Arizona’s Tigers of Africa

Posted in Arizona Images, Dangerous on October 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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I won’t belabor the obvious. I posted only once in September. This is my first post in October. It would be a gross understatement to say that something is happening. In fact, a great many things are happening. I have been “busy”. That word covers a huge swath of ground. The day-to-day changes are not amusing, so I’ll not waste precious time by accounting for them here. The big changes pretty much take my breath away. In the space of a little over a year I have made countless difficult. perplexing but sometimes happy decisions at a time when I’m not supposed, according to popular wisdom, to be making any substantial decisions at all. I won’t go back over those either. Once is enough.

However, I might tally up the results. I have disposed of nearly every possession which I previously owned, except for some technical gear (what man can live without it?) a bit of furniture and my meager wardrobe. I have traveled here and yon for months searching for my future. I have wooed and won my life long friend, Grace. She was (and presumably still is) the life long friend of my late wife, Eunie. I have relocated the stage for the last acts of my life half way around the world from wet and wild Madang to dry and wild Sedona. If that’s not enough, well . . . okay, I’m getting married again this Saturday afternoon.

Whew!

And this is me, charging bravely, if still somewhat clueless, into whatever comes next:

Uhhh . . . well, no. Actually, that’s not me. I am not nearly so handsome. Grace and I, on her birthday this Monday, visited Out of Africa at Camp Verde, Arizona. I have never been to a wildlife park before. The glitz factor has, until now, kept me at bay. I like Out of Africa, because my perception is that there is far more focus on the animals themselves than on providing excessive comfort and pizazz to appeal to jaded tourists. Frankly, much of the park is ever so slightly shabby. That appeals to me when viewed beside the care and concern offered to the animals.

Watching the gorgeous white tiger being exercised in the enclosed area containing a large pool was one of the most exciting and interesting animal exhibits I’ve seen. Though one might blink at the idea of tigers out of Africa, nothing else in this show is fake. The big predators here might appear to be tame, but the handlers insist that they do not train them in any way. The say that they take care to give the big cats experiences which are as close to hunting as can be devised in captivity. Here Chalet, the white Bengal takes another dramatic leap into the water:

Why the huge lunges into the pool? The answer is in this shot:

I imagine that the park tigers puncture enough large inflatable plastic toys each year to keep a small Chinese factory going. It is one leap – one shredded blow up. The tiger always gets what it’s after:

In the shot above it’s interesting to examine the focus of the tiger’s attention. It it clearly on the toy and not on the handler. As you watch the show this tactic becomes clear. The toy is the game, not the person controlling it. The cats don’t seem to mind the fakery. The handler in the image above will soon flip the toy over the tiger’s head and run like crazy for the pool, making certain that he is well away from the toy when the tiger lunges powerfully through the air at the sailing object. The puffy plastic will suffer the same fate as a leaping antelope.

Some of these antics are so stunning that I don’t really feel like commenting about them. The images speak much more elegantly than I:

I was worried that shooting through the chain-link fence would be a problem. As it turns out the shallow depth of field of the Canon 300mm telephoto lens saved the day. It focused flawlessly on the main subjects while blurring the fence enough so that it is not too distracting.

The big cats, lions, tigers and a lone black leopard are not the only denizens of the park. Here is Grace having her hand washed by one of the giraffes’ sixteen inch purple tongue. This is a sensory treat which I have, so far, avoided:

And here is something that you don’t see every day:

It is amusing to watch the giraffe as it withdraws from the coach. It carefully lowers its head just enough to avoid konking its knobby antlers on the window frame.

I have a couple of more leaping tiger shots for you. I set the Canon 5D MkII for rapid fire. It usually digests five frames per second at full resolution, though it does occasionally stutter at an imappropriate moment. I think this is because my memory card is not quite fast enough to keep up:

What you see above and below are nice examples of what the handlers are trying to accomplish. One must suppose that everybody is winning here. The paying audience is certainly getting their $36 worth, even better if you’ve gotten in on one of the common half-price deals. The big cats appear to be getting some much needed aerobic exercise and having what passes for fun in captivity. The handlers, hopefully well paid, are getting an adrenalin rush second to none.

Once in a while the tiger gets the jump on the toy and the handler, preparing to flip the thing over the top for a good leap, gets jerked onto his back in mid-air:

Out of Africa is a little off the beaten path, but well worth the trip. For family fun at a very reasonable price you would be hard pressed to beat it.

I got fitted for my getting married outfit today. I won’t be spectacular, but Grace will certainly look classy, as she always does. We are going down by Beaver Creek where the wonderful red rocks are reflected in the water.

Maybe I’ll get some good pictures. I don’t really care as long as I get that ring on my finger.

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Happy Birthday, Karen – Waiting for the Tsunami

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Birthdays are terrific excuses for a party up at Blueblood. In fact, we need no excuse at all. Since there are now facilities for sleeping over, Eunie and I went up on Saturday afternoon for a small party to celebrate Karen Simmons birthday. Since I am still sick as a dog and didn’t feel much like partying hard, I fooled around with my Canon G11 camera to see how far I could stretch it. It proved to be fairly flexible.

For instance, here’s a passable shot taken of the party makers around the picnic table by candle light only:

I think that I shot this at ISO 1600 and it took a 1/4 second exposure. I had to give the “hold still” warning, but the shot did turn out nicely. I should mention that I had the camera mounted on a tripod, as with all of the rest of these shots. I like the shot. It has just the right mood and the lighting is very realistic. Not bad for a camera that sells for a little over US$400.

This shot might fool you, at first. It looks like a poor-quality image from a cell phone. However, if you consider that it was exposed only by the light of a full moon shining through clouds, it takes on a whole new aspect:

I shot it from the balcony overhanging the first floor (second floor for Yanks – the ground floor is called the ground floor by Australians – the next one up is the first floor). Believe it or not, this image was taken at ISO 80 for fifteen seconds. Therefore, it had practically no noise and was more or less perfect as it came from the camera. The long exposure accounts for the glassy water.

Here’s another one take from the beach level: You can clearly see Kar Kar Island  in the distance:

Since the giant earthquake in Chile was on everybody’s mind and we had no idea when or if a giant tsunami would engulf us, the party had a bit of a fatalistic flavour to it. “Wonder when it will get here?” “How big do you reckon it might be?” were popular topics of conversation.

Here is a similar shot taken after we lit the bonfire. You can see the firelight illuminating the sterns of Lying Dog  and Sanguma,  which were, here at about midnight, already beached by the low tide:

I noted a crazy thing which I had never even considered as I was shooting these long exposures. The night sky is not  black as it appears to our eyes. It is just as blue as it is in the day time, but it is very, very dark, so our eyes can’t see it. Below a certain light level, everything is just shades of grey to our eyes, even though colour still remains in the scene. It’s because our colour light receptors drop out of the data stream once the light level is low enough. They just don’t respond.

This shot is amusing, but I reckoned that I could do better:

Though the sparks are interesting (I had Rich Jones poking the fire to make more), the flames were badly overexposed and I lost all the detail.

This one turned out much better:

Moving away from the fire improved the shot. It’s a long exposure, so the flames are blurry, but the image is much more pleasing;

I couldn’t end this without showing you this lovely shot of Jenn Miller taken only by moonlight and the flames of the dwindling bonfire:

It’s not perfect, because it’s very difficult to hold perfectly still for four seconds, but it clicks for me. I’m very happy with it.

The tsunami never arrived. This is just as well, as we had no plans to go anywhere.

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Harley Madness – The Ride to Balek

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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After a week of being sick with sinusitis and bronchitis and not having time to take off of work to heal, I was ready yesterday to cut loose for an afternoon. Having a boss who is particularly in tune with my needs (my wife of 45 years, Eunice) gave me the privilege of saying, “I’m going for a Harley ride this afternoon, to which she responded, “Get out of here!” Long-term monogamy has its advantages.

My dear wife was likewise approving of my riding companion, Jo Noble, who had been . . . ah . . . shipwrecked here in Madang for several months. Jo is the Steward (I think that is the correct term) on a large yacht which is here in Madang awaiting major repairs before traveling on to where it is that large yachts go. I’m sure that I’ll never know. Jo is the very nice young lady you met on our trip to Nob Nob for the post Lightning Down a few days ago. Here she is fooling around with the Harley on the road out to the mountains on the way to the Ramu Valley:

The road this far is “improved”, which means there are fewer giant potholes and the gravel is not so loose that you risk a rash at every corner.

We took a couple of breaks for photos. Here Jo tries to remember how ‘left’ and ‘right’ are somehow magically reversed as she attempts to photograph herself in the rear-view mirror of the Harley:

I didn’t ask to see the resulting image.

Our plan was to cross this river ford and ride for a few kilometres up into the beautiful mountains. However, when we looked at the deep mud at the ford, we decided not to spoil the day by wallowing in the muck with the Hog:

So, we turned around and headed back to town to the Balek Wildlife Reserve, using our noses to guide us to the famous “Stinky River”.

For this shot, Jo asked if I thought that she looked “too silly”. Little did she realise that she was asking the wrong person. Silly is a way of life for me. I’ve made a career of it. I think she looks just fine:

One wants to visit Balek in the morning hours. In the afternoon the giant limestone cliffs from which the spring emerges block out the light and make photography a challenge.

I did manage one nice shot of Jo in the cave with only the natural light coming in. The colours on the rocks in the cave are psychedelic:

On my last trip to Balek, I had forgotten about the giant eels. This time we managed to coax one out. This was the best shot that I could get:fdsa
There are several that live in the river, along with some fairly large turtles.

At the village, we got the classic “Baby in a bilum” shot:

Babies are normally hung in string bags from trees for their naps.

I hate to do a post without a weird critter shot, so here it is:

This giant millipede seemed to be curled up for a nap in the sun.

Back safely at the office, we coaxed Eunie out to take our picture with the Harley:

I needed a fun day. Sometimes we all do.

I got one!

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Lightning Down! – The Nob Nob P-38

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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A combination of TELIKOM’s totally worthless copper wire phone network, a full day of diving on Saturday and a fairly grueling bush walk on Sunday has put me three days behind. I won’t bother to mention that I’ve also got a bad cold. Yes, I’m feeling pretty sorry for myslef. I intended to do a post on Saturday morning but could not, of course, get any connection. We had a full day of diving, so I was too knackered to go into the office where resides my only connection to the world from here on Planet X. Early Sunday morning we headed for Nob Nob to visit the site of a downed P-28 Lightning aircraft. It’s now Monday afternoon and I’m just getting started writing Saturday’s post. I will  catch up. I must  catch up. It’s becoming compulsive, but in a good way.

Anyway, here is Monty Armstrong leading part of the pack of rag-tag hikers up the trail to the crash site:

The highest elevation that we reached was about 400 metres. The crash site is in deep jungle on the side if a precipitous slope at 125 metres. That means that we walked mostly downhill from the highest point, near the spot in the photo above, to the wreckage. The footpath, if that’s what you could call it, was ankle-deep in mud much of the way. I started out the walk barefoot, because I know that I would do better that way. The five hikers were myself, Monty, Greg, Jo, and Tag Tap. I fell a half-dozen times, Monty nearly went down a couple of times, Greg crashed one time spectacularly, but Jo never fell once.

Need I mention that the walk back was about 275 metres uphill, very uphill,  on the same muddy path? I never really got badly winded, but I walk very  slowly.

At the site the jungle is so dense that you can hardly see the sky:

That was the biggest hole that I could find. It can be a spooky place. If you get lost, you could walk right across a trail and not even notice it. Local folk, of course, know every square metre.

So, what’s the big fuss about? Well, it’s about this beautiful but deadly machine:

The image above is from Mark Karvon’s web site where he offers a stunning array of fine art prints.

Here’s Monty surveying the site with his expert Mark I Eyeballs. Monty has torn apart and reassembled more that a few old war birds, including P-38s:

We had a cheap metal detector with us which allowed us to find many more bits and pieces that I have managed to uncover on previous visits to the site.

Here’s Jo providing a bit of eye candy to an otherwise grungy shot of one of the Allison engines:

The far left side of the engine is missing, as is the whole crankcase. You can see the crankshaft, connecting rods, a few of the pistons and the intake flanges.

Here is a shot of the turbocharger:

We searched in vain for anything that had a number on it. Our hope was to find the area where the cockpit smashed in. Without a more sophisticated metal detector and a digging crew, there is not much point in visiting the site again.

There are slightly varying stories of the fate of the pilot. All versions have him bailing out and landing safely, so we’ve never worried about disturbing human remains. Sadly, we can find no evidence that would indicate the serial number of the aircraft. This means that the people of the area will never know the name of the man who they tried to protect from the Japanese soldiers.

A crashed war plane is not the only unsettling thing we found. This millipede was at least 10cm long. They exude a highly toxic fluid which burns skin like acid:

Jo saw a snake cross the path directly in front of her. She didn’t even scream. Light on her feet, doesn’t scream when startled, single – hey guys, are you listening? Oh, did I mention that she’s a yachtie?

Here’s a shot of my GPS resting on the engine:

You’ll probably note that I’ve blurred out the coordinates. Serious investigators are welcome to contact me for more information.

My old buddy, Tag Tap has been with me to this site several times on our bush walks. I doubt if we’ll go back. We’ve shown it to probably every person who has an interest in working so hard to get to a place where all you can see is twisted metal:

However, every time I go here, I think a little bit about my dad. He had nothing to do with airplanes, but he did fight the war here in the place where I now enjoy the fine life. I think about the man who flew this plane. How, with an engine on fire, he popped the canopy and jumped out, hoping that his chute would save him, not daring to think of what faced him if he survived the fall.

And then, he died at the hands of the enemy.

It is a sad place.

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Madang Anti-Violence Protest

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on December 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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The Madang community lost no time getting its act together to protest the recent increase in violence. Last week’s armed robbery of a prominent local citizen was apparently, the last straw. As I am allergic to large, overheated crowds, our friend and correspondent Heather Young-Leslie was at the scene to report this to us:

Dec 7 2009

Heather Young-Leslie

heatheryoungleslie.wordpress.com/blog/

It has been a tense week in Madang town. The response to the brutal home invasion, rape and torture of a woman who has been a pillar of the community for decades has been shock, anger and deep sadness. The fact that her attack has come as part of an escalation of violence, and in particular violence against women, over the past several months in Madang has finally sparked a flame. Enough is Enough, people are saying. Women’s groups, local politicians and grassroots ‘mamas’ have mobilised to demand stronger support from the provincial administration. A protest was planned for this morning, to march from Bates Oval in the centre of Madang town, to the Provincial Assembly. Late Sunday night, rumours circulated that the protest was to be postponed until Thursday afternoon, and many of us consequently stayed home. We grumbled that changing the plan for a popular protest was a great way to dilute the action and weaken the need for government response. However, many Madang-ites did not hear that rumour. They showed up in force at Bates Oval and decided to hold the march anyway. As soon as news spread that the protest march was on, we jumped in our car and raced toward the marchers. We arrived just as they were parading around the Assembly grounds, yelling “no more rape!” The governor Sir Arnold Amet, Provincial Administrator Joseph Dorpar and two members of Parliament, Ken Fairweather and John Hickey were ready to listen to the crowd, and receive a petition. I took these photos with my iPhone. The results of the protest are as yet unclear. But the mood of the crowd was not. People are clear that Enough is Enough. Handmade signs called on men to recognise that their son’s behaviour was modelled on their own, and that women deserved respect. This may be Madang’s first popular protest against violence against women. Meanwhile, the woman who was attacked is under medical care in her home, suffering the side affects from post-exposure prophylaxis against STIs, HIV, and the multiple physical injuries she suffered at the hands of men who local people are referring to as “the animals”.

There was minor police presence and, according to Heather, the crowd was in control:

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-Leslie

I’m going to shut up now and let the images speak for themselves.

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-Leslie

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-Leslie

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-Leslie

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-Leslie

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-LeslieI would not want to be in these shoes:Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-Leslie

Madang Anti-Violence Protest shots by Heather Young-LeslieIt’s not over ’til it’s over!

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I Left My Money in a Leaky Boat

Posted in Dangerous, Humor, Mixed Nuts on September 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I woke up this morning and turned on CNN, the first thing that I heard was that I might soon be getting wet. The earthquake in American Samoa (8.3, so they say) was making big ripples. CNN wasn’t helpful, since they haven’t discovered Papua New Guinea yet, so I had to wait until I got to the office to find out that it was due to hit Madang at 10:41. My office is about a hundred metres from the ocean and about one metre above sea level. I decided that I was too busy to be bothered. Anyway, it’s now 11:28 and my feet are still dry, so, I guess I’ll stop thinking about it.

Well, it’s a gloomy subject today, so we may as well begin with a gloomy sunrise:Gloomy Sunrise

To transition into my subject of the day, here’s another sunrise as seen from our veranda. This boat may or may not be leaky. It was still afloat when it went around the corner into Dallman Passage:

Leaky boat sunrise

I only wish it were the same for the next one. Here is an image of a very leaky boat. My only comfort being aboard this leaky boat is that I have a lot of company. I’d brave it alone, if only I could help others, but that’s not to be. It makes me think of the Minnow  and the “three hour cruise”. What you are looking at here is the rapid and terrifying demise of our financial future:

The Leaky Boat Graph

The graph starts out in 2006. The red line is our Charles Schwab investments. The blue line is our PNG shares. The upward kinks are when we made deposits. The downward movements are all, except for one, the leaky boat syndrome. As you can see, our lifetime savings are now about half of what they were at their peak. If you start thinking of what might have been,  it’s only a fraction of our projection. It’s interesting to note that PNG shares were still climbing even as world-wide investment values were imitating lead balloons. It’s dropped now, but holding steady. Cash under the mattress will do as well.

It’s obvious that my daily interest in recording share values evaporated when hitting the ticker on the web only produced additional depression. You get to the point where you just don’t want to know. You feel like shooting the messenger, and then maybe yourself.

The big  drop on the right in the red line is when we pulled out all of our cash from the Schwab account to pay down the mortgage on our last remaining property. It’s in falling-down condition, but there is a renter there covering the mortgage payments. I want to get out of debt. In two or three years, except for incidental credit card charges, we won’t owe anybody a dime.

We’ve followed the “best advice” to the letter to try, on our pathetic income, to be as responsible as possible to provide for our future when we may no longer be able to earn (like now).  What’s it done for us? Nada, zip,  zilch!

When it was advised that our best bet was to buy houses, leveraging each one to get another, we did that. Well, we all know how well that  went. We’ve sold them all but one now. We didn’t lose much, but we didn’t make anything either. When the best advice was “buy and hold”, we did that. How’s that working for you?  I’m not so happy with it.

Our new financial plan is to ignore everybody’s advice. I’m through with the “Talk to Chuck” philosophy. I can look back now and see a dozen times when I went with the “best advice” against my gut instinct and got zapped for it in the end (pun intended). We’re smart enough to manage our own money. Right now, it’s going into cash and paying off debt. If we’re able, we’ll invest in the future in things that we control with our own hands and our own brains.

Rage spent. Tirade finished. How about some flowers?

Here’s a pretty little orchid only about the size of your thumb. There is a huge spray of about a hundred just down the steps of our veranda:

A front-yard orchid

And the magnificent Harmonious Daisy which I have featured several times since our visitation by Swami Monty:

The Harmonious Daisy

Hey, it’s only money.

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Three Small Stones from Hell – The Manam Island Volcano

Posted in At Sea, Dangerous, Under the Sea on September 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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Yesterday evening after work, as is my custom, I sat down with a cold one, a cheap cigar, a book and petted Sheba, my dog. I was reading in Analog Magazine  a short story about a descent into an extinct (they thought) volcano. It was a good story, but that’s not my point. It got me thinking about the strange stones that were in a basket of seashells right next to my chair. I reached over to look at one of them and began thinking of how I can tell the story of how I found them.

These stones, each smaller than your fist, were belched violently from the huge volcano at Manam Island.  I’ve written about Manam before here and here. Though I’m certainly no expert, I think the these are pieces of pumice, an almost fluffy mixture of liquid rock and gas. Think of it as very hard Champaign:

Three bits of volcanic pumice belched from the Manam Island volcano

Guessing again, I think that the strong red colour probably comes from a high iron content. Rust is red, eh? The sea floor where we were diving only a few kilometres away from the coast of the island was littered with these red stones. It was very obvious that they had not long been on the sea bottom. There was nothing growing on them. This means that they could not have been there more than a few weeks at most, since everything is soon covered by living organisms that are desperate to find something on which to attach themselves.

Here’s an interesting Google Earth view of Manam Island:

A Google Earth image of Manam Island

Here’s one from directly above. You can clearly see the brownish chasms left by lava flows:

Another Google Earth image of Manam Island

The strange discontinuity at the left is caused by the merging of images from two different satellite images.

Here’s a shot of Manam Island  volcano having a leisurely smoke just to show you that it is not very sleepy:

The red light of sunset lights up the eruption of Manam Island volcano

I got the image above on the same excursion during which I collected the stones. I have to admit that, while I was diving, I wondered what a big eruption would be like underwater. Not much fun, I think. I have felt earthquakes underwater and seen the flash of lightning while on night dives. Neither is to my liking – too creepy. I once heard the nearby explosion of dynamite when some [expletive deleted] were blasting the precious reef for a bucket full of fish. I thought that my dive buddy’s tank had exploded. I turned around quickly and saw her covering her ears with her hands. It was very  loud.

While I was fiddling with Google Earth today, I discovered a way to make a picture that looks almost exactly the same as what you would see if you were landing at Madang airport:

A nice Google Earth rendering of Madang Town showing my house

You can see Madang out on its peninsula and the airport over at the upper right.

I probably should note that there is no giant sign out in Binnen Harbour that says, “My house”. I painted that in the image.

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