Thesis It!

My board exam tips continue to be useful to a lot of people. Recently, I have not taken any more licensure examinations so it’s a thing I have put behind me along with my old posts. I still continue to answer inquiries from people who bump into this blog when googling board exam tips. I am incredibly grateful to those people who encourage me to keep writing tips. And so, here I am making more series of tips that will hopefully bring positivity and change.

This time around, I want to introduce a new series called THESIS IT! It’s a series of blog posts I will be making that will give some advice on how to survive your thesis writing struggles.  I am just now sure how long this series will take in between posts but I will do my best to finish it before I give birth. I am planning to do around 7-8 blog posts in this series. It can be more, depending on how my outline will turn out. I am still deciding how to tackle the topic because it covers a lot of issues from deciding on a thesis topic, to narrowing down your techniques, to just getting the willpower to finish it.

Like my board exam tips, I welcome questions from readers and I will do my best to incorporate them in my blog post series for this new topic. 

Informally, I have been assisting friends with their thesis writing and providing critique and the much-needed encouragement when they are feeling particularly crappy or demotivated to finish the final stretch. I also find people asking for general writing help like essays and articles and PR pieces, but the thesis project is extra special because friends tend to need extra long-term support until they prepare for their dreaded panel or defense.

A disclaimer: I won’t really call myself a thesis coach, but I think that observing these friends I have helped along the way gave me some insights that I think are worth sharing in this blog.

Occasionally, I get paid for thesis or academic writing assistance, too. I usually just get offers and I don’t actively seek them out. Specifically, I successfully assisted one businessman finishing his master’s degree in urban planning with a 200-page thesis about using iPhone sensors to detect road roughness, one high school teacher finishing her master’s degree in education with a 150-page thesis about an avant-garde curriculum approach (I was in high school when I began assisting her for this), one particularly feisty client who had to turn in something about first and second tier exclusive economic zones in China (he’s basically a nasty human being who treated me like a slave so I forgot the details of his work),  and some online friend who needed to turn in a term paper for his doctorate that involved proving a calculus theorem using words.

Through this, I got used to charging per page, per hour, or on an agreed lump sum basis for my consultation services. I continued to provide support after defense panels have pitched in their correction or revision requests. If you are in this industry and you want to know how much the going rates are, just leave your email address and we’ll talk. 😉

This year, I provided super friendly support to three key people in my close friend list: one who created a heroic land data model in his thesis, another who created this cool Boracay predictive land use scenario, and another who is using econometric models to help shape the future of the Philippine education sector. The first two are finished already. Really cool stuff. That’s how I learn about different things in various industries outside of engineering. I like picking my friends’ brains so I enjoy knowing what they do, what they are passionate enough to write about in this academically challenging manner, and where this research can eventually take them.

Friends usually just feed me with my favorite food after they’re done with their gruelling ordeal with their manuscripts. 😀 It’s really nice to do things for my friends while I am on my bed rest. Right now, I am also assisting two friends who are setting up their travel and food blogs, respectively, but it’s not as intense as the assistance required from thesis writing. Helping people is more fun than twiddling my thumbs until I give birth.

Back when I was a struggling working student in college, I survived famines of contributing for magazines by ghost writing for one of those foreign term paper websites. It helped get me a more regular income. Eventually, I stopped doing them because I felt like I am assisting lazy students to turn in their homework and get grades they don’t deserve. I was reprimanded heavily by my spiritual mentor about the repercussions of doing other people’s work. In the working setting, though, outsourcing writing work is not a crime. It’s efficiency.

Now, I have other options, writing-wise. But I did these projects long enough to survive my own college semesters so that I have money for basic student needs like food, books, and transportation. Occasionally, I go to the spa to treat myself for my sanity. I only get projects like this when I need to earn a considerable amount. These days, I have a range of options to write professionally and I just pick what I want to do. If anything, though, thesis assistance is a really lucrative form of income generation if you want to earn big in writing. I’d typically use it as a last resort when I am running low on funds and I need a quick boost.

Having explained that, I think that although I never really studied the science of writing a thesis formally, I may have some particularly specific and useful ideas for people who are writing their thesis. All these years of assisting people with their thesis writing struggles eventually ended up with me creating my own system that makes it faster and more achievable. I don’t particularly flinch with the volume of writing work required, in the way some of my overwhelmed friends do. Not because I am better than they, but simply because I’ve seen so many of these in my lifetime. Most people only have to do it once or twice in their lives and it can drive anyone mad to produce such volume of writing work.

My recent approach in assisting my friends involves enabling them to write their own thesis and not have me ghost write for them. I can do both, but I prefer encouraging people to find their own writing voice and just be the nagger/guardian angel pestering them until they meet their deadlines for graduation.

I really hope that this new series will also help people in the same way that my board exam tips has.  I look forward to hearing about your thoughts, too, if you find this post somewhere in my lair. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Matrix Mania

From matrix-averse, I am now officially a convert to the cult of the matrix. One of my deepest regrets is not giving matrix mathematics the love that it sorely deserves. Now, I am working with them all the time and I felt so much regret that I did not take those linear algebra lectures in college seriously! Ohhh, the pain of missed chanecs!

Now I needed the refresher more than ever. I can’t turn back time but I can speedread my way to it. I am almost done with the my refresher literature so that I can finally go work on coding with TENSORS in full blast using R.

After getting hooked on all these technical explorations, I had a ‘Where have you been all my life?’ thought bubble in my head! It’s just crazy how late I began in this! It’s just amazing, picking things that Einstein in his genius picked from scratch in his time. It’s exciting and I feel sad that there are few people who appreciate this. Photo files make use of pixel matrices. Cryptography makes use of bit matrices. R programming handles gazillions of big data matrices. LiDAR data uses matrices extensively in automation and machine learning. It’s just great and it is in everything, even in things that people casually just disregard. And there is more than 2 dimensions in a matrix. It can run infinitely and converge somewhere in time and space.

Things move around in a matrix like with infinite possibilities of breaking it down and solving it. It’s a typical “there are many ways to skin a cat” problem. You are not restricted to a single method. You can reduce a huge matrix into blocks, or lower and upper triangular matrix breakdowns, or employ the use of another vector space. I am really genuinely enjoying this.

Resources are everywhere. (I actually need help trimming down my reading list. I have enough books to last me two lifetimes, digitally and non-digitally.) The challenge is really in just making time to access these resources and maximize them. A project-based learning is more apt because you can solve things one at a time and increase the complexity of the problems progressively through it.

 

Data Janitress

Ever since I started working with data, I had this feeling that I am really more of a janitress of dirty data than an engineer. Really! So much time is devoted to cleaning data than making awesome visualizations out of it. And there are actually two modules in my online education that attest to the fact that I am meant to help sweep the digital debris into more sound data analysis.

There is so little use to deriving and making algorithms pop on your PC if your input data is garbage or cluttered.

My most recent “Data Sayangtist to Data Scientist” project’s exploit is the Data Cleaning course at Coursera.

Getting and Cleaning Data at Coursera

Getting and Cleaning Data at Coursera

 

A week before the new year kicked in, I had a non-technical primer from Data Journalism module on dealing with messy data for making compelling stories:

Data Cleaning from European Center for Journalism's Canvas Course

Data Cleaning from European Center for Journalism’s Canvas Course

Apparently there are so many people harnessing the ease of using the Internet and a few souls are committed to keeping it clean and tidy on the backend or at least on the analysis end. 🙂 It’s a good place to work on because few people are willing to do it. That’s always my thing; I like going to places that nobody wants, work-wise. I took a course not familiar to many people my age. I engaged in projects that few people think as a suicide mission. And I make unconventional choices. It has never failed me. Being thrown on the deep end of the learning curve is high stress, but the returns are fantabulous!

On the practical side, I tried working on a disaster management information management system project and most of my time was spent scripting primitively encoded Excel sheets into database-friendly, geocoded csv format. I also did some work on exploring or researching standardization options in government datasets and BOY, this continues to consume much of my time this year. It will continue to eat my life as we speak. Yep, janitress life, hello hello!

Cleaning is not fun in itself but the possibilities that happen after you clean the data are reason to keep myself motivated. 🙂

And there is so much data worth cleaning online and offline. My wish list is really bordering on storing huge amounts of analyzable data than expensive objects or frequent out of town trips. I am actually content staying behind my computer and studying these things 80-90% of my time this year. Of course, having a vacation occasionally won’t hurt. 😉 That’s why I am also cooking some travel things up to balance my innate introverted nature compounded by my choice of work.

Data cleanliness is really next to data analysis godliness! 😀

Day 72: #100HappyDays
Conic Sections at Ayala

The Conic Sections

The Conic Sections

My very soon to be sister-in-law Grace is preparing for her board exams this September. Amidst all the wedding and career hooplah I am currently subjected to, we finally found the time to sit together, share some McDo shaker fries in Ayala area after a hard day’s work and discuss about conic sections. I sorely miss one on one mentoring for board exam reviews. It’s just one way of giving back to the future engineers of this country that I will never grow tired of doing. Besides, this bridezilla needs a break, for real.

I had to refresh myself a bit while I held her reviewers containing shortcuts of formula. I think I did something right during my board exam because three or four years on, I can still remember how these conic section formulae were derived in under 30 minutes.It’s not because I am smart (though some people always insist on that). It’s more because I am strategic with my approach to learning things.

Here is the gist of today’s board exam tip: You never unlearn things when you learn them in a very deep and imaginative way.

How did I propose that Grace remember the formula for conic sections? It was just simple. I requested that she only remember the general formula and use the image of the conic section to imagine how it would look like:

Ax^2 + Bxy + Cy^2 + Dx + Ey + F = 0

where A, B, C, D, E, and F are constants.

You see, by itself, it has no meaning. But when you imagine something fun like an ice cream cone and slice it in different ways and apply math to it, it becomes interesting. For her homework, I think I asked Grace to buy Play Doh, shape it into a cone and recall the formula of the conic sections in her head as she slices the clay cone.

The reviewer will just give you a list of shortcuts to gargle until the big day. But if you do not know how these were derived, you can get mental block on the day of the exam, forget the memory work you did (like a parrot who imitates the human words to get food from its master without knowing what the words mean).

(An Important Note: Don’t derive during the exam per se. But during review, just understand where the formula came from!)

Do not be afraid to create your own shortcuts or deviate a little from what other people are doing during review. If you do better by graphing or imagining an ice cream cone sliced in various directions, do it!

And yes, nobody is too young for Play Doh. Go make your playtime productive.

 

Summer Komikon 2014

summer-komikon-2014

The original plan after lunch with JR was to hunt down my good friend RK, meet his girlfriend Sue, and bolt. Yeah, bolt for the exit and just stay at the entrance area to give our birthday gift.

But as always, I underestimated my fatal attraction for all sorts of reading materials. Somehow, the fever and fervor of the Pinoy Komik fans rubbed off. Perhaps, it was also because I nursed some indulgence for Pinoy komiks. I grew up reading Funny Komiks in elementary. In high school, I fell in love with Pupung and Pugad Baboy. In college, I had the privilege of interviewing the legendary Culture Crash team and Beerkada’s Lyndon Gregorio for my second published article at Sense and Style of Manila Bulletin.

And then, I graduated…

helen-mary-labao-grad-pic-2009

I don’t know what exactly happened after that, but I was certain that I stopped reading komiks for around 4 years since that day I left the university.

Never gave it much thought before. But I realized how Pinoy komiks figured prominently in my array of reading experiences and in my life.

I love words in all forms, and stories are even more fascinating when rendered with the appropriate amount of art.

Contrary to what some people believe, comics possess so much depth and express so much of our culture. There are as many varieties of comics as there are personalities of artists that make them. I felt a bit claustrophobic when I scoured the tables for new reads.

At least, there was some fresh air outside:

summer-komikon-bayanihan-center-john-ray-bergado summer-komikon-bayanihan-center-photo-by-JR-Bergado

In keeping with the spirit of Summer Komikon 2014, here is my chibified description of my OOTD (outfit of the day):

summer-komikon-chibified-helena

My uber Casual Attire was composed of the following: Black T-Shirt for Php90 at a Cubao tiangge, Basic denim shorts from God-knows-where tiangge (nalimutan ko, sorry) for Php 150, and Parisian Basic Flats for Php 500. Php 200 sunglasses from i2i. Yellow cute bag for Php 100. All under Php 1,000. 🙂

After around 20 to 30 missed calls, JR and I found RK and Sue at the corner of the projector area. No, I did not hold them at gunpoint to have this photo taken. Squeamish as they may be for being taken hostage by JR’s phone camera, I just had to take this snapshot because they have been most gracious and I want to keep this happy memory in my blog post.

summer-komikon-RK-Aranas-Sue-Quirante-cute-couple

I pestered these two for recommendations, and boy, am I happy that I got some really good new comic books to read. I actually wish I had more money but I prioritized on the ones that intrigued me the most.

Trese by Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo

I was not really sure what the fuss was about regarding this book. I have been living in a cave so I did not know that it’s the new big thing in horror comics. I did know that my friend Alexis asked me to buy her the Trese books. I saw the nods of approval from the cutest comic books fan friends ever (see photo above) when I mentioned the title, so I bought it without really knowing what it was.

Come book signing time, I was really embarrassed because I had to have it signed on behalf of Alexis.

So I introduced myself as her. (LOL)

I was not even smart enough to check the blurb to see that the name of the main, main character is Alexandra Trese. So when the prolific Budjette joked that he can possibly include me (that time disguised under name Alexis) as a hidden sister of Alexandra, I did not get the compliment immediately. #facepalm

One of the highest compliments that a comic story writer can tell a fan is to tie her name up to the main character. Lucky, lucky, Alexis!

Nonetheless, Alexis now has the copy of two signed books from Budjette and Kajo.

summer-komikon-trese-budjette-tan-kajo-baldisimo-murder-balete-drive summer-komikon-trese-budjette-tan-kajo-baldisimo-murder-balete-drive-back-cove

And I get the photos with them ha ha ha. Look at our happy fan faces:

summer-komikon-budjette-tan-helen-rk-aranas summer-komikon-kajo-baldisimo-trese-helen-mary

 

Everyone is happy. 🙂

In the evening, I actually read Alexis’ copies and I deeply regretted not buying my own copy.

First two pages pa lang, I. BECAME. A. FAN!

Ohmifrigginggoodness sobrang ganda lang talaga.

So I googled and stalked the blog:

trese-book-5-screengrab-trese-blog

I was warned that it was depressing. As it turns out, I was actually more enchanted than depressed. I know depressed of the medication-inducing kind.

IMHO, on a scale of 1 to 10 of depressing literature, this is a 5 or 6. (I’ve read Nabokov’s Lolita and some other war novels so those are the level 10 pieces.)

The chapter cover had MAPS. Orgasmic for spatial IT enthusiasts like me, definitely. The take on Filipino mythology is so dark and rich and intellectual. It’s a smart person’s comic book. It’s full of Filipino culture. Duwendes, tikbalangs, and urban legends of mall magnates… I can’t wait to get my own copies of the books.

Once, I read a light novel with a sassy, girly stab on Filipino mythology but it focused on gods and goddesses. The name of the book was Interim Goddess of Love by Mina Esguerra and I enjoyed it very much:

interim-goddess-of-love-mina-esguerra-filipino-mythology

I realized that I like these sorts of materials.

I know that if these Trese guys get an Eisner, I’d kill for their autograph again.

So next time, I promise that I’ll buy a whole set and introduce myself. <3 (I hope that they have so many fans and I will be a forgettable face so that the fan girl faux pas gets buried forever.)

Moving on…

Pasig by Taga Ilog

I first met this guy in person in 2004 as part of my interview for Culture Crash. He had a silver pail in his head and just enough holes for his eyes.

His aura of mystery contributed to the unique legendary charm of Culture Crash among fans. I was one of the lucky few who saw him without the silver pail then. These days, though, you will see him in Komikon sans the famous silver pail and with his beautiful wife who is also a talented artist.

He draws and he writes. I really like the whole concept of the Fringe Division-ish investigation bureau in the setting of Pasig City.

I have noticed the change in his cartoons, as he was keen in pointing out at his writing on one issue:

pasig-tabing-ilog-culture-crash pasig-tabing-ilog-culture-crash-drawing-difference

I will personally be keeping an eye out for a Pasig collection or anthology in the future. In full color again, I hope, like in Culture Crash days. I really missed those guys. 🙁 They even gave me a cute little stuffed toy inspired by the One Day Isang Diwa character. <3

Slash by Edward Echavez and Cathy Bucu

So, I was expecting the old comic veterans when I entered. I expected the people I interviewed before.

But I did not expect a former officemate to be there! Haha! I found Cathy and Edward, two fine people from my former publishing job. I was sad because I could not buy his book (Php 300) given my other purchasing priorities and dwindling purchasing power.

But I wanted to show some support so here is the postcard I bought instead, the only colored piece in my Summer Komikon 2014 stash:

splash-edward-echavez-cathy-gady-bucu

 

Astounding. I look at this postcard and I marvel at the amazing people God allows me to meet, even only in passing. Congrats, Gady Bear and Edward. 🙂 I look forward to buying the actual book in another event.

Filipino Heroes League by Paolo Fabregas

Written by another prolific comic artist with a name that always resonated positively with me, Filipino Heroes League is a buying decision I made after I fell in love with the back cover:

summer-komikon-filipino-heroes-league-paolo-fabregas-back-kidla

How can a person like me resist a third world superhero in hot pursuit of a hooligan using a PEDICAB?

Only in the Philippines! I just knew I had to buy one of these. A brainchild of a former Coke commercial model and actor, FHL is satire in comic form. It depicts the Philippines in a very resonant way, and it maintains the humor and the entertainment that comes with the cultural awareness of FHL’s plots.

summer-komikon-filipino-heroes-league-paolo-fabregas-front

I am planning to get BOOK TWO and have it autographed next time.

The CHIBI-fied Dev Duo

Aside from the comic book finds, we went to Lady Storyteller’s booth at the Indie Komiks section to have our chibi images done:

JR here is looking all dapper with his chibified face, moustache and all:

summer-komikon-john-ray-bergado-chibified

For the record, this friend of mine rarely smiles and I need to record this for happy memory safekeeping. I forced him to buy a ticket to Komikon and I am happy that he was cheered by his chibi.

I was really happy with how it turned out for me, too. Here’s my blog shoutout to the ultra cool Lady Storykeeper who made these fabulous chibified sketches. On average, it took her around 10 minutes to create each one:

summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-helena-chibi-photo-by-JR

summer-komikon-helen-mary-labao-chibi-real

summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-chibifier

Honestly, if you ask me, I think this girl should charge more for her art. They make it so affordable for their exposure.

One one hand, it’s delightful for readers like me and we can buy more with less. But I can see the level of work and skill required of this endeavor. I believe that they deserve to get paid and patronized more.

I bought the other books I mentioned at the main hall of the Summer Komikon, and then I bought just 2 tiny comics from this indie lady.

One Floor Up by Lady Storykeeper

summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-apartment-hunting summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-inside summer-komikon-lady-storyteller-one-floor-up-meet-the-boys I have a soft spot for independent artists and I like buying from them whenever I can. This one caught my attention because it’s quite girly. I already have a horror title and a satire. So I went for a sassy, Kpop-ish, feel-good komik trip with this one.

I really think the dialogue can still use some editing. But it’s funny in the right places and holds so much potential. I gave it to my sister as pasalubong after I read it.

When I featured Beerkada in 2004 for a lifestyle article, the comic artist Lyndon Gregorio already had a rising set of followers from Philippine Star and other Beerkadets (fans). The lifestyle magazine had a different set of audience who got to know the comic books he was making. It could have helped spread word of what his comics were about to people who would not normally frequent Komikon events like this one. I unfortunately did not have enough stash to buy another Beerkada title from this event because of my unplanned spree, but I was able to say hi to the smart (Mensa smart) guy and read a recent comic strip from the web version. 🙂

Most of these comic book success stories began with independent comic books or even old obscure scrawl marks of a Sharpie pen or a 0.7 gel pen on a piece of bond paper… Somehow, I think most of them have this in common: 1.) they did not stop drawing even if they did not sell a copy, 2.) somebody BELIEVED in what they did, and 3.) that one person who believed spread the love and joy of the artist’s creation to others.

It’s really an auspicious mix of talent, of good timing, and of good opportunities. It’s a wheel, too, so one can have the both the feast and famine.

While others file in a long line for the titles that sell, I am the type who also likes digging for diamonds in the raw. And I think I found it in this Lady Storykeeper girl who made my chibi, the author of One Floor Up. I hope that like the more successful guys in the main hall, I will also see her creations in a bigger space, paid in a way that is somehow commensurate to the talent that she is offering the world. 🙂

An unintentional adventure that was, Summer Komikon 2014 made me realize that I will never be too old for Pinoy Komiks. <3

Thanks, RK, Sue, and JR. Thanks, Summer Komikon 2014.

Unorthodox GIS

I started a journey of being a noob GIS specialist in a very classy and family-like consulting firm. It was quite daunting. Most of the seniors at my job have greater than 10 years of traditional GIS experience. Like Picasso to a blank canvas, they weave their magic to a blank map with such flair for color and technical smarts. I found myself constantly catching up to the bosses and seniors. While I enjoyed learning traditional GIS, I vaguely felt that something in me was amiss, as if the traditional GIS was just a primer for something else that I could not grasp. My instinct was correct. Some things arrived and showed me what it was I am meant to do for life as far as work is concerned.

One time at work, I was invited to attend a 2-day training on web mapping. Actually, the whole core of GE employees were invited but only two of us were available to attend it in full. It started a journey towards mapping through the browser, an on-the-fly, unorthodox mapping experience. It was a very sunny day in October. A funny guy and mapping monk named Ranel paid us a visit and taught the monkey how to make online maps.

I keep thanking him whenever I have the chance. I thank him again in this post because he helped pave the way and get me started in this fascinating journey.

From generating sickening frequencies of selfie photos in days gone past, I kind of resorted to making online web maps and photo bombing it with my face when I am testing my point creation:

map_photobomb

(You can actually see that thing online if you click the Map View of our pilot site at binarynews.azurewebsites.net/ hohoho)

As a young engineer, I was tempted to succumb to the traditional millennial person accusation that I was moving smack and solely in the center of an orbit of my own making. I still have that self-absorption typically found in my generation; but over time, I have learned that it’s really more about the work that transcends my life than life itself.

I was just trudging through what I thought was a random path of odd jobs and unfit jobs. I kind of hit pay dirt when I found web GIS. The days of going around in circles have slowly come to a halt. As a working professional, I have finally defined what I value in a job, what I want, and what I do not want. It became easy for me to convey myself and what I stand for. It’s a mesmerizing experience, a journey that one would never expect in mapping. But I share no less meditative states in a cloister than when I am here in front of my computer and doing some changes through a series of text files tied together.

I make maps. I make maps with new things that have been otherwise unthinkable when I was still in the university.

I know that soon, this unorthodox and new field will become part of the school’s curriculum. That other people will find profit out of the things that I love now and dive head first into it. But I won’t let that mar my confidence in the adage that the web GIS work is the reward in itself.

Even when other people get away with marring or besmirching this open source segment of my work just to have more millions in their pockets, I kind of feel happy to stand my ground and maintain my course.

I absolutely hate the casual way that other people mention this activity. So many times, I have seen people just rush in and tell me “I want to learn that, too.” It really tries my patience. I hold what I do with high reverence, and I hate it when people try to tell me that they want to “learn” it without actually doing the work required to do it and are just saying it to affirm themselves or prove something.

Try giving a bunch of e-books and resources to the people who say they want to learn something. If they actually read the books and apply what they learn, that’s the ONLY time I will believe there is some substance behind those empty proclamations. The one thing that drew me close to web development is that it has little room for vain charlatans who do no substantial work but take all the credit for other people’s work. It’s either you work it or you don’t. You don’t “learn” things by lightly mentioning it in conversation.

If you really want to learn even an iota of this sub-industry, you will not talk about it carelessly; you will actually roll up your sleeves and brace yourself for THE WORK it entails. The real people who know what the work this entails do not talk about it carelessly like a headless chicken. I find that in the company of serious web development enthusiasts, we actually discuss about all those other unglamorous things that produce the glamorous views you see on the computer. Any engineer or developer worth his salt will know better than to be a careless dilettante when it comes to things that other people work hard for.

For a world which has so many avenues for expressing one’s self with words, so many people just use words like “WANT TO LEARN” without backing it up with action. It’s really ironic. And annoying, when heard by people who actually DO the learning process. In fact, if you are actually learning, you will not even have the luxury of time of painting your nails while making such empty proclamations.

My unorthodox GIS background has taught me that what you see in the outside is but a mirage, smoke and mirrors of what’s really underneath. Despite my supposed privilege of rubbing elbows with a lot of smart people in my country, I find that the real smart people are truly hard to come by… You will not always find them in places that you will expect.

It’s really a marvel how packaging can fool people. Some are taught to think. Others are just taught to dress well so that others can perceive that there’s a functional brain underneath the garb.

I don’t know about other industries, but one clear benefit of being in an unorthodox GIS niche is that you somehow learn how to differentiate the real learners and doers from technical charlatan posers. Like layers of a nice geoportal, you learn to turn off the layers that do not matter and use the ones which have best use to you.

Post Grad,
Post-License,
Post-Haiyan Support

“The sun is shining, It’s a brand new day” -closing song for Post Grad

I trusted my instinct on staying up late to check out this film at ETC Channel this evening. (I’ve been an ETC Channel fan ever since it became a local home to most of my favorite TV shows.) And as usual, my instinct worked to my favor.  Post Grad was exactly what I needed, the movie that gave me the boost that was sorely lacking in the daily grind of the last few days.

It’s not something that many people will dig. I think that it’s primarily a chick flick. My mom and I enjoyed it and I am writing about it now in the midst of reflecting about the nuances of binary code, a ghostwriting sideline, a theming interface, current pending reading activities, ways to help my typhoon Yolanda survivor friend, and my pending Python scripts for work. But there was something so appealing about the frustrations of a twenty-something fresh graduate that got me hooked. I just had to make room for that.

As someone reaches the latter parts of being a twenty-something, it’s easy to lose the verve for life with the daily ups and downs that tend to consume most corporate drones. Post Grad is the film that reminds us of that wide-eyed, freshly graduated feeling and how we need to revisit that phase of life so that we can spend the rest of life well.

I did realize that I have friends who managed to keep their ideals beyond their post grad phase. One such example is my good friend Ate Avic. She just texted me this morning and told me that she passed the licensure examination for teachers. We used to work together in the editing world. I was the assistant editor for engineering textbooks, and she was assigned as a layout artist for around three projects we made. It’s amazing to find that after her brief layout stint, she was able to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.

She thanked me for the board exam tips. Honestly, I have to thank her for being such an inspiration and reminding me that good things eventually come. There’s one board exam tip that comes from her experience and it involves just three words: NEVER GIVE UP.

Theoretically, there were many reasons where she can just throw in the towel and give up on her dreams of becoming a teacher. She is a mother and has the major responsibilities of raising her kids. She has intermittent projects from our old job that keep her awake late nights. She had this long-standing renting issue with a merciless landlady. Some years back, her mother had a major health problem and she had to lobby for additional medical support to politicians and to anyone who had the resources for these types of help.

Here is one person whose basic needs were challenged at every turn of life. Yet, she managed to work her way to achieve her dreams. After leaving the publishing company, she decided to work as a teaching assistant to a school in Bulacan. Now, she is fully qualified for a teaching item and her years of hard work have somehow paid off. It’s quite extraordinary.

A month ago, I also bumped into another old friend. He was a UP oblation scholar for mechanical engineering and ultra-smart man who ran a lot of online businesses. I collaborated with him on quite a number of writing projects before I was able to land my first job as an engineer. In 2011 or 2012, he hit a major snag and experienced a huge crisis and financial losses to his many ventures. My last conversation with him was when I bumped into him at Robinsons Galleria last year before I was deployed to my river survey project.

When I met him again last month, he is already this country’s overall manager of Freelancer.com. I am so inspired. He spoke to a large crowd of young developers during an event at Microsoft Philippines. I was just privileged to witness his success in that magnitude after having seen him at such a low point in his life. And it was delightful to find that he remembered me and we managed to converse happily during the seminar’s break time.

It’s amazing to learn about success stories of how people get from one place to another because of Herculean efforts and an undefeated spirit. And with the recent aftermath of YolandaPH devastation, I continue to see heroic stories of how people rise to the occasion. Indeed, the Filipino spirit is indomitably waterproof. To have that as a common thing in this country is a good way to accomplish and make it even in things like getting a license for one’s dream profession, getting one’s dream job (Post Grad style), and living life to the fullest, in general.

Last week, I was fortunate to finally catch my friend Fae on Skype. She survived Yolanda. I have lost contact with her for almost a week. She lost her home and basically all her prized possessions after her coastal town of Palo got severely hit by Haiyan’s 320-kph winds and the humungous and scary storm surges. She’s so STRONG. Incredible. She managed to chronicle her experience and she is temporarily living in Cebu to deal with the aftermath of this horrendous natural disaster. She even managed to smile and laugh when I call her on the phone. And whenever I feel particularly down, I think of her example and I know that if someone so victimized in such a degree can roll with the punches, I have little excuse to be unable to face my own monsters.

I don’t know if this blog still has readers but if you value my board exam tips and it has helped you, I appeal to your generous nature to help my friend Fae recover from Haiyan. She told me that she needs some supplies (top priorities are: batteries, flashlights, battery-operated radio, and blankets) and a considerable amount of cash to help her get started in life again. I hope that some of you can just donate to her with whatever amount you have in your heart to give.

If you want to donate to Fae, please comment with your email address and I will give you her details.

(To full-fledged Physics teacher Marivic Alegria Barcellano, Freelancer’s top PH man Sir Jojy Azurin, and writer/Yolanda survivor Fae Cheska Marie Esperas: just by being your awesome selves, you guys inspire me. Thanks for existing, for surviving life’s challenges, for reaching for your dreams ceaselessly, and most of all, for being my friend.)