Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Apocalypto

"No one can outrun their destiny."

So says the tagline of Mel Gibson's excellent action film Apocalypto. I can't help but shake my head and agree. How true, how true. Apocalypto was my inescapable destiny. This is how it happened.

I was on the fast ferry from Cebu to Bohol. Customarily, they show videos to entertain the passengers. This time was no exception. And what should they show on screen but Apocalypto? I demurred from the film, wanting to watch it properly on the big screen. Instead I opted to read. But somewhere near the middle of the film, during the bloody Mayan sacrifice, I couldn't keep my eyes away anymore. It was just too compelling.

And then the boat arrived. Movie cut short. Well, thank goodness, eh? It didn't spoil the ending for me.

Three days later, I was back in Cebu. There was a computer trade show in SM. A small crowd had gathered around a large LCD screen. What do you think they were showing?

Apocalypto.

Again, I was drawn into the action. And I joined that merry band of kibitzers as the hero Jaguar Paw finally made his last stand against his pursuers. Though I was weighed down by my backpack, I stood there till the end of the film, which cut just as the Spanish explorers were arriving.

Guiltily, I thought that Mel Gibson, multimillionaire though he is, shouldn't have to lose my share of the ticket sale. I resolved to watch the movie in full. Lo and behold, as I reached Dumaguete, what should be showing but Apocalypto?

Alas, I couldn't find the time to go to the theater in my short stay in Dumaguete. Some other time, Mel, I said.

And on Sunday I boarded a bus from Santander to Cebu City. And what should be showing again?

Apocalypto.

No matter how honest I was trying to be, there it was: my inescapable destiny. So I sat as close as I could to the TV on that three hour bus trip. I took in the sights of the jungle of ancient Yucatan, I joined in the laughter of the tribe as they went about their idyllic lives, and I fought with them as their more powerful enemies attacked their village. And I marched them as they were led up that high temple altar to be sacrificed to Kulkulan. And I ran and dove with Jaguar Paw as he escaped from his captors, ultimately to turn upon them with vengeance.

After all, no one can escape their destiny.

(And by the way, now that I'm back in Davao, Apocalypto is showing here, too. Sigh. Fate.)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Windows Vista price list


How much does the new Microsoft Windows Vista cost in Philippine peso terms? I found this price list at the Ayala Center (Cebu) branch of Electroworld a couple of days ago.

The price list:
Windows Vista Business.............................Php19,710.00
Windows Vista Home Basic...........................Php13,360.00
Windows Vista Home Premium.........................Php15,830.00
Windows Vista Ultimate.............................Php26,430.00
Office Standard 2007...............................Php26,990.00
Office Pro 2006....................................Php33,730.00
Office Home & Student 2007.........................Php 9,960.00


The most basic combination alone easily costs as much as typical computer hardware! At a time when we're talking about bridging the digital divide with $100 laptops, this just strikes me as obscene.

Granted they're not OEM prices, which are half the costs listed above...why is it so high? Would I be paying double OEM prices just for the privilege of being able to transfer the license to another computer. @%$#%@!

So how much does the new Microsoft Windows Vista cost?

Too much.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mactan International Airport hotspots

Like, duh, I was so excited to try out my 3G GPRS connection I forgot to check if the Mactan International Airport actually had active hotspots. And it turns out there are. Not one, not two, not three, but six.

Not all of them are free, mind you, but there are at least two which are.

There are about four hotspots owned by Globequest and Airborne Access, possibly via the overpriced coffee shops operating in the area. But a quick scan via iwlist scanning (sorry, Windows folks, this is Linux only), revealed two other ESSIDs: SMARTBRO and a generic LINKSYS.

And man, is the Internet access fast. Too bad I'm just about to board now.

So, lesson of the day: check for free WiFi before going GPRS.

Oh, boo hoo, P20 in GPRS charges down the drain.

Mobile blogging and other things

So here I am at the Mactan International Airport, waiting for my flight back to Davao. I'm writing this post on my Thinkpad R50e from my cellphone's GPRS connection. Now ain't that cool?

It's a bit of a novelty to me as I've only recently got it running. Major roadblock: getting my USB Bluetooth dongle from Dumaguete because I was too cheap to get another one. A minor challenge actually getting it working with my Nokia 6233, but thanks to some expert help from Zak I finally got the computer and the phone talking.

I'll get into the nitty gritty details of getting a GPRS connection running with Ubuntu later on at my other blog, Ubuntu Living. Suffice to say for now that it's working like a charm, and pretty speedy, too, when I'm on a 3G connection.

Incidentally, Ubuntu Living has been picking up on traffic the past few days. From a daily average of 15 visits per day, I'm all set to hit 90 today. Not bad, considering the blog is less than a month old and that I haven't been promoting it at all.

On the social scene, I had a blogger's eyeball with Jute of thetwit.blogspot.com yesterday at Ayala Center. Jute and I have known each other via our online personas for two years now. Surprisingly, it wasn't through blogging that we met but through the Elfwood fantasy art gallery.

With not much else to do this morning, I played tourist, taking shots of the Cebu Cathedral and the Basilica de Sto. Nino. I'll post those on my Flickr account later. Then I met my friend Karl over at the PhilNITS office. Then I whiled away the rest of the time at SM.

It'll be good to get back home.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

University Town

This week unexpectedly brought me back to Dumaguete, and although the visit will be all too brief, I couldn't have come at a more fortuitous time.

It seems that the city and its people are abuzz with uncharacteristic zest and energy. At first glance, it looks merely as if it's the onset of an early summer with activities rising to a fever pitch before the scheduled long vacation. But closer examination reveals that, no, it's more than that.

I must confess: my head is positively spinning. In one part of the city is the 2nd International Rondalla Festival, which has brought in 450 delegates, both from the Philippines and from the rest of the world. In another, there is the East Asian Forum of Nursing Scholars. And in another: a series of lectures and films to mark Silliman's College of Mass Communications' anniversary. And in another: Foundation University's annual Digital Dumaguete Expo. And yet in another: a dual athletic meet between Silliman and UP.

Is the city, perhaps, trying to make up for all the past few months of cultural lethargy in just one week?

Seriously: this week distills to its essence what makes Dumaguete great. Dumaguete is a university town, we like to say, and now we're getting a concentrated dose of what it means to be one. A university town, after all, is not about beaches and boulevards (although these are nice things, too): it's about the intellectual, cultural, and competitive activities happening within a cozy and intimate setting of a small community.

And this, too, is what makes Dumaguete unique. Because no other city in the Philippines can quite offer the same activities with the same small-town ambience that Dumaguete can.

But then, what happens after this week? Hopefully this spike of activities is not an isolated event but a spark that can set in motion many others like it. Not all activities need to be of this magnitude and panache, but a steady momentum of gatherings like this goes a long, long way in establishing Dumaguete's unique and differentiated identity to the world.



Friday, February 23, 2007

Conqueror of the Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills
And here I am, over at the Chocolate Hills in Carmen.

The last time I was here was over five years ago. Things haven't really changed much since then.

Panglao Sunrise

Panglao Sunrise
Hullo, everybody, sorry for being away so long. Can you guess where I've been?

On the invitation of an old friend, I hied off to Bohol and stayed for a day in Panglao Island. The waters were too rough for proper snorkelling, but the sunrise was something to see.

How did that line go again?

Oh, right: "Having a ball, wish you were here."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Facebox and Intrusive Social Networking

Do I really need to be part of another social network? My friends seem to think so, judging by the occasional invites coming into my mailbox. The latest invader: Facebox.

While I'm perfectly happy to let invites of this sort sit and rot in my mailbox, this time I did get suckered into clicking the link. What the heck? I said. I decided to continue with the registration.

When I got to Step 3, I was annoyed to no end.



Hello? You want to access my addressbook? So you can spam all my other friends? Uh, thanks but no thanks.

This is not just social networking anymore, it's intrusive social networking. In the guise of making it "easier" for you to import your addressbook, Facebox wants to send invites to all of your friends, too.

And that's just plain annoying.

At this point, I don't know exactly what sort of networking site Facebox is. I have an inkling, though. When you start talking about "clans" (groups, in Facebox-speak), I can already tell that it's not a network that I want to send an invite to my business contacts to.

To make matters worse, the interface is designed so that an unsuspecting user has no choice but to make that email link. Look at the layout. There's nothing there that explicitly says, "Skip this step." Instead, way out on the side in fine print is the not-so-obvious offer to add your friends manually. It actually took me several seconds to decide that this was the "skip" link that I wanted.

Facebox, you are e-eevil!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Oink!


Happy Chinese New Year!

If you need a second chance with your New Year's resolutions, now's the time to make them stick.

Cartoon pig made with Inkscape.

If I were an Evil Overlord....

Today I stumbled upon the Evil Overlord List. It's a list of all the cliche errors, mostly fatal, that evil overlords and supervillains commit in the course of their misdeeds.

There are actually several versions, each numbering about a hundred or so. It's a whole bag of laughs as you'll recognize everyone from Thulsa Doom to Ernst Blofeld.

Here's the first ten from eviloverlord.com

  1. My Legions of Terror will have helmets with clear plexiglass visors, not face-concealing ones.
  2. My ventilation ducts will be too small to crawl through.
  3. My noble half-brother whose throne I usurped will be killed, not kept anonymously imprisoned in a forgotten cell of my dungeon.
  4. Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  5. The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
  6. I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.
  7. When I've captured my adversary and he says, "Look, before you kill me, will you at least tell me what this is all about?" I'll say, "No." and shoot him. No, on second thought I'll shoot him then say "No."
  8. After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
  9. I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.
  10. I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.


Another list (developed in parallel) is at Globalguardians.com.

Friday, February 16, 2007

An industrial arts education

In the course of my stay in Davao, I've picked up several new skills which have very little to do with computers. Thus far, I've learned t-shirt printing, silicon molding, polyresin casting, and fiberglass manufacture. I consider this my remedial classes in the industrial arts, something I was so poor at back in grade school.

What's the use? you might ask. What's it good for?

T-shirt printing everyone knows about so I won't go into more detail. But silicon and fiberglass deserve a bit more explanation.

Silicon molding and polyresin casting is used to reproduce figurines at a small scale. It's amazingly accurate. Given a sculpted model, you first make a mold of it from silicon rubber. It's messy and slightly smelly work as you're working with a glue-like substance.

After the silicon mold hardens, you can start casting replicas in polyresin. Polyresin is a lightweight plastic-like substance. It starts out as gooey treacle, but with the addition of a hardening agent, it solidifies to its final hard plastic form. Thus, you can produce replicas of the same dimensions and almost the same level of detail as the original.

The process is great for reproducing three-dimensional artwork such as figurines, statuettes, picture frames, and decorative items.

For larger and more heavy-duty components, there's fiberglass manufacture. Fiberglass follows the same principles and uses almost the same materials as silicon molding. The difference is in the fiberglass reinforcement, which makes for a very sturdy and very flexible end product.

Fiberglass molds and casts can be made of large objects such as tables, chairs, roof sheets, and even boat hulls. Fiberglass can also be made into sheet boards which can be cut, drilled, bent, and shaped. It will neither rust nor rot. It's a superior replacement for both wood and steel.

It didn't take long for me to learn the basic techniques for these methods. Each class took two days. Practice, though, is another matter.

Davao is fortunate to have the Pangkabuhayan Center, a small private training outfit that teaches these industrial arts -- along with built around cooking, catering, events management, laundry shop management, reflexology, and several other ideas with strong business potential. Rates are quite affordable, and they also provide continuing business advice for their students.

I couldn't help but think how much Dumaguete would benefit from something like this. The resulting variety of products would be simply tremendous, if only to bring us out of the decrepit clay industry. Think of the possibilities for souvenir items. Think of the possibilities for boatbuilding. Think of the possibilities for a new design for tricycles.

Maybe it's something for the combined DTI and DOST to look at.

(As for me, I only went into it to make toys.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Atonement, Voldemort, and Chesterton

My blog pal Willy has an interesting conjecture on my Harry Potter post:

How about Voldemort atoning for all his sins in the end? Can this be possible under the circumstances?


To which I'd say: that would probably be an ending no one expected, but not altogether unsatisfying. It all depends on how Rowling would pull it off.

And that reminds me of one of the entries in a contest held some while back by the Guardian, Dumbledore's death in the style of GK Chesterton, written by Zander Nyrond.

Here's the entry:

The study of Albus Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was at the best of times a crowded room. It was even more crowded at the moment, being enriched by the presence of Cornelius Fudge, the Minister for Magic, Kingsley Shacklebolt of the Aurors and a dumpy little man in a long black robe and shovel hat.

Strangely enough, though, the man with most right to be there was absent; and the man who should have been triumphantly in charge of the situation was handcuffed and glowering in the grasp of the Auror.

"But how did you know, Father Brown?" cried Mr Shacklebolt.

The little priest blinked. "Oh, well, you know," he said shyly, "there was the medal. Why on earth would this Voldemort go out of his way to melt Professor Dumbledore's Order of Merlin? What was it to him? Merely a bauble. But to Fudge, don't you see, it was a symbol of his hatred of Dumbledore. He hated him," said Father Brown earnestly, "for the unforgivable sin of being right.

"But I knew before that, of course," he went on. "I had a long talk with this man you call Voldemort last night, when I found him up to some devilry in my churchyard. He's a wretched soul, of course - this magic of yours does so twist things out of their true form and purpose - but I fancy I found some good in him."

He got up, cast about helplessly for his umbrella, found it under the table and went to the door. There he turned, and the twinkling lights of the room were reflected in his little round spectacles like the stars of heaven.

"Your wizarding world could really do with some priests," he said, smiling. "It really could, you know."

Video: Users will be users

This funny video came hot on the heels of RTS' funny comment on my previous blog entry.

Ah, users will be users. And geeks will be geeks.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Funny: Moving from Linux to Windows

A funny post that I got via Dave Asuncion's blog, originally from a comment at Oreilly.net blog. Cross-posted in my other blog.

A little tongue-in-cheek, but so true!

I do have some sympathy for the poster that had problems moving from Windows to Linux. I had the same problem trying Windows.

I decided to try it after some friends who use it all the time told me it was great.

I went to the MS site to download it but it wasn't available. I got really frustrated as I couldn't work out how to download it. In the end I had to ask a friend who told me I had to buy it.

I got in my car, drove to PC World and asked one of the sales guys for a copy of Windows. He asked me which one, I said I want the most complete one please and he said that's £149.99 please.....I said a rude word then I drove home empty handed.

One of my friends gave me a copy of Windows XP but said I had to be very quiet about it. I thought that was odd because I always burn copies of Ubuntu for anyone that asks me and tell them to pass it on to anyone interested when they've finished. Anyway, I popped it in my CD tray and waited for it to boot into the 'live' CD desktop. It didn't work. It just kept asking me if I wanted to install it. I got on the phone to one of my friends in case I was doing something stupid but he told me, XP cannot run a 'live' desktop from the CD.

I thought I would try installing it. I followed the prompts but got nervous when it didn't ask me about other operating systems. When I installed Ubuntu it recognized I had Windows on my machine and asked me if I wanted to create then install Ubuntu on another partition. Back on the phone my friend told me that Windows will overwrite any other OS it finds when it installs.

I backed up all my stuff then took the plunge and installed it. The install was pretty straightforward apart from when I had to enter some letters for a serial code. I had to call my friend again but he got quite flustered came over and entered it himself. He told me to keep quiet again??

After I powered it up I had a look around.

I was shocked when it let me changed system configurations without asking for root access. My friend was getting a bit p**sed off when I called him again but came over. He told me that root access was given as default. I immediately made another account as a user and used that. I started getting confused when I tried to make changes but it didn't ask for access but he told me I had to log out as user then log back in as administrator. I started to understand why so many people run as root all the time and it made me shiver.

Enough of the playing. I had some work to do. I went to start > programs so I could open a spreadsheet I needed to complete but couldn't find any spreadsheet software. My friend told me Windows didn't come with any and I would have to download some. Oh I thought, a barebones distro. I went to add/remove programs in the control panel, (just like Ubuntu) but it didn't have any programs to add. It would only let me remove programs. I couldn't find the button to add applications. My friend told me I had to go and find the applications myself. After much googling I figured it out, downloaded and installed Open Office.

To be honest I had a torrid time with Windows. I didn't understand a lot of the terminology...why do they have an A drive, then a C drive, where is the B drive? I thought the distro is way too barebones, it ships with no real productive applications and it is very confusing to find any. My friend told me I needed anti-virus and anti-adware software but Windows didn't come with any.

I think it is difficult, confusing and too much hard work for me. It might be OK if you are a techie like my friend but I'll stick to Ubuntu. Thanks.

On who will kill Harry Potter

On the BBC web site today: UK is accused of failing children, in which it goes on to say:

"We are turning out a generation of young people who are unhappy, unhealthy, engaging in risky behaviour, who have poor relationships with their family and their peers, who have low expectations and don't feel safe."


And, of course, my first thoughts turned to the young orphan living in the broom closet in that nasty little house in Privet Drive. Seriously.

Harry Potter fits the picture -- my picture, at any rate -- of the miserable, maltreated, and unloved UK youth. His parents were murdered when he was a baby, he was turned in to unsympathetic relatives, and is finally drummed up to school against his wishes. "Dog-eat-dog society," the BBC calls it. Well, everyone knows the story.

Train of thought shifting tracks again. The rumors are pretty strong that Harry Potter will die in the final installment of the book, The Deathly Hallows, due out on July 21 this year. We all know Harry Potter will face Voldemort in the obligatory final battle, but it just occurred to me, it won't be Voldemort who will kill Harry Potter.

It will be: J.K. Rowling.

Harry Potter has effectively breached the fourth wall (or is it the other way around?), if not in the past two books, then certainly in the events leading up to the final installment.

When you have fans and even Stephen King begging J.K. Rowling not to kill Harry Potter.... ah, there! You see? "...Begging J.K. Rowling not to kill Harry Potter..."

So if Harry Potter dies, will it be because the story demands it? Or will it be because J.K. Rowling's whim? In the vein of Cervantes killing off Quixote, to add that note of finality: from here on there will be no more Harry Potter stories?

In the case of Harry Potter, the persona of the author is too tied in to the hero of the story. If Harry Potter dies, it will have been J.K. Rowling who will have pulled the trigger (or zapped the wand.) Not Voldemort.

Anyway, back to the BBC report:

The authors say they used the most up-to-date information available to assess "whether children feel loved, cherished, special and supported, within the family and community, and whether the family and community are being supported in this task by public policy and resources".


Where does that put Filipino kids?

Space.com: Milky Way Fortified with Calcium

"Milky Way Fortified with Calcium."

This clever headline got a laugh out of me this morning. No, it's not the Milky Way candy bar, it's the Milky Way galaxy. And it was found to have 50 percent more of the element Calcium than previously thought.

So what's the impact of such a finding? Time to revisit some cosmological models. From the site:

“If certain types of supernovae indeed produce more calcium, then this means that there must be more calcium in the universe compared to the predictions from the supernova models, then this is not only true for clusters, but also for our solar system and everything that lives in it, because we are mostly made of the same supernova products.”

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

BBC: Filipinos released in Niger Delta

Some good news, finally: 24 Filipino seamen abducted in the Niger Delta have been released. These men were simply caught in the crossfire of a burgeoning civil war in the region.

With all the election brouhaha back home, it's highly unlikely this story will hit the front pages. So here it is.

From BBC:

Nigerian kidnappers who seized 24 Filipinos from the country's oil-rich Delta region have freed all the men, government officials have said.

The group of seamen were kidnapped from their vessel, owned by a German shipping firm, on 20 January.

The men were released without a ransom being paid following the intervention of local elders, reports said.

Armed gangs regularly target foreign workers in the Niger Delta region, and currently hold at least seven hostages.

"All 24 hostages are on board our vessel, Baco-Liner 2, and they're on their way to Warri now," a spokesman for German shipping firm Baco-Liner told Reuters.


Hmmm, I wonder if some local politico will step forward and grab credit for their release?


Ink Media computer

Not quite MIT's OLPC, but it almost looks like it. This is the sub-$300 laptop from Ink-Media, a Canadian company.

The OLPC inspiration is quite obvious. From their website:

The INK computer has no moving parts and contains no hard disk to overheat or wear out. It has excellent performance and a mid-level class CPU, capable of operating virtually any form of media (flash or video) and it is fully internet capable. The technology operates with USB devices and connects seamlessly to servers and networks.


Specs:

Freescale i.MX31 Processor
Supports 1024 X 768 True Color Video Output
(RGB and LCD) Plus mpeg 2 hardware decoder
5 USB 2.0 ports on an NEC upd7210101 usb 2.0 host controller, 2 SD slots
256 MB Ram
512 MB NAND Flash, containing a 1.4 GB file system (compressed)
128 MB Flash stick / mp3 player (external)
1 - Stereo minipin audio out, stereo minipin line in, stereo minipin mic in
1 - RGB out (monitor out, not TV out)
10/100 Ethernet jack, USB Wi-Fi
110-220 Volt input power supply
5-8 Hours of battery life
8.9" Diagonal widescreen format display (16:9)
Supporting 1024 X 600 True Color


You probably won't find it accompanying the overpriced frappucino-sipping crowd, but if it makes its way into the hands of kids, then it'll have done its job.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Will Write for Chocolate

Got this via drawn.ca:


Ouch! Direct hit!

Will Write for Chocolate is a weekly webcomic by Debbie Ridpath Ohi.

From the site:
The strip focuses on the life of Eliza Street, an up-and-coming freelance writer.

The strip will address issues familiar to most freelance writers, including the struggle of finding markets for your writing, the challenges of working at home, e-books and e-publishing, self-publishing options, networking with editors and other writers, rejection slips, procrastination, and other topics within the craft and business of freelance writing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Blogshirt, version 0.9

Decided that today was Craft Sunday, and finally put my new-found silkscreening skills to good use. Rolled out my silkscreen frames, photoemulsion fluid, fabric paint, and squeegee.

Ta-daaa! Blogshirt, version 0.9!

Since this is my first-ever solo silkscreen project, I had to struggle with several things. First, getting the right amount of photoemulsion coating on the screen. My first attempt turned out to be too thick. Fortunately, I figured out how to get it just right.

Next difficulty: getting the right exposure time, which is a challenge if you don't have an exposure table. My first try, I overexposed the film by nine minutes and fifty seconds. That's right. It should have just been ten seconds or so under the midday sun.

Subsequent attempt was also overexposed, though not by too much.

The third attempt finally yielded this:
It was a very wet experience getting to this point. Contrary to what you might think, silkscreen is not a fragile medium. I worked in the bathroom, shower nozzle full blast at the screen to wash away the portions that needed to be exposed.

Not perfect, as you can see, there are still some embarrassing holes. I can fix those with some tape or nail polish. But I'm proud of the first attempt.

Next project: blog shirts for sale!

Top 25 Sci-Fi shows

The top 25 sci-fi shows, according to TV.com. There's a great concentration of the more recent programs, considering the nature of the site itself, but several oldies like Twilight Zone still made the cut.

Not all of them are technically science fiction (at least not in my book), and sadly, many of them got cancelled after only a short run. Still, it may be worthwhile tracking down an episode or two when there's nothing good on local TV.

1. Supernatural
2. Battlestar Galactica (2003)
3. Charmed
4. Stargate SG-1
5. Stargate Atlantis
6. Special Unit 2
7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
8. The X-Files
9. The 4400
10. Kyle XY
11. Star Trek: Voyager
12. Doctor Who (2005)
13. The Lost Room
14. Eureka
15. Firefly
16. Invasion
17. Torchwood
18. Surface
19. Threshold
20. Star Trek: Enterprise
21. Star Trek
22. Jake 2.0
23. Star Trek: The Next Generation
24. Blade
25. The Twilight Zone

Top 25 SciFi shows

The top 25 sci-fi shows, according to TV.com. There's a great concentration of the more recent programs, considering the nature of the site itself, but several oldies like Twilight Zone still made the cut.

1. Supernatural
2. Battlestar Galactica (2003)
3. Charmed
4. Stargate SG-1
5. Stargate Atlantis


6. Special Unit 2
7. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
8. The X-Files
9. The 4400
10. Kyle XY
11. Star Trek: Voyager
12. Doctor Who (2005)
13. The Lost Room
14. Eureka
15. Firefly
16. Invasion
17. Torchwood
18. Surface
19. Threshold
20. Star Trek: Enterprise
21. Star Trek
22. Jake 2.0
23. Star Trek: The Next Generation
24. Blade
25. The Twilight Zone

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Mr. Sulu on "Heroes"

George Takei, a.k.a., Mr. Sulu of Star Trek fame, makes a guest apperance in episodes 13 and 14 of Heroes. I just had to take this screenshot of the closing scenes of episode 14. Note the license plate on the car.

That said, I felt the appearance was wasted. Takei plays Hiro's father, but it left me wondering how it advanced the Hiro and Ando storyline. Was it simply done to play to the Trekkie fanbase that intersects with "Heroes?"

If they actually do something with it in future plotlines, I will have been proven wrong. But so far, it only manages to introduce one additional facet of Hiro, and not a very interesting one at that.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Not Worthy

Ran the front page of last week's Metro Post: "Dads nix proposal to ban cellphone use in banks." With it, a photo of the city council in session, one of the city's leading businessmen making a point, councillors listening in all their gravitas. Caption: "Businessman Edward Du and Engr. Greg Uymatiao explain...the position of the business sector [on] the use of cellphones inside banks."

Hmmm, maybe it was a slow news week for Dumaguete?

Flipped over to the op-ed section, and there it was again. Granting that such a story can make its way to the front page in the absence of other worthy news, but the subject of both the editorial and the editorial cartoon? It must have been a very serious debate indeed.

To which I must ask: has the city leadership gone mad?

Surely there are other more important and more pressing matters demanding of cogitation, discussion, and action. Things like city planning, waste management, fire prevention, environmental protection, traffic discipline, telecommunications, and the stability and cost of electricity. Things like investment promotion, business process outsourcing, quality of education, and streamlining of business registration processes.

Or how about community health services, prevention of violence against women and children, and curbing the rise of mendicancy and vagrancy? Or how about improving the public facilities, such as the city library, the fire department, the seaport terminal, and the airport? Or how about increasing the number of policemen, setting up patrol boxes in strategic locations, and improving criminal intelligence?

Or how about a master plan for the city that expands development beyond the established commercial center? Or how about adequate housing for the hundreds of tourists and students coming into the city? Or how about a scheme for cooperation and communication for a unified Metro Dumaguete? Or how about incentives for a better service industry? Or how about unified tourism promotion?

Once you've run through the gamut of practical issues of consequence, you can talk about art and literature and music for the edification of the human spirit. Or you can ruminate on economics and chemistry and biology and the environmental sciences for the betterment of the human condition. Or you can discuss mathematics and astronomy and physics to gain a better understanding of the universe. Or you can debate philosophy and ethics and religion and sexuality to better understand the human soul.

But...regulating cellphone use in banks?

Surely any other topic under the sun can generate a much worthier and more memorable spark of inspiration than this piece of jurisprudence: "The right of an individual to carry a cellphone must prevail over the right of the local government to regulate the same."

If nothing else, this little episode sheds much light on the state of city leadership (and by this, I do not mean only the elected officials):

Sucks. Majorly.

Globe complaints

Over in Naga, Willy Priles, Jr. filed his complaint against Globe Telecommunications at his local National Telecommunications Office. The reason: prepaid load shaving. Not an easy thing to do because, for all its claims of modernity, the NTC has very poor processes for handling issues like this.

Will blogging make a difference, Willy asks. Well, perhaps if enough bloggers complain, it might. So take this as my contribution into the fray.

A Manila Times story reported that only 30 complaints were filed to NTC last year.

...Danilo O. Cuenca, head of the NTC’s One-Stop Public Assistance Center (OSPAC) and the Domestic and International Carrier Services Division, said in an interview that only 30 complaints have been filed with the NTC as of end 2006.

“The complaints are mostly filed through telephone and e-mail,” he said.

Cuenca said that text spam, vanishing load and cell-phone theft are the most common complaints.

Marry Ann Solis, a secretary working in Makati, said filing a complaint is no joke. “It’s hard to file a complaint because you have to go to the office of your operator or NTC and do so much paperwork,” she explained.


Telco companies can get away with stuff like this because to the ordinary consumer, it's just a few pesos lost. It's not really worth the trouble filing a complaint for. Or is it? But multiply this by several million subscribers, and what do you get?

More importantly, how much do the telco companies get?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Blogger Eyeball: Davao City

Well, it's finally happened: my first get-together with other Davao City-based bloggers. I thought I'd have to wait till March 17 -- a very long wait -- as that was the original plan. I suppose the other guys didn't want to wait too long, either.

Wyzemoro kindly informed me of the eyeball early this morning. It was happening at the 51 Coffee Shop in Victoria Plaza. Blogie called it with the intent of planning for the bigger March 17 bash. Was I interested? Of course I was!

As always, it's gratifying to finally place a face to a blog address. (How long ago was it when the in thing was IRC nicks?) And it was also a pleasant surprise to realize that an old friend was also a blogger.

Blogroll tonight:

Jim Haw, a.k.a., Dr. "Haws"
Raine
Ria
Chris
Hoop
Andrew
Jun
Blogie

Not a whole lot of planning actually got done, but at least there's some vague idea of what's happening on the Big Bash on March 17. Or maybe it won't be March 17. Whatever. The point is: we had fun.

Yes, there are pictures, but silly me, I forgot to bring my card reader with me. Tomorrow.

In the meantime, placeholder picture is fromThinkquest.org

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Excerpts from Tribute to Mom Edith

The February 4-10, 2007 issue of the Metro Post carried a special section on Dr. Edith "Mom" Tiempo. I am posting scans of the articles here.

Surprising fact: Mom Edith was a movie actress. "At 18, she was a featured actress in such films as Nasaan Ka Irog, Ang Gagamba, Pugad ng Agila, and Hatol ng Mataas na Langit, for what was then Parlatone Pictures."

Then again, not so surprising considering Mom Edith's old-world charm.



Thanks to Ian for sending his original layout of the tribute spread. Caution: this file weighs in at over 500kB.

Astronaut in 'love kidnap plot'

Now that sounds like an awful headline from a cheesy tabloid but it's not. It's actually from the BBC. And the follow-up reads: Astronaut in Murder Plot Charge.

To make it even more bizarre, the astronaut in question is a woman! (Yes, it's sexist but I labor under certain archaic misconceptions.)

The juicy bits from BBC:

Navy Capt Lisa Nowak, 43, who flew to the international space station last July, was charged with attempted kidnapping, battery and other crimes.

She drove from Texas to Florida to confront Colleen Shipman, disguised in a wig and trench coat. (Presumably it was Capt Nowak and not Ms. Shipman who was disguised.)

Police said Capt Nowak drove 1,000 miles (1,600km) from her home in Houston to Orlando International Airport, wearing a nappy to avoid a toilet break.

The arrest affidavit says Capt Nowak then followed Ms Shipman in an airport bus.

Capt Nowak pursued Ms Shipman to her vehicle in the car park.

Ms Shipman locked herself in but rolled down the window when Capt Nowak began to cry, the affidavit says. Ms Shipman was then attacked with the pepper spray, it says. An officer followed Capt Nowak and she was stopped allegedly carrying the wig, an air rifle, a steel mallet and a knife.


While Nowak was initially charged with kidnapping and attempted battery, the charge was later upgraded to attempted murder.

Bizarre, man.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Eyeball with Wyzemoro

Today I finally met the famous Jun Macarambon, a.k.a., Wyzemoro. We corresponded a bit a couple of years back. Then I learned last year that he had moved to Davao for his studies. I promised to meet up with him but I got waylaid by the hectic events of the past month.

I got reminded of my promise after visiting the DavaoeƱos blog and seeing Jun's name mentioned there.

We met at Street Cafe, a cozy and posh little coffee shop behind Ateneo. It was the most distinguishable landmark. First time there, too, so it was a good thing.

And finally, Jun himself. As always, it's good to be able to place a face to the blog nick.

I gave him one of my few remaining Tux t-shirts. We talked about SEO, Wordpress, the blogging scene in Davao, and a host of other things that bloggers talk about. Not exactly a Blog Parteeh! but I prefer quiet meetings anyway. We couldn't talk too long, though, as he had classes and I had errands to run.

It looks like there'll be a bigger eyeball of techs in Davao over the coming weeks.

There you go: blogging bringing people together.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lost Patrol

A right fascinating story courtesy of Slashdot: DNA testing to see if the legend of a lost Roman legion that settled in China is true.

As the story goes, in 53 BC, a Roman legion based in what is now Iran lost its commanding officer. They worked as mercenaries, travelling eastward, until they were captured by the Chinese some 17 years later. They eventually settled in China in what is now the village of Liqian. To this day, their descendants have distinctly European features.

Whether it's true is up to the DNA test to prove or disprove. But as a story, it's pure gold.

From the Sydney Morning Herald story:

The town's link with Rome was first suggested by a professor of Chinese history at Oxford in the 1950s. Homer Dubs pulled together stories from the official histories, which said Liqian was founded by soldiers captured in a war between the Chinese and the Huns in 36BC, and the legend of the missing army of Marcus Crassus, a Roman general.

In 53BC Crassus was defeated by the Parthians, an empire occupying what is now Iran, putting an end to Rome's eastward expansion.

But stories persisted that 145 Romans were taken captive and wandered the region for years. Professor Dubs theorised that they made their way eastwards as a mercenary troop, which was how a troop "with a fish-scale formation" came to be captured by the Chinese 17 years later.

He said the "fish-scale formation" was a reference to the Roman "tortoise", a phalanx protected by shields on all sides and from above.


Certainly great material for a movie or a mini-series.

My very own space program

I already have my very own military industrial complex,, so what's next? A space program, of course!

From the catalogs, I knew that 4D Master had a model of the space shuttle piggybacking on a modified Boeing 747. But all my visits to Toy Kingdom yielded nothing. Until last Wednesday.

You cannot believe the tears of joy that I shed.

Well, okay, I didn't really cry. I was smiling ear-to-ear, but no tears, really. I was going to buy a Harrier jump jet, but I had to get this combo before it disappeared.

The scale is significantly less than the military jets but the level of detail is still excellent. The kit gives you the option to have the wheels on both the shuttle and the Boeing 747 up or down. The cargo doors on the shuttle also open and close. Just too bad there's no arm, though.

As always, I'm very happy with the way the parts fit. Very good workmanship.

Now I can recreate the opening scene from Moonraker.



Sunday, February 04, 2007

Ubuntu Living

If it looks like I haven't been blogging daily as I resolved I would, it's not that I'm welshing from my own commitment. I've actually been occupied on another blog, put together over the course of the weekend.

Presenting, ubuntuliving.blogspot.com.



Why the new blog? I've been working with Ubuntu for the past three years and I just realized I have quite a number of things to share about it. If nothing else, at least it'll be a record of how I'm using Ubuntu so I have something to jog my memory when I forget how I did something.

Ubuntu Living is also another exercise in template design. I'm still no great shakes when it comes to layout art, but I think I'm slowly getting better. It helped the design process a lot that I just borrowed the Ubuntu colors.

Ubuntu Living's template is simpler than the template I'm using for this blog. I didn't use as many color and font variables as I realized I didn't actually need that much flexibility. But I've also experimented with fiddling with the widgets themselves. A real eye-test, that.

Something new I discovered: Javascript code to simulate Wordpress's sociable plug-in.

It was a bit of a blitz putting together Ubuntu Living. Over the weekend, while waiting to run some errands or driving my Mom and my aunt out, I've written 13 blog posts relating to Ubuntu. In between, I've also been tweaking the template. Still, the whole process just had me engrossed. I also thought I needed to put in some critical mass of content while I was still consumed with zeal.

My target for this site is around a hundred Ubuntu-related tips. Hmmm, looks like my nights will be busy on the computer.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

One Year Later

Tragedies happen as they will. It's what follows that bears examination: Collectively, we lament and rage and accuse. Authorities snarl and threaten action. Then follow a spate of denials and disclaimers. Lawyer by lawyer, the resolve starts to unravel. Prone to compromise as we are, we decide it was nobody's fault, after all. And having lost its flavor, we spit out the gristle, and move on to the next juicy morsel.

In the end, it's all just an exercise in forgetting.

Remember this, then: A year ago, 74 people, mostly elderly women, were crushed and killed, trodden underfoot. It happened, so they said, in a matter of seconds. A crowd of 30,000, camped out for days outside a stadium and already at wits' end, surged forward in a mad scramble. For what? Tickets to a noontime game show.

What followed hewed to the pattern that we already know too well. Lament. Rage. Accuse. Snarl. Probe. Deny. Disclaim. Forget. Not one of the game show hosts and TV network officials cited for criminal negligence has yet seen the inside of a jail cell. And in the supreme display of bad taste and lack of remorse, the game show continues its boom-tara-tara beat.

A year ago, I wrote that the tragedy was indicative of a deeper malaise within the fabric of Philippine society. A year later, I still hold to that view. On the surface, we could explain it to desperation borne out of poverty; and while indeed that might be, it's far too simple and too glib and too romantic.

We are not one nation. We are fractured, and so we have been since birth. On one side are the masters who promise paternalistic benevolence; and on the other are the slaves who depend on good fortune and largesse. Odious? Yes, but it all goes down so easily in the festive atmosphere of song and dance and a boom-tara-tara beat.

A year later, the pattern still holds true. The victims and surviving family members got a dole, a pat on the head, and some words of sympathy. Justice? Well, that's a master thing. For all the rest, there's nothing but the comfort of forgetfulness.

Boom-tara-tara!