Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Blogger Meetup!

Saipan Blogger Meetup10 Bloggers came to the meetup! Woot!

New blogs created:

Student Action for a Viable Environment
The Saipan SCUBA Diving Blog
The Olomwaay Blog

Now start posting!

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Just a few thoughts

Today is January 30. A year ago I was in Japan. A year before that I was in Florida. The last time I was in Saipan on January 30 was 1982. That was 25 years ago.

I came back to Saipan on March 27, 2006. I am coming up on my one year anniversary. Again, it will be the first time I have been in Saipan for a full year since I left in April 1982, 25 years ago.

Like I said, just a few thoughts.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

This pretty much sums it up

Saipan Plumeria State FlowerSunday BBQs are one of my favorite things about living on this island. I love it. We've got our problems, I admit, but I'd rather be here than in, let's say, Flint, Michigan. Just look at the smile on Jun's face; I think he agrees.

With that said, the hits just keep on coming (the bad kind). On another note, 58% of Americans think Dick Cheney should be the next US President. It's all in the way you spin it, baby.

Anchors Away




For a long time coral were a mystery. They were called a plantanimal, animal plant, and rock plant. We now know that coral are a complex mix of animal and plant life with microscopic forms of plants called algae living within the coral. The type of algae that lives within the coral are called zooxanthellae. The small animals that make up coral are called polyps. source

This video illustrates what happens when you drop anchor on a coral reef.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

And on the Seventh Day...

He rested...then at 4:30 he played in a soccer game.

I'm missing a Beautify CNMI! cleanup as I type this. May Cinta Kaipat and the rest of the volunteers have mercy on my soul.

My soccer game today is vs. the PTI team...that's Morgan Rose's team. She's been talking trash since Day 1 of Soccer Season. She'd better show up; I'm looking forward to crushing her team (and her hopes and dreams).

Morgan RoseCome on, a little friendly competion never hurt anyone!

The Life of an Island Boy

6:30 AM Wake up, brush teeth, check email.

7:00 AM Grab both laptops, wallet, keys, volunteer T-shirts and head out to Saturday morning's volunteer event.

7:20 AM Stop for coffee and pastry at Java Joe's before start of long day. Read newspaper while watching the clock.

7:50 AM Leave Java Joe's for volunteer event.

8:00 AM Pass out gloves and trash bags to volunteers.

8:30 AM Pass out T-shirts to participants.

8:40 AM Leave volunteer event early to go to MINA training.

8:45 AM Pitstop in Garapan to deliver plumeria tree, shovel, and pick for tree planting at Tanapag Elementary.

9:00 AM Arrive barely on time for training up in San Roque.

9:01 AM Recieve phone call from EPA on the East Coast.

9:20 AM Walk into training 20 minutes late because the EPA lady kept me on the phone asking questions about Beautify CNMI!

9:21 AM Training, training, training.

12:30 PM Training breaks for lunch. Leave early to go to Fina Sisu.

1:00 PM Meet 8 college students at NMC and lead them on a field trip to Laulau Revegetation Project Site.

2:45 PM Finish field trip. Drive down to Kagman Community Center to help out with Trick or Trash Recyling event.

3:00 PM Show 50 high school students how to separate the recylables they collected.

3:45 PM Load up Rep. Waki's trailer and head for Lower Base to drop off aluminum cans.

4:30 PM Cans succesfully turned in, head up to As Matuis to inspect a community member's nursery.

4:45 PM Inpsection complete. Drink a few beers.

6:30 PM Head home.

6:45 PM Grab dinner at McDonald's.

7:00 PM Eat, take a shower, check email.

8:00 PM Post this blog.

8:01 PM Bed.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Blogger Meetup?

Hafa Adai Saipan Bloggers!

I can't believe how many people on our island have started blogs in the last three weeks! I would like to think that Walt Goodridge, the We Love Saipan Network, and I had something to do with it, but it was only a matter of time before the people on this island joined the people on the mainland (and Deece and Mona) as bloggers.

I've been reading all of your blogs and it looks like a lot of you have a lot of really good ideas and most of you are off to a great start. I was wondering if some you would be interested in getting together at a coffee shop once a month to talk about blogging stuff. We could help each other with our formats, share ideas for posts, trade links, or simply sit around and email each other without making eye contact...or we could just drink coffee.

How about next Wednesday night at 7 PM at Java Joes? Interested? Even if you don't have a blog yet, you can still show up and we will help you get a blog going. If this sounds like a good idea, please RSVP by leaving a comment on this post and then please repost our "Blogger Meetup" time, date, and location on your blog.

If this sounds like a bad idea, just tell me to move back to Japan.

Angelo

P.S. Just to prove to some of you the power of blogging, I posted my "Open Letter to the US Senate" before going to bed on Tuesday. On Wednesday it was discovered by David Cohen, who passed it around to some people and posted it as a comment on Daily Kos. On Thursday, Dengre, a Diarist for Daily Kos, quoted my post on one of his posts.

Daily Kos is the best liberal website out there, gets about 500,000 hits per day, and up until my post, there was very little positive written on it about the CNMI. Read some of the comments on both of those posts (linked in the previous blog entry) to see how my simple blog post, along with Tina Sablan's "Call to Action" and the discussion that Dengre had with David Cohen, has shifted the conversation about the CNMI.

We've created hope. In creating hope, we've created the potential for change.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

An Open Letter to the US Senate

Hafa Adai Senator!

I am writing to you in the hopes that you consider my comments in regards to pending legislation that would affect the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Before doing so, however, please allow me to give you a little background as to who I am and what I represent:

My name is Angelo Villagomez and for the last 10 months I have lived on the island of Saipan. I recently returned to the islands of my forefathers after having lived in the US, England, and Japan for 24 years. Although I have only been back for a short time, I plan on making this island my home for many years to come, so I am very concerned with our future and our relationship with the US.

I received all of my education, from kindergarten on, in America, first in Massachusetts and then later in Florida and Virginia. College lead me towards a career in the environmental field, and like most environmentalists, I identify with the principles of the Democratic Party. As such, I understand many of the concerns that the Democratic Party has about the CNMI.

I am not writing this letter to defend the CNMI; I am writing this letter to ask that you consider the people in the CNMI, such as myself, with no political or economic power when you draft legislation that would affect all of us living here.

Like most people on Saipan, I despise the abuses that have occurred on these islands. Additionally, like most people on Saipan, I had nothing to do with the abuses. I have never met Tom Delay or Jack Abramoff and I have never worked for the CNMI government or a garment factory.

The pending legislation that would increase our minimum wage from $3.05 to $7.25 will have a profound effect on my life and the lives of every single person on these islands, not just the people and businesses involved in the Jack Abramoff scandals. I am concerned that Congress is acting too fast and I am concerned that the full effects of this minimum wage increase are not being taken into account.

Let me be clear: I am not opposed to the minimum wage. I support an intelligent increase to a level that would provide a living wage for our local and overseas workers.

My concern is with how it is being done. I am concerned that the on the ground situation in the CNMI is not being taken into account by lawmakers 8000 miles away in Washington DC.

I faithfully believe that a Democratically led House and Senate are in the best interests of America and the CNMI. One thing that sets the Democratic Party apart from the Republican Party is that we do not insist that America act unilaterally. We understand that working together produces more meaningful results.

With this understanding, I humbly request that you make it a priority to educate yourself about the situation in the CNMI before drawing up any legislation or before casting a vote that would have a profound effect on our economy and our livelihoods.

The people involved in the Jack Abramoff scandals deserve no leniency, but for the sake of the rest of the American citizens living in the CNMI, I humbly request that, before moving forward with any legislation, the US Senate commission economic studies exploring the effects of raising the minimum wage on our economy, consider sending representatives to the CNMI on a site visit, and in the mean time help us come up with industries to replace the dying garment factories, which most people expect to be gone by the end of 2007 with or without a change in the minimum wage.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. Please provide me with a response.

Si Yu'us Mase,

Angelo Villagomez
www.thesaipanblogger.com

-Reposted by Deputy Assistant Secretary for Insular Affairs David B. Cohen on Daily Kos on January 23, 2007 (scroll to the bottom of the comments).
-Quoted by Dengre on his Daily Kos Diary on January 24, 2007 (scroll down to fourth quote box)

Eat, drink, and Beautify the CNMI!

Aqua Resort ClubEvery local who enjoys the three buffets pictured above at Aqua Resort Club between now and April 1 will receive a 10% discount. For every local diner, Aqua Resort Club will donate an additional 10% of the meal to the Mariana Island Nature Alliance to support Beautify CNMI! projects. As if enjoying great food while you donate to protect the environment wasn't enough, each of the buffets features bottomless draft beer.

Does life get any better than that?

The discount applies Wednesdays and Fridays from 6:30 - 9:00 and Sundays from 11:00 AM - 2:00 PM.

New Saipan Bloggers

Brad Ruszala has a new blog.
Cinta Kaipat has a new blog.
Somebody named Saipan Writer has a new blog.
Steve Nguyen has a new blog.
CAMI-CNMI has a new blog.
Captain Carl has a new blog.
Garapan Elementary School has a new blog.
An Anonymous Mom has a new blog.

Saipan is experiencing a Blogging Revolution!


I encourage all new and old Saipan Bloggers to join the We Love Saipan Network. Not only will it drive traffic to your site, but you'll add your voice to the chorus of local bloggers telling the world about life in the CNMI. Visit www.welovesaipan.com for instructions on how to add your blog.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Attack of the Op-Eds!

People who aren't on the A-K portion of Tina Sablan's email contacts will have no idea what Jaime Vergara is talking about in his Letter to the Editor today. Too bad.

There is nothing more exciting than hearing your name or your words mentioned out of context. Just ask John Kerry. Oh well. I guess people will come up with their own ideas, so no point in explaining Jaime's context.

This is my offiical statement concerning this issue:

"I voted for the SPAM before I voted against it."

In other Letter to the Editor news, Marites Castillo had a great one today, reprinted here without her permission:

I am the president of MOVER and the Friends of the Mariana Islands but today I am writing as a concerned member of the CNMI community. The CNMI is going through a time of political and social convulsions not known here since the formation of the Commonwealth. While many causes of our convulsions have been generated by external forces (airline/tourist reductions, garment industry free trade agreements and a Democrat-controlled Congress) we are not powerless to determine our own futures.

Amid the doom and gloom we should remember that we have examples of the community and its people working together on projects for the good of out islands. They do this without either personal gain or political agendas being part of the projects! In particular, my personal experience with the Beautify CNMI! coalition has demonstrated how people representing all parts of the CNMI community can work together despite their differences in origin and social status. I have seen how business leaders, politicians, government officials, people of local descent, people from the U.S. and non-\resident workers give their time and energy to literally work side-by-side on projects that clean up and beautify the CNMI. These project touch all people in the Commonwealth in subtle ways, for even to just drive by areas of Saipan that have been cleaned or beautified must touch people on at least a subconscious level.

The people of the Commonwealth have different opinions and hope for different outcomes on the divisive issues of immigration control, minimum wage changes and other economic and social struggles; even so we should not forget how at times literally thousands of PEOPLE who live here can come together, work together and rejoice together as their collective efforts do in fact beautify the Island of Saipan and the lives of all those who live or visit our Islands.

Marites A. Castillo
MOVER president

Did you know...

...that the CNMI has one of the Worlds Gayest Flags? This is what Radar Magazine had to say about our flag:

CNMI flag
Northern Marianas Islands Speaking of that sort of thing, what exactly is going on here? The Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific notoriously represented on Capitol Hill by Jack Abramoff, are known for their coconuts, their sweatshops, and, judging from this flag, their avid interest in fisting. How else to explain that menacing gray-gloved fist poised to penetrate that stylized circular colon?

George W. Bush—this kinky territory's official head of state—must be very proud.
The people that live here know that the "menacing gray-gloved fist" is a latte stone and that the "stylized circular colon" is a mwaar. Cultural sensitivity, what?

Immigration is next

"In contrast to the hovering officials of Saipan, who couldn't even wait for us to finish tying the docklines before beginning the paperwork, the Hong Kong officials gave us 24 hours to check in at their offices."
That quote was published in Latitude 38, a sailing magazine out of California. It was made by Wendy & Garth, who made a sailing voyage from Saipan to Hong Kong in 2006. In their opinion, which would appear to be unbiased and unsolicited because, heck, they are writing for a sailing magazine, they seem to think that the immigration people in the CNMI are doing their job better than the immigration people in Hong Kong.

This is, of course, just a captain and his (or is it her?) first mate's one-time experience with CNMI immigration. A mainland politician who received 2/3 of his PAC money from Labor unions could argue that this incident was the exception rather than the rule, while a status quo politician in the CNMI could argue that this sailing magazine article proves beyond a doubt that CNMI immigration is nearly flawless.

I'm sure the answer lies somewhere in the middle. As always, I fault the liberal media and the blame America first crowd.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

This is my Life




This is what I did Sunday morning. How about you?

In other news:

Diana was robbed!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Flashback: Saipan Underwater Wedding



I while back I took some photos of an underwater wedding at the Grotto. Mike Tripp was also there. He shot and edited a video of the wedding and finally uploaded it to youtube two days ago.

The video shows the bride and groom (and witnesses) climbing the stairs down to the Grotto. They stop for a short interview with Morgan Rose before climbing over to the big rock, putting on their gear, and jumping in.

Once in the water they descend to the bottom of the underwater cave, where they find King Neptune waiting to perform the ceremony. They can't talk, so they use cue cards to exchange vows. After that they exchange rings, have a quick kiss, sign the necessary documents, and take a couple of swigs from a champagne bottle...all while underwater.

After the ceremony they swim over to the cave exit on the left for a few photos. Then they say goodbye to King Neptune and go back up to the surface.

Just another day in Saipan.

Enjoy.

If you like Mike's video of the Underwater Wedding, you might like his "Underwater World of Saipan" video. You can visit his website HERE for more information.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Inside the Chamaole's Studio

Inspired by Bev.

01. What is your favorite word?
This was hard. How about free?

02. What is your least favorite word?
This was hard, too. How about hospital?

03. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Being told that I can't do something.

04. What turns you off?
False prophets...and I'm not talking about Passion Prophets

05. What is your favorite curse word?
Lanya...the Chamorro Fuck

06. What sound or noise do you love?
Wind blowing through trees

07. What sound or noise do you hate?
Crying

08. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Travel blogger.

09. What profession would you not like to do?
Insurance Salesman

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Some people have been waiting to see you.

Save the Grotto: 2 more names please

As of 11:08 pm PST, Jan 18, 998 people have signed the following petition:

WE the undersigned are aware of a proposal to build a mechanical monorail
inside the Grotto. We are concerned that this project will inflict permanent
damage to the environment and the local diving industry. We find the risk to
this natural and cultural treasure unnecessary and unacceptable and oppose this
project.
Can two more people CLICK HERE and sign it? I'd like to see an even 1000 by the end of today.

Edit:

Within 10 minutes of my publishing this entry, three more people signed up. We stand at 1,001 as of 11:52 pm PST, Jan 18.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Beach Road

With a federal takeover of immigration and labor looming, an economic meltdown on the horizon, and a multitude of other problems outlined in Tina Sablan's LTE, the Senate spent most of this morning's session debating name changes to two of Saipan's roads.

I'm not kidding. You can't make stuff like this up.

The Senate voted unanimously to change the name of Beach Road to Bishop Road. Micro Beach Drive will be changed to Larry Drive. Again, I'm not kidding. I've tried before, but you seriously can't make stuff like this up.

In other news:

Beach Road Magazine will change it's name to Bishop Magazine. The girls on the cover are going to trade their bikinis for nun costumes (do they have a name?) habits.

OK, I made that part up. See how it's not funny? The truth is funnier than the joke.

Oh yeah, this isn't funny either.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Blow Pop Economy

Half way through the ninth grade, I left my private Jesuit high school in Massachusetts and transferred to a public high school in Florida. It was quite a change and, at first, I hated every minute of it.

Creating a business helped break me out of my rut. Except for the paper route I had during the summer before the 8th grade, my first job was selling Charms Blow Pops between classes at the Winter Park High School Ninth Grade Center.

Creating this "business" presented me with new challenges, such as "how can I sell more Blow Pops?" When I overcame those challenges, they became successes. It is difficult to stay depressed when you are successful.

Selling Blow Pops also earned me an income, which I used to do the things that I enjoyed...like buying video games and CDS. It is difficult to stay depressed when you start gaining independence and financial freedom like I was.

...and I stumbled into it accidentally.

When we moved to Florida, I sulked for at least an entire month in the way that only a 13 year old going through puberty can sulk. One day while we were shopping for groceries at Costco, my Mom was feeling bad for me, so she bought me a box of Charms Blow Pops.

I don't remember exactly what my inspiration was, but I brought the box of Blow Pops to school the next day to sell. I sold them for a quarter each. At the end of the day I had sold the entire box. I went home with $25 worth of quarters in my pocket.

I used my profits to buy another box of Blow Pops...and continued this cycle for the rest of the school year. Every morning I brought about 100 Blow Pops to school with me and in the afternoon I went home with $25 in quarters in my pocket.

With an initial investment of $5, which was donated by my Mom, I was able to net about $20 per day for several consecutive months. I reinvested my revenue to buy more Blow Pops and used my profits to buy CDs and video games...lots of CDs and video games.

...and that is how the CNMI is going to break out of the economic slump she is currently experiencing. We can sit around and keep waiting to hit the lottery, or we can act now, start small, and grow big.

...and before we know it we'll be able to buy more CDs and video games.

(Thank you FK for the inspiration to write this)

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Word of the Day

di·a·tribe [dahy-uh-trahyb]
n. A bitter, sharply abusive denunciation, attack, or criticism: repeated diatribes against the governor.

Ouch!

Tina Sablan wrote a 5000 word diatribe against the CNMI government and emailed it out to her entire email list. If you are reading this, there is a pretty good chance you've already read it. If you haven't, send me a note and I'll forward it I've linked to it below.

Wowzers! Tiene los cojones grandes!

Tina is a very visible person in our community and there have been rumors...but let's not go there because this blog would never stoop to the level of a gossip column.

With that said...the 2007 campaign season is off with a bang!

Let the games begin!

Vote Jedi!

Edit:

Tina's letter was printed by the Marianas Variety today, is posted on the Chamorro.com website, and is being printed by the Saipan Tribune as a three part series.

Another Edit:

Pacific Magazine writes the following:


It is likely that 2007 will be a pivotal year in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The U.S. possession's economy remains in a free-fall, with no one sure when bottom will be hit. Expectations are that the remaining handful of garment factories on Saipan will be closed by this time next year. Tourism is on the skids, with arrivals from Japan, the group's major market by a significant margin, off by 25 percent from year earlier levels. Social problems are on the rise, particularly as the fate of some 40,000 alien workers (more than half of the CNMI's resident population) remains unclear.

And now, the U.S. Congress is almost certain to include the Northern Marianas under federal minimum wage regulations and impose Washington's control over immigration and labor. Those three factors have led to much of the CNMI's current problems -- an overreliance on cheap foreign labor and a resulting lack in opportunities for locals -- but also made the group competitive compared to other U.S. jurisdictions.

As the CNMI struggles to find a way forward, Tina Sablan, an indigenous resident of Saipan who works for the commonwealth government and is active in civic affairs, has written an essay on how the islands should face an uncertain future. Pacific Magazine is running Sablan's essay in full, as we feel it puts into sharp focus the reasons for the CNMI's current malaise, and what decisions need to be made:
I've already linked to her essay, but here it is again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I have a new hat

Just call me ED. That's E.D., as in Executive Director. I signed a contract today making me the Mariana Island Nature Alliance's first Executive Director.

Woot!

I work for the board (6 of the 9 board members are pictured above) and I report directly to the Chairman, Jesus Borja. I am working on a part time basis for now, about 20 hours per week.

In case you were wondering, I am still the Public Involvement Coordinator for MRC&D and the Chairman for the Beautify CNMI Restoration Committee. This is an additional responsibility, but many of the goals of the three organizations overlap.

Hey Mom-

Do you recognize Paz, Liz, and Jessie? Also, you won't recognize her, but Reina is Maggie Camacho's daughter.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Beautiful Spot: Shipwreck Dive

From mymarianas.com:
"The Chinsen is a large Japanese freighter that sits at a shallow depth in the lagoon. The ship has been in the water for over 50 years, allowing for some significant coral growth as well as becoming a home to thousands of fish. There are monstrous Red Snappers as well as Big Eye Emperors patrolling the wreck while huge schools of Goat Fish sit on top."
Saipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck DiveSaipan Shipwreck Dive

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Diving with Bev

NudibranchBev and I dove Dimple and Shipwreck this morning. I must confess that I missed a Beautify CNMI! cleanup, but we made up for it by filling out dive surveys.

This picture is just a preview. I have a soccer game later this afternoon, which I have to prep for (i.e. take a nap). I'll post pictures later.

Oh yeah, I made another video:


Killer Saipan Tsunami Video



The tsunami was at 6:39 PM. I caught the whole thing on film. See what the biggest tsunami to hit Saipan in 500 years did to the islands.

Woot!

Saipan Survives Another Tsunami

I went down to the beach to take a picture of the tsunami as it hit Saipan.

Saipan TsunamiI think we're going to be OK.

All Clear! Game on!

From the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center:

THE TSUNAMI WARNING AND WATCH ARE CANCELLED FOR RUSSIA / JAPAN / MARCUS IS. / WAKE IS. / MIDWAY IS. / N. MARIANAS / GUAM / MARSHALL IS. / TAIWAN / YAP / POHNPEI / CHUUK / PHILIPPINES / KOSRAE / BELAU / JOHNSTON IS. / HAWAII / INDONESIA / KIRIBATI / NAURU / PAPUA NEW GUINEA / HOWLAND-BAKER / PALMYRA IS. / SOLOMON IS. / TUVALU / VIETNAM / JARVIS IS.
Good. Now I can go to that BBQ on the beach tonight.

Oh, Shit!

From the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center:

SEA LEVEL READINGS INDICATE A TSUNAMI WAS GENERATED. IT MAY HAVE BEEN DESTRUCTIVE ALONG COASTS NEAR THE EARTHQUAKE EPICENTER AND COULD ALSO BE A THREAT TO MORE DISTANT COASTS. AUTHORITIES SHOULD TAKE APPROPRIATE ACTION IN RESPONSE TO THIS POSSIBILITY. THIS CENTER WILL CONTINUE TO MONITOR SEA LEVEL DATA TO DETERMINE THE EXTENT AND SEVERITY OF THE THREAT.
We're supposed to get hit at 6:39 PM local time. Right now it is 5:02 PM. It is probably not a good time to go swimming.

(Another) Tsunami Warning!!!

Holy cow! There was an 8.4 Earthquake east of the Kuril Islands and people on Saipan think that we're going to get hit with a tsunami (again)!

Kuril IslandsAlong with Russia, Japan, Marcus Island, Wake Island, and Midway Island, the Northern Mariana Islands have been issued a tsunami WARNING, while the rest of the Pacific is under a tsunami WATCH.

I don't know; that looks kind of far away. I think we'll make it.

Once again, if you hear that the CNMI has been washed out by a tsunami, please send money.

Hubris?

"SaipanBlog.com is only a week old and is already the leading voice for the people of Commonwealth"
Who knew?

Ed Stephens Jr et al (aka the other Saipan Bloggers) are fishing for comments. As the leading voice for the people of the CNMI that live inside my apartment, I figured I'd help drive some traffic to their site. You're welcome.

Edit:

I had over 5000 unique visitors and over 13,000 page views for my blog yesterday. How many did you guys have?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Fotten Gaga Fashion Show

More pictures from last Saturday's fashion show:

That should do it.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Man on the Street

I was quoted in the Saipan Tribune today:

What is your opinion on the proposed federal takeover?

"People usually say that the only sure things are death and taxes. The people of the CNMI can add immigration and labor reform to that list."

--Angelo O'Connor Villagomez
That wasn't really my opinion as much as it was me being a smart ass. I've mentioned before that I'm for the minimum wage increase, but against Federalization. Two thoughts on that:

  1. It makes me sound like John Kerry (I voted for it before I voted against it!)
  2. "No Federalization Without Representation" would make a great slogan...as would "Don't Kelaguin My Own Spam."
Edit: While we are on the subject of politics, just under half a million people per day have been reading this since it was published on Sunday. Ouch!

This is just the latest post by Dengre, a Daily Kos diarist, who has been on a personal crusade to take down anyone who ever as much as shook hands with Jack Abramoff. Thanks, Dengre!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

It passed the House

"By a vote of 315 to 116, the House of Representatives, under the ambitious new leadership of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), passed a bill today to increase the minimum wage. The legislation proposes to raise the federal minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour over two years."
315 to 116??? Remember, the Senate already passed a minimum wage bill a while back. The only thing keeping this from passing the House was Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff. Now Minimum Wage Reform has bipartisan support. Although they are the more conservative chamber, we should expect this to fly through the Senate.

The fat lady's not singing...but she's already on stage.

More coverage:

ABC News The Blotter
CNN

Two in a Row!

Yesterday Walt wrote about how to blog and then, boom, the next day the Tribune writes a story about a new blog. I applaud thier efforts in getting their blog out there...now I want 50 more people to start one.

...and to link to the We Love Saipan Network.


After that I would suggest that all bloggers:

  1. Add a sitemeter to your blog. I have two sitemeters on my blog, they both do different things better than the other.
  2. Add Google or Yahoo ads to your blog. You might think this is selling out. It is not. Google and Yahoo match keywords in your blog to words that advertisers think will sell their products. For example, Fiesta Resort and World Resort, which both advertise online, probably look for the keywords "saipan" or "saipan vacation" on a website on which they want to advertise. Even on my blog, the ads are constantly changing as I write about different topics. The ads just give readers more relevent content. Check Walt's blog for more.
  3. Register with every search engine out there. This can be done from www.mypagerank.net.
  4. Add Meta tags to your template
  5. Add ALT tags to your photographs
  6. Use specific proper nouns instead of pronouns. For example, write about Boiga irregularis, not "Guam snakes." You'll get more search engine hits that way.
  7. Ping search engines when you post an entry
  8. Exchange links with other bloggers. Not only will those bloggers probably start reading your blog, but that bloggers' readers might start reading your blog, too. Every blog should have a blogroll or a list of links.
  9. Link to your blog within your blog as often as possible. The number of internal (as well as incoming external) links increases your pagerank.
  10. Register on Technorati. They are the authority on blogs.
  11. Get your name out there. Link to your blog from your Myspace, your other blogs, your email signature, your forum signature, and anywhere else where you have the opportunity to showcase yourself.
The number one rule, though, is to post great content. People will come back to your blog if you are funny, shocking, talented, or just plain interesting.

They also come back for pictures of Fotten Gaga Models, links to photos of disgraced beauty queens, and videos of dead dictators.

:)

Tigger Didn't Do It!



Watch this video of a family getting their picture taken with Tigger at Walt Disney World. The punk kid and his family are suing Disney; They claim that Tigger assaulted the boy.

As someone who wore that costume for several summers, I know that Tigger is one of the most abused characters in the Magic Kingdom. Tim and Robb at Sand Castle, who both worked in Entertainment, can back me up on that (small world, huh?).

It looks to me like the kid was either trying to grab the zipper that would open up the costume or was trying to pull out the neck fur that connects the mask to the rest of the costume...and the fact that the punk kid is making a fist tells me that he was up to no good.

Can you imagine what would have happened if the kid was able to pull open Tigger's costume? It looks like Tigger was just trying to defend the integrity of the Disney Magic.

That family should be banned from Disney for life.

www.thesaipanblogger.com

I have a new moniker.

Walt's been begging me to reserve the url www.saipanblog.com for about a month. I didn't do it soon enough and the other Saipan Blog snatched it up. Doh!

I shrugged it off, mainly because I know that pictures of Fotten Gaga Models and Diana's Chuukese Love Burn will always be more popular than ex-pats bitching about life in paradise (Ed, you can use that for your blog description if you want: "Four Ex-pats bitch about Life in Paradise").

Walt, who would probably be my Life Coach if I ever had the money to pay him, didn't shrug it off. He went ahead and reserved www.thesaipanblogger.com (that's me!) and redirected it to this website.

Thanks, Walt! To show my appreciation I went ahead and made it my myspace name, too (www.myspace.com/thesaipanblogger).

So anyways, in a previous post I said that I would post another picture from the Fotten Gaga fashion show at Ocean's if someone left a comment asking for one. Well, someone asked. Here's Deryielle, who has a really big boyfriend:

DeryielleI'll post another picture of the Fotten Gaga Models if I get a comment asking for one.

P.S. Hey Ed, although I might sound snarky, I'm actually helping you out by linking to you. Who knows, maybe we can create some blog beef akin to Biggy vs Tupac, Paris Vs Nicole, or Fitial vs Pelosi...or something like that.

Random Fact of the Day: Mel Martinez (R-FL), who sits on the Senate Commitee on Energy and Natural Resources, sends his son to the same school that my little brother and sister, Kevin and Catie, attend. Lt. Gov Tim, the next time you testify in front of his committee will you ask him to say hi to my Mom?

Random Thought of the Day: Doesn't R-FL look a lot like ROFL - Rolling On the Floor Laughing?

Random Clarification of the Day: I support an increase in the minimum wage; I do not support the federal government imposing on our sovereignity. This issue is starting to get more coverage by the way. The Federal Takeover hit the pages of the Washington Post today.

Random Photo of the Day: Click HERE to see a photo of Saddam Hussein's cat. Thank you (or shame on you), Brad, for the link.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

I couldn't have said it better myself

Walt Goodridge just wrote a great piece on blogging. The Saipan Blog and the Beautify CNMI! blog are both mentioned.

Thanks, Walt!

Walt also mentions Wendy Cheng, aka Xiaxue, and the ways in which she is turning blogging into a career. I was reading her blog last night and came across this great quote:

"Remember, amateurs built the Ark and professionals built the Titanic"

Kind of describes how I feel about the Internet these days.

It's Miller Time!

From the homepage of Representative George Miller (D-CA):

"The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, H.R. 2, will raise the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to $7.25 per hour in three increments over two years and two months. It will also extend the minimum wage, on a separate timetable, to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory in the Pacific Oceans where labor abuses have been rampant."
The press release states that the House is scheduled to vote on this legislation, called The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, H.R. 2, on Wednesday, January 10.

I prefer to call it the No Labor Union Left Behind Act...or just simply the No Garment Factory Left in the CNMI Act.

I made a friend today

Monitor LizardThis is the second monitor lizard I have seen since I moved back to Saipan. The first one I saw was in Laulau Bay about 6 months ago. He was on the road when I was driving down to the dive site. He ran into the jungle as my car approached, so I didn't get a very good look at him.

I got a very good look at this guy. He wasn't afraid of me at all...I've posted another picture of him on the Beautify CNMI! website.

In other news, Captain Carl has started a blog.

Monday, January 08, 2007

CENSORED: saipanblog.com

The other Saipan Blog is censoring posts! That's not cool!

I commented and made a suggestion that if talking about politics doesn't work for them that they could always just post pictures of the Fotten Gaga Models. Apparently, my opinion is invalid.

Freedom Haters!

...and just to prove that the Fotten Gaga Models are blog gold, here's a picture of Michelle and Meipo:

The Grotto Monorail is back!

Marianas Variety, Tuesday, January 9, 2007

DLNR: Grotto monorail will run on electricity
By Emmanuel T. Erediano
Variety News Staff


THE Japanese firm that wants to build the Grotto monorail will use electric power instead of a gasoline-powered engine, according to Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Ignacio Dela Cruz.

He said executives of Tateishi Planning Co. Ltd. were on island a month ago and have expressed a willingness to address environmental concerns regarding the monorail project.

Dela Cruz said air pollution will not be a problem since electricity does not produce the kind of pollutants that gas-driven equipment emits.

The project, he added, will take only two months to complete.

Tateishi hopes to start the project as soon as possible this year, Dela Cruz said.
The company conducted a noise test in June last year to assure the CNMI government that the $250,000 project would comply with all rules, and that the habitat in the area would be properly protected.

The noise test used state of the art equipment in measuring sound and was conducted after the Division of Environmental Quality said noise could be a concern for the wildlife in the area.

Some lawmakers threatened to take legal action to prevent the project which they believe will adversely affect the popular diving site’s ecosystem and cultural significance.
I really thought this issue was dead. The last time we heard anything about this issue was way back in August 2006.

On one side we have DNLR, Public Lands, and the Governor's office claiming that we are in an economic crisis and that we need this and any other foreign investment we can find. They are also claiming that there are legions of disabled tourists who will start coming to Saipan if they know that they can take a monorail to the bottom.

On the other side is everyone else, wondering why the hell anybody would even consider putting such a monstrosity inside the Grotto.

I can promise that this project will not happen. Over 800 people have already signed a petition opposing the Grotto project...and the group hasn't even gone public yet.

There are so many problems facing the CNMI today, I wish we didn't have to deal with stupid ideas like this one. If this project is allowed to go forward, a lot of people that could otherwise be working on the CNMI's real problems are going to have to take time out to stop this mistake from happening. It is really disappointing.

Click HERE to visit Save the Grotto, which has an archive of everything that has been written about the Grotto Monorail.

On Blogging

I just found a great quote from Xiaxue:

"I want to be one of the first few people in the world who are able to answer "I am a Blogger!," when asked what my occupation is."

Although I use blogging in my professional life (with Beautify CNMI and Marianas RC&D)I am several thousand visitors per day away from being able to support myself through my personal blog (i.e. the one you are reading right now).

I've discovered that linking to videos of dying dictators and pictures of disgraced beautify queens is a great way to generate traffic, but that stuff only takes you so far. It also doesn't create a lot of repeat visitors.

If someone wants to have a succesful blog (and support themselves with endorsements or ads showing on the blogs) then they have to create a blog that makes people want to visit every single day...if not more often.

I have two ideas to do this:

1. I love politics. I'm going to make it a point to write about the CNMI's unique political, um, shall we say, atmosphere. The mid-term elections are coming up this year. Here on Saipan that means that 16 seats will be up for grabs in the House of Representatives. That means that there will be 16 Democrats, 16 Republicans, 16 Covenants, and a bunch of Independants running for those seats...and the money and prestige that goes along with it...and that's just the House! There will also be a slew of other races! I'm not interested at all in getting involved in the politics, but I have a couple of creative ideas for reporting on what goes on over the next several months.

I hope that my wit is as sharp as I think it is.

2. I'll just post more pictures of the Fotten Gaga models:

Fotten Gaga ModelsTwo more girls and they have themselves a calendar!

P.S. If you want to see more pictures of the Fotten Gaga models, leave a comment asking for one. I'll post one picture everytime I get a comment asking for more pictures.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The Other Saipan Blog

Ed Stephens Jr, the Saipan Tribune's Friday columnist, has started a blog...Saipanblog.com. Nice name! How'd you think of it?

From reading his column each week, I've picked up that Ed is kind of, um, let's say, a little critical of the CNMI at times. Along with Ruth Tighe, Harry Blalock, and Bruce Bateman, he is one of those local weekly columnists who do not shy away from letting people know how they see things...and how things should be done instead.

Perhaps because of my involvement with the We Love Saipan Network, people sometimes see me as the type of person who only thinks that only so-called positive things should be published online about Saipan.

Not true.

Although they don't always write about how great it is to live in Saipan, to varying degrees, I think that these four columnists are great additions to the fabric of our community. We live in a very close knit community and a lot of people are afraid to stand up to the status quo. Again, to varying degrees, these four columnists provide a great service to the community by writing things that most people wouldn't have the guts to write.

Let's see how this tranfers over to the blogosphere.

Ed, if you're reading this, I hope that you'll consider jumping on board the We Love Saipan Network. Not only will you be a great addition to our network of local bloggers, but it will also help drive traffic to your site. Also, if you add a link to the other Saipan blog (i.e. this one) on your blog, I'll add a link to Saipan Ed under my Friends & Family heading.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Colorblind as a whatever animal is colorblind

The colorblind thing came up at today's Navy Hill Lighthouse cleanup. That's right, folks, I am colorblind.

Do you see the three pictures above? According to colorvisiontesting.com, the one on the left is what normal people see. The other two are what colorblind people see (there are different types of colorblindness). They all look EXACTLY the same to me. I've been told that non-colorblind people think they look different. I can't tell.

Click HERE for more info on colorblindness

Fotten Gaga: Backstage Pass

Saipan Fotten Gaga ModelsI was the MC for the Fatten Gaga fashion show at Ocean's on Saturday night. I have 105 pictures. Want to see more?

No Island Left Behind

I stopped by the HUGE 5000 person protest yesterday on my way to the Saipan Singing Superstar Finals.

Well, alright, maybe it wasn't so huge. Dekada says they had 2000 protesters, while the police estimated about 500. My best guess would be about 300.

Here's some constructive criticism from a tree hugging, liberal hippy (me):

Do any of my mainland liberal friends remember this mantra:

"Some is not a number, soon is not a time"

When Beautify CNMI! planned our first island wide cleanup, 1020 on 10/20, we recruited over 3,380 people to participate. I say more than 3,380 because there were people who participated that for one reason or another didn't register or sign in. They may have helped, but I gave them ZERO credit.

The reason?

If someone comes up to me and says PROVE to me beyond a doubt that you actually had 3,380 volunteers cleaning the island on 1020 on 10/20, I can reach into my files and pull out the sign up sheets from every single adopting group along with the names of every single participant.

Do you know what that gave us? Credibility.

Can Dekada tell us how many people from each of the supporting groups participated in yesterday's protest?

Some? Some is not a number. How can you make the argument that the minimum wage should be increased when you can't even accurately say how many people in Saipan want it increased? Additionally, the disparity in the reported numbers greatly weakens your argument.

As I see it, there are four ways to interpret the low turnout:

1. People wanted to be there, but were afraid
2. The organizers are terrible organizers
3. People don't support Dekada or the wage hike (for whatever reason)
4. Everyone was at the Saipan Singing Superstar Finals

I think it might be combination of #1 and #2...and maybe #4.

After all, there were more people inside Club V and out in the Saipan Grand Hotel Lobby watching the Finals than there were at the protest.

Saipan Singing Superstar Finals

Last night was the final night of Saipan Singing Superstar! 15 contestants from the four Elimination Rounds and one Wildcard Round competed for the coveted title.

Last night's taping was two shows in one: We whittled the final 15 down to six, then the final six sang one more song to decide the winner.

Here is a shot of some of the contestants backstage before the show:

Saipan Singing Superstar Backstage We had five judges this week: (from left to right) Lei, Aldrich, and Anchel from Resound, Diana, and me:

Resound BandResound BandThe show kicked off with a few songs from Resound (and one by Brad) and then a song by all of the contestants. Oscar Yema, director extraordinaire, even found some backup dancers:

Then it was time to start the competition! The judges judged each contestent on their "musicality." We had 70 points to award for Attire (5), Confidence (5), Stage Presence (5), Timing (15), Harmony (10), Timbre (10), and Pitch (20).

Want to know how I scored the top 6? OK, here it goes, the points I awarded to the top 6 contestants:

Angel: 70 points...wins the Diva Award HANDS DOWN!
Ronnie: 70 points...best shirt EVER!
Paul D: 69 points...makes funny faces when he sings, but what a voice!
Lala: 64 points...chose a Mariah Carey song...not the easist thing to sing!
Cherry: 64 points...um, wow!
Dan: 63 points...KC and Jojo? Great song!

CherryAlright, so I was a judge, not a photographer. Those were the only pictures that don't totally suck. The judges' table was too far away from the stage for my flash to work properly. Most of my pictures are blurry, so you're lucky I have any pictures. Deal. The Saipan Grand website will have pictures up. I'll link to them when I find them.

So, back to the contest, don't forget that the judges' scores only counted for 70% of the vote. The other 30% came from PTI text votes:

Text VotesAre you kidding me? How the hell does someone get half a million text votes? Yeah, Paul D, I'm talking to you!

So after the judges' scores were combined with the text vote scores the final six ended up being Angel, Froi, Ronnie, Dan, Paul D, and Lala. The only person from my top 6 not in the final top 6 was Cherry.

Saipan Singing Superstar FinalistsEach contestant had to sing one more song...and to make a long story short, they placed:

6. Dan
5. Ronnie
4. Froi
3. Paul D
2. Angel
1. Lala

Lala went last...and she just blew everyone away. Not only did she sing a new song, but she also wore a new gown and even had a new hairdo. Where the hell did she find time to do that? Diva, party of one? I heard that she even brought a personal makeup artist...I'll just leave it at that.

Diana and I couldn't resist getting our picture taken with her afterwards:

Lala
Congrats, Lala!

Guess who I saw today?

David CohenI saw Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, David Cohen (center)! I saw Federal Ombudsman Jim Benedetto (right), too!

They both came to the DEQ Cleanup Brigade this morning to help Beautify CNMI! pick up litter along the beach south of Sugar Dock in Chalan Kanoa.

Thank you both for coming!

...and thank you Mr. Cohen for making me look really short!

New Restaurant Rumor

I've heard a rumor that Saipan will be getting an Outback Steakhouse this year. Is this true, Triple J? Does that mean that we'll be getting a Roy's soon, too?

Friday, January 05, 2007

9 days left...

Resound Saipan...to see Resound.

Their last show is on January 15. They are off to the PI two days later. I'm going to miss those guys (and Anchel)!

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Angelo Villagomez: A National Disgrace

Ai adai, Nancy Pelosi.

I've got politics on the brain. Sorry.

On the way home from playing soccer at American Memorial Park this afternoon I listened to the local news on the radio. David Cohen, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Insular Affairs, was on live discussing the upcoming minimum wage hike. Before he was interviewed by the anchor Chris Nelson, they played a video where incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi calls the CNMI and the CNMI Resident Representative, Pete Tenorio, a National Disgrace.

If I heard her correctly, she went on to call everything about the CNMI a National Disgrace (hence the name of this post).

Ouch!

The video in the clip was shot while the Speaker was campaigning for reelection. Her stump speech must have hit a nerve because she won 80% of the vote in 2006.

As for doing something about having your say on (edited for the sake of anonymous commentor) the impending Federal Takeover, Mr. Cohen suggested that average people in the CNMI, people who own businesses, workers, students, government employees, etc, go to DC to tell members of Congress about what life in the CNMI is really like.

I have a better idea:

Start a blog. Join the We Love Saipan Network. Link back to the Saipan Blog. That is something that every single person in the CNMI can do. Some staff member in DC will find you, I promise. For many of us who don't have the option of flying to (like me) or even calling (OK, I can do that) DC, that may be your best option.

That's really all I have to say about that.

In related news:

There is going to be a big protest tomorrow organized by a local Overseas Worker group. They want to show their support for a Federal Takeover. The protest is at 5 PM in front of the Horiguchi building in Garapan. I'll take some pictures and report back on it...but I can't stay too late because...

Saipan Singing Superstar finals are tomorrow! Woot!

Friends and Family Links

Who are those people on the left hand column of this blog?

Akita Asuka

Asuka was one of my ex-girlfriend's third year students at Fukuoka High School in Toyama-ken. The year before we lived in Japan, Asuka lived in Ohio as a foreign exchange student. She was even Homecoming Queen! Asuka currently attends University at Akita International University.

Altamonte Al (aka Lil' Bro)

Like most of my little brothers, Alex is a lot bigger than me. He's been able to beat me up for a good 10 years now. He lives in Florida with my niece Tiana.

Chicago Steve

Steve and I graduated from Rollins College in 2004. After graduation we worked together during the League of Conservation Voters Environmental Victory Project...where I nicknamed him the Angry Sicilian. We lost the election and the state, but at least we won our county..by just over 800 votes. Team Red!

Kashyyyk Chewy

Chewbacca is a Wookie from the planet Kashyyyk.

Saipan Bev

I met Beverly online. She is a dental assistant and SDA missionary in Saipan. She has lived in Saipan for a few months. I've only met her in person three times, but unknown to her, I have plans to turn her into my diving buddy.

Saipan Bree and Doug

Bree and Doug work for PSS. Bree is a teacher and Doug is a counselor. Holy cow are they awesome! They have lived in Saipan for about a year.

Saipan Deece

I met Deece (prounounced like the city between Virginia and Maryland) online. She works at an unknown government agency with an unknown person, let's call her Merced. I've only met her in person twice.

Saipan Diana

Diana yells at me all the time for linking to her livejournal. Now everyone on Saipan knows all about her life. We went to Rollins College together, where she was my ex-girlfriend's roommate. She moved out to Saipan this past August to teach Second Grade...sucker.

Saipan Melissa

I met Melissa online. She claims that one of the reasons she moved to Saipan was because of The Saipan Blog. She is a lawyer with the AGO and just moved to Saipan a few months ago. I've only met Melissa in person twice.

Saipan Missy

I met Melissa online. She's having a baby! Her and her husband (a fellow treehugger) moved to Saipan about a year ago (I think). I've only met Missy in person once. We were in an elevator and I said, "um, do you have a blog?" That's why they call me Mr. Smooth.

Saipan Walt

I met Walt online. He moved to Saipan about a month before I did and at that time, his blog was the only one published from Saipan that I could find. Walt is one of those guys that gets put into my "really cool guy" category. We have big plans for bringing this island into the Internet age.

Seattle Mona

I met Mona online. I don't know if she found me or I found her. We've never met, but her sister is married to a good friend's boyfriend's brother. I think.

Takaoka Laura

Laura is a JET in Takaoka. I met her the day before my ex-girlfriend left for Japan. I met her again when I got to Japan. I met her yet again when she visited Saipan in August.

Toyama Tony

I was almost Tony's coworker, but I decided to give up on teaching English in Japan and moved to Saipan instead. He writes in the Queen's best English...and has a crush on EJ.

Winter Park Amy

Amy has been blogging since before blogging was cool (OK, so has Mona). Amy and I actually went to Rollins together...I think. I didn't meet her at Rollins though, I met her at LCV. Team Red!

Winter Park Mom

She gave me life, what else can I say?

Other people who have blogs, but who have since stopped updating and are thus unworthy of a link, are AGO Joe, who lived in Saipan this summer (we also met online), my cousin Jill, who lives in England, my cousin Sean and Uncle Bob, who both live in Massachusetts, and my friend John, who I also met at LCV (Team Red!)

I think that's just about everybody. Let me know if I left you out! Want to be added? I have a simple rule: link to me and I'll link to you.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The War of the Words

So, let's talk politics...

Federal Takeover!

ABC News' The Blotter blog is reporting that Rep. George Miller, incoming House Chairman of the Education and Workforce Committee, who, by the way, received about two thirds of his PAC contributions in 2006 from US Labor Unions, will introduce a bill to more than double the minimum wage in the CNMI.

This bill isn't going to exactly endear him to the people of the CNMI.

Let me just start off by saying that I really like George Miller. He has a perfect LCV voting record on environmental issues over the last two years. He's also a strong advocate for American workers, which is why he receives so much money from Labor Unions. I don't have disdain for the man the way a lot of people out here do.

With that said, it will be really interesting to see how this all plays out. Most of the US media reports on this issue lean left (dang, Liberal Media!) Even in this article, by supposed unbiased ABC, the author writes about Tom Delay staying for free at a "beach front resort" (every hotel is on the beach here) and "wages far below the federal minimum wage" (the CNMI sets its own minimum wage) among other things.

What the people in the Mainland don't understand is that most people out here want to raise our minimum wage...they just don't want it rammed downed our throats by a bunch of millionaire Congressmen in DC. That is the real issue. This is not about human rights, working conditions, immigration issues, homeland security, or anything else. It is about the right of the CNMI to self govern.

Edit:

The Hill published a really good article on this story, too. I think they do a better job of balancing both sides of the issue. I find it interesting that the author thinks that the CNMI may have a difficult time even finding a lobbyist to represent them....never considered that idea before. Hmmm....

New Year's Eve

Last New Year's Eve I was on a Blue Train between Ueno Station in Tokyo and Takaoka. The year before that I was sitting in my apartment with Chicago Steve. The two years before that I was at work at the Cheesecake Factory and the two years before that I was at work at Wolfgang Puck Cafe. Basically what I'm trying to say is that it has been a while since I've been able to go out for New Year's Eve.

I decided that this year would make up for the last 6 years. And OMG did it ever!

My first stop was my first cousin Ike Cabrera's house. As I type this I realize that this was the first time I've ever spent a New Year with the Villagomez family (brothers excluded). Cool!

Matilde IgitolHey Mom, do you recognize Matilde?

I left Ike's house around 9:30 to go over to Cinta's Mom's house in Koblerville.

I need to start charging those kids a nickel everytime they say my name. Seriously. All night it was Angelo, Angelo, Angelo...

That's right we sang karaoke! Hit me baby one more time? No problem!

So do you like my Christmas present? It is hanging around my neck in these pictures. I wore it all night, only taking it off right before I went into Grand Hotel...

...which is where the real fun began.

As I drove up Beach Road towards Susupe, the night sky was lit up like I was in Baghdad on the day of the "Liberation." People in every other parking lot along the road were shooting off fireworks in every direction.

I found the first parking space I could, well, OK, I really just pulled up on the sidewalk and ran into Grand Hotel to the sounds of 53, 52, 51, 50...

I found EJ, Osang, and Brad and then grabbed the first tray of champagne I saw.

4, 3, 2, 1...and then things got insane!

Oscar Yema did an amazing job throwing that party. A.R.T. was up on stage jamming away, while Saipan Grand shot fireworks off the roof, Navy guys shot fireworks off the beach, and everyone went around hugging and kissing each other.

Then it was off to Club V to dance the night away. Along the way I managed to pick up two Japanese tourists. One girl would yell, "Hapi Nu Yea" to which the other would reply, "kurezi giru!" Good times!

Club V was open until 4 AM on New Year's Eve. The rest of the night was a mix of spilling champagne, dancing, and trying to figure out what the hell the two Japanese girls were saying.

Resound and A.R.T.? Simply amazing! I think Anchel said it best the next day when she told me, "I was drunk last night."

No kidding?

At one point all of the guys in Resound were half naked on stage. Like I said, good times, good times...and no I'm not posting pictures of it.

Edit:

OK, I've come to the realization that I'm not going to post proper chronological recollections of my New Year's festivities. Here are some random photos:

Shake that assOscar YemaResound Band SaipanResound Band SaipanResound Band SaipanThe three straight nights at Club V were a frickin blast! Three more pictures and I'll call this a wrap. This is what Diana does every time she wants to drive her car:

Diana FelixNow, allow me to share with you a photo that I took on the first day of 2006, when I woke up in Takaoka-shi, Toyama-ken in the Hokuriku region of Japan:

Takaoka SnowThis is a photo I took on the first day of 2007, when I woke up in Saipan in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands:

Saipan RainbowQuite a change of scenery, huh?