Friday, February 29, 2008

Of Pens, Pencils, and Markers

Writing has been with man most probably as early as when he learned to walk on two feet. It may have simply started as clumsy etchings on the sand or any soft surface using sticks or fingers, but we know how thoroughly inclined man is now with regard to scribbling. So engrossed or dedicated as to find time and resource for it even when doing something very personal. Maybe like relieving oneself? Many cannot help playing with their hands clasping whatever is available writing on walls and wherever pen, pencil, paint, or marker can reach and take hold. The many public bathrooms are wordy and graphic testimonies to this proclivity.

And writing implements have gone through a lot of evolution even with just our modern times, from the ink-dipped quills, to the more lasting and convenient fountain pens, to cheaper graphite pencils, and now, the explosion of the utilitarian ballpoint pens made famous and popular initially by the popular French brand BIC. Ball pens are now so cheap and common, they can be found literally everywhere. On the moon, too? Oh, Yeah! “Neil Armstrong and crew would have been trapped there had Buzz not improvised by jamming a ball point pen into the switch's hole to activate liftoff.”

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who's Your Choice For VP?

Let' start with this one: the current Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, who is Republican.

There are now voices coming out from the blogosphere for drafting her as VP to Sen. McCain.

Is she any good, aside from the very pretty face?

Listen to an interview with the Washington Post:

Very refreshing views on public service, coming from a former beauty queen. She was Miss Wasilla in 1984.

And was a hoopster, too, according to this news item:

And she was a local girl: daughter of a popular local teacher and coach, she was a one-time Miss Wasilla and, in a basketball-mad town, was practically canonized as the point guard for Wasilla's 1982 girls' state championship team.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Of Hats And Caps

In this sainted land of overarching consumerism and an unrelenting era of abundance, it is not difficult to understand why people unwittingly become collectors of stuff. Thus, even if bereft of any crazed proclivities an Imelda Marcos would find casual and natural, items fall into one’s lap in great heap-full quantifies especially consumer items that come in differing styles, colors, designs, shapes, etc. And reaching sufficient critical mass, they rightly then could be adjudged as collections. Whether they are shoes, cars, hats, cosmetics, accessories, toys, sports items, matchbooks, etc.

Since a lot of ladies, and I suppose men, too, are fond of personal accessories, we hear how good fortunes are spent on them not only for daily usage but also as prized “collections”. Thus collections of expensive and exquisite perfumes, exorbitantly prized hand-made designer handbags, different shades of lipsticks, etc. do not anymore raise many eyebrows. And imagine what good-sized fortunes are spent to collect either antique or just plain expensive cars? We read that the initial design of Bill Gates’ mansion had a garage that could accommodate 89-100 cars and that was just the initial design in a now completed house that had to undergo so many changes and additions that if they were cosmetic facelifts you would not recognize the finished product.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why I Am Voting For Sen. John McCain

The distinct advantage of being a registered Independent is the relative freedom one enjoys in being able to stay above the petty partisan fray, and the unimpeded ease with which to survey the entire field of candidates unhampered by any partisan commitment. Nothing beats being an Independent over being a partisan, whichever side it may be including in those pesky minor parties.

Thus, when this election cycle started to churn early since who knows when, l literally played the field like a reluctant but discriminating debutante, with only one restrictive caveat. Regardless of the outcome, I was not going to vote for Sen. Clinton. Having insufferably wriggled through the eight years of Bill Clinton and including the intervening years leading to this, my personal disillusionment and disdain for them are still haunting me, so no member of that Clinton family will get my vote.

As reported earlier during the much-ballyhooed Super Tuesday, I detachedly enjoyed the electoral process voting only on the ballot initiatives applicable to our city and county. It felt so good and serene going through the motion. No knotty hand wringing on whether this or that candidate would be the better alternative, no second thoughts whatsoever, just enjoying the nice summery morning of that Tuesday.

But this seeming nonchalant impartiality did not prevent me from carefully, and with serious purpose, sweating over which candidate in my personal judgment should be the next president of this great nation, given the unusually multitudinous and varied challenges that will be faced by a new incumbent, both domestically and globally. In a perfect world, it would have to be somebody with extensive critical and useful experiences in public service, or absent that, verifiable critical experiences in the private sector in capacities where high leadership skills are tried and tested, and performance measures are results-oriented.

Running through the Republicans’ slate of potentials, Romney was my early favorite, easily qualifying in my own personal base minimum qualities for the next president. Accomplished in business and government, he exuded a demeanor of quiet confidence and subdued pride. And as bonus, he presented a very likeable and admirable external persona – articulate and eloquent speaker and likable overall demeanor. A nice fit for the presidency. And add to that the fact that for me he was not your typical politician, long on bluster, quick and easy high-minded but hollow talk, and does not come across as a public servant but some authority figure who rules based on their own intractable points of view. Romney in my opinion did not personify that image. His being steeped in spirituality because of his Mormonism may have had some influence on this. Even his many kids exuded that same bent.

Unfortunately, not enough people thought similarly as me, so he had to bow out early from the race. And this he did with grace, a sense of purpose, and dignity, and for this I added more points in his favor. Maybe next time, Guv.

I too looked over the initial lengthy list of Democratic candidates, skirting aside the early front-runner. Obama then seemed the least likely suitable candidate – young, untried, and inexperienced. He gained prominence only in the 2004 Senatorial race besting a last-minute Republican filler. He was early on dismissed as an “empty suit” but very articulate, eloquent, oratorical, and his speeches high up there among illustrious pieces in the world of semantics and polemics.

So from that initial lengthy list, I focused instead on Gov. Bill Richardson, who came across as no rabid and flighty ideologue and equipped with good credentials and varied experiences, both domestic and international. His being Hispanic also unduly ingratiated him to me. But he never did become a 1st tier candidate, easily outstripped and outran by the likes of suave but too-stilted J. Edwards and a fast rising Obama. The rest of that field was very forgettable, ranging from some being too fringe to those being too much of a political haymaker quick and good with political rhetoric and nothing much behind it.

As the campaigns ground, the chaff was slowly being sorted out by the potential voters, edged out of the contest and eventually dropped by the wayside. As the electorate, we ended up with narrower choices on both sides.

Thus, on the Democratic side, since I had from the get-go eliminated Clinton, I now have to hitch my wagon with Obama as his party’s nominee. Obama is not only a fitting candidate, but can also be formidable given his native talents at oratory and his unique physical looks and origins. He definitely could make a good president. Except, not now. He needs more years to hone his skills and maturity at governance, since so little is known about him and how he will respond to a host of uniquely demanding and globally impacting situations and problems. Additionally, the added years hopefully should also help to dull somewhat the youthful over-confidence and unlikable arrogance being displayed by him and his elated campaign, including his well-schooled wife. There is a sense that they would like to present themselves as messianic in their quest of the office, like only they can bring the people to the Promised Land. And in the process, there is also that humdinger of an implied claim that the country is doing so badly in most respects, that it desperately needs their extraordinary skills and powers to bring about change, and at this stage, simply change for the sake of change. Thus, please Sen. Obama, tread back to the drawing board and recalibrate some of your messages and attitudes. And over time show us your presidential caliber and legislative mettle at your important work in the august Senate.

Truly Obama is a very inspiring youthful public persona. Thus understandably many impressionable folks, young and old, longing for some form of quick deliverance, identify with his noble and almost holy messages. But governance should be more than just adulation for a gifted messenger. That messenger should also come across as one speaking with authority. For this it is required that one possesses the crusty but solid hindsight of an older statesman, with uncanny abilities to exploit from his trove of experiences for use in his governance. And it does not just mean older in years, but older age with respect to the amount of cumulative experiences collected under one’s belt.

Now on the other side, given the lop-sided contest as it now stands, McCain has become the unannounced presumptive nominee, whether Republicans, Independents, conservatives, and every body in between like it or not. To me then, there is only one choice, though not necessary the best ideal choice. It is the only choice. Third party candidate, anyone? After the money-driven Ross Perot historic letdown, who would dare?

So Sen. McCain it is. Congratulations, Mr. President. May you listen attentively to the people for guidance and ease up on your partisan ideologies, whichever side they may belong to.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Scenes Around Divisoria Plaza, Cagayan de Oro Part 2

As twilight approaches, the activities get more frenzied as more stuff are unloaded from jeepneys, motorelas, or muscled in by bronze-shouldered cargadores.

Scenes Around Divisoria Plaza, Cagayan de Oro

Pictures were taken at about 5pm on a Friday. About the usual time the plaza starts to be converted into what the city calls the Night Cafe, a two-day weekend affair where and when the city folks set up temporary shops to sell most anything - from food, merchandise, to trinkets and pirated CDs. Simul-live shows provide the cacophony of sounds for what passes as entertainment for the masa.

Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) - No. 4

Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) - No. 3

Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan) - No. 2

A good blending of the old and new structures. Who would think that some of these buildings were built right after the end of the last world war?

Xavier University (Ateneo de Cagayan), Cagayan de Oro

A high school reunion is slated this coming December 2008. The following pictures were taken early in 2007. For those classmates who have already decided to attend, take a good look at the pictures because these will be the same images you will be seeing when you revisit your old Alma Mater, whether for the first time after so many years, or after your last visit of a year or so ago. See if you can continue to recognize the old buildings we used as classrooms, library, etc.

Monday, February 18, 2008

What Would Christ Say Or Do?

In sticky and confusing situations when it appears that many possible paths are judged to be meritorious, it is not unusual for people to raise the question:
What would Christ say or do in this situation if he were alive today?

Thus, in real life situations you find such quandaries being framed this particular way. I can even recall the hot-button issue of what vehicle to drive given the present predicament of exorbitant gas prices and calamitous problems with the environment. Thus the question came out in media. Would Christ purchase an SUV? It may sound silly but still that does not prevent people from expressing it anyway and soliciting feedbacks.

But truly, some real life situations deserve to be framed in that familiar and profound frame. What would Christ do?

And going around the blogosphere and observing both hosts and commenters act and react one senses that Christ and his unique philosophy definitely have many grave concerns to address, by way of advising and admonishing these 21st century Christians frenetically engaged in this technological phenomenon.

Let me then irreverently, arrogantly and undeservedly allocate and assume the persona of Christ and look around the vast firmament of the blogosphere for possible scenarios to comment on.

Without much ado, my readings of Christ through his many erudite disciples immediately bring one archaic but still high-strung word to the fore. The word is pertinacity (borrowed from T. Aquinas, though he much preferred the word, effeminacy) Anyway, it is a vice that makes a man cling to his opinion and judgment long after facts have shown that he is wrong. The pertinacious hombre perseveres doggedly in his wrong course of action even after right reason shows that he is wrong, not letting facts stand in his way. The “soft” man/woman cannot countenance perseverance, since he/she has no desire in the attainment of good which usually delays in coming. Examples in the current political discussions would be the still loud claims that a million Iraqis have been killed in the current war, or even that Bush or Blair “lied” about the waging of the war. Well-worn talking points that should have lost their bite and sting a long time ago, amidst the preponderance of evidence to the contrary.

But I digress from my main purpose. Therefore, here is modern-day Christ, street-smart man of letters and revolutionary ideas, addressing our beloved bloggers and commenters, steeped and serious in their pursuits for punditry and Pyrrhic victory in the war on words or ideas:

Ola, denizens of the blogosphere, that means you there, blog hosts and regular commenters (BTW, if you are just a commenter without a blog, please refrain from assuming the handle of blogger. Remember a blog from its infancy on forward is a personal journal of an author. If you do not maintain one, you are not a blogger. Capisci?). Please perk those ears up and listen.

Sons and daughters, hey you still are those since I am the God-sent by Him who breathed life to all of you), please do not waste too much attention and sympathy, and eyeballs, on the witty and catchy language of men. They may sound beautiful and endearing. My time-tested standards as before are still not based on words. I want and need actions, man.

Those enduring gems of wisdom that I with heart-rending difficulty in my short life here inculcated in my followers, remember those are still meant to influence and guide your actions in the daily living of your lives. They have not faded or burnished.

If you abide and live by them, it will be cool because then you get to prove your love and loyalty for me. So remember only pure-gold genuine actions can satisfy this granite heart of mine. Anything else, no puede. No cigars.

The best eloquent prose you can create can probably qualify you as being loquacious and renowned by your peers, but hey, nothing beats the one who speaks less and does more.

And one bit of advice for those locked in the same journey. Never read, learn, and spend precious time on anything for the sake of appearing wise and sagacious before your peers. Do these things singularly for the purpose of improving yourself first, not your flighty neighbors or your countrymen.

Those who do otherwise are those I call vain and seek only vain-glory, because in so doing, they do not become better in action. As a good tree is known by its good fruit, so too a good man known by the goodness of his thoughts, words, and deeds.

Hey, I am not saying that I am not pleased with good desires and aspirations; it’s just that you can only convince me with your actions. How hard do you pursue your good desires? That counts because that measures your fealty to me. Remember my old saying, “If you want to be my buddy, hang on and follow those precepts of mine”.

And remember those who are in the habit of warbling sonorously in my presence, “Lord, Lord” they do not necessarily get to party in my cool domain. Only those who follow the words of my Father get backstage passes.

So keep focused and learn of me and I guarantee you will acquire the best knowledge that will be useful in your daily lives. Though I do not guarantee that people will look too kindly on you or make you buddies. But string up your needs for praise and admiration from those of my domain, not from man.

Many things on earth are unimportant. They are diversionary distractions that muddle your focus toward me and my teachings. Therefore, keep things simple and uncluttered, and do away with the extras.

And I end with this little summary. Words are meant to point out truth, and good desires help me reach out for it, but action is still by far the most convincing proof for a life well-lived.

Monday, February 11, 2008

How Big Is Your World?

(Stray thoughts corralled during unguarded moments of an introspective round-up.)

A few days ago for some inexplicable reason at about 8:30PM I was all about ready to drop to bed unable to keep droopy eyes opened in spite of the colorful visual perks on TV and the Internet. So off to soft warm comfort I plopped before 9PM, undoubtedly unusually early for me. Before long I was roaming dreamland.

But by 1AM I suddenly nudged and sleep was interrupted, with eyes and mind unerringly flashed back to reality. And the lingering warmth of the prior sunny day was no help in my half-hearted attempt at getting back to sleep. Thus unleashed, the unrestrained mind started racing through whatever figment of any idea floated through.

Suddenly the question. How big is your world? I mean that physical world that you can presently perceive, participate in, personally interact with, and in so doing somehow influence. And on the other hand, I do not mean the world that one has access to either virtually, remotely, vicariously, or from afar. The world that opens up for you when your imagination takes over, or when you turn your TV on, or when you read books, or when one plays video games, etc.

I emphatically refer to the concrete world of reality that we daily have to either enjoy through or labor under, a world we cannot hurry or slow down, a world we may exert some influences on but not really much.

I immediately thought about the suddenly ubiquitous politicians and their surrogates, this being the midst of the political season, and whose political ambitions and boundless rhetoric media have unilaterally co-opted as its addictive business to repeatedly delve into and broadcast wide to all and sundry.

By purpose and choice, the politician’s world has to be big and wide. They have to know and interact with lots and lots of people because of the very nature of their profession. They have to know most of the bureaucratic people in government, the motivated people in their frenetic campaigns, the harried people in business or those stodgy people oozing with money, and in most abundant numbers, the faceless and numberless masses falling under the term, electorate. It goes without saying that they have decided to allocate for themselves the biggest world they can have, acquire, keep, and influence.

And undoubtedly, there are many other equally motivated people who find themselves in likely situations. The smart business entrepreneurs would have the same goals, but for reasons of their own, essentially so their businesses would have extensive exposure and clientele, and the bigger the better. Churchmen and purveyors of religion also have the same though spiritual designs, to reach as many potential devotees as possible.

But for the multitudes of us, we would rather keep our worlds easily manageable, comfortably small, and maybe uncluttered and easy to gather and discern. All in the cozy and safe embrace of the mantle of personal privacy and privacy rights where many of us find shelter and have ordained to keep our domicile. Thus, we are easily incensed when we discover any attempt whether by government or through any private initiative to invade or curtail that aura of privacy, and thus attempt to make our worlds larger. We will fight ferociously to keep our privacy cove clandestinely isolated and intact and its well-guarded boundaries and parameters sacrosanct. We do not welcome intrusions.

To arrive at some proof or validation, I did start to take stock of my own personal situation to determine what size my world was.

The idling mind then ambled to its next likely chore, trying to determine for me how big or small my world was, especially in these new environs where we have purposely decided as migrants to install ourselves in. We did choose this place to be near our immediate family members, our married kids and their families. A married daughter and her family are only 5 minutes drive away in the same city. But aside from them, the nearest relatives are at least 50 miles away in different directions and contacts are essentially through the phone. We do attend church services, but beyond communal prayer and worship, we have not really had deep social interactions in the different groups available in the parish. And we do shop regularly in some retail stores for our daily needs, but nothing much beyond just having nodding acquaintances with a few sales people. Even within the tight housing development we are in, we cannot in honesty really say that we have acquired new friends, and mind you it is not due to a simple lack of trying. And mark another nil in the work environment, since I have not really sought any local employment, while the wife preoccupies her time taking care of a family member a couple of miles away. Any other sectors missed?

All things considered, it is quite a narrow miniscule world I inhabit, if I may say so. Although being first generation immigrants (regardless of the considerable length of stay here), we still regularly interact with the old world we left behind in the old homeland, through regular protracted visits.

Inversely, we inhabit other worlds which in some ways may not easily lend themselves to size measurements. The daily and at times prolonged incursions in the unfathomable depths of the Internet allow the subject not only access but real-time interaction with a vast uncharted world of differing interests and subjects, encompassing whatever drives one’s fancies and curiosities. The regular sessions in front of TV serve up a plate-full of worlds just as varied and exotic, and all this in high definition. Newspapers, books, magazines, even those colorful business ad flyers collectively derided as spam, bring one to worlds that could stagger anyone’s vivid imagination in terms of its diversity and volumes of subjects.

We do include the mystical and vertically-oriented world we visit during prayers and worship, during solemn times of spiritual contemplation and introspection, where we leave the world of reality and ascend to one more ephemeral and ennobling.

And lastly and almost needless to state, I do have bouts with my fertile imagination as venue, seeing myself soaring through the air above some remote verdant canyons in the province of Bukidnon, expertly maneuvering and guiding my trusty gyrocopter through cascading treetops and adroitly outflanking shifty winds, etc. A world suspended in eager anticipation of the day when my real-life preparations for such activities will have been undertaken and accomplished.

What exactly is the relationship between these twin-category worlds, the real and the virtual? Do they grow or constrict in inverse proportion to each other? Or do they both grow side by side, complementing and supporting each other?

This might be the next interesting avenue to explore come next time when the same fertile mind is given free rein anew during moments of quiet and idle introspection.

Personally then the early but interrupted sleep was parlayed into a meaningful purpose for me. Gave for me new meaning to the cliché, sleeping on one’s problems.

1. Sculpture made by G. Ruggeri, from Tuscany, Italy. 14" statue of Blessed Virgin with infant Jesus. Made of bonded Carrara Marble and Alabaster, and finished by hand with remarkable detail, and hand painted.
2&3. Clarinet set, dismantled and in case.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Not So Super Tuesday

Today was a day at the polling place. And as has been touted by media incessantly for the last months, today was supposed to be Super Tuesday. The day that will determine the rise and fall of the remaining presidential candidates. Or maybe not. A day when over 20 states in unison hold their presidential primaries. Many eyes will be on California, a very populous state where a hefty number of delegates are up for grabs to the different candidates still on the hunt.

An early sunny winter morning ushered in this Tuesday, a good harbinger for those bent on fulfilling a crucial civic duty – voting for the presidential candidates plus a round of propositions placed on the ballot. Being a registered Independent, I am entitled to vote also on the candidates of one of two parties that allowed unaffiliated voters to participate in their primaries. The two parties allowing this are the Democrat Party and the American Independent Party.

But the surfeit bordering on ennui of media coverage of the different multi-pronged campaigns leading to this somehow turned me out, so I decided that I would only vote on the seven (7) measures on the ballot. Four of them making a tight cluster since they all pertained to Native American gaming issues.

At past 11 a.m., I drove quietly to our assigned polling place. And this being the first time since our move from another county, I had to drive slowly so as not to miss our polling place, which is snugly nestled in a quite hidden cul-de-sac in one of the residential developments here in western Tracy. And so positioned inside a residential garage as to not easily be recognizable until within a distance of a few meters or so.

Anyway the warm sunny day was a good respite from the cold nights we have been experiencing, enough to make me park a little distance away and thus allow the little leisurely walk to the place.

There were three voters ahead of me, and three polling officials to man the precinct. With marked sample ballot in hand, I was out of there in no time. A couple of minutes or so at the most. But tarried a bit in walking to the truck to see if more voters would be streaming in. Unfortunately, no more. The polling place was empty save for the people assigned. And I saw one precinct watcher leave in her vehicle, to lunch I had surmised.

It did not look like it was primary/election day. And driving to another section of Tracy to do some errands, the same observation prevailed. No signs of excited activity. I thought maybe later when people have gotten out of work that’s when most will attend to this important civic duty.

But for my purposes, it did not seem like Super Tuesday. More like any Tuesday except that the sun shone early, clearly a teasing invitation for people to go out and enjoy its warmth and glow.

To idle the day?