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Living in Manila

It's great to be home with family and friends. More so when you're doing it during the Christmas holidays in the Philippines -- officially the world's longest.

I left Nice earlier this month to spend a bit more than a month in the Philippines. Since my wife now works in the country's financial capital city of Makati, we've decided to stay put in the Metro Manila area. It would've been more fun back in my hometown in Iligan, but the thought of having my first Christmas in the Philippine capital is actually a bit exciting.

For all the heavy traffic, the sea of people (at least 12 million people live in the National Capital Region), the pollution (noise, smoke, dust, you name it), you can't help but love Manila (unless all you want to do is jog or do a marathon -- because, really, you'd have to be a bit suicidal to run right next to Manila's roads). Manila is a city that NEVER sleeps. It's got almost everything an average guy like me could want -- …

Introduction to Hurdy-Gurdy

I really enjoyed this presentation by Caroline Phillips where she introduced a rather complex musical instrument called the hurdy-gurdy (also called "la vielle à roue" in French, "la ghironda" in Italian, and "zanfona" or "cinfonía" in Spanish). The Basque song that Ms. Phillips sang (whose lyrics I add below) is also quite moving.



Egunsentia, Oihan, goizero da sortzen
Maitatzeko girela digula aitortzen
Hain hurbil bihotzaren taupada urruna
Maitatzeko ez bada alperrik duguna
Translation in English:

Oihan, every morning the dawn appears
Confirming that we are here to love each other
The beating of a heart far away yet so near
Means nothing if it has no one to love

Oh! Kinabuhi (Oh, Life!)

I've just seen that video of famous boxer Manny Pacquiao singing a sort of medley of Visayan songs so I thought I'd post the lyrics and translation of one of them here. This song is called "Oh! Kinabuhi" by Filipino singer Victor Wood.



Oh! Kinabuhi
Victor Wood

Inig sidlak sa adlaw sa sayo sa kabuntagon
Masud-ong ta ang katahoman ning kalibutan
Gidayandayan sa nahigmata nga kalanggaman
Nga nanag-awit ning kabukiran

Ug mopadulong sa pagsalop sa kahapunon
Ug sa dughan nga walay naglaylay
Sa kasing-kasing nga way nagsapnay
Sama kanako nga sinalikway ay magamahay

Chorus:

Oh kinabuhi sama ka sa usa ka gapnod
Nga gianod-anod sa bul-og ning mga luha
Way kinutoban way hunong ang iyang guidulngan
Ayayay-ayayay nganong sakiton man.
Here's the English translation:

Oh Life!
by Victor Wood
(translated by Allister Sanchez)

When the sun shines early in the morning
We'll see the beauty of this world
Adorned by the awoken birds
That sing in these mountains

And it heads to set i…

The Child-Driven Education

According to education scientist Sugata Mitra, children can learn by themselves. And with this simple idea, children from places where no teachers go can still learn with the right (long distance) guidance. Quite an impressive study!

Stupid or Evil

This video from The Daily Show is a great exposition of the danger of media companies such as Fox News Corp. twisting information to create ignorance and fear to manipulate public opinion.

He wishes for the cloths of heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.                                       -- William Butler Yeats

Revisiting basic statistics

A friend of mine works for a physical therapy clinic and she needed to decide if a certain patient's physical ability -- in this case, his hand grip strength -- is good enough. She let the patient use a strength measuring device and did 3 trial measurements. The device comes with a table of typical strengths (giving the average strength, μ, and the standard deviation, σ) for different age groups and gender.

From the 3 measurements, she calculated the average measured strength of the patient's hand grip. My friend's problem starts because the average measured strength is lower than the patient's age group's lower limit, μ-σ. Her question is: how can she trust the average of her 3 measurements, and thus conclude safely that the patient really has a weak hand grip?

To answer this question, we have to make an assumption that if the patient would have to make a large number (n) of trials, the measured grip strengths would vary or fluctuate around the average measurement…

Bon courage, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III!

I sure didn't vote for Senator Noynoy Aquino during the 2010 Presidential Elections. I preferred someone else. However, for the future of the country, I wish all the best for President Aquino and his administration. This is a difficult time for most of the country. I can only hope and pray that he succeeds in making the Philippines a just, peaceful and prosperous nation.

For the tough days ahead, I hope, Mr. President, that you will lead the nation and make the best decisions for the country. May you have the wisdom and the courage to do the right things at the right time.

Bon courage, Mister President.

My first Adobe Flex application

I have always liked learning about new programming tools and am always on the lookout for which tools would do best which job.  From time to time, I check on the status of rich internet applications, and in particular Adobe Flex (or Adobe AIR), which is a great framework in case you want nice user interfaces.

Finally, my chance came. My wife needed a software to record and analyze the trend of prices of various products on the market. So, basically, she needed a convenient way to store information into a database and display it on a chart, a use some statistical tools to come up with business decisions. And most importantly, she needed soon -- in about a week's time.

Adobe Flex first came to my mind and after a quick research, I determined that it's the right tool for the job.  It's very convenient for making graphical controls (text input, buttons, tables), data visualization (charts), and -- after a bit of clarification -- it handles local file databases (sqlite). These …

Looking for a Chinese name

My second son, Andrew Meson, is now going to a new school since we moved late last month to the capital of the Philippines. It turns out that this school is catering to the East Asian community in the capital (mostly Chinese-, Korean-, and Japanese-Filipino students). And to add to our surprise, we were asked to give our son a Chinese name!

So, I spent the whole day yesterday trying to come up with a good name for my son. I already know some Chinese characters because I have learned Japanese during my stay as a student in Japan. Still, I found it a rather challenging task. So I can only wonder what it would be like for a parent who has no knowledge whatsoever of the Chinese language.

I found that many "baby names" websites actually have a list of popular Chinese names. So, if you don't want to complicate things, you just pick one from there.  The downside is that it's not exactly tailored to what you might want for your child's name. For that I found the Mandarin…

Eating right to prevent and cure diseases

I saw this very interesting TED talk by Dr. William Li: Can we eat to starve cancer?



The idea is that a lot of diseases, from cancer to obesity, are related to the growth of blood vessels or angiogenesis. And in the end, Dr. Li presents a strong case for changing our diets to control angiogenesis and, hence, control or prevent diseases like cancer and obesity.

Related reading(s):

Football Frenzy!

The biggest sports event of the planet, the FIFA World Cup 2010, has started last Friday, the 11th of June 2010.  Finally, I am in a country where football reigns supreme -- unlike my native Philippines that's living inside it's own NBA basketball bubble -- so I get to watch ALL the games!

By tomorrow, all the teams will have played their first matches. Germany leads the pack with a staggering 4-0 slaughter of the Australians. Let's see if they can keep it up. South Korea also did a splendid 2-0 win over the sluggish Greeks, and so did the Dutch against the Danes (although in a less spectacular manner).  The Brazilians, though not quite showing good teamwork, have managed to win 2-1 over the North Koreans.

The most memorable gaffe so far is that of England's goalkeeper Robert Green, and for his sake I hope someone else (perhaps the Spanish keeper? hehehehe) will commit a graver error. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow's match between Spain and Swit…

Magnitka

This video by Sasha Aleksandrov, titled Magnitka, reminded me of what used to be the National Steel Corporation in Iligan City, Philippines. It amazes me how such crude industrial environments can be viewed as a living piece of art.

Basketball, Culture and History in the Philippines

Thanks to my friend Martin, I bumped into this exciting book by Rafe Bartholomew, Pacific Rims: Beermen Ballin' in Flip-Flops and the Philippines' Unlikely Love Affair with Basketball. This is a great piece, not only of sports writing, but also into the role of a sport in the culture, politics and history of a country.

For someone as baffled as I am why basketball is super popular in the Philippines (and I'm a Filipino!) this book is a must have!

What Makes Us Work Really Well?

Here's a video explaining what is needed for workers to work really well.  Here's the gist. There are 3 factors that lead to better performance and personal satisfaction:
1. Autonomy - the desire to be self-directed.
2. Mastery - the urge to get better at stuff.
3. Purpose - the thing that gets you up in the morning and puts you to work.

Related reading(s):

A Real Genius

I found this video about Daniel Tammet.  He can visualize numbers, do unbelievable numerical calculations, has great memory, and can learn a new language in a week! All that with apparently no disabilities.  I'm totally amazed and a tad jealous! This video is a must-watch.



Here are some of Daniel's work: