Rahil

Category Archives for: Travel

Reading and Listening to eBooks

26 November 2014

After listening to a great lecture series on philosophy from The Great Courses, I thought listening to lectures and books (with the addition of films and games) surely replaced the ancient knowledge transmission through reading. And for the most part, I agree.

But there are still quite a few books I’d like to read, and in the Information Age, it seems the methods to get them are contrarily not so simple. Furthermore if one wanted to do research, then going to the library or building a personal one still seems the best way. Skimming through a bunch of eBooks sucks.

Recently, I bought a Kindle. It’s beautiful, but just too slow, I was unable to gauge the content of a books. It may be okay for literature, where one is likely to read the thing entirely, but for knowledge, research, or just general playful reading, it’s useless. I returned it, and instead ordered an iPad Mini.

The Kindle app for iOS is free, but the library can be expensive, and sometimes, the format is inferior to the actual book, missing pictures or linkable items.

Then I read somewhere that some eBook readers can link to Dropbox to read eBooks. Great! Then I found Voice Dream Reader. It is the best application I’ve found to read AND listen to eBooks. The application excels because both options are available simultaneously; The text being read is highlighted, and one can start and stop audio at any point in the text. This makes it superior to audiobooks, the Kindle, and real books. With audiobooks, one can’t gauge the contents, and skimming is fruitful, especially without any sort of markers (future feature of audio books?). Another great feat is that it keeps the original format and can convert the format on the fly to a more readable version similar to Kindle. The original formatting is nearly always superior, even if it doesn’t quite fit on the iPhone screen. The only time to use the readable version is for long-form reading, or passive reading of fiction. Lastly, it is superior to actual books because it offers the ability to provide audio, freeing the eyes.

The app has a slew of options and is quite customizable. It handles epub, PDF, and word documents (no Kindle formats though). The voice is pretty darn good, I feel happy at 250 to 300 words / minutes; Any slower and my mind wonders. There’s highlighting and notes, which is kind of a pain on iPhone because the text is so small, but perhaps better on iPad. Like the Kindle, one can highlight words and search it in a dictionary or wikipedia. It is indeed a dream. I can choose books from dropbox, skim through the original format like a Wikipedia article, begin listening to any part of it, or read it like a Kindle.

Though this is the best way I’ve found to read eBooks, I still find it inferior to a public or a personal library of books, but not by much. I used the Mac Kindle application to read The 21st Century Backpacker’s Bible because it was free on Kindle Unlimited (free for one month). I used Voice Dream Reader on iPhone to read some of Debt: The First 5000 years. I still haven’t received the iPad mini yet.

It’s still quite painful to find ePubs or PDFs. There a quite a bunch of online bookstores, free and not. Googling seems to be the best way to cover them all. Thankfully having access to Dropbox makes organization painless.

eBooks are important to me as I can’t have any books while traveling, they just weigh too much. Furthermore, from my experience in libraries and bookshops in Taipei, most selections are translated to Chinese. My goal was to devise a method of reading and listening while traveling, and it seems an eBook reader in conjunction of other medias, is the way to go.

Leave a comment | Categories: Literature, Media, Philosophy of Technology, Travel

Fear of Solitude in America

25 November 2014

When going from a densely populated area to a sparsely populated one, perhaps in addition to the lack of social liveliness, a fear of solitude comes about.

Simply, if one human is having a problem, without another within vicinity, how will that person get over it?

Densely populated areas feel safe because there are more people. More people more justice.

More desolate areas allow have more space between people and less light. Both of which attract petty crimes.

Favelas are populated, yet have crimes.

Are those crimes only restricted to dark alleys and unlit pathways?

Another thought.

If one grows in a house where one is accustomed to lock the door, turn on lights at night, come home before night, never walk alone, never go out without a car, a fear to go out, and perhaps a fear to meet people (“strangers”) could develop.

Another.

The lack of crime in East Asia is factor of freedom. One doesn’t worry about where they are, how, or when they will get home. Sleeping outside is a viable option.

I can’t say the same for America, especially suburban America, even after traveling.

I had a more positive view during my nights in New York after travel, but there’s still a bit of insecurity.

When I came back to New York, I decided, out of exhaustion, convenience, and change in cost of living, to sleep in Washington Square park. There were a few bums playing music and a few drunk university kids enjoying it, both equally harmless. Later there were just drunk university kids. I believe, the bums were cleared out by the police (I’ve seen them clearing bums out on a different day).

Over-policing cause the bums to continually move toward other covers from wind for warmth: under bridges, in subways stations, in underpasses. An unfortunate migratory pattern.

From my experience in East Asia, I did not see this. A homeless person, and even people with homes — a drunk university kid, and a businessman, could sleep in a public park. They appear quite alright, perhaps tired from the world, but unagitated.

Homeless Asians are special, especially so when seen in the developed world.

Property is a concept I struggle to understand. To pay an enormous amount of money for space above earth. Does this directly derive from slave and slave-masters? Shouldn’t this concept be dead in the Information Age? [todo: read Debt: The First 5000 Years]

Even after much travels, the place I fear the most is where I am now: a large house in a gated community. A whistle is useless here.

Leave a comment | Categories: Thoughts, Travel, Urban Philosophy

The Sublime

23 November 2014

8/2/14
The tourism of Taiwan is beautiful. It’s built around the nature of it. Roads follow rivers through mountains, shops exist beside places where the earth was shaped in amazing ways. They hire architects from other countries to lead projects. How could I have lived in cities, spend time in front of screens, for so long?

Leave a comment | Categories: Thoughts, Travel

Media as Representation of Society

22 November 2014

9/12/13 in Busan
The power of media is reminded as people from Mexico say that Korean drama and pop is popular. Meh, I don’t care for it.

It’s possible that person was influenced by media to see another society. Unfortunately, the pop media doesn’t reflect society realistically, and then people are disappointed.

I was somewhat interested in Japan due to games I played as a child, notably, Final Fantasy. After experiencing the life of Southeast Asia, I had no interest in Japan because I felt their culture was insular. When I went, I felt I was in a land of suburbs, where people consume media. The only fantasy was that in the game. The reality was people consuming it.

Leave a comment | Categories: Experience, Japan, Media, Personal, Social Philosophy, Travel

Maximum Categorical Imperative

22 November 2014

I know. It sucks that I used a philosophic term. The woes of reading crap other people wrote. Anyway…

Away from home it seems I live by a categorical imperative. I usually live in cities, or travel, and I rarely relax. I live 16 hour days, always doing something. That something may not make sense in hindsight, but at the time, it must have.

If I don’t take a break, actions increasingly become minute. Every action is thought of, every thought is thought of, and so on, to the point that I can’t act. That’s the maximum categorical imperative.

During the very end of years of travel (and often when traveling to a different society), I was approaching this maximum. At the end of my time in Taipei, I had a month of no work, so I just walked around, read, and thought a lot. I wasn’t a part of society at that time.

When I arrived in New York, I experienced absurdity. I was thrown into society via social obligations, and school. Both of which I chose long ago but wasn’t prepared for. No action seemed right, except those required to live.

My mind slowly made sense of the chaos; my brain on fire, trying to figure out what actions to take. Design for aesthetic? Design for practical? Why make media? Why not just act now, in the public, and directly influence people via public art objects or performances? But I was too slow to adapt, and really, I didn’t want to. I had my own perspective, larger than New York, or so it felt. I had to postpone school, and New York. To continue school and stay there, I would have had to make sense of those actions first. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t make sense of how people could make trivial things with technology; I couldn’t make sense of what one should make. I disliked the attachment of education to wealth. I felt the school environment restrictive, though thankfully it’s in a great city from which to derive all inspiration. How do people make sense of everything?

They don’t. One just becomes accustomed to society without thought, and once in society for a long enough period of time, does not think about it.

Coming from another country, recently experiencing a very active period of time, adapting would have required some time, and it did. I went home. And the change from maximum categorical imperative to automaton apathy took nearly three months. It takes three months of prison to destroy a person’s will.

[TODO: overlap with absurdity and adaptation]

Leave a comment | Categories: Ethics, Thoughts, Travel

Everything I Own

19 November 2014

Not including: furniture (my Dad bought them), house supplies (I bought a lot of junk, but it seems to slowly gets put to use in the house), media (discovered Voice Dream and pirate eBook library too late), some clothes that fit well, and things that will be rid of soon.

Estimate: 80 things.
Goal: 50. Poop.

Buy a stereo system. It’s worth it. If not, high quality headphones. Zack’s stereo system and my stereo system at home make a much larger impression for me. Ship my stereo system to SF?

EVERYTHING THAT I OWN:
“big 3” and more:
backpack – HyperLite 3400 (contenders: Exos 58, Z Packs Arc Blast)
sleeping bag / quilt – enlightened equipment’s Revelation (tears too easily! Already have two pieces of electrical tape repairs on it), it’s also kind of made to be used with a slepeing pad, because it’s doesn’t fully wrap around the body, which makes the mummy function quite silly for people who sleep on their side.
– could try to upgrade to Convert with straps
– comes with stuff sack
tent – Tarptent Double Rainbow (carbon fiber pole, no liner)
– comes with stakes and guy lines and stuff sacks
daypack – HIKPRO 20L/6.5oz (contenders: one from z packs vs sea to summit silnylon modded with foam pads)

travel and survival:
sleeping pad – Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite (Regular) – can double as backpack padding
silk liner – Cacoon Silk MummyLiner (eBayed it), though I should have bought Cacoon TravelSheet
groundsheet – (plycro, tvvek, etc.) – tyvek, don’t need if the tent has a bathtub floor, but can use at any time like a picnic sheet (can be ordered from the people who sell z packs)
ultralight pillow – Exped Air Pillow Medium, Lewis N. Clark travel pillow (lost, the microfiber made it far more comfortable than my current pillow)
p/spork – TOAKS Titanium Spork vs Snow Peak Titanium Spork vs Sea to Summit Alpha Light Utensils (.3oz)
p/compass (with tiny ruler) – Suunto A-10 Compass
*lost the water pack/water filter – Sawyer mini (includes water pack)
water bottle – Nalgene On The Fly Water Bottle
*lost/secondary water pack – Platypus PlusBottle 1L
*lost (oh no! After so many years too.)/flashlight – fenix LD01

firestarter kit*:
Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Scout 3,000 Strike Fire Starter
x/stormproof matches – check walmart?
zip lock bag

first aid kit:
kit – First Aid, by Total Resources International (Walmart)
sticky gauze roll
zip lock bag

film equipment:
camcorder – Panasonic v750
mic – zoom h4n
shotgun mic – Rode VideoMic Pro
lava mic – cheap AT somethings
various cables

*storage/monopod – Manfrotto monopod compact new series advanced (MMCOMPACTADV-BK) – .75lb, 6lb load
– doubles as boom mic. Can replace with hiking poles with screws in them.
video head – none
x/tiny(?) video gorilla pod

electronics:
travel and surge protector – REI OREI M8 and some extra fuses
laptop – Macbook Pro (mid-2010 -> late 2013) with SSD
smartphone – iPhone (4 (robbed by taxi driver in Bangkok) -> 5)
*yeah, kinda useless/?/tablet / eReader – iPad Mini – useless? Isn’t it enough to read / listen from an iPhone?
*requires small repair and lost/in ear head phones – Custom Art Music One (need to repair wire), VSonic VC1000 (tiny, great, but lost), RBH EP-2 (returned! not sure if I tested it or not)
x/travel speaker – UE (Ultimate Ears) Mini Boom (returned, put the money into custom in-ear headphones, though after much travel with in-ears, it sure would be nice to have a portable speaker)
external hard drive enclosures (and docks) – usb to SATA cable, blacX (if one isn’t traveling much), MiniPro or G-Technology Mini or Portable for firewire / usb 3 or Akitio neutrino u3+ (all three look identical, except portable)
mp3 player – sansa clip, PAC’s SNI-1/3.5 preamp noise filter from crutchfield
*buy another/flash drive – Patriot XT (gave to Dad?), SanDisk Extreme USB 3.0 (uncle borrowed and never returned after I asked several times)
*/usb battery and charger- Intocircuit Power Castle 11200mAh (lost one? still have one more?)

hygiene:
electric toothbrush – oral-b braun 7400 [10oz]
[toiletries 13oz]
toothbrush – Nimbus Microfine toothbrush Regular
floss
toilet paper
hair brush – from old airport kit
razor/grooming kit – Wahl Travel Trimmer
deodarant – 3oz Crystal Body
soap – Dr. Bronner’s Organic Castile Liquid Soap Almond 4 oz
– also bought a soap cover

repair kit:
multitool – Leatherman squirt p4, Leatherman Style CS, Leatherman Skeletool CX + Bit Kit + Bit Driver Extension [10oz!?]
duct tape
sewing kit – Dritz sewing kit (Walmart)
zip tie

other tools:
paracord
travel laundry clothesline – flexo-line

supplies:
batteries
travel battery charger – Sanyo Eneloop travel charger
laundry bag / reusable bag – Outdoor Products stuff sack (Walmart)
pencil – papermate visibility, Pentel Sharp Kerry, dad’s
ear plugs – Hearos Ultimate Softness

clothes:
wallet – Slimmy Original, next time should make one out of a tyvek mail envelope!
*lost one, need to call that train station/barefoot shoes – vibram KSO EVO, (KSO allows water to permeate from the bottom so that even stepping in a puddle defeats it transforming it into a smelly mess. Future alternatives: vibram KSO, vibram Treksport, new balance minimus 10v2, )
travel towel – one from local outdoors shop, *lost at home?/Eagle Creek travel towel (large)
swimming trunks
5 polyester shorts
1 polyester long sleeve
2 thermals
3 light cotton shirts
1 thin material indian clothes (kurta-paijama / churidars)
? underwear
5 light cotton underwear
winter jacket
rain jacket

*storage/1 cotton shorts
*storage/1 light pants
– should ask Mom to send the girly tight pair
*storage/1 normal cotton graphic t-shirts
*storage/2 cotton indian clothes (kurta-paijama / churidars)
*storage/toe socks

maybe:
mouse – logitech mx518 (todo: should gift to the CouchSurfer in XiZhi), microsoft OEM
*forgot/mousepad – steel series qck mini mouse pad, NOT xtracpads pro
x/drawing tablet – wacom bamboo

removed from bag:
x/sink stopper – Magellen’s flexible sink stopper
daypack – Targus Groove cvr600 (used since high school, but replaced it in Nepal, trashing it because I had used duck tape on the bottom), some awesome one from Nepal, HIKPRO 20L (6.5oz)
backpack raincover – Outdoor Products backpack raincover (Walmart)
– replace with garbage bag?

want but no money:
jacket – outdoorsgearslab shows amazing 8oz jackets!
hiking poles – Black Diamond Ultra Distance – sounds good for elevation changes and random debauchery, but otherwise I don’t feel I’d use it much

bag weight:

camping equipment:
540g sleeping bag
~1100g tent
~450-1000g backpack
340g sleeping pad

2430-2980g

toiletries:
10oz electric brush
13oz toiletries
? soap
10oz multitool
4oz few[?] cables
0oz sewing kit
4oz first aid kit
external drive 1
external drive 2
surge protector

computer equipment:
2040g laptop charger
112g iphone
331g tablet
600g battery usb
230g speaker

film equipment:
600g camcorder
150g cable hdmi
*700g z4n + 300g charger
300g mic shotgun
350g lava mics
*650g monopod

3250g

clothes:
540g polyester shorts x3 + polyester swimming shorts
480g lightweight cotton shorts x1
270g light grey pants [stored]
360g thermal pants x2
430g lightweight graphic t-shirts x2-3
540g indian clothes x3
180g raincoat vs 430g rain jacket
winter jacket
winter pants

30.5lb
– externals
– jacket
– umbrella (random model that I stole, small, button open / collapse function)
– bottles
– more
– underwear
– deodarant
– camera

35lb

Leave a comment | Categories: Travel

Korea and The Apex of SPD

15 November 2014

the height of travel
– an abstract world
– life made no sense
– why speak a certain language?
– why do certain work?

When I flew from India to Hong Kong, I felt that I was on top of the world.

I saw through Hong Kong. I explored it within a week. I found the most valuable artists there. I had little to no interest to it’s culture. I was done with it.

When I arrived in my high class hostel in Seoul, I felt the apex of Schizoid Personality Disorder (SPD).

I could barely go to the bathroom without thinking about how much money was being wasted at the hostel. After being in India and Nepal for 3 months, then going to Hong Kong for a week, the amount of goods in Seoul felt ridiculous: spacious rooms, clean, free water, six lane roads, cars, tons of space, cafes, endless comfort.

It was probably the deepest feeling I had during all of my travels. I would be talking to myself at really high speeds. Questioning everything, material and human. It was as if I was re-constructing what society is in my head.

I questioned why anyone could create anything. Life was far beyond a means a living, yet people moved to take action, perhaps toward some work, which I didn’t understand.

I think it’s because Seoul feels like a sprawling suburb, and suburbs are still non-sensical to me. My mind couldn’t figure out why anyone who act in such ways.

[TODO: definitely worth thinking about why it had such a great effect]

>9/3/13
I adapt to the hostel in Seoul. I become accustomed to technology and money. I forget about others. I become less creative. I think less. And I hate myself for it all. I don’t ever want to be lazy again.

Adapting to the developed world means becoming an automaton?

Leave a comment | Categories: Mind and Matter, Psychology, Schizoid Personality Disorder, South Korea, Travel

A Strange Moment during Humans of Taiwan

08 November 2014

10/10/13
I failed to talk to people for the purpose of humans. It was a waste of time. Wanderlust in the city. No social time. No work. No learning. Like the weekends in San Francisco. I need routine. A moment of a schizoid. This only happens when I am alone, otherwise I’m quick, watching time. In that moment in Wenhua, I was stuck. An extreme care for bums and lower class people. Hesitant of communicating with them. The humans project is a psychological battle.

This was indeed a strange moment.

I was in 萬華區 taking photos for Humans of Taiwan. It’s the grittiest part of Taiwan. The metro exits into a park full of people. Many not even Taiwanese. It’s visibly poorer, filthier, with an extremely high density of people.

The past few days I did well in talking to people and taking pictures. This moment changed that. After talking to a few people and taking a picture, at some point I was unable to continue. I couldn’t talk to some, or anyone anymore. My mind stopped forming Chinese sentences. Perhaps facing the poor caught up to me emotionally, and my care for them stopped me, from doing anything.

I mean, what was I doing anyway? To them I am perceived as a tourist taking a photo with them, or a language student, taking a photo of them. Taiwanese people know how Taiwanese people are. Was I really gaining any unique insight into human nature?

My bane: Unable to make meaningful social interactions with lower class people while living a higher class one. Extreme care? So powerful that it stops me for hours.

Leave a comment | Categories: Humanities, Life, Personal, Philosophy, Psychology, Schizoid Personality Disorder, Social Philosophy, Taiwan, Travel

Social Determinism, Travel, and Aesthetics

08 November 2014

a thought soon after moving from Japan to Taiwan:

Consume more locally. You were into games in New York because that is what you consumed. In Taiwan, there are no games. Consume Taiwan — life, travel, people. Do something with that.

When one lives in the city, especially in hostels, where one interacts with the people one lives with, institutions of the city, and the general public, social determinism is likely more influential than media determinism[?].

When I was in college, I thought it would have been great to make films or games, because I loved watching films and playing games. When I was in San Francisco, I was unable to build much interest because I was working most of the time. When I was in New York, I thought it was great to make games, though games played from the suburbs did influence, moreso, there was a scene if independent game developers in New York.

When I began traveling, I kept these influences with me, for a very long period of time. When I travelled through Thailand, I wanted to document the gritty parts of Bangkok. When I was motorcycling slowly through northwest Thailand, I was thinking of game ideas and making small prototypes. When I travelled through Laos, I wanted to document tribal people’s a la Vincent Moon, or just make films with them somehow. When I was in Vadodara, India, I had a friend come, and we were supposed to make a game, but we didn’t. And at that time, I really felt no need to make games.

In India, there was but only a small audience that could afford the leisure or device (iPhone, iPad) to play games, and an even smaller audience that would want to; There was more to life, it seemed. India was no place for the development for video games. Games sure, but not ones associated to expensive devices. How could I make something that a large portion of the world, one I was visibly surrounded by?

Games had loss a bit of interest to me because of this, and I still haven’t quite been able to recover interest to it. The ideal thought nagged: why would I bother making things that only a narrow audience could appreciate? (At the time I was more into pushing aesthetics of games, experimenting with mechanics.) Films made much more sense. Indians love Bollywood.

My question, similar to Kevin Kelly’s, What Does Technology Want, resulted in this conclusion.

At a later point, I arrived to Taiwan. I had already been nearly a year before. At that time I had 9 days to explore Taipei. As I did in previous cities in East Asia, I searched out all forms of contemporary art. I found that the art institutions of Taipei were quite a bit behind Tokyo, and far behind New York, in aesthetics. The Digital Art Center just had a room full of videos playing. The Museum of Contemporary Arts had a mix of traditional medias. After quite an amazing exhibition at Tokyo’s NTT ICC, Taipei disappointed, though I loved Taipei for a billion other reasons, and though far behind in the arts, I still would choose that country over New York as my ideal place to live.

But finding people of similar interests proved difficult. If there aren’t people who experienced new media, how could I pursue it? Should it be pursued?

If it doesn’t exist in the city, how can people experience it? I guess through the internet. But the country is a bit insular, in that people normally use Google in Chinese and likely look at arts in Beijing, which probably isn’t bad.

I believe my greatest failure in continuing the pursuit of arts was this: that I failed to educate others of the ideas that I experienced in New York to the people of Taipei. I didn’t quite realize this at the time; I just didn’t understand why no one else knew about those aesthetics, and my misunderstanding lead me to do other things.

I found interest in Chinese, of course, because I wanted to talk to the people around me. That’s the best example of social determinism one can have.

So, instead of pursuing games and new media, I took Chinese classes and began Humans of Taiwan (a mix of wanting to talk to people and my fascination of the public), and continued with life.

Though the internet exists, there are differences in knowledge of aesthetics. Taiwanese people have a rather high proficiency of English too, but they use their own Google and media world. Perhaps Ai Wei Wei leads them to more modern ideas. As aesthetics get closer to experience, one can’t even experience certain aesthetics without living in proximity to a city of current art. Aesthetics is almost tied to location by social determination, and I frustrated myself in searching for people with similar knowledge and interests of aesthetics without knowing why.

Leave a comment | Categories: Aesthetics, Art, Philosophy, Thoughts, Travel

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