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Headlines for Sunday:

Tasks

    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@1200-1700 Toronto Vegetarian Association picnic, Bloor and High Park
    CX@1300 Toronto Ruby Users Group
    AXKeep in touch with family and friends

Notes

1. Purposeful interaction: 00:21

I realized yesterday that one of my weaknesses is that I'm usually more reactive than proactive when it comes to interacting with people. It's very easy for me to connect with people and help them feel comfortable. I feel good when I help people relax or think.

This has its dangers, however. I've often focused more on what will help other people grow than what will help me grow. Sometimes my schedule can get rather complicated as I try to split time between people or figure out which activities I can merge. It can also be difficult to manage people's expectations, particularly when people start thinking of relationships! So no, that wasn't working for me that well.

Rereading the executive summary for _Never Eat Alone_, I reflected upon its suggestion to involve people in activities about which you feel passionate. When you share something you love and enjoy, you are shown at your best. You also give people the feeling of being invited into something more personal and human and real.

Thinking about that made me realize that if I choose my activities according to what would help me grow, then I can choose people I would like to share those activities with. I would feel like I'm doing just the right thing at the right time and with the right people.

Today, I decided to start doing that. I asked myself, "What's the best thing I could do today to positively affect my life?" Visioning and storytelling resonated with me. I invited a friend whose vision I admire, and we had a wonderful afternoon conversation at Queen's Park. It was a very good decision, and definitely the best possible way I could have spent that time.

I'm a little bit worried that I'll end up neglecting the people who aren't quite related to my current interests, but then again, that's the power of weak ties - and I can ping people from time to time just to say hi, anyway. I'm also a little bit worried that I'll alienate people who might think this too utilitarian. Don't worry, not every get-together has to have an agenda. I also enjoy hanging out. =)

I think the key point is to have integrity in my decisions. How I choose to spend my time should be in line with my values and my priorities. It should be the best thing I could think of doing at that time, or reasonably close to it. The people I spend time with should be the best fit for it that I can imagine. That way, when I spend time with them, they know that it's a conscious, this-is-the best-thing-I-can-do-with-my-time thing. If I get that sorted out, then everything will fall into place...

I'm happy. Good stuff.

Random Japanese sentence: この種の猫には尾が無い。 The tail is absent in this type of cat.

2. Goals: 09:53

I want to be able to spend my days reading, learning, and trying things out. I want to be able to share what I've learned with other people through writing and speaking. I want to be a generalist, learning about lots of different ideas and connecting them together. I want to be able to introduce people to each other when I find synergy, and I want to be able to pass ideas on to people who can make the most of them.

The careers that resonate with me the most are technology journalist, author, and speaker.

The best things I can do today in order to advance those goals are:

Physical Swap bicycles or get a skateboard
Social Keep in touch with family and friends
Mental Read a good book
Spiritual Share the results of my reflection on happiness

Random Japanese sentence: 強盗は屋根からあの邸宅に入ったに違いない。 The cat burglar must have entered the mansion from the roof.

3. Going from pre-paid to post-paid: 11:31

I want to keep in touch with enough people now that the limits on my phone are Rather Annoying. I would like free incoming calls so that I stop worrying about minutes and so that people feel free to call me any time of day instead of saving it for evenings and weekends. I want to be able to hear people's stories and insights as they happen. I'd also like unlimited text messaging, or at any rate more text messages than most people here probably send all their lives. ;) I don't really need a lot of daytime or evening minutes.

Martin Cleaver suggested that I go for a 3-year plan without hesitation. He said that I'd probably easily find a company here that's willing to sponsor me for a work permit. If I decide to work elsewhere, the company that hires me might be persuaded to buy me out of my plan. Even if I do end up going home after my master's, I just need to put aside enough money to cover the cancellation charge just in case I don't manage to sell my contract to someone else. It's a relatively small expense compared to the freedom of being able to connect.

I don't have a credit history, though, so that might take some more persuading. I need to first establish a North American credit card. I'll try persuading President's Choice Financial to grant me a credit card, considering my bank account with them. If not, I'll switch to TD's secured credit card, and I'll probably switch my savings and current account to them as well in order to facilitate payment.

Bell.ca is the only provider with an unlimited text messaging plan, I think. It offers unlimited text messaging for $10 per month. That plus the $25 unlimited incoming plan works out quite well. Additional minutes are 30c (ouch!), but I have unlimited nights (9 PM onwards, what the heck?!) and weekend minutes. Additional fees include the 6.95 system access fee and a 75c 911 fee. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to offer the Treo as an option, and Bell phones tend to be, well, Bell-specific... WAAH!

Rogers seems to be the only one offering Treo, but their plans suck.

Ooh, Fido. I can do Fido. $25 for unlimited incoming (sign up before Aug 8), and then $5 for 100 messages or $10 for 1000 messages. 1000 is close enough to unlimited, I think. <laugh>

Fido is GSM, so if I can find a second-hand Treo that I'd be happy with, that would work too. I want a Treo or some other Palm-based device because I want to be able to sync my data over from Emacs and BBDB. The Treo's picture-taking capabilities also sound really tempting. It's a rather expensive device, but if I can make it worth it by writing - must look for more things to write for! - that would be totally awesome. I'd love to be able to use it the way Martin does...

The Hiptop looks tempting, but I'll get it only if I know it works with Linux. I want to be able to refer to all of my notes. Otherwise, my current phone works fine. Rumor has it that I can run Linux on the hiptop, but I'll only do that if I keep access to all the interesting functionality. I want to be able to take pictures.

... Maybe I should just look for a Linux-based smartphone.

Okay. Breathe. Priorities. First things first.

The very next thing I need to do in order to make this happen is to get myself a Canada-based credit card so that I can sign up for plans without getting it charged back to the Philippines.

The next thing I need to do is sign up for unlimited incoming and text messaging plans. Wireless providers usually give a substantial discount if you choose a phone together with a plan, and there's a $300 discount (reducing the cost to $200) if I get the Hiptop together with a contract. However, I might be able to get a monthly plan without a contract, then sign a contract if I'm firmly convinced that it's a good phone and that I can make it work.

But the very first thing I need to do is establish credit. I can do that on Thursday.

Random Japanese sentence: 妖精は王子を猫に変えた。 The fairy changed the prince into a cat.

4. On programming as a career: 11:59

Raj Shekhar reminded me that software development is a career too, and that there are software companies that use exciting things like LISP.

My background is in computer science, and I spent almost all my summers in high school training for programming competitions. I was a geek's geek, with algorithms and code coming out of my ears. I still enjoy writing code to make things work. =) I'm much more comfortable reading other people's code and making sense of it than other people I know - apparently, a rare thing. ;) I also enjoy writing documentation. These two factors cause most people to doubt my existence. What, a programmer who likes reading other people's code _and_ writing documentation?! Right up there with unicorns and dragons, mate. ;)

But that's not all of who I am, and I get the sense that's not what I'm best suited for.

In yesterday's conversation about the meaning of life and other things, Simon Rowland pointed out that I'm more relationship-driven than technology-driven. When I argued that I'm still a technologist at heart, he laughed and pointed out that even my Emacs Lisp coding is motivated by contact with people. The reason why I enjoyed working on Planner so much was because I could make people really happy by writing code to fit their editor and personal information manager to their particular needs. And it wasn't people in abstract, people in general, but rather one person at a time, with completely idiosyncratic code that I might never reuse.

I like working with technology on a human scale. I love personalizing things. I love working one-on-one with people. I don't like being abstracted away from users. I want them to be able to yell at me when something goes wrong, and I want them to be able to express their appreciation when things go right. I don't want to deal with market studies and hypothetical users. I want names and faces and stories.

I guess that's why software development or system administration don't really appeal to me as careers. I know a lot of developers and sysads who enjoy their work and are doing cool things, but their work doesn't strike a chord in me. I love developing skills that aren't part of the traditional developer profile. I love writing and public speaking, and I want to do that as part of my day job instead of just something I do on the side.

Some people have advised me to take a code monkey job, just for the heck of it. Just to gain experience and give myself more time here in North America, you know. As tempting as it is, though, my instinct? feeling? sense? tells me that there might be a better path. If it's at all possible for me to follow my passion at each step, I'd rather do that and be exceptional rather than be a mediocre programmer.

When I ask myself what I'd do if I could work without thinking about money, what I'd do even if no one paid me to, the answer that consistently comes up is: spend the entire day reading, learning, teaching, writing, speaking, meeting people. I don't see myself building robust, featureful systems or crafting beautiful code. I see myself drawing attention to other people's stories, connecting different ideas, introducing people to people and things that could change their lives. At the end of my life, I don't want people to remember me for some program I wrote, but rather for the changes that I helped them make in their lives, what I inspired them to do, who I inspired them to be.

So yes: although I can code, a job that involves only that aspect of me will not be able to make the most of me.

This probably disappoints some of my college teachers who'd rather I were in "hard" computer science - cryptography, graph theory, whatever - but that's the way it is, and I want to explore that aspect of myself.

How does that translate into a career? It's not exactly the kind of thing you'll find advertised on Monster.com. I'll probably spend the rest of my master's thinking about enterprise social computing and how people can make the most of blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, podcasting, and related technologies. I would like to stay in North America for at least a few more years because I'm learning so much from the tech culture here, so I'll need to offer enough value to a company to sponsor my work permit. I'd like to think that I can create enough value to justify the paperwork. ;)

In particular, I'd probably fit in well as someone who can support consultants and other people whose job it is to know about technology but who are too busy to learn about all these different things. I'm good at reading about lots of different things and looking at the connections. I'm also good at searching for supporting information and recommending things that might be useful. I've been complimented on my ability to get people enthused about something, and that extra boost might help people close sales. If you know any company that would be a good fit for me and that I would be a good fit for, I'd love to hear about it!

I'm also interested in writing, but that might be more of a medium-term thing. =)

If I can find a best-fit opportunity, all the better. If I'm not quite qualified to do that yet and I can't find a company that will take a chance on me and train me up, I'll consider other opportunities - but I definitely want something that engages not only my technological skills but also my social ones. =)

(Thanks for the comment, Raj! I love being prompted to reflect more because that makes me clarify my thoughts.)

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Random Japanese sentence: 私は犬の方が猫より好きです。何故なら前者の方が後者より忠実ですから。 I like dogs better than cats, because the former are more faithful than the latter.

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  1. Raj: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.02
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