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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 -- …

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…

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…

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…

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…

Getting Married, apt-get style

Farewell to the Light Bulb

On March 17, 2010, Toshiba produced its last incandescent lightbulb. After 120 years of manufacturing incandescent lamps, the Japanese technology heavyweight terminated production, sensing an inevitable market takeover by more energy-efficient bulbs.

Source: TIME Magazine's Photo Essay "A Brief History of the Lightbulb"

Related reading(s):

Converting 3gp video into avi format

I had some video of my kids taken with my phone and are therefore in the 3GP format.  The problem is that when tried to play them on my PC (running Ubuntu Linux), there's no sound.  So I looked around and found the perfect solution: the Mobile Media Converter.  It's a free, cross-platform (that is, it runs on Windows, Linux and Mac) converter of various mobile media formats to and from desktop PC media formats, namely:

Desktop audio: mp3, wma, ogg, ra (as input only)Mobile audio: amr, mp4Desktop video: mpeg, wmv, avi, flv, mov, rv (as input only)Mobile video: 3gp, mp4An installer for Ubuntu Linux is available and I quickly installed it with a few clicks.  To the guys making this very useful -- and free -- tool, thanks a lot!  I think I'll make a donation later.

Switch: Don't Solve Problems -- Copy Success Instead!

I have read an excerpt of Chip Heath and Dan Heath's book "Switch".  The idea of this book is this: to effect great change, instead of trying to analyse a problem, look at "bright spots" (areas with the least problems) and figure out why they are less problematic.  This is a sort of roundabout way of how people usually address problems.
When we analyze a big, complicated problem -- like malnutrition in Vietnam, or a married couple nearing divorce, or a business on the verge of bankruptcy -- we seek a solution that befits the scale of the problem. If the problem is a round hole with a 24-inch diameter, our brains will go looking for a 24-inch peg to fill it. So, naturally, the experts on malnutrition in Vietnam wanted to talk about poverty and education and sanitation systems.Our focus, in times of change, goes instinctively to the problems at hand. What's broken and how do we fix it? This troubleshooting mind-set serves us well -- most of the time. If you ru…

Getting Started on Running

I've been running on and off since last Summer (around June 2009), largely because I was alarmed that I was gaining too much weight and I felt rather heavy.  After a few months of walks and occasionally intense runs, I've managed to regain my body's flexibility and agility, and I was able to develop a bit of endurance.  The gains were actually very modest but I was very happy with the realization that I can actually do something about improving my well-being.

Then the holidays came and I took a 5-week vacation in the Philippines.  While I was there, I tried to avoid the overly-convenient public transportation, opting instead to walk/run several blocks in the city.  The hot weather took a bit of adjustment but it's the pollution and lack of safe running areas that made me realize how difficult it is to enjoy running in the country.  So, I realized that while I'm still living in Nice I should take advantage of the relatively low levels of air pollution and the length…

Welcoming the New Year 2010

I'm savoring the last few days of my month-long vacation.  I'll be back in France next week and I'm spending the few remaining days with my family in the best way I can.

Overall, it's been a good vacation.  It's not easy reinserting yourself into the daily lives of your wife and kids with whom you only interact over the internet for most of the year.  But (thanks also to our frequent interactions online) we seem to have meshed well and rather quickly, as if we live in the same house together all year round.  I really hope we'll still stay as close to each other in the coming months, when we're half a world apart.

Last year, 2009, for my family was, in a way, a year of settling down.  This year, 2010, will be another year of change.  After all, this is the year of the metallic tiger, and the beast is on the prowl.  Time to shake things up.

So, my goals for this year?  Personally, I'd like to lose a lot of weight.  Professionally, I'd like to see larg…