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May was very eventful and felt really long. It started with Pauline being interviewed on TV (I’ve uploaded the entire interview on Youtube now). Then, I got hit on the 404 and Pauline was off to Sudbury for a week.

I spent the next week and a half dealing with this before finally getting our car back on the Friday of the long weekend; which kind of messed up our long weekend plans.

In the meantime, I watched a bunch of movies, playoff hockey and played PGR4. At work, we had a re-org, and I started hosting some scrums. I also did a presentation online. Around Toronto, we went to High Park to see the cherry blossoms, and participated in Doors Open.

In the real world, there were a lot of protests by Tamils in Toronto about the civil war in Sri Lanka. They even took over the Gardiner one day!

This week was TechConnect at the lab. TechConnect is a mini-conference where we can share ideas and technologies with others at work, and a means to pad our resume. Like last year, I presented a poster this year too.

This year, we were given the option of presenting our posters in Second Life as well. Second Life is a 3D online environment where you can virtually interact with other people; kind of like World of Warcraft except there is no real goal or reward. IBM has a big presence on Second Life and setup TechConnect on one of its islands.

The point of the exercise was so people from outside the lab would have an easy way to participate. There is a neat piece of scripting in which they placed our posters into Second Life as really big slide show projections. You could navigate through the deck like you were reading a Powerpoint presentation. Here’s my poster.

Aside from that though, the experience was pretty dumb. I didn’t have to interact with anyone, and no one really read my poster. Also I tried making my avatar look like me, but it was incredibly difficult! Hence my twin is standing off to the right.

Starting last year, I was part of a committee at work to organize an IBM team to climb the CN Tower as part of one of the semi-annual climbs. That also put me on the hook to actually take part in the climb (which I had never done before), since it would look bad if the organizers didn’t go to the event they organized right?

I didn’t really want to do the climb, but a lot of people had done it and so it seemed like a good challenge to take on. We had a display during lunch one day at work, trying to get people to participate; but most people just looked at our sign, grimaced, and declined. Maybe I would regret taking on this challenge.

To prepare, I started walking up from the parking lot to my apartment (16 floors), and that was a tough challenge. I would get up to my floor and be out of breath. And it wasn’t even 16 floors, because the stairs didn’t go down to the parking garage, so I had the ride the elevator up to the 2nd floor in order to start climbing!

Oh well, I wouldn’t let a little training deter me from my goal. The CN Tower is only some 144 stories or 1776 steps or 10x my tiring “training” run! So I went on Saturday and struggled up the tower with a couple of other people from work. It was a great exertion, but I didn’t need any paramedics and made it to the top in under 30 minutes.

It feels good to have done it, but I think this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing (unless there’s a really good reason for me to go again)! The whole experience was tough; waiting in multiple lines to go up, getting kicked back to the registration area since I tried to sneak in my cellphone, the actual climb, and lining up for even longer to take the elevator down.

The resource action has been over for awhile (at least for people not in Services), and I’ve actually heard about a lot of people affected (but they were not directly related to me). Surprisingly, we’re not in lockdown mode; which is good because morale isn’t the greatest.

But I expect it to improve, I learned a couple of weeks ago that the “raise” program would still be continuing this year; and from this story, I found out we gave out 386,000 bonuses this year!

Finally, I have validation in life. If you, like me, sometimes in engage in WILB, then you should know that you are 9% more productive than your non-WILB cohorts! Although, I suspect that there is some funny math going on. If you WILB the maximum 20%, then a 9% increase means that you can get 87.2% of your daily work done when a studious person only gets 80% done. Except, now in the 20% of time you’re WILB-ing, that studious person does another 20% more work, so is ahead of you by 12.8%…

Anyways, enough investigation – back to work.

March passed by quickly as I was pretty busy. We booked a flight to NYC a week before March break and headed there for a week. At the same time, I ordered a Dell Mini 9 but it took 2 weeks to get to me so I couldn’t bring it along (it was for the best anyways, I didn’t want to lug around a backpack). I got it the week after I got back, and spent pretty much the week getting it the way I want it to be.

I also spent some time getting Coop Rankings integrated with InternSHARE. We got on TechCrunch, which meant being syndicated in the Washington Post. There has been a further fury of activity as the result of that promotion, and still a lot of things to work on there.

On the work side, there’s a rumor around that IBM will acquire Sun Microsystems, the funny thing is that there is absolutely no information about this at work and I actually first heard about it in an elevator in Manhattan. I also found out that the merit salary increase program is still active this year, so hopefully I’ll get a raise.

The weather has been nice this month, I’ve seen people on their bikes and even some people in flip-flops! I have no idea what happened in the world though, it doesn’t seem like anything noteworthy happened.

It was January of a new year, and I had no New Year’s resolutions to break, at least I didn’t break last year’s resolution to keep blogging updates each month. We started the month in LA, but came back to Toronto the day after. Work started the following Monday, and so did the cold weather; it’s been -10°C to -15°C every day, with some days hitting -30°C with windchill. We stayed in doors most of the time, I started and finished Fable 2 and Rock Band 2 on 360.

Obama changed titles from being the president-elect to president, the inauguration was a big event for everybody; we even got to see it at work! The other big announcement at work was that we reported positive earnings for the fourth quarter and the year. This was quickly followed by rumors of layoffs and they actually followed through on the rumor to fire people.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a rumor floating around that IBM would be laying off a bunch of people. This was rather surprising, since our fourth quarter, and 2008 results were good; but like a lot of businesses, IBM is being cautious and proactive in saving money. The (first?) axe hit last week and almost 10% of my lab was let go (at least that’s what I hear). Luckily, I wasn’t one of them.

There have been a lot of watercooler talk, as can be expected. And a lot of times a link to Alliance@IBM has come up. I had never heard their site before, but it looks like a site which is pushing to unionize IBM employees. There’s a specific forum dedicated to job cuts and you can read the angry comments from people who were let go. I can only think of this as a bad thing for people who aren’t affected. The comments are skewed because everyone brings out their good points and questions why IBM is firing them, which doesn’t present an accurate view of why they were let go. For still current employees to read this, it raises a lot of FUD. No wonder there are rumors that the site is blocked in several IBM locations around the world.

What happened in 2008? Let’s get the big stuff out of the way: 1) Got married, 2) Moved out, 3) Went to France, Japan and California, 4) posted 222 blogs (60% of the days), 5) bought 45 CDs for $184.86, 6) went to TSO 6 times, and 7) only bought 1 camera and 1 lens (which was for my new camera so it doesn’t really count). Well that part was easy; the remaining small and subtle details are hard to summarize. If you’ve been reading my blog over the last year you’ll know what I’m up to! Here are some random moments and thoughts that serves as my attempt to phone in the yearly recap.

This was the year that environmentalism became the cause célèbre (and no, it’s not because I counted 170 Priuses while in California). Perhaps it was the gas prices that sky rocketed up to $1.30/L, or maybe enough people saw An Inconvenient Truth (I finally saw a bit of it on TV). This was the year that stores started selling (reusable) plastic bags for 5¢ or reusable cloth bags for $10. Companies started advertising their environmental goodwill so you can dispose your income on their excess.

A second year has passed working day in and day out at the same job. Those jokes of a four-month switch are long gone, yet it’s quite easy to fall into the rhythm of working. A couple of more blinks and 40 years will have passed by. Which is good and bad, because when things are uneventful, that means not a lot of (career) progress is happening.

This was the year that the first half-black American was voted in as President. Obama will have a lot to work through and I’m interested to see whether he will introduce real reforms into the financial industry. When I took Econ a few years ago, I was disappointed that I missed a chance of a lifetime to make millions in the stock market tech bubble. Little did I know that I would see another bubble where I could have made several magnitudes of fake money less than 10 years later. I missed my chance again. Will another opportunity appear in the next 5 years?

Half of the year was busy, with wedding planning on my mind during the day and occupying the weekend. A big, looming deadline which you cannot work towards was unhealthy as it kept occupying my time but I couldn’t execute on it. But once the wedding was done, I’m in the opposite state, without having to worry about kids running around or crisis situations at work.

My gaming platform of choice moved on from the Nintendo DS to the Xbox360. I don’t bring my DS out much anymore, unless I know for sure that I have to wait 30 minutes or more. One reason is because my friends don’t play as much, but it’s also because my narrow tastes have gone through the DS back catalog and played everything worth playing. I’m still working through the 360 back catalog, but all good things come to an end. Such as Warcraft, I finally stopped playing that after what 5 years?

The last session was about how we, as young people can change the world. The first two sessions were by entrepreneurs. Patrick Lor spoke about how iStockPhoto became one of the top 500 web sites in the world, and was later sold to Getty Images. His presentation had a lot of images, which I bet he sourced from iStockPhoto (except a couple of Spongebob ones).

Both Patrick, and the next speaker, Andre Charoo gave some tips on how to succeed. Nothing new here though.

The next speaker was Chamath Palihapitiya, the VP of Growth, Mobile and International at Facebook. He spoke about how Facebook the platform was enabling individuals to create change. Ironically he used one of those 1 million people for xyz groups in his presentation.

Chamath was followed by Matthew Hockenberry who works on the OLPC project, but he also discussed a bit about his research area in trying to find multiple solutions to a problem – and sometimes finding solutions to other things in the process.

Eric Chivian was a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his work on stopping nuclear war, and he was there to promote his new book on biodiversity. His talk gave a couple of anecdotes on how animals and nature have progressed medicine, and how the extinction of animals such as polar bears will cause potential cures to be lost forever.

The final speaker was Melody Hossaini who was a youth leader on Al Gore’s Climate project. She showed a lot of pictures of herself and used herself as an example of how one can be active and incite change.

Overall, this was the best session of the conference since it gave a coherent message of how we could change the world as young people. What I think was impressive about this event was the quality of the speakers. Although they were not A-list celebrities, at least they were B or maybe C list ones. Why would they come to an inaugural conference targeted towards young people? Who knows, but it was entertaining and worth the money.

The second session of Changing The World was about technology. But I found the message was a bit split. The director of Firefox, Mike Beltzner spoke about how open source and community enabled Netscape to evolve and improve to become Firefox.

Don Lindsay, the designer of Mac OS X spoke how he designed an “iPhone” in the early 90s, but the technology was not there to allow it to change the world. He then went on to give another example of when design and technology were able to work together, producing the Microsoft project Photosynth which you can use to make a 3d map out of a bunch of photographs.

Anand Agarawala, another TED speaker showed off his product, BumpTop which is a 3D desktop replacement running off the Unreal physics engine. BumpTop started off as a Master’s thesis “across the street” and his message was that you to can be like him (as he showed picture of himself on the Google campus/5 ft away from Bill Clinton/etc).

The last speaker of the session was Roel Vertegaal who leads the Human Media Lab at Queen’s University. He showed a bunch of up and coming technologies such as organic LEDs, digital ink and claytronics.

I think this session lacked focus. It showed us some cool tools for the present, and the future; some of which may change the world, but the practical uses of some in changing the world are not evident.

I got an email a couple of weeks back at work inviting me to attend the Changing the World conference. I had never heard about the conference until now, even though it’s targeted towards young(ish, I’m still young right?) people. Organized by Queen’s University, they bring in world leaders who then give short, 18-minute talks that will inspire us to change the world! Ah young people are so idealistic.

The event is free for students, professors and teachers, while others have to pay $500 for a “Friend of Changing the World” ticket. IBM and some other companies sponsored the event so we got some free tickets as well. I guess I am a Friend of Changing the World since my ticket was $500 (and gold, I’ve never seen a gold Ticketmaster ticket).

Since Pauline is a teacher, she got to go too. Even though her ticket was “free” I still had to pay Ticketmaster $4.75 AND go out of my way to pick up the ticket. They should call it convenience free, not a convenience fee.

A few weeks after the last feature I was working on got the hook, I had a meeting where it had a funeral and was finally buried. That was ok, because I had already moved on to work on another feature. This feature was high profile with lots of management visibility, and involved more than me (there was a cross-ocean team working on it). We had been working on this since May and had passed several milestones already. Can you guess where this is going?

I came in on Monday and an architect pinged me on instant messaging and said – hot off the presses, your feature has been deferred. I pinged my manager, and even he hadn’t heard yet, but he did mention that I had terrible luck! Anyways, I am 100% confident that this time my feature won’t have its life support turned off. Now I’m just hoping 3 times is not the charm.

August was memorable because it was the month where…I got married! Everything was planned by the end of July so there was no last minute stress before the big event, and I think it went relatively smoothly. After a couple of days rest (and by rest I mean running around cleaning up things), and a quick concert, it was off to Japan for 19 days.

We went to a variety of places around Japan, and I’ll blog more about it separately. Check my Japan tag. While in Japan, we were able to catch coverage of the big news story of the month, the Olympics in Beijing. We saw a lot of Japanese athletes, and not a lot of Canadian ones – although I knew we didn’t win a lot of medals. Out of the Olympics, the big stories were Phelps winning 8 golds (why is someone allowed to enter in 8 events?), and Bolt winning the 100m, then 200m and 400m relay.

While in Japan, I didn’t keep up with a lot of things I normally do – news, my RSS feeds, and Warcraft. That seemed to go over ok – maybe I won’t need to spend time on those things anymore? Speaking of not spending a lot of time on things, I didn’t work a lot. Of the 31 days in August, I worked 4 days, Aug 26, 27, 28, and 29; I could’ve not worked the 29th by moving my Labour day flex day around – but that’s just being ridiculous.

It’s been a hectic little while, and as you can tell I haven’t been blogging. I’m on holiday now, because today is a flex today (4-day weekend) at work; but before this, I had to charge ahead and finish up my deliverables and delegate my tasks to other people. I’m gone for 17 work days in a row!

Aside from work, I’ve been at the airport a lot and driving people around as my family has been arriving the last few days. The last two or three days have been committed entirely to dealing with family issues, so it’s fortunate that the wedding planning has been falling into place. I guess I have a lot I could write about, and maybe I’ll get around to blogging about it – but probably not, since I’m leaving for Japan soon.

It’s been an interesting week at work. Ever since I found out my feature was pulled, I myself have been pulled into a variety of discussions on how it could be saved (or at least put into an upcoming release). It was at a point where I actually had to re-enable my feature early this week before having to pull it out again.

Instead of my usual developer hat, I got to put on a triage hat and went around poking downstream products to see what the problems were, how to fix them, and when they would be fixed. I also had a knowledge-person hat where the managers and architects would come to me for information so they could make their decisions. It’s fun but hectic.

It was especially busy the first two days of this week, because I had previously signed up for a course. Basically I ended up having to spend 9-4 in course, and then another couple of hours after that chasing issues.

This week, a feature that I had been working on for the last couple of months got pulled from the product’s upcoming release. That’s not that rare, except that in this case, testing had almost been finished and we were only a couple of days away from Gold Master. There were a couple of people pissed off about this, most of them on the test team since they had already spent a lot of time testing the functionality. But not me. I already put in the effort to design and write the code, and it has all been done; so I don’t think my time has been wasted (plus I got paid for it right). I guess I’m supposed to feel bad because my hard work is not going to be shipped (at least not yet), but that’s not important to me. Is that weird?

I’m actually glad that it’s delayed because the last few weeks I felt like I’ve been tossing a water balloon around, and one day I’ll show up at work and have to clean up the mess. The problem is that the base framework I built upon has a lot of bugs (it’s also developed at IBM which is both fortunate and unfortunate). I tried to mitigate many of the risks, but once testing got into it, they did a lot of tests in areas I wouldn’t look (i.e., on Vista or in weird languages like Polish). Surprise surprise, some potentially huge problems were found and it got the hook.

Last week at the conference I was participating in, I sat in on a talk about communities. In the presentation, there was a statistic thrown out saying that nowadays people will have 10-14 different jobs by the time they’re 38. I looked at that and thought it was incredulous, I’m halfway to 38 and this is my first job! But then I thought about it more wrt myself:

  1. Group piano teacher
  2. Internet tech support
  3. Private tutor
  4. Coop term 1 – Applications Developer
  5. Coop term 2 – General tech support
  6. Coop term 3 – Web developer
  7. Coop term 4 – Software developer
  8. Coop term 5 – Software developer (different place)
  9. Whatever you call my role in DQ
  10. Coop term 6 – SDET
  11. Coop term 7 – PM
  12. Being a grad student – yes this is a job, because you have to manage your academic career
  13. IBM

That’s 13 jobs in different environments. Sure some of the jobs were similar and use transferable skills, but I think they were all situationally different. Even when I was at the same company, such as in coop terms 3 and 4, and 6 and 7; I changed department and job.

Maybe I’m a bit different, having gone to Waterloo, but it’s not hard to rack up a couple of different experiences before you start your full time job. If you don’t have coop terms, you have summers. Although I wish that I had a wider breadth of experiences. Maybe I should have applied for those Coop jobs working in a zoo.

This week, I’ve been doing a lot of presenting as part of my job, and some as part of work extracurriculars. Our team has switched to agile development, and one of the deliverables in Agile is to do a demo of your completed work. So last week I’ve been preparing, and recording a demo of my feature. I also ended up doing a live, web-conferenced version of the demo which after having preparing for so long was pretty easy.

On Wednesday and Thursday, IBM held an internal conference called TechConnect which was a showcase of technologies that people have been working on around the lab. The last few years, I’ve done a lot of poster sessions so I’m kind of used to it by now; so used to it that I didn’t prepare, so the first couple of talks were a bit awkward. But overall, it was pretty straightforward and fun. I had two posters, one of which was that old topic that I wrote my thesis on, and submitted a IEEE paper. I think it’s finally time to retire that idea, at least I’m really tired of talking about it.

Finally today, our early-career networking group did our quarterly presentation to our executive sponsor. I’ve been taking more and more of a leadership role on the executive council so I ended up driving the planning and organization for this meeting. Although our group has kind of been lazy lately, so it’s tough to BS that we actually did stuff the last few months.

Being a huge company, we have a lot of pedantic rules that are supposedly enforced. One is that we have to keep our laptops inside lockable furniture overnight (so no one comes by with a saw and cuts through your day time cable lock). Our co-op student is using a laptop, but her office doesn’t have any furniture so I lent her my filing cabinet to lock her laptop in. This morning she came in and said she forgot my (only) key. Oops!

Well being a huge company, we have procedures in place to take care of this. We can make a facilities request for a new key and all our cabinets and closets have numbered locks so a key can be quickly mapped. I looked up my closet’s lock, called them, and told the woman on the phone that my lock number was 8622; to which she said that there were no locks in the building numbered over 4000!

Oops, ok maybe I screwed up, maybe it was 3622. I went and took a closer look; and it sure did look like 8622, so I said I was fairly certain that it was an 8. Anyways, she said she would come take a look, plus she had to unlock the filing cabinet. In the meantime, I went down to the co-op’s office and examined the lock on the cabinet again. It was there that I had an A-Ha! moment. If you looked at the number upside down, you could read it as 2298 (imagine 2s written like Ses). I was sure that was the screw up.

In the end it turns out that I was wrong. It was 3622. There goes my theory…

It’s almost summer! How do I know? because all the summer students arrived at IBM this week and went through their orientation etc. That means that are really no more empty spaces here at the lab, although hopefully the parking lot will get emptier (since people go on vacation, and students don’t drive…usually).

This is worthy of a blog because this year, our team has a co-op, and I get to be the “Connections Coach”. At other companies, I think a co-op would have a mentor, but even though we have the mentoring concept at IBM, coop’s aren’t assigned a mentor. Instead, their Connections Coach is the go-to person to get them up to speed (i.e., installing software, getting access to stuff). It’s a bit weird really, because there is no assigned mentor; so either the entire team has to fill that role or they get the shaft.

Most of the co-ops or IIPs (16 month terms) start in the summer. There were about 150-200 people starting this week. Now, if you were in charge of matching up these ~150 people to their 100 Connection Coaches, what do you think would be the most efficient way to do it? I know that our method of sitting all 150 people in a room and the having each Connection Coach come up one-by-one to the stage and announce the name of their co-op out loud is not high on that list…

In April, I had a lot of work-related activities. First I met with the GM of IBM Canada, Dan Fortin and then I had a celebration/reward event at the Princess of Wales theatre and the CN Tower. I also got a new laptop with one of those newfangled biometric sensors.

The major news headline were the protests during the Olympic flame relay, although after the incidents in London, Paris and SF; I haven’t read any more reports. The TTC also went on a surprise! strike on a Friday night, which is unfortunately, not because I was downtown, but because gas prices have skyrocketed this month. At the beginning of April it was consistently at $1.10/L, but now it’s hardly ever below $1.20/L. Well at least now I don’t have to worry about using the neat ¢ sign on my blog anymore.

This month my SpaceTV re-run watching has been disrupted, even though they’ve started playing ST:TNG again. I’ve started watching CBC instead, not to support Canadian content, but to watch the hockey playoffs. In fact I picked against both Calgary and Ottawa (and was correct). So far I’m 6-2 in my predictions, with my second round picks wrapping up soon.

This year has also been the first time that I really noticed all the cherry blossoms that have been blooming. I swear they weren’t around last year.

This Saturday I had to go to work. Kind of. Work reserved my Saturday because they planned a team outing to celebrate/reward us for our recent efforts. It’s by far the most grandiose event since I started at IBM and from what I’ve heard I shouldn’t expect stuff like this happening very often. Oh well. Anyways, the event started with a matinee showing of (The Life and Adventures of) Nicholas Nickleby. I’ve heard this was in town, but didn’t know too much about it aside that it’s based off of a Dickens’ book. We had Orchestra level seats, right at the boundary where the second level starts (above us), which are the best seats I’ve had at the Princess of Wales.

I didn’t know much about the story or the play, fortunately the programme included a synopsis of what happens. It was also at this point that I realized that there was a Part 1 and a Part 2 of the play, and our 3-hour showing was only Part 1! Unfortunately for Nicholas Nickleby, it’s not Lord of the Rings. I realized this about half an hour into it as it went on and on about the life of some English guy. This is definitely not a show for my generation and maybe the movie would be more interesting.

Fortunately for us, we didn’t have to sit through part 2 because our agenda brought us to the CN Tower (no we weren’t doing the CN Tower climb). About 200 of us rode the elevator up to the Horizons Cafe (above the glass floor level) for some cocktails (no open bar though) before making our way up to the 360 restaurant. This was my first time there and I was kind of disappointed that the entire structure didn’t move, but only a track on which the tables are on. We had a set menu to choose from (Chicken, Salmon or Vegetarian) and were given color coded cards beforehand so that we could display them for the waiters. As you would expect from a group that took over half the restaurant, the food was mass produced and I didn’t think it was that good.

We got good seats however, and stayed around for almost two hours (or 1.5 revolutions) as the sun went down. I didn’t bring my camera SLR though, maybe I should have because the light was pretty good even if there was a bit of a cloud cover. After dessert, ever employee got a gift, which turned out to be a teal 1GB iPod Shuffle. It’s not too useful since I already bought a 2GB one, and plus I can’t sell it because it’s engraved with a personal message from IBM!

Work is less than ordinary this week since I have not one, but two special events. On Tuesday, I had to wake up bright and early, and get to work by 7:45AM for a light breakfast (oops 5 minutes late) and then an 8-9:30AM meeting with the head of IBM Canada, Dan Fortin. This was only the second time I’ve been to the 3600 location, but apparently the executive pod has their own elevator that’s separated from the general entrance.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Diversity issues and to make Dan aware of the issues we’re facing and that are important for the various demographics. What I was most surprised about was that some people got really dressed up for this; i.e., they came in suit and tie. Well, at least I wore a button-up shirt and (non-jean) pants.

On Thursday, I had training for a day. It’s not that special because I didn’t get to train off-site like last time, but it’s a break from the normal routine.

Ooh a bonus event, although not necessarily special, is that I found out that my IEEE magazine article got rejected. Reading the results, I was surprised that there were only 55 submissions for the issue, although 89% of them got rejected. I guess that’s not too bad, but I just want to stop having to work on this topic!

At work there is a revolving door. Not a metaphorical one where existing people leave for greener pastures and new recruits arrive, but a physical revolving door that lets people enter and exit the building. I was all set to write about why we have such a thing, but then I remembered that I blogged about this before.

So why did I choose to blog about it again? Turns out the designers didn’t think about the scenario when the door breaks down. If you have double doors, you can close one and keep the other functioning, but a revolving door has a single point of failure. Also it doesn’t work so well for packages that don’t like spinning (i.e., luggage), so there is a normal door to the side to handle these situations. But to keep the security model in place, you can’t use the normal door unless you have special access.

This is in my mind because yesterday, the revolving door broke down. In order to keep things rolling, a security guard had the luxurious job of sitting beside the door and buzzing everyone out so they could leave the building.