It's getting colder in the Northern Hemisphere, and that is a sign of fall, my friends... But in the Southern Hemisphere, from where I come several days ago, it's getting warmer and spring is on its way. So I decided…
Like any other discipline outside the normal, established scientific approach, astrology is often mistaken as a form of delusion or just a funny topic in a new agey conversation with your new neighbors. There is a lot of confusion regarding this topic, and, when it’s not pushed into the entertainment area as a daily horoscope in a magazine, it is discarded as a trustworthy and sound discipline. My personal experience with astrology is quite the opposite. For me, astrology proved over time to be one reliable model of reality. It also helped me identify and solve some of my inner problems I had during years. Using astrology was a tremendous leap in knowing and understanding people around me, it gave me a better understanding of events, situations and relations.
But I often found it difficult to share my astrological opinions with other people. The vast majority rejects astrology and, despite the credit they are showing to it when in difficult situations, most of the time they are not taking it very seriously. Well, that’s everybody’s choice and I’m not going to twist anybody’s arm in this regard. Everybody is free to believe or to not believe whatever one’s want. But for those of you who are curious about the nature and the advantages of astrology I will describe my experiences with it in this post. I will try to find a simple way to show how astrology can be understood and then I will outline a few areas in which an astrological analysis can bring benefits.
Today is the last day of my trip to New Zealand, my plane leaves tomorrow at noon, taking me on another 37 hours travel. It’s been one of the busiest and most exciting weeks in my life so far. There was so much information to ingest and process, and so much interaction to sustain. I can’t really claim that I processed all the information and I’m sure there will be weeks, maybe months in which this processing will continue. I think it’s a good time though to make a first round up of what I touched the most during this visit. It’s not gonna be complete, I’m sure, and it will only be a reflection of this moment, but it will help me organize my thoughts and maybe will help other people interested in living in New Zealand, or just visiting it.
The strongest sensation challenges when I arrived here were related to the senses of smelling, viewing and hearing. I don’t know the exact order, and I guess they must be somehow related, but the first thing you’ll notice is an unparalleled clarity of the air. It’s like the sun light is two times more powerful than anywhere else in the world – and in some respect it is, we’ll talk about later. There is a flow of light and a powerful shading contrast you will see even in the cloudiest day. That’s even more intense near the ocean, at the beaches or in the ferry, and I guess is because of the water reflections. You will have to wear sunglasses. Here more than anywhere else in the world, sunglasses are not a fancy accessory but a must have in order to protect your eyes from the unusual strong sun light. The other thing you must carry with you, especially during the summer, is the sunscreen lotion. It’s common to see people stopping on the street, taking out from their pockets or bags a sunscreen tube and rubbing their face and hands.
And this leads to the smelling area. People smell differently, but usually very nice. There are some exceptions, of course, but the main point is that the clear air makes so easy to pick up smells and most of the times those smells are nice. Everything has a smell here, and if it doesn’t, it will just smell like the ocean. Because the level of humidity is very high, the vegetation tends to be luxurious, and even the backyard grass of every house just grows almost by itself. You have to cut the backyard grass pretty often, and that makes for a steady – not very profitable, but steady – business for some people here. Along with the grass, in every part of the city – Auckland, that is – are spots filled with flowers which spread a delicate fragrance. The humidity in the atmosphere gives also some volume to the odor, and I surprised myself several times stopping in the middle of the road and just smelling the air. Maybe this sounds a little bit too enthusiastic, but believe me, there is a huge difference in this regard between Auckland and Bucharest. And on top of this, I haven’t had any moment at all the feeling of pollution in any way whatsoever, nor visually, auditory or by smell. The continuous wind that blows over the shores of those islands is acting like a non-stop cleaning agent.
And the third sensation challenged was related to the sense of hearing. All the noises have a different, usually higher, volume here. I noticed that in my first night, when the noise of the cars passing near my bead and breakfast accommodation was perceived closer than usual. I thought it was because of the flight and all, 37 hours of continuous traveling might affected my hearing somehow, but the next day we went to a reserve – a park – with a view to the ocean. At more than 500 meters from the beach there was a sailboat, and we clearly heard the noise made by the sail when it was hit by the wind. It was like the boat was 5 meters away from us. Pretty scary in the beginning, but you get used to it in a few days. Anyway, all the noises are more intense than usual, and, in combination with the stronger light and the abundance of the – usually nice – smells, this makes for a very intense sensorial experience.
Initially, this post was written during my first trip to New Zealand, September 2008. But since then I had several other long trips, including Switzerland, Thailand and Japan. Each of these trips added some value to the way I’m using my iPhone, so I felt the need to share what I’ve learned during those trips. You’ll easily find which application was used in which trip, but I guess the most important is to find some help and make your travels more enjoyable.
During my first trip to New Zealand, which is more than 20.000 km away from my country, Romania, I had the chance to use my iPhone as a travel companion. What follows is a compilation of what I tried, learned and used during that trip and the nex ones.
The first and one of the most important things about iPhone as a travel mate is the Maps application. Although I don’t have permanent internet access (I followed Apple’s advice about turning data roaming off, “to avoid substantial roaming charges…”) but I do have a decent WiFi access at my bed and breakfast facility here in Auckland. Every time I have to go to an area I don’t know yet, I open Maps and try to familiarize myself with the surroundings. I suppose that if I have data access everything would be even simpler, because I can just use the GPS facilities and find my way out in real time. But even without the GPS functionality, the Maps application is extremely useful. In the picture below you’ll see the very beach where I took the sunrise picture in the first post about the trip to New Zealand:
You can even see the tree under which I sat while I took the photo. I admit. sometimes this is spooky… But sometimes is just useful.
It’s my 3rd day in New Zealand and I finally found a little bit of time to blog about my impressions about this. First of all, this is what I call a “pulse taking” visit, in which I will try to incorporate as much information as I can about this country, while trying to understand at the emotional level how can I congruently vibrate with such an environment. The complete move, including my family and all the stuff I consider necessary to take with me will take place in 2-3 months. So I don’t have any specific goals for this visit, just trying to enjoy as much as I can.
I had around 22 hours of flight in order to get here from Bucharest, and after adding the checkin times and other amounts of time spent in airports between flights I come up with a total of 37 hours of traveling time. Quite a lot. I had to go to Vienna first from Bucharest, from there a I took a flight to Bangkok, Thailand, and then from Bangkok I took the last flight for Auckland New Zealand. The last 2 flights were around 9 hours each. The second was with Thai Airlines, my first flight with them, and I had to say that I was pleasantly surprised about the quality of services. From the way the plane was prepared and presented, to the steward’s care for the passengers, everything was nice and easy. I even got a bunch of salads for dinner after I told to a steward that I am trying to keep a raw food diet, and I won’t eat the chicken whatsoever. Very nice 🙂 .
There is another point that is worth mentioning about the travel and that is the very strict control about biosecurity. New Zealand is making a public statement about keeping the Earth green, and especially about preserving New Zealand natural habitat, and they are respecting it. You have to declare all the food you have with you, or any other plants in any form, even woodcrafts. You also have to declare even if you had camping in the last 30 days or if you have hiking boots with you. This is making even more difficult to enter the country, once you are in the airport, not to mention the time spent to get there, of course. If you are messing around with those things they can fine you up to 100.000 New Zealand Dollars. Auch!
The GTD galore is spreading along quite nicely, not only in a vertical direction, by reaching more and more adepts in its traditional western cultural space, but also in new spaces, some of them well over the Atlantic Ocean. One of these days I found the first Brasilian iPhone application which claims to implement the core GTD rules. The application is called WhatTasks and it costs 3,99 USD at the Apple AppStore (on the WhatTasks web page they are advertising a 4,99 USD price, but they also say that “international pricing is available”, so I guess I’ve been included in some kind of discount…). I’ve been contacted directly by the developer, Felipe Belo, a few weeks ago, with a polite request to tell my opinion about this. So, after I finally set up my new 3g iPhone – a white one, you can imagine that? – I thought I should give it a try.
The first thing to know about WhatTasks is that it comes in 2 flavors, a free, limited version, and a full featured version at the price of 3,99 USD. The limited version is called WhatTasks Lite and I installed it on my iPhone 2 weeks ago. What this application is doing is basically a list management. You can create as many lists as you want and add items to them. Once an item is done you can check it out. That’s basically all. It manages the “what” in your everyday activities.
But the real power of the application comes in the paid version (this is somehow predictable, if you ask me). The paid version also gives you access to the “when” and “where” of your activities. This is one of the core principles of GTD: you are doing actions in contexts and at specific dates. You are not just a robot which does everything as it comes, regardless of the specific time or place: you can group your spaces of action into contexts, and you can also group your doing intervals in time chunks: right now, tomorrow or even someday / maybe, if you are not sure of the exact schedule. By adding the “when” and “where” dimensions to the “what” of an action, WhatTasks really comes close to the GTD aware user.
Mind mapping is not only one of my favorite's way of brainstorming and idea forging, but it was also a constant topic on this blog, since the very beginning. I first published a mind map on 8th February 2007 more…