Friday, October 31, 2008

Ubuntu 8.10 released

Don't really like the new wallpaper; I thought Hardy's was the best of the lot, so far.

If anyone wants a CD, buzz me.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Car bomb at the University of Navarre


This is just horrible: a little over an hour ago, a car bomb exploded at the University of Navarre.

It's bad enough that it's an educational institution under assault; but I'm also concerned because the University of Navarre, an Opus Dei undertaking, is home to an international student body, including Filipinos.

News excerpt from Reuters:

A car bomb exploded in a car park near the University of Navarre in the northern Spanish city of Pamplona Thursday, slightly injuring several people, officials said.

No telephone warning was received before the bomb exploded at about 11 a.m. local time (6 a.m. EDT), smashing windows in a university building and damaging nearby cars, officials and witnesses said.


Some blog posts:

Atentado contra la Universidad de Navarra
Atentado contra Navarra
Atentado de la ETA contra la Universidad de Navarra
Explosion rocks University of Navarra

As of last report, 17 people were injured. Please pray for them.

Words, words, words


Keeping your short stories on disk is efficient and all, but it's not until you actually print them that you can grasp some measure of what you've written. Like what I did this lazy Thursday morning.

Now this is a bit of a surprise. I've actually written this much in short stories over the past three years! All in all, this is 200 pages spanning 12 short stories. Some published, some not. All of dubious non-award-winning quality, but you already knew that. Still...

Here's another view of the printout, emphasizing thickness, mouse beside it for comparison.

Vanity aside, what's the point of this whole exercise? The president of our writing group challenged us to produce publishable manuscripts. I hemmed and hawed at the idea, balking at the page count requirement which was -- you guessed it -- 200 pages.

And then I decide to actually pull all my stuff together.

He's going to be sorry he asked.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Richard Dawkins vs Harry Potter

(Photo borrowed from TotallyLooksLike.com)
After taking on organized religion, Richard Dawkins now has his eyes on his next target: Harry Potter.

Apparently, this is a full-time job as Dawkins has even relinquished his chair at Oxford to pursue the young boy wizard.

Just what upsets Dawkins so much about Potter? "I don't know what to think about magic and fairy tales." Prof Dawkins said he wanted to look at the effects of "bringing children up to believe in spells and wizards".

Me? I think Dawkins is about to go off the deep end.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Plug: Book Launch of "Belonging"


"Belonging", an anthology of essays published by Anvil, will have a book launch on October 29, 2008 at Greenbelt 4, Makati. Jhoanna Lyn Cruz's prize-winning essay, "Sapay Koma", appears in this collection. Retail price: P495. (I only wish the cover were a little better.)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Petition against the Reproductive Health Bill (HB5043)

Statement from an online petition opposing the Reproductive Health Bill. As of this posting, there are 3,502 signatures on this petition. Found this via the Facebook group.

We strongly oppose the passage of the Reproductive Health Bill (HB5043) for the following reasons:

1. AS EMPLOYERS, we do not want to be compelled to provide free reproductive health care services, supplies, devices and surgical procedures (including vasectomy and ligation) to our employees, and be subjected to both imprisonment and/or a fine, for every time that we fail to comply. (Section 17 states that employers shall provide for free delivery of reproductive health care services, supplies and devices to all workers more particularly women workers. (Definition of Reproductive Health and Rights Section 4, paragraph g, Section 21, Paragraph c and Section 22 on Penalties)

2. AS HEALTH CARE SERVICE PROVIDERS, we do not want to be subjected to imprisonment and/or a fine, if we fail to provide reproductive health care services such as giving information on family planning methods and providing services like ligation and vasectomy, regardless of the patient's civil status, gender, religion or age ( Section 21 on Prohibited Acts, Letter a, Paragraphs 1 to 5 and Section 22 on Penalties)


3. AS SPOUSES, we do not agree that our husband or wife can undergo a ligation or vasectomy without our consent or knowledge. (Section 21 on Prohibited Acts, Letter a, Paragraph 2)

4. AS PARENTS, we do not agree that children from age 10 to 17 should be taught their sexual rights and the means to have a satisfying and "safe" sex life as part of their school curriculum. (Section 12 on Reproductive Health Education and Section 4 Definition of Family Planning and Productive Health, Paragraph b, c and d)

5. AS CITIZENS, we do not want to be subjected to imprisonment and/or pay a fine, for expressing an opinion against any provision of this law, if such expression of opinion is interpreted as constituting "malicious disinformation" ( Section 21 on Prohibited Acts, Paragraph f and Section 22 on Penalties)

6. We also oppose other provisions such as losing our parental authority over a minor child who was raped and found pregnant (Section 21, a, no.3)

7. We also do not agree to the provision which reclassifies contraceptives as essential medicines (Section 10) and appropriating limited government funds to reproductive services instead of basic services (Section 23)

Thus, we urge you to immediately stop deliberations on the bill and stop wasting taxpayers money.

Sign the petition now!

What's wrong with the Reproductive Health Bill

Salient paragraphs taken from Atty. Jose C. Sison's column entitled "Legislation by Popularity Contest" in The Philippine Star's October 24, 2008 edition.

If the bill and its contents are inherently wrong or harmful or unconstitutional our legislators should not enact them into law. The great number of people favoring and supporting said bill and its contents will never make them right and constitutional. Bills are enacted into law because of their inherent validity and integrity rather than popularity.

One of the policies of the RH bill guarantees universal access to modern methods of family planning, including the use of artificial contraceptives and devices. Time and again it has been pointed out to its sponsors that some of these artificial contraceptives either block the implantation of, or expel the fertilized egg or ovum (biologically known as zygote) as medical science has already established. In other words, they cause abortion which is illegal and punishable under the Revised Penal Code. The bill's proponents have not squarely disproven this fact by another credible medical finding to the contrary. To be sure they even impliedly admit it in the bill which mentions "post-abortion complications."

Section 12, Article II of the Constitution mandazes the State to protect the life of the unborn from the moment of conception. The aftereffects of these contraceptives and devices clearly endanger rather than protect the life of the unborn and therefore run counter to the constitutional precept.

Other sections of the bill violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution or undermines basic and inviolable institutions that should be protected by the State.

Section 12, requiring reproductive health education of children from Grade 5 to fourth year high school, interferes with the inherent right and duty of the parents in the rearing and education of their children and the development of their moral character in accordance with their religious beliefs and convictions.

Section 17, compelling employers to provide reproductive health care services, supplies, devices, and surgical procedures, infringes on the religious beliefs and convictions of individuals especially Catholics whose doctrines give the highest value to human life.

The same is true with Section 21 (a) par. 1 that compels health care providers to provide their patients with health care services which they believe are contrary to the teachings of their religion.

Section 21 (a) par. 2 allows a spouse to undergo ligation or vasectomy without the consent or knowledge of the partner. This intrudes into the and undermines the inviolability of marriage as a social institution. It desecrates the sanctity of family life and weakens the family as a basic autonomous social institution founded on marriage.

Section 21 (a) par. 3 permits children who are still minors (and therefore under parental authority) to seek reproductive health care services without their parents' consent. This clearly undermines parental authority and invades the sancity of family life.

Capping the constitutionally objectionable aspects of this bill is the injection of a coercive police in tryin gto achieve its hidden goal of population control by family size limitation. It imposes a penalty of imprisonment and fines at the court's discretion. It is clear from the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission that coercive methods limiting family size is definitely prohibited.

Friday, October 24, 2008

After the US Elections

If the media polls are to be believed, Barack Obama has already won the US presidency; the elections on November 4 will be mere confirmation of the fact. After all, how can Mr. Obama lose? He's been proclaimed, exalted, and anointed. His main opponent has largely run a plodding campaign. Even the circumstances, dire as they are, are working in his favor.

There are two things that interest me now, the first of which is: how long will his honeymoon in the public eye last?

There's no question that's what's propelled Mr. Obama to these heights is his fiery charisma. It's a charisma that shines in public oratory, that fires up the legions of supporters. It's a charisma that's crushed the formidable Clintons; it looks set to do the same to the beleaguered Mr. McCain.

But how far will this charisma serve in front of America and the world in the next four years? Oratory is fine when you're whipping up the crowds, not so much when you're breaking bad news or announcing hard policy (and there'll be a lot of that in the coming years.) This is the flip side to Mr. Obama's personality, a character of supreme overconfidence that borders on condescension. Will you be able to bear up to this? You better be, because you're going to see a lot of it over the next four years.

And there's the message of Change, so often repeated as to become a mantra. Has anyone asked what it actually means? A Change from the Republicans, a Change from Bush, that much is obvious. But beyond that, what? What specifics in the message of Change can American voters actually articulate? Certainly, George W. Bush's presidency has been the most disastrous run in recent history, but a simple reversal of policies is no guarantee for nirvana.

Rhetoric aside, it's hard to see how much Change the next president will actually be able to effect. There are systemic constraints so deeply embedded in the complex machinery of the world's political economy. Any changes will have to be made within the context of such a system. Will there be changes? Of course! After eight years of Bush, there need to be; but this imperative applies to the next president, whoever that may be. It will hardly be the Change -- whatever it is -- that Mr. Obama promises.

As it is, though, it seems that the world is in love with Mr. Obama. Which leads to the second question of interest: what if he loses?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sick Days

When you're self-employed, or worse, employed in the small family business, sick leave means an altogether different thing than if you were working for a cold, disinterested corporation. Perhaps the most critical difference is when you ask yourself: "Am I really sick?"

This is the situation I found myself in this week. It started with fits of coughing on Saturday which got progressively worse on Sunday. The week before I had a bad case of sniffles but I thought I had licked it with Neozep, Ventolin, and megadoses of Vitamin C. Either this was something entirely new, or the bug had come back with a vengeance.

I thought I could sleep the whole thing off on Sunday and bounce back the following day. Hooboy. No such luck. Come Monday, I was stoned.

I haven't been this sick in quite a while. I went to the family doctor, she prescribed antibiotics (the strong kind) and more Ventolin, but neither seemed to help. Worse still, I was running a high fever but didn't even know it. I snuck back home to sleep the afternoon off; I woke up in the evening and headed back to the store just to close it.

To add to my woes, I was home alone, the rest of the family off on a family vacation.

Come Tuesday, I was staggering to get out of bed. Mercifully, my sister called and told me she could open the store. I thanked her, got right back to bed, and slept through the whole day. And I still didn't feel any better.

Ordinarily, sick days would be a time to kick back, relax, and recuperate. I couldn't even muster the energy to read or to blog (hence the absence). Listlessly, I flitted from pointless task to pointless task during my waking moments. No appetite for anything; instead, I had the TV on the whole time. How dreary.

(Barack blah-blah-blah McCain blah-blah-blah Jennylyn is cute too bad she didn't end up with Nate NUMB3Rs is really cool Euro-Generals ha-ha-ha Timmy was an average kid that no one understands Mom and Dad and Vicky always giving him commands wands and wings floating crowny things...)

Wednesday I was well enough to open the store but it was essentially a repeat of Monday. The doctor finally recommended an extra dose of antibiotics which finally seems to have done the trick. As if to signal relief from my agony, the family arrived from their vacation Wednesday evening.

So here I am, still listless, metallic taste still in my mouth, but feeling marginally better enough to blog. Whew.

Going back to the original question: "Was I really sick?"

You betcha.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Ho-oooo....!


A little trip down memory lane.... No explanations needed: you either get it or you don't. (Reprocessed in Inkscape, ready for t-shirt printing.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Quest for Mediocrity

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.
--Isaac Asimov

By now you probably know the story better than I do, if not in the news, at least in the hushed whispers that passes for news in a small town: a teacher of Silliman University received death threats over grades. The information I can only glean from blog posts and emails, so the details for now are sketchy at best.

As far as I can gather, the threat came in the form of two text messages, the gist of which is (for your convenience, translated from the atrocious text-ese to readable English):

"We parents have put up a fund for you. Don't fail any of our children. Otherwise, we have no choice but to have you killed. It only costs P3,000. That includes your family. It's more expensive to send them to school than to have someone killed. You're lucky we're still giving you a warning. Give all your students at least a 2.0 in order to pass."


It's infuriating to read how some people could sink so low, moreso in a university environment in the city that boasts to be of gentle people. At the same time, I can't help but be amused in a funny-sad kind of way.

The subtext of the message is a summary of the ills which afflict the personality of many Filipinos, namely: abdication of responsibility, parental overdependence, communal mischief, incompetence, and the never-ending quest for mediocrity.

The first thing that jumps out in the text is the refusal to take responsibility. This is the thread that girds the whole message. The sender talks as if they were not given a choice in the matter, that they were forced into the situation. Never mind that the students could have exerted a bit more effort; or that they could simply move to a different school; no, the threat of violence is not in fact their doing but the teacher's! (And note the false generosity, that of giving the teacher "one more chance.") This is victimhood elevated to art.

There are two possibilities as to whom the message is from: either a disgruntled student pretending to be a parent, or a parent in actuality. Either way, it's hilarious. Is the sender so soft that even the threat of violence has to be coursed through the voice of a parent? It's the old kindergarten cliché: "My dad can whup your dad." It's pathetic that this has to come from a college student (or worse, the parent of a college student.)

Just as laughable is the communal nature of the threat. Too poor individually to hire a hit man, they apparently have to pool their resources. P3,000? Oh, come on! It's an astounding claim considering how they were able to afford to go to Silliman in the first place. But I suspect it's not so much about the money as it is in the comfort of the collective "we." And why note? In our culture, numbers abrogate morality, a reality hammered so many times in our congress.

Then there's the utter incompetence, an imbecility conveyed in the almost-chatty nature of the threat. Whereas a simple anonymous threat would have been sufficient, the texter goes so far as to explain the circumstances of the threat and leave clues as to their identities. If you take the message at face value, then the first step in narrowing the suspects is to round up all the parents of students who are failing the class.

But really, it's the last crime that's unforgivable, the sin of mediocrity. "Give all your students at least a 2.0..." What is this? Even undertaking these extreme measures, is the best that they can hope for an average passing grade? For a crime of this magnitude, shouldn't they go for the highest grade possible? My golly! Where's the sense of ambition?

Ay! Ka-bogo ba ninyo, uy! Dapat gyud diay mo hagbungon! Lo-ooooser!

You know what: never mind the death threats. If these are the types of college students that Silliman University accepts into its halls -- so lacking in personal responsibility and ambition -- then I am utterly appalled at such low standards for admission.

Expel them all; send them back to their mamas.

There, fixed that for ya....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Photos from New Star Trek Movie

Found these a few moments ago, and I just had to blog about it: photos from the new Star Trek movie!

If you don't already know it, the movie is a re-imagining of The Original Series, casting young actors in the roles of the original crew. And here are first views of the cast.

In my book, the hands-down winner for capturing the essence of the original actor is Karl Urban, essaying the role of Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy. It's the hair, it's the lines on the face; Karl Urban does justice to DeForest Kelly, and how. It's hard to believe this is the same guy who played warrior roles in LOTR and Pathfinder!

I must say, Simon Pegg -- of "Shaun of the Dead" fame -- looks pretty good as Scotty; and does Zoe Saldana is pretty hot. John Cho looks adequate as Sulu, but I can't quite shake his "Harold" persona. The guy playing Chekhov? I'll withhold judgment until I hear him say "Keptin! Enemy wessel approaching!"

But Kirk! That's Chris Pine, the guy in the black shirt. I actually thought he was J.J. Abrams, the director. Not till I read the descriptions did I figure he was the guy playing Kirk. The black uniform threw me off. He doesn't quite have the cocky look that Shatner had. Where's the vaunted "Kirk Equator"?!

Dammit, Jim, I'm a doctor, not a Viking-Indian warrior! Hmmm...hold on...something's off here. Wait! I got it! In this photo it's more believable that Bones could actually whup Kirk's @$$.


I think you're special... That's Zachary Quinto, who plays Sylar in "Heroes", essaying the role of Mr. Spock. From this angle, though, he looks like he's still channeling Sylar.


Okay, much better. Maybe. Or not. Snigger.

Pictures lifted from here and here.



The names they give to biscuits these days...

So I received an email from a concerned friend telling me what milk-based products on the market were and weren't safe for consumption, owing to the melamine contamination from China. The good news is that only one tested positive while 34 others supposedly tested negative.

The bad news? Well, the bad news is...given the names of some of these products, I'm not sure they should be eaten in the first place. The names are just so...strange.

From this list, my favorites have got to be Barbie Milk Candy (I feel perversely turned on), Call and Text Candy (by Smart Plastic Mfg. -- name aside, what is a plastic company doing selling candy?), and Red Bull Skimmed Milk Powder (guaranteed to keep you up?)

List follows. What can I say? Enjoy, and stay melamine-free!

1. Aria Instant White Milk Powder Milex 126

2. Baby Sucker Candy (Smart Plastic Mfg.)

3. Baina Watch Milk Candy

4. Bainapie Coolmilk Bean

5. Barbie Milk Candy

6. Call and Text Candy (Smart Plastic Mfg.)

7. Chang's Chin Tai Chang Square Cookies

8. Changtai Food Lollipop Candy

9. Chaozhou-Zhangcui Original Butter Scotch Classic Candy

10. Cow's Head Skimmed MilkPowder (Spray-Dried Process)

11. Dairy Cow Instant Whole Milk Powder

12. Dongguan bairong Strawberry Biscuit

13. Dongguan HSU-CHI Orange Sandwich Cookies

14. Duke's Choco Crunch Bar

15. Erko Marshmallows (Dairy Milk Flavour Filling)

16. Galaxy Sweetened Milk Powder

17. H&Y (Healthy and Young) Jollybee Eat & Drink Candy (Orange Flavor)

18. Jiayuan Shuang Le Tong Candy

19. Jollycow Sterilized Milk

20. Khong Guan Custard Cream Biscuit

21. Khong Guan Marie Biscuit

22. Lotte Nidoo Skimmed Milk Powder

23. MC Nation Confectionary Milky Beans Candy

24. Milk Land Milk Powder (Sweet Cream Buttermilk Powder)

25. Orion "It's Now" Custard Cream Cake

26. Palma Commercial Skimmed Milk Powder

27. Permen Aneka Rasa Buah Candy Granules

28. Red Bull Skimmed Milk Powder

29. Sam's Super i Man Milk Candy

30. Strange Biscuit of Common Song/Guava Cookies

31. Sweetworld Almo Milk Powder Bottle

32. The New Zealand Company Omilk Bonbon Yogurt Milk Soft Drops (Original Taste)

33. Tiwi Banana Split Chocolate

34. Vitasoy Malted Soya Bean Milk

Obama or McCain: Personality and Issues


Not really a video, but anyway: they do man-on-the-street interviews in Harlem to see whether people are voting on personality or issues. Overall, it's not just in Harlem, though, as I've seen similar patterns, going either way, in other CNN features. Heck, even in their extended talking heads segments.

On a related note, there's this short CNN iReport video segment, Filipinos on the American Election, gleaned from two opinions on the iReport web site. I don't know if it's a fault of editing but the first opiner, Ricardo Rivera, declares that he's for Barack Obama but then goes on to cite two critical issues on which he doesn't agree with Obama. Ano ba talaga, brader?

Go / No-Go

Snigger. From the Philippine Daily Inquirer:
The World Bank said it had no plan to contribute to a regional standby fund that would help Southeast Asian banks that might be affected by the world financial crisis, which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had announced Wednesday.

The World Bank vice president for East Asia, Jim Adams, said that while the bank was ready to help countries that would be affected by the crisis, it did not plan to contribute to a regional fund.

It was not immediately clear why Arroyo made the announcement, rather than Thailand, the current chairman of ASEAN.

I can think of a number of reasons, actually.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Wikipedia, the judge, and the dwarfs

To begin, let me state for the record that I am not CMA.

To the casual observer, the mistake may be understandable. After all, some people have nicknames made out of their family names. I am not one of them. If anyone were to do so, I would correct them immediately; this means, obviously, that I wouldn't be one to give myself such a moniker.

Now the reason I bring this up is because, unknown to me until recently, my name was involved in a case of mistaken identity in the Wikipedia. It's a controversy that involves a dismissed judge with a penchant for, er, dwarfs.

The reference to me is in the User section of Wikipedia. I would have copied the text but I found it so nonsensical and weird that it's probably best that you see it for yourself. I have provided a screenshot below:

The section came under the heading of someone named Florentino Floro. When I first saw the name, I wondered why it was so familiar. Then it occurred to me that someone by that name had been pestering me in my Friendster and Facebook accounts.

Who was Florentino Floro? And why was he stalking me? I finally had some inkling, but I still didn't know what it was all about.

It wasn't until today that I finally got the rest of the story.

Basically, Floro registered an account on Wikipedia. If you don't remember who he is, he's that judge who was dismissed from the judiciary a few years ago on account of taking counsel from his three magical dwarves, Armand, Luis, and Angel. Anyway, the basic gist is that he's a pretty terrible editor, who may make good edits on occasion, but mostly puts edits that either 1) nobody cares about or 2) "confirm" his psychic predictions about disasters that will befall people he has grudges against.

Me and this other guy called him out on it, and now we constantly watch his edits to revert them if they're bad. Now he hates us, accusing us of crab mentality, e-stalking, harassment, etc. You already know what he thinks he's doing (or thinks he's doing) to me, but on that other guy's end, it's even more bizarre. Floro checked his IP and upon finding out that the guy was in India at the time, decided that he was responsible for three plane crashes in India and started hurling accusations to that effect.

We've tried getting him to stop and I've even been hinting at getting him blocked, but the admins seem to have an excess of diplomacy, thinking it's fair to let him stay on account of his having good intentions, while others inexplicably are unable to see that he's a terrible editor and jump to his defense.

The whole story is really much longer than this and has been going on for about a year, but here's a basic summary.

The best parts are the rants Floro makes whenever someone asks him something, there should be a number of those linked from there. He goes off the deep end a number of times yet somehow nobody can see how nuts he is.


To round it off, here's an article in the Inquirer about the person in question: Stop filing appeals or be held in contempt.

Ah, Weirdness, thy name is the Internet.

Note: Updated with a screenshot of my Facebook inbox.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Pride goeth before a fall...

With all the attention on the economic crisis, two news items might escape your notice.

First: North Korea is no longer on the United States terror watch list.

Second: United States reconciliation with the Taliban is possible.

One wonders if these gestures stem from a sudden burst of human understanding, or simply from the realization that America can no longer afford to go to war.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Idiot's Guide to the Financial Crisis of 2008

Just when we thought that things couldn't get any worse, they did. For the past three weeks, the world financial markets have teetered on the brink of collapse. The really bad news? We're nowhere near any solid resolution, despite the efforts of central banks and state treasuries. We're all just at the beginning, and there are some very tough times ahead.

So what exactly happened, how did things get to this situation, and what lies ahead? I am not an economist but I have been trying to follow the events of recent weeks -- it holds all the morbid fascination of a train wreck. Ordinarily I would leave all the monetary dissection to the financial experts. However, since even the experts are at a loss, I take it as an open invitation for idiots to chime in.

There are many places where we could begin an analysis, but the crucial turning point of the crisis was the week of September 15 this year. Early that week, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy, Bank of America purchased Merrill Lynch, and the American Insurance Group sought a bailout from the Federal Reserve Bank.

To gain some perspective on the extent of these troubles, consider that in 2007, Lehman Brothers had total assets of $691-B, Merrill Lynch $1.02-T, and AIG $1.05-T. Consider that the Philippines' annual GDP is only about $120-B, less than a fifth of Lehman's assets.

Spectacular as these falls were, they were also the first dominos that sent many others tumbling, and not just in the United States. As of the second week of October, the financial firms in trouble included: Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Wachovia, Bradford & Bingley (UK), Grupo Santander (Spain), Fortis (Belgium), Dexia (Belgium), Hypo Real Estate (Germany), and Glitnir (Iceland). And not just firms, either: Iceland is on the verge of declaring bankruptcy.

The immediate cause of these woes is the flow of money; or more precisely, the money isn't flowing. Because of very high perceived risks (more on that in a while), the banks have stopped lending money to each other. Sure, the firms may hold all these high-valued assets but the problem is in converting it into operational cash. Ultimately, it was a problem of liquidity, i.e., having the money to meet its payment obligations.

Just why is liquidity so important? Imagine that, with the last P100 in your wallet, you're about to take a big lunch at your favorite carenderia. All of a sudden, a taxi with Bill Gates as passenger pulls over. Bill Gates has a problem: he forgot his wallet and doesn't have money to pay the cab. At that very moment, you're actually more liquid than the world's richest man.

If you forgo your meal and lend Bill Gates the P100, he promises to pay you P200 tomorrow. Do you lend him the money? Being Filipino and out of the goodness of your heart, you might. But by capitalist logic: it depends. Is the P100 enough to compensate for your hunger? Are you sure that Bill Gates will honor his promise? Your loaning Bill Gates the P100 -- a flow of money from you to him -- will depend on how confident you feel about repayment.

The government responses to the crisis have been aimed at restoring enough confidence for the money to start flowing again. The major actions include cash infusion via bailout (to be paid for by taxpayers later) as well as lowering key interest rates (thereby making it more attractive for banks to borrow money from their central banks.) However, the situation remains so volatile that it's hard to speak of any confidence at all. Will these actions work? No one knows for sure.

The consequences of the financial crisis are quite far-reaching. In the nature of a global enterprise, many banks and companies worldwide are also invested in the financial products of Lehman et al., firms which until recently were deemed solid and safe. Overnight, even small investors have found out that their holdings in some of these companies have suddenly become worthless.

All this uncertainty has also affected the stock market. At the end of the day, the stock market is a speculative tool and sometimes not very rational. In the midst of all this turmoil, the sharp decline in valuations also affects how listed companies fare, in how much money they're able to borrow (again, the liquidity problem) and how well their products and services will sell.

Don't think that just because we're out here in the Philippines, uninvolved in big-time financial instruments, that we're insulated from these events. We live within its shadow. So far, the local banks have not been very transparent about how much they're currently invested in the troubled companies. And if the American and European economies take a sharp downward turn, what will happen to the OFW and BPO dollars that we've come to rely so much on?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

What is it with vampire hairdos?

So of course Twilight -- "the hottest books since Harry Potter" -- is being turned into a movie series. Vampires as angsty romantic love objects? Haven't we been here before? Ho-hum.

Then I chanced upon the movie poster and had a big laugh. Seriously?! Is this James Dean making a comeback?

But what really got me was the hair. What is it with vampire hair? I mean, is it supposed to look cool? Tell me, please! Because I don't get it.

Methinks he needs a bit more sunlight.

When he's older, his hair will look like this. (That's the versatile Gary Oldman in the 1992's "Bram Stoker's Dracula.")

And when he's really senile, he'll look like this. (That's Leslie Nielsen in probably the best vampire movie of all time, "Dracula: Dead and Loving It.")

Monday, October 06, 2008

SEee-sick


Don't get me wrong, I love my Asus EeePC. It's light and it's handy, which is what makes it great for travelling. But after a whole week staring at the Internet through its tiny 7" screen at 800x480 resolution? Well, let's just say the 12" screen of my ancient Thinkpad is a VERY refreshing change.

A week in Manila

Spent the entire week in Manila, just returned to Davao today. Highlights:
  • Workshop on open source software selection with the International Open Source Network, the main reason for the trip. Workshop lead was Carlo Daffara from Italy. Overall verdict: fantastic.

  • LitCritters session with Dean, Nikki, Charles, Vin, Andrew, Alex, Kate, Elyss, Erika, Zarah, and, er, a couple of girls whose names I don't remember

  • Visited the Libre Lahat exhibit at Podium. Pretended to be ignorant of open source (just enough to annoy the designated spokesperson). Met Rick Bahague of Computer Professionals Union.

  • Small reunion with Marcelle and Charo.

  • A couple of friendly dates.

  • Stumbled into Manolo Quezon and AWB Holdings at Krispy Kreme in Greenhills

  • Bought more books. Sigh. I really need to stop buying.

  • Window-shopped, mostly. Nothing much that I can't get in Davao.

  • For all its attractions, Manila feels roughly the same since I was last there. I was happier to meet with people, more than anything else.

    Friday, October 03, 2008

    Nintendo DSi


    Nintendo DSi just released in Japan. Notable features: slimmer form factor, digital camera, bigger screen, and built-in audio player. The digital camera looks to be the kicker, though, and will likely spawn a new category of games. Full story from ABC News.

    Thursday, October 02, 2008

    Publishing "black holes"

    Sean and I sometimes swap notes and reproduced below are excerpts from our latest exchange:
    Also submitted to ---------- -------, but as I'm beginning to think, local publications are a black hole unless you have a "name."

    and
    They are. We're normally lucky to get so much as a rejection letter from them, I think. That said, they can't exactly tell you to stop sending them stuff, so persistent submission might actually bring up that "name" that they expect.

    This arose from the rejection letters we got from the Alfars.

    An acceptance letter, of course, is better than a rejection letter, but even a rejection letter is better than, well, nothing. Which is what you get -- or rather, don't get -- from other local publications.

    Now, I actually have experience on both sides of the divide. First, as an occasional would-be contributor to the "prestigious" national magazines; and second, as a sometime-editor for a maybe-less-prestigious-but-I-won't-argue-about-it regional literary insert.

    When it's my turn to edit Dagmay, I do try to make it a point to tell the contributors whether or not their works were accepted. If it's the former, I tell them when it will be coming out; if it's the latter, I try to give a short critique. Said practice raised some eyebrow among some of my co-editors, but I like to act the way I like to be treated.

    That said, it sometimes takes me a while to do that. Sometimes, I feel that the work has merit, but I can't publish it yet, and I put off any note to the writer. (Note to self: in the future, at least write a short acknowledgment of receipt.)

    And sometimes, well, the work is just so atrocious I'm afraid to write back at all. When I say atrocious, I really do mean it: bad grammar, overly creative formatting, rambling narrative, etc.

    If I apply that to myself as a writer, though, I'd like to think that, while I may not be up there with the best of them, I can't possibly be that bad. So if I don't even receive a letter of acknowledgment, it's either the editor is a) too busy to write back; or b) just can't be bothered.

    In either case, it gives rise to the question: how long should I wait before sending that work to another publication? What is the reasonable length of time between submission and acknowledgment, and between acknowledgment and acceptance/rejection?

    The Duotrope submission tracker provides this valuable service, but mostly for stateside magazines.

    From my own experience, I can only speak positively of two: the Alfars of the Philippine Speculative Fiction (PSF) annual anthology, and Ken Yu of Philippine Genre Stories (PGS).

    For PSF, I normally get an acknowledgment from Dean within two days of my submission. The final verdict is dependent more on their schedule, typically two weeks after the deadline.

    For PGS, my results so far have varied. My first submission, "Twilight of the Magi", took 18 days between submission and acceptance, with no acknowledgment in between. My subsequent submissions got almost immediate acknowledgments, but probably owing to the fact that they fell under guest editors, is taking a longer while for the verdict. I already have some indication of where the decision is headed (though it's not final yet). Regardless, it was heartening to have some acknowledgment.

    But what of the rest? I've submitted to two magazines, but really, they live up to the reputation of being a black holes. Perhaps, though, "good 'ol gal network" might be a more apt description.

    So what effect does it have on me as a writer? It means I know who I'll be writing for (and who I won't be writing for) in the near term, awards and exposure be darned.

    AnT9ms

    Since I'm one of the folks who strive to compose complete and grammatical SMS messages, I use T9 quite a lot. Because of that, I've "discovered" something I call "anT9ms", that is, a class of key combinations which produce words which are opposites of each other. I don't have a long list as yet, but here's some that I found:

    735328 - REJECT / SELECT

    735328466 - REJECTION / SELECTION

    7874 - RUNS / STOP

    7873 - SURE / RUSE

    Found any more? Let me know!