Thursday, November 25, 2004

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 account to the blog. It's done using the excellent Feed2JS tool. It's cool. Check it out.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

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.

Monday, November 22, 2004

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.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Web-Based Games

The evolution of the web as a gaming platform seems to be coming along lately. With games often serving as pioneers into new frontiers, I believe this is merely signifying the trend of software products transforming into services instead of commodities.

Anyway, what I mean to say is, I've been spending quite some time with web-based games lately. Mostly it's the fantastic and funny web-based parody RPG Kingdom of Loathing, which I've mentioned before. After a brief respite, I'm getting into this game again, having started dabbling with PvP, playing (or trying to play) the market, and going after the quests I haven't finished yet.

Another online game I found lately is the totally addictive time-waster gridlock, apparently a port of an existing puzzle game. It's moderately challenging; it took me two days (not continuously, of course) to finish the 40 levels.

And just to show how much free time people have on your hands, just now I found that someone has managed to create an entire Lemmings game written in JavaScript!

I think it's also great that all three of these games work well with Firefox, without me having to install any silly extensions. (I'm not particularly fond of slow-loading flash games...)

Monday, November 15, 2004

The Alchemist

The other day, while waiting to get a blood test at Clinica Manila, Megamall, I managed to finish about 2/3rds of Paolo Coellho's best-seller The Alchemist. I finished the last 1/3rd during a 15-minute bathroom break back home. It was a short book. Lots of people have raved about how good it is. What do I think? It's okay, but nothing overly special. Maybe I didn't get too much of it because it didn't have much new material for me. All of this - having your own "personal legend"; searching and/or fighting for it instead of deciding to accept and be content with you have; communicating with the "Soul of the World"; -- most of these things are not foreign concepts to me. I think the book would appeal most to those who are feeling a bit down or lost, and looking for something inspirational to give them a slight push and help them find their way. Or something. :D

One of the interesting things presented in the book is the concept of "beginner's luck". Basically the book says that the universe conspires to make your personal legend come true, because of this, when you're starting out on something, the universe will give you a small taste of success, so you're enticed to follow-up. I guess I've never heard of beginner's luck described this way before.

The book also talks about how most people will disregarding their personal dreams to settle for whatever contentment comes their way in life. Personally, I think I'm the sort to prefer to go out and learn new things, or strive to make things better than to just be satisfied doing the same thing day in and day out. In fact, that's one of the things I like about my current job: things often stay interesting. I'm almost always learning something new, or doing something different. The only times I don't like my job are when I have to do something similar repeatedly for some time period, that's when I entertain thoughts of quitting. (No real plans though, not anytime soon at least.)

One of officemates describes me as having a strong personality, and also as someone who wants to live an exciting life. The problem with that however, is that I'm also quite lazy. So, I'm easily bored and I'm also lazy. Quite a paradox...I like to experience new things, but I also like to spend a lot of time by myself mulling over different things (or sometimes the same thing over and over...)

Man, that was a random rambling post if I ever saw one. G'night.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Who Am I?

I am a man of many things, of many passions. I work as an engineer, remodelling space shuttles so that they don't crash and burn on reentry. I play the piano, the trombone and the harmonica. I am a columnist for an internationally acclaimed newspaper. I produce and direct award-winning movies. To relax, I write full-length novels, solve transcendental math problems and practice karate, taekwondo and aikido.

I save people from drowning, I protect children from danger, I patrol the streets for litterbugs and jaywalkers, I go to government offices and streamline their processes. I hunt down terrorists, I foil coup attempts, I dismantle nuclear weaponry. I feed the hungry and visit the sick. I write the software that hunts down viruses and protects the internet. I wage war against poverty and take down corrupt politicians. I am wanted in thirty-one states and outlawed in fifty countries.

I sew clothes for orphans, I bake cookies for prisoners of war, I read stories to the terminally ill. I have read the Bible, the Iliad, and the works of Shakespeare, all in one sitting. I have memorized the streets of New York, Madrid, Egypt, Beijing and Manila. I served in covert operations in Vietnam and Desert Storm. I have set up research centers to determine the cure for cancer and the secret of immortality. I am never late, I do my taxes months ahead of schedule, I can recite Pi up to the 2000th digit. I never sleep, I cannot be surprised, I make the most of my time.

I stare death in the eye. I bungee jump, I skateboard off high cliffs, I eat Akane Tendo's cooking. I clean up oil spills, I round up lost dogs, I play Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. I have defeated the evil witch, rescued the princess and single-handedly defended the Earth from an alien invasion, armed with nothing more than a swiss knife and duct tape.

I am a conqueror, I have defeated armies and destroyed nations. I am a lover, I have wooed a hundred women. I am an artist, I have painted murals in every city and written songs in every language. I am a scientist, I have defied and disproven the laws of physics. I am an athlete, I have won twenty gold medals in the last three olympics. I am a spiritualist, I have uncovered the meaning of life yet chose to keep it hidden.

I am a man of myth and legend, tales of my exploits abound in the darker areas of the night. I am a man of the world, journeying to many places to seek out fame and fortune, protect the innocent and for great justice. I walk my own way, I seek my own truth, I determine my own fate. I stand tall and shake the heavens. When I move, the crowds give way to let me pass. When I speak, the world stops to listen. When I shout, the universe holds its breath.

I am nature's greatest miracle. I am the one foretold by legend, whose coming will be the beginning and the end. Prophets and sages speak my name in whispers, beasts of the jungle scatter when I approach, kings and presidents tremble in my presence, yet children come to me and adore me. I will incite war and destruction, and I will unite all nations under my wing. I am anger, I am fear, I am madness. I am light and shadow, I am order and chaos, I am life and death. I am judge, jury and executioner. I am your greatest dream. I am your worst nightmare. I am your finest hour. I am your darkest day. I am the one you seek, the one you wish to be, the one who decides your fate, I am Roy Tang.

(Written more than 3 years ago)

Friday, November 12, 2004

Tonight On The Net 20041112

  • Interesting read: There's this spouse of an EA developer who's taking it to EA's supposedly unfair labor practices on livejournal.
  • Cool thing: A chess program that shows you the computer's train of thought!
  • Interesting English Trivia - yes it's geeky :D
  • Tech news: Winamp is dead, long live Winamp! I actually like Winamp, especially version 5. There are quite a number of things I'd like to change with it, but it's a lot better than WMP. I wonder if there are any other, better (or at least promising) alternatives?
  • People who have too much time on their hands: 'King of Pirates' has downloaded more than 900,000 songs!

I've Been Busy...

...or maybe just distracted. After putting in some fifty hours over a four-day period last weekend, I thought I'd cool off for a few days, doing nothing but what needs to be done, and some surfing and sleep when I get home.

But I'm back! And I'm going to get my gaming groove on! I got a new copy of Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, hopefully this one's a good copy, I haven't tested it yet. I'll play it this long weekend (Monday = RP holiday, start of Ramadan); I will finish another PS2 RPG, I swear! Also, after years of trying I finally managed to get a working copy of Wizardry 7 again! Crusaders of the Dark Savant was the first RPG my brother and I ever played; we spent many sleepless nights crawling it's massive dungeons hoping our little fairy ninja would not get squashed! But we never finished it, for one reason or another, so this our chance to revenge! (Oh, and I finally got it working thanks to the help of a dude on the GameFAQs Message Boards, thanks random dude! The answer was to use DOSBox, a DOS emulator available from SourceForge)

Friday, November 05, 2004


It's 1:30 in the morning, and I plan on being at work by 8AM, so I'll just throw out a quick book review before I buzz off to meet the sandman.

Neil Stephenson's Cryptonomicon is the only book I managed to finish out of the three I took with me to Bicol. And I actually started reading it about a month and a half earlier.

In a word, the book is wordy. Stephenson has a lot to say, and it takes him 1100+ pages to do it, whereas if I were writing this story (or weird amalgamation of stories, such as it is), I would probably do it in around half that amount.

There are two stories actually, not three as the book's back cover suggests. But those two stories actually start off in around fifty separate threads that start to come together only halfway through the book. This is one of the reasons why it took me a month and a half to get through the first half of the book; once the plot started to get going, everything went a bit faster.

Cryptonomicon is basically about a slick hacker-type dude named Randall Waterhouse, or Randy for short. While reading this book, whenever Randy's name is mentioned, I always visualize young Randy Orton, legend-killer and youngest ever WWE champion. This is the second reason why I was able to read the second half faster. Once I started to imagine it was Randy Orton, there was always the possibility of a book-ending RKO in the next page! Anyway, the first (and main) story arc is about young Randy's involvement in an ambitious startup setting up operations in Southeast Asia. Lots of stuff about finance, cryptography and politics finds its way into young Randy's story.

The secondary story arc is about World War II. Unlike the modern-day Randy storyline however, this one has more than one main player, so the WWII story is a lot more fragmented. The most important players are Lawrence Waterhouse (Randy's grandpa), who works for the Allies as a top-notch codebreaker, boasting such friends as the famous (to computer geeks at least) Alan Turing; Bobby Shaftoe, a US marine who seems to have accomplished more during the war than Douglas McArthur himself; and finally Goto Dengo, a Japanese miner whose role in the story is not readily apparent until the halfway mark. (A lot of things improve around the halfway mark.)

Now, here's the main problem with the novel. There are all these POVs, and it jumps around a lot, so there's a tendency to get confused, and every so often Stephenson pulls out a chapter that doesn't have anything to do with any of the earlier chapters, so you're like "Crap! Another subplot I have to keep track of!"

But I digress. And so does Stephenson. Not only do the POVs jump around between chapters, but each chapter is liberally interspersed with a short discussion of the weather, Asian cultures, corruption at the NAIA, cryptography, mathematical analysis of horniness, military idiosyncrasies and a bajillion other topics; enterprising high school students looking for a term paper could simply copy one of the book's chapters, find-and-replace some names, and get at least a B. Normally it's okay, but there's simply a lot of stray tangents in this book, and not all of them I found interesting, and were simply glossed over. Not surprisingly, I liked the parts about cryptography.

I really hated this book at the start, as I found it a very hard read, but after I got past the halfway mark it got a lot easier. I guess my main problem with the start was I had no idea why all these random, seemingly unrelated subplots were coming out; I wasn't sure if there was a point and it was all going to come together later, or Stephenson just lets his mind wander. Luckily, it did all come together later, in a somewhat plausible way.

All-in-all, the book is okay, but I wouldn't recommend it to a non-geek, or to someone faint of heart.

Yes, that was a short review. :D

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

My Eyeglasses Belong To The Sea

In a fit of awe-inspiring common sense, I want swimming with my eyeglasses on. And, as expected when one makes such a gargantuan mistake, the Sea was aware of my folly. It sent its minions, one after another, to take my precious away from me. Again and again I bore their onslaught, as wave after wave came after me, yearning to knock me off my feet loosely planted upon the sandy earth some four and a half feet below water level. Finally, weary of the long battle, the Sea summons all its might. I did not see it coming, for my back was turned and I was celebrating my recent victories thinking the worst was over. I suddenly became aware of my 12-year-old adopted cousin looking behind me in abject horror. A gigantic wave had arisen out of nowhere, the only warning being the looming shadow that came at me from behind. I had no time to prepare for this savage assault, and the Mother of all Waves came upon me with all her might, finally knocking this proud yet weary warrior off his feet. I felt myself tumble underwater, my trunks almost torn off me in the fury of the crashing water. I reached out my arms in desperation, and my hands struck wet sand, letting me know in what direction to raise my head. When I finally surfaced again, my eyeglasses were gone, I had lost the battle. My eyeglasses belong to the Sea now.

Daet, Camarines Norte

As I've mentioned before, Daet is a small town. When I was there, I was mentally comparing it to the UP Diliman campus. Main reason being, we had a tendency to walk everywhere we went. Just like in UP, everything was literally within "walking distance" - the beach, the church, the cemetary, etc. So in my mind, the UP Diliman campus and Daet, Camarines Norte occupy roughly the same area, even though technically, one is a university campus and the other a full-sized town. (On a tangent, the transportation within Daet is strictly limited to tricycles only, which would imply it being logically smaller than UPD, which has jeepneys.)

So, anyway, there was a lot of walking going on. We walked everywhere. Ocassionally, I would get to walk with my father. My dad, he's basically a nice guy. It's always nice to see that while we're walking around town, he has to stop and chat with somebody in every other store. Daet has lots of these little stores, side-by-side in the residential areas: hardware stores, bakeries, general merchandise, etc. And my dad seems to know someone and has to exchange tales of how things have been going, hey-have-you-met-my-son-can-you-find-him-a-girlfriend, that sort of thing.

Now, maybe this sort of thing isn't that irregular, why do I bother talking about it? After all, my father grew up in this town, it's to be expected that he knows people all over the place, right? Not to me. I mean, growing up I knew a small part of Quezon City, but I was never that chummy with that many people. I guess it's just a small town thing that never fails to amaze me: Everybody seems to know everybody else.

Another thing about my dad that occasionally surprises me: he's a story-teller. Like I said, whenever he meets one of these everyday people-on-the-street types, he spends a few minutes chatting with them. Those few minutes are invariably filled with some short story (only occasionally mildly exaggerated) about how his sons have jobs now, how things were when he worked overseas, what happened to his long-lost cousins, etc. When I watch him talking like this to long-lost friends and the occasional relative-whose-name-I-should-probably remember, I am quite a bit envious. I want to be like that, I want to be able to spout out interesting anecdotes on demand, I want to be able to grab people's attentions with my words.

Unfortunately, unlike my dad, I don't have much life experience to speak about. I haven't been to that many places, haven't done that many interesting things. I guess I really need to get out more...