PK 2012 year end review

First Things First

Last year the world lost Steve Jobs. This year Stephen Covey passed away. I have long been a fan of his views of life management. If you have not read his work, you should.  First Things First, while relatively less famous, is a much more important book than the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

I do try to balance my life across the different roles I have and leveraging the interdependence between them. Here is a short summary for 2012.

Back to School (again)

Sharpen the saw is an important and often neglected part of  one's life. Working with different startups with the latest web technology requires some level of learning. Heading back to school part time however made it official. The process actually started at the end of 2011. I decided to apply to the MIT advanced study program, designed to let working professionals take graduate courses at MIT part time. Application forms, transcripts, letters of recommendation. Remember those?

The MIT "kids" are great. They are intelligent, creative, attack everything with a passion. It is very refreshing to be able to work with them. Since my part time MBA experience was pretty much show up for lectures in the evening, this is the first time I have a view into normal college life in the U.S. It is very different from the more structured style at Imperial. Think of this as long term planning so that I understand college life for my kids when they get there.

Work Life

We have continued to work on new and old projects at Imperial. We have done more work with Wordpress integration, as well as entering into the IOS world. There are a few exciting new projects that I wish can be finished soon so that we can talk about them in public, but that's the down side of operating in the start up world.


I talked about this each year . Move away from the city? More living space, saving money from switching to a public school, clean air and backyard. This year we did it. An offer for our loft got the process started. I left the loft in Boston and moved back to Lexington.

The moving process was difficult. I moved six times in my adult life prior. I thought I have this down to a science (link). But that was before children. We had 100 boxes of stuff packed, about three times more than what I had before. I took the opportunity to donate, sell and discard most of my own belongings. I like to think we have a minimum amount of toys for the kids, but still it took up a lot of space.

The process was difficult because, for three months I could not find a single house to move to in Lexington. A lot of people are doing the suburban migration. Lexington is one of the hottest market. Houses were either too small and too old, or too large and expensive. We were close to panicking, but the end result is great. It was real serendipity how I found our new home, materials for another blog post.

Our new home fits us wonderfully. Walking distance to all things Lexington Center, open floor plan, 11 foot ceilings, walls of windows, We basically brought our loft and city living to Lexington.

New Communities

Luck would have it, The town of Lexington runs a Lexington Citizen Academy in the Fall of each year where interested residents can attend. For one night a week, in eight weeks I learned about all operations of the town. I now have a much better understanding on how Lexington operates, and I am continued to be impressed with the town. One of the reason for Lexington to run the "academy" is to recruit new volunteers. I joined the Citizen Advisory Committee for the Lexington Library as the library is working on its strategic plans for the future.

New School

A major reason for moving is the public school system. So far our experience has been great. We have dedicated teachers, modern facilities, a strong PTO. Of course I am working on starting a Scratch Club. Meanwhile I am running the Science and Math clubs with a few other like minded parents. More importantly, the kids are loving their new schools and new friends. Going to a neighborhood school we runs into other families more often in after school activities, something that is new to us coming from the Boston private school scene.

Martial Arts

The suburb move is the catalyst for so many things. A wonderful Martial Arts teacher happened to start a new school in Lexington soon after we moved into town. Now not only the kids can start on their martial arts practice, I can add to my regular Tai Chi practice. Sword and Bagua are just a few of the new things that I get to restart.

Other Notables

The Dalia Lama was in Boston, and I got to attend one of his talks! While he was at least 100 feet away (we were in one of the largest conference space at a Boston hotel) and we were mostly watching him on two giant projection screen, you could feel his presence. He speaks with both authority and a genuine child like sense of compassion and openest that is amazing. I am certainly inspired by him and try to carry his philosophy with me as we cross over to year 2013.

Moving Tips 2012


I moved so many times that I wrote up some moving tips on the web in 1996. You can read the old version there. This is an update version, ready for our next moving to the suburbs: According to some studies, moving is the second most stressful thing in life. Here are some tips for moving:

  1. Throw out all the stuff that you don't need months before you even found the new house. Most of our time is actually spent on this part. It is hard, but do it. (Optional) Watch any of the hoarders TV shows for inspiration.
  2. Buy more boxes then you think you need. You can always freecycle them afterwards. U-Haul has an "unused box return deal", but I have never managed to figure out how it actually works.
  3. Buy large clear plastic boxes for packing heavier items or for items that you want to keep dry. You can end up using these for putting items in storage as well. We buy the large ones from Costco.
  4. Pack to unpack. If you are to take away one tip, this is it. Come up with a numbering system for each room and area in the new house. Pack items so that each complete box contains items that are destine for one room. Label that box with the number. Your movers will love you, and you just cut unpacking time in half. I put blue or white masking tape on the boxes, and write "(1) Kitchen", or "(6) Bedroom" etc on them.
  5. Label and/or map all your computer and audio/video cables so that you can quickly plug everything back together.
  6. Plan furniture placement before the move. Asking the movers to rearrange furniture over and over waste time and money. I (being a amateur architect of sort) create a site plan of the new home and lay it out on floor planning software before the move.
  7. Give the movers clear instruction, and let them do their work. Do not have unnecessary family members around to give contradicting directions.
  8. Make sure the showers are working great in the new house before the move. Bring a personal care kit with you. It is nothing more annoying then not being able to at least relax and clean up while unpacking.

I caught the Laptop Bandit

My office is in a industrial loft building in an up and coming part of Boston. I used to shared an office space with another company. During last Christmas, while all of us were out of the office for about 20 minutes, someone came into the office and stole a brand new MacBook from one of the staff. Fast forward seven months. We moved upstair to another space of our own in the same building. In the early afternoon, I went out to the bathroom for 2 minutes, upon returning to my space, I saw that our office door was slightly opened.

A man walked out from the lobby area out side of my office. Reasonably well dressed, holding a backpack in front of him. I blocked his exit, at the same time I saw the edge of a MacBook Pro peeking out of his backpack. I am pretty sure that's mine. "That's mine" I said. He pulled it out and gave it back to me, at the same time pushed his way towards the main stairs. I blocked him again. I must say I was only doing that because he is not too intimidating physically. That does not mean that he is not going to pull out an weapon.

What's running thru my mind at that point?

  • does he have a weapon?
  • is he going to make a run for it? I don't want to fall backwards down the stairs
  • will I drop my laptop?
  • what else in my office would he have taken? I made a huge assumption that he is he same person who took the laptop at Christmas time, at which he only took the laptop -- smart move, as that's the most cost effective theft
  • should I take a picture of him?

At the end, I made him empty his backpack, which I found my wallet, and a pair of pants not from us (very strange). I spent enough time with him as I took note of his appearance, then I let him go. I was heading to a meeting. Police report tomorrow.

I feel lucky that I caught him. There must be a 15 second window before he made his way out of our floor. And I feel extremely luck to have gotten my stuff back, stuff unharmed, and myself unharmed.

Good karma, perhaps.

My Love of Gadgets Started from my First Calculator

My First CalculatorWhen I was maybe ten years old, electronic calculator became available. I lusted after this basic scientific model, the size of a paperback book, at my local stationary store for a year. My dad bought it for me and I loved that thing. It has all the log and trig functions.

Since then, I slowly saved money and traded up for the latest in model. Remember the casio that also play music? Then a fancy Casio that has a 1/100th second timer, which I used in all my high school advanced Physics classes. Then the HP 27S that does financial and statistical calculations, too much of a geek to use a 19B even for my MBA classes.

How far we have come? When was the last time you used a physical calculator? I use my iPhone most of the time, or use Google. Next generation of children may never have to use one. But for my generation, that was my very first personal, electronic gadget.