Jesus Racing and More Coral

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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All of my friends here in Madang know that I am a Christian believer and they know that I make my living, or some of it anyway, working in a Christian mission that translates the Bible into the local languages. And, they all know that I don’t shove that in their faces. Most of them are simply not interested. I discuss matters of belief only when someone raises the topic. Therefore, “in your face” evangelism and pushy tactics make me uncomfortable. I don’t think that it’s nice and I don’t think that it’s effective.

So, I was disconcerted when my good friends Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons, whom I recently joined in wedlock, passed to me these images which they snapped on the highway during a pleasant visit to Oz. This is something that you don’t see every day:When I first saw JesusRacing, I rolled my eyes.

And then I remembered the days of my youth when I spent many Sunday mornings with my Austin-Healey Sprite at the local abandoned air strip with the Sports Car Club of America crowd enjoying the smell of burning rubber and castor oil (yes we put castor oil in the crankcases – weird, eh?). There was a very active and successful racer who held interdenominational church services every week on the circuit for those who cared to come. Many people attended who were obviously not part of the churchy crowd, but simply enjoyed the company of fellow racers and didn’t mind the religious falderal.

I asked him once if it bothered him that he never went to church on Sundays. He said something like, “I like racing the way Jesus liked parties.” Puzzled, I asked him to elucidate. He said, “Well, Jesus performed his first miracle by turning the water into wine at a wedding party.” The conversation went on and I soon had a rather different view than I previously held.The web site is interesting, primarily because there’s an honesty there which you often don’t see in “promotional” evangelism. For instance, Andrew “Fishtail” Fisher explains the difficulties of financing the expensive sport of motor racing while excluding commercial sponsorship. “Confusion of the message” is the problem, as he puts it.

I’m odly ambiguous about this. On one hand, it makes me squirm a little. Maybe a little too flash, eh? On the other hand if you can plaster ads for laundry detergent all over a top NASCAR bullet to sell your soap to women, why not write Jesus in bright red letters on your car if that is your message? Some will laugh and scoff. But, isn’t that slightly hypocritical? Which is the more profound message, soap or Jesus? Even if you think that they are both equally inane, my question is the same, “Then what’s your problem?”

As soon as I get over this sinus infection and I’m off the “antibiotic of last resort” I’m going to hoist a brew to the folks at JesusRacing. Or maybe a glass of red would be more appropriate.

Thanks, Trevor and Karen.

What would Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  be without something that smells like fish? I shall now deliver.

Here’s another something that you don’t see every day. It’s Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa):And yes, it does look exactly like bubbles. Under the bubbles are ridges that are as sharp as razors. I won’t say that I popped a bubble once to see how tough it was and got cut. No, I won’t say that. It would make me seem even more stupid than I am. The yellowish fingery looking stuff in the image above is Lobed Leather Coral, a species of Lobophytum.

This coral is a nasty customer. I’m talking about the gooey looking mass of macaroni like blobs in the centre. The things on the left are sponges. The coral is Euphyllia glabrescens:The operative word here is “ouch”. I once made the tragic mistake of draging my arm across a mass of this stuff while lining up for a shot. I had no wetsuit on that day. I will not  do that  again.

I call this stuff “underwater napalm”. It is very sticky and wherever it touches your skin it feels as if you’ve been sprayed with molten steel:What’s worse is that if your try to scrape it off the pain simply gets worse and the stuff spread like it’s alive. Well, it is  alive, for pity’s sake and it’s going to get even with you for disturbing its peace. It even looks evil. It reminds me of a heap of tiny ears.

Okay, I’m out of words now. I’ll be here tomorrow again to say Hello to you and spout the same old gibberish.

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A Starfish Is Born

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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We have, over the last ten years, lost nearly two thirds of the financial support for our work here. That figure is adjusted for inflation. What that means is that if we depended on our remaining supporters alone, we would not be eating. Going into all the reasons that support has been dropped would be a fruitless exercise, so I’ll forgo boring you with that. It would be unfair of me not to mention that we still have financial backers who have shown no sign of abandoning us and our work. Without them, we would have to leave the work which we came here to do. We would, of course, remain in Madang. It is forever our home.

So, we are left more or less to our own devices to maintain an income level that is conducive to staying alive. Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.  In aid of this, we’ve taken on work to increase our income while remaining full-time on our current jobs. We are both a lot busier than the average mid-sixties couple but I reckon, since we handle stress very well, we’ll probably live longer for it.

This requires some rather tricky juggling. We have to find work that we can do at home or during times when we are not required to be at the office. Another thing that we had to do was set up a registered company to do business. It was a complicated process, since we are technically “foreigners”, but we’ve completed it now and our company is duly registered as J & E Enterprises Limited.

Our company logo might amuse you:We wanted a retro look and I think that we got it. The logo is based on an image that you saw in this post.

There is a certain irony in all of this. We had built up a small business in the USA in the late ’70s with the aim of becoming rich. Okay, okay, we knew we were never going to be rich, but private schools for our son were within our reach. As the business became more and more cut-throat, we found day-to-day dealings were becoming ethically impossible to stomach. The whole game was, as they say, going to the dogs. About that time we decided to sell out and get off the planet. That’s how we ended up in Papua New Guinea. It’s as far as we could get without a space ship.

The name of the company which we sold out was J & E Enterprises Incorporated. Therin lies the irony. When we thought about a name for our new company, we grinned at each other and said, “Why not?”

We also wanted to feature the starfish as a symbol of our business enterprises – no particular reason – we just like it. Here’s the front page of our company brochure:

If you would like to see the entire brochure you can find it in a PDF file here: J & E Enterprises Limited It’s a tri-fold design, so you have to imagine the pages in the proper order.

While on the subject of starfishes, I may as well show you one:You’ve seen the Choriaster granulatus  here many times. It’s as cuddly and cute as a starfish can get.

When I think of our company and how it will make it possible for us to continue our core work here, I want to feel good. It’s a good  thing. I don’t need my work to identify me, but making a positive contribution to my society is  important to my self-image.

A starfish will do nicely.

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From the Strange to the Beautiful

Posted in Under the Sea on March 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a couple of days left to irritate you with my babbling on about my solo dive off the beach at Wongat Island  last Saturday. I worked on a few more images yesterday evening. They run from the very strange to the very beautiful. Get ready for a trip.

I can sit back and close my eyes and imagine plunging through an alien atmosphere in a space capsule. When I land and walk around in my space suit (stay with me here) I’m stunned by the strange and wonderful creatures which abide in this hostile world. I see things like this:Every time that I dive I am acutely aware that I am entering another world. The image above is of a couple of higher invertebrates, namely Sea Squirts. This species is Phallusia julinea.  Never mind the racy name (see φαλλός ). They are strange by any standard.

I had a lot of trouble getting this shot of a Blackbarred Razorfish (Iniistius tetrazona):They are very skittish and stay just far enough away that you can’t get a good shot. I had to get this one from about three or four metres away, which is much more distant than my normal shots of small subjects. My average camera to subject distance for little critters is 3 – 30 cm. This fish is in the family of Wrasses. This is a teenager in what is called the Initial Phase. This is the middle phase of development. The Juvenile Phase comes first and the Terminal Phase represents the adults. Very often the first two stages appear remarkably different from the adults.

This freakishly beautiful monstrosity is a juvenile Papuan Scorpionfish (Scorpaenopsis papuensis):They are ridiculously easy to photograph, since all they do is hang in the water waiting an unsuspecting fish to mistake them for a bit of rubbish and move a bit too close to the toothy end. Then, with a clicking noise and a movement too quick for the human eye to see, the fish disappears into the mouth of the Lionfish, which is the common local name for these wonderful, poison-spined fish.

Here is a group of Periclimenes  shrimp enjoying themselves at the local disco located in a coral. The name of the joint is Heliofungia actiniformis.  You can pop in there for drink and shake your booty any day except Sunday from 8 PM until the early hours of the morning:Lady shrimp are admitted with no cover charge and receive a gratuitous cocktail of their choice to enhance their mood.

I accidentally got my camera stuck in the JPG mode for about half of the shots that I got on the dive. I usually shoot RAW:That statement has nothing to do with my attire. It’s a technical thing that you either know about or don’t. I’m not going to bore you with the explanation. The problem with not  going RAW is that you lose a lot of control over the colours, especially when shooting underwater. The shot above may look nice to you, but I can see a lot of problems with the hues. Never mind. The Chromis  are pretty anyway. I couldn’t figure out which species they are.

Speaking of pretty, I’ll show you pretty.

I found a nice little crab shell on the bottom and brought it up on Faded Glory.  We never take anything living from the reef, but an empty shell (with no resident hermit crab) or a crab shell is fair game. Our friend Ush started fooling around with it and I grabbed my camera. One doesn’t want to miss opportunities for the Kodak Moments:

So, I say once again. Beauty is where you find it.

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Crab Bites Man

Posted in Under the Sea on March 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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When crusty middle-aged reporters sat around in the smoke-filled newspaper office and sent out cub reporters like Jimmy Olsen in the days of Superman to cover stories that were not worth scraping shoe leather on the pavement, there was a phrase that comically described the frustration of a slow-news day. The headline would read: Man Bites Dog.

This feels like a slow-news day to me. Being Sunday, I was preparing myself for a day of relative rest. I counted on my new wireless Internet connection to allow me to sit in the comfort of my office/bedroom and annoy you. Sometime I feel like The Cheap Detective. If I had a proper desk, there would be a bottle of rot-gut whiskey in bottom drawer. A black fedora would sit rakishly on my head and I’d have a Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special tucked under my arm in a well-worn shoulder holster. The door would open and a gorgeous dame would saunter in on four inch stilettos wearing a fire-engine red dress. She’d give the the once-over and purr, “I need a man with steel in his backbone.” I’d say, “Have a seat, beautiful.” . . .

Well, see, that’s what happens when your best plans run awry. Of course,  PNG Power cut the power. Of course,  the generator at the office failed to start automatically. Of course,  that meant that I couldn’t get on line and, of course,  that meant that I had to drive into town to start the generator and fire up the network again. That’s half of the day shot. There will be no nap. Having eliminated TELIKOM from my life, PNG Power is my new enemy. They are now collecting their money up-front with the new Isi Pe  (That’s Easy-Pay” in English) meters and they still can’t get it in mind that one of the functions of a power supplier is to supply more-or-less continuous  power. They should call those meters Easy-Rip-Off.

No wonder my mind is wandering.

On Saturday I had a boat load of friends, but I was the only diver. Never mind. I like solo dives. I can spend as long as I want fiddling with my camera to get The Perfect Shot without worrying that somebody else is urgently wanting to move on.

Okay, let’s get to the crab. There’s got to be a crab in here somewhere. I was diving off the beach at Wongat Island  trying to get shots in the surging, sand-filled water. That means getting close to the subject. I was going for a shot of a scorpionfish and I had my hand loosely draped over a little knob of coral. Something tickled my thumb. Then something bit my thumb. Hard!Look at the evil grin on the face of this little crab. “Nyyaaaa, think you’re a big tough guy, eh?  I’ll make you cry like a little girl!” You wouldn’t think that that tiny little pincer could sting so much.

Here is the little bommie where the gritty little guy lives. You can see Faded Glory’s  anchor in the distance on the sloping sandy bottom:Stay clear if you value your skin.

At the south end of the beach there is a field strewn with Mushroom Coral, sometimes called Solitary Coral (Fungia fungites):This was in only about eight metres of water.

At about the same depth I ran across this charming family scene:

The big one is probably a male. I can guarantee that he was once a female. That’s just the way it is with these anemonefish.

I also found Nemo hiding out in an anemone. (Amphiprion percula):Okay, I can feel the nap coming on now. I gotta get through this.

So, I’ll dazzle you with this Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia):It’s a cheap shot, I know.

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Living Without a Sense of Smell and Shells Up-Close

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Occasionally, I have something to say, hoping someone else might be interested in it, but I have no images that fit with my proclamation. Sometimes it’s the other way around. I have some images that might amuse you, but, for the life of me, I can’t think of anything remotely interesting to say about them. Just describing them is boring. Besides, if the images don’t more or less speak for themselves, then they are probably not very interesting.

Today is one of those occasions. I’ve completely lost my sense of smell and I’d like to comment about that and I shot some close-up images of a few of our shells and found the images interesting. The two have nothing to do with one another. We’ll call it an exercise in multi-tasking.

Here’s your first task:That’s a close-up of an Eye-Spot Cowrie.

As any fool knows, we have five senses: hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching. Which is the least important? Well, for big-brained mammals who have developed a sophisticated technology, most would probably agree that the sense of smell is the one we could most easily do without. I certainly agree. The loss of any of the other four are greater levels of catastrophe, though some people have no taste and seem to get by without it. (smirk)That was another Eye-Spot Cowrie. I see Smiley Faces there.

Due to this intractable sinus infection, a double whammy of a Streptococcus  and some weird Bacillus.  Dr. Mackerel (A. K. A. Tinpis ) has put me on twice a day 400mg of Norfloxacin. I looked it up and the scary bit is this: The licensed uses for norfloxacin are quite limited as norfloxacin is to be considered a drug of last resort when all other antibiotics have failed.  In other words, if this doesn’t knock it down, I’ve got a real problem.

The loss of the ability to smell is called anosmia. Like no-nose-ia, ha-ha, very funny. Most people suffer it for a few days during a bad cold. When it goes on for weeks, it’s not much fun.That was an abalone shell.

I’m losing weight, because I have little interest in eating. Food is just salty or sweet or sour, or some jumbled-up combination. Bananas taste incredibly sweet, but have no banana essence. I can sense a little burning sensation in my nose from the alcohol in a beer, but all of the nuances of a nice brew are absent. As for my daily, non-inhaled cigar, forget it. Without the sense of smell a cigar is just a bad trip.If you look closely at the image above, you can make out the reflection of the front of my camera and fragments of the word “Canon”.

According to most of what I have read, my sense of smell will gradually come back, to some degree, when the infection is killed off and things start to heal. I’m looking forward to being able to smell a rotten egg, if you get my drift.The one above reminds me of a certain kind of oriental style painting featuring mountains. I don’t know what it’s called.

My biggest complaint might sound silly to some. I miss smelling women. Maybe I should explain that. My wife, Eunice, is one very smart cookie. She learned a long time ago that people in general react more positively to someone, especially women, who smell nice. She goes for subtle – just a touch of fragrance.In her boudoir,  she has about a dozen top-drawer perfumes. We’ve worked over the years to pare the list down to a manageable number. I have my favourites and she has hers. I got into her stash the other day and lifted the caps of several of them. Nothing! What a shock. I felt very sad.I asked myself what it would be like if I could never get that back.

I know, it seems like whining over spilt milk. Some people can’t see or hear, for pity’s sake! That makes my problem seem silly.Nevertheless, it is annoying. If I can’t whine here, where can I whine?

I’m going to take my drugs like a good little boy and limit myself to one tasteless beer a day. I’ve been off cigars for almost a month now, because smoking one is just a waste of a decent cigar.And, I’m going to hope that this high-calibre antibiotic of last choice knocks the infection down.

Here is a little change of pace to finish up:That is the “shell”, actually more like a skeleton, of a sea urchin. It is much more fragile than an egg shell.

While I’m taking my drugs and being careful I’m going to be longing for the day when I can smell my wife again and go off to that dreamy place for a few seconds.

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It Works – No More TELIKOM!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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This is just a brief post to allow me a few moments of gloating. I’m sitting here in our bedroom office with two computers going, both connected to the Internet at 512KBS via a satellite and four wireless units linking to our office and not a single byte is going through any TELIKOM equipment.

No more dial-ups. No more dropouts (except when it rains very hard). No more outrageous ISP charges, No more excuses:It Just Works!

Thanks to Mark Bleyerveld, our IT consultant, for his genius in getting all of this set up in only a couple of days.

It pays to have smart friends.

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Things One Seldom Sees

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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I get a lot of enjoyment from writing daily, though it is sometimes very difficult to find the time. However, I do sometimes question myself as to why  I do it. Getting away from the TV is a good enough excuse. Also, since it looks as if writing, editing and photography are going to be  a major part of my work from now on, I need the discipline of writing every day, whether I really feel like doing it or not. So, I’ve got plenty of good reasons to keep cranking it out.

Then, I ask myself why I have so many readers – ten times the highest number that I ever hoped for and growing month-by-month. What do I provide that people seek? What is is about the content of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  that draws an audience that dwarfs my wildest aspirations?

Well, I can think of some things that it is probably not.  It’s hardly great literature. It’s certainly not deep thinking. In fact, frivolity, sarcasm and whimsy are my favourite seasonings. The photography is so-so, but there is much more spectacular stuff available at the click of a link. The subject matter is pretty tightly focused, being mostly about me, me, me,  so, unless you’re stalking me, that’s not it. Hmmm . . . subject matter – content . . . maybe that has something to do with it.

Truthfully, I think that what I may provide is distraction.  No matter who or where you are, what you are doing or what your current state of mind may be, whatever you find here each day is likely to distract you, maybe rattle your cage a little. I know that I have to rattle my cage pretty hard just to get my fingers moving to write it. My hope is not to make you think or impress you with great ideas or even make you gaga over the pretty pictures. It is simply to provide you with a little break. Whatever you see here is almost bound to be a different kettle of fish than whatever presently occupies your mind.

So, with that in mind, I’ll present you with a small assemblage of  images which signify nothing. I found them handy on my camera card from the last week or so. Make of it what you will.

When I see our boat, Faded Glory  in my dreams, this is how she looks:

Not that I dream of her often. I have many more amusing subjects. I dream much more often now than I did a few years ago. And the colour has returned!

I bet that you have never seen a nudibranch playground:I can see seven nudibranchs here of two different species. There is one potential courtship and a possible mixed-species ménage à trois,  if you care to examine the scene closely. I’ll make no moral judgements. They quite literally don’t know what they are doing.

Okay, if you’re settled down from that, maybe you’re ready for this:

This is our guru IT  advisor and general “get me out of this mess” guy, Mark Bleyerveld. He is up a pole, as you can see. What is not obvious is that it is a very tall and springy pole. I took this shot at 5x telephoto. The leaves are the top of a rather tall coconut tree. If you’ve seen big coconut trees, you get the idea. Mark is not only smart, he’s brave. No, make that crazy. By the way, the pole is the same one that you saw in yesterday’s telephoto shot. You can find the image in the link in the next pargraph.

Mark is installing the final links in our Free From TELIKOM crusade. By this evening I expect to be cruising the web at 54MBS in my home without having passed through a single wire belonging to TELIKOM. Hurrah!

While I was over at the coconut oil refinery where pole-climbing Mark was sweating away in the sun, I snapped this shot of the giant machines that grind out the skin-softening ingredient that many of the ladies adore:Let me tell you that it is very  loud in there and it stinks!  The smell is like a million burnt coconut macaroons stuffed up your nose and pounded in solidly with a jackhammer. Even with my severely retarded olfactory capability (sinus infection still with me), I had to hold my breath.

Stay with me. I’m about to wrap it up with a little colour. You’ve seen the Nudibranch Pteraeolidia ianthina  here before, but not this particular one whose name is Fred, or maybe Frederica:We know where a bunch of them hang out, so I’m working on getting the perfect shot.

You’ve also seen the Chelidonura inornata  before, but this is my best shot so far: You can see some of them in the playground shot above.

Tomorrow is dive day. I still have the pesky sinus infection, but tomorrow morning I’m supposed to get a definitive diagnosis and a prescription. That’s always an iffy thing here.

We’ll see how it goes.

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