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.