23 August 2015

Still Anxious

Another promised update missed, and a nebulous amount of work done, I find myself a week away from starting a semester of the heaviest teaching I will have done since teaching high school, more than a decade ago.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to teach programming (and sometimes math) to top-notch students, as well as have my first taste of restricted teaching, before being tapped for similar duty overseas. This will be my first chance to explore lecture preparation in quite a while, and it has been exhilarating and worrisome. I am trying a new (to me) schema, and have been fully immersing myself (as it was) in the state-of-the-art. Will it succeed? Only time and effort will tell. I still haven't finalized it, and I only really have the first half detailed, but teaching has always been a fluid process, on-the-fly even as you are in front of the students. 

Here's to the new and the brave. 

17 July 2015


Today, Friday, being a holiday, celebrating the end of Ramadan, I am still a week off from the end of my contract at NTU - however, I had already yesterday surrendered my staff accreditations and their accompanying cards, and am currently unemployed.  This situation, however, should be rectified by next Tuesday, whereupon another update will be given.

It was an interesting day, updating supervisors current and past, clearing my space once again, and shuffling off to parts closer to home than the far-flung West of the country.  The somewhat extended weekend finds me mildly melancholy, and somewhat anxious.

Of the previous checklist, I will admit to doing the second badly, to which I will likely post an edited version here or on LinkedIn, and will follow up with some more posts on things I had been proselytizing on in the previous decade or so - when these will actually be done, I am uncertain.  I had done a bit of the other three, but the last point is what tides me over from here to there, which is still in the next week.

Still many details to be worked out, but, luckily, some time is on my side.  To use it wisely (more focussed than the last two months have gone, at least) is the best course going forward, for another month or so.

05 July 2015

Isabelita O'Dell

Twenty-four years (and some amount of days) ago, I started my freshman year in Philippine Science, in the Diliman campus.  Ma'am O'Dell was my Math I teacher, and would be my Math II (Geometry) teacher the following year.  I remember that the impression that my classmates had early on was that she was a strict teacher (in fact, a friend had left the school for failing Math II), and even with her short stature (I think I was coming up to eye-level with her at that point), she could hold a stern gaze.  Her heavily-accented English was carefully enunciated, but we would still get tripped up on some words (I remember we had a hard time with "cotton"), and I had, by the middle of that year, gotten the hang of hazarding an imitation of her voice, usually when demonstrating how she called my classmates by name, and me by "you" - to be fair, that was definitely no longer the case in sophomore year.

In both years, on days I had her class, it would be the last class of the day.  I remember that in freshman year, we originally had three-hour breaks on Thursday and Friday, but she had allowed us to take the classes earlier so that the externs could get home sooner.  I remember very fondly a day we had the proof of a single theorem in Geom class that ended up with one particularly bored individual throwing wads of paper all almost everyone else - and we had paid that person back in spades, despite the fact that Ma'am O'Dell had served as an inadvertent shield.  In the aftermath, I personally felt ashamed to approach her, but classmates who did said that she had shrugged it all off and laughed.

Ma'am O'Dell had a keen, wry sense of humor, which we students occasionally got to see, and she had a warmth just below the professional surface.  I had only, with the news of her passing, come to realize that her bearing and her attitude have been what I have been practicing - been trying to emulate - since I started teaching, at Pisay, and have served me well for all my teaching stops since.  (This is counterpointed by the excited, almost manic, air I share with another sophomore year Math teacher of mine, Doc Banjo Bautista.)

The last time I remember seeing her was a year after I started teaching at Pisay.  I knew that she had retired the year I came in, so we never had professionally overlapped there.  She still had the humor and warmth I remembered from nearly a decade before - only that her grayish hair had already turned mostly white.  I'm sure we were both smiling.

Of my mentors who have passed on: Sir Alex Alix, only years after I left for UP, with my maturity insufficient to sustain me at Pisay; Doc Jose Marasigan, who I was with during my grad assistant time at Ateneo, just a few years ago; and, Ma'am O'Dell; remembering her takes me back the farthest, to my most hopeful, to my most exuberant, exultant years, when possibility was still waiting for opportunity.  I heard that she may have been characterized in the Aureas Solito film, but I have not watched it yet - if that is true, I will likely want to find a copy soon, again.

It is hard to say how I feel about her passing, when it boils down to it.  That she is no longer in the world, for me to reconnect with at a future time, I cannot deny - there is sadness, but my memories of her feel like mint, like a breath of fresh air from a time past.  I don't want to take a deep breath, to hold it in, but I know that I will feel it again when I do remember her, time and again.

EDIT:  Adding a video from FB: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTtgqghLNaQ

03 June 2015


First post of the year is at a downtime period: one which I actually expected at the start, and then again during the previous semester, which was surprisingly heavier than the first semester, but also surprisingly more fulfilling and harmonious.  Either way, I have two months of downtime, which actually had a lead of half-a-month prior.

The plan for the interim, which I'm writing here as much to remind myself, is
  1. Read up on homotopy type theory and univalent foundations, which comes from reading this article with a somewhat wag-the-doggish headline.  It's at the intersection of mathematics, formal logic and computer science, and I actually feel advantaged to not have formal knowledge on the main mathematics.
  2. Submit something for the Asian Scientist Writing Prize, due at the end of the month.  I was planning to have a first draft by now, but have nothing yet.  This will likely be on one of my curriculum advocacies, familiar to those I've talked to at Pisay over the last decade or so.
  3. Brush up on C++ bits that I haven't picked up yet, such as multithreading and socket programming, since I haven't done so.  I also have some Udemy courses on Python and Ruby I picked up on sale from StackSocial and Slashdot Deals, which in turn tempt me with some Android and Arduino courses, which I may pick up on deep sales.  These also remind me to learn more HTML5, CSS, etc., since neither the Flash programming I learned for my Master's presentation nor the Dash programming I abruptly started and stalled on have panned out.
  4. Cast larger nets more frequently in job-hunting.  'Tis the fate of all non-tenure doctorates to be forever searching for jobs - or at least until tenure or otherwise job security, which any of the above points are helpful for.
That's not to say that I can lean back and just learn on my own pace - a number of other things are vying for my attention, but these will be my priorities through July.

25 November 2014

At the End of the Semester

More than two months later, it is apparent that the warning regarding the programming course are completely well-founded: even with the smallest laboratory among the four accumulated groups, I barely caught up with the timetable. Of course, requirements on weeks four, six and nine, coupled with the other courses, kept me plenty busy through the weeks. 

I still have an assignment to check for the largest of my courses, then some more examination-related duties, all as the semester winds down. Some paperwork is needed in addition. 

Either way, slowed down enough for some words. 

09 September 2014

Medical Facilities

So the on-campus facilities have been moved from the admittedly cramped infirmary nearby to the more remote but snazzier medical center, which had its open house today. Went there intentionally for a goodie bag, but also to check for an appointment, which I likely take at month end.

I guess an additional bit of exercise prior to getting a check up makes some sense. 

08 September 2014

Pisay at 50

I've been seeing the excitement on social media leading up to the 50th anniversary of Philippine Science High School, which makes me sad for having skipped on Foundation Day celebrations for a solid decade now. Jubilarians were the silver celebrants, which was my eldest sister's batch.

I recall my high-school sections even without my yearbook: Diamond, which we had figured had the top ten finishers of the second screening, or at least we thought, and started our dorm lives, and was full of Star Trek novels, comic books and other reading parapharnalia; Sampaguita, a calm section that I recall was when I watched Akira, and was exposed to the depth that the medium promised at the hands of masters, and I had failed to help a friend from failing out; the last Calcium, where we lost Sarah Adriano early in the school year, and a controversial Foundation Day had us lose the services of one Aureas Solito, my only year at the Main dorm; and the first Graviton, in that exhilarating final year which makes me think of Filipino like Defense of the Dark Arts, trading Battle of the Brains for Inter-Bayan, and, of course, Le Miz. Those four years, memorable as any anime, gave me friends, some of whom I have been happy to have kept in touch with, others somewhat more tentatively, more easily now in the age of Facebook and Twitter. 

My friends are not restricted to our batch, full of personalities and spirits - participating in competitions broadened my acquaintances and deepened relations considerably. Whereas math competitions with Joel Caisido and Roy Tang, under Banjo Bautista, acquainted me with Alf Gonzales of '94, our batch's Angel's brother, and Jun Navarro of '96 from the Toronto IMO - associated with a guilt of mine before the end of the millennium I have not made up for - programming competitions brought me as an elder into a group of superstar programmers, largely from '97, most of whom have advanced degrees or extensive careers in technology: first with '94's Jojo Bañez, Jaime Godinez and Natnat Tacuboy, the following year under Jaime with Chipi Buenafe and Eric Vidal, and while they teamed up with Jerome Punzalan and I ended up with Joel (his multiple awards were no fluke - he had IPhO as well as PMO honors) and Amiel Malay, it was us three with Jojo in Pakistan late that year - we had also seen what I'd coin as GBS algorithm play a key role in 1994. Chipi spearheaded my return to training from the other side of the whiteboard in '97, and I met Neil Ongkingco, Orland Gonzales, Mario Carreon, along with Anna Gabutero ('98?), Ivan Orozco ('99) and Sacha Chua ('99). Many of this group, mostly under Chipi's initiative would host the national competitions of secondary level, and led to the arrival of ACM Manila regionals under UA&P, continuing after a short hiatus now under Doc Raffy Saldaña, and leading into (finally? hopefully soon?) IOI. 

But for a truly broad swath of alumni, one only need to check the faculty rooms. Even during my years, we already had the services of EJ Baranda ('89) and Ana Chupungco ('90), but the ranks of teachers and administrators have been full of alumni - in one faculty meeting we estimated half were alumni at Diliman, in 2003. The CST had Ana, Chipi (for a year), current Director Gene Andres, Tess Paccarangan, Monica Xavier and Mich Zabala, while Math had Eden de Joya (who I was under for third and fourth year), Dinah Gutierrez and Petri Español; the system director was Dr. Ramon Miranda, while Doc Raffy was Diliman director in my last year.  Many more from other batches have come and gone before and after my three years teaching there, and I have met a number of them, mostly online. Those batches I have had the privilege to teach, alumni I have handled in UP at DCS, while I reconnect with the '97 programmers, and all those above I have been able to share the bond of the experience found through the gates on Agham Road.

I don't want to exclude those from other campuses, who I may yet meet in the future, but the fire burning in the logo of our alma mater continues to light sparks and burn brightly in our lives, and in those we share ourselves with. 

01 September 2014

Back in Business

So, merely a week and a half after starting the semester, I am a fully functioning staff member, albeit one that has to make sure that my set-up is in place (salary, medical benefits, remote access, leaving a change of footwear). In between the paperwork and the legwork, I haven't resettled the extra time I have yet. That's for this week, then. 

26 August 2014


So, after mistakenly assuming that a class would be eaten today by Union Day (which turns out to be on Thursday, leaving my tutorials unaffected), I got my staff access from the University. There's School-level stuff to fix, and my staff email to configure, but that will be mostly for tomorrow. I need to get my work pass paperwork done, as well, this afternoon. 

21 August 2014


A side effect of not having a good pace yet is the domino effect this has on classes following. Whereas, on Mondays, only I follow myself, my second classes on Tuesday and Wednesday are immediately followed. Aside from the mandated (and sensible) finish-ten-minutes-before-the-next policy, which I fear does not get unanimously adhered to, there's also the (usually massive) amount of board wiping and resetting expected - in addition to occasionally cleaning up after careless students. I've had one trip to the lost-and-found, and it's barely been a week.

Nonetheless, this is more than mere courtesy - tutorial classes are often sqeezing as much as they could into the hour or two per week allotted, and these nontrivial tasks need to be budgeted in. Case in point: I've been lucky enough to have no classes ahead of me (so far), allowing me to set up projectors ahead of the designated time.

I always feel pressed for time, but that is mostly to ensure my cogs in the campus machine don't jam up.