…here come the dragons to bring it down

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Waiting for the End

This is not the end, this is not the beginning

Just a voice like a riot rockin’ every revision

But you listen to the tone and the violent rhythm

Though the words sound steady something’s empty within them

We say yeah, with fists flying up in the air

Like we’re holding on to something that’s invisible there

Because we’re living at the mercy of the pain and the fear

Until we dead it, forget it, let it all disappear.

Waiting for the end to come… That’s right, the end is near: the end of our academic journey. It’s been a fruitful four years of college, and it has been one of the most joyous moments of my life. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy those years, which come to a close later at the PICC Plenary Hall when the graduates of the Faculty of Engineering receive their diplomas for their Bachelor of Science in (insert Engineering course here). It’s extra special because we are the Quadricentennial batch of the University of Santo Tomas, celebrating its 400th year of foundation. Add that to the fact that we are Engineering’s Centennial entrants, and yeah, we’re a different kind of special.

It’s funny how we all got to this point one way or another. I still remember bits and pieces of my first, second, and third year life, and more memories are coming to surface as I type this out. Who could forget Gonida vs. Afurong in ICS Lab 3? The ever famous “Are you just going to listen to your damn music all day?” Or DotA days at any and all computer shop around the campus with the then 1IT2 boys? (Yes, I play DotA. Hard to believe, no?) First year life was really the most lax of them all, not really having to worry about much, other than the dreaded Algebra and Trigonometry during the 1st Semester and Analytic Geometry and Physics in the 2nd. The then umbrella organization of ICS back then, ICOn, was a total mess. It disbanded at the end of the year, just when I had my first foray into student leadership when Edward recruited me to run for ICOn. That’s when I met the would be future leaders of the three orgs that would emerge from the disbandment of ICOn – SITE, CSS, and ISyS – and lead the IT, CS, and IS divisions: Arizia, Lei, Knic, Syd, Alex, to name a few. The seat of class presidency was mine too back then, when I would meet Kevin and Justine, who are my closest friends in the CS and IS divisions.

That was the start of the merging of SITE, the Society of Information Technology Enthusiasts, into my college life. I became SITE’s founding Secretary under the leadership of Ed as President, Syd and Knic as Internal and External VPs, Arlene as Assistant Secretary, Lei as Treasurer, Regine as Assistant Treasurer, Lisl as Auditor, and Alex as PRO. I was in the 2nd year then, and my Academics took a turn for the not so good (I failed AnalGeom in my 1-2 term I think that’s when it all started). The lowest grades I had ever gotten if I do say so myself. Physics 2 was a nightmare: I gave up Acads for my Org during this time, and that’s when I had to take it again in the 2nd semester. Amazing first year for a new organization; that’s when I knew where my life would go for the next two years. This was also the time I got split up from my beloved 1IT2, and when most of the major “factions” began to form. Groups of people from different sections bonded to form new friendships.

The 3rd year of college was pure torture. Academic requirements like no tomorrow as well as org work that wouldn’t stop piling up. I ran and won (against no one) for the position of SITE’s Vice President. I returned to 3ITB where most of my friends were and made new friends along the way. I got my first taste of getting flooded in at UST. The memories are both great and not so great, when I think about all the stress and hardship that we had to go through: OJT hunting, thesis topic formulation, projects galore, you name it; we went through it! I will never forget SAD with Ares, James, Teresa, Carol, and Brian, when the six of us split up to form our thesis groups. The pressure of finishing early and getting an OJT early was really on, and this is when we first met our would-be best friend for the next year, Cisco!

And just like that, time flies. Entering the 4th year would be one of the biggest challenges in my college life. I ran for and won the Presidency of SITE against Daryl Sapugay, leading a party of 6-3 in favor of ITLOG: Information Technology Leaders of Our Generation (thank you for the wonderful party name, James). I had the most memorable experiences here: Retreat at Caleruega, 4ITBullies moments, SITE events (which some failed to materialize; this has been a tough year), to name a few. I met the most amazing people, and shared in the joy and sorrow of being a graduating student and org president at the same time. Ed, Lei, I think I have a very good idea of how you guys felt during your times.

Words won’t do justice to everything that has happened in the past four years, and I don’t think I have all the words to say right now. Its 4:00 AM as I type this, graduation is but a few hours away. As we say good-bye to the school that has held us dear, we look back at all the memories that we’ve shared and say, “damn, what a ride.” Later, when things fall into place, I’ll be thinking about all the things that have happened and I’ll stand tall and be proud for I’ve made it through hell and high water, bruised but not beaten.

Congratulations to all the graduates of 2011, to the Quadricentennial batch of UST, and to my fellow BS IT batchmates!

Thank you for everything. You all have a special place in my heart.

Stagnation

I haven’t been putting up any new blogs in the longest time, I’ll try to squeeze in a few soon, so watch out for it! Currently I’m toying with WebMatrix and my new Windows Phone so expect something about these before the month ends 😀

Enter the (Web)Matrix

Yesterday marked the launch of Microsoft’s latest shiny new toy for web developers and web enthusiasts worldwide: the Microsoft WebMatrix. This nifty piece of software made its debut at the WebMatrix keynote speech at CodeMash in Ohio which was streamed online for people around the world to take part of. So enough of the boring parts, let’s get into what WebMatrix is all about. In this blogpost, I’ll be discussing what the WebMatrix is and the new Razor syntax for webpages.

When developing your websites, it’s always a tedious task to work out the fine points: big issues such as website layout and design to minor ones such as hosting and domain. Normally these issues have to be dealt with separately, but not anymore. WebMatrix allows you to bring all of these deployment and development issues under one hood so you can work on them together. It’s a very flexible and an equally powerful tool for creating a website and putting it up on the WWW in no time flat (sans design-time, which unless you’re an imba designer, might take a while). WebMatrix gives you a complete package for creating neat webpages: ASP.NET for your markup, IIS 7.5 Express for deploying your site on IIS, and SQL Server CE as your main database engine. Moving on, here’s where the magic happens:

The screen shows you the four main functions of WebMatrix and these buttons are self-explanatory. My Sites allows you to load up any recent webpages you’ve created on your system’s My Web Sites folder. By default, WebSite1 will be the only webpage on the list, but once you start tearing WM a new one, this list will populate. The next button, Site From Web Gallery, allows you to create a website using one of the myriad Web Apps that are available through the Microsoft Web Platform. The most popular Open Source Web Apps that leverage the best of ASP.NET and PHP at your fingertips: DotNetNuke, Umbraco, Joomla!, WordPress, and Acquia Drupal to name a few. Site From Template is what you’d be using to create a new website for the most part, using one of the 5 preinstalled templates of Blank, Starter, Bakery, Photo Gallery, Calendar. And lastly Site From Folder allows you to create a new website out of an existing folder on your machine.

I’ve been playing around with these and for purposes of this blogpost I’ll go ahead and make a new website using WebMatrix just to show how damn easy it is to do. Being a Microsoft Student Partner, the language that comes to mind when I wanna make web apps is ASP.NET, and if you’ve had some experience with making ASP.NET websites before using either Expression Web or Visual Studio 2010 (which by the way seamlessly integrates with WebMatrix), you’ll know that functionality is mostly defined by its code-behind file. Since I’ve had a long standing vendetta against VB, I’ll make this website with my trusted C#.

So you might be thinking, how can a someone leverage the sheer awesomeness of ASP.NET and C# in just one file? That’s where the Razor syntax comes in. This baby allows you to add code to your markup, which is to say, allow for code functionality into an otherwise static HTML page. So Razor pages are categorized into two types: CSHTML which is an ASP.NET page using C#; and VBHTML for you Visual Basic enthusiasts out there. Razor replaces old markup such as the <% %> tags with a simpler @ tag, thus allowing for less keystrokes when typing out your webpages. These @ tags mesh the code in directly to your website, so there’s no need for a separate code-behind file to manage all the event handlers and whatnot.

WM allows you to create HTML, ASPX, and even PHP documents for your website. For purposes of showcasing Razor in all its coolness, we’ll make a CSHTML page for the website which I’ve named Matrix. So for this example, I’ve used some Razor coding to make myself a website that greets users who type in their name. Here’s the code for said website: as you can see, I have my block of program code at the top of the document which handles the IsPost event for the form object. It’s a cleaner approach than having to use a separate .cs code-behind file to mesh with my form controls, and it saves up a lot of typing time. If you’ll look down you’ll see the albeit bare-boned site I’ve just created using Razor.

Of course, WebMatrix isn’t really a heavy duty development tool like Visual Studio, and that’s why it has the blue VS2010 ribbon button right there at the top of the screen. If I had, for example, a website that needed some serious code-crunching, I’ll just hit the Launch Visual Studio button and the IDE pops open on my desktop.

There’s a ton of stuff to be had about Razor and how it integrates with WebMatrix’s other goodies such as Helpers, which will be the subject of a future blogpost. In a nutshell, Helpers do as they are called: help out in delivering rich content with minimal stress to your users.

Since this is all fairly new, I’m still learning about it all because developing for the web is always an “in” thing to do with the emergence of Cloud Computing and similar concepts. The ASP.NET website has a pretty decent tutorials page if you want to read about this stuff on your own and if you want to get WebMatrix for yourself, it’s downloadable from Microsoft’s Web Platform Installer which you can get here. Well, that’s about it for now, I’ve got to go and enter the Matrix myself. Til next time!

Roller Coaster Ride to Nowhere

It’s a cold dark night and we’re out here all alone
Feeling reckless, taking chances, self-destruct commence in five
It’s a disaster just waiting to happen
So grab your friends; let’s start a riot
Let’s see just how far we can go
Before the tires burn out and spark
Before we go fly off the rails
Destination: Who Freakin Cares?

So this is what it feels like to feel so alive
And dead at the same time
It’s a juxtaposition
It’s a full on submission
Whims uncontrolled take to the air
And here’s to going round and round
To nowhere special; here and there
Aren’t you glad you gave in?

And finally when the spinning stops
The room back to where it should
We’re nowhere near better than before
In fact, it might be worse
So our wild ride won’t end right now
It won’t end just yet
Fasten your seatbelts, here we go again!

Year Ender Special: The Hall of Mirrors

Mirrors are funny things.

They show us what we are; nothing more, nothing less.

They’re a reminder of what we’ve become.

So why can’t they show us how we got there?

I don’t remember how, or why. I don’t recall ever coming to this place, yet I felt a great sense of familiarity with it. Everything was new to me and at the same time it’s as if nothing has changed. The hallway stretched out to as far as I could see, and along its walls were mirrors of various shape and size. As I stepped forward into the hall, the door behind me shut with a faint, fading glow.

As if by magic, the frames of each mirror on the walls began to glow in different colors. I walked down the path and gazed at the mirror to my right. Lights danced across the glass surface as shadows danced in the light of its red glow. I saw someone who was undeniably myself in the mirror, but this person standing in the reflection was not me. I blinked, and the strange me but not me reflection stood and blinked as I did. I raised my hands and it raised its hands in perfect sync with my movements. In bewilderment I placed my hand on the mirror’s surface, and that’s when I knew.

The reflection in this mirror is indeed me, but this was the me of earlier in the year. Rage and passion filled his eyes and you could feel the drive to succeed just by staring into them. At the same time, his face reflected doubt and sadness, as success often comes with a hefty price. Somewhere down this road, he had to say goodbye to those who aided him and now he stands left alone to fend for himself. In a strange amalgamation of emotion, he was grinning triumphantly; the sweetness of victory savored. Suddenly the reflection pointed downwards and I jumped back with surprise. Looking at the bottom of the mirror, I saw a small metal plate on whose time-worn face was etched lettering. The plate read:

“Sometimes we lose ourselves chasing after our dreams. Things will always work out in the end, right?”

The words struck me like a hammer as I read them aloud. That wasn’t the most pleasant time of my life but it was indeed one of the sweetest victories I’ve experienced. I closed my eyes to let the memories flow for a few moments. When I opened them, the mirror’s glow was no more, and standing in the reflection was no longer my past. As if calling to me, another mirror further down the corridor began to glow brighter. This one gave off a soft, almost tired glow of vibrant blue.

Opposite the mirror stood myself tired but restless. The reflection showed two conflicting halves, trying to separate from one another but seemingly harmonious in union. The right half of the mirror showed signs of tiredness and lack of interest, seemingly wanting to get things over with. The left half was the complete opposite, showing enthusiasm and hopefulness in his eyes. It was as if this half wanted to start something big. Just like the first mirror, this one too motioned for a plate near its frame. This plate looked newer than the last one but still showed considerable signs of age. Written on this one were the following words:

“Sometimes when we’re faced with a fork in the road, we’d like to take both paths. But that’s not possible, is it now?”

Again the words rang out in my head as I read them to myself. Just like the first mirror, when I finished reciting the line on the plate, the glow vanished and the mirror showed my reflection as is. Amidst the corridor of countless reflections hanging on the walls, further down I saw yet another mirror that called out to me with its light.

This third mirror was unique in a sense for it was one of the few circular mirrors in the hall. The frame was made of a metallic material that gave off light that flashed in a soft pattern. Red, green, blue, and yellow lights bounced off the mirrors surrounding this one in a beautiful dance of color. My reflection in this one seemed confused, as if wondering what to do. Signs of aging and weariness dotted his face and his lips were curled into a frown of disdain. It was like watching a train wreck, with several trains colliding into each other, resulting into a chaotic mess. It was like a maze of doors, not knowing which one to take.

As I stepped back to gather the memories this mirror brought up, the reflection pointed upwards of its frame to the mirror’s plate. It then turned its tired eyes to me, and I saw in those dark circles something of happiness but I couldn’t be too sure. I could have sworn that the reflection winked at me before it disappeared. Stepping closer to the mirror, I tiptoed to be able to read the third engraving. This plate was fairly new; it looked to be only months old. The etchings looked somewhat recent as well. Engraved were the words:

“Sometimes things just never go your way, in fact they’ll probably make you go their way instead. Don’t fret, you’ll get there.”

Reassuring as they may be, those words couldn’t have come at a better timing. I pondered for a moment as to the purpose of this hallway – deep inside I knew the meaning, but I had to be sure. Walking along the path again, I saw the fourth mirror with a soft white glow. Gentle, calm, and inviting, I drew closer and looked at the reflection. To my surprise, this mirror didn’t show a strange version of myself; instead I saw me standing there alone in the hallway. It came as no surprise when the reflection gave a gentle wave and smiled back at me before pointing to some point further down the hall. This reflection, however, followed me as I walked down the path to what appeared to be a dead end in the hallway. Plastered on this wall was the largest metal plaque of the four, clean and spotless. I wondered for a moment as to why this plate had no engraving, when my reflection in the mirrors to the left and right of me nodded in unison. It was then I understood that I had to place the carving on this plate. With my finger I traced the letters into the shiny metal sheet, and the letters etched themselves like magic.

“Sometimes you just have to smile and keep on going, never really knowing where the roads may take you. All you have is the assurance that one day, you’ll be staring at yourself in a mirror thinking to yourself just exactly how far you’ve come.”

Suddenly a doorknob appeared on the plate in front of me; I blinked and the plate was gone, in its place a majestic door made of fine wood. I turned around and saw nothingness; a black, blank empty space. I was standing at the edge of an abyss with a door leading to who knows were in front of me.

I gripped the knob tightly in my hand and turned to open the door, and I was greeted with the most beautiful fireworks display against a black starry sky.

“Happy New Year, everyone!”

Yuletide Special: That Time of Year

I sat by the window facing the streets, Christmas carols playing on the radio. Today is December 24; Christmas Eve. I took a look at my phone’s call log and browsed through the missed calls. All of my friends called earlier in the day to invite me out to party somewhere in the Metro. I turned them all down, of course. Today just didn’t feel like a time to go out and get wasted, though I was craving for some nice vodka. Maybe I’ll grab a bottle later, I thought to myself. But for now, it was time to relax and enjoy the evening.

It started to snow.

“I guess it isn’t so bad. I’ve got the place all to myself and there’s nice music, good food…”

I walked on over to a set of paintings hanging on the walls, and took a long look at each one. Each piece represented a particular event in my life, and they hung in all their glory on the condo unit’s plaster wall. It was rather heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time to be reminiscing like this, since not all memories I kept so close to me were good ones. Sometimes, you have to keep the bad with you so that whenever you remember that, you’ll remember not to make that same mistake.

The first memory on the wall was of a majestic school surrounded by green, rolling hills.

The next memory was of an angel descending from the heavens.

The third was of an arch carved from a single stone, aged but still standing proud amidst weeds.

A fourth frame hung on the wall but was blank, still waiting for a painting to fill in the space. I looked at my wrist and saw the faintest traces of red, physical remnants of another darker time. I wondered if I could just take a snapshot of this then hang it on the wall. What am I gonna put up here?

BUZZ! BUZZ!

I glanced at the clock on the wall. 11:00 PM. It’s getting late, almost Christmas morning. I suddenly became saddened by the fact that I’m actually spending my Christmas alone again. Wondering what my friends were up to, I decided to call them and see if it’s not too late to follow them out. I grabbed my phone and dialed.

“Hey, where are you? You’re missing an awesome party!”

“Glad to hear you’re enjoying yourselves. Who’re you with?”

“Everyone! You’re the only one who isn’t here; what’s wrong with you?” came the voice over the phone.

I sighed.

“Is it too late to catch up with you guys? I’m feeling mighty bored here.” I lied. While I’m still beating myself up over this loneliness, I didn’t want to give in just like that.

“Actually. We were just about to leave. Next time, come join us, alright?”

“Sure, sure. I won’t miss out next time. You take care now, yeah?”

The line went dead.

Trying to find something to keep myself busy, I decided to just turn on my computer and see what movie I could watch. As the machine whirred to life, my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Open the door.”

“Huh?” I uttered, a bit confused. Open my door?

“Open your door, silly!”

“Okay, okay, but if this is some kind of a –”

SURPRISE!

All my friends stood at the doorway, rushing in to greet me with a hug or a handshake. I was shocked; what were they doing here?

“It’s about time you cheered up, so we decided to bring the celebration to your place.”

“Yeah, you’ve been a bit down recently and this is one way we could share the Christmas spirit.”

My heart leapt. This was probably the most touching thing my friends have done for me in ages. I stood there watching as they came in and brought food and festive atmosphere, laughter filling the room. I couldn’t help but a smile.

Sometimes, even if we’re scared about letting people in ninety percent of the time, that remaining ten percent just surprises us in the most extraordinary ways possible. Sometimes we open ourselves up to things we never thought we could and then the possibilities are endless. Sometimes, it’s just that time of the year when we all do a little something special for someone else just to see them smile. And it’s that time of the year when a smile from someone you care for; someone you love, means more than the world to you than anything else could. It’s the spirit of giving that counts, and it’s high time we give back.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Frustrations and Change

It’s pretty obvious that I have a short temper fuse. It’s also pretty obvious when I’m mad or upset about something. So it should come as no surprise whenever I suddenly lash out at people. Or rather it should, because I seem to wind up hurting myself instead and by hurting myself, I mean looking for a sharp enough blade to cut open my left arm. (Un)fortunately there aren’t any sharp objects in this house, so all I end up with are scratches with minimal to no bleeding. Shame, I like the sight of blood. New one, this time it’s on the underside. Too many already on my forearm, so I thought I’d put this where it really should be.

Today, I would rather not talk about. Rather, how much people can change over time. Let’s start with a story of how a small, timid child turned into the commandeering warmonger. This kid was once just trying to make his way through life, until he decided that he’d had enough of being stepped on. So when the time came, he found himself stepping up to the plate and boy did it feel good to be on top for once. As with every person in authority, he wanted to stay that way. So he kept on climbing up to the lonely peak all to secure power. Sure it can be lonely at the top, but what’s that compared to lording over other people? And now the tables have turned, and the prey is now the predator.

As with all Tri-Ace games, there exists a secret boss at the end of the main story known as the Ethereal Queen who is the most powerful boss in the game. Upon her defeat, she would always ask the player a variation of the following question: “What will you do once you are the strongest?” Really interesting question, actually. What DOES one do when they become the strongest? Power is addictive and very pleasing to have. The stronger you are, the more you can accomplish. The more you control. You won’t be harmed.

Downside? You just might end up pushing people away.

In my case, it’s high time that some people got the shove they deserve.

Call me mean, nasty, arrogant, bossy, whatever you like. You’re just gonna have to deal with it.

Misery Loves Company

Two days to go before the MSP Christmas Party on Saturday and I have nothing to wear. Thank you, useless wardrobe. I have zero formal outfits.

Apart from my apparent wardrobe malfunction, things have been going less than smoothly for my org. What with all the recent calamities and the continuous letdowns, it’s amazing that I’m keeping this boat afloat. Well, not just me, actually. We all try very hard; I’m proud to say that even if we’re working with just an arm and a leg, we’re surviving.

Aside from that, my academics has taken a rather surprising swerve. While it’s not doing great, it’s not half bad either. I’m not alone on this one as well, since my thesismates are also in the line of fire. I really wonder how we’re gonna be able to pull this off in a few days. I have faith, but I’m a bit doubtful. Of course, doubts won’t do anyone any good, so it’s best to stay positive about the whole shebang. I’ve pulled off bigger miracles in the past.

Don’t get me started on family issues.

I guess the saying misery loves company really is true. I may be in deeeeeeeep shit right about now, but I’ve got people joining me for the helluva wild ride. I just hope they don’t jump ship at the good (bad?) parts.

4ITB: For It’s The Best

It’s been a long and tiring weekend. 4ITB’s retreat ended on a happy note, with lots of memories to cherish. A lot of lessons were learned, and a lot of experiences were shared. It’s been an amazing three days with the best bunch of people I could ever meet in my entire college life. I learned a lot about my classmates, getting to understand them a bit more; knowing them a bit more. I also rediscovered whatever goodness I had left inside, or should I say it was forcefully shoved in my face? Still, that was one wake-up call I badly needed, and I think it came at just the right time.

Honestly, even if at times I really feel left out and on my own, sometimes even in my own section, I really feel that these guys will always be there not just for me, but for every one of us whenever we need a friend to talk to. The past 3-and-3/4ths years have been extra special because I’ve always had these people with me, making our lives a little less lonely and a lot more bright and cheerful. Each moment I spend with them is something special, be it good or bad times; really, they’re the best.

I feel kinda bad though that during one of the activities (a blatant rip-off of the Mirror) I wasn’t able to really express everything I felt, but I’ll try to make up for that not with words, but through actions. Just a little bit of kindness and happiness will go a long, long way. It’s my way of saying thank you for all the joy that 4ITB and friends have brought into my life. Thank you for keeping me sane in my hardest, darkest, moments. Thank you for making me smile when my day has turned to shit. Thank you for being tolerant(?) of me when I start bitching out. Sorry for that too.

I really hope that this will carry on even past graduation. Truly, there’s no other quite like you, for it’s the best of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I love you guys.


4ITB Quadricentennial Batch

Redemption

Seven sins which bear weight on our souls, each its own damning weight.

First is Pride, which blinds one to the rest of the world and whose world becomes none but his own.

Second is Lust, whose yearning for the carnal embrace blocks out all the others.

Third is Wrath, the unyielding force of one’s inner fire.

Fourth is Envy, whose eyes seek to gain what is not theirs.

Fifth is Sloth, seeking to put all into a tireless tiredness.

Sixth is Gluttony, consuming even when it needs not.

Last is Greed, who aims to lay claim to all it can.

By virtue and grace, the weights are lifted, and we are once again set free.

Through Humility, we learn to bow down and accept the world around us.

Through Chastity, we learn to control our consummate desires.

Through Meekness, we learn to not let emotions cloud our judgment.

Through Kindness, we learn to appreciate what we do not have.

Through Diligence, we learn to not let our days pass idly by.

Through Temperance, we learn to restrain ourselves from indulgence.

And through Charity, we learn to give, not just receive.

Each of us bears a sin, a weight upon our soul. But each of us can learn to take off our weights and free ourselves from their pull, and rise up to be redeemed.

——-

-FalleN 12210x

Thank you to all who made it happen.