Monday, May 29, 2006

The Lowly Philippine Half Centavo

The current day Philippine peso definitely cannot get one a bagful of pan de sal, the islands’ bread staple. Imagine what a half centavo could purchase!

Next to nothing. Plus, there is no issue of half centavo on the current set of coins.

However, once upon a time, half centavos were in circulation and did have real purchasing value.

Click to read on.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Making Sense Of The Da Vinci Code Phenomenon

Some Candid observations.

The early works /books on the Shroud of Turin, including the recent one that also tied the name of controversy-magnet Da Vinci to an alleged hoax, and which work is alleged to be not fiction, made very tiny splashes compared to the deluge created by DVC, both in book and movie form.

Enjoying its late-blooming successes at the tills, the DVC is now being compared to Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ, which also created quite a stir during its time. Now its precursor book, Holy Blood, Holy Grail, which many concede was better written and had a more exciting storyline, is following suit and generating more sales because of the DVC. And needless to state, the other works of fiction of author Dan Brown are also garnering reflected glory and late financial successes.

You know what might be the most primal and elemental thread that piques people’s interest to read and/or view these particular stories, whether fictional or factual, and not the others?

Let not anybody, least of all the fainthearted and shaky of faith, be shocked and scandalized. But it is my lowly hypothesis that it is the sex angle in them that sparked their great following. The eye-popping revelation that Jesus Christ could be involved in any human sexual relationship! That’s what piques and titillates the interest of most everybody, sufficient enough to make people want to set aside time and resources to read or view those works.

I have witnessed the randomly-picked man/woman on the street being asked on TV, sheepishly say that that is so. And of course, the image of Leonardo Da Vinci over time has been defined and inured by sexual innuendos. And as the unwritten but revered advertising code declares and confirms: Sex Sells!

The Passion of the Christ was also a box-office success, narrating a very oft-told and reflexively familiar story, already known to most of the world. Granted that the antecedent stories about the unparalleled gore and barbarism made for a compelling intro and come-on for the patrons to see the movie. But there may be more to it than just that.

Producer/Director Mel Gibson hired his cast composed mostly of virtual unknowns in the US, and thus not noteworthy not only in renown but also in looks, except possibly for James Caviezel. And of course, the very beautiful and voluptuous Italian siren, Monica Bellucci, cast in the role of Mary Magdalene. So, why her for that specific role? Even the role of Mother Mary, who may have only been 47 when Jesus died, is given to an older-looking woman who though possessed of striking features paled considerably when compared with the former.

The news reported that Miss Paris Hilton in her recent holidays in Europe was paid a cool 1.2 million bucks, just to be present in a couple of events and to wave her dainty hand to the public.

So what kinetic attraction value do you think she has? Most everybody knows.

What could possibly develop if we all simply “get out of the closet” and recognize the very strong, maybe immutable and inescapable, magnetism sex and its many allures exert in the everyday and workaday lives of most humans? Is it time maybe to let it all hang out in the open, and maybe somehow strip away (puns intended) some of the puzzling mystique of guilt pleasures clandestinely associated with it?

For after all, isn’t it that most everybody, experts and lay people alike, already swear that sex is good and should not be viewed as dirty and shameful?

Sunday, May 21, 2006

In The Not Too Distant Past . . . .

Oh, how we easily take things for granted.

We sit smugly in our own little world in front of a comfortably small machine that speedily and unobtrusively transports us to the vast frontiers of cyberspace, in matters of seconds. And oh, we can say, in nanoseconds.

A machine that in its tiny physical parameters can list really stupendous capabilities and powers – a processor that boasts of speeds of over 3Ghz, storing processed information in random memory of over 1Gig, and permanently storing files of any format or flavor into a hard drive with a capacity of over 200Gigs, and whatever new-fangled bells and whistles we have accessorized it with.

We of course, do not necessarily gloat over this prized possession because we know there are out there machines that can run circles on our own. Machines that may have multiple processors, or even multiple-core processors, and even faster and larger memory chips, and multiple, faster, and larger hard drives.

But we have reasons to take these for granted – because they are now quite commonplace, and relatively cheap for the typical consumer to hanker for and acquire.

But in the not too distant past, the world was a lot more primitive, coarse, and snail-like in motion. And we do not mean centuries or eons past. What about in the early 80’s?

In 1982, working for a first-class hotel in downtown San Francisco, one had the opportunity to work in EDP (Electronic Data Processing) and toy around with a mini-computer the size of a small refrigerator. It was the heart of a network connected via co-axial cable with nodes attached to dumb terminals. The computer itself (named Four Phase and made by a company named Datahost) had two spinning drives, one live and the other back-up. Anyway, measuring against current technology, it was so old one hardly remembers much about it.

Then by 1985 came the IBM System 3x (34, 36, 38), technically marketed as mini-computers though larger than the previous one, measuring at least like a big commercial-size freezer. And the tandem printer measuring and weighing just a little bit less. Still networked via co-axial cable with nodes attached to dumb terminals. But at this stage, progress signs were already evident, with the use of sub-systems on a token-ring model with exchanges of data coming from outside via circuit-switched phone lines, with registered speeds of 4-6 MHz.

In late 1994, hotel management decided to try IBM’s newest but mysterious and incredibly small and squat machine labeled the AS400 (Application System). Unfortunately, its introduction and marketing was at the cusp of the breakout of the personal computer as the machine of choice for business. Thus, we never really had time to get acquainted with the black console, which if located on the floor required back-stretching motions to operate its buttons and view its tiny console screen.

But backtracking a bit, in 1981, IBM launched its first Personal Computer and in the process coining the word, PC. x286, x386, x486 – terms most probably now lost in current-day tech-jargon. But it will be decent to remember that a computer with an x486 processor powered the original Mars rover that did many of that wonderful stuff for earthbound operators, doing so many millions of miles away. Is this the same rover that to this date continues to receive commands from earth stations? I can’t say.

But by 1993, the first Intel Pentium chips had been launched with initial processor speed of 60-66 MHz. and quickly progressing to 90-100-160 MHz.

And quickly by 1995, the PC had already firmly established itself as a business tool, and faster and more efficient network models were very well into their seamless integration with the PC. Thus, we had our auspicious introduction to the Server/Workstation model via Ethernet, using the then popular server operating system, the Windows NT 3.1, in tandem with Windows 95 for the deployed workstations.

But even well into the start of the new millennium, our server PCs were still running with single processors at speeds of no faster than 400Mhz and we had workstations running at 200Mhz , with a good number still chugging along at 160Mhz.

But the following years up to the current one we have witnessed the remarkable explosion in processor speed that had most everybody worshipping Moore’s law on its evolution.

Now thinking and planning beyond the physical limits imposed by nature on silicon, people in the industry are now talking about nanotechnology – venturing and striking into the molecular or atomic level of matter.

Are we now approaching what has been projected and termed by some scientists as Singularity? – An exponentially expanding future from an exponentially shrinking technology.

Who can say? Another projection for Brave New World Revisited 2x?

Genocide, Genetics, Genome, And Genealogy

At no time in man’s short history of civilized living has he arrived at the same breakneck speed that he has exhibited in this current attempt to decimate and annihilate his own kind, with such unparalleled magnitude and barbaric ferocity. Societies now talk about wiping out of the map entire countries, and even civilizations, if and when given the opportunity. Never has man except now been so enamored with barbaric violence that beheadings and executions taped and nonchalantly played on media have become commonplace.

Any reasonable earthman may be impelled to surmise that any similarly-gifted alien chancing upon this beautiful-looking “pale blue dot”, a puny resident of the universe’s Milky Way, might be stultified in grave wonder when he takes a closer look and realizes that its inhabitants are locked in mortal self-assured mutual destruction. Appearing too eager to drive down the inexorable path of self-annihilation.

But what is not easily discernible is that this same species is a hopeful one. Infused in his nature as one of his emergency passions, he is eternally and inveterately hopeful, regardless of the countless vicissitudes confronting him. At times maybe reacting out of fear, but definitely as part of the inborn instinct of self-survival.

Thus, amidst all these troubling developments, a good many humans continue on with the task of finding ways and means to improve the common lot of humankind. People searching and discovering novel ways to extend the life of man, improve his cognitive skills, assist in his dominion over creation, and overall, improving how he can experience life.

One such global endeavor is the tracking and recording of the human genome, man’s complete set of genetic information which includes his DNA and RNA. Already scores of organizations are thick in the progress of tracking down to the gene level certain common diseases and predispositions that man has been plagued with, with the earnest hope of finding not only cures for them, but eventually of preventing their onset by learning about genomes in a family’s genealogy and looking for possible prevention on that level.

Thus the study of one’s family history, or genealogy, usually borne out of curiosity has taken on more profound dimensions and is now being engaged as an integral component in this big joust to combat human diseases.

As one intermittently preoccupied with my own family’s genealogy, this new development certainly buoys one’s spirits to concoct grandiose dreams of someday seeing this little hobby or avocation take on an exalted place as one of man’s critical tools in his deep strides toward improving his species’ progeny.

And what is happening in Iceland today shows the extent and promise that this project brings.

And this island nation, tucked close to the icy North Pole, is most unique and apropos in many ways, for precisely this kind of project.

It is a small nation with population of only 275,000. And its public health system has been most thorough and meticulous keeping individual medical records since 1915.

About 80% of the present population can trace their lineage, all the way back 1200 years ago, when a few hundred Vikings and some Celts settled in the island. Thus, genealogy has been an integral part of family culture and tradition.

Being a rather geographically isolated place, there has not been much migration to the island since the first settlement, making the population as homogeneous as one can get. And because of this isolation outside disasters such as famine and plagues have been precluded from adding new genetic input into the local gene pool.

Homogeneity is believed to be a big help in studying genetic disorders in populations, rather than just on individuals since it is further claimed that change or mutation over time occurs in populations not in individuals.

All these factors pooled together have made possible the following development.

Started in 2000, the government now has created a centralized national health database of all the Icelandic peoples' genealogical, genetic, and personal medical information. Thus, family histories are included in this database. It was the initial intent of Parliament to gather genetic data of all Icelanders to facilitate the identification of genetic traits and inherited diseases with the ultimate purpose of finding drugs to arrest such diseases at the gene level.

deCODE, the company contracted by the government to undertake this study, hopes to market to interested parties whatever important and useful information may be derived, including but not limited to pharmaceutical companies and health care providers

Friday, May 05, 2006

Part Of Culture Or Simply Bad Table Manners?

At this time, the still unresolved impasse in Canada involving the little Filipino immigrant boy of 7 chastised by his lunchroom monitor and school principal for his exotic table manners is about as passé as the proverbial dead horse being beaten.

But the continuing deadly silence emanating from the Canadians has allowed this little petty incident to not only take on a life of its own but could actually morph into an ogre of a situation.

The justifiably angry rhetoric coming from expats and compats of the islands nation of the Philippines continues to being heaped unabatedly upon the two hapless Canadian bureaucrats who have remained silent, at least publicly.

I wonder why they just do not get right on to it and explain where and what really is the crux of this problem. And mind you, I do not think it was the because the little boy showed ambidextrous finesse with his unusual ease in the use of two metal utensils (spoon and fork) why he was being chastised and isolated from the rest of his classmates during lunch. That can’t possibly be the real cause.

So why not just come up and say that Westerners get turned off seeing and hearing from some Asian cultures the manner they chew their food with mouths open and making audible lip-smacking sounds doing so.

To the typical Westerner’s eye while this may be part of the alien’s culture, it also seemingly smacks of unsavory table manners.

And you know what, they would probably have unanimity of opinion on this, including from those coming from those same cultures in question.

Consider the following reactions coming from Filipinos themselves:

FilAm from Stockton
Who hates it when people make chewing noises and consume with their mouths open while eating / who loves to eat hot and spicy food / who loves all types of food …

A comment from one blogsite:
Re: Filipino Table Etiquette Punished at Montreal School
by jen on Fri 28 Apr 2006 09:54 PM EDT | Permanent Link
“Eat like a pig”???
Boy that makes me mad. I find someone chewing with their mouth open far more offensive. While they’re at it, they should clamp down on people who lick their knives as well.

A FilAm Student of UC – Irvine:
Pet Peeves? Chewing with mouth open/smacking your mouth when you chew.

A Filipina In Hawaii
Pet-peeves: People who PDA in front of everybody, people who chew with their mouth open, …..

From An Asian Lady in UC-Davis:
What are your pet peeves?
People who chew with mouth open, talk with mouth full;

From An American from faraway Rhode Island:
What things turn you off about someone?:
Smoking (It's not good for you). Chewing with mouth open.

Here are a few statements from a blog entry that was intended as a parody on our most famous FilAm political journalist/blogger and best-selling author, Michelle Malkin:

Progressives have long questioned the authorship of Michelle Malkin’s books & articles, as it stretches credibility to imagine that someone who’s a minority twice over - not just a short person but one from New Jersey - would be capable of spelling her own name. While it’s true that Filipinos are known for being extremely rude, real Filipino women dress in mismatched prints & eat with their mouths open.

Linked to the last clause, eat with their mouths open, was the following:

Category: Geography
Subject: Lip-smacking Filipinos
I work in a small office with three Filipino employees and live in an area with a large Filipino population. It seems that most or all of them smack their lips when eating - and not quietly. I avoid taking lunch when they do because this is so annoying to me. I was taught that smacking lips and eating with your mouth open is very rude. Is this something common to the Filipino culture and not considered rude there?
POSTED 8/23/2004
Mike, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, 43, Male, Humanist, White/Caucasian, Gay, Finance, Over 4 Years of College, Upper middle class, Mesg ID 8132004122029

So there you have it. And there is more from where this came from.

Blogging: Outlet For Inhibitions?

© Donna Loos "Inhibitions" Acrylic and Copper

So now aside from being so full of. . . opinions, blogging also provides an easy and ready outlet for our inhibitions as a species. That is the conclusion reached by Mr. Daniel Henninger in his column in the Opinion Journal. According to him, a "Blogs Trend Survey" released last September, America Online reported that only 8% blog to "expose political information." Instead, 50% of bloggers consider what they are doing to be therapy.

Half of the bloggers surveyed confessed to self-medicating themselves by writing blogs and exposing to the public their repressed inhibitions; so in effect blogging for them, provides the “therapy for the uninhibited”. Much like being in a confessional?

But why the big fuss about inhibitions that we keep away from the public.

Granted that we have been taught early that repressing one’s inhibitions is generally not a healthy thing, and could lead to bad traumatic experiences later on in life.

But still somehow, we draw the line, granted an imaginary line, about things that we should continue to be inhibited about in public. Vile language could be one. What about our innermost sexual fantasies, maybe? Henninger mentioned the case of the alleged cannibal who was indicted recently here in the US. He had intimated his dark secrets on cannibalism on his blog. His writings may now form part of the body of evidence against him.

In fine, inhibitions do have positive roles in our lives, and they keep us honest and in civil concourse with the rest of our kind.

But does blogging really shatter the boundaries of inhibitions and becomes or has become whatever strikes a blogger’s whims and fancies?

Mr. Henninger admonishes and warns his readers with the phenomenon called disinhibition, “which is the breaking down of personal restraints and the endless elevation of oneself”.

Have we breached that point?

I say we may be aggressively approaching the threshold, unless we take stock and re-orient our collective focus.

When one visits the eclectic world of personal diaries, one can readily see unmistakable signs where age-old inhibitions have been breached and exposed to the world and we find ourselves none the better for them.

And in political blogs where the discourses are most heated, partisan and incendiary, readers are served daily a fat dose of insensitive, unkind, unchristian, etc. language that ought to have stayed where it came from – the side of the road where sewage and other debris are collected. So we could be fast approaching a break in the levee that has held our collective uneasy peace and harmony in constant check.

Other observers, of course, do not share this gloomy prognosis, for blogging specifically.

Rather, they believe this retrogression extends to all facets of culture, this newest medium being just a mirrored reflection of what is happening overall.

And of course, others cannot make heads or tails about this, whether it augurs well for some thing good or is a portent of things evil. But definitely, it leads to some kind desensitization to the evil and ugliness in this world.

But how does one get desensitized with vile language? Doesn’t it typically bring out the worse not only in the one originating it, but in the one reading and receiving it?

Monday, May 01, 2006

Learning Is Never Dull

In this fabled land of milk and honey, of roads made of gold, of a veritable cornucopia of abundance and opulence, savvy entrepreneurs relentlessly devise ways and means to cater to the insatiable drives of the citizenry desirous of claiming a yearned-for piece of the above, i.e., in pursuit of their American “dreams”. And the menu of choices are just as varied as the cosmopolitan ethnicities of the population, and the diversity of moral, political, social, etc. orientation and persuasion of the populace.

Click to read on . . .

US$1,322,500 For Your Old Nickel Or Half-Dime

In the wonderful world of numismatics, the incredible values for collecting do not stop with the acquisition of the precious object desired. Aside from the joys and excitement of possessing a rare and history-filled little piece of metal, there is the added boon that someday it could translate into a financial windfall for the hoarder.

Please click to read on . . .