* Schedule sacha.chua/educationhttp://sacha.free.net.ph/notebook/wiki/today.phpSacha Chua's blog - Education Teachable moments http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2008.01.06.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2008.01.06.php#anchor-1 J- was getting frustrated by the game of chess she was playing with her dad. She couldn't see any good moves. Her pieces were all tangled up, and she didn't know what to do.

It's interesting watching another human being learn how to think strategically. She's not quite there yet, as she has a hard time thinking of what her dad's response would be. I remember being like that, and I remember the chess drills I did in order to learn how to see ahead.

So instead of writing the blog post that I meant to write today, I took some time to teach her. No, I didn't coach her during the game. Instead, we wiped the board clean and I set out some pieces for one of the simplest drills, King and Rook vs King. I'd shown her this before. She'd successfully completed it with some coaching. It would be good for reinforcing the idea of thinking ahead.

She was moving the pieces somewhat randomly (although legally, of course). So I started counting to 50 moves, the limit on end-game dilly-dallying in tournament play. When I was getting close to 50, she We reached a draw during the first drill. Then I showed her how she needed to decide which side of the board she would force my king to stay on, and how that rook could keep my king there, then drive it backwards once it had the support of her king.

We did another drill, with plenty of sound effects. "I'm going to get you!" I exclaimed as my solitary king pursued her rook, step by step. She squealed and moved her rook to the other side. "Uh oh," I said when my king had nowhere to go but in front of hers. "Noooo!", I cried as her rook forced mine against the board. She checkmated my king with a little prompting.

We went back and forth a few times before she caught on that she needed to sometimes "waste" a move. When she could checkmate my king with no prompting, I reinforced the idea ("Pick which side of the board you're going to squish my king against, and focus on forcing my king back") and replaced her rook with a queen. I showed her how a queen can checkmate faster than a rook. She checkmated me handily, and finished the session thrilled with what she could do.

Why am I telling this story? I think it hints at why and how I teach. A lot of what I'm doing right now can be considered teaching, even though it looks different: my social media consulting with IBM, the book that I'm writing on Emacs... But I'm not teaching facts or procedures. I care about shaping attitude and so that I can unlock potential. I talk to people about blogging and bookmarking because I want to influence their attitude towards collaboration, and because I want to see what they'll do (so that I can learn from them too!). I talk about Emacs, but what's important to me is the "if I can tweak this, what else can I do with it?" kind of feeling that will unlock the rest of Emacs for other people.

But how do you teach culture?

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teaching Sun, 06 Jan 2008 21:52:00 EST
Week in review: May 6 to May 13 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.05.13.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.05.13.php#anchor-1 My major achievement this week was collecting enough data for my thesis. The usability tests weren't as scary as I thought they would be, and starting with friendlies certainly helped my confidence. It may not have been the best of experiment designs and I might get raked over the coals by my thesis committee later, but at least it's done. I'm thrilled about that!

I'm also thrilled about the interest interview I had this week with a team from IBM. We'll see how that works out. =D

And I still managed to find time to write an article on Emacs mail productivity tips for LinuxWorld! Not bad. It took me a total of two and a half hours to write the article. I don't remember how much time it took me to develop the configuration I described, though. It was tons of fun!

I attended a money management seminar and found that I was on the right track. I've read so many personal finance books that the usual advice is, well, usual, but it was great hearing all sorts of useful tips from the other students.

On the personal note, I met W's extended family at a birthday party. I had a wonderful conversation with his brother's father-in-law about technology and then about finance. I'm still a little shy around them. They're probably also wondering how to relate to me. Hmm.

I also reconnected with my mom and dad, and might be flying to the Philippines soon. That may mean cancelling my Mesh session and missing Toronto Technology Week, but family comes first.

Life is good. This week was very productive, but I also had time to connect with people and pursue my interests. Being able to talk to people about stuff—my interest interview, thoughts about life—made everything much more fun, and even a difficult conversation resulted in some useful insights.

Next week, I plan to:

  • Analyze my data
  • Do more interest and job interviews, figure out my options
  • Schedule my trip to the Philippines
  • ... and for my creative side, I want to shoot and upload some portraits.

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Sun, 13 May 2007 19:50:00 EDT
Roadtrip! http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.05.30.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.05.30.php#anchor-1 If my dad ever invites you on a roadtrip, say yes—but pack lots of clothes and money, and cancel anything you've got scheduled for the next few days. With my dad, you never know where you're going to end up!

My parents blocked off several weekdays to spend time with me. My dad suggested going up north on a 3-day trip. He loves the mountains. Me, I'm not too fond of zig-zag roads and Banaue had felt a little cramped last time we were there. Besides, with the onset of rainy season, short trips seemed more manageable than long ones, so I suggested going on a series of leisurely day trips.

So the plan was to go around Laguna today: a trip along the lakefront to the south. A few minutes after leaving the house, though, my dad suggested going to Baguio instead. Fortunately, this time we changed plans early enough for us to grab more clothes from the house. One time, we were just going to Tagaytay—an easy day-trip—and we ended up in Bicol on a several-day roadtrip. I was *not* happy about not knowing when I'd be back that time, but I think this time I might actually be able to get back in time for a party on Thursday.

Baguio is okay, although there's a lot more traffic than there used to be. The landmarks my parents remember have either closed or seem to be on the brink of closing. Times are changing. The sunset view is still stunning, though, even though the best view now seems to be the one from the mall.

My dad's been teaching me how to shoot with a proper SLR camera. It's a lot more powerful than my other camera, although my other camera has a few features that I really like. I had fun shooting the sunset with a long exposure, improvising support by wedging the camera into the rails. This brought out the subtle hues that I couldn't see any more, although I still had a little camera shake. More practice—or more tripod, which would also solve that problem quite handily.

Tomorrow we're going to an artists' village. Maybe I'll pick up something.

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Wed, 30 May 2007 20:54:00 EDT
When you're new to the job and everyone knows more than you do http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.12.01.php#anchor-2 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.12.01.php#anchor-2 Do you remember what it was like to be new to the job? I do. I remember it like it was yesterday. Wait, it _was_ yesterday. I was in a customer meeting with all these people who were trying to solve a problem. I was just fascinated by all the stories and insights and perspectives they shared, and I knew that I was nowhere near being able to contribute something like that.

I've read that new graduates often come into the workplace thinking they know everything. There's no danger of that here. From my point of view, I don't know anything compared to these folks. I keep warning my teammates not to expect that I know anything. ;) On the way into the meeting yesterday, I told my teammate, "You do know that I'm a complete newbie at this, right?" She told me that it was fine and that I shouldn't worry about it. Well, if she's okay with that, I guess it will work out. After all, everyone started from somewhere. =)

So if I can't bring decades of experience and thought leadership, what can I bring? I can bring hard work. Someone needs to take care of the grunt work, and I'll happily volunteer for that so that my team members can be freed up for more creative work. I might even be faster doing that than other people would be because of the shortcuts I come up with and the tools I use. Besides, with fewer habits to unlearn, I might stumble across interesting ways of doing things. I can bring my questions. Questions make people think, and maybe they'll realize something interesting in new. I can bring my writing and reflections. I'm still a little shy about speaking up in meetings, but I enjoy thinking about what I learned during the meeting and writing it up as a blog post or handout or article. I can make educational materials, too. I'm looking forward to helping people learn by sharing those handouts and giving people hands-on help. Even if I'm new, I can bring something to the table.

And so can you. If you're new to the job, cheer up and don't be intimidated by all the other people who do it so easily because of their experience. If you're already experienced, please look out for us newbies and help us settle in. =) After all, everyone has to start from somewhere!

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career Sat, 01 Dec 2007 15:21:00 EST
Must stop feeling guilty http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.11.10.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.11.10.php#anchor-1 We were tidying up the house in preparation for my mom's visit when I felt this incredible sadness take hold of me. My mom's flying in from the Philippines to attend my convocation this Friday, and realizing that I'm going to get to see her for only four days, I felt lost and mis-placed all over again.

I had to get to the bottom of this feeling. I needed to understand. I couldn't see a good way forward. I've been working on this for months, and I'm still stuck. It's a bigger thing than I am, and I'm going to need help.

I am Filipino, and I will always be that. I owe my country my education, my culture, my friends, and more than that, my family. The opportunities my country gave me made me who I am, and I owe so much—not just because of everything I received, but also because of what I can do.

I am Filipino, but I am not currently in the Philippines. I don't know when I'm going to be home for good, or even if my sense of home is changing. Is it here? Is it there? Am I going to bring home all these experiences and ideas and opportunities, or am I going to be part of the brain drain that I grew up hearing about?

Is it possible to ask these questions without feeling guilty?

But it isn't that easy. I have selfish reasons for staying. The more stress I put on myself or receive from other people, the clearer my selfishness becomes—and yet all the more entrenched, allthe more real, all the more myself.

So it becomes a choice between two halves of a life, and that's no good at all. If I can solve this, if I find peace in this, imagine what I could do with that energy and joy?

But for now... it's difficult. I haven't quite figured out how to be in more than one place at a time. I don't know what to answer people when they ask me whatever happened to my dreams of going home right away and of bringing what I learned in my master's back home. I do know that I need to address this or it will make my life painful.

What would be ideal? I would like to wake up each day and feel that I'm in just the right place at just the right time. I want to feel that I'm being true to myself. It's okay. I'm okay.

Maybe I just have to decide to stop feeling guilty. Okay, let's try that as an experiment. I am what I am, and we'll see how everything works out. Who knows? It might even be better this way.

It's tough, but maybe this is like kneading bread. Maybe life is stretching me so that I can do greater things.

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Sat, 10 Nov 2007 20:59:00 EST
Halloween http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.31.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.31.php#anchor-1 I enjoyed this year's Halloween more than the first two I'd spent in Canada. I had spent both previous Halloweens in Graduate House, and while graduate students can be quite creative in their costumes and adept in their impersonations, it doesn't quite have the same feel as handing lollipops and chocolate bars to kids. (Even the teenagers who really should just buy their own candy! ;) )

And what a perfect evening, too. Just the right temperature, even for me. (Granted, I had a shawl.) Everyone was chatting. Halloween's a surprisingly good time to practice talking to other people. I managed to say "Happy Halloween" with warmth dozens of times in a row! (Although I get the feeling it's not really a happy-greeting kind of holiday... bah, who cares!)

Dressing up was fun, too. W- helped J- make a halo, wings, and robe for her angel costume. J- sewed the robe herself, though! =) Industrious girl. As for me, I felt like Reyna Elena, resplendent in my white terno with a flowing skirt and petticoat. J- lent me a tiara, and W- draped a (color-coordinated) throw around my shoulders to keep me warm.

Our outfits drew plenty of comments, and the Tux penguin pumpkin I made also got a few knowing smiles and short conversations from passers-by. =) Little unique touches... <grin>

Next year, we're going to make it even more wonderful. We might make a charred skeleton, following instructions on the Net. I'll probably pick up doggie treats, too. A number of people were walking their dogs. One had a particularly cute pug with a spider costume. That one definitely deserved a treat! I'm also looking forward to getting to know more of the neighbors. That felt nice. =)

Happy Halloween. Kids think of it as Free Candy Day, and I think of it as Free Chatting day. =) Hope your Halloween was fun, too!

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Wed, 31 Oct 2007 21:52:00 EDT
First day of work http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.15.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.15.php#anchor-1 Like most (sane) graduates, I'm a little anxious about this real life thing, but I'm confident that it will work out well.

I woke up five minutes before my alarm clock went off, which was good because I still haven't figured out how to make my alarm clock less obnoxious. A trip to Ikea may be in order here. Still, waking up at 5:55 is a pretty cool thing for me. =) Looks like the week I put into developing the habit of waking up early is starting to pay off.

I met with my manager and a team member today. My manager answered all my questions, even the tougher ones. Now that I have an idea of how I'm going to be measured (and equally important: how _he's_ going to be measured), I can keep an eye out for useful ideas and opportunities.

I'll stay up a little late today to do some work on my book, even just 10 minutes of sketching. It's important to me to be able to spend a little time on that every day, or I'm going to forget. <laugh>

Everyone finds his or her own balance...

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Mon, 15 Oct 2007 22:11:00 EDT
Work like you're showing off: Be the best you can be http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.14.php#anchor-1 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.14.php#anchor-1 I'm excited about the first day of work tomorrow. A little terrified, yes, but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I am going to be the best person I can be, because I'm going to spend that time anyway, so I might as well do the best I can. Here's a quote from Joe Calloway's book, "Work Like You're Showing Off":

Why would I conceivably not want to be the best I can be at whatever I'm doing? I like the idea that whether I'm sweeping a street, weeding my yard, playing drums in a band, teaching a class, taking photos at a wedding, working as a customer service representative, selling insurance, washing cars, running a company, being a personal fitness trainer, bagging groceries, or writing a book that I take the attitudee that I will knock your socks off with how I do what I do. Or maybe it's my own socks that I want to knock off. (p.72)

I'm looking forward to knocking my socks off. =) I'm going to learn a lot and things won't always be smooth, but I'm going to find and engage that passion.

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Sun, 14 Oct 2007 19:49:00 EDT
Up and over http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.09.php#anchor-3 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.09.php#anchor-3 The raw skin under my ripped blister glistens next to the red and tingling mounds on my palm, where calluses are beginning to form. Despite the lingering sensitivity, I'm glad I went to trapeze class this evening, and I can't wait to go back as soon as the blister heals.

I'm not there for the pain—who, me? I'm there for the thrill I get when I set myself a challenge and make progress towards it. I'm there because I love seeing the other two students try, fail, try again, learn, and perform, and I want to be able to that too. I'm there because the things I imagine myself doing once I have more experience (and thicker calluses!) make it easier for me to get through my daily exercise routines. I'm there because trapeze scares me, but in a way that I can overcome that fear.

Today I managed to get my knees over the bar entirely on my own. It took me one and a half sessions to learn how to do that with plenty of help from Mark, the ever-so-patient instructor. I learned to swing my knees up, contract my abdomen, and extend my knees. I learned to engage my shoulders by tensing them, but not too much. I learned how to trust myself to hang on while I allowed my legs to swing back, pendulum-like, around my center. I learned how to bend into the swing on the way forward, pulling my legs as high as they could go. I learned to flex my toes in order to clear the bar. And I learned to stop thinking so much and just do it... <laugh>

I know I'm probably going to forget many of these things and re-learn them during the next lesson and the next lessons after that, but that's okay—learning is part of the fun of it all.

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Tue, 09 Oct 2007 23:26:00 EDT
okay, so what's involved in this trapeze thing? http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.02.php#anchor-5 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.10.02.php#anchor-5 i like watching the other students. i would like to be able to do the kinds of stuff they do, someday. or at least simple things that look elegant. and i want to develop upper-body and core strength, coordination, and a terrific story. ;)

so, what do i need?

gah. all of the above.

maybe i'll go to trapeze once a week and spend two to three times a week working on core and strength. the jungle gym near the house will help me develop calluses, at least until it freezes over. i need to do more crunches and pushups, too, until i can eventually graduate to chin-ups.

we have a plan.

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Tue, 02 Oct 2007 22:13:00 EDT
Work permit on its way http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.09.28.php#anchor-2 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.09.28.php#anchor-2 A CIC official called me two days ago to clarify something on my application for a post-graduate work permit. When we cleared that up, she told me that my work permit should be done that day. Yay! I'm looking forward to getting it in the mail. Of course, that probably means less time to work on my book, but it'll be good to work. =)

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Fri, 28 Sep 2007 07:06:00 EDT
Weekly review http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.09.16.php#anchor-2 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.09.16.php#anchor-2 Here are the highlights of the last week:

  • Finally got my paperwork together for the post-graduate work permit! After following up with the School of Graduate Studies a number of times, I finally got the letter thanks to a follow-up by my department. Now I have to wait for my work permit...
  • Notified IBM about possible delays. I'm glad that they're flexible.
  • Applied for IELTS, an English proficiency test that will be useful for my permanent residency application.
  • Started working on proposal for Emacs book. Read A-C of the EmacsWiki.
  • Attended a Toronto Linux Users Group meeting that promised to be a vi vs. emacs debate. Greatly amused to hear it turn into an ed vs everything else debate due to old-timers.
  • Watched "Philippine Science" with W- at the Toronto International Film Festival. Imagine that—a movie about my high school!
  • Baked a cake for Mark Chignell, my research supervisor. Well-received. Also, got back in touch with Calum Tsang.
  • Had another driving lesson. Reviewed 3-point turns. Also, practiced driving with W- in an empty parking lot.
  • Gave a presentation on blogging to around 15 people at IBM. Convinced a few people to start blogging.
  • Booked tickets for a flight home this March. W- and J- are coming. Yay!
  • Picked up tons of books from library. Current reading focus: personal finance, work-life balance.
  • Had a good conversation with W- about medium- and long-term goals.
  • Still working on improving relationship with family.

My goals for the next week include:

  • Clarify my vision for the next few years and develop a plan.
  • Develop clear financial plan.
  • Summarize advice on transitioning into real world.
  • Send professional update to people.
  • Spend more quality time with people.
  • Post book notes.

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Sun, 16 Sep 2007 13:12:00 EDT
Out of my control http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.09.11.php#anchor-3 http://sachachua.com/notebook/wiki/2007.09.11.php#anchor-3 The person responsible for preparing letters of confirmation of degree at University of Toronto's School of Graduate Studies isn't around. I've called SGS every day to follow up on the letter, but no one else can prepare it. My transcript currently shows that my thesis is still in progress, so I can't request a paper copy and use that as proof of completion.

An international student advisor at U of T said that there's absolutely no way I can rush either SGS or Citizenship and Immigration Canada. She advised postponing my start date to three to four weeks after I send the application, which is dependent on when I receive the letter.

I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of moving my start date forward, but I don't think I can do anything about it. I've asked SGS if anyone else can prepare the letter. I've asked about my transcript. GWAAH!

Looking back, I really can't see how I would've done things better. This galls me even more than being late does. The tentative start date for my offer was based on a fairly reasonable time estimate after my thesis defense. I don't think I delayed a lot myself. Maybe I should have been more pessimistic, adding at least a 50% buffer to account for delays in communication, unexpected absences, things like that. I guess that's it: be much more conservative when estimating around other people's times...

I can't do anything about it now. I just have to wait.

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Tue, 11 Sep 2007 16:13:00 EDT