Fishy Shorts

Posted in At Sea on March 8th, 2012 by MadDog
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Having ignored the month of February here at MPBM, I’m considering all of the reasons why I no longer post regularly. Certainly my life could hardly be more different from the days when I was driven to post daily. Probably the main reason for my relative silence is that I simply do not have the two or three hours a day of leisure time it takes for me to prepare a post which satisfies me. Whatever the reasons, I don’t see the situation changing soon. Possibly someday, when I’m “retired”, I might find the time to revive a regular schedule.

Last week I spent some time organizing hundreds of video clips scattered here and yonder on a stack of hard disk drives. I was looking for clips which showed Eunie. I’m shocked by how little I have of her on video. Why didn’t I shoot more? Anyway, I did fool around for a couple of hours working up some short practice movies of fish. I’m preparing music, stills and video clips for an AV background for our upcoming wedding ceremony on April 1st. I need the practice.

This one, Reef Cruising, is a typical scene on the reefs in the Coral Triangle:

While it’s not National Geographic quality, it shows what can be done with clips from a simple camera (my Canon G11) and inexpensive movie making software. I used Cyberlink Power Director 10. It’s easy to use, much easier than the much more powerful but pricey Adobe Premier.

Here is a little clip of one of my favorite fish, the Reticulated Dascyllus (Dacsyllus reticulatus):

These tiny beauties hover over plate corals and dive quickly between the branches when frightened.

Here is a mob of pretty little Anthea dancing around a coral head:

If the bubbling noise bugs you, skip on to the last clip or turn the sound down. I was surprised by the very slow rate of my breathing. I hadn’t realized I was so calm and relaxed.

One of the most interesting creatures in this watery world is also one of the smaller, (Spirobranchus giganteus), the Christmas Tree Worm:

As you can see, they retract instantly into their tubes when disturbed.

This clip features the handsome Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii), a very common critter in tropical waters around the globe.

My last effort is the most pleasing to me. This clip features a large school Vlaming’s Unicornfish (Naso vlamingii):

I don’t know why it took me so long to realize the a little music would improve the viewability so much. It does make a big difference.

You’ll note that the last clip is not on YouTube. I’ve not been happy with the changes in YouTube since Google snatched it up. Vimeo seems more friendly to video producers. I will be doing a lot of video in the future. I want a publishing service which reduces my work load and delivers a more professional look to my viewers.

But first I have to upgrade my skills so that I can produce something which looks professional. It is not as easy as I thought.

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Leapin’ Lizards!

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on June 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m glad you asked. I’ll tell you when I love life the most. It’s actually two times. I’ll let you guess when it’s not. No, I’ll tell you. It’s not when I’m making money or doing something “important” or “supporting a cause” or “being responsible”. All those things are good to some extent or another.

One of the times during which life settles over me as a fine, cool mist of euphoria is when I’m sitting quietly with my woman, enjoying the sweetness of nearly a half-century of friendship, affection. and passion. The other time when I feel very close to heaven is when I am with beloved mates who share my lust for life and welcome both the benefits and burdens of true friendship. I am blessed beyond comprehension with an abundance these moments.

My supply of words is running short today. I planned to make this my “Sunday” post so that I would not have a hole in my calendar. So much for dedication and self-discipline. So there’s a hole. I’ll flagellate myself later.

Right now I want to show you lovely Marleen and her dolphins:

Of course, they are not really Marleen’s dolphins. Nobody should own dolphins. However, Marleen had the best seat in the house as we travelled up to Blueblood on Mike and Di Cassell’s Felmara  on Sunday.

Now for a simple question:  What do you get when you take a bunch of clowns out to a floatie thing and give them a tennis ball? Well, you get Leapin’ Lizards:Here is Eddie “The Dancin’ Fool” with a picture-perfect catch. Richard Jones seems to be saying “What the . . .  How dare  you!”

Did you realise that if you Google “Leapin’ Lizards” (with the quotes) you will be about 368,000 hits. There’s a message in that somewhere.

Not to be outdone, Rich came on with a beautiful grab which ended in a spectacular splash:

Rich is one of the most physically competitive friends I have ever known. He has bicycled insanely, triathloned, climbed Mt. Wilhelm  and dived every chance he gets all despite having a great leaky hole in his heart. No, I mean his actual heart. No wonder he is so skinny. You do not want to get into a game of Twister with him. He will beat your socks off.

And, if you need incontrovertible evidence that man descended from the apes, you need look no further:I rest my case:

The next act was our scary local Frenchman, Pascal Michon, A.K.A. “The Prince of Pursuit”:Here Pascal is throwing down the gauntlet. “Bring it on!”, he challenges.

There followed what I think was a near miss, but there was so much water being displaced that I couldn’t see whether he actually caught it or not:At least it was a valiant effort, worthy of the flag.

The next attempt was evidently successful. Please note that the ball was firmly in his hands before his toes left the platform. The only way he could have surpassed this accomplishment would have been if he had managed to get back on the platform before ditching in the drink. Now that  would have been something:Rich is making his way back to the beach after exhausting his supply of red wine.

We have taken to calling Pascal “The Flying Frenchman” in honour of Clément Ader, Pascal’s countryman who was the first man to construct and pilot a powered aircraft in 1890. It reached a height of 20cm, and flew uncontrolled approximately 50m. Here is a picture of Clément Ader:

Don’t you see the resemblance?

After a flaming postprandial of Black Sambuca, we made our way back to town. I like this nice pensive shot of Brioni sitting on the stern of Felmara:Never a cross word was spoken. What a day!

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The Spooky Eastern Sunset

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on June 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Whoah, got a day behind again. What a bummer! I don’t know what happened to the clock yesterday. It kept moving in big, sporadic jumps. I had intended to tell you about Saturday evening at Kranket Island  where we had a party for Jo Noble’s birthday, but now I’ve already forgotten most of it.

The part that I do remember is the stunning sunset effects which we saw in the Eastern  sky. Yes, that’s right, you are looking East in this shot, just as the sun is nearing the horizon in the West:

I know that there is a proper name for this effect, but I can’t remember it right now. It’s 05:00 and I’m not going to trudge through Google to find it. I’ll count on a knowledgeable reader to leave a comment. The effect lasted less than five minutes.

The curve that you see in the ray on the right is an effect of the way which I took the panorama shots. The image is made up of about seven frames. Of course, the boat was sloshing around a lot, so it was difficult to hold the camera perfectly straight. The image covers about 150°

Here is a single frame image of the centre of the scene:

The main ray on the right side shoots up (or down, rather) past the huge cumulonimbus incus cloud on the horizon, which is still catching the last rays of the sun, reddened by their passage through the dusty lower atmosphere. I think that these rays are shadows of clouds near the horizon in the West. They appear to converge on the Eastern horizon at a point opposite the sun because they are passing through the atmosphere at a low angle and are visible for a long distance. Think of a pair of straight railroad tracks stretching off to the horizon. They seem to meet at a point in the far distance.

Okay, if that isn’t geeky enough for you how about the pileus cloud cap on the top of this towering cumulus cloud:

The pileus is the fuzzy little hat sitting on top of the cloud. It is formed when the cloud is rising very rapidly, pushing warmer, wetter air up into cooler areas. The moisture condenses out into a little lens-shaped cap which folds over the top of the main cloud.

Okay, enough meteorology. Since we’re doing reddish stuff, have a look at this Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata):

The image is actually upside-down. I found him under a ledge and could barely see him. I had to stand on my head and shoot to get the image. This fills your sinuses full of salt water pretty quickly. It usually produces a few good sneezes when you get right-side-up again. Sneezing into a regulator underwater is an amusing experience.

I’ll throw in one more reddish thing before moving on. This lumbering, spiky critter is a kind of Sea Cucumber, specifically (Thelenota rubralineata):

The rubralineata  is one of the more colourful Sea Slugs. I have another picture of one here.

Well, that’s it for yesterday’s post. I have to hurry on to today’s post or I’ll miss the sunrise.

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I Shall Now Tease You

Posted in At Sea, Madang Happenings, Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s no trick at all to figure out when I’m completely stuck for a title for a post. It makes even less sense than usual. Though I am  going to tease you today concerning some amusing posts which I will have coming up in the next week, don’t get your hopes up too much. No, the war in the Big A is not over, nor are any others that I know of. Aliens have not landed to my knowledge, but I’m still hoping. The only interesting news is that we absolutely must buy a new car. Eunie has now “mentioned” for some time how nice it would be if we had a car from which the fenders were not falling off and I’m becoming more and more inclined to agree with her. On an insane whim we stopped off at Coastal Automotive to see, perchance to dream, if there was anything remotely within our price range. Well, there was a red Nissan Twin Cab ute there which is like the younger sister of the one we drive at present. Since Eunie will resolutely not  drive anything but a red car, my fate was sealed.

I reckon that if we sell all of our PNG stocks, get a good price for the rust bucket and I can remember where I buried the cash in the back yard, we’ll be only about K10,000 short. We decided two years ago that we would never again borrow money for anything. Eunie won’t let me sell the Harley, bless her heart. So, we’ll fall on the mercy of our corporate account for a couple of months and pray for a miracle. All that just to work up to this sunrise, which is a lulu:No, we’re not to the teasing yet, though I will have some very nice underwater shots over the next few days.

This image is in support of my philosophical sermon for today which  is titled, No Matter How Bad Something Is, If You Can Practice Utter Denial, You Can Probably Make It Better.  This is the same advice which I give when poor desperate wretches come to me for marriage counselling. This proably explains why my success rate is so patheically low. When I snapped this image as a Vlaming’s Unicornfish (Naso vlamingii)  darted past me, I thought that it was a complete waste of valuable pixels: However, when I saw the image on the screen, all washed out and motion-blurred, something snapped in my mind, an all too often occurrence, and I denied utterly the possibility that the image had no merit whatsoever. So, kiddies, what do we do when this happens?  (All together now . . .) We make ART! In a mere five minutes I created something. What it is, I cannot say. However it is distinctly more than it started out. I appears vaguely as if it is a rocket-propelled fish. Hurrah! NASA, eat your heart out!

Since we’re in fail mode, I’ll underwhelm you with this excruciatingly ordinary, plain Jane starfish. Honestly, if I were a starfish so devoid of charm as this one, I’d simply hide under a rock and await the Rapture:Hmmm . . . that’s more or less what I’m doing now. Oh, well.

Still no major tease, so don’t get confused. I didn’t have time the other day to work on these two panoramas which I shot on Orion.  This is, as you might well imagine, is The Library:There’s Justin Friend lecturing my gorgeous, platinum blonde wife, Eunie.

And, this is one third of the stunning spiral staircase wrapped around the elevator in the central “Light Well” of the ship:Pretty flash, eh?

Okay, now I’ll deliver The Big Tease. Don’t get too excited, because if you’re not an Australian, New Zealander or Papua New Guinean, you may not begin to quiver with anticipation. Sunday morning was ANZAC Day. I’ll trouble you to look it up if you don’t know what it means. Let me just tell you, however, that here it is a big deal indeed:I could never be mistaken for a war enthusiast. To me it seems to be the stupidest thing that humans have ever dreamed up. Nobody has yet explained to me why we have to keep doing it. However, in this part of the world, as in others, naked aggression made war unavoidable. It was about defending against the rape and murder of entire cultures.

People here are rightly proud of the part that they played in defending themselves against seemingly overwhelming odds. Eunie and I felt privileged to be invited to participate. I’ll probably do a two-part post on the ANZAC Day memorial and following festivities during the next week.

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The Orion – Best Hotel in PNG

Posted in At Sea on April 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m still not clear about what my Facebook pal Justin Friend’s job is on Orion,  a luxury cruise ship which usually tip-toes into Madang at dawn and scurries out at dusk. His primary duty seems to be to live up to his surname. It seems that he organises a million things that would never occur to me. Anyway, yesterday he organised a visit aboard Orion  for me and my gorgeous wife, Eunie.

The joke aboard Orion  is that, when in port anywhere in PNG, it’s the best hotel in the country. Well, I’ve not been to all of the hotels in PNG, but I’m inclined to say that it’s no joke. From glitz to service, especially service, I’ve seen nothing to compare with it since I stayed in the Hanoi Horison Hotel. A place such as that would normally not be on my itinerary, but I booked a room on the Internet for US$80 per night.

Here’s a shot that I filched from Google Images of Orion  strutting her stuff:She’s a single constant-speed engined ship with a variable pitch propeller, two double-jointed rudders, and bow and stern thrusters. She can turn in her own length. She was purpose built (and, man, is she built! ) for getting into and out of small, interesting ports. She spends much of her time cruising Antarctic waters. I’ll give that a pass.

The bridge was like Disneyland to me. They have so many wonderful toys to play with:Note the golf ball knobs on the controls.

The crew is primarily Filipino and the engineers are Russian. Orion  was built in Germany. She’s simply the biggest Mercedes Benz that I’ve ever seen. This is the deck bar. I can imagine myself schmoozing here with the rich folks. I’d have to go browsing through the used clothing shops here in Madang for a new wardrobe:There is also a huge lecture hall. I’m dedicating myself to wangling a cruise on Orion  as a guest lecturer. There must be something  that I could talk about. I used to do cruise guiding and lecturing on the Melanesian Discoverer  until the tourism industry collapsed and the boat was sold.

Here is the dining room. No matter what I was wearing, I’d feel like a bum in here:Everything is so perfect, that it seems as if it’s not quite real. I kept expecting to hear a director yell, “Cut; that’s a wrap.” and see a crew of stage hands come in to tear the whole thing apart.

Well, somebody’s got to cook all of that delicious food, some of which we consumed at a sumptuous luncheon buffet:It all happens in the galley, which was very businesslike. There was no screaming chef, at least I didn’t hear him scream. He was a very dignified looking fellow, German as I remember. By the way, Orion  has two  captains who take turns commanding the ship. That seems comforting to me.

It never occurred to me that cruise ships might have elevators, but that just goes to show what a bumpkin I am:

Orion’s  elevator runs up the middle of a huge circular well in the centre of the ship which also features a stunning spiral staircase. The entire top of the well is glass, so the natural daylight, and moonlight I guess, illuminates the three deck high area. Everything is incredibly shiny and colourful. Yet nothing comes off as gaudy.

This is the kind of atmosphere you can expect everywhere aboard Orion:The Walter Mitty in me imagines me in a black tux with a burgundy cummerbund and bow tie to match, a Walther P-38 bulging in my armpit, and a mysterious and beautiful spy whispering secrets in my ear beside this staircase on Orion.

The watchword on Orion  is service. The boat usually sails with a passenger to crew ration of about one to one, which seemed incredible to me. Justin was particularly proud of this notice board. Note the grid of little squares:There is a picture of every passenger there. Crew are required to know the names of the passengers at any table which they serve. Justin mentioned that one of the most common questions of the passengers is, “How do they all know my name?”

That’s class, baby! If this ship were really a woman I would fall deeply in love with her in an instant.

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Saturday at Last!

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on April 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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What a week! It was a long slog through the muddy wasteland of servers oozing error messages and tangles of wires tugging at my feet like “wait a minute” vines. We did, however triumph. I can’t think of a single thing in the IT Dungeon that is not humming along in harmony with the organisation and my happy boss. We’ve even got a new web site up for my employer, Pioneer Bible Translators – Papua New Guinea Branch. I would never have gotten it done if not for the help (okay, he did it – I just made a few adjustments) of our former Director, Kyle Harris. He volunteered to do the job and I owe him big. Thanks, Kyle. It’s nowhere near finished, but I’ll be adding more content soon and the blog section will be updated at least weekly.

I’ll start this off quickly, because it’s 08:30 and I have to picky my divers up at 10:00, with this morning’s sunrise:Amusing, but hardly spectacular.

The panoramic view is similarly uninspiring:

Who am I to complain? I’m lucky to still be seeing sunrises here in Paradise. I’ve been nearly fired so many times that I’ve lost count, mostly for being a jerk. It’s happening less and less these days, so they are either getting used to me or I’m improving. I tend to accept the former explanation.

Might as well throw in yesterday’s sunrise:I’m ready for the rainy season to be over. During the dry there’s a good sky almost every morning. I can get back to rising at 05:30, grabbing camera and tripod and sitting down for a half hour of introspection while the big dude upstairs puts on a spectacular show just for me. Sometimes I pretend that I’m the only person on earth seeing it. Maybe I’m right . . . sometimes. Anyway, I certainly enjoy sharing them with you.

And, often when I return to the house, this is what I see:A hungry Sheba, our mutt, with that expression that says, “Okay already. You’re going to feed me now. Right?” The tail tattoos on the floor for emphasis.

My goal is to crank out six works of fake art each week to develop my so-called skills. This week I managed only one. It is an outrageously coloured faux watercolour rendition of the Yellowmargin Triggerfish which we teased a few days ago:Pseudobalistes flavimarginatus  if you care.

Okay, I have to rush now, since there’s always the chance that there will be a problem with Faced Glory,  since she’s probably nearly as old as me . . . in boat years. In an hour and a half I’ll be looking at something very similar to this:Not a bad life for an old man, eh?

Oh, and there’s a big costume party tonight with the theme being the letter “B”.

I’m going as a beach bum. I don’t even have to dress up.

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Saturday – It’s Not All About Diving

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on April 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  probably think that Saturdays are all about the edgy sport of diving, photography and taxonomic names. One might be forgiven for thinking that it’s all so unbearably geeky. If you’re not a diver, but you’ve been around them, you know that they can be a snobbish lot, making whooshing noises with their gear and strutting around arrogantly in their wetsuits. Well, the truth is, everybody looks better in a well-fitting wetsuit, even me. It’s like an all-body girdle. You’re trimmer when you need trimming and you bulge in the appropriate places. So, one might be forgiven for wanting to be a diver. It’s semi-cool. Sort of like driving a Datsun Z car.

Hah! Saturday is not all about diving. It’s also fun for a very pleasant gang of people half my age who enjoy the pleasure of getting out on the water and away from the office. Here we are on Faded Glory  with Sanguma  in the distance heading for Pig Island  for some tropical water pleasure:It was a strange sort of day – half sunny, half  gloomy.

When we tied up with Sanguma,  the inevitable Scrabble game began:If you click to enlarge, you can see that Ush has a fairly good selection of letters to play with. Maybe that explains the expression on her face.

When the sun came out, everyone got into the water:Each boat has a generous selection of “noodles” to assist in the floating pleasure.

Monty Armstrong and I both did two dives, so it was not all fun and games. Monty just bought a new Canon G11 with the factory underwater housing, the same rig that I use. I feel a contest coming on:Richard also has the same camera and housing. We have yet to coax him to bring it into the water. Above is a nice little starfish that I snapped. I’ll have many more underwater shots later in the week.

Jade and Andrew Marshall were out on their boat with some friends and their very cute three month old Blue Heeler. After a dunking in the ocean, which he did not appear to enjoy, he was warmed up by Ush. Not surprisingly, he did seem to enjoy that.

Everybody seemed keen to get out again for the evening to enjoy the wonderful phosphorescence in the water. I was skeptical about the weather, but agreed to have the boat ready to leave at 17:30.

On our way out, my fears for the weather proved well founded when the western sky got very angry:It turned out to be a fairly miserable evening. We suffered rain, mosquitoes, a pesky chop which kept the boats bouncing against their fenders and finally a cold wind which drove us all back to Madang by 20:00.

Nevertheless, all was not wasted. We encountered a small group of mermaids frolicking in the warm sea:There is seldom anything such as a bad Saturday in the Land of Surprises.

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