Jesus Racing and More Coral

Posted in Mixed Nuts, Under the Sea on March 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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All of my friends here in Madang know that I am a Christian believer and they know that I make my living, or some of it anyway, working in a Christian mission that translates the Bible into the local languages. And, they all know that I don’t shove that in their faces. Most of them are simply not interested. I discuss matters of belief only when someone raises the topic. Therefore, “in your face” evangelism and pushy tactics make me uncomfortable. I don’t think that it’s nice and I don’t think that it’s effective.

So, I was disconcerted when my good friends Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons, whom I recently joined in wedlock, passed to me these images which they snapped on the highway during a pleasant visit to Oz. This is something that you don’t see every day:When I first saw JesusRacing, I rolled my eyes.

And then I remembered the days of my youth when I spent many Sunday mornings with my Austin-Healey Sprite at the local abandoned air strip with the Sports Car Club of America crowd enjoying the smell of burning rubber and castor oil (yes we put castor oil in the crankcases – weird, eh?). There was a very active and successful racer who held interdenominational church services every week on the circuit for those who cared to come. Many people attended who were obviously not part of the churchy crowd, but simply enjoyed the company of fellow racers and didn’t mind the religious falderal.

I asked him once if it bothered him that he never went to church on Sundays. He said something like, “I like racing the way Jesus liked parties.” Puzzled, I asked him to elucidate. He said, “Well, Jesus performed his first miracle by turning the water into wine at a wedding party.” The conversation went on and I soon had a rather different view than I previously held.The web site is interesting, primarily because there’s an honesty there which you often don’t see in “promotional” evangelism. For instance, Andrew “Fishtail” Fisher explains the difficulties of financing the expensive sport of motor racing while excluding commercial sponsorship. “Confusion of the message” is the problem, as he puts it.

I’m odly ambiguous about this. On one hand, it makes me squirm a little. Maybe a little too flash, eh? On the other hand if you can plaster ads for laundry detergent all over a top NASCAR bullet to sell your soap to women, why not write Jesus in bright red letters on your car if that is your message? Some will laugh and scoff. But, isn’t that slightly hypocritical? Which is the more profound message, soap or Jesus? Even if you think that they are both equally inane, my question is the same, “Then what’s your problem?”

As soon as I get over this sinus infection and I’m off the “antibiotic of last resort” I’m going to hoist a brew to the folks at JesusRacing. Or maybe a glass of red would be more appropriate.

Thanks, Trevor and Karen.

What would Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  be without something that smells like fish? I shall now deliver.

Here’s another something that you don’t see every day. It’s Bubble Coral (Plerogyra sinuosa):And yes, it does look exactly like bubbles. Under the bubbles are ridges that are as sharp as razors. I won’t say that I popped a bubble once to see how tough it was and got cut. No, I won’t say that. It would make me seem even more stupid than I am. The yellowish fingery looking stuff in the image above is Lobed Leather Coral, a species of Lobophytum.

This coral is a nasty customer. I’m talking about the gooey looking mass of macaroni like blobs in the centre. The things on the left are sponges. The coral is Euphyllia glabrescens:The operative word here is “ouch”. I once made the tragic mistake of draging my arm across a mass of this stuff while lining up for a shot. I had no wetsuit on that day. I will not  do that  again.

I call this stuff “underwater napalm”. It is very sticky and wherever it touches your skin it feels as if you’ve been sprayed with molten steel:What’s worse is that if your try to scrape it off the pain simply gets worse and the stuff spread like it’s alive. Well, it is  alive, for pity’s sake and it’s going to get even with you for disturbing its peace. It even looks evil. It reminds me of a heap of tiny ears.

Okay, I’m out of words now. I’ll be here tomorrow again to say Hello to you and spout the same old gibberish.

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A Feather for the Captain’s Hat

Posted in Under the Sea on March 17th, 2010 by MadDog
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The steam from the Saturday dive at Magic Passage has just about run cool, so tomorrow I’ll have to invent something different with which to annoy you. It shouldn’t be difficult, as that’s one of my genuine talents.

Speaking of annoying, we had a bit of a fracas at the office yesterday. Our outside IT consultant, Mark, who has been wonderfully helpful to me as I’ve been rolling out a completely new network, inadvertently left a desktop computer system unit in his vehicle. We heard frantic cries from our receptionist, Ruth, that someone had stolen the computer from Mark’s car. A couple of people out in the street were pointing in a general direction, so Mark and I gave chase. I’m sixty-six, but fit, so I hotfooted it around following peoples’ pointings until I ended up with someone who said that the thieves gone to the bus stop near the market. Mark was on his cell phone and talking to bystanders, so he had to catch up with me.

Some people waiting for vehicles at the stop had seen the boys carrying the computer and told us what bus they had taken. Mark’s call to the cops actually got some attention and they soon gave chase. We never got the afternoon’s work finished, but at least Mark found out where the computer went. Now all that remains is to “extract” it from the thief.

I won’t make an example of Papua New Guinea, since the same thing happens everywhere. However, I will ask why so many people witnessed what was obviously a crime and did absolutely nothing to thwart it? If I had seen kids breaking into a car and filching the contents I would have done something,  though I’m not sure what. It would depend on the situation.

In fairness, I should mention that some people came to the office door immediately to tell us that the computer had grown legs.

And now, for something completely different:That’s a nice little reef scene in which I was hoping to get a nice image of the anemonefish. Just as I was taking the shot, an Angelfish swam past. I can’t identify it, but it is certainly very pretty.

Later, I was attracted to this very nice, neat round Acropora hyacinthus  coral with a pretty little reef scene behind it:There were many feather stars waving around in the fairly strong current, so I decided to snap a few.

These are all Comantheria briareus,  as near as I can tell. The taxonomy is a little confusing and many species can be identified only by counting the arms, something which I am not going to do:The arms are extremely sticky, being like Velcro. They will stick to anything, your hand, your wetsuit, fins, camera, etc. The arms tear off when they stick, so we try to be very careful when moving around them. It’s far too easy damage a feather star by simply brushing against it.

Here’s an nice shot showing how they attach themselves to the bottom by grabbing on with their “feet”:There are many subtle colours, even within the same species.Okay, that’s the feather bit. How about the Captain’s Hat?

I’m not a guy to shy away from beauty, wherever I find it. Anyone who is a regular reader will know that. I found a bit of beauty on Sanguma  on Saturday when Jennifer Miller was modeling her new hat. Jenn is usually found in the company of my good friend Richard Jones who, along with our mutual mate, Pascal Michon, our resident Frenchman, have purchased Sanguma  from our other mutual buddy, Trevor Hattersley:I think the Captain’s Hat is donned in celebration of the recent purchase. I don’t really care, because Jenn needs no further adornment. She’s a lovely lady and a dear friend to all of us motley expatriate crew.

So, congratulations to Captain Jenn and shipmates Rich and Pascal. May you catch many large fish and share the occasional nice filet of Spanish Mackerel with your poor, non-fishing dive buddy.

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More Wedding Pics – Trevor and Karen

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 15th, 2009 by MadDog
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I have a few less formal shots from the wedding of Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons last Saturday. I had a great time. I love weddings. I’ve performed marriages for sixteen couples since I became a Registered Celebrant ten years or so ago. As far as I know, all but one couple are still together. That’s a pretty good record, but I can’t make any claim on it. Finding a mate is a crap-shoot.

We had a batch of Champagne that was inordinately difficult to open. Here’s our Master of Ceremonies, Mike Cassell doing his “Power Opening” trick for the ladies:

Master of Ceremonies Mike Cassell
They were most appreciative. By the way, the new construction at Blueblood isn’t quite finished, as you can see. The broom is for cleaning up broken wine glasses, of which there were quite a few.

Here’s Trevor looking very relaxed, compared to an hour earlier, as he toasts his bride, Karen:

A toasting Trevor Hattersley

You may have noticed that the dress code at the wedding was “Tropical Whatever”.

And here is Trevor as we all know him – doing something iffy with a lady. His iffy somethings are now going to be limited to a single recipient. Lucky guy!Trevor doing something strange with Karen

The winner of the Spiffy Gentleman’s Outfit  prize went to Charlie Edmund who, while tardy in arrival, was resplendent in attire:

Charlie Edmund

Did you ever see a necktie glow like that? I think that he’s making some kind of point here in this image. That would be very much in character.

This is a sight which several people claimed had never before been seen – our very own charming and oh, so cherished Dr. John “Tinpis” Mackerel in the ocean!Dr. John "Tinpis" Mackerel in the drink

And here are two fools, whose identity I will conceal out of pure mercy, attempting to stand up on a sailboard:Two fools trying to stand on a sailboard

Never let it be said that this was not a joyous day for all.

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A Marriage of Equals – Trevor and Karen

Posted in Madang Happenings, Mixed Nuts on November 9th, 2009 by MadDog
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It would be far too easy for me to make myself the actor in this little scene. And it’s very difficult to avoid the temptation. It’s not often that one gets to be so intimately involved, in such a positive and enduring way, in the lives of one’s closest friends. On Saturday, I was privileged to be the Registered Celebrant at the wedding of Trevor Hattersley and Karen Simmons. Here is the cover of the Wedding Program:

A Marriage of Equals - Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Program

Trevor and Karen chose every word spoken in their wedding ceremony. Trevor said that he had thought about it “for weeks” and came up with a program over which they toiled for perfection for a few days. I much prefer that couples write their own ceremonies. These two did the job perfectly.

Fiona Buffini read The Selfish Giant  by Oscar Wilde. It was wondrous to watch faces progress from puzzlement to comprehension as the story unfolded. It’s a wonderful tale of transformation.  Then I said my little bit to get the show rolling. Trevor and Karen read their identical vows in unison, again speaking their own words. The mixture of laughter and tears during this brief performance was most touching and not a little amusing:

The Wedding Service

The formalities and Signing of the Registry being duly completed, we proceeded eventually to the Cake Cutting:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - Cutting the "cake"

Pascal’s “Best Man’s Speech” was one of the tamer of those that I have heard. I have to commend Dr. Michon for showing remarkable restraint.

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - Pascal's speech

Here’s a nice shot of Trevor, Karen and Alexander:

Trevor, Karen and Alexander

And, the obligatory Wedding Party Scene:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Party

Plus the obilgatory bigger wedding party scene:

A Wedding Party Scene - Trevor Hattersley and Karen SimmonsAnd now we get all of the women with Trevor:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Women with the Groom

And all of the men with Karen:

Wedding of Trevor and Karen - The Wedding Men with the Bride

I can’t say any more. It was Trevor and Karen’s day. What it meant to me to be honoured by them in this way is obvious. To put words to it would be to diminish it.

So, I’ll close by wishing my dear friends all of the happiness that life has brought to me through my marriage.

It should happen for all of us.

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A Gathering of the Worst Pool Shots on the Planet

Posted in Mixed Nuts on November 6th, 2009 by MadDog
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Last Tuesday evening a small group of Trevor Hattersley’s friends gathered at the Madang Club to celebrate his impending marriage to Karen Simmons. The event started with the usual Stag Party nonsense. I should mention, however, that it was remarkably constrained. I’ve been to a few of these before. This was tame by comparison. A few beers were consumed, a few cigars smoked and a smattering of mildly off-colour jokes were offered.

Then occurred the tragedy. Someone, who shall remain nameless (as shall all of the participants) decided, in a moment of dementia, that we should all  play pool at one  table. Then commenced a game of pool the rules of which were so arcane and complex that I had already lost K50 by the time that I figured out by osmosis when it was my turn to shoot.

About half-way through the game, the rules were changed once again. Anyone who dropped the cue ball had to down a shot. Fortunately I had already switched to soda water as my beverage. I dropped the cue four times and dutifully downed four shots of Cointreau. When I woke up in the morning clear headed I could still taste oranges.

This is the man responsible for this debacle:The about to be married Trevor Hattersley

An now, for your amazement, I present a large gallery of those who could arguably be named the “World’s Worst Pool Shots”:

It will be a while before I do this again.

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Colourful Fish and a Weird Sea Monster

Posted in Under the Sea on November 5th, 2009 by MadDog
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If you’ve ever even heard of a salp, I’d be surprised. They are seldom seen by humans who are not intimately involved with the sea, literally submerged in it. While I have seen large specimens on several occasions while diving, I’ve never had my camera with me. So much for luck. To make it worse, Trevor Hattersley recently got a fairly good shot of a salp from his boat:Salp by Trevor HattersleyIt’s worth a look here and here to see the details of these critters (actually a bunch of critters travelling together – a colonial animal). There are many different kinds. As you can see, this one is almost completely transparent. With just a bit of imagination you can see a hint of the segmentation, if you click to enlarge.

So much for the monster.

I showed you an image of a Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniata) yesterday the tail of which I had accidentally amputated in my rush to get the shot. I thought that you might like to see the whole fish. I just happen to have a couple of nice specimen shots from a while back:

Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniata)

I really like this fish. It’s pretty beyond reason. Click on these to have a look at the shading around the caudal fin (tail):Coral Grouper (Cephalopholis miniata)That’s a fairly serious fish.

I also have comical fish. Clown fish, in fact. This is the real Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula) – no kidding:Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)Disney did not have to do much to this fish to turn it into Nemo.

For those peculiar folk like me who prefer a specimen shot, here it is:Clown Anemonefish (Amphiprion percula)It’s worth clicking on this one to see the incredible violet shading on the edges of the fins, particularly the pectoral.

An now, since I’m in a nutty mood (actually got a couple of things to work correctly at the office today), let me give you the nut’s nemesis, the Squirrelfish, specifically the Blackfin Squirrelfish (Neoniphon opercularis):

Blackfin Squirrelfish (Neoniphon opercularis)This is one of those fish that is easy to overlook when diving. It’s not too flashy and it plays hide-and-seek with a vengeance. However, if you can get a good look at one, you begin to appreciate it.

I’ve been rummaging through my thousands of shots that you’ve never seen. Some of them are not too shabby. Expect a fairly steady diet of fish for a while.

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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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