Maiden Drone Voyage

I’ve gone airborne!

It was only a matter of time. I had been contemplating getting a drone for several months now. Last week, I finally took the plunge and ordered a DJI Mavic Pro. It arrived on Tuesday. I promptly unboxed it, and charged all the batteries.

It wasn’t until yesterday, Saturday the 28th of October, when I finally got a chance to take it for a spin. I headed down to Clarke Quay where they have a nice open field. I’ve seen other people fly drones here in the past, and knew that I would be on the right side of the law if I flew here.

I didn’t know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how easy it is to fly one of these things. I spent the next 25 minutes launching and landing the device, and sending it up to 60m before bringing it down for a safe and soft landing. It is a ton of fun. This short video shares some of the footage that I shot.

Singapore has some regulations that have now come into effect when it comes to flying drones. These guidelines are clearly documented on the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore’s official website. In a nutshell, as of Sunday the 29th of October 2017, the rules are that you do not need a permit to operate a drone if all of the following conditions are met:

  • The Total mass of Unmanned Aircraft, including payload is 7kg or below
  • The Unmanned Aircraft is flown at 200ft AMSL* or below
  • The Unmanned Aircraft remains outside of restricted, danger, protected, prohibited areas and not within 5km of an aerodrome / airbase.

They also have a map marking restricted, danger, protected, and prohibited areas, and areas within 5km of an aerodrome / airbase on their website. In order to operate within these areas, one needs to secure a permit for which they can apply for.

Nerd culture in Singapore

I can fit into this place! Singapore definitely has a nerd culture, and is proud of it!

It is not entirely surprising. The Lion City has gone through a series of phases of reinvention over the last few decades. In the absence of any natural resources, it had become a service-based economy. It is now going through a transformation of becoming a knowledge based economy.

Singaporeans place a high value on education. It is hence quite normal that a nerd culture is alive and well in this city. I have barely scratched the surface, but among the things that I have discovered are

  • a decent number of table-gaming establishments (like Dungeons and Dragons and the more elaborate games),
  • a high popularity of video games and computer stores aimed specifically at gamers,
  • shops dedicated to a range of different genres of comics,
  • stores with all sorts of memorabilia from your favourite sci-fi and superhero comic movies and TV shows,
  • and LAN parties hosted in a big way with cosplayers to boot!

If you’re into this sort of thing, this city will definitely not disappoint.

And on a day when you’re feeling like building the ultimate PC, the sheer selection of establishments that will offer you parts will leave you spoiled for choice!

Nerds are definitely well represented here!

Online takeaway delivered!

As a busy professional, I sometimes just do not have the time to put a meal together. In Singapore, there is an awesome food delivery service called Deliveroo. There app is available on the app stores for both iOS and Android. Based on your delivery location, they’ll allow you to place an order from local restaurants which will deliver freshly cooked food from their menu to your doorstep in approximately 30 minutes.

Get $10 off your first order

Sign up for Deliveroo now!

I’ve had a really good experience with Deliveroo so far. They have been my go-to option every time I have been under the weather, or just too busy to stock up for groceries.

My most pleasant interaction with them was on one evening when they were 9 minutes later delivering my food. I got a call from them minutes after receiving my delivery where they apologized for being late, and voluntarily offered me a $15 credit towards my next order. Now that is what I call service!

If you’re new in Singapore, I highly recommend using their services. They also operate in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, , Spain, the UK, and the United Arab Emirates.

Sale season in Singapore

Shopping is a national past time in Singapore. It is so popular, that the country celebrates a major sale twice a year. When June arrives, it is time for the Great Singapore Sale. Retailers from every industry will cut prices to encourage shoppers to spend. This year, sale season started with the Singapore Consumer Electronics Expo at Suntec city convention centre.

Spread out over three days, and hosted in one of the largest conferencing facilities in Singapore, this is one of the most popular major retail events in the season. By the time I arrived there at 2p.m., the floor was packed with shoppers looking for bargains.

They were a few very attractive deals going. The one that really caught my I was in Microsoft surface pro for that was fully speced out going for SG$2,458. That’s $400 below regular retail price. I didn’t see any drones on offer, which was a bit disappointing for me.

Last year, I picked up a robot vacuum there for about $300 less than retail price, and my DJI Osmo for $200 under retail price.

The Singapore Consumer Electronics Expo is a great opportunity for buyers to pick up a great deal. Your biggest challenge will be working your way through the crowds. If you’re in Singapore at this time, I highly recommend visiting.

Scenes from the Singapore MRT

Coming from Melbourne and living in the inner city, I’ve never really used the train system. I lived in the free tram zone and got around easily on trams whenever I commuted, or drove whenever it was a little farther off.

Life in Singapore is a bit different. For a start, a vehicle is ridiculously expensive, and perhaps somewhat impractical for an expat. But more to the point, unless you’re regularly ferrying children around town to extra curriculars or have a job that requires you to get around quickly, having a vehicle in this city is somewhat of a liability, especially given that they have such a super-efficient mass transit system.

Singapore’s MRT has six primary lines – an east-west line, a north-south line, a circle line, a north-east line, a downtown-line and an east-coast line. Trains here are as frequent as two or three minutes apart. They are generally automatically driven (they do not have train drivers) and are all underground in the inner city area (although they do surface in the outer suburbs). Platforms at the stations all have safety barriers (sometimes referred to as suicide stoppers in certain parts of the world).

The stations and the trains are impeccably clean. They do not permit eating and drinking on the train or on the railway premises. This includes water from your own water bottle. (I have witnessed a young man being ushered not to drink from his water bottle by a co-passenger – a conversation that ended without any drama). There is surprisingly little seating within the carriages, which allows for plenty of room for commuters to stand.

As the trains pull up into a station, an announcement can be heard over the PA system that sounds something like “Happy happy!” to the untrained ear. It threw me for a loop for the first few days until I realised that what they’re really saying is “Berhati hati di ruang platform” – Malay for “Please mind the gap between the platform”.

Singapore’s authorities do a lot to repeat a lot of messages that have a social impact on society. This set of posters is something that I have seen at a few MRT stations which I found very touching. They touch upon single fathers and children being raised by single parents. I feel that it is fair to say that single fathers rarely get much consideration when they take on the role of primary caregiver as well as being the breadwinner. This is the first campaign of this nature that I have personally seen anywhere in the world and got me thinking about how societies are adapting to the changing face of family structures.

Some of the messages inside the carriages are quite empathetic. This series of messages inside a train compartment on the north-south line brought a smile to my face, and gave me a sense that humanity still exists in the world. The messages touch upon being mindful, and not taking out frustrations on innocent strangers, colleagues or loved ones. Once again, I am yet to see similar messages like that anywhere else in the world. (The young man in the foreground was not aware that he was in this image. He appeared to have finished work on Friday and was either making his way home, or heading off to catch up with friends. He was busy looking at his phone when I took this shot).

The MRT does lead to some fun places. The Chinatown MRT leads to Pagoda Street and the Tintin shop. Tintin was a big part of my childhood and has remained a part of my adulthood too! The store has a changed a bit since my visit in 2013.

Smart City Solutions for the Aged

Singapore has ambitions of becoming the world’s first true smart city. This is evident from the things that one experiences in everyday life here. Its mass transit system operates off a single unified electronic ticketing system that provides feedback to its infrastructure planning department on how many people use a particular route at a particular time so that they can optimise services to ensure that its citizens have a comfortable ride. Its immigration system offer a seamless process of scanning your passport and fingerprint at electronic turnstiles for all Singaporean nationals, permanent residents and long term pass holders. All its residents are issued a national ID which is associated with all their government services.

A few nights ago, I ventured out and saw this at a crossing which really impressed the thought that has gone behind this. Singapore issues senior citizens with a concession card. Holders of these cards can swipe them against a scanner at pedestrian crossings on major roads when they push the button to cross. This triggers the system to allow a longer crossing time to allow the elderly and mobility restricted a little extra time to safely cross the road.

How’s that for empathy for people who really need it?

Studying in the US: The first things you need to do

This is one in a series of articles that I wrote to share with young people who might have some of the same dreams that I did at the time, and hope that this helps them realising their own.

When you move to a new nation, there is always a first-things-first list. As an International Student in the United States, here is a checklist of a few things that should figure in that list of first things to do when you arrive in the US.

Meet your International Student Advisor and Register for classes: As part of being an international student in the US, a requirement of your visa is that you are signed up for the minimum number of credit hours of coursework to remain in valid status of your visa.

Register with the Social Security Administration: In the United States, every individual has a credit history that is tracked back to a social security number that is unique to an individual. Without a social security number, you do not exist in the system. The local Social Security Administration office will accept Social Security number applications.

You will need:

  • your passportwith valid student visa;
  • Your I-94 arrival/departure record;
  • your letter of offer from the University; and
  • a mailing address at which you can receive your social security card.

International students can typically expect to receive their Social Security cards within 1 to 2 weeks from the date of application. A social security number will allow you to open a bank account, apply for a credit card, rent an apartment, apply for services (Internet, phone, water, gas, electricity and cable TV), and apply for a drivers’ license.

Open a bank account: Banks will require a social security number before they can legally open an account and offer you banking services. Shop around. In the US, customer is king, and banks compete for customers – however small they may be. Some banks will offer an incentive such as:

  • zero-fee checking accounts for a regular monthly deposit;
  • a credit card bundled with a checking account;
  • rounding up each debit card transaction and depositing the amount into your checking account; or even
  • a cash incentive for opening an account.

Talk to your friends as well. Some banks will give both you and your friends a little money as a referral incentive.

Get a drivers’ license or State ID: Irrespective of whether you own a car or not, having a drivers’ license is a must. In the US, it is mandatory for one to have some form of identification on them. In the absence of any US issued documents, your default form of ID would be your passport, which you might not want to carry around with you all the time. A US issued drivers’ license is considered valid identification.

If you do not drive, you can apply for a State ID.

Drivers’ licenses are issued by the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office in your area. State Identification IDs are issued by your local county, state or DMV office.

Studying in the US: Why should you do it

This is one in a series of articles that I wrote to share with young people who might have some of the same dreams that I did at the time, and hope that this helps them realising their own.

If you’re in high school or college, and a little like how I was when I was that age, you might be considering going to America to study and realise your dreams. When I was that age, I was poorly prepared, but had a lot of enthusiasm and drive. I found my way to the United States of America on a scholarship to go through graduate school, after having completed my undergraduate work in India. I made a few mistakes and learnt a few lessons along the way.

I wrote this series of articles to share with young people who might have those same dreams that I did at the time, and hope that this helps them realising their own dreams.

When I started to write this piece, I wanted to reflect on the years that I had spent investing in my education. However, it would be a little empty without providing my readers with a little context. So I guess here would be a good point to provide a little introduction of who I am, and both how and why I went to America to get a degree.

I am from Generation Y and come from an upper-middle class Indian family. As life goes, I consider myself fortunate. My father is a surgeon, and my mother made sure that home was a safe and secure place to come back to. My parents got along better than most couples do, so I didn’t have the distractions of domestic conflict at home to have to deal with.

My good fortune also extends to what life provided me in my infancy. With my father being a surgeon (and a British qualified one at that), my parents and I moved to the United Kingdom when I was an infant – and hence, my first language is English. (This helped a lot – this very turn of events has ensured that I could command attention in a conversation in a corporate environment with the confidence of a native speaker. But I digress; this is about how one makes their way to the United States as an International student).

My life had its own set of twists and turns, and when I was 8, my family moved back to India.

Readjusting to life in India had its own challenges, and by the time I had made it to my 9th birthday, I had resolved to move overseas to the Western World as soon as I could. I had the passion, and the desire; but I really had no clue as to how I was going to make it to the US.

I finally moved to the United States of America as a Graduate student in January 2001. I had secured admission into the Masters Program at the University of Nebraska as a fully funded National Science Foundation scholar. This meant that I was going to get paid to get my degree.

In all honesty, I now feel that I had made it to this point in my life by having a little bit of luck and a small idea of where I was going. I also feel that if I was better informed, I would have been able to do the same a lot more smoothly.

This is my attempt at sharing some of my discoveries over time with other young individuals who may have aspirations to go overseas in pursuit of a dream that lies beyond the horizon that is nurtured.

There are a lot of reasons as to why people choose to study in the United States of America. The common reasons are career opportunities, the sheer choice of quality programs across a diverse nation and access to the most cutting edge academic work in the field of academics that you’re interested in. Other reasons can be as simple as a means to a better life in a nation that offers more opportunities than one’s home country. While reasons may be diverse, and unique to every individual, it is very important to be honest to oneself and know why they seek to study in the United States.

Answering this question primarily is the key to being able to choose the best path of study in the United States. Here are some of the common reasons:

Educational choice and value: The United States has a large selection of some of the best institutes of higher learning, coupled with state of the art facilities, access to cutting edge technology, a wide choice of courses and disciplines, a philosophy of research and learning, and an ideology that no idea or dream is too absurd to be thought through. It isn’t be any accident the largest number of Nobel Prizes and inventions have their origins in the United States. While the access to higher education is available to all, attending such an institute is considered a privilege rather than a birth-right, and graduation is considered a high achievement. Their institutes of higher learning are all backed through research from both public and private funding sources, which is why they can offer such a high quality of higher education.

American degrees are typically recognised all over the world. Hence, successfully completing a stint at a U.S. University can and very often will open one’s prospects for the rest of the world.

Career prospects: Attending University in the United States gives its graduates access to a large number of employers from some of the best and most reputed names in the corporate world, along with access to start-ups. While the economy of the nation has been subject to typical global economic fluctuations, it is still one that offers good career prospects for well-educated and skilled individuals with open minds. Following graduation, a brief stint working for a U.S. employer opens up all sorts of opportunities for young, skilled, driven individuals, no matter where they go.

Quality of life: The United States generally offers a far better standard of living than most of the rest of the world. A common statement is that it is a nation which has the world’s richest poor. This is very true. Every individual in the United States has access to the basics in a nation that is generally safe and mostly free from political, military or civil turmoil.

These are not the only reasons to consider, and every individual has a driver. Before setting foot on this journey, one has to ascertain why they choose to embark upon such a quest. They key thing to remember here though, is that education overseas not merely about earning a degree; it’s about broadening one’s horizons and discovering oneself in the world.