January 2018

December 2017

January 1, 2018 - Categories: monthly, review

The big thing this month was flying to the Philippines to spend time with family. A- has mostly settled in. She gets quite anxious around my dad, who’s a lot sicker than he was when we visited in September.

This month, A- figured out how to sort cans into five groups by colour, label how she was drawing, cut with a serrated knife perpendicular to the chopping board, roll and slice play dough, drop coins into a slot, and turn doorknobs (!). She was interested in stringing beads with help, picking up plastic eggshells with her toes, cutting index cards all the way through with scissors, standing astride her balance bike, and lifting bags of lentils overhead so that she could throw them down. She loved getting shopping bags from under the sink, putting cans in them, dragging them around, and putting everything away. She also loved sliding down an inclined mattress and rolling things down to hit various targets.

We discovered a nice toddler pool in a nearby community centre back in Toronto. Despite the cold, we managed to make it to an outdoor playground too.

A- regularly uses four- to seven-word sentences. She seems to have a few favorite sentence groups – snippets from books, or connected thoughts such as: upset picture; cat pajamas; no wake up all; ni bed. She can name everyone she regularly sees, and she likes labelling their actions. When I offer her choices, she uses more words to describe what she wants.

She wants to be more independent, and sometimes even asks me to wait in one place while she goes and does something. She sometimes gets upset when I eat something she’s got her eye on or if I do something for her when she wants to do it by herself, so I’m happy to let her take the lead. She imitates what we do: washing dishes, carrying a stuffed toy in her sling, putting things away, strumming the ukulele strings. She’s doing all right.

I’m learning to make the most of the tablet and phone that my dad insisted on giving me. I’m a little intimidated by the thought of dealing with Customs on the way back to Canada, but it’s the right thing to do, so I’ll just keep a spreadsheet with the gift totals.

My dad might have surgery shortly before our scheduled return, so I’m thinking of extending my stay a few weeks while W- sticks with the original itinerary. We’ve had a lot of serious conversations just in case this is the end, and we’ve also had lots of storytelling and family time.

I learned more about estate tax law in the Philippines. I’m reasonably confident that we’ll be able to sort this out, especially with the recent tax changes.

We were in the middle of dealing with a flea problem in Toronto, so it’s been nice dealing only with the occasional mosquito bite here. We’ll just have to get back to vacuuming regularly once we’re in Toronto again.

The major upgrade at work went well. I helped with a few bugfixes and problem investigations. I’m glad I brought the work laptop, although it will be an interesting challenge bringing everything back if I’m traveling by myself.

2018-01-01 Emacs news

January 1, 2018 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Replaced my Philippine taxpayer ID

January 3, 2018 - Categories: philippines

I needed two pieces of government-issued photo ID for Philippine paperwork. My Philippine passport counted as one. I decided to replace my taxpayer ID because the taxpayer ID does not expire, while the barangay ID and the postal ID do.

I had my taxpayer ID number (TIN), but I didn’t know which regional district office I needed to apply to. Once I was in the Philippines, I called the TIN Verification Office (63-2-981-7000 local 7030). I gave them my name, date of birth, and TIN, and they told me which office I was registered at.

There were no notaries in front of that office, but the security guard directed me to where we could find notaries working on the sidewalk about five minutes’ walk away. The notary stamped my affidavit of loss for P 150, which was probably higher than it needed to be, but which could definitely be considered a contribution to the Philippine economy and a vote of support for people willing to work in the hot sun.

We walked back to the BIR office. Both W- and I showed IDs to get in. A-‘s presence got us put in the fast lane and processed within five minutes or so. The BIR clerk updated my details at the same time. I should probably have brought my marriage certificate, but he was okay without it. He printed out a card right away. It’s a good thing I checked it, since it had a typo. After he corrected and reprinted the card, we were all set.

I needed a 1×1 ID picture for the card, so I got ID pictures taken at the mall near my house: P 85 for 6 2x2s and 4 1×1. I signed the card, and the people at home helped me get it glued and laminated. That’s another piece of ID all sorted out!

2018-01-09 Emacs news

January 9, 2018 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Weekly review: Week ending 2018-01-05

January 12, 2018 - Categories: review, weekly

It took two weeks of warming up, but A- now seems pretty comfortable with people at home. She loves toddling after Ate Jeana and asking if she can wash dishes at the same time, and she loves asking Tita Ching to read an endless series of books. She even insisted on going downstairs and out of sight with Tita Ching. She enjoyed playing with her two cousins, too. Yay independence and social interaction!

A- still spends lots of time attached to me, though. At one point, I said, “You love nursing!” She replied, “I love you.” Might be her just digging up the closest phrase she knows, but yeah, I’m totally fine with snuggling her more.

I like being able to offer her choices and hear what she wants. She’s figuring out how to think about the near future, saying things like “wait potty Tita Kathy finish bathroom.” She asks for what she wants (“More soup!”)

I went to the Bureau of Internal Revenue to replace my taxpayer ID. I started decluttering and organizing my mom’s papers. We met with a tax lawyer, too.

We had to reshoot the family picture because my dad insisted that we should all wear Columbia. Brand loyalty!

On the flipside, my dad slipped into delirium and the nurses advised us to take him to the hospital. We’ve already had all the big conversations, so at least we’re sort of prepared for whatever can happen.

Weekly review: Week ending 2018-01-12

January 12, 2018 - Categories: review, weekly

My dad died on Saturday, Jan 6. He lived an awesome life. Many, many people shared their stories and pictures of adventures with him, and there was lots of laughter as we celebrated his life. It was about as good a life and death as one could have, I think, and that’s a wonderful gift. He was inurned in the pavilion at Heritage Park, so there are plenty of planes to watch, there’s plenty of light, and there’s plenty of space for the grandkids to run around.

It was good to catch up with a few friends who visited, and Diane did us a huge favour by staying overnight with my mom.

A- had a great time running around and bouncing on the sofa. She figured out how to jump using two feet. We went to Active Fun with her cousins, and she had fun climbing and sliding.

We saw W- off at the airport. He headed back following our original schedule. A- and I will stay until the 25th. A- misses him a little bit (“A- want go too!”), but she also enjoys spending time with her cousins, so it all works out. I’ve had to carry her out of their bedroom a couple of times now, since she’d happily play with them long past bedtime if she could. She also loves spending time with Tita Ching, who has read many, many books with her.

I like how A- is getting more involved in our daily routines. She likes squeezing the bottles of shampoo and body wash. One time, while I was rinsing off some shampoo with my eyes closed, she squeezed even more shampoo on my head, then said, “Mama feel better.” I guess it’s because I often tell her that I feel better once I’ve washed away the sticky feeling of perspiration.

Speaking of sweat – A- often insisted on going shirtless or pantless even in air-conditioned rooms. I managed to insist on diapers, at least. She had lots of bug bites. I’ve made my peace with using diaper creme instead of taking a risk with methyl salicylate.

One day, she insisted on wearing her winter jacket out of the blue. How odd!

I’m handling the insurance and estate tax paperwork, so I’m slowly putting those things together. The implementing rules for the tax reform haven’t come down yet, but I can organize the papers took make them easier to file. We’ve been preparing for this for months, and now that preparation can pay off. It’s nice to not be under time pressure.

We’re giving ourselves plenty of space to adjust to this new normal. I even had time to do a little consulting: checked on data extract, fixed blog comment export, and thought about templating.

Onward: more paperwork, more memories, more living!

2018-01-15 Emacs news

January 15, 2018 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

Weekly review: Week ending 2018-01-19

January 19, 2018 - Categories: review, weekly

It was a lot of fun watching A- experiment with new concepts this week. She tried saying, “No play Ate A*, this mine!” This is great! She’s learning about owning things. I did point out that the toy she was clutching was actually her cousin’s, and we sorted it all out with a minimum of fuss. I look forward to helping her navigate this interesting time.

She also tried arranging her legs to sit like she saw Tita Ching and Tita Kathy do, and she promptly fell backward onto the bed. I successfully avoided laughing out loud. She figured out shrugging, though, and that got a few chuckles.

One time, she was looking for Tita Ching. She ran to the living room, but it was empty. She said, “Nobody!” and then looked for Tita Ching in another room. I wonder if that means I can introduce the concept of zero when counting, too…

We’ve been focusing on family time: lots of time with her cousins, aunts, and grandmother. Reading works out pretty well as a bonding activity, especially for those of us who aren’t up to jumping up and down on the bed.

Also, she seems to be okay with dolls now, hooray! She used to get quite anxious at the sight of dolls. She still doesn’t seek them out, but she doesn’t seem to be as bothered by them as she used to be. It’s probably due to seeing her cousins have lots of fun playing. Next on my desensitization list: dentists!

I managed to get the first set of paperwork out the door, hooray! We’re also working on sorting out bank accounts. Slow and steady…

2018-01-23 Emacs news

January 22, 2018 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Our trip to the Philippines

January 29, 2018 - Categories: family, philippines, travel

Because my dad was in poor health and it was possibly the last Christmas that my sister and her kids would spend in the Philippines, we decided to all go despite the chaos and expense of flying over the Christmas holidays. It turned out to be an excellent decision. We got to spend lots of time with everyone, and we had lots of conversations that helped us prepare for what happened.

We initially planned to be away from Dec 17 to Jan 10. When my dad was scheduled for potential surgery on Jan 8, I extended my trip until Jan 26, while W- kept his original itinerary. It was a good thing I extended my stay. My dad died on January 6. We had a wonderful wake for him until Jan 11, and I had a couple of weeks to spend time with family and help with paperwork.

I’m feeling surprisingly okay with the whole thing. We prepared a lot for this scenario, and I know we can get through it. In fact, this trip has helped me develop an even deeper appreciation of my family.

A- had a marvelous time. She played with her cousins, who were both enamoured with her. She took to asking her Lola to read to her, which my mom did with delight. She learned many new words and names. She liked following the household staff around so that she could help with washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. She started experimenting with establishing her boundaries (“No grab. This mine!”) She stopped being anxious around dolls. She often sought out her cousins to play with them. At the wake, it was delightful to hear the kids bouncing around and being their usual cheerful selves.

There’s more paperwork to be done, of course. My next priorities are:

  • Take care of A- and figure out new routines considering the travel we’re planning for the year
  • Handle all the medical appointments and other things we planned for this phase in Canada
  • Keep track of work in progress and coordinate paperwork as we go in and out of the country
  • Help check on my mom as she deals with the transition
  • Invest in little improvements

We might experiment with a cycle of two months in Canada and one month in the Philippines, at least for this year’s transition period. It’s going to take a lot of money and effort, but I think it might be worth it in terms of relationships and paperwork. I’ll scale it back if we get too disrupted by the changes in environment and routine, but maybe we’ll be able to take it in stride. We’ll see!

2018-01-29 Emacs news

January 29, 2018 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

Links from reddit.com/r/emacs, /r/orgmode, /r/spacemacs, Hacker News, planet.emacsen.org, YouTube, the changes to the Emacs NEWS file, and emacs-devel.

Org Mode: Inserting a function definition

January 29, 2018 - Categories: emacs, org

While nudging jcs to add a definition of jcs-insert-url to the blog post about Making Things Easier, I realized it might be handy to have a quick function for inserting a function definition without thinking about where it’s defined. This tries to use the definition from the source, and it can fall back to using the stored function definition if necessary. There’s probably a better way to do this, but this was small and fun to write. =)

Naturally, I used it to insert itself:

(defun my/org-insert-defun (function)
  "Inserts an Org source block with the definition for FUNCTION."
  (interactive (find-function-read))
  (let* ((buffer-point (condition-case nil (find-definition-noselect function nil) (error nil)))
         (new-buf (car buffer-point))
         (new-point (cdr buffer-point))
         definition)
    (if buffer-point        
      (with-current-buffer new-buf ;; Try to get original definition
        (save-excursion
          (goto-char new-point)
          (setq definition (buffer-substring-no-properties (point) (save-excursion (end-of-defun) (point))))))
      ;; Fallback: Print function definition
      (setq definition (concat (prin1-to-string (symbol-function function)) "\n")))
    (insert "#+begin_src emacs-lisp\n" definition "#+end_src\n")))

Weekly review: Week ending 2018-01-26

January 29, 2018 - Categories: review, weekly

We started the week with some grandparent time, going out for lunch at Tim Ho Wan and spending time at Museo Pambata. A- also got into the habit of asking Lola to read to her and wanting to sleep in Lola’s room, so we did even though A- was a little bit hard to settle at night.

On Sunday, there was a big party to celebrate the completion of the novena for my dad and what would have been my dad’s 70th birthday. A- found it a little overwhelming, so we went up and down as needed.

We had a chickenpox scare that sent me Googling for information on breakthrough varicella and off to a pediatrician for an in-person consultation. Turned out to be just bug bites on A-, so we flew home on our scheduled flight.

During the layover in Incheon, A- munched lots of prawn and discovered the joys of swimming in the bathtub. The new Terminal 2 was large, airy, and well-equipped, although the amenities for kids were more geared towards screens than climbing or bouncing around.

The seats beside us on the 14h flight from Incheon to Toronto were empty, so we managed to stretch out and nap a few times in between the tours that A- wanted of the airplane bathrooms and galleys (“Not this one toilet! That one!”)

A- was firmly attached to W- as soon as she saw him, which was super helpful because I desperately needed to catch up on sleep. I’m just regularly sleep-deprived now instead of being exhausted, although I’m still dealing with sniffles and a cough, and we’re both jetlagged by quite a bit. Fortunately, we’d already sorted out enrichment at home and we don’t have any appointments next week, so I’m not worried about being out of sync with Toronto time.

It’s been amusing seeing A- apply what she learned on the trip. She insisted that W- sing part of Mamma Mia, and she figured out how to cross her legs when sitting on the floor. I hope that she’ll be on a padded surface when she decides to revisit pratfalls.

A- did a quick runthrough of her favourite activities as soon as she got to the house: putting away plastic bags, eating in her chair, reading books, standing in her tower, saying hello to the cats, playing with dough, painting… It’s almost as if she had a checklist and she wanted to verify everything still worked the way she remembered.

W- put in a smart thermostat which can control the fan and the furnace separately, and it had a surprising large effect on how the house feels. I wonder what other little upgrades are that useful.

I’m continuing to braindump lessons learned and things to take care of. Once I get things out of my head, they’re easier to prioritize and follow up on.

Next week is mostly about acclimating, and about learning to take advantage of our tech upgrades. We’re both checking out GoodNotes for sketchnoting. It’s fun to learn stuff together!

Post-mortem post-mortem

January 29, 2018 - Categories: family, life

Random, incomplete list of lessons learned:

  • My dad lived such an incredible life. That made it so much easier to celebrate his awesomeness than to feel regret. We had time for all the things that mattered, and we had those serious conversations throughout life.
  • He was very clear on what he wanted regarding advance directives, cremation followed by viewing, what to do about the business, what he wanted to wear, and so on. That made tough decisions easier, because we could follow his wishes.
  • Cremation before viewing made it easier for people to focus on the stories and pictures people shared instead of remembering my dad lying so still. We should make sure the mortuary knows it’s a closed casket and post someone to enforce that, since people can be curious.
  • It was really helpful to have staff members taking care of organizing all sorts of details.
  • Drawing up a five-day meal plan could help increase variety. It’s good to offer meals that have a lot of choices: chicken, beef, vegetables, etc. Packaged meals are good for flexibility because you can order based on the numbers you see, and then order more as you run low. Catering the last night was a good idea, though, since it made it feel more like a party.
  • It would probably have been worth it to get proper coffee set up every morning. That would make people happier than instant coffee. Tea and chocolate would be good to offer too.
  • The pre-need memorial plan and the memorial plot that my parents purchased didn’t end up getting used because my parents decided to go with cremation issued, but they can be transferred.

  • We should have posted visiting hours in the initial announcement, since people who stayed overnight hardly slept.

  • It helps to think of significant pictures or moments that you want to have, and who should be in it.
  • Insurance companies want original forms.
  • Line up birth certificates and marriage contracts beforehand. One per insurance company, one for estate tax, plus extras for various paperwork requirements.

  • Official receipts for funeral expenses should be in the name of one of the heirs so that they can be claimed as part of the estate tax deduction.

  • The first paperwork deadline is the BIR notice of death, which can be handled by registering for a TIN for the estate. The deadline is two months after the date of death.

  • The Roman Catholic Church prefers burials over cremation, and forbids the division of ashes or keeping ashes at home. We should probably have looked up customs and updated rules before death, as that could have saved us a little money.

  • It was a great idea to collect stories even before death, and to collect and print more stories during the wake. Kathy did an amazing job collecting, formatting, and printing all those stories. It was good to have a printer there, a couple of Autopoles, clotheslines, and clothespins.

  • You can never have too many pens.

  • Light-coloured envelopes are easier to label than dark ones.

  • It’s hard to organize papers with a curious toddler, so it’s good to keep expectations low.

  • Uber drivers assume you’re already standing outside, and might cancel if they don’t see you.

  • Korean Air let me extend my trip without a change fee, since we found a seat in the same fare class and with no fare increase. Travel insurance cost a bit more to extend, but that’s okay.

  • It’s good to have a large picture, a digital copy, and a slideshow ready to go. It can also help to bring a laptop, or at least an OTG cable and a USB drive.

  • It’s good to plan the mementos to be placed inside the niche. That would avoid last-minute scrambling for prints or frames.

  • It would have been helpful to decide on the columbarium before arranging for cremation or the wake.

  • I should remember to ask about all payment methods. Sometimes Visa debit or MasterCard debit can be treated as cash.

  • I should remember to verify actual location, chair setup, and ventilation of a site before giving the okay. It would have also been good to always bring someone else along – more questions, and backup in case A- needs my attention.

  • I’m happy with how our priorities worked out: people before paperwork.

A- and household life

January 31, 2018 - Categories: parenting

We’re settling back into the rhythms of everyday life here in Toronto, although our sleep cycle still follows Manila time. Our routines at the moment: sleep, eat, clean up, play, tidy, take care of ourselves, and so on, with a little discretionary time for continuous improvement. As A- settles, we’ll get back to errands, appointments, and a few hours of consulting here and there.

The availability of full household support in the Philippines (cooking, cleaning, washing, errands, many tasks, and even babysitting) mostly meant that I spent more of my time with A-, especially helping A- interact with people. I did get a bit more paperwork done than I would have otherwise, as A- loved playing with water while people washed dishes. Still, there was enough slack in the day that we could often go on our own errands and wash our own dishes, both of which A- enjoyed greatly. The paperwork was not urgent, and it was much more valuable to share all those moments with A- and other people.

Now that we’re back in Toronto, W- and I keep our small household running by ourselves, with the help of machines. We’re working on simplifying and upgrading wherever it makes sense. I think it would be wonderful for A- to grow up deeply involved in the running of the household: to play with pots and pans, to learn to sort laundry, to develop fine motor skills making dinner. We still have toys and a play area for her, but she likes spending time in the kitchen with us, and we’re happy to include her.

So I probably don’t have to worry about setting up housekeeping or babysitting arrangements here, at least with our current needs. On one side, we can keep up enough with housework to stay happy. On the other side, I think I would mostly use freed up housework time to play with A-, and she probably benefits from the structure and variety of our chores. Besides, it gives her an opportunity to practice independent play, too. This is a privileged position, and it would be interesting to make the most of it.

With that in mind, how can I structure things so that it’s easier for her to get involved and grow in competence?

We’ve moved up to cutting with serrated knives with hand-over-hand guidance, and butter knives on her own if I think she’s attentive enough. It was great noticing her take the time to cut straight up and down instead of at an angle. I’ve been thinking about kids’ knives that require two-handed grips, but if we can help her safely learn using knives we already have, that would be handy.

She’s still working on the coordination needed for sweeping, but a hand-held vacuum might be a good fit for this in-between stage.

Montessori education suggests marking up a handkerchief to help kids learn how to neatly fold into quarters. I have plenty of flannel wipes and flat diapers that I can use for that.

She understands wiping surfaces, so it’s mostly a matter of practice and coordination. We found a spray bottle that she can activate if she uses both hands. If I let her play with it, we might even be able to help her learn how to use a home-made glass cleaner.

The bottom dishwasher is still broken, and we’re leaning towards eventually replacing the whole thing instead of fixing it yet again. She was a little interested in loading the dishwasher in the Philippines. If she picks up that interest again, I can help her load a few things from her tower.

Adding a trash can in her room can take advantage of her interest in labeling things as garbage and putting them away.

Of course, whenever she wants to move on to a different activity, that’s okay too. I expect she’ll generate more chaos than order for a long, long time. I think we’re figuring out a good mix taking care of ourselves, taking care of the house, and enjoying other activities. It’ll be interesting to see what this will be like with even more experience, and as our experiments in continuous improvement pay off!