Droning on

Hello! Good morning. Let’s talk about drones.

Earlier this year, not long after Christmas, my husband and I went with one of our best friends to a historic village in North Carolina. We hadn’t been there since we were kids and wanted to experience it as adults. (See: walking into a building labeled “tavern” and walking right back out, dejected that there were no actual beers to be had.)

About halfway through the day, we exited an old building into a side yard just in time to see a drone taking off. The guy manning it was just a few feet away. He launched it off the ground and into the air, and I had two simultaneous thoughts:

“Wow, he’s gonna get some awesome photos of this place” and

“Wow, that sound is really, REALLY annoying, especially here!”

Such is the conundrum of life in 2019. There are so many tech things that make our lives cooler, easier, or safer while also being annoying, intrusive, or otherwise harmful. In the past I don’t think the developers of these technologies have done a great job anticipating future issues or needs. I do think that’s changing. But in the meantime, these are the kinds of things we have to deal with (and frankly, we probably will always have some degree of this issue).

I was recently reporting a piece about medical drones (coming soon) and came across this study that determined drones to be the most annoying of all vehicles. And that’s saying a lot, considering we also have motorcycles and 18-wheelers below them and airplanes above.

From a great New Scientist piece on the study:

“We didn’t go into this test thinking there would be this significant difference,” says study coauthor Andrew Christian of NASA’s Langley Research Center, Virginia. It is almost unfortunate the research has turned up this difference in annoyance levels, he adds, as its purpose was merely to prove that Langley’s acoustics research facilities could contribute to NASA’s wider efforts to study drones.

It’s a bummer all around, really. The study found that people (only 38 people, but still) experienced drone buzzes in a similar way they would experience a car that was twice as close as normal. These people didn’t even know what they were listening to, by the way, so we can’t just assume they’re anti-drone.

The piece I’ve been reporting is about the use of drones to save time and money moving blood samples and medical supplies. I wonder if people might find drones less annoying if they knew they were up there to help people? I hope that research is being done somewhere (I would not be surprised, as NASA and the FAA are doing a lot of work to study drone impact right now).

But even if we can get used to the sound of drones, or assuage ourselves with the thought that some of them are saving lives, we still have to look at them. It bugged me to see a black plastic mini-spaceship buzzing around a historic village, but it didn’t scare me or make me feel unsafe. Driving down the road and suddenly seeing a flock of them overhead, and not necessarily knowing their purpose…. would be a different story.

Marriage: Achieved.

I survived! I’m now a married lady. What’s different? I’m a little sunburned from the honeymoon. I’m wearing two rings now instead of one. And our living room is full of boxes of registry gifts (for which we are very thankful!) and Ikea furniture we bought to hold said gifts. Also, last night I found my first grey hair. In my eyebrow, no less. So I guess I’m officially old now?

The experience of getting married was really wonderful. I had a lot of uncomfortable stress in the months leading up to it, but all of that seemed to evaporate on that day. I’ll take some credit for that – I’ve been practicing meditation almost every day and I don’t think we could possibly have been more prepared after all of the planning we did. The day of the wedding, Reid and I texted all morning. I ate breakfast and lunch. I stood by the window in the hotel room and enjoyed the sunshine while my bridesmaids got their hair done. When the photographer arrived I was excited. When it was time to go to the venue I was pumped. When I started walking down the aisle with my dad and saw Reid trying not to cry I almost lost it… but then when I got up there and held his hands, I was just ready. The ceremony was perfect, the photo session afterward was a lot of fun (photos to come) and the reception was an absolute blast. The food was great, our families got along, our friends had a great time, and my grandmother stole the show with her dance moves. There was a beer festival happening on the street outside, and instead of being annoyed by it, our photographer took the opportunity to pose us in the middle of the revelry. The whole night really couldn’t have been any better.

The next day we spent some time with our families and packed up for Aruba. If you ever get a chance to go there – grab it. We stayed at an all-inclusive resort because we figured we’d need the relaxation. This was true, and it was definitely worth it, but it’s a little funny that we thought we’d be able to really relax. Take two high-strung New Yorkers who just finished with the most stressful event of their lives and drop them in a foreign place and laugh as they try to avoid picking up their phones or ruminating on existential questions by the pool. We did have an amazing time, though. The weather was perfect, the food was great, and we even went snorkeling:


Now we’re back to real life, which basically means work… which we both actually kind of missed, because of the high-strung New Yorker thing ;) I have to admit I’ve been feeling a little bit of the post-wedding blues. Planning that thing took up a big chunk of my time and energy, and that space feels kind of empty now. That’s sort of exciting, though. I can fill that with whatever I want. So far that’s been a lot of reading. One of the greatest things about being away for two weeks was how easy it was to avoid social media. Now that I’ve got more free time I’m hoping I won’t fall back to my old ways of checking Facebook every few minutes. Something tells me I’ve formed new habits, though. Healthier ones. Plus, I’ve formed a family. So that’s definitely something to be excited about.

I’ll get back to talking about health and science and journalism here soon. Until then, please enjoy this picture of me doing the Electric Slide with Grandma :)