A Promise Is a Promise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 5th, 2011 by MadDog
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How do you eulogise a loved one in three or four lines of text? It’s impossible. A few months ago I fretted over the words for a couple of days and finally sat down and wrote them in ten minutes. On the black granite slab the size of a large coffee tray I had only three lines to tell of her. The words flow from her priorities – God, her man and everyone else. She had enough love to serve us all a healthy portion.

So, finally, I have assembled everything I need to fulfil my promise to her. She wanted to be buried on Kranket Island in the little cemetery full of the last remains of decades of missionaries and Kranket residents. The small field sits next to the island’s Lutheran Church only a hundred steps from the quiet harbour.

A couple of days ago, my friend Mike Cassell took me to Kranket Island to inspect the site and make final arrangements with the head man. As it turned out, Bill Koi, the fellow we went to see, had just left for Madang to see Mike. Crossed paths! Mike is a lot like Eunie was. He knows everybody and can get anything done. If it’s at all doable, he can make it happen. Friends like him you need. I asked him if he would handle the negotiations for space in the cemetery and smooth the way for me. It was absolutely painless.

Here is a shot of the approach to the long defunct docks at the harbour’s edge:

This is a familiar sight to any resident of Madang.

Since the docks are no longer functional, Mike left some kids to tend the boat while we walked inland:

We soon found what we were looking for, the last resting place of Bob Peaker:

Bob was a pilot for Missionary Aviation Fellowship, a world-wide organisation of Christian workers who provide aviation services to churches and missionaries. Bush flying is dangerous business. Bob lived with his family next door to us. Over the years we lost two next-door neighbours to bush flying incidents. Eunie was very specific. I don’t know how many times we talked of it. I had elaborate plans for my cremation and the subsequent spreading of my ashes over the quite waters of Madang. Eunie was less demanding, “Bury me next to Bob.” It was that simple.

Another friend, Gary McGowan of Lae Builders and Construction, is working on the marker stone. The engraved granite slab is shown here in its place before the cement is poured. The slab of concrete will be covered by ceramic tile:

When the marker is finished it will be carried to Kranket and set into a hole which will then be filled with concrete to hold it in place.

If everything goes as planned I will be accompanied by a small band of friends to the island on the twelfth of March (UPDATE:  Whoops! That’s the twelfth of FEBRUARY.) to put Eunie’s ashes in the ground in front of the marker.

I don’t know how long I’ll last. I don’t know how long I will remain in Madang. Much of it is not up to me. Much of my future is going to be determined by others. It seems that is the way it must be for now. All that I know is that if I leave Madang alive it will be very strange for me to leave Eunie behind and never be able to visit her resting place. I agonised over this for weeks. Take her ashes back to Illinois? Keep them with me? How can I deal with that final parting?

In the end it was the promise which led me to decide. Only the past speaks for her now.

A promise is a promise.

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Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Posted in Mixed Nuts on February 2nd, 2011 by MadDog
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I seem to be plodding through life at a very uncertain pace. I can see that I’ve made progress, so I’m not alarmed, or rather I’m not as alarmed as I once was. The eighth of February will mark five months since Eunie left me. I wonder if I’ll ever stop counting the months and years. I suppose not. I’ve heard many friends on many occasions recall such momentous occasions with chronological accuracy. I formerly had trouble remembering how old I am. It didn’t seem to matter. There’s nothing I can do about it.

I am astounded by what I’ve accomplished in these five months. When I use the personal pronoun I take far too much credit. Going back to the time early in 2010 when Eunie first became ill and following the events up to this day I can see that my creator’s hand has been busy at every turn.  To some this may seem nonsense. Nevertheless, I believe it and find strength in that belief. After each hammer blow I could review the event and the outcome and see that it could so very easily have been much, much worse. After each small step toward my recovery I have asked myself how I could have done it; why was it so much less traumatic than I thought it would be.

There is also the matter of helping hands reaching out to me at every turn. Friends and strangers alike have assisted me continuously and without complaint. It would have been impossible for me to do some things for myself in the first couple of months. I am now shocked by my incompetency and insane thoughts during that period.

This week or next week, according to how much of Cairns, Australia survives the cyclone bearing down on as I write this, the last of the medical bills will have been settled. Some of my friends cautioned me that dealings with a health event of this magnitude could go on for a year. Without my friend, Trevor Hattersley, I would still be hopelessly mired in paperwork. He is a genius. I sold a house, a car and a motorcycle. The house and the car were half-way around the world. I would have said that this was not possible, but an old friend assisted me in ways which seemed inspired to me. Acting on my behalf with my Power of Attorney, he had the house sold in just over one month. I have settled a life insurance claim and numerous other matters arising from Eunie’s death. Needless to say, I would much rather not have had to do any of these things and I was often in despair. My prayers were pretty much reduced to asking for strength and wits to get me through the next day. Each time the clouds parted and some kind soul would step forward to help or mysterious circumstances would arise to allow what seemed not to be allowed.

Now that Eunie’s headstone for her grave has arrived I hope to have the pedestal completed so that a small group of friends can accompany me to Kranket Island  to put her ashes in the ground in the place where she wanted to rest. It is going to be a hard day, but I need the relief of knowing that I have fulfilled my promise to her.

My next tasks are to do all of the things necessary to give myself a more or less graceful and uneventful exit from Madang for a much needed period of rest and rebuilding. I plan to leave Madang on the ninth of March and will not return until at least the 15th of June. I have been around the world at least a dozen times. However, I have never planned the trip. I know that sounds ridiculous. I have been very nervous about doing all of the things which Eunie did to get us from place to place so effortlessly and without me doing anything but stuffing my essentials in my back pack. Millions of people do these things every day. I had to get all flustered about it. I went to Air Niugini today and bought my tickets to get me to Brisbane. I’ve decided to buy tickets for the other legs of my travel as I need them, because of my uncertainty about when I want to go where.

I know that someone is going to say that I should have blurred the details on my electronic ticket. Believe me, terrorism is way down on my list of potential problems. I don’t think I’m a likely target.

This modest fisherman’s tackle box contains Eunie’s lifetime accumulation of jewellery. There is nothing in this box which is worth very much in terms of money. Eunie had exquisite taste, but never wanted expensive things. I was horrified this afternoon to realise that I have misplaced her wedding ring. All of this is going to my granddaughters. I especially wanted to make sure that they received the ring. I have no idea where it went. I remember having it when I returned from Australia. I spent the afternoon frantically searching for it, shaking and breaking out in a cold sweat. I have now gotten to the point at which I am ready to accept that I will either find it eventually or I will not. There is nothing more I can do now.

I remember with great happiness watching Eunie each morning as she prepared for work. She would choose her clothes first and then go the the bathroom to select her perfume and fix her hair. She would then return to the bedroom smelling wonderful and select the jewellery which matched her attire. I don’t know why this scene always calmed me. Some things are inexplicable.

I am glad that many wonderful memories are now returning to me through the gloom.

So, as I continue to calm myself, I’ll show you the latest dazzling display sprouting from my Fishtail Palm. Both of them have now produced fruit several times. This does not bode well for them. My understanding is that they do not last long after fruiting several times. Each event is accompanied by the sound of hundreds of buzzing bees:

This shot is better for viewing the bees:

On the right you can see some of the red fruit which takes several months to form after the flowers disappear.

While checking the possibilities for my flight from Brisbane to Honolulu I got help from William Butler to see if my Qantas frequent flyer points would be of any use. It turns out that I had enough points to save about US$500. That made me very happy. I have never used any of the frequent flyer miles. Pushing my luck, I decided to seen if I could use Eunie’s frequent flyer points. I reckoned that she must have about a million. After finding her card and guessing correctly her PIN for the account I was disappointed to see that she had ZERO points. I have no idea how they disappeared. First the ring, now the points.

That’s two steps back. Never mind. I’ll just keep walking.

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The Spooky Eastern Sunset

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on June 1st, 2010 by MadDog
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Whoah, got a day behind again. What a bummer! I don’t know what happened to the clock yesterday. It kept moving in big, sporadic jumps. I had intended to tell you about Saturday evening at Kranket Island  where we had a party for Jo Noble’s birthday, but now I’ve already forgotten most of it.

The part that I do remember is the stunning sunset effects which we saw in the Eastern  sky. Yes, that’s right, you are looking East in this shot, just as the sun is nearing the horizon in the West:

I know that there is a proper name for this effect, but I can’t remember it right now. It’s 05:00 and I’m not going to trudge through Google to find it. I’ll count on a knowledgeable reader to leave a comment. The effect lasted less than five minutes.

The curve that you see in the ray on the right is an effect of the way which I took the panorama shots. The image is made up of about seven frames. Of course, the boat was sloshing around a lot, so it was difficult to hold the camera perfectly straight. The image covers about 150°

Here is a single frame image of the centre of the scene:

The main ray on the right side shoots up (or down, rather) past the huge cumulonimbus incus cloud on the horizon, which is still catching the last rays of the sun, reddened by their passage through the dusty lower atmosphere. I think that these rays are shadows of clouds near the horizon in the West. They appear to converge on the Eastern horizon at a point opposite the sun because they are passing through the atmosphere at a low angle and are visible for a long distance. Think of a pair of straight railroad tracks stretching off to the horizon. They seem to meet at a point in the far distance.

Okay, if that isn’t geeky enough for you how about the pileus cloud cap on the top of this towering cumulus cloud:

The pileus is the fuzzy little hat sitting on top of the cloud. It is formed when the cloud is rising very rapidly, pushing warmer, wetter air up into cooler areas. The moisture condenses out into a little lens-shaped cap which folds over the top of the main cloud.

Okay, enough meteorology. Since we’re doing reddish stuff, have a look at this Spotfin Lionfish (Pterois antennata):

The image is actually upside-down. I found him under a ledge and could barely see him. I had to stand on my head and shoot to get the image. This fills your sinuses full of salt water pretty quickly. It usually produces a few good sneezes when you get right-side-up again. Sneezing into a regulator underwater is an amusing experience.

I’ll throw in one more reddish thing before moving on. This lumbering, spiky critter is a kind of Sea Cucumber, specifically (Thelenota rubralineata):

The rubralineata  is one of the more colourful Sea Slugs. I have another picture of one here.

Well, that’s it for yesterday’s post. I have to hurry on to today’s post or I’ll miss the sunrise.

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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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Scuttling the Doilon

Posted in At Sea, Under the Sea on August 25th, 2009 by MadDog
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In 1994, after a hapless life along the north coast, the ageing cargo vessel Doilon  met destiny noisily. Many Madang residents made the short passage to Kranket Island to view the spectacle. As the blasting experts set charges in her engine room, a flotilla of little boats bobbed around her and then scurried away like water striders as dire warnings were shouted across the water. The countdown proceeded: Five, four, three, two, one . . . ka-BOOM! Brilliant towers of water on either side of her stern gushed to four or five times the height of her bridge. Within thirty seconds, she disappeared beneath the blue waters as the announcement of her passing still echoed off the mountains. Among the spectators, we divers felt particularly privileged to be present at a rebirth that would mark the beginning of a new relationship for the old lady. No longer would she roam the sea. She would now be nurtured by it. Her transformation into a splendid garden would be observed by her former masters:

The Doilon being scuttled - 1994 - Kranket Island, Madang, Papua New Guinea

That was the opening paragraph for an article titled The Reincarnation of the Doilon  that I wrote for Niugini Blue magazine.  I won’t bore you with the rest of the text, but I will show you some of the images from the article.

First, I have to tell you a funny story. My old dive buddy Ian Dosser and I went out to check how the marine life was getting along on the fairly young wreck. I was down near the bottom of the hull. I looked around and did not see Ian. Then I looked up. What I saw is in the inset at the upper left of this image:

My dive buddy Ian Dosser shown up in the corner meeting the Giant Grouper

That’s Ian just as he turned around and saw the massive Giant Grouper about a metre away from him. I watched a huge glob of bubbles emit from Ian, but he didn’t back away (he’s a tough copper, you don’t want to mess around with him).  Still, the huge fish must have outweighed him at least five to one. You can imagine that we toasted that big grouper with a few cold ones.

Here is a composite image of the location of the wreck:

The location of the Doilon wreck

And here is a side-scanning sonar image that I got from Faded Glory  with my Humminbird sonar:

A side-scanning sonar image captured from Faded Glory of the Doilon wreck

There is a huge array of marine life growing on the Doilon.  It has only been down about fifteen years, but everything grows very rapidly in these very warm, rich waters. It’s often like swimming in a tepid bowl of soup. The visibility is not usually terrific, but there is plenty to see. Here is some winch equipment near the bow:

Winch gear near the bow of the Doilon

The Doilon is a favourite night dive. It lies in fairly protected water and is easy to find. At night, it is crawling with exotic critters seldom seen in the daytime. Here is a Leopard Cowrie on the prowl with its mantle extended over its shell:

Cowrie shell with mantle exposed shot on a night dive on the Doilon

And here are two Chromodoris  nudibranchs doing the tango:

A couple of Chromodoris species nudibranchs found on a night dive on the Doilon

If you dive the Doilon,  please remember to go around to Kranket lagoon and find Thomas to grease his palm. The Krankets get cranky if you don’t pay them. You might find yourself dodging stones.

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An Experiment With Lightbox

Posted in Photography Tricks on April 22nd, 2009 by MadDog
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UPDATE: I’ve killed Lightbox for the time being. I can’t figure out a way to do both the nice pop-ups for images AND allow the reader access to full-resolution images for printing, screen savers, or use in their own projects. If I figure out a way to provide both, Lightbox may come back.

I’ve never been very happy with the way my images display when you click to enlarge. Today, I’ll use you as guinea pigs to test a different way to do it. I’m trying a WordPress plugin called Lightbox2. Instead of opening a clicked image in a new browser window, it dims the background and shows the image in the same window. Try it on this image of waves breaking on the rocks at Pig Island to see how it works:
Waves breaking on the rocks at Pig Island

You can use your left and right arrows on your keyboard to move back and forth between the images of a post. At least it works for me.

Here is a shot of bright red coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii) at Planet Rock:

Coral (Lobophyllia hemprichii)
And here is an image of Little Pig Island:

Little Pig Island

And now, some pretty clouds over the North end of Kranket Island:

North end of Kranket IslandIt works for me. The only problem is that I have to make my uploaded images a bit smaller. I have been using 1200 pixels as my maximum dimension. That doesn’t work very well with Lightbox, because they are too big on the screen (try clicking images in previous posts to see what I mean.) I’m going to try 800 pixels maximum dimension for a while to see how well it works.

I haven’t decided whether to keep it turned on or not. I like posting the larger images because they have more detail and readers can print them out in larger formats if they like. But, the problem with the image being too big with in Lightbox doesn’t seem to have a solution. Is anybody out there an expert on Lightbox?

I’ll give it a few days to see if anybody comments.

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Flying Foxes in the Morning Light

Posted in Mixed Nuts on April 1st, 2009 by MadDog
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The sky was very serene this morning when I took Eunie to the airport for her tedious journey to North America. She’s going to be gone until mid-June. Iwasn’t going to go this time, but I couldn’t face two and a half months by myself. So, I got a cheap round-trip fare from Brisbane to New York City (about a thousand Aussie Dollars) and decided to stay another month in Madang and then fly to be with Eunie and my son and his family in Hamilton, Ontario for six weeks. I’ve posted before about my adventures in Ontario – here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. I’ll be flying back home to Madang with her.

Sunrise over Madang, PNG

I’ll be posting every day that it’s possible, since I’ve gotten in the habit and you’re still reading (320 visitors yesterday – a record for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi – about 8,000 page views in the last month). So, in about a month, get ready for another long period of “On the Roadposts. I’ll be bringing you images, information, and my usualy cock-eyed opinions covering a variety of esoteric subjects.

Here is what it looked like when I got into town. This shot was taken at the vacant lot where the old Burns Philp wholesale warehouse was. It burned down a long time ago:

Firey sunrise over Kranket Island, Madang, PNGThe land in the distance is Kranket Island. Here is a telephoto shot of the big fiery Cumulonimbus cloud:

Flaming cloud at sunrise

On Modilon Road, near the Jomba Police Station, there are some trees that the Flying Foxes favour. They were all stirred up this morning, flying around, screeching, and dropping fruity bombs everywhere. You don’t want to get hit by a Flying Fox Fruit Cocktail:

Flying Foxes (fruit bats) over Modilon Road at dawn - Madang, PNG

All has been well with our Flying Foxes lately. There was a big scare a few months ago when they all left town for a few weeks. Then they came back and everybody breathed a sigh of relief. Unusual natural events cause quite a stir. For some reason, people were very afraid of a tsunami when the Flying Foxes left.

Go figure. On the other hand, maybe it does make some kind of sense.

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