Blaze a trail!

This is the obligatory post for whenever I “restart” blogging.

Sad to say that I haven’t been faithful to writing at all, which is weird as I am a journalism major.

But as the song goes, “it’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life,” so like a phoenix, I revive my blogging life. That and it’s a requirement for one my electives this semester.

Suffice to say, this semester is shaping up to be an interesting one.

As for why I titled this post, blaze a trail… It must have something to do with my banner (I guess), which is from the anime Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann (天元突破グレンラガン). As the story goes, it talks about the infinite potential each and every one of us “spiral beings” possess. As infinitely great our potential for good is, so is our potential for evil. Much like a spiral can spin clockwise or anticlockwise.

I’ve come to realize how much potential the Philippines has and how grossly untapped and unrealized it is. Many seem to think that there is no hope and that we’ll keep on going on the tailspin spiral our country has been on for a long time and eventually hit the ground and be destroyed. But we seem to forget that in order to change our spiraling direction, we first need to stop our downward spiral. Moreover, a spiral has to begin somewhere, so why not begin the change yourself in yourself.

Clockwise and Anticlockwise

I leave you with an optical illusion in which the light green is really the same color as the light blue. This image teaches us that seeing is not “absolute truth” and that perspective matter.

Let us blaze a trail together. Through the earth, the stars, and the heavens.

Test it out in paint (use eyedrops) if you don’t believe me!

Oh the Joy of Money

For people who are so engrossed with money or the lack thereof, we aren’t so business savvy, which to me is quite perplexing.

With our president saying the government is basically bankrupt (both in competency, morals, and monetary-wise) for the rest the year, and with taxes higher than any point in time in our history, with inflation higher than the interest rates of banks and also the increase of the salaries of normal workers, it makes me scratch my head as to why people are not paying more attention to business.

As much as money is a part of our lives, business is money, and so naturally one should mind his own business (i.e. money). Confusing? Yes, I too am rather confused.

But in any case, I wrote that statement out that way in order to illustrate the problem of communicating business to the public: it’s jargon.

For most Filipinos, especially those in the College of Mass Communications (CMC) here in the University of the Philippines Diliman, mathematics is a dreaded subject. A long running joke says that people go to CMC in order to get away from math.

I don’t really blame people for loathing mathematics. As a person who has had the pleasure (or not) of taking statistical mathematics, which incorporates algebraic, trigonometric, analytical, and calculus–yes, it the c-word… calculus!–all wrapped up into one bundle of pure ecstasy, if you’re a masochist, that is…

But the problem is that people associate that kind of hellish mathematics to ALL mathematics, which is totally unfair to mathematics as a whole. For one, percentage and ratios are basically common-sense, but we’ve somehow wired ourselves to think of them as “math”.

If there are 5 pieces of pie, and you’re 5 people, all of whom wants pie, you can easily divide the pie 5 ways and just give each person 1 pie. Simple fractions can allow one to understand, to an extent, how companies give dividends.

Simple addition and substraction can suffice when looking over balance sheets to determine whether this year was a profitable one or not simply by substracting the total expenses to the total profit.

It’s all simple.

But, as was already said, it’s the language that makes it Greek. Most financial reports come out as account statements, wherein you have a piece of paper with numbers on it and one needs to gleen from it what you need and without specialty, one cannot do so competently.

Therefore, business journalists are required in order to bridge the gap. To decipher the language of business and put it in plain English (or Filipino).

Business journalism is important, first because it safeguards society by keeping tabs on government and how they spend our taxes through investigative reports on government dealings and taking a closer look at the taxes of our politicians.

Second, it informs the public of market trends that affected, may affect, or is affecting them and their lives and businesses.

Third, it bolsters confidence in the public to go the distance–to brave the waters of business. And with more business, comes prosperity to all as it’s effects does not only improve employment, but the country’s GDP, global business-rating and competitiveness, and thus may increase foreign investments.

The aftermath of August 23

On August 23, a tragedy struck.

A bus full of Hong Kong tourists, on their last day in the Philippines and on their way to Ocean Park, was taken hostage by an armed former police officer who was recently dismissed due to the actions of his subordinates and thus ending his 30+ years in the force and more importantly also his pension–his deserved, hard-earned retirement fund.

Faced with such circumstances, I honestly would not know if I too would snap. As I run these scenarios in my head, most of them involves me getting violent. I mean, seriously, the guy REALLY had it BAD.

But all that seems to be of no importance due to the fact that that same depressed and distressed old man, who just lost his job and does not have anything to lie back on, and had a wife and family to take care of supposedly killed  9 Hong Kong tourists and, oh, that he was a Filipino.

I am downright outraged at how some of my fellow Hong Kong people have reacted to this event. It is one thing to be indignant and angry at the INCOMPETENCE and STUPIDITY of the operations of the police, but it is another to label an ENTIRE GROUP NATION as such. It is plain BIGOTRY and HYPOCRISY and people who’ve done so ought to be ashamed.

But, I am equally if not more infuriated at how everything transpired that day. The policemen obviously didn’t know what they were doing. Aren’t SWAT supposed to be SPECIAL WEAPONS AND TACTICS UNIT? Lulz!!!

Special Weapon: Sledgehammer

Special Tactic: Throw tear-gas without gas masks themselves.

Very impressive… [Reverse this statement]

The media didn’t help at all and even, very thoughtlessly added oil to the fire by broadcasting LIVE everything that transpired OUTSIDE THE BUS FOR EVERYONE TO SEE, EVEN THE HOSTAGE TAKER! WOW! Great job~!

The politicians really showed how “able” they are at their jobs: they’re NOT. They also showed who they really care about: themselves. I mean, please STOP making me RETHINK my notion of “stupid”. The previous sentence also applies to people who get swayed by the lies and stupidity of these snakes. Just stop.

Our PRESIDENT was… well… a big failure. I recommend him being the picture of “FAILblog.org” for being the most unleaderly leader I’ve ever seen! The whole debacle started around 10 a.m. but P-noy only issued directives at about 1:30 p.m. which begs the question, what the HELL was he doing for 3 HOURS AND 30 MINUTES. Well, it’s not surprising that a person who had been in congress for more than 20 years, did not pass any BILLS that he’s proposed himself, to amount to ANYTHING. Well, that’s the leader the Philippines (well, 13 million of us at least, excluding me) wanted. We reap what we sow? How true…

There were so many FAILS that day that I really was ashamed that THESE are the PEOPLE that will LEAD us, will PROTECT us, will INFORM us, and will GUIDE us? HUWWWWWWWWWWWWWWAAAAAAAATTTTTTTTTTT??!!

As a journalism student, I really was disappointed about the media. Is ethics dead in the Philippines? Did NO ONE ask the question: ARE WE DOING THE RIGHT THING? Are RATINGS… is THE MONEY the reason why we do journalism? Is Public Concern & Public Interest applicable? Well, during that time, of course people were INTERESTED AND CONCERNED about WHAT WOULD TRANSPIRE, but heck, did  NO ONE THINK that the FLEETING CONCERN and INTEREST of the PUBLIC on THOSE FEW HOURS would be OUT-WEIGHED BY THE REPERCUSSIONS OF SUCH AN INCIDENT IF IT GOES BADLY FOR THE SAID PUBLIC??? Huh… So disappointed…

And what’s with the media, who’s supposedly be a WATCHDOG for the people on the actions of the government to COPY the ones THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO GUARD AGAINST? Maybe birds of the same feather fly together does ring true… They should not have broadcast LIVE. Being a watchdog does not equal a MANDATE to SENSATIONALIZE things. Besides, there are WELL ESTABLISHED PROTOCOLS that ALL MEDIA NETWORKS ARE PRIVY TO taken from the HISTORY and EXPERIENCE of HUNDREDS OF YEARS OF JOURNALISM… THERE WAS NO EXCUSE FOR NOT KNOWING WHAT TO DO.

And everyone knows that the police is being made the scapegoat… well, at least I hope everyone knows. I hope against hope. I dream the IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. Anyways, you get picture.

On the social network side of things, it’s to be expected that the users (especially those in the BBS [forums], who are more anonymous than their Facebook-counterparts) are more likely to say something they wouldn’t normally say in public as the Internet provides us with a venue to say whatever we want with wanton disregard for our safety or repercussions of the said statements, defamatory or otherwise.

Well, anyways, I do not take what transpires in the social medias as seriously as those I see first hand. It’s one thing to type a message (with cussing or none), it’s another thing to really act on what you think. The DAB party of Hong Kong is just playing their usual game of being loud and rowdy to seem that they’re really for the people. HK politicians and Philippine ones are the same in that respect. China on the other hand is really the biggest hypocrite here because they’re pointing the finger of blame on us for, what…? Being incompetent… being ill-equipped… being-unprepared… The first two are true, but that’s just because we’re poor. We’re a freaking 3rd world country! Being unprepared, yes we also were. But, that’s because these kind of things don’t often happen… only once in a blue moon do we see someone take a bus full of tourists hostage on live television and I think that’s a good thing because, SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN SAID OVER AND OVER AGAIN IS THAT THIS INCIDENT IS ISO-LATE-D. Again? Again! ISOLATED!

Well, I should go to bed.

This was a rant. I wrote this as a Filipino and also as a person that also calls Hong Kong home.

It broke my heart that these things would happen, but no one can do anything about it anymore. What can be done is to NEVER LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN.

I think that would serve as the BEST APOLOGY possible. An apology to those who lost their loved ones, those who felt attacked, those who felt betrayed, those who felt embarrassed, and anyone else who got involved.

ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS.

Drama Makes Blogs–any blog–Win then Fail

Not just once have I personally read an angry “I’m leaving, this is the end…” post from a blogger. They usually cite lack of funds, time or personal problems as the root of their demise in the blogsphere. And you know what all these have in common? They’re all drama.

In response to the following articles/posts, Airships: a second age, Space-time “Wrinkles” Igniting Odd Gamma-ray Bursts?, Unnatural Science, ScienceBlogs = ZombieBlogs, I would to give my opinion on as to why journalists should continue writing on science topics and refuse to secede to the blogger-scientists.

Why should journalists continue a seemingly hopeless fight? Because, unlike blogger-scientists, we are professional. Blogs survive and operate by popularity, and thus are often beleaguered with drama. As bloggers take things personally, many up-and-goes batty and ragequits on their blogs if they “feel frustrated” long enough. In all this, if journalists stop writing [about science] and the blogger-scientists are so touchy-feely about quitting, ultimately it’s the readers who suffer. If we all quit, who’s left to write?

Besides, even though they are scientists and are bloggers, it does not mean they can convey their thoughts and meanings on a particular subject competently so that “mulish laymen” can understand them. Journalists inherently write for mass-readership as we can only write about something we’ve already digested as, we are in essence,  laymen to science as well.

Another thing that makes journalistic science writing invaluable are the different insights our writing into a certain subject. Journalists have been trained to relate difficult subjects to everyday happenings for the benefit of the readers. As observers and chroniclers, we are in a unique position to be able to pass judgments on certain topics in relation to its applications in other fields.

As it is our profession, we don’t just go and quit so suddenly. Even though we lack the intelligence and knowledge of blogger-scientists, at least we have less drama on our scripts. That’s an automatic WIN in my book any day.

Science… WUUUUUUHHAAAAAAAAAAHHHT?

This week’s readings were very telling on the state of science journalism… on Earth. And can be summarized in one word: Dyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyiiiiiiiiiiiingggggggggggggggg~~!!

I am not surprised. Speaking from experience, most of my peers in Highschool was deathly afraid of science. And here in the Philippines, especially in the College of Mass Communication Journalism Department, most if not all of the students would go: “noseblood, NoSeBleeD, NOSEBLEHHHD! N053d34d! (nosedead)  KhkhkhkKHk… *dead*” at the sound of any Math or Science subject. I wouldn’t blame them. It’s the education system’s fault. Rather than focusing on “understanding”, it just force-feeds facts into the small kamotes of the poor 12 – 17 year olds thus traumatizing them. They call that education, but the information becomes psychological blocked once exams are over. No, that is not quite right.

The articles this week, Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public, Media, Scientific [Mis]Communication, Science journalism: Supplanting the old media? talks about the many symptoms and diseases that plague and herald the demise of science journalism. It’s savior? Science Blogging? Maybe, if only they checked their sources. But, how are they to do so? Anyone can blog. Anyone can Wikipedia or Google information if that’s what they are after, but without journalistic ethics of checking your sources (which is not very easy in the Internet) and getting other sources to corroborate or debunk or shed more light on the subject, science blogging FAILS.

Media fails as well. For one, they are very selective and will only pick “newsworthy” (or in other words, something that can make them money) subjects to report on, but the fact is a research’s significance may not reveal itself until it is known by more people. Media fails because it repackages the “science” they do report on to cater to lower spectra of the IQ scale. Me thinks if only media knew how to do it properly, then a lot more “philanthropists” or even businessmen would have donated to fund researches they happen to see on TV. As Dr. Galapon said, “Science is the future!” And who knows how to invest best, than those who’ve already invested very well.

Scientists themselves could write about their research (if they had the time, and the funding), but maybe they should learn a thing or two about writing before doing so. The articles How to Write a Good Story in 800 Words or Less and How Humor Can Make Your Writing More Powerful should be one of their first reads. Yes, it’s important to be comprehensive, but it is also equally important to be concise and also to be entertaining when writing to an audience less intellectually gifted than yourself.

If you ask me what I thought the hope of science journalism really is, I can’t really tell you a straight answer. But I’m sure that changing the views of those who are still young and (*wink*) malleable (*evil laugh*) is one of them. If the Children are the Future, and Science is too? Then aren’t they supposed to go hand in hand?

Science for the Future

A room full of papers, plastics, computers, scribbled notes and a large whiteboard full of equations was everything I expected to see in an office of a scientist and I was not disappointed.

In Room 304 of the National Physics Institute (NPI) I met with this year’s National Academy of Science and Technology Most Astounding Young Scientist awardee, Dr. Eric A. Galapon and the Coordinator of the Theoretical Physics Group in the institute to talk about himself, his research, and the science and research scene in the country.

At only 38 years of age and taking from how busy his workspace looked like, I started the interview by asking Dr. Galapon why he chose to be a scientist. At first there was an awkward silence, but judging by his face, I knew this scientist was really thinking hard on how to answer. “Why science,” he said contemplatively, “I guess it’s because I enjoy it.” “I think scientists and treasure hunters are similar. We’re both looking for treasure, but the only difference is our treasure is knowledge. It’s really the excitement of being the first one to discover something that the other seven billion people in the world were oblivious to that rewards us scientists.”

Surprisingly, Dr. Galapon wasn’t always the passionate scientist he is today. The only reason he took Physics when he was an undergraduate was because there was a scholarship being offered and that his family couldn’t afford sending him to college otherwise. During that time, he discovered he had a knack for science and that eventually lead him to discover his first, real love: Quantum Mechanics.

Quantum Mechanics is a theory in Physics to explain why it seemed that Classical Mechanics, or more commonly known as Newton’s Second Law of Motion, does not apply in the atomic level—the building blocks of all matter. “As is, the tenets Classical Mechanics break down in the atomic and sub-atomic level, so a new theory had to be proposed to explain such phenomenon, and that’s how Quantum Mechanics came about,” Dr. Galapon said.

According to Dr. Galapon, life as scientist isn’t easy. “Being a scientist requires a lot of devotion. You must be willing to put effort and yes, a lot of time in order to yield even the smallest results. At least for me, even though I have a full-time job here in the University of the Philippines as a lecturer and a researcher,” after heaving a sigh he said, “I still find myself constantly thinking of my research.” “When I’m lecturing or eating or whether I’m in my office or at home, even when I’m talking to my wife, I’m always thinking,” he said chuckling.

Not only is being a scientist mentally taxing, it is also very frustrating at times. Dr. Galapon recounted his first experience trying to get his work published outside of the country as being awful. He explained that he felt he was rejected not only because he was an unknown scientist, but also because he was a scientist in a third-world country. “You really have to persevere and not be modest when it comes to trying to publish your work abroad,” he said very fittingly as his first internationally published work was featured in one of the most prestigious science journals in the world, the Royal Society of London, after many rejections from other publications.

Another problem with scientific research here in the Philippines is described by Dr. Galapon as the “non-existence of a scientific-culture”. He blames the government and also society for the lack of interest in the sciences. “Here in the Philippines, people seem to think that science is all about inventing new stove or type of car, those sorts of inventions, which are really already the end results or the products of “real scientific research”.

“Even politicians think this way,” he said becoming more serious. “In general, the scientific community fears that the great progress made by the former Secretary of the Department of Science and Technology, Dr. Estrala Alabastro, who herself is a scientist from the University of Santo Tomas, would be reversed by the appointment of a person who doesn’t even have any background in the sciences and is a career executive,” he added. “If we look at all the rich countries in the world, their wealth is at least directly proportional to the amount of money they devote to research,” Dr. Galapon said explaining how with more research comes more breakthroughs and these breakthrough are not only useful but also very profitable.

Dr. Galapon ended by saying that only time would tell how the Philippines will in the future, but he quickly added that when society and the powers that be change their attitudes towards science, the hope of our nation would shine all the brighter. “I have great faith that if and when that happens, we’ve got more than enough talent here to storm the globe,” he said with a smile.

The Storms in Life

We all have our storms.

Many of us would rather avoid weathering a storm because it’s difficult to do so. But is doing it “safe” really for the better?

I read a funny article today which said that some government officials pray for typhoons, as their called in the Asia-Pacific region, in order for the “non-existent water shortage” to be solved. Confused? I was too. Basically, they’re saying that we have a problem, but they’re also saying we don’t. Still confused? Yeah, me too.

In any case, weather storms are unavoidable, especially in a country right smack in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. In fact, weather storms are caused by natural phenomenon, from the movement of moisture and of the winds and also the pressure systems on both land and sea. They are foreseeable but and are in no way controllable. These facts lie in stark contrast to the storms of life which often come out of the blue that you don’t see them coming. The causes of life storms come from different places, like our choices, society, family, friends, lovers, exams, school, the weather, and of course from God.

But what links them both is that, even though there might be damage in their wake, in the end they’d have given us something in return. Water and character. Both of which are essential to life.

So, how have you been faring?

Have you been running from what you need?

Everyone needs a good storm or two, once in a while–just to keep things interesting =)