30 May 2008

Optical Illusion: Looking right at you!

I love optical illusions. Just when you see something that looks plain as day, you do a double-take and notice that there's something more than meets the eye!

Take this dragon, for example. Stand back a couple of meters away and stare at it and it stares back at you. With your eyes still on the dragon, move to your left, then to your right. The dragon does not lose its sight on you! There's no special mechanism in it, all you need are cardboard paper, a colored printer, a pair of scissors, and some paste or glue.

Look at my pet dragon at the office... staring at me. Perhaps in bewilderment due to my desk clutter.
I move off to the left, and its eyes and head follow me! Okay, okay! I'll clean up my desk pronto!

The first step is to get the pattern. This is free to download from any of the following sites:
Great Things on the web
Pinwire - video of the dragon included

Then, simply print the pattern onto your cardboard paper, cut it out, then build the structure by following the mountain and valley-fold instructions. You should get this result:

The illusion is best experienced when the dragon is illuminated from behind and below it so the head gets lighted up. Try it! Simple fun.

The Gathering for Gardner is a non-profit organization whose goal is to promote the lucid exposition and discussion of new ideas in recreational mathematics, magic, puzzles, and philosophy. This dragon was made to commemmorate the third conference.

27 May 2008

Blazing the Cagayan de Oro trail part III

This is the final installment to the CDO adventure. Part 2 can be found here.

Finally, we dropped by the Macahambus Cave and Gorge for a little spelunking. Whoa. Whitewater rafting, then canopy walk and zipline, and now, spelunking? No, we’re not vying for a world record in doing the most stunts in under a day. The cave itself is actually just a quick stroll.

After just a couple of minutes exploring, we found light at the end of the tunnel. It opened up to the Macahambus Gorge, which afforded a magnificent view of the river below. We were informed by our guide that rappelling on the gorge is in the drawing board. Tempting!

After a barrage of camera clicks and flashes, we rode the jeepney back to the hotel.
Did you know that there’s a place called Divisoria in Cagayan de Oro? It’s an ordinary-looking place by day with shops on both sides of the road. But that night, a complete transformation morphed the main thoroughfare into a bustling night market. I’m not sure if this happens every weekend but it sure is fun to experience it!

I love the barbecued sausage!
Half of the section was dedicated to grilled food, and the rest on mostly clothing, apparel, and souvenir items. We decided to try the local flavor that night and made ourselves comfortable in one of the food stalls. The grill served us seafood and meat aplenty, with siniguelas and pineapples to munch on after the sumptous dinner. Again, rice was served in woven palm leaves. Wonderful presentation.

When the bill arrived, we were delighted to learn that each person’s share was only 115 pesos! What a nice surprise for such a bountiful meal! With cash to spare, we then headed for the night market in search of unique finds, and coffee to cap the night off.

We bought some malong for pasalubong

Overall, our Cagayan de Oro trip was one heck of an adventure. Nature tripping with outdoor sports coupled with the friendliest bunch of people. And don’t forget the food! This trip certainly deserves two-thumbs up.

23 May 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: a movie review

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is one of the highly-anticipated movies in my list ever since I heard that this movie was being produced a couple of years ago. And how time flies! Today is the first day of showing and I just had to watch it tonight.

Well... what can I say? This movie brought me back to the good old days when sleuthing was the coolest thing thanks to Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys and the Bobsy Twins. And Indiana Jones was the ultimate detective, solving riddles that tested man for centuries.

Like always, I will not divulge much in terms of plot in this review and keep it spoiler-free. But the good old Indiana Jones goes out once again for ancient artifacts and legends in adrenaline-rush action sequences this movie franchise is known for.

This adventure is centered on a mystical crystal skull, said to have been taken from El Dorado, the lost city of gold. The setting of the film is in the cold war era, and right behind Indy's every move are the Russians trying to get hold of power to rule the world.

There are the action scenes with cars and guns in them. Great show! And of course, there's the exploration bit in jungles and solving ancient puzzles and slipping through traps. It's what I expected an Indiana Jones movie to be!

I really, really want to touch on the storyline right now so I'll just stop and say that I enjoyed the movie. Now begs the question: which of the four films is my favorite?

I'd still say that Raiders of the Lost Ark is still be best Indy movie, principally because it centered on something we can relate to (the Ark of the Covenant), and it had just the right magic touch to spurn the imagination of the kid that was me all those years ago that I still feel the adventure whenever I watch the DVD. Second is the Last Crusade, followed by this latest installment, and then Temple of Doom would be the fourth. But that's not to say that this film is a measly third. In fact, if Raiders of the Lost Ark were a 99%, then the Last Crusade would be a 98, and Crystal Skull a 97, and Temple of Doom a 96.

It's sooo good to watch an Indiana Jones movie on the big screen once again! Hats off to Steven Spielberg!

20 May 2008

Blazing the Cagayan de Oro Adventure Trail Part 2

Read Part 1 of this adventure here

After lunch, we made a beeline for the Macahambus Adventure Park located at Barangay Lumbia. Part of our itinerary was the canopy walk and zipline. Harnessed and ready for deployment, the canopy walk (also called the Sky Bridge) involved walking along a narrow passageway of about 123 meters across the gaping chasm.

At 150 meters high, it’s a looong way down. But not to worry. You get a refund if you fall. The first few moments upon stepping onto the bridge is rather unnerving. This can truly be a badge of courage for those with fear of heights. But after mustering a couple of steps, you can’t help but marvel at the lush vegetation. The trees here must be centuries old!

While gingerly navigating the narrow pathway, I wondered if we were going to walk all the way back to starting point. My question was answered soon enough as we approached a hut at the end of the trail. A 120-meter heavy-duty cable was strung from here to homebase, and we had to do slide through this entire length to get back.

Protective harness notwithstanding, one can’t help but shout as the solid platform on your feet gives way to nothing but air! The shouts issuing from the Tarzan wannabees didn’t have much variety; it was just the level of panic and terror that gave it distinct tone and volume. Those at the homebase had fun guessing whose shouts they were.

While most that echoed through the cavern were understandably filled with excitement and panic, our second batch almost did not take the Zip Line because the first lady Tarzan did a most bloodcurdling scream that we thought something had gone horribly wrong. She mad it back just fine, though. I think the guide at the other end was most helpful with encouraging words… and pushing? :-)

to be continued...

15 May 2008

New 7 Wonders of Nature

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to tourism: on one hand it generates a much-needed livelihood for the enterprising folk; and in the other, there is always that possibility of having our natural resources become ravaged by human carelessness.

I have seen too many instances where the bad side is the norm.

Take my hometown of Baguio, for example. Just last year, I can simply go to the bus terminal and get a ticket for the next trip within the hour. It has been around three months now that I get a ticket for at least three hours later. That's even during the weekdays. In Baguio, you can see a lot of construction going on. The more recent area threatened by "human development" is the woods located near the Convention Center and UP. I have, in the 70s, seen these grounds planted with pine tree saplings and saw it grow into what it is today: a beautiful green area where trees stand tall and proud. The fight to preserve this piece of land is now threatened because the people don't know enough about what is going on (or do they simply not care?). While this land can be bought by the local government, mindless politicians would rather opt to pass bills giving them the power to buy cars for their private transportation over much-needed garbage trucks or preserving our natural heritage. Everybody, not just the people of Baguio, should be made aware of these things and we should take action to curb the practices of these people who have nothing in mind but making money and thinking about their own welfare.

Another case: Taytay Falls in Majayjay, Laguna. In the late 90s, me and my officemates were able to get a chance to visit this area as a weekend getaway. We had to trek for a couple of hours to reach the falls. And in the site itself was just a couple of campers enjoying the serene beauty of nature. But during that time, we were already walking on a dirt road that was bulldozed to create a road going directly to the descent to the falls. I am not against convenience and enjoyment of nature by everyone, but you should see the amount of garbage left by picnickers! Amidst the cool, clear waters are shampoo sachets, junk food plastics, and bags with various bottles and tin cans. Why can't people be more consious of their surroundings? Even Mt. Banahaw's holy grounds are not spared. Garbage is dumped between the rocks surrounding Sta. Lucia Falls.

We don't even have to look far. Right here in Manila is the Arroceros Forest Park which was being nurtured for over ten years and then in the change of mayorship, policies were suddenly overturned, trees were uprooted and we now have an eyesore of a Department of Education Building right inside the forest preserve. How ironic is that?!

But I still yearn for the time when Filipinos will know how lucky they are to have these gifts through learning and travel.

It is my fervent hope that, in getting the world's attention to our more popular natural resources that we will see how lucky our country truly is in having these riches and that a concerted effort will happen in keeping these places free of garbage and human destruction.

So please vote for our candidates to the New 7 Wonders of the Natural World. Vote to open our eyes to our natural wonders and widen our horizon to truly see these trees which give our oxygen to breathe on and our oceans that give us food for nourishment without expect nothing from us in return but respect.

Visit the New 7 Wonders of the World website and you get to vote for 7 candidates. 3 of these nominees are our own:

Chocolate Hills

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

Tubbataha Reef

In order to vote, you need to input your e-mail address, then vote for your 7 Wonders. You can vote for a nominee only once! Voting ends on 31 Dec 2008. I will wait for a little longer to get more Philippine sites listed in there.

12 May 2008

Blazing the Cagayan de Oro Adventure Trail

Whitewater rafting has become synonymous with Cagayan de Oro (or more fondly referred to as CDO), an idyllic city in Northern Mindanao blessed with rich natural resources. When some friends hatched this idea of an adventure that will take us to unchartered territories, we enthusiastically said “yes!”. But while rafting was chiefly in our mind when we started planning four months ago, CDO whipped up a couple more surprises for us.

Our group of 17 arrived last March 28 in the CDO airport at 6AM. A busy day was ahead and so a rushed breakfast and a couple of hours later, we found ourselves packed in the jeepney with our rafts comfortably nestled on its roof and bound for Cagayan River. The trip was smooth and uneventful as brick and mortar gave way to fields and trees. Soon enough, we parked near the raging waters and our hearts skipped a couple of beats. What have we gotten ourselves into?

Seeing the water rush through rocks as it frothed white triggered feelings of both excitement and panic. But I reassured myself that things will be fine. After all, I’ve done this before… sort of. At Splash Island.

After the briefing which was more disconcerting than reassuring (what to do when you fall into the water, how to avoid bruises and broken bones, how not to drown; everybody was silently listening intently indeed). But by the time everybody had their protective gear on, the atmosphere was one of electric excitement.

Our guide stayed at the rear of the raft and barked orders. One helpful tip we learned was to stay at the raft’s edge so that the paddle will be perpendicular to the water, maximizing thrusts. The trip was a combination of excitement (shoot the rapids!), education (fossilized seashells, snake skins on overhanging branches, and gaping holes along the riverbank), and relaxation as we glided along smoothly inbetween rapids.

The beginner’s course lasted for a full 4 hours. By the time we arrived at the end of our journey, we were ravenously hungry. And what better way to satiate our hunger than with seafood, liempo, and fresh pineapple on the side? Most noticeable is the rice serving, which were cooked in woven palm leaves. I learned that they really cook rice this way. Very attractive.

...to be continued
some photos courtesy of friends Yoyo, Dave, and Kagay.

09 May 2008

May 11 is Mother's Day

This coming weekend, we will be celebrating Mother's Day! I have three mothers in my life: my biological mother, my mother-in-law, and my wife. Last year I blogged about my wife as mother to our son Jo-Lo. For this year I would like to share how truly great my mother is.

Conchita Rodas y de Luna hails from Marinduque. She met our dad in Manila. Our dad worked in Acebedo Optical, and he was assigned to the Baguio branch in the 60s. So my parents hauled all their things and went off to Baguio. They have lived there ever since, and all five of us kids were born and raised in Baguio.

My father was an optician (he's retired now), and his wage was just enough for us to rent an apartment and lead a fairly simple life. But things became more difficult when our eldest sister started college, and we were all in school too save for the youngest. And our parents made sure that we went to good schools. I, for example, completed my studies from grade school til college at Saint Louis University.

My mother started a banana cue and camote cue business to augment our family income. She would be cooking nonstop for the entire day because she cooked rather well and making these skewered delights were no exception. After her little stint in front of our home, she and a friend rented a store in Burnham Park. I remember when I was in grade school, my brother and I would go to the store and stay there to wait until closing time. Our mother would sometimes give us money so we can play a game or two at the nearby arcade.

That's my father at the left with my mother beside him. I'm the kid she's holding in her arms.

Her arms were riddled then with hot oil burns, and it was tiring work indeed. There were many occasions when she would fall sick and stay in bed for a couple of days. But after that, she would go out and work again.

There were Christmas seasons when she did not have the spare money to buy us nice gifts. And so she would crochet sweatshirts for us. While waiting for our youngest in school, she would be doing her crochet, and continue on while watching TV and late into the night. And then she gave the sweatshirts in a huge, festively-wrapped box. I think I was able to wear my sweatshirt only a couple of times. Looking back, I realize that I should have given it more importance.

My mother loved cooking, and it showed on Christmas holidays. She would start cooking at lunchtime and end at night. We would be out playing and sneaking in every now and then, marvelling at the delicious smells coming from the kitchen. She was still cooking up delights some three years ago but she no longer has the stamina for cooking on extended periods. There were times when she would end up sick as Christmas eve approaches and would stay in bed and then huddle up in a blanket at midnight as we open gifts.

She is around 65 years old now, and we, her kids, now provide our parents with their needs. We had a small sari-sari store built by the house so they can preoccupy themselves and not get bored. They get pains from their joints and the Baguio climate is not helping any, but they are living it up and always has a ready smile for us when we visit them. She even sometimes asks what I want for lunch when she knows we will visit. She cooks the meanest igado, pinakbet, adobo, and dinengdeng.

She taught me our assignments back in grade school, did our haircut, made our home comfortable, cooked the most delicious food, and tried to treat us all her kids fairly. I can never truly describe how much she loved and cared for us.

I love you, Nanay. Happy Mother's Day! We will visit you this weekend!

06 May 2008

Iron Man: a movie review

Ok, I admit it. I'm a sucker for superhero movies. Save for Punisher and Elektra, I have watched the Batmans , Supermans and X-Men and eagerly anticipate whatever Marvel or DC Comics will pull from its hat in the future. And though Iron Man isn't exactly one of my favorite heroes, the teasers were enough to get me reeled in, hook, line and sinker.

Well... I have watched the movie twice and I must say that I really like how the story of Iron Man was told. It wasn't all eye candy, although I should give credit to the cinematic crew for creating such a hi-tech environment that's not at all impossible, what with the recent developments in AI and virtual reality.

I must say, I am indeed impressed at how these two technologies have been fused together to allow for full human interaction with system design and analysis. Tony Stark, a certified genius for creating electronic marvels, accomplishes his feats with his robotic arm assistants and virtual reality, 3D interface. I am awed enough to have my interest sparked once again in robotics and AI. Yes, I'm a frustrated computer engineer (that course was not yet offered when I was in college - don't ask what year that was).

Iron Man gives us a glimpse of how man exerts his power of technology to bring either productivity, or destruction. Tony Stark makes a 360-degree turn on his outlook of life as he becomes entrenched in a trap which he inadvertently helped create: a trap of demise and cruelty. And using the skills that he possess, he creates a force to combat that evil.

This is a feel-good movie, and the action scenes do not disappoint. No mutants or space people this time, just humans and their hi-tech toys, making this film truly believable. I have not read any Iron Man comic title, but I believe that Robert Downey, Jr. did an exceptional job at depicting the complex character that's Tony Stark. It was a pleasure seeing Gwyneth Paltrow as well as the faithful assistant Pepper Potts. And Jeff Bridges! My, has he grown old! Or was his character simply meant to be that way?

Overall I love the plot, the eye candy, the characters, the cars, the computers, the robots. The war scenes where the people hide in houses and the enemy throws bombs inside or riddles it with bullets even reminded me of the book I read about World War II in Manila. I wish there was an Iron Man back then.

02 May 2008

Snippets for the weekend

Guess what I'm holding in my hand:

The prize for guessing correctly is my admiration of your ability to identify it! :-)


Name that Blog meme
I got tagged! And I rarely get tagged these days because I am notorious at not doing it anyways... but for this I shall make an exception! The trip to Ocean Park and another in Tanay, Rizal will have to wait (this is a note to myself so I know my timeline... hehehe).

I was tagged by JMom, and thought it will be a great idea to share the story of my blog's name.

So why did I choose wats0n with a zero and not with the letter o? Because the name watson was already taken. Which is a shame really, because it has already been four years that I am blogging and yet the person who got the name "watson" still doesn't have a single blog entry, just a blank template. I wonder if it is possible to petition Blogger to get that name?

And why watson? There were many guesses actually:
1. It's in reference to General Watson, the pilot of the Mechanical Eagle from the Voltes V series (of which I am a fan);
2. It's Sherlock Holmes' companion;
3. I am a part owner of the drugstore with the same name (I wish!!!);
4. Might be a brand of a Hotdog Toaster

The closest guess is item 2. But I really got the name from a Windows application called Dr. Watson that I frequently used in the mid-90s to troubleshoot my office PC when it goes haywire. And I learned that the developers got the name from the Sherlock Holmes novels.

The ".online" part was an afterthought to distinguish it from the drugstore.

So there. That's the story of my blog's name. And I'd be interested to know how the names of these blogs were also born:
Airwind - with "killerpatatas" as the blogspot name.
Searching.... hmmm... I found just 2.
I would have been curious about Alternatii's name but the last update there was January, and I already know the origins of the others with fanciful names... *sigh*. So I have only one blog to tag this to. Airwind, hope you do this meme as well! Pressure ba? Teehee!
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