Giant Green Fly

Posted in Photography Tricks on January 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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I finally got Microsoft Photozoom going again. This is a quicky post to prove it to myself.

Here’s the little green fly that I showed to you a couple of days ago:

This is fun, I’m going to magnify some more bugs!

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The Terrible Titan

Posted in Under the Sea on January 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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I have a few more shots to show from last Saturday’s dive.

On the way up to Barracuda Point  through Tab Anchorage,  the coast was looking mighty fine. You can see several ranges of mountains receding in the distance:

Looking West from Tab Anchorage

This shot of two bannerfish looks as it they’re doing the synchronized swimming thing. Have you ever watched synchronized swimming? I find it simultaneously stunningly boring and strangely mesmerising:

Synchronized Swimming

The feature of this post is this nasty character: 

The Titan Triggerfish - Balistoides viridescensIt’s a Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens).  I was able to get quite close to this football-sized specimen – an unusual opportunity, if you don’t wan’t to get bitten. Here he is swimming peacefully between two Six-Banded Angelfish:

Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens) swimming between two Six-Banded AngelfishWe’ve had so many scary, sometimes funny experiences with these brutes over the years. A woman I know has a large scar on her thigh from having a chunk removed by a Titan.

My first experience with one was potentially disastrous. I was on my second or third dive (uncertified, untrained, UNRECOMMENDED). A large Titan started chasing me. I panicked and went from about 25 metres to the surface in a few seconds. Fortunately, I was breathing all the time (more like panting!) so I didn’t blow a lung.

Here’s a shot from another day. You can see why we dread having a Titan nipping at us:

Titan Triggerfish (Balistoides viridescens) show us his formidible teethWhen someone asks me what it’s like to be attacked by a large triggerfish, I ask how they would react if a large house cat came at them with teeth gnashing and slashing.

It’s no fun.

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Down the Garden Path

Posted in My Garden on January 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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When the Muse is attending someone else, I venture into my garden in the morning, camera in hand. There has never been a day that the verdant path has failed to provide inspiration and to present challenges to create images that please me. All it takes is a camera and desire.

I was blasted this morning by this stunning crimson hibiscus blossom at the absolute peak of its short life:

Mind-blowing hibiscus

If you’ve been hanging around Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  for a while, you know that I have an unnatural fixation on water droplets. It’s like a dream – don’t bother trying to interpret it. It probably doesn’t mean a thing. This morning I found a couple of fine examples:

Tiny water drops playing like lenses

Many of these tiny beads of Dihydrogen Monoxide* are play-acting as lenses to focus itsy-bitsy images of the morning sun on the leaf.

The drops on this pandanus leaf are more sombre and dignified, as is appropriate for their pinstriped businesslike background:

Water drops on a pandanus leaf

You’ve probably also noticed that bugs of any variety amuse me. This little fly distracted me from matters that are more important (but far less interesting) for possibly ten minutes. Any respite is welcome.

He was devilishly difficult to photograph. As soon as I would get close enough, he would buzz to a nearby leaf – not far enough away to discourage me – and the sit perfectly still until I approached again. Finally, he seemed to tire of the game and settled long enough for me to compose this image:

Handsome little green fly

It was worth the effort. As bugs go, he’s rather handsome, if a bit spindly around the legs. Did you know that Pierce Brosnan has chicken legs? Years ago when he was shooting Robinson Crusoe in Madang, he was staying with his son at the Madang Resort Hotel. Eunie does aquarobics at the pool there three mornings a week. She noticed him at the pool several times. She said he was very friendly and courteous, but his legs were painfully skinny.

By the way, you may never have heard that Brosnan did Robinson Crusoe.  That would not surprise me. It was horrid. I saw it in English and couldn’t get through it. Someone gave me a copy dubbed in German. It was better – I understand very little German.

This next image is interesting because of the lighting. The camera is pointing towards the sun, so the flower is lit from the opposite side. You are actually seeing the transparency of the petals. The spider is on the near side, but he is also semi-transparent. The combination creates a very interesting image:

An unusual lighting situation creates an x-ray of a spider

I find traipsing around with my camera in my hand, searching intently for amusing images, a pleasant and productive way to take my mind off of my worries. Sometimes I think people spend far too much time worrying about things over which they have no control. I know that I certainly used to do so.

I like to remember that every time I click the button on my camera that I’ve taken advantage of the opportunity to create something beautiful that nobody else has ever done before. That’s why I carry my camera with me at all times. I don’t want to miss those chances.

Of course, 99% of the images will be mundane. But, when the magic caresses your lens, you’ve done something unique and truly worth your time.

* Yes, of course, it’s just water. The many attempts to bring to attention the public ignorance of basic science have been amusing, but futile.

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Along the Way

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Opinions on January 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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Serenity is a much-sought commodity these days.  It certainly is for me.  I think that’s true for many people in these “interesting” times.

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that the situation on this planet is getting worse instead of better.  Most of the time, I don’t want to watch the news.  We can’t seem to find a way to stop killing each other.  We’re obviously poisoning the planet in myriad ways.  The primary occupation of most of the rich seems to be to rob from the poor.  The litany of human perversity goes on and on.

It’s no surprise, then, if I seek moments when I can steal away from the troublesome day to come and find peace in the beauty of my adopted land.

Driving to work in the morning often provides such opportunities.

As I turned onto Coronation drive this morning, the Finnesterre Mountains  were brooding across Astrolabe Bay  looking bluer than the sea:

The Finnesterre Mountains, Madang, Papua New Guinea
 
I crossed the road to have a look at the shoreline. The muted light made the mossy rocks glow fluorescent green:

Mossy rocks along the shorline of Astrolabe Bay - Madang, Papua New Guinea

To the northeast, the glassy sea reflects the morning sun crashing through the clouds:

Astrolabe Bay reflects a brooding sky in Madang, Papua New Guinea

I got back into the car and drove up the road to Machinegun Point. It’s one the spots that I love to photograph:

Machinegun Point on Astrolabe Bay - Madang, Papua New Guinea

The image above reminds me that change is a blessed thing.  Just as a photographer notices the change of light, atmosphere, and context when he composes, I notice changes in life’s circumstances that drag me along, kicking and screaming, to new experiences – new vistas, if you will.  One day I’m dismally wondering, “Is this all there is?”  The next day, circumstances change – new forces come into play.  I may be facing a new life that promises new opportunities.

Certainly, not all changes are beneficial.  Often circumstances beyond our control bring about undesirable change.

But we can control the changes that we craft of our own volition.  When we opt to change ourselves for noble reasons, we are truly human in the best sense.  When we choose options that better our family or community relationships, we benefit the whole.

It’s trite, but true; when we cease to change, we die.

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Pi – Oh, My!

Posted in Humor on January 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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One day a dismayed barley farmer discovered this mess in one of his fields:

What a ridiculous waste of time!

Call it an alien artefact, call it art, or as I prefer, call it vandalism – it is mildly amusing regardless.

Yesterday evening, as I was pouring over the latest issue of Science,  the weekly journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, I saw this interesting diagram superimposed over a photo of the crop circle:

Yes, idiot aliens!  We already know the value of Pi.

Forgive me if you’ve already heard all about this and are bored to distraction by it, but it was news to me that somebody had gone to all the bother of squashing down all of that potential beer just to prove that he (rather they – it was unlikely a one-man job) is educated enough to know the value of Pi.

If you’ve not already figured out how it works from the illustration above, then have a look at this delightfully clear explanation:

As if it weren't clear enough already.

As much as it pains me, I must admit that I see a certain warped cleverness in the design.  It’s very clear, once you work it out.  The decimal point is there.   At the end of the series, there is the standard ellipsis – the symbol that math geeks use to show that the numbers go on and on.

So, what?

Well, as I see it, there are three possibilities here:   (A) God did it,   (B) Aliens did it,   (C) Somebody else did it.

If A is true, then we are well and truly bamboozled.    I suppose this is the primary reason why this hypothesis is so seldom put forward in the case of crop circles.

Hypothesis B is intriguing, but begs the question:   WHY?

If aliens are having problems remembering the value of Pi, I might suggest that they find a more permanent way of recording it.   If they are trying to tell us something, then why not tell us something that we don’t obviously already know.  If they are trying to show us how intelligent and advanced they are  –  hmmmm . . . I’m not impressed.  Are you?

If you want to see how absolutely whacky people can become when contemplating crop circles seriously, check this link. I’m particularly amused by the person who, by eccentric mathematical wizardry, calculates that the barley etching represents the number 666 – the MARK OF THE BEAST!  Wooooooo . . .

My guess (and I freely admit that it is a guess) is that hypothesis C is correct.  I’m simultaneously surprised and unsurprised that nobody has taken credit for this bit of horse pucky.   It is, in fact, a beautiful and elegant example of blending art, mathematics, and skulduggery into one breathtaking . . . whatever.   I’d think someone would be proud in a perverted sort of way.   Nevertheless, it is hopelessly frivolous.   I’d think that one would be ashamed of demonstrating triteness on such a grand scale.

Some things are bad for you if you take them too seriously.

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Engrish and Other Vaguely Amusing Items

Posted in Humor on January 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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Everybody has seen Engrish, even if we don’t know what it is.

Years ago, I went to the hardware store here in Madang to find a grease gun. I’m not talking about the 45 calibre weapon favoured by Allied tank crews in WWII. I’m talking about the gadget that you use to lubricate the suspension bits on your automobile.

I did manage to find one. This is notable, since it is a truly happy day when you find what you are actually looking for at a hardware store in Madang. Hardware shopping (indeed all shopping) in Madang consists of going to stores to look for things that you might  need. Trying to find a specific item that you must have right now is pure folly.

Anyway, I did manage to find a grease gun and here are the instructions that were on the side telling me how (or rather, how not  – I’m not sure) to use it:  (you will need to click to enlarge to be fully mesmerised)

Grease gun instructions

This is a classic example of Engrish – the somewhat ethnically pejorative word that applies to fractured English so often found on products made in far-away places where The Queen’s speech is seldom heard.

The image above is an exact scan of the label that I’ve saved for all these years. I’ve puzzled over it many times. I cannot honestly say what it means.

It does, however, if read over and over and over,  display a kind of gestalt of its own. It’s not so much what it means, but how its itty-bitty parts blend together to produce something that is immensely more intriguing than the mere technical details it purports to impart to the user. One can almost imagine the words set to a Gilbert and Sullivan tune.

I particularly like the dire warning, “Do no use MULTI-LOADING alternately!!” I assure you, I would do no such thing, if only I understood what it meant.

Imagine if a four metre tall alien pointed a giant comic-book ray gun at you and ordered, “By none means shall ye recombobulate thine meagerish farbulators!!”

It would be insane to disobey. I would fall all over myself to avoid doing exactly that. Whatever that  is.

It’s odd how one can develop a suspicious view of any information that is unfamiliar when bombarded incessantly by Engirsh.

For example:

Lithium Iron Batteries

These innocent rechargeable batteries proclaimed themselves to be Lithium Iron.  Since I had not heard the term before, I quite naturally assumed that they were cheap knock-offs of Lithium Ion*  batteries. After all, the phrase, “Sustains 6x Alkaline” is linguistically suspicious.

Somebody had given me a pack of four. I took a glance and instantly dismissed them as chaff, tossing them in a drawer to be forgotten as most everything else in that drawer has been forgotten. It’s my place to store absolutely useless items that might, given time, redeem themselves.

As I was preparing this post, something in my brain broke loose and I remembered the batteries.  I Googled them.  Lo and behold, there is such a thing as Lithium Iron batteries!  Who could have known!  I immediately loaded them into my charger.

And now, puzzle of grease leakage been settled.

*You know, like the Rollex watch or the Lewis Strauss jeans.

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I Find a New Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on January 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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As you can see from the photos lately, I’m having some trouble with my new WordPress site. I liked the way the old one worked – the photos were full size and centred. Hopefully when my web magic man gets finished, the images will look the way they did. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy with the way it’s working.

If anybody in North America or Europe notices that the site loads faster, please leave a comment to let me know.

After about 2,000 dives within about twenty minutes of my house, you’d expect that there is not much out there that I haven’t seen before. However, yesterday, on our regular Saturday dive, we went to Barracuda Point and I got a photo of an Anemonefish that I have not seen before.

Here is a White-Bonnet Anemonefish (Amphiprion leucokranos):

White-Bonnet anemonefish - Amphiprion-leucokranos

It’s not particularly stunning, compared to the colours of many other Anemonefish species, but it’s interesting to me, since I’ve never seen one before.

A fish species that I’ve seen many times before are these two large Angelfish. I don’t have my fish book here at the office, so I can’t be sure, but I think it’s called the Regal Angelfish.  UPDATE:  They are the Six-banded Angelfish (Pomacanthus sexstriatus). They are usually very skittish and difficult to photograph – you simply can’t get close enough:

Angelfish

The prize image of the day is this snap of a Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum):

Clown Triggerfish (Balistoides conspicillum)

They are usually found rather deep and are extremely shy. The one above was keeping just out of range of my camera when suddenly he decided he wanted to go the other direction. As he hurried past me I panned the camera and snapped blind. I didn’t even know If I’d gotten an image at all until I loaded it onto my computer.

A more mundane image is this little huddling of tunicates. My brain is a little funny today, so it makes me think of a small hamlet of huts in a alien landscape:

Tunicate Town

Who or what lives in them? Are the big ones on the rich side of town? Aliens seem to be a lot on my mind lately. I wonder if that means anything? Maybe I’m going senile.

I like the fractal-like pattern in this colourful image of plate coral:

Plate Coral

I haven’t mentioned it before, but the images that you get when you click to enlarge are usually 1280 x 960 pixels. That’s just about perfect for a screensaver or desktop background. If any of my images strike your fancy, please feel free to use them for your own personal computer. The terms of my copyright allow that sort of personal use without notification or attribution. If you pass something along to a friend, please include the address of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi, so I can have the chance of picking up another reader.

I took these two sky shots yesterday just because I was looking for a new desktop background:

Blue Sky

More sky

I’m using one of them at my office now.

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