Tuesday, April 4, 2017

First Flight

It's been a while since I've written here informally. My last few posts have been "somewhat sporadically spaced" if you will (I'm all about that alliteration lyf) and they haven't been a particularly good representation of my day-to-day as they once may have been many moons ago. Hopefully, this post will spell a return to form but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Over the past year or so, my close friends and I were looking at new hobbies to try. There were talks of traveling beyond the Perth metro area as one proposal (if you could call that a hobby). Pharmacy school ensured that we were planted in Perth for most of our uni days and the notion of visiting landmarks around Australia piqued our interest.

Another hobby we talked about was programming, fueling our interest in technology and exploring our fascination of how it can make our lives not only more fun, but more productive too.

Finally there was the discussion of remote controlled devices which eventually led to the topic of drones. Initially I was hesitant to embrace flying a drone for a hobby, as I had the misconception that they were all really expensive and liable to fail at any time. I saw it as a thousand dollars (which in retrospect is a severe underestimate of how much drones can really cost!) way up in the air waiting to get rekt wrecked in some inconceivable way.

As amusing as it may seem now, the experience I gained from embarking on my first flight and the many horror threads on drone forums remind me that this "crash 'n burn" scenario is still very possible.

But I, like my friends, decided to invest in a cheap drone just to test the water first. And the water was surprisingly good. While my mini drone was nothing short of useless, my friend's "more-than-capable" drone was a pleasure to fly, despite my flipping it over and crashing it a few times.

We quickly concluded that the fabled "hover function" found in the uber expensive drones was going to be a valuable asset in order to compensate for our lack of flying prowess.

I am always amazed by high quality drone videos on YouTube and the footage my friend managed to capture when he flew his drone in a park was no exception. The view he obtained from above the tree-line with the distance visible and some lens flare was magnificently majestic mate.

I was so inspired after flying my friend's drone and watching the footage he produced that I did some more research and discovered that buying a great drone with many clever features (like the hover function and live camera feed) would not cost an organ or limb.

After months of researching (and saving), I bought the DJI Phantom 3 Standard drone with high hopes (pun intended) and enthusiasm that it would rekindle my passion for great photography, film-making and ultimately, storytelling.

I hope you enjoy my "First Flight".

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Choice and Travel

1: “They were two lovely choices. One of them meant giving up every chance of a decent life forever...and the other one scared me out of my mind.”
Frederik Pohl, Gateway
2: “He's in pain. I am, too. It strikes me that perhaps this is part of what we are fighting to choose. Which pain we feel.”
Ally Condie, Matched
3: “Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing.”
Laurie Buchanan
4: “What people have the capacity to choose, they have the ability to change.”
Madeleine Albright
5: “Our minds are information vacuums. Either we fill them with thoughts of our choosing or someone else will.”
Ray Davis

Choice - great asset and a key reactant for change
Choice can also cause pain, regardless of whatever we've chosen
Is there such thing as choice, or is it destiny's greatest illusion?

Choice is a powerful asset many take for granted, reducing them to simple decisions and short term goals. There was once a time in human history, and no doubt prevalent to some extent even in today's "modern" world, where the idea of choice and similar concepts such as freedom of speech and individuality were forbidden to common folk, but something reserved for the rich and powerful.

A country like Australia prides itself for its tolerance towards diversity of people and opinions. Freedom of speech and individuality are accepted notions in our community and some people have fully embraced their rights. People from other countries have not been so lucky.

North Korea immediately comes to mind. There's not much in the way of evidence that tells us about what happens there, but that's the very reason it sounds the alarm. There have been various accounts where people have been reduced to automatons, brainwashed from the outside world and numb to their own feelings and aspirations. Choices made by an all-powerful government without the democratic aspect a free people enjoy is the catalyst that locks away human potential, great achievements and a better tomorrow.

Ray Davis once said that our minds are information vacuums. Either we fill them with thoughts of our choosing or someone else will. One could only hope the authorities in North Korea take this quote to heart and realise the damage they have done to their own people, the people they are meant to serve and represent.

Choice can be harmful however. We are human, after all. We as humans, are susceptible to greed, desires for glory and power. We as human are fundamentally flawed. Despite being free to choose at our own will, damage can still occur. An example that comes to mind would be the USA's ongoing battle with its gun policy.

Its constitution permits ownership of a gun, underpinning its nature of a free country. It's this foundation however that is a possible cause for friction. We've seen it on the news - mass shootings around the country, prematurely ending the lives of people who carried so much potential. Gone.

Guns have changed so much since the American constitution was first unveiled. We have to ask ourselves if tradition outweighs human morality. In addition, is America's gun laws any better than the brainwashing of North Korean citizens, or perhaps that seen from Nazi Germany?

Choice is a sensitive topic and one that is so dependent on each individual. What is your intention? What do you choose to do with your life? It can be for good, but equally for evil. In light of this, would it be better not to have choice at all? Where do we draw the line? It's up to us to decide. Madeleine Albright once said "What people have the capacity to choose, have the ability to change".

We need to move beyond the concept of "me" and shift our focus to "us". It might be a crazy thought, maybe one that is overly ambitious. I want to conclude with one of my favorite quotes from Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple: "The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do".

1: “Travel is glamorous only in retrospect.”
Paul Theroux
2: “may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.”
E.E. Cummings
3: “I don't want to go to Peru."
How do you know? You've never been there."
I've never been to hell either and I'm pretty sure I don't want to go there.”
Richard Paul Evans, The Sunflower
4: “No matter where you are, you're always a bit on your own, always an outsider.”
Banana Yoshimoto, Goodbye Tsugumi
5: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

The burdens of traveling is not a topic people talk about regularly. On the contrary actually, travel is a source of adventurous stories, and a valuable learning experience. Everyone loves to listen about the exciting prospect of traveling to far away places and be in awe.

Paul Theroux once said "Travel is glamorous only in retrospect". These words reminded me of a time I went camping with a few friends at Wellington Dam not too far from the town of Collie. It was my first time camping without the aid of school arrangements and going into the experience was both daunting and exciting.

The beautiful sky at sunset, and how the water became perfectly still, as if it had transformed into solid glass - those were highlights. Glamorous would certainly not be an adjective I'd use to describe what followed, however. As the sun departed for the day and night set in, I realised I was in for a rough night.

Preparation is key in the world of camping. And preparation we did very inadequately. As the moon rose, and stars glistened like diamonds in the sky, the air's temperature dropped like a brick. Overlooking this, I did not pack anything more besides the hoodie I wore throughout the day.

Darkness reduced our vision and our measly torches were like candles in thick fog - useless.

It didn't help that we didn't bring anything resembling furniture, such as a table or chairs. Instead, we resorted to spending much time in the car we came in, and that became our shelter for the night.

Sleep? What sleep? The minuscule insulation that my clothing provided ensured that I got as little sleep as humanly possible - half an hour in total would be pushing the envelope. I was too busy shivering the whole time, hoping morning was come.

And finally it did. The air was still cold, cold enough to instill a fairly vigorous tremor in me. But the scenery that the sun brought light to, that was nothing short of gorgeous. Dream-like almost. Considering how little sleep I got the night before, maybe I was dreaming!

But the pictures don't lie, and I took many that morning with my camera. I look back fondly at the memories of that trip, and while "glamorous" doesn't sum it up quite as well as I would've liked, it's taught me a lot about preparation, not just for travel, but for life itself. It's an old, but true saying to hope for the best but to prepare for the worst.