Sunday, September 25, 2011

Irish Chamorro American

The readers of this blog might not realize that I'm not just a spear chucking island boy, I'm also a blue collar Irish mick. This is some video of my family circa 1950s.

Commonwealth Anthem

This is my good friend Gus Kaipat singing the Northern Marianas Commonwealth Anthem. The words were written a few years back, the music is from a classic German song. The song is usually sung in two languages, Chamorro and Carolinian. It takes Gus all of four minutes to sing the song. I think it should stay the way it is.

500 miles

You know that song where the guys says that he would walk 500 miles if he could be with a girl (or maybe another guy, who knows?) Yeah, so I know how that goes. 500 miles is a long way!

And since it is the middle of September and I am only at 500 miles, it it painfully obvious that I will not reach my goal of 2011 miles in 2011 (unless I start running 15 miles each day). And I'm surprising alright with that.

I still think I can reach 1000, and possibly even 1200. I haven't done the math to figure out the exact number, but 2000 kilometers is somewhere around 1200 miles. I could go all metric at the last minute and then claim victory.

When I started this I thought I'd give more frequent updates, but that requires actually running. I thought I'd keep track of how I felt each day, whether the run was sluggish, or if I felt like a gazelle. Who has the time, though?

Seriously. I commute an hour each way to work, and by the time I've gotten home (hopefully traffic's not too bad or the basement isn't flooded), gone out for a run, showered, and eaten, the last thing I want to do is think. Or write. Or think about writing, never mind actually doing.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Let's Sing it in German!

Somebody on Saipan wants to pass a law dictating how the Commonwealth anthem is sung. I say let's just sing it in the original German.

The whole selection of an old German drinking song as an anthem reminds me of the classic film 'Moon Over Parador,' in which the national anthem of the fictitious nation of Parador is sung to the tune of 'B├ęsame Mucho.'

Oh, yes, I come from a true banana republic.

ACTION ALERT: Ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark products, including shark fin

Shark Defenders created a new petition on We the People, a new feature on, and we are asking for your support. Will you add your name? If this petition gets 5,000 signatures by October 22, 2011, the White House will review it and respond!

Also, will you repost the petition to Facebook and Twitter?

We the People allows anyone to create and sign petitions asking the Obama Administration to take action on a range of issues. If a petition gets enough support, the Obama Administration will issue an official response.

You can view and sign the petition here:

Here's some more information about this petition:

The Obama Administration should ban the sale, trade, and possession of shark and shark products, including shark fin.
One third of all shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction.To reverse this trend, the USA must be a leader in protecting these important predators.The Administration has championed international agreements and signed the Shark Conservation Act, but this only mandates how a shark is killed, not how many. On average, the USA lands 30,000 tons of shark per year. Palau, Maldives, Honduras, Bahamas, and Tokelau have declared national shark sanctuaries, banning the commercial fishing of sharks in their waters and ending the shark trade. Domestically, laws have been passed banning the sale, trade, and possession of shark in Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, and the territories of Guam and Northern Marianas. The USA should implement a national shark and shark fin ban.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Liter of Light

This is brilliant. Using water, bleach, a plastic bottle, and some epoxy, people in Manila are providing (daytime) light to people who live in homes without electricity. There are lots of people in Saipan living in cinder block homes with no electricity, maybe this could be an option...

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Back in the Day VI

Every once in a while I post a string of old pictures and call it Back in the Day. I'm going to go in a different direction with this one. This afternoon I was digging through my flood-soaked files and throwing out that which has served its purpose (I can throw out my high school graduations cards, for example), and drying that which I want to keep for a bit longer.

I came across a bio my mom did for me my senior year of high school and decided it was in the keeper category. I forget the exact reason she had to write it, but I think I had to put together a student profile for my English class or something. I have no idea why we had to do that. But anyway, here it goes:

Angelo Villagomez

My son Angelo Villagomez is a quiet, introspective, private person. I have found him to be the best judge of character that I have ever met, and as he has grown older I realize that our mother/son relationship is evolving into a friendship that I treasure. Angelo is an intelligent, thoughtful person who observes and thinks things through before he acts. He is a very well-rounded person, with academic and athletic interests, and all the normal interests of a young man his age. He is involved in school clubs and activities, some in a leadership capacity, and attends school functions and team sport activities regularly.

Angelo is very independent, capable and dependable. I travel frequently with my position, and for the last two years have left Angelo alone at home while I travel. I hired a student to stay with him two years ago, but found out when I returned home that Angelo had done all the cooking and cleaning while I was gone and had felt burdened by the extra responsibilities of taking care not only of himself but the older student and his younger brother as well. I'm not concerned about his ability to adapt to college life because he is used to taking care of himself, and is good at it. He already has a great deal of freedom and responsibility, and he manages them well.

Angelo grew up without his father, which has presented some challenges for him. I know that he has missed the closeness that some boys experience with their fathers, and yet he doesn't dwell on this loss. He has had some contact with his father, through the summers he has spent in Micronesia with him, and these summers have allowed him the opportunity to experience his Chamorro cultural heritage by spending time with his rather large extended family in the islands. Growing up as a biracial/bicultural person has made Angelo very open-minded and quite accepting of the diversity that exists in the world. He is a mature young man, intolerant of racism and bigotry, and doesn't hesitate to state his opinion of where he stands on issues. He is usually very well informed on the issues, and he states his stance without being offensive or overbearing.

Angelo has had an opportunity to see some of the world. He moved to the U.S. from Micronesia when he was three, and he and his brother and I lived in Massachusetts until he was twelve, when we moved to England for a year. During that year, he visited France and Wales, and over the past few years has been to Japan and Micronesia several times. This exposure has provided him with a very wide perspective that is unusual in a seventeen year old boy.

Angelo is an excellent student, motivated and reasonably hardworking. I have never had to hound him to do his academic work; he is self-disciplined and manages his time to get his work done. When he doesn't get his work done, he accepts the consequences. His over-all grade average is good; he has a 3.9 weighted gpa and a 3.3 unweighted gpa. He regrets that his freshman grades were not higher, as these grades have lowered his average overall. However, it's important to note the major transition he had in his first year. Angelo attended St. John's High School in Massachusetts for the first half of his freshman year, while my younger son and I got settled in Florida after moving here from England. Angelo had his heart set on attending St. John's, as this is the school he would have attended had we not moved to Florida after England. He lived with my cousin for a semester and commuted to St. John's with her sons. He was only fourteen at the time, and I think that it showed maturity on his part to have managed so well living in a different environment. Once I was settled, I wanted him to move to Florida, and the transition was difficult for him, as Winter Park High was the fourth school in three years that he had to adjust to, and this adjustment was reflected in his grades. However, Angelo quickly got back on track and last year was inducted into the National Honor Society. He has never chosen the easy way out, and chosen easy courses. He has been in the Honors Program at Winter Park High, and this year is enrolled in five AP classes, for which he will earn college credit.

Angelo performed really well on the SAT last year, earning a 780 score on the math portion. Rather than resting on his laurels, he recently retook the test, with the expectation that he would get a better score, which he did. He wasn't pleased with a verbal score of 620, studied all summer to improve his score, and received a 690.

Angelo is an athlete, and I admire his dedication and perseverance. Once he commits himself to a goal, he devotes himself to attaining his personal best. He trains for track and cross country wholeheartedly, and pushes himself to excel, because once Angelo has his eye on a goal, he pushes himself to attain it. This motivation comes from within him, as he has not had the advantage of having a father there to cheer him on and urge him to do his best. He takes very good care of himself, and gets enough sleep and eats well.

Angelo is funny, and well grounded, and has a small circle of friends. He has never had any problems with drugs or alcohol, and I doubt that he ever will. He has clear academic and career goals - he wants to be a physicist - and I am confident that he will always be very successful in life because he is so well grounded, and has learned to maintain a good balance in his life. He is a good, kind-hearted, level-headed person who will (make) the most of the opportunities that life will offer him.

Donna O'Connor
November 20, 1995

Monday, September 12, 2011

Tornado Strikes Saipan!

Millions die!  Damage reportedly in the billions!

Not really.  This photo was taken by one of the merchant marines on the preposition ships.  Water spouts are a common occurrence around Saipan, this one was just particularly large and close to shore.

This photo was taken by Aya Matsumoto.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Damn You, Tropical Storm Lee

Getting home from work took two and one half hours on Thursday. The Metro was typically busy for rush hour, but it was pouring rain when I got to my stop and it took about 30 minutes just to get out of the parking lot.  When I got home around 8 PM, I put a frozen pizza in the oven and then trudged down to my man cave, where I was greeted with about three inches of standing water.

One section of my basement apartment is two staircases lower than the rest and it was filled with fresh rainwater from Tropical Storm Lee.  Damn you, Tropical Storm Lee!

These are not my feet, by the way.  My toes are painted blue.
This was not a pleasant development.  Luckily, my roommate's boyfriend is one of those people who has every tool Home Depot ever thought to market, so within 30 minutes he came over with not just one, but two, water pumps.  One pump was attached to a hose, which we let run into a sink.  The other was a vacuum with a 4-gallon hold.  We emptied it 40 times before I lost count.

And that was three days ago.  We have since water vacuumed and steam vacuumed the carpet with a lemon fresh smelling carpet cleaner.  Some of my furniture is damaged and I lost a dvd player, a desktop computer, some old photos, and some personal belongings that had no value to anyone but me (my ninja turtle decoder ring!).  Well, actually I lost some of the Friends of the Monuments original petitions.  I'm still hoping they'll dry out, but they are going to look smudged.

But I didn't get it that bad.  The Washington Post reported that three people died in related flooding and that lots of people had sewer water and mud in their basements.  All in all I consider myself lucky.  Once everything dries out I just have to put my man cave back together.

Tax Windfall for Northern Marianas

You know that giant abandoned castle on Isa Drive leading up towards Papago? The guy who half-built and then abandoned it is a fugitive billionaire named William H. Millard. I can remember my stepmother speaking ill of him when I was younger. Anyway, his name is making the rounds on the international media circuit today. From the New York Daily News:
Authorities believe they may have tracked down one of the world's most wanted tax cheats, ComputerLand founder William H. Millard, after more than 20 years on the run.

The eccentric millionaire was tracked down in the Grand Cayman Island, the Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday. He was reportedly spotted living in a yellow mansion with his wife.

He had last been seen on the remote Pacific Island of Saipan in 1990, but has been able to avoid authorities for more than two decades.

He left ComputerLand in 1987 after a long battle against investors, moved his family to Saipan – and even began building a castle on the island's coastline, according to the Journal.

But after things went south and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands ordered him to pay $36 million in taxes in 1994, he disappeared. The unpaid tax bill has continued to grow, and is now worth a whopping $100 million.
That money could fund the CNMI government for just under a year, extent the life of the government retirement ponzi scheme for a few more years, or at the very least, upgrade some infrastructure and perhaps build a Mariana Trench Visitors Center on Saipan.

I am looking forward to see who takes credit for this.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Major Image Change for Kilili

I wouldn't want Greg Sablan's job. Since leaving Saipan I've enjoyed a level of anonymity, and I have to say, I love it. I'm not sure if I ever want to return to the fishbowl living that is fame on Saipan. The delegate, however, can't fart without half (all?) of Saipan having an opinion on it.

I guess you can add me to the list of people with opinions on the delegate, because his latest public statement is a real fart. From his weekly email update:
Worker regulations fail to help U.S. citizens who want jobs – While I recognize the important role that nonresident workers have – and will continue to have – in our economy, I was disappointed with the Commonwealth-only worker regulations released by the Department of Homeland Security this week. The regulations allow an additional 6,159 foreign workers in the Northern Marianas at a time when many local workers can’t find jobs. It’s true that in order to get permission to hire foreign workers employers must certify that no U.S. citizen is available to do the work. I hope that the Department of Homeland Security makes a serious effort to enforce that local-hire requirement. But even if it does, simple economics tells us that an abundance of labor drives down wages. And the lack of a dignified wage has always been part of the reason that local workers stay out of the job market, or prefer government jobs over the private sector. The new regulations were delayed by two years, when the CNMI Government challenged them in court; and the resulting uncertainty over what the regs would say has slowed our already struggling economy. Both businesses and workers now know what the rules are going forward. But the implementation of federal immigration will continue to be complex, and protecting the best interests of individuals, families, and our economy during this transition will be part of my job for a long time to come.
Is it just me, or did this come out of left field?

In the last election Sablan received fewer than 5000 votes (but still had more votes than the second and third-place finishers combined). It is generally accepted that his core support comes from his family (nearly everyone has cousins with the last name Camacho and/or Sablan, including me), the educated class (expats and local kids educated in the mainland), and immigrants and their children. I have to imagine that this statement about foreign workers turns off his second and third main constituencies.

This is a big change for Kilili. He normally doesn't take sides on the controversial issues, and chooses instead to focus on bringing home the bacon, so to speak. This puts a dent is his very-likable, every-man image, in my opinion.

And I'm guessing he did it in response to recent (incessent) criticism from the Fitial Administration.

I expect better from my delegate; he usually has no problem dealing with undeserved criticism.

Come on, just get that dirt off your shoulder, Kilili.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Micronesian Kingfishers Hatch at the Smithsonian

Micronesian Kingfisher.  Photo: Smithsonian
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo cares for some of the rarest species on earth, including the Micronesian kingfisher (Todiramphus c. cinnamominus), a bird that has been extinct in the wild for more than 20 years. The Zoo’s Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Va., is celebrating the recent hatching of two chicks, a female and male, on July 25 and Aug. 20, respectively. A third chick hatched at the Zoo’s Bird House on Sept. 3, but it died Sept. 5 of unknown causes. This boost brings the total population of Micronesian kingfishers to 131 birds. The National Zoo cares for about eight percent of the population—eight birds live at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute- Front Royal and two live at the Zoo’s Bird House.

This species is extremely difficult to breed due to incompatibility between males and females and the inability of some parents to successfully raise their own chicks. The chick that hatched at the Bird House was incubated and raised by its parents. Keepers weighed it each day to make sure it did not need supplemental feeding. A final pathology report will provide more information about the cause of its death.

“We are encouraged that this pair showed an interest in one another and delighted that they produced fertile eggs,” said Warren Lynch, bird unit manager at SCBI. “We are hand-rearing the chicks, which involves feeding them at two-hour intervals, seven to eight times per day. Should the adults produce fertile eggs again, we will likely let them try to raise the chicks themselves while closely monitoring their parenting skills.”

Micronesian kingfishers flourished in Guam’s limestone forests and coconut plantations until the arrival of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis), an invasive species that stowed away in military equipment shipped from New Guinea after World War II. Because these reptiles had no natural predators on Guam, their numbers grew and they spread across the island quickly. Within three decades, they hunted Micronesian kingfishers and eight other bird species to the brink of extinction.

In 1984, Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources captured the country’s remaining 29 Micronesian kingfishers and sent them to zoological institutions around the globe—including the National Zoo—as a hedge against extinction. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums created a Species Survival Plan (SSP) for the birds. The SSP pairs males and females in order to maintain a genetically diverse and self-sustaining population.

To date, 16 chicks have hatched at SCBI, and each provides scientists with the opportunity to learn about the growth, reproduction, health and behavior of the species. Five of SCBI’s kingfishers have gone to other zoos to breed.

“We’re proud that SCBI has been a part of the Micronesian kingfisher recovery from the start, and we hope this pair continues to produce healthy offspring and contribute to its species’ survival,” said Chris Crowe, bird keeper at SCBI. “Both chicks are thriving. The female flies short distances and is increasingly confident and vocal, and the male is beginning to grow feathers and has a healthy appetite for crickets, mice and small lizards.”

As the captive population increases, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Guam’s Department of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources continue to look for suitable release sites in Guam. The availability of release sites continues to shrink, however, due to deforestation and human expansion. Controlling the brown snake population remains a significant challenge as well, though researchers have made progress in developing a variety of barriers, traps and toxicants. Scientists are hopeful that initiatives for snake control and forest protection signify that the reintroduction of the Micronesian kingfisher may soon become feasible. Additionally, field studies of a different subspecies of wild kingfishers are underway on Pohnpei, another Micronesian island, to secure essential biological information on wild populations and to test various reintroduction techniques for use on Guam.

Visitors to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo can see these critically endangered birds on exhibit in the Bird House. Micronesian kingfishers are about 6 inches tall and have wide, dorsoventrally-flattened bills. Both sexes have a plume of blue-green feathers on their wings and brown-orange feathers on their heads. Males can be easily identified by their brown-orange breasts and females by their white breasts.

Follow this link to see photos of me hunting brown tree snakes in Guam.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

This would be easier if we were in the Yamato period

If only I were running 510 in 510.  I'd be just about finished; I could declare victory, and spend the rest of the year eating ice cream, drinking beer, and playing video games.

Last month, despite being in Washington, DC, I only managed to run about 36 miles.  Sucks to be me.  I hope September is more productive.  I'm already thinking about how to plan 2012 in 2012.

Oldy But Goody

I was looking through some photo albums today and came across this gem.  The people sitting in a circle are my relatives.  The four ladies on the right are my first cousins Andrea, Cindy, Matilde, and Andrea.  The kids filling out the circle are their children and grandchildren.  The person with the dress shirt and his hands in his pockets is the former director of CNMI Division of Fish & Wildlife.  He's wearing a button that says "NO PEW MONUMENT."  I'm standing in the back with Edz, orchestrating the whole thing.

Man, if photos could talk.  This was taken on October 20, 2008, the night the Bush White House held a public hearing on Saipan to gather testimony for what was then a proposed monument.  This circle of orange shirts is one of 13 spread around the room.  The public hearing was held in the conference center at Fiesta Resort in the ballroom where Brad and Kathy just had their wedding reception.

I love the look on the former director's face.

"oh shit."