Monthly Archives: January 2005

A Hazy Shade of Winter

A nasty volcanic haze hung all over the island today. Speculation puts the source as the Anatahan volcano north of Saipan. All I know is that it is nasty breathing the stuff; my eyes are red, my throat is itchy. It sucks because the weather is so nice and cool so my windows are all open. Seems a shame to turn on the air conditioning.

That’s Not My Bag, Baby

Wow, I’m having a hard time typing this right now, I’m laughing so hard. An Oklahoma judge was charged with indecent exposure for using a penis pump while in court, during session, in front of a jury. Holy cow.

…on May 13, while he was presiding over State v. Kurt Arnold Vomberg (who was accused of killing his girlfriend’s 21-month-old daughter), Thompson loudly pumped himself up. Two court employees told investigators that they saw Thompson (pictured in the mug shot at right) attach the suction device to his penis, while five jurors reported hearing whooshing sounds, which they thought were coming from either a bicycle pump, blood pressure cuff, or an air cushion on the judge’s chair.

Wow. I had no idea they really made those things. Wow.

Zhang Yimou’s House of Flying Daggers

I just got back from watching Zhang Yimou’s latest martial arts film, The House of Flying Daggers. It is a visual tour de force, with countless scenes of heart wrenching beauty. It is a worthy successor to his earlier Hero, another visually striking wu shu film. Go see it, marvel at the beauty and lyrical action of this gorgeous film.

I deeply enjoyed The House of Flying Daggers, more so than Hero. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the first movie, but I thought it was a little too aloof from the characters. I enjoyed the multiple story angles as the Nameless hero recounts his adventures, but the love story struck me as stilted and forced. Not so with The House of Flying Daggers. The love triangle was inextricably linked to the plot. And while Hero was the equal of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in action and visuals but lacking in romance, The House of Flying Daggers is perhaps superior to Ang Lee’s benchmark film.

I will be adding both of Zhang Yimou’s wu shu films to my small collection of DVD’s. They are both excellent films and deserve a place on my shelf next to Crouching Tiger

Random Weird Stuff

A few odds ‘n ends that caught my eye over the last couple days:

Everything Changes

Well it looks like the Pacific Daily News decided to seal off the links to their back issues. Friday marked the appearance of a new webserver at GuamPDN.com, one which only offers up the last week of articles for public consumption. Anything later is now archived and only available after paying to download it. What a bummer. Wasn’t the internet supposed to be about open communication and the exchange of information? I can’t imagine they’ll generate that much revenue for their old stories and articles.

Oh well, I guess I can no longer provide links to stories in the PDN.

Time to go to a party and have some fun.

Damage To Sub Revealed

Sorry I couldn’t find a picture, but last night KUAM ran a story on the U.S.S. San Francisco being put in the Guam Shipyard’s dry dock. The story ran with video released by the Navy showing the extensive damage to the submarine’s prow. The drydock at the Guam Shipyard is not qualified to work on nuclear vessels, but the Navy authorized this one time event to assess the damage to the submarine. I’m sorry I can’t find a photo, but boy that sub sure looks like a mess. The outer hull of the submarine is completely sheared off in the video released yesterday. It’s a miracle only one person died in the accident.

Lost Cave Explorer Survives A Month

The oddest story of the day: A Frenchman was found over the weekend after being lost in a cavern for almost a month. He apparently left home with a bottle of whiskey and went to the cave to be alone. He got lost in the caverns and subsisted for a month in the dark by eating rotten wood and clay. His car was found by some teenagers exploring the caves on Thursday and he was rescued by authorities on Friday.

He ate clay and wood for a month. I guess it’s one could say the dude was literally shitting bricks down there.

The Hobbit War

Reading Carl Zimmer’s excellent web log, The Loom, I came across an interesting post about the controversy surrounding Homo floresiensis, the diminutive “hobbit” hominid described by a group of Australian paleontologists last October. Seems a prominent Indonesian anthropologist received the fossils in his lab and the Australians are now accusing him of locking the bones away to prevent further study.

Professor Teuku Jacob wrote a response to his Australian critics, citing his belief that the fossils are not a new species, but actually an unfortunate victim of microencephaly and retardation. In his essay, Dr. Jacob accuses the Australians of being ‘conquistadors’ pillaging South East Asia for archaeological treasures. This is certain to touch off all sorts of simmering issues in the often contentious world of paleoanthropology.

Huygens Data Lifting Veil on Titan

Scientists are releasing more data from the Cassini-Huygens mission, including data gathered during last week’s plunge to Titan’s surface. The moon shows eerily familiar similarities with Earth, including river channels, lakes, and springs. Only it is liquid methane that flows on the frozen surface of Titan, running downstream to lakes of the chilly stuff. The temperature on Titan is below -170° C, far too cold for life to develop. The atmosphere and surface of Titan would be extremely volatile if it wasn’t for the complete lack of oxygen on the moon.

…while many of Earth’s familiar geophysical processes occur on Titan, the chemistry involved is quite different. Instead of liquid water, Titan has liquid methane. Instead of silicate rocks, Titan has frozen water ice. Instead of dirt, Titan has hydrocarbon particles settling out of the atmosphere, and instead of lava, Titanian volcanoes spew very cold ice.

In related news, the second data channel from the probe, which was feared lost because of human error, is being reconstructed almost entirely using telemetry received from ground based radio telescopes on Earth. It will take time, but eventually the extra data lost during the descent will be replaced.

Protests At Inauguration

You’d be hard pressed to find mention of protesters at George II’s coronation this week, but they were there.
Police spray protesters with pepper spray
Looks pretty awful, doesn’t it? Police dousing protesters on such a cold wintry day. Well that ain’t water – it’s pepper spray. Oh yeah, notice how the protesters are barricaded behind a fence from the procession route.

Good thing Bush is a uniter, not a divider.

Shinohara Not Guilty

I have not mentioned it here, but Gil Shinohara, the former administration’s chief of staff and Carl Gutierrez’s right-hand man, was on trial in San Francisco for corruption and bribery charges. The federal government’s case was constructed around the endorsement that former rival Tommy Tanaka gave Gutierrez in 1997, and the fact that Tanaka’s construction firm received a large government contract to build school bus shelters immediately after his endorsement ran in the newspaper. In addition, Shinohare was under indictment for fraudulent loans and bribes received during a business deal to secure Pedro’s Plaza, the former police headquarters in Agaña. The case was handed to the jury on Friday, and it took them less than two hours to find Shinohara not guilty.

Another high profile prosecution of a former Gutierrez administration official, another not guilty verdict. This is becoming embarassing for the government.

Outdated Charts Caused Sub Accident

It is looking like outdated charts were the cause of this month’s accidental grounding of the U.S.S. San Francisco south of Guam. The charts used on board the submarine dated from 1989. Naval investigators are focusing on the charts used, since the submarine was not off course at the time of the accident.

Officials at the Bethesda, MD.-based National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency said Saturday the main chart likely used by the U.S.S. San Francisco didn’t reveal any obstacle anywhere near where the boat struck on the floor of the Pacific Ocean during underwater operations last Saturday about 350 miles south of Guam.

The closest notation on the map indicates discolored water about three miles from the accident site. The discolored water was reported by the Japanese most likely in the 1960s or even earlier, according to David Burpee, the agency’s spokesman.

The Defense Mapping Agency created the chart in 1989, and it was never revised. That agency later became a part of the Defense Department’s National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, responsible for maps and sea charts.

Burpee said a satellite photograph taken 10 years later could be read in hindsight to show an undersea mountain not on the chart, but that was not clear at the time and, in any case, the photo was just one among thousands of shots of ocean expanses that have not been fully charted using all the latest methods.

…”It’s not like there was one little area that got away from us, that escaped detection,” he said. “This is part of a massive amount of sea that has not been mapped or charted in detail.”

The emphasis in charting has been on the Northern Hemisphere because that’s where the majority of commerce is, he said.

The submarine crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on the charts while traveling at 30 knots. No officials say they have found a satellite image taken in 1999 that indicates an undersea mountain rising to perhaps within 100 feet below the surface there. The accident highlights the need for more exact charts of the ocean floor. Increasingly submarines no longer patrol the frozen waters of the Arctic and North Pacific, lurking beneath the waves to launch a counterstrike in the event of a nuclear war. The 21st century demands that submarines be used in counter terrorism activities, in the waters of the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Asian Tsunami Death Toll Reaches 220,000

The number of dead from last month’s tsunami topped 220,000 yesterday, after Indonesian authorities revised their estimates sharply upward. Health authorities revised more than 77,000 people listed as missing as deceased.

In a related story, Guam veterinarian Joseph Edhlund is still in Indonesia helping with tsunami relief, despite the loss of his plane. Edhlund left for Indonesia earlier this month with his charter Beechcraft to render assistance. On January 9th he was ferrying supplies and South African aid workers into the city of Meulaboh when the airplane veered sharply and skidded off the runway on its belly. The damage grounded Edhlund’s plane, but he continues to help local airlines transport supplies and aid workers to the stricken province.

Moleskines & Mac Minis

Mac Mini and Moleskine, from RohDesign.comThe last week has been a busy one in the Apple Macintosh world. The MacWorld Expo was the scene of Apple’s latest unveilings, the Mac Mini and the iPod Shuffle. Looks like Apple is finally making a serious move for the low end computer market. The Mac Mini is creating a lot of buzz around the web, and I am sure the iPod Shuffle will sell like hotcakes. Apple is banking on the “halo effect” from iPod users to generate interest in the Mac Minis. Hell, I’d buy one if I hadn’t just bought a regular iPod. I really hope the Mac Mini sparks sales of Apple Computers. The Macintosh is insanely great, always has been, always will be.

On a related note, another topic bouncing around on the internet for the last week is the current buzz gathering about Moleskine notebooks. Apparently even the Wall Street Journal is talking about the leather lined notebooks. These decidedly low-tech artifacts are enormously popular amongst the digerati. I must confess, I got a couple Moleskines laying about my house and they are pretty damn nice notebooks. I use them constantly when traveling. And it’s not just because Van Gogh and Hemingway used Moleskines; that accordion pocket in the back is so damn useful. I stuff my passport and tickets in there, a postcard or two, and various receipts I want to keep handy. No batteries needed, rugged, portable and useful – who needs a PDA?

Satellite Goes A Shortin’

A telecommunications satellite orbiting over the Pacific went dark over the weekend, after suffering a catastrophic electrical short. The failure left almost a Pacific nations and Antarctic bases completely cut off from the world; no phones, no fax, no internet. Almost a week later restoration efforts are still haphazard. Here on Guam, the failure left KPRG without their NPR feed. The radio station was assigned a backup satellite to use for the radio link, but the staff is having difficulty acquiring the signal. So no All Things Considered, no Performance Today and no World Cafe. It’s been nothing but reruns and local programming since the weekend, and it is getting pretty tiresome. I shouldn’t complain though, many countries are lacking basic phone service.

Quantum Diaries

For the scientifically inclined, check out Quantum Diaries. Follow physicists from around the world as they live the World Year of Physics. Basically it’s a bunch of physicists blogging about physics and how they do science. Sounds interesting.