Toastmasters Speech #5: Tree of Life

For 16 of the years i was living in Laguna, the mango tree planted in our front yard was my constant companion. It bore mute witness to my triumphs and trials. It witnessed my graduations, birthday parties, breakups, senti moments, etc. But not only did it witness, I learned quite a few valuable lessons in life from this tree. How could it do that while it was just a tree? Well it didn’t exactly pick itself up and walk like a Lord or the Rings ent! But mind you, it did move once! We’ll get to that later.  What I learned was: 1) Always keep your goal in mind, plan. 2) Know the cost of your goals 3) Be aware of your surroundings and adapt. 4) Nothing is permanent.

1) Our family loves mangoes. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, dessert and merienda. We made mango shakes, put mango cubes in our rice, you name it! We bought mangoes by the kaing. And so we were always so excited and expectant about the gold mine sitting right outside. We had the vision of a productive mango tree firmly fixed in our minds.  That kept us going through the years of working on the tree, waiting.

2) What we didn’t think of was that we were growing a full-sized mango tree in a 150sqm lot. It eventually outstripped all the other indian mango trees in our village. And soon it was raining dead leaves on our roof, clogging up the drains and causing leaks and rust. The cemented walk from the gate was cracked by the relentlessly growing roots.  You must know what your goal costs, or you will be sidetracked and your investment will be dead in the ground.

3) Yes, it was a maintenance nightmare. We also had to watch out for bugs and other parasites that may damage our tree. The first time our tree flowered we were so excited, we’d go out every morning to see how the fruits were doing, and at night we’d stare at the fruits through the window. A few weeks later, the fruits fell prematurely, growth stunted by lack of nutrition thanks to pests. So we spent a lot on insecticides and fertilizers. We trimmed it regularly and aerated the soil close to the roots. This taught me the value of being aware of my surroundings, and adapting to the situation.

4) Then in late 2006, tragedy struck. Typhoon Milenyo grasped our tree by the branches and mercilessly uprooted it. It turns out that our soil was only one meter loam, and who knows how much rock beneath. In the aftermath, we went out and found the tree leaning on our wall. And we were the lucky ones, a few neighbors had their trees fall forward into the street, smashing their fence. God guided the tree away from smashing into the adjacent garage, which could have caused much more damage. I joined in hacking the tree apart myself. In a way, the uprooting was symbolic. A few months later, we moved out of the house. And now I live in the savage, treeless jungle of Manila. Yes, nothing is permanent. And what may seem invincible will come to pass.

For most of my life, that tree stood as a reminder of the slow but steady passing of time. It conveyed the sense of permanence in its ever-present, ever-available shade. It was a reminder of change by virtue of its boundless growth. And though it lies in pieces, I carry the lessons I learned from it with me wherever I go.

The Day the World Went Out to Get Some Ice Cream

The last few months of last year have been full of trials, to say the least.  That it took me a few months since my last substantial blog post speaks volumes in itself.  I seem to have to overburdened myself with work, both in the office and in church, while still managing to accomplish as little as possible in the process.  In doing so I lost sight of what matters.  I lost control somewhere along the road, allowing certain aspects of my once so rigidly-controlled life to slip out of my hands.  It’s as if I popped out of the driver’s seat to get some ice cream in the middle of rush-hour traffic in EDSA, only to return and find that the stoplight turned green in my absence.

The good thing in all of this is that I still come out the better despite the many trials, and failures, of that year.  I feel that have grown to better accept myself as I truly am.  More conscious of my shortcomings and more willing to admit them.  A side effect of this new found self-awareness is that I seem to be able to get along with others better.  I forgot where I read it, but someone once wrote that those who are the best at empathizing with others are also the most self-aware.  Conversely, show me a person who can’t understand others and I’ll show you a hypocrite.  You’re looking at him…  That is to say, my rose-tinted glasses have become a little more clearer, and I feel that I am better able to see myself as the flawed person that I am.

In fact, it seems that the more I grow, the more I realize that I have a lot to change.  Indeed, this is what the Lord intends for us all.  To realize how desperately in need we are of Him.  I bet this was all in His plan for me after all.  A bet which I undoubtedly win thanks to God’s omniscience and timelessness.  As a recovering, self-confessed control-freak, I found it very disconcerting that I let myself go in such a manner.

Still, the Lord reminds me always of His power over me and His unwillingness to give up on such a hopeless case.  Resistance is futile.  The only options I have right now are to change for the better, or to continue spiraling uncontrollably towards the entropy of a life in disarray.  I can only hope this year will find me closer to Him and more yielding to His inexorable, life-changing Will.

Geek?! Who? What? Where?

Snatched from Joan:

83% Geek
Surprise, surprise… Hehe, I don’t actually agree with all the answers. I grok all, bwahahaha! Then again, maybe the factual answer is not necessarily the correct one. The a militantgeek.com post gives a pretty succinct differentiation between geeks, dorks, and nerds. And I think the test would be more appropriately named a “nerd” test.

Toastmasters speech #4: Man – God’s Software

This was my 4th Toastmasters speech. I’ll probably post a separate writeup on my Toastmasters experience itself, but that’s for another day… And now due to insistent public demand (what public???), tan-tara-ran!

I fell in love with computers way back when I was in high school. I and my dorm mates would stay up late into the night taking apart and putting back together 286 and 386s. None of them could run anything higher than DOS, and hard disks were a rarity. We booted up from floppy, or for those ancient IBM machines, we had BASICA loaded from ROM. Running the simplest program would give me the greatest pleasure. I’d spend hours poring over BASIC game “recipes” from the library and write up programs of my own after class. Those were my favorite times of the day.

I love software, I have ever since then. It is an extension of my will, bearing my stamp. The excellence (or crappyness) of my code reflects on my own abilities. And as time passed, my creations got more and more complex. I would divide it into modules, which were independent, but worked together as a whole. Now I see an analogy in nature. I see the same principles at work when it comes to God and His probably most cherished creation: man. All creation, while individually independent in motivation, works together to produce a stable ecology on our world.

Problems happen whenever we violate that stability. Wars, global warming, food shortages, all these have been attributed to man’s abuse of power. Ultimately, it can all be traced to inconsideration. Large problems are caused powerful men not considering the rights of the unfortunate, or a large group failing to decide what’s best for itself. Even smaller, everyday problems are caused by miscommunication between individuals. The moment we lose contact with others is the moment we make decisions selfishly and often cause harm to others. Aren’t there people who are so easy to get along with? With whom we feel as if we were connected by some intangible wifi network of the mind? Everything we do with these people is so easy! They are dynamic and fun to be with and work with. And for each one of these people there are ten who are so difficult to relate to. Sometimes you get tempted to take that Ethernet cord and stick it so far up their behinds just to connect!

Whatever our religion or creed, I’m sure we universally agree about the importance of our fellow man. And key to this is communication. This is how we learn about others and how we can best serve them while getting what we want. Isn’t all software about information, the processing, transmission, and storage of it; all for the betterment of man? If we really want our world to be bug-free, it is up to us to actively take part in building our world. We must communicate, debate, etc. Yes, even conflict is essential, for it weeds out what is undesirable. That is, as long as it is tempered with consideration for others, until we are all one in purpose.

Now I don’t pretend to understand the source code drives us. It doesn’t matter what language we speak, what protocol we follow. Belief, race, and religion don’t matter in the face of these challenges! Some might say Muhammad showed us the way. Others might say Jesus came down to this earth to debug us. Still others might say it was Buddha who did it, and now you can learn how to do it yourself in 21 days! But I know we are meant to live together and for each other. No matter what race, belief, or nationality, we must come together to make this work.

I think this is one of my better speeches yet… Alright, so it’s the best I’ve got so far. Expectedly, the earlier ones were pathetic, stuttering attempts at meaning and humor, hehe. This verson is as close as I could make it to what I actually said (Minus a ton of “uhms”, “aaaands”, “soooos”, and more than a few run-ins.) With a few additional connectors to make the ideas fit better into each other, if that were even possible, hahaha! I should be the poster boy for scatterbrainedness… Oh well, as they say practice makes perfect. Well it better, for your sakes and mine…

Mobile web access via 3G: addictive: Take two

Ok, That last post was a bust. As I was typing out the last entry on Multiply’s mobile front end with my trusty Nokia 6120 classic, I thought I’d look something up on Go ogle. (wow, shouldn’t I be raking in $$$ for all this advertising?) So I saved the unfinished entry as a draft. Upon returning to the Multiply window, it dawned on me that there was no option for editing the draft saved on my mobile. The only link from the draft view was “Publish this entry”. Assuming I would be taken to a page that would at least give me the option to veto any permanent action, I naively clicked the link. And as luck would have it, whaddaya know, they did mean what they said by “Publish this entry”. So, here I am, back on my laptop, nursing my sore thumbs (man, that phone’s keypad is for midgets) venting useless frustration on what would have been a perfect (?) mobile blog entry.

I think I lost my original train of thought somewhere along last paragraph’s second sentence. Anyway, the freedom and connectivity these innovative technologies bring us is undeniable. However, there is as always the hidden danger of us leaning on these modern conveniences as a crutch. Too often have I found myself staring at a computer screen aimlessly wandering around the net, flitting from one interest to another. A waste of time better spent on more productive pursuits. As with any other tool, the age-old cliche still applies to the internet: with great power comes great responsibility. That utterance from our friendly neighborhood arachnid DNA-infected superhero can in fact be traced to an even older source, the Gospel: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48. A great many things can be accomplished with such a far-reaching medium as the internet, not a few of which are unhealthy and even illegal… We are still free to choose the purpose for which we use these tools. I’ve kept in touch with family and friends online, made new friends, made some cash, learned tons and got to scratch that wannabe writer’s itch with this blog. As well as a host of other activities are too unsavory to post here, hehehe… Yeah yeah, so I have gigs and gigs of illicitly acquired software tucked away somewhere…

So the question remains, what am I doing online at this hour? Am I doing anything worth depriving myself of sleep? Have I “set my mind on things above” (Col 3:2)? Tall orders. But I do hope to be more responsible with my online time in the future. I’m glad that I’ve cut down on my gaming time and eliminated some destructive online habits. Yet as always, there’s a lot of room for growth. And with that, I bid you all a good night.