A low-pitched gurgling noise escaped the ocean as she heaved her last strangled wave onto the beach.  Gillian Bean was the only person to witness it. She was sitting quietly on the sand at the shoreline near her home.  An ashy cloud covering obscured the full moon, but even so, Gillian still felt bathed in a bright, silvery light.

For years Gillian had been unable to inhale the salty, fresh sweetness of the ocean but still retained a strong memory of what it smelled like.  Just imagining the smell was enough for Gillian to remember the ocean washing up shells, seaweed and small creatures through a never-ending cycle of rhythmic waves.  Tonight the waves stopped leaving behind forever a thick, viscous soup of primordial bacteria and dense jellyfish, teeming with brilliantly colored bits of plastic.

A tear slid silently down one cheek.  Gillian knew a small window of time existed before somebody would catch her.  But she needed to be in control again of what she was feeling.  First she inhaled deeply to slow down her heart rate.  The feed would know she was reaching intolerable stress levels and she would receive an incapacitating zap.  She reached for her flask and took a swig.

With her eyes closed she imagined the salty beach air and could almost hear the soft shushing motion of the waves.  This would be her final memory she decided while removing a straight edge razor from her front pocket.  Acting on a reserve of determination she cut deeply into her forearm revealing the embedded finger-sized feed.  Grimacing from the pain, she separated the feed from her nervous system and flung it deep into the sludge.  The pain was excruciating.  Time was limited before tremors would overtake her preventing the task from being finished.  She risked being “rescued.”

One…two…three, Gillian whispered, placing the point of the blade on the underside of her wrist.  Salty waves, she thought pressing down.  Her form crumpled onto the sand and rolled forward into the slop.

Across the bay, Senjina was in a cab heading home from a first date.  She couldn’t wait to plug in for a stats reading.  She’d felt jittery, which was either a sign of attraction, warning, or the environment.  The restaurant had been trendy and loud triggering Senjina’s aversion to noise.  Nothing about her reactions would make sense until she could see those measurements.

*Happy Halloween!  Read the next installment Technombie 2.  In case you’re wondering, the whole story is completely fictitious. 

Iguassu Falls: Brazil

After our adventure to the bottom of the world and back we returned to Buenos Aires for a night and then took off the following morning for Iguassu Falls. I first posted about the falls last February when it was so cold I needed a reminder of what it felt like to be warm.

Our trip started with a border crossing to Brazil to see these magnificent falls. The pictures only tell a small part of the story. I’m not even sure words could adequately describe the mystic feeling of the falls, the way the air felt warm and misty on my skin, or how magical it felt walking with brilliantly coloured butterflies fluttering everywhere you looked.

One of the many stunning views from the Brazilian side.

One of the many stunning views from the Brazilian side.

Amazing views even through the foliage, though I suspect I snapped this pic because of the large spider on the right rather than the falls.

Sneak peak of the falls through the lush summer foliage.

Sneak peak of the falls through the lush summer foliage.

After about an hour of walking, we reached the climax of the hike, a gigantic waterfall.  I believe the view is the Brazilian side of the Devil’s Throat, featured in the first post of the falls.  A small cormorant perched on a rock enjoying the sun and the mist.

Cormorant hanging out by the falls.

Cormorant hanging out by the falls.

And in the other direction, the cormorant’s view. We were on a walkway enshrouded by mist, surrounded by the gushing sound of falls spilling over.

What the cormorant saw.

What the cormorant saw.

Stay tuned for more pictures from the Argentine side. After Devil’s Throat we hiked along the Upper Trail and the Lower Trail.

Portable Devices

I love my portable devices.  All of them.  My smartphone, tablet (iPad), iPod, and e-reader.  I feel lucky to have so many neat and functional gadgets.  In August I spent a weekend at my friends’ beach house on Fire Island, about a 2 minute walk from the Atlantic Ocean.  It was pure bliss!

The first day I went to the beach armed with my e-reader and my tablet, determined to get some reading and writing done.  I had the foresight to put them both in a ziploc bag, but beyond that I hadn’t really considered any of the other dangers facing electronic gadgets when one is surrounded by sand, intense sun (heat), a huge body of salt water, and rogue waves.  Also my sturdy OtterBox, the case I used in Patagonia that made me so fearless, broke so I was using a rather flimsy replacement.

I felt ok about using the iPad for short periods of time to take a quick picture, but I definitely wasn’t comfortable using it longer for fear of getting sand in it.  The iPad mostly stayed in the ziploc bag. I only took it to the beach when I was walking and could keep it safe in my bag.

In general I felt ok about having the e-reader at the beach, mostly because it’s not that expensive and I only borrow ebooks or download them from the public domain. This means the risk of losing something permanently is pretty slim, especially now that everything is downloaded to the computer before being transferred to the e-reader.

And then the rogue waves came flooding our little area more than once, even though we kept moving further back.  It was a weird, fluky tidal pattern that resulted in some waves extending far up onto the beach where people were sitting.  Fortunately I had the foresight to load up the boogie board with our bags, including the one with my gadgets, so they were safe when the first wave hit.

Even with the precautions, I seriously started to weigh the comfort of having my devices against the fear of them getting damaged.  I love the e-reader, but if it gets damaged I’m without my entire library.  If I have a regular book and it gets damaged, it will just dry out and have some wrinkly pages.  Where’s the balance?

Cold Beer & Satisfaction

My father raised me right.  Among other things he taught me how to appreciate beer. He used to tell me that on a hot day nothing quite quenched thirst like an icy, cold beer.  I’d like to add to my father’s wisdom with a few more scenarios where beer can be thirst quenching and exquisitely satisfying.
In August I went to NYC and Connecticut for a week to visit friends and family. Getting to my mother’s house from Toronto is an epic journey requiring 8 different modes of transportation and 10 separate legs:
  1. Bus
  2. Subway
  3. Streetcar
  4. Ferry
  5. Airplane
  6. Monorail
  7. Train (NJ Transit)
  8. Subway
  9. Train (Metro North)
  10. Car
  11. Plus some walking in between – does this count? 
As I approached leg #9 I spied the bar cart. Saved!
First thirst quencher was sucked down at the tail end of a long day of travel.

First thirst quencher was sucked down at the tail end of a long day of travel.

Some travel could be reduced by taking cabs, or by taking a direct shuttle from Newark Airport to Grand Central Station.  It wasn’t possible this time.
A couple days later I headed to my friends’ beach house on Fire Island via NYC.  It happened in this order:
  1. Car
  2. Train (Metro North)
  3. Subway
  4. Train (Long Island Rail Road [LIRR])
  5. Shuttle
  6. Ferry
  7. BEACH!!!
Along the way I ran errands between legs 2 & 3 and between legs 3 & 4.  I reached Penn Station loaded with fresh bagels, wine, beer, chocolate and a jar of homemade pesto.  Only the heavy stuff.  The voyage to Fire Island was during the Friday afternoon rush hour bustle.  If you’ve never had the distinct pleasure of being in NYC during rush hour it can only be described as organized chaos! You have to know where to go. All movements are carefully orchestrated.
I lucked out at the bar cart before boarding the LIRR with a tasty can of The Crisp, by a very good local brewer called Six Point. Totally hit the spot and gave me a nice memory of Dad. Double win.
Getting into beach mode after hours of moving fast.

Getting into beach mode after hours of moving fast.

And finally, the best and most thirst quenching beer of the whole voyage.  Also gave me a chance to work on those weird tan lines with my summer toes!
The ultimate satisfaction!

The ultimate satisfaction!

For all the conveniences and comforts technology offers us, you still have to put in the hours to get somewhere.  At least for now…but fortunately opportunities for cold beer exist along the way.

Binge Watching

I’m always amazed at the difference Netflix has made to the experience of watching television. I remember as a child having to wait a whole week to watch an episode of a show I liked.  And if I had to miss it, I had to wait for a rerun, at least until recording devices came along.  Netflix-created shows, such as Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, has really changed the viewing experience by releasing the entire season at the same time.  Netflix understands people like to binge watch and will devour an entire season within days.  Here are some of the main differences:

The spoilers!  If you watch TV like me it will take months to finish a season of something.  This means I run the risk of having something ruined.  My friend and I watch Orange is the New Black together whenever our schedules coincide.  Consequently, we’re only on episode 12. Recently my friend told me she overheard some girls talking about Orange on the bus and had to cover her ears so she wouldn’t hear anything.  Spoilers can also come in the form of social media, such as tweets, so it can be hard to avoid them sometimes.

It’s not an established event anymore.  Before Netflix, I can recall having set dinner/TV dates with loved ones to watch an episode together.  Even though I do this with my friend to watch Orange, it’s usually done on an informal and ad-hoc basis.  It ceases to be an event the same way it feels to watch the Oscars or tournament games.

The discussion is missing!   It’s difficult to discuss binge-watched shows because everybody is likely at a different point in the story.  And since it’s the first time they’re being aired…

Everything blurs together.  I sometimes find it hard to keep the episodes straight when I watch so many continuously.  Without a week off in between episodes, my brain doesn’t have any time to process what happened either by spending time thinking about it or by discussing it with others (see previous point).  Before Netflix, binge watching was strictly for reruns, meaning that episodes had been seen at least once before.

It’s interesting to observe how our viewing behaviors have changed and how many other aspects of watching TV have also been affected with unlimited opportunities for binge watching.

Patagonia: Tierra del Fuego – Wulaia Bay

After our stormy morning at Cape Horn the ship turned north again and we stopped at Wulaia Bay for an afternoon hike.  After about an hour of walking through many marvels in the forest we ended up at the lookout point.  Wulaia Bay was definitely a trip highlight for me.

We hiked up to the lookout point for this exquisite view.

We hiked up to the lookout point for this exquisite view.

Along the way we could see clumps of edible fungus called “dura dura” which means sweet sweet in one of the native languages from the indigenous peoples of Tierra del Fuego. It was everywhere. Hanging out in the trees in bright orangey clumps, or laying softly on the ground beneath our feet.

Sweet edible fungus.

Sweet edible fungus.

At one point we saw a beaver dam on the hike, which was kind of odd because beavers are not an indigenous species of Tierra del Fuego. Many decades ago, somebody thought it would be a good idea to start a fur trade industry by importing beavers to Tierra del Fuego to hunt them for their shiny, luxurious pelts. The beaver has no natural predator in this part of the world.  Apparently beavers need this predatory fear to produce hormones and chemicals to make their fur shiny and lush. So the beavers of Tierra del Fuego have dull fur and are destroying the habitat because nothing is around to kill them. I didn’t show the beaver dam because I thought the natural, unspoiled scenery was a lot nicer.

Here’s some of the natural landscape complete with dura dura fungus.

Running stream at Wulaia Bay.

Running stream at Wulaia Bay.

After descending from the lookout point I snapped a few pictures of the surrounding landscape at the ground level.

A scene from the ground level of Wulaia Bay

A scene from the ground level of Wulaia Bay

Next stop Ushaia, requiring another border crossing via the boat from Chile to Argentina. And then back up to Buenos Aires for a night and then off to Iguassu Falls!