Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 in 2011 is a bust

There's always next year...

2011 in 2011, my plan to run 2011 miles this year, completely fizzled sometime in July.  Still, I managed to run 600 in 2011, which is only half bad.  I spent three weeks in Fiji in October and then I got married in November.  I ran twice in Fiji and twice on Saipan, including the morning of my wedding.  I ran to the top of Mount Tapachou and hobbled my way down.

600 miles is still better than 0.  That's a little more than a mile and a half per day, which I'm guessing is more than 90% of America exercises.  So did I lose?  Yes.  Did I learn something?  Of course.

I learned that the hardest thing about exercising is not the physical act of getting your sweat on, but the mental act of fitting it into your schedule and then getting off your butt.  My commute is about an hour each way and most work days are longer than 9 hours.  You do the math.  Rushing home and getting on the treadmill is hard.  Getting up an hour early each day is even harder.

Running while traveling is also difficult.  I don't know if my travel schedule will slow in the new year, so this will just be something I have to get over.

I accept that failure begets success, so here's to 2012! Wedding Registry

I made my first purchase on November 13, 2010.  I bought an Ikelite underwater housing for my Canon point and shoot camera.  I would have jumped on this bandwagon years ago, but I lived in Saipan for all those years and delivery was always a problem.  I once bought a few things from Cafepress in 2009 and I'm still waiting for them to arrive.

This year I went a little wild on Amazon, including having our wedding registered on their website.  Amazon lets you pick out what items you want, including items on other websites, and puts them all in one place where loved ones can just use a credit card or Paypal to pay for the gifts.  Then Amazon mails it directly to the bride and groom's door, complete with a personal note and optional gift wrapping, I think.

I'm no wedding planner (obviously), but I think Amazon has the best wedding registry service out there.  You can pick items with a range of price ranges from anywhere that sells online.  And then afterwards they email you the addresses for the thank you cards.  It couldn't be any easier.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Eden Optical Illusion

I got a wonderful Christmas present this year.  A good friend gave me a very, very nice photo album for my wedding photos.  So tonight I was going through the photos and picking out my top 400 when I came across this gem.

When I look at this photo I see Edz getting sloppy.  When Edz looks at this photo, all she sees is a diamond ring.  It's an Eden optical illusion.

Oh yeah, I also see Jim Brown's glasses.  Sort of.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Swimming with Pacific Sharks

I went swimming with 10 species of shark this year, six in the Pacific and four in the Caribbean.

Fiji was the only place I saw bull sharks.  These are supposed to be the most aggressive of all shark species and are responsible for just about all of the shark bites that your see in the media.  I actually got close enough to touch one, but no way in hell did I reach out.  They look too mean.  Even so, my experience was that these sharks were really, really timid.  I was taught when I was younger that a shark would sniff out a single drop of blood a mile away, but I saw 10-foot bull sharks afraid to take a tuna head from a feeder.   With that said, I don't think anyone will be trying tonic immobility with one of these guys any time soon.

I saw a lot of grey reef sharks.  I went diving with famed coral reef biologist Peter Houk in the Majuro Lagoon in July and encountered a school of about six juvenile grey reefs on a patch reef.  The little guys are supposed to be more aggressive than the bigger ones.

I saw whitetip reef sharks all over.  These are the little sharks that are seen sleeping at the bottom of Saipan's grotto.  I really, really like these guys.

They remind me of seals with the way they swim.  They are able to arch their bodies and wriggle into tight crevices to hunt for reef fish.  I did get to touch some of these (I know, I know, you're not supposed to!), not because I wanted to, but because they were really frisky and interested in my camera.

Do you know what kind of shark this is?  This is one of the juvenile grey reefs I mentioned above.  Looks a lot more alert than his older relative, huh?

These are the sharks I have the most experience with.  When I was younger my father would occasionally catch a blacktip reef shark with his fishing net.  He didn't like catching them because they would damage the net, and sometimes even swim away with the net.  We would play with the shark and then throw it back in the water.

And this is a whitetip about to bump me.  Sorry, I'm not the one with the tuna.

All of these photos were shot using a GoPro HD with a flat lens underwater housing (the rounded lens that comes with the camera can't focus underwater, which I figured out the hard way).  These sharks were all photographed on Shark Reef in Pacific Harbour, Fiji with Beqa Adventure Divers.  On my day off.

I also went swimming with tawny nurse sharks and sickle fin lemon sharks in Fiji and lemon, nurse, blacknose, and Caribbean reef sharks in The Bahamas.  I also swam with several species of ray, including giant mantas, blue spotted rays, and cow tail rays.  Tigers, whales, and great whites are on my bucket list.  What do you say, 2012?

The Coral Reef Alliance and an organization which I may or may not be affiliated with have information on their respective websites on efforts to protect these cool creatures.  This blog post is not associated with any organization.  I am the Saipan Blogger and I approved this message.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jake Shimabukuro Visits Virginia

Jake Shimabukuro played to a sold out crowd at the Birchmere in Alexandria on Tuesday. This was my second time seeing him live, the first being at the 2008 Beautify CNMI Anniversary Concert.

I shot some video with my fancy new Canon 60D of his performances of While My Guitar Gently Weeps and Don't Stop Believing. Both are uploaded to Youtube.

I think the videos capture the amazingness of Jake. He's just one guy standing on a stage with an ukulele, which Dave Khorram explains so much more eloquently in one of his columns, "Jake pulled up a chair and began to perform. His fingers created such rich sounds that you imagined they were coming from a full orchestra, not a little four-string instrument that until that night the uninitiated considered a sort of small toy guitar. And for the next 90 minutes, we were mesmerized."

I went to the concert with Lynn and her two daughters, and, get this, we got a shout out from the stage. After the show we got to talk to Jake and he asked about Debbie Winkfield and all the kids at Saipan Community School and waxed on how much he enjoyed eating at Casa Urashima in Garapan.

Jake Shimabukuro: Class Act. And for that, I suggest you get all of his albums on

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bring International Recognition to Kathy Pagapular's Sixth Grade Class

Here it goes, I'm asking for your help yet one more time. Will you nominate Kathy Pagapular's San Vicente Elementary School Sixth Grade Class for a Peter Benchley Ocean Award in Youth Activism? Kathy's class supported shark protections in the Northern Marianas this year and jumpstarted momentum for a year of shark conservation. They deserve recognition.

Click here to learn how to nominate San Vicente Elementary School for a Peter Benchley Ocean Award in Youth Activism.

The deadline for nominations is December 31, 2011. Nominations should include 2- 6 paragraphs on the nominee and why the nominator finds them deserving in their category. Feel free to include supporting materials and/or links. Please include the nominees contact information and your contact information.

Submit to Mark subject line - Benchley Nomination - Youth Activism. Nominators names will be held in confidence.

2011 was a watershed year in shark conservation. And where did it all start? Saipan. On January 27, Governor Ben Fitial signed a law criminalizing the sale, trade, and possession of shark fin. This act kicked off 12 months of improved protections for sharks, including shark sanctuaries in The Bahamas, Honduras, the Marshalls, and Tokelau, shark fin bans in Guam, California, Washington, Oregon, and half a dozen Canadian cities, protections for oceanic whitetips, hammerheads, and silky sharks on the high seas, and agreements by international and regional bodies to implement more protections in 2012.

The law in the Northern Marianas was supported by many in the community, including fishermen, divers, and the conservation-minded, but a sixth grade class at San Vicente Elementary School may have done more than anyone else to make sure sharks received protections.

I could tell their story, but filmmaker Rob Stewart does it much better with his short film Sharkwater Saipan. This short film is just a preview of Rob's second feature film Revolution, due out in theaters next year.

Watch Sharkwater Saipan on Youtube.

I am asking you to write your own nominations (but I am available to help or edit). Two paragraphs should not be that difficult. Think of this award as something that will come home to the Marianas, not just San Vicente Elementary.

I make this request as the Saipan Blogger and the Godfather of the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument, not as someone who works for an organization that shall go unnamed. I have had the honor of meeting many shark champions around the world this year including Tony DeBrum from the Marshall Islands, Ev Quiel and Melanie Blas on Guam, Manoa Rasagitale in Fiji, Rob Stewart in Canada, and many others, but my home and my heart lies with Saipan. So let's bring that award home!

Friday, December 09, 2011

The June Lizama Experience

No matter how talented or smart you think you are, there is a nine-year old kid somewhere in Asia who is more talented and smarter. Take June Lizama, for example. He's nine and has more talent than all the Backstreet Boys combined.

I shot this video at Eden and my rehearsal dinner on Saipan last month. The Kaipat Family Singers (Ladies and Gentlemen, the Kaipat Family Singers!) jammed out all night. June rocked the Biebs.

Sorry for the poor quality. It was dark.