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The only non-trivial normal magic hexagon

3:42 pm PHT

If you arrange the natural numbers starting with 1 onto a hexagonal grid such that they fill in a hexagonal-shaped array of hexagons, there is only one non-trivial normal magic hexagon—that is, all of the numbers in every hexagonal row for all three directions sum up to the same number. This unique magic hexagon is shown above and the magic sum is 38. It has been proven in 1963 that this is the only normal magic hexagon (aside from the trivial solution of only 1 hexagon).

There are other “abnormal” magic hexagons of various sizes where the successive numbers don’t start with 1, but the one shown is the only normal one. Magic hexagons have only been studied relatively recently by mathematicians especially when compared with the vastly more popular magic squares which are known since ancient times.

That bit of mathematical trivia above is simply an elaborate way to state that I am now 38 years old. I always like to think that this is not really my real age of existence because I existed from the moment of conception. (So I have existed for 38 years and around 8+ months.) But 38 years is certainly the age of my existence as a completely separate person.

I used to have this habit of blogging on or around my birthday and I have done so for the first six years of this blog. See the posts for my 24th, 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, and 29th birthday, most of which state some interesting mathematical trivia related to the age. I decided to restart this habit again after a long hiatus because, why not? I looked at the various mathematical properties related to the number 38 and this magic hexagon was the most interesting for me.

Anyway, aside from this little bit of blogging, I’d like to repeat what I wrote 11 years ago because it is true today as it was back then:

I’ve always thought that it’s just an ordinary day like any other. Well-wishing is always appreciated and merriment is part of the package. It’s not that I’m a prude or a killjoy, but my practical and usually unemotional mind does not attach any sort of momentousness (or portent) that many other people feel when their own annual commemoration comes.

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State of the Map, finally!

11:52 pm PHT

According to my OpenStreetMap user profile, I registered with the project 11 years ago today. And I could not think of a better way to celebrate this not-so-round milestone by attending the first day of State of the Map 2018 in Milan, Italy!

I have already been to several sessions so far and have learned quite a lot. I have also met new people as well as touched base with a few old friends. Tomorrow, I’ll be giving a lightning talk and I actually have yet to finish and polish my presentation.  :-p

This might surprise some people who know me, but this is the first time that I am attending the international State of the Map despite having already spent more than a decade volunteering for OpenStreetMap. Well technically, I did attend two “international” State of the Map events. The first was State of the Map Philippines 2013 held at the Ateneo de Manila University where we had a few presenters from the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team in Indonesia as well as expats living in the Philippines and even a community leader from Japan who gave a keynote remotely. And the second was State of the Map Asia 2016 held at the University of the Philippines Diliman and which I was part of the local organizing team. But beside those two I had never before attended the State of the Map.

Truth be told, attending SotM has been a frustration of mine. In contrast with my participation in international Wikimedia conferences (three Wikimanias [2011 in Haifa, Israel; 2013 in Hong Kong; and 2014 in London, United Kingdom], two Wikimedia Conferences [2012 and 2015, both in Berlin, Germany], and a WikidataCon [2017, also in Berlin]), my SotM credentials was a bit lacking.

I actually had two opportunities to go to State of the Map before Milan. The first was in 2009 in Amsterdam and the second was in 2015 in New York City (which was actually a State of the Map US—there was no international SotM that year), where I applied or was nominated for and was granted scholarships to attend both. Unfortunately, due to very similar reasons, I wasn’t able to go to both events: by the time I was awarded the scholarships, the earliest available dates to apply for visas at the Dutch and American embassies were after the respective conferences. These circumstances were actually the big reason for my frustration.  :(

So yeah, I am really happy and excited to finally be able to attend the main international conference of the other half of my volunteer open knowledge life. And I also hope that this wouldn’t be the last.  :)

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Paalam, Nanay

5:54 pm PHT

 Elena Sandiego: 1920–2018

Among my grandparents, Nanay was the one I was closest to. I barely knew Tatay because he passed away when I was six years old. Lolo followed in the early 90s when I was a young teenager and Lola several years ago.

The fondest memory of Nanay that I have is how she would cook delicious crispy chicken skin for her grandkids whenever we would visit her in Valenzuela many, many years ago.

I found it heartbreaking seeing Nanay become progressively senile these past few years, but whenever she was able to walk around the house (she was part of our household), she was asking if we have eaten or taken care of ourselves.

Nanay was hospitalized late last year but she was able to shake the disease off. However, she contracted pneumonia recently and again had to be hospitalized. Unfortunately, it was her time to go. And so she breathed her last earlier this morning in the presence of Tito Bobet, her youngest son who just flew in from Canada late last night. Sadly, she could no longer wait for Tita Lita and Tita Nene to arrive. She passed away at the age of 97, just 4 days shy of her 98th birthday.

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Statement: Bloggers for Freedom

10:00 am PHT

I personally find it very disconcerting that the current administration is using legal means to silence and intimidate critics. They started with Senator Leila de Lima and they are now doing it to Rappler and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, among others.

Remember, when Marcos shut down newspapers and TV and radio stations at the onset of Martial Law, it was also considered legal. That does not make it morally right.

Therefore I am joining many other bloggers in signing the following statement.

We concerned Filipino bloggers stand for the rights to free expression and to free speech. And our first responsibility is to protect these rights.

We thus stand with Rappler, its right to exist, the rights of its working journalists and contributors, and the rights of its community of readers.

We stand against moves to silence and scare journalists, bloggers and media practitioners just because the President and his ardent supporters dislike their news and views.

Now is a time for making choices amid battles between truth and lies, debate and dissonance, democracy and dictatorship.

We sign our names here to tell everyone we have made a choice. We are bloggers for freedom.


  • Noemi Lardizabal-Dado

  • Tonyo Cruz

  • Dale Bacar

  • Marcelle Fabie

  • Myk Mykapalaran Cruz

  • Rod Magaru

  • Ely Valendez

  • Alex Lapa

  • Tess Termulo

  • Zena Bernardo

  • Jover Laurio

  • James Romer V. Velina

  • Ramon Nocon

  • Flow Galindez

  • Helga Weber

  • Mc Richard Viana Paglicawan

  • Raymond Palatino

  • Loi Landicho

  • Saul de Jesus

  • Karlo Mongaya

  • Ricky Rivera

  • Mark Will Mayo Magallanes

  • Eyriche Cortez

  • Julius Mariveles

  • Yusuf Ledesma

  • RJ Barrete

  • Dino Manrique

  • Peachy Tan

  • Rhadem Camlian Morados

  • Julius Rocas

  • Jon Limjap

  • Markku Seguerra

  • Jam Ancheta

  • Estan Cabigas

  • Enrico Dee

  • Acee Vitangcol

  • Stefan Punongbayan

  • Jesus Falcis

  • Hancel Reyes

  • Czarina Maye Noche

  • JM Mariano

  • Reginald Agsalon

  • John Clifford Sibayan

  • Jane Uymatiao

  • Johnn Mendoza

  • Carlos Celdran

  • Christian Melanie

  • Jann Medina

  • Carlo Arvisu

  • Inday Espina Varona

  • Eugene Alvin Villar

  • Melo Villareal

  • Brian Ong

  • JM Tuazon

  • Fritz Tentativa

  • Fitz Villafuerte

  • Tina Antonio

  • Mykel Andrada

  • Reynaldo Pagsolingan Jr.

  • Renz Daniel de Vera

Published on January 19, 2018, Black Friday.

If you are a blogger (now or in the past) and would wish to sign the statement, please visit

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Perspective correction using GIMP

1:23 am PHT

As I mentioned on Facebook, a micro-hobby that I picked up recently is applying perspective correction on photos of NHCP historical markers in Wikimedia Commons such that they look as if they were photographed head-on and with horizontal edges looking horizontal and vertical edges looking vertical. An example result is the corrected photo of the Fort of San Pedro historical marker shown below.

 Corrected photo of the historical marker.

And here is the original photo.

 Original photo of the historical marker.

The complete list of photos I’ve already corrected can be found on Wikimedia Commons.

I will now explain the step-by-step procedure that I follow to do perspective correction on these photographs. For this “tutorial”, we will be using the open-source GIMP application. I’m quite sure a similar process can be done using Adobe Photoshop and there are plenty of tutorials online if you are so inclined. We will also be using a photo I took of a historical marker for the Sen Sebastian Church in Quiapo, Manila. Shown below is the original photo.

 Original sample photo.

After opening the photograph in GIMP, the first step is to expand the canvas to give us room to work with.

Next, we correct the obvious barrel distortion in the image. This is a type of distortion where lines that are supposed to be straight appear to bulge outward in the photo. This effect is especially noticeable when shooting photos using small focal lengths or wide-angle lenses. Fortunately, GIMP has a built-in filter called Lens Distortion that is available under the Distorts sub-menu of the Filters menu. For this correction to be as painless as possible, use the original uncropped photo from the camera since the origin of the barrel distortion can then be assumed to be at the exact center of the photo. Otherwise, you would need to guess where the origin is in cropped photos and adjust accordingly. Shown below is the Lens Distortion dialog box.

For our example photo, I find that using a “Main” setting value of −7 does the trick. You may need to experiment with this and other settings to get the adjustment quite right. (See the GIMP documentation on this filter for more information.)

The next phase is the actual meat of the process. We first create image guides to mark the desired “undistorted” rectangle that we want the historical marker to fit. You can create guides by selecting the Move Tool from the toolbox and then dragging from the rulers, or by using the Guides sub-menu under the Image menu. It’s okay not to get the aspect ratio correct right now because we always can scale the image afterwards.

We then select the Perspective Tool from the toolbox and click on the photo. A dialog box should now pop up and the photo layer should now be overlaid with a grid with handles on its four corners.

We then drag the corners and try to line up the edges of the historical marker with our image guides. It make take a a few rounds of dragging to get things just right.

Once we are satisfied with the preview, we click on the “Transform” button on the dialog box. A small indicator should then appear indicating the progress of the image transformation. (It helps to have a fast processor and lots of RAM, of course.)

The final phase of our image manipulation is actually quite trivial. We vertically or horizontally scale the photo to adjust the aspect ratio. We crop the image to remove extraneous portions of the photo. We perform color correction and sharpening as needed. And we may even need to use the Clone Tool to fill in parts of the image that are now blank because of the perspective correction. These small adjustments are all basic image manipulation steps that any experienced Photoshop or GIMP user should already be familiar with.

 Corrected sample photo

And there we have it! We now have a nice rectangular photo of our historical marker. For best results it helps to work with high-resolution photos because of the image distortions that we are applying to the photo. I find that with practice, the whole process can be done in under 10 minutes. One good thing about this is that you can apply the same techniques to correct other types of photos as well, such as images of paintings, posters, and even architecture.

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Rhombic Triacontahedron

5:02 pm PHT

I’ve mentioned in passing here on this blog that my favorite number is the golden ratio. If you know me, this should not be surprising at all. Two of my favorite school subjects are math and art after all, and aside from fractals (which I also really love), the golden ratio is a concept that straddles both fields, having numerous interesting mathematical properties and being used as an aesthetically pleasing proportion in the arts and architecture. I’m quite sure that I am far from alone in having the golden ratio as their favorite number.

While fractals and the golden ratio provide countless beautiful geometric figures and shapes, I’ve never really had one that I can consider as my most favorite shape. There are several fractals that I like and two of them are the famous Mandelbrot set and the Heighway dragon curve. And the golden ratio has many associated shapes, the golden spiral being the most well-known.

 A rhombic triacontahedron.

Given the many beautiful shapes available, it was only late last year that I finally selected one geometric shape as my most favorite: the rhombic triacontahedron (shown above). This is a three-dimensional, 30-sided ("triaconta-”) convex polyhedron (”-hedron”) having identical rhombuses ("rhombic”) as its faces. But what’s interesting is that all of these 30 rhombuses are golden rhombuses, that is, their two diagonals are in the golden ratio.

 A golden rhombus.

I have to admit with some embarrassment that it was only last year that I became aware of this polyhedron and its numerous connections to the golden ratio. (It’s not just the rhombuses.) I’ve known for quite a while now that the more familiar icosahedron is connected to the golden ratio: if you arrange three golden rectangles such that they are intersecting with their centers coincident and mutually perpendicular to each other, their combined 12 corners coincide with the vertices of the icosahedron. (I actually used this knowledge to create a stable stellated icosahedron as a Christmas lantern back in high school.) The dodecahedron, being the dual of the icosahedron and having regular pentagons as its faces, is also connected to the golden ratio: the ratio of a pentagon’s edge to its diagonal is golden. And if you dually combine the icosahedron and the dodecahedron such that their edges intersect, their combined vertices are the vertices of the rhombic triacontahedron. This also means that the icosahedron’s and dodecahedron’s edges, being coincident with with the diagonals of the golden rhombuses, are in a golden ratio. Not only that, but various orthogonal projections of this remarkable polyhedra also contain various lengths in a golden ratio.

 An icosahedron and a dodecahedron embedded in the rhombic triacontahedron.

 The golden ratio found in the 6-symmetry orthogonal projection of the rhombic triacontahedron.

It’s therefore no surprise that I’ve selected the rhombic triacontahedron as my favorite shape. It incorporates the golden ratio, my favorite number, in numerous fascinating ways, much like the way the golden ratio itself appears in many unexpected and amazing places.

You can explore this shape a bit by checking out this simple web app that I designed to help me create most of the illustrations on this blog post.

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Visiting Rizal’s Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld

1:04 pm PHT

It’s common knowledge among educated Filipinos that José Rizal, the Philippines’ national hero, studied ophthalmology and wrote his famous subversive novels Noli Me Tángere and El Filibusterismo in Europe. Rizal stayed in various cities, such as Madrid, Paris, and Berlin, but out of all these places, what really sticks in my mind are Heidelberg, Germany and the nearby town of Wilhelmsfeld. You might say that this is probably due to his poem To the Flowers of Heidelberg, but the more accurate reason is that in researching for places to feature on Vista Pinas, my virtual travel blog, I became quite familiar with the various Rizal-related places in Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld, thanks to the extensive information posted online by travelers and by the Wilhelmsfeld-Heidelberg chapter of Knights of Rizal. Two such places that I’ve already featured are José-Rizal-Straße and Rizal Park, both in Wilhelmsfeld.

In writing about those places for Vista Pinas, I resigned myself to the reality that I most probably would not be able to visit them because opportunities for international travel is limited, I already have a bucket list of places that I really want to visit, and Heidelberg is quite out of the way from the places on that list. So imagine my ears really perking up when my German colleague told me in Frankfurt (when I was there for my company’s staff meetings) that Heidelberg was only an hour away by train when I asked him for recommendations of places to see in and around Frankfurt. Of course, I could not let the opportunity to see the places where José Rizal stayed pass me by.

Fortunately, I previously allotted myself a full free day during my trip for sightseeing and so reserved that for a day visit to Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld. I did extensive research looking up train and bus timetables and plotting Rizal sites on my map. I also read up on non-Rizal sites in Heidelberg since the city is a popular tourist destination in itself (which I’ll talk about in separate post). So after having lunch on August 19, I found myself on a regional train that left Frankfurt and was zipping through the German countryside towards the Neckar River, where Heidelberg stands.

 View of Heidelberg Castle from the city’s Old Bridge


After arriving at Heidelberg’s central train station, I immediately walked to the main bus station (passing by one of the marked Rizal’s sites along Bergheimer Straße) and hopped on a bus going to the mountain town of Wilhelmsfeld. The ride took around 30 minutes and that amazed me because while Rizal studied ophthalmology at the University of Heidelberg, he stayed at the house of Pastor Karl Ullmer in Wilhelmsfeld. There were no buses at that time and so Rizal took a few hours each school day to walk the distance to and from Heidelberg. No doubt Rizal found the near-daily walk through the woods conducive to reflecting on the Philippines and his novel Noli Me Tángere, which he finished during his stay in Wilhelmsfeld.

I arrived in Wilhelmsfeld and alighted in front of the town hall. I was immediately surprised to see a flag of the Philippines flying proudly beside the flag of Wilhelmsfeld. And there was a signpost pointing in the direction of Calamba, Rizal’s birthplace, with the distance posted as 10,361 kilometers. I only realized then that Wilhelmsfeld is a sister city of Calamba.

I then walked to Rizal Park along Karl-Ullmer-Weg, a footpath named in honor of Pastor Ullmer, Rizal’s gracious host in Wilhelmsfeld. When I arrived at the park, I almost didn’t recognize it because it looked totally different from the photos I’ve seen online (like this one). The park apparently was renovated sometime in the last couple or so years and gone were the trees that provided shade, although there were new tree saplings planted around the area. It would be interesting to see how the park would look in the future when the trees have fully grown. But the larger-than-life statue of a pensive-looking Rizal is still there on the original hexagonal fountain area as are the busts (though moved from their original spots) of Ullmer, Becker, Virchow, and Blumentritt, friends and mentors of Rizal.

After visiting the park, I trudged north and arrived at José-Rizal-Straße, specifically at the house of Pastor Karl Ullmer, where Rizal stayed. The house can’t be missed because on the fence there’s a street sign naming Rizal’s street and a National Historical Commission of the Philippines marker below it. The black granite marker (which replaced the original steel plaque) declares that the house was where Rizal finished his novel. A fountain that used to sit in the residence’s garden was later donated to the Philippines and it can now be found at Rizal Park in Manila.


I left Wilhelmsfeld and took another bus back to Heidelberg. There I did some sightseeing around the city and also visited the other marked Rizal site, and this is the apartment at the former address of Ludwigsplatz 12 where Rizal resided before staying with Pastor Ullmer. Of course the actual apartment no longer exists and the historical marker just marks the site.

As I mentioned before, I also passed by the marked site at Bergheimer Straße 20 before going to Wilhelmsfeld. This site was where the University Eye Clinic used to be and where Rizal studied ophthalmology under the mentorship of Professor Otto Becker. He used his knowledge to cure his mother’s eye disease when he went back to the Philippines.

There is another Rizal-dedicated site in Heidelberg and this is Rizal-Ufer, a long riverside footpath located in western Heidelberg. I planned to visit it and take a photo of the plaque commemorating Rizal but unfortunately, it was too far away and I no longer had enough time to go there before sunset after all of the sightseeing I did around Heidelberg’s Altstadt (Old Town) district.

Despite that minor snag, I consider my trip to Heidelberg and Wilhelmsfeld to be a success. I finally saw for myself the places where Rizal stayed and which I had only previously written about. Immersing myself in Philippine history combined with seeing old German architecture and culture was definitely one of the my biggest highlights of 2016 (next to my career change, of course  :)).

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Three-Month Essay

10:30 am PHT

Unless you didn’t pay attention, you should know by now that I left my 12-year job at Canon and started working for Cadasta since March. The update of my profile on Facebook and LinkedIn should have made that abundantly clear. And it should also be obvious that this career shift was what I alluded to in my post last year, though I didn’t expect back then that I would eventually end up where I am now.

In my previous work, new employees are requested to provide an essay describing their experiences with the company after being with it for three months. Cadasta does not request something similar so I decided to post my three-month essay here in my blog instead.

But before I share my thoughts on the past few months, let’s backtrack to late last year. I had actually set my sights on joining a different company whose office was closer to home, where the line of work was similar to my previous job, and where company policies were vastly more relaxed. I had even gone on an initial interview with my potential boss with the mutual understanding that we would eventually work with each other—the salary being the only negotiating point. Unfortunately, business conditions with that company’s parent corporation prevented us from inking the deal.

As many people say, when a door closes, a window opens. And what an opening that was. A friend of mine shared that Cadasta had a couple of slots for a remote web developer position, which greatly appealed to me. While I didn’t think that I had a good shot because I didn’t have the relevant experience in the major technologies used by the company, I nevertheless grabbed the opportunity. Fortunately, I passed the general and technical interviews and was invited in December to join Cadasta, besting over a hundred other applicants. (I later learned that it also helped that I came from a developing country as Cadasta values diversity, but I was assured that I got in primarily on merit.)

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So how is working for Cadasta? I will admit: it is really cool. I can work wherever I want (or at least where there’s decent Internet access) and whenever I want, just as long as I get the job done and provide value to the company. I get to contribute to open source software, something which I really appreciate, and the nature of working with a diverse team of people scattered in different timezones is challenging yet refreshing. If I’m feeling sleepy, I can take a quick siesta without feeling guilty and I can take a half-day off without needing to get prior approval. Moreover, receiving a very competitive salary is the icing on the cake.

Comparing the working environment between the previous and current job is like night and day. Not that working at Canon was a nightmare—I wouldn’t have stayed there for 12 years if that were the case. My work there was intellectually stimulating and fulfilling. I got to learn a lot and was able to impart my knowledge to other people. My superiors were all very supportive. And my colleagues were some of the best people I’ve had the pleasure of spending most of my day with. The difference is not between bad and good, but rather like the difference between black and white.

For instance, many friends were surprised to learn that smartphones are strictly prohibited in my previous office and that Internet access is allowed only in limited instances. Being an R&D subsidiary and developing technologies that would provide competitive advantages in the consumer and enterprise market years in the future, my previous company understandably takes information security very seriously. Technical and policy measures, such as NDAs, were put in place in order to prevent leakage of trade secrets and other confidential intellectual property. (This led to in-jokes on social media where we used references like “Company Confidential” when talking about our employer.) Contrast that with Cadasta where the cloud platform we are creating is open source and our development is visible to everyone through GitHub.

As another example, I mentioned that I can now take leaves without needing explicit approval (we just use sensible judgment to warn our colleagues ahead of time and avoid inconvenience). In my previous work, there are very elaborate leave approval policies and procedures. And even if you comply with them, it is not a guarantee that your leave will be approved, something that a friend of mine bitterly learned and eventually led to his resignation. I myself had to jump through multiple hoops (i.e., levels of approval) in order for my London trip to push through.

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Warning: This post becomes quite a bit technical from here on out.

Being a programming geek, what can I say about being a developer at Cadasta? Well, it’s also vastly different from what I’m used to. In my previous work, I was a hardware engineer. So I used specific languages, like VHDL for designing hardware components, and e for testing those designs. We also used Perl for scripting purposes. Outside of work, I also use Perl as my general-purpose programming language of choice and I do front-end web development using HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript.

For Cadasta’s cloud platform, we are developing it in Django which uses Python as its programming language. Before Cadasta, I have zero experience with Django (though I experimented with a different, Perl-based web framework before) and have never really programmed in Python. I once customized (read: mangled) a Python script to produce a GPS-driven animation for an OpenStreeMap event in 2010, but that was the extent of my Python experience and I didn’t really study the language—only learning enough of it to be able hack the script to do what I want.

Python is actually quite a big contrast from Perl. Perl famously has the motto “There’s more than one way to do it” (lovingly abbreviated as “TMTOWTDI”), while the Zen of Python states: “There should be one—and preferably only one—obvious way to do it.” Nevertheless, I’ve grown to love programming in Python and I definitely believe that being exposed to Perl and Python with their contrasting philosophies makes me a better developer. (Cue in the Lisp/Haskell/Erlang geeks.)

As for Django, I am amazed at how powerful, yet very customizable, it is. I’m actually now considering using it for developing future websites. Its object-relational mapping (ORM) is the best I’ve seen (though I haven’t really seen a lot), and I like how the platform provides an optional admin interface that let’s you quickly populate and edit the tailored content for your website, letting you put it up quick and easy.

% printenv

In my previous work, we use an in-house proprietary version control system for holding all of our source code. We also access a network of servers where we would run all of our software. Contrast that with Cadasta where we use Git via GitHub for version control, and a virtual environment on our own computers that was setup using Vagrant+Ansible. (The VM taxes my laptop, so I’m planning to get a new one soon.) The only major similarity between my two jobs is that the development OS is Linux. Of the other Cadasta technology choices, I’ve only ever used Git/GitHub so it was not a total start from scratch for me. (BTW, I really, really love Git. I remember seeing a presentation explaining how Git works from way back and I instantly loved its overall elegant design.)

Working with a distributed development team scattered all over the world presents some challenges. (Of course.) Unlike in my previous work (and in most other companies) where you can turn to the person next to you to ask a question, you can’t do that in Cadasta. So we work asynchronously and use Slack as our primary collaboration and communications tool and Trello for tracking non-development issues and tasks.

The development team also has a weekly online meeting (using Zoom) to help keep us all on the same page. That obviously presents timezone challenges. In our current meeting schedule, I attend the meetings at night while those on the west coast of the United States wake up early in the morning. Being in a tropical country, I never had to worry about daylight saving time, but now I have to be aware of DST switches in Australia, Europe and North America. Aside from the weekly meetings, the whole staff also has a weekly pair-call system where we get randomly paired-up each week in order to have a half-hour online chit-chat about anything. This is to help us get to know each other in lieu of the proverbial water cooler talk.

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So that’s what I’ve been up to professionally for the past three and a half months. I’m quite happy having the opportunity to contribute to Cadasta’s success and I look forward to finally meeting the rest of the staff—I’ve met our CTO, Kate, through OpenStreetMap before (she’s the current Chair of the OSM Foundation and former Executive Director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team)—when we have our staff retreat in Germany this August. (Hopefully I won’t have any problems in getting a Schengen visa.)  :-)

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One Gross Months of Existence (Or Why Continue Blogging?)

11:43 pm PHT

On this day, one hundred and forty-four (a.k.a. one gross) months ago, I published the very first post on this blog, marking my official entry into the blogosphere.

While it might be accurate to say that the present state of my blog is moribund because I have written only 4 posts in the past 2 years, I still consider vaes9 to be a living part of my online presence—a personal space where I am free to say what I want without accepting some social network’s terms of use or granting a commercial company an irrevocable license to use my content as it sees fit. In fact, I have recently moved the blog to its own domain name,, after staying on for the past 10 years and on before that.

I’ll freely admit that ever since I became active on Facebook and previously with Plurk, and after I got more involved with offline activities in the local Wikimedia and OpenStreetMap communities, my personal blogging took a hit. I used to be able to write multiple entries in a month. Now, I am posting articles hundreds of days in between. There’s only so much I can do with my limited time after all. And with the ease of posting on mobile Facebook with its ready audience on hand to like your written stream of consciousness, crafting a fine blog article is a chore in comparison. (I actually used to post entries on my blog like how I would nowadays post on Facebook. Case in point: this Twitter-length blog post to celebrate this blog’s first anniversary.)

Why continue blogging? Why not preserve this blog as a digital archive of a bygone era, when blogs were the kings of the Web and social media was not yet mainstream? Well, aside from the aforementioned freedom from commercial interests, I think blogs are still the proper media for publishing long-form content—the type of writing where you think your thoughts through, where you do prior research, and where you polish your text as if you are writing for a magazine or a newspaper column. My philosophy is thus: social networks are reserved for the viral and mundane, while blogs are for the considered and profound.

Now, the only problem is finding the time to write.

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Fighting Inertia

6:15 pm PHT

Being an introvert and with a great deal of introspection, I know myself well enough to describe myself as an inertial person. That is, I don’t really like drastic changes. I don’t like moving around. I take comfort in the familiar and the routine. I rarely engage in new experiences unless the benefits are worth my while. This is especially true when it comes to major life decisions. I will not uproot my life unless the need for change is great and beneficial.

So now I am approaching a big fork in the road.

The change in direction was a long time coming. I suspected of it a few years ago, but events earlier this year helped me make a decision. Fortuitous entreaties from down south cemented the choice. If things go as planned, by the end of the year, I will be actualizing one of those aforementioned major life decisions.

I will not be elaborating on the decision here because I know that some people affected will be caught off-guard. And the specifics do not matter now in this space. What matters for me right now is that I put in writing the feelings and emotions that goes with the decision. It’s been more than a decade since I last had a comparable change, and the thought of abandoning what is currently familiar and replacing it with something unknown gives me anxiety and apprehension, but anticipation as well. Doubts still linger like moths around a lamppost, but every consequential step towards the fork in the road (like writing this entry) firms my resolve.

I feel a hint of bitterness and disappointment. There is also a tinge of regret because the change could have come sooner had some people been more forthcoming. Then again, the current circumstances does feel like a blessing in disguise and the timing could hardly be better. I just need to work up the determination to prepare for the change and make the transition smooth.

I am an inertial person, but enough force has been applied. There is no turning back.

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