Calf of Man

If the Isle of Man was not small enough, it boasts a smaller island called the Calf of Man. There is supposedly just one person that lives on it, and she is rumoured (notice the Manx spelling) to be not terribly sociable.

The Calf of Man is also a famous bird sanctuary. And by famous, I mean that it is well known among a small percentage of the 70,000 people that live on the Isle of Man.

I took some pictures of it today. In that little bit of Irish Sea there, I saw about 5 or 6 seals that were plopping about. I’m not sure what they were doing, but I am sure they were wondering why the island had so little internet access.

It was a very desolate spit of land. I only saw one other person there, and he was searching for some lost sheep. I commented that perhaps the sheep was looking for a good wireless point, to which he said, “Rubbish!”

Cregneash in the Sound

I visited an area in the south of the island today called the Sound. It has an area of thatch-roofed farm homes called “Cregneash,” where they continue to practice the same agrarian techniques of centuries past. They still use Clydesdale horses to till the fields to grow oats, barley, potatoes, and several strange vegetables that I can’t remember.

I actually went into one of the little houses and took this nice picture out the window. It was very quaint inside and they had absolutely no internet. I asked how they played MMORPGs, and they just gave me a return stare somewhere between a sheep and an ox.

Victorian Buildings on the Isle of Man

The Isle of Man sits here in the Irish Sea between England and Ireland. It’s like England without the people and Ireland without the charm.

The Isle of Man has about 70,000 people and about 37 miles long. There are also a lot of sheep here. The name used to be the Isle of Manannan, named after some old God who supposedly would throw his cloak of fog over the island to keep it safe. This was told to me by a wizened old man with one eye that I found tending some sheep. I only caught a few words of what he said, and I am 25% sure he cast some sort of Celtic spell on me.

People that live here do not call themselves English or Scots – they call themselves “Manx.” There is even an old Manx language that a few people still speak here. It’s some form of Gaelic that can only be understood by dolphins and Enya.

I’ve spent most of my time here in the capital of Douglas. It’s a nice little town with lots of Victorian architecture.

Arrived in the Isle of Man

Where is the Isle of Man anyway? I wasn’t totally sure, but the pilot knew. He was such a show off.

It’s pretty chilly here, and my internet access is not so great. They have not had many technology improvements since the Vikings invaded.

But they did have a coffee shop, where I grabbed a quick one.

And they have this little castle.

And they have this beach. I will have more pictures once the feeling gets back in my fingers and I find a more stable internet connection (I am currently being attacked by a wayward Viking.)

(Pictures located in the Irish Sea between the islands of Great Britain and Ireland, within the British Isles.)

North Korean Child Artists Rock!

Now that I am back in Austin, I can catch up on some miscellaneous stuff that caught my attention.

Dan Schorr’s recent trip to North Korea gave me some interesting insight into life there and the sweet propaganda machine. Most of what I know about North Korea came from Team America. The previous sentence is not true, but it kind of is.

We all know about how communist regimes keep a thin grip on their power by propaganda and brainwashing. There is one part of Schorr’s blog entry that proves this better than anything else.

At one point, his extremely rigid tour guide schedule took him to a supposed art class for children. You have to look at this picture to believe it.*

Apparently, the entire time, the kids were pretending to be drawing. It’s obvious to me that all of these drawings were done by the same few artists.

From Dan’s Blog:

*(Pictures carefully conditioned to not want to appear here.)

Crazy Volcano Warning Sign

Here is a weird sign I found from my trip to the Poas Volcano. It was posted near the entrance to the protected volcano area. Here are a few highlights:

“Do not trust people that offers you easy business”

I wish I had read that before I hooked up with Eidos.

“Try not to walk along mainly at night.”

Every time I am pretty sure I understand this statement, I say, “Well, it could mean … errr …”

“Do not let to know to strangers your plan trip.”

It’s a little late by the time I read this, since my van is being driven by some tour operator I have never met in my life.

Hummingbird Farm at the Poas Volcano

Well, it’s really not a hummingbird “farm.” What is the word, a pod of hummingbirds? A pride? A gaggle I think.

Near the waterfalls of the Poas Volcano here in Costa Rica, there was a cool area that had a few hundred hummingbirds. They were not kept inside an aviary, but they were just flying around free. Nearly two dozen hummingbird feeders crowded the area, so I figured that word just got around the rainforest that this was a sweet place to hang out.

There were all sorts of weathered-looking American naturalists milling about with cameras larger than the Hubble. They could be seen jumping out from behind ferns in their flopsy khaki hats saying things like, “Oh my God, that is a purple-throated worble-meister,” and “I think that is the blue-tongued channa hummer — NO! It is the blue-tongued worble chunnle!”

I have no idea what kind of hummingbirds they were, but they were definitely pretty. I’m not one of those people that takes pride in being able to identify obscure species of animals. I’m great at identifying rocks from back when I used to have a double-major in Geophysics, but I don’t go around telling people what kinds of rocks they are admiring.

In that, I think there are two kinds of people in the world and their attitude towards self-education. Some people learn things so they can say smart things and impress other people; others like to learn to impress themselves. I’d like to think I’m the latter. Ooops, hold on, there is a guy over there admiring the granite counter – I think I better go tell him that the tiny black spots in the granite are actually radioactive. Oh look, there is a red-throated super floofer…I wish those naturalists would just shut up and go hug another tree and stop ruining my bird watching experience.

I’m also proud that my pictures with my tiny little digital camera probably came out better than the pictures from their 50 pound cameras. Thus, I continue my quest to annoy self-important naturalists.

Butterfly Farm in Costa Rica

Okay, there is nothing that sounds more lame than a butterfly farm. Ironically, it was the COOLEST thing I did while I was in Costa Rica. It was just part of this tour I took, so I reluctantly went along.

We entered a huge enclosed area that had thousands of exotic butterflies fluttering about. There were hundreds of types of flowers and plants. Every other leaf had some crazy-looking caterpillars on them and under each plant was a new type of chrysalis.

Here is a picture of some rare blue butterfly with a crazy Latin name that not even Nero could pronounce.*

They had a wall on which they would take chrysalises and pin them in long rows. They had about 1000 of these things pinned up, and you could literally stand there and watch a new butterfly being born every 30-45 seconds. Here are a few of the colorful ones – many are covered in shiny gold, silver, jade, and other iridescent colors.*

Below is a picture of one of the butterflies just after it emerged. It spends the first 30 minutes of its life pumping out fluid from its bloated stomach into its wings to help them unfurl and strengthen.*

Here is another row of some green chrysalises. I am still not used to writing the plural version of that word, and I don’t think I ever will be.*

Here is a picture of another butterfly that was just born. If you look at the left side of the wing, you can see the pattern has evolved to look like a snakehead to scare away birds.*

And last, no trip to a butterfly farm would be complete without me doing something stupid like licking a caterpillar I found. It actually numbed my tongue for about 10 minutes. It was ill-advised, but I am slowly building up a resistance so I can lick insects and not have to worry about the aftereffects. That’s planning ahead.*

*(Pictures in metamorphosis.)

Baby bananas

The coffee fields were full of these banana trees that grow multiple shells of tiny bananas betwixt each of the layers of the leaves. These trees are scattered all over the coffee crops to deter wind erosion.

Sometimes the tiny bananas fall on the heads of migrant workers, which is nature’s way of punishing them for being migrant workers.

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