Monthly Archives: October 2004

More Local News

I think I cut myself short this morning. How about some more local news?

  • More on this damn polygraph thing. After reading the polygraph results that were leaked to KUAM, I have to say I ain’t surprised about the brouhaha now. Let’s see, Ishizaki admits to
    • Stealing thousands of dollars of government materiel from the FBI
    • Falsifying time cards for years in order to receive 25% more pay
    • Being under a cloud of suspicion for giving secrets away to the Chinese (?!)
    • Stealing stuff from his friends and neighbors
    • Cheating on his wife

    I think I was wrong in my earlier assessment. He doesn’t belong at the head of the police department. On the other hand, sounds like Ishizaki would fit right in with GovGuam’s miserable track record of other political appointee’s.

  • Another pervo nabbed. Richard Allen Quinata was charged in court yesterday with multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct. Seem he was having a sexual relationship with a 14 year old, for the last two years. He actually got her pregnant at age 12 and continued daily sexual intercourse with her for the last two years. Creepy…
  • The never ending struggle over Prop A. To say that the proposition to legalize casino gambling on Guam is a fraught issue with the public is putting it mildly. Lots of high emotion, political posturing and typical Guam screw-ups over this ballot initiative. The big development in this story is the foul-up by the Guam Election Commission. The GEC failed to mail out copies of the ballot initiative to all registered voters, prompting the AG to jump into the fray and state that any results on Prop A in the general election next week will be invalid. Prop A backers are pushing for a special election to be held at a later date, the legislature passed a bill a couple days ago authorizing the vote to go forward on November 2nd, various pro-gambling and church opposition groups are suing each other and the election commission. The whole thing is a colossal mess. I am for casino gambling, I don’t gamble so I really don’t care. I do think casinos would bring more tourists and more jobs to Guam, that’s enough for me. Seems like all the anti-casino groups are more interested in protecting people from themselves and treating the public like little children. Frankly I’m sick of the entire thing and I can’t wait for it to be settle one way or another.
  • Those dueling doctors and their cancer clinics. Accusations are flying around about the showdown between local doctors Kia Rahmani and Nathaniel Berg. Rahmani announced his plans for a non-profit cancer clinic several months ago. Just before Rahmani’s scheduled opening, radiologist Nathaniel Berg announced he was opening a cancer center too, sparking a tiff between the two doctors. Things quickly escalated when Rahmani’s oncologist was caught practicing medicine before the Guam Board of Medical Examiners issued him a license. Rahmani insisted it was an accident, an oversight, and started screaming bloody murder when the board decided to investigate the matter. Seems the chairman of the medical board is in business with Berg, and there was rumors flying about some plan to sabotage the competition. Puh-lease. Typical rampant rumors on Guam. Seems like there has been plenty of obfuscation on both sides of the issue if you ask me.

Okay, that’s it. Off to the airport now. I’ll check back in on Monday…

The Inevitable World Series Post

Let’s just say this former St. Louisan was more than a bit disappointed in the Cardinals’ dismal World Series performance. I certainly thought the Red Birds would mount an exciting series instead of being swept in 4 games by the Red Sox. How depressing. I had such high hopes, the Cardinals were a major force all through the season, their bats were just on fire all season long. But Boston’s pitching shut them down – hard. I will certainly be drinking more than a few teary beers this weekend.

Local News Roundup

Time for a quick trip through local headlines:

  • 12 people were arrested last night for the murder of a 25 year old at a birthday party last weekend. Apparently things got out of hand as the party was closing down and a gigantic brawl erupted by the bar and spilled out onto the street. Two men were stabbed, one died enroute to the hospital. The other was hospitalized with his wounds, and was arrested last night for rioting. How many times do I have to tell you? You don’t bring a knife to a gun fight…
  • Indigent families face eviction and homelessness after a local charity foundation shut off the power in the building were they live. The James Ji Foundation apparently cut the power to a hotel and attached low income housing over a dispute with the hotel’s management over the electric bill. The Foundation, which owns the building, said the power will not be returned until the hotel management vacates the premises, leaving the families housed there sitting in the dark. Several people involved in this foundation are convicted felons, and the whole thing seems underhanded and shady, with these poor families just caught in the crossfire.
  • What’s the deal with this polygraph test for acting police chief Frank Ishizaki? Senator John Quinata has held up Ishizaki’s nomination for untold months now, citing the results of this routine polygraph Ishizaki took as part of the nomination process. This story will not die. According to KUAM, some of Ishizaki’s responses were troubling, but he passed the test nonetheless. Apparently he padded some hours on his timecard or something. Big deal.
  • Hey, this looks interesting: There will be a public tour of the archaeological site at Ylig Bay today, directly below where I live. This is the site that was turned up by the contractors and stalled the construction and road widening project for so long. It starts at 9:30 today. I might just have to skip some work and check this out. I’ve been curious about the archaeologist’s mitigation efforts because of all the erosion and exposure to wild animals at the site.
  • I was stuck in traffic in Chalan Pago for about 45 minutes last night. I grumbled something about campaign boosters blocking traffic, but when I got further up the line I saw all the cops, TV crews, and flashing lights. ‘Must’ve been a bad accident,’ I said to myself. Well no – it was the scene of a car chase and shootout by police. A sixteen year old boy stole a van and got chased by police. He turned around on Route 4 just past the church and charged the pursuing officers in the van. They shot him, causing him to run the van off the road into a campaign sign. The kid then tried to flee on foot but he was wounded and didn’t get far.

That’s all I have time for this morning. I’m heading off to Japan this afternoon, so don’t expect any posts for a few days. I promise to post pictures upon my return.

Esta gupa!

Homo floresiensis

Comparison in size between modern human and Flores Man skullsWow, just when I thought the Titan flyby would be the big science news of the week, this bombshell is released in the next issue of the journal Nature about the discovery of a new species of hominid, Homo floresiensis, on the Indonesian island of Flores. While any new hominid would be a major event, the big news about this discovery is the diminutive size of H. floresiensis. Fully grown adults were only approximately 1 meter tall. The mainstream press has already branded the species as “Hobbits” because of their small size. Labeled LB1, after the dig site of Liang Bua, Flores Man seems to be the first documented case of a hominid species exhibiting a well know adaptation to island isolation: dwarfism. Biologists already knew of dwarf elephants on Flores Island from the same time period, so the adaptation is not really that surprising. In fact, anthropologists found evidence that H. floresiensis hunted stegodon, the dwarf elephant:

The Flores people used fire in hearths for cooking and hunted stegodon, a primitive dwarf elephant found on the island. Although small, the stegodon still weighed about 1,000 kilograms (2,200 pounds), and would pose a significant challenge to a hunter the size of a three-year-old modern human child. Hunting must have required joint communication and planning, the researchers say.

Almost all of the stegodon fossils associated with the human artifacts are of juveniles, suggesting the tiny humans selectively hunted the smallest stegodons. The Flores humans’ diets also included fish, frogs, snakes, tortoises, birds, and rodents.

Liang Bua site on Flores IslandArchaeologists hypothesize that full sized Home erectus arrived by boat nearly 1 million years ago and gradually became smaller and smaller due to inbreeding and limited food supplies on the island. The youngest specimen described died about 12,000 years ago, buried in volcanic ash.

Potentially more important than the stature of H. floresiensis was its mind: It had a very small brain case, approximately the size of a chimpanzee’s brain, but made sophisticated stone tools and used fire. Anthropology has always said that brain size relates to cognition and tool making ability. H. floresiensis makes the case that brain size is not important – so what exactly are our big brains good for?

Current archaeological evidence indicates that modern H. sapiens arrived on Flores around 40,000 years ago, making contact between the two hominid species highly likely.

Even more intriguing is the fact that Flores’ inhabitants have incredibly detailed legends about the existence of little people on the island they call Ebu Gogo.

Artist's reconstruction of H. floresiensisThe islanders describe Ebu Gogo as being about one meter tall, hairy and prone to “murmuring” to each other in some form of language. They were also able to repeat what islanders said to them in a parrot-like fashion.

“There have always been myths about small people – Ireland has its Leprechauns and Australia has the Yowies. I suppose there’s some feeling that this is an oral history going back to the survival of these small people into recent times,” said co-discoverer Peter Brown, an associate professor of archaeology at New England.

The last evidence of this human at Liang Bua dates to just before 12,000 years ago, when a volcanic eruption snuffed out much of Flores’ unique wildlife.

Yet there are hints H. floresiensis could have lived on much later than this. The myths say Ebu Gogo were alive when Dutch explorers arrived a few hundred years ago and the very last legend featuring the mythical creatures dates to 100 years ago.

But Henry Gee, senior editor at Nature magazine, goes further. He speculates that species like H. floresiensis might still exist, somewhere in the unexplored tropical forest of Indonesia.

That is simply amazing. That something this close to modern man, this small, and yet making wickedly sharp little tools might have existed until just a few centuries ago – it flabbergasts me. Nature has a commentary on the discovery of Flores Man, saying how this could bring cryptozoology (the search for mythical creatures like sasquatch, the yeti and the Loch Ness Monster) in from the cold. While I think the case is pretty grim for any discovery of big foot, H. floresiensis is a welcome addition to the family tree, broadening our understanding of ourselves and our origins.

“O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,

That has such people in’t!”

-William Shakespeare, “The Tempest” Act V, Scene I

Cassini-Huygens-Multimedia-Images

False color image of Titan in UV and IR wavelengths
The first images of Saturn are streaming back in from the Cassini Orbiter, and they are beautiful.

This image shows Titan in ultraviolet and infrared wavelengths. It was taken by Cassini’s imaging science subsystem on Oct. 26, 2004, and is constructed from four images acquired through different color filters. Red and green colors represent infrared wavelengths and show areas where atmospheric methane absorbs light. These colors reveal a brighter (redder) northern hemisphere. Blue represents ultraviolet wavelengths and shows the high atmosphere and detached hazes.

I read a quote from one scientist stating that conditions on Titan are not like the ‘primordial soup’ that existed on the early planet Earth. While all the ingredients are there, it is too cold to expect the same chemistry. It is more akin to ‘primordial ice cream’ on that frozen world.

A 'petal plot' of Cassini's orbits through the Saturnian systemThe mission of Cassini-Huygens at Saturn will last several years around the planet and her satellites. The spacecraft will make 74 unique orbits around the planet, using 45 close flybys of Saturn’s largest moon Titan for gravity assist and science data acquisition. Because of the sheer size of Titan, the flybys will allow for major changes in orbital paths, allowing engineers to minimize fuel use while maximizing science data collection.

Cassini’s tour of Saturn is divided into six segments, each a different color in the orbital plot. The probe is in the white segment right now, adjusting its orbit and preparing for the release of the Huygens Lander. After the initial segment is completed early next year, a series of orbits designed to explore the rings of Saturn begins in February. That is followed by investigations of the magnetosphere, the major satellites, and a trip over Saturn’s polar regions. The entire expedition will last until 2008, and possibly longer. The world can look forward to years of discovery from Cassini.

Trip Down St. Louis’ Rabbit Hole

The latest story in Wired’s Road Trip down the Mississippi River is a stop at Bob Cassilly’s City Museum. Wired News: Trip Down St. Louis’ Rabbit Hole is a brief description of Cassilly’s creation, an interactive museum space that encourages play.

I thought this was worth posting since Bob Cassilly is the source of several entertaining family stories. He went to school with my brother and they were in Boy Scouts together too. The gist of the stories was that Bob was more than a bit nuts, with a penchant for making pipe bombs.

Gas Prices Rise Again

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. Been quite busy at work and I ain’t had much to say. However this gets my goat up: Gasoline price goes over $2.50. Yes gas is now $2.52 at Mobil stations and $2.54 a gallon at Shell stations. The 76 stations will follow suit today or tomorrow. Time to bust out the bicycle again.

Yummy

Sushi USB Thumb DrivesI have a couple USB thumb drives, but none so cool as these sushi shaped USB drives. I think I might be buying some of these for presents this year. They’re totally cool. The only problem is their small size. They are available in 32 Mb and 128 Mb sizes. I have two regular USB drives, a 512 Mb and a 256 Mb model, and I am thinking of buying a 1 Gb. I guess these things are more of a novelty item than a useful tool. But then they really look like sushi and that’s so cool…

The Archimedes Palimpsest

Archimedes 287-211 BCI just got finished watching an incredible episode of NOVA. Infinite Secrets tracks the discovery, loss and recovery of a lost volume of mathematical methods by the great thinker Archimedes. Originally penned two centuries before Christ, the work was lost to common memory during the Dark Ages. A single copy was made into a book around 1000 AD by a monk in Constantinople. Unfortunately mathematics was not of interest to the monks and a couple hundred years later the book was cut up, washed and written over by another monk in need of parchment. The resulting palimpsest was used as a prayer book for centuries and the original text forgotten.

The palimpsest had an exciting history. In the first decade of the 20th century a Danish philogist discovered the prayer book and recognized its importance. The monastery refused to let him take the book, but he did photograph every page and painstakingly decipher the faint original Archimedian text. In the chaos of the First World War the palimpsest was lost and believed destroyed. But in fact it was in the possession of a French family for most of the century, who put it up for auction in 1998. The winner bidder loaned the book to the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, where a team of restorers and scholars are imaging and translating the Archimedes text at last.

Approximating piThe translated text shows that Archimedes was tantalizingly close to developing the Calculus, something that took another 19 centuries to accomplish. It was an astonishing leap of intellect and a poignant reminder of what was lost by the rise of Christianity and the concomitant turning away from science and mathematics during the Dark Ages. I remember watching Cosmos many years ago, and Carl Sagan uttered a throwaway line that stuck with me. It was during his discussion on the Library of Alexandria, and how most of the intellectual achievements of the ancient Greeks was lost in the conflagration that consumed the Library. Sagan wondered what might have happened if the world hadn’t lost the knowledge of ancient Greece and sunk into the Dark Ages. Would we be roaming amongst the stars by now? If Archimedes was doing the Calculus, which stands at the root of modern science and engineering, in 214 BC, it makes me shudder to think what else has been lost in the sands of time.

A Flurry Of Stories

How about a brief link roundup of interesting stories from Wired?

Microcar © Wired illustration by Jesse Jensen

Beach Ban Blasted

Faced with an unprecedented 17 drownings this year, Governor Camacho ordered all public beaches closed during the passage of Typhoon Nock-Ten. Hoping to forestall the loss of life that occurred during Tropical Storm Ting Ting in June, police officers were pulling surfers and swimmers from the water around the island.

This move sparked off another controversy between the Attorney General and the Governor’s office, with AG Doug Moylan noting that the Governor has no authority to close beaches and threaten criminal prosecution unless martial law is declared.

Local surfers were incensed as well, staging a protest rally yesterday at the Hagåtña Boat Basin. While police were busy rousting surfers, dozens of tourists waded in the waters of Tumon Bay, unfazed by any warnings or police action.

I understand the governor’s caution, but I think he was out of line. The surfers are saying the ban impinged their civil rights, and I am inclined to agree. If local surfers want to take advantage of the conditions and risk injury or death in the surf, so be it. It’s their life, not the governor’s. If anything, chase the tourists out of the water since they are usually poor swimmers and shockingly oblivious to water safety.

Well That Sucked

The phone system went down yesterday. Every single phone on the island was down. All telecommunications stopped. A power surge at the Hagåtña central switch burned out a rectifier causing the entire island telecommunication system to shut down shortly after noon yesterday. No internet, no cash from the ATM, no credit card transactions, no phone calls, no 911, not even cellphones were working. We have our own private WAN at work with the corporate office in California, but the T1 line was down as well.

GTA was struggling to install a replacement rectifier and bring the system back up last night. GTA general manager Lawrence Perez explained the problem to the PDN:

“This situation could’ve been avoided twofold: First, if all of our backup rectifiers were repaired,” Perez said. “And two, our personnel should’ve caught this before it occurred.”

The Hagåtña central office has seven rectifiers, with three that are supposed to act as backup converters. However, three of them were burned out by similar power spikes during the last administration and were never replaced, Perez said.

Perez said he is looking into why the three rectifiers were not replaced, and that the agency is now working on emergency purchase orders to replace the three backup rectifiers.

In the time honored tradition of Guam politics, blame the previous administration.

At the same time as this crisis struck the island, the legislature met to approve two bills that would finalize the sale of GTA to winning bidder TeleGuam Holdings. It looks like the privatization of the island’s phone system is a done deal.