Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Washington SyCip Park IR test (continued)

More pictures of the Washington SyCip Park. I must say, the experiment with infrared has yielded satisfactory results. The prototype model of the IR filter can now be safely consigned to the trash bin and manufacturing of a more durable (and sexy) production model can commence.

This one's colored; white balance to tungsten and tweaked.

This one's colored as well, custom white balance, but it turned out like b&w.
Way better than the previous one, though. I'll need to do some more experimenting
so I could get more color in the shots.

This is what the park looks like in my dreams.

Plastic butterflies.

Arboreal bliss

The arch of doom.

One more of the gazebo.
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

No I havent

Forgotten the Screwtape Letter translation project, that is.

Nor the further adventures of our mysterious Asian Domme.

Give me some more time. I'll get to them as soon as I can.

Washington SyCip Park IR test


Picture of one of the gazebos in the Washington SyCip Park in Legazpi Village using a Canon Ixy Digital 450 and a home-made infrared filter made with cardboard, overexposed film negatives, and lots of black electrical tape. The filter looks like crap. But the picture turned out ok.
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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The king of the ducks

Someone explain this to me. I was on my way to work and as is my wont, passed through the Washington SyCip park in Legazpi Village. As soon as I step through the wooden arch into the park, I hear frantic quacking from the park's resident ducks and damn if they werent headed in my direction and running at full clip, which isnt very fast since theyre ducks, quacking all the way. I stopped on the stone pathway and the ducks, four of them, stopped and formed a straight line at my feet and fell silent like they were curtsying before royalty. I stood there for a few seconds, then headed off to work. I looked back and the ducks dispersed and headed back towards the pond where they came from.

I can think of two reasons for this behavior. One, they mistook me for someone else. I see people sometimes feeding the ducks -- popcorn, bread, chips -- and maybe I happen to look like someone whom they remember to be always bringing them goodies. But I always pass through the park and this is the first time they did such a thing. It can't be because they mistook me for someone. But then again, maybe it's the clothes Im wearing that caused them to misrecognize me. Or, two, they wanted their picture taken like I did last time. Theyre such hams.

But as luck would have it, I left my camera at home.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Edsa Dos?

No I wasnt there. I had nothing to do with it. What do you mean you saw me there? That wasnt me. You must be imagining things. That wasnt me who walked all the way from Guadalupe to Ortigas with you because we couldnt get transportation. Nope, sorry. You must have mistaken me for someone else. I wasnt there. I had no part in it. No. What's the big deal anyway? Why do you insist on commemorating it as if youre proud of what we've...I mean, as if youre proud of what youve accomplished? Pfsh! You reap what you sow. It was all your fault. I wasnt there.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Doctors and sailors

Updated. 17 January 2008

In the Comments section of MLQ3's blog, I may have been too harsh on our doctors for their reaction to the perceived Desperate Housewives slur. I called them 'whiny'. Just in case you were hibernating, around September last year, an episode of Desperate Housewives had one of the characters (Susan Meyer, played by Teri Hatcher) having a checkup with her gynecologist, and the gynecologist's diagnosis was that she was in menopause, causing the character to ask for the doctor's credentials: "Can I check those diplomas because I want to make sure they're not from some med school in the Philippines."

And all whiny hell broke loose. The Fil-Am community exploded in indignation. Racial slur!, they cried. They demanded an apology from ABC. Not to let an opportunity like this pass, Filipino politicians in these islands gleefully, and with hearts bleeding, demanded that ABC apologize. Petitions were put up and signed. Filipino blogs exploded in all their racially slurred fury, defending the doctors' honor. "Woe unto us Filipino doctors," the doctors cried. "Woe unto us," the crowd chorused. Boycotts and general ill-will followed suit. Oh, the middle classness of it all! The Middle Class deemed it fit to defend our doctors' honor. (ABC eventually apologized, but the Fil-Am doctors arent going to let it pass that easily. They slapped them with a lawsuit like good Americans.)

Fast forward a couple of months later and the world came to know of a two-decade-long insult in the waters of the world towards Filipino seamen via an episode wherein a US Navy vessel almost opened fire on an Iranian speedboat. Lewis Page, a former Royal Navy sailor, writes in The Register:

Anyone who has spent time bridge watchkeeping at sea east of the Suez Canal will be aware of what's known as the "Filipino Monkey" phenomenon. All ships at sea are required to maintain a listening watch on VHF marine channel 16, so as to hear distress messages, collision warnings or other calls. It's the equivalent of the Star Trek "hailing frequencies", as it were. However, you aren't supposed to just blot out channel 16 with chitchat - if you want to hold a conversation or something the correct form is to change channels after establishing comms on 16. In that way, the primary channel stays open for urgent stuff.

In northern waters, this is what happens. Once you get down into points south and east, the knowledge that large numbers of people absolutely have to listen to you - like it or not, as a requirement of maritime law and professional seamanship - seemingly becomes an irresistible temptation for a lot of people in possession of VHF sets.

The most popular phrase used by these people is "Filipino Monkey", said by salty old seafarers to have started out as an insult against Filipinos but now just meaning "I'm bored and want to piss a lot of watchstanders off".

"Filipino Monkey" is not a person, not a group of persons, no matter what CNN, or any other international news agencies say. (The ever-dependable Wikipedia has an entry on the Filipino Monkey that says, "It is likely that this title has come about due to a suspicion that such pranksters originate from the Philippines."*) If they had simply dug deeper, asked questions, or applied good ole common sense, they'd know that "Filipino Monkey" is a taunt aimed at Filipino sailors. It was meant to insult them. Remember this has been going on for 20 years and yet this is the first time we have heard of it. Now notice how a Filipino sailor handles it:

The two tone alarm has gone again and this time it’s a pan pan from La
Coruna Radio, other side of the Bay of Biscay. You wouldn’t mind so
much if it was just the official users of VHF and MF radio that you had
to contend with, but oh no there is every manner of animal sound, and
jungle noise on the VHF from people who should not be on the radio, let
alone a ship. One moron was calling out, “Gorilla from Manila, and
Filipino monkey” my watchman who is from Manila laughed and said that
it is often Indian’s who call this out to provoke a response from
Filipinos, who say “Indian I can’t see you but I can smell you”.

(via a link in MLQ3's blog about the taunt.)
What did the sailor from Manila do? Did he whine, "Woe is me, a poor defenseless Filipino seaman! I have to endure these taunts, oh wretched man that I am."? No. He... laughed. And said they usually return the compliment. Never mind that probably the fella wasnt Indian although he might have been. The point is, even though he wasnt going to take that, he returned the taunt in good humor. He didnt whine to the United Filipino Seafarers, or Filipino community at large, whose politicians would be quick to take advantage of this. Remember this has been going on for 20 years. It is a game to them: You call me a monkey, I'll call you a pus-filled flea on a plague-ridden rodent.

Now I can't explain the disparity in the reactions of the doctors and the seamen to a perceived racial slur, but I have a few theories. It probably has something to do with security. Not financial security, but the security in one's place in society. Shipping companies keep getting Filipino seamen because theyre the best. The Filipinos are confident of that and they know in their heart that no matter what some schmuck says on VHF channel 16, theyre still the best. Our Fil-Am doctors on the other hand, even though their skills are right up there with other doctors (Bill Clinton's personal doctor when he was president is a Filipino), theyre still insecure. They dont want this insecurity exposed, so they whine and slap lawsuits.

Also, Fil-Am doctors are, well, Fil-Ams, that is, Americans. They have imbibed a politically-correct lifestyle and a Hollywood-style progressive politics where when you feel insulted, you come crying to the Nanny State who will take care of you and wipe your tears away. The seamen are different. Theyre Filipinos...Pinoys. They have long realized that if they want to improve their lot in life, they better do it on their own. They are a self-reliant bunch who, even though they would want their government to give them some perks, know that their government would probably let them down. So they fight their own battles.

Inodoro ni Emilie in the comment section of MLQ3's blog post linked above is concerned that because the 'slurred party' are our sailors, it won't get the same level of indignation from the country's Middle Class, the way the Middle Class rose to defend the Fil-Am doctors. He's concerned that there seems to be a double standard: "It’s like saying U.S. based pinoy professionals are levels way above the evolutionary ladder that there’s no need to fuss about this incident." Maybe there's some of that going on, I dont know. But the fact remains that as in life, although our seamen would appreciate our support, they dont really need it. They can take care of themselves. Theyre not a whiny bunch.

*This sentence has been deleted from the Wikipedia entry as of 17 January 2008, but it still says that Filipino Monkey is a pseudonym.

Update: 17 January 2008. In the comments section of this post, I mention that in the video of the Strait of Hormuz incident I saw, the threatening words of the prankster werent audible. According to this report, the reason for that is because the words "I am coming to you... You will explode..." was spliced in later in an elaborate ruse to sensationalize the story. The source of the deception, according to the story, is the highest echelons of the US Department of Defense.
On January 9, the US Navy released excerpts of a video of the incident in which a strange voice - one that was clearly very different from the voice of the Iranian officer who calls the US ship in the Iranian video - appears to threaten the US warships.

A separate audio recording of that voice, which came across the VHS channel open to anyone with access to it, was spliced into a video on which the voice apparently could not be heard. That was a political decision, and Lieutenant Colonel Mark Ballesteros of the Pentagon's Public Affairs Office told IPS the decision on what to include in the video was "a collaborative effort of leadership here, the Central Command and navy leadership in the field".

"Leadership here", of course, refers to the secretary of defense and other top policymakers at the department.
Pentagon seems to want to make it appear that the US Navy warship was "this close" to firing on the boats based on the threat, but Navy officials themselves deny that they were about to fire, revealing a rift between the Pentagon and Navy officials.
The other elements of the story given to Pentagon correspondents were also discredited. The commanding officer of the guided missile cruiser Port Royal, Captain David Adler, dismissed the Pentagon's story that he had felt threatened by the dropping of white boxes in the water. Meeting with reporters on Monday, Adler said, "I saw them float by. They didn't look threatening to me."

The naval commanders seemed most determined, however, to scotch the idea that they had been close to firing on the Iranians. Cosgriff, the commander of the Fifth Fleet, denied the story in a press briefing on January 7. A week later, Commander Jeffery James, commander of the destroyer Hopper, told reporters that the Iranians had moved away "before we got to the point where we needed to open fire".
Someone wants a war to happen. And it sure aint the Navy.

Monday, January 07, 2008


(updated 9 January 2008)

Are there any Tagalog expletives? Im talking about the words you utter when, say, you hit your thumb with a hammer, or when traveling in your car at 120 kph and finding yourself about to crash into a tree. Or the kind you use as punctuation, or as a filler, as in "Fuck, yeah" or "Hell, no."

We do have words for those occasions but theyre not pure Tagalog; putang ina, anak ng puta, tang ina (whore-mother or spawn of a whore) for instance, but theyre based on the Spanish puta. Our pucha, naknampucha, anaknampatola, anaknantokwa, etc., are all euphemisms derived from anak ng puta. I remember growing up hearing puki ng ina, or puking ina (mother's vagina), and theyre pure Tagalog, but I figured they were derived from putang ina as well. If they werent, then they have fallen into disuse, at least from where I am. [In fact, there is evidence that it is a Tagalog expletive that predates putang ina since there are expletives in other Filipino languages that mean the same thing and sound different from puta. The Ilokano ukininam, for instance.] What did the Tagalogs use before the Spanish gave us puta? Im sure they had something. Expletives come from a different part of the brain than everyday spoken language, and since I assume Tagalogs also have this part of the brain (the limbic system), I assume our ancestors also let out a blue streak when, say, their fishing nets snagged a rock and all the fishes they caught got away. Our ancestors also had those times when they knew they were fucked, and Im sure they didnt say Ay, gumamela! Alas, our authentic Tagalog expletives are gone forever. The only one that survived is the wimpy and tame walanghiya (shameless) used as a filler (not an expletive per se). Walanghiya is used like 'God damn!' when impressed by something, for instance. Walanghiya, ang galing!

The Visayans were more successful in preserving theirs. They continue to use yawa, or hindot as their substitute for hell (devil) and fuck. Ditto for the aforementioned Ilokanos. Ukininam is vulgar--a profaning of our mother's most secret place--and it's easy to say, which makes it perfect as an expletive. Perhaps the Tagalog word for fuck, kantot, doesnt lend itself well to being used as an expletive. It doesnt flow as easily as fuck, or hindot. Remember, Im talking about expletives and not those curse words that are actually directed at someone. Fuck is different from 'Fuck you' which has a lot of hostility. In that department, the directed curse word, Tagalogs can hold their own.

I dont think we have an equivalent in any Filipino language of the expletive shit, but we recognized that we needed one. So much so that we adopted shit, much the same way that we adopted puta from Spanish, but changed its pronunciation a bit, pronouncing it as shet. I dont know about you, but that small change in pronunciation emasculated it. Tae would have been perfect, and I suspect it was used as an expletive before the Conquistadores, the Inquisition still fresh in their minds and swords, gave the natives a new religion where words had power, and oaths meant something. Understandable, since in this new religion they brought, the Word is central to the faith. As a result, as the Tagalogs became the Vatican's most loyal subjects, Tagalog suffered the loss of their expletives since the Spaniards decided Luzon, especially Manila, would be their capital. We had to make do with hybrids to satisfy a primitive impulse. Anak ng puta!

P.S. It just occurred to me that a Tagalog expletive did indeed survive. And that's puki (vagina). But as far as I can tell, it's only used by women. Somehow, I dont see that fisherman ancestor who snagged his fishing net on a rock saying, "Ay, puki!"

Update (08 January 2008): I just thought of another Tagalog expletive: buwisit (jinx). How could I have missed this one? It was a favorite of my father's, just second to putang ina. Is this all the Tagalogs really had? Walanghiya and buwisit? Somehow I dont believe they were that prudish. I wish some professor at the U.P. (Happy centennial, oblates!) would do some research on pre-Hispanic profanity in the Philippine islands.

If I needed any proof that expletives and profanity come from a different part of the brain than everyday language, all I have to do is recall my experience with my father. He was in a car accident when I was nine and was in a coma for a month. At one point, we thought he wouldnt make it when all his vital signs crashed. A priest had to give him the last rites. Anyway, he survived that night and eventually got out of his coma, but with the entire left side of his body paralyzed and his speech hopelessly slurred... except for when he cursed.

Dad: Brrsw drwdweebld.
Me: Huh?
Dad: Brrsw drwdweebld.
Me: I dont understand. Can you repeat that?
Dad: Brrsw drwdWEEBLD!
Me: I really have no idea what you want.
Dad: BRRSW DRWDWEEBLD!!. Poo-ooo-ootang INA!

Rest in peace, dad.

Update (09 January 2008): Buwisit might not be Tagalog after all. It could be Chinese (Fujian). Another Tagalog expletive is lintik (lightning).

Bicol also has its version of puki ng ina, which is buray ni apo (grandmother's vagina), and this lends credence to the theory that puki ng ina is an expletive that predates putang ina. Notice that there are no expletives using the male genitalia here. That is probably because there is nothing sacred about the male genitalia, at least in the Philippine setting, and its impact on being profaned verbally is minimal. In other cultures, they do use the male genitalia as expletive; the British bollocks for example, or the American nuts. Both these cultures have phallic monuments copied from ancient Egypt -- Washington monument, for example -- which means they inherited a culture where the male genitalia is sacred, therefore fair game for expletives. (Which reminds me... Howie Severino once had a documentary on the Lukayo, a religious ritual somewhere in Laguna where the women paraded wooden penises. Perhaps if one were to do research on pre-Hispanic expletives and profanity, this would be a good place to start.) We inherited a European culture from the Spaniards, that's why classical monuments here are phallic as well, such as the Rizal and Bonifacio monuments. But we were never a patriarchal society before the coming of Islam, then Christianity, which probably explains why we dont use bayag as an expletive.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


A happy new year to all of us working stiffs.

One more year to feed the machine til it spits us out. But we dont mind. We know what all this toil is for.

Some people say a man is made outta mud
A poor man's made outta muscle and blood
Muscle and blood and skin and bones
A mind that's a-weak and a back that's strong

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin' when the sun didn't shine
I picked up my shovel and I walked to the mine
I loaded sixteen tons of number nine coal
And the straw boss said "Well, a-bless my soul"

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

I was born one mornin', it was drizzlin' rain
Fightin' and trouble are my middle name
I was raised in the canebrake by an ol' mama lion
Cain't no-a high-toned woman make me walk the line

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

If you see me comin', better step aside
A lotta men didn't, a lotta men died
One fist of iron, the other of steel
If the right one don't a-get you
Then the left one will

You load sixteen tons, what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store

(lyrics Sixteen Tons, attributed to Merle Travis)

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