Ants in the Sugar

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on June 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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Though I love living in a tropical paradise I’d be less than honest to say that it’s all fun and games. There are minor imperfections. Having had malaria seven times is an example. Horrible things called tropical ulcers and a flesh eating bacteria which attempted to remove my left are other trivial complaints. My recent bout with staph and bacillus bacterial gobbling up my olfactory organs, leaving me odorless (at least as far as I can tell) could have happened anywhere, but upper respiratory infections are very common here. You haven’t had a cold until you’ve had a “tropical cold”.

However, the trivial day to day irritations bug me the most. For instance, ants in the sugar:I slipped that pun in so cleverly that you may have missed it. It is also easy to miss the ants in the shot above, because they are the teensy variety. You can’t miss them when you take the lid off, though. They scurry around in a panic and try to hide by burrowing into the sugar. You can see  them better if you click to enlarge.

You may also note that our sugar is rather odd looking. It smells funny too – not funny ha-ha. No, it’s more like funny they forgot to take some of the goop out when they were making it. Some might call it raw sugar. We call it the best we can get.

Here I have enlarged that culprits for you:I honestly don’t know how they get in the sugar. We take it straight from the bag and put it into an air-tight plastic container. The lid goes “suck” when you pull it off. One must assume that there are ant eggs in the sugar. Why these are considered a suitable ingredient I don’t know either.

Well, enough of that.

Here’s an nice fan coral which I shot yesterday on The Henry Leith:

I managed to grab the wrong battery for my Canon G11 on Saturday morning, so I was out of juice half way through the dive.

Here’s Richard Jones poking around the stern of the wreck. Rich forgot to load a battery into his camera. Therefore, Rich was the chief dunce of the day:

It’s Sunday evening here. I’m pretty wasted from riding three hours on the Harley up the north coast road and back, dodging Harley-eating potholes all the way. I’ll have more to say about that tomorrow.

So, I’ll cut it short and get some down time. First let me show you the collapsed roof of the pilot house of The Henry Leith:

It’s too bad that it finally fell down. I was cool to get into the pilot house and look out at all of the fish swimming around.

Here’s one of the better shots that I’ve ever gotten of a Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus):

They are very shy, so it’s difficult to catch them out in the open.

This Divericate Tree Coral (Gendronephthya roxasia)  doesn’t move at all, so it’s no fuss to get a nice close-up:

Nice detail in that one. It’s worth a click to see the full-sized version.

I’ll have a Harley story tomorrow and some shots of the Tapira Surfing Club.

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The Perfect Imperfection

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Get ready for some day tripping, because I’ve got only a few images left from this week which are mumbling to me. Don’t try to follow any thread of thought here. You’ll just hurt yourself. The title came from an unlikely source.

I’m greeted every morning by these lovely flowers which I have dubbed The Harmonious Daisies.  Yeah, it came to me in a dream:What I like about this image is that it is flawed. It is flawed in a most perfect way. It is perfectly imperfect. As my mind careers (or careens if you’re a Yank) around iconosynclastic infundibulums and tumbles down an endless staircase of giant pickled herring, I sometimes fall upon incongruous congruities. Why does this flower make me think of humans, individuals, I mean, specifically me? Possibly is is because my imperfections seem to be perfectly suited to me. I behave erratically and improperly in manners which, observed by my friends, are perfectly predictable in the case of erratic action and perfectly excusable (in most cases, anyway) in the case of impropriety. Thus it is with the flower with the missing petal. It is a perfectly perfect imperfection. Nothing more can be said. Therefore, I shall say nothing more.

Except that this is what friends are for.

Might as well throw in a sunrise while I’m here:Actually, the astute observer might notice that the image above is simply the very centre of yesterday’s sunrise. This morning it was raining cats and dogs.

When we arrived at the office we had to wade ashore from our truck because Lake Madang was overspilling its normal banks:Our perfectly imperfect Town Government seems still unable to dig a hole. Well, what can we expect from people who apparently get paid to maintain the status quo? Hah, if only they could do that much!

To prove to you that no detail is so insignificant and devoid of meaning to escape my scrutinous eye I present to you the Mysterious Curly Thingie in the Ants’ Nest:Please to click to enlarge, please. Thank you. See it down there in the lower left under that ant’s bum? It looks like an itsty-bitsy teensy-weensy coil of rope. What in tarnation is it, for pity’s sake? I’m gobsmacked. Anybody got any ideas?

Not to change the subject too abruptly, but I’ve been harping for an office with an actual door on it for years. Since I’m one of the oldest dudes in town, and poor misguided souls sometimes reckon that I might have actually learned something while staggering through my long and adventuresome life, I end up doing a lot of counselling. Hey, I’m the only game in town. People desperate enough to seek me out prefer not to come to my house, lest they find me indisposed or otherwise unable to respond. They prefer to come to my office where, one presumes, I might be found to be more alert. On the door I have a sign which announces, “The Quack is In”.

So, having cajoled the administration into allowing me to modify the IT Dungeon, I’ began today to plan my new office with a door. I thought that you might be amused to see the miraculous state-of-the-art equipment which I used to calculate the dimensions and specifications of this complex project: I carefully measured the room and the placement of the current door and measured all of the furniture and fixtures. Then I “inputted” this data into my Architectural Design Computate-o-Matic Machine (which I invented). The results indicate that now, instead of one  door for one  office we will have five  doors for two  offices. All I can say is that my boss made me do it. She said I wouldn’t be happy with only two doors since I’d been whining for one door for thirty years, so she’s giving me five doors to head off future crying jags. She sleeps with me, so she understands me better than anyone else does.

There’s nothing like hearing someone snore all night to get you into their head.

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Chance Encounters

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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It’s Saturday here – Oh Yeah – Dive Day!  It’s entirely possible that as you read this I will be communing with the fish under twenty or thirty metres of warm salt water. Don’t you wish you were here?

Okay, now I’m going to go all dark. Never mind. It will pass. I’ve been listening to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here  on scrambled repeat for about three hours now, laughing and leaking from my eyes and, yes, whistling – I’m an accomplished whistler.

Here’s what I feel like:

I like working out my feelings with images.

One ant is anticipatory, eager, communicative. Its antennae reach out, seek. “Come back.” it implores. The other ant is withdrawn, hiding. It’s catching the next “big jet airplane” to elsewhere. “Where are you going?”

“Away.”

The bee visits the flower. It doesn’t live there. Does the flower feel abandoned when the bee has had its fill of nectar and pollen and moves on?Ridiculous!

What is all this nonsense?

I spend so much time telling you what I love about living here in Madang. I extol the blessings of the expatriate life-style. I praise the freedom, the nearly total absence of oppressing authority. I have much to say about what I love. Now let me tell you what I hate.

Loss.

Here I have enjoyed more wonderful friendships than I ever thought were possible in a lifetime. I have had friends who would spill their blood for me if it were necessary, and mine for them – friends who would not let me suffer need without thought of satisfying it. I’ve had confidants who knew me better, far better, than any therapist. Friends who laughed and cried with me with true simpatico.  Where are they now?

Gone.

It’s the nature of this place that people come and go. It’s a transient paradise. Few can manage it forever. It is too uncertain, too intense, too fraught with passion. It is the nature of this place for bonds to be profound, transcending the trivialities of a more urbane life. It’s a rugged place. A place of rawness and animal strength. Fights are common. Reconciliations are tender and tearful.

It’s the goings that hurt.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

I would last no time at all here without my good woman, my mate who consoles me when other cherished bonds are broken. I’ve seen tough guys cry in each others’ arms when parting for the last time.

Yeah, it’s that kind of place. Partings here tend to be permanent, despite promises to “keep in touch”. For many, the experiences of two or three years are best left to ferment. The less cherished fades. Only the sweet headiness remains.

The cut needs to be clean.

Blossoms fade, but the yearnings do not. They take on the patina of pressed roses in a diary:I’ve seen those hundred-year-old pressings crumbling between stained pages. Faded and tattered, yet bearing still the faint scent of a beauty that once was.

The approaching and parting. Canoes pass. Greetings are exchanged. Eyebrows flash knowingness:They pass and the moment passes with it.

A gloomy, tepid sunrise greets the next day, empty of promise and full of loss:You learn to tough it out.

So, to any and all of my dear friends of the past:I’ve never blamed anybody for leaving here. It’s a highly impermanent place. I loved you when you were here and I am full of constancy.

Know you are missed.

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When Nature Says, “Hey, Look at THIS!”

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 27th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I was a kid, every rock in every stream and every log in every forest was a potential treasure chest for me to explore. I loved the sense of anticipation. What might be found under that flat sandstone slab? Bugs, salamanders, mysterious moulds, anything seemed possible. I’m glad that I haven’t lost that. Many diversions of youth are simply that – diversions from the business of growing up. The love of nature and the capability of being pleasantly surprised and gratified by nature’s many wonders is a good thing to hang on to. There are some youthful distractions that serve us well as we mature.

Up at Blueblood on Christmas Day I got a couple of pleasant surprises. One of them was this bright red moth:

I think that it was nearing the end of its pitifully short life. Its wings were ragged and it seemed listless, as if it desperately needed a nap.

A few months ago, during a severe period of beach erosion, this coconut tree was undercut by the waves and fell over into the water. Coconuts can survive very close to the salt water as long as there is sufficient rain to keep salt from its shallow root system. This tree is in peril. Filling in around the base to protect it from further erosion and allowing its roots to gather fresh water will save it:

You can see that it is trying to survive. It has already begun to change its direction of growth. It will naturally grow upwards if it survives, giving it a graceful curve toward the sky.

However, in its current dire straits, it is exhibiting some abnormal growth patterns. I have never before seen such a strange pattern of growth in the leaves of a coconut frond:

Among those of us who pondered this odd pattern, speculation ran rampant. There were several theories. When I first saw it, I thought it was someone’s joke. Then I realised that was simply not possible. We finally settled on some kind of osmotic imbalance that is causing the leaves to improperly separate at the tips as the frond unfurls. This would cause the tension to bend the tips of the leaves as is seen here, because they have no way to assume their natural position. The little fibre that attaches the tips of the leaves together as they develop never ‘lets go’.

I did find one reference to a disease problem with coconuts that might be causing this weird leaf growth. It’s called Crown Choking. (See the UPDATE at the end of the post.)

The light in this image was horrible. It was a flat-light day with a solid bright grey sky. About the worst thing that you can do on a day like that is to point your camera skyward and try to capture something back-lit by the brightness of the clouds. That’s exactly what I had to do to get this shot:

You can see the hideous flatness of the details. I had to twist the histogram mercilessly to get any details. However, it was worth the effort. I think that what we’re seeing here are two ant nests. However, I have some questions. The leaves on the plants seem the same as the rest of the tree, so I’m guessing that they are branches vainly trying to invigorate the dying tree. The ant nests speak for themselves. But, what are the rope-like bands encircling the branch? These are typical of a parasitic or saprophytic growth hanging on to the tree and either using it for support or sucking the life from it. There is a lot going on in this picture, much of it a mystery to me.

Here is something not so mysterious. It’s our little friend, the gecko. Now that we have had no cats in the house for a year or so, the geckos are coming back in normal numbers, which means about one per square metre, it seems. They make a happy little barking noise when challenging each other:Having dinner with some Chinese friends one night, we were discussing the propensity of the Chinese to bet on practically anything. We were told of the amusing practice of betting on the number of barks that will be heard from the next gecko to speak. The bark count tends to run from about four to ten, with a Bell shaped curve. The strange thing about this is that, once you have played the game a few times (it takes all evening and the conversation can continue – it’s very civilised), you can not stop counting gecko barks. Once your brain is trained, you can’t shut it off and it is extremely accurate. It reminds me of how I learned to automatically count gunshots. Another odd thing is that there is hardly ever any question among players as to the number of barks. Apparently , everybody can learn to do this accurately, so there is no need for arguments. As I said, it’s very civilised.

And, here is our little friend’s favourite food:Well, actually, not so. The geckos seem not to like these muli ants. They are big, very feisty and chock full of stinky formic acid. They will happily take on a human being, even standing up on their hind legs and threatening the hapless hand to stay away. They bite ferociously.

As I seem to be running out of steam for this post, I’ll leave you with a sight that I have seen many, many times:

Very often, as we sit near the small islands off the coast, we see huge thunderstorms marching up the line of mountains a few kilometres inland.

You need to worry, if nature can no longer surprise and amuse you. Get some new glasses and keep your eyes open.

UPDATE:  I received an email from Kevin Lock which may shed some light on the weird palm fronds:

I am guessing that the appearance of that frond is not a disease but just an emerging new frond.  We have a few Golden Cane Palms and emerging new fonds have a similar appearance.  Attached is a snap of one on ours today.

Here is the image that Kevin sent:

In this healthy plant, it’s clear that the unfolding process is the same as the one we observed. I wondered about it, but rejected it as a normal condition mainly because I had never observed it before.

Thanks, Kevin, for giving us another good reason to keep our eyes open.

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Yeah, Man! Give Me That EXTREME Science!

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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You may not have been holding your breath, but I’ve been patiently waiting for Steven Goodheart to put up his third blog, Goodheart’s Extreme Science. I can barely keep one journal going. I can’t help wondering if he has a time machine stashed away someplace. I can’t imaging how one could find time for three journals. Anyway, pop over there to wish him luck. Give him a bookmark. People like us need all the breaks we can get. If there are any therapists out there, you might want to have a little chat with him. I think he needs help.

My pathetic little contribution to science (and art, I dare say) comes in the form of these two images that I captured yesterday morning. I’m trying to take the perfect picture of this spider. It’s been featured here before here, here and here:

My favourite Green SpiderI think that I’m getting close. I can’t wait to get my hands on my new Canon G11 when Rich Jones brings it back from Canada for me.

Taking a break from science for a moment, a loving grandad has to show off this image of my granddaughters. I just received it this morning:

My Granddaughters, Audrey and Pippa (left to right) and Jack the dog
That’s Pippa on the left and Audrey Rose on the right. The little critter is Jack the Dog. The biggest bummer in my life is that I get to see them only once every few years.

In this shot of a red-eyed fly I managed to get also another fly and an ant. I hadn’t even noticed the ant:

Red-Eyed Fly and FriendsThe play of light in this shot is very nice. I love shooting in the early morning when the sun is low and the colour of Chardonnay. It gives a warm glow to my images and casts interesting shadows.

To finish off here, I’m filching something directly from Steven Goodheart’s Metta Refuge blog. I found it amusing:

HOW ENLIGHTENED ARE YOU?

IF….

If you can live without caffeine,

If you can be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains,

If you can resist complaining,

If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time,

If you can take criticism and blame without resentment,

If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him or her,

If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend,

If you can face the world without lies and deceit,

If you can conquer tension without medical help,

If you can relax without liquor,

If you can sleep without the aid of drugs,

If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice against creed, color, religion, gender preference, or politics,

–Then you have almost reached the same level of spiritual development as your dog!

The sublimely enlightened ShebaI’m feeding you seafood tomorrow. Don’t forget the tartar sauce.

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In My Garden #3 – ALIENS! – Ant Body Snatchers

Posted in Humor, My Garden on February 19th, 2008 by MadDog
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Hmmmm, my garden seems to be getting a lot of attention these days – and not all of it is welcome.

This morning, while making my usual rounds with camera in hand, I discovered that Aliens From Outer Space have established an ant body harvesting operation in my garden.

Have a look at this:

Alien machine to harvest ant bodies

Clearly, this is a cleverly disguised device for collecting and preserving the nutrients from ant bodies for later consumption by the fiendish aliens which have occupied my garden.  The ants are attracted to the death machine by the cloying scent of the ‘flowers’  These elegant but devilish contraptions then lure the hapless ant to the yellow thingie in the middle (see the ant walking around on it).  The ant is then immediately sucked inside the dissolving chamber which is full of alien digestive fluids, a dash of Worcestershire Sauce, and a little ascorbic acid as a preservative.  (click on the image to see a bigger version)

Please, in the name of public safety, check your garden for suspicious activity.  You can look here and here to verify that any flesh eating ‘plants’ that you find are safe.  Mother Earth has quite a few of these and they are most generally satisfied with the occasional bug.

But we must not let these alien upstarts have our ants.  First it will be ants, then cats and dogs, then small children and goats.  Heaven help us!

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