Community General

Oh Twenty Twenty

As the year ends, I hope you join me in remembering our family, friends, and the almost 2 Million souls who will no longer be with us because of the many trials that 2020 came with.

We will remember them on other days. But for me, a lot of those good memories will be during these holiday seasons. So although bittersweet, I choose now.

They will live through us. As we live our meaningful lives, we hope to pass on their wisdom and virtues they taught us.

And a big Thank You, to those who continue to get us through these times, our heroes; the front-liner health workers, essential workers in other industries, and everyone who continues to contribute in big and small ways. May you continue to be well.

We may deal with these in different ways but one thing we all share for sure.We are still here!

We will rock (or flow – whatever works for you), learn, love, stay healthy, humble, kind, and hope for better years ahead.

Happy Holidays and stay safe from our family to yours!

Career Growth Community Engineering Leadership

First Principles, Frameworks & Guiding Principles

first principles, frameworks and guiding principlesWhen talking to other engineering leaders (new and even experienced ones – since every situation is different) it’s not uncommon to hear “this is great, your team/processes sound amazing but where do I really start?”.

“Where do I start?” is indeed a difficult question. A few clarifications and examples would help. We could identify a starting point and take it from there. There are also a lot of existing “how to do X or Y” everywhere online/offline so I am not going to talk about that here either.

I was thinking though, if I find myself asking the same question, what do I actually (or I think I) do.

So…. I believe I go through this process:
1- first principles (why)
2- framework thinking (how)
3- guiding principles (what ifs)

These are not my terms. The first one you can easily search (might even be in the dictionary) and Elon Musk (and others) has articles/interviews online that can explain it (or similar) better than me. The second one I did not find much except this article from Sean Johnson ( which captures a lot of what I had in mind. The 3rd one I’m sure we’ve heard everywhere.

To the best of my knowledge though even before I found out what they are called I have applied them in one way or another. Most of the time, if faced with a challenge; it is reasonable (maybe even best) to solve that problem specifically. In some cases, however, especially problems that keep coming back it helps to step back and look/think about it differently. What is the core of the issue, the root cause, the fundamental beliefs (or even facts) that my ad hoc solution did not address? And that to me is “first principles” – simple, fundamentals, facts (or as close as you can get).

Now that we have a better understanding of the “question/problem” there are frameworks that others have already used to address that. Or at least frameworks that I can try to explore more to address the problem. Frameworks are more generic than just how-to’s and usually can be applied to a variety of problems. Should I read books, do I listen to audio books, do I talk to someone and based on those are there further frameworks/techniques I can apply?

Using some (or combination) of the framework(s) we will hopefully find the solution to the problem and then we start building guiding principles. On top of making sure that it really does address your original question/problem, these also make sure that should you encounter similar questions in the future you might have some default response/actions or if it’s completely new then the response might just be back to square one (first principles -> framework thinking -> guiding principles).

Over time you build guiding principles that you keep on improving (or completely discard after giving it enough chance – i.e. it just doesn’t work).

First principles are fundamental and likely universal (or at least to a majority of our species). Frameworks may or may not work for some though the ones we find are likely those considered best practices already but take them with a grain of salt. Finally, you could use existing knowledge for guiding principles but do not forget that guiding principles is your own. Make it known to your circle to whoever you feel safe sharing it with. Refine them, share them and others might question them but it’s yours.

And if you lead a team, you share a part of your own guiding principles (its part of what we do is to sell that to our team) but help your team build it’s own as well. What you agree on, how to do things, what to do when things get tough and as important, what to do when things are great.

An analogy for software debugging/development might actually exist now that I think about it.
1- investigate the problem (why)
2- design and implement a solution (how)
3- create unit tests/automated tests and monitoring to help make sure it doesn’t happen again (what ifs)

So when faced with “where to start” this is what I do. Or at least what I think I do. At the very least this blog post is part of this process too.
1- I have a question which I think could benefit others and I’d love to share my thoughts on (why)
2- write and share on my blog (how)
3- I may not get feedback (I don’t expect anyone to read unless I point them here) or I get feedback (great – whether that’s good or bad) and I see if I could improve as I learn more – is my “what ifs”.

There will be guiding principles that will not be easy (e.g. do not lie – sounds simple but I don’t know if you can imagine how difficult that is with all the quirkiness/sensitivities of our modern world) but the good news is other than making it easy to make decisions at work, the side effect of these guiding principles maybe some peaceful goodnight’s sleep.

Keep learning, building and take it easy!

Agile Community Startup

Hack Cafe Idea

I believe in startup communities. Idealistic, some may say but I like to think that I never stopped believing in doing small (or big) things to make the world a better place and startups contribute a lot.

And one way to help build those communities is having a space to encourage it.
Sharing one idea I’ve been thinking (and hoping) can be implemented in Manila and Philippines (my home country) in general. I’m sure I’m not the only one but sharing nevertheless and if someone beats me to it all the better.

A coffee place where generating great ideas/work comes first before great (or even just good coffee).

Disclaimer: I do not claim any intellectual property on this (and in fact this is brought upon by different ideas from friends and people I’ve met). I hope that by sharing this, it becomes real (or if it’s already real I can help market/support it)

Community Investing Startup

Philippines Startup Report

Thanks to the nice folks I’ve had the chance of watching online what’s happening (or has happened) in Geeks on a Beach – a brand new conference for everyone who is passionate about startups, technology, design, and making the world a better place that was held yesterday in Boracay Island, Philippines (the best beach/island in the world – though I might have a slight bias since I was born 2 hours away from those islands).

rappler online video coverage here

Although from a global perspective, the startup scene here is average (needs more entrepreneurs, needs more information, more funding) with my interest in this subject (with my goal to be an angel investor) and having the privilege to know some social entrepreneurs in the country I would say that these are exciting times for the startup and enterpreneurship in the Philippines.

Philippines Startup Report – 2013 from Ron Hose

Stay tuned!

Oh and I just learned too that Ms. Philippines won title of Ms World 2013 (Megan Young)! Hurray for the Philippines…

Career Growth Community

Knowledge for the sake of Knowledge. (or not)

A co-worker shared this article/link below today about what Ph.D is about; prompted by a discussion on productivity, personal ambitions, continuing education.

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D by Matt Might

But I might have had a different take away. This to me a good reminder on why you seek out knowledge: (assuming you do)

* knowledge for the sake of knowledge?

* knowledge to buy the luxuries of life?

* knowledge to buy you way into fitting in?

* knowledge to do something different, better for someone other than yourself?

whatever your reason is, you are entitled to it (there is no right nor wrong answer) but as the article says “Keep pushing,”

yet don’t forget to ask yourself why

or maybe the better question we should ask is, “what do I use my knowledge for?”

Community General

DMV behind-the-wheel driving test in Fremont, CA

Passed my behind-the-wheel driving test today in Fremont, CA DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) [4287 Central Avenue, Fremont, CA 94536]

Sharing a thing or two about the experience and what could be useful to others.

Written Test and Permit (pre-requisite to the actual driving test)
Before you can take the behind-the-wheel driving test you have to pass the written test and be given a temporary permit (good for 90 days of writing).
Rather than discuss here, I would suggest you go to DMV website and read about Drivers License application

After reading the requirements and ready to take the written test, make an appointment (I haven’t tried walking-in but from the looks of the line I would highly recommend making an appointment).

Preparing for Behind-The-Wheel test (aka actual driving test)

  1. Have a car to use for your test.
    • DMV will not provide you a vehicle so if you don’t own a car, you can borrow from a relative or rent a car.
    • But the vehicle must have:
      1. valid car registration (as the driving test date)
      2. car insurance (or named non-owners insurance – particular on liability)
    • I rented a car from Enterprise to use for my test. If you do this too, make sure you tell the rental company that you will use this for DMV behind-the-wheel test so they can give you a letter stating you are allowed to use the car for the test. Also my examiner looked for the rental receipt/document and when he saw that I did not accept supplemental liability protection I had to show him my StateFarm named non-owners insurance. I got one since although I don’t own a car I sometimes drive friend’s, relative or the company car and want I have my own liability insurance (by the way, renters insurance usually does not include damages caused by motor vehicles)
    • Depending on the availability of the car you will use, you can now then schedule an appointment
  2. Schedule an appointment (through their website)
    • Behind-the-wheel is by appointment only
    • I could not do it online then (getting an error) for some reason but when I called DMV (1-800-777-0133)
    • If you’ve driven before (e.g. foreign license) then I would suggest you make appointment right away. The closest DMV office to your area might not have an available behind-the-wheel appointment. Since I live in Mountain View, the closest one were Santa Clara, San Jose, Los Gatos, Fremont.
      • I took my written test in Los Gatos (everyone was nice, not too crowded and went smooth up until the correction of the paper – where I had to wait for almost an hour to get the paper corrected)
      • Why Fremont for behind-the-wheel:
        • Co-workers suggested that it’s relatively easy here compared to others (whatever that means)
        • The earliest that had available schedule
        • Not Los Gatos since there are more uphills and sometimes the roads are narrow then becomes wide etc
  3. Know the area (possible routes)
    • Test examiner will give you instructions along the way but it helps to be familiar with the area (especially if you don’t live in the area)
    • I got my most helpful information from this blog post – Akbar’s Home on the Web
    • Know that no one can predict the routes (but getting familiar with the common ones will help). Since my appointment was a Monday, I went to familiarize with the area the day before that. There were others there too, practicing and scouting the area. I will the route I ended up below.
  4. Day of the appointment
    1. Get you documents ready (your permit, car registration, insurance) and a pen could be handy
    2. Come on time (at least 20 mins before) – parking in that DMV could be hard to find
      • make sure you feel well, ate well, well hydrated (or anything that could cause discomfort)
      • also helps if someone can go with you (if you haven’t had a foreign/another state license then this is a must) since you can’t drive to DMV with just your permit (and without being accompanied by another license holder)
    3. Go and line up at the behind-the-wheel appointment line (as of today was at Window 11). There will be a marker above the window that should give you a hint.
    4. Once you get approved for the actual driving test, you will be asked to get your car to the back (line up on the left side) then wait for your turn
      1. Before you go to the back (and as a best practice, make sure your seat adjustment is comfortable, mirrors are set properly. When I took my foreign drivers license this was actually part of the driving test but in here in CA it doesn’t seem like it (nevertheless do it for your own safety before it’s too late/too risky to make adjustments)
      2. I waited for may 30+ mins for this one (this is when a company could be helpful – the wait could get boring – but during the actual driving it should only be you and the examiner)
    5. Once it’s your turn then test time. Greet your examiner with a smile (not scored in the test but that should be nice). Then there are two parts:
      1. Pre-Drive Checklist
        • basics functions in your car (know where and how to control)
          • windows
          • mirrors
          • turn signals
          • brake lights
          • flashers
          • headlights
          • wiper
          • horn
          • parking brakes
          • defrosters
        • also know how to turn your car key without starting the engine (accessories only > on)
        • arm signals
        • seat belt (since you drove up to the test area, you should already be using it)
        • when the examiner comes in make sure he/she uses the seat belt, if not ask politely
        • examiner will also hand you a piece of yellow cardboard/paper (laminated as of my time) about what will take place (e.g. instructions will be given a long the way)
      2. Actual Driving
        • Examiner will now ask you to start driving (in my case move to the right to exit the DMV to the right)
        • He/she will not trick you (that’s written in the yellow paper mentioned in item#1) so be alert but take it easy, relax
        • This is the first test, leaving that area will require you chase to the next “lane” so make sure you check your mirrors and look over your shoulder (you should know this by now)
        • When exiting DMV make sure you signal of course and stop to check and make sure you exit safely.
        • If examiner asks you to turn right, then exit in a way that you end up in the rightmost lane (that is, do not cross two lanes and end up in the middle lane). If examiner asks you to exit left then turn right, then make sure you end up in the right lane closest to the middle first then slowly move to the right (looking over the shoulder again as best practice) then make your right. Then just follow along, constant/reasonable speed and below the limits indicated, you’ll be alright.
        • At some point (in the residential area) he will ask you to park at the curb (side of the street). Just a regular parallel park (not in between two other vehicles – there wasn’t a lot during my test). He/she will not trick you but make sure to:
          • look at your mirrors, then over your shoulder to make sure you can safely park
          • straighten you parking and try to be within 18 inches away from the curb (more or less – no need to be very accurate but at least not too far, not too close)
          • examiner then asked me to do a straight reverse (make sure you do not hit the curb). Follow best  practices when backing.
          • then examiner asked me to get back on the road, as usual, look over the shoulder and get back on the road safely
        • Proceed and follow along the instructions and you will be fine. At the end you will be back at the DMV to do a diagonal park, then you will know if you passed or failed.
        • When you pass the test you will be asked to go back to Window 11
        • Make sure you check your name and address properly
          • this turned out bad for me – I have two first that ended up with no spaces so ended up with just one firstname lumped together – make sure the staff will get it right before you give a go signal to finalize it

My route

remember there are too many possibilities for routes (depending on examiner, his/her mood, traffic conditions etc). so familiarize but you should only take the test when you’re comfortable driving even if you’re directed to an area you’re not too familiar (or at least you can pay attention and react accordingly to traffic rules/signs)











  1. come out of DMV on Dusterberry Way turning left (get to the center lane first, then move towards the rightmost lane)
  2. turn right towards Central Ave
  3. turn left on Glenmoor Dr (there were speed bumps here – examiner told me one could go over the bumps at most 20 mph)
  4. turn left on Mattos Dr
  5. slight left on Palmer Dr
  6. turn right on Argyle Rd
  7. turn right on Central Ave
  8. turn left on Fremont Blvd
  9. turn left on Peralta Blvd
  10. turn right on Dusterberry Way
  11. turn right on Thornton Ave (no right on red on certain times – watch out and read the timings if red light is on – unfortunately I couldn’t read it earlier – seems to be 7AM-9AM then 1PM-3PM not sure but wasn’t red when I got to it)
  12. turn right on Fremont Blvd
  13. turn right on Central Ave
  14. turn right on DMV (before Dusterberry Way) then park

Checklist/Tips/Reminders – there are too many in the handbook but having a few here relevant to the area

  • turns, merging
    • always
      • signal
      • look over mirrors
      • look over your shoulder
    • when turning, if you start at the inner lane, end at the inner and if you start at the outer lane, end at the outer lane (i.e. do not cross lanes while turning)
  • yield
    • green circle is not a protected turn (let oncoming traffic pass)
    • there were places where left turn should only be if the left green arrow is lit
    • always yield to pedestrians
    • yield signs
  • stop
    • stop at red light
    • full stop at intersections with stop sign – FULL stop – not partial stop
    • stop before the limit line

Good luck!

Safe driving practices and following rules are not only for test purposes, follow them even after you get your license. It would make the road a safer place to be and as they say “the life you save could be yours”.

Though car-free life style is still in my opinion better in most cases (healthier, cheaper) I would still say – happy driving!



Let’s Support Earth Hour 2009

Please support Earth Hour 2009.

Turn off your lights or reduce energy usage on March 28, 2009 (Saturday) 8:30 – 9:30 PM.

Or better yet, know and get involved and take action about climate changes and how to preserve our precious planet.

Earth Hour Official Website


Link: Delaying Data Could Cut Net’s Carbon Footprint

Found this article from Microsoft Research Team. Delaying Data Could Cut Net’s Carbon Footprint

It’s good to see how bigger companies do their part for the environment. Besides they won’t only be doing that but also help save companies from saving a lot and thus allocating more resources on more important things than wasted energy.

And so should we.

Community General

My Black Theme and Selecting Theme File

In joining the rest of the eco geeks in contributing small or little ways to help the environment I switched to a black background for my desktop for a start and sharing a few steps here. [more]

I explored a bit on having other things (windows content, application backgrounds) to black but not ready for that transition yet.

Nevertheless I just figured for a few of those out there who wish to change to a back background but not quite sure how. (** Warning: this may appear too simple for some so this is not intended for you)

1. Click on your desktop background. You should see a menu item named Properties. You should something similar to this: (Note that the My Computer icon is only included to illustrate that this is done by clickin on your desktop background – eg. in the image anywhere in the backscreen/space)

2. Click Properties menu item and you should see something similar to the window in the image below. Then click on the Desktop tab

3. While in the desktop tab, find the color drop down in the lower right corner. Select your background color (eg. Black)

4. Click Apply, wait for the changes to be applied, and click OK


Will also include my Black theme file here. So here too are the steps for using a custom theme file. (I think you can add this file in a theme folder and it will appear in the themes list but going for another approach for now).

1. Download My Black.Theme (5.42 kb) and save it on your disk (eg. C:)

2. Show Display properties again (see item 1 above) then instead of going the desktop tab, stay on Themes tab. Note the Theme dropdown list highlighted in image below.

3. Click on the dropdown list and you should see a browse option at the bottom of the list. Click on it. It will open a File Select Dialog and from there look for the Black.Theme you saved on your disk in item 1 above (eg. in C:). Click OK

4. At this point Black should be the item selected in the Theme dropdown list.

5. Click Apply, wait for the changes, then click OK.

They say the effects are significant for CRT monitors vs LCDs but even if you’re using LCD the small difference is significant if combined together. Besides what’s there too loose, the black backgrounds doesn’t hurt and looks cool anyway. 🙂


Going Green Checklist : 101 Ways to get started

Martha Stewart’s Going Green Checklist (with 101 ways to get started)

Found this from my friend/colleague Jeigh‘s blog post. Great, more blog posts for the environment.

And once again, seriously turn those PC off when you’re not using them (or at least the monitor) and hey I just remembered, PC’s take in energy but would be more efficient to save digital files than have tons of paper pile up on your desk (unless you actually do recycle them).