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Showing posts from October, 2012

going ahead of the all saints' day crowd

October 31 to November 2. Those are the days when I absolutely avoid traveling by road in the Philippines (aside from Holy Week, if I can help it). No, it's not because I'm afraid of fictional Freddie, Jason, or Chuckie. They're icky now, not scary. And certainly not because of ghosts, ghouls, trolls, or poltergeists... JK Rowling has helped popularize them in a kid-friendly way.
I don't like traveling on those dates because the roads to the cemeteries become parking lots. Vehicles are in a standstill while passengers just get off the vehicles and walk. And if I'm fortunate enough to be able to navigate the car through the barely moving traffic, there comes the question of the parking space inside the cemetery... particularly where my late paternal grandpa, who we grandkids call Lolo Batangas (the grandpa from Batangas), is buried: the Manila Memorial Park in Sucat Paranaque. 
My solution: visit him way ahead of the All Saints' Day crowd. This year, I dropped …

the blog migration continues

Since I've got a few minutes to spare today, I thought I might continue migrating content from Multiply to Blogger. 
The good news is that I've already obtained the .xml file of the Multiply blog posts. :)
The bad news is that what have been imported before are imported again! So there's a bit of manual tweaking involved to get the two blogs in sync before the December 1 shutdown of the social functionality of Multiply.
At least the posts are now in Blogger. It's just a matter of determining which ones are duplicates of what's on Blogger.

the smallest plane I've ever flown in... so far

I am fascinated with airplanes; always have been, ever since I first saw a replica of one at the Fiesta Carnival back when I was still in pre-school. Actually, the fascination with planes has extended to my interest in manned space flight. I even went twice to the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival to see them up close! The first trip was okay because I got to see the private planes but the second trip was better because there was an AirAsia passenger plane parked right on the plane garage!
Anyway, someone once told me that my fascination with airplanes will eventually die out when being a passenger in one becomes a more common occurrence... particularly after getting tired with all the security checks. I disagreed. I think that I will stay in awe of these giant metal birds until I am able to actually fly one...
... Even if it looks like a bus with wings.
On the last leg of my US training in September, I had to fly from Los Angeles to Sacramento. Probably since the fli…

Want to go paperless in the field? There's FieldLab for that!

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...

Ten years ago, I'd go to the rice fields to collect data about flowering time every morning and come back to the lab to process the data that I collected in spreadsheets. One time, I was startled by one of those big birds that call rice fields their home. Then there was a time when I fell down into the rice paddy because I had slipped. On both occasions, the paper I was using to record my data in got muddied up. That made it hard for me to encode information into the computer.

At this year's Global Rice Science Partnership Asia Review, as I was listening to Ed Redona, the global coordinator for the International Network for Genetic Evaluation of Rice (INGER), I learned that data entry in the field has moved forward a lot. Instead of just paper for data entry, researchers these days have a another…

prepping for my GRiSP 2012 five-minute presentation

During the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Review, I was tasked (along with Tita Dory and Crystal) to talk for five minutes (each) about a year's worth of scientific progress. The five-minute talk was definitely a challenge because of the length; the time limit was a good thing too, because that meant that the audience's attention spans won't be something to worry about.  
Some people say that the five-minute presentation just a matter of creating five text slides and allotting one minute to talk about (or read) the contents of each slide. No rehearsals necessary. True, sort of. That's quick and simple to do. It, however, makes for five very slow minutes for the audience (unless they want to write down what's on the slides), just like in class. And rehearsals are still needed to make sure that the presentation is within the time limit.
I didn't want to present my report that way, definitely. 
As usual, I went back to my speaker role models for som…

The King and I at the Resorts World Manila

After "The Sound of Music", my aunt and I watched the Philippine production of "The King and I" at the Resorts World Manila's Newport Performing Arts Theater. That was over the weekend. I have always been puzzled why I couldn't seem to finish watching the movie version of this play, even if it was the 1956 film starring Yul Brynner. And I actually fell asleep when I was watching the 1999 Anna and the King film! (That's the one with Jodie Foster as Anna. To my defense, I did have jet lag at the time)
The matinee show was led by Bo Cerrudo as King Mongkut of Siam and by Sheila Valderrama as Anna Leonowens. Bo Cerrudo is great as the King, but Yul Brynner had made the role synonymous to him that it's difficult to imagine someone else playing the part. In fact, I don't even remember who Anna was in the 1956 movie. On the other hand, the stellar performance of Sheila Valderrama kept teacher Anna Leonowens from being overshadowed by the King. The art…

Best Western Plus Avita Suites

My home, during my trip to the US last month, was where my suitcase was. The second leg of my trip saw me transfer from the bayous of New Orleans to the coast of Torrance (in the Greater Los Angeles Area).
During my training week in Los Angeles, I stayed at the Best Western Plus Avita Suites. It's my first time to stay in a suite so I came largely unprepared when my room had its own kitchen area. There was no stove but there's a microwave, a coffee machine, and a fridge. I didn't bring eating utensils and dishwashing stuff! Aside from the kitchen, my room also had spacious living and working areas. And note that staying here was a lot more affordable than staying in a hotel! No wonder I saw a lot of families also staying there (probably on vacation) and people who looked like they were on business trips.
I liked my stay in Best Western. Aside from the nice room, the place is very close to the shopping mall (walking distance) and the beach (a 20-minute bus ride from the ma…

Flat Stanleys

Flat Stanleys, a set on Flickr. Via Flickr:
I first met Flat Stanley when Jeanne Lea introduced me to this children's story character.

Basically, Flat Stanley travels all over the world and has his photo taken wherever he finds himself. In these photos, he has gone to different places with me as I traveled in September and October 2012.

shopping mode

More rice science and GRiSP in the future. But first, I'm back to writing more about personal stuff...


On one slow evening after I'd gone back to my suite in Torrance, I took to surfing the internet about the shopping malls I've gone into, particularly inspired by my visit to the Del Amo Shopping Center. I realized, as I was reading about them, that I've been to some of the biggest shopping malls in my travels!

The floor areas are from Wikipedia. Naturally, most of the malls that I've gone to are in the Philippines. I was surprised that the local malls dwarf the one's I've seen overseas! I guess this indicates that Filipinos are mall rats, huh?
Here's a rundown:
SM North EDSA (504,900 m²)
In reality, I haven't been able to go around this huge mall just yet. The last time I went there, I was with friends for lunch and snacks. This shopping mall is different, compared to other malls, because the roof area was converted to al fresco dining spots and…

Farmers are businessmen too

The people who produce the food are the ones who remain poor. This was one of the messages delivered during the opening of the World Food Day celebration at the Asian Development Bank (October 15-16, 2012). I think it was ADB Regional and Sustainable Development Department Deputy Director General Woochong Um who said it. Data presented by Humnath Bhandari in IRRI during the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia Review (GRiSP) showed that 51% of the Asian population works in producing the food and yet contribute only 8% of the gross domestic product. The segment of the population that works in the farms are also steadily getting older and females are increasingly taking over.
These points got me asking: Why do farmers remain poor? Are they selling their harvests short? Are agricultural research think tanks doing enough to get these farmers above the poverty line?
Thinking that farmers need to increase their income through high-yielding varieties only is far too simplistic, I learned. Fr…

got to believe in MAGIC

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...
During the 2012 Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Review, the youngest speaker (Nonoy Bandillo) talked about MAGIC
No, MAGIC isn't about wizardry and witchcraft at all, it turned out. MAGIC stands for Multi-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross. Mr Bandillo explained that several of rice varieties were cross-pollinated with other varieties at different combinations. In this way, genes that are desired from the different parents are pooled (hopefully) into permanent mapping populations.
Now I understand a bit. That's a benefit of sitting in a session about a topic that I have limited knowledge on.

the sight outside the GRiSP lecture halls

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...
While it's stimulating to listen in to continuous scientific discussions during the 2012 Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Review, it was definitely a challenge to sit through several technical sessions end-to-end. I guess I would succumb to "conference fever" if it weren't for the well-timed snack times.
Out by the lobby were several posters about rice research being conducted in IRRI.  After hearing the technical presentation, these posters helped listeners digest the information in its more easily understandable form.

GRiSP-Asia finds its place under the sun

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...

Opinions and insights written here are my own. :)
Current director of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Review, Bas Bouman, said it best as he welcomed everyone to the first day of this year's Asia Review week: "Our specific niche is the development of science-based solutions." International rice research organizations -- representing rice-growing countries in Asia, Africa, and in Latin America -- are harnessing science and technology developments to help farmers, along with research and extension partners, through GRiSP. 
In the three days of the Asia Review, scientists from the International Rice Research Institute presented highlights of all the exciting things they have done in the past year. All of them, indeed, are science-based innovations leading towards -- if scientis…

an old microscope

One of the more challenging things for me in high school and in college was looking for specimens under a microscope. My main difficulty back then was finding a strong enough light to illuminate the specimens; in some microscopes, the mirrors couldn't focus light onto the slides (because they're dirty or the hinges were loose) or the light source itself wasn't really good (weak sunlight thanks to cloudy days and shade from trees or the indoor lighting of the laboratory itself). Viewing specimens became even more problematic when samples were very small, like bacteria, because more light was needed to be able to look at specimens at high magnifications (at the x1000 level for the microscopes I used back then).
Then, I wonder: what was it like for Anton van Leeuwenhoek and Robert Hooke in the 1600s when they used the earliest and crudest versions of the microscope to look at plant, fungal, and microbial cells? Or for whoever used the microscope now enclosed in a glass case …

New Orleans fare: the subway sandwich

During my five-day training in New Orleans in September, I got introduced to two submarine sandwiches originating in the United States. Karen and Jeanne, my teachers in the laboratory, made sure that I tried these subs while I was there. The third one happens to be my go-to food when I don't know what else to eat. Before this trip, I thought that the submarine sandwich came only from Subway, the restaurant. Now I know better. :)
Po' boys Hello, po' boy: While munching on my po' boy one lunch break, I just had to ask why the sandwich was called a po' boy. According to my teachers, the po' boy used to be what "poor boys" had to eat in the old days. However, the po' boy has gained quite an acceptance that its target market is no longer limited to the poor boys. Just as an illustration, Zimmer's Seafood in the Gentilly neighborhood had a long queue both at the ordering and the pick-up counters. And there's no sitting area inside or outside the …

on reducing rice's carbon footprint

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...
Rice is one of the most important food items in the world. It is eaten by the majority of the human population. The sheer size of land dedicated to rice production is said to be a major contributor to global warming.
When I first learned that rice farms -- a traditional sight in Asia -- is a source of the greenhouse gas methane, I was nothing short of shocked. As a grade schooler, I had thought that the involvement of plants in agriculture surely made it an Earth-friendly endeavor.
But no. The rice farm, particularly the irrigated type, produces a lot of methane due to the decomposition of plant matter thanks to anaerobic bacteria (the ones that thrive where there's no oxygen... like under the water in irrigated rice paddies). Because of methane emission, the rice paddies are considered to have rel…

Science "reporting" at its fastest

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...


It all began with an email from the Govinda Rizal, the current president of the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees, and Residents in the International Rice Research Institute (AFSTRI), sent an email about a search for volunteers who would like to use their social media capacities to blog about the talks at the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP) Asia Review. I've been writing about scientific meetings that I go to, so I thought, why not? I'd be attending the GRiSP sessions anyway. Surely, this endeavor would keep me awake in the sessions. Plus, I find blogging about things a good way to gauge if I had understood what had been discussed. After all, Albert Einstein did say:
"If you can't explain it to a six-year old, you don't understand it yourself."Thus, I signed up.

Spotlight falls on young (or early-career) scientists in this year's GRiSP sessions

I interrupt regular personal blog posting to give way to some insights from the Global Rice Science Partnership Asia review. Let's shift towards more scientific stuff, sort of...

In past scientific fora that I had been sitting in, I've noted that it's very rare to see researchers and scientists in the early stages of their careers attending and participating in discussions. It was even rarer to see them actually presenting in front of audiences. 
Two years ago, high-level scientists (past and present) from the International Rice Research Institute sat down together to talk about the future of international agricultural research. They discussed the very real problem of who will remain in the field as agriculture becomes more knowledge-driven. But I guess they were also looking for ways to help fledgling scientists (including me) to grow.
Then 2012 came. Things are definitely getting stirred up this time. If the first two days of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiS…

a bit of sight-seeing in New Orleans

New Orleans 2012, a set on Flickr. Via Flickr:
Some photos from my trip in the Crescent City. All taken relatively late in the afternoon in September 2012. It's amazing that in here, the sun's still up close to 7pm. :)

Thanks to Karen, Elaine, and Casey for showing me around the Crescent City. I absolutely enjoyed seeing the place. :)

Rose Manor Inn, New Orleans

Home away from home. That's what I call the Rose Manor Inn, the bed and breakfast that I checked into during my stay in New Orleans. This is the very first time that I stayed in a bed and breakfast, I think. The tripadvisor and yelp reviews of the inn were all right!

What makes the stay in Rose Manor Inn a very pleasant experience is the people behind the inn, the owners: Ruby and Peter. During my stay, they gave tips about where to eat and where to buy groceries and souvenirs.
Aside from the hospitality extended by the owners, I absolutely loved the room they assigned to me. It's quite big and it's charming. Lots of yellow lights to cast a warm glow to the interiors and to the paintings hanging on the wall. The room's spacious enough to have a couch and a coffee table!

The one thing that surprised me was that the inn is supposed to be in the Lakeview district of New Orleans but I couldn't see the famous Lake Pontchartrain from my room's window. I guess the lo…

a 27-hour trip: New Orleans

(27 hours later, it's still) September 10, 2012. New Orleans.

I finally arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport late in the afternoon. This was the first time that nobody was picking me up from a US airport, I realized as I collected my checked-in bag and went on to queue for a cab. And it got me thinking: a lot of overseas-based Filipinos have a penchant for bringing balikbayan boxes whenever they go to the Philippines in lieu of wheeled luggage. When they fly back to foreign lands, how do they manage to move their boxes from the baggage carousel to public transportation, or to their own vehicles, if nobody's picking them up in the airport?!
Anyway, I arrived late in the afternoon but the sun was still bright outside. The cab driver was explaining that the airport wasn't really in New Orleans and we were going towards the city. Downtown New Orleans came into view on my right as the cab went into a more residential area. 
A few minutes later, I arr…

a 27-hour trip: Detroit

September 10, 2012. Detroit.
If my calculations were correct, I had been traveling by land and by plane for the past 21 hours because I left Calamba at 3:00am and I arrived in Detroit at 12:15pm (which is 12:15am, September 11th in Manila). Oddly enough, if I just look at the departure and arrival times without considering the time changes, it appeared that I've traveled around nine hours only! That never fails to amuse me. One more thing: the sun was up in Nagoya; the sun was also up in Detroit. If I weren't taking note of the time, I'd think my flight only took a few hours!
Anyway, my stop in Detroit was the second time I was at the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport. The first time was when I flew from Detroit to San Francisco after my cousin, Rico, got married in 2008. This time, though, I was entering the USA in Detroit and not flying domestic. And just like my experience in Los Angeles back in 2006, I had to collect my checked-in luggage at the bag carousel be…

a 27-hour trip: Nagoya

September 10, 2012. Nagoya.

About four hours later, the Boeing 747-400 started descending into the Chubu Centrair International Airport. It was a good, peaceful flight. I had spent most of the time sleeping (because I hadn't taken a nap since Sunday evening) or watching movies using the Delta Airlines' entertainment-on-demand amenity. 
Based on past experience, I thought that passengers going into the next leg of the flight typically stayed in the plane as those leaving at the stop disembarked. I was proved wrong, however, when all passengers needed to get off the plane and clear security one more time.

The wait at the boarding gate was shorter than what I've wanted. I would've finished reviewing at least one of the papers I brought with me (whose deadlines were approaching) had I been given at least two hours in the waiting area. But the flight was leaving in 30 minutes so I didn't finish one of my layover tasks. Not to worry, I thought, I'd have time while en …