January 2007

Yay me!

January 1, 2007 - Categories: life

I gave up watching New Year fireworks for the thrill of actually
keeping a not-quite-New-Year goal of waking up before 7:30 for 7 days
straight, and I did it! =) Sure, it’s a minor thing to all of you
people who actually do get up with the sun (although this is easier in
the Canadian winter, because the sun hardly ever wakes up). It’s still
a nice little accomplishment for me. Check one off my list of goals
for 2007!

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Making things happen

January 1, 2007 - Categories: life

My dad was telling all sorts of crazy stories at the breakfast table
earlier. It’s a good thing my mom reminded me to run and grab a
recorder. I caught some of the stories on video! =) He’s an awesome
storyteller, and he has such adventures.

He started by talking about the photography school my sister is
thinking of attending next year. The school is expensive, and they
don’t really teach anything my dad doesn’t already do. Then again,
he’s done everything—from aerial to underwater, from cars to fashion,
and even sports and photojournalism as well. He refuses to be niched,
and he loves breaking ground.

He regaled us with stories of his adventures, like the time that he
was shooting a ship. They gave him coordinates, and he looked them up
on Google Maps. He realized that he wouldn’t be able to get a good
shot because his fixed-wing plane would interfere with the flight path
at the nearby airport. He called the ship on his cellphone and gave
them new coordinates, spelling out a plan that would ensure the kind
of shot the client wanted. At 1000H they would be at the coordinates
he gave. They would keep their bearing for five minutes, then turn
toward the sun. They would execute a wide circle and then continue on
their journey. Impressed, the captain agreed, and everything went
exactly according to plan. Result? A head-on shot of the ship that was
so well lined up that it seemed to have been taken from a helicopter
and not from a fixed-wing plane.

My dad’s the kind of person who can move things to fit his vision, and
for whom things also just fall into place. He told us about
hitchhiking in Albay and how things kept happening for him. I managed
to record that, so I might put it up on YouTube soon. =)

He can do anything he wants to, because he wants to. The strength and
clarity of that desire could be part of the reason why people help him
make things happen. My mom wrote to airport managers and mayors,
arranged accommodation and fuel, organized exhibits—all because my
dad had a dream.

My dad can make things happen, and things happen for him. I have that
nature of my dad’s. I haven’t developed something more like my mom’s,
though. She’s more methodical and pays more attention to detail. In
the MBTI personality inventory thing, I think she would be an S-type
(Sensing), and my dad and I are firmly Ns (Intuitive). It would be
good for me to develop a little of that, but I don’t have to do
everything on my own, just as my dad works with others to make things
happen. =)

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My books are balanced

January 1, 2007 - Categories: finance

I have to confess a certain delight in knowing that my books are
balanced and that I have a full year of financial information now
behind me. I know my net worth and my expense breakdown. I’ve
earmarked enough funds to cover my essential expenses for the next
eight months. In addition to that, I have savings that I will divide
into emergency fund, proper savings and an investment kitty. I’ve also
been tithing 10% in an earmarked charity fund, and I plan to adopt a
cause this year – maybe microfinance in the Philippines.

I’m still not quite clear what my cashflow will be like for the rest
of my studies, which is why I’ve set aside a lot. My cashflow will be
easier to figure out when I start working.

I’m thinking of immigrating to Canada. I need to find out what the
rules are for RRSP eligibility so that I can use the power of
tax-sheltered investments. I also need to find out what to do if I
decide to live elsewhere.

It feels great starting the year with a pretty good handle on my
finances. =)

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Big, hairy, audacious goal

January 1, 2007 - Categories: research

2My Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal for the next eight months is to help
huge companies imagine how they can help people connect by prototyping
my research idea, figuring out how it can be improved and made into a
product, and writing up my thesis.

A thesis is a pretty big goal. Just ask all the people who finish
everything but their thesis. Even really smart people. Even my

And I’m pushing even further than that. I want my thesis to be
practical *and* research-worthy. I want to take it into the business

I’m going to need help making this happen, and I’m going to need a lot
of personal strength, too.

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January 2, 2007 - Categories: school

Oh no! I tried using the ACM Digital Library through my
library access
earlier, and I couldn’t get full-text access. I’ve sent my research
supervisor a panicky e-mail. While he’s solving that problem, I’ll
focus on designing my research study.

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The secret to waking up early

January 2, 2007 - Categories: life

Woke up at 6 today. It’s getting easier and easier.

I discovered the secret to waking up early!

Sleep in the same room with someone who snores. ;) This guarantees
that you’ll be early to bed, early to rise…

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My alma mater is t3h c00l

January 2, 2007 - Categories: school

I heard from Gabby Dizon that Ateneo de Manila University will use the popular cross-platform roleplaying game Neverwinter Nights to help students learn programming (scripting, in particular).


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Still getting horrible packet loss for international sites

January 2, 2007 - Categories: geek

0% packet loss to www.pldt.com.ph, 71% packet loss to www.google.com.
The international links are still broken. ARGH.

Good thing my dad has stopped jokingly blaming the slow Internet on me… ;)

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You only live once!

January 2, 2007 - Categories: life

… and each night is as important as every other night, and each day
is as important as every other day.

I’m going to be audacious and ask IBM for what I need to do even
better on my thesis. I don’t know if it’s going to blow up. It’s hard
to finetune subtle things over e-mail. But whatever happens, I’m
better off trying the outrageous than letting things slide. If it
turns out to be a mistake – well, I’ll learn, and there are other
opportunities I can pick up. But I need this, and I deserve to do work
I can be proud of!

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Checking my financial course

January 2, 2007 - Categories: finance

I must be doing something right if my mom’s financial advisor is
impressed by my planning. ;)

We visited Tina at the bank today. After my mom finished a little
business, I took advantage of the free financial advice. I told Tina
about the money I’d earmarked for various expenses, the emergency fund
I’d set up, and the savings I set aside. She was glad to hear that I’m
already thinking about all of these things at 23 years of age.

Tina recommended a split between a diversified balance fund and a
high-risk, high-growth equity fund. Asian equities are doing pretty
well, although the foreign currency hit and the fees for transferring
money probably mean that I should keep Canadian money in Canada for

It’s good to know that I’m on course, and to get an idea of what’s
coming up ahead. I’ll keep money in a liquid high-interest savings
account first because I don’t know how much I’ll need when I
transition into the working world. I will probably want to furnish a
place, update my wardrobe, get used to a new lifestyle, etc. I know
I’ll feel satisfied if I can cover all of my startup costs and restore
my emergency fund without taking stuff out of my investment fund.

When the dust settles, I’ll look into the investment options. My next
milestone would be three to five years out, when I decide whether to
stay in Toronto or move on. I like what my mom did with our place on
Bautista: rent the house until she decided to buy it. It seems like a
good way to get a feel for a place. We’ll see. But I should be able to
diversify into really-long-term (retirement or 10+ years), medium (3-5
years), and liquid assets.

I pay attention to stuff like this because I would hate to waste these
great opportunities through mismanagement. Besides, sorting this out
early takes less effort than dealing with the consequences of bad
planning. =) And it’s fun! I like seeing my books balance. I like
knowing that the basics are taken care of and that there’s some room
to take crazy chances and follow my intuition. I like abundance and

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Ay, my dad… Fireworks!

January 2, 2007 - Categories: family

My dad sounded *so* disappointed earlier! He trudged up the stairs and
said, “Sacha, I’m so sad…”

I looked up from my computer and asked him what was going on.

The second World PyroOlympics is coming up soon, and he had really
wanted to go and shoot it. He was so excited! He had shot it last year
(a story in its own right), and he wanted to talk his way into press
access for the event. But my dad didn’t want just any kind of press
access. He wanted to find out if he could get away with, say,
representing a horse breeders’ magazine… ;) Why? Just for the sheer
heck of it!

So he… obtained… a press pass (don’t ask how) and was about to hit
them up for access when one of the organizers recognized him, shouted
his name and called him over. It turned out that the organizers had
lost my dad’s business card, so they couldn’t get in touch with him,
but they wanted to invite him to the VIP area for the fireworks
festival. With dinner and everything!

He went home with an envelope containing an invitation for “John Chua
and Family”. Just for showing up. He didn’t even need to talk about a
fictional horse-breeder magazine. But he was *so* disappointed!
Imagine that! Preparing an outrageous setup, getting all excited about
seeing just how far he could push the universe, and the universe just
handed him the prize on a silver (or at least nice porcelain) plate!

Ay, my dad… You think I’m crazy? ;) You should meet *him!*

On Technorati:

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It’s nice to be missed!

January 4, 2007 - Categories: life

Bryce Johnson e-mailed me to ask me why I
hadn’t signed up for Enterprise Camp. I sent my regrets and explained
that I was in the Philippines. Oh, to be able to be in two places at
the same time! But it’s nice being missed…

E-Mail from Bryce Johnson

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Whatever gets the job done

January 4, 2007 - Categories: travel

I should’ve tried dialing into the IBM conference center last night to
confirm that our landline could connect to it. Had to go for Plan B:
make an expensive roaming cellphone call for 30 minutes… Ouch!

All in the line of duty…

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Working through the funk

January 4, 2007 - Categories: travel

I felt tired this morning. Things weren’t working smoothly. It turns
out that the Philippines is probably not part of the toll-free area
for by my research manager’s call-in number. I found a workable but
expensive solution for the moment: a roaming call off my
Canadian-based cellphone. 30 minutes is going to be a whopper on my
phone bill, but it’s all part of the job.

Not only that, I couldn’t log onto IBM’s virtual private network. When
I tried rebuilding the module, I started getting kernel version
mismatches. I don’t think I mistyped my password the first few times,
and that password worked just two days ago. I may need Stephen’s help
sorting that out remotely, or I can ask IBM Philippines to see what we
can do about getting on the network.

My thesis threatens to stretch even longer unless we can figure out
how to cut it down to size. Fortunately, the people I’m working with
are old hands at managing risk.

So yeah, I was in a bit of a funk. But I kept working anyway. The main
thing on my plate is my talk tomorrow, for which I have prepared a few
things – business cards, feedback forms, etc. Fairly mechanical, which
was good, because I felt out of sorts. Now I’m feeling a little
better. Water helps.

Now I’ll make the slides. After that, I’ll revise and rehearse my
talk. It’s only 30 minutes, and the challenge is really choosing from
all the material that I could put into it.

When I’m done with the talk, I’ll clean up the minutes for this
morning’s meeting and send them. I should probably have written them
all down earlier, but I was feeling stressed about the business cards
because that had been on my TODO list for the past few days without
much progress. Now they’re done!

The minutes might be a bit difficult to reconstruct. It was hard to
deal with my cellphone and the computer keyboard. Next time, I’m
taking paper notes.

Things are going to be okay.

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Hate is as useful as love

January 4, 2007 - Categories: school

… sometimes even more so.

I’m beginning to hate the stress I feel about this thesis. The best
way to deal with it is not to fight a long, protracted war. Nor is it
to give up and walk away. No, the best thing to do is to finish it as
quickly as possible so that I can get on with the rest of my life.

Let’s make that happen.

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Deja vu

January 4, 2007 - Categories: travel

The Internet is still crawling. Takes me back to the days of BBSing,
when you could type faster than the modem could send. I have to
remember not to do my one-gazillion-tabs style of web browsing, as
it’s really inconvenient when the browser times out.


Do you know where I can find carrier pigeons? ;)

Random Emacs symbol: browse-url-w3 – Command: Ask the w3 WWW browser to load URL.

Trudging along

January 5, 2007 - Categories: school

Somehow I thought I’d be happier working on this, but it’s
frustrating. Inching along, bit by bit, trying to figure out something

I miss feeling brilliant. <wry grin> That’s part of it. It
frustrates me that I’m learning Rails bit by bit instead of
immediately being able to do what I want. I shouldn’t get frustrated
about things that are outside my control, like the speed of the
Internet (or lack thereof), but it’s hard not to get annoyed by my
lack of progress.

Still, the important thing is to keep moving forward, and I am.
Writing blog entries like this reassures everyone (and myself) that
I’m still alive, and will help me remember what this feeling is like
after it passes. It’s important to be able to keep working, and my
base work rate for estimation should be *this* instead of when I’m
in the zone.

Life varies. I’ll hit my stride again soon.

I’m giving a talk later. That’ll probably jazz me up.

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January 5, 2007 - Categories: travel

I miss Canada, too. No, I don’t miss Canada; I miss the people I left

But I am here to be with the people I will miss all the rest of the
year. My weekends are theirs. During the week, though, I miss
everyone. We used to meet more often than this (even the cook has
asked where everyone has disappeared to!), but now I feel guilty
dragging them to my house for the leisurely conversations we used to

My friends here—we have gotten used to keeping in touch over the
Internet. I have to relearn how to be present again. Maybe I should
spend my evenings calling people up. I need that connection. This
feels wasteful, otherwise.

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All that is precious

January 6, 2007 - Categories: life

If I listen to the quiet stirrings of my heart, to the restlessness
that prevents me from spending days here like days there, I find the
things I can’t take with me: the way my mother feels, fragile and
strong, when I give her a hug; the glee and tension that underlie my
father’s stories; the lightness of my cat as she bounces up, her
weight as she settles in; the laughter and sorrow of friends over the
things we do not write; the people who have known me forever.

All these I have missed and will miss again. But seeing them, at least
I can try not to miss them while I’m here.

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You know, things aren’t so bad

January 6, 2007 - Categories: life

There are lots of positive things to focus on. =)

I just have to have faith that if I keep learning and keep moving,
I’ll somehow get it all together in time…

And that’ll feel good, for sure.

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On hold

January 6, 2007 - Categories: love

You think that of all people, Simon and I would be able to find some
way to talk for free (or as nearly free as possible). He’s a telecoms
geek who regularly talks to an outsourcing company based in the
Philippines. I’m a social computing geek who occasionally talked to my
mom while I was in Canada. But we can’t seem to get things to work,
and the unreliability of my Net access is starting to get to me.

I miss him. I find myself with stories to share, but unable to
tell them because of the time difference and communication
difficulties. He doesn’t blog, so I don’t know what’s going on over
there. E-mail gets buried under the mess of our inboxes.

Would it be better to stop fighting the limitations of technology, and
even savor the distance? I bought a complete set of beautiful,
evocative cards: a series of traditional Filipino silhouettes. Maybe
we can even celebrate the distance. It will be something to remember,
for sure.

My worlds are split, and I can’t live well if I keep feeling
mis-placed. I need to learn how to make the most of my time wherever I
am, and not think of what is outside my reach…

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January 6, 2007 - Categories: cat

One of the little joys of being home is spending time with my cat,
whom no one else loves, but stays in our house (despite my cat’s
furniture-scratching) because my mother loves me.

She comes when I call her, even though I’m not the one feeding
her. She tries hard to pretend that she isn’t following me around: she
walks just a little bit ahead, but turns around, confused, if I change
paths. She jumps into my bed at night and curls up beside or on top of
me. Cats being clean creatures, if she needs to be let out to use the
kitty litter, she pats and meows to wake me up.

She’s scrawny, but she has a certain something about her – a quiet,
intelligent, but tentative air. Elegance.

One of the reasons why I’m looking forward to finishing my thesis is
so that I can move into a pet-friendly apartment and bring her in. So
much effort for a stray cat of no fancy pedigree! But she is my cat,
and like the fox and the Little Prince, I am both tamer and tamed.

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Inflection point: on the up and up

January 7, 2007 - Categories: school

Two days ago, I was so frustrated by all the little things that were
going wrong. I think I’m past the inflection point now, because things
are looking brighter and brighter.

Yesterday, I had lunch and dinner with most of my barkada – my closest
friends. The jokes—in-jokes—laughter—craziness—wow! I’ve missed
this *so* much, and I hadn’t even realized how much I was missing
until I found myself laughing harder and longer than I had in the past
year. My friends in Toronto are wonderful, but they’re new. We have no
in-jokes yet, and no deep connections between each other. Here… Ay,
the way we joked around, it was as if I’d never left!

Things have changed, though, and they’ve changed for the better. My
friends are settling into life, finding their paths. I’m particularly
proud of Marcelle. His magic tricks have boosted his confidence. I
like Estelle, one of his new friends.

I was quiet towards the end, but that was because I was realizing just
*how* much I had missed them, and how much I want to spend so much
more time with them. I want to experience things with them, spend time
with them, be part of their stories, share the unbloggable things. We
have a long-overdue girls’ day out (maybe window-shopping one of these
weekends!). I want to walk around Intramuros and go to museums. I want
to invite people over for videoke and overnight chats. Fun stuff.

Seeing them again made me happy. When I’m happy, it’s easy to stay
happy, and to get even happier.

But the universe didn’t stop there. Last night, I gave up on getting
my wireless card to work with the access point over here. I texted
Simon, telling him that the fates were conspiring to force me to write
letters. He called on my cellphone and we chatted for twenty minutes!
Then we got Skype working and we talked a bit more… It was so great
hearing him again!

We chatted again during breakfast. We used speakers for a while, so
everyone could hear and chat with him. Quite a few stories! I enjoyed
that because that was a good way for my family to get to know him, and
vice versa. Then I plugged in the headset and chatted with him about
life, society, friends, culture shock…

Hearing about what’s going on in his life made me happier, too. No,
not because poor Shane is suffering from food poisoning, although I’m
glad that Simon’s there to take care of him. I’m happy to hear that
working at Roger’s office is working well for him, and that Simon has
spent lots of quality time with his family.

And with such a good start to my day, how can I not find it easy to be

The technology stuff still hasn’t gotten completely sorted out. My new
wireless card refuses to associate with the Netgear router. I still
haven’t been able to get into IBM’s VPN. I still have to talk to my
research supervisor and figure out where this thesis is going.
But the universe has made it easy for me to see that life is good,
and when I see that, then it can get even better…

I’m looking forward to catching up with my e-mail and sorting out a
few things. Thanks to my friends and to Simon for helping make it so
easy to see how life is good. =) Yay!

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Getting to know you

January 7, 2007 - Categories: love

“Simon on the phone is okay,” said my dad. “If you can talk for three
hours, you must be in love.”

I grinned.

I want my family to get to know him, and for him to get to know my
family. Not because this is a Very Serious Thing, but because it’s…
well… nice. =) Living-room conversations are fun.

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Argh. Schedule slippage.

January 8, 2007 - Categories: school

I can’t get into IBM’s VPN, which makes it difficult to work on the
prototype, so my schedule will have to slip. I don’t want to
recalculate all the dates. And it’s annoying, still not being *sure*
what I’m doing or why I’m doing it…

Problems are easy to solve once identified

January 8, 2007 - Categories: school

I felt frustrated by my continued lack of a good working environment.
Unreliable wireless access means that working online is a pain. I
can’t even fetch my mail because a large message is blocking the rest
of the downloads. Every time I try deleting the message, my network
connection times out.

I want to work on my thesis. I want to feel like I’m making progress.
I want to spend time with my family and friends, too, but I can’t
enjoy that as much if I don’t feel that I’m doing well. I’d like to be
able to focus on what I need to do, and then look forward to spending
time with them when we’re all ready to enjoy spending time together.

I talked to my dad. He listened to my frustrations and set about
solving whatever he could. They’re tracking an Ethernet cable to my
room. I will probably be based here more than Alabang because I need
to work, and I need to be able to choose what to do. This morning’s
traffic was frustrating. The Alabang house is not a bad house, but I’d
rather be downtown.

So we’ll see. I think I’ll postpone all of my hanging out until next
week. I *really* need to set up for work first. If I don’t have that,
it’s harder for me to hang on to being happy and to resist other

My first problem: unreliable Internet access. The Internet is slow for
everyone because the ISP still hasn’t fully recovered from the
earthquake, but this is aggravated by low wireless link quality. We’re
fixing that. Solved the wireless part by running a cable into my room
(hooray fake ceilings!). DSL is still down, but at least I don’t have
to worry about wireless link quality, and I can stay in an
airconditioned room.

Will plan on my secret research plan page.

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January 8, 2007 - Categories: life

Yay. Now I’m getting the hang of it. AJAX with Rails is so much fun…

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The universe does not tolerate a chocolate deficiency

January 9, 2007 - Categories: sad

I was feeling down because of the lack of progress on my thesis and
because I felt that I didn’t have control over some things that
mattered to me. I talked to my dad (see earlier blog post). Not only
did he solve my immediate problem of Internet access, but he also took
me to my favorite deli and treated me to my favorite lasagna, then
took me to Max Brenner (a high-end chocolate bar) and bought me the
best classic dark chocolate cocoa powder you can find in Manila.

I hadn’t talked to my mom about it, though. She must’ve either read my
blog or listened to the universe telling her I felt sad (parents have
a sixth sense for these things!), because she also bought me several
different kinds of chocolate mix, this time for Spanish-style hot

Nature abhors a vacuum, I guess. The universe will not tolerate a
chocolate deficiency… =)

Happy girl. And when I’m happy, it’s so much easier to learn stuff. I
got almost all my AJAX/Rails to-learns finished today!

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Good day

January 9, 2007 - Categories: life

I talked to my research supervisor and wrote up the big picture
document, which I’ll revise tomorrow morning. I also finished browsing
through the Rails Recipes book (yay! good investment). I worked on the
prototype, making it database-backed and adding AJAX paging and detail
views. Yay! Progress!

Random Emacs symbol: eshell-show-maximum-output – Command: Put the end of the buffer at the bottom of the window.

Orange and Bronze has discovered the secret to low employee turnover!

January 9, 2007 - Categories: friends

I dropped by Orange and Bronze to find out what was going on in the
company that employs a surprising number of my friends. =) They’re
cool. They work hard and they party hard. Their secret for low
employee turnover? Mutual blackmail, it seems… ;) Oy, the stories
that I can’t blog!

It was great seeing them get along so well. Not everyone’s going to be
a good fit for their office culture, but those who are form strong
bonds. This will be interesting.

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A tale of two houses

January 9, 2007 - Categories: life

The Alabang house is nice and relaxing. The Internet access is just as
reliable (or not) as the access in Makati (darn Globe!). My mom really
likes the house, and retreats there as often as she can. I have to
confess, though, that staying in Makati doesn’t really bother me.

Part of it is the fact that I like working from here. There’s now a
wired connection running straight to my desk, which means I can get up
from bed, change into proper clothes, and start working. The room is
airconditioned. There are plenty of books and notebooks at hand. When
I want to relax, I can go play the piano. It’s a nice place to work.

Another reason I prefer Makati is mobility. After I finish a good
day’s work, I want to meet friends or do things. Sometimes I do stuff
during the day and just do extra work at night. Alabang doesn’t have
good public transit, so I can’t go on my own. I feel guilty about
taking the driver because of all the extra trips. I’d rather stay in
Makati and take buses or taxis because then I can follow my own

I wouldn’t mind spending weekends at Alabang, especially if everyone’s
in the mood to relax and take it easy. Makati works better for me,

Ay, the difficulties of two places to live…

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Can’t work on map-enabled prototype

January 11, 2007 - Categories: geek

Slow Internet connectivity means that prototyping with Google Maps
will be a royal pain. What else can I focus on? Maybe designing the
research study…

Random Emacs symbol: bbdb-canonicalize-redundant-nets-p – Variable: *If this is non-nil, redundant network addresses will be ignored.

I should meet more people in Canada

January 11, 2007 - Categories: canada

Hanging out with my friends here made me realize that I really do need
to go and meet more people in Canada. I *love* the chaos of a large
friend group, the strong and deep relationships I get to form with
them and they with each other.

I really like my friends there. I should meet lots of other people so
that I can bring even more people into our group, the way my barkada
here grew over time.

How can I go about doing that? I’ll give pursudo and other meetup
sites a try when I get back. I’ll attend the Filipino cultural
presentations, start going to the gym, take up dancing again. I’ll
focus on my work during the day so that I can make good progress on my
thesis (I really want to finish that already!), but my evenings can be
for fun. I’ll see what I can do with Toastmasters. I’ll find somewhere
to volunteer. I want to meet other people who are crazy about life,
and I’m sure I’ll find them.

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January 11, 2007 - Categories: life

I’ve been thinking about picking up tennis. I’m not in shape for it
yet, but I think it will be a good move. If I can find a way to sign
up for lessons here without having to buy a racket and make a large
commitment, it would be good to try it out a few times. Outdoor tennis
season is definitely over in Canada. The good thing, though, is that I
can easily find a tennis buddy once I’m back there. San’s been asking
me for months. <sheepish grin> Yeah, tennis would work. It’s
exercise, it’s social, and it’s something I can keep practicing all my
life. (Just look at Dr. Oposa!)

I should also brush up on my chess. It’s been ages. I should still
have my chess books around…

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My mom, the blogger

January 14, 2007 - Categories: family

There’s something to be said when your mom blogs more than you do.
I’ve just finished setting up a WordPress blog for my mom, who has
decided to start a topic-focused blog called
The Business of Photography.
We’ll probably put Adsense on it, too. My mom, the problogger…

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I am everyone and no one

January 14, 2007 - Categories: life

I was amused to find that Google Alerts reported that an atheist blog
linked to my Ph103.Reflection, a page of notes I made when I was
reading for the undergraduate course I took in theology. The blog
confused my notes about the article with my personal beliefs. Since I
haven’t thought about this in a while, I figured I might as well
explore how I feel now.

The difficult thing about cold-reading me or trying to characterize me
is that I can always find similarities and differences. Let’s take
belief systems. I can talk about grace and the experience of the
sublime. I can talk about dharma and reincarnation. I can talk about
existentialism and nihilism.

And I can talk about faith: not in any one particular thing, but in
life, in the universe, in the love that I constantly experience. I
know very well that I can choose to view things another way—see only
a dark and depressing universe—but I *like* having a friendly
universe, and it rises to my expectations. =)

So people’s opinions of me depend greatly on what they want to think
and whether I feel like being agreeable or contrary. If they want to
separate themselves and look down on others, they’ll find many points
of disagreement. If we’re inclined to find agreement, we’ll agree. I
might not completely agree with everything they say, but I’ll probably
find a way of understanding.

This is why cold-readers find me so difficult. <laugh> Everyone
is a mix of different things. I’m just more in tune with my

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Salesdogs: I’m a Chihuahua!

January 15, 2007 - Categories: Uncategorized

Are you turned off sales because you think everyone has to be a pit
bull? When most people think of sales, they think of in-your-face
salespeople who just won’t take no for an answer. I have to confess
that even *I* have a hard time remembering that I don’t have to be
like that in order to enjoy and do well at sales.

I’ve read a lot about sales, but books tend to be generic sales tips
that try to apply to everyone. How to start. How to ask questions. How
to close. How to build relationships.
was the first book I read that talked about personalities. Salesdogs describes five “breeds”.

  • Pit Bulls: will always go for the jugular
  • Golden Retrievers: love customer service and will do anything for clients
  • Poodles: intellectual, classy, appearance-oriented, but a little high-strung
  • Chihuahuas: combine passion with product knowledge; tends to yip if overexcited
  • Basset hounds: loyal to the end, great at building relationships

I’m a Chihuahua through and through. (No, not just because I’m small!)
I *love* absorbing vast quantities of information, and ferreting it
out myself if I must. Learning the product inside and out? Combing the
Web for testimonials in order to find differentiating points? Getting
inside people’s heads? That sounds exciting! I’m always reading,
always trying things out, because I love knowing that one obscure
little thing that’ll get someone hooked. My weakness is that when I
get really excited, I tend to overwhelm people… <laugh>

Pick up the book and find out what kind of salesdog you are. Better
yet, find out how you can improve your performance and that of other
people around you. Don’t have time or can’t stand cheesy metaphors?
Coral.net.au has a great summary of the
different Salesdogs breeds,
including tips for managing them.

You don’t have to be a pit bull. Figure out your personality, play
to your strengths, and cross-train.

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BBDB: Print birthdates

January 15, 2007 - Categories: bbdb, emacs, pimpmyemacs

This snippet goes through all the records in my Big Brother Database,
prints out birthdate and a link to the record, and then sorts the

(defun sacha/bbdb-insert-birthdates ()
  "Insert a list of birthdates, sorted by month.
For best effect, dates should be of the form yyyy.mm.dd."
      (lambda (rec)
        (when (bbdb-record-getprop rec 'birthdate)
           (if (string-match "..\\...$" (bbdb-record-getprop rec 'birthdate))
               (match-string 0 (bbdb-record-getprop rec 'birthdate))
             (bbdb-record-getprop rec 'birthdate))
           " | "
            (concat "bbdb://"
                     " " "." (bbdb-record-name rec)))
            (bbdb-record-name rec))
     (sort-lines nil (point-min) (point-max))

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Random Emacs symbol: find-tag-noselect – Command: Find tag (in current tags table) whose name contains TAGNAME.

On the road to growing up

January 15, 2007 - Categories: life

I’ve signed up for 10 hours of driving lessons, starting at 8 AM
tomorrow. It’ll be a refresher course—almost a complete beginner’s
course, as I really hadn’t driven at all since I got my license. I’m
looking forward to getting the hang of driving. I think it’ll be a
very useful skill.

I figured that I’d get as much practice as I can in the Philippines.
When I go back, I’ll take the written test and apply for a Canadian
driver’s license. I’ll also need to set aside money to rent cars maybe
every weekend? every other? so that I can gain experience and

Now, must find out which of my friends will trust me with their
life… ;)

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My sister’s in love!

January 15, 2007 - Categories: love

Synchronized movie dates, daily webcam chats, endless retellings of
favorite moments—my sister’s in love, and distance is not a problem!
They’re really so sweet, which should come as a bit of a surprise to
anyone who knows my sister. I don’t know if I could let myself have
something that intense right now (or if our parents could put up with
*two* lovesick girls without going into diabetic shock). Still, it’s
wonderful… =)

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Returning to chess

January 15, 2007 - Categories: learning

I’ve missed playing chess. The chess books I’ve had since grade school
are still on the bookshelves, waiting to be dusted off and re-read.
I’m a little embarrassed about taking chess up again. I used to be on
the varsity team (not a difficult thing if you’re female) until
training for programming competitions left me with no time to train
for chess competitions. I’m rusty now, though, and embarrassed about

But maybe I should get back into chess. Not the memorize-playbooks
kind of chess that people often play, but chess for the sheer heck of
it. Chess for the joy of anticipating another person’s moves.

Ah. Hmm. But I didn’t like the confrontational nature of it before…

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll take up Scrabble instead. =)

Random Emacs symbol: bbdb/gnus-pop-up-bbdb-buffer – Function: Make the *BBDB* buffer be displayed along with the Gnus windows,

What people don’t know about me

January 15, 2007 - Categories: life

Toronto uber-girl-friend Quinn has just tagged me with the “5 things people don’t know about you” meme. Ordinarily I’d stick that into my blogging backlog and get around to it eventually (hi Rob! I promise I’ll post about favorite movies someday…), but… well… =)

So. Five things people probably don’t know about me, or often forget:

  1. My name isn’t Sacha Chua. Sacha’s my nickname. My formal name is Sandra Jean Valentino Chua. I might legally change my name to Sacha Chua or Sacha V. Chua someday.
  2. I don’t blog everything. It may be hard to remember this sometimes when you read about all sorts of crazy things going on in my life. Sometimes I’m too busy to blog, but not blogging because of lack of time makes me feel guilty (unexamined life and all of that). Sometimes it’s because the moment has passed. Sometimes it’s because it’s about other people’s lives. Sometimes it’s because, well, I haven’t figured out how to write about it yet. But yeah, I don’t blog everything, and I often forget the unblogged stuff too…
  3. I’ve had and still have hangups about relationships. First there was the “Don’t have a boyfriend until you have a PhD because that will just distract you” thing that I let myself grow up with before I realized that love can be a Good Thing. Then there was *also* dealing with the fact that I attracted a fair bit of attention as a cute, cheerful girl into technology and darned good at it. Best friend and co-conspirator Diane puts the official count at more than 50 people shot down before I graduated from college. I thought I was done with that already, but have lately realized that I’ve been avoiding making lots of new friends closer to my age because I was worried about possibly having to reject people, which is a silly reason not to be friends with people.
  4. I don’t really eat a lot of chocolate. At least not by myself. Or at least I try not to. Chocolate is my treat of choice for all of life’s occasions, particularly the sad ones, but I prefer to have it in company because eating by myself is kinda sad and having chocolate with others will probably get me good conversation and/or a hug. I keep emergency chocolate around, but I tend to have a chocolate surplus because people who give me chocolate rarely stay around to enjoy all of it. Next time, stay.
  5. Hobbies you might not have thought I had: Acting (attended children’s theater workshop), writing (had a poem published), drawing (pastel published in book with poem, art classes as a kid, and still the occasional rough sketch these days), chess, ballroom dancing (swing, chacha, boogie, tango), firespinning (I have poi videos somewhere), T-shirt surgery and other ways to hacking clothes, beaded jewelry-making (or at least I’m trying to get into this), crocheting (couldn’t stop me from crocheting during class in grade school), sculpting clay or sand (totally informally; think Playdoh, think the beach), walking around with strange objects on my head (product of an all-girls grade school education), piano, badminton, skateboarding (or at least getting from point A to point B without killing myself), baking (cookies) and *trying* to cook (operative word *trying*), balancing my accounts (seriously), playing samba, playing the recorder (everyone goes through that phase), knitting, origami, taking care of stray cats…
  6. <stretch> There. Happy? ;)

    Random Emacs symbol: overlay-buffer – Function: Return the buffer OVERLAY belongs to.

Hey! I still know how to drive!

January 16, 2007 - Categories: learning

Awesome. I can still park and everything. I really just need to gain
confidence. I guess I’ll be renting a lot when I get back to Canada,
although I’ll probably wait until spring because snow is scary…

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PhDcomics guy in Toronto, and I’m not there!

January 17, 2007 - Categories: life

Join the creator of the popular comic strip for grad students, Piled Higher and Deeper (PhD) Jorge Cham on Wednesday January 24 at noon as he presents, The Power of Procrastination. Book signing to follow. Limited seating is available so please sign up online at www.careers.utoronto.ca. If you are not currently registered with the career centre, you will be asked to do this first in order to access the sign up schedule.


E-Mail from Jennifer Pinker

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Driving lessons II

January 17, 2007 - Categories: learning

I can still make U-turns. And park. And deal with inclines. And park.

I’m too polite, though! <laugh> Whenever I saw a pedestrian
trying to cross the street (and this is Manila, so that happens every
few feet or so), I stop. My instructor had to tell me several times
that sometimes it’s not safe to slow down for pedestrians, and
besides, in the Philippines, pedestrians are used to being honked at
or ignored. I was, like, err… umm…

Canada must have rubbed off on me. =)

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Creating Rainmakers

January 17, 2007 - Categories: book

I spotted an intriguing book today. Creating Rainmakers: The Manager’s Guide to Training Professionals to Attract New Clients. The book is expensive, but I’ll go back and browse through it tomorrow to see if it’s worth buying.

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Random Emacs symbol: muse-file-regexp – Variable: A link matching this regexp will be regarded as a link to a file.

I love to make people’s lives better

January 17, 2007 - Categories: family

Last night, I insisted that my mom stop working. I wanted her to be
able to spend some relaxed time with my dad, who’s recovering from an
operation. The mood in the house had been a little tense, and my mom
was frowning at her computer again. She was answering e-mail; nothing
that couldn’t wait until the next day. I figured that I could get her
to relax and enjoy the time by reminding her that the whole point of
having a second house is to be able to leave work behind. It was a
good approach, the right thing to say. She smiled and put away her
computer, and we chatted for a while. I was glad to see her relaxed
and smiling. I think I made her day a little better.

Maybe I have a gift for this. It comes easily to me, and even when it
is difficult, it feels good to stretch myself. I love to bring out
people’s better selves. I *love* to bring out people’s better selves.

Random Emacs symbol: string-bytes – Function: Return the number of bytes in STRING.

Sometimes the universe gives you a sign…

January 18, 2007 - Categories: life

… and sometimes it brings out the pompoms and cheers you along the

Winston Damarillo thanked me earlier for referring someone to him. His
Philippine-based software development outsourcing company might land a
deal with a company in Brunei, and all because people comment on this
personal blog of mine. Yesterday, my research supervisor asked me to
recommend open source telephony experts. I happily recommended Simon
Rowland and Simon Ditner, of course. And the day before that, my mom
asked me how Simon Rowland ended up outsourcing some development to
the Philippines, so I told her the story of how I set up the
relationship behind the scenes…

It’s as if the universe is giving me a sign, and the sign is “THIS
WAY!” in huge, flashing neon lights.

If all this could happen by chance, can you imagine how dangerous I’d
be with a Blackberry and a plan? ;)

I *love* it. I care very much about the people I know, and I *love*
helping them succeed. And I care very much about getting to know more
people and letting the network effects benefit everyone…

I want to do this. I want to finish that master’s already and try this

Happy girl!

Random Emacs symbol: battery-mode-line-format – Variable: *Control string formatting the string to display in the mode line.

Grazing in the bookstore

January 18, 2007 - Categories: reading

I’m starting to feel a little strange in Powerbooks. Maybe it’s visual
overload from of “SALE” signs everyone. Maybe it’s mental fatigue from
browsing through all these books that are starting to sound alike. I
read.. mm… maybe five, six books today? Browsed through them,
really, looking for just a few ideas to keep. I gained two important
insights today, though.

From “Creating Rainmakers”: Great rainmakers start growing their
network early. Because the number of possible connections increases
rapidly with every new connection, people with large networks benefit
*much* more than people with small networks. I knew this from personal
experience and observation, but it was great reading about it.
Something I read in another book or I picked up on my own: the more
people you know and the more you know about them, the more you can
leverage the things that you learn and the experiences you have.
(Duh.) But it’s true; whenever I pick up a sales insight, I use it as
a great excuse to ping a few people.

From “Finance on a Beermat”: Small businesses *really* need
accounting. Why? Because even if you’re funding it yourself, you’re
not pouring money down a sink. You should keep track of how much the
business owes you, so that you can tell the difference between revenue
and profit. At the end of the day, your books need to balance. I
hadn’t really thought about that before and I suspect that most
entrepreneurs just pour cash into their businesses without keeping
track of things, but maybe that’s something that separates successful
serial entrepreneurs from frustrated ones…


Random Emacs symbol: eshell-module – Group: The `eshell-module’ group is for Eshell extension modules, which

An examined life…

January 18, 2007 - Categories: life

… feels like it’s worth living.

I write a lot. That’s because letting a day pass without finding
*something* noteworthy about it makes me wonder if I really lived that
day. I love looking for something I learned that day. Writing it down
forces me to figure it out a little more and makes it easier for me to
remember it. It’s like regularly asking: what’s the difference between
me of yesterday and me of today?

I don’t expect anyone to keep up with my blog, although my mom and my
friends make valiant efforts to do so. Heck, I don’t expect *myself*
to keep up with my blog, and I hardly review blog entries except for
reports. But writing is good for me, so I do it. If you like reading
about my adventures and smiling at all these things I’m discovering
for the first (or second or third) time, feel free to read on… =)

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Mirroring energy

January 18, 2007 - Categories: life

One of the good things about this long-distance relationship with
Simon is that I get to practice mirroring. I might be fully awake and
bursting with stories to tell, but that would be cruel sensory
overload for someone who’s just waking up or about to go to sleep. So
I rein myself in and focus instead on matching his energy level. I
talk slowly when he talks slowly, and excitedly when he’s also
excited. Then I can gradually shift to other energy levels if I want
to, listening to make sure we’re still in sync. I love doing that
because I know how wonderful it feels when I’m mirrored, too. I
sometimes forget and get carried away, but I’m getting better at
remembering! =)

You should try it, if you don’t already do that. When you’re spending
time with someone, figure out what their energy state is, and match it
before changing. It doesn’t have to be an exact match. Also, no
one-upping allowed! But when you start paying attention to the flows
of tone and energy in a conversation, you’ll find that it’s just so

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-group-catchup-current – Command: Mark all unread articles in the current newsgroup as read.


January 19, 2007 - Categories: love

Simon’s parents are God’s gift to cats, really. Who else would get
outdoor heating pads to make winter a little more bearable for feral
cats? Awwww…

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January 19, 2007 - Categories: life

I’ll give myself until August to do this thesis, just to see if I can.
Hey, if I can hack my mind and change my sleeping patterns, I should
be able to do this. It’s not an ideal situation because my motivation
for finishing the thesis is mainly extrinsic: I owe it to others. My
reasons? It gives me an excuse to stick around in Canada for a little
longer. And a degree from U of T might come in handy. So it’s still
worth doing, even if I feel restless. At the very least, I can uwe the
time to find out how to work when I don’t feel particularly into it.
I’ll do it anyway because my dad said that if you’re ever going to
quit, do your best and make them miss you when you walk away.

August. We’ll see how I feel then.

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Stories from my dad: Politics and passing the torch

January 20, 2007 - Categories: family

Anyone can change the world. Some people know how to keep the world

My dad had a vision for the street of R. Hidalgo. He saw that it could
be a photographer’s haven if the vendors who choked the street could
be moved elsewhere. So he organized the shop owners, brought in City
Hall, cleared the street, and promoted it to photographers.

At the last meeting, my dad said, “My job is done. I want to move on
and focus on other things.” He wanted to make sure that the street
retains its character through any changes of administration. A new
tradition such as a street photo gallery would ensure the continuity
of the project and attract more people to R. Hidalgo. New
administrations would have to respect it.

What would the first photo exhibit be? A photographer named Leo
Pomanes suggested an exhibit about the Black Nazarene, a religious
devotion about to celebrate its 400th anniversary. My dad turned to
him and said, “Okay, take charge, and head the project.”

Yesterday, Leo called to organize a meeting. My dad was disappointed
that many people who should have been there weren’t coming, but my dad
said, “Don’t worry, I’ll come. I told other people to help you out,
but if they’re lukewarm about the idea, I will support you.”

The meeting was small. There were a few people from the church and
from City Hall. My dad said, “We need to move fast. If you’re talking
about the end of January, that’s in one, two weeks.” If they could put
together a draft this weekend, present it to the church, and finalize
their plans by the next week, then they could take advantage of the

“That fast?” Leo asked. “How about the committee?”

My dad told Leo that they didn’t need a large committee, and proceeded
to put one together. “Leo. Ogie. Brother Vic. Three of you would be
more than enough.” He knew that if the group could get the church
involved, then the current mayor would support the project, and then
the successful project could be used to get the support of the next

This is politics, and my dad knows how to play the game.

Learning how to shoot

January 20, 2007 - Categories: photography

Yesterday, my dad took me along on his Manila skyline shoot. He talked
the condominium administrator to let him take pictures from the
helipad on the 42nd floor; him, and the ten other photographers he
invited! I tagged along to bond with my dad and to carry equipment.
It was fun.

That was the *best* view I’d ever seen. It was a clear day and we
really could see forever, from the mountains and hills near Antipolo
to the oceans beyond the bay. Because we were on a helipad, there was
that feeling of nothing being between you and the rest of the world.

I shot people more than I shot landscapes, though. It’s easier to tell
stories with people. For example, I got a few good pictures of my dad
telling people stories over halo-halo. What a place to eat halo-halo!
With an unobstructed 360′ view of the Manila skyline and everything…

So yesterday, I learned how to shoot with an SLR. I discovered the
thrill of seeing a picture in your mind’s eye and figuring out how to
make it real. Today, my dad got me a point-and-shoot camera that’s so
much better than my current camera. I’ve been trying it out by taking
pictures of my patient and long-suffering cat. I’m looking forward to
using it for portraits…

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January 21, 2007 - Categories: life

Yesterday, I learned about love. =)

My mom is right. Love is a cycle. The trick is hanging on even if you
don’t feel particularly keen at some point. Sooner or later, you’ll
fall in love again. I can’t claim to be in love with him all the time,
but even when I’m feeling a little frustrated, he helps me learn how
to be a better person. Who’d have thought that he would teach me by
example about love and acceptance? I’m still adjusting, still
learning, but I’m glad he’s in my life.

Life in a parallel universe

January 23, 2007 - Categories: life

My dad taught me how to parallel park today. Or at least he tried to;
I still need constant instruction while parking, as I haven’t quite
gotten the feel of the size of the car yet. It’s a very useful skill,

I spent half the time in third gear today. This is an improvement. =)

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Meeting the European Chamber of Commerce

January 23, 2007 - Categories: Uncategorized

When Dae Unisa mentioned the meeting that the
Brain Gain Network was going to have with the
European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines,
I asked her if she could sneak me into it. I like BGN.
I don’t regularly pass by their site, but I think the idea is
terrific: help stem or even reverse the brain drain phenomenon by
reaching out to Filipinos abroad. Besides, I love meeting people who
care about these things, too, and if I could pick up a few best
practices for a soon-to-be expat…

I went with Dae Unisa and Emerson Tan, both of Narra VC.
The meeting was the second in a series of planning meetings for BGN’s possible
rebranding. I originally intended to just observe, but I couldn’t help
step into the meeting, building agreement by restating what people
were saying. ECCP thought there was a lot of potential in expanding the
scope of BGN from technology entrepreneurship to five key industries:

  • Animation
  • Design process delivery (engineering, architecture)
  • Retirement
  • Medical services
  • Information technology

By asking questions and rephrasing what people were saying, I learned
more about what they wanted to do, and added a few suggestions on how
those ideas might be implemented. The decisions still have to be made
by Narra VC, which runs BGN, but I think there are a few ideas there
that are definitely worth exploring.

One thing is to ask the expats I meet about what they would need in
order to consider referring business back to the Philippines, and in
order to consider returning to the Philippines. The other is to find a
way to make it easier for people who are visiting the Philippines for
a vacation (like I did this December) to share their knowledge with
local people. That would be great, and it would also strengthen
people’s ties with the Philippines.

I can’t work on BGN right now (busy with my thesis), but I can give
them a couple of ideas to try out. Who knows? Maybe something will
work, and then I’ll get better at coming up with ideas… =)

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Random Emacs symbol: ibuffer-directory-abbrev-alist – Variable: An alist of file name abbreviations like `directory-abbrev-alist’.

Upon further reflection, I don’t hate my thesis after all

January 24, 2007 - Categories: research

I am officially out of my I-hate-my-thesis phase. It was easy to give
in to frustration and think that hating it would make me finish it
faster. But why should I subject myself to that much unnecessary
stress? After all, if it’s going to be a big part of my life for the
next few months, I may as well focus on the positive.

And I *do* really like it. I love the feeling of working on something
new. I can’t wait to try these ideas out. I’m looking forward to
talking to IBMers and thinking of how we can make these ideas real.
And the people I’m working with are actually pretty cool, too.

Also, I’m finally able to download papers from the ACM Digital Library
again. Being able to *see* examples of good research certainly helps.
Knowing that we’re working to a higher standard than some of the
published papers also boosts my morale! ;)

I updated my schedule again, and was pleasantly surprised that despite
the Internet problems, despite my occasional grumbles and frustrated
arggghs, I’m actually ahead of schedule.

This is a nice feeling. I think I’ll keep it. Sometimes I really just
have to remind myself to focus on what’s going well…

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-auto-extend-newsgroup – Variable: *If non-nil, extend newsgroup forward and backward when requested.

It’s almost time to leave

January 27, 2007 - Categories: travel

Tomorrow I begin packing for my trip back to Canada. I don’t know how
I’ll fit all of the Philippine handicrafts and costumes into my
suitcase, but I know that I’ll prioritize them over my casual clothes
and books. Goodness knows how I’m going to wear a balintawak in
winter, but I’ll manage it somehow.

As I told Simon, I’m looking forward to going back, but I’m not
looking forward to leaving. I’m still learning how to live in two
worlds. I’m going to need to adjust again when I get back to Canada.
It isn’t so much jet lag as it is culture lag…

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.

Welcome to the world, Alexander Nolan!

January 27, 2007 - Categories: friends

He’s *adorable.* Yay Jen and Chris!

Random Emacs symbol: w3m-add-local-hook – Function: Add to the buffer-local value of HOOK the function FUNCTION.

Yay! Sorted out my pictures for 2006!

January 29, 2007 - Categories: life

I’m (mostly) done with my pictures for 2006. I have pictures for the
first ten months, and they’re all annotated by people, location, and
keywords… =D

Random Emacs symbol: c-indent-line – Function: Indent the current line according to the syntactic context,

Sorted out my pictures!

January 29, 2007 - Categories: life

I started using kphotoalbum to manage my pictures. I’m
impressed! Now that I’ve annotated my pictures, it’s so easy to export
all the pictures *and* pull out a set of all the pictures with people
in them (! No persons) for larger prints.

Hmmm. Ideas, ideas…

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-article-strip-all-blank-lines – Command: Strip all blank lines.