Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama's inaugural speech

Reposting the text of the inaugural speech. Very inspiring

OBAMA: My fellow citizens:

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because we the people have remained faithful to the ideals of our forebears, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our gross domestic product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world ... that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet (it)."

America, in the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Straight Talk on running with a cause

I had vowed to run my first marathon within the year but just for personal reasons. I haven't quite figured out the logistics, the details, the training yet...I guess I haven't built up the confidence or conviction to see this commitment through.

I am rethinking my resolution when I came across an article on SocialVibe about Katie Price, a woman who will raise funds by running the London Marathon for her chosen charity. I am now thinking of running the Milo Marathon this year on behalf of both a local and my SocialVibe charity (Hunger and Poverty). I still don't know how to work this one out but I will use the free time now to get as much information as possible.

Straight Talk on service and volunteerism

Today, on the eve of Obama's inauguration, we are reminded for the need to serve, to volunteer, to give something of ourselves for others. This help may either be direct involvement in charities or causes or a donation to the same.

I know many of us would like to help but either don't know where or how to get started. I was in that position as well some time back but online friends pointed me to several charity-run and aggregator sites where one may register to participate. Participation comes in several forms: recruitment, awareness, and/or fund-raising. Awareness requires the posting of site badges on personal websites or blogs. Recruitment involves inviting friends to participate in the program, usually through social networking sites. Fund-raising is self-explanatory but with a twist - people may give through numerous online payment gateways like Paypal, VISA/MasterCard/ Discover/AmEx or debit cards.

I have recently signed up on SocialVibe, a charity/cause aggregator and chose Clean Water as my charity. There are numerous others including AIDS care, cancer awareness, poverty alleviation, and the like. Click on the blog title to see one successful project that has allowed the installation of a deep well for 333 individuals in Central Africa.

Given the proliferation of such sites, one will now be hard-pressed to claim ignorance of ways to help.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My 2009 reading

I tried a free horoscope reading to see how my new year would run.

Section 1: The Sun In The Solar Return Chart

Sun Aspects Jupiter

Although Jupiter transits a new sign every year, Sun-Jupiter aspects do not occur in every solar return chart. The major task associated with Sun-Jupiter aspects is expansion of the personality into new areas of expertise. Hopefully, this expansion will be consistent with the individual's philosophical beliefs and spiritual goals. Jupiter's sign may be significant in some way, though usually it is the house placement that is important. For example, Jupiter in Capricorn can suggest a preoccupation with materialism. (uh-oh) If Jupiter is also in the 4th house of the solar return chart, the individual may be looking to buy a bigger house in a more prestigious neighborhood. The main danger associated with this planet is a tendency toward excessive behavior and a refusal to curb personal needs and desires in consideration of others. (please see registration on SocialVibe.com) Beneficial opportunities are associated with Jupiter; however, there is no guarantee of a positive return. You can augment the possibilities through enthusiasm. (YAY!)

Sun Aspects Mercury

Just as in the natal chart, the solar return Sun is never more than 28 degrees from Mercury so does not form any major aspects other than the conjunction. Mercury conjunct the Sun indicates that the intellectual mind is actively involved in the goals of the Sun. Reading, writing, learning, and communication in all forms will be important to the pursuit. (Blogging is my new thing)

Section 2: Mercury In The Solar Return Chart

Mercury Aspects Jupiter

While Saturn-Mercury aspects are associated with pessimism, Jupiter, on the other hand, can imply optimism, and confidence. You may look forward to the future with great enthusiasm. But what you believe to be possible may differ from your actual experience. Optimism can lead to miscalculations and poor decisions if you overestimate your chances for success or underestimate the amount of time you will require to complete a task. (Looking out for that from now on) Overscheduling is directly related to this inability to foresee possible future difficulties. You might assume that tasks are quite simple, when in fact they are very difficult. You may not be able to honor deadlines and promises you have made if they are unrealistic. The tendency is to overwhelm yourself with too many tasks or projects, too many details to remember. Stress results from these miscalculations.
(Been there, lived that)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Dinner with cousins: Saturday, 01/11/09

Amici Restaurant, Tomas Morato, Quezon City

We said that we were only getting dessert at Amici resto, this after nearly finishing off two huge boxes of pizzas at my aunt's house. Just dessert, riiight.

The pasta with meat sauce was good, if a tad salty.

The cheese sticks were a crowd favorite...this set-up was wiped out soon after this picture was taken

The seafood pasta was my favorite; this will have me returning to Amici in months to come

The table set-up before the family attacked the food.

This was followed by individual scoops of gelato after. It has always been hazelnut flavor for me. I remember my sister and I used to eat gelato wherever we got off the train we took during our last trip through Italy and I never ate anything else except for hazelnut flavor.

Memories are best relived with one's loved ones.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Renewal of Old Ties

There is much to be said for renewing old ties and nothing could have made this more concrete to me than my recent Grade School reunion.

I wish I could write the different stories but my memory and the need for discretion conspire to restrain me from disclosing much more. The pictures will suffice for now.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Straight Talk on genetics and fat

I have nothing more to add to this except to claim heritage for my poor body shape and consequent body image issues.

By Caroline Bollinger
From the January 2009 Issue

Leave it to men to agree to stuff their face in the name of science! For 84 out of 100 days, a handful of male identical twins volunteered to consume an extra 1,000 calories per day for a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Theoretically, every guy should have gained the same amount—about 24 pounds—because it takes 3,500 additional calories to put on 1 pound. Instead, each twin gained about the same number of pounds as his twin, but there was a dramatic difference in gain between the twin sets. Some packed on as many as 29 pounds, whereas others saw the scale go up as little as 9.5 pounds. These findings and others have led scientists to estimate that at least 40 percent of our weight may be determined by the genetic cards we're dealt. Here are some potential players in being naturally slim:

Brown fat It sounds and looks gross (it's darker than the white fat we all know and loathe), but brown fat is desirable because it burns more calories. All babies are born with it—it helps generate body heat when we're young and vulnerable to cold—but it may disappear as we develop other ways to stay warm (like learning when to put on a sweater). But at least 8 percent of women keep some brown fat, usually in their neck and chest, says C. Ronald Kahn, M.D., vice chair of the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, who's researching brown fat's benefits: "It could be that deposits of brown fat protect some people against weight gain, because they force the body to burn more energy."

Gas-guzzling cells Fuel efficiency is a great quality in a car, but when it comes to your body, wasting energy is the way to go. The less energy you eke out of each calorie you consume, the more calories you burn just to survive. "In humans, caloric efficiency can vary by a couple of percentage points, and that's enough to make a difference in body weight," Ravussin says. An average 150-pound woman who uses only 2 percent less energy per day could store up to 5 extra pounds in a year.

Inner drive You can't turn regular fat into brown, but you can speed your body's rate of calorie burn by building more lean muscle mass with strength training and weight-bearing exercises such as hiking and dancing. Muscle is more metabolically active than white fat, meaning it burns more calories doing nothing. It also feeds off fatty acids released from fat cells, so as muscle builds, fat cells shrink (if you don't eat excess calories). Good trade!