Monday, December 13, 2010


I've been thinking a lot about WikiLeaks recently. So many things to discuss... I'll summarize my position and the point to other articles I liked.

I think that what WikiLeaks did can be considered an act of information warfare and should be dealt with as such. The alleged source (Private Bradley Manning) should be charged with treason and sabotage, but WikiLeaks certainly aided in that regard and should be held accountable. I find it appalling that many in new and old media are justifying WL as transparency, etc... The WikiLeaks organization claims to be a "news" organization but also claims to be an "activist". Sorry guys, one or the other...

Check my FaceBook profile for links and comments I've done there. Also, I am particularly grateful for the ongoing discussion with Lillian over at The Atheist Conservative. Check out the following links for some of my contributions:
- My initial comments on
- Two comments on
- Two comments on
- Two comments on

I've also written some thoughts as part of a conversation with a friend. I've posted these here.

Some of the links I've shared or would like to share about the topic include:

As always, I enjoy discussing these topics and will gladly continue to do so. Just comment on the blog or get in touch with me.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Wikileaks discussions

[ Over the course of the next little while I'll post content or links to discussions I've had or I am having on the whole WikiLeaks situation. ]

This first one is a debate I'm having with a friend on Facebook. His comments/questions in italics.

Hi Fernando. You said "I fully support prosecuting WikiLeaks and anyone else involved in this to the fullest extent of the law." Who is anyone else? I'd think it is The Guardian, The New York Times, and the people that talk about those news, including you and me, right? what he did was to disseminate relevant information, like any other journalist would do. The  difference is that he was just smarter an more effective.

There's a lot of assumptions on your statement that I think needs to be looked at.

First of all, there's fundamental differences between WikiLeaks and real news organizations:
- Assange himself refers to WikiLeaks as "activists", with an "agenda" for transparency (watch the TED video again). They also want to "punish" the US for starting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
- The news media - Guardian, NYT, ... - use information to publish news articles, not just release the raw data. Personally, I find it objectionable that sites such as the Guardian are publishing the whole cables now, but in reality I don't think they could be prosecuted for it. It is interesting to see that the Guardian makes an effort to distance itself from WikiLeaks in describing how they scrub information more thoroughly that WL.
- Also, WikiLeaks has *threatened* to release passwords to an already distributed "insurance file" in case of severe harm to the organization. How is that compatible with responsible behaviour in news media?

In essence, I don't look at WikiLeaks as "any other journalist": they may have wanted to be that, but by releasing cables with the explicit objective of changing foreign policy, they become activists and not media.

One thing not being taken into account is that the State Department ITSELF publishes ist cables, but usually after a long (25 years+) period just to avoid compromising foreign policy. Who the hell does Assange think he is in deciding for himself that foreign policy is best served by publishing the data now? He doesn't seem to care that policy initiatives will have to changed/scrapped, that people will have to be reassigned, that careers may have been cut short.

To me, "all involved" are:
- the original leaker, for espionage/treason
- those who designed and/or operated the secure networks that allowed this to happen, for gross negligence.
- WikiLeaks, for aiding in espionage/treason. I don't know what specific charges should apply here. Actually one of my links recently was on the complications of prosecuting WikiLeaks. I just think there has to be a way to prosecute someone who engages in this type of "information warfare" action against the national interests.

Actually he has a political agenda, and interestingly he takes full responsibility for that. On his interview on TED (, he said "if a government is making an  effort to conceal an information, releasing it is probably good". In contrast, my personal conversation with my wife would not make the news... (unfortunately :) even if Assange released it.

In my opinion, by having a political agenda, he gives up the protection of being "press". He can't have it both ways. (see above).

Funny enough that he himself seems to take secrecy pretty seriously. When asked about the irony of WikiLeaks being so secretive, he sidestepped the question answering that there hadn't been any leaks at WikiLeaks yet. It'll be interesting to see the fallout of some people at WikiLeaks leaving because of him.

As for that quote, to me Julian Assange has no idea of what he is talking about, and that quote summarizes it perfectly.

Does he not recognize that within the sphere of international relations, governments have ENEMIES, publicly declared or not? Does he not recognize that the relationship between governments and individuals is ABSOLUTELY different than the one between government themselves?

I can see value in investigative reporting and denouncing specific crimes/coverups, such as Watergate, but where is the investigative reporting in exposing to the entire world the opinions of State Department officials about things?

Now let's look at HR. Why would someone want to hide the fact that an overqualified immigrant recently hired makes half of his peer's salary? This loaded question has the answer... Have you ever used that website that tells you what is your car dealers margin (confidential information), so you can negotiate with him and get a more "fair" price? It seems to me that more "advanced" companies are more transparent, so they focus their efforts on building their values, and not on perceptions. The same may happen with society.

Well, I could argue that the company has evaluated that the immigrant is not competent in negotiating a better salary and should not be paid more, or that the other peer offers more benefits to the company (maybe he has better relationships with others in the industry, maybe he has more experience with the company's products, etc...). As a shareholder in that company, I want it to make the best business decisions that will maximize the business benefits: it has to balance how much to pay staff to ensure that works gets done (products are released) and morale and quality don't suffer (so the company can profit).
When I bring up the HR example is this: how does your opinion of your colleagues changes if you know how much they make? To me, the disruption on the workforce would be significant.

What WikiLeaks appears to fail to understand is that international diplomacy is based primarily on NEGOTIATIONS, and revealing the internal discussions of one of those sides can compromise their position.

I think that equating the business relationship between an individual and a company with the diplomatic relations between countries is nowhere near appropriate.

As someone in the auto industry, you may know that the relantionship between the dealer andthe manufacturer is a lot more complex than just the "margin" the dealer gets on the invoice, right? There's joint marketing costs, factory assistance to dealers, documentation fees, prep fees, etc... I doubt any dealer will open up the entire accounting to you to negotiate a deal.

I think transparency is great, if handled properly. What I don't want is that being decided by the leader of an activist organization with no accountability to anyone but themselves.

However, our world may not be ready (yet) to deal with this level of transparency. We will keep following on the news. One thing I am sure, our society will still "function", even if it is with a different distribution of power.

I can go on a tangent here and say that this 'distribution of power' you speak of may end up being extremely negative to the Western values we live under. That's for another discussion, if you wish.

Now if we have to think too much on how to prosecute wikileaks, that suggests a witch hunt. I'd ask something different instead "why does wikileaks make us so uncomfortable"? 

I think that not a witch hunt, but the realization that the legal methods to hold someone accountable for their actions have to match the reality of the 21st century. Not sure how to do that yet...

As for what makes me uncomfortable about WikiLekas:
- the apparent inability (or unwillingness) of the government to hold accountable someone who is clearly attacking it.
- the celebration of this attack by so many in the Western world as "speaking truth to power" when in reality it is an almost anarchist organization doing damage with no regards for consequences

Thanks for the discussion!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting to know me - 25 things (Facebook)

Back in February 2009, there was a chain letter going around on Facebook where you were asked to post things about yourself so your friends could get to know you better. I decided to reproduce it here.
This being almost 2 years later, I chose add some commentary where appropriate.

Here we go, enjoy...



OK, 25 things. I normally don't do chain letters but this one has a nice overall purpose - getting to know your friends better.

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

Here goes:

1- I love to sleep, but I'm comfortable both working early in the morning or late into the night. Trouble is when I do both... :-)

2- I once walked home from work after an all-nighter in the office - 7.5 Kms. Felt like a lot more...

3- I love current events, especially global/national politics and economics. 2008 was great in the sense I followed news on US election, Canada election, the whole economic crisis, etc....
[ 2010 - Interesting things throughout: Middle East conflict, sovereign debt crisis, recently the WikiLeaks Cablegate, ... ]

4- I lost a ton of money on the stock markets in 2008. I'm a long-term investor, so I'm not too worried, but it's painful nonetheless.
[ 2010 - recovering, but still not where I was a couple of years ago ]

5- I am immensely proud of my brothers: one is a diplomat and the other on his way to becoming a brilliant academic.

6- I love golf but I play it terribly. I do have a goal of improving though.

7- I really enjoy puns and wordplay and keep trying new ones often, much to the despair of my wife and friends who end up cringing at some of them. "Why do the french only eat one egg? Because one egg is an oeuf..."
[ 2010 - the love of puns helped me name this blog... :-) ]

8- I like to spend time alone and reflect on things, from the trivial through the "big questions".

9- My favorite type of dessert is anything cold/chilled and moist - think chocolate mousse, ambrosia, etc...

10- I used to love movies but now that I'm not the target demographic anymore I can't watch half of them.

11- I've never done drugs or gotten majorly drunk in public.

12- I try not to dwell on things too much, but I often daydream about going back in time and "fixing" things -  middle school, high school, college, whatever. Never mind I dislike stories that involve time travel because of the obvious paradoxes.

13- I'm economically/fiscally conservative - small government, lower taxes, ... - but socially very liberal. Kind of a strange mix.

14- I'm kind of stuck in 80s/90s music.

15- I get distracted easily, so I'm quite interested in self-organization/productivity/... I read GTD and follow many of its principles. My inboxes are usually zero or very close to it, but the to-do list is big, of course.

16- I love to understand technology, but I'm becoming impatient at taking time for the little things - building a new PC for example. Nowadays I'll probably just buy one and use my time to do something else.

17- I love quotations - it is my way of using someone else's eloquence to say what I think.

18- My home office is a mess, and no matter what I do it keeps reverting back to this state after a few days.

19- I often get emotional when watching corny displays of heroism, altruism or adversity in movies. Think "Independence Day" (I memorized the President's speech), "Pearl Harbor", Armaggedon (I really wish they would relase the audio track of the president speech without the "that's your daddy" part in the end) and such...

20- I have a deep admiration for the United States and its founding principles. The past administration made that a very unpopular position to take.
[ 2010 - Unfortunately, I think the current administration is/was popular but is not doing well. ]

21- I believed there was enough evidence to suspect there were WMDs in Iraq and that the invasion was justified. The aftermath was - and is - a complete mess though.

22- It took me 10 tries to get a full driving license in Canada. 7 tries for G1 exit and 3 tries for G2 exit. That's what 10 years of bad driving habits do to you. Only 1 ticket in almost 20 years though...

23- I want to learn French, Mandarin and Spanish.

24- I love mountains. One of the most beautiful sights I've seen was flying close to Mt.Rainier near Seattle.

25- I'm a bit claustrophobic. I have an irrational fear of caves.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


"Learning is not compulsory... neither is survival." 

One of the most important things I've realized over the past few years was that any complacency one has towards self-development is just a self-inflicted wound.

I strongly believe that life does not owe you anything: it is up to you to leverage your strengths, manage your weaknesses and work hard to achieve what you want. Along the way, it is up to you to decide what to do with your time. Over the past few years, I started to focus more on self-development. 

My personal journey of self-development is rooted on consolidating what I know/learned as well as picking up new topics/tools/areas of knowledge that are either of great interest to me or something that I want to be able to apply in my life. Some of the topics I've taken a great interest on include:

  • Finance and Economics - Personal Finance, Investments, Economic Trends, ...
  • Personal Development - Career, Introspection, Parenting, ...
  • Others - Politics (world affairs, Middle East, ...), Science, Mathematics, Religion, etc...
  • Network & Security Technologies - my professional area.
Along the way, I found some amazing resources. Here's a small sample:

PersonalMBA - This is the site that got me started. The premise is simple but immensely powerful/liberating: while the whole experience of an MBA program can't be reproduced, the actual contents of an MBA program can be picked up by reading the right books and committing to applying what one learns. The site has an amazing manifesto, as well as several lists of interesting books in many areas.

Academic Earth. A portal to FREE courses posted online from hundreds of universities world-wide. The same content is also available in iTunes. I've watched courses on Game Theory, Languages, Financial Markets, Psychology, ....

Khan Academy - I am relearning math - from reviews of Trigonometry and Algebra through to Calculus. Hopefully I can make it into more advanced math, as well as other subjects.

There's certainly more to write on this topic...

Sunday, November 7, 2010

My Personal (Dis)Organization System - 2 of 2

Hello again,

In the first post, I described some of the high-level concepts I use to organize things. Now, on to specific tools...

The two tools that I can' live without - ok, a bit melodramatic, but you get the point - are MyLifeOrganized (MLO) and MindJet's MindManager. I have gladly paid subscription/software fees on both tools and will continue to do so.

MyLifeOrganized is a VERY capable to-do manager with superb outline capabilities. It allows for nested tasks, advanced recurrence schemes and is quite fast and inobstrusive to use. Without going into too many boring details, I use it to keep track of everything that "needs to be done" in my life. I have four master "branches" in my overall task list:
  • Work - this is where I keep track of everything to do with my job - customers to follow up with, administrative tasks, etc...
  • Career - this is DIFFERENT from work - here I keep track of my own personal development independent of work-specific topics. Certifications, professional memberships,etc... come up here.
  • Home - this is a biggie: everything around the house, from keeping track of finances to household chores. One of the things I've done over time is to create "Prep Lists" for key times of the year that really streamline what needs to get done.
  • Personal - this is for own projects, tasks, etc.. that are, well, personal. This is where I track specific birthdays or key dates to remember, fitness goals, self-study goals, etc...
How do I use MLO? Well, it is the central storage system for every task I need to do. Usually, I will add tasks to it from a variety of sources:

  • After scanning inboxes - Google Mail, Outlook (MLO allows drag and drop from outlook, nice!), voicemails, even feeds such as Twitter or RSS.
  • Directly into it from a Rapid task entry system tray icon.
  • Directly into the main interface and being able to add details such as recurrence, dependencies, ...

For those familiar with mind-mapping, Mind Manager should need no introductions. It is a professional-grade (i.e expensive... :-( ) mind mapping application for Windows - there's a version for Mac too - that has a ton of features. I rely particularly heavily on linked maps and hyperlinks. To make a long story short, I create mind maps of any topic I'm working on as a way of organizing the information in whatever format makes more sense. Some of the maps I've created over the years include:
  • A whole process of how to study for certification exams. This actually became a guest post on (thanks Michael!).
  • Personal and professional dashboards - usually single maps with a high-level view of things going on with links to specific maps or other files (Excel, Word, ...) as needed.
  • Status maps, presenting in a single, clear page all the relevant for status for initiatives, from the state of personal finances (my wife and I review them regularly) to a project status report at work.
Mind Manager is the central repository for distilled information - anything I learn, anything I think about in a structured fashion, etc.... I have several maps on topics ranging from golf to mathematics, from wines to study notes, ...

There's still other tools out there that I use more or less on a regular basis, but I'm still trying to figure out how to best use them:
  • Evernote shows great potential as a knowledgebase, but I still need to figure out how to best interface it with Mind Manager, which is my primary study tool. I also use it as a bookmark organizer, but certainly not to its full potential.
  • Read it Later is great as a repository of "should check out" links that may eventually make their way into Evernote or some other repository.
  • I like Google Reader's "Star" option for marking posts for later reading, but these usually just end up accumulating with limited follow-up. Gotta thing about this one...
So, I'll stop here on this topic... for now. I keep trying to optimize how I use these tools, so expect changes next time I come back to this topic...

Monday, November 1, 2010

iPad - part 2 of ?

So, continuing my iPad usage adventures...

I've talked about my usage of the iPad as an e-reader and as a limited Web browser. On to other things...

  • Study / Research - I am an avid mindmapper - I've been using this tool/concept/methodology since 2001 in all areas of life and will write about it soon - and I was looking forward to using my iPad for mind mapping as well. There are several mindmapping apps, but iThoughtsHD is what I chose and use on a nearly daily basis. My main use of mindmapping is that I use iThoughtsHD on the iPad to capture notes/concepts as I absorb them being presented elsewhere - from watching Khan Academy videos on my iPhone to listening to podcasts or sitting on a meeting. It works extremely well and I can easily upload the maps I create to my PC(s) using Dropbox. iThoughtsHD also supports saving on native MindManager format, so I can easily incorporate the results in my other personal tools.

  • Chess - I try to be mindful of not frittering time away playing games - I think there's WAAY too much interesting content to be absorbed to just spend time on games - but I do find myself playing a fair bit of chess on the iPad - tChess Pro is what I use the most. I'm really just a low-mid level amateur on the game, so no deep insights into other apps other than to say that tChessPro has a fantastic interface and that even my 5-year-old son loves to "play chess on Daddy's book"...

  • On the topic of chess, I also rely on a "Home screen bookmark" (basically a Web bookmark that shows up as a regular icon on the OS) to take me to, where I play correspondence chess on a regular basis. The RHP people are savvy enough to have an iPhone/iPad version of their site that shows up beautifully and invites gameplay... Recommended!

OK, iPad usage to continue on another post! I hope this is useful to people.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Adventures in Recycling!


While I am quite skeptical/opposed to much (if not all) of the environmental activism out there - one day I'll write about the Climate Change / Global Warming / ... -  we do recycle things at home and try to be mindful not wasting too many resources. With that in mind, this past Saturday I took some cardboard to the one of the local recycling depots (Unionville).

As I went to drop off the cardboard, I noticed a wall with hundreds of books people left to be recycled - everything from fiction (hardcover and paperback) to academic books, computer books, college and high-school textbooks, ... ALL FOR THE TAKING.

According to the nice people who run the depot, one can just go there and pick anything they want. The remaining books are recycled (thrown in with the cardboard) about once a week or so.

I spent a good 15-30 min there going over everything they had, both in the shelves and on boxes in the ground, and walked off with about 20 books or so. It's the closest thing I've come to a "free lunch" - if I like the books I keep them, if not I just go back there and recycle them!

Among my finds, Jim Collins' "Good to Great", Tom Clancy "Debt of Honour", a nice Weight Watchers cookbook, several books on investments, text books on Math, Statistics and Accounting, plus many others.

Needless to say, I strongly suggest people take a look at their own centres to see if something like this is available! Certainly not as diverse as a library (we use the Markham libraries a LOT), but a great way to get some free books!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Personal (Dis)Organization System - 1 of 2

I'm always curious about how people organize themselves in this day and age - e-mail, tasks, contacts, etc... - so I can continue to fine tune how I do things myself. I once heard the term 'productivity pr0n'. I don't think it applies to me, but almost... :-)

I decided to break down this post in two:
- a high-level overview of key concepts.
- a description of tools I use to implement my system.

I have read - and heartily recommend - David Allen's Getting Things Done (GTD). Some people treat it as gospel - it does have a cult-like following - but I took some things from it and that was that. More than anything, I liked the concepts of:
- Recognizing one's "Inboxes".
- Breaking tasks down to actionable items (define what the "next action" is)
- Having a specific method of handling incoming things: Do now, Delete it, Delegate it, Store it for Reference, Treat it as a Project, move to a "Someday" area of your system.
- Doing periodic reviews.

I also embraced the concept of 'Inbox Zero'. This is extremely liberating - I know that anything not in my Inbox is properly captured elsewhere in my system and I can clearly see what is new.

Finally, I need somewhere to keep the information I accumulate. I would like to build something like a Personal MemEx, but my system is far simpler.

So, to end this post, the key concepts I use are:
- I have multiple (but clearly defined) Inboxes: personal and work email, social media (FB,Twitter,RSS), personal and work voicemail, my own ideas, etc...
- For everything that comes in I process it the same way, deciding what I need to do with it.
- I keep track of things on a somewhat coherent personal knowledgebase.

More stuff on the next post.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

iPad - part 1 of ?

While I usually behave and not spend too much on expensive toys, I caved in and got an iPad back in late June. My rationale/excuse - I wanted/needed an e-book reader. I ended up buying the non-3G 32G model after calling a few local AppleStores to track inventory. This post is a summary of my experience with the device so far.

I'll break the content down into several posts - no sense writing a novel in one sitting. If there's any specific question people have, feel free to ask.

People mention the iPad is heavier than expected and glares a bit too much. I agree, but these are not terrible issues I can't deal with - I usually read indoors and I rest the iPad against something.

As an e-book reader, I loved it. The combination of supporting multiple applications - including Kindle, Kobo, GoodReader (PDFs) and others - means I can read pretty much any ebook format I come across. Getting content onto the device is quite easy: some apps support "over-the-air" transport such as Kindle and Kobo. Others integrate beautifully with DropBox, so uploading a file is just a matter of dropping into DropBox on my PC. Not to mention that one can upload EPUB books via iTunes as well. Bottom line: if one is comfortable around manipulating files on a PC, getting content into the iPad is pretty darn easy.

Actually reading the content is also a joy. The primary reading I do is technical - networking, security, IT in general - and the iPad renders technical diagrams/presentations beautifully. The flexibility of screen rotations, zooming in and out, searching, etc... make it an ideal platform for reading and stuying, in my opinion.

As for other uses, I find myself doing a lot more browsing with it than I thought I would. The lack of Flash support is annoying, but not show-stopping. My primary workaround for accessing Flash content is to mark it with the incredible "Read it Later" service and then check out the content later on my PC. Not perfect, but works out pretty well.

OK, I'll continue on another post later.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Here we go...

First post jitters...


Over the years friends have always asked, jokingly, if I had a blog. After thinking about this for a while, I decided to get into it. I don't ever expect to become a "professional blogger", but it might be interesting to have a place "of my own" online where I can comment on things that interest me and hopefully have nice conversations with old and new friends.

On plan for comments/discussions: religion, finance, politics, personal development, personal use of technology, parenting, ...

I welcome all constructive feedback. I expect to not only learn interesting aspects of whatever topics I post on, but also learn and improve this blog (any others I come up with later).

Back in the stone age days of the Internet (mid 90s) we used to see those "In Construction" labels on so many websites. This blog will be no different (as soon as I can find out how to add the image... I'm still learning... :-) )

Got it... :-)

Let's see where this goes...