Telikom, Schmelikom – Check Out DWU If You MUST Connect

Posted in Divine Word U., Mixed Nuts on July 31st, 2008 by MadDog
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Since Telekom seems determined to prevent 21st century communications from ever being a reality in PNG (it’s always ‘coming soon’ but never here), I was desperate to get an internet connection today. Telikom’s link out of Madang is out for the second day in a row.

I went down to Divine Word University to check it out. I hate to do a post without a photo, so here’s the inside of their nice, but toasty-warm library: 

DWU Library

You can get a pretty good deal on internet time if you’re willing to shell out K110 and you have a wireless equipped notebook computer.

First go to the main library desk and get an application to become an External Borrower. Fill it out and then go to the main administrative office to pay K60. Take your receipt to the IT Services building behind the library.

They will relieve you of another K50. This will buy you one of two plans. One plan gives you five hours with an unlimited amount of download. The other one gives you 300MB, but you can take as many hours as you like to use it up.

Either way, they will issue you a login name and password. All you have to do is fire up your browser and connect to a website. A login and password will pop up to allow you access to the internet.

That’s a pretty good deal by PNG standards. Our Global Technologies dialup rate is K.95 per megabyte plus Telikom charges. Our Global Technologies leased-line rate is K.45, again with enormous Telikom charges. The DWU deal works out to about K.17 per megabyte (if my arithmetic is right) for the 300MB plan and practically ZERO per megabyte (well, depending on how fast you can drag those movies in) for the five hour plan.

It’s pretty zippy, too.

We Want Our Flying Foxes Back!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 30th, 2008 by MadDog
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Why am I showing you photos of trees? If you lived in Madang, you would know already. The big mystery is: Where did all our flying foxes (giant fruit bats) go? 

The Redscar Road roost - EMPTY!

These trees should be packed with huge black bats. They are very noisy and crap all over the place, so many people don’t like them. Personally, I’m fond of them, but I don’t have to live under a favorite roosting tree.

The Police Station roost - EMPTY! 

Normally, they would leave their daytime roosts in town at about 5:00 in the afternoon, filling the sky with moving black dots. After a suitable time of milling around greeting each other, they would each dip down on the fly for a quick drink of seawater and then fly off to the surrounding jungles to forage – usually on some poor farmer’s banana or papaya trees.

The Golf Course roost - EMPTY!

 A couple of nights ago, there was a commotion around our house. Eunie asked Charlie, our security guard, what was up. He said that all the flying foxes had left town and people were afraid that (a) an earthquate, (b) a tsunami, (c) a volcanic eruption of Kar Kar Island, or (d) all of the above was eminent. This sort of panic is not out of the ordinary. It is nearly impossible for people here to get current information concerning impending disasters, so they look for signs and omens.

In case you are not familiar with this creature, here is a good photo of the Spectacled Flying Fox. It’s not the same type we have here, but the picture shows the roosting behabior nicely:  (note that the photo is not mine) 

The Spectacled Flying Fox

Eunie and I drove around today to try to find flying foxes. It’s usually not a problem. I would say on the average day (wild guess here) that there are several tens of thousands of them roosting in trees in the greater Madang area. They disappear at night and come back in the morning. Today we saw not even one. I must admit that it made me feel a bit uneasy.

I have asked a few people for their theories concerning the extended absence of our beloved (by some) icons of Madang.

The most interesting one that I have gotten so far came from Maureen Hill – someone who has intimate knowledge of the flying foxes, since a favorite roosting tree hangs over her day school, which she has operated for many years.

Maureen said that people from the Golgol area have reported that the bats are there and for some reason they are very easy to capture or kill. Local folk often eat them. Maureen thinks that there may be some kind of fruit growing there that is making the bats drunk or high. That is what is making them so easy to kill, and possibly keeping them in the area (some people will do anything for a drink). Presumably, when the supply of silly fruit is exhausted, the bats will return.

Just for fun, here is a very unusual roosting place for a flying fox: (again, the photo is not mine -the original photographer is unknown to me) 

Easier than flying?

Maureen also told me that the bats disappear every year for a few days – something that I have never noticed.

Maureen’s theory sounds plausible to me. However, if you have your own theory, please email it to me and I will post it here on Madang – Ples Bilong Me.

Tiny Things on My Desk

Posted in Microscope Fun, Mixed Nuts, Tattoos on July 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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Yesterday, I stayed home sick – got a terrible cold. I have a troublesome tendency to slip right into bronchitis or pneumonia when I get a cold, so I take no chances. However, I can’t force myself to stay in bed all day. Today I still feel as if I’ve not quite successfully been raised from the tomb.

Since I don’t have the mental energy to write anything that even I would want to read, I decided to make a puzzle page of photos taken through my Dino-Lite USB Microscope. Most of the images are quite easy to guess. A couple are more obscure.

I’ll give the name of each object in the pop-up information of the photo. Don’t put your mouse pointer on the photo until you’ve made your guess.

Here’s the first one. It’s pretty easy. I’d bet that you have one on your desk near your hand.:

Business end of a ball-point pen

This one is a little harder. Think of shiny rainbow surfaces that you see just about every day:

 Surface of a CD-ROM

This is a little more obscure. Something similar is probably on your person:

 A Well-worn wedding ring

Someplace on your desk you have some object that is full of little doodads like these:

 Electronic components (diodes) in an alarm clock

If you don’t like Telekom, you almost certainly have one of these on your desk on in your pocket or bag:

 Date display on a Digicel phone

You can probably guess what this is from, but you’ll have to look closely to find it:

People and livestock on K100 banknote

This is a difficult one. I have the only one like it in the entire universe. But you may have a different one: 

Tattoo (my “O, Canada tattoo”)

I’m going back to bed. I hope your day is not sucking as badly as mine is.

Have fun and play safe.

Low Tech High Tech

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on July 28th, 2008 by MadDog
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We have been having fits with our 80KVA generator for a long time. It would start (sometimes), run a few seconds and then shut off. That’s not much help when you’re on PNG Power and you desperately need a generator several times a day. (I’ going to write an absolutely poisonous post about that subject soon.)

I thought it might be amusing for you to see the type of technology repair that is available to us here in Madang. You readers in PNG will, of course, have little interest in this, since you see it every day. It’s business as usual. Go have another cup of coffee (we do have great coffee here) and wait for tomorrow’s post.

When the technicians arrived, there was the usual head scratching and shuffling of steel toed boots. It was decided that the control box needed to come to pieces. As usual, though no holes in the case seemed likely entry points, there were plenty of mouse turds and other unlikely items inside.

The next step was proclaimed to be a thorough optical examination. The technicians retired to their laboratory on the back sidewalk of our office. A few moments of observing them observing the circuitry with their naked, uncalibrated eyeballs unnerved me to the point of making the suggestion that a little magnification might go a long way. They agreed enthusiastically.

I went inside to procure a couple of the many old camera lenses that I keep for just such occasions. I go through a lot of cameras. The technicians claimed that they were now able to see much better:

Repair technicians in their laborotory

Having found nothing amiss optically, they reassembled the unit, started the generator, and began ‘tapping’ on it to try to make it fail. Sure enough, a single spot on the panel produced the (un)desired result – it coughed and died.

“It’s a relay” was the decision. (I felt like shouting, “Halleluiah! IT’S A RELAY!”) “Can you put another relay in?” was my query. Most of my readers are way ahead of me. “Oh, no” they said, laughing. “They only sell the whole unit.”

Did you ever want to scream?

You know what I wanted to ask. Why, oh why, sweet earth below my feet did they need to spend countless hours in the blazing hot sun to find a microscopic fault that they knew was meaningless because they could not replace a circuit board. They had to replace the entire unit fer cryin’ out loud!

Arrrrrgggghhhhhh!

So, it’s now several days later and it’s still not fixed.

I don’t honestly know if it ever will be.

NOTE: I used up some of my poetic license points on the story above. It didn’t happen exactly that way. But it easily could have. I’ve also blurred out faces and the name of the contractor on their uniforms. Nothing here is intended to demean the workers. These guys work hard for low pay and do the best they can with what their given. I say God bless ‘em.

Britney Spears Will Make Me Famous

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on July 27th, 2008 by MadDog
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My mind was utterly blank this morning. Posting daily is a discipline for me. I reckon that if I want to write well, then I have to do it every day. I call myself a guitarist, but I never practice. So, I play so poorly that nobody would want to listen. Even me. Especially me.

I got to thinking about a curious fact. Of the hundreds of posts I’ve done, the one that consistently gets the most hits is about Clyde Barrow and Steve McQueen sharing the same birthday. There are consistently twenty to forty hits a day on that single post. Obviously (I can tell from the statistics), this is due to people Googling Steve McQueen.

So, my bitter and twisted mind began to wonder, “What if I wrote about someone famous? Would that have any effect?

Well, let’ see.

I don’t know exactly how Britney Spears and Sheba’s (our dog) tongue somehow got wired together in my brain. Rats have chewed the wiring in our house. Are there brain rats that chew up the insulation? Do you smell smoke?

Sometimes these things just happen. A misspent youth.

Anyway, I remembered how cute George Bush looked wearing Sheba’s tongue and decided to improve Britney’s always stunning countenance with a few minutes of Photoshop labour.

I call this one “Britney – The Girl Next Door” Don’t you think this is better? 

Britney Spears - The Girl Next Door

And this one is “The Babe I Met Last Night and Decided Not to Ask Out” 

Britney Spears - Dare you date her?

This one is my favourite. I call it “The Girl of Iggy Pop’s Fantasies”:

 Britney Spears - Isn’t She Lovely?

As I was working on the last one, Stevie Wonder’s song “Isn’t She Lovely?” was wafting through my ganglia like a summer breeze.

Now I’m feeling guilty. How would I like it if people made fun of me?

Hey, wait a minute. People do make fun of me.

Just the other day a close friend who used to be “in the theatre” said to me – having observed all the dangly bits hanging off my belt (camera, cell phone, keys, two USB flash drives), “You look like a stage manager.” Is that an insult? Is it funny – was she making fun of me? I can’t tell.

Anyway, I do feel guilty about poking fun at Britney. It’s all too easy and a cheap shot to make fun of those less fortunate than ourselves.

I hope I don’t get sued over this.

(I managed to get the names of seven famous people in this post. Was it obvious what I’m trying to do? I hope not. Google knocks you back for ‘stuffing’.)

A Cool Light Show and Some Family Fun

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on July 26th, 2008 by MadDog
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Since I had to work on Saturday (I’m typing this while I’m supposed to be paying attention in a meeting), we took Friday afternoon off to dive. In the evening we went out for a night dive and then dinner at Jais Aben Resort. I’m not really complaining about having to work on Saturday, since it’s the first time in maybe twenty years.

I love to get out on the boat in the evening because sunset photos excite me irrationally. Yesterday evening was no exception. It was a spectacular 360° light show.

In the west from the Tab Anchorage, we saw a towering cumulonimbus incus lit from behind. Corpuscular rays painted geometric lines with light:

Looking to the West

To the south a cumulus congestus got all lit up with the glow of the sun’s reddened rays:

Looking to the south

Looking east, we saw corpuscular rays tinting the clouds. Yes, that’s right – we do see spectacular sunset effects in the east:

Looking to the east

All this activity was in aid of sending our Carol off for a well deserved three month holiday. Here’s our little family of vagabonds and eccentrics partaking of the fruit of the vine:

Dinner and a little wine for Carol’s sendoff

Life in Madang can be most agreeable.

Things We Don’t Do Anymore

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on July 25th, 2008 by MadDog
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We have a new toy at the office. It’s a Nikon slide and film scanner. So, of course, I had to test it.

I dug into the ‘history’ file cabinet where we keep ancient slides and negatives. Being very centered on my own ego I naturally picked out a few old images of Eunice and me to test.

I found a surprising number of images that depicted what I can only call “Things That We Don’t Do Anymore”.

They don’t require much in the way of explanation, but I’ll explain anyway.

This is me at the big SIL base up at Ukarumpa (yes, where all the American spies live) telling somebody something about how to use a computer. My pointing finger seems to be saying, “Listen to me. I’m the expert.” I no longer pretend to know anything about computers, so this image fits the category rather well.

 Me rudely pointing my finger

This helicopter is a Hiller OH-23 “Raven”. It was probably built before most of my readers were born – in the early 1950s. This photo is from 1984. I flew OH-23s in the Army in the ‘70s. They were not known for their reliability. So, what am I doing underneath one while it’s hovering? Well, somebody had to hook up the sling load, and I was the low man on the totem pole. I try to avoid such dangerous activities these days.

 Me cowering under a hovering helicopter

Now, this one is a corker. We are doing exactly what we appear to be doing. We are backing a tractor onto two canoes in the middle of a river. That’s me in the green tank-top supervising the lunacy. After we had it somewhat precariously balanced, we tied the canoes together with poles and sent it on its way. It eventually arrived safely. I don’t do this anymore. (Would anybody like to tease Mythbusters with this one?)

Will a tractor float on two canoes?

This one is not so nutsy. In fact, it’s a little sad. Eunie used to teach sewing classes at one of the local churches. There are probably mature women today selling home-made dresses at the market who learned to sew at one of Eunie’s classes.

Eunie teaches sewing

There they are – all fuzzy black edges and dust – a small history of a small family.