Headlines for Wednesday:

  1. Breakfast (252 words)
  2. Renaissance dance performance (319 words)
  3. Aha! (286 words)
  4. Web 2.0 and entrepreneurship (118 words)
  5. More thoughts about social computing (75 words)
  6. Microsoft Word in schools (1000 words)
  7. Blogly angst (46 words)
  8. Team of Filipino Students Win MIT Entrepreneurship (379 words)
  9. Hooray for people who know how to cook! (201 words)
  10. More thoughts about what I want to do with my life (463 words)



1. Breakfast: 01:07

When Steve called me up on my cellphone at around 8:00 and said only "Help!", I panicked and nearly fell off my bed. I slipped into my kimono and went to the second floor only to find that he had conned me out of bed in order to surprise me with pancakes for breakfast. How nice!

When I learned that he was actually still okay and in one piece, my non-morning-ness reasserted itself. He was so cheerful, though, that I couldn't help but wake up - and the honey-lemon tea certainly helped restore my voice. He wanted help cooking the rest of the pancakes so that they didn't turn out like crepes, though, so I added more mix to the batter and poured out neat little silver-dollar pancakes. I'm getting better at them - I burned only two this time!

Hooray for instant pancake mix. Yes, I know, pancakes are so easy to make from scratch, yada yada, but the recipe requires a whole egg, and that's hard to divide. =)

It was very nice of Steve to surprise me with breakfast. I usually try to wake him up and cook breakfast. He doesn't have an alarm clock right now and he doesn't wake up to his cellphone, so a human without a snooze button can be pretty effective. Besides, it's a good way to force myself out of bed. <grin>

Ay, friends... what would life be without them?

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Random Japanese sentence: ここの家何匹猫がいる? How many cats are there in this house?

2. Renaissance dance performance: 01:17

Toronto Coranto - the renaissance dance group that I got drafted into - performed for a class on Love and the Renaissance. It was tons of fun, particularly the workshop part where we got all these students to try out the branle pinagay. I wish I'd learned the dance of the flowers. It looked very pretty, all courtly symmetry and synchronization...

Calum came downtown just to shoot the event. He left after the show, and I didn't get to talk to him much about what's going on in his life. Should check on him sometime. He has two camera bodies now, and he's gotten completely spoiled by not only the ability to switch from long to short really quickly but also the external flash. Heh.

Jed dropped by, too, even joining the workshop. He joined us for our celebration at the pub. I had a burger, some Aussie cheese fries, a plate(!) of whipped cream (I have no idea what possessed Mike to ask for that!), and a little bit of a brownie.

We had hot chocolate afterwards (oy, sugar overload!), and we chatted a bit about development, billiards, drumming... Come to think of it, I don't think he managed to finish his tea. I really should just prepare tea next time. Engineers Without Borders gave me a box of tea for showing up at lunch the other week, and I really should track down the wonderful tea David served at the Linux Caffe some time back.

Must learn how to listen for rhythms and to tap them out. It's not entirely logical for me to keep telling people that they can get the hang of computer science and that I'm not a special, unique snowflake, while excusing myself from not being able to get the hang of audio or visual stuff. ;)

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Random Japanese sentence: 鳥たちはその猫を見るとビックリして飛び去った。 The birds flew away in alarm when they saw the cat.

3. Aha! : 01:33

Thanks to a conversation earlier about web development and careers, I think I've figured out a little more about what I want to do. =)

I want to support people and communities through social tools.

I want to help people make the most of blogs, wikis, podcasts, vidcasts, social bookmarking, social networking, community content management systems, whatever. I want to help them figure out how to use version control systems and request trackers and mailing lists. I want to make it easier to use phone and e-mail and little stickies on the fridge...

What should I learn more about? I need to figure out how to set up a blog farm, a wiki farm, a social bookmarking site, Drupal, etc. Bryght does hosted community sites with Drupal, so they'd be good mentors and models. I'm also interested in the social aspects of it. My research into innovation diffusion and technology adoption _totally_ makes sense in that context.

Mmkay. That sounds like a plan. I'm going to need some help figuring out how to make it happen, but that resonates with me.

I don't mind working on mind-numbing web stuff if I'm working with fun people. I don't mind explaining for the nth time what a blog is and how people can use blogs for fun and profit, because I learn something new every time I talk about that. And of course there are so many things that aren't even on most people's radars...

Right. That sounds like what I want to do. Now, how do I go about doing it?

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Random Japanese sentence: 私は犬の方が猫より好きだが、それは前者が後者より忠実だからだ。 I like a dog better than a cat, for the former is more faithful than the latter.

4. Web 2.0 and entrepreneurship: 01:47

From the Kagay-anon Linux Users' Group mailing list:

sa mga hilig ug web/2 one page lang na guide; gamit kaayo.. http://www.vipedio.com/roman/blog/20culture_full.html

sa mga hackers ug novell fans http://www.tectonic.co.za/view.php?src=rss&id=1003

The first link is a quick guide to typical Web 2.0 interface stuff. http://msippey.tadalist.com/lists/public/155420 is an even shorter list. ;) (Heh. Also read http://blog.unitedheroes.net/archives/p/2051/ )

I read KLUG every so often even though I can't understand Bisaya... =) It's fun, and I've found a number of interesting people that way. For example, Botp Peña (who posted these links) conducts free Ruby on Rails training, and it looks like Botp Peña is also interested in entrepreneurship...

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E-Mail from Botp Peña

Random Japanese sentence: ボップ・ボップ・キャット・ボップ。 Bop, bop cat bop.

5. More thoughts about social computing: 01:56

Come to think of it, the hardest and most interesting part won't be figuring out how the technology works. That takes time and experimentation, but it's quite doable. What's really tough and fun is figuring out how people work, how communities work, and how to support that while changing their behavior...

It's not about blogs, wikis, etc. It's about communication and community...

Random Japanese sentence: 猫は捕らえたネズミを引き裂き始めた。 The cat began to tear at the mouse it caught.

6. Microsoft Word in schools: 02:54

Didith Rodrigo, the chair of my alma mater's computer science department, seems to be getting a bit frustrated with people who've asked her to consider teaching students something other than Microsoft Word for word processing. She reasons: "I think that teaching tools is need-based. If there is some reason that the tool is more appropriate for the need, then fine. If not, then don't fix what isn't broken."

I'm going to go on a bit of a rant because I feel that it's important to expose students to choices that they might not otherwise encounter on their own. I agree with Didith's main point at the end - that it's not about the tools - but my particular bone here is that university's also where students should learn to abstract general principles.

This is how I understand the educational system's _supposed_ to work: people who want to learn about specific things go to vocational schools and workshops, and people who want to learn about abstractions and things they'd never encounter on their own go to university.

We shouldn't teach Microsoft Word. We should teach writing (note: not even word processing). We shouldn't teach Microsoft Powerpoint. We should teach presentation. We shouldn't teach Microsoft Excel. We should teach data analysis.

The problems these students face go _way_ beyond the tools. You can inflict death by bullet point in OpenOffice.org Impress just as easily as you can in Microsoft Powerpoint. So why not spend valuable class time talking about the principles of the thing instead of the tools? (Oh, if I had a dime for every word someone's read off the slides...)

Here's a quote that captures what I think:

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Fill them with the longing to write wonderful articles and make effective presentations! Inspire them through your examples! Help them reach out through their words! As long as students write only for their teachers and their classmates, you'll see bad prose and hear people read off slides. Show them examples, point out common mistakes and show them how they can improve, and put them in front of audiences that care about what they're interested in... If you can set them on fire, they'll _learn_ about all the nifty tricks hidden in whatever software they use - and it will be about the result, not the tool!

Note to self: I need to learn how to write really, really well. I also need to learn how to present really, really well. Then I need to figure out how to teach this while inspiring by example. I _so_ want to run a class on "Communication for Geeks", or something like that. ;)

But wait! Wasn't this supposed to be a rant about open source in education and how students should be exposed to open source alternatives?

I've written a fair bit about this in the past, but let's look at the Atenean case more closely. For the sake of argument, let's assume that there _aren't_ financial reasons to choose open source. The stereotype of the Atenean student is a middle-class or rich student who can well afford to buy legitimate versions of Microsoft Office. Truth is, quite a few people are on scholarships. Besides, most people quite happily pirate software or use whatever their computer dealer "bundled" with their computer because they just don't care about software rights or they don't think Microsoft deserves even _more_ money.

So let's ditch the financial and ethical incentives, and talk about the pedagogical one instead.

I taught for a short while, and even that short a while was enough to make me feel the pressure to cover everything in the curriculum. If a teacher's already having a hard enough time covering all the little features of one thing or another, how on earth is that teacher going to find time to explore and discuss alternatives? Won't that confuse the students and make them lose confidence?

I feel quite strongly that we should drag people out of their comfort zones every so often, particularly in university when they can mess up without losing money. I suspect that one of the best ways to check whether students can abstract the notion of, say, emphasizing text is to throw them at an unfamiliar but usable word processor like OpenOffice.org and see if they can figure out what to do. (Open source geeks can substitute "Microsoft Word" or "Emacs" as appropriate.)

I _want_ to make students feel a little bit uncomfortable. That discomfort is what drives learning in the future, where it's most important. I don't want students to stick only to what they know how to do. They should keep learning!

This belief is probably not going to make me very popular with students, most of whom would like to get through school with as little effort as possible - but we need to help them develop critical thinking and abstraction, and we need to help them figure out how to figure things out.

I think that to know one thing is to know that one thing, but to know two things is to know two things, their similarities and differences - _and_ to know that I can learn more.

It doesn't even have to be open vs closed source. It could be two closed source ways of doing things, two open ways of doing things, whatever. But it has to be sufficiently different to force the students to think about their abstractions and to expose bugs in their understandings... =)

Hey, would _you_ test a program with only one test case? ;)

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Random Japanese sentence: 「いいえ、ぼくです!、ぼくです!、ぼくです!」 百匹のねこ、千匹のねこ、百万匹、一億、一兆匹のねこがいいました。どのね こも自分が一番美しいとおもっていたのです。 No, I am! I am! I am! Cried hundreds and thousands and millions and billions and trillions of voices, for each cat thought itself the prettiest. [M]

7. Blogly angst: 02:59

Hands, a sketch by Dominique Cimafranca

Sometimes life doesn't work out the way we think it should, but then that could be because it has greater things in store for us than we could imagine.

Random Japanese sentence: 1匹の猫を別とすれば家は空っぽだった。 The house was empty except for a cat.

8. Team of Filipino Students Win MIT Entrepreneurship: 22:30

From: "Santamaria, Samuel" SSantamaria AT aicpa.org

Here's another victory we can be proud of. Tell your friends about it. A team of Filipino MIT students headed by Illac Diaz won the Grand Prize for the US$ 100K MIT Entrepreneurship Competition's development track for their business, CentroMigrante, Inc. Read on.

Their project, focused on a business model for social entrepreneurship in the Philippines, beat out several other amazing ideas. Impoverished people in developing countries leave their rural hometowns and flock to urban areas to seek employment but are usually unable to afford decent lodging while searching and waiting for jobs. In the Philippines, as many as 1 million Filipinos a year spend up to 3 months away from their home provinces and in Manila's port areas looking for jobs as seafarers, most of them living in shanties under depressed and undignified living conditions. CentroMigrante Inc. combines developmental architecture with a self-help business model to offer a sustainable solution that provides clean, safe and affordable urban housing for such indigent, transient job seekers.

The MIT $50K Entrepreneurship Competition is designed to encourage students and researchers in the MIT community to act on their talent, ideas and energy to produce tomorrow's leading firms. Now in its 16th year, the Competition has awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and business startup services to outstanding teams of student entrepreneurs who submitted business plans for new ventures showing significant business potential. The refinement process of the Competition, its network of mentors, investors and potential partners, and the cash prizes awarded have helped many of these teams to act on their dreams and build their own companies and fortunes.

The MIT Entrepreneurship Competition provides teams who enter with valuable resources in the following areas crucial to successful entrepreneurship:

  • Networks of world-class entrepreneurs, investors, and potential partners
  • Mentorship by successful and seasoned professionals
  • Content rich feedback on their business model from world class entrepreneurs, investors, and professional service providers on our Judging [panel?]
  • Teambuilding opportunities to create a winning team of founders
  • Broad media exposure and PR buzz

See attached photo or at:


Way cool!

E-Mail from Harvey V. Chua

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Random Japanese sentence: 休暇中、近所の人がうちの猫の世話をしてくれた。 While we were on holiday, a neighbor took care of our cat.

9. Hooray for people who know how to cook!: 22:33

How to not burn pancakes, from Mom:

use a teflon pan. heat pan. put very very little oil on the pan. pour batter. turn down heat so pancake (first bottomside) will brown evenly. When pancake (topside) starts to bubble, watch and flip pancake as soon as bubbles have burst and batter looks dry. pancake is cooked when it rises (thickens) You can check if the second face is done. If not, you may turn the heat up just a little bit. Remove pancake from pan. Turn up heat again for the next pancake. Use the thickest, flattest pan that you have so your pancakes will brown evenly. Hope this helps. =)

Egg-free pancakes, from Paul Lussier:

Pancakes don't require any egg at all:
  • 1 cup flour (I prefer whole wheat flour, better flavor, heathier)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • Cinnamon/Nutmeg season to taste
  • 1.5-2 cups soy milk
  • Add any variety of fruit: blueberries, strawberries, apples, bananas, etc.

I love writing about my cooking misadventures because they make my friends laugh and I get plenty of tips, too. =)

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E-Mail from Paul Lussier

Random Japanese sentence: 台所からその猫を追い出してくれ。 Chase the cat from the kitchen.

10. More thoughts about what I want to do with my life: 23:00

Here's a sketch of what I want to do:

I want to help people connect with people through social software.

That's a very broad goal. What does it mean?

What do I want to do?

I want to help people make sense of technology. I want to help them figure out which tools they should try out and how those tools fit into their ways of working. I want to help them bring the tools into their culture and adapt the tools to their needs. I want to help people look at the big picture and see how everything fits together. I want to help people look at the leaves on the trees and figure out how to make the most of each piece.

I'm particularly interested in technology that helps people relate with people. I'm interested in ways for people to discover other people and other resources, share their insights with others, and organize things for themselves.

Why is that a good fit for me?

I'm good at keeping track of technology news, which makes it easy for me to recommend something that fits a situation. I also like collecting and sharing productivity tips.

I enjoy speaking, writing, teaching, evangelizing, and all these other ways to help people learn.

Most of all, I love listening and drawing people out. I love learning people's vocabularies and telling them stories about other people's successes and failures, helping them imagine their own success. I love stepping into someone's shoes and figuring out which tools might be useful. I love coming up with ways for people to slowly make new tools part of their lives.

What do I need to learn next?

  • I know about the tools. I need to learn about organizational behavior, organizational change, information technology diffusion, and technology adoption.
  • I know how to spread enthusiasm. I need to also learn how to communicate solid business benefits.
  • I know how to set a few things up. I need to become more familiar with the different technologies so that I can prototype them quickly and show how everything fits together.
  • I know a few people in different areas. I need to develop a rich, wide directory of consultants and companies who can implement particular solutions.

What's my next step?

  • Continue with my research at IBM, which is exactly in line with this anyway.
  • Make another speech at Toastmasters, then another and another.
  • Meet other people who are working in the same or similar area. Talk to them, ask them for help figuring out this passion of mine, and see if I can do anything to help.

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Random Japanese sentence: 秘密を漏らす。 Let the cat out of the bag.