Thursday, August 31, 2006

Late Bloomers

Although Flame Tree season ended about a month ago, there are still a few trees out there putting out bright red flowers. There is a particularly stunning tree in bloom right in front of Saipan Grand Hotel. There is also one on the corner of Beach Road and Gualo Rai Road, which is where these pictures were taken.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

I need a hat

Somebody put my Red Sox hat through the washing machine...no need to name names. Irregardless of who did it, I need a new hat. My hat size is 7 3/4. Yes, I realize that I have a massive head. I'm OK with that.

So who wants to buy me a hat? My birthday is on October 5. It can count as a birthday present. I also wouldn't mind a few Red Sox T-shirts or shorts. That's if you are into trans-Pacific birthday gift giving, of course.

In other news:

You're On Notice!


P.S. I expect my readers (both of you) to copy this and leave me a comment with a link to your blog.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Two Videos

A video of our friends exploring one of the old Japanese bunkers on Obyan Beach:



A video of two clown fish in an anemone off of Naftan point:

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kaiwo Maru in Saipan!!!

I spent the day with a group of people involved in Micronesians in Island Conservation. We were out the whole day visiting areas of particular concern on Saipan.

I never met such a great group of people. All were conservationists...and from Micronesia! It was so inspiring just being able to sit with these people, never mind actually talk to them.

Half way through our day we stopped for lunch at a restaurant near the docks. As we were pulling in I noticed a beautiful ship was docked. It looked really familiar.

Could it be? No way.

I used the 48x zoom on my Canon S2 to get a better look and, believe it or not, it turns out that the Kaiwo Maru, the large ship from Toyama-ken docked in Shinminato on the Sea of Japan was docked right here in Saipan.

How amazing is that?!

I've really been missing Japan and wondering if I would ever see Toyama again. I never thought that Toyama would come to me.

HERE and HERE are posts with pictures of the Kaiwo Maru docked in Toyama.

This goes down on the list as one of the coolest things ever.

...and while we're on the topic of Japan:

One of our stops was Obyan Beach. There are plans to construct infrastructure that will reduce erosion and sedimentation and keep cars and trucks from driving on the beach, so we wanted to show our visitors the project site.

Some Japanese people were doing a photoshoot when we arrived. Japanese men apparently like to see Japanese girls wearing bikinis in tropical locales. Saipan is only three hours from Japan and it is much cheaper than in Hawaii or Okinawa, so photoshoots are not an uncommon site here.

So can anybody tell me if these girls are famous? They were filming video, not taking pictures. So was it a music video? Are these girls in a band? Were they just filming a commercial? Please tell me.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Drumroll Please....

The big day finally arrived; Our first CUC bill with the new power rates arrived!

I've been dreading this day for a few weeks now. We just hosted four friends from Japan and we had the A/C cranking on high for about two weeks straight. There was one particular night where my friends left the porch door open with the A/C on 23 degrees. All night. Ouch.

So here we go:

Last month's bill was $122.27. This month's bill was $182.03.

..and amazingly enough my usage actually went down from 746 to 685 KWH. That quirk took me a while to figure out. How the hell did my usage go down?

Then it dawned on me:

Rolling black outs.

CUC has subjected the residents of Saipan to rolling black outs for what seems like an eternity, but probably closer to a month. Those two hours of zero electricity use every single day brought our overall monthly use down. How about that?

Thanks, CUC! We need to stop calling those events rolling black outs or load shedding. Let's call them Fuel Conservation Efforts (FCEs?)!



Going right to an electronic drum set might not be the best choice when first learning the drums; something more classic and less complicated like the snare drum might work well as a first choice, either from Pearl drums or a more generic brand.


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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Peace

I've having trouble finding the words to describe how I feel right now. I don't like flowery language; I think flowery language makes a writer sound like a freshman sorority girl majoring in English. Nevertheless, I'm having trouble describing my mood without resorting to language describing warm ocean breezes and tropical sunshine.

Our friends left today and Emily cleaned our apartment this morning. Our home is clean and quiet for the first time in two weeks. Today is also the first truly sunny day we've had in about two weeks.

I spent the morning cleaning the garbage out of two of the streams that drain the Lao Lao Watershed. After the community work we had a barbeque on the beach with the volunteers.

I guess I'm very content. That's the word I'm trying to find. After completing 11 dives last week, diving the Grotto, Naftan, Dimple, Spotlight, and Naftan for the first time, seeing my friends, participating in the cleanup and barbeque at Lao Lao today and then the cleanup and barbeque in Koblerville yesterday, and then coming home to a clean, quiet house cooled by a warm ocean breeze, well, what can I say?

Life is good.

Very good.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Diving Fools

Sometimes blogger really stresses me out. I just spent the last 30 minutes typing up a post about my 11 dives over the last week and a half. I deleted it. I can't recover it.

***frustration***

I'm not going to rewrite it.

Here are some pictures from our dive at Spotlight:

Here's a picture of me eating at our Beautify CNMI activity this morning:

Damn you, Blogger!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

One Full Day

I haven't had a day like today in forever.

Everybody got up early and we were out the door by 8:15. We spent a few hours hacking a new access trail for the Lao Lao revegetation project. The area we are planting this Sunday didn't have a trail leading to it. It does now.

After hacking our way through Lao Lao, Laura, Josh, Adam, David, EJ, and I hiked down to Forbidden Island. Everybody went for a swim in the swimming hole while Josh and I hiked to the top of the island.

For most normal people, hiking up to Lao Lao and Forbidden Island in a day would have been enough. Not us. After lunch (bentos and chicken kelaguin), we went diving with Sydney and Taru from Blue Ray diveshop. We went out in Sydney's boat and dove Naftan Point and Dimple.

After our dives we picked up some vegetables and some fish at the stands on the side of the road and I made everybody a tropical island feast.

Broiled parrot fish, seared tuna sashimi, tuna poke, sauteed green beans, and white rice. Yum!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Island Pics

He spends a ton of money to come to Saipan and what does he do? He spends the whole day on toyamajets.net.

"It's Gravy!!!"


Standing in front of the Banadero Trail. The trail head is covered in vines and almost impossible to find.

The Crazy Old Cat Guy

Just a picture of some cat. Don't know where he came from. Don't know why he's on my bed. Is that my bed? Is his name Mochi? Who knows?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Going Deep at the Grotto

I've been nervous about diving the Grotto ever since I earned my Open Water certification back in May. People die there. It is supposed to be one of the most intense SCUBA diving experiences in Saipan. You have to climb down 116 stairs, jump over to a big rock without falling into the waves, jump down six feet to get into the water, and then dive really deep before you can swim out through the underwater channels. I won't even mention the current.

...and that is where Adam and Josh did there first dive EVER. And their second, third, and fourth. That's right, they earned their certifications at the Grotto. How frickin' cool is that?

The underwater cave is a lot larger than it looks from above. You could spend an entire dive exploring the inside of the cave with a flashlight, which is what we did for our 2 dives on Saturday. At its deepest point the Grotto is about 65-70 feet, thus making these my deepest dive to date. On both of those dives we saw 3 small white tip sharks sitting on the bottom, just hanging out. They were each about two feet long. On the second dive there was a five foot long white tip swimming around. He was the biggest shark I've ever swam with. He swam right up to the big rock that people use to get in and out of the water. Holy crap! I've never seen a shark get that close before!

We went outside the cave on our two dives on Sunday. We swam out through the cave on the righthand side and then swam along a wall and reentered the Grotto through the cave on the lefthand side. We were at over 90 feet for a few minutes! Holy crap! We didn't see any sharks, but we swam within 5 feet of a green sea turtle, saw some of the biggest (and tastiest) parrotfish I've ever seen, by far the biggest trigger fish I've ever seen (at least 2 feet long, maybe 3), some tuna, some bluefin trevalies, and many fish that I've never even seen before.

If only I had a speargun! Just kidding.

So the boys are now certified. I finally dove the Grotto. Not a bad weekend, huh?

We made plans with their divemaster to go on a boat dive some time this week. I can't wait.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Toyama-ken JET Party Down Good Times!

First things first. I got a shout out on Jim Davis' blog...the one running for governor of Florida, not the guy who draws Garfield. Vote for Jim Davis! Last time I checked, the League of Conservation Voters gave him an environmental score of 100%. If you are a product of the Florida public school system (like me) and don't know what that means, trust me when I say that it is good. Very good. Great. Florida needs a governor like Jim, someone who understands that our environment IS our economy in Florida.

But enough about politics...

The trio of teachers has arrived!

Yesterday I took them to get their drivers licenses so that they would be able to rent SCUBA gear at the local price.

After some shopping at Joeten we hit up Obyan Beach for some diving!

We saw some fish, 3 crown of thorns starfish, some bleaching, and a whole lot more fish.

Diving was followed by dinner at Aoi, the Asian buffet at Saipan Grand Hotel. The buffet only costs $12 on Wednesday and it includes, drumroll please, FREE DRAFT BEER.

After dinner, those of us not working for CNMI PSS went to Godfather's to listen to the Brown Republic Band, the greatest cover band in the Pacific Rim. That's right, I'm not afraid to say it.

Every time I see them play I keep request that they play a Hanson song. They keep telling me that they don't do Hanson....and they call themselves a rock band.

Beer and music at Godfather's was followed by beer and pool at Ocean's. I had my ass handed to me, but I'm OK with that. I still had a good time.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Visit this blog, please

Micronesians in Island Conservation (MIC) has a blog. I don't really know too much about the group, but thier blog links to Mariana Islands Nature Alliance (MINA), of which I am a card carrying member.

Click HERE to visit the MIC blog

Check them out!

Vote for Randolph

I voted today! My absentee ballot came in the mail and I promptly filled it out and sent it back to Orange County.

So who did I vote for?

Heck YES I voted for Scott Randolph in District 36! I also voted for Jim Davis for governor. How could I not? Both of those guys are the two best environmentalists on the ballot!

I wonder what Jim Davis would say if he knew that somebody in Saipan voted for him?

I also voted AGAINST Richard Crotty and Tim Shea. Dick Crotty is a Republican (so is the person he's running against) and Tim Shea, well, let's just say that I wasn't too happy with the way he dealt with the whole Sheri McInvale, um, thing.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Oops...

I think I did it again.

So I was playing with the format of my blog...and I accidentally erased my template.

Bummer. It is going to take me a while to fix this.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tropical Storm Saomai

There is a tropical storm passing between Guam and Rota as I type this. We're getting some rain and it is a little windier than usual. I don't expect it to be a big deal.

Adios, AGO Joe

Well, AGO Joe went back to Ohio today. He's got one more year of law school and then, well, who knows what is in store for him next. It seems like just yesterday that he was getting "reefed" at Forbidden Island.

Click HERE for a trip down memory lane.

Joe gave us the quote of the summer. The scene - Joe is wearing shorts for the first time is 6 years. We are climbing up the cliff face of Bonzai Cliff after a 3 hour hike. The cliff face is about 40 feet high and almost vertical. Joe gets about half way up and yells so that everybody in a 50 foot radius could hear:

"I don't do this type of shit! I do crossword puzzles!"

This day has since been known as the Day of the Death Hike.

Quite possibly the quote of the year, if not the decade.

It was a great summer, Joe. Good luck in your final year at law school and I hope our paths cross again!

Thursday, August 03, 2006

WMD Response Unit


This is either:
  1. A truck that got lost on its way to Iraq...or was it North Korea? or Iran? or Syria?
  2. Homeland Defense tax dollars being put to good use.
  3. Hanz Blix's personal vehicle.
  4. The truck that responds to phone calls from people who find grenades, bombs, and other WWII era munitions.
Believe it or not, the WMDs are not in Iraq, North Korea, Iran, or Syria. They are in Saipan...and they all belong to Uncle Sam.