Sunday, May 31, 2009

The hand, two weeks later

My hand, two weeks after the accident. Of all my injuries, this was the worst (see picture below). Thankfully, it's healing nicely now. There's still this huge bump, but it doesn't hurt anymore. Another week or so and the scabs should fall away. I can even bear to look at it now.

The Woman Caught in Adultery

I have a feeling that much more will still be said about the sex scandal in the coming days. Regardless, I'd like to jump ahead to a likely postscript, not the most certain one, of course, but fitting however the whole episode turns out.

Image from The Thorn Crown Journal

Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?"
This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her."

And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She said, "No one, Lord."

And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again."

Go, and do not sin again.

Privacy, Consent, and the Nature of Our Acts

"Isn't the issue here the filming of the act without the participant's consent?"

That's the question posed by one of the commenters on my blog. And another one adds: "The issue, really, is about the consent to take the video. there was no mutual consent."

Really? Is this what this is all about? Consent? And privacy? But all these questions and issues are really just glib misdirections. Is it just privacy and consent at stake here? Or is it the acts that necessitate privacy and consent?

Let's take it through some thought experiments.

If you were to take a video of me walking, just walking, down the street, and if you were to broadcast it on TV and on the Internet, has my privacy been violated? One might say yes, based on the arguments above. I did not give my consent, and yet my image is being broadcast to the public. TV networks do this all the time with their establishing shots.

But no one cares, and why? Because the act itself is uninteresting and because I'm a nobody.

So let's say something interesting happens to me. Let's say I'm walking down the street and I slip on a banana peel. You capture that on video and put it on Youtube. Again, my privacy has been violated. Upset, I might take it up with you, but it's hardly something that will merit a court case or a senate investigation. No one cares. Why? Because the incident itself may have been interesting, but I'm still a nobody.

So now let's say that it's this starlet, KH, who slips on the banana peel, and whom you capture on video. Has her privacy been violated? At this point, it's arguable. She's already a public figure to begin with, but we might also say that the banana peel incident happened to her while she was in her private persona. Will publishing the video merit a court case or a senate investigation? I don't think so. At best, the clip will air on SNN or Star Talk or Bitoy's Funniest Videos. Other than a few chuckles and embarrassed interviews, it's not going to make much of a ripple. It might even launch her on a career as a comedienne.

What's that you say? Slipping on a banana peel isn't the same as having sex? But why shouldn't they be? They're both natural acts. One is a result of gravity and the other a result of biology. One might say that slipping on a banana peel is more embarrassing because it was accidental and involuntary, while having sex is willful and voluntary.

Slipping on a banana peel is innocent? But aren't they fond of telling us prudes that sex is innocent? No magazine or TV program has ever taught us the many ways we can slip on a banana, but we have scads of local magazines and TV programs that purport to teach us the many ways we can have sex.

And yet, when sex becomes public, it suddenly becomes a private matter that requires consent? Ano ba talaga, ate?!

So just why is Katrina Halili so upset? Is it just because she was filmed without her consent, full stop? Or she was filmed without her consent performing an act that she found shameful and embarrassing? What was that shameful act? Dancing in her underwear? But that's something we've all seen, and as I said before, she's practically left nothing to the imagination anymore. Dancing to Careless Whisper? It's a cheesy song, but it's not that bad. Or was it because she had sex with someone she shouldn't have had sex with?

Or was she simply upset that she was discovered? That, with the evidence firmly in place, it's no longer something that she could hint away with a giggle, a wink, and a tart innuendo?

No, I don't think this episode is about privacy at all. Privacy is not an end unto itself. We value privacy because there's something of value that we want to protect. This episode is about our whole confused approach to sex. As another commenter said:

"Post-Christian Filipinos, trapped between their Catholic heritage and their pagan obsessions, have absolutely no idea how to deal with moral issues."

Either sex is some trivial, irrelevant act, no better than slipping on a banana peel, in which case we should be wondering why we're all so worked up; or sex is something sacred and valuable that we want to preserve its sanctity in the privacy of our rooms.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Rocket Gun Review

These rocket pistols have been selling in the toy shops for some time now. They go by the generic name of "Cyclone Shooter" but come in different varieties. I picked these three pieces up in a span of a few weeks, being the best looking of the bunch. There are three other variants -- one which shot discs, another which shot winged rockets, and another which shot rotor blades -- but I didn't get them anymore.

The K11 has arguably the slickest and meanest design, reminiscent of the pistol used by Harrison Ford in "Blade Runner." The lower chamber holds three rockets but other than that is more ornamental than functional. Its range is middling, though, but what the hey, it looks cool.

No name given for this rocket gun, but I like to call it the Gatling owing to its design. The barrels rotate, but you have to twist them manually, which is a bit of downer. On the other hand, this rocket gun has got the best range of the three.

This last piece is a lemon in so many ways. The label on its side -- "Gun" -- feels redundant and retarded. Of course it's a gun, did you expect anything else? The barrel twists in various positions, presumably to shoot around corners, but has the unintended effect of feeling limp. Worst of all, some of the included rockets can't even shoot out the barrel. Its only saving grace is that it looks like the phaser from Star Trek: The Original Series.

The rocket guns sell for P79.95 at all popular toy shops.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Puri, Prurience, and Hypocrisy

On the upside to the raging sex scandal, I've finally seen Katrina Halili fully clothed, without makeup, and looking like a normal 23-year old woman should.

It's quite a shock to me, really, because in all my past encounters with her posters and magazine covers, she wore nothing but see-through lingerie and a come-hither-I'm-ready look. When I finally caught a glimpse of the start of her controversial video, I had to stifle a yawn. Nothing that I hadn't already seen before.

Indeed, what's with the big to-do? Isn't this what Katrina Halili has been selling all along? Three time solo cover girl for FHM Philippines (December 2005, October 2006, February 2008), four straight years in the FHM 100 Sexiest Women (gaining the top spot in 2007), and the most prestigious of all, FHM Calendar Girl in 2008.

Now comes the time to seal the deal, to close the sale, to deliver on the goods, and Katrina Halili has suddenly discovered the virtues of modesty and chastity? You mean she wasn't serious with her come-ons? I'm confused and disappointed.

Don't be so surprised that I know these things. I'm what they like to call a hypocrite. On moral grounds, I object to the overt sexuality in media. Yet deep down, I am more attracted than repelled by the display. Can I help it if the scantily-clad visions are everywhere I look? They're in the newsstands, in the billboards, and on TV, and they're all targeted at me.

But if I'm a hypocrite, so apparently are they. A hypocrite is someone who acts in a manner contrary to what he preaches. I'm a hypocrite because I like what I claim to despise, and I can't help but take a peek every now and then. But they're also hypocrites because they claim liberation in sexuality, but who can only find scandal and shame in sex.

If we're all hypocrites, the difference is that I value sex enough to want to raise my head from the trough of sexuality, whereas they've immersed themselves in the swill only to find that there are dregs that even they're not willing to swallow.

Is there, or isn't there an intrinsic and instinctive value which we associate with sex? If sex is nothing, if it's as casual as a throwaway "Hello", then why find titillation and scandal in its display? But if it's special, sacred, and private, why flaunt it and flout it in public?

Why show it if you're not willing to sell it?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

About the cat

Dear A--:

I'm sorry to hear that your sister's cat died. I didn't know how close they were until friends told me. I'm sorry that I didn't have more to say than "I'm sorry to hear that."

But I imagine I would have been sorrier if I had blurted out the top three things that came to my mind when I heard who died. These were:

1. The Sixth Day: the Schwarzenegger flick about cloning, because immediately I was thinking: "Darned, we wouldn't be having this problem if we could just clone the cat."

2. Pet Sematary: the Stephen King book and movie about an old Indian burial ground that brought the dead back to life, only more evil. Sort of like The Sixth Day solution, only cooler.

3. Siopao. I tried not to think about it, really I did. The image just wouldn't stay out.

I have to write this out right now because if I kept it all inside I know I will just burst.

I sure hope to Gawd you won't read this. If you do, I'm sorry.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Collateral damage

Thank goodness I was wearing a helmet, because otherwise these marks would have been on the side of my head instead. That's why they call it a brain bucket, I guess.

Regardless, I still wound up with stitches on both sides of my head. The funny thing was, there was no blood on the inner lining. I'm guessing they may have been sharp sudden cuts. No worries, though, the noggin' is fine, and the stitches came off last Monday.

A close-up of the damage.

I broke my old glasses, too. The frame itself survived, though it's slightly twisted. I don't know what happened to the other lens. All I remember is when I tried to stand up after the crash, I wasn't wearing my specs anymore.

No point getting it fixed. I think I'll keep it as a souvenir.

The ambulance ride

I can laugh about it now, and even wonder what the big deal was all about. But back then -- hoo, boy! -- I was hoping for many things: that there were no internal injuries or fractures, that my hand and my leg would be okay, that Mom wouldn't freak when she saw me. (That's why I called my sister first, and made sure everything was arranged before she brought Mother.)

Oh, yeah, and the blood. Never been this bloodied from a bicycle accident before.

In fact, I'm a little cleaned up here already. The hospital at Samal had already cleaned up my wounds a bit, hence the white bandage around my hand. Actually, now that I think about it, it was more adhesive than bandage.

Total cost for the ambulance ride: P200. And I shared it with a mother and baby headed to Davao Medical Center.

On the way to Canibad

It's only now, more than a week after the accident, that I've really taken the time to go through my photos in my cellphone. Maybe it was the trauma of the event, or maybe I was just busy (which I really was), but the whole thing slipped my mind.

Accident notwithstanding, the view on the way to Canibad was lovely. It's the first time I've seen the eastern coast of Samal, though I never actually managed to go down there. The reasons you already know.

I count this about half an hour before I tore my palm and twisted my bike. Boo hoo.

These are the guys I was with, the guys who helped me up and waited with me for the ambulance. Normally, I'm a solo biker; I'm happy I had friends on this trip.

This cabana stands at the fork of the road from Penaplata to Canibad. Not really sure who built it, but a group of locals seems to have claimed it for their own, even cooking by the side. They were quite friendly, though, and even chatted up a bit.

Heh. The next set of pictures ain't gonna be pretty.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Victory! But now what?

In a rare display of headline sobriety, the local news outfits called it correctly: Taxes on book imports lifted, said the Philippine Star. Elsewhere, of course, the mood is more exuberant as Bloggers proclaim far and wide: "Great Book Blockade Broken!"

Hooray. Hooray. Hooray. But now what? If it's back to business as usual, then the lessons of this lunacy would have been lost. Despite its formidable name, the Great Book Blockade wasn't actually a war, it was just a skirmish.

If you think about it, the Great Book Blockade, already far from being great, can hardly be called a blockade, either. No books were actually banned during the time it was in effect. Shipments were delayed, but they eventually went through the official bureaucracy, not through blockade runners.

If at all, books would have been priced higher, but no one, as far as I can tell, ever had cause to actually complain about that.

The only reason why it would have been called the Book Blockade is for its alliterative appeal. The only reason it could have been called Great was because the proponents of the term have not actually lived through a good and proper blockade. Whatever will they call the next episode when it comes around?

Even its resolution calls for some pause. It looks and feels like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has struck a blow for book-lovers everywhere. Remember: it was her Secretary of Finance that imposed the tax in the first place, and being a cabinet position, it was, effectively, an extension of her office. If she caved, it was because it was an opportunity to look good, not to acknowledge the DoF's and the BoC's violation of the Florence Agreement. It cannot be properly called a victory without censure of these offices' flawed interpretation of the law.

If any good has come out of all this, it's been to put the spotlight on the advocates of reading in this country and to show how strongly they feel about the issue. Admirable, too, are the efforts to awareness and for the first time to actively and publicly promote reading.

On the flip side, though, it's also shown that these advocates, though vocal, are decidedly few and in fact limited largely to the Facebook and Twitter class. Unless they can use the momentum from this victory to promote real change -- for example, pushing funding for more libraries, promoting literature among the young, circulating more books -- then they're just setting themselves up for the Real Book Blockade.

CastaƱas Kid

In the midst of cleaning up my hard disk, I rediscovered this photo I took a couple of years back in Binondo. I don't think this has seen the light of day yet, so I'm posting it now.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Show-Off Day

As if last semester's tortures weren't enough, I found myself signed up for another six weeks of summer classes back in mid-April. Today, mercifully, my class on Operating Systems Technologies had its last meeting. What can I say? I am going to miss this class.

Today's class was the most raucous I had ever run for Ateneo de Davao. My students' final presentations interspersed with cheers and catcalls and clapping and laughing. For a moment, I was afraid someone would knock on the door and reprimand us for being too loud. Perhaps I was the loudest one of all. Embarrassingly, I had also invited a co-teacher to witness the proceedings.

If we bordered on the unruly, it was because I had designated today Show-Off Day. Since after the midway point of the summer classes, I gave the students leeway on what special project they wanted to pursue. The first four weeks had been all lectures and programming assignments designed to give them as wide a scope of the technologies available under open source. In the last two weeks, I told them they could wander off my syllabus track, pick any project they wanted and, well, just run with it.

Run with it they did. One student got started on Blender, a 3D modelling and animation software, and other students soon followed. Pretty soon, we had four animation projects in progress. Another student with a more traditional artistic bent picked up on Synfig, a 2D animation package. These projects prompted others to take up sound editing and video compositing, all using open source tools.

The highlights of our Show-Off Day were these: a creepy cartoon clip bordering on horror about an insomniac girl, a dancing dog, a gyrating fur ball, fireworks, and a sci-fi techno music video. (And yes, we did manage to talk about databases and user interfaces and system performance bottlenecks in relation to the problems they faced. But that's the boring stuff.)

All of these projects were self-directed, with nothing from me more than the occasional encouragement. Heck, these guys now know more about the products than I did. If anything, all that I could be said to have contributed was the encouragement and the space.

Really, what I think got us to Show-Off Day was the spirit of play. Open source provided a fertile playground for my students to explore and experiment. They didn't need to pay any fees or pirate any software. All the tools were freely downloadable at a touch of a button. And if some things didn't quite work as they expected, that was just fine. It meant there was a problem to be solved. Deep down, young techno-geeks (and we are all young) love to solve problems, genuine problems.

The best compliment I received today came after I had wrapped up the class and chatted with my co-teachers in an unofficial post-mortem. "Was that really M--- who was presenting?" said the teacher who sat in the class. "Because I've never heard him present that way before! I didn't know he had it in him!"

The most touching compliment though -- and I blush to say this -- was a tribute video, done by way of a talk show spoof that featured interviews and class vignettes. Composited and edited in KDEnlive with bits of Blender and Audacity, and yes, it's also open source.

Hmph. Darned brown-nosers. Since I'm too big and manly to cry, all I'll say is:

"Show off, guys. Show off."


A Bisaya short story fragment I never finished. Found it while I was cleaning up my files. Posting here just to record it.

Gadagan si Terry padulung sa kahera diin galinya iyang Mama. Duul na kini mahuman pagtala sa kontador sa tanan nilang gipangpalit. Gakuut sa iyang pitaka ang iyang Mama. Maayo gani kay naabtan ni niya.

"Ma, kadali lang. Naa pa koy ipadugang." Ug iyang gibutang sa counter ang usa ka plastik nga supot nga kandila.

"Mag-unsa man ka ana, 'day?" pangutana sa iyang Mama. "Mura'g sayo ra man na, wala pa may Nobyembre karon."

"Dili, Ma! Para ni sa Earth Hour unyang gabii. Pampagngun daw nato atong mga suga gikan 8:30 hanggtud 9:30."

"Ha? Unsa na pud nang kabuang?"

"Kinahanglan man gud mapahibalo sa tanan ang impact sa Global Warming." Mao ni ang natunan ni Terry sa iyang pagsige ug tan'aw sa MTV. Sukad pa atong usa ka semana, balik-balik na ug pasalida ang mga mantalaan bahin sa Earth Hour. Ang mga gadasig mo-ambit kay si Jericho Rosales ug uban pang batan'ong artista.

"Sige gud uy!" Nipanghupaw ang Mama ni Terry. Gustong makiglabot ang iyang anak sa daghang suliran sa kalibutan. Si Terry pirmi mo-apil sa mga rally bahin sa ambientalismo, dili mukaon ug karne, ug daku ug kalagot sa mga gasul'ob ug balahibo sa mananap (maski na wala sila'y nakit'an nga gasul'ob ani.) Wala'y kapuslanan makipaglalis kaniya, ug gamuro na ang kahera ug ang mga tawong gasunod nila.

"Ma'am, gusto mo mopalit ug among Green Bag?" pangutana sa kahera. Ang Green Bag, usa ka baga nga panaptong sako, berde giyod tinuod pinauyon sa iyang pangalan.

"Ayaw lang, 'day. Mahal man kaayo."

"Ma, mas environment-friendly baya na kay sa mga plastic shopping bag."

"Hoy, Terry, tag-P35 baya na! Nipalit na ta ana atong usa ka semana. Nganong wala man nimo gidala?"

"Ay, gigamit man gud nako sa iskwelahan. Nakalimtan nako."

Sa ilang likod, nagpahibalo na sa iyang kahasol ang gasunod nila pinaagi sa pagughad. Nagdali-dali ug bayad ang Mama ni Terry bago na'ay laing mahunahunaan ang iyang anak.

"Hala, mamauli na ta!" ingon sa Mama ni Terry.

"Ayaw sa Ma, uy! Wala pa man siguro mobalik ang kuryente sa ato-a! Perteng gilas-a ra ba didto sa ato-a, abi nako mora na ko ug malanay. Magsuroy-suroy ug pabugnaw sa ta dinhi sa mall."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Crashing at 60kph

So here I am, a little worse for wear, but still alive. I have stitches on both sides of my head, bruises all along my left arm and left leg. My left side looks like a big cat used it for a scratching post. Probably the worst injury is my left palm, its fleshy part ripped to shreds, and now held together by surgical thread. I suppose you've seen the pictures already, so you already know.

If it sounds bad, that's because it is. But I'm still around, still intact, no less pogi than I was before (which isn't saying much), so I can laugh about the whole thing now. And, of course, I'd like to thank all those who sent their well wishes while I was confined in the hospital.

So, what did happen last Sunday? I was cruising downhill on a hard-packed dirt road in Samal Island when I lost the brakes on my mountain bike. I overtook two of my friends, one of whom was travelling at 45kph. That put my speed at around 60kph.

Did I intentionally go on this suicide run? No. My friends and I were enroute to Canibad, a town in Samal. The road had gone uphill for most of the way. When the path finally dipped, I thought it was one of those gently rolling sections common in most country roads. I felt relieved that I could let gravity take over for a while before hitting another uphill slope.

Apparently I was wrong. The slope just kept going and going and going.

By the time I realized there wouldn't be any uphill grade to slow me down, I was already going very fast. I tapped on my rear brakes, but I wasn't getting a response from the bike. I sped past my friend who was half a kilometer ahead of me just a few seconds before.

"No brakes! No brakes!" I shouted ahead to another friend up ahead. I hoped to God I wouldn't hit him. I missed him by just a few inches as I passed his left.

I don't quite recall what happened next. Did my bike wobble? Did I hit a rock? Or a hole? I don't know. All I knew was that I was flying forward and rolling on the ground. My left hand and my head hurt terribly.

I tried to get up. My vision was a blur as I had lost my glasses. My helmet was off-kilter. I held up my left hand, and I saw that my palm had turned to hamburger. I glanced at my shorts and they were spotted with blood.

"Lie down! Lie down" my biking companion said. He took off my helmet and tried to set me on my back.

"Wait! My backpack!" I said. Only when I had slipped out of it did I lie down. My other friends who had gone on ahead came back. Someone slipped my bike helmet under my head.

I performed a quick self-diagnostic. I wiggled my toes. So far so good. That meant no spinal injury.

(to be continued...)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Synfig animation

My student's work in my Open Source Technologies class. She did this in Synfig. I hardly had anything to do with it, except maybe to nudge her in the right direction. Then I had her teach me!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Bright and shiny crap

Call it media brainwashing. Because all my friends liked it, because the reviews were generally positive, and because The Onion said you were an old fogey if you complained about it, it took a while before my dislike of the new Star Trek movie bubbled to the surface. But bubble up it did. So let me make it clear:

The new Star Trek movie, the so-called "reboot", is a mess. I don't like it. And you can call me all sorts of names and I still won't like it.

What's not to like? After the dark and dismal stories of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, the new Star Trek is colorful and optimistic. On the surface, Star Trek is bright and shiny again.

But that's the problem: it's all on the surface. Underneath, the Star Trek movie is flimsy and weak, with muddled motivations and an overreliance on deus ex machina.

It's not about canon. It's about good story. I don't care if it's old Trek or new Trek or new old Trek or what. I want a good plausible story. And in that respect, the J.J. Abrams film failed to deliver.

I mean: the Romulan miners travelled to the past, so why didn't they work to prevent the destruction of their planet when they could? It's not as if it was the Federation or the Klingons who caused the supernova. If anything, the Federation tried to save Romulus. It just so happened Spock was late. Was that his fault?

And they waited 25 years for old Spock to appear? What did they do in the meantime? Twiddle their thumbs? They obviously had the firepower to destroy Klingon and Federation armadas. And in all that time, they're just waiting?

People say that the old Star Trek relied on technology doubletalk to advance the plot, whereas this new Star Trek uses action. Hello? Red Matter? That can cause singularities with a single drop from a giant hypodermic needle? Transwarp transporter technology? So they can get back on the USS Enterprise without the dirty business of getting a fast ship? This new Star Trek has got convenient doubletalk plot devices in spades!

How convenient, too, that new Spock should just happen to order new Kirk thrown off the ship so that he conveniently lands on Delta Vega where old Spock has been conveniently marooned, and where they conveniently happen to meet Scotty who was conveniently left to man the outpost. Oh, and by the way, Scotty conveniently invented transporter gobbledygooky technology, too, so they can conveniently transport to the Enterprise travelling at warp speed.

The Kirk that I remember managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by some unconventional, clever, and underhanded trick (that being the point of his Kobayashi Maru solution). This Kirk's solution? Beam aboard the enemy ship and find a way to destroy it. Why not just fire a torpedo up the exhaust port while you're at it? It's so...ho-hum.

This Star Trek story, in fact, is so ho-hum, but you just won't notice it under the relentless assault on your senses by its arsenal of bright and shiny designs, lens flares, one-liners, and Orion beauties (what I really wanted to say was Orion slave girl, but apparently they're Federation now.) Even if your brain wants to complain, you you'll be drowned out by the nostalgic sighs of old starcrossed fans and the cheers of newly reconstituted "Trekkies."

And yet the fact remains: the new Star Trek is crap. Bright and shiny crap, yes, but crap nonetheless.

War Reporting for Cowards

I picked up "War Reporting for Cowards" in the P50 bargain bin of National Bookstore a few weeks ago. Now, the quality of the titles in the bargain bin is spotty, but considering that they're all almost-new hardcovers, I found myself opening my wallet several times. Hey, P50 is P50.

Of course, with a title like "War Reporting for Cowards", it was a book I had to get. It's an account of the 2003 Iraq invasion as witnessed by the author, Chris Ayres, a reporter for the London Times embedded with the Marines.

Oh, wait. Not quite.

Ayres was embedded with the Marines for just a few days at the start of the invasion. He still has some riveting stories coming from that period. But all the same, such a short stint would make for a thin volume. What makes up for the rest of the book are his first-hand account of the September 11 attack, the anthrax letters, and lots of personal fluff.

Because of the fluff, the book can get tedious at times. Ayres is an engaging writer, self-deprecatingly funny, but the story bogs down when he gets into his personal relationships. Then again, perhaps it's an essential part of his journey from neurotic self-obsessed 90's yuppie to someone who's finally learned to embrace life. I'm just not sure if this is the kind of book I want to read on a regular basis.

Still, "War Reporting for Cowards" has some very moving passages. Some excerpts:

War makes you feel special. It makes you feel better than your office-bound colleagues, gossiping over the watercooler or wiping mayonnaise from their mouths as they hunch in their veal-fattening pens. War gives your life narrative structuire. The banal becomes the dramatic. When you're at war, you don't worry about American Express bills. War spares you the washing up. Life at the brink of death makes all other life seem trivial. You're a hero when you're on the front lines.

Oddly enough, a bit on prayer:

I wished there was something I could do other than just sit and wait. I almost wanted to take Hustler's place in the machine-gun turret. Instead, I concentrated on trying to silence a hysterical internal monologue. It reminded me what Wilfred Owen had once written in a letter from the front lines: "There is a point where prayer is indistinguishable from blasphemy. There is also a point where blasphemy is indistinguishable from prayer." I felt slightly ashamed of my prayers, even in their current blasphemous form. I'd stopped going to church as soon as my parents would let me, and it seemed corny, predictable, and convenient that I would convert while under gunfire. But prayer is rational. I'd prayed on September 11, while wathcing the office workers fall from the floors of the World Trade Center. Unless you knew for a fact that it wouldn't do any good, why wouldn't you?

Finally, on the soundtrack of war and the nature of war:

As we prepared to move north and reunite with the rest of our convoy, I heard one of the lance corporals from the FDC singing the "Oompa Loompa" song from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. "Oompa loompa, doompadee doo," he chanted. "I've got a perfect puzzle for you..." The movies, I thought, have got the soundtrack to war all wrong. War isn't rock 'n' roll. It's got nothing to do with Jimi Hendrix or Richard Wagner. War is nursery rhymes and early Madonna tracks. War is the music from your childhood. Because war, when it's not making you kill or be killed, turns you into an infant. For the past eight days I'd been living like a five-year-old -- a nonexistence of daytime naps, mushy food, and lavatory breaks. My adult life was back in Los Angeles with dirty dishes and credit card bills.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Davao City Engineer's Mess

On the notion that our street -- which has never been flooded in twenty years -- needed widening of the ditches, the City Engineers office ordered a backhoe to tear up our sidewalks. Above is the result of their oh-so-brilliant operations.

Meanwhile, the narrow ditches on the adjacent street that DOES get flooded often continue to remain narrow and clogged.

Hooray for bureaucratic thinking.


My Disney robot army

Picked these up from SM City Davao over a couple of weeks. Believe it or not, they only cost P50 each! They came in keychain versions as well, but my sister appropriated those.

This reminds me of a scifi story I read a long while back, but whose title or author I can't remember anymore. It had a robot Mickey, Donald, and Goofy trudging across an apocalyptic wasteland. Has anyone else read the same story?

"Shut up and shop!"

Picked up this free postcard in Clark Quay in Singapore during my last trip there. It's been sitting on my desk for a few weeks. Now I'm sending it off to someone who needs some cheering up. Just so I have a record, I scanned it and am posting it here.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Davao Writers Workshop 2009

Was this week hectic or what? Apart from my open source technologies summer class for Ateneo, I was also helping to run the Davao Writers Workshop at Ponce Suites. T'was a merry chase, processing certificates, forms, photos, and in between, conducting the final long exam for my IT students and taking part in the critique of the fellows' works.

Hectic, yes, but also fulfilling. I'd do it again next year.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Medical Mission

As part of its civic service, the Davao Chapter of the Drugstore Association of the Philippines (of which I am a member) holds a medical mission annually. This year, our partner organization was the Family Circus Children's Ministries, an outreach program of the Assemblies of God. The ministry is based in Davao, and is served by young volunteers from the Philippines, Australia, and the United States.

The ministry deserves its name because its main activity area is under a circus-type big top. It's in the Muslim Friendship Village in Bucana, Davao City.

Thankfully, we had the help of several generous sponsors. Case in point: Bonakid, who graciously provided a milk stand.

While the medical mission was going on, Family Circus also had a lively program for the kids. Lots of loud singing and clapping, and very biblical, too.

It was quite hot under the big top, but no one was complaining.

The bottleneck in the mission was the registration of patients. As is usual for events like this, families come in literally by the truckloads. It was a challenge recording their names and ages. After that, we had to get their height and weight as well.

While I was only supposed to document and photograph the event, I ended up in the thick of things. First it was the registration; then, I put myself in charge of the weighing scale.

Quite a shock, really, to come across some kids who were 2, 3, even 4 years old, and weighing less than 15kg. And mothers who were only 17 years old on paper, but who looked 30 around the eyes.

We had a team of doctors and dentists processing the patients.

And, um, some eye candy, too.

This was the crowd at around 10AM. It should give you an idea of how it was.

Finally, some smiling faces from the lines.