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Thirty-Six

Thirty-six is a semiperfect number, meaning it is the sum of some subsets of its natural divisors.

 

Like thirty-six, life isn’t perfect either. But there’s still much to be thankful for.

I am grateful that I have a roof over my head and am able to eat at least three square meals a day (if I so choose).

I am grateful that I have wonderful parents and siblings who are always ready to support me no matter what shenanigans I get into.

I am grateful for friends who are interesting and who share my interests and are more than willing to put up with my particular insanities.

I am grateful for having a well-paying job that affords me luxuries and opportunities most people are not able to avail of.

I am grateful for the prospect of a possible brighter tomorrow.

 

For my birthday wishes:

I wish for clarity of vision.

I wish for serenity of heart.

I wish for less hatred in the world.

I wish for more honesty in the world.

I wish for less traffic in Metro Manila.

I wish for better internet in the Philippines.

I wish for good health.

I wish for more free time.

I wish for more wishes.

 

Let the future come and bring what it will.

 

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Review!

Well, I haven’t written anything in a while, so I figured I’d write some words on the new Spider-Man movie. Spoilers abound!

Action-packed! The web-swinging is fun and looks and feels just like Spidey from the comic books. Spider-man moves and fights and banters pretty faithfully to the comic book version of our favorite wall-crawler, so that’s a definite plus. Peter’s Spider-sense is portrayed as a slow-motion bullet-time kind of deal which allows him to react quickly and save all the people while dodging everything. It doesn’t really translate exactly to the comic-book Spider-sense, but I suppose it’s better than having squiggly lines around his head.

Peter Parker, haunted by…the ghost of Dennis Leary? We get it, you’re breaking the promise you made at the end of the first movie and you’re putting Gwen in danger. What, did he become the physical embodiment of the Spider-sense? If I was Captain Stacy I’d haunt you too for stalking my daughter from the rooftops! Not even Uncle Ben haunted Peter like this!

And the deep dark secret of Peter’s parents is…what, is that it? Seriously, that was a lame reveal after all the drama at the start of the movie; it didn’t seem entirely too relevant and more like a subplot that didn’t go anywhere. The mysterious party who would’ve benefited from Oscorp experiments and was willing to hire an assassin to kill the parents on a plane was never elaborated on. Maybe it’s something they’ll explore in a future film, but for now it feels like they were just forced to create a link because of the mysterious disappearance of the parents from the first movie.

Norman Osborn, Spider-man’s greatest enemy! No? Decrepit old man on his deathbed? Dying of some weird goblinitis disease? Okay, at least Harry’s here, right?

Harry Osborn, Spider-man’s best friend turned worst enemy! Or at least we’re told they’re good friends, we just have to take their word for it. There they are joking like old pals for two minutes, surely we must be convinced they are best buds! BTW Pete, old-friend-of-mine-who-I-havent-had-contact-with-for-10-years-even-though-social-media-should-already-exist-at-this-time, can you get me some Spider-man blood? I’m dying brah

Max Dillon! Electro! Mild-mannered electrical engineer with low self-esteem who ignores safety procedures and gets bitten by radioactive electric eels! Seriously? I’m looking forward to the Sinister Six movie where Adrian Toomes gets bitten by a radioactive vulture. We get a high-power-level version of Electro here, he’s able to teleport around as electrical charges or something and he’s even able to magically generate underwear and later a bodysuit! But he’s no match for Peter Parker’s questionable movie science!

Not enough villains? Let’s add the Rhino! Well, just for a quick scene at the end to lead into the Sinister Six movie, maybe? A scene that we’ve already seen in the trailers too! I suppose it’s a blessing that they didn’t try to shoehorn a Rhino subplot, there’s already too much going on as it is.

Oh no, two airplanes might collide because there’s no electricity! How was this even relevant to Spider-man’s battle? It’s not like he knew what was going on at the airport!

“You need me, I know the specs to the grid thingy!” Uh, it turns out all you needed to do was know how to pick up a key from a dead guy’s hand and unlock a panel. And I thought her field was in biochemistry or something, not electrical engineering?

I have to admit, the death at the end caught me off guard. I knew it had to happen sooner or later, but given that they cut MJ out of this movie and had a subplot of Gwen flying off to England (which she did in the comics and she managed to come back to New York before the big deal at the bridge), I assumed it would be happening in the next film. Though by the time they had her falling from the tower, I would’ve been annoyed if they didn’t go through with it after the build-up. But now I’m worried that they’re going to rush the Peter-MJ relationship in the next movie the same way they rushed the Peter-Harry friendship in this one, since they didn’t get the chance to introduce MJ while Peter and Gwen were still a thing.

Where’s the scene where the New Yorkers come together to help Spider-Man? Isn’t this a franchise staple by now?

End credits sequence teases the Sinister Six lineup. Well, that was fine.

Overall plotting and pacing felt weird, with some scene transitions feeling like they could be better handled. The whole thing at the end with how Peter deals with Gwen’s fate felt weirdly out of place. They could’ve ended the second movie on a down note, and have Peter coming back strong in TASM3 (an Empire Strikes Back sort of thing), but no, they wanted to get the grieving out of the way quickly. Well, the movie was fun and enjoyable to watch, and had quite a few recognizable names for comic books fans (I’m sure all the comic readers noted the name of Harry’s assistant and Max’s boss), but all the nitpicky problems above pull the movie down especially when we just came back from the awesomeness that was Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Next: Days of Future Past!

2013 – Books and Games

It’s the end of the year, so it feels like a good time to look back at the books and games I’ve gone through in 2013.

I guess it’s my lack of focus really but my reading rate has really gone down over the past few years, I guess in favor of TV, comics and games. (I guess comics count as reading too, but I’m talking about full-length novels.

For 2013 as far as I can tell I only finished reading the following novels:

  • Slaughterhouse Five (Kurt Vonnegut)
  • Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov) – I only read up to Second Foundation, I’ll get around to the later books sometime I guess
  • A Memory of Light (Sanderson/Jordan) – been reading the Wheel of Time for years and I’m glad Sanderson was able to bring it to a decent end
  • Shadows in Flight (Orson Scott Card)

I suppose I should make it a new years resolution to read more books. I have a reading list that I have stored on Dropbox that I’m trying to work through. I think getting more paper books helps – most of my reading the past few years has been mostly e-books but having at least one paper book around that I can pick up without worrying about a charger or something is also good. I’m around halfway through a copy of Dune I picked up at a used bookstore.

As for games, this is the hobby that takes up most of my free time, however my backlog is horrendously large. Inspired by a NeoGAF thread, I’ve started tracking purchases and finishes/completes.

Here are the game purchases I made in 2013:

  • Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm (PC retail)
  • FTL (humble bundle)
  • Humble Weekly Sale: Telltale Games (8 games)
  • Humble Bundle 8 (9 games)
  • WB Humble Bundle (9 games)
  • Borderlands 2 + season pass + mech/psycho dlc (GMG + Steam)
  • Civilization 5: Brave New World (GMG)
  • Morrowind GOTY (Steam)
  • Oblivion GOTY (Steam)
  • Legend of Grimrock (steam)
  • Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014 (steam)
  • Tales of Graces F (PS3 retail)
  • Injustice (PS3 retail)
  • The Last of Us (PS3 retail)
  • Kingdom Hearts 1.5 HD Remix (PS3 retail)
  • Final Fantasy 13-2 (PS3 retail)
  • Tales of Xillia (PS3 retail)
  • Capcom vs SNK 2 (PS3 via PSN)
  • Ni no Kuni (PS3 via PSN)
  • Speklunky (Vita via PSN)
  • Guacamelee (PS3/Vita via PSN)
  • Marvel vs Capcom 2 (PS3 via PSN)
  • Shin Megami Tensei 4 (3ds retail)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds (3ds retail)
  • Persona 4 Golden (Vita retail)
  • Disgaea 3 (Vita retail)
  • Street Fighter x Tekken (Vita retail)
  • FF9 (PSN)
  • Persona 3 Portable (PSN)

And the games I finished in 2013:

  • Starcraft 2 Heart of the Swarm campaign
  • Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014
  • Borderlands 2
  • Injustice story mode
  • Mass Effect 3
  • The Last of Us
  • Tales of Graces F
  • Tales of Xillia (Milla side only)
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link between Worlds
  • Persona 4 Golden
  • Disgaea 3 main story
  • Civ5 BNW (I’m going to go ahead and count this since I’m sure I got more than a full game’s worth of it already)

So the count is at -41 or such. It’s pretty bad, but also around what I expected lol. I’m fairly close to finishing a number of those games (I’m at the SMT4 final dungeon and the last chapter of FF 13-2 right now). A lot of the backlog is due to me randomly picking up Humble Bundles which increase the count significantly. Hopefully I’ll be able to have a much smaller backlog in 2014 – but there are already a number of release I’m looking forward to, not to mention the possibility of picking up a PS4 early next year.

 

Movie Review: Man of Steel (Spoilers!)

Few people are really Superman fans, because let’s face it, Superman is boring compared to say, Batman. I wouldn’t claim to be a fan either, though I follow the history because of being generally a comic book guy (I got less than 50% of the answers in a recent Superman round in one of the local quiz nights =/) That being said, I did re-watch the first 2 Donner Superman movies and re-read All-Star Superman and Superman: For Tomorrow ahead of watching the movie. So, I look at the movie from the point of view of someone familiar with the lore, but not all the history of the character.

First the hype: before the release, there were people claiming that Man of Steel was the best superhero movie, with one reviewer even claiming it to be better than The Dark Knight. Now that I’ve seen it, I’m going to have to disagree; The Dark Knight was a clever movie with a terrific villain built upon a solid universe established by Batman Begins; Man of Steel is by no means a bad movie, but it’s pretty much just a straightforward action flick.

Second, the action scenes: probably the most entertaining part of the movie for me would be the fight scenes between Kal and the other Kryptonians. It probably helped that I had just watched Superman 2 the week before which featured laughable (by modern standards) fight scenes between Superman and Zod and his two henchmen. Compared to the older movie, the battles here are much more grand in scale and effect, with the final showdown between Kal and Zod taking down a whole lot of buildings in Metropolis (more on that later), giving the battle a Dragonball-like feel (I like Dragonball, so that’s fine). The opening sequence on Krypton was okay too, with kind of a Star Wars vibe going for it. (I noted that first Superman movie took 20 minutes before Kal was shot off Krypton, I think Man of Steel takes even longer.)

Now, the story. Like I said, very straightforward. Bad guy comes threatening people, Superman punches them around until we figure out a magical way to get rid of them. Then some more punching. Okay. Specific points:

1. Changes to Krypton’s back story and Superman’s origin? Ok, I’m fine with that, although it’s never really explained why the Kryptonians abandoned space travel or why the colonies couldn’t survive alone. I’m not even sure they have a canon explanation in the comics as to why there weren’t a bunch of other Kryptonians who jumped into rockets to escape. No Kryptonite? Okay, that’s fine – the simulated Kryptonian atmosphere probably has trace elements from Krypton that could be hand-waved into some sort of Kryptonite later if needed.

2. Pa Kent dying to a tornado and Clark doing nothing to save him? Ugh, I remember whispering “that’s terrible” to my brother who was watching with me. In most continuities where Pa Kent dies, it’s almost always due to a heart attack – where the idea is that Clark learns how his powers won’t let him save everyone no matter how hard he tries. In this movie, Pa Kent’s death was entirely preventable even if you assume that his protectiveness of Clark’s powers was so strong as to override his own survival instinct and Clark’s instinct not to save his adoptive father. It’s not like the townsfolk didn’t know about Clark’s powers either, at least two kids and one parent knew, and that pretty much meant he grew up with rumors of his powers all around town. And the most ridiculous part is that he died trying to rescue a dog. A dog. A dog! Order of priorities: Save dog > Don’t let Clark use powers > Stay alive.

3. Apparently it only takes Clark two tries to learn how to fly. And he instinctively knows how to fight while flying too! In Donner’s Superman, Clark took a long hiatus from the world to learn the history of Krypton and how to use his powers, here it only took him overnight on an ancient Kryptonian scouting ship. Okay, this isn’t really a problem, for all we know there was some magic Kryptonian mind meld device in the ship to explain this away.

4. Okay, here’s the big one: heroism and killing Zod, this is where we see a major departure from the Superman mythos. Before the Kryptonian invasion, we see Kal doing heroic things exactly twice: on the ocean platform at the start of the movie and saving his classmates in the school bus. And in the school bus incident he says to Pa Kent “what was I supposed to do, let them die?” and Pa Kent answers, “maybe”. That conversation was in one of the trailers too and at the time I knew it was off. One of the big things about the Superman mythos is that he grows up to become a hero because of how the Kents raised him, that they instilled in him a way of thinking that prioritized doing the right thing regardless of the sacrifices you had to make. The idea being that being raised by the Kents contributes to his being Superman as much as his alien heritage does. Comparing Superman to Batman, the comparison is often made that for Batman, Bruce Wayne is his disguise and Batman is who he really sees himself to be, while for Clark it’s the opposite: Superman is his disguise and Clark Kent, the person raised by the Kents, is who he really is. Man of Steel has none of that, Man of Steel is all about the alien heritage. Not to say that he’s selfish or not heroic, after all he does decide to turn himself in during the Invasion, but I feel like the comic-book Superman wouldn’t have needed to talk to a priest first. (I feel like that scene randomly wanted to reference For Tomorrow)

In the final scene when Kal is forced to kill Zod to save civilians, why does he have such anguish afterwards? The movie had made no earlier indication that this Superman had a distaste for killing; heck millions of lives were probably lost due to Kal and Zod tearing each other apart across Metropolis (I feel like comic-book Superman would have at least tried to bring the battle to a less-populated area). Because I’m a comic-book fan I know that he made that scream of anguish because he didn’t want to have to kill since that’s a standard part of the Superman mythos (heavily emphasized in the What’s So Funny About Truth, Justice & the American Way? story arc and later in Superman vs the Elite), but for the normal moviegoers I feel like they might have gone “huh”?

5. There’s almost no characterization for the side characters here – Lana is barely relevant (though of course she had to appear for lore reasons), and they could have dropped Steve Lombard without consequence and that whole scene with the Daily Planet girl stuck under rubble wasn’t even needed. I’m really annoyed about Perry White not wanting to run the alien story because people might not take it well. He’s a journalist – his first concern should be the truth! I’m not sure why they needed Emil Hamilton here either. Bah, they’ll probably get more play time in the sequel.

Those are the major nitpicks I have with the movie, the rest are just minor details (although there are a lot of them.) Many of the problems are due to expectations of Superman based on what I know from the comics. I guess we can forgive some of them, since movie Superman doesn’t need to be the same as comic book Superman, in the same way that Nolan’s Batman wasn’t exactly comic book Batman either.

All of that being said, I still enjoyed the movie, it was entertaining enough for a first movie in the franchise (and it’s way better than Superman Returns). I’d rank it close to or below Amazing Spider-Man I think. A sequel is already being planned and hopefully we get a better, more clever movie the second time around. If it were up to me, the second movie villian(s) would be Luthor and Metallo (With Nolan and Snyder, I think we can look forward to a more interesting take on Lex Luthor compared to Hackman’s self-declared “greatest criminal mind in history” at least.), with a third movie either for Braniac or Doomsday (Braniac would probably be better). It probably depends on their plans for a shared universe and a Justice League movie though. Let’s see how it all pans out; in any case, it’s a good time to be a comic book fan!

 

Handheld Gaming 2013: Playstation Vita vs Nintendo 3DS

I wrote some stuff about Vita vs 3DS in a Reddit post, I thought I’d expand on it here.

I have access to both a first-generation 3DS with ambassador status (this is actually my brother’s but he doesn’t use it much) and a PS Vita which is only a couple of months old. I use the Vita a lot more because reasons:

  1. The screen is very very nice, especially compared to the 3DS screens. My eyes hurt a bit after a while of using the 3DS (even with 3D off). The Vita games also look a lot better compared to 3DS ones. The visuals are more crisp and colorful, especially for games like Persona 4 Golden or Disgaea 3.
  2. I’m a Playstation Plus subscriber (and I have a PS3), which means my available Vita library gets bigger every month without me spending additional money. And with the PS4 support coming, it’s even better.
  3. No online account for the 3DS means I’m not going to make digital purchases off the eShop, which limits my available library. I’m not interested in making eShop purchases that are tied to the machine; I’m worried about losing or breaking the system and losing access to all my purchases. This is a severe limitation of the 3DS in this age of digital downloads.
  4. I just find that I like more games on the Vita. I like Mario and Zelda on the 3DS (I’ve finished NSMB, Mario 3D Land and Ocarina of Time; the new Legend of Zelda will probably be the next game I play on 3DS), but aside from that most of the library is meh for me. I played Tales of the Abyss and Paper Mario Sticker Star on the 3ds but both got boring for me after a while (I’m probably at around 80% of ToA and gave up on Sticker Star at the first boss). I might try out Fire Emblem, and if there’s a new Advance Wars I’d jump on that. Etrian Odyssey looks interesting but there are dungeon crawlers on the Vita too. On the Vita so far I’ve been playing P4G, Disgaea 3 and Gravity Rush, with some Street Fighter x Tekken thrown in every so often. As soon as I get a bigger memory card, I’m going to get into Blazblue Continuum Shift;  then there’s Uncharted and Final Fantasy Tactics and I heard Zero Escape was good, and I want to try Guacamelee, and one of these days I’m going to give in to impulse buying urges and get Xenogears off the store, oh and if LBP Vita went on sale I’d get that, etc. People who say the Vita doesn’t have games might just be uninformed; in terms of the number of games I’m interested the Vita is slightly ahead, and that whole PS1 classic back library puts it leagues ahead.
  5. Achievements/Trophies. I realize a lot of people don’t care for them and don’t “get” people who like them and that’s fine, more power to you. But I do like them, though I’m not like a platinum hunter or anything like that.

The only real downside of the Vita as far as I can tell is that the memory cards are helluva expensive; but maybe that will change this week.

And…that’s it. Just thought I’d write some gaming stuff since E3 is happening in a few hours. :D

PHVote: Choosing your 2013 Senators and Party List

Resources

The content of this post is regarding my own opinion and who I plan to vote for. If you want to do your own research (I highly recommend it), here are some links to get you started:

Here’s a link to a Google doc of my own notes on each candidate, which I used as basis for recommendations below. (I didn’t want to clutter up the blog post with details)

 

Recommendations

A number of people have asked me to recommend who they should vote; while I prefer that they do their own research I don’t mind giving suggestions. Here are my recommendations:

Strongly recommended: Jun Magsaysay, Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casino

It’s okay to vote for: Legarda, Escudero, Pimentel, Madrigal, Zubiri, Hagedorn, Poe

It’s okay to vote for the following if you don’t mind them being members of or associated with political dynasties: Cayetano, Gordon, Angara, Ejercito, Aquino

It’s okay to vote for the following if you don’t mind their strong association with religious groups: Delos Reyes, Villanueva

Definitely DO NOT VOTE: Honasan, Trillianes, Maceda, Mitos Magsaysay, Villar, Enrile, Binay, Cojuangco

For the “it’s okay to vote for” groups, just use your own preferences, i.e. if you don’t like Erap you probably won’t vote for JV Ejercito.

 

My Ticket

The following will most likely be the 12 I will vote on Monday (barring something ridiculous happening):

  1. Jun Magsaysay (Team PNoy)
  2. Risa Hontiveros (Team PNoy)
  3. Teddy Casino (Independent)
  4. Legarda (Team PNoy)
  5. Escudero (Team PNoy)
  6. Pimentel (Team PNoy)
  7. Madrigal (Team PNoy)
  8. Zubiri (UNA)
  9. Hagedorn (Independent)
  10. Gordon (UNA)
  11. Angara (Team PNoy)
  12. Aquino (Team PNoy)

I understand that the choices aren’t perfect (I’m not too fond of some of them…), but we have a limited selection of viable candidates and I’d rather fill up all 12 slots to at least have an infinitesimally small chance that the candidates I don’t want don’t get in.

 

What about the Party List? There are really too many Party Lists to evaluate. Just don’t vote for some ridiculous group; look for a group with a strong advocacy and track record. My personal preference is for #95 AGHAM Party List, because SCIENCE! Here’s a list of legislation they’ve supported if you’re interested.

 

That’s the last post from me before the elections on Monday (I’ll probably be ranting more on Twitter). If you have a chance to vote go out and do so, but be sure to do so wisely; it’s your privilege and an expression of what you want for this country. Let’s hope that the surveys are wrong and the voting public miraculously smartens up.

 

Edit: The original recommendations list missed out Grace Poe. Also added a short note on imperfect choices.

Even more ramblings about the elections

It’s easy to blame the poor, the masses for voting into power devious politicians, the corrupt, those with no track record, political dynasties based on money, survey results, name recognition or who has the most giveaways. But take a look at the number of decisions that have to be made when you go vote in an election (let’s say it’s also a presidential election so that we have a complete view):

  • You need to choose a president out of maybe 6-8 candidates
  • You need to choose a vice president out of maybe 6-8 candidates
  • You need to choose 12 senators from a pool of 20-30 or more candidates
  • You need to choose a congressman from maybe 4-6 candidates
  • You need to choose a governor (I’m from Metro Manila, we don’t have a guvnor so I’m just guessing here) from maybe 3-5 candidates
  • You need to choose a mayor from maybe 3-5 candidates
  • You need to choose a vice mayor from maybe 3-5 candidates
  • You need to choose god knows how many councilors (I seriously have no idea, is it 6?) from who knows how many candidates
  • You need to choose a party-list from over a hundred choices

In order to “vote wisely”, for each of those choices, you’d need to have some idea of who they are, what their background is, what their advocacies are, what their stand is on the issues, what bills they have pushed/sponsored/passed (if they had previous legislative experience), etc. For all of those candidates! I live a comfortable life and have a reasonable amount of free time and even I don’t want to do that! Not to mention that unlike me, a very, very large percentage of the voting population don’t have easily available internet access so that they can do their own research on candidates’ backgrounds. They’re not on Facebook all the time reading about Nancy’s shenanigans or how Jack Enrile doesn’t want you to look closely at a murder rap in his history. They’re too busy with more mundane everyday concerns like how to earn money, where they’re going to get food to feed their large families, etc. They just don’t have the time, inclination or opportunity to soak up all the relevant information that would let them make an informed choice.

So what do they do, they do what any regular, sane person does when faced with an overwhelming amount of information, they use filters. But their filters are silly things like survey results (“Other people think this candidate is okay, so I guess I can vote for him”), celebrity endorsements (it’s sad that former Sen. Jun Magsaysay only got a bump in survey results when he got Sir Chief to endorse him) or worse things like bribery, vote buying through giveaways, etc.

What am I saying, what am I talking about? All this time I’ve been harping about how voter education is important, but how it’s delivered needs to be thought about. We can’t just flood people with information, they’re just going to be overwhelmed and the silly yet simpler things like inane political ads are going to win out. We need to, I dunno, find a way to provide better, easier filters for people. I don’t know how, I’m not that smart. Not yet.

“But Roy,” I can hear you objecting already, “elections are serious business deciding the future of our country! It’s important, and they should take it seriously and think very hard about their choices!” You’re absolutely right that it’s important, but the problem is that for a vast majority of poor people, they have a lot of other more important, more urgent things to worry about. Elections affect what happens to our country three, five, ten years down the road, but a lot of people have trouble figuring out how they’re going to get through the next day. The feedback loop for getting results from elections is just too long for people to take it seriously. Now, we can suggest that maybe, just maybe, we can just ask those people not to vote if they’re not going to take it seriously? Maybe, but that’s hardly enforceable in any reasonable way. And you’re going to get accused of being anti-democracy or whatever.

“It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” – William Churchill.

I don’t have a solution, I’m just rambling. Maybe this is really how it’s supposed to work, democracy? We live with what the people choose, even if they’re bad choices. Democracy is very effective at a small scale (“Guys let’s vote on where we should have dinner!”) but I feel like the logistics of it all gets way way more difficult as we scale up to the level of an entire country. Maybe smarter people than me have proposed solutions, I dunno, comment and give me links if you know of them. Who are the best democracies in the world and how do they get away with it? Certainly not the United States with their two-party system and their lobbyists and what not.

Although now that I think about it, it might help if we reduce the number of choices that would need to be made. The simplest changes are to have president/VP be voted in together, same for mayor/vice mayor, and to have regional senators instead of national so that each person only needs to choose one senator (this has the pleasant side effect of reducing the amount of money needed to win a senate seat). I have no solution for party-list, I’d rather have it be removed if no solution can be found

And we need to start thinking about these things even outside of the electoral cycle (probably a bit hypocritical of me, I only post about election stuff during the election season). Going about ways to improve the next elections need to start as soon as the last elections end. Sometimes I feel like the Comelec has crammed a lot of stuff into the past year or so (registration, source code audits, rulings on party-lists, etc.) Why can’t we ask candidates to register 3 years before the election? That way voters have a lot more time to become familiar with them and the candidates are forced to flesh out long-term plans instead of making excuses that they don’t have time for debates.

Okay, I complain a lot, but I’m still going to vote. I’m not one of those people who complains but won’t vote. We should vote because (a) it’s our responsibility and (b) it’s an expression of what we as individuals desire to have in leaders of our country. And it’s probably our responsibility to vote wisely too, though I’m not sure that’s a rule encoded somewhere, the Comelec certainly doesn’t emphasize it.

To be honest, I’m still not sure of which senators I’ll be voting for, most of my slots are up in the air (although there are many candidates I’m surely NOT voting for). I’ll probably finalize my choices the weekend before the elections, and as has been my tradition, I will post my choices in this space. I’m registered in a different district than where I’m currently residing so I don’t vote for congressman and councilors, so my only choices this time around are the 12 senators and mayor/vice mayor of QC.

Nancy and the Elections: A Fictional Dialogue

People who follow me on Facebook or Twitter know that I’ve been recently made a number of anti-Nancy Binay posts. For a while now I’ve been wanting to write a blog post about that and several other election-related thoughts. I’ve decided to present these thoughts it as a fictional chat between made-up characters. Totally fictional characters. Any resemblance to actual people living or dead = pure coincidence. (Although if you must try to imagine these characters, you can imagine jaeger as a dashing idealist, in-in as a cynical pragmatist, ORYLY as a carefree vagabond and Scrappy coco as someone who just wandered into the wrong room.)

 

10:04:04 * Scrappy coco will Nancy Binay win?

10:04:18 jaeger it is likely

10:04:28 tzia_n will you rage?

10:04:32 Scrappy coco yes

10:04:33 jaeger not really

10:04:45 jaeger i don’t mind, idiots need representation too

10:08:03 in-in tsaka bat hate na hate mo si nancy binay over the other candidates? what makes her extra stupid?

10:08:20 jaeger nauna sya e

10:08:24 jaeger i dont hate her

10:08:27 jaeger but she’s arrogant

10:08:33 jaeger ok lang kasi yung walang experience

10:08:44 jaeger as long as you acknowledge it

10:09:02 jaeger and talk about how you plan to surpass it

10:09:09 jaeger but she doesn’t talk about anything

10:09:19 jaeger her ads are just literal motherhood statements

10:09:32 jaeger and may arrogance kasi, especially from the father

10:09:39 jaeger na qualified daw sya simply because anak nya

10:10:00 in-in ic ic

10:10:14 jaeger pero yung unang commercial pa lang nainis na ko

10:10:21 jaeger sya ata yung unang nagcommercial

10:10:26 jaeger before pa nung campaign period

10:10:38 in-in di ba si villar?

10:10:44 in-in buti na lang wala kaming tv

10:10:48 in-in lol

10:10:53 jaeger ok lang naman ung nagdecide ka magrun for senator kahit walang experience, kahit sino naman pwede mangarap

10:11:31 jaeger actually, almost all the political ads are annoying

10:11:43 jaeger una ko lang napanood ung kay nancy so she’s been annoying the longest time

10:12:12 Scrappy coco lol isa pa yung kay Enrile

10:12:14 Scrappy coco lel

10:12:24 Scrappy coco annoying song

10:12:30 Scrappy coco plus annoying gesture

10:12:38 Scrappy coco annoying tagline

10:13:14 in-in annoying everything

10:13:23 in-in enrile daming pera

10:13:45 in-in he doesn’t look trustworthy as well. maski si jpe shady din actually yung past.

10:14:09 in-in i can feel some littlefinger vibes from jpe, sr. actually since before pa

10:14:48 Scrappy coco daming flipflopping ni sr

10:17:34 Scrappy coco im really annoyed with the fact na dynasty na ang lumalabas pero sasabihin lng nila “let the people decide”.

10:17:59 Scrappy coco #randomrant

10:18:53 jaeger that’s not really a problem

10:19:00 jaeger kasi ung people talaga ung problem

10:19:17 Scrappy coco yeah in a way, people din may kasalanan

10:19:20 ORYLY if only we could somehow leverage the power of the information age

10:19:22 jaeger the dynasty restriction is just a hack to attempt to minimize the problem

10:19:30 ORYLY yeah

10:20:30 jaeger dapat may some sort of viral facebook meme

10:20:46 jaeger like “change your profile pic to this icon if you’re going to vote intelligently”

10:20:49 jaeger lol i dunno

10:21:04 in-in ahahaha

10:21:07 jaeger marami namang smart people sa pilipinas, someone needs to figure something like this out

10:21:07 Scrappy coco also binay is arrogant when she said in a statement that sth like ayaw nya makipagdebate, kitakits na lng sa senate floor

10:21:09 in-in and what will that do?

10:21:28 jaeger in-in at the very least raise awareness

10:21:39 jaeger and baka may peer pressure

10:21:49 in-in sabagay nagawan nga ng TRO yung cybercrime bill

10:21:51 jaeger not just the profile pic thing

10:21:57 jaeger dapat may some sort of manifesto

10:22:02 in-in from just changing our profile pics to black

10:22:45 jaeger well, most of the internet is already against nancy lol

10:23:13 jaeger the problem is really the loads of people who are easily fooled by the going around and shaking hands, cheap giveaways, mababaw na commercials

10:23:42 jaeger *easily swayed

10:24:45 jaeger oh, and one should talk to people

10:24:47 jaeger on the street

10:24:53 jaeger taxi drivers, jeepney drivers

10:25:06 jaeger not necessarily to convince them of anything

10:25:11 jaeger but just to get them thinking

10:25:44 jaeger i say this but i dont really do it. may risk of getting into a politically heated debate with a man who could get you killed if he gets careless

10:25:57 ORYLY hehe

10:26:22 jaeger > ‹jaeger› but just to get them thinking <- and maybe convince them to talk to other people too. parang pyramiding

10:26:24 ORYLY but does it help when you do it at that scale?

10:26:34 ORYLY ah, try to get a meme going

10:26:36 jaeger that’s where the pyramiding comes in!

10:27:00 ORYLY kasi you need to make it virulent

10:27:09 ORYLY catchy songs are virulent

10:27:09 jaeger kaya nga kelangan maraming tao ang gumagawa

10:27:12 jaeger it cant just be me

10:27:20 jaeger oh man, have you seen the comelec ads

10:27:26 jaeger about ung mga bawal na election practices

10:27:33 jaeger grabe ang obvious na low budget lol

10:27:39 in-in > ‹jaeger› the problem is really the loads of people who are easily fooled by the going around and shaking hands, cheap giveaways, mababaw na commercials >> nahh they’re easily swayed by the MOOLAH

10:27:40 ORYLY I haven’t turned on the TV since forever

10:27:56 in-in and the intelligent people are not registered

10:27:57 Scrappy coco si mr bawal!

10:28:06 jaeger ibang issue pa yung vote buying

10:28:09 ORYLY that’s because the really intelligent thing is to sway other people

10:28:15 ORYLY not to vote intelligently yourself

10:28:19 jaeger pero unti-unti rin yun magtuturn if people start thinking

10:29:07 ORYLY yeah, but isn’t that the riddle of the century?

10:30:47 jaeger what do you mean?

10:30:55 jaeger i was thinking of writing a blog post about all of this

10:31:03 jaeger but now i think i’ll just paste this chat log lol

10:31:12 jaeger it covers most of the things i was thinking about

10:31:39 jaeger probably cut the part about enrile (libel lolz)

10:32:11 ORYLY making people start thinking is hard

10:32:23 ORYLY well, doing it at a scale that matters

10:32:42 jaeger if it was easy, it would already be done

10:32:47 jaeger anything worth doing is hard

10:33:06 ORYLY yeah, I mean you’ve come back to the same problem that everyone came across before

10:33:08 ORYLY other people!

10:33:53 derp > ‹in-in› and the intelligent people are not registered <– woohoo! I’m intelligent!

10:34:05 jaeger we just need more ideas. there are lots of smart people that could be helping – social scientists, psychologists, behavioral scientists, etc. – who might be able to come up with ways to more easily propagate stuff like this

10:35:22 * ORYLY they’re working for advertising companies and the campaign management

10:36:54 jaeger voter education is important, but practically no one is talking about it though

10:37:15 Scrappy coco should the media?

10:37:16 jaeger not even self-professed reformists

10:37:16 ORYLY funds, yeah

10:38:08 jaeger feeling ko delikado kasi to talk about voter education kasi you might offend the masses? I dunno

10:38:53 ORYLY is that it?

10:38:56 ORYLY sounds like a neutral topic

10:39:01 ORYLY maybe because it’s a boring topic

10:39:33 jaeger well that too

10:39:41 jaeger it’s not like candidates actually talk about issues!

10:39:50 in-in offend the masses?

10:39:53 jaeger well sometimes they do, but not when their audience is the masses

10:40:14 ORYLY maybe the important things just have to be framed correctly?

10:40:28 ORYLY framed interestingly, I mean

10:41:00 ORYLY framed scandalously

10:41:00 jaeger framed with MONEY

10:41:01 jaeger jk

10:41:07 jaeger ooh scandalously haha

10:41:32 jaeger may scandal video talking about voting wisely

10:41:52 Scrappy coco lel

10:41:56 jaeger or or or

10:42:13 jaeger kris aquino complaining about her ex husband not voting wisely

10:42:34 jaeger may iyak iyak pa

10:42:43 ORYLY fund it

10:42:47 ORYLY err

10:42:50 ORYLY crowdfund it

10:42:54 ORYLY grassroots

10:42:55 ORYLY yeaaaah

10:42:56 jaeger lol kickstarter

10:43:27 * ORYLY poof for social change

10:44:06 Scrappy coco or or or Janine Tugonon breaking up with BF on Kris TV for not voting wisely

10:44:07 jaeger ok i guess that’s enough material

10:44:10 jaeger lol

 

 

Scenes from a Quiz Night

Wednesday, March 20, 7:56pm We were four of us walking down the barely lit passage on the side of the building. The guard had lazily pointed us to a large open door near the back of the building. The interior was a studio-type area and there was a group of three women dressed in white who had arrived ahead of us and we followed them up a narrow set of stairs to an elevated lounge area with chairs and tables. We recognized some of the faces already there so we knew we were in the right place. No, we weren’t there for some illicit meetup of any sort; we were there to participate in something a bit more geeky. We were here for a quiz night.

Quiz nights (or pub quizzes, as they’re known in Britain) at their heart are simple affairs. You get a bunch of friends to form a team and you go to the event venue for a night of answering questions on various topics, competing with other teams. There’s usually food and alcohol involved too. This particular quiz night we were attending was Geekfight, a monthly event which was coming back from a three-month hiatus. Their questions usually revolved around pop culture and traditionally geeky exploits. That means you knowledge of the minutiae of movies, TV shows, comic books and other such channels of geek culture.

We’ve arrived early since we didn’t know where the venue was and didn’t want to get lost. Aside from the organizers we are the only team already present. We jokingly said that maybe that meant we could win the event for once. I’ve been participating in quiz nights for more than three years now by my reckoning, but we’ve never finished first, the closest being a previous Geekfight where we tied for first place and I dropped the crucial tiebreaker question.

We’re looking to change that tonight though. Each quiz night is usually divided into several rounds of questions, with each round following a certain category of questions. For Geekfight, the categories are announced ahead of time so we know that tonight’s questions will be all about movies and we figure we have a solid chance. Two more of our group arrive so that we hit the Geekfight maximum of six members per team. We order some pizza from the pizzeria out front since the venue doesn’t serve food.

The place starts to fill in with other teams just as we’re finishing our pizza, though we don’t really mingle. “I feel like a lot of the people here know each other except for us,” one of us jokes, which starts a healthy discussion on our being introverts and our Myers-Briggs classifications. Still, we recognize many of the teams and attendees by face and by team name, and a few by name. A number of these players and teams also attend another of our regular haunts: quiz nights at Amici Greenhills which is held every first Thursday of the month. Amici’s question set is a bit wider and less involved with details as compared to Geekfight but still focused on pop culture, and the food is usually much better.

It takes a while before all the teams are assembled (probably had the same trouble as us finding the place) so the event starts off a bit later than the 9pm call time. The organizers have a projector set up to show slides against the far side of the room. The host (a guy who looks like one of our ex-officemates) calls out the rules and categories. Each team is approached by a scorer and is given a small whiteboard and a marker to use to show their answers. The host is going to call out each question as they appear on the slides and give the teams some time usually around 30 seconds to scrawl an answer onto their boards. After some time the host counts down from 5 then asks the team to raise their boards. The host will then call out each answer (or not, depending on how lazy he’s feeling) before going to the next slide to show the answer. Each round will have ten such questions.

Rounds one and two. The event kicks off with a round on Sports Movies which gets us scratching our head over questions such as what team Tidwell played for in Jerry Maguire [1] and what Kevin Bacon movie has him recruiting basketball players in Africa [2]. Halfway through the round I predict that we’re going to get a Dodgeball question and sure enough the very next slide asks us to name the gym opposite Average Joe’s in that movie [3]. The second round is on Science Fiction movies which leads to me struggling to remember the name of Emmet Brown’s dog in the year 1955 in the movie Back to the Future [4] (it’s not Einstein!) and the technical name for the liquid metal that composed the T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgement Day [5]

Unlike Geekfight and Amici which focus more on pop-culture topics, the first time we went to a quiz night was at a venue that tended towards more academic subjects – which was how we found out about our team’s unfortunate weakness to geography and history questions. That was at the first establishment to start running quiz nights in Metro Manila: Murphy’s, an Irish pub in Makati which still runs their quiz nights weekly every Tuesdays. It’s still pretty fun and challenging, so we still go there every few weeks or so, but the best our group has done there was third place.

Rounds three and four. Geekfight continued with a round on Gangster Movies, which sees us naming the lead character in Scarface [6] trying to guess the two leads of the 1976 movie Bitayin si Baby Ama [7] and luckily one of knows the name of the movie where Brad Pitt plays famous outlaw Jesse James [8].

The next round was a picture round, each slide showed a scene from a movie and we were to identify both the name of the place and the movie it appeared in (2 points each slide, so this round was worth twice as much as others!). The first question was a scene from the local movie Ang Nawawala which by coincidence some of the people who worked on it were at Geekfight that night! When we were shown a shot of Luke Skywalker leaving behind his dead Uncle and Aunt, I wanted to write “Lars Water Farm” or something like that instead of Tatooine and it turns out that we did indeed have to be more specific (part of quiz night is knowing when to override your team!) I felt a bit redeemed later when I successfully named the Firehouse from Ghostbusters.

Breaktime! After the first four rounds, it was halftime. We scored 26 points (out of a possible 50), which left us a sixth place out of 16 teams. Not bad, but certainly not good enough, we had to step it up. We took some time to vote on a category to joker. The joker was a common feature of the local quiz nights; it basically meant that each team gets to choose the category they’re most confident in and the team would earn double points for that particular category. Before my vote, it was split between Animated Movies and Rom-coms I just went with Rom-coms.

Rounds five and six. Rom-coms happened to be the very next round too! We had to think about who played the lead roles in the remake of the Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn film Sabrina [9] and we had to fill in the When Harry Met Sally quote “Waiter, there is too much pepper on my [blank]. But I would be proud to partake of your [blank]” [10]. We did fairly well in the joker round, only slightly worse than our best round which was the next round on War movies. The War movies round has us naming the ships in Master and Commander: Far Side of the World [11] and failing to identify the Oliver Stone war movie filmed in the Philippines [12]

Rounds seven and eight. The last two rounds were good for us so we just have to do well in the last two rounds (Fantasy and Animated Films). Shouldn’t be too hard right? You’d think so. The fantasy round had questions on old fantasy films we hadn’t seen such as Willow and recent films we weren’t fond of like Kingdom of Heaven. The animated round featured questions like who voiced Wreck-gar in the 1986 Transformers movie [13] and what was the name of the kart racing gaming in Wreck-It-Ralph [14] alongside questions on stuff we hadn’t seen like an obscure animated short that won some Oscar and a picture question asking us to identify which movie a character came from (we didn’t get the answer; it was, embarrassingly enough, The Little Mermaid.)

Wrapping up. When all the rounds were done, we had score 29 points in the second half, with only one team scoring more points than us (30) in the second half. When we perform badly, we usually don’t bother waiting for the final rankings to be called out, but I felt like there was an outside chance of us actually winning here since most of the top scores were clustered together. It turns out that we finished with 55 points, just below the fifth-place team with 57 points, so it was the same rank we had in the first half. =/ Interestingly, the 1st and 2nd placers are tied, as are the 3rd and 4th placers, so an additional tie break question had to be done. (I’ve been there before!)

Ah well, we’re used to not winning anyway. Yet we still keep coming back to quiz nights, Geekfight and Amici and Murphy’s. We enjoy the challenge I guess, and we love digging deep trying to find the answers to those trivia questions. Yes, we enjoy it even when we have trouble figuring them out. But next time we’re going to win for sure! (Or so I keep telling myself)

=============================

This might be the longest post I’ve ever written. Here are the answers to trivia questions marked in the post body:

[1] Arizona Cardinals

[2] The Air Up There; the person to grab our whiteboard started writing down “The Gods Must Be Crazy” until I talked her out of it

[3] Globo Gym

[4] Copernicus! I could only remember that it was some older scientist so I just hastily scrawled “Newton” as time was called. I got mocked for this because my teammates know I’m a big Back to the Future fan.

[5] Memetic polyalloy

[6] Tony Montana

[7] Rudy Fernandez and Alma Moreno. All the teams actually assumed one of the leads was Bembol Roco

[8] The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

[9] Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond; the guy who answered for our team kept beating himself up because he mixed up Julia Ormond with Juliette Binoche. I didn’t know who either of those two was at that time

[10] paprikash, pecan pie

[11] Acheron and HMS Surprise

[12] Platoon

[13] Eric Idle

[14] Sugar Rush

Unscheduled trip down memory lane

Sir, baka pwedeng lipat na lang kayo ng taxi,” the driver said to me apologetically. “Hindi na po kasi ako aabot sa garage sa Sta. Mesa.” He offered to drop the flag-down fee from the fare so I just agreed. I got off and looked around.

One of the reasons I agreed to let him off despite the late hour was that I knew the place where we were passing by – a well lit area where I could easily get another taxi or take an alternative form of transportation if needed – it was the neighborhood I grew up in. And by some happenstance the exact spot where I got off was right across the corner near my grandparents’ old house where we used to live ten-odd years ago. No more than thirty to forty meters away was where most of my childhood took place.

I look down the road and there’s already another taxi coming down the stretch. I could hail it and be on my way home. But I looked across the street and considered the alternative. A quick trip down memory lane wouldn’t hurt right? I’ve been by this road before since we moved, many times even, since it was one of my common taxi routes home. Sometimes I even passed right by where the house used to be. But it was always in passing, I’ve never gone there simply to take a look and remember what used to be.

The taxi passes by, and I’m crossing the street. There’s a Mercury Drug here now at the corner, it didn’t used to be there. I try to remember what used to be on this curved corner even though I must have walked by it a thousand times. It was probably some residence, neighbors I never really knew.

I turn right after crossing the street and down the sloped street. On the other side of the street, there was this building with a truck in front and a familiar side door. The family who lived there sold ice out of that door and when I was young I would sometimes be sent out to buy ice for our sari-sari store from that door. It was only a short walk away and I would earn a crisp five-peso bill for my efforts. That five pesos was a lot for me back then, enough to buy a small coke with. Yes, we had a sari-sari store at our grandparents’ house when we were young, which meant I drank a lot of soft drinks back then.

A few meters later and I’m at the fork in the road in front of where the house used to be. There used to be a basketball board and hoop set up in the middle of the fork, but that had already been taken down before we moved. Now there was just a pillar with the names of the local officials (epals) and a sign that declared it was illegal to park in that spot.

Our grandparents’ house was pretty big back then – there were three families of relatives living there (counting ours) and as mentioned we also had a sari-sari store that catered to neighbors. More than a decade ago the family decided to sell it off and move to separate houses. It had since been replaced by a set of three townhouses, the usual size for residential areas nowadays. The townhouse gates were right against the street with no room to sit outside the gate or anything. I remembered our old house had a small area in front where we could stand around and watch cars pass by, plus a small elevated platform to the side where we often sat as kids. That was just outside our very low security gate (By the time I was twelve I could reach over the gate and open it from the other side)

The neighboring house on the right side was also gone, replaced by townhouses as well. That house – compound, really – used to be lived in by this guy who drove a blue jeepney. I never knew that family’s name but more than once I had ridden in that jeepney and the driver recognized me and insisted that I didn’t have to pay. Sometimes at night when the jeepney was parked outside their house we would sit inside the jeepney, sometimes at the driver’s seat pretending to drive.

I walked a bit past where the house used to be and saw the neighbor’s gate on the other side – I think it was still the same neighbor. I couldn’t be too sure since my memories are a bit hazy and I wasn’t really familiar with our neighbors but it looked like most of the houses down that part had stayed the same. I turned back for the fork.

Across the street from where the house used to be, I remembered there being a wide house with two gates. During the times when there were often power failures in our area, we were always envious of that house across the street because they always had power whenever we lost ours. That house was no longer there either, replaced with a smaller townhouse and a larger four or five story building.

I had back up the street and down the main road in front of the Mercury Drug and cross back to where the taxi had dropped me off. That side had a different set of shops that I remember, but there was still that small hole-in-the-wall barbershop where my dad would take us for haircuts. Our favorite barber was this small guy who was always smiling but I don’t even remember his name right now.

I looked back to the other side of the street and saw the police station a few meters away from the Mercury Drug. That police station used to be a small and simple one-story affair. Now it was a well-polished two-story building and it had what looked like new police cars parked just outside. There used to be a small side street beside the police station which led between the houses back to the fork in the road, and when we were kids we often went down that pass as a “shortcut”. I don’t think it was ever really faster to take that route but as a kid you often found enjoyment in just passing down a different route.

I walked a few meters away from the Mercury Drug towards the next corner. On that corner there used to be a shop that would rent out betamax and VHS movies. They also had Family Computers for rent that my brother and I would sometimes play at on weekends. Even though we had a NES at home, that shop had games we didn’t have and I had my first encounter with a romhack here (though I didn’t know it at the time) when we played a cartridge that claimed to be Super Mario Brothers 4. The shop was no longer there, I believe it had closed up years before we moved. The corner was now occupied by a small carinderia but with the same name as the old shop. probably owned by the same people.

I thought about walking a bit farther down the road because I knew the bakery was still there. It was an old bakery, as far as I can tell it had been there for more than thirty years now, surely nothing to scoff at. We used to buy pandesal there in the mornings for as long as I could remember. I thought about buying some right then and there just for nostalgia sake but as I recalled their best pandesal was when you bought it at five in the morning.

By that point I was satisfied with my unscheduled trip down memory lane. I stood there for a few minutes trying to see if I could get a jeepney ride, but the jeepneys running the route I had to take where all full despite the late hour – that hasn’t changed in more than a decade. Eventually I gave up and just hailed another cab. We drove away back towards the present, leaving the past behind