October 2, 2006

Little joys

October 2, 2006 - Categories: happy

On the way back from Simon’s place last night, I took a streetcar with
a wonderful surprise. The streetcar driver sang out the stops in this
beautiful, beautiful voice! I was so tempted to take the car all the
way to Humber just to keep listening to him. On the way out, I told
him that I really wished I could tip on the TTC and that it was the
awesomest streetcar ride ever. I wish the other riders on the
streetcar were as appreciative. He deserved a lot of warm and fuzzy

I love it when people go above and beyond, turning even ordinary jobs
into something that brings joy to other people. I remember the
announcer for Delta Airlines at the Washington airport whose sense of
humor over the public announcement system made the four-hour delay so

Waking up with wonder

October 2, 2006 - Categories: life

I’ve figured out a great way to start my day. I love waking up to the
alarm on my cellphone, hitting the snooze button, and spending the
next five minutes slowly waking up and thinking of all the things that
make me happy and grateful to be alive. I also mentally sort through
my day and think of what I want from it.

Sometimes it takes more than one snooze button and sometimes I fall
asleep again. When I notice that I’m getting sleepier instead of more
awake, I focus on just doing the very next step: sitting up, for
example. I will graduate to doing this kind of five-minute meditation
sitting up, or maybe even over breakfast. I think it’ll be easier to
stay awake that way.

Speaking of breakfast, I need to clear out my part of the fridge and
go for more groceries…

Reaching out and being human

October 2, 2006 - Categories: connecting

Most of the time, I’m on the top of the world. People wonder where I
get the energy to be so enthusiastic and positive almost all the time.

Here’s the secret: I get that energy from other people. Being around
loving people fills me with great love, which spills over into
everything else I do and everyone else I meet. People don’t have to be
perkily happy. They just need to be real, and I’m lucky to be
surrounded by very real friends.

I get that energy from all the wonderful things around me, too. A
singing streetcar conductor. Sunlight glinting off a sign. Sentimental
letters. Crazy coincidences. My parents observed that it was very rare
for me to be disappointed or sad for more than twenty minutes or so.
What can I do? The world kicks in. =)

For longer-running, deeper-seated issues, though, sometimes I end up
returning to what threw me out of whack in the first place. Sometimes
the issue’s too big for me to deal with. When I’m running on empty,
that’s when the most amazing and wonderful thing happens: people and
the universe just infuse me with love (and, occasionally, vast
quantities of hot chocolate).

It never fails to amaze me how my moments of weakness are those which
draw me closer to other people. This is why I do not fight being sad,
do not deny it, do not hush it away or starve it of sunlight. The
other day, as Dan Howard comforted me, he said that he was glad that I
shared this with him. Before that day, I had seemed to be some
unapproachably, inhumanly happy person. Now our bond is stronger for
those tears: he knows more of me, and I know that he can know that me
and still be there.

The outpouring of warm and fuzzy thoughts from people I’d never even
met fills me with great gratitude and the determination to give even
more back to the world. My life has been too short and my work too
small for me to deserve the smallest fraction of the love I have
received, and so I am driven to be more and love more in order to
repay this tremendous debt—one of gratitude to the world. Not that I
ever can. The interest on this debt grows and grows. The principal of
it grows and grows. But it is a debt I am happy to labor under!

I am human, and these are the moments that make me love being so. I am
flawed, and as Quinn pointed out, that’s a wonderful opportunity for
others to show compassion—and for me to learn by their example.

Tim Sanders told me the story of how a reporter
once asked Albert Einstein what question he would ask if he knew he
would get an answer. Immediately—as if he had been thinking about it
for a long time—Einstein said, “Is the universe friendly?” To him I
would say: the world is not only friendly, but loving. To the world: I
love you too. I love you too. I love you too.


October 2, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

I am also very, very lucky to have people who remind me that this
experience of great love is not yet universal. Some provide me with an
opportunity to be compassionate. Others remind me that I have been
extraordinarily lucky and loved, and that not everyone has the same
experience or awareness. Thank you for helping me grow as a person.


October 2, 2006 - Categories: happy, life, purpose

Since childhood, I have had a gift for working with computers. For a
while, this seemed like the perfect fit for my life. My grade school
teachers were not surprised to find me interested in computers in high
school. My high school teachers were not surprised that I took
computer science in university. One of my university teachers told me
I’d do well in “hard” computer science and encouraged me to go for a
master’s degree, maybe even a PhD.

But I am also awakening to a gift I have with people. I want to reach
millions and millions of people over generations and generations. I
want to lift them up, inspire them, share my experiences with them.
I want to tell their stories and help make their dreams come true.
This is what I want to do with my life.

I don’t want to wait until I’ve made my money before I do good. I want
to get out there and live and love and do and write and speak and
share. I will keep my needs simple, my schedule flexible, and my
overhead low so that I can spend as much time as possible developing
myself and other people.

I belong to the world not just as a mind, but also as a heart, and I
will make a life that allows me to express both.

So, concretely, how can we make this happen?

  • I want to repay the trust the university has shown in me by finishing my master’s degree and doing well.
  • I want to set up a newsletter and topic-focused blog that inspires people and shares tips with them.
  • I want to write best-selling books. The second book will be easier than the first, so I should really just sit down, pull out material from my blog, do more research, and make this happen. Hey, maybe even before I’m 25. ;)
  • I want to be a totally awesome professional speaker. That way, I can reach *lots* of people with not only my message but with my communication style. It’s also a good reason to meet people around the world.
  • I want to set up an organization for generous connecting.
  • Lots more!

How can I make this self-supporting? I want to get as quickly as
possible to the point where I don’t have to worry about my expenses so
that I can follow these crazy ideas for free. Then I can build up my
crazy idea capital, and then we’re off!

The best way for me to do that is not to plan for retirement at 60
with a slow-and-steady savings plan, but to take advantage of my crazy
ideas, train my intuition, and get better at going from crazy idea to

If I open my mind and look for ways I can create value for other
people (like my networking business cards that list my favorite
networking books!), then I’ll probably be able to create enough value
to make the kind of life I want.

(Crazy idea! Trust in coincidence by having business cards with random
stuff on the back. Moo cards does this with Flickr photos. Why not do
that with whatever you currently want/have? I think business cards
should be short-run and current. That way, they’re more than just a
static piece of contact information, and you’ll have reasons to keep
giving people your cards and for people to keep reading yours! Maybe I
should start date-stamping my business cards… Ah, now there’s a
great idea…)

Right. That’s the ticket. I should keep a notebook of all these crazy
ideas. Probably a blog page *and* a paper notebook. Probably part of
my Moleskine. And I should go and make those crazy ideas happen, like
advertising on my laptop or tweaking my business card, etc.

I don’t mind giving the ideas away. I get terrific feedback. In fact,
if other people pick up the idea and run with it, that means I get to
train my crazy-idea sense for free!

Remember the movie Phenomenon? I want to be that guy, overflowing with
lots of ideas and improvements! I want to be someone you tell about
the cool stuff you’re working on because I’ll be enthusiastic about it
too, and I *might* just go “Hey, what do you think about trying out

Simon’s fantastic at designing systems from scratch. I’m good at
thinking about how to improve something that’s already there, finding
things to smoothen, noticing things that are missing… Come to think
of it, even my computing background points to this. Why do I love open
source development? Because I can build on what’s there! Why am I
totally addicted to Emacs? Because it indulges my crazy-idea thing!

So I want the ability to explore all these crazy ideas even when I’m
working. I have lots of options in terms of the type of job, too.

  • A high-margin job that will train me up and take advantage of what I can do well and the crazy ideas I can come up with – marketing and sales, maybe?
  • A job that develops my skills even though it requires more work and concentration, such as writing. But not for long.
  • Something that pays for my expenses without demanding any mindshare, such as waiting tables ;) (Can’t do that on my work permit, though!)

Right. Getting a better sense of what I want in life. There we go. Does that sound like a plan? Let’s make it happen. =)

On Technorati: , ,


October 2, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

One of our friends blogs poetry between stories of his work. It’s always interesting reading, although you wonder sometimes if you should probe further…

Places to eat in New York City

October 2, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

Things to remember next time I’m in New York: Jim Suto highly
recommends Little Lad’s Restaurant and Cafe, which has a USD 2.99
vegan buffet special (eat-in) of homemade soups, salads, entrees, and
breads. 120 Broadway downstairs. Totally vegan – no animal products.
Way cool!

On Technorati:

Also of note: East West Books

October 2, 2006 - Categories: Uncategorized

I picked up a pretty set of postcards from East West Books in New York City (78 Fifth Avenue at 14th). The bookstore feels great. Check it out if you find yourself in the area. It’s open daily from 10 AM to 9 PM. http://www.eastwestnyc.com , +1 212 243 5994.

On Technorati:

Sweet! The Peer Review: Graduate Studies and Academic Life

October 2, 2006 - Categories: school

I opened my mailbox to find a small publication called “The Peer Review: Graduate Studies and Academic Life.” The cover advertised an article on “The Ultimate Guide to Scholarly Publishing: Editors of leading journals tell you how to make sure your research gets published *before* you hit the job market”. It continued: “Also inside: How to memorize all of your students’ names in just one class: + why some students hate new ideas (and what to do about it).” The trailer: “Grad research: The nurture of your true nature… do fish have feelings?”

I should just take a picture of it, really. ;)

I’m sold. I don’t remember signing up for this, but the first thing I thought was, “This is a terrific idea.” The second thing I thought was, “How can I help with this?” The third thing I thought was: “How can I send them warm and fuzzy thoughts for a job well done?”

So I’ve left voicemail (although the office will be closed for a few weeks), blogged this entry, and sent enthusiastic kudos to the Peer Review folks. I would totally subscribe to this in order to keep more of this content flowing, and I would love to write for it as well.

Check it out. A casual flip-through reveals both good U-of-T-specific
content as well as lots of other helpful things.

The Peer Review

Now I’m thinking: how can we syndicate this idea to lots of other
universities? I’m sure other universities have some kind of serious
grad-student-oriented bulletin…

Crazy idea for Emacs: Random Emacs taglines

October 2, 2006 - Categories: emacs, pimpmyemacs

Would anyone happen to know of a way to select a random symbol with a

Actually. Hmm.

  (apropos ".")
  (write-file "~/.taglines.random-emacs-symbols")
  (delete-matching-lines "Plist")
  (delete-matching-lines "not documented")
  (replace-regexp "\n  " " - " nil)
  (delete-non-matching-lines " - "))

Et voila! Random Emacs taglines together with the code:

(defun sacha/random-tagline (&optional file)
  "Return a random tagline and put it in the kill ring."
  (with-current-buffer (find-file-noselect (or file "~/.taglines"))
    (goto-char (random (point-max)))
    (let ((string
           (buffer-substring (line-beginning-position)
      (kill-new string)

(defadvice remember (after sacha-tagline activate)
  "Add random tagline."
  (goto-char (point-max))
  (insert "\n\nRandom Emacs symbol: "
          (sacha/random-tagline "~/.taglines.random-emacs-symbols")

On Technorati: , ,

Random Emacs symbol: eshell-remove-entries – Function: From PATH, remove all of the given FILES, perhaps interactively.

Crazy Emacs: Personalized signatures with random taglines

October 2, 2006 - Categories: bbdb, emacs

Of course, that naturally leads to the crazy idea: “What if I can
personalize my signatures?” Knowing that Paul Lussier is an Emacs geek, I can reward him for reading all the way
to the bottom of my message… ;)

(defun sacha/gnus-personalize-signature ()
  "Personalizes signature based on BBDB signature field.
BBDB signature field should be a lambda expression.
First person with a custom signature field gets used."
  (let* ((bbdb-get-addresses-headers
          (list (assoc 'recipients bbdb-get-addresses-headers)))
         (records (bbdb-update-records
                    gnus-ignored-from-addresses 'gnus-fetch-field)
    (while (and records (not signature))
      (when (bbdb-record-getprop (car records) 'signature)
        (setq signature
              (eval (read (bbdb-record-getprop (car records)
      (setq records (cdr records)))
    (or signature t)))
(setq-default message-signature 'sacha/gnus-personalize-signature)

So then all I have to do is add the following field to his record:

      signature: (concat "Sacha Chua - Emacs geek
                 What crazy idea can I help you hack next?
                 Random Emacs symbol: "

Emacs. One crazy idea at a time. Now I can use this to select random
information, like my favorite networking books or a list of my
upcoming events…

On Technorati: , , ,

Random Emacs symbol: sort-coding-systems-predicate – Variable: If non-nil, a predicate function to sort coding systems.

Must be a better way to reserve books at the library

October 2, 2006 - Categories: library

I’m going on another reading spree, this time on relationship

At some point in time, I will be annoyed enough to write a non-(mouse
and pageload)-intensive way to say “Request all selected books and
have them delivered to my nearest branch.”

Argh. Little inefficiencies like that annoy me. That is so getting
hacked. Probably during CASCON, even.

Random Emacs symbol: Info-edit – Command: Edit the contents of this
Info node.

43folders blogger and GTD guru Merlin Mann in Toronto tomorrow

October 2, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Merlin Mann of 43Folders and uber-cool GTD/productivity lifehacking
will be in town for a podcast tomorrow (Tuesday).

I will probably not be able to go, or if I do, I’ll be cramming for
school in the background. But go and have fun!

Random Emacs symbol: auto-coding-alist-lookup – Function: Return the coding system specified by `auto-coding-alist’ for FILENAME.

So many resources!

October 2, 2006 - Categories: -Uncategorized

Every so often, I just stop and wonder what I’ve been doing with my
time. This usually happens when I go on an academic reading spree and
I rediscover just how amazing it is that the University of Toronto has
full-text access to almost everything.

I’m *so* tempted to scale back everything as much as possible and just
pack lots and lots of information into my head. ;) I want to take
advantage of all the magazine subscriptions and the huge library just
two blocks from my residence.

I love reading!

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-summary-article-header – Macro: Return the header of article NUMBER.