Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Night at the Museum

If I was a movie critic I would probably give Night at the Museum a slightly negative review, but I'm just a normal movie watching dude so I guess it was entertaining enough. Besides, I've been wanting to watch any movie for quite a while, and there are so few decent movies showing this time of year for some reason.

Anyway, it's like, they came up with a simple enough idea for the movie: "Ben Stiller is the nightguard at a museum where everything comes to life at night!", and then they exhaust all the wacky situations that they can get out of that premise and tie them together into a movie. A very big chunk of the movie is composed of Ben Stiller running around the museum jumping from one random punchline to another with the different museum exhibits. Escaping the T-Rex skeleton... running from Attila the Hun... slapping the monkey... Some of the jokes are laugh-out-loud funny and some of them are pure cheese. The result is a mixed bag, but overall the movie was enjoyable enough. :->

There's really just a drought of good movies lately. Last weekend's #1 grossing movie in the US was "Epic Movie", a cheap Scary Movie-like spoof of everything that has yet to get a single positive review. :|

Monday, January 29, 2007

A Moalboal weekend

Last weekend I went along on an overnight beach outing to Moalboal with Loren and a bunch of her call center workmates. Moalboal is something of a tourist destination for its beaches and dive spots on the western side of Cebu. I've never been there before, or to anywhere on the western side of Cebu for that matter, so here was a chance to add another bulletpoint on the places-I've-been-to-list, as well as fill up the time of what would otherwise be a very mundane and lonely weekend.

We left Cebu City on Saturday morning. Funny thing is, aside from me, all the people that went along on this trip were call center people that worked the graveyard shift the previous night. So at any given point in the trip, about a third of the group was asleep and the rest were sleepy. And then there were the weird energetic people that seemed to stay awake a full 36 hours or so.

The accommodations we stayed at were, honestly, miserable. Before we arrived, the person in charge in the group emphasized that it's not a resort, it's "simple living". It had two double beds, and our group was composed of about 15 people. The walls were made of naked hollow blocks and the floor was bare cement. It had a non-flushing toilet, and the bathroom door was a curtain. The place had the feel of an abandoned construction site. Simple living indeed. Anyway, I spent most of my time outside and very little in that room.

The beach itself was just alright, but not quite good enough to justify the time and expense of the two-hour trip to get there. Maybe it's just that my standards have been set too high by all the other nice beaches in the Philippines. The sand was fair colored, but not nearly as fine as the sand in Boracay or Bantayan. The ocean floor was kinda rocky. A few people complained of itchiness due to jellyfish in the water, though I didn't see or feel anything myself. Hmm, I'm starting to sound negative... the beach wasn't bad, it was just "alright".

That night I slept on a banig laid out on the sand under the open air. I don't think I have ever slept so "exposed" before, but I felt safe enough since I wasn't alone. It wasn't comfortable, of course, but it was worth it just for the experience of sleeping under the stars and waking up with the sunrise.

Monday, January 22, 2007

You've got to admit it's getting better

For all the ridiculous gloom and dispair you hear about from TV and newspapers ("Only hell can be worse", William Esposo says!), there's a whole lot of exciting progress and development going on in the Philippines.

Whenever I go home to Dumaguete -- which is about every 3 weeks or so -- one of the highlights of my trip is seeing all the stuff that's changed in the city. It's visible even from the window of the bus once I arrive, and the progress always surprises me: Newly cemented roads, newly painted buildings, new construction projects, new renovation works, new beautifications... I even try to give myself a walking tour around downtown to check out all the stuff that's new. I'm only away a couple of weeks at a time, but it seems whenever I come back there's a bunch of catching up to do.

I took this picture yesterday at the Boulevard, where they're paving the floor with bricks. It's looking really great and I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product. There's still some construction dust on the floor here, but this pic is already perhaps my favorite city scene.

Aside from the Boulevard renovation, other Dumaguete developments to watch include the city's first McDonalds, the Robinsons mall, Dumaguete Business Park infrastructure, Negros Oriental Hotel and Convention Center, the rebuilt Po's Marketing, Check Inn Pension House, Silliman Medical Center annex building, Silliman Portal West Building, another under construction hotel near Lee Plaza, a bunch of newly cemented roads, and so many more other little things.

There was an unfortunate fire in the city last week that destroyed a few nice downtown buildings. But on the bright side, when ever something burns down in Dumaguete something better has taken its place.

I like Dumaguete, I really do. Maybe working and living in a major bustling city made me realize how charming and livable Dumaguete really is. People can live simple happy somewhat-rural lives. It's a big city with the aura of a small town where everyone knows everyone. Cebu's downtown area is relatively post-apocalyptic.

Cebu is actually chugging along very nicely too, in spite of the dirty places. Lots of developments and skyscrapers rising. If the rate of development in Dumaguete and Cebu are any indications of the rest of the Philippines, we've got a whole lot to be thankful for.

Reminds me of that happy Beatles song:
I've got to admit it's getting better
A little better all the time (can't get no worse!)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It's that American Idol time again

Yay, it's that American Idol time of the year again. I don't really watch much TV these days, and normally I wouldn't be happy with the plethora of reality shows flooding the world, but American Idol is one of the few things on TV that still manages to perk up my interest.

Last season I skipped watching most of the audition phase and Hollywood eliminations and even the semifinals. I thought it would be good enough to just start paying attention when the crowd of contestants was narrowed down to the top 12, but there were a bunch of times towards the end of the season that I really wished I had been following it from the beginning... So I'll try to do that this time around, not missing any episodes from now until the May finale, even if it means watching it when Star World replays it at 11:30PM (or 2:30AM, should the need arise!).

So yeah, I did stay up late last night to watch the 2-hour season premiere at 11:30PM. It was the typical auditions episode, complete with lots of hilarity and a little bit of talent and some other sprinklings of human interest stories. I wish there was more talent in this talent show though... almost none of the "good" performances I saw last night had any spark of the stuff that gives me the good goosebumps. Anyway, the auditions are worth watching even if just to see a bad singer take a verbal thrashing.
Auditionee: "Is there anything I can do to improve?"
Simon: "Leave."
Ah, brilliant. :)

Thursday, January 11, 2007

And he stuck it in his ear!

So I was taking the jeepney home from work yesterday, and I gave a 10-peso coin to the conductor guy at the back, and he stuck it in his ear!

I was certainly surprised by what I saw, so I double checked, and sure enough there was my shiny 10-peso coin lodged firmly in this dude's ear. He then gave me four 1-peso coins as change, and I accepted them reluctantly, aware of the possibility that he may have produced them from some other bodily orifice. But no, he had a little box where he kept 1-peso and 5-peso coins. Apparently the ear is reserved for coins of higher denomination.

A few minutes later I would see him remove the coin from his ear and give it to a middle-aged lady as change. I don't know if it's normal for these guys to be sticking money in their ears. I hope not.


In his ear!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cell phone statistics

It seems my Nokia cell phone (I forget the model number) keeps statistics on the total number of messages and total duration of calls it has ever performed in its lifetime. I got this phone in early 2005, and haven't reset the counters since then:
  • 9301 Sent messages
  • 9962 Received messages
  • 6:01:02 Received calls' duration
  • 16:12:03 Dialed calls' duration
The number of sent and received messages seems sensible enough. Assuming I've had the phone for two years, that would come to an average about 12.74 messages sent and 13.65 messages received daily. It makes sense for the number of received messages to be higher, taking into account the occasional ads and notices I get from Smart (and the fact that I'm not always diligent with replying to people).

But the duration of calls, now this comes as a surprise. I rarely call people unless it's for something urgent. Six hours of received calls? Sixteen hours of dialed calls? Have I really spent nearly an entire day over the past two years speaking on the phone? Even if you were to assume that the time spent waiting for a person to answer is counted as part of the call, the figures still seem really high to me.

On a side note, I wish my mouse would keep track of the total length it meters (or kilometers!) that I have moved it, and the total number of times I have clicked each button. That would be something interesting.

On another side note, that iPhone is sexy.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Media bias and the Philippine Daily Inquirer

Every morning after taking a shower and getting changed, I head out of my apartment and take a 5-minute walk to the main road where I can get a jeepney to work. Along the way I usually take a quick glance at the sidewalk newspaper vendor to check out the headline of the Philippine Star. Once I get to the office lobby, I check the newspapers there to see the headline of the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

For quite a long time I would have preferred the Inquirer to other broadsheet newspapers — I'm not sure exactly what the reason for this preference was, perhaps I assumed that being the most widely-circulated newspaper in the country would mean that they had a smidgen more integrity and professionalism then their competitors. But lately I have become more and more aware of of media bias, and the more I think about it the more blatant it appears to be. (Maybe Ateneo can take credit for hammering an emphasis on critical thinking into my mind.)

See today's headlines for instance:
  • Star: RP seeks review of VFA
  • Inquirer: 'Palace took law into own hands'
Which of these two headlines presents the facts and makes you better informed? And which one of them spins the facts towards the direction of stoking the flames of discontent?

Sitting around in the office all day yesterday gave me a lot of time to check up on the news regularly, and the Star's headline is the type I'd expect and hope to see. MalacaƱang suggesting the the VFA be reviewed, and possibly amended, seemed to me to be the most important news event of the day, and the Star presents the fact upfront the way it is.

The Inquirer's headline, on the other hand, is hardly even news, it's a conclusion that readers are supposed to make on their own. It's a quotation, but the headline only barely presents it as one. Looking at the main article objectively, I don't see how else they could have come up with a headline like that unless they had a sensationalist agenda.

The Inquirer has a responsibility to promote a neutral point of view, especially because they are the most widely read (and likely most influential) newspaper out there. A newspaper should assert facts, including facts about opinions — but should not assert opinions themselves. If a reader can determine an editor's bias, then that editor is not doing his proper job as a reporter. Putting quotation marks around an opinion and calling it a headline does not make it news.

These days one of the main reasons I'd look into the Inquirer is for the same (sole) reason I'd watch Fox News - to point out to myself the subtle and not-so-subtle biases and get pissed off at the ways they manipulate the public. But I fear that other people get their news from certain impartial sources precisely because they agree with the biases, and this sets off a dangerous precedent. Those who advocate objective and level-headed news reporting would find themselves overlooked by the public. Better to stand for your side, cheer for your team, and make a show that will get people's attention. It's be horrible for the country, but it'll make great headlines.

[The Manila Bulletin, on the opposite extreme, seems to have a severe deficit of sensationalism and goes for the most boring headline possible. "Christians celebrate Christmas today". Right.]

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Highlights from 2006

Last year was supposedly just as long as any other non-leap year, but it seemed to zoom by like it was nothing. Sigh...they don't make years like they used to. Not meaning to say it as an uneventful year, of course. Here are some of the highlights of my life from 2006, in no particular order:
  • After a couple of false starts, I finally got my first real job here at NCR Cebu in September, and I am happy enough with it so far. "Software development engineer", my title is. It is not perfect, but I will consider myself fortunate to have found a job in Cebu doing stuff that I'm good at and earning a relatively good salary.
  • Along with getting a job at NCR Cebu, of course, I had to move to Cebu (though I still consider Valencia my home base). With that comes all sorts of adventures, like familiarizing with the city layout and jeepney routes, getting used to riding the bus/boat for weekend trips to home, being financially independent, and paying my own bills for water, electricity, cable, and rent.
  • I turned 21 in April. Make no mistake, 18 is the adulthood age that really matters for all practical purposes in the Philippines, but 21 feels like the age that I can no longer keep pretending that by some obscure technicality I can still be considered a kid.
  • I took the Civil Service Professional Exam in April. They say a lot of people take the exam and a large majority of them fail. I took it not really because I want to work in government, but because passing the exam would look good on my resume. Well, this indeed does look good, as I ended up placing 2nd in the Region VII. :)
  • Last year's resolution was to get me some exercise, and I was actually able to sustain that habit for a few months. This culminated with me running the 5K in the Milo Marathon-- just for fun-- and finishing in about 28 minutes. Not bad. :)
  • I got to take a sweet weekend vacation in Bantayan Island, a small island off the northern tip of Cebu. Beautiful place, beautiful beach, beautiful water. This brings my total number of visited Philippine islands to 7, with 7000 more to go.
  • I got myself a Nintendo DS in late October, and there has not been a single day since then that it has been left unplayed. My video game life has been mellow these past few years, but the DS's touch screen unearths all new realms of gaming bliss.
I'm sure there are some milestones I'm forgetting, but those are the bullet points of 2006 I can remember off the top of my head.