smoke

I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

I’m too sexy for you

You prolly hear that all the time from model-types. Or maybe from the girl in your high school that neither you nor your cronies could touch with a ten-foot boner. But before you sneer at your soon to be ex-girlfriend saying she’s too sexy for you, hold up! She might just be stating a biological fact.

University of Texas psychologists Kristina Durante and Norman Li found that women with high concentrations of the hormone oestradiol were likelier to flirt, kiss and have a serious affair outside an established relationship.

High concentrations of oestradiol are associated with big breasts, facial attractiveness and low waist-to-hip ratio, with the result that men solicit such women.

In a study published in the British journal Biology Letters, the duo described the behavior as “opportunistic serial monogamy” and not related to one-night stands.

Instead, they suggested, such women were more probably being prompted to trade up in their relationships — to find a better partner.

So it doesn’t really matter if you’re an awesome listener. Her DNA might just be looking for a better deal. Try not to take it too personally.

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Filed under: health, humor, science, sex, vacuity, , ,

We have the numbers

Rep. Janette Garin sez they have the numbers to pass the Reproductive Health Bill. Whupty-doo. I’ll believe it when the Bill passes. Y’see, it isn’t important how many Representatives support the thing in private. What matters is how they vote. Remember Imee Marcos and her last minute impeachment vote? Haha. She was one of those talking up a storm during the weeks prior to the voting, but when it came down to the wire, all she had was a mumble about how she did it for dear old mum. 

Interestingly enough, she wasn’t sent to the ethics committee for that, was she? She ought because, after all, people in her legislative district were the ones who voted her into office, not her mom. It was them she was supposed to be the voice for, not her mom.

And now, I’m afraid that all these pledges Garin seems to be counting on will come to naught. I imagine that when it comes time to man up, these Representatives will end up speaking for the interests of another mum – the Holy Mother Church – rather than for the interests of the constituents who voted for them.

Filed under: church and state, health, law and order, religion, science, sex, , ,

Lightning doesn’t crash planes

A C-130 failed to arrive in Iloilo Monday evening; it was flying out of Davao and went out of contact after receiving course instructions, soon after take off. ABSCBN reports that fishermen claimed to have seen an aircraft plunging into Talikud Island in Samal, Davao. They said it crashed after it was hit by lightning.

Hit by lightning?

That’s what struck (pun not entirely unintended) me. I remember reading somewhere that jets get struck by lightning all the time. AND don’t crash.

Apparently planes have three main defenses against lightning: First, there’s the skin of the plane. Whether its made out of aluminum or some composite material, that skin is hyper conductive. When lightning strikes, the charge just skates along the surface and quickly discharges back into the air. Kinda like water sliding off a duck’s feathers.

Second, there’s built in surge protectors. Even if a plane is able to shrug off lightning, the strike can still cause surges in the plane’s electrical systems. Surges, if they get really bad, can fry instrumentation and generally make the plane uncontrollable. But, like I said, it’s an industry standard for planes to have surge protectors.

And third, jet fuel doesn’t produce too much vapor. In the last confirmed lightning-caused-crash, what the lightning did was to ignite jet fuel vapor, causing an explosion. Dead bird. But that was 40 years ago, and now additives are used to minimize jet fuel vapor so that lightning can explode it.

But then again, I suppose lightning can still strike a modern aircraft and crash it if the aircraft in question was shoddily maintained or if the pilot freaked out. So, if it is true that the C-130 crashed; and if the Air Force starts quoting those fishermen for the cause of the crash, we shouldn’t be too quick to believe ’em.

Filed under: science, , ,

Snake-oil

Everyday, on my commute to work, I hear the grating sounds of Gary Sy singing paeans to his latest snake oil variety: Vita-vegetable. He sets my ears to bleeding. And as if he weren’t bad enough, the early morning airwaves are saturated with a huge number of these things, all claiming to boost health, or dynamism, or whatever – followed by the breathless disclaimer “No approved therapeutic claims.”

Despite this disclaimer however, these things are apparently making enough money – obviously from sales – to buy advert space on broadcast primetime. Incidentally, LiverAide even used to air teevee ads, and Havitall uses high-priced talents like Edu Manzano and Sharon Cuneta (who, according to Nielsen, is the most effective product endorser evar).

Just a few of the other ones I can remember:Diabetrol; Circulan, LungCare, Abs Bitter herbs, HeartVit, and VitaHeart.

This whole thing is disturbing on so many levels:

Dumb

NATC pills (for lack of a better term) represent the dumbing down of the Filipino consumer. If you pay close attention to the ads, you can immediately see that they rely on folksy wisdom to sell. Circulan says “it’s all in the blood;” a meaningless assertion that, nevertheless, zeroes in on the primitive belief that there is something mystical about blood – basically as a stand in for the more esoteric concepts of chi and chakras – and its harmonious flow.

Liveraide makes the pitch that it’s okay to indulge in fatty foods and liquor so long as your liver is protected. That’s just plain bullshit, but it does resonate with the near superstitious belief of under-informed filipinos that it is possible to bullet proof body-parts. It’s like an internist’s version of the anting-anting. And all the others pin their claims either on rustic remedies or scientific-sounding gobbledy-gook.

So, the obvious target is the basic gullibility of people who don’t know better. And the fact that these concoctions sell is a strong indicator that there is a growing number of “people who don’t know better.”

False Security

Aggravating things is that these people who don’t know better are being lulled into a sense of false security. Just like that product Lactum – the one where the adverts say it’s okay for growing kids not to eat right so long as they drink Lactum – these NATC pills foster the belief that they are cure-alls. Of course, they don’t say this, but that’s pretty much the inescapable implication. Take Abs Bitter Herbs, for instance, which claims to help control sugar levels of diabetics using bittermelon extracts. COME ON. The danger here is that these NATC pills are so cheap compared to real meds that people are likely to forego expensive treatments and just rely on the promises of the NATC pills. People die that way.

And people feel they need them too. With life being so hard and the prevailing folk wisdom being that a person can’t afford to get sick, the idea of buying cheap pills that promise only to provide you with armor is more reasonable than buying multi-vits that actually help but do not make dramatic promises of ‘stronger lungs’ and the like, and are prohibitively priced. And besides, where have you ever heard of a vitamin that tells you it can counteract a lifestyle of excess?

Incidentally, I think the first ad I ever saw to pitch that line was for a brand of bottled water that promised to wash away the previous night’s abuses.

Expensive meds

But it isn’t all the fault of the makers of these NATC pills. These things exist because high prices have made real meds all but inaccessible. An artificial supply-side void (artificial because there is no real scarcity, just that the meds are too costly and therefore people can’t afford them anymore – hence, they are in effect made scarce) has been created and the NATC pills have simply rushed in to meet the demand; but not with real solutions only placebos.

SO, if you look at it this way, it’s obvious that the proliferation and the booming business in NATC pills is quite paradoxically boosted by poverty – people can’t afford the P150 for meds but they can afford P10 per day for the promise that they won’t need meds at all. Never mind that that logic is sound only on the surface of things.

Vita-vegetable is guilty of this kind of marketing schema as well. By promoting vita-vegetable as a source of nutrients from vegetables, it appeals to people who feel they have other more pressing needs to meet with their diminished purchasing power. Needs like cellphone credits, for instance.

And so, apart from making people dumb, and creating a false sense of security, these NATC pills can also be blamed for promoting stupid financial prioritizations – something, truth be told, that Filipinos are already too good at.

Complicity

And finally, this whole business brings to the fore the continuing hypocrisy of broadcast media – more particularly of a.m. talk shows and talk show hosts who otherwise loudly trumpet that they are champions of the poor, the downtrodden, and the helpless.

Of course these talking heads can’t trash these NATC pills even if they’re obviously just a scam; if they do, they loose advertisers. And they end up just shutting about it. Worse, by allowing these products to advertise on their programs, these hosts actually impart a patina of legitimacy to the damned things. In the face of that implicit endorsement from people like Mike Enriquez, Ted Failon, and Korina Sanchez, what chance does the disclaimer have?

This makes me believe that big media is actually in cahoots with the interests that push these NATC pills.

What I think?

I think it’s time the BFAD crack down on these NATC pills. More drastically, I think it’s time to just not allow the sale of NATC pills.

Filed under: science, ,

First Contact

It was in 2015 when I first heard extra-terrestrials. I was fiddling around with the Morgan Foundation’s radio telescope at around 10:30 am, just before I was supposed to clock out after yet another night of fruitless listening. At first I thought it was just background noise. Then, I thought I was just feeling the effects of sleep deprivation. When the hiss got stronger, when the pattern emerging out of the white noise became too obvious, that was when I hit the button.

The panic button, we called it, even though it wasn’t even a button and it wasn’t panic that was supposed to trigger it. When I flipped that toggle, three things happened all at once. The computers locked on to whatever frequency I was listening to at that time and began recording everything; a text message was sent on a private network to Mr. Willard Morgan’s cellphone; and telemetry was activated in the main House where Mr. Morgan could monitor the frequency.

At that time, I didn’t know that a fourth thing happened when I flipped the panic button. A packet of information was fired off to the MorComm satellite. The packet contained instructions for the satellite to fry all other satellites by sending out an electromagnetic pulse. The MorComm sat itself would jettison a virgin satellite that would commence operation almost instantaneously after the emp went off. Mr. Morgan’s exclusivity guarantee. It was a good thing I didn’t know that, or I would have not hit the button fearing a false alarm.

But as things turned out, it wasn’t a false alarm.

Three days later, while the world media still bleated about mysteriously downed satellites, the Morgan Foundation had scrambled it’s steroid-pumped version of the Hubble and within a few hours, we were getting clear pictures of the source of the signal. An asteroid that would, in six weeks, pass about 2 lunar distances from the earth.

Five weeks later, the rest of the world found out about the signal through the tabs. Everyone ignored the blaring headlines, just like they ignored the stories about the image of Elvis being found on a granola bar. The US government didn’t ignore the story exactly, but it wasn’t in any position to do anything about it, so it kept quiet. The Morgan Foundation, however, had launched a piggy-backer aimed at the incoming asteroid.

When the piggy backer hit the asteroid a week later, we realized it wasn’t a rock at all but a derelict.

Over the next few months, as the derelict receded into the distance the piggy-back sent back tons of information. We learned that the signal I had found was scatter from course correction instructions sent to the derelict to prevent it from slamming into the moon. It was an automated instruction and it scared the shit out of everyone at Morgan. Everyone, that is, except Morgan himself.

He called it first contact and finally told the United Nations about it. His speech before the General Assembly was something to behold.

First, he told the story of how I had discovered the signal. Then he apologized for the emp, calling it an act of necessary vandalism and offering to pay for all costs. And before the leaders of the world had time to harrumph, he hit them square between the eyes with the powerpoint presentation of the millenium. Al Gore must have wept with envy.

He gave free and full access to Morgan databases to all governments, inviting them to verify our results. For awhile after that, outrage caught up with the rest of the world and sanctions were heaped on the Morgan Foundation. But when the results were eventually verified, the sanctions were quietly lifted. No one could forget Morgan’s closing statement at the General Assembly: “We have found them. It is only a matter of time before they find us.”

Three months after that revelation, the General Assembly convened again, and in an unprecedented move, several regional groups – including the European Union and the Association of South East Asian Countries – coalesced to form the Eurasian Union. The US was invited, but Washington declined. It had its own plans.

Fearing further reprisals, the Morgan Foundation pulled out all its interests in the continental US and relocated to the Hague. The EAU was ecstatic. The US condemned Morgan and, while still wondering how it had been so neatly outmaneuvered, stripped him of his citizenship.

The realignment of the global power structure gave rise to a new space race. 15 years later, the EAU launched its first space station: Jericho. Six months later, the US space station was commissioned. It was named the Rubicon. And everyone settled down for the long wait.

– The Long Wait: The Memoirs of Jonah Erskine

Filed under: Rong-Nu, science, space, stories, , , , ,

Wendy Portillo

With the annoying Filipino preoccupation with checking whether an internationally prominent (good or bad, but mostly good) person is of Filipino descent, I tried to determine whether Wendy Portillo had Filipina blood.

Wendy Portillo skyrocketed to notoriety when she had her kindergarten class tell a ‘special’ kid how they found him gross and disgusting and what not and then vote him out of the class. Yep, VOTE. Can you say Survivor?

Obviously, the kid – Alex Barton – survived to live and fight another day (sticks and stones and all that) but the deeper question is, how bad did she psychologically scar the poor guy?

The following night (Thursday), Alex’s mother, Melissa, overheard Alex saying “I’m not special” over and over again. According to his mother, Alex is reliving the incident. Mrs. Barton stated “He was incredibly upset” and “The only friend he has ever made in his life was forced to do this”.

I’ve heard of bullies and abusive teachers; even some that have inflicted much more heinous forms of humiliation on annoying students, but Portillo’s idiocy really takes the cake simply because of the age of her victim. I mean, the kid is all of fuckin’ five! And the kid’s best friend even recounted how he was bullied by the teacher into changing his vote when he initially voted to keep Alex in the class. What the fucking hell was the woman thinking?

Oh, wait. She has said that she didn’t think she did anything wrong. How screwed up is that? Come to that, if she didn’t think she erred, how many times has she actually done this before?

Wendy Portillo is a stupid whore. She may be a competent teacher in other ways, but nothing excuses the stunt she pulled. I only pray that her teaching license is revoked so she can’t do this to anyone else.

Oh yeah. And I hope the bitch isn’t Filipino.

Filed under: education, international, science, , , , , ,

Say it ain’t So

Is it just me, or is the latest warning by the program manager of the DOH’s national drug policy moronic?

Here’s the Philippine Star’s report with my comments.

With the growing popularity of glutathione-based products for skin whitening, the Department of Health (DOH) warned the public yesterday of the possible ill-effects if these are taken indiscriminately.

According to Dr. Robert So, program manager of the DOH’s National Drug Policy, the whitening effect of these products is “actually the side effect” and not the main usage of the glutathione component.

So far so good. So isn’t actually saying anything that wasn’t already public knowledge. Okay, so maybe not everyone knows this information, but the fact that whitening is only a side-effect has been in nearly all the advertorials on this class of product.

“It is the side effect. It changes the cell outline of the skin so the color of the skin becomes lighter. I personally do not know but there might be other side effects that can be harmful to your health,” he said in a telephone interview.

Still good. So is clearly taking a cautious stand – admitting the possibility of ill-effects while also admitting that he does not know of any evidence or actual case of ill-effects being reported. But then, he jumps the shark.

So said that if such products could change the color of the skin, it is possible that they could affect the “inner part” of the body.

The “inner part” of the body? Wtf? What about the “thigh part?” Or the “breast part?” … oh, wait. That’s chicken. Is this guy a doctor or a Jollibee crew brat? Reminds me of a friend of mine who refers to her groin as the “crotch area.” I tried telling her about how redundant that was, but she said it was more better than just saying crotch – which to her sounded obscene. I told her she needed to dye her hair to a shade about a hundred times lighter than her brown.

Of course, I still tend to be forgiving of poor Doctor So. It was a telephone interview, after all – that bastard offspring of cellphones and journalism – so he must have been desperate to simplify what he was trying to say. Still, this kind of imprecision from a Doctor in the government’s employ simply doesn’t bode well for the state of our civil service. I don’t care how moronic you think your listener is, you simply shouldn’t talk like a moron yourself.

“Our advice is for the public to be careful. If they take it not because of its therapeutic or treatment purposes, there might be some complications,” he said, adding that before using the products, the public must consult their doctors and check if these products have been certified by the DOH-run Bureau of Food and Drugs.

As if he sensed how idiotic he sounded in that other statement, So throws this motherhood statement out. Nothing really wrong with it, of course, apart from that it soooo belabors the obvious. Like I said, what can you do when you’re on the cellphone with a reporter who has no idea what you’re talking about and is just desperate for a soundbite from you?

Still, it is worth mentioning that Viagra was never meant as a stiffener either, and look how successful that little blue pill is. The botulinum toxin isn’t even meant to be taken at all, but yet it’s practically the recreational drug of choice among the desperately age-defying set.

All in all, this isn’t really all So’s fault. I lay the blame squarely on the style of journalism that is en vogue nowadays – the reportage of the sound bite.

Still, So should know better than to say idiocies like the “inner part” of the body.

Filed under: journalism, musings, pop-culture, science,

This is …

stupid: Is it life imitating art? Or at least, Hollywood. A Filipino family leaves toddler behind at an airport in Vancouver. Of course, the baby was taken care of by airline officials, and one is tempted to say that all’s well that ends well. Well, it’s not all well. It’s stupid, it’s embarrassing, and it’s fucking criminal. The parents and grandparents should all be charged with negligence or something.

cute: Hello, little miss sunshine. Triumph has recently announced its solar-charging bra. The photo-voltaic cells integrated into the underwear will store enough power to run a mobile phone for a few minutes. Maybe just enough time to explain why you have to hang up right away, but not enough time to explain where you are that you can unbutton your blouse and plug in to your breasts.

pathetic: We need a re-write over here! Justice Secretary Gonzales calls the surfacing of a new witness in the NBN-ZTE affair part of a large script? Ya think? Of course it’s part of a bigger script: the script to oust the President before 2010. And so what if it is? Seriously. If anybody ever needed a new script, it’s Gonzales. He should prolly get Ploning‘s scriptwriter too. That way, he’ll speak little and then only in zen.

… eh, that thing that hits fans: a noted blogger writes, among other things, about how much money can be made from shit. Literally.

not about expectant mothers: Preginet is actually a broadband research and education network – a field that, apparently, is pregnant with opportunity.

Filed under: pop-culture, science, society, tech, vacuity,

Church accepts ET

There’s a line in a David Brin Uplift novel that goes something like: for me, the term ET has always carried the unfortunate implication that someone, somewhere is going to be eaten.

I remembered this quote when I came across this article about how the Vatican has accepted the possibility of the existence of extraterrestrials – ET – and how that possibility doesn’t contradict religion.

Well of course, it doesn’t. At least not unless you’re a Bible-thumping, hardcore fundamentalist and literal creationist. Another article on the same topic quotes the Vatican astronomer as saying that ruling out ET’s would mean “putting limits” on God’s creative freedom. One of Brin’s characters, Helena Alvarez – again from the Uplift Trilogy of David Brin – says much the same thing when she first sees alien lifeforms feeding off the sun’s electromagnetic fields. She says: “apparently, the Creator accepts very few limits to his imagination” … or something like that.

Enough quotes.

I totally agree with this latest pronouncement from the Vatican – despite the irony of it, this being the same religion that once almost burned Galileo. So I guess Carl Sagan’s “Contact” was right. Anyone who goes to meet aliens for the first time as a representative of humanity should believe in God. In fact, I kinda think that the idea of a Supreme Being or Deity might well turn out to be universal and that aliens will have their own gods too.

Filed under: musings, new age, religion, science, space, , ,

Something smells fishy

I truly wanted to give Dyesebel a chance. All day, I obsessed about the damned thing; couldn’t wait for it to come on. And when it finally did, here’s how it happened.

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Filed under: musings, pop-culture, science, television, vacuity, , , ,