Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Podcasting hits the mainstream

According to an IT Conversations podcast featuring Doug Kaye, podcasting has been around for three to four years in some form, even though the term didn't really come into existence in a big way until more recently.

But you know that podcasting has really hit the mainstream when Amazon.com has launched its own monthly podcast, Amazon Wire -- "an original, free podcast about books, music, movies, and those who create them."

A quick look through Odeo also shows a number of channels with several instantly-recognizable names: BBC's Documentary Archive, The Economist Magazine, and Business Week. It's great how the rise of broadband internet connectivity has sparked a revival of old-style communication methods, i.e., audio only.

One of these days (when I finally have the time!), I'm going to have to try recording a sound clip to see how easy it is to go from recording, to editing, to publishing, and finally to actual listening -- without any professional equipment.


I decided to check out Odeo Studio to see just how much of a no-brainer it would be to use their recording and publishing features with my clunky home microphone. And as it turns out, it was very much a no-brainer! Took me all of maybe four minutes to do everything from start to finish. It helps that all the buttons are large and clearly labeled. haha!

Here's the finished product, which I've entitled Hello, World. If you're a programmer who "grew up" in the 1980s, you'll get the inside joke. hehe.

powered by ODEO

The recording is pathetically simple, but it does prove that Odeo Studio works like a charm. Oh, and I would like to go on the record and say that I find the primarily-pink-themed flash player really pretty.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Solo Lunch

I relish those rare days when I get to have lunch alone at a restaurant.

Not that I'd want to be eating lunch alone everyday, but there are times when you just want some alone time with your thoughts, a magazine, and a favorite meal -- especially when you've been bombarded with 'interrupts' for several days on end.

I am reminded of a conversation I had some time ago with some gal pals -- many were of the opinion that women who eat alone at restaurants are a sad lot, so they avoid being that kind of person at all costs.

For some reason, I've never really experienced that kind of hang-up. I guess it's because I don't spend time checking out the people seated at the other tables, and I simply assume that no one else is bothering to check out what I'm doing.

Maybe if it were the evening of Valentine's Day and the rest of the tables had couples being all lovey-dovey, I might feel a tad out of place. But for the most part, this kind of quiet time is welcome and refreshing.

Recent Movements

I've fallen so far behind on my blogreading lately that I missed a few notable movements:

  • Vox has launched (Oct 2006). After being in "limited membership" mode for a few months, this brand-spanking new service has officially launched. I am seriously tempted to move my blog to it, because Vox allows me to flag who gets to see which entry (in the same way LiveJournal does). The only thing that stops me from really switching is my lack of access to the actual template code.
  • Ev and Biz start Obvious (Oct 2006). In a move that's very much the reverse of a "built-to-flip" mentality, Ev and Biz have set up a new company called Obvious, and acquired Odeo and Twitter from their venture-capital funded business Odeo Inc.
  • Mark Fletcher has left Bloglines (June 2006). Serial 'net-preneur Mark Fletcher has left Bloglines in the hands of its acquirers, Ask. It's a move that's similar to his own departure from eGroups after it was acquired by Yahoo (and rebranded as Yahoogroups). It also reminds me of Evan Williams leaving Blogger a couple of years after it was acquired by Google.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Just Like Old Times

Went to a wake for the father of one of my former choir conductors last night. I had not seen V in such a long time, and while it was great to hug her again, I do wish it was under happier circumstances.

At her request, around 20 of her former choir members (myself included) got together last night to perform one song for the wake. And although it has been years since many of us had sung together, once we did start singing, it felt like we had stepped back into the past.

The old blending was still there, amazingly. The singing techniques learned through hours of rehearsals long ago all came roaring back. Lyrics that I thought I'd forgotten, melodies that I had not heard in years... all of it was still there, just dormant and buried at the back of my brain.

Hearing the blending and feeling once again the many nuances of the song made me remember why I loved being in choir so much all those years ago.

It was just like old times, and it felt really good.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I attended a luncheon today where the corporate sponsor paying for lunch was also was the speaker for the session. Sadly, the content of the talk was pure fluff. The best description I can think of is that the speaker took their corporate brochure and converted the content to a 10-slide powerpoint presentation and called that a 'talk.'

Afterwards, my seatmate politely commented that she expected there to be more to the talk than what we saw, something I felt rather gratified to hear. Yet, I couldn't help but wonder how many of the other attendees felt the same way.

Lately, I seem to find myself in situations (like the one today) where I get the impression that the average client can sense the difference between quality consulting and mediocre consulting, but they don't care enough about the difference, and certainly aren't willing to pay for the difference.

After all, in these tough financial times, why pay P200 for a bottle of Perrier at a restaurant when they can also serve you regular tap water that's been filtered and chilled at no extra charge?

Do the extra care, attention, and thinking that we put into our consulting advice actually translate into a difference that the client will take into account when they choose a consulting services provider?

I am reminded of a recent conversation I had with a fellow choir member at church. We were talking about the many improvements that the choirs can still make (musically speaking), and how it would be great if we can actually make these changes. He shared with me his wife's reaction to this line of thinking. She asked, do you think the average church-goer can appreciate the difference between a professional choir and a volunteer church choir? And if they cannot, is it still worth it to invest so much time, energy, and emotions into pursuing choral excellence?

At what point are we making sub-optimal decisions by focusing so much on being 'perfect' that we automatically reject what is already 'good enough'?

And if we're so used to compromising and just delivering what's 'good enough,' how sure are we that we haven't already crossed the invisible line that separates 'good enough' from 'mediocre'?

I really wish I knew.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Before I forget, I wanted to make this little entry about the sermon last Sunday at church, which touched a bit on the subject of generosity.

I enjoyed that sermon a lot. Basically, the pastor was saying that we can easily find it in our hearts to be generous if we keep in mind (among other things) that:

  • everything we have comes from God; and
  • if God really meant for us to have something, nothing and no one can stop us from receiving it.
What an interesting and eye-opening perspective with which to look at the world!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sources of Power

I'm currently in the middle of a really interesting book entitled Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein.

It's an interesting read, because it dispels the notion that the best decisions are always made after listing all the possible options, weighting and rating each option, adding up the ratings, then selecting the highest-scoring option.

As it turns out, highly experienced people in high-stress, time-sensitive roles (think firefighters, air force pilots, emergency room doctors, ICU nurses) who have to make rapid-fire decisions with very little information on hand do not go through the motions of enumerating and then rating their options. Instead, they use what the author calls a Recognition-Primed Decision (RPD) making model.

With RPD, decision-makers take in the situation, immediately come up with a candidate action, check mentally if it will work, and implement it right away if they believe it has a chance of success. If they're not convinced their candidate action will work, they just come up with another, evaluate it, discard it, and so on until they find one which they believe it will work.

There's no weighing of multiple options to find the 'best' one. There's simply weighing one option at a time and going with what (given the information and time available to decide) looks like a decision that will work.

I'm not sure yet how this is supposed to apply to me in real life, but then, I'm only on p.58 at the moment. Should be interesting to read it through all the way to the end.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Peril of Professional Services

This week, the boss and I found ourselves receiving three different requests for help from three different groups of people. Each one entailed reviewing and providing feedback on IT plans, strategies, and budgets. Each entailed some degree of reading, analyzing, and formulating recommendations. Each one was framed as a "favor."

The timing could not have possibly been worse since we were chasing deadlines on a number of items, plus the boss and I were both downed by this cold/cough thing, which slowed us down significantly, and made any kind of heavy thinking difficult.

As I was reflecting on the situation (and the not-so-amusing timing of it all), I realized that this is the peril that everyone in professional services faces. If you're a doctor, a lawyer, or a consultant in similar fields of professional services, you'll always be approached by people who want your advice, but are not willing or not able to pay for it.

Doctors probably know this best of all, since I know from personal observation that people will ask for medical advice at the strangest places -- while you're in line getting into a movie theatre; while you're eating at a restaurant; while you're sitting on a church pew; heck, even while you're in the rest room! If you had made an appointment to see the doctor and asked exactly the same set of questions, you would have been billed a consultation fee. If you bump into your doctor at some social function and ask for their advice, then you're getting it for free.

Personally, I'm more than happy to give people advice about most things that don't require a lot of work. Want my pasta recommendation for a particular restaurant? I'm game. Want to know what TV shows to watch? I've got an opinion that I'm happy to share. Wanna know if the laptop you're thinking of getting is good enough for you? I'll be happy to take a look. Wanna know if the new Google spreadsheet service is any good? I'll be happy to give you my $0.02 (assuming of course that I've tried it already). Heck, I even get a kick out of giving people (unsolicited) career advice, although of course I always attach a disclaimer to that.

Bottomline, there's a world of difference between advice that you can dispense casually over a meal, and advice that you can provide only after wading through stacks of paper and thinking things through. And that's where the situation gets really tricky.

Most people don't realize that when they ask for free advice from someone in professional services, they are actually depriving the person of income.

If my business is selling Product X, then it may make sense for me to give you free advice that will help justify your purchase of my Product X. So when a large hardware company comes along and tells you they'll be happy to do a free study of your data center and give you recommendations, it makes absolutely perfect sense to me. After all, by the end of that study, they'll probably be recommending that you upgrade or dispose of some of your current hardware and procure some brand-spanking new machines (preferably from them).

That's not the case in professional services. All you really have to sell is your time and your thoughts. Any time that I spend giving someone free advice is time that I cannot devote to a paying client. There's an opportunity cost involved. And if I've already given you the advice that you need, what other income can I hope to make out of that?

* Sigh * If I were not drowning in work right now while trying to shake off this cough/cold, I'd probably feel really flattered that people want to know what I think, and this mini-rant probably would not exist. Unfortunately, I feel really tired, and I can't help but think that the best form of flattery anyone can give me right now is to say that they value my advice so much, they're actually willing to pay for it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Under the weather

You know you're getting old when pulling a single all-nighter lands you with a cough and a cold two days later.

I hope I get over this cough/cold soon because work continues to arrive and there seems to be no end in sight. I'm starting to wonder if someone has hung a large neon sign over my head that reads: "Dump more work on this sucker!"

Thank God we have a holiday sometime next week.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

easyPDF to the Rescue

As the sun was coming up this morning, I found myself in dire straits because my Adobe Acrobat trial version had expired and I desperately needed to produce PDFs for the association's October 2006 newsletter.

I visited Adobe.com, hoping to buy a copy of the software online. I was so determined to finish this issue that I was even willing to spend a few hundred dollars just to get Acrobat. So you can just imagine my dismay when I learned that only a handful of countries can buy Acrobat online. Apparently, the rest of us have to go through resellers or distributors.

With the deadline hanging over my head, I couldn't afford to wait until Monday to contact the Philippine distributor. So I did a quick Google search for Word to PDF converters. After less than five minutes of searching and following links around, I managed to stumble across a product called easyPDF Printer Driver.

I downloaded their trial copy and by Jove, it worked like a charm! The resulting PDF was perfectly WYSIWYG, right down to the positions of text boxes, frames, images, headers, and footers.

From there, it was a no-brainer for me to pull out my credit card and plunk down $14.95 for a single user license. The license key appeared on screen right after the card transaction went through, so it was fairly short work thereafter to generate the PDFs with password protection on and content copying disabled (and also without the trial easyPDF watermark). By the time I emailed the files to our association webmaster, I felt like a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders. Whew!

I'm sure Adobe Acrobat has got a lot more features compared to easyPDF, but since I only need very basic Word-to-PDF conversion right now, easyPDF fits the bill perfectly, and costs only a fraction (less than 3.4%!!) of Adobe Acrobat.

Frankly, I can't remember a time when I've been this lucky with an impulse online purchase before... which is why I found the experience worth blogging about.

A few conclusions from this experience:

  • It's really true that when you're the brand leader, people will pay (and in fact will not think twice about paying) a premium for your product.
  • Even if you're the market leader, you can lose sales when your product isn't available for purchase at the time and place when people need to buy it.
  • Given how easy it is to find anything on the web, doing a quick Google search before you buy anything online can save you a whole lot of money.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Twitter Wishlist

Have been using Twitter for over a month now, and I must say that I've really grown to love this service. It's such a quick-and-easy way to post an update to my blog, especially when I have no time to post a real meaty blog update. I feel less guilty that way. :-P

I still haven't seen the effect my recent mobile twittering will have on my phone bills, though, so perhaps my opinion will change when the next bill arrives. haha!

I know that less is more when it comes to web applications (I've been reading 37Signals' Getting Real book, so yes, I really do get it). But I still can't help but wish for a few enhancements:

  1. Getting messages on my phone with the correct timestamp for my timezone. Right now, I'm getting text messages from an SMS center somewhere in the UK (at least I think I am, since the country code is +44). So when I receive the message, they're timestamped 7 hours earlier than my equivalent time (since my timezone is GMT+8). That's downright disconcerting, especially when I'm scrolling through my Treo's inbox (which sorts the messages by date-time).
  2. Sending an MMS (not an SMS) as my Twitter update, so that photos can be attached to the message. The photo should, of course, be different from my profile photo so the latter doesn't get overwritten. I suppose what I'm looking for sounds a lot like photo-blogging, but hey, if Twitter is a form of mini-blogging and each twitter post deserves to have its own permalink, then why can't I use it as a photo-blogger as well, especially since so many phones and phone networks now support MMS? Ev's vacation twitter messages from Marrakech, Milan, and Santorini would surely have been even more interesting if photos came with them. And I could have twittered some photos of the damage wrought by typhoon Milenyo.
  3. Finding out how many people have actually visited my Twitter page, i.e., knowing which of my friends (and how many non-friends!) have actually been checking in. Think of it this way -- I can add a visitor counter to my blog, but I can't do that with my Twitter page.
So there you go. The top three items on my Twitter wish list. I'm sure I can think of more but everything else is of lower priority to me right now.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Burning the Midnight Oil

Yes, as the title implies, my work backlog is still there, feeling as overwhelming as it did last week, despite my recent attempts to get my schedule back under control.

In fact, I am so tempted to skip choir rehearsals tomorrow night just to gain back three hours of productive time because I need to focus on more urgent items. When I first joined the choir at my current church (which I don't regret -- let me just get that on the record), I really didn't expect that we would need two nights of rehearsals each week.

But that's been the case so far whenever a special event is in the works. And you know how it is in the Christian calendar... there's always a special event just waiting to pounce on you. If it's not the Church Anniversary, then it'll be Easter, or Missions, or Christmas (the crowd favorite). Right now, it appears that our next special event is Praise Night.

Under normal circumstances, I actually don't mind since I love singing (it's therapeutic!) and I generally enjoy our song selections. But right now, I've got one thing that's really hanging over my head (like the proverbial Sword of Damocles) -- the October issue of the IDQ Newsletter, which I would have released more than a week ago if not for the disruption caused by typhoon Milenyo.

So why am I blogging about the work that I have to do instead of just buckling down and actually doing the work itself? Well, frankly, I needed the break. Just finished working on one article, and I find myself dreading the thought of diving into the next one (which from experience will probably take me an hour and a half to go through).

Hay... God, please grant me the discipline, patience, and concentration I need to finish this tonight.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Path with Branches

One of the recurring thoughts that I've had this week is the notion that your life can be completely different depending on who you end up marrying. Meaning, you can be completely compatible with two different people, but your life will be completely different (and happy in a completely different way) depending on which person you end up being with.

Or you could end up marrying someone totally wrong for you. :-(

And that's the scary part, I think. How do you know that the person you choose is the right person? How do you know that you won't actually be happier, living a completely different life with someone else?

It's a lot like walking along a path and finding at some point that it branches off in different directions. Once you've chosen one of the branches, the way back is closed forever, and now your universe of options has shrunk to what's left of the path that you've chosen.

I sometimes think this is why people are so afraid of making commitments. It's the fear that you may choose the wrong path, then spend the rest of your life wondering where the other path(s) could have taken you.

Life is so much simpler when you have less opportunities and less options. When circumstances limit you to a simple, single path, no further thought or reflection is required. You simply go with the flow. No angst. No drama. No big decisions to make.

Having said all that, I still prefer a path with branches, though. Life seems richer that way, despite (or perhaps because of) the tough decisions that have to be made every time the road branches.

Saturday, October 07, 2006


Finally got around to watching The Sentinel today, which I had purchased on VCD more than two weeks ago. Typhoon Milenyo had a way of putting so many of my plans on hold. hehe.

It was fun to watch! The story is straightforward and the plot reminds me a bit of The Fugitive (i.e., one good guy chasing another good guy while the latter is trying to prove his innocence without getting caught).

I'm so comfortable now seeing Kiefer Sutherland in this type of role (thanks to 24) that he seemed perfect for the role of David Breckinridge. Eva Longoria's role could have been a little more meaty, but at least she was slightly more than just mere eye candy on the movie.

Anyway, it turns out the movie is based on a book by Gerald Petievich. I'd never heard of the author or his writing before. The reviews of the original book aren't particularly good on Amazon, but the plot is certainly interesting enough. Guess I now have another name to watch out for the next time I visit the bookstore.


This week whizzed by so quickly. And despite that (or maybe because of it) I feel so utterly exhausted right now -- both mentally and physically.

After the events of the past week, I can so totally relate to something that my mom often says -- how worrying about life's day-to-day logistics can be so draining, and yet at the end of the day, you feel like you've not really accomplished anything important.

That's why I have so much respect for people who are effective as Executive Assistants, Personal Assistants, Chiefs of Staff, or have similar roles. They clear away all the little obstacles that slow you down, so that you're free to focus only on the things that really require your attention. They allow other people to operationalize strategy or worry about the big picture.

Another thing I realized this week: obsessive-compulsive people tend to create their own monsters, or inadvertently create crosses that in the end, only they can bear. It's so much easier to be the type of person who doesn't care if things aren't "just so," or who doesn't mind if everything is all helter-skelter. No wonder we are frequently advised not to sweat the small stuff.

And now, I'm totally zonked. Time to hit the sack.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Handful of Milenyo Photos

Finally had a chance to upload some random shots taken during typhoon Milenyo.

Didn't really take that many, mostly because I was more focused on keeping things running at home while power and phones were out. But I figured I might as well post the few that I have.

Downed power line on Timog Ave.

Still on Timog, from opposite angle.

Several days after the storm, New Manila was cluttered with large trees that had to be cut down to clear debris from the streets

Damage near a Honda dealership at Magallanes.

Same dealership in Magallanes, taken from another angle.

A lot of bloggers have also been posting about their own experiences.

For more photos of Milenyo's aftermath, check out over 700 photos uploaded to Flickr.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Finally got back online today for the first time since typhoon "Milenyo" hit the country on Sep 28. Power is still out at my home, but I am thankfully able to get online at work starting today.

While we haven't fully "recovered" from the effects of the storm, it has been a rather enlightening experience for me. Had a lot of time on my hands when it was too dark to do anything and too hot to consider moving. That gives you a lot of time for reflection.

Some idle thoughts during this period:

  • When I can't watch TV for days on end, it's actually not that stressful and in fact can be somewhat relaxing.
  • When you're unable to communicate through phone or mobile for extended periods, you can quite literally go batty because communication is so integral to socialization and coordination of effort.
  • It is quite relaxing (maybe hypnotic?) to just sit safely indoors and watch the trees waving about in high winds.
  • So much of life's conveniences are so electricity-dependent, including refrigeration, cold drinks, hot showers, proper ventilation, internet, and mobile technology.
  • I found it difficult to "abandon" my home despite the lack of electrical power. While people were checking into hotels in droves, I found that I'd rather stay at home where it's more uncomfortable because I'd have more peace of mind that way. Now I understand better why people will stubbornly refuse to leave their homes even when the simmering volcano just a few short miles away is threatening to erupt, and why so many people disobey evacuation orders.
  • I am lucky to have many friends who are gracious and generous enough to invite me to sleep over at their homes when they learn that electricity is still out at my house.
  • I am lucky to have relatives and godparents who check in on me every day just to make sure I'm okay.
  • I have a lot more loyalty to Globe Telecom after this experience. Considering how long power has been out in my area, I was still able to send text and call, even though signal was (and still is) occassionally spotty. They're certainly a lot more reliable than PLDT -- my landlines have been dead more than 80% of the time in the 108 hours that I've had no electricity at home.
  • There's nothing quite as thrilling as getting your portable generator repaired and returned to you on the same day that you reported a problem. ;-)
  • Reading by candlelight or dim lamplight is just so plainly a gosh-darned-awful experience.
  • Necessity and adrenaline can make you capable of completing tasks that you ordinarily would have thought you can't do.
  • The yellow pages are the best search engine there is when you have no electricity!
I'm sure there are a lot more stray thoughts floating around in my head, but I guess this will do for now. :-D