Thursday, September 29, 2005

Get Me a File Recovery Utility, Stat! (Part 1)

Computer just keeled over and died yesterday evening. The prognostics don't look good: The files inside may be inaccessible and corrupted now.

We're going to have a look inside the thing tonight and see if we can get one last crack at all the lost data. Otherwise I'm going to have to rewrite four years' worth of outlines, drafts, rewrites, and finished pieces, and I'm not expecting the result to be pretty.

Darn Windows XP and my efforts to work with intractable resources...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This Had Better Not Be Freudian

Yeah, well... I had this dream the other night.

I was walking along an empty sidewalk that was beside an empty street. The wind was pretty strong, although I had no trouble moving against its direction. A few grains of sand and a bunch of leaves blew past me, but nothing else.

Then I heard this distant rumbling sound, and I looked up into the sky. The buildings above me started curving and stretching as though they were made of rubber. The windows and cornices on a few of them shattered, and I suddenly heard this scream. I turned my attention back to the sidewalk and the street to find that there were now a lot of people around me, and that all of them were staring, open-mouthed, at something that was directly above us.

So I turned my attention skywards once again, and I was aghast to see a gigantic piece of suman pushing a couple of buildings aside. It made a booming sound as it walked, as though the asphalt could barely take the weight of its banana-leaf-wrapped feet. Its massive form loomed over the many people below it, and immediately everybody began to scatter.

Everybody, that is, except for me. I just continued to stare up at the enormous suman, and when it noticed that I wasn't running away, it suddenly reared back to give a soundless, deafening roar.

That, incidentally, was the last clue I needed. I ran towards the nearest building, which just happened to be a tall, thirtysomething-story hotel. It had a large revolving door taking up much of the entrance, but there was a sign on it that said "Out of Order", so I pushed open a glass door and found myself in the establishment's front lobby.

Just inside the entrance, a midget wearing a black beret tugged at my shirt and offered me a glass of red wine. I shook my head no, and he shrugged, pointing me towards a wide lounge area with polished wooden tables and soft, upholstered armchairs.

I could see a group of three people gathered around one of the tables, so I approached them. I first planned to ask them why they were just idling around in a hotel lounge area when a giant suman was tearing up the business district. However, I realized that I was in the very same hotel and lounge area to begin with, so I kept quiet.

One of the three was a thin man who was sitting in a relaxed position. I got the impression that he was an artist, and when he saw me, he straightened up and told me that he loved women but had horrible luck with them.

"This is a dream, right?" I asked him.

He smiled, showing me a grin that held more teeth that was humanly possible. "I have dreams, too," he said. "I like telling people about my dreams."

The second person was a young woman wearing a fur coat, and she was draped across one of the hotel's couches as though it were her own private boudoir. "You're fat," she told me, and I immediately poked at my own stomach. When I did, however, the waistline receded and I was forced to tighten my belt to keep my pants up. In the distance, I saw the midget hold up a tambourine and slap it, once, against the side of his head.

I heard another roar from the suman outside at that point, and suddenly I noticed the third person glancing at the glass windows. He looked like Professor Plum, from the Clue board game, except that he was trying to smoke an iPod Nano instead of a pipe. He mumbled something that I didn't understand, and I approached him to get a better idea of what he was talking about.

"How much did you get that for?" I asked, pointing at the iPod Nano.

He tapped a few ashes out of the device and said, "The pen is mightier than the parachute. Do you think it will rain?"

I was about to tell him that I didn't think it was going to rain, when I remembered the gigantic suman coming in our direction and wondered exactly what an oncoming downpour could possibly do to it. Then there was a ripping noise, and suddenly the entire roof of the hotel lobby area caved away. The massive piece of suman stretched over the gaping hole and roared into the lounge.

The artist gave a shrill scream and jumped onto the couch, where he suddenly melded form with the woman in the fur coat and became a duck-billed platypus. The platypus honked once at me, just before the midget grabbed it and stuffed it inside a convenient black top hat.

Professor Plum threw his iPod nano into the air, where it changed and became a butterfly. Suddenly a particular tenet of philosophy came to mind, and while I was standing there deep in spontaneous thought, the giant suman wrapped one banana-leaf tendril around my waist and hoisted me into the air.

I felt the polished hardwood floor of the hotel receding behind me, and I glanced back just in time to see the midget doing jumping jacks. The suman roared again, and deposited me on top of what I assumed was its head. I turned eastwards, and caught the sun rising just over the horizon of curved and bent buildings.

And when I realized that the stabbing pain in my eyes was because of the sunlight streaming through my bedroom window, I woke up.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005


Patience is a virtue, they say.

I'm leaving for my so-called vacation in less than two weeks, and my preparations have kicked into high gear. I still have to find a warm shirt and a new pair of slacks to wear, figure out how to shave without actually packing a razor, and buy a new notebook and sketch pad so that I don't go out of my mind on the plane. All that, and I haven't even checked to see if everything will fit inside my suitcase yet.

I'm also foreseeing a lot more pressure at work for the next week, seeing that I'll be on leave from next Wednesday onwards. I don't want to dump everything on the office's only other project manager, and my superiors apparently feel the same way.

With all this on my mind, sometimes I wonder where -- and why -- I find the time to write.

I remember putting my writing on hiatus just after college. Work is a bit of an ethical dilemma for me, because I keep running into the question of how to divide my focus between the office tasks and the fiction assignments. If I place too much dedication in my work, then I may not find the time or the inspiration to write. But if I give some attention to my writing, then my work doesn't turn out as good as I want it to be. What's a person to do?

For a while, I thought that the obvious answer was "work". So I worked two straight years without stopping, and what did I get in the process? Tired.

In a way, it was a hard lesson in the fact that we all need some way to keep ourselves sane. Mine just happened to involve writing copious amounts of words on multiple sheets of digital paper.

It's difficult to walk the line, though, without being able to tell exactly where the line is. I obviously don't want to drown myself in work for the rest of my life, but I don't want to end up spending all that time writing, either.

It may sound strange, but that's exactly how it goes. As nice as the idea seems, you do not want to dedicate all your time to writing, just as you do not want to dedicate all your time to office work. Even writing gets boring if you're doing it every hour of every day, of every month, of every year.

Think about it: Any one of us would be partial to having a lot of money, for instance. But few of us would relish the prospect of being locked in a room full of five-hundred-peso bills for twenty-odd years. The smell alone would probably kill us.

I suppose that, just as I need to write in order to keep myself sane, so do I need to work in order to keep myself sane. I need to write while I'm working, and I need to work while I'm writing.

For the next two weeks, I'll be looking at the possibility of being too busy at work in order to write. Then, for the next two weeks after that, I'll be looking at the possibility of being wide open to write with no possibility of work to back me up.

Somehow, Irony has seen fit to catch up with me at the strangest possible moment.

How, then, can one consciously find time to write when one has all the time in the world to write? I find that it's not the opportunities to write per se; It's the search for them.

Yeah, I'm going on vacation sometime in the next month. But somewhere deep inside, I still wonder whether or not this is a better scenario than my current working/writing setup. Back when I was still juggling work tasks and writing assignments, at least I knew where I could place everything in relation to each other. Now I'm straying into unknown territory.

Do I like vacations? Sure, I like the idea of vacations.

It's just that they always seem to give me a headache.

Wonder why?

Friday, September 23, 2005

Antaria: Profile: Kharam

The necromancer Kharam is unique among the Thanatai. Not only is he held in high regard among his secretive sect of mages, but he commands plenty of respect among the more accomplished sorcerers of other classes as well. Kharam's mastery of the aspects of death and divination is the stuff of legend; He has himself been responsible for many of the advances made by the Thanatai in their entire period of existence.

All that, however, pales in comparison to Kharam's greatest accomplishment: He has been able to touch the barrier between life and death, and he has learned how to cross it.

In truth, Kharam is almost six hundred years old -- one of the few beings in Antaria for whom time makes little difference. He is so long-lived, in fact, that the lifespan of the human body cannot even begin to accommodate his existence. Kharam has died many times in the last six centuries, only for him to reach back into the physical world and be reborn in a new mortal vessel. He is a living embodiment of the Thanatai hypothesis: Death is merely an inconvenient occurrence.

Despite Kharam's accomplishments and the magnanimity of human wisdom behind them, more than a few complications have arisen. Many of the Galenics, for one, would like nothing more than to see the Thanatai grandmaster dead. In fact, Kharam has seen his mortal vessel killed or executed more than once -- although several centuries' worth of patience has slowed any adverse feelings he may have about the problem. Still, he is forced to work, hide and travel in the shadows of the Antarian landscape, much like the other mages of his sect.

As of the present time, Kharam's current vessel has recently died, and the Thanatai have begun to mount a search for his reincarnation. They are joined in this effort by more than a few others -- some curious adventurers who seek to meet the most enlightened soul in all of Antaria, and some hired mercenaries who look to kill or abduct him. In the meantime, however, the newly-born Kharam enjoys the little time he has all to himself, and waits...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Book of Suman

1In the beginning, there was man. 2And man was alone.

3Man, being man, sought to create a companion for himself. 4Yet unlike as God before him, man was not capable of taking his own rib to mold a suitable form. 5"And yea," did Man remark, "for I doth hold much fear of pain, and even the anaesthesia is applied through really sharp needles."

6And so did Man search for a proper material with which to grant his new companion shape. 7Man brought before himself all manner of things, from sand to clay to toasters to monkeys to carbon paper to maple syrup. 8And although Man did study these for many a year, so did he finally conclude that none were appropriate for his seeking. 9Especially the monkeys. 10Even though everybody likes monkeys.

11At this Man was truly vexed, for his only other recourse was to return to the prospect of a rib operation. 12For to his audience, Man asked: 13"Doth thou people have any idea how much that hurts? 14Get off mine case already."

15But then Man, in his fallible wisdom, realized that the material which he sought lay right under his very nose. 16On his dinner plate, to be exact. 17And with much rejoicing, Man saw that the humble rice grain -- yea, a thousand thousand rice grains -- was exactly what he required.

18Quickly Man set to work. 17He immersed the rice, and boiled and milled it under the stoic hands of watered stone. 18Night and day he worked at his new creation, and watched eagerly as it gained form and substance with each passing day.

19"I am but blessed," Man said as the mixture churned under his will, 20"For I shall soon have a dear companion. 21And I shall hug him, and squeeze him, and stroke him, and call him George."

22Thus did Man continue, to place his very blood and sweat into the sticky mess itself. 23And to his audience Man said: 24"I doth not mean that literally, of course. 25For woe, woe, that would be extremely disgusting."

26When Man realized that his creation would need a measure of consistency, he shredded the meat of coconuts and worked them in. 27When Man realized that his companion needed to have edges as rough as sand, he ground hard legumes and other edibles, and stirred them into the bowls. 28When Man realized that his endeavor would best hold a varied taste, he took sugar, salt, pepper and parsley, and prepared them for mixing. 29But after a few minutes Man said to his audience: 30"On second thought, I shall just leave out the parsley."

31And on the final day, Man lovingly wrapped his creation in the leaves of the banana tree, and he finally had a companion with which to call his own. 32And much as Man had named the birds and the fishes and the beasts in his first days, so did he name his new companion.

33"I shall call thee Suman," Man said, "34for thou art born of Man himself, and have been created to serve as a companion, as one who would stand with me when I am alone." 35Yet Suman, Man's new creation, would not answer.

36And Man was sorely perplexed at this. 37"Yea," Man said, "thou art Suman, and I doth created thee." 38And still Suman would not answer.

39At this unexpected development Man howled and beat his breast in frustration. 40"Woe!" cried Man, 41"Woe be the day when all companions become ungrateful, for I doth gave this one life from mine own rib... er, rice." 42But still Suman would not answer.

43And Man became contrite, and knelt before his humble creation, promising it power, riches, perhaps the world under its grasp. 44"That I would gift thee with anything," Man said, "for but a single word from thee, mine companion." 45But still Suman would not answer.

46And so Man finally stood back, and mused: 47"I knew I should have used monkeys in the first place."

48Man walked, and wandered for many days. 49Seven times seven days did he wander, each moment thinking about the little Suman and why it so refused to speak. 50And after many a thoughtful and forgotten day, Man was finally forced to admit that he had failed. 51"For yea," Man said, "only the one God may create a companion for me, despite the fact that women art very difficult to figure out. 52Yet all things have a purpose, perhaps even this bastard frankenstein that I have seen to bring forth."

53And at this, Man's stomach growled, for he had been bereft of meals for all those seven times seven days. 54For after all his experience, Man finally understood.

55"Delicious," Man said, taking the first bite of his creation.

The Book of Clair
The Book of Kel

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Third Lie

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.
- Mark Twain

I've been up for one year now, I see. Funny, how time flies.

In one year, I've produced 191 different blog posts. That means that I've written 0.52 posts a day, or that I put up a new post about 3.66 days a week -- both of which are pretty healthy numbers.

From my recent count, my posts have been coming at a regular pace: Slow and steady for the first 7 months, and then a spike in April that brought me to my current level. I've noted my summary below:

September: 11
October: 13
November: 13
December: 13
January: 11
February: 9
March: 11
April: 19
May: 21
June: 20
July: 22
August: 18
September: 10

Seeing that this marks my 11th post for September 2005, I think that I'm still on track to write a total of around 20 posts -- more or less -- this month. The numbers aren't actually goals of mine; They're more like observations.

In an interesting development, someone recently called my attention to BlogShares, which is an online "stock market" where users can buy, sell or trade fictional shares in various weblogs. I don't know exactly how BlogShares locates and secures new blogs for "trading", and I haven't given the system a try yet, but "To the Tale, and Other Such Concerns" appears to be prime commodity for some reason. Over the last few months, this blog's "stock price" has skyrocketed, and the site is even currently valued at over five thousand fictional dollars. (That puts me far ahead of all the other blogs I frequent, which is pretty amusing.)

I also have exactly ten unpublished articles floating in "draft" status, which is to say that I either haven't found the time or the opportunity to finish them, or that I finished the articles but didn't post them for any number of reasons. These include:

- Three short stories on Antaria
- One piece of independent fiction set for rewriting
- One discussion on what makes writers, writers (discarded because it felt too vain)
- One treatise on rejected titles for blog posts
- One whiny article on how it felt to be busy at work (trust me, this was whiny)
- One discussion on Jose Maria Giner and his ill-fated moves to hack various government web sites in late 2004
- One feature on obscure artificial languages and the people who still speak them
- One discussion on the OS-Tan initiative (a curious blend of computers and Japanese anime), which had the dramatic title "Their Titanium Casings"

Yes, I think about some funny things sometimes. The weirdest part is that I consider some of them fit for reader consumption. Perhaps I'll resurrect these posts someday... but then again, perhaps not.

So I've been around for a year now. What does that mean?

I suppose that it means that I have too much idle time on my hands, and that I should really work a little more. However, I'm also aware of the fact that too much work can literally kill you, and I consider myself lucky enough to have a way to kill my work right back.

It also means that I've had enough resolve to put my thoughts to virtual paper for the last year, and I'm thankful for the people who constantly drive me to do so. This blog may not exist if it weren't for the readers who analyze every word I write, and who note their responses (satisfied or otherwise) in the comment boxes each day.

It means that -- now that I think about it -- I'm a full year older. For that matter, it also means that I now have to look forward to possibly more years of simply talking about whatever's on my mind at the moment, and wondering if the rest of the world will find it as interesting as I do.

In other words, more writing.

Oy vey.

Friday, September 16, 2005

To Recur. To Recur. To Recur. To Recur.

There's a very dangerous pitfall in the world of writing, and it involves working the same bit multiple times.

I try to think of myself as a creative person. To put it in as straight a manner as possible, I believe that I'm inventive enough to come up with new concepts and ideas regardless of any situation. In fact, I thrive on new stuff. I like new stuff, and I like to think that everybody deserves new stuff.

Late last year, I was put in touch with a Singaporean publishing company that was interested in printing one of my short stories. While that's obviously a good thing, what was strange was the fact that they specifically asked about a piece of work I had turned out five or six years ago.

I'm sure that the experienced writers will be familar with my apprehensions here. A writer's style, I believe, constantly goes through a process of evolution -- in a way, the more you write, the more your pacing, diction, characterization, wording, and other aspects will change. As a writer, you will inevitably feel that your new stuff has the potential of being better than your old stuff. And even if it doesn't turn out that way, you still won't be able to shake that feeling off.

In this case, I had written the piece -- a short fantasy entitled Here There Be Humans! -- as a submission for my college literary journal back in 1999. I had since relegated it to the woodpile, leaving it somewhere in the middle of a tall, precarious stack of previous works. The last thing I expected, after all, was for a magazine to ask for something I had long since "shelved".

A lot of writers hate going through their previous works, and I am no exception to the rule. There's just something negative about digging up a past composition, because it'll always represent you at a time when you were less mature, less skilled, less... contemporary. As a writer, you'll always feel that anything you can write at the present will literally be a whole lot better than anything you wrote in the past.

Personally, I don't listen to writers who dwell on past works, no matter how good those creations may be. I feel that an author who does not understand the need to constantly best his or her past efforts has no idea how it feels to write.

This, however, leads to an obvious dilemma: How does one bear the prospect of reprinting an old, outdated work? These things may look quite fresh from the magazine's point of view, but believe me, they will look pretty stale from where you stand.

I pulled out the original manuscript, read it again, and hated it immediately. I only had one thought in mind at the time, and it was "How could I have written this @#$%! stuff?" I would have crammed it back into the woodpile, had it not been for the fact that a gushing Singaporean editor doesn't ask you for one of your short stories every day.

I've always found it strange when people submit old works for perusal. I suppose that they'll indeed seem "new" as long as one presents them to an unfamiliar audience... and in fact, now that I think about it, this is why classic literary works are able to maintain their shine through multiple generations of readers. But for the life of me, I will probably never understand why some authors dwell on the past in this way. Do they just want to raise the spectres of old accolades? Do they mean to look to previous writings for inspiration? Do they only intend to fill some empty space?

I eventually reached a compromise with the Singaporean publishers, and I spent the next two evenings polishing and repolishing the story. By the time I wrapped it up and sent it off, it was almost unrecognizably brand-spanking new. They sounded pretty delighted with the result, and I breathed the stereotypical long sigh of relief in response.

I suppose that it's perfectly all right to see one of your old stories in print again. There are some pieces, I think, that are so good that they bear repeating. But I also think that part of the equation involves exactly how one feels about old works to begin with, and perhaps that can be seen as one of the measures of a writer. If you're a writer, you keep writing. Out with the old, and in with the new.

Recursion is for the uncreative, I say.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Miller Time!

I'm heading to the United States later this October for a cousin's wedding, and for some reason, I keep getting a lot of advice with regards to an expending waistline. While I'm obviously not that fat, mind you, people keep warning me about increasing trouser sizes. Apparently the food seems to come in extra-large portions over there.

So I'm on a pseudo-diet right now. I figure that it'll be more economical to slim down in anticipation of fattening up in the land of Western decadence.

Interestingly enough, I'm finding that I have to avoid rice, that staple of everyday meals. Well, maybe not completely avoid rice -- I just can't have seconds anymore. I can do without the extra carbohydrates.

I suppose that that means that I'll be going without suman for the next month or so. I'm not sure how much rice goes into a serving of suman, but I'm pretty sure that it's more than my diet's requisite one bowl. Two or three servings of the stuff, after all, will most certainly produce the most unpleasant of bloated feelings. It sometimes makes me wonder if it would make for a satisfactory American meal.

The idea of suman and its level of carbohydrates somehow raises the spectre of other Filipino desserts. Is biko healthy, for instance? What about sapin-sapin? It's almost as though the local delicacies are supposed to fatten us up to begin with. In a very strange sense, it looks like we run the risk of expanding our waistlines regardless of whether we stay in the Philippines or go off to the Americas.

Maybe that's why I stick to literary suman. It's less filling. Oh, and it tastes great, too.

*Sounds of three frogs croaking*

K is for Kat!

Along Elemental Lines of Thought

I'm currently enamored with Dominique's recent illustration of an Air Elemental, based on "Rewards", an Antaria story I posted last May. Frankly, it's a great rendition -- especially considering that Air Elementals (constructs with no real shape or appearance) aren't the easiest things to draw.

Dominique adds an interesting feature to the Air Elemental: a mask to give it a more-or-less visible expression. I personally like the idea, despite the fact that Antaria already has a personality whose character revolves primarily around masks (Gallos, Grandmaster of the Masquers).

On the other hand, the mask lends a bit more character to the setting. Do all air elementals wear masks, for example? If so, then what happens to the mask when the elemental isn't around? Does its Tempestite master carry it as a symbol of the power he wields?

That, incidentally, is an interesting idea. Perhaps the air-elementalist Tempestites do carry around the masks of their familiars. And perhaps they have a particular ritual that summons their elementals, a ritual which would obviously involve the mask in some way. (This would imply, of course, that other Tempestites summon their own elementals through other similar means.)

Now, stay with me here. Let's keep the line of thought going: Is it possible for the mask to define the elemental in some way? Could we, say, have a smiling mask that represents a playful and capricious wind spirit, and have a terrifying mask that represents an angry and snarling force of nature? Or does the elemental define its own face-plate, somehow making it shift form according to its inscrutable moods?

What happens when a human puts on an elemental mask? Has anyone ever done that in the history of Antaria? What happened to him or her? For that matter, does Gallos the Masquer -- arguably the greatest collector of masks in the land -- own one of these elemental masks? Better yet, how did he acquire it?

Come to think of it, what does an elemental mask look like? What contrasts it from a normal mask? What material is it made from? What colors do they come in? (I'd hate to see a wind elemental wearing a purple mask, for example. The color just wouldn't fit, in my opinion.) Could they be painted, perhaps? Who crafts or paints them?

The mask aspect, I think, would lend a greater dimensionality to the Tempestites. I've already imagined that some of the Tempestites are artists -- after all, if you can summon familiars of water or earth, then sooner or later you'd wonder if you could carve them into certain appearances. Why not masks, then? You certainly can't craft the form of an air elemental...

The mask would also imply the concept of heraldry in Antaria. Famous (or infamous) Tempestites, for one, would carry very distinctive and highly recognizable elemental masks. Masks can be passed down from generation to generation, along with the command of their respective air elementals. Tempestite families place unique crests or arms on their masks. Powerful elementalist mages mark their masks with one notch for every opponent bested in single combat.

I'm not sure if Dominique had all this in mind when he was searching for a way to give a wind elemental the sort of expression he needed, but I think that this opens up quite a bunch of possibilities. If anything, it testifies to the fact that a comprehensive setting and story will most likely be better fleshed out when more than one person is working on it. (Yes, I'm paying attention -- I learned this lesson way back during Anito development as well.)

With all that said, it's quite a nice piece of art, isn't it? Sadly, it can't actively show its inspired wealth of ideas on its own. But on the other hand, I suppose that that's what this article is for. :)

Deep Pools

Every now and then, I shake most of the cobwebs off and go around engaging myself in a hobby that doesn't involve creative writing. For the last three or four years, that hobby has involved organizing and running tournaments for the Legend of the Five Rings card game.

If you're one of the uninitiated, Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) is a relatively popular "collectible card game" that centers around a Medieval Japanese-type setting. Enthusiasts purchase packs of cards, which they use to create 40-card decks to play in tournaments against other players. Good performances in these tournaments drive the storyline for the game, which in turn affects the cards that are released in future expansions.

You've probably seen this setup before; It's the same one employed by Magic: the Gathering, Pokemon, and a number of other games that are most likely more popular than L5R. L5R, however, is unique in that it has one of the best ongoing storylines in a game universe, and in that its player community is as helpful and as trustworthy as you can probably get.

Personally, I like running L5R tournaments as opposed to playing in them. It feels weird, taking on the task during my free time when I do similar things for work to begin with. But there's a distinct difference between doing project management for a paycheck and doing event management for a hobby, and that's the fact that you get a lot less pressure during the latter. Where the office offers the most subtle of stressful environments, the mall offers a strange sense of satisfaction for contributing to your own choice of leisure.

Yesterday saw the largest turnout for an L5R tournament in recent memory: 59 players, all looking to try their long-tested deck builds. A substantial cash prize drew not only the usual tournament crowd, but quite a few veterans and newbies as well. The result was what we call a "deep pool": an unpredictable environment where literally any deck (and any player) could be sitting across each table.

The best thing about a deep pool is that it tends to punish inflexible deck design and reward flexible play strategy. I liked to imagine that quite a few people searched the Net for powerful deck builds the previous evening, only to fall to situations where those decks simply couldn't adapt. If anything, the few players who came out on top could easily be recognized as the finest strategic minds in the game.

And at eight in the evening, when the mall was closing, the remaining players and judges were treated to one of the greatest games ever played. Most players are no stranger to the unwinnable situation -- generally, a point in any game where one's chances of victory are so miniscule that they can fit on the head of a pin. Very few people, however, are privileged to see someone dig his way out of an unwinnable situation through sheer stoic reasoning and quiet planning, and I'm glad that I helped make such a game possible.

I'm aware that there are quite a few people who do this for their own hobbies as well. These are the people who put together charity fund-raisers, leisure gatherings and sports tournaments; sometimes without such incidental things as sponsors or giveaways. They do it for the sheer joy of seeing their activity come to life, I think, and for the pleasure of some of the best moments they can experience.

No money, no exposure, no immediate gains -- I suppose that it can be characterized as a thankless job. You'll have to excuse me, though, if I don't stop doing it just yet. :)

And now I return to my usual management work and independent writing. It'll take a couple of months for the cobwebs to come back, after all...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Testing Date

I was writing the final paragraphs of my post last night when my Internet connection broke down unexpectedly. I've left the completed entry at home, and will probably get back to it once I confirm exactly what happened to my ISP.

Yeah, I had a busy weekend. Saturday morning alone saw me in the unenviable position of being forced to come to work, and I was generally stuck in the malls for the rest of that same afternoon. Fortunately, I had heard that Mensa Philippines was holding another qualifying exam at that time, and after skipping over my original intended test in favor of the iBlog Summit, I felt that I owed them something.

The Mensa testing venue last Saturday was located on the sixth floor of the Oakwood apartments somewhere in the middle of the city mall/s. For those not in the know, however, the Oakwood apartments are more hotel-type than apartment-type, which meant that the peace and silence there were quite deafening.

I paid my four hundred pesos like a good little boy, filled out their requisite forms, and listened to their briefing. The guy manning the registration desk struck me as being extremely nervous for some reason. Maybe I intimidated him (yeah, right). Maybe he was tired of saying the same thing to each and every applicant. Maybe he just needed a good stiff drink that day.

Then I entered the testing room and was struck by about thirty square feet of pure white: White wallpaper, white tablecloths, white testing papers, and a little whiteboard to boot. I claimed my answer sheet and test booklet, then sat down to take my first actual exam in approximately four years.

The first thing I noticed about the exam was that we were using terrible pencils. I like pencils with soft dark lead, mind you, because you can vary your level of shading in order to produce very dark marks, or very light ones. Mensa pencils apparently have very hard lead, which, while it does make them last longer, also means that you have to exert some effort towards getting even one defining mark on paper.

For the skeptics out there, the test questions were just as gender-neutral, race-neutral and culture-neutral as advertised. Everything was generally a bunch of "which comes next in the sequence" items, although I can't quite say that all of them were easy. Heck, chances are good that you'll be scratching your head as much as I did, once you get to the latter parts of the test booklet.

Still, everything looked solvable. I placed some educated guesses for those few questions that I did not initially understand, then went through the test one more time and confirmed that my answers to those questions were logical enough to be correct. I considered doodling on my answer sheet just for the fun of it, but then finally decided that I could make enough trouble for the organization on my own time.

On my way out of the testing room, I found that 'registration-guy' was still manning the desk in front. He gave me a wide smile and asked me what I thought of the exam. So I told him the first thing that came to mind.

"It was... fast," I said. "Kind of."

He continued to watch me, open-mouthed, as I walked away in the direction of the elevators. Maybe we'll run into each other again in the halls of the venerable organization sometime.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Meme, Meme

From Jac:

1. Sean.
2. Sean.
3. Sean.

1. Saito Ichikawa.
2. Kitsuki Ikeda.
3. (Plenty of others, but I prefer to keep people on their toes.)

1. I express my thoughts in such a way that I can make people know exactly how I feel.
2. I can be as direct, subtle, technical, blunt or insinuating as I wish.
3. I test out multiple approaches to scenarios, to the point where I can determine optimal choices.

1. I use too many words and repeat too many statements in order to drive home a point.
2. I build underlying "win-win" scenarios to the vast majority of my approaches.
3. I place a wee bit too much faith in people sometimes. (Although it's not quite a bad thing, really.)

1. Chinese.
2. Chinese.
3. Chinese.

1. You know, I can't think of anything for some reason. This doesn't mean that I'm not afraid of anything, of course, just that I can't think of anything at the moment.

1. A pencil.
2. A scrap of paper.
3. Something to look at, read, or observe.

1. Formal shirt.
2. Loose slacks.
3. Wristwatch.

1. Aerosmith.
2. Counting Crows.
3. The Blues Brothers.

1. Smooth (Carlos Santana with Rob Thomas).
2. Maybe I'm Wrong (Blues Traveler).
3. We Didn't Start the Fire (Billy Joel).

1. Publication on a regular basis.
2. Detective Noir fiction.
3. Assimilation into a foreign culture.

1. Sense.
2. Endurance.
3. Change.

TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE (in no particular order)
1. I have conducted advanced experiments on quantum uncertainty.
2. I have a fetish for bladed weapons.
3. I have performed research on the digestive systems of guinea pigs.

1. A good quantity of common sense.
2. Long dark hair.
3. Eyeglasses.

1. Consume alcohol.
2. Perform verbal profanity.
3. Promote myself without referencing my own vanity.

1. Writing.
2. Drawing.
3. Reading.

1. Sleep, darn it!
2. Write a proper blog entry.
3. Did I mention sleep?

1. IT Management.
2. Writing.
3. Teaching.

1. Singapore.
2. New Zealand.
3. Any place with a good high-class hotel room.

1. Sorry, people. My preferred names change from day to day. :)

1. Live on my own.
2. Write a single masterpiece that will make men weep.
3. Get shot with a handgun.

1. I carry an extraordinary amount of empathy.
2. I invest a lot into critical thought, as opposed to action.
3. I attempt to read people's identities or emotions.

1. I hit something in order to try to fix it.
2. I go to malls already knowing what I'm going to do or buy.
3. I don't shy away from confrontation (although I execute my actions very, very subtly).

All right, that's it. Back to work now...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Modern Janus


Suman suman suman suman suman.

Suman with latik sauce. Suman with coconut shavings. Suman with a touch of vanilla or a sprig of mint.

Suman with spam and other meat bits. Savory suman with salt and pepper and carrots and green peas. Suman fried in sauce and mixed with salted fish.

Suman wrapped in banana leaves. Suman wrapped in grease paper. Suman wrapped in plastic and paper. Suman kept in airtight tupperware or contained in large white ovens. Suman on trays. Suman on long mahogany tables.

Suman and cultural distinction. Suman in creative approaches. Neo-suman recipes and techniques for the current millennium. Suman-like dishes from other countries. Non-rice-based suman. Suman fads. Suman trends.

Suman and its driving effects on the Philippine economy. Suman and its role in the world economy. Supply and demand of suman. Analysis of suman prices and availability. Density of suman consumption. Viability of suman marketing and product management. Copyrighting suman recipes. Landmark legal cases involving suman.

Suman in the current political situation. Relative preponderances of suman in both houses. Suman presence in party schemas. Historical usage and issues regarding the consumption of suman. Suman controversies. Suman-based political events. Oratory and suman. Unresolved suman issues for debate.

Media representations of suman. Suman in watercolor. Suman in oils. Suman in sculpture. Suman in neo-aggrandist line art. Suman as still life. Suman poetry. Suman novel-writing. Approaches to suman literature. Suman in the digital media. Theoretical three-dimensional rendering of suman with side dishes.

Suman chemistry. Suman and the laws of physics within the bounds of naked singularities. Heisenberg's suman uncertainty corollaries. Philosophical-mathematical proof of the existence of suman. Biological discussion of suman's organic ingredients. Nutritional effects of suman on the human endocrine system. Health risks of suman. Chart of suman-based needs. Suman-based dietary treatments. Psychological effects of prolonged suman exposure.

Suman suman suman suman suman.


Monday, September 05, 2005


Owing to the pressures of work and the weariness of an active weekend, I can only come to the conclusion that I have been half-stoned for the last twelve hours.

Monday is anathema to work. It's the day when the occasional programmer won't come in, the day when the anxious foreign client comes a-calling, and the day when the whole week decides to up and hit you with the foreboding sense of the upcoming project load. I assure you that I share more than a common sentiment with a fat orange cat when I tell you that I... hate... Mondays.

For that matter, overtime happens to be one of the banes of management. You try to avoid it as much as possible, but you have to resign yourself to it when the time finally comes. It's much like getting a good whack upside the head: It knocks you dazed and senseless, but there are times when you really deserve it.

The true irony is that any manager worth his salt almost never has to experience overtime. When you do your work smoothly and efficiently (which is how we're supposed to do things in the first place), then you tend not to get stuck in the office late. But any good manager also realizes that his staff members occasionally have to do overtime for him to begin with, and should remain by their side for as long as humanly possible.

All this adds up to the fact that I'm writing this at 9:00 pm on a Monday evening in a sweltering office, for no reason at all aside from the fact that someone else just happens to be late with his deadlines.

I wish I could say that I could start doing my work in advance for tomorrow, but this where reality just has to cut in: I'm bone tired, and there's nothing I can do about it.

I can't even write effectively, it seems. The work just saps your strength, up to the point where all you can think about is curling up under a warm blanket and sleeping till noon.

Such is life, I suppose.

Say My Name

Saturday saw me at the Philippine International Book Fair, hanging around the Encyclopedia Britannica booth.

Yes, I'm aware that the Encyclopedia Britannica has a certain reputation among purveyors of printed reference material. The volumes are thick, long-winded, and more than a little wordy. To be sure, the Encyclopedia always seems to use a font so small that each book is practically its own eye exam.

But there's one thing about the Encyclopedia Britannica booth every Book Fair, and that's the fact that they always bring along a multimedia presentation and a projector. Last year, their demonstration involved a reference software sample that dispensed bits of knowledge in a quiz-type setup, and I knew a trivia game when I saw one.

Sadly, although I like to think of myself as being good with useless bits of knowledge, the evil Britannica people ran me through their Sports category of questions, and I crashed and burned within minutes. So I guess that you probably won't blame me when I tell you that I was looking for a little payback this year.

Fortunately for the Britannica staff, they weren't pushing their little trivia game last Saturday morning. Instead, they treated the crowd to a showing of old fairy tales, animated in a 1980s-European style and generally looking out-of-place for a booth that was supposed to be selling advanced reference material.

Still, Britannica's Rumpelstiltskin was pretty good in the telling, even if most of its intended audience was busy browsing the discount books in the National Bookstore area. It occurred to me then that Rumpelstiltskin felt more like a suspense story, a morbid tale that may or may not have been appropriate for children to begin with. It's funny, really, how many of the familiar fairy tales seem that way as well -- I mean, you have wolves eating little girls who wear red riding hoods, you have witches fattening up children for dinner, and you have mermaids who raise knives against their former lovers. Sometimes I wonder if we should blame stories like these for inspiring our culture of violence, as opposed to blaming modern computer games.

For that matter, I find Rumpelstiltskin funny. An arcane little man performs a favor in return for a girl's first-born child? A miller's daughter gets forced by a king to spin straw into gold, after which she marries him to become a queen? If anything, the latter can at least describe a few relationships I've encountered... :)

But then again, we write of dragons and robots and gibbering mouthers and zeta reticuleans. We write of young women who are blown away by the wind, or mechanics who travel with a retinue of yellow butterflies. We write of agrarian reform, or social justice, or the marvels of a president who can balance both the masses and the economy. All this, we have to admit, is pretty fantastic to begin with. How can we complain about the prospect of spinning straw into gold, then?

The truth probably lies in there somewhere, and we just have to go digging around for it. It's much like finding out the little man's name, really. The only difference is that we've had a lot more than three days to work with, and we're still blindly stumbling around despite that.

Fairy tales shouldn't be told to children, I figure. Aesop's fables would make better storytelling material for the young ones, since the objective lessons in them are far more obvious. Fairy tales have lessons embedded into their lurid details somewhere, but in the modern era, these lessons are significantly harder to find.

Outside the Book Fair and the evil, evil influence of the Britannicans, I ran into a small Physics exhibit and spent two minutes amusing myself with their Van de Graaf generator. (You know, it's that mechanism with the metal plate that charges you with enough static electricity for your hair to stand on end.) It was only vaguely educational, but it did remind me that sometimes there are things that you just want to experience and not bother thinking about too much.


I offer a warm hello to Egil and Hanna, who are probably moving around either Baguio or Australia at this moment. Do drop by Metro Manila again, and look us up. We hope you had a nice time last Saturday afternoon. :)

Friday, September 02, 2005

Disclaimer: September 2005

Heavy workload. I just happen to be writing two user manuals at the same time, which explains why I'm posting less than usual nowadays.

The problem with user manuals is that they seem fairly easy to write at first glance, but over the years, you'll eventually be starving for methods to say things like "click this button here" one more time. I'd like to think that our clients see my manuals as useful references, but here on my end, they're nothing but repetitive pieces of writing. If there's a mental counterpart to Carpal-Tunnel Syndrome, then I assure you that I am in constant fear of suffering from it.

In order to understand Sean's notes on copyright:
1. Sean posts a disclaimer as his first item for each month, and the disclaimer remains open and available on his weblog. (A similar note of ownership and Creative Commons License exists on the right-hand side of his blog template.)
2. All items on this blog are the original conceptualizations and executions of Sean himself. Exceptions are made for those blog posts that clearly reference established external figures or products, in which case Sean will attribute these to the proper sources.
3. Sean claims ownership of all writings and observations as recorded on this blog, but will allow for further reproduction of these items under his permission. Fat chance, yes, but you never know...
4. Any external entity who dares to steal or claim ownership of any of Sean's items on this blog automatically makes him or herself subject to Sean's wrath, which will take any of multiple forms depending on how Sean feels at the moment. (Right now, Sean's considering something in the vein of chickens, antifreeze, and midget circus workers. You don't want to know the details, really.)
5. Click on the "Next" button to proceed to the next page.

Galumph galumph galumph galumph galumph galumph...