6 Years in Australia

6 years. Yes, that’s right, it’s been six years since I came to Australia in April 2010. Looking back, it’s been an interesting journey so far, with lots of changes, yet some are still the same.

Why did I come?

Technically speaking, I came to Australia for my studies. But was that the only reason? Probably not. A key factor was that it was an easy way to get away from home. I also wanted to get away from work at that point as it wasn’t exciting anymore. So I think this seeking a new adventure and change was the main reason for my decision to move, and the opportunity to study paid for that chance.

What have I done?

So I ended up finishing my studies eventually (in about four and a half years) and got one tick for the whys above. But that’s only a small part of my time here.

Some of friends and family think that I’ve changed a lot, but others think I’m still the same person. I think both of those are true in a way. I think I’ve developed more as a person, with more passion to explore life and to be more carefree. In a way I’ve turned from a nerdy geek into a hippie geek (still a geek nevertheless).

I’ve also spent a fair amount of my time being on the road travelling, being a full-time activist, being unemployed for a while, and generally being silly. So that’s a fair bit of variation I guess.

What am I doing?

It started feeling like home within the first few years of being here. It’s not a bad thing, but that comfort is sometimes concerning. So I’ve been switching thing up a bit lately. I moved to Sydney a bit more than a year ago and the change has been interest to say the least.

I made a big switch in my career trajectory, and now working for a non-profit in a community services role. Don’t ask me why I’m doing this after studying engineering and IT, I don’t have a short answer for that. But it’s going great and the uncertainty is keeping me active.

On top of that I’m involved in some ‘brave’ experiments with couple of friends, making a band. Yes, that’s right a band that plays music. So that’s that.

Where am I going?

I think after 6 years in Australia, I’ve attained a temporal permanency as to how I see my life here. It’s exciting enough presently. And I’m looking for the next adventure to jump on.

Setup QUT Cloud Email

Everything is moving to cloud these days (ie 2012) and taking on the bandwagon QUT recently (ie 2014) migrated their research student emails (and soon staff emails) to the Microsoft Office 365 platform.

And as usual the guides on QUT websites seems to be confusing many users out there, so this is a very basic summary of settings you could use to set up access to QUT emails from your smart phone clients (Android, iOS, etc.)and other applications (Thunderbird, Linux, etc.).

First, there is a lot of confusion about the username. For anyone migrating to the new system, your new username will be different from your actual email (previously firstname.lastname@student.qut.edu.au or now firstname.lastname@hdr.qut.edu.au). The username will be in the format of firstname.lastname@connect.qut.edu.au.

Second, there will be a temporary password while the migration is taking place which you need to activate here: https://connect.qut.edu.au/. And this will be different from your standard QUT Access password. However, once the migration is completed (expected to be from Monday 15 September, 2014), you will be using the standard QUT Access password with the @connect username as well.

Third, as for the server settings you can try using one of the following depending on what is required by your email application.

  1. Exchange ActiveSync setting
    • Server name: outlook.office365.com
    • Port: 995
    • Encryption method: SSL
    • Domain\Username: jon.smith@connect.qut.edu.au
    • If your client asks for Domain and Username in separate text boxes, leave the Domain box empty and type your full email address in the Username box.
  2. IMAP settingQUT IMAP Setting
    • Server name: outlook.office365.com
    • Port: 993
    • Encryption method: SSL
  3. SMTP settingQUT SMTP Setting
    • Server name: smtp.office365.com
    • Port: 587
    • Encryption method: TLS

The changes are still very current and a lot of information in this post might be changing in the near future. I’ll try my best to keep you updated. As always if you have any feedback let me know in the comments below.

P.S.: I am no longer affiliated with QUT, so I can’t test most of the settings personally. But I’ve tested them with a friend’s account and everything seems to be working. So if you have any issues, please let me know.

Thesis Acknowledgements

Today I submitted my PhD thesis for external examination. It’s been a long and at times daunting journey for the past three years and nine months. This would not have been possible without the support of many great individuals. As a note of appreciation, the following is from my thesis, Acknowledgements.

This thesis would not have been possible without the inspiration and support of a number of wonderful individuals — my thanks and appreciation to all of them for being part of this journey and making this thesis possible. I owe my deepest gratitude to my supervisors Professor Ed Dawson and Dr Jason Reid. Without their enthusiasm, encouragement, support and continuous optimism this thesis would hardly have been completed. I express my warmest gratitude to my associate supervisor Professor Robin Drogemuller.
His guidance into the world of building information modelling has been a valuable input for this thesis. I also want to express my gratitude to my colleague and my associate supervisor Dr Farzad Salim. He has made available his support in a number of ways, especially towards the completion of this thesis.

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions of Joerg Kiegeland who was instrumental in developing the demonstrator. His expertise in building information modelling and his commitment towards the project was a significant influence in shaping many of the concepts presented in this thesis. I would like to thank my friend and colleague Khalid Eisa for his frequent help and support.

I am forever thankful to my colleagues at the Airports of the Future project for their friendship and support, and for creating a cordial working environment. I thankfully acknowledge the contributions of Dr Paul Barnes in formulating a number of access control scenarios discussed in this thesis as well as for his insight into addressing real world problems. I would like to thank Dr Clinton Fookes and Dr Vikas Reddy for organising required resources and liaising with industry partners.
I would also like to thank Ruth White and Anne Krupa for taking care of all the administrative matters.

I am thankful to the Airports of the Future project for giving access and valuable insight into the airport world that has immensely influenced this research. I would like to show my appreciation to all our project partners for sharing their expertise and experiences, and for providing valuable feedback throughout this research. I acknowledge the contributions from the Brisbane Airport Corporation and its staff for making it possible to carry out this work based on their airport environment.

It is a pleasure to thank my friends at the Geeks’ House, Janaraj, Hajananth, Mayooran, Jatheeshan and Kesawan, for the wonderful times we shared, specially the Saturday night dinners. In addition, I would like to thank all my friends in Brisbane and Melbourne who gave me the necessary distractions from my research and made my stay in Australia memorable.

Finally, my deep and sincere gratitude to my family for their continuous and unparalleled love, help and support. I am grateful to my sister for always being there for me as a friend. I am forever indebted to my parents for giving me the opportunities and experiences that have made me who I am. They selflessly encouraged me to explore new directions in life and seek my own destiny. This journey would not have been possible if not for them, and I dedicate this milestone to them.

The 2013 Recap

It is almost 2014 and for me personally, there is a lot of uncertainty as for taking the next steps, lot of plans from last year still to be realised, and yet a lot more hope for the new year. The year 2013 was an entirely different year for me, with many new beginnings and few endings. So this is me just recapping the past twelve months of my life and contemplating what is onset for the next.

The New Year

It was the third new year for me in Australia and having spent the previous two years in Brisbane, I decided to go to Sydney for this time. The difference began from the very first day of the year with spending the New Year’s Eve with Couchsurfing friends in Sydney. It’s not just the spectacular fireworks that made that day special, but all new ‘friends’ from all over the world whom you have just met hours before and having a great time till dawn. It was just the beginning of the year of making friends.

The Friends

I’ve never been a social animal. I always had few friends around me, but making new friends is not something that comes easily to me. In 2013, I made a conscious decision to make new friends going out from my current circles. A random Couchsurfing meetup at New Farm park turned into a solid group of friends in Brisbane, especially during the first half of the year. These folks were based in Brisbane for a few months at least, not just a transient group of people common with Couchsurfing. I spent the fun part of my year with this group of friends, mostly travelling, exploring, and partying. I also got connected with another social meetup group, through which I made few good friends and met few ‘characters’. Overall, these experiences enabled me to slightly redefine social persona (at least I guess so.).

Couchsurfing Friends 2013
With Couchsurfing Friends at Byron Bay lighthouse (February 2013).

The Thesis

The year 2013 should have been the year for completing my studies, but as with any normal PhD student procrastination took over and extensions followed. However by the end of the year I’ve almost reached the final stage of my candidature. I think I would have spent more days (aka nights) at university than at home this year. I started working more in my alternative hours, where I would come to office at 9pm and leave at 9am. There was a mix of Avicii, Beethoven and Chopin that became my writing playlist during these days. I was able to finish writing my thesis towards the end of the year and managed to do my final defence seminar with no major arrows thrown at. It in no way the end year, but at least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

The Artist

The best way to procrastinating is letting the artist in me to do silly things, and it helps keeping me sane. I didn’t do any personal project this year apart from finishing off couple of short sketches shot last year. The few scripts I started working on are still in drafts, and I’m not planning on proceeding with any of those in near future. The main thing in terms of my creative side was my involvement with a YouTube channel for a health coach in Brisbane. This was a regular project where I shot, edited and directed weekly and later fortnightly videos for YouTube. This in some ways compensated for me not doing any personal videos, and it also helped keeping sharp with my editing skills. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more personal projects next year.

The Beginnings

One of the most satisfying experiences this year was spending time volunteering with the Australian Red Cross. It was mostly with migration support services for clients who are recent migrants and asylum seekers. The engagement with a range of clients through these programs gave the sense of doing something useful. The insight from this volunteering experience motivated me to be more socially active for many related causes. In no way I’m an activist, but being part of grassroot movements for social change has shaped my views on many social issues. These beginnings are ongoing any I expect to have a greater engagement with these organisations and causes in years to come.

The Endings

With some new beginning, 2013 also marks few endings in my journey. I decided to drop my regular engagement with the community radio program to avoid the internal backlash, and towards the end of the year I said final goodbye to our listeners on air along with my co-host. The leaving was not pleasant, but this experience has taught me to be wary leaders with a false persona and hidden agendas. It seems like I’ve stopped blogging and vlogging all together. There were few random posts from previous drafts, but it’s not what I want and hopefully it’s something I can catch up on next year.

The Next

I rarely have my life figured out and it’s the same this time. I don’t have much as for plans for next year apart from finishing my studies, graduating, and continuing with things I’ve started in 2013.
The one thing I want to do is a bit more travelling. Even though there was a bit of travelling in the first part of this year, I haven’t done much travelling lately. So possibly a motorcycle journey around Australia, or even few interstate trips through country towns is in my list. I managed to dodge the bullet on relationships and marriage this year, and hopefully I can do the same for few more years to come. Apart from that I have no major plans for 2014 and it just about going with the flow as always.

Happy New Year

How to make watalappan in a microwave?

Watalappan (or wattilappam or vattilappam) is a popular in Sri Lankan desert seemingly with a Malay in origin. It is more like a custard or pudding made with “jaggery“, coconut milk and eggs as the main ingredients. Traditionally this is steam cooked and would normally take about 45 minutes to 1 hour to prepare.

Here is my take on the same recipe with a little twist where I cook it in a microwave, which takes about 5 minutes for preparation and 5-8 minutes of cooking time. This is a quick and easy recipe for a delicious dessert, even for a guy like me.

Watalappan - Made in a microwave

Ingredients:

  • 5 Eggs
  • 250 ml Coconut milk, thick
  • 250 g “Jaggery
  • 1 Cinnamon quill, broken
  • 1/4 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Ground cloves (Optional)
  • 1/4 tsp Grated nutmeg (Optional)
  • 1/4 tsp Ground cardamom seeds (Optional)
  • 1/4 tsp Vanilla extract (Optional)
  • Butter, to grease
  • Raisins and roasted cashew nuts, to serve

Directions:

  • Add the eggs to a bowl and whisk them well
  • Add “jaggery” and all the spices and mix them well
  • Add the mixture into a greased microwave-safe bowl
  • Cook it in microwave covered for 5-8 minutes
  • Sprinkle some raisins and roasted cashew nuts
  • Let it cool before serving

Notes:

  • “Jaggery” is an unrefined sugar typically made from sugar cane or date palm sap and often used in Indian and Sri Lankan recipes. You can substitute it with grated dark palm sugar
  • Cooking time can vary on depending on the microwave power or amount of the mixture. I would suggest start at 5 minutes and increase by a minute each time while checking if it is cooked.