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Monday, October 31, 2011

7 Billion and counting

Today marks a milestone in Earth's history.  Today the 7 billionth human being is born somewhere in our blue planet.  According to the United Nations, if he or she happens to be born in Japan, France, the United States or other wealthy nation, that baby will live up 100 years.

How big is 7 billion? According to the National Geographic, don't other counting it out because even if you if you spend just a second for each number, it will still take two centuries to reach that number.  If you take 7 billion steps, it will take you around the globe 133 times!  It's that big.  You may wonder how 7 billion people will fit in this tiny sphere.  Well, someone did try to determine how and by their estimates, if all 7 billion of us stand shoulder to shoulder, we will all fit in the city of Los Angeles.

Here are other interesting tidbits about us 7 billion earthlings:

  • 13% of us speak Mandarin as their first language, 5% Spanish and 5% English;
  • 19% are Chinese, 17% are Indian and only 4% are American;
  • 33% are Christian, 21% Muslim and 13% Hindu;
  • 51% of Earth's 7 billion live in Urban areas;
  • 82% of us are literates.

We should remember of course that the world population will not stop at 7 billion.  Health improvements resulted in longer life spans, improved survival of mother and child.  Also despite declining fertility rates, about 80 million people are added to the world population every year, roughly equivalent to the entire population of Germany.  If this trend continues, there will be 10 billion people on earth by the end of this century.

Aside from this, the UN has estimated that there are some 3.7 million people that are in their reproductive years.  So expect our population to further grow in the next few decades.  Much of the growth will be in Asia but Africa is fast catching up.  Fertility in the continent is double than that in Asia, so much so that its population will triple by the end of this century.  For example, Germany and Ethiopia has the same population of about 80 million.  But due to differences in fertility rate, Germany which has a fertility rate of 1.4 child per woman will see its population will go down to  75 million.  Ethiopia on the other hand with its 4.6 fertility rate will almost double its population to 145 million.



The task of providing for this 7 billion souls lies in the hands of governments around the world of course.  Part of their work should also be to educate their people on reproductive health and provide the facilities and services for the same.  They need to study and take in to consideration how to make life sustainable for all of us.  The decisions and policies that they will make today will determine the future of 7 billion people.

By the way, by time you finish reading this blog, you will be one of the more than 7 billion people in this rock we call home.

"We are 7 billion people with 7 billion possibilities"
Babatunde Osotimehin
Executive Director, UNFPA


Credits: Data and images used come from reports of the United Nations Population Fund, National Geographic, 7billionactions.org


Friday, October 28, 2011

Nokia Announces the Lumia: First Smartphones Powered by Windows

Nokia unveiled two new smartphones based on its new operating system, Microsoft's  Windows Phone instead of its Symbian or MeetGo software.  Children meet the Lumia 800 and 710, two new smartphones that Nokia hopes would help them get back in the mobile phone scene.

Lumia 800 is obviously the high end model between the two.  It sports a rather curvy design and based on the picture, its 3.7-inch 800x480 AMOLED screen seem to occupy most of its body.  Inside this device is a  1.4 GHz processor, with hardware acceleration and graphics processor.  For those who like snapping their  photos using their phones, the 800 comes with an 8-megapixel camera.  It has a dedicated button to instantly share your photos online.  It has a hefty 16GB internal storage for your photos and music.  

This baby will come in three colors, cyan, magenta and black.  It is now available for pre-order in Europe but will be available in select Asian countries later this year.  Don't jump for joy yet because most likely, the Lumia 800 will not reach our shores until early 2012.

Nokia wanted to bring the Lumia experience to more people in the world so they also introduced a more affordable phone, the Nokia Lumia 710.  Like its higher end sibling, this model comes with the same 1.4 GHz processor, with hardware acceleration and graphics processor as that of the 800.  However, this one comes with 8GB internal storage and a 5-megapixel camera.

Its design is a typical Nokia design.  It comes in two colors: black and white but the removable back cover can be changed to either black, white, cyan, fuchsia, or yellow.   Remember how much fun it was then to change those plastic covers to our preferred colors?  Well it seems Nokia wanted us to experience that again.

Both handsets runs on the lates Windows Phone 7.5 Mango operating system. It will also have apps exclusively available to Nokia Phones and optimized for the Windows Phone operating system.  Among these apps are Nokia Drive, which delivers a full-fledged personal navigation device (PND) with free, turn-by-turn navigation and dedicated in-car-user-interface; and Nokia Music introducing MixRadio, a free, global, mobile music-streaming application that delivers hundreds of channels of locally-relevant music.

The Lumia 710 will be released later this year in some Asian countries.  Just like the Lumia 800, this device could be available in the local market by early 2012.

all images from nokia.com


Thursday, October 27, 2011

More Pinoys Get Hungry

While I was doing my blog on hunger myths and facts, I also checked on the state of hunger in the Philippines. I wanted to know how our country fares in terms of hunger.  I came upon the results of the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) on hunger which shows a rise in the number of hungry Filipinos.

According to the survey which was conducted in September of this year, one in five households or 21.5 percent which is an estimated 4.3 million families, claimed to have experienced having nothing to eat the three months prior to the survey.  This is the highest incidence during the current administration and also higher by  7 percent of the 13-year average of 14 percent.

The SWS divided hunger into severe or moderate.  Severe are those who experienced hunger "often" or "always" while moderate refers to those who experienced it "only once" or " a few times" in the last three months.  Severe hunger was highest in Metro Manila where some 6.3 percent of families claimed they had nothing to eat.  Moderate hunger also increased in the region at 16.7 percent.   

For this survey, the SWS polled 1,200 household heads or 300 respondents for each of four regions: Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The process of choosing respondents is random, to assure neutrality.

While this is the highest recorded hunger percentage during this administration, the SWS noted that it is still below the record-high 24 percent registered during the past administration.  Earlier, the current President expressed dismay about the results of the survey done in March.  At least that is better than the reaction of the President before him who said that she also experienced hunger especially when she forgets to eat.  Oh well...



Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Truth About the 11 Most Common Hunger Myths

I received a very interesting article from the World Food Programme about the common misconceptions about hunger.  I want to share it with you the highlights of the said article.

Myth 1:  There isn’t enough food to feed the world. 
Reality: There is enough food in the world today for everyone to have the nourishment necessary for a healthy and productive life. There is, however, a need to be more efficient, sustainable, and fair in how we grow and distribute food. This means supporting small-scale farmers who make up the majority of farmers throughout the developing world – and ensuring that they have fair access to markets.

Myth 2:  Resolving hunger means ensuring people have enough to eat.
Reality: Hunger also involves the type of food you eat. Good nutrition means having the right combination of nutrients and calories needed for healthy development. It's especially important for infants, pregnant women and young children.

Myth 3: Droughts and other natural disasters are to blame for hunger. 
Reality: Communities that build irrigation systems, storage facilities, and roads to connect them to markets are able to improve harvests. Then people can survive even during times of drought. Nature is only one factor when it comes to hunger. The proportion of food crises that are linked to human causes has more than doubled since 1992. Conflict is often at the heart of today’s worst food crises.

Myth 4: Hunger exists when food is unavailable in shops and markets.
Reality: People can go hungry even when there's plenty of food around. Often it's a question of access - they can’t afford food or they can’t get to local markets. One way we can help is through cash transfers and electronic vouchers, which give people the ability to buy nutritious foods in local markets.

Myth 5: All of the world’s hungry live in Africa.
Reality: Of the world’s nearly one billion hungry, over half live in Asia and the Pacific Hunger is also a relevant issue in the United States, where 50 million Americans are food insecure.

Myth 6: Too many people go hungry in my own country for me to worry about hunger abroad.
Reality: One in seven people in the world are hungry, which means one in seven people can’t create, study, or reach their full potential as human beings. That affects all of us. Hunger slows progress on other important areas that connect nations, including security.

Myth 7: Hunger and famine are not easy to predict and can't be prepared for.
Reality: Tools exist to monitor and predict trends in food production as well as food prices. For example, the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) analyzes meteorological and economic factors to alert the world to the possibility of hunger hotspots and famine.

Myth 8: Hunger is basically a health issue.
Reality: This issue also affects education and the economy. Hungry children struggle to focus, learn, or even attend school. Without education, it's much harder for them to grow up and contribute to the growth of the national economy. A study in Guatemala found that boys who received fortified food before the age of three grew up to have wages 46 percent higher than those in a control group.

Myth 9: People are only hungry during emergencies or disasters.
Reality: Emergencies only account for eight percent of the world’s hungry. There are close to one billion hungry people in the world who do not make the headlines and yet they go to bed hungry every night. This is why long-term efforts like school meals programmes are so important.

Myth 10: There are more pressing global issues than hunger.
Reality: When populations are hungry, economies suffer, people fight, and farmers can’t grow their crops effectively. We need to tackle hunger to be able to resolve environmental, economic, and security issues.

Myth 11: There is nothing we can do to help hungry people.
Reality: There’s plenty we can do, even as individuals. Organizations like WFP need constant support and awareness-building efforts at the community level. You can help with that. Find out other ways to get involved here.

The World Food Programme (WFP) is the world's largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide.  It is part of the United Nations system and is voluntarily funded.  For 2011, the WFP aims to reach more than 90 million people with food assistance in more than 70 countries. Around 10,000 people work for the organization, most of them in remote areas, directly serving the hungry poor.


Sunday, October 16, 2011

Revisiting Historic Paco Park

I joined the photo walk of my camera club this weekend at the Paco Park in Manila.  It's been a while since I last visited the place and it was nice to see it again.  Aside from that, we celebrated the 50th wedding anniversary of our parents there three years ago so it's a memorable place for me personally.

Paco Park also has a place in our country's history.  Our National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was buried there for a while after his execution.  The three martyred priests named GomBurZa were also interred there.

I was around 9 in the morning when we got there and the park was relatively quiet and almost empty except from a few visitors.  We have it almost to ourselves except that there were some construction going on.  Some areas were being dugged up while some of the walls were being reinforced.

Here are some of the photos I took during our photo walk.

















Saturday, October 15, 2011

YouTube comes to the Philippines

It's not as if it is not available in the country yet but YouTube recently launched a localized version of the biggest online video sharing site here in the Philippines.  It is the first one in the Southeast Asia region.

The company noted that number of video uploads by Filipinos is one of the highest in the region.  A number of our countrymen have also been using YouTube to make a name for themselves across the globe. Charice was discovered through the site by Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey.  Rock band Journey chose Filipino singer-songwriter Arnel Pineda to be their new vocalist after seeing videos of him belting out their hits on YouTube. And of course, the well choreographed dance routines for Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”  of the uniformed inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center made them popular the world over.

The localized service will also allow for monetization of video views in the Philippines. The YouTube Partner Program will enable regular video content creators in the country to become content partners with YouTube and monetize their work on the site through advertising.

I have posted several videos of my travels on YouTube although none has gone viral yet.  But who knows.


Hello, hello remember me?: Evanescence returns with a self-titled album

It's been almost six years since their last album so it wasn't surprising that Evanescence lead singer Amy Lee would scream "Hello, hello, do you remember me?" in the chorus of the opening track of their new self-titled album.  In fact, the first cut pretty much set the mood for the entire album.  This is Evanescence and they're back even if it's only Amy that's basically left of the original members.

This new turnover must have led to the somewhat new sound of some of the tracks, leading me to believe that Amy must have asked some of her new band mates to help in the songwriting.  There are no hard driving anthems like "Bring Me to Life" but it seemed that "rock hard" was the order of the day.  So rock hard the band did.  So hard that in some tracks, the guitars drowned the orchestral strings the band is known for.  Those of us who love Amy's soaring, breathy vocals, however, have plenty of cuts to listen to and like.  In fact, this was put to full use in the ballads, including the last bonus cut (I am using the de luxe version for this blog), "The Secret Door."  Not to mention the angst filled lyrics that sometimes border (at least some of the songs) in melodrama.  Also, many of the songs have lyrics that   focus, if not obsess on death and the afterlife.  Evanescence is a goth band after all.

The album is Evanescence through and through which could be both good and bad.  Bad for those who wanted to hear something new from them. For fans like me who want to hear more of their signature sound, this is one good album to get reacquainted with the band and their music that we love.

You can download the De Luxe version of Evanescence from iTunes.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

iOS 5 is Here!

 

Apple released iOS 5 this morning, its most anticipated mobile operating system for the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.  It brings 200 new features and enhancements including Notification Center, iMessage, Newsstand, Reminders, and systemwide Twitter integration.

The update requires iTune 10.5 which was released last Tuesday.  To download, connect your device to iTunes and you'll be prompted with the download.  If not, click on Check for Updates button.  iOS 5 is compatible with the iPad 2, original iPad, iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, and third- and fourth-generation iPod touch.

A good number of fellow members of an online Mac users forum stayed all night to wait and be the first ones to download and run this new OS.  Some of them are reporting problems and difficulties with upgrading to iOS 5, as Apple's servers have been acting up perhaps due to high demand for the new release. I am downloading it right now and hopefully the glitches experienced by early adaptors have been addressed already.  I will make a more detailed post about it in the next few days.



Saturday, October 8, 2011

Apple Unveils the iPhone 4S

Apple announced earlier this week the latest member of the iPhone family - the iPhone 4S.  While it disappointed some iPhone fans who were expecting an iPhone 5, a closer look at the features of the latest device shows improvement in its processing power and camera quality, as well as a new nifty application called Siri.

The iPhone 4S looks a lot like the iPhone 4 but there’s one small difference: a SIM card slot on the phone’s right side. Since the iPhone 4S supports both GSM and CDMA networks all models feature a small tray along the right side of the frame for a GSM SIM card. 

It also  has a faster processor—an Apple-built A5 chip, which also happens to be the processor that powers the iPad 2. It’s a dual-core processor (compared to the iPhone 4’s single-core A4 processor), which should mean improved performance not only for the CPU, but for graphics on the device as well.

As for battery life,  Apple promises some eight hours of talk time on 3G, six hours of 3G browsing, nine hours of Wi-Fi, ten hours of video, and 40 hours of listening to music. This is due to the more power-efficient A5 chip, according to Apple.


Perhaps still reeling from the "antennagate", Apple put two in the iPhone 4S.  It now switches back and forth between the two when its transmitting and receiving data. Apple says the aim is better call quality and faster download speeds, and obviously holding the phone in any way shouldn’t have any effect on your signal. The iPhone 4S also supports  faster cellular data transfer which  Apple claims can reach maximum transfer speeds of 5.8Mbps for uploads and 14.4Mbps for downloads.

I said earlier that the iPhone 4S supports both GSM and CDMA networks, prompting some quarters to call this a world phone. This is particularly convenient for world travelers as they will be able to connect to a local network and just work. You may either apply for roaming services from your network or get a pre-paid micro SIM in the country you're in.

The iPhone 4S’s rear-facing camera now has 8 megapixels compared to 5-megapixel in the iPhone 4. The camera also has a wider f/2.4 aperture to allow in more light—that means brighter colors and better lowlight performance. Apple says you can print 8.5-by-11-inch iPhone 4S photographs, and that they’ll be literally pixel-perfect.   Thanks again to the A5 processor which, Apple says, should help you take pictures faster, with more vivid colors and better white balance. The processor also helps focus and balance exposure as you snap photos, with the ability to detect up to ten faces in a group shot.

Alongside this, new features in the Camera and Photos apps give you instant access to the camera right from the lock screen, and you can also use the volume-up button to quickly snap a photo. Optional grid lines help line up your shot and a simple tap locks focus and exposure on one subject.  The new Photos app also lets you crop, rotate, enhance and remove red-eye, and organize your photos into albums right on your device to share them on the go.  How about the front facing camera, you ask.  Sadly, it is still a low-resolution VGA camera.

Phone 4S can also now record video in full 1080p HD resolution and with the new video image stabilization feature, you can take richer, smoother videos. Other iPhone 4S video camera improvements include increased sensitivity, sharpness and an increased ability to capture video in low light conditions. With the new iMessage service in iOS 5, you can now instantly share videos with family and friends.

The iPhone 4S feature that got everyone talking is Siri, an intelligent assistant that helps you get things done just by asking. Siri helps you make calls, send text messages or email, schedule meetings and reminders, make notes, search the Internet, find local businesses, get directions and more. You can also get answers, find facts and even perform complex calculations just by asking.  To date, however, Siri is an iPhone 4S exclusive feature.  Many speculate that this is due to hardware limitation, that perhaps Siri needed the processing power of the A5 chip. 

Here’s another amazing way to get things done using the iPhone 4S: just use your voice. That's right, this thing can take Dictations.  Instead of typing, tap the microphone icon on the keyboard. Then say what you want to say and iPhone listens. Tap Done, and iPhone converts your words into text. Use dictation to write messages, take notes, search the web, and more. Dictation also works with third-party apps, so you can update your Facebook status, tweet, or write and send Instagrams

 The 4S comes in both black and white and in 16GB, 32GB and the new 64GB models.  It will be released on October 14 in the US and in 22 other countries by the end of the month.  As usual, the Philippines is not included in the list of countries in the initial roll-out.  The 'net however is abuzz that it might come to our country in November, just in time to get it under the Christmas tree for someone special or for yourself.  As for the price, I would speculate that it will take the same price as the iPhone4 when it was first released here.

 all images from apple.com


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Steve Jobs, 56


STEVE JOBS
1955-2011

Thanks for making computing fun. Your legacy will live forever.