The strangeness of Royal Park

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Great read.

Melbourne Circle: stories from the suburbs

What is Royal Park?

This hefty chunk of parkland, north of North Melbourne, west of Carlton, has an identity crisis. It’s been set aside for public use since the 1840s. But the public has never known what to do with it.

The great parks and gardens of London, Paris and New York have a clear place in their city’s psyche; everyone knows them, and if they don’t go there, at least they know what they are for. Not so Royal Park. It’s the poor cousin of the Botanical Gardens, a place we think we value (if we think of it at all) but we are unsure why.

Over the years it’s been a place for grazing, a wilderness, a car park, a military base, a zoo, emergency housing, the site of sports complexes and hospitals. It’s housed murderers, it’s been called a ‘slum’ and a ‘plague spot’, it’s been the scene of angry protests.

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The journalism grind is real.

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This is nothing new, but seeing as the topic has been a recurring theme all day long, so I’d figured I might as well put all of these together.

Firstly, via the Locked on Celtics podcast (21 Jul), by John Karalis and Jay King. These guys are two of my favourite Celtic writers, especially Jay in his early days with CelticsTown.

Little side story: John probably doesn’t remember this, but I reached out to him for advice on Twitter DM back in 2012, when I was starting out.

In his words: “It’s a lot of hard work but if you’re dedicated you will be fine.”

He wasn’t kidding about hard work. I’ve kept his words in mind throughout these years running The Pick and Roll, through all those long nights. Hard work, check. Dedicated, definitely check.

Jay on the other hand, offered some really good advice on what to expect, when I checked in with him prior to my first game under media credentials – always very thankful for that.

Back to the podcast. Jay was talking about how he got to where he is now with MassLive, and ended the tale with some advice:

“… that’s the really lucky story of how I got to where I am now. If you want advice, the only thing I’ll say is work don’t be afraid to write for free, you have to to get your name out there, write for blogs. Just build up your resume and keep working as hard as you can.”

John pretty much agreed, and expanded on the thought.

“I would say the same thing. Nowadays, there is such an advantage… This is a very competitive field, and covering sports has so many similarities to playing sports. Where it’s hyper-competitive, there are limited spots, there are millions of people who want to get those limited spots.

… If you’re listening, trying to start your career in this: Jay is absolutely right. work work work work work work. Do a lot of work. Write. Start a blog. Write for a blog. Ask to join a blog… get paid nothing. Or get paid a little bit – it’s easier when you’re younger, and you don’t know what it’s like to have money, so you can go and piece together a career, by writing for – three hours on one site, and two hours on another site, and three hours on another site. You get your name out there, and you learn. You submit your stuff to editors, they will make corrections, you look at what the corrections are, and then you do it.

… If you can understand that you don’t know everything, then you’re a pretty damn smart person. Because that allows you to take in suggestions, and work those into your professional life and the things that you do on a daily basis, and then you personally will become better, at whatever it is you do.”

Jay rounded it off with this:

“Opportunities are tough, tough tough tough tough in this business, but just keep working until you get it, and prepare yourself for the opportunity.”

Then, from Jalen Rose on the Jalen & Jacoby Show (20 July):

“And you know what gets lost amongst those that become successful? All the sacrifices and discipline that they had to endure, in order to get to that point.

Like people we joke a lot about this show, about us not doing any work, or things of that nature. But you don’t get to this point if you don’t decide to outwork people.”

See a recurring theme here?

I was shown this article later in the day, and Robert Silverman made perfect sense.

There are just too many people out there who love watching games and think that with a bit of luck and a lot of bootstrap-pulling they could become the next Bill Simmons or Zach Lowe or any number of guys who started out as mere bloggers and are now considered leading lights in the industry.

Writing takes discipline. It takes commitment. But even when you check the boxes, it isn’t as easy as that. You need to differentiate yourself by getting ahead of the average writer who doesn’t have a unique voice. You need to get lucky, you need to know people – pick two of three. But before all of that, the basic criteria comes down to this: plain hard work.

And this quote from Matt Moore (love the guy) just hit the spot, right there. Right up my alley.

Moore: Write. Write all the time. The best thing you can do to make yourself better is to write about as many things as possible. It helps with honing what you do, it helps with building an audience, and it helps with figuring what you do well and what you enjoy doing.

Maybe you don’t like doing play breakdowns but you love esoteric discussion. Maybe you’re not crazy about cap talk but you get really into X’s and O’s. And the only way to keep yourself as part of the discussion is to write. When I was supremely frustrated with my inability to get a gig in late 2009 (AFTER ONLY TWO YEARS WRITING!), Tom Ziller gave me some great advice. Quit whining and write. What you’re doing isn’t enough? Write more. Because that’s the only thing you can control.

I’ve always maintained that the only thing you can control in any situation is yourself. You can’t control the opportunities that happen, you can only make the best with what you have, and stay prepared for anything that comes by. What you get is proportional to what you invest – the harder you work, the more you’ll get out of it. Be it an improved voice, consistent writing, or simply an expanded audience, something will fall through.

Basically: never get discouraged. Keep grinding, until something good happens. If you don’t prove your worth, nothing is going to ever happen. Only by consistently proving your value, developing your voice, and expanding your network, do you have a shot at making something happen.

Yes, journalism is a grind. It’s tough to even get your foot in the door, and it takes a crazy amount of effort when you’re actually working. It’s exciting as hell, it’s never boring, and it does sap the life out of you. But if you’re ready to put your money where your mouth is, you do it.

Don’t get envious. Don’t get down. Get even.

 

Birthdays: keinday 2016

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Despite having just returned from a long vacation (technically), I still took the day off. I was pretty sure I could clear work up in time by Friday, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

First off, thanks to Alana and the folks at work for the shared birthday cake – yum.

Onwards to the actual day. Got up as usual, took the kids off to the daycare and did a U-turn back home, sauntering right back into bed. Bliss.

Post-nap: I finally managed to catch up with Andrew, after a seeming eternity – always good hanging loose and just talking about everything and anything.

My plan to meet Jack up for coffee however, fell apart. And so it came to be, that I spent the better part of three hours at Melbourne Central by myself. Sprawled on a couch outside Party World – reading. I was doing a GRR (Great Re-read, borrowed from WoT fandom) on Piers Anthony’s Adept series, and it just felt so good to read, listen to the songs in the background, and take a break, only to realise I could keep on reading. Simple pleasures of life.

Dinner was with Warren, and taking a walk down to Hisense for the Boomers game that night, and heading back home for a cake with the family. Stan’s interstate this year, so it’ll be the first in years that he’ll actually be absent from our annual celebration. It’s interesting to see Keilen actually enjoying this little tradition – the singing and clapping probably gets him a little more excited, and let’s not forget the cake. The kids were absolutely slavering, I learnt yesterday chocolate is their fatal weakness.

Let’s move on to some thoughts on the year, since the last keinday.

Work

You wouldn’t think someone in my field travels a lot, but I managed another overseas trip last year – this time, over to our headquarters at North Carolina. Absolute fun to be able to meet a lot of the guys up close and in person, and huge thanks to Jared for being such a good host throughout the trip.

Outside of that, work hasn’t been too exciting. There’s a slow but definite increase in responsibilities, but that’s basically happening to everyone in the team, so I’m not too fussed.

Final S/O obviously, to the wonderful people at work. From my manager Andy, to the team (Jared, Crystal, Ravi, Tyler), and everyone at the Melbourne office, but special thanks to my mates at the sales team who always make me feel like I’m part of the gang – cheers Mono, Simon, Pete, Greg & Gibbo. Looking forward to many more great days ahead!

The Pick and Roll

Let’s talk about my favourite distraction after work. Relativity and all that applies here – a year feels like three, in PnR metrics.

Compared to twelve months back, I think the biggest visible improvement has been in the strength of the team. We’ve gotten some really good people on board, in no particular order: Alanna, Warren, Luke, Lachy and Matt. Having committed, passionate folks who know their stuff and can handle their own without micro-management, allows us to take another step forward in broadening and improving the quality of our coverage. I’ll elaborate a little here, to give credit where it’s due; it’s things like Alanna and Lachy’s knowledge/commitment on women’s basketball, Warren’s expertise and ceaseless effort in research, interviews and constructing storylines for feature pieces, and Luke’s prolific (almost effortless) writing on multiple areas, and Matt’s solid contribution on the FIBA end of things, that’s made the site take a big step forward.

I’m not forgetting our veterans of course; Jayme’s taken it upon himself to do not only writing, but also video/GIFs and graphics, whilst Winston and Hayley have continued to put forth the consistent effort and quality that’s made these guys so important to AITNBA. Warren’s presence here has given us a different voice; having both news cycle coverage and feature pieces visibly enriches the site’s content.

Our multimedia skills have also grown since last year. Alistar used to be the only one who did video, but we now have multiple folks (Warren, Jayme, myself) who can do video, and Winston’s also picked up the basics of nabbing a GIF. Our video skills in turn, have translated into growth on the YouTube channel. It’s not just our writing, but our videos provide another outlet for people to know us – they are embedded into pieces from other sites (including Basketball Australia for example), that gives us added exposure.

How about Instagram? It was an abandoned project that Darrel started initially, but Hayley’s taken complete ownership and grown it from ground zero. We’re closing in on our thousandth follow this year, and it’s Hayley who’s curated the mix of Aussie hoop snaps and videos (not forgetting hashtagging) that’s allowed us to gain notice.

Obviously, not forgetting Damo and Stevo, who have continued to steer the helm together, our third year running. There’s something to be said about knowing the unquestioned commitment all of us have, and reassurance in the fact that we’re all in this journey together, no matter what. And for that, I’m thankful.

OU left when a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to join Fox Sports Australia presented itself. Ironically, I was the one who made the recommendation. His departure scuttled our coverage somewhat, but life is full of choices like that – you can’t be selfish and deny lifechanging moments like these, just because it doesn’t benefit your end of the scale. I’m glad I was able to pull the string and get him onto a dream career, something he’s thoroughly enjoying these days, for obvious reasons.

It’s a blessing that things have gone the way they have. My time this year has been severely curtailed; two working parents with two kids and no help, calls for a lot of juggling and mad scrambling, especially in the mornings and evenings. I’ve honestly only managed to keep doing what I’m doing at PnR without burning out, because I know for a fact that these guys can be counted on.

The past months have cleared my vision considerably too; I came to terms with the talent drain. The end goal is still for us to grow into our own as a legitimate, big-time media organisation, but I now see us also as a springboard to grow budding journalists, and extend our own network that way. It’s also sharpened my desire to only invest time and effort into grooming people who are committed to us in turn.

Enough of this, let’s move on. But I’m excited as always, to see what the next twelve months bring.

Life

Like I’ve mentioned earlier, life is more of a mad scramble these days. I like to think that we’ve adapted our routine decently, the only real downside being a lack of personal time. I do my best not to head out on weekdays, because I know how tough it is getting the kids to bed alone. Basically: things you have to be mindful of, when you’re one half of a team. That’s limited my time to catch up with friends very severely, but I guess it is what it is – this year’s just tough.

V has been a champ throughout, and the kids are well, kids. Elly’s still got her diva/princessy moments, but she’s a trooper most days, just a cheery little beam of sunshine. Lenny on the other hand, is a typical mule-headed wrecking ball most days, and a savant of street smarts sometimes. He hasn’t quite learnt to speak yet, and I’m really curious to find out what his ceiling is, to borrow a term from NBA sports talk.

Holidays

The big three-week “vacation” we had in Singapore, was a masterclass in understanding I didn’t belong in Singapore’s climate anymore. Humidity + heat? No thanks, I’ll pass. Lenny didn’t take things very well either – the poor boy was having a heat rash most days, and would only exist in comfort when an air-conditioned room presented itself.

V and I managed to sneak a sidetrip to Thailand in between. A week of enjoying ourselves as a couple, and forgetting about being parents for a bit. We really needed it. And huge, huge thanks to Marc once more, who’s taken it upon himself to show us so many hidden gems. His hospitality and warmth is undoubtedly the highlight of every Bangkok holiday  I’ve ever had.

The other thing I enjoyed during this trip to Singapore, were the seemingly endless conversations and meetups I had with all the friends who took time out. A big thank you to everyone! I’m obviously not doing the conversations any justice with these one-liners, but here we go.

This includes:

  • Endless suppers with LS, a great pool session, shopping, and what could likely be my biggest achievement in 2016 – successfully taught her to cycle (again). I’m pretty sure she’ll remember it for good this time.
  • My old mate ahlong, where no topic is ever off limits. Just a couple of old geezers having fun over murtabak, and yakking our heads off.
  • the HOTL3 folks: Adri, Andrew, Aloy and CL, YB – so good to see everyone again, kids and all. Especially Aloy, whom I’ve not met in years. Like, many years.
  • ex-Melbourne folks Honda, Benson, Steph, catching up over good food at Bedok 85
  • Kenneth at Yoshinoya for lunch – thank you for coming all the way down!
  • my buddy from the NS days, WJ who’s still valiantly grinding along the road of entrepeneurship, life and romance.
  • Brian, another pal whom I’ve got along with brilliantly since that fateful BBQ in East Coast, love our talks about life in general. He’s just one of those guys I can talk with and not have to worry about words being taken the wrong way.
  • my basketball folks (Alan, ZY, JH, YL, Victor, CL, even JW’s unexpected appearance). It seems like we ended up eating more than we did basketball.
  • Winston of the PnR gang, who got me back down to Chomp Chomp after countless years of absence. And yes, I got the satay I was aiming for a year ago.
  • QL, who managed to squeeze a quick catchup at a void deck, while disembowelling a late lunch of chicken rice, before rushing back home
  • basketball with my man TX, and getting my wedding album at long last!
  • good old “Uncle” Lester, who came by for dinner and even took us to the airport on D-Day. Always nua, but never fails to deliver.
  • breakfast with WY and Pat at their lovely home, along with little Gracie. Thanks for getting breakfast together, and spending the morning with us🙂
  • sporadic time with NZ, from basketball to the MRT to his place – just getting chats in whenever we can.
  • breakfast as usual with good old Nick – I love this guy.
  • catching up with my 1-Net guys: ZM, Alvin. Thanks for coming over, and especially to “breadpapa” ZM & “breadmama” XX for taking such good care of Elly at your place.
  • potluck at CT+Momo’s place with ZM, XX, Jack, Megane, Alvin. Riot with the kids trying their best to deep six themselves, with me as the only line of defense. Good seeing everyone again, and much thanks to CT/ZM/XX for helping with the kids especially on the way back🙂
  • my brother and ex-steward now turned master leatherworker Lawrence, who gave some solid nuggets of wisdom on selling.
  • SJ jie, who came down and had so much fun with Elly,
  • LK, the only one of several poly mates who turned up in the end. All the best for the big journey ahead!
  • Bedok 85 (again – I ate there thrice in two weeks) with Erwin, XQ, Meng, ahlong and Nick. So good to see my buddy XQ, and it’s unnerving how quickly he grasps the finer threads of conversation – never doubted the guy’s intelligence, but damn is he a smart bugger.
  • my trusty KTV mates (SC, HY but especially HJ, who came through in the clutch and sang with me twice!)
  • and not forgetting my old RCY mate SP, who hosted us at his house with his wonderful kids.
  • lastly: I’m glad I got to see little QQ! congratulations again to NZ+MS on their third little bundle of joy.
  • Thanks to all the folks who sent us off at the airport too: Lester, ZM, XX, Meng, Nick🙂 Really appreciate it!

Basketball

Abysmal failure. I’ve played on a few weekends, and twice in Singapore – that’s it. My shooting’s so bad, I could build the Three Little Pigs several mansions and have spare bricks to show for it. My stamina’s not as bad as I thought it’d be though – that’s a plus.

Gym

My crowning glory of 2016, obviously. And I’m really proud of what I’ve accomplished in half a year. I’ve written a crapload of words about this already, shall not go into excessive detail.

I went from 63kg and peaked at 72kg, before my trip. I then proceeded to lose 3kg by exercising minimally, and eating unhealthy, delicious food in an uncontrolled manner. Wait, what? I know right.

Anyway. I’m currently hanging at 69kg, and will slowly work my way back to the grand 70. the goal right now is to gain slow, gain muscle, and not get fat.

Personal

I haven’t been obviously aware of a perspective shift this year, but there’s the one mantra that I keep saying these days: managing expectations.

It’s all about setting expectations right, and making sure people aren’t disappointed/underwhelmed by what you’re promising. Communication is the key, and seriously, this applies to everything in life. The sooner you realise this, the better.

Presents

The brother dug through my wishlist and came up with a DVD box set for How I Met Your Mother, plus Liz Climo’s Lobster is the best medicine. Can’t complain!

Also got a bunch of Esprit T-shirts, courtesy of LS when I was in Singapore. Love my favourite shopper.

Cards

Elly made one at school, a yellow-hued, feathery-fronted creation that showcases an orange/black heart inside – my favourite colours, she says. At least I didn’t get a drawing of myself this time! I’m looking forward to next year’s card already.

And of course, there is the usual card, courtesy of LS. Late but never absent!

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“Yoz!

Was great having you back & around the last couple of weeks. Sorry your birthday card is late again Haha. Didn’t get around to doing it till now (your bday week) Hee! ^^

So glad to have you back! Got back my supper buddy, my swimming companion etc. It’s been a great 2 weeks span! Really had a great time catching up & doing all the various activities including cycling (albeit learning) Lolx.

Hope to see you again soon in Oct!

Counting down till the time comes… Till then Take Care!

Thank You for Always Being There❤

Have a Blessed & Joyous Bday”

 

WhatsApp

LS: Happy bday to my dearest Fren!!
Hope u gonna have an awesome day ahead^^ 😘

Nick: Happy Birthday Bro ^^ hehe go have a good day (o ̄∇ ̄o)♪

Stan: Happy birthday kor. Hope this year will be better than the last, and that the DSL will continue its streak🙂

SC: Have a great day ahead my fren. 🎂🎉🍾

Adri: Oh yes happy bdae to my jul babies 😘

Andrew: Happy birthday kein !

PR: Happy birthday, Kein!!! Stay fit and active!

ahlong: Happy 35th.. many happy returns..

NZ: Happy Keinday! Hope you had a good one! Didn’t get to hang out much with y when u were in SG. Sorry abt that.

Bill: Happy birthday brother

HJ: Happy Belated Birthday my fav K-partner!! :)) Hehe sorry this is late, kept meaning to message ytd but missed it still in the end 🙊  Hope you had a great one!

Facebook

Avi: Happy birthday my friend! God bless 🙂

Cousin Noelle: Happy birthday

Jim: Happy Birthday KM! I can’t believe you actually tried to slip this one by me. Like that would ever happen! Keep kickin’ ass and takin’ names Kein! You are the future!

Benny: Happy Birthday Lao Da !!!

Damo: Happy birthday mate!

Nash: Wish you many many happy returns of the day batman. Stay blessed

Lukas: Happy Birthday Kein Chua!

ZM: Happy Bird day Mr Kein

Estee: Happy birthday! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Jack: Happy Birthday!

Dad: 遲来的祝褔,兒子生日快乐,步步高升,心想事成 😙😙

Jas: Happy birthday IT guy!!!! Catch up soon drinks

Allanah: Happy Birthday Kein!

CP: Happy birthday!!

MS: Blessed birthday! Lovely photo!

Mum: 🎂 生口快樂!差点忘了!哈哈哈胡塗的娘

SJ jie: Happy birthday di! Woo hoo~ enjoy yourself!

Mono: Happy Birthday Keino! Have a cracking day 🙂

Kim: hey! your birthday was yesterday right? happy birthday!! :) sorry it’s late!

Slack

Damo: Birthday shout-out to @kein !🎂

Hayley: Happy birthday @kein!!!

Winston: You stealthy sonofagun. Happy birthday boss man 🎉🎉

Warren: Happy birthday!

Thanks to Ravi for the well-wishes over email too🙂 I didn’t forget you bro!

What’s ahead? I have no bloody idea, but I’m sure everything will turn out fine. After all, I’m the god of DSL (Dog Shit Luck aka 狗屎运) and fortune favours the bold. ONWARDS!

Yep, not a fan of iTunes at all.

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I’ve been a fan of Every Little Thing (ELT) since years ago, and started listening to them again over the past year.

There was one problem.

ELT doesn’t have their music on Google Play Music, which is where I have most of my music organised.

They do however, have a very extensive collection for sale on iTunes.

You can see where this is going.

“iTunes is a piece of s**t.”

That was my pet remark, back when I was setting up an iPhone 4 at work years ago. I disliked the thing with a passion, and felt that was the barrier to Apple products for me.

That was five years ago. I began my gradual shift to Apple over the past two years; starting with a Mac Mini, and moving on to an iPhone 5S, and then an iPad Air.

Despite my appreciation for OS X, iOS and various Apple products, my opinion on iTunes has not shifted. iTunes is more of a necessary evil than anything else, a bloated piece of antiquated software that stubbornly locks your phone down to a computer.

To be honest, the process of syncing an iPhone on multiple computers (without making the phone wipe itself) might be more trouble than it’s worth, and Apple likely prefers it that way.

Most of my important services are hosted on Google, and I maintain the same alignment even after shifting over to the iPhone. The platform neutrality of various Google services like Gmail, Calendar, and even Google Play Music has made the adjustment a great deal easier – I’m allowed to use the same cloud services, regardless of hardware and operating system.

How I worked around using iTunes on an iPhone

I really wanted to have my music on the phone though, and finally worked something out.

  1. I would purchase the music off iTunes
  2. Have it download on my Mac
  3. Upload the .m4a files onto Google Play Music. This works brilliantly, because the files are already tagged properly with the right ID3 metadata (album, singer, track etc), along with album art.
  4. Download the songs for offline listening onto my iPhone, via the Google Play Music app

Clunky, but works. Thanks, but no thanks, iTunes.

It might be inevitable, but I’m happy with the way things work now. The only Change I need right now, is this track from Every Little Thing.

From native to cloud: Life in the cloud age

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Back when I had my first computer, I used to spend a lot of time customising my desktop, to the exact way I liked it. After multiple rounds of OS reinstallation, I got tired of the routine, and eventually decided, that what I wanted was a consistent, replicable user experience.

Having experienced the early, clunkier days of the computer era, I’m really glad for the advances the internet age has presented. The sheer computing power of the internet and creative talents of so many enterprising individuals out there, has allowed me to gradually detach myself from the constraints of the computer, and rely on the browser instead.

This means a lot, because I’m able to do most of my daily work from most (if not all) computers, and not have to worry about having to reinstall the OS, and then fiddle around with a hundred different pieces of software on a new computer every single time it dies, just so I can get my work done. Move to a new computer, fire up the browser and life goes on.

For example:

  • Email: No need for Outlook/Thunderbird and the need to configure those damn email settings on a new computer all the time. Use Gmail for a consistent, device-independent interface that allows access to multiple mailboxes.
  • Image editing: Try PicMonkey (quick crop/caption/collage) or Pixlr, both are fantastic services. Pixlr is pure genius: it’s as as close as you can get to an online, free version of Photoshop.
  • Image compression: Web Resizer for easy resizing of JPEG files into web-friendly sizes.
  • Document view/edit: Google Drive is a handy replacement if you don’t have Microsoft Office ready.
  • Document storage: Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, the variety of cloud storage services out there are endless. Having a NAS in your local network is ideal (especially for large files), but offsite storage has its perks.
  • Audio editing: Online MP3 Cutter, as good as it gets.
  • Video editing: Haven’t bothered looking for an online alternative. Not sure if it’s a good idea to begin with, given the fact that videos are usually massive files.
  • Audio transcription: Transcribe is a very helpful tool. Upload the audio clip, and use the simple text interface to type. Handy audio controls, allow you to pause/rewind as needed.
  • Music: Have your music online, no need to store them locally and worry about losing it all. Sync music to your device as needed. Spotify, Google Play Music.

Obviously, two big caveats here.

  • You’re stuffed soon as the internet goes down. But hell, it beats losing all your crap the moment your computer dies.
  • Serious tasks that require heavy processing power or require large files, should still be done locally. This includes video editing, watching videos, programming.

Anchored to the desktop experience in a mobile age

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Is it weird that I still like using the desktop computer more than the phone?

Granted, I’m not a fan of sitting at my desk.

But smartphone apps just haven’t quite caught up to me yet. The screen size, the lack of a keyboard (lesser navigation controls) just make it less convenient, and take away from the user experience. It’s a handy substitute on the go, but that’s about all there is.

The tablet has been a middle ground, of sorts. I like my iPad Air for its comfortable screen size. It allows me to watch movies, TV series, anime, and even read manga away from my desk, giving me more of an untethered experience and freedom to laze wherever I prefer.

In saying that, when it comes to being productive, nothing beats having the feel of a keyboard at my fingertips. It would take so much more time to respond to an email (an antiquated communication channel), write a blog post, or edit an article on a mobile device.

Let’s not even start on advanced tasks like video editing, or doing stuff on social media. The controls afforded on the desktop browser, are just more extensive than the ones on a mobile app.

And there’s this annoying thing about Wi-Fi (dropouts, stability issues, channel congestion etc) that just bugs me. If I had a choice between an Ethernet connection and Wi-Fi, I would choose wired every single time. Call me old school, but the network engineer in me prefers stable connectivity every single time.

Things will likely change, and I might find myself completely removed from the desktop in years to come. It just isn’t quite there, right now.

Why cutting my own hair makes sense

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Haircuts are fun, but annoying.

Fun, because you get to create a different look for yourself every time.

Annoying, because it happens too bloody often. Assuming you’re not growing it out, maintenance usually happens at the 3-4 week mark.

It then comes down to making time out. The entire process is tedious at best.

  • Make an appointment with the stylist/barber (optional).
  • Travel. This means driving out.
  • Sit and wait for your turn.
  • Sit and wait to have your hair done, and make polite conversation.
  • Pay up.
  • Travel (again).

A mechanical, boring procedure. And hooray, you get to repeat the entire sequence again in about a month’s time! In a word, it’s inconvenient. I have to sacrifice weekend time to get this done, and it’s not something that can be ignored for long, before one starts looking unkempt.

My earlier years in Melbourne involved a steadfast willingness in ignoring the way I looked. I would wait five, even six weeks before I got a haircut each time, in a bid to put it off as long as possible.

When Simon suggested cutting my own hair last year, I was a little skeptical at the skill level involved. People actually make a living off this, could it be that easy? I might very well turn my own hair into a disaster zone, and end up shaving it all off.

I didn’t give up on the idea though. It got to the point where I told myself, fuck it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. In the worst possible circumstance, I would waste a bit of money on the clipper purchase, and a month or so of injured pride.

Getting started

And so I got started on the project. I got myself a Wahl Colour Pro (easy starting point), and watched some YouTube videos to get the hang of things. I also recruited my brother to the cause, because I wasn’t ready to cut my own hair right away – it was more of trying the DIY approach.

Given how low my expectations were, I was really surprised that our first session turned out decently enough. Granted, we were really cautious about it, and went slow.

It got a little easier as we got more reps, and it really helped that we would pass on feedback immediately if we needed something fixed. Depending on your relationship with the barber, it’s something that might feel awkward. After all, the barber is a fellow who has a finite amount of time, and is likely keen to move on to his next customer.

My brother and I on the other hand, were happy to spend as much time as we needed to get things right.

While we started off together cutting our hair every month or so, I gradually shortened my cycle to three weeks. It was around that time, when I began experimenting with cutting my hair myself – watching even more YouTube videos helped. Turns out, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be, so I continued doing it myself.

I then became the de facto barber in the house, and it stayed that way for a while, even when he moved out. He eventually got his own clippers earlier this year, for the same obvious reason: convenience.

Equipment

I got more equipment as we went along: some thinning scissors, a better pair of scissors (the one that came with the Colour Pro was rubbish), and a cape. Having a spray bottle also helps a lot.

Cleaning up is easy: just use the vacuum cleaner to suck it all up afterwards.

Approach

These days, I usually go with a high slope using number 3, then 2 on the sides and back. I also use a number 1 at the edges, and trim the top with either the straight shears or thinning shears, depending on how short/long or light/heavy I prefer it to be.

The hard part is getting to the back of the head without another mirror – I need to get that soonish, but it’s not a high priority item. My guesstimation is getting pretty good these days, so I usually finish 95% of the job and get V to look it over, then snip stray bits as needed.

Injuries

I’ve been relatively lucky on this front. I’ve been cutting my own hair for ten months now, and have only managed to snip myself twice – both times, when cutting someone else’s hair. Damn scissors are too sharp for their own good, but it’s all about being careful.

Benefits

Time

Instead of spending something like two hours outside, I take twenty minutes or so. At home.

Convenience

The process for getting a haircut used to go like this:

  • Random night: “Damn, I need a haircut.”
  • “Got to remember to drive out on Saturday or Sunday.”
  • Makes note on calendar.
  • Wait for appointed day to happen, drives out to the nearest barber.

These days, things are less complicated:

  • Random night: “Damn, I need a haircut.”
  • Walks into bathroom and starts haircut, finishes off with shower right after.

The same convenience applies to the kids as well. They obviously aren’t used to the thought of having someone unfamiliar handle a loud device that buzzes menacingly near their head, and being able to do it at home just makes things easier.

Can’t say I’m a world-class stylist, but no one’s pointing to their hair and laughing their heads off, so that’s a win in my books.

Cost saving

An average haircut used to cost anything from $16 to $20 for me. By cutting my own hair alone, I was saving that much every month. Add the fact that I was cutting my brother’s hair as well, and that effectively doubled the savings.

That’s not even counting the kids yet. The savings have already repaid the cost for my equipment.

Is DIY hair cutting for everyone?

Not necessarily.

If you:

  • like the experience of kicking back and letting someone else do it for you
  • are really particular about the way you want it to look
  • have someone who can do it your desired way consistently
  • do not mind the hassle of travel

Getting out to the barber/stylist is probably the way to go.

DIY hair cutting is a fun experiment, and in hindsight, a life skill. It doesn’t take much to pick the basics up, and is relatively low-risk. For me, it’s checked all the boxes, and made my life easier. #gamechanger