Patagonia: Torres del Paine – The Horns

Our last hike at Torres del Paine took place in the afternoon on New Year’s Day.  Although the magical Horns’ twin peaks had been pointed out to us, they were always enshrouded in mist.

The afternoon walk commenced with a quick stop at the visitor’s center placed at the edge of a river and surrounded by fields of multicolored lupins.

Fields of mulitcolored lupins were everywhere.

Fields of mulitcolored lupins were everywhere, including some colors I had never seen before.

After the visitor center, the bus took us to a lookout point of the Horns to eat our lunch in front of the beautiful scenery. Unfortunately the Horns remained invisible due to all the mist, but shortly after, we started our hike to get a closer view of the Horns at this waterfall. The sound of the water rushing over the edge felt cleansing and refreshing.

The hike commenced with this stunning waterfall.

The hike commenced with this stunning waterfall.

The air was cool and moist. As usual, the strong Patagonian winds whipped around changing the weather from warm and sunny to sideways rain in a matter of minutes. The landscape revealed the charred remains of a fire, creating natural sculptures in every direction. The stark whiteness of the tree branches stood out against the greens, reds and oranges of the living plants surrounding them.

Remnants of a fire created natural sculptures in every direction.  Each burnt stumped was so unique it was almost like walking through an art gallery.

Remnants of a fire created natural sculptures in every direction. Each burnt stump was so unique it was almost like walking through an art gallery.

After reaching the second lookout point for the Horns, we rested waiting patiently for them to reveal themselves to us. Despite the winds, the sun was shining for a while and it felt nice on my skin. On the return, we finally got a view of the peaks for a brief window of time before the mist rolled in again.

A rare glimpse of the Horns' peaks.  We were lucky to see them as we were hiking back.

A rare glimpse of the Horns’ peaks. We were lucky to see them as we were hiking back.

Passwords: General Recommendations

Several months ago I decided to start keeping track of all my accounts that required a login and password.  Since I first posted on this topic in September, I have created a list with 60+ different accounts, all requiring a login and password.  I’m in the process of consolidating and/or purging accounts wherever possible, starting with email.  In case you’re wondering how, or why, I have so many accounts, below is a small sample of the different types.

Social Media

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn

Financial Accounts

  • US Bank
  • Canadian Bank (personal and professional)
  • Savings/Retirement accounts 
  • Credit Cards


  • Frequent Flyer mile programs
  • Internet
  • Cell phone
  • Hydro/Electric

Professional Accounts

  • Administrator sites for blog and website
  • Email subscription service
  • Web hosting service
  • Memberships with professional organizations

Email accounts

  • Personal (3 separate accounts)
  • Professional (4 separate accounts)

As part of my anal-retentive management of these accounts, I feel pressure to come up with unique passwords for each one that are both easy for me to remember and difficult to hack.  Over the years I have developed different techniques to create passwords which have been fairly successful, even when I have to remember a password that I haven’t used in over a year.

My preferred method is to create a pattern that I can apply to create each password. Then I only need to remember one pattern that I can use 60+ times.  Every 12-18 months, I come up with a new pattern and change all my passwords.  Once the new pattern is established, I update my passwords as I use them so the change happens gradually.

I have had more difficulty in devising a system for creating and remember logins.  This is mostly because logins tend to have more creation requirements than passwords.  Some logins are my email address, while others are a portion of my email address, or something completely different.

To learn more about general recommendations for passwords, go here Tips for Creating Unique, Memorable, and Secure Passwords.


During fall 2008, I was unable to use my right hand for almost 6 weeks due to an injury. Most of the trouble stemmed from my thumb.  For almost a month I couldn’t even turn a doorknob. I had nerve pain.

My friend Ian, who was in treatment for cancer, invited me to stay with him at his parents’ house. That way we could help each other. “Come on over,” he said. “My parents are out of town and my sister is visiting. We have tons of space.”  I gratefully accepted his generous offer.

Ian was doing ok with all the treatments, but still faced challenges. During the day I worked as a reference librarian for Vancouver Public Library. In between patrons, I used to search the system for DVDs of movies and TV series for us to watch in the evenings. Strangers with Candy was a big hit.  It always made Ian laugh the most and the loudest.

One night we decided to make a steak dinner. Ian spent all afternoon slow roasting the potatoes. Once I arrived, we cooked up the steaks and sat down. I was so excited to eat this amazing meal, except that I couldn’t hold anything in my right hand.

I had a hard moment at this point. All of a sudden I was confronted with another thing I couldn’t do because of my hand. I wanted to eat my steak and my crispy slow-roasted potatoes, but I couldn’t figure out how to cut anything.

Ian noticed immediately. “Here,” he said, reaching for my plate. “Want me to cut that for you?”

His gesture touched me deeply, and mostly because he did it in a gentle, kind way. I felt relieved and grateful. Normally I would have felt frustrated at my inability to do such a small thing, even if it was temporary.

He slid my plate over, cut everything up, cracked a joke and passed it back with a smile. Ian used to always say, “I don’t understand why doctors don’t smile more. It doesn’t cost them anything and it makes me feel like a person. Such a simple thing.”

In honor of Ian Tapper, one of my greatest friends.

Patagonia: Torres del Paine – Guanaco Playland

After the brief detour to share pics of warm, sunny Iguazu Falls, the Patagonia portion continues. On New Year’s Eve, we crossed the Chilean border to experience a completely different landscape. The vegetation on the Chilean side benefited from the winds carrying moisture from the Pacific Ocean. Everything seemed greener and more lush.
Our hike at Torres del Paine National Park commenced with 6 Andean condors soaring overhead. We were instantly transported to a Guanaco Playland. Every turn of the head offered stunning scenery, the cool, strong trademark winds of Patagonia and abundant opportunities to watch the guanacos play. Occasionally we could hear their cries, a high-pitched noise that sounded something like a cross between a horse and a goat.

During our first hike in Torres del Paine, we saw guanacos all over the place.

During our first hike in Torres del Paine, we saw guanacos all over the place.

Littered across the ground, one could see the remains of carcasses and their bleached out skeletons.

The natural terrain was often littered with animal carcasses.  This one is the hind quarter of a guanaco.

The natural terrain was often littered with animal carcasses. This one is the hind quarter of a guanaco.

Lewis, getting where he needs to go, one step at a time.

My friend and trusty hiking companion.

My friend and trusty hiking companion.

A teenage guanaco pausing to catch his breath after some rigorous playtime.

After playing chase with another guanaco this little guy needed a breather.

After playing chase with another guanaco, this little guy needed a breather.


Digital Photos: Multi-formats

One thing I always find challenging about organizing photos, regardless of format, is how subjective the whole process feels. Typical options tend to be more subject-based and include things such as event, place, people, pets etc. But for some people, like artists, there might be other considerations such as color, texture, mood, shapes or patterns, all of which illustrate that selecting descriptive terms is subjective.

Having said that, it never ceases to amaze me how often I see photos organized by date. Even on my MacBook, iPhoto naturally groups photos into “events” by date, unless I go in and merge/separate them manually. This puzzles me because I think that the human memory is most fallible when trying to recall the exact date of an occurrence, unless it happens to be for something exceptionally memorable like a wedding or birth.

I go to NYC often to visit friends and family. When searching for specific NYC pictures I’m likely to remember where I was, the time of year and the people instead of the exact date of the photo. I instinctively search for an event like New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving, or a person’s name, rather than the exact year/date the pictures were taken. For this reason, I prefer to organize my images by place, event, or people. The dates are part of the organizing, they’re just not my primary method.

Introducing the ease with which video is created adds a whole new dimension. With a photo, you can look at it and tell right away what it is about, even if it’s organized by date. With video, however, this isn’t always so easy to do. For example, my brother made three videos of the penguins on the Patagonia trip. Each one is completely unique, but when describing them, I find myself at a loss about how to distinguish one from the other. One video shows a penguin entering the water. Another video has a great closeup of a penguin shaking its tail. Without watching each video in its entirety, or having a detailed description telling me which second each thing happened, I’m not quite sure how to easily find the moments that I want to watch again and again. Video includes so much more than a photo that it increases the need to have even more ways to describe the content.

If a picture is worth 1000 words, how many words is a video worth?

Archiving vs. Saving

As an archivist, the word “archiving” means something very specific to me.  When I say “archiving” I mean selecting records for long-term preservation and maintaining them.  This means that only certain records (ex. documents, images, videos) are selected through a process using defined criteria to make a determination.

As The Deletist I will emphasize an important part of the process: not everything gets saved.  That’s actually the point.  The time, space, and resources are not available to save everything.  When I save everything so that I can restore documents in case of a system crash, I call this a backup, not an archive.

Since receiving my archivist designation, I have learned to accept different interpretations of the word in both my professional and personal life.  For example, when I speak with an IT person using the word “archive,” I know that the interpretation is “save everything, often on cheaper disk space, so restoration is possible if the system crashes.”  The goal, from the IT perspective, is about availability and restoration, which is quite different from that of an archivist.

When I speak to friends who talk about “archiving” pictures or documents, the meaning is somewhat similar to that of an IT person, except preserving everything rather than restoration might be the primary focus.  Numerous reasons exist for why people “archive” so many things.  Some possible reasons might be:

Procrastination – After amassing terabytes worth of data the sheer volume seems daunting, but is not an issue because the storage space is readily available and cheap.

Fear – Sometimes people are afraid to get rid of things for fear of needing them later, or getting in trouble for deleting something erroneously.  Fear of never being able to find anything rarely seems to enter this equation.

TIme – see procrastination. The sheer volume of stuff increases the amount of time needed to go through it, and if space isn’t a concern, why rush?

Indecision – Establishing selection criteria can be challenging. It’s not always easy to decide what to keep and what to purge.  This is a process fraught with gray areas.

Sentiment – We get attached to things for all kinds of crazy and irrational reasons which all seem perfectly valid to the person making the decision.

Today’s lesson:

If you’re going to have an “archive,” be mindful of what it actually means. And if you’re saving everything without any process involved, it’s just backup, or a giant collection of stuff.