Jon Aquino's Mental Garden

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

My PDA is my backup brain

I have a love-hate relationship with my PDA. I bought it in 2004 after reading David Allen's GTD (which continues to be for me an excellent time-management system). Got the bigger battery. Got a replacement for the inferior Pocket Outlook.

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When combined with the GTD method and Outlook on the desktop, it becomes a powerful system. New ideas can be immediately entered into an appropriate GTD list or the calendar. All of your contacts' addresses and phone numbers are readily available. It helps that the unit turns on instantly when you press the power button.

For input, I use a stylus and a special keyboard layout called Fitaly, which puts frequently-used letters in the middle (see below). I'm actually not using Fitaly's product, but Resco Keyboard which you can hack. I've added a numeric keypad on the right, with symbols. For example, swiping up on "1" produces "!":


Recently I've been downloading a number of Project Gutenberg e-texts to my PDA. One thing that makes reading e-books a lot easier is a text viewer that remembers where you last stopped reading each file. Haali Reader will do this for you:


There are things that I don't like about this PDA. It's getting old, and there are times when it freezes on startup, which can be frustrating. Also, Dell has stopped producing PDAs, which is a shame as they had a superb product line. At least HP continues to make them.

Meanwhile, I'm trying various things to make this PDA last as long as possible, such as installing a plastic card to protect the screen. Fastened with heavy-duty packing tape, it automatically moves into position when the case is closed:

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Cold-Fx cold medicine - worked for me

I want to put in a good word for Cold-Fx cold medicine. I started having an itchy and sore throat a couple of days ago. If you take Cold-Fx as soon as you experience cold symptoms, it's supposed to stave off the cold.

Worked for me. On Day 2 my sore throat and malaise were gone.

Created a Pro-Life social network "Prolific"

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Created a network called Prolific in support of the pro-life movement. If you're of like mind and want a stop to be put to abortions, come and join! You'll get a nifty Prolific badge that you can stick on your blog:


Sunday, October 12, 2008


It is Sunday evening as write this on my PDA, in total darkness. The power has been out for a couple of hours, so I've lit three candles to read by. Reading is about all you can do when you have no electricity, and it's kind of nice to be forced into this form of leisure at the close of the weekend. No email to check, no RSS feeds to catch up on, no news programs to watch. Just a good book and a warm jacket.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Westclox 22692: A Necessary and Sufficient Alarm Clock

An alarm clock must be simple, so that you know without a doubt that you have set the alarm correctly. But most alarm clocks are too complicated – you can never be sure if they've been set right. Is it set to Radio, or Buzzer, or Off? Is the volume knob high enough, or has it been turned off? Is the radio set to a strong signal? Is the alarm on? Will this thing wake me up in the morning?

During a recent hotel stay, I had set the alarm on a Sony ICF-C1IPMK2 clock, but it failed to sound in the morning. Evidently I did not enable Alarm A. "Alarm Time A" indicates that Alarm A is merely displayed, whereas "Alarm A" indicates that Alarm A is enabled. And I won't even go into Alarm B.

Time for a dose of sanity: the Westclox 22692.

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First, no radio. That eliminates half of the problem. And the controls are so simple and obvious: hour, minute, time, alarm, off/on – all clearly labelled on the front of the unit. I'm sure you know how to operate it already. Yet how many alarm clocks violate this principle of simplicity and obviousness.

I love this clock because I can tell without a doubt whether the alarm is set correctly. It's everything that an alarm clock should be – no more, no less.

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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Timex Ironman: Not a bad watch

After my weird and underperforming Timex Rush watch died, I decided to buy a more reliable, mainstream watch. I wanted something with a stopwatch, a countdown timer, and an alarm with a finer granularity than 5 minutes. I settled on the Timex Ironman – pretty common, right? – and I quite like it.

A watch that's been around for 24 years is bound to get some things right. It shows time, date, and day of the week (the Rush annoyingly didn't have that last one). Functions like "Mode", "Start", and "Stop" are clearly printed beside their buttons (the Rush made me scroll through the functions using a less-than-responsive dial). 

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But what I really like about it are the helpful on-screen labels that appear beside the buttons. You never need to check the manual with this watch – when setting the time, it clearly shows you which buttons correspond to "Next" and "Done". Note the + and - signs indicating the buttons used for up and down.

Good solid watch, decent price – you can't go wrong.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

From Catholicism to Protestantism and Back

Raised Catholic. Baptized as an infant; had my First Communion when I was 7. I must have missed Confession. Barely gave any of this a thought.

Then in Grade 9 (14 years old), my girlfriend Jennifer got me interested in the Bible. She attended an Alliance church. How I loved reading the New Testament. I memorized 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. I loved tuning in to the "Bible Answer Man" on AM radio.

At the University of British Columbia, I joined a Christian club called the Navigators. I spent hours in their little library reading The Message, Brother Lawrence, and the Topical Memory System. I went to the University Chapel Evangelical church a few times. But my roommate Victor invited me to join him at St. Mark's for Catholic Mass. "I don't get much out of Mass," I told him. He replied, "We don't go to get something out of it; we go to pray to God, right?"

Joined the choir at St. Mark's. After university, when I returned home to Victoria in 1999, I joined the choir at Sacred Heart Parish. Immersed myself in the church library: St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis de Sales, St. Augustine. Learned about Catholic teachings on the Real Presence in the Eucharist. Started going to Confession. More reading: Thomas Merton, St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Catechism.

I'm happy to be in the Catholic Church. I'm grateful for the strong moral leadership of Pope John Paul II, and now Pope Benedict XVI. This ancient faith gives me keys to understanding the meaning of life and the purpose of suffering.