Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brief bio

I hate writing about myself in the third person but it's occasionally necessary. And so....

Coming out of high school, Dominique planned to go into journalism; instead he found himself shanghaied in electronics engineering. It was a fortuitous detour as he found that he actually liked the the field, and that led to a career with two multinational computer companies over a span of ten years. Literature, seasoned with a dash of history, philosophy, and sociology, remained a firm avocation, however. With this eclectic background, Dominique holds a mildly sardonic view of today's gadget-obsessed society and prefers a rational approach to technology that offers the greatest good to the greatest number of people.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Addicted


Yes, I'm addicted...darnit! It's silly but it's so much fun. And never having had the chance to play D&D when I was younger, this is my first taste of the game. I like it!

Thank you, Facebook! Thank you, Wizards of the Coast! Thank you, Gary and Dave!

Friday, November 28, 2008

The déjà vu quiz

As an experiment borne out of my own curiosity, I gave the exact same quiz to the class as I did last week. Same questions, same order, and I returned their papers to them last Monday. I did add five more items to cover new material but eliminated those in my analysis, and I made some allowances for some minor bouts of dyslexia.

How did they fare?

First, the good news: whereas only 6 people passed the quiz last week (using a cutoff of 60%), now 14 people passed. Two people even managed to get perfect scores, these being the ones who also showed the most improvement.

Then the bad news: those 14 people still represent less than 50% of the class population.

And you want even worse news? Two people who flunked last week managed to score even lower.

So you can see for yourself, here are the actual test results. I removed those who only took one test.

Class     Student     Quiz1      Quiz2
IT AA 8 9
IT AB 8 9
IT AC 8 9
IT AD 8 8
IT AE 7 9
IM AF 6 7
IT BA 5 10
IT BB 5 7
IM BC 5 6
IT BD 4 10
IM BE 4 7
IM BF 4 7
IM CA 4 6
IM CB 4 5
IM CC 4 5
IM CD 4 5
IT CE 4 4
IM CF 4 4
IM DA 4 4
IM DB 4 3
IM DC 4 3
IT DD 3 6
IM DE 3 4
IT DF 3 4
IT EA 2 5
IM EB 2 4
IM EC 1 3
IM ED 0 5
IM EE 0 4
IM EF 0 2


Those who persist on dwelling in the lower half of the class are overwhelmingly IM students, the ones who seem the least interested in hearing what I have to say. In fact, it looks like they're all lost in some glassy-eyed haze.

I wonder why that is. Is it a motivational issue? Are they negatively influenced by their companions? Or perhaps they're really just couldn't care less.

It makes me curious as to what their life orientations are. What they look forward to do after school and, at the risk of sounding harsh, why they even bother with school at all.

Now a new question is coalescing in my mind: would it *actually* be possible for me to flunk half of the class if I use the same quiz over and over again over the course of the semester?

Seriously though, I'm afraid to find out.

Mumbai, in quieter days


Like many others, I'm horrified at the unfolding events in Mumbai. It's gotten so that I can't bear to watch the news for too long.

I visited India in 2001; Mumbai was the last stop on my itinerary. I had an afternoon off and wandered the city streets, eventually making my way to the waterfront where the Taj Mahal hotel was. It was majestic.

It was majestic.

Was.

Gateway to India, also in Mumbai.


More photos here and here. (They're not very good photos, mind.)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Tsuru in Bisaya


No, I have not suddenly become a fan of KC Concepcion (who looks too much like her dad to be attractive to me); I'm posting this because this is the issue of Bisaya which features Dr. Mac Tiu's prize-winning short story Tsuru. It's out in the newsstands now; very cheap, only P25, so get your copy quickly.

Tsuru is a tale of an unlikely friendship between a young Filipino mother and a Japanese soldier during the occupation. There's funny moments, mixed with heartrending drama and stunning imagery. A must-read.



Mac has given me permission to publish it in full in Dagmay (it was printed in excerpt a while back) but I think I'll wait a while longer so you'll all be encouraged to buy the magazine.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feature Stories

Today brought a bit of a surprise: on my lap landed a new subject to teach, Engl107, Feature Stories.

The first inkling of that, not quite overt, was when I bumped into Maricar Panda, my Literary Theory teacher from last year. Would I be willing to teach in the Humanities, she asked. Of course, I said, and the implication was that I would start next semester.

Then I got the text message from Dr. Mac Tiu around half past noon. Was my 1:30MWF free, he asked, and could I take over a class from Don Pagusara? Uhhh...okay....

Truth be told, I'm a little flattered. As I've mentioned here before, I sent in two resumés, one to the Computer Studies Department and one to the English Department. It just so happened that the Computer Studies Department called first. One subject became two, but you know that part of the story.

The laboratory component of the CSD classes continue to take a lot of my preparation time but things have gotten slightly easier in the past couple of weeks. Perhaps they just feel that way. I could take on one more subject, thankfully one without a computer laboratory attached to it.

Besides, how could I say no? It seems that the doctor has advised my old mentor to rest up this semester. I owe Don quite a bit because it was under his tutelage that I started writing again, after my long post-workshop slump; and it was also in his class that I wrote my first published short story. Quite an honor to be taking over a class for him.

I had to beg off, though, when they were about to foist another class on me. Mustn't bite off more than I can chew, not with young minds on the line.

Since we're already four weeks into the semester, I have to hit the ground running with this one. I met the class with Mac earlier this afternoon. They look to be a bright, perky bunch, (a welcome respite from the blank looks I get on the left half of my Open Source Technologies class.) It helps greatly that it's a small class, too, only five students, consisting of third years and fourth years. It helps, too, that it's a workshop format, something I'm annoyingly good at.

Again for this class, I introduced a Google groups mailing list, a mechanism that seems to be working well with my Information Security class. Spent the rest of the afternoon and the evening looking up additional resources to use for the class, and my first major find, Pearls Before Breakfast, the reading assignment for tomorrow.

And finally, the overarching objective for this class: get published!

What else can I say? Banzai!

Tuta

Of the outcome of the most recent impeachment deliberations there was no doubt. Hence, perhaps, the sense of ennui among the general public. Absent was the sense of outrage in the days leading up to the decision. Don't mistake it for a sense of satisfaction with the way things are; fatalism is what it is.

Still, it would have been pleasant if the Esteemed Congressmen had shown a little more backbone and sprung a surprise. But it is what is.

What was surprising was the absence of money changing hands. Three possibilities spring to mind.

First, that our Esteemed Congressmen have finally learned virtue; and that, of course, is as laughable a story as it comes. On their deathbeds, perhaps; but not before.

Second, and more likely, is that the Palace and our Esteemed Congressmen have learned subtlety. It's a possibility that still raises eyebrows, but a possibility nonetheless. Perhaps they've learned to use checks, or even better, money transfers; these may not have the appeal of cash -- cold hard cash, crisp, neatly stacked in bundles of hundreds, wrapped tightly in a paper band, and heavy in a shopping bag -- but they certainly can't be filmed. Or perhaps they've simply learned not to hand those out when cameras are rolling.

And still there is a third possibility, akin to the first, that no cash needs change hands anymore because our Esteemed Congressmen have become too well trained. It's Pavlovian phenomenon on a national scale. Just as Dr. Pavlov trained his dogs to slaver at the sound of the dinner bell, so has the Palace trained the Esteemed Congressmen of the House to yip and wag and roll over at the mere rustle of impeachment papers. And why not? They've had ample opportunity for conditioning.

Who let the dogs out? No, no, instead one must ask: who let the dogs in?

Beyond our Esteemed Congressmen, what of the Esteemed Bishops? Wise men indeed when it comes to matters of morals; a little less wise and not a little naïve when it comes to the world. Too late to discover their voices, too soft and too refined in their bark. Not unlike the former Top Dog of the House, nicht var?, too late to bite the hand that once fed him.

And maybe, just maybe, beyond that, we've also become conditioned ourselves. Conditioned to slink back and growl inaudibly, content merely to lick our wounds and bruises, and to dig our noses into the Mistress's leftovers, for after all, isn't a poor meal better than no meal at all?

Hence the pervasive sense of fatalism. But lest we become too complacent that things will remain as they are, consider too that fatalism leads to despair and that despair leads to desperation and desperation leads to...well...best not dwell on that.

See you next year. Arf!

A thought for today

None so blind as those who refuse to see.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Lord of Light


Currently reading Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. Still about a third of the way through, but I am very much blown away. The language is enchanting and the concepts are just way out there. I don't know what Zelazny was taking when he wrote it, but the effect is certainly rubbing off on me.

"Lord of Light" takes elements from Hindu mythology and adds a scifi twist to it all. I first thought it was miscategorized because it read like fantasy; only later on did the SF elements come to the fore. Gods, reincarnation, karma -- all these get turned on their heads.

Buddha a.k.a. Siddharta a.k.a. Mahasamatman a.k.a. "Sam" is one of the more devious and intriguing characters I've read recently.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pictures from Poetry Night


Poetry Night was a success! We had a turnout of over a dozen readers -- including Aida Rivera-Ford -- and an audience of around 60. It was nailbiting approach to 8 pm, with only a few familiar faces at first; but when the appointed time came around, people started pouring in.

So, yeah, that's me reading one of my poems. (Thanks to Chi for taking the photo.) More pictures follow.


Getting warmed up for the event. That's Jhoanna, our emcee for the evening, in the pretty dress. We were doing things on the fly, not really sure of who was reading until we started. And even then, a few more surprise volunteers turned up.




Jhoanna kicking things off.




Dr. Mac Tiu introducing the Davao Writers Guild. Though the guild has had reading activities before, all those were done in schools. This is the first public reading, apparently, in Davao.


Marvin reading his poem. He almost declined, having forgotten his piece. Good thing someone brought the Ateneo literary folio where his work was published.


My buddies from my book circle, Aicha and Julienne. Thanks for coming, guys!


Karla's turn at the mike, talking about Sitting Beside Handsome.


Nurse, writer, journalist Ness Doctor. (Yes, that is her family name.)


Gregg Galgo, from USEP, ruminating on Samal. I had the pleasure of finally meeting Gregg face-to-face on Poetry Night. Previously all our communications had been via email.


Koi, adding a touch of mysticism to solitaire.


Chi, with an on-the-spot poem, dedicated to Jhoanna.


Macky, with a very deep Filipino poem.


Sheila, exploring the topics of sex and death.


A quick shot of the audience.


Jhoanna's turn at the mike, reading from her Palanca-winning entry, Sapay Koma.


Yas ponders the Answer to Life.


DWG president Ric de Ungria wraps up the evening.

Thanks to all who came, and thanks to Wings and Wedges for letting us use the place. Sa uulitin!

Friday, November 21, 2008

"Give me more eyeballs, all bugs are shallow"

A quiz I gave yesterday to my Open Source Technologies class:

1. The original developer and present chief architect of Linux.

2. Author of the Minix operating system.

3. Author of the GNU Public License and founder of the Free Software Foundation.

4. The Linux mascot.

5. Author of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar."

6. Author of "They Mythical Man-Month."

7. State "Linus' Law."

8.-10. Name three funding companies of The Linux Foundation.


How well do you think you would do?

Even if you're not into computers at all, with just day-to-day reading and some fairly good guesses, you'd probably get four to five correct answers. If you know about open source, you'd probably get a six to eight.

My students? Didn't fare too well. The mode of the scores was 4, but there were several who still managed to get a zero. This despite my lectures, my posting of the presentation on our Google groups, and a reading assignment with guide questions.

Confirms my theory that most of them just spend the time in class daydreaming. Good thing there are a few bright lights, especially in the IT section.

Still, it's very disappointing that almost no one knows their computer history. They don't know about the story of UNIX, and they don't know who Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie are. The excuse? "That was in first year, sir!"

Sigh. But we soldier on. At least I got some funny reformulations to Linus' Law. See title above.

Other winners:

"Given a bug, it takes many eyeballs to find it."

"For many eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."

"For every eyeballs, bugs are shallow."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mockingbird

Truth be told, I haven't been this affected by a book in a long while. The book in question? Walter Tevis' Mockingbird. I've been reading it slowly over the past few days; it's not a book that you can rush, and it does drag at some parts, but does it pack a punch.

Mockingbird paints a dystopian future, but not quite what you expect. It's a future where society has broken down, not with a bang but with a whimper. People go through their lives in a drug-addled inward-looking haze. No more children are born. Worst of all, reading is dead; no one can read.

In a way, Mockingbird is an unofficial sequel to Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. I don't know if it was Tevis' intention, but it certainly feels like he extended some of the premises of 451. No, the books haven't been burned, but they might as well have been. People are all tuned into their TV programs.

Mockingbird is also a vehement repudiation of some of the virtues attributed to Ayn Rand. In the world of Mockingbird, Privacy and Individualism are valued most of all, so much so that people cannot even look each other in the eye.

What makes the book especially compelling for me is the near-inevitability with which our modern society is heading down its predicted path. These days, a form of inane individualism has taken root. People disdain reading (fittingly, I finished the book at a McDonald's, where I was the only one actually reading a book). Children are a burden to be feared.

If you're put off by the statements Tevis makes (as I perceive them), don't be. That's really just the background for the story of three very well-drawn characters. Mockingbird is still a novel, after all, and where it ultimately succeeds is in the unfolding transformation of the hero as well as a startling revelation close to the end. Believe me, I haven't been startled in a while.

Highly recommended.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Big Bang Theory" postscript

Haven't been posting as often here lately because I'm occupied with my open source technologies class blog (yes, there is one; that's where I put up notes, presentations, and assignments.)

Anyway, took some time off to watch season2, episode 8 of "The Big Bang Theory" and saw this postscript after the end-credits. (The episode had a couple of not-so-subtle digs at George Lucas -- and William Shatner.)

I have to say I must agree.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Poetry Night invite on Facebook


Hmmmm, the poster doesn't look half bad on Facebook.

Dear General de la Paz

Now I have a question for you.

In all the accounts I've read, you insist that the 105,000 euros was a "contingency fund" for your trip.

So my question is: Haven't you heard of credit cards?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dear Mr. Bolante

Dear Mr. Bolante,

I have a question, a very simple one.

Don't worry, it has nothing to do with the scam that will forever be associated with your name. I'm not interested in your innocence or your guilt. That much has already been decided. In the public's eye, you are guilty; but in the eyes of Philippine law, you are innocent. So long as you stick to your story, you will continue to be so.

You know, I didn't even bother to follow your performance at the Senate on television. The fact is, I've seen it all before. The senators will scream and the senators will shout; they'll wag papers under your nose and trip you up with your words; they'll sneer and they'll shout; and yes, they'll call you names. But you and I already know, at the end of the day, nothing will come of it. You are innocent; so long as you stick to your story, you will continue to be so.

No, my question is a very fundamental one. If you will, it's a very human one.


It's one that's been on my mind ever since I saw the pictures of your return. For the past two years, the image of you has been one of confidence -- a moment frozen in time: you, so dapper in your suit, making a point to a tall gentleman as you gestured expressively with your hands. Your eyes were alive, your face was aglow with your smile.

It's not the person I saw in the pictures upon your return. Your hair is all white, your face is all sallow. You have rings under your eyes, your jowls have collapsed. You shuffle with a stoop. You look at world with wariness. Gone is the confidence. Gone is the fire. Gone is the happiness. You're a shadow, a ghost of your former self.

That's the price, I suppose, of three years on the run, two of them in the ignominy of a US federal prison. If that wasn't enough, there was the endless string of calumnies: the Joc-joc jokes, the bola-bola jokes, and yes, the Rotarian jokes made in your name. (The new Four-Way Test: "Tutuo bang me transaction na naman tayo?" "Lahat ba tayo kasali dyan?" "Wala bang masasagasaan dyan?" "Magkano akin dyan?")

And that's the price of what's to come down the line: for your safety, for your family's safety. I don't know how many people can do what you did, how many of them can go through what you've gone through. Your silence and your loyalty go beyond cowardice; in fact, they border on the heroic. You are innocent. So long as you stick to your story, you will continue to be so.

With all this in mind, Mr. Bolante, I have a question, a very simple one, so simple you can answer with a yes or a no.

Was it worth it?

Wings and Wedges


Some shots of "Wings and Wedges", where we'll be having Poetry Night on November 22.

I dropped by last night to see the place and got to meet the owner, Greg "Gigoy" Respecia, who told me a little about his restaurant.

"Wings and Wedges" is apparently a local artist hub, being a center for musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers. It's fondly called "Wee-Wee" by its regulars.


All in all, a decent place; cozy ambience, sufficiently lit, with enough space for performances.

Sounds like a good answer to Mag:net Café in Katipunan.

Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler


Charles Tan and Mia Tijam's Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler is up. It features works of horror, fantasy, and science fiction from various Filipino authors.

Plugging it for another reason, too: I made the template for the site. (I guess that proves I actually can move beyond white background templates -- *snicker*).

After thinking through various patterns, I struck on the bright idea of using alibata characters. I used the most excellent alibata resource, Ating Baybayin, as my reference.

The alibata isn't just random, either. They actually mean something. Can you guess what?

Yay, I'm a graphic designer now.

(By the way, the cover art is by Andrew Drilon.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Poetry Night at Matina Town Square


Poetry Night at Matina Town Square on November 22 (Saturday). The madness starts at 8PM. Presented by the Davao Writers Guild.

Hope to see you there.

The new Enterprise


From Entertainment Weekly PopWatch.

Still retains the classic look, and now with a retro feel. Man, look at those curves.

The hidden meaning behind Harry Potter...

...told in two paragraphs, five sentences, roughly 140 words:

The story is about a boy who lives in a cupboard ("in the closet"). His Aunt and Uncle are ashamed of him because his parents were quite eccentric ("flaming") and they are deeply concerned and afraid that he will turn out just like them. On his 11th birthday (i.e. roughly at the onset of puberty), the boy discovers that he is actually a "wizard", different in both style and substance from straight people, or "muggles" (breeders).

The boy is groomed into his new existence by a large, hairy bear of a man who shows Harry a hidden underground community of "wizards"(the gay subculture) living right under the noses of the general population . Harry's first visit to this subculture involves traveling through "Diagon Alley", a play on the word diagonally (not straight).


Found on from Slashdot.

And if you're looking for more, there's more.

Support groups and budding writers

How important is a healthy support group to the growth of a budding writer? Being neither psychologist or educator, I can't give an authoritative answer to that. At best, I can hazard some guesses: for some truly dedicated writers, a support group doesn't matter at all; but for some, it can mean all the difference as to when the talent matures.

I probably fall into the latter category. It's taken a long time for me to return to writing, although it's always been one of those long-held ambitions. A natural talent I am not; writing is an everyday struggle.

The Davao of my youth, unfortunately, was not a very encouraging environment for writing. Growing up in a Chinese community, money was the order of the day (and still is.) Writing is something you do to get good grades.

So what do you do? You turn to friends.

But what if your friends' recurring comment is this:

"It's good and original: The original part is not good. The good part is not original."

So, yes, my FRIENDS, I still do remember. And I'm going to remember for a long time still. Probably forever.

I'm writing this now because one of those friends asked to read a work of mine that's going to be published. Flattered, of course; and I acceded. Apart from the fact that it took forever to wrangle the comments out of him, when I finally did, the experience brought me back to high school all over again. And in the end, it's all nitpicking: on word choice ("Why use this word instead of that?"), on continuity ("A tiyanak doesn't do that!"), on style ("It doesn't sound Filipino at all.")

And you know what it feels like they're saying? "I'm too good to be reading this sort of thing."

Sigh. It took a column stint with the Philippine Daily Inquirer and with the Dumaguete Metro Post (and blogging, too) to convince me that, yes, I could actually write. Not just technical stuff, either.

Fiction has been a longer journey, a still ongoing one, but after a few missteps, I feel that I'm already getting to where I've been wanting to go. It was the constructive criticism that helped -- the ones designed to lift up rather than to push down. (You know who you are; and for that, my heartfelt thanks.)

And for my other FRIENDS? Yes, you're still my friends; friendship transcends even our preoccupations.

But don't be forgetting that your words still echo in my ears:

"It's good and original: The original part is not good. The good part is not original."

In your face, buddy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Heat

This heat:
Crushing
Oppressive
Smothering

Breathless

Penetrating
Insinuating
Enervating
Enveloping
Stalking
Sucking
Sapping

Bitter

Sultry
Close
Choking
Cloying

Like a lover who's outworn her welcome
But clings fast, a vampire around your neck.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Writers Meetup



I've been trying to get the young writers of Davao together for the longest time. Last Saturday, the meeting finally happened...sort of.

Brief background: Dagmay has been very fertile ground for scoping out new local talent. I've been building up a database of writers as their works are published. I would say that majority of contributors to Dagmay are under 25 years. Most of them come from Ateneo de Davao and the University of the Philippines-Mindanao.

The funny thing is that the meeting almost never happened. We originally planned to meet at Basti's Legaspi. Unfortunately, when I got there, the coffee shop was closed. For some very strange reason, they are not open on Saturdays. Good thing Karla and Marvin showed up; we decided to move the meeting to Dunkin' Donuts. For insurance, we left a note
on the wall.

Fortunately, I was able to contact a few more people about the change in plans. Not long after, Dr. Mac Tiu showed up at Dunkin' Donuts, followed by Abigail, Bam, Maris, Kokoi, and later on by Jackie. We discussed plans for a regular ongoing writers workshop that will meet every two weeks.


It's still a small group. I hope that with time we'll gain some momentum.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Class picture


Believe it or not, this picture was unplanned. We were setting up virtual machines with virtual networks with VirtualBox. Everyone was enthused. For some reason or other, they were all gathered around this one station, and it just so happened I was behind the screen...seemed like the perfect opportunity to snap a candid shot. Then somebody just happened to look up and notice.

And, of course, it ended up with this.

Anyway, got everyone into Ubuntu now. In one morning, they've set up a LAMP environment. Next week is the fun stuff.

"Black in White House"


Inquirer, you're a real class act. But you already knew that.

Story out

My short story, "Matríce", is in the November 3 issue of Philippine Graphic. I'm sharing cover space (sort of) with Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

I'm pretty excited because this is my first published story in a local mainstream magazine. And, of course, because Philippine Graphic does nice illustrations.

You can read the story at their web site this week, but trust me, nothing beats the feeling of holding the magazine in your hands. Then again, I'm biased.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

There is a God



...which is my tongue-in-cheek response to



which is a campaign organized by the British Humanist Association and running on London's buses.

The campaign is lame for a number of reasons, foremost of which is: if they really believed what they were saying, why couldn't they have been forceful enough in saying it? "Probably" no God? Which means there "probably" is.

And, of course, by "probably" denying it, they're putting the focus back on God. All well and good. That's why even some religious groups have contributed to the campaign.

So I'm putting out my corrected version. As for the bottom tagline, I think that overall, Christian believers do have more fun out of life. Here's what Chesterton has to say about it:

The mass of men have been forced to be gay about the little things, but sad about the big ones. Nevertheless (I offer my last dogma defiantly) it is not native to man to be so. Man is more himself, man is more manlike, when joy is the fundamental thing in him, and grief the superficial. Melancholy should be an innocent interlude, a tender and fugitive frame of mind; praise should be the permanent pulsation of the soul. Pessimism is at best an emotional half-holiday; joy is the uproarious labour by which all things live. Yet, according to the apparent estate of man as seen by the pagan or the agnostic, this primary need of human nature can never be fulfilled. Joy ought to be expansive; but for the agnostic it must be contracted, it must cling to one corner of the world. Grief ought to be a concentration; but for the agnostic its desolation is spread through an unthinkable eternity. This is what I call being born upside down. The sceptic may truly be said to be topsy-turvy; for his feet are dancing upwards in idle ecstasies, while his brain is in the abyss. To the modern man the heavens are actually below the earth. The explanation is simple; he is standing on his head; which is a very weak pedestal to stand on. But when he has found his feet again he knows it. Christianity satisfies suddenly and perfectly man's ancestral instinct for being the right way up; satisfies it supremely in this; that by its creed joy becomes something gigantic and sadness something special and small. The vault above us is not deaf because the universe is an idiot; the silence is not the heartless silence of an endless and aimless world. Rather the silence around us is a small and pitiful stillness like the prompt stillness in a sick room. We are perhaps permitted tragedy as a sort of merciful comedy: because the frantic energy of divine things would knock us down like a drunken farce. We can take our own tears more lightly than we could take the tremendous levities of the angels. So we sit perhaps in a starry chamber of silence, while the laughter of the heavens is too loud for us to hear.




Monday, November 03, 2008

Back to Teaching

If you've been following my Plurk widget, you already know that I'm back at Ateneo de Davao University, this time as a part-time instructor. With the Computer Science division yet.

So yes, I'll admit it: I've been feeling a little bored lately. This is precisely the challenge that I was looking for, one that's got me fired up in a good way. And with several years' work experience under my belt, I'm approaching this with some sage confidence.

Everything moved at a pretty quick pace. Two weeks ago, I sent my resumés to the Computer Science division and the Humanities division. (I now have two resumés, one technical and the other literary.) Pretty soon I got a call from the Computer Science folks asking for other documents.

Last Wednesday, with just a day's notice, I did my teaching demo. Today, I had my first meeting with my class.

The course I'm teaching is IT288, officially known as "Information Security", but which I have dubbed "Defence Against the Dark Arts." This is a subject I'm familiar with, having done firewalls and a bit of security consulting for IBM and DEC. The main challenge is in the organization of the materials -- how to arrange it so that it's logical and interesting.

And then there's the added wrinkle of a lab. This is a 5 unit class; two hours lecture, and three hours laboratory per week. Laboratory exercises can be difficult to organize, and I'm flying into this with no guidance from the previous teacher. On the plus side, that does give me more leeway, and I've already told the class we'll be working with open source tools.

I have a pretty long laundry list already: virtual machines, vulnerability scanning, system hardening, intrusion detection, honeypots, log analysis, backup and restore, document management, firewall, virtual private networks.... I hope we cover all of it before the school year ends.

It seems I'm also introducing some teaching innovations, too (well, innovative to AdDU anyway). I've set up a Google group for the class to hold all the discussions, assignments, reading material, supplementary notes, etc. It seems that it's the first time they're using this approach. I'm pretty surprised as these guys are supposed to be IT. Anyway, they're young; they'll learn fast.

Because of the time requirements that I foresee for this class, I've decided to forgo teaching for the Humanities. I'll put my Masteral plans on hold, too; anyway, I'm more interested in access to the AdDU library more than anything else. All the rest is just icing.

As I said, I'm excited. I think it shows in how I'm writing this. Now let's see what the next five months brings.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Plurking

In case you haven't noticed, I've added a small microblog widget on the side, powered by Plurk. Yes, I've given in to the temptation and signed up for the social networking / instant update craze.

It's not that you need to know any more about my boring life than you already do: I just thought it would make a good addition to the blog for those small updates that don't need a long dedicated blog post.

Sure, there's always the danger of sliding into the trivial minutiae of life, like "Dominique is taking breakfast" or "Dominique is getting ready for work." I promise not to do that. Instead, I'll be posting what I hope to be are moderately interesting links.

On the other hand, it's also a great way of keeping in touch with friends. It's good to know how things are going with people I know, even when they're away. And no, I don't mind knowing that you're taking breakfast or getting ready for work.

What are you waiting for? Sign up.