Suspicious Ancient Photos and Other Esoterica

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on January 11th, 2010 by MadDog
No Gravatar

It’s another one of those days when my Superpower of Story-Telling is failing me. Yes, I am a Superhero. I try to keep it a secret, because my Superpower is so useless to humanity that I’m ashamed to reveal it, let alone my true identity. I guess I’ve “outed” myself now. Oh well, It’s no big deal anyway. My Superpower only works on one or two people at a time. It’s not very spectacular. The general effect is to put people to sleep within a minute or so. Therefore it is of no use in emergencies. People generally awaken as soon as I relent and complain of mild headaches. They usually remember, at that point, that they are late for an important meeting and depart post-haste. It’s a peculiar Superpower, I admit. Now the world knows. I am Astonishingly Boring Storyman.

So, today I’ll keep it short, since I’m sure that many of you don’t have time for a brief nap followed by a puzzling period of disorientation.

I walked over to the market this morning to see if I could find some nice red bananas. I love ’em. It looked as if the place was abandoned. I found some red bananas, but I’d neglected to bring any money. So, I took this panorama shot instead:

It did nothing to subdue my craving for red bananas.

Something in my brain went “pop” and I smelled an odd smell and suddenly I was entranced with the concept of turning perfectly good images into “old photos”. I started with this shot of Miss Rankin  when Tony and Lorraine had just purchased her:

They were toying with the idea of renaming the ship Moonlighting,  but decided against that, as it is widely thought to be bad luck to rename a ship. It would be pretty tempting if you had purchased a ship named The Crapper.  Anyway, I’d call my “old photo” job a failure. All I did was turn it into monochrome, apply a sepia tone filter and add some random noise.

I did discover that it’s much better if you start with a bad photo. This was an image of Kar Kar Island  taken from the little bridge across from Memorial Lutheran Church. That’s Sir Peter Barter’s boat Kalibobo Spirit  on the right:

It was a very grey day, so the image wasn’t interesting even after I toiled over it for ten minutes. My efforts to give it the “old photo” look were somewhat more successful. You can get filters for Photoshop that make it more effective. They add coffee stains, scratches and fold marks and even splotches where tape has been removed.

As I walked to the hotel a few days ago I noted this exceptionally hairy tree. Many trees here have aerial roots. This one is taking the practice to ridiculous lengths (here I go with the puns again – hey, it’s part of my Superpower – I have no control over it):

Two things intrigued me about this hairy tree. (I’m easily intrigued.) First, there is the colour of the aerial roots. I can’t remember seeing red ones before. The other thing is that someone, probably with a lot of time on his hands, has lifted a mass of them up and tied them into a knot, something that would not enter even my  mind. Whoever did this, my hat’s off to you. It’s wonderfully whimsical.

A few years ago we had a young lady named Twila Schofield working at our office for a little while. She is a very talented artist and specialises in most amusing caricatures. She did this one of me and my darlin’ Eunie:

I’ve had it hanging on the wall of my office for years.

To finish up this witless conglomeration of time-wasting tomfoolery I present to you The Rocket Cloud:

No, in case you’re misled, it has absolutely nothing to do with a rocket. I have observed many, many fine clouds. Nevertheless, I have never seen a towering cumulus cloud rise so quickly. There was no need for imagination to see it blasting up into the sky like the might fist of the God of Clouds punching its way up into heaven. Even from the moving boat, we could see it rising. It was magnificent.

In a modest sort of way.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

A Sad Farewell

Posted in At Sea on January 19th, 2009 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Those who have not lived in Madang within the last decade will not see much significance in this photo of two small ships berthed side-by-side:
Moonlighting and Miss Rankin The ships are M. V. Moonlighting on the left and Miss Rankin on the right. (For landlubbers: M. V. stands for “Motor Vessel”.) Many Madang residents, and many foreign visitors, especially divers, spent thousands of happy hours aboard and underneath these ships.

Sadly, many factors have prevented the original plans for these vessels to come to fruition. Therefore we recently had the sad duty to bid farewell to Moonlighting and Miss Rankin, and, more recently, the Madang branch of the Collins family.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be presenting some of the adventures and sights that I experienced on my passage on Miss Rankin from Madang to Port Moresby.

This one is a bit of a heartbreaker for me. Miss Rankin tows Moonlighting out of Dalman Passage with the Coastwatchers’ Monument visible at the far left:

Miss Rankin towing Moonlighting

The end of an era.

I’ll take a break from maudlin sentimentality by showing you this photo of Miss Rankin’s bow wave:

Miss Rankin's bow wave at dusk

It was late afternoon. The sun was very low in the sky. The side of the hull was still illuminated, but the water appears dead black. You can see the anchor at the lower right.

Back to nostalgia, here’s a bit of Miss Rankin showing at the right, Moonlighting being towed, and – ah, serendipity – the moon just above the horizon:

Moonighting in the Moonlight

We stopped for a half-day at Samarai. I won’t say a lot more about the place now, since I’m going to do a post on it later. However, I want you to see this most unusual monument. It’s in memory of a colonial-period Governor named Christopher Robinson. I’ll reserve judgement on the fellow, since I seldom speak ill of the dead. However, an inscription on his monument is brutally revealing. Click to enlarge so that you can read the plaques:

The Christopher Robinson Memorial at Samarai, Papua New Guinea

In case you have trouble reading the part that I’m alluding to, I’ll quote it: “His aim was to make New Guinea a good country for white men.” Note that it doesn’t say “mankind” or even “man”, but “WHITE MEN”. That’s painfully specific. (Pity the poor women. Apararently, nobody cared how good a place it was for women, even WHITE WOMEN!) 

If you would like to read a something about Christopher Robinson, have a look here at a book review written by the excellent PNG blogger and journalist Malum Nalu.

Just so we don’t get all twisted and bitter about a hideous racist in our past, let’s enjoy this splendid sunset:

Sunsets - we got 'em!

As Mary Poppins said, “A little bit of sugar makes the medicine go down.”

Tags: , , , , ,

Air Niugini – Just Can’t Get It Right

Posted in At Sea, Humor, Opinions on December 18th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I don’t know if I get such poor service from Air Niugini because I’m such a whiner and they’re punishing me for it or if I’m just paranoid and they treat everyone with equal contempt. In the case of the former, I wish they would quit making others suffer along with me, because it’s simply not fair. They should just punish me by giving me free, unlimited air travel confined to Air Niugini and force me to use it every day until I die. I reckon it would take about a week. The coroner’s report would list the cause of death as terminal frustration.

For afternoon flights, I’m running about 50% getting from Port Moresby home to Madang on the day that I was ticketed to do so. For an operation that is a self-proclaimed source of pride for our* nation, I find this embarrassing.

I’m too tired and cranky to find any humour in yesterday’s shenanigans, so I’ll skip the gory details. If I can’t find a way to make a story at least a little funny, then I have little interest in telling it.

I’ll have plenty to say in future about my eight days at sea on Miss Rankin. It will take be a few days to digest it and work on the photos.

Nevertheless, I did get a couple of interesting shots yesterday evening at the Port Moresby Royal Yacht Club.

This shot is just at sunset, before it started raining:

Port Moresby Royal Yacht Club at sunset

It got very cold. I was clad in a t-shirt and shorts, my customary attire, and I was distinctly underdressed for both the weather and the social scene. The PMRYC is a planet away from Madang. I was so far out of my element that I wished I could fade into the shrubbery and shiver while waiting for the dinghy back to Miss Rankin.

So much for the country bumpkin in the big city.

Later, it rained and got considerably colder. I got this shot by putting my G9 on the table at the edge of the bar and giving it a full fifteen seconds exposure:

Port Moresby Royal Yacht Club on a rainy nightTo madden Air Niugini further, and avoid having a blank spot in my December posting calendar, I’m cheating by back-dating this post by one day. It’s my pathetic way of thumbing my nose at Air Niugini for messing up my schedule yet again. It also allows me to pretend that I arrived home yesterday – when I was supposed to.

As if I have anything important to do . . . Sure.

* I’m a Permanent Resident of PNG, not a Citizen. So I use the term “our nation” loosely. I do, however, use it with pride.

Tags: , , ,

Risky, Frisky Business

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 13th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Unbeknownst to you, I have departed on Miss Rankin as of yesterday for the final diving voyage of the venerable old lady. We plan to do some rare dives along the east coast.

We’ll be doing “Blackjack”, a B-17 bomber. It’s one of the world’s more famous dives. I’ve been itching to do it for years.

I hope to gather enough material for several Niugini Blue articles.

I have written posts in advance and have scheduled them for release, one per day, until my return on Thursday the 18th.

Whether all this is going to work remains to be seen. If you don’t see this, then you won’t know what’s happening and I’ll just have to pick up the pieces when I get back.

That’s the Risky part.

Here’s me on my friend’s big Honda Shadow named Frisky (check out the vanity plate!):

MadDog on Frisky

That’s the bike’s name, not hers. I ride bikes and horses whenever I go to Idaho. I put this shot in because it’s one of my favorite photos of myself, and I hate to do a post without reminding everyone of what I look like.

So, that’s the Frisky part.

Here’s hoping that you see this on the 13th.

Tags: , , , ,

Lucky Canoe

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 22nd, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

I used to love to sleep in on weekends. It doesn’t appeal to me much now. I wake up early on Saturday and think, “Hey, I don’t have to go to work today; I can write instead.” So, from 5:30 or 6:00 until about 9:30 I can take time to look over my folder of “potential blog photos” (about 250 now, and counting) to see what inspiration the Muse may lend me.

This particular Saturday morning delivered a smidgeon of serendipity in the form of a sleepy fellow paddling lethargically in the brassy glow of the rising sun:

Lucky Canoe in the brassy glow of the rising sun

Sometimes I’m so focused on the camera and the lining up of the panorama shots (this is four exposures stitched together) that I forget to note what else might be going on. However, this time I did notice the canoe coming and I got the timing very close. I was missing just a bit of the trailing edge of the canoe wake. I had to clone that in, but it doesn’t look too faked. I’m going to try to sell this one to Our Way as a cover shot. Maybe I’ll get lucky.

Sheba was out in the yard following me around and whining. She was longing desperately for her breakfast. I wanted to get a good shot of her in the warm glow of the sunrise. She’s such a mongrel – like me. She’s part Doberman and part Rottweiler with a healthy dose of German Shepherd tossed in at the last moment for good measure. She is a pup of Greg O’Keefe’s bitch and was owned briefly by Swami Monty and Meri, his luscious consort.

Here I was commanding “STAY!” about every five seconds while she fretted, “Why doesn’t the stupid biped feed me?” One can easily see the concerned expression on her pretty face:

Hungry Sheba

I try to avoid taking hundreds of photos of Sheba and then forcing innocent captives to look at them. They are like baby photos. “Oh, here’s Junior spiting up, and here he is making kaka in the back yard, and, Oh look, here he is holding the dog by its ears. Doesn’t he remind you of Lyndon Johnson?” You have to be an aging Yank to get that reference.

This next shot seems a little out of place. As I looked through frames that I liked and had spent some time to make them just so, this one evoked some pleasant memories of Miss Rankin and all the good times we’ve enjoyed on her decks and under her hull. Here’s Carol seeming pensive as she watched the sunset on our way out of Tab Anchorage:

Carol Dover

So, that’s my Saturday so far.

I hope my readers like the new look of the site. I’ll get the URL problems settled down eventually and hope I haven’t lost too many of you along the way. I’ll also clean up the messiness in the sidebar and fix the garish colours of the fonts.

For those of you with eyes like mine, I’m also going to increase the size of the body text and make it brighter so that it’s more easily readable. Generally speaking, I hate the black background sites because of the readability problem. But I can’t give it up now that I’ve seen how much better the photos look.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Sea is RISING! . . . or IS It?

Posted in At Sea, Mixed Nuts on November 20th, 2008 by MadDog
No Gravatar

Ten years or so is nowhere near enough time to make any kind of statistically reliable statement about sea level changes. That’s unless the West Antarctic glob slithers into the sea or the Greenland ice cap gets all frayed and falls apart like an old baklava. If something like that happens, we’ll know Pretty Darn Quick!

However, I have for you today some interesting research from my boss’s boss (My wife is my boss – yes, kiddies – it’s quite literally true. This is from her boss.)

By the way, the following comes from someone whose interest in and knowledge of the sea is not to be sneezed at. Kyle and his wife, Kathy and their ship’s cat, Dory sailed a thirty foot boat from Moline, Illinois, down the Mississippi, across the Gulf of Mexico and all the way to Madang. You can read about it here.

Let me mention that Kyle and I are on rather opposite sides of the fence vis a vis the whole global warming kafuffle. I think that we’re doing very bad things to ourselves and we really ought to stop – or else! Kyle takes the view that the models have not shown to be anywhere near accurate, let alone predictive (look at the ranges!) and it wouldn’t do us much good to wreck the world economy and then find out it was mostly part of a natural cycle.

THIS FROM: Kyle Harris

I have been interested in the alleged affects of global warming on the sea level here in PNG so I was pleasantly surprised to find on line a collection of sea level data taken on Manus Island dating back to 1994.

SEAFRAME at Maunus Island

The tables give hourly sea level values for the entire year. The early years are a bit spotty with large holes in the data but later years are pretty much complete. (A full year of hourly readings comes to 8760 readings.)

Year    Average  Points
1996      0.752    7120
1997      0.615    8719
1998      0.617    8735
1999      0.772    8740
2000      0.786    8784
2001      0.771    8760
2002      0.675    8760
2003      0.723    8349
2004      0.732    8784
2005      0.740    8760
2006      0.745    8760
2007      0.765    8760
Average   0.715

Having downloaded all the files, I ran a simple average on the yearly data from 1996 through 2007. I excluded the earlier years because of the large holes in the data. I then plotted the data to see if there were any discernible trends. The data shows a dip in the average sea level in 1997 and 1998, followed by a sharp increase of almost .2 meter for the following three years. Then there is another dip followed by a gradual increase through 2007.

Chart of the SEAFRAME data

Chart of the SEAFRAME data

In trying to make sense of the data for 1996 though 2002, I checked the NOAA web site for el Niño and la Niña data. During La Niña years, the Southeast trade winds in the South Pacific are stronger than normal. This pushes the water in the Pacific westward and results in a “piling up” of the water in the Western Pacific. The opposite is true in el Niño years. So one would expect years of strong la Niña would correspond to higher than normal sea levels while years of strong el Niño would correspond to lower than normal levels.

The NOAA Data

The NOAA Data

According to NOAA there was a strong el Niño in 1997 and 1998 followed by a strong la Niñael Niño again in 2002. Since then there have been short-lived el Niño and la Niña which started the end of 2007 and which ended in 2008. starting the second half of 1998 and finishing the first part of 2001. There was a medium strength events but nothing too significant. There was a fairly strong

The el Niño in 1997 and 1998 seem to correspond to the dip in sea levels of the corresponding period. And, the quick rise in sea levels immediately thereafter correspond to the lengthy la Niña event. This is followed by another el Niño and another dip in average sea levels. Since 2002 we have seen a gradual increase in the average sea levels of approximately 1.5 inches total.

I realize that this is a quick and dirty analysis but I believe it does illustrate the difficulty in quantifying sea levels over the short term.

While it is fashionable to jump on the climate change bandwagon to explain sea level variation, there may be other factors at work such as el Niño and la Niña and subsidence associated with plate movement that may explain at least some of the changes in the observed data.


We all have anecdotes concerning the imminent danger of loosing our front yards to the sea (at the very least). I would be willing to swear by Britney Spears‘ Jeans that the water in front of my house has risen by at least ten centimetres in the twenty years or so that I’ve lived there.

However, there may be another explanation for this.

I worked for a couple of weeks on Miss Rankin while some scientists were traipsing around studying the effects of ancient tsunami. One of them told me that Madang (essentially the armpit of Astrolabe Bay – and I mean that in a geographical sense) is on one end of a big raft of geology that is sinking while the other end (up around the cape, I think) is rising. How much and how fast, I don’t remember.

So much for science.

It still seems to me that my front yard is disappearing at an alarming rate. I may have to learn to do the Jesus Walk even before I’m taken up into the clouds.

Tags: , , , , , , ,