Lake Madang – More Shame for the So-Called Managers

Posted in Opinions on July 17th, 2009 by MadDog
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The only thing that we need to do in Madang to remind ourselves that the town has had no effective management for decades is to wait for rain. Lately, since the dry season seems to have been eaten by global warming, we don’t have long to wait. In fact, though the grass should be getting a little brown by now, we’ve had no hint of a dry here.

If I look out the front door of my office after a moderate rain, this is what I see:

Lake Madang - Decades of mismanagement, corruption, and laziness

What you can’t see, for all the water, is the 40cm deep holes in the road that have made it nearly impassable.

Here’s what causes it:

Water, water and no way to the sea

The large ditch full of water is not supposed to be full of water. It is supposed to drain into the ocean. The outlets to the sea are plugged up by sediment and who knows what else, so the water has no place to go when it rains. This situation has been exactly the same for at least 15 years.

For pity’s sake, how long does it take to fix a problem like this. It is the same with roads (falling to pieces day by day), sanitation (no garbage collection now for weeks) and every other area of infrastructure that you can think of.

Every time it rains our town management is shamed

The problem is no longer one of inconvenience. In back of our office building (the cream-coloured building in the middle image) the septic system is backing up and overflowing because of the extremely high ground water level.

As of Monday, every manager who will not speak to me or fails to return my calls will be named here every time he does it. A lot of people in Madang are sick of seeing out beautiful town dissolve in a putrid bath of corruption, mismanagement and simple laziness.

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How Did We Get Here from There?

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 16th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you take a look at the page called “How do I use this?” in the sidebar, you will note that Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  is no longer anything like what I originally planned. In a couple of months, we’ll be coming up on the second birthday of the journal. Though my original intent was to post two or three times a week using mostly news items that I would receive from the community, I can’t say that I’m disappointed by the way the journal has developed into a personal soap-box for my unabashed egotism and boundless desperation for attention. Possibly this is because, as a child, I was nearly invisible.

I do still get the occasional item of news or special interest from friends and community members. I wish it were more, but, if I’m going to make a living in the future writing, then I have to write. The daily journal format provides me with the forum. You, gentle reader, provide the audience.

I’ll give you an example of how far we’ve travelled. I got an email this morning from good buddy Rich Jones. An old friend of his sent him photos of his sons with a home learning project based on images from Madang – Ples Bilong Mi:

Home learning project based on images from Madang - Ples Bilong Mi

Note the chocolate-smeared faces. I know that lots of people have security issues, so I’m not giving names or even the country of residence here. I just hope these kids get a kick of seeing their mugs on the internet.

Home learning project - complete with chocolate covered faces

I’m always amazed at the number of people who contact me for permission to use images from the journal. If you check my copyright info in the footer, you will see that permission is not even required for non-commercial use. You just have to make sure my name is given as the source, preferably in the form of the URL of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

I’ve given permission to several textbook publishers and other commercial interests for images. I’ve never asked for any money. All that I have asked for is a copy of the book or a link to the project. I have yet to receive a single book, but many of the writers of web sites have returned the link to me so that I can see how my material is being used.

I recently had my first 1,000 page hit day. That means that over one thousand pages in the journal were visited on that day. In the image below the biggest red dots represent hits by more than 1,000 visitors. The period covered is September 2008 to July 2009. It shows about 22,000 visitors:

Who are all these people?

What does all this mean? Furthermore, why should you care?  Answering the second question first, I can’t imagine why you should care. I have a few steady readers who would undoubtedly notice if Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  simply went away. However, the vast majority of visitors hit the site, read a few items, and then (probably) never come back. This doesn’t bother me. Fully one-third of all visitors are directed to me by search engines. For instance, if you were looking for information about the Spinecheek Anemonefish on the north coast of Papua New Guinea, you might enter into a Google search, “Premnas biaculeatus madang”. If you did so the first Google hit on the page would be Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

The answer to the second question is a bit more obvious. The only meaning that I can find is that I get to keep on doing it and a few people might enjoy reading it.

That’s enough for me. Not everything has to be important or meaningful. Sometimes we just want to have fun.

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More Canon G10 Underwater Goodness

Posted in Under the Sea on July 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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You wouldn’t think that something called a Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)  could be very pretty. You might be wrong:

Tubeworm (Sabellastarte sanctijosephi)

I shot the one above inside the reef at the west end of Pig Island.  I’m not completely sure of the identification, because there are several that have similar characteristics.

Many of the marine worms are quite beautiful. Have a look at these Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus):

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

I showed some Sea Squirts the other day. Here is another shot of Didemnum molle:

Sea Squirts (Didemnum molle)

This is yet another kind of Sea Squirt (Phallusia julinea):

Sea Squirt (Phallusia julinea)

There are so many species of Sea Squirts around this area that I think one could write a book about them. I doubt if it would make any best-seller lists, though. No money there.

I do love patterns. This Coral (Favites sp.)  is one of my favourites:

Coral (Favites sp.)

You have also seen a lot lately of the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The Spinecheek is an easy target for the Canon. It stays close to its anemone and will actually hold still for as much as a half-second, a rare thing for an anemonefish to do. They are among the most nervous and paranoid of fishes. When I’m shooting them, I sometimes imagine Woody Allen dialogue escaping from their tiny, toothy mouths.

The Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)  is another fishy friend that is easy to shoot:

Reef Lizardfish (Synodus variegatus)

Usually the problem with the Lizardfishes is that it’s a bit difficult to see them in the first place. You have to find one before you can take its photo. What usually happens is that I don’t see it until I’m close enough to make it move. Then, since they are so quick, it’s difficult to see where it went.

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Up In Smoke – Burns Philp Moresby Lights Up

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on July 14th, 2009 by MadDog
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Good buddy and Madang- Ples Bilong Mi  reader Rich Jones shot me an email this morning with photos of the Burns Philp fire in Port Moresby.

This from Rich Jones:

We were sitting on the balcony drinking wine and saw a huge plume of smoke from downtown. Like any good PNGer we immediately raced towards the disaster and saw the final moments of the famous yet flammable Burns Philip building, once home of the excellent Tribal Den nightclub and currently under, um, renovation. There were vast and knowledgeable crowds who were remarkably close to the action and a few brave firemen trying to save Westpac with some very leaky hoses.

Check out Jenn’s chairs in the heart of the fire.

It was quite a communal affair. Well ordered and quite solemn at times.

Rich sent some shots of the fire along with the email. The Sunday night fire, which rated a short blurb in the Post Courier’s online rag, was apparently spectacular and a great crowd pleaser:

Burns Philp in Port Moresby lights up

The building was under renovation at the time of the fire. You can plainly see the scaffolding.

Here it is getting well and truly under way:

Burns Philp in Port Moresby lights up and stays lit

I’m not familiar with Port Moresby (and I can’t say that I’m a big fan either), so I don’t know what we’re looking at in this shot:

Part of the Burns Philp fire in Port Moresby

A lot of money burning up, I’d say. Rich explained to me on the phone that the firemen did manage to save the bank next to the blazing building, but doesn’t give huge credit for that, since the wind was blowing the other direction quite strongly.

Here is a shot showing the mystery chairs, which were, by all accounts, amazingly fire resistant. Sounds like a handy thing to save your home in case someone spontaneously combusts while napping in front of the tellie:

The "Mystery Chairs" in the Burns Philp fire in Port Moresby

I recall several huge fires here in Madang. The first that I remember, strangely enough, was the Burns Philp warehouse fire way back when. Then Binnen Bakery burned down, followed soon by the Lutheran Shipping Fibreglass shop. That one was very spectacular. There were 200 litre drums popping like bombs and rocketing many tens of metres into the air trailing orange flames. A terrific show which we could easily watch from our house.

Probably the most well remembered fire in Madang is the old Chemcare shop. Here’s our old buddy Greg O’Keeffe looking a little bewildered as his shop burns to the ground behind him.

The old ChemCare store burning in Madang

The Fire Service makes an easy target, since the equipment is laughable, and the record of success rather thin. I can’t recall a single fire in Madang at which the Fire Service made much impression on the fire. Maybe it’s just my poor memory.

Lest we pick on the poor Fire Service fellows, let’s remember that they are about as effective as any other government operation. Let’s not single them out for abuse. There’s enough to go around to everybody.

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More People Who Will Kill You for Money

Posted in Opinions on July 13th, 2009 by MadDog
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Well, here I go again, playing the dicey game of “Nail the Quack to the Wall.”

Today I went quack hunting again at the market. I couldn’t find anybody selling treated mosquito nets, though I searched the entire market. I really wanted to nail one of those slugs. If you’re not getting it, let me explain. Insecticide treated bed nets flow into the country from outside agencies for free distribution. Guess what. Surprise, surprise, there are criminals who get their greasy hands on the distribution network and, of course, the outcome is easy to figure. The people who are supposed to get them for free end up paying (or not) for them at the market. Maybe I’ll catch one later.

What are treated bed nets? Simply the most effective preventative known for malaria, which is trying to kill us all, but ends up usually killing only those who can’t afford preventatives or treatment. I’ve had it seven times, and I’m not dead yet. I have access to expensive medicines for treatment and I sleep in a sealed air-conditioned bedroom. What chance do others have? Yeah, let’s steal the free bed nets and them make the poorest of the poor pay for them – or die.

In the meantime, there is no shortage of people around who will kill you for money. Got cancer, a dose of clap, syphilis, TB?  Is your appendix about to burst? This lady can “help you”. Help you into the next world, that is:

A quack - Madang, Papua New Guinea

Note the carefully blurred official looking name tag. I blurred it to protect myself, not her. Lighting should strike her (lightly – just to knock some sense into her). I don’t mean that I actually want  lightning to strike her, but if it has to strike somebody  around Madang in the near future, then I’d say that she’s a logical candidate. It would save lives. She’d be collateral damage in the war against gross immorality – the kind that kills people.

The name tag has the name of her company, which I will not disclose, her name and photo as a “Sales Representative”, and it includes an image of the official state emblem, a bird of paradise with a drum and spears.

Imagine if you are unimaginably poor, ignorant of all modern medical theory, and susceptible to the wildest claims concerning “traditional remedies”. And you’ve got TB, as if you needed more problems. This woman claims she can cure you. What she can really do is keep you from getting a proper course of antibiotics that could very likely make you well again. The minute you start to take her “medicine”, you are doomed.

The guy running this horror show wasn’t around when I snapped this shot. However, as soon as I walked away, he came out of the store and tried to ask me what I was doing. I just kept walking:

A quack's advertisement - Madang, Papua New Guinea

Well, why not just claim to cure everything?  If I were going to do it, that’s what I’d do. If you’re going to lie, lie big.

Since I started walking around harassing these people a couple of times a month, I’ve noticed that many have removed HIV/AIDS from their signs. I nailed them specifically on that one, because I figured, if it came down to police and court cases, they would be pounded hardest on that claim.

I always ask the same question of anybody who doubts that these people are liars. If any one of them had a genuine cure for any one of the diseases that he claims that he can cure, then why is he not filthy rich?


Underwater Eye Candy – the Canon G10 Again

Posted in Under the Sea on July 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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The fun just keeps on rolling with the new Canon G10 and it’s buddy, the WP-DC28 underwater housing. Certain types of shots seem to come out better, and I’m at a loss to find a technical explanation. All I can say is, “It just works.”

Here’s an example:

Sea Squirts (Oxycorynia fascicularis)

The above are a kind of Sea Squirt, specifically, Oxycorynia fascicularis,  as if you care. I’m sure that somebody cares, but he or she is probably not reading this. In the past, when I’d try photographing these, the green sea squirts would come out very flat looking and lifeless and no amount of post-processing with Photoshop would revive them. Now they seem more lifelike. I’ve had this same problem with certain flowers which are very monochromatic – one colour, and very saturated. The only thing that I can imagine is that the G10 has more dynamic range for each colour in the middle range of luminosity.

This starfish (Fromia milleporella)  is a good example:

Starfish (Fromia milleporella)

The gradations in the red shade spectrum are much more discernible than I’ve been able to get before.

Okay, enough technobabble. It’s probably just magic, anyway. Here is another example. The polyps on this solitary coral (Heliofungia actiniformis)  are much clearer and more three dimensional than I’ve been able to achieve before:

Solitary coral polyps (Heliofungia actiniformis)

Clicking any of the above will give more detail. I wish I could provide higher resolution shots for you to view. My standard size is 1600 pixels maximum dimension, but when I have to compress the files to get them down to around 200K a lot of detail is swallowed up by the JPG compression, so the enlarged versions don’t look nearly as good as my originals. If you ever want high-res versions, just email me and I’ll put them up or make them available to you.  Maybe someday, I’ll start a high-res page where I can put my best shots.

This is an example of a shot where no amount of camera foolery will improve the view:

Decorated Goby [possible] (Istigobius decoratus)

It is, I think, a Decorated Goby (Istigobius decoratus).  There are more Goby species than just about any other fish. My book only has about 200, a fraction of the total number. You can’t do anything to make it more visible because it’s supposed to be nearly invisible.  Taking shots of highly camouflaged critters is always a losing proposition.

Getting back to easy, reliable shots, the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)  never disappoints:

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

The shot above, taken with flash, required almost no post-processing. It was a little on the green side, so I corrected for that and cleaned up the backscatter from the flash. Other than that, it is pretty much the way in came from the camera.

This shot of a Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)  on the attack is a different story:

Clark's Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii)

The water was full of particulate matter, which I had to clean up. It was also very aqua coloured instead of blue. That’s probably a problem with white balance. Since I’m shooting in the RAW mode, I don’t have any. That’s why it’s a problem. In this case, there was quite a bit of work to do on the colours. You can see some fakey traces of it in the fins of the fish.

It’s not perfect, but It makes me grin anyway.

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Water, Water, More Water

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today it’s all about water. What’s new?  I spend more time writing about water than anything else. Okay, not just water. Sometimes there are fish too, or sun, or people. Still, I’m surrounded by water. Write about what you know, eh?

I’m always entranced when I come home in the afternoon and Madang Town is all lit up by the “winelight” of the afternoon sun. I know that winelight is not a word, but it should be:

Madang - a Winelight Panorama

It that a pretty sight or what. How would you like live across from that?  I’m so fortunate that I feel ridiculous. Why isn’t somebody more important or at least smarter than me getting all this? I live like a rich person here for peanuts. I don’t deserve it.

Here’s another example. I got this a week or so ago. It’s almost enough to inspire me to get up and go to work:

Sunrise Panorama


This one is a little strange.I kept running across this image as I rummaged around for something interesting. It looks horrible on a white background, but put it on black and it shines a little:

Pilot boat in Astrolabe Bay at sunrise

It’s the pilot boat out in the light of the sunrise on Astrolabe Bay. It’s waiting for a big cargo ship to come in.

Here is a shot out my front door:

Out my front door

My willow tree is finally taking off. I don’t know where it came from. One day it was just stuck in the ground. I think Juli found it somewhere and liked it. I’d rather have put it elsewhere, but I’m getting attached to it now, so I think I’ll leave it alone. There was a giant willow tree in my back yard when I was a kid. We used to beat each other with willow ‘whips”. Stung like fire, but didn’t really do any harm.

Here’s another panorama. This is Kar Kar Island sticking up just to the left of the coconut tree.The jink in the shoreline looks a little odd. It’s there because the end of a small island is just behind the trunk of the tree:

Kar Kar Island panorama from my veranda

You can also see a leaf of one of the thirty or forty banana trees in our yard and a bit of the willow also.

Everywhere around me is beauty.

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