Being Thankful

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 30th, 2008 by MadDog
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I reckon that that are more people in the world than we would like to think about who have little to be thankful for.

Sure, you can always point out that being alive in these dangerous times is a blessing – compared to so many who so recently aren’t – alive, that is.

But, if you look at the human misery so common in these days when it seems that we have the means to alleviate at least some of it, sometimes just being alive doesn’t appear to be much of a blessing.

Therefore, if you’re reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re not such an unfortunate that you’re denied by fate the simple capability to connect to the internet. If you think about that, you might realize that that alone puts you in a class of elite persons.

You probably don’t need to worry if you’ll have enough to eat tomorrow. You’re likely not in so dangerous or desolate a place that you have no basic facilities.

In other words, compared to much of humanity, you have a lot to be thankful for.

Oddly, the simplest things often evoke immense gratitude in my thoughts. For instance – this morning’s sunrise:

Thanksgiving Day sunrise

I look around my empty house – Eunie in the kitchen making last preparations for our annual Thanksgiving party – guests having not yet arrived:

The empty lounge

It’s not a mansion. But, it’s better than I ever thought I’d have. It’s more luxurious than (I’m certain) more than a small part of humanity is fortunate enough to enjoy:

The dining area is prepared

Should this make me feel smug delight? It might at times. Mostly, however, it shames me a bit. Why should I be blessed with such abundance when others, as worthy or worthier, must mine their happiness from poorer ground.

Friends arrive. Eunie gives her annual “Thanksgiving Day Lecture.” I say a few words about how we all have different faiths – some little or none – but we all, on this special night, can take time to appreciate our great fortune and possibly find a bit of humility when we consider why we enjoy abundance while others have nothing:

Eunie's annual Thanksgiving Day Lecture

And then it’s time for the feasting. Nobody turns down an offer to come to eat at our house. Eunie is an excellent cook, among her many other accomplishments:

Guests enjoying Eunie's feast

Our Thanksgiving Day dinner is one of my favourite times of each year. We’ve been doing it for twenty-five years or more. I’d like to do it for another twenty-five.

May the Lord bless you and keep you;
May the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
May the Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

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The Aquarium in My Front Yard

Posted in Under the Sea on November 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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With my dive count now over two thousand, it’s amazing to me that all but possibly a hundred have been within a ten minute boat ride from our dock. This must surely make me one of the luckiest divers on the planet.
Since I’m feeling so lucky today, let me show you some of the lucky shots that I got this morning with Tris, Tracey and Pascal.

I’ve seen this fish around many times, but have only today been able to get a photo of one. I can identify most local fishes generically, if not specifically, but I haven’t bothered to look this one up yet. I usually don’t bother to learn a lot about a certain species until I have a photo of it that I can label with it’s taxonomic name. I usually go by common names, as do most divers:

Mystery FishFor now, I will call it “The Mystery Fish.”

This toothy little horror is Clark’s Anemonefish. The teeth are real and they do hurt when they bite. What’s more, they like to bite:

Clark's Anemonefish

Here’s another anemonefish that is not so feisty. This is the Pink Anemonefish. The interesting feature of this show is the oral disk of the anemone at the centre of all the tentacles. This is, of course, where the anemone puts its food for digestion. I fed an anemone half a banana once. (Yes, divers get bored.) It seems that they will eat just about anything. It took about fifteen minutes for it to ‘swallow’ the banana. I didn’t wait around to see if it coughed it back up:

Pink Anemonefish and Magnificent Anemone

The other interesting thing about oral disk is that it is where many of the anemonefish sleep.

Here’s some beautiful yellow anthea of some kind frolicking around in the coral:

Anthea

Everybody recognises this mean looking fellow. It is, of course, the giant moray eel:

Giant Moray Eel

This particular fellow was being very uncooperative. Every time I tried to get close enough for a shot, he’d pull his head back into his hidey hole. They are usually not so shy. In fact, the situation is usually the exact opposite – staying far enough away so as not to scare yourself into soiling your wetsuit.

We’ll end up with two cute and harmless cousins – members of the hawkfish family.

This is the Arc-Eyed Hawkfish. Explaining the name would be superfluous:

Arc-Eyed Hawkfish

And, this grumpy but passive little guy is the Freckled Hawkfish:

Freckled Hawkfish

Again, the origin of the common name is obvious.

I’ve sometimes been asked why I capitalize all of the fish names. There’s some controversy over capitalization of fish names. I won’t get into that boring academic fussiness. I will just say that it’s common courtesy to capitalize proper names.

I ask myself if I was a fish, how would I introduce myself – how would it be written as a conversational snippet?

Maybe something like this:

I’d walk up to a table in a fashionable restaurant where seated is a ravishing woman. I’d take her hand, bow slightly, and say, “Hawkfish, Freckled Hawkfish.”

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All I Want to Do is Party

Posted in Humor on November 28th, 2008 by MadDog
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Imagine this. You live in a place where there are no movie theatres, no restaurants that you haven’t been to 1,000 times already, no jazz or blues clubs, no interesting hang-outs . . .

So, do you sit at home and read or watch The Tube? Some do.

We don’t.

Nonsensical socialization (i. e. partying) is the primary entertainment in Madang. By custom, it takes a minimum of three people to make a party. (Otherwise people will talk!)

Here’s three slightly demented women partying – just to demonstrate the principle:

Party girls on Melbourne Cup Day a few years ago

Okay, that’s not true. It’s Lorraine, Karen, and Eunie (my woman) at Melbourne Cup Day.

All parties don’t need to have a reason, but Melbourne Cup Day has two. The first (and by far the least important) is to watch the race. The primary reason for the Melbourne Cup party is to dress in such a way as to attract the greatest possible attention, which is what (I think) women like to do, but will never admit. The traditional focus is HATS!

Other parties have entirely different purposes:

Insanity rules at the Red Cross Fashion Show

No, no, this is not what it seems. The Red Cross held a fashion show to raise money. I don’t commonly remove so much clothing in front of so many people, but this was for a good cause. I suppose you can notice that I am on the left looking very improbable. Fedor is in the middle doing “Extreme Ironing”. Rich is at the right doing . . . something.

Here’s the cooking detail at a randomly chosen party at Blueblood:

The Three Stooges - Madang Style

I am as close to the barbie as I am allowed to go. This is an Australian thing. Yanks are not allowed to approach closer than two metres to the barbie. I have, in fact, encroached upon the limit. That is why I am surreptitiously displaying the victory gesture. As soon as Tony and Trevor notice, they will shout obscenities at me until I am once again outside the forbidden zone.

This has nothing to do with Madang, but I should mention that not all nationalities treat Yanks in such a shoddy fashion. Here I am happily, if a bit groggily, tending the barbie in the Vienna Woods. It was okay with the Austrians. In fact, they ignored me completely except to bring me an occasional yummy beer:

Tending the barbie in the Vienna Woods - a thirsty job

And, what would life be without TOGA? Yes, kiddies, we actually do have the occasional toga party in Madang, as this photo will attest:

The "Centurion" style toga

I don’t know what Eunie’s outfit had to do with toga, but I approved anyway. Mine was based on the “Centurion” design and it made me feel quite manly, considering it’s the next thing to a dress. I once wore a kilt for a wedding and it too gave me a strange sense of freedom. Maybe it is the lack of undergarments – who knows?

Here’s two of a group of partiers on board Moonlighting for a little fishing. We didn’t catch anything, but I guess, from previous experience, that catching fish is not really the point of fishing. I’m still not clear on that:

The great 'sport' of Fishing - similar to the great 'sport' of Watching Paint Dry

And, sometimes, on a rare Saturday morning, I find that only the ladies show up at the dock and I’m forced to endure an entire day out on the boat with a mob of noisy, wonderful females:

A Dog's Life on Faded Glory - Photo by Rich Jones

It’s a Dog’s Life, but once you get used to it, it’s not so bad. ( I should mention that the photo above – so close to my heart – was taken by Richard Jones, who was pretending not to be aboard so that I might enjoy my day to the fullest. A true mate!)

As I check this before posting it seems even more egocentric than usual. I’m in every photo except one. I’ll throw in the Faded Glory* logo to help restore the balance a little:

The Faded Glory (out of Madang) logoParty on!

* “Faded Glory” is a registered trademark of Wal*Mart. They stole it from me. Is it a political statement about the ultimate demise of all empires? Or is it just because my boat is cheap and junky like most of the stuff at Wal*Mart?  I’ll never tell.

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More Silliness in Europe

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on November 27th, 2008 by MadDog
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As you’ve suspected by now, I’m going back through photos taken as long ago as ten or twelve years to mine for gold – okay, maybe not gold. Let’s say copper, or at least lead.

Today I’ve been looking for things that gave me a chuckle. If I get lucky, I might give one to you.

Now, everybody knows that Eunie enjoys the bubbly stuff – in moderation, of course. Whenever we go to Vienna, Eunie must visit “The Big Bottle.” Okay, it’s not Disneyland, but it’s good for a smile – especially if you know Eunie:

The Big Bottle - Vienna

The last time we were in Amsterdam, George Bush was easily the most popular guy in town. There were images of him everywhere – and I mean everywhere!

When the Dutch start defacing their public buildings to express their feelings, one has to ask one’s self, “Do Americans care? Do Americans even notice?”

Eunie trying to pick up George for a coffee-shop date in Amsterdam

I’d have to say, from my perspective as an expatriate of America for nearly thirty years, “Not much!” If fact, it’s been a long time (maybe a couple of hundred years?) since the average American seemed to be much worried about what the world thinks of America. Most places I’ve been, the attitude outside the US of A has been, “Oh, I like Americans. I just can’t stand America.” Is there some irony in that to which maybe somebody should pay attention?

When I was a kid we used to say, “Oh we love the Russian people. They are really good people. They are so brave. Look at how they helped us beat the Germans!* We feel so sorry for them because they have to do bad things because of their bad government. It’s not their fault – it’s their system that’s evil. We should help them to rid themselves of their horrible government!”

In fact, we did!

And now . . .  (who’s laughing?)

Anyway, though George’s decisions irk me more often than not, I’m sure he’s not a bad sort of fellow at heart, so I offered him a drag on my cigar:

George wasn't having any

He spurned me. Okay, George. You’d definitely off my Christmas card list. (I always say that, because it has absolutely no effect in the real world since I’ve never in my life sent Christmas cards.)

I can’t honestly say why this one strikes me as funny. Maybe it is the memory of the situation. We were standing near the top of St. Vitus Cathedral (I think) in Prague conversing back and forth about how Eunie should stand and I was giving instructions and walking back and forth getting the ‘shooting through the doorway’ angle just right while a security guy was standing there watching. The look of amusement on his face was priceless. I should have taken a photo of him instead:

Tourist shot

Everybody knows that the Leaning Tower of Pisa leans. That’s it’s job. Hey, who would even pay any attention to it if it didn’t. It would otherwise be some obscure bit of architecture that only the snobbish well traveled would discuss. The geographical name-dropper says with practiced nonchalance, “Oh, by the way, did you notice the quaint tower while you were in Pisa?” And, the carefully bored woman answers, “If fact, we did catch a glimpse of it – rather big, isn’t it?”

But, hey, have you ever noticed just how much it leans?

Have a look at this:

The drunken Tower of Pisa

For pity’s sake, it’s about to fall smack on its bum. It’s not leaning. It’s teetering! It’s blind drunk!

This one is so corny that it’s funny. A goofy old dude whose sense of style is evidenced by a ponytail. How 70’s. And, he’s looking out a window at a Cathedral in Prague. I bet he bought his wife a bit of amber jewelery like all the other bumpkins who infest the streets of Prague like a plague of snails:

Dorky old dude stuck in the 70's - now soaking up some culture

Yes, it’s so funny – Please excuse me. I have to go lose my breakfast now. I’ll be right back.

But now, kiddies, I will present to you something genuinely funny – a bit of astonishingly creative advertising.

I’ll present this pretty much without comment, since anything I could say would be purely extraneous. The bar is at a lakeside town in southern Austria – can’t remember the name: (you may need to click to enlarge to read the sign)

Genuinely creative advertising

I didn’t test it for Truth In Advertising. We gave it a pass.

* I read a smidgeon of history. If Hitler hadn’t made the humungous blunder of attacking Russia, we’d probably all be speaking German now. The Russians were clearly the heroes who won the European episode of WWII. Hitler clearly missed the bit in history class when Napoleon’s immense humiliation was discussed. Don’t mess with the Russians!

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I Hate PayPal and PayPal Hates Me

Posted in At Sea on November 26th, 2008 by MadDog
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I know that many find it handy, but every time I try to get it to activate PayPal, it discovers some new stupid reason why it can’t do it. The latest one is: “We cannot send the 4-digit PayPal code to this card. Please choose another card.” Hey! I don’t have another card. What’s wrong with the card I use all the time to buy stuff on the internet? And, why can’t they “send the 4-digit PayPal code to this card”? I want answers, not puzzles.

SO, since the company I contacted to move Madang – Ples Bilong Mi to a new home only (naturally) accepts payment by PayPal  (Grrrrrrrrrr . . .), I can’t get the job done for the simple reason that I can’t get my hard-earned bucks to them, as much as I’d like to do so.  I can’t remember the last time I was so eager to pay someone!

Why do these things always happen to me?

You know, I think that I’ve figured something out. There are things that you do online that are famous for being so easy. I think that that is because most people only have to push a button or two, fill in a couple of lines of text, choose a password, and click! It’s done.

That’s if you fit the pattern. If there’s anything wrong with you, then you simply can’t do it. Forget it. Kaput. Mi no save Engles. (That’s what I’d say to street peddlers in Vietnam. I’d start talking Tok Pisin to them and they’d start looking around for easier prey.)

Okay, I feel much better now. Thanks for letting me unload.

To soothe my inflamed id, I will unload some pretty sunsets on you today.

This one reminds me of orange soda:

Orange soda sunset

This is sunset near some island out north of the coast somewhere. I’ve seen so many that I forget which ones are which:

Sunset at some island

I got this one out by New Ireland somewhere:

Sunset with lost canoeist

The canoe was a lucky break. There was nothing for miles around. I have no idea where the guy was going.

I do remember this place because it is so unusual. It’s Garove Island. It is a huge volcano that blew out the side as Mt. St. Helens did. It left a giant horseshoe shape with a very deep crater in the middle:

Sunset at Garove Island

Here’s another one that I don’t remember:

Yet another sunset at a mystery island

I really must start making some notes.

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BLOG ALERT!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 25th, 2008 by MadDog
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I’ve turned over to others the task of moving Madang – Ples Bilong Mi to a permanent home.

I say that I’ve turned it over – that makes it sound voluntary. No, I would have done it myself if I had not clearly proven that I was entirely too stupid to do so.  Funny, I used to be considered by many a computer whiz.

So what does that mean to readers of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi?

Well, hopefully, nothing.

If you used the www.messersmith.name/wordpress address, then you were redirected to the temporary site mymadang.wordpress.com automatically.

When the guys at Semper Fi Web Design finish their magic, the original address will no longer redirect you. It will be the new home, but it will be on a fast server in the USA.

The company is interesting. It is operated by a group of former active-duty military service personnel who have disabilities related to their service. You might be interested to read this highly personal item on the origin and meaning of “Semper Fi”

SO, if you did NOT change your bookmark for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi, then don’t. When the magic is done, it will work as it always did – except much faster.

If you DID change your bookmark and you are going directly to mymadang.wordpress.com, then you’ll need to change it back to as soon as you see a message asking you to do so.

There. I think I explained that in such a way that even I can understand it.

You should have no problems at all.

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Christmas Trees – Already?

Posted in Under the Sea on November 25th, 2008 by MadDog
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Since we’re approaching the season to be jolly like a runaway freight train, why don’t I show you some Christmas trees that you might want to put up in your lounge.

Well, maybe not. You’d have to flood your house with sea water.

Christmas Tree Worms are fun to photograph because they’re small, they don’t bite, and they can’t run away. They can disappear, however, back into their burrows faster than the eye can record.

They come in just about any crazy colour that you can imagine. Here’s a couple of deep sky blue ones:

Blue Christmas Trees?

These could pass for alien candy (where did that come from?):

Alien Candy

And these are examples of the extremely rare Tangerine Dream variety:

The Tangerine Dream variety of Christmas Tree Worm

Now for a mystery. What would you say this is:

Sea Cucumber Eggs?

You’ll see the size from the next shot. My guess is that it’s an egg deposit. I believe that it was deposited by a large sea cucumber (or bêche-de-mer).

Here you can see that it is quite durable. I was able to carefully pick it up and put it back on the sand without breaking it. I’d imagine that there are hundreds or thousands of tiny eggs glued into this sandy mass like flexible concrete:

Or flexible concrete?

If you have another idea, leave a comment.

If you decide to turn your house into an aquarium for Christmas, please send me some photos. I promise I’ll post them here.

If you’re a Yank, you’ll be looking forward to your turkey. I am – though I’m not much of a Yank anymore. I get mine on Friday evening when we invite Americans in Madang to partake of Eunie’s Thanksgiving feast.

Mmmmmmmmm, good!

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