MMS Friends

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

What's Going On With Me

Ate an excellent crock pot meal tonight with Dianne. Chicken with artichoke hearts, olives and mushrooms, seasoned with fresh black pepper, thyme and curry. Fresh zucchini on the side, served on a bed of couscous, and washed down with a Fetzer Gew�rztraminer. Very good meal. I do love the crock pot. It is a wonderful thing, coming home to a tasty meal every time.

Now it's time for a movie. I have a surfeit of videos and dvd's, what with a bevy of Netflix selections arriving today and stopping off at Blockbuster during lunch.

Oh yeah. I also got a new sound card for my computer today, and my brand new cordless phone arrived. And it was a hell of a day at work, the Federal proposal for 2004 is due by Monday.

Sheesh! I need a vacation - and Continental is offering $350 round trip to Bali. Hmmm, I think I'll call Horizon Travel tomorrow!

Chamorro Bible

Cool resources here.

Chamorro Bible available from the Seventh Day Adventists. Nice, but I really like the links to Chamorro dictionary and grammar. Very nice.

Crikey

Sorry for no updates yet today. Been extremely busy at work - it's that time of year.

Today's big story on Guam, brutal murder discovered in Maite on Tuesday morning. A workman stumbled on a dead man behind the MTO (Maids to Order) warehouse in Maite on Tuesday morning. The man was bludgeoned to death and his body dumped in the empty lot. Gruesome.

It gets worse. Police nabbed a suspect yesterday and he readily confessed to the crime. Norbert Keifer confessed to the crime and provided the details of the murder. Apparently Keifer and the victim were drinking at a nearby saloon, LG's Place, and they ended up arguing. The argument spilled outside, and turned into a fight. Keifer picked up a concrete block and pummeled the victim senseless, dragged his unconscious body into a vacant house next door and proceeded to rob him. Then Keifer thought it would be a good idea to bugger the insensate victim. The unfortunate 47 year old victim awoke while Keifer was orally raping the man, and he bit Keifer's 'genitalia' and fought with his assailant. The enraged Keifer picked up the concrete block and beat the man with it until he was a bloody pulp, then dragged the body behind the nearby MTO warehouse.

This is the first murder of the year, and a gruesome one at that. At least the killer confessed and spared us a long manhunt.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Dial Tone

Did I mention the mopes working on the road through Yona? I think I did. Well they managed to cut the trunk phone line today. I knew it would happen sooner or later. Guess it was sooner.

Boonie Stompin' On My Brain

Time to get outside and explore. Been cooped up next to a computer for far too long. Time to Boonie Stomp.

B�rk! B�

An oldie but a goodie...

Ah the wonders of the Swedish Chef. Truly sublime. And you can talk like him too, thanks to the Swedish Chef Translator.

I joost lufe-a thees stooffff! B�rk! B�rk! B�

Now That's Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants

Just heard a blurb on NPR about two pilots sacked from Southwest Airlines for flying naked in the cockpit. I guess that's why it's called a cockpit, right?

Apple's Online Music Venture

So Apple announced a new online music service Monday. Songs can be downloaded for 99� apiece, and the catalog includes 200,000 tracks. Users will be able to download, burn and copy the music at will, without any of the cumbersome digital rights management schemes other music companies have come up with.

Too bad it appears to only work on Macintosh, iTunes, and iPod. And it uses aac audio files, not mp3. Well I hope for the best anyway. This marks a sea change in online music distribution.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Thai Food Extravaganza

Ate a ton of Thai food at Thai Kitchen on Friday. Boy was that good.

I still had the craving for that unique Thai taste, so I whipped up tom yum gai last night. Even though I was rather drunk at the time, the results impressed me. And I still have that craving for Thai, so I am making green curry for this evening. My mouth is watering just thinking about it...

Back In The Saddle Again

About 10 minutes after I wrote my previous post I was passed out on my sofa. Whoa. That was some strong beer I quaffed yesterday. Of course that was the first time I've been drinking since February, so maybe I am a lightweight drinker now. All I know is I needed to crash last night, and I was snoring away by 8:30 pm. And I slept until 6:00 this morning, so I avoided any hint of a hangover too. Not too shabby.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Home Brew

Just got back from my neighbor's place. Chris has an incredible home brew system set up, and I was sampling his frothy, hoppy product.

I am a more than a little fucked up right now. Three hours of home brew stout and India pale ale will do that. I think I will be spending a lot more of my time over at his place in the future. Whoa.

I think I need a nap. And maybe some pizza.

Cake Walk

I think I mentioned something about those amazing GovGuam jobs that people never show up for, yet continue to pull in nice salaries.

Well, it happens in the CNMI too. This is a really bad instance of what I'm talking about. Girl had a $40,000 a year job in the CNMI, yet she was going to school at UOG on Guam. And receiving $20,000 a year in scholarships and grant money to boot.

Double Dippers

Governor Camacho's deadline for double dippers to either forfeit their retirement checks or resign their positions passed yesterday, with 'anemic' results.

I got no problem with these guys coming back to work for GovGuam. Lord knows there is a lack of skilled management level personnel on the island. But during these trying times, it is really galling to here about somebody pulling in two salaries when so many can't pay for basic utilities and food.

Gas Prices

I don't think I mentioned gasoline prices on Guam, but let me quickly bring readers up to speed. Regular unleaded sells for $2.1199/100 right now at all the island gas stations. Last month during the height of the War on Iraq gasoline was $2.0699/100. Gas prices after Typhoon Pongsana were about $1.9499/100, and that was during the fuel shortage and rationing.

So gasoline prices are going up. Petroleum companies are always quick to justify the increases; Guam is a small market, so smaller tanker ships are used; our fuel comes from Singapore, not mainland U.S. were prices are cheaper; the cost of doing business on Guam is high because of insurance; and the latest - GovGuam's 50% gross receipts tax hike.

Still I find it galling to listen to this litany of excuses in the face of worldwide reports on the dramatically falling price of oil. Gasoline prices Stateside are plummeting, oil production is booming. Why are the costs rising on Guam?

Let me explain. Only three companies peddle gasoline on Guam. They got our nuts in a vice, and they can squeeze as much as they like. There is nothing we can do about this but whine and complain. The market on Guam is too stagnant to lure another oil company on island, so the big three are content to wring blood from a stone and only offer these lame excuses in reply.

I guess it is time for me to start cycling to work again. It takes longer, but the equation of time vs. money is swinging away from the costly convenience of my own automobile. Too bad the mass transit system here sucks and is nigh unto useless. I would happily ride the bus to work everyday, if the bus actually ran a real route to my village. The current system of 'call this number and we'll send a micro-bus your way in a couple hours - maybe' just doesn't work.

Can anybody guess who filled up his tank with overpriced gasoline today?

Friday, April 25, 2003

Sunrise, Sunset

Today's APOD photo is pretty nice. It shows sunset from 211 miles up, looking down from the International Space Station. Nice perspective on something I note everyday.

This SARS For You

Next month brings the biannual examinations for certified public accountants. This event promises to lure several hundred would-be CPA's from Japan, Korea, China and Hong Kong to Guam. The PDN has embarked on a crusade to brand this a public health risk since SARS is so prevalent in Hong Kong and China.

Uh - hello? Every day Guam receives thousands of visitors from Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines. How are 500 wanna-be accountants going to radically alter the chances of Guam gettings a SARS case?

Database Developer Passes Away

The father of the relational database died last Friday at his home in Florida. Dr. Edgar Codd was 79.

The former researcher at IBM published papers in the early 1970's outlining a database schema that used the mathematical concepts of relationships to define table structure and query construction. His ideas were initially scorned at IBM, but Larry Ellison read the papers, took Codd's ideas and ran with it - creating Oracle and redefining the way corporations looked at databases.

You're Outta Here

The Guam Memorial Hospital board of trustees voted last night to suspend privileges for Dr. Vivien Batoyan-Sagisi. Sayonara doctor. Astute readers might remember that she plead guilty to a drug charge earlier this year. It's a step in the right direction. Too bad the board refused to consider similar actions against Dr. Davina Lujan, who also plead guilty earlier this year to drug charges revolving around illicit Percoset prescriptions. The general consensus is that Lujan was played by the powers that be, and that she went along with the deals because she comes from a prominent family. Of course, that might be why she is being spared public vilification that Batoyan-Sagisi has endured in the newspapers and television. But still Batoyan-Sagisi is also the central figure in a series of suspect payments totaling $300,000 by the hospital while it was under the purview of former governor Carl Gutierrez.

While their privileges are in danger at the hospital, U.S. attorneys have cautioned the Guam Board of Medical Examiners from taking legal action against the two doctors. So they can still practice medicine on island. I suspect this is because both doctors are cooperating with federal investigations. To me, the charges against these two were basically a squeeze job by the U.S. attorneys, designed to trap them and turn them against the previous administration. Looks like it has worked. Previous attempts to get former cronies to testify against other administrations have met with little success. Why wouldn't they? Take the fall for a corruption charge, keep your mouth shut, serve a few years in federal prison, your family is taken care of and you have a nice job waiting for you in the private sector upon your release. Maybe the doctors figured they had something more to protect than their higher-ups. I doubt the whole story will ever come to light.

Oh yeah, the public auditor is reviewing the suspect contracts involving a radiology contract at the hospital that was signed while Carl Gutierrez had direct control of the hospital. Something smells fishy about that one too. Always did. Why would a cardiologist get awarded a radiology contract? It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.

Dem Bones

I guess the governor was as appalled with yesterday's article in the PDN as I was. He toured the collections in their Tiyan warehouse yesterday and pledged to support the museum and hire a new curator. He also surveyed the heavily damaged museum at Adelup and promised to locate a new facility to locate the museum. Good luck Governor Camacho, I hope you can actually find the funds to create a world class institution.

Full details in an article in the PDN.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Dreams, Careers, Bones of the Museum

I was originally enticed to Guam by suggestions that I could work at the Guam Museum. I'd worked in several museums during college and graduate school, and my degrees in anthropology, art history and museum studies were enough for a number of small museums in the midwest to offer me a position. Instead I came out to this island, looking for adventure and the possibility I could make a difference where it would really matter.

Once I got here however, I realized how pathetic the situation was. At the time, the museum was under the aegis of the public library and housed in a small, decrepit building at the Plaza de Espa�a. The library was pathetically underfunded, and the museum was the red-headed stepchild of the library. The situation at the museum was deplorable. Rainwater leaked through the roof, saturating objects and documents. The staff was non-existent, part of that curious shadow world of GovGuam positions that never report to work yet continue to draw a paycheck. The Micronesian Area Research Center (MARC) at UOG took a number of documents into their storage for protection and the television news would occassionally run brief segments on the detioration of the museum.

My contacts on the island were unable to secure me anything permanent at the museum. I met with the historic preservation people, same thing. I met with Hiro Kurashina, director of MARC only to be told the same things - no positions existed. As things fell apart with the promises I took other work to tide me over until the museum position opened. What happens to a dream deferred? You got to work for an HMO instead...

About a year after my arrival, the museum was spun off into it's own agency and a new director appointed. I wrote her a series of letters and suddenly one day I got a phone call from the director about my ideas for the museum and the collection! We met a couple times and she was enthusiastic about me and my ideas for turning the museum around. She said she was securing funds for a curator position, and she hoped I would apply. Cool. I went back to my day job with a smile on my face and hoped for the best.

A couple months later, I saw a position announcement in the newspaper. The museum was hiring for the curator position. I hurried to submit my resume with an application and fired off another letter to the director, telling her I was interested. Weeks passed. Nothing happened. Then I got a phone call from the director. My application was scored by the civil service and it was too low to qualify me for the curator position. Thanks for applying though. I found out later that she hired a guy with a high school education to be the curator. Fabulous absolutely fabulous. And so ended my attempt at a museum career on Guam. I shifted focus and moved wholeheartedly into the private sector.

I mentioned this because today's newspaper has an article about the deplorable state of the collections the museum is storing. The museum is without a building to display the object, has no curator, and the collections are stored in a crumbling warehouse. Insects, mold, typhoon damage. Over ten years have passed and nothing has changed at the museum. They have a staff now, but no trained curator, registrar or conservator. What is especially galling is the fact that we demanded the Bishop Museum in Hawaii repatriate a collection of bones and other ancient Chamorro remains several years ago. Guam received the remains and the governor promised a new museum and internment for these ancestors.

The bones are sitting in moldy boxes in a warehouse, slowly turning to dust.

About A Movie

Tonight's feature presentation was About A Boy, starring Hugh Grant. I had my misgivings at first, but this turned out to be a really enjoyable movie. Hugh Grant isn't one of my favorite actors, but I must admit he does a bang up job as a callow jackass in this movie. I guess this is billed as a romantic comedy, but the love interest (Rachel Weisz - that chick from the Mummy movies) doesn't show up until well after an hour into the film. Even then she's only in a couple scenes. The real relationship is between Grant and the boy, that was the heart and soul of the film. I do wish the movie had more of Weisz though, she's easy on the eyes and has a great English accent. Rowr.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Jeepers Creepers

Secret societies that run our government behind the scenes? I'm not talking about the Illuminati, this is for real. Read the article from Harper's. That stuff just makes my skin crawl.

This Week's Questionable GovGuam Contract Expos�

Today's PDN runs a couple stories about questionable contracts from the previous administration.

That's it. I am sure these stories will garner a couple night's coverage on the news, then conveniently disappear.

Road Skull

It's been a while since I mentioned the road work in my neighborhood. I guess it's time for an update.

Work commenced in late October 2002, after what seemed like an internminable delay. The contractor, International Bridge Corporation, spent the next few months excavating the loss topsoil, filling in the pits with coral gravel and grading the gravel into a suitable roadbed for the highway. They also started construction on several retaining walls, the most dramatic being an 100 foot long, 30 foot high wall near the Ylig River bridge.

KUAM ran a story yesterday about the contractor unearthing an archaeological site at the site of this retaining wall. The remains of 20 ancient Chamorros were brought to light and all activity has ceased as archaeologists are examining the site.

Silk Road Suite

� Microsoft - The Silk Road
Following the Crouching Tiger obsession I am dealing with this week, I fell into a cycle of listening to the excellent soundtrack by Tan Dun. It features Yo-Yo Ma performing some beautiful interpretations on his cello. Inevitably my gaze has shifted to the Silk Road, helped along by the Silk Road Project and Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Ensemble. I am thinking of pulling down Marco Polo and Ibn Batuta from the Project Gutenberg site, if they are available.

A quick troll through Gutenberg reveals nothing however. Luckily Amazon has a translation of Marco Polo's travels. It's now ensconced on my wish list, awaiting purchase.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Careful With Those Baby Pictures

This just chaps my hide. And it happens in that bastion of freedom and justice, Texas.

Kung Fu Madness

After the overdose on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon this weekend, I got martial arts movies on my brain. I returned Crouching Tiger last night, and rented Once Upon A Time in China III. I watched the first two installments in this Jet Li series last year and while the plots were a little incomprehensible to me, the action was first rate. This third movie left me underwhelmed. The plot was still confusing and disjointed, but the fights were just not up to the caliber of the first movie. I can still remember the climatic fight scene from the first Once Upon a Time in China - Jet Li and his nemesis battling in the warehouse, teetering on impossibly high ladders as streams of rice spill down from the ruptured sacks of grain. Very cool. This movie had no signature fights that stuck in my imagination, and the climatic battle scene combined the two themes of the movie effortly: confused and boring.

I put Crouching Tiger onto my Amazon Wishlist. It will probably be the first DVD I actually purchase. I wonder if there is a special edition DVD with extra scenes and featurettes?

Monday, April 21, 2003

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

So my big excitement for the weekend was a movie rental. I picked up Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon at the corner video store. I saw this movie probably three times at the theater during it's original theatrical run, and I've rented it a number of times since. I am entranced by the movie, it is absolutely incredible. Hell, I watched it three times this weekend, and I think I'll watch it again tonight.

I started prowling around on the internet for more information about the movie, and discovered that it is actually the fourth book in a series of five intertwined novels written in the 1940's. That sparked my interest, unfortunately the books have not been translated into English, or at least I couldn't find any mention of a translation. They sound interesting, fleshing out the world of Giang Hu martial arts. The books are pretty popular in China and Taiwan, and considered pulp fiction. After reading brief descriptions of the stories and plot outlines on the 'net, when I watched the film again last night I was able to pick up a number of interesting asides and references to the books that stole their way into the dialogue.

The movie has enchanted me, and the entire cycle of novels fascinates me. I would like to read translations of the novels, hopefully someone is up to the challenge and will publish them in English.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Embalmed in Bacon

This is just perverse: covering a dead Muslim grandmother in bacon? That's just plain evil man.

Down For The Count

Been sick the last few days. I guess it is a relapse of the cold I had three weeks ago, but this time it came on real fast, and very hard. I was sneezing on Wednesday at work, and by Thursday I was running a fever of 101� F. I split work at noon, drove home in a daze, and collapsed on my futon for the next two days. Wow. I am feeling okay today, a little worn out and I have a nasty sore throat. I wonder what sparked this onset? Anyway, I am taking it low key today and tomorrow. Finish my book, watch a DVD, take a nap. Mr. Excitement.

Moon Shots

The moon was just gorgeous over the Pacific last night. I couldn't resist taking some pictures...







Not too shabby. Sometimes I need to remember why I live on Guam.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Sick Boy

I seem to be suffering through a relapse of that nasty cold I had three weeks ago. Chills, fever, sore throat, runny nose. I abandoned work at noon, hopefully I can get back tomorrow and finish up some projects.

Eeew

Here's a scary story for you: Sean Penn's automobile was stolen in Berkeley last week, and it contained two loaded guns. I find this story scary, not because Sean Penn owns two guns that he keeps concealed in his car, but the fact that Sean Penn is rolling around in a 1987 Buick just disturbs me. That car just screams 'redneck hick' if you ask me. I guess the vehicle is a hot commodity among those that like ugly 80's GM automobiles.

Anyway, the car was recovered over the weekend, sans firearms. Guess the thief came to his senses and realized he was tooling around in an butt ugly ride. I wonder if it was the Great White, Stryper and Ratt tapes in the stereo that made him abandon his ill-gotten gain? Lord knows I would have lit the abomination on fire and driven it off the Golden Gate Bridge.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

More Chuckles

The War On Iraq has generally depressed me, but I must confess that I was chuckling on my way home tonight, thinking about the former Iraqi Information Minister and his increasingly ludicrous pronouncements last week - Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, a.k.a. "Comical Ali" and Saddam's recently discovered, shockingly decorated love nest, christened "Shaghdad" by the press.

WTF??

Laughing too hard - this and this - too damn funny...

Post Typhoon

Super Typhoon Kujira is rolling its merry old way towards the northern Philippines and Taiwan. Watch out folks - that storm's going be a killer.

I was surprised at how people responded to the threat of Kujira. I suppose folks were caught off guard by Pongsana, and suffered as a result. Seemed like everybody was out gassing automobiles, stocking up on canned goods and batteries, putting up shutters or plywood, and securing their yards against flying debris over the weekend. And that's a good thing - like the boy scouts say: "Be Prepared."

I've heard a couple people propagating a rumor about another tropical depression forming out over Pohnpei. The is no warning on the Joint Typhoon Warning Center site, but the satellite photo does show a conglomeration of cloudy weather south of Pohnpei. Nothing I am worried about at this point though.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Recent Media Consumption

Movies DVD Movies
  • The Florentine - Another quality movie about loser drunks in a run-down bar. Good cast, a little scattershot and unfocused though. I know it's an ensemble picture, but keeping track of 12 to 14 people is too much, especially when most characters have only one or two scenes before the denouement. Perhaps I am just getting burnt out on the 'rummies in a dive' film genre.
  • CQ - If you liked Barbarella, you'll love CQ. The movie produces one long chuckle, interspersed with the occasional poignancy at our protagonist's crumbling relationship while he obsesses about the ridiculous movie within a movie he is editing.
  • Far From Heaven - Spare me. This film did nothing for me. I can appreciate the accurate recreation of the 1950's, the stultifying atmosphere and suburban conformity, but I sure don't like being bludgeoned with it. It's the 1950's - and he's gay! (gasp) She loves another man - and he's black!! (double gasp) Christ. Enough already.
  • Snow Falling On Cedars - A good film. The book's better. Anyway, seen this one before so it didn't really grip me like the first time.
  • Scotland Pa - I couldn't finish this one. One moderately funny idea, Macbeth in a fast food restaurant. It doesn't work after the first half hour. I made it to about the one hour mark, then gave up. I got better things to do than waste my time with 'Shakespeare for Dummies.'
Of these four movies, I only finished two, Florentine and Snow Falling On Cedars. The other two were a waste of my time and I spent far too much effort trying to sit through them. I think I will curtail my DVD watching for a while.

Books, Magazines
I just finished Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and it was not bad. An interesting vision of the near future. His ideas are certainly echo memes about weblogs and reputation as the basis of an economy. The science fiction technology reminded me of Greg Egan's Diaspora, though it wasn't as far reaching in scope and certainly not loaded with hard science. Interestingly, I also recently read a couple chapters in another book set in this near future, digital utopia of immortal life and endless material wealth. It was called Demiurge, and it's available as an eBook. The author of Demiurge is also a writer for the Deus Ex computer game that I own which is set in the near future. I sense a trend developing here. Perhaps the latest sci-fi trend is for authors to focus on cyberpunk human/computer integration, with an emphasis on networking concepts.

The past couple weeks proved a torrent of magazines. I guess the US Postal Service increased the weekly cargo flights or something, because I am suddenly getting magazines from months ago along with the most recent newsstand copies. Recently arrived: February's National Geographic, three Outsides, the latest Utne Reader and a couple MacWorlds. Plenty of reading material on hand.

A Patch of Blue upon the Sky

The worst is over. The winds are subsiding and no damage as far as I can see in my backyard. Guam got off lucky this time.

That cool satellite image from the PDN can be found on their weather page.

Shiver Me Shutters

The wind's shifted about 90 degrees, it comes from the east now. Winds are 50 mph, with gusts a little higher. I think the operational word right now is buffeted. Satellite imagery shows a clearly defined eye, and I can see rotation on the radar loop at the Guam NOAA page.

Oh, and I can't sleep.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Blow Me Down

The wind is gusting to about 50 mph now. Not much rain though. Power has dipped a couple times, but I doubt it's going out tonight.

Here's a good satellite shot of the storm, courtesy of the Pacific Daily News.

Guam's in the gap on the northern side of the storm, between the main storm and that big feeder band.

Poetic Justice

This is great, I don't know how I missed this one before.

In November 2002, Alan Ralsky, a notorious 'spam king' that has jammed email accounts around the world, gave an interview with Detroit Free Press reporter Mike Wendland. In the article Ralsky boasted that about his new $740,000 home in a Detroit suburb. Within days enterprising posters at Slashdot had located his exact address and posted it on the site, exhorting fellow slashdotters to give Ralsky a taste of his own medicine.

Ralsky's home was inundated with junk mail, hundreds of pounds of catalogs, postcards, mailings and brochures - daily. The irony of the situation is that Mr. Ralsky was not amused with people using his tactics against him. A quote from Wendland's follow up article: "They've signed me up for every advertising campaign and mailing list there is," he told me. "These people are out of their minds. They're harassing me."

Sounds like Poetic Justice to me.

Battened Down the Hatches

The house is sealed up tight this evening. Shutters are closed and locked, my front door is secured with nails and sandbags ring the floor below the door stop. I think this is the best prepared I've ever been for a storm. Too bad it's passing over a hundred miles to the south.

Just because the eye of the storm is well south of Guam, the winds are still picking up. I was outside about a � hour ago and the wind was about 35 - 40 mph. I suspect it will pick up to about 50 mph a little after midnight as the storm makes it's closest approach. I am always amazed by the power of a typhoon. The violent center of this storm is affecting hundreds of square miles of ocean, whipping up the winds, driving rain, tumultuous seas. Too think all this fury is engendered by low pressure over warm water and the rotation of the planet. One of nature's rawest spectacles is glancing towards Guam, and it is harrowing to look into the face of this beast.

Deep Eye Into The Sky

Lately I have developed a burning desire for a telescope. For years I wanted one, but I knew enough to dissuade me from pursuing the matter seriously. I knew those cheap department stores telescopes were next to useless, but the 'astronomical' cost of a quality telescope frightened me. Add to the cost of a scope mandatory extras like a quality mount, motorized slewing, lenses and lord knows what else, and I balked at the idea.

Enter the Meade ETX series of telescopes. These small scopes pack a lot of punch for their size. I am seriously considering dropping the cash on one of these. The price isn't unreasonable, and Meade is currently offering a nice deal by tossing in a tripod and a computerized star finder. I think I'll take a couple more days to think it over and check out comparative offers, then take the plunge.

If anything, this purchase is long overdue. I have a reputation among my friends for my stargazing abilities, and I am frequently addressed at parties as the "star man" because I tend to pick out constellations, planets and other phenomena for other guests. It's happened more than once: I'll be browsing the aisles at Blockbuster, or standing in line to get my mail and somebody will say, "Hey, you're the star guy I met at Erin's party a couple weeks ago..." So yes, I think this will be a worthwhile investment, no matter what type of telescope I end up getting.

Typhoon...

Guam's weather is slowly degrading. This morning dark clouds and intermittant showers kept me on my toes during my commute. The weather is expected to worsen throughout the day at Typhoon Kujira draws closer. At this point meteorologists are forecasting that the storm will pass about 140 miles south of Guam overnight and into Tuesday morning.

I put the shutters up last night on a couple windows, I'll probably leave work a little early today to finish up that job at home. I'm not expecting the worst, but better safe than sorry. And I sure don't want to be putting up shutters in the dead of night. That sucks.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

The Rest of the Story

While trolling about on the internet looking for material for the Affluenza post, I came across a great article at Utne. I think everybody saw those photos of Saddam's statue being toppled in Baghdad on Wednesday. Turns out the entire event was staged by the U.S. military, and the comparisons to the collapse of the Berlin Wall are just a bit exaggerated. The entire area was cordoned off by Marines and the crowd was never more than 200 people tops - including the swarms of media personnel. The toppling occurred right outside the Palestine Hotel, location of the foreign press corps in Baghdad, so the media could have easy access. Even more appalling is the evidence that the crowd were actually anti-Saddam exiles, flown into Iraq only days before by the military. The entire thing was bogus.

Check out the real story at Information Clearinghouse. I will readily admit that the situation seemed odd to me at the time. Granted I do not have television access, but the photos I saw showed a small crowd, with some troubled looking Iraqis at the periphery. The entire thing troubled me at the time, especially the images of the Marine placing the U.S. flag upon the statue's head. I can only imagine how galling the photo was to Arab nations.

Freezer Madness

With the storm coming ever closer, I am making an effort to empty my freezer of items that I will be unable to use once the power goes out. Namely, frozen pizzas and those prepackaged chicken kiev things, and microwave burritos. Frozen food.

After the typhoon, I will have a big bbq with the chicken, pork and short ribs sitting in there. That's not a problem. Hell, everybody does that after a typhoon. Standard operating procedure.

Affluenza

Several years ago I watched a fascinating program on PBS: Affluenza. God, did that program hit home. The sickness that comes from having too much stuff. I look around my house and I realize I got too much stuff. Multiple computers, collections of things, sets of books, closets full of crap that I never use, yet I still collect more shit. Trying to fill the void of my life with possessions. There's even a book, Affluenza, detailing the subject in more depth. The author of the book, John de Graaf, is also the producer of the documentary. The program suggests possible cures to this disorder. The message is basically to live a simpler, balanced life. Stop buying stuff. Take the bus. "Pretend the Jones' are the thriftiest, least wasteful people on the block. Then try to keep up with them."

There was an article in Utne Reader several months ago, analyzing this culture of consumption from a Marxist perspective. The Hidden Life of Garbage (sorry - it's not free) documents how the landfill commoditized trash, making the reuse of discarded objects illegal and promoting consumption as a method to sustain the consumer economy. Interesting read. I'd suggest checking the local library for the back issue instead of shelling out a couple bucks to read it online though.

Anywho, I came across this editorial on the NY Times website today also written by John de Graaf. The basic gist of the article is how Americans work more than Western Europeans, and while we value things, they value time. Western Europeans take nine weeks of paid vacation a year, while Americans average two weeks. De Graaf finishes the article by announcing October 24 as the first Take Back Your Time Day, a day to reflect on the overworked and overscheduled lives we lead. October 24 was chosen because it is nine weeks before Christmas, representing the difference in lifestyles between Europe and America.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Astro Pr0n

I just love sites like this one from NASA - I could browse through these images for hours.

Them Real Purty

Just trying out a new little toy - a USB Memory Stick reader from Sony.

Here's a couple sunset pictures from about a month ago.



Both images taken from just outside my front door.

*^%@! GPA!!

Not two minutes after my previous post the power went out at my house - for the second time today. Goddamn that is frustrating. I understand they need to work on the cables and installing new power poles in the village, but why do they have to do it on Saturday? Why every fucking Saturday?? Can't this be done during the regular work week, when people are not at home. I suspect the reasoning behind these Saturday work crews upgrading the lines in Yona is overtime/weekend pay for the GPA bucket crews.

And Now For Something Completely Different

One of my favorite areas at the Art Institute of Chicago is the back corner with all the Cornell Boxes. The boxes are funky little conglomerations of found objects, carefully placed in a box with one or more panels cut away to reveal the intricate interiors. They are odd, a little disconcerting, often just plain creepy. They are tucked into a corner of the modern art gallery on the second floor. And I found an interesting page devoted to Cornell at the WebMuseum.

Today Is Saturday

Went out last night. Drank a little too much. Oops. Sam Choy's got a pretty good deal on beers though. Buy one Heineken and the next on is only 1� - that's a deal I can get behind and support. And I did too, for several hours. Well I had to celebrate my domination of the NCAA office pool with some co-workers. That's code for I was buying the drinks.

Oh yeah, tropical storm 02W has been given the name "Kujira." Great, just great. I guess that means it's going to be a 'whale' of a storm. Storm track puts closest approach about 100 miles south of Guam on Tuesday morning. This is subject to change though.

I am heading out today to buy gasoline and other supplies. Last night I noticed lines forming at several gas stations while ambling home. Better safe than sorry.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Apathy

My attention span for movies has been dwindling lately. Last week I rented Autofocus, but I just couldn't bring myself to watch the entire thing. I got about an hour into the film, then lost interest. I even kept it a couple extra days so I could watch the whole thing, but I couldn't do it. It just didn't interest me.

I'm having the same problem with Scotland PA right now. It was supposed to be back last night, and I am forcing myself to watch it right now. What's the matter with me? I should like these movies. They're offbeat, independent films; a type of movie that I usually enjoy. Yet these two movies leave me cold and bored. I'd rather play around with the news aggregator in Radio Userland or read a magazine. Oh well, I guess my crap-o-meter is getting more sensitive as I age; if I don't like a movie, screw it.

Them Bones

I think I mentioned the burials unearthed recently at Matapang Beach Park in Tumon. The entire park was torn up to install a drainage system for the park and San Vitores Road, and workers excavated several previously unknown burials in the park. Up to 37 people were uncovered, and archaeologists say most of the remains are prehistoric.

A memorial service to honor these ancient Chamorros was conducted at the park yesterday. A controversy is brewing over what to do with the remains, and how to respectfully handle them. Former senator Hope Cristobal vehemently opposes any action to remove the bodies from the burial sites, while the Department of Parks and Recreation is insisting they need to be removed so construction can resume. It certainly is a conundrum with no easy answers. Whatever the result of this controversy, I don't think anyone will be pleased with the results.

Shady Shenanigans

Looks like the Guam Visitors Bureau (GVB) can join the airport in shady contracts with foreign consultants. Today's PDN reports that GVB also signed a contract with China Link during the final months of Carl Gutierrez's administration, and paid out $34,000 to the firm before the management turnover in January. Lovely. These independent agencies that don't have to follow the general government procurement regulations are rife with these blatant rewards and kickbacks for allies and associates. They ought to be ashamed, instead these people are laughing all the way to the bank.

At least I can rest assured that these surreptitious dealings are not a thing of the past. KUAM ran a story last night about GEDCA's controversial and expensive contract with a Washington D.C. lobbying group. This lobbying firm was incorporated on Guam the day the contract was signed by GEDCA. Apparently the high powered lobbying firm is actually a local group that will attempt to subcontract the lobbying to various actual lobbying firms in Washington D.C. Basically it does nothing, just collects money and hires out other firms while extracting an exorbitant fee from GovGuam. The story makes it pretty clear that the entire contract is just a form of payback for a political smear campaign against Bob Underwood during the gubernatorial campaign last year. The entire tale is pretty convoluted but it certainly makes a person go "hmmm..." I am sure that given enough time, Governor Camacho will become more adept at rewarding cronies, lackeys and other assorted boot lickers, just like Carl Gutierrez did in his 2 terms.

KPRG Spring Pledge

Guam's public radio station, KPRG, is in the midst of their spring pledge drive. Now more than ever KPRG needs the public's support. In this age of dwindling GovGuam finances the private sector needs to step up and meet the challenge of keeping this priceless resource on the air. Become a member or volunteer if you have the time.

Storms A-Brewing

Got two phone calls this morning from co-workers wanting information on the typhoon. I forwarded them some information off the internet, and listened to their concerns about another storm. It is still too early to tell though, so I am not too concerned.

Besides, if a storm does hit Guam all that rain will douse the fire at the landfill. The paper quotes Governor Camacho vowing to close the landfill during his tenure in office. Let's just say I ain't holding my breath on that one.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Mmm Beer

I spent an hour down the street with a neighbor, checking out his home brewing equipment. It's a pretty damn impressive setup, a great big rig with propane burners, repurposed kegs to heat water, steep the barley, boil the wort and decant into carboys, then small kegs and a CO2 tap to pour out two varieties at a time. My only regret - I quit drinking for Lent. 10 more days, and I am heading over to his place to get smashed. Hell, he's got an entire bar room set up, with darts, pool, poker, TV and stereo. It's a little pub, two doors down the street.

Mmm, beer...

Play Misty For Me

Just heard an ominous discussion on the radio. No, it wasn't about Iraq, SARS, the Ordot Landfill or any of the other things occupying my mind. It was a weather forecast, specifically for Tropical Depression 02W. Something is forming down by Pohnpei. A storm is brewing, and I always get nervous when they start tracking cyclones on the radio.

More On The Ordot 'Land Field'

Yes, the dump was still ablaze this morning. The smoke was grayish white, a good indication that massive amounts of water are being poured onto the blaze. Firefighters estimate it will take 5 days to extinguish the fire. The governor declared the dump a disaster area last night and asked for $500,000 to be appropriated to combat the fire.

Astute readers will note that the Ordot Landfill caught on fire last October, and that it burned for three weeks at that time. That blaze cost GovGuam $750,000 to put out. Flaming landfills, burning debris sites - Guam is an ecological disaster. Hell, I didn't even bother to post about the fire two weeks ago at a Harmon junkyard. After all, that fire only burned for three days before it was doused. It just didn't rate notice.

I noticed that the landfill fire is quite visible from a number of vantage points on my morning commute. I will try and take some pictures tomorrow if it is still burning.

Editors Need Not Apply

I was getting ready to hit the sack, but I thought I would check KUAM's website to see if they have any further news on the fire.

The article posted by one of KUAM's news reporters discusses the fire at the "largest land field on the island." Huh? I had to read it twice before I realized she meant landfill, and not 'land field,' whatever that is.

Now I realize that KUAM's news staff is generally young and inexperienced, but this is a common occurrence on the stories they submit. Seems like most of the articles posted on KUAM are rife with grammatical errors or malapropisms. I don't think the problem is with the reporters though; if KUAM is going to publish these stories they should hire an editor to proof the reports.

I know, I know. Let he without sin cast the first stone. But they are professional journalists, I am a disgruntled misanthrope wasting far too much time on my weblog. I think my expectations are not unreasonable.

Bah, I rant for no particular reason. Good night, sleep tight.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

UOG Fat Cats

Look at what I found - a list of the twenty highest paid administrators at UOG; KUAM ran this as their top story tonight. Can't say I am surprised. Of course this list is before the 5% paycut they took last month. That's 5% - not 20% like the rest of GovGuam's affected employees.

Ordot Volcano

One my drive home this evening, I glanced west towards the blood red sunset. "Gosh," I thought, "that cloud sure looks like smoke." Well, it is. The Ordot Dump is on fire - again. The Pacific Daily News has a little blurb about it, but nothing is on KUAM yet. It will probably be the lead story at the 10:00 pm newscast though.

Grrr...

Why do I get handed a 'little project' to do at 3:30 pm, when it has to be submitted by the close of business today? Especially when the person just now getting it to me has had it in her possession for over a week?

Guess what? It's after 5:00 pm, and I ain't in any hurry to get it back to her. I might get to it tomorrow sometime if I feel like it. Let her stew for awhile.

Ouch

Police opened fire on peace demonstrators Monday in Oakland, firing rubber bullets and wooden pellets in the first such attack on demonstrators since the war began.

Take a look at these photos to see what harmless rubber bullets can do.

Monday, April 07, 2003

Cool Hand Fluke

Found out today that I won the office NCAA March Madness pool. Very cool, especially since I made my picks at random and then promptly forgot about the entire thing. I guess picking Kansas to go to the final was pretty lucky on my part. Even though the final championship hasn't been played yet (I don't even know when it's scheduled) I am atop the rankings and no one can touch me. Nice little return on my $10 investment. It salves the ache from loosing last year's fantasy football league in the first round of playoffs after a stellar season. That pot was over $400 though, and this one only $170, so I guess I feel halfway vindicated.

Oh yeah, looks like I'm buying a couple rounds this Friday with my winnings. Time and place to be determined.

Small Accidents

I cracked a smile when I visited Crash Bonsai - a little site dealing with a small subject.

FPGA Supercomputing

Ooo, this looks cool. Supercomputing power on the cheap using field programmable gate array chips. Cool.

A New Week Begins

It's Monday here on Guam, and time for another Super Colossal News Roundup! I'll have to keep it brief though, got things to do today.
  • Local girl does not have SARS - Naval Hospital physicians determined that a 9 year old brought into the hospital last week is not infected with the deadly SARS virus. Test results showed that neither she nor the rest of her family are infected with the disease. And that is a real relief. Sooner or later though, someone on Guam will fall victim to the disease - it's inevitable.
  • Another waste of money by the airport - The airport's current management revealed yet another dubious expenditure by the previous administration late last week. In September of 2002, the airport inked a contract with a consultant in Manila for $24,000 a month, plus another $16,000 a month to a sub-contractor in Hong Kong. And what was the purpose of this consultant? Nobody knows. No one at the airport knows anything about this consultant or what services they are supposed to provide. Requests to the consultant by the current management, asking them to clarify the contract have gone unanswered. The cost of this little boondoggle? Over $300,000 in just four months. Another example of the last administration's spendthrift ways. Once is unfortunate, but this is just the latest in a string of high priced debacles. Somebody was seriously lax in judgement up there, perhaps even negligent.
  • Questions raised about bus shelter contract - The Department of Public Works (DPW) is investigating whether the controversial bus shelter contract awarded to former senator Tommy Tanaka was actually completed. While all 330 shelters were built, DPW could not confirm that all the shelters contained the benches and seating required in the contract. What a surprise - taking public money and not fulfilling the terms of the contract. Gosh, that's a first on Guam.
  • Guam Ko'ko released into the maws of hungry cats - The good news - none of the 26 flightless ko'ko released at Andersen Air Force Base fell victim to the dreaded brown tree snake. The bad news - 23 of the birds were eaten by feral cats. And the agencies directing this structured release program are at a loss, the cats are too smart to be trapped or captured. Oops. The best laid plans have a way of falling apart. They took care of the snakes, but forgot there are plenty of other introduced predators on island.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Slow Cookin'

Got a tasty little meal in the cookbook. Got the recipe courtesy of my sister Nancy and the cookbook she gave me for my birthday last year, New Flavors from your Crockery Cooker. Today's recipe is chicken merlot. Dianne and Reiner will be joining me for dinner, I hope they like it.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Ahi Tuna

One of the best things about living on Guam is the ready availability of fish. Tuna, wahoo, mahi mahi, and marlin are all present in the waters surrounding the island, and right now people are pulling in incredible hauls on fishing trips. Excellent prices for fish too - $2.50 a pound for yellowfin tuna. That's an excellent price.

I mention this because I ate dinner tonight with Dianne and some other friends. We started with an appetizer of fresh sashimi. The main course was seared ahi tuna with wasabi aoli, an excellent meal. The vegetable was fresh kang kong, and the salad was a delicious helping of home grown ripe tomatoes from Dave Hendricks, sprinkled with fresh basil. Wow. Dianne also made a loaf of tomato/basil whole wheat bread and she tossed in a tablespoon of finadene dinanche to give it a little kick. Like I said - wow. An amazing meal.

After dinner and dessert, Dave treated us to a couple hours of music with his guitar. It was a good evening and definitely the highlight of my week.

First Case of SARS on Guam?

A Navy family has been quarantined at Naval Hospital after their 9 year old daughter was admitted to the hospital with what looked like SARS. The family was recently in Hong Kong, and returned to the island on March 29.

Friday, April 04, 2003

Hoosiers

One word - hoosiers. And not them basketball crazy folks from Indiana. I am talking about the patois of St. Louis here folks. Hoosiers. Urban white trash. Mullets and Trans Ams. Busch beer. South St. Louis. Soulard.

Home.

Phone Lust

My landlady Dianne just got a new cordless phone. I am in serious techo-lust. I want one, and seeing as my cordless phone/answering machine has died an ugly death, I guess I might as well order one up. It certainly has everything I want in a phone, and it sounds crystal clear - something my old cordless never accomplished.

I was pretty wiped out at work today, I think I was having a relapse from last week. I called it a day a little after three this afternoon and came home for a nice long nap. I got up at eight, and I feel much better.

Time for a movie - tonight's feature is Autofocus.

The Media is Lying To You

Well, here's an interesting story that isn't getting any attention in the media.

A Florida court overturned a jury decision against Fox News, a suit brought by journalist Jane Akre. Akre claimed that Fox pressured her to submit a story favorable to Monsanto and Bovine Growth Hormone, when her investigation indicated otherwise. She refused to falsify her report, and Fox fired her. "The ruling basically declares it is technically not against any law, rule, or regulation to deliberately lie or distort the news on a television broadcast."

I wonder why none of the other media outlets picked up this story. Perhaps because they do it too? Reading all the disinformation about the American P.O.W. rescued this week, it's easy to see why.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Tommy Tanaka Going To Jail

Another one bites the dust. Breaking news yesterday that former senator and gubernatorial candidate Tommy Tanaka plead guilty to entering an illegal contract with GovGuam and conspiring to conceal the fact.

I always thought something was fishy back in '97 & '98 - Tanaka ran against Carl Gutierrez in 1994, but in '97 he came out with a full page ad endorsing Gutierrez, and encouraging his supporters to back Gutierrez in the 1998 elections. Right after that he was awarded a lucrative contract to replace all the concrete school bus stops on the island. It stunk to high heaven, and many people suspected a deal was cut. Turns out we were right. The contract was awarded to him without proper bidding and documents faked to make the process look legal. GovGuam used FEMA money from Typhoon Paka restoration efforts to fund this scam, which caught the eye of the U.S. attorneys. Justice will prevail.

Needless to say, this is only the latest in a rash of convictions. Yesterday another high level GovGuam employee was indicted on theft charges. And airport officials are talking to U.S. attorneys about the spendthrift ways of the previous administration. I think everyone on Guam is waiting with bated breath to see how far up the federal government will go. It's no secret they are gunning for Gutierrez, but will they collect evidence enough to make a conviction stick?

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Fresh Consumption

Recently Watched DVD's:

Recently Read Pulp:

(obviously magazines are not coming in a timely manner - more on that some other day)

Currently Reading:
The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann
Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Shiner Bock

When I got into the office this morning, there was a little present waiting for me. It was a large bottle of Shiner Bock, hand delivered from Texas by my colleague Chuck Tanner. Damn nice of him. I can hardly wait for Easter so I can crack open that baby and enjoy one of Texas' best exports.

Revenue and Taxation

Today the gross receipts tax rose 50% for all businesses on Guam. Gasoline prices shot up overnight to compensate for this new cost, and I expect a great many other things will become more expensive in the next few days. Regular unleaded in now $2.10 a gallon. Guess I better start biking to work. Just for the sake of comparison, regular unleaded was $1.87 a gallon at the beginning of February. War and taxes, a killer combination.

The increase in GRT is part of the government's grand scheme to salvage itself from the brink of oblivion without laying people off. Also introduced were 'sin' taxes on beer and cigarettes, and agressive collection of overdue utility accounts. Of course the worse offenders on the utility hit list is GovGuam, but the power is still flowing to government agencies. It's easier to pick on the little guy, the private citizen that just suffered a 20% pay cut.

Also just announced was an increase in fees at the airport, in a desperate attempt to keep the airport afloat after the previous administration's numerous follies. While the landing fees were ridiculously low, increasing them sixfold is nothing but a slap in the face of the airlines. Now Continental is announcing that they are 're-evaluating' routes and to expect fewer flights in the near future. After all air travel is down because of the war. I am no economist, but it sure doesn't seem like a good time to be raising taxes.

Speaking about the airport, more stories are coming to light about the shenanigans at the airport under the previous administration. Mostly the projects are not exactly illegal, just spectacular wastes of money far in excess of what was originally announced. For example, last year's Birdman Rally in Tumon was sponsored by the airport, which at the time officials said would cost about $100,000. Turns out the figure was actually more like $1.3 million. And the exhibit at Duty Free of the Chinese Terra Cotta warriors, originally quoted by the previous administrator at $250,000 is actually going to cost $1.25 million. Never mind the $500,000 in travel expenses in just three months of 2002, that's chump change at this point. Today's latest ridiculously expensive airport project is the $5 million executive lounge at the airport, replete with $2.1 million in bronze statues of Guam's former governors.

The money squandered on frivolous and suspect projects on Guam is immense. This profligacy is just shameful when the schools lack books or supplies, and have to lay off teachers.