Alternet put up an interesting story about fixing the American healthcare system. Go ahead, read it.
While I am thinking about it, the island rumor mill was abuzz with the news that the Seventh Day Adventist were approached by Pete Sgro to develop a private hospital on the island. The Adventists are already on the island, running the SDA Clinic for many years. Pete Sgro has been very active for the last year in developing a second civilian hospital for the island, a quality alternative to the morass that is Guam Memorial Hospital.
And in another bit of local healthcare news, Guam was awarded almost $500,000 in federal money to improve the island’s health care system this week. The money is to strengthen programs against major epidemics and bioterrorism. I guess we will get some money for bird flu prevention now. Maybe we need something to combat the zika virus too.
So I checked into the admin side of WordPress today and took at a look at Akismet, the toolkit I use to trap spam comments. And there are hundreds sitting in there. But they are all blocked comments from one post and one post only. My reference to Taliea a few months ago. I wonder what’s that is all about? Probably one of those comments that are on the link already is a bogus link or something. They look fine to me though. Curious.
I linked to a story yesterday about Inuit hunters in Alaska who caught a bowhead whale last month and began to carve up the carcass when they came across a harpoon tip inside the whale that was only used between 1885 and 1895, making that particular whale at least 115 years old, if not older. Indeed scientists in 1999 examined another bowhead whale and placed its age at 211 years.
So what is the secret of their longevity? Carl Zimmer explores this idea in an essay in the New York Times, and it boils down to reproductive strategies. Species that are under threat, either from carnivores or their punishing environment, tend to live quickly and reproduce like well, rabbits. Rapid reproduction leads to accelerated metabolisms and shortened life spans, but their prolific fecundity ensures the survival of the species. However, bowhead whales evolved with little competition in their environment and minimal pressure from carnivores, so they could devote their metabolic resources to individual growth and health. They take two decades to mature and produce a single offspring every seven years, a stately pace for reproduction that served the whales well for millenia.
Zimmer makes the point that this long lived lifestyle ran into a crisis a century ago. Large scale whaling brought the bowhead population to the brink of extinction and now, a century after commercial whaling ceased on bowheads, their numbers are still scant. They are still considered a threatened species because they reproduce so slowly. He mentions studies done on fruit fly populations where scientists killed off vast amounts of the flies, the population reached sexual maturity faster and consequently shorten the flies’ lifespans. I wonder if we have done the same thing to bowhead whales?
If humanity were to disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow, what would happen? That’s the interesting conceit explored by science writer Alan Weisman in his new book, The World Without Us (to be release next month). Scientific American interviewed Weisman and features his book on their website this week.
It is a fascinating idea that I’ve read about before. How long would it take our artifacts to disappear? In the case of the more obvious stuff like buildings, bridges and roads, only a few decades are required before nature reclaims the landscape. More insidious things last longer. Plastics could take thousands of years to degrade, while carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would take a hundred thousand years to return to levels prior to the industrial revolution. Pollution in the soil could well take a million years to dissipate, and the uranium 235 found in nuclear reactors would take only 700 million years to decay into lead.
So who would miss us? Definitely head lice; they couldn’t survive without us. And domesticated livestock and crops wouldn’t fair too well either. Interestingly, the ubiquitous cockroach would suffer in our absence as well. Without warm homes to inhabit with ready food supplies, the cockroach would disappear from temperate climates during the frigid winters.
On a related note, check out these images of a ruined Tokyo, destitute of humanity and crumbling back into the earth. Cool stuff.
Yahoo’s hiring. I wonder if I should apply?
When I was in Fort Lauderdale last month, my sister was constantly referring to the poinciana trees and how amazingly beautiful they were. When she finally pointed one out to me, I took one look and said, “That’s a flame tree.” And so started a brief argument about what to call these trees. They are exceedingly common here on Guam, and we call them flame trees. But they are also known as poincianas, so I guess we were both right.
And yes, it is a beautiful tree. Strikingly beautiful.
Talk about lucky…
To the Shores of Tumon Bay…
The Marines are coming folks. 8,000 of them. Whether Guam wants them or not, they are coming because Japan doesn’t want them anymore and Uncle Sam can push around the territory’s government a lot easier than the Japanese now. And the Japanese are willing to pay big bucks to get rid of the Marines too. And the US government is very interested in developing Guam and an ‘unsinkable aircraft carrier’ to counter a belligerent North Korea and the surging Chinese military interest in the region. And since Guam is a US territory with minimal representation in Washington DC, it is a great deal easier to deal with than Japanese or South Korean governments.
The Chicago Tribune ran a very good article on the coming invasion last week, and my sister is mailing me the article. But it is also available online, with a couple interesting videos. Or should I say one interesting video on the Pangelinan property next to NCTAMS and another not so interesting video of the Umatac fiesta. Check it out folks.
Continuing with the theme here… How about the Marianas Variety’s articles last week on the secret 1945 US memo on how Guam’s development and administration were subordinate concerns for the military in lieu of military decisions. Not a lot has changed in over 60 years I am afraid.
Development is kicking into gear for this planned relocation. New housing is being laid out, along with new infrastructure, and thousands of workers being recruited from the Philippines and American Samoa. An interesting rumor bouncing around the island is how the Leo Palace development near my place in Manenggon Hills is up for sale, and Dick Cheney is going to lead a group of investors in the purchase the property and then lease it to the military for housing. It was pooh poohed at first, but now I don’t know. Seems more like all the time.
And the big Marine move is scheduled to start in 2012.
The developers of the Gun Beach area face up to $500,000 in fines for clearing land without a permit and destroying artifacts ranging from the 9th to the 17th century in the area.
I’ve got Paul Gauguin on my mind lately. Can’t seem to stop gawking at his paintings… And I want to share some of my favorites for the next few days.
Paul Gauguin: Manao tupapau (The Spirit of the Dead Keep Watch). 1892. Oil on canvas, Albright-Nox Art Gallery, Buffalo NY.