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Hello.

It has been a while since I wrote something here.

It’s not that I have completely forgotten about the existence of this blog. Once in a while I would visit and read my entries from years back. I have just a few posted now as during each visit, I would always find something to remove.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could do the same with life? To be able to go back, review, and edit?

Personally, I don’t think I’d like to be presented with that option; I have poor decision-making skills.

‘Til next time.

(If I decide to continue.)

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For us, the race is (not) on

I remember reading an article a while ago on Newsweek and according to it, the race is on between universities around the globe in getting the most number of foreign students. That means now it’s not just between US institutions like Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. According to London’s Times Higher Education Supplement (THES), although the Western universities are still the clear winner with the US taking all the top 8 slots, the rankings are more diverse. No less than 30 countries are represented in the top 200. Unless US colleges keep reinventing themselves, they will lose their lead in the global game. Beijing University, the National University of Singapore and the University of Tokyo are all in the top 20.

A friend of mine from high school is now studying in Japan. She’s very lucky to get a higher education in one of the most competitive countries in the world. It’s not hard to envy her. Sometimes I wonder how it’s like to study in a global university, where facilities are the most modern, faculty is top notch, and the environment is most conducive to learning. Sadly, we don’t and I doubt if we will have – even in the next 100 years – universities like Harvard nor Yale. Even in Asia alone, we are lagging behind our counterparts. And unless the government wakes up and makes education its number one priority, we’ll keep lagging behind. Today, other Asian countries are pouring resources to homegrown schools in a bid to prevent brain drain. China is planning to spend a portion of its annual GDP (that is higher than Europe’s or US’) on higher education. Earlier last year, Malaysia announced that by 2010, they will become an international education hub with 100,000 foreign students. India plans to create Vedanta University which they claim will raise standards throughout Asia with 100,000 students and 40,000 faculty.

If you remember, last year’s THES rankings showed that 4 institutions from the Philippines (University of the Philippines, La Salle, Ateneo and UST) made it to the top 300. Yes, it’s something to be proud of but it’s not something to be complacent with. While other Asian countries strive to have a cutting-edge global educational system, the Philippines is still yet to make education a top concern.

Cell phone novels, anyone?

In Japan, the 10 best selling novels of last year included five which were originally cell phone novels. In a country where people’s habits consist mainly of manga and comic books, that is far from being surprising. In 2000, Maho no i-rando, a home page making Web site, allowed its users to upload works and readers to comment after it realized that many users write novels on their blogs. The number of its listed novels ballooned to 1 million last month. One of the famous cell phone novels was Love Sky (or Sky of Love) by Mika. It was read by 20 million people on their cell phones/computers and was made into a movie last year.

I think I might have heard about Love Sky before. But most Japanese/Taiwanese/Korean romantic movies don’t interest me. The plots are too simple and predictable and I would bet a month of my salary (and it’s not that much..LOL) that these Japanese cell phone novels are of no difference. The lack of depth and poor development of plot and characterization would kill me. That is why I was also never a fan of fan fictions.

At least, these budding young Japanese “novelists” now have a new source of income. That is, if their novels get published as a book. If not, they don’t get paid no matter how many millions of people read their novels online.

As for me, I’d stick with the traditional novels.

Sharapova wins Australian Open 2008

Maria Sharapova has won this year’s Australian Open women’s finals against Serbia’s Ana Ivanovic (7-5, 6-3). It was a well anticipated finals between the two glamour girls of tennis with the latter being the crowd favorite. This was her second grand slam finals appearance since Roland Garros in France. I was also rooting for Ivanovic, but Sharapova was merciless on the court today. Last year she also reached the finals but didn’t win the title. This year was a different story. Without dropping a set she showed the world why in such very young age she already was able to win two grand slam championships: Wimbledon and the US Open respectively. Despite her win Sharapova will remain as No. 5 in the world rankings.

As for her part, Ana Ivanovic has nothing to be ashamed of. Although she lost she now moves to No. 2 in the world rankings from No. 4. World No. 2 at 20 years old? I’d take it. The Australian Open is just the first of the exciting grand slams to come this year. I’m sure we will see a lot of Ivanovic in the coming months. There’d be a lot of opportunities and being a future No. 1 is not far-fetched.

Watch

I am so, so happy that Ana Ivanovic has reached the Australian Open finals! In one of my previous posts I said I doubt if she’s even gonna reach the semis but I’ve kept my fingers crossed. Good luck to her on her match against seed no. 5 Maria Sharapova (and Henin losing was like, whut?!). I’m so gonna to watch it tomorrow!

 

Linux horror

So I got an EEE PC with pre-installed OS Xandros Linux, right? So far I love almost every bit of it: size…very portable, battery…efficient, office applications…nice, web browsing…great, wifi adapter…perfect, installing new applications…

MAJOR MOTHERF*CKING HEADACHE.

Although I use OpenOffice in doing most of my documents, I’m used to Windows OS so I’m kind of lost when it comes to Linux. If you’re new to Linux (like me) and you’d want to install some applications, say, LimeWire, GOOD.LUCK. It’s not as easy as “download and install” like in Windows. You have to know that the term “terminal window” and other technical terms are vital to be able to understand and eventually successfully install applications on Linux.

So for those of you out there who are going bald trying to figure out how to install Limewire on EEE PC Linux, after several days of frustration, i tried the following, and – HALLELUJAH -it worked:

1. download the Limewire package for Ubuntu/debian from the limewire site (http:www.limewire.com/download) and save it in your Home directory.
2. press ctrl-t to open terminal window
3. type “sudo dpkg -i LimeWireLinux.deb” (without quotation marks)
4. type “limewire”

WAIT. I know, I know. Some may get the error message saying there’s something wrong with Java and the system may not have the right version. OK, so you need to install the correct JRE version for your system. One way to do that is to get Eclipse (You may be scratching your head wondering what the hell it is. Google it.). But before that, you may need to enable your system’s Full Desktop Mode (KDE) first, and here’s how you do it (you have to be connected to the Internet):

1. press ctrl-alt-t to open up a terminal
2. type “sudo bash” to gain root access
3. type “apt-get update”
4. type “apt-get install kicker” and type “y” when asked if you want to install
5. type “apt-get install ksmserver” and type “y” again
6. type “exit” to exit root account
7. type “exit” to close terminal
8. press power button and you will see the Full Desktop option on the left, press it to reboot computer to Full Desktop mode
9. If you reboot again your computer will go back to Easy Mode. go to Settings tab in easy mode, click on Personalization, and select the check box next to Full Desktop Mode. you will now have Full Desktop mode everytime you boot up.

Whew. Now the next problem is downloading a JRE for Limewire. As I’ve said earlier, you can have
that by using Eclipse. To install it you need to do the following:

1. download EasyEclipse Expert Java (easyeclipse-expert-java-1.2.2-2.tar.gz) to My Documents (default) from http://www.easyeclipse.org/site/distributions/index.html#java.
2. right click and extract all to My documents
3. go to sub directory created easyeclipse-expert-java-1.2.2 and launch it (double click)
4. if you get an error message, rename jre sub directory in sub directory easyeclipse-expert-java-1.2.2 to jre_unused
5. go to sub directory created easyeclipse-expert-java-1.2.2 and try to launch it again

Now that you have Java taken cared of, you can now try relaunching LimeWire. See how much work you need to do to install just a single application? Linux is a great OS once you get the hang of it. But geez, it’s far from being user friendly.

The “It Girls” of Russia

Dasha Zhukova – daughter of a Russian tycoon and reportedly the girlfriend of Roman Abramovich, the billionaire who owns the Chelsea soccer club in London.

Ksenia and Anastasia Virganskaya (the Gorbachev girls) – granddaughters of Mikhail Gorbachev

These and other well-connected beauties are the It Girls of Moscow, part of a transnational jet set that shows up from Monaco to Ascot.

Entertainment programmes on Russian television interview them. Local glossy magazines register their every heartbreak and hemline. And beginning next year, Tatler, the British society magazine, plans to start publishing its first foreign edition here, to focus on Russian socialites who, like Paris Hilton in the West, influence the handbags, the lap dogs and the taste in boyfriends to which other trend-conscious people aspire.

‘We don’t have our own Angelina Jolie or our Britney Spears with the resources to wear fancy clothes,’ said Ksenia Chilingarova, 25, a poet and magazine editor who is also an It Girl herself, the daughter of Artur Chilingarov, a deputy speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament and a polar explorer.

At 11am on a recent Friday, she was dressed in evening attire – a common sight in Moscow because constant traffic jams prevent people from going home to change at the end of the day – for a party that night.

‘The reality is that the children of famous people are so popular because they have the money to dress up, wear jewellery, travel to Paris and London and be photographed doing it,’ she said.

Indeed, the party pages of Russian editions of Harper’s Bazaar, Hello, OK!, Viva! and GALA are so popular that readers flip to the back to read them first, and to check out what local socialites are wearing, said Shakri Amirkhanova, editor-in-chief of the forthcoming Russian-language Tatler.

Ten years ago, the wives of successful businessmen who spent a lot of time and money getting gussied up in flashy clothes, served as role models, she said.

‘Now it is a new generation – I call them ‘the children of’ – who have influential lifestyles,’ said Amirkhanova, 29.

Amirkhanova, who is the granddaughter of Rasul Gamzatov, a well-known poet, used to date Boris Yeltsin Jr, the grandson of the former Russian president, and has attended Paris fashion shows with Zhukova and other It Girls.

‘If they work in fashionable jobs, if they wear a mix of designer and high-street clothes, if they go on spiritual retreats in Tibet and drink green tea and do yoga and have iPhones, other people will follow,’ she said.

There is some historical precedent for this phenomenon. In czarist times, members of the nobility followed the doings of the ruler’s entourage. And in some ways, the new Moscow high society replicates the old Soviet caste system, in which children of the nomenklatura (the elite) attended the same elite schools and social events (although without blog coverage).

‘Russia has always been a monolith state and Russians have always been obsessed with people in power,’ said Nina Khrushcheva, an associate professor in the international affairs programme at New School University in New York.

Khrushcheva, a Nabokov scholar, is the great-granddaughter of premier Nikita Khrushchev, who was ousted in 1964.

‘So now it is a monolith state with tall, blonde, leggy girls who promote themselves as the children of power,’ she said.

The Gorbachev granddaughters, both of whom work as editors at lifestyle magazine Grazia, came to international attention several years ago when they attended a Paris debutante ball at the Hotel Crillon.

But they aren’t entirely at ease in their public roles.

‘I feel uncomfortable in this dress,’ said Ksenia Virganskaya of the black tuxedo dress with white cuffs that she said Donatella Versace had chosen for her, at the Versace boutique late last month.

She turned to show the originally backless outfit which was now patched with a large oval of white cloth. ‘I made them close it up before I would wear it,’ she confided.

She was about to leave for St Petersburg to interview French film icon Catherine Deneuve for Grazia. Her younger sister, meanwhile, was preparing to fly off to an event at Versailles.

‘It was not my goal to become a trendsetter,’ said Anastasia. ‘But now people write, ‘Look at the Gorbachev girls, even their dog is a trendsetter.”

-Natasha Singer, NYTS

Hmmmm…. a certain Paris Hilton is more than enough. Really.

Wicked!

“When Dorothy triumphed over the Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum’s classic tale, we heard only her side of the story. But what about her arch nemesis, the mysterious Witch? Where did she come from? How did she become so wicked?”

Brilliant plot, isn’t it? When I first saw this book I couldn’t help but to be intrigued and I wanted to read it right off the shelf. Wicked is the back story of Elphaba, the green-skinned girl who will grow up to become the Wicked Witch of the West in F.L. Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. All throughout the book we are presented with questions and debates on the subject of the true nature of good and evil. Where does evil come from? Are we born with it? Or if not, how does one succumb to it?

After reading it, I was both satisfied and dissatisfied. Gregory Maguire’s Oz is a wonderfully imagined world; and the book has a good sense of humor. I found myself laughing every now and then, especially at Elphaba’s sarcasm. But there were characters which I didn’t see the significance to the story as a whole. Maybe I just didn’t understand their importance, yet. Not sure. The NY Times bestseller Son of a Witch is actually the sequel and I’ve read somewhere that some of the characters in Wicked played important roles here. I just think that if one did not know that these characters would be needed in the sequel, he/she wouldn’t see the point of their introduction in the first book. Also, a huge part of my dissatisfaction comes from Elphaba’s character itself. It’s not that Maguire lacked character development; I was just expecting a totally different outcome in terms of Elphaba’s nature.

In Wicked, although way odd as compared to other children – she had green skin, for one – Elphaba wasn’t born “wicked”. Except for her skin and her fear of water (which the author didn’t explain thoroughly as to why. Or maybe he did and I just didn’t get it), she grew up to be normal. She was a good daughter and a loving sister. She loved reading and was very smart. She was mostly misunderstood but she had her group of friends, which included Galinda (later Glinda, the Good Witch of the North who gave Dorothy the famous shoes and sent her to Emerald City), which became one of her closest friends. She fought for Animals’ rights and joined them in their effort to be treated as first-class citizens. As she grew old she bacame an underground agent of some sort for an organization which was working against the Wizard of Oz’s rule. For reasons I would no longer enumerate here, her actions against the Wizard were justifiable, at least when you look at them from her point of view. She didn’t believe in God nor the concept of a soul, but deep within her she craved for one. For years she lived with maunts and attended the sick and the old. She traveled long and hard to meet Sarima, her lover’s wife, and told her that it wasn’t her fault her husband died, it was hers (Elphaba), and she would want to ask forgiveness. She was innately good. So how did she become the “Wicked Witch”?

Overall it would seem that it has just been a huge misunderstanding. When Dorothy came, Elphaba thought the child would kill her in obedience to what the Wizard told her to do. So of course, she did everything to stop Dorothy and defended herself against her. In the end we realize that Elphaba was a victim of circumstances and characters which were strongly suggested to have shaped her fate from the day she was born. The Wicked Witch of the West wasn’t evil after all. It was a label given to her by the ones who were antagonistic towards her – a label she adapted to “get the benefit of it”.

It would’ve been more fun if her character turned out to be really vicious and evil. LOL. But that’s just me. It’s still highly recommended. And I would still love to read other Gregory Maguire books like Son of A Witch and Confessions of An Ugly Stepsister.

Wicked was also made into a broadway play, by the way, which became a smash hit.

Gaimania

dsc02032.jpgdsc02033.jpgAt first I thought it was a joke. A little game Brenda and Jaypee wanted to play and I supposed I wanted to play along. They were in Subic for the Ad Congress where – we know very well – Neil Gaiman would be for a book signing. The two said they’d bring a book – a signed book, that is, by Mr. Gaiman himself – for me when they come back. Sure. Why not? After all, I’ve been agog to see the writer since it was announced he would be spending several days in the country. But I didn’t really believe in the promise. I reckoned they would either be too busy or they’d be too lazy to sign their name to register for my sake. They were pulling my leg, just for fun. But lo and behold! They’re back from Subic and with them is a Beowulf manuscript signed by Neil Gaiman!

Brenda and Jaypee, you’re my favorite persons for this month.