Muddy Bottom

Posted in Under the Sea on February 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday, I had a boatload of fun seekers, but no divers except me. So I took them to my favourite spot at Pig Island.

In case you’re wondering, here is how it looks from where we were anchored on a sandy bottom:

Pig Island on a Saturday - Perfect Sky - Perfect Day

Since I was the only one diving, I decided to head out into the middle of the small bay where I know that the bottom is muddy. We seldom go down there because most people want to see a lot of colourful fish – not a bunch of muck. If fact, that’s what we call it: muck diving.

I don’t mind it when I have my camera with me, because there are a few critters down there that you seldom see anywhere else. You just have to cover more area to find them.

For example: here is a Beaded Anemone (Heteractis aurora):Beaded Anemone (Heteractis aurora) and Periclimenes shrimp

I like the lovely pale colours. This is one of the anemones that you definitely do not want to touch. It stings. If you click to enlarge, you will see a tiny Periclimenes shrimp. I’m guessing at the genus, because I can’t find this shrimp in any of my references. My books are not all that great, though. Here is an enlargement of the shrimp:

Periclimenes shrimpIf you can see only some dark and white dots with a white bar at the end, then you are looking at the shrimp. The rest of its body is entirely transparent. All that you can see are the pigmented areas. The dark splotch at the left is the tail. The long white bar at the right is the head. You can barely make out the legs.

While still on the muddy bottom, I stumbled across this Beaded Starfish (Echinaster callosus):

Beaded Starfish (Echinaster callosus)

It is certainly an odd looking starfish. I don’t know why it was twisted around so. All around, you can see tracks of burrowing snails.

As I ascended away from the mud into the sandy area there were plenty of Gobies sitting on their verandas. Here is an Eyebrow Shrimpgoby of the genus Amblyeleotris:

Eyebrow Shrimpgoby (Amblyeleotris sp.)Many Gobies have a commensal shrimp that lives in the same hole. I could tell that there was one living with this Goby because of the long ditch leading from the hidey-hole. The shrimp bulldozes the sand from the hole to keep it open, leaving a long ditch-like furrow in the sand. There will normally be a little roof of rocks on the opposite side to act as a roof to keep sand from falling in. Here you can see the ditch leading off to the left and the little roof of stones to the right of the Goby. The shrimp was hiding from me.

Back up on top of the reef, next to the trees that you see in the first image, I found this six legged Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata):

Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata)I case you are wondering if I fiddled with the colour, the answer is no. They really are that blue. There is also a greenish variation of this species, but the colour is not nearly so bright. They make me think of those strange, brightly coloured plastic toys that Japanese tourists always seem to enjoy. These normally have five legs.

Diving in mud can be fun.

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Back to the Garden

Posted in My Garden on February 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m experimenting doing a post from my house this morning. It’s Saturday, so I have some time to spare before we go diving.

We now have a VSAT at our office. I’ve set up one of our servers with a modem on it so that I can dial into my office to get on the internet. I only get 33.6KBS, but it’s rock-solid. So, for K0.30 I can connect for as long as I please.

Also, I’ve tried combing several photos into a ZIP file to upload to a gallery. It work nicely. I can ZIP them and then walk away while I load the boat.

Here are some shots that I took in My Garden this morning:

The grasshopper shot has a bit of motion blur – I nearly deleted it. I was shooting stopped down to F8, so the shutter speed was a little slow, even for the anti-shake thingie.

I’ve been trying to grow a willow tree in the garden for about three years now. It’s just starting to take off.


More Fishy Friends

Posted in Under the Sea on February 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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I never had the habit of putting things off. However, for my last few magazine article deadlines I have found myself frantically editing text and massaging photos up to the last minute. My article on Black Jack, the B-17 Bomber near Boga Boga in Milne Bay Province was due this afternoon. It’s a little after 14:00 now, and I just took the DVD over to the publisher’s office.

I’ve got to stop doing that.

Anyway, I though you might enjoy seeing the remaining photos that I submitted:

I’ve written about Black Jack before here and here.  I just noticed that I’ve repeated a couple of the images. Oh well . . .

I had a meeting with Mr. Tamlong Tabb of the Tab Island Marine Wildlife Management Area. He’s a nice fellow. We were able to work out arrangements for us to continue diving in the area. I only recently discovered that the person who has been collecting money for nearly fifteen years (K200 per year) for the use of the area is a fraud.

Fortunately, Mr. Tabb is a very reasonable guy and has allowed me to pick up the payment at the same rate. I had to pay twice for this year, since the con man was here only a few weeks ago to get his payoff.

It is good to meet with a local landowner who has the grace and understanding to treat casual, non-commercial users as a class different from business owners.

All of you Madang divers out there, take note. We can deal with this man. He has his head screwed on straight!

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A Long Way from Anywhere

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I found this map in the 2 January issue of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:

Access time by sea or land to the nearest city of 50,000LegendThe map depicts the density of sea routes, but, more interestingly, it shows the travel time by sea or land, in days from a location to the nearest city with a population of 50,000 or more. The scale starts with light yellow in hours, growing darker up to 36 and then changes to days, with dark brown being ten days.

It’s important to note that is doesn’t show air travel. The map would be pretty much all the same colour, since few places are farther than a couple of hours from a city of 50,000.

Look at the difference in colour between the island of New Guinea and Madagascar. Either Madagascar has more big cities or it has a much better road transportation system – probably both. I’m too lazy today to check it out.

I don’t seem to be brimming over with opinion this morning, so I won’t draw any harebrained conclusions from the map. I can hear the sigh of relief from readers all over the world.

If you ‘d like to see the source of the data and read some interesting stuff about the subject go here. You’ll find a larger, more detailed version of the map, downloadable software to make your own maps, and a cool poster that you can download.

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You Can’t Make This

Posted in Opinions on February 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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Remember MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This? How about Weird Al Yankovic’s parody I Can’t Watch This? I loved them both – and I hate RAP!

Well, neither of them has anything to do with this post. It’s just my play on words.

However, no matter how smart and skilled you are, You Can’t Make This:

Eunie's watch that died of terminal internal green stuff

Yes, I kid you not. You could not possibly take a supply of raw materials and machinery and make a digital watch – no matter how smart you are.

Why? One might ask.

Have a look at this:

The post-mortem begins

Okay, so far I don’t see anything that a competent watchmaker (do we still have those?) could not reproduce. But what makes it tick?

Having grown tired of fitting new batteries to one of Eunie’s dozen or so cheap watches with which she accessorizes so expertly, I finally drew a red X on it and told her it had terminal green stuff in it.

This got my cerebral juices all stirred up. One of my recurrent musings bears on the history of technology.

We humans seemed to pass over some kind of threshold in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. Before that time, it was possible for a single individual to carry enough knowledge in his head (or easily access it otherwise) to build a fairly complex contraption by himself. For instance, I’m sure that there were a few polymaths on the planet that, given suitable raw materials and machinery, could have built something recognizable as an automobile unassisted. Certainly, we could think of many other examples.

Today, however, I feel safe to state that no person on the planet has sufficient knowledge, no matter what raw materials and equipment are supplied, to make a humble digital watch.

It’s mostly because of this:

You can't make this!

The red arrow points to a tiny integrated circuit measuring only about .5 by 1.2 mm. Nobody on the planet has the all the knowledge it would take to make one of these unassisted.

SO WHAT? (one might ask)

Well, my conclusion is that if we want to take on complicated projects, we’d better learn to cooperate. That’s CO – OPERATE, meaning work together for a common goal.

REPUBILCANS AND DEMOCRATS in the US CONGRESS . . .   Are you listening to me? I’m saying something important here. I’m not just blowing cigar smoke.

Hey . . .

HEY! . . .

The silence is deafening.

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What About the Future?

Posted in Opinions on February 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday I received four new issues of Science, the Journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Why four issues at once when it’s published weekly? Well, you would know if you understood the postal system in Papua New Guinea. In all fairness, though, we are a long way from the rest of the planet.

We, along with many other developing nations are a long way from the rest of the planet in other matters.

Here is the first paragraph of the lead editorial:

For success in an increasingly complex, crowded, and dangerous world, a nation must strive to be a meritocracy: Its education and social systems should be structured to select those with the most talent, energy, wisdom, and character as the next generation of leaders for each segment of society. When I was young, I was taught that providing equal opportunities for everyone was a matter of social justice – part of the social contract in the United States. Now, I believe that it is also a matter of national survival. Any country that fails to encourage and develop the talent in each individual through its public school system will suffer greatly, because the quality of a nation depends on the collective wisdom of both its leaders and its citizens. [italics mine]

Now, before I get all heavy with my spouting of unsolicited opinion about the matter, let me show you an image of the harbour in front of our house. The shot required a fifteen second exposure and massive processing on the computer with Photoshop:

The harbour at night - Madang

If you click to enlarge, you can see a fair amount of detail, especially in the warehouse on the left.

The curious idea of a meritocracy hasn’t gained much of a foothold. The idea that someone should hold a position of influence and power because of “talent, energy, wisdom, and character” is not especially popular. People seem to gravitate upwards for other reasons, especially where the general education level is inadequate for people to make reasoned decisions about leadership. There is a lot of talk about choosing leaders wisely, but what is the result of all this wink-wink, nod-nod?

Two recent elected officials in our area (no naming of names here) were convicted criminals. One attempted to serve part of his term in office from a jail cell. How does this speak of character?

Forget principles – how about ability. Well, you can hardly have a meritocracy if your population is largely uneducated and technically unskilled.

Who is to blame for this? It’s easy to blame the government – it’s a big target. But there is plenty of blame to go around. Everybody can have their fair share. I have seen families who believed that education was essential to their future limit their size (fewer children) and make horrifying financial sacrifices in order to pay school fees. I have also seen many other families let their many children run wild while there was always money for beer and cigarettes. I ask: which family will prosper in the end?

I can hear the voices of some even now, “That’s easy for you to say. You’re relatively rich compared to most of us.” This is true, but we have put our money where our mouths are. Over the years we have paid school fees for more than twenty children to go as far as they wished to go. Some have done well and now have good jobs. Some chose not to continue and their futures are not as bright.

My opinions are seldom humble, so I won’t change the trend now. I believe and espouse the idea that if we do not change our attitude towards education and force a change of governmental policy that fosters free education for those who show promise, than we are doomed to national mediocrity. We will be indistinguishable from other developing countries who have failed to reach their full potential.

Our country has great potential. I believe that Papua New Guinea is the “natural leader” of the South Pacific island nations. Can we ever claim the moral, educational, and technical high ground?

Never. If we fail to educate our children.

Will we ever see a sunrise in education?

Will we ever see the sun rise?

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Cranking up Microsoft’s Photosynth Again

Posted in Photography Tricks on February 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I had Madang – Ples Bilong Mi moved to a new server a lot of things stopped working. One thing that I wanted to do again is Microsoft Photosynth scenes. If you missed my post on the subject and want to see what the fuss is about, click here.

Here is the original Photosynth scene of my office (messy, but convenient – I didn’t have to leave my chair):

The controls are easy to figure out. The only thing that’s not obvious is that you can press the “p” key on your keyboard and see the mathematical points that have been calculated to blend the images. Press “p” again to go back to the scene.

I have a lot of ideas for Photosynthy stuff. How about:

  • A Walk Through a Rain Forest
  • A Visit to a Papua New Guinea Village
  • A Stroll Through a Village House.
  • A “Virtual SCUBA Dive”
  • The cool thing is that it’s like a movie, but YOU get to decide where the camera is pointing and where the camera goes. You can navigate to any place where a picture was blended in and you can zoom in or out, turn around, walk the other way, go through doors (even closed doors!), or look right down at the cameraman’s feet (if he shot them).

    Oh yeah, I’m going to be fooling around with this!