Kermit with a Mona Lisa Smile – Endangered!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 17th, 2008 by MadDog
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As I’ve said previously, any time I see Kermit, It makes me feel like smiling.

It seems, however, that cute little froggies like Kermit are in trouble – big trouble. This from The Telegraph in the UK.

“Scientists fear the largest mass extinction since the disappearance of the dinosaurs because of a deadly disease which is sweeping through populations of frogs, toads, newts, salamanders and caecilians across the globe.”

This is due to the spread of the parasitic fungus amphibian chytrid. Apparently, it is threatening dear little froggies all over the place.

Here’s our own dear Kermit sitting on the leaf strainer as we saw him (or her – who knows?) yesterday morning: (click on the photo to enlarge – you can see the detail of the iris of its eye)

 Kermit with a Mona Lisa Smile

I like to think he’s smiling back at me. Why not? Bugs are free at our house. Eat all you want.

Here’s another shot of Kermit:

 Kermit poses patiently

Cute, eh?

I sincerely hope that our own amphibians will not succumb to the evil fungus.

A Venerable Mango Tree Falls to the Chainsaw

Posted in Mixed Nuts, PBT Happenings on July 16th, 2008 by MadDog
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Under the heading of ‘all good things come to an end’ a venerable mango tree (historic, one might even say) is, this week, falling to the chainsaw.

Thousands of people have eaten the excellent mangos from this tree. Shirley Tsang, whose family once owned the property where our office now sits, tells me that her mother brought mango seeds from Rabaul and planted this tree in 1958.

Here is the mighty fruit bearer being dismembered – a grisly sight:

 A venerable mango tree

It is a sad thing, but progress sometimes stymies our best efforts to be gentle with the planet. This venerable producer of tastiness and consumer of nasty carbon dioxide must go in order to free space for a building expansion. The new building will house the Pioneer Bible Translators Publishing Department and will provide space for the many training courses we are planning.

Sometimes progress seems unavoidable. Certainly, this old giant does not deserve to be chopped, but it is in the way.

Someday, the same thing will probably happen to me.

On second thought, it probably won’t be as dramatic.

CWA Welcomes Back Eunice with a Colourful Party

Posted in CWA, Opinions on July 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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As soon as Eunice arrived back in Madang, the ladies of CWA (and the male members – there are a few of us) wanted to welcome her back.
The theme was ‘colours’. Here’s Eunie with the welcoming sign:

 CWA Welcome Eunice Back to Madang

I was impressed at the organization that went into the party. It went very nicely.

It was also interesting to note that nearly all of the participants were Papua New Guineans. I see that as a very hopeful sign. Traditional community service organizations have not fared well in Madang.

It’s not entirely clear to me why this is. Most people today can see that it’s in our best interest to find ways to help ourselves. There’s precious little help coming from anywhere else. Also, if you do accept help from outside, you lose control over the process – unfortunate, but mostly true.

I’ve admired CWA for a long time. I, and a few other brave men (a little humor, if you don’t mind), have become members so that we can support their goals. Eunie has been in the thick of it nearly since we arrived in 1981. As near as I can tell, it’s the only indigenously funded community service organization that seems to be targeting specific needs and managing the projects from a specifically local viewpoint.

If CWA is still viewed by some as a ‘colonial leftover’, one might take a second look at what’s going on these days.

CWA has a good chance to make the transition to an organization that is what we really want it to be. CWA obviously needs to be ‘owned’ by the community members who support its goals. All of us. Women, men, Papua New Guineans, expats – anyone who cares enough to do the job.

There’s real power in community spirit. Let’s move forward together. We probably can’t solve the big problems because we don’t have the resources or the connections required. But we can accomplish things in Madang that will make it an even better place than it is. If you can imagine that.

We Dive the Ninsa II

Posted in Under the Sea on July 14th, 2008 by MadDog
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On Saturday, we went to Sinub Island to dive the Ninsa 2. I hadn’t done that dive for about fifteen years. It’s not a pretty wreck. The water is often very murky in that spot.

You also have to fool around to find out who to pay to dive there. It’s operated by some mob calling themselves the Sinub Island Marine Wildlife Management Area. That’s one of the reasons that we don’t do it more often. We paid K10 at Jais Aben Dive Shop, but the information we got there was that the arrangement wasn’t working very well. As usual, people are fighting over a pittance when, if they got their act together, they could be fighting over much larger amounts (if that sentence makes anybody angry, well, if you can’t take a joke . . .)

Usually the diving photos you see are taken in good conditions and are the best of hundreds of shots. They don’t reflect the real conditions that divers encounter most of the time – poor light, dirty water. I took this photo of Pascal from a distance of about 1.5 – 2 metres. As you can see, the water is anything but clear. This murky water and poor light lend a creepy feel to the experience, especially around wrecks: 

Pascal in the murk

Even with the nasty water, if you keep looking, you’ll usually find something interesting.

On the sand beside the wreck, I found this seven-legged starfish. Although some starfish have many legs, this kind usually has the standard five. I’ve seen this kind with six legs, but this is the first one I’ve seen with seven. You can see that two of them have been bitten off and are regrowing:

 A seven legged starfish

By the way, are they legs or arms? Many people say arms. I disagree. They are legs. You don’t walk on your arms, do you?

We found a group of lionfish near the bow in shallower water. I did manage to get a few shots that I could clean up with Photoshop to make them presentable. Here’s one: (as usual, click on an image to get an enlargement) 

Lionfish on the Ninsa II

I just can’t leave well enough alone. Photoshop has so many quick and easy ways to stylize a photograph. Here’s a glowing edge filter – very new-age:

 A glowing lionfish

This filter is called dark strokes:

 Lionfish with dark strokes filter

For the lionfish, this is the one I like the best. It’s called outline. I wish I had the artistic talent to draw like this. With Photoshop, I can fake it easily.

 Lionfish with outline filter

Enough fun for today. I still have a job.

What’s With the Jokes?

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 13th, 2008 by MadDog
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A few days ago, I wrote about an object that I’ve had in my possession for about twenty years (see One of God’s Little Jokes). I’m not sure what it is and I’ve never seen anything like it before or since – until yesterday.

I may as well go ahead and show you the photo:

 Parrotfish beak

Although the pattern is radically different (and nowhere near as startling), it is obviously the same kind of thing – a parrotfish beak. I’m pretty sure now.

Okay, I ask you sincerely, what are the chances? I pick up a strange object that I’ve never encountered before. It has an amazing pattern on it. I don’t see anything like it again for twenty years. I write a post about it. Three days later, I find the same kind of object while strolling down the beach. Is this another joke?

How common are these? Actually, they should be fairly common according to my thinking. On a tropical beach such as we have here, a large portion of what you’re walking on is quite literally parrotfish poop. Yes, that’s right. The parrotfish bites chunks of coral off with choppers such as you see in the photo. It grinds up the coral chunks with bony plates in its throat. It extracts the nutrients and then excretes the ground up coral out the stinky end. Accoring to the folks at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, a single (presumably large) parrotfish can produce a tonne of sand a year. I can think of all sorts of amusing things to say here, but most of them are too scatalogical to be polite.

Probably all that remains when a parrotfish dies are the two beaks and the bony plates. If poop makes up most of the beach, then these other parts should be pretty common too.

That’s my theory and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, I’m going to start looking for these things. I still have a few years left, I hope. I’m having far too much fun to stop now.

To the Market We Go

Posted in PNG Culture on July 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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I tried to do a post yesterday, but Telikom was up to its usual tricks and our internet connection was useless. I’ll make up for it today with a long post and plenty of pictures. This post begins a new category called PNG Culture. Many of my readers are not PNG residents. I’m going to try to put up some answers to some of the many questions about PNG that I have been asked over the years.

Yesterday I went over to the market for the first time this year. I don’t go to the market very often, but I always enjoy it when I do. For PNG residents this will be very familiar. I hope that some readers who have never been to a tropical marketplace will enjoy the photos.

I’ll let the photos mostly speak for themselves. On second thought, I’ll give you a lesson in Neo-Melanesian (Melanesian Pidgin or Tok Pisin).

If you’re going shopping, you’ll need a bag. Little goes to waste here. I see one bag that contained rice from Vietnam. The Pidgin word for bag is (too easy) beg – pronounced half-way between bag and beg, though some people end it with a K and not a G sound:

 Bags for sale to carry your veggies

Strange items catch my eye. Want some giant beans? Again, the Pidgin word is easy. It’s bin – pronounced as bean:

 Giant beans

Veggie freaks will salivate. There is really no word in Pidgin for vegetables. The closest term would probably be kaikai bilong gaden which means food of the garden:

 Veggies galore

This cabbage man is proud of his produce. Pidgin for cabbage is kabis pronounced like cahb-ees:

 The Cabbage Man

A new dress? Why not? There are plenty of them floating in the breeze. The Pidgin words would be dres or meri blaus (woman’s dress):

 Colourful, locally made dresses

If you enjoy your fish strong and stinky, you’ve found the right place. The Pidgin word for fish would be (hold on) pis which is pronounced as piss. (Actully, it sounds more like peace, but nevermind.) Fortunately, the term for urination is different – it’s pispis, pronounced just like you imagine:

 Stinky smoked fish

Or, how about some tasty sweet potatoes? In Pidgin the sweet potato is called kaukau, pronounced like cow-cow:

 Tasty sweet potatoes

I get thirsty in the sun. The juice inside of a green coconut is delicious and very good for you. Coconuts are kokonas, but green ones are kulau and brown ones are drai (dry). This nice young lady will pop the top of a kulau for you in a few seconds. Drink it right from the shell:

 Green coconut water - very refreshing

Had a drink? Okay, how about some peanuts. Pidgin for peanuts is easy – pinas, pronounced as peen-ahs

Peanuts for munching

And, some nice sweet tangerines. These are tree-ripened and very sweet. The aroma in this area is heavenly. Pretty much all citrus fruits are called the same thing in Pidgin – muli, pronounced like moo-lee:


I’ll just grab some of this local tobacco for my pipe. The Pidgin word for tobacco is brus, pronounced as the man’s name Bruce

Local wild tobacco - very strong

Okay, now you’re set to go to the market. Next lesson – what do you use for money?

Stay tuned

One of God’s Little Jokes

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on July 9th, 2008 by MadDog
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Today, I’m going to publicly expose something that has heretofore been seen only by a few of my close friends.

Few have seen it because my fear is that some might laugh at it and heap scorn upon me. Scorn heaping is not an unfamiliar experience for me, but I try to avoid it when possible.

However, I feel courageous today. I’m going to show you just how capricious Mother Nature can be. I found this object on the beach at Kranket Island about twenty-some years ago.

What do you make of this:

 Parrot fish mandible?

Hmm . . . could be, what? I dunno. Looks vaguely familiar, but . . .

Okay, how about now:

 Starting to look toothy

Sorry for the poor photography – I was in a hurry this morning. Hmm, now it looks sort of toothy.

I’ll tell you what I think it is.

Members of the parrotfish family have bony beaks with which they chew up the coral to extract nutrients. I think a very small parrotfish died and left this behind for us to puzzle over.

It seems a plausible explanation.

But, wait. There is more – much more!

Have a look at the other side:

 Please tell me you see what I see

Please tell me you see what I see.

Hey, my life is bizarre enough already. I don’t have to make things up. I did not modify this object in any way. It is exactly as I found it on the beach.

If you are astounded, join the ranks of those to whom I have shown this. If you are suspicious, you’re still in good company. I’d guess that about half the people who’ve seen it went away with lingering doubts concerning my veracity. That’s understandable. I can hardly believe it myself.

I think it’s some kind of omen. But what? If this appeared in the sky, would we all fall down and scream, “Woe is me!” ? Surely, something so outrageously, ridiculously, stupendously out there in weirdland must have a meaning. Who left the message and what does it mean? Why did I find it at Kranket Island? Why me? I’m going crazy(er).

If you have an idea, please, please, leave a comment.