August 2006

Research report: The value of meetings

August 1, 2006 - Categories: cascon, research

I had several very helpful meetings today. =)

The first was with Greg Wilson about a really
interesting experiment in social bookmarking for software engineering.
I wish I could have the brainspace to do it justice, but my research
supervisor feels I should concentrate and get my primary research out
the door first. Greg Wilson is way cool,
though, and I should definitely share ideas with him. =)

I discussed my research plan with my supervisor,
Mark Chignell. I described the waterfall-ish
division of time that I blogged about yesterday, and was relieved when
he suggested that instead of holing myself up in a library and reading
everything that’s ever been written about the topic, I should instead
capitalize on my strength at prototyping things. I can build all these
little systems and watch what people do with them. When I see
something unusual, then that’s the time for me to go and figure out a
theoretical framework to use in order to explore and evaluate the
situation. How nice it is to have a research supervisor who knows how
much I like to hack—and how hard I sometimes find it to focus on
something purely theoretical!

He also told me that he’d be happy if I could go for maybe one
conference and one journal paper. That’ll probably be CSCW, then. This
means I don’t have to worry too much about breaking my project into
publishable things. Think simple master’s thesis, not PhD

My original plan was to be almost done by April of next year. He
thinks that’s doable but ambitious, and that we’d both be better off
(read: less stressed) if I target June instead. From his experience,
masters students generally take two months to finish writing – April
and May. I need to have something reasonably promising by October in
order to convince IBM to keep funding me. My nearest milestone is
August 17, the intern day at the Cambridge lab: must have something
cool to talk about then.

Mark also suggested that I take his statistics course (“Every educated
person should know statistics”). Knowing my interest in business, he
also suggested the course on the business of software. I wouldn’t mind
crossing over into Rotman for a business course, although it’s also
offered under CS.

The last meeting was with Steve Easterbrook, Greg Wilson and Mark Chignell. We talked about CASCON. I like Greg’s suggestion of a Ruby on Rails + mashups hands-on session that leads naturally into a student-oriented Hack Night. That would be great! I’m excited again. =)

If all my meetings could be like the ones I had today… wow!

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Too warm

August 1, 2006 - Categories: life

According to

Toronto 30’C, feels like 43’C
Manila 30’C, feels like 44’C

That’s not right. That’s just not right.

At least in Manila, we know about airconditioning and fans. ;)


I love the comparison btw Manila and Toronto. Make sure to do another one in February! What a crazy climate here.

– Neil


August 2, 2006 - Categories: school

I’d love to take a business-related course to round out my education and widen my network. If I can convince the Rotman School of Management to let me take an MBA elective, that would totally rock. Alternatively, I could cross over into CS. Here’s what I’m looking at:

MGT 2019: Commercializing Technological Innovations
How *does* one value innovation, anyway?
MGT 2050: Skoll Project: The Technology/Management Interface
Directly related to my research into adoption of technological innovations. I might be able to talk my way into this. Geared towards large companies.
MGT 2017: Strategic Networks
Directly related to my interest in supporting social networking. I might be able to talk my way into this based on my research.
Marketing High Technology Products
CSC2527H The Business of Software
Sounds like a terrific course.


MGT 2019: Commercializing Technological Innovations

This course is intended to improve your ability to determine whether,
when and how to commercialize technological innovations. It will also
enhance your ability to manage your firm’s technology strategy
post-commercialization. As such, this course will be of particular
interest to students interested in technology-driven businesses and
new ventures, as well as financial analysts interested in how to
assess and value a firm’s technology-related activities and even
policymakers interested in formulating supportive technology policy.
This course is highly complementary with several other strategy
electives including Cooperative Strategy, Corporate Strategy, Game
Theory and Competitive Dynamics, Strategy in the Creative Industries,
and Technology Strategy.

Commercialization of technological innovation entails facing a host of
challenging questions including: What is the value of an innovation?
What is the right way to commercialize it – when is licensing
preferred to joint ventures or diversification? How can I understand
and anticipate technological change, and pursue strategies to take
advantage of my insight? Can technology strategy be a source of
competitive advantage?

This course will introduce you to the issues and analytical arguments
behind these questions and others, drawing on recent advances in the
literatures on competitive strategy, organization economics,
industrial organization and technology management. The theoretical
arguments developed in the course will consistently be applied through
case analysis and the course project. In addition, the course will
provide insight into current “hot” technologies, including
nanotechnology and information technology.

The overall objectives of this course are to provide you with
analytical frameworks and tools that will sharpen your ability to:

  • Recognize and evaluate commercialization opportunities;
  • Anticipate problems faced by technology-driven ventures;
  • Understand the relationship between market and organizational characteristics and the success or failure of an innovation;
  • Develop and assess an overall technology strategy.
MGT 2050: Skoll Project: The Technology/Management Interface

Technology and innovation must be actively managed. This course
focuses on the concepts, techniques and processes used to facilitate
successful technological innovations in firms. The objectives of the
class are to (1) introduce students to the multiple factors involved
in successful technological innovation in firms and (2) provide
students with opportunities to integrate and synthesize the multiple
demands and requirements faced by managers in innovative firms. This
course is a requirement for all students in the Skoll BASc/MBA
program. Other MBA students interested in technology are encouraged to
take this course.

MGT 2017: Strategic Networks

The purpose of this course is to learn how social networks affect the
organization and coordination of work, and create economic value. In
particular, we will focus on network entrepreneurs – individuals or
organizations that use social networks to discover and exploit
economic opportunities. We will begin with some recent examples of
network entrepreneurs, and then introduce the underlying network
principles, followed by a discussion of network forms of organizing.
The course will focus on the relevance of social networks for both the
formulation of strategy for new (i.e., entrepreneurial) ventures and
the implementation of strategy in existing organizations. Social
networks will be examined at the individual level (e.g., the pattern
of friendship relationships among individuals in a firm) and at the
organizational level (e.g., the pattern of strategic alliances among
firms in an industry).

Marketing High Technology Products

The rapid evolution of high-tech products and their technology offer
many new challenges to the marketer. Marketing start-ups as well as
established products, managing the introduction of upgraded or
innovative products, distribution channel selection, branding,
advertising, the use of media such as the Internet, and developing
strategies to profit from the convergence of previously diverse
technologies, are some of the topics covered.

The Computer Science department is also offering an interesting course this fall:

CSC2527H The Business of Software

The course identifies the principles for starting and operating
successful and growing software venture. Students are expected to
understand the “why” of these principles by the end of the course.
Student work is centred on building a real business plan for a
software venture with a group of other students. The intended audience
for these business plans are potential investors, including angel
investors and venture capital funds. Guest entrepreneurs and other
industry participants provide ‘real world’ perspective.


The main objectives of this course include development of:

  • An understanding of the high-technology business environment in
    general and of the computer and software industries in particular.
  • An understanding of the basic principles involved in crafting a
    small healthy growing business within the software industry
  • The ability to write, present, and critique business plans and to
    formulate basic computer-based financial forecasting models.
  • A capacity to analyze the first-person perspective of entrepreneurs
    and other industry participants.


Topics will include the definition and scope of the computer and
software industries; an analysis of the sources of innovative
opportunity; a discussion of strategy and, key trends such as open
source, outsourcing and ‘software as a service’; software market
planning and product planning; the management of R&D and software
development; software product marketing; software sales and sales
management; software support; the financing and financial management
of high technology ventures; legal protections for software as
intellectual property; and leadership, management, and human resources
for high technology industries.

The class will be enriched by the participation of guest entrepreneurs
– skilled practitioners active in the industry.

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Meeting about courses

August 2, 2006 - Categories: school

I met with Mark Chignell about the courses I should register for this term. He suggested signing up for all of them, attending the first few lectures, and choosing the one I like the most. I’ll have to rely on my intuition for this because the course descriptions all sound good. If I get along with the professors, I might even be able to explain my personal background and goals and get their help in figuring out which course would be best.

We’ll meet again tomorrow to flesh out my research plan.

Next action: Brainstorm a few things I can prototype. Also, take care of some paperwork.

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Pampering myself

August 2, 2006 - Categories: life

Wednesdays are for catching my breath. I spent the evening pampering

I lathered my face and wiped the suds off with a soft washcloth,
poured boiling water into a large bowl and steamed my face for ten
minutes, and then used some tissue to extract some of the oil from my
skin. (Must get ingredients for clay or strawberry mask.)

I scrubbed my feet with pumice, soaked them in a warm bath (the
cleaning bucket is *just* wide enough to accommodate my feet
crosswise!), and scrubbed them again.

For good measure, I decided to have a proper bath, too. Self-massage,
mmm. I read a book until the water cooled a bit, then I ran cold water
in to energize me.


Next week, maybe I can try adding a few cups of milk or some drops of
essential oils. A little bit of indulgence…

I heart the Toronto Public Library

August 2, 2006 - Categories: book

I can’t believe it took me a year to get around to making the most of
the Toronto Public Library. I grew up in a country without a good
public library system and thus had no idea just how cool one could be.
Fortunately, two of my friends are avid fans of the TPL. (Hi
Dan Howard! Hi Quinn Fung!)
Quinn’s always telling me about some book or other that’s available for pick-up, and Dan told me about the trick of reserving one gazillion books.

Today I gave the web-based library catalogue a spin, and promptly requested dozens and dozens of books. I knew they’d take some time to be delivered to the branch nearest me, but I headed to the College and Spadina branch anyway as it was just a few blocks away from my residence and I wanted to raid the stacks for interesting Wednesday night reading.

It was a good thing I took my wheeled grocery bag, as I ended up
checking out far too many books. I winnowed the list down from the
stack of books I’d pulled off the shelves for browsing, but was still
sorely tempted to push the library limit of 50 (50!) books checked out
at any given time.

I’ve already finished one: Beauty Fades, Dumb is Forever, by Judy Sheindlin (of Judge Judy fame). The main thing I took away from that book is that guys aren’t built to be nurturing, and there’s nothing wrong with nurturing myself. I knew that. =) Also, the book had interesting anecdotes from the life of a no-nonsense judge. Not a bad read.

I heart the Toronto Public Library. It’s pretty up to date – lots of 2006 titles, yay! – and the web-based reservation system totally rocks. Sweet!

UPDATE: See also Bookmarklet for the Toronto Public Library

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Bookmarklet for the Toronto Public Library

August 3, 2006 - Categories: library

Thanks to Simon Ditner for this totally cool bookmarklet!

Did Dan mention the bookmarklet creator compatible with the TPL? This will suck up ISBN numbers on a page (i.e. Amazon), and search the TPL catalog:‘+’/ipac20/ipac.jsp?index=ISBN&term=’+isbn,’LibraryLookup’,’scrollbars=1,resizable=1,location=1,width=575,height=500′))}”>Library Lookup bookmarklet

Created from:

(Awwww, he reads my blog! ^_^)

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CookOrDie: Bacon, eggs and toast

August 3, 2006 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

I think I’ve figured out a neat way to store bacon. If you roll slices
up individually and loosely pack them into a plastic container,
they’re easy to break off even when frozen. I think it’s because you
minimize the contact points between each slice, whereas freezing it as
an entire slab requires you to hack parts off. To unroll, microwave
the bacon until soft (30 seconds?), unwind, and cook as normal.

This means that I can have bacon and eggs for breakfast practically
any time I want, which *might* not be a good thing. <laugh>

In other news, lunch today will be some kind of cold chickpea salad. I
soaked the chickpeas yesterday and then boiled them in my rice cooker
while having breakfast. They turned out nicely cooked, and I didn’t
even have to pay attention to them. Neat.

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More cooking misadventures

The malong and other fragments of Philippine culture

August 3, 2006 - Categories: clothing, philippines

Red malong, style 2

One of the good things about Canada is that I can wear funky ethnic
outfits. I invariably get complimented whether I’m at a geek
get-together or a fashion boutique. I stand out in a crowd. It gives
people something to talk to me about, which has led to quite a few
interesting conversations. This is great when I’m among strangers, as
I don’t have to chat people up – people come to me!

My favorite ethnic outfit is the malong, a tubular piece of cloth
frequently embellished with batik designs or embroidery. I love it for
its versatility. Not only can it go from casual to formal and back
again, but I can also make it a skirt or a dress or a bag with just
the strategic repositioning of safety pins.

This malong:

  1. Slip into the malong’s tube and hold it so that the extra part is to your right.
  2. Loop the extra part behind and over your right arm.
  3. Fasten the part to both sides of the tube using a safety pin.
  4. Pin the fold to the opposite side.

Granted, I’m making things up as I go along. I don’t even have the
vocabulary to describe what I’m doing. <laugh> I’ll just have to
record a video sometime.

I’ve seen only one other person wear a malong regularly, and she was
one of the hippest dressers in Ateneo de Manila University. I have
three full malongs and two skirt-type malongs, which could probably
double as short dresses in a pinch. I want more!

Promoting traditional Filipino costumes is one of my little crusades.
I think we don’t give our culture enough credit, and we don’t have
nearly as much fun wearing traditional outfits as we could. I love
wearing my terno, and wish I had a more casual version that I could
wear during summer. I’d wear a Maria Clara if I had one, full skirt
and all. I would love to wear the Ifugao belt with the cute pompoms
and the tapis with intricate weaving. And I want to discover all the
other costumes that have sprung out of the multifaceted culture of an

I’d also love to have suits with ethnic accents, whether it’s in terms
of materials (I miss my barong dress!) or embellishments such as
weaving or embroidery. Does anyone know a fashion designer in touch
with the Filipina soul? I can’t afford an entire wardrobe of
custom-made suits, but I don’t mind slowly accumulating pieces of
quality. (Very slowly, given my graduate student budget!) I want to
promote Philippine culture, and this will be a lifelong endeavor.

I’m Filipina, and I want people to know it. I want people to think of
Filipinas as not just domestic helpers or nurses or potential wives. I
want them to think of Philippine culture as not just Western-aping
blandness but rather something richly textured. My body is my
billboard, and I want to be a walking advertisement for what is
beautiful about my home.

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Philippine fashion

August 3, 2006 - Categories: clothing, philippines

What would it take to convince, say, someone like
Pitoy Moreno to transform Filipino clothing from formal wear to everyday wear?

He dresses the First Ladies in fabulous ternos. What about the common tao?

I wonder what can I do to get in touch with him and to convince him to give it a try. Hmm. Something to work on every now and then…

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E-Mail from Richi’s server

Research report: Schedule

August 3, 2006 - Categories: research, school

I like these one-on-one meetings. I find myself in the zone, asking
questions and figuring things out. I had another good meeting with
Mark Chignell, my research supervisor. This
time, we worked on my research plan. I’m happy with the result, and I
think IBM will be happy as well. We’ll do a historical
pseudo-experiment looking at factors that may have affected the
adoption of social computing across subgroups within IBM. I’ll see how
I can visualize the data.

Some considerations:

Mark will be in Japan from January to mid-March, and again from April
to June. Options for masteral exam:

I’ll be able to make it to June convocation, and I might have a few months of vacation before real work.
I’ll be under stress because of the tight schedule, and I probably couldn’t take spring classes.
Less stress from schedule, can take additional courses in spring, more time around tech scene here.
Need to renew my visa, which is not a bad thing. I’ll miss the June convocation, and will need to make it to November convocation instead. If I find myself working in Canada, then I can still probably graduate with pomp and circumstance. ;) My parents won’t like winter, though, but hey… If I’m not working in Canada, then no pictures or ceremony. Oh well, s’okay. Must check fellowship.

Here’s the March schedule:

August Resume my commute to IBM. (Waah!) Find as many sources of data as I can.
September Data analysis. Start applying theoretical framework to IBM as a whole.
October CASCON. Start on subpopulation analysis.
November Analyze technology diffusion across subpopulations through interviews.
December Write up research.
January Vacation in the Philippines!
February Write up research.
March Possible date for exam because Mark will be in town?
April Pass thesis just in time for June Convocation
June Graduate
July Vacation
August Vacation
September Work

Here’s the August schedule:

August Resume my commute to IBM. (Waah!) Find as many sources of data as I can.
September Data analysis. Start applying theoretical framework to IBM as a whole.
October CASCON. Apply theoretical framework to IBM as a whole.
November Analyze technology diffusion across subpopulations through interviews.
December Analyze technology diffusion across subpopulations through interviews.
January Vacation in the Philippines!
February Write up research.
March Write up research. Paper 1 (thesis).
April Study #2: case study of Dogear
June Study dogear adoption.
July Write up research.
August Write up research. Paper 2 (dogear case study).
September Review papers. Exam.
October Something happens.
November Graduate
December Work?

Whichever schedule we choose, my next action is to hunt for as many
data sources as I can and figure out how to mash them up. I need to
decide which schedule to follow before I go on my Christmas vacation,
because I’ll probably renew my US visa then. (That is, unless I can
renew my visa from Canada.)

On Technorati: ,

Social Tech Brewing: Women in Technology

August 4, 2006 - Categories: women

Today’s Social Tech Brewing event about Women in Technology gave me
much to think about. I’ll blog a bit more about it tomorrow, but I
just wanted to get some thoughts out before going to bed.

Someone jokingly mentioned a study that claimed that the probability of marriage was proportional to a man’s IQ but inversely proportional to a woman’s. Quinn added that this study has been ripped apart in blogs before, but the factoid nonetheless sparked an interesting discussion about alpha females and relationships. And yes, despite my consensus-building, nurturing side, I’m still very much an alpha-type geekette.

This should make life interesting.

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Social Tech Brewing: It’s all about choices

August 4, 2006 - Categories: life, reflection

(I think about this a fair bit even as a 22-year-old because I want to
know my values, and reflecting on my values helps me see opportunities
in which to practice them. I don’t obsess about it. It’s just that I’m
used to thinking out loud, so I find it easy to write about things
like this. =) )

One of the thoughts I took away from last night’s Social Tech Brewing
session is both discouraging and reassuring: we really can’t have it

Reassuring because I am not expected to even try to have it all—but
discouraging because I am multi-dimensional and stubborn and want
it all anyway!

Many people address this problem by dividing their lives into stages:
single-mindedly focusing on business, then developing their personal
lives and finding their meaning when they’ve established themselves,
when they have enough. Or the other way around: building their family
and deepening their ties to the community, then returning to the
workforce when the children have left the nest or when they’ve
accomplished something meaningful enough.

But what is enough, and what happens to the rest of their selves?

I believe I can have the strength to walk away from opportunities.
I’ve done so before, and it gives me great pleasure to pass those
opportunities to other people. (It often works out much better, too!)

Still, I see how it’s difficult for my mom to disentangle herself from
the business and pursue other things that would enrich her life. I
also see how it’s almost impossible for one of my friends to abandon
her family and pursue a career.

I am more than a technologist. Social conditioning or not, it makes me
happy to lift someone’s mood with a smile or a hug, just as it makes
me happy to make someone’s day with a snippet of custom Emacs Lisp
code. Sometimes, the best thing I can do with my time is to write
about my research. Other times, it is to take a friend out for a
massage and listen to her intently. I hack, I geek, but I also mediate
and nurture, whether I do so by teaching or encouraging or listening.

If I choose to focus on one aspect of myself, how will I nurture all
the other aspects of me? I will not have a life that addresses only
one side.

I want to be myself every inch of the way, even if it means walking
slowly as I figure out each step.

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CookOrDie: Danger, Will Robinson!

August 4, 2006 - Categories: cookordie

Uh oh.

I now know how to bake brownies from scratch, and I can make them as
moist and chocolatey as I want.

I have vanilla ice cream in the freezer.

I am so dead.


IF I promised a tray of chocolatey desserts for a potluck dinner at 7:00,
AND I have enough ingredients to bake a second batch of brownies…

Don’t even think about it, Sacha. That way lies danger.

They won’t mind if I try a bit of it first.

Maybe a bit more.


More cooking misadventures

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Month in review

August 4, 2006 - Categories: monthly

Check out my May, June, July, and August indices, too. =)

Not my best day ever

August 6, 2006 - Categories: life

Two dinner parties in two days: Simon Ditner’s potluck (I brought
brownies) and Pavel Zaitsev’s Russian dinner. I wish the timing
could’ve been better, because life is so much more fun when you don’t
have to deal with cramps and related indignities.

It’s just one of those days when I find myself with less energy than
usual. I hate that.

I’m so glad that Simon Rowland came along to both parties. In
particular, I was pretty out of it during Pavel’s small dinner party,
and Simon made up for my conversational dead weight by just connecting
with people there. He’s awesome.

Why was I so out of it? Aside from the circumstances, I had gotten
fairly stressed out in transit. I ordinarily try not to get stressed
out about stuff, but I found it hard to calm myself. Pavel had called
me up a few times to follow up, so I felt *really* guilty about being
late, and I felt so stressed out about it that Simon suggested we take
a taxi instead. When we got there, though, I was a little bit relieved
to see that the party hadn’t started yet—but I was off for the rest
of the evening, and I couldn’t muster the strength to connect with the
other people there.

I’m not happy with the way I behaved today. I can’t do much about it
now, but maybe I can do better in the future. One way to do that, I
suppose, is to confine myself when I’m having one of these days…

It wasn’t all bad, though. The highlight of my day was learning more
about the Philippines. Simon was curious, so we looked it up on Google
Earth and in the CIA Factbook.

In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have gone out knowing that I
wasn’t quite there. I’m tempted to spend tomorrow curled up with a
stuffed penguin and feeling sorry for myself, but that won’t
accomplish much. Maybe tomorrow’s sunshine will make me feel better.

So yeah, I do too have days when I feel awkward, even terrible.


Planning my birthday party

August 6, 2006 - Categories: life

I’ve been drafting my invitation for my 23rd birthday party. I know, I
know, I’m late. I should give people more than a week’s notice. But
with one thing or another… Meep.

I started drawing up a guest list, and I felt panic starting to set
in. I’m at over 40 people right now. Looking at the living room…

I need to focus. This is *my* birthday party, and I’ll celebrate it
the way I want to. =) I want to:

  • Tell stories about my past year. Lots of firsts!
  • Share my questions.
  • Set and share goals for the next year.

It’s more important for me to have an intimate party than it is to
have a large one. I want to invite people who would care about my last
year and be there for my next one. If I’m going to ask people for
letters, they should be people to whom I can write similar letters.
Plus points for people who read my blog and comment. ;)

Okay. 23 people, including myself. We’ll just have to find some way of
fitting into my living room at Graduate House.

I must be ruthless about my party plans. I can celebrate with other
people later. =)

Karaoke night

August 7, 2006 - Categories: friends

Went to Kick-Ass Karaoke Night with Joey de Villa, Wendy, Quinn, Jed, and a
bunch of random strangers.

Sang “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, which was an awesome
choice as everyone sang along. =) Also, sang the theme song from Ally
McBeal with Quinn Fung (see picture).

Had fun. =)

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Time bubble

August 8, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

For some reason or another, my initial “Wow, this has been quite an
eventful year” reflection included my stay in Japan. Actually, the
12-month period covers life in Canada (which was still very eventful).

Hmm. Time is a funny thing.

Raided the library

August 8, 2006 - Categories: library

Having discovered the joys of the online book request system, I raided
the library for 22 books on various topics including networking.
Mwahahaha! I could barely restrain my glee. Kid in a candy store,

Props to W- Young for helping me get all
those books to Graduate House! =) He’s awesome.

Social Tech Brewing: Cathy Reed and ISisters

August 9, 2006 - Categories: women

Cathy Reed spoke about mentoring through
ISisters. She spent ten years as an
educational software trainer and consultant, eventually tiring of the
mobile lifestyle of eating out, of using little hotel soaps. “I woke
up one morning and realized that what I was doing didn’t matter to me.
It was great, but I had a huge void. … Shortly after that, ISisters
was founded.”

ISisters builds community centers that help women on social assistance
learn how to use technology. Cathy described one Inuit woman: “Very
cool to watch a grown woman send her first e-mail, and then a week
later, see 12 emails from her family and friends up north whom she
hadn’t connected with in a long time.”

She also mentioned the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance – Women
in Technology (CADA-WIT), which has just opened a Toronto chapter.

Cathy spoke about her passion for the technology and the effect that
sharing this passion had on the women she taught. Through
encouragement, sharing and being a positive role model, she transforms
the lives of the teenage mothers, natives, and new immigrants who go
through iSisters.


I’d love to help out with something like that when I’m older. That
way, I can not only help people become more comfortable with
technology, but also help them make the most of life.

On Technorati: ,

Social Tech Brewing: Hong Zhu

August 9, 2006 - Categories: women

Hong Zhu shared some results of her research into the ways that women
from non-traditional backgrounds enter the IT sector. Most of the
women in the study had no children or had grown-up children. On
average, women earned only 85% of the salary of men doing comparable

She spoke of the need to encourage more women to go into math- and
science-intensive programs in education because women usually lack
this background in high school and college, which makes it harder for
them to get into IT.

Hong described a few of the challenges women deal with at work. Even
among women who have prepared well, many of them don’t feel
comfortable in the “boys’ club.” Traditional IT men tend to compete to
be “as incomprehensible as possible.” Another challenge facing women
and technology is the balance between family and work. If they get
into a high-speed track, they can find it hard to keep that balance.
Hong shared an interesting observation: women often find that the long
hours aren’t really necessary, but men enjoy lingering around the
workplace. Women also struggle with different standards for success.
While men are expected to be good providers, the modern woman is
expected to be both a good careerwoman and a good wife.

She recommended more women-friendly curricula that provide stronger
technical backgrounds and, more importantly, promote gender equity.

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Social Tech Brewing: Leesa Barnes

August 9, 2006 - Categories: women

Leesa Barnes asked us to reflect on the day(s) that we almost quit
technology. She shared her experience in 2004 at the last full-time
job she ever had. “Never again,” she said.

She quit because her job had challenged her integrity. “For five years
I worked at a technology company, working on a piece of software that
was crap. And we all knew it. And we worked with our clients, with
this piece of software, everyone fully knowing that it was a piece of
crap. Yet we still had to implement it, put on a brave face, and once
it went live… disappear.”

Oftentimes, our work challenges our integrity. That’s one of the
barriers we face as women in technology. Not just crude jokes and
administrative tasks, and everyday situations where our integrity is
challenged. That’s why Leesa considered quitting technology altogether.

Leesa also called attention to how horrible a job women do supporting
each other. Five women in a team of 200, and they didn’t even feel
comfortable having lunch with each other for fear that their managers
would misconstrue it.

She fell in love with technology again when she discovered podcasting,
and has been passionate about it ever since. She’s chosen not to focus
on the negative stuff that she encounters in the industry, and instead
has chosen to surround herself with positive experiences and
individuals. That’s her strategy, and it’s worked really well so far.

Leesa ended her speech with a call to support each other and to look
at solutions instead of just focusing on problems. And she’s right: a
positive outlook breeds positive outcomes!

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Social Tech Brewing: Sticky stickers

August 9, 2006 - Categories: geek, women

Amber MacArthur took a break during the Social Tech Brewing panel
to call attention to the sticker on my laptop and the pin on my
backpack. The sticker on my laptop reads, “The geek shall inherit the
earth.” I got it from the Software Freedom Day leftovers from the
Philippines. The pin reads, “No, you can’t just explain it in the
manual.” I snagged that from Human Factors International at CHI 2006.

I love wearing quirky little things like that. It gives people a
whatzit and invites them to talk to me. I’ve had random conversations
with people because of the Tux penguin pin, for example.

Stuff like that helps me establish myself as a geek girl instead of
just someone’s significant other at tech events. I *really* should
make a sticker that reads: “Emacs: More than just a text editor. It’s
a way of life!” Or “(I (think (in (LISP))))”

Hmm. There’s a book about writing for bumper stickers. I should
request it. Fortunately I don’t have the budget or space for an inkjet
printer, so I’m forced to find other ways to make these little jokes

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Social Tech Brewing: Kristin ?

August 9, 2006 - Categories: women

Kristin talked about how, if you were stuck on something, there was
often the assumption that it was because you were a woman instead of
there actually being a problem. She shared her experience of taking
courses and being afraid of asking “silly” questions until she
eventually did, finding out that her male classmates had also been
wondering the same thing. Self-confidence plays such a huge role…

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Living life online

August 9, 2006 - Categories: emacs, planning

People often find the public nature of my blog remarkable. They boggle
at the idea that I put my task list online and that I share my
reflections on my quarter-life crisis.

I share a lot, but this blog doesn’t have *everything.* There are a
lot of things I don’t write about because I haven’t figured them out
yet or because I don’t feel like writing about them. I also have quite
a number of stories that I just haven’t gotten around to writing!

But yes, my life is mostly public. Why, when I know that Google and will mean that these things will be around for pretty much
forever? ;)

In particular, people find my task list unusual. Sacha Peter said:

… she has taken the step to pretty much put her task lists online for the whole world to see.

He wonders whether it might be interesting to look back over several
years of data. Hmm… Come to think of it, I’ve been using Planner for
four and a half years now. Whoa.

I use my task list as both a tool for proactive planning, reactive
management, and retrospective reflection. I mainly use it to plan
ahead, get stuff out of my head, and keep track of what I accomplished
for the day. I *could* use Planner to keep track of tasks that I
didn’t finish or didn’t get around to, and I might change to doing
that one of these days.

I guess the strange thing is that I do this kind of planning out in
public. This has helped me countless times. A public task list lets
people figure out if I remembered that I have a meeting with them.
Sometimes people will remind me of things if they see me
procrastinate. And every so often, people offer tips and suggestions
that help me do my work more effectively.

It’s easy to have private tasks. Here’s the basic Emacs Lisp code I’d
need for that:

(defun sacha/planner-skip-private ()
  "Remove all lines matching {{ private }} (no spaces)."
  (goto-char (point-min))
  (delete-matching-lines "{{private}\}")) ; escaped here just so that you can see it

I don’t think I’ll use it often, though. It’s kinda nice keeping
people up to date on what I’m working on even if I don’t have the time
to write long blog entries…

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Von Totanes is here!

August 9, 2006 - Categories: friends

vonjobi arrived in Toronto this morning. Yay!

CookOrDie last Saturday: Decadent Dessert party

August 9, 2006 - Categories: cooking, cookordie, friends, party

I confess: I threw a dessert party just to have an excuse to bake more

You see, I’m a social chocolate eater. Knowing it to be one of my
weaknesses, I try not to have chocolate unless I have company. And as
9×13 pans result in a _lot_ of brownies, I absolutely must have
friends over if I’m going to even think of baking.

So I did. Dan Howard, Quinn Fung and Jedediah Smith came over. We had this absolutely
decadent dessert: freshly-baked double-chocolate brownies topped with
French vanilla ice cream and hot fudge bought especially for the occasion.

As a concession to healthy eating, we followed it with pineapple
chunks and loose-leaf green tea. (I’ve graduated to loose-leaf tea!
With a tea ball! Proper.)

Now _that’s_ a terrific way to spend a Saturday afternoon.


Kelly blogged about brownie sundaes. I _so_ want to have a Sundae Sunday now, complete with whipped cream and a light dusting of chocolate shavings or almond slivers or toasted rice or _something_ equally indulgent…

Life is so much better when you know how to make dessert.

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Book: The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One

August 9, 2006 - Categories: book, career, life

Worth reading! The Renaissance Soul gives down-to-earth advice for
people who thrive on variety and challenges in a number of deep and
rich interests. The book helps people identify their passions
(plural!) and follow them without feeling overwhelmed by choice. It’s
also clear, well-written, and full of concrete stories. I like it!


A number of people have told me that they admire the way I know what
I’m doing. My grade school teachers were completely unsurprised by my
choice of a college major. My love for technology can be traced to
childhood, and on the surface it can seem like I’m one of those people
who know what they want to do and how to do it.

However, my teachers and friends have also always known that I can
have a hard time focusing. In university, I switched from mobile
computing to wearable computing to personal information management to
education. I take up hobbies and let them go at some point.

The best thing I took away from the book is the idea of a focal point
sampler. Identify four things you’re passionate about. Figure out if
you’re the kind of person who pursues things sequentially or who
prefers to enrich life by blending things together. Make it happen.
Key point: you’re not stuck to these four choices forever; you can
change your mind and try different flavors next time. It’s like
sampling flavors in an ice cream shop…

I think my sister Kathy should read this book, too. =) Good book.
Thumbs up!



55 The people who are most secure are not those who pick one career and stick with it. They are the people who follow their passion—or passions. [Quote preceded by clear, concrete example.]
55 Only by staying in tune with your passions will you acquire the glowing references and kindred-spirit networking contacts that will pull you through times of change, whether that change is imposed from without or within.
66 [Describes terrific exercises for figuring out which values are important to you overall and which ones are important right now.]
70 Five from fifty exercise. Choose the five values most important to you at this moment.
76 Throw your own birthday party. Write toasts for yourself from different perspectives.
81 Mine-Theirs exercise. Three columns: activity, justification, does this reflect my values of theirs?
98 Focal points: a sampler of interests, not just one primary interest. Four seems to be a good number.
106 Jobs. [J-O-B: get/make a job that includes some of your focal points. Think of it as a stepping stone.]
114 You must always answer any ritual questions about what you do in terms of one or more of your focal points, not your job.
133 [Story of Tracy Kidder, who’s totally awesome.]
154 [Brainstorming extravaganza. Invite a dozen or so friends/colleagues/whoever over.]
158 [Resource party. Kinda like a silent auction. Hand out index cards with numbers written on them, and arrange people in a circle. Person 1 asks a question. Anyone who can help raises their number, and the person writes down their numbers for later conversation. (Don’t take other people’s time with the details!). Go a few rounds, then take a break for conversation.]
162 [Guidelines for volunteering: create your own volunteer position by bartering your services for what they can provide, make contact with the right person (someone who can make things happen for you and doesn’t mind sharing opportunities).]
165 [Four-frame approach: big picture, why you selected this situation, what you would like to gain, what you can give in return]
168 Mentorship has traditionally been a less formal affair open to everyone. [You can find mentors everywhere.]
211 Price, Reality, Integrity, Specificity, Measurability – PRISM test for focal points
218 [Take a look at the list of possible intentions / qualities. Pick two that are crucial to your focal point, but personally difficult for you. I intend to be ___ enough in the way that I ____ to make the most of this focal point.]
221 [Set intention markers – milestones – which show you how you follow through with those milestones.]
233 [Schedule in focal point blocks and then work on whichever focal point is appropriate for the moment. You can color-code your schedule according to the focal point in order to see if you’ve been balancing things well.]
244 [Multitask in one direction. Don’t do other things during focal point time, but mix focal stuff into other activities.]
246 Fresh ideas for your daily TODO list
256 [Have three candidates for asking for help with different things, prioritize and load-balance]

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The Renaissance Soul: Life Design for People with Too Many Passions to Pick Just One

Book: Lifeskills: 8 Simple Ways to Build Stronger Relationships, Communicate More Clearly, Improve Your Health

August 9, 2006 - Categories: book, life

The book goes into interesting detail about the neurological changes
that happen when people get lots of tender loving care. =) Quite
interesting reading.

My parents raised me with lots of affection and positive thoughts.
Perhaps that’s also the reason why people find me calm during many
stressful situations, and I recover from disappointments quickly.
Here’s the technical explanation:

  • A loving action triggers serotonin production in the hippocampus.
  • Serotonin stimulates a specific type of receptor on other hippocampal cells.
  • Receptor activation results in the formation of cyclic-AMP and PKA,
    which prompts the production of receptors for cortisol (stress hormone).
  • Extra cortisol receptors migrate to the surface of the hippocampus.

During times of stress, the adrenal gland produces cortisol, which
causes adrenaline effects to last longer, mobilizes fat for energy,
and shuts down the immune system. However, the additional cortisol
receptors tell the hypothalamus to calm the fight-or-flight response.
While the stressful stimulus is there, this signal is overridden.
However, when the stressor is removed, the extra cortisol receptors
make it easier for someone to calm down.

More notes later. In the meantime, thanks, Mama and Papa!

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May you live in interesting times

August 9, 2006 - Categories: friends

Gabriel Mansour just found out how dangerous it is to not have an exciting story when people ak you about interesting things that’ve happened to you. The bus stop he was standing at got completely demolished just seconds after he left it. Read his story.

My brother-in-law, John Valdezco, discovered this the hard way, too. We were on our way to Taal Lake – a lake in the crater of a volcano – when talk turned to adventures. My dad asked John to tell us a story about the most interesting thing that had happened to him so far. Right after he gave up and said that he couldn’t think of anything, there was a sudden commotion – a landslide right behind our car.

My mom thought that was a very good reason to never ask someone if anything interesting had ever happened to them. Still, I’m a slow learner. I like listening to people’s stories. If you think you might spend some time around me, make sure you’ve got one ready! You really don’t want to tempt fate, especially not around someone happily cursed to live an interesting life.

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Balancing the day

August 9, 2006 - Categories: life

I’ve set aside Wednesdays for catching my breath just in case my
weekends are too full, as they tend to be. I don’t particularly feel
the need to meditate, though. I spent all day doing quiet work:
reading books, writing about Social Tech Brewing, and sharing my book
notes. I want to balance that with lively social interaction and lots
of laughter. So I’m off to cruise downtown for interesting
conversations. If I can get in touch with Shane, maybe we can do
random acts of kindness and connection…

It’s all about balance and variety. When I have a packed, hectic day,
all I want is to relax quietly. When I have a peaceful day, I like
jazzing it up with excitement.

I wonder how I can make the most of this energy…

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Setting up financial details

August 10, 2006 - Categories: finance

Von Totanes and I are at the TD Canada Trust
at Bay and Bloor to set up accounts. I’ve decided to finally go for
the secured credit card so that I can establish a credit history,
which will be handy later on.

I’m going for the CAD 1000 limit credit card because I find myself
occasionally needing to book a flight. It’s still not going to be
enough to book a flight home, but that’s okay: we need to start
somewhere. Two options:

  1. Open a checking account and maintain a minimum daily balance of CAD 1500 in order to avoid monthly fees of CAD 3.45.
  2. Secure the deposit with CAD 1000 in a 1-year GIC with 3.75% interest, freeing up CAD 500 to put into, say, my 4% savings account. Open the checking account and pay monthly fees of CAD 3.45, but avoid keeping a minimum balance. EARN: 57.50 SPEND: 41.40 NET: +16.10

Approach 2 earns me CAD 16 extra per year, compared to the opportunity
cost of tying up CAD 1500 in a non-interest-bearing account. For the
purposes of simplifying my life, however, I don’t mind giving that up
for now. If I were here for longer, I might’ve secured it with a
longer-term GIC, maybe even get up to 4%.

To simplify matters, I’ll probably also do most of my banking at TD.
The savings account offers 3% interest with a minimum balance of CAD

The savings account has a maximum of two transactions per month, so I
can’t do the kind of financial juggling I’m doing with PCFinancial,
but I guess it’ll work out better in the long run. The account’s
actually a better deal than my previous PCFinancial savings account,
but I’m on the 4% savings account at PCFinancial now, so I’ll need to
think about that for a bit.

I think I’ll start off by just using the checking account at TD for a
while, using it to autopay my credit card and transferring more money
into it once in a while. It’s handy because it’s another way I can get
cash; their daily withdrawal limit is higher. I’m going to need to be
more careful managing my accounts and making sure I’m keeping track of

I’ll close my Scotiabank USD account, at least. I’ll keep the
PCFinancial savings account for the extra 1% (which is still quite an
amount), move most of my current account to TD, and keep a checking
account at PCFinancial for bill payments, checking, and the occasional
debit transaction. I can use the TD account to pay rent every month in
order to make sure the account is active, and I’ll use scheduled
transfers to make sure the money is there each month. I’ll also top it
up right after I charge something, treating it as a charge card.

An alien experience

August 10, 2006 - Categories: communication, speaking

I’ve been in Canada for a year, and from time to time I still feel
very alien. Last night, I mispronounced “adolescence”. In moments of
inattention, I often forget how to pronounce words I already know,
because I just “read” them in my mind. Sometimes I try to use a word
I’ve never even heard someone else say. When this is brought to my
attention, I accept and remember the correction—but it’s difficult
for me to squelch that sudden feeling of insecurity, of feeling

My accent grows thicker the longer I stay here—or is it just that I
notice it more? I pause more, gesture more, stumble over words more
than I remember doing. And yes, from time to time, I say things that
people don’t understand until I repeat myself or spell things out. It
distracts them from what I’m trying to say. (Although it does show
that they’re paying attention! =) )

One way to deal with this is to learn the phonetic alphabet and read
the dictionary. Computer-based dictionaries tend to not have
pronunciation guides. Web-based ones don’t let me flip through them
for random words, although I think I should scale back on that a bit
and focus more on great combinations of words. I sound too bookish

The best thing to do, I suppose, is to listen. I need to listen to
more things. I need to listen to people with wide vocabularies and
well-expressed thoughts. I really should format that iPod or do some
other magic so that I can connect it to my laptop and make the most of

I need to be exposed to the sound of other people’s voices. My media
diet is almost entirely print and web. I don’t watch television, and I
hardly listen to the radio. I should fix that at least with audiobooks
and podcasts.

And maybe I can pay more attention to the experience created by
sound… It takes a certain skill to form sentences that sound good. I
should learn that. It’ll be fun. =) Right, there’s something I need to
work on.

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Sharing the link love

August 10, 2006 - Categories: emacs, planner

People who visit my blog instead of reading
it on an RSS aggregator get a couple of nifty extras, including my
task list and a list of e-mail messages sent. It’s a personal
experiment I’ve been running for a while now with unexpectedly
positive results. People have helped me with things on my task list,
and my sent mail list resulted in reminders from two people who
noticed that they hadn’t received some messages listed as sent—the
messages had gotten stuck in my mail queue.

These things are easy for me to track because I use
Planner, an
insanely customizable personal information manager for the Emacs text
editor. Today I realized that my list of sent e-mail is a good way to
share the link love and direct you to the websites of the people I
talk to, so I added a bit of code to my config.

On my computer, “E-mail to” is hyperlinked to the actual e-mail, and
names are hyperlinked to their contact records. On the Web, “E-mail
to” is not a hyperlink, and names are hyperlinked to people’s blogs or

It’s a little tweak, but who knows what it’ll lead to? If you end up
discovering an interesting person through this, way cool. And hey, it
gives people whom I write extra Google juice… =)

I might do the same for the tasks, although that requires a teensy bit
more coding. Hmm.

I’m thinking of listing the subject header again. It’ll give people
more of an idea of what other people talk to me about.
Dan Howard was concerned about privacy. I
occasionally delete subjects if I think they’re sensitive. Do you
think I might get away with a mostly opt-out system?

Anyway, check out my actual blog every now and then! =)

Emacs Lisp code:

(defun sacha/planner-gnus-track-sent ()
  "Add this to `message-sent-hook' to keep track of messages sent on your daily page.
Result: Adds it to * E-mail sent."
  ;; Grab the header
  (let ((mail-link
         (concat "gnus://" gnus-newsgroup-name "/"
         (split-string (planner-gnus-get-address "To") ", *"))
    (setq text
           (planner-make-link mail-link "E-mail to")
           " "
            (lambda (address)
              (let (rec)
                ;; Look up record
                (setq addr (mail-extract-address-components address))
                (setq rec (apply 'bbdb-search-simple addr))
                (if rec
                     (concat "bbdb://"
                              " " "."
                     (bbdb-record-name rec))
                  (or (car address) (cadr address)))))
          ;;            ": "
          ;;           (message-fetch-field "Subject"))))
        (planner-seek-to-first "E-mail sent")
        (insert " 1. " text "\n"))))

(add-hook 'message-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
            (add-hook 'message-sent-hook 'sacha/planner-gnus-track-sent)))

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It’s all a matter of perspective

August 11, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Last night, I had an “I suck” moment. I mispronounced a word and felt very much like a newbie. Simon pointed out something similar before. He teases me about the fact that I use words like “thrice” instead of “three times”. My language is more formal, bookish.

So yeah, I had an “I suck” moment, unhappy with my awkwardness.

I was about to clam up and have one of those hot chocolate days, but
Simon listened to me and helped me figure out that little bug. That
helped immensely. As we walked through a park, he reminded me that I’m
new here, I’m from a different culture, and my errors are just like
those of anyone who learned English primarily through reading.

Hmm. Come to think of it, that *is* true. Although my family speaks to
me primarily in English and so do my friends, I just read and write so
much that the way I think of words is visual, not auditory. I need to
listen to more people, I think!

I explained how I felt, and I learned a bit more about myself. I
remembered how I was much like that in grade school as well: nose
buried in books, comfortable with more words than normal, but letting
that vocabulary get in the way of communication. It’s still something
I need to work on.

Hmm. There’s nothing wrong with being bookish. I should learn how to
set people at ease so that they know I’m not trying to impress them
with words…

More malong pics

August 11, 2006 - Categories: clothing, filipino, philippines

My mom sent two more malongs through Von Totanes. Slowly building a malong collection and coming up with different ways to wear it. When I go home, I should learn the kappa kappa malong dance… ;)

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Yup, still alive

August 14, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

It’s been one hectic weekend. This week’s going to be really tight,
too, but I’m going to try to squeeze in some blogging time so that I
can tell you stories about my totally awesome birthday parties. =)

You can check my task list on to see what my sched’s like today.

Documentary on Filipino teachers

August 14, 2006 - Categories: filipino, philippines

Via School Librarian in Action (eruannie): Tals Diaz will make a documentary on Filipino teachers going to the US to work and teach. More info

I watched a documentary about the difficulties domestic helpers face
when they reunite with their families after years apart. “When
Strangers Meet” – it’s available at the Canadian Film Board.

I want to watch a documentary on techie migration, too. I’d love to
help make that happen.

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August 15, 2006 - Categories: friends

Simon Rowland and Roger Yang invited me to go rock-climbing at Rock Oasis (Front and Bathurst) last Friday (2006.08.11). Richi Plana and I headed there after he dropped his backpack off at the hostel, and I texted Jedediah Smith and Quinn Fung to see if they’d be interested in joining us. It turned out to be such a terrific experience!

While we learned the ropes, Simon and Roger took turns climbing
challenging walls. By the time we finished, they were also done!

Fortunately they were not too tired to help us. I asked Simon to belay
for me as I tried climbing. The 5.7-level wall turned out to be a bit
too challenging, so I went for the 50′ 5.6 wall instead. I had
completed a 5.6 wall during the beginner class, so I figured I could
handle it.

50 feet, apparently, is quite a distance, particularly for someone new
to climbing, with a weak grip and little endurance. When my fingers
gave up, I used anything else I could: the side of my palm, my
forearm, even my elbow. I frequently shook my hands to get rid of the
fatigue and often sat back to figure out a strategy for making my way
up. Whenever an approach failed, I’d try another, and another, and
another. Hold by painful hold, I made my slow way up.

Every time I lost my grip, my friends learned more about the limits of
my vocabulary. They knew I was getting serious when I graduated from
“Ay, CRAP!” to “DARN!” They were rather amused when I tried out
“Fish!” and “Fudge!” for size. (I like “Fudge!” It makes me think of

And hey, yeah, that’s true. If I think something’s worth it, I’ll keep
going for it—and that’s just so much more fun with encouragement. =)

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I’ll be off to Boston tomorrow

August 16, 2006 - Categories: travel

I’m not quite sure how the next three days are going to play out, but
hey, it’ll be an interesting story for sure. I’ll try to check my mail
at least once, and I’m bringing my wifi card. I don’t know if roaming
will Just Work. We’ll see…

Virtual birthdays, real friends

August 16, 2006 - Categories: barkada, friends, party, philippines

(Backlog: 2006.08.12)

“How many geeks does it take to…” is a standard joke whenever my
barkada (close group of friends) in the Philippines gets together.
Just like last year, they celebrated my actual birthday with a
tele-party. Instead of hanging out at some wireless cafe in Glorietta,
they trooped over to my parents’ new place, bringing flowers for my
mom. (Awwww! After all, she did all the hard work on my zeroth

It took me a while to get my side up and running. I hadn’t figured out
how to set up sound under Ubuntu, so I booted to Microsoft Windows.
Troubleshooting a network connection in a Japanese language operating
system was Not Fun, though. Through trial and error I figured out that
I needed to disable the firewall. Then I realized that the network was
blocking my MAC address because it detected a duplicate registration.
The network had worked under Linux because I’d cloned the MAC address
for my Lifebook onto my Vaio, but I hadn’t set it up under Windows. I
switched back to copy the MAC address and then figured out how to set
the MAC address under Windows (again, still working in Japanese).
Skype kept crashing, too, which was decidedly not fun.

So we decided to go with Yahoo Messenger. My friends set up the
wireless router and got three laptops on the network. It’s a good
thing, too, as we needed all three just to keep up with the chatter!
We set up the webcams and made funny faces at each other. There was
also that interesting bit with the identity musical chairs. Heh.

It was so nice to see and talk to my friends again. I so miss them and
my family. Iba talaga ang barkada. I guess Canadians might know what
it’s like. Still… Maybe it’s just the people I know or the culture
here, but it still doesn’t have quite the same feel as our
hell-or-high-water crazy-as-anything barkadas with gimmicks and dramas
and in-jokes galore. I miss my friends back home, and I love them them
to bits!

Clair and Peppy blogged about the party, too. Check out their stories!

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Merienda madness and my 23rd birthday

August 16, 2006 - Categories: cooking, cookordie, friends, party

Last Saturday (2006.08.12) was my birthday, and every Filipino knows
that birthdays mean lots and lots and lots of food. Things didn’t go
exactly according to plan: they turned out even better! It was the
first time I tried cramming over 15 people into my suite, and it
worked out surprisingly well even though we were constantly washing
mugs and everything.

Plan A was to spend the morning preparing a traditional
merienda of Philippine delicacies. I woke up late and spent the rest of
the morning celebrating my birthday with a virtual party thrown by my
family and friends in the Philippines. That was totally worth it.

Plan B: buy traditional delicacies from a Filipino bakery or something
like that. Except I had *no* idea where to find one of those downtown.
Google wasn’t helpful, either. The one Filipino restaurant I
remembered along Yonge turned out to have closed a while ago. I asked
Joey de Villa, but he couldn’t think of any
off the top of his head. Meep.

Plan C, of course, was to declare cookies and brownies traditional
Filipino treats. ;) As long as the other Filipinos played along, I’d
be home safe! Also, I was totally craving tropical fruits, so it was a
good excuse to splurge on mangoes, pineapples, and other good things.
Richi Plana and I raided Chinatown and
Kensington Market for assorted foodstuff, also picking up ingredients
for champorado and palitaw.

What could be better than that? Plan D: Have your *guests* cook! ;)
That was just amazing. Friends demonstrated their l33t pineapple
carving / brownie making / champorado-from-scratch cooking /
dishwashing skillz. I did actually manage to cook something: palitaw,
one of my favorite Filipino snacks.


Glutinous rice flour, shredded coconut, sugar, sesame seeds

  1. Add boiling water to glutinous rice flour, kneading it into dough. Don’t make it sticky!
  2. Roll the flour into balls and flatten them with your hands into small pancake-like shapes.
  3. Slip the cakes into boiling water.
  4. Scoop the cakes out when they float.
  5. Toast sesame seeds until they turn golden.
  6. Mix shredded coconut, sugar, and sesame seeds on a plate.
  7. Coat both sides of each cake with the mixture.
  8. Enjoy!

Preparing all this food kept me a bit too busy to connect with
everyone, and I wish I had a bit more time to spend with people who
had to leave early. Maybe I’ll figure out a better way to do this next

Anyway, after I made sure everyone had something to eat, I took a
break from the kitchen and got to the main part of the party. I talked
about the past year and how my 22nd year of life was mainly about
learning to live on my own. I then asked them to help me brainstorm
cool things to do in Canada so that I can make the most of my time
here. I also asked for help figuring out what I can do after
graduation, and I got a number of suggestions that I hadn’t considered
before but which seem like pretty good fits. I’ll blog about these later.

I asked for letters instead of gifts, and the letters I got were
really, really, really heartwarming. =) I also received some
absolutely wonderful chocolate, an interesting book, and a beautiful
set of cat-themed dishes. (I’m behind on my thank-you cards and
letters, but I’m looking forward to catching up soon!)

I demoed my strange street-performing-ish hobbies, too. (Thanks,
Kathy, for getting me into that stuff!) Then we headed over to the
Linux Caffe for dinner and more relaxed conversation. I *love* the
Linux Caffe to pieces. It’s so nice knowing and being known by a

Anyway, that was how I spent my birthday. I can’t think of any better
way to celebrate finishing a year and starting a new one than in the
company of such good friends. =)

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Richi’s visit

August 16, 2006 - Categories: friends

Richi Plana flew in from Calgary just to
celebrate my birthday. Aww! I didn’t have much time to hang out with
him this weekend, but I really enjoyed the time that we did have –
rockclimbing, running around Chinatown looking for bagoong, catching
up on the boardwalk near the lake… He did my dishes after the party,
too. =) Awww! He’s awesome.

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All set up

August 16, 2006 - Categories: travel

It’s interesting, flying without knowing exactly where you’re going to
end up. I hadn’t been able to get in touch with friends in Boston in
the days leading up to my departure, so I flew without any concrete
plans for accommodations. Meep!

I first headed to Hostelling International on 12 Hemenway St. They were fully booked, so they referred me to Oasis Guest House a short walk away. Oasis was a bit out of my starving-grad-student budget, though, at over USD 100 for a single room with a shared bath. The proprietor was kind enough to refer me to YMCA, and even let me use his phone for free. Awww!

So I’ve checked into the YMCA on 316 Huntington Ave (+1 617 536 7800).
The rates are still a bit ouch (USD 49 per night including taxes), but
I feel less guilty now about my research supervisor’s budget. I wish
I’d brought a swimsuit, as the facilities include a swimming pool, a
steam room and a sauna!

The library that I’m blogging from is a few blocks away. Northeastern University Library has free wireless and airconditioned comfort, and all you need is a photo ID. Sweet. They’re open until 11.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll find out whether I’m okay with staying at the Y
for another day and whether I can book another day there. It’s not a
bad place: no frills, but totally workable. (And they have towels and
soap, even! I should’ve brought my slippers.) If I can’t make that
work, then I may have to throw myself upon the mercy of IBMers and/or
the local tech scene and find a couch I can crash on tomorrow night.

I’ll need to forage for food and plan my 2-3 minute spiel sometime
later tonight, but it’s nice to know that I’ve gotten that sorted out.
I need to also buy travel-sized toothpaste. (Darn you, airport security!)

But hey, we have a plan…

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Perfect timing

August 16, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

The Museum of Fine Arts has free admission after 4:00 on Wednesdays,
and it’ll be open until 9:45. I am so there. It’s right across the
street, too.

Darn! I left my camera at home…

August 16, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

And this trip would’ve been *so* bloggable, too…

The room

August 16, 2006 - Categories: travel

Simon Law reminds me that a camera is not essential, and that I can
draw pictures with my words. Here is the room I find myself in.

A single fluorescent tube lights the room. It sits above a small desk,
which is too high for me to type comfortably on if I use the provided
chair. I sit on the bed instead, over a light blue bedsheet secured by
crisp hospital corners to a bed that seems—if it is at all
possible—just a bit shorter than the twin-sized bed back in my dorm.

The cotton is rough against my skin. For a moment, I think of a friend
and her difficulties with bed bugs. Then again, even the best of
hotels are infested with them, so I do not worry too much about being
penny-wise and pound-foolish. I think positive thoughts and assume
there are none.

Both the blanket and the radiator are superfluous this summer night. A
large window admits the slightest hint of a breeze, along with the
sounds of Boston at night: the constant whir of airconditioners,
sirens trailing off into the distance, cars rumbling past. I can see
into the windows of the Northeastern University, and find myself not
particularly caring that they can see in, especially as I wouldn’t be
able to do much about it anyway. These roughly-painted wood and glass
windows have probably never bothered with luxuries such as curtains or

I am glad that I packed a light nightgown instead of a flannel one. I
regret forgetting to bring slippers. I hesitate for a moment before I
grit my teeth and tiptoe gingerly towards the communal bathroom. After
all, I survived other dormitory floors. While I’m at it, I also
fill a paper cup with water from the bathroom sink.

I think this just might be the most bare-bones place I’ve ever stayed
in. Well, except for the Internet cafe that I spent the night in one
time—yes, Internet cafes can sometimes come out cheaper than hostels,
particularly when in Japan. It’s doable, though, and doesn’t bother me

Hostelling International will have room tomorrow, but that means
bringing my stuff to IBM, and I’ll have to call ahead to make sure I
get the spot. I think I’ll stay here another night if the room is
available. This might even work out better for now than, say,
couch-surfing—although I’m certainly looking forward to couch-surfing
next time around.

To bed. I’ll dream about my presentation and work out the details tomorrow.

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All’s well

August 17, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

I woke up at 1:15 to the sound of the fire alarm blaring. Stumbling
blearily out of bed, I grabbed a jacket, stuffed my laptop into the
bag, and slipped on my boots. The alarm showed no sign of abating, so
I took seven flights of stairs down to the ground.

Two fire engines were parked outside YMCA. A crowd of people in
various stages of sleep milled around waiting for news. I remembered
to bring my glasses this time, so I could see

Aside from a strange flickering on one of the floors, there seemed to
be no sign of a fire. When one fire engine drove off, I knew things
were all right.

I don’t remember feeling annoyed about interrupted sleep. I was just
glad that there wasn’t a fire and that if there was, the response
would be quick.

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Waking up to a glorious morning

August 17, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

I *love* having a huge window with lots of sunlight in the morning. I
woke up this morning to brilliant sunlight, and it was just so much
easier for me to feel refreshed. Okay, I still hit the snooze button
all the way from 7:30 to 7:50, but that was more because I thought I
might need a few more minutes of sleep and not because I really felt I
needed it. =)

It’s so much better than my Graduate House room. My room faces the
courtyard, so I don’t get enough sunlight during summer—and even less
during winter! Waaah…

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Mission successful!

August 17, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Met lots of interesting people and learned about all sorts of cool
projects. =) Can’t blog about it externally, but will blog about them
on my internal IBM blog soon.

Emacs hacks: Snail mail surprise

August 17, 2006 - Categories: emacs, pimpmyemacs

I like sending snail mail. This Emacs Lisp snippet displays all the
contacts for whom I have addresses, sorted according to country. This
makes it easy for me to, say, jump to all the USA contacts whom I
should mail before heading back over the border.

(defun sacha/bbdb-filter-records-for-address (records)
  "Filter records for addresses."
   (delq nil
          (lambda (rec) (and (bbdb-record-addresses rec) rec))
   (lambda (a b)
     (string< (bbdb-address-country (car (bbdb-record-addresses a)))
              (bbdb-address-country (car (bbdb-record-addresses b)))))))

;; Do the actual work here
(bbdb-display-records (sacha/bbdb-filter-records-for-address (bbdb-records)))

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Back in Toronto!

August 18, 2006 - Categories: canada

Will blog more when the dust settles.


August 19, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

Mike Fletcher wrote an inspirational poem
for my birthday. I spent some time composing a reply that scanned
properly in terms of rhythm. ;) With minor modifications, here it is:

My bar is high: set not for me, but you who trained for many years to
leap such heights with practiced ease and aim for stars beyond my
reach. I hear your tales of weary bones, of long hours spent and much
pain born, but also: flying through the air! And so I dare, and so I
dare. And still you urge me onward to heights far above the lowest
bar. With ease can I achieve acclaim, but I can reach things greater
far. You, my friend, will keep me true to gaps that only I can leap,
to things that only I can do, to stars that only I can reach.

I paragraph-wrapped it just for kicks. The rhythm should still be
there, though. =)

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Snakes on a Plane!

August 20, 2006 - Categories: friends

Watched Snakes on a Plane with Leigh Honeywell, Quinn Fung, Jedediah Smith, and Seth Hardy last night. Tons of fun, particularly with the audience participation bits. The movie itself was as cheesy as expected, but hey, it wasn’t about the film: it was about the meta-humor…

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Sew what?

August 20, 2006 - Categories: sewing

When I noticed the rip in Shane D’Costa’s
shirt, I insisted that he change into a bathrobe robes so that I could
mend the tear. It’s nice having a sewing kit handy. I find few clothes
that I particularly enjoy, so I like taking care of them. It’s also
nice to be able to do little things for other people.

I know a number of people who know how to sew.
Leigh Honeywell made her own prom dress.
Totally impressive. =)

I don’t have the space for a sewing machine just yet. I’m tempted to
learn how to sew well enough to make things that I’d consider
well-made. I suppose I wouldn’t do too badly with some sewing and
embroidery skills, though, because I can then embellish basic forms.

I enjoy wearing clothes that say something about me, whether it’s my
appreciation of traditional culture or my quirkiness when it comes to
computer T-shirts. I like being able to maintain such clothes and
maybe even modify or create new things. Besides, sending something as
simple as that out for alteration or tailoring is expensive,
especially considering how little time it takes to fix something. =)

So yeah, sewing. S’fun. I like knitting, too, and look forward to
picking it up again this winter.

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Looking for a malong supplier

August 20, 2006 - Categories: clothing, philippines

I get complimented almost every time I walk out the door wearing one
of the beautifully patterned malongs from the Philippines. The malong
is also worn in several other Asian countries. I love the intricacy of
the pattern, particularly when it’s embroidered and not just printed.
It’s a terrific what’s-it at parties, sparking plenty of interesting
conversations. And yeah, it’s hip enough to go casual and ethnic
enough to go more formal: all I need are a few safety pins and a nice

When some friends and I were at the Taste of the Danforth (a Greek
food festival), a shop owner asked me if she could buy the malong off
me. She wasn’t the first to ask me where to get these malongs. I
wonder if I can start a little side business that’ll also make it
easier for me to get the malongs I like… <laugh>

Sourcing the cloth would probably be the hardest thing. Quality is so
variable. One of my favorite malongs had a brilliantly coloured red,
purple and gold pattern in the beginning. The dye runs each time I
wash it, which is a pain. I have to wash it separately and make sure
there’s enough space between it and the other items on my
clothes-drying rack.

I wonder where to find malong cloth: embroidered, printed, etc. I want
quality malongs and accessories with the same patterns. Imagine
wearing a matching scarf, or a cute bag, or even shoes…

Hmm. It would be a good excuse to learn how to build an e-commerce
site, too. Also, I’ve been doing lots of strange things with wearing a
malong that I haven’t seen other people do yet, so that might be fun
to pick up.

Something to look into. First thing I’d need to do is to find a source
for ready-made high-quality malong cloth and make a few samples.

Hmm. I’d love to pass this idea to someone else. It’s not part of my
core competency (sewing bags? making shoes? I’d have to learn so much
first!), but it’s something I wouldn’t mind taking a risk on to help
make it happen…

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From Simon Ditner:

<rant> It kind of throws me for a loop that your blog doesn’t
have a display of user submitted feedback. It’s very unsatisfying
putting comments in this little box, and not seeing them go anywhere,
like I’m pitching bits to the wind. It seems like the complete
antithesis of your research.</rant>

On Queen St., between Spadina and Bathurst, you’ll find yourself in
the fashion design district with some of the best deals on fabric in
town. I sent an email off to my friend Lyn, a local vietnamese fashion
designer, to see if she knows of a local source of malongs.

From Charo Nuguid:

I have a friend who lives in Iligan City. He’s a photojournalist, and being that your dad was formerly one, you’d know how small the pay is for this job. What he does to raise money for lenses and bodies is to buy and sell beautifully crafted native swords. He’d auction them off on eBay and have people send money to his brother’s account in the States.

Selling Philippine-made malongs would be a great idea. It’s just a matter of sourcing them out here in the Philippines. :)

From Kelly Drahzal:

I love the ideas of an e-commerce site making(?) and selling ethnic
clothes of good quality. I’d be their best customer as well, I think.

I’m also into sewing and quilting. Have an old Bernina sewing machine
that is my pride and joy, and have been dropping hints for months that
I’d like a mannequin/dress form for birthday/christmas.

If you decide to seriously pursue something like this, let me know.
I’d be interested in a joint venture. :-)

From Jay Goldman:

Some thoughts on your malong project:

  • Go for it! It may not be part of your core competency, but you might just surprise yourself. I just read Leila’s post about Bob Parson’s rules right before yours ( and was struck by the overlap. His rule #1? Get and stay out of your comfort zone. He’s right you know.
  • There are some excellent fabric shops along Queen St. W., in the few blocks west of Spadina. I’m not sure if malongs require special fabric, but there’s a good chance you’ll find what you need in there (and, if not, some good leads on where to track it down). Take a malong with you when you go and you’ll have much better luck explaining what you want.
  • Craislist is a great resource for finding things. A quick search for mannequin turns up a few that might work for you (like, though lacking legs). There’s also a “wanted” section, so you could post a request for a proper one in there. You would likely also find people who could make malongs for you (i.e.: a “Production Team”) if you wanted to focus on the design and order taking aspects.
  • The Shopify folks out in Ottawa (who are awesome and part of the barcamp crew out there), have a great solution for setting up a simple ecommerce store, which we’re about to use it to sell torcamp t-shirts. Although it may offend your open source sensibilities, check it out as a possibility.
  • Last thought: this is a low risk opportunity with a potentially high reward. All you really have to do is set up a website, print some business cards, and see what happens. Your worst case is that no one is interested and you spent some time building a site, and your best case is that it takes off wildly and you end up enthroned on a global fashion empire :)

Good luck!

A mannequin would be useful

August 20, 2006 - Categories: philippines, photography

When I have more space, I think a mannequin and some white cloth for a
backdrop would make these totally small-time clothing shoots a lot
more manageable. Shooting myself with a point-and-shoot’s self-timer
is way more work than it should be.

Maybe I should take all of my malongs home this Christmas, borrow a
mannequin from somewhere, and borrow the studio cyclorama so that I’d
have a seamless floor. Would be totally excellent for learning how to
shoot. <laugh> Who knows—I might even get into lights!

I foresee constantly tweaking clothes, and it would be nice to be able
to document that. Totally small-budget. No models, no model releases,
etc. ;) It’s not going to be high fashion or anything like that, but
it will be fun!

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Whoa, maybe I’m onto something here

August 21, 2006 - Categories: business, clothing

Lots of people commented on my entry about wanting to get into the clothing business. I’ve updated the entry with their comments. Maybe I’m onto something here. Is it something small that I can build and let loose?

In other news, yet another random stranger walked up to me yesterday
and complimented me on the malong that I wore. And to think that I was
just wearing it as a skirt…

Also, I’m planning to go to Little India and get myself one of their
traditional outfits to see what that feels like.

I’m interested in traditional outfits from all cultures, not just the
Philippines, although I must admit that I take a certain joy in
telling people that my terno’s from home… =)

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Upcoming BarCamp

August 21, 2006 - Categories: barcamp

Reviewing my months-old inbox, I came across a conversation with Justin Wiley about their BarCamp, the geek un-conference I like so much. He told me of an interesting session at one of their BarCamps. The session was called “Refactoring Your Wetware“, and it was all about productivity. That reminded me that BarCamp sessions aren’t limited to computer topics. I’d love to facilitate a session on personal productivity at one of the Toronto BarCamps. I may even go ahead and steal the title. ;)

Another session I’d love to facilitate would be one on networking for introverts, which Richard Eriksson‘s also interested in. It ties in well with the Conference Commando stuff I want to do.

Looks like I’ll be volunteering one of those (or even both!) for BarCampEarthToronto

  • E-Mail from Justin Wiley

Credit card

August 21, 2006 - Categories: canada, finance

Finally sorted out a Canada-based credit card. Yay! I no longer have
to course credit card purchases through the Philippines, getting
dinged on the exchange rate. Too bad I didn’t get it in time to pay
for my flight.

The credit card representative handling my activation call was really
hard-selling me on credit balance insurance. I wasn’t too sure I
needed it because I plan to pay the balance off in full each month,
which is the proper way to use credit cards anyway. He was really
pushing me to go for the 30-day review, but I was, like, ehh…
Something about hard sells raises my hackles, and I was rather
suspicious of the fact that I couldn’t go without and just opt in

So I Googled for “do I need balance protection insurance” and found the Government of Canada’s helpful factsheet on credit balance insurance, which led me to the totally awesome list of consumer publications from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

Hey, governments can rock after all. =)

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August 21, 2006 - Categories: canada

Okay, I have officially settled in now. ;)

I used 437:08 local minutes and sent 579 text messages from July 12 to
August 11. See, that’s why I *had* to find an unlimited incoming and
way-too-many-text-messages plan… 579 text messages! That’s because I
organize get-togethers with broadcast text messages. I find it so much
nicer than push-to-talk, also. I wish text messaging service was more
reliable, though; sometimes messages get delayed for hours or even

It’s all about the mobile swarm.

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Trying something new

August 21, 2006 - Categories: friends, party

I’ve decided to do something about my media deficit. ;) Yesterday, we
did a trial run of a video party. As usual, we went through several
alternate plans. It was lots of fun, though!

Plan A: Use the common TV room in the basement. Unfortunately, it was closed.

Plan B: Use the second-floor TV area. No DVD player.

Plan C: Use the second-floor TV area and hook up Simon Ditner‘s laptop to it. We had the right cable (you gotta love geeks with cables!), but couldn’t figure out how to select the video input.

Plan D: Use the projector Roger Yang brought and beam the video onto the wall of my living room. THe projector speakers turned out to be fairly good, so we didn’t need external speakers. (Good thing, too, as I didn’t know where I could find speakers.)

Plan D1: Watch Aardvark’d, a video about software development. The DVD that Jedediah Smith burned had problems, though.

Plan D2: Watch the music videos that Quinn Fung brought. Michael Gondry did the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which I enjoyed. The music videos were terrific. =)

Definitely mind-expanding, and not a bad beta party. We’ll do that
again sometime!

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Living with others and living alone

August 21, 2006 - Categories: life, toronto

The residence assistant introduced himself to me and explained that my
roommate Kristin would be moving to another room for a day, just to
try it out. I guess this was related to the tense discussion I’d
walked in on last Friday. She and my other roommate, Krystal, were
having a hard time dealing with those little issues that come up when
you share space with near-strangers. It’s Kristin’s first time living
with others, and there are lots of things to which we all need to

People find it strange that I don’t mind sharing a *room* with another
person. I have to explain to them that when I lived in residence in
college, I shared a room with three other people (an actual room, mind
you). Even after I graduated from college and stayed at an
apartment-style dorm near school, I shared a room with another person.

I’ve never lived alone. I’ve never chosen furniture, except for two
bean-bag chairs at the apartment-style dorm near school. I’ve never
chosen paint colors or light fixtures (okay, maybe a desk lamp).

I’ve never had my own place. I’m looking forward to one!

I’d like to try living on my own: not just renting a room in a shared
house, but having an apartment all to myself. I’ve thought about
whether that makes sense financially, knowing that I should save
earlier instead of later because of the power of compound interest and
money might be a bit tight if I’m just starting out. Even though it
makes more financial sense for me to find roommates and go for the
cheap rent when I’m starting out, I think I’d like to try living on my

This adventure would also help me figure out what I like and don’t
like about places, which is even more important when it comes to
deciding where and how I’m going to live. =)

So—I won’t move out of Graduate House yet (I like the amenities and
the company!), but I plan to move into a bachelor’s or 1-bedroom
apartment when I start working.

An unfurnished apartment would give me the most flexibility. I can see
how I’d gradually scale up in terms of furniture. Asian style might
help me here: I can sleep on a futon and entertain on cushions spread
around a low mat.

Here’s what I want:

  • Accessible by transit: I’ll probably never live anywhere that requires driving. I enjoy having people over too much to limit myself to people who have a car. 24-hour transit would be even better so that I don’t need to worry about how late my parties run. It needs to be close enough for people to not mind coming over after work.
  • A large kitchen that connects to the living room: I prefer entertaining at home over going out. If the kitchen is far from the living/dining room, then I might not see my guests during parties until halfway through! Not fun. I’d rather have an open layout and a large kitchen so that when guests come over and help me cook, we have enough space to do that. I loved how people helped me out with my birthday party: mixing the brownies, cooking porridge, chopping fruits… Yup, definitely must have a large kitchen and a pleasant living room.
  • Big windows: I love natural light, and would like to have windows with a view of either leafy trees or the cityscape. I would particularly enjoy having a large window in my bedroom facing north or south (or east, if necessary; just not west) so that the morning sun can help me wake up. I’d hate to have to use curtains or shades on this window, though. My Graduate House window opens onto the courtyard, which is why I have to keep the shades closed or people can see straight into my room. Not fun.
  • Warm colors: I love rich, warm colors. Red, orange, brown, things like that.
  • Temperature control: I want to be able to choose a comfortable temperature and maintain that throughout the year.
  • Shower essential, bath not quite necessary: North American baths are nothing compared to a proper Japanese bath, to which I will treat myself someday. I want one of those deep sitting baths – maybe even the one with a wooden barrel? I think the Japanese way of doing baths is The Right Way: take a shower *outside* the bath, soak, and then rinse off outside it. I suppose it only makes sense if one shares the bath with other people afterwards, though, so it’s not a feature I’m looking for now.
  • Double sink, preferably triple sink: I don’t mind washing dishes. In fact, I probably wouldn’t use a dishwasher that often. On the other hand, a double sink is incredibly useful.
  • High-speed Internet: ’nuff said. Wireless, preferably. I can set this up easily.
  • Cellphone signal: ’nuff said.
  • Near laundromat: I handwash most of my clothes, so it might not be worth it for me to keep a washing machine if I’m just going to use it for sheets, towels, and the occasional sturdy item.
  • Near restaurants, preferably open late at night: For those days when I don’t feel like cooking, or for lunch parties that stretch out into dinner.
  • Near public library: Nice to have. I can walk or take transit, though.
  • Garden not necessary: I suck at keeping plants, and I don’t particularly feel the urge to have a yard.
  • Not a basement: I am not a basement person. See need for windows.
  • High-rise, probably, although low-rise also okay: Because a bachelor pad probably won’t be cost-effective otherwise.

I haven’t decided between a bachelor pad or a one-bedroom apartment
yet. I can use a folding screen to hide my bed if I go for a bachelor
pad. I don’t need a really fancy place to sleep.

This probably also means I should consider working for somewhere
downtown, because I like living downtown.

Hmm. =)

Plans, plans… Maybe sometime April, if I get my work thing sorted
out? I can do Massachusetts, I suppose, although Manila would probably
be a better alternative…

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Come and hang out at BarCampEarth!

August 21, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, geek

Geek? Come to BarCampEarth. Organize one near you if you have to.

In Toronto? Come to BarCampEarthToronto, Aug 26 to 27. Space is limited, so register now!

I’ll be the girl in the… oh, forget it. You’ll find me easily. ;)

BarCampEarthToronto might even worth coming to Toronto for,
depending on the fare. Check out your favorite travel agency for tickets!

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Research report: Met with Mark

August 21, 2006 - Categories: research

Met with my research supervisor, Mark Chignell. Told him about the cool stuff I’d seen at IBM Cambridge’s InternFest last week, and revised my research plan to include fewer interviews and more numbercrunching. Whee!

I like coding. I might as well play to that strength.

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MBA elective courses

August 21, 2006 - Categories: business, entrepreneurship, school

I’ve missed the deadline for the Fall MBA courses, but I might be able
to squeeze my way into 2012HF: Entrepreneurship, 2915HF:
Entrepreneurship with a Social Mission, or 2916HF: Cultivating
Presence. Or I could just sit in, if I can get away with that. 2915HF
looks like a terrific course. =)

I’m definitely planning to go for Spring 2007 MBA electives. There’s:

2003HS Shape It, Don’t Take it
2016HS Strategy and Competition in Creative Industries
2017HS The Strategic Value of Social Capital
2018HS Outsourcing
2914HS Not-For-Profit Consulting

I’m particularly excited about the social capital and outsourcing
courses. =)

The application deadline for the Spring Term is November 15. I can so
make that. I’ll see if I can take Strategic Management this term so
that I can take the 299* level courses next term. I think I’ll spend
Tuesday downtown so that I can sort this out, instead of waiting until

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Bought a sari

August 21, 2006 - Categories: clothing

Toronto has all these wonderful little neighborhoods. I’ve been
meaning to go to Little India to buy a sari for the longest time, so I
finally decided to go and buy one today. It was so hard to choose –
they were all so beautiful! I finally decided on a black sari with
gold thread trim. If I like wearing it, I just might go back and get

Hmm. BarCampEarthToronto is this Saturday, so I’ll probably go in a malong. Tomorrow I’ve got a fair bit of running around to do, and I’ll be up at IBM for the rest of this week… Maybe next week, then! The 28th would be a good time to try it out.

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Three questions for success

August 21, 2006 - Categories: career, life, purpose

Via the Business Opportunities Weblog comes this awesome story about Farrah Gray, who made his first million by age 14. Want to be a Millionaire? Ask Yourself Three Questions

“Ask yourself three questions. First, what comes easy to me, but harder to others? The second question is, what would you do for work for years and years and never have to get paid for it? And the third question is, how can you be of service and how can you give back?” Gray advises.

Same questions my parents taught me to always ask myself. =)

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Darn, can’t find my first-aid kit

August 21, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I can’t find the first-aid kit that Diane Lazaro assembled for me before I left for Canada. I know I used some
bandages from it before, but I might’ve left it somewhere. Hmm. I’ll
just go and buy surgical tape tomorrow, then.

No, don’t worry, nothing’s wrong. It’s just that I’ve been meaning to
get around to using the scar removal patches that Simon thoughtfully
shared with me. The blisters from horseback riding more than a year
ago haven’t faded from my ankles. I’d like to be able to stop looking
like I have mild stigmata. The scar removal patches from Pfizer are
said to be pretty effective, but because the dark spots are on my
ankles, the patches are really difficult to keep on. Taping them to my
skin might help! <laugh> So, tomorrow, then.

Along those lines: does sebo de macho actually work?

Networking for Geeks: Advertise with your laptop!

August 21, 2006 - Categories: connecting, laptop, marketing


The geek shall inherit the earth

Want to meet interesting but don’t want to have to make the first
move? Use the back of your laptop to get people to talk to you. ;)
Stickers are a great way to do that. My laptop reads “The geek shall
inherit the earth.” I can’t count the smiles, chuckles, and
conversations I’ve gotten out of it—and all I have to do is open my
laptop! It helps that I have an eyecatching ridiculously small laptop,
of course, but this technique would work even for regular laptops.

LapLooks goes one better. They sell a
frame that attaches to your laptop and allows you to slip in a photo.
I don’t think I’ll ever find something in my size, but maybe I can
cobble something together with duct tape. Actually, you know what this
reminds me of? Those little reusable drawing pads. I could so totally
rig up a better system.

I’m going to have that up and running before BarCampEarthToronto this Saturday, for sure. I have *just* enough space for a 3×5 index card and part of a business card. So: laminate-style cover, or clear plastic and duct tape? ;)

Which reminds me, I need to get business cards printed. Another thing
to take care of tomorrow. =) Good stuff.

I’m so tempted to sell advertising space on my laptop. ;) After all, Stowe Boyd sold his T-shirt rights…

LapLooks link via Solo Business Marketing, via Business Opportunities Weblog.

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See also:

My next blog entry:

Other people’s blog entries:

CookOrDie: Curried chickpeas, chard, carbs

August 22, 2006 - Categories: cooking, cookordie

One of these days, I’m going to try properly following the recipe for
curried chickpeas. I like curries – Japanese and Indian-style curries
in particular. Apparently, cooking curry isn’t just a matter of mixing
water, flour, and curry spice. Or at least I *think* it’s curry spice.
I inherited it from my very first roommate here last year. The jar
didn’t have a label, but I vaguely remembered that I had curry in my
cupboard somewhere, and it was in either that or the jar labelled

Right. Someday I’m going to learn how to do a proper curry.

The chard that showed up in my Organic Good Food Box worked out quite
well, though. I actually followed a recipe this time around, instead
of treating it as some random leafy green. Joy of Cooking gave a
recipe for chard sauteed with garlic and seasoned with red wine
vinegar, which turned out to be pretty nice and easy to prepare.

As for carbs: I’ve decided to work my way through the frozen bread
that I’ve accumulated over several months. The oval pita I picked up
on sale reheats quite well under the broiler. Ah, for a little toaster
oven instead of these less-flexible slice toasters. (Although I
suppose slice-based toasters make it harder to burn toast unattended.)

My mom will be pleased to know that I’ve gotten back to regularly
taking vitamins. I’m also succumbing to peer pressure and becoming
semi-vegetarian. ;) Not for ethical reasons, mind you, but for purely
practical ones.

  • I’m less likely to give myself food poisoning as long as I stay away from dangerous plants.
  • It’ll be easier to entertain friends, many of whom are (aspiring) vegetarians/vegans.
  • I can get through the Good Food Box and other food arrangements faster.

That said, I still like bacon and eggs, and I’ll have to work my way
through the chicken in the fridge eventually.

As long as I make sure I cover possible deficiencies in a vegetarian
diet, I should be fine. =) Besides, I don’t mind eating meat when I go
out. I just want to learn how to cook veggies in a way that makes me
want to actually eat them. ;)

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Industry showcase at U of T

August 22, 2006 - Categories: toronto

Via Greg Wilson: Check out the computer industry showcase at the University of Toronto from 4 – 6 PM on Tuesday, September 5. Confirmed attendees:

I’m looking forward to the showcase and to the pub night afterwards!

If you want your company to be part of the event, you might be able to
get in touch with Greg Wilson through his blog.

By the way, gotta love the tagline for Greg’s blog: “Data is zeroes and
ones — software is zeroes and ones and hard work.”

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Whoa, onto something cool here: advertising on the back of my laptop

August 22, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, business, entrepreneurship, geek, idea, laptop, marketing


Want to grab the eyeballs of every geek at BarCampEarthToronto
and the other tech events I go to? Advertise on the back of my
laptop. Even better: tell me enough about your stuff so that I can
enthusiastically talk about it.

I’m an evangelist. Give me something cool to talk about.

The back of an 8.9″ laptop screen *really* doesn’t seem like much
space to advertise on, but *everyone* looks, believe me. It’s the
irresistable combination of cute geek girl _and_ insanely tiny laptop.

And it happens *every* *single* *time.* It helps that I have small
hands. Most people just can’t deal with something that small. Sure,
black Macbooks are trendy, but they’re not as rare as a *teensy*
little laptop that a geek girl is happily typing away on. (In Emacs,
no less.)

Amber MacArthur (TechTV) called attention to the sticker I had on
my laptop (“The geek shall inherit the earth”) and the pins I have on
my backpack (“No, you can’t just explain it in the manual” – Human
Factors International). Random strangers cross the street to
compliment me on my outfit, ask about the stickers on my skateboard,
or wonder out loud if that’s a *real* computer I’m typing away on.
(Yes, as I walk.) And that happens both in geek-heavy get-togethers
and while just walking in cosmopolitan, blase downtown Toronto.

I can’t help it. I get attention. I might as well make use of it.

More to the point: _you_ might as well make use of it.

So here’s what’s going to happen:

  • TONIGHT: I’ll decide on a pricing scheme. E-mail me or leave a
    comment if you want to hear about it as soon as I’ve come up with
    it (probably later tonight).
  • TONIGHT: I’ll set up a static page, blog about it, and tell people.
  • WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY: I’ll accept orders.
  • THURSDAY: I’ll figure out exactly how to mount it. Don’t worry, I
    have several plans.
  • FRIDAY: I’ll select and confirm orders, and print out and mount the
    final thing on Friday afternoon.

My skateboard’s also open for advertising.

E-mail me at [email protected] or leave a comment using the form
below to find out about the next step as soon as possible.

On Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,

See also my previous blog entry:

Networking for Geeks: Advertise with your laptop!

Other people’s blog entries:

(leave me a comment to get linked!)

Advertise on my laptop! Webpage up

August 23, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, business, entrepreneurship, geek, idea, laptop, marketing

Okay, we’re open for business! Buy adspace on my laptop for USD 1.00 / 0.5″x0.5″ (basic) or USD 2.00 / 0.5″x0.5″ (premium, includes elevator pitch). Hurry! BarCampEarthToronto is just a few days away!

Props to Gabriel Mansour for helping me work things out!

See also my previous blog entries:

Other people’s blog entries:

Reserve ad space now!

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Chasing a wild idea

August 23, 2006 - Categories: business, entrepreneurship, marketing


Mmkay. I took that wild idea of selling advertising space on my
laptop and ran with it. The page is up, I’ve taken new photos, and I’m waiting for AdSense to get approved. Please digg and and forward my advertising page! <laugh>

No, I don’t expect to raise a million dollars through this, although
that would certainly help me not worry about funding graduate school
and even move out of the shared double room I currently live in. ;)

I’ve built it. Will anyone bite? If not, hey, I’ve got a bunch of
laptop signs I’ve been meaning to make…

I expect to get a good story or two out of it, though. Simon thinks
it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth. <laugh> Perhaps for
him it would be—he’s already used to earning money. *I* think that
whether or not I’ll actually be able to buy myself a cup of hot
chocolate from the proceeds, it’ll still be totally worth it for the

If nothing else, it was great just forcing myself to learn how to set
up a totally small-time e-commerce thing. =) I want to get better and
better at chasing wild ideas and getting them off the ground quickly,
like the way situational apps seize the moment. This will probably
help me out a lot in the long run!

I have a feeling that there are the seeds of a semi-business in here
somewhere. I don’t mind letting the idea go so that other people can
take advantage of it. Have fun and make cool things happen!

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As Web 2.0 moves behind the firewall…

August 23, 2006 - Categories: enterprise2.0

I’m not sure how much I can say because I’m doing my research with IBM, which is a pity because we’re working on some *really* cool enterprise applications of these newfangled Web 2.0 ideas. It’s beyond blogging or social bookmarking – talk about mashups, situational apps, integration, web as platform… fun!

Microsoft’s getting into the game, too. Liz Lawley dropped a few hints about the social bookmarking thing she’s working on, and it sounds awesome.

I’m not too worried about missing the boat or being late to market on
this one. I think we’ve got something unique and really really cool,
and I have a feeling that I’m close to the edge.


Stowe Boyd

Buskerfest and other fun things

August 23, 2006 - Categories: ibm, research

Catch amazing street performers at the Toronto
BuskerFest, which runs from Aug 24
(Thursday) to Aug 27 (Friday). I went to the one last year and I was
impressed by people’s skill and flair.

I love watching street performers. Every time I watch one, I learn
more about stage presence, drama and suspense, comedy and patter, even
how to invite audience participation. I see many tricks again and
again: juggling random dangerous objects, riding a unicycle, juggling
random dangerous objects while riding a unicycle. Each performer
brings a certain spin to things, though, and I enjoy their
achievements just as much as the rest of the audience does.

The 2006 BuskerFest starts tomorrow—and the strange thing is, I
feel more excited about going to IBM. I know that BuskerFest will
delight and amaze me, but I don’t want to just be delighted and
amazed. I want to participate, to push the edge, to make things

Somewhere in the sunlight, I know there will be kids laughing at the
jugglers’ demos and ooh-ing and aah-ing at the acrobats’ antics. No
one will miss me there; no one would even notice if I went. But in
IBM, I can do something cool, learn tons of stuff, and be appreciated
for it. Given a choice between watching a show and being part of
one—you know what I’d choose.

I’ll sleep early tonight. I don’t want to feel tired tomorrow. I want
to be wide awake and bursting with energy! There are so many cool
things to do, so many people to reach out to. =)

What a terrific feeling!

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Sharing the link love: advertising on laptop lids blog roundup!

August 24, 2006 - Categories: idea

Thanks to everyone for getting the word out! It’s a really cool idea
and I hope people pick it up. I’ll explore it more for possible
business ideas, but feel free to take the idea and run with it. Have I
missed a blog post? Please e-mail me or use the comment form on my
site. Thanks!

  1. Stowe Boyd: Sacha Chua does me one better
  2. J. Angelo Racoma: Problogger idea: renting ad space on laptop lids
  3. J. Angelo Racoma: Advertising on laptop lids
  4. Andy Piper: Advertising on a laptop lid
  5. Joey Alarilla: advertise on sacha chua’s laptop
  6. CNet Asia Blogs: Cute geek girl wants you to advertise on her laptop
  7. Von Totanes: Laptop adspace for rent
  8. Katesgasis: Asides
  9. J. Angelo Racoma: Problogger idea: ads on laptop lids

And of course, props to Orange and Bronze for buying ad space!

If you’re interested in advertising on my laptop after BarCampEarthToronto, e-mail me and I’ll get back to you after the experiment.

Sweeeet! bought ad space on my laptop!

August 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, business, emacs, entrepreneurship, geek, idea, laptop, marketing

Remember my crazy idea to sell advertising space on my laptop during BarCampEarthToronto? Well, Matt Mullenweg of – *WORDPRESS.ORG!* My favorite blogging platform! (Okay, my *second-favorite* – nothing beats Emacs Planner)


They are *uber*cool. Another thing I really, really, really, really like. Whenever I need to set up a blog for someone else, the very first thing I do is download the latest version of WordPress, unpack it, and set it up. I like it a lot.

So here’s what’s going to happen. I am going to make the logos for Orange & Bronze and as large as I can. I don’t mind potentially wasting space. It’ll be a *fantastic* story.

I’ll blog more from BarCamp tomorrow, and I’ll post my D*I*Y tutorial on Sunday. =) Or today, if I feel particularly diligent…

Anyway. They are totally, totally cool.

On Technorati: , , , , , , , , ,

Livening up your laptop lid: self-adhesive reusable surface

August 26, 2006 - Categories: laptop, marketing

All you need to transform your laptop lid into a reusable surface
where you can display your latest doodles are: one photo album with
self-adhesive pages, a knife, and double-sided tape. Get a photo album
that uses plastic and a sticky(ish) surface. Life is easier and neater
if the strip that keeps the plastic attached to the book is on the
outside edge. You’ll see what I mean.

Step 1. Position the laptop face-down on one page of the photo album
so that the strip that keeps the plastic attached to the book is along
the top edge of the laptop lid. Trace laptop outline onto one page of
the photo album. (If you feel particularly diligent, you can measure
it instead.)

Step 2. Cut the photo album page to size. Trim a bit off the bottom
part to avoid hitting the laptop hinge.

Step 3. Attach double-sided adhesive tape to the laptop.

Step 4. Mount photo album piece on laptop.

Step 5. Peel back plastic and put in stuff.

I like this approach because it doesn’t require me to bring any
special supplies in order to add to the display. For example, I can
add fortunes from fortune cookies, Post-it notes, or even business

This is handy for my wild idea about selling advertising on laptop. This laptop hack’s primarily about creatively expressing yourself, though. =)

Good stuff.

I came up with a terrific plan B: a whiteboard with a plastic
protector to keep it from being erased in one’s backpack. That one’s
pretty cool, too. I’ll blog about it more on Sunday, Aug 27. In the
meantime… enjoy!

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digg technorati

BarCampEarthToronto: Networking for Introverts

August 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, connecting

I ran a terrific session on networking for introverts at BarCampEarthToronto. I shared a few stories about blogging and conversation-starting pins, and then asked people to save me from having to talk for an entire hour by myself. People shared tips and asked questions, and we had a wonderful, wonderful conversation.

We talked about why connecting with people is important: it opens up
new possibilities and helps us learn more about ourselves. People
shared many tips for how to network, from initiating conversations to
developing friendships.

One of the useful tips I heard was to practice talking to people by
asking strangers for the time or for directions to a place. Hmm, might
try that. Another was to physically open the circle of conversation in
order to invite people in. Yet another was to keep track of people’s
interests and wants, and this gives you an excuse to get back in touch
with them.

Someone suggested using breaks to invite more introverts into the
conversation. I’ll facilitate the next session better. It was a great
session! =)

Laptop ads sponsored by: Orange & Bronze and

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BarCampEarthToronto: Search engine optimization

August 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, marketing

@BarCampEarthToronto: Search engine optimization

I’m learning a lot from the session. Some points:

  • Primary domains are better than subdomains because Google tries to figure out what a domain is about, and something like is too large.
  • Research keywords to find out what people are searching for, and develop good material for these. Linkbait?
  • Structure an FAQ with forward-links and H1s.
  • Use keyword-rich headings.

Laptop ads sponsored by: Orange & Bronze and

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Win-win-win: The power of asking

August 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, marketing

The problem with conferences is that I always, always run into
scheduling conflicts. I really, really wanted to go to the two talks
about communities, the two talks about culture, one talk about
perception, and of course I have another session to run on information

Six sessions, three time slots. Aiyah. You don’t need a CS degree to
know that’s a problem.

So I convinced Mike and Quinn to merge their talks on culture. Then I
looked for the people responsible for the meta-community talk and
asked if they could merge with Ryan’s talk about building communities.
They agreed!

I couldn’t merge with Mike’s talk – thematically different, and I’d
probably run a long conversation – but hey, that was a great win. All
the people who merged said it would be a good idea because they needed
less than an hour. Everyone else gets a nice panel. And I learned that
if you ask, people will probably say yes.

Laptop ads sponsored by: Orange & Bronze and

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Building a community

August 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, marketing

@BarCampEarthToronto: Search engine optimization

Terrific idea! Ryan McKegney identified the top 1% in his community, rewarded them with stickers and other stuff, and encouraged them to evangelize. Great! Also, you have another 1% who want to get more involved. As for the 1% who are jerks: do things in an open and fair way. Also, keep in mind that there’s a negative response bias in large online communities. People who disagree with something will be the loudest. Takeaway: You set the tone for the site, because you are such an integral part of the community.

Random notes:
Alan Hietala talked about bridging multiple communities in World of Warcraft. Event planning for MMORPG. Heatware – independent reputation system. Jason: no one makes the first post, so you seed.. but dependency? .. Also, start with existing communities.

Laptop ads sponsored by: Orange & Bronze and

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Starting your own business

August 26, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, marketing

@BarCampEarthToronto, Brooke Gordon, serial entrepreneur

  • Business plan. You are trading money for value. You need to be able to clearly articulate what you are translating money into. If you can’t articulate that clearly to friends and family, you will never be able to do that for investors or customers.
  • Find a mentor. Ask your professors who they know. Go to your local business development center. Find people who have started their own company. You’ll be shocked at how many people will spend half an hour talking to you. Camaraderie. If you ask for help, you will find help. You’ll probably find someone who can share with you best practices.
  • A business is a business is a business. Get yourself an accountant. Make sure that you’re following all of the business rules that apply to the industry. Find out what all the tax rules are and the task breaks are. There are some absolutely fantastic R&D tax credits that people don’t know about. I tried doing the books myself when I was starting out, and that’s a mistake, at least for the first time. Make sure that your accountant knows small business. Whatever you get, make sure you ask for a receipt. You must have copies of receipts. Keep good records of things. That’s what your accountant is there to help you with – your industry. Any time you ever hire someone, interview them, and interview more than one person. Do your due diligence. There’s a lot of risk, but there’s so much reward. You want to mitigate that risk. When you’re doing that mentorship, ask around. Do not ask a corporation. Ask other people who have their own business. Ask for referrals and references. Ask!
  • Do a lot of time at first with your wording. Value proposition. Your company name is an important thing. Try and think about things like common misspellings, pronounciation misspellings, how you want to be perceived. Everything you do, you test. Whatever you choose to do, write it down, go and tell someone. Take someone out for coffee and say “Here are my thoughts; what do you think?” Constantly ask, ask for genuine feedback, and ask for honest criticism. People you trust care about you and don’t want to see you fail. Other people aren’t going to give you that feedback. Good or bad, thank them for it, and take it to heart.
  • Don’t use your name as your company name.
  • There are free seminars that you have access to that you wouldn’t believe. Go to learn and listen and connect. Be very open to that and continue going. There are lots of things out there for free.
  • Government grants and loans for people under 29!
  • Check out TD and Royal Bank for programs for small businesses. They can mitigate their risk if they act as advisors. Don’t discount your bank.
  • Networking. Part of the reason why Dana and I met. Bag design. Women’s networking group.
  • BNI. Business Networking International. Givers gain. When you go to a networking group, don’t just talk – listen. Introduce yourself not just with your name, but with what you do.
  • “So, tell me about your business.” You can tell a lot about a business by how well they can articulate their value. “What do clients of yours look like?” Keep thinking about how your clients might be good clients for them. That’s what networking is.
  • For example, our value is phased implementations for projects.

Know what your value is. Know what your customer looks like. Create
scenarios. Find out what a typical customer looks like, so you can
tell other people what you look like. Make sure that you get involved
in networking. Get those government resources.

Dana: Clients.

  • People respond when you’re not aggressive or overbearing. Your product is not impressive. Treat people as people, not sales.
  • Keep a client database. I used to work for a customer-relationship management system. I missed it when I started my own business. I love Sugar CRM, which is online and open source. Get something so that you can keep track of your clients. Schedule your followups. That way, they don’t only hear from you when you’re asking for money. You want to show that you care about them. Make sure your clients feel valued. Send an actual paper thank-you.
  • You don’t want to be too close to your client also, because sometimes you have to say no. You really should say no. A project that you thought you should’ve said no will drag you down and kill you. If you have that feeling, don’t do it. Or get really good specs.
  • Get a lawyer to review your contracts. Do not do this yourself.
  • Put everything you can on paper before you implement it.
  • Protect yourself with sign-offs.
  • Don’t go into business with friends, if you can help it.
  • Go through scenarios in order to mitigate risk.
  • Engineering entrepreneurship and education at McMasters! Experiential program. ALWAYS take notes and offer to do the first draft. Then get your lawyer’s intern to look at the stuff for you. Ask lawyers what you’ve missed.
  • Outsource your overflow capacity.
  • Know enough to know if the people you’re outsourcing to do good work.

Laptop ads sponsored by: Orange & Bronze and

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August 29, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Hate it when I plan to go to sleep early and a tech problem comes up.
Forgot my domain account password so couldn’t update to
reflect new IP address. Cause of great annoyance. Had to guess lots of
possible passwords. Argh. Problem when you have your browser remember
most passwords, and then you change computers…

The power of a good nap

August 29, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I feel that I’m stretching myself a bit too thin again, so I might
just cancel my Thursday stuff. I scheduled something onto Wednesday,
my usual emergency break, but that’s okay; it’s fairly low-key. =)

Had to take a nap earlier. Slept at 5:30 PM, didn’t get up until 9.
Still feeling a little bit fuzzy. Also, now realize that I’m starving.

Find myself dropping the ball on too many external responsibilities.
May need to cut back and list things to make sure I don’t forget…

Okay, back on track!

August 30, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Today is going to be a terrific day. =) I’m really looking forward to having a barbecue with Quinn Fung, Ian Garmaise, Alan Hietala, Syed Dilawar, Sander A. Smith, and Simon Rowland. I’m particularly looking forward to picking their brains about networking and evangelism.

A number of people I really want to meet will be in Toronto two weeks
from now. They’re among my role models. If I can get one deep
conversation instead of just watching them from my general-admission
seat at the motivational event, that would totally rock.

I’ll write about them soon and see what I can do about volunteering at
the event…

Backlog: A great weekend

August 30, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

We visited Simon’s parents over the weekend to get a bit of a break
from the city. His sister had moved to New York, so I stayed in her
room. Simon was working through a particularly thorny business
problem. He had to make a few really difficult decisions, but it was
very good for him to have the support of his parents. Being able to
feed raccoons was also quite calming!

We met Mike Edmonds’ parents and sister while Simon was giving me a
tour of the places in his neighborhood, so the tour turned into a
wonderful conversation instead. The mists settled on the fields,
forming a perfect backdrop for our chat.

Then we headed to Zest to join his parents and their friends, with
whom they had had prior dinner arrangements. I chatted with Masumi in
what little Japanese I’d retained from my six-month technical
internship there, and was briefly introduced to Rob (who turned out to
have the same birthday as I do). Sally and Greg asked me about my
research, and I explained a bit more about what I do. It was nice
meeting them.

On the way back, Simon showed me Trinity, a school he’d gone to
before. The large brick buildings in a beautifully laid-out complex
and the fact that the school drew people from all over the world made
me wonder once again what I could’ve done with resources like that. I
told him about my occasional frustration with schooling in the
Philippines and how I’d once thought of taking my undergrad in the US.
(He was surprised to hear that I got 1590 on my SATs, having missed
one math question – but standardized tests are just standardized
tests…) He was quick to remind me that such speculation was useless
and that our experiences help make us into whatever we are. Besides,
he reminded me, my schools were pretty good too—he’d heard me
rhapsodize about them often enough. Good to be reminded of these
things when I forget, even momentarily.

The next day, his business problem came to a head. The situation was
quite stressful, but firm decisions were necessary. It was instructive
seeing him work under such pressure from all sides.

His mom suggested a walk through the woods around their house, so
Simon and I headed off while discussing his business situation.
Carefully navigating through fallen leaves and branches with my
slippers, I was alarmed when Simon looked back and casually pointed
out poison ivy. Poison ivy! I reminded him that not everyone grows up
learning what poison ivy looks like and that he very well might go
traipsing around in his pants and closed shoes, but I (in malong and
slippers, no less!) had no idea what to avoid. He laughed, apologized,
and pointed out a clear path. (Next time, I’m wearing hiking boots.)

He kept trying to find something that suited everyone. When he
realized that he couldn’t, he did the difficult but right thing.

In the meantime, his dad and I had a number of great thought-provoking
conversations about corporations enroaching upon the private life,
what a good life is, and other topics. I enjoyed stretching my mind
and learning from other people. =)

I also managed to get most of the way through a new edition of
“Spirit of the Web”, one of the books his father wrote about
technologies for communication. =) I laughed at a lot of the stories
he’d dug up about the history of radio and other techs. Quinn Fung had it as the textbook for one of her courses, so I can chat with her about it.

His mom told me a few more stories about the raccoons that regularly
visit them, too. It was fun feeding them peanuts. Oh, and I saw a
hummingbird! =) They’re so cute!

I’m happy with the weekend. Although it meant moving things around a
bit and having the rest of my week a little bit tighter, it was the
best way I could’ve spent that time. (And yes, that’s even considering
the BuskerFest… <laugh>)

I’m looking forward to visiting them again. I’ve been sternly warned
not to bring them any more gifts. <laugh> See, I baked cookies
for his mom and his sister the first time I was there – it was their
birthdays, so I had an excuse. Then I couldn’t help think of them when
I saw those cat postcards in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. =) Now
I am tempted to get a baking pan, an inside joke about that delectable
peach pie which was made of peaches so juicy that they overflowed and
burned into the pan.

A good weekend indeed.

My Big Brother Database and social networking sites

August 30, 2006 - Categories: connecting, emacs

Yes, I keep a database on people. ;) I use an Emacs module aptly
called the Big Brother Database (BBDB), which is just a keystroke away
from my mail (Gnus) and my blog (Planner). I keep all sorts of notes
in it, like when I met someone or what their food preferences are.

The following bit of Emacs Lisp code extracts all the names and e-mail
addresses from my BBDB. I have 1852 distinct e-mail addresses,
although a number of them are not for people.

 (lambda (rec)
   (if (bbdb-record-net rec)
       (let ((name (bbdb-record-name rec)))
          (lambda (addr)
            (insert name "\t" addr "\n"))
          (bbdb-record-net rec)))))

I uploaded the list to LinkedIn and
OpenBC, my two favorite business networking
sites. I found that a lot of my contacts had joined the services since
I last checked. It was great being able to refer to my notes and make
those connections. For example, one record said that I’d met someone
in 2004 at a Tokyo Linux Users Group meeting – something I’d probably
not have remembered on my own…

Some of the records didn’t have much annotation aside from the note
“personal mail”, which means I probably should set up mail indexing
and search again. Hmm.

It’s nice to have these notes at my fingertips.

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Awesome! One of my favorite authors just started blogging!

August 30, 2006 - Categories: life

Tim Sanders, author of “Love is the Killer App”, has just launched a
blog: . “Love is the Killer App” is a book that I
enthusiastically recommend and even give away to other people. Given
that I’m on a grad student’s budget, that’s quite a strong statement.
;) I know so many people it describes so well, and I want to be the
kind of person it envisions.

I’m really looking forward to listening to Tim Sanders at the
Power Within event on September 13. How can I go about connecting
beyond the anonymity of a general-admission audience? I would love to
have a longer conversation. I’m good at mingling with diverse groups
and would probably find a way to fit into the VIP lunch if I could
talk my way into it, although I might need help convincing them to let
me in. I know I’d have interesting conversations. Hmm. Coffee? Dinner?
I’d be happy to be squeezed into a meeting with other people—all the
better, actually, because then I’d get to meet other cool people.

I wonder if anyone on my LinkedIn or OpenBC is linked. Hmm, there’s a
leadership coach named Tim Sanders at Yahoo!, but he has only one
connection, so that’s kinda odd. Not on OpenBC either.

*boggle* I have more LinkedIn connections than Keith Ferrazzi, who’s
actually just three degrees away – but he’s not open to Introductions
or InMail, so I’m going to have to do this the old-fashioned way. Let
me ask Erwin Oliva…

A fountain pen again

August 30, 2006 - Categories: writing

Essence du Papier called me recently to tell me that the Waterman I’d
been pining for had arrived. I headed over there to pick up the
beautifully patterned red fountain pen, an exact replica of the one
I’d misplaced.

I will keep it with me always. Well, not always. Apparently, you can’t take pens on international flights. How broken is that?

With air travel being such a pain, I’m starting to think that the
terrorists have won.

But I have a fountain pen again, so all is right with the world, and I
can once again use my pretty writing-paper to keep in touch in style. =)

Meet up at Shoeless Schmooze!

August 31, 2006 - Categories: meetup

The end of summer so let’s have a been (or two) and hook up with some
friends and make some new ones…

August 31st, 6:00 PM tillÅ .

We had a great turn out the previous times this was held. Lots of great
conversations and business connections, and all around good times were had!
So let’s do it one more time!!

I’ve gone back to the management at Shoeless Joe’s and they’re going to give
us a deal on beer ($3.50) and throw in some food.
A great environment to talk about what’s going on in the technology,
marketing & PR and all things that impact it, or just kick back and have a
drink and talk what ever on your mind they even throw some finger food.

Where / When:

  • Shoeless Joe’s – 401 King Street W (King St. & Spadina Ave) (Map)
  • August 31st

What to bring:

  • Lots of business cards
  • Loonies – we’ve got $3.25 beer & wine (not including tax & tip)
  • Lots of great ideas and things to talk about

Who will be there:
This is open to anyone to anyone who’s looking to network, socialize,
schmooze and connect with other business minded people from any sectors; but
chances are you fit into technology, marketing, public relations in some way
shape or form.

What next:
Would love to know if you can make it ­ hit me up on email or leave a
comment on the blog or reply to the email if you can make it.

Dave Forde
Profectio – Bringing together Canada’s connected community –
Personal Blog –

E-Mail from DAVE FORDE

Of BarCamp and conversations

August 31, 2006 - Categories: barcamp, toronto

People who have never been to a BarCamp
probably have no idea what to expect from this un-conference. In fact,
I get the feeling that the BarCamp *I* go to is very different
from the BarCamp that everyone else goes to, even if we’re all going to BarCampEarthToronto.

I think my way is cool, and I think you should try it out. =) Here’s
what I get out of BarCamp and why I think it’s tons of fun.

For me, BarCamp is all about conversation. I start with the
assumption that as a whole, everyone else knows more than I do about
anything I want to talk about. My sessions are not presentations, but
roundtable discussions. I’ll structure them a little bit to give
people something to work with, like the way I talked a little bit
about Enterprise 2.0 or shared some of my networking tips. The value
of the session doesn’t come from me, though, but from the

My job is not to tell people answers, but to share a few stories and
ask lots of questions. I turn Q & A onto its head by saving more time
for questions than for speaking, and asking more questions than I

This also allows me to adapt to people’s interests on the fly. In the
middle of hallway conversation, I’ve said, “Hey, I’d love to have a
larger conversation about this,” run off to find a marker, and then
added the session to the grid. I think it’s okay not to be an expert
on something just yet, to not have a slick well-rehearsed

I think this is so much more fun than treating BarCamp as a
self-organizing series of traditional presentations. I’d rather say,
“I feel like talking about ____” and see who else wants to.

Conversation. For me, BarCamp is all about starting
conversations. It’s fun following up with people, too. Just finished a
BBQ with a few people I met at BarCampEarthToronto – that was
great fun!

I’ll blog about this more when I’m more coherent, but yeah. Conversation.

On Technorati: , , , ,

Making friends in unusual places

August 31, 2006 - Categories: connecting

There is a reason for all things, and there turned out to be a very
good reason why I found myself asleep this morning. I had been
planning to wake up early and do some work at the lab, but I realized
that I left my phone charger somewhere, so I decided to leave my phone
off—so, no alarm clock.

Instead, I woke up this morning to the unmistakeable sound of
thickly-accented frustration. I stepped out of my room—sans glasses,
in my hurry—and found one of the maintenance staff wondering out loud
what on earth she was going to do with all the dishes in the sink, as
they needed to do their pre-move-in cleaning. I nodded and agreed that
they were under a lot of pressure, and added that maybe last night
wasn’t the best night to have a party. Then I rolled up my pajama
sleeves and worked along with them.

I was glad to help, especially as just a little effort on my part
could relieve the two maintenance people a great deal of stress. They
needed to be able to clean the surfaces, but maintenance had gotten so
much flak from residents about stuff being moved or moldy food being
thrown away that it was really good to have a resident around.

It was easy work: washing the dishes, moving food off the bottom shelf
and out of the crispers in the fridge so that they could clean them,
taking everything out of the bathroom and off the fridge. As we
cleaned, we chatted—and it was wonderful being able to connect with
Michael and Lily.

They told stories about fridges that were moldy and bathrooms that
were almost black, and shared speculations about certain racial
combinations and how that affected cleanliness. <laugh> For the
occasional guilt I feel about how I keep the suite, it turns out that
it’s still pretty decent. No, I don’t want to think about how messy
everything else must be.

Aside from the gossip, though, we also talked about so many other
things. Lily commutes from Richmond Hill, so I could sympathize with
her about the expense of YRT and TTC. She loves the place, though.
Michael lives in the middle of Chinatown, which is very convenient but
also very busy – he’s looking forward to escaping to his family’s
cottage this Labour Day weekend.

Lily mentioned her love of salsa. I remembered Alejandro, the
gentleman who struck up a conversation with me when I was studying in
the common room. He even demonstrated salsa moves; he loved salsa so
much! He also worked in the building, and I was sure they’d have run
into each other. “I know Alejandro! He’s my husband! He’s been telling
me so much about you!” That turned into a discussion of how
Alejandro’s such a charmer and how women line up to dance with him,
but Lily’s not jealous at all because she knows him. She told me of
her children from a previous marriage, too. Among them: a lawyer in
Chile, a psychologist, a forestry engineering student in France.

Lily’s vocation is working with seniors at a nursing home. That’s what
she loves doing. She occasionally helps out with Graduate House when
she could use the money, but her passion is taking care of seniors.
Oh, you should’ve seen her light up when she was talking about taking
care of them. She’s a very strong woman – “Half-German!” She reminded
me of my mom when she said, “I’m my children’s friend, but I’m their
mother first.” She’s tough, but it’s the kind of tough that everyone
needs, and I can totally see her in that kind of environment. She used
to be a physical therapist, too, which certainly helps.

Upon learning that I’m from the Philippines, Michael said a few
Tagalog phrases he knew. (Why is it that everyone here knows a few
Tagalog phrases? I’ve got to learn a little about other people’s
cultures…) He joked about wanting an Asian girlfriend because of our
culture. I laughed and said I’d keep an eye out. It turned out that
he’s just a bit younger than I am – he turned 23 on Aug 23. He’s
looking forward to winter because he loves playing hockey, although he
likes all the other seasons as well.

I shared with them the last bar of Godiva chocolate (thanks, Gabriel Mansour!), a bar of Cadbury (Michael’s favorite, apparently), and the mint chocolate that Shane D’Costa gave me. Everyone likes chocolate. =)

I’d like to think that I made their day unexpectedly better, and that
whenever someone gives them a hard time, they’ll remember that people
aren’t all like that. =) It was awesome connecting with them and
listening to their stories and treating them as *human*, y’know?

That was good. That was the best thing I could’ve done that morning.

And we got everything cleaned within their two-hour time limit! =)

Why I love OpenBC – a new business networking site

August 31, 2006 - Categories: connecting, social

Okay, I’m sold. Yes, LinkedIn has a slicker interface and *way* more people, but OpenBC has just a few extra features that I really, really like.

  • Wants / Haves. *Totally* cool. I do this in real life, and the connections you can bring out are amazing. Just last night, for example – seven people, and I can think of good connections for every single one of them. You know what would be the killerest? A summary view of people’s wants/haves, optionally sortable by update date. I want an RSS feed of people’s updates so that I can keep all those things in mind all the time. Any service that makes it easier for me to proactively create value for other people totally rocks, and it would be good to make it easier for people to browse through my contacts and make those connections themselves. ’cause face it – job descriptions don’t say much, and they don’t talk about what we want.
  • Pictures. Great for reminding other people what I look like. ;) If I could just convince everyone else…
  • Private memos. I can easily do that with my personal contact management database, but OpenBC makes it convenient for other people to keep private datestamped notes.
  • Tagging. Again, something I can do with my personal contact management database, but not everyone can be so lucky – and OpenBC’s tagging + events = cool.
  • Groups. I got into OpenBC because of the Greater IBM Initiative. They rock.
  • Events. I wonder if I can use this for my parties. You can use tags to invite people to events! Whee. =)
  • And they blog. Plus points.

I might even consider paying for the service, which again is quite a
vote considering my grad-student budget. =) It’s not that expensive,
though. I just have to figure out how to create enough value.

Sign up and connect. OpenBC has free basic memberships, and you have a
month of premium membership to try it out. I like it a lot. You should
definitely try OpenBC, particularly if you’re a Connector in the
Tipping Point sense of the word.

Sign up for OpenBC, then add me as a contact!

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Why the Philippines? A story that needs to be told

August 31, 2006 - Categories: philippines

A chance encounter with Daniel Chmielewski at BarCampEarthToronto led to a conversation about the Philippines and an introduction to Kevin Beckford, one of Dan’s friends who is in the Philippines right now. I asked him how he ended up in Cebu, and he said:

I came here from Hong Kong, I was doing a contract there. While there, I
could not help but notice the filipinas in causeway bay. Upon talking to
them, I noticed that they all seemed to really love the philippines. I said:
“What the hell am I doing in Hong Kong, which I am not fond of, when
everyone I meet from this country loves it?” So i came here to cebu and just
lived here… did some offshore contracts for cash and now i’m (weeps)
getting ready to leave. I do work with php/perl/java/groovy ( php as little
as possible ) and some admin things. I am currently hacking drupal code
right now YES NOW because I’m trying to get something working according to
my desire.

I’ll really miss this place though. If I had known it was this good, i
would have targeted here instead of just dropping in for the year. Ah well.
Who knows what the future holds ?

These are stories that need to be told.

E-Mail from Kevin

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Thinking about responsibilities: glass, metal, or rubber?

August 31, 2006 - Categories: productivity

Tim Sanders has an insightful post on thinking of tasks as either glass, metal, or rubber. From his blog post:

  • If I drop an action item made of glass, something gets broken. It has a guaranteed negative outcome not to do it.
  • If I drop and action item made of metal, nothing gets broken — but there will be plenty of noise and maybe even a dent claimed.
  • If I drop an action item made of rubber, it will will probably bounce either back to the tasker or to the right person. This is probabaly an action item that is either silly or not my role.

Mondays are the best days to deal with “glass” things, he says, and people should minimize the number of glass things they’re juggling at a time.

Come to think of it, my life is like that. It’s not just a matter of
keeping all of the balls in the air, satisfying all the
responsibilities – there’s never going to be enough time for that! I
have to think about which responsibilities I don’t really need to take
on, things that can bounce to someone else…

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The power of proactively networking

August 31, 2006 - Categories: connecting, social

I’ve reached another turning point in my life, another coming of age.
I’ve realized the power of proactive networking, and I have a feeling
that it’s going to change my life.

You see, I used to shy away from networking because I couldn’t think
of how I could add value to the conversation or what I could take
away. I went to a few networking events before I got tired of being
given the once-over by schmoozers who moved on when they realized that
I couldn’t give them any deals or opportunities. As a student, what
could I offer? And what could I ask them for? I didn’t want to waste
their time, didn’t want to prevent them from meeting other people they
could deal with.

I was insecure. That was exactly how I felt when I moved to Canada
from the Philippines, torn away from *my* network and suddenly back at
the bottom of the totem pole. I didn’t believe I could offer any
value, and so I couldn’t.

Over the past year and after so many conversations and books, though,
I think I’ve finally found myself—and I can’t believe that I hadn’t
realized this earlier.

How did I go about it? I credit two books with sparking a particularly
large number of aha! moments: Keith Ferrazzi’s “Never Eat Alone” and
Tim Sanders’ “Love is the Killer App.” Both books taught me that my
love of reading and learning could be valuable to other people, so I
had something to start with. My interest in other people helps them
discover more about life and themselves—another reason why people
enjoy sharing their insights with me. I give people an opportunity to
help, and in so doing, they grow as well. All I need to do is ask.

As I practiced the suggestions in these books, I found it easier and
easier – and more and more fun. I discovered that by consciously
reaching out, I could enrich my life and the lives of people around

I don’t think of it as my “network”, not in the cold and calculating
sense of just wanting to add more nodes to a graph. No, these are
people whom I want to help grow and who care about my growth.

And last night, I realized something amazing: the power of
proactivity, of making things happen instead of waiting for things to

After a wonderful conversation about all sorts of topics including the
meaning of life, the challenges of entrepreneurship, and the joy of
networking, I asked my seven guests point-blank what they wanted and
how I could help them succeed. They told me—and my mind kicked into
high gear, thinking of whom I could introduce to them and what I could
help them with.

*This* is one of the things I’m not only good at, but I love doing.
Perhaps this is one of the things that I am meant to do. I’ve jokingly
described how I enjoy stuffing large amounts of information into my
brain in order to bring out one or two relevant items when people need
them. I’ve applied it in geeky contexts before: familiarizing myself with a list of open source
packages (all of Debian, at one point) helped me recommend just the right package for Jijo Sevilla when he was working on a point-of-sale system, while my background in computer science helped me tell Simon exactly which keywords he should use to find a good algorithm for a feature he wants to include in his product.

I want to do it with people, too. I want to keep people’s wants and
haves in mind. I *love* making those connections.

This was one of Sam Watkins‘ brilliant ideas,
some years ago: write down your wants and haves on your card, and
exchange this with others. OpenBC is a social networking site that’s playing around with the idea, too, which is why I like OpenBC a lot. The key point is: proactively find out what people want / have, and make those connections happen!

One of the difficulties I had was figuring out how to keep in touch
with people, how to do followup. Followup is incredibly important.
Proactively choosing to make things happen makes it really easy to
follow up and exercise those networking muscles. Every person I meet
and every conversation I have has the potential to reactivate old
connections, and I want to review old connections to find out what I
can help them with now. If they’re in my network, it’s because I think
they’re cool and I want them to succeed – and we’ll keep growing

That gives me even more confidence when it comes to meeting other
people. I now bring *lots* of value to the conversation. Sure, I’m not
a CEO or even someone with decision-making power. Even as a student,
though, I can help people succeed. I’ve been told I have interesting
ideas and that I’m a good listener. I love asking questions and having
conversations. And I know lots of really cool people. I want to know
more peopl because the more people I know, the more interconnections I
can make and the more stories I can tell.

“Your network is your net worth,” said Tim Sanders – and mine is growing. I care about the people in it. I want them to succeed. I want to learn from all these interesting people – strangers, acquaintances, friends. That gives me the chutzpah I need to walk up to someone I’ve never met – the power of proactive networking.

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How to proactively network

August 31, 2006 - Categories: connecting, social

Whether you have a business card collection that fills a bookshelf or
you’re trying to become comfortable with meeting new people, one way
to get much more value and happiness out of networking is to
proactively make things happen instead of waiting for them to occur.
Here’s how:

  1. Find out what people want. Ask people, “What can I do to help you succeed?” Keep asking until you get a good sense of what they’re looking for. The practice is good for them, too!
  2. Get out there and meet people. Too shy to talk to people at a networking event? Ask on behalf of a friend and you may find yourself more comfortable. Find conversation difficult? Think of it as an opportunity to discover ways to connect people to other people. You’ll find that good conversation isn’t really about you having something in common with others. It’s easier than that! All you need is at least one of your friends having at least one thing in common with others.
  3. Look for the connections. With every conversation and with every person you meet, think of connections you can make. Introduce people to other people and you’ll create lots of opportunities – and learn about people, too!

Make things happen. Find out what people around you want or need, and
look for ways you can help them grow. Life is a lot more fun that way!

For backstory, check out The power of proactively networking

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Do one nice thing

August 31, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Perk up your Mondays by doing (at least) one nice thing!

And why wait for Mondays? Do a nice thing for someone any time. It’s particularly good for perking yourself up when you feel unhappy or for sharing your joy when you’re on top of the world.

Link via Debbie’s comment on Tim Sanders’ blog