Tsutomu Yamaguchi – Luckiest Man on the Planet?

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on April 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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As usual, I’m a few months behind the major news stories; forget about human interest pieces. Kyle Harris, of LRBTM* sent me an email as a ‘possible blog post’ about a Japanese man who survived both  the A-Bomb at Hiroshima and  the A-Bomb at Nagasaki.  Here is a photo of him that I ripped from the web:

Tsutomu Yamaguchi - the Luckiest Man on the Planet?

At the venerable age of 93, he is the only known survivor of both bombs. I wonder if he had a severe case of Munchkin Dreams  during the Cold War? Though he suffered no major injury from America’s attempt to blast him to smithereens twice — a guy could start to take that personally after a while — he now complains, sixty-three years later, that he is “a little deaf in one ear” and his “legs are getting weak.”

I should be so lucky!  Here is a nice article about him from The Guardian.

* Lower Ramu Bible Translation Ministry

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The Deadly Ice Cream Cone

Posted in Dangerous on March 12th, 2009 by MadDog
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I need to get back into the water. Let’s see . . . If I sweet-talk my boss (that’s my wife Eunie – Yes, really!), I might be able to take off tomorrow afternoon for a dive. I’ll tell you later how that goes.

In the meantime, I’ll get figuratively back into the water by showing you some more shots that we got on the inside of the reef at the West end of Pig Island last Saturday.

Here is something that I’d bet that you haven’t seen all week:

Sea Pen (Vigularia sp.)
It’s a Sea Pen. This one is some species of Vigularia.  It sticks up out of the sand about 20cm and looks a lot like a feather. What is surprising is that if you give it a tap, it pulls down into the sand and disappears! I love to see the look on the faces of divers who have not seen this before.

This thing is a Fan Worm (Sabellastarte indica):

Fan Worm (Sabellastarte indica)
It looks like a dead bird fallen on the coral with its feathers blowing slowly in the wind. If you get too close, it will disappear down into its tubular house so quickly that you can see no movement at all. One microsecond it’s there and the next, it’s vanished. It’s about the size of your hand.

Of course, almost anybody would recognise this is a Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima):

Giant Clam (Tridacna maxima)
This one is hardly a man-eater. I remember in the old movies when a diver would get caught in a giant clam. They can  clamp together quickly, but I seriously doubt if the clam would like to keep your leg inside. It would probably want to spit it out as quickly as possible. This one is about 30cm long.

Here is a different shot of the Spinecheek Anemonefish that I showed to you the other day (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)
The little partner is probably unrelated. I used to think that all the Anemonefish that inhabit an anemone were related to each other. I discovered that this could not be less true. Since there is a free-swimming planktonic phase in the life-cycle, each individual fish must find a host anemone or die. The chance of it ending up on the same anemone on which it was spawned is practically nil. I’ll write more about that sometime. I learned it while researching an article on Anemonefish for Niugini Blue magazine.

In a large sandy area there were thousands of tiny hermit crabs all moving in the same direction in a hurry. I’ve never seen that before and I don’t have any idea what it was all about. Here are a couple of them:

No, I haven’t forgotten about the Deadly Ice Cream Cone. This is a Cone snail (Conus litteratus):
Cone snail (Conus litteratus)
It is one of the most deadly creatures in the ocean. It has a harpoon-like barb that it uses to kill fish. Yes, you heard that right. This snail is a vicious piscivore. This one is about as long as a finger. I’ve seen movies of a cone snail harpooning a fish larger that itself. Here is a video clip of a Cone Snail capturing a small fish:
Is that scary? If you stuck your finger close to the business end, you could be dead in 24 hours. I turned this one over with a stick to I could take the shot.

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More Shame for Madang

Posted in Dangerous on March 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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As if street crime isn’t enough to deal with, there is another festering problem in Madang that has been stinking more and more.

When your rubbish is picked up (if it actually is  ever picked up), where do you expect it to go? It has to go somewhere. The Garbage Fairies don’t just come along and gobble it up.

Well, surprise, surprise!  Here is where it’s going:

Filth and pestilence gathering at the edge of Madang

I bet that you though the same as I:  We have a land fill.  That’s where all the rubbish is supposed to go.

Well, yes, we do have a land fill. What it looks like to me is that so much crap has been dropped along the narrow dirt road that leads to it that the trucks can’t get to it now. I’d like to have a stern talk with whoever is responsible for looking out for the tip and see what he has to say for himself. Let’s see . . . what would be an appropriate punishment . . . hmmmm . . .

As I was driving up to Nagada this morning, I actually caught a Madang Town Council clamshell garbage truck dumping its stinky load half on the road. I tried to get turned around quick enough to get a photo of the jerk, but I was too slow.

Patience pays off. A few minutes later another gang of loonies came along and were happy to have their photos taken. I can’t state positively that the load is garbage and I didn’t stick around to watch them unload it, but you can draw your own conclusions.

A fresh load of garbage for the pit of filth along the road to Madang

The minute I got back to the office and told Eunie, she was on the phone to somebody – who, I don’t know. God works in mysterious ways. If anybody can get some action, I suppose she can.
More filth for Madang

Am I crazy or is this a really bad idea?

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Bat Attack

Posted in Dangerous, Humor on March 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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I found a very funny story on Kyle and Kathy’s Lower Ramu Bible Translation Ministry blog this morning. Here is the cute little subject of the story:



I Get Robbed

Posted in Dangerous on March 8th, 2009 by MadDog
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I haven’t said anything about street crime here in Madang. That will change now. I haven’t said much yet, because I had never been seriously bothered by it.  That changed on Thursday morning:TargetHere is the report that I sent to the police:

5 March 2009

RE: Sworn statement by Jan Messersmith regarding an incident of theft.

At about 12:30 in the afternoon, I left my office to go to the store to buy pencils. As I walked on Nuna Street toward the corner where Air Niugini is, a group of young men dressed mostly in black shirts with red trim surrounded me as I walked. I felt someone bump into me from behind. I carry my camera in a bag hanging from my belt. I quickly felt the bag, but I did not press it hard enough to notice that my camera was missing.

I entered the Welcome Stationery Store and bought some pencils. As I was paying, I noticed that my camera was missing from the bag. I rushed from the store and saw a Police Officer with my camera in his hand and holding onto a young man. He returned my camera to me and told me to report to the Jomba Police Station.

At the police station, another Officer told me to return to my office and prepare a report of the incident.

The camera is a Canon G9, Serial Number 6321313336. I purchased it in the USA in April of 2008 at a price of $450 (K1,200).

This is my sworn testimony.

Signed: ____________________
Jan Messersmith

There is a lot more to it.

I strongly suspect that there was a gang at work here. The guy who was caught by the cop was wearing a grey t-shirt. However, he was obviously working the crowd with the fellows wearing the black shirts with red trim. I knew that there was something up the moment I left my office. They gathered around me and walked the same direction. They seemed overly-friendly and nervous. I looked around me and smiled, giving them a thumbs-up and saying, “Spots clab hia, a?” (So, you are a sports club, eh?) They laughed half-heartedly and agreed. How stupid am I, anyway?

I should have checked more carefully that my camera was still there when I felt him bump into me. I didn’t make sure it was still in the bag. It is probably just as well. If I had noticed it was gone I might have reacted in a way that could have gotten me bashed. I can hold my own with one or two, but this was a gang.

Then there is the question of the cop witnessing the crime. When I asked him he said only that he witnessed the theft and retrieved my camera. Did they have this gang under surveillance, or is it just a bizarre coincidence?

It gets better. When I went to the Jomba Police Station to report (as instructed), the police asked me what I wanted to do with the kid. What is that about? I suspect that they were waiting to see if I just wanted to beat him up and let him go. They asked me if I wanted to file charges. I said that as far as I could see, it wasn’t necessary for me to do so, since a police officer witnessed the crime. I told the cops that I thought we lived in a nation of laws and I wanted to see the law properly applied. Otherwise, it was none of my business what they did with him.

On Friday afternoon, I walked over to the hardware store at Beckslea Plaza. In the five-minute walk I saw three huge fights involving unlucky pickpockets who were being thrashed to within an inch of their lives by angry crowds. I saw a lady that I know and asked her what she thought of it. She said that the police were unable to stop the pickpockets and people were getting more and more frustrated. She said that she was worried that we were going to have people dying in the streets.

In Madang?

I hoped that I would never see this. I called the Prosecutor’s Office this morning to “bring it to his attention”.

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Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on March 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m going to start showing you some of the artefacts that Eunie and I have in our ‘museum’ (our house). We’ve been fairly seriously collecting since 1981. We have nothing of great monetary value, but most of the pieces are interesting anyway.

Several years ago, when we were working occasionally as tour guides to the Sepik River area and to the Trobriand Islands, we had some rare collection opportunities. Of the small Sepik artefacts that we have in our collection, my favourites are the bone daggers:

Cassowary femurs - some with masalai carvings

These examples are made of the femur of a Cassowary bird. In times past, it is quite likely that they would have been made from human femurs. Three of the daggers have inscribed patterns that evoke a masalai spirit. We’ll get to that later. Here is a Cassowary bird: (not my photograph – ripped from the web)

The Cassowary - a very dangerous bird

You don’t want to mess with a Cassowary. Fully grown, it stands nearly as high as a man, has a very bad temper, and is absolutely fearless. It has no natural predator (except, of course, the universal predator – mankind). It can disembowel a human with a single slash of its claws. Think of Don Rickles with a flame-thrower.

Let’s get to masalai. Basically, masalai are nasty spirits. They can live most anyplace, but commonly occupy trees, whirlpools, even mountains. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation. Somebody else has already done it. (from The Polymathic Obsessions of Thomas H. Slone – check it out!)  Here are some human actors in masalai drag mimicing the anthropomorphic form: (not my photograph – ripped from the web)

Masalai actors

And some juvenile wanna-be masalai: (not my photograph – ripped from the web)

Juvenile masalai actors

There are at least two Papua New Guinea blogs that include the word masalai. One is the very nice The Masalai Blog with the tag line:  “news, ideas, general banter and your comments…(acting locally looking globally).”  The other is Masalai i Tokaut (A Masalai Speaks) which deals with (alleged) corruption in the forestry sector. Unfortunately, it seems that it hasn’t been updated since November 2007. That’s too bad, since I would be shocked to hear that corruption has since ceased. The idea is similar to what we will be attempting to do with our new ReefCops whistle-blower site.

Stay tuned for more anthropological nonsense.

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Are Aliens Controlling our Behaviour?

Posted in Dangerous, Humor on February 24th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’ve subscribed to two magazines since before I entered puberty. One is Scientific American.   I’ve learned a lot from reading roughly 600 issues over the years. The other magazine that I’ve read all these years is Analog Science Fiction & Fact.   The material is not so difficult. Many famous Science Fiction authors have gotten their start in the pages of Analog:

Analog Science Fiction & Fact
Yesterday evening I was reading an article about a Mars colony where the cats were infested with Taxoplasma gondii.   Taxo-what?   Me too. I had only a dim recollection that it was something that cats carry and humans can get it and it’s not only not very good for you; it has some extremely odd side affects.

T. gondii   is a very peculiar parasite. Cats carry it with little effect. A really good parasite soon learns not to harm its host. Here’s how it works:  (From NPR All Things Considered,   14 April 2007)

When you see a cat pounce on a rat, it seems like a classic story about a predator and prey.

But scientists have recently discovered that sometimes the main actor is actually a tiny parasite in the rat’s brain that makes the normally fearful rat think “oh how nice” when it smells a cat.

The parasite wants the rat to be caught by the cat because it needs to be in the cat’s stomach to reproduce. New research sheds light on how this surprising little organism can manipulate a rodent to do its will.

Well, that is a little simplistic, but nicely put. So, the cat infects the rat (apparently rats find cat turds quite tasty) and T. gondii   begins to rewire the rat’s brain so that it likes the smell of cat pee. Now the rats hang around where the cats like to take a whiz and the cats quickly catch onto this and the rats are soon in the cats’ tummies making more T. gondii.   If that doesn’t show how cool nature is, then I just don’t know what might impress you.

That’s all well and good, but what does it have to do with humans?

Hah!  Humans can get infectd by T. gondii   also. That’s where it gets really interesting.

In humans T. gondii   can cause birth defects, predispose one to mental problems, cause more boys than girls to be born . . . the list goes on. I won’t go into all that. You can read more here and here.

The interesting idea to toy around with is:  Could this be a plan hatched by Aliens to take over the world? Scoff if you like, but this image might just get you to thinking:

Felis domesticus - Alien agents?
How easy would it be for a technologically advanced society to develop a parasite that could infect humans (half the population of earth already, by some reports) and begin to subtly change behaviour? Later, the parasite, if well designed, would follow its programmed evolutionary path and begin modifying humans in more drastic ways. Like similar organisms (malaria being one) it could constantly modify itslef to defend against a cure.

It would be as easy as playing with kittens. And probably as much fun.

I’m not suggesting that this is the case. I’m just saying that it would be the easiest way that I can think of to take over the world.

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