Second Spring

Posted in Arizona Images on October 28th, 2011 by MadDog
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I invested considerable effort while I lived in Papua New Guinea to learn as much as I could about my environment and its flora and fauna. There are thousands of images here in my journal, which shall soon need a name change, of many hundreds of mostly accurately identified species. I don’t claim that as any kind of accomplishment, no more than a model railroad geek might brag about the scope of his layout. Hey, it was a hobby. The hobby now continues, except that I’m starting from scratch. I can identify nearly nothing. Oh well, it is  just a hobby.

I intended to write this post a week ago, but a “cooking incident” made typing painful. Last Friday night, with the aid of one of my fancy new ultra-sharp knives that I told Gracie that I must have if I were to be the primary chef, I neatly sliced off the tip of my left pinkie finger. Let me tell you, that knife was exquisitely sharp. I could tell. I felt it glide effortlessly through my tender flesh a full second before there was any pain. Fortunately, I withdrew the dripping appendage before the neatly sliced pile of hard, stinky Italian cheese was contaminated. It’s been an adventure the last few days to learn how to neatly bandage a fingertip. I don’t think it’s possible.

The subject today is a phenomenon which is entirely new to me. Spring has always been my favorite season. The cold weather I hate so much has abated and everything gets a fresh new start. It’s a time for rapid growth and replenishment. All things which appeared dead are resurrected. What I certainly did not expect to see was a spring renewal in the autumn. That appears to be exactly what happens here in the high dessert.

Flowers are everywhere. I have not yet experienced a true spring in Arizona, but I can’t imagine that it would be much more verdant that what I’m observing now. The predominant color is very obviously yellow. In some places entire hillsides take on a sunny hue. A couple of weeks ago plants such as this seemed to have gone dormant after the blazing heat, waiting for the frosts which will probably start tonight, if the forecast holds:

Here is a species which I have seen in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, but I’ve already forgotten the name. The color in PNG is red:

Of course, not everything is yellow:

And, not everything is a flower:

I got this shot from a resort named Enchantment. I can think of only a few places in all my travels where I enjoyed such a scenic lunch. I wondered where the airliner was going. It couldn’t be any place better than where I was:

I was pleasantly surprised the our lunch there cost little more than any decent restaurant in the area. The splendid view was virtually free.

Here are some more yellow flowers:

The roses all around the neighborhood are in a frenzy to produce blossoms which seem impossible for the end of October:

There are a dozen varieties of rose blooming now, as frost nears, along the streets of our neighborhood on the way to the local grocery store:

Milder temperatures probably contribute to the second spring effect, but I suppose the biggest factor is the increase in rainfall. We have had nighttime showers recently and the occasional stormy day. A couple of days ago, on the way back from Cottonwood, we followed this rainbow for about twenty minutes. It was wonderful to watch it move along with us:

In the image above it is hovering over our home. We wondererd if there might be a pot of gold waiting for us.

The roller-coaster of life that I’ve been riding for the last two years has followed some spectacular paths. I feel genuine hope that it might now be settling down for a less thrilling ride. I’ve had to make some pretty difficult decisions on my own. It is very comforting now to once again have a beloved partner with me. Grace and I have set a multitude of wheels turning. All of them now seem to be rolling in a positive direction. Our meager investment accounts are even starting to move upward again after a much too long bankers’ holiday. After the breathtaking ride, I can’t avoid seeing many things as metaphors. The poetry of life is coming back. Arizona, my new home, is experiencing a Second Spring even as I myself am being refreshed and regenerated by the blessings raining down on me.

As corny metaphors go, that’s not too bad.

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Every Bloomin’ Thing

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 12th, 2011 by MadDog
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Well, the fun just keeps on coming. I have, in the last couple of weeks, spent nearly US$1,200 on medical tests. These people must think I’m made of money. I have news for them. I’m all turnip inside. All I have to show for it is that I “might have something wrong” with me. Those are my words, not the doctor’s. The doctor could not be more specific. I don’t envy doctors their jobs, but it nevertheless annoys me that one cannot get the information one needs. It’s unreasonable to expect more, I suppose. If one takes one’s car to a mechanic saying, “It makes a funny noise.” the likely answer will be, “That’s because there’s something wrong with it.”

If one complains that the answer lacks detail, the likely answer will be, “Well, if you want more, it’s gonna cost you. The free consultation is over.” Hey, we all have to make a living, eh?

I’m quite certain that nobody but a die-hard masochist would relish receiving medical bad news. Right now, anything time-consuming or expensive is bad news to me, because I have a schedule to keep and I’m practicing intense frugality. Once I’m in North America, I’ll have a bit more wiggle room, at least as far as scheduling is concerned. As for the frugality, I’m rather enjoying pinching pennies. I’ve discovered the joy of learning how little I can spend while doing something other than lying in bed all day complaining.

Do we ever have any truly attractive options when such things come up? I think not. I have no option to do anything at all until I get to the USA. I have no time left. I might choose to get the needed test done while in the USA, but I’d have to start from scratch with the same preliminary tests over again. Then there is the horrendous medical system (or lack thereof, as the case may be) to deal with. Doing anything about it while I’m in Canada is out of the question. I have no rights there. I will most likely do nothing until I end my North America segment. I can continue the tests in Australia, since Val has agreed, most generously, to take care of me if the need arises. I can’t say how important that is to me. Or, I may choose to do nothing at all. It’s the “wait and see” approach.

I’m not ready to divulge any details of the medical mystery for a few reasons. I don’t have enough information to make an interesting story. I’ve been told that the likelihood that it is serious is not overwhelming (my words again – possibly wishful thinking). I don’t have time now to do the necessary test (undoubtedly also very expensive) to discover if there is, in fact, anything detectable wrong with me. So, why do I even mention it?

I don’t really know. I’ve been dealt another hand of cards. Hmmm . . . what game is it that we are playing? Can’t recall. Well, I’ll just paint a smile on my face and bluff while I’m trying to remember. It’s the old “box of chocolates” thing again.

In two more days I’ll be winging my way across the western Pacific Ocean to Honolulu. I need to make a stop there to see long-time supporters of my work. It will be a friendly reception, I’m sure, but nevertheless stressful. I have always felt at home in Honolulu, but living there is horribly expensive. I gave up dreams of retirement there long ago. That seems to be only for the rich. It’s a nice place to visit. Bring your credit cards. Blessedly, I have a place to crash with an old friend. My supporters are lending me a car, which makes me tremble with anxiety. I’m being turned loose in Honolulu traffic with someone else’s car! We’ll have to wait to see how much I’ll actually drive it.

I’ve been fretting over travel details today after visiting the doctor again. I got stuck by the nurse for my Pneumovax shot for a bargain price. So far that has been the bright point of the day. As you may detect, my mood is not joyous, so I’ll move on to today’s so-called amusement, a collection of unidentified Australian wildflowers.

Most of these shots were taken at Teewah. The bush area there is full of mysterious blossoming vegetation. For instance, this bizarre thing:

Many seem to require a caption:

I’d call this one Raggedy Anne.

This looks strangely like a Sweet Pea, but I’m sure it’s not:

Possibly Pop-Eye could tell us. Did you get that one, kiddies? A poor attempt at humour.

I was told the name of this flowering tree, but immediately forgot it:

Though my sense of smell is permanently crippled, I could detect a very sweet fragrance from these flowers. Supposedly the parrots get drunk on the stuff. Sadly, I did not see that.

I’m trying to think if I know of any other flowers which have exactly three petals:

No, nothing is coming through. Anybody??

This is probably the prettiest shot of the bunch:

It appeared to me strange that nearly all of these plants grew in seeming isolation. I expected them to occur in patches of the same species.  I’ve been wondering about this. Again, nothing comes to mind. Maybe I’m hallucinating again. I wonder what causes that also.

These were common enough all over the beach at Teewah, just above the high tide line:

As with many things, the most common was the most uninteresting.

This one captured the ugly prize, I think:

I didn’t touch it, as it looks poisonous.

My pre-travel jitters are rattling my cage with great zeal. This afternoon, I rattled Val’s cage with my fretting over a line on my electronic ticket for Sydney which stated in no uncertain terms:



0 pc / 20kg

Okay, which is it? Is it nothing or is it 20 kilos? It seemed, at first, that nobody knew. At least the information was unavailable or inconclusive over the demon-possessed, much-cursed automated question answering line. Be honest now; do you hate those things? Val finally got a human (or computer which had attended acting school) on the phone who seemed to indicate that I would be allowed one bag in the hold of 20 kilos. Why don’t they just say that?

Anyway, I have tomorrow to pack my pathetic rags in my checked baggage and pray that they won’t weigh my carry-on back-pack or (horrors!) actually measure it. I try to conceal it as much as possible until I’m actually on the plane in the hope that nobody will notice. So far, this ploy has worked for me. It is impossible to get it into the overhead storage. I travel with my US$8.00 suit jacket and my black fedora. These items cleverly hide the fact that my back-pack can not reasonably be considered as being underneath the seat in front of me. I also pretend to be asleep. My feet are jammed in on either side of the back-pack so that elevated knees will not give the game away. I don’t imagine that this actually fools anybody, especially the cabin crew. Perhaps my pitiful appearance and ridiculous attempt at subterfuge gains me mercy.

Was travel this tricky in the days of the stage-coach? I doubt it. Then the world was much bigger. Maybe that bigger world was simpler. I like simple. Why can’t I have simple? It seems out of reach.

At least my sense of humour is still more or less intact.

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Back to Gympie

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 11th, 2011 by MadDog
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I may as well say it and get it over with. My last visits to Gympie were during the worst days of my life. Regular readers will know about that. I’m not here today to revisit the past. I’ve done enough of that over the last few months.

I will say that upon entering dear friend Val’s home for the first time since August was a bittersweet experience. I had been wondering how I would handle it. The first couple of hours were very strange and disturbing. What happened was pretty much what I expected. Certain places in the house evoked memories which hit me like a truck. I was determined to control these reactions, because I did not want to live with them for the next few weeks. After a while it dawned on me that the experience was both necessary and healing. I’m going to have to continue to deal with place-connected memories for years to come. Some of them will be very pleasant. Some will not.

While I’m blabbing on with the story I’ll show you some of the amazing flora in Val’s garden. This is a bright red something. I don’t know what it is, but it is certainly impressive:

It is ridiculous how little I know about plants. It doesn’t bother me. I depend on others to tell me what they are. I’m sure I’ll get comments with helpful information. That’s if anybody is still reading. (Val now tells me that it is Antherium . . . whatever . . .)

These struck me as very pleasing. The colour is intense and the white outline seems purposeful:

It looks as if the flowers are coming from the tree, but the blossoms are on a bush behind the tree.

This is an unlikely looking contraption. The white flower extending from the side looks out of place:

I had the usual problems on the trip down to Brisbane where Val picked me up. I broke my sunglasses. There were a few moments when I wasn’t sure my credit cards were working (YIKES! That is a heart-stopper.) As nothing fatal seemed lurking on the horizon, I began to relax a little. It seem that I’ve made it this far unscathed. I know it seems unreasonable to be so satisfied that I made this short part of my journey without mishap, but my confidence level hasn’t been all that great recently. Now I’ll give myself a very small pat on the back and think so far, so good.

Here is another strange one. It looks to me as if it is related to the one above:

On Monday we will be going to Teewah on the Sunshine Coast. I’ve never been there before. Friend Ali Raynor says that there are beach houses there. I’m looking forward to seeing the Australian coast again. The beaches seem to go on forever. The water will probably be much too cold for me. That’s okay. I spend enough time already submerged in brine. I’m partially pickled.

Another stunning something-or-other:

It seems to me that Australia has even stranger plant life than Papua New Guinea. Possibly that’s because I’m so used to seeing the same plants every day at home.

This small tree next to Val’s back door is covered with these beautiful flowers:I have a wireless USB dongle left over from my last trip to Australia. I decided to bring it along to see if I could plug it in to get on the web. I knew that it would not have any credit left on it, but I remember recharging it with my credit card. That was the source of my credit card fright. When I tried to recharge the prepaid plan the web page came back saying that my credit card was “not accepted”. Great! Here in Australia with no money. As it turned out, the company does not accept credit cards issued by US banks. It would be nice if they told travelers that before scaring them out of their wits. They said that I could use my card at their office in Brisbane, which is only a four hour round trip from Gympie. Very helpful, eh? We ended up using Val’s credit card.

I’ll finish up with this outlandish thing. I believe it is a bromeliad of some kind:

I looked in Google Images to see if I could find anything like it – no luck. It appears to have grass growing in the middle at first sight, but closer inspection reveals that it is some kind of spiky stuff. Val says that small flowers grow from it.

So, I am settling in for some relaxation and distraction. I’m going to use the time for attitude adjustment. I can use a lot of that.

Thanks to all who wished me bon voyage.

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The Relaxing Art of Faking It

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 10th, 2010 by MadDog
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As part of my plan to get more sleep, I’m forcing myself to stay up until at least 23:30 each night. The other part of the plan is not  to lounge in bed watching the same movie on HBO for the twentieth time. I realised that I had failed the second part of the plan this evening when I caught myself staring mesmerised near the end of Dr. Strangelove  at about the point where Slim Pikins was mounting the hydrogen bomb with his cowboy hat on. There is nothing at all wrong with Dr. Strangelove.  It’s an excellent flick. However, it might be considered excessive to have viewed it as many times as I have. I have most of the dialogue memorised.

So, here it is at 23:07 already and I’m just getting around to writing. I did, however manage the time this evening, since I cooked yesterday evening (boiled cabbage, steamed pumpkin, broccoli, pasta with tomato and mushroom sauce) to download some new free Photoshop filters.  When I cook, I cook frantically – several dishes at a time. I had the entire stove going yesterday. It was as hot as the hubs of Hades in the kitchen.

So, I’m celebrating a little free time this evening by engaging in my most relaxing hobby – Fake Art. Some reasons why I find it relaxing are that nobody is telling me how to do it and I have absolutely no constraints. I’m pleasing only myself and, contrary to popular opinion, I’m quite easy to please.

So, let’s get on with it.

Oh, before I forget . . . Stupid Mistake #987 (I start counting all over again on each January 1st). I didn’t think of survivors benefit’s.  Well, I sort of thought of it, but not effectively. When I noticed that Eunie’s Social Security money was no longer showing up in the bank account along with mine I reckoned that I just wouldn’t be getting any. Then a friend (a Canadian,  for pity’s sake!) said to me yesterday that she thought that I should be getting survivor’s benefits and maybe I would have to apply. Apply? APPLY?? Why didn’t I think of that? I don’t think that I’m a danger to others, but I’m certainly a danger to myself.

So, I got on the web site for the SSA and discovered that it may be true. I may not be as impoverished as I thought. Not quite. Wish me luck as I try to figure out how to apply without appearing at the nearest SSA office, as that seems to be the only way to go.

Now, let’s get on with it.

Here is That Flower which I can never remember the name of:

There is a big vine full of them right outside my front door alongside the Night Blooming Jasmine, which I can’t smell any more (interesting story there if you can find it on MPBM). The filter I used is a nice outliner. I’m going  to try it for cartooning.

Here are some of my orchids harassed by the Bad Dream filter:

I still can’t decide if I like the effect or not.

Regulars here will recognise my favourite orange lily:

This filter is a pretty good posteriser. Posterisation is simply the reduction of the number of colours in an image. This one I do like.

I can’t remember the name of the filter which I used for this image. I call the resulting image Coleus on Acid:

It is dramatic enough.

And this is one of my many, many Bird of Paradise plants:

This one has been chewing magic mushrooms since late last night. Its consciousness has now fully expanded.

A yellow flower with dew drops. How prosaic. The filter also is likewise subtle, but insistent:

This one may be my favourite. I can’t decide.

No, I could  decide, but I’m not making any more decisions today.

It’s 23:35 and I’m going to try to go to sleep.

Wish me luck with that, eh?

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Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on July 23rd, 2010 by MadDog
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Today it’s all about flowers, none of which I know the names of, unless you accept “lily” in a generic sense. I know that two of these species have been identified in comments by readers. This is exasperating. I can’t remember the species names so I can’t enter them in the search box to find them. There are now 875 posts here on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi, so it’s impossible to search through them to find the one which had the comment which identified the flower. I’m going to have to figure out a system to go back and tag these reader identifications so that I can find them. This is getting complicated!

I’ll start off Flowermania with this “Crazy White Star Plant”. I’m sure that there is a word for “flower lovers” – something which ends in “philia”, but I can’t find that either. Did I take my stupid pills twice this morning? I can’t remember. Anyway, this is a cool image to click on to see the interesting little bee with his pollen holsters filled with the tasty orange stuff:

You can see an image of the whole plant in Crazy White Star Plant.

Here is one that hasn’t appeared here before, because this is the first successful image which I’ve managed:

Some flower petals are so intensely pigmented that the dynamic range of the camera sensors gets saturated with that certain colour before anything else gets a good dose of light. At least that’s what I think is happening. In an image of such a flower you will see no detail in these oversaturated areas unless you are very careful with your initial exposure and you pay close attention to what you are doing in Photoshop. Getting any detail at all in the red petals of this flower had me trying every trick I know.

This is another flower which I know that some reader has identified, but I can’t find the reference. I think it’s got the word “glory” in it someplace:

They grow in clusters, as you can see here.

This is a single new blossom:

You can see the stamens arrayed out in a six-point star and the pistil sticking out to the right as if it doesn’t know where it’s supposed to go. I suspect that this is an insect pollinated flower.

Here is a blossom a few days old:

If you click to enlarge, you can barely see the developing ovary at the bottom end of the downcurving stem, just behind stamen which is extending down to the right of the flower stem.

I can’t do a post on flowers without including our orange lilies:

As I was wandering around in the garden I found this one leaning up against the trunk of one of our banana trees. It struck me as a very nice composition. Since it cost me nothing, I take it with gratitude.

I was so inspired by this composition of unlikely partners that I felt that familiar compulsion to turn it into fake art. This one is definitely worth clicking on to blow it up:

It came up beautifully using the Poster Edges filter in Photoshop on the full sized image.

I’m not going to do anything as satisfying as that for the rest of the day, I’m sure. So, since today is a holiday and I’m off work and it’s noon (okay, 11:00), I’m going for a beer.

Have an enjoyable Remembrance Day!

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A Taste of Highlands Flora and Fauna

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m running out of time today, so I’m going to throw a bunch of images at you with little comment. These are from my recent trip to The Papua New Guinea highlands near Madang. The base at Ukarumpa (SIL) was familiar to me when my son was attending high school. We made the 466 kilometre round-trip every three weeks.

Here are some lilies in someone’s yard:

Lilies at Ukarumpa

Ukarumpa looks a lot like a little Kentucky town plopped down in PNG. Though it contains a variety of nationalities, it feels very American to me – no problem, if you like it. I prefer my surroundings a little less familiar and a little more exotic.

When I saw this little bush, I thought the leaves were pinkish. When I looked closer, I noticed that there were tiny red flowers between the bases of the leaves. On the flowers are tinier black bugs crawling around:

Tiny red flowers at Ukarumpa

The entire image above is only about three centimetres.

Here is a nice yellow flower without much special appeal, except, if you look at the small white dot to the upper left of the centre you will see a scale insect: (click to enlarge)

Yellow flower with scale insect

These captured my attention for their intense colour. There was no sun when I took this shot. The colours were so bright that they overload the capacity of the camera. They nearly overload the capacity of my eyes also. Like the old Jerry Seinfeld joke, “You don’t stare at it, you get a sense of it and look away”.

Day-glow Orange flowers

Here is a nice, big, juicy yellow spider for you:

Big juicy spider

It was about the size of a golf ball, nowhere near as big as I’ve seen elsewhere. A hand-sized spider would not be unusual in the lowland rainforest.

What is interesting about this spider image is that you can see that it is ‘listening’ to its web:

Spider listening to its web

It holds a special web filament that is connected just so to the rest of the web. This filament transmits any vibrations of prey landing on the net to the spider’s ‘ear’ leg.

I threw a hapless ant into the web. You can guess the outcome.

I know. I should grow up.

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Goodbye Springfield – A Walk in the Garden

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on June 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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I love being in interesting places, but I hate getting there. Springfield, Illinois has its interesting spots, but it’s not Vienna. Anyway, we had a good time and visited family that I seldom see. But, I start to get very anxious when travel time draws near. For someone who has been around the world about a dozen times, I’m not a very good sojourner.

So, as my anxiety grows, I grab my trusty camera (I presently have three to choose from. I look like a Japanese tourist) and find a garden to calm myself. Fortunately, this morning all I had to do was walk out of the door of Jim and Mary Sexton’s house to find a pleasant spot to exercise my eyes. Mary is Eunie’s sister.

Heritage roses seem to be gaining popularity everywhere. At least I think that these are a heritage variety:

Pink heritage roses

The pink is quite pretty, but I was more intrigued by these blue ones. I thought blue roses did not exist:
Heritage BLUE roses - no, they are fakes.
Well, as it turns out, they don’t exist. I faked the colour with Photoshop.

Red roses are beautiful and they smell nicer. Jim and Mary have some nice red ones in their garden:

Red, red rosesI did notice that they lack yellow roses.

So, I made some for them:

Fake yellow roses courtesy of PhotoshopYes, they are also Photoshop fakes.

I captured some more images in Jim and Mary’s garden this morning. Here is a little gallery:

I feel mentally and spiritually rested now. I’m almost ready to face TSA.

Would they arrest you when you took your shoes off if everybody fainted? Do they sell “Foot Stink” any place? I’m looking for trouble. I’ve never been arrested and I’m ready to try it. It would make a great war story.

UPDATE: Mary says that they are violas, not pansies. What do I know?

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