Fortune Favours the Bold

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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The hardest part of writing this post will be making it short enough to be readable. I seem to be full of words tonight. See, I’m rambling already. I watched The Postman  a few nights ago. The megalomaniacal general had a great line, which is by no means original. “Fortune favours the bold”, he said. I’m a big fan of Movie Wisdom, so I was powerfully drawn for a while by the seduction of an improved life situation by simply stepping up to the plate and spitting in the general direction of the pitcher. Though I don’t believe in a key principle of the ancient saying, I now find myself in a world in which a bolder, less timid and fearful approach may possibly serve me well. Perhaps I should explain. (Maybe you should get a cup of coffee. This will take a while.)

The key principle to which I do not subscribe is the concept of fortune itself, or as I will describe it here, luck. I can state with no fear of successful contradiction that there is no such thing as luck. If you think that you are lucky, or unlucky for that matter, you are deluded. I can hear the howls of protest clear over here in Paradise. Possibly a thought experiment is in order.

Suppose I flip a coin five times and it comes up each time heads. We might scratch our  heads, eh? Five times in a row it’s heads? It seems unlikely. But, we have to admit that it’s possible. Now suppose that I propose a bet. I will bet you that the next flip will be heads. Would you take tails at even odds? What if I sweetened up the bet for you? I put one of something on the table (call it a Dollar or whatever, just to make it interesting) and you put two and I let you choose tails. Some people at this point might be thinking, “Take the bet. It’s got to be tails, since it’s come up heads five times in a row.” Some people would be dead wrong. It’s a sucker bet. The next flip of the coin has exactly one chance in two of coming up tails, or heads, for that matter. My expected return on the bet is greater than yours, since the probability of either of us winning is actually the same and you put two dollars on the table. In fact it doesn’t make any difference at all if the coin came up heads five times or ten times or a hundred or a million times (however unlikely that might be) in a row as heads; the next flip still has only a fifty-fifty chance of being tails.

I’m sure that you wouldn’t take the bet anyway. You don’t believe in luck either. You’re too smart for that.

Hey, I’m not making this up. Now let’s take that and extrapolate it to the general concept of luck. It doesn’t take much imagination to do so. Upon examination, the idea of luck disappears in a puff of fairy dust. Lucky numbers in the lottery – posh! Nonsense. Bad luck – no such thing; good luck – the same. Probability is computable, but inexact. One can predict outcomes only within calculated ranges – some outcomes more likely than others. Some will win. Some will lose. Nothing can predict who with any certainty more than the formulas provide. More importantly, there is no mystery force which changes the outcome of future events based on outcomes in the past. Artillery shells do sometimes fall into an existing crater. Lighting does occasionally strike twice.

Okay, so “Fortune Favours the Bold” doesn’t seem so true, huh? At least not if we think of fortune as lucky outcomes.

All that was a red herring. I’m not here wasting your valuable time today to blather on about luck. I want to talk about being bold.

What if we take that old phrase and gently massage it until it mellows into something we can reason with. How about if we say, “Good outcomes tend to be achieved by those who are prudent, but not overly cautious.” Or maybe, “One might be better served by being less fearful so that clear, rational thinking can be the basis of decision making.” Well, now we are getting to an approach that does not depend on the clearly false idea of luck to succeed.

So, the question I am pondering is:  How do I overcome the paralysis of fear? I want good outcomes, but I can’t put my trust in luck. I haven’t been lucky lately. (Wait for it – the humour is coming.) Yet the saying pulls me powerfully to its promise of reward. It seems so true. Maybe if I were a bit bolder, things might go better for me. Why? How could this be.

Why the answer has been so long coming to me is puzzling. I’ve been putting my trust in the wrong place. When what felt like the foundation of all of my comfort, security and welfare was jerked from beneath me, I fell into a dungeon of terror. All of the minor uncertainties of life from which I was formerly protected by a partnership as bullet-proof as a tank suddenly became gigantic threats, each one magnified by grief, stress and depression.

I try to avoid getting all religious on you, dear readers, because I know that I’m speaking to a very broad audience and that is not the purpose of this journal anyway. However, there is no other way to put it. I now need to put all my trust where it belongs. My wife is not my security, my source of welfare and comfort any longer. If fact, if I’m honest, Eunie never was. Oh, she was only to happy to be that for me, but she could not. Not really, no matter how much she wanted to be.

I’ve talked this over with some very switched-on, caring people whose opinions I trust. They tell me not to beat myself up over this. Many people who enjoy such intense, Vulcan Mind Meld relationships such as Eunie and I shared for nearly half a century fall into a dependence that is both understandable and, to a great extent, unavoidable. In fact, this kind of implicit trust, interdependence and division of labour is a major source of the synergistic power of such relationships. Together, we added up to more than two. So, I don’t feel so bad that I let that take over. It was a great ride and we accomplished much more than we ever dreamed we would. I’m infinitely sad that it’s over, but I need to compartmentalise that sadness.

Now I need to get my functionality back. I can’t do that if I can’t think clearly and rationally about problems. If I allow my doubts and fears to control my decisions, I’m not going to get anywhere. I can reduce this impediment by remembering my ultimate source of security. It’s not money. It’s not things. It’s not my abilities. It’s not my friends. It’s my Creator, my Father. It’s God.

Boldness is the exercise of one’s beliefs accompanied by a certainty that positive and well considered actions will produce desirable outcomes. Timidity and fear are not compatible with confidence and trust. I need to act in accordance with my beliefs, my world view, if you please. I either trust or I do not. If I do not, then I must fall back on my own resources, which have already proven inadequate to deal with present circumstances.

Okay, I lost a few of you there, but that’s okay. I’m not here to preach. This is an intensely personal experience which I am telling you about. That’s all. You can take it for what you will. Hopefully, someone will dig it.

Now for some nice, self-deprecating humour.

It is fiendishly difficult to find images to go with such a post. I couldn’t find any pictures of myself being bold. I found that rather odd. Oh, well. I can do what I usually do – fake it. All of these images have appeared on MPBM before, just not in the same post. So, move along folks; there’s nothing here to see.

Here is one of my favourite shots of me faking boldness. It’s from I Take the Big Plunge:

Actually, I wasn’t scared at any time. I spent so much time flying helicopters or sitting in the door with my legs dangling in the air that it didn’t worry me at all. The only thing that did frighten me a little was what Eunie would say when she saw the pictures. I didn’t tell her that I was going to do it. That was stupid, not bold.

It was one of the most thoroughly enjoyable experiences of my long and strangely wayward life. I highly recommend it. If I can get to Australia again someday, I’m going to take lessons with Ali and Dave in Toogoolawah. I have a standing invitation.

Okay, I give it to you. This is not bold according to the definition we’re using. It’s dumb. It’s from Why Ron and Eunie Were Nervous:

It did produce a nice “silky water” shot of Tew’s Falls in Hamilton, Ontario:

That one is from Silky Water – Hamilton’s Waterfalls.

While we’re on waterfalls, here I am boldly luxuriating in a jungle pool:

I call this my “Tarzan” shot. Aaaahhh eeeeee aaaaahhhh eeeee AAAAAHHHHH . . .

Getting there was the bold bit, for an old dude, anyway:

If memory serves me, it was about an eight hour slog up and down heavily jungled mountains which made my knees scream. Both of these shots are from I Go Bush.

The last three here are completely off the wall and are excellent examples of narcissism gone wild in a world where faking it can get you anything you want. You’ve seen a kaleidoscope image of this character recently. Getting this close to a Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus  is considered, with good reason, risky. Risky is not the same as bold:

Even the name is scary, eh? It’s a Yellowmargin Triggerfish. It will try to eat you if you hold still enough. This one is from The Beauty and the Beast.

Okay, this is crossing over into the stupid category. Check the teeth. Do not try this at home:

That one is from Sharks, Schmarks – Triggerfish are the Demons.

Just to show that I’ve not gone all Rambo now that I’ve taken boldness to heart, I’ll demonstrate my tenderness and sensitivity by showing you this lovely fake watercolour of The Fish Which Tried to Eat Me:

As the old mantra for crazy people goes, “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better.”

Gute Nacht.

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Please Buy Eunie’s Car

Posted in Items for Purchase on November 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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This post is way out of the usual for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  I’m afraid that it’s not going to be of much interest to most readers. I won’t apologise, since I have to do it. I’ll be back later with something more interesting. I didn’t have much fun writing this, so I need to entertain myself also.

Since I seem to have fallen on hard times lately, I’m forced to think and do things which were formerly unthinkable and un-doable. One of those unthinkable things is to sell, as quickly as possible, an object (just at thing,  I keep reminding myself) with which I never imagined parting. That thing  is Eunie’s car.

I’ve always thought of it as Eunie’s car, because I’ve never personally known a woman who was as eager to spend so much time working on a car. I did a lot of the mechanical stuff, but Eunie’s passion was the cockpit – “Hey, this is where I sit. It’s got to be nice!”, she’d say. There is a bumper sticker still hanging on the wall in her former office that says, “I ♥ My Spitfire.”

So, my good friend Steve Hassfurder, with the help of friends, has gotten the Spit out of the garage of the house which I must sell before it drags me into the bottomless pit. He got it started and tells me that it runs fine, as I expected it would.

I’ve been fretting (my hobby) concerning how I can get the news out that the car is for sale. It dawned on me only today that my largest audience is right here on MPBM. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So, with no further self-pity, here is the text and photos which I prepared to send to Steve:

1973 Triumph Spitfire 1500

A Little History
We purchased this car in 1986. I drove it back and forth to work while we were stuck in the USA for twenty months. When we moved back to Papua New Guinea we decided to keep it stored in the garage of a house we owned in Brownsburg, Indiana. Beginning with our first extended stay back here in the USA, we decided to start to restore the car. During periods when the car was not in the workshop we used it as our daily vehicle. The car is very beautiful and in excellent condition. There is no rust. The body has been completely restored from the metal out.  The engine, drive train and suspension are all completely restored with many new parts. There is no play in the steering and the car is a joy to drive.

A Partial List of Restorations and Improvements (the ones I can remember)

Body
GM “Torch Red” with matching wheels
Restored from metal out with no rust anywhere
New floor pans
New lower front panel (lower doghouse)
Ugly rear fender join seams removed

Interior and trim
New carpeting throughout the cockpit
New upholstery and cushions on seats
Brazilian Rosewood dashboard
Dashboard upper and glove tray have new covering
New windshield
New folding convertible top
Pioneer stereo system (four speaker) with 10 CD changerElectrical
New fuse box
All electricals restored – everything works!
New Mallory distributor
New battery

Running gear
Larger radiator with dual thermostatically controlled cooling fans
New Holly two barrel carburettor and new alloy intake manifold
New tubular steel header pipes for exhaust
Rebuilt alternator
New “street performance” camshaft, new valves and springs
New high compression pistons (stock Triumph parts), rings, wrist pins, connecting rods and bearings
New crankshaft and bearings
New clutch
Transmission completely rebuilt (no sync problems on 2nd gear)
New front brakes and new rotors – rear brakes completely rebuilt
New half-shafts and bearings for the independent rear suspension
New rear shock absorbers and new rear leaf spring (no “Spitfire squat”)
New front wheel bearings
Front suspension, steering and shock absorbers all new or rebuilt with new parts – no steering play!
New exhaust system with stock Spitfire muffler
New tires when last serviced

It is very hard to find an earlier Spitfire, one made before the appearance of the car was ruined by regulations, in this condition. For beauty, ’73 was the finest year for “Spits”. One could easily justify a price of $10,000 for this car, considering the cost of putting one into this condition. I am asking $6,000. I will consider other offers. Please contact me. Leave a comment or if you prefer email me at jan@messersmith.name

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The Relaxing Art of Faking It

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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As part of my plan to get more sleep, I’m forcing myself to stay up until at least 23:30 each night. The other part of the plan is not  to lounge in bed watching the same movie on HBO for the twentieth time. I realised that I had failed the second part of the plan this evening when I caught myself staring mesmerised near the end of Dr. Strangelove  at about the point where Slim Pikins was mounting the hydrogen bomb with his cowboy hat on. There is nothing at all wrong with Dr. Strangelove.  It’s an excellent flick. However, it might be considered excessive to have viewed it as many times as I have. I have most of the dialogue memorised.

So, here it is at 23:07 already and I’m just getting around to writing. I did, however manage the time this evening, since I cooked yesterday evening (boiled cabbage, steamed pumpkin, broccoli, pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce) to download some new free Photoshop filters.  When I cook, I cook frantically – several dishes at a time. I had the entire stove going yesterday. It was as hot as the hubs of Hades in the kitchen.

So, I’m celebrating a little free time this evening by engaging in my most relaxing hobby – Fake Art. Some reasons why I find it relaxing are that nobody is telling me how to do it and I have absolutely no constraints. I’m pleasing only myself and, contrary to popular opinion, I’m quite easy to please.

So, let’s get on with it.

Oh, before I forget . . . Stupid Mistake #987 (I start counting all over again on each January 1st). I didn’t think of survivors benefit’s.  Well, I sort of thought of it, but not effectively. When I noticed that Eunie’s Social Security money was no longer showing up in the bank account along with mine I reckoned that I just wouldn’t be getting any. Then a friend (a Canadian,  for pity’s sake!) said to me yesterday that she thought that I should be getting survivor’s benefits and maybe I would have to apply. Apply? APPLY?? Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t think that I’m a danger to others, but I’m certainly a danger to myself.

So, I got on the web site for the SSA and discovered that it may be true. I may not be as impoverished as I thought. Not quite. Wish me luck as I try to figure out how to apply without appearing at the nearest SSA office, as that seems to be the only way to go.

Now, let’s get on with it.

Here is That Flower which I can never remember the name of:

There is a big vine full of them right outside my front door alongside the Night Blooming Jasmine, which I can’t smell any more (interesting story there if you can find it on MPBM). The filter I used is a nice outliner. I’m going  to try it for cartooning.

Here are some of my orchids harassed by the Bad Dream filter:

I still can’t decide if I like the effect or not.

Regulars here will recognise my favourite orange lily:

This filter is a pretty good posteriser. Posterisation is simply the reduction of the number of colours in an image. This one I do like.

I can’t remember the name of the filter which I used for this image. I call the resulting image Coleus on Acid:

It is dramatic enough.

And this is one of my many, many Bird of Paradise plants:

This one has been chewing magic mushrooms since late last night. Its consciousness has now fully expanded.

A yellow flower with dew drops. How prosaic. The filter also is likewise subtle, but insistent:

This one may be my favourite. I can’t decide.

No, I could  decide, but I’m not making any more decisions today.

It’s 23:35 and I’m going to try to go to sleep.

Wish me luck with that, eh?

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Time Warp

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on November 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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I had no intention of being absent from this place for an extra day. I have no shortage of ideas for posts and writing seems to be more than usually good for me these days. However, the power situation in Madang for the last few days has been absolutely miserable. On Thursday my UPS died a hideous death. I went to get a new one, hating to spend the money, but unwilling to risk my computer. On getting it home I was disheartened to discover that it did not appear to work. So, I spent the entire weekend without the web. I felt as if I’d had a lobotomy.

As it turned out, the new UPS worked fine. I took it back to the dealer today. It was pointed out to me that I had the connections wrong. Sigh . . . Yet another stupid mistake. How many does it take?

None of that has anything at all to do with what I want to write about today.

I can remember at times near the end of the year, such as now, when I would think to myself – for example – “Where did 1992 go? Time is whizzing by so fast! I’ll soon be dead.” This is what happens when you’re having fun. When life is sweet it flashes past so quickly that it seems unfair. You feel cheated. The inevitable close of the show seems to be approaching in too much of a hurry.

And then something happens. Suddenly life is not such a joy ride. Nobody escapes these seasons. Winters come to us all. Winters seem to last forever, eh?

Remembering that I once thought where did the year go, it seems so awfully opposite now to look at the calendar and note, as it has been creeping up on me day-by-day, that it has been only two months today since Eunie died. Amazing! It feels like a year. It feels like forever. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve had plenty of time to think about it – centuries. I found it an odd coincidence (is there really such a thing?) that I met Nancy Sullivan today, who is an old friend I seldom see, and practically the first thing that she said to me upon reflecting that it had been only two months was, “It seems like forever, eh?” My case rests.

I pondered mightily concerning what images I might use for this post. Dali’s The Persistence of Memory kept wafting around the corners of my mind. Finally I decided that I needed timepieces. No worries. Eunie and I both had a small collection of what we called our “Seven Dollar Watches.” We collected them from Wal*Mart:

I looked for the better part of an hour for Eunie’s watches. I’m not ashamed to say that I cried for a while when I couldn’t find them. It’s that kind of day. I put mine on a sly grinning cat which Eunie applied to a bedspread, along with frisky puppies, well over two or three decades ago. It’s a very durable bedspread. It will outlive me. I hope some child enjoys it.

I can hear the watches ticking. Too fast? Too slow? I can’t tell.

Then, unbidden today, but always on my mind otherwise, came the thought of solitary creatures as I looked through the images of my dive on The Green Dragon B-25 bomber on Saturday. Solitary creatures . . . I don’t intend to stay that way forever, not if I have anything to say about it. Eunie will be my cheerleader.

Here is a solitary Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula):

That’s right. It’s Nemo come to cheer us up. Good luck, buddy.

I wonder if time will speed up again in a year or so. Of course then, when I’m having some fun again, I’ll moan that it’s going too fast. I’m never satisfied.

Here’s a critter that seems to prefer solitude, a Ribbon Eel (Rhinomuraena quaesita):

Weird, eh? But pretty.

Now with my brain churning so furiously that it has set my hair on fire I run across this image which I took at the end of the dive. It seems to fit here:

It’s good old Faded Glory. She’s a lot like me. She’s beat up and corroded, but she’s still afloat. She’s still a bit pretty in a sort of efficient, functional way. She’s still got a lot of love and good times to give. Just like me. I’m certain that someday this will be my favourite image of her.

I’ll wrap this up with a magic trick. See . . . nothing up my sleeves.

Stuck in the sand near the rapidly deteriorating corpse of the war machine in which good men died I found this bit of the Perspex windscreen, which was smashed to smithereens when the bomber ditched near Wongat Island. Geneviève hovers like a pixy ghost in the near distance:

This shard of plastic has been resting alone in the warm sea since about the time I was born. It had never been disturbed before. I came along on Saturday and dug it out of the sand. I resurrected it.

I carried it back to the wreckage and dropped it into the pilot’s seat.

Home at last.

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Alison Raynor’s Magic Garden

Posted in Guest Shots, Photography Tricks on November 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today we’re going to do some more of Alison Raynor’s shots from Amazing Australia. How could a place called Toogoolawah not  be magical? I’m getting very bored talking about myself, so I’m giving my ego a holiday. It needs a rest. I will have a few comments to make concerning photography and the the care and feeding of images.

Let’s start with this sunset shot at Mt. Beppo. This probably won’t be hanging on any gallery walls, but it has some interesting features. The first thing which I noticed was the colour of the sky in the upper part of the image. It is most unusual. I tried not to mess with it, so it is pretty faithful to the original, I think. The horizon is slightly tilted. In this shot, it works fine for me. It’s not quite an angled line, which is a good compositional tool, but it isn’t straight either. It teases the eyes just a little, like a picture hanging crooked on the wall. I like the fence post standing right in the middle. The eyes keep coming back to it. There are two trees, but they are very different. This provides some contrasting elements:

All in all, it’s a pleasant, simple shot which speaks with a small, comforting voice. Ali emailed it to me at 1280 x 960 pixels and the file size was about 140K. That is about the minimum size in pixels and the tightest compression which works well for a photography oriented site such as MPBM. You can click on it to enlarge and have a nice viewing experience.

This is another very pretty image. It reminds me of the succulent plants which we called “Hens and Chickens” as children. Ali can tell us what it is, I’m certain:

I got this one in an email also. It came in at 516 x 639 pixels and the file size was 65K. Now we are getting into the range of too few pixels for pleasant “click me” viewing. If you do click to enlarge you will be able to begin to see some jaggie edges and the level of detail has dropped off. It’s fine to view on the page, but when you blow it up, it suffers. According to your browser and your display resolution, it may also not fill your screen.

I hasten to add that I haven’t talked to Ali about any of this yet, so I hope she can forgive me for jumping the gun. Ali shoots lovely images. I want them to keep coming – just a little bigger.

When I first saw this one I thought that someone had woven a spider web out of string. It is a near perfect coating of morning dew. The web is being dragged down by the weight of the water:

This one came in at 480 x 640 pixels and about 70K. It is too small for blown-up viewing. Also, if you do enlarge it you can begin to see chunky little out-of-place bits, especially around the edges of the web, which are produced when the image is compressed down to a too-small file size. You might have to zoom in a little to see this. In Firefox you can hold the CTRL key down and press the “+” or “-” key to zoom in or out. These chunky bits are called compression artefacts. Once they are there, you can’t get rid of them. All you can do is go back to your original file and save it again with less compression, and possibly more pixels. There is no free lunch. This is why I always save a copy of an image which I have edited at the full resolution that it was shot. I use a different file name for the “save as”, but keep the image number in it, so that I have both the camera image and the edited image. I might want to start all over on the editing for a different effect. I don’t want to waste all of my editing work by downsizing the image and compressing it too much. I can then make smaller versions for special purposes as I need them.

Again I’ll note that Ali did not know that I was going to put these up on MPBM, though she should suspect that I’m likely to, because nearly everything that she sends, I like. I’ll also say that I’m a little jealous of that spider web. I don’t have any which are nearly so good.

This is another very interesting spider web shot, because of its depth of field (pretty much in focus from near to far). I really like the washed out colours and the way the building and tree seem to float behind the web. The jumbled twigs in the sky are a nice touch:

This one was about the same size and compression as the previous one. If you click to enlarge, you will see that it also suffers when blown up. It is the same problem, not enough pixels and too much compression. The fewer pixels you start with, the more the image will suffer from too much compression.

This is a very sweet, loud image. It tickles my fancy. It breaks a few compositional rules, but it still pops!

It came in at 1280 x 960 pixels and 213K. Though a little short on my usual standard of 1600 pixels on the longest dimension, it still looks very nice enlarged. Also the larger file size means that the compression was not too great, so there are no nasty compression artefacts. Very pretty indeed, but you don’t want to stare at it for too long. If you do, you will no longer be in Kansas!

I like this Snake in the Garden shot. It is so hard to get close enough to snakes to get great shots such as this one. For one thing, I’m never quite certain what might like to bite me and what the consequences of that might be. This one doesn’t look dangerous, but neither does Britney Spears. Still, I would keep my distance from her:

This one came in at 640 x 480 and 48K. That’s too small and too compressed. If you click to enlarge, you will see another type of compression artefact. Look in the lighter areas especially and you will notice some little squares of colour which don’t blend in with each other. This is because the compression program is breaking the image into little blocks to try to make the image smaller. As you enlarge the image, you can see the blocks.

So, what’s the message? Well, if you would like to send to me some of your tasty images for a guest shot (and I can’t imagine why you would not), just follow this simple formula. Resize your final, perfect image down (remembering to keep a copy at full size) to 1600 pixels on the longest edge. Then, when you are saving, set your compression to make a file no smaller than about 200K. The resulting file will look beautiful on a full screen view.

I can but hope that Ali will forgive me for using her very pretty shots as examples. If I had received them at larger sizes I would have not had the chance for this little excursion into the bone-crushingly boring details of image sizing and compression. So, thank you Ali.

By the way, I cannot resist, at the slightest opportunity, to poke fun at rabid Britney Spears fans. My post  Britney Spears Will Make Me Famous attracted more comments than any other on MPBM. There were many more acid remarks left which I did not allow into the comments. I received no death threats, but there were some which made me glad that I was half a world away from the sender.

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CWA Melbourne Cup Day – A Party For Eunie

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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Yesterday was Melbourne Cup Day. If you are not an Australian or you don’t hang around with Australians, then that might not mean much to you. Let me tell you that it is a very big deal here. The Country Women’s Association of Madang threw a lovely shindig yesterday –  the Eunice Messersmith Melbourne Cup Day Party. It made me very happy to attend.

Our local Wonder Woman who goes by the alias of Maureen Hill assisted the ladies of the staff of the CWA Cottage who, along with other members, organised a terrific lunch and provided a delicious fruit punch and a well-stocked bar, an obligatory facility for Melbourne Cup Day.

Maureen sported a stunning chapeau featuring my favourite orange lilies:

Sometimes I think that Melbourne Cup celebrations are more about hats and less about horse racing, though the race was quite exciting and ended with a nice surprise for me.

Lady Anna had come in from Kar Kar Island  with Sir John. I hope that I’m not mistaken, but I believe that Lady Anna won the Best Dressed prize:

All of the ladies were decked out in their finest.

I wore an old but respectable silk shirt and tropical white trousers. I have one pair of black leather shoes which have not succumbed to jungle rot. I wore them with an ancient pair of black socks with only a few holes, none of which showed. I love to tell uppity youngsters that I have underwear which is older than they are. It’s true!

Not to be outdone, Trevor represented the men of CWA (we are both dues-paying members) with this smart number which he picked up in a used clothing store in London:

The betting tickets make snappy accessories.

I can’t say that I’m particularly proud of the pictures. I was shooting for fun, not technique. I ran them all through a noise and softening filter to get the look I wanted. They are just a bunch of shots of people having fun. I always loved to go to the CWA Melbourne Cup Party with Eunie. She enjoyed it so much and I simply enjoyed soaking up that feeling which I got from being with her when she was having fun.

The ladies did seem to enjoy the attention of my camera. Here is Maggie in her very fine leopard spotted cap:

Maggie’s daughter, Annie, was a stunner in this outfit:

And Leanne showed her lovely smile for the lens:

The name of the horse which won the race as Americain. I found this intensely amusing. As the winners were delivered their spoils, I stood and asked why anyone, having thought about it, would not  have bet on that horse. The connection between the party for Eunie, one of the few Americans in Madang, and the fortuitous name of the horse should have been obvious. Americain paid about twelve to one. Too bad that I forgot to bet.

Here Karen shows off something which might be called a hat, I suppose:

Whatever it is, I like it.

This is Helen. I like this unpretentious headgear. It claims to be a hat and nothing more. Sometimes less is  more:

It’s a good look for Madang.

Heather was not in a mood for complex metaphors. This hat shouts Melbourne Cup Day!

I wonder where she found those little horses.

CWA was one of Eunie’s passions. It is one of the more remarkable organisations in Madang. I can’t think of another wholly local operation which does so much good with so little. The cottage makes a nice income as do the social functions. All of the income in excess of expenses is spent in support of local needs such as the Children’s Nutirion Ward of the hospital and Kindergarden Long Ples (pre-school programs at the village level) among many others.

Every time I think of CWA I have happy moments. I had some very happy moments yesterday.

Thank you, ladies.

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Sorry, Just Fish

Posted in Under the Sea on November 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I can’t think of anything to say about living in my skin that doesn’t feel to me like whining. The usual array of great heavy objects falling from a colossal height continue to rain down on my head. This week’s deluge began today. The details aren’t important to anyone but me, so I shan’t bore you. It suffices to say that it’s getting hard to stand up. So, instead of going all sissy on you, I’ll tell you a little story, two in fact.

Way back when, maybe a quarter of a century ago, we were in Lae to buy a car. It was a four-wheel-drive Daihatsu jeepy sort of thing. Anyway, we were in the auto showroom waiting for some paperwork. Suddenly, everyone went sort of stiff and jittery. There were a few nervous giggles, something which usually presages trouble. Everybody seemed to be looking in my direction. After checking my fly, I looked around cautiously. Standing behind me, staring at me with teary eyes was the tallest Papua Guinean woman I have ever seen. I’d guess that she was about fifty years old, but guessing age here is pretty useless. I was paralysed by curiosity and wonder.

A glance around revealed that everyone was looking from the corners of their eyes. Folks here often seem not to notice crazy people. As illustrated by the many people who walk on the very edge of the pavement a half-metre from whizzing vehicles with their backs towards the traffic, the general idea seems to be that if one cannot see the danger, it doesn’t really exist. In this case, there didn’t seem to be any danger, but the woolly forests on my arms rose up in anticipation. She took a hesitant step, seemed to make up her mind about something and walked toward me looking straight into my eyes. That got my attention, as it is almost unheard of. She stopped in front of me and asked, “Are you Jesus Christ?”

To this day, I can’t remember how or if I answered. In fact, I’m unclear as to what did happened next. It must have been anticlimactic.

Okay, another one.

Not too many years after that, I was sitting in our Suzuki jeepy thing in the parking lot of a now defunct food store. Eunie was inside buying some stuff. I was to lazy to go with her. I had the window down. In the side rear-view mirror I noticed a thirty-something guy walking up to the car. Caution always being wise, I pulled my arm in and readied myself for some action. I didn’t like the look of his stride. It was too determined.

Reaching the car, with no preamble he said, “Hello, I’m Elvis Presley.” Ever quick with a snappy comeback, I ventured, “I’ve got a lot of your records.” And that was it. He turned and walked away. You were probably expecting more. There isn’t any.

These two incidents somehow got wired up in my brain. I suppose that the connection is obvious. Whether there is any message there is open to interpretation. Let me tell you what I took away from them. You can decide if it sounds nusto and leave a comment explaining why or why not. It’s all up to you.

Some people have problems with genes or chemistry or injury or illness – that’s a given. Other people go off to lunar mindscapes for less obvious reasons. It’s not so much that they are crazy. It’s more that life has been crazy for them. One copes the best one can. One does what one must do. One deals with it. “Just get on with life.” “Take one day at a time.” This is what we are told. But, what if it all becomes too much? Some are stronger, tougher, more resilient, more anaesthetised against pain than others. Some will survive the onslaught. Others will perish.

I have infinite sympathy for those whose minds are broken, regardless of the cause. However, I am especially sad for those who have been beaten down by life. Perhaps it is because I’ve been there, I’m there again now.  I understand the feeling that one might fall over the edge with the next shove. It’s familiar territory. It’s terrifying.

So, maybe the two people about whom I have thought so many times over the years were not so unfortunate. They seemed blissfully unaware of their predicaments. Perhaps that’s the way to go – silently slipping into insanity without being aware of it.

And now . . . On with the fish.

We’ve dispensed with the Bad. Now we’ll have the Good and the Ugly. This critter should be familiar to you by now. It’s the Common Lionfish (Pterois volitans):

I think that it’s a reasonably good picture, if you like your fish in full context. We get a nice idea of what it looks like in its habitat. I frightened this one when I poked my camera at it to get it to move to a more photogenic location. I think that it believes that it is hiding now.

Here is a shot from directly above looking down:

No matter what I did, I couldn’t make this shot look nice. It lacks something, but I can’t honestly say what. It simply doesn’t sing. Maybe somebody can tell me why. I have photographer’s block.

Here’s a nice little shot of a couple of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):

It’s odd that I only now notice that there is also a Pink Anemonefish in the lower left corner. I did not see it at all as I was working on the image. How the mind works! Or doesn’t.

This is a flash-lit shot of some Anthea milling around. The brightly coloured tubular objects are Organ Pipe Coral:

Though the colours are pretty, they are completely artificial. The spectrum of the flash matches sunlight at the surface of the water. You would never see these colours with the naked eye.

This little fellow is a Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus):

They usually dive down into the forest of horns of coral for protection. This one was curious and stayed out to keep an eye on me.

I wonder if he is crazy?

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