Friday, April 30, 2010

Free Fridays - The White Collar Education Trap

I'm a writer and editor by trade. And I mostly work on Internet-based projects. I guess you could say that I'm a "white-collar" worker. When I was working in SM as a Marketing Officer, you could say that I was white-collar, officially.

But is being white-collar - that is, "professional" level in education, skill, experience and abilities - good for everyone? I seriously don't think so.

It's a weakness of Philippine society, that parents want their children to have an education aimed at snagging a white-collar job. The fact is, in order for the Philippines to move forward, we have to realize that the educational system we have should be two-tiered: one for creating administrative officers, and one for skilled laborers - and we're talking here "able to use modern technology."

The idea came to me as I was thinking of how I wished that my alma mater's grade school and high school had excellent "shop" classes. I now think of how useful proper basic carpentry, electrical, electronic and metal working skills would have been to me. I'm still one of the "handymen" in my circle of friends, but I wonder how it could have been if I experienced good shop teachers. For all we know, maybe my real skill wasn't in writing and editing, but in craftsman-level work in those areas (or is that artisan-level?).

In any case, it brought up a point in my mind. This sort of skill is what the country needs, in order to modernize the industrial sector. We need truly skilled workers. But no, Filipino families make it a point so say that that sort of work is just about as bad as actually being an unskilled labourer on the factory floor.

Perhaps part of it still is linked to our feudal background, which equates a good education with a rise in social rank. But this sort of thinking is coming under fire these days, thanks to the fact that many educational institutions in the country - the worst being the public schools - have become little more than epic failures in providing children with what their parents are hoping is an education for a better life as they see it.

There, too, is the primitive view of the blue-collar job - there is no separation between the skilled and unskilled.

The Philippines, it seems, still operates on the idea of Masters and Servants.

School Business
There's also the matter of schools themselves. Rather than providing a good education, many schools are simply providing for the wants (not the needs) of the students - more specifically, the student's parents. Although you can't blame them for wanting better "futures" for their children, but at the same time, they should be aware that when you have a limited job pool, only the top schools would get their people in, in general.

Add to that the fact that many schools in the Philippines are coming out with sub-par students, and you have a recipe for a disaster.

Self-defeating cycle
As one generation fails, so do they transfer their aspirations to the next. There's nothing wrong with them wanting their children to have better lives, but the frustrations are there, and this will practically force their ambitions on their children. That never bodes well. Children will go to college courses they hate, in schools that have dubious success rates for their graduates, leading to another generation of people who failed at what they studied for, settling for lower jobs...and starting it all up again.

Breaking tradition
I seriously think that the Filipino has to look deep into their cultural attitudes about education. Heck, even I don't know where to start, as the solution would probably take three generations and a serious, concerted and prolonged effort to change how we as a country train ourselves, our workforce and our children for a proper future.

In the end, perhaps I see it as a trap because I can see all these people who are suffering from our imbalanced and increasingly inefficient and ineffective educational system.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

WMN.Ph article: Men are for Pizza, Women are for Cookies

This one was particularly interesting for me to write, since I do tend to be an emotional eater. Thanks to the research I did for this article, I've been a bit more sucessful in controlling my urges and insecurities.

Article originally published in WMN.Ph.

Men are for Pizza, Women are for Cookies
Do you feel the need to eat when you are stressed out? For some people, that can be a sign of an emotional eating disorder. Find out if how you can deal with it.

Text and Photos By Richie Ramos

It's all in the feelings
Emotional eating, as the name implies, is the urge to eat when one gets emotionally distressed. It's not just about negative moods, however, but positive ones as well. Emotional eating can also be present in people who are trying to keep a good mood going.
How is emotional eating different?
Here are some differences between actual hunger and stress-induced eating:

1) Physical hunger happens gradually. Emotional hunger comes suddenly. "Craving" is a very good term for this.

2) If you're looking for a specific food (and you're not pregnant), then it's emotional. If you were really hungry, you'd think of other options.

3) Unless you haven't eaten for 12 hours, you can probably wait a bit before eating. But if it were an emotional hunger attack, you'd probably want your comfort food

4) When you're satisfying an emotional need, you will eat even if you're full. This can lead to other eating disorders.

5) Emotional eating carries feelings of guilt along with it in many cases. Let's face it, you don't really feel guilty when you're eating due to honest-to-goodness physical hunger.

If you think you may have emotional eating problems, here are a few pointers on how to control it:

Keep an "eating" notebook.
Map out your eating patterns. Include what you ate, when you ate it, and how your feelings were at the time. Even better, if you can pinpoint why you're stressed out, write it down.

Do something else.
Come up with alternative activities to eating. It doesn't have to be exercise, just something that is enjoyable and takes your mind off food intake.

Get the support of friends.
Your loved ones should know about your problem. The emotional and actual support that friends can give is very important in controlling stress factors.

Give yourself a healthy food option.
Granola bars and fruits are good examples of healthy comfort food. But don't ban your favorites completely from your diet. Rather, schedule your indulgences in small portions. For instance, you don't have to finish off a whole cheesecake; a few bites ought to satisfy your taste buds already. For the leftover, share it with friends - but not the same ones all the time!
Getting help
If you think you're still failing, then it's time to get professional help. And as always, get the support of your loved ones. You might want to bring them with you when you consult your doctor, or you may even consider the possibility that they may be the source of your stress.
So, the next time you get an urge to eat a gallon of ice cream, ask yourself: is it getting to be a habit? It will only become a vicious cycle if you don't get to the root of the problem triggering you to eat.


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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

WMN.Ph article: The Right Pet for Where You Live

Surprisingly, I found out that living in a house full of shih-tzus and having had my experience with Murray, the apartment cat, has pretty much given me a lot of experience in terms of pets. I still think that I won't make a good pet owner, but my sympathy for the pet as well as the owner gave me a rather unique insight.

Article originally published in WMN.Ph.

The Right Pet for Where You Live

Before you buy a pet, answer this question: will it like your home? Read on if your living space and your pet are a perfect match!

Text and photos By Richie Ramos
Living Space
You should consider the size of your place before you choose your pet - it would be cruel to have a big outdoor dog like a Retriever or German Shepherd in a studio apartment.

Apartments and townhouses
The best pets for smaller apartments are fish. Some "no pets" condominiums will allow fish, given the basic passivity of such a pet. Just remember that fish require a lot of maintenance: you have to clean the aquarium regularly and feed the fish on time.

Birds can also be good pets for smaller apartments and townhouses, but cleaning the birdcage regularly is required.

When it comes to larger apartments and townhouse-style rows, the landlord may allow dogs and cats. Dogs certainly need attention, and you should have people in the house at all times, as a dog may become destructive (particularly toward items of clothing or shoes with your scent) once it feels insecure without you around. You will also have to toilet-train them to minimize messy situations inside and outside your apartment.

Dogs up to the size of a Beagle or a Shih Tzu are suitable for larger apartments and townhouses.
Cats are a different thing altogether. They're more independent and harder to train. They are easier to take care of in the sense that they aren't as needy of attention. But they can be just as destructive as dogs, and while a cat can be very affectionate if it wants to be, a cat bite can be more dangerous than one from a dog, since cat fangs are sharper and more needle-like, making the wound more prone to infection.

If you have a house that has a decent backyard, then you can probably afford to get a big dog, similar in size to a German Shepherd. But remember that larger dogs require a ton of food and training.
You should also take into account children or visiting children when you choose a pet. In general, dogs are a good match for kids, if properly trained. The following should be done if you have youngsters around:

Make sure the pets have been vaccinated.
Children can and will play rough with pets, so better take precaution and have the pets vaccinated (Even without kids at home, you should still do this, for your own safety). You should be careful with cats in particular, since they tend to be touchier with rough handling, and will bite even with what looks like a little provocation. For dogs, the breed and upbringing play a major part on how they react to rough play, so make sure that they are properly socialized and trained if they will be around children. Keep the number of a doctor who specializes in animal bites handy.

Check for allergies.
Find out if the children have particular allergies (while you're at it, make sure you aren't allergic to your pet). Some are allergic to particles from bird feathers, others from cat hair or dog hair. (Trivia: Based on experience, Shih Tzus tend to be a good choice for kids who are allergic to dog hair, since they don't really shed that much). If possible, always keep medicine handy. Don't worry about fish - the only time a child might get an allergy is if they help in cleaning the aquarium.

Keep a cage ready for the pets.
In the case of birds and some types of fish, it's more of having a proper cage or aquarium, or simply teaching the children that such pets are to be looked at, not played with. If you own a cat or a small dog, then you should have a pet carrier ready just in case. You may need a holding cage for larger dogs in your garage or backyard. Don't keep cats and dogs in cages for too long - it brings out their more aggressive side once they get out.

A leash can also be useful.
But remember, a leash cannot protect against bites. And cats hate leashes, in general.
Other pointers
The size of your family matters.
Particularly in the case of dogs, socializing matters a lot. Choose a breed that matches the "social level" of your family. The larger and more interactive your family is, the better it is for dogs like Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. Make sure that someone is always in the house.

If the pet isn't just a pet, choose and train it well.
For most, dogs are bought for security in the home. But for a guard dog to be effective, you have to train it well, too. A guard dog should be trained not to accept food or treats from strangers, and they should know a command word so they won't bite, or will back off. Even medium-sized dogs can be trained for this. Toy dogs like Chihuahuas should be left as toy dogs.

Pets are not a fad.
Do remember that house pets are dependent on you. Take good care of them, and if you feel you cannot anymore, find someone who can.

Search for Pets

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Because, you see, I am very proud of my sister.

I am very proud to say that my sister has come up with an article that kicked the living crap out of me:

Hip hop as a medium is at its most powerful when the message resonates within you; if it tells a story that you can relate to, or it evokes strong emotions through the intricacies of lyrics or instrumentals, then it’s done its job. Hip hop is about passion and honesty, pure and simple.

-"I Can Name That Hip Hop Love Affair in 10 Songs," by Mia Olivar, from New Slang.

I always remembered various friends being in disbelief when they realized that Cog's bassist was Lil Miao's brother - and that we got along quite well with our music at home, thank you. Heck, we even used to have listening nights where we'd check each other's music. There was no Berlin Wall of musical differences for us. But what else did you expect in a house where folk, stoner, surf, sixties and postwar music could be heard along with New Wave, hard rock and hip hop?

One of my proudest moments in music was doing the bass lines for "Counting the Days" and "Mister Man." In a sense, that studio work would lead to me eventually subbing on the bass for The Out of Body Special, Los's band (Twitter here...).

I'm still surprised that my RUN-DMC tape played a part in her musical history, but hey, I had INXS's Kick album as my soundtrack for a whole summer.

P.S. Right! Cog is on Twitter. and the icon above was made at a time when I was a bit thinner, and had shorter hair. And please tell us if you've seen our album, Culling in your local music stores. Even more importantly, tell us if you haven't! So we can do something about it (this reminder is for people in major Philippine cities only - click here for other options).

Search for hip hop

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

WMN.Ph article: How to Choose the Right Laptop for Your Needs

I had a lot of enjoyment and nostalgia with this article. It took me back to my days in Hardware Magazine (Ph), and with that, a lot of thinking on what could have been. My work in HWM - or more importantly, my leaving them - was a turning point in my life.

How to Choose the Right Laptop for Your Needs

Choosing your laptop is not just about having the best performance - it's about your lifestyle. Your laptop should be aligned with what you want to do with it.

Text and photo by Richie Ramos

The latest change in lifestyle technology is the introduction of mobility. Desktop computers are becoming the niche market, as more people are buying laptops. And why not? Laptop PCs can be brought almost anywhere, literally letting you bring your digital life with you. But your laptop is only as good as it matches your needs. Here are some pointers - and geekspeak - so you won't get lost when you're choosing your "she-will-be-loved" laptop.

The processor is the brain of any computer. No matter how many bells and whistles you put on your laptop, if it doesn’t have enough brainpower, then it'll still be slow. If you're looking for pure computing power, a Dual Core processor with speeds of 2 GHz (gigahertz) and above will be able to handle web design, graphics, photo manipulation, video, and streaming applications like YouTube easily. But if you only need a laptop for basic programs such as writing letters or articles, surfing the web, viewing photos, and listening to your mp3s, then look for Intel Atom series processors.
Random Access Memory, or RAM, can be best described as a sort of gate for all the information that goes in and out of your processor. You can have a kick-butt processor, but if your RAM isn’t big enough, then your speed will still be slow. For basic usage, 1 GB (gigabyte) can work well. But if you can, spring for 2 GB or higher.
Your laptop's screen is a defining detail for your laptop - after all, your laptop's size is pretty much the size of your screen. If you're doing visually intensive work, or if you simply like to watch movies and see photos well, then you should opt for screens that are 14 inches in diameter or larger. For people who will only use their laptops to surf, pick up email, or do occasional writing, laptops with screens 10 inches and below may be better, as it makes your laptop more portable. Laptops in this size range have been called notebooks and netbooks, due to their small sizes.
Hard Drives
While the processor may be the brainpower of your laptop, the hard drive - or hard disk, is the memory. This is another important part of your laptop. The common idea is to have as large a hard drive as possible. The standard right now is about 160 GB. That much memory can house about 160 near-DVD quality movies. 500 GB hard drives are also bundled into some laptops.

Be careful of "low-price" laptops, as some of them may not have the technology to be truly mobile. Always check if it has Wi-Fi capabilities. Wi-Fi is the standard for wirelessly connecting to the Internet. If you also want to send photos and other information from your cellphone to your laptop, check if the laptop has Bluetooth. Many laptops, however, do not have this - you may have to buy a USB Bluetooth attachment or "dongle."
I've saved the battery issue for last, because if you can’t connect to an electrical outlet, then your battery becomes the one thing you should base your other laptop choices on. The better your laptop's components are (or larger, in the case of your screen), the shorter your battery's life generally will be. That's why some people settle for the minimum for their needs - so they can have longer battery life. If you’re using a high-power laptop intensively, expect your battery power to last about an hour and a half, three at most. If your battery life hits about five to seven hours before charging, that's already excellent. Some of the smaller netbooks have battery upgrades that can let them operate for as long as 14 hours on basic usage.
How will you use it?
Before you buy a laptop, be honest with yourself, and determine what you're really going to use it for. Having a large screen, for example, will make it necessary for you to bring a large bag, or a slow processor might make your client presentations awkward. Remember, a laptop should make your life easier, not the other way around.

Basic Users
- If you're just going to surf the net, answer e-mail, and look at YouTube and Facebook, then getting a netbook is the answer. With its small size, long battery life, and decent memory, it's easy to bring around, and it doesn't get too hot.

Work and Presentation
- Laptops have become useful for many freelancers and corporate people since it’s easy to work outside of the office and present to clients using a laptop. While you don’t need large hard drives, you may need a lot of RAM and powerful processors, especially if you present proposals to clients. You should also have a screen that is at least 14 inches in diameter.

Power Users and Gamers
- For some, their laptops are their offices. This becomes more important if their work involves graphics, photographs, websites, and even computer animation. In this case, the term "having all the bells and whistles" applies. Get the fastest, the one with the most memory (in both RAM and hard drive capacity), and if possible, with a respectable battery life. And did we mention a large screen?

Now, it's time to go out there and get the laptop you want
and need.

*the second image (with the text) was made by the artists over at WMN.Ph. However, the text there was from my article additions.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Dangerdog Review: Cog - Culling

Another review of my band's album on the net. Thanks to Dangerdog and Miguel Blardony for the review!

Cog: Culling
Progressive Thrash Metal
Rating: 4.5/5.0
Tower of Doom Records

Making complexity your band's trademark is never an easy task, but Cog make it seem so. Blending thrash metal with post-hardcore and the various strands of rock's fringes (let's not forget the saxophone), Cog have quite the tall order to fill. Thankfully on this second album titled Culling they go about the task of battering our ears with much aplomb. On its opening salvo a soothing intro bathes the listener's senses with saccharine sweet notes until Promethean arrives in true rollicking thrash fashion. Ever the chameleon, the band skip from one tempo to another across this sprawling thirteen song opus, one moment they add Gothenburg death metal flourishes into This Means War then keep matters laid back and calm on the infectious Calliope...

Click here to go to Dangerdog for the whole review.

Search for cog culling