Earth Hour

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mother shakes baby to death when he interrupted her Farmville game

A 22-year old mother in Florida pleaded guilty last Wednesday to murder for shaking her three month old son to death after his crying interrupted her Farmville game. 

The young woman told investigators that she was annoyed when her son started crying while she was playing the game.  She then shook her baby, "smoked a cigarette to compose her self", and shook her baby again.  She added that the baby might have hit his head somewhere during the shaking. 

At first, I thought this was one of those bogus stories circulating the Web recently.  But then even reputable news sites started reporting on it and the story took on a tragic, sad note.  Imagine a baby killed by his own mother because he needed her care and attention, but mom cannot be disturbed because she's busy plowing her virtual fields.

I also play Farmville on Facebook.  It's a game which allows anyone to become a farmer online and use his network of Facebook friends to grow crops, raise animals and manufacture farm goods.  If one has a lot of time to spare, it's a good game to while away a lazy weekend.  The game does not involve killing anything, not even insects or pests, that's why it is so disturbing to read news about a mother shaking her own kid to death while she's playing the game.

The news articles are not clear on the state of mind of the mother though.  Is she suffering from post partum depression like Andrea Yates?  Maybe she's a single parent since the articles didn't say anything about the kid's father.  Or maybe she's just a down and out individual who considers harvesting bushels of carrots and wheat a major accomplishment.  I am not trying to defend her but any of these things could have contributed for her to commit  the crime or to her "addiction" to Farmville.

Before we put the blame on Farmville or its producer Zynga or even the Internet for their involvement in the crime, let us remember that a player can always stand up and leave his computer anytime he wanted to.  All he needs to do is shut down his computer and forget about his farm.  Losing a field full of ripe blueberries is not the end of everything.

Friday, October 29, 2010

No Need to Take Out 11-inch MacBook Air at Security Check in US Airports


Here's another reason to get a Macbook Air: the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the US said that the 11-inch MacBook Air need not be removed from bags at airport security checkpoints.

The TSA told CNN that the device got the special exemption because it is "smaller than the average-sized laptop" just like a netbook.  OK, do I hear Steve Jobs screaming "The MacBook Air is NOT a netbook!". Of course it isn't.  We all know that internally, I mean, the technical specifications of the MBA are far superior than any netbook out there.  However, the security people in the US are more concerned of the size of the gizmo than its power.  The iPad gets similar privilege from the TSA so let's just say that the 11-inch MBA belongs to the same category as the iPad per TSA standards.

There's no word though whether the 13-inch model gets the same exemption.    TSA requires that bigger portables be screened separately because they are harder to see in a bag with other contents. Although it has the same internal components as its smaller sibling, it is about the same size as most notebooks computers. This could result to the 13-inch MBA not getting the same special entitlement.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Barnes & Noble introduces the NookColor

photo from

Barnes and Noble has just introduced the second generation of Nook, its e-reader.  Now named NookColor, it is as you might have guessed a colored e-reader plus more!

According to a statement of Barnes & Noble chief executive William Lynch, the NookColor combines "the functionality and convenience of a seven-inch portable wireless tablet with the reader centricity of a dedicated e-reader."

The Nookcolor runs on Android OS and has built in support for social networking applications such as Facebook and Twitter.  It has a 7-inch colored LCD capacitive touch screen that can display video.  The tablet/e-reader also has 8GB of internal memory that can be expanded up to 32GB with a microSD card.  It can also connect through wifi.  

The device will be available on November 19 with a tag price of US$249.  That makes it cheaper than the low-end iPad by more than US$100 but almost twice as expensive than the Kindle.  

This led us to conclude that the NookColor will not go after the Amazon Kindle or even the Sony Reader.  Instead, it has trained its sight on the leader of the pack, iPad.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia

We went to the SM Mall of Asia yesterday to have lunch and at the same time do some malling.  It was a pleasant surprise to see the mall with very few people at noon time.  We decided to eat at Racks and it took us a while to get seated.

We decided to have the Family platter and clam chowder.  While waiting for our orders to arrive, we spotted something new being served at the other table.  We asked the server what it was and learned its name: Onion Brick.  We told the server to add it in our orders.

First to arrive was the Clam Chowder which was creamy but a little salty.  It came with a toasted bread but the chowder was still salty.  I have to add that you can ask the server to split the soup so you can share it with another person.

Then we were served the Onion Brick.  I actually didn't expect much from this one thinking that it would be like the other onion rings and onion loaf in the market which have the overpowering taste of fresh onion.  This Onion Brick though was different.  There was enough breading to make it crunchy in and out,  and the onions used were sweet and not too spicy.  Surprisingly, it wasn't too oily even though it was deep fried.  Well, I believe it's deep fried because it was shaped like the deep fryer ladle and besides, how can something be so crispy if it wasn't deep fried.

The entree, the Family Platter, consisted of flame broiled baby back ribs, beef ribs and chicken.  It also came with a pitcher of drink and two side dishes; we chose mashed potatoes and coleslaw.  What I like about this platter is we don't need to think a very long time to decide what to get.  Everybody gets to taste what Racks has to offer in just one order.  I also like that the meat are always tender and not dry.

After lunch, we went to the used-books store named BookSale.  The books here are cheap and unlike other stores where the books are almost flayed and smelly, their stocks are almost new and well taken care of.  I also like the branch here because it is roomy and brightly lit.  Unlike in some of its branches, you will not bump into other customers while checking a book at BookSale MOA.

By the way, we also noticed that the area around MOA has changed a lot.  For one, there were so many construction going on that the place has began to look a bit crowded.  We realized that it has been a while since we last went to the mall.  Maybe we should check again sooner next time.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Maintenance of Parents

Senator Manuel Lapid recently filed a bill that will enable poor parents to ask the court to require their children to financially support them.  The measure named "Maintenance of Parents Act of 2010" mandates the government to provide legal assistance to the elderly who wants to demand assistance from their relatives.  They will be assisted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in filing the petition and will be provided with legal assistance and representation in court by the Public Attorneys Office.

In the bill's explanatory note, Lapid said that the onset of rapid urbanization and commercialization have brought about factors that contributed to the erosion of Filipino family values.  Incidence of parents being neglected and abandoned by their children have also become common.  

The bill provides that the petition should show that the elderly member is aged, sickly or disable, and incapable of taking care of himself.  In ruling on the petition, the court should also take into account the financial capability of the children and their obligation to maintain their own family.

But seriously, do we really need a bill for this?  Respect for the elderly member of the family is deeply ingrained in the Filipino mind.  

A visiting Irish priest once observed how we treat our elderly.  Old parents are welcomed in every home.  They have special places in the dining table,  Even young kids are trained early to give respect to lolo and lola, and treat them with the way they would treat mommy and daddy.  How he wished that other nations could do the same to their elderly.

Last time I looked, these traits are still being practiced by Filipino families, at least those I know of.  Or  maybe the elderly people Senator Lapid is referring to are those who come from really poor families or those from the rural areas where poverty is prevalent.  But still these families continue to support each other and make adjustments to make their ends meet.

I have observed however that while we Filipinos truly love and respect our older members of our family, many of us do not spread this to those who are not our relatives.  How many times have I seen older men and women standing in public utility vehicles while younger and able-bodied people occupy the seats allotted to them.  I admit that I also tend to be impatient with older people who take a long time in using an ATM or other electronic device.  

Hopefully we as people will continue to respect the elderly and that we will not need a law that would mandate us to be more respectful of older people.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Coming in Summer 2011: Mac OS X Lion

It wasn't only the MacBook Air that Steve Jobs announced in yesterday's Back to the Mac event.  The main subject, in fact, was the next iteration of the Mac OS X operating system, Lion.  If the pundits are to be believed, this will be the last of the big cats and they saved the last for the king of the jungle.

Steve Jobs said that in his keynote address that "Lion brings many of the best ideas from iPad back to the Mac, plus some fresh new ones like Mission Control that Mac users will really like."

Some of the features of the upcoming operating system include:
  • The Mac App Store works the same way as the App Store and you may purchase applications using your iTunes Account.  It promises to revolutionize the way we Mac users install our software and more.  Applications may be installed in every Mac a user owns and then updated regularly.  Jobs announced that the Mac App Store will be available within 90 days.
  • The Launchpad gives instant access to all your apps with just a click on its icon on the dock.  Open windows fade away and apps are displayed in full screen just like in the iPad.  A swipe will show multiple pages of apps and these may be arranged according to the user's preference.
  • The Mission Control gives us a bird's eye view of what is happening in our Mac.  It works almost like the Expose and Dashboard combined with Spaces thrown in.  With a swipe gesture, the user will see all open windows grouped by apps, other full screen apps as well as other Spaces.
Lion will also employ the multi-touch experience of the iPad.  Instead of the screen, however, we will use the trackpad to pinch and swipe.  The applications will also open in full screen, just like in the iPad.  User could pinch to adjust the size of the display.

Indeed, Apple brings back to the Mac the technology it has developed for its iPod, iPhone and iPad through the Mac OS X Lion.  I'll surely upgrade once it is available.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stormy Weather

The weather bureau warned us that it will be a strong howler and boy it was.  I wasn't able to go to work today because of the floods caused by heavy rains brought by Typhoon Juan (International code: Megi).  It rained the whole night accompanied by strong winds.  In the silence of the early morning hours, I could hear the winds howling and the windows shuddered.  I looked out the window and saw that the water in the streets was already high.  I went back to bed and slept.

It continued to rain the whole morning, but it was intermittent.  It was as if the rain was going around in circles, heavy rains one moment, then nothing and then heavy rains again.  With nothing else to do at home, I stayed the whole day on the Internet.  I monitored news about the typhoon and learned that it has left the country.   The rains were just part of its tail-end but they still pack a wallop.

The rains stopped falling at midday but the winds continued to buffet the trees in the garden.  It would have been nice to take a walk if not for the flood waters that haven't gone down.  I took a short siesta after lunch and it felt good lying on a cool bed, with the pillows and the blanket equally cold.  I live in a tropical country with plenty of muggy days so it really feels nice to lie on a cool bed every once in a while.  In fact we have an expression for that, masarap mamuluktot sa kama habang umuulan (it's good to curl up in bed while it rains).

It was still heavy overcast when I got up from my siesta.  The wind has ceased a bit and it wasn't making the moaning sounds anymore.  It was like that until about four in the afternoon when the skies turned dark again.  It was scarier this time because lightning started to strike one after the other.  

After about thirty minutes, it started to rain again and our water service was cut off.  I immediately prepared our flashlights/torches and candles in case we get a power outage.  The rain fell heavily for about an hour and then it subsided.  It started to fall in torrents again after about thirty minutes and it was during this time that we lost our electricity.  

Funny thing is, I enjoyed the darkness that surrounded me.  All I could hear were the rain falling everywhere and the winds hissing as it hit the rainwater.  Instead of getting scared or stressed by it, I felt relaxed and comfortable.  The power outage didn't last long, though.  The lights went on again after about an hour.

Sadly, in spite the preparations of government for this howler, it still caused lost of human life, and a lot of damages in property and agriculture.  I read the news that at least two persons were dead and hundreds of families are staying in relocation sites.  Rice crops amounting to PhP1.5 billion were also damaged by flooding brought about by the typhoon.

As I write this, torrential rains continue to pour even as Typhoon Juan makes it way to China.   We still don't have our water supply back but there was enough water from the rains that we can use if we needed it.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Pinoy Quirk 3: Screaming on the Mobile Phone

I commute to and from work daily.  Everyday, I encounter all sorts of people but the kind that really amuse me and sometimes irritate me are those who use their mobile phone inside the vehicle and talk in very loud voices.  

Some of you may have encountered them already.  Their phone rings, they answer and start blabbing at the top of their voices.   I don't understand why they have to speak  loudly when the phone could easily pick up even their normal voice.  Unless of course the other  person is deaf or is hard at hearing.  It is as if they don't even care if the person next to them could hear what they were talking about. 

They amuse me sometimes especially when the conversation contains tidbits like their problems or issues with their family or friends.  They lay out their lives for everyone to hear like it was some badly written telenovela.  I remember one commute where a middle-aged woman talked on the phone about a sister-in-law who owed her money.  She told the party on the other line how the sister-in-law couldn't pay her.  The woman talked almost throughout the duration of our commute, her story took several twists and turns, and the volume of her voice never diminished.  I didn't want to listen to her but she was so loud, I could still hear her even when I put on my iPod.  Me and the other passengers became captive audience of her story that she should have kept among her family.

On another instance, there was a man who kept on calling people in his office, telling them the  combination of the lock to a vault or a door.  We heard his instructions like "Turn left to number 2, then number 5. Turn right to number 4, then zero." He got angrier and angrier because nobody seemed to get the combination right.  When one conversation ended, he would call another officemate and complain how "dumb" the last one he talked to was.  

What is irritating though are passengers who make an unnecessary call: the kind that could wait until they got home.  There once was this girl seated beside me who wanted to plan a birthday party while inside the bus.  I don't know what the person on the other line told her but she ended the call with "Okay, let's decide when I get there."  Then she went silent.

But I get even more irritated with people who not only talk loudly but even turn on the speaker of their phones.  Like that mother who called her daughter and scolded the girl who started whining in the most annoying voice I ever heard.   The other passengers also looked at her direction but she couldn't care less. I think it's the most stupid thing to do not only because we could hear the entire conversation, but because it disturbed the other passengers.  

Really, what were they thinking?  Don't they care about their privacy?

There are times when I just want a quite commute, especially before or after a busy day.  All I want during a commute is to silently watch the other cars that pass by the bus in the highway. I know that   I cannot get that a hundred percent of the time in a public vehicle.  But I hope people who use their mobile phones in public conveyances would also give their fellow passengers a little courtesy.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sunday in Quezon City: LCP Flea Market, Kanin Club, UP Technohub

I have heard of the weekend market at the Lung Center of the Philippines compound before but didn't have the chance to go there until today.  I went there with my family to check out what a lot of our friends are raving about.  Our father read something about the cooked food that are sold in the market  so we decided we could have our lunch there.

The market occupied a large part of the hospital grounds.  There were stalls selling fresh produce, including fruits and vegetables.  Some stalls were also selling fresh fish and other sea food.  But we were interested with the available cooked meals and there were plenty to choose from.  There were the regular Filipino food as well as regional specialties. .My sister in law and I wanted to buy some roasted calf but since we arrived late, the portions were not to our liking.

In the end we decided to have lunch somewhere else and we went to the UP Technohub.  Our destination was the Kanin Club.  I have eaten there a number of times with friends and office mates so in a way I am more familiar with what they offer. 

I was already forewarned by my office mates that the place is usually busy on Sundays that's why I wasn't surprise to see a long list of customers waiting to get seated.  We were number 7 and we waited for something like 30 or so minutes.  We already made our orders while waiting so when we got to our table, the food was immediately served.

For our soup, we ordered the hototay.  This is the first time I tried Kanin Club's version of one of my favorite Chinese soups.  Sorry to say, I am not impressed by their take on it.  The soup is so-so and the ingredients were mostly squid.  Maybe because my benchmark for this soup was the one we used to have when I was a kid; the hototay soup from Ho Wa, a Chinese panciteria in Quiapo that has seen better times and is now closed.

We also ordered the aligue rice which was steamed rice sauteed in aligue or crab fat.  At first I was hesitant to try it because of fear that it might trigger an allergic reaction.  Upon tasting the rice, I realized that there was not enough crab fat to give me an allergic attack so I went on to eat it.  The rice went well with the dishes we asked for.

Our father wanted to try the  kare-kare so we got one.  Their version is closer to what I am more familiar with, they used ox tripe and beef.  I like that the meat is tender, even the tripe was easy to chew and swallow.  The sauce is a little sweeter than our version of  kare-kare though but I am still very satisfied with this dish.

We  ordered one of my favorites, the crispy dinuguan.  I like this one so much because they use pork and not the pig's intestines.  The meat is usually fried until it's very crispy.  I always order this when we eat at Kanin Club.

My brother also asked for the Tilapiang Binukadkad.  It's deep fried tilapia that was cut open so the flesh is separated from the bones and opened like a flower petal.  Dipped in a mixture of soy sauce and vinegar, the dish complemented the others.

For dessert, we had turon ala mode.  I like the turon and for me it was already alright  even without the ice cream.  One order was enough for all of us but we asked for two so we ended up really really full.

I must also add that Kanin Club has a great view of the arboretum maintained by the University of the Philippines.  The sight of the green trees made eating there such a relaxing experience.  Another thing was the music, which were old kundiman and Filipino folk songs.

On our way out, we passed by an Apple Reseller in Technohub.  The store is called Switch.  The staff was gracious enough to assist us with our questions.  We were told that they already have the new iPod models but they still have the previous models on display, which are already being sold at a discount.

It was another busy Sunday but I enjoyed it.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Others

This happened yesterday morning in our office.  I was drinking my early morning coffee while having a small talk with my seat mate when one of our male clerks entered our cubicle and checked whether the boss was already in.  When he didn't see him, the clerk looked at us and hastily left the cubicle.  

It should have ended there because the clerk usually does that.  However, when I went to get some water from the dispenser, I looked at our attendance logbook and saw that the same male clerk called in sick for the day.

I called the attention of our secretary and asked her why the clerk was marked on leave when I just saw him that morning.  The surprised secretary told me that the clerk called in sick earlier and was never in the office the whole morning.

Our conversation caught the attention of our other office mates and some started making signs of the cross on my forehead and lips.  They were worried that what I experienced could be a premonition or that something bad has happened to the male clerk.  I jokingly told them that I don't believe it was the spirit of our officemate but it could be his doppelgänger. 

Some members of our staff, however, are convinced that we share our offices with "other" beings and began telling their experiences.  Although some can be explained scientifically, others are just as mind boggling as the one I had yesterday. 

I wanted to tell myself that I could be mistaken but I just cannot dismiss what I saw.  It was the male clerk and he even looked at our direction so I cannot be mistaken.  In fact, that wasn't my first encounter with the "other" occupants of our office.

It happened on the day a super typhoon hit Manila without warning, causing a massive blackout in the city.  Since I couldn't get any information, I called the office to check if there was work that day.   A female office mate answered the phone but I didn't talk to her anymore because it was enough to tell me that we have work that day.  However, on my way to the office, I was told that the management declared it a holiday since there was no electricity.

When we returned to work the following week. my office mates talked about what happened before work was canceled that day.  They said that it was too dark inside the office and nobody wanted to enter.    I told them that one of them did and answered the phone.  They said it was impossible for that person to answer the phone because she didn't report for work.  I went to the person and asked her if she really didn't go to the office that day.  She answered that she couldn't leave her house that day because the roads around her village was strewn with debris from fallen trees.

There are other occurrences in the office that convince me and my work mates that we are not alone in our office.  Hopefully, there will be peaceful co-existence between us even though they choose to make their presence felt every now and then.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Unending War: Cats vs Dogs

I often wake up at night because of the incessant barking of my dogs.  Sometimes they sound so angry and threatening, at times they sound so frustrated like they cannot get their quarry.  I checked on them several times and found out that they were after a stray cat.
The feline intruder would often get away from them but sometimes he chooses to stay at a spot where the dogs can see him but not reach him.  It was as if he wanted to tease the angry dogs who were after him.  There was even a time when the cat chose to hiss and snarl back at the barking dogs while safely perched on his spot.

This never ending animosity between these two animals has fascinated us for ages. In fact we have so many expressions referring to this war.  In the Philippines, when two people do not get along well and fight constantly, we say "para silang aso't pusa" (they are like dogs and cats).  Of course there is that English expression "raining like cats and dogs" to describe a really heavy downpour.

But where did this hate between each other really come from?  Like anything that old folks could not explain, we have a fable for this.  I read it from a book when I was in grade school  As far as I can remember, this is how the story goes.

Long ago, the cat and the dog were the best of friends.  They were also the most trusted pets of a king.  He trusted them so much that he made them go to bring something to a woman he was wooing in a neighboring kingdom: a ring.  

The king's minister placed the ring on the paw of the dog and sent off the animals.  But there was a terrible storm the night before that the animals had to cross a flooded river.  Now, the cat can't swim but the dog can.  So the cat said to the dog, "Why don't you let me ride on your back so we can both the cross the river?"

The dog hesitated for a while but then he said," Very well, take the ring and place it in your mouth.  Be careful not to lose it or the king will be very mad at us."  

The cat jumped on the back of the dog and they crossed the river. Upon reaching the other side though, the dog slipped and the cat almost fell in the water.  The cat, in his surprise, screamed "watch out" and doing so, the ring fell from his mouth and dropped in the water.

The dog tried to look for the ring but he couldn't find it anymore.  Perhaps the flood brought it along in its current.  And so woefully, the two  animals went back to the king to tell him what happened.  

In front of their master, the dog blamed the cat for dropping the ring in the river.  But the cat blamed the dog, insisting that if he had been very careful, he wouldn't have opened his mouth and dropped the ring.

The king was really mad and threw both of his favored pets out of his kingdom.  The dog was so angry with the cat that he wanted to kill him.  Sensing the danger, the cat ran up a tree and stayed there, hissing and snarling at the dog who was barking endlessly at him, blaming him for losing the special position they have in the palace.

And it goes on to this day.  As it seems, my dogs and the cat who come to visit them every night continue to blame each other for the loss of the  king's ring and the loss of their favored status. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Revisiting My Old Friend, Quiapo

On my way home from a seminar, I passed by a place I frequently go to before. The name of the place is almost synonymous to that of Manila.  Say the name and the listener will readily conjure an image of market stalls, streets crowded with people, in other words,  a bedlam.  I am talking about Quiapo, the old downtown situated smack in the middle of Manila.

Quiapo is also home to perhaps one of the most revered icons in the Philippines, the Black Nazarene. The church where it is at is right in the center of the district.  One could not come to Quiapo and not visit the Poong Nazareno to say even just a little prayer. That was my purpose that afternoon, to say thanks to Him for helping my father recover from his recent health problems.

Aside from the noise of the traffic outside, it was relatively silent inside the church.  I sat a few seats from the back of the church, giving me a good view of the altar.  At the centermost altar, the image of the dark Christ on his knees and carrying the cross rose above us all.

After saying my prayers I silently sat on the pew but then I started looking around the church.    At two in the afternoon on an ordinary weekday,  there were still a lot people inside the church.  Most of them have their head bowed in prayer. I could just guess what they were praying for.  Perhaps the young girl in school uniform was asking for assistance in her assignment or exams.  The young couple in front of me could be praying for a baby or a job, and the elderly woman on the opposite pew may be just like me, praying for good health.

I was about to leave the church when I was attracted by two elderly ladies walking on their knees towards the altar while praying the Rosary.  I watched them for another few minutes because it's been a while since I last saw something like it, may be decades. It was an old practice of people showing penance and subservience to the will of the Lord.  I was mildly surprised that in an age where people attend mass in malls or over the Internet, such piety still exists.  

On my way out of the church, I saw those women who, for a fee, would pray the entire Rosary for anyone who needs a prayer but is too busy to do so.  It is something I do not agree with and I really wonder why the church officials in Quiapo would even allow such practice inside their domain.

Once outside the church, I was instantly drawn to one particular street in the area: Villalobos.  This narrow street is usually filled with vendors selling all kinds of stuff.  If you're looking for low priced vegetables and other food stuff, you can find it here.  Some of the hawkers sell their wares in containers called bilao in the middle of the street, while others have semi-permanent stalls made of wood.  Farther down the street were stores selling kitchen tools such as pots and pans.

That afternoon I went looking for smoked fish or tinapa but I was told that it was still too warily and the delivery has not arrived yet.  I decided to walk down the street to see if I could get something else.  There were fruits like mangoes, papaya, melons that were priced lower than in supermarkets.  The smell of good stuff mixed with the odor of fresh fish and other fresh things.  

As I walked farther, I saw some shellfish I liked a lot.  I was about to buy some when the vendors started bundling their wares and running in all directions.  It turned out that a group of policemen arrived to clear the streets of illegal vendors.  I think some of the vendors were informed in advance of the raid because they left even before the police arrived Those who were caught had their stuff confiscated and hauled to a waiting van.  In minutes, the street was clear except for those who have permanent stalls.

I finally decided to leave and walked towards where the jeepney wait for passengers.  I passed by old stores where we used to buy stuff like clothes and shoes.  Some of the stores were already closed while the others were converted into something else.  That's how my afternoon in Quiapo ended and somehow it was like visiting a friend who has aged a bit but the rest remained the same.