Dinner on Thursdays with Vin (and J)
Oh well, close enough to the title.

Ate at the Sushi Mart too early for the Sushi discount, and the discussion turned to reading. Apparently J has only read about 15 novels in his life (which shocked friend Nikki), but eventually he revised that to about 22. On a tangent, Vin and I began counting the fiction novels we'd read by category, starting with Science Fiction... dipping into Hardy Boys... then to Fantasy and Horror... and so on. I've a feeling that J has read more novels, but like me has a tendency to stop reading when the fricking novel gets too boring. I'm guilty of skipping large sections of some novels because I just don't care for what's happening there right now.

Which brings me to the subject of skimming - it is a useful skill not only in school but also at work. The eye and mind are trained to pick out specific patterns of key words from pages of alphabet soup and extract the gist of the narrative flow (sometimes erroneously). Some books are savoured... while others are gulped down.

Hm. Nikki & KnightJinx seem to have rubbed off on me - I now compare reading books to eating.

Speaking of Eating
A short exchange between me and Vin, after I tell him that I didn't finish my rice because rice tends to make me full faster than other foods:

Vin: But isn't that the purpose of eating? You eat to become full?
Alex: No, I eat to become "not-hungry".
Vin: ...
Alex: What's wrong?
Vin: What a novel concept.

My cousins know where I developed this habit - I'm a slow eater. Eating good food is always good, but as a child it interrupted more important things like running around with friends and playing games. So I learned to get smaller portions so I could keep up my cousins and friends who had learned to eat faster. I ended up going from roly-poly to skinny in one year because of this little trick. The difference between by 10th and 11th birthday pictures is remarkable.

The Nature of the Beast

From the Philippine Star:

Kidnapping fears were revived in the Filipino-Chinese community following the abduction last Monday and subsequent murder of Betti Chua Sy. The 32-year-old finance executive of Coca-Cola Export Corp. was on her way to work when about seven men seized her from her sport utility vehicle in Quezon City. Sy might have resisted, prompting the kidnappers to shoot her in the leg. Her body was found early Tuesday morning in Para?aque City.

The good news is that three of the suspects were arrested within hours after Sy’s body was found. It will take many more such arrests, however, before potential targets can rest easy. Teresita Ang-See of the Citizens Action Against Crime said over 100 people, most of them Filipino-Chinese, have been kidnapped in the first 10 months of the year. That is a jump of about 32 percent from the same period in 2002. Ang-See said most of the victims’ families paid an average of P1 million to P2 million to kidnappers.

I've always had difficulty understanding how anyone can decide to kidnap some total stranger and hold them for ransom. Granted, they're probably not total strangers... because kidnappers would have to study their prey, and research how much they can ask the victim's family for. Actually, that's even more inconceivable. To do it in cold blood...

Still, it's not always about money. Sometimes it's about politics... or both. Kidnappings tend to go up around the time that elections near, and some feel that this kidnap-murder and the robbing of the Makati Citibank branch were not really purely for the money... but to further other ends?

Who benefits from the perception of an unsafe administration? Who benefits from a rapid resolution of such controversial cases?

And who pays the price? It's times like these that I wish for things like karma.

Because Justice seems to be in short supply in the Philippines.

Justice and Injustice
Over lunch last Wednesday, I heard about how some poor farmer in some province grew three marijuana plants on his property. And got caught and saddled with the death penalty. I also heard about some poor sod who planted two trees on his property, didn't register it with the DENR... and was arrested and thrown in jail when he cut down his own tree.

Meanwhile, how any drug dealers and networks are coddled or even courted by Philippine politicians? How many illegal loggers get away scot free after raping thousands of forests?

May the Lord show them mercy if they do not pay their debts to society in this life.

Parting Thoughts: Tagaytay Ghost Story

This story happened a few weeks ago along the Tagaytay Road.

There was a guy who got left behind by a pack of mountain bikers. The group was large and he didnt bring a cellphone. He crashed his bike somewhere between Picnic Grove and DBP. To make things worse, a storm came in. So he walked.

This guy was on the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night in the middle of a storm. The night passed slowly and no cars went by.

The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few meters ahead of him.

Suddenly, just before the junction going to Manila, he saw a car slowly looming, ghostlike, out of the gloom. It slowly crept toward him and stopped. It was raining hard, wind blowing all around you, what would you do? Like you would, he got into the car and closed the door, then realized that there was nobody behind the wheel.

The car slowly started moving again. The guy was terrified, too scared to think of jumping out and running. The guy saw that the car was slowly approaching a sharp curve. The guy started to pray, begging for his life; he was sure the ghost car would go off the road and he would plunge to his death, then just before the curve, a hand appeared thru the window and turned the steering wheel, guiding the car safely around the bend.

Terrified, the guy watched the hand reappear every time they reached a curve. Finally, the guy gathered his wits and leaped from the car and ran to the nearest place where there were houses.

Wet and in shock, he went into a store and voice quavering, ordered 2 bottles of Red Horse Beer, and told the people about his horrible, supernatural experience.

A silence enveloped everybody when they realized the guy was apparently sane and not drunk.

About half an hour later two guys walked into the same store. One says to the other, "Yan...siya nga yung sumakay habang nagtutulak tayo..."

Not Necessarily Hinirang
I got this in the mail, and realized it could be a joke told in the Hinirang world...

Malaki ang problema ni Pedro. Ga-higante ang kanyang ...kuwan... 25 inches. Dahil dito, ayaw siyang pakasalan ni Maria. Naisip niyang humingi ng tulong kay Manang Belen, ang arbolaryo sa kanilang lugar.

"Naku Pedro", wika ni Manang Belen, "iisa lang ang remedyo sa problema mo. Kailangan hanapin mo ang mahiwagang loro sa tuktok ng bundok at hilingin mo na pakasalan ka niya. Tuwing tatanggihan ka ng loro, liliit ng 5 inches ang kuwan mo."

Umakyat si Pedro sa bundok. Nang narating niya ang tuktok, nakita niya ang mahiwagang loro. "Mahiwagang loro, pakasalan mo ako", halos binulong lang ni Pedro sa kaba.

"Ayoko!", sagot ng loro.

Pag silip ni Pedro, 20 inches na lang siya! "Mahiwagang loro, pakasalan mo ako", mas malakas niyang binigkas.

"Ayoko!", sagot ng loro.

Pag silip ni Pedro, 15 inches na lang siya! Minsan na lang para matuwa si Maria. "Mahiwagang loro, pakasalan mo ako", halos napasigaw siya sa galak.

"Ang kulit mo naman!" sumbat ng loro, "Sinabing Ayoko! Ayoko! Ayoko!"

Man, I wonder how this looks if run through Babelfish...
HINIRANG the RPG: Update
I've got the broad strokes down for the magic system creation system! What? Oh, it's a system that allows you to create magical systems in the same game... this goes for item creation and a number of the Katao, Tsino, and Ispancialo magical systems.

Basically, there's an inherent difficulty in casting spells. Spell systems lower or increase that difficulty, but tend to trade off the flexibility or type of spells that can be cast. There's a limit to the amount of power you can "channel", and some rationale for blood sacrifices and bonuses to theurgical rites through fasting and self-denial. Also, certain sources of magical power have inherent limitations on them as well, and these impact the cost of the mana level you can channel safely.