Friday, March 28, 2008

Angel Oak

I've become a StumbleUpon addict of late, and this is one of those beautiful gems that really make the clicking worthwhile.

By the way, Angel Oak is the tree's proper name. It is not an angel oak; it is Angel Oak. On Wikipedia:

The Angel Oak is a Southern live oak tree located in Angel Oak Park, in Charleston, South Carolina on Johns Island, one of South Carolina's Sea Islands. It is estimated to be over 1500 years old, standing 20 m (65 feet) tall, 2.47 m in diameter, and the crown covers an area of 1,580 m² (17,000 square feet). Its longest limb is 27 m (89 feet) in length. The tree and surrounding park have been owned by the city of Charleston since 1991.

The Angel Oak is thought to be one of the oldest living things east of the Mississippi River. Acorns from the Angel Oak have grown to produce authentic direct-offspring trees. Live oaks generally grow out and not up, but the Angel Oak has had plenty of time to do both, standing 65 ft high and with a canopy providing 17,000 square feet of shade. Its limbs, the size of tree trunks themselves, are so large and heavy that some of them rest on the ground (some even drop underground for a few feet and then come back up), a feature common to only the very oldest lived oaks.

Free Adobe Photoshop Express

Got this Slashdot this morning: free Adobe Photoshop Express.

Now, I'm an avowed GIMP user so there's no reason for Photoshop to excite me; but Adobe Photoshop Express on the web should be plenty cool to a lot of people, hence the post.

To clarify: it's not a freely downloadable copy. Rather, it's a web application that's like Flickr or Picasa on steroids. Like other online photo galleries, you can upload photos and organize them into albums. Unlike other photo galleries, you can:

  • Crop and Rotate
  • Autocorrect
  • Change exposure and saturation
  • Remove red eye
  • Touchup
  • Tune white balance
  • Tune highlights
  • Fill lights
  • Sharpen or soften

You can also apply other effects.

Pretty neat. Now, if only it worked with PSD files...

Davao City Blackout

The lights went out at around 6:30PM, just as I was finishing up a blog post on my computer at the store. Totally unexpected as power in Davao has been fairly reliable. I hollered for the girls to close the store. Outside, only the passing cars and jeepneys shed light on the city streets.

It's funny how we find new uses for ordinary things at times like these. Stuck without a flashlight, I groped on my table for my cellphones (I'm carrying two on some days, no surprise there). I punched the keys, and voila, light. Not terribly bright but enough to move through the murk carefully without tripping over. Luckily, we had some candles handy.

On the street, I squinted for an Obrero-bound jeepney: I didn't realize how hard it was to see the signs without the streetlights. The City Triangle building that I stood by had a generator humming but was stingy with its light.

The ride from CM Recto to Juan Luna was utterly black; the blackness extended well into Obrero. I stumbled on home and had dinner by candlelight, resigned to an evening without power.

The lights came back around 7:30PM.

Strange: no mention about this in the papers this morning.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The New World Order

Confronted with the uncomfortable and unprecedented reality of oil breaching the $100-per barrel mark, the average Filipino's thoughts will no doubt revolve with concern around higher tricycle fares and more expensive foodstuffs from the public market. These are legitimate worries and such a reaction is one bred over countless decades of impotence to global market forces.

And yet: oil at $100 (and possibly even $200 or $300) has far-reaching significance that goes beyond our usual parochial home economics. It represents a milestone in the changing world order, a warning post of upheavals waiting to jump us around the corner. Consider, for a moment, what it truly means and ponder the future in store for the Filipino.

Why has oil surpassed the century mark? Because, more than ever, it's a scarce resource. It's not scarce in the way that it was in the 1970s when everyone thought it would eventually run out; it's scarce because of higher demand from rapidly industrializing countries like China and India. Growth means more construction and more cars, all of which require more oil.

Oil prices are determined by oil supply, the main output of which the OPEC oil cartel controls. OPEC could reduce world prices by producing more oil, but as a policy they aim for price stability. The approach is not altogether unreasonable: with global demand far outstripping supply, the increased output may not necessarily bring down the prices; only a reduction in the demand side will produce that effect.

Another reason for high oil prices is the weak US dollar. Oil has traditionally been pegged to the greenback. A lower exchange rate for the price of a resource whose demand remains the same or continues to grow simply means that the corresponding price shoots up.

Why has the almighty dollar fallen so low? For a number of reasons, but two in particular stand out: the recent subprime financial crisis, when many depositors defaulted on their loans; and the War on Terror, now five years running with no end in sight, a heavy drain on lives and on the national coffers.

In the meantime, let's not forget that the War on Terror is merely a politically acceptable euphemism for the American war against Islamic fundamentalism. These two ideologies, diametrically opposed, have no hope of reconciliation; and yet ironically, many of the OPEC countries are also Islamic states.

Assuming that no nuclear weapons explode in the process (one fervently hopes), America and Islamic fundamentalism will be locked in mortal combat for many more years to come. Islamic fundamentalists have proven resilient; and the United States, for all its recent troubles, still holds military superiority. Even if America pulls out of Iraq, the conflict will merely shift elsewhere.

So we have the America, the global superpower and the vanguard of Western Civilization, in decline, its energies preoccupied with fighting a shadowy enemy; and vying to take its place, slowly expanding their influence first within their own spheres but surely with larger spoils in mind, China and India.

The reasons are not purely economic; in fact, the underlying drivers are cultural. Therefore, they are more primal and more powerful. China and India both have long and proud histories. Both feel that their destinies have been thwarted by western colonial imperialism. Both have largely succeeded in the benchmarks set within the western framework. Both feel that it is now time to take their place in the sun.

Look at the world we live in now. We Filipinos may think that we're competing with China and India for outsourcing jobs but the reality is muc more painful and dire than we realize. More than half of the world's goods are made in China and just about as much in information systems are built by Indians. China is hosting the Olympics in August this year, and more than a sporting event, it also doubles as the country's coming-out party. As I write this, CNN reports that Tata, India's largest conglomerate, has for $2.3-B just bought out Jaguar and Land Rover, two prominent British carmakers. Do you see the historic irony?

Further to our East, we also have the resurgence of Russian nationalism, starting to flex its muscles under Vladimir Putin.

So this is the new world order as it looks for the foreseeable future: America and Western Europe, Arab/Islam, China, India, and though we don't feel it yet, Russia. It is different from the previous world order dominated by democracy and communism.

What role will Filipinos play in this new world order? More importantly, will this new world order have room for us?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Classmate PC aka Neo Explore X1

Passing through my next door Electroworld outlet today, I caught sight of their ad for the Neo Explore X1. Of course, I just had to see it for myself.

The Neo Explore X1 is known as the Classmate PC elsewhere. It's an ultraportable subnotebook, much like the EeePC that I purchased a couple of months ago. At P17,000, it's P2,000 cheaper than the EeePC. It has a 30GB hard drive, and runs on Windows XP Starter Edition. Looks like the local market for ultraportables just started heating up.

Here are the specs for the X1:

* CPU : Intel Celeron Mobile Processor 900 Mhz
* Chipset : Intel GMS915
* OS : Windows XP - Starter Edition
* Memory : 512 MB
* Storage : 30 GB HDD
* LCD : 7″ - 800 x 480 color LCD
* Audio : Built-in-2-channel audio, speaker, and microphone
* Network : 10/100M Ethernet + 802.11 b/g Wifi
* USB : 2 x USB 2.0
* Battery : 6-cells Lithium ion, 3-4 hours usage time
* Dimension : 245 x 196 x 44mm
* Weight : < 1.45 kg

The specs also mention an onboard SD/MMC card reader but on the unit I inspected, it was notably absent.

Both the Windows XP Starter Edition and the 30GB hard disk should probably entice a larger segment of the population to go with the X1. Not that I count those as advantages, though: the Windows XP bit is understandable as I am an avowed Linux user (and honestly, I had difficulty navigating through its GUI now: too many popup warnings about antivirus programs and such.) However, even the onboard hard disk is a turnoff for me as it's a more common point of failure. I've had notebook hard disks fail on me after a year or two, so no thanks. Some folks might think differently, but hey, different strokes and all.

As a matter of comparison with the EeePC, the Explore X1 does not have an onboard webcam (present in the EeePC 4G), an SD/MMC card reader (mentioned earlier), is slightly heavier and definitely much bulkier.

However, the real disadvantages of the Explore X1 are in its overall design and its dysfunctional keyboard.

With its size, shape, and colors, the Explore X1 looks like a kid's toy: the rounded edges are right out of Fisher Price, and the colors seem to have been copied from V-Tech make-believe laptops. The horror, the horror! And as if that weren't enough, Neo accented the toy look even further by wrapping it in its very own handbag-like carrying case. Check the picture: the blue cover, as far as I can tell, is glued on to the Explore X1's case. Sure, the specs may look nicer, but no way would I want to be caught in a cafe working on an X1.

The keyboard design is just as retarded. Expand the first picture in this post and you'll note that it doesn't have a Shift key on the right side of the keyboard. That means that touch typists are really out of luck.

Update: Forgot to mention two other things that turned me off: the extremely long bootup time and the horrendous screen resolution. Booting the X1 takes about a minute (I wonder if Windows XP has anything to do with it?) Neo also didn't take care to modify Windows XP's screen resolution: the icons and text look really, really tiny on the 7" screen, unlike on the EeePC's Linux-based OS which made the screen readable.

Again, you may be attracted by the hard disk and the preloaded Windows XP: but give the Explore X1 a spin before you decide to buy.

Ultimately, though, what may swing things in favor of Neo is the cheaper price and more ready availability: EeePCs are just about impossible to get now in Davao City.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The wet nurse

Easter Sunday brought an unexpected surprise: our golden retriever gave birth to her first litter.

I wish I could say the experience was pleasant, but it wasn't. She delivered the pups a full week before the target date, and so we were psychologically unprepared. The puppies came at long intervals so we had to watch over her for several hours. Possibly the only good thing was that it was a Sunday and we were all at home.

The most infuriating part of this episode was our golden retriever herself. We have several mongrels and they've all given birth without much fuss or incident. But our golden retriever's motherly instincts seemed to be all askew. Instead of nursing her pups, she would lay all of them in front of her, or drag them around with her mouth. We just could not get her to stay put. Worse, her teats did not seem to expand as we expected them to, and her long hair got in the way of her pups' hungry mouths.

It was a good thing that our Japanese spitz had also delivered her umpteenth litter just a little over a week ago. We eventually transferred the golden retriever pups over to her to nurse.

Unfortunately for a couple of pups, the transfer came too late. The last pup to come out was stillborn, and so there wasn't much we could do about it. An otherwise healthy pup died yesterday morning after our golden retriever accidentally injured her while moving her around. This morning, a third one died, possibly from the cold.

So now we are left with three.

Our spitz accepted the new pups after a bit of orientation. She's nursing them now, alongside her two own offspring. The near-simultaneous pregnancies and deliveries was pure serendipity. I don't quite know what we would have done if the spitz was not there to take over our frisky and irresponsible golden retriever.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Davao FAT 2008: Eden Nature Park

Backblogging the Davao FAT 2008 visits. All my pictures were in my office computer so I didn't have a chance to post over the long holiday. Here they are!

Eden Nature Park has become, in recent years, one of the main tourist attractions of Davao City. It's a sprawling mountain resort and convention center that is now a favorite destination for wedding receptions and vacationeers. I had been to Eden once before, but it was a treat to have it included in the itinerary for the Davao Food Appreciation Tour 2008.

A day tour of Eden Nature Park costs P420 (P280 for children). With this package, you get a buffet lunch and access to the basic facilities. Other attractions, e.g., the guided tour, the swimming pool, and horseback riding cost extra. You have to make reservations to enter the park beforehand by calling their booking office at 299-1020.

Now, as far as buffets go, Eden's offering doesn't really offer anything spectacular. The meal is hefty so you're assured of having your fill. In our case, it was grilled fish, barbecued chicken, rice, and noodles; however, it wasn't anything special as it seemed to be standard fare for any native restaurant. The dessert of cassava pudding was marginally better, but again, nothing really to write home about.

On the other hand, where Eden excels is in their fruits and salads. Eden grows its own produce, all of it organically in their sprawling garden area (with a few experimental hydroponic nurseries.) In the guided tour, you can actually smell the fragrant scent of herbs permeating the air.

So it's no surprise that their vegetable salads come with the freshest ingredients. The lettuce was fresh, crunchy, leafy, and full; the tomatoes were red, juicy, and tasty. Even an avowed PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) member like me had to go for seconds on their salad bar. Just a friendly tip: you can skip the buffet and load up on the salads instead.

Of course, the real attraction in Eden Nature Park is the resort itself. Plenty of opportunities for pictures and more pictures!
Gwing with her ubiquitous flowery umbrella.

Buksan mo ang bintana....

I do believe I already know what to wish for....

An alternative career for aspiring engineer Winston 'Batang Yagit' Almendras

One of the free-roaming fowl of Eden

Migs flies high

Tiara is scared, but smiling nonetheless.... It's a three-story tower she's looking down from.

Gwing in-flight. Her scream can be heard from a kilometer away.

Gwing just after her ride

Blogie coming in to land.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Destabilizer

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division." --Jesus Christ (Luke 12:51)

A few days into the second round of the ZTE-NBN scandal, the recurring mantra from deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo was "version of the truth." Which was a silly thing to say, of course: logically speaking, there is only one truth (and that is precisely why it is the truth). The fault, if any, lies in the one who perceives it and it relays it.

Fajardo's "version of the truth" is merely an echo of a sentiment raised much, much earlier. Over two thousand years ago, Pontius Pilate, uncomfortable when confronted with the innocence of Jesus Christ, shrugged it off with the question: "What is truth?"

Because of its distance the situation becomes a blur and so the reasons may escape us: the proximate cause of Jesus' crucifixion was an act of expedience and political survival. Jesus did not come to overthrow the established political order; His ideas were much more radical than that. Nevertheless, His purpose was badly misunderstood, even by His disciples. As such, His presence was a great discomfort to the powers-that-were.

Jesus was a threat to the Scribes and the Pharisees because His fulminatory sermons exposed their hypocrisy.

Jesus was a threat to the businessmen of the day, the moneychangers at their profitable tables by the temple, whom he drove out of the temple.

Jesus was a threat to the Romans, the political and military power within Israel, because they were wary of any demagogues who might incite the restive Jews to open rebellion.

Ultimately, Jesus was executed through the temporary alliance of two enemies, the Romans and the Jews.

Jesus is, in modern Philippine political parlance, a "destabilizer."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

In Gethsemane

Today being Holy Thursday, the churches are full for the traditional Visita Iglesia. Right after the Commemoration of the Institution of the Holy Eucharist in the late afternoon, the Host is escorted to the Altar of Repose, usually a small altar on the side of the church that's bedecked with flowers and lights. A vigil through midnight follows, remembering the suffering of Jesus Christ in the garden of Gethsemane.

Tonight I did my own little vigil at our parish. Not too long, only for about fifteen minutes. There's a Filipino tradition whereby the devout visit seven churches on Holy Thursday evening (and a superstition whereby a "wish" will be granted if one does so); but I think that keeping it to only one enhances the solemnity.

Kneeling in front of the altar, what first came to mind in prayer were the thousand and one concerns of life: career, romance, family, future plans. It's pure instinct how we start of with prayers of petition. But then I caught myself: surely, on a night like this there are more worthy subjects to meditate upon.

And so my thoughts turn to Christ in the garden. It's just after the Passover meal and He's led his apostles to Gethsemane for a night of prayer. For the apostles, there is the inexplicable air of despondency and gloom; but of course, He knows. Tonight is the night when one of His own will betray Him.

In Gethsemane, He carries the weight of the world on His shoulders. This is the burden and the choice: to see the divine plan through, or to give in to the terror of His human impulses and escape. To escape! To live!

On that night, did He see each and everyone of us in His vision? As God, He would not deal in mere generalities, some nebulous idea of humanity in need of salvation; as God, the conception would be perfect and complete, down to the minutest fiber of each individual being. After all, it is we who hung in the balance.

Following Catholic theology, if the Holy Eucharist that I see in the Altar of Repose is the real presence of Jesus Christ, then it stands to reason that it is the same Jesus Christ who kneels in agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Using speculative fictional terms, the Holy Eucharist is the physical manifestation of a fixed point that exists throughout eternity.

And so, yes, I would like to think that I am part of that vision in the garden of Gethsemane on that night: insignificant, imperfect, and sinful me, part of the billion billion souls that are hanging in the balance, whose outcome depends on that decision. "Father, if you will, let this cup pass from me...."

With that, I realize that it's a little ashamed to be bringing the thousand and one usual trivialities on a night like this.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My personality type

INTP - "Architect". Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 3.3% of total population.
Free Jung Personality Test (similar to Myers-Briggs/MBTI)

Not that I give much credence to personality tests (is that INTP thing to say?), but here's the Jung Type as derived by a test I took (see link above.)

Further description:
loner, more interested in intellectual pursuits than relationships or family, wrestles with the meaninglessness of existence, likes esoteric things, disorganized, messy, likes science fiction, can be lonely, observer, private, can't describe feelings easily, detached, likes solitude, not revealing, unemotional, rule breaker, avoidant, familiar with the darkside, skeptical, acts without consulting others, does not think they are weird but others do, socially uncomfortable, abrupt, fantasy prone, does not like happy people, appreciates strangeness, frequently loses things, acts without planning, guarded, not punctual, more likely to support marijuana legalization, not prone to compromise, hard to persuade, relies on mind more than on others, calm

And from Wikipedia:
INTP types are quiet, thoughtful, analytical individuals who don't mind spending long periods of time on their own, working through problems and forming solutions. They are very curious about systems and how things work, and are frequently found in careers such as science, architecture and law. INTPs tend to be less at ease in social situations and the caring professions, although they enjoy the company of those who share their interests. They also tend to be impatient with the bureaucracy, rigid hierarchies, and politics prevalent in many professions, preferring to work informally with others as equals.

Sounds about right, though.

Davao FAT 2008 Memories

There are still a couple more posts to write about the Davao Food Appreciation Tour 2008, and there are several remaining pictures to put up. But before I get lost in all those details, I think I should mention the following hosts and friends (some old, some new) in gratitude for a well-spent weekend:

To Blogie, for conceptualizing the tour.

To Ria, for organizing the event. And a very well-organized event it was, conducted with military precision. If you need a wedding organized, I'll voice for Ria.

To our various hosts:

  • Mike and Melvin Aviles of Lachi's Sans Rival;
  • Karyn Flores of Davao Marco Polo Hotel;
  • Chito Ayala of Eden Nature Park; and
  • Byran Bajado of Bryan's Grill and Cafe

To blog buddies, old and new:

To all other hosts whose hospitality I was not able to partake of:
  • TAPS
  • Kasagingan
  • Sugar Munch
  • Food Processors Association of Davao

Thanks one and all.

I'll be back.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Sense of Renewal

"Don't let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail. Shine forth with the light of your faith and of your love." -- St. Josemaria Escriva

Easter coincides with spring, and along with that, the sense of renewal that follows a long and bleak winter. It's the time when new buds break from the earth, when trees start to sport leaves, when birds return to make their nests. The fact may not be readily apparent to us who live in a tropical country that splits the seasons between wet and dry; but the matter of renewal deserves some consideration.

What happens, after all, when we move into the spiritual springtime of the Easter season? Do we come out of the Lenten experience refreshed and renewed, with new resolutions and new zest for life? Or is it back once more to the daily grind with our old sins and our old grudges. Once more desultory and depressed, the days melt into the weeks and the months on the eternal Sisyphean quest to, well, make a living.

Surely there must be a better way.

Ask your neighbor what he wants out of life. Or better yet, at your most honest moment, ask it of yourself: what do you want out of life? If your neighbor, or you, are like so many others, you will no doubt replay, in your tiny voice, the standard modest Filipino answer: "To earn a living for myself, so I can support my family and help my fellow man."

Now that's not such a bad answer, as far as life goals go. But neither is it a great one. Surely you -- we -- can do better.

It's an answer that bespeaks mediocrity. Behind it is a false contentment that accepts, with a forced smile, the leftover scraps from bigger ambitions and dreams. This is the national malaise, what Nick Joaquin calls our heritage of smallness, ingrained in us since childhood: "Be happy with what you have. Be content. Don't seek to rise beyond your station, else people will laugh at you when you fail."

Surely there must be a better way.

Instead of the myopic vision for a simple subsistence, why don't we shoot for something that sparks the soul? When asked what they want out of life, why don't more Filipinos say: "To write a great novel" or "To compose a musical masterpiece" or "To discover a new planet" or "To cure cancer?"

We may pride ourselves on our surrender to Fate, but that, apparently, is a lie. We are too much of realists to dream of something beyond what is already there. And we then go on wondering why our neighbors are so much better off than we are. Well, here it is: because our dreams are not big enough.

Bigger dreams and grander ambitions won't excuse us from the daily grind; if nothing else, they ought to make us work harder and more passionately. But having a dream, or not, makes the difference whether you approach work and life with joyful enthusiasm or with mere grudging resignation.

May the Easter season find you renewed. And may all your dreams -- your real and joyful dreams -- come true.

Davao FAT 2008: Marco Polo Hotel's Polo Bistro

Several stops on the second day of the Davao Food Appreciation Trip: TAPS, the Food Processors Association of Davao, and Kasagingan, none of which I was able to join owing to the last day of my film appreciation class at Ateneo. All except for dinner at Marco Polo Hotel's Polo Bistro.

What's that, you say? Marco Polo Hotel? As in THE Marco Polo Hotel? Well, yes and yes. THE Marco Polo Hotel, the swankiest hotel in Davao City. Sosi, di ba?

I'll admit: even this was a surprise to me. As it turns out, Karyn, the public relations manager of the hotel, had read of our past Davao Food Trips and extended the invitation to the Mindanao Bloggers to try out their wares. Who are we to refuse?

And I must say, it was an impressive spread indeed. Dinner was at the Polo Bistro, at the fourth floor of the hotel, near the pool area. Our long table, jazzed up in the fanciest cloths and centerpieces, overlooked Marco Polo's Olympic-sized swimming pool. T'was a sight, too, what with special lighting that bestowed a deep blue to the water.

The evening was made all the more memorable with the special attention of Karyn and Chef Alex. Chef Alex preceded each dish with a brief explanation of the concept and ingredients.

Appetizers started with seared tuna with cucumber and crabstick relish. It was a complementary combination, the seared tuna being mildly spicy hot and the cucumber relish being sweetly cool.

Then came the three cheese French onion soup. The cheeses were: mozzarella, parmesan, and ementhal. The onion soup was fragrant and tangy, quite rich and flavorful. It was a treat to dig into the melted cheese toppings.

The soup was followed by another serving of salad of mixed fruits and greens. According to Chef Alex, this was to reset our tastebuds for the main course that was to follow.

The main course was prawn thermidor, a small pasty filled with prawns in mushroom sauce. The pastry crust was lightly baked and buttery. The prawns were uniform in size and perfectly cooked. The sauce was smooth and creamy, not too overwhelming in taste. I ate mine with rice, and nibbled a bit on the pastry covering when that was all done.

As if we weren't full enough, at last came the dessert, coconut and mango cream brûlée. The brûlée was extra special as it won the Golden Award in the Mindanao Culinary Contest. And well-deserved, too, as the brulée was light yet tasty.

After that, they also served durian creme brulée. I would have wanted to dig in, but there just. wasn't. room. anymore.

Worthy of mention, too, was the orange-and-spinach juice that I ordered. The taste of freshly squeezed orange juice, juice bits included, really came through. And you know...I yam what I yam and that's all that I yam. Koi! koi! koi! koi!

Does all this come at a price? Undoubtedly. I purposely did not look at the menu because, otherwise, I would have to live with feelings of guilt for the next couple of days. But then again, if you're out to impress some guests or that special someone, and I mean REALLY impress, then you can't go wrong with Marco Polo.

Side note: I've had the dinner buffet at Marco Polo and I can tell you it was well worth it. It costs P600 per person, but if you go with someone who has the Marco Polo card (tip: look for friends who just had their wedding reception or even a couple of nights' stay there) you can get 50% off.

Queenfish: A Cold War Tale

While the Cold War wasn't exactly the best of years to live in, one thing I do miss about it were the high-tech military exploits. To be sure, they were merely shadowboxing, but it was giant vs. giant, not giant vs. pygmies, and oh! it was a thrilling sight.

On the other hand, now that we're out of the Cold War era, some of the stories we might not have ever heard of are starting to come out. One such story is that of the Queenfish, a nuclear submarine sent to explore the Arctic as a theater of operations for possible war.

In great secrecy, moving as quietly as possible below treacherous ice, the Queenfish, under the command of Captain Alfred S. McLaren, mapped thousands of miles of previously uncharted seabed in search of safe submarine routes. It often had to maneuver between shallow bottoms and ice keels extending down from the surface more than 100 feet, threatening the sub and the crew of 117 men with ruin.

The main mission was to map the seabed and collect oceanographic data in anticipation of the Arctic’s becoming a major theater of military operations. The sub did so by finding and following depth contours, for instance, by locating the areas of the Arctic Basin where the seabed was 600 feet below the surface. A result was a navigation chart that bore the kind of squiggly lines found on topographic maps.

After Dr. McLaren’s mission, the Arctic became a theater of military operations in which the Soviets tried to hide their missile-carrying subs under the fringes of the ice pack while American attack subs tried relentlessly to track them. The goal was to destroy the Soviet subs if the cold war turned hot, doing so quickly enough to keep them from launching their missiles and nuclear warheads at the United States.

From the New York Times.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Davao FAT 2008: Lachi's

First stop for the Davao Food Appreciation Trip 2008 was Lachi's Sans Rival Atbp., a small shop that's well-known in Davao for its cakes and desserts.

I had been to Lachi's once before, and that was to buy sans rival (a cake made of wafers, nuts, butter, butter, and more butter) to give as a gift. I didn't know it to offer lunch and dinner as well. That's what I found out on Friday night on my second visit.

Really, there was just one problem: I arrived very late; in fact, I was the last one to arrive, everyone else having finished dinner and just about to start with the desserts. I was late because I still had to close the store, and took my sweet time refreshing myself at home. After all, I thought they would just be serving sweets. How wrong I was!

Luckily for me, they saved me a plate of fish fillet, fried golden brown in breadcrumbs, and a siding of tartar sauce. The presentation was rather plain, but I was so hungry (and embarrassed) I quickly dug in. And what do you know? It was, as fish fillets go, pretty good: lightly fried and not too oily (I'm sure it would have been better hot but that was all my fault), the essence of fish still intact and not overwhelmed by extenders and breadcrumbs.

Well, there was another problem: a portion of the fish fillet had been daintily carved out; not a huge chunk, really, but noticeable. But since the culprit was so pretty, I mostly let it pass. Nothing like a little guilt trip to start off conversation.

Look at all the dishes I missed! Waaaugh!

And then...they rolled out the cakes. From then on, it was a dessert fiesta. The cakes came as a blur and I confess I didn't write down their names any more. But trust me, they were all good. My favorites were the mudpie and the Oreo cheesecake. Delicious!

As a restaurant, Lachi's comes across a little plain, and whether that's good or bad depends on how you view it. It's definitely clean and homey, and if you go for a quiet no-frills dining experience, Lachi's is the place. Some folks go for ambience, and on that department Lachi's lacks a bit. Look at it this way: it's not a place you'd take a first date to, but once you know the other person fairly well, it's a shop that's not to be missed. The food is certainly worth it; and, as my friends assure me, Lachi's has a steady stream of customers throughout the day, and that's testament enough.

Rounding out the evening's experience was the warm hospitality of the proprietors, twin brothers Mike and Melvin Aviles.

Lachi's is at Door 1-H VAL Learning Village, Ruby Street, Marfori Heights. If you somehow get lost, ask for the old AMA building; people will know where it is. You can also call them at 082 224-5552.

Lachi's also supplies other restaurants in Davao City with its cakes and pastries.

Photos by Andrew.

Why is Blogger so slow?

I don't know if other Blogger users also feel it, but on Firefox 2, the web interface has just become so slow.

There's a half second delay from between the time I press a key on they keyboard and the time the letter appears on screen. Worse, the delay is cumulative. so by the time I get to the end of this sentence, a grand total of 15 seconds would already have passed by before it appears on screen. It's intolerable!

A quick check of the page information shows that the web interface is no more than 6.4 kilobytes, so size alone should not be the issue. It shouldn't really be acting this way as the interaction is local, with no data as being sent to the server.

However, a close examination of the code reveals that the web interface loads 12 external Javascript programs. Many of these programs are small, but a few are whoppers! There's a Rich Text Editor Javascript that weighs in at 66 kilobytes, for example.

Why Blogger is so slow is because it loads in too many functions are variables. And for what? Possibly for features that I don't really need!

The situation is marginally better in the Epiphany web browser, but even there, there are indications of delayed response.

It's for this reason that I've started using Scribefire to post to Blogger.

I just wish the folks at Blogger would fix this problem, though. A compromise solution might be to offer a lightweight client with fewer features and a full client with Rich Text editors and spell checking and what have you. Let the user choose!

Are you experiencing this problem, too?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Davao Food Appreciation Tour 2008

Before I get started, perhaps some explanation is in order. FAT is not what I've become because of all the Davao Food Trips that we've been going on. FAT is the Food Appreciation Tour that my blog buddies have organized to celebrate the Araw ng Dabaw. As a result of this, we may all get fat, but that's beside the point. One is an acronym, the other is an adjective.

Seriously, though: the Food Appreciation Tour promises to be a bonanza of culinary delights. It runs for three days, starting Friday, March 14, through Sunday, March 16. There's a number of stops, from the best-kept Davao secrets (we hope no longer so secret after we blog about them) to the swanky tourist spots. Sadly, I won't be able to join all the scheduled trips because of work and family obligations on Saturday. As for the rest, though? I'm ready and rarin'.

From the Davao Food Trip blog:

The restaurants we will be visiting are Lachis, Kasagingan, Bryan’s Grill & Café (formerly La Piscine), Taps, Eden Nature Park, and Polo Bistro at the Marco Polo Hotel. Our friends at Sugar Munch and the Food Processors Association of Davao will also be giving us some of their products to enjoy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Dom and Jerry

Pictures of my nephew and me.

He's a cute little monster. Bald, but cute.

Lenten Political March

As I stepped out of a bank, what should I find but a long line of around 500 marchers solemnly trudging the length of CM Recto. It was an odd combination, the placards that they held and the lead multicab truck intoning: "Dili sayon mosunod ni Kristo...."

What to do? Join the crowd, of course.

In keeping with the Lenten season, the marchers have turned this walk into a Way of the Cross, with stations situated along the length of CM Recto. Sacrilegious? I don't think so. The Way of the Cross has always been about identification with the pain and suffering of the Christ and these people, mostly from the urban poor and native tribes, have more to say about that then folks like me.

Summer is here!

First, the bad news: I think I flunked my finals in Literary Theory. Reason being: I thought the exam would cover everything from the beginning of the course, and so I read up on the Russian Formalists, the Marxists, the Structuralists, and the Post-Structuralists...except Reader Response.

And what do you know? The exam centered solely on Reader Response.

Curse you, Salazar!

But then, the good news: summer is here...finally!

That's one of the things I miss about being a student. Life is so structured that there are definite markers in your calendar. Summer, sweet sweet summer, starts immediately after you put down your pen on that last exam. And then you run out of the room screaming for joy, final exam be darned.

Er, no, I didn't quite run out of the room.

I wanted to, though.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Davao Food Trip: Honeybear

I'm happy to say that the latest Davao Food Trip was an affair of my arrangement: Emmylou Yap, proprietor and master cook of Honeybear Restaurant, is a long-time family friend; when I broached the idea of hosting bloggers to sample her menu, she readily agreed...and how!

We set the food trip on Saturday evening. There were seven of us: Blogie, Andrew, Ria, Gwing, Migs, Winston, and myself. I had been to Honeybear a couple of times before, and so had Blogie; but the rest were new to the place.

It was quite a spread that Emmylou prepared for us. For starters, we had the Honeybear cheese sticks and their fish and chips. What followed was her famous Honeybear Fried Chicken centerpiece, surrounded by her equally delicious beef stroganoff, kare-kare, bulalo steak, and honeycoated spare ribs. To cap it all off, we had their chocolate fudge sundae and Emmylou's magnum opus, Yo! a la mode.

The Honeybear Fried Chicken was, unsurprisingly, the big hit of the night. It's a whole chicken, a crispy golden brown on the outside, yet tender, succulent, and fragrant on the inside. All without the oily texture one comes to expect in the typical fried chicken. Migs was raving about it the whole night to the point where he asked Emmylou what the secret was. With a mysterious smile Emmylou told us that it would continue to be a secret.

Secret sauces seems to be what Honeybear is all about. The cheese stick appetizer was enhanced by the chili dip, as were the fish and chips with its tangy lemon sauce. The beef stroganoff had a generous helping of gravy, all laboriously made from scratch instead of from instant gravy mixes you find off the usual grocery shelf. The honey coated spare ribs, too, had an appetizing glaze of special barbecue sauce; and believe me, it tastes as good as it looks.

The evening's surprise was the Yo! a la mode, a thick, rich serving of chocolate fudge topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate swirl. The fudge is so full and creamy that your friends will have to peel you off the ceiling: it's that good. Emmylou tells us that it's one of the bestsellers at Honeybear.

As to the place itself, Honeybear is a classy spacious restaurant that can easily double as a coffee shop. The tables are small but modular so they can fit either an intimate date or a larger gathering. Honeybear also has a meeting area that can be partitioned off from the main dining space for privacy; the meeting area can easily accommodate fifty people. Honeybear is also available for larger functions. Oh, and lest I forget to mention: free WiFi.

Honeybear is conveniently located across Central Bank and The Venue. It boasts of ample parking space. If Venue gets too loud for your tastes, the Honeybear can be a welcome oasis.

All photos in this post courtesy of Andrew.