On the Wrist- Seiko Recraft SNKN01

I’ve been itching for a cushion case watch for a few years now, but unable to justify $9,000 (USD) of scratch for a Panerai PAM00320. Luckily, Seiko brought out a handsome example with their Recraft collection and my lovely wife gifted me with one for Christmas.

IMG_0404I love my TAG, still lust after the Panerai, look fondly on Tissot, and may yet try to finagle a Montblanc Timewalker UTC into my collection, but let’s make one thing clear: Seiko is not a brand to dismiss. Sure, they may make too many models and/or variants, and keeping track of them all can be a mess. But amidst all that clutter are some real gems of innovation, a history of horological contribution including a long list of world firsts, and in-house movement manufacture. Even the Watch Snob regards Seiko well.

IMG_0409The cushion case makes listing the dimensions a bit awkward. The crystal covering the face is a conventional circle, and 38.5 mm in diameter. Because the case resembles a bulging square, I hope the rest of dimensions are adequately descriptive. The case (with crystal) is 11.6 mm thick, and measures 51mm diagonally. It is 50.2 mm from lug to lug, 42.1 mm across the “flats” of the case at their widest point, and 47.7 mm if you include the crown, which is 6mm in diameter. The leather strap is 24mm wide and 4mm thick.

IMG_0405

It’s a mechanical movement, so less accurate than quartz but a whole lot more interesting and fun. This is a watch you buy for love of gizmology. For the soft, rapid ticking like the titles of a 60 Minutes episode. My particular watch runs a bit fast- I’d guess it gains about a minute per week. It is also a “non-hacking” movement, which means the second hand keeps ticking away when you have the crown pulled out on its stem to adjust the time and it cannot be hacked to sync perfectly with an outside clock. The day-date function works well, and is set by pulling the crown out one click to its first position. Rotating the crown one direction advances the date, and the other direction advances the days, which can be set to either English or Spanish on my model. They alternate Sun-Dom-Mon-Lun-Tues-Mar-Wed-Mie, etc. Some models of Seiko apparently alternate day name and Roman numeral, which would have been cool but c’est la vie. It takes roughly three hours (from midnight to 3 am) for the day to transition through the alternate language and back to your setting of choice.

IMG_0408So what’s it like to wear? Not as heavy as I would have thought, considering how much bigger it was in person than I expected. Because of how large it is, and flat on the bottom, I have to ensure the strap is well tight or it has a tendency to roll toward my pinky. That stainless steel case can put a lot of painful pressure on my wrist bones if that happens! And speaking of making sure the strap is tight, remember when I listed it as 4mm thick? Yeah, this thing took about two solid weeks before it could start to be considered broken in. They didn’t chintz out on the bracelet and I really like that. The whole package feels very solid.

Looking at the details of the design, this definitely strikes me as a retro watch. It looks like something out of the late sixties or more likely early seventies. I like the indexes to mark the hours rather than numerals- they’re raised, cut very precisely, and polished. One detail I didn’t care for are the white boxes visible underneath the indexes at 6, 9, and 12, but I figure this is historically accurate to how it would have been made “back in the day” and it strikes me as charming now. As with my 5, I wish Seiko would find a more elegant solution than printing black text on the underside glass since it’s mostly redundant information, but it’s not the end of the world since one rarely tends to gaze at the back of a watch.

This particular model is currently selling for under $150 USD on Amazon, but there are other face and case color options, along with other bracelets, too. There are also other styles within the Recraft Series, all with a distinctly retro vibe. If you long for the era of feathered hair and Roger Moore as James Bond, I highly recommend them.

The Importance of Fact-Checking

We’ve all seen them, even if we don’t recognize them at first. A graphic espousing some ideology that we share on social media sites without fact-checking. It doesn’t matter what viewpoint they take, they’re almost always factually incorrect and this is a problem. We jokingly quote Abraham Lincoln as having said you can’t trust everything you read on the internet, but it seems like nobody has taken that to heart and the lack of fact-checking before sharing or re-posting these images damages credibility. If you don’t fact-check this item (typically because it suits one’s ideology) it becomes perfectly reasonable to suspect you’re wrong on other topics, as well.

Nowhere is this more damning or damaging to one’s credibility then a claim that is plainly falsifiable.

The problem is this info is almost 100% wrong.

The problem is this info is almost 100% wrong.

I’ve seen this graphic several times already, but the most recent encounter was from someone whose judgment I question, so I was prompted to fact-check it. This isn’t a political statement, this is purely because the numbers and claims are easily falsifiable. Some who like the message’s premise may protest “Statistics can be made to say anything you want”, but I argue that data cannot. This isn’t about shifting the representation of data, this is about pure numbers and the veracity of the claims. Here we go.

  • $450k is the salary of a SITTING president only. Their pension is less than $200k. There are only four surviving retired presidents. <$800,000 http://www.ipl.org/div/farq/pensionFARQ.html 
  • House and Senate members’ retirements fall under either CSRS or FERS, just like any other federal employee. In 2006, 413 retired members drew pensions. 290 earned ~$61k under CSRS, 123 averaged $36k under FERS. This totals $22,118,000 annually.
  • In 2010, a Congressional Budget Office estimated the average active duty military member receives $99,000 a year in benefits. (Includes medical, etc.)
    http://work.chron.com/average-salary-us-soldier-9060.html
  • In 2009, there were almost 1.4 million active duty military members. This doesn’t include National Guard, Reserve, or retirees (but does include Coast Guard). My calculator doesn’t have that many digits, but it’s about 1.385 BILLION dollars in active duty salary alone. $1,385,000,000.
  • In 2012, 1,944,049 military retirees drew over 52 BILLION dollars in retirement benefits. $52,000,000,000.
    http://actuary.defense.gov/Portals/15/Documents/statbook12.pdf
  • The average annual Social Security payment to seniors is actually $15,600. 38 million people will receive a monthly average of $1,294, for a total of 49 billion dollars A MONTH. In 2014, over 59 million Americans received almost $864,000,000,000.
    http://www.ssa.gov/news/press/basicfact.html

As an aside, being military pays better than the private sector. I’ve worked both and can verify this personally, but there’s data to back it up.
http://truth-out.org/archive/component/k2/item/88263:the-myth-of-low-military-pay

I understand the sentiment behind the post, I really do. But in reality, the numbers just don’t mean much. For one, they’re just plain wrong and outright lies. But secondly, the politician’s pensions (not salaries) are inconsequential next to the claims being made. If anything, this graphic is playing the “statistics game” by skewing the representation down to the micro level and then suggesting they would be a source of reasonable cuts at the macro level.

  • Total US military spending on salaries and benefits is 150 billion dollars. $150,000,000,000. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/43574
  • Total Social Security benefits received are 864 billion dollars. $864,000,000,000.
  • Combined, somewhere around 61 million Americans will receive this total of 1.014 trillion dollars of government spending. $1,014,000,000,000.

The combined totals of presidents’ and House/Senate members’ retirements is still less than 23 million per year. That is less than 0.0023% of what we spend on Social Security and our troops (past and present). Even if we did away with the politician’s retirements entirely and distributed as the graphic suggests, giving $23 million dollars to 61 million people only benefits them an additional 38 cents per year.

The graphic is factually incorrect, and if you actually run the numbers it’s just plain stupid.

Again, this isn’t a political statement. This is a plea for people to fact-check before sharing things on social media. I chose this example because it was in front of me, numbers are easy to run, and the actual data is publicly available, but a healthy dose of skepticism should be applied to any claim making the rounds on social media before sharing and being identified with it. Because another quote ascribed to Abe Lincoln (likely also not his) is, “Better to remain silent and thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.”

Sharing things that are untrue or just plain foolish makes one look like a fool by association. My name and reputation for honesty and accuracy matter to me as a personal brand. I want people to know that if I say something they can take it to the bank in every circumstance. It’s better to say “I don’t know” than give an answer based on wish-thinking, and better to speak a truth that hurts oneself than a comforting inclination. Because an untrue statement is like a crumbling brick in the structure of one’s credibility- a weak brick, depending on size and location, can bring a building tumbling down despite lots of other good, solid bricks. A building with a bad foundation is untrustworthy. So is a person that allows ideology and emotion to trump facts. I disconnect from repeat offenders, because if I can’t count on them to be honest, why associate them at all?

Don’t be a fool. Don’t be dismissible. Don’t share without fact-checking.

Retro 51 Tornado Refill Hack

If you’re a pen geek, and you do a search for “Retro 51 refill hack”, the best and only usable result you’ll find is for a Pilot Hi-Tec-C. While it’s a really good looking result, it simply involves too much work to get there. Cutting the refill down to the right size, then taping a false shoulder onto the refill at the right point to hold the spring because the diameter is too thin, and potentially having to do those steps multiple times? Ugh. Here’s what I did, instead.

Click on a photo for slideshow view and commentary, and remember that switching to a gel ink means writing on glossy paper will always be messier than an oil-based ballpoint.

I’ve settled on the Pilot Precise V5 RT. A quick note, if you do this you must make sure your Pilot Precise V5 has an RT suffix. The RT is what means it’s retractable. I say this for anyone who decides to order a bunch of these pens from an online retailer. I hope you find this useful!

Two Ears, Just One Mouth

I haven’t written here in a good long while now. Mostly because I’ve been learning everything I can. I started going back to school last semester with Arizona State University. They have a wonderful online program for entrepreneurship (rated #9 and #2 respectively for Bachelor’s and Graduate degrees in the nation by US News & World Report), so I’ve been busting my hump and made the Dean’s List carrying a 4.09 GPA. I’m enjoying it and even thinking I may continue on for a Master’s. ASU has a great support network for veterans through the Pat Tillman center that would help with that, and I’d hate to squander the opportunity. And I love that I’m getting a degree from a real university (regionally accredited) as opposed to some fly-by-night degree mill with dodgy accreditation. Being able to trust in the value and quality of my education is a wonderful feeling.

When I’m not studying required materials for school, I’ve been studying the stock market with Investopedia, or challenging myself and reading books that would have been way outside my scope before, like A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. I’ve opened up my first investment account that I manage and make trades from, and even been able to wrap my head around Hawking- he’s a wonderful educator and explains the concepts really well. I always try to read and learn as much as I can on a deployment, and this one has been particularly rewarding.

When I sat down to publish this brief entry, I didn’t even intend to write this much. All I really intended to share was this, a Hubble Deep Field image. This is the Ultra Deep Field from 2004, outdone by the eXtreme Deep Field in 2012. Not a picture of stars, but of 10,000 galaxies. Each of them made up of billions of stars. Each of those stars likely a sun to several planets. And the area pictured is “smaller than a 1mm x 1mm square of paper held at 1 meter away, roughly one thirteen-millionth of the total area of the sky“.

Click to enlarge. VERY large.

Click to enlarge. VERY large.

That’s awe inspiring. Trying to wrap one’s head around the immensity of scale is… humbling. And I think, “I have so much more to learn.”

My Grudging Admission of Harley’s Marketing Brilliance

To paraphrase Wes Siler, it’s no secret that I loathe cruisers because forward controls and ape-hangers are the antithesis of control, and chrome is gaudy. This is where I would normally launch into a rant about how “Harley sucks” because they’re the easiest target. But I have to give credit where credit is due, and their marketing machine knew exactly what they were doing when they introduced the Sportster Seventy-Two.

harley-davidson-sportster-seventy-two

Everything awful about cruisers, now available direct from the factory.

I liked the Forty-Eight from a design perspective and as a rider I came this close to buying an XR1200X, but I was appalled when the Seventy-Two was released. First, because the only good things to come out of the 1970s are Jaws and Star Wars. (If you believe otherwise, I assure you it’s just nostalgia talking. There’s a reason hipsters choose this decade to honor ironically.) But also because Harley-Davidson was finally starting to make some smarter-looking bikes, and in the case of the XR1200X a bike with decent handling and ergonomics. This abomination was an homage to the ugliest possible decade and a huge step backward in handling. The slight warming of my heart to the Motor Company was instantly quenched.

But Harley-Davidson is a company that sells lifestyle and image more than motorcycles, and they understand this very well. So well, in fact, that they saw a youth market where I never would have imagined one as a rider. Harley-Davidson is calling all hipsters. I’m more than a little embarrassed I didn’t realize this until now, because it makes all the sense in the world. The only problem Harley has is that they’re too mainstream. Otherwise, their faux cultures of nonconformity and being trapped in the past (ironically or not) are a perfect fit for each other. In fact, the only way in which Harley may have misstepped is to make this ad just a little too blatant.

Now, as I’ve said before and continue to maintain, a Triumph is a better choice than a Harley in every way and this goes doubly so for hipster appeal. [For the record, I ride a BMW R1200R.] The Bonnevilles have retro appeal, are better bikes, and from a less mainstream brand. But hats off to Milwaukee for seeing the niche. They deserve to profit wildly from the foresight and execution. The only question is if hipsters will spend $11,000 on a new motorcycle when “Thrift Shop” was one of the biggest radio hits of the last year.

Three Motorcycles from Just One Marque

I’ve ruminated before on what bikes I’d have if I could only have three. I’ve written about what I’d own if I could have just one. But what if the goal was to buy three distinct motorcycles from just one manufacturer? I’ll think on this for a few days and write a more fully fleshed out essay once I’ve decided (and have more free time), but whose brand would you choose, dear reader?

If you read my blog, you know that Harley is a non-starter for me, just because there’s not enough diversity in their lineup. But who, then? Ducati? Triumph? BMW? Do I betray my love of European motorcycles and say Honda? (They’ve made a really strong showing in the past year.) If you had to be a brand loyalist, whose brand do you choose?

Big Mysterious Goal

New Year’s resolutions come and go. We all know this, and it’s become a trope to admit it. Last night, I stumbled into a way to motivate myself for several smaller goals for 2014 and I’m a bit nonplussed that such a simple mechanism hadn’t occurred to me sooner.

My Big Mysterious Goal is a reward.

Well, it’s a reward to myself, and a challenge, and a goal in and of itself. It’s an adventure. It’s going to be a source for lots of words spilled into my journal or here on this blog. It’s going to be difficult, and awful, and a story to tell, and…

It’s going to stay a secret for now.

Not that I’m swamped with readers, but I have plans of writing about my progress for at least six months- and who wants to know the end of a story at the beginning?! That removes all the drama of the big reveal. As agreed upon with my wife last night, I have to meet some smaller goals as prerequisites for the BMG, which I hope to reveal around June.

My wife really only made one condition, that I drop thirty pounds by May 18th. I’ve gained far too much weight in the past few years and really only complained about it, but not done anything about it. This stops now. My BMG is going to require me to be more physically fit, both for ability and safety.

From there, I’m setting several other, smaller goals for myself. Some I’ll talk/write about and some I won’t for fear of tipping off my plan. For instance:

  • Come May 1st I plan on weening myself off of caffeine. For a coffee-holic like me, that won’t be easy.
  • I don’t just need to lose weight, but get more physically fit. I don’t have set standards I need to meet yet, but I’ll need to define some goals or the BMG is cancelled.
  • The BMG is going to require planning, and even training.
  • I need to read up on apps, photography, and GPS. EXIF data and geo-tagging will come into play.
  • To lose weight and get fit by my goal dates, I’ll probably start eating Paleo again. I’ll share my favorite recipes here, since I have a grossly underused Food & Drink category.
  • And yes, my motorcycle will probably come into play. Expect reviews on any gadgets or experiments I try.

2014 could be a banner year, but I really do have to stress that it’s all due to my wife. (And honey, I know you’ll read this, but it’s not just to get on your good side.) I’ve always thought it was hokey to say “I married my best friend” but I’ve learned it can, and probably should, be true. She encourages me, pushes me to be better, worries about my safety, and helps me. I just turned 35, I’m finally going to make a real effort toward accomplishing a “bucket list” item that I either couldn’t or likely wouldn’t without her.

Here’s to conquering the challenges set before us. Here’s to slaying dragons.