Snow in Papua New Guinea? – You Bet!

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on August 16th, 2008 by MadDog
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THIS FROM: Richard Jones 

My good friend Richard Jones recently returned from an ‘expedition’ to Mt. Wilhelm. He was accompanied by Mark Clark and Sarah Maccana. The photos in this post are by Mark and Sarah who kindly allowed me to post them here.

My ignorance of the geography of the area precludes me from telling you anything about exactly where the photos were taken. Nevertheless, they are beautiful and revealing. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

The scenery along the road is spectacular enough: 

Along the road to Mt. Wilhelm

Here is Rich with his high-tech walking sticks by a splendid lake:

Rich beside a lake

This is a classic ‘upside-down’ mountain shot: 

Upside-down Mountain

These are the shots that I appreciate most. I’d always heard rumours that there is occasionally snow up there. Here is the proof:

Snow on Mt. Wilhelm

I don’t know if this one is making camp or breaking camp, but it looks mighty cold to me:

Making camp or breaking camp?

I am so grateful that these brave souls made the trek and brought these terrific photos to me so that I can show them to you.

We didn’t even have to get cold!

You KNOW That You WANT to DO THIS!

Posted in Humor on August 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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When was the last time that you really wanted to smash something?

I don’t mean give it a kick or punch it. I mean obliterate it!

When I came to my office this morning, so many things weren’t working that I had to take a Vallium.

I moaned, groaned, ripped wires out, kicked things, and made calls to ‘experts’ (one of which suggested something drastic which actually worked). By 2:00 in the afternoon, the genset was working again and we were back on the internet.

The genset and internet problem were not related to each other. They just decided to collaborate their timing to maximize the torture level.

Waterboarding? We don’t need no stinking waterboarding! We got COMPUTERS!

(By the way, I may be the only person that you know who has been seriously and genuinely waterboarded. I am not saying where or when or why, but I promise you that I’m telling you the truth. If anybody ever wants to debate with you whether waterboarding is a genuine torture, please direct him my way. I will set the story straight.)

Anyway, I dropped by Kyle’s office (my boss’s boss) and asked him if he would like to have a little fun. We out to the back veranda and proceeded to get a bit of payback on the unruly technology.

Ready:

 Ready!

Set: 

Set!

Ahhhh, satisfaction!

Ahhhh, SATISFACTION! 

If you have never wanted to do this, then there is something seriously wrong with your wiring. I have to tell you it is immensely relieving. I only wish we had had more altitude. I was hoping for much more carnage.

I am going to ask Sir Peter if he will take me up in his Robertson helicopter so that we can drop a computer from about 1,000 metres onto the top of the Telikom exchange. Or maybe on the power house. I figure if he’s driving we won’t get into any trouble. I’ll be sure to yell, “Oops” really loud when I drop it.

I do not think that he will go along with it.

However, I’m still going to have a very pleasant dream about it tonight.

Let me know where you would like to see a computer dropped. I’ll be more than happy to supply the computer.

Maybe we can figure out a way to bomb ourselves into a state of unbridled euphoria. There must be some way to do that that doesn’t involve gargantuan quantities of alcohol.

This could catch on. It could be the “Next Big Thing”.

Diversions From the Tedium of Failed Technology

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on August 14th, 2008 by MadDog
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PNG Power is doing everything but supplying power. Telikom is doing everything but supplying communications. Our very expensive Cummins genset starts beautifully and runs for ten seconds before sighing and rattling to a halt.

No point at all in being at the office. No power, no air conditioning, no internet, no water, no working toilets.

So, what to do?

On the way to use the still working facilities at Divine Word University, I stopped at Machinegun Point to photograph some folk playing in the ocean.

Here is a trick that I’ve never thought of:

Get ready to duck!

 These fellows were positioned just on the edge where the waves break the highest. When a wave came in, they would duck their heads and let it rush over them:

Duck!

 I came very near to stripping down to my skivvies and joining them. It looks like a lot of fun.

If it had not been for the notebook computer that I would have had to leave in the car, I would have gotten refreshingly wet and forgotten my frustrations for a moment.

All of the kids got into the water to holler at me for a photograph. This mob travels with their dogs. A few moments before all of the dogs were also in the water playing:

Water sports for all creatures

 Ah, Madang. No matter how tedious it becomes by way of stinking rotten infrastructure, there are a plethora of diversions to take one’s mind off the worries.

Madang Bat Lovers Rejoice

Posted in Madang Happenings, Mixed Nuts on August 13th, 2008 by MadDog
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Bat lovers, a small portion of the Madang population, are rejoicing about the return of our beloved blek bokis. That’s the Tok Pisin term for the flying fox fruit bats that inhabit the area by the tens of thousands. The literal translation is “black box”.

A couple of weeks ago, they all disappeared mysteriously overnight causing much consternation and near panic.

Now they are slowly coming back. Here is the Redscar roost:

 Filling up the Redscar roost

I’d guess that there are about half as many bats there now as there were before they went wherever they went. Here’s a close up of the top of the roost:

Top of the Redscar roost

It is a bit difficult to get close enough to really show what these unusual creatures look like. This is about the best I have managed so far:

The Flying Fox fruit bat

If you click to enlarge, you will see that the head is shaped like a dog’s head and they have a beautiful golden-orange fur around their neck. Their wings are black as coal and shiny.

Since I do not live under a roosting tree, I am happy to see them returning to our town.

The Most Useless Object on the Planet

Posted in Humor, Opinions on August 12th, 2008 by MadDog
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I read an interesting short story last night. It was science fiction set on the planet Bagarup.

On Bagarup, people think only of themselves because most of them have so little. You can hardly blame them, because life on Bagarup is very difficult. When one is barely getting by, it’s hard to think about the interests of the whole of society. It’s difficult to see how giving a little of something that you have (like a plot of ground big enough to install a repeater station) to society will improve your lot in life. In the short term, it’s the cash that counts.

However, on Bagarup, there are things that everyone needs – so that the whole of the people can survive and grow. These are things like electricity, roads, and telecommunications, among others.

The problem on Bagarup is that there is a peculiar view in the people’s minds that land can have only one purpose and ownership of land can never change hands.

So, the story revolves around all the suffering of a great deal of the population of Bagarup, because land owners, when they get cross about something, would destroy, interfere with, switch off, steal, or otherwise render useless whatever bit of infrastructure that belonged to all the people.

For instance, if they had a beef with the phone company, they would bagarup a switching station or repeater so that everybody would pay attention to them and their grievances. Sort of the way that a child might do sometimes – tear up a brother or sister’s new toy to get attention and show how important he is. That’s how the planet got its name.

On Bagarup, they have telephones similar to our own dear Telikom phones. But, of course, the story is not about Telikom – or PNG land owners. When a land owner got cross, he would throw a rock at a solar panel, or knock down a pole, or something like that and turn all of the telephones and internet lines into useless objects, causing everybody a great deal of trouble.

 A Telikom Phone

Oh, I should mention also that the Bagarup Telephone and Communications Company Unlimited LTD does not take very good care of their equipment. This compounds the problem. The Bagarupians have a peculiar idea about machines. They believe that machines are eternal and require no care whatsoever. This causes many problems for many people because when things break, there have been no plans made to replace them.

Sad to say that the people of Bagarup are very complacent (a good thing if you are the King of Bagarup). They are so confused and disheartened about the problems around them that they feel powerless to improve the situation. Nobody tells them that they have the power to change things.

As I read, I kept hoping that someone from another planet (It would have to be a very brave person) would come to Bagarup and explain the principle of eminent domain to the Bagarupians so that they would have a fair and equitable way to deal with the problem of the competing interests of land owners and society as a whole.

But nobody ever did.

It was a good story, but the ending was very sad.

The Ghost Mountain Boys

Posted in Book Reports on August 11th, 2008 by MadDog
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War stories usually don’t interest me much. I can take them or leave them.

In the case of The Ghost Mountain Boys, I felt compelled to read the book as it was given to me by long-time (thirty-some years) friends and financial backers David and Lucy Springer of Brownsburg, Indiana. 

The Ghost Mountain Boys

David is a retired trucker turned farmer and a masterful and informed conversationalist. I always enjoy the time we can find to visit with them.

The Ghost Mountain Boys distinguishes itself from most WWII war tales (especially those written by American authors) in a few respects.

First, it pays little attention to the grand plans of Generals and their often guesswork strategies and focuses more on the struggles of small units and individuals. This makes the book much more readable. It gets you quite literally inside the sweaty, fear-stinking uniform of the grunt.

Another ‘different take’ is that the author is consistently unmerciful towards General Douglas MacArthur and most of his sycophant staff. I’d guess most Australians would enjoy this book.

A third aspect that I enjoyed is that The Ghost Mountain Boys does not glorify the American effort. It clearly respects history in portraying the American armed forces role in the battle for New Guinea as it was – one force of several.

Finally, The Ghost Mountain Boys devotes most of its pages to highly personal interviews, letters, and military communications from both sides of the battle front. Some of the personal communications of the Japanese shed a new light on the true magnitude of the terror and suffering endured by the combatants on both sides.

James Campbell’s style is down-to-earth, gritty, and personal to the extreme. I kept thinking of the Vietnam battle scene from Forest Gump.

In 2006 he mounted an expedition to New Guinea and traced the route of The Ghost Mountain Boys. That’s some serious research.

My conclusion: Highly Recommended reading, especially for anybody with an interest in PNG history.

I’d be happy to loan the book to anyone who will promise to return it. Don’t expect me to remember.

A Pretty Ordinary Saturday

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on August 10th, 2008 by MadDog
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Some days are better than others.

Saturday we went to Leper Island. Yes, it was once a leper colony.

We’ve gone to the south end inside the reef a few times before and had good luck. This time it was not a great dive. We went to an area that we’d not visited before and it was poor hunting.

I finally found an anemone. It had only one anemonefish. I took a shot anyway: 

One lonely anemonefish

Then I found another anemone. The fish refused to pose. Perhaps they were sulking about something. I tried shouting to get their attention. It came out like “Blubba glugga glurggle glob!” (translation: “Hey you two – look over here!”) They ignored me:

 Refusing to pose

I finally found an anemone that seemed promising – lots of fish and they were watching me watching them: 

Finally, some luck

But, hey! The big one is a fighter. His mouth is all messed up. He seemed to be saying, “You should have seen the other guy!”: 

“You should have seen the other guy!”

Then there was this weird thingie. Like a leaky balloon full of water. I think it’s some kind of colonial animal, maybe some kind of salp:

A salp? 

A big worm with orange whiskers around its mouth:

Worm with orange whiskers

And this animalus horribilis. This is the hungry end of a prickly sea cucumber. The arms flail around grabbing food which is then stuffed into the mouth in the middle. Don’t stare at this too long. You could have nightmares: 

Prickly sea cucumber

Back on the boat I started playing around again with my camera and my brown polarized sunglasses. I got this interesting view of Madang from Tab Anchorage. You can see the rich folk’s yacht Andiamo anchored off Kranket Island

Madang from Tab Anchorage

Fooling around more, I snapped this rather dramatic example of just how much you want to have the brown polarized sunglass when you’re going to sea:

Why you want brown polarized sunglasses at sea

 I’m lucky that I’m so easily amused. Simple things for simple minds.