Rewards After. At 69, never mind the journeys!

I live in Manila, Philippines, you may have heard of it? We Filipinos have heard of your financial crisis: American, Australian, European, Korean, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean. Where are all the brilliant economic models when you need them most?! The financial crisis is actually one and the same; it’s an excellent example of the saying that I hereby revise: ‘The end of the journey is the reward.’

At the end of a journey like that of Wall Street, there are no financial wizards, only financial wheezes. Why is it, my little President GMA, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, wondered aloud and proud at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland this January, that the big countries like the United States are reeling from the collapse of Wall Street, while the small ones like the Philippines are not? Madam President, the higher they fly, the harder they flail.
The US financial wizards are now cowering at the financial sorcery they themselves conjured; now nobody knows how to exorcise the werewolves they have created except to cry for help from Government. And who is Government? The people who pay taxes. 800,000,000,000 US dollars for bailout. When well-stocked Wall Street-smart asses fail, they make the people pay heavily for their mistakes, Americans and not. They can’t stand up for their wrongs.
On the other side of the world, with all the political trouble and travail that the Philippine Opposition, divided as they are, have been trying to stir up against my small President GMA, she is standing still, if you know what I mean. Understand, GMA is small but terrible. They don’t make them like they used to anymore!
The Chinese say, ‘The journey is the reward.’ GMA’s journeys have all been everything but rewarding. I know the feeling. So, personally, with all those journeys of life I have so far taken in almost 7 decades, the good and the bad, the inspiring and the despairing, I’d like to enjoy the rewards that have come after. My first reward at this point in time is that there is an after, thank God! I thank, therefore I exist.
The rewards after are what I have and what I have become. I am 69 this year; that calls for a celebration. It’s nowhere near my birthday, but hey, it’s a New Year!
They call this year the American ‘Year of Science’ (copusproject.org) – The Yankees better make a paradigm shift with their Keynesian, Ricardian, Whoeverian economics to a change we can all live in. Where are the financial geniuses when you need them most?! ‘International Year of Astronomy’ (iau.org) – The internationals better stop hitching their wagons to the stars and begin relying on themselves. ‘Year of the Ox’ (Chinese) – They better look at the animal as their best of burden. ‘European Year of Creativity and Innovation’ (create2009.europa.eu) – They better do something more than just ogle at the American model. ‘Year of the Gorilla’ (upi.com) – Does the collapse of Wall Street prove that the brilliant Clarence Darrow and other Yankees came from the apes?
2009 is my year; every year is my year; it’s yours if you claim it. I do. I do claim the rewards after, never mind the journeys!
This year, I am calling myself Easifier because I have come to realize that I have lived much of my life trying to simplify things, to easify the difficult. To make easy is to reduce the complexity or difficulty of something; to easify is also to reduce something to its essence and thereby make it easier. I have come to realize that science is like that; you cannot make it easy directly, but you can easify it, as I show in my many blogs (click here for the gateway ‘Think Easy!’ and you are welcome to my world of the arts & sciences).
I come up with a theory every now and then. I’m a very practical man; each theory I write comes from practice, including the errors of my ways. I have been trying to, and now I feel I have reached that stage where, for instance, I can teach an easified way of creative thinking. I have found out that part of the secret is that the harder you try to think creatively, the more you can’t – either you suffer writer’s block or burnout. I’m calling my theory at the moment ‘vaguely thinking’ – by its very nature I have to refer to it imprecisely. To initially think loosely, out of the box, is to initially think creatively. (For more, see ‘Think easy!’ vaguelythinking.blogspot.com.)
68 going on 69, I feel great! When people greet me ‘How are you?’ even if I know they don’t really want to know, I always answer, ‘Alive!’ That has a double meaning, in case you didn’t notice.
I’m active and counting my blessings; how about you? I'm upbeat always; I’m offbeat in many ways, so I have many things to be thankful for that are not your usual kind:
(1)         I’m the happiest international writer around here.
I have 2 books published abroad. In 2007, I was contracted by ICRISAT, the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, based in India, to write a book of essays on the theory and practice of science of that institute, focused on poor farmers and 5 selected crops: chickpea, peanut, pearl millet, pigeon pea, sorghum. The book was published that year as Team ICRISAT Champions the Poor (128 pages, 8.5”x11”). The essays in this first book detailed and described the activities and achievements of the institute not only in India but also in Africa and Asia. In 2008, again ICRISAT contracted me to write a book, and this should come out any day now, THE SMART REVOLUTION, twice longer. This one focuses on the progress of projects of ICRISAT and partners, including the Indian government and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Both books are published in India.
The American Chronicle is my paper. It has been publishing me for the last 3 years, since 2006. As of 12 February 2009, I have had 173 essays accepted by this newsmagazine, which has over 11 million visitors annually (americanchronicle.com). I have never had an article either rejected or censored by this publication. I’m quite happy with this, in fact I’m exultant, because for years all the major papers in the Philippines refused to publish me; I emailed them my articles, but they would not even oblige with a thank-you-we’ll-consider-it email. The list of those who failed to appreciate my writings is formidable, and it includes the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin. On the other hand, in a manner of speaking, these papers made me an international writer – I would not have searched the World Wide Web for a friendly paper if anyone of them were.
(2)         I’m the top science editor around here.
I have achieved world-class status 2 times in science, ISI and ISI, and that must be a record:
Once: Several years ago, I was invited by a friend, OK Bautista, Editor in Chief of the Philippine Agricultural Scientist (formerly Philippine Agriculturist), to help her edit the journal to quality and to qualify for the ISI Web of Knowledge seal of international approval, the ISO of publications. She knew I worked fast and saw all kinds of mistakes many missed, including her – I had the last edit before going to press. We didn’t miss a deadline, and we did our best editing. In about a year, we made that journal ISI, the very first ISI journal in its field at the University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, the first at the University of the Philippines System, the first in the Philippines, and probably the first in Asia. You can be ISI if, among other things, you are up-to-date in your issues, and you have quality editing.
Twice: In 2006, with me as Editor in Chief, beginning with the issue when the Philippine Journal of Crop Science became up-to-date, as I mentioned earlier, we went after the ISI ourselves. And we got it within the year. I had proven that a one-man band could do ISI if he had the head, the heart and the hands for it.
(3)         I’m the most creative publisher around here.
I use Bill Gates’ Word 2003, not Adobe’s PageMaker. In the last 12 months, I desktop-published 5 books using Word 2003 as publisher, and I just know I would have been 5 times slower with PageMaker, that which is both Beauty & Beast, lovely but complicated and difficult to understand. 
I did make a moribund journal alive. When I became the Editor in Chief of the PJCS, Philippine Journal of Crop Science, in 2003, that technical publication was 2 years late in its issues. In other words, it was dying. Enter the computer and someone silently self-taught much; so, no one realized I came into this journal scene as a one-man band: writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher (person). A one-man band was the only way to save the life of that science journal. I was a graduate of the UPCA, University of the Philippines College of Agriculture, so I knew whereof I edited. What happened was I made that journal up-to-date in 3 years, which meant I was working 3 times faster than normal. In 2006, the journal was already 1 year ahead of schedule. (For details, see my ‘We are the most advanced knowledge base in crops in the whole science world,’ livingdata.blogspot.com). I used Word 2003 as publisher, yes; with my own PC, programs and printers – HP LaserJet 1020, Epson CX2900 – I conjured that publishing magic for 5 years.
(4)         I’m the record blogger around here.
I have 44 blogs and hundreds of essays, posts that are mostly 1500 words each; the longest is 7,676 words; this one is 4,444 words.
I love blogging. Since I love to write, I have found blogging to be the best way to get published – publish yourself! Unlike many bloggers who damn this, damn that, I don’t use 4-letter words except live, love, hope, home, dear, fair, just, true, gift, joke, bond, cake, bird, farm, form, bike, stay, face, nice, blog and the like. I find blogging an attractive alternative for people to read other than the newspapers that invariably carry negative stories. In contrast, I like to write inside and outside the (positive) box without being sugary in intent and content. I am offbeat when it comes to writing, so blogging is the perfect medium for me. I love blogging so much I have 22 blogs (individual blogsites) in Blogger alone, 1 blog for 1 subject matter or field, like ‘Living Data’ (crop science), ‘The Franciscan Mindster’ (creative writing), ‘My Word 2003’ (word processing elevated to desktop publishing), ‘iNews in Science’ (science news), ‘The Shot Story’ (mostly my photographs), ‘Easifier Files’ (everything else). Good night, good night! Blogging is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.
(5)         I’m the crack shot around here.
I have been complimented on my photography. Someone has said my photographs fit the essays in my blogs perfectly; isn’t that photo proof enough? There are 2 ways to make a photo match a story 100%; I do both. One is to fit the photo to the story; two is to fit the story to the photo.
I shoot horses, don’t I? I have attended 3 days in different years of the Manila Polo Club polo season (they have it in January), courtesy of Tony Meer and Tony Oposa Sr, the last 2 with my digital Canon PowerShot A540, a birthday gift. This is a digital camera that shoots at 6.0 megapixels. Excellent! It has many automatic settings I couldn’t believe until I had seen them all. Today I have 4,414 shots, total, no redundancies.
I’m the fastest shot around here. I compose and shoot quickly. For that, I have had enough self-lessons in photography starting in 1968 when my brother Emilio gifted me with a Canon SLX (if I remember right). When I was hired in 1968 by the College of Agriculture of Xavier University in Cagayan De Oro City, I read photography and art books of Xavier U. Years later, I learned from expert photographers and stumbled on an open secret: Photography is all light and shadow. I used to keep a Flickr account, as Worp; I enjoyed about a year of uploading and describing my shots. I now prefer to use my photographs in my blogs. Double the pleasure.
(6)         I’m the fastest writer around here.
52 in 52. I have been writing at least 52 essays in 52 weeks for the last 3 years for the American Chronicle alone, most essays being 1,500 words each. What about quality of writing? Complimentary, my dear Watson, complimentary. 
I can write so fast that if challenged, I can probably write anyone’s biography in 15 weeks. How can I do that? Here’s how:
I’m a good listener. I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut; before, I was listening only to myself.
I type so fast you would think I’m playing. For me, nothing beats writing using the computer keyboard, as the PC can record my thoughts almost as fast as they appear in my mind.
I’m intimate with Word 2003. With my favorite word processor, I can easily type and reorganize my drafts with Word 2003’s Stylesheet, automatic table of contents, automatic indexing and instant outline-organize features. And I can easily correct and revise the manuscript with Word 2003’s shortcuts for Search & Replace, paragraph formats, character formats, font changes, footnotes, running heads, page numbers etc. My fingers know so many shortcuts that often I don’t have to look at the keyboard anymore. Gratis et amore, I’ll give you 2 wonderful shortcuts right now; just select and use on any word, line or paragraph, singular and plural: Shift+F3 (I change case), Ctrl+[ (I must decrease), Ctrl+] (he must increase). Repeat any of the 3 commands and see what happens. It happens that I started using the PC in December 1985 with WordStar and I have been looking for shortcuts since then, up to now. Seek and you shall find.
With the PC, I’m most creative. My first virtual mentor was Rudolf Flesch, who explained in his book How To Write, Think And Speak More Effectively how I can juggle thoughts in my mind to come up with new ideas from old concepts, new insights from old information sets. My second virtual mentor was Edward De Bono, who invented lateral thinking, a way of creative thinking that is more productive of new or improved ideas than the usual brainstorming session. That is because in lateral thinking, an energizing atmosphere is created first within the group, a non-antagonistic environment is encouraged and everyone is welcome to share his thoughts on the topic on the table. Learning from Flesch and De Bono, I have developed that mental faculty to think on demand creatively that I can come up with a new idea with old materials in a matter of minutes. In this regard, the PC helps me search for old materials, find old and new views on the subject, and help me generate new thoughts. I also find inspiration from others I meet in the Internet through their thoughts published online.
(7)         I’m the Senior PC user around here.
I’m the most senior compleat PC user. I have used the PC a hundred times I can set up a system from crash to working computer. I do most things PC: Windows Vista, Word 2003, Photoshop CS3, Picture Maker, Paint, Picasa 3, Firefox, Google Chrome, Windows Live Writer, WordPress, Blogger, AdSense, Auslogics Boostspeed, Yahoo Messenger, Skype, Yahoo Mail, Gmail, Hotmail, Nokia PC Suite.
My Briefcase is full. I mean, I use the PC running Windows; right now I’m using Windows Vista Home Premium, a legitimate copy purchased from Prologue Computer Center in Laguna; it came with my Core i7 PC that I discuss below. Vista is of course sleeker, speedier and has more features than the previous Windows XP; it also automatically installs a large number of hardware, including sound, LAN, flash drive, external hard drive. I like most of the new Windows features, but the one I like best is an old one, as I noticed it in Windows 97 already: Briefcase. I can put say, 20 files from 20 different folders in that single Briefcase folder, then work on them in the Briefcase. When I want to copy edited files into older files, I simply click ‘Update all items’ and Briefcase knows where all the edited files should go, each file unerringly copied into its correct source folder. Briefcase is an intelligent way to back-up your files as well as work with many files in an uncluttered way in 1 little corner of the desktop. Thanks, Bill Gates!
I’m friends with Internet browsers. Ever since Google’s Chrome was launched on 02 September 2008, I have been using this Internet browser exclusively. Years before that, I was using Netscape Navigator, which I loved. When Microsoft’s Internet Explorer killed it, I switched to Mozilla Firefox. Then I got tired of that and switched to Opera. I also got tired of that and switched to Flock, which again I liked very much: it had media, and it would show me the latest photographs of my Flickr contacts: I reveled in the contrast of talents and subjects. And then along came Chrome. This browser is the fastest that I know, the neatest-looking, the most intelligent and the most convenient. I can type my search words right into the system tray at the top of the screen, press Enter, and Chrome will do the rest for me. Chrome has a separate & independent tab for each window opened, so when one website crashes, only that one website crashes, not the whole browser. I like that when I open Chrome, I see thumbnails of the last 9 webpages I’ve been to last time; it’s a delightful collage of colors and boxes. Chrome is gold.
I can tell you the difference between Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Years ago, I was introduced to Yahoo Mail and it was wonderful. Imagine, you can send a letter of any length to anyone anywhere instantly, and receive a reply within 5 minutes, not 5 days. I was happy with Yahoo until a new girl came to town, Ms Gmail. She is faster, looks more beautiful, has more features, and can carry a bigger file, up to 20 MB, where Ms Yahoo can only carry 10 MB. It’s easier to send emails to groups of people and today I can even change the Gmail ‘theme’ or background design and color scheme. And Yahoo? It’s less inviting to the eyes, and it has changed only a little over the years. She bores me to death. I like exciting.
I can print 4 times more than you can. Given an HP 1020 toner cartridge, I can print 4 reams more than you can by printing gray, and I assure you the text is readable.
I write the fastest minutes of a meeting. I learned from Dominador O Reyes, bless him. Today, I can assign automatic line numbers to the paragraphs so that blank lines do not have line numbers. Some people just learn more.
I can create a corporate style for documents in no time at all. That takes a number of years of understanding and a resultant intelligence with Word 2003, along with client requirements. Let me share with you a most illuminating experience I had writing corporate proposals. At one time, an officer of the ADB, Asian Development Bank, told a group of proponents something like this: ‘You should learn from Ro Cedam. They write the best proposals.’ At that time, I was the one writing the corporate proposals of Ro Cedam (not the real name) for submission to ADB. Some people just excel.
Which all adds up to this: I’m The Best Me Yet.
Not surprisingly, I have rewarded myself with the fastest PC in the world, the Intel Core i7. The best for the best.
When you say ‘Core i7,’ it’s really 4 processors in 1, a quad-core, and that’s why Intel uses the plural form: ‘Intel Core i7 processors ... are the best desktop processors on the planet’ (intel.com). This one I have is 16 days old as I write this. Intel Core i7 920 2.67 GHz 2.66 GHz; the motherboard is an Intel DX58SO. Works with an ATI Radeon HD 4850 video card (1 GB/DDR3) and a 3 GB DDR3-133 memory). I’m probably the first in Laguna to buy a Core i7. Very expensive; it cost me $1,500.
And why did I spend my hard-earned dollars for a Core i7 when it’s only a computer? Because I had the cash. Because I deserve it. Because I’m the most writer, editor, desktop publisher, photographer, blogger this side of the planet; I am a one-man band and I want the best and the fastest. Since I can make Windows and Word 2003 jump through hoops, with the Core i7, the hardware and the software are my slaves, and fast is as fast as I want it. Nowadays, with the frenetic pace of change in information technology, like the Red Queen and Alice in Wonderland, I have to run twice faster just to stay in place, in first place.
As a thank you note, now I do science news fast & free. I just opened on the Internet a service that offers to publish news releases in science at no cost to the sender; I call it ‘iNews in Science’ (inewsscience.blogspot.com). Just send me your releases and I will upload them after editing, mostly for grammatical or typographical errors. It’s my way of sharing my talents relating to information networking via the Internet. You work hard on your news release; I make the next step easy for you by publishing it.  It has a dual purpose; later, I can write my essays based on those news items.
At whatever age you are, I want to inspire you so much I want to give you more reasons why at 69, I have never been happier using the PC.
I can compare Bibles and discover more. With the Internet and my favorite word processor, I can download any book, chapter and verse from most any version of the Bible, save as text and compare them at leisure, print them out if I so wish. The Bible has never been this easy to study. (For a specific illustration, my study of Romans 1: 17, ‘Luther’s Verse,’ see my ‘Verses & Controversies,’ americanchronicle.com.)
I can do magic with Word 2003. One, I can create a 3-level Table of Contents of a manuscript of 300 pages in 15 minutes, and recreate that table, after revisions of the text, in 3 seconds; I assure you all the pages are correct – they are put there by the program itself, not the person. Two, I can create a bookmark so that the correct page is displayed when you say, for instance, ‘For the table, please refer to page 17’ even after so many revisions to the text. Three, I can tell how efficient your secretary is in using the PC without knowing her or watching her at work – the insides of her Word 2003 files will tell me. Four, I can create an Ilocano or Tagalog dictionary or in any language of your choice right before your eyes, no more spelling errors in that language. Five, I can tell what’s wrong (logically and creatively) with your manuscript 5 minutes after I’ve opened it with Word 2003: I use Outline-Organize. Six, I can write an original manual of Word 2003 full of shortcuts. Not only that I can; I’ve already done it, all 100 pages of it, selecting ‘100 beauties of Word 2003.’ Seven, I can write a book of 13 chapters and almost simultaneously review and revise all chapters, organizing and reorganizing for coherence and continuity. Not only that I can; I’ve already done it: I wrote my indios bravos! Jose Rizal as Messiah of the Redemption (2005, limited edition, 187 pages), all the time using Word 2003. Can all that be done really? It takes a master in writing, editing, desktop publishing. (I can tell you more but this is already too long.) How come I know all that? I taught myself. I cultivated the gift of cats, curiosity. You have to cultivate a gift.
With the PC, I can work my Nokia 5310. This is not simply a cellphone; this is Nokia XpressMusic, and has very high-quality sounds, perfect for my kind of music. I select and copy from our music collection in the PC hard disk, and I have great music I like wherever I go. My Nokia X has a sound recorder (so I can record my interviews), a loudspeaker (so I can hear you), a huge memory (so I can forget your name and number and retrieve later in a 2-GB memory card), a camera (so I have a backup when I forget my Canon PowerShot A540), a calendar (so I don’t have to remember dates), a wide screen, nice fonts and beautiful wallpapers (so I have Maria Sharapova). This is an expensive phone, right? I just told you the reasons why I bought it.
I own an Internet café & surf all day. At home, you can find my ‘Internet café’ doubling as ‘office’ with 3 desktop PCs and 1 notebook at work. I have partitioned each of the hard disks into 3-4 drives, for easier & faster file management. No unit is for rent – we have enough indefatigable power users at home already! Neenah, Daphne, Edwin, Graciela, me. The 3 desktops are this Core i7, that Core 2, and that Celeron, all Intel processors. My notebook is an HP Compaq Presario C700 with Intel dual-core processors (both 1.6 GHz), 1 GB memory, Internet-enabled. I have Smart Bro, the broadband connection of Smart Communications. I surf all day, sometimes all night. You don’t know how important anytime-surfing is to a writer if you’re not one. In Manila or elsewhere, the Internet is always a data mine and an information quarry. Not only that, the Internet is a fountainhead of inspiration and insight, as long as I keep my mouth shut and my mind open.
All in all, at 69 it’s been a great life, and I thank God for the many rewards of my many journeys, if not all of them pleasant. And no, my long list will never be complete, because I intend to live forever!

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