Friday, June 25, 2010

14th Philippine Academic Book Fair

aka, I Broke My Indefinite Hiatus from Blogging to Spread the Word about Something that Needs More Attention. So yeah. Here it goes.

First off, here's a link. I only learned about this through the UP Engineering Library II's email notification, which periodically sends updates about new books and materials, and the occasional gem about virtually unpublicized events, like this one. I googled a bit for more details about it - lists of participating publishers, for example - and came up with precious little. There's even a Department of Education advisory about it, which is why I'm wondering why it's not being publicized widely. (Then again, maybe that's the exact reason why. ~.~) It's in a couple of weeks (July 6-10), so maybe there will be more announcements just before it happens. I certainly hope so.

Anyway, feel free to blog or tweet or plurk or text about it, whether you're a student or just a curious blog-hopper. You might know someone who's looking for a certain textbook, or reference, or just loves browsing books. That someone will definitely appreciate hearing about this. :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For the Moleskine!

This is an entry for's Win a Moleskine Colour a Month Daily Planner 2010! contest, wherein the following question must be answered: What are you thankful for this 2009? I always appreciate opportunities for reflection...not to mention an opportunity to win a Moleskine product. :D So, here goes! Wish me luck. :)

What are you thankful for this 2009?

The first thing that comes to mind is a milestone. April saw my graduation from UP Diliman and the end of 18 years of schooling. As a student I was above average at best, but the completion of my studies elated me as only a milestone can. I had accomplished something significant - it was a turning-point, the beginning of my life as an adult. An earning adult, since I had started working as a programmer at a local software company two weeks before. A college degree and a job; as far as I was concerned, I was all set for whatever was in store for me.

The second thing is learning, especially about myself and my capabilities. By May I had been assigned to a project with difficult clients; being new, I was given only minor tasks, but I felt the pressure that was constantly bearing down on my team. I was barely a month in the team when I started spending nights at the office along with my teammates just to get things done. Although some of us got sick from working late hours, we managed to pull through and finish our work. Fortunately the pace became manageable after several weeks, although our clients continued to be difficult. When the project was concluded in September and I was transferred to another project, I had already learned a lot about my skills as a programmer, as well as how much more I still had to learn. I'm very lucky to be in a company that actively fosters learning - not only do we have access to the internet and a well-stocked library of reference books, but we are also encouraged to share our knowledge with one another. I've learned a lot from the expertise of teammates past and present who guided me and helped me whenever I got stuck. I look forward to the day when I'll also have a lot to share with my future teammates, whether in terms of experience with a project or technical know-how.

Lastly, self-discovery and acceptance. Granted, this process did not take place only within the space of one year; it took many years, starting from the moment I noticed the gradual changes in the way I think and form opinions. This is where diaries come in handy - reading my old missives reminded me of the things I considered important (and worth recording), and my attitude towards them. This year marked an upward trend in my thoughts, mood-wise; I've been more positive, more open to change and more reflective. This in itself is something of a milestone to me, since I spent most of my formative years in a gloomy, pessimistic state. I've been happier this year than I ever remember being in a long time, and this is quite a lot to be thankful for. I realized a lot of things about myself which I would never have thought possible just a couple of years ago, such as my fondness for the color pink (I used to hate pink for the sake of hating it). As my friend put it, I've mellowed out. I love my life, and I'd love to keep on improving it year after year.

Looking back, 2009 was a really good year. I'm looking forward to 2010 and all it will bring. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A Hair's Breadth

I washed my hands quickly before taking my first bite of dinner; the stink of unknown garbage bins and dung piles still clung to my fingers, but I didn't have the heart to wash it off completely. Our dog Yuri paced near our front door, his tongue hanging out. His eyes were bright and eager. I took him by his chain; my hand went for a portion of the chain near his collar, so that he almost choked. In my mind I could remember the tightness of my fingers around his throat just minutes before; they were not nearly so tight as his teeth had been around the kitten's body.

Yuri had been making a fuss in the garage. When I looked out of the sala's high window I saw a cat rooting in the drainage hole in front of our gate; I assumed that it was the source of his agitation, and would have dismissed it if not for my curiosity. I stepped out of the house and found him scrabbling and barking in a corner of the garage, far from where the cat was trying to get at the fish bones my mother had thrown out. As I got closer to him I finally saw what he was getting worked up about: a little white-and-gray-striped kitten, barely a month old, toeing the narrow space beneath our gate. It moved slowly, blithely unaware of Yuri's excited barking. I wanted to catch it up and play with it; I imagined how its fur would feel on my skin, if it would scratch or bite me, if it would purr. Briefly I began to imagine what would happen if Yuri got to it. It was small enough to fit under the gate with a little effort, and it seemed to be trying to do just that. The thought didn't continue into my mind, however; instead, it transcended the hair's breadth from possibility into reality as the kitten became a gray blur that Yuri was savagely trying to crush in his jaws.

It took me a full two seconds before I could grab onto Yuri and try to prevent him from killing the kitten. Yuri growled at me - it was the kind of growl he used when he was enjoying a meal or a favorite bone and didn't want any interference. The sight of his exposed teeth kept me from forcing his mouth open. The kitten's struggles grew weaker, until I was certain that it was no longer moving. There was a stink, a terribly familiar stink that reminded me of the cats that pillaged the garbage cans of my dormitory years ago. Another thought, this time born from cold fact, thudded forcefully into my head. I dug my fingers into Yuri's throat, cried "No!" and "Ma!". My mother's arrival and the successful attempt to remove the kitten from Yuri's grip were like a grim ritual that simply needed to be completed. The kitten's limp body had a puncture wound the size of a baby's fingertip near its neck, and its underbelly was streaked with bright red. It was the kind of red I was used to seeing in movies, the kind that I immediately thought of as fake. It looked garishly real as the kitten's lifeless head and limbs lolled in my mother's hand. A part of me was still trying to will it to move, that small part that had realized ahead of the rest of me how much danger the kitten had been in, and how much I could have done if I had been quicker. For several seconds I felt utterly useless.

Mild anger gave me thoughts of kicking and slapping Yuri to ease my disappointment; I was surprised at how I couldn't feel my old affection for the dog who had been with my family for over seven years. It took some time for me to acknowledge the power of Yuri's instincts, which awakened whenever a cat happened to come within 10 meters of our house. He couldn't help himself.

Possibilities, however, continued to play in my mind - my skin allergies acting up due to the nearly invisible ticks that inhabit a cat's fur, the feeling of eight tiny claws tentatively digging into my palm, the opaque blue of a young kitten's unfocused eyes trying to see my own. I had thought of reaching through the gate's steel bars to take the kitten; the moment of indecision that stalled the movement from thought to action had sealed its fate. I could only hope that, should another event requiring quick thinking arise, my thoughts will not be so sluggish in crossing the hair's breadth between possibility and reality.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


In a Makati-bound shuttle similar to a schoolbus—two long seats, backrests below the windows at opposite sides of the vehicle, separated by a narrow aisle:

A woman in her mid-forties, fussy peroxided curls, tight lemon yellow baby tee, straight black schoolteacher slacks cinched around a full waist. Flesh-colored full panties, synthetic, peeking as she bends over. Canvas handbag with embroidered trains and checks, three-inch plastic Donald Duck keychain. Chunky candybar phone, entry-level, oversized letters, tiny screen. Translucent plastic rosary beads, shiny faux silver medal smaller than a peso in lieu of a crucifix.

A woman in her mid-thirties, mocha skin, wavy hair ponied at the base of her neck. Heart-shaped face, small eyes and nose, abbreviated eyebrows. Dry peeling lips, full, tired. Small, capable hands. Centimeter-long fingernails kept meticulously clean. Silver chain and pendant, slightly tarnished. Corduroy boatneck top, black, elbow-length sleeves, sliver of slender white bra strap near her shoulder. Dusty black pants. Black rectangular backpack, laptop size, molded rubber support pads at the base. Fat little hardcover book on economic/legal matters, heavily annotated in bright blue ink.


At the far end of the right-hand seat, as seen from the middle of the left-hand seat:

A young man in his early twenties, large eyes and rabbit teeth from a distantly remembered childhood. No longer scrawny—a grotesque tattooed monster snarls from an enlarged bicep half-hidden under the sleeve of a slightly rumpled polo shirt—but still short, still only inches taller. Hair growing over a recently shaved skull. Hands overridden with veins, (perhaps) scars lurking beneath fabric. Slim, elongated black bag, zipped shut, containing small items that make no sound when disturbed. A wistful, almost childish look of exhaustion during brief, stolen naps. A face grown somewhat sharper, somewhat older, with the inevitable (yet still incomplete) angularity of manhood.

Note: Forgive me for being lazy with this post... This is just a handful of loosely-connected character studies focusing on the external appearance ('cause I tend to fixate on that ^^;;). I didn't really intend for them to have any kind of structure; I guess that's something I can try to come up with in the future, when I'm not so busy with the day job. ^^;

Sunday, May 3, 2009


It's easier not to say anything when my mother complains. When she unties her hair in the confines of her room, big brush in hand. When she pauses, expecting me to agree. When she changes the topic to something that doesn't cause her grief, or remind her of the mistake she made at the altar decades before. It's easier to sit silently by her side as she pours out her frustrations, although it's not so easy to be young and still dependent on the cause of her pain.

No, it's not so easy to be unable to say anything other than empty words of comfort.

Note: Having fun with my new phone ^^ It's got this little memo application that can save a memo of up to 1000 characters. I know it sounds silly, but this looked a lot longer while I was keying it out on my phone XP hehe. Now this post seems way too short, and vague. ^^; Minimalist I'm not, I guess.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Advice for Sandwich Eaters

If you're going to pack sandwiches for a snack and you have a regular 8 to 5 (in my case, 9 to 6) job, you should never pack them the night before. Pack them in the morning, just before you leave for work. If you don't, they're going to taste funny, as the following story will attest.

On the eve before my first day at work I was a bit excited - I made my sandwiches myself (partly to save my mother the trouble of making them the following morning, partly 'cause I wanted them to be just right :P). One with orange marmalade on white bread, another with my mother's chicken salad on whole-wheat bread. I wrapped them in plastic and stowed them away in the refrigerator for safekeeping. The next day, while I was seated in the shuttle on my way home, I could already feel the hunger pangs gnawing at my gut; eagerly I fished out the orange-marmalade sandwich and bit into it. It was a bit flat, since it had spent the better part of the day squished in between my lunch box and my bottle of water, but that wasn't what worried me - I could barely taste anything in it, apart from the bread. There was this barely noticeable layer of moistness that made the middle of the sandwich a bit mushy; it was the only proof I had that I had packed myself a sandwich, and not just a couple of slices of white bread. I finished it and started on the chicken-salad sandwich. That one was very much like the one that had preceded it, except that the bread was grainier and there were these little dehydrated bits of meat in between the bread slices. It was then that I figured out what should've occurred to me the night before.

The bread had had almost a full day to absorb the liquid parts of the filling; sadly, for some reason it didn't absorb the corresponding flavors. The following day, when I ate the sandwiches my mother had packed earlier that morning (strawberry jam on white bread and chicken salad on whole-wheat bread), I confirmed my suspicions: the bread hadn't had enough time to absorb all of the filling, and I could still taste the stuff that went in between the bread, like pureed strawberries or mayonnaise and pickle relish. Eureka. Another minor epiphany that (sort of) improves the quality of my life.

And so, I reiterate my advice: if you're going to pack sandwiches and you won't be able to eat them for several hours, don't pack them the night before. Pack them just before you leave. They'll taste better, trust me.

PS I was going to write about the programming I've been doing, but I figured that would be incredibly boring so I settled for the next best thing. :D Strawberry jam rules. \m/

Friday, April 10, 2009

Hai World

Message from an alien planet? Maybe, if LOLcats were aliens with a rudimentary knowledge of structured programming. This is the classic Hello World program in LOLCODE, a programming language inspired by LOLspeak (the slang used in LOLcats). I've got a weakness for all things cute, and the minute I saw this tiny program I couldn't help myself. It's. Just. So. Cute. X333 Blatant disregard for grammar and horrendous misspellings aside.

For someone who's familiar with programming, LOLCODE isn't that hard to understand. It's actually almost like pseudocode, since it uses human-readable phrases as statements. So far, it seems like the language hasn't been developed much... It would be really interesting if it could be. I think I'd enjoy writing programs with it. ^^ (Can't imagine writing anything really big with it though...debugging would be hellish. XD)

Here's another LOLCODE program for my...I mean your enjoyment. :D It prints the contents of a text file to the screen.
PS If esoteric programming languages like this one are your thing, you might wanna check out brainfuck and Whitespace; they're pretty amusing, to say the least. ^^

PPS I also liked this "translation" of Rizal's Mi Ultimo Adios into LOLspeak. ^^; Yeah, I know, too much cuteness. And there's probably something fundamentally wrong with referring to a country as a "cheezburger," and its national hero as a "kitteh". But anyway, I especially liked the third stanza, where the blood which Rizal offers to the Fatherland is referred to as "red splashies." Cuteness. XD