Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Evelyn and Susan

It has been a while since I posted here on Blogger. It has really been a while. I have not yet formulated a plan on which blogs and which websites I would be posting whatever to. It's not finalized yet.

For now, there are picture posts on Google+ (andoy.castellano), as well as on Tumblr (Bolinao Sunset and Portraits and Profiles). I also post pictures on Facebook. I still write some blog articles. However, I try not to write any rants because I noticed that my posts have mostly been rants of late. I would not want to keep writing blog posts if these are mainly from negative feelings.

Unfortunately, this post is about negative feelings.

Two cousins died a day apart this week. Ate Evelyn Caluya died Sunday. For a devout Catholic, like Ate Evelyn, dying on the Divine Mercy Sunday is significant. There is the belief that dying on this day, the Catholic would go straight to Heaven. I went to the wake last night, and she was scheduled to be created this morning. She works at Malacanang and has been there for the longest time. She is the second of three children, and the only daughter of my Auntie Lily. She was 62.

Life is about choices, and her choices have been big and large. She was part of the first class of WACs. She quit, that and has been with the Catholic lay ministries since then. I think she got her work at Malacanang due to political connections. Her dad was a friend and townmate of President Marcos's Executive Secretary. I admit that my mom made use of those connections as well.

I think it was her choice to stay single. Or at least she didn't like her suitors. But the biggest choice she made was with her work with the Church. I doubt if she minded the money she was earning. She had a house in Cogeo. But since that's quite a distance from her office, she opted to be a bedspacer in San Miguel, a short walk from the gates of Malacanang. It was literally a small space, enough for a bed and her day to day things.

She spent most of her free time helping others. That was her life: others first, before herself. Complete strangers, and others which the ministry she joined were helping.

I was saddened by the news of her death. At her wake, I found out that my other cousin, who lives in Iligan City died Monday. Susan and I were the same age. She grew up in Iligan City, in Mindanao, an engineer like her dad. We didn't meet very often. But we've been like close friends since we were kids. The news of her death numbed and shocked me. I have not recovered. I need some time to get over this.

Susan had cancer, and she was undergoing chemo and radiation therapy. It was that serious. She was diagnosed with cancer even before her dad, Tiong Dodo, died.

Susan and Evelyn were both my mom's nieces. My mom has survived all her brothers and a sister.

Questions of mortality and immortality have hung over me for a while now. It is a continuing theme when you're nearing 50.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Why MMDA Drones Should be Bigger News

This got printed in the papers yesterday. There was a TV interview about the drones even before this was printed.
I was disappointed that there was not enough coverage about this. There are several more than newsworthy things about the article. First off, the drones are made by high school students. It doesn’t matter that the school is almost unheard of.
The second thing about the news is that there are only so few countries (or cities) in the world which have deployed drones for urban surveillance. In more technologically advanced countries, the concern would have been about privacy. In the Philippines, the concern would have been about the cost and possible graft and corruption in acquiring the equipment.
My take on the matter is that I am proud that this project exists, that the manufacturing is done by high school students, and that the cost is expected to be very affordable.
Kudos to the Metro Manila Development Authority and to the students and staff of Dr. Yanga College.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Ikaw ay taga UP High kung...

Message from Sylvia, Peachy and Miriam: Please go to this website link to support our sendoff party for the UP Integrated School. This is a project of Batch 1980.. our last event for the school since it will be gone very soon... Please share to UP High events.. and participate by actively sharing and connecting for the school cause.. If you wish to volunteer your time and efforts.. please feel free to contact Ms. Sylvia Flordeliz-Pangalanan Sincerely, PR Committee of Huling Yugyugan.. Sylvia, Peachy and Miriam


Thursday, August 18, 2011

I Am Impressed: The BPI's Automated System

I've been with Bank of the Philippine Islands on and off for more more years than I care to count. And I have been more than satisfied with their service. Though every so often, a random question does pop up and I have no idea if the people in the frontlines (the tellers) would even know the answer to these questions.

Case in point is why one of the accounts I had previously opened was still active? I opened this quite a while ago, and I have taken out all my funds from that account. But I guess since it's a payroll account, BPI has some internal policy not to delete it from their records. I don't know. I can only smile when a teller mentions that I have that one account in that branch, and I have to reach back into deep memory before I realize what the teller meant. I'm not mad or angry, just perplexed about the whole thing.

One innovation which BPI has recently rolled out is an automated system replacing the transaction slips. There are these machines which look like a cross between ATMs and info-kiosks, and you enter all your transaction details into them. Of course, it has a touch screen interface, and the navigation is clean, smart and, dare I say, sexy.

The transaction kiosk replaces the transaction slips. No more filling up of forms, just a few tap-taps and you're through. I first used the system at the old Rustan's Cubao branch. And it has now been rolled out to some of the branches here in the bukid. The transaction isn't completed at the kiosk. Instead, you are issued a queue number. Once the number is called up on the screen, you go to the teller, present the number, and money and the teller will give you a transaction receipt.

From a workflow viewpoint, this means that there was only one data entry point for the whole transaction. The teller is only there to confirm the money is received. Because there are now lots of seats, there is no need for queueing. As a client, I would need to do the data entry standing up, but then again, filling up the old forms took a bit longer. On the teller side, there should be no more data entry errors. Errors on money count would still be there, but this should be minimized. For withdrawals, the first option is still the ATM machines at the front of the bank. But for larger cash amounts, and for passbook accounts, this should be faster as well.

All in all, I am impressed. Very impressive indeed.


Sunday, August 07, 2011

Texting While Driving: Stupidity Has No Bounds (But Please Do Not Include Me In Yours)

There have been a few incidents and accidents involving drivers who are texting while driving. This is beyond stupidity. I have been a passenger in several vehicles where the driver was texting while on the wheels. But I guess, unless these drivers have been involved in an accident while tip-tapping on their phones, they would never stop. No matter how many times they are told that it's dangerous.

But the boundaries of human stupidity does not exist. I thought I had seen the most stupid things before. But this last time was way beyond any of those.

Mind you, I've ridden vans, which go through traffic like they were in a Harry Potter movies, while the driver was using the cell phone. These vans counterflow and defy conventions, rules and regulations, and dare defy the laws of gravity. And I rode them on the daily commute for more than 20 years.

As I said, this last one was way beyond there. It was nearing midnight, it was raining, the roads were wet, we were on a highway, the traffic was relatively light but composed mainly of heavy trucks, and the tricycle driver was driving with one hand while texting with the other hand. He didn't just do it once. It seems he was having a frakking conversation! He kept whipping it out of his pocket, read the message, text his answer and put it back into his pants' pocket. Surreal!

If the trucks weren't passing us by left and right, or he wasn't overtaking the trucks, it would have been hilarious. But really, if any driver wanted to fulfill a death wish, then please by all means, do so, but without any passengers. And that includes me.

Crazy gits!


Monday, August 01, 2011

"The Prestige": A Steampunk Movie With NiKola Tesla

I saw a documentary of about Nikola Tesla, and I've been reading about his name for the past few years. With the latest developments on electric cars and robotics, his name just keep cropping up.

Among the things I've learned lately, it looks like Tesla is larger than life, and larger than fiction as well. He had patents for radio communications which Marconi used in his experiments. If Tesla had pushed for those developments, he would have been a bigger name today than Marconi.

He improved on Thomas Edison's the electrical distribution model. He invented the alternating current (AC) and this made for a the capability for longer electrical transmissions. Whereas direct current (DC) would have needed repeaters every 10 miles or so, AC did not have that problem. You only needed a long cable and higher voltages, and when the power is in your neighborhood, the voltage would be stepped down via a transformer.

Tesla also one-upped Edison with the light bulb. In more ways than one. Edison owned the patents for the light bulb. The only work around for producing a better light bulb was in the manufacturing process. Tesla created a better light bulb manufacturing process which was cheaper and had better results in creating a vacuum inside the bulb.

In addition to that, Tesla created a bulb which did not use wire filaments, and did not produce heat when lit. This is the precursor of the modern compact flourescent bulb. It was not manufactured then. But we're enjoying the benefits now.

In fiction, his being an OCD type genius trumps Sheldon Cooper any day. His claim to science fiction fame does not only rest on the static energy charges of his inventions, but also on two things he wrote about but did not pursue: the earthquake producing building shaker, and the death ray. It seems that he did create the building shaker, but might have buried the idea and invention because it is too powerful. The death ray was something he wrote about but because his papers were lost inside when he died, this was never pursued.

I just can't stop thinking about Tesla, because his ideas were the basis of some ideas I heard about or are being used today without any attribution to him. Back in 1990, a friend of mine wanted to write a thesis on robotics about how a robot can find a wall socket and plug itself to recharge. (The easy part is knowing when to recharge, so let's skip that.) The way my friend described it, there is residual electromagnetic radiation from wall sockets. So the robot would only need to follow the electromagnetic radiation to it's source and plug itself. Discerning between a microwave and a wall socket can come later. Again that should be the relatively easy part.

The concept of electromagnetic energy from wall sockets as well as other sources inside a home or office is also something which is being researched by electronic goods manufacturers. The research is straight out of Tesla's thinking. Tesla wanted to develop a wireless electrical transmission system. This has been proven on a small scale inside laboratories. Admittedly, the small one quarter-scale devices are still as large as a basketball court.

But there is also the research on smaller devices. In this case, small really does mean small, like cell phones, tablets, laptops, and the like. And even robots. The research is trying to find ways to recharge these small electronic devices via electromagnetic radiation. It might be necessary to get close to the outlet, or any source for that matter, but definitely, it would mean wireless recharging.

Steampunk, as an art movement is unique as the artwork is a marriage of old mechanical and wooden devices with modern electronic devices. The clincher is that the melding of the design works. It is a melding of the innards of the modern device with the design aesthetics of the antique device. Whence you have computers, with keyboards which look like they came from the Victorian era. When Tesla left his homeland, European design was stil very much in Victorian.

There are not too many steampunk movies. In fact, strictly speaking, I would not want to consider "The Prestige" as a steampunk movie, though there are some who categorize it as a steampunk fantasy. This is a weird categorization (like French-Japanese fusion cuisine) because Christopher Priest, the writer, is an established science fiction author. I guess the feel of the movie is very H.G.Wells because of Wells's influence on Priest's writing.

"The Prestige" also used Tesla as a character and story device very adroitly, and on multiple levels.

The movie seems very heavy and dark. It did not unfold, instead it unraveled faster than it was intended to be. It does stand out as a good example of a Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, Michael Caine collaboration, even if it did have Hugh Jackman for top billing. It should have been perfect as a Hugh Jackman vehicle because he had prior experience in this genre.

If you like Andy Serkis and David Bowie, you won't notice them in this movie.

It is one of those movies which is very thought-provoking on so many levels.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Old Hard Disks And Security

A while back I saw a documentary/news report from Deutsche Welle about old hard disks disposed in Germany. The trail somehow led to Africa where the disks were being recycled for use. Bottom line is that when the reporting team took a look at the used hard disks that they bought, a lot of the hard disks were still readable, and contained personal data from their former owners.

It was not news to me that data could still be mined from old hard disks. My concern was that the former owners didn't know that their data was not safe. Considering that some of the hard disks were from corporations, it was not surprising that there was a lot of financial data on the disks. Whether formatted, erased or not, these data could still be recovered. Some files included credit card and bank information. It is not a stretch to say that if these got into the wrong hands, real money could be stolen from the former hard disk owners.

It is not hard to unerase a hard disk. In fact, you don't need to buy the software, you can download PC recovery software and use the software without any need for training.

The German's have a good nationwide recycling and waste management system. But it seems that PC owners do not know that their data goes out with the hard disks that they discard.

I've not really been a fan of throwing hard disks away. I use the hard disks as long as I can. When the disks finally fail, I disassemble the hard disks and retrieve the disk and the magnets. But I don't know of anyone else who does that.

Normally, users are concerned with the continued use and access of their data. There is no concern that the disks they discard could still be mined for any data.


Earthquakes and Storms

There was an earthquake the other night. Actually, it was already past midnight. It was enough to get me out of bed. It was a good several seconds long, which also had a second wave. It was not too concerned for my safety. I was home, there's a roof over my head. I was awake and the roof didn't cave in. I knew I was okay.

Immediately after the earthquake, I sent text messages to family and friends. For me it was normal. I had just conveniently forgotten that majority of the people I sent text messages to were asleep at that time and most probably didn't feel the earthquake. After I had settled down a bit, I was happy to note that there were several answers which came in via text messages. Seems everyone was safe, and that made me feel safe, and great.

What worried me was the following day's events. Specifically during the afternoon when there was news of another earthquake, this time a bit farther south. Come to think of it, this was the first time I ever heard that there was an earthquake in that area.

But on top of the second earthquake, there was also concern about a typhoon coming into the country. A quick online search for weather maps and there it was, a typhoon with enough cloud cover to blanket the upper half of the country. The clincher was that there's another typhoon following it. It is not hard to imagine that the second storm will follow the same path as the first.

As far as I am concerned, as long as these natural phenomena DO NOT happen all at once, as long as these events take a number, and bide their time happening, the country and everyone in it can cope.

Twenty typhoons a year, that's normal. Even with three of these within the Philippine Area of Responsibility, as long as these don't make landfall all at the same time, that will be okay and everything that such a calamity will bring will be taken cared of.

Earthquakes? Keep them at Intensity 6 and no higher, even if it was on an almost daily basis, everything will be fine. A strong one every 20 years? That's about it, with no strong earthquake occurring more often than that.

As long as an earthquake doesn't happen during a typhoon, everything will be fine.