Thank you for being a part of this blog: for laughing with me, for chiding me, for commiserating with me, for encouraging me, and above all, for being a friend.
I appreciate it more than you know.
You all know who you are. See ya tomorrow.
|While driving out to work this morning, I came across this hapless scene. I just had to stop to take some photos.|
It never ceases to amaze me how, year after year, the churches are always full for the Misa de Gallo.
It's not an easy tradition to carry out, mind you. The Masses typically start at half past four in the morning. The sky is still deep velvety black and the air still retains its nippy bite. And yet never have I gone to a church or chapel that was not packed to the rafters and overflowing with devotees. Not in Manila, not in Cebu, not in Davao, and certainly not in Dumaguete.
Oh, to be sure, not everyone has pure and high motives of worship for going to the pre-dawn Masses. For some, it's the superstition of a sought-after wish. For others, it's the pull of their peers. And still for others, because that's the way it's always been. My own reasons incorporate a little of each.
As I write this, I've completed seven of the nine Christmas Dawn Masses for this year. It's a habit that I picked up a little late in life, but it's something that's grown on me year after year. It's not such a challenge to get myself out of bed at 4:00am anymore; in fact, I look forward to starting the day early with the Misa de Gallo.
Owing to a somewhat erratic schedule, I usually end up fulfilling the cycle at different churches. This year was no exception. My first Mass was in the chapel of the Perpetual Succor Hospital Cebu, followed by five Masses in our own Mary Immaculate Parish, and the last three Masses (I hope) in the Sto. Nino Peace Chapel in the heart of Greenbelt, Makati.
One thing can be said for all these Dawn Masses: they are packed to the rafters with devotees. This holds true for the churches I've been to in Cebu, Dumaguete, and Makati. I suppose it holds true for churches throughout the rest of the country as well.
It's been a few years since I've been doing the Christmas Dawn Masses and I have the Fortunatos to thank for that. Sometime during my third extended stay with them, Mrs. Fortunato invited me one morning and I've been at it ever since.
That got me thinking: I'm very lucky to have found a wonderful foster family. Because there's no other way to describe my relationship with them: leisurely breakfast conversations, wrangling Chammy, anecdotes, quotations, historical reminiscing, and so on and so forth. I've really known them for a very long time.
As I write this, it is the second day of the Misa de Gallo. I sigh with relief because finally, Christmas is really here. The carols no longer sound grating, the ornaments no longer seem out of place.
You can't being to imagine what a wait it's been. They say that if times are bad, Christmas comes earlier. I don't know if this statement is universally true, but my experience says that it generally holds for the Philippines. This year was no exception: I first heard the strains of Christmas carols in Manila as early as October.
The US industry could absorb more good developers than there are currently students enrolled in IT-related programs – but not all of those programs and all of those students would qualify as “good” in this context.
Take a simple example: A friend of mine looked at the final projects of a class of third-year CS students from a famous university. Essentially all had their code littered with “magic constants.” They had never been taught that was bad style – in fact they had never been taught about programming style because the department “taught computer science; not programming.” That is, programming was seen as a lowly skill that students either did not need or could easily pick up on their own.
I have seen the result of that attitude in new graduate students: It is rare that anyone thinks about the structure of their code or the implications for scaling and maintenance – those are not academic subjects. Students are taught good practical and essential topics, such as algorithms, data structures, machine architecture, programming languages, and “systems,” but only rarely do they “connect the dots” to see how it all fits together in a maintainable program.
What should high schools do to prepare students for university-level software development? When I entered a Math course as a 1st year student, the department head said something like this in his welcoming lecture: “I don’t care if you know math – we’ll teach you that from scratch – but I hope you know how to work hard and to read & write English, because you’ll need that to keep up.” I think he had an important point: current freshmen appear to have been spoon fed and many find it hard to adjust to independent work and to shake the impression that you work only to improve your grades.
High schools could teach students to work hard at something (just about anything), to search out information as needed, and learn to express their ideas in writing and orally. Project-based work is good for that. Exactly which programming language is used for software is less important, but the aim should not be to make tasks as simple as possible but to challenge students.
Education should prepare people to face new challenges; that’s what makes education different from training. In computing, that means knowing your basic algorithms, data structures, system issues, etc., and the languages needed to apply that knowledge. It also means having the high-level skills to analyze a system and to experiment with alternative solutions to problems. Going beyond the simple library-user level of programming is especially important when we consider the need to build new industries, rather than just improving older ones.
Learn another programming language; choose any language that’s quite different from what you are best acquainted with. You can’t be a professional in the IT world knowing only one language. No one language is the best for everyone and for everything.
Don’t just do programming. Computing is always computing something. Become acquainted with something that requires your software development skills: Mediaeval history, car engine design, rocket science, medical blood analysis, image processing, computational geometry, biological modeling, whatever seems interesting. Yes, all of these examples are real, from my personal experience.
"...because I wasn't any good at Math. Or Science..."
"...I would have taken up _______, but I got scared off by a subject in Taxation..."
"...I would have gone into _______, but there were two semesters of Accounting..."
Who is Dominique Cimafranca?
The short answer is: I'm Davao City born and bred, with a smattering of Dumaguete summers thrown in for variety. I spent my five years of college in Cebu City, after which I wandered, a little dazed, into Metro Manila. Such a footloose life left me confused, and so I spent the next ten years bouncing around these cities. Jobs with two IT multinationals sent me careening to other countries and other continents, but home base has always been the Philippines. After twelve years, I grew bemused with the burlesque of Big IT and decided to retire: first to Dumaguete, where I ran a pharmacy, and then to Davao, where I now teach at the Ateneo de Davao University.
That, of course, is a quick account of the places I've lived in, not who I am. Let me try again.
The long answer is: I was a computer nerd before the term came into vogue. I took my first computer programming class when I was 12, and I got my first computer, an Apple ][, when I was 14. My parents mistook my love for computer games for a desire to be a computer engineer, so they shipped me off to the University of San Carlos where I received my degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering with honors. What I really wanted to be was a journalist.
As detours go, it was most fortuitous. I enjoyed the math and the degree and the subsequent license afforded me the chance for a stable job. I taught at the University of Asia and the Pacific for a time, and there I helped to start their IT program. Tiring of academe, I
shifted to the industry when I joined Digital Equipment Corporation in 1995. I did so at the right time as the Internet was just getting started in Asia. I set up web servers, firewalls, and ISP networks in Manila, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Dhakka, Karachi, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen.
In my first and only attempt at industry musical chairs, I moved to IBM in 1997.
With its size, IBM afforded me new frontiers. I went through several positions: e-Business consultant, technical sales for Emerging and Competitive Markets, and IT architect and technical lead for the Systems and Technology Group. I have seen customers froth, proposals implode, and projects collapse. On other occasions, we manage to save the day...and we go back into the fray the very next.
Eventually I grew tired of the game and seized an option unthinkable to most: I retired early from IT. I moved back to Dumaguete and there I ran a pharmacy; on the side, my friends and I worked to bring in the first major call center into the city. In my spare time, I wrote for the weekly newspaper, I joined the National Writing Workshop under Mom Edith Tiempo, and I rode my mountain bike to the waterfalls and beaches of Negros and Bohol. It's not a bad way to live; everyone should try it sometime.
At some point, even an earthly paradise can get tedious. Partly by accident and partly by family need, I found myself back in Davao. Again, as life detours go, it wasn't bad at all: Davao's urban pace is midway between the easygoing amble of Dumaguete and the frenetic dash of Cebu and Manila. While in Davao, I consulted for the International Open Source Network, co-edited the weekly literary journal of the Davao Writers Guild, and wrote fantasy and science fiction stories for Manila genre rags. Is Davao the place to settle down? Maybe.
This semester I began teaching at the Ateneo de Davao University. I started with a class on Information Security for the Computer Studies Division; then they added a class on Open Source Technologies. And then the Humanities Division called, and now I also teach New Journalism. Strange, I know, but that's how life and its detours go.
More detailed, yes, but does it really answer the question? Okay, one more time.
The short short answer: I am Dominique Cimafranca. I am a geek and a nerd.
Hello. A pleasure to meet you.
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Since this is an open source class, I want to try an open source experiment -- an "open source exam", if you will.
Here's how it will work:
You will each send me, as a response to this email, at least 20 questions (and answers) that you've gleaned from the lectures, presentations, laboratory exercises, and supplementary reading material. I will use these questions in your prelim exam. However, I will have veto power on which questions will make it to the exam; I also reserve the right to add more questions.
I will only accept entries with at least 20 questions. Subsequent sets must not include questions already given.
You have the right to circulate the questions and answers among your friends; in fact, I encourage it.
The exam, of course, will be closed notes, and I will randomize the order in which the questions are given.
Let the questions come rolling in.