Friday, December 29, 2006

Ice Princess

After spending the morning reviewing the tasks I and my thesis group have to accomplish before the awaited days of implementation of our survey, and finishing some work before the reopening of school, I thought I have to go out mallhopping (it's been ages since I roamed the malls). Besides, I have to buy a new set of clothes (my favorite pants got ruined after my newly bought red handwraps were mixed in the washing machine), and a USB game pad controller (to play with downloaded Nintendo Family Computer Games in my laptop, wouldn't want to destroy my keyboard). Since my little sister Sigrid had been begging me to bring her to Club Manila East for swimming these past few days, I thought of bringing her with me to Megamall instead. She was ecstatic! And so it became a date with Sigrid...

What was supposed to be a fast afternoon of buying the things I needed became an afternoon of spur of the moment decisions. Traffic during commute was so terrible we arrived at SM Megamall just in time for lunch. I wanted to eat at Sbarro's or Pollo Loco, but Sigrid said we eat at Chowking instead. Ok, ok... it's cheaper anyway, haha. But when we arrived there, the queue was so long, so she said we eat at the neighboring KFC instead. And so we did. She finished early so she could play at the playground area (no wonder, she ordered spaghetti only!) As soon as I finished my meal (I ordered a lot, and I couldn't finish the chicken burger), we left with the intention of resuming my shopping agenda. We had to pass that area overlooking the iceskating rink, and guess what, Sigrid asked me "Kuya, can we go iceskating?"

"Hmmmm..." I was thinking that it's been ages since I iceskated. The last time was when I was in college, and that's almost a decade ago! Could I still have the skills I had back then. I was not a good skater, but not a bad one either (like those who would go blam on the fiberglass walls or flail their arms to regain their balance, only to fall ungraciously to the ice floor). I had my own share of falls, but I knew how to skate. And it's always scary to do so when you know that behing the walls and above you, people are watching, looking only at the skating divas with awe or the funny ones for entertainment. But what the heck, it's for Sigrid. "Sure! After we finish buying the stuff I need..." She was grinning, showing her missing front teeth (Guess her favorite Christmas song?).

Buying clothes had always been a problem for me. I never had a reliable fashion sense. We went to U2, and I found these pants which were on sale for 50% off. As I was about to pay at the counter, I saw a display featuring Nike shoes and wondered if they would have the pair I was looking for, and told Sigrid that we go there after I buy the pants. She asked me with a particular look I couldn't describe, "Kuya, why do you always buy these clothes, those shoes, these computer stuff... it's just a waste of money..." Hmmm, I knew where she was getting at. "It's not a waste of money, Sigird, I wear and use these things... y' know what's a waste of money? Going iceskating!" She had her hands folded speechless, looking at me angrily. The saleslady was smiling at us.

After buying the stuff I needed (I bought a cheap game controller pad), we were off to the iceskating rink. I was nervous, but excited. As I said before, I'm not confident, and I knew Sigrid was expecting me to teach her. We went in, got our shoes, filled up our locker, and headed to the rink. I started slow at first to feel the slide on the ice. Wouln't want to slip. I told Sigrid to stay at the sides first. The geek that I am, I looked at the biomechanics of how it should be done. Bend knees slightly, with the upper body slightly forward, so that the line of gravity falls within the base of support. And then for propulsion, a foot should slightly push back and sideways. Pretty soon, I was moving, quite well rather. Of course, I had Sigrid to look out for. As soon as I was confident, I had her hand and she was already sliding with me. Gave her instructions and she followed well. For a first timer, she did well. Only comment I gave her was to push longer and slide more. She was skating like she was walking on the ice, rather than sliding across it. After correcting her, I left her on her own because that was the only way one could truly learn, while I was watching, coaching from a distance. She had lots of falls but she wasn't embarrassed at all. I would slide up to her and ask "Are you alright?"

"I'm OK, just a fall... I have to practice some more," and I'd help her stand up, and she was off to skate again. Good girl! I've always been afraid to fall.

I forgot how time flies when you're skating, and before I knew it, we were already skating for more than 3 hours! If only I knew that we would be doing this, I could have brought my digital camera, so I could have taken good clear pictures. But I only have my camera phone with me, so I ended up with crappy pictures and videos instead. Nevertheless, it's still sufficient to make this little presentation:

The day wasn't finished yet. We literally hopped from mall to mall, going to Shangri-la next, then train to Araneta-Cubao, where we went to the largest National Bookstore in the Philippines. She was excited to hear that this branch had elevators. I bought the following: Gaya's Gift, Lagpas-Ulo ang Lukso ni Kikong Unano, Are Scientists Atheists?, Ang Alamat Ni Bernardo Carpio (comics), and There's a Duwende in My Brother's Soup! Yup, all of them are children's books. I've always been fascinated with children's books and I still read them. I like the simplicity in their storytelling and yet very colorful in imagery that can only be limited by the reader's imagination. In fact, one of my childhood dreams was to be a storyteller, like my idol, Kuya Bodjie, or be a children's book illustrator. I should probably write more about this in the future. After exploring the 4 floors of National Bookstore just to appease Sigrid's curiousity, we had dinner at Chowking. Sigrid ordered large Beef Noodles, while I had the Beef Wanton. I guess she was so hungry, it wasn't enough for her:

Of course Sigrid, of course! Soon, it was time to go, though she got a little scared riding the train (LRT2) home (she watched Shake, Rattle and Roll 8 with Oggie the day before, that's why). We came home tired after a loooong cheerful day. It wasn't long until she's fast asleep and has drifted far into dreamland. I knew what she's dreaming about: being an Ice Princess!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The beauty of widgetry...

This is a follow-up to my earlier blog concerning desktop enhancement: Rocketdocking.... This time, I'll be disussing about widgets. This is the first entry that I will be writing first in Multiply (Perelandran Frontier), and cross-post it to Blogger (Perelandran Chronicles). Sometimes, importing blogs from Blogger ends up with a messed up format in Multiply.

While exploring the features of Rocketdock, I came to understand that it has limitations in integrating widget functions in its dock interface. If you were able to read my previous blog, you would have seen how barren my desktop looks like. It begs to be cluttered and endowed with functionality! So I have to look for another program to populate my desktop real estate property with bustling tennants known as widgets. What the hell are widgets in the first place?

Widget/s are not the midget-like people in He-Man and the Masters of the Universe or the name of a character in the Marvel Universe. Here is a little background as to the source of the word widget: (courtesy of Wikipedia)

Some say that the word "widget" is derived from the combination of "window" and "gadget". This is unlikely. The earliest known occurrence of the word "widget" is in Beggar on Horseback (1924), a comedy play written by George S. Kaufman and Marc Connelly. The hero of this play is a struggling composer who must choose between creating music that stimulates his soul (but earns no money) or earning a living by accepting a soul-deadening job in a factory that makes "widgets". The text of the play intentionally refrains from revealing what "widgets" are; clearly, they represent any purely mercantile commodity that has no artistic or spiritual value.

Widgets in the world of desktop enhancements are small independently running programs with graphical interfaces that are physically inspired (depending on their function). They are run on the desktop and can have virtually any function (be it from telling the time, date and weather, receiving RSS feeds, or direct interaction with a web function). They are managed and executed through a management program or engine. Other names used interchangeably with it are desklets or applets, depending on the engine you are using. I like to use the word widget although I know it is the official term used in Yahoo! Widgets, and Dashboard in MacOS X. The upcoming Windows Vista will call them 'gadgets'. Google Desktop calls them as panels. The list of names may endless and is limited only by the number of engines available out there.

I will be focusing on the widget engine called AveDesk, which is small and most importantly free. I downloaded the program and installed it on my system. It comes prepackaged with widgets such as PidlShortcut which when properly configured gives you access to your folders or applications. I opened 2 instances of PidlShortcut and defined each one to point directly to My Computer and Recycle Bin. What's amazing with these is that you can configure them to show some information about the folder, such as its name, contents, filesize and number of files among others. Through searching, I downloaded the AveScripter and Systats, which are widgets that has their own interface and programming features to define their functionality. If you want to skip the programming part, there are websites offering pre-defined widgets (made by the users themselves) for AveDesk using AveScripter or Systats. provides an extensive library of downloadable widgets (called docklets or desklets).

I wanted the basic widgets on my desktop, so I instructed AveDesk to run the following: a clock, a calendar, a weather bar (informs me not only of the present weather, but also forecasts), 3 RSS feed readers (constantly receives RSS feed from user-defined sources), and the shortcuts I talked about earlier. With AveDesk running, this is how my desktop now looks like:

Pretty isn't it? And it can run together with RocketDock. You can easily drag these widgets wherever you would want them on the desktop or simply lock them in place. The widgets can look pretty stunning especially with their transparency and shadow effects over the desktop, and some like the shortcuts to My Computer and Recycle Bin can be configure to be animated when my mouse pointer hovers over them. I know there are many more widgets out there that offers more novel functions such as a calculator, games, and online picture viewers, but for my present needs, these would be enough.

Why did I choose AveDesk when there are other widget applications out there? I did try Yahoo! Widgets (This was originally called Konfabulator, the mother of all widget applications, which some say was copied by Dashboard in MacOS X. It may not be true that that Mac started the widget revolution.) and it offers a huge library of widgets in their website. It looks very appealing too but one thing I immediately noticed is how it made my computer slow. I noticed that it was eating so much of my onboard memory and I only had 3 widgets running. It took 20-40MB of of memory to run 3 widgets and it was clearly affecting computer performance as I was working on other applications. This was not acceptable. AveDesk only uses 5MB, with all 7 running widgets. Uninstall Yahoo! Widgets... sorry.

Widgets are far from from its namesake and may indeed be of great value in streamlining our computing experience besides just being novelty.


I always enjoy the Christmas holidays. Not only because of the usual cheer it brings, but mainly because it gives me time to temporarily retreat from the demands of work (Now, this is not really true...) and regather. Time to throw out the clutter (old memos, handouts, photocopies...), reorganize and plan for the coming year. Of course, since my teaching/creative work and entertainment relies heavily on computing technology (gigabytes of data!), my PC's were not left for general cleaning.

My computer(s), a desktop named 'Litzy', serves as the general family computer, and since it houses my backup hard disk 'Consus', it also serves as my download computer (I use EMule as my peer-to-peer file sharing application). So, it was first on my purging list. My laptop, 'QNote' which is my workstation where most of my teaching (handouts, lesson plans, notes, research documents, pdf's, presentations) and creative output files (logo designs, graphic design work) are produced is next in line. After deleting so many files in my laptop, I could almost say that my laptop was much lighter when I carried it!

Anyway, files were reorganized and what's next to do? Customization! Also, since I was using the same programs over and over, I wanted to streamline my work process. I wanted to make my computer desktop more functional and fancier. While surfing, I was inspired by an article featuring some desktop enhancement tools, such as Rocketdock and Avedesk. I will be discussing the latter in succeeding blogs.

RocketDock, developed by Punk Software is a smoothly animated, alpha-blended application launcher that is similar to the MacDock feature in MacOS X. For Mac users, they say it is a clone of the MacOs X feature for the Windows platform, which normally utilizes the Taskbar with the StartMenu feature. RocketDock is among the many docking programs available out there (with MobyDock, ObjectDock, RK Launcher, and Y'z Dock). but some of you Windows users may wonder, why use docking programs at all, when you already have the Taskbar? The docking programs provide fast customizable access to your mostly used applications (just a click away!) through icons within a 'dock' which is conveniently tucked to a side of your desktop, thus saving precious desktop real estate property. If there's one thing I don't like on a desktop, it is a very ugly cluttered one. Although not as powerful as its counterparts (in terms of added functionality), the relatively new RocketDock requires little memory to run in the background. Now, this is an imortant issue for me, since I use memory-hogging applications in my creative work. Also, and an equally important reason, it is free!

Here is how my original desktop looked like, neat and clean, with shortcuts to the program nestled within folders in the Start menu:

Note that I have already customized my desktop using a theme emulating Windows Vista. I am currently using the Windows Media Center Edition, laptop screen utilizing 1280x768 resolution. After installing RocketDock, I immediately customized it to my needs, easily adding icons to the 'dock' by simply dragging shortcuts of programs that I usually use unto the 'dock'. RocketDock can take advantage of 256x256 resolution icons (both in .ico or .png format), and since my present icons of the programs I defined into RocketDock are small, they look a lot blurry when they 'grow' as the mouse hovers over. This is easily solved by redefining it with newer icons with better resolution through a menu in the program (Here I'm changing the link to My Computer with my own logo icon):

RocketDock already comes pre-installed with some 25x256 .png icons but I prefer the icons provided by these fellow deviants: jrdn88, monolistic, and many more in deviantART. Everything's all set, and now my desktop looks and works better. I set RocketDock for auto-hide. It only ate 8,880K of memory, so it's virtually negligible:

Here's a little video comparing the traditional Windows Taskbar to the RocketDock. It is claimed that the new Windows Vista will possess a new docking feature with more functionality, evolving the traditional Taskbar. For the meantime, while waiting for the release of the new Vista (if you indeed plan to upgrade), we would have to enjoy programs such as RocketDock to enhance our computing experience.

Coming soon on my blogs about desktop enhancement: widgets on my desk... Avedesk...

No wonder the internet's soooo slooooow!

Since yesterday, I've been frustrated and I haven't been able to access my email yet because Outlook can't access Yahoo! This is weird, because I can easily access my other email accounts (Gmail, MSN and GMXMail). Surfing wise, I can't seem to access Flickr, Photobucket, YouTube, Yahoo! sites (all of which are essential to my blogging needs, because most of my resources are stored there), and others, but I can easily access Google, MSN and of the blog sites. I've been busy preparing for a budget proposal and reviewing a research paper, I wasn't even able to look at the widgets installed on my desktop. I had one which automatically receives RSS feeds from, and look what came in:

QUAKE KNOCKS ASIA BACK TO PRE-INTERNET DAYS!!! I can't get the complete details about it because I can't access (But I still get the RSS feeds). This is terrible news (as well as the others that follow it). I hope they fix it fast... I need to check and send emails soon! And I have blog drafts waiting to be published.

Oh well...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

CSS is one Creepy Stupefying Stuff...

I finally was able to sort out the layout of the Perelandran Frontier, my multiply site, and now it looks prettily how much I wanted it to look like. Simple and neat. And it took hours of modifying the Outburst template, and for me to do that, I had to immerse myself in CSS which is creepy stupefying stuff! Thanks to blogs at Multiply Customized Themes and Modify your Multiply profile, I was able to grasp the intricacies of CSS as it applies to multiply customization, but mostly I had to rely on my own research. I had to undersand the codes, syntax and standards of CSS, and read through the highly technical guides in W3Schools, search through google, using phrases as "changing text with pictures...", "removing borders from profile..." and "css for dummies..." and many more! I had more than 8 windows open at the same time, browsing through all of these, jumping back and forth, making sure I'm getting it right. I had to sneak in from behind various sites I used as models and sniff out the html codes (right click, view source) and the css reference file. I had to print out long pages of html and css code, highlight tags (id's and classes) and label parts (because some template authors just don't care to put /*----reference point----)/ in their css files. It is one cracked sappy substance more potent than hash. I gained a cool sensational skill, which will be very useful to my sidejob. But it is all worthwhile, and now I can proceed with writing in my blogs, without being bothered about how my multiply looks like and stop being a crazy single stud. Now stop smiling, you crusty silly studmuffin, you crabbie stupid sister!

I'll be posting in future blogs details of how I went about customizing the Outburst template in Multiply

Monday, December 25, 2006

'Twas the night before Christmas... (of Galvani and frog's legs)

We traditionally attend the Christmas Eve Mass at our local religious community (Ligaya ng Panginoon) before we head home to enjoy our Noche Buena. But in recent years, we didn't have enough time and energy to prepare our usual home feast, so we just had dinner in restaurants, and the usual "popular" pick was Max's (hmmm... ok, ok, the choice was usually made by me, so don't wonder... I love Max's... "sarap to the bones!"). Anyway, this Christmas Eve dinner was different, and with my brother Oggie's recommendation, we decided to eat at Little Asia located at the Greenhills Promenade.

What did we order? Being a culinary adventurist that I was and how I sorely miss eating in fancy restaurants, I targeted the unusual menu selections. On top of our safe choices which included the seafood rolls, chicken in sweet sour sauce, fried breaded calamares in salt and pepper, fish fillet in special cheese sauce and yang chao rice, I included the duck's eggs (sizzling balot!) in a special sauce and the never tasted before, fried frog's legs in salt and pepper style preparation. Of course, my unusal food order wasn't almost heeded due to resistance from my siblings who had a more conservative palate.

The food came... the food was good, but compared to other asian-themed restaurants, it was a tad sweet. The duck's egg was almost ordinary if not for the special sauce. But the highlight of the feast was the frog's legs dish! I never tasted frog's legs before (I've tasted horse, reindeer, monitor lizard "bayawak", goat before) so I was in for a gastronomic adventure. Aside from the novelty of it, I found it very good (good enough to have seconds, and even thirds!). It tasted very similar to chicken, and if you didn't know you were eating frogs, you might mistake it for chicken.

I wanted my little sister Sigrid to taste the frog's legs. We didn't tell her what the dish really was because if she knew, she might not even take a bite. We just told her they were fried little chicken's legs, and she enjoyed them. Here's proof she ate frog's legs!

Christmas Eve 012 a

Pretty soon, she gobbled 5 legs in all! We told her the truth eventually after we left the restaurant, and she wasn't really pissed off. She was surprised how they tasted delicious, and was more than willing to eat frogs again.

What else was going on in my mind when I was chomping on my frog's legs... this!

Christmas Eve 011 a

Yes, yes, I admit, I'm a geek, and I wouldn't be called "Electro (electrotherapy) King" for nothing. Luigi Galvani, one of the pioneers of neuroelectrophysiology, visited my thoughts as bits of cooked contractile amphibian musculature traveled its way down my esophagus. Did a little research here (courtesy of IET):

Galvani's Animal Electricity Experiments

Shown here is an illustration of Luigi Galvani's famous frog experiments taken from his work, De Viribus - Electricitatis in Motu Musculari. 1792.

A chance observation led Luigi Galvani (1737-98) to discover animal electricity in 1871. When the nerve of a frog that Galvani's wife was preparing for soup was accidentally touched with a knife a muscle contraction occurred despite the frog not being connected to an electrical machine. Galvani investigated the cause and discovered contractions were excited when two different metals touched.

Previously, Isaac Newton had theorised a link between the 'animal spirits' described in antiquity and the subtle electrical fluids hypothesised by physicists. Caldini had observed that merely bringing an electrified rod within close proximity of a frog would stimulate its muscles. However, it was Galvani who determined that electricity was present in the animal itself. From his frog experiments he deduced that contractions were caused by the flow of electricity and when one occurred a nervo-electric fluid was conducted from the nerves to the muscle. This gave a physiological basis for medical electrical treatment.

And thus, eletrotherapy was born... whew! Funny how big discoveries are born out of little accidents.

We finished the meal and realized after that around 12 frogs are now on wheelchairs...

My Christmas Card

I originally submitted this concept last year to the WACOM Christmas Card Making Contest, with the idea of mixing Asian elements (note the Yin-Yang motifs, Filipino parol, Malay cultural colors, etc...) with the Western experience of Christmas symbolized through snowflakes. Added my own holiday-inspired haiku. Developed in CorelDRAWX3, all vector art.

May all be showered with blessings this Christmas season!

This could be the start of something...

I'm new to blogging... in fact I have this uncomfortable feeling that people will get to read your writing, exposing your innermost thoughts, your being. I know myself to be a very shy person (Really! I know some of you who knows me well are probably crossing their eyebrows now) who would rather keep things to himself rather than tell it to the whole world; who would rather have my own way than be criticized. So starting a blog would be something of a challenge for me... blogging is essentially discordant to my personality (I think).

But I'm not new to writing. I was a prolific poet and essayist when I was younger, having some of my works featured in some periodicals, published in collections. I even had one of my poems read and recorded in a CD collection. I even had my own personal website (Hmmm, Goodness Bites... it still does) where I had most of my prose and poetry published. And then the heavy waves of stressful work flushed all these literary creativity away from me. I started to swim in the seas of memos, reports and scientific writing (APA format!). Now, I'm dumbfounded when I try to write a poem!

I'll start with this blog. This could change things for the better... this could be the start of something big (singing... hey, I'm a sucker for musicals, so sing along...)

You're walkin' along the street, or you're at a party,
Or else you're alone and then you suddenly dig,
You're looking' in someone's eyes, you suddenly realize
That this could be the start of something big.

You're lunching at Twenty-One and watchin' your diet,
Declining a charlotte russe, accepting a fig,
When out of a clear blue sky, it's suddenly gal and guy,
And this could be the start of something big.

There's no controlling the unrolling of your fate, my friend,
Who knows what's written in the magic book.
But when a lover you discover at the gate my friend,
Invite her in without a second look.

You're up in an aeroplane or dining at Sardi's,
Or lying at Malibu alone on the sand,
You suddenly hear a bell, and right away you can tell
That this could be the start of something grand.

This could be the start of something very big,
Why don't you play your part?
Please give your heart to me....and see.
This could be the start of something wonderful,
Why don't you take a chance?
Just try romance with me....and see.

Your watchin' the sun come up and countin' your money,
Or else in a dim cafe you're ordering wine,
Then suddenly there he is, and you wanna be where he is,
And this must be the start of something...
This could be the heart of something...
This could be the start of something big.