Tales Of Brave Ulysses

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Archive for April, 2006

Poached Fish
04 23rd, 2006

As in, I poached this story from Jimbo. Sorry buddy, this is just a great story that I need to jump on as well.

Sarpa salpaHere’s a fish to look out for, all you hippies; Sarpa salpa, a reef fish found in the Mediterranean ocean, caused two tourists to slip into intense psychedelic hallucinations, a condition known as ichthyoallyeinotoxism. The two men started freaking out minutes after eating the fish. Seems rabbitfish are known to cause hallucinogenic effects in the Indo-Pacific, and eating the heads and certain body parts of these herbivorous can induce massive hallucinations within minutes.

Indoles, a chemical similar to LSD, is the suspected culprit of the bad trips. It is produced in algae and phytoplankton. Sarpa salpa, like other rabbitfish, is an algae eater.

The effects of eating ichthyoallyeinotoxic fishes, such as certain mullet, goatfish, tangs, damsels and rabbitfish, are believed to be similar to LSD, and may include vivid and terrifying auditory and visual hallucinations. This has given rise to the collective common name for ichthyoallyeinotoxic fishes of “dream fish”.

Man, I gotta eat more manahak.


Busy As A Beaver
04 23rd, 2006

It’s been an industrious little weekend. Not only did I make the switch over here to WordPress, I went ahead and installed several other web sites to play with. I won’t link to anything yet, but they look pretty cool. I’m playing around with:

  1. Gallery – A cool photo gallery package. This is very cool, and will probably be the first to come off wraps. There are plug-ins to WordPress written for Gallery, so I could start slapping pictures up here that are linked into a central repository of photos. And I have a ton of photos sitting in iPhoto right now.
  2. MediaWiki – Yes, I just started a wiki! I’ve been using VoodooPad, and it is certainly cool, but I need a place to store stuff between work, home and on the road. I probably won’t share this with folks.
  3. PunBB – Because forums are kinda cool, and PunBB is agreeably small scale compared to many of the other options. Of course I don’t have the kind of traffic or comments to drive a forum, but maybe all those K-57 trolls could come over here and play.
  4. Drupal – It’s good all the bells and whistles of a full fledged content management system, but there ain’t much hand holding involved. If I can master this, I’ll have serious mojo.
  5. Expression Engine – I came close to picking this instead of WordPress, and I still might do something with this. Expression Engine looks cool, and feels great. It was just quicker and easier to go with WordPress.
  6. Textpattern – Again, a close contender I want to play around with some more. I am intrigued with the sites I see that are driven by TextPattern, but I really need to monkey around with this to go beyond the plain vanilla it ships with.
  7. Pivot – Just for the heck of it, why not try out another blogging package. It’s interesting because unlike all the other packages I’ve mentioned here, it doesn’t require a separate database to store all the site content. (They seem to have some sort of blacklisting package on their server, so you might get blocked if your IP’s are suspect.)

So basically I am a fat and happy geek this weekend, with days of fun ahead of me.


Trouble In Honiara
04 23rd, 2006

The Solomon Islands erupted into violence this week, as elections on Tuesday sparked protests that quickly turned violent. In a secret ballot of delegates, Snyder Ridi was named prime minister in Honiara. Ridi was the deputy prime minister in the previous administration, one that was tainted with corruption and scandal.

This did not go over well with the general populace in the capitol, and rioting ensued. The violence targeted the Chinese residents of Honiara as simmering ethnic tensions boiled over. Reports indicated 90% of the Chinatown was left in ruins.

Australia and New Zealand sent troops to the Solomons in a move to restore order. Once again, I’m wondering about the shadows of colonialism in the Pacific. Australia’s foreign minister arrived in Honiara yesterday to quell the unrest.


Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School

General Electric Buys Into Wave Power.

Yep, GE. They made an small $2.6 million investment in Ocean Power Delivery, developers of the Pelamis Wave Energy Converter. This nifty gizmo is currently being installed off the shore of Portugal, where it will deliver 750 kilowatts of electricity, the first of three planned for a 2.25 megawatt facility.

Maybe it’s time Guam looked into this technology again. It looks like this is actually a viable option for power generation, and Guam certainly has enough wave action. I’ve been thinking Guam should invest in wind power, but this is also an attractive option.


bunkerInteresting little bit on all the underground facilities built to withstand a nuclear holocaust. On yesterday’s boonie stomp we got to talking about the earth station communications facility that overlooks Tanguisson. Apparently the building next to the satellite dish was designed by the Navy to withstand a nuclear attack and has a subterranean complex five stories deep beneath it. I never knew that existed.

I’m certain there are other bunkers secreted around the island, especially up in the hills of Naval Magazine. Other places suggest themselves too, like Andersen, NCTAMS, and Big Navy. Basically all the military installations that are relics of the Cold War.

And of course the Japanese dug themselves in deep during the war, and I know there are still all sorts of fortifications, pillboxes and caches dug out in remote corners of the island.


Nepal At A Crux
04 22nd, 2006

It looks like the king of Nepal is on his way out. Massive demonstrations of protesters defied the shoot on sight curfew today and surged over police and army blockades. The king offered to restore democracy, but the opposition groups smell blood and refused any deal that keeps the monarchy intact.

I hope the situation defuses peacefully and without any loss of life.


Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School

It’s Earth Day! I hope you did something good for the planet today. I picked up trash along the beach from Tanguisson to Hilaan (Shark’s Hole) with the boonie stompers. It was a chore, but it felt good to clear up a lot of waste. It bums me out to see beer cans, soda bottles, styrofoam plates, busted zhories, and all the other detritus that people leave on such a beautiful beach.

Don’t worry, you can still join in all the fun. The boonie stomp next week is also a beach walk with trash bags, for a little more clean up action. After all, shouldn’t every day be Earth Day?

PS - I wanted to mention a very good National Geographic article on the end of oil and developments in renewable energy, including wind power.


The Vailulu’u seamount rises 4500 meters from the seafloor near the Samoan Islands. Despite toxic chemicals, scalding water and extreme depth, the volcano is teeming with life. Thousands of eels congregate on the spot, gorging on shrimp who are sucked down from the surface in a gigantic gyre to the top of the seamount 700 meters below the surface. The whirlpool also sucks in fish who die in the anaerobic, iron tainted water. But a type of sea worm lives in this ‘Moat of Death,’ feasting on the carcasses of hapless fish.

This is a fascinating find for scientists because it hints at the future of the world’s oceans. As more carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, the oceans absorb the gas and become more acidic. The waters around Vailulu’u are extremely acidic and poor in oxygen and provide a clue to how life will survive in this future ocean.


Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School

Less than a week after hitting $2.99 a gallon, regular unleaded went up to $3.06 a gallon yesterday on island.

And it looks like gas won’t be going back down ever again. China is sucking up all the oil on the planet and creating high demand. And there’s no arguing with 2 billion people.

Guess it really is time to start riding the bus. I paced one home last night, the Green Line goes right by my house after it leaves the Chamorro Village. The only question is when? I can’t seem to find a bus schedule, and I know the dang things shift every month as different bus companies take over the routes.

Maybe I should start biking again. The bike needs some maintenance work, but structurally the Cannondale is fine. I could start biking next week, but I’d need a place to shower and clean up when I arrive at the office. I used to use the shower at the clinic, but now my office is a couple miles further down the road.

Hey, what about carpooling? Heck, I did it all through grade school and high school, no reason I couldn’t start again. Anybody want to carpool from Yoña everyday? Hmm, this is going to take some thinking to puzzle out. All I know is I got to cut my gasoline usage. It’s not just about reducing my carbon footprint, I am looking for more affordable alternatives to driving my car.


Well That Was Easy
04 21st, 2006

This move is paying off immediately, though it’s invisible to you. Just some niggling data issues that Blogger was unable/unwilling to reconcile.

With a single SQL statement and the click of a mouse, all references to the old, old site at Kuentos were extirpated. That’s cool.


And Hello Over Here
04 21st, 2006

If you made the jump from my old blog, welcome! Take a look around the new digs. All the old posts from East of the Sun are here, and more goodies will be coming online as I plug away at it.

This page will probably change drastically as I familiarize myself with WordPress, the themes editor and the basic layout of elements. But for now this theme looked pretty cool. Feedback is always welcome.


Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School

I recently read a very good book on invasive species, Out of Eden by Alan Burdick, which begins with a lengthy exploration of Guam’s own infamous ophidian, the brown tree snake. It’s a fascinating book, especially the portion about invasive species in coastal waters around the world.

One thing struck me from the book though; ecologists have realized there is no such thing as a pristine environment. Environments are always changing and dynamic. Species come and go, and while humanity has helped spread many organisms around the world, it is really impossible to untangle the web of life and extricate unpopular species. The brown tree snake is here on Guam; live with it. In the long run birds will return, just not the original birds but new species will develop that can adapt to predatory pressure from the snakes. It might take a million years, but that is a drop in the bucket of evolutionary time scales.

Salon has another interesting story about invasive species, this time in North America. The taming of the American wilderness proved a boon for one cunning canine; coyotes are booming across the entire continent. I mentioned a couple months ago how coyotes are thriving in Chicago. Well they’re doing quite well in New York City too. This is an unprecedented success story, an inadvertent effect of the taming of the American landscape.

In the early nineteenth century the coyote, Canis latrans, roamed the prairies and deserts of the American West, hemmed in by cougars and the wolf packs in the eastern forests. As the old growth forests fell to the axe and plow, the wolves and mountain lions were extirpated and the lowly coyote suddenly found itself the top predator across most of the continent. Coyotes pushed north and east into the farmlands and the Eastern seaboard, getting bigger and smarter all the time.

Today’s coyote is twice the size of his ancestors in 1850 and instead of lone scavengers, they now hunt in packs, colonizing the suburban and urban landscapes of man with aplomb. They’ve learned to negotiate traffic, hunt at night, listen for voices and scavenge from garbage cans. The coyote, like the brown tree snake, has taken an opportunity afforded by mankind and run with it, becoming one of the most successful colonizers of the last century.

Perhaps they are invaders, or maybe they are just filling an ecological niche. Like I said, the environment is ever changing and dynamic, it is only our hubris that demands a static and unchanging nature separate from civilization.


Dragon’s Lair
04 19th, 2006

Wow. I remember Dragon’s Lair. Looked great, but terrible gameplay. There was this total disconnect between the controls and the game. I fed a great many quarters (and this game was an ungodly 50¢ at the time too) into this game and never got anywhere at all. I don’t think I ever made it past the burning ropes at the beginning. It’s good to finally see a complete walkthrough of the game.


Yeah, it’s a new one to me too. Mr. Call of the Wild Jack London wrote The Scarlet Plague in 1912, painting a bleak future for a world decimated by a worldwide pandemic. Only a few humans remain, and the wilderness reclaims the works of man. An elderly grandfather, the last man alive who recalls the heights of civilization, relates the fall of humanity to his disbelieving, half-savage progeny.


Random Links
04 18th, 2006

Fresh from the depths of the internet, scoured out by me for your pleasure.


Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School
A couple weeks ago I mentioned a piece on Living On Earth about climate refugees from Tuvalu that relocated to Auckland. Yesterday Living On Earth continued their series Early Signs with a long story on another Pacific atoll nation facing the rising waters of global warming.

Flooding in South Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati (Photo: Alice Leney)Kiribati, also known at the Gilbert Islands, is a small island nation lying athwart the equator about 2100 miles to the southeast of Guam. The total land mass is a little over 500 square miles, but it is dispersed through 33 atolls covering 2.1 million square miles.

I just mentioned Kiribati when I applauded the creation of a vast marine preserve in the Phoenix Islands. Looks like the accelerated loss of glacial coverage in West Antarctica and Greenland will inundate the low lying atolls of the Pacific and turn that preserve into a lost world.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, estimates that a 1 meter rise in sea levels will submerge 63 square miles of Kiribati. In 2003 the IPCC reported that sea levels rose almost an inch per decade in the 20th century and will likely rise between 3 and 9 feet in the next 100 years.

Wave crashing over sandbags on South Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati. (Photo: Alice Leney)What is frightening is that these estimates are now highly conservative. The IPCC did not account for the rapid glacial melt-off that is occurring in Greenland and West Antarctica. A study published this February in Science concluded that the glaciers of Greenland are melting faster than predicted in response to global warming and predictions of global sea level rise could be severely underestimated. The author of the Science report says the IPCC predictions “are probably low,” and that sea-level rise is likely to be two to three times as great, which could mean a rise of anywhere from six to 27 feet in the next hundred years.

The average height of the Gilbert Islands is six feet above sea level. It looks grim for Kiribati and other low lying nations. Even before the atolls succumb to the waves, wave action will cause massive erosion and what little freshwater exists on the island will become tainted with salt, poisoning crops and trees. These things are already happening, and it will only become worse. Life is becoming unsustainable on these low islands

Flooding at the Lagoon Breeze Hotel, South Tarawa, Republic of Kiribati (Photo: Republic of Kiribati Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Agricultural Development)The accelerated loss of the Greenland ice sheet is just one of a number of startling changes in the Arctic. The polar regions are becoming warmer, in a deadly feedback loop. As the snow melts, the region becomes warmer, the warmth prevents more snow from forming, and things just keep getting warmer. It is a controversial conclusion, politically charged for certain, but despite political posturing, the scientific facts are becoming incontrovertible. It is getting warmer, and the people living on atolls will become the first casualties in a growing list of climate refugees.


Carabao On Parade?
04 18th, 2006

Guam is borrowing an idea from Chicago and will begin placing decorated carabao statues all over starting next month. Chicago had their Cows on Parade a few years ago, and this seems to be a local variation featuring water buffalo. The gist of the story is that most of them will be located at the GPO shopping mall as part of a marketing campaign I guess. Still, sticking water buffalo around the island’s public places is a good idea and I hope it prospers and thrives. And GPO is certainly a very public place. I eat lunch there several times a week and it is always hopping.

Photo © Masako Watanabe/Pacific Daily News
The carabao are the idea of Jennifer Ada, who is opening an art gallery next month in the Ada Arcade Building. She is starting off with 28 statues which will be decorated by local artists and delivered to Monte Mesa, general manager of GPO. Good luck to them both, the island could use a little spicing up.


Earth Week 2006 Kick Off
04 17th, 2006

Guam EPA Earth Week 2006 - Logo from CJ Santiago of GW High School
It’s Earth Week 2006 here on Guam and I thought I would feature an environmental story of local or regional flavor every day this week, leading up to the big Island Pride Festival this coming Saturday at Ypao Beach Park.

First off, a subject that’s been on my mind lately. Believe it or not, I’m something of a geek. And I have a collection of decrepit old computers, printers, monitors and assorted electronics lying around my place. A couple Dells, an Mac LC 575 (complete with System 7.5), my old Quadra 950 (the thing weighs a ton), and an ancient Pentium Pro (running Windows 95). Junk basically, and it needs to go. But where?

Computer recycling is a pressing issue. Those innocuous computers and cell phones are full of some noxious compounds and metals. Salon ran an expose on the shadowy world of electronics recycling last week. In short, most of the old computer and monitors discarded every year wind up in sub Saharan Africa or China, where people strip the machines apart in Dickensian conditions of squalor and poverty. And much of the waste comes from the United States, the only major nation in the developed that has not ratified the Basel Convention, an international attempt to limit the flow of scrap and waste from the developed world upon the poorer nations.

This is not a new problem, but it is growing every year. Steps are being made to reduce the amount of hazardous waste in electronics, but that doesn’t help me with my problem today. Apple offers a take back program for their computers, but the program is not valid for people on Guam. I need somebody on island to take my aging computers and decrepit electronics.

The Guam EPA comes to my rescue. The agency put out a Guam recycling guide with names and phone numbers of local recyclers and what they will accept. Looks like there are two companies on that list who take computers and electronics. It’s too late in the day to call them now, but tomorrow I will check both companies and see what they can do for me.

  • Island Scrap Yard, Barrigada: 637-1687

  • Triple Star Recycling, Harmon: 648-2910/11

What we could really use is another Hasso Guam! campaign by the Guam EPA to collect hazardous wastes.

There’s been talk about developing a recycling program on the island, but so far I haven’t seen any concrete steps taken to address the waste flow problem on island. But that’s a post for later in the week…

UPDATE - APRIL 21

I called both recyclers mentioned on the Guam EPA flyer (which is also prominently displayed in the phone book) and Triple Star Recycling wants nothing to do with computers or electronics. Island Scrap Yard is happy to take computers and monitors, though they charge $1 for monitors.


Fanumnangan
04 16th, 2006

We need rain.

Everything is crispy around Guam. Fires bust out every day the ground is hard as a rock. The island is drying out and vegetation is turning brown under the pitiless glare of the tropical sun. Hard to believe we average 100 inches of rain a year. It just doesn’t fall during the dry season. The swordgrass is brown, trees look desiccated, even the dirt is completely without moisture. We need rain, a good long drenching to soak into the soil.

Of course it is not all bad. The bright, cloudless days are perfect for getting outside and enjoying the island’s natural resources. I’ve been hiking, biking, swimming and generally enjoying the sunny days every weekend. And the cloudless skies and steady breezes make for cool nights.


Disappointments
04 16th, 2006

I busted out my hiking boots this week to give them a nice rubdown with the old mink oil to keep them supple, and I got a nasty surprise. I bought these boots in December of 2001, a little over four years ago. I’ve worn them on a couple trips stateside and my two trips to New Zealand. Not exactly heavy use, and no real backcountry hiking or camping was involved. Yet these Merrell Grand Traverse boots are falling apart. They are falling apart exactly like the Nikes that I so loathe; the outer sole is delaminating from the last and the upper. Damn, I plunked down some serious ducat for these boots and I am extremely disappointed in Merrell. I expected these boots to last me a decade or more and the damn things are crumbling away in their box. I am going to call their support number this week and talk to somebody, though I doubt it will have any effect. The warranty is only 1 year; they’ll probably tell me to suck it up and buy another pair so it can fall apart in my closet too. Just another company that cares about sales over quality or customer satisfaction.

A little more troubling is my iBook. For the last month it was dog slow; dog slow. Like 45 minutes to boot up slow, interminable spinning beach ball of death slow. Last weekend it finally crapped out, but mercifully I pulled most of what I needed off onto an external FireWire drive. Looks like the internal hard drive is kaput. Another Apple product failing on me, after the iPod a couple months ago. And both are just out of warranty too. Guess I’ll be dropping some money with Apple service and support, so never mind getting that Bigha as a reward. I’m still debating whether I should go with Apple support or just dive in and replace the hard drives myself. At least these things are repairable, unlike the crumbling, shoddy boots I bought from Merrell.



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