November 2, 2008

Bulk view

Learning languages

My recent trip to Tel Aviv was a good reason to learn a little Hebrew. I listened to the Hebrew I course from the Pimsleur language series (available in the Toronto Public Library!) while I was sewing clothes or doing dishes, and I printed out a few phrase lists I found on the Internet. I didn’t get to the point of being able to have a good conversation in Hebrew, but it was nice not feeling totally lost, and occasionally even recognizing some of the things that people around me were saying.

I like learning different languages. It’s like building with blocks: you collect different kinds of pieces, and the more pieces you collect, the more ways you can combine them and make sense.

W- and I have been watching Heroes. Yes, we’re very much behind the times. ;) My favorite segments are when Masi Oka shows up as Hiro and speaks in Japanese. I miss the rush of semi-understood syllables, the alien familiarity of a learned skill.

Maybe I should take that up again. I probably won’t be able to make much time for conversation practice, but it would be interesting to be able to read foreign blog posts and make occasional comments.

So I’ve bought Japanese Flip for the new iPod Touch (thank you, Slideshare) and I’ll be playing with it on the subway ride. =) I’ll also see about getting back to learning French…

Weekly review: Week ending Nov 2, 2008

This week was half travel, half catching up. I flew to Tel Aviv for a customer workshop at which I facilitated a session about mobile social networking. When I got back, I worked on my Drupal-based project, ironing out a few bugs and playing defect tennis. I processed lots of requests quickly.

I was going to do the paperwork for the Schengen visa so that I could help with another customer workshop in Brussels. I was nervous about the time and I didn’t want to cancel my participation at the last minute, as I know from first-hand experience that it can be pretty difficult for people taking up the sudden slack. So I recommended a number of people in Europe to the workshop organizers, and I hope they find a good fit.

During this mad two-week stint of travel, I realized a couple of things:

  • Consulting is a scary thing. ;) You’re always wondering if the client will feel that you’ve provided enough value. Programming or making things seems a little more clear-cut in that respect.
  • I love connecting the dots, and I seem to have passed some threshold that makes the network effects scale well. Because people know I like connecting the dots, they tell me about what they can offer and what they’re looking for.
  • A few days of working at home helps me settle down and relax after unusual stints of overtime. Otherwise, things feel pretty raw.

I finished the red jacket I was working on, and I’ve also completed a purple skirt. I’m very happy with the way the red jacket turned out, and the notions I picked up during Fabricland’s sale have helped me me save time and make my purple skirt neater. My next project (already halfway done) is a black skirt following the same pattern as the purple skirt. After that, I’ll probably make two reversible four-color shells to make business-trip packing even easier.

I’d been thinking about the personality differences between people who start things and people who finish things. I’m very much a starter. I can see the possibilities of starting things, I’m good at figuring out who I need to talk to in order to make something happen, and I can be excited and get other people excited too. On the other hand, after a while, I can lose interest and move on to other things, which is probably why my Emacs book is languishing in the doldrums.

That’s one of the reasons why sewing interests me. Small, quick projects that give me tangible results when I finish them… Maybe this a good way to develop more persistence and attention to detail. =)

Next week, I’ll be focusing on the Drupal-based project. We’re coming up on our second release date, and I think we’re in pretty good shape despite all my travel. I also need to get the details ironed out for my talk in Concordia University: the student’s guide to Web 2.0 at work, and for an upcoming panel on government, Web 2.0 and youth. On Thursday, SelectMinds has a virtual corporate social networking conference. I’m looking forward to attending the session on onboarding with social networking tools (1:45 ET – 2:45 ET). We’ll be recording videos of our other presentations on Thursday, so I might not be able to make it to the rest of the interesting sessions. It’ll be a very busy week, but I hope to make time to get my permanent residency application together and to follow up on the interesting conversations I had over the past two weeks.