The Shoes of Happiness and Some Scary Cops

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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A couple of nights ago I was awakened by an employee (no names in this post) who told me that he was watching armed robbers rampaging through the house of a prominent Madang resident. He said that he had tried to get the police on the phone, but there was no answer. This is not an uncommon complaint. I tried several times and was just about to jump in the car to drive to the station when an officer answered who recognised my voice. He is the same cop who caught the kid who stole my camera from me on the street in front of my office.

I reported the ongoing incident and then drove to the station to make sure that a vehicle had been dispatched. I met there a somewhat scraggly looking guy, who I presumed (hoped) was a policeman. He said that a ten-seater had been sent to the scene. He opened a door to retrieve what appeard to me to be an ancient Enfield .303 army rifle from WWI. He then indicated that he wanted a ride in my car to the scene.

By the time we got there, the assailants had apparently fled. The police were walking around wishing that they had some light. I drove back home to fetch two powerful lights (Yanks call them flashlights. Here they are called torches.).  When I got back, there were reports that some of the horrible creeps who beat up a woman in her house were hiding out in the surrounding garden waiting for a chance to escape.

The cops took my lights and left me walking around with a big rock in each hand. I find it very strange how reason departs and leaves one fearless (or foolhardy) if the anger level is sufficiently high. I was there with two mates who had heard from the victim and responded to help get things moving. We were all furious at the incident. I was going around looking for someone to bash and sincerely hoping that I would not find anyone. The guys had guns, but there are few manufactured weapons about. The homemade guns usually associated with our thugs are of dubious utility. Nevertheless, I’m not interested in testing their efficacy on myself.

What may be of interest to you is this photograph of the police officers who responded to the call (there were others). Meaning no disrespect at all to our Royal Papua New Guinea Constabulary, I can image that certain readers might be alarmed by their appearance. They are simply not what one expects to see when the cops show up at your house in the middle of the night:

PNG Cops

In fact, they are nearly as scary as the criminals. It does help to understand that these guys really are here to protect us. Most of us are not in disagreement with the general operational procedure of, “Shoot them if you can. Capture and prosecute if you must.” There are a lot of very dangerous people around here. These fellows are our only defence, God bless ’em. But they are pretty scary looking for cops.

It hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice that Madang is becoming an increasingly dirty, disheveled, poorly governed and dangerous place. The question remains: Is anybody going to do anything about it or do we simply hang on and enjoy the ride to hell?

Okay, enough of that. The victim is recovering well, heavily bruised, but otherwise unhurt. I just heard from a friend that two of the assailants are now in custody. This means that the remaining three will probably soon be caught, since the cops are very persuasive in their techniques of extracting information.

Let’s move to a happier subject. Last Saturday evening we had an American Thanksgiving dinner at our house. We’ve been doing this for many, many years. It’s always a good party. All of our guests arrived by boat. They then marched up through the yard to our house, leaving their shoes outside on the veranda, as is the local custom. Here are the happy shoes of the happy people inside our happy house:The Shoes of HappinessLest we all develop diabetes from this sugary moment, let’s move on to some sun.

Here is yesterday morning’s sunrise:Sunrise PanoramaQuite pretty, even by our standards.

I like this telephoto shot from the middle because, if you click to enlarge, you can see many Flying Foxes returning from their nightly raid on the local gardens and rain-forest:Sunrise with Flying Foxes
They will spend the day resting in the trees, screeching and droping fragrant fruit bombs on the unwary.

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Terrible Tuesday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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The situation in the IT department has not appreciably improved. Another layer of wires and discarded packaging has been added to the floor and my sensitivity to clutter has become numbed to the point where I can walk across it barefoot (my normal office footwear) without noticing.

I did have one minor success yesterday. I needed to test a lot of gizmos to see what works and what doesn’t. Treading back and forth across the shop to access a testing case with minimal guts to make it run seemed excessive. I decided to make an “accessible” computer test rig next to my regular computer so that I can reach it from my chair.

The question was how to do it without creating a fire hazard. My solution:  bolt a computer to the wall:

My "bolted to the wall" computer

I unpacked a new motherboard, CPU and memory. The motherboard has inbuilt video, so that simplified matters. I screwed the motherboard to the wall and hooked up the power supply. I fetched a new SATA hard disk drive and a SATA DVD reader/writer which I stuck to the desk with double sided tape. I made a little frame for the hard disk drive and screwed it to the desk. After plugging everything in it came up to the BIOS level on the first try. I plugged in a netork cable, loaded Widows 7 on it and everything came up like a new garden in the spring.

I like it so well (it’s faster than my regular computer) that I think I’ll give the old one away.

Well, that is about the maximum amount of space that I’m willing to devote to computers today, since I’m up to here  with them.

So, how about a nice juicy bug on a pretty yellow flower?  This little guy was chomping away as if he hadn’t eaten for weeks. I you look carefully, you’ll see another smaller insect sticking his head out from behind one of the petals (at the bottom) to see when his turn is due:

Bug on a yellow flower

The shot above is a nice example of a serendipitous conjunction between lens physics and art. The backgound is, of course, very blurred, since the subject is so close and the lens cannot focus on both near and far objects simultaneously (a depth of field thing). However, in this case, the background has become a circus of psychedelic colours and patterns – a very pleasant side effect.

On the way to the office a couple of days ago, as I was motoring along Coronation Drive, the sunrise lured me out of the car for this shot:

Sunrise with one Flying Fox

If you exaimine the far upper left corner you will see one lonely Flying Fox.

Since I’m switched on full-auto in random mode, I’ll lock and load one diver:

Pascal Michon in the background

That’s my buddy Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, drifting obliviously toward the anchor rope of Faded Glory  while I snap his photograph. It’s a nice example of how you can use flash for dramatic effect. My preference is usally for available light. In this case, however, the shot would not have been nearly so interesting.

I’ve got time for a couple of images that I got recently up at Bludblood. This one shows a land crab hole and the balls of sand that they pile up next to the opening:

Land crab hole at Blueblood

The balls of sand are sometimes amazingly round and stacked much more neatly than you see here. I don’t get it. It seems like a terrific waste of energy to me. Why should a crab squander energy making these neat balls of mud and stacking them all in the same place?

This last shot is nothing special, but I do like the colours. I was sitting close to the barbie at Blueblood a couple of weeks ago and started aimlessly catching images of the fire. This one came out pretty nice.

Fire in the barbie at Blueblood

And with that, I’ll leave you. I’m getting out of this mess at the office for the evening. I’m going to drink an SP Export Lager, smoke an Antonio y Cleopatra dark wrap cigar (the cheapest that I can find), read a little and pet my dog Sheba.

And forget about computers for a while.

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Disastrous Monday

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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If you take a quick look at the image below, you’ll have a general idea of why my comments will be brief this Monday morning. It’s enough to say that it was “one thing leads to another” without getting into the gory details. Piles of wire on the floor are always a bad sign. A blank screen at the left of the server farm is even worse:

My disastrous office

So, to salve my aching pride concerning my care of duty, let me show you some bats. The Flying Foxes are fiendishly difficult to photograph. The are really quite black and are usually backlit by a bright sky or confusing foliage which is also more reflective than the bats themselves. So, what you usually get is black blobs with no detail.

I’m happy to demonstrate that I’m getting a little better at doing it. This was taken from street level with the Olympus SP-590UZ on the “Bird Watching” scene setting. I also turned on the backlight compensator thingie. A few minutes with Photoshop and a little cropping for the sake of composition and voila . . . actually visible Flying Foxes:

Flying Foxes

They have been nuts about this tree for a few weeks. Now I can see why. It is full of little red fruits of some kind. You can see them better if you click to enlarge. The bat on the far right is looking straight at me.

On Saturday afternoon, we went out to Kranket Island  after our dive. I got this shot of Miriam swimming. She is a powerful swimmer. I like this shot not because it is worth anything technically, but is does convey a nice sense of action:

Miriam swimming in Kranket Lagoon

There was other water play going on in the opposite direction:

Kids playing at Kranket Island

Twenty eight years ago my son was playing in these same trees.

I seem to have gotten into a habit of leaving my favourite shot until last. Here’s it for the day. I got this shot several months ago up at Blueblood. It’s a long telephoto from the Olympus and it took a bit of work to clean it up:

Boys in a canoe at Blueblood

As long as I look at this and don’t turn my head around to see the mess that I have to deal with . . .

Hey, I’m as happy as a clam.

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I’ll Take Whatever My Camera Gives Me

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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Because of my incredibly generous boss, with whom I sleep, I ended up with a five day holiday. Perhaps I should explain. My boss at the office also happens to be my wife. About the holiday, we had to skip one recently because of work loads, so she gave us that one back and another one following Independence Day. So, I was off from Wednesday and I don’t have to go back to the IT sweatshop until Monday. Hurah!

To celebrate, I’m going crazy (un . . . make that crazier). I worked on fourteen images this morning and I’m going to throw them at you in a more or less random order over the next two days. Some may amuse you. Some may not. Some may lead you to wonder what I’ve been smoking. All is well; it’s my job to amuse. It’s the only thing that I do with some degree of competency.

Let’s start out with this perfectly ordinary image of a perfectly ordinary object. It’s an Aussie barbecue. I can hear the Americans scoffing. Believe me, the Aussies scoff just as loudly at the Yank style. My friend Trevor Hattersley explained it yesterday:  “The Yanks got it upside down. They put the grill on top and the plate on the bottom. They do everything upside down up there in the Northern Hemisphere.”:

An Aussie BBQ

As a Yank, I’m not allowed closer than this to the barbecue. Sometimes they will allow me to start the fire, under close supervision. The white stuff on the big steel plate is sea salt left from the sea water used to ‘scrape’ the plate. The plate is never  cleaned. I’ve been told it sometimes takes years for the plate to develop the correct flavour. I case you’re wondering, the food that is cooked on this contraption is exquisite.

This shot of a hibiscus lit from behind with the coconut fronds and the dark blue sky in the background is exactly as it came from my Olympus SP-590UZ. Sometimes the camera is right. You don’t want to mess with it. I only did a little cropping:

Hibiscus lit from the back

As much as I like Flying Foxes, I’m shocked that I have no good shots of them. I’ll have to fix that someday. They are hard to shoot, because they are way up in tall trees, mostly beyond accurate slingshot range. Here is an early morning mob just settling in after a night out dining on the farmers’ papayas and bananas:

Flying Foxes

Here’s a shot a little closer in. You can see a couple of them flying around:

More Flying Foxes

This is as close as I could get from where I was standing. You can begin to see individuals. The really pack themselves in:

Still more Flying Foxes

Keeping with the day’s theme of randomness, here is a nice shot of an Indonesian style boat with Little Pig Island  in the background:

Indonesian boat

I would really love to have one of these. It’s a very pretty design. They travel thousands of miles over open ocean in these boats. I imagine that they must be very fuel efficient, since they are small and have a very long, slender hull. The outriggers make them very stable.

To finish up for today, here is a shot that I got on the way back from Blueblood on Wednesday. We had a birthday party up there for Di Cassell. We rode up and back on Mike Cassell’s boat. On the way back, the setting sun was glistening off of the water in a very magical way:

Sunset from Mike Cassell's boat

I particularly like the crazy angles in the shot. The horizon is level, but nothing else is straight. The Olympus did a nice job of exposing the image, even if the highlights are blown. You couldn’t expect much more from any camera given the dynamic range in the scene.

Unless you’re completely colour-blind, you’ll note that I converted the image to monochrome. Some things simply look better without the distraction of colour.

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More Nob Nob Mountain Miscellanea

Posted in Mixed Nuts on September 7th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today, I have more than enough images to show you of things that caught my eye on my recent visit to Nob Nob Mountain. There’s no particular order or theme here, so be prepared for more than the usual randomness.

Here is a rather amazing shot that I got from the communications tower ridge of the main wharf in Madang.  I’m guessing that the straight line distance is in excess of ten kilometres. I got the shot with the Olympus SP-590UZ at full 26x optical zoom. It points out the good and bad points of the cheap, but impressive zoom lens on the Olympus:

Madang Wharf telephoto shot from Nob Nob Mountain

First, I should point out that it was a very hazy day. That hurt the quality of the image before it ever reached the camera. You can see some vignetting around the corners. The shot is slightly cropped, mostly vertically, so there was even more light fall-off at the corners and edges. Next, you’ll note that the shot is not very sharp. I did a bit of cleaning of noise and sharpening. The original was more blurry and noisy. I also had to increase the saturation of the colours, but that was mostly because of the haze. Still, despite the problems I think that it’s amazing that you can buy a camera for less than US$500 that has a lens equivalent to a 700mm hunk of glass on a 35mm camera. If you’re just shooting snapshots, but you always wanted that super-telephoto effect, you can get it for free on any of the new superzoom cameras. They cost no more than any of the top-of-the-line point and shoot cameras (such as the superb Canon G11) and they give you telephoto shots that will blow your socks off. You can see some other examples of the relative quality of the superzoom shots from the Olympus here, here and here.

Showing the random nature of today’s post, here is the biggest mass of coconuts that I have ever seen on one tree. I’m sure that it is nowhere near a record, but it did amaze me:

Mass of coconuts at Nob Nob Mountain

Many times on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  I have told you about the Flying Fox. It is one of my favourite critters, though if I lived under a roosting tree, I might not feel so happy about them. Anyway, here is a papaya tree showing a nice, ripe papaya that nobody is going to want to eat. It’s half gone and the rest is covered by Flying Fox slobber:

Flying Fox meal of papaya at Nob Nob Mountain

I don’t often think of male and female trees. It’s something that just doesn’t come to mind. So, whenever I see a male papaya tree, I think what probably a lot of women think. Men – they’re so much bother. How many do we actually need, anyway? Here’s a lonely male papaya tree pitifully hoping that some of its pollen will be wafted on the wind to a receptive female:

Male Papaya Tree at Nob Nob Mountain

As you can see, he does nothing useful except to produce flowers. Not a bad job, I guess, if you can get it.

Here’s another interesting plant. It’s the top of a tree fern. Many of you in temperate and cold climates may never have seen one. If you can image a fern as tall as your house with a trunk like a spiny tree, that’s a fairly good description:

Tree Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

Here is another kind of fern called a staghorn fern. They also grow to be huge. I’ve seen a few that were nearly the size of a Volkswagen. This Frangianpi tree is an unusual host. It won’t be long before the weight of the fern causes the tree to come crashing down.

Staghorn Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

Here is a coconut tree groaning under the weight of a staghorn fern. It will eventually grow so big that it will drag the tree down, destroying its host. There is no noticeable intelligence among staghorn ferns. It has that in common with the human race:

Staghorn Fern at Nob Nob Mountain

I think that this is a common house plant over much of the world. I don’t know what it’s called. It reminds me of taro. Whatever it is, it looks as if it has been too near to where the house painters have been working:

Painted leaf at Nob Nob Mountain

We must have a million colours of hibiscus here. This is one that I particularly like:

Hibiscus at Nob Nob Mountain

Finally, back to ferns one more time. There is a kind of vine with blue flowers on it that grows all over the trees around Nob Nob Mountain.  You saw it a couple of days ago on the Tree Monster. I saw this nice fern frond growing where I could get a shot of the blue flowers on the vine in the background:

Fern frond at Nob Nob Mountain

I found it frustrating that I couldn’t get an angle on the frond that showed the lacyness of it the way that I wanted. I tried twisting it around, but it wouldn’t stay. Afraid of damaging it, I left it be and shot it as it was.

It was a good lesson for me for the day – take life as it comes. There’s little that you can change without making things worse.

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Sky – Water

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on September 2nd, 2009 by MadDog
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I know that I show probably more sunrises than any other web site on the planet. No, wait, I’m sure there must be a “Just Sunrises” web site somewhere.

Uh, strike that. I just Googled “just sunrises” and didn’t find any sites with that title. I did find a nice Flickr set by Sparky Leigh which has some great ones taken from his house at East Point  of the island of Hawaii.

Anyway, since some suspicion has been cast in my direction for the oddly huge quantity of gorgeous sunrises emanating from this site, I’ll now prove that not every day starts with one. Have a look at this morning’s sunrise:

Not ALL of our sunrises are spectacular

Not exactly Heaven’s Gate, eh?

This post is titled Sky – Water. Get ready to get wet. I love Christmas Tree Worms. Even the name is cute – cuter than Spirobranchus giganteus,  which is what they really are:

Christmas Tree Worms (Spirobranchus giganteus)

They are  fun to photograph, because it’s a challenge to get up close so that your lens is only two or three centimetres or so away. That’s where you get the good shots. Unfortunately, if they suspect that something fishy is going on, they disappear into their holes quicker than Jumpin’ Jack Flash. The little hole down on the lower left is where one vanished just before I clicked the shutter.

Okay, back to a sunrise. Not getting dizzy, are you? This is a strange one. I almost deleted it, then I gave it ten minutes. I’m glad that I was merciful. It’s not going on a calendar any time soon, but it does have some interesting features:

Another mediocre sunrise

The faint rays captivate me. I think that there is an optical illusion going on here. My eyes keep trying to follow the rays up into the blue area. The seem to extend, but when you look at the area by itself, there are no rays there. Strange . . . You may have to click to enlarge to see the effect, if any.

Okay, hold your nose, we’re going under. Here is some coral, Porites solida,  to be exact, with some strange marks on it. Can you guess what caused them?

Coral - Porites Solida, showing bite marks

Since this coral is about as hard as cement (just try banging your head into it, if you don’t believe me), it’s hard to believe that these are bite marks. The first time you see a big parrot fish come up to a bit of coral like this (about the size of  your fist) and take a bite out of it, it sort of takes your breath away. That’s not a particularly good thing when you are underwater. The bite marks are about two centimetres long.

Let’s come up for air again. This sunrise shot is not of the usual ilk:

Flying Fox at sunrise

This is another one that I nearly tossed. I was just about to abandon a mediocre sunrise when a Flying Fox flew overhead. You learn to look out for them, because they like to drop little presents on you. Flying Fox poop is strange stuff. I looks almost like some kind of jam. Some of it doesn’t even smell too bad. It varies in colour, texture and aroma depending on what kind of fruit that the lovely critter has been dining.

I do publicly admit that what comes out of the tail end of the Flying Fox is the only faecal matter that I’ve ever had the slightest temptation to taste.  I know that that must sound terribly weird, but it is, after all, just fermented fruit. Right? I mean, if one never tries new things, one never learns. Right? It’s just curiosity. Eh?

I remember standing on the overhead veranda downtown at our office with John Pryor. We were watching the Flying Foxes clustering heavily, screeching like banshees just over our heads. John said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if . . .”  That’s as far as he got. A big mashed-banana coloured blob plopped down on his white shirt. We nearly fell off of the veranda laughing.

I know you’re wondering. The answer is no, I’ve never tasted it.

Not yet.

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Oddball Sunrises

Posted in Mixed Nuts on August 21st, 2009 by MadDog
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This morning, deciding that I need a little more adventure in my life (one can never walk too close to the edge – short of falling over, that is), I decided to turn an ordinary sunrise into something possibly a little more interesting.

But first, I want to show you a lovely shot that Lori Witham, our Administrator of Publications, got this morning. It’s been blustery here for a couple of days. That whips up the sea along the coast and makes towering waves where the ocean crashes into the steep cliffs at the shoreline. One of the best spots to view this is near the end of the golf course on Coronation Drive close to the Coastwatchers Monument. And that is exactly where Lori went this morning to catch this very nice shot:

The Coastwatchers Monument by Lori Witham

Thanks, Lori, for letting me put that up for our readers to appreciate. If the shot looks a little fuzzy, that’s not because Lori doesn’t know her way around a camera. The air is full of salt water spray! You may have seen these other posts showing the Coastwatchers Monument here, here, and here.

Now, getting on to the very ordinary sunrise, here it is:

Ordinary Sunrise

It didn’t look even that good when I staggered out onto my veranda this morning. There was a bit of colour, but what caught my eye was the strong lights on top of a ship behind the main wharf across the harbour. The wind was blowing the leaves of my weeping willow tree. I took a shot through the leaves with a fairly long zoom. The slow shutter speed makes a nice motion blur on the leaves while leaving some of the foreground focused and giving a pleasant blurriness to the background. The shot came out much better than I expected. A nice start for the day:

Willow Sunrise

Flying Foxes were returning from their nightly feast in the bush to their roosts in the trees around Madang Town. I caught this lonely one just as he was flying overhead:

Coconut and Flying Fox Sunrise

I wish that I could have gotten him a little bigger, but I very much enjoy shots such as this one with not too much information. For me, less is more. The negative space of the sky converges with the harsh edges of the coconut tree to focus attention on the tiny dot of the Flying Fox. It’s a twist on the Rule of Thirds. The negative space occupies the Rule of Thirds spaces and the subject is smack in the middle of the frame.

Here’s another extremely simple image that tells a nice little story. You might need to click to enlarge to see the Flying Foxes scattered across the sunrise like pepper on a slice of mango:

Flying Fox Sunrise

As the sun crept up higher, it became more difficult to find something worth shooting. The primary colours of the sky were washing out to an uninteresting bluish grey and nothing else was going on. I walked over to my neighbour’s little haus win  and sat on the ground to get this shot:

Haus Win Sunrise

Then I sat there a while longer and wondered if there was any way that the day could get any better.

We’ll see.

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