February 2018

My story about my dad

February 1, 2018 - Categories: family

My sister started collecting stories for my dad months before his death so that he could read them. I posted this on Facebook so that my family could easily include it in their collection (which they did), but I forgot to put it on my blog too. So here it is.

From September 21, 2017:

Our visit home is almost done. I’m not sure when we’ll be back and how long my parents have, especially with my dad’s current health challenges. I’ve been preparing for this moment for years. Maybe I’ll have years more, or maybe not.

It’s good to write now, choosing the memories I want to treasure and the lessons I want to keep. My sisters have great memories of wild adventures with my dad. I’ve always been the quieter sort, happier at home than on the road or in the air. It means, perhaps, that I get to remember a different side to him than most people focus on.

I’ve been thinking about how my dad manages to make such outsized differences in the world. Banaue, advertising photography, RC flying, ultralight flying, the zoo, Photography with a Difference… Even now, he’s planning a national exhibit and an enduring celebration of heritage in Ifugao schools. He can do more in a month than many people do in a lifetime.

The obvious factors: tremendous energy and resourcefulness; playfulness; generosity; persistence almost to the point of stubbornness; constant learning; the skills of photography, editing, and storytelling; the support of my mom and people around them; larger-than-life ideas that spark other people’s enthusiasm; a charismatic personality; a sense for theatre and how to set things up; building relationships through teaching; the savviest use of social media that I’ve seen. I’m not sure. I’m piecing this together from stories and from watching my parents behind the scenes.

And this factor, the one that shines through in the quiet moments my parents share: empathy. My dad lets himself be moved, and he moves others. Not all causes, and not always successfully, but there is a bigness of heart to him, and I think people respond to that as much as they respond to the cheerful audacity of his ideas.

“Will you remember me?” he asks my toddler. I think of all the stories I’ve heard, the videos and front-page news articles he’s been featured in, the people who tell their own tales of encounters with him and were inspired by his example. I’ll share those with her, of course.

More than that, I hope to share the lessons we can learn about making our own differences. We don’t have to follow in his footsteps. I’m not sure anyone can. But we can practice the resourcefulness and resilience that helped him find ways around so many challenges. We can practice the constant learning that helped him hone his skills and the constant teaching that helped him build communities. We can practice the empathy and generosity that helped him move mountains.

And besides, he gave my toddler her first camera and her first Swiss knife. Who knows where those will take us, if we can learn how to use those two tools and what they represent, all the way to their fullest potential?

As for what he gave me… If I can face uncertainties with clear eyes and steady hands, planning for different scenarios and doing what needs to be done, it’s because I learned that from my parents. If I can feel lucky and excited, even now, it’s because of them.

Here are the four things I want to say:

We’re okay. Thank you. I love you. Let’s see.

2018-02-05 Emacs news

February 5, 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.

Week ending 2018-02-02

February 6, 2018 - Categories: review, weekly

(I hope this image gets properly sized – still working out my mobile workflow…)

We were mostly at home this week while A- gradually adjusted to Toronto time. We made it out to visit Jen and E- on Friday morning. A- also enjoyed going outside to play in the snow.

It was delightful to hear all the phrases bubbling up from A-. “Thank you” was her favourite phrase this week. She also got the hang of sequential requests with “And then…” and tried her hand at persuasion with “That’s okay.” She congratulated herself with “Good job!” “You did it!” and dealt with the occasional oopses with “Try again.”

She didn’t want to wear her conformer for a few days. I didn’t force the issue. No point, anyway, since she could just take it out again right after. I made my peace with possible long-term refusal, but kept trying with liberal use of “Please” and some discussion of why it might be worth the short-term discomfort. She eventually let me put it in, hooray! She removed it again a couple of days after, though, so it might be getting a bit uncomfortable.

We’re back to being able to do neighbourhood errands. A- often wants to go to the supermarket, where she insists on carrying her own basket or riding in the shopping cart.

A- was interested in stacking cans, so I suggested that she stack wooden blocks too. She built a tower out of eight blocks, and then delighted in knocking them down with various body parts.

As for us: I’ve been following up on my resolution to be more organized. I ordered a bunch of pouches from MEC. I sorted A-‘s clothes and donated another bunch of 18mo clothes to the EarlyON child centre. Continuous improvement!

Quick thoughts on leadership, impact, and finding my own path

February 9, 2018 - Categories: business, leadership, learning, purpose, reflection

I was talking to a friend about leadership, succession, and impact. In particular, my friend was curious about how to grow more leaders. I realized some things about how my parents made big differences and about how I want to grow.

Succession is hard. Big companies spend millions on leadership programs, have huge, motivated talent pools to draw on, and even turn to external recruitment, and it’s still uncommon to have a successful transition or a long-lived company. It’s even tougher in the nonprofit and volunteer worlds.

I wonder if going sideways can help work around the succession challenge. Instead of hoping for the right intersection of same time, same place, same Bat channel (an interested, capable, available potential leader turning up when you want to start grooming one and sticking around until the right time), what about the franchising approach instead?

I realized that this is one of the things my parents did, and that’s how they managed to do so much. They didn’t count on any one initiative staying around for the long term. My dad probably would have gotten impatient and bored anyway. Instead, they got the hang of quickly starting things up, and they inspired people to start similar efforts. After the first few projects, happy sponsors and relationships made the next ones easier and easier. My dad could just share a crazy idea on Facebook and people would sign up to help make it happen. Professionally, my parents cared about teaching both the art and the business of photography, and having workshops open even to active competitors.

This approach is probably out of scope from most leadership programs that focus on succession planning because they assume you need a specific thing to continue, but franchising is the closest business analogy, I think. It might be a good way to increase impact through a wider reach. It could be like:

  • Getting more out of the stuff you’re already doing: My dad was media-savvy. He could imagine the pictures and news articles that would come out of a project, and he was great at lining those up. Something similar (or partnering with someone who thinks about that sort of stuff) could increase the visibility and impact of things you’re already doing some making people feel good about the projects too.
  • Getting better at sharing the cool stuff you’re doing and the initiatives you’re involved in: pictures and stories on social media could let people find out about stuff, explore things you’re into, get updates, etc. Similar to the previous point, but more personal.
  • Accelerating your startup for ideas: people to talk to, channels for sharing ideas, ways to get people involved, templates, etc.
  • Getting better at sharing lessons learned, questions, and artifacts
  • Automating, simplifying and documenting processes so that people with less experience can do better work: Can be very useful for both your initiatives and other people’s, and it’s good for both direct succession and franchising. This is definitely my focus, and it’s awesome for expanding reach over space and time (even without active attention). My mom focuses on this too, although she often struggles with adoption. The E-Myth book might be relevant here.

Figuring out swarms might be an interesting challenge: how to quickly gather people around a particular project, and how to help other people with their own. There’s a lot that to practice even without a candidate successor, so that might be one way to keep growing.

At the moment, I’m focusing on:

  • automating/simplifying/documenting: Perfect timing! I need to make things simple enough so that a child can do it, and there happens to be one handy for testing. I also personally benefit from automating and simplifying things enough to fit into the snippets of discretionary time I have, and documenting things so that I can declutter my brain and make the most of scattered moments.
  • getting better at sharing lessons learned, questions, and artifacts: Hooray for blogging! I’m getting better at writing on my phone while A- sleeps on top of me (like right now), and I’ll figure out how to mix drawing back in, too. I’m probably never going to feel comfortable using the “expert” voice. I like the “Here’s what I’m figuring out, and here’s what I’m thinking about next” sort of approach. There are so many ways forward, and it’s fun to think of everything as a grand experiment.

We were talking about the 2×2 matrix of size of impact versus number of people affected. My friend said many people focus on the “big impact, lots of people” quadrant. I think I like the “small impact, few people” quadrant, which perfectly characterizes things like my Emacs stuff and my consulting. I like small fixes and improvements. I scale up by trying to help things stay fixed/improved and available even when I’m not actively thinking about them, which is why coding and writing fit me well. If I can get even better at making and sharing those little improvements, and making them findable when other people want them, that sounds like a good path for growing. I also like connecting the dots between ideas, which is another example of a small contribution that can have a larger effect.

The long-term impact could be mostly about the ripples from people I’ve helped (like the way I get to learn more about cool things to do with Emacs by people who tell me I helped them get curious about it a long time ago! :) ) and maybe maybe maybe someday, books worthy of being part of the Great Conversation / archive of human knowledge.

I probably won’t do anything as awesome as my dad’s advocacies, but I think this path of sharing little ideas, experiments, and lessons learned – this path could work for me. :) If it happens to resonate with you and you want to pass along lessons learned or share the things you’re figuring out, that would be great!

2018-02-12 Emacs news

February 12, 2018 - Categories: emacs, emacs-news

Week ending 2018-02-09

February 12, 2018 - Categories: review, weekly

Gross motor: A- practised walking forward on her balance bike. It was just a few steps, but hey, progress! She also enjoyed swimming. We had the toddler pool all to ourselves for a while, and she enjoyed walking in the shallow water and even kneeling just enough to dip her ears into the water. At the Science Centre, she had lots of fun following E-‘s example and running up and down corridors, climbing stairs, and so on.

Fine motor: She can screw together the oversized nuts and bolts in her toolkit. She was interested in the Duplo blocks. She liked adding a paper butterfly to the ROM exhibit.

Language: She used the word “need” to ask for something. Her first request? “I need a hug.” She thanked me afterwards, too. She’s getting pretty good at talking about recent events, like pointing to the fridge and saying, “Daddy bought new eggs.” Ithink she can talk about how she felt, too. For example, a kid accidentally knocked her down at the Science Centre. When we were chatting about the day during her bath, we got to that part and she said “A- sad.”

Household: She insisted that we make muffins, and she even brought out the muffin tin.

Social: She had such a great day on Friday hanging out with Jen and E-, and she was so excited to see W- that she was squeaking as she ran to the door. Joy gave us a kitchen playset, which A- liked. A- also put up with me having coffee with Eric and chatting about leadership. We made it out to music class, but she was pretty reserved. At home, she loved playing games with me (peekaboo, moving tunnels, fall down, toss hair/pompom).

Independence: She insisted on privacy while using the potty. She wanted to do most things by herself. She put on her own coat a few times.

Other: She passed her eye exam – perfect vision and healthy pressure in her right eye so far. Amusingly, she was indifferent to the first sheet of stickers offered by the doctor, but she quickly snatched the second sheet. She enjoyed hanging out at the family centre afterwards.

Us: I donated more clothes through the EarlyON family and child centre. We got a couple of IKEA Trofast units to organize A-‘s clothes and toys. Gradual decluttering!

January 2018

February 16, 2018 - Categories: monthly, review

It was one of those big months that somehow manage to contain so much.

We reshot our family picture because my dad wanted us to all wear Columbia clothes. We spent a few days relaxing at home and enjoying family time. Then my dad slipped into delirium and we took him to the hospital, where he died. The cremation, wake, and inurnment were all wonderful celebrations of an amazing life. I’ve written about most of the things I want to learn from my dad’s example and that I want to pass on to A-. I look forward to seeing how they work out in practice.

Most of the paperwork is underway. There’s dealing with the reconfiguration of our family dynamics, too. There’s a big gap where my dad used to be, of course. On the plus side, I have an even better appreciation of the strengths of my mom and my sisters. We’ll get through this.

A- had a grand time hanging out with her cousins, aunts, and grandparents. She figured out how to sit down and cross her legs. She liked bouncing on the bed and falling down forwards and backwards. She mastered the well-timed shrug. She peeled and ate lots of tiny oranges. She asked Lola and Tita Kathy to read her lots of books. She got over her anxiety about dolls. She often hugged people and accepted hugs.

The flights home were quite manageable, especially since we had the luxury of empty seats beside us during the Incheon-Toronto flight. Sleep deprivation, sniffles, and jet lag hit us hard on our return, but things got mostly back to normal after a couple of weeks.

At home, she quickly went through her favourite activities. She figured out how to build an 8-block-high tower and delighted in knocking it down using different parts of her body. We figured out how to dress for winter and have been making

A-‘s language capabilities really took off. She started saying things like “Thank you,” “You did it!”, and “Give it a try.” She explicitly imitated us: “A- make coffee just like Daddy make coffee.” She picked up lots of adjectives and modifiers: “very very sweet oranges.” She learned how to talk about negation: “Nobody,” “Tita Ching no wear glasses. Only Lola wear glasses.” She talked about recent events and anticipated upcoming ones. She even tried her hand at negotiation and persuasion: “Blueberries! (nod nod) That’s okay. That’s okay.”

February will be about settling in again and taking care of A-‘s medical appointments. I also want to spend some time rethinking my workflow considering our recent phone and tablet upgrades, and to think about where other upgrades might make sense.

2018-02-19 Emacs news

February 19, 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.