Exploring beautiful New Zealand

“New Zealand deserves many visits to be fully explored; its beauty and richness of landscape seem endless. The intensity of colors like the deep blue of the sky or the fresh green of the vegetation can only be experienced in the flesh, no other way is possible.”

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C

In our quest to explore islands, Avelina and I visited New Zealand during the first three weeks of January, 2019. We are compiling information about biodiversity, human development, and the future of island environments in response to global phenomena, e.g. population growth or climate change. So far, we have been to New Zealand, Hawai’i, the Galapagos, Jamaica and Sicily. Here are the images of our latest journey to the North Island of New Zealand (in no particular order). Enjoy the ride…

Above: the emblematic Pukeko… Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: the three kiwi species (diorama) at the Otorohanga Kiwi House (Native Bird Park) – We did get to see kiwis in captivity (night enclosure, no photos allowed – good)

Above: sheep – At the town of Tirau, New Zealand – “The Corrugated -Iron Capital of the World”

Above: we found this Tuatara (endemic to New Zealand) on the ground at the Otorohanga Kiwi House facilities. – We could not get closer than 3-m (9-ft) to take the photos; it was dark and with vegetation around (blocking our view). We managed to find an opening from which to take some shots

Above: imposing vegetation… and the Tasman Sea

Above: Kiwis crossing… be alert – via Waipoua

Above: exploration summary – 4300 km of driving (2670 mi) in the North Island; 309,550 walking steps while visiting Auckland (i.e. according to our wrist-portable step-counter), nearby and distant cities/towns, their museums and monuments, national parks and protected areas (in other words, about 155 km or 96 mi by foot)!

Above: Sometimes, this is all you need…

Above: …well, you also need this

Above: some good field guides

Above: Boston – Los Angeles (the first 6 hours)

Above: LA to Auckland (13 hours) – middle of the Pacific, through the polarized window of our “modern” plane. We could see the Sun outside (it looked like the moon), but it was “night” inside. Then, quickly, but gently, the “sunrise” effect was controlled from the cockpit to give us the illusion of arriving during the early morning

Above: again, driving on the right / wrong side

Above: antique Honda, well kept

Above: the first colors of New Zealand; the Whenuakite Kiwi Sanctuary – [btw these are the real colors]

Above: Trail at the Kauri-Tree forest in Waipoua

Above: the Albert Park Band Rotunda in Auckland

Above: at the Albert Park, downtown Auckland

Above: at the Albert Park, downtown Auckland

Above: Albion Printing Press from 1863, General Library, University of Auckland

Above: Alligator hiding “behind” duckweed…

Above: And another take of alligator hiding “behind” duckweed…

Above: a take of the beautiful “island of green” in the middle of the Auckland downtown; a vegetation patch with six old, very old imposing trees and their branches; each creature looks like a giant octopus..

Above: anti-earthquake building (hopefully), downtown Auckland

Above: we visited the spectacular Aranui Cave in Waitomo, about two hours South of Auckland. We also entered the Glowworm Caves, which were spectacular as well, but no photos were allowed in there (good policy). In any event, here is a series of seven images taken in the Aranui Cave (where photos were allowed), choose your favorite.

Above: at the spectacular Aranui Cave in Waitomo

Above: at the spectacular Aranui Cave in Waitomo

Above: at the spectacular Aranui Cave in Waitomo

Above: at the spectacular Aranui Cave in Waitomo

Above: at the spectacular Aranui Cave in Waitomo

Above:  this is a CLOSE UP, these stalactites are about 2-3 inches each, others a bit larger.

Above: corner view of the Auckland Art Gallery

Above: the main hall, Auckland Art Gallery

Above: Auckland from the summit of Mount Victoria

Above: Auckland, as seen from the Sky Tower

Above: Auckland… the moon, almost full

Above: B&W moments

Above: Auckland, New Zealand

Above: some time for a panoramic of the Auckland Museum [its actual name is Auckland War Memorial Museum, but the exhibits are not restricted to war or related memories; in fact, the most impressive aspect of the museum is its collection of Maori and Pacific artifacts, spectacular]

Above: Australasian gannet… one of thousands in a five-patch colony. Tasman Sea

Above: Australasian gannet, a bit mad

Above: Australasian gannet after attempting to approach its nest and mate, but too windy… another approach was necessary – Tasman Sea

Above: Quiet bamboo walk at the Chinese Garden, Hamilton Gardens

Above: Before the Rain… Wairoa River

Above: at the Albert Park, downtown Auckland

Above: We managed to get 11 different postcards with illustrations (antiques) depicting the birds of the Tongariro National Park

Above: Black Swan in B&W, Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: an elegant Black Swan at the Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: we found these black swans at Lake Taupō… male and female. They had five offspring with them, almost adult size; the parents were ready to defend them (i.e. charge) if anybody got too close…

Above: close up (color) of the Sky Tower in Auckland

Above: a view of the Bream Head [little peninsula in the back] from nearby Ruakaka, Highway 1 North; about an hour and a half from Auckland – BTW natural colors; the NZ sky is that blue and the landscape that green. – NZ is beautiful

Above: this was not our transportation – “The Dome” – Dome Forest Conservation Area

Above: this was our transportation — every time we rent a car, they give us a bright color one. This time was red. Last time (in Vancouver), a bright blue large truck almost impossible to park. In any event, can you spot the rooster and the hen? There are somewhere in the photo. Highway 1 North, an hour away from Auckland

Above: North Island, New Zealand… sheep skins inside (???)

Above: the youthful looking campus of the University of Auckland

Above: Chinese Pagoda at the Hamilton Gardens

Above: How many? – Australasian gannets, a huge colony. Tasman sea

Above: The colors of New Zealand, North Island, nearby Te Rerenga [btw these are the real colors]

Above: “Dogs [that roam] Kill Our Kiwi”

Above: How do I look, asked the gosling. Zoom in to see the gloom. Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: an overused dynosphere, Sky Tower, Auckland

Above: the Auckland Art Gallery

Above: we found this imposing feral rooster nearby Warkworth. We drove North and reached Waitangi, about 230 km / 143 mi (x2) from Auckland

Above: feral roosters (chickens) are quite common in all New Zealand

Above: some “large birds”, Auckland Zoo

Above: we got ourselves these beautiful field-notes-books and a portable guide of NZ birds and mammals illustrated by Lloyd Esler. What makes the latter special is the sketchy, yet accurate depiction of the species

Above: Hamilton Gardens, in the city of Hamilton

Above: Colony of Australasian gannets on top… one is taking off. Tasman Sea

Above: Australasian gannets flying over the Tasman Sea

Above: the General Library, University of Auckland

Above: inside the General Library, University of Auckland

Above: Zero Tolerance… posted at the entrance to the General Library, University of Auckland

Above: muddy giant tortoise, Auckland Zoo

Above: another muddy giant tortoise, Auckland Zoo

Above: The day ended at a breezy Rotorua Lake

Above: Warm afternoon… Tongariro National Park, North Island

Above: Hamadryas feeding and grooming together… Auckland Zoo

Above: the “harbor building” in Auckland is quite nice, but the street on front of it was under renovation and made it difficult to take a good shot

Above: at the Albert Park, downtown Auckland

Above: Hinana, Auckland Museum

Above: Hotunui, ceremonial, saturation of beauty… Maori and Pacific Island cultures… Auckland Museum

Above: Immense landscape, Tasman Sea

Above: Indian Char Bagh, Hamilton Gardens

Above: The Italian Renaissance Garden at the Hamilton Gardens

Above: Juvenile Hamadryas, Auckland Zoo

Above: Kakapo and Pukeko, street painting, Auckland

Above: Katherine Mansfield’s Coronoa typewriter, with the text of “The Garden Party” – Waikato Museum. – The typewriter is quite small, about 30-cm / 12-in wide (front view); very well preserved

Above: Kauri tree, 7-m diameter, Waipoua Forest – we drove 460 km (286 mi) to the Waipoua Kauri Forest, Northwest part of the North Island. It took us four hours (one way) from Auckland to get to the site. Our purpose was to see the gigantic Kauri trees (in the genus Agathis). We did find them. Impressive, enormous (the largest diameter 6-m / 18 ft), majestic

Above: Kauri Tree (smaller), Waipoua Forest

Above: Kauri trees, the “Four Sisters,” Waipoua Forest

Above: Another take of Kauri trees, the “Four Sisters,” Waipoua Forest

Above: Kawakawa, North Island

Above: Kiwi, Auckland Museum

Above: Kiwi Cross, Mount Raupehu, Tongariro

 

Above: we visited the town of Otorohanga (2:30 hours South of Auckland), searching for Kiwis; this is what we found

Above: Lake Taupo, Tongariro National Park

Above: Male Hamadryas, Auckland Zoo

Above: At the Mansfield Garden, Hamilton Gardens – antique and antique colors

Above: Maori Warriors’ Canoes; the one on the left is for 100 people – Waitangi Treaty Grounds & Museum

Above: Maori carving, Rotorua Gyser Museum

Above: Maori statue, Auckland Museum

Above: Maori statue, Auckland Museum

Above: this Masked Lapwing was simply hanging around at the Otorohanga Kiwi House, looking for free meals

Above: Modern Auckland; one of its metro stations (Britomart). Lots of colors

Above: we spotted this “New Zealand Christmas Tree” (quite common btw). It belongs to the genus Metrosideros. – Can you spot the bees? How many?

Above: a giant mirror, “Light Weight O” by Catherine Griffiths (2018), reflecting O’Connell Street in Auckland

Above: Moss, Waipoua Kauri Forest

Above: a center-view of the Mount Eden crater, Auckland

Above: a side-view of the Mount Eden crater, Auckland

Above: Mount Ngauruhoe Tongariro National Park

Above: Mount Raupehu, Tongariro National Park

Above: mud pool at the moment of boiling; spot the drop – Te Puia

Above: Nga Pou or Rangitihi, Auckland Museum – the Maori Court Central is impressive; the collection of artifacts, spectacular

Above: Nyala eating with style, Auckland Zoo

Above: After trying to photograph the Tuatara (image at the beginning of post) under challenging conditions, we felt the presence of the New Zealand Pigeon from above. It was a wet-yet-semi solid sensation; honorable, since it came from an endemic bird, unique to the Continent of Zelandia. The Pigeon is the size of a hen, imagine the rest

Above: this flat image looks like a painting, but it is not. It corresponds to the endemic and endangered New Zealand Pigeon (quite big, up to 20 in / 50 cm). We found it at the Otorohanga Kiwi House

Above: a cute boat at Opua North Island

 

Above: another panoramic of the Auckland Museum [its actual name is Auckland War Memorial Museum, but the exhibits are not restricted to war or related memories; in fact, the most impressive aspect of the museum is its collection of Maori and Pacific artifacts, spectacular]

Above: We found these pheasants (M/F) foraging nearby the town of Taupō, North Island, New Zealand [introduced species, of course] – suboptimal to get a shot; they were moving; coming in and out of the bushes; close, but not together to get a single photo; alert, but mostly ignoring us; the male did his usual singing and wing flapping… nature continued

Above: The Pōhutu geyser in Te Puia, New Zealand – It erupts about 30-m (once-twice per hour)

Above: another view of Pohutu geyser, Te Puia

Above:  Pukeko series, Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: Pukeko posing – Pukeko series, Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: …and another Pukeko – Pukeko series, Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: Purple Flower Tree, Waikato

Above: Quiet, pretending to not be seen – Western Springs Lakeside Park, Auckland

Above: Rhino and Nyala at the Auckland Zoo

Above:  Richard Owen and Moa skeleton at the Auckland Museum

Above: Sauropod and Theropod dinosaurs at the Auckland Museum

Above: “Rock Drop” by Judy Millard at the Auckland Art Gallery. Immense, yet beautiful. – The AAG is a world class building with a large collection of paintings and sculptures, particularly modern art, Kiwi style

Above: The colorful Rotorua Museum

Above: Sky Tower, downtown Auckland

Above: downtown / harbor Auckland

Above: more of the downtown, Auckland, 10 PM

Above: Southern Black-backed Gull, Auckland harbor

Above: Summit of Mount Victoria, Auckland

Above: it took us five days to find the right restaurant, Tanpopo Ramen, downtown Auckland – complex flavors in simple noodle soups, mixed with vegetables, some pork, seaweeds, ginger, soy sauce, and even corn. Finally, after some intense searching

Above: the iconic Clock Tower at the University of Auckland

Above: “take two” of the iconic Clock Tower at the University of Auckland

Above: “the insights” of the Clock Tower at the University of Auckland – a fantastic piece of architecture (finished in the 1920s); beautiful inside, with many corners and turns, stairs, arcs, pillars; symmetry and color

Above: close up of the top, Clock Tower at the University of Auckland

Above: even closer up of the top, Clock Tower at the University of Auckland

Above: The Cloud, downtown Auckland

Above: The Essence of a Tree – found at the Albert Park in downtown Auckland

Above: The Huia, male (left) and female (right). Now extinct, the bird was common in the North Island of New Zealand. There are some unconfirmed reports of its existence. – We found this beautiful art (about 3×5 meters; 9×15 ft) in the streets of Auckland

Above: The Spitfire TE456 cf 1948, Auckland Museum

Above: biologists will appreciate… Nearby the town of Maramarua

Above: Three muddy Giant Tortoises, Auckland Zoo

Above: Tivaevae manu, tataura, quilt – Cook Islands, Auckland Museum

Above: Jesus – At the town of Tirau, New Zealand – “The Corrugated -Iron Capital of the World”

Above: at the Town of Tirau, Pig

Above: Trail to the Kauri-Tree forest in Waipoua

Above: a detail in B&W at Mount Victoria, Auckland

Above: a “black bird”, Turdus merula, Mount Eden, Auckland

Above: at Waikawau, when we just reached 4000 km of driving in the North Island of New Zealand

Above: Waikino Bridge & Village

Above: the beautiful Wāitukei sculpture in Rotorua

Above: WWI Monument, Thames

Above: “Whol Why Wurld” (2017) by Jess Johnson & Simon Ward, Auckland Art Gallery – Quite modern, attractive, plus the computer animations were so pleasant to watch. Soft music created a micro-atmosphere of calmness

Above: a shiny young Hamadryas… Auckland Zoo. Primates always remind us that wild animals belong in the wild

Above: White Rhino, the end

Above: last day of the journey — Our trilogy in the Continent of Zelandia; the Tasman Sea as seen from the North Island of New Zealand – one of our last images… time to fly North, back home

Above: Back in Boston… 4-F or ‒15-C… It took us 40-min to defrost the car

New Zealand deserves many visits to be fully explored; its beauty and richness of landscape seem endless. The intensity of colors like the deep blue of the sky or the fresh green of the vegetation can only be experienced in the flesh, no other way is possible. — EvoLiteracy © 2019.

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Vancouver: The Urban Experience

“…We dedicated quality time to explore Vancouver, its intriguing urban environments. The city is impressive, modern, diverse, busy, with plenty spots to stop by and simply look at. We carried with us a ‘step counter,’ a wrist-watch-like device that told us the number of steps walked daily: a grand total of 234,190 steps during two weeks, about  117 km or 73 miles…”

By Guillermo Paz-y-Miño-C

I finally had the time to upload some images from our visit to Vancouver at the end of July and beginning of August, 2018. My collaborator, Avelina Espinosa, and I attended the 5th joint meeting of the Phycological Society of America and the International Society of Protistologists (the latter, ISoP, the society to which we belong). The meeting took place at The University of British Columbia. Here are the PDFs of the full program and abstracts of the presentations (200 talks, 100 posters).

In the past, I have posted photographic/academic reports of similar ISoP meetings in Prague (2017), Moscow (2016) and Seville (2015). Previous conferences have taken place in Banff (2014), Oslo (2012), Berlin (2011), and Kent-Canterbury (2010), which we have attended as well (no postings of those years, but see photography and science traveling during the past 15 years).

The ISoP meetings are medium in size (in the hundreds of attendees) and broad in scope. They gather scientists from all over the world, specialists on: systematics of unicellular eukaryotes (= protists), diversity and biogeography of these organisms, functional ecology (particularly aquatic environments), impacts of climate change on microbial communities, the origins of cell organelles and their physiology and metabolic pathways (e.g. chloroplasts, mitochondria), among other topics. Some  are evolutionary biologists working on the genetics, behavior or health aspects of protists. A few study the origins and evolution of multicellularity, for which microbes are good models.

We presented a poster (below) at the meeting (Kin Recognition in Protists and other Microbes: A Synthesis), which summarized the content of both our latest book on protists and a review article just published in the Journal of Eukaryotic Microbiology. Here is the poster’s abstract: “KRP-and-OM is the first scientific compilation dedicated entirely to the genetics, evolution and behavior of cells capable of discriminating/recognizing taxa (other species), clones (other cell lines) or kin (as per gradual genetic proximity). It covers the advent of microbial models in the field of kin recognition; the polymorphisms of green-beard genes in social amebas, yeast and soil bacteria; the potential that unicells have to learn phenotypic cues for recognition; the role of clonality and kinship in pathogenicity (dysentery, malaria, sleeping sickness and Chagas); the social/spatial structure of microbes and their biogeography; and the relevance of unicells’ cooperation, sociality and cheating for our understanding of the origins of multicellularity. With 200+ figures, KRP-and-OM (the book) is conceptualized for a broad audience, including researchers in academia, post doctoral fellows, graduate students and research undergraduates.”

Click on the image below to enlarge the e-version of the poster [click again to see it in real size]:

Before and after the conference, we dedicated quality time to explore Vancouver, its intriguing urban environments. The city is impressive, modern, diverse, busy, with plenty spots to stop by and simply look at. We carried with us a “step counter,” a wrist-watch-like device that told us the number of steps walked daily (grand total 234,190). From it we estimated the distance traveled by foot during the two weeks spent in situ (117 km or 73 miles). The photographic report follows below. If interested click on the images for higher resolution; click twice if you want to see them real size.

The urban experience

We walked 234,190 steps (about  117 km or 73 miles) during 14 days (8.5 km/day or 5.3 miles/day); drove only 652 km or 405 miles (not much in comparison to other trips); and took 1,808 photos (a bit short this time); 82 of the images (4.5%) were shared on social media (Facebook and Twitter). In summary, we had an “urban experience” (walk/drive) with some wilderness and nearby sightseeing. Marutama, in the Westend of Vancouver, was the best restaurant for Ra-Men (specially Tan-Men).

The images © below follow a chronological order of our trip, well, as much as possible. Enjoy.

Above: always needed, maps, more so in Vancouver, a large city with intricate traffic.

Above: Montreal; we flew from Boston to Montreal, transited for an hour and continued to Vancouver.

Above: “Closer to Mars,” figuratively, of course. On our way to Vancouver.

Above: at our hotel; we actually stayed, for the duration of the meeting, at the University of British Columbia’ residence for visitors (UBC Conferences and Accommodation, West Coast Suites). Quite impressive, well kept, comfortable and elegant, with a nice kitchen, better than the expensive hotel we later moved into (downtown) for the rest of the visit.

Above: Masmasa’lano, Multiversity Galleries, at the Museum of Anthropology, University of British Columbia (UBC).

Above: Buddha, Multiversity Galleries, at the Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above:  A close up of Buddha, Multiversity Galleries, at the Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: Carved on wood at the Welcome Plaza, House PostMuseum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: Carnival Mask, Multiversity Galleries, Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: Haida Bear by Bill Reid, Great Hall, Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: Haida Bear by Bill Reid, Great Hall, Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: More wood carving, House Post, Great Hall, Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: Outdoors of the Museum of Anthropology, image taken from the grounds, UBC.

Above: Raven Discovering Humankind in a Clamshell, The Bill Reid Rotunda, Museum of Anthropology, UBC.

Above: Carving at the temporary exhibit Culture at the CentreMuseum of Anthropology, UBC

Above: Moon Gate Tunnel at the UBC Botanical Garden.

Above: Tree Walk at the UBC Botanical Garden.

Above: Wild flowers at the UBC Botanical Garden.

Above: Leaves and Mosses at the Nitobe Garden, UBC campus.

Above: Log Bridge at the Nitobe Garden, UBC campus.

Above: Memorial to Professor Nitobe at his Garden, UBC campus.

Above: Pacific Bell and Bell Tower at the Asian Studies outdoors, UBC campus.

Above: Trees and Shrubs spot at the Nitobe Garden, UBC campus.

Above: Water Lilies and Duckweeds at the Nitobe Garden, UBC campus.

Above: Water Lilies and Duckweeds (B&W) at the Nitobe Garden, UBC campus.

Above: Kids playing at the Spanish Banks Beach Park.

Above: The Friendship Bench at the UBC campus.

Above: It’s A Mystery by John Nutter at the UBC campus.

Above: Blue Whale at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, UBC campus.

Above: Centre for Business Ethics at the UBC campus.

Above: “I Want It All I Want It Now” at the main library, UBC campus.

Above: Quantum Matter Institute at the UBC ccampus.

Above: Urgent Care Centre at the UBC campus (examine this photo carefully).

Above: Fees apply to all at the Urgent Care Centre, UBC campus.

Above: “The Nest” at the UBC campus.

Above: Victory Through Honour Pole by Ellen Neel, at the UBC campus.

Above: Danbo Restaurant in downtown Vancouver.

Above: Danbo Restaurant in downtown Vancouver.

Above: Blue Buildings and Blue Sky, downtown Vancouver.

Above: The Burrard St. Bridge in downtown Vancouver.

Above: The Burrard St. Bridge in downtown Vancouver.

Above: Is this scientifically true? Granville Public Market, Granville Island.

Above: At the Granville Public Market, Granville Island.

Above: “Three Berries” (well, sort of) at the Granville Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver.

Above: At the Granville Public Market, Granville Island, Vancouver.

Above: Downtown Vancouver.

Above: Light-Shed, Vancouver Harbour.

Above: Vancouver Harbour.

Above: Sky Jump at the Whistler Olympic Park (located Northwest of Vancouver).

Above: Our rented truck at the Whistler Olympic Park.

Above: Pre-entrance to the Vancouver Public Library.

Above: Pre-entrance to the Vancouver Public Library.

Above: The iconic Steam Clock in downtown Vancouver.

Above: Marutama Ra-Men, the best in town; there are two locations in Vancouver.

Above: Ra-Men being made at Marutama in downtown Vancouver.

Above: Tan-Men Mild at Marutama Ra-Men.

Above: Plain rice at Marutama Ra-Men.

Above: Kakuni Pork Belly at Marutama Ra-Men.

Above: The Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in downtown Vancouver.

Above: Trees Falling at the Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, downtown Vancouver.

Above: The Details of a City, downtown Vancouver.

Above: The Lions Gate Bridge, downtown Vancouver.

Above: At the Vancouver Aquarium.

Above: Chrysaora fuscescens at the Vancouver Aquarium.

Above: More of The Harbour.

Above: A-Maze-Ing Laughter by Yue Minjun, downtown Vancouver.

Above: Space Centre & Museum of Vancouver.

Above: And a close up of the Space Centre & Museum of Vancouver.

Above: Vancouver Art Gallery, in the downtown.

Above: “A Rushing Sea of Undergrowth” by Emily Carr 1935, Vancouver Art Gallery.

Above: “Ayumi” by Corey Bulpitt at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Above: Buckminster Fuller‘s Geodesic Dome at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Above: “Peter” by Corey Bulpitt at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Above: “Tarah” by Corey Bulpitt at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Above: The famous Morgan Guitars exhibited at the Vancouver Airport.

Above: “Meeting is Over”…

Above: Rain and Propeller, Vancouver Airport.

Above: Sunlight and Propeller, light bends, closer to Boston.

— EvoLiteracy © 2018.

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On secularism the Czechs have it right – A visit to Prague and Kutná Hora

I finally had the chance to complete this post, which was in the making for quite some time. Preparing 100 images, as included below, can take many hours and much energy. I thank the friends and followers of EvoLiteracy for being patient and for continuing visiting the site and sharing its educational contents. On average, people from about 50 countries visit this portal, thousands a year.

I was in Prague and Kutná Hora during the end of July and beginning of August, 2017. Part of the time was dedicated to attend the ISOP meeting (Prague), or the International Society of Protistologists annual gathering. A conference for specialized biologists and other scientists interested in the lives and histories of microscopic organisms that happen to be unicellular, but that, unlike bacteria like E. coli (a mandatory companion in the human gut), these microbes have a nucleus (= eukaryotes; eu = true; karyon = nucleus, in reality it means nut). Unicellular eukaryotes are also called “protists” (a generic, all-inclusive term). I have written about them in the past, and readers can find that material here.

Today’s pictoric post is divided in three parts: Part One is about the ISOP meeting, with a few self explanatory photos. Part Two covers selected statistics about the Czech Republic, specifically about public acceptance of evolution in respect to other Central- and Eastern-European countries (the Czechs lead on this), views on  secularism, separation between church and state, and the need of believing in God [or not] to be moral and have good values. Readers might find the Czech example impressive. It is indeed a demonstration that an advanced society –organized around highly educated citizens– can reach prosperity (after its devastation during World War II), public education and health care for all; a community that can turn secular and, at the same time, continue to honor and celebrate its cultural past, monuments, cathedrals, castles, arts, music and life. A true case-scenario of civility and modernity in which the monarchs were removed for good. Part Three includes images of Prague and Kutná Hora; they speak for themselves and will be part of my long-lasting memories. — Hope you enjoy the graphic journey below and decide, some day, to visit Prague and Kutná Hora, and make these cities and their peoples part of your own secular soul. – GPC

Part One: ISOP meeting

Above: this is the second time we do a poster presentation for an international meeting. As students, we used to do it in the past (click on image to enlarge, full + resolution).

Above: What is this? A tossing MICROPHONE. Very clever. A 15-cm soft (spongy) cube equipped with a microphone inside. It can be tossed to the audience and expedite the Q&A. I think it does encourage people to participate and ask questions just for the fun of tossing and receiving the cube. The electronics are programmed to shutdown the noise while the cube is bouncing, but the microphone activates itself once stabilized at no-rough motion.

Above: remarks by Miklós Müller during the presentation of the Hutner Award (given yearly to a researcher in protistology), always relevant and a good perspective.

Part Two: Statistics

Above: Acceptance of evolution in Eastern Europe. Note how the Czech Republic leads in public acceptance of evolution: 83% think that humans and other living things have evolved over time (left). And 73% think that humans and other living things have evolved due to natural selection.

Above: 72% of Czechs consider themselves unaffiliated in terms of religious identity.

Atheists Agnostics Nones - M vs W Central Eastern Europe PEW 2016

Above: Atheists, agnostics and nones in Central and Eastern Europe (left). Gender difference in believing in God in Central and Eastern Europe (right). The Czechs lead in terms of atheists (25%) and nothing in particular (46%) in contrast to other Central and Eastern Europe countries. More women (36%) than men (22%) say they believe in God.

Separation Church State - Morality Central Eastern Europe PEW 2016

Above: 75% of Czechs favor the separation of church and state (2nd in Central and Eastern Europe, left). And 87% think that it is not necessary to believe in God to be moral and have good values (right).

Part Three: Images

I took 1,914 images during the visit to Prague and Kutná Hora, below is a sample of them:

Above: the spectacular Theology Hall at the Strahov Monastery Library.

Above: Reader, at the National Library.

Above: the Philosophical Hall at the Strahov Monastery Library.

Above: Prague as seen from its “TV Tower” (93 meters above ground).

Above: Prague’s famous (or infamous) TV Tower, the babies climbing up are plastic replicas of the bronze “Babies” by David Černý.

Above: Bronze “Babies” by David Černý.

Above: Bronze “Babies” by David Černý.

Above: the iconic Charles’ Bridge.

Above: one of the towers guarding the Charles’ Bridge (West side).

Above: officers patrolling the Charles’ Bridge.

Above: the “American Embassy” in Prague? Not really, but it was in the movie Mission Impossible – The Lichtenstejnsky Palace.

Above: Prague’s Astronomical Clock (under renovation).

Above: astronomers Tycho Brahe (Danish) and Johannes Kepler (German). Their destinies merged in Prague.

Above: Church of Our Lady and the Old Town Square.

Above: Jan Hus Memorial, Old Town Square.

Above: Prague’s meridian, Old Town Square.

Above: Franz Kafka by David Černý.

Above: honoring Franz Kafka by Jaroslav Róna.

Above: in Kafka’s name.

Above: the Faculty of Philosophy building in downtown Prague.

Above: honoring Jan Palach, outside of the Faculty of Philosophy building in downtown Prague.

Above: the Rudolfinum (we went to its “ongoing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons,” excellent).

Above: the majestic stage at the Rudolfinum, just before the recital began (we got third-row-center tickets).

Above: the decorated corridors at the Rudolfinum.

Above: the Estates Theater where Mozart’s Don Giovanni was first played.

Above: Il Commendatore by Anna Chromy.

Above: the National Theater.

Above: marionette related (we went to see Don Giovanni at the National Marionette Theater; we gave the play three *** generous stars).

Above: the Saint Vitus Cathedral.

Above: inside the Saint Vitus Cathedral.

Above: back interior of the Saint Vitus Cathedral.

Above: back outdoors of the Saint Vitus Cathedral.

Above: the Saint Vitus Cathedral as seen from the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: Darkness in the Saint Vitus Cathedral; statue of Friedrich Johannes Jacob Celestin von Schwarzenberg.

Above: torture equipment at the Guard’s Tower, Prague’s Castle.

Above: the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: museum at the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: Measuring the Evolution Controversy at the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: decorated arches at the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: details at the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: more of the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: God, Christ, Spirit at Rosenberg Palace.

Above: at the Prague’s Castle (Rosenberg Palace), where the monarchy is history.

Above: the Wallenstein Garden.

Above: Measuring the Evolution Controversy posing before the Senate building, Wallenstein Garden.

Above: the Devil at the Wallenstein Garden.

Above: don’t know these people, but they are up to something important.

Above: the spectacular Spanish Synagogue (my personal favorite, world quality).

Above: the main dome at the Spanish Synagogue.

Above: more beauty at the Spanish Synagogue.

Above: one of the pillars at the Spanish Synagogue.

Above: and another pillar at the Spanish Synagogue.

Above: at the Jewish Cemetery.

Above: more of the Jewish Cemetery.

Above: Names, thousands of names, Jewish Cemetery.

Above: the Maisel Synagogue.

Above: tryptic stained glass at the Maisel Synagogue.

Above: stained glass next to central hall, the Maisel Synagogue.

Above: the Pinkas Synagogue.

Above: Measuring the Evolution Controversy at the National Library in Prague.

Above: the Strahov Monastery, afternoon.

Above: details of the Strahov Monastery.

Above: iron bronze gate at the Strahov Monastery.

Above: more details of the Strahov Monastery.

Above: a zoom-out view of the Strahov Monastery.

Above: Petrin Tower, the Moon, and Strahov Monastery.

Above: Petrin Tower.

Above: Saint Vavřince church (center) and Prague as seen from the Petrin Tower.

Above: and a close up of the Saint Vavřince church.

Above: the famous Funicular…

Above: the majestic Santa Barbara Church in Kutná Hora.

Above: the Saint Vitus Cathedral as seen from the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: outdoors Strahov Monastery Library.

Above: a close up of the Theology Hall at the Strahov Monastery Library.

Above: decorated Evangeliary at the Strahov Monastery Library.

Above: kids choir at the Church of Our Lady.

Above: at the entrance to the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora.

Above: shield of arms made of humans bones at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora.

Above: skulls and baby angel at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora.

Above: ornament made of bones at the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora.

Above: the plague left its marks; the Sedlec Ossuary in Kutná Hora.

Above: Church of the Assumption in Kutná Hora.

Above: Bronze friendship.

Above: Symmetry at the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: Measuring the Evolution Controversy resting at the Queen Anne’s Summer Palace.

Above: the pipe organ at the Saint Nicholas Church, one of Mozart’s favorites.

Above: dome at the Saint Nicholas Church.

Above: more of the Saint Nicholas Church.

Above: the Prague’s Castle as seen from the Kampa Museum.

Above: view of Prague from the Strahov Monastery.

Above: The Crossing to Prague.

Above: the Prague’s Castle as seen from the Vltava River.

Above: water lily nearby the Prague’s Castle, can you spot the bee?

Above: the Lennon Wall.

Above: souvenirs.

Above: walking back to our hotel.

Above: my last view of Prague (airport).

Images of an Island, Culture and People’s Hopes: Jamaica

Explore the planet. Do not take vacations; instead, travel. What you get to like most can come from where you least expect it. — Here I share a pictorial sample of the many facets of Jamaica. While visiting the island, I found myself surprised by the contrasts of its amazing nation, although all nations and cultures are supposed to be contrasting in their traditions. That is the nature and, sometimes, the beauty of the human experience. — GPC  

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In our latest visit to Jamaica, we covered 1,564 miles driving along and across the island (and on the left side of the road!). Not a lot in comparison to other trips, but the Jamaican roads were narrow (except for the toll highways, which were modern and impressive), rich in towns and places to stop. We tried to not miss anything. There were many details to appreciate, a single visit was not enough to explore all we wanted.

We thank the Jamaican people for being kind and friendly, generous and proud of their nation. They taught us much about culture, universities, traditions, values, food (the Jamaican Jerk is excellent), ambitions, socio-economic frustrations and hopes for the future. We wish them well and anticipate to see –some day– Jamaica as a Republic, and no longer a “constitutional monarchy,” a fraction of the British Crown. The maps below summarize our driving routes (yellow dashed lines) back and forth, every day. The rainforests across the Blue Mountains (East side of the island) were spectacular.

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Above: The island of Jamaica (4,240 square miles) is the third largest in the Caribbean, after Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti and Dominican Republic).

In this post, I share a small sample of the 1,000+ images taken while traveling in Jamaica (in no strict chronological order, but reflecting related events that took place while exploring the island). The images alone tell the story, I provide little text. At times, I found myself surprised by the contrasts in the Jamaican nation, although all nations and cultures are supposed to be contrasting in their traditions. That is the nature and, sometimes, the beauty of the human experience. I must say, however, that the wealth divide was acute, and as epidemic and unfair as among other Caribbean or South American countries. It could be felt everywhere.

Examine the photo ride, be patient, open your mind to the message, and find depth in the details. At the end, I summarize my impressions in a concluding remark.

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Above: Arriving in Jamaica. Northwest part of the Island. We landed at Sangster Montego Bay International Airport (MBJ). There are several international airports in Jamaica and numerous small landing runways (see airports in Jamaica).

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Above: Ocho Rios, in the North-central part of Jamaica. An active, commercial town. Tourism is an important component of the local economy (see Jamaican Economy).

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Above: A close up of the central stage (structure built on bamboo and logs) at Ocho Rios’ Island Village. Spot the rock pigeon, there is one to be found.

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Above: African ancestry mixed with Spanish and… later… English heritage, Ocho Rios.

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Above: The Jamaican colors are everywhere, Ocho Rios.

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Above: Jamaican newspapers. The Gleaner.

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Above: Letter of the Day, Jamaican newspapers, The Gleaner.

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Above: Driving on the left-side of the road, right-side of the car… can be confusing. The brain, however, adapts to it surprisingly fast. The local advice is “stick to the left, drive slowly.”

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Above: Warnings to drivers… Ocho Rios (but common in urban, suburban and rural areas across Jamaica).

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Above: A country-wide road campaign. This is from the West part of the island, on our way to Negril.

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Above: At the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston. Quite nice guided visit (80 minutes).

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Above: It was the right decision! The Bob Marley Museum is “the” most visited place in Jamaica.

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Above: Bob Marley’s progeny. Mural at the Bob Marley Museum, Kingston.

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Above: Mural on the inside wall around the Bob Marley Museum. Learn some history about it.

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Above: Mural on the inside wall around the Bob Marley Museum. Learn some history about it.

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Above: Main entrance to the Bob Marley Museum. Learn about the museum’s history.

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Above: The beautiful, sensual and rebellious “Redemption Song” by Laura Facey, at the Emancipation Park, Kingston. – The statue design was selected among sixteen proposals in a national competition. – We liked this sculpture so much. Artists who do not shock do not live fully. With this sculpture, Facey did both.

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Above: Bauhinia at the impressive Castleton Botanic Gardens, central part of the island, a bit to the East. The tropical and subtropical rainforests in the area are spectacular.  

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Above: An old bench turned into another element of the forest. Mosses, ants, anoles and birds come to it, but rarely people, Castleton Botanic Gardens.

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Above: Gazebo at the Castleton Botanic Gardens. It was so quiet that B&W became ideal.

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Above: Bamboo, gentle shade, Castleton Botanic Gardens.

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Above: Stop near Orange Bay and Buff Bay, Northeast part of Jamaica. Although hesitant at first, choosing a small car was quite practical (the rural roads can be very narrow).

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Above: Fishes carved on wood… on our way to Port Antonio.

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Above: Port Antonio, relics of a romantic place, Northeast of Jamaica (image 1 of 3).

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Above: Port Antonio, relics of a romantic place, Northeast of Jamaica (image 2 of 3).

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Above: Overview of Port Antonio, Northeast part of Jamaica (image 3 of 3).

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Above: Our 2016 book, Measuring the Evolution Controversy, contemplating Pellew Island Bay, East of Jamaica.

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Above: Resident Magistrate’s Court or Portland Parish Court in Port Antonio.

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Above: Prestige Funeral Home in Port Antonio.

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Above: Above: Prestige Funeral Home, it reads “Sending Your Loved Ones Home in Elegant Style.” It provides “Burial clothing for both male and female…” and other services, Port Antonio.

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Above: At Life Yard community initiative in Kingston.

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Above: Our friendly host, Sabukie Allen, at Life Yard community initiative in Kingston. Thanks so much for introducing us to the project and for showing us the street murals.

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Above: The works and message of Paint Jamaica.

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Above: The works and message of Paint Jamaica.

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Above: The works and message of Paint Jamaica.

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Above: Boy, Girl and a Book… a possibility. Street mural in Kingston.