July 2006

Turning downtime into uptime

July 1, 2006 - Categories: productivity

One of the reasons why I wanted a Blackberry or some other portable device was to make better use of those interstitial moments walking from Graduate House to the subway station or taking the train. I had thought of using the time to practice connecting with people, but it’s hard to do that when people don’t smile or make eye contact. I’ve also tried reading. I snag a newspaper on my way out and keep a folder of executive summaries from Books24x7 in my backpack. Listening to music? Sure, although I usually find myself looping over one song or album.

After hearing Dan Zen describe his experience with recording a video
blog while driving his car (kids, don’t try that at home!), I thought:
hey, why not record on the go? The quality’s going to be terrible -
lots of ums and ahs and random traffic noises – but just as blogging
helps me refine my thoughts, talking about things will help me refine
my stories.

It turns out that the digital voice recorder I bought
almost a year ago is surprisingly useful. The low
sensitivity setting on the microphone works perfectly for noisy
settings, and I can pick out my own voice easily. For presentations
and the like, I set it on high sensitivity so that I can record the
presentation clearly even on the iPod screen.

Good stuff!

Random Japanese sentence: フランス語のCHATは英語のCATを意味する。 The French word `chat’ means `cat’

Purposeful interaction

July 1, 2006 - Categories: connecting

I realized yesterday that one of my weaknesses is that I’m usually
more reactive than proactive when it comes to interacting with people.
It’s very easy for me to connect with people and help them feel
comfortable. I feel good when I help people relax or think.

This has its dangers, however. I’ve often focused more on what will
help other people grow than what will help me grow. Sometimes my
schedule can get rather complicated as I try to split time between
people or figure out which activities I can merge. It can also be
difficult to manage people’s expectations, particularly when people
start thinking of relationships! So no, that wasn’t working for me
that well.

Rereading the executive summary for _Never Eat Alone_, I reflected
upon its suggestion to involve people in activities about which you
feel passionate. When you share something you love and enjoy, you are
shown at your best. You also give people the feeling of being invited
into something more personal and human and real.

Thinking about that made me realize that if I choose my activities
according to what would help me grow, then I can choose people I would
like to share those activities with. I would feel like I’m doing just
the right thing at the right time and with the right people.

Today, I decided to start doing that. I asked myself, “What’s the best
thing I could do today to positively affect my life?” Visioning and
storytelling resonated with me. I invited a friend whose vision I
admire, and we had a wonderful afternoon conversation at Queen’s Park.
It was a very good decision, and definitely the best possible way I
could have spent that time.

I’m a little bit worried that I’ll end up neglecting the people who
aren’t quite related to my current interests, but then again, that’s
the power of weak ties – and I can ping people from time to time just
to say hi, anyway. I’m also a little bit worried that I’ll alienate
people who might think this too utilitarian. Don’t worry, not every
get-together has to have an agenda. I also enjoy hanging out. =)

I think the key point is to have integrity in my decisions. How I
choose to spend my time should be in line with my values and my
priorities. It should be the best thing I could think of doing at that
time, or reasonably close to it. The people I spend time with should
be the best fit for it that I can imagine. That way, when I spend time
with them, they know that it’s a conscious, this-is-the
best-thing-I-can-do-with-my-time thing. If I get that sorted out,
then everything will fall into place…

I’m happy. Good stuff.

Random Japanese sentence: この種の猫には尾が無い。 The tail is absent in this type of cat.

Goals

July 2, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

I want to be able to spend my days reading, learning, and trying
things out. I want to be able to share what I’ve learned with other
people through writing and speaking. I want to be a generalist,
learning about lots of different ideas and connecting them together. I
want to be able to introduce people to each other when I find synergy,
and I want to be able to pass ideas on to people who can make the most
of them.

The careers that resonate with me the most are technology journalist,
author, and speaker.

The best things I can do today in order to advance those goals are:

Physical Swap bicycles or get a skateboard
Social Keep in touch with family and friends
Mental Read a good book
Spiritual Share the results of my reflection on happiness

Random Japanese sentence: 強盗は屋根からあの邸宅に入ったに違いない。 The cat burglar must have entered the mansion from the roof.

Going from pre-paid to post-paid

July 2, 2006 - Categories: finance

I want to keep in touch with enough people now that the limits on my
phone are Rather Annoying. I would like free incoming calls so that I
stop worrying about minutes and so that people feel free to call me
any time of day instead of saving it for evenings and weekends. I want
to be able to hear people’s stories and insights as they happen. I’d
also like unlimited text messaging, or at any rate more text messages
than most people here probably send all their lives. ;) I don’t really
need a lot of daytime or evening minutes.

Martin Cleaver suggested that I go for a 3-year plan without
hesitation. He said that I’d probably easily find a company here
that’s willing to sponsor me for a work permit. If I decide to work
elsewhere, the company that hires me might be persuaded to buy me out
of my plan. Even if I do end up going home after my master’s, I just
need to put aside enough money to cover the cancellation charge just
in case I don’t manage to sell my contract to someone else. It’s a
relatively small expense compared to the freedom of being able to
connect.

I don’t have a credit history, though, so that might take some more
persuading. I need to first establish a North American credit card.
I’ll try persuading President’s Choice Financial to grant me a credit
card, considering my bank account with them. If not, I’ll switch to
TD’s secured credit card, and I’ll probably switch my savings and
current account to them as well in order to facilitate payment.

Bell.ca is the only provider with an unlimited text messaging plan, I
think. It offers unlimited text messaging for $10 per month. That plus
the $25 unlimited incoming plan works out quite well. Additional
minutes are 30c (ouch!), but I have unlimited nights (9 PM onwards,
what the heck?!) and weekend minutes. Additional fees include the 6.95
system access fee and a 75c 911 fee. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to
offer the Treo as an option, and Bell phones tend to be, well,
Bell-specific… WAAH!

Rogers seems to be the only one offering Treo, but their plans suck.

Ooh, Fido. I can do Fido. $25 for unlimited incoming (sign up before
Aug 8), and then $5 for 100 messages or $10 for 1000 messages. 1000 is
close enough to unlimited, I think. <laugh>

Fido is GSM, so if I can find a second-hand Treo that I’d be happy
with, that would work too. I want a Treo or some other Palm-based
device because I want to be able to sync my data over from Emacs and
BBDB. The Treo’s picture-taking capabilities also sound really
tempting. It’s a rather expensive device, but if I can make it worth
it by writing – must look for more things to write for! – that would
be totally awesome. I’d love to be able to use it the way Martin
does…

The Hiptop looks tempting, but I’ll get it only if I know it works
with Linux. I want to be able to refer to all of my notes. Otherwise,
my current phone works fine. Rumor has it that I can run Linux on the
hiptop, but I’ll only do that if I keep access to all the interesting
functionality. I want to be able to take pictures.

… Maybe I should just look for a Linux-based smartphone.

Okay. Breathe. Priorities. First things first.

The very next thing I need to do in order to make this happen is to
get myself a Canada-based credit card so that I can sign up for plans
without getting it charged back to the Philippines.

The next thing I need to do is sign up for unlimited incoming and text
messaging plans. Wireless providers usually give a substantial
discount if you choose a phone together with a plan, and there’s a
$300 discount (reducing the cost to $200) if I get the Hiptop together
with a contract. However, I might be able to get a monthly plan
without a contract, then sign a contract if I’m firmly convinced that
it’s a good phone and that I can make it work.

But the very first thing I need to do is establish credit. I can do
that on Thursday.

Random Japanese sentence: 妖精は王子を猫に変えた。 The fairy changed the prince into a cat.

On programming as a career

July 2, 2006 - Categories: career, emacs, life, reflection

Raj Shekhar reminded me that software development is a career too, and that there are software companies that use exciting things like LISP.

My background is in computer science, and I spent almost all my
summers in high school training for programming competitions. I was a
geek’s geek, with algorithms and code coming out of my ears. I still
enjoy writing code to make things work. =) I’m much more comfortable
reading other people’s code and making sense of it than other people I
know – apparently, a rare thing. ;) I also enjoy writing
documentation. These two factors cause most people to doubt my
existence. What, a programmer who likes reading other people’s code
_and_ writing documentation?! Right up there with unicorns and
dragons, mate. ;)

But that’s not all of who I am, and I get the sense that’s not what
I’m best suited for.

In yesterday’s conversation about the meaning of life and other
things, Simon Rowland pointed out
that I’m more relationship-driven than technology-driven. When I
argued that I’m still a technologist at heart, he laughed and pointed
out that even my Emacs Lisp coding is motivated by contact with
people. The reason why I enjoyed working on Planner so much was
because I could make people really happy by writing code to fit their
editor and personal information manager to their particular needs. And
it wasn’t people in abstract, people in general, but rather one person
at a time, with completely idiosyncratic code that I might never
reuse.

I like working with technology on a human scale. I love personalizing
things. I love working one-on-one with people. I don’t like being
abstracted away from users. I want them to be able to yell at me when
something goes wrong, and I want them to be able to express their
appreciation when things go right. I don’t want to deal with market
studies and hypothetical users. I want names and faces and stories.

I guess that’s why software development or system administration don’t
really appeal to me as careers. I know a lot of developers and sysads
who enjoy their work and are doing cool things, but their work doesn’t
strike a chord in me. I love developing skills that aren’t part of the
traditional developer profile. I love writing and public speaking, and
I want to do that as part of my day job instead of just something I do
on the side.

Some people have advised me to take a code monkey job, just for the
heck of it. Just to gain experience and give myself more time here in
North America, you know. As tempting as it is, though, my instinct?
feeling? sense? tells me that there might be a better path. If it’s at
all possible for me to follow my passion at each step, I’d rather do
that and be exceptional rather than be a mediocre programmer.

When I ask myself what I’d do if I could work without thinking about
money, what I’d do even if no one paid me to, the answer that
consistently comes up is: spend the entire day reading, learning,
teaching, writing, speaking, meeting people. I don’t see myself
building robust, featureful systems or crafting beautiful code. I see
myself drawing attention to other people’s stories, connecting
different ideas, introducing people to people and things that could
change their lives. At the end of my life, I don’t want people to
remember me for some program I wrote, but rather for the changes that
I helped them make in their lives, what I inspired them to do, who I
inspired them to be.

So yes: although I can code, a job that involves only that aspect of
me will not be able to make the most of me.

This probably disappoints some of my college teachers who’d rather I
were in “hard” computer science – cryptography, graph theory, whatever
- but that’s the way it is, and I want to explore that aspect of
myself.

How does that translate into a career? It’s not exactly the kind of
thing you’ll find advertised on Monster.com. I’ll probably spend the
rest of my master’s thinking about enterprise social computing and how
people can make the most of blogs, wikis, social bookmarking,
podcasting, and related technologies. I would like to stay in North
America for at least a few more years because I’m learning so much
from the tech culture here, so I’ll need to offer enough value to a
company to sponsor my work permit. I’d like to think that I can create
enough value to justify the paperwork. ;)

In particular, I’d probably fit in well as someone who can support
consultants and other people whose job it is to know about technology
but who are too busy to learn about all these different things. I’m
good at reading about lots of different things and looking at the
connections. I’m also good at searching for supporting information and
recommending things that might be useful. I’ve been complimented on my
ability to get people enthused about something, and that extra boost
might help people close sales. If you know any company that would be a
good fit for me and that I would be a good fit for, I’d love to hear
about it!

I’m also interested in writing, but that might be more of a
medium-term thing. =)

If I can find a best-fit opportunity, all the better. If I’m not quite
qualified to do that yet and I can’t find a company that will take a
chance on me and train me up, I’ll consider other opportunities – but
I definitely want something that engages not only my technological
skills but also my social ones. =)

(Thanks for the comment, Raj! I love being prompted to reflect more
because that makes me clarify my thoughts.)

On Technorati: , ,

Random Japanese sentence: 私は犬の方が猫より好きです。何故なら前者の方が後者より忠実ですから。 I like dogs better than cats, because the former are more faithful than the latter.

More:

Thinking and not thinking

July 3, 2006 - Categories: life

“Sacha, don’t overthink this,” said a friend of mine. This is not new
advice, and naturally made me think about why I’ve heard it so many
times before. (Couldn’t help it!)

I can see why people would think that I think too much. I share a lot
of thoughts on my blog, and I often ask myself deep questions. Other
people play things by ear, but I can usually give a few reasons why
I’m doing things or why I’m feeling a certain way. Even when I haven’t
quite figured out how to express something, people know I’m thinking
about it. That said, I can’t explain everything. When I try to explain
why I do things, I end up helplessly shrugging, trying to describe
that—feeling? instinct? intuition?—that _sense_ of what might be the
best thing to do at a particular time.

But do I overthink things? Do I strangle my spontaneity in logic and
attempt to reduce everything to a logic statement along the lines of
“If p implies q then not q implies not p”?

I don’t feel that I overthink things. I might give people that
impression, though, because I’ve had a lot of practice thinking about
what I feel, I like calibrating myself every so often, and I share
those thoughts with other people.

Practice

A friend remarked on my ability to articulate what I feel and what I
believe in. Like many things in life, reflection is a matter of
practice.

I’ve long thought about what I feel and why I feel that way. One of
the mementos my mom keeps in a fireproof safe is a letter that I wrote
her when I was very very young. “I hate you,” started the letter, and
it went on to explain how upset I was that my mom had broken her
promise to Kathy about cookies.

I don’t remember writing that letter, but I do remember writing about
how I hated it when my dad stole food off my plate, especially in
front of my friends – and then leaving the notebook conveniently
around. I think I even left it open to the right section. My mom
picked it up and brought it to my dad’s attention, and my dad duly
changed his behavior. In fact, he teased us about it during mealtimes,
stealing from my sister’s plate instead.

Likewise, I’ve written and talked about what I want to do with my
life. My vision changes from year to year, or even from day to day as
I learn new things. Still, because I think about my goals and
principles and I keep searching for better ways to express them, I’ve
had plenty of practice thinking and explaining the results.

New stuff I think about builds on stuff I’ve already thought about,
which is great! =)

Calibration

Every so often, I like taking a step back and making sure I’m on the
right track. I also feel a deep need to recenter, recharge, and
recalibrate whenever I feel something’s off. That means taking stock
of my goals, my priorities, and my plans for getting from here to
there. That means exploring what I feel about certain issues and
trying to come to a decision that I respect.

I don’t think about the meaning of life all the time, and I try not to
worry about things too much. I spend some time thinking about things
when I sense that I need to clarify something or when something
doesn’t quite fit.

I think about these things so that when I am in the moment, I do not
need to think. Rather, I can act confidently, knowing that my actions
are in line with my principles and values. I love that feeling when
you know you’re doing just the right thing at just the right time with
just the right people. It’s definitely worth spending time thinking
about one’s priorities in order to get that aha! moment.

Sharing

The third factor that makes people think I overthink is that I think
out loud: on my blog, in LiveJournal, in conversation… They get
exposed to more internal thoughts than they’re used to. Granted,
they’re somewhat filtered thoughts, but the main points are usually
there. I’m allowed to be wrong, and I’m allowed to change my mind -
but definitely having something out there. When I speak, it’s a good
idea of teee how immensely happy I waas.

I like sharing my thoughts for many reasons. Other people are going
through similar difficulties, and they often have insights and tips to
share. Talking with other people keeps me honest, too. In fact, I
often prefer small- or medium-sized groups over one-on-ones when it
comes to conversation.

Good stuff.

=)

Random Japanese sentence: 私は私の可愛い猫を自慢に思っています。 I am proud of my pretty cat.

Picture by laspompis on Flickr. License: Creative Commons, attribution

Domestic bliss?

July 3, 2006 - Categories: family, story

I love my family to bits. Here’s a recent story from my mom:

Hi Sacha, we spent the night here in Alabang. Kathy (for the most
part) and I cooked. although papa volunteered to wash the dishes, he
was overwhelmed by the task – because we had guests :). Last night he
joked that he would like to go back to the Philippines so he could
call Jeanna to wash dishes.:D Actually, he went to bed promising to do
the dishes in the morning but Tita Liz and Jed took charge and cleaned
everything after papa went upstairs. I didn’t tell papa. ;) When he
woke up, he said he would do as promised. When he saw that all the
dishes had been cleaned, he said his fairy godmothers came to do the
work for him. But he did wash the dishes that we used at breakfast. He
is being broken in, and we’re having fun. Wish you were here.

Papa asked, “Whats the best way to wash dishes?” Kathy answered, “Dial
(our home phone number), and tell Jeanna you’d pick her up in half an
hour.” :-D Seriously though, Papa did a great job.

I love how my family jokes with each other. =)

On Technorati: ,

Picture by brooklyn on Flickr. License: Creative Commons attribution sharealike.

Sacha Chua, skater girl

July 3, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

I bought a skateboard today. It kept bubbling up in my consciousness,
so I finally went ahead and got one. I headed down to the skateboard
shop in Kensington Market and talked to the person at the counter
about what I wanted. She talked to me about my options and advised me
not to go for the cheap already-assembled ones or buy a used one. I
thought she made sense. =) If I’m going to try this out, I might as
well pay for good stuff so that I don’t have to struggle with it.
Nice, big wheels, good tracks, etc. I got a used deck, though, as I
don’t really need a bright and shiny one. I’m also not planning to do
any tricks that’ll really chew up my board… ;)

I spent the next hour or so figuring out how to travel in a straight
line. I still haven’t quite figured out how to come to a sudden halt,
although I’ve gotten the hang of using my foot to speed up or try to
stop.

What I really, really appreciate about skateboards is that when I
panic, I can _get_ _off._ It so totally owns bicycles and inline
skates in that respect. Being able to get off the board when I feel
even the least bit worried saved me quite a number of falls earlier!

I used it on the way back, too. The road going up to Harbord (one
street west of Spadina) was fairly quiet and car-free, so I tried it
out. I managed to make it all the way up to Harbord without doing a
faceplant! Happy girl. I didn’t dare try it with the cars and people
on Harbord Street, though, but I’ll get there soon enough.

I’m cooling off in my dorm room a bit before heading along Bay to
deposit those checks and go to Indigo. Bay is a busy street, so I
won’t take my skateboard. Besides, I’ve practiced enough for today.
I’m looking forward to playing with it more tomorrow, though!

On Technorati:

(Picture by mutednarayan on Flickr. Creative Commons license: attribution, sharealike.)

Random Japanese sentence: たとえどしゃぶりになろうとも行かなければならない。 I have to go even if it rains cats and dogs.

Book day!

July 3, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

Today was a very good book day. I finished Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse,
and I bought five books – five books! – at Chapters. Details in the vidcast (10 minutes), short notes follow.

Also, some thoughts on my now-depleted book budget, the importance of books, and my new need for bookshelves…

On Amazon:

On Indigo/Chapters: (for Canadians)

Random Japanese sentence: 悲しいことに私の猫はどこかへいってしまった。 To my sorrow, my cat has gone somewhere.

Comment from my mom:

did you know I read Siddhartha when I was in college? and that I have
been looking for “Right to Write” since last year? Try to find “Sound
of Paper,” also by Julia Cameron. I’ve read Carnegie’s book and even
took their executive course. Love, Mom

Being my age

July 4, 2006 - Categories: life

When Dave Brown was in Toronto last weekend, he insisted on taking me
shopping for clothes. He picked out things I would never have tried
myself: a cropped top, a black asymmetric tube, shorts around the same
length as the miniskirt my sister gave me… <laugh> Although I
was initially quite hesitant about wearing things like that, they
turned out to be quite fun. (I still prefer skirts to pants
or shorts.) “Now you look more like your age,” Dave said.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that I’m just turning 23 this August.
I don’t need to have my career figured out yet. I don’t even need to
have people figured out yet, either. Such a liberating thought!
<laugh> I can take risks. I can explore. I can screw up and
recover (for the most part).

I really appreciate how many people around me are either going through
similar issues or can remember and empathize. Wisdom can’t be taught,
after all. Wisdom can only be learned, and I’m glad I have all these
opportunities to experience so many aspects of life _and_ people with
whom I can share those experiences.

I’m really glad things worked out the way they did, and I’m looking
forward to the future. =)

Random Japanese sentence: テーブルの上には猫がいた。 On the table there was a cat.

Three things

July 4, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

With the long Canada Day weekend drawing to a close, the three things
I can do today that will have the best influence on my life are:

Random Japanese sentence: この鼠は私の猫に殺されました。 This mouse was killed by my cat.

Book rearrangements

July 4, 2006 - Categories: writing

I need to buy more bookends. That will temporarily fix my shelving
problem. In the meantime, I can… hmm… move the rice cooker onto
the TV stand and move some of my books from my personal bookshelf to
the living room shelves.

Random Japanese sentence: 猫は暗いところでも目が見える。 Cats can see
in the dark.

Browser’s Den of Magic

July 4, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

One of the juggling shops in Toronto:

Browser’s Den of Magic

www.browsersden.com

Magic tricks for professionals and hobbyists.

Books, videos, DVDs, juggling equipment, ventriloquist dolls, jokes

Since 1975 – Mail order and retail shop

John Cardella

875 Eglinton Ave. West, #10, Toronto, Ontario, M6C 3Z9

Tel (416) 783 7022 Fax (416) 783-3560 Toll-free 1-888-469-3616 browsersden AT sympatico.ca

On Technorati:

They stock diabolo, too.

Random Japanese sentence: この猫は、いわば、我が家の一員なのです。 This cat is, so to speak, a member of our family.

Democamp

July 4, 2006 - Categories: democamp

Damian Conway is t3h c00l, _totally._ What an awesome speaker!

I was going to videoblog showing my latest hacked T-shirt (FITC2006:
Technology and Design Festival, turned into a beaded halter/tube top
with a bolero-style thing), but I seem to have left my camera at No
Regrets. Oops. Well. Hope the restaurant lives up to its name! =)

I didn’t leave my Moleskine notebook (whew!), which would’ve been far
worse considering all the fun conversations. Here’s a brief list:

Did totally smalltime Emacs demo, too. =) Should do a proper Demo soon.

Random Japanese sentence: 振り袖で仕事はできぬ。 The cat in gloves catches no mice.

Faceplant!

July 5, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

Day 3, accident 1. I faceplanted while going down a hill. But it was
tons of fun going down that hill! Nothing broken. Only mildly bruised.
(That will take some explaining at IBM!) No skin breaks, even. Not bad
for a first fall. I was going to have an accident at some point
anyway, and at least it wasn’t that silly…

Got back on the skateboard after my head cleared a bit and we got away
from all the cars. =)

Also really fun stuff: cruising behind a bike. I felt so Y.T.
</Stephenson reference>

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: その猫はミルクを飲む。 The cat drinks milk.

Imagining the future

July 8, 2006 - Categories: career, purpose, reflection

Wow. Don Marti has career advice for me. Wow.

Sacha, saying that you don’t want to be a programmer in
the 21st century because you don’t want Marketing between you and the
user is like saying you didn’t want to be a programmer in the 20th
century because you didn’t like waiting for the operator who carries
your stack of punch cards to the computer. The way software
development gets organized is always changing. It’s getting lighter
weight all the time.

And he’s right, you know. I enjoy stitching systems together and
thinking of just the right tool(s) to fit people’s needs. I love
working with people to figure out how they can make those tools a part
of their lives. I need more actual practice doing this, I think – the
technology evangelism I’m doing at IBM is barely a taste – but it
seems like a lot of fun.

I want to be a technosocial architect. From Thomas Vander Wal’s description:

Looking at the digital tools we have around us: websites, social computing services and tools (social networking sites, wikis, blogs, mobile interaction, etc.), portals, intranets, mobile information access, search, recommendation services, personals, shopping, commerce, etc. and each of these is a social communication tool that is based on technology. Each of these has uses for the information beyond the digital walls of their service. Each of these has people who are interacting with other people through digital technology mediation. This goes beyond information architecture, user experience design, interaction design, application development, engineering, etc. It has needs that are more holistic (man I have been trying to avoid that word) and broad as well as deep. It is a need for understanding what is central to human social interactions. It is a need for understanding the technical and digital impact our tools and services have in mediating the social interaction between people. It is a need for understanding how to tie all of this together to best serve people and their need for information that matters to them when they want it and need it.

Maybe I can hack code _and_ people. =)

On Technorati: , ,

Random Japanese sentence: 彼女がドアを開けるやいなや猫が走り出た。 No sooner had she opened the door than a cat ran out.

Graduate House Party

July 8, 2006 - Categories: party

We celebrated Graduate House’s 6th anniversary yesterday with a big
party. Good excuse to wear the red dress my mom gave me. <laugh>

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: ペルシャ猫がテーブルの下で眠っていた。 A Persian cat was sleeping under the table.

I’m Somebody!

July 8, 2006 - Categories: goodkarma

From Diary of a Somebody, in the Guardian (a UK newspaper):

“”The best bloggers use their blogs as a tool to engage with others on a particular topic. Too many people focus on telling their story,” advises IBM’s blogger in chief, Christopher Barger. He had been busy writing his own blog for 18 months on topics utterly unrelated to work when the chief executive summoned him to his office and informed him he had been reading his blog for a year. After an initial panic, Barger realised he was being promoted, not fired. He is now responsible for “tying blogging to IBM’s overall strategy”. In a company that employs 300,000 people, promoting a culture of internal and external blogging has led to connecting groups of people tackling similar problems across the world, identifying experts, such as Ed Brill who works on IBM’s Lotus software, now routinely quoted by journalists and analysts as an expert, and spotting future talent – such as Sacha Chau, a placement student currently at IBM Toronto, now gaining recognition for her popular internal blog.

Minor fixes: Sacha Chua, not Chau, and I’m actually a graduate student on a research fellowship, not a placement student. =) But yeah! Way fun.

<giggle>

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Random Japanese sentence: メアリーは読書をしており、1匹の猫がかたわらで眠っていた。 Mary was reading, with a cat sleeping beside her.

Productive week!

July 8, 2006 - Categories: research

I’ve made a lot of progress on nailing down my research topic. Yes,
yes, I know, I keep saying that, but this time my research supervisor
and I actually have step-by-step plans for my study! Whee!

Happy girl.

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: 私は猫がその犬を追いかけているのをみた。 I saw a cat running after the dog.

Tech goals

July 8, 2006 - Categories: emacs

Every so often, I like setting myself tech goals. My first major open
source tech goal was to hack the iPaq, considering that undergrads
were expected to do Linux on the iPaq as part of their CS degree in
some university in the US. So I did, and I ended up

The next thing I wanted to do was get into Emacs Lisp. I ended up
contributing to Emacs Relay Chat and helping out with Planner and
related modules.

Now I think I want to be more into Ruby. And Perl 6, which looks
awesome. Maybe I can practice technical writing by filling in the
documentation and writing sample code…

Random Japanese sentence: 猫がネズミを嗅ぎつけたようですね。 Seems like the cat had the wind of a rat.

Toronto International Circus Festival

July 9, 2006 - Categories: life

Announcing the 4th annual Toronto International Circus Festival(www.TOcircusfestival.com)

Presented by G.A.P Adventures (www.gapadventures.com) in support of Planeterra – the G.A.P Adventures Foundation (www.planeterra.org)

Anticipate side-splitting comedy, eye-popping acrobatics and mind-bending daredevil stunts! Ropewalkers, unicyclists, world class acrobats, side show, fire-eaters, stilt walkers, unique live musicians, face painters, balloon sculptors and more!

Friday July 14th 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Saturday July 15th 11:00 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday July 16th 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

at the Distillery Historic District

55 Mill Street, Toronto, Ontario CANADA

Incredible outdoor stages delivering non-stop circus entertainment all day, every day.

General admission is FREE

MAINSTAGE The festival highlight is a fantastic indoor showcase of highly skilled professional acrobats, aerialists and vaudevillians in a multidisciplinary event set at the rustic Fermenting Cellar.

STAGE 2 is an intimate presentation of one-man shows at Dancemakers Theatre including Australia’s ‘Carnival Electro’ and New York icon Eric Davis presenting ‘The Red Bastard’ and ‘Absence of Magic’

Late Night Lunacy Cabaret is an adults only event where the artists let loose to present no-holds-barred cabaret-style performances. Presented at the Fermenting Cellar.

Tickets for indoor venues are available at Ticket King, by phone at 416-872-1212, toll free at 1-800-461-3333, on line at www.ticketking.com, or at the door.**ADVANCE TICKETS RECOMMENDED** Limited seating capacities

No assigned seating

Toronto Festival of Clowns

The Young Centre for the Performing Arts will play host to many comic artists trained in Comedie dell’Arte, Pochinko, buffoon and other clowning traditions. Tickets available only at the door.(www.torontoclown.com)

Yonge-Dundas Square is the festival’s satellite site in the heart of downtown Toronto. Interactive outdoor circus shows will continue at the sister site all weekend long.

Random Japanese sentence: 私たちの子供は犬が好きだが私は猫の方が好きだ。 Our children like dogs, but I prefer cats.

Finally on a phone plan

July 10, 2006 - Categories: life

I’ve switched to a plan that gives me free incoming calls and
(practically) unlimited text messages. My new number is +1416TADANOW.
Or +1 416 TADBONY. ;) (This is not a comment on my physical
appearance. A friend says I look healthy.) I didn’t have a choice of
numbers, or else I’d probably get something like +1 416 1 4 EMACS. ;)

And yes, that’s my phone number out there. Use it wisely. Text
message, good. Call in the middle of the night, bad (usually). Heavy
breathing, creepy. Be nice. =)

Random Japanese sentence: 猫は夕食に魚にありつくとわくわくする。 My cat is thrilled with joy when she gets fish for dinner.

Visited a friend

July 10, 2006 - Categories: friends, life

I found myself in the neighborhood of a good friend I hadn’t talked to
in a while, so I decided to drop by. It turned out to be the best way
I could’ve spent that afternoon. I can’t share everything she talked
to me about, but listening to her clarified a few things I’d been
wondering about, and I hope that I helped her reflect on some of the
really tough things she’s going through.

I’m rereading Gail Vaz-Oxlade’s excellent book, A Woman of Independent
Means. I hope I can find something that will help.

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Random Japanese sentence: ネコがいる。 There is a cat.

Short-term plans: happy with research, thinking about internship?

July 10, 2006 - Categories: plans

Mark Chignell, Gordon Lee, Julie Waterhouse and I discussed my
research plan this morning. I’m really lucky to have such wonderful,
wonderful mentors!

I mentioned my interest in living in San Francisco for a short while
to Mark, who suggested an internship after I finish my coursework,
while I’m writing up my thesis. It’d be a good idea, I think. I’d like
to get a feel of the tech scene there, and I’d also like an
opportunity to plunge deeply into technical stuff.

I love the Philippines, and I’m looking forward to sharing a lot of
ideas with the geeks back home. I’m a lot more effective at connecting
with people when I can bump into them face-to-face, so I hope to find
a way to bridge worlds by spending some time abroad and some time at
home.

That would be just right…

Random Japanese sentence: 猫が好きな人もいれば、犬のほうが好きな人もいます。 Some people like cats, others prefer dogs.

CookOrDie: Vegetarian virtues

July 10, 2006 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

After quite a hiatus from CookOrDie blogging because I’d either been
eating out or cooking simple things, I decided to experiment a bit
today. I had leftover vegetables from Saturday’s barbecue, so I
broiled them. The mushrooms got special treatment, courtesy of a
recipe suggestion from the Joy of Cooking: I tossed them with garlic
and olive oil, and _then_ I broiled them. Wonderful stuff. Zucchini,
green pepper, red pepper, and portobello mushrooms. I rounded off
dinner with corn on the cob. Yum yum!

Now I just need to figure out what to do with the eggplant…

On Technorati: ,

Random Japanese sentence: 犬が1匹、猫が1匹、カナリヤが3羽います。 We have a dog, a cat and three canaries.

Excited about EXITE

July 12, 2006 - Categories: teaching

Every year, IBM holds a week-long camp for 7th and 8th grade girls,
encouraging them to go into science and technology. Yesterday, I was
the instructor for the module “Women in Science”. That was tough!

I was terrified. I didn’t feel prepared at all, having forgotten to
put together colored slips of paper for the kids to write on. Well,
I’d remembered the need for it, but not the actual colors. Not only
was I worrying about how to do that, but the other volunteer briefed
me on how challenging this group was and how little their tolerance
for boredom could be.

In those frantic few minutes before the kids came through the door, I
pulled myself together and came up with Plan B. Jennifer Schachter was
awesome. She kept me focused by reminding me of the things we’d
thought of doing, and that helped everything click into place. By the
time the kids came in, I felt confident enough to fake the rest.

One of the things you learn as a teacher, after all, is to pretend
that Plan B was the real plan all along. ;)

After a brief introduction, I gave the kids two minutes to read and
write all they could about Hedy Lamarr. Then we went around the
groups, each group naming a single fact about Hedy Lamarr. If they
were the only group to write down that fact, they got five points. If
they shared it with another group, each group earned three points. If
more than two groups had that fact, each group earned one point. I
also got them to look for information on Birute Galdikas and Ada
Lovelace.

After the event, the other facilitators said they were surprised to
find the kids so quiet and so engaged in a task. Whew!

I think one of the reasons why it worked was that the activity was
structured so that everyone could be a hero, but no one could lose.
That is, what the kids learned and wrote down could directly
contribute to the team getting a point, but if the team got no points,
it wasn’t the fault of anyone in particular.

Anyway, that was tons of fun. Scary, but fun. =)

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: ネコでも王様を見られる。 Even a cat may look at a king.[Prov]

Looking for back issue of the Guardian, UK

July 13, 2006 - Categories: life

Any Guardian readers from the UK? I’m looking for the hard copy of an
article printed in July 1, 2006′s Guardian, entitled “Diary of a
somebody.” I’d be thrilled if my mom could get a copy, fax, or scan of
the article and the headlines. =) (You know how moms are…
<grin>)

Any students at universities with good libraries, perhaps? =)

Random Japanese sentence: 私はこの猫の世話をしなければならない。 I have to look after this cat.

EXITE and the quest for hot chocolate

July 14, 2006 - Categories: teaching

Yesterday I re-learned that I can teach even when everything’s going
blah.

I’d been running on far too little sleep for the past few days – some
five hours a day, I think. Nonetheless I managed to drag myself out of
bed by 6:30, catching a few blinks on the commute and making it into
IBM by 8:00. I just wanted to go back to sleep, but I was stressing
out about the activity – and the fact that by 9:30, I needed to be
vibrantly alive and enthusiastic.

Sometimes it’s just not one of those days.

A spot of hot chocolate would’ve done me well, I think. However, there
was not a single sachet of hot chocolate mix anywhere in the coffee
area for my lab, not even in my apparently-no-longer-secret stash
behind the tea boxes in the cabinet. No Hershey’s Kisses in Stephen
Perelgut’s cubicle, either. In my distraction I’d forgotten about the
Tim Horton’s cafe at the end of the building. Instead, I went back to
my computer and went through a few blogs in order to learn new things
and thus stimulate my mind.

The class went okay, although it was unexceptional. The words felt
thick and unwieldy in my mouth, unclearly explained. However, the kids
did what they needed to, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how
much they recalled from the activity two days ago.

As for me – I learned, yet again, that I need to take better care of
myself in order to be at top form. =) I hate being blah. I hate fuzzy
days. I’d rather wake up with a smile on my face and plenty of
energy…

Note to self: don’t volunteer for anything in the morning!

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: テーブルに猫の足跡が付いている。 There are footprints of a cat on the table.

Running low

July 15, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

One of my warning signals that alerts me to the fact that I’m not
getting enough sleep or quiet time is when I have a backlog of things
I want to blog about but I can’t figure out when to take the time to
blog them. =)

There’s hanging out with Simon, chatting with Stephen, talking about
cooking and open source with Wayne, skating with Cathryn, and
following my inner social butterfly at the party Dan took us to.

It’s all good. =) I just have to remember to schedule in me-time, too!
Hmm. Time to be proactive about my calendar again…

Random Japanese sentence: 猫は捕らえたネズミを引き裂き始めた。 The cat began to tear at the mouse it caught.

Barbecue

July 16, 2006 - Categories: life

Today marked another milestone. I bought another set of place settings
- Corelle frosted white, bringing up my Corelle count to 8 matched
sets (4 square, 4 circular). A 50-piece cutlery set (a cheap one; it
will do) rounds that out. I also bought a teapot, which allows me to
serve green tea in an attractive way. I think I’ll be hosting a number
of these barbecues, and it’s good to entertain with things I like.

I’m thinking of getting the wine charms I saw at Harumi’s party so
that I can clip them to mugs and make it easier for people to keep
track of which mug is theirs.

On Technorati:

Random Japanese sentence: おしゃべりの人は、いつもの秘密をばくろしってえは他人の利が愛を冒している。 A talkative person is always letting the cat out of the bag and jeopardizing the interests of others.

Potluck lucky

July 16, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

Barbecue potlucks are a lot more fun than taking care of everything
myself. =) I get to see other people’s specialties! For example, Wayne
Young made this truly awesome chocolate cheesecake with amaretto and
amaretti. A<grin> Wow.

Must have another potluck dinner sometime soon.

Random Japanese sentence: ネコは暗い所でも目が見える。 A cat can see in the dark.

Did my dishes, went to the circus festival

July 17, 2006 - Categories: life

Kathy would’ve loved the Toronto International Circus Festival. =D
Poisters, diabolists, jugglers, unicyclists, etc. Cool stuff!

Also, I managed to get all of my dishes done in record time. The usual
order – glassware, cutlery, saucers + bowls + plates – works perfectly
with a double sink and would probably have worked even better with the
triple sink like the one in Linux Caffe. =) Kudos to my mom for
teaching me how to wash dishes effectively. We had this entire
assembly line thing going with my sisters and me: prerinse, soap,
rinse. Prerinsing with a dishcloth totally works because then soaping
is ridiculously easy. Also, Corelle dishes dry practically
interesting. It is t3h c00l.

Random Japanese sentence: 彼女がドアを開けるやいなや猫が走り出た。 No sooner had she opened the door than a cat ran out.

Hot chocolate day

July 17, 2006 - Categories: emacs

It took me two hours to commute to work this morning. I needed to be
there because my planner only had “@1300-1330 CAS workshop” on it – no
details, no call-in number, nothing. I didn’t even know who might have
information.

When I got to IBM, the sheer silence of CAS just descended on me. I
felt so isolated.

One of the reasons why I’m hardly ever in the Interactive Media Lab in
the University of Toronto is that it’s just so quiet. The room I work
in has a small window near the ceiling. John Chattoe works in the same
room, and Mark Chignell is of course in the next office. I feel okay
with interrupting Mark every so often when I need a social break from
my work, but still… Also, having to prepare lunch using a microwave
instead of cooking something quickly – not quite as much fun! <laugh>

The working environment at the Centre for Advanced Studies is similar,
although I feel even more isolated. The centre uses an open layout to
encourage students to interact with each other, but we hardly ever
talk. Maybe it’s because I missed the CAS party last time. Maybe it’s
because I haven’t joined any of the sports groups. I don’t know.

So there I was, tired from my commute, feeling rather oppressed by the
silence and lack of social interaction, really craving VPN (the
ability to connect from outside IBM), and going through blog posts
just to recapture that sense of IBM as a human organization.

And sniffling. Quietly. Over a cup of hot chocolate. (Fortunately, CAS
had restocked hot chocolate over the weekend. Hooray for small
miracles!)

I really appreciate how Quinn Fung joined me for lunch even though she
wasn’t particularly hungry, and how Laurie Dillon-Schalk called me up
to check on me when she found out I was having a hot chocloate day.

Today I realized a few more things:

Made a few minor tweaks to my research proposal. So far, so good.
Getting closer.

Random Japanese sentence: 大まかに言って、犬は猫より忠実だ。 Broadly speaking, dogs are more faithful than cats.

Ten years hence

July 17, 2006 - Categories: life, reflection

Didith Rodrigo handled some of the classes of the Introduction to Ateneo Culture and Tradition – a frosh orientation thing in my undergrad university. Here’s what she blogged:

One of the activities we ask them to undertake is to envision themselves ten years hence and then plot a course to reach that vision. I read through the assignments. While many students sounded pretty grounded, others, well, let’s just say they need a reality check. Many were aspiring for large houses in exclusive subdivisions, luxury cars, and trips abroad. While there is nothing wrong with these dreams, I wonder whether they seriously contemplated the sort of professions they have to have in order to afford all of these. I also wonder if they asked themselves whether they will be qualified for this profession by the time they are 28.

How do I see myself ten years from now? Who do I want to be at 32 or 33?

Here’s how I want to see myself at 32:

My work engages both my technical and social sides and
helps me grow as a person. I write and speak about technology and how
people can make the most of it. I am just starting out then,
establishing myself in my field, but I show promise.

I set aside at least 20% of my work time for exploring new things and
ideas, like the way Think!Friday is encouraged within IBM and the way
Google has 20% time.

I am in an environment where I meet lots of interesting people and
where I feel safe and energized. If this is not in the Philippines, I
still maintain ties with the Philippines.

I am prepared for the next stage in my life because I have invested
time in finding some things I can do really well and through which I
can create a lot of value for others. I am beginning to prepare for
the other stages in my life by regularly investing money.

I am in a solid, committed relationship which is for mutual joy and
growth. Having met many people both in and out of relationships, I
feel that I might do well in one. (I don’t know exactly how that will
work out just yet.)

Step by step, step by step. Someday I’ll be all that, maybe even by 32.

On Technorati: , ,

Random Japanese sentence: あいつ追いつめられたら何するか分からないぞ。窮鼠猫を噛むってこともあるからな。気を付けるに越したことはない。 I wouldn’t push him too far. You don’t know what he might do. I’d say you can’t be too careful. They say even a doomed mouse will bite a cat if he has no choice. [M]

Phone sweetness

July 18, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

I _so_ lucked out! =D

I picked up a Sony Ericsson Z520a for CAD 50.00 when I got myself a
2-year Fido cellphone contract. I figured that a new phone wouldn’t be
a bad idea, and if all else fails, I could use it to set up some kind
of ad hoc cellphone gateway.

It turns out that I totally lucked out on my choice of cellphone. It’s
_beautiful!_ It lets me easily send text messages to groups and take
pictures of people. Sweeeeet!

What would’ve made it even better? External storage. I guess I can
live with 500 active contacts, particularly as the Ericsson’s reported
to work well with the Mac and Bluetooth synchronization lets me send
_all_ the contacts.

Oh, and it would be _really_ cool if the contacts list could show
pictures, or I had another thing that let me quickly flip through
pictures…

Still. It’s sweet!

Signed, sealed, delivered. I’m yours!

Random Japanese sentence: テーブルに猫の足跡が付いている。 There are footprints of a cat on the table.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

July 18, 2006 - Categories: life

Simon introduced Shane and me to Lois Macauley, an interior designer
whom he’s been friends with for four years. She invited us to a
Shakespeare reading on the beaches of Ashbridge’s Bay. The play: A
Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Whereupon I started, “If we shadows have offended, think but this and
all is mended”—Puck’s famous closing speech. Lois and I continued in
unison: “That you have but slumbered here while these visions did
appear.” We finished the entire speech laughing.

Then she began, “How now, spirit? Whither wander you?” “Over hill,
over dale, thorough bush, thorough brier. Over park, over pale,
thorough flood, thorough fire.” We continued until the end of that
segment, and almost started on another before remembering that we had
company!

The next day, Simon turned to me and told me that was a really neat
party trick. I laughed. He couldn’t have guessed what the play meant
to me.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play so close to my heart, bound up as
it were in memories of the wonderful grade school I attended, in the
warm smiles of the principal who believed that theatre was a powerful
medium for education and that every child should have a role both off
and on the stage, in the firm and gentle instruction of a stage
director who not only taught us how to stand and walk and show emotion
but also how to seize life and live it.

How can one ever forget AMND? Among Scholasticans, it is our secret
code for recognizing each other, our shibboleth. We carry it with us,
each one remembering not only their scenes but also those of Oberon
and Titania’s dispute, Hermia and Helena’s impassioned fight, even
Pyramus and Thisbe’s comical love and the antics of the other
villagers.

I do not carry all of Shakespeare in my head. I could care less about
some of his minor plays. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is special to me
and to hundreds and hundreds of women who were once little girls
discovering theatre. It is through AMND that we discovered Shakespeare
and ourselves.

Random Japanese sentence: 猫はつめを引っ込めた。 The cat retracted its claws.

Tango at Kensington Market

July 19, 2006 - Categories: health

Kensington Market – the downtown center of hippie/street culture – has
monthly Pedestrian Sundays, and one of the things I try to catch is
the tango practica on the streets. I like tango, and I should get back
to doing that. There’s something about being able to listen to
someone’s movements and finding myself moving to the right spot. I
haven’t danced in a while, so I’m rather rusty. Still, it’s tons of
fun!

Peer Flach just posted pictures of the last time we danced in Kensington Market. Check them out!

Random Japanese sentence: ペルシャ猫に関連した古いおがあります。 There is a classic story related about a Persian cat.

Epiphany! Social obligation = t3h c00l

July 19, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

Thanks to a conversation with Quinn Fung, I’ve found a powerful reason
that makes N-hour commutes _so_ worth it!

See, one of the reasons why I was dissatisfied with working at the
Center for Advanced Studies all the way up in Markham was that it was
so quiet. We don’t really work in teams, like the way other IBM
employees do. We keep to ourselves, working on our little bits of
research, and we hardly talk to each other because we don’t think
anyone else will understand us. <sniff, sniff>

My manager offered to look into moving me to Bloor and Yonge in order
to address my commute problem, but reflecting on my options, I felt
that the lack of social interaction was what was really bugging me.
That wouldn’t have been solved by a move to the downtown office. In
fact, that would probably have made it worse.

Quinn patiently listened to me sort through how I felt about the
situation. She shared how social obligation is often a good way to
motivate her to do something, like the way that knowing she has a
meeting with someone can help her get out of bed in the morning.

Social obligation. That’s it! Aha! <choir singing>

I know what I need to do to make me _excited_ about going to IBM as
many times as I need to! All I have to do is make sure that every
single lunch time is booked with interesting people! I’ve blogged
about that internally before… I don’t have to wait for people to ask
me. I can practice shamelessness and go and ask people to lunch!
<laugh>

I’ve promised to work downtown today and Thursday because I’m meeting
a couple of people in the area, but I’m looking forward to Friday! I
can probably get a list of interns from Uma and work my way through
that list, asking people where they’re from and what they’re learning
from IBM so far…

I _still_ want VPN. I think that it’ll relieve the pressure I feel
about keeping up with what’s going on within IBM. I don’t think it’ll
be too distracting. Besides, if I wanted to distract myself, there are
a gazillion other ways for me to do so. IBM may as well benefit from
me, just as I may as well benefit from establishing contacts and
getting people interested in my project.

There: now I have the one thought that I can use to drag myself out of
bed… =D Mission: meet and learn from everyone!

Random Japanese sentence: 犬を見ると猫は逃げ出した。 At the sight of the dog, the cat ran off.

Emacs BBDB magic: Greeting people with nicknames

July 20, 2006 - Categories: emacs

I use Gnus to read my mail within the Emacs text editor. One of the
advantages of using a mail client that’s infinitely programmable is
that you can add all sorts of little tweaks to it. Gnus can be
integrated with Emacs’ Big Brother Database (BBDB), a semi-structured
text database in which I store all sorts of weird notes. This little
hack takes the nick field of the database and automatically inserts a
greeting. If someone signs himself as Mikong, I should call him that
instead of Joseph Michael. Similarly, I sign my messages as Sacha, not
Sandra Jean. This little tidbit makes it easier to remember to call
people by their nicknames.

(defun sacha/gnus-add-nick-to-message ()
  "Inserts \"Hello, NICK!\" in messages based on the recipient's nick field."
  (interactive)
  (save-excursion
    (let ((bbdb-get-addresses-headers (list (assoc 'recipients bbdb-get-addresses-headers)))
          nicks)
      (setq nicks
            (delq nil
                  (mapcar (lambda (rec) (bbdb-record-getprop rec 'nick))
                          (bbdb-update-records
                           (bbdb-get-addresses nil gnus-ignored-from-addresses 'gnus-fetch-field)
                           nil
                           nil))))
      (goto-char (point-min))
      (when (and nicks
                 (re-search-forward "--text follows this line--" nil t))
        (forward-line 1)
        (insert "Hello, "
                (mapconcat 'identity nicks ", ")
                "!\n\n")))))

(defadvice gnus-post-news (after sacha activate)
  (sacha/gnus-add-nick-to-message))

On Technorati: , , ,

Random Japanese sentence: 虎を大きな猫というなら、同じように猫を小さな虎といってもよい。 You may as well call a cat a small tiger as call a tiger a big cat.

Pimp My Emacs

July 20, 2006 - Categories: emacs, pimpmyemacs

Along the lines of TV shows like Pimp My Ride, I’m thinking of
regularly blogging something along the lines of Pimp My Emacs. For
those readers who haven’t had to listen to me bubble for hours on end
about this text editor / way of life, Emacs is ostensibly a program
that you use to edit text files. Right. But because it’s insanely
programmable, there are all sorts of interesting things for it, like
more than five ways to read one’s e-mail.

Watch for it on Technorati with tags emacs or pimpmyemacs, or
subscribe to http://feeds.feedburner.com/pimpmyemacs . =)

On Technorati: ,

Enterprise 2.0 Camp

July 21, 2006 - Categories: enterprise2.0

I signed up to give a presentation on the human side of social computing in the enterprise at today’s Enterprise 2.0 Toronto barcamp. It was tons of fun! I told them three stories – being a newbie in Big Blue, stalking looking up interesting people, and having a much more human experience. It sparked a terrific conversation with lots of thought-provoking bits. I’ll put aside time to blog about this tomorrow. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: その少年たちはかわいい猫と一緒に2人きりで暮らしていた。 The two boys lived alone with a lovely cat.

I’ve got music… – Hosting dinner parties

July 22, 2006 - Categories: life

Apologies to Gershwin: I’ve got music, I’ve got rhythm, I’ve got my
plates – who could ask for anything more?

Some former suitemate of mine has apparently left a CD player. That
rocks. Now I can totally host dinner parties. =)

Let’s schedule one for Sunday. This forces me to tidy things up and
learn a new recipe.

Mmkay. Sounds like a plan. Let’s pick a couple of people who are bound
to have interesting stories…

Random Japanese sentence: 猫を殺すにも方法はいろいろある。 There’s more ways than one to kill a cat.

Think! Friday

July 22, 2006 - Categories: happy, ibm

One of the things I like about IBM is the Think! Friday initiative,
which encourages people to use their Friday afternoons to learn about
something new.

My job is to think all the time—ah, the life of a grad student!—and
Think!Friday gives me that additional impetus to go out there and do
something.

A few Think!Fridays ago was Hack Day, an ad-hoc 5-hour hackathon
across IBM. I built a social discovery web application that took a
list of e-mail addresses, names, Lotus Notes mail IDs and even
community IDs. Given a list of people, the tool displayed the latest
three blog headlines and bookmarks for people who used the internal
blogging and bookmarking services. I’d been meaning to build it for a
few weeks, and thanks to the enthusiastic Hack Day vibe, I finally
made the time to hack it all together.

Fast forward to today. IBMers voted on their favorite Hack Day hacks.
Mine won Best Mashup! That made me ridiculously happy. It was a simple
hack—most of the time was spent writing libraries to interact with
IBM’s services and figuring out how to resolve different kinds of
names—but it turned out to be quite useful for finding people.
Throwing it all together in Ruby was a lot of fun, too. Ruby makes my
brain happy.

Hack Day was a terrific way for me to meet a lot of other early
adopters and geeks within IBM. We presented our hacks in two
teleconferences, and that was awesome.

Today, I decided to deal with some of the other little projects I’d
been meaning to do. I set up RSS2Email (Python) and made it easier for
people to have comments on their blog e-mailed to them. Again, a
simple hack (took me a leisurely hour or so)—but I think it will have
a lot of benefit. I also wrote a little Ruby script that summarized my
bookmarks in bloggable form. Happy!

I like days like this a lot. I like sensing the need for a little tool
and writing that tool. I like being in the zone, trying things out,
geeking out, creating something useful…

Happy girl. =)

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Random Japanese sentence: この鼠は私の猫に殺されました。 This mouse was killed by my cat.

Google Trends

July 22, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

Interesting conversation on the plug-misc mailing list. Mark Anthony
C. Delfin wrote:

On 7/22/06, Daniel Escasa wrote:

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols plays with Google Trends
(http://www.google.com/trends) to see what countries Linux is popular.
Some excerpts:

Philippines is also on the top 4 for ubuntu. Top 3 for asterisk. Top 7 for
mysql. Top 5 for postgresql. And also top 1 on the word corruption :(

E-Mail from Mark Anthony C. Delfin

Random Japanese sentence: 私達は、その猫をたまと名付けた。 We named the cat Tama.

The best birthday gifts

July 22, 2006 - Categories: life

What do you give people on their birthdays? People struggle so much
with that question, often giving up and grabbing the first gift-ish
thing they see at the store and accompanying that with a few scribbled
words on a Hallmark card.

It’s always been hard to think of what to give my parents. They can
get anything they want. My father, in particular, is not the kind of
guy who will wait for an occasion in order to give himself something.
When he sees something he likes – or something that we’ll like – he
just goes out and gets it.

Ideally a gift-thing would be what people would love but never think
of getting for themselves. How deeply you must know someone in order
to do that! I still don’t feel that I know my dad enough to
second-guess his wallet. ;) I’d rather give him something he can’t
buy: memories.

I think memories are the best birthday gifts of all. You can create
new memories by spending time with people and being completely present
for them. You can share old memories by telling people stories about
how they touched your life. You can help make future memories by
listening to their dreams.

Birthdays are perfect times to think about the past year and imagine
the next. As natural milestones, they give you a chance to reflect on
the meaning of your life in the company of good friends. Unlike on New
Year’s Day, the celebrant does not have to share the spotlight with
other people. Birthdays are a good excuse for people to gather those
who are close to their heart and celebrate them, in turn being
celebrated by them.

The best birthday gifts I’ve ever received? Letters, without a doubt.
One of my treasures is a clearbook of the letters I received on the
occasion of my 21st birthday, when I was leaving for Japan. Whenever I
flip through it, warm and fuzzy feelings wrap me, and I remember the
laughter and love of friends.

For my 22nd birthday, I asked my friends to write their two-year plans
and a short letter on some 3×5 index cards. Although my friends
good-naturedly groused about it being the _only_ party they’d ever
gone to that had _seatwork_, they wrote – and this deck of dreams is
something that I flip through on occasion to remind me that people
care.

For my 23rd birthday this August 12, I don’t want to receive any
gifts. I want memories, stories, dreams. Write me a letter or record a
podcast or capture it on video. Tell me a story about how I’ve touched
your life, and these warm thoughts will sustain me through winter and
hot chocolate days. Tell me a story that reveals who _you_ are and who
you want to be, and that will deepen our friendship. Tell me of your
dreams and that will help me help you build your future.

Send my parents a thank-you note, too. After all, my _mom_ did all
the hard work on my birthday… <laugh> What parents wouldn’t
like to hear about how wonderful their son or daughter is?

Know anyone whose birthday is coming up? Put away that credit card and
send some memories instead! =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫はミルクを全部飲んでしまったの、とメアリーはたずねました。 Mary asked if the cat had drunk all of the milk.

Emacs: Automating the insertion of text

July 24, 2006 - Categories: emacs, pimpmyemacs

As the VP Education of Toast I.T. Toastmasters in downtown Toronto, I’m responsible for assigning people roles in upcoming meetings and confirming these roles by e-mail. We currently do our scheduling in a spreadsheet. Copying and pasting the roles for the spreadsheet results in the following text:

Ari Caylakyan
Anthony D'Costa
Chris Charabaruk
Michael Chan
Chris Charabaruk
Chris Charabaruk
Khalid Ghaffar
Natasha Guigova



Ari Caylakyan - C&L 5
Anthony D'Costa
Jackie Achonu
Sacha Chua

Adding role descriptions to this was a bit of a pain, so I wrote a
short Emacs Lisp function that inserted descriptions if and only if
there was a corresponding person assigned to that role.

(defun sacha/toast-add-roles ()
  "Add role descriptions."
  (interactive)
  (mapcar (lambda (item)
            (goto-char (line-beginning-position))
            (unless (looking-at "^[ \t]*$")
              (insert item ": "))
            (forward-line 1))
          '("President" "Toastmaster" "Sgt at Arms" "Timekeeper" "Ah-counter"
            "Grammarian" "Table-topics Master" "General Evaluator" ""
            "Educational Speaker" "Guest Speaker"
            "Speaker #1" "Evaluator #1"
            "Speaker #2" "Evaluator #2"
            "Speaker #3" "Evaluator #3")))

Next step: Personalized e-mail that highlights upcoming roles, just as
I wrote Emacs Lisp functions to make it easier to send students
personalized feedback on their programs.

That’s one of the coolest things about Emacs – it’s so easy to automate tasks.

On Technorati: ,

Remembering my purpose; hooray for writing!

July 24, 2006 - Categories: purpose, reflection

I tried to go to sleep earlier than usual last night, and I was hit by
a bout of existential angst. (I’m 22. I’m allowed to have existential
angst. ;) ) I started wondering what on earth I was doing here, etc.

I think I came to those thoughts because of various heavy things Simon
and I had been talking about over the weekend, like the senseless
tragedy of the war in Lebanon.

Looking around at my room, I poked fun at my inability to keep things
as neatly organized as people here have. I said even after a year in
Canada, I still hadn’t gotten used to it, and I’d probably make room
in my professional budget for managed housing or a housekeeping
service.

Reflecting on that further, though, I realized that that weakness of
mine wasn’t a core part of my identity and that it should never be. I
_can_ keep things neat if I take the time to, and if I can’t make the
time for that, then I should scale back my life until I can.

This led me to think about the difficulties people had around me, and
thus the existential angst. With all these problems in the world, what
am _I_ doing to help? Is what I’m doing with my research really worth
it?

Instead of ignoring it or lying awake thinking about it, I pulled out
a flashlight and one of my reflection books. There in brightly-colored
markers were all these diagrams showing how I felt about life and what
I wanted to do. (Thanks, Diane Lazaro, for giving me a creativity
kit!)

In large blue letters, one page read: “I WANT TO TELL STORIES!” With
that reminder, everything clicked into place again. I’m doing my
master’s research in social computing because I want to learn how to
effectively tell stories about technology, not just because I want an
excuse to stick around in Canada for a while. I’m part of Toastmasters
and I’m exploring writing because I want to tell stories.

I want to tell stories because so many people have such interesting
stories that can touch the lives of thousands and thousands of other
people. I want to draw people’s stories out and help them understand
themselves more. I want to tell stories that will help people imagine
what they can do with technology or how they can improve their
relationships with other people.

Maybe that’s how I can change the world. =)

I’m glad I drew those diagrams before. I love writing and drawing and
talking and thinking. I know I’m going to run into similar questions
again and again—I’m human, I forget myself—and having something to
go back to gives me great joy.

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Random Japanese sentence: 虎を大きな猫というなら、同じように猫を小さな虎といってもよい。 You may as well call a cat a small tiger as call a tiger a big cat.

In case of emergency, break open stationery

July 24, 2006 - Categories: life

Monogrammed stationery

I’m glad my mom insisted that I keep emergency giftwrap in my suite,
that my sister taught me how to bake cookies, and that I have a
stationery collection of blank cards and note paper that I can use for
any occasion.

Simon Rowland’s sister and mother’s birthdays were last Friday and
Saturday. He invited me to join them for a family celebration. With an
hour of notice, I baked cookies and wrote them short birthday notes
that referred to stories he’d told me of them.

I didn’t have cards cut to size for my Japanese gold-flecked
envelopes, so I used the beautifully monogrammed Crane stationery
instead. One of my godparents introduced me to the joys of Crane, and
I’ve loved it ever since. I think the gold-tissue-lined envelopes and
the simply monogrammed cream cards are among the most elegant I’ve
seen. Besides, I didn’t know them well enough to find the perfect
Maverick postcard for them, so blank cards were the best.

I love occasions to write on beautiful paper. =)

Random Japanese sentence: 猫が柱でつめを研いでいた。 A cat was sharpening its claws against a post.

New York recommendations?

July 24, 2006 - Categories: travel

Happen to know of good doctors and dentists in New York? Hilary
Rowland’s moving to New York soon, and if anyone can recommend a
doctor or dentist they’re very happy with, that would be awesome.
Related recommendations welcome, too!

Random Japanese sentence: 私は猫を十三匹飼っている。 I keep thirteen cats.

Neatening up

July 24, 2006 - Categories: life

Having decided that helpless messiness is _not_ part of my core
identity, I spent the entire afternoon sorting my room out.

It’s amazing how much order can be imposed with stackable drawers, of
which I am now a big fan. I’ve moved all of my infrequently used
electronics and crafts out from under my desk and into two stackable
drawers under my laundry, freeing up space under my desk for my bags.
I moved my stationery collection into three-drawer stackable drawers,
dividing them into envelopes and stickers, note paper, and cards.

I have this craving for even more stackable drawers. I’m starting to
wonder how many of them I can pile up considering structural
constraints. I might have space for a few in my closet and a few more
beside my bookshelves…

It’s nice having a clear desk again. Granted, my drawers aren’t
completely neat yet, but my room feels much better than it used to.

Good timing, too, as a new suitemate’s just moved in.

Next steps: neaten my drawers and the bathroom.

Random Japanese sentence: あの猫をごらんなさい。それはブラウンさんの猫
です。 Look at that cat. It is Mr. Brown’s.

New suitemate!

July 24, 2006 - Categories: life

Krystal just moved in. I’ve seen her around Graduate House, but
haven’t really talked to her much. She’s friends with Michelle,
though. =)

Totally awesome. I’m roomming with a nutritionist who loves cooking
and having dinner parties, _and_ she’s vegetarian, _and_ she’s open to
sharing kitchen space… This will be fun!

I love Grad House. =)

Random Japanese sentence: 土砂降りが長く続くと、洗濯屋さんは、仕事がはかどらず苦労する。 When it continues raining cats and dogs for a long while, laundrymen have a hard time doing their work.

TorCHI social

July 24, 2006 - Categories: meetup

As Gabriel Mansour went to all the trouble of e-mailing, texting, and
calling me to make sure I got to TorCHI, I thought it would be a good
idea to go—and it certainly was! I had a lot of fun conversations
about interpersonal communication (heh!), Tupperware, and other
things. Good stuff!

Random Japanese sentence: 彼の年老いた猫はまだ生きている。 His old cat is still alive.

Meep. Slight problem.

July 25, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

My power adapter’s just about ready to give up the ghost. The cord
connecting the adapter to the laptop has frayed near the plug, and
it’s the part that’s integrated with the adapter, not the replaceable
cord that connects it to the power outlet. Fujitsu Canada sells the
part for CAD 55, but requires a Canadian-based credit card, and PC
Financial just declined my application. (Boo! I guess I’ll have to go
for the secured TD credit card, then.)

Mmkay. Problem-solving mode. Here’s what I can do:

Sounds like a plan.

Random Japanese sentence: 私はこの猫の世話をしなければならない。 I have to look after this cat.

Moved to Vaio!

July 26, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

The power adapter on my Fujitsu Lifebook P1110 has just completely given up. Fortunately, my parents had given me the Sony Vaio U1 to use as a backup computer. After a day of upgrading it from Ubuntu Breezy Badger to Ubuntu Dapper Drake (that should teach me to deselect all of the GNOME packages before I dist-upgrade!) and another afternoon for getting my various CVS Emacs stuff compiled and put together, I’m now back on an approximately working system. I still need to get software suspend working, but everything else works beautifully.

The Sony Vaio U1 is actually a pretty sweet machine. It’s *tiny* – 8.9″ screen and a keyboard that even I find just a bit small. No Dvorak on this one; the combination of a Japanese keyboard and chiclet keys makes it too difficult for me to remember the proper keyboard mappings through muscle memory. I type with four fingers: the middle finger and index finger of my left hand and the thumb and index finger of my right.

When Simon saw me setting up the Vaio, he insisted that I borrow a proper-sized keyboard. Heh. ;)

So I’m on Ubuntu now. It’s certainly slicker than the Debian system I’ve just moved from, with a pretty bootup sequence and a lot of other things that Just Work. I’m no longer a poseur. The Ubuntu stickers on my skateboard actually mean something. ;) Sweet.

Now that that’s sorted out, maybe I can work on my writing backlog. I owe so many people e-mail and I owe Don Marti an article…

On Technorati:

Argh, need facial

July 26, 2006 - Categories: life

Also, I’m breaking out into pimples again. Not that you need to hear about that, but it annoys me, particularly as my bad case of zits is now immortalized in pictures of DemoCamp. Boo, hiss.

I’m going to do something about that, too. Medication’s supposed to help. Sleep, too.

DemoCamp!

July 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, democamp, toronto

I love going to conferences and geek get-togethers because I always end up having the most interesting conversations. Even though my responsibilities at Toast I.T. Toastmasters meant that all I caught of DemoCampToronto8 was just David Crow ending it with, “That wraps up DemoCamp for the night,” it was so worth the mad scramble across town.

Here’s an incomplete list of highlights from DemoCamp:

A very good evening indeed.

On Technorati: , , , ,

In print!

July 26, 2006 - Categories: life

Yup, the July 1 issue of the Guardian has my name in print! Whee! Page
3 of the section titled Rise…

Time to send a letter to my mom. =)

Thanks, Carsten!

E-Mail from Carsten Knoch

Batik and ethnic clothes

July 26, 2006 - Categories: clothing, filipino, philippines

Wearing a batik malong

I love wearing ethnic clothes. Traditional outfits are hip enough to
pass off as casual but dignified enough to go formal, possible with a
little creative re-pinning. I love wearing batik-dyed or embroidered
malongs, the simple tubular skirts that can be turned into dresses and
sashes and sleeping bags depending on need. I love wearing my
butterfly-sleeved terno and wish I had one that looked less formal.
The gold-threaded cream blouse makes it too dressy, but I wear it
anyway!

Of all the costumes I wear—from hacked computer T-shirts to flowing
skirts to jeans and a tee—I like the traditional ones the most.

Thanks, Mom, for sending me two more malongs and a few black tops!
Thanks to Pavel and Emily for bringing them from the Philippines!
I want more outfits…

On Technorati: , , , , ,


Signed up for a DemoCamp demo

July 26, 2006 - Categories: democamp

David Crow made me promise to give a DemoCamp session, so I’m going to do one on Emacs as a way of life. ;) Watch out for DemoCampToronto10 sometime in September!

I like someone

July 27, 2006 - Categories: love

I like someone. There, I’ve said it. I probably shouldn’t go into much
detail over here, but you can check out my flickr photos.

Speaking of costumes…

July 27, 2006 - Categories: clothing

I have no problems turning up at a high-tech geek get-together about Enterprise 2.0 wearing a ruffled blouse and a flowing skirt.

And I got there on a skateboard, too. ;)


On Technorati:

Secret knocks

July 27, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

Now that’s a cool application of technology. Seen on Slashdot: “Knock” Some Sense Into Your Linux Laptop describes how to set up Lenovo Thinkpads to respond to a series of knocks on the computer case. I’m sure someone will turn that into a totally small-scale authentication system (“What’s the secret knock?”) or maybe a totally hacked up drumming system… ;)

On Technorati:

Enterprise 2.0 definition from Andrew McAfee

July 27, 2006 - Categories: enterprise2.0

Via Ross Mayfield comes Andrew McAfee’s description of Enterprise 2.0:
/

IBM CASCON 2006 and conference backchannels

July 27, 2006 - Categories: blogging, cascon, web2.0

I got so carried away making lunch that I nearly missed the planning conference call for IBM CASCON 2006′s social computing workshops. I dropped in just in time to hear Stephen Perelgut and Steve Easterbrook talk about real-time collaborative note-taking, and I chimed in with my two cents about how wonderful it is to have backchannels during the conference.

A backchannel is an informal way for participants to talk to each
other in the background while the speakers are talking. Backchannel
chat is a great way to find out about other interesting sessions and
meet other people who are into similar things. We’ve also used the
backchannel to coordinate our attendance at sessions. (“I’m heading
over to session A.” “If you’re blogging that, then I can go to session
B…”)

If the backchannels are logged, they can be the start of collaborative
notetaking. We tried backchannel transcription at one session during
Mesh. People were distracted because the backchannel was projected
onto the main screen behind the panelists. Most people have a hard
time keeping track of two or more streams of information, particularly
as they were both verbal. In addition, the IRC channel used for the
backchannel chat also included people in other sessions, which made it
hard for many people to separate the messages that were related to the
current session. Still, it was a good experiment, and that resulted in
a number of side-conversations during the session.

I think one of the things that would be great to have for IBM CASCON
2006 is a backchannel that people can get to through IRC and the Web.
I’d love to set up one of those, but it needs to be promoted somewhere
so that everyone with wireless can hear about it.

An alternative would be to encourage everyone to liveblog it and to use Technorati or a similar web service to aggregate all the posts tagged, say, cascon2006 and the session’s tag.

HEY! There’s an idea! If we suggest tags for each session and a tag
for the entire conference, then we make it easy for external bloggers
to make their posts discoverable. And I can so totally modify the CASCON blog to make it easier for people to “BLOG THIS SESSION” – they can post their content on the session blog and then retrieve it for crossposting onto their blog… That _would_ be totally sweet.

Think!Friday’s tomorrow. Let’s make it happen!

On Technorati: , , , , ,

E-Mail from Aaron Kim

IBM CASCON 2006: Social discovery and conferences

July 27, 2006 - Categories: blogging, cascon

Another thing I want to build for IBM CASCON 2006 is an easy way to
create an OPML file for conference registrants and session attendees.
Imagine if you could associate your registration with a blog URL and
then be able to:

Certainly, speakers with blogs should have them all listed. Tomorrow I’ll ask for permission to get in touch with all of the speakers and ask them for blog URLs. We’ll put together a page, export some OPML, throw up an aggregator (maybe even just a public Bloglines), and boom! Happy happy happy.

Even more advanced stuff: imagine a small-scale tech.memeorandum running against the speakers, the conference registrants, or session attendees… Imagine doing that with bookmarks, too! Maybe I can convince Pranam Kolari to do something like that.

In the future, people might even want to associate multiple blog URLs
with their profile. For example, if they write topic-focused blogs,
they might want their business blog to be aggregated with all the
other blogs for a marketing session, while their technical blog might
be better for the programming sessions. I don’t think we’re quite at
this point yet, but it should be easy enough to build.

Sounds like a terrific tool. I have one month to build this and all
the other nifty things I want to make for IBM CASCON 2006! I wonder if
my developer sponsor and my research supervisor mind if I do this…

On Technorati: , , , , ,

E-Mail from Aaron Kim

I heart ultraportables!

July 27, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

The power adapter for my Fujitsu Lifebook P1110 gave up two days ago.
With the funny way my life works, an inconvenience like that turned
into a great opportunity to try out the Sony Vaio U1.

My dad used the Vaio as a wearable computer, strapping it into a
customized belt bag during his aerial photo shoots so that he could
preview pictures on an 8″ screen. When he bought a camera with a
better built-in preview, the Vaio languished on a bookshelf. The
Japanese version of Microsoft Windows didn’t make it easier to use,
either. I installed Ubuntu on half of the disk and for a short while
toyed with the idea of making it my main computer, but I found the
Lifebook’s size made it better to typing. Still, my parents felt I’d
probably find some interesting way to use the Vaio, so I packed it in
my carry-on when I moved to Canada last July.

With the Lifebook out of commission, I needed some other way to
compute, and I thought I’d dust it off and try it again. Besides, I’d
been meaning to use it as the VPN machine for IBM anyway, as it’s the
only gadget I have that still runs Microsoft Windows. ;) I spent all
of yesterday just getting back up to speed and setting everything up
the way I liked it.

The Sony Vaio U1 turns out to be a totally sweet ultraportable that’s
just perfect for reading blogs in transit and even writing a few
entries along the way. My thumbs are just a little bit too short to
use the keyboard as a thumbboard, but I can type with one or both
hands even while walking around. The scroll wheel is well-placed, too.

It’s just transformed the way I think of transit time. Now, transit
time is blogging time—and I can even be more productive doing that in
transit than sitting at a desk.

Now there’s technology for you. =)

On Technorati: ,

Planning my week with zones

July 27, 2006 - Categories: life

I think IBM’s Think!Fridays are a great idea. It’s like zoning a day
for a particular purpose. I tend to treat my Think!Fridays as
mini-Hack Days, using the time to sit down and code something I’d been
meaning to write for a while. It’s a lot of fun, and it makes me look
forward to Fridays. I’m tempted to make it Think!Monday instead so
that I have a great way to start the week.

Choosing a theme for the day reminds me to schedule things that help
me grow. It’s too easy to fall into the rhythm of doing the same old
thing. So here’s how I want to shape my week:

New Monday The start of the week should fill me with energy and excitement and give me something to look forward to. I’ll use Mondays to connect with new people I’ve met.
Growth Tuesday Toastmasters is about personal development. I can pass by the Chapters bookstore on the way back in order to read a book or two.
Midweek Meditation I might need time to catch my breath midway through the week. Wednesday is a great day for quiet reflection and catching up.
Creative Thursday Jazz choir practice engages my creative side. I’ll take advantage of the right-braininess by making Thursday my creative think-out-of-the-box develop-new-facets day.
Friday with Friends Getting together with friends is a great way to close the week and get ready for the weekend. I’ll use Friday to reconnect with people I know.
Saturday Explorations Saturday is a great time to explore the city and step outside of my usual interests and activities.
Sunday Serenity Time to reflect on the past week and plan the next one.

These zones are flexible, but I’ll try to proactively schedule things for each day. Fun!

On Technorati:

Creative Thursday: Conference commando!

July 27, 2006 - Categories: conference, connecting

On the way to jazz choir practice, I thought about what I like
creating and when people have called me creative. One of the things
people have complimented me on is the way I hack conferences, from
modding conference T-shirts to posting people’s tag clouds along the
wall in order to spark conversations.

I _love_ going above and beyond the usual ideas of what a conference
should be like. That’s one of the reasons why I’m really excited about
CASCON 2006: as part of the organizing team, I can try out many cool
ideas!

I’d love to start a bigger conversation around that, and I’d love to
share my thoughts with more people! I think it would make a great
blog. I want to share tips and ideas with participants, speakers, and
organizers. It’ll also be a great place to post my conference reports
and pictures of hacked T-shirts! ;)

I already have a name for the blog: Conference Commando. I came
across the term “conference commando” in Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never
Eat Alone. Good stuff, and I think I’ve got a lot to contribute to
this space.

So I’m going to make it happen! Here’s what I need to do:

Fun! Hooray for Creative Thursday!

On Technorati: , , ,

Simon

July 29, 2006 - Categories: love

How can I give you a better sense of the person whom I like? Perhaps
by thinking out loud, I’ll be able to understand the situation better
myself. Besides, my mom wants more details. <laugh>

Over the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time thinking about
relationships. Not a lot of time, mind you: my excitement about
Enterprise 2.0 and my work at IBM is still my priority, although I
haven’t written much about it on this blog.

I’ve come to believe that a relationship may extend me and help me
grow. Life may be more interesting with someone who knows my past,
experiences the present with me, and helps me imagine the future I
want to create for myself and for others.

I can see how I’d be a good fit for him. He admires my social skills:
the way I draw people into conversations or look for diplomatic
resolutions for tricky situations. I’m good at listening to him,
drawing him out, helping him reflect and understand. Most of all, I
remind him of what’s important and whom he wants to be.

Does he fit me well? I’m not sure yet. I admire his dissatisfaction
with the status quo and his drive to improve it through the design of
low-cost technology. As a human being, he is at least aware of several
problems he’s been having, which is better than not knowing at all.
And he does have moments of great clarity, like when we were looking
up at the stars at his parents’ place.

I need to get to know him more, though. It’s unfortunate that he
doesn’t blog, so I can’t point you to an archive of his thoughts. I
don’t even know the stories that have shaped him. What I’ve seen so
far is mixed, but promising. =)

We’ll just have to see.

A weekend with a friend

July 30, 2006 - Categories: friends

My good deed for the weekend was spending time with Alice. Saturday, I
attended the birthday party for her 2-year-old daughter and managed to
blend in despite being nowhere near stressed enough to fit among the
parents there and nowhere near short enough to fit under the table
with the kids. Yes, I _can_ actually be taller than someone. It may
come as a surprise to some, but there are actually people (okay, kids)
who look up to me—physically, if nothing else. I think I will enjoy
the few years I have before they outstrip me.

I had an animated conversation with Ken, my research supervisor’s
6-month old son. This conversation mainly consisted of Ken going
“Baaaa… Baaaa” at me, and my exercising my superior listening skills
and going “Mmm hmmm” at the right moments. I tried getting him to say
“Blog”, but I don’t think he’s quite ready for it yet.

It was certainly an unusual experience for me. For the most part I
felt very much like my 22 years of age, although I’m somewhat proud of
the way I managed to quell the urge to run to the nearest library. ;)
Kidding. It wasn’t bad. It was just unusual.

I stayed afterwards to help clean up. I was glad to have the
opportunity to chat with Alice over the dishes.

I took her out for a much-needed girl day on Sunday. We wandered along
Yonge looking for a place to get an inexpensive massage, and spotted
this tiny one called New Moon Spa at 678 Yonge Street. It’s open from
11 AM to 9 PM, and you can get a basic shiatsu massage for CAD 10.
There was only one table and one masseuse, and Alice insisted I go
first. Totally small-time operation that’s only been there for two
months. I tipped the masseuse almost 100% for good service and for
encouragement, and I probably made her day too. =)

I remember massages as a simple luxury my mom also enjoyed. I’d like
to learn how to help people relax, and one way to do that is to
experience it myself. <laugh> It was nice spoiling a friend.
I’ll take her out next month, or maybe even sooner.

Then we went to Second Cup and had large cups of hot chocolate. It was
very much a hot chocolate day for Alice, and I’m glad to have shared
it with her. I wish I had answers, but I don’t. I’m just here to
listen and maybe help people gain a little bit more clarity.

Ayayayayay… If only a hug could make the world all right!

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Business development

July 31, 2006 - Categories: !Uncategorized

Stayed up late chatting with Jijo Sevilla of QSR, a Philippine-based Linux solutions company. Simon Rowland had mentioned an interest in offshore development, so I’m hooking them up.

I think it’ll be a terrific fit, and I look forward to helping bridge
the two worlds.

Focus

July 31, 2006 - Categories: ibm, research

My research manager told me that I’ve been conditionally approved for
VPN access, which would allow me to access IBM resources without
having to go all the way up to Markham (1-1.5 hour commute one way).
This access will be revoked if they feel that I’m getting distracted
by all the cool things I can do within IBM, such as organizing CASCON
2006. They asked me to promise to use the VPN only for things that are
directly related to my work.

Sounds good to me. =) In fact, it sounds like exactly what I need. For
the next few weeks—months, even—I’ll be in heads-down single-tasking
mode when it comes to IBM. I’ll keep a research plan somewhere
(possibly a password-protected page on this wiki) and post regular
updates on my internal blog, and at all times my research managers
will know what my next action is and what I’m waiting for.

I might need to give up a few things as part of scaling back my
involvement in IBM. I have a lot of opportunities to help define IBM
2.0 and move it forward, but the IBM Center for Advanced Studies pays
for my graduate studies, and so they have dibs on my IBM mindshare. I
can think of my research as almost a contract. If they’re happy with
my proposal, then I can scope it, schedule it, do it, and be done.

I’m not too worried about missing out on opportunities. Evangelizing
social software within IBM, supporting networking at CASCON, improving
the experience of social computing: these all point to goals that I
can achieve through other means at other times. When I’m ready to take
advantage of these opportunities again, they’ll reappear.

In the meantime, focusing on my work and treating it as a
time-sensitive contract allows me to separate it and free up
brainspace for a few other things I’d like to do, like writing and
establishing an external reputation. This is better for me in the long
run, too. That way, I finish my graduate studies ready to take on
problems at different scales: from 300k-person enterprises to smaller
gigs.

A minor downside is that I won’t be able to claim a living allowance:
it certainly adds up, particularly if you think about compounded
interest over a long period of time. If I manage my time wisely,
though, I might be able to make it worth it in the long run. For
example, if I can convert three hours of sleepy commuting or relaxed
RSS reading into three hours of focused writing time each day, that
can lead to a lot of opportunities in the future. Getting rid of time
constraints can also mean that I’ll eat better (hello, breakfast!) and
cheaper (hello, kitchen!). The opportunity to schedule coffee breaks
with people here will also help me plug further into the local tech
scene. I’m trading money for flexibility, and I think I can make it
worth it.

As for IBM networking: I can do that through the Greater IBM
initiative. They’re externally hosted, so I don’t need to use the VPN
for that. What about the internal networking, the real-time
collaboration I enjoyed and occasionally found useful? I’ll just have
to trust that people have a good enough sense of what I’m interested
in and that I’m discoverable by people who might be interested in my
research. Personal referrals will probably do the trick.

What might I miss out on? The IBM CAS experience, I suppose: chalk
talks, lunches with random people, cups and cups of hot chocolate… I
won’t be one of their face-to-face Connectors, but that’s okay;
someone else can take that role. Most of the people I connect with are
scattered around the world, so VPN won’t make much of a difference. I
can promise not to initiate conversations that aren’t directly related
to my research, and try to minimize unrelated conversations initiated
by others.

VPN access might also include the expectation of greater availability,
the way many people assume that cellphones make other people always
reachable. To help assure my research manager that I won’t get too
distracted, I’ll check my e-mail once a day and I’ll resist the
temptation to do anything unless I can explicity justify it.
Sure, it’s less value than I can provide IBM as a whole, but it
protects the value I offer to CAS.

I could very well do most of my work downtown even now, although I’d
still like VPN so that I can share my progress internally. I don’t
think I’m allowed to blog even my research proposal externally, so
unfortunately I’ll have to stay dark about it here. I’ll try to write
about other things I’m learning, though. If I omit IBM-specific
information, I might be able to stay out of trouble. =)

My personal blog is my call, and as long as I follow my proposal and
submit my deliverables, things should be good. I should be able to
blog about cooking or tango or DemoCamp without my developer
sponsor freaking out. =)

Sounds like a plan.

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Planning

July 31, 2006 - Categories: research

Here’s what I need to do:

I need to come up with a list of calls for papers for conferences
related to my research area. This provides me with an incentive to
write.

I need to sit down with Mark Chignell, my research supervisor, to
review my research plan and the calls for papers and to break my plan
down into smaller milestones. This gives me a concrete action plan.
Then I can schedule next actions.

If I can break it down into really small milestones in the beginning,
then I’ll get a better sense of how much work I can accomplish. I
would like to be done with my research before Christmas, so that I can
relax without having to coordinate with IBM. Ideally I would also have
it all practically written up, just waiting to be translated into
“scholarly writing”. I can use my internal blog and podcast to think
things through.

So here’s a coarse sketch of a potential schedule:

Ideally, I’d like to commit the equivalent of two to three days of
focused work each week for the rest of August, which leaves me time to
prepare for the future and build other competencies. I remember that a
former roommate of mine concentrated on her research and studies, and
ended up without job offers because she hadn’t done enough networking
or exploration. I’d like to finish my master’s with a good background
in research into social computing, but I also want to be ready to be
useful to small or large businesses.

I’ll take classes from September to December. I’m planning to take two
courses and audit a few more to expand my mind. I need to take one
more MIE course, and the CS course on requirements engineering has
been highly recommended. October or November can be my main data
gathering month.

So: August is for reading papers, gathering background information,
and learning as much as I can about the theoretical framework and how
to measure the effects of an intervention. September is for analyzing
the collaboration technologies against the framework chosen, and
selecting a factor to modify. I may need to code a fair bit—the
actual intervention plus the instrumentation I need to measure the
change, so I’ll probably use October to set up the experiment. I’ll
run the experiment in November, and work on polishing my writing in
December.

My Christmas break will be a *real* break. I don’t want to do
IBM-related things then, aside from perhaps an evangelism talk or two
at IBM Philippines. ;) I want to reconnect with family and friends,
make new friends, and develop business opportunities.

Then I can come back to Canada, finish writing up my paper, have my
committee review it (although I hope they’ll be involved at each
step), and revise it as needed. Once I finish that, there might not be
that much point in going for an internship instead of a proper job, so
I’ll probably start looking for leads in January and aim to finish in
April. Although I’d like to be able to bridge worlds and that probably
means finding a good place to work in North America, it won’t be a
huge tragedy if I don’t manage to get a good job offer lined up.
There’s much for me to do in the Philippines, and I might come back
and join Exist or QSR or something like that. Besides, the Philippines
has its perks. ;)

Yes, I could’ve done this earlier, but it was also important for me to
immerse myself in the culture and to form ties with people who can
help me find out how to go about doing this. =)

Yup, definitely sounds like a plan.

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