Yearly Archives: 2004

Christmas of 2004

I usually prefer my holidays to be times of rest. Times to be free from work and stress, to indulge in things I like to do. I’ve just realized that Christmas is a rather stressful season.

For one thing, there’s the multitude of Christmas gatherings one has to attend. With family. With relatives. With friends. With friends of family. With coworkers. With coworkers who are friends. It’s not that I don’t enjoy myself at these gatherings mind you. In fact, lately I’ve found myself enjoying the company of other people more. It’s just that I’m not yet an entirely social person, and too many social gatherings too soon somewhat stretches the limits of my comfort zone.

Christmas is stressful. Everyone is busy, busy, busy. Going from place to place apparently, as the traffic has been horrible lately, with jams stretching well into the early morning.

Speaking of early morning, I left work close to midnight last night. We’ve been in crunch mode for the past two weeks or so, what with multiple deadlines coming up in January. Not that I can’t handle of course. But it doesn’t help that every other developer in one of my projects is going to be on vacation next week. Since I’ve had to run on pure genius these past few days, and as side effect, I was often more loud, sarcastic and smarmy than usual. To anyone who was annoyed by this, I apologize.

And the highlight of my last day of work before Christmas? Sometime before dinner I wrote a love letter and sent it by email to her. Nothing much, just telling her some things I wanted her to know, and greeting her for the holidays and stuff. I wasn’t expecting anything back, but I guess I got lucky. A few minutes before I left the office, I got a jabber message from her. To paraphrase:

  her: boo!
her: thanks for the lovely letter :)
me: I'm glad you liked it. my christmas is complete :)

There was more of course, a small exchange of pleasantries and even more holiday greetings. But I got that warm, fuzzy feeling again. Maybe Christmas this year wasn’t so bad after all. =)

Happy Holidays!

Excel problem

The Christmas season has been hellacious. Deadlines to catch up with at the start of the next year meant crunch time for most of the past two weeks. So, for my first blog post on my first rest day in a while, I’ll bring home some work.

I have a problem with Excel. I’m writing a web app that generates HTML files which are exported to Excel. In most cases, it’s easy, I just follow the template generated by using Excel->File->Save As->HTML

However, I’ve encountered a problem. One of my reports needs to show two tables side-by-side in Excel, but I have to generate the rows for each table independently (i.e. from separate SQL queries). My first thought was to use tables-within-a-table in the HTML source, but it seems that Excel loses the column widths (i.e., the column widths change from what I’ve set them to before) when I try to create a new table inside one of the existing s

I need to preserve the widths of the columns outside the inner table. Any idea how this can be done? Or maybe someone can point me to online resources that might help?

Unfortunately, this has been sort of a low-pri task for me, so I haven’t had much time to check it out; but the deadline is creeping up on me fast. I’ve posted on some forums and asked around, but no positive responses so far. Any assistance is appreciated.

Mighty Forest Ranger Taxi Driver

Evil illegal loggers have been in the news lately, mainly due to their being blamed as scapegoats for the rash of flooding during the last two typhoons that left hundreds, maybe thousands, dead in their wake and strewing devastation upon this blighted land. I’m not here to talk about whether the loggers are indeed to blame, or how it’s silly for the government to try to implement a total log ban when they can’t even implement a selective log ban, or how chances are everyone important will forget about this in, say a month tops, while the victims continue their struggle to recover even a fraction of their once-normal lives. No, these topics have already been covered to death in serious newspaper editorials and columns. And possible internet discussions in Pinoy-bloggerland, I don’t know, I’m not particularly familiar with that scene.

No, as always, I prefer to attack this from a more personal angle. And like some of my more interesting stories, this one is about a taxi driver.

He was a bit old, and his first few attempts at conversation were annoying at best. Later, toward the end of the trip, we glimpsed one of the day’s headlines on some tabloid. Something about the government wanting to implement a total log ban. He goes on to say that’s an impossible thing, they’d never be able to implement it.

Turns out he worked for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for some fifteen-odd years. As a forest ranger. Wow.

Now of course, as someone who indulges often in the fantasy genre, my idea of ‘Forest Rangers’ is closely associated either Aragorn from Lord of the Rings, or someone who likes to stop bears from stealing picnic baskets. This guy leaned more towards the latter.

Based on his stories, it seems like the news articles detailing the lack of manpower at the DENR are accurate. He says forest rangers were often assigned to guard or patrol some forty hectares of land. Or maybe it was four hectares, I forget — I had this conversation more than three days ago. In any case, I have no idea how large a hectare is anyway. But from his narratives it seemed like the area assigned to them was far too much for one man to cover. Add to that the fact that he and his co-rangers were often harassed by Communist rebels that are supposedly in bed with the illegal loggers, and life was really difficult for them back then. It was a much easier life to just while away your day slacking or goofing off, rather than risk your own life to try to catch some illegal loggers who would probably get off the hook easily anyway.

He told about treestampers. Or something like that. Basically, people whose job it is to mark trees to indicate which ones are okay for cutting by which company. Or something. Forgive me; I’m really hazy on the details, maybe because I’m sleepy. Anyway, apparently a lot of these treestampers have lifestyles far beyond their income. When the bribe money comes in, it’s a race to mark trees, with no regard for the tree’s age or species or location or whatnot.

I’m not sure what I have to say about this, I just thought the hearsay I got from him would be interesting to relate. I’m not exactly a radical environmentalist. As a friend of mine once said, “Trees? What have they ever done for me?” I’m a city dude, born and bred, so I seldom worry about such things, it’s not really part of my thinking. And I don’t really think I can judge people who live on a small government subsidy and have to do what they can to get a decent living. Hey, we’re all just out to make some scratch, right? Except that the living some of these guys make may have cost countless lives and destruction of property. Sadly, I think this is just part of the general malaise that plagues our society. Resources are scarce, so the less fortunate among us are forged to scrounge around for whatever we can, the law and the environment be damned. Of course, it doesn’t help that the rest of the country only gives a damn shortly after a tragedy happens. Will we ever learn?

I Get Bored Easily

And that explains why this blog’s layout has changed again.

I would have posted this (and some other stuff) earlier, but I was in AN ETERNITY OF PAIN for the past two and a half hours. I would like to take this time to berate my stupid, stupid impacted molar, and the stupid, stupid painkillers that took over two hours to kick in. Along with my stupid, stupid thyroid gland, which, because of hyperthyroidism, prevents me from having dental surgery on this sucker.

I will also thank God profusely for releasing me from this ETERNITY OF PAIN. It’s times like these I am glad I believe in a deity from whom I can request deliverance.

Did I mention how painful it was? All the way to my left ear, damnit.

Team Sealed!


Mike: I thought you were broke?
Me: That’s just a lie I tell people who ask me for money.


I forgot to talk about this. We played

Champions of Kamigawa

Team Sealed a couple of weekends back. For the uninitiated, ChK is a Magic:the Gathering set, and Team Sealed is our favorite limited format! I think it’s mostly because if we lose, I can blame my teammates for screwing up, unlike in regular tournaments where it really is my fault. :p And if we win? Free cards!

Of course, we didn’t win. I’d like to say it was primarily because of a bad set of cards we got (I think we were the only team that didn’t get a Honden or two…), but we really made a lot of mistakes. Of well, it was a learning experience. An expensive one.

A New Dawn May Rise

A new hand has been dealt, the game has changed but the stakes remain the same. Fate tempts me with its’ winds of change, and what once was thought lost forever may once again be within reach. This time I tread carefully however, as my recklessness may once again be the bane of my quest. Hold my hands close to my chest, bide my time, and see what the fates have in store for our hero…

Requiem

Sir Alexander Alix, quintessential Pisay trigo and calculus teacher, passed away recently due to cirrhosis of the liver. There’s a service for him at Pisay tomorrow, Dec. 3, Friday. Since I doubt I can go, I’ll say my piece here.

Alix was a helluva guy. Friendly and gets well with the students. And he gave high grades. Seriously. He gave me flat 1.0s (highest possible grade) for all four quarters of fourth year math. Now, not to brag, when I was in high school, math was my thing. Seriously, I could breeze through my high school math classes in my sleep. And few of my batch mates will contradict me when I say I was one of the best, if not the best in math in our batch. (That last part is debatable, some people might contest it. :p) The point of this is not me bragging, since I do that often, it’s nothing special. No, the point is that I seldom took math period seriously. I often spent math class doodling something in my notebooks, at least on those occasions that I had a pen.

On one such math class, Alix caught me and a classmate (you know who you are…) passing around a hand-drawn comic strip in class. (During my high school days, I often spent my free energy drawing such small strips about classroom happenings, particularly in the second year. Alas, none of the aforementioned high-school artworks have survived. But I digress.) I got a severe tongue-lashing for that one, something along the lines of “No matter how good you are at math, you can’t just goof off in class.” I felt quite bad about the incident, not only because I got to eat some humble pie in front of the class, but mostly because I felt like I had disappointed the guy. It’s not that I don’t goof off in other classes, I certainly do; but I felt that Alix expected more of me, since for some reason he believed me to be a good student. I didn’t have the nerve to respond or apologize to him about this, I just took my tongue-lashing in silence. I wish I had told him I was sorry. I realize this is such a small, trivial matter, but God knows I like to obsess over small, trivial matters.

In any case, cheers to you sir Alix, wherever you may be. I don’t spend much time with the other alumni, but over the past few days, I’ve seen the news of your passing spread through the online Pisay alumni community quickly, and many are planning to be there Friday. Rest well, sir Alix, and know that your students look back at you fondly.

The Waste Lands – Found

I went to the dentist yesterday (irrelevant), and at National Bookstore Shangri-la, I found a copy of The Waste Lands, a day after I blogged about looking for it! They also had a copy of the fourth book Wizard and Glass, but I only had enough cash for one.

On a website note, if you’ll notice, I added entries from my del.icio.us account to the blog. It’s done using the excellent Feed2JS tool. It’s cool. Check it out.

I Like To Read

Really. I’ll read most anything. Books, comics, magazines, newspapers, leaflets, articles, essays. Well, anything well-written at least. When I first got access to the Internet, I was overjoyed. “Wow! Lots of stuff to read!” And I read a lot online. I started mostly with anime fanfiction, but pretty soon I enjoyed reading discussions on mailing-lists, message boards, news sites, etc. The internet is a treasure trove for one who always strives for information. But I digress, this post is not about the wondrous internet.

It’s about the fact that I like to read. In particular, I like to read books. In fact, I thought about posting something like this because I was looking for a particular book. Specifically, the Wastelands, third book of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. And I don’t want just any copy, I want a copy in the same series as the first two books I already have. I’ve looked through several National Bookstore branches already, but have yet to find one. I know they used to have a copy at the SM North Edsa branch, since that’s where I bought the second book Drawing of the Three. However, I can’t find it there; it seems that branch is under renovation, maybe I’m just too confused at the change in layout. The salespeople don’t seem to be much help either. “Stephen King? Try the horror section.” That would be great except Dark Tower is not a horror series!

But I digress again. Back to the topic. I like to read. I like to read books. The internet sort of changed that. After I first got internet access, I seldom read books for a period of time, meaning most of my college years. In fact, I think the only series of books I was able to follow during my college years was Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series. (Short review? Started out okay, then got silly, then got annoying. Serious milking cow.)

After I started working, I had a source of income. (Wow, what a deep and non-obvious statement!) Given this, I was able to start reading again, not only by borrowing from friends (Hi Dave, Mike!), but this time I was able to buy the occasional book myself. So I’ve been trying to catch up. Sadly, I think the years of reading lots of stuff online has tarnished my reading skills. I still read far, far quicker than most people, but it takes me ages to finish a single book. nowadays. I’m currently reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods; I started about a week agao, but I’m not even a fifth of the way in! It’s not that it’s a bad book, it’s okay, in Gaiman’s usual way, but I think it’s because there are a lot more distractions in my life nowadays (work, love or lack of it, video games, blogging); When I was young I was able to read a lot because whenever I had free time I would curl up with a good book. These days however, I find that whatever free time I have, I prefer to spend it in quiet muni-muni instead of having to use my brainpower to go through a potentially difficult book (thanks, Cryptonomicon!)

I also want to read more non-fiction, autobiographies and stuff. But I find that such books are usually more expensive than normal paperback novels, and I don’t know who I can borrow such from.

Anyway, what’s the point of this post? I like to read. And I want to read more. That is all.

Radiohead, Copyright and Popular Music

Interesting story about a guy who had to shell out 350 dollars to quote Radiohead lyrics in his book. Even though he was able to quote from many other bands, books, and even a separate Radiohead album for free. Even he had personally met the band before, and had freely let them quote his own works in their concerts. Gives a good idea of how fucked-up the worldwide copyright system is. And reminds me why I prefer to just ignore the whole corporate copyright system. (Never mind that it’s quite convenient to do so.)

On that note, I wonder if local band Parokya ni Edgar had to cough up for their parody of Radiohead’s “Creep” (I forget what the actual Parokya track title was.)

Apparently, even posting song lyrics online is illegal, btw. Or at least according to copyright lawyers. I’d think that the band Radiohead itself wouldn’t mind these things which supposedly infringe on their copyrights, but of course, the corporate structure which they play under would not stand for it. Maybe the world would be far better off if copyright protections were limited to individuals and not corporations? In the modern-day world of the internet, there’s really no need for large recording companies any more, they are just large dinosaurs who refuse to admit the coming ice age.

Actually, now that I think about it, I have seldom actually paid for music before. When I was in HS, I sometimes (rarely) bought cassettes. As for CDs (audio CDs I mean), I have never bought any audio CDs, pirated or otherwise. Most of the time, I would indulge myself by listening to FM radio or music videos. The downside of this, of course, was that my musical selection was limited to what the big recording companies deemed important enough to promote.

These days, with MP3s, my selection is a lot more varied, since I get to pick and sample more music via P2P downloading. I don’t even listen to radio anymore, at least not intentionally. I pick up new songs by hearing about them from friends or over the internet. Whenever I’m listening to a new band, I never know if they’re popular or not. I recently started to enjoy Dashboard Confessional; I liked Vindicated when I first heard the Spiderman 2 OST. I didn’t need the confirmation of public radio (which came about two weeks after I got my hands on 3 full DC albums) to know I liked the song, and the band. My playlist these days is mostly populated by Dashboard Confessional, Matchbox Twenty, Gin Blossoms, Switchfoot, Rivermaya, Sponge Cola, Sugarfree, Bamboo, Maroon 5, Counting Crows, Better Than Ezra, Live, Coldplay, Lifehouse etc. Not exactly on the leading edge of popular music, but at least I picked up thse bands by myself without relying on recording companies jamming them down my throat.

This rambling post was brought to you by the letter N.