Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ok, now stop stealing my words

Not long ago I wrote about respecting the authorship of photos on Wikipedia. Respecting the authorship of text is just as important, and failing to do so is even less excusable. Collecting information and writing up an original paragraph is something that can be done without leaving the convenience of your very chair.

Today I went to National Bookstore to kill some spare time, and tucked away in a shelf with travel guides I find a big coffee table book called Central Philippines, published by PDP Digital and the Department of Tourism.

Eager to see some pictures of places I recognize, I open it up to the section on Negros Oriental. Indeed, I find something I recognize:
Oriental Negros is located in the Central Visayas region. It occupies the southeastern half of the island of Negros. It faces Cebu to the east across the TaƱon Strait and Siquijor to the southeast.

Dumaugete City is the provincial capital and seat of government. It is also the most populous city, despite having the smallest land area.

With its fertile land resources, Oriental Negros' major industry is agriculture. The primary crops are sugarcane, coconut, corn and rice.

The province is emerging as a technological center in Central Philippines with its growing business process outsourcing and other technology-related industries.
"My, this sure sounds vaguely familiar, and very... encyclopedic," I thought to myself. Then it hit me-- this whole write-up was hacked up from pieces of the Negros Oriental article on Wikipedia.

The first paragraph has been part of the article since it was created in 2003. The second and third paragraphs were actually added by myself in 2005 and 2006. The last paragraph was added by an anonymous editor in 2007.

Then I flipped through the rest of the book-- and sure enough, yes, the introduction text for every province was ripped from Wikipedia, without attribution. The only conclusion that the casual reader could come to is that all this text was written by the authors whose names appear on the cover, Ms. Honey Jarque Loop and Mr. Daniel Carpentier.

Plagiarism is the act of taking of someone else's work and presenting it as if it were your own. To take text from the world's most popular reference site and publish it throughout a $31.25 hardbound book... that's pretty brazen.

Here's how it should work: Wikipedia is published under the GNU Free Documentation License. If you wish to reuse Wikipedia text in your own publications, you can do so in compliance with the license. The simplest way to do it is to include a notice that the text is licensed under the GFDL, along with a the text of the license, and a link to the original article.

The way not to do it is to simply copy the text and allow people to assume you wrote it yourself.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Mementos and memories

I used to be so sure of myself with the knowledge that the memories you bring back with you from a vacation are incomparably more valuable than the souvenirs and photographs you take. Ok, the essence of it is probably still true, but the importance of tangible proof of experience shouldn't be understated!

I spent one whirlwind day in 2005 touring New York City with my family. I could enumerate the places we went, and the first thing that comes to mind is the memory of the cold wind in my face, and buying cheap sidewalk sunglasses that didn't quite fit.

40°44'54"N 73°59'08"W
Tuesday, May 17, 2005, 2:23 PM (EST)

But then I take a look at this picture. Just look at it! I almost can't believe I was actually there.

There are tons of better pictures of skyscrapers in New York City, and tons of better pictures taken from the observation deck of the Empire State Building. But being able to look a picture like this with the knowledge that this is the sight that I saw, and this is the picture that I took, and that I stood right there at that spot at that instant and looked down upon the majesty that is this scene-- it's like the memory of it is reaching out from the past and shaking my consciousness to relive the moment and realize, my God, I really was there after all.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


"As the 21st century began, human evolution was at a turning point: Natural selection, a process which had once favored the noblest traits of man, now began to favor different traits. Evolution does not necessarily reward intelligence. With no natural predators to thin the herd, it began to simply reward those who reproduced the most."

In Idiocracy, extremely normal dude Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) takes part in an ultra-top-secret military experiment to put him into hibernation for one year, but things go wrong and he wakes up 500 years into the future. In that period of time, evolution has turned back on itself and mankind has become stupider at a frightening rate. It's the year 2505, and average Joe now finds himself... the smartest man in the world!

In this future, the English language had deteriorated into "a hybrid of hillbilly, valley girl, inner city slang and various grunts", the President of America is a former pornstar and professional wrestler, and Fox News is the world's only remaining news source. As you can imagine, this is one of the crudest and stupidest movies imaginable. At least the movie poster warns you that it's from the creator of Beavis and Butthead.

Idiocracy is supposed to be a comedy, but at the same time the idea behind it is pretty damn scary. Think about it, the premise that natural selection no longer favors mankind's positive traits is actually true today-- the world's highest population growth rates are in the heart of suffering Africa, while countries like Germany and Japan have their population on the decline.

When there are entire families living on the streets and continuing to procreate like rabbits, when does the vicious cycle end? Could we really be in the beginnings of an evolutionary slide into dystopia?

That would explain quite a bit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Apo Island adventure

It's funny how, after all these years of living in Negros Oriental, it wasn't until this month that finally I got around to visiting what is arguably it's most well-known tourist destination. For my birthday last April 9th, I spent the day on a trip to Apo Island.

View of Apo Island from the east.

Ok, actually I was hitching along with my cousins' trip that just happened to be conveniently scheduled on my birthday, a day when I conveniently happened to have no other plans.

As far as I know, Apo Island the only piece of Negros Oriental that's not part of mainland Negros-- at least, it's the only one visible from a map. Lonely Planet's travel guide says the island is a rare success story for marine conservation in the Philippines. A ton of websites say it's one of the best diving spots in the world, with some even vaguely claiming it's one of the world's "top 10". Heh, alright.

To get to Apo Island, you need to rent one of these dinky boats from Malatapay in Zamboaguita. This particular one holds eight passengers, and cost us something like P2600 for the whole day (going to Apo and coming back).

This is probably my favorite picture, even though it's really nothing... Just a big rock near the boat landing area at the east side of the island. I like big rocks. Would be better if it wasn't vandalized with welcome messages.

Apo Island is actually a barangay of the town of Dauin, with 745 permanent residents according to the 2007 census. There are no motor vehicles, and this seems to be the island's main road.

The Apo Island Marine Sanctuary is on the west side of the island. As pristine as the beach looks, the place is really for snorkeling and diving, not relaxing on the beach.

All the snorkling equipment you need is available for rent on the island, but I got myself a cheap (but good enough!) snorkel and diving mask in Dumaguete the day before.

We took a ton of underwater pictures using just a Canon PowerShot SD750 placed in an inexpensive waterproof pouch. Corals are the easiest target. They stay still.

There are tons of fish, but those damn things are always moving. By the time I spot a target fish and have my camera focused, it's usually already gone. So this is my best picture of a fish. You... you can see it, right?

For people that still have some spare energy to spend after snorkeling, there's a hiking path that starts near the marine sanctuary, making its way up a hill to give people a nice view of the marine sanctuary and the nearby lagoon.

The 600 meter hiking path makes its way to the south end of the island, reaching its end at a cliff overlooking some rocks. The path feels like a lot longer than 600 meters, and there's no warning it only leads you to a dead end. But we're still smiling!

An overnight stay at Apo Island is made possible by two resorts located on the island, but we were just here on a day trip. Return trips to the mainland are supposed to leave by 5:30 PM, just in time for this breathtaking view as the sun sets behind Zamboanguita.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist

This morning, for the first time in several weeks, I felt the urge to watch a movie. Something quick, something easy, something that doesn't matter. So I watched an 89-minute movie called Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.

Michael Cera plays the same character in every movie, and I suspect his star will fade fast when he outgrows the part. He's the introverted sincere type that lives life as an observer and seems to be experiencing everything for the first time. A kind of guy I can relate to, actually.

Nick and Norah hop around New York City from one strange adventure to another, an assortment of scenes strung together by the search for a mysterious band called Where's Fluffy. Sometimes it feels like just a bunch of stuff that happens, and you start to wonder if this movie's playlist really is infinite. But it's extremely easy to watch, and just as inconsequential at the title suggests, which was exactly the kind of movie I was in the mood for.

From what I could gather, the characters seem to be around 18 or so, and although 90% of the movie takes place out in the streets of New York it still seems to perfectly fit the category of a high school movie. There's the pretty popular girl that's a bitch on the inside, the slightly-more-homely girl who's far more likable, the earnest but reserved main character guy... These are the typical high school movie stereotype characters, right? Or maybe that really was what high school was like.

Some people think that these high school movies are made for high school people, but I'd argue that it's just as much made for those who want to relive the era, for one reason or another. There's something alluring about the atmosphere of high school. Just like how Harry Potter was more magical when there were a few books that hadn't been written, and the awesomeness of the ending was limited only by the bounds of your imagination.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Viewing alternate realities

I wish there was a way to view and compare alternate realities. It would be interesting now-- five months after the election-- to see all the little and big ways the world would be different if, say, John McCain was elected President of the United States.

Above: John McCain wins presidency.

Now imagine one for the present day.