Thursday, August 28, 2008

River Vasse and wetlands of Busselton, Western Australia

Last October, after living more that a year in Perth, I have finally gathered enough confidence and motivation to explore Western Australia on my own. Unlike some of my friends I have no problems at all traveling on my own. Its advantage is that I can plan everything to suit myself and change my plan as I wish . The drawback is of course, I will end up with very few photos of myself. Anyway, I think you have to be confident enough about your safety to travel alone. You must be able to enjoy your own company too. The latter is not easy to many.

So I went to Busselton last October. To me, the biggest attraction of Busselton is the beach. But during my stay there, I found that the Vasse River that flows through the center of Busselton and the wetland of Busselton are great places to visit if you like taking photos.

This wooden plank near the river tells the story about the French sailor after whom the river was named.

The water in the river was quite still. I never like still waters although I must say that their mirror effect looks good on a photo.

And a sign by the river says danger! The sign says don't drink and don't swim. So, you can imagine the conditions of the river.

These nearby waters were connected to the river I think. A good spot for birdwatching. Too bad I didn't have any binoculars with me.

From the river, I went on to see the wetland. Again, a good spot for birdwatching and taking photos. Although the water was probably housing some snakes or worms (both of which freak me out), doesn't the place look gorgeous on photos!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thoughts (3) - Knowledge for personal satisfaction

I enjoy photography and blogging. I can spend the whole afternoon just reading up to write a post. I am even happy to sit on public transport for hours to get to places to take photos. To some people in my everyday life, I am STRANGE!

The first questions I get when some people hear about my hobbies (or possibly obsessions by now) include "Can you make money from it?" or "Its great someone used your photos; did they pay you?" Duh, I would expect responses like "Wow! You must feel a great sense of achievement!"

You see the people I see every day can be generally divided into the realistic camp and the romantic camp. I am a member of the latter, maybe a leader of it soon. I seriously believe that it's perfectly fine to do something not for money, but for learning more about nature or even about myself. And uploading photos to a conservation website (for free, that is) is fine. Learning something that is not useful at work is fine too. It doesn't have to be about money and material gains all the time. OK, you might think that I am the son of a billionaire and life is always easy for me. I can tell you the answer is No - although it would be nice if I were one. I am just one curious being - probably not smart enough to become a great scientists but certainly wise enough by now to know that life is not just about money and work. There is more to life! It is difficult to convince people I know that this is the case but I hope that they will find their way to realizing this one day.

Anyway, doesn't anyone care about personal satisfaction and acquiring knowledge for the sake of knowledge anymore?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Spring in the John Forrest National Park

I have been scratching my head about what to write next. When I browsed through my image collection again, I realized that I have some nice photos which I took in the John Forrest National Park last October. So I thought, Well, I have already put up posts about spring in UWA, Kings Park bushland and the Araluen Botanic Garden, why not another one. So I put up this one.

The John Forrest National Park is the oldest national park in Western Australia, and the second oldest in Australia (Wikipedia). It is accessible by bus from Perth, but you would still want to have a car or at least a motorcycle in order to explore the park. I walked. And so I only managed to see part of it. But because I enjoy taking photos, it still wasn't a waste of time.

I noticed that wherever you turn, you would always see some grass trees.

Perth's tallest (?) buildings on the horizon

I don't quite know the names of all these plants. But taking photos of them was enjoyable. And I marveled at their beauty and diversity. That should be enough. One thing I have learnt after blogging for some time is that the whole process should be fun and I am not going to stress myself out trying to find the name of every single thing I photograph. When blogging starts to feel like working, I think it's time to quit.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Thoughts (2) - PhD

Starting my PhD is like opening up a window to my inner self. Situations at work often occur in such a way that they will stir up the hidden bits deep in me that I didn't know to have existed. They repeatedly make me see more and more of myself - what I value, what I despise, what disturbs me, what I really want, what I really need, etc.

I think my most important experience during my PhD is when I think about life, in general and also my own life. This is something that I don't learn from textbooks, as opposed to techniques or methods of doing things.

People say that military training will change a person's character; doesn't a PhD training do so too?

One thing that comes to mind now is about publishing papers. I know people who talk about publishing in high impact journals the way others talk about buying branded goods, or building a house in an elite neighborhood. I know people who seem to think their careers in science will be unfulfilled if they couldn't publish in those big names like "Nature".

Like them, I always thought about publishing a paper in a high impact journal as a great achievement. It should be EVERY bloody scientist's goal - so I thought. But, one day, it just dawned on me that while a paper in a high impact journal is likely to have a high impact on a person's career, it may or may not have an equal impact on the lives of the ordinary people in the streets.

I suddenly saw that we should first aim for research that actually improve people's life - be it a big or a small way. If it then gets published in a high impact journal, it would be a bonus. But if it doesn't, we researchers should still be proud of ourselves because whether reviewers like our paper are not, we know that the farmers in the field or the pedestrians in the streets have already benefited from our effort. We have served the people. That's something to be proud of.

Is that asking for too much from the scientists?

I know romanticism is my disease. And my PhD might have exacerbated it. But I really believe that the world needs people who reach out to people or volunteer to do things simply because it is meaningful, not because it pays well.