Thursday, December 30, 2004

Gmail celebrates the New Year just a little bit early


I noticed this change in the Gmail logo when I logged-in just a few minutes ago. This is probably the very first "Gmail Doodle" ever, and hopefully it means something new's gonna happen when New Year arrives. *wishes* Posted by Hello

Why do we celebrate Christmas?

This Christmas message is, like, sooo late...

One of the unique things about the Catholic religion is its certain love for feasts and celebrations. Anyone who's aware of the Catholic calendar (or who lives in a Catholic country, whether he's Catholic or not) knows that every single day of the year has a Catholic significance; if not the feast day of a saint, then it's a celebration of an event of Christian importance.

Only a few of our Catholic celebrations are shared with our non-Catholic Christian brothers, particularly Christmas and Lent. A few of them don't even have celebrations at all. Some of these people see something un-Christian, even evil, about the idea of celebrating the birthday of Christ, for example. They seem to have a certain revulsion agents birthdays in general, apparently due to something about Herod being the first person to celebrate his birthday. But the connection is quite muddled and superstitious. Not everything associated with Herod is evil; he's just a man, after all, and not the Devil. But the point is that the two birthdays are utterly different from each other: one is a manifestation of unholy pride on the part of a false king, while the other is the righteous celebration of the coming of our Savior.

Still some non-Catholics ask why we assign a single day for celebrating the birth of Christ when we can't be exactly sure about the real date of his birth, and why we don't just try to celebrate Christ's birth as often as we could. Come to think of it, there are hundreds of things that we ought to celebrate in gratitude to God, from the birth of Christ to his resurrection, and everything/everyone important in between and beyond. Now we can't possibly celebrate so many things so many times, if only because we are not all monks. Wouldn't it be better if we could assign our different celebrations to certain parts of the year, just as a person would organize his schedule? And as we are a community of saints, wouldn't it be better to have a universal calendar of celebrations? Well by golly! That's exactly what the Church did!

But why do we celebrate at all, and why so numerously? Aren't we being too much like the pagan myth-makers with their regular feasts and abundant merry-making? In fact, isn't Christmas merely a replacement of some heathen celebration of old? The answer is this. Feasts and merry-making are good things in themselves, because man was made to be happy, and celebration is thus inherent in him. The pagan celebrations were wrong, not because celebration is wrong, but because they celebrated for the wrong reasons. But the Church taught the pagans the proper reasons for merry-making, replacing all their feasts in the process, and one of them is this: "For to you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord."

Since this is a personal blog, after all...


Yesterday, the whole Ocoma clan gathered together for what's probably our most complete familiy reunion yet. I'm the left-most guy at the bottom row, BTW. Too bad Lolo Stan (the oldest living Ocoma at 93) can't be seen; he's hidden behind my mom, actually. :-) Posted by Hello

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Google Advanced Scholar Search

Google Scholar now has advanced search. You could now search Google's index of thousands of scholarly works by author, publication, or date. Check it out.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Aren't Blogger employees being paid enough? :-P

I'm not sure if this is a sign of employee discontent (just kidding, guys...), but the Blogger spell-check feature apparently doesn't seem to recognize "Google" as a real word. Nor does it accept "Blogger", though "Microsoft" passed through the spell-check just fine.

But heck, who uses the spell-checker, anyway?

Wait, but you just used the spellche—

Shut up.

Belated Happy Birthday to Jesus!

I'm sorry I wasn't able to post yesterday; we had to go to the province to celebrate Christmas with my grandparents. Anyway, Christmas season (in the Catholic sense) won't be ending until January, so I can still greet my readers (yes, both of you) a very merry Christmas.

Merry Christmas!

Here's a nice long essay about Christmas: The God in the Cave. It's actually a condensed version of a chapter from G.K. Chesterton's book The Everlasting Man. Read it if you're fed up with the usual intellectually-stale and platitudinous Christmas rhetoric.

Oh, and have you seen the fun new Google Doodle for this Christmas? Hmmm...I knew the Google logo was made up of candy! :-)

Thunderbird and Lightning! Very very frightening me! :-)

Mozilla is currently planning the development of a calendar extension for Thunderbird. Codenamed Lightning, this project will give Outlook-like functionality to Thunderbird, including scheduling and tasks, etc. Project Lightning is expected to be released by mid-2005.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Could this be the new MSN.com?

Someone has unearthed a page from the MSN.com website. Could this be a beta version of the new MSN?

Microsoft Paint + .NET = nice free Photoshop alternative

Direct download (mirror)

Paint.NET is a free open-source image manipulating program written in Microsoft's C# programming language (meaning you'll have to install the .NET Framework first). The program is actually a Microsoft-supported school project created by Washington State University students. The original team has left, but another batch of students has taken over to further improve the program.

Paint.NET features basic image-editing and drawing tools, Photoshop-like image layers, an unlimited History, quite a few image effects, and a very clean and attractive interface.

After fiddling with it for a few hours, I must say that the "free replacement for MS Paint" description is way too modest. In fact, if Microsoft really did replace Paint with this in future versions of Windows, I bet more than a few Windows users wouldn't bother buying Photoshop, anymore. Of course, Paint.NET isn't even near advanced enough for hardcore Photoshop users (if that's what you want, you might want to try Gimp, which also started as a college project), but the typical amateur digital photographer is better off with something simpler (yet advanced enough to be Slashdotted), faster, and free.

Now, if only it had a magic-wand tool...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Another good news for HP fans

According to this announcement by one of J.K. Rowling's publishers, the sixth Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince, will be published on July 16, 2005. You may pre-order the book here.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Microchip-based Ethanol fuel cell

From the Technology Review website:

There's a lot of energy in ethanol, which is non-toxic and can be made cheaply from corn.

Researchers from Saint Louis University, who earlier this year developed a fuel cell using enzymes to generate electricity from ethanol, have built a microchip-based version of the device.

Read More.


Tuesday, December 14, 2004

MSN Toolbar Suite Beta

Remember the new lightning-fast file-search technology promised by Microsoft a few months back (you know, the one that quickly gained a lot of competitors a few weeks later)? Microsoft has just released a public beta of the MSN Toolbar Suite with this new technology built-in. The suite includes various toolbars (including one that sits on your taskbar) for easy access of the different MSN services.

According to Paul Thurrot's review, the file-search feature really does deliver quite well. Who knows? I might actually change my mind about promoting the Google Desktop Search. But then, both products are still in beta, and Google is yet to deliver their second batch of additional features, hopefully before the year ends.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Another one of my day-dreams comes to life

A company named Fingerworks created what's probably the first ever keyboard without movable parts. It's called the TouchStream LP. What's amazing is that I've had this idea of a flat keyboard back when I was in second year high school. I never told anyone about it, but I've often day-dreamed about new technological ideas, some of which actually became reality.

The TouchStream, of course, is much more complex than my own idea. Fingerworks has developed a way of using TouchStream both as a keyboard and a mouse-pointer controller. It even features touch gestures that acts like keyboard shortcuts.

Now if only it was as slylish as my dream keyboard... :-)

Thanks to this blog post for the link.

The Swiss Army Knife gets an upgrade

SWISSMEMORY USB Storage in a VICTORINOX Pocket Knife
SWISSBIT Website



I've always wanted to have a Swiss Army knife. I guess it's just a guy thing, but I like having the necessary tools at hand when I need it. This new swiss knife comes with a ballpen, a red light, and a USB flashdrive. (!!!) Yep, you read that right: a pocketknife with USB storage. You can choose between 64 Mb to 512 Mb of storage, plus it's USB 2.0 compliant, and it's even detachable.

This one's definitely in my wishlist.

Happy news for Filipino sports fans

Manny "the Destroyer" Pacquiao won by knockout last night against Fahsan "3K Battery" of Thailand. The poor Thai boxer got knocked down three times before taking Pacquiao's final left uppercut to the jaw in the fourth round. He didn't get up until two minutes later.

Manny, who's a leftie, did a nice job of using his right fist quite often, switching to his left only when a wide opening comes up. This probably surprized Fahsan, who must have trained with a left-handed Pacquiao in mind. The Thai later conceded that Manny was simply too fast for him.

We could only hope Manny's newly-learned strategies will prove effective in his upcoming rematch with Juan "Dinamita" Marquez on the 26th of February next year. But actually, seeing how powerful Pacquiao's punches are (his left fist is known to lift opponents from the ground, as we've seen last night), I can't help wondering how the heck Marquez succeeded to end their previous fight in a draw. I mean, the Mexican got knocked down THRICE in the first round, for crying out loud!

Oh, I remember: Manny forgot his Darlington socks back then. :-P

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I don't like this suggestion...

A Google Software Engineer named Kevin Gibbs created another Google Labs experiment called Google Suggest. It's just like regular Google searching, except the service tries to guess what you're searching for and shows you a list of possible keywords, all while you're typing your keywords.

Now, if you liked Microsoft Word's AutoComplete and spell-check-as-you-type features (which I find annoying), you might like this. I personally don't think this will catch up, though. People usually don't like being interrupted, and I for one wouldn't want some guy suggesting things to me when I already know what I'm doing.

*thinks of the Office Assistant and shudders*

Of course, this doesn't mean the Google Suggest is useless. It could be used, for example, to utilize Google's built-in spell-checker quicker than usual. All you need to do is type how you think a word is spelled, and Suggest would show you (hopefully) the correct spelling.

Google Suggest could also be of help if you really are a lousy search-engine user. But then, Google is so easy to use (most of the time) and so popular that this scenario should be pretty rare by now.

Did you know I'm a Harry Potter fan?

For my fellow "Potheads" out there, J.K. Rowling has updated her website with some juicy new information about the Harry Potter series. Check it out:

J.K. Rowling Official Site

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The HIV time bomb

Today I received a forwarded email copy of this article from Asia Times. It's entitled "Philippines sits on HIV time bomb." The good thing about the article is that it shows how very ignorant a lot of Filipinos are about the reality of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), and how the government is not trying to fix this problem. But there's an error in the article that I'd like to address.

The article discusses the government claim that AIDS is not a danger in the Philippines. The author then notes the fact that millions of Filipinos have multiple sexual partners and therefore should be quite prone to AIDS. Now I agree with that totally. But then the author proceeds to make a contradiction. He then asks, rather sarcastically, whether the supposed "fact" that AIDS isn't common here is a miracle caused by our being "highly religious".

My question is this: how in the world could we call ourselves a religious "Catholic"country when we have 2 million sex workers working here and abroad? How could we dare accept the title "highly religious" when we do so many things that the Church does not approve of? But in reality, Filipinos are more traditionalist than religious. Filipinos (like many other people, I suppose) are simply people of custom and fad. Since Catholicism is popular here, a lot of us are Catholic even if a lot of us know zilch about the Faith. And since the current trend seems to be sexual promiscuity, that's what millions of Filipinos are practicing right now, even if it's against their religion.

Going to church or believing in miracles does not make one a good Catholic. Nay, even praying rosaries every single day does not make one a good Catholic, not if you only pray because of habit. Jesus said that not everybody who calls him "Lord" shall be saved. Rather, a good Catholic is someone who knows and believes what the Church teaches and applies this Faith in his everyday life.

The author seems to claim that the solution to the AIDS epidemic is the use of condoms. Well, I say that if we were half as religious as we claim to be, we wouldn't need condoms. If the millions of Filipino prostitutes who dare call themselves Christians would for once act like followers of Christ and look for better jobs (and if only the government would give them better jobs), there would be no "HIV Time Bomb."

People like this author scoff at the Christian belief in miracles, claiming that this belief is what makes predominantly Catholic countries like the Philippines prone to many dangers including AIDS. But the Philippines is not in danger because it is too Christian. It is in danger because it is not Christian enough. That is the only issue. And that is the problem that we must solve. Then maybe we might see some miracles.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Mozilla launches Thunderbird 1.0

More Info
Direct Download

Mozilla's E-mail Client Thunderbird has finally reached version 1.0. It sports a built-in RSS reader, message grouping, quick search, and security features.

Too bad this isn't much use to me now, since I already have the best webmail service in the world. :-)


Paul Thurrot's XSled Review

At long last, here's Paul Thurrot's review of the new Xbox Media Center Extender (codenamed "XSled"). A Media Center Extender is something that you connect to your second (or third, etc.) television so that you could use your Media Center PC for more than one TV. XSled is Microsoft's first software-based extender. You basically install the software to your Xbox and it can now act as an extender.

Turns out that there are a few very disappointing design mistakes in this release. Hopefully, by the time I actually have enough money to buy a Media Center...and an Xbox...and an additional TV set...and a home network...and...where was I?

*scratches head*

If you want to enjoy Media Center content in other rooms, you'll need a home network (wired, preferably) and, yes, a Media Center Extender. That $250 to $300 price is exorbitant, yes, but until recently, it was the only way to go. However, starting in late November, Microsoft started offering a software product for its Xbox that makes the video game console look and act like a Media Center Extender. The best news? It's relatively cheap, at about $80, so if you already have an Xbox, you're saving big bucks. If you don't have an Xbox, it's still relatively cheap: An Xbox costs $150, so when you add the cost of the Extender software, it's still cheaper than a standalone Media Center Extender. And here's one final gimme: That Xbox, unlike a standalone Media Center Extender, will play DVD movies too. It's a no-brainer, right?

Maybe.


Friday, December 03, 2004

MSN Spaces

The Microsoft Network has recently unveiled a new blogging tool called MSN Spaces. It offers basic blogging and moblogging, as well as a few advanced features (e.g. the ability to moblog using your phone and post blog entries via IM).

I really have no plans to test this new service. There are too many things I don't like. For one, it doesn't support Firefox. And users seem to be limited to WYSIWYG editing.

You might want to read this review of a pretty disappointed Phil Ringnalda. This is another MSN service I probably won't be using (hey, what else is new?).

Thursday, December 02, 2004

And you thought I was a Google fanatic...

From a dude named Eric Leebow:

There are infinite numerical values that Google calculates, and Google is the best search engine and will always be #1. No wonder people write books about it called "Google Hacks," perform in Google plays such as "Googlewhack," and someday there will be a Google movie, or even a reality television show...

"The Google Dream" and that's what the movie will be called. I will be starring in it!
So will the Google founders, hopefully!

Have a Google holiday season and may the Google be with you! Tell everyone about Google, and Google will be your best friend forever!

Whoa! That's a bit too fanatical, don't you think?


UMLet

UMLet - Free UML Tool

This is a small Java application I've found for drawing UML diagrams. It's very basic, but it's quite good enough for my academic needs (and it's not as huge as the other free applications I've found). Of course, I'd rather use the UML modelling tools found in Microsoft Visio, but my professor doesn't like Microsoft's lack of support for the latest UML standard.

Note: UMLet 4.5 requires JRE 1.5.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Chesterton on the Historicity of the Gospels

From The Way of the Cross (1935):

If the [Gospel] is not the record of something real, then there was concealed somewhere in the provinces ruled by Tiberius a supremely powerful novelist who was also, among other things, a highly modern realist. I think this improbable. I think that if there had been such a uniquely realistic romancer, he would have written another romance, with the legitimate aim of money; instead of merely telling a lie, with no apparent aim but martyrdom.