MMS Friends

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Monday, March 31, 2003

Chicken Little

How cool is this? A collection of meteorites tumbled to earth in the southern Chicago suburb of Park Forest last week. Nobody was injured, but the light show frightened several people, and chunks of interstellar matter punched holes in windows, walls and automobiles. That's damn cool.

I remember this fellow employee and friend of my dad's who had a place out in Pacific, Missouri. The guy had a meteorite in his front yard, right next to the steps up to his porch. The thing was an oblong chunk of melted iron about two feet across that he saw crash onto his property one night. He dragged it down from the hills and set it in amongst the azaleas. It weighed a ton, I couldn't make the meteorite budge an inch. I guess it was solid iron or something. I was about thirteen when I saw the thing, and I was mighty impressed.

What The Hell?

Been to Amazon lately? Scroll to the bottom of the page...

336 tablets of Alka Seltzer? 48 packs of peppermint gum? What the hell is this? Odd lots? Factory clearance? When did they start doing this?

And what the hell would anybody want with 336 tablets of alka seltzer?

Chew on This

I mentioned my brother's misgivings about the war last week. I should clarify. My brother votes Libertarian, not Republican. Just wanted to clear the air there.

And he sent me an article expressing his thoughts on economic policy and the foolhardiness of war and fighting terrorism.

Back At Work

Actually back at work today. Seems like I've been away forever.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

Finished

I just completed something I was working on all week while I was home sick. Yeah, it was a video game. I can honestly say I am not a gamer, I rarely play video games of any type. But I had all this time to kill this week, and I was too sick to do much else around the house. So I popped in Grandia II and played for several hours each day. I was pleasantly surprised. I enjoyed the story, and the gameplay was fun too. It's been a long time since I finished a fantasy role playing game like that, easily twelve or thirteen years. I think that was Final Fantasy on a Nintendo. Things have certainly evolved. The depth of the game was much greater, the graphics were beautiful, the music was good, and the plot seemed more mature.

Still, it wasn't all that different from that game Ultima IV I played when I was in high school. Walk around, talk to everybody, pick up a couple friends for your party, kill everything that looks unfriendly, do a bit of shopping, acquire magic and skills, and oh yeah - save the world. The genre hasn't evolved that much. In fact, just by happenstance I stumbled on a parody site that nails all these problems right on the head. It had me chuckling.

Like I said, I don't really play a lot of video games. I can count on one hand the games I've played in the last 10 years. Maybe Grandia 2 sucks compared to other games. I enjoyed it though, and isn't that what a video game is all about?

Alive And Kicking

Back amongst the living. Wow. That was one nasty bug I caught. Friday I went into work, and it was misery. The cold morphed into the flu, and I sat there in my office in a flannel shirt shivering with a fever of 101� - not good. I got some prescriptions to combat this virus and took a long nap when I got home that evening.

The fever broke during the night and when I woke on Saturday the worse was over. I felt vastly improved, like a new lease on life. Hell, I felt good enough to go to the movies yesterday for a matinee - though in truth I was forced from the house by a six hour scheduled power outage in my village.

Today I feel even better - the pressure and pain in my sinuses has diminished greatly and my energy levels are getting back to normal. I'll take it easy for the rest of today, and I should be good to go on Monday.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Still Ill

Still at home, still sick. I did nothing but sleep all day today - I don't know if it's the virus that has me in its grip, or the drugs I am taking to combat it.

I woke up a little while ago, and I feel better than this afternoon. Hopefully I can return to work tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

An Empire About To Decline?

My brother, a staunch Republican, wrote to me with his misgivings about the war. The gist of his arguments was that the U.S. economy depends heavily on foreign investment to keep afloat, and the rise of the Euro threatens U.S. economic dominance. Hence this war against Iraq, a country that deal almost exclusively with European Union Nations, and trades heavily in the Euro. Interesting viewpoint. He sees a decline in U.S. foreign investment, and a concurrent withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed overseas as the country will no longer be able to afford the costs of projecting force across the planet.

His sentiments were echoed in a piece today from the U.K. newspaper the Guardian Unlimited. Interesting read.

Home Again

I am home from work today. This cold is just kicking my ass. It feels like my head is going to explode. I actually feel no worse than I did yesterday, but my boss and several other people in my department 'encouraged' me to stay home - mostly with phrases like 'Dude, stay home tomorrow! I don't want to get sick!' and 'Are you sure you don't have that Asian flu thingy that's going around?' Okay, I get the hint, I can use the sleep too.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

War Maps

The Guardian Unlimited website has some really cool interactive maps and chronologies of the war.

Cough...

Still got this cold. Took a snootful of NyQuil last night though, and I slept pretty good. Had a round of coughing this morning that left me shaken though. This is a nasty little bug I got.

Monday, March 24, 2003

DreamCast Update

Oh yeah, I returned those six DreamCast games that didn't work and got some other goodies at the store. I picked up a couple games, Blue Stinger and D2, and a USB Memory Stick reader. That should keep me busy for a while.

Also placed an order for a couple USB hubs and some KVM cables from Cyberguys. Cheap, hassle free shopping for tech goodies. I think I might try ordering batteries from them next

Lest We Forget

I am worried about the paths our country is taking; readily using war as a foreign policy tool and vehemently suppressing dissent at home. It reminds me of fascism. I do not use the word lightly. And just in case you think such a descent is impossible because we know what happened in Germany, take a gander at these...

No commentary needed, just read those and tell me if you aren't worried.

Local News Update

What with war breaking out in Iraq, and coming down with a nasty head cold, I didn't really pay much attention to local news since last Thursday. However, several things caught my eye, and I thought I should post them.
  • Marilyn Manibusan found guilty - The jury reached a verdict on Friday and found the former senator guilty on 21 of 22 charges. Sentencing will be in July, the prosecutor expects a term of nearly 20 years in prison.
  • Details released on James Sablan - The day before Manibusan's trial started, former Guam Housing Corporation president James Sablan was dropped from the case, and the records sealed. With the trial over, it was revealed on Friday that Sablan plead guilty to his involvement in the fraud and corruption case. His sentencing is also in July, and he could face upwards of 10 years in prison.
  • Attorney General's office exempt from 32 hour work week - Doug Moylan gets his wish; the governor agreed to not reduce the hours for employees in the AG's office. Guess that threat of a lawsuit worked.
  • Governor unveils economic stimulus plan - Governor Camacho unveiled his long expected economic stimulus plan for Guam just before the bombs started falling. His radical suggestions to get Guam working again? Promote tourism and ask the Federal for more military deployments. Wow - now that's something new. I guess he doesn't have any good ideas either. Well let's hope that $1.5 million lobbying effort pays off, because tourism ain't coming back for a long time
That's about it. All eyes on Guam are focused on Iraq, with occassional nervous glances toward North Korea.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

The Dragon's Teeth

Sown from discord, the dragon's teeth are sprouting throughout the world:

Saturday, March 22, 2003

A Requiem for the Beeman

Rest in peace Dan. You are missed, but your legacy lives on. You would have loved tonight's memorial at Pexa's beach. The bonfire, the music, the friends and family. All your friends were there to honor you.

We will miss you.

Clueless

From Lockergnome comes this link. Take a look at the photo; the protestor on the right doesn't really fit in with the others and his sign says "Free Kevin Mitnick."

Uh, he's out already dude. Been out for a couple years now I think. Don't think he has any conditions left on his parole either.

That's a Pothole

I thought the roads on Guam were bad...

Overdose On The DreamCast

I went a little crazy this evening. Okay a lot crazy. But I am pleased with myself too.

I stopped off at the Micronesia Mall after work today. I needed specialized batteries, one for my PowerMac G3 and one for my cordless phone, and Radio Shack is a good place to find them on Guam. Unfortunately, Radio Shack has gone out of business and the doors are shuttered. I wandered about aimlessly, looking for some other place that could sell me specialized batteries. My hopes were dim, then I spotted a video game store. I remembered buying some computer equipment in that store a few years ago, I thought they might help me.

The Game Spot did not have batteries. They did have a tremendous selection of used video games though, most under $9. And a great many of their used games were for the Sega DreamCast, which I just so happen to own. And I only have a couple games for the DreamCast. Hmm...

I was in game geek heaven. Dozens, no hundreds of cheap video games, and me with a fresh paycheck in my wallet. Not a good combination.

I walked out of the Game Spot without a single battery, but 16 games for my DreamCast
  1. Omikron-The Nomad Soul
  2. Grandia II
  3. Tomb Raider-Chronicles
  4. Sega Marine Fishing - doesn't load
  5. Dino Crisis
  6. P.O.D. Speedzone
  7. Dragon Riders
  8. Toy Story 2
  9. Shadow Man
  10. Unreal Tournament
  11. Crazy Taxi
  12. Industrial Spy: Operation Espionage -doesn't load
  13. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater-doesn't load
  14. Championship Surfer-doesn't load
  15. Draconus, Cult of the Wyrm-doesn't load
  16. Starlancer-doesn't load

I was pretty ticked that six of the games won't even load. I am going to try cleaning the discs or some other measures. Odds are though, I will take them back to Game Spot and get a refund or exchange.
I've never heard of most of these, but what the hell - if I don't like any of them, I can just sell them back to the store or put them up on eBay. Most of them look pretty lame, but I wanted to try the surfing game and Starlancer. They looked worth a try, but I guess it's not to be.

Friday, March 21, 2003

NewsMonster

Now this is cool. I've spent a good deal of time lately crawling about and looking for a nice news aggregator. I tried AmphetaDesk, I tried NewzCrawler, I tried SNARF. I am currently pretty cool with Radio Userland's News Aggregator, but then I found NewsMonster. Whoa Nelly... that's one cool little news aggregator. I will be checking this out over the next few days.

Too Sexy For My Orlon Suit

Memepool has a great link to a shocking bit of retro: the 1971 Sears catalog. I shudder just thinking about it, but the fact is, I wore those clothes when I was a kid. Ooop. Ack. Thhhhpptt.

Transformers - More Than Meets The Eye

If this isn't a good reason for the internet, I don't know what is: This chucklehead changed his name to Optimus Prime!

Analemma

Here's a tasty little photo in celebration of the spring equinox. It serves as a good reminder that all the troubles of the world are small and insignificant against the backdrop of the universe.

I think these time delay type of pictures are really cool. Plus that word analemma, that's pretty cool too. Try tossing that one out at your next party.

The War Marches On

Marine helicopter crashed in Kuwait.
U.S. and British forces are on the ground, advancing on Basra.
Iraq lobs missiles towards Kuwait City.

On the Google Toolbar

I recently uninstalled the Google Toolbar on my browser at work. I have used the toolbar for over a year now, and it was an invaluable aid. I quickly searched through hundreds - no thousands of web sites and I was grateful. At first I used only the basic search functions, but I quickly found myself enabling the advanced features and searching Google's archive of UseNet postings. Before I knew it, I checked the PageRank of every site I visited and used their rankings as an assessment of the relative worth of any given page. Funny how quickly I adopted Google's value system. I became a willing slave to the toolbar, it's very usefulness made it indispensable.

So why did I remove it? Last week I noticed that the toolbar was different. A new button had appeared on the toolbar which took me straight to the Google News page. I thought this was pretty cool and started leaving a browser window open on Google News during the day, again a useful tool that was especially pertinent with these troubled times. Another bit of mindshare swinging in Google's favor.

Last Monday I started noticing problems with my browser stalling during page loads, and strange network activity when I wasn't accessing any network shares or email. In fact, this problem had cropped up during the previous week, but it became increasingly annoying as I tried to keep up with the escalation in war rhetoric. What was going on? A little investigation revealed suggested to me that the toolbar was doing something behind the scenes. I guess I should have thought about it before; when advanced features are enabled it cheerfully reports back to Google what I am doing and where I am going. It states it in the privacy policy: "Google may collect information about web pages that you are viewing when the advanced functionality is enabled. However, this advanced functionality is optional, and can be easily disabled and re-enabled at any time (by selecting "Privacy Information..." in the Toolbar's "Google" menu.)" I enabled this functionality ages ago and experienced no problems. But the latest version of the toolbar was making my life difficult.

On further reflection, I started thinking about the unheralded arrival of the "news" button on my toolbar last week and the whole automatic upgrade policy. No notice that an upgrade was available, instead Google just updated my toolbar without asking me. To add insult to injury, Google didn't feel it important to send me an email announcing this upgrade, or any other notification ipso facto. I checked FAQ and privacy policy, and indeed, there it was: "Periodically, the Google Toolbar contacts our servers to see if you are running the most current version. If necessary, we will automatically provide you with the latest update to the Google Toolbar." To be fair, Google probably does this with all good intentions but I was quite happy with the toolbar before this happened. If I had my druthers, I would have kept the old toolbar and continued surfing along happily.

So I uninstalled Google's toolbar and the problem with pages stalling disappeared. That was enough evidence for me. I enjoyed using the toolbar, but I don't need buggy, unrequested 'improvements' to my browser. Maybe I'll try it again in a few months, but I doubt it. I decided to give another search engine a whirl, and I downloaded Teoma's toolbar. It works well enough, though I do find myself jonesing for that PageRank indicator. But it's probably a good thing to break away from that particular Google Meme and make my own decisions regarding a page's relative worth.


Postscript: Since doing away with Google's toolbar, I've suddenly become a junky for toolbars. First was Teoma, which works quite nicely for searching. But I remembered Yahoo offering a toolbar ages ago - did that still exist? Yes it does. Since I have an account at Yahoo, I decided to install that toolbar as well. I wanted to define a word and went to dictionary.com, thinking as I typed the URL that this would be a good function to have on a toolbar - lo and behold, they offer a toolbar too! Hell even eBay has a toolbar available, too bad I don't buy enough stuff on eBay to warrant using that particular tool. But the coolest toolbar I've encountered so far is from Alexa.com, an Amazon subsidiary. The Alexa toolbar offers a Google powered web search, WHOIS lookup, related links, and a button to the Internet Archive WayBack Machine. Very cool!

This whole process has been a useful experience, and I located some additional Internet Explorer toolbars.

Prophecy or Parody?

Uncanny how true most of this has become.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Full Moon

Okay, it's not full anymore, but it sure was pretty tonight. The moon rose a little after 8:30 pm, and several of us were outside enjoying a belated Irish dinner of corned beef and cabbage. It was a damn tasty meal, and the moonrise was probably the highlight of the evening. Watching that silvery orb rise above the waves and cast this argent glow upon the waters, wow - I don't think words can express how beautiful it truly is.

M.U.L.E.

Back in my dimly remembered college days, I spent many an hour playing video games. I liked to say I majored in Nintendo, with a minor in Intellivision. But before I those heady days of Super Mario Brothers, I wasted far too much time playing this game called M.U.L.E. The premise of the game is completely unlike modern video games - players develop a planet and trade for goods and resources. I absolutely sucked at M.U.L.E. My ineptitude at trading was exploited by my friend Mark; he would continually corner the market in some resource and starve me into submission. Not surprisingly, Mark is an investment banker these days. He was a pure capitalist in M.U.L.E., controlling the means of production. I don't think I ever beat him.

Imagine my surprise when I stumbled across not one, but two articles on the internet this week, both detailing the classic game of M.U.L.E. and offering links to a number of viable alternatives and emulators for playing this long forgotten game. Very cool.

And Mark, I challenge you to a rematch buddy. Let's see if I got any better in the last 16 years.

Shock and Yawn...

So, uh, I was keeping up with the reports. The war was starting! The war was starting! Then came hours and hours and hours of endless discussion - in other words, filler. Nothing was going on.

The news media seemed a bit confused about the lack of explosions, and then peeved that this was just a 'preliminary strike' and not the promised onslaught of 'shock and awe' that was expected.

Streaming War Video

I'm sitting here watching an NBC streaming video feed from Baghdad, waiting for the inferno to be broadcast over the internet.

And It Begins...

Reports of jets overhead in Baghdad, air raid sirens, and troop mobilizations.

George W. Bush will address the American people in about four minutes.

Early to Rise

Okay, one thing that sucks: Getting up at 3:30 in the morning for a 4:00 am conference call to California. One thing that sucks worse: Calling in to a 4:00 am conference call and listening to barely audible people on speaker phone mumble to a room for over an hour.

More Lunacy

Oh look! Some random ranting idiot!

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Super Collosal Headline Roundup

Time again for what's happening on my island home:
  • Attorney General to release arrested airport police - "Guam's attorney general will take no steps against four police officers and the airport's controller, all of whom were arrested Monday on official misconduct charges." Atta boy Dougie! Keep up the good work. Oh wait, he's not even on island...
  • Prison below critical staffing levels - I guess it didn't go over too well when the auditor exposed that all those guys up at the prison were getting three and four times their base salary in overtime. A recent slew of resignations among the prison staff is leaving the lockup dangerously under-manned, and several more are expecting to be called up to active duty military service with the impending war in Iraq.
  • Attorneys give closing arguments in Manibusan case - I can't wait to see what happens.
  • War expected to gut remainder of tourist industry - Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, George W. Bush decides to effectively and decisively end all foreign investment and economic activity on the island of Guam.
  • Guam leaders back George W. Bush's vendetta against Saddam - Like anybody really cares. What would happen if Guam didn't fall in with the president? Would angry right wing zealots proceed to smash... er, well whatever it is Guam produces, under the wheels of a tractor for national television? Somehow I doubt it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Huh?

Okay, read that headline: "Airport police personnel arrested in connection with stolen Rolex, missing dog placed on leave...with pay." When I first read that, my first thought was "Why would they put a dog on paid leave?"

Airport Police Arrested

Several Guam Airport Police officers were arrested as part of an anti-corruption investigation yesterday. Officers were arrested in connection to the theft of Rolex watches in 2001, mishandling of seized weapons, and the theft of a bomb-sniffing police dog. Yeah, a police dog. The dog in question was located at the home of the former chief of airport police, who was one of the officers arrested.

Who steals a police dog? I can understand swiping the watches or the guns, but a dog? Does that constitute assaulting a police officer or something?

Reminds of a story I read in a Philippine newspaper a couple years ago during a trip. It was the trial of a police officer accused of murdering his neighbor. The officer was part of a K-9 unit, and brought his canine partner home in the evenings. One night he smelled barbecue and discovered his neighbor cooking up the police dog. Now that's just plain mean. The cop was so enraged he shot his neighbor dead. I recall that the policeman was acquitted.

Thanks

I just wanted to offer my thanks to all the chuckleheads that voted for Ralph Nader in 2000. You were right, you did change history. The differences between George W. Bush and Al Gore were too subtle for you to discern, and now we have John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney running the country. Thanks. No really - thanks. You did good.

Crime And Punishment

Well lookie lookie! St. Louis is the worst city in the nation, at least in terms of violent crimes per capita. And by a healthy margin too. Congratulations to my home town. You've earned it.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Chained to the Scanner

Another evening spent chained to the scanner, processing rolls of film from the past year. I am finished though. And some of the results are not too bad.

Best Thing On Television - EVER

I guess it's been too long since I watched television - I am seriously jonesing for the Simpsons. It's the only thing worth watching on tv.

And this is the best episode the Simpsons ever did - ever. Hands down. I laughed so hard I pissed my pants first time I saw it.

Whither American Power?

A fascinating article on MS-NBC website analyzing the depth of the anti-American fervor throughout the world; it's causes and implications for the future. It's a little long, but very interesting.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

You Want Freedom Fries With That?

The Christian Science Monitor takes the next logical step in the banning of all things French in America: dropping all the French words from the English language in protest! Read the article, it's rather funny.

Anagrams

Found this - an anagram creator. Try punching in your name. Some of my favorites using my name:
THEOREM STORMY
HETERO MOMS TRY
SHEER MR MY TOOT
SHEER MR MY OTTO
TEETH MOM SORRY
MEME THY ROTORS
METEORS OR MYTH

Holy Crap! Uh, I mean Carp

This is definitely the weirdest thing I've heard in some time: Seems there's a fish in New York shouting in Hebrew and prophesying doom to a Hasidic community. Definitely puts that "Big Mouth Billy Bass" you can buy at Wal-Mart to shame.

Sun's Back

Ah, the sunshine has returned!

Saturday, March 15, 2003

March Rain

It's raining tonight. Been cloudy and blustery all day, but the rain mostly held off until sundown. Now it pouring. Very unusual for this time of the year.

Chinese Arts Redux

Took a second, and final, tour of the exhibit in Tumon last night. The terra cotta soldiers return to China next month, and I wanted to take one more good look at those things.

Here's a scan of the catalog cover:

Memex

From the archives at the Atlantic; As We May Think, a fascinating article by Vannevar Bush dating from 1945. Let's just say this was influential in forging the shape of things to come.

Two Opposing Views

Brian Eno wrote an article for Time Magazine on Europe's opposition to the impending war in Iraq and European views of America. He made a good case, wondering how the U.S. has sunk into a "us versus them" mentality, so far from the cultural and intellectual summit the US achieved in the 20th century, and why America stopped asking the profound questions in favor of simplistic world outlooks.

Christopher Caldwell offered a counterpoint essay to Eno's. He threw some softballs, but one point reverberated; that Europeans are able to enjoy all these benefits of a modern democracy because of the U.S. subsidizing their defense. He also makes the point that Americans took on this task after Europe nearly destroyed the world with two horrendous wars in the last century - basically America took over because Europe screwed it up so bad.

Interesting points in both essays, and well worth a read.

GovGuam Starts Issuing Smaller Paycheck

Yesterday was GovGuam payday, traditionally a major bi-weekly stimulus to the local economy. This weekend however, many GovGuam paychecks are 20% smaller due to the 32 hour workweek for over 4,600 employees. The community is in turmoil, with demostrations by affected employees, lawsuits threatened if hours are cut, ill will towards those GovGuam employees unaffected by the cutbacks, finger pointing, accusations, and demands that the governor 'fix' this situation. As if. Things are bad, they are going to get worse. This cutback will trickle through the economy and hamper the economy already saddled with additional taxes by GovGuam.

It's going to get ugly here.

Ice Cream?

The trial of Marilyn Manibusan continued yesterday with the defense calling it's first witness, a fellow member of the Territorial Land Use Commission. Cross examination of the witness by the US attorney was long and intense, with allegations that the witness was bribed by Manibusan to vote for a subdivision development:
Johnson asked McDonald if she ever told the investigator that the reason why she changed her vote was because Manibusan offered to buy her ice cream and give her a ride home. Johnson also asked McDonald if she was mad at the former senator because she did not buy her the ice cream.

Ice cream? Ice cream? That's a hell of a bribe. I sure hope it was a double-fudge banana-split sundae and not just a scoop of vanilla.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Does This Sound Familiar?

The more things change, the more they stay the same:
"Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Hermann Goering, at the Nuremberg Trials
April 18, 1946

Via caterina.net

Willard?

What the hell is this about? Who actually thought that the first Willard was good enough to remake? And with Crispin Glover for chrissakes.

Maybe It Doesn't Suck...

I take my last comment back. I checked my P.O. box last night and found my 2001 tax refund waiting for me. Only took 13 months, but there it was, waiting for me. I wonder if bitching about it on this weblog made any difference? Perhaps somebody is reading...

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Slip Me Some of that Cash

Gerry Perez, the former president of DFS Guam before his ouster (excuse me - retirement) last year, is now in charge of the Guam Economic Development and Commerce Authority (GEDCA) under Felix Camacho. His mandate? To stimulate the economy of Guam, and encourage investment in the island. His solution? To funnel $1.5 million to a Washington D.C. lobbying firm for a six month contract so they can schmooze the federal government for more aid. Brilliant fucking idea. It's been done before - all that happens is some fuck-nut back in D.C. gets rich off Guam's desperately needed cash, and somebody that approved the contract on Guam suddenly has a lot of extra cash to buy prime beachfront land, build a really swanky house, a nice stable of Lexus and BMW SUV's, or send his kids off to Harvard or Stanford. Can anybody spell k-i-c-k-b-a-c-k? There is Hype.

Of course I should say this is totally unsubstantiated rumor mongering on my part, but Lordy Lordy, I've seen it happen before. I just wish I would get my tax refund. It sucks to be the little guy around here.

C64 - Working the Web

This guy has a Commodore 64 set up as a web server! No bull - check it out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

President of Nauru Dies

Bernard Dowiyogo, president of the Republic of Nauru, died in at the George Washington Univeristy Hospital over the weekend. Mr. Dowiyogo, a longtime diabetic, collapsed in Washington D.C. last week and succumbed during heart surgery. He was 57 years old.

Local News Roundup

I've been laying off the news roundup lately, mostly because I stuck that KUAM newsfeed over on the left sidebar. But significant events are happening, and I feel I must comment on them.
  • GMH begins laying off workers. I think I mentioned a couple weeks ago that the new hospital administrator was appalled by the staff size at GMH. 932 work at GMH, and Bill McMillan has started passing out pink slips to 100 people this week. The first to go are security guards, housekeeping and cafeteria workers. All these services are being bid out to private contractors, and McMillan expects to trim $700,000 off the monthly payroll by outsourcing. A second round of layoffs next month will trim the staff at GMH down to 700. [Let's hope McMillan can turn GMH around and finally get that place accredited. He is certainly doing exactly what all the other administrators the hospital had should have done: Clean house. The employees up at GMH are deeply entrenched and resist any reform action. The trail of broken and defeated hospital administrator's attests to who really holds power up at GMH. McMillan seems intent on busting up the cabal that exists up there. Let's hope he can actually accomplish his goals.]
  • Trial for Marilyn Manibusan continues. Former senator Marilyn Manibusan's trial for corruption and fraud entered it's second full week with testimony from Korean contractor Il Joong Ju. Manibusan is accused of accepting bribes and extorting money from Korean contractors while she was chairwoman of the Territorial Land Use Commission. [The federal government is intent on routing out the corruption that exists in GovGuam's highest offices. About time. I expect more indictments will be handed down soon.]
  • GovGuam workers now on 32 hour work week. GovGuam workers at several agencies are now working 32 hour work weeks, an effective 20% pay cut for those unlucky souls. The Department of Education is one of the hardest hit, and protesting loudly over any planned cuts. DOE is probably the single largest GovGuam agency, so the cuts affect the most people in this department. However, DOE is pushing hard to lift the budget impositions, citing concern for the children's education as the reason. [DOE is in real danger of completely collapsing under it's own weight. Again, it's the same problem that is rampant in GovGuam: the focus is not on educating kids, the focus is on providing jobs. DOE is stuck between a rock (the non-existent budget) and a hard place (the powerful employee base and teacher's union), and it certainly doesn't seem like anybody is teaching the students these days. If I had kids, I sure wouldn't have them in the public school system here. This year is basically a waste. So many days have been missed by students this year, I doubt the seniors have enough credits to graduate and get into college.]
  • GovGuam Increases Taxes. In a reckless bid to totally stifle the private sector economy, the legislature passed a 2003 budget that increase the Gross Receipts Tax by 50%, and institutes 'sin taxes' for alcohol and tobacco purchases. I guess somebody was asleep at the wheel, how else could they be so surprised that tax revenues has shrunk so dramatically (by 24%) the last couple years? Oh yeah, the governor wants to borrow $200 million to government expenditures for this year too. [Mortgaging the island's future to pay off the present. The private sector already subsidizes substandard service from the government, and now the GovGuam would rather punish private businesses than trim the payroll or cut programs. Profit margins are slim on Guam, primarily because businesses need to replicate services GovGuam cannot reliably provide: backup generators because GPA can't keep the lights on, reservoirs and catchment systems because GWA cannot provide clean, reliable water service, hell Leo Palace even has their own earth station because GTA can't keep the phones working. Shows were the politicians real interests lie, they'd rather protect GovGuam employees and their own political futures than provide efficient service. These tax increase will cripple Guam's fragile economy. Hotels are threatening to close their doors, construction projects are being put on hold, and property values continue to plummet. The end result will be less income for the government as the economy contracts further. Good thinking. And hell, float that junk bond for $200 million - if that will help get my two years of tax refunds paid out, I don't care what the long term consequences are. Nobody else seems to give a damn here. It should be noted that a large portion of the $200 million is to pay off an immediate $50 million loan that the governor wants to secure to meet government operations for the short term. I think that is called "robbing Peter to pay Paul."]
  • Dededo Dump Fire Extinguished. Oh yeah, another dump caught on fire Saturday night. Surprise, surprise. Firefighters extinguished the blaze late Sunday night. The Dededo Transfer Station was accepting typhoon debris, mostly wood and plant material. I guess all the decomposition was the cause of that blaze, though the fire department should release a report today or tomorrow. [Dry season is beginning, the brushfires will commence soon, only exacerbating the situation. I shudder to think about it. And it is a drought this year too. I expect fires to rival those of 1998, when it seemed like the entire island was ablaze.]

...And that was the week that was...

A Rush of Blood to my Head

Been listening to Coldplay a great deal lately. Just can't get them out of my head. They've filled my 'Radiohead fix' for the last month or so. I'm sure it will pass. Must enjoy it while I can though.

USAF Buzzes Saipan

Residents on Saipan were scared witless yesterday when a loud sonic boom rattled the island and broke windows around 5:30 pm. When questioned, the Air Force admitted that a couple B1's were performing low altitude flyby's of Saipan to familiarize themselves with the airport. At first the Air Force denied that any of the passes were supersonic, but this morning the PDN reports that the Air Force now admits that at least one pass was supersonic, creating a sonic boom that reverberated the island.

Whoops.

Cassini

Yesterday's APOD (NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day) has a nice shot Cassini took departing Jupiter. Never seen a crescent Jupiter before. Very cool. Cassini is en route to Saturn, and will arrive in early 2004.
Here are some other Cassini links:

One thing the APOD site neglects to mention - this photo is actually over two years old. The caption suggests it was made a couple months ago. Cassini is actually over halfway between Jupiter and Saturn now, and actively imaging the ringed planet.

Still, I highly recommend the APOD site. It's one of my favorites on the internet.

Monday, March 10, 2003

A True Gentleman

Everything about how to be a true 19th century gentleman.

Choke

Seems there is a guy going around Florida pretending he's choking, and getting random people to perform the Heimlich on him. Weird.

Moon Impact Confirmed

Listening to NPR can occasionally turn up some real gems: Bonnie Buratti, a planetary researcher at NASA, decided to investigate a 50 year old controversy. In November 1953, physician and amateur astronomer Leon Stuart photographed what appeared to be an asteroid striking the moon and producing a brilliant fireball. Astronomers dismissed his claims and said the image was actually a burning meteor superimposed on the background of the moon. Buratti decided to investigate Stuart's claim by poring over detailed photographs of the moon's surface taken by the Clementine lunar probe. Clementine took over 2 million high resolution photos of the moon during the mid-1990's, and Buratti looked for telltale signs of recent impacts on the lunar surface.

Buratti and Dr. Lane Johnson located a small, 2 kilometer wide crater, with a bright splash of lunar subsurface soil scattered around the impact site - a sure sign of its young age. The location of the crater matches the general location from Stuart's 1953 photo, and the size of the crater is within the parameters extrapolated from the image of the impact. Buratti says the asteroid was roughly the size of a semi-truck and the energy of the impact was 35 times the strength of the atomic bomb detonated over Hiroshima. If this rock had struck the earth instead, it would have incinerated a small city.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Put A Fork In Me...

I'm done. Been sitting at this computer for 8 hours, scanning photos. I got a huge pile of prints that need to be scanned, the photos easily stretch back almost a year. My old scanner went south ages ago, and I finally got a new scanner last month. Nothing fancy, just a cheap Microtek scanner, but it fits what I need a scanner for perfectly.

Still eight hours of scanning gets tedious, to say the least. I got some great shots of family from the holidays in December, and a really good roll taken last June at an outrigger paddling race. Ask me kindly, and I might just post some of those shots up here.

Time to veg out and leave the computer alone for the rest of the night.

Compare And Contrast

Since I posted that placid photo of the Pacific yesterday - all sunlight, blue sky, fluffy clouds and calm seas - I thought I would share a photo I took on December 8, 2002; about 10:00 am, well before the storm got really intense. And that is the exact same location as yesterday's picture.



I could still stand outside at this point, the wind was only about 75 mph. Those waves are about 30 - 40 feet high.

Radio Userland and Salon

I started a weblog at Salon last month. Salon's weblogs use Radio Userland, from Userland Software. I haven't had the time to really take Radio for a test drive, but since I like the software and I want to help support Salon, I went ahead and signed up for a year. So now I have two blogs. Jumping Jehosaphat.

Radio is a desktop application, so I installed it on my Dell. This makes it kind of difficult to post anything while I am at work - which is one of the advantages of Blogger. Radio chains me to my computer at home. I suppose if I had a laptop with wireless networking and a digitally enlightened urban area with tons of WiFi networks, I'd be just peachy. As it is, living on a small island in the Pacific, my options are a little limited. I am reading through the help system today to get some idea of Radio's capabilities. I am certain it can handle posting via e-mail, I just need to figure that out.

I have this vague idea about posting longer essays and stories on the Salon blog, making it more of a literary journal instead of the running daily journal and commentary on Guam that I seem to be developing here. We'll see what happens.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Best Places to Live

David keeps extolling the virtues of his new home city of Auckland. Seems he might be on to something. It's tied for #5 with Sydney on this list of the best cities. The first US city is San Francisco at #20, Honolulu rolls in at #23, while my hometown of St. Louis ranks #55. Manila rolls in at #112.

Starry, Starry Night

The heavens are filled with stars tonight, not a cloud in the sky. Sliver of a waxing moon setting in the western sky, Orion, Jupiter like a brillian diamond. Wow. Guam has some spectacular skies

- Oh yeah that song just sucks.

Laying Off the Sauce

Why am I home on a Saturday night? Simple, I decided to stop drinking for Lent. I periodically do this, not from any deep Catholic belief but because sometimes I need to dry out the liver for a few weeks and lay low or my pocketbook is strained. This time it's both. I was out drinking with David a lot the last few months. I just think it would be a good thing if I cooled off for a bit.

Text Sex

For all you saps out there using VT100 terminals that still want a little 'action'

asciipr0n - I chuckled when I came across the front page.

Ocean Vista

Smooth day on the water, look at that Pacific blue and eat your heart out. Oh yeah, this is the view out my back door.



Don't feel too jealous though, it's raining cats and dogs right behind me in this shot.

Friday, March 07, 2003

On Tap for the Weekend

Tomorrow Larry Franquez's trio with Carlos Laguana and Patrick Palomo will be playing at the Fishbowl in an encore performance. I wouldn't mind another evening of smooth Pacific jazz.

Otherwise, I got to work tomorrow, setting up the network and desktop computer systems for the Baltej move. Maybe Sunday I will go hiking - I got that itch to scramble around on the red hills of southern Guam.

Moving Day ** but not for me

Today marks the big move out of our old corporate offices on Guam. Good riddance - the CenTam building (Central Tamuning - get it?) degraded into a slum several years ago. The stairways smelled like urine thanks to the second floor karaoke clubs and Phu's Place, the apartment building next door was a den of thieves and drug dealers, a 'massage parlor' opened on the first floor, and the landlord did nothing to address our complaints. Still we stayed on as the building slid into ruin and ill repute.

After Typhoon Chata'an, we abandoned the third floor offices, crammed 60% of the staff into one storefront on the first floor and farmed out the rest of the personnel, including me, to our clinic and warehouse facilities. The search began for a new location, with a tentative date set for mid-November.

Well, it's now mid-March and the first offices are ready for occupation at the Baltej Pavilion, our new administrative offices. Starting today, the customer service and medical management departments are located on the first floor of the Baltej Pavilion, and the claims and membership accounting departments are located on the second floor. More importantly, the server room has been relocated to Baltej with no problems. We are now completely out of the squalid CenTam building and good riddance.

As for the other administrative departments that were scattered to the four winds after Chata'an, we comprise the second wave of the relocation project. Our offices will be on the third floor, but the contractor is still building out the walls and offices up there. Should be another month before I am finally ensconced in my new office overlook Tamuning. Once I get over there I will post photos of the new offices. I am excited. Hell, my office has consisted of a dark, windowless exam room with two folding tables, two folding chairs, cat-5 cable dangling from the ceiling, books and boxes piled in the corners, and several yawning holes in the drywall for the last nine months.

Unbreakable

One survives Algerian plane crash, Mr. Glass boards next flight to Algiers to investigate new superman.

Back Up

Well, I am back online. Cool. That was pretty painless.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Going Offline

GTA is taking down the island's DSL network in about 1 hour - I'll be offline overnight. Guess I should shut down LimeWire before that happens.

Hopefully I'll be back up in the morning. Later

Bombers Arrive

I saw a couple USAF B-52 bombers on their approach to Andersen AFB yesterday. Things are ramping up here in the Western Pacific.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Joe McCarthy Must Be Smiling

I came across a story today about a guy that was arrested for wearing a 'give peace a chance' t-shirt in an upstate New York shopping mall. He was asked to leave the premises by security guards and refused, so the police were summoned and duly arrested this unruly upstart. He was 61 years old, and shopping with his 30 year old son. The real irony is that he bought this shirt at that mall. The security guards felt that he was likely to cause a disturbance, so they asked him to leave. He wasn't protesting or demonstrating; he was simply shopping.

What disturbs me is the 'likely to cause a disturbance' excuse given by the mall security. Who determines what qualifies as a 'disturbance?' Wearing a t-shirt is cause to arrest a man? I see t-shirts all the time that I think are highly questionable, but I don't see any of those guys heading off in the paddy wagon. What gives here? What is my country becoming?

Yummy

Just finished a tasty dinner; potato & leek soup with some garlic pesto bread. Whoa, tasty. Nothing like a belly full of starch and dairy to stop a guy in his tracks. Think I'll go finish that book now.

American Gods

I am about to finish Neil Gaiman's gothic fantasy American Gods. This is the first book I read by Gaiman, and I enjoy his choice of locations. I've been to the House on the Rock and Rock City atop Lookout Mountain, and both are excellent roadside attractions. Gaiman weaves an engaging story around the interesting idea that the old gods people came to the New World in the hearts and minds of believers, and this decrepit divinity still persists in America, forgotten in the rush to newer deities like the television, computers, or Wall Street. And what happens when these two pantheons come into opposition? Well, read the book.

Bombs Away in Davao

The airport in the southern Philippine city of Davao suffered a terrorist bombing overnight. The bombing actually occurred outside the main terminal, in a small covered area frequented by jeepney and taxi drivers. At least 20 are dead and hundreds are injured.

The attack is just the latest in a surge of terror activity in Mindanao and the southern Philippines. The suspected reason is the Philippine government's renewed campaign against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and Abu Sayyaf. With extensive U.S. aid, Philippine military units seized territory from the MILF last month and stepped up efforts to crush both Islamic insurgency groups. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is a staunch ally in the U.S. 'War on Terror,' and the presence of U.S. troops in Mindanao is just the latest example of her efforts to quash the Islamic insurgents. While the MILF is accused of the bombings, no one has claimed responsibility for any of these latest bombings.

This bombing in Davao is another one that strikes too close to home. I have been to Davao; I have been through that airport. First Kuta, now Davao; will anyplace be safe in the coming months? Seems like Southeast Asia is becoming highly unstable. Bali was targeted because of the high number of Western Europeans, Americans, and Australians in Kuta, an act of terror designed to frighten Western societies. The work of radical extremists. The violence in Mindanao is more pervasive and of a different nature. U.S. involvement probably escalated the conflict, but the majority of the attacks are against other Filipinos and local infrastructure, airports, gas stations, bus stations, water reservoirs, fuel depots. Sounds like a traditional insurgency campaign against hard targets, designed to impede Arroyo's government and force peace talks.

Fat, Drunk and Stupid

Looks like Dean Vernon Wormer's famous prediction has been scientifically proven. Fat guys are dummer than the rest of us.

Caring For Your Introvert

Stumbled across this interesting article about identifying and caring for the introvert in your life.

Yep, that's me.

Arc Light

So the Air Force is deploying B-52's to Guam. This move is seen as a deterrent to North Korea recent belligerent nature. Seems familiar to me.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

Always Getting the Shaft

Joe Murphy, editor emeritus at the Pacific Daily News and my neighbor, wrote an excellent piece published in yesterday's editorial page. He's right too - GovGuam has habitually fallen prey to shoddy work from contractors. The Oracle system boondoggle is an excellent example - $4.5 million for a software system that never worked. But the most glaring example of the government's ineptitude is the troubled Southern High School in Agat. It was touted for years as a state-of-the-art facility, a shining example of GovGuam's commitment to education. I am amazed that people aren't in jail for the mess that was created down there. It took the contractor years to complete the project, overbudget and late. Despite the extra money and time, the swimming pool doesn't hold water, the athletic fields are unusable, the air conditioners don't work, water service is sporadic, mold fills the building, and several classrooms reek and are abandoned. The place is a mess, and yet nobody is held accountable for that disaster.

Axis of the Taxes

I completed my 2002 tax return last night. According to my calculations, I have a sizable due refund this year - and that depresses me greatly. Odds are good I will never see that money - GovGuam has taken it, and will never give it back.

For the ten years I have lived on Guam, not once have I received a refund check in a timely manner. In fact, in 1994 I was interviewed by Guam Cable News about this very problem. Nothing has changed in ten years; in fact, it has gotten worse. For several years in the late 90's, I received my refund check in late October. And I usually file late February. Sadsacks that waited for April 15 had to wait until January to get their money. Last year I filed on February 12th. I am still waiting for that refund. Since GovGuam is about to crumble into bankruptcy, I doubt I'll ever see that money. It just boggles my mind that this problem has continued for ten years. For ten years the government has not had enough money to meet its obligations, and nobody has done a damn thing. Shame on all of us.

Blinky Blinky

Found this article on Wired about free space optical links. I think we could use this at work for our WAN instead of leasing GTA's fault prone T1 lines.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Recuperating

I'm taking this weekend easy - no big plans. No going out - and no drinking. Rest, relax, read, watch a couple DVD's, piddle around on the internet. That's my idea of a calm weekend after the last hectic month or two. Next week I'll be back in the saddle again, but today I rest.

I watched Fast Runner yesterday. It was fascinating to watch this Inuit legend come to life; a story thousands of years old, but completely original to me. The image of Atanarjuat fleeing his killers, naked and barefoot, across the ice was easily the most powerful thing I've seen in a movie in a while. But the conclusion of the film really stuck with me. Atanarjuat returns to confront the evildoers, yet unlike Western heroes, he leaves no trail of corpses and blood in his wake. He returns evil with justice, but also with compassion. Makes me think George W. could learn a lesson or two from this film.