Friday, December 24, 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.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

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?

Friday, December 10, 2004

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.

Monday, December 06, 2004

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...

Thursday, December 02, 2004


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.