More PicPedant Coverage

Some recent media appearances, all relating to PicPedant suddenly being back on the journalism radar lately:

Interview with Alexandre Capron of Info ou Intox on tips to spot and debunk viral images and detect when image mongers are automated spambots:

More recently I answered some questions by email from Natasha Daly for this National Geographic article on people sharing false feel-good animal stories in the midst of the pandemic.

The NatGeo article caught the attention of twins Hannah and Cailin Loesch, who interviewed me over the phone about my debunking process for their show “Double Talk.”

I’m not sure why, but the run-up to each of these interviews has been giving me more personal anxiety lately. In retrospect I feel like I should have done PicPedant anonymously, or under a pseudonym. Too late now, that train has sailed.

Lockdown Life

Just because the pandemic has us staying the blazes home doesn’t mean we can’t go outside — as long as we avoid close human contact. Glad we’ve got a backyard.

Shootin' hoops

Also we live in a place with nice walkable forest paths and scenic lakes; just have to make sure to walk on the other side of the trail from anyone passing by.

Amy and Ezra at Cranberry Lake
Amy and Ezra at Settle Lake

One of us goes out for groceries once a week; the stores are limited-entry with socially distanced queues. Also been ordering eggs, cookies, bath bombs, and other staples via delivery from Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market. We try to disinfect all our shopping before storing, out of an abundance of caution; this is probably the most stressful part of the week.

Social Distancing Line at Sobey's

I’ve come around to mask wearing and found a keffiyeh to tie bandit-style over my nose and mouth. (Also lucked into a pack of washable cloth masks online; they feel like Face-Speedos.) Fabric isn’t N95 surgical-level protection, but properly folded and tied, it’s enough to keep me from breathing and speaking moistly on others, so in case I’m an asymptomatic carrier I can try to be moistly harmless.

Keffiyeh as face mask Edited book cover for Douglas Adams's Mostly Harmless but it's Moistly and the laughing alien has a surgical mask on

Keeping in mind that “romanticization of the quarantine is a class privilege,” be sure to be generous, tip more, be kind to front line workers, and do your part to help overthrow the kakistocracy.

NS Mass Shooting

Mass shooter in Nova Scotia killed several over the weekend.

The victims.

Killer was a Canadian denturist who loved guns and wanted to be a Mountie, even owned a replica RCMP cruiser and uniform that he used to lure more victims. Partial screenshot of his Facebook profile before it was pulled. Note the American flag paraphernalia; he was Canadian but seemed to adore all things USA. His denture clinic in Dartmouth that we sometimes drove past (photo by tony07 on Flickr):

Dentures

Coming from the Philippines and the USA I’m so horribly inured to daily news about nearby gun massacres that it didn’t sink in for me how much this has affected my Nova Scotian and Canadian friends and neighbours. Seeing hearts and flags and blue NS silhouettes in house windows, hearing from online acquaintances who knew the victims’ families.

(And no one—that I’ve seen anyway—screaming about crisis actors or that the solution is more guns as would be more common in the US.)

COVID-19

Empty toilet paper aisle, Cole Harbour Walmart Empty toilet paper aisle, Cole Harbour Atlantic Superstore

Empty toilet paper aisles at stores, as the world is currently being swept by a highly contagious viral respiratory disease. We’re on our third week of social distancing: staying home, avoiding physical contact with people (min. 2 metres distance), and only going out to stock up on groceries once a week or so.

Since we’re reclusive introverts who already wash hands frequently, living in a low-density neighbourhood with access to uncrowded outdoor areas, working jobs that can be done over the internet, in a country with free universal medical care, we’re adapting okay—but I wish we could say the same for others. Everywhere, thousands have lost work and income. In the US, it has not gone well.

The world has become a bit more fearful, our connections to each other turned tenuously electronic. “Together apart” and “flatten the curve” have become the catchphrases of the day, “stay safe” the farewell of choice. Weeks later, at least toilet paper is available in the stores again, though hand sanitizer is still in short supply.

Useful resources for this modern era of plague-avoidance:

Taal Eruption

Me, Amy, and Taal Lake Taal Volcano from Tagaytay (fisheye selfie)

Here’s me and Amy in December 2019, and me in November 2016 in Tagaytay, with Taal Volcano sitting peacefully in the background.

And then, in January 2020, boom.

My younger brother Javi was in Canlubang at the time and got this photo of the eruption plume:
Huge plume of gray smoke in distant sky, lit from left by warm sunset light

Various satellite and radar views from YouStorm:

Visible lava fountains would follow soon after.

From NASA Goddard Earth Observatory, satellite views of the eruption, and before/after satellite views of devastation on the volcanic island.

At the time of this writing Taal’s alert level has been lowered to 1.

Scenes of Winter

Ezra went sledding for the first time! (Not caught in this GoPro video was his actual first sled ride when he got in the sled before we were ready and accidentally went down the steepest side of the hill by himself.)

He also built a snowperson with Amy.

Ezra and a snowperson

Nova Scotia is at its coldest and snowiest through February. Lots of shoveling, but also lots of picturesque vistas blanketed in white powder, air sparkling with diamond dust.

Break of Day
Cold Stone Steps
Winter Walk
Winter Walk

Other times instead of snow we’d get frozen rain which would glaze everything in a thick layer of ice.

Icy Day

Temps would drop as low as -19C and the snow stayed on the ground all month. Now this is the Canadian weather we signed up for when we moved here. Still haven’t gotten tired of it. (Okay, maybe a bit achy after shoveling, though.)

Dive Log: Anilao Dec 2019

29 Dec 2019

Dive 103: Matu Point
Dive time: 50 mins / Max depth: 94 ft / Air usage: 3000-1000 psi

Single late afternoon dive since we arrived at the resort a bit late, at nearby Matu Point. Short for “Matutunggil,” the dive site sits by a large rock just off a corner of Balayan Bay amidst the densest strip of Anilao dive resorts. Rocky wall with boulders dotted with coral and attendant fish, anemones, and one very friendly sea turtle that joined us for a bit. Ascended into twilight, to be greeted by the sight of the moon and Venus close together in the sunset sky.

Moon and Venus over Anilao

30 Dec 2019

Dive 104: Sombrero Island
Dive time: 50 mins / Max depth: 86 ft / Air usage: 3000-1000 psi

First dive of the day off Sombrero Island, south of Batangas Bay across Verde Island Passage, just an hour south of Anilao. Steep rock wall with lots of coral and fish. Found a small stingray in the sand that swam off as I approached. Also another sea turtle showed up, this one a bit less companionable than yesterday’s. Sad casualty of the day: my GoPro Hero4 Session, which I used at the surface for a bit and then threw back into the boat before descent, but it appears to have either missed or bounced back out into the water without anyone seeing it — hence the lack of underwater imagery from this dive trip.

Sombrero Island

Dive 105: Layag Layag
Dive time: 50 mins / Max depth: 75 ft / Air usage: 3000-1000 psi

So named for the billowing sail-like hills of Caban Island, the dive site at Layag-Layag was also the site of my second-ever checkout dive back in 1990. (That dive did not go well as I was swept off the reef and up to the surface by a strong current and had to be rescued by divers on another boat.) This dive 30 years later (!) was much better, with little current as we hovered over a sloping sandy plain dotted by hundreds of garden eels, wispy and snakelike. Also spotted an interesting anemone, dark red with luminously bright tips, no clownfish in residence at the time.

Layag-Layag

31 Dec 2019

Dive 106: Dive & Trek
Dive time: 55 mins / Max depth: 88 ft / Air usage: 3000-750 psi

Dive resort and marine sanctuary north of Halo, up Balayan Bay. More garden eels on a sandy field at start of dive, followed by a sheer wall with small shelves covered with coral. Dove through a small cave in the reef, just big enough for diver and tank, stung hand on a bit of soft coral towards exit. Main attraction was the famed “school of jacks,” a formidable vortex of fish swirling out in the blue water. We had to dive out a bit from the reef to see it, led by the urgent gestures and tank-taps of divemasters, but it was well worth the sight.

Anilao Dive and Trek Resort area

Dive 107: Ligpo Pinnacle
Dive time: 60 mins (11 min deco) / Max depth: 104 ft / Air usage: 2900-500 psi

North of Dive & Trek and farther up Balayan Bay sits Ligpo Island, a private resort island just off the mainland. Pinnacle in shallows descends to vertical wall with coral-encrusted ledges. On one ledge was a picturesque little archway big enough for a single diver to go under. Buzzed multiple times by a pair of large trevallies at start of dive. Towards end, accosted by a single small remora that hung around to clean my fins for a minute. Inadvisably bounced below 100 ft to fruitlessly investigate a reef indentation, resulting in dive computer giving me an 11 minute decompression stop on ascent.

Pre-dive group shot

Last dive day of the year and for this trip. Many thanks to Divemaster Penn of Batangas Dive Association (BaDAss) for some great diving. More photos in the album for this Philippines trip.

Caturday!

Every time I catch the cats together in a photo they seem to be doing that thing where they’re about to drop a 1990s alternative rock album.

Martha and Amelia #cats Martha and Amelia #cats Amelia and Martha #cats Martha and Amelia #cats