Friday, August 25, 2006

[Blog Entry] Links Part II

Links Part II

Now doing this would have been possible offline... (and I'm sure everyone, by now, has posted the it's-no-longer-a-planet link.

First off, following the recall of Dell Laptops, so does Applie and its iBook and Powerbook line. Looks like Sony screwed over a lot of people.

For more Apple bashing, ever wondered what happened to the Creative sues Apple, Apple countersues Creative? Well, it seems Creative won a minor victory in an out of court settlement, but it's a victory nonetheless no matter how tiny the plunder.

And for Google fans, check out Google Spreadsheets and Gmail's Mp3 Player. What's next? Google Word? Or Good Photoshop?

Another example that the latest inventions don't need to be hi-tech, check out this Visa Money Clip. Now if only I actually had a credit card account...

This is no rocketeer, but it'll still get you to fly without needing someone else other than yourself piloting it.

Remember my recent cars-of-the-future link last week? Well, here's the garage that goes with it.

Here's something for those that don't suffer from insomia: a snore stopper.

This'll interest some of my friends: it's not only an mp3 player, it also lets you play Sudoku.

Users on the go will probably appreciate the fact that the wireless fabric keyboard is finally out on the market.

For the latest geek fashion news, check out this, uh, LED Jacket.

Oh, and if you're afraid of getting robbed wearing one of those LED jackets, be sure to bring along the ultimate Swiss knife.

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[Blog Entry] Tech Support

Tech Support

How many ex-tech support agents do you need to fix a computer?

Well, the good news is that I managed to get my Internet connection up and running again (USB devices will always cause trouble for PCs). Thank Bill Gates for System Restore.

But times like these make me wish I owned a Mac.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006

[Blog Entry] Offline!


Through no fault of PLDT, my computer at home has no Internet. So don't expect any updates soon...

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[Blog Entry] The Never Ending List of Links

The Never Ending List of Links

Bleh. It's just the middle of the week and my "must-click-link" list is already long.

The first link is for all you iPod users. As supposedly consumer-friendly Apple is supposed to be, personally it seems that it messed up quite a bit with the iPod (their Macs are excellent though). What irks me about the iPod is that when you plug it into a computer that's not your own, say goodbye to all those mp3s. Well, apparently, you can prevent that by turning off the auto sync, or so my friend says. Either way, I'm happy with my Zen Vision: M (what does M stand for anyway?).

Oh, and for you Death Note fans, here's the first half of the first movie. You'll have to bare with the watermark though. You can always wait for the DVD to come out in a few months.

By the way, you guys know that Stephen King Radio Station right?

It's a good thing too because you might be spending your nights listening to it instead of watching Stargate SG-1, as it hasn't been renewed for the 11th season. Stargate fans will just have to settle for Atlantis.

Of course with Turner Broadcasting censoring smoking from all its cartoons, that might not be the only show that goes byebye.

Which is sad considering there's this new portable media player which plays everything, including DivX videos. The funny thing is it also has a GPS antenna, so you'll have no reason to get lost. Just don't hand it over to someone like Seijuro Shin.

I guess you'll have to settle for watching your own home videos using this spy camera which is disguised as an ordinary screw.

On a related note, the future is almost here with robot snakes, phaser guns... I mean hi-tech mobile phones, and invisibility spheres (it's the sphere that's "invisible").

Or maybe not. Remember the Flintstones?

Nerdy geeks or bread afficionados will probably appreciate the mold resistant bread box. Build it from scratch!

Oh, and if I get this backpack, maybe people will stop teasing me about carrying such a big bag...

Remember Bubble Boy? Well, if there's a sequel, it'd probably be water ball.

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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

[Essay] My Best Friend’s Gay!

My Best Friend’s Gay!

Perception on homosexuality has changed over the years. This isn’t about praising homosexuality, nor is it condemning them. This is merely an observation of my high school, and how that tiny microcosm is applicable on a macro level.

I used to be a student in an all-boys, Filipino-Chinese school run by Jesuits. The dominant attitude there, at least back when I was still a student, was quite conservative, as you’d expect from a school that would segregate its students based on gender. Running the statistics (much like calculating the chances that one member of a boy band is gay), there’s bound to be a homosexual in each batch, especially when you factor in our cramped learning environment (i.e. overpopulation doesn’t only apply to the country). Some schools in Metro Manila will develop a reputation for the tendency to have homosexuals in their student population (i.e. “this school has lots of lesbians, this school has lots of gays.”) but the school I went to didn’t have that kind of reputation. If anything, one of my schoolmates took pride in the fact that no one was openly homosexual during their tenure as a student. At least back then.

Not that hints of homosexuality was totally absent in our environment. It was always there, sometimes in the way you talk, or a certain effeminate quality you had. Whatever pegged you as gay, you got teased for it. “Bakla” (gay) was a very common insult back in my day. Of course while there were students we suspected were gay, no one expected them to act out their sexual orientation, nor did we expect them to admit that they were homosexuals. Denials were the norm.

That was the case for the longest time. My seatmate was clearly gay, although he never admitted it during all four years I was with him. It wasn’t until college that I heard rumors that he had come out of the closet, and that he even had a boyfriend. I don’t think anyone was really surprised (except perhaps my mom, who only heard him through the phone, and thought he had a manly voice and suggested I should be like him).

Whether you were effeminate or truly gay didn’t matter in school. You got bullied nonetheless. Me not wanting to be judgmental, I assumed that everyone was the former rather than the latter. I had a best friend (there I go contradicting myself f several years worth of blog entries) in what seemed like the interval between grade school and high school (yes, I know it’s called “summer break”) and while he displayed the symptoms of the stereotype gay guy (he listened to Mariah Carey songs, adored Sailormoon, and had a fashion sense), I always assumed he was effeminate. I even remember him talking about liking (but not physically attracted to) a certain girl when I was sleeping over at his house. And to top it all off, we did what most geeks, I mean guys, our age did: we played video games, video games, and more video games. Oh, and we slept over at each other’s houses, called each other up on the phone when a new book or anime had just come out, and played cards with each other.

It’s only lately that I found out he was gay (uh, reading it from a blog entry doesn’t exactly prepare you for it). It caught me completely off guard, although it’s not I didn’t see all the hints. But as Gerry wisely put it, it all doesn’t matter. He’s still my best friend from grade school/high school, and we can be our genuine selves around each other.

However, I’m sure there will be schoolmates with whom it won’t sit well with, and to them, the word gay will always be an insult.

Of course the stories I hear about my school nowadays have changed. More and more students are coming out of the closest just as they enter high school, not waiting to graduate before revealing to the whole world a part of who they truly are.

Personally though, I can’t help but ask, who else among my schoolmates were gay? Not that it’ll changed how I act around them, but I wonder how that one fact is so integral to their personality that they had to keep hidden, and how it would have changed them, whether for better or for worse.

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[Essay] The Silent Conflict

The Silent Conflict

It seems that with each generation, people rally to a certain cause or belief. In America, an example would be the discrimination against African-Americans. In more modern times, it’s a lot of things, from gender equality to tolerance for homosexuality to animal rights. There’s an issue though that’s closer to home, but isn’t in the limelight. It’s a battle waged by certain members of the Filipino-Chinese community, but ends up becoming the struggle of an individual, rather than that of a group. The lessons learned are seldom shared, and the fight is renewed once more with each generation. Granted, there are no legal laws prohibiting the cause these Filipino-Chinese fight for, but it’s a stigma pervasive in their community. What I am talking about is the taboo of Chinese marrying someone not of Chinese descent.

Its history goes way back when certain citizens of China decided to migrate to the Philippines. While it’s easy to claim that the Chinese were xenophobic, xenophobia is also a trait among Filipinos. Echoes of such fears and prejudice can be seen in today’s modern Filipino and Filipino-Chinese: the resentment of the poverty-stricken Filipinos against the seemingly better-off Filipino-Chinese, even if this land isn’t their native country, and the superiority complex the Filipino-Chinese have for their brethren and kin, with preference for their fellow Chinese associates. Suffice to say, the Chinese have tried to carve a place for themselves in the Philippines, and ended up isolating themselves (whether by choice or by circumstance) from the natives, hence the existence of a “China Town”.

Growing up in a Filipino-Chinese school where most of my classmates were of Chinese blood, I was always asked by the parents of my friends whether I was Chinese or not whenever I entered their home (or met them elsewhere as the case may be). The same thing would apply to my parents as well, as whenever I would mention a name, the first question they’d ask was whether he or she was Chinese or Filipino.

It’s not as if the Chinese community have been here only recently, or that their culture hasn’t intermingled with Filipinos. You’d think after more than a century of occupancy and generation upon generation of Filipino-Chinese, we’d be more open to accepting local paradigms. Yet in a certain way, one cannot blame the Chinese either. One could argue that the very same traditions and beliefs they hold dear is the very same reason why they continue to prosper. In a land of foreigners, the Chinese aid fellow Chinese. Perhaps the biggest problem is that the present Filipino-Chinese still see themselves living in a land of foreigners, and that everyone else is a hostile enemy.

While foot-binding and arranged marriages have already been forsaken for more modern customs, some practices are obviously harder to shed. As I mentioned before, it is taboo for a Chinese individual to marry someone who isn’t Chinese. There will be exceptions of course, such as if the suitor is extremely rich, or has great influence (whether political, economical, or social). There is even more consideration for a Chinese person to marry a foreigner, so long as the person they are marrying is not Filipino. Nonetheless, for the most part, me and my classmates were discouraged from dating, much less marrying, someone not Chinese. One of the most severe threats I’ve heard was disownment, while some fathers settle for leaving their sons and daughters out of the inheritance. Again, there will be exceptions, but like most things, double standards as well. There have been Chinese, for example, who have successfully rebelled and married Filipinos without cutting off their ties to family. But the Chinese being descendants of a patriarchal society, it is easier for men to get away with it than women. Even more lenient Chinese families allow their sons to marry someone not Chinese, but forbid their daughters to do so. One of the most hypocritical situations but prevalent nonetheless is when a parent is Filipino-Chinese, but the other isn’t. You’d think they’d bestow upon their child the freedom to choose their significant other but no, the same restrictions still fall into place: you must marry someone Chinese.

Individual Filipino-Chinese have rebelled against their families, some successfully, others not. But unlike a group united by the same cause, the attempt merely ends up being a personal struggle rather than one that concerns the entire community. Worse, it’s not as if the public is totally ignorant of this prejudice, yet it is tolerated and accepted. So what if you have successfully convinced your family to let you marry a Filipino? It doesn’t help the other Filipino-Chinese residing in this nation. It’s not even a matter of waiting for your parents to pass on to the next world. Others will take up their cause: your relatives, your siblings, even your friends. They will all pressure you into doing (or rather not do) what they think is appropriate.

I do not speak of this because I will directly benefit from it. I am bringing up this matter because it is a freedom which has been withheld from us Filipino-Chinese for so long. By no means is it impossible to attain, but every step taken forward is an uphill battle, and all for the happiness of an individual rather than a community. I do not speak up because I intend to marry someone not Chinese, but I fight for it for the mere possibility of being able to marry someone for love, irregardless of race or stature.

Not that such prejudice is without its benefits. Such a dilemma probes into the hearts of every Filipino-Chinese as they ask themselves, is this all worth it for the person I love? Such a marriage entails risking everything for the person you are to marry. For both parties, it’s not just marriage with each other, but a marriage with adversity as well. But at least your significant other will be certain of your feelings, if not your bank account. And who here doesn’t fantasize about having a Romeo & Juliet love story?

But in the end, romance need not end in tragedy. Until people are willing to speak up and rally under a common banner, even the most hard-fought cause will fade into silence.

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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

[Blog Entry] Memory Loss

Memory Loss

Me: You should save your sick leaves until you're actually sick. Such as when you get struck by Dengue, or are you already immune to that since you got one before?

Friend: What? I got Dengue before?

Me: Yes, remember? I even visited you at the hospital and brought you a starter deck of Magic: The Gathering cards. The expansion was Tempest. In Cardinal Santos.

Friend: Really?

Me: ... (Uh, was the fever that bad that you forgot? I honestly don't think being confined to a hospital for several weeks and missing class is something you forget... especially since Dengue [a.k.a. Hepatitis] has a relatively high fatality rate here in the Philippines.)

Friend: I remember now. Yes, Dengue. I remember.

Me: -breathes a sigh of relief-

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[Essay] Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand

When I was in college, there was this girl I courted for my entire stay as an undergraduate student (well, more like tried to court her for a year, and spent the next three years trying to get back into her good graces). Needless to say, my intentions were transparent to nearly everyone, from the girl’s blockmates to her friends from other courses. This story isn’t about her though. While me, my blockmates, and my crush had some overlapping classes, my blockmates never suspected (short of me blatantly telling them, and even then…). Instead, they thought I was attracted to someone else, someone closer to home. They thought I was in love with a fellow blockmate.

As a freshman student, my heart had just got broken, and I had given up my flirtatious ways after knowing (and lost) true love. However, that didn’t mean I couldn’t the same techniques I used to woo women to gain new friends. It was also a time when I would fall in love once more, but this time, I was a bit more cautious. If I were to do favors for a certain individual, I had to do favors for everyone. Suffice to say, I was still lacking in experience, and the love of my life shunned me.

Enter my sophomore year, still heartbroken but a little wiser. With no individual to focus all my energies on, I had decided to simply dedicate myself to making as much friends as I could. I was in this writing class and my classmates varied, some were blockmates, while others belonged to different courses, or even a batch higher than me. It was on that occasion that one of my upperclassmen caught my eye. I admit I was attracted to her, but not so much as to detract me from giving up on my crush (in other words, my intent was a platonic relationship rather than a romantic one, although I was sorely tempted). By chance (or strategic positioning), she was my seatmate and on our second class or so, she happened to ask me for candy.

Asking for candy is a common occurrence. People will ask it when they suddenly have a sweet tooth, need to get rid of a foul taste in their mouth, or simply for the sugar rush when you’ve had a really bad and tiring day. If you’ve seen me in real life, you’ll also notice that I carry this really huge bag that seems to contain everything from masking tape to staplers… except candy. On that day, I vowed that the next time she asks for candy, I will have some ready.

And just as expected, the next class we had, I had chocolate with me (because you can’t go wrong with chocolate, unless you’re like me and have allergies to it). I thought why settle for simple candy when chocolate is even better? Who knows, the recipient might actually fall in love with me. Anyway, not waiting for my seatmate to ask for candy, I offered her the chocolate, stating her craving the day before. As can be expected, I get the “that’s so sweet” response. Of course I know that if I kept at it, it would seem as if I was courting the girl. Which I wasn’t, nor did I want to project the image of. So I applied my rule of doing favors for everyone. I gave her seatmate, another upperclassman, chocolate too. And then by chance (an inevitable chance), a blockmate of mine passed by. The chocolate, by then, was too late to be hidden. So I offered her chocolate too. And then that caused a commotion as my other blockmates wanted chocolate too. I was hesitant at first, but then one of my classmates said “why are you only giving chocolates to xxx (xxx being my blockmate and not my seatmate)?” At that point, I realized I had the perfect smokescreen as everyone else thought I was pinning for my blockmate rather than my seatmate.

To make a long story short, yes, I gave chocolate to everyone. And I didn’t stop there. These days, when I run into a batchmate acquaintance and I ask them if they remember me, they say of course, and then associate me with giving chocolates.

Moving back to the story, my smokescreen unfortunately worked too well. Even until the very day I graduated, all my blockmates continued to think I was attracted to a fellow blockmate (honestly, she’s not my type and never found her pretty), even when I was obviously courting someone else. And so it happened that when I met my crush’s friends and blockmates, I’d get teased about my crush, but when it gave to my block, I’d get teased about my fellow blockmate.

Well, it did prevent my blockmates from teasing me about my actual crush. But it’s funny the wrong assumption carried on for several years (actually to this very day, until one of them reads this essay).

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Monday, August 21, 2006

[Blog Entry] It Only Works If You Use It

It Only Works If You Use It

I'm off rushing to work, so I'll make this quick.

Technology has provided us with a lot of amenities, and the latest gadgets offer various services which would make our life a whole lot easier. You can use your PDA, for example, to take down people's phone numbers and schedule your week. Certain mp3 players have voice recording capability, allowing you to leave yourself some mental notes (or star logs, if that's your thing).

However, it only works if you actually use it.

I used to have this scatterbrain friend who was disorganized and thought buying a PDA would help. It probably would have, if he bothered to check the schedules he had written down in his PDA. Alas, technology can only bring us so far. (Thankfully he's gotten his act together.)

Also in another related story is the Chinese calculator, the abacus. The abacus actually doesn't do any computing, unlike calculators. You don't just input numbers and the device will solve your arithmetic problems. The abacus doesn't work that way. Instead, it works as a marker, a tool for remembering which numbers have already been counted. You have to use your brain to figure out the rest. (It's a comfort knowing the human brain can outcount calculators.)

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[Blog Entry] The Last Book Hop

The Last Book Hop

Spent my holiday taking a tour of the last few bookstores I haven't been to in a while.

First off, Bridges Bookstore (a.k.a. Goodwill Bookstore) in Greenhills is up and running. As of Sunday, a bunch of school supplies and books (especially classics) were on sale.

For Philippine Speculative Fiction fans, the last few copies can be found in Fully Booked Cubao. Aside from that, I don't know where else you can get them.

I did pass by the Makati area (which I haven't done so in a long time). Nothing out of the ordinary aside from some Feng Shui rearrangements. Goodwill Bookstore, for example, is undergoing renovation, and they're not on sale. (The Mega Mall branch seems to have similarly gone *poof*.) Bibliarch had a shelving rearrangement that makes the shop seem more spacious.

Over the past few weeks I've been plugging the annual book fair but since it'll be held next week, here are the final details: August 30 - September 3, 2006. World Trade Center, Sen. Gil Puyat Ave. corner Roxas Boulevard, Pasay City, Metro Manila. And while you're at it, drop by stall #112, which is CCHQ's stall (still haven't gotten rid of all their inventory). Manga will be going for P100, while English imports will be selling for half price.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006

[Blog Entry] Anime Musings

Anime Musings

I'm currently reading Watching Anime, Reading Manga by Fred Patten (a well known personality among anime scholars) and it reminded of one anime from my childhood, as well as as an anime that was ahead of its time.

First is Windaria, which I saw on local TV, dubbed. The gist of the story is that there are two kingdoms, one powered by technology and pollution, the other by more nature-friendly means (they use blimps for flight, for example). But this isn't a nature vs technology story. The two kingdoms have heirs, and each is in love with the other. However, the war eventually overcomes them and they are forced into a role they never expected to be in (think The Godfather). And of course amidst all this is another sidestory between two peasants in love with each other, and how their village is literally in between the two kingdoms, and inevitably become a casualty of the war. Of course this was way back in the 80's, when I was still watching the likes of Transformers, and certainly stuck to me more than the English version of Nausica.

The other anime is a show I've never watched, but I've often mentioned in the past as one of the earliest OAV's (perhaps even erroneously stating that it was the first, when it actually wasn't): Megazone 23. Again, the basic plot of the story is that this Japanese youth is living in contemporary Japan, and his life is turned upside down as he has several encounters with several mysterious people, some of which are after him. And surprise! Turns out it's 500 years in the future, and the world he lives in is a merely a simulation or a virtual world, and they're all aboard a space ship. Of course the concept of The Matrix isn't really new and is discussed in Philosophy (as can be seen in the novel Sophie's World) for example, but it's interesting to see an anime with the same concept back in 1985.

The last musing is the result of browsing TV. The Gatchaman OAV was airing, and I was surprised that the dubbers named the lead character's technique as "kage bunshin", a term popularized by Naruto but is actually something that's been done in anime and ninja movies for the past few decades, usually translated as shadow clone, shadow split, etc. So I guess Filipino dubbers/translators don't bother translating it, and use it as they would a native Japanese term these days.

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