Saturday, March 31, 2007

2 GB in my pocket

My computer at home was neglected to the point of being unusable, and shelling out money for a full upgrade didn't seem practical, so two weeks ago I got me a USB flash drive as a stopgap solution. After all, my home computer isn't used as much more than a repository of my personal files-- all is well if I could just carry around my personal documents with me from one computer to another. I think 2 gigs is enough for that, with some room to spare.

I went over to a small nearby computer store intending to just scout for flash drive prices, and found a 2 GB flash drive for just P1200 (and from a well known brand too, Kingston). I was so elated at the value that I bought it right then and there. Last time I checked on the prices of these things, that much money would only buy 512 MB.

Recently I checked back at that same store, and the USB flash drive I bought two weeks ago is now available for P200 less than the price I got it at. Normally this is something that would annoy me, but it's just nice to see technology progressing so rapidly before my eyes.

Friday, March 30, 2007

McDonald's in Dumaguete

A friend of mine once said (jokingly, I hope) that the minimal requirement for a place to be deemed civilized is that it must have a McDonald's. In that case, Dumaguete City (and Negros Oriental) made its grand entry into the civilized world last Sunday with the opening of its first McDonald's.

For years, the question on everybody's mind was not if McDonald's is going to open in Dumaguete... the question was not even when McDonald's is going to open in Dumaguete... but why in the world has it taken so long for McDonald's to come to Dumaguete? After all, the city already has a Chowking, a Shakey's, a Goldilocks, a Greenwich, a Dunkin Donuts, two Jollibees, and even a Pizza Hut. As more and more of these big brand restaurants opened, the gaping whole in society created by the lack of a McDo became more and more apparent. But now, at long last, this city of 100,000+ people has acquired the apex of fast food restaurants.

I couldn't actually get inside McDonald's on that opening day because the crowd was huge. There were people lining up outside the entrance, and the guard would only let people in when other customers came out. In Quezon Park across the street, there were preparations for some sort of McDonalds concert. The governor of Negros Oriental was there for some opening ceremony the previous day. I wouldn't be surprised if there was a parade through the city. Dunkin Donuts got a parade when they opened... the opening of a McDonald's probably warrants a week-long holiday.

I can just imagine the explosion of widespread hysteria that is sure to accompany the opening of the city's first big-name shopping mall, Robinsons Dumaguete, later this year.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chocolate fountain

Last night I went to a high school graduation party of a rich guy's daughter. It was very posh and elegant for a graduation party (I don't recall having any such celebration when I graduated high school, which felt more like a natural step rather than a real achievement to celebrate). In fact, there was something that felt peculiarly "un-Filipino" about the affair. There were scripted speeches from the mother and the father, and the little sister read a custom prayer for the blessing of the food. It felt very rehearsed, in contrast to the usual food-centered spontaneous Filipino party.

A live band of teenagers provided ambient music. The party was professionally catered, and among the food at the buffet table was baby back ribs. At the center of the table, surrounded by several cakes, was an impressive fountain of chocolate for dipping marshmallows and pieces of fruit.

At one point there were even fireworks lighting up the sky nearby, providing a extravagant and beautiful backdrop to the party, just like at the ending of Meet Joe Black. But it turns out the fireworks were unrelated to the party... I guess they were coming from some other event. I overheard the host making a joke like "If only those fireworks were a bit closer, we could pretend to take credit for them". Hah, whatever dude, you can't play the humility card when the centerpiece of your buffet table is a gushing fountain of chocolate.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

A moment of zen

Late at night, on the barge between Santander and San Jose, you can look outside to the horizon but see little more than blackness. You can't tell the difference between the ocean and the land and the sky, and the only thing to give you a sense of perspective is the string of lights that dot the coastline. They come from buildings, houses, and lampposts, but from a distance you can't tell the difference (though the moving lights are obviously cars). You can't even make out the point where Cebu ends and Negros begins, or make out the difference between a low lying star and a house in the mountains.

I should get myself a camera.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

A walk to remember

Flashback to four years ago: Friday, March 21, 2003.

It was the last day the second semester of our second year in Ateneo. Notably, there was the final exam in Math that went especially well, considering my tendency to not do well. Plus, it was the last ever Math exam I would ever have to take, and that alone should be reason enough to celebrate. Bit and Raf and I had the evening free, so we set out to commemorate the last day of the school year. We took a taxi out to The Podium, the high-end and posh complement to Megamall.

High-end and posh means a lot of showroom stores with stuff that's way too expensive to consider. We walk around the place, just bewildered at how rich and glitzy it all is. We check what movies are showing... Tears of the Sun on both screens, but none of us are enthusiastic about watching it.

We decided to take a chance and eat at a restaurant called Burgoo, even though none of us knew what to expect. But once we looked at the menu, we regretted stepping into that place, because even the cheap meals cost enough to put a painful dent in a student's wallet. Food arrives, I had some kind of big meat thing with mashed potatoes and a half-cob of corn. It was a wonderful meal... but... it cost so much money. :/

Despite the hugely expensive dinner, we still got drinks from Starbucks afterwards. Maybe we just didn't want to leave The Podium without doing anything with our money besides dinner. I had a large green tea frappuccino.

Waiting outside The Podium at 10PM, it was taking really long to get a taxi to get us back to the dorm at Ateneo. I suggested that we just start walking in the direction of Ateneo, and then get a taxi if ever one happens to come our way. After all, then we wouldn't be wasting our time waiting, and every step we take shaves a little bit off of the taxi fare we would pay.

We walk for 10 minutes... then 20 minutes... then 30 minutes... and still no taxi. We walked past abandoned buildings, overpasses, mansions. Eventually it reached the point that we said to ourselves "Hey, we've walked this far already, why not go the whole distance?". Walking late at night from Ortigas to Ateneo is no small feat, as anyone familiar with Metro Manila would attest. A taxi would have cost us 100 pesos-- that's just 33 pesos for each of us. But there's just something about walking all the way. It strikes a cool combination of crazy and awesome that makes the bragging rights too tempting to resist.

We only stop once along the way, at a gas station where we buy some drinks and empty our bladders. We get back to the dorm at around 1AM, a traveling time of approximately 3 hours. Sweaty, tired, and with horribly sore feet. But at least we have a story we could tell people for years to come.

The reason I remember the actual date of this is that I recall texting a friend happy birthday during the walk. People usually react to this story with more horror than awe, but I'm proud nonetheless. ^_^

Friday, March 16, 2007


As soon as I realized that 300 was opening in Philippine theaters a whole two days before it would open in the US and most of the rest of the world, I immediately made plans to see it so that I could get on the internet afterwards and brag. But I didn't actually get the chance to watch it until Friday night, so... whatever.

300 is quite possibly the most violent and unabashedly manly movie I have ever seen (despite the thousands of sweaty and impossibly muscular men wearing little more than their underwear). It is an overload of awesome. Once the big battle gets started, which is pretty early on, the movie runs on adrenaline all the way up to the end. Every scene is shot in an extremely pompous, stylistically grand, and manly way that makes The Matrix look tame by comparison. There are no compromises-- when a head is decapitated, if tumbles through the air in slow motion, giving a brief but clear view of the cross section of the neck. Not for the faint of heart!

The battle is intense almost to the point that it's physically exhausting, perhaps even to a fault. It leaves me with the feeling I'd get after going jogging. Drenched with sweat and breathing heavy, I feel like I can take on anything... but then again, I'm so tired...

I loved the part where the queen killed the traitor guy in front of the council. It reminded me of so many other movies where the bad guy is taunting the good guy, and they're right in front of each other, and in my mind I think "Just run over there and stab him!"... and then she actually does! It's such a satisfying scene, and it actually drew cheers from the audience.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

It stole my money!

Dammit. The Coke vending machine in this office just stole my money! I gave it a 20 peso bill, pressed the Coke button, and nothing happened! I gave it another 20 pesos, holding on to the faint glimmer of hope that if I buy something else, maybe two cans would come out. Life should be fair like that. But no, just one can emerged from the machine!

So now I have this one can of Sprite that I effectively bought for 40 pesos, and every sip prickles my throat with the piercing fizzle of injustice. >:(

Thursday, March 8, 2007

My computer is sick

My home desktop computer is not doing so well. The most critical problem part that I should get fixed or get replaced is-- if my suspicions are indeed correct-- the motherboard. More than half the time, the computer refuses to start up at all, instead giving a frantic series of unhealthy-sounding beeps. When it does start up, it doesn't last more than a couple of hours without freezing on me. :(

That computer was a powerhouse when I got it back in July 2001. People from all around the dorm would come to my corner to play Warcraft III or Diablo II or NBA Live 2002, because hardly anyone else had a computer that was good enough to handle these games. Today it crawls along even when doing my regular day-to-day stuff like working with Photoshop, or using Limewire, or even playing large videos. I take pride in the fact that I've lasted so long with it and it has served me well, but it is long overdue for a serious upgrade.

I've been telling myself for years that I'll wait until the next version of Windows comes out before finally getting a real upgrade, so I guess the time is now. If I'm gonna get the broken motherboard replaced, I'll have to get a new processor and memory and possibly casing. While I'm at it, I'll get me some good proper speakers. Everything else is still good to keep.

A few days ago, in a place not too far from here, I picked up a pricelist from a computer store that was having a "Windows Vista launch promo". The pricelist was specifically advertising three discounted PC packages, dumbly named Good (P26,000), Better (P36,000), and Best (P50,000).

The "Better" package especially caught my interest because it was almost the exact same price that I got my computer for back in 2001. Here's what the "Better" looks like:
  • Intel Pentium D 820 (2.8GHz, 800MHz FSB, 2 x 1MB L2 cache)
  • ASUS P5VDC-MX (Integrated Audio, Video & LAN)
  • 1GB DDR2 533 memory
  • 128MB Geforce FX5500 w/ tv-out
  • 160GB hard drive
  • DVD-RW
  • ATX Casing w/ keyboard
  • Multimedia speaker
  • 15" AOC LCD monitor
  • PS2 optical mouse
  • Windows Vista Home Premium OEM
  • AVR
What interests me here is that it comes with an LCD monitor and a DVD writer-- things that I thought were still high-end stuff for the rich peoples. I guess everything else is in line with what I expected. I'm not planning to actually get this package, but I'll use it to get an idea of what a decent new computer should have.

The complicating thing is, the home computer I speak of is my home home computer in Valencia, where I spend so little of my time these days, so it's hard to justify spending much money to get it decent. I already spend 8-9 hours of my day at the office computer, and when I get back to my apartment there's a computer there that's free for me to use. And I realized lately that so much of my computer activity has shifted to the internet browser that, aside from having personal documents and pictures, it doesn't really matter what computer I'm using. Ah well...

Monday, March 5, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

I don't know why the reality of global warming has become a political issue all of a sudden these past couple of years. Wasn't it established decades ago that the earth was getting warmer? Didn't they make the movie Waterworld a whole 12 years ago based on the premise of the ice caps melting? The fact that global warming is real is something I've assumed to be true for as long as I can remember, and I didn't realize that there were people that thought otherwise. Err, is it really possible to have a varying opinion about established scientific facts? Or isn't it simply more likely that the world's leaders have purposely ignored the truth all this time because it was, well, inconvenient?

About two-thirds of the way through his documentary, Al Gore addressed the issue of balancing the economy with the environment. He shows an image of a beam balance weighing scale with some shiny gold bars on one end, and the entire earth on the other end. It's an exaggeration, of course, but it gets the point across: You could have the wealth, but in the big picture isn't there a much greater cause to fight for? Those gold bars certainly look delicious, yes, but... umm, that earth is pretty important too...

Watching An Inconvenient Truth is like attending a global warming lecture with a well-made PowerPoint slideshow, and your teacher happens to be Al Gore. Just like any other college lecture, there were a couple of moments that my mind began to tune out-- but only briefly, because my mind was quick to remind itself that I paid 80 pesos for this. I don't know if the movie is good as far as documentaries go, but it does well to convince you that it is important, and it does a good job at getting its message across in a way that's difficult to ignore.

The most pressing detail that I carried with me out of the movie theater was the fact that the effects of global warming are not just for our grandchildren to experience-- it's happening right now. You can already see how the snow is retreating from snow-capped mountains, and how glaciers are collapsing, and how the map of Antarctica is being redrawn. Aside from the obvious direct effects, we have more hurricanes and typhoons, modified water currents, and the whole circle of life being rerouted to adjust to the changes. The point being made is: Global warming means more than just turning up the electric fans and air conditioners on hot days.

The movie was clearly made to send a message to the people who can make a difference, but perhaps it's a good thing that I'm not in such a position of influence. There's a ruthlessly inquisitive part of me is sort of curious to see the effects of global warming play out in full blast within our lifetime. Wouldn't it be something if, say, a major ice sheet in Greenland or Antarctica were to collapse, quickly raising sea levels by 20 feet and sending 100 million refugees seeking higher ground? And as the US President circles the ruins of Manhattan to survey the damage from aboard his helicopter, a single tear rolls down his cheek and he can only manage to say, barely above a whisper: "We... we should have listened... to Al Gore..."