Thursday, July 30, 2009

Canine cuteness -- with relevance

Here's a re-post from November 2006. I wanted some eye candy so naturally I sifted the entries under the "animals" and "cuteness" category, and decided on the following. I anticipate a very busy end-of-the-workweek tomorrow, so I'd like to be ready with a dash of cuteness for relief in one click in case I'll need it!


2 legs, 4 legs

A remark that one of my friends made years ago stuck to my mind. His theory was that children are made cute because this makes it easier for their parents to keep their cool whenever the little ones act like brats. If they weren't cute, he says, they'd probably be thrown out the window or something equally horrible by their parents in a fit of "temporary insanity," which may be diffused once the concerned mom or dad catches sight of the pudgy toddler.

I've often wondered if puppies were made cute for the same reason (the "parent" in this scenario not being the canine mom or dad but the human owner). After all, when the little pooch chews your new shoes to beyond thrift-shop condition, or keeps doing its bathroom business on the carpet, you can hit the roof and consider torture as a form of canine discipline. But once it looks at you with those droopy eyes and then scampers off as fast as those tiny legs can do it, of course you can almost feel your heart turning to jelly.

This same jelly transformation happened to me recently -- not on account of my dog, Sabrina, itself the most adorable creature on four legs in our household. I needed only to review the photos I'd accumulated in my computer, photos of these canine cuties. All in all, I had 12 -- it would've been more had I not trashed the others I used to keep. By the way, if you've been passing by my blog in the past several months, you may have seen some of them. I even realized that several of Norman Rockwell's illustrations have cute dogs in them! And, all the image-boosting for dogs/puppies (especially Beagles) can probably be attributed partly to Charles Schulz. Years of seeing Snoopy can do that...

By the way, I saw a photo of two pampered little dogs from the Neiman Marcus online catalog (featuring limited edition pet homes). To be clear, I don't go for treating animals like humans and splurging on their care, even if one has tons of money. And I believe in inequality 100% when it comes to comparing animals and humans. Concern for animal welfare and respecting the innate dignity of human beings are perfectly compatible. Still, this is a cute picture so I decided to put it here. =)

Looking at the canine pictures then reminded me of an entry I posted in my other blog last year about dogs and people. Here it is:

It's hardly surprising that a preschooler who has been spending his whole life (all 4 or 5 long years of it) around the family dog would assume that canines and humans are on the exact same level as far as the hierarchy of creatures is concerned.

Keeping a family dog does have benefits in that it provides occasions for play in the home as well as opportunities to teach kids about responsibility. Also, having a pet around is a good way to demonstrate to a child what he is and what he is not ("we drink our milk from the glass, we don't lap it up from a bowl like Pepper does"). Another thing you can tell kids when they're behaving more like four-legged creatures is that for humans, there is such a thing as manners. Dogs can be taught tricks; persons learn manners and what these are for.

You can learn a thing or two, if you please, by checking out the following -- from the book Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss :

Manners are about showing consideration, and using empathy. But they are also about being connected to the common good; they are about being better. Every time a person says to himself, “What would the world be like if everyone did this?” or “I’m not going to calculate the cost to me on this occasion. I’m just going to do the right thing”, or “Someone seems to need this seat more than I do ”, the world becomes a better place. It is ennobled. The crying shame about modern rudeness is that it’s such a terrible missed opportunity for a different kind of manners — manners based, for the first time, not on class and snobbery, but on a kind of voluntary charity that dignifies both the giver and the receiver by being a system of mutual, civil respect.

And what's more...

Being friendly and familiar with strangers is not the same as being polite (as we have seen), but if it helps us to overcome our normal reticence, all right, be friendly. Yes, we live in an aggressive “Talk to the hand” world. Yes, we are systematically alienated and have no sense of community. Yes, we swear a lot more than we used to, and we prefer to be inside our own individual Bart Simpson bubbles. But just because these are the conditions that promote rudeness does not mean that we can’t choose to improve our happiness by deciding to be polite to one another.

You can read the article, Don't be so rude, at Times Online.

Okay, a couple of more photos I have in my pc, in case you'd like to see them --

Is this a pessimistic view of things?

Could be. On the other hand, I also believe it's necessary to step back once in a while and look at the big picture, for a more accurate view of what has been happening.


An excerpt from "So long, and thanks for all the mess" --

Dear Baby Boomers:

Thanks a lot for preparing to bankrupt our nation by collecting massive pensions and benefits that you never paid for. We are paying for them, but we will never collect our money because the system will be broken long before then.

Thanks a lot for telling us that kids are a burden. You only had a few because they’d mess up your plans. We don’t know who will look after you in your old age but we don’t really care, because we think that you are a burden too.

Thanks a lot for telling us that autonomy is the greatest good and no one else should set our rules. You made it easy for us to destroy our bodies, minds, and spirits with indulgence, greed, and lust. After all, we’re not hurting anybody else.

Thanks a lot for telling us to make love and not make war. Now we are dying of AIDS and killing our babies by the millions. Great help that was. Besides, we still are at war, we just got the double whammy.

Thanks a lot for telling us how great birth control was. Comprehensive sex-ed in schools would make STDs a thing of the past, or so the snake oilers said. You just forgot to tell us that condoms aren’t full protection and that abstinence is possible.

Thanks a lot for showing us that marriage doesn’t matter. We divorce our partners quickly and shatter our kids’ lives. Little eyes ask us when Daddy is coming home; they don’t know how to understand “never”. Till death do us part? We start to laugh, but it becomes a cry.

Thanks a lot for telling us abortion was a right, leaving broken-hearted girls to smother their guilty feelings in silence because what they did was the best option. Wasn’t it?

Thanks a lot for telling us there is no morality and that virtues are old-fashioned. Why didn’t you tell us there was right and wrong before we messed up our lives? Wasn’t that your job? Why did we have to learn the hard way?

Thanks a lot for telling us religion and reason are opposed. You fed us Chicken Soup for the Soul and tenth-rate rock bands in church while leaving intelligence to the nihilists. Then you wonder why we leave the church and think that you’re just an old fool. Could it be because you never told us that great Christians could think too?

Thanks a lot for telling us that a woman’s life is not worthwhile unless she’s like a man. Our kids get warehoused in daycare while we shuffle paper for some boss. They force us to celebrate equal opportunity while we hide our emptiness under the mask of Prozac and fake smiles. Why can’t we just go home?

Read the whole thing at MercatorNet

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Keep at it...

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean.
If a few drops of the ocean are dirty,
the ocean does not become dirty.

- Mahatma Gandi

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small hands, big deal

Thanks to Willy J's most recent blog entry, I was prompted to look for some good news myself on the interwebs. Isn't there anything else making the headlines besides updates on swine flu deaths, bombings in the South (or other parts of the planet) and other such news? So I headed on to the website I knew that contained all good and found this.

What fascinated me even more was the news about the problem Apollo 11 encountered 40 years ago--which was solved by a 10-year-old boy. He didn't do anything heroic, but the role he played was instrumental in enabling last-minute communication with the astronauts before they "flew" back to Earth from the moon.

I think of this lunar landing with much fascination because my mother gave birth to me a few days before the fateful moon-walking of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins. It looks like the hospital rooms of St. Luke's back then weren't equipped with TV sets (or maybe only the suites were, if there were suites already at the time); hence, my mom checked out of the hospital earlier than planned since she and my dad really wanted to see the first men on the moon in action. It was the TV at home that urged them to get me out of the nursery pronto, hehe.

The 10-year-old who helped Apollo 11, 40 years later
By Rachel Rodriguez

(CNN) -- On July 23, 1969, as Apollo 11 hurtled back towards Earth, there was a problem -- a problem only a kid could solve.

At age 10, Greg Force reaches his arm into a tiny hole to fix an antenna crucial to Apollo 11.

At age 10, Greg Force reaches his arm into a tiny hole to fix an antenna crucial to Apollo 11.

Click to view previous image
Click to view next image

It sounds like something out of a movie, but that's what it came down to as Apollo 11 sped back towards Earth after landing on the moon in 1969.

It was around 10:00 at night on July 23, and 10-year-old Greg Force was at home with his mom and three brothers. His father, Charles Force, was at work. Charles Force was the director of the NASA tracking station in Guam, where the family was living.

The Guam tracking station was to play a critical role in the return of Apollo 11 to Earth. A powerful antenna there connected NASA communications with Apollo 11, and the antenna was the only way for NASA to make its last communications with the astronauts before splashdown. But at the last minute on that night, a bearing in the antenna failed, rendering it nearly useless.

To properly replace the bearing would have required dismantling the entire antenna, and there was simply no time. So Charles Force thought of a creative solution: If he could get more grease around the failed bearing, it would probably be fine. The only problem was, nobody at the station had an arm small enough to actually reach in through the two-and-a-half inch opening and pack grease around the bearing.

Read the whole thing here

Sunday, July 19, 2009

How "toddler" and "good behavior" become compatible

It's not that I hate children. I LOVE them to pieces! But when I go to church for Mass, I choose a spot that's reasonably far from where young kids are seated. Why? Basically, because they're so cute! And it's so easy for me to dwell on the cuteness of the little cuties and tease them by making googly eyes or other animated facial expressions. Each child can sure remind us of the God-given gift of life, but hardly does one ponder on the beauty and depth of God's giving of Himself in the Mass when it's a child's cuteness or amusing behavior that's grabbing their attention every two minutes.

The good thing is, toddlers--young as they are--are already capable of adjusting their behavior when called for, as when in church (in fact, toddlerhood is a great time to begin training a child in this). And parents will do well to empower themselves with strategies on how to help their young ones in this area.

Mommy Life wrote an insightful and helpful piece on her blog. An excerpt:

Teaching Children Self-Control

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is self-control - a foundation built day by day as you teach your child to make decisions about his own behavior.

Remember that a child may be well-behaved for all the wrong reasons - fear of punishment or withdrawal of affection. This often results in a tendency to "act up" in awkward moments. In the long run, children raised to be outer-controlled rather than self-controlled may be more vulnerable later to peer pressure and rebellion.

The potential for self-control is best released during the toddler years, when the child is eager to do things for himself. We can capitalize on his natural inclination to master his environment by helping him master himself.

A young child has little to be steward over - except his own body. Challenge yours by offering opportunities to gain control:

"Let's see if we can close the door without a sound."

"Let's see if we can walk on this straight line."

"Let's see if we can hear this pin drop."

This provides a context for reminding a child not to fidget or lost his temper: "You are boss of your body. You can decide to sit still."

Another effective way to help your child develop self-control is to let him know in advance the kind of behavior you expect - at a party, in the grocery store, library, or church.

Read the whole thing here

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Two comments, one sentiment

Really now, why do most people whom I get to talk to seem to regard dark skin as inferior to fair skin? It sure looks like it, based on the conversations I remember having in recent years. But then it could probably mean that I should meet more people from different parts of the world--those who may have a totally different viewpoint about the whole thing.

Two brief comments from two people in two conversations really had me wondering if I should just forget about it every time I encounter this all too obvious lack of appreciation of dark beauty--or of diversity in general.

The first conversation was over lunch, not too long ago. Talk was on Michael Jackson's sudden demise, the memorial tribute, and the expected scrutiny of other issues surrounding his death. I hadn't caught a glimpse of the singer's two sons and was wondering if they resembled their dad more than the daughter did.

"Do they have more African-American features?" I asked. "Wala!" was the reply I got, uttered with a bit of horror. "Guwapo sila, mga puti! (They're handsome, they're white!)"

"Oh," I said, too stunned (and a bit saddened) to say anything else.

The other chitchat I had was with a simple middle-aged woman who is in Manila to earn some money to help pay off some debts incurred back in her hometown. She is good-natured and, as mentioned, simple, which is why opinions she held would occasionally be revealed easily. I think she was looking at some photos of the family, then while gazing at a recent picture of one of my nieces, she remarked, "Maganda na siya ngayon, ano? Dati maitim..."

"Ikaw talaga!" I chided her with a smile, part of me finding her bias quite humorous (for reasons I didn't--and still don't--understand). "Bakit ba kung maitim ang tao, pangit agad para sa 'yo?!" and she broke into a smile, then laughed. She probably realized the implication of what she had just said, and remembered our casual conversations about the obsession of some people with turning their brown skin into ivory (she related more than once how quite a number of impoverished neighbors back home would spend whatever little money they had left on skin-whitening products even if it meant incurring debts for daily meals, fiesta celebrations or hospitalization expenses).

Well, what can I say? In this part of the planet at least, white skin is highly regarded. Aggressive marketing of products and services that promise this aspired-for whiteness don't help in any way to ingrain a love for one's own when it comes to the skin tone that's fit for the tropics.

It goes beyond skin-deep for me. The way I see it, the inability to appreciate one's own (be it our skin color, traditions, language, products...) is tantamount to being overly impressed by what's foreign. And this is partly what's responsible for our people's overly welcoming attitude toward principles, fashion trends, and even legislative measures that come from foreign shores--betraying an inability to hold on to what ought to be held dearly. Sometimes, it's not even a matter of holding on to one's own--culturally-speaking--but a question of holding on to what is true, good and beautiful, which is mirrored more closely by the various facets of our Filipino culture.

What's your take on this whole attitude about maputi-maitim?

This matter of skin color figured in the piece I wrote in Baby mag's summer issue this year. Click here for a look at Kayumangging kaligatan.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

No superpowers required!

Sometimes it feels like cooking (or preparing any culinary concoction for that matter) requires superpowers -- especially for those of us who are more adept at eating and watching the Food Network than doing actual kitchen work (but it is consoling to know of many people who started out zero and ended up becoming a whiz -- or feeling comfortable working the chopping boards and frying pans, at least -- when it comes to whipping up meals, because of sheer necessity!).

Well, here is a simple and healthful-looking dish that requires no superpowers whatsoever to prepare (mainly since no cooking is involved). The ingredients are few and easily available, too. I'm just not sure what "grape tomatoes" are. It's called Cantaloupe and Avocado Salad with Honey-Lime Dressing.

See the recipe here

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Kids, gifts and giving

I found this blog post at quite insightful and full of worthy considerations. Makes me think about the depth of "giving" that people are capable of extending.

An excerpt:

And that's when it occurred to me that maybe I was looking at regifting way too narrowly, as a way to manage down the social convention of gift giving. And that's fine. Your kid gets yet more toys they don't need, or gets duplicates, it seems like no big deal to be grateful--and then to pass them along when you think there's a better chance of their being used and loved.

But the real power of regifting might lie in teaching a kid to not only think of her friend, and give something her friend would like, but also to give something of her own to her friend. It could make the gift--and the gift process--more meaningful than, "Here's something my dad picked up for you at the toy store."

Read "The Case for Regifting"

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

"My experience is that women who miscarry are usually given a small window of sympathy; but women who have abortions often resort to using drugs and alcohol to cover up the pain because the people who told us it was OK to abort our babies, don't want to listen to our crying afterwards."

- Georgette Forney, an abortion survivor, co-founder of Silent No More Awareness Campaign

Spreading darkness across the world

An excerpt:

In recent weeks, the new US administration has interpreted "reproductive health" to include abortion.

In April, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a U.S. House subcommittee, “We [the Obama administration] happen to think that family planning is an important part of women’s health and reproductive health includes access to abortion that I believe should be safe, legal and rare.”

In this statement, Clinton also contradicted the agreement reached at the Cairo Conference which said that abortion can never be used as a part of family planning. This was a document that Clinton helped to negotiate.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

'Men buy with their eyes, women buy with their ears'

That men and women are different in some ways has been established. And personally, I like it that way -- it would be pretty hard for one to complement the other if they were similar in all areas, wouldn't it?

Saw this book review of Re-render the Gender: Why the vast majority of advertising is not connecting with women -- and what we can do about it on the Marketing to Women Online site, and it presents some pretty neat and useful ideas. Marketers! Advertisers! Pay attention!

One of the first things the book points out is that while women control over 80 percent of all purchases, over 70 percent of all advertising is created by men. The book also points to the fact that the judges at creative award shows are overwhelmingly male. (A situation creative director Ruth Lee addresses in why you need women on your creative team.) This often drives creative directors to create advertising designed to appeal to the (male) judges that can win these prestigious, career-advancing awards.

So what can you do to create advertising women like?

My favorite chapter in the book was about the differences between male and female humor. (a subject near and dear to my heart - see male vs. female humor) The book has some great examples of commercials guys thought were hilarious, but bombed with women. As Thomas points out:

Guy humor often has a victim. And for the most part, women don't find that funny.

Full article here

One can always make a difference

Promoting the truth that every person deserves a chance to live, is not reserved for NGO workers or for people who are immersed in the pro-life advocacy or for health professionals whose "office" is the hospital nursery. And it's really not that hard to do.

From Heartbeat International
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