Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Marvel heroes, anime-style

Regrettably I lost my taste for anime some four years ago (the last series I really enjoyed being Medabots.) Well, it had to happen sometime. Every now and then, though, I take a peek at what's going on, if only for the design aesthetic. Like now, for instance: apparently there are two new offerings from Marvel which re-envision their iconic heroes in anime style.

First we have Iron Man.

I like this interpretation. It radiates an intense and insane dynamic I normally wouldn't have associated with Iron Man. The enemy looks quite formidable, too.

Then here's Wolverine.

Unfortunately, this doesn't quite do it for me. It's just wrong on so many levels. I don't know if it's the mullet or womanly hands or what. It's just wrong wrong wrong.

In any case, both movies come out next year.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SONA Rally 2009

Straight from the airport, I headed to Roxas Boulevard to join the SONA Rally 2009. I arrived a tad late, a little past four, just as the activities were winding down before dispersal at five. Still, I managed to catch some of the fun. And I got a shirt, to boot.

Posting this pic here because I promised the ladies above that I would. Hi, girls!

The (in)famous Medusa / President Evil pic should go down in history as an iconic image of GMA. Heh. That and the Grimace-colored french fry gown. (Thank you, Inno Sotto.)

Building blocks of corruption.

Stop Cha-cha. I like this design and the simple iconography. It's also the same motif on the shirt. Pictures to follow later.

The rallyists, friendly as they were, kept mistaking me for a Japanese or Korean tourist. They would go up to me and ask: "Where are you from, my friend?"

"Ga-tudlo ko sa Ateneo."

Then some laughs ensue.

Heh. Political activism should be fun.


Just back from my four-day jaunt to Cebu and Dumaguete: more pictures forthcoming, but in the meantime, something that caught my eye this morning. The screenshot below comes from my Google Reader, from a feed shared by my friend Francis Ocoma.

It's a Slashdot story on how Jupiter protects the earth as a gravitational shield, attracting objects that might otherwise impact the earth. Then look at the ad below from Cosmic Fingerprints.

Yeah, yeah, I know how Google posts all these relevant ads, but this, er, conjunction was just too perfect.

Friday, July 24, 2009

After three years

After an absence of three years I find myself back in Cebu and Dumaguete. God knows why and how I stayed away for so long, but now that I'm here only one word adequately describes my state of mind: disoriented.

Perhaps it's that long-standing familiarity with each place that got me thinking that I had it just so. Over here is this road, and over there is that house. That's how it's laid out in the map of my mind. How strange then to find the road and the house there and not there: the road being now an intersection and the house becoming a four-story building.

That's the price, I suppose, for going away. In the long absence other tenants have moved in, with visions different from your memories. I can't really complain because, well, I've divested myself of my investments long ago: you can really only live in one place after all.

And yet no matter how much I tell myself all still feels so strange.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Apollo memories

I wasn't yet born when the Apollo 11 astronauts made their historic moon landing, but their images proved to be an inspiration to me for most of my childhood. It's waned a little in the past years, partly because of adult needs, mostly because the people who could have let the dream slip away. But deep down inside, I'm hoping, still hoping, that we make it back someday.

Hats off to you, Neil and Buzz (and to you, too, Michael). It wasn't just one small step for a man.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Obama Kool-Aid

The Literature Exam

Believe it or not, I am now giving my first long exam on Literature. And yes, it's a take-home exam. Too easy? Too tough? Let me know. See the questions below:

  1. Reconstruct the events related in "A Rose for Emily" in chronological order. Why do you think the was the story written out of order? Would it enhance or diminish the story if it was written in chronological order? Why?

  2. How is setting used to reflect the mood in "Hills Like White Elephants", "Misery", "The Lady with the Pet Dog", and "A Rose for Emily?" Quote examples from the text and explain how they enhance characterization.

  3. Briefly describe the strengths and weaknesses of Jigs, Anna Sergeyevna, Mathilde, and Emily. As women, are they portrayed favorably or unfavorably? Support your answers by quoting relevant passages from the text.

  4. What are the respective themes of "The Killers", "Misery", "The Lady with the Pet Dog", "The Necklace", and "A Rose for Emily?" Are what the authors are trying to say still valid now as when they were written back then? Why or why not? (Refer to the handout "The Elements of Fiction" on the subject of Themes.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Excuse letter

The other day I found this note in my pigeon hole at school.

Not the first time something of this sort has happened, either. Last summer, I saw a middle-aged couple wandering around my floor. I asked if I could help them.

"We're the parents of G---."

"Ah, yes, he's a student in my class. Is something the matteer?"

"Sir, we came to tell you that he's sick and can't make it to school."

All this gets my head shaking. These are college students we're talking about, upwards of 18 years. They should be old and mature enough to manage their own affairs, absences included.

Personally, I'm not much of a stickler for attendance. The daily quizzes will take their toll soon enough. It's a student's loss if he doesn't attend class.

I wish everyone would stop living college like it was still high school. Or grade school.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Contenders

Seriously, I ask, is this all? Is this all from whom we can choose from? Aren't there other choices? Please please please pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease let there be other choices.

Presented here, my instant one-word impressions of the candidates, from left to right:







What's your take?

Photo cropped from

Thursday, July 16, 2009

More on AH1N1 at Ateneo de Davao

Excerpted from a note from the University president:

To date, because of students confirmed positive with the Influenza A (H1N1) virus, one College section (one student confirmed positive), three High School classes (two classes with one student confirmed positive and the third with one student highly suspected) and one Grade School class (one student confirmed positive) have been instructed to go on voluntary self-quarantine for ten days.

The members of the College section were told to go on self-quarantine from noon yesterday, 15 July, and will be allowed to return to school on 21 July. For those irregular students in this first year College section, arrangements have been made with their teachers in their other classes about their forced self-quarantine. The class has been duly informed of the importance of this self-quarantine. Where possible, teachers may try to give home assignments during this period.
The High School classes and Grade School class instructed to go on voluntary self-quarantine will return to school on 22 July. Efforts have been made inform their parents / guardians about this self-quarantine. Where possible, teachers may try to give home assignments during this period.

We ask that all concerned take the self-quarantine seriously.

The teachers of theses classes have been asked to make the necessary adjustments in their schedule of examinations and in the distribution of class matter.

The teachers of these sections have been asked to closely monitor themselves and to seek medical help should they show any signs or symptoms of Influenza.

It is strongly advised to practice “social distancing” during this period, i.e. avoid physical contact, keep some distance for office transactions. We ask all to be conscious of infection control measures such as frequent hand-washing and proper respiratory-related etiquette.


Yesterday I was fiddling around with stuff in the lab when, from out of the blue, Anthea, one of my students from last summer tapped on the window and asked me to step out for a moment.

"What's this about?" I asked. Outside were a few of her classmates -- Lloyd, Jeff, Clydean, and Darlene. Consultation, maybe?

"Sir, we'd like to present you with this certificate..."

Anthea read through the entire text of the certificate while I stood there smiling somewhat uncomfortably. I'm never comfortable with awards, you see. Another classmate swung by and took some photos.

As it turns out, the award from a project for their Theology class -- call it a token of appreciation. They had to decide on a teacher to give it to. In the scheme of the world, a very small thing -- trivial, even childish, a made-up award (then again, aren't all awards just made-up things, after all?)...

...but darned, it certainly ranks as one of the most heartfelt awards I ever had the pleasure of being presented with. Most awards tell you how you measure up to someone's standards; this award told me how my efforts to meet my standards were appreciated by someone.

Thanks, guys. You made my day.

AH1N1 in Ateneo de Davao

So it's finally happened: Ateneo de Davao University has now reported cases of AH1N1.

I hadn't planned on writing about this because I didn't want to add to the confusion and, er, panic, but since the story already came out in the local news....

I found out about it when I dropped by the Computer Science Division faculty room. They were discussing the incident over lunch. Apparently, two of the recently infected attend the class of one of the teachers I was with. ("Oh, no! Stay away from me!" I kidded.)

Apparently, that wasn't all. One entire class was asked to quarantine themselves for ten days, and this class just happened to have occupied one of the computer labs on our floor (though fortunately not on the same wing where I hover.)

Ten days. That should be enough time to see if the virus really took root. Hmmm, I think I'll go ask how the students how they're doing when I bump into them at the mall.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Travel plans

Been a while but I'm finally visiting Cebu and Dumaguete next week. My itinerary:

July 23, ETA 10:00am — Cebu
July 25, ETA 12:00pm — Dumaguete (tentative)
July 27, ETA  8:00am — Cebu
July 27, ETD  2:00pm — Davao

Send me email if you want to meet up.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Received from cellphone number +63-918-408-0208:
Ito na new roaming # ko. My pdla akong pakage jan, my cp k don. My mga gmit din my knya knya na pngalan un lodan nyo muna to ng 115 Wla na to l0d.
Yeah, right.

Our socialistic and feudalistic bent

Our store sits at the intersection of CM Recto and Magsaysay, two of the busiest thoroughfares in Davao City. As such, when transport groups decide to call a strike -- like yesterday, for example -- I always enjoy a ringside seat to the festivities.

Do I mind the shouting and the flag-waving? Not in the least bit. Rallies add a touch of color to the humdrum existence of Davao City. Without this outlet, who knows where all the pent-up rage would go? Besides, the rallyists aren't really a bad sort. They smile and wave and pose gamely for pictures. In the end, we're really all just folk.

If there's any criticism that I might level at our cause-oriented groups, it's the disappointing lack of focus. Rallies nowadays aren't nearly as charged nor as deadly as they were in 70's and the 80's; but that's because they suffer from a smorgasbord of issues that the rallyists want addressed.

Case in point: yesterday's rally mean to protest the high pump prices. And yet the banners and placards presented a whole list of grievances, ranging from oil deregulation to Charter Change to human rights violations to excessive fines to EVAT to the perennial and venerable US-(insert administration name here) regime. Each one of these is a worthwhile cause to rail against, in turn, but all of them at the same time? Yes, they're all interconnected somehow, but:

Ano nga ba talaga, ate?!

Over the typically muddled messages, calls against oil deregulation came at the forefront during yesterday's rally. No surprise here: oil deregulation has been a favorite whipping boy since well during Ramos' tenure. As with many things, deregulation looked good on paper but stumbled in the implementation with too few players in the field at the time it came to being. Have things improved since then? Nowadays, we have smaller players like SeaOil and the home-grown Phoenix, ventures that might not have been possible without deregulation.

But putting that aside, the rallying cry calls for a return of fixed gasoline prices, with government pegging the mark. Does anyone else see the irony in calling for more government control in the same breath as calling for the same government's ouster?

Ano nga ba talaga, ate?!

At the political grassroots, it seems to me that we tend towards socialism. We demand government structures that aggressively redistribute wealth in favor of the masses. The chances of that are nil, considering economic and historical evidence; and yet many continue to delude themselves with that hope because of the small and marginal concessions doled by the political chieftains.

At the same time, the concept of the benevolent political chieftain who will magically solve all our problems continues to loom large in our landscape. It's ingrained in our culture, this concept of a village head to whom we turn to for arbitration and dispensation, be it the barangay captain or the mayor or the governor or the congressman, ad nauseum. In Davao City, you only need to turn your head this way and that to see how much of it politicians have already apportioned for themselves: basketball courts, streets, sidewalks, barangay halls, and schools all constructed "through the initiative of."

So we live within this state of constant tension: on the one hand, looking for a change in leadership, and on the other, apportioning them more power and more control and more leverage over our lives.

How does it end? Take a guess.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Goodbye, Marie

I just found out that my friend, Marie Paynor-Sia, passed away last Friday. She had been battling cancer for the last few years. Just when I thought things were on the up-and-up, well....

It's been over ten years since we were at IBM, but I still remember those days at work and off work. Marie was educated abroad, so she spoke with this distinct American twang. But rather than turning us off with any airs it was quite the other way around -- it was we who kidded her about it, and she took all the ribbing good-naturedly.

One story forever engraved in my mind, although I wasn't actually there. Marie and some officemates were playing a parlor game and the word they were looking for was maple syrup. And Marie kept saying "Aunt Jemimah! Aunt Jemimah!" pronouncing it "Je-MY-muh" as was proper. And everyone looked at her and wondered, what is she talking about? Until someone said, "Ah, Aunt Je-MEE-mah!"

Another story: she was driving along EDSA when a truck bumped into her car. She was all right, thank goodness, but there was a problem: she had switched plates on her car to skip coding. Regardless that it was the truck driver's fault, all the liability was hers. She called Jeff and he immediately came to her rescue. Story was (as I heard it) he smoothly slipped a P500 into the cop's hand, and that got her off. Not that I'm condoning the act, but it was sweet. Small wonder they got married a few years later.

My very last memory of her: her despedida party at their house in Quezon City. Just a quiet night with friends. I remember she gave us these commemorative coin tokens as her parting gift. I'm sorry I didn't agree to play the harmonica that night.

Fast forward a few years later: people grow apart, yes, but then there's Facebook. I knew she had cancer, but it was good to see her messages from time to time. Despite the battle, she and Jeff managed to bring up two lovely daughters. So you say hello, drop a note every now and then, and hope for the best.

This morning, despite my resolution to keep away from Facebook, I took a peek, and there was the message from a friend.

Hi IBM Friends, For those who do not know yet, Marie Paynor Sia passed away last Friday, July 10, 2009....

The shock gives way to sadness and regret. Regret for messages never sent and harmonicas never played. Ah, life.

I dropped by her Facebook page for one last look. So strange to see all those messages from friends addressed to her, despite knowing she'll never read them; and yet so right nonetheless, one last chance to say goodbye, to tell her how much she will be missed.

And though it feels strange it also feels right, so I also say my own goodbye.

Farewell, Marie. We will miss you very much.

Sunday, July 12, 2009


Last week, a friend pointed me out to a list: 150 ways to tell if you're a true geek. Of course, I had to take a look. While some of it was amusing, and some of it truly far out, at some point, I had to pause and ask myself: Why am I taking this test? What do I even care?

If you think about it, "150 ways to tell if you're a true geek" sounds very much like it would have come out of women's magazines that feed on the insecurities of their target demographic from their cover blurbs alone: "10 Ways to Tell If He Truly Loves You", "Are You Too Fat? Are You Too Thin?", "How to give a better blowjob", and so on. (Of course, the one question they never really ask is: "Do you take too many quizzes? Take this test to find out.")

Really, it's just sad.

So I submit, along with all the references to Star Trek, Zork, Apple ][, Lego, and Mythbusters, item number 151: "You don't care if other people think you're a geek or not."

Back before the term became fashionable, I did all the geeky stuff because they were fun and thought-provoking and challenging and, let's face it, a little different from what the rest of the world did. I didn't do them for anyone's approval. Be darned if I'm going to start now, just because some opinion poll says so.

These days, you can practically buy your way into geekdom. Want to be part of the geek set? Buy an MacBook, an iPhone, an iPod Touch, a Blackberry, and a DSLR. Worship and discuss anything that Joss Whedon and J.J. Abrams will turn out, even if it's utter crap. Read the latest juvenile novel or anime, fangirl or fanboi about the brooding hero or heroine, and dress up like they do.

There's no more heartache in being a geek because it's already so fashionable. Heck, you'd be way out there if you didn't have any public quirk. And gone, along with that tiny bit of angst, is that joy of discovery that someone else out there shares your secret passion because, hey, all you need to do is just check if the group already exists on Facebook.

Being a "geek" nowadays is just too much work, because there's so much to keep up with and so many expectations to live up to. The geeks never really had their revenge; instead, they were coopted into the mainstream. They sold out.

That just breaks the spirit of what it is to be a geek.

Am I a geek? Are you a geek?

I don't care. I really don't care.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Google Chrome OS

Google has announced a new operating system due mid-2010.

From the post:

Google Chrome OS is an open source, lightweight operating system that will initially be targeted at netbooks. Later this year we will open-source its code, and netbooks running Google Chrome OS will be available for consumers in the second half of 2010. Because we're already talking to partners about the project, and we'll soon be working with the open source community, we wanted to share our vision now so everyone understands what we are trying to achieve.


Google Chrome OS will run on both x86 as well as ARM chips and we are working with multiple OEMs to bring a number of netbooks to market next year. The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel.

Doctor Who movie?

Can it be true? A Doctor Who movie, with David Tennant in the lead? The news is all over the web, with possible confirmation at Comic-Con.

Who should be the companion? Rose Tyler? Martha Jones? Donna Noble? Someone new?

World eBook Fair

Already posted this on my Plurk but I thought it deserves another push: for one month, July 4 to August 4, the World eBook Fair is making its entire collection available for download. Their collection comes from a variety of sources, including Project Gutenberg, World Library, Baen Books, the United Nations, and many more.

What are you waiting for? Have a look now!

Thanks to Ken for the heads up.

...and on 07/08/09 10:11

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Posted on 4:56 07/08/09...

Heh. Pretty cool, eh?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Understanding the Boot Process

A presentation I put together on the PC boot process, covering both Linux and, ugh, Windows. Cross-posted in Ubuntu Living.

Sunday, July 05, 2009


Our tambis tree is also in full bloom.

I got curious as to what tambis was actually called. A quick search on Wikipedia turned up the name Syzygium samarangense, more commonly known outside the Philippines as the Java apple. The syzygium genus is quite large, however, encompassing over 1,100 species.

Heh. They look pretty.

Avocado harvest

Avocado harvest from our backyard. No, I ain't kidding. Yes, you can have some, but only if you're my friend. ;-)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Why Apple sucks

'Nuff said.

P.S. Yes, I know about the hack to get the update without paying Apple the $9.95. No, I won't do it.

Noise barrage against HR1109

Students, teachers, and other folk took to the streets yesterday afternoon to protest against HR1109, that little bit of Con-Ass treachery that the House of Repestentatives put together. A group gathered around the park on Roxas, banging pots and posts and passing motorists to honk their horns. I went down, of course, and took pictures.

Next time, I'll bring noisemakers of my own.

Just a little rest

Friday, July 03, 2009

Teaching Lit

Today I brought a double-barreled shotgun to class. The shotgun's name was "Hills Like White Elephants" and the class was Lit 2 - Literatures of the World. I needed the shotgun because I now sat on the other side of the teacher's table. I needed to make a good impression. A shotgun makes a good impression. I like to think the students went away impressed.

With a shotgun, you can make people talk. As a teacher, the greatest challenge is to get the students to talk. By talk, I mean about the subject at hand, not to each other. That challenge runs double for us here in the Philippines, where we're taught since birth to keep quiet and do as we're told. "Hills" got my students talking.

To get them to talk, I had to wield the shotgun a little creatively. Like a bludgeon maybe, whacked over their heads several times. As gentle as whackings go. "Hills" doesn't lend itself to a casual read -- it takes several times before the story reveals itself. What exactly are these two people talking about? What is this "thing" that seems to hover over them?

To get to that answer, we took another path. How do you characterize the man? How do you characterize the woman? Do you think you could be friends with this woman? What would you say to her? After a few tentative and timid mumbles, somebody blurted out: "The man is arrogant and manipulative." And then: "The woman is too submissive to the man."


"If she were my friend, I'd tell her to stand up for herself." "A relationship is supposed to be two-way; it can't all just be about what the guy wants." "She shouldn't just consider the happiness of other people; she should also consider her own happiness."

"So what are they talking about?" Still more furrowed brows, unsure about the answer. "If you were sitting next to them in a cafe, and you eavesdropped on their conversation, what would you think they were talking about?"

"I would say they have a big problem."

"A big problem, you say? What sort?"

And then, the answer dawns on the class.

"Hills" is about as perfect as a short story can get; and that's why it's perfect to start of a literature class. It's short, it's spare, but it's very deep. Don't weigh them down with theory or structure just yet. Hit the ground running. Literature is about stories. Get
started with a story.

A little later, I'm the one surprised by the revelations of hitherto-undiscovered meaning. My students are nursing students in their senior year, and to them this is just a minor subject; but
they're bringing their own experience to bear on the story.

"You say the beer means something?"

"Yes, sir. It's a depressant."

"Really, I didn't know that. I thought people drank beer to be happy."

"In small quantities, yes, beer gives you a good feeling. But if you drink too much, it has the opposite effect. You'll fall into a depression."

It's my own eureka moment as I discover another aspect of "Hills" I hadn't seen before.

And so the ideas start coming out. They're coming in trickles, yes, but they're steady trickles. There's still a ways to go to get to the free-flowing and -- dare I say it? -- heated discussions we normally see in workshops. But this is a start. I'm happy.

Always bring a double-barreled shotgun to class. Bludgeon, poke, cajole, and shoot.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Writing Schedule

At the beginning of the year, I resolved to write one short story per month. Like all resolutions, I proceeded to break it.

No, I'm not proud of myself. That's just how we roll.

Ironically, I also got three stories published in the first half of the year, so far my best start: one in Vin Simbulan's dragon anthology, and two thus far in Philippine Graphic.

On the other hand, these were stories I wrote way back in 2006. The lesson here: it can take a long time for your work to see the light of the day.

So let's see now: I have three more stories in the pipeline, just waiting for either the editor to decide or the publisher to print. And three more that need heavy revisions before I'm happy enough to even consider sending them out. Yep, that's how we roll.

Problem is: once these are out, I'll have nothing. Gasp!

Last week, I finally made good on my resolution. The only way to get the story written is to write. Yeah, it's ridiculously simple, isn't it. But the stories don't get written for a variety of reasons: work, school, baby, Facebook.

Hmmm, Facebook, mostly. But more on that later.

Now every night I start writing at 9PM, and I don't stop until I've put in at least 500 words. Not a whole lot to be sure, but the baby steps have already gotten my past the 3,000-word mark for a new story, one percolating in the back of my mind since last year (a domestic sci-fi/horror story, and yes, it's Filipino, dammit.) I'm proud of my progress. Another couple of nights and the story should be done.

Ah, but is it any good? Of course not! But that's how we roll.