September 2012

Weekly review: Week ending August 31, 2012

September 1, 2012 - Categories: weekly

Lots of sleep this week. =) Lots of connecting with people, too, and
lots of drawing! Looking forward to focusing on my own things next

From last week’s plans

  • Business
    • [X] Earn: Wrap up E1
    • [X] Earn: Send R1 timesheet
    • [X] Connect: Attend QS Toronto organizer meeting
    • [X] 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
    • Connect: Connected Alan with Kevin re sales
    • Build: Enabled two-factor authentication on key services
  • Relationships
    • [X] Help W- paint shed
    • [X] Cook lots of food
    • [-] Check out farmers’ market
    • Attended Emma’s get-together
  • Life
    • [-] Re-read blog posts, put together annual review

Plans for next week

  • Business
    • [ ] Connect: Revise slides for Quantified Self conference
    • [ ] Connect: Set up Bay Area get-togethers
    • [ ] Build: Write/draw six month business review, plans for next six
    • [ ] Connect: Clear my inbox
    • [ ] Connect: Help with project O
  • Relationships
    • [ ] Cook a lot of food
    • [ ] Get ready for flight
    • [ ] Get my phone unlocked
    • [ ] Send snail mail birthday cards
  • Life
    • [ ] Draw monthly review
    • [ ] Draw yearly review
    • [ ] Return library items before I go away

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)

International cooking

September 2, 2012 - Categories: cooking, life

I was thinking about going to the Canadian National Exhibition to watch the airshow with friends and check out the international showcase. Then again, aside from the indulgence of halo-halo from the food court and perhaps something from Bacon Nation… Was that enough for the admission fee and a long time in sun and crowd?

Afternoon at the fair, or a day of cooking? With a fridge full of fresh ingredients, new recipes to try, a stack of videos to watch during the marathon wonton-making session we had planned, and a husband who had already gotten a head start making a large pot of chicken stock – it was an easy decision.

I made cold spring rolls for the first time: shrimp, vermicelli, carrots, basil, cilantro, lettuce, and rice wrappers. I mixed up the peanut sauce using the last of our peanut butter and some other seasonings from the fridge. It was messy, but we’ll probably get better at the technique over time.

Then we made 236 wontons, whee! We had some of the wontons along with the leftover shrimp on top of the vermicelli, along with a reasonable attempt at a nuoc cham dipping sauce made without fish sauce (we’re all out).

I like days like this, getting the house ready for another good week. I’ll be away for two weeks, so I’ll miss these routines. =)

Monthly review: August 2012

September 3, 2012 - Categories: monthly, review

Last month, I wrote:

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.

August was definitely a month for life tweaks. I’ve been getting used to the Asus Infinity TF700 tablet, and I’m starting to get the hang of drawing on it. I moved to a new phone and a new mobile provider – the Samsung Galaxy S3 on WIND Mobile – so now I’m all kitted out in terms of connectivity. Android development is fun and interesting, and I’m looking forward to digging deeper over the next year or so. W- and I painted our new shed, and now there’s plenty of space for our bicycles and other stuff.

We’ve been enjoying plenty of watermelons and other fresh fruits. I hosted a small get-together to celebrate my birthday, and instead of baking, I just cut up lots and lots of fruit to share. That was fun.

Many of my friends are looking for their next job opportunity, so I’ve been spending more time with them and thinking about ways to help out. As for me, consulting was great. I picked up an exciting new skill: animating my sketches. Now I’m taking a short break so that I can spend time with my family and participate in a conference in the Bay Area. I’ll be consulting for two days a week in October and November, and then I’m going to commit to figuring out other non-consulting business models. Onward!

In September, I’m looking forward to spending time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law; sharing lots of sketchnotes from the Quantified Self Conference; putting together an annual review; and learning more about mobile development.

Getting the hang of my new devices





Paper, Tablet, and Tablet PC: Comparing tools for sketchnoting

September 4, 2012 - Categories: drawing
Update 2016-02-02: Updated to reflect Linux + Krita workflow.
Update 2014-02-22: Updated to reflect current ScanSnap workflow and link to resources for sketchnoting with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

tl;dr summary: I use Krita on Ubuntu Linux on a Lenovo X220 tablet PC to do my sketchnotes. I also scan in sketches that I do on paper.

Here’s a quick comparison of how and what I draw on paper, tablet, and my Lenovo X220 tablet PC, and what works out better when.


Lightweight, large-scale, and no worries about battery life or device drivers – hard to argue with paper’s advantages. I don’t have to worry about digitization errors when I’m writing small text, and I don’t have to swipe or scroll in order to see the rest of my drawing. I can see everything in context.

On paper, though, I can’t erase ink or move images around as quickly as I can on the tablet or tablet PC. Since I don’t have layers, I can’t change my mind about colours. I often end up smearing ink, too. I have a hard time finding pens that will give me a consistent fine line.

Scanning introduces several additional steps. I’ve had the best experience with 8.5×11” loose sheets of paper in a stiff folder (or on top of another firm surface), because they’re easy to draw on and scan. I carefully tear the pages out so that I can pass them through my ScanSnap sheet-fed scanner.

Ballpoint pens are too rough and uneven. I prefer 0.4mm technical pens or gel pens like the Pilot Hi-Tec C4. I’d love to find a super-fine inexpensive fountain pen. For colour, the markers I have are a bit dark. Coloured technical pens are fun. Highlighting can be iffy, so I usually do that on the computer instead.

With gel pens

2014-02-09 How do I want to manage my learn-share pipeline

2014-02-09 How do I want to manage my learn-share pipeline

With coloured markers

With a ballpoint pen

Tablet PC (Lenovo X220 tablet) – preferred

I like drawing on my tablet screen with a stylus. It’s quick, it’s responsive, and it lets me erase, colour, or move things until I’m happy with how the drawing looks. I can work with as many layers as I want, and I can hide or reorder them easily. I can add background grids or reference images, then make them disappear when I’m ready to publish. Posting the sketchnotes to my blog is easy, too. I export the files to my Dropbox folders, and then I post things to WordPress.

On Microsoft Windows, I like using Autodesk Sketchbook Pro. On Linux, I like using the Krita app. Autodesk Sketchbook Pro has a very pen-friendly interface, but Krita is pretty okay too.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

I used to use Microsoft OneNote 2010 for drawing sketchnotes, but after several annoying incidents where it messed up my drawing by moving brushstrokes around, I gave up on it. Also, the infinitely scrolling page was great for input but not so much for output – hard to include in blog posts or print out in a coherent way.

See these resources for sketchnoting with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro

Microsoft OneNote 2010

Next steps

I’m working on getting better at drawing sketchnotes by:

  • reviewing and other sites for inspiration, and practising the techniques I like
  • drawing notes for the meetups that I go to and some of the books I want to remember
  • sketching my plans and ideas
  • building a collection of grids and templates
  • experimenting with more colours, lettering styles, and layouts

Hope these notes are useful, and that you’ll also have fun drawing!

Tablet (Asus Infinity TF700, Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for Android)
In terms of portability, the tablet is a good compromise between paper and the tablet PC. It’s lighter and has more battery life than my tablet PC, while still giving me the digital advantages of drawing in pixels. The TF700 has more screen resolution than my laptop, even, and it’s handy for reviewing and searching my sketchnotes using Evernote as well as drawing them with Autodesk Sketchbook Pro.

I’ve tried several drawing apps, but only Autodesk Sketchbook Pro seems up to the challenge of handling several layers on a high-resolution display. Even with that, though, I think I can only add five layers before things get wonky. I’ve mysteriously lost parts of drawings because of partial autosave recoveries, which is a pain, and the app doesn’t have a Lasso tool for moving parts of a layer around. I really should invest some time into making custom grids that exactly fit my resolution, too. Certainly more innovation needed in this area.

The Nomad Brush stylus seems to make my drawing applications lag quite a bit, so I’ve found myself doing most of my drawing with my finger. It’s easier to do other gestures as well, such as swiping to scroll or pinching to zoom in. Drawing on the tablet is more tiring than drawing on my tablet PC because I have to make sure my palm doesn’t touch the device and because I’m using an imprecise pointer with more friction, but it’s okay for an hour or so of recording. I spend much of my drawing time zoomed in so that I can draw text, so I don’t have the whole-drawing context that I get with paper. It’s much easier to zoom and pan with the tablet than with the tablet PC, though. Not having a lasso or cropping tool, I sometimes end up with too little or too much whitespace. I could edit the images on my laptop afterwards, but I rarely get around to it.

I’m still getting the hang of the workflow. Twitpic appears to be the best way to post sketchnotes to Twitter because it will keep the full-resolution image. I’ve set up Postie for WordPress so that I can e-mail the PNG to my blog and have it posted as a thumbnail that links to the full-resolution image, although I haven’t fully automated it yet. I still prefer Windows Live Writer on the tablet PC for writing blog posts that combine images, text, and links, but Postie will do in a pinch. Evernote is fantastic for searching and looking up sketchnotes. It doesn’t have a slideshow view, though, so I also save the files in Dropbox and use either Perfect Viewer or Gallery to flip through my sketches in quick succession.

I take my tablet instead of my tablet PC to meetups now. The tablet is easier to slip into my bike bag, and I can use it to support conversation. The tablet PC is heftier and much harder to use while mingling.

Autodesk Sketchbook Pro for Android

I think my handwriting’s a little looser and coarser on the Android. Less control, less familiarity… Still, it’s legible, and that’s mainly what I’m going for.

Thanks to Noorul for the nudge to write about this.

Visual book review: Help Your Kids Get Better Grades

September 5, 2012 - Categories: book, sketchnotes, visual-book-notes

I received a review copy of Gary E. Howard’s Help Your Kids Get Better Grades at just the right time. Yesterday was J’s first day of high school. Exciting times! We’ve been talking to her about the need for taking notes, and we’re looking forward to helping her make the most of homework and study for tests. We hope we’ll be able to help her learn those super-useful study skills. Here are my notes. Enjoy!

Book - Help Your Kids Get Better Grades

Click on the image for a larger version.

The book has many more tips for people helping high-school students improve their study skills.

Help Your Kids Get Better Grades (Gary E. Howard; Cambridge Learning Skills, 2010) – affiliate link

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book, but would probably have written the same review if I’d checked this out from a library. =) The Amazon links above are also affiliate links.

Having fun with code

September 7, 2012 - Categories: geek

I’ve been learning more about Android development so that I can build apps for my smartphone and tablet. I’m starting to get the hang of things, piecing code together from examples and StackOverflow answers. I began with figuring out how to populate a Fragment with some text and ListView using CursorLoader and a ContentProvider, drawing data from my web application using JSON. Now I’m working on the record view, and after that, authentication and synchronization.

There’s so much to learn, but it’s great feeling the pieces click together. I like this.

Is this flow unique to programming, or can I learn enough to translate this to other fields? I like pulling ideas and concepts together, tweaking and combining to make something I want. What would it look like to be able to do this with writing, while avoiding plagiarism? What would it look like to be able to do that with business, orchestrating people?

There are several kinds of businesses. On one end of the scale, there are individual businesses where people spend most of their time doing work and some time doing paperwork and business development. On the other end of the scale, people move away from doing the work themselves to coordinating other people. It’s like the way that in large companies, some people focus on being individual contributors and some people manage teams. Where do I want to be on this spectrum? If I want to scale up and outwards, will I necessarily have to give up the fun of hacking, can I bridge the gap and find the joy in hacking other things, or can I keep some of this and find a balance?

People have figured this out before. I think I’ll be able to do so too. =)

Weekly review: Week ending September 7, 2012

September 8, 2012 - Categories: weekly

Getting ready for my trip! This was my first week without consulting commitments, and I think I made great use of the time. I spent time focusing on helping my network out. I also learned a lot about Android development. I’ve been getting ready for my trip, too. Good progress!

From last week’s plans


  • [X] Connect: Revise slides for Quantified Self conference
  • [X] Connect: Set up Bay Area get-togethers
  • [X] Build: Write/draw six month business review, plans for next six months
  • [X] Connect: Clear my inbox
  • [X] Connect: Help with project O
  • Build: Learned more about Android development!
  • Connect: Helped friends with their job searches
  • Connect: Stuffed people’s profiles into Evernote
  • Earn: Helped E1 with theme
  • Build: Asked accountant/bookkeeper to review my books


  • [X] Cook a lot of food
  • [X] Get ready for flight
  • [X] Get my phone unlocked – have the code, still need to test it
  • [X] Send snail mail birthday cards
  • Lent Emma an iron and a cake pan


  • [X] Draw monthly review
  • [-] Draw yearly review
  • [X] Return library items before I go away
  • Scanned our recipes into Evernote
  • Learned more about working with Evernote

Plans for next week


  • [ ] Connect: Help out with Quantified Self conference – organizers, volunteers
  • [ ] Build: Finalize presentation


  • [ ] Buy supplements for my parents
  • [ ] Spend time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law
  • [ ] Meet up with other people in the Bay Area


  • [ ] Finish packing
  • [ ] Draw
  • [ ] Share lots of notes

Raiding San Francisco’s Japantown for bento accessories and pens

September 11, 2012 - Categories: travel

Japantown was a thirty-minute walk from Union Square along a route that reminded me that yes, San Francisco is built on hills. It was quite a pleasant walk, actually: sunshine, a breeze, and conversation. I wanted to pick up some bento accessories for J-, whose love of all things Japanese might motivate her to prepare and enjoy more creative and healthy lunches in high school. I also wanted to check out the stationary store at which it was rumored that one could find nifty little fountain pens and other imports.

There were lots of cool bento accessories at Ichibankan and Daiso. I promised W- that I wouldn’t go overboard, so I bought just a few items: a few silicone food dividers and cups, a nori punch, and some sauce bottles. That should make the bento box much more fun to fill.

I’d also been looking for an extra-fine fountain pen, and the Internet recommended checking out Maido. When I went to the address given, though, I was somewhat disappointed to find a character stationary shop filled with cute gifts but a tiny selection of pens. Fortunately, the Kinokuniya salesperson directed me to the second floor, where I found the real Maido stationary shop. It was awesome! I got the Pilot Penmanship Fountain Pen and the CON-50 converter. That doesn’t seem to be listed on the Maido website, but here it is on Jetpens.

There’s a small J-town complex in Markham, but it’s nowhere near the scale of the one in San Francisco. =) Glad I got a chance to check this one out!

Quick braindump after Quantified Self 2012

September 17, 2012 - Categories: conference, quantified

Quick notes now, more later. Eventually the videos will be up on the main conference site, but in the meantime, my sketchnotes from the plenary sessions are up on the main Quantified Self site. I hope they’ll help us trigger memories or share ideas with people who weren’t there. Here they are:

I haven’t posted notes from one person’s talk, but I do have a sketchnote draft, so I’ll clean that up and post it this week too. Apologies for any factual errors. Please send me corrections!

I had a lot of fun sharing my personal dashboard (open source; see the Source link in the footer) and what I’ve been learning from the process of building and using it.

It was fantastic connecting with people whose projects I’d been interested in for a while, such as Mark Carranza and his associative memory system.

Quick highlights to flesh out later

  • Organizers’ meetup:
  • We’d like to try adding pub nights or other social components to the Quantified Self Toronto meetup
  • I’m curious about the quant coaching approach, too
  • I want to help build a global directory of Quantified Self people and resources
  • Main conference
    • Fluxtream, Bodytrack,, wikilife, Intel Research looking into data commons – aggregation, visualizatio
    • Heart rate variability?
    • quantified-mind
    • Experiment design
    • wanderingstan webcam photos and screencaps
    • Yasmin – baby tracking, RPubs
    • Memex, lots of recording, timeline views, search
    • Hardware envy =)

    The three things I’m going to do with the energy from the conference are to:

    1. follow up and find out more about people’s projects/interests
    2. prototype a global directory of Quantified Self profiles
    3. review and tag some of the videos from past meetups

    The three things I might consider looking into over the next six months to one year are:

    • helping organize virtual QS show&tell sessions
    • adding group experiments and data sharing to the directory
    • tracking physical activity and heart rate data (probably with the Zephyr HxM)

    Notes from the Quantified Self 2012 conference (Palo Alto)

    September 17, 2012 - Categories: conference, quantified

    See or search my sketchnotes from the event in Evernote

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    I took copious notes at the Quantified Self meetup organizers’ workshop (

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: We’re planning to organize pub nights after our meetups. If there’s local interest and I have time, we might offer coaching too. I’m also interested in prototyping a global directory for Quantified Self folks, and look into virtual meetups.

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Opening plenary

    • Gary Wolf: Basic conference guidelines (start and end on time, must be a personal story, doesn’t have to be polished)
    • Ernesto Ramirez: > 70 meetups, > 10,000 members
    • David Maskin: Citizen science
    • Gary Wolf: Practice and mistakes, thinking, data all the way in
    • Robin Barooah: Coffee, meditation, learning from the data
    • Nancy Dougherty: Making smiles visible, triggering smiles

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: The next time I track the beginning of a habit, I’ll also do the reverse habit tracking that Gary Wolf used, looking at # of days skipped and longest skip. I like the way of seeing the improvement in habit consistency over time.

    10:30am Session 1

    • Dr. Alan Greene: reverse mood tracking – paying attention to the changes in his emotions in order to learn more about how his patients felt. Before going through a door, he pays attention to how he’s feeling. After he walks through it and meets people, he considers his emotions again, and then asks a probing question based on the change. He’s right about half the time.
    • Amy Robinson: tracking her ideas (she e-mails ideas and inspiration to herself) and graphing the connections between ideas using Gephi. She analyzed six months of e-mails and organized them by topic in order to see the interconnections. She would like to be able to visualize the gaps.
    • Sacha Chua: My session! See the slides, dashboard, and source. People told me that they found the load-balancing of clothes amusing, and they were glad I released my dashboard code as open source.
    • Mark Leavitt: quantifying seat time. He built a more ergonomic workstation (split keyboard) into a comfortable chair, then added a compact elliptical trainer that he wired up to an LED for feedback. (Maybe something like this InMotion elliptical trainer?) That way, he was motivated to keep pedaling while he was sitting at work. Key idea: If you can’t or don’t want to break a habit, hack it to be better for you.

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’ve been moving more of my notes into Evernote, and when I reach 10,000 notes, I’ll look into doing that kind of visualization as well. I’m also curious about building a more associative notetaking system like Mark Carranza’s, and that might be good for mapping too. If I set up a more permanent home office, I might look into getting a small elliptical trainer as well.

    12:00pm Lunch and Ignite talks

    • Jason Langheier: The power of routines; changing your defaults to be healthier; personalized meal recommendations using zipongo
    • Charles Wang: Lumoback for tracking posture
    • Dave Marvit: Helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) be able to drive again; GPS and stress map-based visualizations; meditation helps
    • Daniel Nofal: Wikilife – open data, open API, open source
    • Joshua Manley: Data-driven health coaching
    • David Fetherstonhaugh: Shirt- and Sharpie-based survey during a run; about ~50% filled out; measurement is a lousy invitation to engage; social effect
    • Greg Schwartz: Burned way more calories at Burning Man (daily rate: 3450-4300 normally, 4433-5764 at Burning Man); fire poi 13 cal/min

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: Friends back home are into hula-hooping, so I might take up hooping and poi again as a form of fun exercise. I just have to figure out where this is going to happen, space-wise…

    1:30pm Session 2

    In the Habit Design (Michael Kim) breakout session, people shared their experiences on building habits that lasted for at least 100 days. The breakout organizer shared some research that was sceptical of the Hawthorne Effect. People talked about making sure they have their healthy defaults in stock, taking advantage of accountability (especially to people they didn’t know), increasing the cost of not doing something, checking in with friends, gamification, letting people hit the pause button, changing responses to habit triggers, and so on.

    In the Reducing Friction in Quantified Self Technologies (Boby Sakaki, Phillip Thomas) breakout session, we talked about getting other people involved in hypothesis generation, helping them develop strategies for recovering from failure, and customizing the UI.

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’ll brainstorm a list of habits I’d like to build, and then focus on building one habit at a time for 100 days. For the next 100 days, I’ll work on building more of a habit of exercise.

    3:00pm Session 3

    I went to the Crossing the Data Desert (Vahe Kassardjian, Rafi Haladjian) breakout session. The initial part of change and data collection is very interesting, but then there’s this long period of having answered the “obvious” questions before you can get (often surprising) value from long-term data. It’s a little like the plateau of mediocrity. We talked about the need for other people (especially physicians) to recognize and respond to data, the value of seeing other people succeed, “unlocking” new analyses or levelling up, and sharing other people’s questions/hypothesis in order to encourage people to look at their data in new ways.

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’m curious about the ability to share questions/hypotheses and quickly analyze your own data in the light of new questions, and I might build it into some kind of directory/data analysis service.

    4:30pm Closing Plenary

    Sonny Vu, Amar Kendale: Sensors Sewn In: A Wearables Conversation. The panel was really light on specifics, so we’ll just have to see how the hardware turns out.

    Larry Smarr: Frontiers of Self-Tracking. Hilarious and insightful talk about what happens when a scientist with access to a supercomputer and a research team starts digging into his own microbiome. Bonus 3D-printed model of the intestinal passage that’s been giving him problems.

    How I’m going to apply what I’ve learned: Nothing much that I’m going to act on within the next year, but it’s good to know what’s out there.

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    9:00am Opening Plenary

    • Nick Winter: Testing 11 factors in 3 months using an intervention schedule in order to tease out interactions; quantified-mind performance vs creatine, walking, piracetam, etc.
    • Adriana Lukas: Need for open & exportable data, data literacy
    • Daniel Rosenberg: History of timelines; Joseph Priestley’s 1765 Chart of Biography; patterns; historical and cultural assumptions about graphing; these graph types were radical inventions once!
    • Indhira Rojas: Interesting data visualization experiments; how can we look at things in a very different way? Typical reaction “I don’t understand it” / abstract art, but that’s normal

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’ll use quantified-mind to establish a baseline and then experiment with some factors, and I’ll check out some of the experimental visualizations people shared.

    10:30am Session 4

    I went to the Best Practices in Data Viz (Lee Lukehart) breakout session. Resources for that session are at . We talked about tools for crunching and cleaning up data (ex: Data Wrangler), the kinds of transforms you might do with data, different types of charts, the power of small multiples, and other tips for data visualization.

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I want to build more graphs for Quantified Awesome, possibly with nvd3. I’m also looking forward to capturing more data streams so that I can ask other questions about my data.

    12:00pm Ignite talks

    • Hind Hoboeika: Butterfleye heart rate monitoring for swimmers
    • Jan Peter Larsen: Automated activity tracking with the smartphone; change in behaviour
    • Natalie McKeever: Internal worlds art installation; entrainment of heart rate rhythms; other animal species’ slower heartbeat = relaxing
    • David Albert: Getting people engaged in their own health; measuring heart performance with an iPhone
    • Yasmin Lucero: Baby tracking, RPubs
    • Anne Wright: Data aggregation with Fluxtream and Bodytrack
    • Paul Abramson: MyDoctor (tracking-assisted healthcare); emerging “quant coach” role as part of healthcare team; visualizing and telling stories based on data

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’m going to check out RPubs for other interesting visualizations. Also, it was reassuring to learn from the patterns that Yasmin observed!

    1:30pm Session 5

    At the A Memex for the Quantified Self (Betsy Masiello, Jess Hemerly) breakout session, we listed things we were currently recording and what we’d like to be able to record. I bumped into Mark Carranza, whose MX text-based associative memory system is pretty darn awesome. Many people are interested in more passively-tracked data as well as correlating their data with external sources of information. People were also interested in visualizing and navigating one’s records. Some things to consider: Fluxtream,, singly, Muse (Stanford), Nvivo (blog analysis), Proust, 1000memories, Storytree, Zoom Recorder.

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: I’d like to eventually build a timeline view of the different things I track. I’m also really curious about Mark Carranza’s MX, and may build something like that myself.

    3:00pm Session 6

    I skipped the breakout sessions in favour of conversations with Mark Carranza about his MX and with Ian Li about building a Quantified Self directory. I did go to the Quantifying Personal Communications (Noah Zandan) office hours, although that turned out to be more of quantification-based presentation coaching. I had a good discussion with Dan Tasse about tracking and analyzing personal communication, though.

    4:30pm Closing Plenary

    Stan James showed the results of his hourly webcam+screenshot routine (LifeSliced), which was funny and an interesting productivity hack.

    Kevin Kelly wrapped things up by talking about the explosion of data and how we might be able to turn that data into new senses that extend our selves. He also proposed that data should be treated like the alphabet – no one owns it, people have access to different forms of it, access comes with rights and responsibilities, and data goes back to the commons after some time.

    How I’m going to apply what I learned: Nothing I’m planning to act on in the short term, although I suppose that opening as much of my data as possible is part of it. I thought about setting up a similar webcam+screenshot thing on my computer, but I don’t like low-angle, badly-lit shots. <laugh> So maybe it will be something else.

    See or search my sketchnotes from the event in Evernote

    Went to the conference? I’d love to read your notes! Tweet them with the #qs2012 hashtag or comment with a link below!

    Weekly review: Week ending September 14, 2012

    September 18, 2012 - Categories: weekly

    Travel always involves a whirlwind of activity, so I don’t have much time to sit and reflect. It’s important to do so, though! Better late than never for a weekly review.

    Managed to avoid sleep deficits, though! =)

    From last week’s plans


    • [X] Connect: Help out with Quantified Self conference – organizers, volunteers
    • [X] Build: Finalize presentation


    • [X] Buy supplements for my parents
    • [X] Spend time with my parents, sister, and brother-in-law
    • [X] Meet up with other people in the Bay Area
    • Flew out to the Bay Area (Sept 9)


    • [X] Finish packing
    • [X] Draw
    • [X] Share lots of notes

    Plans for next week


    • [X] Connect: Attend Quantified Self 2012 conference
    • [ ] Connect: Follow up with people after conference; may have to wait until after family trip
    • [ ] Connect: Empty my inbox
    • [ ] Build: Sketch membership directory


    • [ ] Spend time with family
    • [ ] Maintain tranquility and equanimity; don’t get overwhelmed


    • [ ] Recover from conference

    Time notes

    • Business: 21.5 hours (13.4 hours connecting)
    • Discretionary: 50.5 hours (2 hours of writing, 48.5 hours social)
    • Personal: 15.2 hours (14.1 hours of routines)
    • Sleep: 64.2 hours – average of 9.2 hours a day; social interaction can be tiring
    • Unpaid work: 16.6 hours (13.4 hours for travel)

    Thinking about a Quantified Self directory

    September 19, 2012 - Categories: quantified

    So we were talking about a directory of people interested in Quantified Self, and I want to think about what something like that would look like so that I can help build it. Here’s what my profile might look like on such a system:

    Sacha Chua (@sachac,
    Toronto, Canada – Previous: Manila, Philippines

    Member of: Quantified Self Toronto (co-organizer)

    I track:

    • Health
    • Groceries: Scanned receipts and a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet since May 2012
    • Location: Occasional checkins with Google Latitude
    • Ideas
    • Library books
    • Book notes
    • Notes from conversations
    • Clothing: Custom tracker ( since August 2011

    I used to track:

    • Stuff
    • Community-supported agriculture
    • Biking distance
    • Productivity / focus (RescueTime, ManicTime)

    I’m curious about:

    • Tracking contacts, connections, and conversations
      • Who should I reach out to more frequently than I currently do?
      • What did I talk about with different people?
    • Heart rate monitoring
    • Activity monitoring
    • Visualizations
    • Android app development

    I can help people with:

    • Web development
    • Visualizations


    It would be awesome to be able to find other people interested in tracking groceries, for example, and then eventually to share data structures and experiments.

    What would your profile look like? What do you want to add to this?

    Weekly review: Week ending September 21, 2012

    September 25, 2012 - Categories: weekly

    My family decided to go on a roadtrip to Disneyland in Anaheim, so off we went! Two days going there along the scenic route, two days in Disneyland, and a day coming back. It was a lot of fun.

    From last week’s plans


    • [X] Connect: Attend Quantified Self 2012 conference
    • [-] Connect: Follow up with people after conference; may have to wait until after family trip
    • [-] Connect: Empty my inbox
    • [X] Build: Sketch membership directory


    • [X] Spend time with family
    • [X] Maintain tranquility and equanimity; don’t get overwhelmed (Disney can be overstimulating, but we remembered to make time for naps!)


    • [X] Recover from conference

    Plans for next week


    • [X] Earn: E1: Fix IE7 bug
    • [ ] Earn: E1: Periodically check in to see if they’re doing okay
    • [X] Connect: Empty my inbox
    • [X] Connect: Debrief from QS conference
    • [ ] Connect: Put together sketchnotes from conference
    • [ ] Connect: Meet Gregor Bingham and consider personal coaching
    • [ ] Connect: Take sketchnotes at Entrepreneurship 101 lecture series at MaRS
    • [ ] Connect: Check in with project O
    • [ ] Connect: Put together a Drupal prototype for the directory
    • [X] Build: Start SNA course at Coursera


    • [ ] Spend time with W-
    • [ ] Catch up with the people I promised to catch up with
    • [ ] Cuddle the cats!
    • [ ] Give J- bento accessories and the purse Ching sent


    • [X] Re-enable my library requests
    • [ ] Break out the cool-weather clothes

    Time notes

    Pretty good sleep, all things considered…

    • Business: 27.4 hours (Connect: 27.4)
    • Discretionary: 68.4 hours (Social: 57.5, Writing: 5.2)
    • Personal: 11.7 hours (Routines: 11.7)
    • Sleep: 60.2 hours – average of 8.6 hours per day

    Tech report: Living on the T-Mobile 2G network

    September 26, 2012 - Categories: android, geek, travel

    I was going to be in the US for 14 days, so I picked up a free prepaid SIM card for my phone in order to avoid massive roaming fees. My Samsung Galaxy S3’s compatible with the T-Mobile network, so I opted for the $2 Pay by the Day plan that included unlimited talk, text, and 2G web. A $30 load covered my 14-day trip with a dollar to spare. My parents were going to be there longer, so the $50 unlimited talk/text/web (100MB at 4G speed) was a better fit for them. 

    After I put in the SIM card, I confirmed that phone and text worked. The Internet connection wasn’t working, though. The call center agent asked me to make sure airplane mode was off (yup) and packet data was enabled (yup), and she tried resetting my connection to the network. Still no luck, though. Some searching turned up the fact that the 2G network is GSM. The following setting made it possible for me to connect to the Internet using my phone:

    Settings > Wireless and networks > More Settings > Mobile networks > Network mode > GSM only

    2G was fine for quick map lookups and the occasional web search. I didn’t need to stream video or anything like that, so I didn’t miss the data speeds.

    If you’re going to be on a short US trip and you don’t need a lot of data, it might be worth checking this out.

    Sketchnotes: ENT101: Finding and Validating Your Idea, Keri Damen

    September 26, 2012 - Categories: business, entrepreneurship, sketchnotes

    Click on the image for a larger version of sketchnotes from today’s talk on Finding and Validating Your Idea. This talk is part of the free MaRS Entrepreneurship 101 series. Feel free to share this! You can credit it as (c) 2012 Sacha Chua under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada licence.

    Entrepreneurship 101 - 20120926 - Finding and Validating Your Idea1

    UPDATE: Here’s the video.

    Like this? Interested in business? You’ll probably also like my sketchnotes of The $100 Startup. Check out these other sketchnotes, or search them in my public Evernote notebook. Enjoy!

    Answering questions about the Quantified Self

    September 27, 2012 - Categories: quantified

    James Hennessey sent in these questions, and I decided to blog my answers instead of keeping them in e-mail. =)

    What motivates you to quantify parts of your life? Curiosity. How much time do I actually spend sleeping? Do I use the things I buy? Which clothes can I donate to simplify my wardrobe, and which work well for me? It’s easy to collect data to answer questions instead of relying on faulty human memory. (See more reasons)

    What have you done with your results? I often blog about what I’m learning, and I share them at Quantified Self Toronto meetups too.

    What data do you measure and how? See my profile at

    Do you have methodology for collecting data? I sometimes set up 1-month “experiments” where I try tracking something new.

    What tools do you currently use? I track most things through a web-based system I built myself, and I track a few more things using a smartphone, spreadsheets, or paper.

    How much do you pay for these tools? Nothing! (Well, Microsoft Office, but I use that for other things.)

    Do you have any problems with these tools? Oh, there’s always more I want to track, and I’d love to consolidate more streams of information.

    When was the last time you had this problem? Could you walk me through it? All the time, but it’s not urgent. =)

    How do you take meaning from your data? I do a weekly review of my time data, an occasional review of my clothing data, and I set other times to review my data streams and answer questions.

    Do you share your data? Most of it! and

    What things do you think needs to happen for QS to be adopted by the wider public? Many people are already using QS tools, they just don’t know what it’s called. =)

    What are your favourite stats to measure? Time – it’s surprising how much of it you have.

    What is the favourite thing you have learnt about yourself? It’s actually pretty easy to ask questions and answer them with data. My next step: plan more experiments!

    Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto Day 1: Marketing, giving back, multilingual sites, security, SEO & analytics, e-commerce

    September 29, 2012 - Categories: conference, sketchnotes, wordpress

    Click on the images for larger version. Please feel free to share these! You can credit it as © 2012 Sacha Chua – Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada.

    Integrating Digital Marketing Into Your WordPress, Austin Gunter

    20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - Developing Digital Marketing into Your WordPress Site - Austin Gunter

    Giving Back to WordPress, Mo Jangda

    20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - Giving Back to WordPress - Mo Jangda

    Options for a Multilingual Site, Shannon Smith

    20120929 Wordcamp toronto - Options for a Multilingual Site - Shannon Smith

    Securing WordPress, Victor Granic

    20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - Securing WordPress - Victor Granic

    Webmaster’s Toolkit: SEO & Web Analytics, Andy McIlwain

    20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - SEO and Analytics - Andy McIlwain

    e-Commerce & WordPress: Navigating the Minefield, Jonathan Davis

    20120929 Wordcamp Toronto - WordPress and eCommerce - Jonathan Davis

    WordCamp Toronto 2012 site, #wcto

    Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto 2012 Day 2

    Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto 2012 Day 2: Case studies

    September 30, 2012 - Categories: conference, sketchnotes, wordpress

    Click on the images for larger version. Please feel free to share these! You can credit it as © 2012 Sacha ChuaCreative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada.

    Building Your Business on WordPress, Richard Martin

    20120930 Wordcamp Toronto - Building Your Business on WordPress - Richard Martin

    Malvern Red & Black Society, Shanta R. Nathwani

    20120930 Wordcamp Toronto - Malvern Red and Black Society - Shanta Nathwani

    WordPress of 1812, Digital Duncan

    20120930 Wordcamp Toronto - WordPress of 1812 - Digital Duncan

    Sketchnotes from WordCamp Toronto 2012 Day 1

    Sign up for the mailing list at WordCamp Toronto 2012 to find out when the videos have been released, or keep an eye on!