Thursday, June 11, 2015

The New York Wheel: Myth or Reality

The New York Wheel is a 625-foot (190.5 m) tall giant Ferris Wheel planned for construction in St. George, Staten Island. The wheel will have 36 passenger capsules, each carrying up to 40 passengers, and a total maximum capacity of 1,440 people per ride. Up to 30,000 passengers per day and about 4.5 million per year are expected to ride what is said to be the largest Ferris Wheel in the United States, and one of the largest in the world. A single ride is expected to last about 38 minutes.

The official New York Wheel website states that “The Wheel is expected to begin construction in First Quarter, 2015”, with “a target opening date of early 2017.” As of this post, we are fast approaching the third quarter, 2015, and as far as I can ascertain construction has yet to begin on the proposed site. 

The have been many engineering and architectural renderings depicting the views from the top of the New York Wheel, with the above image being just one of many. Will the New York Wheel even get built? I certainly hope so. I for one would be more than happy to line up for an opportunity to enjoy a unique view of New York harbor, the Manhattan skyline, and Staten Island itself. Apart from the architectural renderings, it is hard to image what an actual ride on the Wheel might be like. However, one enterprising drone operator has recorded a two minute film over the proposed site which seeks to give a realistic view from one of the massive passenger capsules.

The footage seems to have been recorded early one morning as the sun rises over Brooklyn, and one can see freighters entering New York harbor, a ferry entering the St George terminal, distant views of the Statue of Liberty, and of course the Manhattan skyline.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Push Back Against 'The Dying Of The Light'

It was the poet Dylan Thomas who wrote the famous couplet that concludes his poem, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, which many readers will be familiar with: 

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Readers may not be aware that while the poem starts with the same two lines, there is an additional line sandwiched between them, so that the first verse of the poem reads:

Do not go gentle into that good night, 
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Towards the end of a recent meeting with my financial advisor, the discussion turned from financial matters to grander themes including travel, attitudes to ageing, and making the most of the limited time retirees like myself may have left to us. Somewhere during that chat I talked about an attitude of mine I call, pushing back. That is, pushing back against the ageing process; pushing back against the fears, doubts and insecurities that often make us stay close to home, living what we think are safe, secure and contented lives away from the cut and thrust of the busy world around us. I also keep pushing back against the perception that it is a dangerous world ‘out there’; that no matter how careful we think we are being when we leave our homes, accidents, injuries and even death are lurking just around the next corner waiting to strike us down.

I should say at the outset that I am 66, single, and available… oh, wait…, sorry, that’s an article for a different website! Since my early retirement in 2007, I have embarked on four extended trips away from Australia, and good health willing, I will head off on another journey this year. All four trips have been undertaken as a solo traveller. That is, I travelled on my own. Travelling solo is something I have enjoyed doing for many years. I like the freedom it gives me to follow my own interests, to travel at my own pace, to stay out late and to sleep in even later if I so wish. 

Travelling solo is another way of pushing back. It forces me to rely on my own skills and abilities, to sort out my own mistakes, or problem solve and make adjustments to existing travel arrangements. When I headed off on my first round the world trip in 2008 (after more than 30 years), I made use of a travel agent, and have no regrets that I did. Again in 2010, I used a travel agent to book my main flights around the world, but booked internal flights and accommodations in America and Europe myself. By 2012—and again in 2014—I was ready to go completely solo. I myself researched, booked and organised flights, accommodations, travel insurance, and all other aspects of my trips.

As a solo traveller, taking responsibility for my own travel arrangements has given me the confidence to plan and undertake future journeys, secure in the knowledge that I have already displayed the skills, resourcefulness, self-reliance and self-belief to take care of myself under most circumstances.

During my trips I find other ways to push back. In 2010 I travelled by Greyhound Bus from New York City to New Orleans, a distance of around 2,170 kilometres (1,350 miles). Along the way I stopping in Philadelphia (to catch up with American cousins), and Raleigh, North Carolina (to catch up with expat Australian friends). For many people, travelling by bus in America is probably their last and cheapest option for getting from point A to point B.

I didn’t have to travel by bus, but I chose to do so for the adventure and the experience, for the challenge, for the need to break out of my comfort zone, and for the desire to push back against the fear of the unknown or the perceived dangers. I have written extensively about this bus trip already so I won’t repeat myself here, except to say that the whole trip passed without incident or accident, and that it has been one of the great lasting impressions from that visit to America.

Incentives for pushing back can come from fellow travellers who may be much older than we are. While travelling in Cambodia during 2011, I met a 77 year old German man travelling alone and thought, “Why not? More importantly I thought, “Why couldn’t that be me when I’m seventy-seven?”

I also met an elderly couple from Sri Lanka travelling in the company of their much younger nephew. We met as they were descending (and I was ascending), a steep, twisting, root and boulder covered path that led to a series of stone carvings known as Kbal Spean. Although the climb was only some 1500 metres in length, under the heat and humidity of the midday sun, it wasn’t long before I and everyone else I encountered, were covered with sweat and struggling for breath.

As I recall, the elderly man was 82 years of age, and his wife not much younger. Again I thought, “If they can do it, why can’t I?” Why not, indeed? As long as I am in reasonably good health, there is no logical reason that I can’t still be travelling when I am 77 or even 82 years of age. As long as I can continue to overcome those fears and doubts, I’m sure I will be travelling for a long time yet.

So, don’t give in to your fears and insecurities. Push back. Don’t give in to your aches and pains. Push back against them too. And push back against the idea that you are too old, too slow, or too […enter your excuse of choice here…].

Finally, while I don't normally pay much attention to horoscopes, on the morning of August 25, 2012, as I left New York City on yet another journey down the east coast of America, one of the city’s daily papers, amNewYork had this advice for Libran’s like myself: “Get ready for another great learning experience. If you don't try, you won't know whether or not you can. Go for it! You can always get back on the horse.” 

That is pretty good advice for anyone I reckon, so keep pushing back, and “Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Serendipitous Life


I was reflecting on the nature of serendipity today, and thought I might as well write about it here. But first here’s one dictionary explanation for the word serendipitous:

serendipitous |ˌsɛr(ə)nˈdɪpɪtəs|
adjective : occurring or discovered by chance in a happy or beneficial way: a serendipitous encounter. 

So what sparked this post today? I am about half way through reading What The Robin Knows, by Jon Young. Subtitled, How Birds Reveal the Secrets of The Natural World, the book is a fascinating examination of the many signs and clues that birds use in their everyday lives.
A lifelong birder, tracker, and naturalist, Jon Young is guided by three basic premises: the robin, junco, and other songbirds know everything important about their environment, be it backyard or forest; by tuning in to their vocalizations and behavior, we can acquire much of this wisdom for our own pleasure and benefit; and the birds’ companion calls and warning alarms are just as important as their songs.” Source: Amazon.com
The internet, is of course a perfect example of serendipity in action. By following hyperlinks, web users are led from page to page and site to site, following links, interests, hunches and clues that often lead users far and wide across the modern web to places they never expected to go. Such was my discovery of Jon Young and his books, of which What The Robin Knows is just one of many.

Today, while checking through my Facebook page, the image you below popped up on my personal feed. The image was posted on the Facebook page of the Presidio of San Francisco and shared by one of my favourite American authors, Rebecca Solnit. Here is the description provided by the Presido of San Francisco: 
This morning our wildlife ecologist managed to snap a picture of a rare sighting of a grey fox! The last record of a grey fox sighting in the Presidio was in 2004. The fox scrambled onto some branches along with a raven as a coyote prowled around a bush below. Thanks to Jon Young for the incredible picture!
Fox and Raven, by Jon Young
What? thought I. Jon Young? Surely, this must be the same Jon Young that I am currently reading. I immediately headed over to the Presidio’s website and searched for Young’s name, and sure enough, I discovered that Jon had recently completed a free ‘Bird Language Leaders Workshop’ for the Presidio.

Forget ’six degrees of separation’, sometimes only three or four degrees separate us from each other—if not fewer. It is interesting (and probably futile) to speculate whether I would have paid attention to the image if I had not already been reading Jon Young’s book. Interesting too, to wonder about the coincidences that bring these disparate threads together and connect them in ways that seem totally random and unexpected.

Certainly, if I had not ‘discovered’ the books of Rebecca Solnit a year or so ago, I would never have connected with her via Facebook. And if I had not been browsing through iBooks for titles of interest a few weeks ago, I would never have seen What The Robin Knows or discovered the work of Jon Young. It is even possible, if not likely, that given the constant stream of Facebook updates I might have missed Rebecca Solint’s post if I had not checked my page when I did, and therefore missed the reference to Jon Young, and so on and on, and on.

Coincidence? Serendipity? Chance? Dumb luck? Who knows? But since I am writing about Facebook, birds, and the serendipitous nature of life, I will leave you with a video that also turned up on my Facebook stream this week which features a murmuration of starlings. The video is from Paul Tomlinson and at six minutes in length is quite mesmerising and meditative. Enjoy.


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