Reflections

Posted in On Tthe Road on March 24th, 2011 by MadDog
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“Been crook, mate.” is how an Australian might put it. It doesn’t refer to criminal activity. It means I’ve been sick. What seemed to be a waning viral chesty thing suddenly regained its foothold on my aging carcass and discovered a new and vigorous life in my tortured sinuses. I call this extremely poor timing. This is the first day in a week when I’ve felt like doing much other than laying in bed moaning about my face which felt as if it had been in intimate contact with the massive bumper of a speeding truck. This explains my absence from MPBM for a week.

Other than that, I’m having a pleasant, if surreal, time. The trip to Teewah was fun and refreshing. It took my mind off things for a while, a welcome interlude, indeed. I’m trying to retrain my mind to leave aside things best not thought of. Possibly you know what I mean. It’s those pesky themes which plague your thoughts, forcing you to go around and around trying to think of solutions to puzzles which have none. I had just about banished this kind of pointless mental exercise from my life. Recently it has returned with reinforcements. Now I have to subdue it again. The change of scenery is helping.

I’ll return to Teewah in my head this morning before I have to get to work and catch up on ten days worth of ignored urgencies. As the title implies, reflections are on my mind – not the moody kind – I disposed of that already. The watery places around Lake Cootharaba abound with captivating counter-images. Here are a few:

The phantom tree is far more, ummm . . . spiritual than its hardwood doppelganger.

The water here is deeply stained with tannin from the rotting vegetation:

The ground all around reminds one constantly that the path follows the contours of a giant sand dune.

Reflections create amusing symmetries everywhere:

There are great seas of magenta-tinged reeds. Nearly all of the vegetation in this area does not appear truly green to me. I find myself constantly removing magenta from green shades to make them look more natural to my eyes. That’s really a cheat. I shouldn’t be doing it. Coming from Madang, everything here looks dried out and sickly. I admit to freshening up the greens in these shots.

Huge swaths of scraggly forest show fresh evidence of bush fires. Two years ago an enormous portion of this area was burned out. Strangely, in these habitats, fires are not only untroublesome (to the vegetation, anyway), but absolutely vital the very survival of many species:

Many Australian plants cannot propagate without fire. The heat allows the seeds to escape from the protective pods. I’ll be talking about that in a post soon.

This burt-out Banksia tree is a good example. Though it finally succumbed to the last fire, its final crop of seeds was released to regenerate when things cooled off.

Here you see Ali Raynor cleverly taking my picture through the hole. No, that is not a spear she is holding.

What it is is the central spike of this plant. This is what is commonly (but politically incorrectly now, as I hear) called a “blackboy”. They are quite impressive and can live for hundreds of years. The proper name is Xanthorrhoea:

The reason for the political incorrectness of the common name is rather obvious, but seems just a little, uh . . . unnecessarily sensitive to me. Here’s the explanation which I casually ripped from Wikipedia:

“The best known common name for the Xanthorrhoea is blackboy. This name refers to the purported similarity in appearance of the trunked species to an Aboriginal boy holding an upright spear. Some people now consider this name to be offensive, or at least belonging to the past, preferring instead grasstree.”

Okay, enough of that. I’d rather let them explain it.

As soon as we started up the path to the lake and encountered the wetlands further up the dune, we were surrounded by millions of toads ranging in size from a pencil eraser to a tennis ball. Did I mention that there were millions of them? Mind you, I didn’t count them. Apparently, they all come from these:

Yes, Virginia, those are tadpoles, some of them sprouting legs already. There were millions of them also. They seem to have no predators here. I suppose that their number is limited only by the size of the edible insect population available to feed the adults.

It seems that they grow up to be these:

I, being ignorant, of course, believed these to be cane toads – a menace if there ever was one. Discussing this with the ladies accompanying me proved to be useless. None of these Queenslanders could state with conviction that these were or were not cane toads. Possibly that is because none of them have engaged in the popuplar sport involving a doomed cane toad and a hefty golf club. This morning I perused Google Images for cane toad pictures. It’s my judgment that these are something else. These are nowhere near ugly enough. Comments are welcome.

Tomorrow I am off to Toogoolawah for a few days with Ali Raynor. I have absolutely no idea what is in store for me, but I hope it includes some spectacular images of skydiving, kangaroos, koalas and whatever else I can manage to get stuck into. I’ll have a dial-up connection there, so my postings may be sparse.

If I can shake off this disease, I’m going to have some fun.

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Ali’s Roos – Guest Shooter Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on December 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Sometimes an image has nothing at all to do with photography and everything to do with the subject. A wonderful example of this is the stack of shots which I received a few days ago from my friend Alison Raynor of Queensland, Australia. You’ll find Ali here as the guest shooter in several posts. Ali lives in a magical place and has what seems to me to be a magical life. I think that these images, taken at long range from her veranda, support my somewhat romanticised vision of her habitat. I’ll let Ali explain:

I know that there is no quality to these photos at all, but the subject matter and sharing these incredible moments with you is what is important. Taken from the veranda on max zoom – they were not good and so I played with them in my Mac Photoshop . These juvenile male roos were playing at being the “big boys”. They would fight to the death in a real battle. The big buck at the right of this picture is the boss man, big daddy, and he is overseeing the young ones. The 3rd photo cracks me up. I would love someone to write a caption. Number 5, standing on their tails to do battle, you don’t often see it let alone get the privilege of wrapping your shutter around it. Hope you like them Jan. They are really only for you to look at and enjoy.

Well, I’m certainly not going to keep these to myself. Within the constraints of the image quality of consumer grade “super-zoom” cameras, these are beautiful shots. The extra-long zooms lenses on some cameras loose a great deal of quality when stretched to their limits. They yield usable, but not sparkling images. I’m happy to live with this, considering that an equivalent 600-800 mm zoom lens mounted on a high range digital SLR camera would set me back a significant portion of my yearly income. I would have to give up eating.

Ali did a good job of cleaning up the images. The only thing that I did was to run a noise filter and then balance them so that they are more or less the same tone. Colour noise and fringing are real problems with these super-zoom images, so I followed Ali’s lead and reduced them all to near monochrome. The roos are the story, not the photography.

Here’s “big daddy” supervising a sparring match between a couple of youngsters:

And this is the classic “boxing kangaroo” pose:

The boxing kangaroo was featured on the flag of the Australian entry into the Ameraca’s Cup race in 1983. I remember driving through the Ramu Valley in that year, listening to the race on the radio and cheering Australia on. It’s also used on the flag of the Australian Army soldiers clearing mines in Afghanistan.

This is the one for which Ali would like a caption. Care to leave one in a comment?

That shot really captures a moment.

Here’s another one worthy of a caption:

I don’t even know what to say about this one:

How can they do that?

Finally, when they tire of the game, they hop away.

I remember Eunie telling the story to anyone who asked us how we managed to convince our eleven year old son, Hans, to go peacefully off to Papua New Guinea. Hans had only one request. He said that we could go if we promised him that he could go to Australia and see kangaroos in the wild. His favourite childhood toy was a fuzzy kangaroo.

We kept that promise.

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Aussie Flag Over Bribie Island – Guest Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on December 6th, 2010 by MadDog
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A few days ago Alison Raynor sent to me some long-promised skydiving shots. Toogoolawah up in Queensland in Australia is an action centre for skydiving. Ali is a great source of beautiful photographs and amusing subjects. She has had some very nice Guest Shots on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. I’m happy to bring you this great story of skydiving in words and images. My thanks to Ali once again for giving me a break from navel diving.

I’ll let Ali tell it:

I took these photos at a Ramblers Display team jump at a Bribie Island community event. Doug Stewart is jumping the Aussie flag and has been doing this as part of the team for about 20 odd years. I think of him as “Fearless Fly.” The huge flag with all its lead-shot weight is packed very carefully into a big bag and clipped to his harness which hangs off his tummy. He lugs it all into the plane along with his parachute rig on his back and after his parachute is open and is flying safely he deploys the flag and weights. Nine out of ten times he lands it on the target in some really “tight spots.” This is one of those tight spots. It’s a postage stamp sized beach with a huge jetty on one side, the Bribie Passage (deep water channel complete with a large flotilla of small ships) on the other and a rock wall with about 500+ people looking onto the beach. There are also giant pine trees. Did I mention the raging SE wind blowing in off the sea? Anyway, these blokes are seasoned old skydiving pro’s with not one dare devil amongst them. These are calculated events. After weighing up all situations and risks the answer is usually . . . “Geronimo!”

The Demo team has jumped into many situations over the years and this was just another day’s work really.

Doug flies a large canopy designed for accuracy rather than speed. It is more manoeuvrable, controllable and much more forgiving on landing.

Dave and Sarge land and wait for Doug and the flag to touch down. Egon, the ground crew rushes to the target to assist Doug on landing.

Doug drifts down. Ahhh, the concentration!

And down . . .

Not yet . . .

And down

The little bit of yellow in the left bottom corner is the edge of the target (not bad accuracy,considering the conditions). The lead shot bag is about to hit the sand and Doug will hit the ground almost simultaneously- note the distance to the ground – it’s all maths for Doug from here really. The bag and harness on the front of Doug is the “flag bag”. He deploys the flag after his parachute is open:

Doug was dragged base over apex while the other two tried to fight their way out from under the billowing flag.

Both Egon and Sarge missed Doug completely as they were enveloped under the flag . . . ha ha!

Sarge is also running to help Doug hand when he lands. It is called “catching” and is also done when tandem jumps are landing in stronger winds. The aim is to grab a steering toggle and pull it out to full length, so as to collapse the canopy and prevent it re-inflating in the strong wind and dragging the pilot, but guess what . . .

Egon fights his way out of the flag and comes to the rescue as Doug digs his knees in to fight being dragged. Meanwhile Sarge is still lost under the flag and Dave is looking and laughing at the circus.

I may have gotten some of the images attached to the wrong captions. I wasn’t quite sure about it. I think that I have the sequence right, but I know little about skydiving. Ali will let me know if I got them mixed up.

Ever since I did my first skydive in Cairns I have wanted to do it again. Since I am going back to Australia again next year, I plan to visit Toogoolawah with my friend Val Jerram who also wants to do some jumps. She has been hang gliding, something which I have not yet done. I was jealous. Now I am even with her. She’s done the hang glide and I’ve jumped out of an airplane. I’m sure that she wants to get ahead of me again in this crazy race.

It’s gonna be fun!

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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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A Little Bit of Everything

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I do not intend for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  to indefinitely remain a place where I forever keep going back to the events of the last few months. I need to move on at some point. However, this is  a (more or less) daily journal.  I think of it as an open diary. I cannot escape the present. If I am to continue to be open and honest, I must put down here my thoughts, fears, challenges and successes. This allows me to take these things out of my head and examine them as I write. It allows me to record them as waypoints on my journey. It helps me to gauge my progress and someday, it will allow me to remember the events with the fresh perspective of one who is healed and able to look back with less pain.

So, having said that, I’ll tell you that the plans for the Memorial Service for Eunie at the Chapel at Divine Word University are progressing smoothly. Yesterday, I burned a CD full of Neil Diamond songs to play before and after the service. Later today, I will organise photographs on a flash drive to be displayed on the big LCD screen in the Chapel. These are small tasks which were assigned to me by the little “committee” of friends who are carrying the main load of organising the event. I was glad to have something to do which I probably could not mess up.

Tomorrow will mark one month since Eunie’s death. I think that that is the first time that I’ve used the word – death. Possibly this marks the end of my daily walk with denial.

This is the first sunrise which I have captured since before leaving for Australia:

The mornings have been mostly cloudy. Starting at about 05:30, when the sky begins to lighten, I can tell, by looking out the bedroom window, whether there will be a decent sunrise or not. Though I’m looking west, I can see the general colour of the sky and judge the brightness. If it looks promising, I’ll get out of bed and look out the front of the house. Yesterday, it was worth getting up.

Here is a particularly good image of a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

Its wholesome goodness comes from its very accurate colours. The conditions were perfect for a good shot. It was taken in about seven metres of fairly clear water with a bright, thin neutral white cloud cover which provided flat and untinted light. I’m quite happy with this one.

While our little troop of was back in Gympie at the home of Val Jerram preparing to scatter back to our own places we found this very amusing lizard under Val’s veranda:

That’s Carol Dover’s hand in the shot to give some scale. It’s not huge by Australian lizard standards, but it does look as if it might inflict some damage if it bit. Dr. Robert Sprackland sent a copy of his new book, Guide to Lizards,  because it has one of my images in it. I could not find this lizard in it. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s rare? Seems unlikely.

UPDATE: Reader Madcap Maven left a comment identifying the lizard as a Tiliqua scincoides scincoides,  the Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. Her ID checks out. I consulted the Ultimate Resource, Wikipedia. You can read her message in the Comments at the end of this post.

Since I’m just rambling here I’ll throw in this interesting image by Lindsay Smith:

It’s a strange, moody piece.

Last, but not least, here is a beautiful shot by Alison Raynor titled Toogoolawah Sunset:

Someday I hope to visit Toogoolawah. It seems a peaceful place.

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More Mount Beppo – Guest Shooter Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on September 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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I need to persuade my head to give me a break from my own difficulties for an hour or so. Let’s have some beautiful images from our guest shooter, Alison Raynor. Alison lives in Toogoolawah in Queensland, Australia. She has been a guest shooter here before. She is getting right into sunrises and has sent me some very nice ones. I’ll devote most of this post to her images and fill in at the end with an update on my currently miserable life.

This is not the prettiest of the lot, but it has four items of interest, namely four black cockatoos. You may have to click to enlarge to see them:

Along with the photo, Alison included this amusing comment.

The old farmers here have a  saying that, when there are an uneven number of black cockatoos overhead that means that there will be rain.  Well, it’s an interesting theory which can be listed alongside the one that says that if you see the long neck turtles walking uphill it is also a sign of BIG rain, not to mention the swarming of the flying ants (termites) that are said to mean HUGE rain, possibly floods (if the swarm is big enough).   The thing is, that the later two are both quite accurate and make sense if one chooses to analise the natural reasoning behind what initially seems to be a crazy “old cockies tail”.

I did not count the total number of cockatoos this morning, as I was too busy with the camera, but soon found out that the stunning light and colour show that was capturing  my attention in the east was actually an  insidious diversion for what was  sneaking up and preparing to thrash me from behind. A big thunderous black cloud full of flatulence and cold water. Mmmmmm?

Here is another more colourful shot:

And one even more so:

The best of the bunch, I’d say.

In the cloud here I see some curious banding which I can’t explain:

Is it an omen? No, wait. I don’t believe in omens. I’d go really crazy if I did.

This isn’t a sunrise, but it’s my favourite of these images:

Alison’s veranda looks like a peaceful place to me. I’d like to spend some time there – in a peaceful place.

Thank you, Alison for a little time off.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The ruckus in my head continues – intensifies. When it rains it pours. I won’t bore you with the growing list of Things I Never Thought Of. Let’s just say that every day seems to bring some new, terrifying fact to light. The renter in the house in Brownsburg has chosen this fine time to move out, leaving me with a house that’s empty, earning no income and not in good shape. Oh, did I mention that I have joined the immense club of those owing more on their house than it’s worth and having no money to pay the payments? Yes, that’s me – a joiner.

Does grief magnify one’s problems? I suppose it could. I don’t know. This is my first experience with bone-rattling grief – the kind of grief that makes you feel weak and shaky all the time and won’t let you sleep.

By the way, I’ve stopped asking what else can go wrong.

The possible answers terrify me.

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Guest Shooter – Alison Raynor – Gob Smacked

Posted in Guest Shots, Humor on June 25th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’ve barely had time for a night’s sleep here in Nandi, Fiji since I arrived. So, I’m going to give my crazy friend Ali Raynor a guest shoot today. It would not be possible for me to think of anything funnier than this, let alone write it, so I’m going to give you Ali’s email to me along with some images which will either look very familiar to you or will blow you mind, according to where you live. – Enjoy!

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Hey Jan,

Look out . . . I’m back!

I am slowly sifting through the thousands of pictures I took in PNG. (No G11 quality here, but I like to imagine that I have some interesting mementos.) I thought you would probably be one of the few people who might appreciate the attached. They are something you no doubt see on a daily basis, but not something you are not likely to see on a PNG postcard.

These guys came up to me at a POM 2nd hand clothes market and asked very politely if I would take their photo, which of course I agreed to do. I got them together and told them that I would “snap” on the count of three. They nodded and posed normally, but on three, the following is what happened!
You can imagine my surprise followed by my gales of laughter, when the guy on the left gave me this “right royal red gob full” and followed up with “Welcome to PNG”


His mate was pretty taken back at first, (as you can see in the picture) but when he saw my laughter and reaction, he got over his embarrassment and decided to get in on the act “Numba 1 Buai Man” was really amazed by my complete amusement and he started to laugh hysterically as well. He was so happy that I thought he was “COOL” rather than rude (as he may or may not have initially intended to be????) He was also happy that I asked for another picture. We parted laughing and pointing (at each other) and it was quite a lovely moment. Laughter is such a leveler.

In all my travels through PNG , I have tried in vain to capture a good shot of someone with a really fantastic (bad) “buai mouth” and even tho my chosen subjects have had no idea that I am secretly interested in their outstanding GOB, rather than their “beautiful face” (ha ha ), I have always found them to be totally self-conscious of the way their mouth looks, and will always shut their traps tight as soon as they agree to have a picture. Very frustrating indeed! So this little episode was a real blast for me!

How’s their shock value? How’s the humour? How’s the reality? I loved these guys!

Am I boring you yet? Tell me to stop!

PS  – Bad news about the fire, but well done with photos by your Lois Lane . . . they are quite spectacular!

Laters…
Love Ali

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Well, I can’t compete with that. However, I can show you what Eunie is up to:

Eunie is in the middle – look for the platinum blonde hair. One thing which encouraged me was that women made up a very significant proportion of the attendees.

Sounds boring, but it’s not. I’ve been sitting here all morning listening in. These folks are discussing some amazingly complex and interesting issues.

There have also been a few good laughs.

I’ll have more about it later.

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