May 15, 2009

Sewing: Of sewing more dresses and making more pots

May 15, 2009 - Categories: sewing

After I sewed the zipper on the Vogue 8020 dress I made using the butterfly blue fabric from Fabricland, I checked the fit in the mirror. I was beginning to think that the dropped waistline that hovered about my hip wasn’t the best place to put it. I tried smoothing my crooked seams, but they refused to behave. The more I looked at the dress, the more I noticed all the little things I needed to fix.

Then my happy-do defense mechanism kicked in, and I realized I was letting myself do negative self-talk. I focused on the positives instead. The dress was wearable, the fabric was pretty, and my friends would let me get away with amateur creations. =) It was my first time to make a dress with princess seams or a dropped waist, and I was happy about how the princess seams in the bodice turned out. And the blue ribbon was a nice touch, although other accents might be more practical in a house with two cats.

I told W-, “Sewing is good practice in celebrating the small wins.”

He said, “Everyone starts somewhere.”

I said, “It’s all about throwing more pots.” I started telling him the story. It turned out that he already knew the story. But you might not yet, so here it is:

There’s a story about a pottery teacher who divided the class into two groups. A student in one group would be graded based on the quality of one pot that they turned in at the end of the semester, while a student in the other group would be graded based on the sheer number of all the pots submitted throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, students in the second group–those measured only on quantity–had produced better pots than those who had focused on quality. In the process of creating a large number of pots, the second group had learned from their mistakes, while the first group had been paralyzed by endless theorizing about what a perfect pot would be.

Go ahead. Make mistakes and learn from them.

Here’s pot #4:

V8020 in butterfly blue

I’m going to hem this dress, and then I’m going to practice straight and curved seams on some scrap cloth, and then I’m going to work on that white embroidered-border dress. I’m going to fill my wardrobe with clothes I’ve made. Over time, the quality of those clothes will just get better and better.

Thank you, Lotus forums!

May 15, 2009 - Categories: geek

I started panicking when Lotus Notes 8.5 wouldn’t show me my mail. Everything else worked, but when I went to my e-mail, my folder hierarchy and my inbox just wouldn’t show. I tried rebooting Lotus Notes 8.5 several times, and I even rebooted the entire computer.

No joy.

Then I noticed an error message in the terminal. It said: SEVERE CLFNM0003E: Error getting outline actions for navigator (and so on).

When I looked for that string, I found one hit – which was a perfect fit for the problem.

The recommended fix was to get rid of bookmark.nsf. I moved it from ~/lotus/nodes/data/bookmark.nsf to a temp directory and restarted Lotus Notes.

Now my mail works again. HOORAY! Thank you, Internet! =)

Refuse to Choose: or life is a many-splendoured thing

May 15, 2009 - Categories: life, reflection

One of the things people pick up on right away, whether it’s from a five-minute conversation or a glance at my business card, is that I’m passionate about what I do.

What I do, however, may change, and that’s totally okay.

Whenever I feel guilt about things I’ve left behind, I should reread Refuse to Choose, which has lots of terrific insights into what it’s like to be one of these people with multiple passions. It’s okay to move on to other things. It’s okay to revisit things. It’s okay to explore and have fun.

Whew! That feels better already.

Refuse to Choose proposes this useful four-step system: Learn, Try, Teach, Leave. LTTL. I’ve been doing this all along the way, compressing Learn-Try-Teach into a quick cycle by blogging along the way, so that I can Leave when I feel like it.

I’ve been interested in many things over the years. Here’s a short list of interests and skills:

  1. Computer programming: Started in grade school, went on to join and win programming competitions in high school and university, and continue to do a lot of programming today
  2. Open source: Started contributing to projects in university, went on to maintain some packages, and have since then scaled back my direct open source contribution because of intellectual property guidelines at work. I currently use a lot of open source systems to build applications, though, and I continue to write about it.
  3. Wearable computing: Started looking into this in third year university, went on to do my fourth-year university research project in this area (receiving quite a bit of media attention and one research prize along the way), used many of the ideas when I was in Japan, and have since then let it lapse.
  4. Computer science education: Started coaching my classmates in university. I went on to teach. I presented ideas for improving computer science education at a national conference, and several of my exercises were picked up by other teachers at my school and in other schools. I’m not in the academe at the moment, but I still teach people in a way.
  5. Emacs: Started in university,  went on to contribute source code and maintain modules, became an op on the #emacs channel at, gave well-received presentations like Livin’ la Vida Emacs (DemoCamp10), wrote four-ish chapters of a book on Emacs, then got distracted by other cool things. I still use Emacs to write code, but I haven’t been customizing it lately.
  6. Personal information management: Started learning more about this because I was maintaining Planner, went on to help people develop all sorts of cool stuff, then turned over community and source code to a new maintainer
  7. Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0: Started doing this because of my interest in social bookmarking, went on to do my graduate research in this area, became a subject-matter expert and most valued ambassador within the company, continue to coach people and organizations on this
  8. Managing virtual assistants: Started a little over two months ago and have quickly gotten to the point where I’m helping other people figure this out.
  9. Drupal: Started in early 2008 because of projects at work, went on to becoming one of the subject matter experts in the company, gave well-received presentations on development processes, and am now building systems and coaching people on how to use this.
  10. Public speaking: Started in third year university at technical conferences, went on to keynote conferences. Now reaching out and helping other people improve their communication skills, and enjoying experimenting with techniques.
  11. Gen Y, multi-generational workplace: Started reading and talking about this because it kept coming up at work. Now a subject matter expert within the company.
  12. Technical writing: Occasionally write documentation. Also got four chapters into writing that book about Emacs.
  13. Copywriting: Started reading about this when I was a kid. Occasionally write marketing materials.
  14. Sewing: Started a couple of months ago and am slowly building up a wardrobe of amateurish clothes.
  15. Biking: Learned how to bike when I was a kid. Stopped biking for a while. Got my own bike a month ago. Now lovin’ it.
  16. Art: Had art lessons as a kid. Nothing fancy, just drawing. Now drawing stick figures, occasionally posting them on my blog or sneaking them into my presentations.
  17. Piano: Took piano lessons as a kid. Didn’t like them. Now teaching myself how to play the piano, and liking it. When I started picking my own music and schedule, things got much more fun. =)
  18. Theatre: Everyone did theatre in grade school. I loved it, and went on to take a theatre workshop that summer. Haven’t done anything with it since, although have toyed with the idea of trying out improv. One of my mentors seems quite happy with it.
  19. Chess: Started in grade school, went to summer camps, played on the chess varsity from grade 4 to first year university, stopped because programming competitions took more training time.
  20. Photography: Started really looking into this a year ago or so. Occasionally take pictures, set up lights, etc.
  21. Event organization: Played around with this with LifeCampToronto and tea/dinner parties. Tend to switch between liking events and going into introvert mode. Like hosting events more than organizing them.
  22. Screen printing: Briefly flirted with the idea of screenprinting, but didn’t go far with it. Bought the kit, didn’t use it for much.
  23. Calligraphy: Toyed with this idea after receiving prettily-inked letters from Quinn. Bought a nib, read some books, haven’t pursued it further.
  24. Typography: Learned about making fonts, installed the software for making fonts of Linux but haven’t gotten around to actually making one.
  25. System administration: Started in high school, when my computer teacher introduced me to Linux. Still handle little sysad-type tasks for our team.
  26. Web development: Started in high school. Primarily focused on back-end development, although I’m picking up Javascript now.
  27. Languages: Learned Japanese, passed proficiency test. Occasionally pick up snippets of other languages in preparation for trips.
  28. Poi, diabolo, and other street performances: Started when my sister taught me, then went on to learn more about the diabolo, staff, devilsticks, and other things. Helped my sister do some professional gigs with fire poi. Singed my hair once. ;) Hardly do this now (not because of the hair thing, mind you).
  29. Crochet: Started in grade school. At one point, was even crocheting in class. Haven’t done it much since then.
  30. Singing: Joined the UP Singing Ambassadors’ rehearsals, joined my dorm’s choir, had singing lessons, and joined a U of T jazz choir too. Haven’t done much with this since then, although singing in those groups was lots of fun.
  31. Gymnastics: Did this when I was a kid. Loved the uneven bars and the trampoline. Couldn’t get the hang of doing backwalks on the floor – my arms would always give. Haven’t done anything with this since then
  32. Yoga: Started doing this a year ago. Enjoyed doing this with W- after krav maga, but then the gym I was going to cut down on the frequency of their yoga classes, and we decided to spend our exercise time elsewhere.
  33. Krav maga: Doing this with W- was a lot of fun. Haven’t been to that gym lately, though.
  34. Trapeze: This was tons of fun. I tried the flying trapeze and liked it, then found a static trapeze class and went to it. I stopped when the instructor stopped teaching, and haven’t looked for another place to take it. We’ve put in a chin-up bar, though, so I can work on my core muscles until I’m ready to take this again.
  35. Cooking: Love doing this with W-. =) Baking is lots of fun, too!
  36. Ballroom dancing: Started doing this in high school (swing, boogie, cha-cha). Took this in university, enjoyed it.
  37. Tango: Joined U of T tango club when I was in graduate school, got dancing shoes, enjoyed went to milongas, stopped dancing after a while. (Got busy with other things.)
  38. Renaissance dancing: Started because U of T tango club head was also into renaissance dancing and she needed some people for her group. Enjoyed learning the steps, dressing up in costumes, learning how to work with a hoop skirt. ;) Participated in public performance, then stopped. This was fun, though!
  39. Swing dancing: Tried out the Charleston at an event organized by the U of T Swing Club, and before that, danced a bit at Isaac Ezer’s party. Love the cardio and the rhythm; may pick it up again sometime.
  40. Gardening: Started when I was kid, trying to grow mung beans and salvia on my parents’ windowsill. Lugged home tea roses in high school. Tried to start a herb garden in a planter box when I was in Graduate House, but neglected it. Grew rosemary and sage quite happily in 2008. Now working on a proper herb and vegetable garden! (Update: June 18, 2010 – garden is wonderful!)
  41. Woodworking (Spring 2010): After W- and I built a chickenwire cage to protect the garden from squirrels, we got interested in making boxes and furniture.

And the intersections between those interests are tons of fun.

I’ll have many more interests in the future, and I’ll move on from my old ones. It’s all good. =)

I am a young shock-worker

May 15, 2009 - Categories: geek, sketches

Tania Samsonova pointed me to this Russian-English language book because of its amusing stick figures and hilarious dialogue. To wit:

How do loafers live?
At work they steal pencils.
In parks they conduct themselves badly.

I laughed when I saw this dialogue:

– Who are you?
— I am a young shock-worker.
– What does that mean?
— That means that I work with enthusiasm.
– The public wants to know why you work with enthusiasm.
— I like to work with enthusiasm. I am a young shock-worker.

Thanks, Tania!

Sewing, or on soldiering on

May 15, 2009 - Categories: sewing

It’s amazing what a difference a hemline makes.

I hand-basted most of the hem so that I could ease it to lie flat. I ran out of thread three-fourths of the way through. I really wanted to sew it already, so I didn’t bother with the remaining quarter. After I trimmed the excess material, I hemmed it with my sewing machine, and I put it on.

And I’m happy with it!

Maybe it’s just that I’ve had more time to get used to the idea of the dress. It’s blue (not one of my usual colors) and has a somewhat dropped waist (not one of my usual silhouettes). My seams are still crooked, and I haven’t yet bothered to put the hook-and-eye above the zipper.

But it’s a dress, and it’s mine. =)

I tied the ribbon around my waist and dashed upstairs to show W- and J- before W- tucked J- into bed. Both of them cheered as I twirled around. I had told J- the pot story after dinner, and it was–well–fitting that I follow it up with an unexpectedly happy twist. I had been prepared for the possibility that this was going to be Just One Of Those Attempts (like the gray wool jumper I have to figure out how to tweak), but the dress actually makes me smile.

Must be the exceedingly cheerful glittery butterfly print. ;)

Pictures tomorrow or Sunday. I’ll ask W- to take them when there’s light out.

ANYWAY, on to the next dress, which will be my first experiment with borders…

I’ve been thinking about taking classes, but class fees can buy a lot of fabric. =) Maybe I can sit in on some classes to see what they’re like first. Anyway, I’m happy and I’m learning a lot.

On soldiering on: I’ve noticed that if I keep sewing, the project often turns out better than I thought it would be during the process. Red jacket, this dress… Lesson learned: sometimes I just need to keep soldiering on until the big picture reveals itself!