Philippine Speculative Fiction III Book Launch

My short story "The Death and Rebirth of Nathaniel Alan Sempio" appears in Philippine Speculative Fiction, Volume III. PSF III was launched last Friday, and pictured are the authors who attended and, of course, the editors and hosts of the event!

Go out and buy a copy to see what all the fuss is about, hehe.

Stopping World War III

Folks from my generation (and my parents too, of course) grew up in fear of a Nuclear War. There's a term you all might be familiar with: Mutually Assured Destruction. This theory posited that if both sides of a war (let's say, oh, the U.S. and Russia) knew that starting a war would end up with BOTH sides effectively losing, then no one would start a war.

There were movies that fanned the flames of our fear: The Day After showed us what the effects of such a war might be, War Games argued one possible start of that war, By Dawn's Early Light depicted the possible start and hopeful end to such a war.

But those were just movies, some might say. Nothing like that could really happen, right?

In a world that's seen the towers of the World Trade Center crumble on live TV and many subsequent retellings of the triumphs and tragedies on that day, is such a thing so far fetched? How many people have performed heroically in an effort to stave off World War III?

Here's one such person: Stanislav Petrov.

When his systems told him a limited nuclear strike from the U.S.A. had been launched, for various reasons based on fact and on instinct, he bravely refused to acknowledge the computer system's warnings. Had he been wrong, Russia would have been hit by several nuclear missiles. Had he followed protocols and reported the incoming American missiles, his superiors might have launched a catastrophic assault against their enemies, triggering the start of WWIII.

In the end, he was proven right: the system had malfunctioned.

However, because he had not followed protocols or had perhaps embarassed his superiors by exposing flaws in the Soviet military machine, his promising military career was ended.

Here's another such person: Vasiliy Arkhipov.

Here are twenty other "almosts".

It's good to be alive.

Snippets of Philippine History

Those Sneaky Japanese

Before the Japanese invaded the Philippines, they did their spadework. Imperial Japan had the very sneaky tactic of sending immigrants into our young country, and having them work as different types of shop owners. They were very friendly, constantly asking questions like, "how's business?" and "how old is your son now?" and "aren't you related to...?" and "any news from your father who's in the armed forces?"

When they finally invaded, many of these unassuming spies were contacted. They provided lists and some even oversaw the rounding up of scions from the prominent families, family members with ties to the military, and people with important jobs and useful intelligence.

Interestingly enough, this little bit came from an American who lived in the Philippines at the time and experienced this first-hand.


My grandfather's nickname was "Benjo" which is Japanese for bathroom. He knew its meaning, being quite well versed in Japanese (he had a gift for language), and wore it with pride. During the war, he had been assigned as the "benjo boy", the one assigned to clean up the bathroom. Apparently, the Japanese felt sorry for him and so gave him greater latitude than the other prisoners in that Fort.

Naturally, he used this surprising relaxation of rules to send messages back and forth between the imprisoned soldiers to their families (and perhaps other interested parties), endearing him to many of them.

From my father and ninong's recollections of my lolo's history.

My Ninong passed away at around 7:30 this morning at Capitol Medical Center. Its September 20, 2007 now.

Bye Ninong. Thanks for everything, and say hello to Lola Iday and Lolo Benjo, look for Mama Liz if you need stuff taken care of up there - I'm sure she's already pretty busy though. Say hi also to Lolo Paking and Lolo Uncle, and to Manong Susing, Tita Linda, Tito Lenny and Lola Babs, Mommy Lu, Lola Lourdes and everyone else already there!

Thanks for teaching me some chess, introducing me to Tai Chi way back when, and for always asking about me.

It was good to see you that last time, even if you were in a lot of pain. Thanks for waiting for me to visit!

Messages on my Phone

On Monday (17 Sep 2007), at 11:57:58 am I received the following text from my sister:

Manong, your ninong jamin is at the hospital 2 drain the fluid of his stomach. Mom and Dad will be visiting him at the hospital this afternoon.

My Ninong Jamin had been in the hospital to had his fluid drained before, because he wasn't able to purge his waste anymore.

On the same day, at 2:54:25 pm, I received the following text from my mom:

T. Jamin just got back from the O.R. and 4.5 liters of fluid were removed from his stomach.

I texted a follow up question: what was going on? I got the following reply at 5:31.20 pm:

Well, his stomach is still big and he is very thin. T. Malen said part of his face is yellow, but I didn't notice it.

It didn't sound too good, but he'd gone in and come out okay before so I just asked to be kept posted.

On Tuesday (18 Sep 2007), at 2:21:54 pm, I got the following message forwarded to me:

I just want to update you. Dr. Babaran said the analysis of extracted fluids shows there is infection. Not okay to go home yet. We have transferred to Room XXX cubicle, since he might be staying longer.

This sounded serious, so I resolved that I would have to go visit soon. Color-coding for the day meant that we'd have to go after 7pm.

Then I got another message at 5:16:28 pm:

Please pray for recovery of Benjie for liver infection & renal damage.

So we went that night, after my father had visited my Ninong Jamin. As I'd been warned, he was thin and had a yellowing face largely around his nose and mouth and eye areas. I also found out that he was in a lot of pain. He kept telling me that each time I tried to distract him with stories about my trip to the U.S., or about how the rest of the family was doing.

It was after 8 pm when we left (well after visiting hours, I think), and I noted that it was still two hours to his next medication.

Wednesday (19 Sep 2007). Today at 6:35:19 am, I received:

Jamin not conscious since midnight. Please pray.

So as not to disturby my sleeping wife, I went out to pray the rosary for my Ninong. The rains had flooded the streets, so we had to delay leaving the house.

At 9:22:41 am, I got the following forwarded text:

More bad news from liver doctor. End stages na daw ng cirrhosis ni Benj, kaya very little benefit from dialysis. Shot down na liver and kidneys nya.

It's 11:41 am. And I'm just working, blogging, praying.

And waiting.

There's always hope.

Web Comics I Frequent

It's seldom boredom that drives me to webcomics - it's stress from work. I try to check each of these webcomics three times a week (usually MWF):

PVPONLINE - a webcomic about the crew behind a gaming magazine.
Least I Could Do - a webcomic about a man struggling desperately not to mature, and his saner circle of friends. Warning - There's some sexual content here, as evidenced by the logo.
Multiplex - a webcomic about a movie theater and the staff that keep it running.
Girl Genius - the continuing adventures of Agatha Heterodyne, the Emperor of Cats, and a number of Sparks.
Giant In the Playground - two webcomics here: Order of the Stick (self-aware fantasy webcomic using D&D3.5 rules) and Erfworld (adventures of an overweight wargaming genius who is transported to a fantasy world with strange laws).

In the Mags Again

Our living room has once again been featured, this time in the September 2007 issue of Real Living. It's part the coverage of an article detailing the current status of 43+ makeovers performed by Real Living on various living spaces.

We're really happy with the renovation, and have been making small changes here and there. I think the most interesting recommendation is for the color of the active wall. Sage Green, eh?

We'll see about that.

Seriously though, thanks to the folks at Real Living for all the help, and even if I sometimes doubt the accuracy of the quotes attributed to me and Kate, I do hope they come to visit again - and redecorate our bedroom!

Alone in the Semi-Dark

I had a lot of trouble getting sleep on my last trip to the U.S. I hatched several theories as to why this was the case:

1) Jet Lag - perhaps my body clock was really still on Philippine time, and when my conscious mind was thinking "time to hit the sack and get some shuteye", my body was thinking "hm? an afternoon nap? Okay!";
2) Altitude - perhaps my body was used to being closer to sea level, and I was getting antsy because being up in the hills of Belmont forced me to extract more oxygen from the thin atmosphere;
3) Aridity - since the Bay Area is a lot less humid (read: dry) than the Philippines, it seems to have sucked the moisture from my throat causing some discomfort during breathing and a more rapid need to replenish moisture;
4) Temperature - the warm feet / cold head technique was often used to keep this sleepy driver from dozing off at the wheel, but it may have kept me awake in bed given my lack of hair this time around.

Of course, it's also likely that I'm just not used to sleeping alone anymore and I was subconsciously seeking out the presence of my lovely wife.

I was in the SF Bay Area briefly (less than a week) to celebrate the marriage of two wonderful people: Tom and Jenny Earlywine. It was a lovely wedding, a fun ceremony, and a great opportunity to mingle with a bunch of folks I haven't seen in a while (Matt, Keite, Antonia, John L., Erin, etc.) and some folks I'd never met before (the significant others and spouses and children of the aformentioned folks).

It was also great to meet up with most of my old Gaming Group: NTT's Brain, The GM, The Professor, The Warden, Perb the SuperGoober, The Marvelous Mook and one of the newer members of the Gaming Crew and his lovely girlfriend for a memorable birthday dinner.

It was good to see most of them again just before I left (the Warden had to return to the homestead, but The Discourser and his wonderful wife took his place at the send-off), and we got to chat again, look at old pictures that really should be scanned in, check out NTT's collection of airsoft guns, and discuss the possibility of my return one day - perhaps this time with the wife!

Back in the Bay Area

It was good to be back, despite the very short time I was there. Good to see you all!

And congratulations to Tom and Jenny!

Yay for YouTube!

I've enjoyed the few Stephen Chow films I've seen. Sadly, I've not seen the highly recommended but hard-to-find movie "God of Cookery".

Thanks to the magic of YouTube, I've discovered that the entire movie is actually online on a very small screen. I still hope to buy the DVD someday (if I can ever find it).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

I'm a C Traveler!

My Lakbayan grade is C!

How much of the Philippines have you visited? Find out atLakbayan!

Created by Eugene Villar.

The Seven Things?

Man, I don't know if there are that many...

1. My curiosity sometime overcomes my sense of self-preservation. When I was MUCH younger and living in BF Homes, I had a notion to test a toy helmet I had. So I rode on my tricycle and purposely flipped it so I'd land on my head. I still have a scar on my head to this day, but I can honestly say that I don't remember if it was this incident that caused it.

2. My mom saved my life at least twice that I know of. One was when I was drowning in a swimming pool (ironically during my 5th year of swimming lessons). She charged past the lifeguard and fished me out of the pool. Another time was when she held me upside down to shake the CHARMS (candy sour balls) I'd eaten out from my throat. This was before the Heimlich manuever became well-known.

3. I love candy. My faves from childhood were: CHARMS, Bon-Bons, and Sugus.

4. I was a National Merit Scholar Finalist in High School.

5. I was once in the audience for the Arsenio Hall Show, and almost got kicked out when we cheered a bit too loudly for Bruce Willis who was pimping his latest installment of Die Hard at the time.

6. I shot myself in the head once. It was a BB gun that I shot straight down at the floor it ricocheted off the floor and hit me right between the eyes. Came away with a bruise.

7. Got really good reviews on my performance in Waiting for Godot in a college play, way back in my senior year in High School.

Thanks for the tag, Paolo!

Once More Times Against

The elections are here, and I can't seem to raise the interest or energy level. Perhaps the apathy is engineered or perhaps there's just a weariness setting in. Elections don't seem to matter - they always cheat, and when they're caught they still get away with it.

So my attention turns to TV shows, movies, and books.

I'm busy reading the series of novels collectively known as "The Dresden Files". It's been made into an ongoing TV series on the SciFi Channel. I'm picking my way through my old books and novels to see if there are any inspirations for my next short story (which should be Science Fiction, either military or space opera).

New music - looking for that as well!

Busy Work

I really need to live healthier. This lack of exercise and inattention to proper eating habits and relative lack of sleep (at least I've got some semblance of control over that) is wearing away at me. I try to keep pumped up on vitamins and so on, but in the current heat wave it's more taxing than it used to be.

On top of that, work's been really stressful. I'm thankful that there's a lot of work to go around, but I'm really struggling to keep abreast of all the things I'm responsible for and still get work done. Someday I'll be able to live the dilettante's life, only doing things I feel like, but for now I gotta work.

Still, it's not so bad. I went through worse grinds before in my career, so I am thankful for the work.
Search Results

I did a search on my grandfather on the internet the other day. I found an article written by a retired colonel from the U.S. military who mentioned my lolo by his nickname. I e-mailed him out of curiousity and am now trading stories with him about my lolo.

My lolo was a very happy guy. Fond of horsing around. Generous - I remember he once gave me a giant plastic Daimos robot - and took special pains to teach me how to correctly pronounce it. He spoke and understood Japanese, you see. He was so good at it that he was apparently present at the negotiations with Japan at the end of WWII as a secret expert.

Anyway, this retired colonel is telling me stories of lolo's younger days, about the time they were saying nasty things about this slow-walking fat white woman who turned around and berated them in Tagalog (she was married to a Filipino and had had YEARS to learn the language), about lolo's brother and their activities during the war.

My lolo died with a smile on his face. I should tell this old buddy of my lolo's that. I don't know if he knows.
Time in Dumagete

Our time in Dumagete was a lot of relaxed fun! It really felt like a very laid back place. Everyone there is very friendly. Not quite a sleepy place - it felt that there were many things going on, and there was a definite sense that it was about to change. Signs of construction and development suggested that this place might change this year, next year, or the year after. The prices will go up and it won't be the same place it once was.

But change is inevitable. I'm sure that it was a much different place than from when my lolo was there for college and I wonder what stories there are about his time there.

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the hospitality of Ian and Mark. I look forward to more literary discussions with Ian, whose writing I do enjoy (despite the fact that most of his work is of a realist cast) and I hope to find more of his work to study and review.

I felt bad that Mark wasn't able to involve himself in some of our discussions since he seemed to be a bit under the weather at times, but the holiday season is traditionally when we tend to relax a bit and yet find that the stress level is curiously high.

Hope to go back there with my wife and the gang again soon.