Six hundred thousand

I boarded the Flinders Street train heading back to the city at the end of another work week. Sitting right across my usual spot on the train was a young girl, no more than 7 or 8 years old. She was holding up her little toddler brother while her mother spooned what would appear to be the final teaspoonfuls of pumpkin puree into the little baby brother’s mouth.

Daughter was very chatty. The whole time, they were discussing a game that both were playing. It involved breeding dragons, hatching eggs and collecting dragoncash, treats, gems (after a bit of googling, I’m led to believe that the game in question is DragonVale).

On the topic of the resources that they’d stockpiled so far, daughter mentioned that she had accumulated more than 600,000 treats and was consulting mother as to what she could best use it for.

Six hundred thousand.

This got me thinking. When I was her age, I didn’t have any tangible concept of enumeration beyond perhaps a thousand. Given, there was a vague awareness of millions, billions and gogolplexes (which likely only emerged in my consciousness when I was 11 or 12 years old), but even they were just words we used in bouts of “who can say the bigger number”. I doubt I could’ve strung number scales together (e.g. “hundred thousand”, “ten million”), and I certainly hadn’t painstakingly amass 600,000 of anything,  even till this day.

I wonder what such an awareness does to a person, and how it will go on to shape the way one goes on to interprets the world around.

The bigger you are

It had been a long week at work. End of sprint, we’d somehow managed to graft our contraption onto business’ operations without causing too much damage. It wasn’t without its hiccups but I’m led to believe that it was an overall win.

So I was looking forward to my usual 2.5km ride to the station, and my 40 odd minute journey in a metal can. Metro had other plans for me.

The train was stopped at the station – all the doors were opened, and people were emptying out the carriages and making their way to the bus stop.

There had been a train/car accident at Cheltenham station. The staff at the bus stop suggested I rode to the Moorabbin station since taking the bike on the bus would be a bit of a stretch. “You look like a good rider”, he said, probably referring to my very manly looking cycling tights.

So I tried to mirror the severe disappointment around me at Metro. Secretly, I was delighted at the opportunity to do something out of the norm. I powered up the GPS tracker on my phone and was on my way.

This, I had to capture – all 11km’s of it. It would make good conversation fodder for the weekend compared to my usual nerdy contributions.

Along the way, the road blocks set up by the police nearer to the scene of the accident hinted at the seriousness of the matter, but nothing prepared me for the swell at Moorabbin station.

Lots of other less fortunate people having a less than ideal start to their weekends. At that point, any sense of mine being predicament quickly vanished – I was having a ball by comparison.

These photos are a stark reminder of the fire that I play with on a daily basis. I engineer information systems for an high volume online retailer. Not quite the scale of a metropolitan train network, but analogous enough.

The fundamental goal of any large scale system is to harness the economics of scale to reduce waste and increase efficiency. But what many fail to understand is with any large-scale monolithic system, the stakes increase exponentially with the gains. Potential points of failure proliferate with every corner cut, and it only takes a few minute defects before the whole thing crumbles in a sorry heap.

Scale is a gallant champion, but makes for a horrendous and putrid failure.