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Experience is one thing you can't get for nothing.

Friday, February 24, 2006 by sky

Dresden. Windows to Europe.

Meet Poppa Justify, some say he's my conscience, or the remnant of a friendless childhood.

me: I shouldn't have done this sidetrip to Holland. It's on short notice and people are not available to get me around.
Poppa Justify: At least you can get things in order after you did Hamburg.
me: Ja, but their headcount resources are limited too.
PJ: Well, at least you have a timeline to start with.
me: It's not yet firm and I'm being rushed by my principals.
PJ: Not rushed rushed like in your former job though.
me: I'm sitting on my desk all day and waiting for somebody to show up.
PJ: You went on a sidetrip on your second week and there are no people to show you around the factory and you're being rushed by your principals. Why not leave the office early? They're not strict with the time right?
me: Yes, that will be my plan for today. I'll leave after lunch.
PJ: At least you got to explore a great part of Europe.
me: Yes. My glass is half full.

Hacked the concept off a Dilbert cartoon. Quote from Oscar Wilde.

***

Just because I'm out of the country doesn't mean I'm insulated with what's going on. First a disaster and then a pseudo-issue. Something which my principals treat as a conversation piece and with headlines in CNN, two blows to the national self-esteem. Not really, I think. We were always on the sidelines unlike Incredible India or Cyprus: The Island for All Seasons, so there were no high expectations to live up to in the first place. (Coos) It's alright, it's alright.

Tomorrow and I'm flying back and all I can say is...back to reality.

Pi according to a Pilipino

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 by sky

Luis Lorenzana, a Manila-based artist was shortlisted for a competition to find an illustrator for a new edition of Life of Pi, Yann Martel's Booker Prize-winning novel, out of 600 entries. His work along with 14 others will be required to submit three more illustrations before determining an overall winner this April.


He went out of his way to read the book inside a bookstore (just like what I did for some good readings as Einstein's Dreams) because he didn't have money to spend for it (just like most Filipinos do) but everything turned out fine.

"I never bought the book. When the competition came to my knowledge, I didn’t have any cents in my pocket but I wanted to enter so I went to the bookstore four days in a row to read it. I’m happy to be shortlisted. I put a lot of work in: it’s a long walk to the bookstore! My illustration is entitled The Greatest Show on Earth — it shows the scene where Pi is taming Richard Parker. It is full of emotion, conflict and excitement. Pi could die at that moment. I wanted to emphasise the space between them; to capture the intensity of the tiger and the mix of coolness and terror in Pi.

I use all sorts of media, but this was done by layering acrylic paint on paper. I wanted to make it look old and blurred, to fit the magical, mysterious effect of Pi’s story. I plan a completely different style to illustrate the alternative story that Pi tells at the end." [Times Online]

I'm in a dilemma here, because I'm rooting for Sophia Hanover's illustration as well as Victor Tkachenko's because of their not-so-children's-bookish approach. Luis' reminds me of an ancient fresco, or an antique turn-of-the-century print. Enough of the pseudo-artistic language, out of national pride, go Luis!

via bibliobibuli

***

Tschüss Hamburg! I'm now in nippy Nijmegen.

Journal von Hamburg in den Abbildungen

Friday, February 17, 2006 by sky

The central station of Hamburg, aka Hamburg Hauptbahnhof or simply Hamburg Hbf. How I wished that was the view from my hotel window.

Impressive facade, this Hotel Reichshof.


Inside it I have this instead:


which opened to a view of the room on the other side. May naghuhubad pag gabi...lalake nga lang.

I don't know why they broadcast sex adverts at 5:30am (to tease the morning wood perhaps) but I learned my Deutsche numerals from them, in the sultriest voice possible.


My camera, used to the tropics and Third World heat, wasn't cooperative in subzero Hamburg, and so are my hands. The Hamburg Rathaus (buti pa ang mga daga, may palasyo).


Just realized that most of my shots were of the hotel, the hotel elevator and the theater beside the hotel. I had some shots at downtown Monckebergstrasse that said "I was here!" but pretentiousness got the better of me, even if it's forgivable in blogs. Oh well, later. Anyway I was here to work in the first place. My mind is set on Dresden, so I bought a 2-way ticket on the 18th for only 72 euros. Topic of next post.

U miss me? I miss u 2.

Saturday, February 11, 2006 by sky

And so I'm off to Hamburg this morning by way of Amsterdam.

Hambrrrrrg! I can feel the chill here in NAIA.

I'm blogging through my Eleanor. Forgive me this time but wi-fi and LifeDrive rok (yup, without a c.)!

The physics of stampedes

Monday, February 06, 2006 by sky

With all the statements regarding the culture of mendicancy and how the establishment (read: government, media moguls, corporations) exploits the masses, perhaps the empathy for the stampede victims will increase if I echo the statement that buildings such as the ULTRA are designed with the assumption that the crowds flowing through its exits do like fluid through a pipe, and that according to David J. Low, a civil engineer in Scotland:

"This traditional approach assumes that the crowd is made up of identical, unthinking elements...A fluid particle cannot experience fear or pain, cannot have a preferred motion, cannot make decisions and cannot stumble and fall. [boston.com]"
The lack (or the absence) of a security plan and the choice of venue aside, emotions played a huge part in the tragedy that transpired last Saturday. Partly panic-driven, as a bomb scare was reported, but it was motivated more by the chance to get the prize (it was said that the host handpicks ten contenders for the million-peso pot, but gives at least a hundred pesos for a joke). Even harmless tricks such as throwing caps (e.g. April Boy Regino concerts) or posters (e.g. mall tours for movie promotions) can incite a mob and it is even suggested that performers should be aware of this responsibility.

The geek in me tried to understand the physics of stampedes in as little time as possible. While the rest of the blogosphere elicited the whole spectrum of emotions on the Saturday accident, I wanted to view it in another perspective, that which assumes less of the they're-ordinary-people-who-wanted-to-get-out-of-the-vicious-cycle-of-poverty and the-system-is-to-blame-for-what's-happening-now.

In a way, yes, the crowds behaved under the laws of fluid dynamics, like the flow of water meeting a vertical obstacle at one end. In a commentary about the stampedes that usually happen during the Haj, neo-neocon posited:
The situation, as far as I can determine, is a bit analogous to the elements that go into a tsunami, strangely enough. That is, a huge and extremely powerful force (in the case of crowds, the moving people; in the case of tsunamis, the moving water) is initially spread out horizontally. Then, some sort of blockage impedes that horizontal movement and converts it, at least partially, into a vertical one.
It's a situation you can almost see everyday if you ride the MRT during rush hour: the crowd mills around the entrance to the car--not your usual falling-in-line routine back in grade school, in the shape of an arch. Years ago I commuted daily from Cubao to Makati and found that by positioning myself directly in front of the train door, I have the same chance of, and even lesser than, entering the train door if I sneak myself from the left or right of it. And in desperate times when I know that I will be late, these latter positions work to my advantage. I guess most people think likewise.

Increase the panic level of that MRT scenario a thousand times or ten and you have a Wowowee situation. People wanted to enter the stadium at once, but the entrance is narrow. All the left, right and central positions are occupied and the last people to join are pushing the ones near the entrance. And that may be where the verticality of the movement came in. The weak ones near the entrance may have given in--the old, the women, the children--forming the human base of the stampede from where the latter ones step on to get inside, dying with a force of almost half a ton from compressive asphyxia as more bodies pile up. This is of course, assuming that the casualties are concentrated at the entrance (I can't find any details on this from the news).

The guard rail giving in was also expected. Due to leaning and pushing, it became a set of toothpicks or a stack of cards against a crowd of fifty or sixty (?) thousand. From an Australian study, under a simulated panic, a "crowd" of five is capable of developing a force of 3430 newtons, a force a third of a ton against a guardrail. Multiply it ten thousand times and the force is unimaginable, short of releasing a TNT in the center of the city.

I could go on and on, but what is the point of this entry?

There is science in crowd management, and it doesn't hurt if we understand it, however complex it may be, it only boils down to two things: crowds behave like fluid flow (from placidity to turbulence) and emotions play a decisive role in how people behave in crowds.

I almost wanted to agree with the benevolence of a radio announcer I heard last Saturday afternoon, except for the air he had put upon himself so high--these people only knew that they wanted to get in and won't know about crowd management. Somebody had to be responsible for them and that somebody was not there.

Knowing what a mess the tragedy made out of us (we're in the New York Times!), stampedes are a global phenomenon, and it is not confined to the Third World or "only in the Philippines." I'm not schadenfreuding about it (the closest term I can think of), but let's look beyond the national self-esteem and let's get back to work. My only fear is that after all the pinpointing has subsided and this tragedy has lost its top spot to another tragedy or scandal, we haven't learned our lesson well and are bound to repeat it in the future.

*Stampede model lifted here.

**I've been planning to revive my Skythologies series. What a way to start.

Do paranoids dream of electric beeps? Maybe not.

Friday, February 03, 2006 by sky

To continue with the piercing statement, I still have my reservations about this, inasmuch as I cringed and ran away when I saw the gun they use for ear piercing somewhere in Glorietta. Paranoiac that I am, if a security breach has happened on my chip implant and I need to get it out, even if it is just beneath the webby skin between my thumb and forefinger, I might faint at the sight of blood and raw tissue (the reason why I rejected the idea of becoming a doctor even if there is a willing benefactor).

Engineering experience also taught me that most chips start to get wonky on their third year. You should notice that you want to change your phone by the second year or so, and that new models also come out every once in a while. Market-driven, perhaps, or Moore's Law or some chicken-or-the-egg arguments. I don't want to be implanted every now and then, but a general anesthesia would be nice, thank you.

And just to ground myself and to remind you that even if I drift from stamen to stamen I still go back to the hive.

Yes, my story will be published in Edge according to Dean and Ern. Heh, old news, but thanks for the congratulatory messages.

Last Sunday, while thinking what to read next after Memories of my Melancholy Whores, a package arrived from Canada. Thanks, Gelay for Persepolis! Devoured it on the same day.

On an earlier episode, Changing Planes was my first read of the year, and my introduction to Ursula Le Guin. Now I can boldly go to Earthsea.

And even on an earlier, earlier episode, I closed the year with The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, and I'm worshipping at the Murakami altar again with Kafka on the Shore.

Some Etgar Keret too. Check out Halibut.

Opinions (ok, reviews--too high schoolish) later.

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