Saturday, March 31, 2007

T Minus 1

I can't help but feel that we're not quite ready for tomorrow's event.

We had our first run-through at the actual theatre this afternoon, and it was somewhat disheartening. I guess I was being a tad too optimistic.

People running around getting things set-up on stage

In the past two weeks, I've noticed some interesting relationship dynamics at work in one of the teams in this production. Rather than go into excruciating detail, I think it's sufficient to say that these last 14 days have been eye-opening because I've learned new things about both old and new friends.

I've also repeatedly come to the conclusion that the best way to deal with a frustrating situation is to make sure you're not contributing to the problem.

When someone acts in a way that seems out of line, it's so easy to give into negative emotions and use that as an excuse to flake out yourself. This kind of mirroring activity really does not help at all, and only serves to make the situation worse for everyone involved.

Of course, it takes a different kind of discipline to control anger and irritation. I never said it would be easy! haha!


I was so surprised to receive this BBC news alert via Twitter:

bbcworld: Mobile-phone text messaging in Cambodia is suspended, supposedly to protect voters during local elections.
Wow. Can you imagine that happening in the Philippines, where texting is already quite literally a way of life, and where we actually call today's youth GenTxt (Generation Text)?

Wouldn't it be easier to just go after the people who are broadcasting political text messages on a massive scale and stop them from doing so? Or better yet, charge them fines for doing so?

I hope our very own Comelec does not get any bright ideas from this for our May elections.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Stiff Competition

I just read a post by Ryan Carson, where he notes that someone has put up a job ad looking for a developer to make a clone of one of his products, Drop Send.

I think that job ad highlights one of more interesting things about web applications -- it takes very little effort for someone to check out and copy a successful product, especially since many web applications offer free trials and all you need is a valid email address to sign-up.

When you find people unexpectedly nipping at your heels, the old open source dictum "release early, release often" suddenly sounds like a good idea.

After all, the most obvious (though not the easiest) way to distinguish yourself from a sea of "me-too" players is to stay one step ahead by introducing something new and relevant to your application; existing users will find your product exciting again, and the buzz that the new features generates can bring in new users.

I am reminded of Joel Spolsky's blogpost where he came right out and said: "I can tell you that nothing we have ever done at Fog Creek has increased our revenue more than releasing a new version with more features."

Just goes to show how dangerous it is to rest on your laurels.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blogging Advice

Drew Benvie, a London-based PR and social media consultant whom I follow on Twitter, posed an interesting question to his Twitter friends a couple of hours ago: Anyone got opinions on how to stay enthused about blogging?

I found the answers from his friends interesting, so I'm collecting them for future reference in this blogpost.

  • Suw: Don't over do it, and don't sweat the quiet spells.
  • Sbisson: Have a story to tell - whether in words or pictures. Don't make it your life.
  • Paul Miller:Write about stuff you care about. Pick one side of the 'write for yourself/ write for your audience' fence.
  • noodlepie: Do you *have* to stay enthused? If you are, you are. If you're not, you're not. No big deal either way.
  • division6: Get blogging buddies - interlinking / tagging between friends can definitely help!
  • Sbisson: It's a social thing. Need to tie it to human social networks - professional and personal.
  • smudie: Love what you're blogging about! With that attitude, I lasted five years before I needed my first break.
  • smudie: Think it helps to feel part of a community as well, so you're sharing with friends in a way you would anyway, even without a blog.
  • mbites: Read blogs, Flickr, news to help inspire.Take a break. Refresh. Come back.
  • fuelmyblog: The golden rule: never blog pissed.
  • noodlepie: Step outside any bubble u find yrself in. Stumbleupon, & explore flickr can help. As does going offline.
Personally, I blog because I have a terrible memory and I want to be able to remember: (a) events that have happened; and (b) things that I've found interesting or eye-opening.

The act of writing things down helps me process the experience and also helps me remember things better. Having a searchable archive also compensates for the lousy memory. hehe.

As long as blogging continues to fulfill one of those two purposes, I think it will be easy enough for me to keep blogging.

Update: This post has since been picked up by Chris Vallance of BBC Five Live Radio, Drew Benvie, and Armand David (aka division6). Thank you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Putting your money...

It surprised me a bit today to realize that one theme kept coming up many times this week: Global Warming.

  • Purely by chance, I met a guy who grew up in Kansas but now does power-related projects in the Philippines that focus on environmental sustainability.
  • Fortune Magazine's April 2, 2007 issue is focused on "Going Green" and they have ongoing coverage of environmental issues on their website.
  • Quite a number of BBC news alerts I've been receiving via Twitter this week have something to do with corporate environmental initiatives.
And as if all of the above is not enough, today I came across (via James Hong) an entry on the Greenpeace blog that talks about Aspen Ski Resort's decision to stop using Kimberly-Clark products in its resorts.

In their letter to the makers of Kleenex, the resort company says "Kimberley-Clark's use of pulp from endangered forests and lack of recycled fiber in consumer tissue paper products is contradictory to our guiding principles."

I'm far from being a tree-hugger, but I like it when a simple and small lifestyle change on my part can allow me to contribute to a worthy cause. Now I just have to find an alternative brand that's a more environmentally friendly choice.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Getting Spartan

Got a kick out of watching this YouTube video.

It's Frank Miller's "300" Video Diary Day 3, which shows what kind of workouts the actors had to go through to get into shape for the movie 300.

According to IMDB's trivia page for the movie, "the entire principal cast underwent a rigorous and varied training regime for 6 weeks prior to shooting."

Six weeks only?!? Wow. It's really amazing what a lot of discipline (and necessity!) can accomplish.


I was admiring the newly selected theme for my Google personalized home page when I noticed a link at the bottom for Google Checkout, Google's Paypal-like service.

I remember trying to sign up last month but couldn't actually do so because the Philippines was not listed. Well, I'm now happy to report that folks like me with Philippine billing addresses can now register! Thanks, Google.

Side note: If you sign up before March 31, you'll receive a $10 credit to your account, which you can use anytime before April 30.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


I don't know how it happened, but somehow, one of our automatic voltage regulators (AVRs) at the office melted one of the prongs right off of the plug of my laptop power cord today.

One of my officemates nearby was the first to notice something wrong -- she said she could smell something burning. The AVR that I use is actually a couple of desks away, so I didn't notice the smell at first.

Anyway, she followed her nose and finally realized that it was the AVR! We turned it off and unplugged the power cord. As my camphone photo shows, one corner of the rubber insulation on the plug had melted away into a black ugly mess. A quick check showed that the missing prong is still stuck inside the AVR socket.

I can only conclude that something went wrong with the AVR, which is really ironic, since the whole point of using an AVR is to protect your equipment! Thankfully, the laptop itself appears to be unaffected. Now I just have to get myself a new power cord.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Globe's G-Webcall

Received an interesting text message today from Globe Telecom:

Globe Advisory: Going abroad this summer? Register to G-webcall before you fly n enjoy P7.50/min rate anywer in d world! Just txt GWEB ON to 2865 or visit for free info. To change ur password, txt GWEB SETPASS [newpassword] to 2865. Account valid for 180 days.
Will have to check that one out when I have time later this week.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Feed Overload

I think I'm suffering from feed overload!

I migrated my 97 RSS feeds to Google Reader exactly 40 days ago, and since then I've managed to rack up an additional 62 feeds. A lot of these new subscriptions are people I had found through the tidal wave of Twitter traffic generated by the SXSW Interactive Festival.

One of the things that repeatedly struck me as I surfed through all these new sites is how noticeably different the "blogging voice" is from the more conversational "tone" that people tend to use on Twitter. It's eye-opening because you see snippets of people's lives as they move back and forth between work and play.

The downside: I can get totally lost reading all these feeds. There have been several occasions in the past two weeks where I'd be reading one site after another, only to be shocked when I finally look at the time and realize it's already 2am (or in one case 4am!).

The upside: there's so much instant gratification in the feed reading experience. I learn something new with almost every new blogpost or article that I read, since there are so many things that I know so little about! haha! I always get a little buzz when I learn something new, even if it's of little practical or immediate value. I guess that's why it's so hard to resist the temptation to make 'just one more click...'

I don't quite know how yet, but one way or another I'm going to have to get this habit under control. There really is such a thing as information overload.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Coffee Buns

For someone who loves coffee, I've sooo terribly behind on the whole idea of coffee buns.

The Dessert Comes First blog has featured three so far (complete with wonderful photos), but I've yet to try any of them:

  • Roti Mum, currently with one branch at SM Megamall
  • Deli France, pretty much in all the major shopping areas
  • Kopi Roti, with branches in Morato, Blue Ridge, and Mall of Asia, among others
The first and last ones on the list appear to be worthy of extra effort to visit.

Friday, March 16, 2007

FUD about Splenda

I saw a blog post on the Sustainable is Good blog, which talks about the makers of Splenda buying hundreds of negative domain names with their brand.

And you know what? It's kinda hard not to wonder why Splenda's manufacturer would buy a domain called -- it can only mean they think there's a good chance someone else would buy it and use it.

It does make you stop and think, doesn't it?

* * *

I also found a site called Is Splenda Safe last night, and I must say I was a bit peeved by all the inuendo and FUD-sowing (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) on the home page:

Within my book, I reveal the scientific evidence strongly suggesting the chemical sweetener sucralose (Splenda) may harm your body. - Dr. Janet Starr Hull
Note the use of the words "scientific evidence" -- which helps add credibility to the statement. It's just too bad that the weight of the words gets watered down later: apparently, the evidence merely suggests that it may harm your body (emphasis mine).

What gets to me is the fact that the site doesn't really answer the question that its name asks. There's no outright statement that Splenda is unsafe, or in what quantities it becomes unsafe. It is strongly implied it, though, and visitors are urged to buy a $24.95 book to learn the whole truth.

And therein lies my problem with the site. If Splenda is such a hazardous substance and there's scientific proof of it, then that information should be distributed for free, pushed across the blogosphere, hyped in the news, and the product itself should be pulled from the supermarket shelves.

The way it's being handled now just leaves a bad taste in the mouth (no pun intended).

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Google Custom Search

It never ceases to amaze me just how much stuff Google has going on behind the scenes.

My latest find is something called Google Custom Search (CSE) which, as the name implies, lets you build your own little customized search engine. The service launched in October 2006 and it took five months before I even realized it existed.

Customization is achieved by limiting the search to certain domains or by blocking others, which makes it ideal for, say, adding a blog search widget to your sidebar.

As always, monetization helps, so you can link your custom search engine to your Adsense account and make some extra moolah in the process.

I tried adding this to one of my blogs (not this one) last night, and the whole process took around five minutes or so (would have been faster if my 'net connection was up to snuff). The only part of the process that confused me was when I had to 'grant permission' to my custom search engine from within my Adsense account. The error message in CSE wasn't explicit enough for this sleepy head. hehe.

Anyway, do check it out. For more information, there's always the official Google Custom Search Blog.


I actually found myself tempted to look into this job.

Just shows how a great job posting can make an arduous task seem like an exciting adventure. Haha!

Methinks that ad would be well received on the job boards of the STC.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Visualizing New Testament Relationships

It's very rare that I find my different interests converging together, so perhaps that's why I find this noteworthy.

Via a blogpost on the Read/Write Web, I recently learned about Many Eyes, a 1.5 month old data visualization site that's hosted and developed by IBM.

One of their more interesting bits of data visualization is a "New Testament Social Network" map, which renders a visual display of names that co-occur (i.e., mentioned in the same chapter) in the New Testament of the Bible.

Click through the image to go to the live site.

Side note: The ESV Bible Blog provides some additional discussion about the limitations of the data.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Congratulations, Obvians!

Was lying in bed this morning when the SMS messages all started coming in.

Scott Beale at Laughing Squid provided lots of photographic evidence.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why I like Stars in Twitter

There's been some talk recently about how to improve your Twitter experience by adopting certain habits.

One particular habit that I've acquired, which I have yet to see mentioned or suggested elsewhere, is to sift through people's favorites, especially people who happen to have a LOT of favorites.

I find this starry habit especially useful because:

  • It's interesting to see what 'tweets' people liked so much, that they took the trouble to 'star' it. You get additional insights into the person's sense of humor, what milestones they want to remember, or what stuff they consider important.
  • Favorites generally have a fantastic wheat-to-chaff ratio when you want to look for new people to follow, as opposed to individually visiting your friend's friends, or worse, surfing the public timeline. Think of it this way: people have already gone through the arduous task of filtering / sorting / tagging the tweets they've received, and all you have to do is skim through the cream of the crop to find interesting new people.
Unfortunately, we only get to see the Top 10 Twitter favorites system-wide right now, even though 14,947 distinct tweets have been starred so far. So IMHO, the best way to get started is to begin with the people listed in the Top 10 favorites, then go through their respective favorites and work your way down from there.

It works for me, and may work for you too.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

No More Death Marches

It's been several days since my last blog post because I've been chasing a particularly tough deadline.

In my previous job over a decade ago, I could literally just sit at the keyboard for 10 to 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for a few months straight, and still produce consistently good output. I could never understand my project managers when they'd say they can't focus anymore and needed to take a break, or how they'd disappear for an hour for dinner before coming back to work. To me, it made more sense to just sit there and deal with the problem.

Maybe as we get older, we lose not just our physical stamina but our mental stamina as well. I don't really know.

What I do know now, after the experience of chasing this deadline over a period of three weeks, is that working nonstop on a task seven days a week is not only unhealthy, it's also unproductive. My boss calls that style of working a 'Death March' and I can't think of a better or more picturesque term for it.

Personal experience has now convinced me that it's much better to take a break and do something totally different for a while to clear your head before returning to the seemingly insurmountable task. Get a good meal. Meet up with friends. Take a walk. Visit a bookstore. Or if you're like me, go to rehearsals.

Whatever form your little respite might take, go ahead and enjoy it. Relish the experience. Grab the chance to forget about the problem for a while. When you come back, you'll find yourself feeling happier and less deprived of life's little pleasures. More importantly, you'll realize that your mind is once again ready to focus on the challenge.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Horses and Clients

One of my boss' favorite lines has been coming back to haunt me often the past few days: You can take a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink. [origin]

If you have sound advice to offer, but you have the sinking feeling that the client will not be able to (or worse, will refuse to) implement it, can you still consider that advice 'sound'?

On the other hand, if we don't draw a hard line somewhere, won't all the 'tailoring' or 'customizing' we do to account for the specific circumstances of the client just be equivalent to 'watering down' our recommendations (no pun intended)?

I doubt I'll find the answers to my questions tonight. :-(