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This Blog used to be about the question: What is Science?
Now, it asks: What is Happiness?

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Where the hell is New Caledonia?

What follows is a curious mix of fact and fiction, real and fantastical. The images are some mine, some others', some photoshopped, some cropped and blurred. But all represent a fleeting memory that exists somewhere in my neural, thanks to anyone whose original neurons have found a home here.....if you are unhappy with my particular version of creative commons then I am glad to photoshop the originals till it looks like something totally different. Now, that's ART(ful) dodging.

The link between the left and right brain of us humans is the Corpus Callosum.
This thick network of 200 million nerve fibres transmits neuron signals between the logical, analytical left and the intuitive, creative and expressive right. For a wide range of individual reasons, we each tend to have a predominant side which strongly influences the way we see and interact with the world and how, in turn, the world sees us.

Partly as a result of my close experience of my girlfriend's brothers' recent major left brain stroke (see I have become strongly interested in this field.

Pschological tests show me that I am about 60-40% right brain dominant, which seems to concur with my conscious experience of life. Knowing this and understanding that balance in all things is beneficial, I am increasingly aware of the need to actively balance my left/right brain activities.
My Assessment results: You possess an interesting balance of hemispheric and sensory characteristics, with a slight right-brain dominance and a slight preference for visual processing.
Since neither of these is completely centered, you lack the indecision and second-guessing associated with other patterns. You have a distinct preference for creativity and intuition with seemingly sufficient verbal skills to be able to translate in any meaningful way to yourself and others.
You tend to see things in "wholes" without surrendering the ability to attend to details. You can give them sufficient notice to be able to utitlize and incorporate them as part of an overall pattern.
In the same way, while you are active and process information simultaneously, you demonstrate a capacity for sequencing as well as reflection which allows for some "inner dialogue."
All in all, you are likely to be quite content with yourself and your style although at times it will not necessarily be appreciated by others. You have sufficient confidence to not second-guess yourself, but rather to use your critical faculties in a way that enhances, rather than limits, your creativity.
You can learn in either mode although far more efficiently within the visual mode. It is likely that in listening to conversations or lecture materials you simultaneously translate into pictures which enhance and elaborate on the meaning.
It is most likely that you will gravitate towards those endeavors which are predominantly visual but include some logic or structuring. You may either work particularly hard at cultivating your auditory skills or risk "missing out" on being able to efficiently process what you learn. Your own intuitive skills will at times interfere with your capacity to listen to others, which is something else you may need to take into account.

For some years I have been a devotee of computer based flight simulation. It has provided me with an intellectual and fun hobby that requires a lot of left brain focus and analytical acuity. The navigation and procedures involved in aviation are set in stone and leave little room for 'creative' divergence.
On the other hand, aviation only exists because man had a dream of 'breaking the surly bonds of earth'. The Wright brothers were both dreamers and technicians and this is as true as ever for almost all those of us who pursue the pleasure of flight in some way.

In March 2001, I set off from Johannesburg International Airport on a round the world virtual flight; across Africa, to Europe, then via Istanbul across the Caspian sea to Asia. I landed in and subsequently left Kabul the day after the US invasion began, flying by night across the Kyber Pass to what is now the no man's land between Afganistann and Pakistan. India, Nepal, Mt Everset, the Middle East and then the Holy Land were my fantasy destinations for several years and by early 2009 I had only reached Lake Malawi, en route back to S Africa.

What took so much time? Each place I visited, I googled and poured over images of the people and places nearby. I read copiously about the history of the region and on some occasions actually made friends with people who I contacted over the internet.
Sometimes, my dream world and reality coincided when I had an opportunity to visit my ethereal world in reality. It was always strange arriving in a city that I 'had already been to', knowing the sights and sounds and often the local geography well.

On a recent visit to Washington DC, I took a week off to do a cycle trip up the Potomac River, a journey I had already made many times virtually.
Sometimes I have found myself in conversation with other travellers, comparing travel tales and I talk so intimately about a remote place on the planet that they cannot believe that I have not actually been there.
As time goes by I am sure that in my own brain the divide between real and virtual will blur. What a boon for old age!!

Over the years the software for flight simming has meteorically improved and so has the virtual aviation world. This is a computer network (several actually) which allows simming enthusiasts to fly together online, co-ordinated in a hyper real simulation of modern Air Traffic Control.
Here, fear of failure is a very real emotion and it is indeed a place where many real world pilots and ATC folk keep their skills honed.

The level of simulation software is also at an extraordinary high level, with the 2 main competing packages having different strengths. Microsoft's FLight Simulator is well established in the online community with a high level of navigational integrity and scope and excellent airplane and scenery models.

X-plane, however, is the leader by far, if the actual flight accuracy and experience is judged. Created entirely by one man, an aeronautical engineer who wanted to hone his IFR (Instrument flying) skills, X-plane has the singular credibility of being rated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Authority of USA) as being accurate enough to be used to gain additional hours towards real life licences. This software is the same engine used to power many high grade commercial simulators used in commercial training environments. Tests have shown a max 10% deviation in the flying model on almost any flying craft correctly simulated.
I have decided to share some of this L-R brain world with you on my blog. So come with me as I shrink this fantastical planet called Earth....from the comfort of my laptop. Who knows maybe you will be drawn into this wonderful world of armchair adventure too. If so, mail me on and I'll get you up to speed.

Saturday 30th May 2009. Online Day in New Caledonia.
"Where the heck is New Caledonia?", I asked.
An hour later, having logged onto IVAO (International Virtual Aviation Org.), I was flying towards an island paradise called Ils Des Pines. (The Island of Pines). Situated to the East of Australia, New Caledonia is a group of tropical islands owned by France, relatively unpopulated and a popular holiday destination for those in the know. On the globe it is the sprinkling of islands sitting on top of the curly blue ridge in the ocean to the east of Aus.

I landed at Aeroporte Ils Des Pines and took the long forest drive to the main town on the east coast.
The Ils Des Pines is nicknamed 'The Closest Island to Paradise' and is especially famous for diving.

En route I stopped at some local attractions, the most magical of which was the Grotto de la Reine Horthense, which engulfed me like a glossy postcard.

The main drag from the airport cut through the tropical forestland like a scythe, taking me into the main town.

The first thing that struck me was how similar it is to the town of my birth, Durban. Palms and Flamboyant trees abound and like Natal in the 60s, the roads are wide and unbusy.

It seems that the locals are quite overwhelmed by all the splendour around them and have, over the years, built quite a number of quaint eglises (churches), that are both reminiscent of a time long gone and also well attended on Sundays.

Not being a religious man, however, my road took me to another place of worship, the lagoon or Bale St Josephs.
Suddenly I was back in Madagascar... or was it Zanzibar or Mombasa...I sat for for some time gazing at the irridescent blue ocean wondering whether this was a dream.....or real...

Next blogtime: I fly from New Caledonia towards Indos and the famed Jade Lake in the hidden crater of Mt Rinjani, revered as the home of the gods and by us less religious, as the world's 4th best tourist destination.

If you want to join me on this journey, join my Twitter group.

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