MMS Friends

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Friday, February 28, 2003

Oof

It's a little after six in the evening, and I am just getting out of bed. Some bug or another really konked me out today. I guess it's a touch of the flu or something; I'm all achey and tired.

I think I could use another nap right now...

Thursday, February 27, 2003

More on Tolkien

I read through the appendices for The Lord of the Rings tonight, something I have never fully accomplished. In particular, the section concerning languages caught my eye. I skimmed the parts pertaining to the Elvish languages, but what really caught my eye was when Tolkien started talking about how the story was 'translated' from the common speech into Modern English, and that since the Riders of Rohan spoke a more archaic form of common speech, their dialogue was liberally spiced with Old English words and syntax. The Hobbits also spoke a variation on this archaic tongue, and most of the names Tolkien supplies for his characters are in fact translations. Interesting idea, probably something a linguist would think up. But then he starts producing examples of this common speech, and the corresponding translations. That's when the depths of Tolkien's language fixation struck me. Not only did this guy whip up several languages like Elvish and Dwarven, provide detailed etymologies and orthographies; he concocted an entire language which is never mentioned in the trilogy, and then translated names and locations into the appropriate English and Old English words. That's just twisted.

Prophecy

A couple weeks ago I mentioned some ways that GovGuam could cut costs. I suggested trimming non-essential agencies like CAHA and the library. Seems somebody was listening - here's a quote pulled from the front page of today's PDN:
"Our concerns are going to deaf ears. What is the government's priority? I cannot see the existence of Mass Transit, CAHA, Parks and Rec over DOE... The Legislature and administration have to look at the resources of this island. This department is dying." - Jose Nededog, Education Policy Board Member

Nededog's comments concerned the Department of Education, which is in dire straits and cannot meet its payroll tomorrow. DOE owes millions to vendors and utilities, and more millions to the Department of Revenue and Taxation. The entire educational system is teetering and ready to collapse.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

An Oldie But A Goodie

When you're climbing up the ladder
And you hear something splatter
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

When you're walking down the hall
And you feel something fall
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

When you're sliding into first
and you feel your stomach burst
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

When you're pants are full of foam
and you're heading into home
Diarrhea
Diarrhea

The Be Good Tanya's

The Be Good Tanya's - what's up with that? I just heard them perform a short set on World Cafe, and it was pretty good.

Tolkien Revisited

I finished reading The Lord of the Rings last night. It left me a little cold. I expected to experience the story differently; after all two decades passed between my readings. Middle Earth is still an intricate and finely wrought world, but the actual story telling by Tolkien is a little bland. I find it amazing that he could flesh out languages, histories, geographies, different races and a panolply of ancient and puissant artifacts, but still fabricate such one dimensional characters. The stark light of Middle Earth's manicheistic struggle between the forces of good and darkness drains the characters of depth and motivation. But Tolkien's primary mode of storytelling is legends and histories, and the trilogy fits squarely into this style. At any rate, the storytelling in The Lord of the Rings is positively verbose compared to The Silmarillion. The Silmarillion is a dense compendium of edited histories and myth, with very little dialogue or character development.

Newsfeed Added

I just popped in the newsfeed from KUAM that I mentioned last week. It looks pretty good - I am pleased with myself. Now if only the PDN would provide a feed I would be totally happy.

In other news, the USS Carl Vinson, a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier, is on Guam for a couple days. I think I will run down to the port and take some pictures of her today or tomorrow. These aircraft carriers are the largest warships in the world, and I'd like to take a gander at this gigantic projection of US military force. Apparently the Carl Vinson is headed to Okinawa, replacing the USS Kitty Hawk (a frequent visitor to Guam) while it is deployed to the Persian Gulf for young Mr. Bush's glorious little war. Make no mistake, the Carl Vinson is a newer, bigger, more capable ship than the Kitty Hawk - could Dubya be sending a message to North Korea?

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Lying All About

Currently Reading: The Lord of the Rings, The Magic Mountain, American Gods
Recently Watched: Igby Goes Down, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
In My Stereo: Nick Drake, Hapa, Norah Jones
Casually Read: Utne Reader, New Yorker
Bookmarked: Salon, Indymedia, the Guardian UK

By his media consumption, thou shalt know him...

Cultural Enrichment

The past weekend offered me a chance to spend time in Tumon with my guest and absorb some culture. David's visit gave me the opportunity to finally view the terra cotta warriors from the Q'in dynasty on display at the DFS Galleria. I only regret not alloting more time for the exhibit - security guards ushered us out before I viewed everything. I guess I need to return again in a few days and absorb the entire show, maybe pick up a catalogue. The exhibit is a quality production, with incredible artifacts on display, plenty of informative displays, and excellent additional materials available in the gift shop.

Saturday night was also a great chance to catch some excellent jazz at the Fishbowl, an upscale little nightspot in Tumon. Larry Franquez, Carlos Laguana and Patrick Palomo performed a couple sets to an appreciative crowd. Franquez punctuated the music with inspired drum solos that set the audience clapping. Franquez and Laguana are Berklee alumni, and all three are consumate musicians. Both sets were excellent, I just wish we sat a little closer.

I frequently complain about a lack of interesting things to do on Guam. I guess this last weekend proved me wrong.

Sunday, February 23, 2003

Sunday Night - Weekend Recap

It turned out to be a pretty good weekend with Dave. He left this afternoon, back to the cold hand of winter in Tokyo. Hopefully he left with some good memories and a full belly! Sheesh - for a skinny guy I don't think I've ever seen anybody pack away the food like he does. I was truly in the presence of a master. He truly humbled me at the Outrigger's buffet Saturday night. And he must have consumed a pound of bacon at breakfast. Cripes.

We caught some good jazz at the Fishbowl, checked out the terra cotta warriors from the Q'in dynasty, and did a lot of sightseeing. He was blown away by the beauty of Guam, something that's become dulled in my daily life. I hope he returns - I actually enjoyed playing island host for a change.

Mail Posting Update

Well I apologize if anybody saw my first crummy attempt at publishing via email. I forgot about the paragraph of legalese that my company tags onto the bottom of every outgoing email. So the post was riddled with formatting errors and contained this long paragraph of corporate boilerplate gibberish. But the second post worked fine from my oddpost account. I guess I will use that in the future to send posts. And maybe somewhere down the road, my Psion will make a few posts to the blog. That would be cool.

Friday, February 21, 2003

Let's Try Email Posting Again

I set up blogger to accept email posts, but I haven't seen any changes so far. It might be that crippled Exchange server at work, so I am trying a different mail account to send this.

Wish me luck.

Posting Via Email ** First Attempt

Blogger Pro supports posting via email - and this is a test of that functionality. This might be useful on the road, of from my Psion.

A Wasted Day At Work

My work today has been utterly useless. I can't get anything done with the file share reduced to a crawl.

ARRRGH!

The file share at work is horribly slow - so is the Exchange server. Really, really, really slow.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Dinner, Guam Style

1 scoop Calrose rice
1 big scoop of poki
a little finadene to taste

gof mannge'

Newsfeeds Coming

KUAM News is now offering an XML newsfeed, so I suppose now is the time to stick a couple newsfeeds into my blog page. I also signed up for a newsfeed from Moreover a couple weeks ago, but I've been too lazy to redesign the front page for just one newsfeed. The addition of KUAM though makes this an interesting possibility...

Juicin' The Good Times

Did I mention that the problems at the Guam Memorial Hospital, and how it is overstaffed? Well here's a good example: an administrative assistant at the hospital (who just so happened to be assigned to former hospital administrator and Dr. Davina Lujan) is out on emergency sick leave, for two years. KUAM News ran the story last night, detailing how the new administration was scrutinizing the length of the leave, from September 2, 2002 to August 30, 2004.
Acting Administrator Bill McMillan, said, �We have decided to do an independent review of this sick leave request in light of the unusual length of sick leave.�

Seems the employee had ten months of sick leave donated by a physician at the hospital, under GovGuam's leave-sharing program. The donating physician was the husband of this employee's personal doctor.

I hate to pillory this woman, but it points out another example of government waste on this island. Leave and holiday requests are loosely regulated, and rarely enforced. A very good friend of mine worked for GovGuam for five years yet she never took a day of vacation. During those five years, she went on well over a dozen trips throughout Asia and the Pacific. Personal trips, holidays, vacations, but not business trips. Her boss, a judge for Christ's sake, simply took all her leave requests and tore them up. He never submitted them, saying she would need them someday. Sure enough, when she quit her job she got a pile of cash for all that accumulated leave. I just know I would never be allowed such leniency in my private sector job. This woman at GMH may very well be sick or unable to go to work for a long time, but using sick leave instead of going on disability is doing only one thing - juicin' the system for all it's worth.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

House Guests

Looks like I got another house guest this coming weekend. I just got David out of the house, and now my high school buddy Dave is coming down for a visit from Japan. Last time I saw Dave was 8 years ago. God - that makes me feel bad since he's just a 3� hour flight away and I've never visited him. So despite the fact that I was looking forward to a quiet weekend at home, I will put on my entertainer fa�ade and take Dave around the island. Maybe a hike, some time at the beach, a couple bars, a couple restaurants. All the good stuff that makes Guam a 'pleasure island.'

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Working Late

I'm working late tonight, probably for another hour or two. It sucks, but it's the best time to pull data from the servers in Laguna. Fewer people processing claims means more bandwidth for me. As it is, pulling this data takes ten to twenty minutes per query. I shudder to think what it would be like tomorrow morning when I need to hand in this report.

Since I'm getting tired, I think I will actually prepare the data tomorrow morning. I'm basically just sitting here, making sure the process doesn't hang. Which means time to surf the web and goof off a little.

GMH Running In The Red

Add to the litany of Guam's crumbling social services: Guam Memorial Hospital Authority (GMHA), Guam's only civilian hospital, is running $1 million into debt every month. The new director at the hospital is spouting dire warnings about 'complete financial collapse' and massive staff cutbacks at the facility.

It's no secret that the hospital is a mess. Locals say that GMH stands for "Get Me to Hawaii," a reflection on the number of people that go off island for medical care. Hell, our current Lt. Governor left Guam for medical care earlier this month. The hospital lost its accreditation ages ago, so long ago I can only vaguely remember discussing this as an age-old fact ten years ago. The new administrator, Bill McMillan, says GMHA needs to trim 300 people from it's payroll. Again, this is no secret. Everyone knows the hospital is overstaffed and provides pitiful healthcare. The hospital is run by GovGuam, and GovGuam is interested in one thing, providing jobs.

Perhaps I am being cynical, but I expect Bill McMillan to join the rest of broken and discarded hospital administrators. Most seem to last about six months to a year before they resign in frustration. The bureaucracy at GMHA thwarts all attempts at change. After all, they make enough money to go off-island for their healthcare and avoid GMH entirely.

Another Close Shave

The Pacific Daily News ran a story today about a near disaster involving a Philippine Airlines flight in December. Seems a flight from Manila came within 35 feet of the ground over Nimitz Hill during it's approach to the A.B. Won Pat International Airport. The plane snapped several power lines before the flight crew rapidly pulled up and averted a CFIT (controlled-flight-into-terrain). The Airbus A330 contained 115 passengers and crew. This is harrowingly similar to the 1997 Korean Airlines Flight 801 crash of a Boeing 747 into the same hill, which resulted in 228 people dying.

The NTSB informed the Philippine Air Transport Office with their preliminary report and disciplinary action was taken against the flight crew. They apparently mentioned their error to no one and simply flew back to Manila. It was only after ground crews at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport noticed damage to the fuselage that an investigation was initiated.

Monday, February 17, 2003

No More P.T. For Me

I went to my last physical therapy session today. Six weeks with Julienne and S.O.A.R. and my elbow is no longer a problem. I will continue with my exercises and stretching, but I don't need the ultrasound or electrical stimulation anymore. Hat's off to Julienne and Ed for a job well done.

She did say one thing that irked me though. As she was giving me a deep tissue massage (aka digging her thumb into the sore point on my elbow continuously for half an hour) she said if I tweaked my elbow again I should forego additional p.t. and simply get an injection of cortisone. I said I didn't want to mask the pain, but actually heal the injury, but she insisted that an injection would heal the damage, make me feel better, and cost a lot less to boot. If that's the case, why did I just spend six weeks going to S.O.A.R. and getting tortured for $25 a pop? And why did she insist back in January, when she called me and initiated this episode, that physical therapy was the way to go? I felt a little put upon by this revelation.

Ah well, my tendonitis is going away thanks to Julienne, so I won't make too big a deal about it. In the future however, I might take more stock in my doctor's suggestion and take the shot.

Changes on the Technosphere

I heard a couple tidbit this weekend about a couple things.

  • Seems Pyra Labs, the company that runs Blogger, has been purchased by Google. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the next few months. I like Blogger, but I have a few complaints (mostly about my archives - what's up with that? Fix it already guys). Hopefully this new situation will stabilize the development of Blogger and iron out a few of the more irritating bugs. That seems to be a common complaint too.

  • And the rumors are flying about Salon's imminent demise. This distresses me, since I have been a regular reader of Salon for a number of years. Lately it's been on of my core sources for world news, commentary and information. It would suck to lose this outlet, because My Yahoo and CNN just blow. I was willing to pony up the cash for a membership at Salon, but apparently they can't muster enough subscribers to make ends meet. The discussion of this at MetaFilter has been very anti-Salon. The great unwashed take Salon and David Talbot to task for his lavish compensation, prime location in downtown San Francisco for the Salon offices and a number of other profligate excesses.

I welcome my new Google overlords, and swear my undying fealty to the Google regime. Perhaps I may suggest they archive all of Salon's articles while they still have a chance?

Sunday, February 16, 2003

Oddpost Makes the News

Here is a cool little article about my online webmail provider, OddPost. It's a totally cool service, and I love the interface. You should check it out too.

Departures

My friend David left this evening. It's been a whirlwind these last couple weeks. He was living here on my couch, and though it was a hassle sharing my home with someone, it was also invigorating. David and I shared many good times on this island, and I was happy to help him out during the last couple weeks. I am happy to see him go, he has a good thing lying before him. In many ways I am jealous about his departure. He's off for New Zealand and his Ph.D., I'm just going into work tomorrow to debug some SQL stored procedures. God speed David. We will share a beer and talk story again.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Radar Love

I took this picture on Tuesday evening. This thing literally sprouted overnight on my commute through Leo Palace and Pulantat. I am pretty sure the earth station belongs to Japan's Space Agency. I have no idea what the eggshell is for though.


Pretty darn odd looking setup if you ask me.

Whoops

A couple days pass, work piles up, and I become lax in posting to my weblog.

Power's been fluctuating lately, that might be part of the problem. Seems like it just comes and goes at random. On for two days, off for three hours, back on for six hours, off for another two. It is quite frustrating.

Wednesday, February 12, 2003

Testarossa

I am going to put up a photo right now and let's see how that works.


This should be a photo of Supertyphoon Pongsana from December 7, 2002. Shortly before it hit Guam.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Dire News For My Island Home

The new governor, Felix Camacho, addressed the island last night. To put it bluntly, the government is deeply in debt and cannot make payroll in the next couple months. His solution? Raise taxes, and borrow $120 million, and maybe he might possibly consider the eventuality of perhaps someday in the indeterminate future address the issue of whether the government could face the reality that at some point he might task his directors with looking at the conditions necessary to conceivably layoff a couple hundred GovGuam employees. Not that his administration would make such a drastic move; he would empower the legislature to make the politically devastating decision to axe the lazy minions that pad GovGuam's payroll.

It's no secret that GovGuam is overloaded with staff. Cushy government jobs are awarded to the political faithful and their relatives, often filling positions with unqualified loafers. And GovGuam benefits are very plush; a fully funded healthcare system, generous leave accrual, a plethora of paid holidays, and a plush retirement pension fund. Too bad they can't pay for this anymore. Hell they could never afford to sustain these programs indefinitely. Seems like the time has come to gut these benefits. But the politicians are caught in this cycle of catering to the GovGuam voting bloc: Any cut in these benefits, or God forbid - a round of layoffs, and the responsible politicians will be quickly escorted from office. I seriously doubt any Guam politician has what it takes to lay people off.

Instead, our ostensibly Republican governor is going to raise taxes and take out a gigantic loan against our already heavily indebted government infrastructure. Just what our struggling economy needs, higher taxes and an increased debt load.

I can think of a number of things to help GovGuam out of this mess.
  • Layoff several thousand mopes across the entire GovGuam payroll. Everybody talks about eliminated the "dead weight" in GovGuam's payroll. It's high time for people to get laid off. I'm not talking ten of fifteen people. Thousands need to lose their jobs. Put the fear of God in the lazy bastards and make them actually work. Maybe that way someboy will finally answer a damn phone in a government office on a payday Friday...
  • Close non-essential government offices. The passport office, the medical referral office, SPIMA, CAHA, the Chamorro Land Trust, the Commission on De-Colonization, and consolidate the mayor's offices into a few regional centers. Mothball the Guam Museum and the Guam Library for a year or two, until things pick up again. It pains me to say it, I love to support the arts and literature, but both those institutions are pathetic jokes right now anyway.
  • Raise user fees and licenses and aggressively pursue collections. Bump up automobile registration fees, driver's licenses, gun licenses, court and police clearance fees, pavilion rental fees at public parks, and any other possible way to make up a little bit of cash.
  • Legalize casino gambling. I can think of nothing greater that would spur tourism and create jobs on this island. I'm not talking about measly riverboat gambling or rinky-dink pachinko parlors; I'm talking Vegas-style resort casinos, with large casinos, quality shows and entertainment, and world-class dining. The Japanese would swarm here if we offered that kind of entertainment. I just don't understand the general fear and scorn the public shows for gambling. Many suggest that it is a "cultural" thing, and that because the Catholic Church opposes casino gambling it must be wrong. Hell, the church is worried about diminishing returns on the bingo game racket they control throughout the island. Others worry about widespread gambling addiction. Uhh, don't we already have a dog track, legalized cockfights (try finding that anywhere back in the States), and sanctioned gambling at village fiestas and the Liberation Day Carnival? Somebody somewhere is pulling a fantastic snow job on the people of Guam and protecting the vested interests in this under the radar gambling that goes on all the time on Guam. Why not bring it above board and tax it properly?
  • Sell off the public utilities. Unload GTA, at any price. That should have been done years ago. Same with GWA and PUAG, though I doubt anybody would buy those agencies, they're so fundamentally messed up. GPA seems financially and structurally stable, but that is because they are an autonomous agency. So if was can't sell the other public utilities, do the same to them and pull them off the government's General Fund teat. But unload GTA. The phone system here sucks. Privatization can only improve the situation.
  • Institute a sales tax. I was baffled by the fact that Guam has no sales tax. Instead, costs are absorbed by a gross receipts tax on merchants, which seems like a pretty slipshod process. By putting a sales tax in place, we could generate a few million every year. By making this a clear cut tax on sales I am sure the government would eliminate companies under-reporting their profits or just selling stuff under the table.

This was the product of a few minutes brainstorming. I just can't believe that the only idea our politicians came up with was "let's take out another loan, and uh, ask the federal government to give us more money, and increase the property tax on the already struggling real estate market." Different administration, same mopey ideas. Just a different set of talking heads on my TV.

Monday, February 10, 2003

More Fun With The Slow Cooker

I picked up another little cookbook for my slow cooker this afternoon at Best Seller. I already have a couple, but when I opened it up and saw the pork tenderloin stuffed with spinach and mushrooms... Oooo.

Sunday, February 09, 2003

There Will Come Soft Rains

A gentle rain has been falling all day. I don't mind; it makes for an easy excuse to lie about and read Tolkien. The amount of thought he put into Middle Earth dazzles me sometimes. He created several languages, thousands of years of history, the genealogies of many houses, geographies of myriad lands, and magical beings and artifacts. He crafted the prototype for all fantasy novels that followed.

My brother Jim suggested I check out the Encyclopedia of Arda. When I was younger I owned several encyclop�dia of Middle Earth, a detailed atlas, and a sketchbook of various characters. I suspect these tomes are all buried in my brother's basement with the few goods that remain in Missouri, abiding till my return. This online compendium contains all these things and more. Editorials about the nature of Tom Bombadil or the true appearance of balrogs demonstrate a deep mastery of Tolkien's world and his incidental writings. Tolkien's world was a gift to all the geeks of the world, something for them to obsess over endlessly. Middle Earth was first and foremost, before the Simpsons or Star Wars.

Saturday, February 08, 2003

Zzzzz

I spent all day sleeping. I am not sick, but I was bone-weary from this week of work and playing host to David. I was going to visit a bar last night after work, but my spirit flagged shortly after 5:00 p.m. I turned for home and hearth instead. David followed a couple hours later, and I made a tasty curry for dinner. Then it was time for sleep. I popped a couple melatonins and slept deep dreams.

Those melatonins really put the mojo on me. I slept soundly until a little before 9:00 a.m. Though I slept late, I was still lethargic and sluggish. David went out a couple times on errands, but I stayed at home all morning and fell asleep by 1:00 this afternoon. And I just awakened ten minutes ago, after sundown. I feel refreshed, but I can certainly go back to sleep in a few hours.

Maybe a little dinner will rouse me from my self-induced torpor.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

I Was Right

I was right. A couple of those Navy vessels stopped in Guam yesterday. As I suspected it is a working visit, refueling and repairing a couple troop transports.

Bakatcha

Funny how something I thought finished two months ago has come around to bite me in the ass again. The powers that be were not please with the results and commanded a retuning of the data in the hopes to bring our rates down a little more. This was the collosal project I toiled on for several months. This is round two. Hopefully I can knock this off in a day or two.

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Dazzle Ships

Woke up this morning, went outside to watch the sunrise. The US Navy was several miles offshore. Definitely a battle group, couple destroyers, a cruiser, and what looked like transports. I imagine they are stopping off in Guam to refuel, then heading for the Gulf. No mention in the newspaper of any fleet arrivals though. Maybe they are just passing by.

Some Crews Alerted for N. Korea

Pentagon tells bomber crews to be ready to deploy to Guam. Move is seen as a show of muscle.

By Greg Miller and Paul Richter
Times Staff Writers

February 4 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon has alerted bomber crews that they could be sent to the Pacific — an apparent message to North Korea that the United States remains prepared for military action in the region even as it focuses on a possible war with Iraq.

The complete article can be viewed at:
http://www.latimes.com/la-fg-korea4feb04,0,6838169.story

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Literary Aspirations

I finished Gravity's Rainbow last Thursday. Took me about a month, but I managed it. I need to read more Pynchon. It was fascinating and hilarious, a romp through the ruins men's souls and the Europe. I recommended it to my friend Von. I hope he can handle it. He usually reads stuff like Steven King, Tom Clancy or that dude who writes all the stories about lawyers - Grissom? No, Grisham. Pynchon is a little more dense than those mass market potboilers. But the payoff is so much better.

Picked up Diaspora by Greg Egan on Friday. Polished it off on Sunday. Tasty science fiction, full of interesting ideas about humanity's future. The idea that our destiny lies within a constructed digital existence as immortal, sentient software. Compelling reasoning.

Started reading The Lord of the Rings on Sunday evening. Last time I read Tolkien I was 14 or 15. That's twenty years. Time to get reacquainted with Frodo, Gandalf and Company. This is a special volume; all three novels in one book, as it was originally intended. So far it seems much more simplistic than I remember it.

Techno Goodies

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am now the proud owner of a Sony DSC-P71 digital camera!! Most excellent. The batteries are doing their initial charge right now, so by tomorrow morning I will have a digital camera to tote around and shoot photos. I am excited. I have a pretty good SLR camera from Olympus, but scanning photos is such a hassle. This should eliminate the bulk and hassle of the real camera and let me shoot photos off the cuff. Cool.

Guam's Own Astronaut

Willie McCool, pilot of the ill fated Columbia Mission STS-107, spent a number of years on Guam in the 1970's. He attended high school here before entering the Naval Academy. He married a Dededo girl and maintained close contact with Guam and his in-laws. He was bearing the Guam flag with him into orbit on this mission.

His obituary and funeral announcement ran in today's paper.

Old Friends Rediscovered

What a delight to rediscover a favorite song! I just popped in one of my favorite compact disc's, and there it was waiting for me. An old friend ready to say hello, talk story about paddling, old friends, the ocean and canoes. Life in the islands. Been a while Kaopuiki Aloha...

Speaking of old friends, I got a friend crashing at my place for a couple weeks. He was supposed to leave for New Zealand on Sunday, but he got delayed until February 16. He's got no where else to go, so he's set up camp on my couch. Ylig Bay Bed & Breakfast. Cook up some food every night, watch a DVD, drink a few beers and talk story. In the morning, I whip up some coffee and off I go to work. And he doesn't even hang around the house during the day, he's got a little sideline job helping install air conditioners. No worries, it's actually kind of fun. This is actually the most I've seen of David in some time, and I am glad to help out. It is understood that at some point he will return the favor in New Zealand. Hopefully sooner than later too.

Monday, February 03, 2003

Going Hiking

Yesterday I took a hike with David down to Tarzan Falls. This is one of my favorite places to visit on Guam; rolling hills, a great waterfall, pockets of riverine jungle, and it's a pretty good workout coming back up too. But it's been a while since I last made the trek. At the top of the first hill there was a sizable encampment going on: three Toyota 4-Runners, two big tarps, a couple large tents, a big mess kit, a number of large coolers. At first I thought it might be a Chamorro family setting up house/ranch on public property (it's been done before). But then I noticed the US flag flying and a couple haole guys reading a paper. We passed them by and then it struck me: Boy Scouts!

Towards the bottom of the trail, the effects of Typhoon Pongsana became apparent. The entire trail was covered in fallen trees and thick bramble. Hikers had made a detour around most of the fallen debris but the main trail was completely useless from the top of the third hill all the way to the falls. We made it down with no problem and spent about a half hour looking around and relaxing to the sounds of falling water.

The hike up was okay, but made difficult by the fallen trees. A lot of scrambling was involved. When we got up to the top of the first hill, the Boy Scouts were still camped out. Only one guy was there, so I guess the rest of the troop was off somewhere. I struck up a conversation with the guy.

"You guys Boy Scouts?" I asked.
"Yep," he replied. "We're out here for the weekend."
"You know that trail is pretty messed up down there," I said. "It could use some clearing and trailblazing."
"Yeah, we're hoping that GovGuam will send somebody down there to clear it out," was his answer. "It makes it pretty hard for the boys to get to the falls with all those trees down."

I said my goodbyes and moved on. I was a little dumbfounded. My memories of scouting include many an outing spent with saws and hatchets, clearing obstructed trails for other hikers. And I know my experience isn't an anomaly: When I spent a month paddling in Canada in 2000, I encountered Boy Scouts working like beavers at several portages, clearing downed trees off the trail. And these weren't little shrubby trees like the one's on the way to Tarzan Falls, these were large pine trees across trails scores of miles from any civilization. It struck me as odd that this scoutmaster just didn't give a damn and expected GovGuam to get around to it eventually. I don't know what planet he lives on, but I find it highly unlikely that GovGuam has the money to send some dudes down there to open the trail. Or if they do, they'll probably bring a backhoe and dump trucks down there and completely ruin the trail in the process.

I guess I am suggesting that an interest group of private citizens take the initiative and spend a little time clearing the trail for the enjoyment of all. And it would seem like the Boy Scouts are an ideal group to lend a hand in this effort. I'm not exculpable either; I could certainly spend some time pitching in on the weekends to clear trails or pick up trash. Hmm...

Sunday, February 02, 2003

A Day Of Mourning, And Of Reflection

I slept very little during the night. The loss of the space shuttle Columbia and her crew of seven troubled my sleep. I dreamt of spaceflight, weightlessness, the Earth suspended below. They were our emissaries into a hostile and alien universe, scientists and explorers, pushing the edge of what our limited technology can accomplish. They paid the ultimate price for daring, like Icarus, to fly towards the sun. They sacrificed their lives not for war or conquest, but for knowledge and the betterment of mankind. I can only hope that this does not stall our exploration of space. Robot probes and satellites can return vast amounts of data, but the human experience is missing from those missions. That is what makes these expeditions important. We are pushing against the constraints of our species, our biology to explore space. That is what makes it important. William Gibson has a poignant comment on his blog: "...nobody ever said it would be risk free. If it were, it wouldn't be glorious. And it�s only with these losses that we best know that it really is.

Ad Astra Per Asperum

Radar Image of Shuttle Debris

Spaceflight Now has a chilling image taken from a weather radar image showing the trail of shuttle debris falling over Texas.

Damn.

Columbia Lost Over Texas

I was just about to head off to bed at 1:00 this morning when I decided to check my games on Its Your Turn and see if I could squeak in a couple moves before I went to sleep. There was the headline on My Yahoo page - "NASA loses contact with Space Shuttle." I clicked off the page before it really registered. My first thought was "solar flare activity or something knocked out the radio." Then it hit me, they were coming back down this morning. God I hope it's not what I think. Back to Yahoo and my worst fears were confirmed: The shuttle Columbia has broken up on approach to a landing in Florida. SpaceflightNow was tracking the shuttle mission in near real time and recorded a successful re-entry over the Pacific and that Columbia was performing the large S curves to bleed off speed before landing at Cape Kennedy. When contact was lost at 9:00 am EST, the shuttle was over 200,000 feet high and travelling 12,500 mph. At that height and speed, there was no possibility of using ejection seats. All seven astronauts are presumed dead.

Pirate's Cove Up For Sale

I was listening to K-57 earlier this week and listened to Jeff Pleadwell talk about how he was tired of Guam. I've heard this from him before, but I guess he is really serious this time. He's put the Pirate's Cove up for sale on eBay. He must be bloody insane if he thinks he'll get $5 million for that place though.

Guess I better head down there tomorrow and get a homemade burger or some fish kelaguen.

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Candle Power

Found an interesting article about recent NASA research into candle wax as a viable solid rocket fuel. How cool is that? Candle Wax. Maybe the next big push into space will be power by bubble gum.

Power Woes

Got a little scare last night when the power grid went down around 7:30. I spent the night in darkness, despairing that Guam's power system will ever become stable. Fortunately it returned a little before 5:00 this morning, rousing me to a cacophony of electrical devices sputtering to life; television, stereo, laser printer, lights, fans, air conditioning and the many other little electrical fairies that surround our modern life. Another dark weekend on Guam.