Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Family Fun on Bonaire

Our son, Richard, and his girlfriend, Nancy, are here for a couple weeks. I'm taking a few days off from work and we're hanging out and having fun.

I'm working on the new green Suzuki too, so it will be ready for action once we register it next week. You haven't lived until you have taken tubeless tires off their rims with a couple big screwdrivers and a sledge hammer. I've wire brushed the rims to get the rust off, and painted them. Now I'm trekking all over the island to see if I can find a couple of the right size tires. So far, no good.

We went fireworks shopping this morning. New years eve is a big fireworks time and this fireworks deprived New Jersey boy really gets into it. Here are some photos of the plus or minus 15 minute long string of firecrackers that two local businesses set off in front of the Napa store last year last year. We'll be there again this year. I may bring a sound leval meter this time instead of a camera.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

Merry Christmas from Bonaire

It's 8 am Christmas day and here I am at my desk in the office. What is wrong with this picture!
Well, I just dropped in to change the backup tape in our computer server room. Each tape holds 100 gigs, uncompressed, but we need two of them to back up all our audio files. So we got half last night and then we'll get the rest tonight. Then I can let is slide for a day or two, 'cause we won't be downloading or editing any radio programs until Monday. Boxing day is a holiday here on Bonaire. hooray!

I got outside at 6 today, to let one of the dogs answer the call of nature. The stars were great, with Scorpius coming up in the south east, the southern cross pretty high in the south, and Jupiter right overhead.

Since I was up, I decided what the heck, and fired up my trusty Cateye lights and took off around the north end on my bike. So now I can be a Christmas couch potatoe with a clear conscience.

Then showered and stopped at Buddies grocery and picked up a can of peanuts so we'd have something to munch on while watching those Christmas specials on TV. (we are christmas cookie impared)

It really great having the transmitters and studio operations computerized and automated these days. We all always had to work extra on Christmas to air the special programming. Now we can set it up ahead of time and hang out at home with our families. Here is a picture of what the program log for part of Christmas eve looks like, and here is one of Maggie setting up the log that is airing right now on Christmas day.

First we load the programs into the computer and edit them. Then we tell the computer where to find them to play them on the air, and voila, we're good to go.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Pasku Briante Update

On Saturday, Sandra went to Curacao with Dennis and Luca, and the Bonaire Youth Outreach Foundation kids. They had a great time and distributed gift boxes to some 300 kids. They divided the kids up by age group for activities and had group meetings as well. The team also used short dramas to communicate the Christmas story and the plan of salvation.

They were assisted in Curacao by a church youth group which, at the end of the day, expressed a desire to set up a similar outreach of their own for next year.

There is a writeup about the project in today's EXTRA newspaper. Scroll down to page 2.

If the EXTRA takes too long to load, I've also posted some pictures from Dennis on our club photo site.

Sunday was Pasku Briante day on Bonaire, with more kids, games, activities and gift boxes. It was a great success but Dennis and Luca will probably need the whole Holiday Season to recuperate from all the hard work they put in on this project.

Suzukies Multiplying at TWR

I recently wrote about our newly acquired Suzuki long body vehicle. TWR just bought one too, of the short body variety, to use it as a transmitter site rigging work beast.

The plan is to save a lot of time and effort during next year's tower painting project by using the Samurai, a looooong rope, a pulley, and seat to raise and lower people and equipment up and down the towers. You rig the pulley and rope on the tower and use the Samurai in 4wd low range like a pull on one end of the rope, which raises and lowers the lucky person on the other end of the rope.

Rich West has successfully done this on Guam and on Sri Lanka and says it works great. You can just idle along in first gear or reverse in these vehicles at a walking pace to lift and lower the load on the tower. I'm glad I'm not going to be the one dangling from that rope some 460 feet in the air.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Pasku Briante

Christmas time on Bonaire is usually warm, sunny, and windy. This year promises to be no exception. So what makes Christmas Christmassy when there are no Chestnuts Roasting by an Open Fire? Well, I guess once one has lived here long enough, one develops new traditions and Christmas associations.

One is the short simple Christmas Eve service at the IBCB. (International Bible Church of Bonaire) We sing a bunch of Carols, enjoy a number of special music selections - especially from students who are home from College, and listen to a short devotional by the pastor. To wrap it all up, we turn off the lights and fans, and all sing Silent Night while standing around the perimeter of the room holding lighted candles. Here's a picture of Sandra and some friends getting ready for a morning worship service at the IBCB.

Dennis Martinus is at the piano in the picture. He's a son of Alejandro Martinus, who you Bonaire old timers will no doubt remember. Dennis and his wife, Luca, have a youth ministry to teens on Bonaire. One of their annual activities is Pasku Briante. During the whole year, their high school age kids collect shoe boxes and seek donations of various types of toys and fun stuff for young kids. Each evening this week they have been packing and wrapping the shoe boxes like Christmas presents. Tomorrow (Saturday) they head to Curacao to distribute these Christmas gift packages to needy children in three of the poorer barios. They'll be distributing boxes next week to kids on Bonaire too. Besides receiving the cool shoe box gift packages, the kids will learn about God's love Gift, given that first Christmas 2000 years ago.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Rainbows sighted on Bonaire

I think I mentioned recently that we have had a lot of rain here on Bonaire recently, well, at least a lot of rain for Bonaire. It's gotten cooler too. We've seen temperatures of 78 and 79 degrees at our house first thing in the morning. That kind of temperature, together with a 15 mph trade wind, is VERY comfortable, especially compared to the really hot and muggy October and November we had.

It tends to rain first thing in the morning and then clear up. So it is not unusual to see rainbows. Once it rained at night when there was a full moon coming up and we saw, and I think I have a slide of, a moon rainbow. But I digress....

There have been nice rainbows that we've seen while at Church two Sundays recently. Last week, it was so cool that the pastor mentioned it from the pulpit and everyone turned around and checked it out. It was a double rainbow. The back of the church building is pretty much wide open when the two big roll up doors are rolled up so it is easy to see what is happening outside.

Here is a picture taken on the tennis courts behind the church building a couple Sundays ago. The fuzzy black shape framing the picture is the chain link fence through which I was shooting. The cool thing about this rainbow is that it seemed to terminate right by the Hato Branch of the Maduro & Curiels bank, which brought to mind the "pot of gold at the end of the rainbow" traditions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Family Stuff

We bought a new used Maruti longbody. It is sort of like a Suzuki Samurai, but longer. It will come in handy for hauling Awana Kids, bikes, dogs, yard stuff etc. It needs quite a bit of work and brake and wheel parts, so that will keep me out of trouble for a while. Of course there is about 34% tax and duty on car parts, so we'll try to keep the rebuilding to the critical stuff for now. Here are a couple pictures of the car known as "the frog" for some reason.

There is also a picture of Sandra and a lapdog wannabe.

You can click on the thumbnails to see a bigger picture and click on the picture to see an even bigger picture.
Ah, the wonders of technology.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Rainy Season TX site photos

We had some really heavy rains a bit ago. It is cooler out now and the mosquitoes are swarming.
I took some pictures at the transmitter site. The antenna fields are pretty much under water now.
Some of the shots show where the new Medium Wave towers are relative to the buildings.
One picture shows the old TWR generator plant building, with it's new roll up doors on the west side. In the background is the big generating plant that the local power company, WEB, has installed out at the site.
You can click on the thumbnails to see a bigger picture and also click on the pictures to see the full size images.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Wind and Windsurfing return to Bonaire

A blizzard is blustering today in the northeastern USA but the weather here on Bonaire couldn't be nicer. We had a very hot and windless fall, but the tradewinds kicked back in this week just in time for the second annual Professional Windsurfing Association's King of the Caribbean freestyle meet. This is the second year that the PWA freestyle champion has been decided at the final meet of the year, on Bonaire.

Bonaire is ideal for learning to windsurf because of the onshore winds and the shallow waters of Lac Bay at Sorobon. It turns out to be great for learning and showing off the advanced moves of freestyle too.

Here are some pictures of Saturday's action. Click on the thumbnails to get a bigger image and click on that image to get an even bigger one if you want to.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Bowling and airport update

Rich Fuller went to the bowling meeting last night and there are some 17 teams that want to do the bowling league thing, so we will definitely get to know more people in the community through this. We'll be bowling on Tuesday evenings, starting in January.

Three planes landed at our little airport within about a half hour on Wednesday afternoon. I saw Air Jamaica land when I was out at the transmitter site and even shot a picture of it. (not posted)

Then when I was passing the end of the runway on my way back to the Studios, a BonairExcel plane and a KLM plane were on the way in. I stopped and snapped one as it passed overhead and the other from further away.

I had the camera on full wide angle for both shots because the planes come in low and close. In the second photo, you can see that the fence and the runway lights have all been repaired after the private plane hit them a few weeks ago.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Bowling Alley opens on Bonaire

Yes, bowling has come to Bonaire, and the owners are organizing a business bowling league. The "TWR Ten Pins" are planning to participate in it as an "out of the salt shaker" initiative. The last I heard, there are five teams signed up. We'll know more after tonight's organizational meeting.

Since it has been many many years since we have lived in the land of fast food, overcrowded shopping malls, bowling, and all the other things most people take for granted we expect to bowl poorly, but have lots of fun, and make new friends.

Here is a picture of the new bowling alley, which is located in the building that used to house the movie theater in downtown Kralendijk.

It is actually pretty dark in there, with "black light" illumination and fluorescent bowling balls. I guess we'll need suntan lotion for bowling as well as all our outdoor activities here on Bonaire!

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

Swansons featured in the "Bonaire Reporter"

The weekly English language newspaper on Bonaire did a story on us in this past week's edition. It was a good chance to let people on the island know a little more about TWR and why we are here. You can get the Bonaire Reporter online. The annual subscription of $35 isn't worth it just to read this week's story about us, but if you are really interested in what is happening on Bonaire, I'd certainly recommend it. Would make a great Christmas present as well. There is a sample issue online that has a great picture of the Kibrahacha trees blooming last March.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

Donkeys enjoy TWR flora

As I was heading home yesterday afternoon, I spotted some donkeys enjoying the fresh weeds in front of our office building.
One sad little donkey was "aw shucks" cute in an ugly sort of way.
I also snapped a picture that shows the overall layout of the studios and offices, as well as the sign that Udo and Ivan recently repaired, and the tower that Benny is painting.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Benny Back on Tower

After a couple days on the ground helping pour some foundations, Benny was back on the studio STL tower today.

The low winds are a help. The wet paint tends to migrate around to the downwind side of the tower legs when it is really windy. There are a couple new pictures of Benny in action.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Sinterklass Arrives on Bonaire

The Christmas traditions on Bonaire are quite similar to the Dutch ones. December 5th is Sinterklass Eve, and presents are given and received. Christmas Day is a religious time, and the day is spent with visits to Church and family activities.

The story is that Sinterklaas lives in Spain, where he spends his time recording the behavior of all the children in his little red book, while his helpers the Zwarte Piets (black peters) stock up on the presents.

Sinterklass arrived on Bonaire this past Saturday and it was a major event here. I've posted a couple photos that Rich West took of the activities downtown.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Tower Painting Pix

While Ivan works in the trenches (heh-heh) and prepares for pouring the foundation for a couple 40' containers we are going to relocate and Udo and Rich keep cleaning up the AC power wiring; Benny is high in the sky cleaning and painting the tower that the Studio side STL antennas are hung from.

I rented a helicopter (just kidding) and got some pictures of Benny in action. I was fooling around with a polarizing filter, but after coming in and seeing the pictures on the computer monitor, I think that the true blue Bonaire sky looks better without the filter. What do you think? I'll see if I can get some more pictures later this week when Benny is painting the next section down on the tower.

You can click on the thumbnails to see a bigger picture. You can then click on the bigger picture to see an even bigger picture. whoo-whoo

TWR launches innovative new AIDS programs in South Africa

TWR programming in Africa often combines the Gospel with humanitarian concern. The program, "The Honey that Kills" has made an impact on the AIDS situation in Uganda.
The Honey that Kills is also being produced and aired in Kenya and Swaziland.

Now new programs are being prepared to reach the impoverished rural areas of South Africa. These programs will supplement the on-the ground work that an organization called "Doctors for Life" is doing in the area. There will also be a new drama series about a Christian nurse working in a rural community clinic.

TWR Africa has a great web site with more information about these new AIDS programs and many others being broadcast to 40 African countries in 60 languages and dialects.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Udo and Rich rip out old wiring.

While we are waiting for our new standby generator to arrive. We are taking advantage of this opportunity to simplify the electrical power distribution for our the Studio/Office site. We've had many different power setups over the years, which had left us with a dangerous litter of redundant and confusing boxes, switches, and wiring paths.

Eugene Williams and his father started simplifying the AC power distribution a couple years ago. Now we'll finish the job and get rid of the last of the accumulated extra parts. We're putting in a new transfer switch and main 200 amp circuit breaker too.

I've added a few pictures of Udo and Rich in action out in the auto shop, which is also the location for the standby generator and power panels.

When they took the (heavy) old transfer switch assembly off the wall, it landed on Udo's foot. Udo's foot may or may not be ok.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Rainy Season arrives on Bonaire

It appears that the rainy season has arrived, about a week ago. After not having any rain for a few months, we typically have rain just before dawn and then sunny skies all day. The the bushes are getting green, the mosquitoes are beginning to appear, and it is a little cooler at night.

It was cloudy all day on Saturday, but cleared up in time to see the lunar eclipse.

Our old neighbors, the Richters, have web cams set up at their house. The top left image shows the back yard where we lived for some 12 years or so. They also have a weather station on the page so you can see how nice it is here on Bonaire.

What I find really interesting is that all the weather information is archived and you can look at the profile for a day, week or month. Seeing the big picture is really interesting.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Private Plane Crashes on Bonaire

Around 12:30 am. Tuesday morning, a private plane landed short of the runway here on Bonaire. The pilot was ok, which is amazing. This qualifies as major event here on Bonaire and the rumor mill is working overtime these days.

I've posted photos of the plane and crash site for your viewing "pleasure".

If you happen to know the Papiamentu language spoken here on Bonaire, you can check out the coverage in the "Extra" newspaper online edition. (they are having some technical issues right now, but you can still check it out if you are patient)

Friday, October 31, 2003

STL Tower Photos are in

The STL tower photos are on my Club Photo site.
You can click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the pictures, and you can click on the larger versions to see even larger versions.

STL Tower Update

All the guy wires have been changed on the STL tower without incident. We are thankful for that.

There is more work to do; like repairing a hole in one of the tower legs, installing the replacement antenna, and repairing the lightning rod.
We almost never have thunder and lightning here on Bonaire (we did this week though) but since the towers are the tallest things for many miles, we still need good lightning rods.

Rich West promises to take some STL tower photos today.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

STL Tower repairs

The guys have been replacing the guy wires on the STL tower at the transmitter site. It turns out that the guy wires were in worse shape than we thought, so we are thankful that we did this in time, and that we had the parts on hand to do the job.

The STL antennas themselves are also totally corroded away where they attach to the tower and need to be replaced. Fortunately we have a spare set of antennas, which we can install. We'll need to get another pair of antennas for the backup STL channel. There is also a hole in one of the tower legs that will need patching.

I'm bugging Rich West for pictures, which I will post as soon as they are available.

Astro Photos added

I've added more closeup webcam images of the moon that I took on Aug. 16.

I also added a new image of Mars and one of Uranus, both from Oct. 27. I'm pretty sure that the image scale of the new Mars and Uranus photos is the same as the other photos of Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter. Mars now appears quite a bit smaller and the ice cap has shrunk dramatically as well. It looks like dust storms are starting to kick up as well.

I had hoped to image Uranus and Neptune, but they are too dim for my current equipment setup. I took a bunch of images of Uranus on two nights using all sorts of settings for the camera. The resulting picture is only a blurry blob, but at least one can see how big Uranus appears compared to the other planets.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Recent TWR Bonaire projects

The guys recently repaired one of the cement signs in front of the office on Bonaire. After some 30 years or so, they had started to fall apart. The signs.... not the guys.

They also painted the roofs of the transmitter hall and the studios and offices with a special roof paint that helps seal them. Photos have been posted.

Today they are out replacing the guy wires on the STL tower at the transmitter site, so it doesn't fall down and knock down any of the big towers.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Moon near Jupiter

The moon was really near Jupiter Sunday night. It was a nice sight.
In fact, as seen from Brazil, the moon passed in front of Jupiter. On Bonaire, they were too far apart to capture in the telescope, but I did take a photo with the 4x zoom lens on the camera.

I also took a picture of the setup I used to take the closeups of Saturn, Mars, Jupiter, and the moon. I used to have a Celestron C8 just like the one in the picture, but sold it a few years ago. It is on the clubphoto site here.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

New Astro Photos Posted

I've added pictures of Jupiter and the moon to my Club Photo albums site.

The first three pictures show Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter at the same scale, I think. So you can get an idea of their relative size in a telescope eyepiece. I imaged Mars the day before it's closest approach to earth back in July, so it looks big. It looks smaller now and will continue to shrink as it and the Earth move further apart.

The moon pictures are close ups shot with the web cam. I'll have to consult some moon maps to see if I can identify the craters in the photos and get some idea of how big the various ones are.

Monday, October 20, 2003


The sky was really clear and dark Wednesday night, so I set my alarm for 4 am. on Thursday. When the alarm went off, I peered outside through blurry eyes and it still looked good. So I dragged out a table and chair, power cords, telescope, computer, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and most importantly - the Phillips Toucam Pro webcam.

The Moon and Saturn were conveniently positioned right next to each other, straight overhead. I shot a bunch of avi movies of Saturn and the Moon, and a couple of Jupiter, which was coming up as dawn broke.

Now I'm ready for hours of fun indoors at the computer as I learn how to process the image files and make beautiful pictures. I've done one of Saturn and posted it on Club Photo, along with a shot of Mars that I made last summer when it was closest to the Earth.

I had tried my hand at astro photography some 15 years ago using film cameras, and I must say that I'm having a lot more fun in the digital age. It is much easier to get usable results, although it will take a lot of practice to match the truly awesome images I've seen on the internet. (no web link here, ha-ha, don't want my images to suffer by comparison)
I can see why web cam astrophotography is a rapidly growing worldwide phenomenon.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Guy Wires Repaired

The guy wires stabilizing the four towers of our antenna array are made of a composite kevlar strand material. But the attachment points at the ends are good old steel. Our super corrosive Bonaire environment made short work of the galvanized guy wire ends in the space of about two years. So our guys replaced the lower ends of all 48 guy wires and have coated them with a special Shell Ensis waxy/greasy compound, dubbed monkeysnot by a veteran TWR missionary, who shall remain nameless. Hopefully, the new guy wire ends will now last for many years.
Here is a collection of photos showing the guy wire project.