Thursday, February 26, 2009

Small Victories

Final exams for the students in my Open Source Technologies and Information Security classes were hands-on and one-on-one. Not as difficult as it sounds, I assure you; in fact, the exams were ridiculously easy. So long as they manage to complete the tasks, by my grade book, I'd count them as passed.

So, yeah, I'm an easy teacher. Seriously, I don't see the point of flunking anyone in an elective. Now, if this were a major subject, like say, programming, then I might not feel quite the same way.

Not that I've been remiss in my duties: I've been reading their reports, I've been recording their written exams, I've been evaluating their presentations -- in short, I have a good idea of where they stand. Their grades are reflective of the knowledge they've gained and the effort they've put in.

Since the hands-on exams were simple, it gave me time to chat with the students and asked some of them what they thought of the class. Two encouraging stories stood out.

One girl told me that they went for an interview with Hubport, and that the HR officer had asked them if they knew about Perl and Ruby. To which they, of course, answered yes, thus leaving the interviewer suitable impressed. Apparently, some students from another school had said: "Pearl? As in perlas, ma'am?"

Another guy, the star pupil in my class, told me quite excitedly that he and a classmate had worked on Asterisk the summer past as part of their on-the-job training. They just hadn't known that it was an open source project. They thought it was some super-expensive product; now, he has the proper context for it.

And still a few more stories here and there, at least from those willing to share: how they were happy to be exposed to something other than Windows, and that they thought would find the material we covered useful in their jobs.

As for the incorrigible laggards? I like to think I gave everyone my best shot; if there's a handful that really didn't pick up anything, well, let them suffer the loss on their account. My overarching objective was to convey new learning to my students; and I'm happy with the result for the large majority of the class.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Ash Wednesday at AdDU


Attended the noontime Ash Wednesday services at Ateneo de Davao today. As expected, the Mass was packed. Wisely they moved it from the usual chapel to the gym.

Apart from the students, there were also the professionals and regular folk from around the area. When you get right down to it, a lot about religion and worship involves community. I'm glad I'm part of this one.



Lenten Resolutions for the Socially Wired

This being Ash Wednesday, I thought I'd post my Lenten resolutions. The central point of the season is penitence, one of the manifestations of which is the denial of something legitimately enjoyable to oneself. As a socially wired netizen, my pleasures come the Internet and so in the spirit of the season, this is where I will deny myself.

Resolutions:

1) Slashdot, Facebook, and Plurk only once a day and for no more than 15 minutes in total.

2) No more than three windows or tabs open at any given time, and all must be related to the task at hand.

3) No multitasking. Finish all work without distraction.

And on top of that, the usual food fasting and abstinence. With a smile, of course; with a smile.

I'll be scarce until Easter. See you then.

Fat Tuesday at Spirale

As an offshoot of the Food Appreciation Tours, it's become de rigueur for Davao bloggers to take photos of food every time they go out to eat. Scads and scads of photos. Plus scads more.

It's time to declare: Stop! Stop! STOP! It's getting embarrassing!

Take one photo, if you must, and dig in. Dig in, for crying out loud!

After all, there's no better hallmark of appreciation than an empty plate scraped clean. And to start it all off, let me offer my own empty plate. Burp.

Said photo was taken at Spirale Restaurant at Damosa last night, get-together having been arranged by Blogie the night before. Now an empty plate doesn't really convey what was on it, so let me just say it was a dish of lasagna -- or should I say, lasagne. The best dish I've sampled so far -- of either lasagna or lasagne.

At P245, it was a little pricey (no free food trip this time around, so this post is entirely voluntary), but for a Fat Tuesday treat it was worth it. Two inches deep, layered with soft pasta, packed with savory beef and tomato sauce, and topped with cheese and more cheese -- it was the perfect sendoff into the season of Lent. It could have easily served two people, but I ate it all. Yes, I ate it all. Fork by fork of steaming mouthfuls. And it was yummy.

After dinner, we retired over to Kangaroo Cafe for some coffee and free WiFi. Sans any serious camera clicking, conversation ranged into iPod Touch with goat stew, Chupa Chups, tex cards, trump cards, plastic balloons, naphthalene balls, cockroaches, 9-volt batteries, Vanessa Carlton, John Malkovich, that guy from Die Hard, that other guy from White Chicks, LCD screens, graphics cards, and Garnet, Garmon, Galaxy, Eagle, and Queens, among many other such idle talk as might pervade a Tuesday night.







Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Unforgiven


Poster image from Wikipedia
It must be Clint Eastwood week over at HBO -- then again, Clint has done so many fine films he'll always have some movie or other showing at various months. This week brought two treats: "Space Cowboys" and "Unforgiven." While "Space Cowboys" was worth a repeat viewing, what with the stellar cast of affable geriatrics, it was really "Unforgiven" I was looking forward to watching.

As I read it, it took almost twenty years for "Unforgiven" to reach the big screen. Clint Eastwood had the rights to the script but sat on it as his script reader told him it wasn't very good. Not surprising, considering that the story itself is very simple. It's out of the mold of the typical Hollywood Western.

But I think it really took that length of time for Clint Eastwood to mature into the role. I doubt if anyone else could have pulled it off as well as he did. It's like waiting for wine to come of age. And that it did for Clint.

This is Clint's last Western, a perfect ending for the stellar career in the genre. Where do gunfighters go when they get old? Do they fade into the sunset? Do they ever escape the life of violence? The script is middling, the plot device of the bounty somewhat unbelievable, but Clint, Morgan Freeman, Gene Hackman (and a lengthy cameo by the late Richard Harris) all manage to give it life.

Next, I want to see Jonah Hex on the big screen.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stella Maris Academy of Davao Seal

It's funny but I can't seem to find any decent online image of the seal of Stella Maris Academy of Davao. No graphics, no photos, none whatsoever except for small grainy pictures used as avatars for a Friendster account. In fact, do an Google image search and all you'll likely come across ARE Friendster pictures (which might say something about the graduates of Stella Maris -- but I refuse to think about that.)

So anyway, here it is -- quite possibly the first decent picture of the seal of Stella Maris Academy of Davao. This was from the big wooden seal hung outside the main entrance of the school. Not quite the design I remember, but I do like the execution. Now I wonder if the good sisters have actually put down the specifics for the design.

Davao from a Nokia N79


Davao, as viewed from my Nokia N79's Map application. The red spot is Damosa, where I took the reading. Looks fairly accurate, as far as I can tell. I wish there were more detailed maps, though.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mermaids!

Please, please, please won't someone tell me what a mermaid is supposed to look like. I really want to know.

Not long after the heavy rain and the flood, I find Dumaguete again in the front page of the national daily. Mermaids in the Silliman University Marine Laboratory! Surely the find the century! Of the millennium!

What? No mermaids? Of course the scientists of Silliman would deny it! Haven't we seen enough of the X-Files to know that they want to keep the secrets to themselves? O these despicable scientists! How dare they imprison such magnificent creatures! They're only in it for themselves! They only want to slice the mermaids open! Evil, evil scientists!

In truth, I frown upon the lack of journalistic rigor on the part of my friend and editor Alex Pal. Concerned citizens from Bais descended upon the lab and searched its premises high and low. What an opportunity Alex missed to interview these experts on mermaids!

"Wala Diri!" was all these citizens could say (because, as we all know, scientists are a devious sort.) Quite obviously these citizens from Bais knew what to look for! Why, o why, o why, Alex, didn't you ask them what the mermaids looked like? I am sorely disappointed.

In the absence of such informed expertise, I am forced to rely on my imagination and my limited knowledge of mermaids. Does the Silliman mermaid have red hair and big expressive eyes? Green fins? Giant seashells for modesty? Does she go on about her stuff, thinking them neat, thinking her collection quite complete?

Perhaps the rescuers even had pictures! Proof positive of the mermaid identity! Maybe if Alex had the presence of mind to ask them! Who would the mermaid resemble? Marian Rivera? Ara Mina? Vilma Santos? Edna Luna? Charlene Gonzales? (But, oh, in my heart of hearts, I want her to look like -- please, please, please -- Alice Dixson! I can still feel it!)




I can feel it!


Or maybe, just maybe, the Bais rescuers couldn't find the mermaid because she was actually walking around the city! In which case, they should all be looking for a tall, thin, blonde fahrener woman and, well, splash her with water so her legs revert to a fish tail. Just tell them to be careful if the woman is wearing an eye patch -- because that's a sign she's an assassin and not a mermaid (it might be easy to mistake one for the other.)

This is a mermaid.


This is NOT a mermaid.

Of course, this is just me with my imperfect knowledge of mermaids. I really wish Alex had asked the real experts from Bais.

Lest you think I'm mocking the mermaid experts from Bais, I say "most assuredly not!" After all, they got their info via text message, the most reliable of sources (beating out the Internet, I might add.)

And we all know that whatever we get via text message has got to be true.

* Little Mermaid ©Walt Disney
* Splash ©Touchstone Films
* Kill Bill ©Miramax Films
* Dyesebel ©Mars Ravelo; Dyesebel pictures from Dyesebel.org

Chinua Achebe on Writing

In Manila, I chanced on a set of Chinua Achebe's books on sale. Only P50 each! How could I keep away? I like Achebe for the simplicity and elegance of his prose. He never uses big words, but he arranges them in ways which are unexpected and new.

I'm currently reading "Home and Exile" before I pass it on to my sensei Mac Tiu. "Home and Exile" is a thin volume consisting of three essays about colonialism in fiction. Here are some worthy excerpts:

There is such a thing as absolute power over narrative. Those who secure this privilege for themselves can arrange stories about others pretty much where, and as, they like. Just as in corrupt, totalitarian regimes, those who exercise power over others can do anything.


And another one, this time on being a writer:

For me there are three reasons for becoming a writer. The first is that you have an overpowering urge to tell a story. The second, that you have intimations of a unique story waiting to come out. And the third, which you learn in the process of becoming, is that you consider the whole project worth the considerable trouble -- I have sometimes called it terms of imprisonment -- you will have to endure to bring it to fruition.


Amen!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Breakthroughs

I have goosebumps as I write this. That's because I genuinely feel my students in my Feature Stories class have achieved major breakthroughs in their storytelling. After several weeks of struggling with subject, content, and narrative technique (and yes, the definition of adverbs), two of my students have turned in really worthwhile pieces.

To give you some idea of the development, let me present to you one early work:

I received a text message from my dad saying that he was about to leave our house to come pick me up. It usually takes an estimated fifteen to twenty minutes, depending on traffic, to get to the school from our house so I thought I had to do something to kill the time. It was 4:00 pm on a Monday; I stood and leaned against the railings near the Roxas gate since all of the stone and wood benches there were already occupied.

Activity period is usually spent in different ways by the students. It was twenty minutes past the start of activity period so students were everywhere. By 4:00 pm, the Roxas area was cramped by new and unfamiliar faces, but the scene itself was anything but new and unfamiliar. It’s somewhat odd for me to enjoy standing there surrounded by people I don’t know. But I was at the Roxas area, and in the context of people who loves to “observe” and generally be around people, it shouldn’t be boring.
From where I was standing, I could see clusters of students, which I assumed to be first year students, who seemed like they haven’t seen each other in years by the way they jumped up and down when they saw someone they knew. I felt like I was about to go deaf when a girl who was standing just three steps away from me started to squeal her throat out of excitement in seeing a few students, who I assumed were her friends, hopping towards her. I remember myself being that way too, when I saw my friends at school for the first time after the summer vacation. Although I do remember myself being very excited, I don’t remember myself squealing. And the sound of that girl squealing definitely did not only catch my attention but almost everybody there turned their heads towards her. I was embarrassed for her, but she didn’t seem to mind the people staring at her wondering what the hell she was squealing about. A few moments later, everybody else went back to their own little worlds.


Now consider this excerpt from her latest piece:

It was a Friday when Maris came home from the office at 5:00 in the morning after pulling an all-nighter. She goes up to her room and sees her two children—Gabby, six, and Patrick, three—sleeping and oblivious to the sound of the door as it tweaked opened. She sat, and then sees two travel bags across the bed that reminds her of their four o’clock flight to Tacloban City that day. But when she glanced at her watch, she realizes that she still has to go to work in three hours.

Coming home late at night, even until the break of dawn, is normal for Maris—at least now it is. She works for two law firms, one in the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and a consultancy with RR Donnelly (a Business Process Outsourcing company), and she also handles cases in her private practice. Each law firm doesn’t require her, though, to be present daily, thus giving her manageable working hours. But it is not the hours that measure the work that she does; it is the load of corporate cases she handles within those hours, and after hours, which is draining. She has to work long hours. Rather, she needs to. However, Maris does not let this get to her.

But this is not how it all used to be.

Maris and Jude met in 1999 in Law School. She was in first year, he in second year. They were running under the same political party for the Law Student Government. Maris eventually won as PRO, and Jude won as Treasurer. They worked together as student leaders for a year. But it was only after the term when sparks began to fly between Maris and Jude. And “The rest”, she says, “is history.”

Even though it was unexpected, Maris and Jude began a family following the birth of their daughter, Gabby. Patrick followed four years later. Maris couldn’t ask for anything more. She was blessed to have Jude as her husband, and as the father of her children. Maris says that although Jude had a very demanding job, his first priority was always his kids. And when it came to her, Jude couldn’t be more devoted and committed. Maris describes married life with Jude as normal. “May masaya, may malungkot, may mahirap din na adjustments kasi medyo seloso siya. Pero all in all, it was worth it.” Maris and her family lived a pretty comfortable lifestyle. They’re able to balance work, and the fruits of their work, and share it with their children.

It was on March 26, 2007 (Maris’ birthday) when Maris first brought Jude to the hospital because of unbearable stomach pains. “it started with 2 weeks na feeling bloated and gassy sya nung last 2 weeks of february 2007. tapos nung 1st 2 weeks of march may pains na, paunti-unti, pawala-wala, tapos hanggang naka-feel na sya ng constipation.” Since then, their trips to the hospital became frequent.

Maris and her family came back to Manila to Tacloban, and were supposed to start working on April 16. Jude was to go back to his office in Eastwood, and Maris was to start with a law-firm in Ortigas. Unfortunately, Jude was on surgery that day to remove masses in his large intestines.

It was on the first week of May when Jude was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. His doctor said he needed chemotherapy ASAP, and a lot of prayers as well.


And that's just from the first page of a much longer piece of work, around 5,000 words in total.

There's still some polishing to be done for a piece like this, but the coverage and the subject matter have grown by leaps and bounds. I will definitely have to recommend this piece for a workshop this summer.

I am damn proud of my students.

The Backyardigans

I'm too old to enjoy most kid-oriented TV nowadays -- but I think it's more a function of what they're putting out than with my own age. One of the exceptions is The Backyardigans, which I find consistently imaginative and funny. ComicMix has an article on other good kid shows. I wonder how they could have missed Teamo Supremo, though.

Dom and Jerry

First shot from the Nokia N79.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nokia N79 + Ovi Suite = Epic Fail


Two previously unthinkable things happened within the past 24 hours: I bought a new cellphone, and I installed Microsoft Windows on my laptop. I know, I know: I'm also wondering if hell has frozen over. But I digress.

On the Windows incident: it turns out that, as a part-time teacher at the Computer Studies Division of Ateneo de Davao, I can enjoy the benefits of the Microsoft Academic Alliance. That means free use of Microsoft software for educational purposes. And there's a wide range, too, from operating systems to applications to development tools. Regardless, I still wouldn't have considered it if my Information Security students had not asked me to discuss Windows security.

So off I go to download an ISO file from their library -- using Wine to run their special downloader, naturally. I now have Windows running in a guest partition of VirtualBox. I feel so dirty. (I have more to say about my Windows experience, but I'll leave that for my Ubuntu blog.)


And I also got a new phone. I've had my Nokia 6233i for the longest time, and it's now literally falling apart. It's still functional, though, and I would have held on for a while longer. This afternoon, I blurted out to my Mom and my sister that it might be time for me to get a new phone. I thought I'd have another day or so to change my mind, but before I knew it, they had already arranged to get a Nokia N79 from my sister's best friend. Oh, boy.

Form- and function-wise, I like the Nokia N79. It has WiFi and a 5-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens, features I've been hankering after ever since all my friends went Nokia N82. But it has a more sensible keyboard than the N82, something akin to my Nokia 6233i.

As happens whenever you get a new phone, I have to transfer all my contacts from the old phone. Quite serendipitous that I have Windows XP running, because Nokia software Only Runs With Windows. Easy-peasy, right? Wrong.

It used to be that Nokia shipped out PC Suite with all their phones, but now that's apparently been replaced by the Ovi Suite. What do I have to say about it? Epic FAIL!

The Ovi Suite looks all sleek and shiny outside, but is actually a miserable clunker on the inside. All I really want is to manage my contacts and messages, but it's giving me choices on movie conversion, photo folders, One-Touch Internet (whatever that is) -- anything except the simple contact management I was looking for.

Not only that, it took forever and ever to download all the necessary components from the Internet. It went a-looking for the Microsoft .NET Framework, Windows Media Player 11, Visual C# Components, XML converters, and what have you. Don't you get it, Nokia? I don't want your Web 2.0 / cloud computing / social networking mumbo-jumbo! I just want to manage my contacts, darnit! Leave the Internet stuff to the phone where it's supposed to be.

Good thing I just managed to copy the contents of the old phone over, but I can't clean up my address book like I want to. It seems to want to sync it with Outlook Express or some other. Up to now, I'm still wrestling with it.

What horrible, complicated way of doing things!

Update: So I finally figured it out. Ovi synchronizes with Outlook Express, which is as crappy as crappy PIMs go. I do have other options, like Outlook and Lotus Notes, etc., none of which I have installed. Won't sync with Thunderbird, though.

Hooboy, this is the problem with proprietary software -- it has to be installed and configured the way they want it.

Anyway, I'm just thankful I'm done.

UP Diliman, Dawn


In an effort to keep up with my daily physical regimen, I made sure to wake up early and jog while at the writers conference. We were billeted at the University Hotel of UP Diliman. UP Diliman! With its Sunken Garden and UP Oval! How perfect is that for jogging grounds?

My daily route would invariably take me through the Oblation. Two to three times, in fact. Backlit by the rising sun peering through the pillars of the administration building, the figure for me became an irresistible stop.

I only wish I had brought a better camera than my crummy old cellphone!


As it turned out, it was also the week of the full moon, and that afforded me some trick angled shots with the brazier fronting the Oblation.


And, of course, the perfect way to cap a jog is with a cup of taho.





Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mermaids in Dumaguete

This morning, while scanning the front page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, this is what I found:

DUMAGUETE CITY, Philippines—Scientists at the Silliman University Marine Laboratory here have reported a deluge of visitors since Wednesday as a result of rumors that they are holding mermaids (locally called serena), in the premises.

The rumors, sent out through text messages and by word of mouth, spread like wildfire when the purported detention of the mermaids was blamed for the Feb. 7 floods in Negros Oriental, which caused at least four deaths and millions of pesos in damage.

“Over 100 people have been coming here since Wednesday night looking for the serena, and our security guard reported that his jaws were aching from having to deny the story again and again,” Dr. Janet Estacion, the assistant director of the Marine Lab, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Friday.

I thought I'd repost it here in full because, well, it's just so strange and yet so...Dumaguete. Full story here, written by my editor and biking buddy Alex Pal.

The story comes in varied versions, depending on who one asks. The version told by the folks making a beeline for the Marine Lab went like this:

A Caucasian bought three mermaids in Amlan town some 20 kilometers north of Dumaguete. He donated two of the creatures to the Marine Lab, angering the mother mermaid who unleashed nature’s fury on the people of Negros Oriental.

Dugongs?

A low-pressure area off northeastern Mindanao brought occasional rains to the province on Thursday and Friday, triggering fresh fear among believers of the mermaid tale.

On Thursday, a group of about 30 Amlan residents trooped to the Marine Lab and pleaded with the security guard to release the mermaids so that the sun would come out again, according to Andrea Alviola, a member of the Silliman University staff.

The rumor has caught the interest of Dr. Hilconida Calumpong, the director of the Marine Lab, who is into the study of dugongs (sea cows).

“Dugongs are also called serena, so I was hoping that someone had actually found a dugong. But nothing came out of it,” Calumpong said.

‘Wala diri’

Per Estacion’s account, the visitors are usually ashamed to ask about the mermaids. They pretend to take a tour and then peek curiously inside tanks and other displays, telling each other, “Wala diri (It’s not here).”

The visitors come from as far as Bais City, some 45 km north of Dumaguete.

A physician was also said to have come looking for the mermaids at the Marine Lab.

Said Estacion: “There’s nothing you can do if people still believe in mermaids, even though many fishermen say they don’t exist.”

The rumors spiced up what would otherwise have been ordinary days at the Lab. But Estacion frowned on the idea of playing these up.

“We’re scientists. We don’t want to perpetuate that myth,” she said.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

At the Taboan Writers Conference

Apologies if this blog has been quiet the past few days. I'm at the Taboan International Writers Conference in Manila and the days are just packed with activities.

We arrived in Manila on Tuesday afternoon, and from then on, it's been sessions and dinners and readings and get-togethers. It's all quite heady as I'm meeting many of the Philippines' literary legends -- sometimes even sitting at the same table with them and listening to them swap stories. As a new student of Philippine literature, this is just about the best thing that's happened to me.

The breakout sessions are quite lively, though they stop short of getting heated. (I'm disappointed there aren't any catfights.) There's plenty of new ideas for new directions for me coming out of the discussions. The real action, though, takes place during the breaks when people are less guarded and more themselves.

It's my first time to stay for any long duration in the UP Diliman campus, and I must say I am loving the experience. The place has a vibe of its own. I would say it's akin to Dumaguete, the closest I can relate to in my previous experience, only bigger and at the same time more self-contained. I'm adapting quickly to the place. I take morning jogs around the oval. I know my way around. Part of me regrets not having come here to study.

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Wedding Party

Ah, Facebook, the things that you turn up.

This photo was taken, what, circa 1999? 2000? Wedding of my good friends Chaz and Meme, the culmination of the romance that blossomed in what we called the Nerd Nook of IBM. All the more memorable as the wedding took place in Dumaguete and the entire gang flew in (except for me, of course, because I was already there.)

And the story continues, now with a daughter and a son who are as cool as -- no, wait! cooler -- than their parents.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dumaguete Under Water

Photo from ihatemyjob.wordpress.com

Dumaguete went under water yesterday. It had been raining without pause since Friday evening, continuing well into Saturday with an especially heavy downpour. By Saturday afternoon, water was chest-deep in some places. Hard hit were Piapi, Looc, Calindagan, Candau-ay and Batinguel.

As far as blog coverage goes, Dumaguete is still pretty dim. I wish there were more photos and running accounts of the flood, but so far my only sources are Mel (with her after-flood coverage) and by way of Mel, I Hate My Job (who has more pictures and videos, but none of the city proper, though). Through Google, I found just one more account of the flood, which recounts the raging waters assaulting the Banica bridge.

From a phone conversation with my aunt, we heard that Lee Plaza closed at 5PM yesterday. The waters had started going at the courtesy booth outside. I'm not sure of the rest of the details, but it's a wonder the grocery wasn't flooded. More posts as soon as I gather the stories.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Davao Harvest 2

DAVAO HARVEST 2, an anthology of short fiction, essays, poetry, drama, and art from Davao City, is now available from the Davao Writers Guild.

Covering nearly thirty years of literary and artistic activity in the city, DAVAO HARVEST 2 features more writers and artists than its predecessor. Literary works in Bisaya, Filipino, and English come from a stellar cast of award-winning writers. Paintings from artists are reproduced in color. At 353 pages, DAVAO HARVEST 2 is a comprehensive view of the best of literature and art in Davao City.

Order via Dagmay.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

blogger

I am a blogger, apparently. Apparently. It's an accident borne of having a blog. On some days, being a blogger is a good thing to be: as when bloggers latch on to a story that fell below the radar of the media. On some days, it's not: as when the expression of inflamed passions go beyond the boundaries of decency.

On most days, I don't even bother at all with the distinction. I have a blog, yes; I feed it with stories, yes; sometimes, the stories are substantial, but more likely they're mundane. What can I say? Keeping a blog is a hobby and an outlet.

But a blogger? Hmmmm.... If I'm ambivalent, it's because there are bloggers and there are Bloggers. There are the folks like me who plug away a few minutes each day at the keyboard because it keeps our writing fingers limber and because it's our way of keeping touch with a small circle of friends. And then there are Bloggers, the superstars whom everyone sees as representatives of blogging at large.

What makes a blogger a Blogger? I'd say it's the following, running into the hundreds and thousands of readers each day. Some have the following because they have something to say and they say it well. Some, because they're entertaining. Some, because they network well. Some, because of their personality and notoriety. It even gets to the point that some Bloggers cultivate their notoriety in order to maintain their following.

With a daily audience in the hundreds and in the thousands, Bloggers can parlay their popularity into cash. What follows is the fever for blog monetization and the incestuous affair with search engine optimization. Make big money from home! Make big money while you sleep! Who can resist such a pitch?

Fame, money, power: can a little bit of madness be far behind? With all the influence they wield within their circle, Bloggers aspire to be media moguls. They formulate new theories, they prognosticate on the future of the medium, they seek to depose traditional media. The battlecry: Out with the Old! In with the New!

Alas, their circle isn't nearly as big as Bloggers think it is. We can't fault Bloggers for their ambition, but surely there's a Flaw in the Plan. And the Flaw? Bloggers are Bloggers because their barriers to entry are low. On closer examination, their infrastructure is nil, their only currency are posts, links, and eyeballs. Posts can be commissioned, links can be bought, and after that, the eyeballs will follow. Fame can be fickle, and when that goes, so too will money and power.

While they can be entertaining to watch, Bloggers ultimately leave bloggers like me in the lurch. There's a point early on at which our motivations and results diverge. My audience is not likely to grow beyond the 20 or so friends who read my blog regularly, nor would I want it to: there's something about that kind of fame that I find creepy. Yes, I monetize my blog but it's not likely to go beyond the pocket change I take in every day; if the price for higher income is the creepy kind of fame, no thanks. While I may occasionally agree with a point that some Bloggers have to make, I don't need -- much less want -- them speaking for me; I can speak my own mind, thank you very much.

Simply put: I don't want to be subsumed into a movement, or lumped into a mass. My blog exists because it's an expression of my voice, no one else's.

I have a blog, but that's all it is. If that makes me a blogger, fine. Just make sure it's spelled with a small letter 'b' because that all I am.

Round numbers

Heh. Just showing off my Blogger dashboard. I have some nice round numbers to show for two of my blogs. A difference of an order of magnitude between the two, though.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Another milestone

1,500th post


To all you guys out there: thanks for following this blog. You know who you are.