MMS Friends

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Mad Cow USA: The Nightmare Begins

Before I start posting links to Gutierrez and his indictment yesterday, let's begin the day with a chilling 'I told you so' article at Alternet about Mad Cow Disease in the US, something near and dear to my heart these last couple of days.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Shadow Circus: CIA Operations in Tibet

Now here's something you don't hear about everyday: a documentary about the CIA-back insurgency in Tibet during the 50's and 60's. The CIA trained and financed a paramilitary operation by Tibetan nationalists until the early 1970's, when Nixon established relations with Communist China. And the story has a local flavor too; the CIA trained many of the counter revolutionaries on Saipan. I'd heard stories about CIA training Chinese agents on Saipan in the 60's, but I never guessed it was actually Tibetans learning how to monitor radio frequencies, master cryptography and make Molotov cocktails.

Local News Roundup

Time for a brief spin through local news from Guam and the region:
  • Carl Gutierrez Indicted!! - Holy Crap! It's about time... I was wondering when somebody would get around to indicting Gutierrez. The charges against Gutierrez revolve around the misappropriation of materials and services to build his home in Uranao. Also indicted was his Department of Administration director, Cliff Guzman. Guzman's indictment centers around the illegal connection of 2400 streetlights installed on private property but paid for with government funds. KUAM has a good rundown on all the current charges, pending indictments and prior convictions surrounding Gutierrez and his term as governor of Guam.
  • Funeral for Slain Family - The grandparents of the slain DePaiva family embraced forgiveness at yesterday's funeral in Palau. Ruth DePaiva, mother of slain SDA pastor Ruimar DePaiva, embraced the mother of accused murderer Justin Hirosi and prayed for her and her son. I am truly humbled at a display of God's love and human compassion expressed by some people. I don't know if I could forgive anyone if my children and grandchildren were sexually assaulted and murdered in such a wild orgy of violence. I would be screaming for blood. This 'eye for an eye' thirst for vengeance only incites further hatred and a cycle of escalating violence, eg Palestine or Kosovo. But perhaps there is hope for our species if more people embrace compassion and forgiveness instead of hatred and vengeance.
  • Talofofo Bay Erosion - Talofofo Bay is getting larger at the expense of Talofofo Bay Beach Park. Wave action is chewing up large sections of the park, a process accelerated by last year's typhoons. A large chunk of the parking lot at the park collapsed a few years ago, and the latest casualty is a picnic shelter that fell into the waves last week.
  • Navy Hiker Dies on Boonie Stomp - A Navy man lost his life hiking in Cetti Bay on Saturday. A memorial service was scheduled for today. A cause of death was not identified.

A Couple Stories from the BBC

BBC NEWS | Health | Prostate cancer 'hits obese harder' - Well that's as good a reason as any to lose some weight in the new year. Guess I beter sign up at the gym today.

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Piranha increase 'due to dams' - I remember piranha's freaked me out when I was a kid. I thought they were migrating north, like killer bees.

Monday, December 29, 2003

More On That Bad Beef

Local grocers raced to issue statements that they do not have any of the tainted beef from that slaughterhouse in Washington state. Both major grocers, Cost-U-Less and Payless Supermarkets repeated assurances that they do not have any of the 10,000 pounds of beef that was processed with the infected Holstein cow on December 9. In addition they added that meat processed on December 9 is still in transit and has not reached the island yet.

Frankly I am little worried about this. I got to thinking about what I put in my stomach the last few days and I know I ate leftover prime rib on Thursday, a hamburger at Jeff's Pirates Cove on Saturday and I made hamburger helper for dinner last night. If I lived someplace on the mainland like California this wouldn't really bother me, but since I live on an island with only 150,000 people on it, my chances are greatly increased to come in contact with this stuff. Guess I'll be eating more fish for the foreseeable future. At least the mercury poisoning is reversible, there's no cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Where's The Beef?

The PDN assured readers yesterday that local retailers say beef is safe. Well that was a bit premature according to CNN. Beef from the infected cow was traced to Guam and several other states - we're at the top of the fucking list!

Battlestar Galactica

Television comes in odd batches to our little island. Mostly things play about a week later here with the exception of a few satellite channels: CNN, Fox News, and ESPN notably. The rest comes piecemeal. Sometimes it shows when you expect it, other times their is a certain randomness in the television programming. Maybe a Wednesday's tape was bad so they tossed in Saturday's tape instead. It makes it hard to actually plan on seeing anything out here. That's probably a good thing.

All this preamble is just to get around to my point: I sat through the Battlestar Galactica mini-series on the Sci Fi Channel tonight, apparently weeks after it originally aired back in the States. I remember the original Battlestar Galactica as mildly entertaining fluff from 1978 or so. I mostly remember how those guys crash landed on a different planet with human settlers every week. It was like they had a crash rotation schedule set up between Starbuck and Apollo. It got pretty stale. Then they made it to Earth and fried a Cylon with a microwave oven at Wolfman Jack's Halloween party.

Anyway, back to the new Battlestar Galactica: I enjoyed it thoroughly. The story was retooled nicely, the special effects were pretty good, and the mini-series created a nice sense of dread about the Cylon menace. The Robots-That-Look-Just-Like Humans angle was a poor decision, but at least they cast a stunningly beautiful woman in very little clothes as the female Cylon-spy. I am quite willing to accept that hackneyed plot device as long as she stays minimally clothed. The storyline was fairly engaging too. I think the main problem with the show was too much going on with too many people doing it. I felt like I needed a scorecard to follow who was who and what they were doing. On the plus side, some of the subplots were enjoyable (Baltar's guilty conscience, the love affair between the pilot girl and her crew chief) and I found they really engaged me in the story. And the battles in space were top notch. They actually looked like spaceships flying in zero gravity instead of airplanes banking around in the night sky. If anything, the space battles look like something out of that video game Homeworld: gigantic ships launching a fusillade of missiles at each other with smaller attack ships buzzing about the periphery.

All in all I give it a thumbs up and I hope that it becomes a tv series. I wouldn't mind catching it every now then on my random island television.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

New Zealand Trip - Part Two

Time for more photos from the land of the Kiwis! Last time I posted pictures from the first few days of my trip, in and around Auckland. This time we leave the city and head south into the countryside for a little road trip.

Tuesday, November 25
Woke up with a bit of a hangover. Guess I was drinking too late into the night with David, Teresa and Tesua. They forced me, I swear!

Anyway by the time I was presentable and made it upstairs everybody else was up and getting ready for the day's adventures. Our plan was to head south from Auckland and visit Rotorua, a geothermal area that was New Zealand's #1 tourist destination. We also had a loose plan to visit Matamata, a small farming community north of Rotorua, and see the farm that was the location for the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies.

Teresa pulled the kids out of school for a couple days and they were very excited about that. David finished marking his exams for the semester and we were ready to go by around 1000 that morning. We had a minivan reservation with A2B Rentals, so we went down to the rental agency and about 45 minutes later we were on the road in a Toyota Previa.

First stop was the Newmarket area for some last minute shopping and lunch. I am sorry to report I took the longest during this stop. I bought a 256 mb memory stick on Saturday, but I couldn't figure out how to work it. I decided to stop back in at Noel Leeming computer store and get their advice (or a refund). Turned out my camera was too old and couldn't handle the 256 mb stick. After much deliberation on the phone, the sales kid helping me actually went across the street to a competitor and brought two 128 mb memory sticks back for me. That was excellent customer service Mr. Gregory Ramshaw. Thank you very much.

We gassed up the minivan and finally hit the road. It was after 1300 by the time we left, but everyone said the trip to Rotorua would only take about 3 � hours.
Heading south through the Bombay Hills

The drive south was uneventful. Pleasant, rolling countryside. Lots and lots and lots of sheep. Just like in Australia, once we got out of the city's environs the expressway reverted into a two lane blacktop. Hard to believe that two lane highway was the country's main north-south artery. Guess that's all you need when the country's population is 3 million people.

We got into Rotorua around 1600 that afternoon and drove around looking for our hotel. We finally located the Regal Geyserland Hotel, and it truly lived up to its name. The hotel abuts the Whakarewarewa geothermal area and our room offered a great view of the Pohutu geyser and mudpools. It was an impressive view, even if the entire city smelled terrible.
Pohutu geyser from the balcony of our room

After dropping our bags in the room and settling in, it was time to wander around the city. We drove to the city centre, did some sightseeing, and located a promising restaurant. The Lone Star Cafe was a pleasant place to stop and rest our weary bones and get some tasty food. I was a little concerned that the name of this restaurant would invite a lawsuit from a similarly named US chain of restaurants.
Cheers from Teresa!

After dinner we did some more sightseeing and found some really cool stuff. Rotorua is just an amazing city, everywhere we went there was evidence of geothermal activity. Hot springs, mudpots, geysers - it was incredible. I think the most disconcerting part for me was driving around and looking at somebody's lawn. Right in the middle of their yard, a smoking fumarole was belching sulfurous clouds of steam. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think I'd consider high volcanic activity a good reason to build a city.
Steaming fumaroles in a city park

Critics agree: it stinks in Rotorua

Teresa surveys a gazebo

Mudpots bubbling away

These photos don't really do the place justice. Luckily my digital camera can record movies too. If you want to watch a 15 megabyte movie of that mudpot above, just follow this link. Don't say I didn't warn you though, it's a big file and will take a long time to download.

By this point it was getting dark, so we retired to the Regal Geyserland and watched a Monday Night Football on Sky TV.

Wednesday November 26
Wednesday it was dark and stormy. The weather was just awful. It looked beautiful outside with all the steam and the rainfall, but I had no desire to go tramping around in the rain. Over breakfast the adults decided to cancel our plans for fun in Rotorua that morning. We were hoping to try out the ZORB and then ride the cable car and luge attraction. But the rain was unrelenting and after our brief t�te a t�te over breakfast we chose to leave Rotorua and hope the rain would let up as we drove north towards Matamata. The kids weren't too happy about this, they really wanted to check out these adventure activities. Well, who said life is fair?

Sure enough, the weather started clearing up as we drove north. By the time we reached Matamata, the rain was intermittent with patches of blue sky. I won't go into details but it took us some time to find the place in Matamata that sold tickets for the Hobbiton tours. After getting lowdown on this place, and the exorbitant prices, we were on our way back to Auckland. They wanted $50 a head to visit this farm and the Hobbiton set wasn't even there anymore. Plus the next tour wasn't until 1500 in the afternoon as we just missed the noon tour. Thanks but no thanks.

We drove back to Auckland and by the time we reached the city around 1400, the weather was clear and sunny. David felt bad about cutting our trip short, so he drove us to the top of Mount Eden, an extinct volcano, for a look around.
Jordan and Sasha atop Mount Eden

The caldera at Mount Eden

We grabbed some food at a nearby pub, Galbraith's Alehouse. The food was good, the beer was better.
Let's Eat!

Sasha's about to lose a baby tooth

I am the resurrection and the ale

That's about it for Wednesday. We went back to Parnell, chilled out for a bit then went to dinner in Mission Bay. Our restaurant was in the old stone church that was the original mission in Mission Bay. The food was excellent, a fine dining experience. We took a drive through the city after dinner. Our destination was an immense supermarket. Thursday was Thanksgiving after all, we had to make preparations for our feast.

Thursday November 27 - Thanksgiving
Thursday morning - and Thanksgiving to boot! My last full day in New Zealand, it was all too short.

The kids trundled off to school and the adults went to the Auckland Museum for a little culturabsorptionon. The first floor of the museum was chock full of Maori and Pacific Islander exhibits; canoes, paddles, weaving, carving. Wow. I was in heaven. Check out the war canoe in the last image:
Pacific Pathways Exhibit

'He Taonga Maori' exhibit

Waka Taua - Te Toki A Tapiri

We went upstairs briefly, but the second floor paled in comparison with the treasures on the first floor. I think there were dinosaurs and stuff, but it didn't interest me.

That afternoon I did some gift shopping at Victoria Market, pulling together Christmas presents for family and friends. We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at the Bog on Parnell Rise, where I put away one last pint of Guinness.
Driving down Queen Street

The sign says: Success covers a multitude of blunders

Ah, sweet nectar of the gods

We got back around 1500, just in time to catch the kids coming home from school. Jordan had a basketball game after school, and I discovered that my digital camera doesn't take sports/action shots very well. This is the best of the bunch, Jordan making a free throw late in the game.

After Jordan's victory in the final game of the season we headed back to Alberon St. and our Thanksgiving feast. Turkey proved too difficult to locate for Thanksgiving, but the local butcher did provide us with a wonderful ham. Toss in mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, fresh salad and a loaf of hot bread, and it was a magnificent meal.
David toasting the holiday

Hafa adai from Auckland

Thanksgiving feast

Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving

What a feast. Nobody could move after all that delicious food. Teresa really outdid herself cooking up all those dishes. I'd like to say I helped clean up, but I was pretty much comatose after eating all that food. We rounded out the night watching a couple dvd's and looking out over the Auckland skyline.

Friday November 28
That's pretty much it. I left the next morning for Australia, but not until after Teresa made the best damn omelet I've ever eaten. After that, I was off to the airport in the early morning sunrise.
The world's best omelet

David likes his omelet too - but Teresa is being bashful

One last thing: a couple of the Air New Zealand 747's were decorated with Middle Earth themes. Here's one with Aragorn and Legolas painted on the side.
Middle Earth takes to the skies

New Zealand was a lot of fun. I realized too late that one week was nowhere near long enough to visit such a large and fascinating country. Next time I go I will definitely plan on spending more time in Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.
Farewell Auckland

Saturday, December 27, 2003

Back Off The Wagon Again

Went out drinking last night. Lordy, I must be a lightweight nowadays cuz I was hungover all day today. I didn't feel right again until late this afternoon.

I tried these horrible cigarettes last night too, Kickback was the name. Just terrible things. A good cigarette to smoke if you want to quit smoking.

Iranian Earthquake leaves 20,000 Dead

BBC NEWS | Middle East | Iranian earthquake 'kills 20,000'
This is just horrible. That so many can perish in just a few minutes, crushed beneath the rubble of what was a city. Nature can unleash incredible fury at times.

Friday, December 26, 2003

NPR : Tales from a Diary: 'Another Lousy Day'

NPR : Tales from a Diary: 'Another Lousy Day'

I found this fascinating on my morning commute. I actually sat in my car once I arrived at work and listened to the entire piece.

Bloody Christmas

Murder Shocks Palau, Church Community
News reached Guam yesterday of a brutal murder in Palau earlier in the week. A triple murder; husband, wife and their 11 year old son were bludgeoned to death in their home Monday night. The fourth family member, a 10 year old girl, was abducted from the home, raped, strangled, and left for dead on the side of a road. A suspect was arrested soon after, and readily confessed to the crime. The husband was a pastor with the SDA church, and the entire family were missionaries in Palau. A shocking, senseless crime committed because of drugs. The suspect admitted smoking "ice" before he went to rob the house on Monday night.

Navy SEALS shot in drive-by
Two Navy SEALS remained hospitalized on today after being shot in a drive-by shooting on Christmas morning. The two men were in a taxi when a car pulled alongside the cab and opened fire. Apparently the SEALS were involved in an altercation with the two shooters in Tumon. Police arrested both suspects late Thursday night.

Thursday, December 25, 2003

O Tropical Tannenbaum

Thought I would post a picture of Dianne's beautiful Christmas tree on this fine holiday. Merry Christmas

O Tannenbaum

Merry Christmas

'Nuff said. Season's greetings to all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Puffer Fish

I watched The Serpent and the Rainbow last week, and in a funny coincidence found this article about puffer fish and fugu poisoning. That tetrodotoxin sounds like nasty stuff.

Cats Try to Eat Incapacitated Owner

The #1 reason why dogs are better pets than cats; Yahoo! News - Cats Try to Eat Incapacitated Owner. After an 86 year old woman was incapacitated by a stroke, her 9 cats tried to eat her. Authorities also found her dog, emaciated and covered with bite marks from the cats. Seems the little kitties went on a bender and attacked anything to get food, while poor loyal Fido starved himself and had to be euthanised he was in such bad shape.

2003 Guam Fantasy Football League Champs!

It was a nail-biter, but we emerged victorious in our fantasy football league. We scraped by with the narrowest of margins, only 1.5 fantasy points. The prize money comes just in time for Christmas.

Our final lineup was an amazing piece of work: two sub-par running backs filling in for the injured Clinton Portis, a surprise performance from our mediocre tight end, negative points from the Tampa Bay defense and Matt Hasselbeck gets injured in what should be his biggest game of the year. Somehow our stitched together lineup put up enough points to edge out our rival. Of course the biggest help was the fact that both his star wide receivers were injured and came up with goose eggs. It was a miracle - or the infamous Zulu Curse...

New Scientist Article

Silver cars are the safest on the road, according to researchers at the University of Auckland.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Oh My God - I Must Be A Liberal Or Something

Read this: The Death of Horatio Alger

Then read this: Letters From The Troops

Monday, December 22, 2003

I Robot Now

I Robot Now

It's an advertisement for an upcoming Will Smith movie, a production of Asimov's venerable I Robot

Looks good. And don't miss a chance to read the books. Asimov looms large in the science fiction pantheon.

Coast Guard cutter brings cheer to northern islands -

Coast Guard cutter brings cheer to northern islands -

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Famous Foul Ball to Be Destroyed by Chicago Fan

The foul ball involved last fall's infamous fan interference with Moises Alou was auctioned on eBay this week. The winner, Harry Caray's Restaurant, paid $106,600 for the ball. The restaurant announced plans to destroy the ball on February 26.

It won't work. The Cubs are cursed everybody knows that.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

New Zealand - Part One

Enough dawdling around, it's time I post some pictures here and talk about my trip to New Zealand. I'll break it up into digestible portions - today's serving is from the first few days of my trip in Auckland.

The impetus for my trip was a visit to Auckland my friend David Tibbetts. He left Guam in February to pursue a PhD at the University of Auckland and I promised him I would visit. The best time for this trip was around Thanksgiving since I got a surfeit of paid holidays that week. So I booked my tickets and let David know I was coming at the end of November.

I left Guam on Thursday, November 20 on Continental Flight 901 and arrived shortly after midnight Friday in Cairns, Queensland Australia. I knocked off Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 during the flight and totally ignored Chicago, the in-flight movie.

I arranged the tickets myself without a travel agent, and I think I managed it quite nicely. I had to overnight in Cairns before my flight to Auckland the next afternoon, but a couple friends that happened to be on the Continental flight were flying on to Sydney at 0600 that morning, then to Auckland that afternoon and ultimately to Christchurch, their final destination. No thanks - especially if I had to make
that trip with a 2 year old child like they did.

Anyway I had to stay in Cairns for the night, so I booked a room at the Bellview, right on the Esplanade in central Cairns. Instead of sleeping, I started another book, Flowers for Algernon, and read that until about 0500. When I got up a few hours later I met the owners of the Bellview. Rodney and Sheryl Meiklejohn are excellent hoteliers and made me feel most welcome during my short stay. In fact, I booked a room with them for my return through Cairns at the end of the trip - but that's for another date.

My Air New Zealand flight to Auckland left at 1300 that afternoon, so I had time to kill. I checked email and found David's post-flight instructions on locating his place in Parnell. Then it was off to the airport. This flight was rather long and crowded. But I thanks to those killer noise-canceling headphones I could tune out most of the flight and catch some zzz's. I got into Auckland a little after 2100 local time.

After clearing immigration and customs I got on the SuperShuttle bus and it took me directly to David's house in Parnell. That was damn handy. I had arrived! Many welcomes and a frosty cold beer awaited me. Almost everybody was up to greet me; David, his girlfriend Teresa and her boy Jordan. The little girl, Sasha, was already asleep since it was so late when I finally arrived. I got a quick tour of the house and the balcony with it's killer view of central Auckland and the harbor, then Teresa whipped up some food for a late meal. We drank beers until late and talked story.
The Aucklanders: David, Teresa, Sasha and Jordan

The next morning was clear and sunny. Over breakfast we discussed our plans for the the day. A tour of downtown Auckland was in order and perhaps some wanderings through Parnell, the neighborhood where they lived. We left the house and walked down the street to a rose garden that was in full bloom. The kids were quite boisterous and excited, somebody from Guam had come to visit them! I took several photos of the kids scrambling around the park and climbing a big old tree that sprawled across the northern end of the park. After a nice photo of central Auckland, we caught a bus downtown and did some sightseeing around Waitemata harbor and the Viaduct area.
Jordan climbs a tree
And Sasha climbs it too

Central Auckland

The photo above shows our destination, the Sky Tower, the tallest building in the southern hemisphere. We left Teresa and the kids next door before riding the lifts to the top of the building. The view from the observation deck was magnificent. Auckland is a sea-loving city, and from our perch high above the harbor we could see dozens of sailboats plying the waters of the Hauraki Gulf. Looking south I could spot One Tree Hill and Mount Eden, two tall volcanic hills and local landmarks. David pointed out the university campus and the general location of Parnell in the middle distance.
The view from the top of sky tower
Looking up at Sky Tower

Capt. Cook, the kids, and meWe got back down to the street and met up with everybody else. A quick decision about our next destination and we were off for the Lion Brewery in Newmarket. Nothing like a brewery tour to take the edge off. Unfortunately the 1500 tour was booked solid, but we managed to reserve a tour on Monday morning at a considerable discount. Plus I got a great picture with the first man to brew beer in New Zealand, Captain James Cook.

We polished off the day at the Bog, their local pub in Parnell. It's an Irish pub, so I treated myself to a couple tasty Guinness. We ate dinner at the Bog, and both Jordan and I couldn't finish our bangers and mash. The boys walked home through Alberon Preserve, and we all flopped down around the television to watch a DVD.

After the kids were in bed, I finished off Flowers for Algernon and started another book, Signal to Noise. Then Teresa told me that the final of the Rugby World Cup was on. I went upstairs and watched a thrilling game.

Jordan & David waiting for the ferrySunday morning we ate a delicious breakfast and decided to make a day trip outside of Auckland. David wanted to take us out to Waiheke Island, an island in the Hauraki Gulf. Ferries depart every hour for Waiheke and take about 35-45 minutes. We left at 1100 and enjoyed a tasty Waiheke microbrew, Baroona Beer, while in transit. We got some great views of an enormous cruise ship that docked during the night. It was immense - hell I saw it from the balcony of their house that morning. There was even a bit on the television news about its arrival in Auckland.

The ferry arrived at Waiheke a little before noon and we shuffled off in the rain. It was pretty apparent we were tourists, everyone else rapidly dispersed into waiting cars while David negotiated with a tour operator. The deal was struck for our tour, and it would start at 1300. The guy's name was Jaime and he dropped us in town for an hour and promised to pick us up.

David & Teresa on the tour bus
We ate a bit of food at a restaurant and found Jaime waiting for us when we were finished. We got on board the big yellow bus and our tour started! He drove us around town for a bit, showed us the marae of the local Maori, some small harbors with their boat people sitting around, and then we hit the Onetangi Road Vineyard for our first wine tasting.
Te Motu Vineyards Apparently wineries are the new big thing on Waiheke, and everybody is building tasting rooms and restaurants. Our host at Onetangi Road was a bloke by the name of Sam, and he explained how Waiheke is at the perfect latitude for making Bordeaux-style red wines, merlots, cabernet sauvignons and such. While Teresa and I sampled the wines David tried a beer sampler from the nearby Baroona Brewery. The wines were pretty good. The first couple tasted very young, almost like Beaujolais, and gradually they got more complex. The final wine, a 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, was a real prize winner and definitely the best of the lot. In fact I purchased a bottle to take back home. It's sitting in my closet right now. I am taking Sam's advice and letting it age a bit before I pull the cork and guzzle it for a special occasion.

Onetangi Road was just the first vineyard that day. We proceeded directly to the next winery, Te Motu and sampled their vintages. If anything, Te Motu had better wines. If I had known we would be visiting so many wineries I probably wouldn't have bought the Onetangi Road bottle. As it was, I wasn't about to shell out the cash for another bottle of wine.

And so onto another vineyard. I don't even know the name of it. I was bored with this wine tasting crap, and so were the kids. While Teresa tasted a couple whites this place had available, David chatted up Jaime our guide. Basically the gist of their conversation was 'this is the last wine stop right?' Apparently Jaime had more in mind but he was willing to cut them out of the tour. Thank God.

We left the wineries behind and continued the tour to other sites; beaches, bays, harbors, resorts and stuff like that. With a little coaxing, Jaime left us off at an Irish Pub while he unloaded the two other tourists at the ferry. Molly Malone's was a fun little joint with a rousing open mike for musicians. Not a bad place actually.

The 1700 ferry was rapidly approaching, and we had to go. Jaime arrived and dropped us at the ferry pier, right next to a horse ranch. Sasha desperately wanted to ride a pony and she got a quick ride while the ferry was pulling up to dock.
Sasha on the pony #1Sasha on the pony #2
Goodbye Waiheke

We barely caught the ferry but soon we were on our way back to Auckland. It was misting outside, but a few people stood at the stern watching Waiheke fade into the distance. Far ahead of us Auckland loomed on the horizon, and that massive cruise ship was putting out to sea.

On Monday the kids had school all day and the adults had an appointment at the Lion Brewery in Newmarket. Turned out we were the only ones on the tour. Most of it was pretty silly, a multimedia presentation with animatronic dummies and slide shows showing the history and meaning of beer. I really found the last portion interesting. That's when we got to see the packaging floor and all the machinery. That was cool. And of course the final stop was a good one too. That's when we all got to pour a couple beers for ourselves (and purchase souvenirs).
The Perfect Pour of Lion Red and Steinlager

That afternoon I got to see the university up close. We stopped at David's office to pick up some exams and look around for a bit. Looked like a college campus.

We had a barbecue that night and David invited a friend from the university over. Tesua arrived just as we sat down to eat and helped demolish the lamb spare ribs and steak. Afterwards we spent most of the evening out on the balcony, talking story and enjoying the night air. And that bottle of Jim Beam...
Tesua, Jordan and David
Teresa & Tesua
Auckland city lights

Tesua left late that night, after all the beer was gone and a sizable dent in the Jim Beam. Suffice to say we all slept late the next morning. But that will have to wait for another day.

End of Part One


Did closed circuit cameras at the Hampton Court palace of Henry VIII catch a ghost on camera? A hoax? A publicity stunt? Who knows? The image is pretty creepy.

Friday, December 19, 2003


Fear not. I will post pictures and descriptions of New Zealand this weekend. Till then look at this instead:

Whale Rider - Again

I rented the DVD for the Whale Rider last weekend. I cannot stress how much I enjoyed this movie. It is easily my favorite movie of the year. Don't believe me? Just ask Robert Ebert.

Britney Spears - Genius Inventor

I stumbled on this yesterday via another blog:
Britney Spears guide to Semiconductor Physics - "It is a little known fact, that Ms Spears is an expert in semiconductor physics. Not content with just singing and acting, in the following pages, she will guide you in the fundamentals of the vital laser components that have made it possible to hear her super music in a digital format."

It actually has some interesting stuff about Hedy Lamarr, which is how I found the site. It's chock full of physics - and photos of Britney. A weird and grand vision of teaching physics to the common man.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Return Of The King

I caught the opening day for Return of the King. The wait is over, it is a great movie. A vivid realization of Tolkien's world and the climactic battle between good and evil in Middle Earth. I read a couple reviews of the movie and decided to hazard the crowds. It was great. I only had a few minor quibbles with what was dropped, most notably Saruman's demise and the Battle of Hobbiton, but I understand why it happened. After the destruction of the ring and the passing of Sauron I could palpably feel the restlessness of the theater crowd. It is a 3 � hour movie after all - I understand that not everything in Tolkien's richly detailed story will translate to the screen.

Bottom line, this is an incredible movie and it does justice to the source material. Go see it this holiday season.

Hey! I Own A Pair of Those!

Jeremy Zawodny just bought a pair of Sony MDR-NC20 Noise Cancelling Headphones. I bought that exact model about seven months ago. It makes flying so much more pleasant.

Arthur C. Clarke Interviewed

OneWorld South Asia - Humanity will survive information deluge: An interesting interview with Arthur C. Clarke, author of 2001, A Space Odyssey, Childhood's End, Rendezvous with Rama, and Fountains of Paradise. He discusses the internet, and the information overload that comes from so much content. The important thing to develop is discernment, knowing where to go to get what you need. Like developing your own local librarian, I guess.

Retrograde Motion

Found an excellent page explaining the retrograde motion of Mars across the night sky. Thanks APOD!

SpaceShipOne Breaks the Sound Barrier

Yesterday Scaled Composites performed a flight test/rocket firing and SpaceShipOne Broke the Sound Barrier during the rocket propelled flight. Next step, outer space.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

1,000 sign up for research project on lytico-bodig -

1,000 sign up for research project on lytico-bodig


Two movies are going to be made on Guam? That's the weirdest thing I've heard all day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Hawaii Company to Manage Archaeological Site in Yona

Better late than never I guess. Only took a year to select an archaeological team to analyze the bones found during the road construction in Yona. If they're lucky, they might actually find a couple bones the boonie dogs left behind.

Phew - Crap I'm Tired

What a day! Long and tiring. Still have a ton of shit to do around the house too. It seems like the holiday season has struck with a vengeance. Too much to do, and not enough time to sit down and relax. Parties to attend, presents to ship to family and friends, turkeys to fry (yes, I got a turkey freer - and it's in hot demand right now), and tomorrow I start covering for the other system analyst while he's on vacation for four weeks. Never mind my own projects at work and stuff to do around the house.

One bit of good news came through this week: next year we get an additional holiday. Starting in 2004, the company will add Martin Luther King's birthday into our holiday schedule. And they aren't taking away one of our old holidays either! I think that gives up 10 paid holidays next year. That's almost like being a banker, except we don't close at 3:00 pm every day.

Got to get up early tomorrow and fry a couple turkeys before work. It's our company holiday luncheon and I offered up my services in making a turkey. This one hour luncheon is all we get as employees, and it's pot luck to boot. The company Christmas party went the way of the dodo about five years ago.

Not that I miss it much; in 1997 Typhoon packs hit the weekend our Christmas party was scheduled. The party was postponed until February, then senior management realized it was much cheaper to rent a hotel ballroom in February after the holiday season so for the next two years our Christmas party was about two weeks before Valentine's Day. And they still called it a Christmas party. Go figure. Anyway 1999, well actually February 2000, was the last company party - new the new senior management killed that off with the new millennium.

More Mercury News

The Nation's Top Scientists Speak Out on Mercury Pollution; New Research Suggests Delays May Be Harmful

More On The Toxic Fish At Orote

The PDN ran a good background article on the history of the polluted waters off Orote Point and the continuing ban on eating fish from the area. The paper also ran an article on the impacts the ban has on local fish mongerers. Most offered up assurances that they do not fish in local waters. I don't doubt those claims, the waters off Guam are not exactly abundant in fish after years of extensive harvesting. But I wonder about the conditions in Palau or the Philippines, where most of the fish sold in local markets is procured.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Monday's Random Notes

  • Fantasy Football - Looks like I'm going to the big game. Crushed our opponent today, despite starting Corey Dillon instead of Rudi Johnson (who had 174 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns).
  • IT'S NOISY!! - Air conditioning guys are vacuuming up a mess in the dropped ceiling today. That damn air conditioning keeps leaking. This isn't a little drip, it was a fucking cascade coming through the tiles this morning when I arrived. We're just lucky no computers have been damaged by this continuing problem up here.
  • Wild Comanche Sax - Since it is so damn noisy due to the vacuuming, I got my headphones on and I'm listening to the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. And I just arrived at 'Bring out the Gimp' and the Revels playing Comanche. Sweet Jesus, I'd forgot all about that little episode in the movie. That scene was the final straw for me: Tarantino went off the deep end with that scene. The Gimp, the wild sax music, Bruce Willis selecting the samurai sword, and Ving Rhames' timeless promise "to get medieval on yo' ass." I was laughing hysterically in the theater the first time I saw that scene, the rest of the audience probably thought I was insane or something.
  • Did I mention how NOISY it is in the office today?

That's One Hot Banana

Radioactive potassium may be major heat source in Earth's core. Apparently potassium and iron can form a radioactive alloy under extreme heat and pressure, and this potassium could contribute almost one-fifth of the earth's radioactive heat.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Satellites Watch World's Cities Grow - Sprawl Sprawl Sprawl

From Roland Piquepaille's Technology Trends weblog: NASA's Satellites Watch World's Cities Grow. The original article at NASA documents the growth of urban areas over ten years. Geographers used satellite imagery to compare the size of cities after 10 year intervals. Urbanization increased at an alarming rate in every case, with some cities growing 25% in just ten years. This urban sprawl is not limited to North American cities, cities in China and India exhibited the same growth patterns of development clustered around major arteries leading out of the cities.

Speaking of sprawl, I found a couple web pages by James Howard Kunstler, author of The Geography of Nowhere and a major critic of sprawl and it's associated architecture. I found the Eyesore of the Month entertaining, but his scathing piece on the modern American landscape struck a chord with me. Home From Nowhere lays out price Americans pay for the ubitquitous automobile, a dead, sparsely populated landscape peppered with parking lots, freeways, fried food ghettos and warehouse shopping boxes without a single window in the edifice. A soulless and bankrupt urban landscape, the antithesis of our popular conception of American small town values, Main Street, public parks, apple pie and kids playing baseball in the street. Such a vision is increasingly a fantasy, replaced by Wal-Mart supercenters with five acres of parking and multi-lane freeways to move all those people and their merchandise around in cars.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Global Trade = Global Warming

I just won't shut up about global warming. A recent article in Salon points out the high cost of shipping food around the world instead of eating local produce: Global Trade = Global Warming.
Researchers at Iowa State University have found that fruits and vegetables travel an average of 1,500 miles within the U.S., a 22 percent increase since 1981... Studies show that a basic diet with imported ingredients can easily consume four times the fossil-fuel energy and emit four times the carbon dioxide compared to domestically produced ingredients.

Almost all the food on Guam is imported, with only a few vegetables, fruits and meats produced on island. I can only imagine how much is cost to transport stuff across the ocean.

Free Willy Whale Dies

Keiko, the unfortunate killer whale captured in captivity and the star of the Free Willy movies, died of pneumonia on Thursday in Norway's Taknes fjord.

Parliament Funkadelic In Jail

Found an interesting comparison between George Clinton's arrest and Rush Limbaugh's at Waiting Out The Plague. Guess which was charged with drug possession? Guess which one is out spewing vitriol and accusations of prosecutorial abuse across the airwaves?

Nobel Lecture #2

Let's continue that train of thought with Shirin Ebadi's Nobel Lecture. Ms. Ebadi had harsh words for Western countries that flout the very Universal Declaration of Human Rights they crafted following World War II.

Nobel Lecture #1

How about J.M. Coetzee's Nobel Lecture in Sweden? An excellent piece on writing and reading from the notoriously tight-lipped author.

Friday, December 12, 2003

Hot In Here...

I just can't get enough of global warming lately. Bill McKibben wrought a poignant piece in Granta about the world's blithe disregard for global warming and the coming catastrophe of our own making. Perhaps we lack the vision or the will to address this problem, maybe we fiddle while Rome burns, I don't know. I suspect people just avoid the problem entirely and hope it will somehow sort itself out.

Global warming is a scary and difficult thing to address, and many people are markedly ignorant about it. I bought a new car earlier this year, a small, fuel-efficient compact car. People that knew me were astounded. I had probably 10 people tell me that I needed a big V-8 pickup, something like a Dodge Ram, Ford F-350 or one of those land-yacht SUV's like the Ford Expedition. No real explanation was given for why I needed such an immense vehicle. When I asked why they needed such large vehicles to drive 10 miles to work every day I got the usual answers: 'I need to drive my kids around,' 'It makes me feel safe,' 'It fits my lifestyle,' 'I got a nice tax break by buying it,' and 'Huh?' I got blank stares when I explained I wanted a small, fuel efficient vehicle. Nobody cares. I think most people are just slowly being boiled alive while the heat is turned up and they never even notice it's their hand on the thermostat.

Hat tip for the McKibben article: How to Save the World

Tuna Laced With Mercury

NPR ran a story today about a new FDA warning advising pregnant women to avoid eating tuna along with a wide variety of other fish. Curiously silent about the source of this mercury contamination though. Could it have something to do with the EPA's recent relaxation of mercury pollution regulations?

Naw, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain America; go buy another SUV that gets 10 mpg. Nothing to see here, move along, buy, consume - it the patriotic thing to do. If you don't massively indebt yourself to corporate America, the terrorists will have won...

ENN News Story - California rain flushes toilets in Robert Redford building

Thought I would post this story really quick. It's about Robert Redford building an environmentally conscious building in Santa Monica:
ENN News Story - California rain flushes toilets in Robert Redford building

And I know it's been almost two weeks and no trip photos or rundown on what I did. I promise to rectify that this weekend.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

I need some TURKEY!!

Where the hell can I find a turkey without those embedded pop-up thermometer things on Guam? Not Payless, not Cost-U-Less, not Kmart... Any ideas?

Climate Change - Global Warming - And American Idiocy

BBC NEWS | Americas | 2003 climate havoc 'cost $60bn'

What really caught my eye was this sparkling gem of brilliancy by a US Senator:
"US Senator James Inhofe, who chairs the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, says it is inconsistent with freedom, prosperity and environmental policy progress.

"I'm becoming more and more convinced... that global warming is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people and the world," he told a conference briefing.

Yee Ha! Let's all drive around in our SUV's! Yee Ha!!

Bad Fish

Orote Point fish deemed hazardous by Navy and Guam EPA. The closed Orote Landfill is the suspected source of PCB's found in fish found in the waters off Orote Point.

Just another example of the Navy poisoning the environment on Guam. Lots of PCB's floating around here.

Dive Accident In Palau

A host for the History Channel show Deep Sea Detectives drowned in Palau over the weekend while diving on the wreck of the USS Perry. The minesweeper went down in 1944 off Angaur Island and lies in 250 feet of water (76 meters). The television show was filming an episode about the wreck when this tragedy happened.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Oh God - Crosstabs And More Crosstabs Generating Database Server-Side Cross Tabulations [Dec. 04, 2003]

When Monkeys Fly...

Put lines in ground -

Japan's Space Woes

The Japanese Space Exploration Agency announced the abandonment of the Nozumi Mars probe this week, after five years of circuitous ramblings through the solar system to arrive at the red planet. The unfortunate probe, originally launched in 1998, met with a series of setbacks that delayed the approach to Mars. A solar flare mortally wounded the craft, short-circuiting critical systems that could not be repaired remotely. Instead of orbiting red planet (or colliding during closest approach), the probe will be deliberately sent into deep space to avoid contaminating the Martian environment.

It's been a string of setbacks for Japan lately, including the destruction of two spy satellites last month when their rocket launch went awry.

Gone Fission To Jupiter

Power probe looks to Jovian moons: NASA revealed plans for the Jupiter Icy Moons Explorer, a probe powered by a fission reactor. That's one spicy meatball to be tossing up into orbit if you ask me.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Population Explosion

Jesus H. Christ�

The UN published predictions that if current fertility levels are maintained, humanity could reach 134 trillion by the year 2300.

HOLY CRAP! That's a lot of people.

Eco Strikes Again

An interesting lecture on the future of literature by Umberto Eco, Vegetal and mineral memory: The future of books. The renowned author discusses the rise of hypertexts, the internet, and their effect upon the book.

A fascinating discussion of his lecture can be found at kuro5hin.

Monday, December 08, 2003

Fantasy Football Updates

This was the last week of regular season Fantasy Football for the Guam Fantasy Football league. And yours truly goes into the playoffs as the #1 seed, behind the powerful running attack of Clinton Portis, the arial acrobatics of Randy Moss & Chad Johnson, the arm of Steve McNair, and the stingy Tampa Bay Defense. We crushed our opposition this week, a highly touted team featuring Priest Holmes and Jamal Lewis. I can almost taste sweet victory in the league, and just in time for Christmas.

Happy Anniversary

While I am busy marking memorials and anniversaries today, let me not forget to congratulate my parents on 56 years of marital bliss. Wow - that's quite an accomplishment.

My dad is home for the hospital now, and hopefully no more complications will arise. He was home for less than a week when he had to be readmitted about 10 days ago. I spoke to him yesterday and he still sounds a little drugged up. Hopped up on painkillers actually. But the surgery was a success and I am relieved that he is back home.

Lest We Forget

The War In The Pacific National Park installed a memorial honoring the 12 Guamanians that perished in Pearl Harbor on Saturday, December 6th.

One Year Ago Today

Today is the one year anniversary of Typhoon Pongsona . Hard to believe it's been a whole year. It was horrible, worse than any earthquake or tornado I ever experienced. The devastation wrought by that storm was tremendous. A year later and many GovGuam facilities are still in ruins because we lack the money to finance repairs.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

The Pavement Approaches!

It took 13 months, but the asphalt is finally approaching my house! They started paving last Sunday, took a hiatus all week, and only starting paving again yesterday. Go figure. I am just happy to finally have pavement to drive on instead of gravel.

Pavement - At Last!

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Paddlers Rescued

A tragedy was averted yesterday when 5 paddlers were rescued from tumultuous seas just outside the Hag�t�a Boat Basin. Their canoe was swamped by the high seas prevalent on the western coast this week. Luckily, an off-duty fireman was nearby and paddled out on his surfboard to rescue the paddlers.

The ocean is nothing to fuck around with. I've known too many people who drowned or were lost at sea, including a similar situation with paddlers losing their canoe in high seas. If you go out over the reef in a canoe, take PFD's for Christ's sake. Especially if you go out in the locally produced canoes; those things were designed for flat water inside the reef, not open ocean swells.

Glass Engine

From Rainer Brockerhoff's Weblog: IBM has cooked up a really cool java app called the Glass Engine, which explores in depth the works of Philip Glass. Wow. I could lose myself in a website like this.

Tire Fire Redux

More on the tire fire at BKA Ko'ku Recycling: Precautions issued for tire blaze.

Friday, December 05, 2003

Rockets For The Common Man

I just love this.

Elon Musk, co-founder of Paypal, unveiled his latest startup's crown jewel, a small kerosene and oxygen fueled booster rocket. SpaceX revealed its launch vehicle, the Falcon, to crowds in Washington DC on Thursday, December 4. SpaceX is not competing for the X Prize by putting humans into space; instead the company plans to enter the cutthroat satellite launch industry with rock bottom pricing.

War Reparation Commission Set For Next Week

Next week a commission on World War II reparations is set to hear testimony from survivors of the Japanese occupation. The PDN diligently published the stories of many survivors, detailing the abuse and horrors they suffered under the Japanese.

I don't know if anything will come of these hearings, but I certainly hope so. While Guam was given a chance to claim recompensation shortly after the war, times were difficult back then and many people were not aware of their rights or lacked the chance to properly file for damages. I hope this commission holds the Japanese government accountable for the atrocities committed 60 years ago and provides compensation for those harmed by the occupation.

Tire Fire II: The Steel Radials Strike Back!

The strangest thing happened today. I was having this discussion with Erwin a little before noon. Nothing uncommon in this, we are cubicle neighbors and collaborate throughout the day. Today's conversation was about how I was exposed to so much recycling when I was in New Zealand and Australia. On Guam nobody recycles; there is no waste disposal/recycling program, so all the trash goes into the Ordot Dump. It is simply to expensive to recycle glass, metal, paper and plastic on island, or at least that is the excuse given to the public. But in New Zealand, all the trash was broken down - bottles, paper, plastic, metal - everything was part of a recycling effort. A far cry from our dirty little island.

Then I mentioned that some recycling exists on Guam. The stalled incinerator project calls for a waste management policy that includes recycling, and there is that tire recycling company in Barrigada.

"You mean that one that caught on fire a few months ago?" Erwin asked.

"Yeah," I replied and turned to look out the window. "Fuck me! Look, it's on fire again!"

Sure enough, thick black clouds were rising from behind the airport, towards Barrigada. I took a photo at about 13:00, after I returned from lunch. By then the fire crews were trying to contain the fire, so the huge black cloud was more gray from the dousing. Still it looks impressive.

I swear, it happened exactly like that. I guess we jinxed the place. I can't imagine they will stay open now. This is their second massive fire in under 5 months.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Futurism Is Dead

Seems I missed a fascinating discussion while I was on vacation about the meaning and purpose of Futurism in today's world, set off by an incendiary article at Wired. In addition to a rebuttal from the World Future Society, several of my favorite bloggers chimed in on the subject, pointing out the many an varied Futurists active today; Ray Kurzweil, Eric Drexler, Greg Stock and the Buckminster Fuller Institute. In addition they made cogent points about the value of the internet, blogging and social software in developing futurist thought, and how today's wired children will set the agenda for tomorrow.

Another Reason Oddpost Is Cool

I agree, the news aggregator in Oddpost is a very nifty feature. But it slows down the entire interface.

I Ain't Holding My Breath, Even Though It Stinks Up There

The big headline in today's Guam news is a deal struck between GovGuam and the Federal EPA to close the Ordot Landfill by 2007. Yeah, like that'll ever happen. It will be dragged out ad infinitum because the will does not exist in our crop of politicians to handle something like this. Nobody wants a new dump in their backyard, and the senators are too busy pandering for votes and currying favor to touch such an unpopular subject.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

APOD: 2003 December 3 - Moonrise Through Mauna Keas Shadow

That's a pretty cool photo. APOD: 2003 December 3 - Moonrise Through Mauna Keas Shadow

Piecing Together Joseph Cornell

NPR : Piecing Together Joseph Cornell - a good little feature about one of my personal favorites.

Information Warfare in Miami

AlterNet: Information Warfare in Miami

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The Atlantic | December 2003 | The Bubble of American Supremacy | Soros

Read this: The Bubble of American Supremacy.

Then read this: Fourth Generational Turning Point (from How to Save the World, one of my new favorite blog must-reads)

Television Homogenization

Television and the homogenization of human existence. Based on a Scientific American article.

The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick

Wired 11.12: The Second Coming of Philip K. Dick is an excellent piece about the surge in popularity being enjoyed by Philip Dick, over two decades after his death. His vision of reality and the future is prevalent in Hollywood: Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Matrix movies, Memento, The Truman Show, The Thirteenth Floor, Dark City, the list goes on and on. His ideas permeate creative thought these days. What is reality, what is perception, how do we tell the difference?

"Dick gives us a vision of the future that captures the feel of our time. He didn't really care about robots or space travel, though they sometimes turn up in his stories. He wrote about ordinary Joes caught in a web of corporate domination and ubiquitous electronic media, of memory implants and mood dispensers and counterfeit worlds."
"Like the babbling psychics who predict future crimes in Minority Report, Dick was a precog. Lurking within his amphetamine-fueled fictions are truths that have only to be found and decoded. In a 1978 essay he wrote: 'We live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups. I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudorealities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives. I distrust their power. It is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.'"

Here, check out some Dickian web sites:

Hitting Close To Home

Yona man's death classified as 21st traffic fatality this year -

This is literally just outside my front door. I shop at the 7-Day Supermarket every day.

Hey Der!

You Betcha, it's a beer commercial.

A Chip Off The Old Block

EE Times - Novel processor stirs petascale controversy

Out Of This World

BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Dusty disc may mean other Earths

Monday, December 01, 2003

I'm Back

Got in this morning. I am still exhausted. I need some time off to recuperate from my vacation.