Monthly Archives: February 2003

GMH Running In The Red

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

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

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

Another Close Shave

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

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

No More P.T. For Me

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

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

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

Changes on the Technosphere

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

  • Seems Pyra Labs, the company that runs Blogger, has been purchased by Google. It will be interesting to see how this develops in the next few months. I like Blogger, but I have a few complaints (mostly about my archives – what’s up with that? Fix it already guys). Hopefully this new situation will stabilize the development of Blogger and iron out a few of the more irritating bugs. That seems to be a common complaint too.
  • And the rumors are flying about Salon’s imminent demise. This distresses me, since I have been a regular reader of Salon for a number of years. Lately it’s been on of my core sources for world news, commentary and information. It would suck to lose this outlet, because My Yahoo and CNN just blow. I was willing to pony up the cash for a membership at Salon, but apparently they can’t muster enough subscribers to make ends meet. The discussion of this at MetaFilter has been very anti-Salon. The great unwashed take Salon and David Talbot to task for his lavish compensation, prime location in downtown San Francisco for the Salon offices and a number of other profligate excesses.

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

Departures

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

Radar Love

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


Pretty darn odd looking setup if you ask me.

Whoops

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

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

Testarossa

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


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

Dire News For My Island Home

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

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

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

I can think of a number of things to help GovGuam out of this mess.

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

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

There Will Come Soft Rains

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

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

Zzzzz

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

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

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

Bakatcha

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

Dazzle Ships

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

Some Crews Alerted for N. Korea

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

By Greg Miller and Paul Richter
Times Staff Writers

February 4 2003

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

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

Literary Aspirations

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

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

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

Techno Goodies

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

Guam’s Own Astronaut

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

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