Yukon Trail

Near Takhini River

You have died of dysentry.

I’ve just gotten back from the Yukon. My mother took me and my cousin J up to see the Aurora Borealis, and B-cat came along, too, for a distraction from being injured and cooped up with me in a basement.

I enjoyed going north in 2010 and am grateful to revisit the museums, huskies, outdoors, etc., but this has been a terribly stressful trip. The group dynamic is as follows:

  • My mother stops speaking English or eating meals whenever we go on trips (all three of which, excluding childhood ones, took place this year). She tries to dissuade me and J from eating, saying we’re too fat;
  • J is not fat. He is shy? grumpy? and only speaks to my mother when she speaks first and to me when the others aren’t around. He rarely talks to English speakers;
  • B-cat is an English speaker who makes occasional remarks to J and my mother, but mainly wants to chat up strangers;
  • I am the worst travel buddy.


J and a Little Free Library by the half-frozen Yukon River

We do end up eating real food, but don’t see much of the Northern Lights through the clouds. During this time I’m still receiving rejection letters, an integral and awful part of writing fiction, and sending demand letters to Torquere Press, a publisher whose owners — Kristi Boulware-Talbot and Joanna Talbot — have now decided neither to pay its authors nor to return the rights to their work.

Then Trump talks to the president of Taiwan, and suddenly both pro-Trump and anti-Trump Americans are spouting strong opinions about Taiwan, whose very name confuses them because they’ve only skimmed through the Wiki:history article.

But I did see two red foxes, a dozen red squirrels, and a lot of nice people, so I guess this is just one of those trips that improve upon ending. If you like small, snowy towns, visit the Yukon — besides the lights, I recommend Mount McIntyre for the vigorous hike to the peak.

J, me, and B-cat

Black Hole Thursday Wash Away the Rain

A nebula on screen
A nebula on screen

For the early portion of his birthday, I took B-cat to Cosmic Nights: Black Holes at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. It was raining so hard he eschewed the motorcycle for a borrowed van. With nice dry feet, we saw the new Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity film in the dome of the observatory.

The dome is tiny compared with IMAX/OMNIMAX at Science World or Canada Place, and the relative proximity of the screen to the seats always makes me nauseous. I last went for the Pink Floyd laser light show around 2011 (just before the Space Centre cancelled laser shows), when, with the music both lulling me to sleep and blasting my eardrums, I barely managed to prevent a biohazard for my then-boyfriend and the venue.

Blackhole beer pong
Blackhole beer pong

The volume control and animation are much better for Black Holes, and while B-cat and the UBC astronomer narrating live* for the evening disagree on whether Hawking radiation or white holes, respectively, are the best theory, I enjoyed the clear explanation of this aspect of our universe. If B-cat hadn’t spent months patiently feeding me tidbits of quantum science, though, I wouldn’t have retained much.

*He narrated the presentation before and after the film narrated by Liam Neeson. Surprisingly, Neeson as a narrator is not annoying at all.

We touch a real piece of moon rock
We touch a real piece of moon rock

Most of all, Black Holes is moving. It will make you feel insignificant in the best way while reminding you of the energy and beauty of this cold, vast universe.

I was holding back tears at times.

Blackhole trivia contest (from left: recipient of prize, winner, 2nd place)
Blackhole trivia contest (from left: recipient of prize, winner, 2nd place)

The night also included blackhole-themed painting, beer pong (get the matter across the event horizon!), and trivia contest.

B-cat wanted to observe the game before participating, so he missed the awesome prize of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. In his own round, he tied the person who then beat him at rock-paper-scissors (strangely, being a physicist didn’t help at that), but both of them declined the Star Trek bobblehead and let the loser enjoy it instead. Such sportsmanship!

Five kinds of cheese!
Five kinds of cheese!

Although the Space Centre phrased the ads as if there’d be free drinks, it provided free cheese and chips and charged for beverages. Suited me — we devoured about a kilogram of cheese; I even ate some of the garnish.

Between that and our being late, losing a phone, accidentally throwing two handfuls of marbles off the fabric of space-time model, and misplacing our nebula paintings, B-cat and I are just the worst.

At least, in all the civilizations that probably have existed or will exist throughout time, we probably aren’t. Happy birthday!

Moving marbles showing the warping of space-time
Moving marbles showing the warping of space-time

See Black Holes Saturdays or catch Gentlemen Hecklers mocking Disney’s The Black Hole on Nov. 26 at the Space Centre.