Archive | December 2012



The first time I tried it, I assumed tiramisu was Japanese.  I mean come on; honestly, if you’ve never heard of tiramisu before, tell me in which of these set meals does the dessert sound more appropriate:

Miso soup, okazu, sushi, tonkatsu, kare raisu, teriyaki, and tiramisu


Insalata caprese, minestrone soup, fettuccini with puttanesca sauce, pizza margherita, osso buco, and tiramisu (seems out of place here, isn’t it?).

I just learned today that the origin of the dessert has an interesting story behind it (just one of many, actually). An Italian soldier was about to go off to battle. His wife prepared a dessert scrounged from left over mascarpone cheese, sponge cake biscuit, egg, sugar, and espresso coffee from that morning’s breakfast (and wine from the previous night’s going away party). The wife named it tiramisu, which is Italian for “take me along.”

tiramisu 166

In the Philippines, the story is a bit different. As soon as soldier boy gets to the battlefield, he texted his wife “Honey, ang sarap nung dessert na gawa mo. Anong ingredients noon?”

Wifey texted back “Tira. Mis u.


If you take antipasti before the pasta, do the calories cancel out?


Happy New Year!


Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus (and fairies/elves/hobbits)

Virginia O’Hanlon was an eight-year-old girl in 1897 New York City. Her friends have developed the insight a couple of years earlier that there is no Santa Claus (Virginia would grow up to be an educator, and relate later that studies have shown that children generally stopped believing in Santa at around age 6). And giving her hell for still keeping the faith.


Confused, she asked her father, a doctor in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, if Santa really existed but his answer was frustratingly vague. He then advised her to direct the question to The Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper at the time, assuring her that “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Thus dooming his daughter to believe that everything in the newspapers (or if she lived long enough, the Internet) is true.

Apparently, The Sun was the 19th century equivalent of “” Despite the definite “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” the reply, an editorial written by Francis P. Church, was actually less straightforward and is a masterpiece on how to provide a philosophical non-answer to difficult questions. Thus, dooming little Virginia into believing not only in Jolly Old Nick, but in fairies as well. I’m not sure if Church wrote the editorial for the eight-year-old (who may not yet have developed the proper discernment needed for an op-ed) or for her father and presumably The Sun’s readership demographic.

The resulting “Yes, Virginia” meme went viral, almost a century before the Internet became generally available. Thus we have the various “Yes, Virginia there is a . . .” (insert noun here) permutations still in wide use today. The Sun reprinted the famous editorial every Christmas, and for most of her life, Virginia was repeatedly asked if she still believed in Santa. Pictures of her in her senior years speak volumes of the stress she might have gone through.


A few questions come to mind. Would The Sun have bothered to answer the letter if little Virginia was from the working class Lower East Side, instead of the upscale Upper West Side (Virginia’s father actually warned her about her letter being ignored)? How would Church have answered if instead of Santa Claus, she asked the most classic child’s question of all, did the stork really bring me home? Let’s try to paraphrase Francis P. Church (substituting stork for Santa Claus):

francis church small

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.

Yes, Virginia, babies really do come from storks. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no storks. It would be as dreary as if there were no Cabbage Patches.

Not believe in storks! You might as well not believe in fairies! Nobody sees storks delivering babies, but that is no sign that there is no such thing. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world, nor all the uncomfortable questions children may ask their parents!

No storks! Thank God! They live and live forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, storks will continue to deliver babies.”


Merry Christmas everyone!

Miss Philippines is back-up Miss Universe 2012. Twitter goes wild!


Fresh from her first runner-up finish in the annual meat show called the Miss Universe beauty pageant, Miss Philippines Janine Tugonon returns to a hero’s welcome in Manila just before Christmas eve.


Just imagine the adulation if she actually won the contest. Evidently, her famous “cobra walk” and answer during the interview portion was just short of worthy for the judges.

philippines-janine-tugonon interview

The near win, the first in 13 years after Miriam Quiambao in 1999, led to some nasty bashing of the winner Miss USA Olivia Culpo. Fashionistas had a field day criticizing the poor girl’s gown. Others had something snarky to say about her height (or lack thereof), finesse (or lack thereof) and mediocre response to the judge’s question.


And as a sad note on the state of journalism in the Philippines, these Twitter posts on Janine’s loss were unbelievably recycled into news. An entire news article  consisted entirely of jock tweets, by athletes I’ve never even heard of, and should probably have been kept anonymous. Examples follow:

janine jock tweet1

janine jock tweet2

“Through her off?” “Put Philippines on your back & represented?” Unless it’s a joke, who freaking cares what these retards (even including a suspended basketball player) think? Are they beauty experts and their opinions now qualify as news?

Well, considering that I saw at least three grammatical errors in one article alone written by a journalist (Manila Bulletin, what else), maybe they really ought to just limit their reporting to Twitter posts:

janine typo1

janine typo2

janine typo3

During her arrival press conference in Manila, Janine said that she “left everything to God.” Maybe if she made a pact instead with the devil, or with Miss Universe owner Donald Trump, or as some Trump haters would say “same difference,” she might actually have won.


The governor of Bataan province, where she hails from, will host a ticker tape parade for her. As the racist gov says, “Bataan can very well compete with other races when it comes to beauty, brains, and strength of character.”

bataan race

We hear you gov. The Bataan race can definitely kick the Manila or Cebu races’ ass anytime.

Smartphones for Christmas? Try smart socks!

Don’t you just hate it when you couldn’t match your left with your right socks when it comes back from the laundry? Especially when they’re all black. What’s worse, after a few washings the black socks start to fade into gray, so you end up not only with two left foot socks but with mismatched color to boot. To avoid having fifty shades of grey (that is if you have a few dozen pairs) socks, Swiss manufacturer Blacksocks has exactly what you need. Microchipped socks! For $189 you get 10 pairs of RFID-tagged socks, an RFID reader and iPhone app. The socks can be purchased in 10-pair allotments without the RFID reader for $120.


Each sock is given an individual electronic identity tag, which you register in the app as soon as you get them. As a spokesman for the company says: “For socks, as in real life, only those things that go together really belong together.” Anybody who has tried sorting socks would know how difficult it is. I’m just not sure that having to scan the socks, and upload the data to the Blacksocks servers, is a chore anybody would look forward to. Sorting becomes relatively easy using the RFID reader, which connects by Bluetooth to the iPhone. The waterproof microchip can even sense if the sock has been laundered.

Ampel_gruen_EN blacksocks

It gets better (or worse, depending on how much you love matching socks). The app even has a module for measuring how faded the Peruvian pima cotton socks have become using the iPhone camera. It can warn you when it’s time to buy new pairs, or if you keep losing socks, match errant pairs having roughly the same shade of grey. But who are they kidding? Methinks the app is just a way to make it really convenient for customers to order online.

In related news, Philippine apparel company Bench is coming out with its own RFID-tagged briefs in time for Christmas.

bench BUB2007WH3

The accompanying free iPhone app supposedly prevents men from wearing the same underwear again unless it has been washed first.

Apocalypse Preppers

Decades ago, a leading U.S. scholar said the end of the Maya’s 13th bak’tun, coinciding with the winter solstice on December 21, could signify a cataclysmic event, which some take to mean the end of the world as scaremongers interpret the hieroglyphs. In the Mayan “Long Count” calendar, a bak’tun lasts approximately 400 years, or some 5,000 years in total.


But what do they know? The Mayas, of course, famously failed to predict their empire’s own demise, by natural calamities or at the hands of Spanish conquistadors.

Although the NASA and other experts have repeatedly discredited these wild predictions, the conspiracy theorists news organizations keep repeating the hoaxes, obviously to sell more newspapers get more website hits and clicks. At least for one venerable news institution it really is Apocalypse Now. After almost a century of publication, the print edition of Newsweek will end this month.

And what have the Mayas, or their modern-day descendants, have to say about this? December 21, for them will be like December 31, only less decadent and probably more of a religious thing than in most parts of the world. Mayas, like Nobel peace prize winner Rigoberta Menchu, and Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlajuj Ajpop, decry the commercial hype surrounding the apocalypse, and the Hollywood-inspired twisting of their culture and folklore for profit (led by the government and travel agencies).

rigoberta menchu

Even though they might not believe it’s going to really happen, people are going to key places to party as if it’s the end of the world.

Hard-core Star Wars nerds would recognize this place as the rebel base where Luke Skywalker blasted off to destroy the Galactic Empire’s Death Star. The ancient city of Tikal is now a pilgrimage site for both the movies’ fans and aficionados of Maya culture. Temple 4 ruins will be ground zero for December 21 when over 200,000 are expected to converge on the site to commemorate the end of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar, because as they say it is here where “The Force” is the strongest. Tikal will be the center of celebrations to be held in more than a dozen archeological sites, promoted by no less than the Guatemalan president.


Banking on the expectation that people can’t tell the difference, Incans are riding on the Mayan tourism boom. According to legend, the Incan empire was established in the Bolivia’s Lake Titicaca. The highest lake in the world will host an anti-Armageddon ceremony on the Island of the Sun, in the middle of the body of water.

Or you might prefer Bugarach, in southwestern France. It has been hyped to be the only spot in the world immune to any apocalyptic calamities due to the adjacent Pic de Bugarach mountain near the Pyrenees. New Age cultists believe aliens have created a huge spaceship garage inside the mountain and will spare any humans that decide to leave the planet with them in the coming apocalypse. The mayor has pleaded for news reporters and tourists not to come to the tiny village, which has a population of less than 200.


Unlike the killjoy mayor of Bugarach, the 600 or so inhabitants of a small village in western Turkey are actually welcoming the horde. Sirince, near the ancient Greek city of Ephesus, is said to have a positive energy, used by the Virgin Mary during her ascent to heaven, as many Christians believe. All 400 hotels in the vicinity of the town are fully booked. The population of the town is expected to bloom 100 times to 60,000 today as cultists/believers think that Sirince is apocalypse-resistant.

Most people around the world are not travelling to these doomsday-proof places and would rather hunker down to wait out Armageddon. Some are buying bunkers like this luxurious beauty, at $20,000 minimum.


But the ultimate in DIY is this survival pod by a Chinese farmer and furniture maker engineered to withstand 1000 meter waves, tsunamis and devastating earthquakes. Liu Qiyuan created these steel and fiberglass spheres designed to carry as many as 30 people, using the movie “2012” as inspiration.

great ball of china

True believers see the worsening natural calamities as a sign that the end is really near. The best evidence yet? One of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse has arrived.


Pacquiao votes “No” on RH Bill

Philippine boxing idol and occasional congressman Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao rushed to the Philippine Congress to vote no to the controversial Reproductive Health bill, which promotes contraceptive use for family planning.

pacquiao RH bill

Front page headline:

“Pacman votes no even if he’s no longer Catholic”

Like the Catholic Mexicans he has been beating to a pulp the past several years, Pacquiao used to wear a rosary and make the sign of the cross during fights. He stopped doing these when he joined a Christian Evangelical group, which are generally supportive of the RH bill. Fans (specially his furious mother Dionisia) blame his religious conversion for his back-to-back losses to Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez.

Meanwhile in the Sports page headline on the same day (no kidding, Philippine Daily Inquirer 12/14/2012):

“Pacquiao to undergo brain analysis”

Australian Humor

Two Australian radio DJs are in hot water for impersonating England’s Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles. Michael Christian and Mel Greig of Sydney station 2Day FM called the King Edward VII hospital to check up on Princess Catherine, who is confined for hyperemesis gravidarum, a severe form of morning sickness.


Incredibly, the call was put through to the princess’ private nurse, despite the duo’s terrible Australian accents. Another radio employee can be heard barking in the background, impersonating the queen’s corgis. Private medical information was apparently given, including the best time to visit the pregnant princess, and the issues of legal liability and breach of broadcasting rules were being discussed.

In a tragic twist to the prank the nurse who put the call through, Jacintha Saldanha, was found dead a couple of days after the incident. Police are considering possible suicide.


As Mum always says, it’s a lot of fun until somebody gets hurt. Not so hilarious now, is it?

Sydney-based 2DayFM radio presenters Christian and Greig speak during an interview  in Sydney

Simultaneous with the prank radio call in Britain and Sydney is a mock TV address by the Australian Prime Minister. During a speech that any national leader dreads, or would never think, of delivering, Julia Gillard announces that doomsday is coming. The video was made to promote a radio station program.

“My dear remaining fellow Australians. The end of the world is coming. It wasn’t Y2K, it wasn’t even the carbon price. It turns out that the Mayan calendar is true,” deadpans the Australian leader.


The Mayan calendar will be ending an era on December 21, which some apocalypse alarmists interpret to mean the end of the world. Scientists have debunked the myth over and over, but a significant proportion of people around the world still believe it.

Gillard assured her citizens that knowing her, she will fight for them to the end, “whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell-beasts or the total triumph of K-Pop.” Australians, presumably except those who believe the Mayan apocalypse, had a good laugh from the stunt. The rest of the world, unfortunately, couldn’t understand most of the speech because of her accent.

In related news, Malacanang Palace denies that President Aquino will be making a spoof video promoting “Wil Time Big Time” which former girlfriend Grace Lee is co-hosting. Grace replaced another former PNoy girlfriend Shalani Soledad, who quit the show to marry another politician.

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