Sunday, February 19, 2006

Resolved: I shall be constructing an hPAA

This week has been unexpectedly busy for me. Since last week I had been involved in an internet debate and I have been having a rum time trying to organize my data. I have also been assigned to give the mid-week sermon last Wednesday (February 15), which meant even more organization of data. I have also had to give assistance to one of my brothers in researching a good enough PDA phone to replace his excellent but suddenly not as "useful" Nokia. Later in the week, I've had to visit the family of a poor guy who was murdered for his cellphone, and then make the tedious trip back to my former employer to get my back pay and put it in the bank.

My youngest brother had been taking his post-graduate studies finally this year and, I am happy to report, doing well. However, he is suddenly finding that having a job and studying in the evening is taxing and time-consuming. To cut a long story short: even if he has a PC at home and access to a laptop that his job is allowing him to use, he finds that both are still too inconvenient for him. He needs, for instance, access to several Bible versions and a few resources that would have had him lugging around big books, or else, copious notes. There are, of course, eBook versions of these that are normally readable on the PC or a laptop, but as I said these are very inconvenient to bring. The obvious solution is, of course, a PDA.

Since he cannot afford something brand new, he has had to trade in his Nokia and get something second-hand. If I might say so myself, the O2 XDA II PDA we got last Wednesday was a good bargain. It had the original box with complete original accessories with it, including the important installation CD. By the next day, I had already installed a lot of free resources (like several Bible versions, including one in Tagalog, and some other references) and he was able to copy his report (in MS Word Doc format) onto it for him to easily modify later for his class.

It took almost the entire day on Wednesday to find him a good bargain, and I had barely enough time to prepare my sermon. I wasn't in the mood to use the lectionary and I had wanted to give a sermon on "Love" since it was February after all. But I found that having too much to say is as much a disadvantage as having too little. In the end, I merely listed down some facts that I do know about love (including the four divisions that C.S. Lewis made) and several Bible verses about why we should love and what cold love is a symptom of. I used the "Compose" feature of Gmail to write my sermon so that I don't have to open MS Word or WordPerfect. I wrote only an almost bare outline and decided to wing it later than night.

In the end, if the congregation is to be believed, they thought it was the best sermon I have given yet (I've preached a total of two to this particular group of parishoners), and one of the pastors listening even told me that he was touched to the heart. It was a personal success for me, but I must admit that it almost ended in disaster.

If there is one thing that ties in all of these is that, despite having a PDA myself (an aging Palm m130) I am still having difficulty organizing data. Oh, I am very happy with my Palm device for data of a digital matter; but I mostly use it as a portable digital library of eBooks I have either obtained or digitized myself. I rarely use the "To Do" function. About the only other function that I extensively use is the "Calendar" function (as a glorified alarm clock to remind me of important events like birthdays and tv program schedules) and the "Address Book" function (for storing phone numbers and other details). But the one thing that I had hoped I could use it for, that of a personal database, is the one thing that I have not used it for lately.

It's not entirely my fault. I had in previous times used it as such, using Documents To Go as a digital "tickler" notebook. But I have since worn out the touch screen with my incessant note-taking that it is no longer reliable for that purpose. The touch screen works well enough for me to access my eLibrary, but little else.

I can, of course, purchase a folding keyboard, but that kinda defeats the purpose of it being a "portable" digital notebook. In the end, it spends more time sitting pretty in it's neophrene holster as a glorified digital Library and newspaper (using AvantGo, I'd been downloading the Daily Inquirer and other news sites) that I can read in the dark.

But with this on-g0ing online debate, I really need a notebook for taking notes and organizing my thoughts. I had always used tickler notebooks before, but inspite of their working well for its purpose, they aren't versatile enough.

Then, several things happened at once. I remembered that back in college we used notecards instead of notebooks (basically, they are index cards used for the purpose of taking quotations and properly referencing them). Before I started using my wife's m130, I always had a pack of them in my pocket for taking down notes. They were easy to organize, but also easy to lose track of.

Then, while reading about Internet Phenomena on Wikipedia, I came across this article on the Hipster PDA, and it seemed to be the answer I was looking for. I quote the entire article below:
The Hipster PDA is a paper-based personal organizer popularised, if not invented, by San Francisco writer Merlin Mann. Originally a tongue-in-cheek reaction to the increasing expense and complexity of personal digital assistants, the Hipster PDA (said to stand for 'Parietal Disgorgement Aid') simply comprises a sheaf of index cards
Hipster PDA
held together with a binder clip. Following widespread coverage in the media and blogs, the Hipster PDA (abbreviated 'hPDA') has become a popular personal management tool particularly with geeks and followers of David Allen's Getting Things Done methodology and users of the Fisher Space Pen.

Advocates of the hPDA claim that it is a cheap, lightweight, free-form organiser which doesn't need batteries and is unlikely to be stolen. Critics cite the lack of integration with desktop PC productivity software and point out that there is no easy way to back up the often critical information stored in an hPDA.

Although it began as a joke, or perhaps a statement about technology fetishism, the Hipster PDA has rapidly gained a population of serious users, with hundreds posting pictures of their customised hPDAs on photo sharing sites and exchanging tips on Internet mailing lists. Enthusiasts also design and share index card-size printable templates for storing contacts, to-do lists, calendars, notes, project plans, and so on.

The Hipster PDA (perhaps so named because it is a pocket device, or as an allusion to hipster culture) has become something of an Internet phenomenon, gaining popularity primarily among young, technology-literate people especially IT workers. It represents a 'back-to-basics' or Zen attitude to personal management.
The answer has been obvious all along. In my most recent job, I had used index cards more often than tablets they gave us; I had even written my entire presentation on it. Of course, the term is a misnomer, since PDA stands for Personal Digital Assistant, but this "PDA" is not digital. It's analog. Of course, according to the article above and the site that "instructs" you how to "construct" one (43Folders), it's supposed to mean "Parietal Disgorgement Aid," whatever that means. I guess they need to keep the PDA acronym to preserve its "geek" factor; calling it merely a "sheaf of index cards" isn't cool.

I will be constructing one, because I need it (especially on that online debate on the mailing list), but I will be calling it hPAA, short for Hipster Personal Analogue Assistant. It will be pronounced as hi-pah (with the glottal stop) so that it can benefit from the assonance with iPAQ. In my mind are numerous "hacks" to make my hPAA more "gadget-like" (like constructing a cardboard wallet with pockets for Post-it flags and a pen), but I guess I'll try to keep it simple for now and use a binding clip in the meantime.

I must remind myself that I am construcing a hPAA not to play around with it, but to use it as a tool.

Anyway, I'm intrigued by this and I will give an update as to how it works. I can't wait to make one tomorrow!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Fleeting Precious Things and Forlorn Hopes

One of the really good things about a really good book or a really good movie is that they have the potential to last. A movie I enjoyed when I was young I can reasonably hope would also be enjoyed by my progeny, if a copy of that movie still exists. A book is even easier—as long as I, myself, have a copy of a book that means a lot to me, the possibility of sharing it to my children in the future is a joy to me.

Still, there are certain things which are so precious and yet so fleeting that one can almost despair that anybody else can share it with you. People have felt this when there is a particular play or cantata or musical which was magical, but with a magic that lasts only through the night and only imperfectly in one's memories. So many people, for instance, point to Christopher Plummer's performance as Cyrano de Bergerac as his best performance in his entire career. I wouldn't know. I didn't watch it; and I will always have the feeling of having been excluded from such a wonderful experience.

Nevertheless, cantatas can be performed again. Plays have scripts that can be published and enjoyed. Musicals that one hasn't ever watched can be remade as films (the way the Broadway musical of the Phantom of the Opera has been) and be enjoyed by new generations. So, even here there is potentially some hope that one can feel that one isn't alone in enjoying these treasures, no matter how different they are.

The same cannot be said of computer games. One of the things that my wife and I shared even as best friends were computer games. Before even a hint of romance between us, we were already close trading secrets and strategies of the games of WarCraft and MYST. As we became closer and closer to each other, there was Final Fantasy VII. WarCraft and MYST both have novels written for them and complete histories that will satisfy the cravings of knowledge; but this is not the same as actually "living" the games. Of course, there still is a WarCraft game out there, and several MYST sequels, but as memorable as these games are to me, to my wife and countless others, they will be forgotten by the next generation. Not because they aren't worth remembering but because there is no way for them to exist once the technologies they are based on becomes obsolete. I find this very sad.

It is even worse with Final Fantasy VII. This game was designed for a console that is no longer being manufactured, and the discs that I saved for and bought are no longer in good condition, even if I am able to preserve the PSOne console for my children. Even when I tried downloading a PC version of it, hoping to relive some of the joy and happiness of playing it, it has problems even working on Windows XP. It is sad, because the story of Final Fantasy VII is one of the best that I have ever lived through. "Lived" because, unlike even the best books, role-playing games such as these allow you to actually live out the characters, even if the story-line is linear. Someday, I can hope to have my kids read Pride and Prejudice when they are old enough, probably watch a DVD of the BBC version; I cannot hope for the same with Final Fantasy VII. True, there is one anime "prequel" and a movie "sequel" to the games, but none of these hold any meaning apart from the game. These movies mean something because we played the game.

Sometimes I wish somebody would write a novel concerning the game, but I realize now that that is a fool's hope. The printed word vs the audio-visual journey are very different things. Notwithstanding issues of canon, putting "the game" down into words will kill the game. How does one translate all the possible materia combinations, the different strategies for defeating the Weapons, the side quests or even Chocobo raising, training and racing into the written word without making it long, tedious, boring and irrelevant?

Prequels and sequels are okay, like they did for the MYST franchise, but even the creators realized that they shouldn't novelize the actual games itself. It shouldn't be done for Final Fantasy VII either.

So, sometimes I wish that Square-Enix had the resources to "re-publish" their "titles" for each succeeding generation, or at least find some way to preserve it so that it can still be enjoyed. I know I am not alone in hoping that Square-Enix would "remake" Final Fantasies I-VII, at least, one last time for the Playstation 3. I know that, unlike good books, good games cannot be republished ad infinitum; but it still is a wish. Then maybe, as all forlorn hopes are, there is a potential for the joy of being in connection still with the next generation, a connection with something that had meant a lot to us while we, too, had been young.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Beds and Beef

Two of my friends are planning to move out of the family home. And as I plan to move in two or more months' time, we joined forces today. We went around the suburb they want to live in and looked at houses and units. We also looked at mattresses. It was great lying down on loads of mattresses and really finding out what sort of thing we wanted. There is a big range of beds and all that but we were able to settle on a mattress that was on sale and which was comfortable, had a bit of give and good quality wise. Have around three payments that I can make on it and it can be delivered later on. But I feel so joyful that one important part of my preparation for Gryphon's arrival is out of the way.

One of these two friends also dropped by for dinner last night and I made her my dad's favorite beef stew. She loved it and was asking for the recipe. It is a sentimental dish for my family as we have it nearly every Sunday and Gryphon always looked forward to having it. I thought it would be good for me to remember what's in it and how it was prepared it so I'm sharing it with all of you. The photo shows a previous attempt when I used bok choy instead of cabbage and did not put in sweet potatoes. The sweet potato helps make the soup thicker.


Approximately for three people
3 or 4 pieces of osso bucco (cut of beef that has some bone and marrow)
2 420ml cans of red kidney beans
ginger (peeled, cut into three sections)
onion (roughly chopped)
2 carrots (roughly chopped)
4 potatoes (quartered)
1-2 sweet potatoes (quartered)
cabbage (loose leaves)
black pepper
fish sauce

Put in your osso bucco and red kidney beans in a large pot. Then put in enough water to submerge the beef. Bring everything to a boil. Then lower the heat until it the whole thing is at a simmer. Skim off the scum that comes on top. Let it continue to simmer for an hour or so and in the meantime prepare all the other ingredients. When the meat is a bit soft, put in your ginger, carrots, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

When the carrots are a bit soft, put in your onions. Stir in your fish sauce and black pepper to taste. When the beef is soft, put in your cabbage and wait for the leaves to soften a bit. Then serve while still hot.

Sauce option: My dad often makes a sauce that can be drizzled on the meat when it's already on your plate. Mix a bit of fish sauce, lemon or calamansi and some Tabasco or chili. It brings a whole other level of taste to the dish.

Note: If you are using kidney beans that are not from a can, soak the beans in water overnight.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Some Quiz results—wala lang

As Dumbledore, you are talented, intelligent and powerful! You may prefer to be in a leadership position, and always uphold what is right. You set trends with your crazy beard.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Waiting Game

I'ts official. I really am a Melbourne City girl now. Started my new job during the 2nd week of January and I'm in the heart of the city everyday. I'm still learning the role and it has an administration component. But it also involves proofreading, editing and putting things online - things I love doing. So I praise God because now I'm using what I learned before and learning some things about publishing in Australia on the side. I had no clue how to get a job like this one, I was led to it.

Gryphon and I had our first wedding anniversary last January 8. It's now been a year since we've seen each other. But things are starting to look up. He was originally slated to have his interview last December but was asked to put in an extra document. But it turned out to be better timing to have his interview on January 10 because the consul's only concern was my job and how I would support him. Gryphon was able to say that I already have a permanent post. And then it turned out that he actually had chicken pox and the boils came out the next day. Talk about timing!

The consul requested that I send a certificate of employment. It arrived this Monday and got to the Embassy today. So now, it's a waiting game. It will be a minimum of two months from now but we don't really know how long it will take. It is out of our hands. So we prepare and we hope and we pray. Can't wait to be enfolded in his embrace once again.