Monthly Archives: December 2003

Shadow Circus: CIA Operations in Tibet

Now here’s something you don’t hear about everyday: a documentary about the CIA-back insurgency in Tibet during the 50’s and 60’s. The CIA trained and financed a paramilitary operation by Tibetan nationalists until the early 1970’s, when Nixon established relations with Communist China. And the story has a local flavor too; the CIA trained many of the counter revolutionaries on Saipan. I’d heard stories about CIA training Chinese agents on Saipan in the 60’s, but I never guessed it was actually Tibetans learning how to monitor radio frequencies, master cryptography and make Molotov cocktails.

Local News Roundup

Time for a brief spin through local news from Guam and the region:

  • Carl Gutierrez Indicted!!Holy Crap! It’s about time… I was wondering when somebody would get around to indicting Gutierrez. The charges against Gutierrez revolve around the misappropriation of materials and services to build his home in Uranao. Also indicted was his Department of Administration director, Cliff Guzman. Guzman’s indictment centers around the illegal connection of 2400 streetlights installed on private property but paid for with government funds. KUAM has a good rundown on all the current charges, pending indictments and prior convictions surrounding Gutierrez and his term as governor of Guam.
  • Funeral for Slain Family – The grandparents of the slain DePaiva family embraced forgiveness at yesterday’s funeral in Palau. Ruth DePaiva, mother of slain SDA pastor Ruimar DePaiva, embraced the mother of accused murderer Justin Hirosi and prayed for her and her son. I am truly humbled at a display of God’s love and human compassion expressed by some people. I don’t know if I could forgive anyone if my children and grandchildren were sexually assaulted and murdered in such a wild orgy of violence. I would be screaming for blood. This ‘eye for an eye’ thirst for vengeance only incites further hatred and a cycle of escalating violence, eg Palestine or Kosovo. But perhaps there is hope for our species if more people embrace compassion and forgiveness instead of hatred and vengeance.
  • Talofofo Bay Erosion – Talofofo Bay is getting larger at the expense of Talofofo Bay Beach Park. Wave action is chewing up large sections of the park, a process accelerated by last year’s typhoons. A large chunk of the parking lot at the park collapsed a few years ago, and the latest casualty is a picnic shelter that fell into the waves last week.
  • Navy Hiker Dies on Boonie Stomp – A Navy man lost his life hiking in Cetti Bay on Saturday. A memorial service was scheduled for today. A cause of death was not identified.

More On That Bad Beef

Local grocers raced to issue statements that they do not have any of the tainted beef from that slaughterhouse in Washington state. Both major grocers, Cost-U-Less and Payless Supermarkets repeated assurances that they do not have any of the 10,000 pounds of beef that was processed with the infected Holstein cow on December 9. In addition they added that meat processed on December 9 is still in transit and has not reached the island yet.

Frankly I am little worried about this. I got to thinking about what I put in my stomach the last few days and I know I ate leftover prime rib on Thursday, a hamburger at Jeff’s Pirates Cove on Saturday and I made hamburger helper for dinner last night. If I lived someplace on the mainland like California this wouldn’t really bother me, but since I live on an island with only 150,000 people on it, my chances are greatly increased to come in contact with this stuff. Guess I’ll be eating more fish for the foreseeable future. At least the mercury poisoning is reversible, there’s no cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Battlestar Galactica

Television comes in odd batches to our little island. Mostly things play about a week later here with the exception of a few satellite channels: CNN, Fox News, and ESPN notably. The rest comes piecemeal. Sometimes it shows when you expect it, other times their is a certain randomness in the television programming. Maybe a Wednesday’s tape was bad so they tossed in Saturday’s tape instead. It makes it hard to actually plan on seeing anything out here. That’s probably a good thing.

All this preamble is just to get around to my point: I sat through the Battlestar Galactica mini-series on the Sci Fi Channel tonight, apparently weeks after it originally aired back in the States. I remember the original Battlestar Galactica as mildly entertaining fluff from 1978 or so. I mostly remember how those guys crash landed on a different planet with human settlers every week. It was like they had a crash rotation schedule set up between Starbuck and Apollo. It got pretty stale. Then they made it to Earth and fried a Cylon with a microwave oven at Wolfman Jack’s Halloween party.

Anyway, back to the new Battlestar Galactica: I enjoyed it thoroughly. The story was retooled nicely, the special effects were pretty good, and the mini-series created a nice sense of dread about the Cylon menace. The Robots-That-Look-Just-Like Humans angle was a poor decision, but at least they cast a stunningly beautiful woman in very little clothes as the female Cylon-spy. I am quite willing to accept that hackneyed plot device as long as she stays minimally clothed. The storyline was fairly engaging too. I think the main problem with the show was too much going on with too many people doing it. I felt like I needed a scorecard to follow who was who and what they were doing. On the plus side, some of the subplots were enjoyable (Baltar’s guilty conscience, the love affair between the pilot girl and her crew chief) and I found they really engaged me in the story. And the battles in space were top notch. They actually looked like spaceships flying in zero gravity instead of airplanes banking around in the night sky. If anything, the space battles look like something out of that video game Homeworld: gigantic ships launching a fusillade of missiles at each other with smaller attack ships buzzing about the periphery.

All in all I give it a thumbs up and I hope that it becomes a tv series. I wouldn’t mind catching it every now then on my random island television.

New Zealand Trip – Part Two

Time for more photos from the land of the Kiwis! Last time I posted pictures from the first few days of my trip, in and around Auckland. This time we leave the city and head south into the countryside for a little road trip.

Tuesday, November 25
Woke up with a bit of a hangover. Guess I was drinking too late into the night with David, Teresa and Tesua. They forced me, I swear!

Anyway by the time I was presentable and made it upstairs everybody else was up and getting ready for the day’s adventures. Our plan was to head south from Auckland and visit Rotorua, a geothermal area that was New Zealand’s #1 tourist destination. We also had a loose plan to visit Matamata, a small farming community north of Rotorua, and see the farm that was the location for the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Teresa pulled the kids out of school for a couple days and they were very excited about that. David finished marking his exams for the semester and we were ready to go by around 1000 that morning. We had a minivan reservation with A2B Rentals, so we went down to the rental agency and about 45 minutes later we were on the road in a Toyota Previa.

First stop was the Newmarket area for some last minute shopping and lunch. I am sorry to report I took the longest during this stop. I bought a 256 mb memory stick on Saturday, but I couldn’t figure out how to work it. I decided to stop back in at Noel Leeming computer store and get their advice (or a refund). Turned out my camera was too old and couldn’t handle the 256 mb stick. After much deliberation on the phone, the sales kid helping me actually went across the street to a competitor and brought two 128 mb memory sticks back for me. That was excellent customer service Mr. Gregory Ramshaw. Thank you very much.

We gassed up the minivan and finally hit the road. It was after 1300 by the time we left, but everyone said the trip to Rotorua would only take about 3 � hours.
Heading south through the Bombay Hills

The drive south was uneventful. Pleasant, rolling countryside. Lots and lots and lots of sheep. Just like in Australia, once we got out of the city’s environs the expressway reverted into a two lane blacktop. Hard to believe that two lane highway was the country’s main north-south artery. Guess that’s all you need when the country’s population is 3 million people.

We got into Rotorua around 1600 that afternoon and drove around looking for our hotel. We finally located the Regal Geyserland Hotel, and it truly lived up to its name. The hotel abuts the Whakarewarewa geothermal area and our room offered a great view of the Pohutu geyser and mudpools. It was an impressive view, even if the entire city smelled terrible.
Pohutu geyser from the balcony of our room

After dropping our bags in the room and settling in, it was time to wander around the city. We drove to the city centre, did some sightseeing, and located a promising restaurant. The Lone Star Cafe was a pleasant place to stop and rest our weary bones and get some tasty food. I was a little concerned that the name of this restaurant would invite a lawsuit from a similarly named US chain of restaurants.
Cheers from Teresa!

After dinner we did some more sightseeing and found some really cool stuff. Rotorua is just an amazing city, everywhere we went there was evidence of geothermal activity. Hot springs, mudpots, geysers – it was incredible. I think the most disconcerting part for me was driving around and looking at somebody’s lawn. Right in the middle of their yard, a smoking fumarole was belching sulfurous clouds of steam. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think I’d consider high volcanic activity a good reason to build a city.
Steaming fumaroles in a city park

it stinks in Rotorua

Teresa surveys a gazebo

Mudpots bubbling away

These photos don’t really do the place justice. Luckily my digital camera can record movies too. If you want to watch a 15 megabyte movie of that mudpot above, just follow this link. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though, it’s a big file and will take a long time to download.

By this point it was getting dark, so we retired to the Regal Geyserland and watched a Monday Night Football on Sky TV.

Wednesday November 26
Wednesday it was dark and stormy. The weather was just awful. It looked beautiful outside with all the steam and the rainfall, but I had no desire to go tramping around in the rain. Over breakfast the adults decided to cancel our plans for fun in Rotorua that morning. We were hoping to try out the ZORB and then ride the cable car and luge attraction. But the rain was unrelenting and after our brief t�te a t�te over breakfast we chose to leave Rotorua and hope the rain would let up as we drove north towards Matamata. The kids weren’t too happy about this, they really wanted to check out these adventure activities. Well, who said life is fair?

Sure enough, the weather started clearing up as we drove north. By the time we reached Matamata, the rain was intermittent with patches of blue sky. I won’t go into details but it took us some time to find the place in Matamata that sold tickets for the Hobbiton tours. After getting lowdown on this place, and the exorbitant prices, we were on our way back to Auckland. They wanted $50 a head to visit this farm and the Hobbiton set wasn’t even there anymore. Plus the next tour wasn’t until 1500 in the afternoon as we just missed the noon tour. Thanks but no thanks.

We drove back to Auckland and by the time we reached the city around 1400, the weather was clear and sunny. David felt bad about cutting our trip short, so he drove us to the top of Mount Eden, an extinct volcano, for a look around.
Jordan and Sasha atop Mount Eden

The caldera at Mount Eden

We grabbed some food at a nearby pub, Galbraith’s Alehouse. The food was good, the beer was better.
Let's Eat!

Sasha's about to lose a baby tooth

I am the resurrection and the ale

That’s about it for Wednesday. We went back to Parnell, chilled out for a bit then went to dinner in Mission Bay. Our restaurant was in the old stone church that was the original mission in Mission Bay. The food was excellent, a fine dining experience. We took a drive through the city after dinner. Our destination was an immense supermarket. Thursday was Thanksgiving after all, we had to make preparations for our feast.

Thursday November 27 – Thanksgiving
Thursday morning – and Thanksgiving to boot! My last full day in New Zealand, it was all too short.

The kids trundled off to school and the adults went to the Auckland Museum for a little culturabsorptionon. The first floor of the museum was chock full of Maori and Pacific Islander exhibits; canoes, paddles, weaving, carving. Wow. I was in heaven. Check out the war canoe in the last image:
Pacific Pathways Exhibit

'He Taonga Maori' exhibit

Waka Taua - Te Toki A Tapiri

We went upstairs briefly, but the second floor paled in comparison with the treasures on the first floor. I think there were dinosaurs and stuff, but it didn’t interest me.

That afternoon I did some gift shopping at Victoria Market, pulling together Christmas presents for family and friends. We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at the Bog on Parnell Rise, where I put away one last pint of Guinness.
Driving down Queen Street

Success covers a multitude of blunders

Ah, sweet nectar of the gods

We got back around 1500, just in time to catch the kids coming home from school. Jordan had a basketball game after school, and I discovered that my digital camera doesn’t take sports/action shots very well. This is the best of the bunch, Jordan making a free throw late in the game.
**SWISH**

After Jordan’s victory in the final game of the season we headed back to Alberon St. and our Thanksgiving feast. Turkey proved too difficult to locate for Thanksgiving, but the local butcher did provide us with a wonderful ham. Toss in mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, fresh salad and a loaf of hot bread, and it was a magnificent meal.
David toasting the holiday

Hafa adai from Auckland

Thanksgiving feast

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving

What a feast. Nobody could move after all that delicious food. Teresa really outdid herself cooking up all those dishes. I’d like to say I helped clean up, but I was pretty much comatose after eating all that food. We rounded out the night watching a couple dvd’s and looking out over the Auckland skyline.

Friday November 28
That’s pretty much it. I left the next morning for Australia, but not until after Teresa made the best damn omelet I’ve ever eaten. After that, I was off to the airport in the early morning sunrise.
The world's best omelet

David likes his omelet too - but Teresa is being bashful

One last thing: a couple of the Air New Zealand 747’s were decorated with Middle Earth themes. Here’s one with Aragorn and Legolas painted on the side.
Middle Earth takes to the skies

New Zealand was a lot of fun. I realized too late that one week was nowhere near long enough to visit such a large and fascinating country. Next time I go I will definitely plan on spending more time in Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.
Farewell Auckland

Back Off The Wagon Again

Went out drinking last night. Lordy, I must be a lightweight nowadays cuz I was hungover all day today. I didn’t feel right again until late this afternoon.

I tried these horrible cigarettes last night too, Kickback was the name. Just terrible things. A good cigarette to smoke if you want to quit smoking.

Bloody Christmas

Murder Shocks Palau, Church Community
News reached Guam yesterday of a brutal murder in Palau earlier in the week. A triple murder; husband, wife and their 11 year old son were bludgeoned to death in their home Monday night. The fourth family member, a 10 year old girl, was abducted from the home, raped, strangled, and left for dead on the side of a road. A suspect was arrested soon after, and readily confessed to the crime. The husband was a pastor with the SDA church, and the entire family were missionaries in Palau. A shocking, senseless crime committed because of drugs. The suspect admitted smoking “ice” before he went to rob the house on Monday night.

Navy SEALS shot in drive-by
Two Navy SEALS remained hospitalized on today after being shot in a drive-by shooting on Christmas morning. The two men were in a taxi when a car pulled alongside the cab and opened fire. Apparently the SEALS were involved in an altercation with the two shooters in Tumon. Police arrested both suspects late Thursday night.

Cats Try to Eat Incapacitated Owner

The #1 reason why dogs are better pets than cats; Yahoo! News – Cats Try to Eat Incapacitated Owner. After an 86 year old woman was incapacitated by a stroke, her 9 cats tried to eat her. Authorities also found her dog, emaciated and covered with bite marks from the cats. Seems the little kitties went on a bender and attacked anything to get food, while poor loyal Fido starved himself and had to be euthanised he was in such bad shape.

2003 Guam Fantasy Football League Champs!

It was a nail-biter, but we emerged victorious in our fantasy football league. We scraped by with the narrowest of margins, only 1.5 fantasy points. The prize money comes just in time for Christmas.

Our final lineup was an amazing piece of work: two sub-par running backs filling in for the injured Clinton Portis, a surprise performance from our mediocre tight end, negative points from the Tampa Bay defense and Matt Hasselbeck gets injured in what should be his biggest game of the year. Somehow our stitched together lineup put up enough points to edge out our rival. Of course the biggest help was the fact that both his star wide receivers were injured and came up with goose eggs. It was a miracle – or the infamous Zulu Curse…

I Robot Now

I Robot Now

It’s an advertisement for an upcoming Will Smith movie, a production of Asimov’s venerable I Robot

Looks good. And don’t miss a chance to read the books. Asimov looms large in the science fiction pantheon.