Monthly Archives: January 2003

Scorcher

No, not Sirius – comet Kudo-Fujikawa is hurtling past the sun and back out into the solar system. The newly discovered satellite reached perihelion, it’s closest approach to the sun, on January 29. It came within 28 million miles of the sun, twice as close as Mercury. This spectacular passage is too close to the sun for us to observe it directly, the comet is swallowed up in the sun’s glare. However, NASA’s SOHO observatory is uniquely positioned to observe the close encounter. Check out the LASCO C2 and LASCO C3 images to follow the comet’s path.

This comet should be visible in the Southern Hemisphere in the coming days. I’ll be looking for it.

Fire, Fire at the Airport

I noticed a great billowing cloud of smoke rising from the airport this evening. Hmm. Not exactly good. Turns out the brand new Tiyan Waste Transfer station caught fire this afternoon. I hate it when that happens. Of course it seems like this happens after every typhoon. Huge piles of rotting vegetation, scrap lumber, tires and plastic. A volatile combination. After Paka the Malojloj transfer station caught on fire and burned for several weeks. After Chata’an the Dededo transfer station caught on fire and burned for a couple days. Not exactly a stellar track record for waste management on Guam. I guess this is why people don’t want an incinerator; they’d rather watch these fires burn all over the island.

A New Theory On Lytico-Bodig

Tuesday’s PDN featured an excellent page two article on recent research on the cause of lytico-bodig. Lytico-bodig is a neurological disorder peculiar to Guam. Lytico is the local name for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig�s Disease). “Lytico usually involves a loss of muscle in the hands and legs with weakness, difficulty speaking, swallowing and breathing.” Bodig is a form of Parkinsonism dementia complex and symptoms “include stiffness and slowness of movement, tremor or shaking in hands, and difficulty in walking and remembering things.” Lytico-bodig occurs only in adults, with onset usually occurring in their 40’s. The cause of lytico-bodig is unknown, but a number of theories have been advanced over the years. One of the most popular theories is that the use of fadang, a flour made from the seeds of cycads palms, during the Second World War and the lean years after the war was a factor in the onset of the disease. The seeds of cycadia palms are poisonous, but repeated soaking, washing and rinsing can leech the poisons out of the seeds prior to grinding. Since the incidence of the disease is highly centralized in the southern villages of Umatac, Merizo and Inarajan, local or family variations in the preparation of fadang were suspect. This is one of the the theories advanced in Oliver Sacks’ book The Island of the Colorblind. Sacks, a noted neurologist, visited Guam in the company of Dr. John Steele, a neurologist that has spent decades studying lytico-bodig on Guam. Dr. Steele is a leading proponent of the fadang hypothesis, though many other theories abound; magnesium in the papayas, aluminum cooking implements, genetic predilection, or various viral or bacteriological agents.

Now a new theory has arisen. A USGS study proposes that untreated water used in the river towns of Umatac, Merizo and Inarajan exposed people to toxins released by algae and bacteria at certain times of the year. One of the compelling reasons against the fadang hypothesis is the occurrence of conditions similar to lytico-bodig in both Japan and New Guinea, where there are no cycadia for human consumption. However, the locations in Japan and New Guinea are also centralized on small river villages, leading the researchers to suggest that long term exposure to untreated freshwater toxins can induce lytico-bodig.

It is highly possibly that a cause for lytico-bodig will never be found. While records of people suffering from lytico-bodig stretch back nearly 200 years, not a single person born after 1952 has shown any indication of the onset of lytico-bodig, leading many researchers to suspect an environmental cause that is no longer present in the population. This could be the decline of fadang as a food staple in the Chamorro diet, or the introduction of a modern water treatment system following World War Two.

Some links to lytico-bodig:

While this disease may forever remain a mystery, other health problems on the island are well known and treatable. Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are widespread on Guam, and directly attributable to smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise. This deadly trifecta affects far more people than lytico-bodig and they are eminently preventable and treatable.

Local Headlines of Note

A quick rundown of things happening on Guam:

  • Southern High School still closed. Mold is growing unabated at the troubled Southern High School. This benighted school has been plagued with problems since it’s inception. Budget over-runs, delays in construction, shoddy construction, unfinished construction, allegations of graft and corruption, violence among the students, faulty air conditioners, water problems, and now a mold infestation.
  • Utility Restoration Continues. An announcement is expected this week, lifting Guam’s nearly two-month boil water notice. Power is restored to 87% of the island. GTA crews continue to repair some of the 11,000 lines still damaged and inoperable throughout the island.
  • Endangered Species Released. Biologists release 50 Guam rails, ko’ko in Chamoru, into a specially protected habitat on Andersen Air Force Base today. This refuge has been cleared of brown tree snakes and will be patrolled by U.S. Fish and Wildlife agents to keep the area clear. This is an important second step in securing a future for these flightless birds. A stable colony of rails exists 40 miles to the north in Rota, the result of ten year’s work by biologists and conservationists. Perhaps one day the bird will thrive again on Guam, but not until the snake population is under control.
  • Ocean Adventurers Due to Arrive. A man and his nephew sailing a raft across the Pacific were due to arrive on island yesterday. They left California in mid-September and will terminate their adventure on Guam. They wanted to continue on to Japan, but lack the funds to continue the journey.
  • GovGuam Budgets in Disarray. GovGuam is out of money. They need to lose people or cut pay, both political suicide. The current option being discussed is another “early out” like they did in 1999. That program worked like a charm: All the qualified people left GovGuam and only the morons that couldn’t get another job stayed. This looks like a repeat.

Movie Madness

Last night I watched the rush hour showing of Confessions of a Dangerous Mind at the Guam Megaplex. It was pretty good, plenty odd and damn funny in spots, but it is not a kid’s movie. Once again I was flabbergasted by some people. This couple sat down for the movie and brought along a small child about 5 years old. I don’t mind kids in movies, but I am worried about the effect watching a movie filled with murder, sex and drug use has on small impressionable minds. I know I wouldn’t let a little kid go to such a movie. When I was a little squirt of ten or eleven back in the mid 70’s, it took an act of God for my parents to take me too a PG movie. I can remember bothering my mother for weeks before she agreed to let me see that shockingly lurid film, Star Wars. Never mind Jaws, it was totally verboten and so were all the Pink Panther movies. No point in even asking to see those movies, she’d never allow it. That seems so long ago now.

A few years ago I went to see Something about Mary and ran into a friend and his nephew, a boy of about 8 or 9 at the time. I’ve known this kid since he was 4 and I felt pretty uncomfortable when he leaned over and asked me what Ben Stiller was doing before his big date with Cameron Diaz, “Uncle Tom, what’s he doing? Is he masturbating?” Uhh, I can positively say that word did not exist in my vocabulary when I was eight. Now this is a great kid and I don’t think he was permanently warped by this movie, but I find this disturbing. Pundits and social commentators would probably mark this as just another example of our crumbling value system. Perhaps they’re right.

Get In My Belly!!

Ate lunch at Thai Kitchen today, one of the few Thai restaurants left standing after Typhoon Pongsana. It’s funny. Thai Kitchen is located on the bottom floor of my office building, yet I rarely ate there. The food is good, but they never make it hot enough. And I know the owner, Toy, pretty well. I used to have a crush on her daughter Angie when she worked at Marty’s. Hell I had the hots for most of the girls that worked at Marty’s back then. Angie now covers the evening shift at Thai Kitchen and I enjoy chatting with her occasionally. Ban Thai and Marianas Trench figured so large on the horizon I never really bothered with Thai Kitchen. With their destruction in the typhoon I’ll be spending a lot more time at Thai Kitchen.

The food was excellent. Fried lumpia to start, then an order of chicken pad Thai and an order of penang chicken. God I love penang. I love to just eat rice with the penang curry sauce drizzled over it. Damn, it’s making my mouth water right now just thinking about it. Anyway lunch was good.

Ran into Lori Mendiola at Thai Kitchen too. It always strikes me as funny, Guam is a tiny island with a pretty small social scene. Yet I haven’t seen Lori in probably a year, and I know that woman goes out all the damn time. Now this is the second time in a week that I’ve run into her. These things always work in cycles.

SuperSnoozeBowl

Did you watch the Superbowl?

I did. I went with a friend to Guam’s Planet Hollywood for a $40 fund-raiser party for Guam Youth Football League. While this was the most expensive option for watching the big game, it was an all you can eat or drink affair with pizzas and hamburgers on a special menu. Pretty tasty stuff. And the corporate sponsor, Northwest Airlines, offered up a couple trips to Honolulu plus tickets to the Pro Bowl next week. Unfortunately I did not win one of these grand prizes. Hell, I didn’t even win a t-shirt or inflatable lounge chair. But it was a good place to watch the game, eat some food, drink some beer and support GYFL and Pop Warner football on Guam.

The game itself was okay, at least during the first half. I could tell by halftime that Tampa Bay had the game in the bag. Oakland was just overpowered by Tampa’s defense. The second half was a waste of my time. About the only fun thing to watch was Rich Gannon throwing interception after interception. His receiving corps really showed their age; it looked like they were standing still most of the game. I was ready to go back to work, but those plane tickets kept me glued to my seat to the very end.

One bad thing about watching the game on Guam is the lack of commercials. The local affiliate feels free to preempt almost all the highly anticipated, expensive and over-hyped commercials that typically run during the Superbowl with cheap local substitutes. And there is a paucity in any local commercials. Often the same commercial will run twice or three times in a single commercial break. And the same ads run every commercial break. These crummy ads just grate on my sensibilities. If anything, the constant barrage of crappy commercials inspires me to avoid those advertisers entirely.

Washing Day

I got this huge pile of dirty laundry packed and ready to go. I figure I will pull out of her in about an hour, after I eat some lunch. I don’t expect to be back anytime soon. Probably not until this evening.

Kirino came by last night and again this morning. He wanted me to help him write a letter to his boss at work. I agreed, but I was dismayed to find that my G3 cannot see the LaserWriter for some reason. I suspect a fault in the Farallon EtherMac iPrint LT. I’ll be damned if I can troubleshoot it though. That’s frustrating. And poor Kirino had to transcribe his letter back online a yellow legal pad.

Dej� Vous

Walked outside around 3:30 this afternoon to take a break. Lo and behold a face from my past was walking across the parking lot. Doctor Snell Fontus, a surgeon employed by our clinic several years ago, visited the clinic this afternoon to say hello and share some memories. I used to hang with this guy in 1994 and 1995. He was a real player around here. Now he lives and practices in Eugene (check out that snazzy web site). Another reason to move to Oregon.

Chore Filled Weekend

Now that things are pretty much back to normal in my life, I need to accomplish a number of chores this weekend.

  • Laundry – I have about a ton of unwashed clothes in my house right now. Last time I washed a load was November. It’s pretty ugly. I think I need to go ahead and just spend a few hours at a laundromat tomorrow instead of using Dianne’s washer and taking two or three days to finish everything.
  • Groceries – My refrigerator is barren. Just a couple bottles of water in there. I need produce and staples like chicken, beef, rice, flour, beans, etc. I’m going to the warehouse retailer tonight after work for bulk products. Sunday I’ll spend at the local oligarchy’s grocery chain picking up a few high-priced produce and specialty items.
  • More Cleaning – The house is still a cluttered mess and needs desperate attention. I’m turning on the air conditioner tonight in a bid to pull some moisture out of everything in the house. Leave the air on for a few days and things should dry out nicely.
  • Volunteer – I volunteered for a roadside cleanup tomorrow morning so I’ll be up early picking up trash in Tamuning.
  • Auto – Time to change the oil in my truck. I might just default to a local mechanic and have him do it for $20. Spare me the hassle of dealing with it and disposing of the waste oil.
  • Backup – Time to backup the myriad computers I possess. Backup the Dell at work tonight, then the computers at home on Saturday and Sunday. Not really hard, but it does consume vast amounts of time using CD-R’s.
  • Electronics – I need a new battery for my cordless phone and my Mac’s motherboard. Radio Shack’s shelves are barren. What to do? Sunny Electronics I guess.

I’d like to squeeze in a couple movies on DVD too. It’s will be a busy weekend. Maybe I should call in sick Monday and just watch the SuperBowl.

Farewells Looming

There was a luncheon today at work for a couple departing employees. Leilannie took a job with another division of our company and I wish her luck. Arlyn is just leaving Guam and heading for greener pastures in New York. I feel bad because I completely spaced on their farewell party and went somewhere else for lunch. I doubt I’ll ever see Arlyn again since last Friday was her last day. I am going to make an effort to say goodbye to Leilannie before Friday.

Another departure is coming up fast. My good friend David is leaving for New Zealand in less than two weeks. It is certainly time, he’s been talking about leaving for at least three years. I am surprised the University of Auckland held his position and grant money for that long. Hanging with David has been one of the basics tenets of my life on Guam, along with my job, football and paddling. It’s hard to imagine Guam with David. It will certainly involve less partying.

Seems like all the people worth something are leaving Guam. I had lunch with David and Von and a general course in our conversation was about how Guam is going down and all the rats are jumping ship. I guess that means I’m a suicidal rat or something.

Achey Breaky Head

Is there anything worse than a Wednesday morning hangover? And my plan was to visit Radio Shack last night. Instead I ended up at my local watering hole, drinking beer, listening to the jukebox and playing pool. In retrospect it was certainly more enjoyable than shopping for batteries at Radio Shack.

I’m not really sure if the headache was caused by the beer or this morning’s frigid temperatures. It was 22� Celsius this morning, about as cold as it ever gets on Guam. I was freezing when I woke up today. I do love this time of year though. The weather is the best Guam gets; cool, sunny, and breezy all day long. I don’t need to run the air conditioner at all.

Physical Therapy

I spent an hour today undergoing torture, I mean physical therapy. Since September my elbow has been a source of constant pain. Turns out I have tennis elbow and it hasn’t gotten any better in four months. Since the big, horse-pill ibuprofens weren’t even dulling the pain anymore, I broke down last week and got a referral to my friendly physical therapist, Julienne.

I’ve known Julienne for 10 years, but I’ve never been her patient before. I now realize she is an evil, evil, sadistic woman. After a couple minutes chatting she started jamming her thumb right into the tender locus of pain in my elbow and I was seeing stars. Whoa. Sweet Mother of Pearl. Thank God that didn’t last more than ten minutes. And while I enjoyed the ultrasound and ice packs, those stretches she made me do were also pretty painful. But I want to get better, not just mask the pain with steroids and painkillers. So I am willing to endure the pain, both in my elbow and my pocketbook ($25/visit, at least 5 visits).

Power: Sweet, Delicious Power!

IT’S BACK!!

The power was restored to my house today. Just before 5:00 pm a couple guys came around and installed a new power meter and hooked us up. I have power again. My refrigerator is running, my toaster is working, my water heater is working, I can cook again!

Happy Happy JOY JOY!!

Tolkien Dreams

Last night I finally saw The Two Towers at my local theater. I expected great things from this film, and I wasn’t disappointed. Peter Jackson has created an incredible saga of films with the Lord of the Rings. I stared at the screen, slackjawed, for three hours last night. The realization of Gollum is a tour de force, and Gollum comes across as the tortured soul of the film. The other characters are good, but the animated Gollum practically jumps off the screen.

I was awestruck by the locations. New Zealand is Middle Earth. The sweeping panoramas took my breath away. Jackson knows how fantastic his country’s wildnerness is, and he uses it every chance he gets. They must have spent a fortune on helicopters in this movie.

Overall the special effects were good, but I was disappointed by the Ents. I guess it is hard to properly visualize a sentient tree-being, but these ents just looked ridiculous. Jackson’s results seemed geared for comedy, all bulbous noses and funny expressions. I just imagined ents as more fearsome – ancient, sorrowful, powerful and pissed off trees hell bent on vengeance. That was my only major complaint though.

The Two Towers left me wanting more. It is a difficult story, since it is the middle segment of a great tale. It has no real conclusion, leaving several story lines unresolved. I want more, I want more now.

Movies Movies Movies

Spent most of this weekend watching movies. Thank God the DVD and TV work just fine on the generator.

Started off the weekend with a showing of The Ring at the Hafa Adai theaters on Friday night. I can’t really complain – it’s about what I expected, and for a buck fifty I got two hours in air conditioned comfort.

Yesterday was a marathon of DVD’s, starting with The Princess Bride, then Magnolia. A quick bite to eat a Jeff’s Pirate’s Cove and it was back to the DVD’s, watching Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil and then Jennifer Aniston in The Good Girl before lights out at 10:00 p.m.

Digital Woes

My Windows 98 configuration is corrupted somehow. I need to reinstall. That makes me nervous. I hope I can make a backup before the machine goes south again.

Spared

The nameless tropical storm 1W is skirting our region today. Looks like it will pass well east of us and turn towards the northeast. Adios cyclone. Never knew ya, and I couldn’t care less.

Still no power at Casa de Tomas. Not until Tuesday at the earliest. Probably later than that though. That just chaps my hide. Apparently the guy assigned to meter installation was fired this week because he was taking bribes. Why does that not surprise me?