Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Web Revolutionary

     One of the reasons why web development is enjoyable nowadays is that there are tools -- costing nothing but a deal of patience and self-learning -- that let you create interesting, catchy and interactive websites. Three months ago, I started to learn this useful and powerful tool you can use to attract and impress visitors to your website/blog and add life to the dullest webpages. 

     This tool is called jQuery -- a JavaScript library that basically makes coding in JavaScript a lot simpler and easier. If you're already familiar with JavaScript, then you won't have a hard time learning jQuery. I like this tool for three reasons:
  • It's free. Who doesn't love free stuffs? It's like choosing between a slightly-used and a brand-new book. Same content but the former is given away.
  • It doesn't require plug-ins/high-end software and hardware. You don't need to download and install megabytes of software to get started. You don't have to opt for an 8-Gig RAM or a 64-bit CPU either. All you need is a text editor and a browser.
  • It's easy to learn. Geeks are not only obsessed with free stuffs, but they're also itching to show off. Lots of tutorials and demos are available if you just know what to google and even if you've lost all ten fingers, you could still use a mic. To kick off, you can visit http://docs.jquery.com/Main_Page.   
     Of course, I won't be bias to the point of evangelizing this product. There are caveats also and my personal observations are as follows:
  • It's not the better choice for animations/presentations. If you're into snazziness, Adobe Flash would be better. The modern web is all about simplicity and interactivity though.
  • It has cross-browser issues. I've noticed that running on Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome works fine. Running on Internet Explorer may result to a total disaster! 
  • It's damn hardcoding. If you're into rapid application development, then this tool may not be a wise option. There are other free stuffs out there that could help you do things faster.
     It is said that this decade starting 2011 is "The Rise of Social Media." Everything on the web has transformed from a mere display of static information to a hob-knob of people from all walks of life. We've seen how the web united and divided the world and influenced our views and opinions on critical matters. Let's keep vigilant because we have the power to change the world at our fingertips--we are the web revolutionary.

Note: I created the slideshow on the Advertisements section at the right using jQuery. *grinning*

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Burning the Boat

         When I’m watching Pilipinas Got Talent, I am awed by the myriad of talents Filipinos have. There are folks doing breakdance, playing a Canon piece on blindfolded eyes, belting out and chewing nuts at the same time, rapping unrhymed verses on discordant notes. The only difference why they are there and I am watching them in front of my television is that they are fearless; they are determined to reach their dreams and they have come to get only one answer, either a YES or a NO. They do not fear failure and they are only focused on getting their desired result. What’s amusing though is that some of them are comebacks who are unceasingly trying their luck in the hope of getting another chance. I am always amazed by other people’s virtue of “never say never.

          According to a certain website, there are seven ways to overcome the fear of failure:

1.              Consider the cost of missed opportunities. One line from a movie Proof says “The biggest risk in life is not taking one.” We are often avoiding challenging tasks because we doubt our own capabilities to accomplish them. We don’t realize that avoiding high risk/high reward opportunities would cost us an avenue to further our skills and improve ourselves. We may choose to remain where we currently are and live a contented, happy life; however, we may not learn something new, may get stuck in the same routine and may eventually be stopped from making our own mark.

2.          Research the alternatives. The greatest fear is the fear of the unknown. We all know that the fear of the unknown is why Tom Riddle created horcruxes. But what he failed to do was to fully research other means of defying death such as hallows which he never discovered. If we are daunted to deliver a speech in front of many people, we may consider why we are having such negative notion. We may begin with knowing our audience to feel comfortable, followed by selecting a topic and then writing the outline of our speech to be reassured that we can get our message across. Preparation is the first step to conquer the fear of public speaking. We may research the potential outcomes of our every action so we may clearly understand the benefits and risks in order to make right and logical decisions.

3.             Put the worst-case scenario in perspective. In Computer Science specifically in Analysis of Algorithms, we have what is called a Big O Notation to express the worst-case scenario for a given algorithm which is generally the longest time an algorithm performs. Similarly, if we fall short of our goals, we may consider how long it will take us to realistically recover. How hard is it to find another job? How much will it cost to increase the company’s production? We must consider the things that may go wrong and make the necessary preparations.

4.          Understand the benefits of failure. It is believed that Thomas Edison failed more than a thousand times before he was able to make a functional incandescent bulb. It is in line with what Emerson said, “Life is a series of experiments; the more you make, the better.” At times we cannot accomplish something on the first shot but that shouldn’t give us a reason to stop trying. For instance, I failed the first time I took the TIBCO Certification Exam but I wasn’t discouraged. I was able to succeed the second time.

5.          Make a contingency plan. We can make a checklist of various options to consider when taking a risky action. This will ensure that we will have a solid backup plan if our first option fails. If you are traveling on an airplane, you will notice that there are safety instructions given before take-off. Riding a plane is itself a risk and the crew provides parachutes and gives emergency landing measures in case of untoward incidents. Similarly, we need to determine what these parachutes are in making critical decisions.

6.        Take action. The best way to build confidence and reduce fear is by taking action. Sometimes writers experience a phenomenon called writer’s block. A writer often waits for inspiration in order to kick off. Unfortunately the kick doesn’t come all the time and at the right time. To better combat this predicament, one should practise jotting down ideas on a notepad no matter how incoherent they may be. Doing so helps a writer have his ideas flowing gradually which is better than having a blank sheet for a long time.

7.            Burn the boats. The first thing Greek armies would do when they travelled across the sea for battle is to burn their boats. This action only leaves them two choices: to succeed or to fail. Burning the boat is standing on a stage to audition for a play, a trust fall, a make-it-or-break-it performance. If you are undecided about going back to school or having your dream vacation, why don’t you schedule an entrance exam ahead or book a plane ticket in advance? In that way, you will be able to eliminate your doubts, come up with a firm decision and commit on achieving your goals.

I have learned from a certain priest that the phrase Fear Not is used in the Bible 365 times. Why should you be fearful? Jesus spoke to the disciples “Take courage and do not be afraid.” I believe fear is only an absence of faith and if you have faith in God and in yourself, the boat to be burned will get you safely to the real battle amidst the raging storm.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box

     The 21st century world is filled with subliminal images and iterative information we get everyday from various forms of media which could change our mindset and moral standards. Not recently, many were affronted by the controversial huge billboards of rugby players along EDSA in Metro Manila flaunting their fit bodies in semi-nudity to advertise a certain underwear brand. It would've been fine if there was only one billboard instead of several ones placed side-by-side like a row of gigantic picture frames which might have been flagrantly offensive and ego-degrading to those who suffer from the insecurities of their own physical appearances. I wouldn't care as much if the material perceived as a sexual innuendo wasn't in a public highway where all sorts of people from school children to working adults pass everyday. What would then be the point of advertisements if no one can see them? However, not everyone had shown displeasure with such overtly marketed men's briefs and according to some known people, the players' toned bodies were paragons of physical wellness and athleticism. Was it an over-criticized art deemed to evangelize perfection or just another muck?

     Come to think of it... If you were to buy an underwear, some things you'd consider may be the waist size, color, design, durability, brand, among others. You wouldn't care about who-the-hell is wearing these private garments when you go and check them on a catalog. But imagine a billboard plainly showing a cascade of these garments. Before you know it, you may yawn at the banality and not even bother to glance at it. Some things aren't exactly the way they should be when it comes to artistic expression and get-attention-quick marketing. There are lot more to consider and the process is meticulous. I have not worked in the field of arts before, other than school projects, but I understand this discipline requires a bold, defiant and risky attitude and an outside-the-box thinking. We got a chance to create a short film project during college and I can say it was never an easy task from conceptualization of the storyline to video editing.

     When I came across this film entitled "Ang Babae sa Septik Tank" (The Woman in Septic Tank), I had a different expectation for this movie. One, it's not mainstream; two, it is indie; three, it is not mainstream and it's indie. Yes these three things all mean the same. Obviously, I'm jaded by all the crassitude in typical commercial Pinoy movies. I reckon we deserve a realistic, interesting and insightful one; we've had enough of love teams, lousy horrors, and surreal fantasies. But I wasn't much enthralled by the beginning part. If I was watching it on DVD, I would've shut it off in the first five minutes. I was apparently dissatisfied by the tediousness and blandness of the first few scenes: shaky wide shots of a disgusting slum, a little girl squatting and pooping, drunken men doing nothing all day, a family of seven children and a mother who was preparing instant noodles for lunch. The fact that the scenes didn't contain any dialogue made me both smile and sneer in my seat. It wasn't the typical "radio drama" script in which every movement has a corresponding narration. Even in silence, the scenes speak on its own the conveyed message and build up the necessary drama. I think providing dialogues doesn't give the audience a different opportunity to practise cognitive and critical thinking skills. We often prefer a movie with lots of speaking lines but sometimes actions do not need words to deliver the meaning. For example, a distraught mother cooking one pack of instant noodles to feed her seven children would not really have to utter a word to make us create a clear picture of a distressed, impoverished family. As the movie progressed, I have learned that the beginning part has a relevance to the rest of the story. The story is basically about two very ambitious filmmakers who faced predicaments in their quest to create a masterpiece that will send them to international film festivals. The drama-musical-comedy-in-one starred Eugene Domingo who played a convincing role of herself and won Best Actress in Cinemalaya. The best part for me is when Eugene Domingo explained the three types of acting in a very hilarious way: the Elevator acting, TV Patrol acting, and the "As is Where is" acting. She was able to portray a demanding, self-centered actor who only thinks about herself and not what the director envisions the film to be. At times, we only look at the efforts from the actors but we don't understand that the people behind the scenes such as the screenwriters and even production assistants also play a vital role on the success of a movie.

      Things around us may not mean the way we think they should be. It actually depends on one's disposition and belief systems and how wide-open one's mind is. A good example I can think of is Lady Gaga who seems to be really fond of using metaphorical lyrics in her songs. The lines "I'm still in love with Judas" and "Jesus is the new black..." may offend Catholic Christians but another way of interpreting these could be "I still love a traitor" and "I have faith in the black fashion." She must be an unconventional thinker but still I don't get the point why she uses religious symbols. Nevertheless, we should be very wise and careful in our perceptions and choices of these materials as we are vulnerably exposed to the dangerous and tricky consequences of modern forms of media. As for me, I don't believe we are only living in a black-and-white world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A Memorable Weekend

My weekends always end up without anything significant but this particular weekend is filled with great events to remember, so I want to write about them.

Saturday, 30th of July -> Couch Potato

My "sungka friends", also with a newly baptized name "movie friends", and I had a great - well, obviously - 'movie time' together at Jamie's, one of our friends' house, at about past three o'clock in the afternoon and we watched two movies in DVD and one was partly from a laptop.

The first movie we watched was "Insidious," - I'm often confused with the spelling - a paranormal, horror movie. I'm not actually fond of horror movies because they either make me laugh at absurd scenes or leave me utterly terrified. For this one, I had a gut feeling that I would get the latter; first, it isn't a Pinoy horror movie and second, it has an intriguing title. I didn't know the meaning of the word insidious until I knew about this movie. Consulting Mr. Google, I found out that the word means treacherous, beguiling or harmful in a subtle, stealthy manner. The movie depicts a boy who is a very accomplished astral projector and whose spirit has the ability to consciously leave the body and travel to a place called "the further." The boy fell into a coma for quite a long time and the medical doctor was not able to give a clear explanation of such. While munching on assorted corns, nuts and peas, we watched strange, disturbing, diabolical happenings unfold in the lives of the family. Believing the house was haunted, they decided to change residence but the same terrible things happened. As they were trying to understand the logic behind those events, the family consulted paranormal experts who helped them unveil the mystery. Now on our Moby snacks, we learned that the boy inherited the trait of being an astral projector from his father who was incredulous at first but, later on, accepted the truth upon seeing the boy's drawings that accurately described the places where the boy's spirit traveled. Interesting movie! I don't want to tell the reason bad spirits are chasing them. I hope I've just said enough for a non-spoiler. There were a couple of shrieks from one of us and a lot of dog barks - hopefully the dogs were not seeing spirits - and the ending part was not a happy or resolved closure; nonetheless, it was a fine movie and I would rate it 3 out of 5 stars for not making me feel terrified.

The second movie we watched was "3 Idiots," an inspiring, hilarious, melodramatic Indian film about three friends, who faced challenges and pressures in their college life as engineering students leading to both positive and negative ramifications. The movie made me recall my whole working experience as a TIBCO Consultant in India and I can say pressure isn't uncommon in the workplace. I remembered working for more than twelve hours a day, straight seven days a week. I'm not entirely against overtime if the project is critical and needs to meet a deadline but maybe not to the point of overstretching the working hours of the team. I'm not a kind of person who is not good at handling pressure and doesn't like pressure at all. But like they say, "Aal iiz well..." and you'll get a strong kick from within to be able to start again. I guess it's sort of a Buddhist principle. We enjoyed every song and dance segment in the film typical of Bollywood, the beautiful, picturesque views of different places, the colorful costumes that include sarees, kurtas and turbans, and lots of infrastructures having a wonderful and intricate architecture. The whole movie presents an overview of the Indian culture and there are many more to uncover; truly, India is incredible! Aside from the three main characters, one person made an imprint on my mind and that is Professor Viru a.k.a "The Virus", the Einstein-ish director of the school, who made the lives of the three idiots a living hell. I remembered in him our Science teacher, Professor Vi for Villarico, way back in high school, who used to turn a lecture into a semi-horror-thriller because everybody was silent and rigid on her seat and couldn't speak a word when asked during recitation. He even commanded the entire General Science class to have their seats face backward until one would be able to answer his question. I was one of those who were able to give a decent answer but I wasn't so proud of it because no one was looking at you while you were having your spotlight. Facing in front while the rest are doing the opposite made me feel silly. It didn't made me feel superior at all. His teaching method wasn't fair although I didn't completely disagree with such. Our teacher also had a point why he was like that and I know he only wanted to make the learning more challenging which I prefer over a mediocre, "spoon feeding" method. But I guess that teacher was only having a weird behavior at that time because he failed the Chemistry licensure exam. I couldn't count the number of swearing he had committed but for me, he was one of the memorable teachers I had. During college, I actually didn't get into trouble in Physics and even got the highest possible grade in two courses. But the only difference between Professor Viru and Professor Vi is that the latter wasn't a bookish type. Professor Vi even challenged the definitions from our uber thick Physics book and made his own interpretation. I liked that all our essay questions should begin with "Because..." Of course, he didn't want us to make a story, did he? "This is not an English class," he once said smugly. While we were at the height of excitement, the disc went awry and pictures came in slow-moving slide shows, which turned out to be entertaining and funny - like a "Face Dance" showing varied expressions of actors - especially that part in which the laboring woman was struggling and wrenching atop a tennis table. In the end, we decided to switch it off and continue using a laptop connected to the TV. Hurray to technology! We were able to see the ending! I would rate the movie 5 out of 5 stars for inspiring us.

Sunday, 31st of July -> Family Day-out and Fun Run Turned Walk

Sunday was supposed to be a laid-back day but in the morning we went to our late uncle's burial. I'm not sure if it should be called a burial because burying the dead is commonly done in a funeral park and the casket is placed down a tomb. This time it's not a funeral park, a casket and a tomb, but a crypt, an urn, and an ossuarium. My uncle was cremated when he died at age 55 of certain complications related to his stroke that happened more than ten years ago and maybe those complications were side effects of medications. The crypt can be found in San Sebastian Cathedral here in Bacolod. I was surprised to know that they have opened this to public because when I was a child, I used to serve as a sakristan or altar boy and I didn't attempt to go inside this creepy place. I initially thought the place was exclusive only for burying priests and bishops. The place seems to be well-lighted during daytime and it doesn't scare me much knowing it's inside a church, it's Sunday, and there are many people around.

While waiting for the burial to be done, instead of weeping - it has been a long time since uncle died though - we busied ourselves with our cousins whom we hadn't spoken to for quite sometime: picture taking, teasing, laughing, having a great time. It was just so easy for us to bond again together as a family. How we miss those moments when we were just kids and now we are as tall as or taller than our parents. We already have nephews and nieces! We just reminisce those moments when we were very little and were just running here and there. I saw my nephew running all over the place and I remembered my own childhood. He was running alone yet careless and free. After the burial, we went to Tita Ping's for lunch and continued the bonding moments. Next occasion? Most definitely, my cousin's wedding in November.

After the burial, my sister and I went to SM to kill time for we still have to go churching after a couple of hours. We talked about her eye problem and how she was uncomfortable when doing her auditing work. So we decided to go to Sarabia to have her eyes checked. When she was done, I was shocked to hear that she has over 3.00 optical power in both eyes and it would be her first time to wear glasses. She told me she was scolded by the optometrist for not having her eyes checked earlier. Hers is close to my optical power which is 4.00 and I'd been wearing glasses for ten years already! She told me she didn't let herself be bothered by this problem before until lately she has felt the discomfort. She is an awesome example of resilience for me. The good thing is that she was able to disclose to me the problem before her condition even got worse. I'm glad I was able to do something about it.

In the afternoon, I joined a Fun Run at Night event for the benefit of Bantay Bata 163 Foundation, an organization that takes care of abused, underprivileged children. Starting in front of Provincial Capitol, I did the 5-kilometer run which turned to walk in the second half after the pivot. Well I'm not really an athletic type but I can run very far given certain conditions. No excuse but I was kinda tired that day. But still I'm happy because I was able to finish the track slowly but surely. Running has a huge benefit to our physical body and it always teaches me the principle of "Never give up." When I feel like giving up, I recall the story of the hare and the tortoise. I don't live to compete with others but I live to be above myself. Every time.