Monthly Archives: November 2004

36 Big Ones Today

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We’re just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

Another Day, More Random Thoughts

Saturday afternoon and I’m feeling lazy…

  • Radio Reinstall: It’s official. My benighted Dell Celeron PC gave up the digital ghost earlier this week. It’s been dying a long slow death for about the last year, and sensing the end was near, I transferred all the important files (photos, mp3’s, stories and financial data) onto my Qube server. No more Windows 98 in my house! The not so bright side, no more Microsoft Money to track those finances, and I am left with my six year old Macintosh G3 as my only computer. One bright note. I’ve been using Radio Userland on the PC as my news aggregator and I successfully transferred the data and subscription information onto my PowerMac. I was jonesin’ for my newsfeeds the last couple days. Radio is acting up a bit, but I am sure I will hammer out the problems. And throwing a ton of RAM at Radio cleared up most of the kinks. I sure am glad I installed that gigabyte of memory a couple years ago. Now I can cruise my newsfeeds in luxury.
  • Quiz Nite Redux: Thursday night saw the return of Quiz Nite, Habitat for Humanity’s big fundraising event. No pictures this time, I was too busy. My team was cooking this time around. We led through nearly the entire contest and ended up one point shy of first place. We were done in by the ‘spelling counts’ rule. Omorosa or Omarosa? You decide. Sure seems like a nitpicking rule to me. I won’t be satisfied until I win Quiz Nite and establish my reign as lord of all trivia on Guam.
  • Audion Put Out To Pasture: I mentioned my aging PowerMac G3. I still run System 9.2 on the creaky old box, though it is becoming harder and harder. Another piece of software I use every day, Audion, was retired this week. Since I cannot use iTunes, Audion is my primary cd/mp3/streaming audio player. I love it. But it joins the growing panoply of abandonware that I am using on my computer. I’m going to have to make the jump to OS X soon, before I am completely obsolete. Trust me, it’s not for lack of trying, but you’d think I was trying to import plutonium or something instead of a new Macintosh. Hopefully the problem will be rectified shortly. I’ll keep you posted as the situation develops.
  • Police Story: The cops on Guam are busy these days. A shooting death down by Lost Pond on Thursday, hostage crisis at Pacific Towers on Friday.

Neighborhood Burglars CAUGHT!

For a bit of local news, police nabbed the thieves that were terrorizing our neighborhood for a couple months. I got the news from my landlady in an email…

BTW, THEY CAUGHT the burglary ring that terrorized our neighborhood! Joey Duenas just happened to be at home when they hit. He tackled one of the youngest–several were juvenile–and laid on top of him while calling 911. The others fled, but the young kid squealed “like a pig.”

Crime Lab had lifted enough fingerprints to tie ALL of them to ALL the houses on our street that had been hit. Because they also stole firearms, the burglaries are FELONIES. Kids are at DYA. There were 5-7 total involved in this strange ring.

They were brazen enough to be drinking beer and partying in the pool level apt. while the tenants upstairs were home (Callaghan’s rental house).

Info came yesterday from the EPA lady renting that house. She got some of her keepsake jewelry back, but not her laptop which she had NOT backed up! Police also recovered about 12 backpacks — used to carry the booty out from each house.

So the crime wave is hopefully at an end. These jerks broke into a bunch of houses on the street, stealing bizarre crap and vandalizing houses. Guess they’ll be doing hard time now.

Mammoth Steaks Tastes Good, I Bet Big Bird Tastes Good Too

Lesser Megalapteryx. Chromolithograph after a painting by George Edward Lodge from W. Rothschild's Extinct BirdsGot New Zealand on my brain today. And what do I discover on Yahoo? Lost giant: Why did the moa become extinct? Short answer: Because they tasted good.

Moa were gigantic birds that lived in New Zealand until the arrival of humans 700 years ago. Relatives of the ostrich and the emu, 11 species of moa lived in forested areas throughout the north and south islands. The generally accepted story is that the early Maori found the large moa easy to hunt (and quite tasty) and drove the species to extinction. This article suggests that the moa populations were in serious decline by the time humans arrived in Aotearoa. But humans still ate the last of them.

Reminds me of this show Northern Exposure which played on CBS in the early nineties. I remember one episode that the uptight doctor discovered a mammoth carcass in a melting glacier face, only to be dismayed when his neighbors carve up the beast and barbecue him. Why would they destroy such a valuable scientific discovery? Because mammoth tastes good.

I wonder if moa tastes like turkey?

Random Thoughts

  • Caught a fairly interesting travelogue on the Discovery Channel a couple days ago. It was about this French woman wandering through the hinterlands of eastern Tibet, documenting mysterious stone towers that dot the region. Most of these towers were built over 800 years ago, and they don’t seem to have served any particular function. The local people offer up various stories but since they lacked a written language most of the history of these fascinating towers is lost to the sands of time. There wasn’t much science or history in the show, but the photography was spectacular. I enjoyed watching that program. Unfortunately I only caught the last half hour of the program, so I don’t know what it was called. Turns out she is Ted Turner’s new girlfriend. A little Google goes a long way. Here’s the program page from Discovery Channel Online.
  • Read an interesting story about diesel powered fuel cells last week. It caught my eye because I thought it was about biodiesel. Not exactly. The technology is being explored to replace generators on naval warships, not for consumer energy generation. Frankly I think biodiesel offers more promise for the immediate future.
  • Firefox turns 1.0 at last, and the world is noticing. The upstart Mozilla browser is picking up steam and chipping away at the hegemony of Internet Explorer.
  • The Supreme Court of Guam refused to rehear the government’s case against Pacificare, allowing the company to exit the GovGuam market after a year long legal battle. The decision augers more troubles for the government in the not to distant future. Only two insurers are left in the GovGuam market, and both of them are complaining about their losses. GovGuam needs to revamp their healthcare package before every insurer bails out and leaves all those people with no medical coverage.
  • And to those that care, I’ll probably post pictures from my trip to Tokyo this coming weekend. I took some nice pictures, but I still have to transfer them off the digital camera and onto my computer. Patience…
  • Anybody want my cat?

TOP 500 Supercomputer List November 2004

The latest ranking of the world’s fastest supercomputers is out: TOP500 List 11/2004.

Heading the list is IBM’s BlueGene/L system, with an eye popping 70+ teraflops. That’s over 70 trillion floating point operations per second. IBM expects the completed BlueGene/L machine to be capable of 360 teraflops. IBM is already selling the system to interested facilities at a starting pricetag of $1.5 million.

NASA's Columbia Supercomputer ClusterNumber two on the Top 500 is NASA’s Columbia Supercomputer. Columbia is comprised of 10,240 clustered Itanium 2 processors on SGI Altix servers, while IBM’s behemoth features 32,768 PowerPC 4 processors. IBM’s machine is something of a throwback, being a computer built explicitly for supercomputing purposes – a trait it shares with NEC’s former #1 (and current #3) supercomputer, the Earth Simulator. Most of the Top 500 supercomputers are actually immense clusters of high end, commercially available servers, linked via high speed Ethernet and special clustering software available for Unix or Linux systems.

Virginia Tech's SystemX SupercomputerComing in at number 7 on the supercomputer list is the System X supercomputer from Virginia Tech. System X is constructed of 1,100 Apple XServe G5 blade servers. SystemX actually ranked #3 last year and the slip to #7 is a bit disingenuous. SystemX actually increased its performance by 20% over the last year. Only the appearance of several new systems like BlueGene/L and Columbia caused the drop in the machines rankings. And SystemX still puts up some impressive numbers, with the Mac OS X cluster pumping out 12.25 teraflops. The speed with which these massive commodity clusters are appearing is incredible. The technological barriers to supercomputing are dropping all the time. Maybe I’ll cook one up with a couple dozen PlayStations and see what happens.

Hellbenders

The Ozark HellbenderScientists are trying to save the Hellbender, one of the world’s largest salamanders. Hellbenders grow up to two feet long in cold, clear spring-fed Ozark streams. But hellbenders are disappearing from Ozark streams and rivers at an alarming rate, and scientists are at a loss for a cause. The hellbender populations have been threatened by stream impoundments, pollution and siltation for years, yet seemed to do OK in Missouri and Arkansas. However, over the past 10 years, due to unknown factors, the populations in the Ozark Mountains experienced a sudden decline of 70%.

The cold, oxygenated water of the White River’s North Fork holds some of the last remaining members of an amphibian family that has roamed this planet for 150 million years. The hellbender salamander has survived dinosaurs, tectonic shifts and multiple ice ages – only to nearly disappear in the time it took for bell-bottom jeans to come back in style.

“Back in the ’70s, on a day like today, we’d have gotten 100 hellbenders,” Solis said on this October day, “and today we got four.”

Just as disturbing as the salamander’s precipitous decline is the startling increase in abnormalities and deformed salamanders.

Stanley Trauth, a zoology professor at Arkansas State University, showed pictures of hellbenders with gruesome open sores, tumors and missing limbs and eyes. He said that nine out of 10 animals found in the Spring River this year had serious abnormalities, and he considered the animal extirpated from that stream.

Amphibians are especially susceptible to pollution and environmental contaminants, but scientists do not have any specific cause for this rash of deformities. Efforts are underway to save the species by establishing breeding colonies in zoos.

One of the more interesting programs is an attempt to teach captive young salamanders to hide in the presence of trout. Trout are an introduced species in Missouri and the juvenile salamanders make no attempt to avoid the predatory fish when they sense them in the stream. Salamander survival school.

Searching For Amelia

Amelia EarhartJennings Bunn, former curator of the Navy’s Maritime Museum on Guam, is set to begin an archaeological dig on Tinian this week. Based on a story from a WWII veteran stationed on the island in 1944, he hopes to uncover evidence of Amelia Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan. The duo disappeared in 1937 during a round the world flight attempt and were never found. Speculation about their fate includes a variety of stories, from plunging into the sea to crash landing on remote islets in the Pacific. One of the more persistent stories is that Earhart and Noonan were spies for the War Department, secretly observing Japanese military buildup in the Pacific before the war. Supporters of this story mentioned stories of Earhart being in the Marianas in the late thirties, especially Saipan.

About a year ago Saint John Naftel, an 82 year old veteran, came forward with his story. Naftel was stationed on Tinian in 1944, shortly after the island was liberated by US forces. Naftel befriended a Hawaiian laborer enslaved by the Japanese. The Hawaiian showed him a couple of graves that he dug for a woman and a man, and he recognized the woman as the one that was trying to fly around the world. Last October Naftel visited Tinian with Bunn and they located the site of the graves. After a year of wrangling permits from the CNMI and securing funding, Bunn is set to begin his quest this coming Friday.

While I am pretty skeptical of his chances, it would be amazing if he actually found something. One of the most enduring mysteries of the 20th century would be solved. So good luck, Jennings Bunn, may you find Earhart and lay this mystery to rest.

Amelia Earhart

Saipan In A Day

I took a day trip up to the island of Saipan a couple weeks ago, primarily as an excuse to earn 1,000 frequent flier miles and qualify for Silver Elite at Continental.
Continental started a commuter shuttle between Guam and Saipan earlier this year. The Continental Connection flights are actually run by another airline, Cape Air, doing business as a Continental subsidiary. An ATR-42 turboprop makes the flight every couple hours during the day, with a couple runs picked up by a Continental Micronesia Boeing 737 jetliner. Surprisingly the flight time is roughly the same for the ATR-42 and the Boeing 737.

Anyway, here’s some photos from the trip. I spent most of the afternoon in a couple bars, so these pictures are all from my morning sightseeing trip to Marpi, Mt. Tapochau and Obyan Beach.

First stop, the Marpi area for a visit to the war memorials and nature preserves of northern Saipan.

Continental Connection ATR-42 turboprop
Continental Connection ATR-42

Banzai Cliff
Banzai Cliff

Japanese memorials at Banzai Cliff
Japanese memorials at Banzai Cliff

Suicide Cliff
Suicide Cliff

The Grotto
The Grotto

Steps leading down to the Grotto
Steps leading down to the Grotto

Bird Island
Bird Island

Obyan Beach
Obyan Beach

Obyan Beach with Tinian in the background
Obyan Beach with Tinian in the background

Atop Mt. Tapochau, looking southeast over Laolao Bay
Atop Mt. Tapochau, looking southeast over Laolao Bay

Atop Mt. Tapochau, looking south towards Susupe and Tinian in the distance
Atop Mt. Tapochau, looking south towards Susupe and Tinian in the distance

Atop Mt. Tapochau, looking west towards Garapan and Managaha Island
Atop Mt. Tapochau, looking west towards Garapan and Managaha Island

Like I said, I spent most of the afternoon belly up to a bar and drinking $4.00 Budweisers. No pictures from that.

Give me a day, I have pictures from Japan to cull through and post too.

Maria Rita, Diva of the Latin Grammys

Time for a musical plug. I heard this interview on NPR a couple months ago, just after Maria Rita cleaned up at the Latin Grammys. Wow, what a great voice that woman has. I got her eponymous CD a few weeks ago, and it’s been in heavy rotation on my CD player since. And let’s get this straight, I’m not a big bossa nova fan. It smolders with her honeyed voice and sensual rhythms. I can’t get it out of my head.

New Zealand At Risk From Intensive Farming

Blame it on all the cows. A report commissioned by the New Zealand government cited intense growth in dairy farming as a major cause of environmental degradation in New Zealand.

The report found that the number of dairy cows in New Zealand had increased by 34 percent between 1994 and 2002 while the land area used by dairy farms expanded by 12 percent.

Alarmingly, the use of synthetic fertilizer grew by 21 percent while the use of urea fertilizers (a white crystalline solid containing 46 percent nitrogen) soared by 160 percent.

“There is strong evidence our waterways and lakes are becoming nutrient enriched and degraded from nitrogen, animal faecal matter, and eroded sediment,” the report said.

Most of the low-lying rivers and lakes in farming areas were harmed, some to the point that they were unfit even for stock to drink from.

The report cites concerns that the continued degradation of the environment will hurt New Zealand’s ‘clean and green’ image, and perhaps reduce the market for New Zealand agricultural products.

Sounds like a familiar story. Agricultural runoff is a major factor in the ‘dead zone,’ a hypoxic region of the Gulf of Mexico emanating from the Mississippi delta. Runoff from farms also contributed to the ecological collapse of the Black Sea. I guess no place is safe from pollution anymore.

The Red Menace

I think this just about sums it up:
Daily Mirror-November 3, 2004
Folks across the internet are still coming to grips with this election. William Gibson is plain upset. PZ Myers is stunned that the country choose a jingoistic, xenophobic smirker over a patriot. Joe Duemer is worried about the rise of “Christofascism” which is culturally more in tune with the enemy “Islamofascists” of the Mideast than with our traditional allies in Europe. Fred Clark is also concerned about the surging tide of Christian Fundamentalism sweeping the country, and successful co-option of religion by the corporatist Republican machine. Atrios is coming to the realization that the country is a Republican country, and that the Democrats are increasingly isolated and marginalized.

The fact is a great deal of the country doesn’t care for what the Democratic Party stands for anymore. Here’s a graphic of the national voting for president, broken down by county:
2004 presidential election by county
It’s a vast sea of red. And it is not going to change anytime soon. There is a strong sense of recidivism in our country, an anti-intellectual sentiment that fosters an “us” versus “them” mentality. What baffles me is the besieged mentality of this affluent, white, Protestant Christian evangelical community. There is a great belief that Republicans and conservatives are a persecuted and oppressed minority in this country, suffering constant hardships from the liberal elite in Massachusetts and Hollywood. Take a look at that damn map up above. Who’s the minority in this country?

I was listening to David Frum on Fresh Air this evening and all I could think was “apologist” and “moderate mouthpiece.” For all this talk of healing and bipartisanship will not last. The Republicans will browbeat the Democratic minority in the Congress, box them out, shun them and let them wither in the political wastelands.

Maybe it’s about time I started looking at other options. Or maybe it’s is time to dig in and fight even harder for a better tomorrow.

Final Election Results

The Guam Election Commission is meeting this morning to certify the final general election results for 2004. Final score, Republicans gain control of the legislature with 9 senators to the Democrats 6 seats. The heartbreaker loss goes Speaker Ben Pangelinan, who lost by just four votes.

It will be interesting to see what happens now that Republicans control both the governor’s house and the legislature. I expect a lot of pro-business legislation, and a sustained effort to get the military to invest in Guam. Maybe we’ll even get an aircraft carrier based here, that would really boost the local economy.

I am much more at peace with Guam’s moderate Republicans than I am with that simpering idiot in the White House. I expect a vigorous pursuit of the war on terror, with plenty of growth in the Halliburton/Bechtel government parasites sector of the economy. The world at large will continue to despise this administration, and the divisions between America and the rest of the world will widen. Civil liberties four American citizens will diminish with the Patriot Act II, and the appointment of four new right wing Supreme Court Justices will cement the conservative agenda for decades to come. With Bush’s Clean Air (pollute all you want) and Healthy Forests (cut ’em all down) initiatives, the coming environmental catastrophe will be accelerated, and it will hit us and the world with a stunning ferocity. Think things are bad now, just wait until the oceanic ecosystem collapses utterly and billions start going hungry. Global warming will deliver the knockout blow, altering climatic patterns and turning fertile lands into desert, causing more hunger and deaths. All these environmental pressures will translate into more and more reactionary governments, as war and social unrest over the increasingly scarce resources devours moderate and liberal democracies in a spiraling paroxysm of violence. Thankfully with Bush’s No Child Left Behind program, the next generation will be too stupid to realize the raw deal we’ve given them.

Yes, it’s a great new day for the United States and the world. Maybe we’ll get lucky and a gigantic asteroid will sterilize our planet, eradicate this debacle we’ve created, and start over with something else, like ants or cockroaches.

Sorry, got off on a bit of a screed there. I guess I am a little discouraged at the direction the world is heading.