Zombie Death Star Orbits Terra!

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on May 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Despite the horrific news below, this morning began with little fanfare.  It’s a putrid day which brings no good. The sunrise was a little anemic, threatening rain. Eunie was perturbed by this, as it is Wednesday. One might ask why Wednesday morning rain distresses my platinum blonde goddess. See, she goes Monday, Wednesday and Friday to the pool of the Madang Resort Hotel with the gracious permission of no less than Sir Peter Barter and executes an hour-long routine of aquarobics which literally takes my breath away. I’ve tried doing it with her. It’s not my game. So, it can rain any mornings except those three and it’s no worries, mate.

This shocking alert* came to blight my glowing portal to the world only this morning:

PARIS — A Dumkophsat satellite that mysteriously stopped communicating with its ground controllers on 5 April remains dangerously out of control and has begun moving zombielike eastward along the geostationary arc, raising the threat of sudden death and dismemberment for other satellites in its path, Dumkophsat and other industry officials said.

In what industry officials said is an unprecedented and horrific event, Dumkophsat’s Galaxy 15 satellite has decided to remain fully “on,” with its C-band telecommunications payload still functioning even as it has impudently departed its assigned orbital slot of 133 degrees west longitude 36,000 kilometers over the equator.

The first satellite likely to face sudden death is the AMC-11 C-band satellite owned by SASSY of Luxembourg and stationed at 131 degrees west, just two degrees away from Galaxy 15’s starting position.

Bobbi Bednick, chief executive of the SASSY World Skies division, which operates AMC-11, said Dumkophsat and SASSY have been meeting since 5 April 5 to coordinate how to minimize the Galaxy 15 impact on AMC-11’s media terrified customers, one of which commented, “The very thought of depriving millions of homes of Everybody Loves Raymond is simply too much to bear.”

In a 30 April interview, Bednick said that while it remains horribly unclear whether SASSY World Skies will be able to avoid a wholesale slaughter problem as  Galaxy 15 enters the AMC-11 orbital territory, the company has benefited from full disclosure on the part of Dumkophsat, SASSY’s biggest competitor.

“The horror stories from them really have been very good,” Bednick said. “We all realize that we could be in the same stupid position tomorrow. We are neighbors in space.”

“Unfortunately for us, we were downhill from Galaxy 15 as it rolls toward the 105 degrees west libration point.”, Bednick said. “We are in regular contact with all our customers of these satellites to keep them apprised of the situation.”

I should hope so!

All that I was thinking of before was catfish, specifically Striped Catfish (Plotusus lineatus):The news of a zombie satellite hovering over my head gave me pause. I’ve been so absorbed in my own present quagmire of mental mud that I’ve failed to note that there is still a very scary world out there.

Soon afterward I was shocked anew by this image captured by Rocket Scientists of the offensive orbiter:I soon went back to thinking about fish. The new calming image was of the always pleasant and inoffensive Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus):Ah, that’s better. Surely the pesky aberrant orbiting obliterator will fry itself in our murky atmosphere before it can land on my house.

I continued to calm myself with more Spinecheeks:Yes, now everything is copacetic.

It has much the same effect as an aquarium. Mine is big enough to swim in.

* Lest I be taken out and shot for spreading world-wide panic, I should disclose the spoof. It’s really Intelsat’s Galaxy 15 which has lost its mind and now threatens its neighbors. It seems that computers are not so different from humans after all.

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Banana Bana Bo Bana

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on May 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Wooo hooo, I got up this morning and felt like Atlas. The world was wobbling around on my shoulders. After yesterday’s near anxiety attack, I calmed down nicely with a couple of beers, a nice cheap cigar and some encouragement from my soul mate. This morning it was all back. Nobody should ever have to start a new job. People should get jobs at birth and keep them until they drop. Think of the savings in stress alone. Of course, many would die of boredom, especially the renegades who expect more from life. However it might be a neat solution to the population problem.

Rambling already and I haven’t even gotten to the pictures yet.

This morning ‘s sunrise didn’t help much:I was about as stormy and confused as the inside of my head. I took a 5mg Valium out of the bottle and put it in my pocket, determined not to use it unless I felt like I was coming unglued. I made it all the way to 08:30 before chewing it for nearly instant relief. I an such  a wuss! My excuse is that I’m a recovering bipolar. That’s even more lame.

Anyway, by the time that 10:00 rolled around I’d received several emails which ameliorated a soupcon of my self-doubt delivered a second blessed release of endorphins. It’s 14:24 now and I’m about half way down. I think I can do this. I know  I can do this! I’m The Little Editor Who Could! Hey, it’s not Rocket Science.

Which, in an unfathomable way, brings me to my bananas. Of course I do absolutely nothing to grow them. Juli, our house helper, has absolute dominion over the garden. I’m allowed to walk about importantly, stroking my beard and saying things like, “Ah, yes.” and “Coming along fine.” while wagging my cigar around in my teeth. I call it “Playing the Planter”. Here is a bunch of bananas which Juli harvested yesterday:

Note that they are green, but not the green which you get from temperate zone store bananas. These are one to four days from going brown. You have to eat them quickly. They are called banana mau  or ripe bananas. They are incredibly delicious. I prefer mine after a day or so when they turn yellow. Eunie likes hers a little firmer.

These however are the gold standard of banananess:

If you harvest at just the right time, you will probably be rewarded by a very few bananas which have ripened sufficiently on the stalk that their skins have split. You have mere hours to get to these. The level of flavour and aroma is indescribable. These “splits” are my favourite. Bananas in heaven must taste like this.

By the way, the title comes from the 1964 song The Name Game  written by Shirley Ellis. I remember it being all the rage. How simple life was then . . . hmmmm . . .

Switching from bananas now to something that doesn’t make my tummy gurgle with hunger, let’s have a look at my foolish interpretation of the week. This starfish, a Linckia multifora,  reminds me of (get ready for it now):A joyful person dressed in a cover-me-all-over pink cow suit running to the right and hollering something like “Whoop tee doo!” If I have to explain it, just move on. It’s getting crazy in here.

Let’s settle down now for some nice relaxing Dascylus Reticulatus:I don’t know why I say relaxing. They are very nervous fish. At the slightest threat they dart down into the spiky coral and hide. You can see a Red and Black Anemonefish over on the right. Note the greenish background colour. It was impossible to take available light images at The Eel Garden.  There was a metre of cold river water on top which was loaded with algae. Everything looked very green.

This last image blows my tiny little mind. This is two flatworms doing . . . something . . . I honestly don’t know what. Truly, I don’t care to speculate, but what the . . .  I can think of three possibilities. (1) a simple crossing of paths (3) someone is about to have lunch or (3) I don’t want to say it:I’m going with the “ships passing in the night” hypothesis. If this is true, it must be an astoundingly rare occurrence. As if you could possibly care, the dark one with the solid, 24 carat gold dots is a Thysanozoon nigropapillosum  and the fancy yellowish one being wrestled to the coral is a Pseudoceros dimidiatus.

I wish I was rich and had time to indulge my dilettante fantasies. I’d research this incident until the cows come home and write a scholarly paper to submit to some club of dorky flatworm experts. It would be my fifteen minutes of fame.

I would dig that.

Really.

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A Model Model

Posted in Under the Sea on May 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I have been feeling very anxious and incompetent for the last month. I was having a difficult time understanding the cause of my feelings. This, of course, simply made matters worse. As I’ve mentioned. I’ve taken on another job aside from my duties in the IT Dungeon. I’m now the editor of two quarterly magazines. It has finally dawned on me what the cause is of my distress. I haven’t had a new job for thirty years. Studies have shown that starting a new job is one of the top stress generators. I had forgotten the feelings of inadequacy, loss of control, uncertainty and raw fear that accompany a new job. I’ve been an author for a long time. However I’ve never been an editor. The job seemed simple when I took it on. It is only now that I’m into it that I realise how little I know about what I’m doing. Wish me well as I struggle to get myself oriented. I’m on a three month probation, so I don’t have much time to prove myself. It’s sink or swim time. Keeping this job and doing well at it so that I have a future in the industry is an essential tactic in our survival strategy as churches will undoubtedly continue to abandon us as we age.

However, today’s sunrise cheered me up:Nice sunrises are getting more and more frequent.

On Saturday we did a dive at The Eel Garden  near Pig Island.  The weather was horrible. We immediately ran into rain and it rained nearly the whole day. Only in the last hour did we get a little sun. Underwater, however, it was beautiful:

A beautiful lady is always a welcome addition to nature’s own. Above is Genevieve and a Magnificent Anemone with Clown Anemonefish or “Nemo” fish.

Here is another one of Genevieve with a Feather Star:

Taking inexperienced divers into my care and teaching them how to enjoy safe diving while learning the mysteries under the ocean is one of the more pleasant parts of my life. Genevieve comes to us with few dives and had not dived for about a year. I expected the jitters and problems on the dive. I was surprised that she was as cool as a cucumber, stayed close to me and interpreted my instructions perfectly. Being an excellent swimmer, she also moves through the water gracefully.

I trapped these Scarlet Soldierfish (Myripistis pralinia)  in a little cave: I had to laugh into my regulator as they darted around crazily as their teeny-weeny brains tried to figure out what to do.

We found the big patch of anemone’s near the island and it was full of  Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):I’m sure that this one believed that I couldn’t see him. The will often try to position themselves in the anemone so that only the eye is exposed so that they can keep it on you. I think that they don’t realise the their noses are fully visible.

I’ll finish up with a critter that is probably beginning to bore you.:Yes, it’s the nudibranch, Notodoris minor  again. I’ve found where they are living and I’m to keep on taking pictures of them as long as they are there. It’s a moderately rare species, so I want to “collect” as many as I can. Each image is like a trophy to me.

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More From the Eye in the Sky

Posted in Mixed Nuts on May 2nd, 2010 by MadDog
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You’ll be spared my usual chatter today, because I’m running up against some serious deadlines. I have a few more aerial shots from my Helicopter ride a few days ago. I also have some mystery images for you. If you’re not a PNG resident they will probably mean nothing to you. However, the closer you live to Madang, the more likely you will know what they are.

Here’s a shot of Madang Airport. If you’re landing in the Heart of Paradise, this is what it looks like:I have heard about the opening of the airport to international traffic since I arrived here in 1981. I’m still hearing about it. The tragicomic series of events which have thwarted it are simply to bizarre to dump on you. When I asked Sir Peter if he thought that I’d live long enough to see it, his answer was “Not likely.” I don’t know what to make of that. Does he know something that I don’t? Well, of course, he knows a plethora of things that I don’t. But it’s still a puzzling answer. It raises the hair on my arms a little.

Not far from the airport runway is Siar Island:This is about as close to a tropical island paradise as you can get. It’s lush, peaceful, absolutely gorgeous and close to town.

This is the wharf at the Madang Resort Hotel which graciously supplies our little gang of divers with rental tanks and equipment when needed. Without the support of the hotel, there would be no recreational diving by us locals. We’re very grateful for their support:Every Saturday morning we gather here to gear up and depart for our underwater adventures.

This is one of the images of which I spoke at the beginning:I have nothing to say about it. I’m not a citizen of PNG, so I must be circumspect in my comments. I have opinions, but I’m not going to state them here. It’s enough to state factually that the circumstances surrounding this are more and more controversial as the days pass. Personally, I’m praying for peace. We’ve been through this before and it was very ugly.

This is another landmark about which I’ll keep quiet.I am just thinking that, for those who are interested in its existence, it might be amusing to see it from the God’s Eye View. Man, could I tell you some stories about how this one got in! But I won’t.

Finally, this is the reason why everything is running out in Madang. I don’t know if they have it open yet, but from the looks of it a few days ago, I doubt it:

You’re looking at a complete blockage of the only road connecting Madang to Lae, from which all cargo flows, well, nearly all cargo. This is why hotel owners are fretting seriously over their supply of eggs. Madang is pathetically helpless without this road.

I don’t know if the pipeline of a certain company was damaged in the landslide. If it was, it was certainly quickly repaired. If it were my guess, I’d say that that is because they have all the money. They certainly had money enough to get into PNG.

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Nudibranch Eggs for Breakfast

Posted in Under the Sea on May 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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How I keep getting so far behind, I don’t understand. I’m doing yesterday’s post on Sunday morning, it’s almost 08:00 and I haven’t done today’s post yet. I have at least one magazine article that I must write today and I have another one to edit. How did I get so busy? I didn’t plan to be working this hard at 66. Maybe it’s a good thing. I don’t have time to get sick. If a doctor told me that I had a fatal disease, I’d simply have to tell him that I don’t have time to die.

There was a rather strange sunrise yesterday:I can’t decide if I like it or not. It’s almost too  moody.

One of the stars today is our little buddy, the Notodoris minor  nudibranch:I’ve been showing quite a few of these lately. I’m having fun photographing an uncommon species. I’ve found a spot where they are hanging around for a while. I’m fascinated by them, but know very little as was recently pointed out by reader Frank Peeters who explained that, in a previous post, I was seeing double.

Less than a metre away, we found this ribbon of eggs:This makes five or six times recently when we’ve found eggs in this area.

I’m rushing through the post today, so you’ll be spared my usual meandering. We’ll get right on to this Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)  which was lounging directly under Faded Glory  at The Eel Garden  where we were diving:

Giant Clams are very common here. Unfortunately, many people harvest them from the reefs. I was once at Alotau where there were racks metre-wide shells which were being sold as pig feeders. Disgusting!

These are Diagonal Banded Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus lineatus).  They are difficult to photograph in the usual not-so-clear waters around Madang. They stay just far enough away to be hazy:

This is easily the best shot that I’ve managed of them. It doesn’t look like much here in the thumbnail. Click on it to get he larger image. It’s quite nice.

This shot is my pick of the day. It’s a little Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion akallopisos)  who appears to be chewing on an anemone tentacle:This one also deserves a click to enlarge. The little fish looks as if it is fretting. “Oooo, who are you? You big bad thing! Stop blowing bubbles at me and go away.”

Sorry, I got a little carried away.

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