The Waiting Game

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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When I walked out on Val’s little porch at the top of her back stairs yesterday afternoon I saw a thermometer. Still wearing three sweaters in the warmest part of the day, I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to look at it. I finally decided it was important information and noted, barely visible in the faded red line 20°C. I can’t work out what that is in F, but it’s a lot colder than I am used to, having lived in the most tropical of the tropics for nearly half of my life.

Looking at the mounting of the thermometer, I was amazed to see that it is from Madang and another era long gone. If you click to enlarge, you may be able to read:


Let me tell you that it’s been a long, long time since there have been any taxis in Madang. I can barely remember one or two of them when we arrived in 1981. This thermometer obviously predates that, since I don’t know how long ago you could dial a two digit number in Madang. It may have been a special sort of line:

I have not had time or energy to do much but walk around the yard and shoot a few pictures. Nevertheless, I’ll show you some.

I don’t know what kind of tree this is and Val could not find it in her garden book. Hopefully, someone will identify it and leave a comment:

The tree looked a bit forlorn and scraggly. I have to remind myself that September is spring here.

The Nasturtiums were about as red as I have ever seen:

They always remind me of water lilies which are growing out of the water.

Val tells me that this is Browallia. I wouldn’t know better. There is a yard next door that looks like Sanford and Son’s  Junkyard, or Steptoe and Son,  if you are from the UK. Here you are looking through the fence from order into chaos:

Apparently there are orange and yellow varieties. It looks to me as if this particular bush can’t make up it’s mind.

Hiding down in a corner in the late afternoon sun I found some Azalia blossoms:

The light was fading, so I didn’t hold much hope. The result isn’t bad, if you don’t mind a soft look.

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Eunie had a very rough day yesterday. I am quite concerned about her. Since her earliest appointment is not until the 2nd of September, we are playing a horrid waiting game. There is a care centre just two doors away from Val’s house. We will go up there today and get someone to come down and look at Eunie to see if there is anything that they can do for her. She does seem a bit better today.

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Goodbye Cairns – Hello Gympie

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on August 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, life’s vicissitudes being what they are, we now find ourselves in Gympie, Australia a couple of months before we planned to be. We had planned to take a long-overdue holiday break in Australia for a few weeks later this year.

We are staying in the home of our long-time friend Val Jerram, whose name has appeared many times here on Madang – Ples Bilonng Mi  before and is going to pop up more or less constantly in the misty future as we get treatment for Eunie’s medical problems. Read to the end of the post for news about that.

Though I should have known that it would be so, if I had had the power to think of some of the less pressing matters other than those which are daily squashing my mind into a sort of pudding-like substance incapable of no higher functions than basic animal instincts, the most intense of which is at the present time stark fear, I would have realised that I was in for yet another treat – it is freezing cold here in Gympie!

Sorry about that last paragraph. I just wanted to see if I’m still capable of writing a reasonably long sentence that is comprehensible. Did I make it?  I can’t tell.

Anyway, having missed several days of posting this month, I was determined to write, if for no other reason than to prove that my fingers still work. I ventured out into the freezing cold on Val’s veranda and got a shot of this blackish bird pecking away at some undoubtedly tasty grub in this bare tree limb:

I took the shot with the Bird Watching setting on my Olympus SP590-UZ. Though there are some aspects of the camera that don’t suit me, the 26X optical zoom is great and it has a wide range of “scene” modes that make it easy to get shots that would require a lot of fiddling with manual controls otherwise.

A few seconds later, I got the above bird’s handsomer cousin:

This place is a crazy house of birds all day long. I suspect that birds are going to be creeping in on the fish soon.

Here is a shot from Val’s veranda of the old Gympie courthouse:

I haven’t seen it up close, but it looks to be an interesting place to visit. This small city is also the home of the  Gympie Muster, the second largest country music festival in Australia.

Braving freezing temperatures this morning, I snapped some snapdragons:

And another one:

And that was the first morning in Gympie.

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Yesterday was scary. Eunie is sick, there’s no doubt of that. She could walk slowly. She put on a brave face, starting out at 05:30 for a cab ride to the Brisbane airport. We had to stop over in Townsville for a couple of hours and then fly to Brisbane, where we were met by Val. Then we had a little over two hours to Gympie in her car.

Eunie’s been resting today. I hope she gets some energy back. Watching any loved one, especially a spouse, go from strong and healthy to desperately ill in a matter of a couple of months is a shocking experience. It’s my first time.

I could do without it.

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Guest Shooter Alison Raynor – Fiddling With Her Images

Posted in Guest Shots, Photography Tricks on August 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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I found it impossible to post yesterday. I spent most of the day running around frantically trying to gather last-minute paperwork to send to the insurance company. I finally sent a twenty-three page fax. This makes a total of seventy-three pages of documentation I have sent. I’ll have more information for interested readers at the end of the post.

Thanks to Alison Raynor for sending me a couple of beautiful images of Sunrise at Mt. Beppo in Queensland not far from where she lives in Toogoolawah. The images were only 800 pixels, so I didn’t have much to work with, but they are so pretty that I could not resist them. I was also grateful to have someone else’s work to show, as I have no time to dig through my own to put together a decent post.

This one had some electrical wires in it that I had to remove. It’s a lovely, peaceful scene:

The lighting is unusual, but it has a very natural feel.

I could not resist turning it into a watercolour. It has just the right composition and tonal qualities for a painting:

I particularly like the contrast and the way that the rays of light on the right are accentuated.

This shot is a real beauty. All I had to do with it was pump up the vibrance and contrast and adjust the colours just a bit to make it look good on the black background:

As with the other shot, the lighting lends a wonderful naturalness to the scene.

And, of course, I had to fiddle with this one also. Again, the watercolour filter in Photoshop gave the effect that I wanted.  Not all images look good when faked as art. These two worked very nicely:

The arty effect on this one is more obvious if you click to enlarge it.

In case you’re wondering about Mt. Beppo, here is a Google Earth image of where it is:

You can click to enlarge and put in the coordinates of it or just put “mt beppo queensland australia” in the Google Earth search box.

Thanks Ali, for providing me with two very nice images to amuse our readers and myself. Thanks also for your call last night putting me onto the best air fares to get to Brisbane.

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Tomorrow, we fly to Brisbane in the morning. Our friend Val Jerram will meet us and take us to her house in Gympie. I hope that Eunie does okay on the trip. We have to make a stopover for a couple of hours in Townsville.

Eunie has appointments for tests beginning on September 3.  She will have an MRI and some other kind of scan – I think an MRI involving a contrast dye. She then has appointments on the 6th and 7th with two other doctors. At last the ball is rolling.

I’ve mentioned several times the lovely apartment that we have stayed in since we have been in Brisbane. I want to acknowledge and extend our deepest gratitude to our dear friends of many years in Madang, Mike and Di Cassell for putting out the welcome mat for the very pleasant and convenient accommodation provided to us as a gift of love.

We have always had a deep sense of family with our closest friends in Madang. Never have I felt it more and never have we needed it more.  There is nothing like being in deep need to find out who your real friends are.


Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post won’t be windy. I’m winded. I had no idea that I was going to be so busy and feel as if I’m accomplishing so little. Yesterday evening was our last night with Trevor and Karen, who came down to Cairns to visit us. It was, of course, bittersweet. We left Eunie alone for a while to get pizzas to bring back to the room to eat while we watched a couple of movies.

Naturally, I had my camera with me and there is no such a thing as killing time if you have your camera in your hand. You can divert your attention to creating something, even if it is inconsequential. As I saw the variety of lights on the Esplinade, I got to thinking about lights. Brilliant, eh?

Man’s lights and the lights of nature – both illuminate. Some of man’s lights are beautiful. Think of the streams of glory from a stained glass window or the adrenaline beauty of fireworks. Others are horrid, such as the deadly flash of a thermonuclear bomb. Nature too provides a variety of lights, benign, such as the moon, or nurturing or deadly as chance may be in the sun’s rays:

Some of man’s lights are open to a wide range of artistic interpretation. Here I captured the tail lights of passing cars in a fifteen second exposure with the camera rather shakily balanced on top of a post:
The cars are mere streaks. Most people have blurred into non-existence. As I looked at the image in the preview, the title came to me instantly. Watch Long Enough – Everything Changes.

But some lights are different. They illuminate, but not through the sensations of the eyes. They illuminate the soul.

I positioned myself quite a distance away for this shot, so I think that I can honestly say that it is candid:Trevor and Karen dropped everything that they were doing, blew a bunch of hard-earned cash, and came to be with friends to share our suffering, cheer us up , provide necessary counsel, cry with us, laugh with us and shine some much needed light on the subject of hope. This is not to mention the practical details which Karen helped Eunice with – ones which I am not yet ready to face.

How many friends can you count that would do that?

This is the light of treasure.

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I wish that I had some news today. Eunie stayed up late last night watching movies and went to bed happy. Her colour seems to be improving – she’s less yellow. Her appetite has also improved. These are good signs for her strength which she is going to need in the future. We have not yet heard from the oncologist about our move to Brisbane, but it is only Tuesday afternoon as I write this. My own condition is fragile and I know that I cannot allow this to continue. I know that I will be better able to cope when we are in Brisbane with our friend Val, because she is a strong, take-charge woman and takes no nonsense from me. I will have to toughen up considerably to keep her from beating me up for being a wimp.

After decades of softening myself, sensitising myself, growing absurdly empathetic and always, always, learning that the more I give the more of what I need that I receive, I find myself now suddenly weak and ineffectual in situations where I need to be forceful and decisive.

It is a puzzlement.

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Crazy Fish – Crazy Bird – Crazy Day

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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Having Trevor and Karen with us this weekend has been a huge blessing. First I’ll show you some of our amusements. The view from the apartment balcony reminds me of home. It’s constantly changing. In the late afternoon the sky is often gaudy with colour:Yes, that is the moon up there. I’m not feeling very chatty and that makes me unhappy, because it is a good diversion to write with the hope of amusing both myself and others. I’m going to start taking a drug tomorrow which I hope will act as a mood elevator and help to allow me to function better. Stay tuned.

I used to fly helicopters. This shot of a Bell Jet Ranger dragging an undecipherable banner below it reminded me of lifting sling loads, something which always made me very nervous:

There is a big cultural art festival on in Cairns now, so the Esplinade is crowded with people.

From our balcony we could see a bizarre parade of exhibits passing down the street. As you can see from the brightness of the lights, it was getting quite dark by the time this crazy fish came swimming along:

We all decided to stay on the balcony to watch the fireworks show. As it turned out, that was not to be. We were somewhere else when the booms began.

Earlier in the day, as Karen, Trevor and I were walking down the street we spotted a bird which none of us had seen before. I got a very nice shot of this Lapwing or Spurwing Plover (Vanellus miles).  I think it qualifies as a fairly crazy looking bird:

I Googled around after Karen found the name of the bird and was quite smug to find not a single image of it that is better than this one. Too bad about the ruffled feathers.

UPDATE: Good buddy Justin friend provided an amusing bit of information about this strange bird:

The Masked Lapwings are not plovers, although for a long time that bird pictured was incorrectly identified as a spurwing plover till …it was moved across to the lapwing family. Most locals still call it a plover, I grew up calling them plovers, but it is indeed the Masked Lapwing.

Thanks for that tidbit, Justin.

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Last night we met with our oncologist, Dr. Paul Eliadis. I suppose that the news could have been worse, but it was certainly bad enough. Eunie almost certainly has a rare type of cancer commonly called Bile Duct Cancer. It is not something that you want to have. Nobody wants to hear the word “serious” coming from a doctor’s lips, but that is how he described it. You can Google it, if you like, but I’m going to avoid doing that and take the doctors’ advice day by day. There was immediate talk of treatment options and the doctor got on the phone with a colleague in Brisbane during our extraordinarily late consultation at nine in the evening (explaining why we missed the fireworks) to get the wheels in motion for our relocation to Brisbane.

As I sat there with Eunie, Trevor and Karen in his office, I felt the planet turning under my feet. How I wish it were me instead of her.

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Guest Shooter – Cairns Through Karen Simmons’ Eyes

Posted in Guest Shots on August 22nd, 2010 by MadDog
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Today was a good day, because we would be very alone without our friends and two of our best are here with us in a time of need. Yesterday I worked a bit in the afternoon and later in the evening with Karen Simmons, who has a very nice Olympus SP590UZ camera, but wanted to learn how to do some things a little more exciting than snapshots. I was only too happy to oblige.

We started out on the balcony with lessons about shutter speed and aperture, probably the two most important fundamentals one needs to understand about a camera. It’s not rocket science, but they are things which casual shooters are probably not thinking about.

After a while, Karen was understanding it all, but getting restless. We started on the fancy options of her camera. One is a highly tricked-out panorama mode which actually builds the shot inside the camera so that you don’t have to fiddle with it in Photoshop. You just download the finished image onto your computer:That’s a very respectable image of the Cairns Marina from the balcony of the apartment. So far, so good. We’re into the advanced shots already.

Of course, we had to go down into the streets in the evening for the really fun shots, such as this UFO candidate which is actually the blurred lights of a passing car. Once Karen started to use the shutter speed priority setting on the camera to select a very slow shutter and she learned to brace the camera securely, she was able to take shots such as this until the novelty began to wear off:

It doesn’t take long. One thing leads to another.

There is a big festival on in Cairns now. On the Esplinade was a big tent sporting some action. It was good for Karen to have a go a what I would consider nearly impossible shots:

Though just about every condition for a decent shot is missing here, she still managed to grab a decent image of some Torres Straits Islanders performing a traditional dance.

This is my favourite of Karen’s shots for the night. Simply placing the camera on a flat surface for bracing allowed this beautiful low shutter speed image, as long as the girl didn’t move:

Fortunately, she was sitting quite still.

This is another real beauty. The lighting and composition here is very pleasing. Karen was amazed at the shots she was getting with just a little understanding and practice:

She managed to catch the single swimmer playing with the water gushing from the fountain.

Karen wanted to shoot the fountain close up to catch the water spray. I told her that I didn’t think it would be possible with the amount of light available. I was both right and wrong. There was not enough light to freeze the drops, but what she wanted was the impression of the flowing streams:

After fiddling with the camera for a while, she got exactly what she wanted. Frankly, I would not have thought to do this, but it is an excellent image technically and the composition is very interesting.

One thing that people who fancy themselves as good photographers sometimes lose is the crazy spontaneity that sometimes produces a very amusing image. Here is a beautiful example of what I’m talking about.

Again, I would never have thought to try this shot. It’s nearly impossible to get the timing right.

Fortunately for me and you, Karen didn’t know that. My advice is don’t learn too  much. You’ll start thinking like a geek.

Good on ya, Karen.

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Tonight we see an oncologist for the first time concerning Eunie’s condition. I can never remember feeling more anxiety in my life. It is the first time that we may have a chance to catch a glimpse of the future. If you know my wife, you very likely already love her. She is simply that kind of person. If you are a thinker, think good vibes in her direction. If you’re a prayer, pray for a merciful verdict this evening.

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Karen’s Most Excellent Adventure

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Our dear friends Trevor Hattersly and Karen Simmons came yesterday to stay with us for the weekend. What a pleasure it is to have them here. I’ll talk more about why at the end of the post.

While I’m at it, I’ll explain my tactic for keeping Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  a pleasant place to visit while still giving information concerning Eunie’s medical condition. I’ll present my usual weirdness in the beginning of each post. Casual readers can, as usual, like it or not, according to their tastes. At the end each post I will give any news concerning Eunie. This seems to be the best way to keep the character of the journal as it has been in the past, while still giving out information which is of concern to some readers.

So, if you’re here for the distraction or frivolity, read as far as you like and then go your happy way. If you’re here for the news, try to wade through my craziness and continue to read to the end.

My assignment yesterday evening was to deliver some terribly technical photographic instruction to Karen, who wanted to be able to use her Olympus SP590UZ camera more creatively. Since I’m not a “press that button and don’t ask questions” kind of guy, it required a nighttime field trip to demonstrate the techniques.

Our first stop was in the hotel lobby to talk about low light, slow shutter speeds and white balance:

I can’t believe how funky my shoes look. Those shoes are not me!  Karen’s pose seems to imply intense concentration. Today, I’ll present the images which I took. Tomorrow, Karen will be our Guest Shooter with the images from her camera.

Our first street expedience was to talk about camera bracing and the use of slow shutter speeds to get interesting motion blur effects. Here I braced my Canon G11 on top of the rear view mirror of a car and waited for Karen to tell me when vehicles were coming so that I could get some blurred tail lights:

The blurring of the cars changes what would be a pretty ordinary image into something a little more dynamic. This was a one second exposure.

Still on the subject of motion blur and slow shutter speeds, we moved over to the ocean side of the Esplinade along the sea wall to catch some Phantom Walkers, also shot at a slow shutter speed with the camera sitting on a sign post:

People who were sitting relatively still are sharply defined. Those who were moving are blurred. It’s not rocket science.

All modern digital cameras have a variety of “Scene” settings. Some of these are very useful, because you can’t easily set the camera up manually to create the same effect. On this one we used the “Night Snapshot” setting on the G11 to get Karen sitting primly by the swimming pool with the fountain in the background:

For this setting the camera needs to be braced or on a tripod to keep the background from blurring. The total exposure time was probably a half second or more, so the camera must be held absolutely still for that period of time. At the end of the exposure, the flash goes off, hopefully properly exposing the foreground. One can get some very interesting shots with this setting.

On our way back to the apartment, we were startled out of our wits by the sudden appearance of two tiny UFOs, which whizzed past us up Aplin Street heading in the direction of the outback:

They were accompanied by weird “wa-wa-wa-wa-wa-wa” noises that faded away into the warm tropical night leaving behind an ominous silence. We waited in intense anxiety for a second or two and then went upstairs. “I don’t think they noticed us.” was my cautious comment.

The final lesson of the evening was a nice little panorama of Cairns at night, at least the part that we can see from the balcony:

All in all, a very pleasant experience. Karen seemed quite pleased to see what she could do with her camera. There will be more lessons later.

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Tonight, at the unusual hour of 21:00 we will be seeing a top-notch oncologist at the office of our surgeon. The oncologist operates out of Brisbane at a hospital which specialises in these disorders. Our hope is that he will tell us that Brisbane is our best logistical option. We have excellent support near Brisbane. Trevor and Karen’s presence here this weekend is a genuine blessing. Karen spent the afternoon yesterday investigating on the web information that Eunie needs, but I simply cannot deal with at the moment.

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