24 Sep 2011

Underwater Clean Up in Santa Pola

Well that was interesting! And EXHAUSTING!!! A couple of hours in the sun, on the boat or in the water, are always tiring. Add the trash collecting and no wonder I'm so dead!

I got up at very early o'clock this morning, and zipped along the coast to the other end of the Alicante Bay to Santa Pola, to join in the 1st annual clean up organised by ANTHIAS, the dive club I've been going out with this summer, for "Clean Up Your World Day". 10 conscientious divers answered the call. We got our equipment ready as quickly as possible, piled it in the boat, and got the general instructions for the day's work.

 Our target:

the breakwater protecting Santa Pola's harbour, favourite haunt of local amateur fishermen.

The A-Team gets geared up to start on the first section:

They're off!

Those of us on the boat (B-Team) watch them bobbing up and down between the seabed and the surface, while the fishermen look on wondering what these crazy people are up to.

While filling up several trash bags with cans, juice boxes, plastic bags (by far the big winner), fishing lines, our friends occasionally bring us back some of the most random objects, way to big to fit in a bag!

abandoned fishing gear never really stops fishing! :s
du-dun, du-dun... (cue Jaws theme)
it was a plastic barnacle-covered table top!
would anyone like half a chair?

Halfway down the line we switch places. A comes up for some sun, B jumps in the water!

Main problem with this clean up? Crappy visibility!!!

Can't see much, can you? The bottom is all silt, so it finds itself easily in suspension in the water column (one good kick with the flippers and you're blind!). You have to get really close to things to be able to see them at all...

Quite disturbing!!!

Even looking up it's hard to make out the boat!

While we were doing our watery part, a few others worked along the rocks, braving the wrath of the fishermen who didn't like being interrupted, but who couldn't be bothered to clean up after themselves! grrrr....

I don't know what the final tally is, but we brought up a lot of shit! Hopefully next year more people will join in.

And now I'm turning in early... have to get up at bloody early o'clock again to go hiking! I must be crazy... :p

23 Sep 2011

Time to Clean Up The World

Did you know that the 3rd weekend in September is "Clean Up The World" weekend? In other words... last weekend and we just missed it! Or did we? Did any of you know about it?

Anthias, the dive club I've been going out with this summer sure did! They're combining that with Project Aware's Dive Against Debris programme, and they've organised a Mediterranean clean-up day for tomorrow

Project Aware's objectives:
"Dive Against Debris combines underwater cleanups with critical data collection that helps address marine debris problems at their source. The data we collect will present a compelling 360-degree view of debris issues and will help initiate policy change to prevent debris in the future."
"If we’re going to help change waste management policies, we need underwater data that paints a true picture of debris issues beneath the surface. We hope you - the dive leaders, volunteers and citizen scientists - will join a growing movement of scuba divers in 180 countries collecting and reporting the underwater trash you find to help protect the ocean against the onslaught of marine debris."
Marine debris is basically our everyday trash that ends up floating around or sinking in the oceans. Don't think it's just the responsibility of coastal dwellers! Trash travels over land (think of how far the wind can blow stuff!), down rivers and storm drains... you've heard of the water cycle, right? It all ends up back in the ocean! And once there it can drift anywhere around the world because it's really all just one big ocean thanks to the massive oceanic currents. This ends up being a problem for many animals (particularly sea birds, turtles...) who confuse the rubbish for food, for certain delicate environments (like coral reefs) and even humans who find their favourite once pristine beaches just covered in the trash the tide washed in! 

Who better than divers to appreciate this problem? We spend as many hours as we can lost in the beauty and wonders of the underwater world, and although we may on occasion make a joke out of it ('cause we usually have a great sense of humor!),

Don't Drink and Dive kids!

it saddens us to see things like this in the sea:

plastic bag floating beneath the sea's surface

This isn't  a problem that's going to be solved (or even cleaned up) with just one day's actions. It's going to take regular work and a daily effort from all of us to keep our oceans and planet clean! I'm going to be pitching in tomorrow, why don't you see if you can do something about it this weekend too? It's never too late to start, right? ;o)

And for the divers out there, here's a great Self-Study guide for collecting (and reporting) trash on your own while you're out diving. ;o)

19 Sep 2011

A Good Night's Sleep Worst Enemy

grrrrrr... I have 5 bites on my left arm alone (plus a couple on other arm and legs)! Bloody thing has been buzzing in my ear all night. Tried to kill it several times but missed. Result? Finally got out of bed at 5:30 a.m. (after 5h of fractured sleep) looking for something to do. Drowsiness is starting to kick in again, so maybe I'll give it another go. Good thing I don't have to teach until the afternoon! But if I do manage to fall back asleep too bad for the various tasks that needed doing this morning...

Now where is that bloodsucker hiding?


16 Sep 2011

Unpacking memory lane

Moving is usually very annoying and downright exhausting, especially when it seems to be a neverending process because you haven't been able to get your act together all summer to tackle those final boxes (6 in the bedroom and at least a dozen or so on the balcony). But sometimes opening up those boxes can take you on a trip down memory lane!

I unpacked a couple of boxes today marked "fragile" and "childhood deco", one of which had been packed away since at least Christmas 2004 (and the other one maybe ditto). The result brought smiles:

15 Sep 2011

Current status of Project 365: R.I.P.

Damn. Well, so much for that idea! Between the fact that I kept forgetting to take pictures each day, and the fact that I could always muster the will to upload them onto my computer, edit them and then upload them to the blog daily... *sigh* I just stopped at some point in June when I realised how far behind I was and how many other things I had on my plate (like work, and moving, and World Oceans Day).

I might try again next year. Maybe not. We'll see. Was anyone else out there doing something like this? Have you managed to keep it up? (Juliette???)

Here are a few of the photos I have in my 365 file waiting to be uploaded, figured I might as well give some of them a chance to come out and play:

May 14: a young flamenco dancer in San Vicente's "Feria Andaluza"

13 Sep 2011

Page vs Screen: True Blood S4 vs Dead To The World

Well, the fourth season of True Blood has just finished, giving me the perfect occasion to inaugurate my Page vs Screen series! (am trying to forget I had planned to inaugurate it with Game of Thrones, and then Harry Potter and then... oops!)

True Blood is based on The Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris. I'm not going to go into details concerning the previous seasons/novels, but in general each season is more or less loosely based on one novel (there are 11 books so far, will the series go 11 seasons?). The first season is the one that was closest to its respective novel - Dead Until Dark -, whereas the second season started to veer away from the novel (Living Dead In Dallas) and develop its own storyline parallel to the main action (i.e. Maryanne in Bon Temps) and then the third season just... woah! Major changes (deaths!!! some that should have taken place in later novels) and surprises to the principal plot from the novel (Club Dead)!!! Warning: some spoilers (for books and series) to be expected.

In general, all the main characters are pretty much the same as in the novels (Sookie, Bill, Eric, Jason, Sam, Pam, Alcide...). Where things really changed in the TV series (other than the variations on the plots) was in the development of the secondary characters (Tara, Lafayette, Terry, Arlene, Hoyt, Holly, Tommy...) and introduction of new ones (Jessica!!! Jesus). I think this is in great part due to the nature of the beast: screen vs page. The books are all narrated by Sookie, so all in the 1st person and the story is seen almost exclusively from her point of view. So the secondary characters don't get much development unless they interact with her directly. That wouldn't work as well on TV. Quite frankly it's one of the aspects I disliked the most from the books and the single major change that I think makes the TV series so much better than the books: the rich world of Bon Temps brought to life by all the secondary (and some major) characters (inhabited by some fabulous actors)! I can't imagine that place without Lafayette or Tara, and the first gets killed at the start of the second novel and the second just zips in and out of the action in several of the books.

On to Season Four of True Blood!

12 Sep 2011

Let's test this underwater housing

I went on another dive last Friday night and among the many underwater wonders (including another cuttlefish and what I'd swear is the same octopus as 2 weeks ago, lol!) I saw one of these:

Sea hare over a Posidonia oceanica bed. Image taken from IUCN website.

A SEA HARE!!! Aplysia for scientifically minded folk. A.k.a. a sea slug. My first ever (I'd only seen it in photos for animal physiology class, popular for neuroscience research). And man was it BIG! Easily 20 cm, just flapping around over the rocks before it decided it had enough of being in the spotlight (several flashlights shining on it) and went and hid beneath the rocks.

I was both in awe, enjoying the magical moment, and wishing I had my camera with me!!! I know, I know... no point taking it on a night dive if I don't have super-duper external spots (like the guy I dove with 2 weeks ago), but I could have gotten a semi-decent shot with all those lights shining on him. Oh well. Next time! ;o)

Underwater photography involves a bit more care and preparation than photography on dry land. For one thing you need to encase your camera in some sort of housing to keep it nice and dry when everything around you is liquid.  Something like this:

11 Sep 2011

Where were you when...

10 years.

It's still kind of hard to believe it really happened. I remember how surreal everything felt while I was watching the tragic events unfold live on TV. To echo a friend, it felt more like watching the trailer for a new Spielberg movie than reality. But true it was. And so much changed forever.

This is a whole generation's "where you when...?". When Armstrong walked on the moon. When Kennedy was shot. Hiroshima. Pearl Harbour. (my mom has clear memories of those first two, even here in Spain).

I was at home, in my studio, in Liège (Belgium). Working hard on my Master's thesis presentation which was to take place 3 days later. I should have been studying for my last ever University exam (a course on Stable Istotopes) but I was making the most of a friend being available to help me learn how to do an oral presentation (choose the figures and data to include, design overheads, practice speech). Around 3pm her boyfriend called her cellphone and asked her where she was. "At a friend's house" "Is there a TV?" "Yes." "Turn it on" "Why?" "Someone crashed a plane into one of the World Trade Centre Twin Towers, it's all over the news!" My reaction: "You've got to be kidding?! How on earth did that happen??? You sure it's not a prank? We'll turn the TV on but I've only got one channel and I doubt they'll be showing anything. This is Belgium, why would they show some plane accident in the US?". TV turns on. Oh. My. God. Just as the second plane hit. And the images just kept coming, and coming, and repeating. Again and again and again.

And I spent the rest of the afternoon glued to the tube. Mesmerised. In Shock. With several calls to my parents in Spain to see if they had any news of the family in the US, specially my sister who was supposed to fly out of JFK the night before (and with her luck she could have missed her connection and been put on a flight on the 11th). Fortunately my sister had landed in Spain that morning, and the family in the US were calling my parents for news because apparently what little info available Stateside was very confusing and they didn't really know what was going on.

I showed up for my exam the next morning with my mind still reeling, plus worried 'cause I hadn't studied at all. The teacher walked in, sat down at his desk with about three or four newspapers and said "open book exam". Collective sigh of relief. He knew. And he didn't lift his head out of those papers for the 2h that followed. I aced the exam, did great on my thesis presentation 2 days later and then freaked everyone in the lab out when I told them I was flying home that Saturday. "Are you crazy?!" "I'm not going to let this stop me from flying." Still haven't. Although every time I go through the damn heightened security checks (pull my laptop out from the bottom of my bag? again?!), or can't take a bottle of water through, I get angry all over again at those people who were crazy enough to fly into the buildings. Who in one stroke killed thousands of people and have left even more with serious health problems because of that day: the miraculous survivors and the valiant saviours.

I guess some would say the people on those planes were brave enough to sacrifice their lives for something they believe in. In a way that's true, it demands an incredible amount of faith to do that. Or significant brainwashing. Someone was calling the shots. Someone sent them to their "glorious" deaths. Someone had planned it all down to the last detail. Except for not being able to foresee a brave group of passengers who stood up to the hijackers. Except for not being able to foresee how the rest of the world would rally around an injured nation, basically saying "we've got your backs". That someone is gone now. For good. But he left behind him a world that is a lot more scared than 10 years and one day ago. Terror is still alive. And he left people in charge of fanning the flames. Damn him. Damn them.

Never again we say. If only we could guarantee it. In a world of billions of people, it just takes one pissed-off charismatic leader to get thousands of (frequently downtrodden) others to do his dirty work. I believe somehow humanity will evolve past this senseless violence, when dialogue will be the weapon of choice (and not insult-throwing like so many politicians do these days). Dialogue. Reason.

Never again. Inch'allah. Si Dios lo quiere. Si Dieu le veux. Amen. 

Where were you when...?

10 Sep 2011

Movie Madness: Summer Movies 2011

I've been pleasantly surprised by most of the movies out this summer. I think it's actually been the best in a few years! We got several comic book heroes, wacky pirates, a few angry apes, avenging wizards, a couple of original westerns, some period films and a few bitter disappointments.

These are just a few thoughts on the movies I've seen this summer (I don't think I've forgotten any), in the order of my having seen them. Most of of these have been out for so long (and some are probably on dvd already) I'm not going to walk on eggshells worrying about spoilers, although I'll try not to yell out "it was Col Mustard in the dining room with a knife!". :p