June-July 2017 Recap

I really don’t know what had happened but I have failed in keeping track with so many things. June and July past in a blur to me but I am very sure I did a lot of things in these 2 months. For one, I had been busy since we got the keys to our new home. There are simply too much works to follow up and to purchase for the new home. Of course, there were some excitements and anxieties about this new home. We haven’t even moved yet but the things to do are still piling up. As the semester is still on-going, with a lot of lesson plans and grading in the process, work seems to be never-ending.

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The new home is turning out to be very cosy with scenic view. We bought some new furniture so the new home is already equipped with comfortable sofa, dining table and cabinets. I spend a lot of times here during the weekends to sort out our stuff that we have moved them bit by bit. The process is exhausting but it is kind of cool to have another chance in life to redecorate our home sweet home.

At work, news of a changed management caught all of us off guard. I was quite deeply affected by the news and I felt a bit lost of direction in my way forward. The new boss is truly new in the university so I really have no idea if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Sadly, I have no idea how will I progress in the coming years with my old boss gone from management. My old boss had been a great mentor and I truly missed him. With all the changes in the faculty, I have second thought about doing PhD. My original plan for that may be put on hold indefinitely. I don’t see a point in getting PhD now with the current situation in the faculty. I may have different direction (career wise) for myself but nothing is of certain yet. However, my love for teaching and learning has not changed a bit.

By the way, some interested readers have been leaving me messages asking me if I have taken the CISSP exam. I realised my study plan mentioned I should have taken it in July. Sadly, I haven’t. My study plan has been derailed badly with so many on-going things in my life now. I’m actually sad but didn’t do much about it. I have continued to read on and off about CISSP, when my lesson plans called for it but to be actually ready for the exam, I guess not. Anyway, I sincerely thank you to those who have asked. I wish I have more better update about this soon.

The 5 Choices for Extraordinary Productivity

After holding this book The 5 Choices for more than 2 years, I have finally finished reading it early this year. What took me so long? Not productive enough? Not really. I guess it’s due to I practice each choice once I finished reading it. My own experiment with implementing these choices and trying to make things work, among other things, that took me this long to finish the book.

So to celebrate that I have finished one book this year, let me share how I have been practising these 5 Choices.

Choice 1: Act on the Important, Don’t React to the Urgent
Choice 2: Go for Extraordinary, Don’t Settle for Ordinary
Choice 3: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel
Choice 4: Rule Your Technology, Don’t Let It Rule You
Choice 5: Fuel Your Fire, Don’t Burn Out

During Choice 1 and 2, the following 4-quadrant diagram is very useful in making decision and I have shared previously about Choice 1: Act on the Important.

4quarants
I have shared on my previous post about how I use OneNote to focus on Q1 and Q2. As I moved on to Choice 3, I have learned to focus only on scheduling the rock and don’t mind the gravel, which means schedule those tasks in Q1 and Q2 and make sure to get things done. This is easier said than done as many Q3 and Q4 tasks will eventually creep up. It’s up to the individual’s ‘super power’ to ignore the unimportant tasks.
Moving on to Choice 4 is more interesting as technology is really a big part of my life. I live, teach, and breathe technologies. For many times, I really think I spend too much time on my mobile, replying what seemingly important/urgent WhatsApp messages or trying to reply the emails from boss that I received at 10 pm. Everyone knows this is unhealthy but how many of us really do something about it. Don’t let technology rule you! It’s really an important reminder. I rely a lot on my mobile apps and software at work but I have to stop myself from spending too much time on them. I consciously put away my mobile by 10 pm when I go to sleep. I don’t reply anything when I wake up until I reach my office by 7 am.
What really interesting takeaway in Choice 4 is The Core 4: Appointments, Tasks, Contacts, Notes/Documents.
Act File
Appointments Contacts
Tasks Notes/Documents

The reasoning about The Core 4 is we receive all kind of requests/tasks every day. We should act by scheduling appointments (tasks we need to do on specific times) and list down the tasks (where no specific time decided yet). We should file contacts, notes and documents for future reference, preferably all in one place or at least we know where to find them.

The book recommends either paper based system or fully digital system or blended system to store The Core 4. Here is my blended system:

The Core 4 Paper Digital
Appointments Quick/Short appointments Repeating/Scheduled appointments (weeks or months ahead)
Tasks Daily to-do list To-do list that takes longer time to finish
Contacts Email/Mobile contact
Notes/Documents Scribble section on the organizer OneNote for everything

I chose a blended system because I still like to write on paper so I use my organizer planner to put in short and quick appointments that come up on that day or the next day. I like to use Google Calendar to schedule repeating appointments such as weekly meeting or classes and some scheduled meeting that are weeks or months ahead. I like the reminder feature from Google Calendar that will prompt on my mobile to remind me. As I have shared before, I put my tasks of Q1 and Q2 on OneNote. Not so much of Q1 now as I put them mostly on paper for my daily to-do list. My Q2 tasks that sometimes take longer time to complete is on OneNote. I only keep contacts on either my mobile or GMail. I love to scribble words on paper during meetings and free times, just to get inspired sometimes. For everything else, they are all on OneNote where I have different sections and pages for almost everything.

Lastly on Choice 5, the most important message is don’t burn out, which means we need to take good care of ourselves. Productivity is only achievable with healthy functioning brain and body.

So if you haven’t heard of The 5 Choices yet, do check out the videos on this website. The lead author Kory Kogon gives very impressive explanation on the 5 choices. Hope you find this post useful somehow and all the best in achieving extraordinary productivity.

May 2017 Recap

I didn’t mean to write on this blog with just only recap every month. Unfortunately, that’s what happened since last post. I had no time to share anything with so much to be done wrapping up the third semester, which also meant wrapping up one academic year. New academic year just started end of May, so before that a lot of preparations have to be done. Almost every other day in May, I had to attend meeting after meeting. The only happiest thing that happened in May was I went for short weekend getaway with family to nearby resort.

DSC_4717 It’s not a superb beach resort but I appreciated the valuable time spent with family. It’s our annual family trip and as always it’s kind of fun. Missing this twilight weather!

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The resort’s speciality was its water villas. We booked two villas and we had our own small pool for each villa. I love playing in the pool and I spent most of my time relaxing in the pool. The weather was quite good without rain on the first 2 days but it rained a little on the 3rd day. However, it’s actually a good rain because we got to see rainbow. It’s been such long time since I last saw one. Simply beautiful!

Vacation is officially over. I have nothing much to look forward to this year. With two courses in my hand this semester, I have not much time to do anything else. I just wish to manage my time better for more reading and writing.

April 2017 Recap

Whoa! April is gone! April is by far my most favourite month of all because it is my birthday month. That’s when I could have more reasons to indulge and enjoy. Plus we get more discounts on everything on birthday month. More reasons for shopping! Although there’s nothing big on my birthday, I always have these mixed feelings. On one hand, I was happy to eat more and to celebrate. On another hand, it’s a reminder that I was getting older. Sigh! Anyway, I had a wonderful time with the husband during my birthday weekend (my birthday fell on Monday which coincidentally was a public holiday). We stayed at a hotel in city centre where I got complimentary stay and we indulged in various food over the weekend.

The husband even bought me some presents while we were supposedly window-shopping. Haha!

Of course, I simply can’t resist such a nice blue coloured bag. I also finally gave in to this music box that I wanted for quite some times. I bought one of Taipei 101 during my trip to Taiwan but I couldn’t find the NY Empire Tower. I knew all along that there’s a local shop that is selling all these music boxes but I couldn’t bring myself to spend too much on this. Since it’s my birthday and the husband was buying, no point to say no, right?

Teaching/Administration

The short semester finally ended, just few days before my birthday. Everything was rushed with the examination started the following week. On that first week of examination, I had to bring some students to participate in a national competition. We had to depart quite early in the morning because the journey to the destination took at least 2 hours. Before the competition day, I had organised practice sessions on almost every Saturday in April. With the examination period in between the competition, I have no idea how they performed. I guess it really doesn’t matter as long as they had try their best.

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At the end of semester, the most dreaded routine is grading. Considering much lesser grading load this round due to lesser courses offered. Another reason I was assigned lesser was due to the high amount I did in last 2 long semesters.

Reading/Writing

Seriously, April passed by in a blink of eye. I don’t feel I have done much reading so I can just forget about writing. I’m still trying to establish a better morning routine since I always arrive at office before 7 a.m. However, there’s always something that got in my way and I simply couldn’t be productive. I hope I will have better progress to report next month. Keep my fingers crossed!

Teaching Evaluations

As a member of the teaching staff, I get to be evaluated by my students near to the end of every semester. I normally see the evaluation feedback in the following semester and I have to acknowledge the ratings and comments given and to reply with my own feedback if necessary. For the first semester when I started teaching, I was very nervous to get back my evaluations. As I was new in academia, I didn’t know if I did good or if my students liked me.

The subject is quite boring. May add in some interesting material.
If possible, lecture note should be presented in a simple & plain English because too definition based will make it difficult to understand.

This was my very first feedback in 2014. It was my first time teaching an information security course. I did realise the lecture slides were a bit too wordy but being new I didn’t dare to reword them.

Interesting teaching way and we can get the knowledge faster.
A good lecturer indeed!
The best lecturer! I really understand what she teaches in class. Very good! I hope in the future she also teaches us. I think majority will agree with me.

For the following year, I received much positive feedback. Of course, I’m pleased.

Explains clearly scope and intro what to be learnt. Great teaching method with examples. Suitable pace. Clear and loud.
Clear explanation on what to be done. Clear steps on how to do. Extra info for students. Solves problems well with patience.
Explains every question clear. Communicate well with students. Teaches and explains with examples. Best tutor ever!
Teaching very clearly. Easy to understand. Answer students question with easy example and explanation.

As I get more comfortable in teaching, I got slightly better feedback, though I also got a few evaluations without any comment. Asian students generally don’t like to voice up their comment, no matter good or bad, on such formal platform. However, on social media, they are totally different people altogether, with mostly complaints. I have heard ‘horror’ stories of students complaining about lecturers on social media so I tend to avoid reading any of them.

Lecturer is full of knowledge.
She is a patient lecturer. We know a lot about information security from her
Very nice tutor. She is very experienced, knows a lot of thing.

This feedback was the latest from last semester where I did another information security course. I’m actually quite surprised that my students saw me as experienced and full of knowledge. Although I feel I have improved, I still don’t see myself very experienced yet. Anyway, I’m still glad to get such positive feedback. It means I’m doing something good and my students feel it.

So, if you are a teaching staff, what kind of feedback you have received? Is there any interesting or funny feedback?

March 2017 Recap

I have wanted to write this kind of post for a long time after being inspired by Dr Ana’s monthly round-up posts but being the procrastinator me, I didn’t get it done any earlier. Since it’s now Week 6 of a 7-week short semester, I guess it’s time I put this in writing and hopefully I get to keep this as my monthly habit.

Teaching

As it’s short semester from March until end of April, I’m teaching 4-hour per week for the Introduction to Computer Security course in Bachelor degree level. I have taught this course before so teaching this semester is rather easy with less preparation. What I noticed I have improved was probably I could paint a better bigger picture about information security now after a few rounds of teaching similar courses and after more reading of CISSP. I shall share more about my last course evaluation by the students soon. From their comments, I think I have made good progress with my teaching.

Administration

Although I only have 4-hour classes, my schedule is as busy as ever due to my additional admin role in scheduling the whole department’s workload for this semester. This means I have extra planning tasks to do and more follow-ups too. Extra works have to be done in preparation for next coming semester where the new academic year begins. I also got busy by organising two invited guest lecturers. One is a professor from Teesside University and he shared interesting stuff about big data in relation to cybersecurity. Another invited guest lecturer is from Institute of Technology Blanchardstown and he shared good stuff about cybersecurity and the threats to Internet of Things (IoT).

Reading/Writing

I wish I can schedule more daily reading time. Sadly, I still haven’t come up with a fix daily schedule that really works for me. For writing, I don’t have any writing goal at the moment, though I wish I can write more, just to get my ideas flowing and improving my writing skill too. I shall try harder.

Research

As part of the final year project supervision, I have discussed some research areas that I’m interested in with my students. I’m particularly intrigued by insider threats and the ways to detect and prevent them. I’m also interested in Security Education, Training, and Awareness (SETA) program, specifically in looking at how to do an effective implementation. These are still at initial proposal stage, so we will see how things go in next few months.

Community Work

This is just to share that I have been a volunteer tutor for the past 12 years and I’m proud to be of service to others. I used to tutor Malay language (Malaysia’s national language) to local students who stayed at the community centre. Since its closure end of last year, I was offered the opportunity to tutor elementary English to refugees. This experience in working with refugees is so different, not because of their backgrounds (I never ask) but I came to realise that learning difficulties are real. It’s sad to see some are trying so hard just to learn and yet some (privileged ones) just don’t even put in any effort. This experience got me to learn to observe more and to revise different strategies to help those in learning better.

I guess that’s all for March. Hopefully, I have more to recap for April. I guess April shall be more exciting because it’s my birthday month. Haha!

My reading list for 2017

I have tried my best to read as much as possible according to my study plan since my last post. Am I successful? I would say far from it. I’m still at Chapter 1, though I’m already at page 130. However, the start of Chapter 2 is at page 189. So another 50 pages more to go. Another reason I’m far from completing my reading is because I read other books in between too. My reading list is rather lengthy by now because I’m too greedy. I wish I have all the time to do just reading.

Let’s look at my current reading list for this year:

CISSP All-in-One Exam Guide, Seventh Edition – my aim is to read, practice the exam questions and take the certification exam this year. Of course, I read too in preparation for teaching most of the InfoSec courses in my campus.

CompTIA Security+ Study Guide: SY0-401, 6th Edition – the undergraduate programme under my care is going to incorporate this certification as part of the syllabus so I’m reading it to see its coverage and to reinforce my InfoSec knowledge. This book is an easy ready so far. I have completed Chapter 1.

Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World – being an InfoSec enthusiast, Bruce Schneier is a big name in the field. I love his books. I’m so happy to find this book in my campus library. I read it for leisure at home and already halfway through. I wish my campus library has more of his books.

Spam Nation: The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime-from Global Epidemic to Your Front Door – started reading this out of my interest in cybercrime. It’s really an interesting story and I’m really impressed with Brian Krebs’ journalism dedication in revealing the dark side of the cyber world. 

Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions – I got this book quite long ago with the intention to learn the best technique to captivate my students with my lectures. I was hoping with some good techniques, my students would not tell me that they have forgotten whatever I said in lecture. 

The Dance of the Possible – I have been following Scott Berkun for years and I’m quite in love with his books. Being his fans, we got to download his latest book for reading and review (for a very limited time). I have finished the first few chapters and they are really interesting on how we think about creativity.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind – I read recently that this book is so good so being the greedy me, I went to search for it and found a copy. I have read the first few pages and they are really interesting. I wish I can write like Yuval Noah Harari. Another great author to admire.

See, I’m not kidding that I’m greedy when come to books. I wish I have all the time to just read these books. No doubt, I have been doing a lot of readings since I joined academia. Reading students’ assignments, reports, and the like. Haha!