Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

By Date: July 2005

Don't speak unless it improves on silence!

I'm back. Three days without a single word. Three days getting up at 4:45am. It was like a trip to a seven star hotel --- spiritually. Physically a youth camp is the more appropriate description. 50 people share one room on mattresses and various snoring opens a lot of possibilities to practice patience and tolerance
The teaching we receive go beyond words, so it is difficult to give a written account how it was. The proceedings however are no secret. After raising at 4:45am we had the first offering of light and flowers session at 5:15am. Greeting the day with Pali chanting was a refreshing alternative to my daily hectic routing.
" Namo Tassa Bhageavatao Arahanto
Samma Sambuddhassa".
It is Buddhist practise to bow towards the Budhha, his teachings and the monks and nuns. Being a rather proud European (all man is created equal) it was my first lesson in humbleness. The Venerable Mahinda explained in the evening briefing, that it is up to us, if we want to follow that custom. I was the only non-Asian in the group, so if felt it's better "if in Rome, do like the Romans do". What a wonderful lesson learned for me.
After the morning chanting and a traditional Chinese vegetarian porridge breakfast, Sister Sumitra explained about the nature of Metta (Loving kindness) and how the meditation on loving kindness needs to be conducted. She surprised me with a lively and up-to-date way to explain things. On the various layers of meditation she said: "Look it is like a zip file: you look from outside, it is very small. But then you look inside and realize how big it is". I wish all Office workers would have that level of IT literacy.
Sister Sumitra introduced the Natural State of Mind. In the Natural State of Mind, the mind rests within. is sharp and aware of every phenomenon arising. It is not projected to the outside nor does it generate any thoughts. (Do try this at home, it is a real tough call!). In this Natural State of mine one can connect to the spiritual heart and feel the tender soft and deep compassion, that is the very fabric humans are made of. There is no philosophy you have to subscribe to, no rites to perform, no vows to take, no initiation to go through. Calm the mind and you will feel the compassion.
The Buddhist call this compassion Metta (in Pali = loving kindness). Cultivating this loving kindness enables one to radiate it our to oneself, all the beings in the surroundings and the whole world. Seems the principle of loving yourself and your neighbour is quite universal.
To cultivate one's mind sitting and walking meditation are one way to get going. We had sufficient time until the evening to practise. When you sit on your cushion or meditation chair you also can practise tolerance against pain. When you can overcome this pain your meditation will become deeper. I realized, that with some kind of light-hearted humour I was reminded of the Buddhist believe: "All live is suffering".  

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Posted by on 16 July 2005 | Comments (5) | categories: Intercultural

Retreat now!

Logging off now, leaving the house. No phone, no email, no IM, no SMS, no talk.
Until Sunday!

Blessings to all!

Posted by on 14 July 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: After hours

<strike>I need a</strike> DXL/XML guru&apos;s advise!

I'm working on a project, that will reunite a bunch of databases that once were one back into a common template. One tool that worked very well is DXL export, XSLT transformation and importing that stuff back. I'm using the Body field of a Notes document to store the DXL, which creates some kind of documentation/audit trail. This morning we hit the wall.
I exported a rather complex form (a lot of subforms, multi-nested tables, hotspots and a lot of fields). When I tried to reimport the DXL untouched I was greeted with this error dialogue:

(For RSS readers: the message says: "Left margin cannot be greater than right margi". I did the msgbox, but that was the error in the DXL importer. Please note the typo/truncation. Anybody came across this and could advise what to do?

Update: I found a solution (and opened another can of worms)! The form I tried to export has quite a bit of "history" So in the table tag there is an attribute r4spacing="true". With this attribute set I get the error message. The attribute tells the designer to use the fixed values provided in refwidth="10.4778in". Once you remove the attribute "r4spacing" import works. Of course now the table rendering follows a different rule set, so it gets all messed up. Looks like another session in XSLT to clean this up.

This is the agent we use for import:

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Posted by on 05 July 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes

I&apos;m a Porn site operator now!

Routinely checking my credit card account I found a deduction in Thai Bath. I've not been in Thailand for a year. So I traced the merchant who turns out to be a Thai online payment service (similar to PayPal in the US). Someone had used my Credit Card to buy web hosting (you can guess for what purpose). I immediately called my credit card company to terminate the card only to learn, that the fraudsters have maxed out my credit line within 3 days.
Since they haven't got the merchant details for the other transactions I can't file the dispute, effectively cutting me off of credit card use for one to two weeks. What amused me: the dispute can't be filed online (there I only can view my statement), but needs a fax form to be processed. Seems there is some eBusiness opportunity.
The Thai payment operator was more swift. Within 5 hours (on a Sunday!) they cancelled the transaction and issued a refund (that will take a day to arrive through Visa).
I'm quite restrictive using my credit card online, however I travel a bit in the region where I use it in hotels. I would like to know if I became victim of a local fraud or one of the beneficiaries of the recent US data losses.
Definitely I'm p***d.  

Posted by on 02 July 2005 | Comments (4) | categories: Business

12 days to go -- Metta retreat

We had the briefing last Thursday. The monk answering our questions was very cheerful and his little speech very encouraging. According to him the 3 days of silence will be more rewarding than two weeks of beach club holidays.

Some of the stuff expecting me (courtesy of Thich Nhat Hanh):

Seeing the Buddha before me in the seated meditation position, I breathe in.
Joining my palms in respect, I breathe out.

Seeing the Buddha in me, I breathe in.
Seeing myself in the Buddha, I breathe out.

Seeing the boundary between myself and the Buddha disappear as the Buddha smiles, I breathe in.
Seeing the bondary between the one who respects and the one who is respected disappear as I smile, I breathe out.

Seeing myself bowing deeply to the Buddha, I breathe in.
Seeing the strength of the Buddha enter me, I breathe out.

Posted by on 01 July 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Intercultural

Effectiveness or Best Practises - make your pick!

Michael W. McLaughlin summarizes Best Practises (via eLearningPost):
  1. They rarely work
  2. It's a follower's strategy
  3. Change comes from within
  4. They don't come with a manual

One of the Lotus egg heads once added: "Best Practices are yesterday's technology".
The MIT recommends to replace them with Signature Processes.

I would add my own little attribute list:
  • they are an attempt to contain fear
  • they stifle innovation
  • they won't provide a safety net
  • they can't replace skills

Posted by on 01 July 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Software

Crystal Clear

Processes and methodologies are all the rave in IT. Coming from a RAD Domino background a lot of the process steps feel quite overloaded (what the heck is a build and integration test, when I just click save on my form? - Don't tell me, J/Nunit and (N)ant are my friend). I finally found a methodology, that seems well fit for Domino projects. It is called Crystal Clear and is described by Alistair Cockburnis his book " Crystal Clear".

Crystal Clear requires 7 properties of which 3 are mandatory. It is a methodology light on processes and big on principles. Alistair clearly highlights, that process is never a guarantee for success, it is *skilfulness* that will make your day. Processes only emphasise your skill levels, so if your skills are lousy process will make the result *very* lousy.

Crystal Clear

Go try it.

Posted by on 01 July 2005 | Comments (1) | categories: Software

Meeting Bill Gates

What do 3000 IT professionals do together in one hall in Singapore on a Friday afternoon? Our host claimed it was the biggest professional IT crowd ever on the Singapore scale. Well... listening to Bill Gates, who gave an unexciting outlook of things announced over and over again.
So our lifestyles will be digital, our gadgets converge, computer recognize context, understand our voice commands and Microsoft's 6 billion R&D spending will make all this possible. I think it's increasingly difficult to come up with something visionary that has not been spoken about before.
Implementing visions seems is so much harder than having them....  

Posted by on 01 July 2005 | Comments (0) | categories: Software