Zombie Death Star Orbits Terra!

Posted in Humor, Under the Sea on May 5th, 2010 by MadDog
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Despite the horrific news below, this morning began with little fanfare.  It’s a putrid day which brings no good. The sunrise was a little anemic, threatening rain. Eunie was perturbed by this, as it is Wednesday. One might ask why Wednesday morning rain distresses my platinum blonde goddess. See, she goes Monday, Wednesday and Friday to the pool of the Madang Resort Hotel with the gracious permission of no less than Sir Peter Barter and executes an hour-long routine of aquarobics which literally takes my breath away. I’ve tried doing it with her. It’s not my game. So, it can rain any mornings except those three and it’s no worries, mate.

This shocking alert* came to blight my glowing portal to the world only this morning:

PARIS — A Dumkophsat satellite that mysteriously stopped communicating with its ground controllers on 5 April remains dangerously out of control and has begun moving zombielike eastward along the geostationary arc, raising the threat of sudden death and dismemberment for other satellites in its path, Dumkophsat and other industry officials said.

In what industry officials said is an unprecedented and horrific event, Dumkophsat’s Galaxy 15 satellite has decided to remain fully “on,” with its C-band telecommunications payload still functioning even as it has impudently departed its assigned orbital slot of 133 degrees west longitude 36,000 kilometers over the equator.

The first satellite likely to face sudden death is the AMC-11 C-band satellite owned by SASSY of Luxembourg and stationed at 131 degrees west, just two degrees away from Galaxy 15’s starting position.

Bobbi Bednick, chief executive of the SASSY World Skies division, which operates AMC-11, said Dumkophsat and SASSY have been meeting since 5 April 5 to coordinate how to minimize the Galaxy 15 impact on AMC-11’s media terrified customers, one of which commented, “The very thought of depriving millions of homes of Everybody Loves Raymond is simply too much to bear.”

In a 30 April interview, Bednick said that while it remains horribly unclear whether SASSY World Skies will be able to avoid a wholesale slaughter problem as  Galaxy 15 enters the AMC-11 orbital territory, the company has benefited from full disclosure on the part of Dumkophsat, SASSY’s biggest competitor.

“The horror stories from them really have been very good,” Bednick said. “We all realize that we could be in the same stupid position tomorrow. We are neighbors in space.”

“Unfortunately for us, we were downhill from Galaxy 15 as it rolls toward the 105 degrees west libration point.”, Bednick said. “We are in regular contact with all our customers of these satellites to keep them apprised of the situation.”

I should hope so!

All that I was thinking of before was catfish, specifically Striped Catfish (Plotusus lineatus):The news of a zombie satellite hovering over my head gave me pause. I’ve been so absorbed in my own present quagmire of mental mud that I’ve failed to note that there is still a very scary world out there.

Soon afterward I was shocked anew by this image captured by Rocket Scientists of the offensive orbiter:I soon went back to thinking about fish. The new calming image was of the always pleasant and inoffensive Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus):Ah, that’s better. Surely the pesky aberrant orbiting obliterator will fry itself in our murky atmosphere before it can land on my house.

I continued to calm myself with more Spinecheeks:Yes, now everything is copacetic.

It has much the same effect as an aquarium. Mine is big enough to swim in.

* Lest I be taken out and shot for spreading world-wide panic, I should disclose the spoof. It’s really Intelsat’s Galaxy 15 which has lost its mind and now threatens its neighbors. It seems that computers are not so different from humans after all.

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Hanging Out the Door

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 27th, 2010 by MadDog
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I am now officially so far behind that I will never catch up. Yesterday had a three hour chunk removed from my plans when I went out on Sir Peter Barter’s Robertson R-44 helicopter and spent a literally hair raising period of time hanging out of the door. I’ve always had a sort of fetish about sitting in the open door of a helicopter with my feet hanging over the side. It’s so close to the edge, right where I like to walk. I spent many hours sitting in the open door of a Hotel model Huey when I wasn’t piloting.

At one point I let the wind get under my headphones. That was a mistake. In a flash they were clunking against the rear window on the end of the cord. I reeled them in and mumbled, “That’s not good.” into the microphone. Honestly, I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Though the trip put me further behind in my work schedule, I got 480 images for the grist mill of Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.

Those will dribble in as they fit with the plans of my wandering Muse. Today I’ll show you this pretty shot of the far north end of Madang with Kranket, Leper, Little Pig and Pig Islands  stretching up the coast:I have a few rather sensitive images also – things that some folks hereabout, I’ll let you guess who, might not want you to see. I’ll just have to see if my waning testosterone level allows me to display them.

In the meantime, let’s go to the fish market:This should be starting to look familiar by now, since I’ve shown it many times. It’s the wonderful fluorescent Magnificent Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  hosting Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus)  at Planet Rock.  Put “spinecheek” in the search box to see plenty of these wonderful fish.

Since I’m feeling a little frayed around the edges – up until 01:30 last night and had just one too many glasses of red, I’ll tickle myself back out of my temporary coma with some brightly coloured feathers:That one was a Comanthina schlegeli.  I can’t find species names for most of them. It has a lot to do with counting legs and arms. Since the creatures are so incredibly delicate and stick to you like super glue, I don’t care to destroy them just to figure out what the Latin name is. Let the guys in the white lab coats take care of that.

Here’s a very pretty one which I can’t identify:It’s curled up very neatly.

This is the feather star equivalent of The Mall:

Everybody wants to go to “The Mall”, especially in small towns. “Oh, let’s go to the city to The Mall!” The kiddies shriek, “The Mall, The Mall. Oh, yes! Take us to The Mall!” Personally, I don’t get it. I avoid the places like the plague unless I need something which I can’t purhase somewhere else. The main problem is that I nearly always get lost and end up wandering from door to door looking out into the parking lot to see if I can remember if it’s the one where I left my car. I once took a cab to a mall, just to avoid that trauma. I experience a mild form of panic when this happens. I worry that I may have had a mini-stroke. It’s hard to know what to do. Go to the security goofs and admit that I can’t find my car? I’d nearly rather slit my wrists in the central fountain and go out with a bang. They could  decide that I might be a danger to myself or some unspecified “others” and bang me up in the slammer while The Suits figure out what to do with me.

Oh, sorry, I’m running on again. The brakes went completely out on our truck today. The timing was unfortunate, as I was blasting up Modilon Road at about 80 kliks per with my hair on fire. It’s such  a weird feeling when you shove that pedal and it just glides all the way to the floor with as much resistance as I could offer to Raquel Welch. With some fancy clutching and shifting I managed to get it creeping back to the office. They towed it away an hour ago. I had just put the “For Sale” signs out yesterday. If figures.

Alright, enough! Have a look at this:

Dig that hair, man. It looks as if Kate and the Feather Star are in a fierce competition. “Hah! My hair’s bigger than yours!”

Okay, I’m finished now. You can go back to work.

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Photgraphing the Photographer

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on April 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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ANZAC Day has past now, and I’m into the work week with a fury. Well, a flutter, anyway. I’m so far behind that some things are simply getting put into the If I Ever Get Around To It tray. My situation report this morning will be terse, but I do have some nice snaps for your amusement.

I’ll begin by showing you my distressingly flabby triceps. As I was shooting a very nice sunset on Trevor Hattersley’s Lyin’ Dog,  I kept noticing flashes coming from behind me. I took little notice, since everybody was ohhhing  and ahhhhing  at the pretty colours. I assumed it was someone who did not know enough to turn their flash off. Little did I suspect that I was the subject and the cameraman knew exactly what he was doing. Witness the work of Lt. Colonel Simon Watts:Thanks for sending that along, Simon. It will help me to get back to hitting the weights a couple of times a day.

Once in a great while, I get a shot that drops my jaw. So much is up to luck. You can do it perfectly ten times and only one will be good. A hundred times and maybe you’ll say, “Oh, that’s really nice.” Give it a thousand times and you might get something like this:When the colours are so ethereal that it looks fake . . . no, painterly,  then I feel as if I’ve been somehow blessed. It is, of course, a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus).  There are presently two of them living in a Bulb Anemone (Entacmaea quadricolor)  with incredible pigmentation at Planet Rock.  I’ve been shooting this same anemone for at least fifteen years. I visit it every time I dive at Planet Rock.  I’ve shown it to hundreds of divers. It’ my  anemone. I’ve made it the most famous Anemone in Madang, so it owes me.

Bulb Anemones, like some other anemones, can display an almost unreal range of colours as you can see from the one in this post.

This is what happens when you stack beauty on beauty. Kate and I were the only divers on Saturday, so we had Planet Rock  all to ourselves. Here a lazy Blue Plastic Toy Starfish (Linckia laevigata)  lounges atop an ancient coral bomie wearing a feather star for a cap while Kate provides the real eye candy:

Lots of blue there.

Since I’ve gotten started with blue, we’ll just keep that theme. Here’s an unfortunately motion-blurred shot of a Pink Anemonefish (Amphiprion perideraion)  in a Magnificent Anemone (Heteractis magnifica):The tentacles of this anemone were absurdly blue. I don’t think that I’ve seen one this bright, though there are several other colours which reach this level of saturation. Witness the wonderful green-tentacled Magnificent Anemone here.

What this shot lacks in quality, it makes up for in blueness. It’s a school of Fusiliers of some kind racing past me:We like to say that diving in Madang is very much the same as diving in a huge aquarium. We seldom have to deal with fussy weather or big seas. The water is not always crystalline, but the quantity and the wonderful nearness  of the sea life makes up for the less than perfect visibility.

Not even Paradise is perfect. We don’t care. It’s close enough for us.

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Ancient Art Show Material Discovered

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on March 26th, 2010 by MadDog
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Regular readers may note that my mind wanders more towards the end of the week. This is because I dive on Saturdays and I usually have enough pretty pictures beginning on Sunday which I can intersperse with mind numbing jibber-jabber to fill a page. Heaven knows that I seldom have anything important to say. I do, however, strive to say it with some degree of flair, if not true style. Polish is way beyond me. If I could polish prose, I’d be making a living from it. Prose polishing doesn’t run in my genes. I’m more of an assembler. I’ll screw and glue the chair. It’s someone else’s job to polish it.

Which leads me to . . . well, nothing. So, instead, I’ll concentrate on telling you more about me,  my favourite subject. Write what you know about, eh?

Yonks ago, when I was a young feller in my mid-50s the Madang Country Women’s Association up and did themselves an art show. Being a dilettante artist, I decided to try my luck. It was all for charity, you see. That usually means any fool can pretend to be anything he likes and pretty much get away with it.

If you’re a regular here, you’ve seem my so-called art work. It’s pure fakery – the purest kind. I take pretty pictures and grind them up in a computer and it spits out something that, when printed on paper, might fool bumpkins into thinking that the producer has some sort of talent. That, of course, it the whole point of the excercise.

Not wanting to get caught in a lie, I had to coin a new word to describe my wholesale pimping of digital excretion as art. Thus the novel term “Photostylizations”. I even adopted the Americanisation of inserting “z” in place of “s” to further confuse the issue:

That’s the poster which I prepared to introduce my “work”. That’s more or less how I looked at 50. I’m considerably more handsome now.

One of the “pieces” that has enjoyed the most longevity is this Beach in Christmas Bay  from an image I captured at Bag Bag Island:

It didn’t sell. So it, along with several other of these, is still hanging behind the “Blue Dolphin Bar” at our house to give the place a little class. I’ve also used this one several wedding program covers as a background image.

This is an old favourite of mine. It’s titled Fletch.  It’s based on a photo of Jan Fletcher which I grabbed at Kar Kar Island.  She was free diving down into a fresh water spring just off the coast:All of these were framed and numbered 1/1 meaning that they would never be printed again in the same format. Some people in Madang own 1/1 MadDog originals which will be worth a fortune when I’m dead. I hope that they laugh all the way to the bank.

Here’s a nice little pair of Clark’s Anemonefish (Amphiprion clarkii):And another lone one:

This is a Many-Spotted Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides):The common name is obvious. The taxonomic name, not so.

And this, regulars will recognise as a Spinecheek Anemonefish (Amphiprion biaculatus):Above is the mom.

Below is the baby:Cute, eh?

This is a Shadowfin Soldierfish (Myripistis adusta):It does have a bit of the military look. Maybe it’s the chain-mail armor.

This one I titled Piscus Psychedelicus  for obvious reasons. It’s really a Midnight Snapper (Macolor macularis)  with its colours radically modified:The colours on this one came to me in a dream.

Another little fellow who will be familiar to regular readers is the Reticulated Dascyllus (Dascyllus Reticulatus):The title of that one is Size Doesn’t Matter,  one of my favourite phrases.

Just because I could, I threw a gratuitous flower into the show. Straining my imagination, I titled this one White Flowers:The Madang Country Women’s Association apparently never recovered from the Art Show, though it was a financial success. I think that my stuff alone garnered about K500 and I was among possibly twenty genuine artists.

I hope that they do it again someday. My legend needs constant nourishment to stay alive.

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Fishy Art as Therapy

Posted in Humor, Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Still toppling over occasionally because my inner ears have been stuffed with fast-setting concrete, and wheezing like a steam-powered thresher, I went today with my partner, Eunie, for my first job interview since the ’60s. I’d say that my new boss was already predisposed to give me a go, so it was all very cordial and agreeable. I’m now, probationally at least, the (some kind of) Editor of Niugini Blue  and Our Way  magazines. Those outside PNG won’t recognise these titles, but here “in country” they are top-drawer reading material.

I’ve got until the end of the year to prove myself a wunderkind  who will be indispensable and therefore worthy of further consideration. It’s a great opportunity and it helps to replace some of the money that we’ve lost from churches who, for one reason or another, have decided that we’re no longer suitable candidates for financial support. My new employer understands that I will keep my position (mostly hiding in the IT dungeon) at PBT as well as taking on the editorship of the two magazines. I’m going to be a very busy boy, indeed. Stay tuned.

When I got home, I collapsed in a deep stupor for a few hours. I then awoke at about 15:30 and was horrified that I’d not yet written anything to satisfy my compulsion to glorify myself on your computer screen daily. Having no other ideas, I fell back on my favourite disguise – MadDog the Artist.

My three great (okay, only ) ambitions in life were to be (1) an actor, (2) a musician and/or (3) an artist. I’ve failed miserably at all of them, not that it bothers me much. As for the acting, I simply never got a break. I know I could be a movie star, if I could just manage to get discovered. As for two and three, I’m simply too bone lazy to practice enough to gain the skills. I peck at the guitar and keyboard and I sketch stuff which is immediately fed to the office shredder. In short, I’m a dilettante.

So, I ran through my Big Pile of Images looking for pixels to massage. Being temporarily more brain damaged than usual, I hope your expectations of me will not be too high.

This one I call Falling Angels:

You’ve seen it here before is a less jazzy form.

Here’s a couple of different treatments of everybody’s favourite fish, Nemo the Clown Anemonefish, or as he is known to his intimate friends, Amphiprion percula:

The one above has simply been brutally massaged by Noise Ninja Pro, which if nudged in the right direction, can produce some nice artsy effects.

Here I gave the same image a severe beating with the Photoshop Watercolour filter. The effects probably won’t be too noticeable at the thumbnail resolution, so indulge me by clicking to enlarge:

This has always been one of my favourite images. I snapped it many years ago with my first underwater camera, a giant film rig which nearly drowned me on several occasions.

Warming to my work at hand, I found another of my favourites, a very pretty Spincheek Anemonefish known as Premnas biaculeatus  to fellow fish freaks:

I gave it a thorough thrashing with the Photoshop Poster Edges filter.

Here’s another Spinecheek which I smoothed and polished with Noise Ninja Pro:

And here is the same image treated with the Poster Edges filter:
I like the “cartoon” effect of the Poster Edges filter.

Here’s another one Poster Edged – three pretty yellow Anthea of some kind. I think that this was my best effort of the couple of hours I spent waiting to fall unconscious once again:

The more I look at that one, the better I like it. I remember being affected the same way by Elke Sommer.

Well, I think I have a couple of minutes to go before I fall out of my chair. Incidentally, I’m posting this from my house, so my war on TELIKOM must be going well while I convalesce. It’s another happy little Clown Anemonefish, Nemo’s brother-in-law, Fredrick:

Freddy also got the Photoshop Watercolour treatment. It seems to agree with him.

And now, forgive me while I pass out.

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Heart of the Hunter – Part 1

Posted in Under the Sea on November 18th, 2009 by MadDog
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I’m fairly frantically trying to balance my work between herding a bunch of ornery computers, writing an article for Niugini Blue,  and doing my daily posts on Madang – Ples Bilong Mi.  There’s just no help for it. I’ve got to combine some tasks to serve dual purposes or sink into the dreaded black hole of “missed deadline” which means embarrassment and lost of precious moolah. So, I’m killing two of the three birds with one bullet (which is my not so clever way of slipping into the subject matter) by giving you a preview of the images that I’m submitting and a taste of the text. This literary snake-oil will be delivered to you in two or three parts.

My Gradpa taught me to hunt. Marksmanship was first on the list of essential skills, so, back when ammo was dirt cheap, I fired thousands of rounds at teeny-weeny targets until I was up to Granddad’s standards, which were pretty high. All this practice served me well when I went for Army training, as I qualified Expert on every weapon with which I was trained (and a few that I wasn’t supposed to be using).

Grandpa also schooled me in the psychology of the hunt, with which I became obsessed. Unfortunately, this involved a lot of blood loss, mostly to the critters at which I was shooting. I never thought much about it at the time. It was just hunting – everybody did it. Eunie and I survived a whole summer in Montana on the huge jackrabbits that I shot (she bagged a few – she is also an excellent marksman).

Anyway, not to get carried away, I had a few bad experiences with beautiful creatures whose designated bullets had not landed precisely. They tell tales about animals screaming when horribly wounded. I’m here to tell you that it can happen. It’s something that you don’t want to hear. So, I left the killing behind, cold turkey, as it were, but the other, less bloody psychological elements of the hunt have never left me.

What to do? Shoot them with a camera, of course! I didn’t dream this up. I remember when I was a kid seeing newsreels of big game hunters who had sickened of the killing and were mounting expensive cameras with huge telephoto lenses on rifle stocks. They were making a pretty drastic statement at a time when most people were fairly blasé about the whole matter of hunting. I admired these people.

No, I’m not going to unload the whole article on you here. It will run upwards of 1,600 words and I don’t expect anybody to read a post that long. So, let me get to my most recent ‘kills’. It’s illegal in most civilised places now to kill a hawk, but it’s there’s no problem with bagging a Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)  with your camera:

Dwarf Hawkfish (Cirrhitichthys falco)This is by far the best shot that I’ve done of this species. You’ve seen many Hawkfish here before (use the search box), but this is the one, of this species, that will define my best work, at least until I get better gear.

Moving from the sublime to the clownish, this little fellow (or lady – who knows) is a Spotted Sand Diver (Trichonotus setiger):

Spotted Sand Diver (Trichonotus setiger)They are fiendishly difficult to photograph, because they do exactly what the name implies. One second it’s there on your screen, the next instant it’s dived head-first into the sand, leaving only a puff of pale powder drifting along in the current. I was trying very hard to get a black background in this shot, but I could not get low enough. If I had, you could better see the long, slender filaments extending from its dorsal fin.

Somebody out there is thinking, “Enough with the Spinecheeks, already!”, but I’m not giving up until I’ve done it perfectly. So here’s yet another  Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)I’m getting close to what I want. If you click to enlarge you can probably make out some scales and you should definitely be able to see the lateral line.

Here’s one that you have seen here only once before. This is a much better shot of the Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus):

Redfin Butterflyfish (Chaetodon lunulatus)I’d call this thing absurdly beautiful. That doesn’t mean a lot, since the ocean is chock full of absurdly beautiful things.

I’m not much of a sportsman when hunting with my camera. Sitting ducks are also on the list of endangered beasties. Nudibranchs are ridiculously easy to shoot. The don’t move very fast, maybe a metre a day. All you have to do is find them. That’s the crunch. It’s a treat to find such a nice specimen of a fairly common nudi, (Phyllidia coelestis):

Nudibranch (Phyllidia coelestis)Well, that’s enough for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with more of the grisly trophies of my weekly ritual slaughter of the innocents of the sea.

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If Only You Knew How We BBQ

Posted in Humor, PNG Culture, Under the Sea on October 28th, 2009 by MadDog
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Today’s video clip is a bit of PNG Culture. Since images shout, while words simply whine, I’ll take you directly to The Essential PNG Barbie Preparation Technique:

The process is conceptually simple. One wants to remove any noxious substances from the barbie without destroying the delicate balance of organochemistry that provides the characteristic flavours.

One must first use a sturdy spatula, of a type that I have only seen in Australia and PNG, to de-crudify the barbie. Incidentally, these heavy spatulas double as a venerable weapon. De-crudifying consists of selectively scraping from the barbie bird poo, leaves, toasted geckos, the occasional huge beetle and any other items not deemed to be contributory to the proper seasoning. The scraping may take a while. It usually requires a couple of assistants to . . . er . . . assist  the decision process. Fights have been known to break out.

Next, having first assured that there is a roaring fire, one must use copious amounts of water (sea water, if you’re lucky enough to be close to the beach) to wash off most of the unwanted substances loosened by the scraping. A thorough washing is in order, along with further scraping to further refine the qualities of the cooking surface. This process involves much steam and hot water often erupting in unanticipated ways. Accidental scaldings are displayed as badges of honour.

Finally, and this is the critical stage, more water is applied while simultaneously brooming it off the barbie with a huge broomy sort of tool made of the spines of coconut leaves. The brooms themselves have a story worth a post. They take a long time to make and seem unnecessarily spindly and ineffective to a foreigner. However, just try to get your cleaning lady to use a fancy factory made broom. She will not touch it. It is an affront to her skill and makes a mockery of her trade. The coconut pangel  broom is clearly superior in her mind.

So, having cleaned the barbie, what shall we eat? Well, I can guarantee you it won’t be any of these:

Vagabond Butterflyfish (Chaetodon vagabundus)

That’s the Vagabond Butterflyfish (Chaetodon vagabundus). Don’t ask me why it’s called a vagabond. Sounds a little overly poetic to me.

Let’s have yet another look at an old friend the Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus):

Spinecheek Anemonefish (Premnas biaculeatus)

I seem to be embarking on a new career to get the perfect specimen shot of this critter. I’m not going to stop until we can see its scales, which are very fine. Close, but no turkey.

Here’s another one that is a little less common, the Orange Anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos):

Orange Anemonefish (Amphiprion sandaracinos)

I’d say more about the Orange Anemonefish, but I’d have to make it up. No, wait. I do know that it favours a certain species of anemone called Merten’s Carpet Sea Anemone (Stichodactyla mertensii)  which is what you see in the image above.

Finally, here is a teaser for a post to come in a few days. Our dear old friend (not that  old) Trevor Hattersly is about to succumb to marital bliss with his beautiful bride-to-be Karen Simmons. Tuesday night we had a little stag party (no girls popping out of cakes) at the Madang Club. I was suckered into a game of pool the rules of which were so arcane that I hadn’t figured them out until I’d lost all of my pocket money – about K50, to be exact.

Here’s Trevor lining up for a shot:

Trevor Hattersley lining up for a shot

I know  what he’s thinking. “I’m going to take all  of Messersmith’s money!”

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