Monday, February 26, 2007

Indoor Cycling Part 2

Oh yeah, the way these blogs work means that part 2 of this story appears before part 1. So you'll just have to scroll down to see part 1.

What do Sandra Swanson, Richard Simmonds, Mattel, and Fisher-Price have in common? They are into indoor cycling. Check out the happy tyke peddling away on the new "Smart Cycle". It hooks to a TV and allows the kiddies to play educational video games as long as they keep those pedals turning 'round.

The device has been receiving favorable media attention since it's big debut in New York a couple weeks ago, and bloggers have been having a field day with it and Richard Simmonds, as well. Fisher-Price hopes it will become a "must have" item this Christmas. Hey, kids like video games, and bikes, and parents will welcome something that helps them burn off all that kid energy.

Now if they can just hook it up with an Internet connection so that the US Cycling Federation can identify future Lance Armstrongs... anyone remember the movie "The Last Starfighter?"

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Training Time

Sandra is recovering from a sprained ankle and isn't ready for riding the bumpy roads and trails of Bonaire. So she's been riding on an indoor trainer with some cool computer software that I picked up online a number of years ago.

The computer shows video footage of some classic bike races in Europe and some really scenic off road rides in Moab, Utah. The computer is connected to the bike so the rider on the screen pedals faster or slower depending on how fast you ride on the trainer. There is also an onscreen display of your performance statistics. The computer also accepts input from a wireless heart rate monitor, so at the end of the ride you can chart your speed, and distance, and heart rate.

The software makes indoor riding a lot more interesting, and it's safer than riding out in the wild world as well. Of course, nothing is foolproof. Here is an interesting story from this past week's edition of the roadbikerider review newsletter.

One of the few positive things about training indoors is that you don't have to worry about crashing. Well, tell that to Bradley Wiggins, known as the "golden boy" of British cycling. He was doing an indoor workout on rollers (like a treadmill for bikes) and wound up with eight stitches in his forehead. According to, Wiggins, the Olympic pursuit champion, was wiping sweat from his face when the end of his towel dropped into the front wheel, jamming it and throwing him over the handlebar.

Wonderful Washington Wildlife

Saturday was my maiden voyage with a new GPS receiver. We were able to get a Garmin Fortrex 101 on a good pre-Christmas sale, and it just arrived here on Bonaire about a week ago. This GPS is small enough to wear on one's wrist and has variable resolution settings. I set it to take readings as often as possible and ended up with a more detailed track record of my trip than I was getting with the other unit I've been using.

The graph shows elevation versus distance using feet for the elevation and miles for the distance. I rode from my house in Hato on mostly dirt roads to Washington Park, in and out of the park on the "long route" and then back to my house. The first 8 miles and the last 8 miles of the graph are mirror images of each other, because I took the exact same route between home and Rincon. It looks like the GPS has some elevation issues at the outset, but got itself figured out by the time I rode home.

Oh yeah, the wildlife... his week I saw way more goats in the park than usual, herds and herds of them actually. I also saw a family of baby piglets hanging out with their mom by the side of the road. They were really small.

Last week I saw a herd of cattle in the park. Well, a Bonaire sized herd. The was one really really REALLY huge bull and 5 or so other cattle of some sort. The bull might not have looked so intimidating if I had been cruising along in a SUV or something , but looking up at him as I rode by on my bike was a mooving experience. The bull was definitely giving me the evil eye as I rode by and I was glad that I wasn't wearing my bright red cycling jersey that day!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Carrot Fiber Bikes?

I think that Titanium is the best material for bike frames here in the harsh Bonaire environment, but most of the cool bikes are made out of carbon fiber these days. If I ever get one made from Carrot fiber, I'll have to keep it away from the dogs for sure! They love carrots and have already shown a propensity to chow down on the dune buggy, for example.

Here is a web story about a Scottish company that has developed composites materials made from carrots.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

More Stars (wide view of Auriga)

Here is a wide angle look at the three star clusters in Auriga that I blogged about the other day. There is a fourth cluster towards the top left of the screen that is actually by the "feet" of one of the Gemini twins. You may need to click on the picture to be able to see the details.

I've drawn a light grey outline that shows the basic shape if the constellation Auriga. The light orange box indicates the part of this picture that is shown in detail on my previous posting.

The Milky Way goes through this part of the sky and you can see some evidence of it in the picture. The Milky Way is not as bright in this part of the sky as it is in the summer constellations, but it is still quite noticeable when one is at a dark site.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Nifty Nova

It was nice and clear this morning when I went out to look for the naked eye nova in the constellation Scorpius. Scorpius is nice and high in the sky down here in the Tropics. Up in the cold North, binoculars would help, once you figure out exactly where to look.

I saw the nova but it was dim (easy in the binocs) and snapped a picture too. I cropped the picture to show only the area to the right and to the left of Epsilon Scorpius. It is a six second exposure with the camera on a tripod. You may need to click on it to see it well.

The picture is oriented about the same as central portion of the drawing on skytonight dot com. The two stars to the right of Epsilon and the three stars to the left are pretty easy to spot in my picture. Just remember that the picture is zoomed way in compared to the drawing.

I also labeled some of the stars on the picture. They match up with stars that are labeled on a detailed finder chart published by the AAVSO. The nova is labeled V1280. Remember that the picture is only showing a teeny tiny part of the chart.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Star Stuff

Here is a photo of three Messier objects (star clusters in this case) on the constellation Auriga. I can just barely detect them with my naked eye when it is extra clear and dark here. They are fairly easy to see in binoculars if you know where to look.

The bright (large diameter) star in the lower left is named El Nath. The bright star at the upper right is Theta Auriga. I can see these stars in the thumbnail image above. To see the clusters, you might need to click on the image to see the full 1024x768 version.

About half way along a line connecting these two bright start is a perpendicular line of three clusters or clumps of stars. The line slants a little from left to right as seen from top to bottom. M37 is towards the top of the screen, a little left of center. M36 is near the middle of the frame but a little to the right and below center. And M38 is to the lower right of M37.

By the way there is a Nova (exploding star) in the constellation Scorpius. Here is a map showing where to look. Scorpius is really high in the sky here before dawn, but the sky was hazy today, grrr... I'll keep looking. The nova seems to have peaked and is dimming, so I hope I can spot it soon. Novas bright enough to be seen with the naked eye are pretty rare I think.

Speaking of dimming, the planet Mercury, which was easily visible a week ago, has dived back towards the western horizon. I failed to spot it the last two evenings. Mercury will go around the sun and turn up in the dawn sky next month.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ship Shapes

There were two cruise ships in port recently. I was hoping to get some pictures of them, but one had sailed by the time I got out of work. So I did a quick bike ride and then headed to "donkey beach" (the one by the airport runway) for the sunset and a look across the bay towards town.

It was interesting to watch the lights on the ship become visible as the twilight darkened.
Even from our position across the bay, we couldn't help but notice the giant video screen on the top deck of the ship. If you enlarge the picture below, you might be able to pick out a couple people, which will provide a sense of scale to the screen and speaker systems. Sandra's reaction was, "I wonder if they showed the Super Bowl on that thing?" That would have been cool, cruising the Caribbean by day and the Super Bowl by night, ha-ha.
We've seen a really really huge cruise ship stop here a couple of times this year. I think it is the new one that we saw a program about on the Discovery Channel. Maybe I can get a picture of it sometime. It towers over downtown Kralendijk even more than the regular cruise liners.

Well, I'm going to post this and hope that the new improved blogger software doesn't wreak havoc with the page formatting. If it does, sorry... The new Microsoft Word 2007 lets 0ne create pages and then post to Blogger. That may be an eventual solution.

Construction Update

A new building is going up by the traffic circle and across the street from our TWR offices and studios.

I first mentioned it last August and noted that one rumor had a McDonald's slated to open there.
Well there is no further word on Micky D's, but last Friday evening, while we were having our kids club activities at the church next door,we noticed lots of people hanging out at the construction site celebrating the completion of the highest point of the building.
The Bonaire Insider had a reporter on the scene and you can read a report and see some pictures here.

Here is a link to the project's own website in case you are interested in opening a shop, heh-heh.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More "hot air" about Wind Power

I recently mentioned that the old wind turbine by Sorobon is scheduled to be replaced by a new one, and the future plans for a wind generator park in the Morotin area north of Rincon.

I just saw this story online about a study that suggests placing 160,000 wind turbines off the east coast of the USA, from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras. There is also some information about wind turbines in general.

Here's an interesting article about world wide wind mapping research. This study estimates that about 2.5 million wind turbines, capturing about 20% of the available wind world wide, could supply all Earth's electricity needs.

You might want to consult this map when planning your next windsurfing vacation. It looks like Bonaire has class 4 winds, (class 3 is sufficient for wind turbines) but the map goes up to class 7! Whoo-whoo, better pack those small sails.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bonaire Biking

There are lots of motorcycles on Bonaire these days, but I'm referring to bicycle bikers here.
Thanks to organizer Miguel Angel Brito, and the great February weather here on Bonaire, we had a great group ride on Saturday. Besides this group shot, Miguel also took lots of pictures of us forging bravely up the many hills along the route.

Miguel is also initiating a series of weekly training rides leaving from his Bonaire Wellness Connexiones headquarters at Eden Beach resort every Saturday at 4pm.

The next Bonaire Wellness Connexions group ride/tour is scheduled for April 7. There is a "fun" race in the works for the month of May and a bigger one in the fall. whoo-whoo!

Bob Lassiter (fourth from the right in the picture) and I are planning to do our annual springtime group ride in Washington Park on March 3. We'll meet at the park entrance right when it opens at 8am. and ride to Slagbaai. Some of us will continue to ride back out to the park entrance, while others will load their bikes onto Bob's pickup, "Big Red" and drive out. The ride into the park is "take it easy and enjoy the scenery" in nature, while the ride back out is somewhat more intense. Let us know if you are interested.

At least some of us will be stopping in Rincon on the way home to refuel with some of the great barbecue at the Rincon Saturday street Market. And then to top off a great day of outdoors excitement on Bonaire, a total eclipse of the moon is scheduled for that evening right after sunset.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Bike Tour on Google Earth

It looks like a nice day for the Bonaire Wellness Connexions' bicycle tour. Here is the GPS track of the route plotted on a Google Earth satellite image of Bonaire. Some of the route is on the high resolution image of Bonaire and some is on the older low resolution image.

I'm still hoping that some day, we'll have a hi-rez view of the whole island. You can't tell from this picture, but one can really zoom in on the hi-rez sections and see details as small as cars for example.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cycling Expressions Defined

Some of you enjoyed the funny questions posed by visitors to Bonaire. In that vein, and in anticipation of a great group bike ride here on Bonaire this Saturday, here are a few phrases that you might hear cyclists use, and what they really mean. They come from Scott Martin on the RoadBikeRider web site and weekly newsletter.

"It's not that hilly" - Be careful on the steep sections or you'll fall over -- backward.

"This energy bar tastes like real food" - This energy bar tastes like real dog food.

"This is a no-drop ride" - I'll need an article of your clothing. It's for the search-and-rescue dogs.

"It's not that far" - Yes, it is.

Ratzlaff Roundup

Wayne and Bonnie Ratlaff are visiting Bonaire again and stopped by the TWR studios the other day. Wayne is a nephew of Betty Ratzlaff Henriquez, who spent 30 years on Aruba with The Evangelical Alliance Mission and then 15 years here on Bonaire with TWR.

Betty taught Papiamentu classes for the TWR staff and put together a Papiamentu-English, English-Papiamentu dictionary that is now out of print, but still in demand.

Here is a photo of Betty and Benito. Looks like they've exchanged the white sandy beaches of the Caribbean for the white snow drifts of Canada.

Benito and Betty have just started a blog of their own, in the Papiamentu language. So far, you can find contact info., some biographical information, some devotional thoughts, and some interesting observations on the different flavors of Papiamentu on the ABC islands.

Betty says that she'll be including pictures as soon as they figure out how to do that. I can relate to that problem. I'm still trying to come up with a good work flow for including pictures now that I'm using the new "improved" version of the blogger software.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Venus and Mercury

Did any of you get to see Venus and Mercury yet? The two planets are still quite visible in the west, shortly after sunset, here on Bonaire.

Sandra and I were talking to our son, Richard, last Friday night, when the moon was sitting right next to Saturn. I mentioned it to him on the phone and wondered he would be able to see it if he ran outside there in Bloomfield, NJ. He replied, "Dad, it's c o o o l d out there!"

Speaking of cold, the thermometer was all the way down to 75 F on Sat. and Sun. morning. It was cloudy and rainy those days too.

Here is another view of Venus and Mercury from our back yard on Monday evening. I took the photo from about the same spot that I took the rainbow picture that appeared here recently, but I had the lens zoomed in more for the planets. But you can still see some of the same trees in the foreground.

I'm using this planet shot as my desktop wallpaper these days. Mercury is way down by the bottom of the frame.

Windmills on the Way

If you've ever been to Bonaire, you've probably noticed the big wind generator near Sorobon. We used to look at it to get an idea of the exact wind direction back when my son and I were windsurfing a lot.

Well, according to a news release I recently received, this wind generator is shortly going to be replaced by a new one. After some testing, a bunch more of these wind turbines will be installed to the northeast of Rincon.

When I was riding my bike through the area known as Morotin on my way to Washington Park on Jan. 27, I noticed a brand new tower with a bunch of instrumentation on it, so I think I have a good idea where the new windmill park will be.

There are two wind farms on Curacao and my guess is that it is an idea and technology who's time has come for Bonaire.

Here is the original article, for those of you who'd like to know the gory details.

bron EconcernEcoPower Bonaire BV, a consortium of Econcern, Enercon and MAN, has signed a contract with the Water and Energy Company of Bonaire (WEB Bonaire NV) to build a new wind turbine. This is the first step in a wind/diesel project that will supply the South Caribbean Island with 10 MW from wind and 13 MW from diesel. Bonaire requires approximately 12 MW at peak moments. The system will be able to provide the whole island with electricity by the end of 2008. It will drive energy prices down while at the same time reducing ^Bonaire's dependence on the fluctuating oil prices.Dirk Berkhout, member of the board of Econcern: "The cost of the wind/diesel combination is approximately 35-40 million dollars. We expect that some of this can be recovered via CO2 credits. The main objective of the first phase of the project is to gain experience with wind energy on Bonaire and to reduce short-term electricity costs. The finalised system design will rely on 40% of the total power requirement coming from wind. The remainder will be supplied with fuel oil, preferably biofuel. By 2010 it is conceivable that Bonaire will get all of its electrical energy from natural, renewable sources." EcoPower intends to install a new Enercon E33 wind turbine at Sorobon on the Southeast coast of Bonaire. An obsolete Nedwind turbine will be removed. The turbine has not been operational for the last 10 years. The Sorbon site is the ideal location for the new wind turbine, with its favourable climate conditions and the existing grid connection for one medium-sized device. The first wind turbine will start supplying electricity in the second quarter of 2007.The next phase - to be completed in the 3rd quarter of 2008 – will involve the construction of a 10 MW wind farm and a 13 MW diesel power plant. The wind farm (11 or 12 turbines) will be built on the Northeast coast of Bonaire, the windward side of the island. Each turbine has the capacity to produce 0.8 - 0.9 MW of energy. Under ideal circumstances, this wind farm alone could meet Bonaire's current electrical needs. The wind farm will be designed based on measurements registered by a Met mast that was installed in January. A new 13-MW diesel power plant will be built by MAN at the BOPEC site. The plant will be equipped to burn both conventional and biofuels.Econcern is the holding company of Ecofys, Evelop, Ecostream and Ecoventures. The mission of these European companies is to ensure `a sustainable energy supply for everyone'. Econcern delivers unique projects and innovative products and services for a sustainable energy supply. The Econcern group employs about 550 professionals in 15 countries.The new company Ecopower Bonaire BV will build, own and operate the facilities. It is also responsible for technical management during the first phase. MAN, the largest diesel engine manufacturer in the world, will manage the technical aspects involved in building the new power plant near BOPEC in the north-west corner of Bonaire. Enercon, the world's fourth largest manufacturer of wind turbines, will deliver the turbines.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Piles of Puzzles

Yes, Tasmania is not in its rightful location. but it wouldn't fit in the picture otherwise.

Speaking of Tasmania, I just watched the movie "Young Einstein" last night, with the actor, Yahoo Serious, as young Tasmanian bushman who splits the beer atom, invents the electric guitar, saves the world etc. I wouldn't necessarily recommend spending your hard earned money on this DVD, unless you have a really weird sense of humor, but if you subscribe to Netflix, you could give it a try.

Sandra usually gets into puzzle making mood around Christmas time, although the affliction has been known to strike at any time. She even has our one "dog with tail" trained to keep her tail low around the puzzle tables, so as not to sweep pieces onto the floor!

My parents have recently given Sandra some special shaped puzzles by SunsOut. The entire puzzle is cut out in a special shape and many of the pieces have unusual shapes as well. I'm not too much of a puzzle-aholic, but I do have to admit that these puzzles are fun.

Sandra is sharing her SunsOut puzzles with our friend, Donna, who puzzles about as much as I cycle, and Donna loves them too. She's already scheming as to how she can buy some online and have visiting friends bring them to Bonaire.

SunsOut shows 42 shaped puzzles on their web site in the special shapes section. But if you browse through some of the other categories of puzzles on the site, you'll find more. For example, the Australia puzzle pictured here is not in the special shapes section, but can be found, together with "O Canada," in the Countries category. There is a cool lighthouse shaped puzzle listed under "lighthouses."

Besides the "Down Under" puzzle pictured here, Sandra has "Wake Up Call" and "Spanish Dancers."

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Planets on Parade

If you look to the west after sunset these days, you can't help but notice Venus shining brightly in the early evening sky. Mercury is visible too right now. On Bonaire Mercury appears directly below Venus, about two thirds to three quarters of the way to the horizon. The later you look, the nearer Mercury will be to the horizon.

This picture shows how Mercury and Venus looked two hours ago, at 7:20 pm on Thursday evening.

If you are further North than Bonaire, Mercury will appear to Venus' lower right, instead of directly below Venus. This Sky and Telescope page has a great diagram showing you what you can expect to see if you live up in the frozen North. And for those of you located way down in the Southern Hemisphere, the separation between the planets should look like what the Sky and Telescope page shows, but Mercury will be to the lower left of Venus rather than to the lower right.

The planet Saturn is quite visible in the evening sky too. Once you know where to look, you can follow it for a number of months. Friday night, Feb. 2, is a golden opportunity to locate Saturn. The moon will be really close to Saturn this Friday night, and Saturn is the brightest thing in the area besides the Moon.

So anybody with clear skies should be able to spot three planets Friday night, no astronomy expertise necessary.

Weekend Warriors

This is the course profile of an upcoming group bike ride. See the last paragraph of this posting for the details.
The starting point is at Eden Park. The first bump on the graph at 2.25 miles is the start of Sabadeco.
The dip at 3.5 miles is at Oilslick Leap. The next peak, at 4.6 miles is at the top of 1000 steps. The dip at 5.9 miles is at Old Blue and the dip at 6.7 miles is at Karpata.
The peak at 7.8 miles is the top of the hill between Karpata and Rincon.
There is a dirt road from the top of this hill that dives down to the road between Dos Pos and Rincon, which is the dip in the curve at 8.5 miles. The hilltop (para mira) with a great scenic view of Rincon is the peak at 9 miles.
Rincon is the dip at 9.5 miles. The killer cement road that climbs from Rincon to the radio towers on the cliff overlooking that town is next. The top of that hill is the highest sport on the chart, at 10.4 miles.
We then will hang a right turn at the big silver water tank and dive downhill on a dirt road that takes us to the lower of the two dirt roads back to Sabadeco. The bottom of this sketchy hill is at 11.1 miles.
There is a small but steep hill at 11.4 miles, and then it is downhill all the way back to Eden Park. Yippie! Oh, and be careful, because the dirt road is crossed by a number of giant bike eating gullys and the whole route back to Eden Park is heading directly into the wind, ha-ha.
I must not be the only one who thinks that this time of the year is ideal for being out and about on Bonaire. There are interesting activities happening every weekend these days.

Last Saturday was the Annual Lora (parrot) count. During the wee hours of the morning, about 50 volunteers headed to 22 known nesting sites around the island to count the Loras as they woke up and greeted the new day. The wild Lora population seems to be stable at about 650 birds. By the time I arrived at Washington Park on my bike ride last Saturday morning, the count was finished, a great breakfast had been eaten and the volunteers were starting to return home. You can read more about the Lora count in this week's issue of The Bonaire Reporter, on the Bonaire Reporter website. (Its dated 02-02-07 if you are reading this at some later date) There is also an informative article about the Lora on page 10 of the Jan 19, 2007 issue. You'll have to subscribe to read the Reporter online, but I must say that I consider it $35 well spent, and I live here and have access to the free hard copy version of the Reporter.

This coming weekend, the dawn of Sunday, Feb. 4, will see swarms of people running, hiking and biking from Red Slave at the south end of Bonaire, all the way to Rincon, in an annual fund raiser for the Bonaire Special Olympics team. Church responsibilities, not to mention the 5am. start time, have prevented me from participating in this event so far. Well actually, last year, Bob Lassiter and I did drive to Rincon in "Big Red" after church to join the hardy hikers for a scrumptious lunch. The route for this event goes right past our house and it is fun to see the participants passing by as I eat breakfast, feed the dogs, and then bike to the IBCB (church) around 8 am. to set up the sound system.

Next Saturday, Feb. 10, will be an opportunity for cycling enthusiasts to get together for a great group ride, sponsored by Bonaire Wellness Connexions. Details can be found on the Bonaire Insider web site. As I mentioned in my blog, the December ride was a lot of fun. I just rode the planned route of the upcoming ride. It took me about an hour and 20 minutes to ride without stopping, but will probably be more of a two hour group adventure next Saturday, because there will be rest stops for munching fruit and re-hydrating along the way. At the top of this posting you will find a yellow chart showing elevation versus distance for the route of the Feb. 10 ride. My bike speedometer read 26.58 km at the finish, but he chart shows the distance in miles and the elevation in feet. It's not a long ride, but has a fair amount of climbing for a "flat" island.