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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So, So Blue

Posted in Under the Sea on February 18th, 2010 by MadDog
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Well, now I’m only two days behind. No thanks to TELIKOM. For some reason known only to God and the local manager, I got a call this morning from a guy in the business department. He seemed to want to sell me a PABX system to fix my problem. I asked him if it had any copper lines going to the exchange. He didn’t know. I asked him if he knew anything about the USB wireless adapters that were announced for sale in April and still don’t work. He said he didn’t know. I asked him if he knew anything at all. He said he wasn’t sure. I think the local manager is trying to avoid me. Every time I call, he has “gone to pick up his kids at school” (funny thing for a manager to be doing in the middle of the day) or, “just stepped out”, or “in a team meeting”. Hah! Since his office is only a few steps from mine, that makes it a little easier for me. I can station one of my spies in the parking lot and he can inform me by walkie-talkie when the guy comes to his office. My means are many and nefarious.

I will not let this matter rest.

Never mind. I’m soon going to set up a wireless link between our big radio tower at our office and my house. I’ll have a fast 24/7 connection for absolutely nothing! I’m going to take my two TELIKOM handsets and throw them into the ocean where they will do the fish more good that they have ever done me. I’ll set up some Skype phones in the bedroom, lounge and our new J&E Enterprises Limited office and say “Goodbye and thanks for all the fish!” to TELIKOM forever. How glorious it will be to see the day when none of my communications have to pass through a single piece of TELIKOM’s crummy gear. Digicell will do me nicely for a portable. TELIKOM’s cell service doesn’t work half the time anyway.

I should possibly apologise to my readers who do not live in PNG and therefore do not understand the agony of trying to get simple phone service. My good mate Trevor Hattersley’s phone has not worked for five months. Most people simply give up and buy a cell phone. In fact, I believe that is exactly what TELIKOM wants. They want to abandon huge sections of copper cable that are so old that they can’t support even voice service. This leaves outlying small businesses stranded with no phones. Imagine owning a hotel (Such as Jais Aben) if your phones do not work half of the time. Yet TELIKOM offers no business alternative.

Okay, okay, enough for today. The pictures aren’t that great today either.

Today’s music is Pink Floyd’s Pigs on the Wing  from the ethereal Animals  album of 1977. It’s strangely in tune with my mood today. I also like Dogs  from the same album. Some of the lyrics bring tears to my crusty old eyes for their timeless poignancy. The guitar riffs are stunning.

Do you have to deal with people who think like this?

And after a while, you can work on points for style.
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake,
A certain look in the eye and an easy smile.
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to,
So that when they turn their backs on you,
You’ll get the chance to put the knife in.

Sure, we all do. Sadly, some aspire  to that philosophy.

Never Mind. My task is only to show pretty pictures.

Here’s a little mob of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)   who, happily, never have to make a phone call: Lucky little critters, eh? You’ll probably have to click to enlarge them.

This is one of the prettiest Feather Star images that I’ve managed:The lovely Lamprometra  seems to be in a state of grace, all curly and calm.

This is a sort of throw it out and see who likes it shot. It makes me think of looking down into a particularly nice aquarium at some friend’s house. He must be very good at his hobby:It’s a bunch of small Anthea  of some species that I can’t identify.

Some of you will recognise these Bigeye Trevally (Caranx sexfasciatus)  from many other posts here. I shoot them whenever I get the chance:I think “conformists” when I look at this image. I don’t like the feeling. If I stare at it long enough I can see them moving. Must be all the drugs I’ve been taking the last few days.

I usually strive for natural colour. Of course, that’s not what you get from the camera. They usually look more like this:Sometimes blue is what you need.

From Animals,  I leave you with Sheep:

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away;
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out,
There may be dogs about
I’ve looked over Jordan, and I have seen
Things are not what they seem.

Peace.

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Underwater Photography – Abort, Retry, Fail

Posted in Under the Sea on January 4th, 2010 by MadDog
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Back in the Bad Old Days of MS-DOS, if you were working with computers you would see, probably once an hour (it seemed so, anyway) the unhelpful message on your screen: Abort, Retry, Fail.  None of these three suggestions were ever of much help. It was Microsoft’s way of saying, “That’s not gonna happen, man.” Yeah, sure, you could usually figure out what was causing the problem, but most of the time there wasn’t much you could do about it.

You’ll be happy to hear that there is a way that you can once again experience these excruciating moments:  through the magic of underwater photography. I’ve collected a little gallery of horrors to illustrate a few of they infinite things that can go terribly wrong. I hope it amuses you, as an observer, more than it does me, as a practitioner.

SUBJECT RUNS AWAY

I wanted, longed, deeply desired, the moment that I saw this fish to capture its soul in digital bits. Sadly, the job is botched. This is a rather rare yellow colour variation of the Blackspotted Puffer (Arothron nigropunctatus):

When I say rare, I mean that I have never seen this species with as much yellow on its body. It really is a beauty. This one, as you can see, was at a cleaning station – it’s like a car wash for fish. The underpaid and little appreciated workers in this car wash are the little cleaner-fish, one of which you can see here vainly chasing the Puffer in hopes of gobbling a few more parasites from its skin. You can see the little Bluestriped Cleanerfish trailing along behind. These little puffers run away (probably screaming in fishy terror) as soon as anything big approaches. They don’t swim very fast – just fast enough to spoil the shot.

The observant observer will note that the image is spoilt by motion blur. I was trying to pan the camera to follow the movement of the fish, which should have produced a reasonably sharp image of the fish with a motion blurred background. As it happens, I got it half right; both fish and background are blurred by the camera movement. I’m putting this one in the RETRY category. The big problem is that I may never see such a magnificent specimen again.

SUBJECT LOOKS PRETTY UNDERWATER – TERRIBLE ON THE SCREEN

These little Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)  looked ever so pretty fluttering in the lazy current along the bottom at the Eel Garden close to Pig Island  on Saturday:However, the finished image is sadly lacking any interest whatsoever. You had to be there. As soon as I started working with the image I realised that the magic was in the motion. You can’t truly capture motion in a still image. I’m putting this one in the FAIL category.

SUBJECT IS A CAMERA TEASER

This juvenile Midnight Snapper (Macolor macularis)  is a pretty cool fish. They don’t look anything like the adult, which is a big brown lump of a thing. However, cool or not, this fish is a nightmare to photograph. Like many fish, it has an inbuilt standoff distance or “comfort zone” which you can, under no circumstances, violate. If it could talk, it would be saying, “Back off, Jack!”:

I did manage to get this rather pathetic shot from about four feet away with the flash turned on. It was as close as I could get. Apparently not many photographers have done a lot better. I Googled for images of this species and didn’t find anything much clearer than the shot above, except for images that were obviously shot in aquariums. I’ll let this one pass with a RETRY.

SUBJECT DARTS AROUND FRANTICALLY

This rather uncommon species, the Red And Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus)  swims spasmodically back and forth in its host and never even gives you an adequate opportunity to frame the shot. If fact, you’re lucky if the fish is even in the frame  when you push the shutter release. I only barely managed to catch it in this shot:This is compounded by the confounded shutter lag that is common in point-and-shoot cameras. I’d guess that the Canon G10 I’m currently using waits about a third of a second before capturing the image after I press the shutter release. So now, you have to guess where the fish is going to be during your next eye-blink. It’s like guessing which kernel of popcorn will explode next. This one can only be a RETRY.

SUBJECT DOES SOMETHING INAPPROPRIATE

Sometimes you just get a surprise. I would not ordinarily take a picture of an animal defecating. It’s simply not that interesting unless you’re a kid obsessed with scatological humour. We were at the deep end of the Eel Garden’s sandy slope where I was shooting the Red and Black Anemonefish when my dive buddy Carol Dover directed my attention to this big Sea Cucumber (Thelenota anax):

As you can plainly see, it was enjoying a nice, leisurely, satisfying poop. Without going into the unsavory anatomical details, I’ll simply point out the you can clearly see where the poop came from. There’s quite a bit of it, since the critter eats about 99% sand and digests only the digestible bits. All the rest comes out as tidy little sand sausages.

I’m putting this one in the ABORT category.

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Nudibranchs – Can’t Get Enough of ‘Em

Posted in Under the Sea on November 30th, 2009 by MadDog
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Saturday at the South end of Leper Island  was a good day for nudibranch hunting. There’s not much challenge to hunting nudibranchs, except to find them in the beginning. Sometimes there are a lot of them and sometimes none. I don’t know where they go. The slide around slower than land snails, so motion capture is not a problem. Most of them, however are teensy-weensy. This Chromodoris geometrica  was about 1.5 cm long:

Nudibranch - Chromodoris geometrica

You have to get your camera lens practically right up against the critter to get a shot like this. That means that, with the Canon G10 rig, you can’t use the flash; it’s blocked by the housing.

I was frankly surprised that these shots came out so pretty. The colours are very accurate and I got enough depth of field to get good focus from edge to edge. Here’s another shot of the little fellow going downhill:

Nudibranch - Chromodoris geometrica

The breathing organ (branch) is the feathery thing at the back. The antlers at the front are, I imagine, sensory organs. I’m very happy with these shots, especially since this is the first time that I’ve seen this species.

Here’s something that you don’t see every day, nudibranch eggs:Nudibranch eggsThe cluster is about as big around as a golf ball. If you click to enlarge you will see that is is very lacy. The individual eggs are stuck together and come out in a ribbon. They are always laid out in a circle or spiral shape.

Here’s another nudi for you. This one is a Phyllidiella pustulosa:Nudibranch - Phyllidiella pustulosa (flash lit)I can’t say that I’m fond of the taxonomic name. Anything that starts with ‘pust’ doesn’t appeal to me. The shot above was taken with the flash turned on. For a flash shot, it’s not too bad, though the colours are just a bit off.

Here’s the same critter with the flash turned off. I like this much better:Nudibranch - Phyllidiella pustulosa (natural light)It is much closer to what I actually saw. To me it appears more natural. I sometimes wonder of non-divers ever notice the difference. I suppose that most people just assume that everything is gaudy-bright the way the popular press shows most underwater images. It’s not really that way.

The clown shot of the day is provided by these cute little Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus):Striped Catfish - Plotosus lineatusThey travel around in schools and usually line up along a front edge of travel while they pick up tasty bits from the bottom. It’s comical to watch them marching on their whiskery little noses. Ones at the front will break away and move to the back so that their buddies can get to the fresh stuff. Or maybe they just need time to chew. I’m not convinced that fish are altruistic.

Here’s an image that I shot a few years ago up at Mililat Passage  of a river of Striped Catfish:A river of Striped Catfish (Plotosus lineatus)
Cool, eh?

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