Food as Humanitarian

I was at the foodcourt of a major shopping mall this afternoon. It was 4 o’clock and I was hungry—right in time for merienda! Looking around, there were the usual suspects: pork, beef, chicken and their countless varieties. My clothes have been getting tighter so I went looking for something healthier. I searched for a salad. Or at least I tried.

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Purple to Green

Leaving a note to say that I’ve recently migrated from Ubuntu to openSUSE. It’s been 2 days and so far my experience has been good. Some minor snags here and there as expected, but nothing major. Will write an appropriate entry documenting this transition soon. Just have to get a lot stuff out of the way first.

Because Dead Squirrels are More Important

A squirrel dying in front of your house may be more relevant to your interests right now than the people dying in Africa.

-Mark Zuckerberg

The better half of my semestral break was spent reading 2 important commentaries on the internet, Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows and Eli Pariser’s The Filter Bubble. The general perception is that the internet is a boon to humanity. It makes information fast, accessible and democratic. We communicate at the speed of light and we learn of things much faster than what the descendants of Gutenberg can deliver. For the first time in history, the world’s knowledge is within our fingertips. But that’s not what the internet only does. It also makes us shallow, distracted and isolated. The combination of Carr’s and Pariser’s books paints a harrowing picture of these side-effects of the internet.

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Adventures into Geekoland: openSUSE 12.3 First Impressions

I have been an Ubuntu user since 2006 and I have never spent enough time learning something else. Ubuntu has reached a stage where I am now completely confident in it to become my workhorse and I’ve been sitting comfortably with my solid 12.04 LTS set up for almost 6 months.

The rose-colored glasses have come off and I decided to try a new distro for fun. I embarked on this adventure with a casual Ubuntu user mindset who is migrating to another Linux distribution. There should be as little terminal work as possible and interfaces should be intuitive and friendly. Off I went to DistroWatch and viewed their Top 10.

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YOLO and the Phenomenology of Death

The phrase, “you only live once,” is not only grammatically incorrect, but is also the catchphrase people use to justify eating that thousand-calorie-burger, living life through the bottom of a glass and jumping off a cliff. The phrase has been synonymous to taking great risks and exhibiting irrational behavior.

Perhaps one of the reasons YOLO became so popular is that it taps into a fundamental aspect of human existence. YOLO is actually more than a mantra. It is a modern day expression of death.

Through YOLO, the Dasein affirms his temporality. We are incomplete beings who are thrown into the world and we spend our entire lives giving value to our existence. We pursue a purpose—a project that we run after to complete and acknowledging that we live only once is significant because it signals the realization and acceptance of the end. We realize and accept the eventuality of death. By embracing that we live only once, we become more human.

When we die, we no longer become someone else. We no longer become who we should have, could have and would have been. When we die, we simply are. For as long as we live, we will never be complete and in death, we become whole. YOLO in fact is an expression of our desire to be complete and to take one more step towards becoming whole.

It is through the choices we make towards death that give YOLO more significance. The exclaimation of YOLO is also a question. We implicitly ask ourselves, “because I live only once, how do I want to be remembered?”

The unfortunate and distorted perception of YOLO is that in order to live, we must take disproportionate risks and act on impulse. This should not be the case for the Dasein is free to determine his own being and will his being-to-be.

Because I live only once, I choose to stay healthy, eat right and get plenty of sleep. Because I live only once, I choose to study, read and explore the world. Because I live only once, I nurture lasting relationships, love my parents and protect the people around me. Because I live only once, I refuse to conform to the standards of others that lead to nothing but an unauthentic self.

YOLO then is a matter of perspective. We all want to be remembered, but in our own, deeply personal ways. There are many ways to live and YOLO according to popular culture is only one of infinite possibilities. The Dasein cannot be forced into a project of impulsivity, irrationality and frivolity. Because we desire to be human, we desire to be our own.

Life in an Extrovert’s World

For the past few decades, I have been having an internal struggle—a struggle against something which I could not figure out. The struggle has been a source of much frustration, insecurity and self-doubt.

Growing up, I have always had a sense of being different from most of my peers. After a long and hard week, my friends like to party, but I opt to stay home and get cozy with a book. I never liked to drink, but I enjoy a warm cup of coffee. I have no patience for small talk, but I can go all night on philosophy, science and computers. I don’t care about what you Instagram-ed this morning, but I do care about your thoughts on what Instagram photos reveal about the people who took them. I’m not so interested in what your friend is wearing, but I’m interested on what you think makes up our perception of beauty. You can go on about a celebrity couple’s fight on TV, but I can go on about the irony of fighting terror on your own Boston backyard.

The bigger picture shows that the things I don’t like seem to be the norm. As a consequence, I have lived a life of constant self-defeating alienation. I then start to wonder, is there something wrong with me? Is there something I don’t get? Is there something I missed? What is the reason behind all these or am I just going through a protracted adolescent rebellion? I always knew myself as an introvert, but I never full understood what that mean. For all I know, being introverted meant being quiet and reserved. But there has got to be something more.  Continue reading

The Operating System as a Lifestyle

In medicine,  one of the things we deal with are lifestyle diseases, the most common being obesity, hypertension and diabetes. These are diseases which increase in incidence depending on the presence (or absence) of several lifestyle risk factors. An important aspect of lifestyle diseases is that they are multi-factorial. There is no magic pill that will cure them. What is required is an overall improvement in a person’s general health via lifestyle modifications such as performing exercise, eating a balanced diet and smoking cessation. Drugs will only solve symptoms, but not the disease.

Lifestyle modifications need a holistic approach to the patient. The problem is that doctors treat lifestyle modifications like a prescription–something they write on a piece of paper hoping that by the time the patient returns, he or she would have lost weight, lowered his blood pressure or controlled her blood sugar. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

Lifestyle changes are difficult because there are a lot of barriers to hurdle. There are things to learn, unlearn and relearn. The difficulty stems from the fact that our lifestyles deeply penetrate our day-to-day affairs. Through time, we develop habits, norms and expectations which we use to make our  lives work.

Computers are no exception. Computers affect our lifestyles and in itself is a lifestyle. We have our  habits, norms and expectations that kick in once we press the power button and changing operating systems fundamentally transforms them. The transition is understandably scary, especially for the risk averse.

The process can be made easier by realizing that switching from between any 2 operating systems is more than a radical change in your computer’s core software. It is also a change in lifestyle.

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Google+ and the Filipino Prospect

Facebook and Google+ are currently the top dogs of social networking. In the Philippines, social network use is undeniably dominated by Facebook and Google+ users are a fringe group at best. In the West, however Google+ is gaining a large crowd and countless have ditched Facebook altogether. Curious, I gave Google+ a try about 2 months ago. And I like it much better.

Whenever I bring up Google+ to friends, they always ask me, “what’s the difference?” It’s a perfectly good question. Much has been written about the topic and I will just point out 3 important differences that made me jump ship. At the end, I will also share some thoughts that make me think why Google+ will have a tough time penetrating the Filipino market. Continue reading