The Village of Oak Creek

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 30th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m surprised that I have posted only four times this month. The change of environment has affected me strongly. Grace is supposed to be “retired”, but it seems a very busy house to me. That makes me happy, because I’m finding ways to feel useful instead of being a passive couch surfer. Yesterday and today I struggled to keep my cool while applying reflective window film to several large panes of glass. I can’t think of too many do-it-yourself projects which are more potentially frustrating. The results are spectacular in terms of energy savings, but the task of putting the cantankerous stuff on the windows could test the patience of Job. I’m going to revive my furniture refinishing project tomorrow. It’s been stalled for a few days. After stripping the old finish from a table I discovered that several different colors of wood were patched together and covered by a dark finish. Now I have to figure out how to make it all match. Grrrr . . .

To calm me down we sometimes stroll through the neighborhood. Grace lives in The Village of Oak Creek. I don’t know what to call it. It seems to orbit lazily around some spectacular golf courses which are are regularly trampled by the rich and famous. The Ace Hardware store has a huge picture of Jackie Gleason strutting across a green. I’m going to have to find out what that’s all about. Here’s a Google Earth view of VOC (as you may have guessed, the Village of Oak Creek):

You can’t walk around VOC without being impressed. It’s simply impossible to ignore the scenery. We waked down to the dry wash at the end of Catclaw Lane, where Grace lives, and I turned around. I nearly fell over. This is not your ordinary neighborhood street:

The dry wash itself is not boring. The famous Red Rock is everywhere. Grace says that the water gets deep enough here to be a danger. There are many small gullies around the town which sport warning signs shouting, “Do not attempt to cross when flooded.” In fact, the local police will fine you if they catch you trying it. Several cars are wrecked every year when drivers try to cross and are caught up in raging currents:

I’d be the first to admit that I’m taken aback by the contrast between Madang, a tropical paradise (well, sort of), and the apparent barrenness of the Arizona landscape. Frankly, I feel I’m surrounded by desert. However, my curious nature kicks in daily and I find interesting things to photograph. Have you ever seen a tumbleweed plant? Well, now you have:

Admittedly, they are not much to look at. The main interest to me falls into the category of western lore. Roy Rogers was my childhood hero. I wanted to be a cowboy. I’m still trying. Anyway, I have intense memories of The Sons of the Pioneers. They were featured in many of Roy Rogers movies. You can look here for a YouTube clip of the group singing Tumbling Tumbleweeds. Here are some tumbleweeds which have fallen into a dry wash and are taking a little rest:

Being observant pays off when fauna and flora are scarce. This is one of the more amusing of VOC’s cacti:

I had no idea that prickly pears came in such unlikely shades.

I occasionally have to get down on my knees. While praying at the side of the road (okay, okay, I wasn’t praying) I spied these industrious ants milking their herd of aphids:

Catching the sweaty runner in the background was a bonus.

It is incredibly hot here. Being at 4700 feet certainly helps. It’s much hotter nearer sea level. The temperature forecast for the next week does not dip below 100°F (38°C). It is, as the saying goes, “a dry heat”. There is some truth to that. Although the wind feels as if it came from a blast furnace (and it is surprisingly windy here) the air is so dry that I don’t feel uncomfortable, even though the temperature is considerably higher than it is in Madang.

What I do notice is my huffing and puffing when I excercise. The altitude is high enough for me to notice a difference.

I need to get more exercise!

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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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Of Ants and Warships

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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When Satruday starts off grey and rainy, I get all antsy and make frequent trips after dawn to have a look out the front door. This rainy season seems to be lasting forever. This morning it was very soggy and the sky looked as if it had fallen. Maybe Chicken Little was right. I did a double-take as I looked across the harbour and saw this:She’s the HMAS Leeuwin,  a Royal Australian Navy Hydrographic Survey ship.

Leeuwin  and Melville  enable the Australian Hydrographic Service to gather high quality hydrographic information at a much greater rate than the ships they replace. The ships are 71 metres in length, with a beam of 15 metres, and a draught of 5.4 metres. Each ship displaces 2,550 tonnes and is manned by a crew of 46 officers and sailors. A state of the art Hydrographic Survey System (HSS) developed by STN Atlas will integrate accurate position information with data from a multi-beam echo sounder, towed side-scan sonar, single beam echo sounder and a forward-looking sonar. The ships will also carry three fully equipped 9 metre Survey Motor Boats for surveys in waters not suitable for the ships themselves. Both ships are capable of carrying a helicopter to assist in survey operations.

While I was outside yesterday afternoon in our garden, the orange lilies were calling to me:“Take some pictures of us. Please.” Lilies are so polite. These were hiding in the shade with just a bit of the late afternoon sun warming them.

Another pair were still catching the rays. How did that drop of water last all day?

The ants were marching up the post of our veranda roof. I didn’t like the shadows going to the right; it just didn’t look right. So, I turned the ant images a quarter twist clockwise. The ants didn’t notice:These are not nearly the best ant shots that I’ve done. I think there was a little camera shake, since I was holding the camera out as far as I could and leaning out over the rail. I’m lucky I didn’t fall off and break my fool neck.

The ants still took no notice:The just kept on marching. I like ants. They are so . . . industrious.

I could never be an ant. I’m far too lazy.

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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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Mystery Object of the Month

Posted in At Sea, Humor, Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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Oh, the sky was looking mighty fine when I got up this morning. Made me feel nearly human:

Sunrise Panorama

But, let’s get down to business. I told you before that I was invited on an Australian warship after taking a couple of sailors out fishing. I took only one photo while on board. In one of the main control rooms where the ship’s technicians hang out, there were two little stainless steel objects attached to a railing on the ceiling of the compartment. I asked about the curious devices and was told that they are little floats with magnets on the end. They float in a fluid filled chamber close to a sensor and the position of the magnet indicates the level of the fluid. Clever, eh?

Mystery objects found aboard an Australian warship

But, that’s not the interesting part. When not busy doing their normal work, they are put to another very important task involving the morale of the entire crew. When two spares are hung side-by-side as you see here, the configuration takes on a  special title. I wonder if you can guess what they are called. Sorry, there is no prize for the correct answer. It’s too easy to just examine the file name when you look at the bottom of your browser while your mouse is hovering over the photo. Personally, I think it is very funny. Your mileage may differ.

We have plenty of these flowers in my garden. I think they are some kind of daisy. I do particularly like the colour. Only yesterday, I showed you a white blossom that was just beginning to open.

Magenta daisy

By the way, these are the “Harmonious Daisies” that we planted in anticipation of the visitation of Swami Monty.

As I sat on the steps leading up to my veranda this morning, looking around for tasty fodder for my camera, I spotted this grumpy crab sitting on a Pandanus leaf. It’s usually difficult to get close to them. They are quite skittish. This one held fast while I captured him for you:

Grumpy looking crab on a Pandanus leaf

The detail on the crab is pretty nice, if you care to click to enlarge.

This shot is actually my favourite of the day. I like ants – as long as they stay out of the house. They are so inspiring. Busy, busy, busy.

Nevertheless, they always have time for romance. I’ve written about ants falling in love before:

When ants fall in love

I’ve also warned the world about the hideous plot by the Ant Body Snatchers to steal all of our precious ants. As if that’s not enough (you can never do enough for ants – nag, nag, nag), I’ve told you about Muli Ants and the effects of Weird Gravity.

After all, who would you rather have cleaning up after you, ants, or cockroaches?

For my parting shot, let me inform you that there is someone (Jungle John) who actually holds the Guiness World Record for lying with live cockroaches.

Yes, kiddies, it is sadly true. He is also one the few human beings to be eaten by a balloon and survive.

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The Shmutz on the Floor

Posted in Humor on December 10th, 2008 by MadDog
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This morning I woke up at 05:00. That’s army-speak for five in the morning. I never used to see the world at that useless time of the day. I liked it better that way. But, when we got a new puppy a few years ago, it was my job to get up in the morning when she started whining. I got stuck with that job because I bungled the task of getting Eunie to agree to take care of the puppy’s needs in the evening. It seems that there was to be a quid pro quo. Ah, well. I’ve been an early riser ever since, much to my dissatisfaction.

Anyway, I was up at five and when I turned on the little light next to the computer, I noticed some shmutz on the floor with a bunch of little ants around it.

Naturally, I took a picture of it:

The shmutz on the floor

Then, I started giggling (five in the morning, remember?) about the word shmutz and how easily it came to me. It’s Yiddish, of course. I have no Jewish ancestry that I know of. However, I have had many Jewish friends over the decades, and I’ve watched a lot of movies and TV. It’s something that one simply picks up along the way.

Shmutz is a little mess. It’s not serious. You just clean it up and go about your business. A car wreck is not shmutz. A bird dropping on your hat; that’s shmutz.

Many Yiddish words sound naturally funny to native English speakers. When I was studying linguistics at college, we once discussed words that are naturally funny and why they are funny.

Some of it is context and reference (usually in lower humor). But, the funniest words are those that simply sound funny. Words with the sounds of k, t, and p are particularly funny . . . pickle, cupcake, tickle, and pratfall (funny sounds and reference on that one) are examples. I found an interesting site purporting to define one hundred of the funniest words in English. It’s a good start. Personally, I’d add a few and remove some.

Then I found another site that I like better – The Yiddish Handbook – Forty Words You Should Know. To my utter surprise, I knew thirty-one of them.

So, the next time I shlep some shmutz out to the rubbish mumbling, “Feh! Feh!” like a meshugener and fall on my tuches and exclaim, “Oy ve!” my baleboste will plotz and kvetsh at me, screeching “Klutz! Shlemiel! You’re such a schlimazel! I married a goy and got a shmendrik who’s gornisht helfin.” But then, in a bissel, she’ll come out and we’ll schmooze and get all schmaltzy and she’ll do her shtick to avoid tsuris.

Such is life.

(Apologies to Yiddish speakers everywhere for so cruelly mistreating your extremely interesting language.)

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