2001 ARCHIVE 2000 ARCHIVE GUESTBOOK 

 
A BURNING BUSH EXPERIENCE
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 30, 2001

Moses was in the desert. Imagine that you are in one of life's desert experiences. You feel as if your friends don't understand you or maybe that you don't even have any true friends. Everything around you seems empty, lonely and you don't have any water for refreshment. Like Moses tending the sheep, you have to go through your daily activities and even these can seem like they take a lot of effort.

Throughout life everyone goes through desert journeys. During these times, we must remember that God has not abandoned us. As a matter of fact, He often allows these events so that we can get in the position to hear His voice. Are you in the midst of one of life's deserts? Look and listen for God.

Take the time to think about Moses and the burning bush. Prior to being in the desert Moses had killed an Egyptian because his people, the Hebrews, were slaves under them. Now life had slowed down and Moses was tending sheep in the desert. One can see quite a contrast in lifestyles. Moses went from busyness to barrenness.

While tending the sheep, God got Moses' attention through the "strange sight" of a burning bush (Exodus 3:3). According to Webster's New World Dictionary strange means, "Not previously known; seen; unfamiliar; unusual; extraordinary." God came in a way that Moses had never experienced before.

What "strange sights" have appeared in the middle of your desert? For some of us, it may take a bush burning experience to awaken our senses. Like Moses, God wants you to take notice. Moses saw the bush (Exodus 3:2), thought about the bush (Exodus 3:3) and took action upon what he per-ceived (Exo-dus 3:4) and that's when God directed him. Like-wise, God wants us to see, think and act upon what we hear.

When God spoke to Moses through the burning bush, He called Moses as a great leader. God gave him the responsibility to lead the Hebrews out of slavery "into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 8). Moses no longer had to kill Egyptians to have his heart's desire. As in Moses' case, life's deserts often prepare us to go a different way.

God wants to give us fresh perspectives, take us to new places and also give us the ability to lead others out. When you find yourself in the midst of a desert adventure, remember the burning bush. Have faith that God may want your attention. Listen for His voice that calls you for a greater plan and purpose. (From Daily Wisdom)
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YET ANOTHER HOAX
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 28, 2001

I don't want to delve too long in this, so let me get this out of the way first: a local daily (not the Mirror) printed a photo of a man standing on the roof of the World Trade Center with a panoramic view of Man-hattan behind him - and a plane headed for the building. It was purported to be a "last photo" taken just seconds before American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower at about 8:45 a.m. on September 11, 2001. It's a hoax, folks. Here's an explanation from urbanlegends.about.com:

"It's a bit on the small side, but if you look closely at the picture you can just make out a panoramic view of Midtown Manhattan behind the blissfully unaware subject, indicating that the photographer is facing north. Only one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center on September 11 approached from that direction: the first, American Airlines Flight #11, which struck the north tower (One World Trade) at 8:45 a.m. The trouble is, the north tower had no rooftop obser-vation deck such as pictured here. Even if it had, it wouldn't have been open to tourists at that hour.

"You have but to ponder these further discrepancies to demolish the photo's credibility completely:

Why isn't the fast-moving aircraft blurry in the photo?

Why doesn't the subject (or the photographer, for that matter) seem to be aware of the plane's high-decibel approach?

The temperature was between 65 and 70 degrees that morning. Why is this man dressed for winter?

How did the camera survive the 110-story fall when the tower collapsed?

How was the camera found so quickly amidst all the rubble?

Why has this one-of-a-kind, newsworthy photo not appeared in any media venue?

-oOo-

I really hope we the media will be more careful about printing stuff like this that make light of the tragedy of the September 11 attacks. Now, on with today's topic.

-oOo-

The national ID system is rising from the dead again, having been introduced during the time of President Fidel Ramos and resurrected the first time by President Joseph Estrada. In both instances, the specter of terrorism was used to scare the people into agreeing to carry a uniform ID at all times. Fortunately - or unfortunately, de-pending on where you stand - the people proved to be more scared of the possible abuses that can be done to them by government than the terroristic acts the Abu Sayyaf or even Osama bin Laden can do.

-oOo-

Now, however, there are some weightier arguments for the adoption of an ID system. Terrorism has become not just a specter but a real enemy, capable of turning four airplanes filled with innocent people into missiles of mass destruction. Terrorism has also hit not just some embassy in Africa but the World Trade Center in New York, arguably the center of the world. Pardon the parody, but if the terrorists can make it there they can make it anywhere, and we all know this. No one is safe, and there is a need to make our own little space safe. A national ID system is supposed to facilitate this.

-oOo-

The Philippines is actually not alone in this; there is a similar call for a national ID system in the US and other countries. The arguments for it are the same: IDs help streamline government interactions with the public by providing tamper-resistant proof of identification. In light of the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., an ID system would make it easier to find out who the "legitimate" people are and who are not. Terrorists would be easier to identify, and their plots would be easier to foil.

-oOo-

But those who are against the system argue that even if the US had an ID system before September 11, authorities would not have been able to stop the attacks. They cite the experience of countries like Spain, France and Italy which have ID systems in place but are unable to stop periodic car bombings. The associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) which is against the ID system said: "If we had national ID cards two weeks ago, it would not have thwarted the terrorists. They were in the country lawfully and had identifi-cation documents on them."

-oOo-

Here in the Philippines, the fear is that government will use the system to repress the people. We have had such a bad experience with the military that it is hard to imagine it not taking advantage of knowing exactly who we are and where we are to achieve its purposes. Most of us will also balk at the thought of giving the authorities the right to stop us anywhere at any time and make us produce an ID on demand. In Greece and Argentina, being caught without an ID could land earn one a stay at the police precinct. Do we really want that kind of treatment from our own government? I think not.

-oOo-

PUG@D. Calling all Palm/Visor/Pocket PC/other PDA users: The Palm Users Group @ Davao (pug@d) will have its meeting on Saturday, September 29, 2-4 p.m. at Blugré Café Landco Corporate Centre. PalmBayan will be demonstrating the Palm m505 and other cool stuff. Please confirm atten-dance by emailing me (jonjoaquin@skyinet.net) or texting me at (0917) 7013145.
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ANOTHER HOAX
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 27, 2001

It never ends. A few days ago this email found its way to my emailbox: "Did you know that a flight number from one of planes that hit one of the two towers was Q33NY? In MS Word, type in that flght number. Enlarge the font size to 72. Change the font to Wingdings." I tried it and, sure enough, this rather disturbing image appeared:

?????

The images - a plane heading towards twin "towers," a skull and crossbones symbolizing death, and the Star of David, the symbol of Israel - was a shocking look at the anti-semitic roots of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York (as well as the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.). The email, however, is a hoax. There was no Flight Q33NY that crashed into the World Trade Center; the planes were American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175. This is just another example of how some people can take advantage of a tragedy and sow suspicion in people's minds.

-oOo-

The hoax actually dates back to the beginnings of Windows a decade ago when the Wingdings font was created. Early on some people who had too much free time in their hands discovered that typing in "NYC" in that font produced this string of images: ???.

It was touted as an intentional anti-semitic message hidden inside the font, and in fact a 1992 article in the New York Post proclaimed that "millions of computers carry secret message that urges death to Jews in New York City!" Microsoft, which bundled the font with the release of Windows 3.1, vehemently denied the charges, saying any so-called "secret messages" were purely coincidental and that allegations of anti-Semitism in particular were "outrageous."

-oOo-

But Microsoft appa-rently learned its lessons; its spokeswoman. Kimberly Kruseman, said when the company developed the new font Webdings in 1997, typo-graphers "took pains" to ensure that the image corresponding to the capital letters NYC was a pleasant one: ???, or "I love New York." Responding to the Q33NY hoax, Kruseman said to Microsoft's mind, "it's very unfortunate that people are bringing this up again in light of the tragedy."

-oOo-

It is unfortunate that some people are wasting a lot of time spreading wrong information that can potentially fan the flames of ethnic hatred. Since the suspects in the September 11 attacks are Arabs, there is a fear that Arabs in general could become targets of people's hatred - and this Wingdings hoax is just another vehicle for this. It's already starting, in fact, with one international airline already reportedly banning Arab passengers from boarding their planes. And we Pinoys cannot afford to be smug about the whole thing since the anti-Arab sentiment can easily grow into xenophobia, that is, the fear of all foreigners, especially on the part of Western countries. Inquirer.net has just reported that thirty Filipinos have been arrested in Brussells, Belgium in what a migrant workers' rights group described as an operation against "people of color."

-oOo-

What I'm actually afraid of is how we Pinoys end up treating the Arabs, and even those who look like Arabs, among us. We are the worst of racists, and although we do not normally kill those of other races, we constantly make fun of them. Let's hope the Arab-bashing never starts.

-oOo-

In another note, let me announce again that the Palm Users Group @ Davao (pug@d) will have its meeting on Saturday, September 29, from 2 to 4 p.m.at the Blugré Café at Landco Corporate Centre along Bajada. If you are a user of the Palm or any other personal digital assistant, you are more than welcome to attend. I'd appreciate it if you would confirm attendance by emailing me at jonjoaquin@skyinet.net or texting me at (0917) 7013145.
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COFFEE TALK
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 26, 2001

One of my most favorite things in the world is coffee. I can't get enough of it, and I am constantly on the lookout for the best cup of joe my money can buy. Thankfully Davao City seems to have a good number of great cafés, foremost of which is Blugré Café owned by everybody's friend Gatchi. Recently, however, some additions have been made in the café scene, and I will endeavor to tell you about these. It's a tough job but, hey, someone's got to do it.

-oOo-

First on my list is Prego Café at the fifth floor of the JS Gaisano Citimall. It's tucked into a corner near the theaters, but once you find it you'll keep coming back. "Prego" is "You're welcome" in Italian, the standard reply to "Grazie," or "Thank you." And at Prego coffee bar, there is much to be thankful for. First, the prices: it's hard to get over the fact that a cup of plain brewed coffee (called Americano) is only P20 here. Owners Romano and Rochelle Venuti say other cafés may offer better coffee, but they also charge more. "We try to keep the prices down by placing very little markup," Rochelle says. "It's useless to charge a lot and end up with an empty place. Davaoeños are very conscious when it comes to prices."

-oOo-

But just because coffee here is inexpensive doesn't mean it's cheap. The "baseline" brew, espresso (which is priced even lower at P15), is so full-bodied that it actually takes time to recover after downing one. The Americano, which is essentially espresso with a little more water, puts other brews to shame. (As a sidelight, Romano explains that in his native Italy the locals only drink espresso, which is what they call coffee. This, however, is too strong for tourists - generically called "Americanos" - so for them the coffee shops brew a "diluted" version called, naturally, "Americano.")

-oOo-

The secret to Prego's brew, Romano reveals, is freshness. The beans themselves are nothing out of the ordinary: "It's just a blend of arabica and robusta." But it is roasted especially for Prego by the supplier. "We call it the 'Prego Brew'," Romano says. "I went to the supplier and had a taste of the types of coffee they had. I just picked what I liked best." Fortunately for us, his Italian taste buds did find the best.

-oOo-

Prego began tickling Davaoeño coffee lovers' taste buds only since September last year (the café celebrated its first anniversary only a few weeks ago with Rochelle, a professional singer, belting out a few songs). "We saw a need for something of this kind in this mall," Romano relates. "There is no place like this in JSGaisano. It's a niche for us." The choice of the mall is only natural since Romano is part owner of Swiss Gourmet which is located at the mall's supermarket. Romano has also had a long-standing relationship with the mall since he was the one who set up its Living Bread bakery and the Café Ilustrado.

-oOo-

More personally, the Venutis reveal that they put up Prego so that they would have a place to go to themselves. "I come here in the mornings for coffee," Romano says. Then after work he drops by for another espresso or two. Being a coffee lover, Romano says he prices the brews at Prego at levels he himself is comfortable with. "This is what I want to pay when I go to a coffee shop." Which is a fortunate thing, since it allows most of us to enjoy great coffee without putting a hole in our pockets.

-oOo-

There's another great place for coffee located at Jack's Ridge: Karlo's Koffee Station. It's more than worth the trip, and we'll write about it in the near future.
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CHANGING MAY WAYS
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 25, 2001

One thing struck me as I watched CNN's coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11: through the first day the news channel never mentioned anything about anyone dying in the attack, even though it was obvious from the explosions and the subsequent collapse of the twin towers that many lives had been lost. The news anchors never ventured to speculate on the casualties in the first critical hours; it was as if no one had died.

-oOo-

CNN never gave a reason for this, but it was surely a "deliberate oversight" designed to avert the hysteria that was sure to result from the attack. Of course thousands got killed, but there was no sense playing this up. Instead, CNN focused on the unfolding events and on the search and rescue operations that were almost immediately launched.

-oOo-

Imagine if the tragedy had been covered by Pinoys: news anchors would have screamed of the deaths of thousands upon thousands of people as well as speculated on the identity of the perpetrators - without waiting for official word. In fact, a number of national dailies did headline the possible death toll, which contrasted sharply with how the US media treated the story.

-oOo-

Pinoy media's fascination with death is what gives the Philippines a bad name worldwide. We (the media) always look for the worst part of the news - in many cases the number of dead - and proceed to splash this on our front pages without a thought for the possible repercussions. I had always sided with media in this, reasoning that freedom of expression demands that we be allowed to print whatever we want. These days, however, I have been rethinking my position on this. I have, you might say, changed my ways.

-oOo-

Take this case of the American national found dead inside the compound of a hotel yester-day morning. In all probability the story will become the headline in all local papers, but I wonder if that is the proper thing to do at a time like this. There has been a general feeling of paranoia ever since the terrorist attack on the US last week, and a death like this will surely find its way to the "jihad" scenario - even though initial reports point to the death being a suicide. Somehow media have to be a little more sensitive in light of the prevailing condition. We can take CNN's cue in this.

-oOo-

ANNOUNCEMENT: The Palm Users Group @ Davao (pug@d) is reviving its monthly meetings beginning this Saturday, September 29, 2-4 p.m. at the Blugré Café at Landco Corporate Centre. All users of the Palm and other personal digital assistants are invited. We would appreciate it if you could send an email to me or text me at (0917) 701-3145 to confirm your attendance.
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LOGIC VS. MIRACLES
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 23, 2001

Miracles do not produce faith, but faith produces miracles. This maxim goes against our human instinct.

The Scriptures tell us that many people demanded a sign to authenticate the authority of Jesus of Nazareth. They claimed that if only they could see such a sign, they would they believe in Him. He replied, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks the LORD for a sign..." (Matthew 16:4)

The same principle is true of logic. Logic does not precede revelation, but follows it. When God works a miracle, we can usually put it into a fairly logical frame of reference after the fact, but we typically cannot ascertain the ways of God in advance using logic or any other mental faculty.

"...God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things that are strong..." -I Corinthians 1:27

The Bible is replete with examples of men whom God raised up, who were often not "qualified" for the tasks to which God called them. By faith and the hand of God, God's will was indeed done.

Let us look at the example of these men.

When God called Moses to deliver his people, Moses was an old man of eighty years. His own people, whom he hardly knew, had rejected him a generation earlier, and he had spent the last forty years in the desert, tending sheep. He knew practically nothing about the conditions that his people currently faced, and the present generation of his people didn't even know that he existed. The levers of power, which might have been available to him in his younger years, were long since gone. A leader of the people ought to be an inspiring speaker, but Moses wasn't. An earthly employer would not have given Moses a second look, but our Heavenly Father saw the greater picture.

Another example is David. David was the youngest of seven sons. There was nothing distinguished about David's family line, and his own background as a shepherd was hardly suitable training for a king. Once again, we see that God's ways are not man's ways.

The final example is the Twelve Apostles. According to worldly standards, the only one of the twelve who had any of what the world would call acceptable qualifications was Judas Iscariot. The other apostles were mostly uneducated fishermen, hardly the kind of people who could be expected to turn the world upside down. Their personal qualities were hardly more appealing. The Scriptures paint Peter as an abrasive and opinionated man. John and James had a major problem with their anger, and Matthew was a despised tax collector.

Jesus saw something in each of these men that nobody else saw. The Son of God was looking to the future and saw the apostles, not as they were, but as he knew His Father could make them. Jesus had insight into "the final product."

In all of the above examples, God gave no thought to outer appearance, quality of speech, or worldly importance. What matters to God is not the outer man, but the inner being; what lies in the heart. God knew the potential all these men had, as well as how they would come to thirst for truth and righteousness.

Logic and deduction will not reveal the ways of God to us because our Father's ways are of a heavenly and miraculous realm that knows no boundaries! Those things that are impossible to man are made possible through faith in God! (From Daily Wisdom)
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STRUGGLE TO LOSE
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 22, 2001

A novice monk asked a seasoned old veteran of the abbey, "After you entered the monastery, did you still struggle with the devil?" "No." Answered the older monk. "I struggled with God." "With God?" Exclaimed his neophyte friend, "How could you hope to win?" The older monk softly replied, "When I struggle with God, I hope to lose."

-oOo-

Potatoes, Eggs and Coffee Beans

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn't know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed. Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot. He then let them sit and boil, without saying a word to his daughter. The daughter, moaned and impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. After twenty minutes he turned off the burners. He took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them a bowl. He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her he asked. "Daughter, what do you see?"

"Potatoes, eggs, and coffee," she hastily replied.

"Look closer," he said, "and touch the potatoes." She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.

"Father, what does this mean?" she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity - the boiling water. However, each one reacted differently. The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak. The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard. The ground coffee beans, however, were unique; after they were exposed to the boiling water, they changed the water and created something new. "Which are you," he asked his daughter? "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean?"

-oOo-

Here are some interesting interpretations of nature from test papers and essays submitted to science and health teachers by junior high, high school, and college students around the world.

"When you breath, you inspire. When you do not breath, you expire."
"H2O is hot water, and CO2 is cold water"
"To collect fumes of sulphur, hold a deacon over a flame in a test tube"
"When you smell an odorless gas, it is probably carbon monoxide"
"Three kinds of blood vessels are arteries, vanes and caterpillars."
"Blood flows down one leg and up the other."
"Respiration is composed of two acts, first inspiration, and then expectoration."
"The moon is a planet just like the earth, only it is even deader."
"A super-saturated solution is one that holds more than it can hold."
"Mushrooms always grow in damp places and so they look like umbrellas."

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THE BRIDGE
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 19, 2001

Over the past months my wife and I had been going to Samal Island (official name Island Garden City of Samal) to experience some of its beauty, especially the raw type. We haven't done much because of time constraints; so far we've only taken a dip in the cool waters of Hagimit Falls, climbed Puting Bato (the island's highest peak), and ridden around on the ubiquitous habal-habal which is the main mode of transport there. We have yet to see the other sites, particularly the caves that dot the island, but we intend to explore these as well in the near future.

-oOo-

Each time we go there I actually get the strong urge to live there. How wonderful it would be, I would tell my wife, if we could build a home here - and work in Davao City. Such an arrangement, however is not practical for me because of the difficulty of crossing the gulf on a daily basis; besides, I work at night, and by the time I head for home at around 10 p.m. there are no more boats.

-oOo-

We both remember reading of plans to build a bridge between Davao City and Samal, but these were apparently set aside when Joseph Estrada was booted out of office in January. Samal Mayor Rogelio Antalan, who was guest on Wednesday's Club 888 Forum at The Marco Polo, Davao, said Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo apparently has other priorities, and it will probably take some work to convince her the bridge is essential to the growth of Samal and Davao.

-oOo-

Antalan said had there not been a change of national leadership the bridge would have been begun next year. Costing P8 billion and spanning 900 meters, the bridge would be funded by Japan which has in fact already conducted a feasibility stu-dy on the project. Fortunately steps are already being taken to bring the mothballed project to the President's attention. Antalan said the Davao Integrated Development Program is requesting Mrs. Arroyo to urge the Japanese government to go ahead with the project.

-oOo-

One of the problems facing the Samal city government is that national economic planners want to see development inside the city first before the bridge is built. Apparently the national government wants to know if visitors will actually want to go to Samal often enough to warrant the spending of P8 billion for such a structure. "NEDA in fact asked me if I wouldn't rather use the money for other projects in the island itself," Antalan said. "But I said the people of Samal have suffered long enough."

-oOo-

Suffer, indeed, for Samal has no advanced medical facilities. If one has a heart attack in the middle of the night, Antalan said, he would die because there would be no hospital to take him to - and no boats to take him to Davao City where there are hospitals. (MORE TOMORROW)
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THE HOAX
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 18, 2001

The day after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., cell phones and emailboxes were filled with these predictions from Nostradamus:

"In the year of the new century and nine months,
From the sky will come a great King of Terror...
The sky will burn at forty-five degrees.
Fire approaches the great new city..."

"In the city of york there will be a great collapse,
2 twin brothers torn apart by chaos
while the fortress falls the great leader will succumb
third big war will begin when the big city is burning"

-oOo-

That prediction brought chills to many a spine since it was eerily accurate: 2001 is the first year of the new century, and September is the ninth month. New York is also located at the 41st degree latitude (the prediction missing only by a few degrees). Various television shows, including Ernie Baron's weather forecast on TV Patrol, also quoted the second prediction, setting many Pinoys' minds to fears of war - and not just any war, but World War III.

-oOo-

I myself was skeptical about the prediction and searched for it in the internet. Couldn't find it. But then Ernie Baron quoted, and so I said to myself the quatrain must be genuine. As it turns out, though, it is a hoax. Nostradamus never made such a prediction. Stiller Research, a site that exposes hoaxes of all sorts, has this to say about the Nostradamus predictions on the twin towers and World War III:

"The above prediction is fabricated and was never made by Nostradamus. Like many 'danger warning' type hoaxes, this contains just enough elements of truth to confuse a few people. In this case it makes the above prediction sound like it could be legitimate... (The) hoax contains two lines adapted from actual quatrains written by Nostradamus but applying to completely different centuries. The first line is loosely based on the text 'The year 1999, seventh month, From the sky will come a great King of Terror.' To bring back to life the great King of the Mongols ...' and the following line is based on a quatrain applying to a completely different century that reads 'At forty-five degrees, the sky will burn, Fire approaches the great new city, Immediately a huge, scattered flame leaps up When they want to have verification from the Norman'

-oOo-

Stiller Research continues: "There are a number of variations on this hoax. A common variant of this hoax reads:

'In the City of God there will be a great thunder, two brothers torn apart by Chaos, while the fortress endures, the great leader will succumb. The third big war will begin when the big city is burning" - Nostradamus 1654.

'On the day of the 9 month that two metal birds would crash into two tall statues, in the new city, and the world will end soon after.'

-oOo-

Experts say there is one way to sniff out a Nostradamus hoax: the "interpreter" doesn't give the quatrain indexing. For example, the quatrain above ending with the word "Norman" is indexed as C6 Q97. It's easy to fake a Nostradamus prediction, but this is the kind of disinformation that we cannot and should not tolerate at this time. Please, if you have this in your cell phone or email inbox, delete it. Don't add to the confusion.
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SAFE
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 14, 2001

A friend of mine from college lives in New York, and so when news of the attacks on Tuesday spread he was one of those I thought of and prayed for. The other day he did not respond to email from a newsgroup we belong to, but thankfully yesterday he did, and what he shared is testimony of how good God can be. As it turns out, he did work right next to the World Trade Center, but he had gotten laid off two days before the attack so he was home when it happened. This shows us that even in the worst of situations God has a plan. Here's his email, and I hope it encourages you as it did me:


I've received a number of emails from friends like you asking how I'm doing in the light of the terrorist attacks on the WTC towers. Thanks very much for your concern and prayers. My sister and I are fine.

Since completing a long-term project with New York Life International on Aug 31, I'd been working at our NY office next to the WTC (World Trade Center) towers. However, I got laid off yesterday morning (September 9). Hence, I was home when the attacks occurred. While I was disappointed about losing my job, I'm truly thankful to God that He spared me from this morning's tragedy.

I knew I might get laid off when I completed my last project. However, I thought they'd keep me for a while since I'd brought in a lot more money to the firm than several other consultants (all Caucasians) in our group who'd been on the bench longer, too. I thought the decision was unfair and looked prejudiced and discriminatory. Amazingly, however, I felt relieved and happy when I left the office yesterday morning. Somehow, I had the confidence that God is in control and He would lead me to a better situation. And like I wrote above, being spared from the WTC tragedy is way better than keeping a job.

Anyway, back to this morning's tragedy. My sister was getting ready to go to school in NJ when we heard over the radio that a plane had crashed into one of the WTC towers. We thought it was just an accident. When she'd left, I tried to call her to advise her to take a bus to Penn Station in case the subway had stopped operating. I couldn't get through. I couldn't even call my home number with my cell phone. Went to the rooftop of my building and saw the thick clouds over the WTC area. Then, I decided to go to Penn Station to check if my sister was able to go NJ. The street scene was tense but not chaotic. The streets were filled with people walking home and waiting for trains and buses.

When I got to Penn Station (on foot), I was told that the last NJT train left at 10:37 AM. So, I assumed that my sister was able to take a train to NJ. However, when I got home she was back already. She said they were asked to unboard the train. So, I was really thankful to God.

The rest of the day, we watched the TV coverage of the tragedy. It's unbelievable how two magnificent buildings crashed down within a few minutes. Both buildings employed a trident-fork construction - the exterior thin metal columns supported the entire building; there were no support columns in the middle. About 50,000 people worked in the complex and about 90,000 people visited everyday. So, the number of casualties could be 20,000 plus. (Many were able to leave the complex before the collapse. My friend had to walked down the stairs from the 47th floor.)

Tonight, we continue to watch TV coverage of the tragedy. The WTC complex now looks like a war-torn place. Thousands of city, state, and federal workers (and volunteers, too) have been working hard to find survivors and clean up the debris.

Please continue to pray for the victims' families. Pray especially that all survivors would be found within the next few hours. Finally, pray that any other terrorist attack being planned would be discovered and thwarted. (A truck full of explosives apparently meant to blow off the George Washington bridge was caught by NYPD officers tonight. Three young white men were arrested.)

Might attempt to visit the WTC area tomorrow if possible.
...

SANITY IN THE MIDST OF CHAOS
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 13, 2001

Like most of us I glued myself to the television as soon as I heard the news that the World Trade Center had been attacked (using passenger planes). When it became apparent that other areas were being attacked as well, I immediately sent out a text message to my brother in Los Angeles to find out if they were all right. A few minutes later my brother replied to say no attacks were being made on LA, but like the rest of the world they were shocked beyond belief.

-oOo-

The attack makes the Oklahoma bombing a few years back pale in com-parison, but there are some parallels in terms of the reaction of the people. In the Oklahoma bombing, the first suspects were the Arabs - although this would later be proven false; in Tuesday's attack, Arab terrorists led by billionaire Osama Bin Laden are again being blamed. What we must guard against is the prejudice such suspicion breeds: it will not be surprising if a general crackdown on Muslims begins, fed by the mistaken notions many of us hold against Muslims. While Bin Laden may have been responsible, there is no reason to believe all Muslims support him.

-oOo-

It is thus refreshing to read a letter written by Richard Mouw, president of the Christian school Fuller University in California, that gives the right perspective on the events. His letter reads in part:

"How do we act obediently as God's people in the face of this tragedy? It is natural in times of crisis and pain that some will seek to strike out in anger and seek to assign blame. Yet, it is so important that we not lash out against innocent people. We've all witnessed such things from past experience - during periods when the United States has been at odds with people in the Arab world, we've seen little Muslim kids here in America beat up on their way home from school. We must not allow this to happen. This is an important time for people of faith to call for - and model - sanity in the midst of chaos. Furthermore, we, as the community of Christ, have a message of hope and mercy that our nation needs to hear in the midst of its grief."

-oOo-

At the same time, Mouw called on the Christian world "to intercede for God's grace to be poured out upon our nation at this time. In the face of such large-scale disaster, we desperately need the touch and assurance of the only One who stands above it all."

-oOo-

It is also heart-warming to learn of what people are able to do once tragedies strike. My sister in Canada, who hosts a radio show, gave this information: "We're busy here in Winnipeg, several US bound aeroplanes were re-routed to Canada. Winnipeg's airport (all of Canada's) is now handling dozens of flights. One Northwest plane (going to Washington State sana) carried at least 150 Filipinos and NW called me during my afternoon/drive home show, to make an appeal to the Filipino community here to assist the airline in comforting the stranded Pinoys. After the appeal, Winnipeg Pinoys who heard it relayed the request to others and they are now waiting for the stranded passenger kababayans to be released by Canadian immigration/customs." In times like these, nothing should be on our minds but helping each other.
...

EAGA AIR?
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 12, 2001

What would it take to advance the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Phillipines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga)? Philippine Airlines president and chief operating officer Avelino Zapanta believes the key is in having a regional airline service in the region - operated by the four governments themselves. Over lunch at the Marco Polo, Davao last Saturday with media, Zapanta said the idea is for the governments to invest in such an airline and operate it because private companies cannot absorb the losses the route will incur in the initial stages of its operation.

-oOo-

"Only governments have the resources to operate at a loss," Zapanta said."Existing airlines will not be able to sustain the losses. They can't afford to lose money." Zapanta said the four governments "should invest equally in an airline to serve the area." The airline could either be an existing one or an entirely new one, although a new one would naturally be much more expensive to put up.

-oOo-

Zapanta said he had suggested this sometime in 1994 when the BIMP-Eaga was just being formed. Unfortunately, the governments "were not keen on it." Even more unfortunately, the Eaga suffered from the Asian economic crisis which hit in 1997 and was largely forgotten for the next four years. Now, however, there are moves to revive the growth polygon, with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir discussing this possibility during the former's visit to Malaysia last month.

-oOo-

Zapanta, however, is not expecting the idea of a new Eaga airline to be part of the discussion just yet. But he believes govern-ments must take this into serious consideration if they want to revive the Eaga cooperation. "Unless the four governments bite the bullet they will not see the revival of the Eaga," he said. And the initiative must also come from the governments themselves: "They have the vision (for Eaga). The governments must take the necessary steps to form an Eaga airline."

-oOo-

Here's an interesting bit about the PAL pres: he's a Palm user. Someone was asking him if he used the personal information management (PIM) features of his Nokia 6210, and he answered he didn't have to since he had a Palm IIIc. Naturally my interest was piqued as he began showing off what his Palm (with 8 megabytes of memory and a color screen) could do. He said he uses it to mainly keep schedules and addresses, and once in a while he reads email with it. But what Palm would be complete without games? He showed off a Las Vegas slot machine (I can't remember the program's name) and even beamed it to me. It's great to know that one of the most important men in the country is up to date in terms of personal technology.

-oOo-

Speaking of the Palm, we are reviving the monthly meetings of the Palm Users Group @ Davao (pug@d). Wait for the final announce-ment later this week on when and where this meeting will be. If you are a Palm user, email me at jonjoaquin@skyinet.net or text me at (0917) 7013145 if you want to attend the meeting.
...

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT, II
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 7, 2001

[Read Part 1]

The other day Rep. Prospero Nograles said he wants Globe Telecom (curiously, he did not include Smart Communications) investigated for apparently operating its short message service (SMS) without a permit from the government. Apparently, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has classified SMS as a value added service, while Globe insists it is a special feature. Nograles' bottom line is that Globe "never registered with NTC to operate text messaging services, and there is now a need to determine by what authority the company is operating such services."

-oOo-

The public, he added, "needs to be protected from companies rendering service of any kind without authority from the government." I wonder, though, if we should not instead be protected from lawmakers who want to penalize the subscribers because they were victimized by malicious texts. Instead of threatening to pull out the service from us, Nograles should work towards enhancing it with more useful features so that we would not be gossiping so much through our phones.

-oOo-

For example, government should encourage telecom firms to allow companies to send advertisements to cell phones. This is not difficult to do; in fact, I am wondering why companies have not taken the lead of McDonald's which a few months ago sent freebie coupons to Globe subscribers who only had to show the text at the counter to get free french fries. I do not know of anyone who protested over the "intrusion;" in fact, when I went to McDonald's to claim my fries I stood in line with others who were doing the same (it was one big line of cell phone users).

-oOo-

No one has made a study of this yet, but I'll bet Pinoys will be even more receptive to text ads than the Brits who, in a recent study, were found to be all for it. British wireless advertising company ZagMe recently said it launched a wireless marketing effort sending ads directly to phones. The company claimed that 80,000 people signed up to receive the ads - a number I am sure we can beat given our love for our cell phones.

-oOo-

And in the US major companies such as Pepsi, Coke, Nike, Intel, and Sun Microsystems - among others - are interested in getting their products into cell phones. The companies see this being done in two ways: delivering ads to the phones in the form of text (as what McDonald's did) or ring tones, or placing brands on cell phone cases. Between the two, the former will probably work better in the Philippines.

-oOo-

The companies believe that cell phones offer the unique opportunity to deliver their ads directly, that is, they can reach one person at a time. Unlike TV where many people can watch at a time (giving rise to the possibility that the ad may never even reach its target), a cell phone is used by one person exclusively; given the right demographics, companies can put out ads tailormade for specific persons.

-oOo-

If telcos wise up and sell ad space to companies, the cost of maintaining the service would go down since the companies would be subsidizing the subscribers. I myself wouldn't mind getting ads on my phone; first of all, it's always nice to get a message. Secondly, I can always just delete an ad that I don't like. Besides, if it means cheaper cell phone cost, then why fight it?
...

POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 6, 2001

Over the past two weeks first District Rep. Prospero Nograles has taken on the giant telecom firms, firing off two proposals that may change the landscape for wireless communications in the country. First, he proposed last week that buyers of Subscriber Identification Modules (SIM) be made to register their names and other pertinent information. As I understand it, the rationale of House Bill 150 is to ensure that a) malicious texts could be traced to their source and b) the country is not cheated of taxes from the sale of SIMs.

-oOo-

In media statements, Nograles admitted that his proposal was more or less a direct response to his own experience of being a victim of malicious text messages. I guess he has yet to live down the embarrassment of being tagged the "Burlesk King" who was supposed to have been forced to run naked down the lobby of a Manila hotel after being caught in bed with the wife of a police officer. That issue, it may be remembered, first came out as a text, then was taken up by a Manila-based tabloid, then by radio commentators both in Manila and in Davao, and finally by a Manila broad-sheet which actually printed Nograles' name.

-oOo-

Unfortunately, the ultimate source of the text can never be traced, and although Nograles and the alleged paramour, Jeanette Lomanta, certainly have their suspect, there is no way they can prove it. The main problem, as seen by Nograles, is that the vast majority of cell phone users in the Philippines are prepaid subscribers - whose names are not registered anywhere.

-oOo-

I can certainly understand Nograles' concern. Indeed, in this country only prepaid cell phone sub-scribers are afforded the incredible privilege of anonymity. But I think the bill is difficult, if not impossible, to implement. First, Nograles does not make it clear if the law will apply to all prepaid subscribers, both new and old; if it does, then there needs to be a massive subscriber registration nationwide, something no one will relish because we are talking about almost 10 million prepaid cell phone subscribers here. And if such a law will apply only to new buyers, then what would be the point of forcing them to register if 10 million other users will remain anonymous anyway?

-oOo-

Perhaps Nograles should rethink his strategy in battling the evils of text. His tack is to penalize the users, but I think the more viable solution is to give positive reinforcement. Instead of forcing subscribers to not use text maliciously, they should be encouraged to use it productively. For example, in the United Kingdom companies actually hold poetry writing contest using text, a television station has a soap opera on text, and discount coupons are sent through text. Other coun-tries offer similar services that make the cell phone more than just a tool for gossip.

-oOo-

The problem in the Philippines is that there are so few services available through text that we tend to use our phones for malicious purposes. Globe and Smart must be more creative in providing new services - and not just Globexplore and zed that cater only to Manila people. So much can be done with cell phones: poetry, soap opera, discount coupons, market information, power outage up-dates, advertisements. The problem is no one is taking this new medium seriously.

[Read Part 2]
...

HORROR STORY
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 5, 2001

Here's one more taxicab horror story: late the other night I took a cab - one of those rundown "indie" units - from Ulas to our home in Mintal, and on the way the driver fell asleep on the wheel! I was about to doze off myself, but I sensed that we were slowing down. I opened my eyes and to my horror the cab was already halfway into the opposite lane - with a truck rushing towards us (OK, it was a good 500 meters away, but it was still scary). I turned to the driver and saw that his eyes were closed; he had suddenly decided to take a nap right on the wheel. I shouted for him to wake up, and he managed to swerve us to the right lane to avert a disaster.

-oOo-

I scolded the driver for, well, sleeping on the job and putting my life in danger. I then got off and slammed the door on him without paying. After waiting for a few seconds the cabbie went off, but after about two hundred meters he went back then stopped across the street in front of me. He got down and, in a threatening voice, demanded payment for the P30 that his meter reflected when we got to the near-disaster point. I wanted to make a point of him not deserving any payment because he almost got both of us killed, but we were alone on a lonely stretch of highway and I was afraid he would beat me up (yes, he was bigger than me).

-oOo-

So call me chicken, but I paid him. But I also took down his license plate number: LVJ 771. Unfortunately I couldn't make out what company the cab belonged to, but this number should be enough for the authorities to take action, right? I hope the Land Transportation Office is reading this.

-oOo-

I hate to say this, but I guess the lesson here is to avoid taking cabs that do not belong to known companies. My experience with Holiday and Maligaya companies, for example, has largely been positive even in terms of complaints: in all cases the companies listened and took action (mainly in fixing fast meters). Plus, there is a certain reassurance in knowing that one would be able to call the companies themselves whenever there are problems with their cabbies. With "indies" (independents), one has no recourse but to call the LTO - and how responsive can a government office be to a single complaint?

-oOo-

Besides, the larger cab companies always make sure their drivers are respectful to their passen-gers. The sleeping driver I took was rude and, I suspect, probably even had a drink or two that night. He was also wearing shorts, which I believe is against an existing ordinance directing public utility drivers to be presentable.

-oOo-

Again, I hope the authorities will take action not only against this particular driver but against the growing number of abusive or inept cab drivers in the city. I can tell you story after story of my own experience as well as my friends' regarding such drivers. This is a sad state of affairs because cabbies are supposed to be our "ambassadors of goodwill" (a title given by the Department of Tourism regional office some years back); indeed, most of them are giving Davao City a great name. This problem must be nipped in the bud.
...

DAVAO LIGHT'S TEXT SERVICE, II
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 4, 2001

[Part 1]

Davao Light's deal with Smart Communications is a sweet one because it did not have to pay Smart - nor did it have to invest too heavily in hardware. Bong Saniel, corporate communications staff who handles the company's website, said practically the only requirement on their end was the website, which is what Smart accesses and relays back to the subscribers. Engineer Ronald Chan, systems operations department manager, said they only had to hire a programmer to create the software that will interface with Smart and search the website when information is requested - and then relay it back through Smart.

-oOo-

So it is Smart that does the accessing of the data, and Davao Light only needs to make sure that the data in the website is up to date. In cases of scheduled power outages this works flawlessly since the site is always updated. I tried it myself last week (through a friend's Smart phone) and was pleased that the response really did come in a matter of seconds. How is it done? Simply type "DLPC" then the area concerned, then send it to 288. The subscriber is charged P2 for the service.

-oOo-

The areas initially registered in the system include Agdao, Bajada, Bangkal, Buhangin, Bunawan, Cabantian, Calinan, Carmen, Gaisano Mall, Lanang, Lasang, Maa, Marsman, Matina, Mintal, Obrero, Pampanga, Pana-bo, Panacan, Poblacion, San Pedro Hospital, Sasa, Sta. Ana, Sto. Tomas, Tadeco, Tibungco, Toril, and Victoria Plaza.

-oOo-

In unscheduled outages the subscriber gets a default message to the effect that Davao Light knows there is a problem and is working to solve it. That's not saying much, community relations head Vic Sumalinog admitted, but it at least assures the subscriber that Davao Light is aware of the problem. We all know the frustration of trying to call the utility and not being able to get through - there is nothing worse than not knowing if Davao Light knows we are suffering through a brownout. The SMS service helps a lot in settling us down.

-oOo-

For now Davao Light only gives power situation updates; we can't report an outage yet through text although this will eventually be included in the service. The service is so innovative - it is the first of its kind in the entire country and is Smart's first alliance with an electric utility - that Smart may market it to Meralco. Let's just hope that this catches on and forces Globe to offer the same service so that we all benefit.

-oOo-

My own take on this - some of which were confirmed by the Davao Light people - is that this is just the start of more wireless services from Davao Light. I think it is only a matter of time before customers are able to access their bills through their cell phones - as soon as the problem of information security is resolved. And then we would be only a few steps away from being able to pay for our bills wire-lessly, something that can actually be done through Smart Money. Davao Light COO Al Aboitiz is himself hesitant about this, but with advances in telecom technology such transactions will eventually be commonplace. In fact, as we are seeing Davao Light is at the forefront of giving such services to the people.
...

DAVAO LIGHT'S TEXT SERVICE
Mindanao Daily Mirror, September 3, 2001

If there's anything we've learned over this whole text reduction brouhahaha, it's that text - or short message service (SMS) - has already been transformed from a mere fad to an absolute necessity. Last Saturday's "boycott" was waged not just by teenagers but by serious folks who understand that SMS is a serious form of communication employed by businessmen and professionals - as well as those who should probably be doing something better with their time. Cell phones have jumped from the trend category to a bona fide utility.

-oOo-

Speaking of utilities, in the middle of these protests Davao Light and Power Company (DLPC) introduced its own service that gives customers the ability to get information on power outages through their cell phones. I had learned of this plan late last year through Davao Light's COO Al Aboitiz himself who along with brother Jimmy of Cotabato Light and Power Company conceptualized the whole thing. Finally, the company announced last week that it was indeed launching the service. The system itself was put in place by Engineer Ronald Chan, Systems Operations Department manager, who I had the chance to talk with over lunch last week along with corporate communications officer Ross Luga, his staff member Bong Saniel, and community relations officer Vic Sumalinog (who used to be the Mirror's business editor).

-oOo-

Ronald said the system was put in place because the Aboitiz brothers saw the popularity of SMS and knew it would be a good medium to inform their customers about power outages. "During brownouts we would be swamped with calls from customers asking about the cause," Ronald said. The group explained that during brownouts, particularly major ones, Davao Light would put up a "telephone brigade" composed of 32 operators to handle the wave of calls - and even then it would not be enough. Davao Light quickly saw that text was a good option.

-oOo-

Ronald talked with Smart and Globe in September, but Globe was cold to the idea. Smart, on the other hand, immediately picked up the proposal, and pretty soon an agreement was signed. Davao Light developed the software that would interface with Smart, while Smart did the accessing of the data. The system is actually linked to Davao Light's website: a subscriber sends a text to Smart, which accesses the website, which gives the needed information, which Smart sends back to the subscriber. Nothing fancy, but simple enough that it works. [Read Part 2]

-oOo-

Before I close, though, let me update you on the text boycott last Saturday. According to a source at Globe, from 6 to 9 a.m. that day a total of 3.4 millions messages had been sent - about the same volume as on the previous Saturdays. In other words, there seemed to have been no noticeable difference.
...


...


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