Monday, July 26, 2010

Miguel's Mind Map

I wont have any excuses for this, dear sir, and classmates. I will admit, it's late.
But I'd never want to shortchange myself of the learnings I can gain. Therefore, here's my mind map on the uses of mind mapping. :)

Since I give talks and lectures alot, i've used the mind map for other various purposes.
This one is from a talk on Tithing in the church.

Sorry, I just couldnt get it stand upright!
And this is on God's Love.

I'd love to do this for my talks from now on. It really helps!
Praise God for Mind Maps!:)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Design Observation:My yUcKy Cellphone!

It would be best that this yUcK design observation stays here in this blog.
Because I would consider the next sentences as infidelity to a friend who has served me for quite some time now.
I’m even starting to think of letting him rest from his service.
But not before delivering this eulogy. A cellphone eulogy.

I bought my Samsung M620 cellphone as a birthday gift for myself last January 2009. What made me buy it? The best reasons.
First, I was sick and tired of the plain bar-phone which I’ve had since my Nokia 3210 ages ago. This one was a slide-phone, which was cooler and more sophisticated! Second, it had a dark-silver color, which added sleek-iness and elegance to it. Third, I was ready to face a new texting and calling experience, which by then was getting too boring. I don’t know if it’s just me, but isn’t everyone up to some “harmless” adventure sometimes? And finally, I was earning. And I believe it was the first “four-digit-big-purchase” that I made since I received my first paycheck.

 It was the best buy of the month, but not exactly of the next month, let alone the next year.
But I had to learn it the hard way.
And recalling what my formators told me before I left the seminary, “When we enter (the seminary), we tend to enter for the greatest reasons. The irony is that when we leave, we leave most often because of those same great reasons.”
That proved right for me then. And I see history being repeated, only now with a phone.

And if I may, here’s what makes my phone yUcKy.

Moving Parts. I should have listened to my brother. Moving parts require a ribbon cable. Ribbon cable equals weakness. Weakness equals more trips to the warranty department, and eventually to another cellphone retailer if it doesn’t last you.
What are the symptoms? Once you raise the phone, off goes the screen. Once you fold it back down, on goes the screen. So how do you expect me to text with that? What’s worst, it would tease you into thousands of broken screen images when you try and flip it up and down in irritation! This has happened to me in three separate incidents. Each time the same ribbon cable, and each time, the same hope that it will get better.
It seems that the only solution available to me was to literally tape the phone open.
The tape’s already quite dirty and stained, but at least it stops the moving parts, which I thought were cool in the first place.
Resolution? Buy a solid piece of technology. The lesser the moving parts, always the better.

Color. I haven’t given up on the fact that matte silver does make a gadget look cool. At least it’s not bright red, nor yellow, nor printed with some Winnie the Pooh, or Pok√©mon characters! But having my iPod and cellphone lying side by side, gosh! I couldn’t but wish all gadgets were metallic silver!
A lot of my friends who look at the phone are surprised because I’ve had it for more than a year, and it still doesn’t have major scratches and doggie-bite marks. That works for me, because I keep it safe. But next time, I’m sure to leave the matte colors first, in place of more metallic-looking ones!

 New texting and calling experience. As I already mentioned, who isn’t game for some safe, harmless adventure? A lot of my friends tell me that they’re loyalists to Nokia. Apparently, they’ve memorized all the shortcut keys, the navigational keys, the applications, the services and whatnot that they’re simply not going to change to any other phone brand.
I should’ve listened again.
Texting is supposed to be a non-threatening, fun and easy task for an ordinary joe like me. And just when I thought I had the “new” adventure going on, I realized some things: Samsung phones don’t have “sent messages” folders; their “vibrate” mode is more like “buzzer” mode; I’d have to do more “small talk” with a new friend, before I figure out a way to organize and save his name into my contacts; and the worst part of all, you’d have to make a lot of “choices” and “confirmations” before you could send a message. You’d have to click “ok” FIVE TIMES before it actually says: “Sending Message…” Then a couple more times if you’re unlucky, and the sending doesn’t succeed.
I used to be a stickler for conformity. But now that I thought I would break the rules and make my own, I was discouraged, and am now looking for the old road home.
My final resolution: Look for the familiar in the gadgets you buy. The more you can relate to it, the better it will relate and make your life easier.

The final factor isn’t really part of the yUcKiNeSs of the product, but I’d like to point it out nonetheless.
Price. If you’re going to buy a gadget, don’t be fooled by its low price (I’d like to emphasize that I’m quite stingy when it comes to buys like those).
This product was a steal because it was on the decline by the time I bought it. I thought I could still run after fads and take advantage of its cheap price. But I learned a lesson.  Most often, if it’s a shirt, or a pair of shoes, go ahead and buy in the ukay-ukay. But if it’s a piece of equipment, go for the higher-priced one, especially if you’re assured of its brand and quality.

The Samsung M620 was a true friend.
It was unique (none in a room would share the same kind of phone).
It was useful.
It was good while it lasted.

But it was more of a liability than an asset. With the considerations of moving parts, color, texting experience and price, I’d have to resort to something safer, and something that will justify the use of what a cellphone really is.
And having said all these, I’ve just mustered enough guts to buy a new phone. I just hope I have the time!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Design Observation: WOW Alarm Clock!

Nothing beats a great alarm clock.
For centuries, this tiny little gadget that starts our day has undergone thousands of changes, big and small. And not for foolish reasons.

Alarm clocks dictate the tenor of our day, and if you’re serious about waking up, you’ve got to get a great alarm clock.

Fortunately, I love my alarm clock.
It’s simple.
It’s multi-functional.
It gets the work done.

Let me describe to you my normal night to day transition: First, I set the alarm. Second, I sleep. Third, the loud (and annoying) beep wakes me up just like I want to. But then I’d feel “sleep inertia” (that feeling when you’ve been jolted out from your bed). So Fourth, I would flick the switch from the beeping sound into my favorite Magical radio station, or into the built-in CD player, which plays automatically for one hour after the alarm. By the time it turns off, I would be out of the house, ready for my day.

So what makes this alarm clock special?
Five points: Efficiency, positivity, user-friendliness, portability and handicap-friendly.

Efficiency. If you have an alarm clock, the least you want it to do is to NOT wake you up. It’s better that you let someone knock on your door, or if you’re on the posh side, call you up ala “room service.” This alarm clock rates efficient in a number of ways. First, the alarm is LOUD. And since we live in a very small neighborhood, I wake up not because I need to, but because I fear that I’m waking the whole neighborhood up too!
Second, I appreciate the way that it can accommodate two alarm times with two kinds of beeps. Okay, I know that a lot of digital alarms can accommodate ten alarm times and set them off automatically. But two is enough for me.
I would usually set the first alarm on my exact waking time – but then who knows, I might just doze off for the second time. So, I the second alarm goes off after five minutes, making sure that I REALLY get up.
Any product should perform its task wit utmost dedication and efficiency. And if I were to rate any product I would say that this criteria would be on top of the list.
I think what gives me a hard time looking for a new phone is that a lot of products are too much embellished and I lose sight of what’s essential (especially that I’m not a techie). As long as something can call, text, take pictures and play music efficiently, I’m good to go.

Positivity. This really comes secondary. Since the alarm clock sets the mood of the day, you have to make it as positive as possible. I grew up in a very musical environment. I get jolted, touched, amused and moved by music. Thus the fact that my alarm clock can play music, is a total intersection of technologies. I love the fact that I only need Neyo, The Black Eyed Peas, or even Lady Gaga to perk me up, and that’s what the radio does. Additionally, when DJ Mo, Mojo and Grace Lee start talking, harassing their callers, I get particularly amused.
Products should make you feel good. Not just make you laugh, but strike a chord in you which you could smile about. It’s like chocolate. You can never NOT want chocolate because it specifically makes you feel good.  

User-Friendliness. I love the fact that I rescued this alarm clock from being thrown away in the trash. We got this from my aunt in Canada, and it was a 110-volt gadget. Without warning, my brother plugged it in at home, and poof! It broke even before we unveiled its glory. A year after, I had it repaired. To my surprise, it was easier to use than a cell phone alarm! Since it was a dedicated alarm clock, I only had to press a couple of buttons to set it, slide the switch to my desired beep sound, and voila! I would fall asleep in total confidence.
How many times did we tinker with our cell phone alarm just to make sure it would make the right sound at the right time? I’m sure it took me at least five times to set it, test it, and listen to it before I had to set it again and repeat the process.
Any product should be user friendly. I love the fact that the iPod touch only has one home key. All the other functions are one the screen.
I remember how I disliked my old MP3 player, because it tried to copy the interface of the iPod Mini, but couldn’t. It had the wrong keys doing the wrong functions. Therefore, I couldn’t rely on it especially when I was in a hurry or when I needed it most. Simplicity is the name of the game.

Portability. Okay, so my alarm clock is not really portable because it has to be plugged. But what I want to emphasize is that it’s small. I love the fact that it’s just small enough to accommodate the diameter of a CD! The speakers are on the sides, the interface is in front, and the CD dock is on top. Nothing more, nothing less.
My lifestyle needs gadgets just like that. I travel a lot, so my iPod touch works wonders for me. I’ve been stranded in busses, malls, waiting areas without a paper and pen, and the NOTE function really serves me a lot. It has saved me countless times when I need to organize my thoughts for talks, and when I need to jot down ideas for future use. Not to mention, it fits right in my pocket.
I won’t mind if I was gifted with a small laptop, a pocket mouse, a small table or a small bed. As long as I could drag it along, bring it on!

Handicap-friendly. I saved the best feature for last. You may be wondering: “What’s so special about an alarm clock that does such basic things?” And you may be asking: “What’s Migs’ handicap?”
As if you haven’t noticed by now, I can’t live without my eyeglasses.
I’m as blind as a bat when I would take them off, lie down and fall asleep.
The alarm clock is special for me because it has a big, bright time display in front. It’s not red, as others would imagine it. It’s a digital bright yellow. And it’s perfect for those middle-of-the-night sudden awakenings because I could tell the time effortlessly. Being the only source of light in the room, my eyes don’t even need to adjust.
A lot of people have their own “handicaps.” My mom once had to undergo therapy because she discovered that the joints of her right thumb were not functioning properly due to chronic texting. Thus, she had to buy a phone which had bigger and softer keys.
My final criterion for choosing something is if it can accommodate my “handicaps.” It may sound simplistic, but it’s the only way to be able to survive and enjoy the material things you possess.  

The alarm clock is an innovation brought about by a need. Because the old and conventional clocks only show the time, our ancestors thought: “Why not let these clocks ‘shout’ the time as well?” Today, a host of other alarm clocks abound: the simple “wind-up,” the challenging “digital,” and now, even the ingenious “progressive alarm clocks” which simulate even the sunrise, to help you wake up without the notorious sleep inertia.
This intersection of utilizing sight and sound is a simple one, but indeed, it has proven creative and useful for many reasons.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cognitive Fitness: more than just two words

My Role Models are Right in Front of Me

I am blessed to have my four grandparents still alive and kicking.

In their heydays, my dad’s father was a Supreme Court Judge in the office of the Solicitor General, and his mother was an Elementary School teacher. Both of them were promising in their own fields, not to mention excellent, dedicated and multi-awarded employees.

My mom’s father was the director of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Health, and until now is a nutritional consultant for International Companies like Coca-Cola, Quaker, Nestle, to mention a few. Her mother was an administrator of then governor Danding Cojuanco, Jr., and now works fulltime alongside her beloved spouse as executive secretary, co-consultant and travel companion.

Looking at the marvelous lineage set before me, I dare not wonder why despite their age (my paternal grandfather is 91) none of them has succumbed to sickness nor mental deterioration.
All of them are cognitively fit.

Summarized in two words, the article was a blow by blow description and prescription on how to “age gracefully.” Apart from the numerous dermatological practices and products, people don’t see that true fitness starts from the inside-out, thus paving the way for an abundance of spa therapies, gyms and fitness centers. But does the inside-out really mean this alone?

It’s wonderful to think that of all the places one should start to be “beautiful,” the brain takes center stage.

Missionaries ought to be Cognitively Fit

Right now, I’m in what some people might call “No Man’s Land.”
I’m a Catholic lay missionary.
I still don’t look like one, sound like one and smell like one, but I’m trying to learn how to.
And it’s not an easy task.

Our designation is to establish small Catholic Communities in the campuses around the Metro, much like how the “Youth for Christ” spurred thousands of schooled youth into action. The Kerygma Family would like to do the same – now focusing on enlivening the youth to liturgy, Catholic spirituality, and worship. Just imagine the magnitude of it all.
But we have to start somewhere.
And that somewhere is the “search for patterns.”

How many of the school’s population still attend mass?
How many still believe in God?
How many have been attracted to another denomination or sect because they just “lost it” with the Catholic Church?
These are all patterns that will drive a mere mortal crazy.

But knowing that there is a need to re-evangelize the Filipinos, especially the youth, we can ask ourselves: What do the youth want? What do the youth deeply desire? Affection. Self-expression. Mature Freedom. This is a pattern long ago shelved by the Fathers of the Church for fear of upheaval. It worked. But these patterns are once again surfacing. Therefore, we have to expand our horizons to accommodate these patterns.
Is there a way of creatively presenting the Holy Mass so that people will want to attend?
Is there a more youthful way of worshipping God?
Is there an alternative to the debilitating sermon given by the priests?


And the only solution is to be innovative and creative.
Let me introduce you to The FEAST. It is a Catholic Prayer Meeting with a twist. It is open to all, and it has changed lives even of the most cold hearted, anti-cheesy, and humor-less individual. What happens there? Something you’ve always dreamed of as a Catholic.

For the longest time, songs in the mass were slow, unutterably profound, and sad. In the Feast, we sing live, upbeat songs which mean the same thing and speak the same language. For the longest time, sermons preached the justice and wrath of God in punishment for your sins. In the Feast, we focus on God as lover, not as mere judge and punisher. And for the longest time, people viewed church as a mere Sunday Obligation. In the Feast, we make it a Sunday Opportunity instead!

If we are not able to challenge the existing patterns which we observe and that which we are used to, the Church, whom we are working with, will slowly become extinct.
Innovation is crossing to the Courage Zone

For the pessimist, innovation is “leaving the Comfort Zone.”
For the optimist, it is crossing over to your “Courage Zone.”

In any organization, the church included, we should not search merely for best practices. We ought to continually search for “better practices” in order to innovate and recreate our lives. And this is not easy. It requires small acts of “brain exercise.”
Learn from experiences. Play. Search for patterns. Innovate.
And if in small opportunities, we see how we can improve what is existing, then our life itself will not stagnate and grow old.

My lolos and lolas aged only out of necessity. But I’m sure each new day is a manifestation of leaving their comfort zones and crossing over to their courage zones.
All this, thanks to their cognitive fitness.