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Re: The Mushroom Lounge - Sit and Relax
Nu, a poem?
roses are red
violets are blue
most poems rhyme
but this one doesn't

September 10, 2014, 04:02:12 PM
Re: Going/Gone through 11 Months at the Amud? (All others proceed with caution...)
I'm going to proceed with caution here. When I was in yeshiva with only ten guys, I was forced to daven three times a week, but since only a few people actually gave in and davened at the amud, I was stuck davening probably 1/5 times. Obviously that has nothing on an uvel, but davening for the umud when you are forced to is annoying but most of the time I found ot nice that I could control the speed somewhat (an no one could complain, because they had a choice to daven and they rejected it).
That's the key. You were doing them a favor by davening. When you're an avel, every person who shows up thinks that it's his minyan and he's doing you a favor by letting you daven, so you better be exactly to his liking.

(I'm not speaking from experience, blay'h, but that's what it looks like to me and how chiyuvim have expressed their frustrations. Obviously most people aren't like that, but too many minyanim have one (or a bunch) too many.)

August 30, 2016, 06:18:48 PM
Re: Great DDF One-Liners

Nu, use the like button! >:(

August 31, 2016, 02:04:17 PM
Re: Lakewood Baby Left In Car
There are 2 issues.
There are babies that die due to negligence and those that die due to a mistake.

For negligence there's nothing you can do besides punish the parent.
To avoid mistakes, we need awareness that it can happen to even the most loving and caring parents, ans that we should add extra measures to avoid these tragedies.
We'll do anything to justify our enjoyment in gossiping

September 01, 2016, 05:00:52 PM
Re: So What Does the "Like" Button Signify?
I'll just wonder out loud whether we can come to agreement on something,
In what fantasy world are you living in?  :)

September 04, 2016, 03:06:47 PM
Re: 2016 Election Pick Your Poison Master Thread Because the word sarcasm already has a meaning.
September 06, 2016, 02:31:15 PM
Re: Comments That Leave Me Speechless...
Yea, I predicted something, but not this...  :o
I liked your post.
Just that you should know it was me i am telling you now

September 07, 2016, 03:18:25 PM
Re: Aurora, Storms, and Snowpants: An Icelandic Saga by Something Fishy, whYME, and ChAiM'l I just finished designing the Shutterfly photobook I make from every trip, so I figured I'll share it here. Maybe a person or two will find it mildly useful :P (layout ideas and so on).

This is a 73-page, 8x11 hardcover layflat book.

September 12, 2016, 01:08:37 AM
Re: Where Are You Posting From Now?
And, I paid $12 for AJK Jr, as opposed to 10% on CX. No brainer.

since its been proven that AJK TR's written by AJK family members other then AJK himself have proven to be timelier and perhaps more entertaining, we are now waiting for AJK Jr's TR...

September 12, 2016, 04:45:09 PM
Re: 2016 Election Pick Your Poison Master Thread
For me it's only 57 pages :D
The track I want is which candidate is better. Not if bigots hate Jews or blacks more.

Then you're for sure on the wrong thread. This one is about which candidate is worse.

September 13, 2016, 05:44:30 PM
Re: A little different Maldives TR 1st Segment- Trip Planning:

I know when people start their TR's they do the obligatory thank you's to Dan and DDF and it seems hokey but as I am beginning this TR I really do think it is so necessary although possibly for a different reason than others.  Within the frum community, DDF is known to provide a wealth of information and an amazing community to help people easily earn points and maximize their redemptions (and it certainly has helped me move light years ahead on that since I joined only a little more than a year ago), but more importantly it helped with something even greater and for that I want to express my thanks.  I actually grew up overseas and was a elite level frequent flier as a child because of travels back to the US for vacations and my dad was a DDFer before his time (and before the internet, so I really don't know he figured out all the stuff he did) and we traveled tons of places but all of that was not while keeping Shabbos and kosher.  Actually the first orthodox people I think I ever met were a couple of Bochurim from the Aleph Institute who gave me the Rebbe's Book "Toward a Meaningful Life" in Northern Japan, during High School.  When I became fully observant after college, I just kind of assumed that all the interesting and amazing travels that I had a child were things that I would have to give up, along with the many other things that a Baal Tshuva has to give up when they become frum and I was ok with that.  Fast forward many years and children later, with very nice family vacations basically to Phoenix and LA to get warm in the winter and have fun with my kids without worrying about kosher food and Shabbos, when I heard about DDF at a Shabbos table and started reading DDF.  All of a sudden it hit me that maybe I CAN still go to exotic places, enjoy my food and have top notch travel experiences like I used to have before I became frum but now in an observant way.  DDF opened back up the world to me, without compromising my Jewish values and for that I thank all of you!     

Ok, on to the planning.  My husband was coming upon a milestone date in his life and I wanted to give him a trip of a lifetime to help celebrate that milestone.  Also, we were really poor when we got married plus didn't have the time or inclination back then to take a big trip, so I was hoping to also kind of make up for that with this one.  Both my husband I weren't raised in the US, have been to lots of places, aside from Israel, don't really have very many places we want to go or return to so where to plan an amazing, over-the-top vacation?

 Where was worth arranging babysitting for many days for our kids, arranging precious time-off from both our businesses and worth the time to travel.  My feeling has always kind of been that I wanted a truly spectacular place, otherwise I'm not willing to even take a connecting flight and I can just enjoy a quick getaway somewhere close.  The places that pop up on DDF all the time are Bora Bora or the Maldives.  BOB would have been WAY less travel time for us from Denver, with just a quick flight to LA and then an 8hr non-stop flight but even looking at the beautiful scenery and the nice overwater villas at the different resorts, none of the OWV's in BOB appeared to be very private, where you could sit on your deck and enjoy the view without others seeing you, much less have a private pool.  From my perspective, even though it was more significantly beautiful than other places, if I wasn't getting a private deck or pool, the travel, expense or time to BOB wasn't worth it to me when I could get a not as nice but great experience in Cancun but be there on a direct flight in 4 hours with 8k SW points (obviously Cancun isn't BOB but my time and miles are very valuable to me).  Pretty much then the only place left that I was really excited to go to was the Maldives, because from my perspective, it was the closest I was going to get to being on a private island, in stunning surroundings, while paying with points. 

Once, I decided on the Maldives, I needed to book flights.  Because of the businesses we have, it was very important to be able to go on very specific dates, where business is anyway slow, we wouldn't lose that much money from being away and I could also get flights.  I chose to try to get flights over Labor Day weekend and since it is the exact same distance to the Maldives going either East or West, we decided that we'd much rather fly on an Asian airline, have a stopover in Asia and also there had more possibilities of being able to incorporate some business dealings that would help justify the time and expense of the trip.  Both Cathay Pacific and Singapore airlines consistently have multiple business class seats available to their hubs from LAX and SFO but because I had MR points not SPG (which are the best points deal in J to MLE because it is only 62.5 Alaska miles ow on Cathay Pacific) we chose to go Via Singapore Air, with a two day stopover in Singapore.

Total mileage for both of us in J SFO-SIN, via ICN (stopover), SIN-MLE and then the return on the exact same route was 306k miles total for both us, so 153k pp.
.  We got a cheap Frontier flight from Den-SFO that was the only flight that would give us a comfortable connection and then on the way back to United from SFO-DEN (and they did tag our bags all the way to DEN from MLE).  It was worth it to book these last two segments separately in order to get the 15% mileage discount from SQ.

We were able to set up a great business meeting for one of the days we were in Singapore and also had set it up to have all our kosher food for the Maldives delivered to the Conrad, where were staying.  We ordered the food from and the ordered was fulfilled from the local restaurant.  I could have tried to order it directly from the restaurants but it was so easy from the website that I'd preferred to do it that way.  There were some small hiccups with the food that I will get to later but I do love the way that website works.

I'm not going to describe the Singapore Air flights except to say the seats were amazing, got a great sleep and our 777 flights didn't have suites and I wouldn't probably pay the extra miles for First class because Business class was awesome, I can't enjoy the better food and the bigger seats wouldn't really help me sleep better, which is my personal reason for paying more points for J.  Unlike other DDFers I don't enjoy flying and just want it to be comfortable enough that I can sleep!

The Conrad Singapore is a horrible points redemption but a great Cash&Points redemption, which we were able to get for $127SG (about $100US) and 24k HHonors points for a room that cost about $400SG.  They also gave us a beautiful diamond upgrade to a Centennial Suite.  It is also a great location, easy and direct to the Jewish community center, shul and restaurant.  It's a bit farther but also a nice walk to the kosher Coffee Bean as well.

Next installment- Singapore with Pictures!

September 21, 2016, 01:29:00 PM
Re: Nesspresso Pods
Lol. Was posted here already.

ETA: And sorry for the "inconvenience"...
Permission revoked!

September 29, 2016, 03:05:37 PM
Re: 2016 Election Pick Your Poison Master Thread
Assange claims to have more stuff.
Don't see what he's gaining holding off so long.
Unless news breaks that she fathered a child with Stalin named Osama no news will do much damage to Hillary.

October 10, 2016, 03:02:38 PM
Re: Help, Google just disabled my email accounts
So whose making a big kiddush this shabbos?
I think next year we need to celebrate 17 cheshvon as the day Dan won over Google!
Yaz Cheshvon, #diDANnatzach :)

November 17, 2016, 08:46:26 PM
Re: Class Action Lawsuit - Up to $500 Per Call Of course I received such a call. I was so traumatized I wrote it in my diary.
November 20, 2016, 02:57:01 PM
Re: Class Action Lawsuit - Up to $500 Per Call

I probably got dozens such calls I just tend to hang up as soon as I hear someone offering me such a cruise. So I don't know if it was an offer in exchange of my opinion. I'm wondering how to got about it.

Don't LOL my post! I can't feed my kids with LOL's or +1's. Press the 'Like' button!

November 20, 2016, 03:01:42 PM
Re: 3rd party Amazon Price Mistake???? Gorilla Original Glue 10 Pack for 9.81 Yay! The seller lost thousands of dollars this week! That'll teach him to post at 4 in the morning when he's bleary eyed from rocking his toddler back to sleep for three hours after working since 6am the day before in order to run his small business that his wife the nurse who works 60 hour weeks gave him her inheritance money to start.
November 30, 2016, 01:05:36 PM
Re: Site Suggestions
You're just very underappreciated around here, unlike TimT. The sooner you come to terms with this, the happier you'll be.

Dan probably already sent TimT a thank you package, he just expects him to search and find it.

December 20, 2016, 02:39:22 PM
Re: Link to popcorn threads.
I wish I knew something about this.  :)

Pretend that you do like always.

January 04, 2017, 10:11:20 AM
Re: Great DDF One-Liners
It is not because the word is a slur but because he is referring to him by his race in a context where race is irrelevant.

January 05, 2017, 11:03:11 AM
Re: MBD Racist? And Other Split Popcorn
I don't know if I should take that as a compliment or as an insult.

Anyway, it's something like
The former. Kinas sofrim

January 05, 2017, 10:01:55 PM
Re: Link to popcorn threads.

I did my share. Now waiting with toes crossed...  8)

January 11, 2017, 12:37:56 AM
Re: Acronyms Thread for the Uninitiated
Yup. Had to google that.  :)
Then you TIL'ed it :)

February 12, 2017, 06:00:29 PM
Re: Forum Games: Missing Link
I hope it isn't :) fork

February 13, 2017, 11:50:23 PM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread
time to buy

March 02, 2017, 08:44:51 PM
Re: Master Thread of Pet Peeves Dr's offices that cancel your appointment if you're 5 minutes late but keep you waiting an hour or more before calling your name. WTH ?
April 27, 2017, 10:04:21 PM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting video thread...
Make the player full screen, turn up the music, and enjoy. Unbelievable.

The photographer made this by blowing soap bubbles in an unheated garage.

Didn't know that there were actual people with the last name of שטינקעוויטש.

May 01, 2017, 11:28:12 PM
Re: Viva La Revolución! Time-traveling to Cuba with Something Fishy, whYME, and CITH
Some important notes:

- As with the last segment, this one is split it into two parts, with the second half coming tomorrow.

- Due to the amount of pictures, let your browser fully load before you begin.

- All the pictures are by me, except where indicated otherwise.

[Something Fishy] After a good night's sleep, we were out and about before sunrise to watch Havana wake up.

We headed down Paseo de Marti, the main boulevard that runs from the Capitol and the National Theater to the ocean, and is bisected by a pedestrian walkway:

Turning into a side street, we came across a commentary on the revolution graffitied on a wall:

The sky beginning to brighten:

Early to rise:

Photo by whYME:

Setting up shop, under the ever-watchful eye of Fidel:

Photo by whYME:

In Cuba, does Dora teach kids English?

After a some side-street wanderings, we wanted to head to the Malecon to watch sunrise, but we had gotten disoriented. We were back on Paseo de Marti, but we couldn't figure out if we needed to turn right or left (even though the ocean was very near, the boulevard curved on both ends so we couldn't see very far). A pair of security guards were nearby, so we stepped over to them.

Me, pointing first in one direction, then in the other: "Malecon?"
Guard 1, completely clueless: "Malecon??"
Me: "Malecon!"
Guard 2, looking around hopelessly: "Malecon?"
Me: "Si, Malecon!"

Again, only stares. It's as if these two had never heard of the most famous place in their town, and which is literally three streets away from them.

CITH finally takes out his phone and writes it down for them.

Guard 1: "AH! MaleCON, not MALecon!! Malecon, there!"

Imagine you stop a cop in the middle of Seventh Avenue and ask him which way to Teems Square, but he has no clue what you mean because you didn't say Times Square. Yes, that's the level of genius displayed by these two nincompoops.

Five minutes later, we were at the Malecon MaleCON.

Morro Castle in the pre-dawn light:

First light over Vedado:

And on Old Havana:

Photo by whYME:

The tide was low, so we watched both human and animal getting breakfast.


Great white egrets:

Humans. Photo by whYME:

Good catch:

Having some Photoshop fun with early morning traffic:

Havana in a nutshell, photo by whYME:

I remember taking this picture for a specific reason, but for the life of me I can't recall just what that reason was. Let's just assume it was something really profound, and keep it at that :D:

A recently collapsed building:

This crane was just backing in to begin the cleanup. Between the Cyrillic on the boom and the Lada taxi passing by, the whole scene had a very Soviet feel:

Early morning cleanup:

Pretty building, way past its prime:

This guy clearly missed the memo that he should be howling at the moon, not the sunrise:

Not everything has an explanation, sorry. Sometime you just need to accept things in life, such as this farm tractor pulling a... circus? Persian carpet display? A something, though the city:

Sunrise over, we crossed the MaleCON and went back to wandering random alleys.

For some uncanny reason, everyone and everything to come through this alley seemed to match the color scheme perfectly:

Except for this guy, which clashed horribly and made my OCD flare up:

Now that it was properly morning, I had one goal: find a new belt. My pants were still slipping and sliding after last night's wardrobe malfunction on the Malecon, and it was driving me crazy. It wasn't long and we found a couple of stalls selling trinkets to tourists, and lo, one had some belts. It was definitely used and had seen better days, but it fit me and had a working buckle. What more can one ask for?

[whYME] One thing that was very different here than other tourist trinket markets I've been to, it seems the things here were actually locally made, not just the same junk imported from China.

Brightly colored necklaces. Photo by whYME:

Bracelets. Photo by whYME:

Nothing goes to waste in Cuba... Have some old cutlery? Make weird bracelets for the tourists!

Another stall sold hats, where I bought a classic Fidel cap, a Che beret, and a seriously ridiculous-looking fedora, and wore all three since I needed my hands to operate the camera (priorities!).

Photo by whYME:

[whYME] In a way this trip was very different from any other I'd been with Something Fishy. In all the other trips, with the primary focus being landscapes, we pretty much came back with pictures of the same things. Other than differences in composition and such, things were pretty similar. Here in Cuba was another story altogether, as there were many many times when we standing right next to each other but got completely different pictures of completely different subjects. 

For example, after Something Fishy bought his Fidel hat and was busy giving his old cap to a local...

...I got one of my favorite pictures of the trip, a kid sitting nearby and pondering life:

Some lovely colors:

Another crumbling interior:

"Mural CDR #8". CDR is the Cuban secret police, Comités de Defensa de la Revolución. This mural depicts the heros of the revolution: Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos, along with the yacht Granma that brought the revolutionaries over from Mexico in 1956 to jump start the revolution:

Lovely colors and patinas on some buildings:

Photo by whYME:

A pharmacy:

Pineapples, anyone?

Back on Paseo de Marti, beautiful birds were up for sale:

Big changes are afoot, no doubt. A year earlier this would have been absolutely unthinkable:

We watched the traffic for a while:

Avocados for sale, photo by whYME:

Quite the random decal:

A local playground, in true Havana fashion, locked and deserted. Photo by whYME:

Photo by whYME:

After that it was off to a shop to stock up on more water, and back to the apartment for shachris and breakfast.

Duly fed and watered, we went back outside on a quest: find a taxi to take us to Vinales. As I've mentioned in the introduction, we were hoping to take a day trip to the beautiful Vinales Valley, around two hours from Havana. The plan was - hopefully - to arrive in the area a few hours before sunrise, shoot some astrophotography, sunrise, and early morning activity before heading back to Havana.

So the search was on for a driver who knew the way, was familiar with the valley, had an air-conditioned car (preferably a classic, of course), and was crazy enough to pick us up at 1 in the morning, all for a decent price. Shouldn't be too hard, eh?

We noticed a lovely-looking 1953 Dodge and hung around to take some pictures of it:

[Cat In The Hat] One of SF's many, yet unadvertised, talents is tripping over his own feet ;D. I managed to catch him in mid-air as he was getting up from shooting the back of the car:

As we were shooting, the car's owner walked over to shmooze and find out if we were looking for a taxi. Well whaddya know, we actually are:

"Si! To Vinales!"

Yes, of course, he knows Vinales. Let's go now!

In our terrible mixture of English and broken Spanish, we tried to impress on him that while we did want to go to Vinales, we want to leave at 1 AM, and we need to discuss a price first. After a lot of back and forth negotiations (which included getting into the car to test the air conditioning
[whYME] And that air condtioner was working great, it was like stepping into a freezer.), [Something Fishy] we had a deal: for 120 CUC, he'll pick us up at the apartment at 1 AM, drive and guide us in Vinales, and have us back home at 1 PM.

Or at least we thought that's what we arranged. We had no idea if we were all on the same page, and it wasn't helped by the fact that he clearly couldn't fathom why we'd want to go in the middle of the night.

So there we were, all standing around awkwardly, neither side being quite sure if they understood the other, when suddenly...

"?וואס טוט א איד און קובה"


This was last thing we expected to hear in Cuba, and with a flawless, hiemisha accent no less. We wheeled around to see an elderly Cuban, wearing a black yarmulka and a huge smile on his face.

"!נא? שלום עליכם"

It was like an angel had been sent from Heaven. Five seconds worth of translating from Yiddish to Spanish and the arrangements with the driver were concluded, and we sent him away to go take a long nap while we stayed to schmooze with our new friend, Lazer Shklar.

(I warned you about that hat ;D!)

He was born in Poland, where the Nazis murdered his entire family in the Holocaust. He came to Cuba as a refugee right after the war, all alone in the world, and had stayed on for the last 75 years. He would like to come to New York, but doesn't think it'll ever happen. He did ask for my address and phone number, just in case... He was as religious as possible under the circumstances, and was very upset about the state of the local Jewish community, which far from being religious, is mostly not even Jewish at all due to intermarriage.

He took out his wallet and showed us a picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe that he carries everywhere, and which he says reminds him that he'll see his family once again when Moshiach comes.

On that sad note he bid us goodbye, shook hands once more, and slowly walked off.

May 02, 2017, 10:58:49 AM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread

Fascinating stuff.

May 02, 2017, 06:06:19 PM
Re: Cell-phones/talking in Shul
Why is this in JS?  ???
Thats where all the important conversations go.

May 03, 2017, 06:03:46 PM
Re: DDF Trivia
You want a like?
Well being that I've got none, I want to keep my streak.

July 11, 2017, 05:20:50 PM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread .
July 18, 2017, 12:32:35 PM
Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure
SF, you just have to flip a switch at this place to use the toilet, right?  No other tasks to use the bathroom plumbing?  ;D

Well some like to lift the lid first too

August 10, 2017, 10:08:32 PM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread
Well, which part of his music?

I'm a hippopotamus / From my top to my bottomus, no doubt.

August 23, 2017, 10:44:36 PM
Re: Mazel Tov!!! what's the name...?  :P


September 09, 2017, 11:40:44 PM
Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure There are basically two "standard" ways to get to Utila from Roatan, neither of which would work for my trip. The scheduled air service runs only on Saturdays, and the ferry involves around 5 hours and a roundabout routing via the mainland.

This left a charter. There are a number of locals who offer boat charters between the islands, but these are long, bumpy, and very prone to cancellations. Plane charters on the other hand, are reliable, quick, and undeniably more fun. Best of all, these don't cost that much more than a boat charter.

The entire internet agreed that Alice from World Wide Travel is the way to go to book a charter, so I reached out to her via email. True to Honduran standards it took her a few days to get back to me, so it was another two weeks until everything was in place. I also booked our return domestic flights through her, even though she was around $20 more expensive than going through the airline directly. Aerolineas Sosa is known to cancel flights on a whim ("not enough passengers" is the typical excuse), but supposedly Alice will put you on a charter if that happens. That's worth $20 in my book.

So this is how flight charters in Honduras work: you get a cellphone picture of a handwritten receipt and instructions to "meet Banjo at the baggage area"...:

On Monday morning, we finally finished our grocery shopping and headed off Roatan airport to meet our charter. According to an email I had gotten from Alice a few hours earlier, I was to meet "Captain Romero at the coffee shop". This seemed slightly more legit than "Banjo at the baggage area", so things were definitely looking up.

Sure enough, we had no trouble finding Romero and after a quick introduction it was off to the plane.

Captain Romero showing his paperwork to security so that we can get onto the tarmac:

By far the tiniest plane I've been on to date, a Cessna 182 Skylane:

As you can imagine, it was a heckuva job fitting everything into the plane. We had two large suitcases, a snorkel bag, a box full of groceries (there are no plastic bags on Roatan), plus a big camera bag and my wife's bag. It took a while and some experimentation until we got everything to fit, during which the cardboard box broke and our bag of fish sprung a leak (because of course). Luckily I had stuffed some shopping bags into the snorkel bag on a whim back in New York, so these saved the day in the end.


Our shadow on the reef:

Goodbye Roatan:

The only thing that could make flying in your own chartered plane more fun is sitting in the cockpit seat, so I was in nerd heaven. Poor Romero on the other hand was terrified that my long legs would hit some important control or another, so he asked me to pull my knees up and back as far as possible:

Flying over the open ocean:

On approach to the Utila airstrip:

Utila airport is epic. The runway and apron consist of some roughly-graded asphalt, the "terminal" is more like a large shed than a real building, and there was nary a soul nor aircraft around:

Still more sophisticated than LaGuardia:

And best of all, you could own it yourself for the low, low price of $200,000!:

We finally found some signs of life: a couple of soldiers protecting the airport from... something:

After waiting a while a taxi showed up, in the form of a tuk-tuk:

Suffice it to say that it was a royal adventure getting all our stuff to fit, but we managed it in the end. My wife had just enough room in the back with all the suitcases, while I shared the single seat with the driver, half hanging out the side.

The main road into town:

Way too close for comfort, what with me hanging out the side:

Driving through town:

We had made up to meet the owner of our island, Barry Jackson, at the main grocery store's dock. Our tuk-tuk driver has evidently made this trip before, as instead of dropping us off in the street he sped onto the docks at full speed, my wife and I holding on for dear life:

Sure enough, Barry was waiting for us along with his daughter and one of his workers. They got the boat loaded while I ran into the grocery for some last-minute provisions, including a five-gallon jug of water and charcoal for the grill.

Ready to go!


The ride over was wonderful; the water was calm and beautiful. The colors were just amazing, and offered a tantalizing hint of what was to come:

A short twenty minutes later our private slice of paradise came into view:

Barry tied the boat to the dock and helped us out. There was another boat already there, with Barry's workers doing the final preparations for us. Apparently a large and rowdy party had left that morning, and it had taken longer than usual for the crew to clean up the mess they had left behind.

The crew carrying our bags into the house:

Barry gave us a tour of the island, explained how the electricity and plumbing worked, showed us the emergency phone, and packed up his crew and left.

After two days of traveling by jet, car, propeller plane, tuk-tuk, and boat, we were finally here.

We were now essentially marooned on a desert island, and couldn't be happier.

September 18, 2017, 01:36:47 AM
Re: Private Island Paradise: Something Fishy's Anniversary Adventure The second Barry left we had one goal: to get in the water as fast as humanly possible. So instead of taking pictures of the nice clean house, we exploded our possessions all over the place, looking for our swimming and snorkeling gear and hightailed it into the water. And as everyone knows, if you don't take pictures of your lodgings the instant you walk in all hope is lost: there will be stuff all over and you won't get a decent picture anymore.

So... Here's the part where you grab the tar and feathers and run me out of town: I don't have a single picture of the house to share. Not one.

But wait! There's hope. A guy named ‎Lucie Pineault was there shortly before me and has some decent pictures of the house, so I'll link to his Facebook pictures below when applicable. [EDIT 2/27/19: Lucie's pictures are now gone from Facebook, but DDFer @as2 just came back from the island has has an awesome walkthrough in his trip report - you can see it around halfways down this post.]

My first impression of the island was that it's larger than we expected. It's not large by any means, but there was a lot of space.

A drone shot is probably the best way to get the lay of the land:

On the bottom of the picture is the "front" of the island, and is where the main beach is. The part to the right of the dock was our favorite spot, with perfectly perfect sand, a gentle slope, and a great water entry. Towards the top of that beach, near the trees, is a large fire pit and a pile of kindling.

A little past the left of the dock you could see a stripe of debris along the high tide line. This is where the currents going around the island meet, so anything that leaves the island end up back there. Palm fronds, coconuts, and pine needles all pile up around here. While clearly visible from the air, the entire thing was pretty much hidden from view due to the steeper slope of the beach here, so we didn't really notice it at all.

Continuing clockwise, we get to the left tip of the island and a sandbar extending out someway. The island drops off here in a kind of bluff, around two or three feet high. You could kinda see that bluff in the picture: the smooth-looking sand is below the bluff and covered in water at high tide, while the island above the bluff seems rougher due to the animal tracks not getting erased by the waves (more about those guys later).

Rounding the tip to the back part of the island, the bluff becomes gentler and there's another wonderful ocean entry. Around halfway around the coastline turns rocky, continuing around to the other side and down to where the soft sand begins yet again. The shore here is a mix of rocks, shells, and bleached coral and makes for great souvenir hunting.

The interior of the island consists of a palm forest, with some pine and other tropical trees mixed in. The ground is all sand and liberally covered with fallen fronds and coconuts. We loved the fact that everything was left in its natural state, instead of being swept up and manicured. A big part of the island's charm is simply that it's so natural; you really feel like you're alone in the world there.

And then comes the house. As I've mentioned before, and as we'd expected, the house is very far from fancy. It's large, it's clean, and is perfectly adequate (mostly, at least ). But if you expect to be living in the lap of luxury, this is simply not the place for you.

As you can see in the picture, the house is really made up of two separate buildings. The long, narrow one on the left contains the master bedroom with one king bed, a second large bedroom with two queen beds, and a bathroom. The building on the right is itself divided in two sections. The right, squarish part is a very large living room and doubles as a third bedroom (there's a big pile of mattresses in the corner). The other part of the building consists of the main bathroom and shower, the kitchen, and a covered outdoor dining room.

The house is completely surrounded by a wooden deck, which extends between the two buildings as well. The deck is an important part of the house, as that was the place to be when you didn't want to be all sandy (a big basin of water at the foot of the stairs ensured that your feet wouldn't drag the beach into the house). The covered dining room is on the deck, along with a bunch of lounge chairs, access to the grill, and so on.

Considering that we were on an isolated island, there were a bunch of quirks in the house, primarily relating to plumbing and electricity.

You can't see it in the picture, but towards the back of the middle section is a large water tank on the roof. This powers the sinks, shower, and toilets. In order to flush, you need to turn on a pump on the outside of the house, which is accomplished with a simple switch. Just a minor hassle, but not the end of the world. A fact that did cause us some concern ahead of time is that there is no hot water on the island for showering. Googling around I discovered the existence of solar showers, and at under $10 a pop I figured these would be an ideal solution and bought two of them. As it turned out though, the water was never too cold, what with the tank sitting in the sun.

The house was powered by a number of solar panels on the roof. This provided enough power for the lights, two fridges, the toilet pump, and a surge protector hooked up to an inverter. This meant two things: all charging had to take place in the living room, and there was no A/C - or even a fan - in the entire place. Point number one worked out fine, even with my massive amounts of batteries: I found a routine of charging everything and worked off power packs when needed. It was the second thing with was a problem. I could understand no A/C; that needs massive amounts of power. But no fan? That was seriously annoying.

The rationale goes that by day you'd be outside and not need A/C, and at night the wind picks up and cools everything down. Indeed, the second and third nights were wonderful; two whole walls of the bedroom are essentially huge screened windows, and it was incredibly comfortable (we even needed blankets one night). But the first night there was not a hint of a breeze and it was swelteringly hot. Barry claims that such a night is exceedingly rare, but in my opinion not having some sort of fan (at least!) in the bedroom is a major oversight.

In the end, this and a cockroach we found one night were my only grievances with the place, so that's pretty good in my book. We will undoubtedly return, but I think I'll insist on Barry setting up some kind of fan first.


We had two qualifications for this trip: absolute privacy and incredible snorkeling. We had achieved number one, and now it was time for number two.

Barry left, we found our swimming gear, and ran into the water.

In this drone shot you could clearly see the huge reef surrounding the island. I've marked the two main entry points:

For our first snorkel today we opted for the entry on the bottom of the picture, as it was the shorter option. We slid down the little sand bluff, got our fins on, and just jumped in. The water was about three feet deep here, and quickly dropped to around ten at the narrow chokepoint. Beyond that the bottom continued to drop to twenty feet of so, before going way deeper once past the main part of the reef.

Before I continue, a quick note about the pictures: this was my first time doing real underwater photography. In the past my underwater work consisted of a GoPro, shooting blindly and in auto mode. This time I had brought along a serious underwater rig, consisting of an Ikelite housing, a huge 8" dome port, and a pair of underwater strobes, each mounted on two feet worth of articulating arms. My Sony a7R II, 28mm f/2 lens with the 16mm fisheye attachment went into that contraption. The thing was an absolute monstrosity, to say the least. It was incredibly heavy, but as designed, it was completely neutrally buoyant once underwater:

The problem with underwater photography is that it's incredibly difficult. Light works completely different than you're used to, focus is thoroughly weird (you're not focusing on your subject, rather on a projected image on your dome port), and changing settings in the housing is a nightmare.

Why am I saying all this? Simple: my initial attempts were pretty lousy, so please don't judge the first few pictures too harshly.

We had snorkeled twice in the past, in arguably the best spots in Hawaii: off the Big Island and Lanai. We had been blown away and fallen in love. But nothing - nothing! - could have prepared us for the diversity we saw the instant we put our faces in the water.

Not a terribly great picture, but this was our first view, looking toward the narrow opening and the deeper water beyond. There are over 30 fish here, including pufferfish, tangs, butterflyfish, sergeant majors, snapper, grunts, chubs, and a bunch of others:

The snorkeling here was absolutely out of the world. The water was calm, warm, and unbelievably clear. The reef spread as far as the eye can see, made up of all manner of interesting formations. There were huge tracts of hard lettuce coral covered only by a few inches of water, hundreds of little fish darting in and out of the folds. Isolated towers of rock covered in gigantic, swinging, purple fan coral came straight up from the ocean floor, angelfish and parrotfish swimming circles around them. Here and there, like huge boulders, sat bright yellow brain coral, perfectly round and symmetrical. Huge schools of blue tangs swam sedately hither and yon.

The stuff that dreams are made of:

A group of sergeant majors:

A great example of the coral diversity:

A stunningly beautiful stoplight parrotfish:

These parrotfish spend all day, every day chomping at the coral with their ultra-strong teeth. They extract whatever nutrients they can from the coral, and what's left is excreted as sand. An average parrotfish creates over 200 lbs. of sand a year. Next time you're on a Caribbean beach, remember to think about the fact that every grain of sand you see once passed through the digestive system of a parrotfish .

This giant brain coral was over four feet wide:

A bluehead wrasse hanging out in front of a lettuce coral. Still can't decide if the lighting is horrible or not:

You can see how close the lettuce coral was to the surface. In the above picture the tide was beginning to recede and the very tops of the coral actually poked out above the waterline.

A French grunt contemplating a school of juvenile bluehead wrasses. "Hmm, which one shall I eat today?":

Some more lettuce coral (challenge: spot the perfectly-camouflaged threespot damselfish):

By now we had been in the water for nearly two hours, and the sun was beginning to set. It was time to return to shore, but not before attempting to take a picture I had been itching to try for years. Between fighting against the current, attempting to keep the suddenly-heavy camera precisely half over and half under the water, and trying to strobe the dark coral to balance the bright sunset light, I was getting a major workout.

Probably one of the most difficult pictures I've ever pulled off, but I couldn't be happier with the results:

We rested for a bit, grilled a bunch of steaks for dinner, and made an early night. As mentioned above, this was the one very hot night and neither of us slept very well, so as soon as it got light it was out of bed and right back in the water.

This time I left the huge camera contraption behind and just took the GoPro, which of course meant that we had the clearest water and saw the most amazing things of the trip . Such is life .

if we thought the water was clear yesterday, that was nothing compared to today. We had 150 feet of visibility, easily. It was mind boggling.

We spent the bulk of our time frolicking with a school of over 200 blue tangs, following behind and even amidst them (although they always made sure to stay just beyond arm's reach). Like I said, I didn't have the real camera with me, so all I have is a semi-decent GoPro video and wonderful memories:

After a while, it was time for breakfast:

Absolutely delicious pan-fried yellowtail, salt and pepper rub, a bit of lime juice, and veggies:

(We actually got the fish - and the recipe - from a fisherman in Utila. But it was more fun setting up the picture of the washed-up fish and freaking my parents out .)

We were joined for breakfast by one of the resident dinosaurs iguanas:

The little weirdo took one taste of Pringles and spit it out, but he absolutely loved our carrots. My wife named him Larry ("Yer a lizard, Larry!"):

There were at least three of them living on the island, and we soon got to recognize them and learn their personalities. The guy above was absolutely fearless, and apparently made it his life's goal to bite a big chunk off my toes (spoiler alert: he failed). There was the darker, timid one, who would dive for safety under the deck if you as much glanced in his direction. And then there was the little guy, who'd swagger up to you all macho only to jump, terrified, two feet in the air once he got within arm's reach. But they all hated Pringles equally.

Our other hosts were the hermit crabs. There were literally hundreds of them, all over the sand and the deck (but never indoors). I spent hours watching them drag their houses across the sand, their little feet making intricate tracks in the sand. No two were the same, and most were exceedingly pretty. They ranged in size from maybe half an inch across to as large as apples, and it was amazing to see how each had found a shell that was precisely the correct size.

I found five lined up at one point, each with a unique look and color:

They'd be skittering around happily, but the as soon as you'd touch their shell - no matter how lightly - they disappear inside instantly, leaving only their main pincer exposed. After a few seconds an eye will cautiously appear, scan the area, and then suddenly the rest of him would pop out and he'd be off again:

I personally very much enjoyed the crabs, but my wife only tolerated them (at a certain point I got the message and stopped bringing over what I thought were particularly interesting specimens ). At night though they totally creeped her out, what with their claws and their skittering about.

Island living:

Can't stay out of that water for long... snorkeling again, this time from the longer, shallower entry from the front beach. As it turned out, we much preferred this entry. Being right off our favorite beach, it made for great lounging before and after the snorkel. And although it took a longer time to reach the "main" reef (maybe five minutes of swimming vs. 30 seconds), it offered a trip through an entirely different underwater world.

The water here was shallow, around two or three feet deep. The bottom consisted of a mixture of fine white sand and rocks covered in soft tan seaweed, so the going was nice and pleasant. The coral here was more dispersed and more individual than on the main reef, and the fish were larger and less skittish:

Schoolmaster snapper:

Striped parrotfish:

There were also a couple of dead spots in the shallows, with nothing but sand and rocks. Probably something to do with the currents or whatever:

The view returning to the beach - nice, soft, and easy slope:

As an aside, it was really cool how the fish living around the coral were all brightly colored, while the ones hanging around on the sand were silvery and difficult to spot, like the one above.

Dinner tonight was red snapper (also bought in Utila, not washed up on our beach ) while watching a lovely sunset.

Contrary to last night, as soon as the sun went down the wind began picking up. It got stronger and stronger, so much so that walking out on the dock was a challenge. But a million stars were twinkling above me, the Milky Way rising in all its grandeur. So off to the end of the dock I went, holding onto my tripod for dear life.

The view took my breath away:

While the wind was wild out on the beach, the little forest of palm trees sheltered the house and all we got indoors was a delicious breeze. It was nice and cool all night, thankfully.

My wife slept in while I woke as dawn was breaking. The ocean was lapping quietly against the sand; everything was calm and bathed in lovely pre-sunrise blue:

Sunrise was a pretty subdued affair, with only a hint of color in the sky:

The sun rose over Utila. I flew up to nearly 2000 feet here in order to capture the entirety of the island in the shot:

Some clouds rolled in, releasing a small squall maybe a mile away from our island. I turned around just in time to capture a tiny rainbow:

Our island under the threatening skies:

Luckily, as is typical in the tropics, the clouds passed through extremely quickly: I don't think they hung around more than two minutes all told. Once it cleared up, it was interesting to see the waters in front of the island and the ones behind taking completely different hues:

Beautiful morning light once more:

Abstract reef view:

By now my wife was up and it was time for our morning snorkel:

A number of years ago I was having a conversation with @AJK, during which he pointed out that there are three "worlds": Earth, space, and underwater. For most people, the underwater world is as alien as outer space. That's unfortunate, as with very little effort you can have access to this absolutely wonderful place. It's just so amazing, so different than what we're used to upside, and yet most people never get to see it or be in it.

I couldn't agree with him more. Even after multiple snorkeling trips, I continue to be blown away anew every single time. I had spent hours on the reef here in the last few days, and yet it never ceased to take my breath away:

Lovely blue tang:

Popping out for a moment, the mountains of the Honduran mainland are visible on the horizon, over 30 miles away:

My wife had gotten back to the beach a minute or two before me. As I was approaching I saw that she was gesticulating excitedly. "Did you see the stingray over there?! It's larger than me!" Needless to say, I turned right around and headed in the direction she was pointing to.

It wasn't long before I spotted a large cloudy area off to the side, which I knew indicated a stingray grazing and kicking up the sand. I swam up to the edge of the cloud, trying to determine where exactly it was so I can stay safe around it. All of a sudden the water cleared up a bit and to my horror I realized that I was nearly sitting on it!

It was an absolute monster, over five feet across and nearly seven feet long. And there was just about six inches of water between the soon-to-be-pissed-off stingray and my soon-to-be-stabbed bottom.

I hightailed it outta there as fast as I was able to frog-stroke it, and it never took notice of me. Once I was safe I fired off a few exposures. I wish there was a frame of reference here to show how enormous this guy was:

I checked that I got the shot and hauled out of the water.

Breakfast visitor:

Check out those claws:

He was in no mood to pose, instead trying his best to bite by index finger off:

One of the things that we were excited to try on this trip was fresh coconut water. It seemed that everyone was raving how delicious it was, and c'mon, how could you go to a tropical island and not have a coconut fresh off the tree? So we spent 20 bucks on a coconut opener and couldn't wait to try it out.

Man were we disappointed. That thing was disgusting. It was like drinking grass, and it was warm to boot. Oh well. Good thing that this was out only disappointment of the trip.

Giving up on coconut water, I figured I'd see if I can get inside a mature coconut for its meat. Of course I didn't have the right tools, but with my coconut tool, a large piece of coral, and some elbow grease, I was able to get inside. And whaddya know: it tasted - surprise! - like coconut:

The solar showers had been in the sun for a few hours and were boiling hot by now:

They each came with rope and a large S-hook for mounting, so it was fairly simple to hang from the nearest palm:

(The stuff in the background is the fire pit and kindling.)

The shower was great, but truth be told I really needn't have bothered; like I mentioned earlier, the house's shower, while not hot nor very pressurized, was perfectly adequate.

One last snorkel...

French Grunt (or, as my 5-year-old insists it's called, a corn-on-the-cob-fish):

Lettuce and elkhorn coral:

Rock beauty angelfish:

Yellowtail damselfish hiding out:

A small school of bar jacks with a bicolor damselfish in the background:

A pair of stoplight parrotfish: an adult in the foreground and a juvenile in the background:

Bermuda chubs:

This flat needlefish was nearly invisible, hanging out just beneath the surface and blending in perfectly:

A sea urchin hiding in the coral:

A lovely foureye butterflyfish (guess how it got that name ?):

Spotfin butterflyfish:

Something Fishy fish:

Time to leave the water...

One last drone flight, seeing our island in all its perfect isolation:

Bittersweet sunset from the dinner table, before an early night:

...And before we knew it, our alarm was going off, our suitcases were dragged outside, and we were in Barry's boat heading back to Utila and into a glorious sunrise:

September 19, 2017, 12:03:15 AM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread The guy in the pink shirt looks like he already had some.
October 19, 2017, 08:57:43 PM
Re: The funny/strange/interesting/random pictures thread
Yea, but I guess he meant not more likely to be pants non-wearers...  :P

October 29, 2017, 05:10:25 PM
Re: Drones Master Thread Absolutely insane flying skills (bast parts beginning a bit  before the 2-minute mark):

November 06, 2017, 12:22:40 PM
Re: Mazel Tov!!!
To all those who don't have the time to type in the entire word and all they write is MT, I've this to the wiki so you can copy and paste the full beracha. No longer the need to waste your time and type the full thing!

Nusach Sefard:     Mazel tuv
Nusach Ashkenaz:     Mazel toiv
Nusach Eidos Hamizrach:     Mabruk
Good old way:     Mazel tov

Just choose whichever is appropriate for you.

November 07, 2017, 10:07:34 PM
Re: Monsey News
Hope they didn't
I love all the Monsey self haters. Its so much fun to be a self hater, isnt it? I know personally a few families who have suffered badly thanks to Day. He is not just here to enforce the code. He is a open ugly antisemit.

November 07, 2017, 10:32:36 PM
Re: Monsey News
I love all the Monsey self haters. Its so much fun to be a self hater, isnt it? I know personally a few families who have suffered badly thanks to Day. He is not just here to enforce the code. He is a open ugly antisemit.
My friend was told by a county inspector that they have to be out of they're home within a week! This inspector came every year for the last couple of years and everything was good but last week he said that he's very sorry but he has no choice because the county is onto him and if he doesn't satisfy them... He'll lose his job.

November 07, 2017, 10:40:04 PM
Re: Great DDF One-Liners
For likes I don't have to ask him, I already know. He surely has something for HTs as well.
He has said that it is only likes IIRC

November 09, 2017, 08:04:56 PM
Re: Things You Do Just Once... Making a repost on DDF
November 09, 2017, 08:14:35 PM
Re: Great DDF One-Liners
I sit corrected. Oh, and you get a like for consumption.

November 09, 2017, 09:42:54 PM
Re: Great DDF One-Liners
@as2 Coincidence? I gave you your 180th like at the same time you gave me mine?  :)
ALOL that is kind of cool though.
By the way, I gave you the few before it too ;)

November 09, 2017, 09:47:50 PM
Re: Clogged sink
Imagine what it did to teeth :-\
Gets rid of all the gunk and makes them nice and clean :)

November 12, 2017, 11:04:33 PM
Re: Grammar and Spelling Lessons 101
In short, truth is a noun, and true is an adjective.

November 14, 2017, 07:03:11 PM
Re: Data Recovery - Any Questions?
Oh my! My GoPro Quik app (desktop) automatically imports all new files, and gives an option afterward to clear the SD card. I naturally wiped the card thinking that it had imported everything, only to realize moments later that a trove of media wasn't even imported. So many important pics and vids are now gone.  :'(

Anything I can do?
It is a normal recovery job. You can try software like PhotoRec (TestDisk) or Recuva (easy to use but less powerful.)

November 15, 2017, 03:28:24 PM