August 2005


August 1, 2005 - Categories: japanese

Knowing how I wanted to practice my Japanese, Mark Chignell told me about a couple of Japanese-related events this weekend. (Isn't it nice to have a research supervisor who keeps track of your extracurricular interests?)

The first event was a language exchange session held last Saturday, at which I ran into no other than Baryon Posadas. Come to think of it, I shouldn't have been that surprised. Of course he'd be at a Japanese-language event.

Everyone was heading off to Starbucks to chat over coffee. I wanted to ask how he had been, but I needed to go to Clarkson Station to meet Tita Sol. We tried to work out some other time to meet, but he had promised to help someone move and he needed to find an apartment, and a lot of other things. Technically, I think I'm supposed to e-mail him if I want to meet him for coffee (or hot chocolate), but now that I think about it, I don't have much to chat with him about. Except perhaps for general settling-in questions, like where's a good place to open a bank account or get a credit card, and I already sorta know the answers to those questions.

Anyway, I went to the barbecue today because it meant a free lunch. I didn't get to practice my Japanese, though, as I didn't feel up to making small talk in a foreign language—not when there was a perfectly good conversation to have with Mark about research plans and what I should do while he's off in Japan. (Yes, we were talking about work. On a Sunday! During a long weekend!)

During a lull in the conversation, we wandered around in search for non-MSG chips. Baryon was there at the table with the unflavored chips, so I briefly introduced them to each other. Mark got drawn into a conversation with a bunch of Japanese girls, so I was left on my own. I asked them if I could sit there. I sat there for maybe a minutes, idly munching on chips. Got bored, found it difficult to break into a clique, eventually thought of a question to ask Mark and left the table without a word.

Anyway, the entire thing prompted a reflection on divergence. I'd borrowed a number of books from him before (speculative fiction, mainly), and that was our common interest. Now my reading tastes have changed (non-fiction and children's lit) and our worlds are really very different now.

Mark's a pretty good judge of character, and he picked up on the differences too. <laugh> In fact, he thought Baryon was strange. I shrugged and said, "He's from humanities." (Nothing against the humanities, of course. Hi Marcelle!)

I think that energy makes a big difference to me. Mark's a positive, high-energy kind of person, which is one of the reasons why I get along with him very well. Baryon and a number of other people I know don't show that kind of energy often. They're more reserved and detached.

If you take a look at the people I love hanging out with (Hiya, Just Geeks League! ;) ), they've all got positive energy. One of the things I like about chatting with Dominique is the way his smile comes through so well in his voice, and you know his face shows it too! Even Sean's deep and serious voice hides playfulness and wit. (You should watch his Hulk impression... It's hilarious!) Even though they have problems like everyone else, their upbeat personalities make the tough times easier to weather.

I don't know if Baryon's like that, and I somewhat remember that he laughs and joke about some things. Although it would be nice to pick his brains about stuff I need to know as an international student in Toronto, I think it would be a fair bit of work to get to the point where conversation's comfortable. I'll probably focus on developing new contacts instead, at least for now.

もうすぐみんなが自分のコンピュータを持つだろう。 Everyone will have his own computer before long.

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Lessons learned from the past week

August 1, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized
  • I'm very finicky when it comes to organizing. None of the popular organizing forms quite fit the weekly schedule + TODO list that I want to use. Custom letter-size forms are easy to make. I'm not sure how well I can translate to a smaller size; maybe if I do one week per page and then have the TODO list on the next page...
  • Last week was find-a-group week. I tried Toast IT, Zero Gravity Circus and JCSA. Toast IT was the best in terms of social interaction, self-improvement and networking. That's something that's earned a fixed place on my calendar. I can join the other two groups maybe once a month.
  • I'm pretty good at impromptu speeches and networking, but not really social small talk. I work best when the context is well-established and I feel I have something to offer people. That's why Toast I.T. works very well for me, but social chats like JCSA language exchanges don't really do the trick.
  • Keeping track of my expenses is a breeze with Gnucash, a free and open source program that makes record-keeping fun and easy. I just sent my mom a summary of my credit card transactions and a detailed transaction report for everything involving a credit card. Whee!
  • Working out my finances is scarily fun. I've just finished drawing up yearly and monthly spending plans based on a general guide for international students and my expenses for the past two weeks. I used Calc to recalculate remaining monthly budget automatically as I put in my initial estimates and then adjusted them based on my spending goal. I've decided to allocate more money to groceries and books than I had previously spent, and I've built in a small splurge allowance for little things I want. I'll test that spending plan this month and post additional reflections in September.
  • The calendar I'm using right now really works for me. I should look into making an electronic version of it so that people reading my website can get a better feel of how I like to plan my day. I also need to work on a good contact management system to keep track of all the people I meet (and it turns out that I meet quite a number of new people each week)...

今日ほとんどの子供が持っているビデオゲーム機でさえコンピュータである。 Even videogame machines owned by most children today are computers.

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Spending plan

August 1, 2005 - Categories: finance

Whether you call it a budget or a spending plan, an idea of how much you can spend on what each month is a remarkably liberating thing. After you've put aside money for savings and important expenses such as

I keep my monthly spending plan on a ruled 3x5 index card labeled "Budget for August 2005." I divide the card into three columns: category, estimate, and remaining budget. At the beginning of each month, I write down the categories and estimates in ink, and the remaining budget in pencil. Throughout the month, I'll regularly update the remaining budget entries. If I want to spend more for something, I can reduce the budget of another category.

Let's see how well that system works this month!

その代わりに、彼は自分のコンピュータを制御しているスイッチを操作した。 Instead, he worked a switch that controlled his computer.

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Home economics

August 1, 2005 - Categories: life

I wish I paid more attention in my home economics class. I have an excuse, though. I was 10 years old at the time! Now that I'm 21 and puzzled by everything from bike grease stains to the proper storage of food, I'm making up for my lack of common sense by buying thick, expensive books talking about stuff I really should have learned during my education.

Over the past two weeks, I have come to firmly believe that home economics should be taught throughout high school and college. It would have been a lot more useful than my social studies or history classes. (Indeed, a lot more useful than my computing classes...) What if arithmetic was taught in the context of budgets? What if critical thinking was tested through on-the-fly recipe substitutions? What if learning about life was an essential part of the curriculum?

I'm not just talking about exclusive girls' schools, mind you, but across-the-board education for everyone. I think the world would be a lot more peaceful if people learned how to manage household disputes and a lot more financially stable if they learned how to balance a checkbook or make a budget. I know _I_ would feel a lot better learning about these things systematically instead of figuring things out as I go along.

Bring back the lessons on washing clothes and folding fitted sheets, planning menus and shopping for groceries. It may be old hat to you, but some of us here are figuring things out for the first time!

コンピューターは人間の多くの時間と手間を省いてくれる。 Computers can save us a lot of time and trouble.

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Lifehacking your groceries

August 2, 2005 - Categories: life

One of the coolest things about having delicious:lifehacks in my inbox is turning up all the craziest lifehacking tips. Today's treasure is about lifehacking your groceries by using index cards to keep track of ingredients, simplifying a week of shopping and cooking. _And_ it comes with index card templates!

ここ数年、コンピューターは仕事に限らず広く利用されるようになりました。 Recently, the increasing diversity of computer use has extended far beyond the realms of the office.

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In Case of Emergency

August 2, 2005 - Categories: life

A popular e-mail forward urges people to make it easier for people to get in touch with your emergency contact just in case something bad happens to you. Emergency contacts would be marked with "ICE" (In Case of Emergency) in your phonebook.

ICE is a bit too obscure an acronym for me, though. You need to have read the forwarded e-mail about ICE before you'll even think of looking for it. I'd rather put people under "Emergency", or add numbers to the start of their names so that they're first on the list.

I need to get one of those organ-donor cards anyway...

E-Mail from Inc. Adphoto

今日はほとんどの子供が持っているビデオゲーム機でさえコンピュータである。 Even video-game machines owned by most children today are computers.

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Side Jobs

August 2, 2005 - Categories: business

Keep track of your freelancing projects with Side Jobs, a free online service that helps you manage tasks and clients. Nice, clean interface and well-thought features. Well worth paying for if it weren't free!

コンピュータはよく人の頭脳にたとえられる。 The computer is often compared to the human brain.

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Gah, my website doesn’t print properly

August 2, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

Print-outs lack pagebreaks. Is it a Firefox problem or a CSS problem? Any suggestions?

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Toastmasters is fun

August 2, 2005 - Categories: speaking, toastmasters

I attended another Toast I.T. meeting today. The table topic set by Natasha was a bit of a stretch for me. If I was in the elevator with the CEO of my company, what would I say? Other people naturally brought up small talk examples from real-life situations. You know me and small talk. I'm not going to disrupt the silence by asking about the weather! Grasping at straws, I ended up doing half of a conversation where I played an eager employee asking for more responsibilities.

I have no idea why people thought that was the best table topics speech. But hey, I love speaking, and I'll do it at the drop of a hat... <laugh>

My icebreaker speech is coming up next week. I'm going to have so much fun preparing for it! =)

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Chicken adobo and rice

August 2, 2005 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

The clinking and clanking of plates and bric-a-brac could be heard clear across the room as I rummaged through the cupboards.

"Are you looking for anything?" asked Ye, my roommate of a few weeks.

"Would we happen to have any measuring cups?"

"You can use the mugs in the drawer. What are you cooking this time?"

"Rice. Let's see... Gah, this rice cooker is too big. And it doesn't come with instructions."

"Use a pot."

"Okay... Hmm. "Step 1: Add rice. Step 2: Add water. How much rice?"

"It doesn't really matter, as long as the water level is 1 centimeter above the rice."

What did one centimeter look like again? I knew other Filipinos have this magic trick involving the joints of one's fingers, but I never quite figured it out and I didn't know if the rule was valid given my small hands. Resisting the temptation to fetch the ruler from my cute pink stationery set, I decided to eyeball the measurements. There, just about right. Oh, wait... "Should I wash the rice first?"

"I usually do."

Swished, swished. Poured. Swished. Poured. Swished. Poured. Gave up and refilled pot to former level. "Mmkay. Then...?"

"Boil it, and then turn the heat way down until it absorbs all the water."

So I did.

I thought it would be a good idea to try out chicken adobo while waiting, and I had recently splurged on a pack of chicken breast fillets. I rummaged some more for vinegar (this strange Chinese thing that smelled nothing like the vinegar I remembered seeing back home) and soy sauce. I had the foresight to grab bay leaves and garlic on my last grocery trip, so it was easy to throw everything together.

- 2 pieces chicken - 4 cloves garlic, crushed - 2 tablespoons vinegar - 2 teaspoons soy sauce - 1 bay leaf - 1/4 teaspoon pepper - 1/2 cup water

I boiled that, too, and then simmered it until I felt confident about the chicken being more-or-less cooked (erring on the side of more, I hope) and the sauce was reduced to a fraction. By simmered, I mean that I alternated between accidentally reboiling it and getting some satisfyingly mild bubbling action.

I didn't get to try the adobo, so I don't know if it's really adobo or some weird thing. I did get to try the rice, though, so I feel pretty good about that. Of course, as I started cooking at around 9, I got _pretty_ hungry by the time the rice was done. The chicken didn't inspire confidence at that point, so I did what any sane, starving student would do: I raided the refrigerator for something to eat with the rice. Pastrami may be a strange companion to rice, but I thought it tasted like a rather expensive version of vienna sausages.

We'll see how the adobo turns out tomorrow evening. If I survive, I'll have joined the ranks of adobo-cooking Filipinos around the world!

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Casualty: portable umbrella

August 2, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

The trouble with me is that I can keep track of only two things at the same time. I've told myself again and again to look back before I leave a place, and generally I've gotten very good at that. These blanks, these unthinking moments are the chinks that I have to fill in. Today's casualty: a portable umbrella.

Losing an umbrella is certainly a more attractive prospect than the thing that caused me to put all of the stuff on the ground in the first place. See, I thought I had lost my cellphone. From that perspective, an umbrella doesn't seem so bad, does it? It's a waste to have to spend for another umbrella, but I can file that under life lessons. And just look at all the _other_ days when I didn't lose anything! (Yes, most people have far more impressive records, but every little bit counts for self-esteem.)

Do I need to replace the umbrella? Well, I've got a raincloak in the closet, but it's too bulky to take with me all the time. Another microumbrella would be good, but the more pressing need is to fix my lugging-around system so that I'm carrying only one item.

I saw a close-to-ideal tote in Staples Depot the other day. It was a Roots microfiber tote wth two main compartments, one of which had a separate laptop sleeve. The tote bag could hold legal-size documents, making it larger than I needed but still acceptable.

The deal-killer, though, was the fact that the store didn't have a full-length mirror that would let me check proportions. Being a rather small girl, I'm mindful of style guides that tell me not to overwhelm my frame with huge bags. (Advice I have cheerfully ignored over the years, but there's no time like the present to start paying attention to these things.)

I did, however, spend a fair bit of time looking at fancy three-ring binders with both handles and zippers. Zippered binders give me peace of mind when I carry loose items: combination pens that don't fit into standard pen holders, coin purses, etc. Put proper handles and a carry strap on a zippered binder and ooooh...

But there's still all the paraphernalia I carry with me: laptop, keys, lunch box... A binder large enough to contain all of those comfortably would be too large to balance on one hand while writing and too unwieldy to lay out on a desk while I take notes. So I reluctantly turned away from bright displays and advertisements for binder models I hadn't even imagined (Z-shaped! double-binders! expanding file binders!) and headed out of Staples, wondering what would fit into my personal filing system.

I think I need some kind of tote. A briefcase is too business-y; a backpack, too casual. Messenger bags offer possibilities, too. I just need to find something that's large enough to fit my things but still small enough to fit my frame.

And _then_ I can get an umbrella to match it.

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Shared Computer Access Locally and Abroad

August 3, 2005 - Categories: geek, philippines

Engineers Without Borders has an excellent project called SCALA: Shared Computer Access Locally and Abroad. I learned about it from a blog entry that Charo Nuguid ran across.

From the blog entry:

So what do the [out of school youth] learn in the SCALA centers? They complete about 3 months of computer and life skills training at the center and then complete another 3 months of on-the-job training (that hopefully turns into employment after the 3 months is up) in the local community. The computer skills modules involve learning programs such as Word, Excel, Frontpage, Access, the Internet, and Powerpoint. Life skills training involves modules such as conflict management, budgeting, and leadership skills.

Good stuff. Help make a difference!

E-Mail from Charo Nuguid

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Shopping trip

August 3, 2005 - Categories: life, organizer

The bright red gash stretching across half my arm stings. Red is my favorite color, but I could have done without this parting shot from the broken clasp of my short-lived backpack. The backpack's mean gesture is understandable; it's jealous of the nice new tote I just bought.

And boy, did I look _everywhere_ for that tote. I coasted along Yonge Street, which conveniently sloped downhill in the direction I was going. I stopped at every major store I saw. Hudson Bay. Winners. Eaton Centre. I checked out every shop that looked like it might have a tote that was just the right size and style.

One of my shopping difficulties is that I have very specific ideas of what I want. My ideal bag had to be:

  • large enough to hold a binder
  • small enough to not look overwhelming
  • divided into at least two compartments, with plus points for secure outer pockets
  • well under CAD 50.00

I found it for CAD 24.99. The orange trim feels a bit more casual than I'd like, but I could pass it off as style and it works with my wardrobe colors anyway.

My 2" binder fits a little too snugly (I'd like to have a bit of space), so I need to shift to a 1" binder.

Everything else is just great. There's even a small pocket for the iPod...

Yay. I have a nice bag now. =)

I also picked up a bunch of organizing tools: stackable shelves, food savers, laundry nets, shoe bags...

Happy girl.

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Finally! Internet!

August 4, 2005 - Categories: geek

I had been grumbling about it for all of five minutes as I fiddled about with various settings, finding it completely unfair that newer residents got hooked up to the Internet in _one_ day, whereas I've been waiting for _three weeks!_

My roommate helpfully noted that she'd had connection difficulties before. Apparently, the jacks in our room were miswired. I scribbled a note on one of my index cards, packed my laptop, a patch cable, and a book, and decided to head over to Robarts Library to see if I could get a connection.

On my way out, I ran into Trevor, one of the CS guys I met over Scrabble and Go.

And... he was holding a sheaf of network activation requests.

Ding! So the mysterious network activation person was _not_ a quirky and selective PhD student on a long vacation.

I told him what my roommate told me. He nodded sagely and said he had hooked _both_ ports in just five minutes ago.


Well, there goes all of my night-time strolls. <laugh> I need to get a really long cable or set up my wireless card so that I can chat with people in the evenings (morning in the Philippines), although Skyping from the lab is still best for people's schedules.



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On intelligence and wisdom

August 4, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

On mensaphilopen, Alistair Israel said:

The smart ones realize that this it isn't worth living in this country, and seek their fortune abroad. The truly smart ones realize that fortune doesn't matter, and try to make this country worth living in.

The wise ones realize that life is inherently meaningless and full of suffering, and proceed to live lives of emptiness. The truly wise ones realize that it doesn't matter, and proceed to create meaning out of life.

E-Mail from Alistair Israel

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Chicken adobo results

August 4, 2005 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

I microwaved the chicken adobo for another minute and a half just to feel slightly better about it, and fried it together with half the rice I cooked the other day. Then there was nothing else to do but to try it, so I did.

It was... recognizable. Well, it tasted cooked, something which always fills me with profound gratefulness. I think I need to add more soy sauce and vinegar—and a different kind of vinegar, perhaps—as the flavor was weaker than the four plates of adobo I cheerfully enjoyed one summer outing many years ago. But it was recognizable, and that makes me really happy.

For those who are not familiar with the dish, chicken adobo is the lazy Filipino cook's best friend. It is rumored to keep indefinitely, or at least for as long as needed (which is not very long, as I can happily eat it day after day). Chicken adobo was what my mother packed into my luggage when she found out I had to go to India; bags of chicken adobo and packets of cream of mushroom soup, emergency rations for a possibly finicky stomach. Chicken adobo is a Good Thing, and learning how to cook it means I can stop buying sausages and start buying chicken. Mwahaha.

I'm going to do my grocery shopping after I do the dishes tonight. I've been keeping a list of necessities on the refrigerator door, which makes shopping far easier. I'll eventually trim this to weekly shopping, but I've come to realize that I urgently need to do some shopping if I am to have a decent breakfast and lunch tomorrow. Corn-based pitas are nice, but the cheese I have—prepackaged cheese slices selected for their cost—can only be called cheese if you stretch your imagination.

I have yet to start on the lettuce. I promised myself that I would eat one individually-sized head of lettuce a day, but so far I have not done so. Why? Perhaps I just need to mix up salad dressing. All the books I've read tell me that commercial salad dressing is an overpriced convenience and that mixing up a batch is easy.

But why do I need dressing? I used to pick leaves off the Caesar salad at Italianni's before my sister drizzled dressing over it, saying I didn't like the sour taste of dressing. Perhaps it was only because the dressing was white and creamy and looked a little bit like mayonnaise, and I still don't like plain mayonnaise. Now I will experiment with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and see how that goes.

(Perhaps I should do that for lunch tomorrow: inflict two small heads of lettuce on myself and see how well I do.)

Incidentally, my cooking misadventures draw the most comments: helpful (and conflicting!) advice on measuring rice for cooking (general consensus: it's up to you, really), recipe suggestions, shared misadventures... I should remember to post something tech-related from time to time. ;) Thank you so much for putting up with these stories! <laugh>

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On mailing lists

August 5, 2005 - Categories: social

I find it a bit strange that people here like broadcasting their messages by putting everyone in To: or Cc:. I _know_ they've heard of mailing lists. Everyone knows about mailing lists. Heck, even my parents have a mailing list for their advertising photography company.

By mailing list, I mean a managed mailing list through something like Yahoo Groups or Google Groups instead of an ad-hoc list of e-mail addresses. Have you considered them before? I'm sure you've been on a few, as they're a very popular and effective tool. Just in case, let me cover the basics.

Mailing lists

  • increase the community feel of a group because it's easier to network and chat outside meetings
  • distribute speaking tips and other resources easily
  • allow people to organize their mail into folders without having to create rules for each person who posts or manually move new messages
  • allow people to change their e-mail addresses or disable delivery
  • make communication a whole lot easier: remember one address instead of fifty!

Many people don't fully take advantage of mailing lists because of sour experiences in open lists without a good community feel. They might not know, for example, that you can restrict membership and even access to message archives. In addition, they may also have been turned off by low signal-to-noise ratio mailing lists flooded with jokes and one-liners. Each community varies in its tolerance of things like that, and social conventions are generally followed when established. Netiquette is easier to enforce in mailing lists because the clearly-defined space of a mailing list makes it easier to set social policies.

A good mailing list is an awesome community-builder. My project went from scattered users to a thriving, enthusiastic community spread around the world because we set up a mailing list where people could share their ideas and code. It's so easy to set up a mailing list on Google Groups or Yahoo Groups that seeing the old style of distributing messages makes me wonder if people have particular reasons _not_ to use mailing lists...

E-Mail to Ari Caylakyan

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Changing patterns of computing

August 5, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

I managed to leave my laptop at home today! =) That forced me to be productive all day. See how many papers I finished! I also worked on setting up a blog on lingon, a Windows NT server in the lab, but I botched when I restarted the computer remotely and didn't make sure I could get back in. Apparently, the remote login service doesn't automatically start after the computer finishes booting. The computer in question is physically located near my cubicle, but—alack!—the door is locked and I still don't have access. Oh well, there's next week.

Well, at least I sorted out my office productivity thing... =)

Now that I have Internet access at home, I can play around with my social schedule a bit. Main catching-up-with-everyone time is Saturday, 8 - 10 AM my time (8 - 10 PM in the Philippines). My username on Skype is sachachua , and it's easy to set up voice chats with several people. Fun!

Tomorrow, I'll be online from 8 - 9 AM. I'm planning to go to the Ontario Science Centre. Whee! Fun! =) I'll be sure to write about it. Then I'll prepare my first Toastmasters speech and work on my On Campus article. I'll probably grab my laptop and head to the park... =)

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Wonderful day at the science centre

August 6, 2005 - Categories: canada

I had a great time exploring the Ontario Science Centre with Calum Tsang, sysad of the Interactive Media Lab. He had a lot of fun pointing out all the Amigas powering the hands-on exhibits, and I had a lot of fun teasing him about being a geek. ;)

It was absolutely wonderful. My dad knows how much I love hands-on science, having had to take me to the Science Centrum in Manila more times than should be appropriate for a grade school kid. (Hi dad!)

I _love_ discovery places like that. I love playing around with the exhibits. I learned that I have, err, the gripping power of a 10- to 13-year-old. And that I can jump lightly. And that sound waves do interesting things in long tubes. And that they've got this really cool marble drop. And rollercoasters are tons of fun; a lot of science goes into their design!

Ooooh. I also got to see an authentic Jacquard's Loom. People who actually paid attention in operating systems class or introductory computing class (especially the ones I taught! ;) ) will probably go "Ooooh" too. A real, actual Jacquard's Loom, the only one left in Canada. Nifty.

The Matter exhibition was under renovation. Waah. And we were too early for the Extreme Science show. But hey, more reason to come back next time, right?

Anyway, that _totally_ rocked. =)

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Rest of my day

August 6, 2005 - Categories: canada, friends

I actually woke up early today: 7:30. (Okay, 7:35, really. And 7:40. Yeah, 7:40.) I had a quick bowl of oatmeal, heaping far more sugar on it than is probably nutritionally advisable. And then I waited for people to come online. Waah! Look! I was up on a Saturday morning! And people were missing!

Naturally, people started coming online maybe twenty, ten minutes before I had to leave. Still, it was really nice being able to briefly chat with Dominique and my mom. =)

Then I was off to the Science Centre (see blog post before this one), and then to a whole day of fun. =) Calum was really nice. Over salmon sashimi and California maki, we chatted about Japan. He's planning to go there in September, so I told him about things he must not miss: okonomiyaki, street food, that nifty deep-fry place Dave Brown told me about, rush hour in the train system, the hordes of photographers in Meiji Temple on major festivals... He told me hilarious stories about lay-off season at Nortel. Heh. Crazy.

Then he showed me what suburbian entertainment is like: basically, shopping at big box stores like Sam's Club and Future Shop. ;) I told him that we had warehouse supermarkets in the Philippines too (Pricesmart, Shopwise), but yeah, Sam's Club is _way_ bigger than Pricesmart. Mom would have a lot of fun going through that place. =)

He showed me Lake Ontario, too, bemoaning his lack of a real camera that day. I told him about Papa shooting stock shots while on vacation, Kathy's instinctive protection of camera equipment when she slipped... See, I grew up around photographers. ;) I might not know all the jargon, but I can relate.

Lake Ontario is pretty! And it has geese! =) Nifty...

We topped a fun day off with soft-serve ice cream. (I told him about the time I did Linux support for ice cream, and Peppy and I ate ice cream until the world turned funny colors... ;) ) It was great!

Much better than trekking around and figuring things out on my own. =) Excellent day!

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Slightly dissatisfied

August 7, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

The university Internet service has intermittent problems with DNS and quality of connection. I'm beginning to wonder how much trouble it would be to move elsewhere and sign up for Internet service with one of the commercial providers. I wonder when it would be feasible to consider that, since I've already paid the confirmation deposit for this term's lodging.

VOIP quality is really bad. I can hear my parents perfectly, but my voice is really choppy and delayed on their end. I think it's because we're allocated asymmetric bandwidth, which doesn't match my usage pattern. I upload nearly as much as I download (and none of that infringes anyone's copyrights! =) ).

Still, it's good that I've got a confirmed slot for the term. That allows me to enjoy my time in Toronto instead of scrambling to find an apartment...

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Getting my own domain name

August 7, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

I want my own domain name. Can anyone recommend a relatively cheap but reliable domain name registry for .com addresses? Thanks!

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Level up!

August 7, 2005 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

Adobo was _perfect._ Or at least it inspired enough confidence for me to store two portions in the refrigerator and four in the freezer. I marinated the chicken in a mix of soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves and pepper for two days, following a Filipino adobo recipe I found on the Net. And it worked! It was wonderfully flavorful. The cost comes down to roughly 75 cents per portion for the chicken, plus some more for soy sauce and vinegar. I used far too much soy sauce and vinegar this time, and I'll probably scale the recipe down a bit the next time I prepare a grand marinade. (Maybe once a week or once every two weeks! ;) )

Rice worked out, too. I have four portions of rice (two in the ref, two in the freezer) ready to be reheated whenever I want to eat adobo or whatever else I want.

I would also like to happily announce that I have found out how to make the lettuce I bought palatable. ;) I threw together a quick salad earlier: iceberg lettuce, crabsticks, tomatoes and carrots. Not only did the salad appeal to me visually, but it wasn't bad gastronomically. I drizzled a quick vinaigrette (some vinegar, lots of oil, salt, and pepper) using a sauce squeeze bottle I picked up for CAD 0.29, and I had a very fun lunch. I _really_ liked the crabsticks. Thanks for the tip, Clair!

To top it all off, I learned how to fold a fitted sheet so that it stays nice and flat. =)

Level up!

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My Web 2.0 – Yahoo’s social search

August 8, 2005 - Categories: social

Yahoo's social search engine, My Web 2.0, certainly looks promising. It automatically picks up your Yahoo Messenger contacts and prioritizes their (and your) saved sites when you search. Hmm...

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Survived my first Toastmasters speech!

August 9, 2005 - Categories: speaking, toastmasters

I survived the ice breaker!

I had drafted talks for all sorts of things: lifehacking, the Philippines, even the weather. None of them seemed to fit. Then Pierre Duez of IBM CAS suggested that I talk about pets. Come to think of it, he may have been joking. Anyway, I told myself, it's the ice breaker. They don't mind non-serious topics. They want to get to know who I am.

Right. I could get away with a story about my cat. I threw together the talk in the corridor. I knew I could tell plenty of stories about Neko, who's quite a character. I picked a couple, came up with a nice beginning and a nice ending, and went for the thing.

I had so much fun bringing a few laughs from my seasoned audience. They weren't belly laughs or anything, probably just I-know-what-you're-talking-about laughs. But that was good. I wasn't sure how reactive people were because the past few talks were mostly serious, but it was fun.

It was my first time with a U-shaped arrangement. I don't like having anything between me and my audience. I stepped in front of the lectern, but I didn't know what to do about the hulking large projector in the middle of the room. I ended up going in front of it, which cut off eye contact with the people on the ends of the U. Doug Vowles suggested that I move all the stuff out of the way next time. I still have to figure out how to properly do blocking for U-style arrangements.

I remember how the all-around stage we performed Junto al Pasig was an interesting blocking challenge in grade 4. I should read up on theatrical blocking for plays in the round, and maybe ask Tita Naty and Mrs. Castillo as well...

I also need more lead-up to the punchline. I told them about ensuring my cat's safety in the household by telling my parents I'll petition my cat and my cat can petition them. ;) That went by too quickly because I was already overtime. Hmm, must work on my timing.

I say "like" way too much. Must work on my filler words next time.

I also need to work on my resonance. (Err, must find out what they mean by that, too. Yes, voice. But how?)

Whee... =D

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Lessons learned: August 1 – August 7

August 9, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Bubblegum and string

August 10, 2005 - Categories: blogging, research

I finished my first hack for Melody's indie music review blog. She's thrilled by the fact that the sidebars automatically pick up her reviewed music. We're moving the blog to a new Linux server next week. I'll probably redo the hack so that I can make it more elegant. Right now it's just bubblegum and string...

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Primitive anti-spam

August 10, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

I've just added primitive anti-spam to the comment form. =) That way, I don't have to wade through lots of spam just to get to your insights. Keep writing! =)

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Domain registrar suggestions

August 10, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

Thanks to everyone who sent me suggestions for a good domain name service! Now to check out the list... I'm going to give myself a domain name on Friday, as a happy-birthday gift to myself. =) Gideon Strauss
EasyDNS Florian Lanthaler, $25 per domain Michael Olson, Albertus
FreeDNS Michael Olson Vinod Kurup Albertus, $14 per domain hoop
E-webcore Jose Miguel O. Bautista

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Lifehack: Put your keys near the door

August 10, 2005 - Categories: life

After spending half an hour looking all over my room for my keycard, I've seen the wisdom of having One Place for Things. Now my keys go into the plastic wall-pockets hanging by the door. This doesn't prevent me from walking out without them, though, but the tips on 43folders: Remember Your Keys certainly help!

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Moments with my mom

August 10, 2005 - Categories: cat, family

Mom said:

Neko is missing you so much that it wanted to cuddle up even with me. I was having lunch yesterday when she approached me, then jumped (ever so gently) on my lap. I put my hands up, but later decided to touch her. she just accepted that. then that was a little too much for me, so I stopped stroking her back, and she decided that was enough - she jumped out of my lap - again without scratching me. hmmmm... Neko and I are making progress.

there's hope for Neko yet. =). there's hope for me, too. =)

Awwww... Upon hearing that this is my fourth day with adobo in one form or another:

you better learn to cook something other than adobo. You can cook tapa. just get a thin slice of beef. marinate it in vinegar (white), soy sauce and garlic. cook the beef in the marinade, and when when almost done (before the marinade dries up completely), take out the marinade. fry the beef briefly, then put back the marinade, with onion slices , (round), cook just very, very briefly and that's it. The sauce is yummy, and can flavor your rice. You don't need a lot of vinegar and soy sauce, just enough to make the beef tender. Make sure the cut of the beef is across the grain. Here, you can buy beef slices really for "bistek" (which is Filipino for beef steak).=)

I love my mom. =)

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Spread the light. Banish the darkness.

August 10, 2005 - Categories: issues, philippines

From Manolo Quezon's blog.

An invitation. SPREAD THE LIGHT. BANISH THE DARKNESS August 20, 2005 at exactly 6:00 pm.

When an ordinary citizen steals, would an "I am sorry" be enough? When an ordinary citizen lies, would an "I am sorry" be enough? When an ordinary citizen cheats, would an "I am sorry" be enough?

Ask yourself: If you are an employee and your employer catches you cheating, lying and stealing — will an "I am sorry" be sufficient or a "lapse of judgment" be accepted? Or would you stand to lose your job?

What is our country coming to if we hold ordinary Filipinos to higher and stricter standards than we hold the highest official of the land?

This is not to say that the President of the Philippines is guilty of all that she is being accused of. It is only to say two different standards of rules - one for the powerful and one for the powerless — cannot exist if ours is to be a truly democratic and pluralistic society.

This is not the country we want. And so perhaps it is time we do something about it.

If you believe, as we do, that it is time for ordinary Filipinos to stand up and be counted in the fight for TRUTH — as well as for Transparency, for Responsibility, for Unity, for Trust and for Hope — then join us in a simple demonstration of our collective sentiments.

On August 20, Saturday, at exactly 6pm, take a few moments to light a candle in demonstration of our collective effort to take this country back from all who have not been true to it and to all of us ordinary citizens - and to be the first step in bringing about the light that will banish the darkness that hovers over our land!

Spread the light. Banish the darkness. August 20, 2005 at exactly 6:00pm.

Transparency. Responsibility. Unity. Trust. Hope.

For me, it isn't a question of who's going to replace Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It's a question of whether we're going to ask the question in the first place, or whether we're going to close our eyes.

I may not be in the Philippines right now, but I hope to come home someday.

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August 11, 2005 - Categories: family, geek

I'm planning to get myself a domain name tomorrow to celebrate my 22nd birthday. Geeky, huh? Well, it's about time I got something like that. For extra symbolism I should've gotten it last year, on my 21st birthday, but hey—better late than never. Jijo Sevilla of QSR Hosting has offered to host the domain name service for me, like the way he's currently handling I really owe him and Richi Plana a lot for hosting my mail and website!

For practical purposes, I will also get myself a 3/4 or knee-length winter coat and perhaps winter boots as well. Yes, I know, it's the height of summer, but that's a good time to start rooting through vintage and second-hand shops. This is a hefty purchase, so I'm treating it as an expensive birthday gift that will help ensure that I have future birthdays. ;)

My friends are organizing a little Skype party for me tomorrow morning (evening, their time). It's nice to be loved! =)

I'll blog some more tomorrow, but in the meantime, let me post letters to two people who made all of this possible.

Dear Mom,

I really think that we should celebrate our moms during birthdays. It must not have been easy raising me, and despite the fact that I seem to be sorta doing well on my own (at least I can cook adobo!), a mom's job is never truly over, is it? <hug> I wouldn't want you to ever stop being my mom. I like having a mom: someone I can ask questions, someone I can tell stories to, someone I can even disagree with every so often because I know we're going to make up really quickly. Thanks for teaching me so many things about life. I love you, mom. Happy birthday!

And it _is_ a happy birthday. I'm really happy that I was born, and I think a lot of other people are happy too. I hope to make thousands and thousands of people happy about that, and thankful that I had such a wonderful mom.


I love you. =)

Dear Dad,

You always tell me, "Remember, I gave birth to you!" I paid attention during my biology classes, so I know that's not _literally_ true—but it's truer than people might think. You _did_ give birth to me.

You showed me what it's like to dream and to pursue that dream.

You showed me the sacrifices people make to do what they love, and how they can help the world by doing so.

You showed me how to excel.

You showed me how to tell stories and how to get people excited.

You showed me how to get myself out of scrapes (and, err, how to get myself into them, sometimes).


I love you. =)

My parents totally rock.

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Geeks and birthday parties

August 12, 2005 - Categories: barkada, friends, geek, happy, party

Twelve hours' time difference didn't stop my friends from a proper birthday party for me. What can you expect when your friends are geeks? They pulled out all the stops: cellphones for quick setup and communication, Yahoo Messenger for text and video, and moblogs for pictures of the celebration. Too bad a firewall stopped us from chatting via Skype!

It was slightly weird because there were six people chatting around one computer in a coffee shop in Manila, one person connecting from U.P. Baguio (Mario), and of course me, connecting from my dorm. Six people! One keyboard! Still, through the valiant efforts of Dominique and Charo, Mario and I "heard" enough of the conversation to laugh ourselves to bits. Mario was the only one who could see my webcam, but he took a screenshot just so that the others could see me with my cute hat! =)

To commemorate my birth, my friends dug into a tub of dulce de leche ice cream. Knowing what kind of ice cream they had (and how quickly it was disappearing) reminded me of the ice cream parties we had when I was there. =) I remember our quest for dulce de leche, too! Oooooh... yummy... Not to be left out, I told them I'm going to cook lasagna later. Marcelle and Dominique remember what my lasagna tastes like. =)

They even called up long-distance and passed around the phone for quick birthday greetings!

_That's_ how you throw a geek birthday party.

Thanks, everyone. You really made my day special. That warm and fuzzy feeling you gave me this morning is what's getting me through the rest of this quiet day...


It's so great to have such friends! =D

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Quiet lab

August 12, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

Friday afternoon at the lab. It's so quiet I can hear the water rumbling in the walls. I have a birthday cake in the refrigerator and no one to share it with. That, my dear friends, is culture shock.

Many people think of culture shock as just encountering cultures and customs different from their own, but culture shock is about far more than costumes or traditions. My form of culture shock is having to deal with the shift from a close-knit group of friends to an environment where I don't really know a lot of people yet.

Fortunately, the universe sensed I was about to get depressed, and it intervened. Melanie walked in and asked if I was still around. I brought the cake out of the refrigerator and _that_ brought Alvin out of his cubicle. Alvin and Melanie even sang Happy Birthday. =) We had more of that wonderfully chocolatey cake.

Now we're down to two decently-sized slices, which I can share with my roommate later. =)

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Flowers! =)

August 12, 2005 - Categories: family, happy

I received a beautiful bunch of red, orange, purple and white flowers in the mail, from Mom, Dad, Ching and John, Kathy, Neko, Ollie, Lucas, Patch, Picco, Mali, and the Adphoto staff! =) The bouquet came with a vase (handy!) and a birthday balloon. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww... I feel really warm and fuzzy!

Yes, yes, flowers are flowers and they'll wilt after a while, but they're very pretty, and it was such a great surprise to receive them. Besides, flowers tell other people that Something Special is Up, and This Girl is Special. =)

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August 12, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

I was going to bake lasagna today, but the elevator broke down and all the shopping I did this afternoon totally wiped me out. Waaah.

This weekend: work on On Campus article, get my new site up and running. =)

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August 13, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

If you're shopping for a domain name, check out Netcraft's list of registrars. Thanks to Marc Javellana for the tip! ('course, I read it right after I finished signing up for a domain... ;) )

Murphy’s Law

August 13, 2005 - Categories: emacs

Right after I finished setting up as a coming-of-age gift to myself, I learned that Douglas Johnston is making a website for do-it-yourself planners. Now Douglas Johnston is one of my idols when it comes to organization, and his D.I.Y. Planner series inspired me to go out there and start tweaking my own forms. How can I beat that? Hugely popular, cohesive set of templates, a wiki to support his blog's community... waah. It's enough to make a just-turned-22 girl feel small. But hey, maybe I can still do soft goal analysis—must think of a good way to organize that—and if all else fails, I can always use plannerlove to gush about planner-el... =)

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Lasagna in the freezer

August 13, 2005 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

Having discovered the joys of being able to pull chicken adobo out of the freezer any time I want to eat, I baked an entire casserole of lasagna this afternoon. Lasagna is another one of those recipes that freeze well.

It never occured to me that cooking and freezing large quantities might be a popular trick, but fortunately flagged it as a useful tip. Turns out that just posted an article on Once a Month Cooking with loads of useful links, including a recipe selector that puts together a shopping list for you.

Way cool!

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New purpose for

August 14, 2005 - Categories: emacs, productivity, writing

Douglas Johnston invited me to join him on the D.I.Y. Planner site. He totally, totally rocks. I'll learn much more and help many more as part of something like that than on my own, and it's an awesome opportunity to learn from others. =) I'm putting drafts of organizer-related articles up on for now, but I'm working on something else for the site on my computer. Instead of striking it out on my own as a productivity blogger, I'm going to make a fantastic resource for all of you planner-el fans out there... =)

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Teaching assistantship

August 15, 2005 - Categories: teaching

I wasn't sure whether I should go for a teaching assistantship. New campus. New university culture. New subjects I'd never taken before. Heck, if teaching CS123: Introduction to Software Engineering was enough of a harrowing experience (I profusely apologize to the students who had to suffer through that!), how would I handle teaching here? I felt that I needed a year to immerse myself in the environment and learn more about the subjects before even considering a teaching assistantship.

By the time one of my friends told me to just Go Ahead and Apply for It, the deadline had long passed. I e-mailed Brenda Fung telling her that I was interested, anyway.

Good thing I did. I just got e-mail from her asking me to get in touch with one of the professors in order to discuss my teaching qualifications. And good thing my previous classes gave me plenty of comments on my TeachingEvaluations, too (although most of them were about candy)...

Teaching. I miss asking and answering questions. I miss racking my brain for examples and analogies. I miss seeing that aha! moment. I miss teaching. I miss waiting for people who never come during consultation hours. Sheesh, I even miss checking papers. I've got this awesome collection of gel pens now, which is good because I prefer to check in green, purple or some other non-red color.

I think teaching will certainly make the year fun.

I should read phdcomics again...

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August 15, 2005 - Categories: philippines

Philippine photographers show their mercenary side, and Charo is incensed. I think those people missed the point. (Except for Charo, who's right on. =) )

Yes, it would be nice if the Ayala Foundation offered some compensation. But hey, it's not just about money. An opportunity to meet four other photographers who care enough about the country to donate their time, _and_ an opportunity to establish or improve relations with the Ayala Foundation... Not bad! _Plus_ you get the warm and fuzzy feeling of having helped out. Good stuff.

I'm in Toronto right now, and I'm still making room in my budget for charity. I'm definitely looking for something I can donate time to. Hmm, maybe I can check if the Hospital for Sick Kids will let me volunteer to tell stories or something like that...

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A bum in a Google cap

August 16, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

"Invented the word 'weblog', and never made a dime." Jorn Barger. Online legend, now homeless blogger living on a dollar a day.


From Ton's Independent Thoughts, from the blogroll of Seb's Open Research.


August 16, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Wow, I'm flattered. A human is actually taking the trouble to follow my antispam instructions only to spam me with something in Chinese. You can stop doing that, by the way. I tend to not post things I don't understand...

E-Mail from Richi's server


August 16, 2005 - Categories: barkada, friends

Clair and my mom went shopping the other day. They started shopping at 3:30, and they ended up hanging out all the way until 11. I think that's totally amazing. I _love_ it when my friends and my family get along splendidly. Clair totally rocks. My mom totally rocks. =) Wow.

And my mom remembered that I bought books on dealing with quarter-life crisis, and recommended them to Clair. Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww... That's so cool!

I have fantastic friends. I'm a happy girl.

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Red Flag Deals: Great articles

August 17, 2005 - Categories: canada

Check out Red Flag Deals for great promos in Toronto. The articles are also immensely useful.

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Trudging home with groceries

August 17, 2005 - Categories: cooking, cookordie, life

I bought four whole frozen chickens today, taking advantage of a promo at Price Chopper to stock up on ingredients for chicken adobo, chicken adobo, and oh! more chicken adobo. I also gave in to the temptation to get a large resealable bag of frozen chicken nuggets, and I ventured into the world of frozen vegetables (which are much easier to manage than fresh ones).

I have come to the conclusion that I need to drastically rethink my budget, and quite possibly impose a (temporary) moratorium on buying books while I sort out my finances again. Pfft.

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No talent in the Philippines?

August 18, 2005 - Categories: issues, philippines

SpecOps Labs thinks there's not enough IT talent in the Philippines.

What a totally bogus excuse. You have no idea how angry that makes me. I'm going to rant about it at length today, but I'm going to post this in advance so that you can respond on your own blogs. E-mail me or use the feedback form so that I can link to your entry.

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Too chicken to try anything new

August 18, 2005 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

I bought four whole chickens at the recent Price Chopper sale, trying to get into once-a-month or freezer cooking. I've been very happy with my lasagna and adobo leftovers so far, so I decided to scale up a bit and do my next few weeks' meals in one go. It was a toss-up between trying new recipes all the time and trying once-a-month cooking, and I decided that experimentation can wait until I've got a stock of leftovers for lazy lunches and dinners.

Chopping the chicken was harder than I thought. Fortunately, Cooking for Engineers has an illustrated guide to cutting up chicken. The first chicken ended up as a mangled tangle of unrecognizable parts, but the second chicken separated cleanly into somewhat recognizable wings, breast, and quarters (drumsticks + thighs). The ordeal was enough to make me consider roasting the other two chickens, though, and now I'm going to have to find a way to deal with roast chicken in the freezer.

Not knowing how to make chicken soup means I can't make the most of the bones and other parts. Pff. I have come to the conclusion that ten cents or so per pound is a small price to pay for the convenience of having my chicken all cut up and ready for me. I should look into exactly how much the chicken parts I like are, anyway.

I can only hope that I have enough freezer space for all the adobo and roast chicken I've got planned. Meep. I can do this! I can do this! I can do this!

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No talent in the Philippines? Yeah, right. – rant

August 18, 2005 - Categories: issues, philippines

SpecOps Labs thinks there's not enough IT talent in the Philippines. That's why they had to outsource their development, they said.

If they had a hard time finding talent, it was because geeks stay away from companies that suck.

Let me tell you what this geek thinks about SpecOps.

When my teacher asked me two years ago if I wanted to work on an open source project, of course I was interested. I checked out SpecOps' website, eager to find out about their technical vision and who else would be working on the project. What did I find?

Buzzwords. Egotistic claims. A schedule straight out of a marketer's dream and a developer's nightmare. I knew then and there that SpecOps was a company that had no clue.

In the geek world, clue is extremely important. If you want to attract the best talent, you need to have clue. You need to know what you're talking about. You _definitely_ need to show that you're not all hype and no code.

I told my teacher that SpecOps gave me the heebiejeebies and that there was no way in heck I was going to touch the project.

I wasn't the only geek who smelled something fishy. As soon as SpecOps' claims hit mailing lists and newsgroups, geeks around the world ripped SpecOps to pieces. Sure, SpecOps tried to do damage control, but geek trust is hard to regain.

SpecOps may razzle and dazzle venture capitalists and journalists with a quick show-and-tell, but they don't have enough clue to get geeks on board.

Lack of IT talent in the Philippines? Yeah, right. They should blame it on the fact that we've got clue, and they just don't.

So here are three tips for companies who want to have clue.

1. DO contribute to the open source community.

Give credit and code as often and as publicly as you can. Build your reputation by contributing patches and posting messages on mailing lists. That's whre we'll factcheck you to find out if you know what you're talking about. If you've got the geek power to influence an open source project like WINE, then we'll believe that you can make a commercial product out of it. If the first time the open source community hears from you is through the press release saying you've invented a solution that could change the world, don't blame us if we laugh at you.

2. DO NOT contract your website to frustrated adventure novel writers.

It's a pity you can't find all their old press releases on the website any more, but here's a snippet for your enjoyment:

The story behind David reads like an adventure novel: In July of 2002, news of SpecOpS Labs' discovery was leaked from Oracle-Philippines to Microsoft in Redmond WA. Microsoft immediately relayed a communiqué to an Asian based Private Investigator requesting detailed info on the SpecOpS Labs Platform; days later, news of the investigation was intercepted by a friendly asset and delivered to SpecOpS Labs. In August, the Philippines' top computer scientist & MIT alumni scrutinized the David blueprint and certified its validity; a few weeks later, a high-ranking ASEAN IBM Official learned of the discovery and its certification and requested a meeting with SpecOpS Labs.

Sheer hilarity. The rest of the text that's still on the website just smacks of ego and marketing.

3. DO take care of your geeks.

A tech company should focus more on its geeks than on its venture capitalists. Assemble a great team and you can find funding to grow. The best geeks don't answer want ads or cold calls. We're all off doing something interesting.

Here's how to get our attention:

  1. Contribute to the community. That'll get you onto our radar.
  2. Have a geek-friendly website. That'll get us curious.
  3. Take care of the geeks you've got. Impress them and they'll draw in more geeks. Geek testimonials count a lot.

Don't be like SpecOps. Be clueful, and you'll find plenty of geeks doing amazing things in the Philippines.

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Post your reaction!

August 18, 2005 - Categories: issues, philippines

Discuss the SpecOps issue over at . Go,! =)

(I'm not part of, but I have friends who blog there, and I like what they're doing. They have clue.)

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August 19, 2005 - Categories: canada

I thought I had escaped typhoons and bad weather. Turns out Toronto's got them too. Without the ever-so-convenient jeepneys that ply Manila's streets, I had to walk that soggy distance home. Good thing I'd brought a large plastic bag for my lunch and my binder. The bag kept my binder mostly dry. My computer was also safe and sound. Water leaked through my rain cloak, though, and my clothes were slightly damp by the end of the trip. Still, I couldn't help but feel happy

As soon as I got home, I dropped my clothes in the laundry, combed my hair, and settled into a warm, fuzzy, pink bathrobe. Hooray for bathrobes!

I found out that the rain cloak I _so_ love using isn't rated for typhoons. Should I get an umbrella as well? A foldable umbrella would fit into my black-and-orange bag, but I'm not sure how sturdy it could be. A full umbrella would be too inconvenient for me, so I guess I'll have to find a decent foldable umbrella. Someone sent me a link to lifetime-guaranteed umbrellas before. I should check them out.

My black stretch pants turned out to be a little too long, and they got stretched even further by the weight of the rain and the stress of being stepped on every so often. I am going to have to buy another, sturdier pair of stretch pants. This pair will not do. As I have given up on them, I may as well try hemming them to match my length. If I mess up, I wouldn't have lost much. If I manage to sew it, I'll have gained a new skill! (Thanks again to St. Scholastica's College!)

The sun has just come out. Maybe I should've just waited for the rain to end. Hmph.

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Firefox bookmarklet to e-mail a site

August 20, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

J Wynia posted a bookmarklet that lets you e-mail any page to a friend. E-mail to a Friend bookmarklet. Try using it with Mozilla Thunderbird.

Way too much exercise

August 20, 2005 - Categories: emacs, writing

I got out of bed at 8 this morning and walked all the way down to Lake Ontario. Two hours of leisurely walking punctuated by oranges bought at a nearby market made an excellent start to my day, and I was satisfied by the fact that I'd (gasp!) managed to get myself out of bed on a Saturday morning to exercise.

Of course, I knew that was just another form of procrastination. I do very odd things in order to procrastinate writing articles. I even managed to vacuum and mop the kitchen floor while "taking a break from writing".

But I managed to finish the article today! I started out by drafting it as a letter to a student who had asked me for advice a few months back, and then I edited it to make the letter more general. I can't post the article on my blog yet, but those of you who watch my bookmarks may have an idea of what October's column for the On Campus magazine will be like. =)

I decided to reward myself by releasing another version of Planner, the personal inforation manager I maintain. (Yes, my reward system is all screwed up.) I merged more than 70 changes from the development tree into the stable tree and released a new version available at and all the usual places. I haven't put it up on plannerlove yet, but I'll be working on that next weekend.

Then I decided to walk to Goodwill. I ran into Tarun on the way out, and he decided to come along. We walked all the way to Sherbourne Street (a good 40 minutes' walk) only to find out that Goodwill closed earlier than I thought. It was fun chatting with him about the MBA program, though, so the extra exercise wasn't too bad.

All in all, a good day. I feel marginally fitter, but that might just be delusion. ;)

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Pictures from the lab

August 21, 2005 - Categories: Uncategorized

Calum put up pictures of one of our lab meetings. I'm the leftmost girl in pictures 2 and 3. You can tell because in what most Canadians would consider pleasantly warm weather, I'm wearing a sweater.

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Surround yourself with exceptional people

August 21, 2005 - Categories: career

Steve Pavlina advises people to surround themselves with exceptional people. It's advice found in many self-improvement books as well, and something I firmly believe in. High-energy, successful, happy people around you will inspire you to be like that too.

It started with my family. My dad's passion for his work taught me that you could reach greater heights if you're doing something you're passionate about. My mom's books and stories taught me to appreciate the business that supports and is built around such passion. My sisters showed me what it was like to make your own paths and take those adventures. My godparents showed me how wonderful a supportive group of friends can be. My high school friends were also supportive and inspiring, and they dreamed big dreams too.

I fumbled a bit in first year college because I was more focused on fitting in, but when I went back to my roots and joined the dorm network team, I found another amazing group of geeks. And I don't really know how we all got together, but the friends I made while I was teaching totally, totally rock as well. We face different challenges and we may not face all of them successfully, but I really admire their attitude towards life. They are fundamentally happy.

I seek out groups like the Toastmasters. I want to be a professional speaker, and being surrounded by people working on their communication skills is absolutely fantastic. I love talking to people who are passionate about teaching and research; they give me an idea of what lies ahead. I am inspired by people who are making a difference or who are working on doing so, like Lawrence Hughes and Maoi Arroyo in terms of Philippine IT opportunities. I admire Mario Carreon for his passion for teaching even as he gets heartbreaking results from students. I am surrounded by excellent people, and the more I learn from them, the more people I find.

Surround yourself with exceptional people. It isn't easy. You can't just say "I want to get to know you" and leave it at that. A daily "Hi" is much less effective than the occasional "I'd like to know more about ..." or "What do you think about ..." that takes the person's interests into account. But you can do it, and you'll learn so much by doing so!

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Tired but I’m happy

August 21, 2005 - Categories: friends

Yes, this is one of those how-was-your-day posts. You can skip over it if you want. =)

I tried returning my bike today, but the BikeShare hub I went to was still closed at 10:15 AM. Oh well. Even the prospect of a $2 overdue fine was not enough to ruin what was otherwise a perfect day. =)

Beautiful, beautiful weather—sunny, but not too sunny. (And certainly nothing like the showers predicted by the weather feed I have in my Bloglines aggregator!) Perfect weather for going to Canada's Wonderland, a theme park with a gazillion roller coasters. Whee!

Calum Tsang got me a waaay-discounted ticket care of Bell Mobility. At CAD 29 (including free lunch and parking), it was a great deal. Conversation certainly made the hour-long waits bearable, and it was a lot more fun than reading a textbook in line. =)

We had fun talking about photography. I spotted a great shot while we were standing in line for one of the coasters. In one of the coaster seats was a very serious-looking Old World matron wearing a black babushka. Her face had a lot of character, thanks to deep lines on her forehead and around her mouth. She sat in a roller coaster with bright red restraints, and she was just looking into the distance... That was pretty cool. Anyway, I told Calum stories about Papa and Kathy taking pictures on vacations. He checked out the Adphoto website and thought their shots were really, really cool. =)

The rides were _sooo_ cool. I really liked the Italian Job. You know how most coasters start out by bringing you up a hill, giving you plenty of time to discuss the weather? This one was fast from the very beginning. And there was a segment in darkness, too! And special effects! That coaster totally rocked. The other coasters were great, too—I liked Top Gun because it didn't have a floor!—but the Italian Job was my favorite.

After our coaster adventures, we headed over to Commisso Brothers for lasagna. Now, you gotta wonder why an Italian bakery needs to be open 24 hours. <laugh> Calum had an interesting theory, which I probably shouldn't share here because it might get me in trouble. ;)

We also grabbed ice cream from Baskin Robbins. I had a white chocolate / dark chocolate mousse ice cream scoop on a sugar cone. I think he had French vanilla. Ice cream... Yay! =)

I made it back to the dorm by 9:15. I grabbed my chocolate mug and headed down for Sunday night socials. While standing near the milk, I chatted with Catherine(?) and another girl (waah, forgot her name) about shopping and sales. I also chatted with Tarun, Shanghai and Yeow Tong about Wonderland.

I felt _really_ warm and fuzzy when one of the grad students (waah! forgot!) went up to me and invited me to play a game of Scrabble after the graduate council meeting. He even asked me to be nice, as he didn't know how good the other student was yet. <laugh> The last game we played saw some pretty high scores. That was tons of fun, too!

I guess I got distracted talking to Hernan about research and teaching (he's doing his Ph.D. in theoretical physics), and I didn't see people getting together for the game. Maybe they got tired because of the meeting. Maybe I'll get to play with them next week. Anyway, I talked to Brian a bit before heading back to my room. =)

Very good day. Tiring, but awesome.

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Congrats to Sam Jacoba, who won a Microsoft Circle of Excellence Award!

August 22, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Sam Jacoba won a Microsoft Circle of Excellence award for his contributions to public education. Hooray!

I met Sam Jacoba because Microsoft sponsored one of our high school programming competitions. I thought he was really cool. Not evil at all. =)

Let’s connect

August 22, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I want to find geeks in the Philippines and learn about what kind of work they want to do. I'm particularly interested in people who are looking for bigger challenges or who know of cool jobs.

I want to find business people and learn about the kind of geeks they're looking for. I'm particularly interested in clueful companies with high geek concentration.

I want to find teachers who are interested in improving their teaching skills.

I want to find personal coaches and productivity consultants.

I'm on LinkedIn as Sandra Jean Chua ( Let's connect.

Should I go for the teaching assistantship?

August 22, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Should I go for the teaching assistantship for Decision Support Systems? If I accept the job, I'd be handling the lab sessions for the course.

Is it something I'm excited about? I like teaching. The professor seems to care about teaching as well, and he handles the tutorials himself. That's good. I'll probably learn a lot from him. Does the subject itself excite me? Browsing through the textbook turns up a couple of interesting stuff that I'll be able to use in groupware research and later on. It's a good opportunity to learn about organizations' information needs.

Does it fit into my long-term plans? I'll learn about information organization and visualization, which might be useful for executive coaching later on.

Is it worth 6 hours a week or 78 hours of my life? I guess so.


August 22, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

It was cold today, cold enough to drive me back into the dorm in search of a light leather coat. I took the bobby pins out of my hair so that my ears would be hidden and warm, and reminded myself that fall wouldn't officially begin until late September.

Nethack Girls

August 23, 2005 - Categories: women

One of the coolest things about my boyfriend liking the same ancient and obscure text-based roleplaying game I do is that I can ask for character art. I like playing wizards and priestesses (always with pet cats named Neko!), and My Boyfriend(tm) made me this uber-cute drawing. Whee!


August 24, 2005 - Categories: emacs
I know you'll be very pleased to learn that I am typing this letter to you on Emacs. I can't claim any great degree of expertise with it. In fact, I am still fumbling around with the navigation and editing shortcuts. But I suppose this is a start. I should get around to various plugins and eventually planner pretty soon.

— Dominique Cimafranca

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! =)

Welcome to the Dark Side. The Collective. The Church. ;)


E-Mail from Dominique Cimafranca

Music in the night

August 24, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

In the middle of a thorny reflection on who I am and what I'm doing here, I heard a lovely aria float through the windows. Quite a feat, considering I'm 5 floors up and the windows are insulated because of the weather.

I slipped a leather coat over fluffy pink pajamas and hurried to the courtyard to see what was going on. I found two girls leaning over the balcony. One, the singer, had an absolutely marvelous voice. Sure, she paused every now and then to chastise herself for to-me-inaudible faults, but her voice was so well-rounded and resonant... Wow. The other, her friend, occasionally broke in with encouragement and reminders. What an amazing pair!

I applauded and asked if I could keep listening. They didn't mind. Turns out they're not residents of Grad House, but they like the acoustics. Cool!

At the prompting of her friend, the singer launched into Ave Maria. She then segued into Don't Cry for Me Argentina and another song I couldn't recognize. Then a residence adviser poked her head out and said it was all very nice but it was a bit loud. I suppose 11:30 PM is not the best time for opera, but still...

I forgot to ask her name. Now I won't get to tell you, "I heard her before she was famous."

What a wonderful treat! =D

My mom’s on her way!

August 24, 2005 - Categories: family

Yay! Yay! Yay! =D

Tried poutine

August 24, 2005 - Categories: canada

Poutine is this strange glop of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds. It's okay, I guess, although I like my fries a bit drier. =) Thanks to Calum for insisting I try it. Apparently, it's one of those Canadian things.

It's a lot more palatable than dinuguan or balut, for sure.

Burst of productivity, thoughts on maintenance

August 25, 2005 - Categories: emacs

It's 9:17 and I'm looking at a neat list of completed planner tasks, mainly thanks to Sergey Vlasov's attention to detail and neat bugfixing skills. The Planner community has really grown in all directions. Practically all the bugfixes and new features come from the users themselves; they're really more co-developers. My role as a maintainer, then, is more of documenting what's there, helping newbies, guiding people through the source code, and hosting the thing. Other projects have maintainers who set the project's direction. On the other hand, I follow where people go. I really enjoy doing that, and it thrills me to no end when I can hack something together quickly to fit a particular person's way of working. =) I'm not much of a maintainer—bugs keep creeping in, new features hardly get worked on—but I really love working with the community. _They're_ the real maintainers, and they're soooooo cool.

Wow! Cleared my mail inbox!

August 25, 2005 - Categories: emacs

Finally unticked everything in mail.misc and mail.planner. All the ticked mails are now represented as tasks in my planner... Yay! =) That feels good, too.

Planner tip: What day is it?

August 25, 2005 - Categories: emacs

I sometimes forget what day it is, so I changed my planner template to something that fills in the day, too.

(defun sacha/planner-day-page-template ()
  "Day page template for Sacha."
  (let ((date (planner-filename-to-calendar-date (planner-page-name))))
    (insert "Headlines for "
            (calendar-day-name date)
            ":\n\n\n\n* Tasks\n\n\n* Notes\n\n")))
(setq planner-day-page-template 'sacha/planner-day-page-template)

The faint smell of burnt protein…

August 25, 2005 - Categories: life

... wafts up from freshly-dried pillows.

Hmm. Maybe they're serious about "tumble-dry low-heat for several hours".

Argh. Got my own number wrong.

August 25, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I've been writing down "832" instead of "834" as the first three digits of my cellphone. Argh.

Begging for money on a street corner

August 26, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Begging for money on a street corner was a lot more tiring than I expected.

Starving grad student looking for alternative sources of funding? Nah, just volunteering for the Toronto Busker Fest to help raise money for Epilepsy Toronto.

I got a cool T-shirt and a slice of pizza. Oh, and much-needed practice for grad-school applications for funding...

Totally blown away

August 27, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I attended the 74th Annual Convention of Toastmasters International, and the experience just totally blew me away. The quality of speech was beyond anything I'd ever experienced. We had not only one brilliant speaker but _ten_—eleven, really, including the extremely capable and funny master of ceremonies. And that was just in the morning!

And boy, Toastmasters are a _great_ audience. People were laughing, people were cheering, people were energetic and out there. That encouraged speakers to pour even more energy into their presentations. Amazing stuff!

Each of us had evaluation sheets, and I struggled to score people who were so far beyond my capabilities. After the first two speakers, I knew I would probably end up giving everyone a perfect score. I just didn't know how to evaluate them! They all sounded and looked so fun, so good... Seeing my distress, the gentleman on my right leaned forward and whispered, "You don't have to bother with numbers. There's usually a clear winner. Just see which speakers affect you the most."

He then introduced himself as Richard Hockett. Throughout the rest of the morning he deepened my appreciation of the contest by telling me anecdotes about the contestants, like the way Lance Miller had competed using the same basic idea two or three years ago, but had been disqualified for going a heartbreaking fraction of a second overtime.

When the judges announced that one of the contestants had disqualified because of time, I groaned in sympathy. Could it be Lance? I liked Lance's speech the most. It was delightful and insightful, and if he had lost for the second time because of a fraction of a second... Awww!

But it was his lucky day today, and he was too professional to make the same mistake twice. He won first place! We gave him a standing ovation when it was announced, and another standing ovation at the end of his speech. It was really cool.

The contest was an amazing experience. You _had_ to be there! The contestants were masters at body language and theatrics, vocal variety and speech organization. Amazing. Consummate actors, natural comedians, inspired storytellers... They completely redefined my ideas of a brilliant speech and gave me new role models. Wow. Well worth the convention fee, even if I have to eat ramen for months.

In fact, I even sprung for the MP3 records of the entire convention, sans speakers who didn't give permission. Not the same as being there and seeing everything, but at least I can be inspired by the content _and_ the technique. Wow. I will think of it as a long-term investment. I'll need to keep telling myself that while I eat ramen because of my totally blown budget... ;)

Richard and I chatted after the competition. Upon learning I'm from the Philippines, he told me his wife came from Cebu, and casually mentioned that Johnny Uy (our scintillating MC) is also married to a Cebuana. (Lawrence Hughes will be pleased to know about that. It will encourage him in one of his sinister conspiracies. ;) )

This large-hearted economics/speech/presentations professor then proceeded to give me even more tips on public speaking. Really, I'm amazed at how wonderful people are in Toastmasters, and how ready people are to reach out and adopt this newbie. ("You've only been a Toastmaster for a month? Wow!" "Yeah, I was really thrilled to find out there was an international convention in Toronto! Perfect timing!")

After that exhilarating experience, I looked for people I knew. I wandered around the lobby until I heard snatches of Tagalog. I introduced myself and asked where I might find Gina, Charo's friend. Another woman turned to me and asked, "Chua? Are you the daughter of John Chua?" As it turns out, she's Tita Virgie's sister, Irene! Had I written Tita Irene earlier (which I would have had I not misplaced her contact information... =|), I would have had the pleasure of meeting them much earlier. Better late than never, though, and we all headed out for some lunch.

The Filipinos were really nice! I thought they were going to a Thai restaurant, and anything with the word "restaurant" in it would have been even further out of my budget, so I tried to excuse myself and go grab a hotdog instead. It turned out that they were just heading to the food court in a nearby mall. When I offered to pay for my meal, though, Marlon refused to hear of it and insisted on treating me to a chicken teriyaki meal... Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

It was great meeting other Filipino Toastmasters based in Toronto and elsewhere. I finally got to talk to Gina (and, err, mistakenly picked up her copy of the program). I also had a lot of fun chatting with Tony Cortes, president of the Sick Kids Toastmasters Club. Sick Kids Hospital is doing some really, really nice work, and I told him how I wanted to volunteer to tell stories to kids. Turns out they've got a regular reading hour set up, so I'll get in touch with him and volunteer to do that maybe once a week or once every two weeks.

After a fun lunch, we headed back to the convention center. I caught a talk on organizing classrooms which stressed the importance of establishing procedures to help make sure that a classroom runs smoothly. I bought a book and I'm looking forward to e-mailing insights from that to Mario Carreon and other teachers interested in that sort of stuff. =) Then I caught another talk on influencing people better by understanding what your filters are and what their filters are. Randy Park had successfully made the jump from tech guy to professional speaker and author, so I wrote him fan-mail on the back of the suggestion form and submitted the form after the presentation. Yay! Learned a lot!

Hitting the lobby after the convention, I mustered enough self-confidence to smile and talk to people. For some reason or another, Erastus Mongave (technical and community college teacher in Delaware) and I started talking. When he found out I was just a month-old Toastmaster, he laughed and introduced me to a friend who joined Toastmasters 6 months ago and who thought he was the "youngest" Toastmaster at the convention. We got a good laugh about that one, and when his friend wandered off to other conversations, Erastus and I talked about teaching. Another Toastmaster asked if she could take our picture, introducing herself as Geetha Nicodemus from Dubai. Then Ari Caylakyan wandered past (finally! someone from Toast I.T.!), and we chatted about Sabah Dattu's speech about Burj al-Arab, the seven-star hotel in Dubai.

(Aha! I'm onto something here. The more I experience or learn, the easier "small talk" becomes. Maybe that's why older people don't mind small talk as much.)

Then Richard found me again, and I told him about the small-world effect of finding out that the Cebuana he mentioned that morning is the sister of a family friend. =) We chatted a bit more, and he invited me to the Toastmasters karaoke party after the main dinner event. I didn't have a ticket to the dinner event, so Ari and I headed off to the subway. Ari already had something else planned for the evening, but I'm definitely not going to pass up the chance to hang out with other Toastmasters some more.

Argh! Why didn't I go for the dinner option? At first glance, USD 75 for a dinner that featured the installation of the 2005-2006 Board of Directors was a bit pricey. Heck, at first glance, USD 110 for the Saturday pass was pricey. But going for that—catching the first circus, in the words of my parents—really paid off for me, and now that I think about it, I should've signed up for dinner as well. I wasn't quite sure if I could make the most of it, but with the energy I had from the convention and with such wonderful guides, I'm sure I would have met many, many other fantastic people. Next time, Sacha, cross the barriers of fear!

I still need to work on my introductions. Must get that active voice introduction all fixed, and must trim my introductions down so that I can quickly put the focus back on other people. But that was just soooo much fun. I know today's going to be one of those days I'll look back at and say "That was _totally_ cool."

Last note: seven compliments on the red Thai pants. Kathy, I owe you _tons_ for having such awesome taste. I need more of these pants. I think it's not just the cut, but the material. Shiny dark red stuff is good for me.

Really last note: They don't have easily-findable homepages... =( Hmm, should mention this to Stephen Perelgut to get his insights on personal/professional role separation.

Mom’s trip

August 29, 2005 - Categories: family

Mom's on her way to Toronto! =) She'll be here from August 31 (AC 272, 16:40) to September 14 (AC 364, 16:35). Yay! Yay! Yay!

E-Mail from Harvey Chua

The joy of paper

August 29, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

There is something inexpressibly elegant about fine cream cards and gold-lined envelopes, and it was with great delight that I found my favorite monogrammed cards at Sears. One of my ninangs introduced me to Crane and Company's elegant gold-embossed cards by way of a gift for my 21st birthday, and I have been in love with them ever since.

I sifted through racks of stationery at bookstores and convenience stores to pick several more for my collection. Four blue-and-green-tinged sheets shaped like leaves are perfect for writing about fall. Cream stationery with classic gold-embossed angels are just right for writing to the people who have done extremely wonderful things. A card with a quotation about eloquence captures my sentiment after the Toastmasters convention, and a birthday card featuring an annoyed cat reminded me so much of Neko that I can hardly wait to send it to my mom for her birthday.

With the awesome collection of gel pens my mom gave me, I can match each card to just the right color of ink. I want to buy a colored-ink set for glass or fountain pens, having discovered the joy of glass pens through fellow enthusiast Charo Nuguid. With the right pens and cards, writing thank-you notes becomes such a pleasure.

I need pictures

August 29, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

After flipping through all of my digital pictures, I've realized that I don't have a good head shot. My nicest pictures are the ones my dad took of me and my wearable computer. I can use that for tech, I guess, but I need more pictures.


30-day challenges: Touch three times

August 29, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

After having successfully become an early riser, J Wynia has set a new challenge for the next 30 days: read 100 pages a day.

I don't have much of a print backlog because I read quickly and regularly, so I'll set myself a different challenge: to touch three people. I will initiate three messages a day.

It's too easy for me to fall into the habit of just reacting to whatever mail I get, writing only when I receive a note (and sometimes not even then). I want to change that. I want to proactively reach out.

I'm learning that I don't have to rush through my schoolwork or my research, and that the time I take to enjoy people's company will be worth far more in the end.


August 29, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Figuring out voicemail for the first time. It's so nice hearing people's voices... I'm really glad my phone is a great speakerphone!

Maybe I’ve missed my calling…

August 30, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

"You could have sold me _anything,_" said the Toastmaster who evaluated my speech about a personal board of directors.

Hmm. ;)

I got the Olympus WS-100 digital voice recorder upon the recommendation of several speakers. I used it to record my third Toastmaster speech, and let me tell you—hearing your own voice trip over words and dilute itself with countless "And"s and "you knows"... that's really something.

I need to re-record my speech before I can put it online. I think I'll do that tomorrow night, in the piano room.

Computer literacy project in Ozamiz City, Philippines

August 31, 2005 - Categories: philippines

From strato887:

Hi..gud pm! on-going na yung class namin for computer literacy project for out-of-school-youth, OOo ang gamit namin na office application in fact culmination na namin this september 10. then we organized the youth to form a local group that help promote and propagate open source systems...SATUX (San Antonio TUX) name ng group nila

Check out the announcement on a mailing list.

Marketing in the age of blogs

August 31, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Most ads boil down to "Buy this so that you can be cool like us." Cigarette commercials overflow with handsome men and beautiful women. Alcohol ads boast sexy models on pristine beaches. Truth in advertising? Hah.

So when a company takes a personal interest in _you_ and ditches the "Here's why you should buy our product" spiel for a more intimate "We're interested in what you're interested in" thing, that's cool. Companies like Stormhoek are starting to recognize the word-of-mouth power of blogs and making it a part of their marketing strategy.

Stormhoek gave away free bottles of wine to people who would then blog about it. Great way to get astrophysicists to talk about your product.

You can't buy that kind of publicity for $10. Oh, wait, you can.

Geek dinners

August 31, 2005 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Geek Dinners is a well-attended geek get-together blog based in the UK. I want to set up something like that in the Philippines.

Mom’s here!

August 31, 2005 - Categories: family

Yay! =)