Tag Archives: Writing

The Trip Part 2: Ayala Alabang

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Once Sara and I had adjusted to the time zone a bit, Sara’s Uncle Don took us out for lunch at the Asian Development Bank where he works as a lawyer. The ADB makes their business by helping Asian governments finance public works projects, like dams and bridges. The head office seemed more like a self-sufficient compound than anything else. There was a full-service garage with a gas pump, and the company store shipped in groceries from anywhere in the world for their international team of economic hotshots. The restaurant had a piano player and made quite the fine steak. From there we drove to Don and Judy’s house in the suburb of Ayala Alabang.

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Aside from the Spanish colonial architecture and security checkpoint, Ayala Alabang looked like a pretty normal gated community. There was a church, a community field, a country club, and even a small convenience store. The neighborhood is home to quite a few expatriates, as well as the staff that maintains all the houses. The wages in the Philippines are as such that houses like these will employ cooks, housekeepers, gardeners, or combinations of all three. Don and Judy’s house was no exception. They had a gardener named Nestor, a cook named Natty, and a housekeeper named Anning.

Judy and Sara with Simon, Jonah and Noah respectively.

Judy and Sara with Simon, Jonah and Noah respectively.

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Don and Judy's House

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Guest House

Guest Room

Guest Room

Now, if you know Don and Judy, you may have heard of their three boys, Simon, Noah, and Jonah. They are fraternal triplets and are 10-years-old as of this writing. They are very intelligent and inquisitive. They go through books like nobody’s business, and I think they came up with a plan to buy an iPhone through buying and selling beanie babies after I showed them my own device. Since Judy is trained as a teacher, she home-schools the boys in a small classroom in the second level of their guest house where Sara and I got to stay.

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Channeling my 10-year-old self, I thought it was very cool. Everything was very hands-on. They had charts to count in English, French, Roman and Mayan. For projects they completed relief maps of Africa and clay models of human skin layers. The construction of their tree-house was used to teach geometry. My personal favorite was their comparative novel studies. Simon, Noah and Jonah go through so many books that they were able to follow authors like Gary Paulsen, and made charts of all the similarities and differences between their novels.

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Natty, Sara and Anning

I must say Sara and I never ate as well during the whole trip as we had when Natty was cooking. For dinner there was food like stuffed peppers, chicken stir-fry wrapped in banana leaves, and curried beef. Breakfast included waffles, french toast, bacon and eggs. Sara and I should e-mail them for some recipes. However, I doubt we’ll ever get the presentation right!

In Search of New Sci-fi

So after paying my library fines last week, I swore to myself that I was going to take out one, and only one book that day. Hopefully a light, entertaining jaunt that I could get through in a few days. Perhaps it was part of a series so I could enjoy those characters that I fell in love with again and again. Oh, and it had to have spaceships.

I decided to go with “The Shadow of Saganami” by David Weber. It’s actually the first novel in a spin-off series of the Honor Harrington Saga, which I remembered from the snazzy cover art I’ve seen grace the shelves of the bookshops from time to time. The novels star a female starship captain name Honor Harrington who spends most of her time kicking ass for an anachronistic constitutional monarchy out among the stars. While the novel didn’t directly star Ms. Harrington, it promised more of the same. A space opera full of shady political deals and massive starship battles. It seemed perfect. I took it home, cracked it open, and got to the beginning of chapter two before closing it again for good.

I realize that this might not be a fair review of the novel. After all, the book was meant for long-time fans of the series who were familiar with the universe, the terminology, and the characters. However, I didn’t get too far before I found that reading the rest of the book would just be a chore. The straight-laced characters seemed to have little to distinguish them outside the pips on their uniforms. I have a friends and relatives in the military, and in an industry where there is a culture of funny story battles, you’d think there would be more interesting ways to introduce a military officer character rather than having her checking over her dorm to see if she forgot anything. The dialogue was written in the same stilted American dialect that every major science-fiction universe has used since Larry Niven’s “Known Space” novels in the 1970’s. They also do that thing where they stop using contractions and use larger words to signify that they’re being sarcastic. They’ll say something like, “I am sorry I cannot acquiesce to your superior demands, O so-called viceroy of the surrounding sector and its principalities”. It makes me want to put my head through drywall.

So, back it goes to the library. My cousin recommended Neal Stephenson’s latest, so I think I’ll give it a shot. The problem is, I know why this series is a New York Times bestseller. The descriptions of the space battles are grand and detailed. If there is ever a TV show or movie from the Honor Harrington universe, I’d probably watch it (if only because David Weber wants Claudia Christian from Babylon 5 to play the title character). However, there was such an ennui in the tone of the book, like everything I was watching through the text had been done before. I find this is a problem with most science fiction after the 1980’s. As hard sci-fi concepts like computers and space travel become commonplace, writers put less effort into describing those things with the wonder and mystery that they used to. This is why I read older novels from authors like Heinlein and Niven. The novels still read like they are fantastic, even though the technology in them becomes dated by our standards. It’s important to remember that in science fiction, technology is more than just a way to get from plot point A to mcguffin B. They are symbols of humankind’s hopes and dreams.

Clichés of the Online World

Image courtesy Wikipedia

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that more writing is going on today than at any point in human history. All it takes is 8 1’s and 0’s to make a byte, my 8GB flash drive contains well over 8 billion of those, multiply that by the billions of computers all over the world and combine that with fully industrialized printing processes, and you get the idea. Now with all this talking in stasis going on and if the Infinite Monkeys Typing Theorem is to be believed, we are going to be repeating ourselves a bit. I came across a few lists of internet writing clichés that I should try to avoid in the future.

For the Love of Blog Cheese from Lindsayism.com – A lot fun cliches but some of them are things the author can do nothing about, like having sycophantic commentators. Highlights include Calling Tivo/DVR “My new boyfriend.”, Participating in any blogging “meme” (“Write down the first three venereal diseases that pop into your head.”) and using the word “meme.”

Bad Lingo: Blog-Media Clichs from Gawker.com – I know, they spelled Cliché wrong, but it is full of well-worn idioms from the internet age. It is frightening and shameful that I know which Simpsons episode [adjective]-y goodness came from.

Thirteen Blog Clichés from Codinghorror.com – It’s not so much a critique of internet writing as it is critique of blog design in general.

The 100 Lamest Game-Industry Clichés from GamesRadar.com – There is no greater temptation to use a Cliché when it’s 3:00 am, you’re out of coffeee, out of time, and most importantly out of money. While it mostly rails against games reviewers, I see this kind of language pop up on blogs and makes me start to lose my faith in humanity.

Win Money Blogging $$$

As some of you regular readers may know, the regular problem with this blog is that there are not enough updates. This is the very reason I have few regular readers. I have also noticed this is a common problem on other blogs. So, inspired by a certain Seinfeld episode, I would like to propose:

The Last Blogger Standing Challenge!!!

The rules are fairly simple:

*Each contestant writes a blog post of at least 100 words once every 24 hours.

*If a contestant goes 24 hours without writing 100 words on their blog, they pay $20 and are disqualified.

*The last remaining contestant gets to keep the pot.

Basically, if 5 people buy in to this, the prize could potentially be $100. All money shall be exchanged through paypal. If you’re interested, place a comment, or e-mail me.

Top 20 WordPress Plug-ins

Since the Wordcamp last week I’ve been hard at work trying to trick out my blog for the internet at large. This involved locating and installing a lot of plug-ins. I’ve decided to save everyone else some time and post 20 of the most useful plug-ins I’ve found on the net.

Adsense-Deluxe – helps distribute google ads around my blog. It’s part of my quixotic quest to make this thing turn a profit.

Akismet – It’s no surprise this plug-in becomes bundled with wordpress now. If it weren’t for this one the comments section would be drowning in cialis ads.

All in One SEO pack – allows you to give your posts relevant search engine terms so google will pick it up.

Brian’s Threaded Comments – allows users to reply directly to other users’ posts.

Digg This – If anyone ever decides to submit one of my posts to the social news site Digg.com (hint, hint) this plug-in will alert my blog and stick a Digg button up at the top there.


Extended Comment Options
– Another weapon in the war on comment spam. This plug-in allows you to control comment access over all of your posts.

Feedburner Feedsmith – If you want to switch over to using Feedburner, this is the plug-in to get. It forwards subscribers of your old RSS feed to your new and shiny Feedburner RSS feed.

Google Analytics for WordPress – It’s kind of tough to use Google Analytics on WordPress because all the pages are dynamically generated. This plug-in puts the Analytics code on all the necessary parts of your page.


Google XML Sitemaps
– Google keeps track of websites using XML sitemaps. With this plug-in, you can generate a Sitemap and regenerate it when your page updates, making it more visible to Google.

Livejournal Crossposter – If you have friends on livejournal, then this plug-in will scrape your post and put it on your livejournal account.

PHPlist – Integrates with the PHPlist application to create a mailing list for your blog.

Show Top Commentators – Gives bragging writes to the users who comment the most on your blog.

Simple Tags – While not quite as simple as the name suggests, it allows you to mass edit the tags on your posts.


Socialize
– This will allow you to try out the Digg This plug-in. At the bottom of the post there are a number of buttons so that anyone can submit an article to Digg, Stumbleupon, Del.icio.us, or any other social news site.

Subscribe to Comments – Users can catch up on responses to their posts with this handy plug-in.

Twitter Tools – Using this, you can put new post notifications on Twitter or write Twitter posts from wordpress.

Twitter Widget – Puts that twitter feed right on the sidebar.

Widgetize Anything – Not every WordPress plug-in is optimized for sidebar widgets. This plug-in hopes to change that.

WordPress.com Stats – Puts usage statistics on the dashboard of your blog.

WordPress Database Backup – Nothing protects you from catastrophic failure like the occasional database backup. This plug-in does it quickly and easily.