Monday, December 29, 2008

Varicella Zoster: Day 2

Can't accurately say if it's the second day of my Chicken pox really. But for counting's sake, I'll start with i=2. i=0 when I felt the fever and flu-like symptoms and i=1 when I noticed the first sign of chicken pox (a spot on my finger).

It's not so unexpected though. Three of my students had the disease before we went for the Christmas break.

So right now, with so much things to do for my teaching and study load, plus my task as cluster system administrator which I have so much to do (lagot ako kay Doc Raffy...), I am lying in my brother's room (aka make-shift quarantine area) and doing a little internet browsing which I can't do for very long (except for posting this entry).

Here are some photos of my current situation which I plan to document everyday. (At least for the spots and blisters)

I wear a face mask everytime I go out of the "quarantine area".

Even my siblings wear face masks.

Check out the quarantine area... Believe me, it's worse when my brother is using it (except for the food tray maybe).

And finally, the spots and blisters (the highlight of this post).


Front Torso (pardon the "parang natatae" stance, I was squatting in this photo to level with the camera)

Back Torso

For those of you wishing to see butt or even genital exposure, i'm sorry. Send me a PM, maybe I can send one to you through e-mail.

Btw, as of the moment, this illness has already cost me:

1. Doctor's consultation fee: 250
2. Medicines: 1000
- Isoprinosine (28 tablets, 22.25 per tablet)
- Cetirizine (14 tablets, 23.85 per tablet)
3. Transpo fee for Carlo because he had to deliver something for me: (1000 - 300): 700. The 300 pesos was if I made the delivery myself. haha.

Finally, I wish I could photoshop the marks on my skin after it's over.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

What a way to start 2009

No need for me to buy round fruits or wear polkadot clothes. Already got them round stuff on my skin (i.e. Chicken pox). Guess it'll be a very lucky and prosperous 2009 for me.

On the contrary however (I quote myself with what I told my mother):

Bakit ba gusto ng mga tao mga bilog kapag new year? Dapat rectangle para papel, hindi lang barya. Pwede rin cheke.
Sadly though, I'll be missing the hike to Mt. Pulag, the highest peak in Luzon and second in the Philippines with my UP classmates scheduled on Jan. 2-4. I was looking forward to using my hiking bag for the first time on an actual hiking trip (used it during my trip to Malaysia). Maybe I have to wait for the next time... :-( Hope they organize another one pretty soon.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Look at what the girlfriend got me for christmas

It's not the Canon EF 24-105 f4L IS lens I was asking for but it's also not bad at all. :-)

The package delivered by DHL

The gift wrapped in a white wrapper and a red "ribbon"

Outside the gift wrap

Outside the packaging

The merchandise

With a personalized message not everybody can relate to.

Those who might want to get personalized shuffles delivered to your special someones, here a link to the apple store.

It's designed in California but will be shipped from China, as what the "From" field in the DHL delivery box says.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to all!

Merry Merry! Hope you have fun during the holidays.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

temporarily closed until further notice

It seems I lost vitality writing into this thing.
Not much to write about me-self these days.
So I decided to close down for a while. Be back next year, 2009.

Friday, September 26, 2008

admu is UAAP season 71 men's senior basketball champions

Congrats blue eagles!
Not the best way to win though. Lots of possible excuses.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

trading my 2 upper B tickets for 6 GA

Email if you're interested.

ateneo vs. la salle game 2 tickets

Makes me wonder... if I sold these, how much money could I get... Btw, I lined up for more than three hours for this one.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

ateneo-la salle game 1 tickets

These are the moments when I feel really privileged to be an Ateneo faculty.

Photo taken using my new web cam.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

don't work at ci-tech

This is actually my only way of getting back at them for being so slousy in giving me my form 2316 which I requested more than a month ago (I will erase this post when I get it). My salary in my current job as an instructor is being withheld because of my failure to submit this form. I called at least five times during the first two weeks to check the status but all the information I get is that Raymond (the HR manager) is talking to someone and he seems to be very busy and that I can call at a later time. I attempted to set an appointment but it seems nobody in their department knows how I can do that. I wouldn't want to just go there without an appointment and waste my time waiting for their precious attention. I got tired and re-submitted the request, this time asking them to indicate that they've received it. My plan is to follow up just once a month and if by December, I don't have the god damn form... I won't have money for Christmas. hehe...

From what I hear, this company is really notoriuos in treating resigned employees. In this Pinoy Exchange thread, you can read about the previous experiences of employees requesting for certificates of employment (Well, you can read a lot more different things about ci-tech in this forum, good and bad).

The title of this post could have been easily "Don't resign from ci-tech" because you'll have a hard time if you do. My stay there was actually enriching and I enjoyed working with my co-employees and received a relatively good pay. However, I don't want people to get the wrong impression. By the way, in case you don't know, ci-tech stands for Canon Information Technologies, Phils. Inc.

i'm back in business

After almost 10 days of being down, my Internet connection is finally back! The weird thing is that the damn modem didn't need fixing at all.

This morning, the on-site service crew from Globelines finally came after 6 days(the call center agent I talked to promised they'll be arriving before at most 5 days). Unfortunately, I was in the province so I had to reschedule their on-site repair to Tuesday. I wasn't very sad since I planned on bring the spare modem of my brother to use it for the meantime. However, to my dismay, his modem was "also" not working... And so, the desperate me tried connecting my old modem, which was supposed to be busted. And to my surprise, it worked! And so, my Internet connection if finally back! Unlimited access to online porn! bwahahahaha.

Friday, September 12, 2008

five basic needs: food, shelter, clothing, cellphone load, internet

After more than one week without an internet connection, I realized, connecting to the Internet is, nowadays a basic necessity. huhuhu. Of course the list wouldn't be complete without mobile phones. "Load kaysa tinapay!"

Well, that's all for this entry. I seem to run out of words when I attempt to write nowadays... Have a nice day. Life sucks without broadband.

Monday, September 1, 2008

how to go to hidalgo quiapo

Hidalgo is a photographer's heaven (at least in the Philippines). Well not actually for photographers in general, but photographers who want an upgrade on their cameras or want to buy camera accessories such as tripods, filters, lighting equipment etc, or those needing supplies such as printing, backgrounds, framing, etc. The prices are relatively cheaper than the market price. Why? I dunno. But I have an idea. Last year I bought my 430EX camera flash in Hidalgo. It's warranty is a US warranty. Anyways, I've been there a lot of times looking for supplies and camera accessories and the reason I'm writing this is to create a how to guide of going there:

1. From LRT2(Legarda Station) - take the Quiapo jeep, tell the driver to drop you off at Hidalgo.

Haha. That's all there is to it actually. I don't know other routes. But I'm sure if you're going you'll find plenty of ways to get to LRT2 Legarda station. Hidalgo is really very easy to find. It's just right in front of Quiapo church.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

things to do during the sembreak

After 2.5 years, I'll be experiencing a sem break again one month from now. wohoo!!! I'm listing down here things I can do during the break:

1. Create class websites for the courses I am teaching this sem so that I can teach each subject with ease the next semester
2. Go on a three day vacation somewhere in the Philippines (budget: 2500PHP) prospects: Sagada, Ilocos, Baguio
3. Attempt a JRM Photography website
4. Manage CTC-219 lab (reinstallation, ask funding for switches and cables)
5. Acquire more knowledge on Grid computing
6. Revitalize JRM Photography marketing

one more month to go before the semester ends

Study load:

1. CS 270: MySQL Storage Engines Paper and reporting
2. CS 270: Machine Problem (Guidelines not yet released by professor)
3. CS 270: Long Exam #2
4. CS 297: Business plan

Teaching Load:

1. CIE 122: Normalization Lecture
2. CIE 122: Long Exam #2
3. CIE 122: Reporting Guidelines
4. CIE 122: Storage Lecture
5. CIE 122: Indexing Lecture

6. CE21: Continue lecture on classes + exercises
7. CE21: Constructor and Inheritance Lecture
8. CE21: Object-oriented Analysis and Design Lecture
9. CE21: Schedule consultation for final project
10. CE21: Quiz on UML
11. CE21: Templates Lecture
12. CE21: STL Lecture
13. CE21: Exception and error handling lecture
14. CE21: Long Exam #3
15. MP 1 and 2 checking
16. Exer 8,6,9 checking
17. Exer 11 checking
18. STL Exercise

Cluster Administration:
1. Cluster usage application form
2. Cluster integration
3. gLite User Interface installation
4. Hardware and software inventory
5. GROMACS update to CVS version
6. GROMACS roll
7. Grid website

JRM Photography:

1. Burn Cel's DVD
2. Printing of several albums
3. Edit video of Grace's debut
4. Glenn and Glo's Guestbook
5. Layout of Glo's album

new video camera

More than three months ago, I posted a blog entry about buying a video camera for weddings. Last Monday, we were able to resolve the issue. We bought the Canon XH-A1. It looks really nice... I hope we attract more clients with this. Click here to see our blog entry about the video camera.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

the streisand effect

I attended an Innovations class this afternoon and came across a funny term in one of the discussions: the "Streisand Effect."

In 2003, photographer Kenneth Adelman published a collection of 12,000 photographs of California's coast line. Included in one of the photographs was the house of Barbara Streisnd. The singer, in an attempt to have the photograph removed from the collection, sued the photographer on grounds of invasion of privacy. However, due to the publicity triggered by the case, a lot of internet users downloaded the photograph and posted them on their sites. Up to now it's very easy to find a copy of the photo.

Thus the term Streisand effect. Wikipedia describes it as a phenomenon on the Internet where an attempt to censor or remove a piece of information backfires, causing the information to be widely publicized.

Three examples cited in the Wiki entry are:

* An attempt at blocking an HD-DVD key from being published on Digg — “The online uproar came in response to a series of cease-and-desist letters […] demanding that the code be removed from several high-profile Web sites. Rather than wiping out the code, […] the letters led to its proliferation on Web sites, in chat rooms, inside cleverly doctored digital photographs and on user-submitted news sites. […] The ironic thing is, because they tried to quiet it down, it’s the most famous number on the Internet.” “[…] at this writing, about 283,000 pages contain the number." If you're curious, the number is 09-f9-11-02-9d-74-e3-5b-d8-41-56-c5-63-56-88-c0. A statement from the founder of

Today was an insane day. And as the founder of Digg, I just wanted to post my thoughts…

In building and shaping the site I’ve always tried to stay as hands on as possible. We’ve always given site moderation (digging/burying) power to the community. Occasionally we step in to remove stories that violate our terms of use (eg. linking to pornography, illegal downloads, racial hate sites, etc.). So today was a difficult day for us. We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Digg on,

* Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand, was portrayed with feet superimposed over his head in a video posted by a YouTube user named "Padidda". “The Thai government charged the site with lèse majesté, insulting the monarch, and […] banned the site altogether. YouTube users around the world responded by posting a series of Bhumibol-bashing clips(sample here), some even more offensive than the originals […]. Each clip has been viewed tens of thousands of times”

* Video clips portraying paparazzi footage of Brazilian television personality Daniela Cicarelli having sex with her boyfriend on a beach in Spain were uploaded to YouTube. Court injunctions, which culminated in the blocking of YouTube in Brazil, proved unsuccessful in preventing the spread of the video, and only raised the ire of fans.


Two moons this August!

Received this e-mail from a colleague:

Two moons on 27 August
27th Aug the Whole World is waiting for... Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will Cultivate on Aug. 27 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles off earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it Again.
EDIT: Apparently this one is a hoax. Sorry for the confusion. Read more.

Monday, August 25, 2008

bicycle race at mandaluyong city

I went to a bicycle race this weekend at mandaluyong city sponsored by their congressman Neptali Gonzales. A very exciting event to watch, but very difficult to photograph. Most of my shots were blurred since the ONE-SHOT focusing wasn't able catch up. I was late to realize that using the AI SERVO AF mode was more suitable. Unfortunately, it drained my battery (was only able to bring one) after 50 or so shots... After draining my batteries, I stayed on to watch two more races. Very exciting. Makes me want to be a cyclist also.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

sneaky bastards

I recently experienced a printer error message on my Canon IP1880 printer (IP1800 in some countries). The message says:

An ink cartridge is not installed properly. Open the printer's cover, make sure the ink cartridge is installed properly, and close the cover.
After googling the error message, I found out that most of the people who encountered this problem were refilling them and were able to fix them by buying new cartridges (which almost costs as much as the printer). Apparently (this is speculation), Canon has a way of determining if you are using refills and a way of preventing you from doing further. The technology behind it may be known only to few Canon employees developing the printer cartridge and/or driver. I wouldn't be surprised if this is true because it is a well known fact that although the quality of ink refills is inferior to originals, they are eating up a huge portion of the printing market. Millions, if not billions of Yen in sales are lost because of the emergence of Ink refilling companies.

What is sad for me though is that this "feature" of the printer is not made known to the consumers. Why was I not informed!?! For a guy like me who just wants low quality print outs, ink refills is a gift from heaven. Why is Canon preventing me from receiving them? hehe. Is there a law or ethical "rule" that says using ink refills is wrong. I know Canon is just protecting its business. But if I knew that the IP1880 had such capability, I would never fall for its stylish exterior.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

me with my high school girl friends

Forgot when these photos were taken. I got them recently from a friend's friendster page. I thought it would be funny to share. They were taken at Astoria Plaza Hotel (first time I've been there) when a nurse friend visited from the US to share her booty (she treated us for coffee at Starbucks and a very late lunch at some expensive restaurant, also forgot where it was).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

my academic page is now "live"

After almost a week of development, I'm releasing an alpha version of my academic page, hosted in the ECCE Department server. There are still some bugs on the login mechanism. I also might have to modify the header photo to make myself look more powerful and intimidating. hehe. Btw, I used the Joomla CMS to create this site. All hail Joomla!

Click on the screen shot to visit the actual website:

Sunday, August 10, 2008

canon d-zone lens sale

Canon D-Zone SM City North EDSA currently has some Canon EF and EF-S Lenses on sale. According to an e-mail I received from a store representative, the sale will run until the end of August. For more details and inquiry you may contact the store at 9278059 and/or 9276449 or you can go directly to their store at the CyberZone Building, SM City North EDSA.

LENSESoriginal price
sale price
EF 24-105 f/4 L IS USM66,250.0053,000.00
EF 70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM40,300.0032,240.00
EF 85 f/1.2 L II USM127,200.00101,800.00
EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM63,550.0052,000.00
EF 70-200 f/4 L IS USM63,550.0052,000.00
EF-S 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 IS USM9,858.008,000.00
EF 85 f/1.8 USM19,600.0016,000.00
EF 100-400MM f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM90,100.0072,100.00
EF 70-200 f/4 L USM41,350.0033,100.00
EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM II12,000.009,600.00
EF 75-300 f/4-5.6 USM III10,400.008,400.00
EF 24-70 f/2.8 L USM71,550.0057,300.00
EF 17-40 f/4 L USM41,350.0033,100.00
EF-S 17-85 f/4-5.6 IS USM32,900.0026,500.00

sad day

Ella lost her celphone today. Very sad considering the hardships and anticipation she had before she could get that phone. That's apart from the fact that it's still relatively new and quite pricey. She haven't even removed the plastic covering the screen. :-( But I think she's okay now. Here's her blog post regarding the tragic event.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

50 PHP story

A funny thing happened to me today. This morning I went to purchase my drinking water supply from Agua Vida, which is located near KFC. Usually, I only bring the exact amount (50 PHP) so that I won't have to worry holding the change while I'm carrying 50 gallons of water in 450 steps. The count is composed of 100 steps with the container on my left hand +100 on the right +70 on the left +70+60+~50.

However, today I brought 100 PHP because I didn't have any change. And I had to put the change inside the garter of my underwear. I know guys can visualize this, but for those who can't, please see the photo below. Obviously, I ripped this photo from a CK website. And of course, I was also wearing shorts and a shirt when I went to Agua Vida.

Anyways, when I arrived home, I already forgot that I had 50 pesos in my underwear. I boiled water in the microwave, made coffee, ate last night's ensaymada leftovers and browsed the internet. After a few minutes, I realized I had 50 pesos in the spot as shown above. Or so I thought... It was gone! The usual me would just let this pass and convince myself that it's part of my contribution to whoever poor person may luckily find it. Compared to several things I've lost in the past: a laptop, shuffle, several celphones, hundreds of umbrellas (of course I'm exaggerating here) and hundreds of ballpens including a few Parker ballpens (this time, I think this is true), 50 pesos is negligible. But because yesterday, I was virtually cashless (because the check I deposited did not yet reflect on my ATM account and I had to use my credit card to buy bread to have dinner, and the lunch I had was just banana-que), this 50 PHP is very important to me. (Btw, I got the cash from a neighbor who slipped 500 PHP this morning under my door as payment for the WiFi service I am providing at our Apartment).

And so, I went back to Agua Vida since it was just 900 steps away hoping that nobody hasn't found the money yet. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to find it. Now the funny thing is, after 30 minutes of my acceptance of this fate, I found the folded 50PHP in my bathroom when I went there to pee. The funnier thing is that the first place I went looking for the 50 PHP was actually in the bathroom. Even before I went back to Agua Vida. I don't know why I wasn't able see the first time. Moral of the story: you find things when you're not looking for them, or something like that.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

swimming photos

This blog is really all about me. So here I am again, publishing a photo of myself. I remember when I was in my first year in college, I tried out for the Ateneo de Manila swimming team. Everyone was wearing trunks while I had an old and quite loose cycling shorts, quite humiliating when I think about it now. hehe. After almost 30 minutes or so of swimming, I experienced cramps so I had to stop. I can't recall why I didn't come back for the later try out sessions. Probably because I felt I wouldn't make it anyway because the skills of other athletes w far better than mine. Anyways here are the photos, courtesy of Maymay.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

PayPerPost pays

Last June 18, I posted a "sponsored" blog post by Pay Per Post. Pay per post is a way of making money online. Visit their website for more details.

Anyways, after signing up, I immediately took the "free" opportunity. You can learn more about it by going to their site. After a few weeks, I learned that my initial post was not accepted because the number of words were too few so I modified it. After a day or so, my post was approved and a payment of 20$ was waiting for me right after. The virtual money was to be transfered a month after they approved my the post through paypal. I was still doubtful but there was no risk or payments involved so there's actually nothing to loose.

After a month, I checked my paypal account and there was really 20$ on it. I was anxious to find something to spend it on, so I looked for books and things I might want to buy but 20$ was not sufficient. Luckily, the girlfriend was going crazy over mineral make-up, buying them over the internet, so it was a good chance to test if the paypal money was really good for something. And yesterday, we proved that it really works. The receipt for our transaction is shown below:

So, I recommend everyone to try it out. No risks whatsoever. Be sure to click on the link on my page so that I also get some credits. It's located on the right sidebar. I think I get 5$ or so just be referring other bloggers to sign up. hehehe.

first AdMU paycheck

After 6 weeks, UP was finally able to release my transcript of records. Ateneo had been withholding my salary because I needed to submit this requirement. And now, I finally got my first paycheck. Wohoo! It's not that huge but I've been waiting for it for a long time already. I currently owe my mom and the girlfriend a lot of money. hehe. At least I'll now be able to pay the first installment of what I owe them. :-)

photo of me holding two cameras

Jumie took this photo of me with two cameras hanging on my neck (Pael's and mine). It's really nice to have two cameras when you're covering events. No more hassles of changing lenses all the time.

Friday, July 25, 2008

diary type blog entry#1

I feel alone nowadays. The thing is, if you're an instructor, it's difficult to create relationships with your students. It's difficult for me since I have to adjust, coming from a workplace where almost everyone had the same age. So now, I'm a loner again. huhu. Anyways, I'm going to Malaysia tomorrow to attend a workshop on Grid Computing. I hope I get as much learning as possible. My friend Maymay will be showing me around. I hope we have a lot of fun!

See you in a week.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

ideas for a startup

I'm taking this technopreneurship course in UP that's supposed to help me become rich. We've finished with the idea generation part and the next few meetings will be discussions on how to get going after generating an idea worthy to be a startup company. Unfortunately, up to now, our group hasn't decided on a serious idea that can possibly be more than just a business plan writing project -- something that we can actually implement and start a small company with.

So in the midst of triggering my imagination by searching the web with recent startup ideas, I came across this article that talks about ideas for startups ( It's quite a long read but will be beneficial to anyone who envisions himself starting a company.

How do you get good ideas for startups? That's probably the number one question people ask me.

I'd like to reply with another question: why do people think it's hard to come up with ideas for startups?

That might seem a stupid thing to ask. Why do they think it's hard? If people can't do it, then it is hard, at least for them. Right?

Well, maybe not. What people usually say is not that they can't think of ideas, but that they don't have any. That's not quite the same thing. It could be the reason they don't have any is that they haven't tried to generate them.

I think this is often the case. I think people believe that coming up with ideas for startups is very hard-- that it must be very hard-- and so they don't try do to it. They assume ideas are like miracles: they either pop into your head or they don't.

I also have a theory about why people think this. They overvalue ideas. They think creating a startup is just a matter of implementing some fabulous initial idea. And since a successful startup is worth millions of dollars, a good idea is therefore a million dollar idea.

If coming up with an idea for a startup equals coming up with a million dollar idea, then of course it's going to seem hard. Too hard to bother trying. Our instincts tell us something so valuable would not be just lying around for anyone to discover.

Actually, startup ideas are not million dollar ideas, and here's an experiment you can try to prove it: just try to sell one. Nothing evolves faster than markets. The fact that there's no market for startup ideas suggests there's no demand. Which means, in the narrow sense of the word, that startup ideas are worthless.


The fact is, most startups end up nothing like the initial idea. It would be closer to the truth to say the main value of your initial idea is that, in the process of discovering it's broken, you'll come up with your real idea.

The initial idea is just a starting point-- not a blueprint, but a question. It might help if they were expressed that way. Instead of saying that your idea is to make a collaborative, web-based spreadsheet, say: could one make a collaborative, web-based spreadsheet? A few grammatical tweaks, and a woefully incomplete idea becomes a promising question to explore.

There's a real difference, because an assertion provokes objections in a way a question doesn't. If you say: I'm going to build a web-based spreadsheet, then critics-- the most dangerous of which are in your own head-- will immediately reply that you'd be competing with Microsoft, that you couldn't give people the kind of UI they expect, that users wouldn't want to have their data on your servers, and so on.

A question doesn't seem so challenging. It becomes: let's try making a web-based spreadsheet and see how far we get. And everyone knows that if you tried this you'd be able to make something useful. Maybe what you'd end up with wouldn't even be a spreadsheet. Maybe it would be some kind of new spreasheet-like collaboration tool that doesn't even have a name yet. You wouldn't have thought of something like that except by implementing your way toward it.

Treating a startup idea as a question changes what you're looking for. If an idea is a blueprint, it has to be right. But if it's a question, it can be wrong, so long as it's wrong in a way that leads to more ideas.

One valuable way for an idea to be wrong is to be only a partial solution. When someone's working on a problem that seems too big, I always ask: is there some way to bite off some subset of the problem, then gradually expand from there? That will generally work unless you get trapped on a local maximum, like 1980s-style AI, or C.


So far, we've reduced the problem from thinking of a million dollar idea to thinking of a mistaken question. That doesn't seem so hard, does it?

To generate such questions you need two things: to be familiar with promising new technologies, and to have the right kind of friends. New technologies are the ingredients startup ideas are made of, and conversations with friends are the kitchen they're cooked in.

Universities have both, and that's why so many startups grow out of them. They're filled with new technologies, because they're trying to produce research, and only things that are new count as research. And they're full of exactly the right kind of people to have ideas with: the other students, who will be not only smart but elastic-minded to a fault.

The opposite extreme would be a well-paying but boring job at a big company. Big companies are biased against new technologies, and the people you'd meet there would be wrong too.

In an essay I wrote for high school students, I said a good rule of thumb was to stay upwind-- to work on things that maximize your future options. The principle applies for adults too, though perhaps it has to be modified to: stay upwind for as long as you can, then cash in the potential energy you've accumulated when you need to pay for kids.

I don't think people consciously realize this, but one reason downwind jobs like churning out Java for a bank pay so well is precisely that they are downwind. The market price for that kind of work is higher because it gives you fewer options for the future. A job that lets you work on exciting new stuff will tend to pay less, because part of the compensation is in the form of the new skills you'll learn.

Grad school is the other end of the spectrum from a coding job at a big company: the pay's low but you spend most of your time working on new stuff. And of course, it's called "school," which makes that clear to everyone, though in fact all jobs are some percentage school.

The right environment for having startup ideas need not be a university per se. It just has to be a situation with a large percentage of school.

It's obvious why you want exposure to new technology, but why do you need other people? Can't you just think of new ideas yourself? The empirical answer is: no. Even Einstein needed people to bounce ideas off. Ideas get developed in the process of explaining them to the right kind of person. You need that resistance, just as a carver needs the resistance of the wood.

This is one reason Y Combinator has a rule against investing in startups with only one founder. Practically every successful company has at least two. And because startup founders work under great pressure, it's critical they be friends.

I didn't realize it till I was writing this, but that may help explain why there are so few female startup founders. I read on the Internet (so it must be true) that only 1.7% of VC-backed startups are founded by women. The percentage of female hackers is small, but not that small. So why the discrepancy?

When you realize that successful startups tend to have multiple founders who were already friends, a possible explanation emerges. People's best friends are likely to be of the same sex, and if one group is a minority in some population, pairs of them will be a minority squared. [1]


What these groups of co-founders do together is more complicated than just sitting down and trying to think of ideas. I suspect the most productive setup is a kind of together-alone-together sandwich. Together you talk about some hard problem, probably getting nowhere. Then, the next morning, one of you has an idea in the shower about how to solve it. He runs eagerly to to tell the others, and together they work out the kinks.

What happens in that shower? It seems to me that ideas just pop into my head. But can we say more than that?

Taking a shower is like a form of meditation. You're alert, but there's nothing to distract you. It's in a situation like this, where your mind is free to roam, that it bumps into new ideas.

What happens when your mind wanders? It may be like doodling. Most people have characteristic ways of doodling. This habit is unconscious, but not random: I found my doodles changed after I started studying painting. I started to make the kind of gestures I'd make if I were drawing from life. They were atoms of drawing, but arranged randomly. [2]

Perhaps letting your mind wander is like doodling with ideas. You have certain mental gestures you've learned in your work, and when you're not paying attention, you keep making these same gestures, but somewhat randomly. In effect, you call the same functions on random arguments. That's what a metaphor is: a function applied to an argument of the wrong type.

Conveniently, as I was writing this, my mind wandered: would it be useful to have metaphors in a programming language? I don't know; I don't have time to think about this. But it's convenient because this is an example of what I mean by habits of mind. I spend a lot of time thinking about language design, and my habit of always asking "would x be useful in a programming language" just got invoked.

If new ideas arise like doodles, this would explain why you have to work at something for a while before you have any. It's not just that you can't judge ideas till you're an expert in a field. You won't even generate ideas, because you won't have any habits of mind to invoke.

Of course the habits of mind you invoke on some field don't have to be derived from working in that field. In fact, it's often better if they're not. You're not just looking for good ideas, but for good new ideas, and you have a better chance of generating those if you combine stuff from distant fields. As hackers, one of our habits of mind is to ask, could one open-source x? For example, what if you made an open-source operating system? A fine idea, but not very novel. Whereas if you ask, could you make an open-source play? you might be onto something.

Are some kinds of work better sources of habits of mind than others? I suspect harder fields may be better sources, because to attack hard problems you need powerful solvents. I find math is a good source of metaphors-- good enough that it's worth studying just for that. Related fields are also good sources, especially when they're related in unexpected ways. Everyone knows computer science and electrical engineering are related, but precisely because everyone knows it, importing ideas from one to the other doesn't yield great profits. It's like importing something from Wisconsin to Michigan. Whereas (I claim) hacking and painting are also related, in the sense that hackers and painters are both makers, and this source of new ideas is practically virgin territory.


In theory you could stick together ideas at random and see what you came up with. What if you built a peer-to-peer dating site? Would it be useful to have an automatic book? Could you turn theorems into a commodity? When you assemble ideas at random like this, they may not be just stupid, but semantically ill-formed. What would it even mean to make theorems a commodity? You got me. I didn't think of that idea, just its name.

You might come up with something useful this way, but I never have. It's like knowing a fabulous sculpture is hidden inside a block of marble, and all you have to do is remove the marble that isn't part of it. It's an encouraging thought, because it reminds you there is an answer, but it's not much use in practice because the search space is too big.

I find that to have good ideas I need to be working on some problem. You can't start with randomness. You have to start with a problem, then let your mind wander just far enough for new ideas to form.

In a way, it's harder to see problems than their solutions. Most people prefer to remain in denial about problems. It's obvious why: problems are irritating. They're problems! Imagine if people in 1700 saw their lives the way we'd see them. It would have been unbearable. This denial is such a powerful force that, even when presented with possible solutions, people often prefer to believe they wouldn't work.

I saw this phenomenon when I worked on spam filters. In 2002, most people preferred to ignore spam, and most of those who didn't preferred to believe the heuristic filters then available were the best you could do.

I found spam intolerable, and I felt it had to be possible to recognize it statistically. And it turns out that was all you needed to solve the problem. The algorithm I used was ridiculously simple. Anyone who'd really tried to solve the problem would have found it. It was just that no one had really tried to solve the problem. [3]

Let me repeat that recipe: finding the problem intolerable and feeling it must be possible to solve it. Simple as it seems, that's the recipe for a lot of startup ideas.


So far most of what I've said applies to ideas in general. What's special about startup ideas? Startup ideas are ideas for companies, and companies have to make money. And the way to make money is to make something people want.

Wealth is what people want. I don't mean that as some kind of philosophical statement; I mean it as a tautology.

So an idea for a startup is an idea for something people want. Wouldn't any good idea be something people want? Unfortunately not. I think new theorems are a fine thing to create, but there is no great demand for them. Whereas there appears to be great demand for celebrity gossip magazines. Wealth is defined democratically. Good ideas and valuable ideas are not quite the same thing; the difference is individual tastes.

But valuable ideas are very close to good ideas, especially in technology. I think they're so close that you can get away with working as if the goal were to discover good ideas, so long as, in the final stage, you stop and ask: will people actually pay for this? Only a few ideas are likely to make it that far and then get shot down; RPN calculators might be one example.

One way to make something people want is to look at stuff people use now that's broken. Dating sites are a prime example. They have millions of users, so they must be promising something people want. And yet they work horribly. Just ask anyone who uses them. It's as if they used the worse-is-better approach but stopped after the first stage and handed the thing over to marketers.

Of course, the most obvious breakage in the average computer user's life is Windows itself. But this is a special case: you can't defeat a monopoly by a frontal attack. Windows can and will be overthrown, but not by giving people a better desktop OS. The way to kill it is to redefine the problem as a superset of the current one. The problem is not, what operating system should people use on desktop computers? but how should people use applications? There are answers to that question that don't even involve desktop computers.

Everyone thinks Google is going to solve this problem, but it is a very subtle one, so subtle that a company as big as Google might well get it wrong. I think the odds are better than 50-50 that the Windows killer-- or more accurately, Windows transcender-- will come from some little startup.

Another classic way to make something people want is to take a luxury and make it into a commmodity. People must want something if they pay a lot for it. And it is a very rare product that can't be made dramatically cheaper if you try.

This was Henry Ford's plan. He made cars, which had been a luxury item, into a commodity. But the idea is much older than Henry Ford. Water mills transformed mechanical power from a luxury into a commodity, and they were used in the Roman empire. Arguably pastoralism transformed a luxury into a commodity.

When you make something cheaper you can sell more of them. But if you make something dramatically cheaper you often get qualitative changes, because people start to use it in different ways. For example, once computers get so cheap that most people can have one of their own, you can use them as communication devices.

Often to make something dramatically cheaper you have to redefine the problem. The Model T didn't have all the features previous cars did. It only came in black, for example. But it solved the problem people cared most about, which was getting from place to place.

One of the most useful mental habits I know I learned from Michael Rabin: that the best way to solve a problem is often to redefine it. A lot of people use this technique without being consciously aware of it, but Rabin was spectacularly explicit. You need a big prime number? Those are pretty expensive. How about if I give you a big number that only has a 10 to the minus 100 chance of not being prime? Would that do? Well, probably; I mean, that's probably smaller than the chance that I'm imagining all this anyway.

Redefining the problem is a particularly juicy heuristic when you have competitors, because it's so hard for rigid-minded people to follow. You can work in plain sight and they don't realize the danger. Don't worry about us. We're just working on search. Do one thing and do it well, that's our motto.

Making things cheaper is actually a subset of a more general technique: making things easier. For a long time it was most of making things easier, but now that the things we build are so complicated, there's another rapidly growing subset: making things easier to use.

This is an area where there's great room for improvement. What you want to be able to say about technology is: it just works. How often do you say that now?

Simplicity takes effort-- genius, even. The average programmer seems to produce UI designs that are almost willfully bad. I was trying to use the stove at my mother's house a couple weeks ago. It was a new one, and instead of physical knobs it had buttons and an LED display. I tried pressing some buttons I thought would cause it to get hot, and you know what it said? "Err." Not even "Error." "Err." You can't just say "Err" to the user of a stove. You should design the UI so that errors are impossible. And the boneheads who designed this stove even had an example of such a UI to work from: the old one. You turn one knob to set the temperature and another to set the timer. What was wrong with that? It just worked.

It seems that, for the average engineer, more options just means more rope to hang yourself. So if you want to start a startup, you can take almost any existing technology produced by a big company, and assume you could build something way easier to use.

Design for Exit

Success for a startup approximately equals getting bought. You need some kind of exit strategy, because you can't get the smartest people to work for you without giving them options likely to be worth something. Which means you either have to get bought or go public, and the number of startups that go public is very small.

If success probably means getting bought, should you make that a conscious goal? The old answer was no: you were supposed to pretend that you wanted to create a giant, public company, and act surprised when someone made you an offer. Really, you want to buy us? Well, I suppose we'd consider it, for the right price.

I think things are changing. If 98% of the time success means getting bought, why not be open about it? If 98% of the time you're doing product development on spec for some big company, why not think of that as your task? One advantage of this approach is that it gives you another source of ideas: look at big companies, think what they should be doing, and do it yourself. Even if they already know it, you'll probably be done faster.

Just be sure to make something multiple acquirers will want. Don't fix Windows, because the only potential acquirer is Microsoft, and when there's only one acquirer, they don't have to hurry. They can take their time and copy you instead of buying you. If you want to get market price, work on something where there's competition.

If an increasing number of startups are created to do product development on spec, it will be a natural counterweight to monopolies. Once some type of technology is captured by a monopoly, it will only evolve at big company rates instead of startup rates, whereas alternatives will evolve with especial speed. A free market interprets monopoly as damage and routes around it.

The Woz Route

The most productive way to generate startup ideas is also the most unlikely-sounding: by accident. If you look at how famous startups got started, a lot of them weren't initially supposed to be startups. Lotus began with a program Mitch Kapor wrote for a friend. Apple got started because Steve Wozniak wanted to build microcomputers, and his employer, Hewlett-Packard, wouldn't let him do it at work. Yahoo began as David Filo's personal collection of links.

This is not the only way to start startups. You can sit down and consciously come up with an idea for a company; we did. But measured in total market cap, the build-stuff-for-yourself model might be more fruitful. It certainly has to be the most fun way to come up with startup ideas. And since a startup ought to have multiple founders who were already friends before they decided to start a company, the rather surprising conclusion is that the best way to generate startup ideas is to do what hackers do for fun: cook up amusing hacks with your friends.

It seems like it violates some kind of conservation law, but there it is: the best way to get a "million dollar idea" is just to do what hackers enjoy doing anyway.


[1] This phenomenon may account for a number of discrepancies currently blamed on various forbidden isms. Never attribute to malice what can be explained by math.

[2] A lot of classic abstract expressionism is doodling of this type: artists trained to paint from life using the same gestures but without using them to represent anything. This explains why such paintings are (slightly) more interesting than random marks would be.

[3] Bill Yerazunis had solved the problem, but he got there by another path. He made a general-purpose file classifier so good that it also worked for spam.

Monday, July 21, 2008

fhm 100 sexiest photos!

Photos do not include those of the models (their outfits are for a more mature audience. hehe). Featured are only those who made it to the top 100. Check out for a complete list.