Just Some Stories

My daughter was just discharged from the hospital after 48 hours of confinement. With our fears of her being another case in the national statistics for dengue these days already allayed, all I want is my long deprived 8-hour-sleep before going back to my usual routine of office work then family man tomorrow. And to think I’m already enrolled for graduate studies and still working on another ball to my priority juggling.

Anyway just another couple of things before I doze off to sleep.

Health

It’s a good thing my present company had already secured an HMO for my wife and daughter before this incident happened. At least out-of-hand unplanned expenses running miles away from the family budget’s grasp were the least of our worries for all three times we had to have her checked for fever that kept on coming back apart from 2 days she had to be kept under observation in the hospital because of earlier symptoms possibly pointing out to the mosquito-borne disease.

A strangely sad contrast to such a degree of security was the lack of it when we were waiting for her bed to be fixed. A couple which looked to be in their forties brought their son because of dengue. The doctor which attended to the kid said he needs to be admitted.

Now I know more or less how this author must’ve felt when I saw how the couple reacted when they were told of the amount they had to deposit for their son to be admitted.

Taxi

While our recent frequents to the hospital resulted in taxi rides come the time to go home, this part’s not about any of those rides but those of someone else’s.

This blog entry by Adrian is just third of the more interesting conversations I got to hear from someone taking a cab.

The first is a story from a former colleague which told of a conversation with a driver which started off with an exchange of political opinions. He (my officemate) sensed that there was more to the guy when the guy used schooled English often. Because my office mate was intrigued of the unusually educated person he was talking to, the conversation turned to the account of the poor guy’s once affluent life including the known schools where he graduated and the properties he had.

It turned out that for some strange reason, the guy’s wife left him taking along everything with her. To which my colleague could only retort:

Damn! Diyan mo talaga masusukat ang pagkalalaki mo: yung kung papano ka babangon ulit. I hope you can take an advice though. Next time bro, just screw and don’t get screwed up…

LOL

The next one involves an elderly driver who tries to shed light on opportunities for medical professionals abroad to my officemate. This after he hears my officemate tell of his friends who have found nursing opportunities in the U.S.

After I got off, the driver went on to clarify stuff that appeared exaggerated to him. At least that’s according to a guy who handled one of the divisions of a medical supplies company in that country long enough to be able to have his children finish college here. In short it was the following day that saw my friend tell me how that guy related what he knew about life there, from details regarding rates of nurses in different states to decent estimates of cost of living there.

I guess these just go to show that despite the stereotype we have of taxi drivers, there are still some out there who make even more sense than even a good number of professionals.

Modern-day Trends

IT Anyone?

While the IT-sector of the Philippine economy has undoubtedly grown, I never thought the figure’s currently pegged at 400,000 related jobs from 8,000 last 2000. That is if co-Chairman of the National Competitiveness Council, Cesar B. Bautista is to be believed.

In an Infotech article written at PDI today, he spoke of a positive outlook for the country’s BPO services sector as something “to overtake India” in the near future. This as he cites a Frontier Strategy Group report released early this month as the reason for the optimism.

I hoping that the present crop of IT workforce could stand up to the challenge-if ever there really is going to be one.

What was that again?

A PC World article featured at Yahoo news tells of the effect of frequent mobile phone usage that is brain slowdown. The result of a study on 300 persons for nearly two and a half years indicated that the slowdown was still considered normal though.

However plans on expanding the study this time for a longer period of study on 17,000 people, is already on the drawing board.

Now that’s something definitely worth looking into as mobile phone usage has made it to the just about any common man’s routine. That and the fact that society adapted to it so quickly that just a decade ago, only the most affluent in this third world country could be seen flipping their phones in public, all point to a possible health hazard to a mobile generation of humans.

The Long Way Home

So the average L.A. driver gets to spend the longest time in traffic according to a Reuters report on the 10 worst metropolitan traffic in the U.S. In particular, those in L.A. waste 72 hours annually in traffic, (that’s 3 whole days of a year spent in traffic alone.) Runner-ups include (unfortunately) San Francisco, Washington D.C., Atlanta, the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arllington area, San Diego, Houston, Detroit, San Jose and Orlando in that order. Read the rest of the whole article here.

I’d like to see an independent study come up with something on Metro Manila traffic to give L.A. a run for its money though. :))

I Want My Money Back

One of the reasons why I keep few personal stuff besides not wanting to spend for something I won’t use often is that protection for consumer rights here in the Philippines still has to go a very long way. How many times has the mediocrity of products and services been read or heard?

Sadly I’ve had my share of things such as the shrug of the shoulder, inefficient support and downright defective products and service. The thing is protection for small-time public consumers is still practically non-existent here even if service providers are given the green light to clamp you down with an exclusive contract for a good number of months.

In a society whose government does strive to protect the voter’s interest, some steps on complaining do get results. Looking at that article, it’s not hard to see how much consumer protection in this country still has to improve on.

A Smashing Touchdown

A common theme in movies is a meteorite or asteroid streaking down from the skies and blowing up a sizeable portion of the earth then causing a catastrophe wiping out a significant fraction of humanity if not its entirety.

No tsunamis, earthquakes or gigantic explosions in this one though. If a featured AFP news yesterday is true however, a meteorite, which crashed somewhere in southern Peru, afflicted villagers with a mysterious illness. The said villagers reported “headaches and vomiting brought on by a ‘strange odor,'” according to the report.

A more recent AP article reports however that experts did confirm the crash but are still investigating the claims on the “illness” the crash caused.

Wait a minute! Didn’t venom originate from a meteorite from outer space as well?! 😛

Liberals vs. Conservatives: The Neurologists’ Take

I have a pint of attention for neurological study results not only because I’m such an information junkie but also because the subjects placed under study here are oftentimes trivially interesting. A year or two ago for example, I encountered a curious finding on how the sarcastic’s brain functions.

So when early this week this PDI article reported on a certain political scientist of New York University, David Amodio and his colleagues’ endeavor of placing the liberal and the conservative under the microscope, this libertarian-leftie decided that it had to be worth the attention. To summarize they had 43 right-handed subjects tested. The computer tests were done to evaluate the subject’s response when the need to change routines arises and the article goes on with the results:

The match-up was unmistakable: respondents who had described themselves as liberals showed “significantly greater conflict-related neural activity” when the hypothetical situation called for an unscheduled break in routine.

Conservatives, however, were less flexible, refusing to deviate from old habits “despite signals that this … should be changed.”

Interpretations differ however. One suggestion is that it may mean that “liberals are nimble-minded and conservatives rigid and stubborn.” Another one suggests that “wishy-washy liberals don’t stick to their guns, while conservatives are steadfast and loyal.”

No wonder I seem to think about things too much. 😀

A Closer Look at Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) can oftentimes be seen in discussions among several spheres of knowledge and domestic and international bodies. In the aftermath of the 1997 Asian Fiscal Crisis for instance, free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic partnership agreements (EPAs) have been characterized by the tight implementation of intellectual properties along with easier market access as alternatives to multilateral agreements with WTO according to Professor Walden Bello’s, “Globalization in Retreat,” which was posted at the Inquirer at the start of the year.

While it is understandable for research firms and large industries and corporations to safeguard intellectual assets because of the cost associated with the necessary research and development to cultivate such assets, a question is posed as to whether lesser developed countries (LDCs) can cope with their more developed counterparts.

In its report entitled, “Least Developed Countries Report 2007*,” which was released last month, the United Nations Press Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) insists selective adaptation should be given in favor LDCs to help in their aim for economic development and poverty reduction.

*In PDF Format

The said report points several flaws of a pertinent imposed IPR agreement of the WTO. To quote UNCTAD’s official press release for the said report:

…it is unrealistic on current trends to expect that most such countries will achieve “a sound and viable technological base” by 2013, the deadline now set for their compliance with international standards as required by the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In principle, LDCs can benefit from extended grace periods before they must comply with all terms of TRIPS. They have until 2013 — and until 2016 for certain parts of the agreement applying to pharmaceuticals… But the report shows that in practice a growing number of free trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties, and other international trade pacts… override these special conditions. They restrict the use of flexibilities and exceptions and actually impose more stringent requirements on LDCs than those required of other developing countries or even of non-LDC WTO members. These so-called TRIPS-Plus requirements exceed standard WTO commitments on intellectual property. More stringent requirements also are imposed in the process of accession by LDCs to the WTO…

Obtaining technology is critical for LDCs… the report contends: A “one size fits all” model, such as the TRIPS Agreement, does not hold much promise of increased innovation, whether within LDCs or through the transfer of technology to such countries.

Because of the importance of technology in the development of LDCs, it is pointed out further that in the history of the development of industrialists in both North America, Europe and the emerging industrial powerhouses in Asia, “creative technological imitation was critical” and possible because of “weak or non-existent intellectual property protection.” At the core of the report’s recommendations is the proposal not to subject the transition period for LDC’s to a specific deadline but when the goal of having “a sound and viable technological base” as mentioned in the TRIPS Preamble.

Finally a case study on the manufacturing sector of Bangladesh is presented-that’s 155 firms in the agro-processing, textiles and garments, and pharmaceuticals to evaluate “the impact of intellectual property rights (IPRs) on innovation in an LDC.”

Speaking of pharmaceuticals, here is a Guardian Unlimited article placing attention on present-day pharmaceutical intellectual property issues and how it prevents developing countries from having access to cheap medicines according to Oxfam. It was written November last year when the world commemorated the fifth year of the Doha declaration. Among those mentioned to be involved in fight for patents involved Pfizer vs. the Philippines and Novartis vs. India-the latter surprisingly from the leading producer of inexpensive drugs.

Blogs of the Day: Biosingularity and The Leaky Brain

It’s been a while since I’ve featured Blog of the Day so I guess it’s about time I featured some spots elsewhere from the blogsphere.

The first would be Biosingularity as it featured a health tidbit regarding the benefits of green tea in the fight against the Big C. Sure it might sound like one of those overused marketing lines by health drinks apart from forwarded email fodder involving the relative rarity of the condition among cultures with green tea traditionally included in their diets, (i.e. Japanese and Chinese,) and a lot of other such medical research and studies:

Concentrated chemicals derived from green tea dramatically boosted production of a group of key detoxification enzymes in people with low levels of these beneficial proteins, according to researchers at Arizona Cancer Center.

These findings, published in the August issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, suggest that a green tea concentrate might help some people strengthen their metabolic defense against toxins capable of causing cancer.

Another plus for the consumption of green tea.

The next would be abarclay12’s The Leaky Brain as it features a whole range of hilarious blog posts such as those compiled in her Team of The Week entries. In the Aug 10 Team of The Week for instance she features someone from Santa Fe at number 3:

Oh you’re gonna love this guy. His name is Bryan Connelly, and he was convicted of forgery charges in Texas. But we don’t care about that. We love Bryan because he wrote the judge at his trial a letter asking him TO KILL the prosecutor. Then, when the judge wouldn’t agree to kill the prosecutor, our friend Bryan wrote his defense attorney a letter asking him TO KILL the judge. How great is that??! In a very eloquent letter to his lawyer, Bryan wrote, “If you decide not to kill [the judge] for me, I will kill him myself, after I kill you.” This guy is for real, and I am in love with him.

In the July 27 serving, she features someone from Virginia at number 4:

This is the greatest story ever. The guy in the picture is Russell Tavares. Some dude called him a “nerd” over the internet, and Russ got in his car and drove 1300 miles from Virgina to Texas to confront John Anderson, his name-caller. The greatest part of the story is that every time he crossed a state border, he took a picture of the “Welcome to [State’s Name]” to prove he was on his way. When he got to Texas, he burnt Anderson’s trailer down. Some nerds are hardcore.

As with all other blogs I’ve featured, these ones should keep me reading through their vast archives for a while.

The Risk Called Office Printers

Yup the title’s right. If the BBC article towards the end of the previous month’s to be believed:

The humble office laser printer can damage lungs in much the same way as smoke particles from cigarettes.

Read more on the said finding of a group of scientists from The Queensland University of Technology.

[08/18/07 Update] – For a good laugh, here’s abarclay12’s take on the printer risk thingie. Included there is an interesting tech article linking HP’s official statement on PC World which went:

HP is currently reviewing the Queensland University of Technology research on particle emission characteristics of office printers. Vigorous tests under standardized operating conditions are an integral part of HP’s research and development and its strict quality control procedures.

What’s with PR these days? More to the point I just don’t get what the second sentence is doing there. Strict quality control procedures and research and development should include health risks among important prerogatives and the fact that they did consider reviewing the study just shows that this is one thing they failed to consider.

I think I should talk to my boss for me to get placed a little farther away from the office laser printer. My proximity from the culprit right now’s somewhere around a meter or 2.