Wednesday, September 30, 2009

And now, earthquakes....

As if storms and floods weren't enough, just now we have a magnitude 7.9 earthquake off Indonesia, following a magnitude 8.0 earthquake in Samoa last Tuesday.

What more proof do you want, people?

It's GLOBAL WARMING, people!
Reduce greenhouse emissions NOW!


And heck, if there's no link, we'll send our top scientists to find one posthaste.

Accountability in Tragedy

On the one hand, devastating Ondoy has heightened the humanity in many Filipinos: people helping other people out in the midst of the crisis, some to the point of supreme sacrifice -- as in the cases of Muelmar Magallanes, Cpl. Venancio Ancheta, Cpl. Adriano Regua, and other army men -- but for most, doing their own small parts in relative anonymity. Indeed, the bayanihan spirit is alive again.

And on the other hand? Well, business as usual, for the vultures and crocodiles.

While we must appreciate bayanihan, perhaps we must step back and ask if the spontaneous community spirit does not itself provide a disincentive for government and politicos to do their jobs. This is not to say "Don't help"; but rather, to call for accountability even as we deal with the tragedy.

"This is not the time for finger-pointing," some people will say; but if not now, then when? When Ondoy is but a distant memory, we will all just shrug off the calls for accountability as politically-motivated.

What happened to all the funds allocated for disaster management? What happened to the plans? Where are the executives? A portion of our taxes are supposed to be allocated for such functions: have they been put to good use? have they been misspent? How come no one is taking responsibility and facing the consequences? (Bayani Fernando has owned up to his faults, but obviously he is not resigning.)

We reward government for its inaction. Tutal: may bayanihan naman, di ba?

If no one is willing to take the blame, there's no shortage of people willing to take credit. Relief distribution efforts become photo opportunities, all the better for upcoming campaign season. Relief goods are repacked and slapped with labels: "Tulong mula kay Manny Villar."

We can't even tell if the last story is true, or mere black propaganda (as the affected camps will be sure to claim.) Again, the lack of accountability even -- especially -- in the frenzy of unverified news reports.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Helpless

I could, if I wanted to, repost pictures or videos of Ondoy. I could, if I wanted to, write my impressions or rehash stories from friends. But I won't, because I wasn't there, and whatever I might say will come out hollow. While the rains ravaged Metro Manila, all I could do was follow the news with mouth agape.

I pray you recover quickly, my friends, and that your losses do not deepen. Be strong.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Success!

As a counterpoint to my tale of classroom woe, I now present a success story.

Since last summer, I had been coaching Cindy, Jzel, and Alisa -- students in my open source technologies class -- in osCommerce. Early on, they had identified a project involving e-commerce to by their thesis; our classes over summer gave them the opportunity to work on their project well before their other classmates got started on theirs.

Yesterday, I received great news: they passed their thesis defense, the first group to do so in three days' worth of rigorous panel interviews.

I can attest to the hard work of these ladies, maximum credit of which should go to Cindy. At the end of last summer, they had gotten as far as installing osCommerce and customizing its templates. Major work still lay ahead, though, with customizing the payments and reporting systems.

I offered to host their project on my web server, which eased the burden technically and financially. Later on, as they added Paypal to their payment services, I also gave them (limited) access to my account. Finally, since their selected merchant proved difficult to work with, I passed them on to my sister's pet shop.

Throughout this semester, we consulted on the progress of the project. Cindy sat in during my lab classes so we could iron out kinks here and there and I could offer a new trick or two. Slowly the stores took shape; I have to admit, I was impressed.

So the end result: first group to hurdle their thesis defense, albeit with major document revisions (but I suspect almost everyone goes through that.) Which I think shows what's possible if the students are interested enough in the subject and really take ownership of the project.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plants vs Zombies


Got "Plants vs Zombies" running on Ubuntu. Fun title, though not really my cup of tea.

Read more...

The Future of Windows is...Linux!

All right, I'm half-kidding on this one, but it also means I'm half-serious.

What prompted this post was a little incident yesterday evening. With all my major projects in the closing stage, I decided to kick back and get a gaming fix. I dusted off a game I bought from GOG.com (Hostile Waters, if you're interested) but which I had never before installed. Time to give it a try, I said. I booted into my barely-used Windows XP partition and ran the installer. And then when I started the game...it crashed.

I tried several times to get it working, even going as far as to reinstall the game. Still no luck. And so I gave up and booted back to Ubuntu to do something else. Then another thought: why not try running the game in Ubuntu? If nothing else, it'll be something to write about.

And you know what? The game ran perfectly on Ubuntu.

Read more...

Monday, September 21, 2009

The 21st Century Degree

Last summer, my students impressed me with their creative use of Youtube and Google to teach themselves Blender, Synfig, and other open source software I couldn't teach them. Video tutorials went a long way in getting them started with new and unfamiliar tools.

With the batch this semester, well, let's just say that I'm less than pleased with their methods.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a master of the Google search myself, and learning would be much more difficult without all those free Internet resources. But it's one thing to use Google as a guide and quite another to surrender your judgment entirely.

Case in point: in one of the steps in our lab exercises, I asked the students to copy a file, via command-line, from one directory to another. It was a simple procedure I had already drilled them in during past exercises, or so I thought. And then I saw one student type in the Google search bar:

"How do I copy a file from one directory to another?"

I can only imagine that at some point, the question will become "How do I put my pants on in the morning?" See accompanying video in Youtube.

I still might grant that student a little leeway, considering that Unix commands seem esoteric to the uninitiated; perhaps he just needed a little help to jog his memory. In fact, it seems positively minor to the last report another student made.

Now, as far as facilities go, there's no lack in presentation resources in my department. Every classroom is equipped with an overhead LCD projector, conveniently connected to a standby PC. There's nothing to keep a student from turning out a good report, except maybe themselves.

Unfortunately, my students this sem have a tendency to read everything off the screen, with matching monotone; or if not that, reading verbatim from hand-scribbled yellow pad, also in matching monotone. Do they really understand what they're saying? I'm not so sure.

Which leads me back to the culprit I introduced earlier. After taking the class through several pages worth of monotone performance, she finally reached the part where she flashed on screen instructions on how to configure this particular software. I felt I just had to interrupt.

"Liebchen! Sprechen Sie Deutsche?" (Don't be too impressed; all my German comes from the Indiana Jones movies.)

"Sir?"

"I said: do you speak German?"

"Uh, no...."

"Then why is your configuration example in German?!"

Sigh. Welcome to education in the Internet age, where students don't take up BS in Information Technology, or BS in Computer Science, or BS in What-Have-You; no, they're all taking up BS in Google, with a Major in Cut-and-Paste and a Minor in Facebook. Hmmm, or was that the other way around?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Internet Explorer only!

Who knew that, at this day and age, we would still find web sites that blocked their own content from specific browsers? You don't want me to see your stuff? Fi-iiiiine!

P.S. I don't know how I landed here. Must've clicked on something accidentally.

What Gilbert Teodoro stands for

Today's editorial at the Philippine Daily Inquirer looks at Gilbert Teodoro as candidate. For all its analysis on how the Teodoro candidacy came to be, what struck me most was the summary of what Teodoro stood for:

He has been forthright and firm in his stand favoring the Reproductive Health bill; he has categorically stated he wants Charter change with a unicameral legislature but a nationally elected president, the elimination of the anti-dynasty provision in the Charter, as well as a limited coverage for the courts when it comes to business matters; he prefers a military solution to rebellion and banditry in Mindanao, and close ties with America in that regard; and he has announced that the prosecution of officials for corruption will not be his priority, because it is the Ombudsman’s job.

I will still have sift through past interviews to see if these positions are true (from memory, I can verify his position on charter change), but from the looks of it, would I really vote for this man? Not bloody likely.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Software Freedom Day 2009 in Davao


Software Freedom Day 2009 in Davao on September 19, 2009; activities at University of Immaculate Conception - Bankerohan Campus, from 1:00PM to 5:00PM. Yes, I have a speaking slot (though why they haven't tired of me yet, I don't know -- maybe they're just being polite.)

More details here.

One-upmanship


How suspicious should I be that on September 19, designated Software Freedom Day and for which the open source community has scheduled activities for students, Microsoft should also happen to schedule a "Student Enrichment Seminar?" At the same time? Oh, well, maybe coincidence. Who cares?

P.s.ssst, Rodney ends at 3:00PM, so you can still head on over to UIC Bankerohan for the remainder of the SFD festivities.

Postcards away!


Only nine people took me up on my postcard project; and though some might say it's a sign not too many folks read my blog, I prefer to think I'm getting quality over quantity. In a little while, I'll be snail-mailing the cards, but before I do that, I want to thank the friends who wrote in with messages:

  • Arvin (who also runs the excellent Kill the Silence blog)
  • Aicha
  • Dr. Mel
  • Bob
  • Francis
  • Paige
  • Yolynne
  • Ian Dexter
  • Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Sculptor


    Our parish is putting up religious statues to adorn the grounds. To that end, they've hired a sculptor to make the images. It amazes me that he's able to practice his art using plain cement.

    The Robbery

    A few Saturdays ago, we opened the store to this sight:


    Our drawers had been rifled; our cellphones were missing; and our petty cash had disappeared: we had been robbed.



    However, instead of getting upset about our losses, we were more befuddled and amazed. Just how had the robber gotten in and out of our place? The most obvious entrance and egress was the broken panel doors up in front.




    But here's the kicker: the accordion grilles were intact, as were their padlocks. How could anyone have gotten his head, much less his entire body through such narrow spaces?



    If you'll examine the lower left section of the accordion grille, you'll note that that third bar from the left is bent. Still, our minds resisted the idea of an entry through that space. We formulated other theories: that the thief had snuck in late at night as we were closing, and had left another way; or that the thief had gone through the second floor. Yet none of those had any evidence to support it.

    So finally, we had to accept the obvious, no matter how improbable it was. Someone had gone through the grilles. And, as we spoke with other people about their own experiences, it wasn't as far-fetched as we first thought. Apparently, they use children, probably eight or nine years old, for such jobs. Working in gangs, the other boys will spread the grilles apart with iron bars just so that the small thief can get his head into the opening. Once the head is in, the rest of the body can easily follow. It's a common method of entry.

    Total losses: a few thousand pesos and three old cellphones. We think the thief may have been in a hurry. Quite lucky, too, because he missed the laptop I left in the inner office.

    A bumper crop


    They say that we only get a good durian harvest every other year, an assertion I'm inclined to believe: last year was slim pickings, with the fruits expensive yet mediocre; but this year? The city is swimming in durian (and rambutan). Vendors have even invaded our storefront, a situation we're only too happy to encourage for the discounts and the choice selections.


    Above is a scene from in front of Ateneo.

    Then, back to beside our store:



    More pics to follow!

    Friday, September 11, 2009

    My first two books

    ...well, no, not quite as author yet, more like editor / book layout artist / publisher / coordinator / whatnot. They're this close to getting ready to print, so I hope I'm not jinxing anything by showing off the covers.


    In case you're wondering, these are part of an NCCA project with the Davao Writers Guild. The author is Jeanne Lim, a genuinely funny lady on the page and in real life. The cover on the left is a photo by Rumana Husain, a Pakistani graphic designer whose work I found on NowPublic.com; on the right is a pastel painting by Davao artist George So.

    It's been a long and sordid (but interesting) journey getting these books to where they are; keeping my fingers crossed that they come out before the end of the month.

    Remembering


    I remember, and I share your grief. I hope you also remember and share mine.

    Note: uncertain of the origin of this photo as it circulates widely over the Internet. I got mine from here.

    On being a man

    Palace to Aquino: Be a man.

    Indeed! If anyone has clear ideas on what it is to be a man, it is this present administration. Like the Deputy Adviser for National Security, for example, who knows how to keep his women in line (with a whip, no less, like his beloved tigers) and hang on to his job.

    Wednesday, September 09, 2009

    09/09/09

    Heh. Another numerically significant date.

    Among the things that have happened today:

  • Noynoy Aquino has announced his candidacy for presidency.
  • Paolo Chikiamco's Rocket Kapre launches.

    Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day.
  • Legolas and Arwen

    I finally got the right settings on my camera. I don't need to fool around with color curves in GIMP anymore. I am now satisfied with the fidelity of the red background.


    More in my toy blog.

    Monday, September 07, 2009

    District 9


    District 9: did I like it or didn't I?

    Let's see: I found the first third of District 9 to be quite engaging and intriguing. I liked the documentary realism, the shaky footage, the interviews, and I felt the premise showed some promise. But somewhere after that, it fell apart when it became a standard action movie.

    My disappointment stems from the fact that it aimed so high. Sure, District 9 is an analogy for apartheid and discrimination against refugees, I get that already. But that lesson is lost in a major plot hole -- if the aliens are so advanced, and if they have all these weapons, and if all the elements they need are from their own tech.... You know what I'm getting at.

    And no, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO READ A COMIC BOOK TIE-IN TO GET IT.

    All of which makes me feel that the ghetto-ized atmosphere is really just artificial. I don't like it when social commentary is rammed down my throat when I'm watching for entertainment.

    Pikachu


    Uh, no, I don't go out of my way to buy Pokemon toys; they just seem to gravitate naturally to my shelf. Like this Pikachu pencil topper / finger puppet, for example. I don't know where it came from, but I'm sure I didn't buy it. Still, if it's in the house, it's most welcome. See more in my toy blog.

    Sunday, September 06, 2009

    P-40 Tomahawk



    Just bought this neat P-40 Tomahawk from the local mall this afternoon. It features a motorized propeller, flashing lights, and retracting landing gear. The size seems more ideal for younger children, unlike the smaller scales that I prefer; however, I really like the detail on this model. What's more, I got it at 50% off! More over at my toy blog.

    The Rajah of Reading


    Of all the gangs that I've ever run with, it's only with my friends in Davao that are connected by a passionate love of books. Formed by Aicha the Davao Readers Circle has been meeting more or less regularly every two weeks since last year (barring a long summer hiatus).

    And guess what? I'm the only guy.

    It's funny because you wouldn't normally expect to find a reading culture in Davao. Manila, maybe, what with it's many bookstores, but though my friends there were geeks, I can't recall actively trading books with any of them. (Well, only one, and the friend is also a she.)

    With the DRC, it's different. I can honestly say that my reading tastes have improved since meeting these gals. It was through the DRC I discovered Dai Jie, Haruki Murakami, Franz Kafka, David Sedaris, and Yann Martel. It was also in the DRC that I foisted Alfred Bester, Alan Moore, and Jasper Fforde. Always a lively exchange.


    Sometimes I wonder if there really are very few guys in Davao who actually read (the closest is Gilbert, but he's in GenSan.) Or maybe they're just too shy. Oh, well, their loss is my gain. Not too many men can boast of a regular harem, especially one composed of smart women.

    And that, my friends, is why I'm the Rajah of Reading.

    My online game collection

    When I signed up with Good Old Games, I only intended to purchase the Fallout games. I had just started receiving Paypal money courtesy of Text Link Ads and I didn't quite know where to spend it; and here were some games I never managed to catch the first time around, and they took Paypal payments. And the games were really cheap.

    Now, close to a year later, I'm surprised I've actually gotten so many. Yes, it's a combination of impulse buys and nostalgia, but on the whole I really like the service. What's more, several (though not all) of the games also run on Linux under Wine, and that means I hardly ever have to dual-boot. (Come to think of it, the last time I booted into my Windows partition was over two months ago.)

    By the way, it's GOG's first anniversary this week, and they have a 50% sale on Interplay games: lots of old favorites like Fallout, Descent, Earthworm Jim, and more. If this strikes your fancy, head on over there and tell them I sent you.

    MacArthur he ain't


    Found on Jay Fajardo's Facebook.

    Comment from another friend: "This was like long ago... he's now retired. This caused a ruckus during Erap's time back in 2002. Btw, a couple of years ago, people were praising his guts as he joined the popular clamor for GMA to resign, along with his retired general buddies."

    Friday, September 04, 2009

    Thursday, September 03, 2009

    Happy 40th Birthday, Internet!

    It's the Internet's 40th Birthday. Happy Birthday, Internet! What would the world be without you?

    Postcard project

    I've been meaning to do this for a while, but Blogger's 10th anniversary feels like the opportune time to actually do it. Fact is: I'm mighty grateful to the people who follow this blog. I'd say that fifty is a decent number.

    To show my appreciation, I'm going to send a real tangible old-fashioned snail-mailed postcard to all the people who follow this blog (and my other Blogger blogs, Ubuntu Living, Space Toy Shopper, Simple Blog Skins, and Literatures of the World.)

    So I'll know where to send the card to, please fill in your name and address (and a couple of other non-privacy-invasive details) at the special form below. Remember: you have to be following my blog; a link from your blog to mine would be nice, but is optional.



    Drop me a note!

    Entheos IT animation samples


    Back in 2005, I trained with Entheos in their animation program. Lacking the patience and the skill, I had no intention of becoming a full-time animator, but it was a long-standing dream to learn the trade. At the end of the program, I even took part in creating a short clip.

    Now, four years later, I'm happy to see that the guys have come a long way.

    By the way, there are a few more nice clips from the group (and a few groaners.) Check 'em out.

    Blogger's 10th anniversary

    Happy 10th anniversary, Blogger! Fads come and go but I'm thankful for the online home. And thanks for giving me more than 140 characters to express myself with.

    Cheers!

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Voltron: Revelations

    And the good news just keeps coming: a new Voltron movie is also due soon. Well, not exactly a movie, but a "motion-comic", whatever that is.

    Cowabunga!

    New Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles coming soon! And it stars not four, but eight Ninja Turtles! 1980's Ninja Turtles meet up with their modern cartoon counterparts! What can I say? Cowabunga!

    (This one's for you, Marianne! I know the kids -- and you -- will just love it!)

    Dear Mar Roxas

    You showed a lot of class. It must not have been easy to do what you did. Now, just don't be a dick and you're assured of my vote in 2016.

    Tuesday, September 01, 2009

    Er...okay...


    This pic from Nikka had me in stitches. (Side stitches, ha? Just wanted to make it clear.)

    The stuff they print these days....

    Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

    I humbly propose, as the first Disney/Marvel TV-for-teens project: Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane

    (Hat tip to Peppy for pointing it out.)

    Ultimate Team-Up

    If the news broke last night, I failed to catch it; only this morning, when checking through my Plurk account did I see my friend's post: Disney had bought Marvel for $4-B. CNN Money confirmed the announcement a little while later. What can I say? I'm dumbfounded, dubious, and delighted -- all at once, and that's no mean feat.

    Business-wise, it makes a lot of sense. Marvel owns some extremely valuable properties, and Disney some very impressive production facilities and distribution channels. Whatever you might think the outcome of this acquisition is, you can't deny that it's an impressive merger.

    If I'm dumbfounded, it's because I couldn't even think such a union was possible. Marvel has seen its share of lows, but despite this, cannot possibly be called a pushover. And, hey, that's still $4-B, not exactly chump change.

    If I'm dubious, it's because the tone of their properties couldn't generally be farther apart. Marvel rules the market in action-oriented angst-driven cosmic-spanning superhero entertainment, with occasional forays into adult blood-and-guts fare. Disney, on the other hand, is all about esteem affirmation, girl power, and why-can't-we-all-get-along aw-shucks moments. Honestly, can you imagine Wolverine mixing it up with...Goofy?

    And yet the more I think about it, the more I begin to wonder: why not? Why the heck not? Already the Internet is buzzing with all these crossover ideas: Donald Duck and Howard the Duck; Storm / Ororo as Disney Princess; Darkwing Duck and the Avengers. That's just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more coming out of the woodwork.

    Not to say that Disney can't do superheroes, either. It's done so in the past, and done it quite well. Gargoyles is as moody as X-Men, and The Incredibles was the movie that Fantastic Four should have been.

    While there's no guarantee that the Disneyverse will ever cross over with Marvelverse, the acquisition does make it possible. And the possibilities are beguiling. So, while some doubts linger, I say: go for it, guys!