A Final Stroll Through My Garden

Posted in My Garden on December 25th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’ve been keeping a low public profile since I left Sedona on a snowy day in early December. After a couple of nights of layover time in Brisbane I arrived in rainy Madang and began to trudge through the seemingly endless list of tasks which will allow me to exit my home town of thirty years. I was planning to take some pictures of the inside of my house before I left, but I watited too long. It is now in a sorry state. I have to avert my eyes from the bare walls, empty shelves and vacant bookcases. It is not the home I once thought. I discovered late in life that home is not a place or a house. The old expression seems trite – home is where the heart is – but it is profoundly true.

My garden is still a cheery place. I’ve enjoyed several quiet walks there, accompanied by my trusty old Canon G10. I sold my G11 and its underwater housing. I was going to sell the G10 and housing also, but I think I’ll keep it. I seriously doubt if I’ll ever dive again, but it’s possible. The G10 will make a great camera for Grace. She wants something that will let her grow. It’s a perfect camera for an enthusiastic amateur. I can’t see much sense in letting it set on a shelf while spending the money on a new G12. For most shots the difference in the images is undetectable.

You won’t be able to tell much about cameras from these shots. They all have been heavily Photoshopped for “artistic” purposes. This hibiscus has been smoothed, despeckled, outlined, enlarged, shrunk, posterized and massaged in other ways until it bears little resemblance to a photograph:

And the spider in this shot has been stretched, sharpened and colorized within an inch of its life:

The colors in this shot are nothing like the original photo, but the grasshopper looks exactly as it does in my head:

I wanted a grasshopper which might take up residence behind the looking glass.

These jasmine flowers smell so sweet as to make the head spin. They affect me much the same as orange blossoms:

I remember driving once through an orange grove with Eunie and getting so light-headed from the intensity of the aroma that I had to ask her to drive.

This night-blooming jasmine has much the same effect on me. After nine in the evening stepping out my front door is a mind-bending experience:

Visceral experiences are common here in the belly of the tropics. Redundant as that might be linguistically, the metaphor holds true. I find the high desert austere in comparison. That is not a measure of value, but an observation upon which I need to reflect so that I may learn to appreciate it and discover its secrets. When I arrived in Madang I was a gawker. I could not appreciate it properly because I had so little knowledge. As I gain knowledge of my new environment I will come to love and appreciate it as much as I ever have loved and appreciated Madang.

Lush . . . the word which comes to mind so often. Bathed in perfume and perspiration – I’m enjoying being wet again – I stand in simple awe of the outrageous palette displayed by humble vegetation:

A little super-virgin olive oil with a dash of balsamic . . . voila! A tasty and festive salad. I wonder what coleus tastes like?

I am having little trouble bidding goodbye to most things in Madang. Friends are the hardest . . . Some things I won’t miss:  melting roads with potholes so deep that you have to turn your lights on, power outages that are timed by Satan himself, phones that work when you don’t need them . . . the list goes on. I’ll live without my boat. I can survive quite happily in the absence of the verdant landscape. Diving gave me decades of fun and learning, but I will find other pleasant pursuits. I think that when I look back over a few years to catalog the things I miss the few pages will be occupied with simple notations of things I thought of as uniquly mine. My smart, pretty dog, Sheba, my lovely house, my orchids in my garden:

The funny thing about this is that you can’t really own any of these things. The way things are going today I sometimes wonder if we can own anything. Maybe some of us are beginning to realize that is it just so much stuff. It’s not the actual stuff that is of value. The value lies in the feelings we get from thinking that we own it and it is ours. It’s my stuff. It’s your stuff.  It’s good stuff . . .

Ah, well, since it’s only the feelings and memories that get the endorphins flowing freely, juicing me up nicely and making me jingle like a pocket full of silver dollars, I’m going to develop a philosophy of Gratification by Means of Virtual Ownership.

I’m going to start with a virtual spin in my new virtual Corvette on the virtually smooth North Coast Road.

See you later . . .

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Limo – Bye-bye Honolulu

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on April 23rd, 2011 by MadDog
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I have about three hours left before I’ll be picked up by a friend and hauled to the airport for my flight through Phoenix to Indianapolis. I have a severe case of the travel jitters. It’s high anxiety time.

So, I find myself with some time to kill. I seldom actually kill time, I just wound it. Today I subdued some time which would otherwise have doubtless been ill-spent by going to a movie with my hostess, Fran. I was a little leery of the title, Soul Surfer (be prepared to lower your volume to avoid the noisy surf soundtrack on this site) and the subject matter, which you probably already know, but I’ll tell you anyway. Bethany Hamilton, a thirteen year old surfer, suffered the loss of her arm to a shark. That’s more than I really wanted to think about, but there was nothing else fit to watch in the theatre, so I decided to take a chance. I’m glad I did. I seldom label anything as “inspirational” (it takes a lot to inspire me), but this one deserves it. I cried through a lot of it. That’s the “weepy old man” thing.

I’m no movie critic and I’ll not (for once) pretend to know what I’m talking about. I’ll blurt it out anyway. Anna Sophia Robb has a way to go, I’d say. I hope that as she matures she’ll seem  more real. At this stage, she’s a fine actor, but seems to me to fall short of the transparency which allows me to suspend all disbelief. Hey, give her a break. She’s got everything going for her. She’s stunning in a girl-next-door kind of way and she’s beginning to figure out how to make us believe. I’d love to be around long enough to see what she can do when she’s thrity-five or forty.

Helen Hunt and Dennis Quaid didn’t seem to be stretched much by their roles and didn’t go for broke. They both made me cry, which is to their credit in my book. Hey, it’s not that hard. Lorraine Nicholson was trying very hard, but didn’t have much to work with in the script. I’d like to see her when she’s more challenged. The rest of the cast was cartoonish, but that can be forgiven. Hey, kiddies, this is a good flick if you can get past the “not Oscar material” flavour. I give it thumbs up, if anybody cares.

I have to admit that the thing which distracted me most was how did they do it? I had some idea that there was major digital trickery involved in the disappearance of Anna’s arm, but it was reasonably well done. If you’re as amused as I am about this, have a look here.  I was so wrapped up in the story and busy trying not to make too many sobbing noises that I forgot to look for the give-aways which betray the gimmick. There were a few pretty good surfing scenes, but the rest of the cinematography had “B” written all over it.

Thanks, Fran, for putting up with a peculiar old man, putting a roof over my head and dragging me off to a movie. It’s the cheapest week I’ve ever spent in Honolulu and I had a good time. That’s a rare combination here.

As I was walking along yesterday I saw one of the ridiculously long limos which endless roam the local streets. I’m sure that there must be longer ones somewhere, but I haven’t seen them yet. I snapped this shot:

Never being satisfied with what my camera delivers, I decided I wanted to make it even longer. This should have been relatively straightforward, but I ran into some distortions which I did not like and had to change my mind about what I was doing. What I may have done here is to create the world’s longest Alfa Romeo:

At least that’s what it reminds me of. I had to remove the front license plate, because it was so distorted by the transformations that it gave away the gag. That huge lower lip makes it look as if it’s pouting.

This ridiculous blossom gets my vote for the most outrageous Hibiscus I’ve ever seen:

If I were going to name this it would have to be the Carmen Miranda Hibiscus.

Okay, getting silly now as the hour of departure approaches, here’s a Japanese bride being photographed on the beach while a sunbather watches while I watch them all:

I won’t think about that too long. I’m reminded of the early Star Trek episodes in which the ship’s computer would warn Spock, “Prepare for recursion.” Google failed to return any reference to that in Star Trek.

I’m disappointed.

I’m scheduling this post to be published while I’m winging my way across the ocean. As usual, I may seem to be here, but I’m really not.

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Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 21st, 2011 by MadDog
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I need to begin by stating that I hate baseball. Perhaps that’s too strong. I am intensely indifferent to baseball. I feel much the same about most team sports, having been the runt of the class throughout my school days. Playing any team sport was always an acute embarrassment to me, because I was too small to be useful in most games. Baseball, football and basketball were the most troublesome, because nobody wanted me on their team. Tsk, tsk, how sad. Pity me.

Anyway, when Pastor Ron Arnold of Kaimuki Christian Church, brothers and sisters who have stuck with me for three decades through thick and thin, invited me to go to a baseball game with him on Monday evening, I was more than a little surprised. It seemed so ludicrous. My first thought was, “Yeah, sure. I want to go and sit for several hours watching the game that is at the top of my list of Don’t Want To Do Things.” Then, reason overcame me for a lucid moment and I realised that Ron was reaching out with the hand of friendship. How was he to know?

I attempted a diversionary ploy by mentioning that if I went to a baseball game I would probably want to drink a beer, that being what I imagined that men do at such events. I had previously only been to one baseball game in my life. I immediately fell into a deep, dreamless slumber and had to be vigorously shaken to waken me when it was all over. Ron was ready for such attempts to give him the cold shoulder and said that he would have a beer with me, which surprised me once again. I had to relent. Who can turn down such an invitation?

So, at a little after six we were off to the baseball stadium to watch the Rainbow Warriors of the University of Hawaii battle it out with the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. True to his word, Ron treated me to one of the largest beers I have ever attempted to consume:

That image is one which I never expected to see while housed in this body. That’s me enjoying a baseball game. It was immensely helpful to be accompanied by a friend who knew all of the arcane mysteries of the game and explained them patiently as needed. At least I could now watch a game without being completely baffled by what is going on in front of my eyes. By the time the fifth or sixth inning came along I was a bit peckish. We went down to the concession stands and each of us procured a ridiculously huge hot dog. I couldn’t begin to eat all of it. It was platoon-sized. Ah, America . . .

Possibly the most interesting event of the evening occurred immediately following the National Anthem (yes, Virginia, the American one) when another National Anthem was sung with great vigor. The song, heretofore unknown to me, is Hawaiʻi ponoʻī, which means “Hawaiʻi’s own”. Surely Hawaii is unique in this respect, as it is in many others.

So, as the clock winds down on my time in Honolulu, I have, on my Ticket of Life,  punched the little box which is labeled Baseball and enjoyed a splendid distraction with an old friend and champion of my work. Though a baseball game was not on my bucket list, I have added it and checked it off retrospectively.

I’ll likely have only one more post before I’m herded onto a huge aluminium livestock mover and slung across the remainder of the Pacific Ocean on my way, circuitously, to Indianapolis, where I will be miserably greeted by snow, I very much fear. So, I’ll now bore you silly with an accumulation of left-overs which fit nowhere else. In the tremendously pretentious pond outside the Waikiki Hilton, I was very surprised to find a kind of fish which is familiar to me, namely African Chiclids the genus of which I believe is Pseudotropheus:

At one time, Eunie and I had seven tanks full of various African Chiclid species. They are very colourful fish and have interesting breeding habits. You can see the egg-spots on the anal fin of this female which, some speculate, serve as a sort of target for the male when he is called upon to do his thing. Some of them are mouth-brooders. The fry spend a great deal of time in the mouth of the female until they are large enough to fend for themselves. Though this is not an image of which I’m proud, it turned out much better than I had reason to expect. I was shooting down at an angle through about fifteen centimetres of rather murky water.

This shot is likewise undeserving of any prizes. I include it only because I was amused, seeing it on my computer screen, that the foamy water, frozen by a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second, appears very much like ice:

I’ve uploaded a higher resolution file than normal so that you can click on it and see the frosty detail. I did not expect this. It was a happy surprise.

This little bird is the Zebra Dove, Geopelia striata:

You can see them anywhere on Oahu and, presumably, on the other islands. They hang around anywhere that might have food on the ground, so you’d better be prepared to have them waddling around your feet while you eat outdoors. The have an annoying habit of staying just ahead of your feet while you’re walking. It sometimes makes me feel as if I might step on one, but it hasn’t happened yet. They are pretty, in a girl-next-door sort of way. The purple feet make me giggle.

I’ll wrap this up with a motley collection of Hibiscus shots. You can’t swing a dead cat here without damaging a Hibiscus bush. They are everywhere. I suppose that’s appropriate, since the Hibiscus is Hawaii’s State Flower, specifically the Pua Aloalo (Hibiscus brackenridgei), a bright yellow species. Here is some sort of pink variety:

As it is in Papua New Guinea, there seems no end to the colours to choose from. I see new shades nearly every day. Until 1988 pretty much all varieties of Hibiscus were glommed together and the group as a whole was considered to be the State Flower. At that time, the Pua Aloalo was selected as the sole member of the Hibiscus tribe to represent the state. Bet you didn’t know that. Neither did I until five minutes ago. The result of which is that some older material shows the Hawaii state flower in the wrong colour. It is properly yellow. No substitutes allowed!

Is this hot pink? I’m decades behind on colour names. A trip to the paint store makes me laugh out loud. Who chooses those names? No matter the name, my camera had a very hard time with it:

Digital sensors of the kind I can afford still don’t have enough dynamic range to capture such super-saturated colours realistically.

This is a yellow variety which I think is the Pua Aloalo, but I’m not sure:

Anybody want to jump in on this one? The blooms on this bush seemed to be very close to the ground compared to most of the others.

This one has a cup-shaped blossom:

It’s fun to shoot Hibiscus, because there are a huge variety of colours and they pose so nicely. Eventually you end up with a colossal collection of images which you have spent a ridiculous amount of time building and are worth absolutely nothing to anybody. It’s sort of like collecting Hummel Figureines, except you don’t have to pay for them. What could be better?

The church paid for me to go see a shrink today. What a thoughtful thing to do. I know it was Pastor Ron’s doing. Thanks, mate. I was happy to find that the very nice young man with lots of sheepskins hanging on his wall prescribed only books for me – no meds. It was very interesting to me that he said that at the level of depression which I’m experiencing, there is no medication which has been proven more effective than a placebo. Well, I took St. John’s Wort for years knowing all along that its effectiveness was disputed. It gave me some feeling of control.

My reluctance to go on medication for my depression is based on two ideas. First, there is considerable doubt whether a medication would have any beneficial effect at all – it’s a toss-up, unless you’re pretty bad off to start with. Even if it does make me “feel better”, that is just going to lull me into a state of mind where I ignore the root causes of my depression and do no deal with them. That’s even worse. I don’t want to feel better because I’m ingesting a powerful psychoactive drug which is constantly meddling with my natural brain chemistry. As bizarre as my head lab is, I’ve grown accustomed to it and I recognise that the quirkiness it generates is a big part of what makes me me. I like being a bit off-centre. It’s the major portion of what little charm I have. The other problem is that even if it works, if it makes me all mellow and chilled out, I can’t keep taking it forever or I’ll sizzle my noggin permanently and become utterly dependent on it. So, what happens when I go cold turkey? Hey, all those pesky things I didn’t notice while whacked out on Prozac come slithering out of the bushes and begin gnawing on my ankles. They’ve been lying in wait for me while I was in the zone.

No meds, please. I need to take life in my bare hands and subdue it. It’s gloves off from now on.

MPBM reader and Facebook friend Kristy congratulated me for soldiering on in a message yesterday and reminded me of something Winston Churchill once said, “If you’re walking through Hell, keep walking!”

Excellent advice, I’d say.

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As Ready As I’ll Get

Posted in Mixed Nuts on March 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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Tomorrow morning at 07:20 I’ll board a flight for one of the most important journeys of my life. That is, I’ll board the flight if Air Niugini is feeling like letting me do so. One never plans  a flight on Air Niugini. It is more like a gamble. You bet that the aeroplane will be there and it will leave reasonably close to the time you need to leave for your connection and nothing else mysterious will happen to prevent your arrival. It’s wise to have a backup plan or, more accurately, a backup hope. Anyway, I’ll be there at 06:00 to see if I’ll be arriving in Brisbane tomorrow afternoon or not.

In the meantime, while you are waiting anxiously for my next report, I’ll soothe you with some random images from recent forays into the heart of Paradise. Here is what I usually refer to as Purple Snow. It is, of course, not snow at all but the shed flowers of a lau lau  or Malay Apple tree:

Friend Anne-Marie told me at first that the genus is Eugenia.  Then she started Googling and came up with the genus name Sygygium,  which, by the way, I find impossible to pronounce.  For most plants, she pulls the fancy names out of some deep recess in her fertile mind. If she is unsure, she will not let it go until she has exhausted Google. Apparently, Sygygium  is the favoured name now. Taxonomist are an unruly lot. They are forever changing their minds and arguing, presumably in Latin. You can see more Purple Snow here.

This is some kind of bug. It’s pretty, but you have to watch out for these. Some of them stink so bad they will make your head spin. I stopped sniffing them a long time ago. Believe me, you don’t want to know:

I think this is a non-smelly variety, but I did not check it.

Here are some little yellow flowers at the Tourist Centre. The sun was shining through a picket fence, making an interesting pattern of light across the frame.

Enough said. Let it speak for itself.

A rather boring hibiscus:

The images will get better when I begin my journey.

At least this one is not something you see every day. These are ferocious ants on a Heliconia  flower.

Even if the ants aren’t very interesting, the flower is. It’s one of the stranger ones. The common name is Lobster Claw. I don’t have to explain why, eh?

This is a little baby goat up at Nob Nob. It was so cute that I wanted to take it home. I doubt that my dog, Sheba, would get along with it.

Anyway, it would eat all of my flowers.

It’s about time to wrap this up. I probably won’t be posting for a few days. It will take time to get set up in Gympie. I had to pack four times. I packed everything three days ago and then decided that I needed a bit more stuff. I removed everything from a smaller black bag and put it into the big red bag you see here.

Then the red bag wasn’t full. So, I decided to fit everything into the black bag (not the one you see here – that’s my backpack). Well, it was a tight fit, so I jumped up and down on it until it seemed ok. Then I broke the zipper while trying to get it closed. Scratch that bag; it is now junk. Okay, now I had to put everything back into the red bag, which was still not full. I rummaged through my clothing to see what else I might need. I found some more warm clothes and stuffed them in. It came up to 19.48 kilograms, just short of my 20 kilo limit.

I guess that I’m as ready as I’m going to get. I have probably forgotten a dozen important things, but I can’t imagine that there are fatal flaws in my planning and execution. If all goes well I will be motoring with Val from Brisbane to her home in Gympie by this time tomorrow.

I’ve done everything I can. From now on it’s up to the mercy of God and Air Niugini. I know that I can count on God. I’m not so sure about Air Niugini.

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A Little Nature Walk at Nob Nob

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 30th, 2010 by MadDog
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Two steps forward, one back. Repeat. Life has somehow developed this annoying pattern. I think it started when I was born. By the way, exactly why was I born? Anybody? Anybody at all? What, no ideas? Well, me neither, but since I’m still here taking up space, I may as well keep on keeping on and see if anything interesting pops up.

Despite my depressed self esteem to the contrary, I still seem to be useful. That’s something of which I need to remind myself nearly daily. Hey, I go to work (nearly) every day, (occasionally) on time, and I (usually) stay until I feel like there’s nothing more I can start on or have a reasonable chance to finish. I get (most) things done (eventually). (Nearly) all of the computer gear works and (mostly) the operation is (a little) more reliable and controllable than it was two (or several) years ago. I (pretty much) do what I am told to do, (more or less) without grumbling, and I (try to) take on as much as I feel that I can without (completely) botching up the work. The feeling of still being (somewhat) useful is something I need very much. All in all, I’d give myself average marks for utility.

I’m more than a little surprised by how many things I have accomplished without having a clue as to what I was doing. The list is tedious, but full of tasks which had to be taken on. I have had a lot of help and good advice along the way. I seem to be checking items off faster than the list is growing, so that gives me some sense of progress. The stunning thing about this whole process is how I managed to get through so many things without creating yet more chaos by way of my abysmal ignorance. I can count a few minor miracles among the lot and more than a few near disasters. It’s a mixed bag.

I’ll give you an example of dumb thinking – I thought about it and I took the dumb choice. I recently sold Eunie’s 1973 Spitfire 1500 to my cousin. God bless her and her husband for relieving me of it. One crucial operation was to get the title to the car in her hands so that they can get licence plates for it. How the title to a car in Indiana ended up in Madang is another story.

Anyway, I prepared all of the necessary paperwork to facilitate the transaction, including some tricky stuff because we don’t have anything called a Notary Public (a term which I have never understood). Instead, we have what is called a Commissioner for Oaths. This person is charged with confirming your identity when you sign a document – just what I needed. But, guess what? The place where the Notary Public signs and stamps the document looks nothing like the place where a Commissioner for Oaths performs the same function.

So, this required a few hours of scanning things into the computer, fiddling with the format and fervently praying that the officials at the licence branch would cut me some slack. They can be notoriously picky or wonderfully compassionate, depending on the weather.

After doctoring the documents, I placed everything in a brown envelope and scratched my head. I could choose to send it by DHL at an exorbitant cost, about US$50. It doesn’t pay to use the fastest (one day) service, because it’s going to take a couple of weeks anyway. So, I had a choice. Blow fifty bucks on DHL or trust the PNG Postal Service to get it there by Registered Air Mail at one tenth the cost. What do you think I did? Right, my Frugal Plan kicked in and I hustled over to the post office holding my fingers crossed.

BIG MISTAKE! My cousin waited and waited and waited. I got more and more frantic, something which I have been practising and getting very good at. After a futile attempt to trace the package, my cousin told me that the only information available was that it was “awaiting dispatch” from Port Moresby. That wasn’t helpful at all. Inquiries by me at the post office on this end at first drew a blank also. I was told quite bluntly that I couldn’t even begin a trace until at least one month had passed.

Well, as it turns out, the item does not appear to be lost, but now is finally on its way to Indiana. What happened? A bomb! Well, not exactly a bomb, but the mention of a bomb. It appears that somebody somewhere got all excited about a real or imagined (not clear which) bomb which may or may not have been sent or not sent through the postal service either to some place in North America or Germany or possibly Australia. Really that’s more information than we normally expect to extract from the postal authorities. All of the mail to North America, and who knows where else, was held hostage at the Port Moresby post office and not released until the second day of December, just in time to be hopelessly retarded by the Christmas clogging. We counted this as good news, which gives you a general idea of our normal expectations of life in Paradise. I may possibly have learned a lesson. When frugality conflicts with wisdom, give wisdom a break or at least a nod.

Today the sale of the house in Brownsburg is supposed to close. That will be a significant milestone for me. Do you think I’m sitting on pins and needles? Yeah, you’re right.

And, so it goes.

I see that I’ve digressed severely from the nature walk. In fact, I haven’t even started. So, on with the show.

This is some kind of bug on a hibiscus blossom. Yeah, I know it’s not a true bug. I guess it is katydid; I don’t know which and I can’t say that it’s very important to me. I’m a fish guy. How do they manage, being so spindly?

I couldn’t tell if it was eating the naughty bits of the flower or if something else ravaged them.

This is an interesting plant which is native to the hot places in the Americas. Somebody dragged a few of them here and planted them. We call it diwai pen  in Tok Pisin.  The translation is the “paint plant”. Here is a blossom and some of the fruit:

For those who care, the taxonomic name it Bixa orellana.

The name “paint plant” derives from the reddish-orange goop that is found inside the fruit. I was going to get a picture of it, but these did not seem to have any:

The substance is used to decorate bodies for celebrations. These things are very difficult to photograph. Digital cameras seem to have problems capturing detail in “all the same colour” areas. I had to fiddle with this image quite a bit to make it usable. It is red, red, red.

Shooting a praying mantis is an easy task. They don’t generally move very fast. It’s common to find them in the shrubbery, but this one has perched itself on an iron post. That made me happy enough, because it simplified my job. Just in case you’re feeling geeky I’ll mention that I used a very small aperture for this shot so that I could get the maximum depth of field. I wanted the structure of the roof on the other side of the post to be discernible:

It is a magnificent beast.

This shot is better:

That’s creepy enough for me.

This is a non-amusing shot of a staghorn fern. They get quite large. This one was about as big around as a fair sized coffee table. It appears as if someone lopped off a leaf at some point. I don’t know what all that stuff is which looks like lettuce; I’ve not seen that before on a staghorn:

As I said, it is not a very interesting picture.

So, what to do when a picture flops? Turn it into art!

That’s much better. I’ll call it Alien Vegetation.

I’m holding my breath for the closing of the house tomorrow. I may soon be free at last!

I just got an email from my friend Steve telling me that the house will be burned to the ground on the 8th of January by the volunteer fire department. I’m trying to decide how I feel about that. At least it won’t be my  house that’s burning.

This will be my last post for 2010. I will not be sorry to see this year dissolve into history. If hard pressed, I can remember positives, but they are nearly submerged in a sea of grief and loneliness. What 2011 will be like is largely up to me. Many things are beyond my control; I’m not immune to the vagaries of life. However, I can adjust my attitude.

That is one thing which I can  fix. The rest is a box of chocolates.

UPDATE: Reader Jeff Allen passed along the taxonomic name of the fern. It is a bit curious – Platycerium superbum.  Be careful how you pronounce it.

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Kristy and the Hibiscus

Posted in Guest Shots, Mixed Nuts on November 21st, 2010 by MadDog
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Today I have another mixed bag of gibber-jabber and images. My work days on Thursday and Friday last week were severely disrupted by non-glamorous but essential tasks. At the end of Thursday’s post I showed a picture of Gosel, one of our Technical Services workers, mowing the grass at one of our houses. He also mowed my lawn that day. I suppose that describing what I have in front of my house as a “lawn” is a little pretentious. It’s a big patch of grass full of crab holes. It’s not even grass grass. It’s more like crabgrass. I guess that’s appropriate. On Friday there were two more yards to be manicured. It’s is not my usual work to haul Gosel around to the properties which need his weed-whacking attention. It would normally be something that our Administrator of Technical Services would tend to. Unfortunately, we do not have an Administrator of Technical Services. In fact, we are so short-staffed that all of us are doing things which most of us would not normally be called upon to do or have not done before. Our usual work is still there and still piling up.

In most workplaces in which I have been this kind of situation would cause problems of all kinds, mostly in the form of complaints and interpersonal relationship kerfuffles. Since I came back from Australia and resumed my duties I have been amazed and greatly encouraged by the way our entire staff of workers has responded to the drastic changes in the distribution and nature of our work loads. We still face some difficult times, but we are truly pulling together as a team.

Okay, that was pretty boring, eh? I’m sure that you dropped by so I could tell you all about my work days last week. I’m a charmer, I am.

Well, maybe I can amuse you by describing the strange little thing which just happened back in my medulla oblongata. We’re talking way down deep here, folks. I have no control over these things. It’s a lot like hiccups.

When the words “pulling together as a team” dribbled off my fingertips onto my keyboard, I had a sudden surge of energy from my autonomic music centre. It blasted my one good ear with some lines of the Pink Floyd song Have a Cigar  from the 1975 album Wish You Were Here.  I have an intense affinity for that album. It’s very familiar territory. I can’t listen to the title song without crying. Yeah, I know that’s an old man thing. The problem is that I’ve been doing that since the album came out. I wasn’t so old then.

It could be made into a monster
If we all pull together as a team.
And did we tell you the name of the game, boy,
We call it Riding the Gravy Train.

Strange, eh? – that the connection was made. Happens to me all the time. Rats have chewed all of the insulation off my wires.

Music can be so powerful. How does that happen? Take some notes, string them together, mix in some words . . . and you get a punch in the guts. Of course, it has to be the right tones in the right sequence and the words have to get your attention at some level deeper than a daydream.

The staticy radio sound of the acoustic guitar lead-in which drifts into a live sound at the beginning of Wish You Were Here  is pure genius to me. I’m listening to it right now. And, yeah, you guessed it. . . I won’t say it.

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Oh, so many absent friends – so many I will never see again.

(Sniff, sniff . . .)  I’m repeating myself. I note that I wrote about this song in a very morose post only last March.

Okay, enough of that. Let’s look at some flowers and some other stuff. I have a treat for you at the end, so you may want to skip down to it.

While the grass was being trimmed at one of our houses and I didn’t want to drive back to the office and then come back later to pick Gosel up, I took advantage of the time to walk around the yard and snap some pictures. This view struck me as a comment about life these days in Papua New Guinea:

Razor wire and flowers – paradise and danger. How many ways can you say it? Things are not as pleasant as they once were. It is not considered safe now to drive up the North Coast Road. Expatriate volunteer workers are being advised rather strongly not to leave town. I’ve never been seriously concerned about my personal safety before in Madang. Now I’m not so sure. Tomorrow I wanted to drive up to Blueblood to party with friends. Now, I either have to go by boat or stay at home. I’m certainly not going to risk a carjacking of my new truck (can you carjack a truck?).

All right, let’s not dwell on that for too long. Here is a close-up of the business end of a hibiscus flower:

It reminds me of a particularly elaborate cheerleader’s pompom or maybe Mother Nature’s sceptre.

This hibiscus blossom has just opened. The yellow anthers are still globbed together in a ball:

Even after thirty years, I still occasionally see a colour of hibiscus which is new to me:

You never know what you will find in someone’s yard:

This unusually prickly pineapple plant is not only tasty when ripe, but very decorative.

Where there is lush plant life, you will always find the grazers:And vegetation is everywhere. This is the fire eaten stump of a huge raintree. In the hollow, a little garden grows:

Okay, I think that I have beat that subject to death now. Let’s move on.

I’ve been corresponding with a young lady for a while about photography. Kristy Peacock wants to enhance her ability to take exactly the photos which she wants. It does take a little understanding of some basic technical issues and knowledge of how to make your camera do what you want instead of doing what it wants. Once you begin to put these things to work you can step outside of the snapshot box.

We were talking about the night modes on her camera. I am glad to see that she is experimenting:

It’s a very imaginative shot. I’m not even sure how she did it. Maybe she’ll explain in a comment. The phantom images look like a double exposure, but I don’t think that is is it.  It’s more likely people moving out in the yard behind Kristy during the long exposure time when the “dark” image is forming before the flash goes off to capture the foreground.

I’m very glad that she sent this one to me. I like silky water shots. I’m pretty sure that this one had to be a tripod exposure, as I suspect was the one above. The exposure time would have had to be a second or more:

Some cameras have what is called a neutral density filter built in. Otherwise you can add one in front of the lens. The purpose of the filter is to cut down the amount of light getting through the lens. This allows you to use a much slower shutter speed. You have to brace the camera firmly against a solid object or, better yet, use a tripod. The result is that the water is motion blurred while everything else remains crisp and sharp.  Very nice work, Kristy.

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Back To My Garden

Posted in My Garden on September 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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It seems as if it has been a year since I last had a morning stroll in my garden. I’ll start by saying that I’m sad that I can’t manage to post every day. Part of the reason for this is that I simply have too much work to do. Insurance claims, learning to manage my personal finances (a strange new experience for me) and a hundred other time consuming duties call on me to spend an average of twelve hours a day at the computer or chasing down details.

However, the bigger problem is that I’m finding it difficult to extract much enjoyment from life. I know that this will pass as I get over the steep mountain of absolutely necessary busy work and can get a glimpse of the peaceful valley beyond.

Just outside my front door, there is a hibiscus bush with deep red flowers. It also sports freckled variegated leaves. Here is the blossom which greeted me this morning:

In the background at the right of the reproductive bits of the hibiscus flower you can see some blossoms of my night-blooming jasmine.

My friend Val Jerram has cautioned me against viewing every obstacle to happiness or seemingly onerous task as a problem.  She suggests instead that I see them as challenges.  I did not really understand this until I began to apply a long forgotten technique from the days when I was battling crippling depression. The trick is turning it around.  For instance, one of the obstacles to happiness is the seemingly insurmountable problem of learning to manage the rather complex personal and business finances about which I have been absolutely ignorant for more than three decades. Eunie was so good at managing all this and did it so effortlessly that it didn’t seem worth my attention. I am now paying for the luxury that I enjoyed for so long.

So, applying the technique of turning it around, I am trying to view the obstacle as an opportunity to take charge of my life again instead of rapidly drifting into a truly hopeless situation. Only a modest learning curve and entering a few hundred transactions into bookkeeping programs stands between me and the confidence that I so desperately need.

Around the corner from the front steps is another hibiscus bush with outrageously hues leaves:

What is that  all about?

Out by the little round garden with a candlestick tree in the middle are some small white hibiscus. Bees are usually swarming around these in the morning. Today they must have been sleeping late:

You can see some bees feeding on these blossoms here and here.

And, of course, no stroll through the garden would be complete without the orange lilies:

I need a holiday.

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