About Me

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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Snow


Usually at this time of year my thoughts turn to the Eastern Seaboard. First,  have family there and am often thinking of them, wishing I could be with them for the holidays.

But there is also the element of seasonality. Here in Long Beach we have four seasons, but of a vastly different kind: Hot/warm and sunny, cold/cool and sunny, rain, and June Gloom (which is overcast). Leaves change but those plant types are the exception. And as is well reported in the media our Rain season has been a stranger.

So my thoughts turn to the seasonality of the Eastern Seaboard. To the true feeling of it being "Halloween". The chill in the air and the wind as it brushes through the trees. Very haunting.

Thanksgiving is highlighted by oranges and gentle breezes, with temperatures flirting with freezing.

And winter has this thing called snow. It's rain in solid form, and a thing we in Southern California keep up in the mountains where we can visit and leave if we like. It's a little like babysitting your friends' kids -- you deal with them for a while and then, just when the welcome is being worn out, they leave. It's kind of like that with our relationship to snow.

(Valley Forge, Pennsylvania)



Sunday, November 29, 2015

South Sawyer Glacier


A three hour ride from Juneau, Alaska, and deep into the heart of the Tracy Arm Fjord lie the twin North and South Sawyer Glaciers. The South is by far the more spectacular, reaching -- at least when we were there in 2004 -- nearly a mile across and hundreds of feet high.

I understand it's a bit less impressive these days, but no doubt still wrath the journey through some of the most stunning natural scenery in the world.





Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Observatory


(I'm dropping the "Pic of the Day" titling because after hundreds of postings it becomes irrelevant.)

As I've noted on previous occasions, I am a big fan of the art deco and streamline moderne architectural styles. There is a flair about them that is pleasing to my aesthetic senses.

This is stylized view of the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles. The observatory sits atop a promontory in the Hollywood Hills facing southward towards Hollywood and Wilshire Boulevard, allowing for tremendous views of the City of Angels.

Highly recommended for its sunset and nighttime spectacles.




Friday, November 27, 2015

The Friday Martini





This week's Friday Martini comes to us from ShuRaku Saki Bar and Bistro
Downtown Vancouver, BC.

I call it the "Metaltini".



Thursday, November 26, 2015

Pic of the Day: Giving Thanks



Today is the day Americans have set aside for giving thanks for all that we have. 

We are a privileged nation, and should be grateful for the hard work of our ancestors to make it that way. With appreciation for what we have and have been given.

Happy Thanksgiving.



Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pic of the Day: Primordial Land



I've mentioned before that Joshua Tree National Park is full of landscapes that seem to be from another time, or another world altogether. 

The name of this photo is "Across the Primordial Land", and I think you can see why. Only the roadway betrays this as the 21st century.




Monday, November 23, 2015

Pic of the Day: Breakfast at the Peppermill



The Peppermill is a throwback to the glitzy days of Las Vegas.

They also serve a mean chorizo and egg burrito.

If I leave now I can make breakfast by 11...




Friday, November 20, 2015

THE AMERICAN WAY




Today I wake to find myself deeply embarrassed by the actions of many of my countrymen.
Today there is a clamor for closing the borders of this country to refugees, an action so deeply against the grain of our collective heritage that it borders on revolution. We are doing the unthinkable, and the leaders of the movement readily accept that fact.
This nation is proudly -- or at least used to be -- a nation of immigrants. The vast majority can trace our ancestry back to Europe, Africa, Asia, South America. Nearly all of us came, historically, from somewhere else, and that has always been a badge of strength when added to our collective heritage.
But today, in light of terrorist acts in Paris, there is a rush to slam the doors and peer anxiously through windows from a darkened room, nervously clutching at the fabric of the curtains as we watch the streets in panic.
It isn’t who we are. Or should that be who we were? Or we should be?
Have we allowed ourselves to be so deeply frightened by the government, the news media and the actions of terrorists that we are willing to forego the very nature of what makes us great as a country? As a society? Has the atmosphere of wretched and dire fear mongering taken hold? Have we become a nation of cowardice?
If we have, then the terrorists have won. If you are afraid that is a natural response. If you are terrified and act from that fear, then the terrorists have won. They have achieved their goals. Not because of what they have done to you, personally, but by your own fears of what they MIGHT do to you. You have allowed them to scare you into submission.
That is not what America has historically been.
After Pearl Harbor, America rose up in anger, not fear. After 9/11 we created a worldwide coalition and severely damaged the terrorists who dared attack us.
We are a nation who knows but controls our fear. Or should that be past tense?
Our fears are crippling us as a great nation. We rush to action by isolating ourselves under the guise of “protection”. We no longer stand our ground declaring “the line has been crossed”, we simply shutter the windows and hunker in fear, our hand no longer extended to help those who are themselves victims of the terrorists.
We have become a nation of cowardice, and it’s the fault of sensationalism in the media, of fear mongering from the Congressional dais, of the daily assault on our sense. But there’s a vast difference between being exposed to it and allowing it to change who we are.
Religion, itself at the very core of the debate, tells us -- both Judeo-Christian and Muslim alike -- tell us the most important thing we can do in this world is worship God and help one another. As a current image being distributed on the internet notes, it was the actions of a caring innkeeper who took in the mother of the Christian Son of God. He was not afraid, he acted with compassion.
Why is it we ignore those teachings?
Whether you are religious or not does not matter. Atheists and agnostics are equally giving people compared with people of Faith. But they tend not to fear the unknown. Our fear is being derived from a theological standpoint, in a clash of religions. Conservative Christians in America are driving the effort to bar the doors and seal the windows. And that goes against everything their Faith tells them to do.
At a national level, turning our national backs on refugees is a humiliating abrogation of our national character and our international responsibility. France, the very nation attacked, is still taking in three times the number of refugees as America, the Great Light on the Hill, is refusing.
(And the number in question is the population of a single small town. 10,000. One twentieth of the population of Des Moines, Iowa. 1/20th.)
Our governors and elected representatives are embarrassing us all. They appear not have the courage of our collective convictions, shutting their doors and minds while claiming it’s for our own protection. History tells us the frequent results of such moves.
And if we, as Americans, are willing to let our freedoms go in order to feel a bit more secure then we are diminished as a nation and as a people. We are supposed to die to protect our freedoms. Not our government, our freedom. And if we do not stand firm to protect our freedoms, even in light of the fearmongerers and terrorists in that great big scary world, we are not who we insist we are: the greatest land in the world. The greatest people in the world.
Our actions to date diminish us and give lie to those assertions.
Bravery is doing those things that are the right things precisely WHEN you are afraid. That is the America of the past, and the American Ideal to which we should all aspire.

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” -- Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Pic of the Day: Make Room for Adventure



I saw this little sign on a wall at a breakfast cafe in Margaret River, Western Australia. The Margaret River Bakery, a bit of a throwback to a late 1960's bohemian vibe, was crowded and noisy -- just the sort of locals' spot I like. As we were waiting for our morning pies I spotted this unobtrusive sign on the wall next to the "tableware collection bin".

"Make Room for Adventure" 

It echoes my philosophy nicely. I have no idea what it was advertising, save for a very happy zebra and a pair of hiking boots. But I appreciate the sentiment. And the pie wasn't bad either.


(Low res shot. Sorry. iPad. I hadn't planned on photographing my breakfast that morning...)



Monday, November 16, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Cold and Blustery Day



I first ran across the word "blustery" in the A. A. Milne classic Winnie the Pooh stories. A cold and windy sort of weather, usually typified in the fall. Where leaves of many colors can be spread across the lawn just days after you've raked them up. 

It's the sort of weather settling in across much of the US and Europe these days, even here in Southern California. The sort of weather best handled indoors, with a nice fire and cup of hot chocolate (or tea if you dislike sweets).

It's autumn. And it's about damned time.

(This shot, however, is from the very blustery shore of North Carolina, along the Emerald Isle looking out over the Atlantic Ocean.)




Saturday, November 14, 2015

Pc of the Day: Swimming Strongly Discouraged



They say that Australia is, species by species, the most dangerous place on Earth. Everything wants to eat you.  This lesson is drilled into you at almost every turn, particularly in north Queensland where you will encounter wild crocodiles, cassowaries, a variety of large insects and other nasty predators. Not a place to wander aimlessly.

One evening we took an evening (sunset) cruise up Packers Creek in Port Douglas, aboard the very charming Lady Douglas. A variety of wildlife was visible including a pair of nesting eagles who were quite happy to provide us a show as we passed their nest high atop the mangrove trees.

But far and away the highlight was this little guy, estimated at 5 meters long (16') by the ship's wildlife expert. He's a well-known local, a salt water crocodile with a reputation 
as being the "Big Croc on the Block". 

He paced us for a while before being convinced we weren't going swimming.





Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pic of the Day: Cows and Windmills



Seriously. Cows and windmills. Okay, "turbines".

Near the southernmost point in the United States...Big Island of Hawaii.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day




Honoring those who have served in America's military forces.

We owe them our Freedom, our Respect and our Support.






Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Inside Passage



Just south of Alaska's capital city, Juneau: a look down the Inside Passage from the Mount Roberts gondola tram, an 1800' ascent up the side of the mountain for a panoramic view of this pristine part of the world. 

This part of the passage, and indeed a good portion of the mountains in the area, were carved by huge glaciers over the course of thousands of years. The remaining glaciers are in retreat, but still magnificent in their own right.

(That's a full-sized cruise ship in the upper right quadrant of this phot -- that gives you an idea of the vast scale of Alaska.)



Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Kuranda Sky Rail


The Far North Queensland market town of Kuranda is situated in the mountains roughly halfway between the city of Cairns and the smaller, more intimate resort of Port Douglas.

There are two major ways to get to the town. The SkyRail, pictured here, is a multi-mile long gondola ride involving three transfers and quite a bit of dizzying heights over the rainforest canopy below.

The second major route (there are roads, but those are largely not used by tourists) is via the Kuranda Scenic Rail Line, a train which winds its way up the mountainside past the Kuranda River and into the station at the foot of the town.

On the day we were there the SkyRail was a madhouse. The staff were overwhelmed and lines were hours long. Nobody knew why. It eventually came to light that someone -- a local mind you -- had tried to cross the train tracks in front of the oncoming train. As it usually does, the train won. But it also meant an investigation, etc.

So all the train passengers made their way to the rail line and the system was overwhelmed.

However, once we were airborne, and I was able to get my acrophobia to quiet itself down enough to enjoy the view, the journey was spectacular.

Below is an empty gondola headed back down the hill to retrieve more visitors.





Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pic of the Day: Big Bear Lake




Southern California's famous Big Bear Lake from 25,000'. Even at this altitude you can see the drought-created white line surrounding the blue waters.






Friday, November 6, 2015

The Friday Martini!




This week's martini comes to us from Nick's along the Potomac River in the Georgetown area of Washington, DC. Stoli.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Pic of the Day: The Open Road




I love the open road. So much so that I even photograph them upon occasion.


Highway 24 through the North Carolina countryside.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Pic of the Day: Inside the Ferry (Tail)



Okay, bad pun. It's 3:19am as I write this. 

This is the inside bay of a Washington State Ferry as it waits to load cars and passengers for a voyage around the beautiful San Juan Islands. It's an inexpensive way to spend a day amidst some of the most spectacular natural scenery in the Northwest.










Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Pic of the Day: Next Up, Panama Canal


Though I am not a "cruiser" per se, my wife and I do occasionally go on a cruise if there is something in the ship's itinerary that appeals to us and is something worthwhile.

Other than one weeklong cruise down the Mexican Riviera (notable for introducing us to our traveling friends and partners  from Perth Australia), our to-date four cruises have been to celebrate another friend's 40th birthday; to explore the Croatian and Italian coasts; to attend yet two other friends' wedding. As noted, the Mexican Riviera cruise brought us traveling companions, so it earns its place.

One of my NOW Life List goals is to transit the Panama Canal. In January we will do just that. It's been a desire for me since I was very young, and in the spirit of Do It NOW, we're doing it.

More updates to come, but cruise #5 promises some true adventures.



Cruise ship passenger photographing Messina, Italy