Happy Birthday, Karen – Waiting for the Tsunami

Posted in Dangerous, Mixed Nuts on February 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Birthdays are terrific excuses for a party up at Blueblood. In fact, we need no excuse at all. Since there are now facilities for sleeping over, Eunie and I went up on Saturday afternoon for a small party to celebrate Karen Simmons birthday. Since I am still sick as a dog and didn’t feel much like partying hard, I fooled around with my Canon G11 camera to see how far I could stretch it. It proved to be fairly flexible.

For instance, here’s a passable shot taken of the party makers around the picnic table by candle light only:

I think that I shot this at ISO 1600 and it took a 1/4 second exposure. I had to give the “hold still” warning, but the shot did turn out nicely. I should mention that I had the camera mounted on a tripod, as with all of the rest of these shots. I like the shot. It has just the right mood and the lighting is very realistic. Not bad for a camera that sells for a little over US$400.

This shot might fool you, at first. It looks like a poor-quality image from a cell phone. However, if you consider that it was exposed only by the light of a full moon shining through clouds, it takes on a whole new aspect:

I shot it from the balcony overhanging the first floor (second floor for Yanks – the ground floor is called the ground floor by Australians – the next one up is the first floor). Believe it or not, this image was taken at ISO 80 for fifteen seconds. Therefore, it had practically no noise and was more or less perfect as it came from the camera. The long exposure accounts for the glassy water.

Here’s another one take from the beach level: You can clearly see Kar Kar Island  in the distance:

Since the giant earthquake in Chile was on everybody’s mind and we had no idea when or if a giant tsunami would engulf us, the party had a bit of a fatalistic flavour to it. “Wonder when it will get here?” “How big do you reckon it might be?” were popular topics of conversation.

Here is a similar shot taken after we lit the bonfire. You can see the firelight illuminating the sterns of Lying Dog  and Sanguma,  which were, here at about midnight, already beached by the low tide:

I noted a crazy thing which I had never even considered as I was shooting these long exposures. The night sky is not  black as it appears to our eyes. It is just as blue as it is in the day time, but it is very, very dark, so our eyes can’t see it. Below a certain light level, everything is just shades of grey to our eyes, even though colour still remains in the scene. It’s because our colour light receptors drop out of the data stream once the light level is low enough. They just don’t respond.

This shot is amusing, but I reckoned that I could do better:

Though the sparks are interesting (I had Rich Jones poking the fire to make more), the flames were badly overexposed and I lost all the detail.

This one turned out much better:

Moving away from the fire improved the shot. It’s a long exposure, so the flames are blurry, but the image is much more pleasing;

I couldn’t end this without showing you this lovely shot of Jenn Miller taken only by moonlight and the flames of the dwindling bonfire:

It’s not perfect, because it’s very difficult to hold perfectly still for four seconds, but it clicks for me. I’m very happy with it.

The tsunami never arrived. This is just as well, as we had no plans to go anywhere.

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Christmas Day at Blueblood

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 29th, 2009 by MadDog
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Christmas Day started off with a beautiful sunrise. No, I lie. It was a cloudy day that didn’t promise much and didn’t deliver either. The weather threatened to dump on us all day, but managed to hold its water. The morning sky didn’t look anything like this:Arriving at the beach house, we were greeted by the establishment’s cheery welcome sign unceremoniously nailed to a roof beam. There is a thatched roof over the lower deck. As you can see, it is made of palm leaves. In this case, they are the leaves of the Sago palm. The material, after it is ‘sewn’ into long mats, is called morota:The mats are then laid down across the rafters starting at the outer edge of the roof and moving toward the centre. Each mat is laid over the one below it. The result is that rain flows down the leaves and off the edge. Inside, it stays nice and dry. Before we get into the images of Christmas Day at Blueblood, I’ll show you what’s been happening with Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. I don’t dig around too much in the statistics, but at the end of the second full year it seems appropriate to have a look. First, who is reading? Here are numbers from December 1 – 26 of 2009:

Countries Pages Hits
United States us 35583 298614
Australia au 11241 70207
Netherlands nl 7259 17353
Great Britain gb 4655 40234
Canada ca 3633 42595
Russian Federation ru 2171 4509
India in 2037 16155
Germany de 1652 15347
France fr 1112 10451
China cn 1007 3471

I listed only the first ten countries. Papua New Guinea is 39th on the list. There are a few surprises. What is Netherlands doing way up there? I know far more people in Austria than the Netherlands, but Austria is 56th on the list. I know nobody in Russia or China, but there they are. The only way that I can explain this is by looking at the content of the journal. Though I try to appeal the broadest audience possible, I do have a lot of specialised content here and that makes for a lot of search engine hits. In fact, about 30% of the traffic comes just from Google, much of that from Google Images. You tenacious readers out there are giving us some healthy numbers:

Unique visitors Number of visits Pages Hits
25573 32718 (1.27 visits/visitor) 87556 (2.67 Pages/Visit) 700320 (21.4 Hits/Visit)

That’s not bad numbers for less than one month for a puny little site such as this. It’s getting up around 1,500 unique visitors per day. I can remember a year ago when I was doing cartwheels if we hit 200. I was rather pensive on Christmas Day, not my best time of year. Therefore, I didn’t take many pictures. Here is a cheery one of nearly the whole gang out swimming around the floatie thing:And here are two little angels in a rubber duckie:I like this one of Mike Cassell, as fine a mate as a bloke could have, and his grandson, Josh:As the day progressed and a little wine began to take the edges off my melancholy, I did sally forth with camera in hand to snatch the soul of this perfect hibiscus blossom:That’s me. The soul snatcher.

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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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Sky and Water – A Camera as a Toy

Posted in At Sea, Photography Tricks on December 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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It’s part of my image of life, going back to childhood when my father taught me photography, that I think of a camera as a toy. Why do kids love the Transformer toys? Well, my theory is that, unlike a toy firetruck or doll, a transformer can be anything that you want it to be. As a child I used to play with Mechano sets. (In the USA they are called Erector Sets) That was a perfect toy. You could make pretty much anything that you could imagine.

A camera forces you to adopt a starting point, much as the instruction manual for a Mechano set, giving illustrations of things that one can build, suggestions, as it were. A camera gives very strong suggestions which are often excellent. In fact, many people are quite happy with the suggestions that their camera makes and fill their albums with snapshots of daily life and special moments (Kodak Moments – what a brilliant ad campaign).

The suggestions that your camera makes depend entirely on the scene in front of the lens and the settings you have chosen for your camera. By learning to use your camera controls you can drastically change the initial image, the suggestion, as it were. In this shot my camera was forced to expose for the brightest spot in the big cumulus cloud. I also held a polarising filter in front of the lens to darken the sky. Simple tricks such as these can dramatically affect the suggestion that your camera makes to you:

However, that is only where the fun starts.

In this image, I wanted to capture the ephemeral aqua colour that appears in the wake of a motorboat in clear tropical seas. It is very pale and showed up in the camera’s suggestion only to my eyes which were looking very hard for it:A few minutes with the Photoshop Replace Colour feature allowed me to pick out only the extremely pale aqua patches of the image and to incease the intensity of the colour until I was satisfied that it illustrated the effect.

And, if a camera is a toy, why not have a little fun with it? Eunie and I were in the cabin of Lyin’ Dog,  Trevor and Karen’s boat, when I noticed Karen sitting on the bow deck. There is a fly-wire screen inside the windscreen of the boat. I wondered about a shot through the fly-wire:

The camera made an excellent suggestion. This shot required no computer processing at all. Good job, Canon G9, my trusty old friend. Whe have an interesting and very colourful shot with just a tiny taste of cheesecake. Perfect for a weekend afternoon.

Up at the Blueblood Hilton, we settled in for a BBQ and a little vino. Sitting back in my chair behind the railing, I asked my camera for a suggestion:

Spot on, once again. I had to adjust the darkest parts to make them a little lighter so that they did not ‘fade to black’. Otherwise my little point and shoot suggested an image that’s fit for the cover of a magazine. Hooray!

Along the way back to Madang, the most distant clouds were showing the typical orange-ish colour caused by sulphur dioxide in the air from the many constantly spewing volcanoes in the inter-tropic zone:

The pollutant is trapped in the relatively calm air of the tropics.

Nearing Madang we are confronted my the horror of the tuna boats:Since RD Tuna came to Madang with its mostly unwanted tuna cannery we have noted a drastic reduction in the number of tuna that we see in Astrolabe Bay.

I did mention that I would get plenty of  Christmas Tree Worm (Spirobranchus giganteus)  shots so that I can show one each day before Christmas:

And, there is today’s specimen.

Hang some popcorn strings on it and put your presents under it. You get two trees for the price of one.

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More Wedding Pics – Trevor and Karen

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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I have a few less formal shots from the wedding of Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons last Saturday. I had a great time. I love weddings. I’ve performed marriages for sixteen couples since I became a Registered Celebrant ten years or so ago. As far as I know, all but one couple are still together. That’s a pretty good record, but I can’t make any claim on it. Finding a mate is a crap-shoot.

We had a batch of Champagne that was inordinately difficult to open. Here’s our Master of Ceremonies, Mike Cassell doing his “Power Opening” trick for the ladies:

Master of Ceremonies Mike Cassell
They were most appreciative. By the way, the new construction at Blueblood isn’t quite finished, as you can see. The broom is for cleaning up broken wine glasses, of which there were quite a few.

Here’s Trevor looking very relaxed, compared to an hour earlier, as he toasts his bride, Karen:

A toasting Trevor Hattersley

You may have noticed that the dress code at the wedding was “Tropical Whatever”.

And here is Trevor as we all know him – doing something iffy with a lady. His iffy somethings are now going to be limited to a single recipient. Lucky guy!Trevor doing something strange with Karen

The winner of the Spiffy Gentleman’s Outfit  prize went to Charlie Edmund who, while tardy in arrival, was resplendent in attire:

Charlie Edmund

Did you ever see a necktie glow like that? I think that he’s making some kind of point here in this image. That would be very much in character.

This is a sight which several people claimed had never before been seen – our very own charming and oh, so cherished Dr. John “Tinpis” Mackerel in the ocean!Dr. John "Tinpis" Mackerel in the drink

And here are two fools, whose identity I will conceal out of pure mercy, attempting to stand up on a sailboard:Two fools trying to stand on a sailboard

Never let it be said that this was not a joyous day for all.

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A Marriage of Equals – Trevor and Karen

Posted in Madang Happenings, Mixed Nuts on November 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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It would be far too easy for me to make myself the actor in this little scene. And it’s very difficult to avoid the temptation. It’s not often that one gets to be so intimately involved, in such a positive and enduring way, in the lives of one’s closest friends. On Saturday, I was privileged to be the Registered Celebrant at the wedding of Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons. Here is the cover of the Wedding Program:

A Marriage of Equals - Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Program

Trevor and Karen chose every word spoken in their wedding ceremony. Trevor said that he had thought about it “for weeks” and came up with a program over which they toiled for perfection for a few days. I much prefer that couples write their own ceremonies. These two did the job perfectly.

Fiona Buffini read The Selfish Giant  by Oscar Wilde. It was wondrous to watch faces progress from puzzlement to comprehension as the story unfolded. It’s a wonderful tale of transformation.  Then I said my little bit to get the show rolling. Trevor and Karen read their identical vows in unison, again speaking their own words. The mixture of laughter and tears during this brief performance was most touching and not a little amusing:

The Wedding Service

The formalities and Signing of the Registry being duly completed, we proceeded eventually to the Cake Cutting:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - Cutting the "cake"

Pascal’s “Best Man’s Speech” was one of the tamer of those that I have heard. I have to commend Dr. Michon for showing remarkable restraint.

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - Pascal's speech

Here’s a nice shot of Trevor, Karen and Alexander:

Trevor, Karen and Alexander

And, the obligatory Wedding Party Scene:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Party

Plus the obilgatory bigger wedding party scene:

A Wedding Party Scene - Trevor Hattersley and Karen SimmonsAnd now we get all of the women with Trevor:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Women with the Groom

And all of the men with Karen:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Men with the Bride

I can’t say any more. It was Trevor and Karen’s day. What it meant to me to be honoured by them in this way is obvious. To put words to it would be to diminish it.

So, I’ll close by wishing my dear friends all of the happiness that life has brought to me through my marriage.

It should happen for all of us.

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Local Newspaper Moves Washington DC to Colombia

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts on October 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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This gigantic purple sunrise greeted me this morning. I’ve uploaded a 2400 pixel wide image of it. Click to enlarge and do a “save image as”. Then print it out big enough to stretch completely around your head with a little overlap. Then laminate it. (the lamination can be skipped if you are not worried about durability) Now have someone help you to wrap it around your head and tape the ends together in the back. You will have an amusing hat:Giant Purple SunriseIf there is anybody out there crazy enough to actually do this, please, oh please send us a picture. I promise to post it on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi. Here’s your big chance to become famous. All of your friends will envy you.

The meat and potatoes of today’s post is, of course, the brash move by one of our much-beloved local newspapers* to relocate Washington DC to Colombia**. If you don’t believe me, read this:

Local Newspaper Moves Washington DC to Columbia

In case you are too lazy to read all of it, I’ll quote the salient passage:

Mr. Taylor, who is a native of the district of Colombia in South America, said during a press conference yesterday at the US Embassy in Port Moresby that he was delighted to be in PNG.

Well, no doubt Mr. Taylor is delighted to be in PNG (who wouldn’t be?) However the rest of it raises a couple of amusing queries in my mind. Has the capital of the U. S. of A. actually been removed to Colombia in South America? Or, though more likely, but still highly doubtful, is Mr. Taylor a native of some place in South America called the District of Colombia?

Or, my mischievous mind suggests, is our newspaper simply getting it wrong. I’d hate to think that, since our local newspapers, bless their hearts, have always followed the journalistic profession’s local motto, “All the news that fit to smoke.” (if you’re not a local, you probably won’t get that – never mind)

Here’s  another morning’s sunrise:

Orange Sherbert Sunrise

And yet another shot of the now famous orange lilies:

Orange lilies

Last Sunday, when we came back from Blueblood, I got this shot of a ship tied up at the wharf across from our house:Night Ship

It’s not terribly exciting. So, I exercised my favourite Photoshop artistic filter – Watercolour – and produced this mess:Night Ship Watercolour

Hmmmm . . . still not very exciting.

Tomorrow’s another day.

* I could name the newspaper, but that would be a cheap shot.

** Thanks to reader “werdna” for pointing out that I misspelled the name of the country Colombia as Columbia in my original post. Ironic, eh?

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