Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last Post for 2006

In a little less than two hours, it'll be the end of 2006 and the beginning of 2007. I thought this would be an apropos time to write the final post for 2006.

Having a blog is a great way of tracing the ups and downs of the past year. I just did a quick review of the highlights for 2006. On the whole, it's been a good year for me. I have much to be thankful for.

This was the year I went on three gruelling solo biking trips. I did Casaroro Falls and the Japanese shrine, the Siquijor circuit, and the Panglao circuit. A bit foolhardy to be travelling those trails alone, nevertheless I did it. Looking back, I'm grateful to be alive and in one piece.

Continuing last year's summer travels, I did the northwestern Luzon, travelling to Vigan, Ilocos Norte, and Pagudpod over three days. Alone, of course. One of these days, I must get myself a permanent travelling companion, but in the meantime, I am enjoying the solitude among strangers.

Blogwise, I gained a bit of notoriety for my Wowowee post. As with all things in the Philippines, it died down after a few weeks. On occasion, I've started weighing in on the hot political topics of the day, though admittedly, I am still a lightweight.

Problogging nirvana still eludes me, but I suppose it's because I don't have the voice, the discipline, or the temparament for that line of work. My entries are far too varied and personal.

On the other hand, I have not lacked for friends in the blogosphere. I've kept touch with friends from far away and I've made a few new friends. I've met up with some, and I am looking forward to meeting more. This has been the biggest reward of blogging: getting to know like minds whom I might not otherwise have met.

I spent three weeks in the Dumaguete National Writers Workshop. In a way, it was an affirmation of my ambitions. It was a fruitful time as I got to learn more of the craft. But most importantly, I learned much more about myself: that, although I have the seed of the writer in me, it was all for the best that it was the engineer that flourished. I do not have the writer's temperament.

That said, I should work on getting published in 2007.

I spent several weeks getting reacquainted with my technical side, courtesy of PhilNITS-AOTS. Two weeks of Java training, and six weeks of software engineering. These, too, were affirmations. Deep down inside, I am an engineer. Now I know it for sure.

I also devoted a lot of time with civil society groups promoting open source policies. In the process, I got to know many more people who share the same passion and commitment to free software. Open source hasn't made me rich, financially, but personally, it's been a worthwhile undertaking.

This year, too, I had my first breakup. Not as devastating as I expected it to be, though a little disappointing because the friendship did not survive as I had hoped it would. Quite possibly, a lot of it owes to my own pride. Well, that's life.

Finally, I think I've outgrown Dumaguete. The two years spent there have been very good, but now I think it's time to look elsewhere. Towards the end, that small town mentality has gotten stultifying, and I never really integrated all that well socially. Again, that's life.

And so, 2006, I bid thee goodbye. You've been very good to me, and the hiccups only serve to make me love you more. I shall remember you with much fondness.

And to you, too, dear friends, who've accompanied me on this leg of the journey: thank you very much.

Friday, December 29, 2006

New Year

How many times do we celebrate New Year? If you say once, on January 1, then you'd be a little off. In the Philippines, we actually celebrate it twice, the second time being the Chinese Lunar New Year, which falls anywhere between January 21 and February 21.

New Year is usually a time for resolutions, a time for casting out the old and ringing in the new. How convenient, then, that we should have two celebrations: if the plans didn't quite stick on January 1, then we still have a second chance a month after.

Granted, the Chinese New Year isn't as big a celebration as January 1 -- it isn't even a legal holiday -- but it's still a recognition of the Chinese culture that's closely intertwined with Filipino culture. Besides, when have we really needed a big reason for celebration?

All cultures with some rudimentary knowledge of astronomy recognize that there are roughly 365 days in a year. But if it's a cycle, how do you know when it stops and starts again? In reality, any day could have been chosen as New Year's Day. Which day you celebrate it on is a matter of culture and religion.

Take January 1, for example. It's simply the first day of the calendar decreed by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. This Gregorian calendar, that is, the calendar as we know it, was in turn adapted from the Julian calendar, which also had January 1 as the first day of the the year.

So why January 1? In a way, that, too, was an almost arbitrary decision. This was the result of arrangement of the months of the medieval calendar from January to December. This was adapted in various European countries at various times between 1522 and 1579.

The Chinese New Year, on the other hand, occurs every year on the new moon of the first lunar month, around the beginning of spring. Hence, the exact date varies from year to year. Chinese New Year celebrations last fifteen days, ending with the Lantern Festival.

But what about the rest of the world? A quick look at the Wikipedia reveals some interesting facts:

* The Iranian New Year, called Norouz, is the day containing the exact moment of the vernal equinox, commencing the start of the spring season. This falls on the 20 or 21 March.

* Thailand, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and West Bengal celebrate their new year around April 13 to 15.

* The Islamic New Year occurs on the first day of Muharram. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, which falls anywhere from January to February. It is one of the four sanctified months of the year. 2008 will see two Muslim New Years.

* The Punjabi new year Vaisakhi is celebrated on 13 April and celebrates the harvest. Hola Mohalla, New Year's Day in the Sikh Nanakshahi calendar is on March 14.

* Some neo-pagans celebrate Samhain (a festival of the ancient Celts, held around November 1) as a new year's day representing the new cycle of the Wheel of the Year.

Finally, April 1 was previously the New Year in many European countries in pre-Gregorian times. When the new calendar, starting on January 1, replaced it, people who continued to celebrate the traditional New Year were mocked and teased, the subject of various humorous harassment. Hence, we have the term April Fools.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sahran and Howard Eliminated

Eliminated this week: Sahran and Howard. Which makes me sad, too, because this couple has grown on me over the last few weeks. I was sorry to see them go.

Howard and Sahran are very suspiciously gay, as many other Amazing Race bloggers have already pointed out. But what ultimately won me over was the genuinely tender friendship between these two. They're not cartoon homosexuals, they're Real People.

Every show that I've caught has one or the other falling apart at some critical moment, either before a particularly dangerous challenge or after. But they always bounce back with words of support for each other.

At those moments, Howard and Sahran have always elicited laughter from me, but I like to think it's a sympathetic "pull-it-together-you-can-do-it" laugh.

And somehow they've always come through. What a feat to have lasted this long in the show! Well, except for this last episode.

So that still leaves brothers Mardy and Marsio in the running, and one team less now towards their longshot victory. They're a longshot to win the race, but I'm rooting for them to win the race. A most unlikely pair, they're representative of geeks like me: chubby, bespectacled, and often befuddled. What a surprise that they should come in first in this week's episode of "Amazing Race Asia" by way of a Fast Forward.

But...part of me was hoping that Howard and Sahran could have made it to the final push.

Carry on, guys, you've got a fan in me.

Ten Plus One Reasons Why Ubuntu Over Vista

Excerpt from an upcoming article for PC Magazine Philippines.

As an operating system, Ubuntu is no spring chicken. Ubuntu is two years old, a fork from the much older Debian project. It has a large community of users and developers. Ubuntu comes with a new release every six months (missing the ship date only once, and that by two months) to ensure that its users are working with up-to-date versions of the operating system and the included applications.

Here are ten (plus one) reasons why you should choose Ubuntu over Vista.


1) You can install it on as many machines as you want.

2) You can give it to as many people as you want without the BSA breathing down your neck.

3) You don't have to type in any license keys during installation.

4) Installation in under 15 minutes.

5) Much lower system requirements than Vista.

6) Base CD includes free applications whose functionality you would otherwise have to pay for in Vista. Thousands more available for download and installation over the Internet.

7) Free system updates and applications over the Internet.

8) LiveCD functionality. You can boot and use from CD-ROM without installing to hard disk.

9) Proven immune to Windows viruses, Trojans, and worms.

10) New version available every six months (give or take a month.)

11) ... well, just buy the magazine.

Expandable posts with the new Blogger


Update: Thanks for visiting my blog. You landed here because you were looking for a way to have expandable posts. This entry, however, is five years old. It still works, though, so if you want to do it this way, you can. However, it may be better to just use the <!-- more --> tag. This adds a break in your post that does quite the same thing.

I've just managed to reinstate the expandable posts using the new Blogger template. The method is quite similar to the old Blogger. However, owing to the somewhat complicated (okay, newer) structure of widgets and tags, placement is a bit more sensitive.

Here's how I did it.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

37

As far as numbers go, 37 doesn't sound anywhere as exciting as 36. But first looks can be a little deceptive.

There are so many different ways to factor 36. That's part of its appeal. But there's only one way to factor 37.

But 37 is also a prime number, and that makes it special in its own right.

According to the Wikipedia, 37 is the first irregular prime, the third unique prime, and the fifth lucky prime.

37 is thus far the only number I know of that has a web site dedicated to it. Tom Magliery put up thirty-seven.org to list down all things related to 37.

According to Tom:
It does seem that 37 occurs a lot. You hear it a lot in conversation: people choose it as an "arbitrary" number of something. It turns up in writing, such as in columns by Dave Barry and Joe Bob Briggs. It appears in comic strips quite a bit. It has appeared in many movies, both accidentally and on purpose. It turns up on lots of personalized license plates.

It may be that 37 gets used a lot because it somehow "feels random". I imagine psychologists pondering theories and performing experiments on destitute grad students, to figure out why people might choose this number over a less random-sounding number like 36.


I'd list down some of the factoids but it's better if you visit his site. Oh, but do take some things with a grain of salt.

Pictured above is Open Cluster M37, also known as Messier Object 37. It is the richest open cluster in the Auriga constellation. It was discovered by Giovanni Batista Hodierna before 1654. With an average telescope about 150 stars can be identified in it.

And 37 is how old I am today.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

This space reserved

...for Christmas greetings. Please post in the comments below.



Merry Christmas, everyone!

Ninth day

This morning I completed the ninth day of this year's Misa de Gallo. I feel very happy.

In the world's scheme of things, it might not be very significant; nevertheless, I think I've achieved another minor victory. A victory over self, perhaps; but certainly a victory over sleepiness and lethargy.

More than that, I've accomplished something, not just by myself or for myself, but as part of a larger community.

And this culminating novena Mass was a bit special, too.

Owing to the position of calendar, today is also the last Sunday of Advent, and so we had a little ceremony to light the last candle of the advent wreath.

They turned off the lights in the church. Selected parishioners bearing candles formed an honor guard on the main aisle, lighting a path for the entrance procession. The subdued glow of candlelight staving off the early morning's darkness lent a bit of mystique to the ceremony. Quite a sight to see, actually.

Then, to the strains of "O Come Emmanuel", someone lit the fourth candle on the wreath.

Traditionally, you're supposed to make a wish, but I didn't explicitly make any. This novena was primarily for thanksgiving: I was afraid my back would be crooked forever after my little incident; and it turns out it didn't.

Nevertheless, a small miracle did happen. Chalk it up, if you will, to coincidence but after several years, my Mom's knee pains disappeared two days ago.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

On the New Blogger

Excuse the look, I'm playing around with, uh, the new Blogger.

I was going to say Blogger Beta, but of course, that's not correct. Blogger Beta is the new Blogger.

I've held off any switch as I wanted some stability on the system. Now, that change is inevitable. Though I can still opt to use the old HTML codes, the new features are starting to win me over. Unfortunately, that means I have to go and redo my templates. Not a problem, though, as the Christmas holidays are a great time for tinkering around.

Stuff that I like:

* Labels: finally, a sensible way of organizing posts within Blogger instead of the hacks I used to use. And now, I can show just specific posts from a certain category, too.

* Widgets: now I can just edit the sections I need to. I can even move them around if needed.

* Hierarchical archives: a more flexible way for organizing archives than the previous system.


Stuff that I don't like:

* New tags: argh! but it's only because they're new. I could learn to like it.

We'll see what happens over the next two days.

Friday, December 22, 2006

House Marathon

For the past week, I've been binging on the first season of "House, M.D."

I blame Mom, really. I've caught a few episodes of "House" on AXN, but owing to erratic schedules I haven't really been following the show.

Last week, I was at the doctor's clinic for a checkup. While the doctor was examining me, Mom was at the reception area. Guess what they were showing?

Mom was suitably impressed with the episode she saw. The fact that one of the doctors, waiting for his patients, was also watching the show in rapt attention, reinforced her opinion. At the end of my examination, she asked me what program it was.

Of course, that's my cue to pick up the copies of seasons 1 and 2 from the, er, local friendly neighborhood video supplier. You know what I mean.

Having all two seasons at my disposal is far too much temptation. Add to that a very light schedule, and, well, it's recipe for a House marathon. For me, anyway. Mom catches the odd episode every now and then.

My favorite episode thus far: "Three Stories."

And my most important lesson from the show: I'm glad I'm not a doctor.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Misa de Gallo

It never ceases to amaze me how, year after year, the churches are always full for the Misa de Gallo.

It's not an easy tradition to carry out, mind you. The Masses typically start at half past four in the morning. The sky is still deep velvety black and the air still retains its nippy bite. And yet never have I gone to a church or chapel that was not packed to the rafters and overflowing with devotees. Not in Manila, not in Cebu, not in Davao, and certainly not in Dumaguete.

Oh, to be sure, not everyone has pure and high motives of worship for going to the pre-dawn Masses. For some, it's the superstition of a sought-after wish. For others, it's the pull of their peers. And still for others, because that's the way it's always been. My own reasons incorporate a little of each.

But can we really divorce Misa de Gallo from its religious underpinnings? A purely agnostic, anthropological reason might fall back on the Filipino's love for communal activity. But, at 4:30 in the morning? Surely there are better, more secular ways to celebrate than listen to a sermon at that hour.

Not all our reasons might be noble, but such a sacrifice cannot be carried out without some degree of holiness seeping in. Whatever the primary reasons, it achieves some bit of its true purpose.

So early in the morning, the body is still in repose and the soul is still composed. Unfettered by worries and unhampered by distractions, it's a much easier time for prayer . In those quiet moments, waiting for the Misa de Gallo can be a contemplative experience. That atmosphere lends to the nature of a vigil, which the Masses are. It heightens the anticipation for the coming Christmas season.

To the uninitiated, here's a secret: it actually becomes easier once you've done your first set. In fact, it becomes something to look forward to. I'm a latecomer to the tradition, having been introduced to it only five years ago by the Fortunatos in Cebu. Since then, I've completed this Christmas novena without fail despite any initial doubts attending on the first day. It has its own strange attraction; the wait for Christmas now seems incomplete without the Misa de Gallo.

As I step into the church once again this year, at dawn before the rooster's crowing, I see that many others feel the same way.

And I know that all will be well.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Pattern of Political Assassinations

While congressmen Prospero Nograles and Robert Jaworksi, Jr. -- who claim to be assassination targets -- were dodging imaginary bullets, the real bullets felled another. Gunmen slew Abra representative Luis Bersamin and his bodyguard just as he was coming out of a wedding last Saturday.

I've done a cursory search of personal blogs for mention of the incident. I only came across a handful, half of them recollections from people related to Bersamin. All others were simply syndicated news items.

Predictably, deadlines for capture of the killers have been set. Whether this will amount to anything is another matter.

Should people be concerned? Of course! A life is a life, congressman or no. But the fact that not too many outside Abra aren't just points to the pattern of familiarity we have with political assassinations.

With election season just around the corner, expect more killings to follow, especially in the provincial areas.

It's the seemingly low profile rural areas which would have the greatest concentration of killings. It's almost ironic. Who, after all, would want to target a lowly congressman or governor from the province when you have much bigger fish like House Majority leaders and sons of basketball players?

But the fact is that the smaller provinces are always hotbeds for violence. Why? Because they're treated like local fiefdoms. Not everyone can aspire to be president or senator or speaker. Then again, why bother, when you can be king of your own little domain?

It's so much easier to off a local rival. They simply don't have the profile that sticks in national attention, and hence, there is none of the martyrdom that follows. Couple that with an incompetent or corrupt local police force, and you have the recipe for impunity.

Follow the local news in small districts, and there you'll see the pattern.

First, it's a rigodon of alliances. Congressmen, governors, mayors, councillors, barangay captains, and kagawads will come into agreement as to who will run for what, and who will support whom. Last-termers will exchange positions, congressman for governor, governor for mayor, and vice versa. Usually, they form around local political dynasties.

Understandably, some people will be unhappy with the arrangements. Hence, you have people bolting from their parties and pledging allegiance to another or running as independents.

Then you see the groups start to coalesce.

And then: the bullets start to fly. It's particularly prevalent in areas with a history of violence, but it can happen anywhere. Again, it's the smaller towns which are more susceptible, not the big cities.

Forget any notions of mafia-style car bombings. The way it's done is with bullets, pumped at close range. Bullets are simpler and more effective.

Blog posts on Bersamin:
Jenkz Leinadra
Diego Guerrero
Maan Madrasto
Madame Chiang


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Monday, December 18, 2006

Christmas shopping crowd in Tutuban


No one can shop quite like the Filipinos can. This is the Christmas shopping crowd in Tutuban, a popular bargain-hunting destination. It was taken in late November. Heaven knows what the crowds must be like in mid-December!

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Mall of Asia cashier troop


Mall of Asia cashiers all in green, awaiting instructions. I just had to take a photo. But apparently, you're not allowed to shoot pictures inside the mall. Oh, well, too late!

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Young Mom and Newborn


I met this young mom and her newborn while doing my morning rounds around Victoria Plaza. They were taking in some early morning sun.

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Ubuntu 6.10 at a glance

Ever the late adopter, it's only now that I've got Ubuntu 6.10 running on my Thinkpad.

I've been pretty happy with Ubuntu 6.06 LTS the past few months. However, with the new year just around the corner, it was time to reformat the old hard disk. Also, since, I have an article due for PC Magazine Philippines on Windows Vista alternatives, I thought it was time to give Edgy Eft a spin.

Nothing significantly different about the interface, just some minor tweaks here and there. That's a good thing. It's still very much recognizably Ubuntu.

At first glance, the desktop looks much brighter. It's largely because of the the default wallpaper. It's lighter and sportier and -- dare I say it? -- more Windows-like. The startup and shutdown splash screens also got an upgrade.

The more significant changes are in the default application set.

Many of the mainstays have gotten an upgrade. The Firefox browser is now on version 2. OpenOffice.org is at 2.04. GAIM is at 2.0.0beta3.1, and has ironed out some interface kinks.

Synaptic is all new and much friendlier. All the options are already laid out and organized according to tabs. There's less guesswork and less clicks involved in identifying repositories.

And there are a few new applications not previously seen in earlier versions of Ubuntu.

There's the Disk Usage Analyzer (actually Baobab) which examines directories and file systems for disk space utilization. Pretty nifty for finding out which files are taking up the most space.

F-Spot Photo Manager takes the place of the gthumb viewer (although gthumb is still there). F-Spot does a much better job of organizing pictures, including the use of tags. It also works with Flickr and Picasa.

Tomboy, Post-It-like application, is now installed by default. Tomboy's notes are persistent and use a wiki-like structure. It also exports to HTML, a very handy thing for creating web pages.

The list of additional applications installable from the Applications menu has grown significantly. From a few dozen in previous versions, the list has grown to a couple of hundred. There are far more graphics apps and games available now.

Not that these applications weren't available before; but it's nice to have a quick list with very informative descriptions handy so you can decide which ones you want and need.

So was it worth the upgrade from Dapper Drake? For someone with a very stable system configured just so, then the answer is no. Many of the things Edgy Eft has are just a couple of Synaptic clicks away in Dapper.

However, for those new to the Ubuntu, Edgy provides quite a bit to make the experience more fulfilling.

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Interloper

Amando Doronila casts a baleful eye on Renato Constantino for the near-fisticuffs during Joe de Venecia's press conference at Dusit last week. Writes Doronila:
Constantino is not a member of the press. Press conferences have their own ground rules for civilized discourse between protagonists. Constantino crashed the conference at Dusit Hotel as an uninvited guest out to create trouble. He had absolutely no business being there. He was an interloper.


And, of course, in a very clinical sense, Doronila is correct.

So why am I still applauding Constantino? Because Constantino socked it to Joe de Venecia and the congressmen in words that eloquently echoed my sentiments:
I am completely appalled by your collective gall. You are totally bereft of principles -- that’s why you are without shame.


Our congressmen behave shamelessly and hide behind their bodyguards, rules of order, majority numbers, and the title of "honorable" (as if). They insulate themselves from verbal feedback from their constituents. If nothing else, Constantino was a release valve for all that tension. One man, not backed by a mob, staring down the "honorables."

So Constantino was not a member of the press? Even better! Press people, particularly the old-school press, sometimes think that it's their exclusive privilege to analyze and criticize for us.

Now, if only Constantino and Agustin didn't hit like girls.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

One hip economic minister

Somewhere in the front page of yesterday's Philippine Star:
Japan's economy minister said yesterday that the Philippines lost credibility by postponing twin Asian summits this week and doubted Manila's stated reason of an impending typhoon.

Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Akira Amari also said he believed the summits were effectively cancelled as the rescheduled January dates would not suit all the leaders.

The abrupt postponement of the ASEAN and East Asia Summit "surely lowered the credibility of the Philippine government," Amari wrote on his blog.


Indeed, the cancellation seemed ill-timed. Mayhaps it may have had something to do with trouble in Manila of the Arroyo's own henchmen's doing? Well....

In any case, I was pleasantly surprised that an economic minister from stodgy Japan should keep a blog. And a mighty hip blog it is, too.

Unfortunately, the site is in Japanese. Therefore, I can't confirm whether the story above is true.

Still, the site isn't bad. What really impressed me was what looked to be an economics primer section on the blog. "Study with Akira" it says invitingly.

More info on Minister Akira Amari:

A descendant of Torayasu Amari, a renowned military general who served Shingen Takeda in the mid-16th century, Akira Amari is known for his flair as a public speaker and frequent TV appearances.

After 2 1/2 years at Sony Corp., the Kanagawa Prefecture native followed in his father's footsteps to become a House of Representatives lawmaker. He began his political career in 1983.

He served as labor minister in 1998 under Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and is a specialist in such fields as intellectual property rights and energy policy.

A close friend of Shinzo Abe, Amari served as secretary general of the campaign office for his LDP presidential run.


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Toyota Innova in the news

News item one: Congressman Jaworski's car explodes in the middle of C5.

News item two: Court of Appeals employees blame cancellation of their Christmas bonuses on car purchases..

What do both stories have in common? The Toyota Innova.

Yessir, the Toyota Innova was the car that exploded along C5. Investigating police (*chuckle*) declared it was "faulty electrical wiring." In Philippine parlance, that's another way of saying "I haven't got a clue."

So it might have been a bomb. But if whoever planted it really had a thing against Jaworski, don't you think they might have done a better job?

Or is it just drama to draw attention away from his newly found balimbing status?

It's the same car purchased by the Court of Appeals, possible "faulty electrical wiring" notwithstanding. Ergo, no Christmas bonus.

Price tag per vehicle: P1.144M.

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There were some crooked men

Photo nicked from Willy Priles, Jr.

With all the furor over the Constitution over the last two weeks, one could almost hope that we're already on our way to political maturity. When people come out to debate and defend the fundamental law of the land, it should mean something, shouldn't it?

Well, maybe.

Let's face it: the House majority precipitated much of the recent brouhaha. "We're representing the voice of our constituents," they repeat like a broken record. Regardless, it sure looks like a bare-faced attempt to extend their terms.

Earnest as the discussions on charter change may be, we'll still end up with these fractious and self-serving antics because of the nature of the Lower House. Because when you get down to it, many congressmen still treat their districts like their personal fiefdoms.

Politics is at its dirtiest at the local level, none moreso than in the rural areas. It's in the rural areas where the word of the barangay captain still holds the most sway. Information comes down in trickles, but loud, by way of radio block timers. Don't expect them to be listening to ANC; it's all machinations of "Imperial Manila," they'll say.

So when congressmen talk about "representing their constituency," I'm not quite sure what it is they mean. At the very least, it means they got elected three years ago (and at the present state of the COMELEC, the validity is dubious). Do congressmen really listen to their constituents in between elections? I haven't really seen any mechanisms in place for making that happen.

More likely: they're just toeing the party line.

Now, I wish there were a way I could give a negative vote to jokers like JDV, Pichay, and Villafuerte. Never mind that they're from another province.

But hey, that's democracy for you.

Unless...can we put that line as a constitutional amendment?

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Guilty Pleasures

Over to the left, ladies and gentlemen, is a sample of my latest guilty pleasure: reprints of Superman Comics, circa 1958.

I can tell you I've never had as much fun reading a comic as I have with this compilation.

This little baby has been out for quite some time. At P500 (P400, with the discount) and 500 pages of nostalgic comic goodness, it's literally a steal. Cheapskate that I am, I had been putting off buying it. Up until two weeks ago when Fully Booked had a sale.

Why bother with all the old titles? Aren't today's comics much better?

Well, yes and no.

On one hand, I appreciate the way today's writers and artists are pushing the boundaries of the medium. Comics have never been grittier or more realistic or more human.

On the other hand, I think today's comics have lost a lot of the fun that yesterday's comics used to have. Today's comics take themselves far too seriously. Reading what I do of them, I always end up a little depressed.

Sometimes I read comics for the intellectual stimulation. But most times, I read comics to relax. Depressed is not relaxed.

Maybe I'm supposed to feel that my life is much better off than the characters portrayed in today's comics? Then again, I'm not big on schaudenfreud, unless we're talking politicians.

In contrast, the Superman of yore (and his sometime-partner, Batman) was pure goofy fun.

Case in point: the very first story in the Superman collection. A mysterious intruder has invaded the Fortress of Solitude. The intruder taunts Superman with graffiti on the walls, threatening to reveal Superman's secret: that his alter ego is Clark Kent!

Who could it be?

Why, none other than Batman! Ol' Bats is playing a prank on Superman to celebrate the anniversary of their meeting.

There are a few other priceless scenes. Batman shopping for an anniversary gift in a mall in full costume. Superman giving Batman his comeuppance. And Superman cutting a giant cake with a giant knife.

Like I said, pure goofy fun. It's the stuff that superdickery is made of. Superman and Batman then had more in common with Archie than with their namesakes of today. But so what?

These days, Batman is too busy being, well, Batman, psychoses and all. He wouldn't have time to play a practical joke on Superman.

Superman, too, has become way too gritty. No jokes, nosirree, he's all serious business.

Unfun. That's what today's comics are.

Luckily for us who want our comics to be FUN, we have a whole treasure trove of golden age comics to fall back on.

If you're thinking of buying DC Showcase compilations, compare prices first! They tend to be much cheaper at Powerbooks than at Fully Booked. Fully Booked, though, tends to have more titles in stock.


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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

There Was A Crooked Man

There was a crooked man,
And he walked a crooked mile.

He found a crooked sixpence,
Beside a crooked stile;

He bought a crooked cat,
Which caught a crooked mouse,

And they all lived together,
In a little crooked house.


Owing to my little accident, I am slightly off kilter at the waist. That got me to thinking about an old nursery rhyme, "There Was A Crooked Man." I had forgotten the words, but thanks to Google, I found the poem again.

Like many nursery rhymes, this one originates from English history.

According to rhymes.org.uk:
The origin of this poem originates from the English Stuart history of King Charles 1. The crooked man is reputed to be the Scottish General Sir Alexander Leslie. The General signed a Covenant securing religious and political freedom for Scotland. The 'crooked stile' referred to in "There was a crooked man" being the border between England and Scotland. 'They all lived together in a little crooked house' refers to the fact that the English and Scots had at last come to an agreement.


Who was Leslie? According to the Wikipedia:
Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven (c. 1580 - April 4, 1661), was a Scottish soldier, in Swedish service from 1605 until 1638, where he rose to the rank of Field Marshal. Alexander was the son of captain George Leslie and "a wench in Rannoch", and was a member of the family of Leslie of Balquhain.


The incident in question, the unification of English and Scots, came from one of Leslie's campaigns:

Leven eventually accepted command of the forces raised for the invasion of England, and was in consequence accused of having broken his personal oath to Charles. He rose instead to become a commander of the Scottish army from 1644 to 1646 and fought for the Solemn League and Covenant which bound both the Scottish and English parliaments together against the Royalist forces in the Three Stuart Kingdoms.


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Monday, December 11, 2006

Twenty Years Later

It took a phone call last month to remind me that I've been twenty years out of high school. Has it been that long? Apparently, it has.

The reunion is what brought me to Davao so early in December. Twisted back notwithstanding, I managed to grimace my way through the night.

I approached the reunion with some trepidation. Twenty years is a long time. People grow apart, even once-close friends. Moreso with me, as I've been away from Davao for most of my post-high school life.

Surprisingly, I still recognized everyone and remembered their names. Twenty years brings many changes. People grow fatter. The men lose their hair. The women's hips get bigger. And you just generally feel old.

But twenty years also gives you sufficient distance to view things in perspective. I was amazed and pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

It takes twenty years to establish a life. Not just to get started, I mean. Getting started is easy. Establishing a life is much more difficult.

Establishing a life means finding out what it is you want to do. It means setting down roots. It's setting up a business or a practice. It means finding a partner, and possibly, kids. Uncertainties dispelled, you can look to the future with some confidence.

Twenty years later, youthful irresponsibility becomes mature respectability. The class clowns have become lawyers, managers, and fathers. The class ditzes have become doctors, businesswomen, and mothers.

It's amazing what twenty years can do.







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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Inside Dominique

What does Dominique look like on the inside? At last, the secrets are finally revealed! For the first time ever, uncensored pictures which you, loyal blog reader, are privileged to view!

Ah he he.

Really, what's the point of having a back injury if you can't show off the MRI scans afterward? I asked if I could take the pictures with me, and they kindly acceded.

It turns out the files they provided were in the DICOM format. It stands for Digital Imaging and Communications in Medicine. It's not any of the regular image files, but it is a standard, after all. A viewer for Linux is available.

More MRI scans below.








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Friday, December 08, 2006

Back To The Land Of The Living

Hello.

To those of you who were wondering: yes, I am still alive. Thank you for caring. I am sorry if I didn't get any word out.

The last five days have been spent in a hospital room, bare walls, disinfectant, and all.

Nothing life threatening, thank goodness. On the first day, it felt like it almost was.

The most depressing thought back then: that I might not get to ride a bicycle ever again.

Last Monday I suffered an annular tear. At first I thought it was simply a pulled muscle. Then the pain got worse and worse. I spent most of the morning on my back.

It got so bad that I could hardly get out of bed. I had to roll on the side and roll down on my stomach. Ordinary painkillers wouldn't work.

Finally, at 11:00PM, my Mom and my sister decided to call for an ambulance. Within five minutes of the call, our neighborhood was lit up in flashing blue lights. Three people carried me out on a stretcher.

Really, there's much to be said for Davao's "911" service. It's fast and professional. And it's free, too.

After a dose of muscle relaxant, the pain started to subside. Progressively I could move again, with less pain.

I had a lumbar X-ray and my very first MRI scan. Prognosis was good. The doctors initially thought it was a slipped disc. Worst case scenario: surgery. Luckily, the scans showed I could get by with physical therapy.

Another finding: I'm scoliotic. No one really noticed till now.

Nothing to do but lie down, watch TV, and read comics. Everything else hurt.

So here I am, four days later, very much mellowed out by the experience.

Best news: I can still ride a bike when I get better. Hallelujah!