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Thinking twice

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 by sky

My computer will be passed on this week to another user less demanding, and hopefully, very careful of this 3-year old, 30GB HDD Pentium III 933 MHz artifact. It has served me well, especially its monitor which enabled me to create the colors I wanted for my pictures. At the same time, while I took care of other specifics for the new PC, I seem to be feasting on dichotomies these days:

black or white?
I went for the all-black casing, as the white ones yellow over time, or drab grey if you're living in the city. I don't think heat absorption would be an issue.

LCD or CRT?
My hp700 CRT was great, but real estate is precious in the house. LCD is a very good candidate with its small footprint plus its energy efficiency, but it comes at a price. My bad, I asked the phphoto yahoogroup for advice, and looks like the LCD vs CRT is a classic battle that sprouts every now and then, just like monitor and printer calibration. Most photogs lean towards the CRT as its technology is already mature and is cheap. What made me decide on CRT just at this point was this:

So maybe not all lcd's are created equal, some are better than others. If you got the money to spend, buy the best you can and then calibrate if necessary, if money is an issue maybe you can scale back to crt first so that you won't have to worry as much for the meantime about the colors.
DVD-RW or DVD-ROM?
Burning a DVD given my budget and processor preferences might take forever. My EQ can manage. DVD-ROM, period.

DSL or stay on dial-up?
TBD. I want to give the finger to dial-up, but the origin of the word budget was the French term for a little bag. Yep, the Christmas bonus filled the bag a bit, but a significant amount went to the nest egg. Think think think.

Then there was the barrage of domain names I thought of a hundred times before buying (which I will announce in a future date) plus the webhost and hosting package. Hands-down to ploghost, probably out of herd mentality, since Angela and Sassy and MLQ3 were on Yuga's territory.

Wordpress or Movable Type?
I'm always fearful of the unknown, and I'm poking Wordpress with a stick right now. I had the same feeling years ago with Movable Type, but due to security issues and spam comments I received in my photoblog (takes a deep breath and buys an HTML book with lots of CSS), I'd go for Wordpress.

More than a year ago I was on a similar situation: where to go for an MBA degree given that Ateneo and DLSU were the only choices due to the planetary distance of my office.

It's like choosing between boxers and briefs and there's the tempting option of wearing nothing.

Hello means Oh, Hell to me

by sky

I was used to a telephone-to-employee ratio of 1:1, and if an adjacent phone was ringing, I wouldn't care less to pick it up. It was the unwritten rule, and with more than a year out of having everything within reach I still have the withdrawal symptoms from being pampered (oh what an oxymoron) inside cubicle L23.

Now my patience is wearing thin as I grapple for the communal telephone. The good news was that the ratio was down to 2:1 from a previous 4:1, when we had this rotating phone table contraption in the center that's an eyesore to boot.

Telemarketers I can kick out in five seconds flat, saying they're a major tick to my corporate existence but people looking for somebody else, especially cubicle-mates who are away, you must sound brutally nice.

"Hello, good morning. Can I speak to Dom?"
Speak to? Speak with? Speak on? I'm all lost.
Good thing that engineeringlish is around to pepper my speech just in case.
"He's not on his table."
"When will he come back?"
"I'm sorry I don't know."
"Can I leave a message? Please tell him that the supplier is already downstairs."
And I haven't even said yes. Mumble mumble mumble.
Yawns audibly, so that the caller can hear.
"Ok. Try to call again because I'm DOING SOMETHING ELSE."

Now don't tell me that the thing called manners is dead. He's now a techie guy married to a celebrity (Manners Sandejas, gets?).

Phone rings.
"Technology Development, good morning." Me in a not-so-sunny, gruffy receptionist tone, and I am not a receptionist in the first place.
"Hello, who is this?"
"HELLO, who IS this?"
I like the Dutch. They state their name once they get on the line. Goes back to the old days when every minute even for local calls counted. Obviously this is not a fellow from that side.
"I'm looking for Hans. Is he around?"
The number he is calling, is of course, not Hans'.
"Sorry, wrong number."
"Can I get his number?"
"Call the operator."
Then I hang up.

In the middle of an important meeting when the telephone rings (a terrible, terrible disturbance when everybody is picking up steam), it being a speakerphone for telecon purposes, these are my choices for opening lines:

"Southern Police District, good morning."
"Funeraria Paz, can I help you?"
"Bantay Bata."

It just works, but if the caller persists, I'd play the part.

"Ma'am, if you would be interested we have a buy-one-take-one promo on fiberglass caskets."

Engineeringlish

Friday, November 25, 2005 by sky

I won't wish for the day when my son will calendarize a meeting on Outlook just to present his budget proposal for an allowance increase in the family conference room, but I know that corporate BS is creeping into me whether I like it or not. Lately my wife asked me if I am free for the rest of the week to take a leave and I said, check on my calendar if it's doable.

Down went the wifely tolerance level.

Funny how meeting attendees, if they are not the wallflower type, enact a spitting contest on who can spew out the most number of corporate lingo in an hour. They're not entirely different from guests who'd get hold of the videoke mike like it's made of gold. And there's an e-mail going around with a bingo card in which you can cross out the phrases you will hear in a typical meeting (core competency, bottomed out, pulled in, great job!). There are not so many times that I want to shout bingo but I think everybody will be winners anyway.

If there is anything to blame for the lack of english proficiency among engineers, which therefore makes engineering symposiums a pain in the ears to attend, it is engineeringlish. Pictures can speak a thousand words, but data can speak for itself. Unfortunately, engineers wanted data to construct sentences on their own too. Patch a trend graph, a few capability indices and Brown-Forsythes here and there, buy a new dress shirt (should be checkered or plaid) and khaki pants, top with engineeringlish and you have a world-class presentation? No.

We've been using the left brain for most of our lives that it's got muscles of its own, and we want everything automated. But isn't subject-verb agreement and the proper placement of apostrophes as simple as input equals output plus accumulation? Use of corporate lingo cannot hide lack of proficiency. It's like putting roses on stale fish instead of spraying air freshener. We can get away with it with the logic that since these first-world counterparts succeeded without mastering the queen's language but with corporate cliches, so can we.

We have our own worlds, thanks to inaccessible industrial zones and company confidentiality. 7,000 people are using engineeringlish at the local campus, on top of several thousands more worldwide, streaming in cyberspace and bridge meetings, so can we be wrong?

They make it to well-respected dictionaries in due time, though. I have to keep myself sane by reading a good book. I am not infallible myself and lately I was thinking, wow I sound professional spewing out "calendarize", "gain leverage" and "heads-up" but as a personal choice, a well-packaged english sits well with me without adding up to my mental clutter.

How about some low-hanging fruits?

***

Some examples:

Bottomed out: adjective. Reached the lowest of low points. Example: Our stocks have bottomed out due to 9/11, its lowest ever since the dotcom bubble burst of 2000. And you're not counting employee morale yet.

Push-out: verb. To delay. Example: You want me to push-out the QA gate again so that you'll meet delivery? Come on, Haydee, I'll assure you a bunch of test failures before this month ends.

Pull-in: verb. To accomplish tasks ahead of schedule. Example: Although the schedule was pulled-in by a week, Arnold wasn't able to escape Dado's axe as the process was still not certified for high-volume production.

Hand-to-mouth: adjective. Lack of surplus or inventory. Example: Pull-in the resolution of this process issue, Dexter. We're already hand-to-mouth; we have excess capacity in the downstreams because there are no more raw materials to process.

Productize: verb. Turn a concept into profitable reality. Example: What's the point of your traveling without forecast when the date to productize the firmware is not yet final?

Low-hanging fruits: noun. Items which are well-within reach, goals that can easily be achieved. Example: Getting that design win is one of our low-hanging fruits; we should be ready with the customer contract a workweek from now.

The f word

Monday, November 21, 2005 by sky

In the engineering scene, the one word that always gets my juice is feasibility.

It sounds so fake, like an instant diploma from Recto, and amateurish like a thesis for sale alongside rush passport ID's and notary public.

The way it is pronounced is never poetry but a gnash one makes out of swallowing green putty found in your armpit (thanks, Douglas Adams).

Now some don't get it and say pee see bee lee tee. Piss off.

I prefer "make versus buy" which adds a tone of justification in it. I like the challenge of arguments in the boardroom, and branding "old school/resistant to change" to deputies and herd them like cattle on gaslift chairs back to their cubicles.

Ok, not everybody could get make versus buy, and one can escape with "business case" or "biz case" but please put SWOT analysis in the right context. It doesn't place an iota of business acumen on your head anyway.

I checked out the thesaurus for some fee see bee lee tee alternatives and found:

viability--musical and hints of life, dams and highways

possibility--too common, and is homophonic with the f word too, but I can have this anytime

probability--too statistical, it should be OK but not during presentations involving chunks of (pseudo) data as it could be the source of confusion. Talking, I mean, technical heads have the attention span of an antimatter (it was thought to exist but not yet proven).

likelihood--very country, but could serve the purpose. No bling to it though.

practicability--a mouthful, but wait till you hear...

achievability--just one of the terms we engineers, ugh, generated, alongside calendarize, doable, and productize.

Other choices include potential and acceptability, especially if I am talking about market segment share and product life cycles. Engineers are, after the profit after all.

Fee see bee lee tee. Look at it, it's up there with see fee lees. Or should I say down.

The white flag is up

Friday, November 18, 2005 by sky

It's the month of water, and somehow my creative spirits have dampened, fire spirit that I am. I'm waving the white flag to Nanowrimo, halting at 1,300 words. I think it was doomed at the start anyway, as I commenced writing in another comfort zone. I took it as an opportunity, to gather as much elements as possible from the place of my birth, the roads that lead to it and the people who walk away from it. Then there was the tsunami of ideas that I want to put into, the techniques that I wanted to use, the oomph, the Chekhov shotgun. But the kids can't fend for themselves, and the dent on my side of the bed became palpable to the wife. Somebody had to fill that space. And perfectly.

There was also talk of overseas employment, only to be botched at the eleventh hour because she can still up her wifely tolerance and the conjugal take-home pay. Good thing that she wasn't jealous of Eleanor yet, bargaining her for a few rounds of solitaire while I am seeking the last ace to make way for the king. How unproductive for both of us, yet found that we can have a second shot at romance long blurred by childbirth, travel and in-laws. Everything could have been added to make the story true, and fabricated at the same time. Everything was laid down I just need to arrange the cards, busy my hands in more meaningful tasks but eventually, those hands will raise in surrender, saying "next year."

I have a bright idea, except that it is three weeks too late. I should have employed a writing buddy, much like a gym buddy who works out with you, gives you the spots and showers with you if the two of you can. There should have been likely candidates, like banzai cat or jsc, who had shaky starts but endeavoring themselves. I envision two laptops side by side, me and my writing buddy starting at the same time; taking a break, swearing, chilling, shouting profanities and praises at the same time. The silence would be punctuated by pep talks, numbers indicating word count as of the moment, and "what's another word for 'said'?"

I have qualms of producing a novel in a month. A year of smoking, a regular work-home route in suburbia and wallowing in bed like a first-class swine didn't afford me the stamina to produce a 50,000-word tome. Typical writer, except for the starvation and alcoholism part. I'm a follower of Murakami Haruki, and perhaps I'd take regular swims to boost me up. Angst and Hemingway, like social realism, is so yesterday.

The white flag is up.

Excerpt from the unexpurgated Amplified, my supposed to be Nanowrimo novel (Copyright thingy here. Don't mess with me.):

I always believed that the clouds which looked like plates stacked on top of one another crowning the peak of Mount Arayat meant that an alien spaceship is stopping over for celestial fuel, like a galactic gasoline filling station as the lifeforms hopped from one planet to the next, benevolent in sharing their advanced technologies to primitive species like the homo sapiens.

I once recalled a certain professor from the university assert this fact over national television, up to the point of proclaiming the Philippines as the new Jerusalem. With the death of my father from colon cancer at that time, there was nothing left to believe, but the stack of plates of water vapor and a natural pyramid that grew out of the central plains ambitiously scraping the northern sky.

I drove southwards along the Cagayan Valley Road, always looking to my right as the mountain spent much of my views up until the interchange hours later, like a nagging boil way past its bursting stage. It stared at me, a dormant volcano, like the portrait of Christ as The Eye. I was always within its line of sight, and I regarded it not with threat or menace, but as a beacon and a sign of permanence. Seven changes of mailing address, blank spaces on the telephone number field in filing forms, shame instead of pride of place, right after the death of my father, Agustin Castro Sr. Nothing seemed to be permanent except my mother's depression, and Mount Arayat was always there to remind me that once, the elder Castro carried me in his lap on the way to Baler on board a battered Pantranco bus. The words aircondition, video on board, and deluxe were still twenty years away as we made the trip back to hometown, my first since I became aware of distance and travel and roads and night and day. Maria, my mother seated herself in the aisle seat. Boxes bearing the names of Romana and Gaudencio Guerrero were huddled underneath, bearing plantains, charcoal, old clothes, paper, curling irons, ammonia, hair dye, blank hardbound diaries, magazines and magazine clippings of Rosemarie Sonora and Helen Gamboa, salted eggs, tuyo, daing, malagkit rice tied in plastic bags, a soldering gun, spare transistors, batteries and several types of screwdrivers.

I always complained of my mother's packrat habit, since the volume we traveled from Manila to Baler and vise versa were always the same, only the contents changed. We were never merchants who traded manufactured goods from the big city to the small coastal town whose only claim to fame was a Commonwealth president, but my mother's compulsion proved useful during those times when landslides lay siege to most vehicles in the Baler-Bongabon Road especially during November, off the typhoon season for the whole country but entirely different to Baler, a coastal town in the eastern rim of Luzon. The Sierra Madre mountain range shields the rest of the island from Pacific typhoons and takes much of the storm's iron fists heroically so that the central plain, the rice granary can continue with its work.

"There was a legend that Mount Arayat, once part of the Caraballo mountain range, drifted away overnight. Greedy people took much of its forest cover, which made the god of the mountain angry, so he moved it away to a part of Pampanga where he can have some space." I looked time and again to my right while driving and talking to Val, my lone companion for this trip long after most of the friends in my circle backed out due to the rigors of a two-hundred thirty-two drive through the intestine roads of Sierra Madre.

"Perhaps he doesn't like to have somebody pierce his personal bubble." Val interjected with his corporate core competency development jargon.

"Most likely. Would you like to pierce a once-active volcano? I'm sure it's a different level of bubble burst." I continued turning my head to the right.

"A legend is a legend. You should know. Plate tectonics. Seams on the eastern and western sides of the island of Luzon push to make the mountain ranges we have today and the anomaly that is Mount Arayat is a hotspot, a via of hot volcanic material spouting out in the middle like a navel." Val was animated as he recalled his geology days.

"Val Regente, geology board topnotcher two thousand and two. As the earth's navel Mount Arayat held a mystical charm, the geological match to the energy of Kundalini."

"You and your stacked plate UFO's again."

Just then a monitor lizard was about to cross the highway.

"Jesus Christ!" I pressed on the brake.

"Soplaaaa, soplaaaaa!" I muttered as I regained my composure and gained speed.

"That's just an effing lizard, crossing the street, Augus. Like the proverbial chicken. And I've heard it tastes like one." Val tensed, and attempted a resumption to our previous conversation.

The lizard continued with its gait, a serpent with four feet. Except for fish, I had an unexplainable fear of anything with scales, cold and moving. The superstition was phobia's bonus.

"Val, maybe you haven't known. Monitor lizards crossing the street are a sign of bad luck."

"And you muttered something. Sopla?" He was cool.

"I'm not sure what it meant. Related to suplado I guess. To uncatch attention, probably. God, I hope we can make it back to Quezon City by six tonight." I was getting worried. One of the rear tires exploded while we were cruising the north Luzon expressway and we had to buy a new tire in Plaridel. I suspect that this will give in if...

Brown and Tagged: Philippine Spec Fic Anthology

Friday, November 11, 2005 by sky

(I know this is so late an entry but can't blame me for catching up with work, as in work with salaries and time-ins thingy.)

Volume 1! So this might be the Philippine's answer to The Year's Best Science Fiction. But then again, everything with a Philippine sense of wonder, not just hard sci fi, is inside.

Can't find my name here? I'm too paranoid so a pseudonym is in place. Book launch at Fully Booked Greenhills on December 10, along with two other creations, Siglo: Passion and Project: Hero.



Like what they say during Film Fest season: "Suportahan ang literaturang Pilipino!"

Nothing but water

Monday, November 07, 2005 by sky

Warning: Images galore. Pump up your browser engines.

We got to spend the long weekend plus approved vacation leaves plus forced leaves plus another long weekend stranded due to bad roads here.

Amper Beach

And you thought the sea was venerable and inviting.

Amper Beach, on the other side looked surreal, as the giant smooth stones resembled a beach on another planet. The strong waves caused by a local weather disturbance looked menacing, but was lovely as to be photographed by my brother. It could have been a surfer's paradise but slamming into sharp outcrops is out of the story.

Amper Beach

We ended up eating katti, boiled freshwater snails in calamansi juice.

katti

Too dainty to be sucked like kuhol, so safety pins came in handy. Like butong pakwan however, the joy of eating katti is in bringing out the snail's meat and piling several in a heap before spooning them like escargot.

Crabs too, in thick coconut milk and fiddlehead ferns. If possible, marry one.

Crabs in coconut sauce

Blurred. Damn hands, can't wait to take a snip of those crabbies.

Aurora is euphorbia country.

euphorbia

My dad has several rows of these succulents, locally known as koronang tinik. I had three plants in my garden in Laguna which he gave earlier but never knew that such would demand high prices, and that euphorbia robbery has become rampant in Baler that a special permit was now required if one is to ship large amounts of it outside the province.

And finally, aside from me, the other famous person to be baptized in this historic church was MLQ3's grandfather. Teehee.

Baler Church

Nanowrimo? What Nanowrimo? 700 words as of today.

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