Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Earthquakes: lessons from history

I have just discovered a document: A Catalogue of Violent Earthquakes in the Philippine Islands. Available on Project Gutenberg, with an appendix on earthquakes in the Mariana Islands. This is a rude awakening.

The great Surigao Earthquake of 1879

Location: Philippines: Nw Mindanao: Surigao

Date and Time: 6/30/1879 at Midnight, 38 minutes
MMI Int: 10
Financial Damage (Approx. Damage): (More than 25) Millions of Dollars

I cannot remember an EQ of an intensity of 10.

For a map:


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Returning Home: Unaccomplished Objectives

On 12 July, we came home.

List of objectives that were not accomplished.
  • Visit Lumanog Guitar Factory, Pampanga
  • Visit Alegre Guitar Factory, Cebu
  • Visit Bolinao, UP Marine Lab
  • Visit UP Marine Science Institute, in Dilliman (Quezon City)
  • Visit U. San Carlos Marine Lab, Mactan Island, Cebu
  • Dental Work
  • Rent an apartment
On the last day in Manila, I visited the Philippine National Museum, the Manila Orchidarium, and (very briefly) the National Library. I was able to visit they Hydrographic Offices in NAMRIA, as well as the map sales office.

I didn't pay close attention to my visa, and was fined 2500 Pesos for overstaying 2 days. I think this could have been avoided, if we had traveled together as a family, instead of Fe flying NWA with William, and my flying Continental alone. That was a kick in the pants. I went through 3 searches at the Manila Airport, including a personal search including carry on bags at the gate waiting area.

We had a lot of trouble cashing traveler's checks (American Express). Even exchanging a US$100.00 bill could be a chore! Surprising. In Cebu, we visited 3 banks that would not exchange a 100.00 bill for Pesos. The one that did, Banco de Oro, only cashed one: of two we wanted to cash. The SM Mall store had a foreign exchange department that could exchange a US$100.00 bill in less than 2 minutes, in contrast to the nearly 1 hour it took at Banco de Oro. We had obtained new series bills from the bank, before leaving, but one of them was not good enough for Banco de Oro: the clerk said that the watermark was obscure on one of them. Also, that bank did not cash an American Express Traveler's Check after 4:00. We had arrived probably before 3:30 PM, but the line was too long to get the transaction done before the cutoff, 4:00PM. Because of the lousy, slow service, it was too late. Every transaction required several forms to be filled out by the tediously diligent clerks. I say clerks, not tellers. We found Philippine National Bank (PNB) unwilling to exchange dollars; the PNB ATMs were lousy also. Equitable Bank would not accept US$ 100.00 bills in exchange either, at least in Cebu. BPI has given us the best service, along with Citibank.

It's certainly good to be home. Besides road stress, there's still lots more to report, and some pictures.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The State of Internet Cafes

"Money won't change you ... but time will take you out."
------ James Brown lyric

I have been travelling without a laptop. More and more "Internet Cafes" seem to be WiFi Hotspots. Connections are fast in many places I have been. In Dumaguete, Scooby''s has an extremely fast connection, and decently fast machines. I rarely found an Internet cafe too slow for comfort, but some of them were. Some remarks on my experiences.

The biggest surprize was the lack of Firefox on over 2/3 of the machines I tried. I expected Linux to be at least represented; but I didn't encounter a single machine that had GNU/Linux installed! I truly expected people to be using Firefox. IE was almost always of such a vintage that tabbed browsing was impossible: I only encountered one machine that was up to date in that regard.

The biggest PITA in the Internet cafes I encountered was the keyboards. I am on a lucky streak and for the last several days, all the keyboards were at least useable.

CD Drives. Most of the machines have CD drives removed. Some have no floppy drives. The Internet cafe in Las Pinas had no CD drives, but the operator was kind, willing to mount the 128KB SD flash memory unit from my old Minolta digital camera on his own machine, using my personal memory card reader, and burn it to a CD. I was in that way able to post some pictures from, for example, the Las Pinas bamboo organ. Most of the machines I have seen lately have had to CD drive, or perhaps one or two machines in a shop may have a CD drive. When CD drives were found in Dumaguete at the Why Not, it was not a burner.

USB functionality. I have seen machines with USB sockets gutted. In only one instance did I find USB sockets useable. However, that has little meaning when I am trying to copy photos on an SD card over to a flash drive (a good reason to leave one flash drive with a FAT32 filesystem).

I wrote before that operators of some Internet cafes seem to have a convoluted idea of how to get things done. Some shops, if they can print, require the operator to intervene, save the WWw page as a file, open it in M$Word, and print. This convoluted procedure leaves a copy of my bank statement on the machine in question, and it's quite a chore to ask the operator to remove the file, or to remove it myself.

I have had to save pictures from time to time, preparatory to uploading them to this blog. I have found it a simple matter in all cases (when tried) to make a new folder (used to called subdirectories) named "alan" and save any necessary files there. I have almost always cleaned up these folders when I left the machine.

At Balanghai Hotel in Butuan City, a single pretty decent, if aged machine served guests and staff for Internet purposes. It was set up with Google Earth, one of the programs I've missed the most on the machines I've been forced to use by circumstance.

The dream of booting GNU/Linux from a USB Flash Drive is a moot one, when we are dealing with Pentium III or Pentium IV machines, with often an outdated version of Windoze. Programs like IE or Google Earth are likely not up-to-date. Again, seldom does one find Firefox. And, by the way, mice are not uniform of type. Many have wheels, many others do not.

Games are sometimes found in massive amounts. Chat, IM, Skype, and other video conferencing programs are often found. Almst always.

So, why don't we find GNU/Linux in wide use in the PI? I spoke with Linricon Absuelo of the Butuan National Museum, who also writes database access programs in Visual Basic. He cited some reasons for not going to GNU/Linux.
  • Windows in dirt cheap.
  • Even the most expensive programs (ie, Photoshop) are available for 50 Pesos.
  • Interactivity: he writes programs for offices where users have to interact with databases, and all machines are set up with the same GUI program. How would you do this with multiple operating systems.
  • Programs would not accept, if I understand this, a business model like charging for services, or hiring a programmer to write custom modifications to, say, MySQL
  • He called MYSQL a windows program. I am confused.
  • Possibly the most important: People have learned from the gitgo, in school and inet cafes, to use Windows. This is a flawed argument, I believe, where some of the GNU/Linux distributions are now just as intuitive, possibly more so than Windows.
  • He recounted a shop he worked in some years ago, when he was using Lotus123. At some point, an M$ program was available, and everyone was using it, in almost notime. He had to switch because of interoperability issues.

I have to admit, at the end of the day, that I found some of the Windoze programs, like a windows image editor, nicely set up, and I liked some aspects of Photoshop, but NOT all. GNU/Linux is improving by leaps and bounds.

Now, how am I going to access pictures in my new Motorola V3 Cell Phone?

A well planned day, carelessly wasted.

Blown Monday: We took all the care we could to schedule this trip. How many times did our plans fail? Why, just today, four (4) times! At least. A little tale of a day lost in Manila. We hired a taxi driver we know, who was kind enough to email me on Jose Rizal's birthday, and haggled over the price to drop us off at the Acuario de Manila (guess), so we could start our planned two day educational feast of the Planetarium, Aquarium, National Museum, Orchidarium, and perhaps the National Library. Wednesday I'll hit NAMRIA, the national mapping and information agency, in a multipronged attack, seeking tide harmonic constants, and maps.

At the top of the order, our driver, Lemeul, took us into Intramuros, the spanish walled city, where we found a portal leading out through a part of the wall currently being restored. This passageway would lead us, we were told, to the aquarium, just outside the wall. We thriftily asked him to drop us off, rather than accompany us, which we could not afford at this point. After he had explained the directions to the planetarium from the aquarium, he left us, and we entered the passageway.

A few meters later, we met a security guard dressed the part of a spanish era civil guard soldier, with a straw hat colored black, and the forward facing bring bent sharply up against the tube of the hat, parallel with the plane of his face. He told us that since sharks are getting hard to find, and expensive to maintain, and many fishes had died, the aquarium is no longer open. Strike one!

It was kind of hot, so we texted Lemuel, did he want to come get us before he got too far away? Ok, he replied. He took us to the planetarium, giving us a little historical tour along the way of Intramuros and Fort Santiago, where Jose Rizal was imprisoned prior to his execution. Guess what? The planetarium is closed on Mondays. We are sorry, William. Let's move on to the fabled Museum. Strike two!

A few hundred meters up the road was the museum. The gates were locked, and the ubiquitous and obligatory security guard informed us that the museum is open only from Wednesday through Sunday. Strike three!

The Manila Orchidarium is but a little ways away; let's do that. Lemuel spoke to a security guard who told us that it is open, but the entrance is a hundred meters away, around the other side. We had to walk part of the way, but it wasn't far. We saw some beautiful orchids through the gate. The LOCKED gate. This is not baseball: Strike four!

We went to the mall, hardly ever closed in Manila, where Fe can finish her shopping errands for friends.

I have pixs to post. These internet cafes are amazingly bad.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Tropical Storm 04W

9 July 2007, 4:07 PM:

A tropical storm watch is happening. Here's the graphic as of late Sunday,
8 July (don't bother to click):

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Gleanings from Silliman Marine Laboratory.

Two days of discussions at the University of Silliman Marine Laboratory. I presented what has been much in my thoughts lately: my long slumbering study of Millepora sp(p). reproduction and zooxanthellae. I will mention a few issues that came up in discussion, besides Millepora sp. studies (needing to be taken up separately).

Reportedly, another of the numerous interesting aspects of the biology and ecology of Millepora spp. is that Sepia sp. only attach their eggs w/in Millepora colonies. Millepora is felt by some persons to be a hardier species than most corals to deteriorating environmental conditions. This runs contrary to a comment heard years ago, that "Millepora is the first to go."

Another thing I heard was that lowest daytime tides are in February: did my hearing betray me? Another comment was that highest tides are in June and December, making sense to me as in Micronesia highest tides are in December.

I was priviledged to sit across from Nida Calumpong, director, for lunch after Alan Verde and Ann Cleveland's seminar on Clownfish and Anemone trophic interactions. Nida now calls herself a botanist; however, she cut her teeth on (if I got this right) Dolabella sp. sea slugs---the topic of her dissertation. I had a similar experience, as in Chuuk Lagoon, my studies of traditional zoological knowledge led me further and further off the expected path, into botanical knowledge.

Tamban and Barringtonia.

In the Caroline Islands an occasional event is a terrible plankton bloom, said by some to be a harbinger of breadfruit season. During such a bloom, called in some places "bubbles," and called by other names in various places, sardines called senif in Chuukese, Herklotsichthys sp., can be poisonous to eat, sometimes a few fishes in an ice chest full. Such blooms need to be studied; I don't know that they ever have. I have been told various things by people in various places in the Caroline Islands: in some localities, it is reported that the smell is so terrible that noone can stay in the area; in Pohnpei according to Ahser Edward, a Marine Biologist, people who have fallen in the water during these blooms have been known to die.

When the topic of Ciguatera came up, Nida shared some very interesting information, including that Tamban (Cebuano) sardines, which may be Herklotsichthys sp. may be poisonous to eat.

Because I studied calendrics in Chuuk Lagoon, and had shared with Nida that I had needed to learn the plants because Caroline Islands fishermen and farmers use plants' blooming or other significant events as markers of various marine events---aggregation of a fish species, or drift log season (also associated with a star), or shark hunting. I was more than intrigued when she shared that one learns to avoid Tamban when Barringtonia is blooming. At that time. These shards of information are more than suggestive.

Dolabella sp. toxicity: ciguatera?

Nida Calumpong also reports that Dolabella sp. (?auricularia) are eaten, and are sometimes toxic: this may be ciguatera! I recall that certain sand-dwelling dinoflagellates are associated with Ciguatera: is this a possible avenue? I was amazed that Filipinos also eat the eggs, packaging them in vinegar in Tanduay bottles, calling them "poor man's caviar". I didn't catch whether the eggs can also be toxic. I was amazed because we used to eat these eggs in Chuuk, calling them Chuukese ramen. I don't know of any incidents of toxicity.

Back to Maynilad (Manila) --- 7 July 2007

Back to Manila from Dumaguete.

Our plan is for museum, aquarium, zoo, planetarium, and library visits.