Sunday, July 27, 2008

Prisoners of Our Own Device

I knew in my gut that there was something wrong with a system that couldn't fire its incompetents. - Luke Ford

A dark cloud hovered over our heads today. A man disliked by many becomes the head of our project. That seat was empty for several months since the “old man” retired and went home to Germany. His replacement, a man who takes pride of his Canadian passport, who speaks the local language, mastery of sucking up to the higher ups and other “ka-├ęclat-an”. He has no experience what so ever to manage a project or handle personnel. But it doesn’t really matter as long as our company gets its percentage of the salary allocated for that position. We were hired by the Ministry to maintain and operate this project. Our over-all performance must have been satisfactory or they won't renew our contract every 3 years for the past 15 years.

The guy came here 5 years ago. Sent by his company to “maintain” a system we sub-contracted to them. The problem is they short-change us by sending a Visual Basic programmer when the system was done in C++. He became unpopular when he refused other department’s request for modifications or add-ons in the system. Citing alteration of software is not within the scoop of his contract. The real reason is his afraid to modify a language that is way beyond his understanding. He joined us when he convinced our bosses it’s much cheaper to hire him than paying "retainer's fee" to his former company. That’s the problem with “profit-oriented” companies. They’ll readily sacrifice quality if it increases return by a few thousand riyals. Even if its detremental to the project's health in the long run.

Staying in one place and doing the same thing for so many years can make a man jaded. I don’t know yet if a change of environment or transfering to another “sandbox” is a good idea. I still have a year and a half left on my personal contract. If things get bad or I’m no longer happy, I have plenty of time to gather and balance my options.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Reyes Gitanos

I was a rock enthusiast in my younger days. My music ranges from Rolling Stone, Grand Funk, The Who, BTO etc. to compositions by Bob Dylan, CSNY, JT and even songs sang by Joe Cocker. I still appreciate this music but as I grow older, my taste mellowed down and varies depending on my frame of mind.

When I’m in deep contemplation, I like classical as my background music. Mellow jazz puts me in a relaxing mood and in the road I play something that keeps me alert while driving. One of my favorite “road music” is the Gypsy Kings.

Gypsy Kings are not new. They’ve been around for sometimes but in my observation here, very few of our kabayans appreciate them. I guess maybe because they sang in Spanish. I have to admit I don’t understand their lyrics either, except for some smattering of words I learned from Spanish 101. But their melody has that “masa” appeal and the guitar play would be popular among “barkada” gatherings. In fact, I often heard them as background music in TV programs and their rendition of Frank Sinatra’s famous song, My Way, was featured on Pixar’s animation movie, Happy Feet.

Here’s their version of that song:

Although my CD version has a faster tempo, the “live” version is just as great.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Tag from a Friend

A fellow blogger, panaderos, tag me to do this. I found out this meme has been circulating for sometimes now. Like a chain-letter with a different twist, it’s getting-to-know-you-better kind of twist.

I was doing the exact thing I’m doing right now. I am one of the pioneers of this project which started in 1992. A government agency similar to NTC in the Philippines, it monitors frequencies (legal and illegal) used in the Kingdom. My job is to design and implement software to control instruments used in monitoring and calibration. Before that, I worked in a satellite project akin to our Pinugay Earth Station in the Philippines.

1. Set an appointment with our daughter’s pediatrician.
2. Make my rounds in the office to see if “all system go”.
3. Read the news online.
4. Visit my blog and all the other blogs in my “Pasyalan” list.
5. Answer this tag.

1. Lays potato chip
2. Growers peanuts (garlic flavor)
3. Chichacorn
4. French fries

1. Kalibo, Aklan
2. Manila City
3. Moonwalk, Paranaque
4. Makati City
5. Riyadh, KSA

I’ve never think of that since my financial target is only in millions, but anyway here goes:
1. Go back home.
2. Give 10 million each to my brother and sister.
3. Send my nephews and nieces to any prestigious school they want.
4. Be a patron to all foundation that caters to the old ages and orphans.
5. Run for Mayor, then Governor and then President and try if I can get rid of all these anomalies in the government and the twisted mindset of our society (wish lang naman eh).

I’d like to know more about some interesting people but most of them don’t have blogs. So I’ll tag those who have:
1. Ka Rolly
2. donG
3. R-yo
4. Jon Limyap
5. ever
6. abou

Thanks guys.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


I’ve compiled some facts about my city some “kabayans” back home might find interesting and maybe unbelievable. Unless of course they have OFW relatives.

1. A liter of water cost twice as much the price of a liter of gasoline.
2. Almost each block has a gasoline station but it’s difficult to refill your tank if your vehicle runs on diesel.
3. It’s normal to drive at a speed of 100 kph inside the city.
4. Everywhere you go you find malls and their still planning and building bigger malls.
5. The city zoo has viewing schedule for women and children and another for men only.
6. There is no “tingi”. You have to buy the whole box, for example medicine containing 24 tablets, when all you need is 2 for your headache.
7. Electricity is ten times cheaper per kilowatt-hour than what MERALCO is charging.
8. They have several words for “rain”.
9. Greetings among relatives are like rituals. It takes sometimes just to say hello to a family.
10. Gold jewelries are not priced according to craftsmanship but by weight in gold.
11. They also believe in spirits and sorcery.
12. There are no cinemas, theaters or cable TV.
13. Locals prefer tea than coffee.
14. Women are not allowed to drive.
15. They use vehicle to herd camels and sheep.
16. Only citizens and companies are allowed to own a pick-up truck.
17. They treat luxury cars (Porche, Rollsroyce, Lamborghini etc.) like any other car.
18. They don’t put markers (tombstone) on their cemetery.

… and a lot more but its religious in nature.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Sad Irritating Ending

It is better to lose health like a spendthrift than to waste it like a miser. - Robert Stevenson

Over dinner my wife told me a story imparted by a mom of one of our child’s classmate. I have mix reaction, so I’m sharing it to you. You be the judge.

The mom and her family lives in a residential two-story house sharing the rent with several families. There is also a small room, perhaps initially intended as a driver’s quarter, outside the main house rented by a single (without his family) person. Although they live in one compound, it seems socializing among neighbors is not common. This is understandable especially if both parents work, children at school and weekends is a family affair. But minding ones business also has its failing.

For three days nobody noticed the person renting the small room comes out or wonder why his car never moved where it’s parked. Curiosity only takes place when residence became aware of foul odor coming from his place. But it’s too late. Post mortem showed he died of a heart attack.

Snippets of information revealed the man works for a big American communication company. That he rented the room in order to save most of his housing allowance. And that he is currently building a series of apartment in the Philippines. Again, I understand saving ones earnings and investing on something tangible is a preparation for ones retirement.

I felt sorry for the family of the deceased. But my sentiment changes when my wife mentioned his room doesn’t have an air-conditioning unit.

The Middle East has one of the harshest climates in the planet. Very cold in winter and extremely hot in summer. Temperatures range from 45 to 48deg centigrade especially in the months of July and August. In a land where electricity is very cheap, air conditioning is not a luxury but a necessity. Staying in a room with nothing to cool you down but an electric fan is like pointing a hairdryer in your direction. I wonder if that factor contributed to his untimely death.

I’ve seen and heard stories of our “kabayans” making sacrifices in order to have a better life for them and their families. But to deny oneself a necessity, which without it is detrimental to ones health, so as to save extra cash is beyond my comprehension. Wala sa lugar ang pag-titipid.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Board Exam

One of my unforgettable experiences is the Licensure Board Exam. Although it happened twenty plus years ago, it’s still vivid in my mind. It was exhausting, demanding and suspenseful. It leaves you nothing short of a vegetable after you’re done.

I took my review from Merit Review Center managed by Engr. Domenechi. A board placer himself, top two, to be exact. It offers two training, the refresher course which last six months and an “in-house” preparation for one month. I took both.

During my college days, I’ve solved problems using formulas, tables and charts but I have no inkling what are they for. I mean, I’ll give the “dry”, “saturated” or “condensed” temperature of steam passing through a turbine using those formulas and tables. But ask me what is it used for and why do I have to compute it and I’ll give you a blank stare.

I only have a comprehensible idea of my field when I took the review. Ironically, it only took 6 months to have a grasp of what I was studying for the last 5 years. Not only were we doing refresher course, we were also coached on how to get extra points even if your solution is wrong. Like writing the facts (“given” in engineering lingo), writing in a readable manner by using “print” characters and avoiding too many erasures on the test paper by using “scratch”.

In-house training is a completely different ball game. We are housed in a building somewhere outside the city and for one month we do nothing but eat, sleep, study and take test. Every morning, 6 days a week, they gave us 5 problems to solve and we dissect and study the solutions in the afternoon. Everything is strict and PRC board rules are applied. It’s like taking the board exam everyday but without proctor. One thing good about Engr. Domenechi is that he has a copy of all the previous board exams since 19 ”kupong-kupong”. That is where the 5 problems we have to solved each day came from.

Our board examination is a two days test consists of 4 subjects and 5 problems for each subject. But on the last day of the last subject, I run out of time that I only finished 3 of the 5 problems. I have a “given” on the fourth but the fifth was completely blank. I was nervous but when the result came out, I passed. I got a 60% on my last subject but I got a 96% on my math subject, enough to pull my failed subject and gave me an overall grade of 76%. A point higher than the required passing grade. Our topnotcher got a score of 80% flat.

All these years I still speculate what if I have enough time to finish the last two problems. Was that good enough to land in the top 10? I still wonder.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Being Pinoy

Yeah, I'm sure there are stereotypes of Asian people. - James Iha

I’ve been to all our Filipino friends’ flat. We’ve also been invited by parents of my daughter’s classmates to their apartment. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are four things that are similar among pinoy families. A typical Filipino household have a karaoke machine, a rice cooker, a “tabo” and “patis”. In fact I got them all.

I bought a DVD player with a multi-region capability and it has a karaoke built-in as an added feature. I don’t sing unless I’m strumming a guitar and I hate that “highlighted” words dictating the tempo. But my wife love’s it. She occasionally exercised her vocal chords and only stopped when our child broke the microphone. But on parties, karaoke is introduced by Filipino hosts to entertain their guests.

As for our rice cooker, it’s a convenience. It freed my wife to do other chores. We used to cook our rice conventionally. But when our daughter arrived, she occupies most of my wife’s attention that Mommy sometimes overlooked her cooking and we have to eat “tutong”.

Some of us prefer to take a bath using “tabo” rather than the shower. During summer, water here is so hot that we store it in containers to cool over night before using it in the morning. That’s where “tabo” comes in handy. Besides that water is rationed all over the city. It comes only every four days that we have to hoard it in 30 gallon pails in case our reservoir runs dry before the next ration.

I don’t know about other pinoys, but “patis” (fish sauce) is a permanent element in our dining table. Sometimes I spread it on rice, mixed it with vinegar and chili as a dip and also use it as seasoning.

To an outsider, it may sound peculiar. But for pinoys, without these, something seems lacking. It’s like having dinner without rice.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

On Arab Headdress

The Ghutra is an essential part of Arab traditional attire. It is a piece of cloth, like a scarf, made of cotton (sometimes a combination of wool and cotton) and soft to the touch. Unlike neckties which serves no purpose but as an ornament, ghutras are worn in the head and has practical application. It protects the wearer from searing heat of the sun and used to cover the mouth and eyes from dust especially during sandstorms.

From my observation, I can tell reasonably from which region in the Middle East an Arab belong by looking at his headdress. It announced their affiliation by the scarf’s design or the distinct way they wear the ghutra.

Pinoys here, especially those on the field, have adapted in wearing this headgear. Besides its main purpose, pinoys uses it to wipe sweats, as a hand towel and even handy when you have a running nose.

In the Philippines, “freedom fighters” wore it as an association to their faith. Even reporters put it on as a fashion statement. I don’t know, maybe it gives credibility to what ever they are doing.