Headlines for Monday:



1. Emacs: Automating the insertion of text: 11:01

As the VP Education of Toast I.T. Toastmasters in downtown Toronto, I'm responsible for assigning people roles in upcoming meetings and confirming these roles by e-mail. We currently do our scheduling in a spreadsheet. Copying and pasting the roles for the spreadsheet results in the following text:

Ari Caylakyan
Anthony D'Costa
Chris Charabaruk
Michael Chan
Chris Charabaruk
Chris Charabaruk
Khalid Ghaffar
Natasha Guigova

Ari Caylakyan - C&L 5
Anthony D'Costa
Jackie Achonu
Sacha Chua

Adding role descriptions to this was a bit of a pain, so I wrote a short Emacs Lisp function that inserted descriptions if and only if there was a corresponding person assigned to that role.

(defun sacha/toast-add-roles ()
  "Add role descriptions."
  (mapcar (lambda (item)
            (goto-char (line-beginning-position))
            (unless (looking-at "^[ \t]*$")
              (insert item ": "))
            (forward-line 1))
          '("President" "Toastmaster" "Sgt at Arms" "Timekeeper" "Ah-counter"
            "Grammarian" "Table-topics Master" "General Evaluator" ""
            "Educational Speaker" "Guest Speaker"
            "Speaker #1" "Evaluator #1"
            "Speaker #2" "Evaluator #2"
            "Speaker #3" "Evaluator #3")))

Next step: Personalized e-mail that highlights upcoming roles, just as I wrote Emacs Lisp functions to make it easier to send students personalized feedback on their programs.

That's one of the coolest things about Emacs - it's so easy to automate tasks.

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2. Remembering my purpose; hooray for writing!: 11:14

I tried to go to sleep earlier than usual last night, and I was hit by a bout of existential angst. (I'm 22. I'm allowed to have existential angst. ;) ) I started wondering what on earth I was doing here, etc.

I think I came to those thoughts because of various heavy things Simon and I had been talking about over the weekend, like the senseless tragedy of the war in Lebanon.

Looking around at my room, I poked fun at my inability to keep things as neatly organized as people here have. I said even after a year in Canada, I still hadn't gotten used to it, and I'd probably make room in my professional budget for managed housing or a housekeeping service.

Reflecting on that further, though, I realized that that weakness of mine wasn't a core part of my identity and that it should never be. I _can_ keep things neat if I take the time to, and if I can't make the time for that, then I should scale back my life until I can.

This led me to think about the difficulties people had around me, and thus the existential angst. With all these problems in the world, what am _I_ doing to help? Is what I'm doing with my research really worth it?

Instead of ignoring it or lying awake thinking about it, I pulled out a flashlight and one of my reflection books. There in brightly-colored markers were all these diagrams showing how I felt about life and what I wanted to do. (Thanks, Diane Lazaro, for giving me a creativity kit!)

In large blue letters, one page read: "I WANT TO TELL STORIES!" With that reminder, everything clicked into place again. I'm doing my master's research in social computing because I want to learn how to effectively tell stories about technology, not just because I want an excuse to stick around in Canada for a while. I'm part of Toastmasters and I'm exploring writing because I want to tell stories.

I want to tell stories because so many people have such interesting stories that can touch the lives of thousands and thousands of other people. I want to draw people's stories out and help them understand themselves more. I want to tell stories that will help people imagine what they can do with technology or how they can improve their relationships with other people.

Maybe that's how I can change the world. =)

I'm glad I drew those diagrams before. I love writing and drawing and talking and thinking. I know I'm going to run into similar questions again and again--I'm human, I forget myself--and having something to go back to gives me great joy.

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Random Japanese sentence: 虎を大きな猫というなら、同じように猫を小さな虎といってもよい。 You may as well call a cat a small tiger as call a tiger a big cat.

3. In case of emergency, break open stationery: 11:35

I'm glad my mom insisted that I keep emergency giftwrap in my suite, that my sister taught me how to bake cookies, and that I have a stationery collection of blank cards and note paper that I can use for any occasion.

Simon Rowland's sister and mother's birthdays were last Friday and Saturday. He invited me to join them for a family celebration. With an hour of notice, I baked cookies and wrote them short birthday notes that referred to stories he'd told me of them.

I didn't have cards cut to size for my Japanese gold-flecked envelopes, so I used the beautifully monogrammed Crane stationery instead. One of my godparents introduced me to the joys of Crane, and I've loved it ever since. I think the gold-tissue-lined envelopes and the simply monogrammed cream cards are among the most elegant I've seen. Besides, I didn't know them well enough to find the perfect Maverick postcard for them, so blank cards were the best.

I love occasions to write on beautiful paper. =)

Random Japanese sentence: 猫が柱でつめを研いでいた。 A cat was sharpening its claws against a post.

4. New York recommendations?: 11:39

Happen to know of good doctors and dentists in New York? Hilary Rowland's moving to New York soon, and if anyone can recommend a doctor or dentist they're very happy with, that would be awesome. Related recommendations welcome, too!

Random Japanese sentence: 私は猫を十三匹飼っている。 I keep thirteen cats.

5. Neatening up: 19:04

Having decided that helpless messiness is _not_ part of my core identity, I spent the entire afternoon sorting my room out.

It's amazing how much order can be imposed with stackable drawers, of which I am now a big fan. I've moved all of my infrequently used electronics and crafts out from under my desk and into two stackable drawers under my laundry, freeing up space under my desk for my bags. I moved my stationery collection into three-drawer stackable drawers, dividing them into envelopes and stickers, note paper, and cards.

I have this craving for even more stackable drawers. I'm starting to wonder how many of them I can pile up considering structural constraints. I might have space for a few in my closet and a few more beside my bookshelves...

It's nice having a clear desk again. Granted, my drawers aren't completely neat yet, but my room feels much better than it used to.

Good timing, too, as a new suitemate's just moved in.

Next steps: neaten my drawers and the bathroom.

Random Japanese sentence: あの猫をごらんなさい。それはブラウンさんの猫 です。 Look at that cat. It is Mr. Brown's.

6. New suitemate!: 19:06

Krystal just moved in. I've seen her around Graduate House, but haven't really talked to her much. She's friends with Michelle, though. =)

Totally awesome. I'm roomming with a nutritionist who loves cooking and having dinner parties, _and_ she's vegetarian, _and_ she's open to sharing kitchen space... This will be fun!

I love Grad House. =)

Random Japanese sentence: 土砂降りが長く続くと、洗濯屋さんは、仕事がはかどらず苦労する。 When it continues raining cats and dogs for a long while, laundrymen have a hard time doing their work.

E-mail sent

  1. Richi Plana: Re: Visit
  2. Stephen Perelgut: Re: If you want to understand the Middle-East
  3. Mike Tsang: Re: emacs learning curve
  4. Gabriel Mansour: Re: Gabriel Mansour has invited you to an Upcoming.org event
  5. Harvey Chua: Re: Visa billings
  6. Carsten Knoch: Re: Guardian from July 1
  7. Richi Plana: Re: Visit
  8. Jen Hawkins: Re: Chalk Talk tomorrow
  9. simon rowland: Pictures
  10. RICHARD DERKSEN: Re: Toastmasters VP-ED Follow-up Info.
  11. ari caylakyan, : Toastmasters
  12. Lisa Gilles: Getting back into Good Food Box
  13. Mark Chignell: Re: - Reminder
  14. Olivier Yiptong: Re: Toast I.T. Toastmasters - Tuesdays, 6-8, Metro Hall (55 John St.)
  15. Justin Wiley: Re: Join my network on LinkedIn
  16. Simon P. Ditner: Re: Mark Chignell
  17. Dan Howard: Re: Women in IT: Challenges and Opportunities
  18. Harvey Chua: Re: Visa billings
  19. happy eclair: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.22
  20. William Chua: Re: sachawiki: 2006.07.22
  21. Gabriel: Re: Gabriel Mansour has invited you to an Upcoming.org event
  22. Simon Rowland: Re: Sunday Train Schedule...
  23. Micael Andrei Diaz de Rivera: Re: Sign of things to come?
  24. Simon Rowland: Re: Writer...
  25. Tom: Re: Awww! =)