Patagonia: Tierra del Fuego – Los Pinguinos!

After our exciting morning at Ainsworth Bay, we prepped ourselves for the Megellanic Penguins.  It wasn’t a guarantee we would see them so we were all hoping for the best.  As we approached Tucker Islet I spotted a small penguin hanging out on the surface, kind of like a duck.  Phew!  As an added bonus dolphins appeared and stayed with us the whole afternoon.

The first thing we observed on the island was Rock Cormorants, one of two cormorant species on the island. After leaving the cormorants we started to see tiny black-and-white shapes dotting the green areas of the island.  Pinguinos!  They were magical.  Everybody spontaneously erupted into huge smiles and giggles.

A bunch of Megellanic Penguins hanging around.

A bunch of Megellanic Penguins hanging around.

Penguins are hilarious to watch and incredibly animated.  When you observe a group of them each penguin is doing something different.  Equally amazing is the transformation they make from land to water.  As they approach the water they teeter awkwardly and hunch over so that the beak is almost touching their feet.  Then they slip into the water and instantaneously transform into a magical, sleek animal perfectly suited for swimming and diving.  My brother snapped this close up of a chick. Chicks have grayish feathers and haven’t yet developed the characteristic black and white markings.

A chick hanging out on the shore.

A chick hanging out on the shore.

In addition to cormorants and penguins, skuas are also island residents.  Skuas eat penguin eggs and the freshly hatched chicks, but don’t pose any threat to full grown penguins or the larger chicks.  It was kind of funny to see the two birds, known enemies, hanging around together.  My brother’s boat was in between the skuas and the penguins so he took this picture.

Skuas hanging out adjacent to the penguin colony.


After the penguins we circled to the other side of the island to see the Imperial Cormorants, the other species.  They were loud and stinky.  Beautiful to watch, but not as enchanting as the penguins in my opinion.

A gulp of Imperial Cormorants, also adjacent to the penguin colony.

A gulp of Imperial Cormorants, also adjacent to the penguin colony.

*Bonus picture* As we headed back dolphins zipped around the zodiacs playing with us.  My brother got a video of one jumping and captured it as a single image.

Dolphins frolicked around the zodiacs as we zipped back from Tucker Islet to the boat.

Dolphins frolicked around the zodiacs as we headed back to the boat.

Google Glass: Privacy vs. Distraction

Right now the big discussion surrounding Google Glass has to do with privacy implications, as mentioned in last week’s post.  People are concerned that Glass enables the wearer, also called Glass Explorers, to snap images and take video without anybody else knowing.  While this may be a legitimate concern for Glass, isn’t it already possible for people to take pictures and video with their smartphones, or smartwatches, without others knowing?

At a conference I attended recently one of the tech staff revealed to me that when famous guests are in the conference centre, he would sometimes walk by and snap surreptitious pictures using his smartwatch.  Admittedly using a smartphone is not as clandestine as Glass, but it still happens.  Just the other day a friend sent me a photo he had taken on the subway of two men completely absorbed with their smartphones.  Is that the same infringement on privacy?

In addition to privacy, there are two other aspects of Glass that have not received a lot of attention.

1.  Distraction – Smartphones are a continual distraction for most people, even though leaving the device out of sight and on silent, or vibrate, is an option.  People are already disillusioned into thinking they can multi-task with handheld devices while doing other things, such as having conversations, walking, or trying to work.  How will this work with Glass, when the information is presented in the wearer’s direct line of sight?  An article written in April 2013 titled “What Will Google Glass do to Our Brains?” explores the effects of Glass on health, attention spans, and feeling connected through interpersonal interactions.

2.  Virtual Sharing – With Glass it is possible for the wearer to share his/her view with others through Hangout, a Google application that allows for video conversations with screen sharing, or through LiveStream, a platform that allows people to record and broadcast events.  Glass makes sharing interactive in a way that hasn’t been utilized before now.  The screen sharing capabilities of Hangout make it possible for somebody to see exactly what the Glass wearer is seeing, in real time.  Whoa.  Shouldn’t people also be concerned that their privacy could be violated by having somebody else silently watching through Glass?

Stay tuned. Should you decide to invest in Glass, watch this video to avoid being labeled a glasshole.

Google Glass: Glasshole or Trendsetter?

About a year ago, Google ran a contest on Twitter to select some people to try out Google Glass, a new product. Glass is essentially a pair of eyeglass frames with a small screen and computer built in. The screen sits just above the right eye. Click here to learn more about it.

Basically Glass aims to make taking pictures, capturing video, messaging people and surfing the web a seamless experience by eliminating the need to hold a device.  For example, the Glass wearer can take a picture of something while s/he is participating because Glass makes it a hands-free activity. Simply speak a command beginning with O.K. Glass and then the action is performed.

On the one hand, this sounds like an amazing feat.  I would certainly appreciate something like this when I’m hiking or when I want to photograph something but can’t because my hands are busy.  However, some people don’t like Glass because they feel like their privacy could be violated.  If a Glass wearer can take pictures or record video without anybody noticing, then it can make other people nervous.

I recently read an article about a woman asked to remove her Glass in a restaurant due to privacy concerns and refused.  She was labeled a “glasshole“.  Once I heard this, I started thinking about places I might feel uncomfortable if somebody was wearing Glass.  For example, my gym’s locker room forbids the use of smartphones because of their photographic capabilities.  Most people ignore it, but I’ve heard it enforced by members.

A Glass wearer can also have hangout sessions, a Google application that lets people have video conversations.  During a hangout, the other person can see everything the Glass wearer can see.  What if a Glass wearer has a conversation with somebody in person while doing a hangout session with somebody else?  The person on hangout would be privy to the entire conversation.  Talk about being a fly on the wall.

As more people start wearing Glass perhaps we will grow accustomed to seeing it and Glass wearers will not be thought of as glassholes.  It could be similar to other technologies that seemed strange at first, like when people first started using cell phones in public places.  Over time we’ve grown tolerant of people using their phones anytime anywhere.  Perhaps Glass will follow the trend.

Patagonia: Tierra del Feugo – Ainsworth Bay by boat

After departing Torres del Paine National Park, we drove for hours before arriving in Puerto Natales for dinner and sleep.  We left early the next morning to visit a local ranch on Isla Riesco for a fresh lamb roast on our way to the boat.

The pictures are not featured since they basically consisted of a roasting lamb spitted over an open flame, the good looking farm hand who sheared a sheep with scissors in under 20 minutes and a shed filled with a curious collection of assorted items that had made it to the island and never left such as tools, old pots and a stuffed armadillo.

After the lamb roast we drove to the boat in Punta Arenas located on the Strait of Magellan.  Our embarkment was delayed several hours.  The winds were so strong that the boat had not been able to dock for over 12 hours.  Once on board, we were ready to continue our adventure exploring the mystical Tierra del Fuego.

Our first stop was Ainsworth Bay.  After disembarking for our morning hike, we remained silent for several moments to let our senses experience our surroundings.  The feel of the cool summer breeze on our skin, smells of the fresh and slightly salty waters, chirps and tweets of the birds flitting around us.

Fake mistletoe, also called "Chinese lanterns", named for the many different colors it comes in, browns, greens, reds and oranges.  It's considered to be a half-parasite.

Fake mistletoe, also called “Chinese lanterns”, named for the many different colors it comes in, browns, greens, reds and oranges. It’s considered to be a half-parasite.

We entered the forest.  It felt similar to other parts of Patagonia yet completely different.  Words can’t adequately describe how it felt to walk on this part of the earth, so remote from everything and untouched.  It was magical.

Serene forest at Ainsworth Bay

Serene forest at Ainsworth Bay

After our forest walk, we emerged into a field carpeted with bright, pink flowers and even an occasional piece of seaweed.

In a different direction, another small stream surrounded by a field of small, pink flowers, reminding us that it really was summer in this magical place.

Small stream surrounded by a field of small, pink flowers, reminding us that it really was summer in this magical place.

A look in the other direction revealed a small stream with a mountainous backdrop. We meandered slowly back to the boat, trying to absorb as much as we could of our short stay on land.

Stream and mountain view at Ainsworth Bay.

Stream and mountain view at Ainsworth Bay.

Next stop los pinguinos!


Ode to Joy

Few things in life compare to the thrill of playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, the famous “Ode to Joy” symphony as it is commonly known.  Recently I played this piece for only the third time in my life and it was just as exhilarating as the first time. Most people are familiar with the last movement, which is the one with the choir and the well-known theme.  However, the first three movements are just as stunning and set up the story for the action happening in the last movement.

The opening notes from the violins sound to me like the first rays of sun starting a new day.  Everything is waking up.  And the symphony just builds from there interweaving themes and instruments in a seamless way.  It’s like listening to a novel developing the plot and the characters to tell a story of this magical day.  I am completely present and focused for the entire time I’m playing, which is around 90 minutes.

As one of my musician friends once said to me, “Ah, Beethoven 9, the symphony that lasts forever and passes in the blink of an eye.”  Strangely enough, that’s exactly how I feel playing it.  I’m so focused and absorbed during the performance that when it ends, it’s as though I was transported somewhere for a period of time and I’m not quite sure what happened when it’s all over, but I know that something very important transpired.

This is when I must rely on my human archives to capture and claim the small magical moments and any new discoveries made, even though I’ve listened to it so many times I’ve lost count.  I look forward to hearing my favorite parts such as a certain passage in the fourth movement that always makes my throat catch, or the opening of the march section which features the bassoons and always makes me want to giggle, even though it’s kind of a serious moment.

It will take me days to process everything and calm down from all the excitement and the joy I now feel from the latest performance. I enjoy being able to relive the moments purely based on what I remember and how I’ve internalized the experience.  Somehow listening to a recording just isn’t the same.


Addicted to Speed

I recently read a book by Jack Kornfield called A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life written in 1993.  In one of the chapters he talks about our addiction to speed.  Although this was written over 20 years ago, I find myself thinking about this idea in today’s context of rapid interactions, instantaneous results and the capability to do anything anywhere with our portable devices.

Meaningful conversations are exchanged through abbreviated text punctuated with emoticons and acronyms as though we can’t be bothered to take the time to spell out entire words.  As soon as an email is sent or a social media post goes up, the expectation is for an instant reaction or response.

Our expectation for a fast pace is partially, if not entirely, driven by the capability of the technologies we use.  When I first started connecting to the internet via a phone modem, I remember leaving the computer for minutes at a time waiting for an image to download pixel by pixel. Now I feel irritated if I have to wait a few seconds for the images (note plural) to appear on the screen.  And this expectation for fast and instantaneous results has seeped into our interactions with other humans and non-technological services.  How did this association happen?

In some ways it seems completely unrealistic because humans are not machines, so therefore we shouldn’t be expected to work at the same pace.  But on the other hand, the faster technology does allow us to respond faster because we’re able to access information anytime, anywhere in seconds.  Does the speed detract from our enjoyment?  Or does it enhance our experiences because everything happens so fast it allows us to cram more in and not spend so much time waiting for things to happen?

Why are we so addicted to speed?  If we could choose which things we want to happen fast and which things we want to slow down, what would we pick?  Sometimes there’s value to be gained in not responding instantly, or taking a few moments to appreciate something to process it fully before snapping a picture and posting it on Facebook or Instagram.