Life – Act Two, Scene One – Labradoodles

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 11th, 2010 by MadDog
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It would be a hideous betrayal of honour to my dear Eunie if I allowed my despair to envelop me and the many joyous and exciting things in life which we shared. One small thing in our shared experience of life which enriched us both has been, over the last three years, Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. She was and remains my most faithful reader.

Don’t get me wrong. There will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth yet to come. I’m starting a processes which is not unlike being run over by a freight train. Just when you think you’ve felt the last of it, along comes another set of wheels. I hope that I’ll feel better in a year. Asking more than that seems unreasonable.

Dying is a complicated game. Eunie’s passage was blessed by little pain and great dignity. To the end, her faith preserved her from fear. Oh, that we all could go with such style. When I tell the story to her mates, they will say, in the Australian manner, “Good on ya, Eunie!” – Job Well Done! However, it has left me behind with a huge mess. Stacks of unthinkable paperwork, often smudged by tears from me and my friends helping me grind through it.

For those of you who have gone through this before, you will understand my gruesome fascination with it. It seems simultaneously impossible to do and impossible to ignore. Life for the survivors depends on taking care of the mountainous cascade of insufferable minutia. If I did not have my friends to help me, I would fall down in a heap.

Which brings me to the title of this post. Some might think it a little early for frivolity and this is true. This is not frivolous. It’s serious business. I’ve always said to anyone who was in the least amused by what I say that life is like the most fantastic play that has ever been performed and you are the scriptwriter and star. That’s not to say that everything you write will be performed as written. The Director has something to say about that. However, by and large, we are expected to compose the script carefully while producing as much enjoyment in the audience as possible.

So, with this blank page before me, how to I begin the script for Act II, Scene I? Well let’s start with Labradoodles, some good mates and a fascinating new experience.

We have a dear friend in Brisbane who once graced Madang with her presence. She is a nurse and she was with Eunie in the last few days making sure that everything was tended to in the most careful manner.Tracey Lee raises Labradoodles. One of these gorgeous little critters is going to Laos and the other to The Philippines. I suppose that they must be in great demand:

Aside from the fact that they are ludicrously cute, they are also covered with the softest fur I have ever felt. Minks, eat your hearts out.

Here is another much missed vanished resident of Madang who took time from her own busy life to lighten my load, Amanda Watson:

While in Madang, Amanda was a keen diver and much fun out on Faded Glory.

Whenever anyone takes a decent photo of me, I like to hang onto it:

I seldom like the photos that I see of me, but this one works just fine. I’m your basic old dude who’s been through the grinder a few times and had the most of the rough edges worn off. My dear Eunie provided most of the labour to spin the wheel, sparks flying everywhere. In my mature years I have some to see that a good, smart woman finds some raw ingredients and bakes the man that she wants. The recipe varies from time to time, but women are infinitely patient in getting what they need.

There was a long time in my life when I felt fairly worthless and most people agreed with me. You would not have wanted me as a friend. Eunie baked me into the man I am today. Not such a bad guy. I’ll hold that in my heart, along with many other precious things until I draw my last breath.

Now, some may want to drop out at this point, because I’m going to show you a little tableau of tolerance. Eunie had the kind of love which we Christians call “Christlike” (duh). It’s not rocket science. It’s easy. You simply love everybody, regardless of their condition. The rationale is likewise easy to understand. It is only through love that we truly win hearts. Everybody knows that.

Here with Peter, Tracey’s partner, Amanda Watson, Carol Dover, Tracey and Richard Jones is Michelle Rose, A. K. A. Michael Charles Turnbull:

Michelle, as he prefers, saw us sitting at the open front of a little pub and stopped for a chat. As one might suspect, there has likely been no small portion of heartbreak in this life. Eunie would have sat down for a little while and talked with Michelle about that life. He would have felt loved.

So, what is the first line in Act II, Scene I of the rest of my life?

Well, it’s pretty much the same ol’ same ol’.

All you need is love.

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The Arc-Eye Hawkfish and a Weird Sponge

Posted in Under the Sea on October 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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I pushed the shutter button about a hundred times on Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage. Yesterday, I showed you some shots that took some major work to come alive. Today, it will be a mixed bag, some that came out of the camera requiring little work and some that required a gentle massage.

One thing that I like to do it to get what we call “specimen” shots. These are images that show the characteristics of the species in as much detail as possible and capture the natural colours. If you are looking a good fish reference book, you’ll see the fish exactly as it appears when it’s right in front of your eyes at, say ten metres, where I got the next two shots. I like to do specimen shots, because it tests all my skills at once. It has to show the fish clearly for identification purposes. It has to display the natural colours. Moreover, hopefully, it will be aesthetically pleasing.

Once in a great while, everything works out just right and it’s as easy as falling off a log to get a good specimen shot. This time I was very lucky and got two nice images from different angles of the same individual under the same conditions. Meet the Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus):

Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)

I am very fond of all of the Hawkfishes. We have several species here and they are all very lovely little creatures. I tend to take an anthropocentric view of the “why” of all of the wonderous beauty of nature. It’s that way because I’m here to appreciate it. It’s philosophical mumbo-jumbo, but it satisfies my pragmatic approach to deep thinking.

Here’s the second shot from the front. Isn’t it a splendid critter? If you were a Hawkfish of the opposite gender, you’d fall in love instantly:

Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus)

If you haven’t had enough Hawkfishes, you can see more here, here, here, here and here.

Now we go from something strangely pretty to something pretty strange. Believe it or not, this is a metre wide sponge. That’s not huge as sponges go. Some barrel sponges are much larger. This is an overhead shot. All those holes are there so the colonial organisms that make up the sponge can feed and breathe:

Sponge

Here is what it looks like from the side. This is a rather large specimen, being a little over thirty centemetres high:

Sponge

I don’t do a lot of diver shots, because I’m usually so busy trying to get that perfect image of some critter that I don’t yet have in my collection. I do like this shot of Amanda and Greg finning along above the edge of the passage:

Greg and Amanda

Here’s a shot of Monty Armstrong getting ready to reboard Faded Glory  after the dive.

Monty Armstrong

I’ve lost a huge percentage of the former diver mob that used to come out on Saturday. There seems to be little interest in diving in Madang these days. I hope that’s not a trend that will continue. Otherwise, I’ll be doing a lot of solo dives on Saturdays.

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Batfish or Spadefish – Who Cares?

Posted in Under the Sea on September 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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I had too many nice shots from Saturday’s dive at Magic Passage  to dump them all on you at once. So, today and probably tomorrow, I’ll finish them up.

Just as we went down over the edge of the seaward end of the passage there was a small gang of Batfish gliding along. Group sizes vary widely, from three or four to over a hundred. This little mob was the perfect size for my camera:

Circular Spadefish (or Batfish) - Platax orbicularis

It’s always difficult for me to figure out what to call the fish that I show to you. Common names vary wildly around the world. In my reference book, Reef Fish Identification – Tropical Pacific  (Allen, Steene, Humann, DeLoach), this fish is called the Circular Spadefish. If one wants to do a proper job of presenting fish, it requires the use of the taxonomic names. That’s why I tell you that this is the Platax orbicularis.  I also do this so that people looking for images of fish and information about them can find my site more easily using search engines such as Google.

For example, if you Google:   “Caranx sexfasciatus” madang

You will see:

Caranx Sexfasciatus  | Madang – Ples Bilong Mi 
Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  form a solid mass of fish. This creates a mesmerizing pattern that looks artificial:
www.messersmith.name/wordpress/tag/caranx-sexfasciatus/ – CachedSimilar

at the very top of the Google search results (unless someone else rises above me somehow). This link will take you to all of the posts on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  that feature images of the fish. This is handy for searchers and it gets me a large number of hits on my site. By the way, the Caranx Sexfasciatus  is commonly called the Big-eye Trevally.

Well, enough of that.

Here is something that I like to show once in a while – nothing. I’m pointing my camera in a random direction and snapping away. Sometimes the “waterscape” is as amusing as the details. What you see here is what you would see just about anywhere on the top of our reefs. Think of it as a rainforest underwater:

Reef community

When I see an image such as the one above, I am reminded that it is something that few people ever view with their own eyes on the spot. If everyone could take just one dive on a tropical reef, there would be far less difficulty getting people to understand why we need to protect them. From above, it just looks like a lot of water. Think of flying over a rainforest at ten thousand metres. It just looks like a lot of trees. You can’t even see the individual trees. But, if you walk around down there, you will see that it is jam-packed full of life. It’s a carnival of creation.

Here’s another typical reef scene:

Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus)

The fish are Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus reticulatus).  The coral is Acropora robusta.

This is my pick of the day:

Amanda Watson on the edge!

It’s the extremely rare Amandanas watsoni,  commonly known as Amanda Watson swimming behind a lovely school of Anthea on the edge of the passage. She’s been sick, so she looks a little undernourished. We need to fatten her up.

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More Magic from Magic Passage

Posted in Under the Sea on August 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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It was a beautiful morning on Saturday with calm seas, something that we’ve not seen lately. This, along with an incoming tide, gave us a chance to dive Magic Passage,  which we have not visited for some time.

As soon as we reached the bottom at about 25 metres, we saw a Black-Blotched Stingray (Taeniura meyeni):

Black-Blotched Stingray (Taeniura meyeni)

It’s been a while since I saw one of these. I was so surprised, since I did not see it immediately (it was behind me), that I had time only for a couple of quick shots before it zipped away. The shot is very poor because of motion blur, but interesting nonetheless.

As we worked our way down toward the mouth of the passage I ran across this beautiful starfish about the size of a dinner plate:

Starfish at the bottom of Magic Passage

This is probably the most common species of starfish around Madang.

Here is a nice shot of Amanda Watson and Pascal Michon moving down the south wall of the passage:

Amanda Watson and Pascal Michon at Magic Passage

A small school of barracuda were pointing into the current. One lonely Midnight Snapper was hiding among them:

Barracuda at Magic Passage

As soon as I got up close enough behind them to be an annoyance, they wheeled around to avoid me and gave me the opportunity for this very nice shot:

The barracuda avoiding me

Down closer to the mouth of the passage a large mob of eels were waving in the current snapping up goodies floating past:

Eels at Magic Passage

This is the best eel shot that I’ve yet managed. They are usually quick to pull back down in their holes as soon as you approach. I don’t know why they let me come so close to them on this occasion.

If you’ve followed our dives before, you already know that the sub-adult Silver Sweetlips is my favourite fish:

Sub-adult Silver Sweetlips at Magic Passage

That is not just because it is a very pretty critter. It is a photographer’s dream fish. They are so calm and placid and unafraid.

They remind me of my human friends. The tropics will do that to you.

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DWU Students Pose Interesting Questions Concerning Tourism

Posted in Divine Word U. on September 11th, 2007 by MadDog
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This FROM:  Amanda Watson

We received an email from Amanda containing these questions posed by her students.  The time for replying for their research project is probably already past, but we can take a moment to ponder what our answers might be.

Research Questionnaire 

This is a questionnaire relating to the topic of Negative media publicity on
Papua New Guinea as a tourist destination. We would like you to honestly fill this out as it will greatly benefit us in our assignment. All information will be treated as confidential and only for our assignment.

  1. As an expatriate how would you describe
    Papua New Guinea, honestly?
  2. What can you say about
    Papua New Guinea as a tourist destination?
  3. If you were a visitor or tourist to
    Papua New Guinea, would you want to come back for a visit or not? Why?
  4. What was your reaction to
    Papua New Guinea on your arrival?
  5. Did the media have an impact on your perception of
    Papua New Guinea?
  6. What do you think about the negative media publicity on
    Papua New Guinea as a tourist destination? Give your opinion.
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