially after the insanity last year.

If you're up to the challenge, try writing a 50,000 word novel (or more appropriately, novella) in 30 days. It doesn't have to be a masterpiece, it's more a matter of developing a writing discipline.

Because it's no fun writing alone, you can register at the NaNoWriMo web site and join hundreds of other authors around the world (including several dozen from the Philippines) in getting that novel done. From the web site, you can track your progress as well as those of other NaNoWrimo participants.

I hit the 50,000-word mark last year, though I was only halfway through my story. Excerpts of my half-novel Oripun last year are here. Not a work of art, not by a long shot, but rereading bits and pieces of it now, I can see some good bits worth expanding on. Writing Oripun helped me gain a better appreciation of Magellan, the Spanish, the Filipino character, and Philippine history.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Long-dead authors: Belloc

This morning's recommendation from Amazon.com left me somewhat bemused. This is, I suppose, what I get for listing long-dead authors as my favorites. What got me was the line:
For this reason you might like to know that Hilaire Belloc's newest book, Europe and the Faith: "Sine auctoritate nulla vita", is now available in Paperback.

Uh, hello? Belloc's been dead for about fifty years.

Form letters notwithstanding, though, I really wish the old-school writers -- Belloc and Chesterton (and yes, even GB Shaw) -- were still alive. They exuded a sensibility which appealed to the mind.

Belloc has a special place in my heart. He was influential in Chesterton's conversion and the two remained good friends for life. Some additional information on the writer, by way of Wikipedia:
Joseph Hilaire Pierre RenĂ© Belloc (July 27, 1870–July 16, 1953) was one of the most prolific writers in England during the early twentieth century. His style and personality during later life complemented the nickname he received in childhood, "Old Thunder." One of Belloc's most famous statements was "the faith is Europe and Europe is the faith"; this sums up his strongly-held, orthodox Roman Catholic views, and the cultural conclusions he drew from them, which were expressed at length in many of his works from the period 1920-1940. These are still cited as exemplary of Catholic apologetics.

And said work recommended by Amazon is available on Gutenberg.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Big Mac Index

Mucking around the Economist web site this morning, I came across the sidebar pointing to the Big Mac Index. Apparently, it's been 20 years since the Economist came out with the tongue-in-cheek measurement tool.

I'd like to think that I came upon the Big Mac Index independently, back when I was criss-crossing Asia for Digital Equipment and IBM. Ever the pennypincher, I would automatically do currency conversions in my head when faced with a possible purchase. Why, I wondered, does a burger cost so much more in Seoul than in Cebu?

The answer, it turns out, was a factor of economics and cost of living. Luckily, the Philippines still has one of the lower average prices of a Big Mac than other countries. Or should I say, unluckily. For most of my twenties, I subsisted on burgers and that diet has taken its toll on my health. Ah, but that's a Supersize Me story.

For reference, here's the latest Big Mac Index, lifted from the Economist.

Calamba and Tagaytay

I had been to Calamba last year, and to Tagaytay several times in the past. However, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit both places again when Noel, my roommate and classmate in the Software Engineering class, invited a few of us for a day trip. Away team complement: Noel, Judyll, Bong, and myself.

Our first destination was Cabuyao, Noel's hometown. We went by way of Alabang via the South Express Skyway so the going was quite fast. Travel time to Alabang was under 45 minutes (once we got past the bus' stop-and-go movement in Makati.) Total cost: P30.

We dropped off at the Alabang Festival Mall, there to await an FX ride to Cabuyao. Waiting time for the FX was a bit longer, but it did give us a chance to take a quick tour of the gigantic Festival Mall.
We got off Cabuyao for some brunch at Noel's house. Then it was off to Calamba to the Rizal Shrine on Noel's van.

I've already written a bit about the Rizal Shrine which I visited sometime in March of 2005. So just some additional information: the shrine is actually a replica of the original Mercado house. It was reconstructed by National Artist and architect Juan Nakpil based on excavations of the foundation and stories from the people around the area. The house was built not without some controversy as there were conflicting claims as to the placement of certain features. It was inaugurated on June 19, 1950.

Then it was off to Tagaytay. It was Judyll's fondest wish to see Taal Volcano, and that wish was fulfilled. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to go down to the crater itself, and at P3,500 for seven people, it was a bit expensive.

We went up to the People's Park (formerly Palace in the Sky). It was sad to see the place in such dilapidated condition! Imelda Marcos' Coconut Palace seems to be no more, just a skeleton framework of steel trusses. They really let it go.

At the altitude we were in, we were literally walking in the clouds. See picture of me above, hamming it up. We took lots of pictures, too. For some reason, many of our group shots had us looking like a boy band.

All too soon, the day came to an end. Noel dropped us off near the highway where we took a bus back to Manila. Time enough for one lesson, though: the buses that go via the coastal road (P72 per person) take forever to go through Cavite. Next time, I'm taking the Expressway!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Back to The Bomb Again

An atomic bomb is an anachronism; at least, it ought to be. It entered our vocabulary close to the end of the Second World War. It dominated global realpolitik for the next fifty years. Just when we thought the new economics had made it obsolete, it's back with a vengeance. The world's newest player: North Korea, joining that very exclusive club of nuclear countries with two underground detonations just this week. It's the last gasp of the Cold War, and it just might breath life into the next.

No one under the age of twenty has lived through the Cold War. Those of us who did probably remember it in its gaudy colors, dominated by larger-than-life icons both fictional and real. John F Kennedy, Fidel Castro, the Berlin Wall, Mao Zedong, Nikita Kruschev, Leonid Brezhnev, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, James Bond, Dr. Strangelove, and Rambo. Looking back they all look so silly and harmless. We might ask ourselves what we were so afraid of.

Behind those symbols was The Bomb. Hiroshima and Nagasaki still fresh in popular memory, it was something very real and very frightening. The United States, the Soviet Union, and China each built up an arsenal that could engulf the world in fiery holocaust several times over. Mutual Assured Destruction, they called it. Mad, indeed.

Yet it wasn't so much from The Bomb itself where the troubles lay, but rather from the environment that it created. With the superpowers safely locked in their nuclear standoff, the conflict shifted to proxy wars that could be fought with relative impunity. We know their names: Korea, Viet Nam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Afghanistan.

If even these countries seem remote, look what The Bomb wrought us. Ferdinand Marcos flourished because of the Cold War, his crimes against the country overlooked in favor of the regional balance of power.

Now we're back to The Bomb again. Perhaps North Korea is just using The Bomb as another tool for leverage in its game of international brinksmanship. Yet the palpable danger lies in the country's unpredictability. It's not just that North Korea has destructive designs on its neighbors, it's also the real possibility that North Korea will peddle its nuclear weapons to those who do.

If North Korea has The Bomb, then how many steps will it be to the next nuclear power? Who will be next? Will it be Iran? Will it be Syria? Will it be Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda? The question is not one of If, but When. Like as not, the response from the United States and Israel will not be gentle.

So we're on the edge of another age of uncertainty. Will tenuous sanity and bare instinct for survival win over zealotry and cultural ascendancy? No mere clash of economics and ideology now, but one of faith and sense of destiny. The Bomb, unfortunately, has outlived the Cold War. The next one could be very, very hot.

God help us all.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Lost my cellphone

First, the short version of the story: I lost my cellphone last Sunday. Thankfully, I had a spare SIM card and a friend I could borrow a cellphone from. Therefore, my number for the time being is +63 906 468 1227.

Now, for the longer version: It was a Nokia 6230i, not on par with the today's new 3G-centric models but equipped with the requisite features for the hip and the on-the-go. It had not yet sported too many scars and scratches -- sadly so typical of phones in my keeping -- because it was only a few months in my possession. I always said it was too expensive for me. I don't like expensive things because I'm afraid to break them or lose them. And that's exactly what happened last Sunday.

I suppose I must have lost it in the taxi cab. I was laden with packages, and that's the usual situation when you forget something so small as a cellphone. I discovered the loss about half an hour after the taxi had gone. I tried to ring the number, hoping that whoever found it was decent enough to answer. All I got was the pleasant recorded message: "The number you are calling cannot be reached or is outside the coverage area...."

Alas, finders-keepers seems to have been the state of mind of that taxi driver or his next passenger. Shutting off the phone and discarding the SIM card is the standard operating procedure for cellphone thieves. All the better, I suppose, so they don't have any pangs of conscience should the owner attempt to call and beg for the phone back.

Strangely, I don't feel too badly about the loss of the cellphone. Well, yes, a little bit. But not too much.

In the first place, that cellphone and I have been together for only a few months, not long enough to form any real attachments. Now, my beaten-down Nokia 7250, that I have a real emotional investment in, what with all the love notes it has sent and received and the photos it has taken. But this 6230i has none of those good memories yet.

In the second place, I really didn't spend a cent for that cellphone. My youngest sister gave it to me because she thought I really needed a new phone. It just so happened that she got one as part of her new subscription plan. I would suppose she would be more upset than I am. Sorry, sis.

Lastly, I think I deserved to lose that cellphone. A little bit of karma, I would say. Sunday was a very bad day, and the cellphone was witness and instrument to a stream of angry, self-pitying messages (the details of which are not important). Losing the cellphone was appropriate payback. In fact, in consideration of the magnitude of my sin, I think I got off lightly. More importantly, losing the cellphone put me back in the right frame of mind.

I'm not a firm believer in karma. I don't subscribe to the tit-for-tat view of the universe. I prefer the Gospel of Matthew says: "He...makes his sun shine on the good and the wicked, and brings down the rain on the righteous and the abominable." Discovering that my cellphone was missing, possibly in some stranger's hands, was the shock I needed to get me out of my foul mood. It was the first step to getting things right again.

In the grand scheme of things, that was a small price to pay.

Gratias tibi, Deus, gratias tibi.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Because

An email from a friend:
"Buried in the news yesterday was an article that Ericsson, the Swedish telecom giant, opened its third Shared Services Center in Taguig, the only one outside Sweden. The facility currently employs some 100 certified public accountants as staff, and is expected to hire some 200 more Filipino accountants by 2007.

"Great news, but...why not Dumaguete?"

Indeed, why not Dumaguete?

Because Dumaguete doesn't have the CPAs that can meet the corporate requirements of Ericsson. Because there aren't enough CPAs with the right experience and seniority in Dumaguete. Because the universities in Dumaguete do not produce enough accounting graduates. And if my assertion is wrong, please show me the statistics to prove that I am wrong.

Because an international operation like Ericsson cannot depend on one or two super-accountants. Because Ericsson would instead depends a large team of competent accountants. Because, even if the universities of Dumaguete were to produce the 300 graduates tomorrow, there is no guarantee that they are qualified for the positions.

Because Dumaguete cannot hold on to its graduates simply on the promise of a ready job when they finish. Because young people want to grow personally as well as professionally. Because young people want a little bit of excitement. Because excitement, if it goes beyond the annual parade of male starlets, is a dirty word in Dumaguete.

Because a global shared services center is not a magic wand that can miraculously produce the accountants it needs. Because a shared services center needs to go where it is reasonably sure of a steady stream of accountants. Because a business process outsourcing operation needs more than just the promise of high-speed bandwidth.

Because Dumaguete needs more to attract high-caliber professionals than the nebulous claim of high quality of life. Because quality of life cannot simply be equated to a nice seaside view and friendly people. Because quality of life is more than low cost of living. Because quality of life also means quality of housing, variety of entertainment, and reliable transport and utility infrastructure.

Because, nevertheless, Dumaguete society is not ready to accept a new class of professionals in its midst. Because the balance of the dominant yet ossified Dumaguete tetraculture -- the academe, the Chinese, the politicos, and the masa -- would be upset by the arrival of any new class that will not adapt to the old ways.

Because Dumaguete isn't doing nearly enough to market its virtues to international investors. Because Dumaguete still relies on a mere handful of visionaries to push the BPO agenda, yet treats them with suspicion and disdain. Because Dumaguete doesn't have an investment package. Because Dumaguete doesn't even have a working city government website.

Because Dumaguete isn't doing nearly enough to prepare itself for international investors. Because Dumaguete still relies on its old inadequate airport. Because Dumaguete doesn't even have a decent seaport. Because Dumaguete doesn't have the hotels, restaurants, and resorts where we can wine and dine our guests. Because Dumaguete has taken a look at itself and said, "Ay, pwede na man ni."

Which is not to say that it can't happen, because it has. Twice. But the two companies we have managed to attract have come as an act of faith. We're a long way still from becoming the default choice.

Regardless, the question is wrong. It should not be "Why not Dumaguete?" but rather "Why not yet Dumaguete?"

Now, what are we going to do about it?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Apologies

I've always maintained that a blog is an ongoing dialogue between the blogger and his readers. Good manners dictate that the blogger should respond as best as he can to comments and links from different folks.

Unfortunately, I've been a little remiss in that duty these past few days.

Part of the reason is that I've been very busy, as I've already mentioned in a previous post. Between my social activities and my classes, there's been very little time to blog. Milenyo bringing down my sister's broadband connection hasn't helped matters any.

I feel a little bad in not responding because there are folks who have been generous with their compliments and their feedback. Among these:Rina, Chaz, Tobey, Claire, Wakizaki, Wyze, and Gibbs Cadiz.

Some folks apparently liked my Storms essay a lot. Thanks to Madame Chiang and Basang Panaginip for the linkbacks. That's the ultimate compliment.

The myth-making essay is still up in the air. I have the outline of what I want to say, but haven't had the time to write it up yet.

Ditto for the transcultural English literature, though that one needs a bit more work.

And then there was Blogcon that I never got to blog about. Thanks, anyway to Mrs. Dado and Teng for the links. It was great meeting you, guys.

Finally, Blogger's comment email function doesn't seem to be working properly. I rely on it to let me know who's left word on my blog. But it's been flaky for a long while. That's why I never got to see who commented. Sorry, folks, I didn't mean to ignore you. Email me directly (dominique.cimafranca @ gmail.com) if you want a response.

I hope to catch up with my backlog soon. In the meantime, thanks for reading!

IT Old-Timer's Reunion

JP, Danny, Benjie, JR, and Manny. Picture taken at the Philippine Open Source Conference in Shangri-La EDSA Plaza. This was a reunion of sorts as the folks featured in this shot had a lot to do with the early days of Philippine Internet. And, yes, humble as my status was as multinational shill, I was also part of that history.

That said, it makes me feel a little old. The Internet has been around in this country for twelve years. I was there when they threw the switch at the University of San Carlos back in 1994. I was setting up firewalls. I was selling and setting up servers. Exciting times, those. But...twelve years.

Man. I'm old.

Milenyo aftermath


Unfortunately, I didn't think to whip out my camera phone during the height of the storm. I was simply too transfixed by the wind and the rain. On Friday, I did finally manage to take some shots on the way to class. Nothing nearly as dramatic as other photos that have come up on the blogosphere, but for completeness' sake, here are mine.

The picture above was taken on the ride along EDSA just before Buendia. This was the Honda dealership, if I'm not mistaken. The billboard didn't just lose its tarp, its entire frame fell over. I hope no one was hurt.
By Friday, cleanup work had already started. Buendia was fragrant with the smell of freshly cut trees. It was a pleasant three block walk, spiced up by the unexpected obstacle course. I felt like a kid again.

The trees of Ortigas seem to have been spared, so it was a surprise to see some trees in Makati felled the day previous. All the more surprising to see metal lampposts actually bent over.

Like, wow.

October, and the midway mark

Like, whoa! It's October already. Now where did THAT come from?

I've been in Manila three weeks already. I'm past the halfway mark of my intended stay. If the time whizzes by the way it has, it won't be long until I find myself back in Dumaguete.

Right now, I'm half-and-half about the prospect. The time has gone by so quickly because of the friends I've been meeting and activities I've been going to. It's such a temptation to send out my resume to a few IT companies, if only for the excitement that the big city has to offer.

On the other hand, the little inconveniences of Metro Manila are starting to creep in. The daily sardine ride from Ortigas to Makati has totally demolished my personal space. My money has never disappeared so quickly, thanks in no small part to the lure of books and toys on sale. And there are also the little surprises, like the mini-flood that invaded the sanctuary of SM Megamall (see above. In case you're wondering, yes, that was taken tonight.)

That said, class is proceeding apace. Sometimes I feel so stupid because I just Don't Get It. At the same time, I'm thankful for the opportunity. There's material here that I never took up in college but which could have been useful for my career in IBM. Today, for example, we started on data warehouse design. Not being a database fellow, it's all new and exciting to me. It's given me a renewed interest in IT.

On the other side, my social calendar is still packed. I plan catch a Wednesday night Star Trek at Brash Young Cinema, tag along with the New Worlds Alliance people on Friday evening, and catch up with as many old friends as I can. And there's also the SciFi Philippines 'thon and the Komikon. Busy, busy, busy...

And happy, too.