Earth Hour

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Video Comes to Instagram

I just finished downloading the update of Instagram, the hugely popular photo sharing/social network app. The biggest update of course is video.  Users can now post 15 seconds of video to share among their friends.
It's so easy to use. Open the app then tap on the camera icon.  You will get to another screen with a video camera icon.  Tap on it and you're ready to go.  Press the record button and record anything you want: your new puppy running around the house, the kids playing basketball or even your partner cooking your favorite food. You don't have to shoot everything in one take. Lift your finger and the recorder automatically stops.

You don't need to worry about camera shake since Instagram incorporated an image stabilizer feature they named Cinema.  For now, it only works with iPhone 4s and higher.  Don't worry Android fans, it's coming to you soon.
Instagram also created 13 new filters exclusively for the video feature.  You can choose one of these filter and instantly preview its effect during play before sharing you post the video. Sound is instantly on and all posts are in square format, just like the photos.  Also when you post a video you can chose a scene as a “cover shot” which will be displayed while the rest of your video plays.

Super Moon Rising Tonight

Weather permitting, tonight we will see the moon rise from the east and become 14 percent bigger than usual.   No, the moon will not grow bigger instead it will be at its closest point to Earth - what scientists call the perigree.  On the average the moon  is 383,024 kms away from the Earth. On Sunday, it will be just 356,991 kms away -- or 26,023 kms closer than usual.

from credit:Tim McCord says that supermoons occur about once annually, and this year, the supermoon is closer than it has been in a little while.  It added that the difference in size can mean as much as a 30 percent change in the brightness, so this will be a particularly bright supermoon.

If you want to see the largest full moon of the year, you just need to step outside and look up at the sky,  To take pictures of this event, offers the following tips: use a tripod, a zoom lens about 200mm and fast shutter speed.

As a final word, let me assure you folks that this event does not portend anything sinister.  It will not bring earthquakes or volcanic eruptions.  NASA says that the supermoon has very little effect on the tides, that even those who live in coastal areas will not notice any change in the height of water.  

UPDATE: As expected, it was a cloudy night so the super moon was not visible at all. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What a 2ºC Warming Means to South East Asia

I want to share with you this infographic from the World Bank.  It says what would happen to the South East Asia region should the temperature rise due to climate change.  The report says that coastal areas and cities like Manila will be greatly affected by rising sea levels and heat extremes.  


Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience, was prepared for the World Bank by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Climate Analytics.  The report paints a rather bleak scenario: if the world warms by 2°C – which may be reached in 20 to 30 years – there will be widespread food shortages, unprecedented heat-waves, and more intense cyclones. In the near-term, climate change, which is already happening, could greatly impact the lives of individuals who have done little or nothing in raising the Earth's temperature.

The report adds that countries in the South East Asia region are particularly vulnerable to the sea-level rise, increases in heat extremes, increased intensity of tropical cyclones, and ocean warming and acidification because many are archipelagoes located within a tropical cyclone belt and have relatively high coastal population densities.   

The degradation and loss of coral reefs will diminish tourism, reduce fish stocks, and leave coastal communities and cities more vulnerable to storms.  In the Philippines the report said that the biggest risks are due to more severe impacts storms will have on informal settlements and coastal communities.   

For more information and to download a copy of the report, go to:,

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Dan Brown's Inferno: More of the Usual Stuff

Dan Brown's latest book, Inferno, has everything his fans would expect from him: a nice setting, clues and codes hidden in works of art, conspiracy theories, you get the drift.  After all, this is another story centered on Robert Langdon, Harvard professor and symbologist.

The story begins with Langdon waking up in a hospital not knowing where he is and without any  recollection of the last two days.  He narrowly escapes an attempt on his life , thanks to a female doctor, Sienna Brooks.  But even with this memory loss, he was able to unlid a sinister plot by a mad scientist to unleash a virus (codenamed Inferno) that will "thin the herd", the herd being us humans.  How did he do it? By interpreting hidden codes and symbols in Inferno of the Divine Comedy by Dante. And yes,  with a little help from his eidetic memory.  

Just like any of Brown's novel, this one is filled with details like the height of the building, the make of a car, motorcycle or plane and even the brand of clothes Langdon was wearing.  For example, everybody he met thought that changing from a Harris Tweed to a Brioni suit made Langdon look more Italian.   If anything, the way he described Florence and Istanbul would make Brown a great TLC travel show host.  There is even a tour now of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey based on the book.

The book is quite a page turner, I stayed up until 1AM just to find out if the virus will be released.      However, somewhere in the last 14 chapters of the book, everything collapsed.  Just like the house of cards that one of the characters keeps on talking about (change one card and the entire thing will shift and fall).  The frenetic story telling came to a drag and twists after twists were revealed.  Personally, the revelations only confirmed what I have suspected since the first few chapters.  Maybe it was my desire to prove my self right that kept me reading up to this point. When they were confirmed, my reading energy just dropped.

Dan Brown wrote this book with his built-in audience (aka loyal readers) in mind.  Critics be damned, the book is a hit everywhere!  It even got a publicity boost right here in our country when a government official reacted on Sienna Brook's telling herself that her stay in Manila was like running through the gates of hell.  A minor twist in the story which at most,  is amusing.

Inferno by Dan Brown is available in Kindle edition from

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Kidrobot Reveals Dunny 2013 Designs on Facebook

The title of the blog says it all.  Kidrobot reveals the artists and their designs for the 2013 Dunny series on their Facebook fan page today.

Not only that, since the series is always in blind boxes, the illustration also showed the ratio of each design per case.  Unfortunately some of the ones I like are at 1/40 which means 1 for every two cases.   I will get one case and maybe try my luck pulling out the rest that are not in my case.

So who's your Dunny 2013? Take your pick from below.  The series will be released in the US on June 14.

Fall of Giants and Winter of the World: A Review

I just finished reading Ken Follet's works one after the other: "Fall of Giants" and "Winter of the World", which are part of the Century Trilogy.  Both books are massive. Kindle gives a reading time for each book at 16 hours.  It took me weeks to finish them.

The books are about five families in different parts of the world, Russia, Germany, Britain and the USA, which were intertwined by events of the last century.  Follet introduces them to us in Fall of Giants, which took place in the 20s and 30s and pretty much covered events leading to and during World War I, the Russian Revolution and political events that changed the course of history, including women's suffrage.

The second book, Winter of the World introduces us to the next generation and mostly offsprings of the characters in the first volume.  We also see changes in the lives and social standing of many of the characters.  For me, this is darker than the first book because it dealt about the atrocities of the Nazi Regime, the terror of World War II and the savagery of the Red Army which was supposed to liberate Berlin after the war.  Oh, and it also set the stage for the cold war with the introduction of the atomic bomb.

Follet described everything in vivid imagery.  He is a master of description: from the darkness of the coal mine pit, to the battlefields in France, the blitzkrieg, and the harsh Russian winter.  Follet described everything so well that you could almost even smell his characters when he says that they haven't bathed for weeks.  

I think this is why I got hooked with these books and kept me turning page after page.  Follet made me feel like I was part of the events as they unfold.  It felt like, I was sitting beside the Dewars while they were negotiating for the establishment of the United Nations or when the British Parliament was debating whether to unseat Chamberlain or not.  It does help that the reader knows basic modern history but it is not necessary.

This brings us to the next point I want to make.  Follet made the reader learn history and the behind the scenes stories about the events without the reader noticing it.  I learned a lot about the conditions of the miners in Wales and how the British women won their right to suffrage by reading this book.

Spending weeks reading these books also made me feel that I knew these families well enough that I am interested to what would happen to them. "Winter of the World" ended in a hopeful note, on Christmas Day, with Carla von Ulrich surrounded by her family singing a Christmas Carol.   

I am looking forward to the third and final installment of the trilogy.  

Fall of Giants and Winter of the World are both available for Kindle on

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Apple Introduces New iPod Touch Sans Back Camera

Apple quietly began selling in the US a new iPod Touch at US$229 yesterday.  At the same time, it stopped selling the fourth-generation 16GB iPod Touch which comes with a 3.5-inch screen and costs $199.

The new model does not come with a rear camera.  Although the front camera is still there, it does not offer 1080p video.    

The new 16GB iPod Touch features a 4-inch Retina Display and is powered by a dual-core A5 processor.  

It has only one color combination: black front and silver back.  It also does not have the loop wrist band that comes with its higher-cost sibling which were released 8 months ago.