Headlines for Friday:


Priorities - A: high, B: medium, C: low; Status - _: unfinished, X: finished, C: cancelled, P: pending, o: in progress, >: delegated. Covey quadrants - Q1 & Q3: urgent, Q1 & Q2: important
CC@1000 Possibly meet Andrew
AC@1400-1700 Q2 Prepare lab for DSS from 2005.10.07 (teaching)
AX@1900-2100 Q2 Prepare notes strategy
AXWrite Robert W. Erb a paper thank-you note for GTD book (social)


1. More about looking for geek role models

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Michael Olson wrote: <blockquote> I hope Google does a better job with your tech talk than they did at Purdue. A few things rankled me. Like bringing in an equal number of men and women to the talk, but no computer scientists among the women, just recruiters. All of the men, by contrast, were computer scientists. </blockquote>

You know, he has an interesting point there.

2. Research blog

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Yes, yes, yet another blog. http://blogs.imedia.mie.utoronto.ca/sacha/research/ will store my research notes. Really. Promise. Well, at least my research notes will stay there for maybe a week...

This replaces the boring one at http://blogs.mie.utoronto.ca . Wordpress is so much cooler than Roller.

I need a little bit more organization than Wordpress can give me, so I'll also be organizing http://blogs.imedia.mie.utoronto.ca/sacha/wiki/ sometime. If I can figure out how to properly blog on pmwiki, then I'll switch to that instead.

3. Tips for talking to other people

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I met Jessie at the Graduate Students Initiative lunch yesterday. She's a first-year grad student taking up a master's degree in chemical engineering while her husband takes an MBA. (Wow, that's tough!) She moved here around two months ago too, and is getting used to learning in English. We talked about how difficult it was to start conversations. I e-mailed her these tips afterwards. =)

- Take advantage of common ground. At a graduate student lunch, you know that everyone's a graduate student, so you can ask people the usual questions: What program are you taking? When did you start? Why University of Toronto? Do you have any tips for other grad students? If you're at the International Student Centre, ask about where people are from, when they moved here, what they learned while moving... In a club? Ask about how people got interested in the club and how the activities have been so far. =)

- Take advantage of the fact that you're new to Toronto. Ask about winter. Ask about places to shop or eat cheaply. Ask about things you're curious about. Most people love helping other people figure things out. It's a great way to get people in a conversation

- Read the newspaper. If you don't have time, just read the headlines and the editorials. This'll give you plenty of stuff to talk about.

- Don't worry if people don't seem friendly. Maybe they're just having a bad day. When talking to someone, you can figure out if they're interested in talking to you or if they just want to be by themself. If they smile, explain, and ask you questions, then even if you don't start off with any common interests, you're bound to find something interesting. On the other hand, if they sound distracted or they answer with very short sentences ("No. Yes. Fine."), maybe it's just not a good time to talk to them. Smile, thank them for their time, and move on.


4. Tips for time management

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Jessie and I also talked about the challenges of balancing the demands of research, studies, teaching, and life. She wanted to do an hour of exercise a week, but simply couldn't find the time for it. She felt overwhelmed with the things she needed to do.

I want to help her figure out how to gain control of her time. =) I sent her these tips to help her get started.

- Keep track of your time. For one week, write down everything that you do and how long it takes you to do it. You'll get an idea of where you're spending too much time and what you're not spending enough time on.

- Think about your priorities. What do you want to do with your life? Start from that and plan what you want and need to do this week. Schedule time in to work on things that are important to you. Then you can go through each day knowing that you've not only worked on the things that other people need you to do, but also the things that you want to do.

- Make the most of your time. Is whatever you're doing something you really need to do? Can you invest a little time in the beginning to save more time later on?

I have a spare academic planner that I'm no longer using because I have my own system for keeping track of my time. I'm thinking of giving it to her because I'm not using it anyway. =)

I'm also thinking of doing D*I*Y planner templates to help people do that kind of time analysis...

5. Enthusiasm

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From Year to Success: <blockquote>The source of the word "enthusiasm" comes from the Greek word <b>enthousiasmos</b>, which ultimately comes from the adjective <b>entheos</b>, "having the god within," formed from <b>en</b>, "in, within," and <b>theos</b>, "god."</blockquote>

I hope to live life not only with excitement, but with enthusiasm and passion.

6. More thoughts about Google and projects

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I'll keep Google internships in mind, as I really have AJAX and other fun Web stuff on my to-learn list. I mainly work with slightly-marked up plain text, though, so my "strong visual design sense" is... err... somewhat skewed.

I'm particularly interested in taking blogging beyond the browser and embedding it into people's everyday applications, because the people using the personal information manager I maintain tell me they're absolutely addicted to that ability. We're seeing people do really cool things because they can hyperlink tasks and notes to e-mail messages, files, web pages, chats, even BiBTeX entries... anything they felt like writing a plugin for. 'Course, all of this lives inside the wonderful little world of Emacs.

I'm curious about what would happen if someone brought this into the mainstream. If Google Desktop's done the heavy lifting of getting metadata from various applications, and if there's a way to recreate that state when someone follows a link, then tada! personal knowledge blogging becomes part of every application Google Desktop knows about, allowing people to richly annotate the stuff on their hard disk. With another set of rules for controlling the publishing of data, people can even share their notes on the Net. Even more fun.

IBM (T.J. Watson center) seems to be doing something similar with personal chronicling tools for enhancing information archival and collaboration in enterprises. They hooked into Microsoft Windows, too.

Possible hiccups:

- Google Desktop is still a Windows-only thing. I'm on Mac OS 10.3, so

no Spotlight for me! Beagle / Dashboard on Linux looks promising, though, as I think that also exposes the event stream for GNOME applications and allows people to write stuff that acts on the content.

- I have no HCI background to speak of yet. But hey, that's why I'm

taking a master's! (It's a wonder I got into U of T at all, but I guess my research supervisor took a chance on the fact that I enjoy learning and sharing what I've learned)... I like working with users, and it would be good to learn how to formally analyze a system.

- I'm one of those weird people! I use Linux. To be more precise: I

use Emacs and Firefox, and whatever runs underneath those two applications. I can't stand shell scripting in Windows, though, (even with Cygwin!) and the Mac feels different enough to be strange. Maybe if I focus on web stuff... (Yes, we're back in the browser. Fun Web 2.0 stuff is happening in the browser, though.)

And to think I asked for a Mac Mini because I wanted to try out crazy experiments like Quicksilver and Onlife... I'll need another computer--Windows, this time--just to cover all the bases!


% Breakfast Over-easy eggs and brown rice
% Lunch -
% Dinner Cheese spiral pasta and chicken nuggets
% Vitamins yes