the story of a hug

In Boston a few years back, I was spending Thanksgiving Break with the a beautiful friend of mine. …

In Boston a few years back, I was spending Thanksgiving Break with the a beautiful friend of mine. Isn’t it amazing how all my friends are so beautiful? It really is (amazing). A beautiful good fortune of mine. Talking of good fortunes, here’s another one: my friend took me along to an eclectic Thanksgiving potluck dinner.

Yes, the evening was eclectic. The food spread and the people spread. Much like world music where the beats of Africa mingle with Jazz mingle with strands of Indian Classical mingle with the song of the Chinese Moon mingle with the sounds from Scandinavia … You get the picture.

Having filled my plate, I was sitting at the corner of a large table, having dinner with lots of lovely people. There was a man sitting at the other edge of the same corner. I did not know anyone there. Ditto was his case. So we shared a conversation as we ate.

He was not fluent with his English and I do not remember which country he was from. Ukraine maybe? I don’t know. Soon in the conversation it emerged that he is out of work and in a financially uncertain state. The worry, tension, loneliness he was going through was clearly apparent. It was not there in his facial expression, nor explicitly there in his voice, but it was there. Being a foreigner in USA myself, it was easy to feel. The combination of being a foreigner in USA and work being a question mark, results in tension hanging over the head like holly all the time. Or is it mistletoe?

While he shared his data, (where from, doing what), and I shared mine, what was apparent from his face was actually only gratitude. He was glad someone was talking to him and talking so nicely. He said so too. I have often received this gratitude when talking normally and humanly to people who are feeling unsure about their English. I have experienced it in conversations in India too.

In his effort to express that gratitude, the way he was looking at me, smiling at me – frankly it became somewhat discomforting. I looked away and tried to interest myself in the conversations at the rest of the table. But I knew fully well that he was not trying to flirt with me. It is just that when we are culturally somewhat misplaced, we end up behaving and expressing ourselves at times in a manner that seems awkward to the other person. I did return to him too, time to time.

Soon people had eaten up their food and everyone was standing around in the hall, at the gate to part, wishing each other goodbye, thanking each other for the evening. That man came out and gave a big hug to one of the hosts of the evening (much to the alarm of the man receiving the hug!).

I piled into the car with my friend, the host who had been hugged and a few others. Comments were laughingly exchanged about how craaazy, wierrrd that person was, who had hugged. What was he trying to do?!

I did not say anything.

I wish I had –
That man was very very scared. And he was lonely. Maybe he was filled with the dread of having to go back to spending time with his worries alone, as he was about to step out of the gathering. And he was grateful. Very grateful, for the oasis of togetherness that the evening had given him, in the desert of his loneliness. That is what he was conveying via his hug.

And I wanted to say –
It is perfectly ok, and natural, and human, (and wise) for a man to hug. There is absolutely nothing wierd about a man who hugs goodbye.

And it is perfectly ok, and natural, and human for a man to feel really really scared.

I am grateful that despite being alarmed the host received the hug gracefully.


a sweet encounter

The normal thing would be for him to come and go unnoticed, unacknowledged. This time I happened to be around, so I greeted him. …

The man who reads the electricity consumption meter came. The normal thing would be for him to come and go unnoticed, unacknowledged. This time I happened to be around, so I greeted him.

He was carrying a credit-card swiping kind of device in which he keyed in the meter reading. He then pressed a button and a print out of the consumption bill for previous month tongued out. I got quite impressed (and excited) to see such nifty technology deployed out here. Sometimes I am like that – getting excited at seemingly normal stuff.

No issue of mailing the bill to customer addresses. These devices get loaded with the bill data when the processing is done at the office and the new reading recorded in the device is downloaded to the servers when these people go back to the office.

So, (since I was excited), I asked the man if I could take a picture of his with the device giving out the bill. He said yes, but seemed hesitant. I took 2 pics of his. He looked even more hesitant and asked where I will put it. Will I put it in the newspaper? I said, “Oh no! I will put it on the internet. If you are uncomfortable about it, I will not”.

He shared with me his reason for being hesitant. I understood and said, “Oh ok. Then I won’t put it”.

“You can take a snap of mine when I come next month and put that one”, he said. We agreed on that and he left.

The Electricity Meter Reading Man

5 minutes later, he was back. “Madam, madam!”. I went out. He: “I will come tomorrow itself. I have some work here, you can take my snap tomorrow.” Amused at his eagerness, I smiled and said, “Ok, sure”.

Next day, there he was. All ready for the photo shoot. I took 2 photos. He wanted to know if he can see it on another computer after it is published. I said yes. He asked for the address. I said it will be generated only after I publish it. So we parted upon the agreement that he will get to see it next time he comes.

My momentary appreciation of the technology deployed had predictably worn off in a few minutes itself. However, it was just so sweet and endearing – his eagerness to fulfill my request and to see his photo published. He was eager yes, but there was a decorum about him. No expression of excitement.

So, I just have to share his photo with you – and I happily await sharing it with him next month.

Sweet simple human encounters. Simple connections to be grateful for.


Thank you for the ability to read

There have been many many times when I have explicitly (though silently) felt very thankful that I know how to read and write.

There have been many many times when I have explicitly (though silently) felt very thankful to my parents that I know how to read and write. Well let me say it now, before I move ahead –

Mummy, Papa, thank you very very much for providing me a (very) good basic school education. Mummy, thank you for those repeated visits to so many schools, trying to get me admitted mid-term, despite having to listen to the frustrated (almost insulting) responses of many principals. Thank you for the fact that despite the need to have me admitted to a school, you did not compromise on the basic quality, environment and values that the school exhibited via its teachers’ behaviors and other organizational practices. So when I was admitted, you took me out with no hesitation and no delay, when these basic standards were found to be lacking, despite the fact that it just further lengthened my at-home no-school status. Papa, thank you for providing the financial means for the sustained education. And of course, thank you to both of you for all the other regular logistic and every other kind of task that is required to keep the machinery running for the child to go to school everyday. I repeat, I have many many times felt very thankful and grateful that I know how to read and write, and each time, I have felt very thankful to you Mummy and Papa, for that.

And now, thank you to graduate school. For further teaching me how to read. Today I experienced the sublime pleasure of that “more advanced” level of reading. Right through the time while I was reading what I was reading, I was feeling thankful to graduate school. For even while I was enjoying what I was reading, a parallel thought and knowing was that this is being made possible due to having indirectly learned “how to read” in graduate school. A bit during masters and more during the two years of discontinued PhD.

Thank you. With my arms mentally raised to some unknown un-named undetermined force: Thank you for giving me the ability to read.

Browser Market Share

In this article, we see three different approaches to visualizing market share data, using web browser statistics over the last 10+ years. The data is from W3Schools.com based on their log files. Unfortunately, there is no data for the 1990s, the emergence of the Internet. A time very dear, significant and nostalgic for me (as would be for countless others I am sure). Else, you would have also seen the likes of Lynx and Mosaic too. Maybe W3Schools was not around then.Browser Market Share Visualization
Vis 1: Browser Market Share – Streamgraph variant (D3 & Inkscape)

The visualization looks somewhat similar to a bar chart, but is significantly different. Here Time is on the horizontal x-axis, and the varying thickness of the “bars” (or width of the stream) indicate the percentage of market share of each entity.

This is a variant of the Streamgraph / Theme River visualization technique. Normally, in this visualization technique the different entities are stacked over each other. I have deliberately kept them separate, treating each entity as a separate stream. This enables one to see the shifts in market share from one browser to another (highlighted via the blue arrows) more clearly.

Here are some observations from the visualization:

  • Internet Explorer is still around, but steadily loosing ground since the last 9 years.
  • Firefox has also been steadily loosing ground since mid 2009, but not as drastically as IE.
  • And now more than half of the web browsing is done using Chrome.
  • While all this is quite common knowledge, the small but steady user base of Opera for 10 years despite Chrome, is fascinating. (aside: My nephew is one of those loyal 1.6%.)
  • The distinct shift of market share from Netscape to Mozilla to Firefox is apparent. It is essentially about the same code base being made available in a new name. Here is the history of those early years.

More conventionally, this data could also have been visualized as a line chart.
browserline
Vis 2: Browser Market Share – Line Chart (Excel).

Here too the very complimentary rise and fall of IE vs Firefox and then the rise of Chrome vs the fall of Firefox (and IE) is clear. If you look carefully, the distinct shift of market shares in 2004 from Mozilla to Firefox is also apparent (highlighted via the red circle).

However, as is often the case with linear scales and considerable disparity in data, the smaller values are all pushed down and become unclear. Even otherwise, the individual trajectories of each entity is not as clear as Vis 1. The steady presence of Opera; the default Mac browser Safari; the change of hands between Netscape, AOL and Mozilla are not directly apparent, or even when Chrome came into the picture.

Considering that this is market share in percentages where all values add up to 100, a Stacked Area Chart nicely shows the part-whole relationship.
Browser Market Share - Stacked Area Chart
Vis 3: Browser Market Share – Stacked Graph (Tableau). Click image for interactive Tableau version.

The ordering of the entities on the stack is crucial. It significantly determines the inferences and impressions drawn from a Stacked Area Chart. The layout on the left is what the software created first by itself. The short-lived AOL is by itself on top. The tapering of IE is clear but even though Chrome is gaining space, it gives an impression as if it is declining because its border line (with green Firefox) is declining.

In the layout on the right, the entities are ordered in the same order as in Vis 1. Now the rise of Chrome is unambiguous. Also, the way Firefox takes off from Mozilla’s (purple) market share is clear. This was not apparent in the ordering on the left because Mozilla and Firefox were disconnected, one at the top of the stack, one at the bottom.

The small players do not get obliterated here as in a line chart. This seems to be a better option for analysis as the market share is clearly mapped to the scale. In contrast, in Vis 1 (the Streamgraph variant) the scale of 0-100% is not clear. In fact, in the Streamgraph variant where each entity is an independent stream, there is a band of 0-100% range for each entity – the maximum width any of the players can attain.

However, for telling the story of the evolution of browsers’ market share, Vis 1 seems more appropriate. The individual trajectories are clear. One can show the stream flow animated over time and introduce the relevant explanatory arrows and annotations in due course at appropriate junctures of the historical narrative. The metaphor of market share clout as a swelling or trickling stream is poetic. Animated Stacked chart emerging from left to right over time does not seem as intuitive.

What are your thoughts on the pros, cons, preferences of the options presented? What other appropriate ways of visualizing this data would you suggest?


Other related visualizations:

This visualization by Michael VanDaniker is very beautiful. However, by the author’s own admission it does not deliver much functional value. It was made primarily to demonstrate the use of the open source data visualization framework: Axiis. Click on the image for the full-interactive version. It is very nice.

bpc
This one is somewhat funky. It delivers almost 0 functional value, other than the small bar chart on the top left. The position of the browser-planets or the why the countries lie on an inner or outer orbit, seems totally arbitrary.

What I miss of USA

I miss the ubiquitous “Have a nice day”. I miss blackberries. I miss wearing raspberries like caps on my fingers. … … A beautiful land and people that I am glad I experienced…

I miss Panera Bread. I miss sitting on a particular seat in the university/N. Tryon Panera Bread, looking out of the glass wall during sunset or night, at the cars passing by, the sky and the trees.

us_expanse

I miss the wide open expanse. Often, too wide for practical convenience, but beautiful for the soul.

I miss sitting outside my home watching children play. Going to the mailbox and seeing teenagers hang-out out there. I used to live in a Black and Spanish neighborhood, so there were only Black children and a few Spanish ones. And as I write this, aside of all the missing, I am feeling the joyous freedom of using the matter-of-fact-no-racism-intended “Black”, rather than the pretentious “African-American”. I can do that because I am not in the US now. I was and am very glad that I lived in that neighborhood, in the midst of that life.

I miss being able to sit in that neighborhood, amongst trees. Tall straight trees – not scarce and not too close together.

I miss going for walks to Reedy Creek Park (in Charlotte), Willow Creek Park (in Iowa). I miss the park (Sue’s Garden) in the university campus.

I miss people smiling at each other, eyes connecting for a moment, as they walk past each other, at normal public places – grocery store and such like.

I miss the ubiquitous “Have a nice day” greeting. It used to irritate me quite a lot initially when things were not going well with me. Later I started genuinely liking it very much (even if things were not going well with me) and I would mostly say it in a very genuine manner. Not in a robotic programmed manner. I miss having the opportunity to say it now.

kale

I miss being able to talk to everyone in English, even the apartment maintenance guy or the window cleaner near Harris Teeter, or anybody else. This does not mean that I did not miss talking in Hindi and Bengali when I was there. I did. But there is mentally something very leveling and satisfying about being able to talk to everyone in my primary language of education and thought, which in India is still somewhat of an economic divide.

I miss blackberries. Luscious natural instant energy. I miss wearing raspberries like caps on my fingers and marveling at their texture. I miss kale. I miss the chicken salads of Panera Bread.

I miss Michael’s and the art supply stores.

y

I cherish the image of the constant change of colors – different flowers blooming at every stage of spring and summer, the riot of fall colors, the deep silent winters.

I miss the public libraries and the children’s books with its beautiful beautiful illustrations.

I miss older friends who were nearer and newer friends who are now far.

A beautiful land and people that I am glad I experienced…

sisters

What Are Your Needs? Explicit Self Communication

… Whereas if you take time to actually sit down and think about, okay for me, personally—and for my family—what is “enough?” … So I explicitly asked myself in a notebook: “What Are Your Needs?”

Explicit Self Communication

Some days back I carried out an exercise in explicit self-communication that was very satisfying.

What do I mean by explicit self-communication?

I write down an explicit (life) question in a notebook and then write the first answer that comes to me. If the answer does not seem to be coming from my authentic self, I just write exactly the same question again. Somewhat like The Little Prince who would not let go until you answered his question. Such an exercise has proven to be very very helpful to me a few times in the past too. Helpful in bringing clarity and comfort to my mind.

For example, the first time I think I communicated with myself in this manner was when I asked myself (and answered), explicitly in writing: “What is my deepest intent?” I do not remember exactly what I wrote first, but for the first few times I kept writing things that did not ring true to me. “To be happy” or “To contribute to society” quite possibly might have been some of them. So I kept repeating the question again and again to myself [in writing]. Finally what came out, as I pushed myself more and more, rang true. I knew completely that it was the true and complete answer (at least at that moment).

The answer that came out was this:

now i am in the middle of the forest

i want to call out to me

i don’t want to use the name the world has assigned to me

yet, i want to call out to me.

here in this forest
i am there somewhere
i can sense myself

yes, that is my deepest intent

to meet me
to embrace myself

yes
yes

I do not perform such an exercise very often (though I do tend to be in the need for mental clarity much more often! ). I do it only when it comes naturally to me to do so. If I do it deliberately, because it is a wise, sensible and effective thing to do and maybe it will help, it invariably fizzles out in no time.

The actual physical writing of the question and answer, in a notebook – I suppose I find it so helpful because:

– there is just so much we can hold in the RAM of our brains, in trying to fix our life problems only by thinking
– a physical act is very helpful, rather than just gallivanting inside the mind only. It gives the feeling that the answer is flowing from somewhere through me, through my arms, fingers and pen onto the paper.
– it gives a sense of conversation which is very satisfying in the end. It feels one has been heard, understood and guided. Heard, understood and guided by one’s own self! How wonderful is that!

While in the example that I cited above, I kept repeating the question to myself, often it is also a matter of accepting the first answer that comes. What is the best choice? We alone are the best judge. This is an exercise that is totally personal. There is no one else involved to say what is right or wrong. I suppose the best indicator of such an exercise is if ultimately it leaves one feeling comparatively much more peaceful and settled than before starting the exercise.

Such an exercise is invariably very friendly, filled with an environment of trust and support. It is almost always carried out due to some frustration, struggle etc., so those feelings are there in the environment of the exercise. But someone [me] is accepting those feelings. In general, it is not easy to accept my frustrations and struggles in a friendly, trusting, supporting manner, when I am trying to just deal with them in my mind. But turning to the notebook, for a conversation with myself, somehow changes the dynamics and atmosphere.

So that was about explicit self communication. A life tool which I have found to be immensely helpful many a times.

But the title of the article starts with:

What are your needs?

Some days back I carried out an exercise in explicit self-communication, where I asked myself, in writing, in a notebook: What are your needs?

The motivation for asking myself this question was because I was at a particular stage of life, at career crossroads. It brought its own generous share of the unknown. The second motivation was a wonderful interview I read. I quote the relevant passage of the interview below:


Pancho: … it’s finding out what is enough? Once you find what is enough in your life, then the rest is abundance. …

AC: … you have to set limits to have a surplus. Our culture does everything it can do to prevent us from defining what enough is in our lives. Because if we don’t set limits, then we always feel like we need more.

RW: Right.

AC: Actually abundance is created by limits. Most people don’t understand that. If you don’t have limits, you’ll never have abundance, because you’ll always need more. Whereas if you take time to actually sit down and think about, okay for me, personally—and for my family—what is “enough?” Once you can be clear about that, then anything you get beyond that, you don’t need. At that point, right then and there, it becomes more than enough—by definition. And when you have more than enough, it’s a surplus—and you can share that, which is wonderful. Right? It actually makes it quite clear.

RW: I’m guessing that “enough” isn’t some stringent kind of austerity, but includes, let’s say, happiness, some kind of meaningful feeling.

AC: Well, yes. I would say “enough” is some way to meet our fundamental human needs. And our fundamental human needs include community and belonging and beauty and spaces that bring us to life—and an engagement with the world that is responsible and healthy. All these things are fundamental human needs, not just “did I eat something today?”


So I explicitly asked myself in a notebook:

What Are Your Needs?

And this is the answer that flowed out –

  • a comfortable pleasing place to live
  • good food to eat
  • decent clothes to wear
  • conveyance
  • health
  • enthusiasm
  • a sense of belonging
  • fulfilling work to occupy my hands and mind
  • companionship. connection and interaction with people.
  • a feeling of having made some satisfying contribution
  • appreciation
  • color – means to travel and do things that bring color and music to my heart and life
  • security – an assurance that my needs will be fulfilled – that what i need will come to me
  • freedom – to do what my heart says, freedom to be myself
  • freedom – from resentment, self-doubt, what-will-he-say/think and other mindsets that prevent me from moving
  • a fulfilling exchange of love and respect with the people in my life
  • connection to nature
  • connection to an internal ठहराव

For the curious reader who does not know Hindi, the best way I can translate “connection to an internal ठहराव” is: a connection to an internal place of stability / an internal home.

Well so my intention is not really to share what my needs are with the world. I just shared this actual list here (and all the other examples here), because I feel authentic examples are important to this article. It is about a true communication from me to you. But they are merely examples, the actual content of which are merely incidentally relevant for the purposes of this article. Your needs dear reader, how you answer this or any other question to yourself, may be somewhat similar and may be in many ways very different. Explicit self-communication is totally about our own self.

My intention is to share this exercise that I did and the experience of it with you, because I found it very worthwhile. Kind of like, I ate a tasty nourishing mango – maybe you would like to eat one too? Or, there is this nice place I visited. Here is the travelogue. 🙂

It sure felt very good and satisfying when I finished writing, when I finished answering: “What are your needs?”. It felt full and complete. There is nothing that I wished to change. Over the course of my life, 2 weeks 2 months later, it might change, but at that moment it was full and complete. At that moment, it just made me feel so “ok” to have said out all my needs explicitly. Rather than live with that constant fuzzy grating sense of not-having and neediness, to know clearly, explicitly, what are my needs.

Here itself in a way was a completion of the exercise. A sense of satisfaction filled my chest as I looked at my writing in the book. The reward was received.

I think explicit self-communication in this manner gives this satisfaction because one expresses oneself freely to someone in a trusting environment and feels the assurance of having been understood. That is something we all seek. The specialty is, one expresses herself to her own self and feels understood by her own self. Now that sure is a nice place to be!

With this particular “What are your needs” exercise, I continued with three more stages, which were also very interesting, revealing and satisfying. I share those with you too.

Where Do I Stand?

After feeling nice and happy and satisfied with myself for some time, I got curious. So where do I stand with respect to each of these needs right now? So I typed it all in Excel, and marked out where I stand with each one of my needs. This is what I came up with.

Green indicates that I feel I do have that “thing”. The length of green indicates the extent to which I felt the need has been fulfilled, with a maximum length defined indicating 100% fulfillment. For example, at the time of exercise, I felt my need for decent clothes to wear had been completely fulfilled. Red indicates that I feel I do not have that “thing” in my life. The length of red indicates the extent of scarcity that I feel. How critical the scarcity is.

Once again, the benefit of marking out where I stand with respect to my needs, was clarity. Right here, in front of me, I could see clearly where my “problem points”, or actually, “scarcity points” were. The red lines and the very short green lines, but specially the red lines. It helped to have articulated it clearly, to get a clear picture for myself – what exactly needed to be addressed. Somehow just a clear awareness of a “problem” many a times sets the ball rolling and the solution seems to happen by itself.

Where Did I Stand?

Then I became curious again. I wanted to see where I felt I was, with respect to these needs, at a particular painful time in my past. A time that still troubled me.

I re-marked the list as per my present perception of where I was at that time in the past.

The result

Now, that is really really nice! Look at the difference, then and now (now meaning the time when I carried out this exercise).

ntnt

I did feel that I have come much further ahead in life (not just in years, but in self-growth) since that time of painful past, but to see it like this sure was a ratification for my own self and my journey. Something to keep on one’s work board as a reminder of one’s strengths and the gifts received from life. Like graduate students are suggested that they keep a copy of their acceptance letter on their work board for times when they are sinking in self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy.

It helps to remind our self that we have made progress.

What can I conceive? What can I receive?

This part was interesting because it revealed the subtle thoughts inside me linked with the fulfillment of my needs.

So of course I want all my needs to be fulfilled. I wanted to see everything in green. However, everything in green of the 100% length conceptually seemed too unreal and plastic. I started marking out each item – to what extent did I consider them to be possible, feasible.

As I did it, this stage held other meanings: What can I imagine/conceptualize is possible for me? What am I comfortable to receive and hold in me?

This was the result. I have marked out the length indicating 100% complete fulfillment for your clarity.

These questions – “What can I imagine/conceptualize is possible for me? What am I comfortable to receive and hold in me?” are significant. They are equivalent to the questions: “Are your doors open?” or in Hindi: “आंचल कितना फैला है?”

If I cannot even imagine something is possible for me, or if I do so with a lot of trepidation, chances are that that itself contributes tremendously from keeping it away. Like, if I cannot imagine coming 1st in class is at all possible for me, chances are almost 100% that I will not, even if I harbor wishful desires for it. So maybe the first thing about the fulfillment of a need – do you think it is at all possible for you? If so, to what extent?

The second: What am I comfortable to receive and hold in me? Our needs or desires being fulfilled has a lot to do with whether our heart and mind is open enough to receive it. When I think of receiving appreciation, if my heart sinks back with sadness, that is an indicator. It is a pointer to something that is there in my heart/mind which likely comes and stands in the way, so that even if appreciation is coming to me, I do not receive it fully. Maybe I feel almost embarrassed and uneasy about it, if someone appreciates me. That indicates something to be looked into a bit deeper.

That is what I felt was the value of this part of the exercise – to mark out what I could conceive was possible for each of my self-professed needs. While I negotiated the length of green against each item that “felt” correct, I became keenly aware of thoughts and feelings inside me which were determining the “correct” length.

Some of the thoughts were almost comical or ironic in a way. Some very revealing to me of my own personality and knots in my heart/mind. For example, I was unable to make the “sense of belonging” any longer because it seemed marking it any longer would mean I am agreeing to merge and sacrifice my individuality. A greater fulfillment of having a sense of belonging seemed to demand that I would have to sacrifice something that I strongly value and have worked hard to freely express. Whether one indeed has to make such a sacrifice for feeling a sense of belonging as a fact or not, is not the point here. That it is an avenue into one’s own thinking pattern, that is the point. The sense of a give and take with an underlying tension that arose while arriving at the extent of fulfillment that I was comfortable with, was interesting, revealing and of value.

This part of the exercise I feel is also valuable as an explicit declaration for one’s self – what can I realistically aim for, as per where I am right now. Later of course, one may update one’s aims. For example, if you earn Rs. 2000 per month right now, conceiving earning Rs. 10,000 may seem more feasible, and something that can be realistically worked towards, than straight-away conceiving earning Rs. 100,000 per month. From that perspective, a diagrammatic representation of seeing all one’s needs fulfilled, to the extent that one is comfortable with, makes for a nice pin-up for one’s vision board.

So I happened to eat a tasty nourishing mango dear reader. Maybe you would like to eat one too? Maybe you would like to ask yourself explicity: “What are my needs?” Or use this manner of explicit self-communication some time, to ask yourself whatever you need to.

With love …


Resume Visualization

A company asked me recently to send them my updated resume.

I enjoy data visualization. Also, I am now trying to simplify my life towards essentials.
So this is what I came up with –


Click on the image for the full hyper-linked PDF version.

I like it for the following reasons:

  • It is one page and elegant.
  • The main information contained in any resume (the education and employment history) is presented as a data visualization. The information is arranged in a manner which visually facilitates the easy assimilation of the information, apart from explicitly reading the text. There are specific reasons why I like this data visualization which I will discuss below.
  • There is room for customization [such as the interests and skills], to tailor the content as per the intended audience.
  • It seems to be more in line with my personality, specially compared to my earlier run-of-the-mill resume.

    Now, a bit more regarding the visualization.

    Various forms of resume visualizations are there on the internet today. Below are some thumbnails. Click on them for the full view of these and other examples.

    In comparison to whichever resume visualization that I have seen on the internet so far, and independent of them too – these are the specific reasons why I like the one that I cooked up:

    • Bereft of excessive visual stimuli, it follows the KISS principle. Thus the objective of a more effective communication does not lose out against the agenda to impress. Infact it is so simple that it may hardly seem like a data visualization, but it is. The layout in fact is essentially the same as the left side of the first thumbnail [if you click it and see its full view]. However, it seems to me that, being visually simpler and more in line with conventional writing of text, makes this layout easier to assimilate.
    • The spatial and color coded arrangement of information has the following impact
      • gaps in education or employment are highlighted
      • relative time spent at each engagement is more clearly apparent.
      • provides space to write about each engagement in keeping with the amount of time spent at that engagement. Thus it encourages one to keep things brief.
      • enables one to see simultaneous engagements. Normally these are listed separately in resumes.
    • Gaps in history and relative time spent in engagements are derived information from resumes that HR specially looks out for. I suppose people in HR become adept at mentally identifying these when they glance through resumes. Such a layout would facilitate things for them.
    • The information that the visualization highlights would be largely apparent even in smaller thumbnail-type versions. Two examples are given below.
    • Lastly, it is made using MS Excel. So anyone can make a similar one using any spreadsheet software. No special visualization tool is required.

    The layout can be tailored to specific individual trajectories and on the choices made of what one wants to highlight. Here are some possibilities:

    • Many people first finish their official education which is followed only by work life. In such a case, a long empty left column may be a waste of space. One can either then keep the learning and working entries in the same column, with different color coding, or use the learning [education] column to mention other professional trainings, certifications, workshops during one’s work life, that the individual may want to highlight.
    • Two ways come to mind for including awards and recognitions.
      • By including an icon [like a star] and relevant text, in the box of the relevant engagement. In this case however, there may not be enough space for mentioning the award/recognition completely, or against the correct year.
      • If learning and working are merged into one column, with different color coding, then space is available for a separate awards and recognition column.

    I offer this layout to you dear reader, in case you want to use in your own resume or in your organization.


  • florence nightingale: an inspiration for art

    In my last post, I shared with you this painting of mine and said that it took shape by itself as I let my hand move any which ways it felt like.

    Its a rather unusual shape for a tree, isn’t it? As it took shape, I realized it was a sub-conscious inspiration from Florence Nightingale.

    How so?

    Florence Nightingale was one of the pioneers of Data Visualization – of presenting statistics as images to make a point emphatically. She collected meticulous data on the cause of soldiers’ death during the Crimean War and created this visualization below. This was way back in 1854! Blue indicates death due to preventable causes, mainly lack of hygiene. Red indicates death due to wounds in war. Black indicates other causes such as accidents.


    This image taken from GuideStar International’s Blog.

    Thus via this data visualization she clearly showed that the majority of the deaths that were occurring seemingly due to war were actually totally preventable by practice of better hygiene. This made a persuasive impact on the British government of that time. It laid the foundation of incorporating hygiene as an intrinsic policy in hospitals. Here is a lovely short video on this topic, which tells us more about this somewhat less known aspect of Florence Nightingale.

    http://www.open.edu/openlearn/body-mind/health/health-sciences/the-joy-stats-the-lady-data-visualisation

    The painting above was made during the days when I was a student of Data Visualization at the university. Regarded as a classic and pioneering example of the efficacy of data visualization, this image of Florence Nightingale’s work came up often in stuff that I read and talks that I attended. Not surprising that it meandered into a painting one day.

    So what is the point of this post? It is this.

    The way art takes shape when I just let it flow – at times it feels divine. The myriad ways in which what I see and encounter in life has an impact on me is fascinating. The impact is many a times not in a manner and direction that one would conventionally expect. That itself makes life so much more richer.

    ~ vani murarka

    The Vocal Tribe Of Trees

    When I paint or draw I mostly just let my hand move any which way it wishes to go. It is a discovery for me to see what is emerging. That is what happened with this painting too.

    Once this painting was done, it seemed to me as if the tree, as a representative of the World-Wide Tribe of Trees is calling out and saying, “Hear me too! Hear me too!”

    Trees are very very vocal. Only, their language is the language of silence.

    Sitting quietly beside trees, one can’t miss their banter. Listening to them intently and softly with your eyes, is so so … There. There is no word for it. 🙂

    I love listening to trees. It nourishes my soul.

    Listening to the language of trees takes me to a different world. A world that is also very real and exists everywhere; outside me and inside me. A world which in its silence, holds profound comfort and wisdom.

    Listen, listen, O World. Listen to The Trees!

    ~ vani murarka

    a gift to myself

    There is a beautiful green meadow. Lush green rolling hills.

    A mountain stream is gurgling by. Crystal clear water. Interspersed here and there are stones on which the water rises and falls and makes beautiful music. The water is so lovingly sharp to touch and elixir to the throat.

    I am dancing, roaming on those hills, wearing a beautiful, very generously frilly white dress with large purple flowers.

    My arms are spread out, head raised. I fill my lungs and my being with the air that is alive. The breeze caresses my cheek, then runs away, like a rabbit. Then it gets naughty. Entering my dress from underneath, it fluffs up my dress and tickles my legs. I laugh out loud and push my dress down and then dance around.

    There, near the stream are soft yellow flowers. I sit beside them and gaze for long at the texture of their petals, caressing them with my eyes. The wind is playing music too. The clouds embrace the top of the hills.

    I lie on my back and look at the blue ceiling above. Infinite in expanse. Infinite in depth. Two small bird friends fly by chattering, high up above.

    My body is on the grass, my heart is in the sky and I am in every fiber of the hills, every blade of grass, the earth, the water, the stones, the flowers, the clouds, the birds, the air, the infinite expanse – dancing and invisible.

    ~ vani murarka