Friday, December 16, 2005

What were they thinking?

Two days ago (December 14, 2005), while I was engrossed on my personal problems, a new government was formed in the Philippines headed by former general Fortunato Abat (stories here and here). The former general declared the:
"existence of a revolutionary transition government and the formation of a transition government council to administer the affairs of government"
Yesterday, the most prominent members of this new government were invited for questioning by the police. (stories here and here) Why they were not just arrested is beyond me.

Which leads me to my original question. What were they thinking? Did they really think the people will rise up for a bunch of political has beens?

And the "revolutionaries" are not your ordinary crackpots, these people used to occupy high posts in the Philippine government. No wonder our country is in such a mess. If these are the kind of people we get in government, we are doomed.

Only in da Philippines.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

"Random Thoughts"

About half a month ago, a certain nashman wrote a comment on one of my posts. I was curious about this person who came out of the blue so I followed his comment back to his blog. What greeted me was another blog titled "Random Thoughts". It's probably a reflection on the originality of my thoughts that there is at least one other person who named his blog "Random Thoughts". :)

I became curious if there were other blogs named "Random Thoughts" so I searched through google blogsearch. And there were some, and I present them here:
  1. dawn
  2. aaronmyers
  3. Blueprincesa
  4. http://sankarshan.randomink.org/blog/
  5. Shazear
  6. ab_easy
  7. kobijenjo
  8. Sharon
  9. dimpet
  10. Andrew John Poulter
  11. rcstanley
  12. octopusouphut
  13. Rob
  14. Teleri
  15. M
  16. Ranjani and Sathish
  17. Cathy
  18. Tammy
  19. Nancy McKeand
There maybe some more blogs named "Random Thoughts" and if I missed you, I apologize.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Avoid Land Bank

If any of you are planning to open a bank account, I deeply encourage you to avoid opening one at the Land Bank of the Philippines. Specially if you expect to be getting checks.

We (by we I mean my employer) has a project that made it necessary we hire some people from Mindanao. When we were about to deposit their checks in their Land Bank accounts, we were informed that the Land Bank of the Philippines does not allow checks deposits.

So I called the Land Bank office 551-2200 and asked them if this was true and what is behind this bizarre policy. It turned out, it was only partially true, the Land Bank accepts check deposits within a regional network, so If I am in Manila, I can deposit a check to a Land Bank account in Manila. They do not allow check deposits outside of a regional network, so since we were in Manila (well Makati), we are barred by this policy from depositing checks in an account in Malaybalay.

And why do they have this policy? The person I talked to said that they are only protecting themselves, in other words, they do not trust other banks to honor checks they isssued. But that is not all, they also do not trust their own banks' checks because they will also not allow checks issued by their own banks from being deposited outside of the regional network.

So a Land Bank check issued in Manila still cannot be deposited to a Land Bank account based in Malaybalay. How stupid is this policy? In an age of nearly instantaneous communication, you will think that it will be easy to ascertain whether a given check is good. Even if the process may be hard to do in Mindanao, it is easy in Manila.

It seems to me that who the Land Bank does not actually trust is their own employees. They do not trust them not to defraud their own employer. And rather than fixing this problem, they create a policy that actually makes life harder for their customers.

The thing is, they can get away with it because they are the governments bank. National government agencies and local government agencies are required to deposit their funds at the Land Bank. The government's payroll also required to be coursed through them. They know they do not need to compete with other banks to earn profit. This makes them complacent.

Monday, November 28, 2005

New Blogs

I started a new blog last week with the title kuro-kuro, which is viewpoint or opinion in english. This is an experiment in Filipino language blogging. I have occasionally used Filipino in this blog and I was contemplating of using it more frequently.

Circumstances intervened however when I learned that wordpress has also established a free blogging site. I heard a lot of good things with wordpress and I thought this would be a good time to try it out. So I did. I plan to write mostly about Philippine matters in this new blog and my other interest in this one.

This new blog is part of my advocacy. I have advocated that our government should use Filipino in official transactions specially in the formulation of laws and the proceeding in civil and criminal courts. This action will empower more Filipinos and hopefully encourage a more dynamic and informed civil society. I hope this new blog can contribute to this end.

Another new blog is greenjournal started by my friend from the redplanet. He asked me to be a part of the blog because as a socialist, I should also be an environmentalist. Which is of course false logic because socialist/communist parties all over the world supported the establishment of industries that cause pollution and environmental degradation.

But then we are friends he knows me. He and I grew up on a particular social milleau that questioned traditional socialist dogma including the the seeming unending quest for industrialization without regard for its consequences.

This is then the framework of my "environmentalism", an environmentalism that places the needs of humanity as pre-eminent. The reason we should preserve the environment is because if we don't, we will be the loser in the end.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The False Objectivity of “Balance”

RealClimate - The False Objectivity of “Balance”
"We here at RC continue to be disappointed with the tendency for some journalistic outlets to favor so-called "balance" over accuracy in their treatment of politically-controversial scientific issues such as global climate change. While giving equal coverage to two opposing sides may seem appropriate in political discourse, it is manifestly inappropriate in discussions of science, where objective truths exist. In the case of climate change, a clear consensus exists among mainstream researchers that human influences on climate are already detectable, and that potentially far more substantial changes are likely to take place in the future if we continue to burn fossil fuels at current rates. There are only a handful of "contrarian" climate scientists who continue to dispute that consensus. To give these contrarians equal time or space in public discourse on climate change out of a sense of need for journalistic "balance" is as indefensible as, say, granting the Flat Earth Society an equal say with NASA in the design of a new space satellite. It's plainly inappropriate. But it stubbornly persists nonetheless."
Read more

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Use Firefox

From eweek.com through digg.com.

"Exploit code for a critical flaw in fully patched versions of Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer browser has been released on the Internet, putting millions of Web surfers at risk of computer hijack attacks.

The zero-day exploit, posted by a U.K.-based group called "Computer Terrorism," could allow a remote hacker to take complete control of a Windows system if the victim simply browses to a malicious Web site.

Ziff Davis Internet News have verified that the exploit works on fully patched Windows XP systems with default IE installations."

We are talking of fully patched Windows XP installations. Furthermore

"We have also been made aware of proof of concept code that could seek to exploit the reported vulnerability but are not aware of any customer impact at this time but Microsoft will continue to investigating these public reports," the spokeswoman added.

The proof-of-concept exploit, which is available from the FrSirt site, currently launched the Windows Calculator (calc.exe) but can be easily modified by malicious hackers.

So dump IE and download Firefox.

Update:

The proof of concept example is at the Computer Terrorism site.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Furl

I have been using Furl for the past month now. Furl is an online bookmark service.
"Furl is a free service that saves a personal copy of any page you find on the Web, and lets you find it again instantly by searching your archive of pages. It's your Personal Web."
"Furl anything you want with a single click. Each member gets a 5-gigabyte personal archive, large enough to store tens of thousands of pages."
Its been a great help, specially when archiving Philippines news articles. I now have the leisure to bookmark the articles I want to read without fearing it will disappear in a week or so.

Of course, if the company that owns Furl folds, all the saved bookmarks will disappear so one should back-up the important links you really want to preserve.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Apologies

Yesterday, 17 November 2005, The Philippine Star reported that former Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) Secretary Dinky Soliman apologized to the Filipino people for "betraying the public trust". According to the Star,
"Soliman, who took the witness stand in the fourth session of the Citizens’ Congress for Truth and Accountability (CCTA) at the University of Makati, made the disclosure as she also publicly apologized for 'betraying public trust' during her stint in government service under the Arroyo administration."
And how did she betray the public trust?
"Soliman revealed that the DSWD generated the names of indigent families who should become recipients of the PhilHealth cards, which were distributed in areas where support for Mrs. Arroyo was perceived as "weak" and the rival candidate was considered "strong."
She did this because of he fear that "another actor would become president".

Now, I would not want to argue with Ms. Juliano-Soliman's feelings. This is how she feels, and she has a right to it. But I would argue that she need not apologize for her actions. She did nothing wrong. If she really wants to apologize, then she should apologize for her "lapse in judgement" in supporting President Arroyo. She should not apologize for helping her chosen candidate to win.

A friend and I had this conversation a few weeks after the elections. The opposition then were already trumpeting Mrs. Arroyo's strategy of distributing PhilHealth cards, and other goodies to people, basically using her office to enhance her chances of being elected. I argued that she did not do anything illegal, she was doing her functions as President, and distributing PhilHealth cards so some of our countrymen will have the benefit of health insurance is part of her job as President. It just so happened that it was done close to the time of elections. :)

She was the incumbent President, all incumbents use their offices to help their re-election. The opposition knew what they were up against and they still concluded that they could win against her, they had no cause to complain. Unless thay can garner more votes by complaining. :)

My friend countered that she may not have done anything illegal, but it was certainly unethical. I disagree, using your assets to win elections is part of the game of democracy. Actors, like Senator Lito Lapid, use their popularity to win, some people, like Senators Pangilinan and Recto won partially because of their wives, Senator Madrigal won partly because of Judy Ann Santos. You use your strengths, that's the way to win elections.

And that is how we support our candidates. We do what we can so they can win because we believe that they are the best person to lead our country, and we should not apologize for doing that.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Civ Players of the World Unite

You have nothing to lose but your chains. Take control of your life, re-learn to breath fresh air again, go see the sunset. Throw off the chains that Civilization had shackled you.

Join the Civilization Anonymous , a group of people who are bonded together in order to help each other in the difficult journey of weaning themselves from Civilization.

If you are still unsure of yourself, read how the members of the group have been helped:
"It was the Industrial Age that finally did me in. I was into the hard stuff, man: electronics, combustion, motorized transportation. I'd play for days at a time without ever getting up. I looked bad. Smelled bad. After one 3-day bender I was so rank that my ferrets suddenly passed out in their cage. Seriously, by the time my friends dragged me to a CivAnon meeting, I could have knocked a buzzard off a crap-wagon. Thank you, CivAnon...I finally have my life back-and my ferrets have made a recovery that was nothing short of miraculous."
"I've been attending CivAnon meetings for approximately 18 months now. Partly because I began to get a perverse thrill out of wiping out entire civilizations with atomic intercontinental ballistic weaponry, and partly because they serve cake at the meetings. I like to kill, that's true. But I like cake even more."
I will let Dr. Pullman have the final word.
"Fellow civilization addicts, you are not alone. And thankfully, there is help. Once you have admitted your addiction to yourself, enroll in CivAnon ASAP. You won't stop playing until you want to stop playing."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Secondhand Lions (Impressions)

Warning: This is not a review

We watched the movie "Secondhand Lions" on HBO last weekend. The movie starred, Michael Caine, Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osment. It was not a movie that I would normally choose to watch, but there was nothing on and I do like Michael Caine.

Some people, like these from the Rotten Tomatoes, would dismiss this movie as sentimental. But I liked it. I specially liked Robert Duvall's speech on what makes a man. I got the text of the speech here:
"Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honour, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this... that love... true love never dies! Remember that boy, remember that. Doesn't matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in. Got that?"
Got that? Go live your life now. :)

Maybe I'm just a sentimental relatively old fool.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective in Clinical Trial

Science & Technology at Scientific American.com: Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective in Clinical Trial:
"A new vaccine stimulated human immune cells to recognize and kill malaria parasites in a recent clinical trial. The vaccine proved effective in both infected human blood samples and mice whose immune systems had been modified to mimic that of humans."
Good news for the Philippines and other tropical countries, hope this pans out.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Home Improvement

Those who own their own house and lot are more likely to want to make improvements to them.

This observation, which seems self evident to me, is the conclusion of a 2 research studies* (not formally published yet) made by two Argentine universities and the Harvard Business School as reported by the Asian Wall Street Journal. (Free browsing for this week only)

According to the AWSJ:
"international development experts say it (the study) is shedding light on a key question for developing economies: Does land "titling" help lift people from poverty?"
And their answer is yes, not so much because the 'landowners' are able to monetize their property, as theorized by Economist Hernando de Soto, but because the people who were able to own their land experience a change in attitude that enable them to enjoy a better quality of life.
"The investigators concluded that titles improved access to credit only slightly. Banks appeared to have a deeply ingrained reluctance to lend to the poor, in part because of the cost and difficulty of foreclosing in Argentina's legal system. But even without bank loans, they said, landowning families improved their homes substantially by squirreling away cash and doing the work themselves. Architects affiliated with the study concluded that homes on titled lots had sturdier walls and sounder roofs, were more spacious and had better sidewalks.

An accompanying study, co-authored by Mr. Di Tella, detected a difference in the attitude of landowners. They were more materialistic and individualistic, and more inclined to say that money was important to happiness, and that individual initiative leads to success.

The researchers found that landownership status seemed to make no difference in employment or income. But it did seem to affect the way residents spent their money, and their aspirations and expectations. The researchers figure that the children of the landowners could eventually earn significantly more than the children of the untitled."

I wish the powers that be reads these studies. It may give new momentum to the Urban Development and Housing Act, a law passed in 1991
"TO PROVIDE FOR A COMPREHENSIVE AND CONTINUING URBAN DEVELOPMENT AND HOUSING PROGRAM"
The act declared it the policy of the state to
"Uplift the conditions of the underprivileged and homeless citizens in urban areas and in resettlement areas by making available to them decent housing at affordable cost, basic services, and employment opportunities"
At that time, the Philippine government jump started this program through the Community Mortgage Program, funded through the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation and other government agencies like the Pag-Ibig Fund.

The last major initiative of the Philippine government on this front was made during the time of then chairperson of the Housing and Urban Development and Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Secretary Karina Constantino-David. The initiative was cut short when she resigned because then President Estrada appointed his drinking buddy (forgot his name) to a position that effectively disempowered Secretary David.

Today, Gawad Kalinga (GK), a private organization runs the most prominent initiative for housing the poor. The GK envisions to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in 7 years.

Perhaps if the Philippine government can get its act together and help private initiatives like the GK we can provide housing for those who need it, the Philippines and the Filipinos can rise up from the depths of poverty that grips us.

_____________________________

*Did a google search and the studies can be downloaded in pdf format here and here

Quickies

You can now buy Stored Value Tickets for the MRT.

Browsing the Wall Street Journal is FREE for this week only.

Please visit my friend's blog, I really think it is interesting.

I am No. 1 in my Yahoo Fantasy basketball league. (Yehey)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Queuing at the MRT

I lined up today to buy an MRT ticket, it took me 20 minutes and almost made me late for work. Must wake up earlier.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Giving the President Her Due

Yesterday, new provisions on the Value Added Tax (VAT) Law of the Philippines took effect. The new provisions took away from gasoline, electricity, and the doctors and lawyers the exemptions they had from paying the VAT. The immediate effect of this is the increase in gasoline prices, electricity rates and doctors and lawyer's fees.

This is a very unpopular law, nobody likes paying higher prices, yet the President fought to have this law passed and implemented even with her advisors calling for her to defer its implementation.

The President has done a lot of things to promote her popularity, especially during these times when her leadership is in question, but her commitment to righting the government's financial position has been steadfast. Whatever we may think of her and her administration, we should give her credit for this act.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Find Out How Your Mind Works

From Digg
  • Get a brain sex profile and find out if you think like a man or a woman.
  • See if you can gaze into someone's eyes and know what they're thinking.
  • Find out why scientists are interested in the length of your fingers.
  • See how your results relate to theories about brain sex.
Find out HERE from the BBC
























Apparently. I'm just your average male. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MRT 3 Ticket Scarcity

The MRT 3 ran out of ticket today.

OK, so not really, but they did ran out of stored value tickets. I regularly ride the MRT 3 along EDSA. I avoid the traffic and arrive at my destination faster. Today however, as I tried to buy a prepaid or "stored value" card, the ticket vendor told me that they were sold out.

Stored value tickets gets you out of the long queus, further shortening travel time. I cannot believe the MRT 3 administration allowed this to happen.

Anyway, I searched the web and I found this blog by J. Angelo Racoma complaining about the same thing, and wrote about it last week. Mr. Racoma has a link to the official website of the Metrostar Express, who administers the MRT. I called the office and they told me that they have ordered new tickets and it should arrive within the next two weeks. Meanwhile, I would have to arrive at the stations before 7 AM before the ticketing office runs out of stored value tickets or fall in line.

Complaints can be directed to the MRT office:

Tel. No: 929-5347 loc. 3078 and 3079
E-mail: cac@dotcmrt3.gov.ph

Alternatively, you might want to call the Light Rail Transit Authority.

Website: http://www.lrta.gov.ph/
Tel. No. - 853-0041 to 60
E-mail - lrtamain@lrta.gov.ph

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Jean-Luc Picard (I can't believe it, If I was to be a Star Trek character, I would rather be Spock)

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

An accomplished diplomat who can virtually do no wrong, you sometimes know it is best to rely on the council of others while holding the reins.

There are some words which I have known since I was a schoolboy. "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.

Jamby's Gun

I was going to write about this but as I read Alex magno's column (The Philippine Star), I realized that I could not write something better. Some quotes from the column:
"If Sen. Jamby Madrigal cannot do without an armed bodyguard beside her, she should refrain from joining street demonstrations. That is the dictate of civic duty."
"Madrigal tells us her bodyguard’s gun was licensed.

But, dear senator, that is not the point.

The point is that the man brought his gun to the frontlines of a tense confrontation between the police and a political cult that was supposed to be engaged in peaceful protest. That might seem to be an act of minor stupidity. But it is nonetheless an act that put everyone else in the vicinity in great peril."
"Notwithstanding, I think Madrigal owes the nation an apology.

Tito Guingona, former vice-president was there. I don’t think he had bodyguards.

Fr. Robert Reyes was there and, as always, believed he was protected by the archangels.

A host of others were there, bare as they should be as they profess a variant of politics we might not all agree on but could agree to respect. When someone goes to a political demonstration, it should be sufficient to feel that one is surrounded by others of the same belief and is therefore protected by number and comradeship."
"If she does not have the courage to march without armed cover for a cause she claims to hold, how can we call her a peaceful protestor? How can we accept the conviction she flaunts as sincere?"
It was such a stupid thing to do. How could we have elected this person to the Senate.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

TV Hoaxed

Got this story while reading the James Randi Educational Foundation's weekly commentary. Olivier Van Cantfort, of Belgium sent the story to the JREF. It was about how a parody site (in French), was able to hoax a Television program from France. Here is the link to the entire story, translated from French, and here are the stated reasons of the hoaxers who did the deed:
  • because it was a unique opportunity to make a big joke, kind of like "punk'd" but with TV as the victim, and moreover without having all the means of TV stations at our disposal.

  • because the opportunity makes the criminal... The journalist offered us the opportunity for the hoax right away during the very first contact. That he could read the web pages of Destroy-Escort and think that it's real is simply mind-boggling. And if he didn't read those pages before contacting us then it would show a complete lack of professionalism. So, yes, our main reason is this: we created this hoax without any other real reason than because we were given the opportunity, because we belong to communities that are too often stigmatized by television. We weren't able to resist for more than two minutes the temptation to give some TV people a taste of their own medicine by showing that sometimes - if not "often" - what's on television is just nonsense...

  • because it was intolerable that such a powerful communication tool - by the size of its audience - didn't go through the pains of checking what they say. As Denise Fabre was happy to remind us all during the show: "When one works in TV, one has to be careful about what one says..." It's a matter of responsibility on the part of the one who speaks and of respect towards those who listen to him through that mass media that is television. The simple presence of our hoax in the landscape of French television raises the question of the authenticity of some of the broadcasts that happen in France...

  • because the quest for sensation that drives television channels transforms them in just a succession of images, the veracity of which is no longer the main objective and this is not acceptable for a media that manipulates images.

  • because by creating this hoax, we really "investigated" the professionals implicated in our story and it appeared to us that this innocent entertaining show was the work of professionals well known in the French TV world, and because of their recognized professional qualities they shouldn't have fallen for our joke.

  • And because there has to be one last reason for all this: definitely because it's been way too easy...
Which makes this story applicable the world over and in all media outlets. Maybe the media, including those in the Philippines can learn form this experience.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Doctors as Nurses

For some good news, Parallel Universes has written about the news reports on Filipino doctors who become nurses and tried their luck abroad. It seems they are being deported back to the Philippines because they are doctors. A lot of them are also failing the nursing exam.

It seems that the mass emigration of doctors that we have all been dreading will take longer than predicted.

Friday the 13th

Just Wondering

I was commmuniting from work yesterday when I suddenly realized that the date was Friday the 14th. This led me to conclude that the day before was Thursday the 13th. This led me to wondering whether the bad luck associated with Friday the 13th will be spread over the 2 days. Will Thursday the 13th and Friday the 14th be half as unlucky as Friday the 13th and will the bad luck during the course of those two days be equal to the bad luck during a Friday the 13th.

Of course days of the week are not usually associated with luck, good or bad, except mondays, which everybody hates, which makes it unlucky, i mean the day itself because if tuesday was the designated first day of work, then everybody will be hating tuesdays rather than mondays, but this pragraph is leading nowhere. :)

The number 13 then is the culprit, 13 has long been associated with bad luck, but what makes Friday the 13th more unluckier (double redundancy) than thursday the 13th? And is there a hierarchy of unlucky days? Will days close to Friday, be unluckier than days further from Friday the 13th? Will Thursday the 13th for example be unluckier than Monday the 13th? Is there a mathematical formula to determine the ratio of bad luck between days that falls on the 13th?

Does a month that have a Friday the 13th more unlucky than a month that does not have a Friday the 13th?

These are the questions that keep me awake at nights. How can I decide courses of action without answers to these pressing question? Ah well, I will just have to muddle through somehow.

P.S.

I realize that with the number of people in this earth, somebody somewhere has probably asked the same questions above, and somebody somewhere has probably posted the answers on the internet, but I was amused enough that I do not want to know the answer right away. when I get around to hunting for the answers, I will update this post. If somebody already knows the answer, give me the link and I will update this post.

Thanks.

Friday, October 14, 2005

On Generic Medicine

Professor Michael Tan has written an article (Philippine Daily Inquirier) on the desirability of using generic medicines here in the Philippines. He writes:

"Ultimately though, it's still an informed consumer that will make the difference. In one Save-More drug outlet, while waiting for my prescription to be filled, a man came in and rattled off three different drugs by their generic names. He was empathic in adding, after he had finished naming the medicines: "Generics lang." Sadly, the sales clerks said they didn't have generic versions for the two of the medicines he needed.

Nevertheless, I was impressed that the man was aware of generics. Maybe he was a health professional, but I suspect he was simply an informed consumer. And we need more of such consumers to spur the demand for generics.

The Department of Health needs to revive the campaign around generics, and for starters, we could get prescribers, sales clerks and consumers to stop saying "generics lang [generics only]" and be more assertive: "Generics ang gusto ko [I want generics]."

Sadly, I am one of those who should know better but does not do better. Given a prescription, I buy the prescribed, brand product. I just figure it will be easier, I do not have to explain to the drugstore clerk nor to my doctor why I opted for a different brand name.

Also I still buy "biogesic" a, home grown brand of paracetamol. It was the brand my grandmother and mother used to give me when I had fever as a kid and I just feel comforted using it. :)

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Stuff of the Universe

or How the Universe got its Spot part 2. Part 1 is here

I am now in the middle of this wonderful book. Janna Levin has made the book accessible to those scientifically challenged, like myself. People already familiar with the scope of the book may still find it interesting because she liberally doses the book with anecdotes about the quirks of the different people that has opened up the body of knowledge she is now trying to explain and expand.

The first few chapters are really a recapitulation of what any college, even high school level student might have taken up. Newtonian physics, Special Relativity, General Relativity, Quantum theory, black Holes and the Big Bang. I have encountered this topics before and quite familiar with them, but two insights (?), points that Ms. Levin makes me realize how beautiful the universe is.

The first one, is that the theory of General Relativity was created because the Special Theory of Relativity conflicted with Newton's Theory of Gravity.
"despite the impeccable condition of Newton's theory, Einstein realized that gravity violated one of the sacred tenets of special relativity. As mentioned, the main conflict with special relativity is that Newtonian gravity allows information to be communicated faster than the speed of light. If the sun were to suddenly collapse, according to Newton's theory we would immediately feel the gravitational change. This is no different from expecting an event in Iceland to instantaneously later the course of events in China. Einstein's theory of special relativity forbids anything, any form of information, to travel faster than the speed of light. Information of any kind must be encoded in the form of energy or mass, after all E=mc2. Information is encrypted on stuff, and stuff travel slower than, or at, the speed of light. The force of gravity should be no exception. Any information about gravitational change, should travel slower than, or at, the speed of light. To ensure this, Einstein had to discover the essence of gravity..." (page 45)
And he did, he had to learn Riemannian geometry to do it, so he did. This is a very concrete example of how the scientific method works, you find a conflict in theories and you find an explanation (theory) that better fits reality. And all of humankind benefits.

The other point is this:
"...In the primordial universe there was essentially only hydrogen and helium with only trace amounts of heavier elements. There was no oxygen and no carbon, and so no water and no basis for organic life. The primordial universe was a sterile cauldron.

Much of the material synthesized in the center of stars gets ejected back out into space when the star dies. Eventually new stars and planets can form from the star's scattered remains. This next generation of stars, and more importantly, their satellite planets, can be made from heavier elements like carbon and oxygen. Plasma can form on the surface of planets. Maybe on one with optimal conditions, complex molecules form and an inanimate broth waits for the sparks to generate organic life. Voila. a few hundred million years later, Africa blooms and here we are.

We have the peculiar realization that we are made of the stuff of stars. I was sitting on the back of my astronomy class at Columbia when I learned this." (page 80)
She may have been in Columbia, but I was in a jeepney commuting to work when I realized this. It was a humbling yet euphoric moment. To be made of the stuff of stars, What a feeling.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Anti-Terrorism bill

The joint committees on justice and foreign affairs approved for plenary discussion an Anti-terrorism bill.

While I agree with
Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes that "terrorism has replaced a communist insurgency as the top threat to national security". The news reports on some provisions contained in the proposed bill bothers me. But since I have not read the bill personally, I would suspend judgement. I hope the PCIJ blog, the best resource for source documents regarding recent events will upload a copy of the bill shortly. The website of the House of Representatives does not have a copy available.

Update Oct. 10, 2005

Mr. Alecks Pabico pf the PCIJ has written a very comprehensive article on the proposed anti-terrorism bill. He has also uploaded a copy of the proposed bill if anyone wants to read it.

Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded today and the winners are...
Roy J. Glauber
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
"for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence"
John L. Hall
JILA, University of Colorado and National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, CO, USA and
Theodor W. Hänsch
Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany
"for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique".

Source:
http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/2005/announcement.html
http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/2005/index.html
http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/2005/press.html
http://nobelprize.org/physics/laureates/2005/info.pdf

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Another Knoppix Testimonial

I got married last week so naturally, the computer that my sister and I used to share refused to boot-up 5 days after. Since I was the one who maintained the computer, I had to return home last sunday to fix it.

The PC had not been formatted for at least a year now so rather than trying to troubleshoot the problem, I would just reformat and reinstall windows. To facilitate this procedure, I whipped out my handy dandy knoppix CD. I booted to knoppix, navigated to where the files were, burned the files to a CD, (actually, it took 3 CDs) and presto, I was ready to format the hard drive. A procedure that not too long ago would have taken me the better part of a day now took me less than an hour. Of course, I forgot to save the saved games of my sister so I took a little ribbing for that. (Lesson Learned: The latest and greatest equipment will not save you from human error).

Installing the needed software took me longer, but that is not knoppix's fault.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

To Infinity and Beyond

I've started reading this book, How the Universe got its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space by Janna Levin. And the operative word here is started. From the title, the book is about the Universe, but before going there, she discusses mathematics and mathematicians.

The first line of the book perked my interest
"Some of the great mathematicians killed themselves. The lore is that their theories drove them mad, though I suspect they were just lonely, isolated by what they knew."
Of course this line, reminded me of my favorite mathematician, EEE. I hope that he is just a little mad, and I fervently hope that he is not lonely.

In the second chapter, she went into a discussion on infinity and the theory of Ludwig Phillip Cantor called transfinite arithmetic. I thought I was getting along fine with the ideas, countable infinite numbers, infinite rational numbers, infinite irrational numbers, and then the bombshell, some sets of infinite numbers are larger than others. HUH? how can this be? Of course she gave an explanation:
"Cantor realized that the set of irrational numbers was infinite in a way that was so huge as to be uncountable. They cannot be represented by one integer divided by another and some require an infinitely long desciption, such as pi or the golden ratio. An uncountable infinity could never be put into one-to-one correspondence with a countable infinity and so the irrational numbers must be of a larger infinity than the natural numbers"
And this is where I got lost. reminding me why I preferred political science as my undergradute course. I will still read the book, hopefully finish and increase my understanding of mathematics and the universe. Hopefully, this book will not drive me mad. If you can find the book, maybe you can join me in this adventure.

Friday, September 30, 2005

EO 464 Fallout and the Constitution

The pratical effects of EO 464 are being felt right now. Government officials scheduled to appear before 3 Senate hearings were unable to attend presumably because they failed to get pemission from the President.

Senator Francis Panigilinan is calling for a dialogue between the Senate and Malacañang because according to him
“We cannot allow the situation to deteriorate into a constitutional crisis,”.
I don't see why we can't. The Philippine Constitution is only 20 or so years old, a lot of its provisions are only being fleshed out. The question on when an impeachment proceedings is deemed to have been initiated was only decided by the Supreme Court last year.

This new EO by the President will test the limits of Presidential power. I can see the logic of the President reviewing with the summoned Cabinet members what he/she can discuss in Congressional hearings. I can see how members of the executive branch can be forbidden to testify on matters of national security unless the hearings are in closed session. I just cannot see how the President can forbid Cabinet members from appearing in congressional hearings without just cause.

Dialogue between the executive branch and the legislative branch might resolve this matter earlier and with less acrimony but it will not resolve this conflict with finality. Other presidents, can raise this matter again. The best solution is for the Supreme court to render a decision.

This is the reason why I do not support constitutional change, at least not in the process that is being undertaken. We have not yet plumbed the depths of this constitution, and yet we already want to change it.

Furthermore, the proponents of constitutional change right now want to completely revise the constitution. They want to propose a brand new spanking constitution that is bigger and better than this old one. Yet, I have not heard that the members of the constitutional commission are infallible, they can still make mistakes.

The present constitution was ratified in 1987, many of those who supported it were conscious of its many shortcomings. Yet it was ratified because the Philippines needed a constitution at that time. I fear that this kind of all or nothing proposition will again be the fate of the constitution today's ConCom is crafting. That Filipinos will again be forced to accept or reject a document that is good but flawed.

If we need to amend the constitution, I propose we adapt the American model, that we can only vote for one amendment at a time. that way, people who want for example a parliamentary system but do not want a federal form of governance will not have to vote yes to a constitution that have a federal form of government just so we can have a parliamentary form of government.

This way, we can be sure that the Filipino really wants that feature in our constitution.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Blueprint for a Viable Philippines

I discovered the website of the Blueprint for a Viable Philippines Project yesterday and was able to download the Highlights, Analysis and Recommendations. The blueprint is an attempt to craft a
"comprehensive, out of the box, but realistic plan for the country."
The blueprint's main proponents are Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, Renato Constantino, Jr., Randolf David, Roger Posads, Isagani Serrano and Ma. Victoria R. Raquiza. I would try give a more comprehensive comment later but if you want to read the blueprint, their website is here, and you can download the blueprint highlights here.

EO 464

A lot of righteous indignation has been expended by news comentators, members of Congress and Senate, and other pundits in the national media on Executive Order 464 issued by President Macapagal-Arroyo. The comments usually take the form of the PCIJ's "GMA Clips Congressional powers" . Yet, if you read the EO, it only states that:
"All public officials enumerated in Section 2 (b) hereof shall secure prior consent of the President prior to appearing before either house of Congress"
I cannot understand how this can affect the power of Congress. The President has administrative control over the Executive branch of government, if she wants her people to get prior consent before appearing in Congress, then that is her preorogative, it does not in any way affect the power of Congress to summon these people and ask them questions. And as the episode from the Venable hearings prove, Congress can cite people in contempt if they determine that the witness is not being cooperative or truthful. Congress can also issue a subpoena to compel any witness to appear before itself.

The EO, is not directed at Congress, it is directed towards her "official family". It is a reminder that they are under the President and should be circumspect in their utterances to the public. This was proven when Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Lt. Col. Alexander Balutan were relieved from their post for not seeking presidential approval before appearing in the Senate hearings on the "Hello Garci" tapes*.

This is the time for men and women of goodwill in the Executive branch to stand up and be counted. This is the time when Filipinos should appreciate the Civil Service law. This law, which has often been perceived as a hindrance to ridding the government of corrupt individuals can be used for its true purpose. To shield good people in the bureaucracy against revenge and the arbitrary whims of those in political power.

The test case will be that of Undersecretary Miguel Luz of the Department of Education who was relieved from his post for no apparent reason.

A lot is happening in our country, we live it is said in interesting times. I hope more people will get interested so we can affect reforms.

________________________
*As an aside, according to the Philippine Star:
"Gudani also told the Senate hearing on the alleged wiretapping of the President that he had a friend who helped First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo deliver bundles of money.

The general claimed he was told that an estimated P500 million was delivered to Mindanao for vote-buying. However, he did not identify his source."
The Senate cited Secretary Gonzales for contempt partly for not revealing who the it was that recommended venable to the government and who were those who contributed the payment for the venable contract. A contract that none in the Senate has even hinted at as being illegal. Yet they have a witness that has identified two people involved in illegal activities, that if proven could change the course of Philippine history and no one in the Senate pressed the general to reveal their names much less threatened him with contempt. Can you believe it?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Calibrated Response et. al.

The Governments policy of "calibrated preemptive response" to people peaceably assembling to rightfully petition their government to redress their grievances was demonstrated yesterday when 13 people were jailed even before they have assembled.

I do not know who in government crafted this policy but they are making a big mistake. Yes, people were complaining that the constant rallies by the anti-Arroyo organizations were creating traffic, a sign that people want to go on with their lives. But it does not mean they want government to bash in people's head when they are doing nothing wrong.

If President Arroyo gets little sympathy before, she will definitely not get any now.

Speaking of sympathy. Let me be clear, the reason for Secretary Norberto Gonzales' appearance in the Senate was silly. The venable contract was a contract between the Philippine Government and Venable to lobby the US government for funding on different government interests including the changing of the Philippine Constitution. I can appreciate Senator Arroyo's position that, the Philippine government should not solicit funds from foreign government specially when it comes to issues of sovereignty. But it is not illegal, furthermore, the contract was rescinded so the Senate should have tackled more important issues.

Saying that however, whether the Senators were arrogant and boorish in questioning Secretary Gonzales, he had no right not to answer legitimate questions from the Senate committee.

I can symphatize with Secretary Gonzales' position that he does not want to reveal to the Senate committee the names of the private individual/s who recommended Venable to the government. I would not want my friends and most of my enemies to experience what Sec. Gonzales experienced at the hands of the Senate Committee, but that reason is not enough, the private individual/s whoever he/she/they are, chose to commit a public act, recommending a lobby firm to the Philipppine government, as such they cannot hide behind being private individuals, otherwise, how can we get accountability from government?

And how can Secretary Gonzales not know who paid Venable? The contract was between the Philippine Government and Venable, the Philippine government should be aware where the funds would be coming from, otherwise, this can be a source of corruption, enter into a contract with some firm, let somebody else pay them, kickback to yourself. Not knowing who paid, if he really did not know, is plain stupidity, he was the signee, he is the one responsible, how can he fail to find out one of the most important details of the whole transaction?

To recap, I symphatize with the plight of Secretary Gonzales but the Senate had no other choice but to cite him in contempt.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gay Penguins

Got this story from Dispatches from the Culture Wars
"This story really cracks me up. It seems that the world is suddenly overflowing with gay penguins. At Central Park Zoo in New York, there are two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who appear to be in a gay relationship. They nuzzle each other and behave just like other sets of mates. They have sex with each other. When the zoo put female penguins in to entice them to mate with them, they had no interest at all. But they apparently make great parents"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Imelda Marcos Jr.

Yesterday, Congresswoman Imee Marcos revealed the reason why she skipped out of the country during the voting on whether the House of Representatives should adopt the Justice Committee report that dismisses the impeachment complaint against President Macapagal-Arroyo. According to Congresswoman Marcos
"Mas matindi and nanay ko sa 51 na bumoto. Mas maigi na umiwas na lang ako," (from the The Philippine Star)
She is basically saying that she did not want to argue with her mother, who supports President Arroyo, so she skipped so she would not have to vote. Her actions that day indicates, to me, her true attitude regarding cheating in Philippine elections.

Before the voting she was one of the point persons of the opposition taking up television airtime and newpaper columns to criticize President Arroyo, yet, when push comes to shove, she would rather not argue wth her mother rather than take a stand on her "principles".

Her action tells me that her criticisms were posturings to get her face on the news. I hope people remember this fact when Imee Marcos runs again and not vote for her.

Random Shorts

I forgot to to mention that the Statment of Unity I posted on September 5 was from the blog of Manuel L. Quezon III

Newspapers today carried the story of Gwen Aguilar, who has apparently been accused by the Singaporean government of killing another Filipina. The newspaper stories are sober compared to the television news stories which are more emotional. I hope the Philippine media will not fan hysteria just so they can get higher ratings or readership.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Why open source makes sense for non-geeks like me

From Leon Kilat of the CyberCafe Experiment

Why open source makes sense for non-geeks like me


"If you hold a gun to my head demanding that I write a PHP code to print “Hello World” without searching the web for hints, I’d be dead in a minute. I do not know how to program - in any computer language. If the technology world were J.K. Rowling’s universe, I’d be a squib.

And yet I was able to install and deploy various content management systems for my Cybercafe experiments, personal sites as well as sites of my friends. I was also able to deploy an online classroom for participants of both my and my wife’s lectures as well as classes under Newsletter Solutions. I was also able to deploy a newsroom intranet system (using a discarded PC) with a portal, an online news style guide and a searchable database of new sources.

I was able to do all that because I use open source scripts."

Monday, September 05, 2005

Statement of Unity

Statement of Unity
Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan

We come from all walks of life, from different political, cultural, and economic persuasions, different points of view. But in diversity, we find a cause for unity. That cause for unity is our common objective to secure the truth.

We all seek the truth. We want the truth to come out. And yet every means for seeking the truth has been frustrated; every avenue for arriving at the truth has been blocked; and every opportunity to find the truth is being closed.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s response to our call for the truth has been to suppress evidence, hide her accomplices, engage in a grand cover-up, sow fear, foment distrust and use every instrument at her disposal to encourage division among our people.

We will not be divided in these critical times.

We say with one voice, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo must go. For the good of the country, she must go. For the sake of our nation’s future, she must go. For the preservation of hope as a motive force in our national life, she must go.

We are united by the belief that this crisis must be resolved in a manner that is peaceful and democratic. Without the truth, there cannot be peace; without the truth, there is no genuine democracy. The truth must set our nation free.

Unite for the truth. Demand the truth. Defend the truth.

Kami ay ang Bukluran Para sa Katotohanan.

Action for Economic Reforms
AKBAYAN Citizen’s Action Party
Ateneo Concerned Faculty and Youth
Bangon, Pilipinas
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)
Be Not Afraid
Black & White Movement
Citizens for TRUTH (Transparency, Responsibility, Unity, Trust, Hope)
Citizens for Truth, Resignation, Impeachment, or Ouster (C4T)
Coalition for National Solidarity
Counsels for the Defense of Civil Liberties (CODAL)
De La Salle
FPJP Movement
Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)
Interfaith Movement for Truth, Justice and Genuine Change (IFM)
Kilusan ng Makabansang Ekonomiya (KME)
Laban ng Masa
Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF)
Peoples Assembly for Genuine Alternatives to Social Apathy (PAG-ASA)
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP)
Reporma
Union of Muslims for Morality and Truth (UMMAT)
United Opposition (UNO)
Unity for Truth and Justice
UP AWARE
UP Diliman Student Council (UPD USC)
White Ribbon Movement
Women March
Youth DARE

Truth

Friday, August 26, 2005

Salen-ga Award

"Salen-ga, a Filipino, discovered that the negative electron is actually positive"

In honor of Prof. Edgardo E. Escultura, I am proposing the establishment of the Salen-ga awards. The Salen-ga awards will be given to that exemplary Filipino who has contributed to the development of Filipino's interest in science through the propagation of their crackpot theories.

I propose the creation of the Salen-ga Society. The Salen-ga Society will be the organization to administer the award. Those who wish to join the Salen-ga Society can apply here.

I propose that the award be given every 5th of May to commemorate the day when the Manila Times reported that Prof. EEE had disproven Andrew Wiles proof regarding Fermat's Last theorem.

Nominations to the award are now open, the first nominee, of course is Prof. Edgar Escultura. To nominate people, one must join the Salen-ga Society.

Suggestion for the improvement of the award are welcome, please join the Salen-ga Society.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Changing his mind

I got this comment from "Escultura Admirer" and I want to thank him for updating me on the latest developments with Prof. Escultura. I wanted more details so I went to Prof. Escultura's guest book and here is what I found.

On Tuesday 07/05/2005 5:23:50pm, a Mr. Roehlano M. Briones, wrote to Prof. Escultura this letter:
"I have attempted to confirm your story about the Nobel Prize nomination reported in Manila Times and found some anomalies.

I did a search for "Hieber" and "Jonhasen" in the Royal Swedish Academy website:

I got no hits. Nor do I find the names by checking one-by-one.

Furthermore information from the Nobel Prize website on nominations is clear:

http://nobelprize.org/physics/nomination/index.html

Information about nomination, etc. is kept secret for FIFTY YEARS. Only the winner is informed of the outcome.

Kindly send me your clarification by e-mail. Thank you."
Prof. Escultura responded
"Yes, it is a hoax and I have a statement about it in the Manila Times.

Thanks."
On Wednesday 07/06/2005 0:31:42am, a Mr. Benjamin Flores inquired
"Dear Professor,

Now that you have personally admitted as a hoax your "awards", I would like to know when the Manila Times will retract its articles and issue an apology for their flawed reporting?

best intentions,"
For which Prof Escultura replied
"The Manila Times will have my statement Thursday. E. E. Escultura"
Apprently, the letter did not get published because on Thursday 07/07/2005 4:08:13pm, Benjamin Flores again wrote to Prof. Escultura:
"Dear Professor,

The Thursday edition of Manila Times did not carry your statement.
------------
Did you actually win the Carl Gauss medal and the Michel Prize as well or was that also part of the hoax?"
The reply was
"The Times has not yet published my statement. It might appear on the same day the nobel article appeared. No independent verification of Gauss but appears to be independent. Michel Prize there is continuing dialogue with me and I have made the last requirement Tuesday. One of members involved in this project is a victim of the hoax.

E. E. Escultura"
Then on Friday 07/22/2005 3:40:55pm Richard Viejo asked
"Dear Professor,

I have an impressionable nephew who studies in Kalayaan College. Would you be so kind to let us know when your retraction will come out in the Manila Times?

Sincerely"
Things stood like this until on Tuesday 08/02/2005 7:31:11pm, Professor Escultura wrote
"Dear Mr. Viejo,

There is no need for rebraction. Everything is GO and will be known in due time.

E. E. Escultura"
So there it is, Prof. Escultura's belief that the nobel nomination is a hoax lasted for less than 30 days. And how come he came to believe that it was a hoax? The latest entry in his guest book explains
"Gentlemen/Madames,

For those who missed my recent statement, allow me to state it again.

The Nobel nomination is on. My previous assessment that it was a hoax was wrong. The error was stems from a conspiracy to make me believe that it was a haox. I hsve since then been contacted by my nominators to explain the situation and confirm my nomination.

E. E. Escultura"
Prf. Escultura Apparently missed this quote from Mr. Briones' letter
"Furthermore information from the Nobel Prize website on nominations is clear:

http://nobelprize.org/physics/nomination/index.html

Information about nomination, etc. is kept secret for FIFTY YEARS. Only the winner is informed of the outcome."
Prof. Escultura, unless you won, you are not supposed to know you were even nominated. That you are being informed by your "nominators" that you are nominated is a CLUE that it is a hoax. Please check more carefully.

p.s.

I want to thank Mr. Briones, Mr. Flores, Mr. Viejo and Mr. Reynold (whose letter I did not quote here) for their efforts to set the record straight on this matter even venturing within Prof. Escultura's guest book. To his credit, Prof. Escultura has been very open to all comers in his guest book, and does not seem to censor any of the posts even if the comments are against him.

Update:
Escultura Admirer has pointed out that Prof. Esculura has edited out from his guestbook the comments EA quoted regarding the PCIJ and UP. If EEE does not edit comments from othe people, it would seem that he does edit at least his own writings.

New Update:

I browsed EEE's site and I found out that the EA's quote is still there it's located not in EEE's guestbook but in his message board.

As I was browsing the message board I came upon this entry
Dear friends and colleagues,

I just had a conference with Andrew Wiles arranged by Dr. J-L Raymond of Luynes University, France (who awarded me the Michel Prize). He said he agreed with me but wanted more clarification as he is preparing to respond to my detractors. I shall publish the transcript of the conference in my journal in January for historical purposes.

E. E. Escultura
This message was posted by EEE July 12, 2005 at 7:02 PM. I wonder what kind of conference it was. And why should the transcripts be published only in January?

His admission of the Nobel Prize nomination is a hoax can also be seen there

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Service Interruption

For the past several weeks, I have been able to post at least once a week. But my coming schedule leaves little time for doing anything else but work so new entries will be few and far between at least until the end of September.

Thank you.

P.S.

This service announcement is intended for the 2 or 3 people who actually visit this site for new postings. You know who you are. :)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Honest Politician

Here in the Philippines, the term "honest politician" is often regarded as an oxymoron. Yet, the death of former Senator Raul Roco highlighted the fact that there was at least one politician that was regarded by people as not only honest but also competent.

Sef has raised the question who can we look up to now that Senator Roco is gone. The standard and safe answer is "look into yourself grasshopper, the power is within you". The answer though safe and standard is still of course, true. But I do not want to give a safe answer today, I want to name names and let the chips fall where they may. I want, in other words, to be a whistleblower. I can always retract my words anytime I want.

So here are my candidates for politicians that should give our country hope.
  1. Florencio "Butch" Abad - I first heard of Butch Abad when he was appointed by President Aquino as Secretary for Agrarian Reform. His confirmation as Secretary was subsequently blocked by his own colleagues at the House of Representatives because he was pro-land reform.

    He subsequently ran for Senator under the Salonga-Pimentel ticket in the 1992 elections (he lost). In 1995, he was re-elected as the representative for the lone-district of Batanes. If I recall correctly he was the majority floor leader during the 11th congress when he joined the impeachment complaint against President Estrada. And he just recently resigned as the Secretary of Education and called on President Aroyo to resign.

    Through out his political career, Butch Abad has shown that he is willing to forego/leave a government position to fight for his principles.

  2. Joker Arroyo - I had to laugh when I read his comment regarding Senator Roco, he said (according to the Philippine Star)
    "Roco was an idealistic person, but his problems started when he 'sought to combine his idealism with politics, compromise being the hallmark of politics'

    'He was uncompromising in his resistance to separate the two. That was his virtue as a true leader, his failing as a politician' "
    It's like the pot calling the kettle black. Senator Arroyo, even in his days as a congressman is known for refusing to use his pork barell allotments, for not employing excessive personal staff, he has been known to answer his own telephone and do his own research. And though he always seemed to end up in the majority, it has never prevented him from criticizing the government when he feels they had done wrong.

  3. Juan Flavier - Senator Flavier started out as the poorest Senator, now 10 years after, he is still the poorest Senator. Although I think he was a better Secretary of Health that a Senator, I do not know enough about his legislative record to be deemed competent to judge.

  4. Bayani Fernando - I must confess that I do not agree with a lot of Chairman Fernando's avowed policy, even when we was the Mayor of Marikina. But he does seem to get results. My travel time from Valenzuela City to Makati has gone down, even as he closed the underpass(?) to public utility vehicles in both Crossing and Cubao.

  5. Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte - I've always thought Mayor Belmonte was a typical politician until I saw him in the forefront of the Estrada impeachment case. But I place him here because of the reports of his reforms as Mayor of Quezon City. He has improved sevice, cut the number of employees and produced 2 billion pesos in savings for QC.
Other politicians that I have heard and seen good things about are: Mayor Jesse Robredo of Naga City, Mayor Raul Banias of Concepcion, Iloilo, Mayor Jett Rojas of Ajuy, Iloilo, Congressman Nerius Acosta and former Mayor of Datu Paglas and now candidate for ARMM Governor, Datu Ibrahim Paglas. I almost forgot Congressman Zamora, no, not the one from San Juan, the one from from Compostela Valley, the one who bicycles to work , Manuel "Way Kurat" Zamora.

I am sure that if we can still add to the names I've written here. If you really think about it, all of us do know of at least one honest and competent politician. Let us vote for them and as Senator Roco would say, let the seeds of change grow and dominate.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Raul Roco

Senator Raul Roco died today, I cannot articulate how I feel. So I point you to Sef at AlterNation 101 who expresses many of the things I feel.

"Less than 3 hours ago, it was reported that former senator and presidential candidate Raul Roco died at the St. Luke's Medical Center, apparently of prostate cancer (news from abs-cbnnews.com, inq7.net and philstar.com). I do not know Sen. Roco that well, but now that we are at a loss for leaders, I feel that his death is somewhat of a sad blow to our country."
Atty. Edwin Lacierda also shares his thoughts.
"Raul S. Roco will be forever be remembered for his greatness in the halls of the House of Representatives and the Senate floor and for his incorruptible accomplishments in the Department of Education. But I will always cherish him as my first teacher in the law profession who took time to train the humble and the lowly, to emphasize that right is might, the primacy of country over one's own, public service over private greed and faith in man's goodness over pessimism and hopelessness."
I extend my sincerest condolence to the family of the late Senator. I thank you for sharing your husband, father, brother and son with us, his countrymen.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Count the ERs

For the past several weeks, the Philippine Congress has been conducting hearings to determine whether the "Hello Garci" aka "Gloriagate" recordings are authentic. Yesterday, the Congress issued an arrest warrant for former COMELEC Commissioner Garcilliano after he "ignored it's summons to appear" (quoted fromt the PDI).

Meanwhile, the Senate for the past several months has been conducting hearings on jueteng (in aid of legislation). In the Senate hearings, there are allegations that Mike Arroyo, the husband of the President, Mikey Arroyo, the son of the President and Iggy Arroyo, the brother-in-law of the President are involved in this illegal endeavor. Yesterday, they had as witness/resource person, Michaelangelo Zuce who testified that the President knew that jueteng money was used to bribe Philippine election officials so they would help in her campaign. In addition, he also testified that "all the conversations (in the 'Hello Garci' tapes) really took place because Commissioner Garcilliano told me about them"

Partly because of the revelations from these hearings, an impeachment complaint was submitted to Congress. The complainants, for the past several days have been boasting about the roomfulls of evidence and the witnesses they have against the President. If Zuce is part of their panel of witnesses against the President, then I think we will be in for a long, very long impeachment. As I write this, the President's minions have been out gathering dirt against Zuce to damage his credibility, I do not know if the will succeed or not, or whether Zuce can convince more members of Congress to sign the impeachment complaint, I only know that I do not want this process to drag on.

I have been waiting for someone to propose we count the Elecion Returns, if the "Hello Garci " tapes are real and if election officials actually took bribes, then, this will be reflected in the higher levels of canvassing. The tapes, and maybe Mr. Zuce can pinpoint the provinces that cheating happened, Congress, in aid of legislation, can subpoena the Election Returns of these Privinces, they can then count the ERs per precinct and compare the results to the results of the Provincial canvass, if the ER totals are totally different than the Provincial canvass, then I think we can definitely conclude that cheating has taken place.

We do not need roomfulls of evidence and hundreds of witnesses to impeach President Arroyo, we need a smoking gun, and counting the ER's will give us concrete evidence of cheating. I can't understand why nobody is pursuing this. The opposition kept on insisting that the ERs be counted during the Congressional canvass, why are they not insisting on this procedure now? Surely a delay in the impeachment proceeding is permissible if it can guarantee victory. They do not even need to count all the provinces, one province where cheating can be proved is enough.

Count the Election Returns - let the Filipino people know the truth.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Googlefight

Found this site through The Panda's Thumb, I immediately saw that this can be used to decide once and for all the seething controversies in the Philippines.

First up, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vs Fernando Poe, Jr. - GMA should win this one, She was a cabinet undersecretary, a Senator, a Vice-President, and President of the Philippines, FPJ on the other hand was the undisputed King of Philippine movies and the number one opponent of GMA in the last elections. Even so, GMA should win.

Result

Next, Corazon Aquino vs. Ferdinand Marcos - Tita Cory as she is fondly addressed by Filipinos should also win this one, she was the President from 1986 to 1992, the generation most comfortable with technology, Macoy on the other hand ruled the Philippines for 20 years from 1966 to 1986, and has a rabid loyalist following, he can score an upset.

Result

Nora Aunor vs. Vilma Santos - The fight that has been raging for at least 3 decades, Ate Vi, should come out the winner, her career has had more staying power, she was able to get her husband elected to the Senate, she has won as Mayor of Lipa City. Ate Guy on the other hand was arrested in the US for drug possession, although that might tilt the fight in her favor.

Result

La Salle vs Ateneo - This is a fight that is truly unpredictable, both schools have loyal alumni and undergrads. If we go by the number of UAAP basketball championships, La Sallle should win handily. If we go by the number of Alumni who became President of the Philippines then Ateneo should win (Both President Estrada and Macapagal-Arroyo acknowledge their Ateneo roots.

Result

Lastly Crispa vs Toyota - The rivalry that should have ended in the early 80's when both basketball clubs were disbanded continues to this day in the minds of their most avid fans. Toyota should win this one because they have the larger and more dedicated fans, but as a Crispanatic I am pulling for my team

Result

I forgot that Toyota is an internationally known brand name so it was really no contest :)

If you think of more rivalries try out googlefight, it's a great way to waste time.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Adventures in Government 2

Manila City Hall

Yesterday, (August 1, 2005) I went to the Civil Registry Office at the Manila City Hall to get my birth certificate and have them transmit a copy to the NSO. I arrived at about 10 AM. For someone who had not been to the Manila City Hall before, it was a little confusing. The Civil Registry office was at the back and there were no signs to guide you. Fortunately, the guards and the employees were ready to answer questions from lost souls.

I had to line up just to enter the office, there were so many people that I thought it would take me all day just to get into the office. It took only 30 minutes, after entering the office, we were given an application form. I was applicant number 285. It took another 15 minutes for my number to be called, I wanted the Registry office to transmit my birth certificate to the NSO, appararently, the city incurs additional costs when transmitting birth ceritificates to the NSO, it also takes them longer to process the papers. I would have to go back to the Manila City Hall on August 5 to get my birth certificate.

Caloocan City Land Transportation Office (LTO)

Also yesterday, my sister applied to have her license renewed at the LTO in Caloocan. She had not renewed her license for weveral years so she had to again take the tests. She was accompanied by my mother. They arrive at the LTO before 11 AM and they got the license at about 6 PM. I was amazed at the speed in which the LTO processes licenses, a one day processing of license is quite good considering that my SSS ID has not yet arrived. There were some problems though.

One of which was that my sister was charged 280 pesos for something. She did not know what the 280 pesos was for and she was not inquisitive enough to ask, she innocently thought that the purpose for the 280 pesos would be reflected in the official receipt. Not so, the official receipt did not contain any item for 280 pesos. Maybe somebody out there knows what the 280 pesos was for, please enlighten me naman. The second problem also involved a receipt, this time the non-issuance by the health clinic where her drug tests were conducted, they charged her 250 pesos and did not issue any receipt. My sister deliberately tried not to use "fixers" in her application, and the only advantage that gave her, aside from knowing that she did her civic duty, was aggravation. She was actually thinking of reporting the events to Mike Enriquez.

Observations

Maybe if all Filipinos stop using "fixers" not only the ones that are paid, but also the "friends" we know. We would all be agitated enough to actually vote for people who would actually reform things in the bureaucracy.

Even after saying that, I must say that I am pleasantly surprized at the efficiency of the bureacracy both in the National agencies, (NSO, SSS, LTO) and the Local Government Units (Quezon City and Manila City). I would guess the stories about how it has been a disaster for them dealing with government bureaucracy is more the exception rather than the rule. Government bureaucracy works rather efficiently unless it is hit with exceptions (with situations outside of the norm) and then it may become a nightmare.

Something that I am finding increasingly irritating is how people in the bureaucracy seem not to smile. I know they do, because people smile all the time. But the majority of the folks I have encountered manning their posts seem to begrudge people smiles. Maybe its a defence mechanism, maybe when people see someone smile, they take it to mean that he/she is accomodating and they will flock to him/her, giving the person more work and problems than he/she can handle. Even so, I hope government units will encourage their personnel to smile at their clients, it will make for a more inviting and friendly atmosphere. It will make the applicants feel more like favored clients rather than numbers to be disposed of as fast as they possibly can.

Update:

I went to the Manila City Hall yesterday (August 5, 2005) to get my birth certificate. It took me less than 5 minutes. The transmittal to the NSO however will take another 2 weeks.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Adventures in Government

I am going to be married this year so my bride to be and I needed to get copies of our birth certificates and certifications of no-previous marriage (CENOMAR) from the National Statistics Office (NSO). Like many Filipinos, I viewed the transactions with government with trepidation. Tales of long lines, rude and unhelpful employees, unnecessary and illogical requirements abound. So I steeled myself to expect a stressful and frustrating day while applying for the above documents.

The National Statistics Office (NSO)

We arrived at the NSO office near Quezon Avenue about 11:40 AM, (Wednesday, July 27, 2005) we were immediately propositioned by people who claim they can “facilitate” the release of our documents. Fortunately, we found out that we needed to apply at the East Avenue office. We boarded an FX taxi, conveniently located next to the NSO and I presume ferries passengers to and from the two NSO offices.

We arrived at the NSO East Avenue office at about 12:45 PM. The entrance was prominently marked. The table where one can get the application forms were easy to see and the application forms themselves were color coded. The queue for the application forms was short and the application forms themselves were easy to fill up.

After filling-up the application, we were ushered to a fenced off area where we were given a number to signify our place in the queue. The first step after that was to another queue where employees of the NSO were checking if the application forms were properly filled-up. We were then directed to pay the application fee. The queue for payment was longer than the previous ones and we had to wait a few minutes before we were able to pay up. The birth certificate will be issued the next day, the CENOMAR , two weeks hence.

The Social Security System (SSS)

The application time for at the NSO was so unexpectedly short that I decided to push my luck and apply for an SSS identification card seeing as I only had to cross the street to get to the SSS. At the SSS information booth, I asked how I could apply for an SSS ID. The person manning the booth gave me an application form and directed me to submit the form at counter 53 in the next building.

The queue at counter 53 was longer than the queues we encountered at the NSO. There were only 2 people manning the counter, one possible reason is that some of the personnel might have been taking their lunch break. Anyway, counter 53 is not the end of the line, counter 53 is where they check whether your application form is complete and correct. After ascertaining this, they direct you to a booth where you are fingerprinted and photographed. The ID is to be sent to me through mail.

The entire application process for an SSS ID took me about an hour, the majority of which I spent waiting in line. Without the line, it would take maybe 15 minutes.

The Quezon City Government

After lunch, we still had a lot of time so we decided to apply for a marriage license at the Quezon City Hall. The Office where we had to apply, the Local Civil Registry Office, is located at the back of the City Hall compound and we got lost trying to find it. Fortunately, the guards were helpful in pointing us to the right direction. At the office, we had to pay an application fee before we were given the application forms. One of the requirements for a marriage license is attendance to a Family Planning seminar conducted by the Health Department of the City government. The person manning the counter directed us to the Health Department so we can attend the one being conducted that day.

We hurried to the Health Department, but as the seminar was supposed to start at 1:00 PM, we were late. I wanted to come back another day but the people conducting the seminar were kind enough to let us stay. They gave us a handwritten certification so that we only needed to present their certification so we can be issued the official one b the department. The seminar ended a little after 4:00 PM. We rushed to reserve a place for the wedding reception and then we headed home.

Problems

The next day (July 28, 2005) , while my bride to be was getting our birth certificates at the NSO, she was informed that the Manila City government failed to transmit to the NSO my birth certificate. I now have to go to the Manila City hall to request them to transmit my birth certificate to the NSO. Everything has now stopped until a true copy of my birth certificate is issued.

Abangan and susunod na kabanata.

Update (March 31, 2006)

I edited some sentences for clarity and changed the NSO address which I wrote as Timog avenue to the correct one at East Avenue.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Revisiting Escultura

I was browsing Alecks Pabico's article on Edgar Escultura when I came upon a letter that I wrote to the Manila Times regarding their news story about the good professor receiving the Carl Friederich Gauss Prize from the International Mathematical Union. I was not expecting them to again print a letter from me and I was distracted by the events then occuring in the Philippines that I did not see their response until now. My letter and the Manila Times response was copied by Jo Torres in the comments section of Alecks articles.

I mentioned in my letter that according to the website of the International Mathematical Union, the Carl Friederich Gauss Prize will be awarded for the first time in 2006 and I asked them to include this fact to amend their story.

Rather than directly refuting the fact, by for example, contacting the IMU directly and asking them to include the name of Mr. Escultura in the IMU website as a winner of the prize, the Manila Times published 2 letters from a John Gardiner supposedly from the International Mathematical Union with an e-mail address of imu@ias.edu and from a certain Imgul L. Bel member of the Deutsche Mathematiker-Vereinigung with an e-mail address at scott.migdole@yale.edu.

The letters were addressed to Prof. Escultura advising and congratulating him on winning the said prizes. Unfortunately, like the letters that Mr. Escultura supposedly received from Andrew Wiles, that the Manila Times describes as e-mail, these supposed letters were also comments from Mr. Escultura's guest book which Abe of Don't Let Me Stop You has proven, can be easily spoofed.

And again, the Manila Times seem not to know how to operate a browser and/or a search engine. Let us deal with Mr. John Gardiner first. The top item if you search for "John Gardiner" in google belongs to Prof. John Gardiner, a professor of psychology. A search for "John Gardiner and International Mathematical Union" yields only the Manila Times story, a poor yield for the President of the International Mathematical Union. and the imu@ias.edu e-mail? belongs to Phillip A. Griffiths, Secretary of the IMU. Who then is John Gardiner and why is he using an e-mail that does not belong to him? He certainly is not the President of the International Mathematical Union, that honor belongs to Professor John M. Ball, Sedleian Professor of Natural Philosophy and Fellow of the Queens College at Oxford University.

A simple search, I did it in 20 minutes, could have informed the Manila Times that they may not be dealing with a real person here, maybe the search result of Professor John Gardiner, psychologist could have given them a clue?

Next, Imgul L. Bel, a google search yielded no results. Very paltry for a member of Yale University. Similar results were obtained when I searched the Yale University phonebook but not when you search for the supposed e-mail address of Mr. Bel. A google search for the e-mail scott.migdole@yale.edu, reveals that the e-mail belongs to, surprise, Scott Migdole - Chief Operating Officer of the Yale Behavioral Health program from the Yale Department of Psychiatry.

So again, the Manila Times had believed comments coming from Mr. Escultura's guest book. They believed that the
Carl Friederich Gauss Prize, is given through online transactions. They did not check the veracity of the supposed prize nor the reality of the commenters. If they did, maybe the links to known mental health practitioners would have given the Manila Times a clue that they are being played for fools.

I do not fault Mr. Escultura on this and previous matters, he is a harmless old crank who probably actually believes in his theories. The Manila Times however should know better, keeping to best journalistic practices should keep them safe from hoax letters. But they did not, and so they tarnish their reputation.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Filipino

Ayon sa Manila Times, ang mga korte sa siyudad ng Malolos, Bulacan ay nagsimula ng gumamit ng Filipino bilang wika sa paglilitis. Ang pag-gamit daw ng Filipino ay nagustuhan ng mga nililitis sa kadahilanang mas naiintindihan nila ang nangyayari sa korte at sa kanilang kaso.

Ang pag-gamit ng Filipino sa mga korte sa Pilipinas ay sinusuportahan ng National Directorate ng Integrated Bar of the Philippines at mga abogado ng Bulacan.

Gusto ko lang bigyang diin ang obserbasyon ng mga nililitis na gusto nila ang pag-gamit ng Filipino dahil sa mas naiintindihan nila ang nangyayari sa korte. Ito sa palagay ko ang pinaka-mabigat na rason kung bakit kailangang gamitin ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas ang Filipino sa kanyang mga transaksiyon. Dahil sa Filipino ang ginagamit ng tao, mas maiintindihan ng mga tao ang ginagawa ng gobyerno kung Filipino ang ginagamit nila.

At dahil sa mas mai-intindihan ng mga tao ang mga ginagawa ng gobyerno, baka tumaas ang tiwala ng mga tao sa gobyerno.