July 22, 2006

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The best birthday gifts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Google Trends

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

On 7/22/06, Daniel Escasa wrote:

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

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

E-Mail from Mark Anthony C. Delfin

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

Think! Friday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy girl. =)

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

I’ve got music… – Hosting dinner parties

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

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

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

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

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