July 2007

23 Jul 2007 [link to here]
whale spotting

I have good luck with whales. The first time I went whale watching, I was in a kayak. A gray whale surfaced a couple meters away, heading straight for me, and dove right under me. It was so close I could have reached out and poked it with my paddle. That was more than a little exciting.

This was my second, and while it wasn't so full of adrenaline, it was more eventful than anyone could have predicted. The weather was full of fog and not conducive to photography, so my photos are kind of lame, but in person the show was amazing.

At first it didn't seem like we were going to see much. A distant spout, a sliding patch of whale back. Then, very far away, barely visible through the mist, a humpback breached. I wish it could have been closer, but most people (and even most whale watching trips) never see one at all, so it felt special.

Then we got a little closer, and she did it again. Closer. Again. Eventually she was breaching 50m from our boat. Over and over. She leaped completely out of the water two dozen times right in front of us. I'm 500 times lighter than she is, but I'm pretty sure I couldn't do that even once, and not just because I don't want to get my camera wet. No knows why whales do it. I'm pretty sure that if I weighed 40000kg and could leap like that and crash into the water with a ginormous spray and thunder, I wouldn't need a reason.

The guide said afterwards that we were spoiled now and shouldn't expect that sort of thing to happen the next time we go out. So far so good though. I'm already looking forward to trying again.

28 Jul 2007 [link to here]
It's all about power

When I first traveled abroad fourteen years ago, the only thing I brought that used electricity was my wristwatch. Since the battery outlived the watch, it's safe to think of it as something that didn't require power at all, like a sundial or an unusually handy turnip. It's the future now, and my power needs have amplified. With great power comes great power: no one has seen my photos or staggeringly long spiral-bound journal from that trip, because they're stuck on film and paper, but you might read this delightful essay before I even get home.

The convenience of our futuristic present is marred by one small detail. I forgot to bring a plug adapter. I've got two at home (I must have forgotten once before), but somehow, despite years of experience and weeks of adding things to my detailed packing list, I just didn't think of it this time.

No problem. They're not so hard to find. On my way out of the country, I stopped into a luggage store. Indeed, they had plug adapters, but they were all big and bulky. Bah! What sort of traveler buys an adapter five times as large as the ones they forgot to bring? No problem. I'll just get one in the airport.

Of course, my mind is elsewhere at the airport, having flown standby on an earlier flight, and I forgot to even look. I arrived in the foreign land, ditched my stuff at my hotel, and headed into town. I quickly found one there, but it was the same oversized monster I'd scorned in the US. Surely I can do better than that.

As it happens, no, I can't do better. In fact, I couldn't even do that well again. After an hour of goal-oriented exploration, I finally found all the shops that sell these things, all in a short stretch of Praxitelous St, and all closed for the weekend, please come back in a couple days when you have better things to do. Meanwhile, it had gotten late, and by "late" I mean 4pm, which I guess is the local shopkeepers' idea of late on a Saturday, so hunting for that first place seemed pointless.

I consoled myself with delicious food, which was administered mere seconds before I was due to faint from hunger and heat, then found my way back to the hotel. On my way through reception, I casually asked, just a passing thought, don't go to any trouble, but I wonder if you have a plug adapter I could borrow, since I foolishly forgot mine. Sure, no problem, here you go. Her actual phrasing was more elegant, but I wasn't really paying attention beyond the hooray-I-will-not-have-to-ration-my-electrons moment.

So here I am, typing away on grid power. The adapter is larger than one ought to be, but I don't mind since I won't be taking it home. More about the conveniences of modern travel after I hunt down some net access.