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Holy cow, that was a lot of mail. So sorry!

Posted: - Modified: | blogging, sad, wordpress

I was checking out a few things on my blog today, and I came across my WordPress Post Notification administration page. “Hmm,” I said. “I seem to have misconfigured this.” No e-mail had been sent out since August 2009. I figured out that the configuration directory didn’t have write permissions, enabled it, and went on with the rest of my day.

In the evening, I checked my personal mail on my iPod Touch. Inbox…

323 unread messages. That wasn’t right. I read the e-mail subjects. Holy cow, my blog had sent out every single one of my posts in the past half-year.

Granted, the only people on the list had double-opted-in, but still. I’d be annoyed if that many messages showed up in my inbox too, instead of one at a time.


First step: Control the damage. I moved post-notification out of the way, automatically disabling the plugin.

Second: Figure out the impact. 50 e-mail addresses left. Two nasty-notes.

Third: Gingerly re-enable the plugin after removing the locking directory.

Fourth: E-mail everyone an apology.

Fifth: Write about what happened. Tradeoff: Personal embarrassment versus possibility of saving other people from doing this kind of stuff. Worth it.

Looking at the bright side (because there always is a bright side)… At least I’m learning this now instead of later. And with my blog instead of a customer site. And with a smaller list instead of a megafan community. And… umm… it’s e-mail instead of text messages. Which has happened before. I was writing a Perl script that sent messages, and I had a bug, and there was an infinite loop, and poof! there went the balance on my prepaid card.


I’m sorry.

Low energy day

Posted: - Modified: | life, sad

I didn’t have a lot of energy today, and even my IBM team mate noticed
it. Perhaps it was the stress of fighting with the wiki I was using
this morning. Perhaps information overload from trying to organize so
many case studies and thoughts. Perhaps it was last night’s
high-energy DemoCamp, when I was out until 11. Perhaps it was the
embarrassment of being late and needing help finding the meeting room
this afternoon. Perhaps it was the effort of forcing myself to stay
awake (or at least not nod off too obviously) during the
conference-call interview. (I have to get better at sitting
still in one spot and listening actively.) Whatever the reason—or
combinations of reasons—today wasn’t one of my best days.

I did find the energy, though, to give one of my friends a big warm
virtual hug and a pep talk that she much appreciated. There’s always
energy for the important things in life.

Good thing I learned: many people don’t mind helping if you ask them
nicely. It makes them smile, too, remembering what it was like when
they were new. =)

How can I make this better in the future?

  • No more late nights. No matter how much fun hanging out with the DemoCamp folks is, I need to set a curfew and stick to it.
  • After stressful episodes, I can give myself some re-centering time.
  • Shifting between writing on the computer and writing by hand helps me push myself awake.
  • I shouldn’t be embarrassed about excusing myself for a stretch, a glass of water, or other kinds of breaks.
  • Maybe I can bring mints or sour candies to stimulate my senses.
  • More active participation in interviews can help. Maybe I can ask Kathryn if I can take the lead in asking the questions based on the outline, so that it forces me to learn how to ask questions and logical follow-up questions.

What do you do during low-energy days?

Random Emacs symbol: x-uses-old-gtk-dialog – Function: Return t if the old Gtk+ file selection dialog is used.

The universe does not tolerate a chocolate deficiency

| sad

I was feeling down because of the lack of progress on my thesis and
because I felt that I didn’t have control over some things that
mattered to me. I talked to my dad (see earlier blog post). Not only
did he solve my immediate problem of Internet access, but he also took
me to my favorite deli and treated me to my favorite lasagna, then
took me to Max Brenner (a high-end chocolate bar) and bought me the
best classic dark chocolate cocoa powder you can find in Manila.

I hadn’t talked to my mom about it, though. She must’ve either read my
blog or listened to the universe telling her I felt sad (parents have
a sixth sense for these things!), because she also bought me several
different kinds of chocolate mix, this time for Spanish-style hot

Nature abhors a vacuum, I guess. The universe will not tolerate a
chocolate deficiency… =)

Happy girl. And when I’m happy, it’s so much easier to learn stuff. I
got almost all my AJAX/Rails to-learns finished today!

Random Emacs symbol: calendar-setup – Variable: The frame setup of the calendar.

There are some things for which Google has no answer

Posted: - Modified: | life, sad

Part of growing up, I guess, is learning how to deal with questions

Be gentle with me for the next few days, please. I am sad.
Explanations will follow when I understand myself a bit more.

Random Emacs symbol: setf – Macro: Set each PLACE to the value of its VAL.

Sometimes I just get homesick

| sad

I sometimes forget that I've only been here for a year and that it's
perfectly normal for me to feel homesick from time to time. Sometimes
it can be almost paralyzing.

We spent Labour Day weekend with Simon's parents. The conversation
turned to the Philippines. I told them about the idea of a barkada –
the close, mutually supportive group of friends that I often hung out
with. I told them stories from my grandmother's colorful past. I told
them about my parents, about the new house, about these little facets
of life—and I found myself silently crying, wondering once again what
I was doing in Canada, wondering whether I couldn't have just stayed
home and made a difference anyway.

Simon stood up, walked over, and held me until I felt better. He promised
that we'd talk afterwards. His dad looked at me with compassion and
quietly asked me if I was feeling homesick. I nodded, and then joined
Simon's mom in feeding peanuts to the raccoons that come to their deck
– a little bit of serenity as I cleared my thoughts.

On the drive back, Simon helped me sort through not only what I was
feeling but also how I might make the most of my talents and skills. I
hurt because I care, Simon said, and that's a good thing. It's
particularly difficult because my homesickness is also bound up in a
sense of responsibility and a desire to help. Sometimes I get
paralyzed by the thought that if I'm going to be away, I need to be
doing something absolutely spectacular.

Yeah, sometimes that can be really scary.

I need to make sure that what I'm doing here is worth the sacrifice.
Most of the time, I can see that. Most of the time, I remember that
through luck or circumstance or work, I have more opportunities than
most people would, and I can share those opportunities with other
people. I have a good-karma file of the changes I've made to people's
lives and the encouraging messages I've received. I sometimes need
help remembering, though.

To all the people who remind me when I forget why I'm here: thank you.

More thoughts on Barcamp, no answers

| barcamp, philippines, purpose, sad

Dominique helpfully offered suggestions on adapting
BarCamp to the Philippines. He said that
it was doable, but challenging. He asked me the top five people I'd
like to be there. He suggested having interdisciplinary talks by
invited speakers on entrepreneurship, physics, biology, etc. Many of
the Linux geeks who regularly speak at events would no doubt turn up,

I had such a strong reaction against his ideas that I had to stop
myself from being frustrated. I recognized that I felt he didn't
understand what unconferences were about. I also recognized that I
couldn't yet articulate the differences between unconferences and
conferences in a way that would make the changes and benefits clear. I
was frustrated, yes, but I was frustrated with myself for being unable
to figure out how to hack unconferences into Filipino culture without
turning the event into yet another thing that divides speakers from
audience instead of creating a community of participants.

I knew Dominique wanted to help me think things through, but the
strength and irrationality of my reaction made me realize that I
needed to first think things over with people who know the
unconference culture and who may have insights into helping a new
community adapt.

I need more insight from people like Chris Messina and David Crow. How
does one hack unconferences into a society's culture? How can I help
people go from a strongly hierarchical culture to a flatter one? Must
ask Don Marti, too…

I don't have answers. I don't even know where to start. One good thing
is that I can recognize when I'm hitting a wall, though. When I heard
Dominique repeat his suggestion for inviting talks from outside
disciplines and I knew I just couldn't listen well enough to do him
credit, I thanked Dominique for sharing his thoughts and confessed my
inability to discuss things further at this time. I need to talk to
the others first. I need to figure things out.

You know, it's just _so_ tempting to not think about how to hack
something like unconferences into Philippine society. It would be so
easy to just enjoy the fruits of other people's labor in a tech
culture that's starting to take off. But I want to bring these ideas

And you know what? Maybe I don't need to figure out how to get people
out of their chairs and into the conversation. Maybe I can focus on
just meeting the Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, the connectors who are
reaching out to me and to each other. I'd like to meet them in person
and get them to talk to each other. Maybe I don't have to think about
doing that this August. Maybe I can do that this December, if I can
afford to go home.

I don't feel bad about being asked tough questions. I feel bad about
not knowing the answers and not even being able to explain why
something doesn't feel right. I just need to talk to more people and
try more things in order to figure out what to do.

And I seriously need hot chocolate and a hug, but that's just because
I'm feeling all lost again… I'll try to postpone thinking about it
until Friday, as I'm booked until then.

Oh no…

| sad

I can't find my fountain pen – the burgundy one my father gave me for
Christmas, when he took me shopping the day before I flew back to
Canada. I last wrote with it in the lab. My research notebook is here,
but no pen… Could I have dropped it on the way to the library? But I
wasn't carrying anything except for my ID card and my notebook; I
didn't need to take notes. I've turned my pockets inside out, searched
the pockets of my bag, checked every nook and cranny… I remember
noticing that it wasn't with me when I returned to Graduate House, but
because I didn't have my research notebook then, I thought I might've
left it tucked inside. Waah!

And yes, I know, my fountain pen is one of my guilty pleasures – what
luxury when everyone gets by on ballpens and pencils! – but it has an
old-school charm about it, and I loved using it…

I'll turn my room upside down later, after my paper. If not, I wonder
where I'll be able to find a nice, slim, piston converter pen,
preferably a broad-nibbed pen with a burgundy case and some heft…


(And yes, Mark, I'll get back to work on my paper as soon as I get this thing out of my head…)