Thursday, August 30, 2012

Three Poems, Two Publications

I've received a couple of acceptances in the past few days, first is for a tanka of mine. This will appear in print, in the February 2013 issue of Bottle Rockets (#28).

The next are two poems entitled The City is a Conch and Flesh for the Weary, which are about to be released online by Our Own Voice. This publication is based in the US, edited by Remé-Antonia Grefalda and Aileen Ibardaloza-Cassinetto.

For many of my tankas, I'd have wished that contributors' copies would be provided, but I guess that financial constraints prevent this. I'll have to save up to buy copies of the journals in which I appear.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Reading up on Origins of the Universe

It's been two years since I graduated and I'm starting to feel like I'm out of touch with my knowledge of science. When I participated in that discussion about the logicality of God's existence, I was told that it is absurd that I have this concept of an event BEFORE the Big Bang. It is absurd because, as the commenter stated, spacetime only came about after the Big Bang. He seemed so sure of it that I began to wonder if the scientific community had reached a consensus while I wasn't looking. This is because last time I checked, what Time is and whether it had a 'beginning' is still being debated.

Anyway, I read some recent journals and found out that the widely accepted inflationary model is being questioned. Let's review this theory:
"the universe started from a point of infinite density known as the Big Bang about 13.7 billion years ago, expanded extremely rapidly for a fraction of a second and has continued to expand much more slowly ever since, during which time stars, planets and ultimately humans have emerged. That expansion is now believed to be accelerating and is expected to result in a cold, uniform, featureless universe."- Physics World
Physicist Roger Penrose begs to detract. The Big Bang is not the beginning, according to him. He thus presents us an alternate theory called "conformal cyclic cosmology" or CCC, which is:
"a cyclical universe without beginning or end in which the Big Bang 13.75 billion years ago was simply one of many. [in 2010, he and his team claim to have detected] a pattern in the cosmic microwave background—radiation left over from just after the Big Bang—that represents the echo of events that occurred before the Big Bang itself." - Discover Magazine
Okay, so here we have the possibility that time before our Big Bang probably isn't as absurd as we thought. But this is a pretty young field and is still being polished.

As I continued my search, it seems like physics is also beginning to tread into the world of philosophy. Two eminent physicist tackle the age old question of "Why do things exist?" Using the Anthropic Principle, Paul Davies cries God in quantum physics; meanwhile Stephen Hawking presents his M Theory, which he claims totally removes our need for a god. In Hawking's own words:
“Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing,” he writes. “Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.
Thus, here are the two competing theories on the origins of universe (and God's presence or absence):
  1. Stephen Hawking: his M Theory, which is a form of String Theory, suggests that universes are capable of creating themselves, and it is no surprise that life became possible in one of these universes. This concept basically works on the premise that what we have is a multiverse. Read more.
  2. Paul Davies: He suggests that God works within the Laws of Physics, that is, he works through quantum uncertainties. In his words, "the existence of observers like ourselves, depends rather sensitively on the form of the laws. If the laws of physics were just any old ragbag of rules, life would almost certainly not exist." - Taking Science on Faith
I guess whatever field we're in, it is human nature to want to know where we came from. We are not and should not be contented with answers like "God made it" or "It has always existed." I think this affects us in how we find meaning in our lives. Science has and is giving us knowledge of the ways by which we came to exist. But meaning comes from asking ourselves, "Why are we here?" We can simplify the matter by thinking about how we were born. I have parents, therefore I exist. But what does this mean for me? I can do two things to find meaning:
  1. If Hawking is right, a universe that has no need for God has no need for meaning (save for what we make for ourselves). We are the result of natural processes, our parents getting horny and creating a baby in the process. We in turn, will seek out a mate in our lifetimes to reproduce, as is the way of nature.
  2. If Davies is right, someone seems to want me here. Despite the odds, the universe became possible, the Earth became possible, life became possible, my parents met and fell in love. I am the result of love. The meaning of my life is love.

Indeed, this is just me geeking out.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Critical Thinking and the Existence of God

I recently participated in a discussion of sorts in this surprising place where lots of thinkers gather: 9GAG.

It must be true, what they say about how a good sense of humor is a sign of intelligence.

This is the post that claims that one does not have to be an atheist to be a critical thinker. If you read the comments, you'll be really amused:

This is a good topic of debate. For years, I've been hearing/experiencing antagonism from the atheist groups, many of whom claim that theists are stupid. I will not disagree because the truth is, many theists DO show signs of stupidity. What makes a theist stupid? Well here are the reasons:
  • Blind faith - "I just believe, okay?"
  • Ignorance - "I don't understand what this science shit is talking about, therefore it's not true."
  • Dogmatism - "This is what my Holy Book says, therefore it is true."
  • Authority - "The Pope said so!"
  • Traditionalism - "It's what we've been doing for thousands of years, therefore it's true."
  • Fanaticism - "We believe and we want you to believe, so it must be true" - as Luiz Henrique Batista puts it
These are all logical fallacies: Begging the question, appeal to ignorance, appeal to authority, appeal to tradition, appeal to the crowd. Sorry to say, but it makes me ashamed to be part of the theist group. What I see is how many of us have stopped thinking, very far from how the ancients were. It isn't seldom that I hear theists say that science is from the Devil. Why? Because for instance, it has debunked the existence of Adam and Eve, it has found that the world wasn't made in 7 Days, and no, it doesn't flood and volcanoes don't explode because God is angry.

I've said this before and I'll say it again. Blind faith is NO FAITH AT ALL. A theist who attributes scientific truth to the devil insults not just the beauty of how nature works, but also insults the work of the Creator. A true believer will not be afraid to search for evidence and to understand how things work.

On the other hand, theists would also claim that atheists are stupid. From reading around, they also do say some stupid things:
  • Absence of Evidence - "You have no proof of God's existence, therefore he doesn't exist"
  • Authority - "Many scientists don't believe in a god, scientists are intelligent, therefore there is no God"
  • Red Herring - "Theists are deluded, therefore they just made up God."
  • Religion - "Christians/Muslims/ have been killing each other, therefore there is no God." 
  • Science - "You can't prove God through science, therefore he does not exist"
Surprisingly (or not so), the reasons why an atheist might be stupid appear to be less than the list for theism. Now my comments on each:

On first point, this is an argument from ignorance. In the words of logician Martin Rees' "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."
On second point, this is non sequitur. The existence of something doesn't rely on the belief or unbelief of many.
Third, attacking the (bad) qualities of a person doesn't prove/disprove the subject at hand.
Fourth, religion is not the same as belief in God (although belief can be a component) and attacking it doesn't really contribute anything to the discussion.
Fifth, this one, I'm divided on. For one it is begging the question. Can science really not be used to investigate the matter of "god"? Or are they saying that the matter of the God-concept is something to be left to the realm of philosophy? This is quite tricky because for a long time, philosophy and science weren't really separate fields since they share the same process of inquiry. I guess the difference would be, science deals with physical things while philosophy deals with ideas. For high school level instance:

  • observation: Plants need sun to grow
  • question: Will an onion not grow without the sun?
  • null hypothesis: This onion will not grow without sun
  • alternative hypothesis: This onion will grow without sun
  • Experimental and Control setup: Onion with sun & Onion without sun
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Conclusion
  • observation: People have an idea of what's just and unjust
  • question: Why is there such a thing as justice?
  • null hypothesis: Justice is a human invention
  • alternative hypothesis 1: Justice was made known to humans by a perfectly just being
  • alternative hypothesis 2: The idea of justice is something innate to humans (we're born with it)
  • experimentation will be a bit different when dealing with ideas. The philosopher explores the logicality of ideas through a thought experiment. 
    • Justice as figment of the human mind (We create ideas to suit our needs)
    • Justice as human nature
    • Justice as coming from a standard of perfection (We only know things revealed to us)
  • Methodology would then be a series of questions like:
    • if justice is the fruit of the private human mind, then how do we know which actions are just and unjust? Why do we agree that stealing and killing are unjust acts?
    • Left on an island separated from civilization, will humans still have a sense of justice?
    • Can there be an idea of justice / injustice if there is no perfectly just being?
  • Results
  • Conclusion
C.S. Lewis sided with alternative 1, attributing Justice to the existence of a just being. His thought process goes:
My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such a violent reaction against it?... Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if i did that, then my argument against God collapsed too--for the argument depended on saying the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus, in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist - in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless - I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality - namely my idea of justice - was full of sense. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never have known it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.
Many would say that science is superior to philosophy. Something about "testability" makes it the approach of choice. However, thoughts and ideas are testable, too, thus logic. Many would go as far as to say that the first scientists were the philosophers of old, but that's just another point of argument I won't bother elaborating on.

So after this friggin long post, all I'm trying to say is that critical thinking should be applied to all things. Because while blind faith is no faith at all; blind unbelief is just as lazy. *bow*

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Sotto, Plagiarism and Hope (?) for the Future

When I was in university, the punishment for plagiarism was expulsion. This violation is considered so severe that, if one is caught, the student will forever be banned from earning a college degree.

I remember a story about this writer who attended the Siliman National Writers Workshop like I did. Apprently, he'd lifted a story or parts of a story from a known author and passed this off as his own. The panelists were said to have used his work to discus why plagiarism is never acceptable. As the story goes, this writer's college degree was then repealed.

Plagiarism is stealing. It is owning knowledge / genius that's not yours, robbing the true owner of the recognition he deserves. But most of all, it is unjust.

This is why I am expressing my disappointment towards Sen. Sotto. It is ironic that students will be punished severely for plagiarism, but here in the "real world," the very leaders of the country are excused. Why should women put their reproductive rights into the hands of a man so ignorant of what he's talking about that he and his staff resort to stealing other people's work?

From Rappler, Tito Sotto's comment on the issue:
Itong blogger na sinasabi nila, eh pareho kami ng pinagkunan eh. Ang pinagkunan namin si Natasha Campbell-McBride. And in my speeches, even in my first speech and my second speech, I’ve always said, every now and then sinisingit ko, hindi po ako nagdudunong-dunungan ha. Hindi po galing sa akin ito.”
“Bakit ko naman iko-quote ang blogger? Blogger lang iyon. Ang kino-quote ko si Natasha Campbell-McBride.” (Why should I quote a blogger? She’s just a blogger. I’m quoting Natasha Campbell-McBride.)

Why, Sir, at least we are just bloggers. You, on the other hand, are just a plagiarist.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

McDelivery :S

Wah! It's been over one and a half hours and our food isn't here yet huhu. Late lunch nalang I guess...

First time I tried their online ordering system, and here's my (sad) experience:
  1. Go to
  2. Fill up form and desired order
  3. Call center agent gets in touch within 10 mins
  4. Agent tells you to wait 30 mins
  5. You wait 30 mins
  6. Branch calls you telling you there's no lettuce for the Big n Tasty so they'll give you fries instead
  7. After 1 and a half hours still no food :'((

This is why we need the RH Bill

Cept for the abortion part. If ever the PH legalizes it (asa), we should certainly put more thought into it unless women become the victims of what are meant to be pro-choice regulations. Something to learn from what happened in America: choice has become something that's left to the woman. Men are freed from any parental obligation toward their child. Often, if the woman decides to keep the baby, then that's her decision (fault), the man is free to scram because he doesn't have to support the child anyway. Funny how the power to choose has been twisted into a mistake, because the real choice still lies in the man: "I will stay if I want to," "We will keep the child if I want to," "I will support the child if I want to." It's damned if you do, damned if you don't--not exactly the kind of empowerment women had in mind.

Legalization doesn't necessarily mean acts like abortion become ethical. There's a huge diff between "hey let's have sex, nevermind if you get pregnant we can abort it anyway" and "I was raped and impregnated, I don't want this child."

Do what you want, but not at the expense of doing what's right.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

An Open Letter to the Admin of KPMG Bldg., Makati

August 7, 2012

Building Administrator’s Office
KPMG Bldg., Ayala Ave., Makati City

Dear Admin:

This is to file my official complaint on your security personnel, assigned to KPMG Bldg. on August 6, 2012. At around 9:50 a.m. of August 6, 2012, I went inside your building, through the outsider’s entrance and had my bag checked by the security guard. I usually encounter two security personnel, one at the bag check and one at the door beside Tea Farm (I was told his surname is Daga). The guard at the bag check always greets me good morning. For the last five months, I often pass through the premises because I buy my milk tea from Tea Farm two to five times a week. NOT ONCE HAVE I BEEN WARNED that I am not permitted to pass through the premises.

However, the security guard assigned to the door right beside Tea Farm (9:50 a.m. of August 6, 2012), stopped me and, in a loud voice, embarrassed me in front of many people. He claims that he has warned me THREE TIMES already that I should not pass through the premises, that it is not allowed. He claims that he and the other security personnel have been TRACKING me and have proof that I, indeed, have not been following earlier warnings, an accusation that is FALSE. I have NEVER been warned, and there is no reason that they should TRACK me as if I am some criminal. Thus, this is purely harassment. Do your guards do this to everyone?
This is tantamount to moral damages to my person, and I am very much tempted to file charges because of this event unless corrective measures are undertaken. Had I known that outsiders are not allowed to pass through KPMG bldg., then I would NOT have done so. It should be made clear to your security that they have the right person and are not merely accusing innocent people of not following some unknown rule. I am very much confident that there is no proof that I am the said person who has repeatedly been ignoring Mr. Daga’s warnings.

Please settle this ASAP or else I will press charges.


Yours truly,
Anne Carly Abad
Netbooster Asia

Response to CBCP's "Akerlof Contradicted What?"

On Monday, August 6, the CBCP released a counter article to Rappler's "Nobel Prize Winner Contradicts CBCP."

As the situation goes, a freelance journalist (for Rappler?) contacted Akerlof because the CBCP had cited him to augment their anti-RH argument by using his study on Reproductive Technology Shock. In the CBCP's interpretation of Akerlof's study (read full article here):
Will the greater availability of contraception improve the conditions of the family? Contraceptives bring about the downgrading of marriage, more extramarital sex, more fatherless children, more single mothers, according to the studies of Nobel prize winner, George Akerlof.
Let me comment on this. The concept of "downgrading marriage" is purely the CBCP's interpretation and not a scientific finding of George Akerlof. Yes, there has been an increase in extramarital sex and children born out of wedlock, but this is because of the drop in shotgun weddings (which, I must say, are not really quality marriages if we're talking about downgrading here).

I summarize Akerlof's findings in his America-based study here:
  1. Widespread birth control and legal abortion (beginning in 1970) caused Reproductive Technology Shock in the American society.
  2. There was a change in social contract between men and women: In the past, American women agreed to have premarital sex with a man only if the man promises to marry her in the event that she gets pregnant. This is called the Shotgun Marriage. Now that contraception and abortion is widely available, American women engage in premarital sex to keep their man. As the study states: "These women feared, correctly, that if they refused sexual relations, they would risk losing their partners. Sexual activity without commitment was increasingly expected in premarital relationships."
  3. Change in male / female roles: The decision to keep the child is now left to the female, whether she will abort it or not. Biological fathers have lost the idea of paternal obligation and no longer feel the obligation to marry the mother (Thus the rise of the Single Mom).
  4. Conclusion 1: The dramatic increase in out-of-wedlock first-birth rate between 1965 and 1990 is directly tied to shotgun marriages being rendered obsolete.
  5. Conclusion 2: The change in social contract between men and women due has proved disadvantageous for women.
  6. Note: Akerlof did NOT recommend any restrictions on the availability of contraception nor the legality of abortion.
Akerlof himself, in a written response, said, "In my opinion, giving women, whether single or married, the right to choose can only increase the dignity of marriage and its sanctity." If the CBCP asks Akerlof Contradicted What?, here you have your answer, that you took his study out of context. The CBCP has failed to acknowledge that this research is based in America, premised on the societal fact that shotgun marriages were the established social contract during the day, before contraceptives and abortion became the norm.

But in the Philippines, is this the case? Do women agree to have sex only when they have secured the man's promise to marry her if she gets pregnant? Is the establishment or re-establishment of shotgun weddings better, or in this case "upgrade marriage"? Will marriage assure a better family life? Will contraception destroy existing families or prevent the formation of a good one?

Can the CBCP answer these questions with Philippine-based studies to back them up? Because all I see are moral theories that hardly connect with present societal truths. I see them just merely relying on citing a research here and there to push their Anti-RH argument. CBCP claims that contraception destroys families. Does it? Because last I checked, having children doesn't necessarily keep the family intact, as is evident in the 14 million single parents in the country.

If the contraceptive mentality creates single moms, then I will go with what Akerlof and coauthor Janet Yellen write:
Anyone who fathers an out-of-wedlock child should be forced to help support that child... On top of that, they suggest that men be taxed for fathering children outside of marriage. - from `Technology Shock' Creates Single Moms, Miller

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Upcoming: Two Tankas in Atlas Poetica 13 (Fall Issue)

In the midst of these gloomy and dangerous rainy days, I got some good news regarding my poetry. Two tankas of mine will appear in the 2012 Fall issue of Atlas Poetica. :)

About Atlas Poetica:

When MET Press of Baltimore, Maryland, published Landfall : Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka (2007), it received a landslide of submissions. Thousands of poems were submitted, making it the most sought after tanka venue in the English language. It was only logical to create a journal to provide an ongoing forum for the publication, appreciation, and advancement of tanka poetry of place. Atlas Poetica was born.
Edited by M. Kei, it quickly established itself as one of the distinctive voices in tanka literature. The large format was deliberately designed to accommodate lengthy sequences, shaped tanka, tanka prose, articles, and other items too bulky for the smaller journals. In addition, ATPO reached out to tanka communities around the world, providing a venue to publish tanka in languages other than English, as well as providing lists of resources, announcements, and other information to serve the world tanka community.
Tanka poetry of place embodies the community and environment, both human and natural, through which the poet travels. Groups and places are profoundly important, forming the affective and effective boundaries of the poet’s psyche. Whether contemplating subjects as diverse as an old chest of drawers or a Romanian seashore, tanka poets find connection, meaning, and significance in the previously unremarked proximities of our lives. Tanka poets of place are pushing into new territories and creating new maps of our literary consciousness.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Banned from KPMG Bldg, Makati

I dunno what happened this morning, but I think I look like some girl who did some (criminal?) bad stuff. It's been five months since i started working in Makati, and I always pass by KPMG Bldg. on my way to work because I buy milk tea from Tea Farm. So it's become a habit, and in fact the security guards in that building never seemed to mind, after all, there are restaurants on the first and second floors of that building.

But this morning, the guard stopped me and told me that he's warned me THREE TIMES about not being allowed to pass through KPMG Bldg. Excuse me? Three times? I wasn't even forbidden ONCE. So I'm not even allowed to buy my milk tea? The hell. He even told me they'd been tracking me and I've been disregarding their warnings...what??? I tried to explain to Mr. Guard that he's never told me I wasn't allowed to be in that building. But he kept insisting that I'm that person he's been warning several times. Whoever that person is, that's not me, Sir. (as if he'll read this O_O)

No more morning Tea Farm for me, I guess -_-

Friday, August 3, 2012

A Mother's Love

This video had me teary eyed. This young dolphin calf didn't make it, but the mother wouldn't let it go. :( Yes, animals have feelings, too.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Greenland Melted?

Whoa this is getting serious. Gonna have to reblog this news: