Eye to Eye: Wearing contact lenses

Eye to Eye 
By Walter Ang
May 28, 2000

I started out wanting to wear contact lenses because I hated my heavy clunky glasses. Aside from the fact that it dug, nay, excavated holes into the bridge of my nose, I was in high school and I flat out refused to wear the thick black plastic frames that I was supposed to get. (They may be all the rage now, but back then, it was a different story.)

In addition to not wanting to look like a doofus (even moreso), I had a more serious reason for convincing my parents to agree to the contacts. My prescription was increasing by as much as a hundred in one year. This prompted me to ask my optometrist if there was any way to slow it down. Fortunately for me, it turned out that contacts could significantly reduce the pace of prescription increases. Woohoo! Even though I still have to wear glasses (whenever I'm not wearing contacts), I got my contacts. Soon, the craters in my nose started to fill out and my prescription stopped increasing as quickly as before.

Contacts offer freedom from restraint. In case I have to chase somebody for whatever reason, I don't have to worry about holding on to my glasses as I run down the street. Not that I'd ever had to or would want to do that. Conversely, I may have to run away from someone chasing me.

But as with all good things, there are certain consequences that you have to live with. The hassles and perils of wearing contacts knows no bounds.

Every time dust gets in my eyes, I'm reduced to a whimpering, blinking fool. My eyes tear up as I ask for tissue and reach for my lubricant to wash away the intrusive particle. It'd be fine if this happened indoors, but it usually happens to lucky me while I'm crossing a street. I get stuck in the middle of the lane and holler at who's ever with me not to, for the love of heaven, leave me. And to think I live in the Binondo area, where 90% of the dust is composed of horses' droppings (courtesy of the calesas). Shudder!

I used to wear soft contact lenses, but they were a pain to wash and maintain: there are about ten thousand solutions and tablets that you need to buy and use. It was messy, confusing, frustrating, and very tiring. I didn't want to have the act of washing my lenses serve as a metaphor for my life. My life was messy, confusing, frustrating, and tiring enough without having to devote time to cleaning lenses when I could very well use the time to do other things (like being confused, frustrated and tired). So I shifted to gas permeable lenses because you only need tap water to clean them.

I must point out, however, the revelation that I had during my short relationship with soft lenses. I'd seen a poster for another brand wherein a pair of hands stretched and twisted a lens to prove its strength and durability. So one day, I decided to try it out on my own lesser known brand of lenses. That's when I found out why my brand was not as famous: the moment I tried to stretch the lens, it ripped apart in half.

Contacts are very capricious objects. They serve well, but then there are days you wish you'd rather be blind than have to get anywhere near a pair. Every time someone in the household loses a lens, we all have to get down on all fours and grope like fools. We'll spend many tension filled minutes looking and looking, scouring the floor and making people lift up their shoes so we can check the soles, only to find out the lens was "in my eye all along!". Either that or it'd be stuck on the wearer's nose, plastered on the tip like a clown's red ball nose.

Cyber Roach

Cyber Roach 
By Walter Ang
May 18, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Lately, several local companies that offer free email have had extensive advertising campaigns to tout their services. This is an interesting development since it seems that email can still hold its own even in the advent of text messaging.

So even though texting is all the rage now, it seems that people's use of the internet, specifically emailing, hasn't really waned. Amidst the usual chain letters, boring urban legends, forwarded tasteless jokes, and other useless junk, having internet access does have its perks: old friendships are renewed, and new ones form all the time. Extra perk: communicating with friends and relatives living abroad has become faster, easier and cheaper.

Aside from all of the perks, certain incidents occur that can hardly be described. One incident started out with an innocent statement, or so I thought. In one of my emails to old high school batchmates, I had posted, "By the way, don't you just love it when you step on one and it crunches?" I was referring to, well ... cockroaches. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Once, during a time of reduced workload, I went through a frenzied episode of writing loads of email. Reincarnation was one of the topics, among many others, that we discussed with much passion. One school of thought that emerged was that if you waste your present life constantly kvetching and slacking off or creating trouble for other people, you could most likely be reincarnated as a cockroach in your next life. Evil mongers take note!

All this talk about roaches prompted me to mention the crunching affair. Little did I know that it would open the floodgates of much debate and email exchange. Responses flied all over, flurrying from coast to coast. While old high school batchmates from Manila provided different methods of killing the little buggers, those now living in Canada and San Francisco gave scientific explanations on the longevity of the roach.

I know a lot of useless information, but when I got to discover other people's methods for annihilating of roaches, I wasn't sure if I should classify my newfound knowledge under the useful category or the useless category. Let me share some of the various (and surprising) ways to get kill roaches: 1. Spray them with rubbing alcohol. "Just be careful not to get it on wooden furniture, kasi patay nga ang ipis, pero ikaw, patay ka rin sa magulang mo." 2. Hairspray. "Glues them to the spot!" 3. Mouthwash. 4. Pesticide. 5. Good old reliable tsinelas.

Of course, all these techniques spawned a relevant question of why we get all worked up over these little insects in the first place. A batchmate immediately quipped, "The number one reason why we hate the little critters is because they always, always happen to fly towards you when you try to spray them!" To this statement, no one disagreed.

When someone wondered what the best method of eradication was, everyone countered that no matter how you tried to obliterate roaches, they'll always be around. So even though without any reliable source of information to back up our answers, another list was produced to reason out Why We Will Never Get Rid Of Them: 1. Millions are born everyday. 2. They have resilin in their bodies which is why it's hard to kill them if you only step on them once. 3. If the gravity of earth was multiplied six times, we'd be pancakes, but roaches would still be happily scurrying about. 4. In a nuclear holocaust, we'd be dust. Guess who won't be.

After about a week of nonstop proclamations, suggestions, condemnations, abominations, and heaven knows what else you can think of, people started sending out appeals to "Stop the insanity!!!" I suppose the final word on the roach issue couldn't have been stated more aptly: "They were the first ones to evolve, and they'll be the last ones to go."

Shear Madness, going bald for the summer

Shear Madness 
By Walter Ang
May 11, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Shear Madness is the title of an interactive whodunit play set in a beauty parlor. After one of the characters die, the rest of the actors ask the audience who they think the suspect is. Shear madness is also what I probably experienced when I decided to get my hair shaved off. Yes, I had my hair shaved off.

Hair is supposed to be a person's crowing glory. We all know guys who won't leave the house until every single strand of keratinized protein on their scalp is combed or brushed into perfect place. Guys who take hours and hours achieving the right look with their hair. Don't even get us started on the available chemicals to help us sculpt and super mega hold our hair "without any greasy feel!"

Think of lions with their bushy manes. Think of Don King. Think of Samson. None of that was on my mind when I made a beeline to my friendly neighborhood barbershop. I plopped myself down on the swiveling chair and announced, "Take it off. Take it all off." My barber shot me a quizzical look, but proceeded to lop of my hair anyway.

I wanted to go completely bald for several reasons. It was the thick of summertime and the weather was perpetually hot. I was sick of my hair trapping the heat in. I wanted it to disappear. I wanted to wake up in the morning, get off the bed and go. Other than that, I've always wanted to get my head shaved, just to see what I would look like without hair. Boy, did I ever find out how I looked!

As chunks of hair started falling to the floor as the barber clip, clip, clipped away, images of Bembol Roco, Michael Jordan, even Sean Connery started running around in my brain. They have charm, they have charisma, they have panache. These men didn't need hair to be who they were. And neither do I!

The first thing I realized when my head was finally nothing but shiny skin was that, as it turns out, I am a conehead. It was the funniest thing in the world to see my head tapering as it got to the top. I felt like I had to announce to everyone, "I am from France!" just like in the movie. I looked so dumb, but felt so great! To see myself without hair was such a rush. I tipped the barber and strutted out of the barbershop.

After I got home, I remembered that it was the height of summer. I knew the scalp wasn't used to sun exposure so I slathered on some SPF 45 sunblock my head. The second thing I discovered was that if you put sunblock on freshly shaved scalp, it will sting like nothing you've ever experience. Whoo boy.

People's reactions to my new image were interesting, entertaining and downright hilarious. My sister flat out announced that I looked horrible. I had some friends who screamed for the longest time. Other friends just couldn't stop laughing. Some of my friends didn't even recognize me until I came up to them and stared them down. Then they were just properly shocked. A couple of security guards wouldn't even let me into buildings!

I would offer my head to my friends so they could touch it. Some hands recoiled faster than I could ask, "You want to?" People kept asking me why I did it and what had gotten into me. I was having such a blast. Albeit even if my visions of exuding the Michael Jordan appeal didn't seem to be accurate. People never did refer to Jordan when they took in my new look. Instead, they teased me with names like Shaolin Boy and, more notoriously, Manero. Oh well, hai- yah!

Group Circle, using Ecircles.com and Egroups.com

Group Circle 
By Walter Ang
May 4, 2000
Philippine Daily Inquirer

As everyone graduates from school, a common note in yearbooks and grad pics is "Keep in Touch". In this day of answering machines, voice mail, pagers, cellular phones, and email, a simple idea such as "keeping in touch" shouldn't seem like a Herculean task. Unfortunately, it still seems to be. Interestingly enough, the internet offers possible solutions to this dilemma.

My high school batch keeps an Ecircle (http://www.ecircles.com), while my high school alumni association has an Egroup (http://www.egroups.com). Ecircles and Egroups are free internet mailing lists that anyone can avail of to disseminate information and maintain a network of names and contact information. Both services offer basically the same features, members can send email to everyone subscribed to the group, upload files for sharing, and even chat with each other.

Egroups offers a more text based service and keeps an archive of all messages posted to the group. A member can see how many messages have been posted in a month when logging in to the site. Egroups also offers a calendar where members can post events, options to maintain polls or surveys, and links to other sites.

Best of all, Egroups has a feature wherein messages posted to the group may either be viewed on the website or received as emails. The members make the choice. For persons who would much rather receive information via email, they can opt to receive emails instead of checking the site. There are members, however, who feel a need to update themselves only on occasion and may choose to not to receive emails. Instead, they can just visit the site whenever they feel like it.

An appealing bonus to Egroups is that once you are a member or owner of one egroup, you can subscribe to any number of other existing egroups. With health news groups to rock star fans groups, one Egroup I'm subscribed to is the Zentertainment Egroup, which sends entertainment news at least once a week. 2bU's correspondents have their own Egroup, too. There's even an Egroup called Filipino Food Lovers, whose members include Inquirer writer Nancy Lumen Reyes.

Circle of friends
Ecircles, on the other hand, has a penchant for graphics and images. First off, members choose picture icons to represent themselves in the site. These icons range from cutie pie smiley faces to, well, cutie pie monsters. It's main edge over egroups is its photo album section where members can post photos and add captions. Other members can add comments and start discussions about the posted photos.

Ecircles seems to target a younger market as it offers more interactivity with its games, text and voice chatting, and even a music section where members can download and upload music files. Its calendar has a feature that automatically adds members' birthdays. It can even send birthday reminders to the circle. A possible downside to Ecircles is that many of its features can only be accessed through its site, which may not interest people who are less inclined or have no time to surf the web.

While Ecircles has no archives of emails posted to the group, it has discussion boards that are open and visible to all members of a particular ecircle. The only catch with Ecircles is that one must log on to the site to send any email to the entire group. At Egroups, the service provides members with an email address they can send messages to, without logging on to the site each time.

The plus factor for Egroups is that more than one person can be made group moderator. The group moderator manages and maintains the Egroup. Moderators can approve subscriptions, provide guidelines for members, and delete old messages and file. With several moderators, one can take over for another or share responsibilities, thus ensuring the Egroup is properly maintained.

The downside to Ecircles is that it grants moderator privileges only to the Ecircle owner, usually the person who starts the Ecircle. This may be a problem if the Ecircle owner is unable to visit the site for a certain amount of time to address any questions posted by the members. Old announcements and files could also pile up if the owner doesn't delete them, resulting in a cluttered site.

Each service has its own unique options that one can consider in choosing what's best for a group's needs. The internet is only a few mouse clicks away, which ever service a group decides to use, it has only advantages to gain.