Saturday, April 24, 2010


This is Grace, the daughter of neo.nate. My family and I regret to inform you that my father passed away on April 19, 2010. Thank you for taking an interest in his blog and his writings - it was one of the things that kept him going during his retirement. We miss him very much. RIP Dad.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

In Seventh Heaven


A picture is worth a thousand words. The image, taken July 30, 2009, shows POTUS (like GOD, is always capitalized) and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo upon the summons of Obama. Impishly, Barack chose to pose beneath the portrait of George Washington, famous for his inability to lie.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Porcine flu A_H1N1

By the ides of June 2009, the swine flu AH1N1 affliction is declared a full blown pandemic spreading globally without a severity scale, the Philippines is a frontrunner in incidence. When it comes to infectious disease, preparedness is good, but ill-informed preparedness is a waste of time and resources, and there's a lot of ill-informed preparedness going on right now with the swine flu. The Department of Health is bustling to stay on top of its developments, if not its curtailment, prompting some critics to bewail the feeble proactive efforts of the DOH honcho. I am inclined to agree.
Some pertinent but vital questions have not been addressed. The emphasis in hampering the spread of the disease is hand washing in running water, but was silent on rinsing with stagnant water in a basin, the tendency in remote areas where water is scarce and must be arduously fetched. Another is the matter of social distancing mantra -- the church frowns on holding hands at mass, DOH advises to keep 3 feet away from each other -- not so practical with passengers rubbing elbows in jeepney rides, when paying fare or when accepting the wafer at communion.
But there are practical ways to contain the disease that the DOH can disseminate to the public,  beyond the admonition not to panic
Doorknobs and push buttons, convenient devices in everyday life, are also convenient means for the virus to seek more victims, and these invisible buggers are not choosy. Gender, age, rich, poor, any human will do. So to frustrate and infuriate the invisible enemy, disinfect their bridges to the hands ---  the doorknobs, pushbuttons and many other items touched routinely by many people (ATMs, computers, coins). Alcohol, if one can afford it, is a favorite and convenient disinfectant. In a bind, even the 80-proof intoxicants will do as substitute for rubbing alcohol.
Outsmarting the Flu Virus with Chlorine Bleach
Although viruses require live host cells to multiply and spread, they can live on inanimate surfaces for up to two hours or more, giving them a convenient window of opportunity to be picked up by unsuspecting organisms, namely, us. Likely points of infection are commonly touched surfaces: doorknobs, desks, counters, dials and handles. Managing the viral populations on these surfaces is an effective way to cut down on the spread of flu. Chlorine bleach is a logical germ-busting, readily available product to turn to for this task. It works by penetrating the protective shells of viruses.
A dilute solution of regular laundry bleach (1/4 cup of bleach in a gallon of cool water) is an effective and inexpensive all-purpose disinfectant, used commonly in homes and healthcare facilities. Some keep spray bottles of chlorine bleach solution on hand for use to disinfect exercise equipment. The active ingredient in chlorine bleach, sodium hypochlorite, is one of the chlorine disinfectants routinely added to municipal drinking water to control waterborne disease.
A study by the National Institute of Nursing Research showed that hot water and bleach are more effective in reducing viral infections than antibacterial products. This is because antibacterial products work only on bacteria, whereas bleach destroys both viruses and bacteria.
Masks Are Useless at Protecting Wearers from Swine Flu
Many air travelers have been seen wearing mouth and nose protection of one type or another in recent days. Most were wearing face masks, which are loose-fitting and designed largely to help stop droplets from spreading from the person wearing the mask. They also protect the wearer's mouth and nose from cough and sneeze aerosols. They are not created to protect the wearer from breathing in very small particles.

Case in point: All those people buying surgical masks. They think wearing a mask protects them from swine flu. The mainstream media perpetuates the myth, broadcasting images of people wearing the masks, all while talking about people "protecting themselves" from swine flu. If it wasn't a potentially life-and-death situation, it would be amusing.

 Did you ever notice that the surgeons and medical staff in a surgery room are all wearing surgical masks that are very similar to the face masks being used by people afraid of swine flu? Did you ever wonder WHY they are wearing those masks? Are they wearing those masks to protect themselves from the patient's germs? Not so. They're wearing those masks to prevent their own germs from infecting the patient!
Respirators, on the other hand, are made for just that. They are similar in appearance to the relatively inexpensive face masks but are designed specifically to protect the wearer from breathing in such particles. These masks, known as N95 for its filtering ability, fit more snugly on the face than face masks so that most air is breathed through the filter material. They work best if they are fitted specifically to the person wearing the mask.
A respirator that fits snugly on the face can filter out small particles that can be inhaled around the edges of a face mask. But it's easier to breathe through a face mask than a respirator over a long period of time, said experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Are there treatments?
As of now, the new virus is killed by two antiviral medicines—oseltamivir and zanamivir. Based on experience with other flu viruses, treatment would be most effective if given within 2 days of the onset of symptoms. As long as this current swine flu virus is infecting people, it is likely that health authorities will recommend that people with more severe illness take these medicines.
On the other hand, there is no proven benefit from using the medicines before symptoms develop, and there is proven harm: unnecessary widespread use of these drugs could produce drug-resistant viruses.
There is no vaccine yet for the new virus, (Drug firm Novartis claims a new vaccine available for distribution by November) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expressed doubt that this year’s regular flu vaccine will offer protection.
Vast Majority Won’t Have Access To Antivirals In Pandemic, But Generic Drugs Could Help Prevent Deaths
ScienceDaily (June 15, 2009) — Almost 90 per cent of the world’s population will not have timely access to affordable supplies of vaccines and antiviral agents in the current influenza pandemic, but it is possible that inexpensive generic drugs that are readily available, even in developing countries, could save millions of lives.
That’s the conclusion reached by an extensive review and analysis by immunization expert Dr David Fedson, published online by Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses within hours of the World Health Organization declaring a pandemic.
Dr Fedson points out that seasonal flu resistance to antiviral drugs like Tamiflu may make them ineffective in the pandemic and maintains that without effective drugs some countries will have to rely on 19th century public health measures to see them through the outbreak.
He is calling for urgent and sharply focused research to determine whether drugs that reduce inflammation or modify the host response - the way that the body responds to infection or injury - could be used to manage the pandemic. And he believes that a lot could be learnt from the work done on these commonly available generic drugs - which include drugs to lower cholesterol and treat diabetes - by scientists not involved in influenza research.
“Despite the best efforts of influenza scientists, pharmaceutical companies and health officials, the stark reality is that although studies of the molecular characteristics of influenza viruses have been enormously informative, they have failed to explain the system-wide effects that flu has on people who contract it.
“For example we still don’t understand why so many young adults died in the 1918 pandemic, while the death rate for children was much lower. I believe this is because researchers have focused on studying the actual virus rather than how these particular hosts – the children and young people – responded to the virus. 
“Most of the world’s population lack realistic alternatives for confronting the next pandemic and urgent research is vital. Otherwise people everywhere might be faced with an unprecedented public health crisis.”
Dr Fedson maintains that experiments by non-influenza scientists have defined common cell signalling pathways for acute lung injury caused by different agents, including the inactivated H5N1 influenza virus (bird flu).
“Research suggests that giving patients anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory agents such as statins, fibrates and glitazones could help to regulate the cell signalling pathways in patients who have suffered acute lung injury, a common problem with influenza” he says. “They can also help to reverse the cellular dysfunction and cell damage that accompanies multi-organ failure.
“Cell signalling pathways play essential roles in the ability of cells to perceive and correctly respond to their microenvironment. They form the basis of development, tissue repair, immunity and normal tissue function.
“Statins are commonly used to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease - but have also been shown to be effective in reducing hospitalizations and deaths from pneumonia. Fibrates modify fatty acid metabolism and glitazones reduce blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes. All of these drugs modify the cell signaling pathways involved in acute lung injury and multi-organ failure. Moreover, they are affordable generic drugs that are widely available even in developing countries.”
Dr Fedson points out that there is currently no logistical plan to distribute supplies of pandemic vaccines to the non-vaccine producing countries that contain 88 per cent of the world’s population. “In all likelihood, people in these countries won’t be able to obtain supplies of pandemic vaccines or they will get them too late” he says.
“Many health officials have placed their hopes on stockpiles of antiviral agents, but resistance to the most widely stockpiled agent, Tamiflu, in seasonal flu outbreaks, has prompted concerns that similar resistance could develop in any pandemic virus. 
“It’s estimated that countries that do not produce influenza vaccines will only have enough antivirals to treat one per cent of their combined populations.
Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses is the first journal to specialise exclusively on influenza and other respiratory viruses. It is the official journal of the International Society for Influenza and OtherRespiratory Virus Diseases (, an independent scientific professional society promoting the prevention, detection, treatment, and control of influenza and other respiratory virus diseases.
The journal is providing all of its content free online at and fast-tracking the publication of articles to help clinicians stay up-to-date with the latest research and expert commentary.
Where can more information be obtained?
For updated information from the CDC, go to: or visit Harvard Health Publications’ Flu Resource Center.
Cleanliness Habit
Primary schoolers prior to WW2 were taught a ditty: I have two hands, the left and the right; hold them up high, so clean and bright … DepEd should inculcate the value of clean hands. The advent of the swine flu pandemic is scary, but could bring about a benefit:  the awareness that hygiene and sanitation are vital to staying healthy, and could persist as a habit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Sanitizing Bays

In essence, the PhilStar editorial- Cleaning up the bay December 20, 2008 says: 
“The other day the Supreme Court added its voice to the environmental cause in a landmark ruling that ordered several executive agencies to clean up Manila Bay and restore its pristine waters, and to submit periodic reports on the progress of the program.
The court upheld an order issued on Sept. 13, 2002 by the Regional Trial Court in Imus, Cavite, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals, ordering several government agencies to restore Manila Bay’s water quality within six months. The ruling supported the petition filed by the Concerned Residents of Manila Bay in January 1999. The group argued that the deterioration in the quality of the bay waters violated minimum standards set under the Philippine Environment Code and Presidential Decree 1152. The high tribunal also cited provisions of the Clean Water Act of 2004 that have not been enforced.
Unlike other voices in the advocacy for a clean environment, the high tribunal’s ruling becomes part of jurisprudence. But the order may raise questions on whether the court has overreached its authority by ordering executive departments to do their job in compliance with its order.
The question is raised because of the complexity of cleaning up a bay whose waters are shared by tourist resorts, fishing communities, slum areas without sewerage systems, the port of the city of Manila and the country’s main international container port. The bay is also where solid waste and industrial effluvia from the Pasig River end up.
To improve the water quality in Manila Bay, all these factors that cause pollution must be addressed. Can the country afford to drive away the ships that use Manila’s port or shut down polluting industrial facilities along the Pasig?... “
The editorial understates the scope of the problem --- there are also five contiguous provinces with polluted rivers, and by inference their population, dumping into the Bay: Bataan, Pampanga, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and even Laguna from its not-so-pristine Laguna Lake surrounded by industrial polluters. To view the full panorama of the picture and its ramifications, is to see the pollution as an ugly consequence of corruption. The unregulated pollution is abetted by official neglect. But the ugliest of all from my viewpoint is the reflection of a culture that accepts shady behavior as conventional, the norm and mores of Filipino culture.

The Pacific Ocean according to a yacht race skipper is no longer pristine. “I often struggle to find words that will communicate the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to people who have never been to sea. Day after day, my yacht Alguita was the only vehicle on a highway without landmarks, stretching from horizon to horizon. Yet as I gazed from the deck at the surface of what ought to have been a pristine ocean, I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic.”
And in space,  orbital debris, also called space junk and space waste, are the objects in orbit around Earth created by man that no longer serve any useful purpose. They consist of everything from entire spent rocket stages and defunct satellites to explosion fragments, paint flakes, dust and slag from solid rocket motors, coolant released by RORSAT nuclear powered satellites, and other small particles
U.S. scientists are looking for a way to clear the clutter in space, which some say is becoming troublesome on the heavenly highways. The space junk problem is increasing, in part because of collisions between materials in space, rocket stage failures and activities such as anti-satellite testing, the online publication reported. If space-faring nations continue to ignore this growing space access challenge, we will reach a gridlock situation in which launching satellites is too risky. Thus, a space cleanup is inevitable.
Notwithstanding the reality of global littering behavior, I still believe it is not proper to spit on the floor of one’s house.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Of pollards and espaliers

Of late, our legislators were engrossed in analyzing the Bolante funding technique of agriculture, an endeavor that fizzled out. Their search for agricultural innovation and ultimately food security would have produced more fruit if instead they studied two words in the dictionary: pollard which can restrain deforestation and produce alternative fuel, and espalier which can create fruit trees that serve as decorative boundary markers and landscaping.
Pollard definition: 1. A tree cut back to the trunk; 2. An animal that has its horns removed. Pollard is not merely cutting off the top of a tree which is technically just called topping -- a very harmful practice for trees. Pollarding is a pruning technique whereby the small branches are cut back to about the same place annually, creating knobby "fists" on the branches from which the new shoots grow. One explanation for the origin of the practice is that in medieval times the landowners and kings would prohibit the cutting of large trees by peasants, in order to protect their forests. The peasants still needed fuel wood, so they were allowed to only take stuff that was smaller than a certain size. By cutting the branches at the same point every year, they avoided the size issue, got the wood they needed, and still kept their heads. The practice has since become a formal pruning technique.
In the wild, trees manage well enough, so why do we prune them? The first reason is simple: safety. Trees are big and when pieces fall off, they can do considerable damage. Another reason, particularly for fruit trees, is to stimulate flowering and fruit production. Occasionally, pruning may be needed to remove disease or malformed branch work. Rarer still, pruning is sometimes needed for timber production, such as veneer wood. But, the most common reason of all is to control the growth and appearance of the tree for aesthetic reasons (particularly in cultivated varieties) or to control a perceived nuisance.
Mini-forests preserved in the center of megacities such as New York Central Park and London Ashmore Common are attended with care and management. Veteran trees are designated as such due to their great age, size or condition, and are of exceptional value culturally, in the landscape, or for wildlife. The pollarded oaks on Ashtead Common are true veterans, their trunks broad in girth and crowned with majestic boughs. A legacy from a time when the landscape was more open, they formed part of a habitat known as wood pasture. Veteran trees often provide a range of rich, but scarce, habitats supporting many rare and endangered deadwood species, as well as other invertebrates, fungi, bats, small mammals and birds. They are an integral part of England’s cultural and biological heritage, and so receive special attention in the management of the Common. Metro Manila has no such distinction, uprooting trees without compunction when traffic congestion demands it.
In the U.S. willows pollarded since the 1800s provide wood for charcoal, a major component of gunpowder. If, instead of cutting the top of a tree, the trunk was cut at about ground level, it was a "coppice" and would produce shoots that were also used for charcoal. Some Pinoy farmers who practice this method for their firewood needs are not bothered by erratic fuel and LPG prices. Using this technique, our generals could obviate begging Congress for supplemental budgets to buy gunpowder for shelling the MILF rogues – and it would create some savings for funding the travels of their peripatetic Commander-in-Chief.
Espalier, a trellis or lattice used in horticulture for training (contorting) a tree or vine flat against a wall, either for ornament or to fit it into a small space, allowing it to get a maximum of air and sun and bringing the fruit within easy reach for gathering. The plant may be trained into various shapes, such as a fan or a fork. The term is more commonly used for the tree or vine so trained. 

An old horticulture practice of controlling plant growth in a flat plane against a solid surface is called the art of "espalier." Espalier originated with the Romans and the technique was refined through the years by the Europeans.

Garden designers and enthusiasts are rediscovering the ancient practice of shaping tree branches into classic, stylized forms. Today, many top garden designers and landscape architects are taking a second look at this haute form of horticulture. Espalier has a time-honored place in the history of gardening. Egyptian tomb paintings circa 1400 B.C. reflect images of espaliered fig trees growing in the Pharaoh's garden. In medieval times, European monks carefully trained fruit and nut trees to grow flat against the walls of great monastic gardens. During the 17th century in England and especially in France, espalier gained widespread popularity, appearing on humble village walls, as well as in elaborate configurations in the Versailles kitchen garden of Louis XIV. (The term espalier is derived from the French word for shoulder, épaule.)
Espaliered plants are prized for their symmetry and versatility and for their ability to add ornamental beauty to both compact and sweeping spaces. They can be used either as privacy screens, to adorn bare walls, to define walkways and driveways, or to create the living architecture of an arbor. As an added benefit, espaliered plants produce more abundant fruits and flowers because the roots of the clipped plants have less area to nourish.
Depending on the desired size and shape, a tree or series of trees takes approximately four to five years to hand-sculpt into centuries-old classic European forms, such as the horizontal cordon, fan, Belgian fence, or candelabra. These forms can be precise and geometric or slightly looser and more romantic.
Knowing where to prune, where to influence, and how far to bend without breaking a stem are the keys to espalier success. While books instruct novice gardeners in espalier techniques, it is best to leave this delicate and time-consuming process to the experts -- especially for complicated and multiple plant arrangements. 

Espalier fruit tree at Standen, West Sussex, England May 2006

This file has been (or is hereby) released into the public domain by its author, Graham Bould. This applies worldwide.
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