Monday, October 25, 2010

The End Or The Beginning...

Neither! If you're one of those nostalgic about the long ago days when Inuit paddled skin boats and lived in snowhouses, you might be concerned to see what's just happened in Iqaluit. The coffee chain 'Tim Horton's' has moved into town. I understand from fellow blogger from Igaluit, Townie Bastard that there may be more than one outlet for the chain. How times do change!

Mind you, you can still build a snowhouse and paddle a skin covered kayak if you want to, but now you can have a hot coffee at the same time!

(Image from Townie Bastard's blog)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Blog Action Day: Water

It's Blog Action Day!

Water. Who needs it? What's it good for anyway? These sound like silly questions, but when one looks around, it's clear that many of us don't seem to know the answers to these questions. The owner of the pedalo in the photo above didn't seem to get it. He or she discovered that it was fun to be out on the water in the pedalo, but when it disappeared from wherever it was stored, it seemed like it was out of sight, out of mind. Just one more toss away item, it would seem. It ended up at this spot and remained there for a week or more. Finally, helped by my cousin, we towed it to a small nearby beach, drained most of the water out of it and pulled it onto dry land. Last time I paddled in the area, it had gone. Was it the original owner, or someone else who took it? I suppose that's another way water serves us: passing things along!

Another interesting thing about water is it's double edge. What can nourish us can also kill us. What might look like a crystal pure drink may contain deadly organisms. Sea ice, another form of water, allows seals to be seen by an Inuk hunter, but when it forms a thin skim layer on the surface, it can tear the hull of a boat to pieces. Steam, the vapour form, will make a delicious espresso coffee, or burn you. The double edge of water is never far away.

Keeping this ying/yang concept in mind, we need to treat our water with care and vigilance. It will keep us well or kill us. Never turn one's back on water! Like the pedalo, one can be pulled in and set adrift. Unlike the pedalo, landing on a distant beach can be a life or death experience...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Geocache Vandalism

A few weeks ago I participated in a geocaching event in Maine. I chose to look for caches which were hidden around the shores of Flagstaff Lake. This meant that I could spend a day paddling the lake, going from cache site to cache site, combining two fun activities at the same time. I managed to find 9 out of the 10 geocaches I looked for, a pretty good record for me. One of the caches was a brand new one created for the event on an island in the lake. All of them were not easy to find. They were well hidden!

I recently received news that some kill-joy out there has been going around stealing caches and throwing the contents in the garbage. He manged to find and distroy the new cache and perhaps some other ones around the lake. His rationale is that he is "defending the forests" by removing what he sees as trash, littering up the landscape. He fails to mention that most of the geocaches he has removed up to this point actually were hidden in roadside guard-rails, a commonly used hiding site...

Sadly this is a case of a mis-guided person whose actions do nothing to defend the forests, but serve only to alienate him from hundreds of geocachers. In fact the motto of the geocaching world is "Cache in, trash out". Caches are not litter. They are carefully hidden, safe for animals and help promote an appreciation for the wilderness by getting people out there in the natural world. While paddling Flagstaff Lake, I brought along a trash bag to defend the forests and beaches. I collected all the trash I came across - there was a lot of it! - and was able to recycle nearly all of it when I returned home.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Photo Dump

I got dumped on by a fellow kayak blogger the other day for using one of his photos in my piece applauding the work of an Australian kayak maker who's using solar power in his factory. The photo looked like a cute family snapshot so I didn't think anyone would mind it being used. I was wrong. Mea culpa!

The subsequent discussion on his blog makes it clear that the issue of copyright is not as well defined in people's minds as it might be. It's also clear that the concept of copyright has failed to keep up with the internet and the way people have chosen to use it. It's become a bit like the 'wild west of yore' where one needs to be savvy if you don't wish to be victimized by people doing what I did. It's the reason why most professional photographers wishing to protect their work and receive due credit for it use dedicated, protected sites where they retain all their rights and ownership. The average person, like you and me don't bother. Instead, we use photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Picassa to store our photos online. These sites often claim ownership of our photos and many users do not realize this. We sometimes feel flattered or annoyed when our photos appear elsewhere on the net. Who owns what on the internet and how it can be used is far from clear to the average user. The wide-spread copying and using of other people's photos puts one in an up-hill battle against users living all over the world living in a variety of conflicting jurisdictions.

Does that make me less guilty? No, of course not. I used another person's photo without giving them proper credit. When contacted about it, I offered to give him due credit. I didn't get a reply to that statement. Instead I got dumped on publicly on his blog. I don't mind being corrected when I make an error and I don't mind correcting my errors if I can. It was a useful wake-up call, but unfortunately it won't really help my fellow blogger retain ownership of his photos.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hiking the Trail

While at Flagstaff lake the other day, I met a couple of people who had spent the summer thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. I enjoy day hiking and can see myself getting into doing some over-night hikes, but taking on the challenge of a long trail like the Appalachian is truly mind-blowing. We're talking walking around 2000 miles over some of the hilliest terrain on the planet. Beautiful, but tough.

So my admiration goes out to these people as they reach their goal of being a 'thru-hiker', someone who walks the total length of the trail in a single season, more or less non-stop. Many people keep an on-line journal of their experiences which can be accessed here.