Category Archives: reflections

Index cards for today: Boredom prevention device, Contingency plans, Hipster PDA, Taxi

IndexCards written today:

Boredom prevention device My boredom prevention device is a pack of index cards. Whenever I find myself with unexpected free time, I scribble down a thought or two. This leaves me with no excuse for not writing. I like it more than a notebook because I can easily rearrange topics. Besides, the size of an index card encourages me to write, while a notebook intimidates me with all that blank space. Small notebooks are hard to write on, but index cards can be separated from the pack for easy scribbling. I like them a lot.
Contingency plans If I don't go to UToronto this year, I can: continue my MA Education in Ateneo, join infoweapons for two years, learn theater and assorted things, and/or explore other scholarships.
Hipster PDA That's a fancy name for what I'm using now. 2" fold-back clips are a bit too big. The handles extend past the card if I anchor it at the bottom, so I anchor it near the right side instead. Still have to find a way to attach a pen to this thing. Found 3"x5" organizer refills, and the month template looks like it will be very handy. The day template could help me with time logging. I've added 20 2"x3" sticky notes to the card before my reflections and a bunch of blank cards to the end, just in case. Brilliant idea: I should add song lyrics to my pad...
Taxi I always feel nervous when taxis take "shortcuts" through unfamiliar streets. Long routes make me wonder how far off we go. Small, crowded streets make me feel especially anxious. I guess it's because I don't trust cab drivers not to try to take advantage of me.

その猫は飛びかかろうとして低く身構えた。 The cat crouched down ready to jump.

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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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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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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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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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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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