Category Archives: life

On this page:
  • Rant
  • Missing people
  • Life is good — reflections ()
  • On priorities ()
  • A very unusual weekend ()
  • Thesis demonstration

Rant

I’m here in Legaspi, so far from Makati and from everyone else I know. Got dragged off by my parents.

Looks like we’re not very sure about what date we’ll actually make it back.

I have a hard time dealing with that sort of thing. I would really, really, really like to go home today. In fact, I would really have liked to go home yesterday, or even not gone anywhere at all.

It’s just that I have a hard time dealing with unanticipated plans. This whole thing was an unplanned excursion. We were supposed to attend a wedding in Tagaytay – accepted, planned for, and scheduled around. We were supposed to stay there overnight – again, I had fair warning, so I was prepared for that. Then my crazy dad thought it a good idea to go south to Bicol.

I want to go home. I want to go home.

Now they’re talking of staying until Wednesday.

My family is quick to reassure me that we will find an Internet cafe sometime. As if that’s what’s bugging me. What would I do on the Internet? Check Slashdot? Earn good karma on #linuxhelp?

It’s not about that at all.

I am just not an adventure person. My idea of a good social activity is a quiet conversation over good food, and a nice game afterwards perhaps. I do not like substituting activities for conversation. I do not like going on great adventures.

One of the things I do not feel comfortable with on this trip is that I have no choice but to be here. I have no control. Even if I really wanted to go home – which I do! – I can’t do anything about it. In fact, my family seems to have acquired the idea that this adventure is a Good Thing for me.

I hate it.

I want to go home.

My parents think I have some previous appointments that I want to keep.

I’m used to having plans. I’m used to knowing where I’ll be in the next few days. I’m used to knowing what will happen.

And even if something unexpected happens, I’m used to being able to decide what to do about it. I do not like not having control.

And I just get the feeling that they don’t really care, which makes perfect sense of course because they finally have my two sisters together in one place, and that my parents have taken time out from their ultrabusy schedules. I’d rather that we _didn’t_ have these adventures and that we just regularly got together instead. I’d rather we didn’t have to treat it with such fuss. I’d rather that we didn’t have to make it such a big thing.

Yes, I know my sister will be married next year, and will henceforth probably have little time for our family. How is that any different from now? And yes, we so rarely go out as a family, and that I should value the time we all have together. Why have to guilt-trip me?

I want to be home.

What would I do if I were home, anyway? Nothing much, probably. Play Nethack. Talk to friends. Read the assigned work. Continue with life as usual. It’s not much, I know, but I can choose, and so I am fully present. Here… well… My sisters want to be off surfing and kayaking. My dad is going around taking pictures.

I suppose I resent being uprooted and my plans being changed. I do not like this uncertainty at all. I do not like not knowing where I’ll be the next day, or how long it will be until I get back. I do not like having to buy clothes one day at a time. I do not like it at all.

This is one of the things I will have to learn how to deal with eventually. But it will be hard to counter the effects of an upbringing that has always emphasized planning. You know what it’s like to show talent at an early age. People will have great expectations, and all your life is part of a plan. How unfortunate it would be if you were distracted, if you deviated from the course that had been set! True, the plan may change slightly, but in general you are not supposed to do anything that does not directly contribute to your plan.

Do only that which furthers your goal.

This is something I must change.

Okay, I feel better now.

Missing people

Part of being more social, I guess, is that I begin to miss people. I grow accustomed to their presence. I start looking forward to the next meeting, the next phone call, the next get-together with friends. Anticipation keeps me excited about the weekend.

But it also makes the weekdays harder to bear. Hours pass less quickly. I find myself passing the time with activities that do not engage me fully. Passing the time! How terrible an idea. To live sub-optimally for a number of days, just waiting for a few hours of fun… Whatever happened to the fun I used to find in hacking on some obscure bit of Emacs code or browsing through online documentation? My hours are spoiled by hope.

And when the weekend comes, what then? Hope can so easily turn into expectations, even though I know it is foolish to expect anything. I begin to wonder if things might not be better a different way. I begin to wish I was having a nice, deep conversation – or even a silly one – instead of just passively watching television. I begin to expect, to measure, and once I begin doing so I allow myself to become disappointed.

It does not have to be that way, does it? I should just remind myself that all of this is a nice extra; not essential, not expected, but appreciated whenever it’s there. Still, it is difficult.

True, there is much about this ‘being social’ that I enjoy. I like the conversations and the surprising insights other people have.

I do not need to pretend to be social in order to enjoy my life.

Perhaps I should end the social experiment and return to my normal routines. I miss those Saturdays of learning or coding or simply lazing around; days that were mostly under my control, that did not wait on anyone or anything in order

Life is good — reflections ()

So… hmm. Life is good. =)

Let’s see.

My grandmother (father’s mother) died at the ripe old age of 92, 93,
or 94, depending on who you asked and when you asked. She was… quite
a character, to say the least. Learned more about my fascinating
family history, which apparently is more scandalous than I thought -
and that’s saying a fair bit.

Social activity’s been up as well. The experiment is proceeding quite
satisfactorily – I have actually managed to be sort-of out for some
six Saturdays in a row now, which is a major breakthrough for a
certified geek such as myself. ;) I got somewhat claustrophobic,
however, as this Saturday involved a gazillion relatives packed into a
small room…

On the plus side, several friends dropped by. =) That was really nice.

Updates for the New Year. Oh, right, last New Year I got dragged off
to Daet and Legaspi for a vacation. It was actually pretty okay, once
I’d gotten over the shock of having a completely unplanned vacation
(we had to buy clothes one day at a time!). It took me a while to get
over that shock, though. I was, like, “I want to be home!”

I did sort of learn how to… Well, not surf. More like hang on
blindly to a board while desperately trying to keep my balance.

Love life still non-existent – Mom, am I even allowed to have a love
life before I get a PhD? – but friendships looking up. =) You
know who you are. Suffice to say that I feel really, really
lucky to have such friends.

And I have a grand total of 22 pages – 10 on Plato, 12 on Aristotle -
to write before Monday next week or I will get royally chewed out by
one of our most temperamental teachers. Rumor has it that he doesn’t
read papers all that closely, but still. So I will be pretty much
invisible for the next few whatevers.

More stories to tell, but not enough time – I promised to sleep early
tonight (if 11 can be called early), and the dark shadows underneath
my eyes have started to get really noticeable.

Life is good.

On priorities ()

Here’s the official word from my mom.

Harvey Chua [email protected] writes:

Dearest Sacha,

You will have plenty of time for a love life later on. For now, concentrate on your studies. But then, it’s your choice. I can’t be watching you all the time, so you would have to watch yourself and decide which or who(m) are your priorities. Just remember that there are rewards, repercussions or complications – depending on what actions or decisions you make. Judge well what is good for you.

Love you always,
Mom

P.S. See, you do have a love life. We all love you. I more than and
ahead of anybody and everybody else.

So, here are my priorities as of 20030113, not necessarily in order:

  • Get a PhD. The training will help me do research, and I’ll be able to pick up useful teaching techniques along the way.
  • Teach computer science. I really, really like computer science, and I want to help other people realize how fun and helpful it is.
  • Help people grow and reach their potential. (That includes helping myself grow. =) ) Still have to figure out how to help people do that.

I’m not completely devoted to this plan, and by that I mean that I understand that I am not absolutely essential to the progress and development of computer science. Still, I really like the field, and as one of those rare girls who actually enjoy computer science, I feel I have an opportunity to make a big difference. =)

I don’t think I want to have to deal with the possible complications of “being in luuuuuurv” until I’ve earned my PhD and have established a name for myself. So that pretty much rules out formal, long-term, conventional romantic relationships (eeeeew! ) for a long time. I suppose that should postpone all dilemmas until after I finish graduate school, by which time I should have a better understanding of all of this.

This does not, however, prevent me from appreciating the friends I have. I know that really good friendships help me grow as a person and achieve my dreams, and indeed the warmth and support I receive from my family and friends is something I treasure.

And it really is rather nice to interact with people. I think I have recently figured out how to get around my occasional
spells of antisocial-ness. It seems to be simply a matter of practice and will, and I must give credit to some friends who don’t know that they helped me figure it out.

There is something to be said about love and growth, if my Philosophy and Theology classes have any truth to them. I also have to watch out – might become _too_ rational or need too much control over my life. ;) Like for example, I have a bit of a hang-up regarding the word “love”, since it can mean quite different things to people, and I’m a little afraid of becoming incontinent as defined by Aristotle. (See? I get to use Philo after all.) Distraction is doubleplus ungood, but so is neurosis.

I love computer science not just because of the abstract algorithms and programs, but more because of the people I get to meet and help and learn from. So I’m into this whole social thing, but I’m just taking things a little at a time. Kinda like the spiral model of software development. ;)

I’m sure we’ll all manage to figure something out. =) So basically, people know my plans. If you think that you can help me become a better person and that I can help you become a better person, then we’ll see how things work out.

This is published for future reference, since it’s nice to have more information. =)

A very unusual weekend ()

As I was saying, it has been a very unusual weekend.

Relatives from my father’s side of the family (the one with the
convoluted family history) came over from Daet. I ended up getting
appointed official babysitter, my two sisters having escaped from the
job by some unknown means.

Saturday, of course, was quite a busy day for me. Two of my friends
are taking a multimedia class that requires the submission of a
trailer. Naturally, they chose to do the trailer for a game they’re
working on. For that, they needed a rotating video of a girl using the
computer. Guess who ended up volunteering for this no-budget
production? ;) It was a lot of fun. We managed to finish at
midnight. Although Eric and Dennison weren’t completely satisfied with
the video, they figured it would do. I was okay with doing a reshoot
(hooray for phenylethylamine!), but they decided to wrap up.

The next day found me in bed until three. After a quick
discussion and much protest (“What do I know about babysitting? I’m
the youngest in the family!”), it was decided that I would babysit the
kids. Oh joy. So much for a day of quiet e-mail and
conversation… I found out about my task while on the
phone with Eric, and he made me choose between letting him come (but
he’s working on a paper!) and letting him ask Jerome for
reinforcements. I resignedly allowed him to go and inform Jerome as
long as his message didn’t imply “Sacha insists”. It had to be more of
a “Sacha wouldn’t really mind.” Important difference! It was, after
all, Sunday, a normally off-limits day.

Jerome came while we were playing Monopoly on the roofdeck. He did
quite well – a flurry of trades helped all of us get monopolies, but
luck would have all of us landing on his properties! Then the
kids decided to start a pillowfight in the room on the
roofdeck… which of course led to my hiding under some pillows and
claiming non-combatant status. Arko (one of the young girls)
seemed to have been particularly picking on Jerome, and all of them
even ganged up on him and tickled him. =) He was a good sport, though,
even entertaining them with (of all things) soap opera
impersonations. That was probably brought on by Arko’s insistence that
I was married to someone in the States and that I had children
already…

Arko apparently decided to be my chaperone, insisting on always
interposing herself between me and Jerome. It was kinda funny,
even. She banned us from winking at each other, talking in another
language (Japanese was _very_ useful, even with my limited
vocabulary), and even talking in ‘advanced’ English (jargon was also
quite useful).

Still, I can say that I rather enjoyed taking care of the kids. We
survived, barely, although I’m not sure if the stuffed toys did.
Now it’s back to work and school and everything else.

Thesis demonstration

I’m not really sure where to begin demonstrating what I’ve been
working on. Unlike the other groups who are creating something new
and easy to explain, I’ve been spending the last few months exploring
a different way of life. My contribution to the computer science body
of knowledge isn’t some killer application or breakthrough theory, but
rather experiments, documentation and incremental improvements.

My project is about wearable computing. I aim to show that it can be
done inexpensively, using only off-the-shelf equipment and free
software. To that end, I have been gradually adapting Emacs to
wearable computing needs. Most of what I am demonstrating is not my
code, but the use of it is uncommon even in the Emacs and Emacspeak
communities, and so my contributions have mostly been in the form of
documentation and patches. I have also become the official maintainer
of planner.el, a text-based organizer for Emacs.

Since I’ve based my project off Emacspeak, a lot of things were
instantly accessible. For example, I can easily check the time and
date by pressing C-e t. Emacspeak also allows me to work with
practically all modules in Emacs. Because this foundation is already
quite good, I decided to focus on documenting its setup, demonstrating
its usability and writing or improving upon Emacs features.

Notes

I have been using this to organize my notes, although in class I tend
to turn off sound and use the keyboard in order to keep up with the
teacher. School notes are organized by day.

Mail
Other information

Ateneo library books

More work to be done

Beautiful documentation =)
get a serial to USB adapter so that I can use my phone again.
solve APM kernel problems
get wireless to work reliably, probably via cantenna