Friday, May 24, 2013

Flabs, Not Abs

In case you were wondering, that is sucking it in.  Last Wednesday I spent the morning on a boat.  I've got a good story, but my lawyers have advised me not to post it here.  Ask me about it sometime.  It was an amazing day!

Ocean photos are always greatly improved when you pretend to stare off into the horizon.  What do we see?  What are our thoughts?  Mostly we're just modeling.

And if you point it makes it look like you are talking about something important.  Even if your friend is smiling because you're not really pointing you're just saying stupid things while your other friend snaps photos.

And then you take it a step too far and point with the other arm, hoping that it looks like you're flexing without really trying to flex.

May was a busy month.  I started the month by visiting Palau and then Yap.  I was supposed to attend a three day meeting in Hawaii, but that turned into one day in Hawaii and over a week in Fiji (with only enough clothes for three days in Hawaii).  I also spent a few hours in Guam, island of my birth, and had layovers in Kiribati and Samoa.  I didn't get to leave the airplane either time, but I'm never been to either country before and I say it counts.  I'm looking forward to a more sedentary June.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Books Read in 2013

For the last four years I've kept track of the books I've read (2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012).  I don't think any year's list is complete, but it gives a general picture of what I've been reading.

The Lost Hero
by Rick Riordon
I picked this up over Christmas while I was visiting my family.  It picks up where the Percy Jackson books leave off, but is much better.  The Percy Jackson books were crap.  In this series, the Romans and their gods are introduced into the Camp Half Blood universe and they team up to save the world.

The Son of Neptune
by Rick Riordon
This is book two of the series.  The adventure returns to Percy Jackson who has been missing through all of book one.  They set off on an adventure to save the world.

The Mark of Athena
by Rick Riordon
In book three the characters from the first two books join forces to save the world.

The Great Gatsby
by F. Scott Fitzgerald
This book was great.

The Hunger Games
by Suzanne Collins
I read this last year.  It's good airplane reading, so I took it to Hawaii.

Catching Fire
by Suzanne Collins
I was supposed to be just going to Hawaii, so I only brought two books.

A Game of Thrones
by George Martin
Turns out I had to go to Fiji all of a sudden, so I picked up this book in Suva.  Getting through the rest of the series and then the dvds will probably take the rest of the year.

A Short History of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson
This was everything I was supposed to learn in college, compressed into a single book.  If only it had been published in 1996 I could have saved some time and money.

The Hobbit
by JRR Tolkien
Haven't read this once in years, perhaps since high school.  It was the fun little romp that I remember and Peter Jackson's movie sucks.

Ready Player One
by Ernest Cline
I think this could be my new favorite book.  If you like video games and jedis, this is a book you need to read.

A Clash of Kings
by George Martin
I'm going to end up reading all of these.  It is kind of hard to keep track of all the characters at times.  Wikipedia helps.

by Suzanne Collins
I read the first two, so whipped through the last one.  It was a fun read the second time through.

Guns, Germs, and Steel
by Jared Diamond
I read Collapse years ago picked this up during a last minute trip to Fiji.  Eh.  Maybe his stuff has been so reported on since the year he wrote this that it wasn't as new, or maybe Collapse is basically the same book?  As someone who works on fisheries, I drew parallels to what humans did to megafauna where ever they want.  I think we're doing that to the oceans now.  Bummer.

A Storm of Swords
by George R. R. Martin
Best one yet!  Everyone dies!

A Feast for Crows
by George R. R. Martin
I've officially been sucked into Game of Thrones fanboydom.  I've watched all of Season 1 on Bluray, selections of Season 2 on Youtube, and the first two episodes of Season 3 on an airplane.  Comicbookgirl19 also has some amazing videos.  The fifth book is in the mail.  Once I finish it I'll fall into a deep depression.

Coral Reefs in the Microbial Seas
by Forest Rohwer
Came across this gem in my quest to link climate change to coral reefs to sharks.  This book does the trick!  It describes the effects of overfishing in simple to understand terms.   A must read!

A Dance With Dragons
by George R.R. Martin
Wait, that's it?  He hasn't written the other books yet?  No!!!!!

Oh, Myyy
by George Takei
This book isn't what you think.  And I should probably write a full blog about it.

Song for the Blue Ocean
by Carl Safina
Why didn't someone give me this book in 1997 when it was published?  The book is split up into three parts, discussing blue fin tuna in the Atlantic, salmon in the Pacific, and the aquarium trade in the western Pacific.  The blue fin tuna discussion shocked me because we are still dealing with the same exact issues 20 years later.  Several chapters of the aquarium trade focus on Palau (with even a mention of Saipan!) and the Philippines, places I love.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

45 Minutes in Kiribati

That trip to Fiji I was hoping would be later in the month or even better in June got bumped up to today.  I had to leave a workshop in Hawaii two days early so I could take the most direct flight to Nadi.  That route took me through Christmas Island or Kiritimati in Kiribati.

The sign on the tarmac announced Kiribati as home to Phoenix Islands Protected Area, the world's largest and deepest marine protected area.  It is neither, of course.  At least not any more.

I never actually stepped foot on Kiritimati because they wouldn't let us off the plane.  They let us stand on the steps leading to the plane however, so I was able to snap a few photos.

The flight to Kiribati was mostly empty.  A large group of Americans from Washington State were on a retiree excursion to go fishing.  They all carried their fly rods on board and talked incessantly about fishing.  I handful of wives were along for the adventure.

Here's a closeup of the airport's VIP lounge.  I don't know if it is serious or a joke.

And the Welcome to Kiritimati sign proving that I was really there.

I was surprised at how large Kiritimati was.  The flight attendant told me it was the largest atoll in the world, but I don't think that's true.  I thought New Caledonia had that distinction.  Or maybe it was Kwajalein.  The atoll was also different from other atolls I've seen.  It wasn't emerald ribbons in a turquoise sea; it was sandy flats ringed by matrices of copra plantation.

The most isolated place I've ever visited is Maug, but I think Kiritimati might be a close second.  I imagine I'll never visit there again.  But then again, I never thought I'd go to Fiji seven times.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Petition to stop closure of CNMI Ombudsman Office

A message from Wendy Doromal:
Dear Friends:

I am inviting you to please sign the petition to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior and other officials, to stop the closing of the Federal Ombudsman Office in Saipan. The closure will be devastating for the alien workers in the CNMI. You can read the petition below. More news is at

The link to the petition is here:

Thank you for supporting justice and human rights. Please invite your family and friends to sign too.

Best wishes,

We, the undersigned petitioners, are protesting the September 2013 closing of the Federal Ombudsman Office in the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). It is an essential office that contributes to the safety and wellbeing of the alien work population that makes up over 70 percent of the private sector workforce. It provides crucial services that are not available at any other government or social agency in the Commonwealth.

Pursuant to U.S. Public Law 105-227, the U.S. Department of the Interior opened the Federal Labor Ombudsman Office in 1999 in the CNMI. The establishment of the office was a response to the skyrocketing and unacceptable number of labor, human rights, and civil rights abuses, as well as the many criminal acts committed against alien workers in the CNMI. Indeed, for years the horrendous maltreatment of the CNMI’s alien workers was protested by foreign governments, served as the topic of numerous Congressional hearings, and was the subject of television documentaries, books, films and headlining articles in national and international newspapers and magazines. The abuses of the innocent CNMI foreigners on U.S. soil has been and continue to be viewed as a black mark on the reputation of the United States, a country that proclaims to uphold human rights for all. The closure of this office will result in the increase of unresolved labor, human rights and civil rights abuses. The closure will be a setback for human rights and justice.

For fourteen years the Federal Ombudsman Office has served as a safe and impartial office to provide tens of thousands of alien workers with the opportunity to state claims and receive appropriate assistance, including referrals to federal and local agencies, the limited number of the island’s socials service providers, and law enforcement agencies. Aliens are assisted through the process of addressing their grievances from the review and fact finding stages until the final resolution. This vital office has aided aliens that have suffered from wage theft, illegal recruitment, contract violations, and those that were victims of criminal acts including rape, assault and battery, false imprisonment, torture and human trafficking. Without this office the alien worker victims’ needs will no longer be met; justice will not be served for those who came to the United States to experience the American dream, but live an American nightmare.

CNMI human trafficking cases, including sex trafficking cases, have increased considerably over the years, as cited in the U.S. State Department’s 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report. The report recommended that in order to better combat human trafficking, the United States needed to intensify enforcement and workers rights infrastructure, such as ombudsman offices, in insular areas. As a response, in May 2011, the role of the ombudsman was expanded to include providing assistance with human trafficking victims in Guam. This further demonstrates the crucial need for the office to remain open.

Translation and counseling services are essential for the CNMI's large community of alien workers. The four extensively trained federal caseworkers at the Ombudsman Office have provided these services to thousands of aliens since 1999. They also serve as translators and interpreters for local and federal agencies and the courts. Aside from interpretation, the case workers provide counseling, outreach education to alien workers; and assistance in applying for, and obtaining relief with appropriate Federal and CNMI agencies. Without these services the ability of alien worker victims to seek resolutions for their problems will be severely impaired.

The Federal Ombudsman records all cases and is seen as an important source of information on the status and needs of alien workers for Federal and CNMI agencies, a variety of officials, and Congressional Committees. During the transition from the CNMI immigration system to the federalization of immigration, the Federal Ombudsman Office has played a significant and vital role. The Ombudsman conducted a thorough census of all CNMI nonresidents that was required for a mandated report on the status of the CNMI nonresidents.

Closing the Ombudsman Office will reverse all of the gains that have been made in ensuring that alien workers are provided fair and just treatment on U.S. soil, and to ensure that those who are treated unjustly are made whole. To shut the doors on this vital office is to shut the doors on human rights. To close this office is to close opportunities for maltreated workers to obtain justice. We appeal to you to keep the Federal Ombudsman Office open so that the alien workers will continue to have access to the important and much-needed services it provides.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

A Growing Family

Our clan recently grew by one.  Can you guess which one of us is the new member of the family?  I haven't posted photos of the family in a while.  That's my brother Alex in the middle, Catie is showing us the proper use of spirit fingers, and Kevin is lurking in the back.  Baby Gabriel wants nothing to do with us and is just enjoying life with mittens.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

I Found the Seventy Islands

I'm always wanted to see Seventy Islands.  Now I have.  It was rainy, so the photos didn't come out how I wanted.  Damn it.

Sunrise in Yap

I'm in Yap.  I spent a whole day yesterday thinking Yap was in the same time zone as Palau.  It's not.  Oh, the embarrassment of having to find this out on your own the next day.