Thursday, November 29, 2012

Robot Love

While browsing through the web last night I chanced upon a rather interesting news story. An artificial intelligence engineer announced that his company will soon launch a male version of a female life-like sex machine/companion that is currently on the market.
Like its female counterpart, the male robot will be designed to be like a real man and  programmed to "respond" to the physical sensations it receives.  It will also talk about topics geared towards its user's interests.
"Sex only goes so far. And then you want to be able to talk,"  said the engineer, whom I gave credit for being rather thoughtful and caring.
Then my mind started clicking. I wonder what my Romeo-robot will say if I ask: Honey, will you please mow the yard tomorrow?
Depending on Romeo's answer, its reported price tag of from $7,000 to $10,000  just might be worth the investment.  Grass in Hawaii, after all, amazingly grows an inch at the blink of an eye.
And then there are the other benefits to consider.  Move over R2D2!

R2D2 (on the right) and CP3O from the movie, Star Wars. Photo from GoogleImages.
-- Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Of Survival and Outer Space

Back when my career had to do with public finance, I thought of how public expenditures continue to increase yearly. Revenues are often in a shortfall and either indebtedness has to be incurred or additional taxes have to be imposed to breach the deficit.
I thought of how governments are hard pressed to deliver the goods and services needed by a continuously growing global population. The question is not only in regard to the efficiency (or inefficiency) of the bureaucracy; it also has to do with the availability of needed resources. 
How much oil is left to run factories, fly planes, and enable us to go to work? How much land is left to grow food on? How much of planet earth do we have left to exploit? 
Much of the current armed conflicts we see in the world may seem religious or cultural in nature but really, underlying those are economic reasons: the control of vital resources and survival. 
I dread to think of a scenario where more countries or even ethnic groups wage war in the face of diminishing resources and rising population growth. Surely, that can only be a formula for Armageddon.
But there may be hope. Although those pitifully stuck in boxes and labels might either cringe or frantically motion the sign of the cross at the mere mention of a "New World Order," mankind  does need a paradigm shift in the way economies are ran and businesses and commerce, conducted so that we do not drive ourselves towards annihilation.
Perhaps there may be an "evolved" form of capitalism of which the hallmark is authentic cooperation rather than mindless competition and reckless exploitation. Perhaps there is a way we can be selfless and more considerate of the many who lack even the basic necessities of life.
Either that or, as governments and even enterprising individuals have been doing, we continue to look elsewhere for a solution -- outside Planet Earth. 
In 2009, a Canadian multi-millionaire was said to have paid $40 million to travel in space for 11 days aboard the spaceship Soyuz.  Wait, do not be discouraged. Another company will reportedly charge  $200,000 for a seat in an upcoming craft that it is developing. 
Would you prefer to be in First Class or Economy?
Below is a photo of prototypes of space ships in the works.

 - Ariel Murphy

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Bird of Dazzling Colors

The unusually long days of rain and chilly nights late last year did not help any when I was  desolate over a death.  But one morning  I woke up to find  sunlight seeping through my window.   The ice in my veins started  softening.  And then I heard something and  looked out.  "Get out and play," my yard invited.  There,  I had an unusual conversation.  

A bird with colors that shimmered in the sun flew from out of nowhere and impertinently perched itself right in front of me -- on the  waxy blood-red Anthurium that I was admiring. The bird steadily fixed its deep black eyes on me.
Mesmerized,  I whispered: What are you doing here?
 Silently, the bird spoke: "I came to bring you joy"!

A Macaw preening. Photo from The National Geographic
 - Ariel Murphy

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Shooting Stars

On a clear night, you might see the heavens in all its glory.  The stars twinkle while planets don't. I was told. And Polaris, the North Star, is always on the same spot. If you're lucky enough, you might  catch a comet as it blazes across the sky and then fades somewhere deep into the universe.

But  I wonder. What are the odds you'll see another shooting star at the same exact space where the other had been?


- Ariel Murphy

Saturday, November 24, 2012

On the Way to San Jose

Ex GF: "Next time you go to Costco on the other side of the island, please let me know so that I can tag along. I need to buy some stuff."

Ex Bf:  "Well of course; except when I need to take somebody else. Imagine you on the back seat and a girl I am dating on the passenger seat. That would be worse than taking my mother along." 

- Ariel Murphy

Friday, November 23, 2012

Gobbling Turkeys

Yesterday, after going to three Thanksgiving parties one after another, I felt like a dozen turkeys were gobbling inside my stomach.  

But you see, the turkeys have been previously gobbling inside my head. The incessant noise went on as a friend and I were talking about Israel, Hamas and the Gaza conflict. 

 "There's no winner in that situation," my friend remarked. And then she mentioned how a story a friend of hers told her debunked  her mindset of Israel as the dove and Hamas as the hawk. 

The friend witnessed how Israeli soldiers shot a tour guide and an old unarmed woman who was merely showing a centuries old stone mill near where she lives in the Gaza strip. 

After cautioning my friend about sweeping generalizations, I pointed out that the fighting in Gaza is merely a macro representative of the violence that we, as individuals, do to one another and to ourselves. 

Violence comes in  many faces and does not necessarily only happen whenever a soldier or a militant launches a missile or pulls the trigger of a gun. There are  types  of violence that have weakened friendships;  fragmented relationships, marriages and families; and  eroded respect and integrity. Biases, bigotry, selfishness, greed -- all assume the form of guns  that we aim at each other and ourselves.  

Later in the day as I surfed the net, I saw pictures (shown below) that somewhat muted the gobbling of turkeys in my head. Two  of the pictures show both Muslims and Jews enjoying life in peaceful co-existence and even working  together towards an advocacy. The last photo is a representation of the First Thanksgiving when in 1621, both the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians broke bread together. 

The noble in us can and does trounce the beastly. 
- Ariel Murphy

A Jewish man from Israel and a Muslim man from Palestine held a cardboard sign that said "why can't we all get along" on a street corner in Midtown Manhattan, November 2012.
Platters of watermelon and Israeli cheeses brought together Jews and Arabs in the Musrara neighborhood as part of the first annual “Between Green and Red” festival in Jerusalem. Photo by Hamutal Wachtel, August 2012

The First Thanksgiving  when Colonists and Native Americans broke bread together. Reproduction of an oil painting by  JLG Ferris, early 20th century



Thursday, November 22, 2012


Thanks is fragrance  wafting from  night-blooming jasmine.
Thanks is a gold nugget  buried in the sand.
Thanks is the  sound of a lone violin weeping in the night.
Thanks is a page that is hard to turn.
Thanks is a  teardrop.
Thanks is delicious.

- Ariel Murphy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Depth of Field

I remember how, in a team building exercise, my group was asked what we saw in a picture. Some of us thought we saw a crone. Others noisily disagreed and argued they saw a young lady.
Purposefully and artfully done, the picture (shown below) was both of a hag and the side view of a youthful woman.  
That lesson in selective perception is related to "Depth of Field" in photography. What the photographer decides to be his focus is sharper and seemingly nearer in distance than the rest of the picture, which is gradually blurred. 
Imagine your mind as a camera. Then tell me: What is your love like?
-- Ariel Murphy

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Lone Duck

It is always a treat dining at Miyo's. The food, touted as authentic Japanese home cookng, is good; broiled salmon is always moist and done just right.  The staff members are friendly and courteous.  Service is fast.

But Miyo's is not just for satisfying one's gastronomic yearnings; it is also a place for visual delights . The wide windows on two sides of the restaurant lend a panoramic view of a lake  with a grassy bank dotted with palm trees. 

Today after lunching with a friend and my young daughter Vera, I chanced upon a group of ducks having a conference on the banks of the lake. One lone duck left the group, waddled onto the lake and started swimming -- slowly and tentatively at first and then faster and  confidently as it fully integrated itself with the water, the breeze and the warmth of the day. 

While taking a picture  of the duck (photo below), I thought of my daughter who flies back to Singapore this morning after keeping me company for two weeks.
Aloha, my Vera! Mahalo nui loa and a hui hou!

- Ariel Murphy

Monday, November 19, 2012


Last Wednesday evening found me and some friends at Uncle Robert's in Kalapana. We went there to listen  and possibly dance to a popular band called "Koele."  Surprised at the number of vehicles and lack of parking space, we found out in no time why. There was a night market and food, drinks and music galore. The place was jampacked. 

One vendor had a black round  fruit I've never seen before. "It's Jabotica," said the enterprising lady who noticed my interest. Not one to pass up a chance to try something new, I purchased some of the fruit and promptly popped one into my mouth.
The skin was silky and very firm on my tongue. I bit and was delighted with the burst of sweet-slightly tarty juice and the feel of the soft flesh. As I put one fruit after another into my mouth,  I thought of how it was much like some people I know -- tough and seemingly forbidding on the outside but warm and yielding inside.
After finishing the whole bag of Jabotica, I happily danced like an idiot to the music of the night.

 -- Ariel Murphy  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Happy Dollars

Each time my Rotary Club meets, there is always a time for "Happy Dollars."  A member who feels like donating announces how much he wants to give and what makes him happy enough to do so.
During one meeting.  I arrived late and  just as I was looking for a seat, the club president called out: "Do you have happy  $$$,  Ariel"?

Caught unaware, I frantically searched through my purse. Finally I waved my $$$ and blurted out the first thing that came to my mind: I'm happy because I'm in love. 

 "Again"? The chorus was unbelievable. 

 Smiling, I said in a strong voice: Why not? Do we count the number of times we breathe?

- Ariel Murphy


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Grains of Sand

I thought of the many times I've walked on the beach and felt the sand under my feet. Some days they were warm and comforting. Other days, they were wet and cold. On the beach, they can be used to build little mounds and castles, sand dunes and sand bars.  Or they can simply wash away with the ocean. Other times, they are simply a nuisance, like when a strong wind brings them into everything -- eyes, a drink, clothing. 

But sand has its many and varied uses. It is a base ingredient for making glass.  It is used in construction for making bricks, mortars, and  concrete. Some crops, like watermelon,  peaches and peanuts grow better on sandy soil because it provides better drainage. Railroads have sand to improve the traction of  train wheels on the rails. 

Sand can be  coarse or fine. Rounded or sharp.  Black, white, grey and even pinkish. They are mostly of limestone, quartz of shell fragments. 

I hate to write simply to write. That would be much like a form of diarrhea.

I'd like to think that the blogs I will be posting, like sand, will have their uses -- to provoke thought,  elicit a smile, encourage or inspire, and even annoy and disturb. Some may be elegant and some will be ugly,  atrocious, bizarre or just insane.  

Or they can simply scatter with the wind or vanish with the waves.

Grains of sand magnified 250 times real size.

- Ariel Murphy