Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Ladies and gentlemen


You all remember Stinky, right? Well this is his internet debut.

He's about 8 months old now and the girls just love him to bits.

Friday, February 24, 2006

And the hits just keep on coming

Gloria has just declared a state of emergency to protect herself from people who want to take over the reins. Big friggin deal. Can't we just ignore the government? Can't we, for the love of God, just ignore everybody who wants to take over from the government? This government. No, Im no anarchist, although I admit to being a bit of a Christian Libertarian, as in John Lennon's "Everything the government touches turns to shit." If you think about it, the government needs us more than we need it. It's a huge tapeworm in our collective intestines, sucking the nourishment out of our blood. And like a huge tapeworm, it controls us, influencing how we behave and how we eat.

We dont need the government. We dont need to surrender our freedom and dignity to these clowns. The sooner the people realize this, the better. Our utilities are run by private corporations. Social services are more efficiently run by NGOs; the Red Cross and various other agencies are always first to arrive in disaster areas. We look to the police and the military for security, but do really you think they provide this? Do you feel secure with them around? Bottom line is, all we have looking out for us is us. We, the people. We the people working together for common goals and interests.

I dont mean disobeying the law. By all means let's obey the laws: dont steal, dont kill, dont run a red light--the law is what's supposed to rule us. I just want us to ignore the people in government. Shun them. Dont acknowledge their existence. Theyre not more important than you or I. Theyre parasites who dont deserve our attention. Let's secede from them.

===============================================
Addendum. 27 February 2006. Solita Monsod's Feb 25 column Keeping the flame of Edsa alive.
All I can say, ma'am, is Exactly, exactly. I wasnt interested in joining any of the so-called EDSA celebrations-cum-protest rallies. I wasnt interested in going to Fort Bonifacio yesterday to support the breakaway Marines. (I did intend to go there to take pictures. Great photo-op. But the sight of Imee Marcos holding vigil at the gates, giving interviews, smiling for the cameras, together with other politicos... well... )

People power isnt the rallies, the mass action on the streets. It's time we moved on from that media-friendly display. The vile politicos have already hijacked the streets of EDSA, riding the waves of the people who're still naive enough to believe that mass actions and People Power are synonymous. It's time for People Power to get off the streets and into the communities. Into our homes. Into our hearts and minds.

The government is an obstacle to true service to the people. People Power has to find its way around it, if not ignore it altogether. The less government we have in this country, the better.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snap-happy in Beijing

Reminder to self: When it comes to shopping, women can take care of themselves.

Spent a week in the Beijing office with three other colleagues from the Manila office, two from the Thailand office, and one from the London office. The trip was an eye-opener in that it demonstrated how different men and women are: the old Hunter-Gatherer difference.

There we were in Beijing, seat of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth--the Chinese were living in cities when the Europeans were still living in caves--and I was looking forward to seeing the sights. I had them all lined up for the weekend, like a hunter choosing his hunting grounds. I combed the place for an English language map which was surprisingly hard to find for a city that was to host the Olympics in two years. But we got lucky and found a travel bookstore. The grounds were then laid out in front of me and I planned the hunt. We only had Saturday to do all our sight-seeing, to bask in the city's ancient charms, so I laid out an itinerary: Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and if we had time, we'd go find a bar in a Hutong somewhere. I had the place written in Chinese by a colleague and all we had to do was show it to the taxi driver. What I didnt count on was the girls' gatherer instincts.

What did they want to do? Go shopping. They asked our Beijing colleagues where the good shopping was in the city, but almost invariably, the places they told us about were the malls and department stores, not quite what the girls had in mind. It wasnt until Thursday that we found a place to their liking. It looked like Divisoria with all the little stalls selling everything: clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, electronics, leather goods, household items... In short, everything that you can find in Divisoria except for the winter clothing. We agreed to go back there the next day since the place was closing when we arrived.

Friday night we arrived there early so the girls can do their shopping. I find shopping to be the most boring activity ever invented for humans, so our colleague from Europe and I decided to go to the department store across the street to do some research; he wanted to find out how much portable MP3 players cost in Beijing as compared to London so he can report it back to his mates. Right here you see a difference between hunters and gatherers: hunters have a definite quarry; gatherers just pick up whatever's useful that's available with no definite idea what that might be. We agreed to meet up in front of McDonald's at 7:00. We figured an hour and a half worth of shopping was enough. Boy were we wrong. At 7 pm sharp we were dutifully standing in front of McDonald's, freezing our nuts off. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour. We took turns going inside McDonald's to thaw while the other stayed out to wait. Finally, I decided to go look for the girls. An ill-advised plan, but it's better than standing around doing nothing. I walked through all 6 stories of the building, trying to cover every corner of each floor (Hey, an electronics section! I could go tell European colleague.), til I said, screw it. I went backto McDonald's. Euro-colleague wasnt there! I figured the girls showed up and they all went to look for me, so I went back in. And sure enough there they were. Apologies, a small token to appease me, and off we went to the shops. It seems they needed more time. We went to the fourth floor where all the electronics are so Euro-colleague could do some more research. "This is a good, find, Jego," he said. But he never found what he was looking for, a multi-gigabyte flash drive of some sort or another. I bought a tripod for my camera, so it wasnt a total loss. (Shop owner sees my ancient Olympus and goes, "That is a good camera.")

Place closed at 8:30 as scheduled and we went to a Pizza place for dinner. We talked about anything but work, as it should be. We talked about British comedy: Benny Hill, Mr. Bean, and Ricky Gervais. Euro-colleague didnt know Ricky Gervais used to be in a rock band in the 80s and that he had a huge hit in the Philippines. We talked about Islam (he's Muslim), Judaism, and Christianity to round out the evening. We then went home. Shopping all done, I looked forward to my date with Chinese history and civilization the next day. I even bought an extra roll of film. Wrong again.

First stop was Tian Nan Men square and the Forbidden City within its gates. Lots of tourists, a veritable cast of thousands from all over the world. Unfortunately, parts of the Forbidden City were under renovation so it didnt make for a good photo opportunity with all the metal scaffolding and blue galvanized iron fences, but it had enough going for it. The girls, however, looked bored. Their minds were somewhere else, and I had a pretty good idea where. By the time we finished with the Forbidden City, I knew where the rest of the day was headed: back to the shopping place. I dont get it. They sell exactly the same things in Divisoria at probably even better prices, but they had a need--a need--to buy the stuff from the Beijing shops. And me, in my misguided macho sense of being their protector, decided to go with them. To see to it that nothing happens to them. Sheeeesh, is the only word that seems apt right now. They needed to gather, and since I wasnt hunting, I stood watch. And that's where we ended the day. We travelled all the way to Beijing, skipped the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, to go to Divisoria.

The digital camera is a perfect gatherer's camera, and that's what the girls had. With it, they can take pictures of everything since they won't run out of ammo. It all depended on the size of the 'bag' they were carrying, whose contents they could unload into the laptop so they can gather more photos. They took photos of the food we ate, including McDonald's burgers and fries, the doormat, the beds, the trains. I had an old-fashioned film camera, so like a hunter, I chose my targets, some of which Ive posted below. I used Fuji Superia 400 film. (Two English gentlemen, one of whom carried a high-tech digital SLR camera saw me lining up a shot and the one with the camera said, "Look at that old camera. That is so cool." This to me confirms my camera's snob appeal, which I confess was one of the reasons I bought it in the first place.)

Our scanner has a few kinks in it. Sorry about that.



Red flags in the square



Los soldados Chinos



Inside the Forbidden City



Little baby. His mom was taking a picture of him on the bench and I asked if I could take his picture too and she was only too happy to let me.


Figures carved in stone. Also known as I need a lens hood.



Tour done. Off to Divisoria we go.



Didnt have time to reload the camera so I borrowed Heartbreaker's
point-and-shoot digicam for this picture of a tired old monk.




This too is from HB's digicam. Some jabroni taking a picture with his antique camera.
HB took this shot and the next one.



Wadapak??

Monday, February 20, 2006

To the extreme I rock the mic like a vandal, light up the stage and wax a chump like a candle

As a believer in something myself, it should be easy for me to side with the Muslims when their most revered prophet is portrayed insultingly. The secular media has gotten away with things like this for so long, insulting religious traditions, that at a certain level, I am glad that these haughty Western secularists are getting their comeuppance. But the burning of embassies, the calls for behaeadings, the burning of flags--this is not the response of a people who believe in a spiritual transcendent something. The Islamic culture, which at one time led the world in scientific knowledge, sophistication, and tolerance, is being hijacked by extremist thugs. We have Osama Bin Laden, we have Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and we have the various imams inflaming and inciting the poor Muslims to violent frenzy because of a cartoon. Where is the great sultan Saladin when you need him? Saladin was a picture of tolerance and humanity, teaching the European knights a thing or two about real chivalry, even as he championed the cause of Islam. He was like that because he was a devout Muslim, a true defender of Islam.

In a Washington Post article where Jyllands-Posten editor Flemming Rose defends his decision to run the cartoons, he recounts an interview with a Danish stand-up comedian wherein the comedian admitted that he had no trouble urinating on the Bible in front of the camera, but he wouldn't do the same thing with the Koran. Why is that? Does the secular press think we Christians don't mind? That we'll simply turn the other cheek? Does the secular media think that believers are not offended by this sort of thing? Remember this is the same secular media that takes offense at prayer in public schools or the Ten Comandments in city hall.

If only the protests to the Danish cartoons were run by the moderates and not the extremists, I'll gladly add my voice to theirs. The callous disrespect of people's personal beliefs has gone on long enough. But as a civilized person, violence should be the last resort; not the first. I understand the outrage, I just don't understand--and condone--the violent protests. Extremist secularism should not be met by extremist fundamentalism.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Snap-happy on a weekend

Photos. Olympus OM-2n and Kodak Professional BW400 CN film.
These are scanned from prints, not from negatives. Can't afford a film scanner yet.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank my models. You were great.


This blog has gone to the dogs.



Project No. 1


Projects 1 and 2


Slurp


Ice cream


Afternoon nap

And finally...

What da-?? Who da-???

Why

It turns out that fossils of a crested dinosaur discovered in China in 2002 belong to an ancestor of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. They call it Guanlong wucaii, meaning crowned dragon from five colors. I have no idea how scientists determine genetic lineage from examining a few fossil skeletons. Probability equations are probably involved because I dont think actual DNA samples survived the process of fossilization. Anyway...

The CNN article asks this: Why did this beast have a crest on its head? Which struck me as a very odd question. It's like asking somebody why he has an anus. "Gee, uhhh... I dont know. I was born with it and I never questioned the why of its existence. Dammit, youve given me pause. Now I have to ponder my asshole's philosophical significance." Maybe it's just me. To me, 'Why' is seeking an answer that's more than 'What for.' Or maybe it's not just me. When the Merovingian asked Morpheus why they seek him, Morpheus answered, "We are looking for the Keymaker." To which the Merovingian replies: "Oh yes... but this is not a reason; this is not a 'why'."
"Causality. There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the 'why'. 'Why' is what separates us from them, you from me. `Why' is the only real social power, withoutit you are powerless." (Matrix Reloaded)
Why did the beast have a crest on its head? You see the absurdity? The author asks the dead dinosaur "Why?".

What the article meant to ask of course was, "What was the crest for?" Scientists speculate that it was probably used as a kind of display to other members of its own species. I'd like to think that, being hollow, it also probably had acoustic properties as well to amplify its cries, much like a brass instrument. The crest display and the sound box probably indicates that it is a social animal who lived in family groups and among family groups. The adults would have to find a way to be distinct from other adults just in case their babies get lost in the group. And they also need distinct calls. Or maybe they use the calls to mark territory much like a lion's roar does. "If you can hear this, youre trespassing on my territory." But these are not Why's.

Science cannot answer 'Why'. It can only answer 'What for'. And most of the time, it can answer 'What for' in probabilities. That's because Science isnt anybody. It's a disembodied concept. Only people can answer 'Why' since 'Why' is a faculty of the human mind; something that goes beyond the realm of the physical. the realm of the measurable. For Science, 'Why' does not exist.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Our lost Strad

My grandfather, my mother said, was quite skilled with the violin. After working in his clinic--he was a dentist--he'd spend afternoons serenading the sunset with his instrument. It was his way of unwinding, I suppose, after an entire day of looking into people's mouths, possibly the most germ-infested part of the human body. (My mother surmised once that her inordinate fear of dentists came about because her father was one.)

I never met my grandfather. The Japanese arrested him during the war--aiding and abetting the guerrillas--and he was never seen again. My mother was four. Her father's violin playing was one of the few memories he has of him. She told me about his violins, how he had a collection of them, but he had one that was really special, she said. It had a name. A foreign sounding name. "Was it an Amati?," I asked. No. Different, she said; it's quite a long name. "A Stradivarius?" Yes, I think that was what it was, she said. Holy crap!, I thought. "Where is it? Is it in Pili?" No, she said, Mama sold it.

Mama, my grandmother, God bless her, didnt know much about these things. She lost her father when she was very young, and he left her with an inheritance that she was not capable of managing. She never went to high school; she didnt need to. At that time, women of her upbringing were just waiting to be married off to the other members of the gentry. She had servants at her beck and call and the fields were bringing in enough money for her to live like that. She married my grandfather when she was 16 or thereabouts. The fields were entrusted to the management of an encargado, (who happened to be former Senator Raul Roco's dad, if you must know). When my grandfather died, Mama didnt know enough about making a living so she sold stuff to maintain the lifestyle. And some of the stuff she sold were the violins, including the alleged Stradivarius.

Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) had a sort of magical way with sound and the means to produce them. He produced violins of unsurpassed tone and depth because of his uncanny way with the woods with which he crafted his instruments. He carves the woods just so, shaving here, whittling there, in full kinesthetic awareness of how tactile sensations in spruce and maple affected the sound he was after. Another violin maker, Guarneri, allegedly could make a violin that sounded a better than a Strad, but he lacked consistency. So buying a Guarneri is a hit-or-miss proposition, whereas in buying a Strad, you are assured of high quality. Many have tried to duplicate the quality of a Strad but failed.

Now a team of acoustic scientists from Sweden are using modern technology to try to duplicate the magic of the Strad. Using computer models, they'll try to build a Stradivarius facsimile by creating a violin in a computer and tinker with it, the electronic equivalent of Antonio shaving and whittling the wood he works with. They reshape the electronic violin, tinker with the 'wood' and 'varnish', here a little, there a little, until they come up with the right sound, and then build the violin. Sounds plausible. What is a violin if it isnt just a collection of shapes and materials with measurable acoustic properties? With the use of computers, the process of tinkering with the materials could be done in no time.

Building it would be the tricky part since wood has very individual properties and no two pieces are alike, so good luck to the Swede geeks in trying to find just the right piece of wood to capture the sound theyre after. But this shouldnt be too difficult if they decide to look beyond wood and choose specially engineered synthetic materials.

Now let's say they succeed. Let's say they create a duplicate of Stradivari's Lady Tennant or his Dolphin. Would it also fetch the same value as an original Strad? It sounds the same, plays the same, so why shouldnt it? We all know the answer to that. The violin-from-the-lab doesnt have the same spirit, the same mystique, the same history as any of Antonio's originals. They dont have the X-factor of a genius's blood and sweat, working with only his hands and ears, built into any of the instruments. Once the Swedes succeed in creating their violin, they can create dozens--hundreds--of duplicates, whereas each of Antonio's violins is unique. There is no violin like it. I doubt any machine can replace the human genius because no machine can produce magic. They can produce precisely measured properties of data, but they can never produce the mystical, spiritual, intangibles that the human genius can. The ordinary mortal, steeped as he is in the machine age will not be able to tell the difference. But that's because he has sunk to the level of the sub-human, merely a cog in the machine, with bills to pay, deadlines to meet, appointments to make. Unfree. The human will be able to tell the difference. Only the human has faculties that are adequate enough to recognize the mystical in something. That's why the Strads are so highly valued. Not only because the Strads are rare, but because humans are rare.

As for our Stradivarius, the one Mama sold all those years ago, who knows? Truth be told, maybe it wasnt even a Strad. My mother is notorious for forgetting names. Maybe it was a Giuseppe Guarneri. Maybe not even that. But when I tell this story, I always say that it was an Antonius Stradivarius. Nothing like it in the world.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Lyrics


(Photo from Associated Press. Used without permission)

Wowowee
(Lito Camo)

Sa Luzon, sa Visayas, at sa Mindanao
Saan man sulok ng mundo
Makakasama nyo
Magbibigay saya sa bawat isa
At maghahatid ng kakaibang ligaya

Kadugo, kababayan at kapamilya
Sa bawat sulok ng mundo
Na may Pilipino, itoy para sa inyo
Sa kinabukasan nyo
Ang ibibigay naming paparemyo

Wowowee sinong di mawiwili
Dahil sa game na to ay di ka magsisisi
Wowowee panalo ang marami
Pagkat walang talo sa wowowee

Sa loob at labas ng ating bansa
Saan man nagmumula
May pero o wala
Kasama ko kayo at pwedeng manalo
Ganyan kung magmahal
Ang kapamilya mo ( wowowee )

Wowowee sinong di mawiwili
Dahil sa game na to ay di ka magsisisi
Wowowee panalo ang marami
Pagkat walang talo sa wowowee

Wowowee sinong di mawiwili
Dahil sa game na to sigurado ang swerte
Wowowee panalo ang marami
Pagkat walang talo sa wowowee
Pagkat panalo ka sa wowowee

Wowowee wowowee wowowee
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Friday, February 03, 2006

Another breakthrough that just wasnt there

In another case of misguided scientific reporting, MSNBC reports that 'scientists force evolution in the lab.' Holy mother of pearl!, I thought. This is astounding! Finally proof that macroevolution--the emergence of a new species over time--has been achieved in a controlled environment. I read on with interest, but the first paragraph didn't look promising. "Scientists have forced a little evolution in the laboratory..."

To make a long story short, there was nothing of the sort. The scientists weren't even trying to 'force evolution in the lab.' What they were trying to do was understand the effect of hormonal differences in species. As always, the reporter sheepishly admits that "none of this looks to be going anywhere in the sense of survival of the fittest. The black and green caterpillars will all grow up basically the same." Gee, you think?

There was no evolution in the lab in the Darwinian macroevolution sense. This article was clearly aimed at the gullible.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A side order of Hamas

The December 2004 tsunami brought together Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. Theyre pals now, 2 people on opposite sides of the political fence. The Hamas situation is also bringing together Jimmy Carter and conservative columnist and one-time Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, at least on their positions on Hamas. Both are urging the US not to stop foreign aid to the Palestinians; Carter for bleeding-heart reasons and Buchanan for practical reasons. In the meantime, the Israelis are still nervous. This is one time their nuclear deterrent won't work because the Palestinians are right next door.

Hamas is still classified as a terrorist organization by the US and the EU. But the Israelis weren't so pristine in its early days when they were fighting for a country they can call their own. The Irgun Svai Leumi and the Stern Group, which nurtured the future Israeli leaders, were known terrorist organizations. Irgun, under their leader Menachem Begin, planned bombings of hotels in Jerusalem and other terrorist acts, and with the Stern Group (one time member, Yitshak Shamir) were guilty of the massacre at Deir Yassin where 260 people were killed, including women and children. Later, Menachem Begin became prime minister of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate. I'm not saying that Hamas would choose the path of peace, now that the Palestinians have entrusted them with their government, but it is possible. Not likely, but possible. I mean, who woulda thunk a thug like Begin would win a Nobel Peace Prize?



Will work for Winx Club stickers, too. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, February 01, 2006