Pain

Almost six years ago, I had to undergo minor surgery and had to endure the pain of being administered spinal anesthesia. I was reminded of this recently because a loved one with an even lower pain tolerance than I did recently had to undergo a similar procedure

I have a pretty low tolerance for pain myself. I tried to spin it a bit positively in the blog post linked above, but there’s no question many times during the procedure I felt miserable and in lots of pain. Even just the process of being put on a dextrose was pretty uncomfortable for me, and laying there on the operating table hunched in a fetal position waiting to be administered spinal anesthesia was far worse. I even had to undergo anesthesia twice because I went back into the OR after some complications!

As I’ve written before, one of the worst things is the mental anticipation of pain. Those few moments waiting for the inevitable pinprick that will start an avalanche of pain. There’s a balance you have to strike between bracing yourself for the pain that you know is coming and not letting your fear of the coming pain somehow amplify it

For things like spinal anesthesia, or dextrose being hooked up, or blood samples being taken from your arm, you just have to pretty much grin and bear it. If you can’t avoid these scenarios you might as well just get through with it as quickly as possible. That’s why for medical problems, I prefer just doing what needs to be done, even if it means some measure of pain and discomfort. It’s better than letting discomfort linger and possibly reoccur and become more complicated

Prior to that operation, the most pain I’ve experienced was a toothache back in 2004. (Apparently I write about pain a lot). Toothaches are also pretty bad because unlike the pinpricks described above, they’re continuous pain. I only wanted to mention this part because I remembered that my dentist happened to read the blog post linked in this paragraph and gave me a frowny face over email when she read about me complaining of the pain haha

I look forward to the day that medical science advances quickly enough that pain relief is fast, easy, and painless, though that may take a while: apparently we don’t even completely understand how anesthesia works, we’re just glad that it does. Until then, we just grit our teeth and think happy thoughts and power through the pain

 

Internet History

No, not that kind of history, don’t worry.

Twenty-five years ago this month, the first website went up on the world wide web. That was 1991. It took a few years for the Philippines to catch on, the first internet connection in the country was only set up in 1994.

My personal experience with the internet came a bit later, during our freshman year in University, sometime in the schoolyear 1995-1996. Around that time a couple of friends and I would walk out to this computer shop along Katipunan avenue that had internet access. Computer shops weren’t prolific back then, and most of them offered only document editing and printing services. They didn’t even have LAN gaming back then, as DOOM had only come out the year before and Starcraft was just a gleam in Blizzard’s eye. This particular computer shop we trekked to had 2-3 terminals with internet access, which at that time we mostly used to browse anime-related websites and fanfiction (RIP Anime Web Turnpike)

Internet usage grew quickly in the succeeding years. A couple of friends got internet connections first. One of them lived near the University so a bunch of us happened to hang out there often, not just for internet access but also to read manga and watch anime. We jokingly referred to his house as “the Entertainment Capital of UP Village”

I forget when we got our own internet connection at home. I don’t even remember the provider we used. We stuck with one of the monthly plans for a while, but also went through a period of trying out prepaid internet access plans (RIP ISP Bonanza) and sometimes even hacking a free email service to also give me internet access (RIP Edsamail). It was the days of dial-up modems and beeping sounds, when piracy consisted of arcane commands issued in dark IRC channels. (The first time I got pirated music wasn’t off the internet however – for some reason I had gotten an MP3 of Oasis’ Wonder Wall on floppy disks. Yes, multiple disks).

Aside from the piracy and the fanfiction, the internet was a treasure trove of information. I quickly learned the usual web development skills – HTML and CSS were relatively easy, and I had a geocities website set up back in the day, a strange green-text-on-black-background kind of thing (I was never particularly good at web design). My email address for most of the university years was a Yahoo one (RIP Yahoo 2016), which I often used to join discussion groups on various geeky topics like video games and anime and what not – these days we have reddit for that.

Today, internet in the Philippines has come a long way and is a big part of daily life for most people. There’s still a lot of improvement to go – broadband here is still very expensive and very slow compared to other countries and there is no real competition yet, something hopefully to be solved soon.

What was your first encounter with the internet?

Ice Candy

I read an article recently about how we should encourage entrepreneurial spirit in kids from a very young age. It made think of a time when we were kids and we tried running a business

It was a summer from years ago. Perhaps 1988 or 1989, or maybe a year or two earlier, I can’t be sure. I was young, my brother was younger by a few years, my female cousin older by a few years. Back then our families live under the same roof, my grandfather’s house

We needed something to keep us occupied during the summer. We probably already had a Nintendo around this time, but my brother and I were only allowed one hour of video games a day, so we needed something else to fill the time. I think it was my mother who suggested we run a small business over the summer, sell some food things to people

Our house had a sari-sari store. Sari-sari stores are like small family-owned convenience stores in the Philippines, often run out of the house directly, with the storefront little more than holes in the wall that make up the house’s facade. The one in our house had one small window and one large window, each covered by rusty metal bars half a foot apart. It sold soft drinks (cokes and sprites and whatnot), beer to the local tambays, small bags of chips (Chippy, Clover Chips, Tortillos, etc), small chocolates and packs of nuts and such. As kids we spent a lot of free time at the store, especially when the parents were away. After my grandfather died, the store was taken over by a beloved family friend who had been living with us forever. She often indulged us kids our whimsies, which often meant our parents came home to find out they now owed a bunch more pesos to the store. That summer, we had decided to sell ice candy to the people in the neighborhood through the store

You could be forgiven for not knowing what ice candy was, at least if you didn’t live in the Philippines. It’s a treat made out of frozen flavored water, usually in a long plastic bag that gives it an elongated shape. In the US, they might be called “freeze pops”

My parents gave us some “seed money” (and I suppose my uncle gave my cousin some as well). I think my brother and I would have a separate stock from our cousin, but we would both be selling in the same store. We went to the nearby grocery store and bought the materials we’d need: some powdered flavoring and packs of small plastic tubes. When we got home, our mother showed us how to prepare the ice candy. We would mix the flavoring (I think we used orange flavoring. I liked orange back then) in some water, then pour the flavored water into the plastic tubes and tie a knot in the end to seal them. Then we would leave the tubes in the freezer overnight, and we would sell them the next day

I remember them being a hit, especially with the neighborhood kids. We sold them for I think a peso each, or maybe a peso and fifty centavos. (Things were simple and cheap back then.) I think my cousin used slightly larger plastic tubes and sold her ice candies for a bit more. In theory, we would then reinvest the day’s income into more flavoring and plastic tubes for the next day, but I think it turned out that our parents just gave us more money for the next day’s materials. So perhaps it was less of capitalism and more of “here’s a fun way to earn allowance during the summer”

I specifically remember my younger brother enjoying the business and dreaming of making it big as a businessman. His imagined future business was still ice candy. He imagined having an ice candy empire well-known throughout the land, with rich and famous personalities such as the president coming to his stores to buy ice candy. So maybe the exercise did manage to impart a little bit of entrepreneurial spirit to us after all

I remember at the end of that summer, we were happy with the amount of money we had earned, and we talked about doing it again the next summer. But we never did

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

Cheetergarmi

When I was growing up, our mom would make this sandwich spread concoction that was a mix of cheese, butter, sugar and milk. I loved it, and when my mom told young me what the ingredients are I quickly gave it the name “Cheetergarmi” (I’m sure you can figure it out). She still occasionally makes some for us to this day, just had some for a midnight snack!

Also, I pretty much wrote this post so that I could have a Google search term that returns a single hit to a blog post of mine.

The Earth is Flat

Random memory for the day:

I remember watching the Superfriends TV series when I was a little kid, and every time Superman would fly off into space, there’d be a shot of the earth as a globe, with Superman flying out from the northern hemisphere. As a stupid kid, I thought to myself, “I wonder why the earth is shown as an oblate spheroid? When I go out with my parents it was obviously flat.” (Paraphrasing a bit since when I was a kid I did not know the term “oblate spheroid”)

I have always had a curious  scientific mind of course, and I was able to come up with the only possible rational explanation: The upper half of the sphere must be the atmosphere, and the surface of the world must be inside the sphere on a plane near the equator. That would explain why Superman always flies up from the upper half of the sphere!

It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time.


(I was thinking of making a mock-up drawing of the above hypothesis and claiming that I drew it when I was four. But Ubuntu doesn’t seem to have any simple “Paint” application installed…)