Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holiday Gloom..

Today is officially the first day of December which means the Holiday season is almost at the corner. Years from now, I would have been overly excited with the approaching Christmas and New Year celebrations, not just because of the long school break coupling the said season but because of the general hype almost everybody exert over the Holidays. There is something about the Christmas spirit that made me want to sing and dance with joy years back.

I remember how Filipino Christmas traditions made me feel elated. One Christmas song played in the radio was enough to ignite my holiday excitement. I used to look forward to the Christmas hangings and decorations on different major thoroughfares and malls. Now, however, (I don’t exactly remember when I started to lose interest) Christmas is somehow another holiday for me. I guess it comes with age in my case, but I cannot generalize really for all because I still observe adults my age and above who get excited sincerely with the Christmas season (otherwise they are damn good actors).

Not that I hate Christmas (I consistently remain to be a fan of whatever Holiday there is), I just do not feel the excitement I used to feel before anymore whenever Christmas season is confronting me head on. Somehow it makes me sad. I do not really understand why. Maybe the Christmas spirit is inversely related with age. I think one’s happiness and excitement are high up when one still enjoys the benefit of cute and tolerable ignorance (or innocence, whichever); when one still believes that reindeers and Santa Claus exist; when one waits hopefully every Christmas morning with the firm belief that Santa with his reindeers had already placed a present inside one’s Christmas sock.

I am not sure if it is the same for everybody but the realization is gradual. Maybe for some, the bubble just pop one time big time when they saw their fathers placing presents inside their Christmas socks or some inconsiderate adult or a know-it-all playmate who learned ahead that fairies and such do not exist disclose the truth about the greatest tale humankind invented for their ‘youngs’. Since it is gradual, I do not have a precise recollection when and what made me start to no longer believe. Just like many things in life, age ruined it all for me. Should I had my own way with things I would have remained innocent and choose to still believe in all Christmas myths. Some may not choose the same should they be given the chance, but for all I care, I simply want to again experience the incomparable joy and excitement brought by Christmas I used to feel when I was still a kid and life is definitely uncomplicated.

Danjun Lucas, Blog Entry #1

FB-BF fight

Because of sex, my fiancé and I almost fought today.

Well, not exactly because of sex. Rather, because of a post by a girl on his facebook wall pertaining to it.

I am a loyal follower of his facebook wall. Whenever logged in, I never fail to steal a glance at his profile and wall. And my physiological and emotional reactions have always been the same: intoxicated smile, mesmerized eyes, thrilled bones and captivated mind.

Except today.

Shocked, nervous and scared, I sent him a text message asking about the post and the girl who had posted it. He explained that she had been a student in the field trip hosted and toured by him and his cousin in Camiguin and disclaimed any connection with her, besides being his facebook and friendster friend. He also related an incident wherein his cousin's girlfriend had a fight with the girl because the latter kept on posting “improper” messages on his cousin's account. In short, the girl is not one who is to be taken seriously.

So I calmed down. I believed him, of course. After all, he is my fiancé. We did not build 7 months of being engaged, 7 months of being boyfriend-girlfriend, and 8 years of being friends just to be destroyed by a single facebook post.

But the part of it that struck me is the facility that technology offered in disturbing relationships and ruining reputations. They are already easy without facebook or other social networking sites; these advancements even made them easier.

It is easier because all you need to do is conjure up an imaginative picture, summon a devilish spirit and then hit the post or send button. Then you distress the persons sharing a relationship. It is easier because it is faster – with one click, you create a disturbance. Finally, it is easier because it reaches far and wide. You can tell the whole world, and instantly, reputations built over the years, worked hard for, are stained.

Well, I guess even wrongdoings have to evolve with the times, too. These kinds of wrongs have been done in the past; they just take different forms as society changes. The means by which they are committed also adapt. Many things have been made easier and faster for us by technology, and the way people commit wrongs cannot be insulated from that effect.

In the end, my fiance chose to remedy the situation by availing of the easy solution afforded by the same technology: delete and block.

Diana Lutgarda P. Bonilla, Entry # 1


Ingenuity is something Filipinos will never run out of, even in this day of computers – but not always for the right reasons. Recall Ramores and De Guzman – infamous computer programming students who successfully generated the ILoveYou worm, travelling across the globe from downtown Manila to the British Parliament, Wall Street, even the impenetrable CIA, and spawning some $5.5 billion in 2000, in just one day. Apparently, Bill Gates and his team of brainiacs failed to anticipate the lethal ramifications of leaving the scripting engine system setting by default enabled in Microsoft. Nosebleed.

If you ask me, the genius is in the execution. It would not have multiplied in light speed if it weren’t for the fact that everyone just really wants some la la la love. CIA spies included.

With no cybercrime laws then, all charges of malicious mischief and Rep. Act No. 8484 (although mainly for credit card fraud) were dropped. Two months later, the e-commerce law was enacted. Too bad, nullum crimen sine lege. Some randomly googled blog says that De Guzman never admitted to releasing the bug intentionally but that it was hacked from his home computer.

Ah yes, hacking. Three days ago, four Filipinos (not the love virus architects) hit the newsstand as hackers perpetrating remote toll fraud in New York company AT&T. Toll fraud is basically the unauthorized use of one’s phone lines to make long distance calls and charged to the owner.

So back in Manila, the hackers secured access to the operating systems of AT&T clients, using them to call telephone numbers, transferring the revenues to the four suspects. Interestingly, no less than the FBI has been tracking the hacking team since 2009.

Why all the trouble? It seems that toll fraud is prevalent, cannot be completely averted, and causes damages of over $4 billion annually in the US alone. The scheme is quite simple: sell stolen calls. And being immensely lucrative, it is being used by organized crime, drug dealers, and terrorists! Reports say they hackers were working with the Jemaah Islamiyah, a terrorist group allied with Al Qaeda, who were responsible for Bali bombings, and that the scheme already cost $2 million. Another unfortunate original.

Mary Rhauline dG. Lambino, Entry No. 1


There was a winner in the NBA lockout.

NBA Commissioner David Stern? Nope. NBA Players’ Association Executive Director Billy Hunter? No. Michael Jordan, owner of the cash-strapped Charlotte Bobcats? No way. Besiktas (the Turkish team that signed All-Star point guard Deron Williams)? Maybe in Turkey, but no. The Chinese? Sure, they get to watch unpredictable guard JR Smith, but no.

The victor is the Internet. And by default, that means its users too.

The information superhighway may in the future influence the dynamics of collective bargaining in the NBA. In fact, it may already have done so. When the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expired between the NBA and the players, the NBA forbid owners and players from exercising their right to free speech in online social networking sites with anything lockout-related. Clearly, this is in recognition of the immense power of the Internet in amplifying emotions among the lockout participants, emotions that could impact the progress of the CBA negotiations. Of course, this rule may have been instituted so as not to compromise the integrity of the negotiations and keep out unwanted intrusion by outside forces.

But for the clueless NBA fan (and ‘apathetic’ NBA players), the information superhighway stood out as a beacon in all the madness.

The public could never have participated in the closed-door meetings held between the owners and players’ union to sort out their vast differences regarding a new CBA, but thanks to the countless perspicacious NBA observers and reporters, the concerned NBA fan seemed just outside the door of the conference room. Websites such as Yahoo! Sports and ESPN provided not only topnotch updates and perspectives on the continuing saga on the negotiating table, but also forums for fans to let their sentiments be heard. By using the Internet to express varying levels of frustration or vituperation, concerned NBA fans can at least claim that they too have a right to be a part of a supposed ‘collective’ agreement. While a new and acceptable CBA was being crafted and deliberated upon within the confines of hotel rooms, a new narrative was being created throughout the Internet: no matter how the lockout would develop, the fans must ultimately take part in the NBA labor relations. The scope of such participation has yet to be decided, though it truly cannot be denied anymore.

For now, if everything goes as planned, time to participate in watching league MVP Derrick Rose and the Bulls face five-time champion Kobe Bryant and the Lakers this December 25.

Aldan S. Avila, Entry No. 1

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Zuckerberg admits Facebook mistakes; NBA returns on Christmas Day

ICT stuff. Facebook and the Federal Trade Commission have reached a settlement over consumer deception charges dating back to 2009. The commission claimed that the social networking giant made public information it promised to keep private, thanks to changes in site terms. According to the terms of the deal, user feedback will be required before the site makes changes to policies for sharing data. Mark Zuckerberg addressed his company's on-going privacy issues, admitting to "a bunch of mistakes" and assured users that Facebook is making a "clear and formal long-term commitment" to privacy tools. (source: The New York Times)


One-shot. Hoop fans couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present. The NBA lockout is finally over and the season opens on Christmas Day. As my buddy Earl puts it, “there is a Santa.” And if David Stern wants to mitigate the damage to his legacy caused by the protracted lockout, then he’ll keep the NBA’s original Christmas Day schedule and open the season where we left off last June: Mavs vs. Heat. 

Actually, I had always wanted a later start to the 2011-2012 season, being among those who think that a shortened season would help veterans like Tim Duncan (and, unfortunately, Kobe as well). While it’s highly unlikely, there's nothing more I'd rather see than the greatest power forward ever winning a 5th title. Yet my initial excitement was quickly tempered when I learned that there would be no hard salary cap in the new CBA. And after reading this article by ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, the excitement turned into disappointment. See, I’m one of those old school guys who’d rather see superstars go head-to-head rather than play side-by-side. Needless to say, I was extremely turned off by LeBron’s decision and was among those who loathed the Miami Heat. Anyway, the basic premise behind a hard cap is to level the playing field between small and big market teams by placing a predetermined limit as to how much each team can spend for players' salaries. In other words, it’s all about parity. Having three superstars team up means you’ll have one elite team (Miami) at the expense of two mediocre ones (Cleveland and Toronto). Given the way things are going—with persistent rumors of Chris Paul wanting to join Melo and Amare in NY—it is not inconceivable that in 5 years’ time there will only be 6 competitive teams. Never a good thing for sports where the underlying principle should always be competition. I really thought the owners would take a tougher stand on this since I assumed that they would naturally want to protect their own interests. But at the end of the day, I guess it’s all about the money. The owners got their 50-50 split of the BRI and that’s all that mattered, disparity and the possibility of getting screwed a la Cleveland notwithstanding.

Francis Paolo Tiopianco, Entry #1

Manny Pacquiao is Married to Miguel Cotto: Don't Be Fooled

When I gave my students an assignment a couple of weeks ago, I gave them these instructions:

Instructions: Define the terms given below. Use references OTHER than the PRESCRIBED TEXTBOOK and WORKBOOK. Reference to books written by local authors is highly encouraged. Internet references are acceptable, but refrain from referring to blogs, online dictionaries, Yahoo! Answers, Wikipedia, and/or the like. Find more authoritative online references. Cite your sources on the spaces provided.

The stats on how many students actually followed my guidelines would make an interesting topic, indeed (ie. The unexplained compulsion of youth nowadays to not get simple directions). However, I would rather talk about why I discourage online sources for schoolwork. I wanted to encourage my students to veer away (for a minute) from their laptops, go to a library, pick up a book, and for a change, read through a more reliable and credible source.

I am of the opinion that I can rely on information I would get from books and news articles more than I could on something I just stumbled upon on the internet. There is a certain authenticity to the information I see and read “in the original”. Decent research work, for me, is done with more time in the library rather than in front of my PC.

Sadly, library work, save, of course, for our class (thank goodness), is a dying art. Students tend to settle for information on the internet, rather than being inconvenienced by seeking for additional sources elsewhere. Even if a school library is accessibly situated within any campus, sitting at home in front of the PC has increasingly become more convenient to kids nowadays. Don’t get me wrong, though. I also have benefitted from getting to places and increasing my knowledge with just one click. I have gotten many papers done by just browsing through several sites and using them as references. All I want my students to understand is that researching online will demand an ability from them—discernment—something that has seemingly become uncommon. They should be able to recognize or distinguish information which is truthful from those which are disguised as the truth but are actually fabrications.

Case in point:

We all know she is very much capable of looking like him, thanks to “science”, but Jinkee’s ability to morph into Miguel Cotto is beside the point. As Filipinos, we know that this is a joke. Others, however, who are unfamiliar with these things, might take this seriously. Who does not know, Pacquiao, you say? Well, true, but with billions of seemingly smart people on the face of the earth, someone is bound to be fooled by this.

I concede that not all information online is fabricated. But not all of it is truthful as well. When I asked my students to define what “capitalist” and “industrial” partners are, I simply wanted a definition from an actual book. Not even an e-book. And if they had no other option but to surf the net, like 90% of my class as it eventually turned out, I simply wanted them to realize that what I’m looking for is an established definition and not a definition by, say, a Yahoo! user, purporting to be an expert on partnerships. Or, worse, a definition they found in a status update on FaceBook from a friend purporting to be a former student of mine.

The internet is a very welcome development. Effective and efficient, hands down. It wouldn’t hurt, though, to go out for a change and get things done outside the virtual world. All I wanted these very tech-savvy kids to understand is that, while you may learn many things from the internet, good and bad, sensational or otherwise, they should take everything with a grain of salt.

Ma. Eliza Christine Gomez, Entry #1

TPO: Terror Process Outsourcing

My concept of hacking was that it was usually a small-scale concept: an individual or a small team tries to break into what should be a secure site, with the purpose of pure personal profit (scamming credit cards, transferring money) or even just mischief and prank-playing. I've also heard of cyberterrorism, such as the hacking into a government's system and trying to bring it down. However, after reading this news article, which was later on reposted in international news services like The Guardian and tech blogs like Gizmodo, I was shocked.

According to the CIDG, they recently arrested four Filipinos here in Metro Manila who were supposedly paid by the same group behind the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. They targeted AT&T, the American telecommunications provider, scamming over $2 million from its trunkline and diverting the money to their backers based in Saudi. While the veracity of this link is not yet established at this point, I still find the news disturbing, even if, on second thought, it is only logical coming from a criminal mind.

It's likely that people engaged in the evils of terrorism would resort to any means necessary to raise money in order to finance their heinous crimes. Call me naive and prejudiced, but I guess the idea of overweight Star Wars fanatics who still live with their parents (I'm not being stereotypical - I fit the criteria myself, but I'm not a computer genius) doesn't seem to be that likely to enter a hotel and start shooting people indiscriminately. But this is what the CIDG is suggesting - these people are purportedly all working for the same international terrorist organization. I guess the reason that terrorists try to keep the low-tech, jungles of Basilan/caves of Afghanistan stereotype is just so that people will continue to underestimate them, until they are able to strike when least expected.

It is scary that such organizations are not only well-organized, but have embraced technology as a means to perpetrate and perpetuate terror, and especially as a means of just raising money in order to do the same. Your terrorists are no longer those holed up in mountains or jungles, making bombs from scratch to blow up in suicide missions. They could be your next-door neighbor, the guy at the internet cafe beside you. And like any profit-oriented multinational corporation, they decide to cut costs by outsourcing their tech support to the Philippines. Given this expansion towards using technology in different countries as means of illegally raising funds, it is possible that coming terror attacks will be larger in scope and damage caused.

In this light, there should probably be stricter anti-cyber crime laws in the Philippines, and perhaps even multilateral treaties to allow prosecution of these international terrorists who have started to embrace technology as well.

Daniel Luis R. Convocar, Entry no. 1.

Black Friday, The SM 3-day Sale and Consumerism

What is it with all these so-called holidays designed to empty the bank accounts and max out the credit cards of everyday hardworking people?

These past few days, the Western media has turned its focus on the long queues in shopping malls and has interviewed weary shoppers carrying large bags of products from laptops, cellphones, ipads as well as the latest in designer wear.  Boyfriends accompanying their girlfriends to the malls were seen slumped on chairs as everyone tried to make sense of the chaos that was termed "Black Friday".  Expectedly, the Philippine media also showed snippets of what went on half-way around the globe as if the ordinary Juan could take advantage of such deals.

I'm not much of a mall rat.  My idea of shopping is going to the closest mall that I am familiar with, buying whatever it is that I have pre-identified as something i need, and getting in and out of the place as fast as I can.  If I stay longer than an hour (usually with a female friend who drags me from shop to shop), you can bet that I would find the most comfortable seat in the mall so I can tinker with my phone and count the seconds to the next burger which serves as my "reward" for being cooperative.

Consumerism is defined as a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts.  It is what encouraged the US government to drop interest rates which led to people buying more than what they already need.  It fans the voracious appetites of people to purchase the latest gadgets and the outfits that celebrities wear.

Here in the Philippines, our version of the "Black Friday Madness" is what we all know as the "SM 3-day Sale."  Coincidentally (or not), last weekend also had the Henry Sy chain of malls attempt to induce Filipinos to permit their savings to take a hit.  Such sale resulted in gridlocks in every part of the Metro as well as the absence of an empty taxi cab anywhere near an SM mall.

Hmm... I wonder how much money these stores make exactly during such spending bonanzas?  It was reported that this year's Black Friday had the American public spend about 52.4 Billion Dollars.  Now, if only I could think of something that would make the public throw one percent of that in my direction...  the UP Law Student Lounge could definitely use a new airconditioner.

Norman Roland E. Ocana III.  Entry #1

Monday, November 28, 2011

Deal or No Deal

Presyong Patok

CashCash Pinoy


I’m a self-confessed frugal person. I always have an eye for great deals and discounts. My family and friends often tease me of being kuripot but I’d rather call myself practical. J Unlike most women my age, I can roam an entire mall for hours and leave without buying anything. I don’t have tons of clothes and shoes which I can only wear once or twice a year. Don’t get me wrong. I also shop once in a while but it has never been impulsive or out of the blue. I only buy things I want AND need at the same time.

Basically, I just want my money’s worth. Period.

Then come the social buying sites. Social buying sites provide bargain deals offered online, leveraging the power of social media. Somehow, Ensogo, Cashcash Pinoy, Metrodeal, Dealdozen, Dealgrocer etc have become common knowledge. Good Lord, my frugality has been tested by these sites. I found myself purchasing vouchers/ coupons one after the other. Come on, tell me, how in the world can one resist?!

Imagine, one can now eat in a buffet and drink a glass of premium wine in a five-star hotel like Sofitel and Circles for half the price! One can already have his dream vacation with airfare, city tours and hotel accommodation all in one package! One can now afford to watch a musical play, lose a fat belly, eat at an expensive restaurant, have whiter underarms, and all the other things anyone can ever imagine! All for a reasonable price!

Note that this is not the typical department store or mall sale promos, because the discounts are really enormous. Sometimes, there are deals going up as high as 90% less the original price.

But come to think of it, these online deals are perfect for generating CREATED NEEDS. In the end, one spends for something which he doesn’t intend to buy in the first place. So is he really saving money?

I really don’t want to sound all preachy here. Bottom line is, whether these deals will work for your benefit or not, it’s totally up to you.

The rules are simple - “live within your means” and “discipline is wisdom and vice versa.”

Angeli I. Serapio. Entry #1


Groupon (a blend of the words “group” and “coupon”) is a deal-of-the-day website featuring discounted vouchers or gift certificates redeemable at various merchants. The Groupon craze began in 2008 in the United States and hit the Philippines in late 2010. I guess it proved to be a success because a lot of similar websites mushroomed. The idea of a group coupon is that, the website offers products and services at insanely discounted prices (seriously, discounts could reach as high as 90% off!) called “deals” and promises the sellers a minimum number of buyers in return. The sites earn by getting a profit sharing with the supplier, depending on the amount of the deal.[1] Usually, the deals are offered for a limited time and sometimes, even for a limited number of buyers only. The deals offered range from vacation packages, home furnishings, restaurant buffets, gadgets, toys, food products, spa services, bags, shoes, language lessons, watches, Christmas lights and a whole gamut of other products and services. These deals are easily purchased via online credit card payment, PayPal and even over-the-counter bank deposits.

I’ve discovered groupons only early this year and since then, I have bought a lot of deals already: a professional haircut, buffet dinners at a famous hotel, a diaper bag for my baby, hotel accommodations, restaurant vouchers, a photo book, and a lot of other stuff given as gifts for friends and family. I was generally satisfied with all of my purchases -- all except with the item I recently bought: a 10-meter warm white LED Christmas lights set. (Yes, I know, why buy online when these items are all over department stores? My answer is: The price! It’s so cheap!). This recent purchase of mine came in a tattered box and there were no safety / quality testing seals on the product! I read in the news that the DTI requires all vendors of Christmas lights to affix the Import Commodity Clearance and Philippine Standards seals on such products to assure the buyers of their quality and safety. It may seem paranoid, but there’s no way I am using those Christmas lights. I wrote a complaint letter to the customer service department of the website I bought the item from and as of writing this post, I am still awaiting their reply.

Irked by my experience, I searched online for other ‘mishaps’ in buying from said groupon sites. I came across a blog entry which made me laugh (not because of the buyer’s plight but because of the very disturbing portrayal of a famous group of animated birds). See for yourself:

As advertised:

What the buyer got:

Caveat emptor, in a sense, I guess.

Agnes M. Santiago, Entry #1

Billion Dollar Baby

A few weeks back the UN celebrated the birth of the seven billionth baby born into the world, Danica (Philippine representative). Let me correct myself, one of the seven billionth babies to be born into this world. In fact, Russia, India, the Philippines and numerous other countries are fighting over who gets to be tagged with the “prestigious” title.
It was paraded in internet sites, facebook, webpages where a lot of other people have easy access to and can easily be affected with the joyous celebratory feel of it all. I really cannot understand where the cause of celebration lies. If I were the mother of the child, I would be closing all my windows, banging the door shut, smoldering at the reporters and threatening the paparazzi to move away from my home. The celebration is for me a landmark, a negative one. A huge reminder that there is a looming and persisting overpopulation problem and that there is a lack of laws or proper implementation of laws in our country and all over the world to prevent the increase of population growth.
Out of the seven billion people in the world, property is not the only issue, with this follows a plethora of other problems, lack of education, hunger problems, pollution, garbage, I could go on and on (and I will in my succeeding entries. Let this first post set the ranting tone of my would be succeeding posts XD).  I wouldn’t want my child to be the walking  talking reminder of where the system failed, or a reminder for me of how much I didn’t do for the world.
So yeah, without disrespecting their humanity, who wants to become the period at the end of an unsuccessful millennium? 

By Trisha Isabelle F. Fernandez Test Post. :)