Thursday, November 29, 2012


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Full moon

Friday, November 16, 2012


Once I confronted the manager and the security guard of a neighboring bank. Two nights before, the bank staff had a meeting that ran late. My car was caught between all their other cars. I asked the guard if they could move their vehicles; he waved me away. I would have let it go but after two days of fuming, I couldn't contain myself any longer. I went to the bank, asked to see the manager and the guard. I shouted. I accused. I berated. Not my proudest moment, but there: I confess.

Looking back I was exceedingly lucky no one caught me on camera. Who knows? The clip could have made its way on YouTube. I might even have ended up with my own hashtag on Twitter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Dr. Reina Reyes lecture at Ateneo de Davao University

Fr. Joel Tabora managed to snag Filipina astrophysicist Dr. Reinabelle Reyes for an afternoon lecture on "The Birth and Death of the Milky Way" at Ateneo de Davao. Pics from the event.
A quarter of the attendees were grade school and high school pupils (sometimes I can't tell the difference anymore.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ma'am Beth

Ma'am Beth, retired but still teaching math part-time at Ateneo de Davao, and one of the most caring people I know.  Taken at the faculty gathering to kick off the new semester.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Jupiter and its moons

Jupiter and its moons.  Taken with the 300mm.  I actually didn't notice the satellites at first.  I thought the flecks of light were an aberration.  Then I saw that they were in every picture I took.  I was so happy I almost cried.  It's like...seeing a double rainbow, man.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Fly

No macro lens on me at the time, but I suppose when the opportunity presents itself, the best camera is the one that you have.  Taken with my Samsung Galaxy S2.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Slip of the tongue

Today we ran a short workshop on PSPP for university researchers.  As I was the host and organizer, it was my job to handle administrative matters.  When we were about to break for lunch, I announced:

"We'll be locking the doors so if you want, you can leave your things.  However, please make sure to take your variables with you."

Darned PSPP.

Sunset in Lanang

This picture doesn't quite capture the glory that was the sunset this afternoon.  Here it is, anyway.


My car figured in an accident today.  As with many other accidents, it ought not have happened at all -- that why we call it what we call it, after all.  But what makes this one doubly infuriating is that I wasn't driving the car.  In fact, I wasn't even around when it happened.  My car was parked in its usual spot and then, a six-wheeler container truck scraped into its rear left side while backing out.

I should be mad.  Surprisingly, I'm not.

All right, I admit: I raised my voice when I saw the damage.  Shock can do that to you.

* * *

Less than ten minutes before: I was at school when I received a phone call from our cashier Aunt Rita.  Could I please come to the store because the truck was pulling out?  Of course, of course.  I left my desk and headed down.

On the way, our next-door neighbor met me on the sidewalk.  "We've called the traffic squad already," she said.  (What?)  She pointed to the squad van, red and blue lights flashing.  (What?)


I saw the gash along the rear corner of my car, just above a broken tail light.

* * *

Here's what you should know if you're involved in car accident: don't move your vehicles.  Wait till the traffic squad have made their sketch and report.  You need the official report to file an insurance claim, whether it's you or the other party.

If you move your vehicles, then you have to go to the Traffic Management Group, a special police precinct, to settle matters before they can file their own report.  The traffic squad, really just deputies, aren't authorized to make one anymore.

It just so happened the truck driver experienced a flash of consideration for other motorists.  Not wanting to block oncoming traffic, he so kindly moved his truck out of the way.

Sigh. When it rains, it pours.

* * *

It's funny the words that come out in moments of desperation.  Here were some of the excuses I heard from the cargo crew:

"The guard didn't guide us properly."

"It was raining, we couldn't see very well."

"If only the car wasn't parked there."

Perhaps I should have gotten angry at that.  But you know how it is: every retort brings out another one.  You make a point, and they something else.  On and on, in circles.

I should have gotten mad, but where would that have led?

So instead, I bought them bread from the neighboring bakery.  Much better than a circuitous argument, and at least a show of goodwill.  Besides, it was late afternoon, and these guys had been unloading boxes and boxes of printers and computers since morning. 

Like me, they just wanted to go home, but couldn't.

* * *

"My boss would like to talk to you," the driver said.  He gave me his phone.  The fellow on the other line introduced himself.

"Is there some way we can settle this?"

"Sorry, we have to file a police report."

"We really need to get our truck out of there before the evening ban comes."

"Look: if we 'settle' this now, what guarantee will I have that you won't welsh on me later?  I want the police report because I want to make sure you file an insurance claim."

"Is the damage big?"  I described the gash and the broken tail light.  "Can you provide an estimate of how much it will cost to fix it."

"No, no.  I'm not the car shop.  I can't do that.  You need to come down here so we can both go to the precinct."

* * *

Despite their earlier protestations that they couldn't do anything, the traffic enforcers did produce a sketch and a preliminary report.  We all still had to go to the precinct, though.  In the meantime, the manager of the company that owned the truck arrived.  I showed him the damage, he agreed it was big.

Off to the precinct.  There was the manager, the truck driver, the traffic aides, and me.  Only one officer on duty, and mercifully, he was very efficient.

"Can you verify that the other car was not moving when you backed into it?" the officer asked the driver.

"Yes, sir."

A few more questions, and some brief explanations, thankfully none of the excuses.  The official report would be due on Monday; in the meantime, I would need to get a certificate of no-claim from my insurance company so that the truck's insurance company could start the process.  That, and an assessment of the damage from the car shop.

I hope by next week I can get the car fixed.  I hope.

* * *

No one wants an accident, but when they happen they happen.  I feel bad about my car (oh, the adventures we've shared!), but at least it can be fixed.  Most importantly, no one was hurt.

And because I didn't get mad, at least not in the way I would have in the past, I feel pretty good about myself.  Today I faced a test of sorts, and I like to think I passed.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


Presenting the kingfisher, which has been hard to photograph.  Unlike swallows and finches which like to perch out in the open on wires, this bird hides in branches.  It also flies off at any sign of approach.  I finally got a good shot from a distance using the 300mm.

Of the already many nice things about photography, I have to add that it's getting me interested in birdwatching.  And now that I'm posting the pictures here, I have to do some research on the birds. 

 For instance, I always thought this was a finch.  But after some googling, it turns out this is closer to a kingfisher (don't hold me on that, though; I still need verification with the experts.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Hobby Horse

Also taken with the 300mm.

A charm of finches

Bird photography is the main reason I was sorely tempted to get a telephoto lens.  Thanks to my wife, I didn't have to agonize too long whether I would actually buy one.

This one is...for the birds!

(Update: I thought these were sparrows, turns out they're finches.)

Moon shot

Taken with the new 300mm lens that my wife bought me.  This is actually a morning moon.  I took the photo at 6:30AM, so the sky should be a much lighter hue; but I made a happy mistake in editing the curves in GIMP.  I liked the end result, and so here it is.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

One Perfect Day

Some days, well, some days were just made perfect.  Like today, for instance.

I woke up later than my usual hour.  The sun shone bright outside the window, bright but not hot.  A steady breeze persisted throughout, not too strong, just light enough to be cool and refreshing. 

I had breakfast, puttered around a bit, then got set to leave for work.

"What's on your schedule today?" I asked my normally busy wife.  As a baker, she meets with clients in the early part of the week and works very late hours towards the weekend.

"Nothing, surprisingly," she said.  "I'm free today."

I had my shirt halfway on.  School doesn't officially start till tomorrow, but I thought about the deadlines and paperwork at the office.  Then I looked outside and heard the rustle of the wind against the grass.

"You know what?" I said.  "I'm not going to go to work this morning.  Let's go to the beach.

And that's just what happened.  The way I figure it, perfect days like this don't come around too often.  It's a crime to let it pass in an office, never mind the deadlines and the paper work.

So we went to the wharf and hopped on a boat for Samal Island.

We went over to Paradise Beach Resort.  The entrance fee was steep, but what the hey, you can see that they really plough it back into their facilities.

We had a good view of the city.  Marco Polo Hotel looked small in the far distance, instead of looming large outside our office window.  And the sky...the sky was just perfect.

It was high tide when we got to the resort.  My wife and I waded in the water.  Despite the sun, the water was cool.  We saw schools of tropical fish darting left and right.

This being a workday, there were very few people at the resort.  Nevertheless, the quartet was playing, singing Spanish songs.

My wife picked out some shells from the sand.  Pearly shells, these are.

This being a workday and all, I did report to the office in the afternoon.  I don't think they really missed me at all.  So it was just as well I spent this One Perfect Day with my wife at the beach.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Garbage Truck

Garbage pickup day at our village today.  I didn't go anyplace or do anything interesting today, so here's a (smelly) slice of my very ordinary life.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sunday shots

Abreeza guards are an antsy lot. I was taking pictures by the fountain and on my way back, one of them accosted me and asked me what I was doing. Apparently I had aroused suspicion because I was alone and I was shooting their buildings.

Sigh. We really need more truly public spaces.

A Blast from the Past

Did some housekeeping of my blogs and finally decided to clean out one of the very first blogs I ever created.  I couldn't let it go completely, though, so I took a screenshot and posted it here for posterity.

All this was written back in 2001.  Man, that's eleven years ago.

I'm old.

Amazing Alex Selected Solutions

I'm an obsessive-compulsive Rube Goldberg-type engineer at heart, so Rovio's Amazing Alex really appealed to me.  I spent several hours on the game (mostly during the waiting down times, I assure you), and I was overjoyed when I finally completed the standard game with all three stars.

Below are my screenshots of my solutions to some of the trickier problems:

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Friday, November 02, 2012

Managing Blogs in Google's Discontinued Friend Connect Service

A long-standing problem I've had with Google's Blogger is Friend Connect.  Friend Connect was one of Google's attempts to build a social network.  Like many other services which failed to gain critical mass, Google discontinued the service last March 1, 2012.

All told, no great loss.  Friend Connect wasn't really all that popular and Google+ eventually superseded the service.  However, it seems that Friend Connect was the basis for the Reading List under Blogger.

Now, it used to be that I could add and remove blogs to the Reading List at will.  With Friend Connect gone, something broke, and I can't follow or unfollow any more.  So even though the dashboard continues to offer the promise of managing the blogs
 it always led to the following error message.
"We are unable to load your FriendConnect data at this time.  We apologize for the inconvenience.  Please try again shortly."

Annoying much?

Visits to the forums and other calls for help yielded nothing much.  Google hasn't responded to any of this, despite months of complaints from several users because, hey, it's a free service, right?  And we should all just be grateful.

This glitch bothered me mostly because I'm obsessive-compulsive and I like a clean dashboard.  There were some sites I didn't want to follow anymore, and yet I had no way of removing them from my list.  And worst of all, they kept cluttering my Google Reader so much so that I stopped using Google Reader altogether.

Today, after some mucking around, I finally came upon the solution to managing the reading list.  Google Friend Connect still shows up as a widget on Blogger.  That's the entry point to cleaning up the list.  Here are the steps I took to do that:

1. On the Google Friend Connect widget, select "Join this site."
 2. This will open a window prompting you to authenticate.  Log in with Google, and the window will close.
 3. Back to the Friend Connect widget, you'll now see your profile and underneath your name, Options. Click on that, and select Site Settings.
 4. This will open another window.  If all you want to do is unfollow the site, click on the "Stop following this site" link.  However, if you want to manage all the other sites you're following, the third link down on the left menu options says "Sites you've joined."  Click on the link...
5. Voila!  At this point, you can select which blogs to stop following.  It might take a while to process each one, but the process works.

Checking back on the Reading List on the Blogger dashboard showed me that I had successfully dropped the sites I didn't want to follow anymore.