Friday, December 25, 2009

Stradbroke Island

Last weekend, I visited Stradbroke Island with my friends. Stradbroke Island (or Straddie, colloquially) is 40kms SE of Brisbane. Straddie is known for its rugged landscape and spectacular white sand beaches. There are numerous scenic walk tracks and picnic spots. However people visit Stradbroke Island for its main attraction - beaches.

We decided to reach Stradbroke Island by 9AM. We drove to Cleveland Bay to catch the 8AM ferry. The ferry ride takes ~45mins to reach Straddie. The weather god wasn't in his best mood at the start of the day. The skies were cloudy and there was the odd drizzle too. By afternoon, good-old Queensland weather was back! It was hot and humid. We didn't feel the 32 degrees heat though. We were in the water - swimming, body-boarding, surfing, playing beach cricket (with yours truly half destroying a kid's sandcastle with his signature cover drive)....yea. Awesome fun! :D

This was a one day trip. We had time only to visit two of the four popular beaches in Stradbroke Island.

Main Beach: The best beach at Straddie. There were strangely not many people in the beach that day. The big swells and strong waves were perfect for surfing and body boarding. We spent most of our time here.

Main Beach

Cylinder Beach: A very picturesque beach. This beach is relatively shallow hence the waves were small. Compared to main beach, there were lots of people around. Kids playing in the water/sand, people sunbathing, barbecuing etc. The music was on...the beers flowed freely. It was very lively. Cylinder beach must be the most family-friendly beach I've ever been to.

Cylinder beach

There were many lifeguards on patrol at Cylinder Beach. I had a chat with couple of them. I learnt that most lifeguards at Stradbroke Island are volunteers. The majority of them are school/uni students. They love the beach, the surf, and working as a lifeguard is way to be out there and help people. Good on you guys!

Lifeguard patrol

We spotted this famous guy (carrying the surf in the pic below) at Cylinder beach. He's one of Queensland's favourite sons. Recognise him?

Bheem boy

We did the scenic coastal track before we left the island. The ocean view from the lookout points and the headland were simply breathtaking. Here are some pics.

friend_1 admiring the view

Scenic walk

friend_1 & friend_2 taking in the view

Point Lookout

"Take me away" - at the edge of the cliff. Wattey view.

Overall, an awesome weekend! :D

Saturday, December 19, 2009

God's Debris

My colleague forwarded the e-book of Scott Adam's God Debris with a note which read: "A mother of a thought experiment mate! Do read this one." He seldom 'praises' anything like this. When I finished reading God's Debris, I could understand why.

God's Debris stands out from the list of books I've read. It is a thought experiment. A delivery man goes to an address in San Francisco to deliver a package. He meets an old man in the house. The whole book is based on the conversation between them. The author states the old man literally knows everything. He has radical and non-traditional views on God, universe, evolution, science, humanity etc. His theories arise from 'sceptic's creed' - the simplest explanation is usually right. Philosophy and simplicity don't always go together. Philosophy is known for its complex sentences and incomprehensible words. I adore simplicity. Even though some of the old man's theories/views were flawed, I found the simplicity and clarity in his explanation very refreshing.

The crux of the old man's philosophy is that God is omnipotent and He knows everything. So what would actually challenge God? God knows answers to every question except one: What would happen if he ceases to exist. The old man say this is the one & only challenge that would interest God i.e. to destroy Himself. The result of this challenge is the reason for everything there is - all matter in this universe - that exists in its current form. Everything. Everything including us is the result of God's effort to maintain his omniscience. This notion also gives the book its title. We are God's Debris.

Using the above philosophy, the old man makes interesting correlations to many things. Natural phenomena like gravity he says is nothing more than simplified illusion created by human brain since it cannot comprehend the actual description of reality. Scientific terms such as infinity, electromagnetic field and words like dimension, horizon are conveniences created by scientists to mask holes in their understanding. I was tempted to know what he thought of zero. Let's say if God does not exist, we have nothing. Our fancy word for 'nothing' is zero. The old man may have explained that with yet another audacious theory that would've made Aryabhata turn in his grave. The engineer in me was mildly taken aback with his explanations. But I liked it. The book is a thought experiment and there was feast for thought. Even though most of explanations appeared logical, some seemed obvious, there was nagging feeling of something amiss. There is little bit of bull excreta in the old man's exquisite gourmet meal. The tricky bit is to differentiate between the two.

The old man bases explanation of the concept of probability. Every other question has an answer to why. Only probability is inexplicable. STAT101 taught us that probability works on the law of averages. The probability of heads or tails when tossing a coin is 1/2. That does not mean when we toss the coin, we are guaranteed to get head once and tail once. If we toss the coin 100 times, we are likely to get head 50 times and tails 50 times. Toss it 1000 times, we are very likely to get heads 500 times and tails 500 times. Probability tends to become eventuality in the average case. Life, too, is like that. It is a probability distribution. We can make efforts to maximize the expectation of an event, but we can never assure the outcome of any sporadic event. Probability, like God, is omnipotent and omnipresent. The old man refers to probability and normal distribution curves to explain creation. He weaves a transitive relation between creation, luck, probability and God. Based on this philosophy, he puts a interesting explanation that there is an equivalence relation between God and probability.

The old man discusses many topics - Relationships, intelligence, quantum physics, will power, extra sensory perception etc. Even if you don't agree or fully understand the old fella's views his explanations makes a compelling read. He bullies your thoughts and your grounded understanding. In the book's introduction, Scott Adams specifies his target audience as those people who enjoy having their brain spun around inside their skulls. Well, after reading the old man I begin to wonder what spun what in reality. Hmm.

Awesome read. Do check it out.

Thanks for this, Marcus :-)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Out and about

I've been playing around with my new SLR camera (Canon 450D) for the past one week taking pics of random things around the house. This weekend I visited some of the pretty locales in the city to take photos and apply whatever I've learnt from the camera manual and some digital photography sites.

Here are some pics.

The Story Bridge - one of my fav places in Brisbane

Story Bridge climb - gotta do this!


Do you know the name of this flower? She looks like Sunflower's cousin. Beautiful isn't?

It had just rained. The sun finally broke free.

I remember looking at light trail photographs during those library periods at school. Light trail photography always fascinated me and I've wondered how such pics were taken. I managed to shoot light trails, took pics at different shutter speeds with varying results.

The museum

The Big wheel at night

City museum again

I love my new camera. So,

oops. missed the dot for the ' i ', here again...

None of these pics are post-processed. It's hot off the camera. I am still learning about digital post processing. Hope you like these pics! :-)


Update (9th Dec 2009):

Few people have asked me how I did the 'I Love You' photo. That pic, obviously, is another attempt at light trail photography. The camera was perched on the tripod. I selected Manual mode (M), set an f-stop of 11 or 16 or could be even lower aperture and set an exposure of 10 seconds. The ISO was set to 100. I used a torch to write " I 'heart' you ". You can probably guess how I managed to place the dot above the ' i '. Cheers :)