Tuesday, January 31, 2006


My mom has had a special place in her heart for the satin silver Bonaire driftwood, ever since the '60s, when Sandra's dad brought back some samples to us in NJ.

Now that I've lived here for a while, I've noticed that the sun and the salt air tend to turn any exposed wood into that "driftwood" color, even if it is part of a structure etc.

We also saw some cool gnarly tree stumps on Brandaris. Here is one of them doing a great driftwood imitation.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Washington Park

I rode my bike in Washington Park this morning. It was my first Washington Park ride since we returned to Bonaire in early December. The roads are super mega bumpy and washed out right now, but they are also packed down hard, so you can roll along quite quickly if you don't mind the rough ride. It was windy, cloudy, but dry; Perfect weather for bike riding. Today was the annual Lora (parrot) count all over Bonaire. The parrot counters were finishing up when I entered the park at 8 am.

Brandaris is the highest point on Bonaire. We drove to the Park and climbed it last Saturday. This is the best time of year to climb Brandaris because it isn't that hot out. The sun can be brutal during the summer months.

You can click on the pictures to see them bigger. Hmm... maybe I should put that as part of my permanent blog intro, so I don't have to say it every time!

The roads in Washington Park are really bumpy right now, because we are at the end (hopefully soon) of the rainy season. Our Samurai is super stiff riding and really gives us a pounding on these roads. Our VW based dune buggy was a lot more comfortable back in the day.

We saw two rainbows that day, but didn't actually get rained on ourselves. That's good because the moss on some of the rock climbing sections on Brandaris gets slippery when wet.

Some of the ascent of Brandaris is a rocky path, but the second half of the climb involves scrambling up more challenging terrain.

The top of Brandaris is only about 784 feet or so, but the climb starts pretty close to sea level, and the sides of the hill are steep, so you can really tell you have accomplished something once you get to the top.

Here is the second rainbow we saw last Saturday. We could look down on it from the top of Brandaris. We couldn't see much of Bonaire or Curacao because of the clouds, rain and haze, but the rainbow made up for that. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Election Day

Friday is election day here on Bonaire. The voting is for Bonaire's three representatives to the central government in Curacao. This may be the final vote of this particular type because the Netherlands Antilles is scheduled to be split up in 2007. These representatives will have their work cut out for them during the transition.

The Bonaire Youth Outreach Foundation, that meets at the TWR Activities building on Saturdays, hosted an election information night and a debate between the leaders of the two political parties contesting this election. Issues affecting youth were the primary topics, but there was a time for questions from the floor, so all sorts of things were addressed.

Three of the govt. officials charged with overseeing the election presented information about how the election process works, voter eligibility, what sort of ID to bring to the polls, and how to fill out the ballot. I think the young people can vote at age 18.

You can click on the pictures to see them bigger.

Then the political leaders addressed some prepared questions, followed by questions from the young people in the audience. One of the radio stations carried the event live, and I saw it on TV the next evening.

Ramonsito Booi is the leader of one of the parties.

Jopi Abraham is the leader of the other party. Posted by Picasa

I manned the PA system and recorded the proceedings on my laptop. I also shot some pictures from the back of the room with my trusty camera and handy dandy 210mm f4 zoom lens and asa 800. Am I enjoying my new camera? Yup!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Antenna Testing

Long time blog readers will know that we've done some antenna testing on the ground and from a boat over the last couple years. It was decided that we needed to do a comprehensive test in a full circle around the antenna towers. So Helmut Menzel came back from Germany and Joe Barker came from the Cary office. We rented a plane from Curacao and did some flying on Monday and Tuesday mornings.

The guys flew around the towers in a 12 kilometer radius circle. The signal strength meter and a GPS receiver were hooked to a laptop computer. That way we had signal strength and position information synced together.

This is a plot (yellow circle) of their actual path on two of the trips around the towers.

You can click on the pictures to see them bigger.

Here Rich F., Udo, and Rich W. are mounting the antenna to the wing strut.

Helmut gets some baseline readings with the signal strength meter.

Here is a shot that puts the Cessna 175 and the Bonaire airport in perspective. The airport security guys must be scratching their heads at how that ocean liner sneaked in, heh-heh.
No Photoshop tricks here, just a small island and a telephoto lens.

Taking off... you can see the antenna mounted under the wing on the left side of the plane. Posted by Picasa

It was an interesting ride because the trade winds were a solid 26 knots, but initial indications are that they got good data.

Astro Photo M42

This is the time of the month when the moon is absent from the evening skies. But it has been super cloudy and rainy. I got out one night last week and took a few pictures in between the clouds. New moon is Sunday, so I have a few more nights of darkness, if it ever clears up, that is.

This picture is of M42, the great nebula in Orion. It is a combination of two time exposures of about two minutes each. I used a 300 mm zoom lens and cropped out the extra sky to zero in on the nebula. The aperture was 5.5 and I had the camera set at asa 800.

If you have ever seen M42 in a small telescope, you will recognize it from the picture, but I have to say, based on the images I've seen on the internet, that there is a lot of room for improvement here. You can click on the picture to see it bigger.

I also shot some webcam video of Saturn, but haven't tried processing it yet. The modified wedge I made for mounting the telescope let me get a really good polar alignment, but it isn't rigid enough for high power viewing. The slightest breeze had the image of Saturn wiggling all over the place. I'll need to find a piece of half inch aluminum or steel to use for my tripod wedge mod.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Birds of a Feather

The Bonaire parakeet or Prikichi is quite social, and vocal too. There are certain times of the year when we awaken in the morning to the squawks and screeches of hoards of them in clustered in our trees.

There was a flock or two hanging out by Dos Pos on Sunday when I rode by on my bike. That area is quite lush, especially for Bonaire, and the Prikichis made it sound like a tropical rainforest.

I had my camera along, because I often see flamingoes near the road in the late afternoon. The flamingoes didn't cooperate, but I was able to photograph a couple Prikichis, who stayed put long enough for me to stop and get my gear out of the backpack. You can click on the picture to see it bigger, 1024x768 in this case.

The camera weighs a ton, (speaking as a longtime cycling weight weenie) but I may start taking it along more, so I can record some of the cool stuff I see out on the road. If nothing else, I'll feel lighter and faster when I'm not carrying it on those speedy Sat. afternoon group rides I occasionally join.

Playa Pabou

Here is a photo I took when we were flying to Curacao last week. The highlights are blown out, but I can still see an amazing amount of detail on the orig. image. If you click on this picture, you should be able to see a 1024x768 version.

Karl's beach bar is at the bottom towards the right corner.

Moving up the right side you can see the tennis club, where we used to play volleyball, and the big white roof on the far right is Cultimara. A little above Cultimara is a green roof that sort of looks like a Lifesaver candy. That's Dr. Van der Vaart's office. Across the street is the Hospital. Above that is the main cemetery and then towards the top right, is Kooymans hardware.

Along the shoreline opposite the catamaran, (fourth yacht up from the bottom, not counting ones that are at the dock) you will see a house with a blue roof. That's where Sandra lived when she was a kid, and where the Van den Akkers lived when I first came to Bonaire.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

In the Air

Here we are inside the Divi Dive plane on our way to Curacao on Monday. It holds the pilot and eight passengers, nine if you use the co-pilot's seat too. It's really a fun flight, unless you are claustrophobic.

You can click on the pictures to see them bigger, especially the one below.

The plane never gets very high in the air, so we get great views of the scenery below. Posted by Picasa

Here we see the waterfront from downtown in the lower right, to Playa Pabou in the upper left.

Klapchis Revisited (klapchi = firecracker)

When we were talking to Sandra's doctor in Curacao yesterday, he mentioned that he had heard that Bonaire was pretty quiet this New Year's Eve. We reassured him that the Bonairian pyromaniacs were alive and well this year.

Doug B noted that the super efficient Selibon street sweeper would make it hard for kids to come by later looking for unpopped firecrackers.

Well, you just have to act quickly and glean those babies out of the debris before they get swept up. Pictured here is TWR missionary Rich West hunting for treasure in front of Playa Trading. Of special note are his New Years Eve camouflage pants designed especially for blending in with firecracker debris. Click on the picture to get the full effect.

Car Hunt: too big, too small, just right

We went to Curacao yesterday to see Sandra's doctor. I'll post some cool photos I took from the teeny tiny Divi Divi airlines plane over the next few days. You can click on the pix to see them bigger.

The doctor visit went very well, and we had some time left over to continue our search for the elusive Maruti Gypsy King, pictured here. We have a '91 Samurai with the mighty 1.3L engine and five speed trans, and a '93 Maruti long wheel base variant with a 1L micro engine and four speed. The Gypsy King has the best of both worlds, with a 1.3L engine and the dog and bike friendly long wheelbase.

We stopped by the Suzuki/Chevy/Subaru dealer where we bought our white Sammi back in '91. We saw lots of cool cars, including a nice blue WRX, drool drool.

There are a couple of these Chevy trucks on Bonaire and they look really huge on our small roads. It's one of those things you just have to see to believe. They caught our eye 'cause one can open up the back to let one's dogs run in and out. Too bad they don't make a smaller Bonaire friendly version.

At the other extreme is this pint sized Chevy van. Someone ought to bring this picture in to their friendly local North American dealer and ask for one, heh-heh. Posted by Picasa