Thursday, March 19, 2009

Article: Learning and Scientific Reasoning

By Lei Bao, Tianfan Cai, Kathy Koenig, Kai Fang, Jing Han, Jing Wang, Qing Lu, Lin Ding, Lili Cui, Ying Luo, Yufeng Wang, Lieming Li, and Nianle Wu

From http://www.physics.ohio-state.edu/

I'm posting this excerpt in line with my last post about the purpose of Physics 1.

"The development of general scientific abilities is critical to enable students of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) to successfully handle open-ended real-world tasks in future careers. Teaching goals in STEM education include fostering content knowledge and developing general scientific abilities. One such ability, scientific reasoning, is related to cognitive abilities such as critical thinking and reasoning. Scientific reasoning skills can be developed through training and can be transferred. Training in scientific reasoning may also have a long-term impact on student academic achievement... The results from this study are consistent with existing research, which suggests that current education and assessment in the STEM disciplines often emphasize factual recall over deep understanding of science reasoning...Relations between instructional methods and the development of scientific reasoning have...shown that inquiry-based science instruction promotes scientific reasoning abilities. The current style of content-rich STEM education, even when carried out at a rigorous level, has little impact on the development of students' scientific reasoning abilities. It seems that it is not what we teach, but rather how we teach, that makes a difference in student learning of higher-order abilities in scientific reasoning. Because students ideally need to develop both content knowledge and transferrable reasoning skills, researchers and educators must invest more in the development of a balanced method of education, such as incorporating more inquiry-based learning that targets both goals."

This excerpt from an article we read in 290 was sobering to me. I've always known what I needed to impart, but the question became: did I do it? Can I do it?
I see three major dilemmas that could make imparting the skill of scientific reasoning difficult.

1. Lack of conceptual foundations - tertiary level subjects are meant to develop these reasoning skills, right? But it is not easy to accomplish if the students are not equipped with the proper conceptual background. We can teach these concepts, but that takes time away from asking the more important questions: the whys and the hows. And these questions take time to answer!
2. Language barrier - Our books are in English. Our students speak Filipino. Our exams are in English. Our students think in Filipino. Our science is in English. Our lives are in Filipino. 'Nuff said. Bow.
3. Teacher factor - I tend to forget the important question when I am writing out lectures: What do my students need to learn? Oftentimes, I forget that this is infinitely more important than What do I need to finish discussing? Most teachers focus more on the syllabus they created rather than the students they are teaching. I'm guilty of rushing lectures to finish the subject coverage only to saturate the learning curve of most of my students. If only for this, I owe my students an apology.

But still, here's to hoping against hope that I imparted some skills to my students.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Melancholy of Ma'am Kristine: Reminiscing

A Short Story, a Long Entry

When I graduated, two things were clear: (1) I want to teach, and (2) I was not going to teach in UP Diliman. For personal reasons which I would rather not discuss, I decided that the only way I would work in UP was if I were to become a researcher. And so I am. But what about teaching?

In some strange alternate universe, I could be a Pulitzer Prize winner or a Broadway star. But closer to the current reality--if things had gone just a bit differently (ie. I chose to work on my thesis instead of going to Europe with my mom) my first job would have been at an exclusive school for boys. While I was accepted despite the fact that I had yet to graduate, the interview with the head honchos, mostly comprised of a bunch of priests, turned me off a bit.

Priest : You want to become a teacher here? This is a Catholic school exclusive for boys.
Eia : I’m aware of that, father.
Priest : You’re young and beautiful, what would you do if one of the students courts you?
Eia : I would reject him. I am their teacher, after all. It wouldn’t be right or professional.
Priest : But what if they’re insistent and give you gifts?
Eia : My answer would depend on the gifts, of course.

(Eia is politely shown the office door.)

Eia : Humorless old man, can’t even take a joke.

Fine, so I really didn’t do that (like I'd have the courage to). Of course I answered politely and let them hear what they wanted to hear. But, seriously, the thought that I would have to face off with a bunch of hormonal teenage boys twice my size every single day brought to mind images of naughty videos and ecchi manga. And two years ago, unlikely as they were, those images were daunting.

Now, it was shortly after that interview that I realized I didn’t want to work in a high school. Despite that, on a whim, I sent my resume to my alma mater. Of course, the person in charge of screening applicants just had to be Mrs. Cobblepot (as in the Penguin, Cobblepot, Pisay graduates would understand) whose only memory of me was that she never saw me in her year 3 science research class (7:30AM is an unholy hour for a class).

Mrs. C : Nag-aapply kang teacher? Dito sa Pisay?
Eia : Opo.
Mrs. C : May TOR ka?
Eia : (hands in TOR) Heto po.

(Mrs. C laughs hysterically)

Mrs. C : Nag-aapply kang teacher? Dito? Sa Pisay?
Eia : Ma'am, yun na po ba ang punchline?

Of course, that’s a gross exaggeration of what happened, but you get the picture. I was never a stellar student. Some places like to look at grades. End of story. And, to be honest, if I had been accepted, I would have hesitated taking the job. I hated that place when I was a student, and I wouldn’t be in my right mind if I chose to go back. The intense competition and the drama that results from pushing angst-ridden smart kids too hard is really not my cup of tea. Let them grow up before they face me.

And so, I decided to teach college students. Because I didn't want to work in Ateneo and found DLSU to be too far away from my current world. It was during a my dad's childhood friends' Christmas reunion that PLP was brought up. They told me I should try to apply there. A lot of people offered to help me get in I consistently replied “Thanks. I'll think on it”. After half a year of thinking, I got into a tricycle and was on my way. Or, at least, I was almost on my way.

Eia : Kuya, sa Pasig University po.
Driver : Saan yun?
Eia : Malapit lang daw po e.
Driver : Saan nga?
Eia : Sundan daw po natin yung mga sign.

After a few minutes of discussing, the driver finally agreed to take me to “Pasig University” (note to self: not even tricycle drivers can get you to your destination if you don't know where it is). He nearly brought me to another university had I not seen the sign near McDo directing people to Alcalde Jose. But, I eventually reached PLP. I went to the HRD. I submitted my resume and the rest is history.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Four Golden Lessons : Advice to Students at the Start of their Scientific Career

Another Physics 290A article. It's a nice article that tells us even those who are as accomplished as the author, Steven Weinberg (Nobel Laureate in Physics) struggled at some point.

This article was taken from Nature. It was published in 2003, but many of you should be able to pick something up from this.

Scientist : Four Golden Lessons

by Steven Weinberg

When I received my undergraduate degree — about a hundred years ago — the physics literature seemed to me a vast, unexplored ocean, every part of which I had to chart before beginning any research of my own. How could I do anything without knowing everything that had already been done? Fortunately, in my first year of graduate school, I had the good luck to fall into the hands of senior physicists who insisted, over my anxious objections, that I must start doing research, and pick up what I needed to know as I went along. It was sink or swim. To my surprise, I found that this works. I managed to get a quick PhD — though when I got it I knew almost nothing about physics. But I did learn one big thing: that no one knows everything, and you don't have to.

Another lesson to be learned, to continue using my oceanographic metaphor, is that while you are swimming and not sinking you should aim for rough water. When I was teaching at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1960s, a student told me that he wanted to go into general relativity rather than the area I was working on, elementary particle physics, because the principles of the former were well known, while the latter seemed like a mess to him. It struck me that he had just given a perfectly good reason for doing the opposite. Particle physics was an area where creative work could still be done. It really was a mess in the 1960s, but since that time the work of many theoretical and experimental physicists has been able to sort it out, and put everything (well, almost everything) together in a beautiful theory known as the standard model. My advice is to go for the messes — that's where the action is.

My third piece of advice is probably the hardest to take. It is to forgive yourself for wasting time. Students are only asked to solve problems that their professors (unless unusually cruel) know to be solvable. In addition, it doesn't matter if the problems are scientifically important — they have to be solved to pass the course. But in the real world, it's very hard to know which problems are important, and you never know whether at a given moment in history a problem is solvable. At the beginning of the twentieth century, several leading physicists, including Lorentz and Abraham, were trying to work out a theory of the electron. This was partly in order to understand why all attempts to detect effects of Earth's motion through the ether had failed. We now know that they were working on the wrong problem. At that time, no one could have developed a successful theory of the electron, because quantum mechanics had not yet been discovered. It took the genius of Albert Einstein in 1905 to realize that the right problem on which to work was the effect of motion on measurements of space and time. This led him to the special theory of relativity. As you will never be sure which are the right problems to work on, most of the time that you spend in the laboratory or at your desk will be wasted. If you want to be creative, then you will have to get used to spending most of your time not being creative, to being becalmed on the ocean of scientific knowledge.

Finally, learn something about the history of science, or at a minimum the history of your own branch of science. The least important reason for this is that the history may actually be of some use to you in your own scientific work. For instance, now and then scientists are hampered by believing one of the over-simplified models of science that have been proposed by philosophers from Francis Bacon to Thomas Kuhn and Karl Popper. The best antidote to the philosophy of science is a knowledge of the history of science.

More importantly, the history of science can make your work seem more worthwhile to you. As a scientist, you're probably not going to get rich. Your friends and relatives probably won't understand what you're doing. And if you work in a field like elementary particle physics, you won't even have the satisfaction of doing something that is immediately useful. But you can get great satisfaction by recognizing that your work in science is a part of history.

Look back 100 years, to 1903. How important is it now who was Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1903, or President of the United States? What stands out as really important is that at McGill University, Ernest Rutherford and Frederick Soddy were working out the nature of radioactivity. This work (of course!) had practical applications, but much more important were its cultural implications. The understanding of radioactivity allowed physicists to explain how the Sun and Earth's cores could still be hot after millions of years. In this way, it removed the last scientific objection to what many geologists and paleontologists thought was the great age of the Earth and the Sun. After this, Christians and Jews either had to give up belief in the literal truth of the Bible or resign themselves to intellectual irrelevance. This was just one step in a sequence of steps from Galileo through Newton and Darwin to the present that, time after time, has weakened the hold of religious dogmatism. Reading any newspaper nowadays is enough to show you that this work is not yet complete. But it is civilizing work, of which scientists are able to feel proud.


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Lyrics Trip: Out of my League by Stephen Speaks

LSS of the week. Not that I'm complaining. I love this song. For some reason, it makes me smile. Aside from the lovely piano introduction, maybe it's a twisted fantasy of mine that someone somewhere is singing this song for me. Not that Ivan would be caught dead humming this cheese-fest(and, for the record, dear to my heart, I'm definitely not out of your league).

-

It's her hair and her eyes today
That just simply take me away
And the feeling that I'm falling further in love
Makes me shiver but in a good way

All the times i have sat and stared
As she thoughtfully thumbs through her hair
And she purses her lips, bats her eyes as she plays,
with me sitting there slack-jawed and nothing to say

Coz I love her with all that I am
And my voice shakes along with my hands
Coz she’s all that I see and she’s all that I need
And I'm out of my league once again

It's a masterful melody when she calls out my name to me
As the world spins around her she laughs, rolls her eyes
And I feel like I'm falling but it's no surprise

Coz I love her with all that I am
And my voice shakes along with my hands
Coz it's frightening to be swimming in this strange sea
But I'd rather be here than on land

Yes she's all that I see and she's all that I need
And I'm out of my league once again

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Lyrics Trip: 68 Dr. Sixto Antonio Ave. by Eraserheads

I've known about the song for years. I don't know why I sought it out, now. It's an interesting lyric. I wish I knew where this place really was.

-

Isang pulis na nangingikil
Upang may pambili ng beer
Bisikletang paru-paro
Animnapu't walo
Sumemplang sa kanto

Pag may bagyo'y lunod sa luha
Nagbabaha sa kalsada
Isang gabing maulan
Aking napagmasdan
Nagtatakbuhan

Dalawang nakaitim
Isang may hawak na patlim
May galit ang kanyang mukha
Sa pagkidlat ay nawala
Nangyari ay ano kaya

(voiceover first 2 stanzas)

68 dr. sixto antonio ave
Hulog ka ng Langit
Gumising ka na

Isang bulag na motorista
May nabaril sa kalsada
Masagi na ang lola
Huwag lang daw ang auto niya
Lakas tumawa

Tuloy-tuloy ang panaginip
Maghihintay na lang ng jeep
Nakakabulag ang ilaw
Libu-libong sumisigaw
Lumipad ang araw

Di mo na napapansin
Mga naghuhukay sa dilim
Araw-araw, buwan-buwan
Sumisikip na ang daan
Wala ka nangg mapuntahan

Wala ka nang mapuntahan
Hindi malaman kung saan
'Di ko malaman kung saan

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Melancholy of Ma'am Kristine: On Looking Down

I have a strange obsession whenever I'm staring out of high windows or looking down from a high place: I always feel like throwing something at the people below me.

Why?

It's mostly because I want them to look up. I want them to realize that I can see them. I want them to realize that even if they are alone on the street, I'm watching them from above. We all have a tendency to limit ourselves to what we consider to be "our level". The world is much bigger than that.

Whenever I'm out in the open, walking beside tall buildings, I also have the compulsion to look up at the windows above. I often wonder if people are watching. I often wonder if there are people like me who like to look down. Maybe I have a god complex. I don't know. But looking down from above kinda sets things in perspective in an almost religious sense.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Laws of Herman : A guide for the perplexed graduate student doing research

This is something Dr. Saloma read to us during Physics 290. I thought it was an appropriate post given the deadlines looming over everyone's heads. I also enjoyed it very much.

Taken from Following the Law
by Irving Herman, which is posted at naturejobs.com.

-

Your vacation begins after you defend your thesis.

2. In research, what matters is what is right, and not who is right.

3. In research and other matters, your adviser is always right, most of the time.

4. Act as if your adviser is always right, almost all the time.

5. If you think you are right and you are able to convince your adviser, your adviser will be very happy.

6. Your productivity varies as (effective productive time spent per day)1,000.

7. Your productivity also varies as 1/(your delay in analyzing acquired data)1,000.

8. Take data today as if you know that your equipment will break tomorrow.

9. If you would be unhappy to lose your data, make a permanent back-up copy of them within five minutes of acquiring them.

10. Your adviser expects your productivity to be low initially and then to be above threshold after a year or so.

11. You must become a bigger expert in your thesis area than your adviser.

12. When you cooperate, your adviser's blood pressure will go down a bit.

13. When you don't cooperate, your adviser's blood pressure either goes up a bit or it goes down to zero.

14. Usually, only when you can publish your results are they good enough to be part of your thesis.

15. The higher the quality, first, and quantity, second, of your publishable work, the better your thesis.

16. Remember, it's your thesis. You (!) need to do it.

17. Your adviser wants you to become famous, so that he/she can finally become famous.

18. Your adviser wants to write the best letter of recommendation for you that is possible.

19. Whatever is best for you is best for your adviser.

20. Whatever is best for your adviser is best for you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Re: 99 Things Girls Should Know about Guys (Part 2)

At the behest of Sir Kiko, I Googled "signs" and "what girls should know" and this was one of the lists that came up. One damn long list.

Grabbed from God, Gold, Glory

-

6. Guys may be flirting around all day but before they go to sleep, they always think about the girl they truly care about.

Around the time we got together, I asked Ivan how he knew he loved me. He said something like this: "Because you're the first person I think about when I wake up and the last person I think about before I fall asleep." I'm sure, though, I haven't been the last thing on Ivan's mind before he goes to sleep for at least a while now. He's been thinking about his thesis (at least, I hope he is). That's what's most important to him at the moment, and I don't really mind.

It's funny, really, how the things most important to us at the moment are apparent in the thoughts that first enter our heads at the start of the day and the thoughts that preoccupy our minds during our last waking moments. It doesn't matter what filled our days, but the things that really most concern us are evident at that bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness. So, male or female, if we're at that stage in life that romance is most important to us, then this is probably true.

7. When a guy really likes you, he'll disregard all your bad characteristics.

I like the Disney channel, I like classical music, know nothing about pop culture, and am constantly tripping over my own feet. Ivan, dearest to my heart, has had to put up with these things and then some for over seven years. Do you really think he disregards them? No, he doesn't. If you truly love a person, you help them better themselves. Love is not blind, it sees quite clearly. But love doesn't see faults or shortcomings, it sees the room for improvement that could make things even better.

8. Guys go crazy over a girl's smile.

I know two guys who were once gaga over this girl, so long as she didn't smile. "Pangit ngipin niya e," one of them explained when I asked.

Seriously, guy or girl, your smile is always your best face.

9. Guys will do anything just to get the girl's attention.

A few days ago, Sir Kiko and I were talking and I mentioned some of the things guys did for me to get my attention. I was in high school when a guy first tried to get my attention (or, rather, affection). He put me on a three-way conference call with one of his friends who "opened up" the topic. Then, he told me in a shy awkward way that he had a crush on me. I don't mind things like that. Crushes are quaint things that make you feel good with little consequence. Now, the more...uhm...fervent ones had more devastating results. One guy called me every night so he could hear my voice. The same guy followed me around singing "I'll Be" (which is why I learned to hate that song). This other guy kissed my hand and asked if he could "keep me" (Casper, is that you?). Cake-guy gave me pastries then sent a friend to get my celphone number so he could get "acquainted" with me over text. But the one who succeeded did it oh-so-simply. He walked up to me and said 'hi'.
Sir Kiko pointed out something that I realized was true. On another girl, the tactics that failed on me would have worked. The main problem here is that I'm not romantic. I'm painfully cerebral so you have to be able to pique my brain in order to be able to pick me up. Tip: You don't have to resort to extreme and ridiculous acts. Approach the girl, find out what makes her tick. THEN ask her out. The problem is, while guys would probably do "almost anything" to get a girl's attention, they don't do what are, to me, the best things to do: be yourself and be upfront.

10. Guys hate it when you talk about your ex-boyfriend.

Interesting thing about this is that while guys don't like hearing about the other guys in their lady's life, girls are often interested in their lover's past loves. I think I'll explore this topic more in a different post. LOL.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Re: 99 Things Girls Should Know about Guys (Part 1)

At the behest of Sir Kiko, I Googled "signs" and "what girls should know" and this was one of the lists that came up. One damn long list.

Grabbed from God, Gold, Glory

-

I just felt like reacting to them. There are 99, so I plan on doing these in batches of 5s or 4s. I'm a girl, so my reactions are just opinions and not facts, and yes, this is a disclaimer.

1. Guys don't actually look after good-looking girls. They prefer neat and presentable girls.

Ivan once told me, "There is no such thing as an ugly girl, but there are lazy ones." And, I actually agree. Let's face facts, with the right accessories, clothes, and cosmetics, any member of the fairer sex can become attractive. I don't think there's an actual preference for neat and presentable girls, a hot sexy mama is a hot sexy mama even when she's covered in mud (hence the percentage of the male population so into mud wrestling). But if you're not blessed to be one of the gorgeous clones of Hollywood A-listers, good grooming always helps you in the race for a partner, regardless of gender.

And remember, according to some scientific studies, the sense of smell is the one most linked to emotion. It's also one of the first indicators of genetic compatibility. So if you can't make yourself look good, at least try to smell good.

(I think I should take my own advice. LOL)

2. Guys hate flirts.

I don't think guys actually hate flirts. I think they hate it when someone they find unattractive flirts with them. No one wants to be stuck with the girl in Silvertoes. But, if the girl who flirts with him is a hottie, I don't think he would mind the ego boost.

The problem with flirting is that we have different definitions of it. For me, flirting is a form of intellectual foreplay, some people think those who are being kind and generous are flirting. (Gods, yes! A person can be nice without ulterior motives. Jeez! Grow up from your Neanderthal-selves, people! We're not just about sex anymore.) It can be extremely frustrating when you realize that the person you thought was into you isn't into you at all. So, I think the key here is consistency and not sending mixed signals. And bear in mind that flirting does not require commitment. Some guys are annoyed by girls who flirt with them but have no plans of hooking up with them. But, dudes, it happens. Flirting is an ego boost for the ladies, too.

Come on. Turnabout is fair play.

3. A guy can like you for a minute, and then forget you afterward.

I think this depends on the guy and your definition of "like". I think, on this matter, guys are wired a little differently than girls. A guy who sees a fairly attractive girl, and there are a lot of those in their collective minds, would most probably like her the moment he sees her. But, even if he finds the girl attractive, that doesn't mean he wants a relationship, right? Maybe he wants sexy time or maybe even just eye candy, but he's not exactly looking for a wife, yet.

This is kinda different from many girls who get crushes that last for years on end. I'm not sure, but I think some guy-crushes can last for, like, five seconds. Enough time for the girl to exit his line of vision.

4. When a guy says he doesn't understand you, it simply means you're not thinking the way he is.

And when a girl says she doesn't understand you, it means the same thing. Life wouldn't be half as interesting if men and women completely understood each other, so let's just enjoy the confusion.

5. "Are you doing something?" or "Have you eaten already?" are the first usual questions a guy asks on the phone just to get out from stammering.

Concern does not always equate to "at a loss for words". I think this is one of those entries in this list that is more "99 things girls should know about me ('me' being the author of the list)" than "99 things girls should know about guys". It's true, though, that small talk is often used when you're not sure of what you can talk about, but these questions (and a few others like "How was your day?" and "How are you?") are sometimes asked as forms of common courtesy or actual interest.

Here's a tip: don't call a girl if you can't think of anything to talk about. Don't expect her to carry the conversation, that's just annoying.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Melancholy of Ma'am Kristine: Login-logout

Government is notorious for creating red tape. Being someone who works for two government agencies, I wasn't expecting to escape these unnecessary burdens. But really, my dear PLP administration, this takes the cake.

A memo was released that faculty members not only have to time in at the bundy clock, we also have to log in at the faculty room. And, it doesn't end there, the class officers of the class we're attending will also take note of the time we arrived.

Why?

Because, apparently, some teachers would time in at PLP, then leave the campus to teach at other schools. Now, I don't really mind this. Also, there are rumors about some teachers who ask co-teachers to time in for them. Being the person who does neither, I'm not really bothered by this minor inconvenience, but in my humble opinion, I think it's incredibly pointless and impractical. Now, if I'm just being stubborn or difficult, you're free to correct my opinions.

1. If these people had the gall to cheat the bundy clock, then they would have the gall to cheat the logs. If there's a will, there's a way. Increasing the number of steps only increases the number of steps to violate. Red tape does not create discipline. You're just making it more difficult for those who aren't even cheating. It's easy to ask someone to sign in for you just as it's easy to ask someone to time in for you. And, we're teachers, for crying out loud! If we wanted to cheat the log the students have, we could easily threaten them with our authority. You're just giving the students unnecessary grief. Which takes me to point two.

2. This is a problem of the faculty and administration, not the students. Don't get the kids involved. It will just create new possibilities for conflict between teachers and their students. Either side could abuse the log. A student with a grudge can mark their teacher late. A teacher could easily force a student to mark him or her to be on time.

3. The processing of salaries are slow enough as it is. The logs just create more confusion in the calculation of the salaries. More confusion means slower processing. Remember how we didn't get our salary for November until late January? Prepare to wait even longer if this takes effect.

I can think of more reasons to protest this, most of which come from how it was implemented, how little (read: no) consultation was done and how poorly information was disseminated, but I'll keep it to these three. Personally, I don't think the problem can be solved this way. I think this is more a problem of poor relations between the administration and the faculty. Also, this is a problem of politics and status quo. A person who is aware of cheating cannot tell on his or her co-teachers because of fear of being treated like a traitor. There is no incentive for honest, as well. The administration, instead of sanctioning the majority for the sins of the few, should provide incentives for consistency in performance, instead. This just creates resentment.

And, really, do we need even more of that, right now?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Makahiya



The flower of the Mimosa pudica is a lovely spray of color on an infinite expanse of grass. Its bright color stands out prettily against the verdant hues of the surrounding natural carpet. But when you place the Makahiya amongst flowers like calla lilies, roses, and sunflowers, it becomes a weed. Small, fragile, and muted in color, while it does not cease to be a thing of beauty, it suddenly becomes plain and ordinary.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Melancholy of Ma'am Kristine: Mystery Cake

Today is Amb. Tirona's birthday. The PLP full-time faculty held a program so full-timers' classes were cancelled. Part-timers were supposed to hold classes as usual, but my students didn't come to class, so I joined the other part-timers whose students were MIA. We were invited to eat so we lined up for the buffet. But, since the affair was for full-timers, there weren't any seats for us, so we headed back to the faculty room. When we came back down to return the plates to the caterers, Ma'am Auit decided to watch the slide show made for Amba so Sir Ryan and I watched with her.

Moment 1: Open mouth, insert foot

Me (about the flattering acrosstic poem flashed on the screen): Hala ka. Totoo ba yan?
Sir Ryan: Para kay Amba. Patapos na yan.
Me (moves hands, as if forming a ball): Bola.
Lady beside us: Ang hirap humanap ng pictures. Akala ko hindi ko magagawa.

The lady beside us turned out to be Amba's daughter. Great. Open mouth, insert foot.

Moment 2: Mystery Cake

As we stood there, three female HM students approached me with a cake.

Girl 1: Ma'am, pinabibigay po ni Chef Luces(?).
Girl 2 (elbowing girl 1): Ssst.
Girl 1: Sabi niya, sabihin galing kay Chef Luces(?) eh.
Me: Sakin to?
Girl 3: Opo.
Me: Ano to? Bibigay ko kay Amba?
Girl 1: Hindi, ma'am! Sayo yan.
Me: Ah... okay. Just checking. Thank you.

I was too confused. Didn't really know how to react. I think I should be flattered, but really.... o_o

It's good cake, though. ;-D

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Holidays for 2009

PGMA has listed the official holidays of 2009 in proclamation 1699.

6 April - Araw ng Kagitingan instead of April 9
9 April - Maundy Thursday
10 Apr - Good Friday
1 May - Labor Day
12 June - Independence Day
21 August - Ninoy Aquino Day
31 August - National Heroes’ Day
21 September - Eid’l Fitr (exact date my change)
1 November - All Saints’ Day
2 November - All Soul’s Day
30 November - Bonifacio Day
24 December - Christmas Eve
25 December - Christmas Day
30 December - Rizal Day
31 December - New Year’s Eve

Mark your calendars, then. Hope you guys find this information useful. Nothin about the commemoration of the first EDSA revolution (24/25 February), but that doesn't mean she can't declare it as a holiday at the last minute. Chances are she will, anyway.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Relieved: Comments on the Feast of the Black Nazarene

It has always been difficult for me, someone who a priest has called an "inquiring faithful", to understand many of the rituals and traditions of Philippine Catholicism. Don't get me wrong, whenever I recite the Apostles' Creed, I mean it. It's just that, sometimes, the human aspect of the Catholic Church is not easy to "believe in". Because I often find the actions of many "devout Catholics" to be utterly pointless and adverse to the Christian faith, it's not easy for me to defend the faith when questioned. Many people, myself included, are not good representatives of the Catholic Church.

This Sunday, I felt vindicated when a priest echoed my thoughts in his sermon. Fr. Nolan criticized the devotees of the Black Nazarene in this way. "Mag-tsinelas nga kayo. Baka matusok yang mga paa ninyo. Tingin niyo ba gusto ng Nazareno na magkasugat-sugat yang mga paa ninyo?" Fr. Nolan further told us that when you ask most devotees why they do what they do on the feast day of the Nazareno, they reply "Para matupad ang mga kahilingan namin." I think the priest's internal retort "Ano to, gamitan?" was most appropriate.

It is traditions, no, mentalities like this that make non-Catholic Christians shake their heads at us, marking us as unbelievers who have a very superficial relationship with God.

We tend to treat God like a vending machine. Insert good deed. Select wish. Take wish from compartment below. And when we don't get what we want we become resentful. We smack the machine. We curse at it. We swear never to use it again. This way of thinking assumes that when we do the things good Christians should do, God owes us something. But, how can that be when all the things we have and do are gifts from God? See the disconnect?

The feast of the Black Nazarene is a beautiful example of how Catholicism is still very much alive in the Philippines and how many Catholics are not merely nominal, but are devout. At the same time, to me, it is also a poignant picture of misleading tradition and skewed reasoning.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Nerdness and Coffee and Combining the Two

The members of the consultancy firm my mom is part of, Brain Trust Inc., was having a roundtable discussion when the topic of coffee was brought up. One of my mom's epicurian friends said that officials of Cafe Puro told him the secret of preparing the best cup of instant coffee.

Step 1. Heat the water to boiling.
Step 2. Put two teaspoons of coffee in a mug.
Step 3. Pour a small amount of water INTO the coffee and not the other way around. Add sugar (if you wish) and mix into a slurry.
Step 4. Add the rest of the hot water.
Step 5. Add milk or creamer.
Step 6. Add other flavorings (cinnamon, choco powder, etc.)

By this time I was already aware of this process. I even wrote a vignette describing the preparation of the "ideal cup". What struck me was the question "Why does it taste better if you put the water into the coffee?"

On the trip back, my mind was mulling over possible theories and here is the most sensible one:

From what I know, instant coffee does not dissolve, per se. Parts of the coffee are "leached", meaning a chemical reaction occurs between the coffee grains and the water. So, instant coffee is actually the product of the leaching process PLUS the inert parts of the coffee that were dissolved by the hot water. If I understand this correctly, these dissolved parts are not desirable. If we put the coffee into the water, the rate of dissolution competes with the leaching process. The full flavor of the coffee is therefore not realized. On the other hand, if there is a lot of coffee and a little water, I imagine that, somehow, dissolution is minimized while leaching is maximized, thus making a better cup of coffee.

So there. x_x Yes. I'm thinking too much about this. Going back to PIC model and shape factors now...

TRIVIA: The volatile parts of your coffee are continuously lost to the atmosphere. Coffee beans lose these flavorful oils at a lower rate simply because coffee beans have a lower surface area than coffee ground of the same mass. Therefore, when buying coffee, it is good to check the date when the coffee beans were packed. Also, it is not advised to have your coffee beans ground if you don't plan on drinking it within the day.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

It kinda started like this...

"Baka stress lang yan. Magpahinga ka."

The doctor said this as she read my EKG which, apparently, was normal. As I rolled down my green tennis dress, I couldn't help but think that what she said made sense. I had every right to be stressed out. I had little sleep the night prior as I was cramming for my Komunikasyon term paper and I had a workout that was far more rigorous than what my normally lethargic body was used to. But, I knew that those were not the reasons for the twinge in my chest that sent me staggering to the infirmary. There were two things that were weighing even more heavily than my "Babae lang ba ang nagme-make up?" term paper: the discovery that my burgeoning friendship with Chenn was ruined and a confession that I didn't know how to react to.

As I stood from the examination table, the doctor addressed me a second time. "Huwag ka muna maglalalakad magisa. Bumalik ka kapag sumakit ulit."

I nodded and thanked her and wondered who I would call to accompany me.

Ivan sounded worried over the phone. He and Rene arrived even before I finished returning my record to that surly old lady at the Records Section and paying for my EKG. When I saw them, they looked even more worried than Ivan had sounded and I commented that they looked like expectant fathers. Rene was the one who first spoke to me, asking how I was. I explained what happened and apologized for calling them over from the Math Building. Ivan hung around, not saying anything. When we got out of the Infirmary, Ivan hailed a cab to take us to the Math Building for Math 53. Ivan took the front seat, leaving the back seat to Rene and me.

"Tumakbo si Ivan."

"Huh?" I blinked, confused by the supposedly stunning revelation of Rene's. He was smiling, amused.

"Hindi tumatakbo si Ivan. Tumakbo siya para sayo."

I think I blushed a bit. I can't really tell. It was at that moment that I realized that I really shouldn't be stressing out. Things would fall into place, eventually.

Later that afternoon, after a long lunch with Teds, at around 4PM, right after Ivan's Physics 101.1 class. I was feeling much better. I had made a decision to deal with one of the two things that were bothering me.

I approached Ivan and pulled him aside. "About last night's message," I began as I stared at his hands picking on the peeling white paint of the ledge separating Pav 4 from the rest of AS...

...and the rest is history, I suppose. Seven years after that extended moment is today (or, rather, yesterday, considering the time). I'm not as eloquent as Ivan when it comes expressing himself. I'm not concise and witty like he is. But I like telling this story because the more I tell it, the more I'm assured that I will never forget why I am in this position and why I am not regretting it.

Thanks for seven years, Ivan.

-

I also updated Cliched and Corny, but not with my own works. Do check it out.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

PdLR's Thought for the Day


"Never forget: There is nothing that human hands are capable of that is below you; and there is nothing that the human mind can conceive that is beyond you."

I put this at the end of my students' midterm exam. =p