The Witching Hour at the PSE

While the Philippine peso is falling down like a stack of cards (similar to the ones used in PAGCOR casinos), the PSE Composite Index (Phisix), amazingly – perhaps to show its resiliency – had held its ground and even rebounded on days when the currency was free-falling.

This only demonstrated the fact that money men who were almost exclusively playing the peso-dollar game when stock prices were in the doldrums, were beginning to show their interest to speculate in the stock market once again.

Market makers and foreign investors – prime movers of the PSE – that had long been gone even before the series of parodies that happened in Manila’s top corridors of power unraveled in the 2002, seem to be stepping in once more in the Philippine stock market, after the Gloria administration showed its desire to clean up its act.

Recently, blue chips – which currently are at their dirt-cheap levels almost similar to the turbulent days (post-coup) of the Cory Aquino era – were seen being plucked up by enthusiastic foreign fund managers who are betting that the Philippine economy will fare much better under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s new mandate.

Had the early departure of foreign money (players and investors alike) during the fading months of Erap’s ill-fated administration been a boon and the index had indeed bottomed-out?

Or, these were just the omen of even dire things to come? While the Thailand baht – the currency that triggered the economic crash in Southeast Asia in 1997 – had considerably recovered much of its value, the Philippine peso, on the contrary, is now at levels even much lower when the financial crisis started. Can we learn our lesson from the Thais? Or, is our sociocultural heritage and brand of politics such a volatile mixture that only a cultural revolution can, perhaps, cure? Can the Phisix -like the bamboo – continue to show its resiliency?

Too bad. For a country that contends its population to be the most educated in Asia, how can these things happen quickly and oh, so frequently? Do we love chaos and confusion that much that these are all by

Stock Exchange Stitch
Stock Exchange Stitch (Photo credit: Monica’s Dad)

sociopolitical design? Are we emulating the carnival in Rio — but with Manila’s nauseating political overtones?

Questions and still more questions will continue to be poised upon the minds of forward-looking Filipinos who still dream of the good life in their homeland and…not just to be relegated as yet another 7,000 plus island backwater in this part of the globe.

The G5 iMac

Exactly two weeks ago, we went to the new Apple Store in Pleasanton, CA to take a glimpse of the remarkable G5 iMac which Apple released in mid-September.

Inside a 17" Apple G5 iMac
Inside a 17″ Apple G5 iMac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The new store – opened Sept 18 – was inside the Stoneridge Shopping Mall which, in turn, was conveniently situated at the junction of Interstates 580 and 680 — two busy freeways that connect Central California and North Bay commuters to the East Bay portion of Silicon Valley. From our house, the closest Apple Store prior to this one was either the outlet in Palo Alto (inside the Stanford University campus) or, that spacious store also located inside a huge mall along Stevens Creek Blvd in Santa Clara.

Store employees – clad in black T-shirt with the white Apple logo – eagerly greeted customers and almost automatically, ushered them to the area where the new iMac G5 were showcased.

There were four (4) iMac G5s on hand – two 17″ and two 20″ ones – for customers to try their hands on. I immediately seized the opportunity to demo the 20″ model – with an Apple iSight camera on top of the screen – after a bearded Apple fanatic, was done with his turn — closing all his Final Cut Pro rendezvous — on the dazzling snow-white colored machine.

The first thing I did was examined the physical details of the machine – top, side, front and back. I tilted the screen into varying angles and observed whether the anodized aluminum stand was stable. I was also very impressed with the G5 iMac’s simplicity while not having to skimp on the needs of today’s digitally-addicted computer users. All the ports – digital & analog sound jacks, USB, FireWire, 56K (V.92) modem, 10/100 Ethernet and video out – were neatly arrayed at the back including the power switch.

The front was so pristine – no controls to distract the user’s visual interaction with the stunning display – with the exception of the silver Apple logo imprinted on the white plastic case — to probably serve as a reminder to the users, of the company that brought computing Utopia to them.

English: Apple iMac G5 side rear view.
English: Apple iMac G5 side rear view. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The machine’s technical elegance can be seen mostly at the back. Heat dissipation was done via a 1/4″- wide horizontal slit on the machine’s removable back cover. You can feel a very light wisp of hot air gently blowing -courtesy of three (3) microprocessor-controlled fans inside – when you place your hand along this slit. I’m skeptical whether this method will be ample enough (even without room air-conditioning) when the unit is used in tropical/humid countries like the Philippines. Also, I was not so sure of the machine’s reliability and stability when used as a 24/7, 365 day a year web server. I had long proven the reliability of their G4 (Sawtooth) – as well as the much older G3 iMac (the original, multi-colored model) – because of their bigger cooling fans.

The sound may be a bit on the minus side but the quality was not lame. The two stereo speakers were hidden from view – cleverly crafted at the bottom of the 2″ wide panel, to enable sound to bounce-off from the desk or table where you place the unit.

The new G5 iMac was spiffy enough even with only the base 256 MB of DDR RAM installed. I opened several programs while simultaneously playing two (2) video playbacks via QuickTime and iDVD, and noticed only very minimal video refresh delays even when the other programs were opened and put into action. The machine’s default OS X Panther (10.3.5) seemed to be a good match for the processor’s 64-bit capability.

Lastly, the bundled keyboard and mouse -while not their top-of-the-line-models – complement the overall simplicity of the G5 iMac. As advertised, the keyboard tucked neatly under the stand when you’re done using this nice piece of computer cum art piece. Although, I noticed, that the base of the aluminum stand had already some minor scratches on it, I’m not sure whether they were due to the keyboard’s feet constant rubbing when stowed underneath or for some other reasons.

The price also came as a surprise at a modest $1,299 – this is their cheapest compared to Apple’s previous iMac releases – for the entry level, 1.6 GHz, 17″ screen model with Combo Drive.

Much as I would like to get one that very same day, I was disappointed to come home empty-handed. The Apple G5 iMacs are selling like donuts. There was a long waiting list even if you buy it at a brick and mortar Apple Store!! Ordering it online will set you back for almost a month: time that will be spent in extreme anguish or even mild paranoia.

Meanwhile, Apple fanatics like me will just continue to drool and to hope for the best that, one day, they will be able to snag any one of these new creations that came from the Mecca of Computing in Cupertino.
—notes:

Almost three weeks after we dropped in at this store and after contacting all the Apple Stores in Northern California and signing-on in their waiting lists, this author finally went home with a 1.8 GHz, 17″ screen model of the G5 iMac — from nearby Santa Clara, CA.

—links:

www.apple.com/imac/

View the author’s iMac G5 slide show: LOW (320 x 240) | HI (640 x 480)

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Rehabilitation

Pardon me for not being able to update the site as frequently as possible for the past few weeks. But I have an excuse: I was busy rehabilitating my right knee which underwent arthroscopic surgery on July 7.
The rehab was not that grueling but it was enough to take away some of the activities that I had been accustomed to. The first two weeks were quite difficult. The muscles as well as the underlying tissues around the operated area were still painful and moving them – specially laterally- rang up the pain notes up my nervous system.
The set of exercises were simple ones and were designed to regain mobility in the affected area, in the least possible time. But the frequency – five times a day – was simply too time consuming that it offered me no other recourse except to deal with them in most of my waking hours.
There was the knee-joint press while lying on my back; the leg raises; the hip-raise with both knees flexed while lying on your back; flexing the bad knee as far back as you can while it dangled on the edge of the bed; while seated, bending my hips towards the knee with the bad leg straight-up and the good leg flexed; raising and lowering the hip joints with my back against the door, while standing and with both knees flexed.
There were also the exercises that required the aid of a rubber tube (as resistance) attached to the ankle of the good leg. With the good leg propping me up, it involved moving in all four directions – and as far as possible – the affected leg. There was also one exercise that involved trying to walk as straight as possible — on a 3″ wide by 8″ long piece of wood.
And finally, there was the one that required me to move up and down a flight of three-step stairs — backwards.
All of them basically stressed movements on the muscles around the bad knee so as to drain any fluids that had accumulated in the knee joint areas. The myofibrils (tiny fibers that comprise the muscle), when they’re used up after a rigorous exercise, tend to ‘drink-up’ any fluids around them. Much like the same way we crave for water when we’re very tired.
—links:
www.healthatoz.com
www.kaiserpermanente.org
www.arthroscopy.com

Arthroscopic Surgery and the PICC

The symptom was innocuous: a sudden fever after I ate a bad piece of “bao’ – “siopao” as we call it back in Manila. My body reacted by trying to throw it out of my system when I took a brief shower. I was sure that I didn’t get rid of all of it. The fever swung to highs and lows as I tried to battle it by taking only Tylenol every four hours. On the 4th day, I felt way much better and tried to work myself back to my normal routine by doing some yard work and light household chores. It was not back-breaking work, but it was all the bacteria needed to strike back at me at the end of the day. The following morning, not only I had the fever back but I also had severe pain on the top portion of my right knee. There was no swelling but, merely touching the area elicited very sharp pain and walking was extremely painful.
After the sixth day, I gave up all hopes of self-medication as the fever shot up to record highs and walking was now excruciatingly painful. We called the hospital -Kaiser Permanente- and immediately got an appointment for the following day. At the hospital, blood, urine and synovial fluid samples were taken as well as x-rays for my chest and the right knee. The fluid drained from my right knee didn’t look too good and I was wheeled directly to the ER. There, further blood and synovial fluid samples were taken and I was put on IV. An orthopedic surgeon was brought in and talked to me briefly about my kidney operation of 1981 – when my right kidney was removed due to hydronephrosis and pyelonephritis. He suspected that I had urinary tract infection and that it had caused the fever and the severe pain in my right knee. He tapped my left -and remaining – kidney to elicit pain as well as the area above my bladder. I told him that there were no pain in either place.
The surgeon returned to explain to me that he had to perform an emergency arthroscopic surgery on my right knee to get rid of all the “bugs” and infection in there. Worse, he will have to open up the knee (arthrotomy) in case the infection was much severe than he thought, to eliminate the possibility of the infection, doing more damage to my still-intact knee. The knee x-rays revealed no ligaments nor meniscus damage but having the infection remain in the knee for some time, can do severe damage to those healthy tissues in a small amount of time. So, that same day, very late at night, I was wheeled in to the OR for either a quick arthroscopic surgery or a much longer, open-knee surgery. Inside the OR, I was probably awake for only five minutes and quietly prayed for the best. It was way past midnight when I woke up to find myself on the recovery room, with my right foot heavily wrapped in elastic bandage and a much thicker foam wrap secured by velcro straps to immobilize the area from the top knee down to my ankle. There was also a MediVac (drain) coming out of my right knee via a rubber tube.
After the second day on the hospital, the drain was removed. The following day, all the straps and bandages were removed. I was glad to find only three slits on my knee (two at the bottom and one on top): ONLY arthroscopic surgery was done and my knee was not opened-up. Still, without the pain killing medication (Vicodin), moving the knee -specially sideways – elicited severe pain that rang up my entire CNS (central nervous system). All throughout this ordeal, a wide array to antibiotics were administered on an 8 hour cycle via IV, while the doctors awaited the result of the blood culture and sensitivity (C/S) for the best antibiotic to use for that particular bacteria that caused the infection. My right knee was still swollen like an overripe papaya.
On the 4th day, the most effective antibiotic seemed to have been found and the doctors informed me that a PICC line will have to inserted so that the antibiotic can be administered after I get discharged from the hospital.
On day five, the PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) line was inserted after a 45-minute OPD procedure. It was a very, very slender piece of plastic tube inserted through a vein in my right arm (the nurse informed me that this route was shorter) that was initially guided by a thin piece of wire. The tube snaked all the way up to a large vein (subclavian vein) situated very near the heart. The main idea was to deliver the medication/antibiotic rapidly to my bloodstream while diluting it at the same time in that area where plenty of blood rushes by, for a longer period of time than drip IV (usually good only for 4 days). As a standard procedure, an X-ray was taken to make sure the PICC line was in place- otherwise, the entire procedure will have to be redone. I was also informed that the PICC line will remain in my body for two weeks. That done, I was out of the hospital after a few more hours of briefing — all related to the arthroscopic surgery on my knee and the PICC line they had embedded in my body as well as how to administer the drugs at home.
For now, I’m simply looking for better days ahead –to return to my routine. But this time around, I will simply be more thankful for each and every day that will pass.
Simply being healthy is, indeed, a feeling of already being wealthy.
—links:
www.kaiserpermanente.org
www.arthroscopy.com
www.thefurrymonkey.co.uk/picc.htm

A Piece of Paper

He never complains and talks even lesser. He’s industrious to a T and is quite well off in life by ordinary people’s standards. Yet, he’s not the type to wallow in the extemporaneous showmanship of one’s material accomplishments. Forever humble, he goes on through the motions in life as if he is on a divine mission — to an end, only very few people could see.

It is very rare you will encounter such person but I had, again, and I plan to hang around and learn more from him. In this world full of braggadocios and trying-hard hangers-on, it is a like finding a gem that will last you a lifetime.

I had my fair share of friends in the almost five decades of existence. They had come and gone. Some had died along the way and some had simply disappeared in the course of time – the consequences of aging, the sign of the times or, simply, the call of destiny.

True friendships are rare because they are matches made in heaven –a total ‘synching’ of two people’s mindsets and spirits. But to discover them requires a bit of patience. They are not mere acquaintances that we had come to like in a short period of time. They are good starts, though, and could lead to one of those people that we had tried so hard to look for in this complex jungle called life.

Over the course of one’s lifetime, I’m quite sure that one’s list of friends will have gone down from a volume to a single sheet of paper. Keep it and fold it close to your heart.

The memories you had shared with these people are more than enough to keep you aglow and lift your spirits as you amble along in the twilight times of your life.

I Remember June (And the Glorious Years of the PNB)

Philippine National Bank
Philippine National Bank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After the May festivities, it’s time to put things into their proper perspectives once more. For the students, the summer parties are over and time to troop into the classrooms again. For the fresh grads, it’s time to push those resumes into the fax machines or, attached into emails and hope for the best. The Philippine economy may not be rosy but it can only get better from here (we really, really hope so). The only difference between Manila and the rest of the third-world countries, is the penchant of the former to be in this kind of situation more often.

June will also be remembered as the month when, in 1989, the Philippine National Bank’s (PNB) shares were first listed at the then dual exchanges of Makati and Manila. It was made possible because of the leadership of Edgardo Espiritu — whose moral integrity and high ethical standard should be the example of our current crop of government officials. He quit as the Finance Minister during the Estrada administration and pursued his interest running private corporations. The reason was obvious.

Over at the PSE, investors are digging their trenches and are preparing to be in for the long haul. The trend had been established and no clear signs of relief are being offered by the administration. Short-term rallies will offer a “quick fix” for those who jumped the latest in this pain bringing, if not, perplexing stock market. But many ‘long-termers’ who were blindsided by the sudden reversal of fortune in the early going of the forgettable Estrada administration – and which had remained in the doldrums during the equally anemic Arroyo transition period/administration – could either bottom-fish or average down at their own comfort levels.

The month of June will see a lot of these prominent and honorable businessmen-politicians-stock investors in churches and other religious edifices attending weddings and shelling out huge amounts either out of: necessity, the love for social gatherings, conceit or simply, to perpetuate the Filipinos bent for the ‘padrino system’.

We can only guess what litanies will be heard during the ceremonies. We could also wish that in their prayers, they would be fervently asking for the country’s economic salvation and not simply to recover – and then some – their political investments or, the country may ultimately well be the most rotten one among the banana republics.

May the June wedding bells toll for the country’s economic recovery. Hang tough, Philippines!

—link:

www.pnb.com.ph

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War Driving from Fremont to Reno, Nevada

During one of our trips to the gambling mecca this side of Nevada, we usually leave the house at around 7:00 in the morning.

old school geek memories - a stumbling we shall go
old school geek memories – a stumbling we shall go (Photo credit: philcampbell)

That normally allows us with enough time to make sure that someone had already heated up any one of our favorite nickel or penny slot machines, when we arrive. But, on this particular trip – which was on a Sunday – we left the house two hours earlier than the usual.

We’ll be driving much slower and will try to cover more secondary roads on selected cities and towns along the way. Armed with my relic-of-the dot-com-bust but still-trusty, WiFi-equipped notebook, a booster antenna and the notoriously popular wireless sniffer, NetStumbler, we’ll be war driving from Fremont to Reno, Nevada.

The rapid popularity of wireless Internet access spawned the fine art of war driving: a computer cracking technique that involves driving through a neighborhood with a wireless-enabled notebook computer and mapping houses and businesses that have wireless access points. There are states that deem this practice illegal. But not in these two tech-savvy states of California and Nevada — homes to Silicon Valley and the Comdex Expos.

But why war drive? It is because of my distaste for cell phones. While cell phones are convenient for emergencies, non-yakkers like me want to have Internet access – the world at your fingertips – as we drive along. The tiny screens in cell phones and other WiFi-enabled gadgets like the Palm Tungsten C just don’t compare to the full-glory of a big, crisp 12″ or 14″ TFT computer screen.

We utilized the I-580 East to 205 to I-5 North to 120 to CA-99 to Highway 80 East route to reach Reno, Nevada and in the course of the almost  4 and a half hours of leisurely cruising/war driving, I had concluded that it is not only indispensable to bring your notebook computer if you will embark on a long-haul drive but it also a convenient way to get in touch with the world – all for free… while giving your tired eyes a lot of relief! The world is indeed a small place with the Internet and WiFi access. Access points abound – except for the major portion of the uphill stretch from Placerville to Sparks – in most of the areas we drove by!

However, in time, war driving may suffer the same fate as using your cell phones while you’re driving — which is now widely implemented in densely populated cities — unless, a highly secure and selective encryption standard will come along the way. One that will be good enough to sort out the free-for-public-use wireless networks from the private ones.

—links:

www.macstumbler.com
www.netstumbler.com
www.palmone.com

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The Lusty Month of May (Sad It Is to Fiesta)

English: Street map of Manila, Philippines wit...
English: Street map of Manila, Philippines with points of interest indicated. This is an SVG version of Media:Ph map manila large.png. Updated for 2006. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

May is fiesta month in Manila. Streets will be crowded with people attending town fiestas. Will the merry month of May also herald the coming months – or, even years – of festivities in the country? Something to cheer and to be merry about? While jaded business traders may don’t care, the true investors really hope so. The country – already badly battered from the spate of tragedies during the post-Ramos administration – hopes that the hot but breezy month of May will prove to be the spark to propel the country in the right direction.

Fiestas had been part and parcel of Filipino culture. It had its roots back to the times when Spain ruled the world and, its brand of religion…the panacea for all ills. Lots of food, free-flowing beers and hot gossips abound in these yearly gatherings of families and friends. Streets are festooned with streamers and bands are playing constantly, as if reminding the residents of the good times that lie ahead. But sadly, fiestas also bring a false sense of prosperity, especially in these hard economic times. People, in the spirit of celebration, are sometimes forced to shell-out meager savings just to get by these ostensibly marked cultural events.

Much the same way investors may be lulled into a false sense of fiesta in the prevailing economic condition. The naive investor must rid himself of this false sense of bullishness (or bearishness) in the economy but should rather assess each and every day either as an opportunity or a day to scale down.

Manila’s current politico-economic climate is just too testy for now. Better not to fiesta at all but rather be holding that bag of goodies for the rainy days ahead! But, if you already made your stash in Manila, regardless of the economic direction it had moved, then…fiesta on! And don’t forget the lechon!

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The Netpliance hack parts….

The iOpener hack parts arrived via UPS a week after I had ordered them from an East Coast computer parts company. I could

hacking the i-Opener
hacking the i-Opener (Photo credit: blakespot)

have also bought the parts locally -and cheaper – but I don’t like to bother with the hassle of assembling them – specially the 44-pin IDE cable for the laptop HD that will hook up to the iOpener. The driving time to buy them locally will also offset whatever savings I can.

Aside from the cable, there is also the IDE adapter as well as the actual laptop HD (3 GB).

Total cost: $50.

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A Movable Type experiment

Blogs are becoming an easy way of having a presence on the web. Most of personal sites these days are blogs. TypePad and Blogger are getting into the mainstream. They had normally been called the ICQ of web sites .The former is fee-based while the latter is freebie. What sets them apart from the old days of free (or, paid) website? The richness of content and ease of use. Most of the content on blogs are syndicated (RSS) and links are, most of the time, ads. With blogs, you simply type away, add your images or photos, click a button, and, ergo, instant but professional-looking website – uh, er – blog!

Blogs are great if you simply love to write and put your ideas on the web. Unlike regular web sites, blogs lack the snazzy extra features that enables one to have total control of what to put on the site. But what it lacked in features, its ease of use is what casual web users loved the most and lured them to sign up for their services.

Since I host this site on my own web server, I decided give the most popular one – Movable Type from SixApart – a peek.

From what I had read before, I needed the latest versions of Movable Type, MySQL and the database hooks – they were quickly downloaded and installed (Perl also required but this is already included in OS X) on the server. After doing a lot of web searches, it took me some time to set it up and get it running, using instructions from maczealots.com. My plan was to incorporate the ‘blogger’ into this website but I backed out on the last-minute. It was a hardware hog – well, at least for my current setup and use. Rebuilding was quite slow. Since the Mac G4 is also my FTP server and web cam host, I didn’t like the extra strain Movable Type put on the server. Maybe, I can incorporate it on this site later on…when I get my hands on a G5!

—notes:

After acquiring an Apple iMac G5 a few months later and testing other blogging software, I integrated the same blogger – Movable Type- to my web site in Oct. 01, 2004.

My other blog: kupitero.blogspot.com

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