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.