Monday, September 23, 2013

Autumn Leaves

Dr Abe V Rotor
Autumn Leaves in acrylic by AVR 
Autumn Leaves

The falling leaves
Drift by my window
The falling leaves
Of red and gold

I see your lips
The summer kisses
The sunburned hands
I used to hold

Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I'll hear
Old winter's song

But I miss you most of all
My darling
When autumn leaves
Start to fall

Since you went away
The days grow long
And soon I'll hear
Old winter's song

But I miss you most of all
My darling
When autumn leaves
Start to fall.

Autumn Leaves
The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands I used to hold

Since you went away the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall

C'est une chanson, qui nous ressemble
Toi tu m'aimais et je t'aimais
Nous vivions tous, les deux ensemble
Toi que m'aimais moi qui t'aimais
Mais la vie sépare ceux qui s'aiment
Tout doucement sans faire de bruit
Et la mer efface sur le sable les pas des amants désunis
"Autumn Leaves" is a much-recorded popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song "Les feuilles mortes" (literally "The Dead Leaves") with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prevert the Hungarian title is "Hulló levelek" (Falling Leaves). Yves Montand (with Irene Joachim) introduced "Les feuilles mortes" in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la Nuit.  
The American songwriter Johnny Mercer wrote English lyrics in 1947 and Jo Stafford was among the first to perform this version. "Autumn Leaves" became a pop standard and a jazz standard in both languages, both as an instrumental and with a singer. Popularized by world famous singers like Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Growing Threats of Biological Warfare

Dr Abe V Rotor

- As an aftermath of the catastrophic 9/11 bombing of the Twin Towers in New York, the US Postal Service ordered gloves and masks and irradiation systems for key mail-sorting facilities in Washington, New York and New Jersey, but questions as to whether these measures to prevent anthrax from spreading via mails are effective or not remain unresolved. Does zapping letters and packages with radiation really kill anthrax spores? What is the downside to irradiation? Are the postal workers really protected from anthrax and other biological warfare germs?

- As a precaution the US government has accelerated the delivery of 40 million doses of smallpox vaccine to add to the 15.4 million doses already stored. These will be enough to inoculate every American. One drawback is the possibility of side effects of the vaccine particularly to those receiving other medical treatments such as chemotherapy.

- African killer bees (Apis mellifera scutellata) claimed to have escaped from a laboratory have interbred with the domestic species creating an equally deadly hybrid that now threatens the US after spreading throughout Brazil, Central America and Mexico. A colony is made up of some 70,000 ferocious bees with the queen bee reproducing up to 5,000 a day to maintain this enormous population.

E. coli is a familiar intestinal parasite. Naturally occurring outbreaks of Escherischia coli typically the result of fecal contamination in anything from hamburgers to swimming pools, sicken hundreds of thousands of people each year. What really trigger the outbreak of E. coli? What caused the epidemic that hit Tokyo three years ago?

As I ponder over these scenarios I remember when I was a child seeing many people who were survivors of smallpox epidemic. The center of the epidemic was a town whose population was decimated. The mere mention of its name rings the sad memory of the early 1900s’ disaster. Lapog became virtually synonymous with the name of the dreaded disease. It was later renamed San Juan (Ilocos Sur).

My father told me that of the eight siblings in the family, only two of them survived the disease. Uncle Leo who was the oldest miraculously survived, and my dad who was the youngest was born after the epidemic had subsided.

In my mind I still can picture the faces of a dozen survivors. Pockmarks cover their faces, and may also cover the body, arms and legs, including the ears, nose, eyelids and lips which become somehow disfigured. Fingers and toes are deformed in serious cases.

But I remember how these survivors continued to live normal lives. I remember them as happy and hardworking in spite of the traumatic experiences they went through. Psychologists say there are many survivors of tragic experiences who find the new lease in life a new opportunity. Stories on how whole communities rise with these survivors uplift the spirit. I saw this miracle happen in the family and community I was brought up. Many people in many places I believe, can overcome painful experiences with this kind of spirit.

Conquest and Diseases

Christopher Columbus and his men allegedly introduced syphilis in the New World. The meeting of East and West during the era of colonization also resulted in the exchange of diseases. James Michener’s novel, Hawaii, relates how smallpox caused death and sufferings to the natives. To the novel’s principal character, the Reverend Hale, it was a manifestation of God’s wrath on the sinful and the non-converts. While this incident helped him in his mission, the end proved that the English missionary was wrong - that God is not a God of vengeance. Whole settlements in the New World just perished to indigenous diseases that were unknown in their countries of origin. Scientists explain that these pioneers lacked the natural immunity to the diseases, in the same manner that diseases introduced into the Old World killed many people similarly because they did not have the natural resistance. This is the basis why for many years until recently, the World Health Organization and many countries required the vaccination of travelers against certain diseases as a requirement in obtaining passports and visas.

These are of course incidents that we can dismiss as force majeure or historical events, which our faith and culture may accept. But what about in the case of war when man is pitted against man, nation against nation?

Man’s Inhumanity to Man

How different it is to think about war. Since biblical times war has always been associated with inhumanity – man’s inhumanity to man. It is the antithesis of culture, of civilization, the very institution that is supposed to eliminate this treat to society. Ironically war has plagued every civilization, and many a great civilization has been the center of human conflict like the epicenter of an earthquake. According to the historian Gibbon twelve great civilizations that include the Greek and Roman civilizations fell because of war. They never recovered again.

History is not replete of the fact that the more civilized societies have been the cause of the loss of peace, if not the whole destruction of the less civilized ones. The great Spanish conquistadores forever destroyed the great civilizations of the Aztecs and the Mayas, in the same way that the pioneers in the West forever destroyed the American Indians.

Early Biological Warfare

Carthage a thriving agricultural and trading center during the times of the Roman became swamp and subsequently into desert that we know today. How did this happen? The invading Romans drew saltwater into land flooding settlements and fertile lands, thus finally putting to end the powerful enemy.

How The West Was Won, is a story of the destruction of the American Indian civilization which had been flourishing for many centuries. The natives fought fiercely at the European invaders and defended their “nation” for years. But the pioneers knew exactly the key to their victory over the powerful Indian tribes - to annihilate the buffaloes, millions of them that roamed the Great Plains or what is known as the prairies. Because buffaloes provided the Indians their basic needs from food to shelter, famine ensued and the great American Indian civilization was ultimately reduced into marginal settlements. Buffalo Bill is reported to have killed more than three hundred buffaloes in a single day for which he earned his name and “reputation.”

What if China’s threat to send one million Chinese to fight and die in Vietnam had come true? I heard of this story during the Chinese-Vietnam conflict that preceded the Vietnam war. Should such unthinkable strategy happen, the task of burying the dead alone, more so in controlling pestilence, would certainly render the enemy country defenseless and economically bankrupt. On the part of the triumphant country it shall have somehow reduced pressure on its burgeoning population and rid the misfits. Many believe that war is a purification process of a society. Definitely it is not. The Germans lost thousands of scientists in World War II. Many soldiers who died in the Vietnam War were among the finest of the youth of their time in their respective countries.

But man has not had lessons enough. And war in its most ugly form using chemicals, biological agents, nuclear and ultramodern tools, is with us and it is all over the world now. For nuclear arsenals alone, the world’s total stockpile has the capacity to kill three times the whole population of the world. The world is witness to the recent wars in Iraq, Bosnia and Macedonia, Uganda and Angola and Afghanistan. It is happening with the Tamil Guerillas in Sri Lanka, along the Pakistan-Indian border, the Basques guerillas, the IRA in Northern Ireland, and other parts of the world. It is happening in our home ground with the Abu Sayaf and the NDF-NPA. War has many faces indeed.

War Without Borders

Something unexpected and different happened. On September 11, 2005 year the World Trade Center, a 110-storey twin-tower was erased from the skyscraper map in matters of minutes shortly after two planes commandeered by terrorists smashed into the superstructure signaling the vulnerability of our present system of capitalism. It challenged the economic powers of the world, particularly America.

The world woke up into a new age hitherto unpredicted - the age of Terrorism and the birth of a new nation without political boundary, but an invisible organizational network with its tentacles reaching global proportion.

This time intrusion into the enemy’s territory or defining the place of battle does not follow the conventional rules anymore. In fact there are no specific rules when we refer to the modus operandi of terrorists. Scenarios of war have thus changed after the September 11 attack.

This paper concentrates on the tools of biological warfare. Here are some of them.

First there is anthrax, the most serious and the first to hit the headlines after the bombing of the World Trade Center. It leads a dozen of similarly devastating epidemics of biological warfare potential.

Second, there is an attempt to revive bubonic plague that killed one-third of the world’s population in the Middle Ages. It was the Japanese who experimented in the making of bubonic flea bombs intended to spread the plague in major USA cities. The project was to breed the fleas which harbor the plague bacteria in its body, then scatter these to infest rats and other animals in the target area where they in turn multiply and transmit the pathogen to the residents. The bomb was successfully tested in China with hundreds of Chinese succumbing to the bubonic plague bacteria. Preparations were then made to attack the US. But the US had decided to drop the first atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bubonic flea bombs were never used. Japan hastily removed all the evidences of its evil experiment even before its surrender to the US.

Third, the threat of influenza which killed several millions at the first part of the twentieth century in the US and many parts of the globe has caused alarm as early as the 1980s after discovering a new strain of virus, a hybrid of the chicken and human influenza viruses. Based on the ratio of victims with the population in the first epidemic, scientists are looking at the possibility that some 60 to 100 million people could die of the new influenza virus strain should it strike in our times. In spite of utmost precaution to stave off the epidemic, scientists believe that we are not yet off the hook.

Biological warfare intends to use germs with historical epidemic background. Here is an outline of the basic facts about these most important potential epidemic diseases.


• Also known as malignant pustule, malignant edema or woodsorters’ disease

• Most common in South America, Australia, Africa and Russia

• Highly infectious disease of animals, occurring especially in cattle, sheep and other ruminants, horses and mules as well.

• Transmitted to humans through contact with any part of the inside or outside of the animal carrying the infectious agent

• Caused by Bacillus anthracis whose spores which are resistant to disinfectants and heat, may remain infectious even after 15 years in soil. Grazing animals can accumulate spores contained in the droppings of infected animals

• Humans acquire the disease through cut or wound of the skin, by eating infected meat, or by breathing in the spores contained in the dust emanating from the sick animal’s hide or hair

• Skin infection characterized by severe itching and appearance of boil, usually on the arm, face and neck. The inflamed area grows into an ulcer called a malignant pustule, which eventually bursts and produced a black scab. Fever, nausea and swelling of the lymph glands are accompanying symptoms

• Internal anthrax acquired through inhalation results in acute pneumonia. When infected meat is ingested symptoms of acute gastroenteritis occur

• Anthrax is effectively treated with antibiotics. Immunization against the disease has been made possible through the use of vaccine. Effective livestock management is key to the control in the spread of the disease.

Bubonic Plague

o Known as the Black Death in the Middle Ages which ravaged Europe and Asia

o In some places as many as two-thirds of the entire population died

o So-called from the blackening spots which broke out from the skin during the course of the disease

o Characteristic symptoms are fever and swelling of the lymph nodes mainly the groin and armpit

o It is caused by the plague bacillus (Pasteurella pestis) which is transmitted from sick rats (Rattus rattus norvigicus) to humans by flea bites (Xenopsylola chopis)

Small pox

• Highly contagious, often fatal that once ravaged mankind in epidemics. Just one infected person could cause the virus to radiate from a family to a neighborhood to a city in a matter of months.

• Smallpox cannot be treated effectively once symptoms begin. 30 percent of those infected will die.

• WHO declared the eradicated of smallpox in 1980. Routine immunization for protection against the disease was stopped as early as 1971.

• First signs: chills and high fever, severe headache and backache, followed by rash which eventually covers the entire body and turns into pus-filled blisters

• The blisters in turn dry up to form scabs which very often leave pockmarks.

• The disease may be accompanied by vomiting, convulsion and diarrhea Complications include other skin infections such as boils and abscesses, ear infections, pneumonia and heart failure

• Disease is not transmitted by animals

• Disease has been eliminated through world wide vaccination programs, although a mild form still exist in Ethiopia

• The disease has been largely eliminated by extermination of rats. Antibiotics such as oxytetracycline, streptomycin and chloramphenicol are effective in its treatment

Other Potential Bio-Warfare Organisms

There are many organisms that can be used in biological warfare. A terrorist attack aimed at crops and livestock would be less dramatic but might cause more disruption in the long run.
Potato Blight – also called late blight, a worldwide serious disease of potato and tomato in cool humid countries caused by a fungus, Phyhtopthora infestans In Ireland 30 percent of the population starved to death, died of typhoid fever that followed - or emigrated during the period 1845 to 1860. Tomato blight caused by the same fungus destroyed 50 percent of the crop in Eastern US in 1946.

Rust Fungi - There are species of Puccinia affecting ceraeals and among them which is Puccinia graminis tritici consists of 200 such races to which wheat varieties are differentially susceptible. Although rust fungi are host specific and can only complete their life cycle in the presence of alternate host such as barberry in wheat rust, the potential fore biological warfare is great to consider that cereals comprise the staple of the mankind. The narrowing down of varieties for commercial cultivation exposes greater danger of rust diseases to spread out into epidemics.

Salmonella - In 1984 a cult in Oregon set off a wave of food poisonings. Gastroenteritis caused by natural contamination and careless food handling afflicts millions and results in 5000 deaths each year. Salmonella is a large group of rod shaped bacteria that invade the gastrointestinal tract, among them typhoid and paratyphoid germs.

Antibiotics are recommended to combat Salmonella infection. A recent incident happened in Rizal when hundreds of children who ate spoiled spaghetti were hospitalized. The religious group, which sponsored the feeding program, admitted fault to the incident. A similar case also happened two years ago. The owner of seven-eleven apologized for the incident and paid the victims.

Foot-and-Mouth Disease – The disease affects hoof animals from hogs to cattle. Its natural occurrence is worldwide and we have our own season in the Philippines that is during summer. Although the pathogen is not transmitted from animals to humans, losses incurred are usually heavy with the infected animal economically worthless.

Like in the case of mad cow disease, and chicken flu that affects humans, the infected animals are destroyed to prevent infection. Quarantine and an extreme sanitation program are the best defense in curbing the spread of the disease.

Mad Cow Disease – It is called bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE that has been determined in 1996 to infect humans in the form of a new variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD). Eighty people in Britain have died of CJD and there is no data to show how many more will die because there are initial signs of acquiring the disease are not clear and that the gestation period of the virus before it reaches the brain is up to 15 years. It originated in Britain crippling the country’s giant cattle industry, then spread to the European and now it has reached Japan threatening some 4.6 million cows.

Other biological warfare agents include potato beetles, which Britain suspected the Germans for dropping small cardboards bombs filled with the beetle pest on English potato fields. In the 1980s Tamil militants threatened to target Sri Lankan tea and rubber plantations with plant pathogens.

HIV-AIDS – So far 17 million have died and at least 25 million may follow. The heart of the epidemic is at the lower quadrant of Africa. AIDS is anti-Darwinian – it is society’s fittest who die, not the frailest, thus leaving the children and old behind. But recently more and more children become victims. There are 3.7 million children who have died of AIDS and AIDS has orphaned 12 million children.

An estimated 8.8 million adults in Africa are infected with HIV/AIDS and in the seven countries in Africa 1 out of 5 is living with HIV and 3.8 millions Africans are infected every year. There are 36 million adults and children in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Bioterrorism may be eyeing at the spread of the disease in the industrialized countries through the blood donation and immunization channels, other means notwithstanding.

Ebola – It is a highly virulent disease caused by a virus that originated in Africa infecting human and primates. Much of the information about the disease is a mystery but one thing sure is that it is almost one hundred percent fatal once a person gets the virus.

Contact of any kind, and even only through inhalation, the virus can be acquired in no time. One incident showed a member of a religious congregation who had been treating ebola patients suddenly died. Ignoring warnings other members attended her funeral. One of them got the virus and died later.

African Giant Snail (Achatina fulica) – brought by the Japanese to the Philippine during WW II. Pest of garden and field crops. Damage can lead to crop loss and consequently starvation. The pest persists to this day but seldom develops into epidemic proportion. The introduced Golden Kuhol thought to provide livelihood on the farm became a major pest affecting more than 50 percent of our lowland ricefields.

Protection Guidelines

Here are guidelines to protect yourself.

1. Keep distance from possible sources of biochemical materials such as spores of the deadly anthrax. Be wary of suspicious parcels.

2. Get help from authorities to get rid of suspicious looking materials. Curiosity kills the cat.

3. Be familiar with the locations of Bomb Shelters. Such shelters are found in big cities like New York, Tokyo and Tel Aviv. We do not have one in Manila, but there are places and buildings you can find temporary shelter in case of attack.

4. Don’t loiter in centralized air-conditioned places like malls. Avoid crowds and busy streets if you can.

5. Early symptoms should be treated immediately by a doctor. Anthrax for example has flu-like symptoms.

6. Keep resistance high all the time. Good rest, balanced diet, regular exercise are key to resistance against diseases.

7. Don’t be a victim of psychological war. Terrorism thrives on it. We have yet to coin a word for biochemical phobia.

8. Like Boy Scouts, remember “Always be Prepared” – for your own protection. Equally important be prepared always to help other people.

On September 11 (9/11) many people thought Third World War had started. Well, the big wars we know started small. In our modern world an all out war is likely to employ all kinds of warfare – chemical and biological – and worst is the use of nuclear weapons. There are no defined borders and everyone is a potential victim. It will be difficult to detect the enemy and the tools of war he will use. The “morning after” exposes further destruction. Nuclear weapons have long years of half-life. It means radioactive materials will continue to kill, to make people sick. Even to this day, there are people in Japan where the atomic bombs were dropped 45 years dying due to radioactive fallout.

This is also true with bacterial spores. They have the capacity to re-infect and cause a second or third wave of epidemic. Even after the white flag is raised, still many people continue to get sick and die – physically and psychologically. In many cases it is beyond medicine to cure – or science to explain.

In early 1960s I was part of a research program at UPLB, then UP College of Agriculture, in promoting modern agriculture to farmers. Among the farm chemicals I handled were herbicides. By coincidence the US was developing a chemical called Orange Agent that I found out later was to be used in Vietnam. While this chemical can maim or cause death, its intended use is as a defoliant. By spraying the chemical trees lose their leaves, in fact their entire crown. When this happens a jungle would easily catch fire and in no time spreads out flushing the Vietcong guerillas from their hideouts.

It was my first encounter with biological warfare. The memory does not only linger, it has remained fresh.

x x x

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Biological Basis of Selfishness and Selflessness

Dr Abe V Rotor

Honeybee gathers nectar and pollen for the members of its
colony, key to survival of its species.

All organisms, simple or complex, plant or animal – and human – are governed by genes, which through the long process of evolution, are the very tools for survival in Darwin’s treatise on Survival of the Fittest through Natural Selection.

The acquisition of successful genes is key to the survival of present day species, and the explanation on the failure of those which did not. Two words are important: adaptation and competition. This dual attributes are directed to self-preservation through the process of acquiring the basic necessities of life either by adjusting to it passively or actively. Definitely it is not one that is easy to share to the extent of losing its benefit in favor of another.

Sting of honeybee, for defence and accessory to reproduction

But if we analyze it, this is true to each individual. Now organisms do not live as individuals; they live as a community, as a society. Which leads us to the logical inference that if the individual organism, in order to survive must be selfish, then how can it be able to establish a community in which it ultimately become a part?

This is very important because the community is the key to resource sharing from food to space; it is the key to collective bargaining in times of peace or war. The community is like a bundle of individuals behaving singularly. It is collective planting time when the monsoon arrives, harvesting when it ends. The rituals that go with such activities enhance the success of bonding, and enshrine it into an institution.

Institutions were born from socio-economic needs which spontaneously developed into cultural and political rolled into one complex society. To answer where selfness starts is easier to answer than where selflessness begins.

If the premise is biological what proofs can we show that it is so?

• Social insects – ants, bees and termites – bind themselves as a colony. Any attack on the colony sends soldiers to fight the enemy. Paper wasps sting as intruders. The honeybee does not consume the nectar and pollen it gathers, but brings the harvest into the granary from which it get its share later. An ant clings to death at an enemy. When a bee sting, its abdomen is ripped away and is surely to die.

• Starve an aphid or a mealybug, and it will produce young prematurely – even without first becoming an adult. This is called paedogenesis. Or an adult may produce young without the benefit of mating and fertilization. This is parthenogenesis.

• A plant stressed by drought will cut its life cycle short in order to use the remaining energy to produce offspring. This is true to grasshoppers or caterpillars – they skip one or two moulting and metamorphose so that they can mate and reproduce.

• The spacing of plants is determined not only of soil and climatic conditions that control the growth and development, but by a biological mechanism known as allelopathy. A date palm will kill its own offspring around its trunk and under its crown. Those that grow outside its shadow becomes a part of the oasis’ vegetation.

Pits of ant lions serve as abode and trap for unwary preys like ants which the fanged larvae beneath  each hole readily punch and devour. 

• Bacteria, yeasts, and other microorganisms go into luxury feeding where there is plenty, and nature seems not to mind, until they consume the food, and worse until their waste accumulates and becomes toxic. This is called autotoxicity. Thus in fermentation, it is the toxic material - alcohol - that eventually kills the yeasts themselves, and another process follows until the organic forms of compounds are transformed and ultimately returned as inorganic ready for use by succeeding organisms.

• The dalag and many other species of fish eat their young leaving only those that can escape. Here the advantage of controlled population and survival of the fittest are shown.

• Vultures seldom attack a living prey; they wait to its last breath. A male lion will kill a cub which it did not sire. But we know too, that there are surrogate mothers in the wild like the cuckoo, and among domestic animals.

Because of the complexity of social behavior, Dr E O Wilson of Harvard University, attempted to explain many of the observed behavior into a field of biology he called sociobiology. In a simple illustration, if your child is about to be hit by a fast oncoming vehicle, a mother would risk her life to save him. Dr. Wilson would then asks a third party if he or she would do the same thing to a child who is not his own – much less without any relations.

This leads us back to our previous question: When does selfishness end and selflessness begin?~

 Entanglement of roots webbed by inarching form a natural barrier for competition against nearby trees, and in riprapping the soil from erosion. 
 Makahiya (Mimosa pudica), so-called shy plant because whole leaves droop when disturbed, baring sharp thorns and appearing unpalatable to browsing animals - a rare adaptation. 

 Pansit-pansitan (Piperonia pelucida) is adapted in moist pockets of soil and completes its life cycle before the place dries up, leaving resistant seeds for the next season. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

The 7 Rs in Waste Management

Dr Abe V Rotor
Don't wait for this to happen!

Recycling is integrated in a total management system.

1. Reduce -  plan to limit potential waste
2. Replace with environment-friendly materials
3. Regulate  depends on effective governance
4. Recycle -  re-use in original or new form.
5. Replenish. “Pay back” what you get from nature. 
6. Reserve for tomorrow, next generation, posterity.

7. Revere - reverence for life, respect creation.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Spinning Top (Trumpo) - Endangered Native Toy

Dr Abe V Rotor

 Traditional spinning top
 Modern versions of the spinning top

Anyone who grew up in the province in our time is familiar with the original spinning top. If not, imagine an oversize chicken egg, of that of the guinea fowl or bengala, its small end sharply tapering into a shank made of nail, one to two inches long. The tip is pointed to reduce friction for longer and more stable spinning. But we always made it sharp ready to nip or puncture the tops of our opponents in tournaments.

Because our town is famous for furniture making, we have lathe machine (pagturnuan Ilk) to make the best tops in town. Everyone could easily recognize a spinning top made in San Vicente, three kilometers west of Vigan, the capital. There were spinning top tournaments held on certain occasions and we would send our best players to the capital. To be a good player, first you must be accurate at marked target. But there is another kind of tournament - you should be able to immobilize your opponent’s top, by puncturing or chopping it out of shape. This is why the wood used in making tops is molave, better still kamagong, which is claimed to be the hardest wood in the world.

Exhibitions are part of the tournament. For example whose top makes the loudest humming sound? How balanced and stable is the spinning of your top? How long will it keep on spinning? Then there is the skill to “capture” a spinning top and have it continue spinning on your palm.

But how do you make a top without lathe machine? I still can recall my experience in making one. Cut a branch of molave, or any locally available wood such as guava or isis or Ficus ulmifolia, the tree that produces sandpaper-like leaves. Choose a branch at least three inches in diameter. With a sharp bolo, shape one end into a round peg, and drive through it a 3-inch nail, leaving half as the shank. Smoothen the wood with boy scout knife and sandpaper, making it even and balanced. Shape and cut off the upper part of the top with a saw or sharp knife.

An immature wood when it dries up has a tendency to crack. That’s why you have to look for a seasoned branch. The harder it is, the better - and the more durable is your top. For the rope or string to spin the top, get a pure cotton thread, numero ocho, that is 1/8 of an inch, and a meter long. Sometimes we would twist two thinner threads to make the standard spinning rope. To learn the technique of playing spinning tops, ask older boys - or us who were experts in our days.

Why don't you try making your own spinning top? It's a real test of craftsmanship, by how well it performs and chance to win in a tournament.

 Photos acknowledgment: Google, Wikipedia 

I am a waterfall - a drawing exercise

Dr Abe V Rotor

Waterfall mural, AVR 2009

How do you see yourself as a waterfall?

This exercise leads us to differentiate reality from imagination. Second, how can we combine reality and idealism to express ourselves?

Here is a drawing exercise suitable to both young and old, class or workshop.

As a participant, draw a waterfall from your own experience and imagination. You have ten minutes to finish it on a one-fourth bond paper using pencil or pen.

A background music is provided while you work. Nature’s sound: water cascading or flowing accompanied by songs of birds and other creatures, and occasional breeze. The theme of a song is Somewhere Over a Rainbow. Other appropriate pieces are The Blue Danube, Flow Gently Sweet Afton, and Antonio Vivaldi's Four Seasons.

If you are ready to start the exercise, at this juncture, please pause.

You will come to know the basis of judging your work after you are through. It takes some twenty minutes to finish.
NOTE: Do not read these criteria until you have completed your drawing.

Exchange your paper with your seatmate's. The instructor will now guide you in checking the papers with the criteria below. Use a scale of 1 to 10, starting with 1=Very Poor to 5=Average, and to 10=Outstanding. It's now your discretion to grade the paper given you.
  1. Height of the waterfall
  2. Fullness of its water
  3. Lushness of its watershed
  4. Abundance of its source, river or lake
  5. Force and power of the fall
  6. Strength and firmness of the rock face
  7. Downstream flow and direction
  8. Creatures in their natural habitat
  9. No wasteland, no space left out
  10. Naturalness and artistic presentation
Add the points obtained from each of the 10 factors. The perfect score is 100. Return paper to the owner.

The second part of the exercise is sharing. What is the significance of this exercise? How does it relate to life?

Relate each criterion with your personal life, your dealings with people, Nature, and the Creator. This takes about half an hour or so.

This exercise leads you to know yourself better - your strength and weakness - and most important - your potentials. ~

Make your own mosquito repellant from Weeping Willow (Salix sp)

Dr Abe V Rotor

Direct crude extract (ground fresh leaves) repels mosquitoes and flies. It also serves as fresh deodorant in the bathroom and kitchen.  

Dilute with tap water at 1:4, filter with ordinary cloth, and spray (atomizer) on garden plants and in dark corners.

Bottle Brush or Weeping Willow (Salix sp)
Another preparation is by dissolving the fresh extract with ethyl alcohol 1:2 ratio, air dry, and add Vaseline or Petroleum Jelly to the powder residue. This also serves as ointment of minor wounds and skin problems.    

The mosquito repellant that is advertised is made of synthetic compounds and there are reports that it is carcinogenic, affecting not only the skin but internal organs as well, since poison can be absorbed by the skin and goes into the blood stream which circulates throughout the body.

Researchers from the University of Santo Tomas found out that the volatile oil of the weeping willow, also known as bottle brush (named after the form and shape of the leaves) is an effective mosquito repellant. The oil is extracted by dissolving the ground dried leaves with ethyl alcohol as solvent.

Results of the experiment showed that the extract is effective in repelling house mosquitoes (Culex pipens) with the same efficacy as the advertised commercial product. The result also validates the old practice of using weeping willow to ward mosquitoes by simply rubbing crushed fresh leaves on the skin. (Clemente R, Landan RP Luquinario MI and P Padua, UST 2002)

Techniques in Impressionistic Paintings

Dr Abe V Rotor

Acrylic painting on glass in three dimensions: seaweeds, fish and the deep. There is apparent movement, yet there is peace among the creatures living in co-existence. Step 1: dark background.  Step 2: fish and other red colors.  Step 3: seaweeds, transferred from separate impression.  Step 4: details like air bubbles.  Step 5: fixing with lacquer spray. Step 6: framing, or "edging" (liston)    

Mural (5 ft x 10 ft) acrylic. Repetition has a powerful effect - it serves as boundary yet gives a sense of depth a feeling the viewer is at the edge of a forest.  The source of light however, is from inside the forest.   Step 1: stretch canvas on 2"x 3"x 10' kiln dry lumber. Step 2: use white latex to seal canvas surface. Step 3: use palette for the trees.  Step 4: dub premixed yellow and blue for vegetation.  Step 5: details like flowers, sunbeam, and red to break monotony. Note: Don't use fixative, let the painting as is, just protect it from direct sunlight.  

Fiery flowers emerge from below to meet the sun, only to wither soon after the bees have done their chores.  Wither, one by one, younger flowers succeeding, a cycle of life and life giving, progenies born one after another. How could you paint such a cycle but by impressionism?  Impressionism leaves much of what is to be said.  For the mind is richer where it is left with space to explore, and meaning to seek. It is not easy to depict a phenomenon on a single canvas when it takes immeasurable time and innumerable stages to complete.  Step 1: start with the flowers, large and unarranged.  Step 2: apply thick dark green and light green in ascendant strokes, heaviest at the base.  Step 3: Add flowers at the center to give focus.  Step 4: add light green ascendant lines as foliage.  

Hazy, light and soft to the eye and touch.  How is this done in contrast with the still life previously explained above? Here the colors used are first mixed with white on the palette, never on canvas. Choose the hues and keep the contrast low so that the boundaries are smudged, with pleasing effect. There is a tendency to end up with muddy appearance.  Maintain restraint, give that "cloud nine" look.  It fits well on a wall where peace and quiet reign.  It invites relaxation.