The NBN is 62% faster in our new house!

This time last year we finally got connected to Australia’s National Broadband Network (NBN).

Doing so dramatically increased our average download speed from 6.9MBps with ADSL2+ (over the old telephone copper wire network) to 46.7MBps with NBN (over a new NBN fibre optic connection to the closest telephone/internet exchange).

A little over a week ago we moved into an independent house in another suburb. This meant we were no longer sharing that fibre optic internet connection with the other residents in an apartment block.

I checked to see if this had increased our connection speed and, sure enough, our download speeds have gone up by 62% to 75.7MBps!

Woohoo! 

Pro tip: If you’re looking to move house and, like me, can’t live without the NBN, check out the nbnm8 Chrome extension. When you use realstate.com.au and Domain to search for properties it’ll automatically do the nbn availability look-up for you :)

Office kitchen theory: people from large families

I have a theory that you can tell which of your work colleagues grew up in large families – or lived in a hostel when they were in college – by the way in which they navigate the office kitchen or lunch room.

They are more aware of who is in the room with them

Several times at work I’ve walked into the kitchen and there’s been only one other person there. But, every time I try to do anything, they are magically in my way. And, if we don’t quickly settle on an unspoken protocol of how we’re going to successfully navigate around each other for the next two minutes, I can tell they come from a small family.

Sure people from large families get in each other’s way when they’re in the kitchen. But how quickly and automatically they adjust to the presence of others is what sets them apart from people like me: a person who grew up in a large family and, in my specific instance, also spent several years in a hostel and shared apartment while at university.

They are more comfortable working around a single sink

The kitchen in my corner of the office has just a single sink. This sink has two taps: one for washing dishes and one for getting boiling hot or refrigerated cold water. Some people are comfortable with this arrangement, some people aren't.

When I’m washing dishes, for example, I’m have no problem moving slightly to the right to give someone the space to squeeze in next to me and fill their water bottle from the other tap. That's because I come from a large family and sharing sinks is something you have to get used to pretty darned quickly. So, if I’ve finished stirring my cup of tea and just need to rinse my spoon, and the person doing their dishes pauses for two seconds so I can run my spoon under the water, I know they come from a large family.

The best are those moments in which one person is washing their dishes, another is filling their tea cup, a third has just rinsed their fork, a fourth is reaching for a plate from the dish rack, a fifth is wiping a spill on the counter next to you, and a sixth is waiting for the slightest opening to stick their hand in and drop their spoon into the sink. That’s when I want to burst into song with a heartfelt “We are family / I got all my sisters with me” :)

They adjust more quickly to new situations

All this doesn’t mean that people from small families don’t learn and adjust. They do, and they adjust quite well. But you can still tell which people have learnt these skills in the office and which of them have had a childhood in which they shared a kitchen with their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, older and younger siblings, older and younger cousins, friends and, sometimes, pets.

Like when there are suddenly ten people in the kitchen at 3pm trying to make themselves a cup of tea or use the coffee machine. Some people will adjust automatically to this new situation – seemingly without any additional effort. But a couple will always take a few extra seconds to pause, observe and figure out how things are working before they’ll correctly read and then join the traffic flow.

That’s my theory anyway. 

Improving my writing skills by writing every day

I write reasonably well (or so I like to think) but I want to continue to improve my writing skills.

One of the best ways to do this is by writing a little bit every day. And what better place to do that than here? This blog is called 'Random Tangent', after all :)  

So, apologies in advance for the random snippets of writing and the random half-baked, half-complete, half-written thoughts you might see here in the future. 

That said, hopefully some of what I write will be entertaining or interesting :) 

Let me know what you think.

Researching flieger style watches

As I said in my previous post, I'm ready to buy my first mechanical watch. 

Now people in this situation usually look to well-known Japanese brands like Seiko and Orient since these companies produce excellent quality mechanical watches that aren't very expensive. 

And if I was looking for a dive style watch I'd definitely get the Seiko SKX007K1 or Orient Ray EM6500CD. Or, if I was looking for a field style watch I'd get the Seiko SNZG11K1. Or, if I was looking for a dress watch, I'd get the Orient Bambino ER2400CN.

But, no, I'm an aviation enthusiast so I want to get a pilot watch. 

Eventually, I'll want to get myself something like the Breitling Navitimer 01 (which costs $9,800) or the Breitling Navitimer 1461 ($13,400) but that won't happen for another couple of decades at least. Which is fine because the type of pilot's watch that I adore is the flieger style watch from WWII. 

Now the Seiko 5 Military SNK809K2 does have some pilot/flieger characteristics but it's not quite what I'm after. And the Orient Flight ER2A001B is closer, but it's still a loose interpretation of the original and I'd rather get something more visually authentic.

Of course, before I go any further, I should explain what a flieger style watch is. 

Flieger style watches

Pilot watches have been around since 1904 and, if you want to learn more about them, check out this excellent five-part history on Monochrome: 

For flieger style watches we're interested in part five of that series. 

Or, if you want a quicker introduction, check out this blog post: 

But, basically, these 'beobachtungs-uhr' (i.e. 'observer watches') were created for the Luftwaffe in the 1940s by five German watchmakers: 

  • A. Lange & Söhne
  • Laco 
  • Stowa 
  • Wempe 
  • IWC

These watches were required to:

  • Be super readable (so they were 55mm in size and had white Arabic numerals on a black dial plus blue-flamed sword hands filled with luminous material)
  • Have an anti-magnetic case
  • Be chronometer certified
  • Have a hack-capable second hand (i.e. the seconds hand would stop when you pulled the crown out so you could precisely synchronize your watch)
  • Have a large diamond or onion-shaped crown (so you could adjust them while wearing gloves)
  • Have a large strap (so they fit around your flight jacket or on your thigh)
  • Have a triangle marker at the 12 o'clock position (so you could use the dial as a basic solar compass)

They came in two types: Type A for pilots and Type B for navigators. 

And they looked like this: 

Flieger watches on the market 

Because no one company can claim to have designed or built the original flieger style watch lots of companies now make them. 

Most of the luxury flieger style watch are Type A, though, and I much prefer Type B. The one Type B I do like from this bunch (the Bell & Ross Vintage WWI) happens to be the cheapest of the lot - but is still not something I can afford just yet.

Fortunately, there are a number of Type B watches from enthusiast-level watch brands. The STOWA Flieger Baumuster B and Archimede Pilot 42 B Automatic are the most original-looking (and I love them both) but I think the Hamilton Pilot Auto is my favourite. 

Yes, Hamilton have tweaked the design a bit and have even added a day/date complication - but I really like their interpretation. In fact, I like it so much that, as far as pilot watches go, I'll settle on this on till I'm ready to buy a Breitling. But, for now, these watches are still out of my price range.

The watches that are in my price range also come from enthusiast-level brands - though from the lower end. I love both the STEINHART Nav B-Uhr B-Type and the Laco Aachen Type B Dial Automatic but, on balance, I think I prefer the Laco. 

Aside from the fact that Laco is one of the companies that made the original B-Uhr watches back in the 1940s, I prefer its full lume and open case back. Also, Laco's movement is made in-house - which is a plus for any watchmaker. 

The one last category of watch brands I should mention are the less well-known consumer brands. So not the Seikos and Orients of the world, but the brands that build cheaper watches that generally work well and are still decent enough looking.

For example, TISELL is a Korean brand that uses off-the-shelf Chinese watch movements from Sea-Gull. And Ticino is a German brand that uses both Chinese Sea-Gull and Japanese Miyota movements (Miyota is owned by Citizen). Watches with Sea-Gull movements used to be hit-and-miss but both TISELL and Ticino do their own quality control with these movements so their watches generally run well. 

Each of these brands makes a Type B flieger style watch. The TISELL Type B Pilot uses a Sea-Gull movement while the Ticino Type B Automatic uses a Miyota movement (their Type B watch from last year used a Sea-Gull movement but this year they're moving a little up-market). 

Both of these are decent enough watches. They have stainless steel cases and sapphire crystals, and they generally run well. But brand like these save money with cheaper movements, lower production costs and fewer subtle refinements. Which means these two watches are less water resistant, they're not quite as well-built or finished, they use a dimmer lume, and their straps aren't particularly good. Also, they don't have much of an after-sales support, maintenance and repair network to turn to if they're not working as well as you'd like. 

What will I buy?

Deciding which watch I'm going to get depends on a number of things: 

  • What's my budget? 
  • And, given that I have a limited budget, what am I willing to compromise on?
  • Finally, do I have a brand preference?

Keeping all that in mind, this is what I'd get at each budget level:

  • $4,000: Bell & Ross Vintage WWI - choosing the Type B over Type A and picking one of my favourite watch brands
  • $1,500: Hamilton Pilot Auto - choosing the more modern interpretation
  • $500: Laco Aachen Type B - choosing the more authentic interpretation and my preferred feature set
  • $200: None 

That $200 decision was the hardest. If I had just $200 I'd either have to get the Orient Flight, which is not my favourite flieger interpretation but I know will be built well and is guaranteed to run really well. Or I'd have to get a TISELL or Ticino that, while more faithful to the original design, may not be built as well or run as well. 

As it happens, I'm not willing to compromise on either flieger design faithfulness or watch features and quality so I'd probably go with neither of those options. Instead, I'd wait till I had $500 to spend so I could get the Laco, instead :)

Also, for completeness' sake, if I actually had $4,000 just lying around, I wouldn't go for that particular Bell & Ross watch, either. I'd already own those Laco and Hamilton Type B flieger watches and I wouldn't want another one. Instead I'd go for a different Bell & Ross watch or something else entirely. 

So there you have it: my thought process (or, well, brain dump) on buying my first mechanical watch given all that I've learnt about the world of watches in the last few months. I'm hoping at least a couple of you enjoyed reading it. Or at least you looked at the pictures and though: "Ah, so that's what he's been on about these last few weeks!" :)

Exploring the World of Watches

I love watches and, since the age of seven, have owned eleven of them. (Which turns out, on average, to be one watch every three years.) 

Nine of these were Casio watches - including one calculator watch, two G-shocks, one ProTrek, and one Edifice. This is the Edifice (EQS-A500B-1AV) that I bought just a couple of months ago, by the way (which I then customized with Hadley Roma leather strap and butterfly deployant clasp): 

The other two watches I've owned were a Pulsar LED (the one I got when I was seven) and a mechanical hand winding watch that I don't remember the brand of (I was twelve at the time).

The cool thing is that I have I reached a point in my life at which I'm ready to move beyond watches as primarily practical time telling tools. I now want to get watches that, while still good for telling time, are also pieces of jewellery and objects of design, engineering, craftsmanship and history. So, aside from another couple of quartz watches I'll probably want to get in the future (a Casio ProTrek and some type of chronometer), this means I'm looking to get myself my first proper mechanical watch. 

I've spent the last few months researching watches and world or horology - both online and in local stores in Melbourne - and, over the next few months, I'll summarize what I've learnt on this blog. 

Let's start with the basics, though: 

  • What types of watches can you get?
  • Who makes them?
  • How much do they cost?

Watch Styles

Historically, wristwatches have been tool watches. In the early 1900s people were perfectly happy with pocket watches (though women sometimes wore watches as jewellery on their wrists) but, when it stopped being convenient to pull a watch out of your pocket - like when you were diving, flying, driving or marching across Europe in your army - wristwatches started to become popular. 

Accordingly, these are now the main styles of wristwatches available (list sourced from this convenient 'Watches Style Guide' thread on Reddit): 

  • Diver's watches: for divers and sailors
  • Field watches: for infantrymen, rangers and other ground troops 
  • Pilot's watches: for pilots and navigators
  • Chronographs or sport watches: for drivers, racers, yachtsmen and other people who play sports
  • Dress watches: for people who want elegant watches to wear with fancy clothes

Or, more visually: 

There are just the big bucket watch styles, of course. There are many variations within these styles and a handful of other styles, as well (e.g. single hand, Bauhaus, fashion). And a lot of these styles and variations overlap, too. 

Watch Brands

There are a great many watch brands out there but, again, thanks to Reddit, here's a good way of categorizing them: 

  • Consumer: some quartz, some mechanical; brands from all over the world (e.g. Switzerland, Japan, Russia, China, USA, Denmark)
  • Enthusiast: usually tool watches designed for a specific purpose (e.g. pilot or military watches)
  • Quasi-luxury: expensive or fancy enthusiast watches; lower-prices luxury watches
  • Entry-level Luxury: starter luxury watches; expensive enthusiast watches 
  • Luxury: expensive watches with a lot of history behind them
  • High-end Luxury: most well-known luxury brands
  • Ultra Luxury: very expensive watches (for serious watch collectors and very rich people only)

Or, more visually: 

Note: I haven't included the independent watchmakers of the Académie Horlogère des Créateurs Indépendants (ACHI) in that list because, let's face it, I'll never be able to afford any of their watches.

It's useful to know that a number of these brands are owned by large multinational holding companies.  

For example, the Swatch Group owns: 

  • Swatch from the consumer group;
  • Hamilton and Tissot from the enthusiast group;
  • Longines and Rado from the quasi-luxury group;
  • Omega from the luxury group; and 
  • Breguet, Blancpain and Glashütte Original from the high-end luxury group.

The Richemont Group owns: 

  • Baume & Mercier and Montblanc from the entry-level luxury group;
  • IWC from the luxury group;
  • Cartier, Jaeger-LeCoultre and Officine Panerai from the high-end luxury group; and
  • Piaget and Vacheron Constantin from the ultra luxury group.

And LVMH owns: 

  • TAG Heuer from the quasi-luxury group;
  • Bvlgari from the luxury group; and
  • Hublot and Zenith from the high-end luxury group.

Also, Tudor is Rolex's lower-end brand and Orient is owned by Seiko. 

I'm sure there are other brand partnerships and joint ownerships out there. 

Watch Prices

You can buy a watch for almost price - from a $25 Casio to a $250,000 Hublot - and different people create different price-range buckets for watches. 

For example, A Blog to Watch has three: 

While ever-practical Reddit has buying guides for these six price ranges (and a separate guide for 'Ladies Watches'): 

I, too, am practical so I have three personalized buckets (each with its own Pinterest board, no less): 

The way I see it:  

  • In my 30s and 40s I'll only be able to justify buying watches that cost less than $1,000
  • In my 50s I'd like to be able to justify buying a watch that costs more than $1,000
  • And in my 60s I might just buy myself a watch that costs more than $5,000 

What Next?

So that was just the basics. There's a lot more to summarize but I'll try to do that over the next few months (though it'll probably take years since there's so much to learn).

Instead, let's move on to something more interesting: like actually buying a watch. That's what my next post will be about. 

New Gigabyte P34 Gaming Laptop

A few months ago I finally retired my three year old ThinkPad X201 Tablet PC and bought myself a fantastic new Gigabyte P34G laptop. This is from Gigabyte's high-end P Series gaming laptops and is a very impressive piece of tech. 

Fantastic Specs

The P34G weighs about as much as my old laptop did but has an excellent 14" 1920x1080p screen. That's a big step up from the X201's grainy-but-capacitive-touch 12.1" 1280x800px screen:

And while 1920x1080 is sometimes too high a resolution for this size of screen, the LCD panel itself is gorgeous and has excellent colour reproduction:

Importantly, the P34G is powerful. Mine is configured with an Intel Core i7-4700HQ processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M graphics card. In fact, it's more than twice as powerful as my old laptop:

It's also very thin so it fits really easily in my Crumpler Dry Red No. 5 backpack's slim laptop pocket:

The best part? It costs half of what the X201 did :)

But Some Corners Were Cut

To fit all that technical goodness into a low cost, thin-and-light package you have to make some sacrifices. Thus the P34G doesn't have the best build quality (mine already has a tiny cosmetic crack in the plastic keyboard housing) and a sub-par soundcard. Actually, the soundcard itself might be okay but it's not tweaked and configured to sound as good as it should. For an audiophile like me, this is a problem. However that problem is easily remedied by bypassing the laptop's on-board hardware and using an external USB soundcard. I now use the iBasso D-Zero DAC and headphone amp which is small, cheap, and easily transportable but still sounds really good. 

Still Worth It

On balance, though, this is a fantastic laptop and I am really happy I bought it. 

So, if you're in the market for a thin-and-light family laptop with an excellent screen and discrete graphics card, I would highly recommend the Gigabyte P34G. 

Save the Ferris

Wearing my 'Save Ferris' t-shirt

“Save the Ferris” he says, enunciating each word carefully, trying to sound less tipsy than he actually is. He belatedly ends his statement with a rising intonation, making it a question. He gestures helpfully at my t-shirt.

I'm tired and I like my happy-drunk people to have greater pop culture awareness. But we've only just crossed the eleventh floor and the lift isn't very fast (new hotel, old building) so I can’t pretend I haven’t heard him.

“It’s from a movie,” I say. “From the 80s. Called Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”

He looks confused. “Oh really?”

“It was quite popular in the 80s,” I add.

“Yeah man,” his friend chimes in, “haven’t you seen Ferris Boomer’s Day Off?”

I smile helpfully in their general direction.

He thinks for a minute but, just as he says “No,” the doors open and two more people walk in. We descend in silence for a while, but the newcomers are getting off at the mezzanine, so soon it’s just the three of us again.

“Save the Ferris,” he repeats. Once again adding the “the” that isn't actually printed on my t-shirt. He says it more thoughtfully this time – his brain cells working hard but still drawing a blank.

“You should watch it I say,” as we the doors open at the lobby, “it’s a fun movie.”

That’s apparently an excellent suggestion because he beams at me and says “I’ll do that,” and since this is goodbye, “Have a great night!”

“You too!” I respond enthusiastically. Then I buy a fruit cup and head back up to my room to finish the presentation I'm working on.

Just another night at the Gold Coast.

My Mother, the Women’s Rights Activist

When I was six I remember spending a few bored hours swinging on our front gate at our house in Lahore. I was there because my father spent those hours pacing anxiously up and down the driveway with my eight month old sister in his arms. It was years later I realized that this was the day that my mother, along with a few hundred other women from the Women’s Action Forum, had been arrested for staging a rally against our then-dictator General Zia-ul-Haq. Zia-ul-Haq was in the process of changing the country’s constitution by creating the Federal Shariat Court, a parallel court system that bypassed the Supreme Court. My mother, who had co-founded AGHS, the country’s first all-female law firm, had helped organize this rally. The police had tear gassed and baton-charged the protesters and had arrested dozens of them. That day, 12 February, is now celebrated as Pakistan Women’s Day. It also happens to be my mother’s birthday.

Shahla Zia at a protest rally in 2003

*start trigger warning about violence against women*

When I was thirteen my mother picked us up from school but, instead of taking us home, we drove for an hour and a half to the other side of Karachi where she had a meeting with some doctors and lawyers. We waited in the car outside the hospital for about an hour. On the way home she told us she’d gone there to see an eleven year old girl from a farming village who worked as a babysitter at her family’s land owner’s mansion. While there she has been raped, beaten, electrocuted, and held captive in a well. Aurat Foundation (AF), the non-profit my mother had co-founded a few years earlier in Lahore, was helping this girl and her family find shelter and legal representation.

My mother, by the way, was a constitutional lawyer and had previously been a criminal lawyer. When she was studying law in the 1970s she was one of six women in a law school of over two hundred men. She was the only woman in her graduating class.

Shahla Zia meeting with Nilofer Bakhtiar, President of the Women's Wing of the Pakistan Muslim League, in 2003.

When I was seventeen I dropped my mother off at her office for a meeting. She had established AF’s branch in Karachi and was now co-running its Islamabad branch. I was supposed to pick her up an hour later but, when I got there, there were a few police cars parked outside and an officer prevented me from going in but wouldn't tell me what was happening. I waited around anxiously for a bit but then went home and telephoned the office instead. My mother told me she’d call me once she was ready to head back, which turned out to be about four hours later.

They’d had a client at their office who had wanted to marry the wrong man; a man who was also of her own choosing. Her family had forbidden her from doing so but she and her now-husband had eloped. Her family had subsequently tracked her down and had made contact with her. She had sought help and had been referred to AF for legal advice. AF had negotiated with the family – who had said they wanted the client to come back home – so that afternoon they had organized a meeting between their client and two representatives from her family in order to discuss terms. However, before the two parties had met, one of the ‘representatives’ had slipped into the room down the hall where the client was waiting and had garrotted her. The murderer and associate had then then snuck out of the building without alerting anyone. From that day onwards there was always a security guard outside of my mother’s office.

*end trigger warning*

Shahla Zia at a panel in 2004

When I was nineteen my mother became a member of the National Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission was tasked with proposing amendments to the Muslim Family Laws Ordinance (1961). The committee held a two week long session in Islamabad when I was back home from college during the summer holidays and so, every day, I would drop and pick up my mother from the meeting venue. On the way home my mother would tell me about all the different ways in which the rights of women and minorities had been restricted by the law - and not just Pakistani law, but most of the legal systems around the world. It was quite an eye opener.

My mother, Shahla Zia, made a real, tangible difference to the lives of thousands, if not millions, of people in Pakistan – particularly women. Sadly, she died in March 2005 when she was only 58.

Mapping My Social Networks: Facebook, LinkedIn

Following on from my post on Immersion, the Gmail metadata mapping tool, I learnt of two other tools that map Facebook and LinkedIn metadata (i.e. your social graph). David Glance mentioned them in his article in the Conversation about the power of metadata ('Your social networks and the secret story of metadata').  

This is what my Facebook social graph looks like:  

What's cool about this network mapping is that, because people share a lot of information about themselves on Facebook and the tool knows who my friends-of-friends are, you can see one level deeper and find sub-networks within my broader social graph. Many of these are high school and university based sub-networks but some are also immediate-family groupings. 

The social graph that's probably cooler (and certainly prettier) is this one from LinkedIn Maps: 

This shows you that I'm connected to four major networks, one each for my two universities (LUMS and MBS) and one each for the two places I've worked at the longest here in Melbourne (Melbourne Water and Jetstar). 

And even though Jetstar and Melbourne Water are in completely different industries the kind of work I did (and am still doing) in both jobs is similar so the crossover space between their two clouds is where all my suppliers, vendors, and industry contacts are. 

One thing I've noted while doing all this mapping is the size of my network on each platform:  

  • Gmail contacts: 478 
  • LinkedIn connections: 505 
  • Facebook friends: 505 
  • Twitter followers: 776 

That's reasonably consistent and certainly above average for each of those social networks. I suppose that's a good thing. 

 

Immersion: Mapping My Email Networks

I've spent the last few days playing around with Immersion, a fabulous email network mapping project from MIT's Media Lab.  The project's creators describe this as "a people centric view of your email life" and what the tool basically does is create a network map of all your Gmail emails using the From, To, Cc, and Timestamp fields. 

Who Have I Been Emailing? 

You can can learn a lot from these maps. For example, here is what my email network looks like from April 2004 to July 2013. (I do actually have email from 1999 onwards in my Gmail account but, for whatever reason, Immersion only mapped my email from 2004 onwards. )

 

The person I emailed the most during this period was Nadia. After that, the network of people I emailed the most was my family. Obviously Nadia is also heavily connected via email to my family network. She is also connected with our Melbourne friends network and, to a smaller extent, my MBS (MBA) and LUMS (BSc) classmate networks.

The two other networks of people I emailed the most were my work colleagues at MBS and my other freelance jobs. 

Digging a Little Deeper

That's a high-level view but you can also divide this 2004 to 2013 date range into three distinct periods in my life.

The first is from 2004 to 2006, which is when I was living in Islamabad just before I came to Melbourne to do my MBA:  

Nadia and my family are obviously the largest nodes and network of nodes here, too. Aside from that, my LUMS classmates, my music projects (Corduroy and the F-10 1/2 project), and my other projects (earthquake relief) all have identifiable email networks of their own.

A couple on specific nodes are also interesting. Mosharraf, one of my seniors from LUMS and also a work colleague, is a connector of networks. And, on the upper right hand side, you can see my email correspondence with MBS starting to play a bigger role. 

The next period, from 2006 to 2008, is while I was doing my MBA at MBS: 

Here my MBS classmates network is a huge part of my emailing. That network also overlaps with the MBS staff network - from my emails to and from the Careers Centre team and my work colleagues from when I worked at MBS for a few months before graduating.  

Emails to my LUMS classmates have dropped of quite a bit, though I was still emailing Amanullah quite regularly. 

Finally, here is what my network looked like after I completed my MBA, that is from 2008 onwards:

Now a new network has popped up: my Melbourne friends outside of MBS. And, thanks to Facebook, I don't email my LUMS or MBS classmates as much as I used to.

That's really cool, isn't it? :) 

Summary Stats

Immersion also gives you a summary of your email stats, including who your top 'collaborators' are (and, if you want, you can also drill down further into your connections with each of these collaborators).

These are my overall stats and the stats for my two top collaborators: 

Yes, that's 20,879 emails with 194 collaborators over 9.3 years :)

My most active email sending years were 2007-2008, which was when I was doing my MBA. My most active email receiving years were 2010-2012 and I think those were because of Nadia, my family, my Melbourne friends, and various mailing lists. 

The group of people I email has stabilized over the last few years so the number of new collaborators I've been adding has dropped considerably. That's also because my Melbourne Water and Jetstar work emails aren't in Gmail so they're not counted here. 

Finally, the two people I collaborate most with are Nadia and my older sister Asha. I like that I've sent Nadia over a thousand emails, of which about two-thirds were sent just to her. Meanwhile I've sent Asha only 515 emails. Of those 137 were sent just to her, which makes sense because she's part of that big family network. 

So there you have it - my life in email.  

If you use Gmail you should check Immersion out yourself. It's fun to use and you can learn a lot about yourself and your email networks in the process. 

Explaining Introversion: Imagine You're Not Hungry

Much as I dislike the introversion-extraversion false dichotomy (which is the popular understanding of this ‘personality trait’) I do acknowledge that, given a set of circumstances, people tend to be either outgoing or reserved. [1]

Given this disclaimer, I would classify myself as being usually introverted.

Growing up with Extraverts

This was a bit of a challenge growing up because most of my family members are very extraverted and, at the time, I didn’t have the understanding or the language to express my discomfort with life in that outgoing and energetic household.

In fact I think the first time I read a good, easy-to-understand explanation of what it’s like to be an introvert was Jonathan Rauch’s famous ‘Caring for Your Introvert’ article in the Atlantic in 2003. (Sage Stossel’s 2006 interview with Rauch, ‘Introverts of the World, Unite!’, is a good, follow-up read, too.)

Since then the internet has been full of explanations from people about what their lives as introverts and extroverts is like. Most of these have been bad or, at best, misinformed and nauseatingly earnest (as people tend to be on Facebook).

Imagine You’re Not Hungry

So I was extremely pleased to read today on Reddit this excellent explanation about life as an introvert by bad_username (slightly copy-edited):

Imagine you're not hungry but every single person you meet during the day offers you a sandwich and it's rude to decline so you have to eat all of those sandwiches one by one. At the end of the day you are sick and tired of all the food. On the other hand you like good food and need it to survive. It's just you need less of it than most other people.

I really like that analogy and I think I’m going to use it from now on.

Crawl Under My Rock

My other go-to explanation for introversion comes from Gavin Lister, one of my MBA career coaches at Melbourne Business School back in 2006, who said something along the lines of:

While I am perfectly happy to attend a networking event or stand in front of you like this to deliver a lecture I will need to go home and crawl under my rock to recover from all this socializing.

That is a perfect description of what I’m like: I’m happy to go out to meet people and do things but, afterwards, I will need time to recharge and recover (usually in my cave). That, for those who are interested, is why I very much prefer doing almost little on the weekends.

ufZBiRC

Understanding Nerds

Fortunately life as an introvert isn’t too difficult for me now. Nadia who, as a huge extravert, gets recharged by meeting people (the horror!) really understands my need to be alone for extended periods of time (loosely correlated to how my day has been). More than that: she is happy to go out and meet her friends or even our friends on her own, leaving me at home to recharge. (Yes, she is awesome.)

I also have really good friends, many of whom are nerds like me and so understand very well the needs of other nerds.

So, overall, life right now is good. And today I have added another arrow to my introversion-explanation quiver.

--

[1] For the record my preferred personality classification tool is the Birkman Method.

My Bridge Authors

In the November 2012 episode of the ‘First Tuesday Book Club’ Jennifer Byrne and her guests discussed the ‘The Chrysalids’ by John Wyndham.

Author Monica McInerney had this to say about it:

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham was what I call my bridge book. It was my first book to read that wasn't Enid Blyton, Trixie Belden, you know, like children's books. And it was the book that introduced me to a whole world of adult fiction. So it was the one that I walked across into a big, wider world of books. [Read the full transcript on the ABC website]

To a certain extent ‘The Chrysalids’ was my bridge book, too.

However I took my first steps into the world of adult fiction with the help of a number of authors, including (in no particular order):

My proper love of adult fantasy fiction didn’t kick in till later. Not till I’d read things like the ‘Duncton Wood’ series by William Horwood and, of course, the J.R.R. Tolkien canon.

What These Authors Did For Me

Of all those books, I think the ones that really opened my mind were Wyndham’s ‘The Day of the Triffids’ and ‘The Chrysalids’. I suspect that’s because they were among the first adult-level first person narratives I’d read. And, as someone who has a younger sister, David and Petra’s relationship in ‘The Chrysalids’ was something I related very strongly to. 

The stories that inspired me the most were probably the Clarke and Asimov short stories. I both wanted to be and had a huge crush on Susan Calvin and was generally looking forward a world in which Multivac existed.

Finally, the books that got me thinking the most about people, society, and politics were the ones by McCaffrey, Christie, and MacLean. Also, I think the first few books I ever read in which people simply lived and worked in space – as opposed to went exploring in space – were McCaffrey’s.

Newer Bridges to Cross

In more recent years (the last fifteen or so) the latest literary “bridge” I’ve crossed has been into Young Adult (YA) fiction. And the authors that have led the charge in that crossing have (so far) been J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, and Philip Pullman.

What were your bridge books and who were your bridge authors?

I Buy Another Watch

Exciting news! I've bought myself another watch :)

This news is exciting because I love watches – not as pieces of jewellery, but as gadgets that tell the time. I always need/want to know what time it is and, as a result, have been wearing a wrist watch almost every day since the early 80s.

Why another watch?

Why buy a second watch when I already have a perfectly good watch that I love and wear all the time? 

Current vs New watch

Two reasons:

First, the watch I have right now is too thick to fit comfortably under the cuff of my work shirts. As you can see in the picture below, the watch on the left, which is my current watch, is much thicker (16mm) than the watch on the right (8.6mm), which is my new one.

Watch thickness comparison

Now, because my current watch is so thick, for the last year and a half, I have actually not been wearing it to work every day. I know! Crazy, right? Fortunately, I carry two smartphones with me all the time so, even though I’ve been without a watch at work, I have always been able to keep track of the time.

Second, well…let me put it this way: Where is the one place you can't use a smartphone to tell the time? In an airplane, of course – specifically during take-off and landing. And what company do I work for now? Oh, yes, an airline.

So what happened to me last month? I flew to Sydney for work and, for two extended periods of time (well, at least they felt like extended periods of time), I was chronologically disadvantaged because I'd had to turn my phones off and had forgotten to wear my bulky-but-still-functional watch to work that day.

What then?

Scarred by that experience, I decided to look for a nice, cheap, simple, and, importantly, thin watch that I could wear to work. Obviously, I was only going to look at Casio watches.

Unfortunately, there are no Casio outlets in Melbourne so I was stuck with the limited selection on display at Angus & Coote and Thomas Jewellers on Bourke Street in the CBD. Neither of them had what I wanted so I went to trusty old Amazon.com to see what I could find.

That was when I discovered that online retailers sell most Casio watches at about a third of the price that local brick-and-mortar retailers sell them at. Wow. I am never buying a watch from a local brick-and-mortar retailer again.

Anyway, here is my original short list from Amazon (my current watch is in the top left hand corner):

Watch choices

Yes, I get a little obsessive when it comes to buying gadgets. Especially those I’ll be using frequently for a number of years. Heck, I wouldn’t even be writing this blog post if I wasn’t that obsessed with this stuff!

Finally, after getting Nadia's preferences, I made my decision and placed my order. As it happens, Amazon ended up being just the front-end for this purchase because my actual order was placed with the appropriately named MrWatch.

A few days later, through the mysterious powers of FedEx, I had my new watch :) 

So, what did I get?

MTP-1309L-8BV_l

The watch I bought is a Casio MTP-1309L-8BV. (Yes, that’s quite a mouthful.)

It’s simple, good looking, and, fits very comfortably under the cuff of all my work shirts.

Of course, this is the first analogue watch I’ve had in years so using it to tell the time is taking a little getting used to. I can’t just take a quick peek at one part of it, for example. I have to look at the entire watch face before I can tell what time it is. Not that this difficult to do, of course. I’m just not used to doing it.

I am liking its leather strap, though. And I am enjoying the sight of the second hand as it spins around the clock face.

So, “yaay!” for my new watch and my ability to comfortably keep track of time while wearing a business shirt during take-off and landing. (Hmmm…my reason for getting this watch sounds a lot less impressive when you put it that way.)

More About Transport Maps: London & New York

Earlier this month, in a post about the upgrade of the Melbourne tram network map, I mentioned that I really loved the London Underground Tube map and the MTA New York Subway map.

Underground MTA logos

A lot has been written about these maps so I don’t have much to add but here some information are bunch of links about them that you might find interesting.

London Underground Tube Map

Let’s start with the Wikipedia entry for this map which summarises its origins:

The first diagrammatic map of the Underground was designed by Harry Beck in 1931. Beck was an Underground employee who realised that because the railway ran mostly underground, the physical locations of the stations were irrelevant to the traveller wanting to know how to get to one station from another - only the topology of the railway mattered.

...

To this end, he devised a simplified map, consisting of stations, straight line segments connecting them, and the River Thames; lines ran only vertically, horizontally, or on 45 degree diagonals. To make the map clearer and to emphasise connections, Beck differentiated between ordinary stations (marked with tick marks) and interchanges (marked with diamonds). The Underground was initially sceptical of his proposal - it was an uncommissioned spare-time project, and it was tentatively introduced to the public in a small pamphlet in 1933. It immediately became popular, and the Underground has used topological maps to illustrate the network ever since.

This is the map that started it all: It was a proper transport system infographic and not a route overlay (underlay?) drawn on top of a geographically accurate aboveground map.

Here’s what the map looks like today:

London tube map

You can read more about the Underground map on the BBC’s h2g2 website and can see images of it through its history on the Guardian’s website. There’s also more detail about it’s history (till 2002) here.

For something more awesome, check out:

Oh, and if you’re interested, you can get the actual, current map from here.

MTA New York Subway Map

Again, let’s start with the New York Subway’s Wikipedia entry which has this to say about its map:

The current official transit maps of the New York City Subway are based on a 1979 design by Michael Hertz Associates. The maps are not geographically accurate due to the complexity of the system (i.e. Manhattan being the smallest borough, but having the most lines), but are known to help tourists navigate the city, as major city streets are shown alongside the subway stations serving them. The newest edition of the subway map, which took effect on June 27, 2010, reflects the latest service changes and also makes Manhattan bigger and Staten Island smaller.

Part of the reason for the current incarnation is that earlier diagrams of the subway (the first being produced in 1958), while being more aesthetically pleasing, had the perception of being more geographically inaccurate than the diagrams today. The design of the subway map by Massimo Vignelli, published by the MTA between 1974 and 1979, has since become recognized in design circles as a modern classic; however, the MTA deemed the map was flawed due to its placement of geographical elements.

So New York is one of the few large cities whose subway map is more closely tied to its aboveground geography. In his 2006 New York Times article, ‘Win, Lose, Draw: The Great Subway Map Wars’, Alex Mindlin had this to say about why Vignelli’s simpler but geographically inaccurate map didn’t work:

Although designers love to discuss why Mr. Vignelli’s schematic map didn’t fly, no single theory has emerged. The graphic designer Michael Bierut, however, suggests that New York’s street grid was to blame.

“Londoners are actually unclear about how close one stop is to the next,” he said. “But a lot of Manhattanites could tell you authoritatively how long it would take to walk from Fifth and 28th to Seventh and 44th. So the geographic discrepancies in the Vignelli map, which are no more than those you find in lots of subway maps around the world — they’re just glaring.”

Bierut actually explained the problem with Vignelli’s map more thoroughly in his own article on this topic in 2004 (the 100th anniversary of the New York Subway system):

[Vignelli’s map] was a design solution of extraordinary beauty. Yet it quickly ran into problems. To make the map work graphically meant that a few geographic liberties had to be taken. What about, for instance, the fact that the Vignelli map represented Central Park as a square, when in fact it is three times as long as it is wide? If you're underground, of course, it doesn't matter: there simply aren't as many stops along Central Park as there are in midtown, so it requires less map space. But what if, for whatever reason, you wanted to get out at 59th Street and take a walk on a crisp fall evening? Imagine your surprise when you found yourself hiking for hours on a route that looked like it would take minutes on Vignelli's map.

Here’s what the map looks like today:

subway-web_click_May11

For more about the map’s history (as well as that of the the subway system itself), check these out:

Another good website on the New York City subway is, of course, nycsubway.org.

For something more awesome, though, check out:

Of course, if you’re interested in the actual, official, current subway map, you can get that from here.

Melbourne Maps

For more about Melbourne’s transport maps (both tram and train), check out these links:

Other Maps & Things

If you’ve reached the end are are still reading, here are some more good links to check out:

Photos from SlutWalk Melbourne

So today we took part in SlutWalk Melbourne (which I wrote about earlier).

The only half decent report on the Melbourne walk is here but I’m sure there will be others over the next few days. The really good accounts (i.e. the nuanced and non-snarky ones) will, inevitably, be published in blogs.

We started outside the State Library of Victoria on Swanston Street with a few speeches:

The one by Cody Smith was particularly inspirational though others made really good points as well, such as:

"It shouldn't be the responsibility of survivors to educate people about rape."

"It is not the responsibility of women to educate people on sexism"

"If you come from a position of privilege it should be your responsibility to educate yourself and your friends."

Lots of people were carrying awesome protest signs, like this one from James:

And this one from someone standing behind us:

After the speeches we walked down Swanston and Collins Streets to Parliament Gardens. Here are Scott, Nadia, James, and Andrew:

And here are me and Nadia once we got to the gardens:

If you’re curious about the “Hornet’s nest of revolutionary feminism” t-shirt I’m wearing, you can find out more about that on the Tiger Beatdown blog.

(Also, you can see a few more photos from this walk on my Flickr profile.)

Sadly, while the walk made an important statement, raised a lot of awareness, and was lots of fun to participate in, my cold didn’t react very well to two hour out in the cold so I got home a little worse for wear. I’ll definitely be sleeping in tomorrow!

A big thanks to the walk’s organizers and volunteers for making this happen; Samurai AV for the sound system; Victoria Police for coordinating our movement through the CBD; and everyone who turned up today (both in person and in spirit).

Here’s hoping this walk – and, indeed, this whole movement – has a genuine, long-term impact that reduces incidents of victim blaming and slut shaming. If nothing else, the walk has got us all talking about theses issues and that, in itself, is a good thing.

SlutWalk Melbourne is on 28 May 2010

In case you haven’t already heard, SlutWalk Melbourne is at 1:00 PM on 28 May 2010 in front of the State Library on Swanston Street in the CBD.

What’s it all About?

For a quick introduction, here’s what the Melbourne protest’s organizer, Clem Bastow, said about SlutWalk in The Age earlier this week:

The "SlutWalk" phenomenon began in January this year, when a group of Toronto women organised a protest following a local police officer's comments (to university students) that "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised".

The organisers' stance was simple: to call for an end to victim-blaming, the idea that victims of sexual assault or rape could somehow be blamed for their attackers' actions based upon what the victim was wearing or doing at the time. Was the victim dressed skimpily? Were they intoxicated? Did they have a large number of sexual partners? Yes? Oh well, that explains it then.

In addition, the walks protested against a culture of slut-shaming. As the founders put it, "Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault."

Why Attend?

Nadia wrote a really good blog post about the whole SlutWalk movement which mirrors my own feelings on this topic:

…If you get sexually assaulted, NOTHING you were wearing or were doing is going to be good enough. There will always be some moron going on about how you shouldn’t have gone there or done that or worn such-and-such or had a sexual or professional or intellectual history. The bottom line is that we live in a global society that believes femaleness is a fault and that if something happens to you, well then that’s just what you’re going to get if you insist on existing while female.

So yes, I’m going and I’d encourage anyone of any gender and any orientation who can attend to do so. Because this isn’t about one kind of woman or one kind of world view or even women as a group. Victim blaming and a culture that allows and even expects it are toxic for all of us, whoever we are and wherever we are. It is important then that, when handed the opportunity on a silver platter, we lend our voices to the protest against it.

I recommend you read the whole blog post and I, too, recommend that you attend at the protest walk.

Also, please don’t “slut up” or dress up for the walk. Women get abused, sexually assaulted, and, yes, called sluts regardless of what they do and what they wear. I think it’s important that people of all types, wearing all kinds of clothes attend the protest dressed as they normally would in order to highlight the diversity of people who are willing to stand up against victim blaming and slut shaming.

More Information

‘On Her Shoulders’ - International Women’s Day Documentary (UN Women Australia)

‘On Her Shoulders’ is a short documentary commissioned by UN Women Australia to commemorate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day.

The message to young women is: You might think you're equal but, mate, you're not.

You earn less, you earn less per hour, you earn less over your lifetime. You do a heap of unpaid work because somebody's got to do it.

You don’t run things, you don’t decide things…so don’t have the illusion that you’ve got choice.

Eva Cox

UN Women Australia commissioned a short documentary to be made to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day. 'On Her Shoulders' follows the history of International Women's Day and the struggles women have faced. In addition, it looks at what still needs to be achieved to ensure that gender equality can be fully realised.