Friday, September 30, 2011

The Best Prescription For Cancer.

 Yesterday's post for Friday's This Moment was of a Black-backed Gull, that graced the railings of New Brighton Pier. New Brighton is the Eastern shoreline suburb and beach of Christchurch, New Zealand where I spent much of my youth getting into the usual sort of mischief young kids of that period got up to. Swimming and sun-baking on this long stretch of sandy beach fills many of those nooks in my memory.

The often severe sun-burning may also account for the constant vigilance required these days to monitor for melanoma; already one has been removed.

 Two contemporaries have succumbed to cancer, initially diagnosed as  melanomas and excised, but later reappearing as cancer in other organs. Both died way too young. Early detection is vital. 

New Brighton beach looking north from  the pier.

My brush with melanoma started when my physiotherapist suggested I should have a mole on my back checked out. An excision was performed by my doctor under local pain-killer and the cut away sample sent off for biopsy. I was called in when the results came back and sent to a skin surgeon.
The specialist reckoned the melanoma was in remission when it was removed: biopsy indicated it was smaller than it could have been, hence the need to ensure all suspect cells were removed, so a deeper, larger excision need be done.
 Now why was that I asked?
"Because your immune system is attacking it." advised the specialist. "Something has boosted your immune system."
"Interesting that the previous year I had cut out drinking beer and now enjoy a couple of glasses of red wine each evening."
"You keep on doing that then!"

So that's the best prescription a medical practitioner has ever given me!

Amazing that when I began to write this article, I intended to just post up a few photos to illustrate where the picture of the seagull was taken, and here it is turning into a post about cancer awareness.
 But that's the way it goes, as October is Breast Cancer Awareness month here-blognostics-for-jens-sakes-pinktober

No doubt about it- red wine is fine! Keep those anti-oxidant levels up...the enjoyable way. 

And remember- early detection!

Let's get back to New Brighton Pier and seagulls.

New Brighton Pier looking south.

Walking out on the pier. Our gull friend is just visible on the left railing.

Early this month we took a trip back to Christchurch, our hometown. It was a very nostalgic return, the first since earthquakes have struck, so it was a very sad, and at times an emotional visit to many of our old haunts. The old pier of our earlier days, which was built in 1894, has been replaced with a new one in 1997. You'll note a slight slump in the railing line: movement resulting from earthquake.

 Enjoy these pics of our posing friend, and the scenery. A cool spring late morning. 

"What? You want my pic?"
"This way?"

"I think my left profile is best. Can I have a fish now?"

Keep well. Remember - Early detection!

Check out Breast Cancer Survivor Week
at- Bognostics-for-jens-sakes-pinktober   


This Moment: Fri 30th Sept.

{This Moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Adopted from Soulemama. Drop in there and leave your link and comments also.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Travel Photo Thursday: Ethiopia Market.

Welcome to this week's Travel Photo Thursday. Ethiopia just has to be one of our most interesting and exciting travel destinations. Check out these photos.
Traditional market in Sanbete, Ethiopia.

A fascinating market where Oromo and Amhara tribes people trade livestock.  The woman are dressed in the most striking very bright colours on black backgrounds. My wife reckoned that tribes men were getting upset because I was so fascinated by their women's dress style. That goes with the territory for me, being a custom shoe designer and maker I am always interested in women's wear. Sometimes I forget you can get your head chopped off in these parts if you show too much attention to their women. Our innocent looking just isn't appreciated. You will see what I mean by their colourful dress being so attention getting.

Local shoe market.

You can admire these beauties as long as you like!

Camel at Sanbete Market.
All photos by Jim McIntosh.

More great photos being posted up for Travel Photo Thursday over at Nancie's BudgetTraveler's Sandbox. 
Check them out or join in the fun.


Monday, September 26, 2011

YouTube Tuesday: Skydive Skeleton Coast, Namibia.

Share your favorite Video Every Tuesday. Be Creative, and have fun. The video can be about anything.
Visit Tiger Time for more great YouTube Tuesday great selections. Josh is the man with the plan! Leave your name and link in his linky tool so everyone can view your video selection.

Leave your link in my comments section so I can drop by and see your choice.

OK guys, I'm flying a bird!

One of those great moments in life. Scary? Nah...kid's stuff. Calm as can be. If I 'bounce' (terminology for a terminal descent) I won't know about it. I'll just yell my head of to the last second and go out enjoying it.

Although how I got into skydiving over the Skeleton Coast in Namibia is quite a crazy story. Our tour group pulled into Swakopmund, Namibia right on the Skeleton Coast, so named because many shipwrecks had occurred there and because of the bleached bones left during the heyday of the whaling industry. Wreck survivors may have reached the shore thinking they were saved, but soon died of thirst on the desert coast: the desert stretches inland for over a 100 miles in some parts. For years I had dreamed of a scenic flight along the coast.

None of our group would share in the cost of a scenic flight and way too much for me on my own. But the young guys were daring each other to go skydiving, and wanted numbers. I figured that to get my desperately wanted scenic flight all I had to do was jump out of the plane at the end. I thought that was a good idea, as I get to watch the scenery on the half hour flight up to 10,000 feet for nothing...purely a bonus. Yeah, I was into that deal!
Kay wasn't too worried...she was probably texting our insurance broker to bump up my cover!

Actually, had a queasy stomach that morning, and the tight harness around my gut, and sitting so cramped up in the plane was torture...I was so glad to get out and jump. Well, you don't jump...the guy you're harnessed to shoves you out! No last minute scaredy freeze-up, or turning back. It's not your just get pushed out.

Mind you, Paul was good. Talking quietly in my ear, telling me what to do, going through the countdown, making sure I had arms crossed while sitting in the doorway, and staying calm and firm. Paul is a great guy to jump with. A class act for Groundrush Adventures, Swakopmund.

I was thrilled to be jumping. No thoughts of fear. I just wanted to enjoy every minute, and be able to see the scenery, the coastal dunes contrasting with the deep blue waters, and the topography of the land. I thought the unique overhead perspective of the massive sand dunes, and the rivers snaking their way across the plains was worth the adrenaline buzz. A totally amazing way to see the Skeleton Coast!

I was the last to jump and so I got to see all 9 others jump and land. Most were tripping over, landing on their bums, or scared shitless. They all loved it though.
Check out this video. I paid extra to have another skydiver  jump separately and video me and Paul. Watch for my landing...nope, I have never jumped before. But with that perfect landing I sure got asked if I had!

I have a confession- it was so freezing that approaching the ground I knew I was so cold and stiff there was no way I could take any steps on landing. So I made sure I listened and re-acted to Paul as he talked me through preparation for landing. And when he said " Put your feet down." I put them down ...for that perfect finish.
For a long time I just stood there until I could move. 

Info and rates are there. For the extra DVD and heaps of pics you'll need to pay for another skydiver. All up around $2050 Namibian dollars. Worth every cent.


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Magnificent Monday: Street Performers.

Welcome to another Magnificent Monday and this week the theme is 
'Street Performers.'

 Those zany, gifted or extrovert entertainers game enough, or desperate enough to get out and perform in front of the public bring music to our lives, and brighten our streets. Whether it's with an old battered guitar and a cap with a few coins in it on the ground, or a painted face performing mime to passers-by who  re-act as if they just didn't see them, I'll stop and listen, and drop a few dollars down. I love them. They're gutsy people.

Strange how so many times we've come across a lone performer, and we stop, listen and enjoy them, and soon because we have stopped, others do also. Our actions seem to be the catalyst to begin the crowd-making process. 

During the day in my workshop I listen to their music all day long. I collect CDs from our travels - so many were purchased from street musicians: marimba or male choral groups from Cape Town's Waterfront, percussion music of amputees at Cambodia's Angkor Wat, a lady balalaika player at the Museum of Wooden Architecture near Irkutsk, heaps more : you could chart our travels by my CD collection.


Mlilwane Game Reserve accommodation, Swaziland.
In August 2009, Russell Frankish of Green Bushpig Safaris, arranged our private 17 day safari which included a few days in the Kingdom of Swaziland, that rather mountainous country landlocked between South Africa and Mozambique. Most people are poor, and any economic improvement is jeopardised by having a high rate of HIV infection among its population. Our guide/driver urged us to be aware that we need be careful, as tourists are seen as having immense wealth for the grabbing.

"Don't walk on you own. Keep cameras and wallet hidden." Gerhard  (Guts) cautioned us, saying he would stay with us all the time.
As we drove the main street of its capital Mbabane, the sound of music coming from a crowd on the roadside caught my ears. I asked Guts to stop so we could check out what looked like a music performance near the market. I can't go past a good street performance!
" I cannot leave the car, it may be broken into. If you go, I will stand by the car and you must stay in sight of me." Guts solemnly warned us.

Kay was rather worried but I was adamant I wanted to enjoy the music. I thought that by acting and walking confidently, we may be taken as visiting business South Africans rather than tourists; my Springbok Rugby top would be a rather cool disguise! I had been given this by our friend Guts, our driver. Moving purposely through to the front of the crowd of over 100 people, we witnessed a guy singing his heart out. African music particularly Zulu or Swazi style, has a terrific driving beat: it's infectious and inspiring with massed male voices backed with the higher accompanying female tones often singing many different rhythms woven together. This guy on the pavement was giving a commanding performance accompanied by two female back-up vocalists, and speakers pumping out pre-recorded instrumental soundtrack. I would presume he has gained his powerful voice and singing style in church gospel choirs.

Buying my CD. Shiba is taking a break, crouched to the right in the photo.

The crowd edged in. A few people jostled us. We couldn't tell whether that was threatening or just their wanting to get closer to the music. We were feeling uneasy so to break the tenseness I walked forward, motioned to the guy holding CDs obviously for sale, and asked how much.
"30 rand." Around $5.00. Not worth bargaining it down. Out came the few rand I had screwed up in my pocket.
As he handed me the CD a roar of what could only be approval came from the crowd! In an instant, what seemed like a threatening situation turned into welcoming and acceptance. Several slapped me on the back, someone shook my hand, and many gestured a wave of appreciation. My green and gold Springbok top was stroked and patted.
"Good colours." I heard someone say.
"First sale. Good man.''
Shiba the showman caught my eye, and while still singing gestured an appreciative wave. We were friends.

Hopefully I wasn't the only person to buy that day. $5 doesn't sound like much but in Swaziland it's the equivalent of 3 days average income for most.

Today, my CD of Shiba and Travellers is often playing in my workshop...along with all the other CDs I brought back from 4 Africa trips.

A real entertainer, Shiba.

I wish I could find this guy on YouTube! Nothing posted.

To join in this week's Magnificent Monday-
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Friday, September 23, 2011

There ain't no mistakes - just steep learning curves.

This past week has been troubling for a couple of online friends in blog groups I belong to. I enjoy being in groups that offer a greater range of blogging than just pure travel, for the way that this extends my learning and knowledge, and sometimes I can offer support and encouragement, or even a bit of wisdom.

 The internet is a wonderful media for bringing people closer. Sure there are downsides, but as with all human innovation, there are more upsides than downsides - otherwise we would never progress as humanity.

2 of these friends have had a hard time recently, and have written about their heartbreaking experiences, and many have offered support.

Life doesn't come with a Diploma Graduation course; you live it, you make heaps of mistakes, and you keep going back and doing it again.

Or do we?

A marketing guru once stated " I have never made a mistake!"

At the seminar I thought the arrogant twit was out of his tree over that. But then he went on to simply state that he learnt something from every mistake he made; every bad experience he took something out of it. So in the end he could look back and say he didn't make a mistake- he had a learning experience. Life is about learning. If we do not venture ahead, try new things, get involved in relationships, we do not learn.
And if we learn just one thing from a bad experience, then that experience becomes not a mistake - it becomes a learning experience.
Once I understood what this marketing guy said, life changed. I realized life was about making mistakes so I could learn. So going back into similar situations, I brought new knowledge with me this time around, so I could better deal with it.

So my motto now is - 'There are no mistakes- just learning experiences.'

When reading about my blogging friends experiences and then later while working, words flowed, and seemed to fit with  melodies running through my mind, so I jotted them down.

Well, there ain't no mistakes,
Just steep learning curves.
But sometimes it must seem
Like we're falling backwards.
So when it comes to heartbreak
Don't lose your nerves.
We learn how far to go
Then we go back again.

You gotta take what you can,
Learn the lesson, start again.
You gotta move on, make a plan,
Love comes with some pain.

Well, there ain't no mistakes,
Just steep learning curves.
So when it comes to heartbreak,
Do we stop, look and learn?
Like a kid touching fire,
And recoiling in pain.
It's a hard lesson learnt
We shouldn't do it again.

You gotta learn what you can,
Don't be a fool for the pain.
You've walked out, but now
You're headed back there again.

Well, there ain't no mistakes,
Just steep learning curves.
But sometimes it must seem
Like we're falling backwards.
So what hurts us the most,
Teaches with the pain.
Have we learned how far to go
When we go back there again?

The above verse has been taken up by Michael Bannert and he's put it to music.

So to all my blogging friends facing life's problems, this is dedicated to you. I hope it helps.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

This Moment: Fri 23rd Sept.

{This Moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Adopted from Soulemama. Drop in there and leave your link and comments also.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

I need you to ask about this dog. She's not mine but rather special.
OK, I'll tell you about her.

I don't write much about the Christchurch earthquakes because the psychological trauma is hard for outsiders to truly understand. But I do know that our many friends and families have gone through all the range of emotions we humans can experience; physical sickness, terror, numbness, anger and frustration are known to them, and deeply.

So those are their stories to tell, because I would not be able to write them as they should be.

3 weeks ago we flew down, hired a car from Allways Rentals,-( thanks Merav ), and tiki-toured around Christchurch and caught up with rellies and friends. My sister was so glad to have us stay a night and she relived the event and the subsequent ongoing aftershocks, by telling us vividly about the quakes and the effects that they have had on their lives. 3 major quakes and over 8,000 aftershocks have rocked Christchurch in the past 12 months.

When the second big quake struck Christchurch in February, my sister's house, built on Huntsbury Hills area of the Cashmere Hills which lie between Christchurch and Lyttleton, was very badly shaken and damaged. My brother-in-law is an engineer for a major roading contracting company, and he explained they believe the land was violently thrust up, then resettled somewhat but leaving that area 400 mms higher. While the house is still standing and liveable, all the interior and exterior cladding joins are busted open. Many houses around them are to be demolished. Roads were buckled and upthrusted. Chasms appeared. Roofs and block walls toppled. Rocks the size of cars bounced down the slopes. Terrified dogs and cats disappeared.

Honey is my sister's family dog, a sweet natured, sensitive animal, as all Newfoundlands are of course. Terrified, she fled. My sister's family searched the neighbourhood all day, along with many other residents also seeking their loved pets.  Eventually next night, Honey turned up at their door, bringing with her a bunch of other scared dogs! 5 other dogs who had run off and couldn't find their way home.

Can you imagine how those animals feeling sheer terror had sought out each other's company, forming a pack for comfort?

"OK guys, let's buddy up. Big hugs. Umm...anyone know their way back home?"
"Oh well, you can all come home with me then. I think we live up there somewhere."
"You think they'll mind?"
"Nope. I'll let them know you're my buddies now."

Such a sweet little story. So in the depths of human disaster, there needs to be thought given to our pets. When the SPCA launched their appeal for desperately needed funds to put on extra staff to help locate all the stray animals, and  provide feed and shelter until re-united with owners, we contributed heavily.
Our pets are our family. 
We need to consider them also.

An historic house in Lyttleton propped up. Maybe it will be saved.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Travel Photo Thursday: Rila Monastery, Bulgaria.

Hi for this weeks Travel Photo Thursday.
I've just been chatting to a new travel friend, Derek Earl Baron, about Bulgaria so I got inspired to go through photos of our East European saunter, a trip I haven't written enough about. Fascinating countries to visit and inexpensive, downright cheap actually, such good value for money.

We enjoyed our travels in Bulgaria, a country of many layers of history positioned by that narrow neck of land where Europe and Asia meet between the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Successive waves of migrations and conquests swept to and fro across the area - tribes from Central Asia came through; Greek, Roman, and Islamic Empires claimed dominance through the ages; all  leaving their influences in culture and architecture.

The Rila Monastery is situated in South-western Bulgaria some 117km from Sofia the capital.

Originally built in the time of St Ivan of Rila around the mid 900's CE, it has been added to and destroyed many times and re-built between 1834- 1862 and most buildings date from that time.
The ceilings and walls are covered in beautifully painted frescoes depicting biblical scenes. Photography is not allowed in the interior of the main church.

Click on any photo for full size view.

View of Rila Monastery courtyard.

View of courtyard looking right.

A view further right of Rila Monastery, showing the frescoes.

All photos by Jim McIntosh.
More great photos being posted up for Travel Photo Thursday over at Nancie's BudgetTraveler's Sandbox.
Check them out  or join in.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

You Tube Tuesday: Sept 20. Bagrock!

Share your favorite Video Every Tuesday. Be Creative, and have fun.
Visit Tiger Time for more great YouTube Tuesday great selections. Josh is the man with the plan!

The video can be about anything.

Gaelic music, and particularly that from Scotland grabs me.
In September last year Kay and I toured Scotland by rented car, driving where ever we wanted depending on the weather, having a fabulous time, seeking out our ancestral roots, history, whisky and haggis!

Edinburgh we loved. We wandered the city centre, spent hours at the Castle, walked the Royal Mile enjoying the many street performers, down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland. During one of our walks along the Royal Mile we browsed a souvenir store. my ears became alert- I loved the music coming over the shop's sound system, so asked the shop manager about it. I purchased a gem of a recording thinking it was crazy music for the Red Hot Chili Peppers to be playing.


Playing it later on our rental car's CD player, we had quite a discussion how such a great pop band would play bagpipe music. But we loved it. A few days later it finally clicked- not the Red Hot Chili Peppers - the CD was by The Red Hot Chili Pipers - a totally different but well known Scottish band bringing bagpipes to the pop scene. And in such a great way!

Listen to how keyboard, electric guitar and bagpipes go so well together, counterpointing and leading and complementing each with each other. That guitar bridge is up there with the greats.
There are several live recordings of this on YouTube indicating how well this is loved.

Kay has just heard me playing this and came in and said "Stop torturing me with that music.Take me back to Scotland, Jim!"

Torture and tears this CD has given her. Upon leaving Inverness we drove down to Birmingham to stay with friends. This CD was playing and as we were approaching the Scotland/ England border, which is just a signpost, Flower of Scotland began to play. Kay burst into tears.

Yes it was a such a wonderful time together, and we both loved every minute, gales and rain and visiting Tallisker Distillery and never touching a drop...too early in the morning, and not wanting any problems driving a rental... so I wasn't allowed!

Oh and hey, can nae have Scots music without this about bashing the English!

Leave your link in my comments section so I can drop by and see your choice.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Golden Hour Photography: Chobe National Park.

The ' Golden Hour' refers to that short time either in the morning after first light, or late afternoon/early evening, when the sun is down towards the horizon so the light is angled low casting deep shadows to contrast features in the landscape bringing hitherto unnoticed undulations, hillsides, rocks and trees into stark relief. Features stand out. Colours can deepen or take on hues not seen in the harsh glare of an overhead sun. Landscapes can be enhanced by shadows stretching across the land, creating interest and perspective. Overhead shots can throw up shadows across the ground, making an okay sort of subject appear strikingly interesting where the shadow becomes the picture rather than what casts the shadow.

In Africa, the fine dust of the reddish soil is held in the atmosphere creating a colour filter for the sun's rays and  a softer, but richer colour spreads across the land when the sun is low. It's a fine time to photograph wildlife: as we will see.

On our recent safari across Botswana, early starts and long days travel meant photography opportunities abounded during those hours.

What looked like a very poor day for good shooting because of the heavy overcast skies turned into  brilliant photographing as the sun peeked through at a low angle in the late afternoon. This was winter time and nightfall is sudden at around 6pm so there's little time to stuff around as the campsite has to be ready by nightfall.
I'd like to share these photos with you.
Here's an early shot -

Poor light and almost silhouette photography in mid afternoon. But the simplicity of the scene lends itself to the sepia effect. 

During the day Buffalo appear very dark brownish or black.

Late in the afternoon as the sun breaks through golden light enriches and enhances the buffalo.

The sun is low and cloaks this back lit giraffe in warm, rich colours.

Kudu Male.

With the sun now putting in an appearance we drove into Ihaha Camp in Chobe National Park, Botswana in time to shoot incredible pictures as it got lower. The overcast sky and cloud cover created a natural wonderland for this amateur photographer.

With the sun still obscured by clouds I was able to photograph directly into the sun without getting an over-exposed result.

Here I was trying to get the reflection of the sunlight beam across the water. Almost like a light sabre sword from Star Wars. 
The shots across the Chobe River captured a stunning sunset.
Taken on my Canon SX10 IS on 'Sunset' setting which enhances reds.


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Magnificent Monday : Colours

Hi all and welcome to another Magnificent Monday:  a chance to kick of the week on a high note.

This week's theme is Colours, or for Americans- Colors!  

A blue sky, fields of golden sunflowers, snow covered mountains, feeling blue even, azure blue oceans,  rainbows or black and white photography- how would you interpret this week's theme?
I am pleased to have a guest travel writer for this week's  event.
Red Oz Nomad, an Australian based traveller and I kicked of our sites around about the same time and we've been bouncing off each other since. Red Oz has a wonderfully written blog, Amazing Australian Adventures  with very detailed and interesting articles about all things Australian. I love her take on even that most mundane of things. Her writing makes you look at what may appear to be the the most uninspiring of places and reveal how to really see it as a traveller. Nothing is uninteresting if you stop and look, ponder, and reflect upon it: Red OZ Nomad shows us how. Love that quirky humour, a true Australian trait!

When I posted 'FavouRED OZ Things #1' a few weeks ago, I thought I was done! But, after I'd found the RED OZ things in #1, I started noticing RED everywhere – until another stanza of 'FavouRED OZ Things' doggerel sprang unbidden to my mind somewhere between Cunnamulla, Queensland and Cobar, New South Wales!!

A happy coincidence? I think not!! Not after promising Jim a guest post several weeks (HHHMMMmmm... no, make that 'months') ago!

So, thanx Jim, let's take it away!!

Deep RED rocky chasms;

RED Aussie missiles!

RED rugged roadways that stretch out for miles …

RED rural airstrips;

RED paint on Big Things -

The Aussie good cheer a great OZ RED wine brings …
Reg and Jim enjoying a Western Australian red courtesy Tourism Western Australia.

RED's sandy footprint;

Sunsets over water,

RED lighthouse tower – not just bricks and mortar!

RED Nomad OZ readers who say lovely things …"squawk."

Wondrous RED sand dunes – they make my heart sing!

RED danger signs,

When the roads are bad …

I look through my memories of FavouRED OZ Things – 'til RED stops me going mad!!

Am I just a one-trick pony? Head downunder to Amazing Australian Adventures and visit the marvellous land of OZ! You'll find FavouRED OZ Things #1 – but that's just the tip of the iceberg … there's entertainment, education, exotica, and escapism!

But before you go, leave some love for Jim in the comments – that way he just MIGHT invite me (or even YOU!) to fill the next guest spot!!
Thanks Red, really appreciated.
BTW, the reader pictured above is a South African reader, but I'm sure you guessed that.

Paste a link to your article, not just to your site, in the Linky tool below. Please leave a comment. Take the time to visit every other linked in post.