2008: Annus Mirabilis

What an incredible year!

Di's wedding We took two trips to Manila: the first to introduce W- and J- to my family, and the second to attend the wedding of one of my best friends from high school. It was well worth all those nights of rice and beans–which were delicious, so that was no sacrifice. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is that W- can joke about local details like Cash and Carry or my barkada‘s hijinks. Manang Norma taught him how to make laing and pinakbet, and my dad taught both of us about high-speed photography. My godparents interrogated W- over tea, which (in the classic Filipino tradition) lasted until late evening. Now that he knows more about the home where I grew up, I feel more at home here in Canada.

Mali NekoDuring our trip, W- and J- met Mali, the elephant my dad takes care of at the zoo, and we all enjoyed feeding her bananas. I also introduced them to my cat, Neko. She gave W- the seal of approval by deigning to sit on his lap, which she doesn’t do for just anybody.

planeThe trips were full of experiences. We went to Pagsanjan Falls, Tagaytay, and a few other interesting places in the Philippines. My dad flew us around the ricefields and rivers of Angeles in an ultralight plane. We were serenaded by the UP Singing Ambassadors over dinner, too!

J- We’ve been practicing photography, and have started buying glass (lenses) and light (flashes). We’ve been getting plenty of practices at events like W-‘s grandfather’s 98th birthday, at which we all had a turn at being photographers – and being voice-activated light stands. We had our very first fashion shoot, too, taking pictures of J- in her back-to-school clothes.

This was the year of baked awesomes. I told W- a story about egg tarts and how some boys used to bring them for my family while courting, and he promptly figured out how to make egg tarts that beat anything you’d find at Lord Stow’s Bakery. He sometimes surprises me with freshly-baked cinnamon rolls or corn-bread muffins. Not to be outdone, I occasionally make cakes or piles of cookies. We’ve perfected our own <insert favourite topping> oatmeal cookie recipe, and have put it to good use during play-dates, tea parties, and dinner parties.

Fortunately, we’ve been reasonably active. During the earlier part of the year, W- and I took krav maga and yoga lessons. J- has just received her yellow belt in aikido, and is taking swimming lessons, too. Now that the weather’s cooler and the mosquitoes have disappeared, we’ve started hiking the Bruce Trail. The GPS unit W- picked up prevents us from getting too lost, and that’s nice to know when it’s cold and snowy.

I’m slowly getting the hang of winter. The hats I picked up at a Tilley sale are good at keeping my ears warm and my spirits up. The hiking staff helps me navigate slush and ice. And there are little things to look forward to – winter walks with W-, tobogganing down the hill… Well, I’m here, so I might as well find something to get me through!

Luke and Leia On a wintry day, there’s only one thing more wonderful than having a warm, purring cat: having two! The story begins with Magic, a stray cat who followed us home one fall evening, and became our guest for two weeks while we searched for her original owners. Shortly after we returned Magic to her grateful family, we adopted Leia from Toronto Animal Services. After Leia recovered from her sniffles and was spayed, she became such a wonderful cat that we just had to adopt another one. Thus Luke entered our lives. There’s never a dull moment with those two around, especially when they hear the fridge, microwave, crinkling plastic, or any sound associated with feeding time.

It’s been a terrific year at IBM, too. I’ve gotten really deeply into Drupal hacking, and I’m having a lot of fun. I’ve also facilitated a number of workshops and delivered talks on Web 2.0, social networking, and Generation Y. My team keynoted a couple of conferences – that was fun, too. I developed my own presentation style (ooh, stick figures) that made my self-introduction one of the winners of Slideshare.net’s Worldwide Best Presentation Contest. I’m totally rocking my work. ;) You know, I might be getting the hang of application development and consulting… this is cool!

I’ve been learning a lot outside work. After four chapters of my Emacs book, I got distracted with all the cool Drupal stuff I did at IBM, so Emacs hacking got put on hold. I’ve recently resumed tweaking my configuration and sharing my notes, and I’m looking forward to more Emacs customization. I’m working on my visual communication skills, challenging myself to express abstract ideas through photographs (stock images or my own) and doodles. I’m getting better at connecting the dots between people and other people, ideas, or resources for making things happen, and that’s tons of fun too.

What’s next for me in 2009? More Drupal and Emacs hacking – there’s so much I can do now, and I can’t wait to learn more. I’d like to think about and share more things we’ve learned from social computing at IBM, too. I also want to learn how to organize events, and I’m volunteering to help with some of my favorite events in Toronto. I want to learn more about regularly connecting with people, and I hope to have monthly dinner parties and other get-togethers. I’m looking forward to learning more about illustrating and writing, and you’ll see stuff like that in my blog. I still have a lot of paperwork to do for my permanent residency application, but I hope to get that sorted out next year. I’m looking forward to 2009 – it’ll be awesome, too!

Happy holidays! Tell me about your year in a blog post or a comment – I’d love to know your 2008 highlights and 2009 plans!

2008 summary

My life as a 25-year-old

I’ll be turning 26 on Wednesday, and I thought I’d review the past year. I wrote a Ruby program to crunch the tagging statistics of my blog, and I saw some patterns I thought I’d like to share with you. Here’s a tagcloud of the 25th year of my life (showing only popular tags used from Aug 2008 to July 2009). Below it, you can see the biggest losers and biggest gainers in terms of tags, as compared to my life as a 24-year-old.

The drops in Emacs-related posts is because I stopped working on the Wicked Cool Emacs book, which Ian Eure is now working on. Instead, we’ve adopted two cats, I started doing a lot more Drupal at work, and I picked up a few new interests.

It’s pretty cool being able to see things like that. =)

Diagrams were created in Inkscape, after crunching my WordPress XML file using a Ruby REXML stream parser and some OpenOffice.org fiddling.

Life as a 25-year-old

It’s great to be able to look back and really look back–to be able to review a year’s worth of blog posts, to remember, to see how much I’ve changed and how much I’m still the same.

Here were the goals I set for myself last year:

By August 2009, I’d like to be able to look back and say that I’ve:
  • completed a book on Emacs (whether published by No Starch Press or self-published)
  • increased my reach and responsibilities at and outside work
  • completed my paperwork for the permanent residency application (Canadian experience class?)
  • continued to donate 10% of my income
  • continued to save at least 50% of my income
  • developed another income source aside from salary, interest, and index growth
  • learned how to cook at least 20 new recipes



The book on Emacs fell by the wayside as I started doing more and more Drupal development at work. I turned the project over to Ian Eure, another Emacs blogger whom I greatly admire. At work, I became a Drupal guru, and I spoke at DrupalCon on the deployment processes. I submitted my paperwork for the Canadian Experience Class skilled worker permanent residency. I have a fair amount of money in circulation on Kiva.org and earmarked for the Toronto Public Library, although less than the 10% I’d targeted. I’ve been able to save 52% of my income, building a healthy retirement fund, an investment fund, and a dream fund.  I haven’t developed another major income source, although I’ve identified a number of opportunities that I could turn into income someday. As for recipes–I’ve had lots of fun cooking, and I’m sure I’m well past that number.

Compared to my 24th year, my life as a 25-year-old wasn’t about major changes. It’s hard to top all the shifts that happened in 2007-2008: graduating, starting at IBM, getting used to the idea of being in Canada… 2008-2009 was much calmer. I discovered my inner domestic goddess as we acquired two cats (both adopted from the shelter), a sewing machine, a garden, a canner, numerous pictures and frames, a number of camera lenses, and a love for making and photographing things. I built on existing skills such as drawing and presenting, and I branched into new hobbies such as improv and playing the piano. I’m still as much in love with both my partner and my work as I was a year ago, which is absolutely wonderful. My in-jokes with W- are deeper and richer, thanks to another year of shared experiences. At work, I became the go-to person for Drupal because of my development skills–and then I switched hats and took a consulting/networking role created for me. I’ve started experimenting with ways to make life even better: trying out delegation, exploring crafts, creating experiences… Life is amazing!

My favourite posts:

I’m looking forward to learning even more about my passions and interests, people, and life. When I turn 27, I hope to be able to look back and say that I:

  • created another year’s worth of experiences, memories, and dreams
  • helped build innovation networks and shared what I’ve learned with others
  • helped build Drupal skills within the company
  • wore something I made every day
  • enjoyed home cooking and explored new recipes
  • relaxed in improvised situations
  • saved half of my income and donated a tenth
  • got to the point of having a place for everything, and everything in its place
  • built and deepened more friendships
  • figured out what I know, what I want to learn, and how to share both of those
  • shared my happiness and enthusiasm with even more people

Thanks for sharing an amazing year with me. =) Looking forward to future adventures!

Turning 30: A review of the last decade

Thirty is an excellent milestone birthday. The twenties involved tons of change—and unlike my teenage years, I can actually remember and reflect on what I learned during my twenties. (This is not entirely true. I can remember bits and pieces of high school and university. I don’t have good notes, though.)

At thirty, I’m at the threshold of even more changes. I don’t know what the next ten years hold. There are at least two excellent but wildly divergent paths I could take. We’ll just have to see.

Hollywood movies tell me that I should be lamenting my happy-go-lucky twenties or trying to squeeze in that last hurrah before I settle down. When was the last time I listened to them, anyway? I’ve long since swapped my New Year’s Eve staying-up for my now-traditional tuck-into-bed-long-before-the-fireworks-go-off. I survived my twenties without going clubbing or getting bitten by the travel bug, so I’m already well outside the Hollywood playbook.

I’m looking forward to turning thirty. And forty. My real goal is to get to ninety and more with an awesome life, so I’m just a third of the way there. Plenty more to go.

A blog is an awesome time machine. It’s a little mind-boggling, but I’ve been blogging for almost twelve years. Last year, I made a compilation of my favourite blog posts: not necessarily the most useful or the most commented, but the ones that I wanted to remember for decades. I rated all my posts on a scale of 1-5, and kept only the ones that I rated 5. I called the compilation Stories From My Twenties (although I cheated and threw in a handful of blog posts from my late teens). As an experiment, I had the cheek to charge for it. (Not much, just the rough equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate. Now it’s pay-what-you-want, so you can treat me to lunch if you feel particularly nice.)

Good thing I did that, because it made reviewing the past decade much easier. Here’s my twenties in one page: (Click the image for a larger version)

20130717 Stories From My Twenties - colored

Things I do better or more often now than when I was 20:

  • Learning and sharing interesting things
  • Planning, taking calculated risks, making decisions
  • Dealing with life, business, paperwork, etc.
  • Drawing and visual thinking
  • Reviewing the past and imagining the future
  • Tracking data and analyzing it, managing finances, and so on
  • Building tools and learning technologies
  • Being more independent

Things I probably do worse or less often:

  • Asking for help
  • Hanging out with friends or family
  • Teaching
  • Travelling

Here’s what I want to do for my thirtieth year:

  • Learn about all sorts of interesting things in life, tech, visual thinking, and more.
  • Share: Get into the habit of creating resources, like these drawing tutorials and blog posts based on my outline. Release the resources with the pay-what-you-want model so that the ideas can go as widely as possible while still allowing people to show their appreciation or vote with their dollars.
  • Scale by organizing my site so that people can find good stuff, even if I’m not awake to help people find things.
  • Oh, and get back to working on those relationships with people outside the house, as tempting as it will be to spend all my time at home. =)