August 2012

zomg, Evernote and Emacs

August 1, 2012 - Categories: emacs

Update 2013-10-19: Check out for a possibly better way to do things. =)

This is totally raw and needs a lot of hacking, but look, I can dump subtrees from my Org notes into Evernote using Emacs Evernote Mode. The desktop app handles these perfectly, although the Android app does funny things to the whitespace if you edit the note. Still, great as a reference!


(defun sacha/org-get-subtree-region ()
  "Return the start and end of the current subtree."
    (let (beg end folded (beg0 (point)))
      (if (org-called-interactively-p 'any)
          (org-back-to-heading nil) ; take what looks like a subtree
        (org-back-to-heading t)) ; take what is really there
      (setq beg (point))
      (skip-chars-forward " \t\r\n")
        (save-excursion (outline-end-of-heading)
                        (setq folded (outline-invisible-p)))
        (condition-case nil
            (org-forward-same-level (1- n) t)
          (error nil))
        (org-end-of-subtree t t))
      (setq end (point))
      (list beg end))))

(defun sacha/org-post-subtree-to-evernote (&optional notebook)
  "Post the current subtree to Evernote."
  (let ((title (nth 4 (org-heading-components)))
        (body (apply 'buffer-substring-no-properties (sacha/org-get-subtree-region))))
      (insert body)
       (let (note-attr)
         (setq note-attr
               (enh-command-create-note (current-buffer)
                                        nil "TEXT"))
         (enh-update-note-and-new-tag-attrs note-attr))))))       

In other news, I now have book notes from 156 books in my Evernote notebook. Mwahahaha! Time to add more.

No longer worried about flat tires

August 2, 2012 - Categories: Uncategorized

My bicycle’s rear wheel has a fast leak. I pumped it up this morning, and by the time I returned to my bike after a good day at the office, it was as smooshy as a cat on a hot day. I refilled it with the pump I carry in my emergency kit – first time to use it! – and headed home, which is about an hour’s ride. (Mostly due to one steep hill near the end; it takes me about forty minutes the other way). Flat again when I got home.

W- will help me fix my bicycle this weekend. He used to be a bike courier, and he knows all sorts of things. =)

The neat thing is that this experience shows me that I don’t have to worry too much about a flat tire, especially on a decent day. Good to know!

More gadget changes

August 3, 2012 - Categories: geek

This should be the last of the major gadget changes for a while. Lots of changes, so the next few weeks will be packed with learning as I figure out new capabilities and workflows.

I switched to WIND Mobile‘s Back to School unlimited data plan ($29) because it was cheaper than my voice and texting plan with Fido. Coverage seems to be pretty good, although it was hard to call from within MEC (but it’s always hard to call from MEC). The porting process finished within seven hours, and I hope the termination of my previous plan is uneventful as well.

Along the way, I decided to upgrade from the Google Nexus One to the Samsung Galaxy S3. I’ve been looking forward to playing around with newer versions of Android, especially when it comes to mobile development. The front-facing and back-facing cameras might be handy, too. Also, the S3 has these awesome motion-based actions! I feel like the future is here.

The Nomad Brush stylus has arrived, too, and I’ve been playing around with it on my tablet. I ordered the stylus with two tips: one is a long brush made with conductive fibers, and the other is a smaller, more constrained version of the same that is more useful for detailed work. Both brush tips feel great, but it’s a pity that none of the drawing apps I tried were comparable to the layered, pen/touch-focused awesomeness of Autodesk Sketchbook Pro on my Lenoxo X220 tablet PC. Although Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for Android uses the same painting engine that the desktop version uses, it’s not as responsive or as handy. (I miss the lasso tool and juggling lots of layers.) Still, the brush seems great. Now I have to learn how to paint.

I’ll give the new phone about two weeks or so, and then I’ll look into selling my old phone. People are advertising them on Craigslist for $160 or so. I’ll probably sell it for cheaper – maybe $100 or $120 – because the battery’s a little run down, but it would be nice to have it out there being used by someone instead of just languishing in a drawer. (Although I suppose one could always brainstorm uses for a small WiFi device that has Bluetooth and a touchscreen…)

With the new phone and the Asus Infinity TF700 I’ve been getting used to, I’m definitely kitted out. No more tech buying for the next little while. I have to learn to use what I have first!

Weekly review: Week ending August 3, 2012

August 4, 2012 - Categories: weekly

Lots of tech changes! Getting the hang of using my tablet. Upgraded to a new cellphone with a data plan.

From last week’s plans


  • [X] Earn: More community prototyping; bring on Shad Valley student
  • [X] Connect: Have lunch with Eric
  • [-] Connect: Attend “Decoding Gen Y Online Communities” – skipped in favour of mobile dev meetup
  • [X] Build: Learn more about Android development
  • [X] Build: Keep tweaking my TF700 setup
  • Helped bring Shad Valley student on board =)


  • [X] Change my SFO itinerary
  • [X] Go to Elena’s birthday picnic


  • [X] Do some gardening
  • [X] Write about tablet
  • [X] Figure out how the tablet fits into my workflow
  • Set up tethering
  • Figured out how to post to Evernote from Org (Emacs)

Plans for next week


  • [ ] Earn: Migrate more of my work to other people
  • [ ] Connect: Host Quantified Self Toronto meetup
  • [ ] Connect: Prepare Quantified Self conference talk (short, Ignite-style)
  • [ ] Connect: Reconnect with project O
  • [ ] Build: Learn more about Android development
  • [X] Build: Compile MobileOrg and install


  • [ ] Get together with Emily Winerock and other grad school friends
  • [ ] Celebrate W-‘s birthday
  • [X] Plan get-together with friends


  • [ ] Move more seedlings into the garden
  • [ ] Get the hang of cellphone and tablet
  • [ ] Get shed installed

Time notes

  • Business: 45.5 hours (E1: 34.0)
  • Discretionary: 28.1 hours (Emacs: 1.1, Social: 10.8, Writing: 3.2)
  • Personal: 26.1 hours (Biking: 5.1, Routines: 11.5)
  • Sleep: 57.4 hours – average of 8.2 hours per day
  • Unpaid work: 10.9 hours (Cook: 9.1)

Building MobileOrg for Android

August 5, 2012 - Categories: android, emacs, geek

If you want to use your Android device to work with your Org-mode files, there’s MobileOrg and there’s MobileOrg NG. MobileOrg seems to have more recent activity and more contributors, but NG has a more tablet-optimized layout and better support for navigating large files, so it would be good to apply some of the ideas from NG to the main MobileOrg project. Might be a useful way for me to learn more about mobile development.

Here’s how to build MobileOrg (the matburt version).

  1. Copy the URI to the Git repository (ex: git://
  2. In Eclipse, click on File – Import – Projects from Git – URI. This may autodetect the URI. If not, paste in the URI. Click Next.
  3. You should now see a list of branches. You can leave them all selected. Click Next.
  4. Check the box for Clone Submodules. This will make sure that the project’s dependencies are also checked out. Click Next.
  5. When you see the dialog called Select a wizard to use for importing projects, click on Cancel.

Because the .project file hasn’t been set up, you’ll need to import the project using a different wizard. However, there’s an Eclipse bug that can make this a bit of a hassle, so this is what you should do to get the projects set up in your system.

  1. Close Eclipse.
  2. Move the mobileorg-android subdirectory from your Eclipse workspace directory to a different directory that is not in your workspace.
  3. Start Eclipse again.
  4. Click on File – Import – Existing Android Code Into Workspace. Click Browse and choose the mobileorg-android folder.
  5. Click on Deselect All.Reselect the following:
    • com.matburt.mobileorg.Gui.OutlineActivity
    • library
    • com.twofortyfouram.locale.MarketActivity
  6. Click on Finish.

Now you should have a bunch of projects in your system. You may need to adjust the libraries and build paths.

  1. Right-click on the com.matburt.mobileorg.Gui.OutlineActivity project and choose Properties.
  2. Click on Android and confirm that both libraries are detected. If not, you may need to remove and re-add them.
  3. Wait for the libraries to be built. If you notice that the compiled JARs don’t have classes, doublecheck that the src folder has loaded the sources. Right-click on the src folder and choose Refresh in order to get the sources recognized by Eclipse.

Re-detect the Git connection by doing the following:

  1. Right-click on the com.matburt.mobileorg.Gui.OutlineActivity project and choose Team – Share Project.
  2. Choose Git.
  3. Check the Use or create repository in parent folder of project.
  4. Check the .git directory you’re using.
  5. Click on Finish.

I also had to remove some code from AndroidManifest.xml because you’re apparently not supposed to have more than one action in an intent-filter:

diff --git a/AndroidManifest.xml b/AndroidManifest.xml
index 01c4f1e..9fc3eb1 100644
--- a/AndroidManifest.xml
+++ b/AndroidManifest.xml
@@ -64,14 +64,11 @@
             android:theme="@style/Theme.MobileOrgActionbar" >
                 <action android:name="android.intent.action.MAIN" />
                 <category android:name="android.intent.category.LAUNCHER" />
-                <action android:name="com.matburt.mobileorg.Synchronizer.action.SYNC_UPDATE" />
             android:label="Org View"


Hope that helps!

How to build MobileOrgNG for Android

August 6, 2012 - Categories: android, emacs, geek

MobileOrgNG is kvj’s fork of matburt’s MobileOrg for Android. It has a better layout for large devices and a useful outline view, but doesn’t have some of the other features in the main branch. Here’s how you can build it in Eclipse.

In order to be able to get all the libraries you’ll need, install the Subversive SVN plugin for Eclipse.

  1. In Eclipse, click Help – Install New Software.
  2. Click on the dropdown for Work with and choose the update site for your Eclipse version (ex: Juno).
  3. When the packages load, type in Subversive to filter the list.
  4. Choose Subversive SVN Team Provider. You can choose other plugins as well.
  5. Click Next and proceed through the installation process.

Now you can check out the MobileOrgNG source code and other modules. MobileOrgNG is set up as an Eclipse project, so importing it is easier than importing the original MobileOrg. Here’s how to get MobileOrgNG:

  1. Copy the Git repository URI (ex: git://
  2. In Eclipse, click File – Import – Git – Projects from Git.
  3. Choose URI.
  4. The URI may automatically be detected from the clipboard. If it isn’t, paste it in.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Click Next again.
  7. Click Next.
  8. You should now be at the dialog called Select a wizard to use for importing projects. Choose Import existing projects and click Next.
  9. It should have detected the mobile-org project. Click Finish.

In addition to MobileOrgNG, you will also need the android-actionbar and android-file-dialog libraries. Here’s how to get android-actionbar:

  1. Go to and copy the Git repository URL (ex: git://
  2. In Eclipse, click File – Import – Git – Projects from Git.
  3. Choose URI.
  4. The URI may automatically be detected from the clipboard. If it isn’t, paste it in.
  5. Click Next.
  6. Click Next again.
  7. In the Local destination dialog, change Initial branch to honeycomb-support. Click Next.
  8. You should now be at the dialog called Select a wizard to use for importing projects. Click Cancel.
  9. Click File – Import – Android – Existing Android Code Into Workspace.
  10. Click Browse and choose the android-actionbar directory in your workspace. You can deselect the actionbar example if you wish.
  11. Click Finish.

Here’s how to get android-file-dialog.

  1. Go to and copy the SVN URI (ex:
  2. In Eclipse, click on File – Import – SVN – Project from SVN.
  3. Paste in the URI.
  4. Click Next.
  5. Eclipse should prompt you to normalize the URL. Click Yes.
  6. Click Browse. Choose trunk and click OK.
  7. Click Finish.
  8. Choose Find projects in the children of the selected resource. Click Finish.
  9. Make sure that Check out as a projects into workspace is selected. Click Finish.

Confirm that the libraries are detected.

  1. Right-click on the mobileorg-android project and choose Properties.
  2. Click Android and confirm that both libraries are detected. If not, you may need to remove and re-add them.

The Dropbox API key isn’t part of the source code, so you’ll need to apply for your own at . After you get the API key, add it to your project:

  1. Create a new Android XML Values file. I called mine secrets.xml.
  2. Right-click on the file and choose Team – Ignore.
  3. Add a string with the key dropbox_consumer_key and the value from the Dropbox webpage.
  4. Add another string with the key dropbox_consumer_secret and the value from the Dropbox webpage.

MobileOrgNG should now compile without errors.

Monthly review: July 2012

August 7, 2012 - Categories: monthly, review

Last month, I wrote:

In July, I’d like to deliver a talk, sketchnote three more events,
learn more about EPUBs, and put together a small graphical ad for my
book. I’m also looking forward to learning more about accounting.

… and I did! I gave a well-received talk on Quantified Self at the Toronto Girl Geeks meetup. I took sketchnotes of four events. I experimented with converting my e-book into EPUB and MOBI, and I released it for sale in the Amazon Kindle store. I’ve also been learning more about Quickbooks, and I think I’m starting to get the hang of it.

Summer is definitely in full swing. Aside from a few non-biking days because of weather or flat tires, I’ve been pedaling to work and around town. The garden is growing well, too; neat clusters of cherry tomatoes, bulging cucumbers dangling from the vines, and a profusion of basil that’s just waiting to be turned into pesto.

After a ton of consideration, I bought an Android tablet and have started integrating it into my life. It opens up a few interesting possibilities that I’d like to explore. With the new cellphone and data plan I’d bought in early August, I’ve got plenty of incentives to learn more about mobile development.

I’ll be celebrating my 29th birthday this August. I’m looking forward to getting together with friends, writing and illustrating my yearly review, preparing for the conference in September, and winding down my consulting engagement.

Business notes

Quantified Self


Family life




Learning more about Android development

August 8, 2012 - Categories: android

From Tuesday: I spent most of the long weekend learning about Android development by working on the MobileOrg for Android open source project. When it comes to learning new technologies, I like working on existing projects more than starting from scratch. There’s plenty of sample code to draw on, and there’s enough functionality to inspire me to think about how to tweak it to fit my needs.

The first two days were really slow in terms of progress. It took me a while to figure out how to build both MobileOrg and MobileOrgNG, and I blogged the instructions in case someone else needs them in the future. After I figured that out, I started fiddling with the settings menu. I made the system more consistent, updated the look and feel to the latest design guidelines, and learned a little more about how everything tied together.

I’m starting to feel more comfortable with Android development. There are still tons of things to learn, of course, but I’m getting the hang of where things are, what things are called, and how things flow together. It’s an amazing thing, feeling the concepts click into place. As you learn more things, the possibilities grow combinatorically.

I should take care of a few other tasks before I move on to the next steps. I have to prepare a presentation for the Quantified Self conference in September. It’ll be an Ignite-style presentation, which is good – clear constraints make it easier to put something together. I also want to do an annual review in preparation for my birthday on Sunday.

After I finish those tasks, what do I want to do next in terms of Android development?

  • I’d like to build a better browsing interface for MobileOrg. I like the way MobileOrgNG makes it easy to browse the Org file’s hierarchy.
  • I want to be able to capture information from other applications.
  • It would be awesome to be able to handle attachments, too.
  • Tasker integration for automatically capturing information, perhaps?
  • Org-contacts would be great.

If I have a year of days like this, I think I’ll be able to learn and do a lot.

Backyard updates: New shed, garden happiness

August 9, 2012 - Categories: gardening

After seeing me lug my tank of a bicycle up and down six steps all spring and summer, W- decided to get a bigger shed. Now I can store my bicycle in the shed! (Well-locked, I hope.) I have my very own shed key. By golly.

He had folks come in and install it, which was good because it took much less time than it would’ve taken us to build it ourselves. The garden tools are there now, too, and we’re looking forward to moving some of the less-frequently used items to the shed as well.

In other news, the garden is doing pretty well.


Submitted my application for Canadian citizenship!

August 10, 2012 - Categories: canada

After allowing a few months just in case there was any doubt about the residency calculations, I’ve finally sent in my application for Canadian citizenship. This is important to me because I don’t want to ever get stuck on the wrong side of an immigration counter, or to sweat over renewals and paperwork like I did before. Both Canada and the Philippines permit dual citizenship, so I don’t have to give up being Filipino (as if that were possible! ) in order to have that certainty. It’ll be nice to be able to vote for bike lanes and libraries. :)

The government website says 80% of applications are processed within 19 months. Time enough to learn history and geography and politics.

I’ve lived in Toronto for a little over seven years now. I’m getting the hang of where things are, and have gotten to the point of also having old friends here. I know! Boggle. The multicultural diversity of Toronto means I don’t feel out of place, although I’m conscious that I don’t hear or speak as much Tagalog as I probably should. Always a little awkward with it even back home, except in the relaxed and freeflowing company of friends, and here, just unexpected conversations at banks and on the street. Facebook and blogs and Skype chats with family, news articles and charity and trips home… If I don’t have those spontaneous connections, I just have to make my own.

All people who move find their own balance.

Weekly review: Week ending August 10, 2012

August 11, 2012 - Categories: weekly

Celebrating my 29th birthday this week! =)

From last week’s plans


  • [X] Earn: Migrate more of my work to other people
  • [X] Connect: Host Quantified Self Toronto meetup
  • [X] Connect: Prepare Quantified Self conference talk (short, Ignite-style)
  • [P] Connect: Reconnect with project O
  • [X] Build: Learn more about Android development
  • [X] Build: Compile MobileOrg and install
  • Set up standing desk in spare room
  • Reviewed my book notes in Evernote


  • [X] Get together with Emily Winerock and other grad school friends
  • [X] Celebrate W-‘s birthday
  • [X] Plan get-together with friends
  • Made pesto using basil from the garden


  • [X] Move more seedlings into the garden
  • [X] Get the hang of cellphone and tablet
  • [X] Get shed installed, yay shed!

Plans for next week


  • [ ] Earn: Learn how to create animations
  • [ ] Connect: Attend Girl Geeks Toronto meetup on Arduino (Mon)
  • [ ] Connect: Return video camera to Eric
  • [ ] Connect: Attend small business networking meetup at the Toronto Reference Library (Tue)
  • [ ] Build: Troubleshoot emacs-evernote-mode


  • [ ] Check on friends
  • [ ] Clear my inbox
  • [ ] Watch Batman, eat ramen
  • [ ] Help organize the shed


  • [ ] Capture more book notes

Time notes

  • Business: 43.0 hours (E1: 15.7)
  • Discretionary: 39.2 hours (Emacs: 0.1, Social: 18.6, Writing: 5.8)
  • Personal: 18.6 hours (Biking: 2.9, Routines: 12.3)
  • Sleep: 56.3 hours – average of 8.0 hours per day
  • Unpaid work: 10.9 hours (Cook: 3.7)

Twenty-nine; life as a 28-year-old

August 12, 2012 - Categories: review, yearly

Today I turned twenty-nine years old! This is fantastic. I’m making good progress towards my goal of becoming a little old lady living an awesome life. =) Here’s the bird’s-eye view, with links to annual reviews whenever I remembered to write them:

  • 19 years old: Finished university, got into open source development
    20 years old: Enjoyed teaching
  • 21 years old: Getting started with graduate school in Canada
  • 22 years old: Settling into Toronto, dealing with homesickness
  • 23 years old: Thesis, writing
  • 24 years old: Moved from the academe into the industry, started a relationship with W-, decided to be in Canada for a while
  • 25 years old: Settling in, developing skills, taking small steps
  • 26 years old: Flourishing
  • 27 years old: Getting married, improving our household routines, preparing for the next step

Life as a 27-year-old was about preparing, and life as a 28-year-old was about taking more risks based on those preparations. With the stability of a warm and loving marriage to support me, the savings from a job I excelled at, and a deeper understanding of how I invest my time and money thanks to the self-tracking I’d been doing, I felt ready to take on the risk of starting a new business in order to explore the possibilities of more family-friendly work. That’s been going tremendously well, and I think we’re in as good a place as anyone could be for the next step.

I invested some of my earnings into new tools, and I’ve been teaching myself more about drawing and Android development. I have a tidy collection of sketchnotes, and people sometimes talk to me about my notes during meetups. I’ve also learned more about electronics, building myself a handy USB foot pedal using the Arduino and then converting it to a Teensy. I’m learning new ways to create value, and it’s great. Sometimes I’m intimidated by the skills of people who’ve been practising these things for much longer, but all things come with time and experience, so I keep practising and learning.

I’ve been working on being more social, and it’s getting easier and easier. We helped J- and her friends with math study groups, and we spent some time volunteering at Free Geek Toronto as well. We celebrated my sister’s wedding in the Philippines, and it was great to see everyone again. She and her husband are expecting their firstborn a few months from now – my parents’ first grandchild, so we’re all excited. I’ve also been reaching out to friends, going to picnics, and just spending time hanging out. This is good.

The more I experiment, the less I know what the next year might look like, and the more confident I am that things will be wonderful anyway.

Sketchnotes: Girl Geeks Toronto – Adventures in Arduino

August 13, 2012 - Categories: meetup, sketchnotes


Wearable computing artist Erin Lewis, SenseBridge entrepreneur Eric Boyd, and Site 3 co-founder Alex Leitch shared their Arduino-based projects with a crowd of around thirty women at the Girl Geeks Toronto event on August 13, 2012.

Erin started by introducing the different kinds of Arduino boards that are out there. She brought a few different boards, extensions, and wearable computing materials, passing them around for us to take a look. Erin also described the art projects she built using the Arduino, data sets from nature (windspeed, the northern lights), and various crafts (knitting fiber optics! felting conductive wool!). The video she’d made of her Kegel Organ was one of the oddest applications I’ve seen for electronics. Mind-boggling, but it’s good that people think of doing things like that!

Eric talked about open hardware and the Really Bare Bones Board, an Arduino clone. He shared some of the projects he’d built with the RBBB and later with his own circuit designs. He built the North Paw, an anklet that lets you constantly sense where north is, to explore the possibilities of extending human senses. Because he was curious about how people would react to normally invisible information, he built the Heart Spark, a pendant that flashes in time with your heartbeat.

Alex started her talk with the story of why and how she co-founded Site 3, a coworking space with plenty of tools and a passionate art- and engineering-focused community. She shared the lessons she learned while building an Arduino-based device for making coloured flames safely – well, relatively safely compared to the existing way to do it. There were lots of great pictures, amusing anecdotes, and practical tips for surviving dangerously fun projects.

The three talks focused on interesting applications of the Arduino. If you’d like to get started with the Arduino, check out Getting Started with Arduino. You can get the Arduino from Sparkfun, or head over to Creatron (College and Spadina) to check out their boards and accessories. People have made many interesting and useful things with the Arduino board, and there are many more projects on the Web. Have fun!

Centre for Social Innovation – Small Business Network meetup at the Toronto Reference Library

August 14, 2012 - Categories: sketchnotes

Discovery: I like making sketched animations

August 15, 2012 - Categories: drawing

So I spent Monday figuring out how to create three simple narrated one-minute sketch animations. My clients loved the videos, so this evening I finished three more in the course of about two and a half hours. I’d already written the script and thought about the storyboard. Today was just about recording the narration, cleaning it up, drafting the sketch, tracing over it with Artrage Studio Pro, processing the Artrage script file with Emacs, and synchronizing the images with audio using Windows Movie Maker. 45-60 minutes per finished video minute is pretty workable. :)

No public samples yet, but I’m delighted to have a good workflow, and I’m looking forward to putting together some personal animations after this. It’ll be fun!

Level up. :)

Thinking about what wild success at 29 looks like

August 16, 2012 - Categories: life, planning

One of the brainstorming exercises I picked up from our workshops at IBM was the idea of a “wild success story” – imagining a great future and backtracking from there to the present. It’s useful in personal life, too. For example, this is what I blogged in 2009:

I wake up at 5:00 AM to opera, light, colors, cats, kisses, or whatever gives me a great start to my day. I exercise a little to get my blood flowing, and I have a healthy breakfast of steel-cut oats or fresh fruit. Then I gear up for a morning of creative work, settling into a comfy chair or setting up on the kitchen table for a four-hour session of brainstorming, writing code, and preparing articles and presentations. I snack on fruit and nuts along the way. I have a light lunch or head out to lunch with friends. Then I tackle more routine tasks: responding to mail, following up, editing and formatting documents, testing code, taking care of chores, reviewing delegated work, and other things. I make dinner and enjoy it with people I love, and spend the rest of the evening reading or enjoying people’s company. After tidying up and taking care of other things, I go to bed, happy with the work I did that day.

I’m close to that, but I’m not quite there yet. My Fridays are shaping up that way, though, and we’ll see how things go in September.

On a larger scale, what would a wildly successful 29th year look like? Looking back on the eve of my 30th birthday in 2013, I’d like to be able to say:

  • I have even more wonderful relationships with family and friends.
  • I regularly stay in touch, and have good notes on what people are interested in and are up to.
  • I survived my first business tax return, yay! I’m now investing in building skills while giving back to the community, eventually turning that into income from mobile apps, illustration/animation, and other ways to create value.
  • I’ve got lots of sketchnotes of meetups, books, and product reviews. I’ve organized them into a blog and an e-book. My sketchnotes have colour and depth and interesting layouts. =) I help people find out about useful stuff and good get-togethers.
  • I’ve updated my Stories from my Twenties e-book with what I’ve learned from my 29th year, and I’ve shared the updates with the people who bought the book and sent me their receipts.
  • I’ve gone through Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, and I understand it. =) I’m also picking up Cantonese.
  • I’ve been having fun gardening. We’re growing more greens and have actually gotten into the habit of eating them. (I know!)
  • My finances are on track for my 5-year experiment; this might even be extended at least a few more years.
  • I’m ready to rock my thirties!

Thinking about ways to help people who are in between

August 17, 2012 - Categories: life, work

A number of people I know are in transition, looking for their next job. Some people are giving the independent lifestyle a try. What can I do to support people?

Let me break this question down in order to make it easier to think about.

What do I know? I know about building a reputation and growing your network by sharing what you know and what you’re learning online. Many people are curious about this, but don’t know where to start. I can help them start sharing. This isn’t something for immediate payoffs, but it’s a great professional habit. I also know the basics of consulting, and I can help people get started. I know about lots of books on career advice and entrepreneurship, too. I know Web development with Drupal, Rails, and WordPress, and I can help people learn. I know what it’s like to be an immigrant, and what it’s like to be introverted.

Who do I know? I know tech meetup organizers and participants in Toronto. I know enterprise social business consultants. I know mobile, web, and open source developers and designers. I know marketers. I know writers and bloggers. I know independent consultants, freelancers, and startup founders. I know sketchnote artists and illustrators. I know virtual assistants. I can help people with informational interviews, and I want to get even more organized in terms of keeping notes on what people want and what people can offer.

What do I have? I have sketches and notes from business and technology books, meetups, and products. I have a place where people can get together. I have a website where I can share ideas. I have a fledgling that’s doing well. I have blog posts from my business experience.

What can I do? I can keep in touch with people, especially those who feel suddenly cut off from their professional networks. I can help people get started in freelancing by coaching them, referring clients, and connecting them with people who have complementary skills. I can help people brainstorm ideas, stay motivated, and improve their communication. I can share what I’m learning from business. I can cheer them on as a friend.

Are people around you in between opportunities too? How can you help?

Weekly review: Week ending August 17, 2012

August 18, 2012 - Categories: weekly

A good-type-of-busy week, people-wise. Lots of things learned, like animation. Getting there!

From last week’s plans


  • [X] Earn: E1 Learn how to create animations
  • [X] Connect: Attend Girl Geeks Toronto meetup on Arduino (Mon)
  • [-] Connect: Return video camera to Eric
  • [X] Connect: Attend small business networking meetup at the Toronto Reference Library (Tue)
  • [X] Build: Troubleshoot emacs-evernote-mode
  • Earn: Deposited check from R1


  • [X] Check on friends
  • [X] Clear my inbox
  • [X] Watch Batman, eat ramen
  • [X] Help organize the shed
  • Helped Don Tai get started with mobile development


  • [X] Capture more book notes
  • Thought about plans for my 29th year

Plans for next week


  • [ ] Earn: Start wrapping up E1
  • [ ] Build: Share source code online
  • [ ] Build: Pull in MobileOrg changes
  • [ ] Build: Work on new version of slides (Friday?)
  • [ ] Build: Follow up on talk
  • [ ] Build: Put together a mobile app that extracts the URL from a shared text in order to get around Evernote and BigOven being all fancy
  • [ ] Connect: Drop by Hack Lab on Tuesday
  • [ ] Connect: Attend Toronto B2B Marketers meetup, perhaps?


  • [X] New recipe: honey garlic chicken wings
  • [ ] Host watermelon party and birthday get-together


  • [ ] Re-read blog posts, put together annual review
  • [ ] Dictate more book notes

Time notes

  • Business: 38.7 hours (E1: 34.6)
  • Discretionary: 33.9 hours (Emacs: 0.8, Social: 18.3, Writing: 3.9)
  • Personal: 22.2 hours (Biking: 3.5, Routines: 11.8)
  • Sleep: 61.0 hours – average of 8.7 hours per day
  • Unpaid work: 12.3 hours (Cook: 1.1)

Getting together

August 19, 2012 - Categories: Uncategorized

I find that I quite enjoy slowing down and spending time with friends, bringing people together for conversation. I still stress out a little beforehand, but thinking of the people makes it easier to tidy things up and get things ready. Then it’s different; it’s like preparing and wrapping a gift.

It’s a pleasure to see friends becoming friends with each other, too. It makes conversations easier, and I learn more about people because I can see all these other aspects.

I’d like to give this sort of care to friends far away, and to new ones as well. David’s figured part of this out – he has good friendships around the world. There’s much to learn, but it’s good to do so.

Learning how to tweak my Android devices to fit me

August 20, 2012 - Categories: android

One of the reasons why I like working with the Android operating system is that you can build little tools that interact with the other apps on your system. It’s like the reason why I like Emacs, although Emacs lets you go ahead and redefine routines. Anyway. =)

So here was my motivation: When you share a recipe from the BigOven recipe app, it sends the URL instead of the text. This is inconvenient, so I wanted to make a small tool that extracted the URL and opened it in the browser. That way, I could pass it to Evernote and save the recipe for later searching.

Android stitches different applications together through the idea of an Intent. An application can send an intent to another application in order to get it to do something. It can broadcast an intent to notify other applications that have registered to receive that event. An app can also register to receive various events.

To add something to the Share menu, I needed to write a small application that receives and processes the SEND intent. After trying to figure out if I should use a BroadcastReceiver or a Service or whatever, I settled on using an Activity instead. I might extend this to let me select one of multiple URLs, or recognize phone numbers and things like that too. We’ll see.

Anyway, source. =)

Small steps forward!

Thinking about how to learn how to manage others

August 21, 2012 - Categories: business, delegation, management

I’m curious about this because I’ll need it in order to scale, and because it’s one of those universal things. How do people learn how to manage? How can I learn? I’ve read tons of books and blog posts. I’ve heard lots of advice and stories. We have a sense of what good management looks and feels like, and we’re all too familiar with examples of bad management. How do you bridge the gap from theory to practice?

How do you grow into becoming a good manager or a great one? Do we leave it to people who figured out the rules in grade school – “natural leaders”? We don’t get lots of practice or lessons in managing, probably because it’s so easy to step back and let other people make decisions. But the lack of management skills can get in the way of making good things happen, so it’s good to learn how to manage.

What does it look like to consciously develop this skill of orchestrating people’s work and energy? How can you gradually learn it in low-risk situations instead of waiting for workloads to force your hand?

I want to learn more about how to align people and help them grow while creating more value than one could create alone. The world is this candy store of people with awesome skills and possibilities. There’s just so much out there that I’d like to be able to draw on.

On one of my consulting engagements, we have a high school intern who’s doing wonderfully. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to help pick some of his tasks and delegate some things I’ve been working on. I learn from the way he does things, and I enjoy looking for ways for him to make the most of his internship. I haven’t been paying much attention to my outsourcing experiments over the last few months, but I bet that I could learn a lot if I paid close attention to it, going beyond transactions to help people grow. I’ve done that in the past with other assistants, and I really liked the results.

Here’s what wild success might look like: I find good people and help them grow their skills, either working on things I’d like to see happen or good things that people are willing to pay for. Success would be a great fit between the person and the work that needs to be done. They might grow enough to be able to handle these things on their own, in which case I can grow a network of freelancers, or they might prefer the benefits of working with a team. I find clients who have flexible timelines (so that I have time to coach or even do the work if necessary) and are okay with me delegating the work so that people grow, or I find a project I believe in strongly enough to fund and bootstrap until it’s been fleshed out enough to be worth investing in.

Step 1 might be to map people’s interests, skills, and growth plans. Step 2 is trickier. How can I put on training wheels so that I can try things with friendly clients on non-risky projects without taking on too much risk myself? I’m scaling down my consulting work, but I can postpone part of my next experiment if contracting is a better way to learn this. What if I focus on, say, Rails or WordPress stuff, with the understanding that I’ll pair-program with someone, maybe like the apprenticeship systems of the past? I’m fine with Rails, Drupal, and WordPress development, but new to independent contracting, so maybe I should approach it as a learner first – partnering up with someone for a few projects?

What about non-web development ways to learn this? I can delegate more of my processes, and see if other people would be interested in delegating or expanding theirs. That’s something I’m curious about, actually. People need help learning how to give good instructions and build working relationships. It’ll be interesting to see if I can do that in a way that adds value. I think that might actually be more promising than development because I won’t be distracted by the technical side of things. I’ll need to find out if people are looking for help in getting started with delegation. In terms of alternate business models, it might be an agency structure, process libraries, and e-books. Hmm… That would look like phone or Skype conversations about what people want to do, then coordinating with service providers. There are quite a few companies that do this already, but process libraries, automation, and growth might make a difference.

Worth thinking about some more…

Coverage-mapping business models, or thinking of this like a business tasting menu

August 22, 2012 - Categories: business

A short note now, and more this week. I’ve been thinking about what I want to learn over the next six months of my business experiment, and where I want to get to in the next five years. The first six months have been an amazing start, pretty much as good a start as anyone could ask for. How else do I want to grow?

I’m curious about different ways of doing business. I’ve tried a few already, and if I can put together my notes, that might help other people get started. If I think of this stage as an iterative learning process to help me prepare for the next one, then it makes a lot of sense. I’m trying different things so that I can find a scalable way to create value that’s family-friendly. For example, I’ve tried consulting, contracting, and information products (very briefly – I’d like to dig into that some more). I’m also curious about delegation, automation, application development, subscriptions, plugins, support plans, and performance-based compensation. I don’t need to aim for 100% coverage – I’m not particularly keen on storefront businesses or real estate flipping, for example – but it would be interesting to sample different models and methods, and to connect with people who have gone deeper. So much to explore!

If I happen to come across ways that W- might also enjoy exploring, or save up enough to help with his own experiments, so much the better. That’s why I need to keep exploring instead of settling into the first obvious success. I’m fortunate that I have flexible clients who are willing to experiment right along with me, so I can build success on success and have the goodwill to deal with the occasional flop. :)

It’s like putting together a personal micro-MBA in lifestyle businesses. There are quite a few books and role models in this area now, so that’ll make it easier to learn a lot.

Exciting times!

Sketchnotes from #torontob2b (antispam, mobile websites, marketing programs)

August 23, 2012 - Categories: sketchnotes


Click on the image for a larger version.

At today’s TorontoB2B Marketers Meetup, Sweeney Williams told us about Canada’s upcoming anti-spam legislation, Ian Fleming shared different approaches to mobile website design, and Scott Armstrong talked about how they’re working on a program-based marketing playbook at Brainrider.

I’ve just put my Evernote sketchnote collection online, and you can browse and search within it on the Web. If you use Evernote, you can add the notebook and browse through it there. =) Enjoy!

Like these? Check out the sketchnote for the previous #torontob2b meetup (lead generation, Q&A) or my other sketchnotes!

Making myself create space

August 24, 2012 - Categories: business

It’s hard to say no when you can clearly see how much you can help a client, but I’m making myself learn how to do it. I’d love to be in two or three places working on these amazing and useful things. I haven’t yet figured out how to clone myself, although that’s on the to-do list under “learn how to train people to have and surpass my skills”. If I want to learn the things I set out to learn, I have to pull myself out of the easy wins and head toward the uncertanties.

Consulting is wonderful. Digging deep, making a difference, and learning new skills gave me the same thrills I’d enjoyed in my previous (awesome) job at IBM, with more flexibility and more influence on how I wanted to grow.

I had prepared for spending the first year just finding my bearings and establishing my business, so I’m delighted with the running start. I’m ahead of my savings targets and have been resisting the temptation to inflate my spending. I have an even better foundation for further experiments.

That’s why I have to keep pushing forward to learn more about different areas instead of stopping with the first success. There’s much more to learn. I’m taking September off in order to learn more about tracking and Quantified Self, explore mobile development, and catch up with family and friends in California. I’ve promised myself that in October and November, I’m going to spend the majority of my time creating value outside the time=money equation. I might scale back even further after that. It’s going to be a big shift for me and I expect to feel confused along the way, but other people have figured this out, so I probably can too. :)

It’s easy to respond to other people’s requests, and it’s harder to create the space for your own curiosity. I’m looking forward to doing that, though, and I hope I can learn many useful skills and share many useful things along the way.

Weekly review: Week ending August 24, 2012

August 25, 2012 - Categories: weekly

There’s paint in my hair, but that’s okay. It matches the shed.

From last week’s plans


  • [X] Earn: Start wrapping up E1
  • [X] Build: Share source code online
  • [X] Build: Pull in MobileOrg changes
  • [-] Build: Work on new version of slides (Friday?)
  • [X] Build: Follow up on talk
  • [X] Build: Put together a mobile app that extracts the URL from a shared text in order to get around Evernote and BigOven being all fancy
  • [X] Connect: Drop by Hack Lab on Tuesday
  • [X] Connect: Attend Toronto B2B Marketers meetup, perhaps?
  • Earn: Assist R1 – high-level design
  • Connect: Set up meetings for next week


  • [X] New recipe: honey garlic chicken wings
  • [X] Host watermelon party and birthday get-together


  • [-] Re-read blog posts, put together annual review
  • [X] Dictate more book notes

Plans for next week


  • [ ] Earn: Wrap up E1
  • [ ] Earn: Send R1 timesheet
  • [ ] Connect: Attend QS Toronto organizer meeting
  • [ ] Connect: Meet Craig Flynn and Ian Garmaise
  • [ ] Connect: Revise slides for Quantified Self conference
  • [ ] Connect: Set up Google Hangout to discuss blogging and delegation
  • [ ] Build: Improve delegation processes
  • [ ] Build: Write/draw six month business review, plans for next six months


  • [X] Help W- paint shed
  • [ ] Cook lots of food
  • [ ] Check out farmers’ market


  • [ ] Re-read blog posts, put together annual review

Time notes

  • Business: 38.7 hours (E1: 34.6)
  • Discretionary: 33.9 hours (Emacs: 0.8, Social: 18.3, Writing: 3.9)
  • Personal: 22.2 hours (Biking: 3.5, Routines: 11.8)
  • Sleep: 61.0 hours – average of 8.7 hours per day
  • Unpaid work: 12.3 hours (Cook: 1.1)

Paint-the-shed weekend

August 26, 2012 - Categories: life

We painted the shed. Level up – I learned more about proper brush technique when painting edges, although my first few edges were sloppy because I didn’t know how to do them well yet. =)

It took almost exactly one large paintcan for the main part and a small paintcan for the trim (Martha Stewart: Kiln, Sandpiper), although there was some mad scrambling at the end to stretch the paint all the way to cover the back wall. But we did it – a full day of painting!

We spent Sunday recuperating, doing the laundry, and cooking a few meals in advance. It’s great to check things off the to-do list, especially when we get to do them together.

Thinking about a visual process library

August 27, 2012 - Categories: drawing, kaizen, process, sketches

I had a good conversation with Craig Flynn and Ian Garmaise over bowls of ramen at Kenzo. We talked about visual communication and business practices. Craig has been doing a lot of consulting and training based on Toyota management practices, and he’s interested in helping people improve their visual communication skills.

One of the tools Craig mentioned was the feedback or suggestion sheet – a single sheet of paper that describes how things currently are, how they can be improved, and other notes. The company might compile hundreds or of these sheets. A decision-maker would then review them, spending about ten seconds each to classify the suggestion as relevant, irrelevant, something to do right away, something to investigate later, and so on.

Craig talked about how his descriptions were more complicated and less elegant than the ones that his mentor made, and how he was learning to make his descriptions clearer and more visual.

Ten seconds is an interesting limit. My sketchnotes let me review meetups and books quickly (see my Evernote notebook or the slideshow on my blog). I can apply Craig’s idea to that process library I’ve been thinking of building for a while.

Process - Process review

Might be an excellent way to practice!

Process: Reading nonfiction books

August 28, 2012 - Categories: process, reading, sketches

Process - Reading nonfiction books

Here I resolve to use book darts more often, to review my notes more deliberately, and to try sketchnoting ideas instead of being intimidated by the task of summarizing an entire book on a single page. I’m happy with the ones I did, but they’re hard to do because they require a much closer reading! <laugh>

I like drawing about how I do things. It’s more fun than describing the process with text, and I can annotate it with opportunities for improvement.

Process: Keeping notes of conversations

August 29, 2012 - Categories: connecting, kaizen, process, sketches

Process - keeping notes of conversations

I’m starting to use Evernote for more of my little notes, such as the follow-up notes after conversations. I like the way it can auto-title notes based on the current calendar event, and the search can pull in business card images as well as text snippets.

Taking a month off from consulting

August 30, 2012 - Categories: experiment

I’m taking all of September off from consulting so that I can present at a conference, spend time with family, and work on other skills. This five-month consulting engagement has been absolutely wonderful. It turns out that you can create tremendous value as a generalist with technical, business, and design skills, and that good engagements help you refine and pick up even more skills. :) I look forward to returning for two days a week throughout October and November, but I also want to make sure I keep pushing myself to learn about business models. It’ll be a good adventure.

Six months into my business experiment, I’m delighted with what I’m learning and how I’m learning it. It was the right time to start. Earlier, I wouldn’t have had such a good foundation to build on. Later, inertia and comfort might have kept me where I was until I absolutely needed to shift.

I haven’t been able to focus my evening time and my personal days as much as I thought I might. I think it’s because my consulting work involves a lot of novelty and creativity – a good thing – and that means I focus on other things during the evenings. I should crunch the data to see what it has actually been like instead of just how I perceive the last few weeks.

I’m looking forward to doing a more thoughtful review over the Labour Day long weekend. Much to reflect on! :)