May 2007

Why do people cry at airports?

May 2, 2007 - Categories: travel

Why do people cry at airports? I don't know, but I know that something tore up inside me as I pushed Quinn towards Security, half-jokingly telling her to go before I started crying. I hadn't meant to cry. I was trying very hard not to. But as I saw her walk past the clouded security wall, I missed suddenly, fiercely, the friend I had gotten to know this past year - and the me I had gotten to know this past year.

Silly me, I told myself as I wiped my tears. It's not as if she's dying. She's going back home to Vancouver. It's only the other side of the country. We'll keep in touch through hand-written letters and Facebook pings. It's not as if she's gone. And we'd had weeks and then days and then hours to get accustomed to the idea of goodbye. Silly me, I told myself, as I kept trying to blink away the blurriness.

When she reads this, I'm sure that she'll tell me to allow myself to be sad. It was never something we shied from. Sadness was always something to reflect on that would tell us more about ourselves and the world around us. She was someone with whom to turn issues over as if examining rough stones to see the light and shadow, someone with whom to gradually polish these experiences into rounded fragments of insight, someone with whom I could more fully understand that the inevitable goodbyes make the time we have all the more precious.

And our adventures! All those unwritten and indescribable moments! I remember a greeting card that read, "We'll be friends forever. You know too much." Yep, that would be us.

Thinking of those moments, I cried on my way back to Kipling Station. I let myself grieve for the loss of immediacy. It will be a long time before we can call each other up for a quick dinner or catch an show. It will be a long time before I can try to massage the knots out of her tense shoulders after one of those days at work. It will be a long time indeed.

As I write, I feel myself tearing up again—for this sudden distance between now and when she reads this.

But just as earlier I found myself smiling through the cooling tears, I find myself smiling now. How lucky I am to have met such a wonderful friend through such a chance meeting. Of all the people in the city—of all the days we could have volunteered—and of all the little quirks in our past—how amazing that we met. How wonderful it was to share this time with her.

She should be landing in Vancouver soon, and she'll pick up the life she suspended there. New challenges wait for both of us, and we have friends and work enough to keep both of us busy. But I'll miss her anyway, and I'm glad I met her that Friday not so long ago.

(And what retrospective would be complete without blog references?)

So long, and thanks for all the fish!

Random Emacs symbol: calendar-forward-week - Command: Move the cursor forward ARG weeks.

The end is near!

May 3, 2007 - Categories: school

I did my first two usability tests today. Yay! The end is in sight! Thanks to Stephen and Pierre for being my two friendly guinea pigs.

Stephen spoke well of my prototype when he passed by Pierre's computer. Apparently he thought that I had either built a terrific tool or a terrific test. Someone once said that any sufficently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo. My prototype is neither advanced nor rigged. I kept expecting it to crash, and every scenario that passed without catastrophic failure was a minor success already.

I am conscious of the fact that I had chosen the tasks to fit the tool, and I built the tool to fit the tasks. I'm probably even biasing the usability test results by my presence. Still, if the study explores something new, then maybe I'm not an imposter after all. (Oh, to silence that small voice in my head!)

Recruiting more friendlies for usability tests next week. I will however have to steel myself and test with new people as well...

Random Emacs symbol: eshell-skip-prompt-function - Variable: *A function called from beginning of line to skip the prompt.

Songs within us

May 3, 2007 - Categories: family

W seemed surprised when I readily agreed to go to the summer concert at J's elementary school. After all, I had been restless these past few days, thinking of giving up my krav maga fitness and self defense classes just so that I can have more time to write. But I had to go, you know. These are the things that give me things to write about.

It was *wonderful* watching some kids sing with such light inside them. You could power the city with some of those kids. One little boy kept dropping his triangle in excitement. How difficult it must be to hang on to a smooth piece of metal that you're hitting with such glee!

But you could see the other kids slumped over their glockenspiels. Perhaps they had been learning how to be teenagers: sullen and withdrawn. Where was the life in their music? For me, it felt like just a collection of notes.

I want to learn how to reawaken spirits. I too have been old. I have gone through the motions before, and there will still be times when I am not fully present and fully alive. But maybe I can share with people this vibrant world where even the exquisite pain of too much tenderness is a beautiful thing, where the gray clouds are only hiding the clearest blue, and where there are songs in all of us just bursting to get out.


May 5, 2007 - Categories: health

We hiked part of the Bruce Trail near Caledon this morning. We started at Belfountain and hiked east toward the Forks of the Credit River trail, but it was closed due to construction. We saw the waterfall, though, and had an... interesting... detour picking up the trail again after we lost it on the way back. Hooray for boots and mossy rocks on steep inclines. =)

I enjoyed feeling the ground yield beneath my hiking boots. Walking on paved sidewalks all the time is just not the same as getting out there. The weather was pleasantly cool, and the mosquitoes hadn't yet clogged the air. What I liked the most, though, was chatting with W and J about the different things we saw along the path—the blue blazes, the trees, the pine needles that covered the forest floor—and the stories that connected with them.

I saw a garter snake sunning itself beside a rock. W had mentioned that he'd never seen a snake, so I pointed out the garter snake to W and J: a little black and white striped snake that slithered away before I could take a picture of it.

What a wonderful day: conversation, nature, physical exercise, cooperative problem-solving, and most of all, the weaving of old stories and new experiences into new stories.

Random Emacs symbol: psychoanalyze-pinhead - Command: Zippy goes to the analyst.

Week past, week next

May 7, 2007 - Categories: weekly

Last week was a week of thresholds. I've started doing my usability tests, and I'm not going to stop until I finish them. Then I'm going to write them up into my thesis, and then I'll be done.



Last week, I went through my first ever behavioral interview. An IBM HR person asked me those job-interview-type questions that start with "Tell me a story about a time you...".

Last week, I scheduled my first job interview.

Things are moving faster and faster. I'm walking through so many doors.

Goals for this week:

  • Revise my paper according to Mark Chignell's comments.
  • Finish all my usability tests.
  • Write that Emacs mail productivity article.
  • Attend and learn from a few seminars offered by the University of Toronto.

I also *really* need to explore my goals this week, because my job interview is coming up and I had better have a good idea of what I'm getting myself into. Can I stand a job with high travel and lots of stress if it means learning a lot?

Decisions, decisions...

Random Emacs symbol: browse-url-mozilla-arguments - Variable: *A list of strings to pass to Mozilla as arguments.

Money management for the next stage in your life

May 7, 2007 - Categories: finance

I attended a personal finance seminar by Ellen Roseman, a Toronto Star columnist and University of Toronto alumna. I'll write about it in more detail as I reflect more on personal finance, but here are a few new nuggets I picked up:

  • No RRSPs until I get my paperwork sorted out! Boo. Not fun knowing better practices and not being able to use them.
  • It might be a good idea to invest money into an RRSP while I'm young, then take a holiday—leaving the money there to take advantage of tax-deferred growth—and do something else with the money I'm already used to setting aside. For example, I could save up for a house.
  • You can carry forward the tax deduction you get when you invest in an RRSP, so you can invest now in order to take advantage of the tax-deferred growth and claim the deduction when it makes more sense tax-wise. Must figure out when that makes sense.
  • Four magic words: "Can I do better?" Ask for discounts!
  • Two good books: The Wealthy Barber, The Richest Man in Babylon.
  • Tour of Canadian personal finance blogs. Check for the link.
  • I should check out the TD monthly income fund or dividend funds to find a growth-oriented investment vehicle. has good reviews.
  • Might be more comfortable with a financial advisor within 10 years of my age.
  • E-mail car dealers to get good quotes without having to shop around so much.

Interesting tips came from the other attendees:

  • Skype now has a yearly plan. That'll be worth signing up for.
  • Insurance brokers can be handy.

Worth the time.

Random Emacs symbol: bbdb-add-or-remove-mail-alias - Command: Add NEWALIAS in all RECORDS or remove it if DELETE it t.

May 8, 2012
I eventually graduated and started earning money, so I applied the advice to make the most of my RRSP (Registered Retirement Savings Plan). The stock market hasn't really grown much, but maybe it will in the future. Even if it doesn't, I figured that I'll be no worse off than most people, so I can afford the experiment.

Boo! Skype unlimited, limited

May 8, 2007 - Categories: geek

Skype Unlimited offers 12 months of unlimited calling for US$29.95 a year... but it's only for US and Canada.


Random Emacs symbol: tramp-completion-handle-file-name-completion - Function: Like `file-name-completion' for tramp files.

Finished writing Emacs mail article!

May 11, 2007 - Categories: emacs

Woohoo! I finished the Emacs mail productivity article that Don Marti asked me to write. If you look back at my past few days of inbox entries, you'll note that I haven't really been staying at Inbox Zero - but at least it feels manageable. I also threw in a few more tips, like mail scoring. Much much much fun.

I'll let them publish it first, 'cause they're paying me for it. Then I'll repost it over here after some time... =)

Well, that was fun. =D

Random Emacs symbol: keyboard-coding-system - Function: Return coding system specified for decoding keyboard input. - Variable: Specify coding system for keyboard input.

Much done

May 11, 2007 - Categories: research

Also done with practically all of the data gathering for my thesis. It went surprisingly well! I don't know what I was so afraid of. I have maybe one or two more data points on Monday, but I already have enough data to make my research supervisor comfortable.

I will celebrate with a nice long bath and a good weekend. That's it... Besides, I need to decompress before all of my job-related interviews!

Random Emacs symbol: ido-enter-insert-buffer - Command: Drop into insert buffer from insert file.

Week in review: May 6 to May 13

May 13, 2007 - Categories: weekly

My major achievement this week was collecting enough data for my thesis. The usability tests weren't as scary as I thought they would be, and starting with friendlies certainly helped my confidence. It may not have been the best of experiment designs and I might get raked over the coals by my thesis committee later, but at least it's done. I'm thrilled about that!

I'm also thrilled about the interest interview I had this week with a team from IBM. We'll see how that works out. =D

And I still managed to find time to write an article on Emacs mail productivity tips for LinuxWorld! Not bad. It took me a total of two and a half hours to write the article. I don't remember how much time it took me to develop the configuration I described, though. It was tons of fun!

I attended a money management seminar and found that I was on the right track. I've read so many personal finance books that the usual advice is, well, usual, but it was great hearing all sorts of useful tips from the other students.

On the personal note, I met W's extended family at a birthday party. I had a wonderful conversation with his brother's father-in-law about technology and then about finance. I'm still a little shy around them. They're probably also wondering how to relate to me. Hmm.

I also reconnected with my mom and dad, and might be flying to the Philippines soon. That may mean cancelling my Mesh session and missing Toronto Technology Week, but family comes first.

Life is good. This week was very productive, but I also had time to connect with people and pursue my interests. Being able to talk to people about stuff—my interest interview, thoughts about life—made everything much more fun, and even a difficult conversation resulted in some useful insights.

Next week, I plan to:

  • Analyze my data
  • Do more interest and job interviews, figure out my options
  • Schedule my trip to the Philippines
  • ... and for my creative side, I want to shoot and upload some portraits.

Random Emacs symbol: sacha/planner-markup-tasks - Function: Mark up tasks as a table.

Family first

May 16, 2007 - Categories: family

A family matter requires me to fly home. It's never too early to practice following my priorities.

When we decide that we want something, we move quickly. My flight has been booked for this Sunday (the 20th), and I will probably be in the Philippines for two weeks.

I've sent regrets to Mark Evans about not being able to hold the blogging workshop at Mesh, a high-energy conference for business people interested in Web 2.0. I will also not be around during Toronto Technology Week, which is packed with activities. Aside from feeling sorry about the hassle (although it's just part of the risk of organizing conferences), I can leave the scene with a clear mind. I know they'll have tons of fun even without me. It might not be the same, but it will be good. I'm also not too worried about missing out on a life-changing opportunity or introduction, because the world overflows with opportunities and with wonderful people.

One of the questions I asked myself was: Which will I regret more? I may regret the potential conversations I'd have and reputation I'd gain from being active in Toronto's technology scene during the week that it draws people from all around North America, but I would regret it even more if I postponed my trip and something bad happened—or if I ended up postponing it and postponing it and postponing it. There will always be Toronto and speaking at conferences and things like that, but there might not be that many chances to spend this kind of time with my family.

And on the flipside, focusing on the positive: I have more professional opportunities than I can currently pursue, but personal opportunities are different. =)

I'm estimating this as two weeks away from my thesis (pushing back my expected date of completion), so any work I actually get to do during the thing would be a nifty bonus. I'll deal with the consequences of this choice, but I'm happier doing this than the other way around.

If you're in the Philippines, I'm going to be there for two weeks, so let's make every moment count!

Random Emacs symbol: dired-backup-diff - Command: Diff this file with its backup file or vice versa.

Curing Mail Madness with GNU Emacs

May 17, 2007 - Categories: emacs

My article on managing mail with GNU Emacs is up at . Yay! Check it out!

I think I'll spend some of my vacation writing more stuff...

Random Emacs symbol: mailcap-mime-info - Function: Get the MIME viewer command for STRING, return nil if none found.

Events in the Philippines?

May 18, 2007 - Categories: event

I'm going to be in the Philippines for two weeks starting Monday, and I'd love to find out what events or workshops you're going to. If you've got something interesting on your calendar, could you please add it to ? Thanks!

Random Emacs symbol: gnus-summary-display-while-building - Variable: If non-nil, show and update the summary buffer as it's being built.

Technical interview

May 18, 2007 - Categories: geek

I'm going for a technical interview with IBM Global Business Services later. I've written up a technical resume, and I'm relieved to see that I've actually managed to pick up a fair bit of experience along the way.

Suit, check. Directions, check. Search for background information on the place and on my interviewers, check.

This should be fun. =)

Random Emacs symbol: calendar-date-string - Function: A string form of DATE, driven by the variable `calendar-date-display-form'.

For Robyn

May 19, 2007 - Categories: family

Robin, robin, in the sky,
Flying oh so very high
Soaring with a bright red chest,
Of all the birds, it sings the best.

  • J. Young, W. Young, S. Chua

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

At the airport

May 20, 2007 - Categories: travel

The din of the airport fades into the background, the white noise of hushed conversations in a hundred languages and suitcases rumbling across tiled floors, punctuated by the cries of children who have not yet learned the shame that makes these large common spaces bearable.

One day in flight, and then I will be in the Philippines again. The travel time seems almost a good thing, reminding me of the double challenges of jet lag and culture lag. Of the two, culture lag is more subtle and powerful.

Last time I visited, I found it difficult to adjust to the immediacy of conversations unmediated by reflection and writing. The sheer impossibility of writing about everything that happened to me allowed me to keep parts of my life private. Face to face, I had to explicitly choose silence or at least delay in order to give myself space. Not only do communication patterns shift, but topics do too.

I visit in order to reconnect with my family, but I don't know how much I can tell them about the life I have in Canada. I am the same person throughout, adapting to this dual-world life. When I am in Canada, I have to be in Canada, and when I am in the Philippines, I have to be in the Philippines. I must be fully where I am. If I focus on what is missing, what is not there and what cannot be there... No, I've let myself do that before, and I was nearly swept away by it. So now, cautious, I keep my lives mostly separate. When I am in the Philippines, I will think of the Philippines. It would be too dangerous to let myself miss Canada too much, although I will not be able to help missing it a little. And likewise, when in Canada, I need to focus on what's there. I'll miss the Philippines, but I can't let myself miss it too much. I must let the guilt I would feel roll off me.

Two weeks. Will it be home? Will it be strange? Will I have the strength to focus on the positive in either case?

I am tired. The warmth of good-bye hugs and kisses begins to slip from my skin. And tears—but I have long since learned how to be comfortable crying in airports, lullabied by the white noise of other people between worlds.

Random Emacs symbol: mail-extr-disable-voodoo - Variable: *If it is a regexp, names matching it will never be modified.


May 21, 2007 - Categories: travel

There are very few things that put me in a bad mood, but I suspect that travelling alone is one of the things I do not do very well, and I have a litany of things to grouse about to prove it. The constant wail of infants spread throughout economy class made it difficult to drift into sleep. The food was blah, although perhaps that's just in comparison to the deliciously spiced burritos I had for dinner. To top it all off, the inflight entertainment system didn't work for the flight from Toronto to Anchorage, which meant that there was no way to drown out baby cries or distract myself from what was probably a decent pasta meal were I not already predisposed to grouse about it.

Fortunately, this complete failure of the inflight entertainment system had the flight attendants feeling properly sorry for those few of us who had the problem. They gave us two $25 gift vouchers in order to compensate for the inconvenience. I flipped through the catalog and didn't really find anything particularly interesting. The flight attendants promised that an engineer will look at the system while we're in Anchorage. There's little point to watching movies on the leg back. The 11-hour flight will land in Hong Kong early morning, so the best course of action is to sleep throughout the Anchorage-Hong Kong leg, which means tiring myself out during the Toronto-Anchorage leg by alternating movies and naps. This, however, depends on the inflight entertainment system, which has chosen this moment to vacation in Bermuda.

I'm starting to realize that I can get by without the usual perks of flying CX.

Also, I nearly lost my glasses. I usually tuck them into my blouse, but I woke up without them. After minutes of frantic search and paranoid ruminations on pranksters who pull eyeglasses off sleeping passengers. Somehow, they ended up under the seat.

So now I'm sitting in the Anchorage airport, having realized the futility of shuffling along in the queue. I am one of a few passengers who have realized that there's no point in standing around when we're all going to end up in the same place, we're all going to have to pile back in, and there's no point rushing because none of the shops are open yet. I'd rather write, thank you very much, all the while mentally grumbling about the compulsive need of governments to ensure national security by restricting the massive-scale smuggling of toothpaste and perfume and checking the passports of people who would rather not even go into the airport if they could. (Ah, the days when you could just sleep through the long flight.)

When we pile back on, my giant of a seatmate wants to exchange seats with me. It's not his first long flight, so I have no idea what possessed him to choose a window seat in economy class where his knees will definitely dig into the seat in front of him. I suppose that in the interests of world peace I should compensate for his bad planning, but I suspect that this good deed doesn't count for karma because I'm in a grumbly mood.

This and the past entry have been uncharacteristically boo-ish, but I *like* occasionally grousing, and flying is a perfect time to do it.

Maybe I'll get $50 worth of chocolates to cheer me up.

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

It’s good to be back

May 22, 2007 - Categories: travel

I still hate travelling by myself (especially when I can't drown out distractions with music), but welcomes like this make it worth it. My dad, mom and sister were all busy, but Ranulf and Marcelle met me at the airport. They waited for three hours in the muggy airport. That's love!

It was good catching up with them over lunch. Ranulf's been keeping a relatively low profile, but has been doing a lot to organize local computer science teachers and promote game design. Marcelle's going through some work difficulties right now, and I hope he sorts that out soon.

I napped for the rest of the afternoon, and woke up when Mario and Diane arrived. Mario told me stories of his misadventures. In a fit of anger and frustration, he had thrown his shoe at a wall, dislocating his right shoulder in the process. Wall 1, Mario 0. He was rushed to the hospital, where they pumped him so full of painkillers that he was floating and making vague threats about biting people if he could actually move. Ah, the poor guy.

Diane was nervous about Saturday, when Mark's parents will formally ask her parents for her hand in marriage. Tradition dictates that everything be prepared (so no takeout!), and her mother doesn't want to cook, so Diane's going to do all of it after she comes home from work. I'm very happy for her, and I look forward to catching up with her and Kendra this Sunday.

And of course, it was wonderful seeing my family again. My sister's floating—floating!—because her John is in town. He's cool, and it's great to see them joking around. My dad has a midnight shoot at Rockwell, but I'm sure I'll get a chance to catch up with him soon. And my mom's doing well, too. She told stories about the feedback she gave on photography certification, which I should write about soon. I was surprised to see The Secret on her bedside reading pile (the thing gives me the heebiejeebies) but it's good to know that she's reading it with a grain of salt.

Should sort out my schedule for the next few. Friday lunch is spoken for, and Sunday's the only day I can catch Kendra. Hmm...

Anyway, it's good to be back.

Random Emacs symbol: abbrev-mode - Command: Toggle Abbrev mode in the current buffer. - Variable: Enable or disable Abbrev mode. - Group: Word abbreviations mode.


May 23, 2007 - Categories: women

Clair Ching sent me a link to Joss Whedon's post about the honour killing of a young woman. As sickened as I am to hear that such things happen and that the proliferation of mobile phones and video sharing services has given rise to amateur pornography of violence, I do not feel despair. I can't feel despair. To give into despair is to give up, to let myself be paralyzed by fear. Nor can I see the problem as female. This kind of discrimination is abominable in any form, whether it be against the homosexual or the homeless or the housewife.

But what can I do?

I can be strong and live my life as if the world I want is already here, and to either laugh at or fight or shame those who act otherwise.

E-Mail from Clair Ching

Random Emacs symbol: ring-ref - Function: Return RING's INDEX element.


May 25, 2007 - Categories: health

We sometimes do high-five pushups during krav maga exercise/self-defense classes. I haven't gone in a while, but feeling an itch to do something active today, I decided to do some of the warmups. This time, however, I incorporated the book that I was reading. For example, I turned the high-five pushups into page-turn pushups, turning the pages with one hand. I did leg raises while reading, situps while reading, side leg raises while reading... you get the picture. This made the exercises a little more interesting.

Hmm, maybe I should revive my iPod and speech-synthesize some text files...

I still haven't worked up a sweat. It would be better to do this in clothes that I don't mind sweating in. I did manage to get my heart rate up, though.

Random Emacs symbol: vc-default-make-version-backups-p - Function: Return non-nil if unmodified versions should be backed up locally.

Driving me crazy

May 25, 2007 - Categories: learning

The acrid smell of burnt rubber filled the driveway of our Alabang house, testimony to the difficulties I was having with hanging starts. I kept releasing the clutch prematurely, resulting in rapid backsliding down the steep incline. I think I spent half an hour on that slope, and had to content myself with the awesome achievement of slipping back only a foot before the car started moving forward again. I need to work on that more before I trust myself out in traffic.

I had no problems driving around, though, aside from always wincing whenever I thought I passed something a little too closely on my right-hand side.

I wonder if I still remember how to park.

Random Emacs symbol: mail-citation-prefix-regexp - Variable: Regular expression to match a citation prefix plus whitespace.


May 25, 2007 - Categories: geek

I've always been fascinated by the flashing lights and mechanical contraptions of pinball machines, so it was with great delight that I noticed that Timezone in Greenbelt 3 had two spiffy new machines: Pirates of the Caribbean and Lord of the Rings. I had been a little out of sorts that evening, but I couldn't resist trying both of them out. My dad played as well, and it was fun reminiscing about the pinball machines we played in France and the computer game we used to play all night.

I remember figuring out the exact timing I needed to hit the bonus ramps over and over and over again. Computers allow you that kind of consistency. The physical world is more random but also more fun as you deal with the chaos of balls cascading down and careening around the playing field. Besides, the cost (the equivalent of CAD 0.50 for three balls) adds spice to every game.

An arcade hidden along Yonge Street has a good array of pinball machines, and I seem to remember that you could play them for a quarter. I should make a trip back there sometime.

A pinball wizard I am not, but I do like the game.

Random Emacs symbol: widget-specify-button - Function: Specify button for WIDGET between FROM and TO.


May 27, 2007 - Categories: philippines

Intramuros. The Walled City. I savor the sounds and sensations of the old Spanish names rolling off my tongue. Baluarte de Santa Barbara, Baluarte de San Miguel. As we walk along the weathered walls, I shiver thinking of the histories these stones have seen. Here Rizal wrote his farewell poem before he joined the ranks of the Philippines' martyrs. There the prisoners were kept during the Japanese occupation. Oh, I've been to older places: temples in Japan, museums in France, graveyards in the US... But it's different when a history is *your own*, when you recognize the names and stories from the textbooks of your childhood, when you catch a glimpse of your heritage.

Random Emacs symbol: mouse-start-end - Function: Return a list of region bounds based on START and END according to MODE.

Charting my life on index cards – Saturday afternoon goal-setting workshop?

May 29, 2007 - Categories: planning

Begin with the end of mind, as the advice goes, so I reviewed the index cards from a previous brainstorming session and summarized them into these ideas about the person I want to be.

  • Well-read, with a range of experiences that help me relate to people
  • With strong, loving relationships
  • An accomplished speaker and writer: teacher, seller and storyteller
  • Wealthy: passive income exceeds expenses, ecomfortable retirement plan is in place, and skills prepare me for practically any event
  • With an excellent memory for names, faces, trivia

I wrote these ideas down using red ink on plain white index cards. I laid the index cards on the floor so that I could see of my goals. Then I started thinking about how I could achieve them, particularly ways that could help me move towards two or more goals at the time. I wrote those down using black ink, and clustered similar cards together. I put down all the possibilities I was considering, even though I'll have to choose them eventually. I also wrote down how those methods were related to my goals.

Doing this, I realized that I was following these principles:

  • Recycle and maximize experiences: Reflecting, writing and speaking helps me get even more value out of experiences.
  • Focus on long-term skills that can be used in different contexts: For example, people skills are useful for all of my goals, and will be helpful throughout my career
  • Choose activities that move towards multiple goals effectively.
  • Don't be afraid to let go. Keep things simple and focused. I can't do everything in my life, but I can choose what to do.

After I wrote down lots of methods, I laid out a timeline. I wrote milestones down in red ink as I organized methods by their requirements and by their fit with stages in my life. Now I have a general idea of what I want to do, how to get there, and what it's going to look like along the way. I know what I can do in parallel. I also have an idea of what I can drop if I need to, and how that affects things down the line.

My draft timeline's pretty packed right now, and I'll need to prioritize it and add conditionals along the way. Also, it doesn't take into account some timing quirks that I need to consider. I'm a little nervous about some of the modifications I want to make, but that's something with which other people can help me.

A flowcharting tool would be perfect for this, but I didn't want to do a lot of mouse-work today, so I just wrote it down in a text file.

I'm pretty happy with the results, and I'm glad that I spent this half-hour sorting through things.

I'd love to get together with other people to brainstorm with them about our lives. If our out-of-town trip pushes through, then Saturday will probably be my only free day for this. It's a good afternoon kind of thing, with index cards and multi-colored pens. Would anyone be interested in a workshop this Saturday afternoon? We can work on the studio floor, so you can spread index cards out as wide as you want. I'd like to do this with other people because people can suggest methods that one person might have overlooked, or ask good questions in order to clarify goals.

So if you're up for goal-setting this Saturday afternoon and you're somewhere in Metro Manila, e-mail me! We can do it from 1:30 - 3:00 or so. E-mail me or leave a comment for directions and contact information, and feel free to invite your friends!

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


May 30, 2007 - Categories: travel

If my dad ever invites you on a roadtrip, say yes—but pack lots of clothes and money, and cancel anything you've got scheduled for the next few days. With my dad, you never know where you're going to end up!

My parents blocked off several weekdays to spend time with me. My dad suggested going up north on a 3-day trip. He loves the mountains. Me, I'm not too fond of zig-zag roads and Banaue had felt a little cramped last time we were there. Besides, with the onset of rainy season, short trips seemed more manageable than long ones, so I suggested going on a series of leisurely day trips.

So the plan was to go around Laguna today: a trip along the lakefront to the south. A few minutes after leaving the house, though, my dad suggested going to Baguio instead. Fortunately, this time we changed plans early enough for us to grab more clothes from the house. One time, we were just going to Tagaytay—an easy day-trip—and we ended up in Bicol on a several-day roadtrip. I was *not* happy about not knowing when I'd be back that time, but I think this time I might actually be able to get back in time for a party on Thursday.

Baguio is okay, although there's a lot more traffic than there used to be. The landmarks my parents remember have either closed or seem to be on the brink of closing. Times are changing. The sunset view is still stunning, though, even though the best view now seems to be the one from the mall.

My dad's been teaching me how to shoot with a proper SLR camera. It's a lot more powerful than my other camera, although my other camera has a few features that I really like. I had fun shooting the sunset with a long exposure, improvising support by wedging the camera into the rails. This brought out the subtle hues that I couldn't see any more, although I still had a little camera shake. More practice—or more tripod, which would also solve that problem quite handily.

Tomorrow we're going to an artists' village. Maybe I'll pick up something.

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Plodding away on my thesis

May 31, 2007 - Categories: school

So I'm transcribing the interviews of the usability study. It's nice hearing the good things again, but I'm seriously thinking that this is not stuff I want to spend that many hours of my life on, even if it's classic research assistant work.

It takes me around 3 hours to transcribe a recording. Let's say that it takes other people longer to do that, say 5 hours. There are six recordings left. I should spend Friday looking for an audio transcription service based in the Philippines, or someone who's willing to do it.

Does anyone know how I can get this sorted out?

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