The Party That Grew Like a Magic Sarong

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 14th, 2010 by MadDog
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Tuesday night wouldn’t ordinarily be our first choice for party time, but recent events conspired to elect a mid-week celebration. We missed having a Birthday Party for Eunie this year, because she was in Fiji beginning the first day of a conference on her birthday and I had not yet arrived there. Also, Roz Savage was back in Madang and Tuesday night would be our last opportunity to have some friends over to bid her farewell.

It started out to be possibly six or eight people. By yesterday afternoon, the number had grown to twenty-two. At our place the basic party plan is “the bigger the better”, so this did not present a problem. We ordered in pizzas from The Madang Lodge Hotel and Restaurant and Di Cassell, the owner/manager surprised us with a chocolate cake with fresh highlands strawberries on top as a birthday treat.

Here are a few of the mob:

Eunie is wearing one of the crazy hats sent to us by our son and daughter-in-law, Hans and Tamara.

Here are some more of the revelers:

Others were scattered here and there.

Di Cassell is in the habit of presenting unusual, if not bizarre gifts. Everybody on the planet except me probably already knows about “The Magic Sarong”:

It comes in a handy tote-bag which, I suppose, one can use to carry the finished product.

Unpacked from its bag it looks for all the world like a huge, heart-shaped piece of grape flavoured candy:

Presumably, they come in different colours.

One simply drops it into some water and waits:

And waits. At first it didn’t look like much was happening. It bubbled a bit and I stood back.

Then it began to unfold like some high-speed flower:

It got bigger.

And bigger:

At about this point I was wondering just how big it might get.

Soon, Eunie came to my rescue and extracted the hugely swollen purple garment from the sink:

It was approaching midnight by now, so we hung up the Magic Sarong, said goodnight to Roz and toddled off to bed.

Just another day in Paradise.


The Snake, The Pussycat and the Rower

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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As you may have gathered from the title, today’s post is a bit of a mash-up of unrelated (or possibly not so  unrelated) items which, no matter how much I chatter on  about them, are not sufficient alone to be of much interest. So, be prepared to have your consciousness expanded in several directions simultaneously.

We’ll start with a phone call from good mate Mike Cassell yesterday morning. Mike started off with, “You’re interested in all those natural things, aren’t you?” (I may be paraphrasing here. Exact wordings no longer stick in my brain.) I answered cautiously, “Hmmmm . . . yeah.” You see, Mike is the guy who has, on a couple of occasions, spotted a big saltwater crocodile a few hundred metres from my house. You want to be careful how you answer his leading questions.

Anyway, Mike was down at the Madang Lodge, which he and his wife, Di, own. He said that there was a big green snake in a bush just outside the coffee shop. I said, of course, “I’ll be right there!”  Sure enough, there it was, a beautiful Green Tree Snake (Morelia viridis)  wrapped around some branches sleeping off a huge meal of at least one large critter, possibly two:

These snakes are so incredibly beautiful that you just have to say, “Wow.”

Here’s a close-up if its head:

The appointed snake attendant, who had been guarding it from molestation kept calling it “She”, but I have no idea of its gender. The snake requires a guard, because many local people will kill any snake which they see without even pausing to think about it. Snakes are almost universally considered to be very, very bad, for a variety of reasons. Nobody seems to know that there are non-poisonous snakes which are not only harmless, but very beneficial. Sadly, I have seen many beautiful, harmless snakes killed here because of simple ignorance and superstition.

Nevertheless, this story will hoepfully have a happy ending. I gently hooked my fingers around the head to give you a better look and and idea of the size of the snake. These are very docile snakes. I’ve handled them on many occasions and none of them have shown the slightest inclination to bite:

This one was so sleepy that it hardly noticed.

So, what does the snake have to do with this pussycat? Absolutely nothing. Meet Dory, The Ocean-Going Cat:

Dory sailed across the entire width of the Pacific Ocean  on a tiny nine metre sailboat with her original companions (cats don’t have “owners”) Kyle and Kathy Harris. At no time did Dory consider this an insane proposition, as did many of K & K’s friends.

What is she doing in my IT Dungeon? Well, what cat’s do best – napping. When her current companion left her in my charge for a few hours we made friends again and she wandered around meowing pitifully for a while, as cats are wont to do. Then she discovered the cat’s delight, an empty, cat-sized box:

So, that takes care of the snake and the pussycat. What about the rower?

I finally found my mis-placed USB cord for my Olympus SP-590UZ super-zoom camera and was able to look at the shots which I got when I motored out to try to find Roz Savage as she rowed through Astraolabe Bay  to Madang. Of the frames, this is the one which I like best:

So, there is  a connection between to of the living beings in this post. Two of them have transited the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean  in tiny boats.

I think that Dory had the easier passage.

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The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the So-so

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 3rd, 2010 by MadDog
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I enjoyed my time with Eunie in Nadi, Fiji, despite the scary, but amusing bout with what now has been provisionally diagnosed as TGA or Transient Global Amnesia. It’s a pretty weird medical “incident” which has no explanation and little or no lasting effects. My good friend, Dr. John “Tinpis” Mackerel  (tinpis means “canned fish” in Tok Pisin) said that he had seen one case, in progress, no less, and the symptoms were a perfect match. He mentioned that the symptoms are pretty dramatic, as my terribly frightened wife, Eunie, noticed, but recovery is nearly always without lasting effects. The incidence in the over 50 population in the USA is about 5.2 per 100,000, so it’s common enough to be believable. I’ll put this diagnosis in the “Good” category. If I have any further problems, I’ll get a full neurological exam when I go to Oz in October.

The sunrise this Saturday morning, which is Dive Day for us, goes in the “So-so” category:

Pretty, but uninspiring.

Here is a “Good” one. I went back through my images of Roz Savage’s arrival in Madang and found this very nice shot of Roz looking back over her shoulder with a big smile on her face:

Gave me quite a lift to see this one. Going to Fiji meant that I didn’t get to see Roz for the rest of here stay here in Madang, but she plans to return for a couple of days and will, we hope, be staying here at Casa MadDog.

Now for some “Bad” and “Ugly”.

This NASA photo of a significant ash plume on 28 June does not bode well for the North Coast of PNG.

We need to keep an eye on that. Manam Island is a troublemaker.

Here is a shot of Manam which I got a few years ago:

I also have a post on the Manam Island volcano which shows smoke puffing out and three bit of volcanic rock which I retrieved from the ocean bottom near the island.

This shot could go into the “Bad” or “Ugly” category. I don’t have a lot to say about it, except I’m glad that I didn’t have to go into it:

I just think that it’s an interesting image.

The “Ugly” and “Bad” overlap in these last two images:

Pretty colours, eh?

What you may not realise is that this is fuel oil from a ship which dumped a huge quantity of it right into Madang Harbour in front of my house:

I wish that I could say that this was an isolated incident. However it is all too common.

Nobody has the power to stop it, I guess.

I certainly don’t.

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A Long, Hot Ride on a Harley

Posted in Humor on June 20th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post will be a brief one as far as the chatter is concerned. Eunie has gone off to Fiji to represent the Papua New Guinea Chamber of Commerce and Industry at some big Pacific Island international conference. I find this intensely amusing as, I am quite certain, this is the first time in history which someone who’s primary work is being a missionary has ever been chosen to do this. This makes me proud of my wife, of course, but it is also satisfying that our constant guidance within our organisation that we should fully engage with all segments of society have paid off. The salt isn’t much good for anything as long as it’s in the shaker.

While moping around at the office last week moaning that I had to stay once again at home while Eunie went off to exotic places our receptionist, Elizabeth, said to me, with what seemed like a mocking tone, “Well, why don’t you just GO!” So, in my Mars way, I began to tick off all of the reasons why I couldn’t go. First on the list was:  I can’t afford it. The second was: The IT operations will fall apart.

Eunie put me “on the carpet” in her corner office – the one with windows – and gave me my instructions. “You can write enough magazine articles about your trip to more than cover your expenses.” That took care of reason number one. “You already have Mark coming in at least once a week to help out with the technical stuff. Just put him on notice that you’ll be gone.” Reason number two shot down like a rabid dog. Within an hour she had all the bookings done and had gotten me an Australian visa for my night in Cairns. Oh, how I love powerful women!

So, on Wednesday morning I’ll be off to Fiji. I’ll try to post daily while I’m travelling. I would have gone on Friday with Eunie, but, of course, Air Niugini was by then booked up for days with long waiting lists. For a country which depends on air travel exclusively for internal commerce, we have a pretty sorry example of a national airline. Anybody want to argue that point? And don’t use “they are doing the best that they can” as an argument.

Well, I said that I wasn’t going to chatter. So much for promises. The cat being away, the mouse played yesterday. I took a long, fairly fruitless ride up the North Coast Road with Ush to a place which we heard about from the Marshalls at a party at Lockland’s house on Saturday night. It was Marleen’s last party before departure and Ush’s birthday. I severely abused a bottle of Chardonnay and danced and kakaoked until 01:30 when Monty and Meri Armstrong finally herded me to their car and deposited me back at our house. Chattering again . . .

Anyway, 108 kliks up a road which is the Swiss cheese of highways you will find a place with a promising name: The Tapira Surf Club:

That’s the Harley sitting there in front of a little bar shack just to prove that we actually went up there.

It looks considerably better with Ush decorating it:

It was an exhausting ride up there. On three separate occasions I had both wheels locked up with Ush slammed up against my back to get the beast slowed down quickly enough to avoid Harley-eating potholes which stretched across the road.

I had decided already that I would have one beer only and smoke a nice Cohiba which Pascal Michon gave me on Saturday. It turned out to be a bit of a wasted trip. There was no surf, nobody home and only a toasty warm beer:Nevertheless, Ush and I had a nice time chatting in the club house or whatever they call it. We asked when the surf was up. The answer was “October”. Go figure.

I’ll finish up with a rather remarkable image which I shot on The Henry Leith on Saturday.

On the left side of a fan coral which you are seeing side-on is the rather rare Longnose Hawkfish (Oxycirrhites typus). On the right is a Black-Saddled Toby (Canthigaster valentini). They are both nibbling bits off of the fan coral. In the background is the extremely rare Rozas savagica bearing the common name of Roz Savage.

I feel quite smug about this shot.

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Cuttlefish Hunger

Posted in Under the Sea on June 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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I have a fantastic shot for you today. A couple of days ago I put up a post showing an image of a Cuttlefish. I had looked over the frames which I had taken and chosen the one that I thought was the prettiest. Yesterday, as I was going back over the images from that dive on Planet Rock last Saturday, I discovered something which I had not noticed in my earlier examinations – something which blew my itsy-bitsy mind.

The is the same Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which you saw in the post linked to above. Do you notice anything odd about it? Go on, have a good look before I tell you. Click on it to make it larger:

It quite clearly has a fish sticking out of its mouth. Richard Jones told me that he thought that it was actively hunting when we ran across it. I never thought more about it. It must have snatched this fish with its long feeding tentacles only moments before I snapped this shot. I Googled some “cuttlefish feeding” images this morning and found plenty of examples of the act of feeding, but no others showing a fish sticking out a a cuttlefish’s mouth. I get lucky so often that it is beginning to frighten me.

Today, we’ll alternate back and forth between beauty and weirdness. Some might say that the Cuttlefish is beautiful, but it’s also weird.

Here’s your beauty. It’s lovely Geneviève Tremblay waving “Hello” to you:

Geneviève is a volunteer worker here in Madang. She is a physiotherapist, a much needed skill here in our hazardous country.

I used the “Hello in All Languages” WordPress plugin for the greeting from Geneviève. If you get something other that your local language equivalent of “Hello” please let me know. I’m still testing it.

Snapping back to weird, here is an elegant Longsnout Flathead (Thysanophrys chiltonae):

These are very common on our reefs. They are ambush hunters. Their camouflage abilities are amazing as you can see in this post.

Let’s flip back to beauty for a moment:

Here is a sweet shot of Roz Savage with some lovely orange Antheas and a Feather Star in the foreground. I was so pleased with this shot. It’s definitely going in MadDog’s Little Book of Memories.

Now, this one is not ugly, but it is weird looking. It’s a common Scorpion Shell (Lambis scorpius):

It doesn’t look like much when you first see it laying in the sand.

But, gently turn it over and:

Zowie! That’s a whole different thing there.

Mother Ocean is full of surprises.

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A Curious Collection

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on June 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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Okay, today I’m just winging it. I have no coherent plan, no petty rage to vent, no earth-shattering news, no malicious gossip (no, wait . . . I hate that stuff), and no gonzo wisdom to dispense. I’m reasonably calm, considering the mountainous pile of work which I fear will soon avalanche down upon me and out of which no St. Bernard will come bearing a little keg of Monk-crafted brandy will come to dig me.* I partook of my placebo this morning, consisting of a tiny nibble off of the edge of a 5mg Valium tablet. I know that it’s not enough to affect my body chemistry, it simply lets me feel as if I have some control. I feel like a mouse nibbling on a teeny-weeny chunk of cheese which must last him for a month. The things you do when the mind starts to go . . .

So, I’ll spare you the chatter and show you some images which have lifted me out of the muck a couple of times already this week. We’ll start with a sunrise for which I can credit only God. Sorry folks. Simple physical processes are not up to the task:

Thanks, God. I needed that one.

This is a picture I got a few weeks ago up at Guntabag with my old buddy Tag Tap. He took me to a tiny little house to see this wonderful old man who they say is eighty-three years old:

It is hard for me to keep tears from my eyes when I look at this image of a man who has lived almost literally from the stone age to the space age. How much the world has changed during his lifetime. He would have been born at a time when nearly the entire population of Papua New Guinea lived in areas which had never been mapped and were presumed to be uninhabited. I do not know his name, and If I did, I would not tell you. Names of venerated persons, especially those who are in the twilight zone are often not spoken aloud. A glance or pointing of the chin in his direction is sufficient to indicate the subject of the conversation. He was alert and could speak, offering to shake my hand. However, he was clearly confused concerning why a foriegner would want to come to meet him and take his photograph. I’m going to get a good framed print made of this one and send it up to him.

I can’t get enough of the Finisterre Mountains.  Despite being surrounded by mountains to the west, the Finisterres,  across Astrolabe Bay,  are the only ones which we can see clearly:

I’ll call that one Too Blue.

I’m calling this one Boards Over Water at Blueblood:

The sand from out feet on the deck and the ripples of sand under the water below the deck connected furiously in my medula oblongata. I stared curiously at my hands as they, of their own accord, set the controls on my trusty Canon G11 and framed the shot. I heard a subtle “click” inside my head when the shutter released. It was surreal.

Here is a happy, happy picture:

It is (Rozlings take note) Roz Savage, Genevieve Tremblay, me and Jo Noble in Faded Glory  on our way out to Planet Rock on Saturday. Thanks to pal Meri Armstrong for the snap. Meri was intensely concerned with getting the iconic Madang Coastwatchers Monument in the background. I enlarged my bicep only slightly – honest! And, by the way, I am not “making a donkey” out of Genevieve. I’m giving the Peace Sign.

Which reminds me. I haven’t shown the Faded Glory  Diving Crew t-shirt logo for a long time:

I’m putting it up here because I’m looking for a t-shirt company who can make some up for me. If anybody out there has any ideas, please leave me a comment or send me an email.

Just a couple of more and then you can get back to work before the boss comes around. I love spirals. When you are in the sea you are surrounded by them. Here is one of my favourite spiral shots:

What I like about them is that none of them are perfect. They are only suggestions of what spirals might be if they tried harder, if they cared more about being true to their good nature. They remind me of humans.

So, now that I’ve gone completely silly, I may as well carry on. I saw this bottle on the otherwise pristine reef at Planet Rock:

As you can see, the reef is desperately trying to incorporate it into itself. It is a hopeless task, because the bottle is of a different nature from the reef. The reef lives. The bottle is dead and always has been. The bottle does not belong to the reef and the reef does not want it there. So, the reef hides its shame and restores its beauty by absorbing the foreign bottle into itself.

I’m calling it Message in a Bottle.

* Please note the incredibly clumsy sentence which I crafted to avoid ending it with the prepostiion “out”.

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Dive Day – A Little Surprise!

Posted in Under the Sea on June 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Saturday morning weather looked promising. It appears as if the dry season is arriving on time this year. This will be a great relief to the many people who depend on their gardens for their main food supply. I was feeling quite happy as I prepared Faded Glory  for departure.

I arrived at the Madang Resort Hotel wharf where we meet and rent air tanks for our little dive club from Sir Peter Barter’s dive shop, a generosity which allows us to go diving every week. Most of us could not afford to do that otherwise. As friends appeared, I noticed a strange look on some of the faces. They seemed to be looking over my shoulder as I was leaning over tending to some gear. When I turned around I did a double-take of movie quality. Grinning down at me was Roz Savage, who seemingly had not had enough of Mother Ocean. It was very pleasant to have her along and allow her to be simply “one of the mob”.

The lighting was all wrong for this cute shot of Geneviève Tremblay:

It looks as if she is about to be eaten by the big sea slug in the foreground. It was only about a half-metre long.

A week or so ago, Geneviève took this shot of me checking our anchor line. I don’t often get any decent pictures of myself. This miffs me a bit, because I never tire of looking at myself:Geneviève did a nice job of composing the shot, so all I had to do was Photoshop my love handles down to  less grotesque dimensions. One wants to look as good an one might. The emphasis is on might.  The amusement of exercise escapes me. I simply try to eat as little as possible.

I used up a fair bit of air chasing these Bigeye Trevally (Carnax sexfasciatus)  up and down over Planet Rock:

I was very lucky to catch the bubbles of a diver in the background.

Another treat was this Broadclub Cuttlefish (Sepia latimanus)  which allowed me to snap several shots before it tired of the game and rocketed off with a puff of ink:

Any day when you get a cuttlefish shot is a good day.

I like this one of the little fish hiding right next to the gaping jaws of a Moray Eel (Gymnothorax javanicus):

Possibly they know that this is probably the safest place for them. If you stand behind a bully who ignores you, you are unlikely to be bothered by anybody else.

Though we were trying to allow Roz to enjoy not being the centre of attention for a few hours, I could not resist this shot as were were coming up the anchor line to Faded Glory  after our dive:

I can’t imagine a more perfect day.

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