Thursday, June 28, 2007

Big Bonaire Fire

I was getting near the end of my after work bike ride, going fast from Mentor towards Playa Lechi on Kaya Amsterdam, when I saw a huge pillar of black smoke to the north west. Uh-oh, I thought, WEB is burning again.
But as I got closer to home, I could see that it was one of the big houses/mansions along the short just north of Habitat. The flames and smoke were huge indeed. Fortunately for me, the fire hadn't been burning too long and I could safely ride past on the road. Later, it seemed like half the island was out there and it would have been quite dangerous to be cycling along there.
I put the bike away, slapped on some real clothes over my Lycra bike duds, and went back with my camera, which happened to have a 28mm lens on it. So I snapped a few pictures and cropped them heavily. Sandra and I got there about the same time as the fire engines. Later the engine from Rincon came too. Good thing, because it was a pretty intense fire.

I am still hearing the occasional siren as I type this, but I think the fire didn't spread to any other houses, and hopefully no one was hurt. We'll probably find out more over the next day or two.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Google Earth boggles my mind Again

Seems like one can't turn around without bumping into another innovative use for Google Earth. One of Realtors here on Bonaire is linking to Google Earth to show people where the properties they have listed are located - exactly.

But that's small potatoes. Here's what boggles the old mind.

You may remember that I recently mentioned a couple of Web sites that predict when you can observe the ISS and Iridium satellites passing overhead. That's pretty cool, especially for those of us who don't live in the Northern hemisphere, where most of the published magazine charts and predictions are set up for.

I've also been a long time follower of a site set up by Thomas Fly, who created a software routine to predict when the International Space Station will pass in front of a cool astronomical object as seen from your location. One can sign up for email alerts about upcoming events at your location.

This, to me, is really cool. I've tried to observe a couple predicted transits by the ISS, but haven't succeeded yet. One has to be in a pretty narrow range of locations for everything in space to line up and produce the meeting in the air, so to speak.

Well, just this year Ed Morana has published a Java Based Application, based on Thomas Fly's original program, which allows us to generate our own ISS transit predictions.

And... drum roll please........ you can plot the results on Google Earth! Yippie. Now I can look at a super detailed satellite map of Bonaire and see exactly where I need to park my trusty telescope in order to see the ISS pass in front of, for example, Jupiter (Friday night), or the moon (this coming Tuesday)!!!! I'm like a kid in a candy store, when playing with this (totally free) software.

There are three upcoming events shown on the picture I've included with this posting. The event for tonight is a near miss, but the other two will be viewable from our teeny tiny island, if the sky is clear. You'll probably have to click on that picture to see it large enough to make sense out of it.

The greenish line on the picture shows the places to be if you want to see the ISS pass exactly over the center of the Moon, or Jupiter, or whatever. If you are within the boundaries delineated by the parallel red lines, you can still see the ISS pass over some part of the celestial object. So in the above picture, the pass over the Moon on Tuesday won't be a bulls eye, but if I head to the South part of the island, I should be able to see the ISS pass over a small part of the moon. I'll have to video it to see it later in stop action, because it takes the ISS less than a second to pass in front of the moon. If you blink at the wrong instant, you've missed it.

Actually a zillion things could go wrong, so I probably won't be posting cool footage of the ISS passing in front of the moon next week. But now that I can run the software on my own computer and plot the results on a Bonaire map, I'm sure that sooner or later, I'll observe this. I'm psyched 'cause it must be a couple of years, at least, that I've been wanting to do this.

If you would like to have the actual output data file that you can open in Google Earth on your computer, and then zoom way in to see the exact path superimposed on the streets of Bonaire, email me and I'll send it to you.

Or download Ed Morana's software, and ISS and other data files and make some transit event predictions for yourself, at your location. There is so much amazing, absolutely free, astronomy related software available online, it boggles my mind... oops, me thinks I've already said that.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

In Memory of Mac

Mac the "puppy" is no longer with us. Diagnosed with serious hip displacia at about one year of age, he was still enjoying life and well on his way to becoming a full fledged member of our home security team when a serious front shoulder cartilage type injury on the same side of his body as his bad rear hip made it about impossible for him to move around.

While surgery was a possibility, it wasn't recommended because the hip displacia was going to eventually do him in anyway.

We had been hoping to enjoy Mac for a couple more years though, because he was a real character, and we had invested a lot of ourselves into moulding him into well trained member of the team.

We'll miss Mac a lot.

Baptism at the Beach

One of the young people at the International Bible Church of Bonaire (IBCB) wanted to make a public testimony of his faith in Jesus Christ before heading to Curacao to continue his education. So Pastor Baran counseled him for a number of weeks and we had a baptism at the beach after the morning church service today.
Here is an action photo of Pastor Baran performing the baptism, with Wai-Man Chan ready to assist if necessary.
Here's a overview of the group that witnessed *****'s baptism. I don't post the names of minors (or watchdogs) on the Web. :)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

More Airtime for Cuba

This month we've increased our Spanish language broadcasts to Cuba and the Dominican Republic from two to three hours per night. Morning Spanish language programming is directed South to Venezuela and Colombia.

One of the new programs is a Spanish language adaptation of Pastor Chuck Smith's radio program called, "The Word for Today." This new program is being produced by RTM (TWR) Uruguay.

We also recently began airing the original English language version of this program, and it is proving to be one of the most popular programs with our listeners. Pastor Chuck's slow delivery and down to earth style seem to connect well with people in the Caribbean and Guyana.

We have seen a huge increase in listener response from Cuba this year, and TWR's new recording studio there just became fully operational last month. New churches are popping up by the thousands in Cuba. North Americans would think of them as "small groups" or house churches, because public meetings of groups larger than 20 require all sorts of "red tape" and special permissions. Bible survey programs like Thru the Bible and in depth Bible book studies like Chuck Smith is doing are a perfect fit for these young believers.

Here are excerpts from a couple letters in response to our broadcasts this year.

from Matanzas, Cuba
The love of God is mystical and timely. I found myself along with my family engulfed in sad thoughts. It was like looking with pain at how men continue to crucify Jesus on the cross. That night, being very perplexed, we found on our small radio a station that broke through the distance of the ocean and ether waves that brought new breath to our spiritual lives. For the first time we heard from Bonaire the pure, unadulterated Word of God. Thank you, God, for your timing. We thank you for your study on the book of Esther. God is in the shadows in spite of it all, taking care of His people. God is not mocked. Thank you, a thousand thanks for this night. Please, can we have the notes and outlines? God bless you.

from Villa Clara, Cuba
I would like to begin this letter congratulating you for making it possible for the words of the Lord to be heard by every heart that listens to this program.

You need to know that here in Cuba many people listen to your program. It is very good because it fills us spiritually with joy and the knowledge about the Word of God. Thank you for such a good program. I hope you continue making as good a program as this one. It is very good that there are programs like this because people need it…I just want to tell you that you need to continue making a program like this one. May God bless you.

Planetary Parade

Happy first day of summer everyone, well everyone here in the northern hemisphere at least. Today is also the wedding anniversary of someone near and dear to me.

Some of the bright planets have been putting on a great show this month. Venus made a nice lineup with the Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux at the start of the month.

Then this week, the moon, Venus, Saturn, and the star Regulus in the front quarters of Leo the Lion have made a dramatic straight line in the evening sky.

This picture shows how they looked on Tuesday night. Venus is the one at the lower right, then the moon, Saturn, and finally Regulus is sitting at the end of an asterism known as "the Sickle." I brightened the last two stars of the sickle a little bit to make them easier to see. You'll probably need to click on the picture to make it bigger if you want to see the stars of the sickle.

Venus and Saturn will be getting closer together during the rest of June. It should be quite obvious, even to the naked eye. Be sure to look up regularly and enjoy the show. Venus and Saturn will be closest together on June 30 and July 1.

Venus will also be getting brighter and should show a nice crescent shape in a telescope and maybe even binoculars by July 1 as well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Stargazing Season

I like the Southern Cross picture below better. It seems a little more natural some how, but the one on top may show up better on your monitor, if it is set darker than mine, which most are.
I drew a faint outline connecting some of the stars of the Sagittarius "teapot." You can click on these pictures to see them bigger and have a go at identifying the many Messier and other objects in this field of view. If anyone is interested, I be willing to create a version of the picture with some of the objects labeled. An even larger version of the picture below can be found here.

I had some astronomy photos on the blog right about this time last year. It seems like clear night skies are somewhat of a seasonal thing, like the kibrahacha tree pictures that grace the blog every year in May/June.

I took these images of the Southern Cross last week, as well as some detailed pictures of the region around the Scorpius "teapot" asterism. If you go over to last June in the archives, you can compare last year's pix with this year's versions.
The original version of this year's teapot picture, which I didn't post, because even as a jpeg it is 3-4 meg. in size is really detailed. I can identify loads of star clusters and nebula on it. There are interesting objects that I can see in the picture that I can't even spot with my 10x50 binoculars. Larger binoculars would probaby pull them all in.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kibrahacha Trees

I was at the airport early Tuesday morning and commented to a friend that I was surprised that the Kibrahacha trees hadn't popped after the rain we recently had. I was sure surprised later that day to see the trees starting to bloom.
We took these pictures after work on Tuesday. I think the flowers peaked on Wednesday, and by Thursday they were pretty much gone. Kibrahacha trees seem to grow on the western slopes of hills, and can be seen east of Antriol, and in Republic, Sabadeco, and in the Gotomeer area up North.
The picture above is the view looking East from the TWR studios. There was less haze on Wednesday, so the yellow blooms on the grey/green hills were even more striking, but I didn't have a chance to take any pictures.

I rode my bike around the north end after work to check out the Kibrahacha trees by Gotomeer and north of Dos Pos. The trees were beautiful and made me wish I had brought my camera along. But if I had stopped to take pictures, I wouldn't have made it back home before dark, so I just enjoyed the view as I rode along.

20 Years with TWR for Benny

Today, Benny Saragoza completes 20 years with Trans World Radio! We had a fun reception time with Benny, his family, and friends on Friday afternoon. I think that if you click on the picture, you can read the inscription on the cake.
Here are some photos of Benny in action last week.
He sure looks relaxed up there, but he is very careful too.

Benny came to TWR as a welder, but has gotten involved in all sorts of types of projects since then, including but not limited to: antenna rigging, masonry and other construction activities, air conditioning maintenance and repair, and vehicle maintenance and repair.

Monday, June 04, 2007

9th Bonaire Webcam

There are now 9 web cams on Bonaire. The Yellow Submarine has the newest one, which shows their dock and the downtown Kralendijk waterfront, with Bel Nem in the background.
Here is a link to all the cams on one page.

Although not exactly a live web cam, the parrot people; Sam, Rowan, Sophie and Tom put new nest cam video on their site on a regular basis. One parrot, named Olivia Parrot, even can be found on, and