Testing My Jetpack

Adding a contact form… hmmm not working for some reason. The popup does not load completely. Worked fine on Taliea’s site though…

Update – it works at home. Must be the firewall at work blocking the popup form from Jetpack

How about a PayPal button?





That seems to work

Ugh Living On Guam

One thing you learn living on Guam – buy stuff in bulk. Things can be in the store one day, two days, a month, and then just disappear forever. And nothing but bemused looks from the clerks in the store.

I remember once I went to the grocery store looking for a particular product, I believe it was hummus. It wasn’t on the shelf anymore. I asked the guy stocking the shelves and he actually told me that yeah, they had a hard time keeping that product in stock, so they just stopped ordering it. Huh?? Something is selling like hotcakes, so you just decide to not bother with re-ordering? That makes no sense.

So we bought this fish tank kit back in December for the kids; fish tank, gravel, chemical drops, filter packs and the pump. It was pretty cool, and the kids enjoyed the fish we got them, 3 regular platy’s and a swordtail platy.

Well the charcoal filter packs are only designed for two weeks of use, so after the sampler 2 pack was gone, I went to the pet store to pick up a couple more. And of course they didn’t have the replacement filters. Spoke with the store owner and a couple guys at the store and they suggest I just purchase a rival’s filter, cut it to size with a scissors and that would work just great. And they would order the actual filter I was looking for, since they were selling a lot of that aquarium kit.

Suffice to say that replacement filter hack did not work out too well. The pump got clogged up since I was using the wrong filter that didn’t really fit the housing. After a couple weeks of that, I pulled the pump cleaned it out and ordered the filter from Amazon. That fixed things, though the pump was rather anemic after that incident. The pump struggled on until last week, when it pooped out and would not start up again.

I visited the pet store again today, looking to get a new pump and some filters. After all, that incident with the filters happened in early January. It’s late March, they should have gotten their order delivered. Yeah, that order never really happened. No filters, no replacement pumps, not even for the rival brand who’s filter pack I still have lying around. Sheesh. Only option was the the gigantic jumbo size pump of a third competitor, the kind of thing for a huge tank like my brother owns.

Hopped on Amazon back at my computer. Cool beans they have everything I need, pumps, filters, even replacement drops and whatnot. Order up – and DENIED. The pump cannot be delivered to my location on Guam, perhaps I could ship it to another location in the States? Same thing with eBay, where I could probably buy a human kidney and unicorn horns if I looked hard enough. Nobody wants to ship to Guam.

The swordtail platy died last night. We are down to 1 fish left because that swordtail was a mean bastard and harassed the other fish mercilessly until they all died but one. I am guessing that poor little guy’s days are numbered too now, especially since the water is getting murkier by the day. A casualty of our island’s poor logistics.

Superbowl?

Yeah, funny thing about living on Guam. I just can’t get into watching the Superbowl on a Monday morning. In years past I would go to one of these Superbowl parties at local hotels and restaurants. And of course friend’s parties. But I just can’t get my head around drinking beers on a Monday morning, let along eating ‘game food’ – guess I am turning into a fuddy duddy.

Get Your Shop On At Color Guam

A few people have asked me about getting a copy of the the Color Guam book for the holidays. Here’s a rundown right now:

  • Bestseller Books
  • Payless Markets; Oka, Mangilao, Dededo, Agana Shopping Center, Sinajana
  • A&L Crafts at Chamorro Village
  • GUMA Gallery at Chamorro Village
  • DFS T Galleria
  • JP Superstore
  • National Office Supply
  • Bon Voyage Stores
  • Faith Book Store
  • Navy Exchange
  • Playport
  • Two Lover’s Point Gallery

Additionally, our online store at Color Guam is open 24/7. If you are off island, this is easily your best bet for getting a copy of the book. And if you are on Guam, save yourself the hassle of traffic and crowds and shop online with Color Guam.

9 Views of Guam

Huge props and congratulations to my wife for her art show!

9 Views of Guam opened on Friday December 4th at the CAHA art gallery in Hagåtña. Taliea and two other artists, Jessie Snyder and Amber Word, took to the social media sites several months ago and asked for people to submit their favorite locations on Guam. Each artist would then create a piece inspired by that location. Nine locations were requested, so the show features 27 original works of art.


The Pacific Daily News featured the show last Friday.

Power Power Power

So the load shedding stopped midweek. GPA managed to get two generators online, so load shedding was not necessary.

Looks like my washer did not survive the ordeal though. The spin cycle is not working, and the repair guy says this is something that can happen with power outages. And of course the parts to fix it are not available. Great.

Yep, It’s Load Shedding Time

Just to confirm my last post…

Yes, Guam is in the midst of load shedding again. This was a common theme throughout the 90’s on Guam, with months and months of load shedding. At the time, my response was to just stay late at the office (with backup generators) then hit a couple bars and not come home until later at night when the demand for power was less and load shedding was over. Not really an option this time around. There are kids to be fed and bathed now, homework to be done, laundry, dishes, etc.

Sunday night GPA took a couple more generators off line and finally owned up to the situation. Instead of just bonking out neighborhoods at random they have started publishing schedules for load shedding. Back in the 90’s they were terrible at keeping to their schedules, and it would appear they still have difficulties. My power went out at about 10:15 last night, so I went around and secured the house, brushed my teeth and headed to bed. As soon as I laid down however, the power came back on about 30 minutes later.

I am sure this is just going to cause havoc with my appliances and the computer, tv, etc. Time to just keep those things off indefinitely and hunker down with flashlights and candles. And here I was so excited about the new solar farm coming online. Maybe it’s time to talk to Pacific Solar or Micronesia Renewable Energy about outfitting my house for solar power. Both these outfits offer affordable plans and basically take the place of GPA as the power utility. They take the excess power harvested from my rooftop (like during the day when I am at work and all that sunlight is shining on my empty house) and sell it to GPA. Guess I should make a phone call and find out if they can help with this load shedding situation.

Power’s Out

is this a return to load shedding?  Sitting around in the dark with two screaming kids is no fun. 

I thought the days of load shedding were behind us, but GPA had a catastrophic fire at the Cabras Power Plant on August 30.

Nut Graph

Listening to Marketplace this morning on the way into work with the kids. Kai Ryssdal was talking about the Federal Reserve not raising interest rates, and I swear here said “For those of you in a hurry, here’s the nut grab, the Fed is not raising rates now.”

Huh? Did he just say ‘nut grab?’ While that would certainly get my attention, I have never heard that turn of phrase before, let alone coming from a broadcast radio announcer on public radio for chrissakes. Doesn’t seem like something that would get past the censors.

Well a little investigation – basically downloading the mp3 file and listening again and again – I think I just misheard him and he really said ‘nut graph.’ And while I still have never heard of nut graph before, Wikipedia does tell me this is actually a term used by journalists. It is a contraction of ‘nutshell paragraph,’ the leading paragraph of a story that encapsulates the essential information in a short sentence or two. Okay, that makes much more sense.

Still I like ‘nut grab.’ Seems more visceral and on point. Actually reminds me of another malaprop I had back in 2004 or so, when I heard about the governor of Iowa was running for president or might be a vice presidental candidate. I swear I heard his name was Tom Ballsack the first couple times it was mentioned on the radio.

Hmm, nut grab, ballsack… I sense a certain Freudian trend in my malaprops.

Color Guam Free Tour Tomorrow

Tomorrow will be the third in our free historical tours we are conducting in association with our book launch. On Saturday 8/29/2015, I will be leading the hike around the South Pacific Memorial Peace Park in Yigo. Meet Taliea, our kids, and me at the Peace Park at 10:00 am tomorrow and we will tour around the site for about an hour. Hope to see you there!

The park is located below:
[map lat=”13.5439194″ lng=”144.8842965″ height=’400px’ zoom=15]South Pacific Memorial Park, Yigo[/map]

Map Rage

I simply cannot believe how difficult this was to accomplish. I am still no entirely convinced this is a stable solution. It seemed like such a simple, common thing; embedding a google map onto a WordPress blog post. Silly me.

This is the result of three hours of work, and I still don’t have it the way I like. It is not formatting to the height or width I want…

[map lat=”13.5439194″ lng=”144.8842965″ height=’400px’ zoom=15]South Pacific Memorial Park, Yigo[/map]

At least the damn map is displaying at last.

Apparently something in this install of WordPress has disabled short codes, iframes and oembed, or has some sort of grievance with Google Maps. I tried over and over to drop a map into this post and nothing worked. I tried two or three methods mentioned in all the tutorials online in vain, then I went through four plugins to no avail, and finally edited in the functions.php file for this install. All for naught. Frustrating.

Finally got a plugin that seems to work at least. But none of the formatting options are working. Shouldn’t be this hard to embed a damn map.

UPDATE — Aha! The parameters need to be passed as numbers not strings. OR NOT. God this so frustrating. Only the zoom level parameter needs to be passed as an integer. Height and width are still not working. Either the parameter name is wrong (which I strongly suspect) or the format is wrong. I dunno and I don’t care anymore.

Final UPDATE — Okay. So the zoom level is set by an integer with no quotes. Latitude and Longitude are strings wrapped in double quotes, and map height is a string set by single quotes. However… The default map height overrides any customizations I make in the embed code. So I had to go edit the default map height parameter in the plugin settings page. Finally got my map at the height and zoom level I wanted. That only took four hours to figure out. Jesus.

Now, if I could just figure out how to enable satellite view instead of road map view…

WordPress Has An App

Don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before, but WordPress has an app to perform basic functions like posting.  

Not exactly fun tapping out this post however.  More like pulling teeth. Guess it works in a pinch. 

Weekend Getaway At The Westin

The family took a short staycation at the Westin Resort in Tumon this weekend. We felt bad that summer vacation was over and we didn’t take the kids anywhere this year. We’ve promised Lorelei a trip for ages now, and it just hasn’t materialized yet, so this was a compromise solution. I had enough points with the Starwood Preferred Guest program for a free night, so why not spend it up in town with the kids?

We checked in Saturday afternoon after Taliea’s book signing event at Navy Exchange, then spent the rest of the afternoon swimming in the pool and playing on the beach. The kids loved it, we didn’t have to pack it in and head home at sunset for once. We stayed on the beach until sunset, then went and played in the pool until well after dark.

Dinner Saturday night was at the always tasty Cat Crea Cafe, a quirky cafe located just outside the Westin’s property. We took a short walk down the hill to Paradise Island (do they still call it that?) and through the Plaza, the Outrigger Hotel lobby and into the new Dusit Thani Hotel’s lobby and grounds. The pool looks amazing at night, there are LED lights in the bottom that sparkle and change color slowly.

A couple of adventures later, and we were back at the Westin by 10:00 pm for lights out and a good night’s rest on their famous beds.

Sunday started out early, as we had another surprise for the children. Breakfast at McDonald’s was tasty, they make good pancakes there. Not as good as mine, but certainly a morning highlight. One thing I couldn’t understand was the line wrapped around the building for Eggs ‘N Things, a Hawaii based chain restaurant that specializes in breakfast. Sorry, I am not waiting in the broiling sun for two hours to eat breakfast, no matter how good it tastes.

After breakfast we headed to the big event for Sunday; a surprise trip on Ride the Ducks Guam! The kids have been begging to go on the iconic amphibious vehicle tour for a year now, ever since the Ducks first arrived on Guam. We booked for the first tour of that morning as Taliea thought it would be too hot later in the day. Taliea played it up as a big surprise and wouldn’t tell the kids why we were just hanging out in the lobby of the Sandcastle on a Sunday morning. Just when the kids were about to revolt because of all this boring sitting around stuff, the Duck waddled around the corner of the building and parked outside. The kids absolutely freaked out, Russell was jumping up and down and Lorelei had this huge grin on her face.

The tour started a bit later, and the Duck was fully loaded with Japanese tourists. The overhead audio tour was all in Japanese, but we were provided with headphones and plugged into an audio jack for the English version. I didn’t bother with it after listening for ten seconds to the nonsense, but it was a nice touch. Other languages are available on different channels via the headphones too.

The tour headed south through Tumon and into Tamuning, past GPO and onto Marine Drive. We amused ourselves with the Duck Polka music and the squawking duck noise makers we received back at Sandcastle. After a brief ride the Duck arrived at Apra Harbor, drove past the power plants and commercial port and arrived at the old Cabras seaplane ramp. There the bus driver switched out with a boat captain, who took over and plunged us into the water. The kids loved it, but let’s just say a Duck is not exactly a nimble beast in the ocean. We puttered around the harbor for about a half hour, during which all the kids on board got a chance to drive the Duck around. Lorelei took a turn at the wheel, then Russell too.

After pulling out of the water and switching back to the bus driver, we resumed our tour with a brief loop through Hagåtña, back to Tumon and a swing past the other Baldyga Group property, The Beach. Apparently the Lina’la Cultural Park next to the beach is closed, which is a shame. Taliea said she thought the historical village had been damaged during our recent typhoons. I hope the place reopens soon, that is another place on our bucket list for kid’s activities.

The Duck bus dropped us back at the Sandcastle shortly before 11:00 am, and we headed back to the hotel. A couple more hours of swimming at the pool ensued, followed by a late checkout at 3:00 pm. Lots of fun activities for just 24 hours up ‘in town’ as my boy likes to say.

Three Cheers For Google

I recently picked up a couple used Google Nexus 7 tablets for the kids. My daughter had one for about a year, but it got submerged in a storm sewer last November (that’s a story for another day). With the prices being so affordable now, I picked up two about a week ago. Sure the device is three years old, but it is still plenty fast for the kids to use. One for her, one for the boy. They arrived on Saturday, and they were presented to the kids during our brief staycation at the Westin this weekend.

Barely 24 hours after getting his tablet, my son broke his screen. Argh. It was in the biggest, most protective case I could find online for the Nexus 7 too. No stopping an irate 4 year old with no parental supervision I guess.

That evening I assessed the damage and took a stab at repairing the device. I still had the water damaged Nexus 7 from last year’s fiasco; it never worked again, despite being taken apart and stowed in a ziploc bag with uncooked rice for a week to draw out all the moisture. But it was stashed away in a drawer because I figured it could be used for parts someday. I actually replaced the screen and the speakers on that old device last summer after my daughter dropped it and I was surprised at how simple it was to disassemble and replace parts on the machine. A far cry from working on Apple iOS devices like the iPod Touch and the iPad. I worked on several of those the last few years and I don’t relish the idea of doing it again.

So kudos to iFixit for their simple and easy to follow instructions. Kudos to Asus and Google for making such an easy to repair device. After about a half hour of tinkering with the two devices, I was able to cobble together a working tablet with the old device’s screen and the new one’s innards and back casing. Kudos to Asus and Google again for making such a rugged device that the screen still works after being submerged for several hours in rain water. Well done everyone.

So now the boy has a working device again – but I think he will have to wait a few days before it magically makes a reappearance, this time under constant supervision. I don’t have any more of these things just lying around.

PS – Here’s a great tip for speeding up the Nexus 7 after upgrading to Lollipop. Follow this guy’s instructions to delete the upgrade cache files to free up space and improve performance.

One Last Thing For Today

Wow,

That’s more blogging in one morning than I’ve done in almost a decade.

Anyway, heading out with the family for a brief staycation. Till then feast your eyes on this:

Dark side of the moon crosses the Pacific in DSCOVER image from NASA

That’s the dark side of the moon passing in front of the Earth, taken last month by NASA’s newest solar probe, DSCOVER, located a million miles out from Earth. It is really amazing to see how dark the moon is when compared to the brilliant blue white jewel behind it. Also, check out the hurricane churning off the coast of Mexico, that’s pretty cool too.

Talking Statues

Just caught this story on CBS this morning and it struck a nerve:

More than 30 historical figures and monuments around Chicago have been outfitted with mobile technology. It allows them to have their voice and even give their opinions, CBS News’ Dean Reynolds reports.

Basically the city of Chicago installed plaques next to the statues with QR Codes displayed. People scan the QR Code and it plays audio recorded by celebrities associated with Chicago.

Statue Stories Chicago runs for the next year and it is garnering all sorts of positive press. Hopefully this program encourages people to explore the wonderful city of Chicago and learn about the history of the city of broad shoulders. This sounds like a great idea, but I can’t help but think it seems a bit familiar somehow

Goodbye Fink > Hello Brew

Spent some time this morning trying to install some software (lynx actually – anybody remember that?) on my iMac. I tried using Fink, but apparently the repos are no longer maintained, or have shifted their location.

This led down a rathole for almost two hours as I tried to get Fink update and upgraded to use OS X 10.9 Mavericks. I originally installed Fink many many years ago on OS X 10.5 Snow Leopard. Yeah my iMac is that old. Still kicking though.

Anyway, it proved insurmountable to me. I am sure a couple more hours of tinkering and I would have set the path to the 64 bit binaries, but my frustration bucket was filled by 11:30 am. With no clear upgrade path and I ended up uninstalling Fink. And I was fine with that. But then the Mavericks distro required me to compile from source. Ugh. Fink was clearly showing its age, and a cursory examination of the packages in the 10.9 distribution was less than exciting. Too much friction, not enough payoff. Sayonara Fink.

But I felt I needed a package manager – I still wanted to scratch that geeky itch and install Lynx. And I didn’t want to compile it from source. I got two kids running underfoot this morning, I can’t focus completely on the computer.

So enter Homebrew, a more modern package manager built around Ruby and Git, two tools I am quite familiar with. Took about four minutes to download and install and now – presto – I have lynx running on my computer. And now I have htop too, my favorite activity monitoring tool these days. Gosh that was painless. Hey about another trip down memory lane with tin? Crikey that works too! I will draw the line at elm however.

Television On Guam

Let’s talk about television on Guam.

We cut the cord years ago, and got rid of cable in 2011. Been streaming Netflix and Youtube on the TV ever since, but I missed live sports. Especially football. So last year I installed a television antenna on my roof last Christmas and now I get seven glorious channels of digital content (and one fuzzy regular TV station) here on Guam.

  1. NBC affiliate KUAM NBC at 8.1
  2. CBS affiliate KUAM CBS at 8.2 (hellooo football…)
  3. PBS affiliate KGTF at 12.1 and 12.2
    1. 12.1 is the regular station; Masterpiece Theater, NOVA, Sesame Street etc.
    2. 12.2 is local content; public affairs, Jr. ROTC drills, and local documentaries produced through the years
  4. ABC affiliate KTGM at 14.1
  5. Fox affiliate KEQI-LP in regular TV full of static at 22 – This channel is supposed to be at 14.2 as it is a sister station to KTGM, but I cannot seem to get that channel
  6. Iglesia Ni Cristo programming at 26.1 and 26.2 – This used to be KTKB (The CW), but it doesn’t seem to be that anymore.

If anybody’s listening I have a couple questions I can’t seem to figure out. The audio drops in and out on 14.1 and I can’t fix it. The colors tend to drift on 12.1 sometimes, then snap back. And of course that thing with 14.2 not showing up. Anyone with any ideas, please comment below.

My kids are generally befuddled by regular television. They are used to all cartoons, all the time. On demand and streaming of anything their little heart’s desire. Lion King? Sure. My Little Pony? You betcha. Phineas and Ferb? Winx? Octonauts? Lilo & Stitch? Spider Man? All just a few clicks away. The idea of scheduled programming is beyond their ken.

And commercials? A couple months ago I took my boy to the doctor’s office for some illness or other. While we were waiting in the play room/waiting room, a television was playing Disney Jr. and on came this Toy Story Short – Toy Story of Terror. He got really into this show, but when they paused for a commercial about 10 minutes into the program, he was utterly confused. “What happened? Where’s Woody?” was all I heard until it came back on. He could not fathom what commercials where in the slightest. I guess that’s a good thing.

Color Guam News

So the wife has been selling our activity book, Explore, Learn and Color Guam for several months now. The book combines a virtual tour of Guam with activities and coloring pages for over thirty historical sites and places of interest on our beautiful island. A unique feature of our book is the use of QR codes to direct readers to our website to hear audio descriptions of the sites in English and Chamorro.

A couple satisfied customers at Guam's Big BBQ Block Party in July 2015

One of the big events for the book was her participation in GUMA, a unique small business incubator offered by the Galaide Group and the Small Business Development Center at UOG. GUMA’s mission is to develop local artists and entrepreneurs to create sustainable businesses and unique merchandise showcasing Guam’s culture. At the conclusion of the program we had the opportunity to compete for a Federally Funded grant to build our business. And thanks to Taliea’s long hours we actually won a grant.

With the grant money we were able to have the book translated into Japanese, record audio in Japanese and fund an initial print run in Japanese just in time for the Obon Festival this month. We are very excited about this news as Japan sends over a million visitors to Guam every year. The activity book is a great way for tourists to explore our island and learn about Guam’s rich history and culture.