Bees, Bugs, Buddha Beach

Posted in Arizona Images, Photography Tricks on June 7th, 2012 by MadDog
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One year and a week ago I arrived in Sedona for a visit. I’m still here. It’s going to be a very long visit. It makes my head spin to think that I’ve been here for a year. It seems impossible.

I’ve been enjoying the delights of my new Canon EF 100mm ƒ2.8 L IS USM 1-to-1 Macro Lens. A few days ago I hiked along the highway leading from Sedona to The Village of Oak Creek where we live. When the new highway was built the county agreed to plant high desert wildflowers along the way as a part of the deal for funds. Though we have had a very dry spring, it is still beautiful. We’ve had no rain since the last snow melted. Yellow flowers predominate this time of year and bees were busy everywhere:On the side of our house I saw the latest alien to vacate its flying saucer and to take up residence in Sedona:

It’s easy to see this as some sort of machine.

I found this incredibly tiny grasshopper, about 4mm long, crawling around on my Sweet Basil. It was very adept at avoiding my camera lens. I finally had to coax it out onto the pavement to get a shot:

While hiking down Oak Creek from Red Rock Crossing with Jo Noble, our visitor from England, we came upon a man who suggested we follow the trail for another mile to a place called Buddha Beach. There is a middling-sized pool there and a long sandy beach. Just inside the scrubby forest there is a large area of rounded river rocks. Visitors there have erected thousand of small stone cairns. The image below is a compilation of about eighty shots processed with Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) and uploaded to Microsoft Photosynth:

I’ve heard some complaints that such activities ruin the natural beauty of the area. I think that’s a little picky. The next time Oak Creek floods, if we ever get any rain, these will all be put back into their proper places.

On the way I saw this tiny blue flower sticking up from the earth with no leaves of any kind, just the stem. It was about the size of a pencil eraser:I think I see the empty shell of some insect hanging from the lower petal.

Okay, things are getting pretty random now. Here is a Madang sunrise that will soon be printed out on a seven by two foot canvas to be mounted in the corner of our bathroom over the Jacuzzi. I’ll put up a picture of it when I get it hung. Gracie has art all over the house, so I’m presently consigned to hanging my work in the bathroom:I’ll have to make a point of offering  the “master” bathroom to visitors when they are of a mind to refresh themselves.

Wandering further afield, I’ll show you a picture from our visit to Glendale Glitters, a mid-winter festival held in Glendale, Arizona each year. What you see here is only a small portion of a large park set alight. I can’t even imagine putting up all of those bulbs. They are electronically controlled so that the light patterns change and move about on the trees:Finally, I’ll show you Jo’s nice legs, which she, quite unreasonably, says that she hates. I don’t get it:She was standing on some rocks in Oak Creek in her cute runners and her Air New Zealand freebie socks. I had to lay down on my side on the creek bank to get this shot of her with a few cairns in the background. I used the Oil Paint filter in Photoshop CS6 to give the image some interesting twisty-ness. It’s becoming my favorite. It’s easily the most versatile and amusing one-click artistic enhancement filter in Photoshop. Its combination of sliders offer a cornucopia of effects varying from subtle to goofy.

We’re off to Dallas tomorrow for a week of conferences and integration with the Media Arts Team who are my coworkers in my new job. I’ve been working on an assignment for a few weeks. It’s time to get the bugs out and produce the first project of my fresh start.

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The Search for the Perfect Tenderloin

Posted in On Tthe Road on May 8th, 2011 by MadDog
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I have but two days left here in the heartland of America. Three weeks of acclimation to the Hoosier culture has had little effect on me, except to remind me that I normally dwell in a place that might be taken to be on different planet. After living in Papua New Guinea for thirty years, I inevitably feel out of place in the USA – as if I am a foreigner. Of course, it’s natural that I still experience that same feeling while at home in Madang, since I am  a foreigner there. My conclusion is that I don’t really fit anywhere now. I am, in a sense, a man without a country. I won’t complain about that. I chose the life and it has been a great ride. I will have to live with the feeling of being a Stranger in a Strange Land for the rest of my life, no matter where I am. There are worse things . . .

I got only one decent sunrise shot while here in Hoosierland. The weather has been mostly miserable, causing huge floods south of here. In this shot the prevailing cloud structures are aircraft contrails, something never seen in Madang:

My search for the perfect tenderloin is being rudely interrupted by my departure for Illinois on Tuesday. I’ll be there for a few nights and then off to Wisconsin for the last of my meetings with supporters. Then I’ll be heading for Canada for three weeks of genuine R&R. I am very glad that my son, Hans, is picking me up  in Brownsburg and shepherding me through my last adventures in the Midwest.

I did manage to find an excellent candidate at Green Street Station in Brownsburg. They had a choice of “beer battered” or “crispy”. The waitress suggested that the crispy was less oily. As is the Hoosier tradition, the tenderloin was fairly thick and twice the diameter of the bun. There is plenty of protein there, kiddies. The fries were so-so:

As with most food in this genre, it’s best consumed with a rich, full-bodied brew, chock full of vitamin B. It this case it was a Killian’s Red Ale. The sandwich tasted just as I expected. Despite my shaky sense of smell, I could tell that it fit the tradition. It was a good feed. I could consume only half of it, so I had another good lunch the next day, thanks to a microwave oven.

Another candidate for a good sandwich feed can be found at Squealers with locations in Indianapolis and Mooresville. Though the meat in this sandwich can be found in other parts of the world, I don’t think that there is any place else where it is called pulled pork. That sounds vaguely disgusting to me. There are may different ways of serving it. In this case it was “sauce on the side”, which is my preference:

The pork at Squealers is excellent, very tasty and tender. The baked beans were also very good, but might be too sweet for some. As with the tenderloin I washed it down with a Killian’s. (Hey, I’m on holiday.)

That pretty well covers my culinary adventures in The Crossroads of America. I probably won’t be reporting what I eat until I hit Canada. I’m sure to make an appearance at Rebel’s Rock in Hamilton. Eunie and I have always gone there for a great evening of live music while in Canada. You’ll just have to wait. I’ll have pictures such as these and these. Oh, goody – available light shots.

Speaking of birds . . . uh . . . okay, now  speaking of birds, I had a very nice couple of hours at the Eagle Creek Park Ornithology Center a few days ago with my friend and host, Steve Hassfurder. I have enjoyed a wonderful time here with Steve and his very pleasant wife, Marta. Steve and I have some significant life experience in common. It has been very helpful to me to talk to him about this. Some of it has been stressful for him, I know. I see it as a mark of friendship that he was willing to give me the benefit of his experience and convey to me some of the wisdom he gained along the way.

Hmmm . . . was I talking about birds? It seems so:

That’s a shot of one of the observation stations. Both stations are indoors, so winter viewing should be reasonably comfy. The other one looks out over a special conservation area of Eagle Creek Reservoir. It’s my understanding that Eagle Creek Park is the second largest city operated park in the world.

I got this shot of a Common (or Northern) Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  from the window in the image above. In Indiana it is usually called, simply, a Redbird:

This is a male. The female is rather dingy in comparison. I was told that if I sat in that room for a year I would very likely see over 270 species of bird life, but I would starve in the process. I had no idea that Indiana hosted such a huge number of species. Some of those, of course, would be migratory and not permanent residents. You know – like me! I am very migratory these days.

I can’t leave Hoosierland without showing you this very peculiar image. No, kiddies, this is not an up-and-coming executive treating his precious V-Dub to a little pre-wash tickle. This is the “greeter” (and cashier) at Mike’s Car Wash, a very popular vehicle grooming establishment in central Indiana. I’m serious, folks:

The basic wash is five bucks, a reasonable price these days, I suppose. The nice fellow will, of course, attempt to sell you all of the optional waxes, shiners, protections, glazes and tire glosses that trick out your ride and make you feel as if you have moved up a couple of income brackets. These last until the next rain. Be frugal. Your car is simply dirty. It needs no pampering. Pamper a human. It’s much more rewarding and the results last longer.

As a public service I will now brave the possibility of a take-down notice to expose one of those obnoxious As Seen On TV rip-offs which poison our minds with false dreams of ease and comfort which will enrich our lives and allow us to achieve the true happiness guaranteed by our beloved Constitution.*

UPDATE: My son, a student of political science among other things, pointed out to me in a comment that it is the Declaration of Independence and not the US Constitution which hints that we are free to knock ourselves out in the pursuit of happiness. My embarrassment falls short of acute. Like many other bits of information, I used to know that, but it has long been displaced by data which is more crucial to my survival. Thanks, Hans.

I have been disgusted on numerous occasions by the stupid, frivolous and apparently misleading TV commercial for an utterly ridiculous product called EasyFeet. If you have not already been offended by viewing this you can torture yourself here. (I’d be interested to know if anyone else is shocked by the much-too-old boy and girl in a bathtub together.)

I admit to being suckered by this product for about ten seconds. I spend very little time thinking of my feet or tending to them and I have absolutely no problem reaching them. However, the idea of simply slipping my tootsie into such a cute scrubbing device . . . hey, wait! My feet are insanely ticklish. Want to reduce me to spasms of raw panic? Just tickle my feet. I bet you can’t wait to try it, eh? No, this thing is not for me.

There are two web sites which purport to report about “As Seen on TV” items. One, As Seen On TV On Sale, seems to be legitimate. You can see its page about EasyFeet here. When I looked at it there were 303 reviews. I could find few which were complementary. The other “As Seen On TV” site seems to be purely promotional. There are also many sites that seem bogus to me and may be part of a web campaign to flood the Google result pages with glowing reviews and opportunities to purchase EasyFeet.

Why did I waste so much of your precious time with that? Sorry, I have no amusing excuses. “The dog ate it” is not going to work on this occasion.

I’ll try to do better next time.

* I should add a disclaimer here. The US Constitution does not, by any stretch of the imagination, guarantee happiness. What it does seem to imply is that we have an inalienable right to pursue happiness, which is an altogether different thing. Any fool can see that we are, with supreme effort, pursuing happiness with the vigor of a pack of bloodhounds. We are absolutely relentless in our pursuit of earthly bliss. The glitter of terrestrial Nirvana (not the band) glows like a beacon in the distance. Alas, few of us actually get our fingers through the brass ring.

I’ve stopped praying for happiness. I’ve switched to praying for wisdom. I reckon that some happiness will come packed inside.

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Sunrise – Starfish – Insects

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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I’m going a little crazy getting ready for my trip. Regine, a long-time friend from Austria, is back visiting again in Madang. She brought three friends with her. I’ve been entertaining them for the last few days. Along with my feeble attempts to think of everything I need to do to get ready to travel, I feel rather more busy than I care for.

It’s been months since I have been in the mood to get out before light and catch sunrises. A few days ago, I could no longer resist. The sky across the harbour seemed to be on fire:

The colour, coming through a narrow slot between the horizon and low-hanging clouds, covered nearly a quarter of the sky. Here you can see nearly the entire eastern quadrant ablaze:

That was worth getting up for.

I got a couple of interesting starfish shots on my last dive. This is a nice image of a Cushion Star (Culcita novaeguineae) :

These are quite common in the waters around Madang. They are about the size of a football.

Here is another very common sight. This is the leg (arm?? which is it?) of a starfish. It was probably bitten off by a fish. You can clearly see that a whole new starfish is growing from the severed end of the limb. Given time, it will look like any other starfish:

I found this moth wearing a fancy coat out on my veranda one morning:

And this is a rather large grasshopper which I spotted only a metre away:

This got me thinking about large grasshoppers. I feel strangely calmed when I let my mind wander. Google is a fantasy land. I wish I could get a job Googling all day. Ask me anything. I’m the answer man. So, you want the world’s largest grasshopper. I deliver:

Of course, I make no claims of accuracy for the information which I supply.

Still not had enough of grasshoppers? What about this one (the grasshopper is the one on the right):

If you recognise that one you are probably a mature adult who watched a great deal of  TV in your youth.

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A Little Bit of Everything

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on October 7th, 2010 by MadDog
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I do not intend for Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  to indefinitely remain a place where I forever keep going back to the events of the last few months. I need to move on at some point. However, this is  a (more or less) daily journal.  I think of it as an open diary. I cannot escape the present. If I am to continue to be open and honest, I must put down here my thoughts, fears, challenges and successes. This allows me to take these things out of my head and examine them as I write. It allows me to record them as waypoints on my journey. It helps me to gauge my progress and someday, it will allow me to remember the events with the fresh perspective of one who is healed and able to look back with less pain.

So, having said that, I’ll tell you that the plans for the Memorial Service for Eunie at the Chapel at Divine Word University are progressing smoothly. Yesterday, I burned a CD full of Neil Diamond songs to play before and after the service. Later today, I will organise photographs on a flash drive to be displayed on the big LCD screen in the Chapel. These are small tasks which were assigned to me by the little “committee” of friends who are carrying the main load of organising the event. I was glad to have something to do which I probably could not mess up.

Tomorrow will mark one month since Eunie’s death. I think that that is the first time that I’ve used the word – death. Possibly this marks the end of my daily walk with denial.

This is the first sunrise which I have captured since before leaving for Australia:

The mornings have been mostly cloudy. Starting at about 05:30, when the sky begins to lighten, I can tell, by looking out the bedroom window, whether there will be a decent sunrise or not. Though I’m looking west, I can see the general colour of the sky and judge the brightness. If it looks promising, I’ll get out of bed and look out the front of the house. Yesterday, it was worth getting up.

Here is a particularly good image of a Red and Black Anemonefish (Amphiprion melanopus):

Its wholesome goodness comes from its very accurate colours. The conditions were perfect for a good shot. It was taken in about seven metres of fairly clear water with a bright, thin neutral white cloud cover which provided flat and untinted light. I’m quite happy with this one.

While our little troop of was back in Gympie at the home of Val Jerram preparing to scatter back to our own places we found this very amusing lizard under Val’s veranda:

That’s Carol Dover’s hand in the shot to give some scale. It’s not huge by Australian lizard standards, but it does look as if it might inflict some damage if it bit. Dr. Robert Sprackland sent a copy of his new book, Guide to Lizards,  because it has one of my images in it. I could not find this lizard in it. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it’s rare? Seems unlikely.

UPDATE: Reader Madcap Maven left a comment identifying the lizard as a Tiliqua scincoides scincoides,  the Eastern Blue-tongued Lizard. Her ID checks out. I consulted the Ultimate Resource, Wikipedia. You can read her message in the Comments at the end of this post.

Since I’m just rambling here I’ll throw in this interesting image by Lindsay Smith:

It’s a strange, moody piece.

Last, but not least, here is a beautiful shot by Alison Raynor titled Toogoolawah Sunset:

Someday I hope to visit Toogoolawah. It seems a peaceful place.

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More Mount Beppo – Guest Shooter Alison Raynor

Posted in Guest Shots on September 19th, 2010 by MadDog
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I need to persuade my head to give me a break from my own difficulties for an hour or so. Let’s have some beautiful images from our guest shooter, Alison Raynor. Alison lives in Toogoolawah in Queensland, Australia. She has been a guest shooter here before. She is getting right into sunrises and has sent me some very nice ones. I’ll devote most of this post to her images and fill in at the end with an update on my currently miserable life.

This is not the prettiest of the lot, but it has four items of interest, namely four black cockatoos. You may have to click to enlarge to see them:

Along with the photo, Alison included this amusing comment.

The old farmers here have a  saying that, when there are an uneven number of black cockatoos overhead that means that there will be rain.  Well, it’s an interesting theory which can be listed alongside the one that says that if you see the long neck turtles walking uphill it is also a sign of BIG rain, not to mention the swarming of the flying ants (termites) that are said to mean HUGE rain, possibly floods (if the swarm is big enough).   The thing is, that the later two are both quite accurate and make sense if one chooses to analise the natural reasoning behind what initially seems to be a crazy “old cockies tail”.

I did not count the total number of cockatoos this morning, as I was too busy with the camera, but soon found out that the stunning light and colour show that was capturing  my attention in the east was actually an  insidious diversion for what was  sneaking up and preparing to thrash me from behind. A big thunderous black cloud full of flatulence and cold water. Mmmmmm?

Here is another more colourful shot:

And one even more so:

The best of the bunch, I’d say.

In the cloud here I see some curious banding which I can’t explain:

Is it an omen? No, wait. I don’t believe in omens. I’d go really crazy if I did.

This isn’t a sunrise, but it’s my favourite of these images:

Alison’s veranda looks like a peaceful place to me. I’d like to spend some time there – in a peaceful place.

Thank you, Alison for a little time off.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The ruckus in my head continues – intensifies. When it rains it pours. I won’t bore you with the growing list of Things I Never Thought Of. Let’s just say that every day seems to bring some new, terrifying fact to light. The renter in the house in Brownsburg has chosen this fine time to move out, leaving me with a house that’s empty, earning no income and not in good shape. Oh, did I mention that I have joined the immense club of those owing more on their house than it’s worth and having no money to pay the payments? Yes, that’s me – a joiner.

Does grief magnify one’s problems? I suppose it could. I don’t know. This is my first experience with bone-rattling grief – the kind of grief that makes you feel weak and shaky all the time and won’t let you sleep.

By the way, I’ve stopped asking what else can go wrong.

The possible answers terrify me.

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Sunset – Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts, On Tthe Road on September 9th, 2010 by MadDog
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Man, this is hard. I don’t know how to write this. I just have to put one word in front of another. Eunie was one of those people who you feel like will be around forever. We know it’s not true, but we don’t want to think about not having her.

Yesterday morning, after only a couple of hours of discomfort, she asked for some stronger pain relief. Shortly afterwards she fell asleep and her breathing calmed and she was peaceful. Not long after that, her spirit departed her body.

It has been only a few weeks that we have known that Eunie was seriously ill. Eunie feared few things in life. She was one the most fiercely brave people I have ever known. She did not, however, want to have anything at all to do with pain. The fact that she left us so peacefully and without pain was a blessing to us all.

So, Eunie’s sunset in now complete. The lightning in the image above represents her amazing spirit.

After every sunset, there is another sunrise. This is the way the world turns. So it is with the spirit, as I believe. If I did not believe so, I would not be able to carry on. I carry on now because of this promise and because to falter and waste away would be a dishonour to Eunie.

Eunie’s sunrise must be truly glorious.

I have no more words for now. I don’t know what the next few days will bring. Hans is going back to his family in Canada tomorrow morning. I have my remaining support team here with me – Marg and Mick Horwood tonight at their house and Val Jerram, Rich Jones and Carol Dover who will be travelling to Gympie with me to Val’s home.

Sometime next week I will return to Madang. I both long for and dread it. I’ve never felt such conflicting emotions. To those in Madang:  you are getting back a shell of a man, but I have no fear that all will be well after a while. Life for me will never be “normal” – as it seemed before. I have to hang onto the hope that there will be a new sunrise for me.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was stunned to see that there were 28 comments waiting for me this morning. I can’t possibly answer each one, but I do read every one.

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No Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Of course, I don’t mean that literally. The sun did  come up this morning. The resulting light show was very subdued, but it had a power of its own, so it seemed worth capturing. Ordinarily, this gloomy display would urge me into a similar mood. I seem strangely unaffected by it today, though I know that Eunie will complain, “It reminds me of winter.”

After yesterday’s Marathon of babel, my word machine is in recovery mode. Today will be Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  Lite. I ran through a few images from the last week and came up with these. 

As I was driving past the location of the Arcade fire some time ago I snapped this shot:

The remains of the building are gradually disappearing. If left long enough there will be no expense for removing it. Gradually, bit by bit, every scrap of it will be carried off.

If you look just to the right of the remains of the Arcade in the image above, you will see a vacant lot. That is the former location of the Chemcare pharmacy. After the fire, over a period of months, the lot was picked clean. Here is a shot of our old friend Greg O’Keefe looking a bit glum as his workplace goes up in smoke:

We’ll see how long it takes to have two vacant lots in a row.

On Sunday morning I went over to the beautiful grounds of The Madang Lodge and Restaurant to shoot some family portraits for our friends Jimm and Heidi. They have been absent from Madang for a while, so I’m including this shot so that their friends can see that the family is well and enjoying a visit to Madang:

Getting Keyen to pose is not unlike herding cats. In principle it should work, but in practice . . .

While at The Lodge, I got this nice shot of the Finisterre Mountains  across Astrolabe Bay  with the swimming pool in the foreground:

The Lodge is one of my favourite spots to get images of friends. The garden is immaculate and a riot of colours.

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