The Material Disconnect

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 12th, 2010 by MadDog
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It has been a strange week. Our bruised and battered little group of survivors suffered fresh wounds. I have been hammered by wild mood swings. I found myself unable to cook, sleep or write for several days. I’m not sure why I chose this week to take on a very hard job. In reality, I suppose that it was because the support which I needed to take it on was available.

Since I returned alone to Madang from Australia, carrying Eunie’s remains in my backpack, I have laid on the bed each night and tried not to think about her clothing, shoes and the heavy blue box of ashes behind the closet door a little over a metre from my head. I want to think of Eunie; oh, how I want it. But, I don’t want the memories to be provoked by things.  I find it very disturbing when I’m suddenly confronted by fear, loss and profound loneliness when I look at objects which initiate those emotions. Unfortunately there is hardly a place in Madang where my eyes can rest comfortably. The memories I desire are those which come spontaneously from inside when I sit staring at the sea or the sky, when my mental space is not crammed full of images of objects. She can break through the remaining clutter and touch me.

So, one evening last week Trevor and Karen came over to help me “survey” the situation and devise a plan. As it happened, I had come home from work early that afternoon, because I could not keep my eyes open. I lay down to sleep for an hour or so. Upon waking, I felt strong enough to begin. I decided to take on one drawer. It was the top drawer in the tiny chest which we shared. I talked to Eunie as I worked. I whispered my new theme song over and over, Oh, baby. Oh, baby.  When I had finished the top drawer without collapsing, subduing intrusions of negative emotions as best I could, I decided that I might as well continue. Within an hour or so, I was surprised to find that all of the contents of the three drawers were sorted and piled neatly on the dining room table.

By the time Trevor and Karen arrived I had nearly worked my way through the one metre of closet space allotted to Eunie’s hang-up items of clothing. As we sat at the table partially covered with Eunie’s things and ate the pizza which my friends had brought with them, I could not escape the feeling that I was putting on a brave face for them. I know that they are very worried about me. They helped me to decide which things should go to the Country Women’s Association to benefit the charitable projects which Eunie had supported for decades and which should be held aside as special gifts for her friends. Once again I felt a profound appreciation for the kind of emotional support which is given to me so freely and unconditionally.

In the morning I took some of Eunie’s nice cotton pull-over tops over to my next door neighbour’s house for her to give to her daughters and nieces. One of Sisilia’s daughters, Esmerelda, came over to help me to carry Eunie’s clothing to the back seat of my truck. After she left, as I stood there surveying the sad little scene, I did what came naturally. I took a picture:

As you can see, all of Eunie’s clothing, everything that she owned, could fit on the seat. I found that startling. It seemed to me to be such a small collection. Eunie was always beautifully dressed, but spent very little on clothing. She had a knack for choosing wisely but modestly. She looked great and smelled great. Nice perfumes were her only luxury.

Quiet elegance. Subtle sensuality. Beauty which gets under your skin:

My baby.

Okay, we need a transition here. I may as well make it abrupt. I have to get up and get ready to go up to Blueblood on Rich Jones’ boat. I have to do something to try to lift my spirit. I did get some decent images yesterday. This is a young Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri):

As they grow older they get more freckles and grow darker. You can find other images of them here by searching for “freckled”.

I like this shot of a tubeworm growing out of a large coral head with Rich Jones hovering in the background:

Nice depth.

Rich spotted this tiny nudibranch. I don’t know the name of it:

I couldn’t get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the little bits at the front which were vibrating frantically in the current.

This is a kind of sea squirt which I have shown here before:

It strikes me as very elegant, indeed.

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Fake Art For Sanity’s Sake

Posted in Photography Tricks on August 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I needed a sanity check. Life has changed so dramatically in the last few weeks that it has left my head spinning. I’m a born nester. I guess it’s my feminine side trying to assert itself. I can handle just about anything if I can get back to my nest every night. Get out to raise a ruckus and create chaos every day and then fly back to the nest and watch it on the news – that’s my idea of the proper life for a man.

Alas, ruckus raising and chaos creation aren’t high on my priority list now and I don’t have any time for those rolly-coaster rides. However, I do have a treasure trove of images and stories saved up. A huge part of it has never been seen before. For today, I chose a few of my favourites from past posts and gave myself the luxury of an hour to pretend to be an artist. It’s one thing that stimulates me without having to leave my temporary desk on a big, round table in front of the couch.

This one is called Buddy.  It is one of several images which I had reproduced in large format for sale. I did manage to sell most of them, but I decided to keep the original of this one, since I like it so much. It’s a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

I ran this one through the Photoshop grinder pretty thoroughly to get the nearly cartoon-like look. The fish is still the focal point, but the filter effects changed the Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  into a fantasy foreground.

You first saw these dolphins in Happy Accidents. I see magic in that original image every time I look at it and it seems all the more special because it was a snap shot taken in a one-second window of opportunity. These are the ones which tickle me – the ones that were gifts:

I decided to try to turn it into a rough watercolour.

Both of the following shots first appeared in The Aquarium in My Front Yard. I’ve put the original references for some of these into links so that you can compare the originals, if you are that hard-up for amusement.

This grumpy little critter is a Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri):

My goal here was A Grumpy Clown,  you know, like Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons.  I think that my have nearly achieved it.

This one from the same post, of a trio of Anthea, I’m titling, Are You Talkin’ to US?

They also seem a little grumpy, though not so tough.

Of the lot, this one I like best. It took the most time to get it right. A click to enlarge it will be more rewarding.:

I’m calling it Refuge.  Maybe that has to do with my mood. It is an evening view across the harbour from our house in Madang. I don’t know when I will see it again.

Eunie is better now that she began taking the powerful anti-inflammatory which she mistakenly stopped the day after the ERCP. I am going to have to monitor her medications – yet another something which I’ve never had to do before.

I’m learning a lot of new stuff. None of which I ever wanted to know. If you’re going to win at poker, you have to learn to play the cards.

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The Big Red Ball

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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The caption says This Morning’s Sunrise, but it’s actually yesterday’s. That’s because it’s 04:00 here in Madang and I’m wide awake doing yesterday’s post. In the afternoon yesterday our Internet connection crashed. Some pages would load quickly and others not at all. I suspected a DNS problem (sorry for the Geek-speak), but I couldn’t find anything wrong with our setup. I made a long-distance call to Hostmonster.com, my server farm in the USA. I couldn’t get on to the help desk for the host, because their page was one that wouldn’t load – wouldn’t you know it! They said that it looked fine from their end. I was still thinking DNS when I called Hitron and talked to a technician named Nali. He did some checking and found that our uplink to the satellite was completely saturated. I unplugged a couple of bandwidth hogs and the problem disappeared.

The funny thing about this, to a Geek anyway, is how focused one can become on an incorrect analysis of a problem. I was frantically pinging all of the DNS IP addresses of the satellite and thinking, okay, there’s a problem up there. Actually the problem would probably have been on the ground, but my brain had gone all funny by then, since it was 15:00 and I had not yet gotten around to doing a post. I hate getting two days behind. I need to feed you regularly or you’ll die.

Anyway, the problem was sorted out and we’ve doubled out uplink bandwidth. (HITRON users – If you cancel your old plan and begin a new one, you’ll get a much lower rate. We doubled our uplink speed and still our monthly bill is K1,000 less!)

In the future, I’m going to have to remember not to panic and to tick off all of the possible explanations for a problem before I bite onto one like a bulldog and worry it while the real difficulty sits in the corner giving me the finger.

Here’s the aforementioned sunrise:I think the season is changing. I hope to get some more of these soon. It’s a peaceful time of the morning.

And, here is one of the big red balls:That is some species of Feather Star. This one is particularly red. Using the Mark I eyeball alone, it looks deep, deep red – almost black. When you use the flashy thing, you put some red light which has been lost due to scattering by the sea water back into the spectrum. Therefore, with the flash, it looks bright red. Cool, eh?

Here’s the other big red ball. This outrageous cluster of red flowers popped up overnight in our garden. It’s a good 20cm in diameter. I’m going to toss this out to my botanist readers, because I don’t have time to figure out what it is:You can see the plant itself on the left. It appears to me to be some kind of a bulb plant, like a lily. Somebody will identify it. Steve, Ali, get to work! I need ID.  UPDATE:  Friend Anne-Marie Gregory in England has informed me that this is a Blood Lily (Haemanthus multiflorus, subsp. katherinae). Thanks, Anne-Marie.

Out at the end of Barracuda Point there are some little canyons in the reef, a whole series of them. They are fun to explore, because they are in the surge zone and you never know what you’ll find there. On big sea days it’s simply too rough. You get tossed around and bang into the walls. That’s not good for the diver or the sea life. On Saturday, the sea was calm, so we could explore with less bruising:This is a cute little Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri):You can put hawkfish in the search box and find many posts featuring them. They are among my favourites, because they are easy to photograph and spectacularly coloured.

Well, it’s a few minutes after five in the morning now.

I have to get started on today’s post.

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Night Ships

Posted in Under the Sea on March 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Mmmm . . . stepped out of the front door last night to let Sheba out for a little swim – she likes to skinny dip in the dark – and the lights on the ships across the harbour simply stunned me. Had to trot back inside to get my G11.

I set everything to manual and cranked the ISO up to 800 and got this telephoto shot by bracing the camera against a coconut tree:

What an amazing gadget it is. If I were the Oprah Winfrey of photographers, I’d just give them away to everybody and say, “Go forth and photograph!” We would be so busy having fun that there would be no time for wars. Of course, the world economy would grind to a halt. Hey, wait! That happened already. Never mind.

I backed off the telephoto a little and got this nice little panorama:I’m not feeling too wordy today. I think I may have blown a fuse or something yesterday. Maybe it’s the Aliens influencing me to cool it.

Going back to the images from my dive with Monty Armstrong on The Lady Anne  I found one that I’d forgotten to massage. It’s a kind of Sea Squirt that grows profusely in the rich (read full of sewerage) waters of the inner harbour:Its formal name is Rhopalaea circulata.  I’m actually quite happy with the image, considering that the water was filthy. It marks the first time that I’ve posted an image of a species that is clearly better than anything that I could find on the web (not that a better one doesn’t exist somewhere). Yeah, I’m feeling a bit smug about that. Hey, I work hard at this. Even geeks should get to win once in a while.

This little Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri)  also makes me smile:It gave me every opportunity to capture a good image. If there is any fault for imperfection, it’s the photographer’s. I wish every fish posed so nicely.

Well, I’m running out of words. Some days I feel like I could write all day. Sometimes I do, for magazine articles. Other days, it just doesn’t flow. However, I can’t leave without showing you one more shot of the amazing Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  that inspired my bizarre “Aliens” post of yesterday.I had a dream this morning about these critters. Very amusing.

Ursula Andress was in it too.

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The Aquarium in My Front Yard

Posted in Under the Sea on November 29th, 2008 by MadDog
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With my dive count now over two thousand, it’s amazing to me that all but possibly a hundred have been within a ten minute boat ride from our dock. This must surely make me one of the luckiest divers on the planet.
Since I’m feeling so lucky today, let me show you some of the lucky shots that I got this morning with Tris, Tracey and Pascal.

I’ve seen this fish around many times, but have only today been able to get a photo of one. I can identify most local fishes generically, if not specifically, but I haven’t bothered to look this one up yet. I usually don’t bother to learn a lot about a certain species until I have a photo of it that I can label with it’s taxonomic name. I usually go by common names, as do most divers:

Mystery FishFor now, I will call it “The Mystery Fish.”

This toothy little horror is Clark’s Anemonefish. The teeth are real and they do hurt when they bite. What’s more, they like to bite:

Clark's Anemonefish

Here’s another anemonefish that is not so feisty. This is the Pink Anemonefish. The interesting feature of this show is the oral disk of the anemone at the centre of all the tentacles. This is, of course, where the anemone puts its food for digestion. I fed an anemone half a banana once. (Yes, divers get bored.) It seems that they will eat just about anything. It took about fifteen minutes for it to ‘swallow’ the banana. I didn’t wait around to see if it coughed it back up:

Pink Anemonefish and Magnificent Anemone

The other interesting thing about oral disk is that it is where many of the anemonefish sleep.

Here’s some beautiful yellow anthea of some kind frolicking around in the coral:

Anthea

Everybody recognises this mean looking fellow. It is, of course, the giant moray eel:

Giant Moray Eel

This particular fellow was being very uncooperative. Every time I tried to get close enough for a shot, he’d pull his head back into his hidey hole. They are usually not so shy. In fact, the situation is usually the exact opposite – staying far enough away so as not to scare yourself into soiling your wetsuit.

We’ll end up with two cute and harmless cousins – members of the hawkfish family.

This is the Arc-Eyed Hawkfish. Explaining the name would be superfluous:

Arc-Eyed Hawkfish

And, this grumpy but passive little guy is the Freckled Hawkfish:

Freckled Hawkfish

Again, the origin of the common name is obvious.

I’ve sometimes been asked why I capitalize all of the fish names. There’s some controversy over capitalization of fish names. I won’t get into that boring academic fussiness. I will just say that it’s common courtesy to capitalize proper names.

I ask myself if I was a fish, how would I introduce myself – how would it be written as a conversational snippet?

Maybe something like this:

I’d walk up to a table in a fashionable restaurant where seated is a ravishing woman. I’d take her hand, bow slightly, and say, “Hawkfish, Freckled Hawkfish.”

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Hawkfishes – Little Jewels of the Sea

Posted in Under the Sea on March 15th, 2008 by MadDog
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It’s Saturday morning, so I’m off for a dive. I don’t have much time for composition, so I’ll just show you some pictures. (with apologies to those who have seen them a hundred times already)

I like the Hawkfishes. Unlike some other families, there’s not an ugly one in the bunch. (Click on a picture to see a bigger version.)

This is the Arc-Eye Hawkfish (Paracirrhites arcatus). The common name comes from the arc-shaped marking over the eyes.

Arc Eye Hawkfish

Here’s a Freckled Hawkfish (Paracirrhites fosteri). They start out as youngsters with just a few freckles and get more and more as they age (hmmm . . . that seems to be the way my old body is turning out)

Freckled Hawkfish

Ah yes, the rare (except on the Henry Leith) Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). Anybody want to venture a guess where it got it’s name. I’d be tempted to call it the Jimmy Durante Hawkfish, but nobody under 60 would get the connection. Richard Jones took this picture with my camera.

Longnosed Hawkfish

Here’s the Pixy Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys oxycephalus). The name just makes me giggle.  Imagine a pixy hawk – let alone a pixy hawk fish. What a mish-mash of words.

Pixy Hawkfish

And, as so often happens when you think you know what you are looking at, along comes a fish you thought you knew, but it’s a completely different color. This is the Red Variation of the Pixy Hawkfish.

Pixy Hawkfish (red variation)

Okay, that’s enough for today. I hear thunder in the distance, so the dive may be off . . . nevermind.

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