Sunday, April 17, 2016

Spring is Here

It's that time of year again.  You know, when it's 80 degrees on one day and snowing the next.  This is my sixth Spring in Washington, DC.  To be honest, I didn't think there would be a second.  Now I'm getting close to my second decade...

We live in the middle of the city, so a few weeks ago we joined the hoards of tourists (again) and did some hanami (Japanese for "look at flowers).  I snapped the same photos that thousands of others were snapping, and snap every year.  Here are this year's entries into most typical photo during Washington, DC hanami.  Click here for the full album.

We didn't have friends in town this year.  Well, technically we did, but they came the day after we went, so we only joined them for drinking margaritas.

The cherry blossoms were actually a few weeks ago, much earlier than was expected.  This weekend we went to the Cherry Blossom Parade (despite there being no cherry blossoms), watched the Emancipation Day Parade (it was two hours later and was basically the same parade), and then went to the White House Garden Tour, thanks to tickets from Delegate Sablan.

This was only my second time to the White House.  I went on one of the self-guided tours inside about six years ago.  This was my first time being able to roam around the president's backyard, though.

The highlight?  As we were standing in line a guy dressed up as Abraham Lincoln was walking around, so we offered him a ticket.  We told him we got our tickets from Kilili, and he was like, "Saipan?  I know Saipan.  And Tinian and Rota."  Turns out his name is Don Morgan and he went to the University of Guam in 1976-1977.  He's a teacher down in Virginia.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton Wins Northern Mariana Islands

189 Democratic voters on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota went to the caucuses last night to cast their votes for President of the United States. Thanks to the Electoral College (the outdated method America uses to elect her presidents), the American citizens living in the Northern Mariana Islands (and other territories and Washington, DC) are unable to cast a vote for president. We do, however, get to send delegates to both conventions, and we get to vote on who those delegates should be committed to. The Republicans have been aligned with the national party for decades (Google Tom Delay, Jack Abramoff, and Saipan), but this is the first year the Democrats will send delegates to the convention.

And guess what? I'm going to be one of those delegates! 102 caucus goers voted for Hillary Clinton to 65 for Bernie Sanders. 22 were uncommitted. I'm one of the four pledged Clinton delegates. A huge thank you to everyone who voted for me last night!

Clinton can thank two people for her win: Delegate Greg "Kilili" Sablan and local attorney Janet King. Kilili endorsed Clinton in January and filmed an ad that ran on local TV. I could be wrong, but it looks like it was filmed in Janet's office with Janet's daughter (I'm not sure who made the cupcakes). Sablan is one of the most popular and effective politicians the Marianas have ever had. I mean, as in ever. And Janet is our consummate island girl next door and respected in our community as a successful lawyer. They have been organizing voters and were influential at the caucus.

The story was picked up by ABC, CNN, The Hill, Politico, Huffington Post, and Newser.

On another note, earlier in the day our young governor endorsed Donald J. Trump for President. The local Republicans caucus on March 15 -- and since they are a day ahead, the results will likely come in just as Florida and Ohio start voting (not suggesting this will influence the outcome, but all the news channels should be reporting our numbers all day).

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Award Winning Photographer

Edz entered this photo I took of her in Kauai last month into a contest and it was selected as a finalist in a national contest.  As a finalist I get a $500 gift certificate to American Eagle and get a chance to win a free trip to California.  How do I win the grand prize?  At the end of the month they are going to create a website where people can vote for their favorite finalist (I think my photo will be one of 40).  So stay tuned...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Historical Sites and World Heritage

I'm back in cold and snowy Washington, DC and wanted to share with you an update about World Heritage and historical sites.  As of right now, a Beautify CNMI committee has not been created to tackle this issue, but I'm sure one will be organized.

The Saipan Tribune has published two stories on our early discussions (here and here):
Historical sites also on Beautify CNMI’s agenda
Cause-oriented group Beautify CNMI has also identified historical sites in the CNMI as another one of their concerns citing their importance to the island’s culture.

Former representative Cinta Kaipat, with the help of Angelo Villagomez and other members of the community, is trying to revive Beautify CNMI in order to raise awareness on how to keep the islands clean and attractive both from local and foreign tourists.

Aya Matsumoto, another passionate community volunteer, had voiced the importance of the CNMI’s historical and cultural sites in promoting history. She hopes that the community would preserve it.

Finding ways to preserve monuments, buildings, and other important places that have historical value in the CNMI is also being discussed by the group.


Villagomez, among the few who were able to visit some of the Northern Islands in 2009, said that the site could be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site as well as other significant sites in the CNMI.

“The North Field, the world’s largest Air Force base during World War II, we got the latte stones, the Marianas Trench, the Maug lagoon—the only place where chemosynthesis and photosynthesis at the same time. There’s boiling pools of sulfur, there’s deep sea volcanic vents. There are these cool cultural and historic sites that would be valid as world heritage sites,” Villagomez said.
It's a great coincidence that just as the Beautify CNMI coalition began talking about historical areas and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, we learned that a draft nomination for listing the Mariana Trench was already written.  The draft is a collaboration between our local government and the federal government, and had input from local cultural experts. The Mariana Trench would be only the second marine World Heritage site of both natural and cultural values, so this is a very big deal.

I've found that many people in the United States are not aware of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, but globally they receive a lot attention.  If you have heard about them, perhaps it's because Palau's Rock Islands were declared one in 2012

The more than 1000 sites -- including iconic places like the Taj Mahal and the Grand Canyon -- are a bucket list for millions of people, including Aya Matsumoto, who is originally from Japan and brought this to the attention of the coalition members.  These are, simply put, the most spectacular cultural and natural places in the world.

If you want more info you can visit the UNESCO website, which has loads of info.  I've also written about World Heritage Sites here and here.  And in 2010, I worked at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History to load several hundred Google Ocean stories to the Explore the Ocean layer of Google Earth, including all of the marine World Heritage Sites.  Here's a video we produced about the effort (UNESCO was one of 20 partners I teamed up with for content):

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

By the way, about half of the photos that are used in this video were taken by Saipan dive celebrity Harry Blalock, owner and operator of Axe Murderer Tours on Saipan.