Thursday, May 31, 2007

A Question and an FYI

When you view your blog, do you see this HTML tag added after each (or most) paragraph?

I see these added strings in some of the blogs I visit.

I learned that this is due to proprietary HTML tags created by Microsoft word or other MS applications.

Also learned that there are ways to strip your blog entry of these unintended and unnecessary additions. One way is to try exporting one’s draft entry to Blogger as a filtered HTML.

Or, I am made to believe that there are programs out there that can perform the stripping for exported messages or entries. Will try to research.

Hope this helps.

BTW, tried broadcasting this “error” to friends, quoting the exact same tag and Blogger’s comment box will not allow it as acceptable HTML.

Any ideas?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Toiling For Dual Citizenship

Somehow I knew that the inevitable would come. And inexorably, it did last May 25th.

When it first became a real option backed by law in 2004, I recall I had summarily dismissed it and relegated it to some dusty corner of my memory bank, a mental vault where one is said to keep one’s list of procrastinated chores or low-priority issues that could be revisited in the future.

But markedly bothered by my growing need for it, I had finally decided to opt in its favor. Electing dual citizenship, that is. And mind you, it is for no deep-seated patriotic or wrenching nationalistic longing for a country already ceremoniously set aside in favor of another through a formal oath-taking. But essentially emanating from some lower gut level, more along the economic and self-serving sphere. After all, it should also be noted that its eventual passing and promulgation as a law was manifestly as an accommodation and/or an almost Faustian bargain between the ex-nationals and the old homeland. It passed essentially because the prevailing sentiment of both government and business was that this process would allow former citizens to partake of rights and privileges bestowed only on current citizens, but most especially the rights to own real estate, and engage in business and most other essential economic endeavors typically closed to foreigners. And thrown in for good measure, the rights of suffrage.

So on the morning of May 25th which was a Thursday, with heavy heart and equally laden steps, we drove the almost 70 miles that separated us from the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco. Deep in the tony downtown area in San Francisco along Sutter Street is where the consular offices are ensconced in a building that also accommodates the Philippine AirLines, and a bunch of FilAm-owned travel-related small businesses. Somehow clustered around due to some strong symbiotic dependencies. Some kind of a one-stop shop, or more like a tiangge, which is now quite popular in the old homeland. Thus, you go see any one of several travel agencies housed in the same building for your planned vacation trip back to the old homeland, then pass by PAL to get your tickets. A stop at the 6th floor lobby of the Consulate maybe for updating or renewing your travel papers. And oh, should you need new photos or copies of documents of your updated travel documents, no need to leave the building. These services are also available there.

I had the necessary documentation neatly stapled and filed in my black leather folder and further secured inside my black leather carry-on bag with strap slung through one shoulder. And additionally prepared for the always-chilly weather of downtown San Francisco with warm clothing, we negotiated in quick cadenced steps the almost mile-long distance from parking lot to the Sutter location.

Though we spent almost the entire morning for our business, service was definitely better than those one would typically find in the old homeland. And though I tried diligently to comply and complete requirements, my preparation was eventually found embarrassingly wanting.

To apply for dual citizenship, one had to first fill up the form, Petition for Dual Citizenship and Issuance of Identification Certificate (IC) with the now reduced supporting document requirements. For my case, all that was needed as supporting documents were a valid or expired Philippine passport and a copy of the naturalization certificate.

Sounds quite easy, right? Not for poor klutz me. The two photos required for the application did not pass muster with the requirements. The form itself which I filled up at home, twice, printed from the Internet, was judged old and obsolete. Though a cursory check did not reveal any substantial differences. And though, a COPY of the naturalization certificate is submitted, one still had to bring the originals for verification. (The word, copy, is capitalized because if one reads the certificate, it boldly states in red letters: It is punishable by U.S. law to copy, print or photograph this certificate, without lawful authority. So I assumed this was required under lawful authority.)

But like I said, this being a one-stop shop, all the pesky kinks were rectified in no time. Except that during the oath-taking scheduled a week later, I still have to show the original of the naturalization certificate.

And thus, before the clock struck one, we were back out in the cold streets of San Francisco, a bit wiser (to the requirements, at least) and almost $100 poorer for parking fee, new photos and copies, and application filing fee.

Then, already settled in and feeling warm and secure inside the car on the long drive back home, it stealthily dawned on me.

Man is almost always driven by impulses, rather than by deliberate, well-formed, and well-reasoned plans of action. We tend to do things at the spur of the moment, at the crack of the whip, normally with insufficient thought and diligence. I should have known better, I exclaimed.

Anyway, cultivating and nurturing hindsight has its redeeming values. Hopefully, the next time around one becomes more deliberate and purposeful.

So here’s an initial stream of hindsight knowledge that could shed some light on whether the decision made overall was a positive experience or not.

There are larger and graver ramifications of dual citizenship, larger and bigger than one’s puny self-interests, if we are to rely on certain studies made.

However, at the present time 93 countries around the world allow dual citizenship in some form or other; (though from that same number, some could be said to instead just “tolerate” it). The US is one such country which allows it, together with France and Switzerland, and yes, even Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent (huh?).

These gnawing concerns will be addressed sometime in the near future, as soon as I am done with the oath-taking scheduled at the end of this current month.

Till then.

Memorial Day 2007

Commemorating Memorial Day today, May 28, 2007.

Do you know the difference between Veterans Day (November 11) and Memorial Day? From the U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs:

Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle.

While those who died are also remembered on Veterans Day, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime.

In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty. A complete history of Veterans Day, and why it is observed on November 11, can be found on the Veterans Day History Web page.

But beyond the fact that the people who serve in the armed services are either dead or still alive, the two holidays are one in reminding us that liberties and freedoms enjoyed are bought and paid for by the selfless services of those who took arms.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Getting Acquainted With Tracy

We have now completely settled in and ready to call ourselves residents of Tracy. But unfortunately beyond our immediate surroundings and the few places we have visited, such as the church, the malls, the grandkids’ schools, and our daughter’s house along those gated developments hemmed in between Tracy Boulevard and Corral Hollow Road, we have not really gotten acquainted with the city. In things both tangible and intangible.

Our life experiences have shown us different ways to get acquainted both with people and with things. Typically one could approach it with serious purpose and design, or simply allow one’s many unplanned and spontaneous interaction with it to develop into some form of bond of acquaintance and familiarity over time.

I did begin to approach this “task” with some basic purpose and design at the very beginning. First, securing a street map of the city, allocating time to peruse its main community paper, Tracy Press, and of course, driving and asking around whenever possible. But then again, this process could easily get stunted or onerous as to be too mechanical and maybe, devoid of emotional and purposeful content.

Why not allow the local sights, color, history, and its people to simply be slowly soaked in as one is being exposed to them and to allow these to seek their own levels of ease and comfort, before unerringly and automatically being translated into some kind of amiable acquaintance with and understanding of the entire city?

This process can be so effortless, so natural and uncontrived. And so smooth as to make one totally unaware of and unburdened by the many little changes that will take over one’s life.

Thus, the decision was made and today, a Sunday, was to be the first sortie. Much like beginning to know a person, any person, one can begin to notice and make judgments of the physical characteristics of the place. Its terrain, its geographic orientation, its infrastructures, etc.

Man is funny in a way. Any analysis he makes about most things is usually couched around comparing that thing with other similar things he has known or experienced. Any judgment made is typically based on an analogy. Thus, we say this is good because compared to this it is… Or, this is a good thing to do because it is authoritatively written that given these, this is the right and properly thing to do. Etc.

Having lived in a San Mateo County city, Daly City, for many years, the unveiling comparison will hinge on that experience.

When one catches sight of Tracy coming from that milieu, one is immediately taken aback by the flatness of Tracy’s terrain. One taking a 360 degree look around can only notice the Altamont to the west as a clear and unmistakable gradation of its flatness. Everywhere else is flat terrain as far as the eye can see. Minus the many undulating hills that pock the areas to the west and into the ocean. Clearly without much serious research, Tracy was or is a farming town, complete with grid-iron cuts of land all around.

Given that it now counts about 80,000 as among its residents, many of these new houses must have sprung from old farmlands converted into tract subdivisions.

Today, we took a leisurely drive from home to church and back to the house, on a calm sunny morning before eight. This took us through Byron Road going east, which road is cut close to the railroad tracks. Then through Lowell Street passing through the now storied high school (Remember the reported fatal accident of car-riding students some weeks ago?) before turning right on Parker St. Stopped at its intersection with Eaton St. for church service.

After church, continued on through Parker St to its intersection with 11th St, which dissects through the city and could arguably now be considered its main street. Given that it is also I-205’s business route. And its multi-laned wideness defined by an ample median island gives it the feel and look of a real highway. Taking a westerly direction we ended at its intersection with Lammers Road, the last intersection prior to the on-ramp that takes one to I-205 going west.

We made our right turn and back to the bosom of our gated community.

The following pictures trace graphically the same route described above. And one cannot help but notice how wide the streets were. No such luxury in many neighborhoods of “old” Daly City where we came from. How few the cars parked curbside overnight. How empty the streets of people were, though granting that it was a Sunday morning. Truly for us, these were novel experiences.

It was overall, a nice leisurely and mute ride for us. An enlightening experience.

(View pictures from bottom up) Click on individual pictures for larger and clearer view.

The experience continues. . . .

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Philippine Politics

Idealism without action is simply that, idealism, however cogently, articulately, and lucidly explained and proposed.

On the other hand, idealism, however compromised, dented, battered and watered down by realities, translated into action transcends from the abstract to the value-adding real and now.

Said differently, a million words thrown into the air cannot begin to compare to any one micro-ounce of sweat equity expended. Weighing more, the latter infinitesimally should be valued and desired more.

Thus, the following comments articulated in one of the arguably most revered political blogs in the old homeland, best expressed my own insipient attitudes about politics and political punditry.

A commenter carrying the handle of devilsadvc8 had the following to say initially and following further are his replies to rebuttal issues brought against his initial statements, in the blog of Mr. Manuel L. Quezon III.
(Quoted verbatim, except for some cosmetic edits):

I am assuming that devilsadvc8 authors this blog.

The biggest thing this election has proven is this:

You can’t save a nation who doesn’t want or isn’t yet ready to be saved, and that people like Dr. Martin Bautista are more of a hero and a person to be idolized than intellectuals and “talkers” like MLQ3.

Don’t get me wrong, Manolo. I idolize you. From the way you present your views, to how erudite you seem to be. But “genius” talk with no action is shown up to be just lame when people like Martin and Fr. Ed (who are nowhere near Manolo’s intellectual capacity) show and step up to the plate with nothing more than the genuine desire to “take action” and bet on the people.

We have multitudes spewing rhetoric, only a genuine few taking the hard path. The hardest thing of all is to “walk the talk.”

We have no shortage of honest people with good intentions. Only a shortage of them wanting to sacrifice their private lives to serve the public.

The real problem is that the Filipino people are not given many “good” options. If they are, we see them proving that they are more than up to the task of being “wise” voters.

“How can a Christian fundamentalist who spent 20 years abroad be a hero?”

The same way Rizal did. It isn’t the spending abroad that defines a person’s “unhero-ability” (as Rizal proved when the larger part of his life was spent abroad) but the coming back and offering oneself to his nation that proves his heroism (as Rizal proved when he decided to come back, even though he knew he’d be prosecuted and probably killed for his “advocacies”)

“Bautista has disillusioned a lot of people.”

I don’t know where you got that “lot of people,” but if I and the others I read about are any indication, then Bautista inspired more than he disillusioned. In fact, Bautista’s action got me into thinking: reklamo tayo ng reklamo sa masamang pagpapalakad sa atin, pero wala naman tayong ginagawa. (we whine constantly about the bad things happening, yet we do nothing.) Why don’t we start by involving ourselves actively? Perhaps come next elections, we’ll see less of those “unopposed candidacies” and see more “ordinary individuals” challenging the trapos running for office.

“I’m not sure if guilt-tripping Manolo into running for public office will be more effective than Edwin Lacierda’s proposed guerilla campaign the other day. Mlq3’s entry into the Senate (or any political office) would be a great boon for representative democracy but will also be a loss for direct democracy (i.e. his blogging and other advocacies) so I’m not sure if it would be a net gain or loss.”

I’m not guilt-tripping Manolo. I’m guilt-tripping everyone. And I don’t think his entry into public office would signal the demise of his advocacies. It doesn’t follow that if you become a public official, you have to give up your advocacy. You are even more in a position to strengthen it, and spread the word when you are elected into office.

And btw, I don’t think Manolo would be sufficiently effective in the Senate (or the House). The framework of our government is such that collective idiocies (like the senate and the house) do little to make an impact in the everyday life of Filipinos. After all, what is there to lawmaking if the laws aren’t being enforced? The power, as always, resides in the local gov’t. A good and honest politician who is determined to improve his city will be able to (as proven by Robredo), regardless of who sits in Malacanang. In fact, the focus of the “other” opposition (those outside Erap’s circle) should’ve been to field local candidates to all cities nationwide, and I’m sure we would’ve seen the people vote them all into office. That would’ve rendered GMA a sure lame duck. As she and her cohorts would then have lost that vaunted “grass-roots” they keep talking about.

If even just enough cities start having politicians like Robredo, then the people would slowly realize that their dream of being lifted out of poverty lies in public officials who don’t only patronize through money, but in public officials who will be exemplary ones, in thought, action, and example. There would be a domino effect, as people in neighboring cities would see the good things happening near their fence, and envy that city for having that kind of mayor. They would then aspire to have the same kind of thing, and sooner than you know, would demand the same thing from their leaders.

“That was Civil Society’s first attempt at taking power and governing and see where that has led us. The entry of civil society members into the State has had a double negative effect in that it has led to loss in momentum in the advocacies of those on the outside and has corrupted a lot of those remained on the inside. The people in government whom we are fighting now are the same ones who had high ideals back then.”

No. The people we are fighting now have always been the same people back then. They only shed their sheep’s clothing. If you review the actions of Arroyo et al, you would see the pattern, and would surmise they never had the same ideals as the civil society that catapulted them into power.

“Civil Society has a finite amount of energy and I believe that we were more effective in the public sphere rather than within the institutions of the State.”

This is where we disagree of course. If in fact CS has a finite amount of energy, then it seems more logical to concentrate that energy into where it won’t be wasted. GK is the perfect example. One whack of the demented Arroyo regime and everything it accomplished will be in ashes. You should read Randy David’s discourse on Volunteerism. It’s an excellent primer on why Politics and NGO/GK-like orgs can never be separated. The action of one affects the other.

“Let’s concentrate on improving our ability to discipline those who are on the inside before we dream of taking over wholesale.”

And how can we discipline them if they are the ones in power? Short of another People Power?

“Hindi ka makakapagpapasa ng bill kung walang approval ang iba. Kaya kahit sabihin mo pang independiente ka, kailangang isusuko mo pa rin ang iyong idealismo para maipapasa mo ang isang batas.” (One cannot pass laws without the cooperation of the others. Thus, even if one is very independently minded, one has to surrender one’s idealism in order to pass laws.)

Which is why I think going into Congress to effect change is senseless. Congress has morphed into a collective idiocy. It has become a herd of mindless people following the call of the pork barrel. Idealism indeed has been lost in the number of people you need to please in order to pass that law you wanted so that you could “help” the people.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wisdom To Live By

The long fateful journey home begins with a trip away from it.

One of many in life’s plethora of paradoxes.

No different from he who loses his life, gains it. The more one runs away from self, the closer one gets to true self. To keep the things one loves, one must first lose them.

Thus, in trying to direct a course towards home, one must point outward first.

The truth and wisdom of this saying is best evidenced in one’s earnest drive to make something of one’s life.

And that's the one true journey home.

Shameless Plug

For San Francisco Bay Area residents:

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Are You Taken Over By The Internet?(Part 2)

13 Compuserve/Prodigy
In the 1980s, they became the first mainstream companies to offer consumer Internet access. CompuServe was more for the geek set; Prodigy was more for the masses.

Though both names are familiar, I never got the opportunity to use either. If I remember correctly Compuserve was quite a challenge for your programming-challenged user. Prodigy software continues to be pre-loaded in some PCs but I am not sure what its status is today.

14 The Well
The precursor for social networking, the Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link, founded in 1985, was the original (now longest-running) virtual community. It gained popularity for its forums.

Now, this is completely alien to me, though as stated above it is still in existence.

15 Vices
Regulators scrapped plans for a .xxx domain, but vice remains one of the Net’s biggest businesses. Online gambling, illegal in the U.S., topped $12 billion last year; online porn was $2.84 billion. Searches for “Paris Hilton video” return about a million hits.

Vices – on-line gambling, porn, and all those juicy scandals. Yes, the internet has spawned them. And many peer-to-peer (p2p) networks continue to be good, and free, sources for them.

16 Spam/Spyware
Unsolicited e-mail, and software that watches your Web habits, mushroomed from annoyance to menace. Junk e-mail now accounts for more than 9 of every 10 messages sent over the Internet.

Hormel’s ever popular food product, Spam, has taken on a bad connotation. And junk mail has spilled over from one’s mailbox into one’s inbox, more pernicious and more menacing. Thankfully, lesser number of trees has been sacrificed as a result, one would presume.

Spam has given birth to anti-spam software to combat this menace.

And yes, spyware. It is everywhere, all-knowing, and difficult to shake off. As smart and intuitive as your most experienced life-breathing spies. And just as destructive.

17 Flash
Adobe’s Flash player is on 98% of all computers. Seen a video on YouTube or MySpace? Then you’ve probably used Flash. It animated the Web, spawning zillions of online cartoons and videos.

Comic book hero Flash has moved into the realm of software and codes, still with his signature speed and coverage.

And what about Flash memory, or card, or stick?

18 Online mapping tools
MapQuest started saving marriages in 1996 by offering turn-by-turn directions. Followers such as Yahoo and Google beam directions to cellphones and offer satellite images of neighborhoods.

GPS (Global Positioning System) has made pinpoint-specific directions an everyday occurrence and expectation. A system held together by satellites in the atmosphere triangulating to pinpoint specific locations.

Whereas before its use was limited to the military, GPS can be found in a typical cellphone, in cars, as a stand-alone tracking device, or even in microchips implanted maybe in one’s pet.

19 Napster
Created in Shawn Fanning’s dorm room, Napster let more than 26 million people tap into a free database of music. Record companies shut it down. In its wake emerged legitimate download sites, such as Apple’s iTunes.

What fun, exciting, and beneficial memories I have of the original Napster. Even on a dial-up connection from a “freebie” ISP, I was downloading like crazy mesmerized by the novelty and unheralded capabilities of the network. Songs of the 40’s, 50’s, and the 60’s, all at my fingertips, literally.

Now, there may be scores of copy-cat (p2p) networks including a revived and supposedly revitalized Napster. Some with downloads for a price, and still others operating in the shadowy world of copyright infringement quietly churning out free downloads.

20 YouTube
The video-sharing site, bought by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion, ignited a user-generated revolution online and introduced millions to the delights of Stephen Colbert, Chad Vader and Lonelygirl15.

A notch up audio files sharing is of course, video files sharing. And upstart YouTube capitalized on this need or hunger and converted the effort into a billion-dollar enterprise, good enough for it to be gobbled up by giant Google. And as expected, apers appeared to fill up the vacuum.

Ironic, that Google had started earlier its own video-sharing service, Google Video, prior to the widespread success of Youtube. But hey, why compete, just buy out the competition.

21 The Drudge Report
Matt Drudge’s news site helped break the Monica Lewinsky story in 1998, paving the way for politically-minded bloggers everywhere. He claims to have about 500 million visitors a month.

Many still question whether the Drudge Report qualifies as a blog, rather than as simply a news aggregator. But hey, why worry? I go to its site and get my important breaking news there. It definitely predates the uniformly-formatted blogs of today.

22 Bloggers
The more than 75 million Web logs have changed how the world gets its news. Bloggers have challenged the traditional media, lobbied for and against wars, started debates, and posted far too many pictures of their pets.

Bloggers? What is that animal? Not boogers? Not foggers?

Hey, I need to fill some space.

23 Craigslist
Craig Newmark’s gathering place for (mostly) free classified ads changed the way we find apartments, cars and dates. The site relies on users who supply friendly neighborhood information — about 14 million ads a month.

Dear to my heart since it is a native San Franciscan, and life-line for the millions of able-bodied men and women, even to the not so able-bodied ones, poring over classified ads on-line for whatever needs they may have – used cars, apartments to let, and even personal dates.

24 MySpace
This online hangout has replaced the mall as a home away from home for teenagers. The site has more than 173 million personalized pages. News Corp paid $580 million for it in 2005.

Though I followed the crowds and registered with it, I still am not sure what it is I am trying to get out of it, or vice-versa. But it must be good, after all Mr. Murdoch of NewsCorp (and known more as owner of Fox News) paid a fortune for it.

25 Gaming and virtual worlds
More than 19 million globally pay to explore three-dimensional Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft and virtual communities such as Second Life, which let players do business or just hang out. Both use the easy connections fostered by the Web to build communities.

The gaming world has made possible PCs that can compute at dizzying speeds, with their very elaborate liquid cooling systems, with peripheral cards (like sound and video) that can cost as much as your typical PC, and physical looks that in our dreams probably belong in spaceships.

This niche provides all the PC/Mac makers the pecuniary incentives to keep breaking Moore’s laws on processor speed and other IT development

Graphics Credit

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Request

Please take my blog reader survey!

If time permits.

Disabusing Second-Class Citizen Label

There is a quiet though common perception in the old homeland that Filipinos immigrating to the US eventually are treated as second-class citizens.

One could easily dismiss this as part of an old-wives tale with not much basis in fact, since speaking of current laws and practices there is nothing to suggest that tiers of citizenship are practiced in the US.

A second-class citizen may be generally defined as an informal term used to describe a person, being a member of a discriminated group, who is systematically discriminated against within a state or other political jurisdiction.

But are there so-called second-class citizens in the US? Or do certain Americans treat others as second-class citizens?

I would have no hesitation answering in the affirmative to both questions.

Now, there is continuing discrimination in the US and there are no two ways about that, but it definitely is not state-countenanced nor is it legally embodied in any existing laws. But people being people and man’s innate inability to legislate on what people can or cannot think, certain isolated discriminatory practices continue and will continue to be practiced. But happily, there are many watchdog groups, private and governmental, tasked specifically with making sure that these undesirable practices are not allowed to prosper or fester. And the body politic has been so acutely sensitized about discrimination that it has not been allowed to rear its ugly in public for longer than the speedy haste that vigilant people can denounce it.

So that being set aside, why do many of my compatriots in the old homeland continue to spout the bromide that Filipinos become second-class citizens in the US?

Just the other day, surfing and scanning through a blog authored by a rather intelligent and perceptive young man, deep into political activism, I again ran across this inference, this time that his migrant parents in the US are treated as second-class citizens. And with no provision of any proof for such a damning charge, maybe other than that the parents may consider themselves second-class citizens.

Knowing Filipinos and of course, being one myself, let me advance a couple of possible plausible reasons why migrant Filipinos may have on their own consigned themselves to second-class citizen category.

First and foremost, many Filipinos are not wont to barter away their packaged cultural, social, and personal identities even when they find themselves in strange new places. There appears an almost implacable resistance to part with any trait or quality acquired in the old homeland, in order to begin the process of assimilation or integration in the major culture of the new host country. While a good part of it may be adamant resistance, I suspect unchecked cluelessness, or even misplaced nationalism, may also be thrown into the mix. The lack of dispassionate awareness that certain ways of thinking and acting will have to be exchanged so not only can at least a modicum of social acceptance be had, but importantly so one can be part of and participate in mainstream society and thus avail of the inherent benefits accorded it. Such critical benefits as educational and employment opportunities. Or simply, social acceptance.

Full citizenship does require one to integrate at least, if not assimilate, with the rest of society. And in the US, the presence of many cultural minorities notwithstanding, everybody knows what the majority culture still is, representing almost 70% of the population.

Another thorny issue that may drive Filipinos to count themselves as second-class citizens may even be considered baseless or unfounded. And may simply be a form of cop-out. Many Filipinos come into the US holding temporary or visitor’s visa. They look for and find work, circumventing laws and/or contravening provisions of their visa. Then, they prolong their stay way beyond the expiration of their visa and thus become overstaying illegals, armed with and encouraged by the firm hope that their extended stay could be parlayed into legal status in the future, with able assistance from the number of immigration lawyers willing to handle their case.

In the meantime, their numbers stealthily operate in the shadows of the underground economy, unable to participate and avail of all the benefits available to those of legal status or those here in the country with visas valid for regular employment. And truly, they become second-class, but not even as second-class citizens because they are not.

In this second instance, while this intrepid and most-times selfless measure resorted to, done all for family and loved ones, should be admired, it is still first and foremost an illegal way.

And rightfully, nobody in this situation can have any expectations other than those of second-class status.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Of Hand Mowers And Grass-cutters

Blogfather Glenn Reynolds had this to say about hand-powered mowers and grass-cutters:

Still, the unpowered reel mower that they test -- it's very similar to the one that I own -- gets high marks:

This archaic, human-powered technology still has its strengths. At a run, it was faster than the walk-behind mower. It was the most maneuverable and lightest machine, and the easiest to store in a crowded garage. The sweat level was high, but it scored well on moral superiority: No emissions, little noise, and the only fuel to buy was Gatorade. Big complaint: It rolls over weeds without cutting them — a real drawback at my place.

That is the main drawback, one that I deal with by using one of these. Another advantage of the unpowered mower is that you can start your kids mowing with them earlier -- my daughter mowed her first lawn at the age of 9. And the PopMech advice to wear earplugs when using any kind of power mower is good advice -- I've done that since I was a teenager (also for live music and shooting), and my hearing remains surprisingly good.

And I use exactly the same kind of tools, a hand-powered mower ably assisted by an electric grass-cutter or weed-whacker. Long extension cord recommended.

And I see absolutely no-drawbacks, all beneficial results. Since I jog regularly, what better exercise for one’s upper body than mowing your lawn – this way.

And economic benefits, too. Got this mower over 15 years ago and the grass-cutter, a relatively new addition, about 3 years since the previous one got retired. The old one was commissioned many times for hard-labor duties, cutting over-grown weeds and small brushes. Still that one loyally served for over 20 years.

The Man In Black: Spidey

The 3rd sequel of Spiderman is out and promises to be another summer blockbuster as were the previous two. Or is it a prequel?

Something different has been introduced. Spidey in a black foreboding costume.

Nothing new. For serious Spidey comic book enthusiasts.

Click to read more.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Are You Taken Over By The Internet?

The McPaper of the US, USA Today, has started a “book of lists” series to celebrate its quarter-century existence.

The latest and the sixth is entitled How the Internet Took Over.

For us, consumers/proponents/devotees of the Internet, it might be entertaining to slither through memory lane, just on a 25-year span, to relate with nostalgia how the 25 items on the list personally touched and affected us on a personal basis.

Twenty-five years ago the Internet as we now know it was in the process of being birthed by the National Science Foundation. Since then it's been an information explosion. From e-mail to eBay, communication and shopping have forever changed.

So, let’s start with No. 1.
1 World Wide Web
Tim Berners-Lee created user-friendly “Web pages” that could travel over the Internet, a network built to shuttle research between universities. The world logged on: 747 million adults in January.

The ubiquitous 3 Ws in each URL we had to type constantly reminded us that we were accessing and becoming part of that Web. But that didn’t preclude our puzzlement over how to distinguish it from the Internet that some had grown accustomed to. It was initially quite difficult to create a mental image of the differences between the web and the Internet, even after consulting their respective definitions.

In review, we present their differentiating definitions:

The Internet, or simply the Net, is the publicly available worldwide system of interconnected computer networks that transmit data by packet switching using a standardized Internet Protocol (IP) and many other protocols. It is made up of thousands of smaller commercial, academic, domestic and government networks. It carries various information and services, such as electronic mail, online chat and the interlinked web pages and other documents of the World Wide Web.

A hypermedia-based system for browsing Internet sites. It is named the Web because it is made of many sites linked together; users can travel from one site to another by clicking on hyperlinks. Or "The World Wide Web is the universe of network-accessible information, an embodiment of human knowledge." - Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web.

Are we clear now?

2 E-mail
Tech’s answer to the Pony Express. Programs such as 1988’s Eudora made it easy to use. In-boxes have been filling up ever since. Nearly 97 billion e-mails are sent each day.

E-mail gave us the term, snail mail. Just a little pejorative to drive deeper the world of difference between the former with other forms of traditional mail – whether through the postal system, or those private mailing companies like UPS and FedEx. Mail through the speed of light is now our standard measure for efficiency and effectiveness of our communications.

Never got to install Eudora, since I started with the Netscape Navigator email client, which came and gained fame before MS Outlook. When Internet Explorer got bundled with MS Windows operating system, starting with the 95 version, that too signaled the demise of Netscape and its other services. Although the “bundling” got Microsoft back to the courts and into a number of litigation against it. Nevertheless, Internet Explorer was well on its way to its unchallenged monopoly, that is until recently when open-source FireFox threw down its gauntlet for a mighty challenge.

Anyway, back to email.

Now, many users are partial to web-based email services which can be accessed from anywhere internet access can be had.

Can any Internet or Web user now live without one, whether web-based or computer-resident?

3 Graphical user interface (GUI)
Most computer displays were blinking lines of text until Apple featured clickable icons and other graphic tools in its 1984 Mac. Microsoft’s Windows took GUI — pronounced “gooey” — to the masses.

I can remember Apple’s Macintosh proudly display its initial version of GUI, still quite coarse and very low resolution. We can also remember how Windows beat Apple to the draw in capitalizing on GUI, clearly sealing the defeat with the introduction of Windows 95 in 1995. This heavy loss most probably drove Apple to the courts to seek redress, claiming it had prior proprietary rights to graphical interface. No such luck, since the courts ruled against Apple after some years passed. Now GUI is so commonplace that most users now suffer selective amnesia when asked what came before it.

AOL turned people on to Web portals, chat rooms and instant messaging. Early subscribers paid by the hour. AOL once boasted 35 million subscribers. It bought Time Warner for $106 billion in 2001.

AOL blazed through the entire web, decimating whatever competition was already extant. It became the ISP to be a member of. And Steve Case of AOL became the darling of consumer technology enabling AOL to gobble up giant Time Warner.

Say, whatever happened to Steve Case and how is AOL doing?

5 Broadband
The answer to the drip-drip-drip of dial-up, high-speed Internet service fuels online entertainment. About 78% of home Internet users in the U.S. have broadband, up from less than 1% in 1998.

Yes, broad against narrow band of dial-up. Yet even during the drip-drip-drip period of AOL, I shied away and consorted with the “freebies”, starting with and then moving on to before it became for-pay. With and one simply allowed ad sponsors clutter to colonize one’s monitor screen to get free access.

In a couple of years went kaput to be replaced by The latter has survived to this day but subscription is now for pay. Still cheaper compared to AOL.

Broadband now comes in different flavors – DSL, cable, or satellite/wireless/microwave, and even using your home electric wiring system.

6 Google
So popular it’s a verb. The search powerhouse, with a market capitalization of nearly $149 billion, perfected how we find info on the Web. Google sites had nearly 500 million visitors in December.

What more can one say about Google. The search engine of search engines.

And who were the precursor webcrawlers?

7 Mosaic/Netscape
Created by Marc Andreessen and others, Mosaic was the first widely-used multimedia Web browser. Spin-off Netscape Navigator ruled the ‘90s until Microsoft’s Internet Explorer took off around ‘98.

I still have somewhere the earliest version of Netscape Navigator stored on floppy disks. Numbering 2 or 3 maybe, each holding 1.44Mb of data? But remember during those times, the entire Windows 95 suite resided on 12 floppy disks.

8 eBay
Thanks to eBay, we can all now buy and sell almost anything (skip the body parts). eBay has 230 million customers worldwide who engage in 100 million auctions at any given time.

And who has not gone through the eBay site, either to browse or purchase, and if the latter, kept coming back to find out how your bid(s) did? I still maintain an inactive account since I haven’t purchased any lately. I was for a while quite active on obscure rival, uBid, though.

Jeff Bezos’ baby began as an always-in-stock book seller. It survived the tech bubble and now is the definitive big box online store. It was the second most-visited online retailer in December, after eBay.

Any book buyer worth his salt must have gone through Amazon. And of course, those who write and publish books. But still a funny name for a company selling essentially books and other publications.

10 Wi-Fi
Have coffee shop, will compute: Wireless fidelity lets us lug our laptops out of the office and connect to the Net on the fly. More than 200 million Wi-Fi equipped products sold last year.

For many years, Ethernet was the buzz word for wired networking with its bulkier and more robust wiring, which was double that of your ordinary phone line. Cat5(Category 5), then Cat6, were the standards for PCs connecting to the network, and eventually to the Internet/WWW. And we thought that further future development was heading and winding in that direction, until wireless reared its head and made the wired network connection go limp for many.

Whatever happened to Gigabit Ethernet?

11 Instant Messaging
LOL! Web surfers began to “laugh out loud” and BRB (“be right back”) in the mid-‘90s, with the launch of ICQ and AOL Instant Messenger. Millions use it to swap messages and photos, even telephone pals.

Was never a devotee of IM, but I could decently frame and send SMS, which is very popular in the old homeland since it is quite cheap, sometimes even free, to send and receive text messages.

12 Yahoo!
Stanford University graduate students Jerry Yang and David Filo created this popular Web portal in 1994. It remains a favorite for email, photo sharing (it owns Flickr) and other services.

Okay, so I use Yahoo!Groups where I participate in at least a dozen email lists, being a moderator in at least one. But Iwon continues to be my home portal, with a customized MyIwon page. One good reason? Using it gives one the opportunity to win various cash prizes, and great items, too.

(To be continued.)