Items For the Easily Amused

Posted in Photography Tricks, Under the Sea on May 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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I’m greatly relieved that Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  now seems to be alive and kicking again. A recent double-whammy of weird interactions between plugins and some possible security problems conspired to knock me off of my own site and caused many readers to receive weird offers to download a mysterious “wordpress.gz” file, dump them to a 404 “Not Found” page, or behave normally, as the fortunes of fate dictated at the moment. I’m sad that this happened, because the last thing which I want to generate in my readers is frustration. My game is amusement, not apoplexy. If you do encounter any problems with the site, please inform me by email or leave a comment, if possible. I can’t fix anything which I do not know about. I’ll praise once again my WordPress guru, Michael VanDeMar, who, for a modest sum, plucked my precious baby from the tar pit and washed her clean. If you are a WordPress user, you will probably need Michael someday. Put him in your contacts now before you forget.

If you’re a long-time “local” in or around Madang, you will remember Doctors Michael “Mick” and Margaret Horwood who were the local sawbones in town for years. We lived in a small flat above their office. They are wonderful, caring doctors and excellent friends. Mick still comes up to Madang on occasion and dives with us. His son, Will, recently visited us along with some of his fellow medical students. Will was visiting Sam Young, a friend in New York City, and got this phenomenal shot of the skyline with an iPhone!

Not too shabby for something with an Apple logo on it. I confess to not being an Apple fan. Please don’t hate me. However, one of our co-workers has just arrived with a new iPad. In a couple of days I will deliver to you the definitive review of this absolutely fascinating, but seemingly useless product. I admit that I was mesmerised the first time that I squeezed my fingers together and watched the images shrink and then grow again when I moved my fingers apart. Mind blowing!

Here is something that I’d bet that you have never seen. It is the underside of a New Guinea Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae):

It clearly shows that it is really a starfish with the stubbiest possible legs. Yeah, yeah, I know that most people call them arms. But, we don’t walk on arms, do we? If somebody asks you how many arms a starfish has, answer, “Zero, dummkopf.” If you click to enlarge this image and look carefully, you will see some small shrimp crawling around on the underside of the critter. Look for the two dark eyes and then you will see the rest of their nearly transparent bodies.

And, here is yet another thingie which only the most bizarre of you may have ever seen:

It is an extremely juvenile Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor).  When I first saw this from a couple of metres away, I bubbled into my regulator, “What the . . .” It is very small, only about 20mm across. I honestly couldn’t say what it was until I got the shot on my computer and enlarged it. Seeing it big made it clear from the shape of the little bulbs with the . . . er . . . nipples on them (hey, what would you  call them?) that is is definitely an itsy-bitsy Bulb Anemone.

At the Madang Lodge Hotel and Restaurant there are several carving similar to this one of two old men and a dog in a canoe:

There is a guy in Madang who carves these. I think he may have a patent on the design. I have coveted these for years. Maybe if my new jobs work out, I may commission one. I don’t know where I’ll put it. Our house is so full of artifacts that we’re running out of wall space.

I saved this one for last because it makes me giggle. Click to enlarge this image of a Slender Grouper (Anyperodon leucogrammicus):

I’ve uploaded it to my server lager than usual so that you can see the raw hatred and anger on the face of this fish. If this fish had been a tiger, I’m certain that I wouldn’t be sitting here boring you into a catatonic state. Fish don’t usually react to me this way. Maybe it got out of bed on the wrong side.

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Central Park in New York City – A Man Made Natural Wonder

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 11th, 2009 by MadDog
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New York City’s Central Park seems to me to be one of the wonders of the world. It reshapes nature to fit into the confines a a great city. I enjoyed a few hours yesterday exploring the northern half. I have to catch a plane shortly, so I’m going to forgo my usual drivel and show you the images.

This is probably one of the last things that you would expect to see in a giant metropolis:   a babbling brook:

Not what you would expect to see in the middle of ManhattanThe are miles of paths through dense forest in the park. Even so, I found it easy to navigate. If you can keep a sense of the general direction that you are walking, you can’t get lost. If you keep going long enough in the same direction, you are bound to come to a street soon. There are also may signs about to guide the wanderer:

Typical Central Park pathThere are several lovely ponds in the park:

One of the beautiful ponds in Central ParkHere is another pond:

Another Central Park pond
Tennis, anyone?

Central Park - Tennis, anyone?Playgrounds surround the park, making for quick and easy access:

Central Park - playgrounds all aroundThere are many quiet spots to get away from the noise of the city with a friend:

Central Park - heaven in the city for man and dog alikeFinally, because I know that Eunie will read this in Dallas, I’ll show you my dinner. I seem to be obsessed with showing you what I eat. It’s just as well. It reminds me to eat at least once a day:

After a long walk in Central Park - dinner

Otherwise, I might forget.

I found a great place that sells what tastes to me very much like home-cooked food for US$ 4.99 per pound. That’s cheap by any standards.

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La Maison d’Art – NYC – The Place To Stay

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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When I walk into a hotel to have a look around, poke around the place to see who else is there, check my room to see if it’s comfy, look out the window . . . you know the drill . . . what I want most is to feel my travellers’ anxiety dissolve and hear that little voice in my head whispering, “Yeah, man. You could live here.”

That little voice was crooning those exact words to me shortly after my arrival at La Maison d’Art  in Harlem, New York City. Harlem reminds me so much of my old neighbourhood that the taxi ride from JFK was like coming home. I arrived at the four story brownstone with only the number 259 to identify it thinking to myself, “This will be interesting.”

A brief unpacking session and  a beer run to the corner store were followed by a visit with the owner, Stephanie Calla, a delightful young French woman who surprised me by accepting my offer of a beer as she sat with me for an hour or so to get acquainted. When is the last time you encountered such pleasantly surprising hospitality? In most hotels I feel more as if I’m checking into a hospital for a coronary bypass.

Here is Stephanie in the reception area of her delightful, art-filled establishment:

Stephanie - Owner of La Maison d'Art - New York City
She must have asked me ten times if there was anything else I needed. It wasn’t phoney baloney. When I suggested that I might want to go out for some night life, she went searching for brochures for me and told me the best places to go. She stopped by again this morning to check on me and chat a bit.

La Maison d’Art  is billed as ” . . . sophisticated lodging for the astute traveller” I don’t know how sophisticated and astute I am, but I dig this place. Whether you are straight off the farm in Iowa or freshly arrived from your townhouse in Vienna, I can’t imagine that you would not be comfortable here. This is another cute shot of Stephanie:

Stephanie in her reception area - La Maison d'Art - New York City
Later today I’m going to walk down to Central Park. I had plans to fill my two days with sightseeing. Now, I’m so comfortable and happy here that I think I’m going to slow down a little to rest and recuperate. It’s that kind of place. I won’t get to see all the things that I planned to see, but hey, that’s what pictures are for.

Blame it on Stephanie and her cool pad. Frank Sinatra could chill out here.

If you are going to NYC, do yourself a favour. Save a bundle of money, be close to all the action, and enjoy the hospitality of a delightful young woman who is quite literally pursuing the American Dream. She’s making it on her own, playing the game by the rules, and doing a great job of it.

Thanks to my clever and omniscient wife, Eunie, for once again booking the exact place that I wanted before I even knew what I wanted. It’s scary, man!

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Sedona to New York City – A Strange Passage

Posted in On Tthe Road on June 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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The eleven hours that I dithered away at the Phoenix airport were productive, in a sense. I mercilessly hounded my friends on Facebook. The free broadband connection made it easy. I took grim satisfaction in making ridiculous comments at every opportunity. Other than that, it was dead time. I truly hate airports. In fact, though I love being places, I despise travel by air. I’m holding out for teleportation. Step into a booth with your backpack, push the button that says Kathmandu, take a deep breath, and ping, you’re there! I can dig it.

Maybe I can amuse you with this 10 second exposure of the Arizona sky just after dusk taken from the designated smoking area – otherwise known as the pariah zone:

A miserable day at the Phoenix airport is nearly overThe red-eye flight to New York City left at about midnight. It was only a little over four hours, but it felt like days wandering in a frigid dessert of isolation, semi-consciousness and boredom. Too sleepy to read. Too uncomfortable to sleep. Nothing to see out the window but dead black. I don’t know about you, but my head goes all funny when I am in that zombie zone on a long flight. Coherent thought becomes impossible. I get giggly sometimes and want to ask the person next to me, “Are we there yet, mommy?” That kind of thing can get you into trouble on an aeroplane these days.

There was a double line of huge thunderbumpers blasting across the East coast. Our pilot managed to slip between them. It got unpleasantly bumpy, but I preferred that to another hour or so in the second torture chair in a week in which I’ve been trapped (read the latest tattoo post).

It was raining still when we landed. The second line of storms was lighting up the sky to the west. Here’s a shot out the window of my Jet Blue flight:Arrival in New York City on Jet Blue

Getting my baggage and a taxi was a ten minute affair. They really have their act together at JFK. The flat fare to Manhattan was US$45, not too bad, considering the distance.

It’s amazing how much flavour that you can taste of a new city by chewing a two hour taxi ride. My driver was not very talkative. It’s just as well. I was far too wasted and mind-numbed to converse.

The first order of business was to check into my room (delightful – more about that later) and get something to eat. I attracted far less attention that I’d imaged walking around in Harlem. It reminds me very much of the neighbourhood in which I lived as a child. I walked a few blocks and found Little Harlem Fried Chicken – “The Best Chicken in Town”. I bought far more than I could eat for four bucks – cheap. Then I stopped by a little store to pick up some beer.

I’m always showing images that I can’t imagine that anybody would find amusing, but somehow you keep coming back for more. So, though I don’t know if you’ll care, here’s my lunch:First lunch in New York City

I can’t say if it’s the best chicken in town, but it was tasty with a very crunchy coating. The beer is a Yuengling Lager, supposedly from America’s oldest brewery. It was nice also. A good, but not great beer. Hey, we can’t all be great. There’s room for superior mediocrity.

Then my body refused to cooperate any longer. I feel into a five hour coma on the bed with all my clothes on.

Tomorrow, I’m going to take a giant bite of The Big Apple.

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Madang to Hamilton – Miscellanea

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 4th, 2009 by MadDog
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It feels cold here in Hamilton, but people are walking around the streets in shirtsleves.

I’m sitting here with the thermostat turned up high in our hotel room thinking about images that I’ve taken along the way from Madang to Hamilton, Ontario. I thumbed through them and found four that amuse me enough to show to you. I’m sipping a very nice Rickard’s  Red. I highly recommend it.

I like snapping through an airplane window, if it’s clean enough to get decent shots. I got lucky when I left Madang on one of Air Niugini’s F-100’s with reasonably clean windows. Here’s a pretty shot of the morning sun on the clouds:

Pink morning clouds on the way to Port Moresby from Madang

We’re always close to Mount Wilhelm (highest mountain in Papua New Guinea) on that route, but one can seldom see it except on the earliest flight. This is the best view that I’ve had:

Mount Wilhelm from Air Niugini flight from Madang to Port Moresby

I’m hoping to go to Mount Wilhelm in October take shots of a guy who’s planning to paraglide off of the top of it. I hope to get a couple of magazine articles out of that trip. All this assumes that I can actually climb up there.

Here is another image of The Wheel of Brisbane:

The Wheel of BrisbaneIt doesn’t actually go as fast as the image suggests. That’s a fifteen second exposure.

To finish up, this is Los Angeles at night from the Qantas flight:

Los Angeles at Night from Qantas flight to New York City

Photographically speaking, it’s horrible, however, I couldn’t bear to erase it. So, I cleaned it up and stuck it here for you to critique. The blue streak is not a flying saucer – I think. It seems to be a reflection from lighting inside the cabin.

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