On this page:
  • The best birthday gifts
  • The emperor’s three questions
  • Reflections on 2005
  • Lessons learned from the past week
  • Divergence
  • The changing face of Katipunan

The best birthday gifts

What do you give people on their birthdays? People struggle so much
with that question, often giving up and grabbing the first gift-ish
thing they see at the store and accompanying that with a few scribbled
words on a Hallmark card.

It’s always been hard to think of what to give my parents. They can
get anything they want. My father, in particular, is not the kind of
guy who will wait for an occasion in order to give himself something.
When he sees something he likes – or something that we’ll like – he
just goes out and gets it.

Ideally a gift-thing would be what people would love but never think
of getting for themselves. How deeply you must know someone in order
to do that! I still don’t feel that I know my dad enough to
second-guess his wallet. ;) I’d rather give him something he can’t
buy: memories.

I think memories are the best birthday gifts of all. You can create
new memories by spending time with people and being completely present
for them. You can share old memories by telling people stories about
how they touched your life. You can help make future memories by
listening to their dreams.

Birthdays are perfect times to think about the past year and imagine
the next. As natural milestones, they give you a chance to reflect on
the meaning of your life in the company of good friends. Unlike on New
Year’s Day, the celebrant does not have to share the spotlight with
other people. Birthdays are a good excuse for people to gather those
who are close to their heart and celebrate them, in turn being
celebrated by them.

The best birthday gifts I’ve ever received? Letters, without a doubt.
One of my treasures is a clearbook of the letters I received on the
occasion of my 21st birthday, when I was leaving for Japan. Whenever I
flip through it, warm and fuzzy feelings wrap me, and I remember the
laughter and love of friends.

For my 22nd birthday, I asked my friends to write their two-year plans
and a short letter on some 3×5 index cards. Although my friends
good-naturedly groused about it being the _only_ party they’d ever
gone to that had _seatwork_, they wrote – and this deck of dreams is
something that I flip through on occasion to remind me that people
care.

For my 23rd birthday this August 12, I don’t want to receive any
gifts. I want memories, stories, dreams. Write me a letter or record a
podcast or capture it on video. Tell me a story about how I’ve touched
your life, and these warm thoughts will sustain me through winter and
hot chocolate days. Tell me a story that reveals who _you_ are and who
you want to be, and that will deepen our friendship. Tell me of your
dreams and that will help me help you build your future.

Send my parents a thank-you note, too. After all, my _mom_ did all
the hard work on my birthday… <laugh> What parents wouldn’t
like to hear about how wonderful their son or daughter is?

Know anyone whose birthday is coming up? Put away that credit card and
send some memories instead! =)

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Random Japanese sentence: 猫はミルクを全部飲んでしまったの、とメアリーはたずねました。 Mary asked if the cat had drunk all of the milk.

The emperor’s three questions

From http://www.textfiles.com/stories/emperor3.txt :

Remember that there is only one important time and that is
now. The present moment is the only time over which we have
dominion. The most important person is always the person you are
with, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have
dealings with any other person in the future? The most important
pursuit is making the person standing at your side happy, for
that alone is the pursuit of life.

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Reflections on 2005

This year saw me in three countries: Japan, Philippines, and Canada.
On the surface level, I learned about a fair number of things: Jakarta
Struts, Ruby, engineering psychology and human performance…

Other things I learned:

  • I love writing. One article in the Linux Journal resulted
    in dozens of e-mail. My column in Computerworld On Campus got a lot of
    feedback from students whose lives I’d touched (even if only lightly).
    My weekly posts on diyplanner.com get feedback, too. I love writing. I
    can affect people through it. What took me so long?

  • I need people. This was the year that my current barkada
    really came together. The year started with the Digital Pinay fiasco,
    which was how Clair and I really got to know each other. The year also
    saw Slycesoft developments and our little triumphs and crises. I’m
    also very glad I have Dominique and my family. =) With them, the
    future looks even better.

  • I have much, much more to learn about the working world.
    If I could do one thing over this year, it would be that span
    of time at a company in Cebu. Looking back, I can see how I could’ve
    been more politically sensitive. It was a valuable lesson, and one
    I’ll keep in mind.

  • I want—no, _need_—to make a difference. =)
My biggest challenge for 2005: graduate school

My biggest challenge was adapting to graduate school. I found it
difficult to be motivated and confident. I had a really bad attack of
the impostor syndrome that made me almost quit my teaching
assistantship because I felt I was doing the students such a
disservice by teaching something I didn’t really know. The students
reassured me, my professor and the previous teaching assistant helped
me, and even the assistant department chair called me in and
half-scolded, half-encouraged me.

The engineering psychology and human performance class was
interesting, too. The lab reports really helped me review statistics,
and I enjoyed writing. If I could do one thing differently, I wish I
had kept my new-found study habits instead of getting frustrated in
lectures. I used to read ahead, but I found it difficult to pay
attention in class, so I ended up just reading afterwards. Maybe
graduate-oriented classes will be more engaging.

Searching for a good project was also very difficult. My research
supervisor and I went through so many ideas. Because I didn’t have a
clear research question in mind, I felt adrift and frustrated. I
wasn’t sure if graduate school was worth the opportunity cost. I’m
happy now, though. We’ve found something that not only fits in with
our short- and medium-term goals, but also helps me with my long-term
goals. I think social search provides interesting possibilities,
particularly if we can make it much easier to do, much more
mainstream. I’m curious about whether we can make it easy to filter by
multiple networks, too. I still feel a little guilty about not having
completed my reading paper, but I resolve to turn in an absolutely
wonderful one next term! =)

I think the secret to life is being fully in the present, wherever I
am. I’m looking forward to throwing myself into the metadata course
when I get back to Canada, and I’m setting aside time to read papers
while on vacation.

Best memories for 2005

Listening to my family’s stories. Chasing horses and ice cream carts
while learning photography. Hanging out with my friends. Geek lurv.
(Hi Dominique! Hi Clair and JM! Hi Paolo and Kris! Hi Marcelle and
Gin! ;) ) Digital Pinay smackdown. Long phone calls and Skype
sessions. Cryptograms. Graduate House people and activities. New
friends and old friends. =)

Goals for 2006

  • Read more. I want to read at least a book a week and a
    scholarly paper a day.

  • Write more. I want to write a scholarly paper. I want to
    continue writing articles for magazines. I want to post thoughtful
    pieces on my blog more often. =)

  • Study more. I want to make my department glad they took a
    chance on me. =)

  • Do more. I want to lay the groundwork so that I have an idea of
    what to do after my master’s degree.

  • Live more. I want to make more friends in the Philippines and
    in Canada. I want our barkada to grow—fresh blood! =)—and I want to
    find a group of people I can hang out with in Canada.

  • Be more. I want to make a difference (even a small one!) at
    least every week.

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Lessons learned from the past week

  • I’m very finicky when it comes to organizing. None of the popular
    organizing forms quite fit the weekly schedule + TODO list that I
    want to use. Custom letter-size forms are easy to make. I’m not sure
    how well I can translate to a smaller size; maybe if I do one week
    per page and then have the TODO list on the next page…
  • Last week was find-a-group week. I tried Toast IT, Zero Gravity
    Circus and JCSA. Toast IT was the best in terms of social
    interaction, self-improvement and networking. That’s something
    that’s earned a fixed place on my calendar. I can join the other two
    groups maybe once a month.
  • I’m pretty good at impromptu speeches and networking, but not really
    social small talk. I work best when the context is well-established
    and I feel I have something to offer people. That’s why Toast I.T.
    works very well for me, but social chats like JCSA language
    exchanges don’t really do the trick.
  • Keeping track of my expenses is a breeze with Gnucash, a free and
    open source program that makes record-keeping fun and easy. I just
    sent my mom a summary of my credit card transactions and a detailed
    transaction report for everything involving a credit card. Whee!
  • Working out my finances is scarily fun. I’ve just finished drawing
    up yearly and monthly spending plans based on a general guide for
    international students and my expenses for the past two weeks. I
    used OpenOffice.org Calc to recalculate remaining monthly
    budget automatically as I put in my initial estimates and then
    adjusted them based on my spending goal. I’ve decided to allocate
    more money to groceries and books than I had previously spent, and
    I’ve built in a small splurge allowance for little things I want.
    I’ll test that spending plan this month and post additional
    reflections in September.
  • The calendar I’m using right now really works for me. I should look
    into making an electronic version of it so that people reading my
    website can get a better feel of how I like to plan my day. I also
    need to work on a good contact management system to keep track of
    all the people I meet (and it turns out that I meet quite a number
    of new people each week)…

今日ほとんどの子供が持っているビデオゲーム機でさえコンピュータである。 Even videogame machines owned by most children today are computers.

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Divergence

Knowing how I wanted to practice my Japanese, Mark Chignell told me
about a couple of Japanese-related events this weekend. (Isn’t it nice
to have a research supervisor who keeps track of your extracurricular
interests?)

The first event was a language exchange session held last Saturday, at
which I ran into no other than Baryon Posadas. Come to think of it, I
shouldn’t have been that surprised. Of course he’d be at a
Japanese-language event.

Everyone was heading off to Starbucks to chat over coffee. I wanted to
ask how he had been, but I needed to go to Clarkson Station to meet
Tita Sol. We tried to work out some other time to meet, but he had
promised to help someone move and he needed to find an apartment, and
a lot of other things. Technically, I think I’m supposed to e-mail him
if I want to meet him for coffee (or hot chocolate), but now that I
think about it, I don’t have much to chat with him about. Except
perhaps for general settling-in questions, like where’s a good place
to open a bank account or get a credit card, and I already sorta know
the answers to those questions.

Anyway, I went to the barbecue today because it meant a free lunch. I
didn’t get to practice my Japanese, though, as I didn’t feel up to
making small talk in a foreign language—not when there was a
perfectly good conversation to have with Mark about research plans and
what I should do while he’s off in Japan. (Yes, we were talking about
work. On a Sunday! During a long weekend!)

During a lull in the conversation, we wandered around in search for
non-MSG chips. Baryon was there at the table with the unflavored
chips, so I briefly introduced them to each other. Mark got drawn into
a conversation with a bunch of Japanese girls, so I was left on my
own. I asked them if I could sit there. I sat there for maybe a
minutes, idly munching on chips. Got bored, found it difficult to
break into a clique, eventually thought of a question to ask Mark and
left the table without a word.

Anyway, the entire thing prompted a reflection on divergence. I’d
borrowed a number of books from him before (speculative fiction,
mainly), and that was our common interest. Now my reading tastes have
changed (non-fiction and children’s lit) and our worlds are really
very different now.

Mark’s a pretty good judge of character, and he picked up on the
differences too. <laugh> In fact, he thought Baryon was strange.
I shrugged and said, “He’s from humanities.” (Nothing against the
humanities, of course. Hi Marcelle!)

I think that energy makes a big difference to me. Mark’s a positive,
high-energy kind of person, which is one of the reasons why I get
along with him very well. Baryon and a number of other people I know
don’t show that kind of energy often. They’re more reserved and
detached.

If you take a look at the people I love hanging out with (Hiya, Just
Geeks League! ;) ), they’ve all got positive energy. One of the things
I like about chatting with Dominique is the way his smile comes
through so well in his voice, and you know his face shows it too! Even
Sean’s deep and serious voice hides playfulness and wit. (You should
watch his Hulk impression… It’s hilarious!) Even though they have
problems like everyone else, their upbeat personalities make the tough
times easier to weather.

I don’t know if Baryon’s like that, and I somewhat remember that he
laughs and joke about some things. Although it would be nice to pick
his brains about stuff I need to know as an international student in
Toronto, I think it would be a fair bit of work to get to the point
where conversation’s comfortable. I’ll probably focus on developing
new contacts instead, at least for now.

もうすぐみんなが自分のコンピュータを持つだろう。 Everyone will have his own computer before long.

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The changing face of Katipunan

My sister had an appointment in the Katipunan area today. She dragged
me along because she wanted to do a market study of the billboard ads
along the route, so I took pictures and videos while she drove. She
warned me in advance that I’d have to wait for about an hour. I agreed
anyway, knowing that it would give me time to reacquaint myself with
the area around my university.

The ill-considered and inconvenient Metro Manila Development Authority
(MMDA) anti-pedestrian fences were still there, cutting off access to
Ateneo de Manila University. Not relishing the idea of a long walk to
the pedestrian overpass in the noon sun, I decided to wander around
the area near KFC.

A striking addition to the landscape is My Place,
an upscale high-rise dormitory with full amenities, which I plan to write about later.
Parts of it are still being finished, but I heard that there are already over a dozen tenants.

Eyrie is no more. I had planned to eat lunch there, remembering the
kind, pudgy proprietor who was familiar enough with us to mock-scold
me one time for being late for a dinner appointment. I loved meeting
people there for good food at reasonable prices, chatting over baked
macaroni or that wonderful vegetarian pasta with portabello mushrooms.
Alas, it joined Martha’s Kitchen as yet another victim of progress—or
regress, considering the MMDA obstruction is probably to blame for all
of this.

The building that used to house Eyrie, The Filipino Bookstore, and the
Ti Breizh cafe has fallen into the shadow of Blueskies, an Internet
cafe and gaming arena formerly limited to the second and third floor
above the corner flower shop. Internet cafes stretch from edge of
Katipunan to the empty lot before Eagle Star Condominum.

Even the tutorial center at the corner near Tapa King has repurposed
most of its space into an Internet cafe and video editing workspace.
The only remnants of its past: a few stools, a narrow study area and
some posters advertising a 50-hour tutoring package for math, English
and abstract reasoning. Such a stark contrast from the quiet, spacious
place I remember peeking into before. How you can create a conducive
study environment crammed in between computer tables is beyond my
imagination.

Well, that’s the changing face of Katipunan for you. The MMDA
pedestrian barrier, much cursed by people on both sides of the divide,
choked the casual lunch and dinner-with-school-friends crowd. Good
food isn’t enough to make people walk, but gaming works. Go figure.

I have no idea how KFC survives, but then again, it’s KFC.

Update: Allan adds:

The ones who owned the tutorial center beside tapaking
also own the computer shop. Their tutorial center (i forgot the name)
has moved above rustans beside pc express

近年では、電子コンピュータがますます重要になってきた。 In recent years electronic computers have become increasingly important.

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