Saturday, December 27, 2008

Traditions We Can Do Without

Next to ingratitude the most painful thing to bear is gratitude. - Henry Ward Beecher

I once read a story about a foreigner in 18th century Japan. While traveling along the edge of a river with his local guide, they saw a man gasping for breath as being drag by the rapids. He attempts to help but his companion admonished “I won’t save him if I were you. You’ll just bring more misery to him worst than his predicament now”. Baffled, the foreigner asks why and the guide explained: “In this part, we take gratitude seriously. If you save him, he’ll be in your debt until he also saves your life. In order to do that, he should be at your side at all times. Since you’re a stranger here, he has no choice but to leave his family and love ones behind. A sacrifice more awful than death”.

That is a tall order to achieve. But at least it has an ending if the man saves the foreigner’s life. On the other hand, we Filipinos put the standard a notch higher. We’re in debt forever if somebody did us a favor. Unlike Americans and Europeans, who consider an obligation repaid when a favor is settled with another favor, we are beholden to an individual for the rest of our life.

Politicians know this and capitalize on this twisted mind-set to stay in power. Dispensing favors here and there, legally or otherwise, to their “lideres”. In return, expects their support every election. This was illustrated comically by Imelda when asked what she thinks of their “friends” when her family fell from grace. She said it quite literally “They don’t have debt inside”. Translated in tagalog as “Wala silang utang na loob”. I guess, to her, 20 years in power isn't enough to repay an old debt.

Priests are also guilty of the same manipulation. Since childhood, they keep drumming inside our head, that our Lord gave His life in order to save us from sins we didn’t commit in the first place. The “brain washing” is so effective that we dare not go against the Church’s wishes or else suffer the fate of eternal damnation. An enigma to me, even if logic dictates that to do otherwise means a better life for us and our family.

Parents as well hold this belief. When you ask couples why they bear children, typically the response will be “so there is somebody to take care of us when we grow old”. First of all, the child didn’t ask to be born. Children have no obligation to take care of their parents. If they do take care of us, it is not because it’s their responsibility but because of love and respect for their parents. On the contrary, parents have duties and responsibility to raise their offspring decently and mold them to be productive members of society. We didn't brought them in this world to obligate them to fulfill what ever whim, needs and wants that cross our minds.

I don’t know about my wife, but when I grow old, I won’t hold it against my daughter if some stranger in white robe wipes my behind instead of her doing it. I am content with the idea that I raised her in a good environment and educated the best way I can afford. I’ll deem myself a failure as a parent if I can't do so.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Season’s Greeting to Everyone

I’d
like
to greet
everyone
who have
visited my
blog, read my
posts and commen
ted in a positive way
or otherwise. The year is
almost over and to show my
appreciation, I’d like to give thanks
to the following. First to my blogpals
starting with
panaderos, Jon Limjap, sheng,
Abou, RJ, donG, Ms. Sassy, TwilightZone, Nebz,
R-yo, Batjay, Lei, Tito Rolly, theonoski, mightydacz,
ever, Mari, caryn, Mimi, Abaniko, bwzone and last but not
the least, Ms. Jo. To those who voiced out what’s in their mind
like
ed v., wildflower, the suspect, lateralus, All Abu Dhabi, Points
of View
, berto xxx, Kotsengkuba, eds, L bukaneno, kamotenista, Julie,
madjik, Richard the Adventurer, Mec, Lawstude, madbong, Duncan, Trosp,
lusia, Kiko,
allen, Kenji,
ALiNe, flor,
bertN, BURAOT, Jepoy,
anonymark and the ever
present Anonymous.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Response To Moonbat’s Diatribe

My curiosity was aroused when I found a “love letter” in one of my post. A certain Reyna Elena leaves a vindictive comment, and like a jilted lover, dared me to read his post about my participation in an incident in Ms. Sassy’s blog some 3 months ago involving him and a regular commenter named Trosp. I went to his blog and there I read the rest of his “hinanakit”.

So here’s my reply (the second person I’ll be referring to is Reyna Elena). You said:
“My advice to you is this: read the context of what Trosp wrote. Ganun ang pag-analyze nung counter response because I do not claim na mas mahaba ang aken kesa seyo. But I could tell you that my school is world class kahit hindi ako world class. It might puke you but I will really want you to puke with your nerdy comment.”

“when you defend a point, you need to read it’s entirety and not the comment left by KK”

First of all it wasn’t me who challenged you, it was Trosp. So I have no obligation what so ever to read your post. My intent was to push for a debate between you and Trosp when I said this:
" Who really cares about citizenships and credentials here? Your not applying for a job, are you? The point is Trosp challenged the veracity of what you said. The appropriate response is to prove his wrong. If we gauge this by the merit system, you’re not building up any points.”

But you didn’t respond apart from your first two comments here:
“knock! knock! knock! moonbats flying in the nite! AHEM! Did I hear somebody call my name?! Got passport, ready to show if necessary, including diplomas. Any takers???
pissed be with you ~fly~”

“ahh… forgot sum’tin… also have my voters registration - democrat (Go Obama!) …. err 4 presidential elections. someone please show me yours n i’ll show u mine. pissed be with you”

If you had reacted properly and immediately when somebody’s trashing your credibility and not 3 months later, I wouldn’t have wrote my comment below which was based from your comment above:
“It’s just that it irritates me when I see pinoys who think they are “holier than thee” just because they have a green passport, educated in some prestigious institution and earning above 90% of the population. Worst than that is when I see pinoys enamored, short of idolizing that kind of person, accepting every word they say at face value. “

As for my comment for KK, that’s directed to him and it’s between him and me. His a big boy now and can stand on his own two feet. You need not be his au pair.

I think that clears things up with regards to my involvement in that brouhaha. Let’s go to our credibility issue. You said this:
“Now, mahal ko kapwa ko OFW, pero this is one OFW na I’m not loving it. Si BlogusVox. If you are one know-it-all commenter, especially sa isang famous and well-known blogger na caliber ni Connie, aba you better stood your ground and prove to yourself na hindi ka judgemental. Well, isa pa rin ang olat na to who has no clue how read analintek review between Trosp’s thoughtless writings and what Kotsengkuba was saying. Problem solved. Isa pang tangang blogger to. Not bilibabol.”

I always base my opinion on what I read and observed. If you call it judgmental, so be it. In contrast, you call me names which are not commensurate to my intelligence level. Does that sound judgmental too? With regards to my visits on Ms. Sassy’s blog, I read her post because I find it interesting and informative along with the rest of interesting and informative sites in my blogrole. I don’t go there just because she’s famous or I want to “rub elbows” with celebrities which, by the way, seems like an obsession in your part. I have a feeling your one of those people who put on a nonchalant face but behind the facade, kinikilig at nagtiti-tili pag nakita si Nora Aunor.

I also noticed that you’re fond of using “street” language. What’s with that? US education and a taste of western lifestyle isn’t enough to shake off your former environment? For a highly educated person, as you claimed to be, I find inadequacy in your analytical reasoning. People less educated than you will have you for breakfast in MLQ3’s blog. Not “bilibabol” enough? Try this for size. I don’t write stuff full of “trashy slang” or post “second-hand” articles. Some call it “cut-and-paste” others call it “pseudo-plagiarism”. I call it “lack of imagination, creativity and sensibility”. Intelligence you may have but talent is something else to be desired. You see, I don’t find you obnoxious enough to warrant puking. Pathetic is a more appropriate description.

As for calling me “nerdy”, thank you. I’m proud of my “geekiness”. I can also pass a basketball in front of your face without you knowing what just transpired and play “chopstick” on the piano in 3 different tempos. My blog is my testament of my nerdiness.

You’ve said your piece and I’ve said mine. Let’s call it even. But unlike Trosp, I don’t go around making empty threats, however I do issue warnings. Don’t sass me again. If you think you’re “untouchable”, think some more. Me and my associates are in familiar territory while you and your cohorts does not possess that kind of expertise. I leave it at that. Happy holidays!

---------------0---------------
And as for this Pen Sortijas who keeps clogging my inbox with his/her complains: STOP it already, hindi ako ang Daddy mo!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Six Things That Make Me Happy

Happiness depends upon ourselves. – Aristotle

I was tagged by Ms. Jo of Wits&Nuts to do this meme. It’s about happiness. To list six simple things that makes me happy.

1. My daughter – there is nothing natural on the way we got her. She was conceived outside the womb and brought out to this world unconventionally. I don’t know if you can put a price tag on five years of trying, nine months of “bed rest” for my wife and an ample sum of our savings. But it’s all worth it. The sacrifices we made I deemed irrelevant compared to the joy and happiness she brings us everyday.

2. Food – I may scrimp on some things but never on food. A hearty meal always makes me happy. Drain it down with a can of soda, burp and light a cigarette. Ahh… satisfaction guaranteed.

3. Work – I find fulfillment every time I encounter something new, face a challenging task or laboring for days to solve a difficult problem and then all of a sudden, Eureka! Problem solved! It’s like having an adrenalin rush.

4. Alone – once in a while I like to be alone. I go to the rooftop for a few minutes to be on my own. To forget about the world and its troubles for a while and gather my thoughts, dream and fantasize.

5. Hobby – I’ve been doing doodle since childhood. And to put on paper something I composed in my head brings some sort of gratification.

6. Friends – no man is an island and friends are there to depend on, come sunshine or rain, share secrets and just someone to talk to. And true friends listen to your stories even if they’d heard it from you a hundred times.

Some people finds happiness in material thinks, others on influence. But finding happiness shouldn’t be complicated. Just being true to yourself, experiencing life as it comes and go and striving in making the best of what you got, creates contentment. Happiness is how you see the big picture. It is a state of mind.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Top 10 Expats/OFW Award

It was born when me and Mrs. Thoughtskoto was looking for some bloggers award and we notice no awards has been given to OFW or Expats bloggers. The Search Project was born out of the belief that even without monetary price, a mere recognition will make a blogger happy, as well as the instant fame which may come along with the winning. – Kenji (Organizer)




Twenty-eight days more and the race will come to its end. After that, the judges will tally the score. Popularity is just one criterion, the others are “blog content” and “metrics”.

Popularity
I guess, it mean, even if you ask, persuade or threaten all your relatives, friends and town mates to vote for you (although they don’t know what the hell their voting for), that isn’t enough. A “landslide” or a “run-away” candidate doesn’t guarantee a laurel wreath. You still have to hurdle two more obstacles.

Blog Content
Maybe this indicates you have to write something inspiring, thought provoking or informative. So forget about it if you post what you did in the bathroom last night or what you ate for breakfast this morning and what you did in your garden last Sunday.

Metrics
I presume this connote reader traffic in your blog. I don’t know how this is done. Counting visitors isn’t a good idea. Blog-hoppers might have just stumbled in your blog, find it boring and move on. My best bet is number of comments for each post. Zero comment may mean zero reader.

In conclusion, if you think this blog passed those 3 criteria, please vote for it. Pleeeease, I won’t take “no” for an answer. While you’re at it, please visit the following blogs;

Pamatay Homesick
Sari-saring Kulay
Sleepless In KL
Wits and Nuts

And if you find all of them interesting, don’t forget to vote for them too. Thank you.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

On Flatulence

I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you different. - Kurt Vonnegut
We were at the living room. Wifey and I in the sofa, my 3 year old at our feet sitting on the floor, engrossed in watching “Madagascar”, when all of a sudden I let go a barrage of compressed air. At first my daughter turned to me, put her little finger between her lips, motioning me to hush up. A few seconds later, she stand up, points to the door and said “Daddy, STAY OUTSIDE!” I comply amid the hysterical laughter of her mother.

It made me think why people create an issue about a simple fart. Reaction varies. Some cringed as if you just release a deadly neuro-toxin, some are shock as if you just committed an abomination and others laugh if a person performs what is considered a natural bodily function.

The moment you intake food, enzymes in your stomach go to work by breaking it down into tiny pieces, small enough for your intestine to absorb nutrients. One by-product of this process is gas which, if not disposed properly, presents a health hazard, not to mention an uncomfortable feeling (try withholding it and see how it feels). Our body is equipped with safety valve from which to release this pressure. And the only orifice from which it can be freed is through our anus. Other than that, say, if it comes out orally, then it’s time to consult an “internal medicine” specialist.

Everybody farts. Even the Queen of England, whose son once mentioned never ever seen his mother went inside a comfort room, farts. Discharge differs from an explosive “Braaat” to a stealthy “Psssst”. I do admit it sometime poised as a nostril irritant, especially if it was released quietly. You can compare it with an Iranian entering an air-conditioned library and makes other students scamper to safety during my college days.

But why do we disapprove of farting in public? Is it because we are conditioned to believe that anything that comes out of our behind is dirty? But why do we find its smell so obnoxious? When it comes to odor, it’s not far behind the stench when you cook dried fish or eat bagoong or crack open a fresh durian fruit. Besides, we do find some sort of fulfillment when we fart. Whether you admit it or not, you experience a kind of guilty pleasure when you release gas. Similar to peeing, a happy feeling occurs when discharging a full bladder... but that’s another story.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Matter of Semantics

All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them. - Felix Frankfurter

Take for example the famous line students have to master on their keyboards in their Typing 101 subject:
“The quick brown fox jump over the lazy dog near the bank of the river.”

For a plagiarist, all he has to do is consult a thesaurus, replace some words with its synonym and he can claim it as his own. The result may be similar to this:
“The swift auburn colored fox leaps over the idle dog close to the river’s bank.”

Others may see it differently. An attorney may express it in another way, depending on whose side he represents, as in:

“On November 21st, 2008, between 1 and 2 o’clock PM, at the vicinity of the river bank, the quick brown fox, henceforth be known as the defendant, with full intent, knowingly, willfully, maliciously and in a treacherous manner perpetrated the act of jumping over the back of the lazy dog, henceforth be identified as the plaintiff, thus the defendant performed the said act without proper approval, unknowing to and unwilling on the part of the plaintiff...”

To an engineer, he may convey it in a more abstract and technical manner:

Where:
Ht = total height of jump
R = total length of jump
g = acceleration of gravity constant
Vi = initial vertical velocity of fox
Vh = horizontal velocity of fox
h1 = dog’s height at laying position.
h2 = height fox should achieve with
respect to dog


“Assuming uniform gravity, in order for the fox to achieve a successful jump (see. Fig. 1), its horizontal velocity (Vh) and initial vertical velocity (Vi) are factors that should always be taken into consideration.”

For a novelist with a tendency to use flowery words and tons of adjectives, it may appear like this:

“Near a brook, like a brown haze, came the fox, swift as the wind and with great agility leaps into the air, over and beyond the sluggish, unsuspecting hound. “

How it is written, may it be eloquently, technically or in a confusing legalistic manner, the final impression will be on the reader. The outcome, whether it’s the same or remotely far from the author’s idea, will depend on the person’s understanding and interpretation of what he reads. Come to think of it, it may even be dangerous, especially if the reader possesses influence.

Like a single “holy” book that sprouted several religions, its interpretation is the key. Some understand it literally and practice its content to the letter, as what fundamentalist do. Others interpret it in a progressive way and revolutionize its principle along with time. Still a much older sect, predecessor of todays protestants, twist, mangle and revise the book’s tenet according to its own interest.

But what worries me, and I find alarming, is when unscrupulous individuals interpret the laws of the land differently from what our forefathers intended it to be. Be wary of persons who seek loop-holes in our laws where he could insert his personal interest. Be wary still of persons in authority who’ll try to change our laws in order to stay in power. Suspect anything they do no matter how noble or nationalistic their reasons are. They are so crooked and clever that they will even hide behind legalistic mumbo-jumbo to achieve their purpose. To them it’s nothing but a matter of semantics.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Show And Tell (At the office)

Like RJ of Chookminder’s Quill, I’d also like to share with you something about me, what I do to be exact. I’m a computer programmer, and like some profession with broad field; I also have my line of expertise. Most programmers you probable know operate on numbers and databases, like those working in banks and business establishments. Others design web sites and web pages like the one you’re looking at now. Still others specialized on making games, animation and other graphics. Although I know a thing or two about the areas I mentioned, my specialization is programming the computer itself. While most deals with numeric numbers, I count hexadecimal or octal and binary digits. When most software extract, manipulates and then save files, mine “pokes” interrupts or hardware addresses.

My place around the corner

This is my office where I spend most of my 8 working hours. I got two computers, one for creating Windows application at the same time my means of connection to the outside world, the other for programming in DOS. Yes Watson, we still use that vintage operating system because we still have hardwares that only run in that environment.

My mini lab

Beside my cubicle is my “testing area”. This is where I diagnose programs for bugs. I got a small LAN (local area network) compose of a “server” sandwich between two “clients”. What I’m doing here is testing a program that allows the left client to talk to the right client, similar to “chatting” in the internet.

Using IP addresses, one can send a command from the left computer to tell the right computer to set-up those measuring instruments. This is how “zombies” work. And yes again, Watson, I have a few “incantations” hidden up my sleeve which are dangerous if in the hands of programmers who succumbed to the dark side of the force, our anti-thesis, the “hackers”.

There are two departments which use the system we develop, namely, Calibration Laboratory and the Monitoring Department.

Cal lab

This is where all our equipment under went inspection to guarantee it always gives the right reading. Our software helps determine if instruments’ tolerances are still within factory specification. Without it, what technicians could do in hours might take a day or two to finish.

Monitoring

This is the heart of the project. Its main job is to seek illegal or unlicensed users and regulate the air-waves. With the help of those huge, ugly antennas on the roof top, it can “eavesdrop” on any communication device that uses the atmosphere as signal conduit. Its antennas are very powerful that, on a clear day, it can receive radio signal from a passing ship in the Gulf, a distance of more than 600 km from us. With the help of our software, a push of a button and the computer will automatically conduct an orchestra of instruments to read, measure and report a target frequency.

Interesting or exciting perhaps? Not really, if you’ve been doing it for the last 18 years. How about you? What it’s like a day at your office?

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Pimp My Ride, Pinoy Edition

Foreword: these pictures were emailed to me by my good friend Ferdie L.

Have you seen the TV program “Pimp My Ride”? It’s about dilapidated cars being transformed into an outrageously fully-loaded, custom built “rides”. Since Filipinos are notoriously well known to ape anything American, not to be left behind, they have their own version of it in the form of the ubiquitous “jeepney”.

Front exterior

Besides the double “air horn” to get the attention of even the deafest of pedestrians, they put a lot of “fog lights”, enough to blind drivers of in-coming cars at night.

Side exterior
I would have painted psychedelic letters on it that spells “Katas Ng … (where ever the money came from to build this anomaly), put “mag wheels” in and change the tires into one of those “low profiles”.

Back exterior

They forgot to put the signs “Pot pot bago lusot” under the steps, “Safe Side” and “Suicide” signs on the mud guards.

Interior

Check this out, Internet Café on wheels, with LCD flat screen and wireless DSL.

Complete with cushioned sofa and a mini-bar to liven up the atmosphere while surfing the net.

Under the hood

This is where I grade them with an “F”. They could have at least painted the engine block, brake fluid chamber and change all those rubber hoses, to give it a “brand new” look.

Overall, I give it a “B+” in the “Attention Getter” category for shockingly outrageous, bordering in tackiness”.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Case of the Mysterious Award

I got another recognition, a Beautiful Blog Award, from RJ of Chook-minders Quill. I came to know him through ever’s Pamatay Homesick and although we only visited each others blog a few times, it’s nice and flattering to know his appreciation. Who wouldn’t melt if you received a review like this?

The Sandbox ni BlogusVox. Napakalawak ng kanyang mga sariling paniniwala at pananaw sa mga isyu sa lipunan at sa buhay. Masarap basahin ang kanyang mga entries (maiksi lang pero kaya niyang ilahad lahat ang kanyang opinyon) at kaabang-abang ang kanyang comics strip series (na pinamagatang Buhay Buhangin)!”
I give more importance to it than the award itself.

Why oh why, my tinapay
Like RJ, I also have some nagging questions regarding this award. Unlike my previous award, this one has no historical beginning, no criteria on how it should be given and no rules in passing it to others. To satisfy my curiosity, I did some snooping. Starting from RJ’s blog, I traced its source and followed the white rabbit into the rabbit hole.

Enter Ms. Marple
After my 9th blog-hopping, I found myself running in circle as I end up two blogs away from where I started. The mystery only thickens when along the way the award changes name from “Beautiful Blog” to “Blogger Buddy” award and back. Undeterred, I re-traced my steps and found one blog was a recipient twice. I have to use the resources of the internet, a little detective work and common sense to find this "other donor”.

Mystery Solved?
From what I gathered, the “other donor” was the first recipient of this award. She took it, it wasn’t awarded to her, from an Indian web designer’s blog and passed it on to her friends. Somehow, somewhere along the way, somebody made a mistake of copying the code of another GIF file and that’s how “Blogger Buddy” became “Beautiful Blog” award. If I base my conclusion from what the web designer said here, he started this whole thing, only to promote his blog. He doesn’t know the first recipient from Eve. Of course I may be wrong, but then again, what the hell has this young Indian web designer got in common, besides blogging, with a bunch of Filipina “Mommy Bloggers”, most of whom living in the western hemisphere, married to foreigners and blogging about “Zenni Optical frames”? It’s not really a real award. It’s just like a friendly “tag-your-it” game among friends that leaked out and fell on RJ’s doorstep.

Perhaps RJ will be disappointed, but I’m not. His review of my blog is good enough for me and I appreciate it very much. The only draw back here is I can’t pass it on to my other friends who are also deserving of an award. It won’t be fair.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

On Mathematics and the Reality of Practical Living

Recently I went to BayanihanPost.com to get a “feel” of what kind of website is inviting me to join its bloggers’ group. What grabs my attention was Renita Angus’ post, advocating the importance of mathematics as a tool and as a subject not to be dreaded by students. As a math teacher, her frustration towards students’ fear of numbers is understandable. And as an engineer myself, I can clearly see her point of view.

I came from a family of engineers and accountant. Numbers don’t intimidate me and to borrow Senator Santiago’s phrase “We eat numbers for breakfast”. My knowledge of mathematics is adequate enough to meet head on mathematical problems I encounter in my line of work. But do we really have to prioritize math from the rest of other subjects?

Some people are gifted with minds attuned to numbers. They can do double integration easy, like eating a piece of cake. These are the ones who eventually choose professions related to science. They become scientists, engineers and architects. Others possess sophisticated ears and eyes that they can see and hear beauty from thin air, capture and reproduce it for others to enjoy and appreciate. These are visual artists and musicians, people who may appreciate mathematics only through sine waves and fractal images. Still there are those who possess photographic memories or organizational skill but can barely grasp abstract concepts of numbers, yet still succeed in becoming good lawyers or managers. A nurse may have to compute exact dosage of medication or a baker may need to know the number of cups of sugar in a recipe. But they don’t have to hurdle the whole 9 yards, from Algebra to Calculus, to achieve this. A simple arithmetic will suffice.

I agree we can’t live without mathematics. Like Neo’s “Matrix”, it’s around us. Its part of our daily lives, so familiar that we take it for granted. It’s the basic foundation of our infrastructure and the backbone of inventions which helps eases domestic living. But we are also living in an age where gigabits of information are bombarded to us everyday. Science is progressing and technology is advancing at an overwhelming rate that it can’t be contained in one repository. It has to be divided into fields, branching out into sub-fields called specialization.

Not all of us could be engineers, lawyers or doctors. We are not born equal. Some are better than others, may it be in material form, talent, skill or physical structure. If we are to assume each man is capable of acquiring all of these, then politicians don’t need speech writers to mesmerize his constituents. Businessmen don’t need accountants to balance their books. Art, music and literature won’t be appreciated, philosophy would be meaningless and humanity will cease to exist. All that is left is a cold, calculating brain, devoid of emotion, dependent on logic.

That’s why holistic method of education has its appeal. It identifies, develop and encourage students’ inclination and strong point. I believed students will have a better chance in the real world and live productive lives if they love their chosen field and happy with their work. Wouldn’t it be better if we teach the majority what is only necessary and leave challenging subjects to those who has the patience and gift of understanding complicated ideas? That way they will have more time to discover and study things that interest them, rather than master a concept which only a fraction can be practically applied in their daily life.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Games Bored People Play

When job order is infrequent, which happens most of the time, and nothing of interest catches my eye in the internet, I play. My favorite games are “first person” combat role. Gory, loud and can’t be played in my office computer. It needs lots of memory and special video card to enjoy. To pass time I entertain myself with freebies that come along when installing XP OS. Here are two of the games I consider myself an “expert”.

Spider Solitaire
Unlike “draw” solitaire, you can save spider while in the middle of the game. I win most of the time because I choose which set to play and follow some simple rules I formulate before starting. Rule one: Never starts a game when the number of cards you can move is less than 5. Rule two: Avoid playing a set where there is more than one king open. Rule three: If possible, combine cards of the same suits and always “save” a game when faced with several options. That way you can “reload” and try another move in case the last option you made ends up nowhere.

Minesweeper
You should have plenty of luck and good in logic when playing this game. Because in an end game where there are two “unopened” squares and one mine left, your chance of choosing the right square is 50%. Usually I average 150 seconds on this one but my highest score is 125 seconds. I think I’m just lucky at that time since I haven’t duplicated that feat ever since. But what I’m proud of is I’ve completed the game in 206 seconds at the same time opened up an 8 clustered mines.

A 7 clustered mines is rare enough but an 8 clustered mines is very rare. That's why I saved this one for posterity. I doubt if a lot of people has opened one.

How about you? What’s your favorite game when you’re bored?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dark Clouds Looming Yonder

I couldn’t help thinking about the effects of the recent financial crises that hits the US and Europe. If giants like AIG and Fortis are reeling and needs its governments’ shoulder to steady its wobbling posture. How will banks in the Philippines take such economic punch if its own government can’t even make ends meet in balancing its own budget?

Like most OFWs, I send my earnings back home, in a bank inside a “time capsule”. I couldn’t touch nor withdraw it until a certain period expires. My anxiety only increases because our PDIC guarantees only a fix amount for each depositor, unlike in Europe, where governments agreed to guarantee entire savings to boost confidence and prevent withdrawals by depositors. So if you have several accounts in your name, you might as well seek intervention from all the saints you know that this catastrophe won’t hit your bank directly.

I’m neither an economist nor a financial analyst. All I can do is put together an intelligent assumption based on “street level” observation. US economy thrives on credit. Americans buy almost everything on credit, from the roof over their heads, to their cars, utilities, entertainment and even their daily sustenance. If you pay cash, either you’re rich or you got something to hide from the Feds. Outstanding accounts are settled every month and salaries shrunk from soaking in bills. For an average Joe, his lucky if he could save 10% of his monthly wage after these deductions.

I first took notice and sense something’s wrong when they started foreclosing houses in the US. Most homeowners blamed financial institutions for their predicament. I don’t know why when all this creditors did was lent money to buy houses, cars and other necessities needed to live a decent life. Of course there’s the issue of exaggerated interest, but “lendees” are supposed to know the rules. It may take ten or twenty years to totally pay Joe’s loans, but as long as his up-to-date on his payment, some extra cash saved on the side, everything’s fine.

Perhaps problem began when Joe started living the “American dream”. He bought a 4 bedroom house with a nice lawn, complete with swimming pool, instead of a respectable 3 bedroom for his wife and two kids. He bought an SUV for himself after he mailed the final payment for the family’s station wagon. Inadvertently, Joe stretched his credit to its limit. When cost of commodities took off worldwide and economic slowdown hit the US, Joe’s income diminished, resulting to foreclosure of his possessions.

Supposing1% of the population has Joe’s dilemma, I think that’s more than enough to bring down even the most secured bank in the US. What will banks do with all these properties? They’re banks; it needs money, not houses and cars, to continue their business. Like dominoes, every institution one way or another connected to Joe, tumbled down. And like the “butterfly effect”, the fluttering of Joe’s artificial delusion was felt halfway across the globe. A dream prodded by celebrity endorsed advertisement sponsored by corporate America.

I’m afraid this is just the beginning. I see a storm coming from the horizon. Pray it doesn’t make landfall.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Too Much Emptiness In Nothing

Have you ever been in a situation where you can’t seem to do things right? It’s one of those days when your mind is devoid of constructive thoughts, sitting in a chair, staring at nothing. I’m now in that circumstance; an empty, purposeless state of mind.

An idea pops up and I try to copy it on paper only to stop in mid sentence, realizing I don’t have enough materials to finish even a paragraph. I squeezed and grind my brain yet nothing comes out. Not even a single drop of inspiration. It’s like continually pushing an elevator button, hoping it will come down quicker than it should. It doesn’t work that way.

What I need now is a child’s instinct. The gift of recognizing his mother from a group of “covered” women, when no hint of identifiable mark could be seen at all. What I need now is a Bedouin’s skill. The ability to chart an empty desert quarter, finding his way without using navigational instrument, relying only on lessons his forebears taught, passed to him by word of mouth. These are the talents I’m seeking now; the gift of recognizing a good story and the skill of guiding readers in understanding the narrative.

I’m not a good writer. I don’t even consider myself as one. I lack Sassy Lawyer’s ability to weave interesting stories wrapped around mundane topics such as meatloaf. Blogging photos of places I visited are out of question. There is no scenic place I can consider worthy of posting. I live in a city where, except for two or three outstanding landmarks, everything is the same or bland. Conformity is the word, adhering to tradition is the norm. They’ll look at you funny if you’re unconventional.

Maybe I’m still on vacation mode. The effect of five days of holiday after Ramadan is still in me. Laziness clings on my back like a crazed monkey, digging its finger nails on my shoulders, refusing to let go.

Enough of this, I’m getting tired of thinking about nothing. I may as well sleep this over tonight. Maybe tomorrow something will hit me; something interesting might occur that I can blog about.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Image and Respect

Never dress down for the poor. They won't respect you for it. They want their First Lady to look like a million dollars. - Imelda Marcos

Looking around while my wife and daughter were trying out some clothes in a department store, an Arab lady approached me and asked the price of an item she was holding. I smiled and told her “I don’t work here”.

I ask myself, why of all people she came to me and the mirror at the shop gave me the answer. I was wearing a white polo shirt, same as the store employees are wearing. The only difference is the word “SALE” at the back of their shirt in bright red color. I just shake my head and smiled at the similarity.

When I told my wife about the incident, instead of being amused, she went ballistic. “Yan kasi, kung magbihis ka para kang hindi engineer, mas maporma pa ang tea-boy nyo sa opisina!” Of course she’s exaggerating, lamang naman ako ng tatlong paligo sa tea-boy namin. I don’t know how an engineer should dress up. Perhaps a “hard hat” will identify me as one, but I’ll look silly wearing it in the mall.

I wear polo and slack at the office. I like my clothes loose and comfortable and I hate ties. In my opinion it has no practical function except as an ornament. Besides, my job doesn’t require me to enter-act with clients, so there’s no need for me to be very presentable. My company didn’t hire me for my outside appearance, their more interested what’s inside my head. If it’s “looks” their looking for, I wouldn’t be in front of the computer but in front of the camera, half naked and holding a Paco Ranne.

To some, image is important. They equate it with dignity and respect. You see them at business establishments in their “corporate look”, in malls in their signature (or imitation) shirt and“branded” pants. If image is essential, you don’t have to don expensive clothes. A neat, clean appearance and a “cultured” speech would do the job. It’s the way you hold yourself that earns respect. It comes naturally, dictated by how you were raised and educated. But then again I might be wrong if you cite Kris Aquino as an example.

Projecting a “good” image is for politicians and celebrities. They want people to believe on something unreal or artificial. It’s not something for us, ordinary folks, to emulate. For me, I prefer individuals who are WYSIWYG.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Two Votes for Philippine Blog Awards Two

Two of my blog friends were nominated by the Philippine Blog Awards 2, namely Abou’s Basta and Ever’s Pamatay Homesick. Let’s put two of our own into that prestigious awards. I will appreciate it very much if you guys vote for these two crazy but talented bloggers.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Discrimination, Pinoy’s Attitude Towards Pinoy

Sexual, racial, gender violence and other forms of discrimination and violence in a culture cannot be eliminated without changing culture. - Charlotte Bunch

I have my share of discrimination. It was while queuing in an airlines travel office to get a transaction number. I was next in line when the guy handling the machine gave the number to a western looking gentleman behind me. The gentleman took it and hand it to me at the same time told the guy “His in front, he should get it first”. I didn’t react anymore because it’s obvious the guy was embarrassed. Like some pinoys, locals are also enamored and awed with anything western and at the same time look down on other Asians nationalities. I just considered and accepted this incident as part of working in a country whose culture is completely different from ours. What I can’t stomach is when the bashing comes from your own people as what Batjay and Nebz experienced.

Their posts made me contemplate where we got that repulsive attitude. I’ve read a book about evil being genetic in nature. It also mentioned genes discriminate and eliminate inferior design in order for species to survive. And that behavior is passed on to the specie itself. If theres truth to that hypothesis, are the likes of Malu Fernandez genetically superior than to the rest of us? I’ve seen her picture and I beg to differ.

Rizal’s “Noli” is full of these ugly traits. Perhaps we inherit it from the Spaniard's aristocratic ways. But then again we have nobility before the conquistadores reached our shores and “alipin” already exist long before the peasant farmers are beholden to the landowners.

Stereotyping is another form of discrimination. We make fun of people from other regions like the “Redneck” and “Yo Mama” jokes in the states. In Luzon, if you’re from the far north, you’re stingy, if from the south, you’re sexually promiscuous. Kapampangans are arrogant and we laugh at how Panggasinenses speaks English. Same as in the Visayas; Cebuanos think they are superior, Negrenses are “hambog”, Samarinios are trouble makers, Boholanos are the butt of every visayan jokes and we in Panay flies when the full moon is up.

It exists in our socio-economic strata. The “old money” looked down on the nouveau rich, and both disapproved of people who arrive to wealth via matrimony. Some attached the adjective “upper” to emphasize they are a notch higher than the ordinary middle class. And the poor equate their status by how many members there are in their family. Students coming from an exclusive school has more preference in prestigious universities than the one from the provinces, regardless of academic standing. A “Dr.”, an “Atty.” or an "Engr." in front of your name somehow impress a fickle minded individual. While a "Gen.", a "Col." or a mere "SPO1" connotes fear.

I’ve seen some people in the medical field who don’t like to mingle with our kabayans working in constructions. I’ve seen nurses in hospitals belittle fellow nurses who work on clinics. I’ve seen OFWs working in western countries looked down to those working in the Middle East and it goes on and on.

I still don’t have an answer to my question, and the “whys” just keep pilling up. All I know for sure; our culture sucks, big time!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fasting Fever

It's clearly more important to treat one's fellow man well than to be always praying and fasting and touching one's head to a prayer mat. - Naguib Mahfouz

This Hegira month is the time for fasting, an annual exercise where devotees are required to refrain from sex, eating during the day and consume food moderately (preferably in liquid form) in the evening. Medically speaking, it was proven that this practice has some benefits. It removes anti-toxins and revitalizes the body’s internal organ function, not to mention, “rejuvenate the soul”.

Although I don’t fast, I can feel its presence. Its effect is highly contagious; like seeing somebody yawn and, involuntarily, you find yourself doing the same. As if life shifted into low gear: you see everything in “slow-motion”.

Where I am, I see people coming to work at around 10 am. Some bleary eyed, others in a foul mood and still a few could hardly raised their foot to take the next step as they climb up the stairs. All around, they slumped in chairs, immobile, nodding their heads back and forth like sickly fowls. The only indication they are still alive are the hand and finger movement when operating the mouse as they surf the net.

Pacing is reduced that I have to cope up by slowing down as well. There’s no need to hurry things up to finish what ever I’m doing if only to face a blank wall along the way. What’s the rush if the guy I’m supposed to coordinate with is still halfway, or worst haven’t started yet, all because of fasting. What better excuse do you have when you want to skip work?

What amazes me is this phenomenon I observed as the sun sets, as if dusk suddenly awakens dormant energy that so much hustle and bustle is happening (mostly buying sustenance) after dark. One could see queues in bakeries, supermarkets and restaurants. But real activity starts at 9 pm, the same time the malls open. For some, this goes on until the malls closed at 1 am, for others, until before the break of dawn. At sunrise they revert back into a zombie-like trance and the cycle is complete.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Educating Bea (Part II)

The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important - and then get out of their way while they do it. - Jack Welch

When I came home, a couple of days ago, I caught my wife and daughter huddled in one corner. My daughter looked at me and I saw her eyes pleading. But my wife won’t have any of it. She insisted that Bea practiced writing the numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 and the vowels in capital and lower case. We taught Bea her ABC’s, 123’s, colors and shapes through songs and games and she retains everything because she learned in a fun way. That’s why I asked why all of a sudden Mom was strict with Bea’s studies. I didn’t expect her reply when she said “Your daughter is behind in her class”.

She wants Bea to learn how to read and write by the end of the school year just like that kid in Prep 1. The kid she was talking about is good academically but wanting when it comes to emotional intelligence. I once saw her quietly setting in one corner, looking at the ceiling and don’t mingle with her classmates. In my observation, I think she doesn’t know how to inter-act with her peers. I don’t want my daughter to be like her. Nursery class is supposed to be fun and games. Not only that, we enrolled our daughter so she’ll be exposed to people and kids her age. We’re a bit worried because she knew and feel comfortable to only two persons, me and my wife.

When my wife showed me her report card, I saw the Teacher’s Evaluation consist of three blue circles and the rest are red circle. Blue means “Very Good” and red “Excellent”. I looked up her grades and all her subjects are 90 except for Filipino which was 89. I thought that’s not bad, in fact that’s very good, considering Bea’s only 3 and half years old and the youngest in her class. But my wife wasn’t satisfied. She blurted “She didn’t make it to the Top 5!”

So, this is what this is all about. It all comes down to prestige, the honor of being mentioned and recognized as one of the 5 brightest students in your class. You see, my daughter’s school awards students who excels academically four times in one school year. That means there’s a ceremony after every periodic evaluation to honor the top 5 students at each level. This does not only pit students to outdo one another but also make parents to put pressure on their kids. Since the school encourages parents to attend each ritual, there is always this unhealthy tendency for the eyes to observe who made it and who didn’t and the tongue to wag questions or insinuate stories.

I don’t blame the students or the parents if they acted in such manner; they are the victims here therefore susceptible to human foibles. If I start pointing fingers, it would be in the direction of the School Administrators. Their fond of inventing new ways to celebrate mediocrity. It does not only disrupt harmonious balance, it’s also psychotic.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What’s In a Title?

We don't have titles on our business cards. No one really gets any special treatment. No one gets a corner office to put pictures of their family and their dog in. - Jay Chiat

The British are the only European people I know who likes to put title before or after their names. From “Sir” to those who are knighted to the “nth-in-line-to-the-throne” for the royal bench-warmers. At least this passion is confined to their royalties.

Unlike here, you can see it everywhere. It’s announced in front of government buildings, in big bold letters, to connote the importance of that particular branch. Names like “General Directorate of …” and “Supreme Presidency for …” are just few of the more modest titles.

I don’t mind if an HRH is in front of a guy’s name. His royalty, that’s his official title. But commoners too like to have these vanity plates. They want to be addressed as “Doctor” so-and-so if he has a PhD from What-ever University and “Muhandes” (Engineer) if a graduate from Fly-by-night Institute of Technology. Since there are a lot of “engineers” in our project, one particular guy won’t respond if called unless you call him Besh Muhandes (top or head engineer).

South Asians are another title-obsessed group. I once knew a guy who is well liked by the man-at-the-top that he was never terminated, just transferred from one project to another. It’s not because he does amazing job, his just a good butt-kisser. The last assignment he landed to doesn’t have a title so he created his own. He called his position “Head of Logistics”. His responsible for buying all the supplies the project needs.

In terms of tenure, I’m the most senior among the employees of this project. My position or title is “Programmer”; as plain as bread without butter. The only thing that sets me apart from other programmers is that I can browbeat the Head of the Computer Department or the Project Manager if he does something stupid.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Opps! I Got an Award

I received an Opps Award from a fellow blogger and OFW, witsandnuts. It’s so flattering to know that someone out there appreciates the things and effort you put in what you do. Nakakataba ng puso.

The Oops award was created and is to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their humor and their talents, also for contributing to the blogging world in whatever medium. When you receive this award it is considered a “special honor”. Once you have received this award, you are to pass it on to others.

Here’s the reason why she finds my blog deserving:
“Through bloghopping from Sassy Lawyer, I landed to The Sandbox (his blog). Since then it became a regular read. I am especially looking forward to his Buhay Buhangin Series because these are witty reflections of life in Middle East.”

The rules for passing this honor on:
1) Pick 5 blogs that you would like to award this honor to.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
3) Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
4) Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Oops” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award.

In return, I’m passing this award to the following:

donG Ho – his travel journal of the Philippines is informative along with those beautiful shots he took of each places.
ever - a fellow OFW in Kuwait who made a name for himself through his art.
panaderos – his life and adventure in the US are really inspiring.
R-yo - his memoir of his life in Japan is quite revealing at the same time stimulating.
Tito Rolly - a teacher, a painter, a poet. Need I say more?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Pinoy Sa Likod Nang Kurtina

Foreword: I got this prose from my inbox forwarded by a good friend, Ferdie L. I don’t know who the author is. Perhaps his/her name got lost or deleted while on transit from one address to another. This soliloquy paints a picture of a day to day life of an OFW in Dubai. It allows us a glimpse of the sacrifices our brothers and sisters have to make in order to better their lives and that of their families. - BlogusVox

Over a thousand Filipinos arrive in Dubai every month. And why not? Literally, the sun shines here all year round; prosperity is in the air; and it's a place where people have reasons to dream of waking up in the morning as millionaires or with kilos of gold on their lap.

Yun nga lang, habang hindi pa nangyayari yun, iba ang nakikita ng maraming Pinoy pagdilat nila sa umaga… kurtina! Betcha by golly wow! Paano ko ie-explain to fascinated Pinoys back home our living condition here!

Noong una akala ko isolated cases. But with the skyrocketing apartment rents in this City of Gold, such conditions are becoming the norm.

Sideways... sidesteps.
Hindi yan dance step. That's the latest move ngayon sa mga sharing flats. Sa sobrang liit ng space, patagilid ang galaw. Kaya minsan, mga ka-flatmates, hindi na magkakitaan. “Hoy, where have you been, ba? Hindi ka na umuuwi sa flat!” Kasi nga lagi silang naka-sideview.

Warning: Smoking is dangerous to your room.
Hindi health reasons ang dahilan bakit bawal magyosi, no! Ang styrofoam kuya! Yes, naunahan ng Pinoy ang IKEA sa innovation na yan. Yes, styrofoam walls, styrofoam doors, styrofoam room. Di ba nga naman, styrofoam keeps you fresh! Para kang gulay, o kaya ice candy. Pero siguro mas feel mo minsan na “tuna” ka, o di kaya “sirena” kung feel mong si Marian ka. “Ate, di ba fire hazard yan"? "Anong fire ka dyan? Rent ang mas nakakamatay dito"! Illegal ang partitions sa Dubai . At least ang styrofoam, pag nagkahulihan, mabilis sa baklasan. "Gets mo"? "Yes, Ate". Therefore, “no smoking”: ang sirena baka maging daing!

Burj Al 'Cupboards'
Hindi lang Emaar Properties ang may 'K' na magtayo ng skyscrapers? Haven't we heard, the Philippines is a major supplier of architects in Dubai? In other words, nasa dugo natin yan! Kaya ba ng Arabong gumawa ng rooms out of cupboards, luggages and shoe boxes? Dati sa airport lang bida ang mga luggages, ngayon multi-purpose na: dividers na rin sila para ang isang kwarto maging lima!

Pampataas sila sa mga cupboards kasama ng mga shoe boxes na pinaka-antenna. Siyempre, the taller the better, you keep your neighbor's eyes away.

Now Showing
Pagpasok ko ng flat, akala ko sinehan, ang daming kurtina. Mga kuarto pala. Pero ang cute, cinematic. Parang barangay, complete with eskinitas. Kada bukas ng telon, parang movie… sari-saring life. May natutulog, may nag-eemote, may naka-curlers, may nakasimangot. Sa panlimang kurtina, may nag-totong-its, sa pang-anim, may naggugupit.

Ang gandang movie, di ba? “Ang Pinoy sa Likod ng Kurtina!”

Paraisong Kurtina
Ayyy! Our Paraisong Kurtina. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry. Be proud of our Paraisong Kurtina. It exists because we'd rather send our money home than spend more for our comfort. Within its walls, lies our desire for a little privacy, our groans, our tears, our dreams, our struggle for some little savings. My curtain says a lot. It says, “I have saved again, inay; I'll be able to send money next month.” Dream mo pa bang pumunta ng Dubai?

Mag isip-isip...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Deceitful Salesmanship

The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it. - Oscar Wilde

In these trying times, even OFWs penny pinch to save more to bring back home, so do we. My wife’s “radar” is always on the lookout for the cheapest stuff we need to put more premium on our hard-earned money.

Yesterday my wife heard that Danube, a mall-cum-supermarket, advertised a promotional sale. We never shop there except to bring our daughter to enjoy the rides in its amusement park. But since its on “sale”, we went there anyway and proceed directly to its Promo Section.

What caught my eye are stacks of 6-pack beer in one corner. The bold sign says “buy 1 + 1, SR11.50”. That’s cheap. Doing some math, each bottle cost less than 1 riyal considering each beer cost SR2 up to SR2.50 tops depending on the brand. I took two 6-packs and proceeded to the check-out counter. I unload the beers last because it’s the heaviest among the goods we bought. When it was scanned, it registered SR16.95. Whoa! I told the cashier to scan it again and the price is the same. I complained to the supervisor and he went to see where I got the beer, when he came back, his tagging a “kabayan” along. The “kabayan” explained I took a “Holsten” brand which cost more. What is he talking about? Even if that brand cost SR2.50 each, that’s still SR1.95 less than what they are charging me. Besides that, the sign says “buy 1+1, SR11.50”. No mention at all about “Holsten” cost SR16.95 or “Barbican” cost SR.11.50. Pissed, I returned the beers and went home.

At home while unpacking and storing the items we bought, my wife did a review of the sales receipt. She told me they cheated us on another item. The “Fairy” dishwashing liquid was on sale for SR.7.95 but they charge us SR.9, its regular price. I looked at their ads again and true enough; the Fairy was on sale but the white one. My wife took the yellow one. What is deceitful was my wife took it from the Promo Section where all the products are supposed to be on sale. I told her to forget it. I’m not going back to that place again.

I don’t mind if businesses apply selling techniques to attract more customer. But to put up perplexing ads in order to confuse consumer is tantamount to cheating.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Tag! Your “It”

I was tag by a fellow blogger and OFW, witsandnuts, and I apologized to her if it took me this long to answer it. Anyway the rules are:

1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
2. Find page 123.
3. Find the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag as many people you want.

I have the urge to ransack my bookshelf for a “deep thinking” book but that would be cheating. So, since the nearest book within my reach is a technical one, sorry if this may sound mambo-jumbo to you.

Book: Network Programming in C by Barry Nance

The first thing to note is that the high-level call fopen() is not generally LAN-aware, and does not provide a means for indicating sharing mode and access mode. At any rate, avoid using fopen() in your LAN-aware applications; it does not give you enough control over the different file-sharing modes. Use the open(), _open() or sopen() calls instead, as outlined in the following sections.

I’ll pass muna in tagging others.