A Beautiful Mess

I’ve long been a fan of Jason Mraz. It was the feel-good upbeat of his Wordplay that caught my ears and it was the crazy wordplay of his Geek in the Pink which gave me the impetus to buy his album Mr. A-Z (which spells M-R-A-Z, in case you missed it). It was his blogging that made me decide to blog as well, and my attempts to find beauty and something good out of everyday is largely due to him (not to Hofstadter, as people might judge).

Around two years ago, he released his third studio album We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. Two years ago was the time I entered UP and his were the songs I sang as freshman life went by. I still recall singing the energy out of Make It Mine after grueling sessions from the best CS11 class ever. Details in the Fabric calmed my nerves after my skirmish that is Math17.

It was a good album all in all; I ripped 8 out of the 12 songs included into my playlist. After all, it had I’m Yours, which took Rona, and also Love for a Child which is a very nice song from the onset to the moment you finally listen to the lyrics. It also had the bestest torpe song I’ve heard so far in the form of If It Kills Me. And most of all, it had A Beautiful Mess.

A Beautiful Mess is a very nice song to sing right but very disastrous to get wrong (largely because its large fanbase will make you pay for your murder). It has a certain kind of poetry to it, one that makes you pause and feel the moment the notes and words register into your gray matter. I remember describing it to my sister as soundtrack-esque, meaning, I find it a song very fitting to play as the closing credits of a cathartic movie rolls. But I’ve said too much; I might be boring you.

I’ve been a fan of A Beautiful Mess for two years now and it is only recently that I’ve made sense of its message. I’ve always thought it was about how life isn’t perfect but because you are here it is the best of all possible worlds. I now find that interpretation a little off mark.

It is about relationships.

It is about being you and I and we all at the same time. No matter how messy things may get, it is still beautiful by the mere fact that here we are, related by things so simple you’d find it stupid they can connect people at all; things like smiles and greetings and back-slaps and high fives and kisses. We. Indeed, tides may turn and hearts disfigure but that’s of no concern when we are wounded together. Now I know why that line moves me so.

I am reminded that beauty is something you choose to see and create much like how love is something you choose to be. It seems to me that life is made up of choices, even in the most mundane of things. We are related because we chose to be in this together not because the gods wanted us to be. Things have always been up to us.

Wherever you may find yourself this coming rainy season, I hope you’d find yourself able to believe that the sun still waits behind the clouds. Or, if you aren’t really feeling very sympathetic towards the sun especially after his summer wave, why not put your umbrella down and dance in the rain? Across rocks and imaginary boundaries I’ll be dancing with you.

And do yourself a favor and be Mrazmerized by a performance of A Beautiful Mess. Here are my favorites:

The rip-off from Live on Earth has the best quality among the three and the one from Royal Albert Hall has the lowest (it is but a bootleg). Nonetheless, I enjoyed the one from Royal Albert Hall the most. That performance has this tendency to make me feel empty and filled at the same time. It even moved Jason Mraz to tears. The one from Nobel has him singing alongside a full orchestra, which in my opinion, magnifies the catharsis inspired by the song. Much like in relationships, beauty, and love, the choice is yours. Watch none, watch one, watch all or search YouTube for your own favorite. Again, the choice is yours.

Namaste,
Your Skymeister

P.S. I’ve rolled out some new code for the tags of this website. They should be working well but if they dontplease tell me. Thanks.

Meeting Maria

I spent last weekend in the wild, being dirty and sleeping inside cramped messy tents whose temperature fluctuates between cold and scorching hot, depending on what time of the day it is. I brought some mosquito repellent with me, only to find out that I should’ve feared the ants as well. The only way I could’ve cleaned myself (even partially) entailed going through the cold caress of mountain water. This is adventure indeed, the kind catterpillars sadly forget as they become butterflies.

My muscles are aching as I type like I worked out for a whole month straight without even a few seconds of water break anywhere in between. But the ache reminds me of a good two nights and two days spent in the cradle of Maria Makiling. Clearly, this is the welcome kind of muscle ache, one that is the sign not of deteriorating health but of a life lived in two-days’ worth of adventure. I’m both glad and sad that they’d be gone in a few days. How I’d miss this feeling and the kind of joy the experience brought me. I feel that I’ve lived life, for two nights and two days, as the experience took my breath away.

Before I delve into the fun of reliving the adventure allow me first to wish my left shoe a very solemn “Rest In Peace”. You have been loyal to me for the past two years or so my dear friend, going through mud and shine, opening your mouth that protects the fingertips of my left foot eventually but not making a single sound of complaint. Your twin, right shoe, will have to rest as well, now that you are gone. I regret that he won’t be able to do it in the house though, as we are pretty crowded already.

My left shoe died an honorable death, in the midst of adventure, as I spent the good part of last weekend jumping through rocks and grabbing various plants for dear life, double checking in a hurried fashion beforehand that it is without thorns and that it is not actually some camouflaging fauna. It died last Saturday but I had to abuse it further by using it again for the same purposes the next day after last Saturday which is last Sunday. My vocal chords nearly died as well, as I screamed cheers and whoa’s in flow with my group’s collective effervescence.

And as I know that general allusions to the experience will do the adventure no justice, allow me to compress about two days’ worth of story in a single web page, as I try to set the record for the longest blog post ever. Right. Let the stories start.

Table of Contents
Laying Down Ground | The Trek | Running Again, Some Swimming, and Goodbye Finally

Laying Down Ground
Friday, February 5, 2010, Deep Evening

Tired and exhausted from last night’s academic cramming as well as from the day that passed, I stepped off the bus and was readily greeted by Orion. Arr hunter, I say. Thanks for the greeting as I am here not to choose the events that will happen but to let the adventure choose me. Be my guide.

For the good part of the night we tried to make the provided tents as cozy as possible. Evidently, a man’s idea of “cozy” is way different from a woman’s. A tent is capable of holding six people but seven of us had to share, plus a few battalion of ants. I brought some mosquito repellent but I’m totally unprepared for these warriors, biting us violently for entering the critical zone of their territory. And we had our luggage with us too, taking up a generous part of our already-cramped tent. I remember being told once that pretty men travel light. If that is true, then Maria Makiling won’t be dating any of us by default.

We were briefed of what awaits us. I didn’t hear anything save for the word “exciting”. After about an hour of planning we embark for slumber land and I felt the rough contours of the earth against my back. Adventure here we go!

The Trek
Saturday, February 6, 2010, Morning to Mid-Afternoon, and then whole day

We rose before the sun to prepare for what lies in store for the day. This is the first time we’ll be actually cooking and, incidentally, my stomach’s been lucky enough to have a choice between two culinary sets so that if something goes wrong here, I always have the other group for back-up. It’s a long and complicated story of how come there were two groups but in any case, the two groups merged into one later on, forming what can be considered as our main class, plus a few additions.

And yes, pictures…

Rappel Instructors

As you see, it was still pretty dark when we started cooking that I cannot rely on natural lighting and I had to resort to flash. This is one of the two groups I’ve been talking about. Though not really a part of the group in the strict sense of the word, pictured here are our two rappel instructors.

 

Chemical Engineers

Left to Right: Stephanie Peralta, Ariel Jan Sadural, Cherielyn Cariso, Dyan Canlas. All of them major in Chemical Engineering. All of them are in the group with me even in the strictest sense. And all of them are fun to be with.

 

I’m pretty fond of these people. For one, AJ has been my highschool classmate from year two to year four. Then again, they’re just plain fun to be with. And also, they are the second cooking group I’ve been talking about.

And oh, yes, just to give you an idea, this is where we’ve been sleeping:

Tents

Being the celestial body lover that I am, I made sure that I know what time will the sun rise and set for the whole time we’ve been there, as part of my preparations. Unfortunately, sunrise and sunset isn’t as pronounced as I expected here. But that is not to say that I did not shoot some scenery.

Saturday morning sunrise at camp…

Saturday was scheduled for trek, an activity which I thought will have me clicking through shots and feeling the cool mountain breeze. I was wrong. The trek found me with my shirt glued wet by perspiration on my back. I found myself finally appreciating Gatorade and thanking AJ for lending me a cap. The trail was beautiful, green and overflowing with flora, ripe for some shots. Unfortunately, my hands had been busy looking for firm features to hold on to and breaking the momentum I gain as my feet followed the dictates of the natural laws of inclined planes, too tired to resist. This is where my left shoe died, in service, ever loyal.

That all said, I still managed to take some pictures while trekking.

Dyan and Che, with a flower they find pretty

Dyan and Che, with a flower they find pretty

 

Don't faeries bathe in here?

Don’t faeries bathe in here?

 

Taken just before we stopped to eat packed lunch live at the trail.

 

Ging and Baki. Not taken by me, most probably taken by Dyan.

 

Dyan and me. If you stop for a moment and think, it will become clear to you that I obviously did not take this picture. Taken by either Ging or Baki.

 

Chilling out live at the trail

Chilling out live at the trail. Taken by Dyan.

 

Returning to camp, I found myself slumped dead near the entrance of our tent, not minding the heat, nor the flies buzzing around, nor the ants who seem addicted to my shirtless torso. I know not how many miles we walked nor how high a height we reached. I did not take a bath immediately which was lucky because our group had someone to sprawl on the ground when we were taught how to rescue someone down in a cliff with a possible spine injury.

Darkness bit the skies again and soon we were cooking and eating by flashlight. It’s such a shame we were not able to light a bonfire because all the firewood around can only be found along the trail, and our own legs might just kick ourselves in protest if ever we plan to return there just to gather some firewood.

Running Again, Some Swimming, and Goodbye Finally
Sunday, February 7, 2010, Morning to Mid-Afternoon

AJ and me woke up at around 4AM. Being one of the two group leaders, AJ spent sometime going around the tents of our group, retrieving their consciousness from slumber. A few minutes into the activity and we were entertained by someone’s semi-consciousness and made-up terms courtesy of the spirit that is alcohol: “Lutuin na yang mga AJ na yan!” (Cook those AJ’s now!), and, “Lagyan ng isang metrong wetness yung shroup” (Add a meter of wetness to the shroup), she’s been saying (yes she’s a she). We laughed our heads off from that episode for about a couple of hours, until the person concerned regained full control of her consciousness and…you should’ve seen her face.

I spent two hours doing nothing but walking around and eating breakfast, breathing fresh mountain air. It feels and sounds so bummer to relate that I ate instant noodles on a moment as fresh as that. Instant noodles is the only junk food that remains in my system after all. I’ve kicked my addiction to soft drinks and cheesy potato chips but not to instant noodles. Note, however, that I suggested, before Saturday’s adventure, that we hunt for snakes along the trail so that we’ll have something to cook in camp–a suggestion that was met with yeah-right faces from my groupmates.

Breakfast at Camp

Sunday morning breakfast at camp.

 

Sunday’s most anticipated activity is map navigation, an activity very similar to trekking sans the almost-vertical slopes, packed lunch, and instructor guides but with a lot of competition, a lot of tasks and a single compass. I cannot decide what is more memorable between the trek and map nav. They’ll most probably tie. The trek is memorable because of the ooh’s and wow’s generated by nature’s beauty; map nav, on the other hand, is memorable due to all the adrenaline and willpower involved. We were so competitive in map nav that I really wasn’t able to take any pictures.

We were misguided and so we were lost for about a good half an hour. Nonetheless, we returned first in camp and you can only imagine with what euphoria did we tread around the still-empty tents, willpower being replaced by effervescence and cheers. Unfortunately, we didn’t win Best in Navigation because start times are not the same for all groups and so there are some chronological translation involved.

After lunch, some refreshments, and a few hours’ rest, we proceeded to the pool to cross about 100 meters, with an optional break after meter 50. Not the most anticipated activity because swimming isn’t really something you’d learn in a few meetings. At this point, I would like to thank one instructor who gave me some last-moment pointers on how to conquer water. It’s thanks to him I crossed 50 at my first try and almost made it to 100 at the second one. I am most grateful.

And what did our group get after this whole adventure? Aside from bonding moments, we got also got this,

Best Group

Best in Navigation went to the group who made their way past all the tasks and points fastest; it does not necessarily mean that they did the tasks best. Best Group, on the other hand, went to the group who did everything best; since they are best in everything, it also means that they have the best time in navigation (it need not be stated since it is already implied). Quod Erat Demonstrandum. That I want to show.

 

It’s been fun and I am thankful for this adventure, this opportunity to bond with nature and other people. I didn’t travel light but I guess Maria Makiling still dated me. I saw her beauty and I hope I’ve been the gentleman Nature deserves. In about two days I’ve seen cliffs, walked a forest and drank mountain water–lived all my boyhood dreams, in short. After such an experience, it feels so bummer to say “Damn! I have a Calculus exam this Saturday and a Data Structures exam this Monday”.

I shall not forget, the day I met Maria.

 


Colophon: I keep on saying that the adventure lasted for about two days when my story is divided into three chapters. The explanation is this: we only spent one whole day (Saturday), as Friday and Sunday was arrival day and departure day respectively. Hence, about two days.


Awesome Things

December 18 went to the Parade, to the Lanterns, to the Fine Artistry of amazing talents. I saw a lot of people whom I haven’t seen for quite sometime now. It’s nice to meet people, especially if by chance. They catch you off guard with a greeting or a smile and the next thing you know you’d be having conversations again and laughing. Then, their lantern moves, the parade goes on…

Not that it’s not nice to meet people in a planned manner. Much like adrenaline, they keep you standing. Later on, you sit in front of your computer and blog about the whole running-to-and-fro-to-get-pictures business and realize that it was such a tiring experience if not for the people-adrenaline that kept you up. People will never cease to amaze you, indeed. Surround yourself with them, in their own terms.

Digicams are also nice and amazing. In an age of instant things, this is one of the few that really piqued my interest. Fortunately, unlike last year, I did not forget to bring my camera along with me. And so words relinquish control on to pictures. See what beauty I caught of UP Lantern Parade 2009.

This picture is equivalent to 3.14159265358979323846... and so on and so forth

This picture is equivalent to 3.14159265358979323846… and so on and so forth

 

Peeking through, stepping through

Peeking through, stepping through

 

Blueboy

Fine Arts, as usual, as expected, took the show. This guy is just one of the many. Fine Arts makes me drool with envy. You got talent I can only dream of.

 

Ever since I was kid I wanted to draw. I remember, back in the days when both my parents worked, they’d leave me with a sheet of bond paper and an 8-piece pack of crayons before going to work. I’d spend all those material resources drawing. I always ended up drawing circles, although in circumspect, with all my geometric/mathematical training, they were more oblongs than circles. Everyday I’d resolve to do something not so circly, to no avail. I think it’s hardcoded in my genes, drawing circles. My whole childhood art (self-)education ran in circles, with me drawing oblongs.

Eventually, I’d exchange pencils, colors and papers for computers and digicams. The photograph below looks so Dave McKean to me and it is posted here straight from my camera.

Your Skymeister does a Dave McKean with a camera

Even in the Latern Parade, I seem to be still carrying what I learned from lessons in abstraction eh?

 

And of course, the Lantern Parade won’t be complete without fireworks

Enmeshed in green…

Enmeshed in green...

 

BOOM!

BOOM!

 

An Electrifying Shower

An Electrifying Shower

 

Awed by awesome things, I feel grateful. An awesome way to end an awesome year, I say. This Christmas is clearly to the awesome things…

An awesome shot don't you think?

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. It’s my mantra for the day. Have an awesome merry Christmas!

November News: A Brag Post

I return to this journal page after my semi-introduction musing holding in my fingertips some November News. I should be facing the interface of OpenOffice Writer, adding words to my NaNoWriMo word count in a desperate attempt to reach 50,000 on or before November 30 midnight. But then some news just can’t wait to be bragged blogged about. The kind of news that 140 characters of Twitter won’t be able to brag blog. So here I am, in the full 150MB glory of my web space, bragging blogging about some November News. (Note to self: Remind me that I do not Twitter and that I haven’t any plans of doing so yet).

Ah word counts. After a week, it seems that my NaNoWriMo for this year will be a good deal better than my NaNoWriMo last year–let’s hope I get over this awkward transition scene I am writing and that this NaNoWriMo goodness continues. I have a story inside my head and when a story is trapped inside your head, the bestest thing to do is to write it down till it shuts up, or else the idea might get jealous at your neglect and go to goodness-knows-where. I am grateful to this idea for not running away and reminding me of itself in my time of greatest need. After all, I’ve held it inside my head for almost a year now. This idea presented itself to me while I am in a math class. I don’t know why, of all places, did it appear to me in a math class. I guess that just goes to testify that boring lectures really do hound me left and right. (Note to self: I didn’t find Math53 boring at all. Of all my maths it is the one I enjoyed best so far).

For the first three days of November, I’ve written more than the daily target word count. But on the fourth day enrollment kicked in, opposing my momentum with such vehement force. Now, every second is an essential second as I try to get ahead of schedule once more. I’m not gunning to write the next bestseller. I just want to write. In any case I am sure that something will always be worse than the product of my one-month writing frenzy. (Note to self: Remind me to cheat the NaNoWriMo word count validator AI and paste this blog entry alongside my novel. To rack up my word count of course!)

And now we turn to the November News worth bragging blogging about…

It isn’t news that I am such a Sandman fan. That little tribute I have (reinstated) in my homepage isn’t new; I once had it adorning the headers of a dream journal.

Needless to say, Sandman is too costly a leisure for my limited finances. And UP students aren’t really known for being rich. I entered UP with only three copies of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed work.

My Sandman Library, before I entered UP. (L-R) Dream Country, Season of Mists, A Game of You.

 

Back in high school, aside from not having enough finances for my Sandman Library, there is also the matter of Sandman proximity: no nearby bookshop that I know of sold Sandman stuff.

And now, in college, aside from bragging rights, my University affords me access to one-jeepney-away malls with bookshops selling Sandman books. Lucky me. As my freshman year ended, my Sandman Library doubled in size.

My Sandman Library, post First Year. (L-R) Row I: Dream Country, Season of Mists, A Game of You. Row II: The Dream Hunters, Preludes and Nocturnes, The Sandman King of Dreams.

Dream Hunters, that golden book at the lower-left corner, is a spin-off volume penned by Neil Gaiman in celebration of a Sandman anniversary. This book, unlike the “canonical” ten-volume series, isn’t a comic book; it is a novel, richly clad with illustrations from Yoshitaka Amano, of Final Fantasy fame. The black one at the lower-right corner, differs with the rest of the books in this picture as it isn’t really a brainchild of Gaiman. It isn’t even a story. The Sandman King of Dreams is a book by Alisa Kwitney, third assistant editor of the Sandman series, which is more or less like a guide/behind the scenes to the ten-volume epic.

And then there is the matter of a little-known story regarding my summer class adventure. I’ve talked about my first encounter with Physics hell but not about this one. Not that I haven’t talked about it at all; I tell the people I encounter about my fantastic discovery and, in the process, realize how too few people know how expensive books can get.

In UP, it isn’t surprising to encounter book stands at any time of the year, at any corner of the campus. Most of these book stands sell books you won’t find in bookstores: from books censored due to extreme (usually leftist) radicalism to books that bookstores don’t sell just because the book concerned is way past its sell-time prime, to books you won’t find in bookstores because they are already too old and dusty for colorful shelves. I am not much a fan of them but every once in a while I find a book I really like on their displays.

These book stands come and go, which is really inconvenient should you find a book you’ve been really looking for in their displays but will not have the money for it until next week. You return next week only to find an empty spot in the place where the book stand should’ve been. You despair for the missed chance and maybe curse off the delicious lunch which drained your pockets last week, before you encountered the book of your dreams.

And then there is that book stand along AS Walk which I, for the sake of having something to refer to, will baptize as Manong’s Mega Book Stand.

I encountered Manong’s Mega Book Stand just last summer. As I am not a very huge fan of book stands I came in just wanting to have good look around, just in case I get that rare Eureka! moment that I find a book there that I can’t find elsewhere.

The moment I stepped in, I realized the difference between Manong’s Mega Book Stand and all the other book stands instantly for there, on the shelves of Manong’s Mega Book Stand stood a decent number of books I would really like to have on my personal library. And they are sold in prices way cheaper than their book store counterparts.

From memory, Manong’s Mega Book Stand has the following books:

  • Books by Arturo Perez-Reverte, especially some of the books in his Capitan Alatriste series.
  • Books on Philosophy.
  • Books by Salman Rushdie.
  • Collections of The Far Side comics.
  • Graphic novels (I distinctly remember Watchmen)
  • Graphic novels by Neil Gaiman (that is to say, graphic novels of NeverwhereStardustBlack Orchid, possibly more that I just can’t remember. And yes, “Graphic novels by Neil Gaiman” also means thecomplete Sandman series).

 

I do not know if Manong’s Mega Book Stand still has the complete Sandman series. After all, I already have, in my book shelves, a good majority of them. Thanks to Manong’s Mega Book Stand, I have already completed my Sandman Library.

My Sandman Library circa November 5, 2009. Arranged in order of acquisition. (L-R) Row I: Dream Country, Season of Mists, A Game of You. Row II: The Dream Hunters, Preludes and Nocturnes, The Sandman King of Dreams. Row III: The Doll’s House, Fables and Reflections, Brief Lives. Row IV: World’s End, Endless Nights*, The Sandman Papers* **. Row V: The Kindly Ones*, The Wake*.

* Yep, they are still in plastic by the time this picture was taken. As of this writing, I have already opened The Kindly Ones.
** The Sandman Papers didn’t come from Manong’s Mega Book Stand.

Turns out that not only did my University give me easy access to malls with bookshops selling Sandman; it also helped me complete my Sandman Library! You would have to congratulate me for this feat. And I would have to thank Manong’s Mega Book Stand so much for this.

Well, there, that’s all I have to blog brag about right now. I still have a novel to write. See you this November End.

~Your Skymeister (@ 7992 words, not counting this lengthy brag post of course)

A Warning: A Look Into Physics

UP is like an invitation-only swimming pool on a blazing summer day. The moment you learn that you have received an invitation, you get so excited you’d want to jump straight in. And jump straight in you do, not minding the initial discouragement provided by long queues. Your body makes a cold splash into the surface and underneath you go. The water is cool. You smile in between segments of underwater respiration. You cherish the smooth feel the enveloping water gives. Wonderful.

And when your lungful of air is over, you break through the film of the surface once more, this time around attacking it from below. You look back and you realize that you’re already quite far from the shore. Must’ve been quite a dive eh? Then someone taps you and points forward. You see sharks. You try to turn back but then this person who pointed the sharks points to a sign saying “No swimming backwards”. Most likely, your parents are sitting near this sign as well, egging you on. You look at the sharks. You look at the sign. Repeat until satisfied. Repeat until you arrive at the conclusion that there is no other way but to get out of this pool in the proper state, id est, unmangled by the sharks and still breathing, still capable of continuing LIFE. This is where you realize that your initial excitement is nothing but the manifestation of hidden feelings of self-hatred and disgust stemming from the sociopathic urges you’ve had and repressed as a child. Not wonderful.

If my imagery allows, Physics is like another pool inside this UP-pool. Physics IS NOT a shark. It is another pool (inside this this pool, yes) which you are just so excited to toss yourself into at first glance but realize that you want to get out of this freaking hell alive as soon as possible. Erm no…Physics is an eddy current that seemed wonderful at first sight, further reinforcing the conclusion that your initial excitement is nothing but the manifestation of hidden feelings of self-hatred and disgust stemming from the sociopathic urges you’ve had and repressed as a child. Who else, aside from an atoning sociopath, would find the idea of tossing himself into an eddy current exciting? Dante shouldn’t have bothered describing the grotesque, the disgusting. He should’ve made them study Physics.

Despite that, Physics remains to be a wonderful foil for our intuition as well as for mathematical induction. Mathematical induction won’t always work in Physics. Mathematical induction is a poor way to conclude your experiments in Physics. Physics defies first impressions and base cases.

Physics is one of the things we should be thankful for. When was the last time you thanked gravity for rain fall? I thank friction for making rappelling possible, angular momentum for spinning kicks and electronics for computers. One of the good things inside this eddy current is that you get the right perspective to appreciate these simple gifts from natural laws.

Thank you friction!

What is the direction of the induced electric field in the reference frame of the rod shown in the figure at the right?

  1. Upphysics_diagram
  2. Into the page
  3. Out of the page
  4. To the left

 


Nonetheless, with all the gratitude it makes me realize, I must admit that Physics is one subject that I’d like to get done with as soon as possible. And can someone please help me with the problem mentioned above? I do not need a solution just an answer. I have a guestbook ya’ know…

Or I have better idea:

Physicists I’m warning you (and mathematicians too). Ours is the final laugh.

Okay. Must make a sign now.