Monday, April 30, 2007

There's a first time for everything

The moon is looking pretty fierce tonight. You gotta love that 48x zoom on my Canon S2.

So.

I got to experience something for the first time in my life today. I swore not to tell anyone where it happened (I'll explain in a minute). I'll let the pictures explain what I saw:

The Division of Fish & Wildlife tracks the turtle nests on Saipan. A Green Sea Turtle laid her eggs on this beach (which I have sworn to keep secret) about a month ago. Today DFW went back to check on the nest. I was invited to tag along.

The DFW officers are certified to handle the turtles. They dug out the nest, counted the egg shells, unhatched eggs, and the live and dead turtles. In this nest they found 15 live turtles, 6 dead turtles, and 106 eggs (hatched and unhatched combined). That means that out of 106 eggs laid, 100 turtles made it to the sea (85 crawled to the sea before the DFW officers dug out the nest). Only six died in the nest.

Dude, that's pretty sweet!

Even though sea turtles are a federally protected species, poaching is a problem on Saipan. Locals eat the eggs and the adult turtles. For this reason, the Division of Fish & Wildlife is very secretive with their turtle data. They are afraid that if they release certain data that they may be doing more harm than good.

If it was known what beaches hatched a lot of turtles, some people would say, "we need to protect these beaches so that we can have more turtles" while others would say "we need to go find those turtles so that we can have a BBQ."

Some people say that eating turtles is part of our culture. I can agree to that, but the need to preserve our culture needs to be balanced with the realities of our present economic system, one that is based on tourism.

Imagine if our dive operators could promise a turtle sighting on every single dive in Laulau Bay or if we could guarantee that a tourist visiting Saipan in April-May would see a nest of turtles hatching. How much would that be worth? How many tourists would flock here to see that? How much would they pay?

So.

Want to help come up with a community driven plan to help protect sea turtles? Then come to Cafe at the Park this Thursday at 7 PM for a Micronesia Challenge meeting.

And just because I can, here's a video of one of the turtles swimming out to sea:

26 Hours in Tinian

Angelo and DianaAbout a month ago I got a call from Lawrence asking me if I would participate in an environmental forum on Tinian. How could I say no?

The forum was this past Friday. I went over on the 9:30 AM ferry with my co-presenter Greg Moretti from Division of Fish & Wildlife. As a matter of pure coincidence, Diana, Deanna, and Tony were also on the ferry.

They were going over some swimming and some gambling. We made plans to meet up when I was finished with work.

Lawrence picked up Greg and me at the Tinian dock. The people on Tinian are so friendly! We had to wait about three minutes for Law to pick us up and in that short time at least six different people offered to give us a ride.

Law is on the RC&D Board and works at NMC Tinian. Friday was the NMC CREES open house, so in addition to the environmental forum, they had some of their projects on display.

One of the projects was a dry litter management system for pigs. This system conserves water and can protect drinking water supplies. I'm not going to explain how...that's Law's job.

NMC CREES Tinian PigI think we need another picture of the pig:

Beleive it or not, Greg spent more time playing with the pig than the kids did.

During lunch I noticed something in the distance that looked like a Shinto shrine.

Hmmmm....something seems familiar about this place.

Check out this picture.

That's right, I was here about 25ish years ago with my Mom and Dad. Weird.

It's actually not a Shinto Shrine, it is a Korean Peace Memorial. It was built in 1977 by Reverend Young Shik Rhee to honor the many Koreans who lost their lives in Tinian during World War II.

The forum itself started around 1 PM and lasted until about 3:30 PM. Teny Topalian, Greg, Dr. Arkle, and James Mendiola from Rep. Aldan's Office presented before me. When it was my turn, I talked about my project with Marianas RC&D and subjected them to the Beautify CNMI! "Year in Review" video.

Here are Greg and Teny during their presentations:

Teny TopalianGreg MorettiSome people want to create Tinian's first Marine Protected Area. We were all there to offer our suggestions as to how to make this possible. My two cents was that we need to work together and I hope I offered some insights on how to do that.

That's everyone posing after the forum.

When we were finished we went to the Tinian Dynasty to check into our rooms. I found Diana and Co. hanging out in the lobby. They they had been swimming all day, so I let them use my room to freshen up.

While we waited for EJ to show up we went down to the front of the casino to take some pictures. That shiny reflection picture is pretty cool, huh?

When EJ arrived we all went to eat at Fleming's, where I was carded not once, but twice!

The second lady seemed pretty confused as to why we were taking a picture. Man, it has been a while since I've been carded!

Dinner was pretty good. I had the yakisoba. If you ever visit Tinian, I highly recommend eating at Fleming's over the Casino restaurants.

After dinner, it was time to gamble. You're not allowed to bring a camera into the casino, so I don't have any pictures.

To make a long story short, I was down $300 at one point, but I came back and went home a winner.

Taga Beach, Tinian

Taga Beach is on the South end of Tinian, within walking distance of the village of San Jose village and the Tinian Dynasty Casino. Right next to the beach are picnic facilities, parking, and even a place to rent a scooter.

It is a small pocket beach with small limestone cliffs on either side. To get down to the beach one has to climb down some rocks, but most prefer to just jump into the clear green and blue water from the small cliffs.

This is the most popular way to enjoy Taga Beach.

1. Walk down the concrete path in the above photo to get to the edge of the cliff.
2. Jump in
3. Swim to shore
4. Climb up the rocks to get back to the top
5. Repeat.

Here are steps 1-3 in full color, set to music, of course:



The different hues of green and blue are simply amazing:

You have to climb up the rocks in the following picture to get off of the beach. If you don't think you can climb these rocks, don't jump in the water.

Taga Beach StairsI'm not sure how I feel about the latte stone railing. While I can appreciate the need to keep people safe, think how beautiful these rocks would be without the metal and concrete.

Taga Beach TinianThe kids on Tinian have turned jumping off these rocks into an art form. They pressure each other to jump a little higher, or to throw in a flip, or to get more of a running start.

Kids Cliff JumpingThey obviously don't challenge each other to be more graceful divers. The kid in the previous two pictures performed belly flop after belly flop after belly flop.

Limestone CliffsIf jumping off the cliffs ever gets tiring, you can check out the limestone along the beach. The waves have carved some pretty crazy shapes.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Back from Tinian..

...and now off to the Flame Tree Festival to help Beautify CNMI! teach the islands about Recyling!

I took some great photos on Tinian; I'll post them...well, it is a busy weekend. I'll get them up soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Guess who I saw today?

I saw Susan Macario and Jerry Tan! Susan is the manager of Shirley's Coffee Shop and Jerry is the Executive Vice President of Tan Holdings.

They both came over to say hi to us at the Beautify CNMI! booth on the first night of the Flame Tree Festival (tonight). Tonight Beautify CNMI! was selling buttons, stickers, and T-shirts. For the next three days we'll collect recyclables.

I'm off to Tinian tomorrow morning to present at an environmental forum. I'm going to miss Friday and half of Saturday's Flame Tree Festival, but I'll be at the Beautify CNMI! tent by Saturday evening.

Come say hello!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I'm too sexy for my blog

Angelo Villagomez FaceThe little hamster inside my head is running on his wheel tonight. This picture was inspired by a blog post made by Xiaxue over two years ago. I might have a fun idea for a website. Walt, I'm going to need your help.

P.S. If someone goes to Java Joe's today, can you tell Rick that we are going to be at his place at 7?

Edit: I challenge all of you to take a Xiaxue inspired picture of yourself sticking out your tongue and looking sideways. Post it on your blog and leave me a comment with a link to the picture.

Great Reading

Just to clarify: I'm not running for office.

The Saipan Tribune is an amazing read today!

We have a new Letter to the Editor from Holani Smith! How have you been, Holani? I haven't seen you since, oh wait, you're not a real person. I've never seen you! You sure do a good job of attacking Republicans for someone who doesn't exist.

We also have a Letter to the Editor from Dr. Jesus D. Camacho! For those of you who don't know, Dr. Camacho has been to the CNMI exactly one time and has a $48,000 consulting contract with the CNMI government to, um, consult with us and to write the occasional attack piece. We haven't heard from the good doctor in a while, but he makes up for his long silence by actually calling for the Washington Representative to resign. Are you kidding me? The Washington Rep. criticizes the governor and you think he should resign?

Oh wait, I almost started to defend a Republican. I'd better stop.

In political news, Senator Crisostimo officially announced that he is dropping the Democratic Party...after they dropped him. According to Agnes Donato of the Saipan Tribune:
The local Democratic Party refused to endorse Crisostimo's reelection plan because he allegedly displayed disloyalty to the party on several occasions during the 2005 campaign. The party recalled that Crisostimo had formed his own political party, had attended a GOP fundraising event, and had endorsed the candidacy of former Gov. Juan N. Babuata, who is a Republican.
Sure, he sounds like a Sheri McInvale Democrat, but come on guys, can't we all just get along?

The incumbent Senator is going to run as an Independent. The Saipan Tribune reports that he'll likely face Republican turned Independent turned Republican Representative Stanley T. Torres, Former Democratic Chair Gabriel B. Babauta, and Covenant Ramon Dela Cruz.

It's going to be a four way race!

I've met Crisostimo and Torres several times, but I don't know Babauta or Dela Cruz. I'm sure we'll get to know them better as the election progresses.

Finally, The front page has a really sad story about a soon-to-be-deported contract worker who set himself on fire at the Department of Labor Office. You read that correctly. He set himself on fire. This story would have made international headlines if it happened anywhere else.

After living and working for minimum wage for 10 years in the CNMI, he chose to take his own life over returning to Nepal. What's going on in Nepal that we don't know about? Coconut wireless reports that this poor soul is in the hospital, but isn't expected to make it. If there was ever a person whose whole body and soul needed prayer, this guy is him.

Alright, it is getting late. I'm supposed to go walking with EJ in the morning.

0.15 seconds of fame

A few weeks ago I got a call at 6 AM from a fellow Body on Fire model. He wanted to know if I was interested in skipping work to appear in a Japanese beer commercial.

What do you think I said?

You guessed it! Instead of spending the day in front of the computer sending emails and setting meetings, I spent about 8 hours dressed like a third world bank security guard. I was paid $200 for my troubles (and my sunburn) and only my nose appears in the commercial. Oh well, check out the commercial here:

Click HERE if you have a fast connection

Click HERE if you have a slow connection

This is the fifth commercial in a series. In the series, the actor dressed as a Japanese/Dutch prince of sorts is traveling the world looking for all the foods that pair well with Sapporo Draft One. He runs into a group of Japanese ex-pats having a BBQ in Kannat Tabla and by the end of the commercial he determines that yakisoba and Draft One are good together (or something like that).

The name of the Japanese actor in the commercial is Hiroshi Abe. He's famous in Japan or something.

The gaijin in the commercial is an actor named John. He went to Japan as an English teacher, which led to acting in local theater, which led to some paid gigs.

He was really funny. Here he is posing with us in our costumes:

...and in case you were wondering. Draft One isn't really beer. It is a beer flavored liquor made with pea protein. Yum!

CNMI Election Basics

First, let me get this out of the way: I'm not running for office.

So.

I'm looking forward to my first CNMI election. This Novemeber the voters of the island of Saipan are going to elect 16 Representatives to the House of Representatives and 1 Senator to the Senate.

I've really enjoyed watching the early shenanigans. The incumbent Senator is a Democrat, but the Democratic leadership is saying that he's not loyal. Some of the incumbent Republicans aren't getting party support either. The Covenants seem to be getting along.

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me explain how the election works.

There are three Senate seats in Saipan. This year, only one of them is up for grabs. There are three major parties in the CNMI right now (there have been more or fewer in the past) and each is allowed to nominate one candidate. There won't be a primary; the candidate is chosen by the party leadership. We can expect a Democrat, a Republican, and a Covenant to run. Those Senate hopefuls who don't get the party nomination have the option of running as an Independent.

Each Saipan voter casts a single vote for the candidate of their choosing. The candidate with the most votes wins. There is no runoff election.

Saipan has 16 seats in the CNMI House of Representatives. Every single one is up for grabs this election cycle. Saipan is split into four precints. Precint I has six seats, Precint II has two seats, Precint III has six seats, and Precint IV has two seats. The major parties are allowed to nominate one candidate per open seat. There won't be a primary, the candidates are chosen by the party leadership. Those House of Representative hopefuls who don't get the party nomination have the option of running as an Independent.

Each voter is allowed to cast one vote for each of the open seats in their precinct. The voters in Precincts I and III cast six votes and the voters in Precincts II and IV cast two votes. (I have a problem with that, which I'll discuss in a later post)

The top vote getters in each precinct win. There are no runoffs.

Since there are 16 open seats, it is conceivable that there will be 16 Republicans, 16 Democrats (if there are 16 Democrats on Saipan), and 16 Covenants. There will also be a spattering of Independent candidates (Saipan currently has two Independants serving in the House).

Each candidate, once they are confirmed as a candidate by the Board of Elections, is assigned a number. The candidates put their numbers on all of their campaign literature: "Vote for #69 on your ballot!"

In 2007, I will endorse the following candidates: 4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42.

I think that's a good start.

I'll write about who's already declared and who I think is running in my next post.

Edit:

Breaking News! Yet another reason not to work with DC lobbyists.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Blogger Meetup #4

The We Love Saipan Network will host their fourth blogger meetup tomorrow night at 7 PM. The meeting place is Java Joes. The password is "fidelio."

We had a list of goals when we started the We Love Saipan Network, one of them was to rise in the rankings of a google search for the word, "Saipan." We Love Saipan and The Saipan Blog have been popping on and off the front page for about a month now. We're 20% of the way there.

Our first three meetings were very informal. We just sat around emailing each other while avoiding eye contact. This week we are going to have a project. We're going to add meta data to every blogger's blog! This will give your blog more "google juice." If we have time, we'll also sign every blogger up for Digg. We might even have a discussion about ALT tags.

Exciting, I know!

As always, the blogger meetup is open to anyone interested in writing, blogging, drinking coffee, or incessantly making fun of me. We meet on the last Wednesday of every month, so mark your calendars for the rest of the year.

The Trench Wench

Cinta, Gus, EJ, and I ran into Diana and her posse at the Garapan Street Market last Thursday. Diana, Deanna, and Tony had just finished their Trench Tech workout. I thought it would be fun to challenge Diana to a battle.

She wanted to show me her "new" move. She made me lie on my back like she had just knocked me down, then she jumped on top of me and started punching me in the head. The fun and games stopped when she punched me in the trachea.

By then it was just fun. I still say I can take her. If she wants to fight me in the next Trench War, I told her that I would fight her blindfolded with my hands handcuffed behind my back.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's ALIVE!!!

It took three weeks, a new battery (expensive), and a new starter (more expensive), but my 1996 Jeep Cherokee is back on the road!

Yippee!

In Beautify CNMI! Banquet News:

I think Picasa has the best program for posting a boat load of pictures online. It only takes a few minutes to upload pictures and then they make it extremely easy to share them.

Just click on one of the boxes below to view the pics from last Friday:

Beautify CNMI One Year Anniversary Banquet - Front Door
Beautify CNMI Banquet Photos

All your base are belong to us

During Sunday's restoration of the Japanese Jail in Garapan, Sam McPhertres showed us an old photo of a Japanese Buddhist Temple:

The temple is very close to the jail, about 50 meters South, right along the road.

This is what the temple looks like today:

Talk about a fixer upper! Wouldn't it be great if we could afford to fix up all the old historical spots on Saipan? This old slab of concrete was once a place of worship. We owe it to ourselves to take better care of our past.

As for the jail, there are three different stories about Amelia Earhart being held there before World War II. Um, hello tourism?

Who cares if it's not true, we should be promoting the hell out of that story. Here, I'll start it. When Amelia Earhart was being held at the Japanese Jail in Saipan, she etched this self portrait onto the wall of her cell:

Here's another great story for the tourists:

Several years ago, a small spider bit a young Carolinian boy visiting the Marshall Islands atoll of Bikini . That boy came to live on Saipan and now the Japanese Jail is the home of Refaluwasch Spiderman:

Click HERE for more on the Old Japanese Jail.

More photos from the banquet

Next year we're going to have to designate someone to go around taking pictures of all the guests. These are pretty much all the pictures that magically appeared on my camera while I was on stage:

Kaipat Family TableThanks, Gus, for taking the pictures!