Free At Last!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ll apologize in advance for any injuries that may occur if visitors fall asleep while reading this post. I probably should have added a “Geeky Content” warning to the title. If you feel drowsy or experience partial paralysis of facial muscles as you wade through this material, try giving yourself a quick, hard slap and move on to something less stupefying before you fall from your chair and do yourself harm.

Today’s subject is freedom. I’m drawn back to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s famous speech in which he quoted an old spiritual song containing words something like, “Thank God almighty, I’m free at last.”

My strategic plan all along in my War Against TELIKOM has been to connect to the Internet without any ghost of signals passing through any of its antiquated, poorly maintained and evil equipment. I feel that victory is rapidly approaching. I expect that, by this weekend, I shall be able to sit in my house and connect any time that I please for as long as I please and download as much as I please with never a fear that I will face an exorbitant fee or lose my connection every five minutes.

How can this be? Well, unless your uncle is Daddy Warbucks, you have to have some help. The first battle was won when our organisation purchased a third-party Internet satellite dish, called a VSAT, if you care. I’m trying to avoid too much geek-speak, as it bores the life from me. We’ve had the satellite Internet connection for about a year now, and it’s perking along nicely. We lose it only when it rains torrentially.

So, the question became, how can I tap into that gush of free bytes? Friends come in very handy here. I happened to have one who is the most renowned guru in the land and a geek among geeks.

Well, I can see already that I must shorten this story. I’m beginning to feel sleepy myslef.

Anyway, Mark came up with the idea of connecting to my house by wireless signals. The rub is that these pesky little beams refuse to penetrate anything but air, at least if you plan to go further than a few tens of metres.

Climbing to the top of this old amateur radio tower at the back of our office, I was disappointed to find that I could not see our house:

So, the problem became:  what can  I see from there which I can also see from my house?

I’ll digress a moment to refresh myself by showing you the pile of junk that is typically required to get all of this working;

It’s mostly on the top shelf. You can see, from left to right, a satellite modem which talks to the gizmo up in space and a “router” which splits the signals up somehow and distributes them to the correct computers. These are the essentials, except for the actual wireless gear, which is coming up next. The black box is a “hub” which simply lets you plug a whole bunch of computers into a network and sorts out the torrents of information that flows through it. Below is a UPS which prevents the evil PNG Power from devastating our investments and an old computer which I use to keep tabs on what is going where.

Here is a picture of the front and back of the long-range wireless units. They include a gadget which sends and receives wireless signals and a highly directional antenna which concentrates the beam and allows it to travel much farther between units:

A clever bit is that there is a little doohicky which you plug into the wall to provide power through the cable which also carries the network signals. Therefore you need only one cable going to this unit. It’s called Power Over Ethernet, but the very sound of that causes my eyelids to sag.

Here is a Google Earth shot of Madang showing the plan to get the web from our office to our house:

One unit goes on the ham radio tower at our office. Two units go on the security camera pole at the coconut oil refinery. They talk to each other, to keep the signal going, through a short piece of network cable. The green lines represent the wireless radio beams doing the magic.

So, having gotten from the office to the coconut refinery, we shoot the second beam way across the harbour to the front of our house. Here is a view of town from our veranda taken with my mighty Olympus SP-590UZ furiously gathering photons at its maximum of 26x optical zoom:

You’re looking almost a half-kilometre at that little pole in the middle of the frame. It’s got security cameras mounted on it already. From that pole I can see the tower at the office and my veranda.

Therefore, I mounted the last unit beside the front door of our house and ran the POE cable to the bedroom wherein lie our thirsty computers:

I didn’t realise until I saw this picture how much our house needs a coat of paint.

Tomorrow will be the magic day, if it doesn’t rain, when the hop units will be installed on the security camera pole. Everything else is installed and powered up.

This weekend I hope to enjoy TELIKOM-free browsing. If it works, it will be magic. If it doesn’t, it’s back to the drawing board.

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Hello In ALL Languages?

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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This is a strange little post to let you help me test something. I ran across an interesting WordPress plugin called “Hello In All Languages”. I’ve in stalled it and I’d like to see if it works.

So, without further chatter from me, here is our friend from Wewak, Jane Tempsett, saying Hello to you.If it works right, you should see Jane above greeting you with the word meaning hello in the official language of your country, based on your IP address.

I can think of several ways that this might not work, especially if you are “hiding” behind an anonymous proxy server. Nevertheless, please comment if you feel inclined. If it works, please tell me. If not, please tell me anyway.

Now I’m waiting for someone to make one that says “Goodbye”.


A Feather for the Captain’s Hat

Posted in Under the Sea on March 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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The steam from the Saturday dive at Magic Passage has just about run cool, so tomorrow I’ll have to invent something different with which to annoy you. It shouldn’t be difficult, as that’s one of my genuine talents.

Speaking of annoying, we had a bit of a fracas at the office yesterday. Our outside IT consultant, Mark, who has been wonderfully helpful to me as I’ve been rolling out a completely new network, inadvertently left a desktop computer system unit in his vehicle. We heard frantic cries from our receptionist, Ruth, that someone had stolen the computer from Mark’s car. A couple of people out in the street were pointing in a general direction, so Mark and I gave chase. I’m sixty-six, but fit, so I hotfooted it around following peoples’ pointings until I ended up with someone who said that the thieves gone to the bus stop near the market. Mark was on his cell phone and talking to bystanders, so he had to catch up with me.

Some people waiting for vehicles at the stop had seen the boys carrying the computer and told us what bus they had taken. Mark’s call to the cops actually got some attention and they soon gave chase. We never got the afternoon’s work finished, but at least Mark found out where the computer went. Now all that remains is to “extract” it from the thief.

I won’t make an example of Papua New Guinea, since the same thing happens everywhere. However, I will ask why so many people witnessed what was obviously a crime and did absolutely nothing to thwart it? If I had seen kids breaking into a car and filching the contents I would have done something,  though I’m not sure what. It would depend on the situation.

In fairness, I should mention that some people came to the office door immediately to tell us that the computer had grown legs.

And now, for something completely different:That’s a nice little reef scene in which I was hoping to get a nice image of the anemonefish. Just as I was taking the shot, an Angelfish swam past. I can’t identify it, but it is certainly very pretty.

Later, I was attracted to this very nice, neat round Acropora hyacinthus  coral with a pretty little reef scene behind it:There were many feather stars waving around in the fairly strong current, so I decided to snap a few.

These are all Comantheria briareus,  as near as I can tell. The taxonomy is a little confusing and many species can be identified only by counting the arms, something which I am not going to do:The arms are extremely sticky, being like Velcro. They will stick to anything, your hand, your wetsuit, fins, camera, etc. The arms tear off when they stick, so we try to be very careful when moving around them. It’s far too easy damage a feather star by simply brushing against it.

Here’s an nice shot showing how they attach themselves to the bottom by grabbing on with their “feet”:There are many subtle colours, even within the same species.Okay, that’s the feather bit. How about the Captain’s Hat?

I’m not a guy to shy away from beauty, wherever I find it. Anyone who is a regular reader will know that. I found a bit of beauty on Sanguma  on Saturday when Jennifer Miller was modeling her new hat. Jenn is usually found in the company of my good friend Richard Jones who, along with our mutual mate, Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, have purchased Sanguma  from our other mutual buddy, Trevor Hattersley:I think the Captain’s Hat is donned in celebration of the recent purchase. I don’t really care, because Jenn needs no further adornment. She’s a lovely lady and a dear friend to all of us motley expatriate crew.

So, congratulations to Captain Jenn and shipmates Rich and Pascal. May you catch many large fish and share the occasional nice filet of Spanish Mackerel with your poor, non-fishing dive buddy.

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The Coral Corral

Posted in Under the Sea on March 16th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes I get tired of chasing fish around. As a rule, I don’t do that, but we all know that rules are made to be broken. It happens most often at the end of a dive, when I should be moving in an orderly fashion toward the surface and I see that fish,  of which I have no image. Oh, yeah. It’s decision time. Check my air – okay; I always have plenty left at the end of a dive. I breathe mostly with my gills. That fish  is inevitably going down.  You are not supposed to end up your dive deeper than your last few minutes. That’s called a reverse-profile dive. It can build up too much nitrogen in your body and make your blood fizz like a freshly pulled Guinness.

So, what I usually do is say adios  to that fish  and slide up to five metres for my safety stop. Coral, however, requires no chasing at all, since it does not move. It may wave around, if it’s limber, but it stays firmly fixed to the reef and poses very nicely.

Therefore, today I’ll show you a pretty selection of corals that I corralled on our dive at Magic Passage last Saturday. I believe that you’ve seen all of these species here before, but these are much prettier pictures. The Canon G11 is making it so easy to get great shots that I’ll soon have to find new challenges. Hmmm. . . underwater fashion photography . . .

This young Divericate Tree Coral (Dendronephthya roxasia)  stands out nicely against the dark background:If you look carefully, you can see a diver in the distance.

I really like photographing D. roxasia  because there are so many beautiful colours available and they look completely different when the lighting changes. Sometimes they seem to glow as if lit from inside: The shot above accentuates the crispness of the coral image because the foreground and background are out of focus. It is a nice technique for “framing” your subject.

I am heavily into patterns. Something about them calms me. Corals make great subjects. This Diploastrea heliopora  is a good example:The individual polyps are about 1 cm in diameter.

Here is a shot of another specimen differing in colour and with a little more acute angle of the light:All of these images are more interesting if you click to enlarge. These regular patterns make mesmerising desktop backgrounds. Maybe a little too much so.

Here is one of the many wildly differing Leather Corals. This one is a species of Lobophytum:There are so many different leather corals that it’s difficult to identify a specimen from a single reference. I have only one book. It takes far too much time to dig into the web for a species name. That’s why many shots here give only the genus. I could not identify the species.

Here’s another one that is a mystery. It’s a coral of the Sea Whip mob, some species of the genus Ctenocella:They are very pretty and add a little action to the scene, waving around like wheat in a summer breeze. These are about as tall as full-grown wheat.

This outlandishly red coral is of the genus Lobophyllia:They are easy to spot, since they are about the reddest items on the reef.

Here is an interesting shot of the coral Goniopora djiboutiensis:I’m not sure what’s going on here. The white polyps appear to be the same species as the brownish ones in the background – the normal colour. I do not understand why this particular bunch of polyps on these old reef knobs are snow white. Maybe someone can explain. UPDATE: My Facebook friend Roshan Abeywickrama suggests that this may be G. lobata,  which I agree is a good possibility. I’m certainly no expert.

Finally, I give you one that I have been trying to photograph properly for years. It is very difficult to get the green to look natural. If you use flash, you have no chance. The colour is a combination of the pigments in the slimy coating of the very hard, brittle tree and the spectrum of light at that depth. The Tubastraea micrantha  has caused me much aggravation:I think that I’ve just about got it figured out. This is as close as I’ve come to reproducing the exquisite deep green colour that I see in this coral with my eyes at about twenty-five metres.

I’m almost there.

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Oh, Blenny!

Posted in Under the Sea on March 15th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s interesting development concerns the Facebook/email hack that I mentioned a few days ago in The Birds! It seems that my Facebook friend had been hacked and the emails urgently asking for money to escape London were sent to her Facebook friends by the hacker. I noticed that the same person returned to Facebook, so I sent her a message asking if she had, perchance, recently been to London. She related the hacking incident to me. It is a sad tale. It reminds me to keep my own security up. I was happy to find that I had not been suckered into an elaborate fake Facebook friend scheme. She is real, and a nice person at that. I’m slightly less cynical than I was a couple of days ago. That’s always a good way to start the week.

Speaking of starting the week, here’s a Monday sunrise for you:I’ve seen better, but this one will do. I you click to enlarge, you’ll see that I caught a man in his canoe just where the sun is reflecting on the water.

Today we’re doing mostly Blennys. I’ve had quite a few of these cute little fish here before. You can find them by putting blenny in the search box. You’ve seen the Three-Lined Blenny (Ecsenius trilineatus)  before on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi:The details of the eyes are interesting, if you care to examine them by clicking to enlarge the image. Blennys are usually small fish, some species are among the smallest fish on the planet. Some Gobys are even smaller.

And here, for your viewing pleasure, is a fish that you’ve never seen before on MPBM. If fact, you’ll have to look closely to see it at all:It’s a Tripplespot Blenny (Crossosalarias macrospilus)  and this is the first one that I’ve managed to digitize:

Here’s another shot of the same specimen. It was moving around nervously from place to place. Where it landed here on this leather coral its camouflage doesn’t work very well:

The common name makes no sense to me. I see only one big spot.

You’ve seen the Latticed Sandperch (Parapercis clathrata)  several times here, mostly females. I admit a bias towards photographing females:Males of this species have a big, black spot on each side just above the pectoral fins behind the eyes. You can see in this young specimen that it is just developing. You can see an adult male specimen in this post.

I’ll toss a little colour onto this page with one of the reddest fish that I know, the Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripisits pralinia):They tend to hang around in these little caves in the reef. You can see another one in this post.

It’s time now to go out to check for the sunrise quality level. I know, I know, it’s a dirty job. Such is the life of a beach bum.

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Saturday Diving – A Row of Boats

Posted in Under the Sea on March 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sunday dawned clear and bright. Just what I needed to lift my spirits when I realised that my sinus infection (oh, I’m sure  you want to hear about that) has come back with a vengeance. I may possibly have insulted it during my very pleasant dive yesterday at Magic Passage.  Actually, I’m not telling the truth. The part that is not  true is that this is actually Monday’s sunrise:Could be Egypt, eh?

Conditions at Magic Passage  couldn’t have been much better. There was a manageable current flowing in from Astrolabe Bay,  making the water nice and clear. I usually get into the water first, to get out of everyone’s way and check to make sure that I’ve anchored where I think  I anchored. I got this shot from about seven metres below Faded Glory  and Sanguma,  which we had parked alongside each other:

Funny thing – coincidence strikes. The Beatles song Come Together  is playing with a heavy bass bias here in the IT Dungeon as I write. (In case you’re wondering, I was thinking of the boats coming together over the reef.)

He roller-coaster he got early warning
He got muddy water he one mojo filter
He say “One and one and one is three”
Got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see
Come together right now over me

I think that it is one song that nearly every person of my age who was brought up in The Western World (whatever that is) can probably sing along with without mumbling too many of the words. It always seemed like nonsense to me – nonsense ambiguous enough to mean anything you like. I give you the examples of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky  or James Taylors’ American Pie.  Still, the pitiless call of reason leads me to conclude that the song must  be about the members of the band. Four musicians, four verses, lots of obscure references – it’s not Rocket Science. If you’ve nothing better to do and you want to enrich your mind with some spaced-out references from the 60’s you might check here and here if you’re feeling clueless. The first link seems plausible. The second feels more like stoner-speak.

Errr . . . drifting away there. Back to the dive. One of the first things that I encountered was this lovely little anemone which I am embarrassed to say that I can’t identify accompanied by two juvenile Clark’s Anemonefish (Apmphiprion clarkii):My finger is for scale, not for food. However, while snorkeling at The Eel Garden  later I was demonstrating how the larger cousins of these youngsters would play with your fingers and occasionally nip at them. One of the larger specimens of A. clarkii  bit viciously three times. Each time it would grab a bit of my skin in its jaws and shake its body furiously before letting go. Since I was out of breath anyway and needed to surface, I decided to end the demonstration.

This morning I felt a distracting itch on my hand and discovered a bite mark left by the little terror:Don’t let anybody tell you that Nemo is not dangerous.

In the clear incoming water, the beautiful Anthea were glowing like neon lights:We were blessed by a bit of sunlight on Saturday, the first we’ve seen in some weeks. The weather here has been dismal, at least by Paradise standards.

Richard Jones led the little expedition, though he was possibly a little miffed when I was uncooperative and lazy at the beginning of the dive. He got even later by mugging me:However, I shall have the last laugh. He complained a few days ago about me getting his “bald head” into the picture – his words, not mine. I would call him “partially bald”. My response is, “How could I miss it?”

Later on, a band of Cassells showed up in Felmara.  This array of fishing lures caught my eye:The Cassell Floating Fishing Party motored off after a while and left us to enjoy the lowering sun.

Just another Saturday in Paradise.

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Chance Encounters

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s Saturday here – Oh Yeah – Dive Day!  It’s entirely possible that as you read this I will be communing with the fish under twenty or thirty metres of warm salt water. Don’t you wish you were here?

Okay, now I’m going to go all dark. Never mind. It will pass. I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here  on scrambled repeat for about three hours now, laughing and leaking from my eyes and, yes, whistling – I’m an accomplished whistler.

Here’s what I feel like:

I like working out my feelings with images.

One ant is anticipatory, eager, communicative. Its antennae reach out, seek. “Come back.” it implores. The other ant is withdrawn, hiding. It’s catching the next “big jet airplane” to elsewhere. “Where are you going?”


The bee visits the flower. It doesn’t live there. Does the flower feel abandoned when the bee has had its fill of nectar and pollen and moves on?Ridiculous!

What is all this nonsense?

I spend so much time telling you what I love about living here in Madang. I extol the blessings of the expatriate life-style. I praise the freedom, the nearly total absence of oppressing authority. I have much to say about what I love. Now let me tell you what I hate.


Here I have enjoyed more wonderful friendships than I ever thought were possible in a lifetime. I have had friends who would spill their blood for me if it were necessary, and mine for them – friends who would not let me suffer need without thought of satisfying it. I’ve had confidants who knew me better, far better, than any therapist. Friends who laughed and cried with me with true simpatico.  Where are they now?


It’s the nature of this place that people come and go. It’s a transient paradise. Few can manage it forever. It is too uncertain, too intense, too fraught with passion. It is the nature of this place for bonds to be profound, transcending the trivialities of a more urbane life. It’s a rugged place. A place of rawness and animal strength. Fights are common. Reconciliations are tender and tearful.

It’s the goings that hurt.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

I would last no time at all here without my good woman, my mate who consoles me when other cherished bonds are broken. I’ve seen tough guys cry in each others’ arms when parting for the last time.

Yeah, it’s that kind of place. Partings here tend to be permanent, despite promises to “keep in touch”. For many, the experiences of two or three years are best left to ferment. The less cherished fades. Only the sweet headiness remains.

The cut needs to be clean.

Blossoms fade, but the yearnings do not. They take on the patina of pressed roses in a diary:I’ve seen those hundred-year-old pressings crumbling between stained pages. Faded and tattered, yet bearing still the faint scent of a beauty that once was.

The approaching and parting. Canoes pass. Greetings are exchanged. Eyebrows flash knowingness:They pass and the moment passes with it.

A gloomy, tepid sunrise greets the next day, empty of promise and full of loss:You learn to tough it out.

So, to any and all of my dear friends of the past:I’ve never blamed anybody for leaving here. It’s a highly impermanent place. I loved you when you were here and I am full of constancy.

Know you are missed.

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