Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Part 3: My Food Experiments

I've always enjoyed cooking. Back when I was living in a dormitory, I would try to think up interesting stuff to cook every day, using whatever ingredients I could find in the fridge. Sometimes I'd try to follow recipes I find online for special cooking projects (paella, clam chowder, etc.). I even have a food blog somewhere that's been abandoned now (for reasons related to this blog's long hiatus).

I haven't been able to cook much lately, ever since I moved back to may parents' house. Every day is now a long commute to and from the office, a problem that would have been solved if only I was able to move to an apartment this year (see Part 1). Still, I did find the time to help out with the cooking during some weekends, and even made a few special things:

2012 Part 2: Some More Negative Things

So last time, I talked about how my big plans for 2012 ended up. Most of that was depressing, and I apologize, but that really was the overall atmosphere of this year for me: depressing. Here's just one more list of sad things that happened in 2012 before I move on to more positive things.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 Part 1: Big Plans, Little Achievements

First of all, I'd like to acknowledge the hilarity of my last post here being about downloading the Blogger app for Android, then having a blogging hiatus for more than a year. You know what, I'll just leave that post there for the lulz.

I'd like to say I've been super busy these past twelve months and so didn't have time to blog, but that would mostly be a lie. The real reason is that I've been in an almost constant state of depression this whole year. I started 2012 with such high hopes and a number of big plans, but then it all went to shit very early on, and I never quite recovered since.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Blogger for Android

For some strange reason, the Blogger app for Android isn't available in the Android Market for users in the Philippines. Good thing the apk file can be downloaded from other sources. And I didn't even need to root my phone.

Speaking of which, I probably will root my phone next month once I get the Ice Cream Sandwich update. Then I'll have some serious fun geeking around. :-)

I just hope the ICS update does arrive in November. The excitement is killing me!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

What's been up

So... after that last, really long and excessively serious blog rant back in February, a number of things happened in my life, most of which didn't seem like they were worth blogging about at the time. But now I need an "I'm still alive!" blog post, so might as well use them. Here are the highlights:

1) I finally decided to buy a personal laptop. It's got an Intel Core i5 processor and it didn't have an OS installed when I bought it. I, of course, promptly put Ubuntu Linux in the thing as soon as I got hold of it, and I've been enjoying it ever since. It's only the second computer I've ever bought. The first one, a Pentium 4 PC that I bought eons ago, has been lying around broken in our house for the past couple of years or so, and I've been too lazy to repair it.

So, what spurred my decision? Well, ever since our PC died on us, I've been reliant on a bunch of company laptops. My mom's Windows XP laptop has degraded faster than I've expected (even for a Windows machine), and my dad's laptop has 512MB of RAM and Windows Vista installed (*shudder*). I was lucky enough to have Linux on my own company laptop, but I've decided I didn't like working for my company anymore, so I figured I might as well buy a non-crappy laptop of my own before I left. Which brings us to the next item:


2) I moved to another company. Nothing too exciting, it's just something I thought I needed to do. I've spent my first four years as a grown-up in my previous company, and I thought perhaps I had to move on. On hindsight, it would have probably been better if I waited until I finished my Master's degree before getting another job. The atrocious schedule that resulted from having to be a newbie on probationary status and a graduate student at the same time was one of the reasons I stopped blogging for a while; definitely not something to emulate.


3) Girls. Dorky awkwardness. Heart break. Typical Francis. I'll change the subject now before I break into another emo song.*


4) I recently bought a Nexus S. (Yeah, I've had a pretty expensive year so far.) To tell you the truth, I wasn't really excited about the whole smartphone concept when it first came out more than a decade ago, thinking of them as expensive distractions for rich people to waste money on. Sure, I liked reading about them and admiring them in theory, but I never really lusted after all those high tech eye-candy. Over the years, though, my stance has been softened by my exposure to PDAs (I have an old Palm m130 that's now, sadly, quite dead) and to relatively low-end smartphones like the Nokia E71 my previous company lent me while I was working there. I realized that I liked being able to read e-books, check my inbox, and look things up on Wikipedia anywhere I go (though, no, I don't care about Angry Birds).

I decided I wanted a very basic Android phone**, preferably one that's high enough on the geek factor but not very high on the price factor. My calculations and window shopping lead me to the Nexus S. Its status as a "Google phone" automatically makes it a dream geek gadget in my eyes (Google fanatic that I am), yet at the same time it's not as expensive as some other Gingerbread phones out there. I'll probably be kicking myself once the next Nexus phone (Nexus Prime?) comes out, but who knows when that one will be available here in the Philippines. Besides, I'm pretty sure the Nexus S will get the Ice Cream Sandwich update. Or else. (Kidding!)


Alright. You've caught up with my life at this point. I expect to be able to blog more in the coming weeks, for the enjoyment of all my readers.***

Good night!



--
* Too late.
** I humbly submit that I am not cool or trendy enough for an iPhone. May Steve's soul rest in peace, etc.
*** Um, both of them.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dissenters: "My Conscience Tells Me To Sin!", My Head: *Explodes*

Some members of the faculty of Ateneo de Manila University, a school run by Jesuits, have posted a statement regarding the Reproductive Health Bill:

http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/views-and-analysis/10/22/08/catholics-can-support-rh-bill-good-conscience-0

Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Twisting the Pope's words: MSM does it again!

Why is it that every time I see L'Osservatore Romano being quoted in the news, it always seems to be something palm-facingly embarrassing? I doubt the editor-in-chief of the Vatican's newspaper is an anti-Catholic in disguise, but with such displays of incompetency, maybe he needs to be replaced just to be sure. At any rate, its latest misadventure involves an excerpt taken by the Osservatore from a new book about Pope Benedict XVI that mainstream news sources around the world are now interpreting as an endorsement of condom-use:

There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality.

My first reaction was, "How the hell could this be seen as pro-condoms?!" But then I remembered what we are dealing with here. Understandably, people who already have a low view of the Church could not be expected to analyze something further (in the sense of trying to understand what it is really saying and viewing it in context) when at a mindless glance one could catch something so temptingly sensational as "Pope endorses condoms!!!"

The last two sentences of the excerpt show quite clearly that Pope Benedict was not being pro-condoms at all, but what is he really saying? Why give an example about the Responsible Prostitute at all if condoms are intrinsically evil...period? Should we not be condemning all prostitutes, even if they try to do good while performing their evil profession? Well, the thing is, Catholic ethics if far from the merciless be-perfect-or-we'll-hate-you type that some people (including some Catholics) think it is. We are taught by the Church to love everyone as our brothers and to fervently hope for their salvation. And hope is exactly what the pope is expressing here. A male HIV-positive prostitute using a condom to prevent his customers from infection is a man doing a certain kind of evil on one hand yet conscientiously attempting to avoid another kind of evil on the other hand. What the pope is saying is that such a man is far closer to Christian holiness than someone who has no qualms about doing any kind of evil at all and happily spreads his infection everywhere. Thus, we have hope that this "less immoral" prostitute, if he continued on this trend towards trying to choose goodness, would one day realize the evil of the occupation that has made condoms seem necessary to him, and finally reconcile with God.

I'd like to use the analogy used by Dr. Janet Smith to clarify this issue. Here's a hypothetical scenario: If you are planning to rob a bank, you need to make sure that the people in the bank won't do anything that could thwart your robbery attempt or otherwise put you in danger. The common solution is to scare them with a gun, which you already possess. But it just so happens that you are the kind of bank robber who abhors the idea of killing people (let us call you the Responsible Robber). You are aware that guns are known to discharge by accident, and so to keep things safe, you remove the bullets from the gun, hoping to deceive the people in the bank into doing whatever you ask them to. Sure, deceiving people is still bad, but that's nothing compared to outright homicide, right? Therefore, using a non-loaded gun (as opposed to a loaded one) is the moral way of robbing people, right?

The problem with that last question is that it misses one very important point: robbing other people is in itself immoral. Whatever else you do while robbing someone does not change the fact that you robbed him. You certainly shouldn't expect to be forgiven just because you used a gun with no bullets. On the other hand, the fact that you made a moral choice of not killing anyone gives your Christian neighbors hope that you may one day make another moral choice: to give up on robbery. When that day happens, you will also realize that using a gun to scare other people, whether or not it has bullets, is also immoral. Likewise, a person who realizes that fornication is evil (as the pope says, it dehumanizes sexuality) will also realize the evil of contraception, even if contraceptives were an aspect of the "less immoral" choices he made as a fornicator. At least, that is our hope.

It is the malicious twisting of the pope's inspiring expression of Christian hope and charity into something sensationally heretical that really, really angers me about the current "controversy" invented by these so-called journalists. It is during these times that I am sorely tempted to see these people, not as fellow human beings, but as monsters that need destroying. But of course, if I fell for such temptations, I would be disobeying the very same Church doctrine that the pope is trying to teach here.

Yes, it really is tough for regular sinners like me (not just sinners with sensational sins like heresy or sexual deviation) to follow the Church's teachings. This is probably why G.K. Chesterton said "The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried."

Update: Mark Shea has his own analogy that, in true Shea form, is over-the-top and quite amusing. The Force is strong on that one!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

On Violating the Separation of Church and State (Part 2)

In continuation of the discussion I referred to in my previous post, my friend gave this response:


I explained how D does not violate a person's right to practice his/her religion. Again, the RH bill would only make access to contraceptives easier to people. It would not force them to use contraceptives which would be against their religious beliefs. I would like you to explain how D violates the separation of church and state to contradict my statement. 
About the CBCP having a voice about the government, I would like to explain again that separation goes both ways. Since you like letters, an object A (let's call this the state) cannot be separated from object B (the church) if object B keeps on meddling with what object A does. If the State does not comment on how church should handle its followers then the church should equally not be allowed to meddle in how the state governs the people. I'm not against bishops voicing out their opinions as individuals, but when they, as a whole, use the name of the church as their identity would be violation of the separation of church and state.


My response:




You did not think about Exhibit D very thoroughly. It is not an unknown occurrence in Leftist countries for Catholic establishments to be persecuted and closed down by the government for not complying with laws that are against Catholic moral conscience. On one hand, the government does have the obligation to enforce its laws, and so the RH bill, if passed, will be used to enforce the contraceptive distribution policies in *all* health care establishments. On the other hand, such laws that would legally persecute a business-owner for following his religion is a violation of the principle of the separation of Church and State.


Speaking of which, you are still muddled about the separation of Church and State thing. Philippine legislators are in no way legally bound to give in to any kind of meddling. Anyone can meddle all they want (in fact it is their right!), but the act of actually legislating is the sole responsibility of the legislative branch of government. Your argument that meddling renders A inseparable from B is therefore false to facts; A has always been able to ignore B's meddling if he so wants. That's why we have condoms of all kinds legally sold in the country despite the Church's meddling. Or do you claim that non-religious kinds of "meddling", like the lobbying done by various secular groups, should also be banned?


And, forgive me, but your suggested compromise is rather baffling. Are you saying that non-religious groups may lobby as a collective, but the bishops cannot? What is your basis? You may daydream all you want about the the destruction of the Catholic bishops' right to form a conference in this country, but it won't make it a reality.


Finally, what is your answer to my Exhibit C? Do we not have the right to protest to the government if it is trying to use the tax money of the people to promote acts that we denounce as immoral? As contraception is legal in the Philippines, people have the right to choose it if they want, but God forbid I help them with my own money, or that my money goes to actually spreading the practice!

On Violating the Separation of Church and State

Recently some guy named Carlos Celdran decided to publicly insult the Philippine clergy for their stance on the Reproductive Health Bill by going to a cathedral during Mass and calling the presiding bishops "Damaso" (who is a priest villain in Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere) and shouting "Stop getting involved in politics!"


A friend of mine defended Celdran with these words:

I am aware that they have the right to exercise their authority. But I believe that they should only exercise that right within the bounds of the church. When they cross that line and start meddling with the creation of laws, that is in direct violation of the separation of church and state.

My response:

I think you are distorting the meaning of "separation of Church and State" to advocate the wrong idea that a certain group of our fellow Filipinos (the bishops of the CBCP) have no voice in the government. As a matter of fact, the ideal of Democracy dictates that the voice of everyone, no matter their religion or standing, will be given consideration.

You say that the bishops should be limited within the "bounds of the church". That is a gross underestimation of their authority. Spiritual leadership does not stop outside the four corners of a building. After all, the Church is, in fact, every single baptized Catholic, not just the bishops. Which brings us to the other fallacy implied, that only the bishops oppose the RH bill. Do you think that if the bishops are silenced (by whatever means), no one else will take a stand? Do you honestly think that orthodox Catholics won't know how to be faithful to their religion without the bishops? If so, then you learned the wrong lesson from your Noli and El Fili classes.

The separation of Church and State, as well as freedom of religion, means that the State can never force a person to do something against his religion. In a country where multiple religions (and forms of irreligion) exist, this means that none of those religions will be able to oppress the others via legislation.

Now, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present as evidence the following:

Exhibit A: A video of a Frenzy Party Condoms advertisement that is regularly shown on Philippine TV despite the CBCP's anti-contraceptive stance.

Exhibit B: A billboard containing an image of a girl not covering her head, shown to the public despite the sensibilities of devout Filipino Muslims.

Exhibit C: A payslip, showing the amount paid by an anti-contraceptive Catholic employee to the government as tax. Part of this tax will be used to distribute contraceptives if the RH bill is passed.

Exhibit D: A receipt from a Catholic health care establishment. If the RH bill is passed, the government will enforce contraceptive-related policies that all health care establishments will have to follow, or else be punished by law.

From these we can deduce who really is violating the separation of Church and State. The religions of this country have not, but the government is planning to.

I rest my case.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chesterton on the Difficulty of Marriage

After reading a recent fluff piece* about some woman's ideas on the ideal mate, I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in G.K. Chesterton's novel "Manalive". The character Michael Moon has just proposed marriage to Rosamund Hunt out of the blue, and Miss Hunt is afraid such an "imprudent" marriage might fail:


"[...]But the cold fact remains: imprudent marriages do lead to long unhappiness and disappointment--you've got used to your drinks and things--I shan't be pretty much longer--"
"Imprudent marriages!" roared Michael.  "And pray where in earth or heaven are there any prudent marriages?  Might as well talk about prudent suicides. You and I have dawdled round each other long enough, and are we any safer than Smith and Mary Gray, who met last night? You never know a husband till you marry him. Unhappy! of course you'll be unhappy.  Who the devil are you that you shouldn't be unhappy, like the mother that bore you? Disappointed! of course we'll be disappointed.  I, for one, don't expect till I die to be so good a man as I am at this minute--a tower with all the trumpets shouting."
"You see all this," said Rosamund, with a grand sincerity in her solid face, "and do you really want to marry me?"
"My darling, what else is there to do?" reasoned the Irishman.  "What other occupation is there for an active man on this earth, except to marry you?  What's the alternative to marriage, barring sleep? It's not liberty, Rosamund.  Unless you marry God, as our nuns do in Ireland, you must marry Man--that is Me.  The only third thing is to marry yourself--yourself, yourself, yourself--the only companion that is never satisfied--and never satisfactory."


The secret behind the ideal mate is that there is no ideal mate. If you are not able to follow God's basic command to love your neighbor, then you are already married to yourself and will of course find marriage to another person quite difficult no matter how "perfect" your spouse might be. Damn, I could go on and on ranting about this (I actually did; I just changed my mind and rewrote this post), but I will let you enjoy the quote instead. You might even want to read the book. It's awesome!

--
* What? I was bored at the time.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Brights and Their Superior Knowledge of History... *snicker*

Here's an amusing tidbit I found, left by a commenter in John C. Wright's recent blog entry regarding his latest debate against an "Evil Christianity is Anti-Science!!!" guy (you know the type):

I had my brain melted by a particular instance of this; in a comment thread I read where various Anglicans got stuck into one another over the Church of England’s current difficulties regarding the introduction of women bishops, one person out of nowhere launched into a screed about how Galileo was prosecuted by the Church for his theory that the earth was round. This was proven by the Bible, and that’s why the Pope forbid anyone to read the Bible. But it wasn’t all the Pope’s fault, because the kings and lords forced him to do this, because if their serfs and peasants knew that the world wasn’t flat (and hence that they wouldn’t fall off the edge of it if they went too far), then they would simply pack up and leave, and the kings and lords couldn’t oppress them any more.
Galileo. Earth round. As economic theory of feudalism. In the seventeenth century.
Against that kind of notion, the stars themselves fight in vain.
--
Maybe Mark Shea is right: find a person who worships the Intellect (e.g. the Brights) and you'll find someone who doesn't use it all that much, at least when it comes to attacking their favorite enemy that is the Church. Sure, intellect doesn't necessarily equate to detailed knowledge of European history, but it does equate to recognizing that you cannot attack an argument you do not even understand. If you don't know what Galileo was put on trial for, or what the actual level of knowledge Galileo's contemporaries had, how do you expect to use the story of Galileo to attack the Church?
Oh, silly me, I know how: by inventing laughable fantasies and strawmen.

Except it's not so laughable when people start to believe them.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The "AyPad"

So, Apple's over-hyped tablet device came out last week. They call it the iPad. Unlike Microsoft's Tablet PCs (which recently evolved into multi-touch-capable Slate PCs), the iPad has no multi-tasking, no way to copy-&-paste, and doesn't even have Flash.

Naturally, those outside Steve Jobs' reality distortion field are unimpressed. In fact, from the moment Jobs showed the device, the blogosphere was filling-up with jokes at the expense of its name* and the fact that it looked basically like a giant iPhone.

Still, I'll have to give Apple credit for not simply installing OS X on the thing and adding some touch stuff into it. Instead, they used an OS with an interface designed specifically for multi-touch. This is something Microsoft clearly doesn't understand: desktop operating systems that were designed with mouse-pointer devices in mind do not fit touch screen environments very well. When you're using Windows 7, for example, or Snow Leopard, you interact with the user interface by guiding the mouse pointer to desired locations and clicking (sometimes double-clicking) on one of multiple buttons. There are many UI elements in those OSes that show this mouse-pointer-centric paradigm: some elements change when a mouse pointer hovers on them; things are resized by dragging on corners or edges; people rely on what the mouse pointer looks like to determine context (one pointer appearance signifies text entry, another signifies resizing, etc.); most elements have context menus accessible via a right-click; so on and so forth. Well, none of those factors apply in a modern multi-touch environment that is manipulated through one's fingers: there is no such thing as hovering, stuff are resized by pinching or stretching, etc. Basically we are already dealing with different metaphors and different navigation techniques, therefore the desktop OS UI naturally doesn't feel right on this.**

Of course, it would have been ideal if Apple took advantage of the increased screen real estate and increased processing power of the iPad to bring in more powerful ideas to the existing iPhone UI (as I mentioned, even a simple multi-tasking feature would have been cool). Well, okay, to be fair they did include some stuff that weren't in the iPhone like side-panels and drop-down menus...but those just aren't very interesting, are they? Right now the iPad is just a device with lots of potential, and the best I could say about it is that I'm looking forward to iPad 2.0.

--
* Aside from the sometimes gross feminine hygiene jokes, there are other ways to make fun of the name. For example, the title of this post comes from the fact that some languages (like Filipino) don't distinguish the 'ɒ' sound in "iPod" from the short 'a' sound, the ambiguity leading to confusion when someone gushes about the new "AyPad". It's funny. Laugh.

** Yes, I know that multi-touch is now already being introduced in the desktop environment. Both Microsoft and Apple have been experimenting with multi-touch mice (with Apple already releasing a product). This is really cool, but it's mostly just something to augment the mouse, the way the scroll wheel/center-button augmented it before. If they really wanted to replace the mouse with, say, a multi-touch pad as the main input device on the PC, they'd have to make a complete UI overhaul that would include the removing of the mouse pointer. This may or may not be a good thing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Geek says to movie fan: "Elementary!"

As a response to a query about whether or not Sherlock Holmes really ever said "Elementary, dear Watson" in Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, a Slashdot commenter demonstrated his own modern powers of investigation:


As a Holmes nut and a believer in free software and free information, this is an easy question to answer with a one-liner:

$ echo; wget -q -O - http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext99/advsh12.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2350/2350.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2852/2852.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/834/834.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/108/108.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2097/2097.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/244/244.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3289/3289.txt | egrep -o -i 'elementary, my dear watson' | wc -l
  
0

Of course, the word 'elementary' isn't forbidden:

$ echo; wget -q -O - http://www.gutenberg.org/dirs/etext99/advsh12.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2350/2350.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2852/2852.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/834/834.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/108/108.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2097/2097.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/244/244.txt http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3289/3289.txt | egrep -o -i 'elementary' | wc -l
  
5


For those who didn't get it, those commands basically search through the Sherlock Holmes stories found in Project Gutenberg (a website that hosts e-books that are in the public domain), counting how many lines contain a certain phrase ('elementary, my dear watson' in the first one-liner and 'elementary' in the second).

Friday, January 01, 2010

Things I'm looking forward to in 2010

Happy new year, everyone! To start 2010 off on an optimistic note, here's a list of stuff that I am quite excitedly anticipating this year:

Nerdy toys:

  • New Android phones (especially the Google-branded one)
  • Golden Sun DS (tentative title, hopefully)
  • Pokemon HeartGold and SoulSilver
  • Apple's supposedly-soon-to-be-announced tablet device.
Movies and books:
  • Iron Man 2
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (though I wish they'll be more creative w/ the title)
  • The Last Airbender
  • The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya movie, plus Volume 10 of the Haruhi light novels
I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, so I'll update this later. On a personal note, I am looking forward to finally getting to use my U.S. tourist visa. I need to catch up to my little brother, who's already been there twice in two years!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cool improvements in Google Suggest

Google Suggest, that nifty little feature seen on Google's main page where it shows you search suggestions as you type your search query, now shows additional info for special types of searches (e.g. weather, currency conversion, time, equations, etc.). From the Official Google Blog:

Let's say you're planning a vacation to Belgium for the holidays. Most vacation planning includes many simple questions: What's the weather? Is my flight on time? How many euros can I get for $100? For a long time we've provided answers to these kind of questions in one simple place with universal search features on the results page. Building on the improvements we made to Google Suggest earlier this year, now we're adding these features to the list of suggested search terms beneath the search box.


Sample pics:












On a related note, I noticed that Google Chrome already has Suggest incorporated in its Omnibox, and it even has the Calculator built-in (but not the other Universal Search features). What with Chrome now also getting extensions (in beta), I've decided to make it my default browser for now.