The Theory of Everything (2014)

Watching “The Theory of Everything” last night, what struck me the most was how empowering technology can be when designed to fit the needs of people with disabilities. Without his hand clicker (later a cheek muscle interface) and computerized voice, he would not have been able to share his insights with the world.

While not everyone has Stephen Hawking’s intellect, you can just imagine how much potential is left untapped in millions of people with sensory or motor disabilities.

Plants Talk to Each Other Using an Internet of Fungus

Mycelium running through soil (Credit: Nigel Cattlin / Alamy

I came across an interesting article over at BBC about how plants talk to each other using an “internet of fungus”. While the science itself is interesting, what caught my attention was the headline’s refreshing use of metaphor. It’s much more common to use nature metaphors to communicate technological concepts, e.g. “fertile ground for innovation”, “tech ecosystem”, “computer virus”, than it is to do it the other way around. I particularly love the phrase “Internet of fungus”.

Tagalog Imperialism

Around 8 or 9 years ago, I bought Rodolfe Cabonce’s English-Cebuano dictionary. At that time, “nagtuon ko og Cebuano” because I was curious about one of our country’s major languages (if you say “dialect,” you’re wrong and should be punched in the face). It was a lot of fun because it was different enough to be interesting but similar enough that I didn’t have to learn a whole new set of grammatical constructs.
It taught me that there wasn’t anything inherently superior about my mother tongue, Tagalog, and helped me appreciate the different accents with which we speak it around the country.

So this brouhaha about our bar exams allegedly lowering their standards just because the top 10 didn’t come from Luzon reflects a disturbing attitude of entitlement, insecurity, and ignorance that should no longer exist in this day and age. It’s been more than 100 years since we left Hispanic rule but their divide and conquer tactics still linger.

Can we stop this idiocy, fellow Manileños and Luzonistas? Maybe just accept that some people did well and it just so happened they lived South of us? Let’s not be complacent and entitled just because we’re in the capital.

Hidden Figures (2016)

Hidden Figures (2016) is inspiring, eye-opening, and nerdgasmic. The three protagonists — Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan — are heroes who deserve far more recognition than history has given them. I didn’t understand much of the orbital math, but the scenes with the gigantic IBM computer, Fortran, and punch cards made me giddy. Big props to the people behind this movie. We need more of these stories!

System-Generated is Not an Excuse

“This is Mylene from PLDT calling you to remind you of your upcoming bill on September 6—” said the caller from the unknown number before I cut her off.

Irritated, I replied with “Yes, yes, I know that. I pay on time. Why not just text me?”

“It’s just a system generated list po that I’m calling. The system just gave it to me.”

Sigh. I hung up. Huh? System generated? That’s not an excuse. That gives systems a bad rap. You could easily make it so that the system only lists subscribers who had had X overdues in the past Y months. So why don’t they? Isn’t that a waste of valuable minutes and thus, manpower? What inefficiency. They don’t care, though. Duopolies don’t need to care. Their survival isn’t at stake. This is what we tolerate, and it must change. We must change.

I am Guilty of Hiring a Part-Time Maid: A Lesson in Delegation

I have trouble delegating. I grew up learning how to do most things myself and I’ve always been hesitant whenever I have to get someone else to do things for me.

The problem is that I like my condo clean, but doing that myself takes up a lot of time, sometimes half a day on a weekend. Precious, precious weekends.

A friend referred me to a cleaning lady who worked part time. My condo is too small for a full time maid. I called her up and she told me her rate of 500 pesos for 5 hours of housework. Labor is cheap in the Philippines.

On the scheduled day, she arrived and started vacuuming the carpet and mopping the tiles. I asked her if she was going to go home afterwards. She said she needed to fetch her child from her P.E. class first. As she continued to clean, I used the time to write and work on my goals.

Suddenly, I felt a tinge of guilt. Here I was doing what I wanted to do while she was cleaning for me. Cleaning for a living. For survival. Life isn’t fair. Why am I so privileged? Do I really deserve this?

But then I realized two things. One is that by paying her, I am giving her more income that she can use for her child’s education. The second is that I get to free up time for myself to work on things with more value to society (I hope).