Saturday, December 31, 2016

Looking Back on 2016

This is a good end of year photo.  I'm a lot fatter than I was at the start of the year.
2016 was my 12th full year of blogging.  The popularity of this page continues to slide in direct relation with the attention I give it.  I'm much more active on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram these days (and in that order).

I managed only 27 posts this year -- my lowest number in 12 years.  By far my most popular post this year was 10 Facts About Submerged Lands in the Marianas, followed by American coming in a distant second, with three other posts tied for third place: Rangerpalooza, Marriage, and EMKE Fan.  None of it was really groundbreaking stuff, and none of it was about science or conservation.

I do not seem to have as much time to write as I wish I had.  These days when I have a thought my first reaction is to shoot it off on Twitter.  I have ideas for things that could be longer, but never seem to manage the time to sit down and write them out.  With that said, I co-wrote and edited two reports for the ocean this year.  Pu'uhonua: A Place of Sanctuary (published in July) successfully made a cultural and biological argument for expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument; meanwhile, we don't yet know if National Marine Sanctuary Designation for the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument (released in December) will have the intended impact.  With both papers I got to work with scientists and science communicators who are at the top of their field and I think we pulled together some really strong arguments for the creation of large scale marine protected areas.  I especially liked working with Callum Roberts at the University of York, who is brilliant.  And I got to work with my longtime collaborator Rick MacPherson on both papers, and worked with Andrew Thaler for the first time, which was also great.

So anyway, over the years I've done a play by play of sorts to end my year in blogging, but last year I switched things up a bit and wrote a series of highlights.  I'm going to do that again this year, because this is my blog and the only person who I know for sure still reads this is my mom.

I learned to play the ukulele (poorly)
I bought an ukulele on a whim in February.  It was an overpriced, cheap soprano uke sold in the Honolulu airport as a means to take money away from tourists who don't know any better.  Guilty.

When I got back to Washington, DC, I found lessons on Youtube and started learning some of the basic cords.  I really enjoyed it, and tried to play at least an hour every day.  A month later I was back in Hawaii, was slightly better, and spent more money than I should have on an Hawaiian ukulele.

About a month later I figured out how to sing and play at the same time.  At first it was difficult.  It was hard enough to get my left and right hands to do different things, never mind read and make sounds with my mouth at the same time.  Unfortunately, my singing hasn't really improved, but it sure is fun to make a lot of noise!

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, then you've likely seen some of my terrible videos where I play some of the handful of songs that I know.  I'm sorry, I'm not better!

Playing ukulele has been the highlight of my year.  Watching someone dance when I play -- especially a kid -- is one of the best feelings I've ever had.  When I was in Saipan for Christmas I played at a few parties, and nobody threw any eggs at me.  My goal for the new year will be to improve my playing.  I have no hope for my singing.

Edz became an American citizen
This is something we've been working towards since we got married in 2011.  I should probably spend some time to figure out how much we spent on immigration fees, but it was in the thousands.  And now we're all done and don't have to deal with it.  Edz has a blue passport!

Edz and I had spent months waiting for for the citizenship ceremony to take place.  We completed and submitted all of the paperwork earlier in the year and Edz passed her citizenship test.  In the Spring we received notice that the government wanted more proof of our marriage, so we printed up a bunch of photos and sent in more financial paperwork.  Then we got the notice in June that the ceremony would be in July.  Mom, Kevin, and Tiana came up from Florida to be there.

Edz lost her father
Losing my father was one of the major milestones in my life and it's a loss I'm still coming to terms with 11 years later.  Edz took the first steps along her similar journey when her Dad passed away in May.  We got the message over Facebook messenger.

Edz flew out to the Philippines immediately and I followed her a few days later, arriving the night before the funeral.  We stayed up all night with the family and then buried him in the earlier morning.  We spent the rest of the day drinking and singing with her siblings and cousins.

I went to the State of the Union 
Delegate Gregorio Camacho "Kilili" Sablan surprised me in January when he asked me to accompany him to President Obama's State of the Union.  It was a real honor, and truly a once in a lifetime experience for me.  Michelle Obama and Corey Booker both stood out from the crowd.  Senator Booker was sitting on the Republican side and the light was reflecting of his bald head like a light shining down from heaven.  And then Michelle walked into the drab room in her yellow dress.

I don't really remember what Obama said, but I clapped at all the times I was supposed to clap.  The amazing thing for me was how intimate the State of the Union address is.  There are only about 1,000 or so people in the room and I felt like I could reach out and touch him.

I was a DNC delegate
On a whim I signed up to be a candidate for the election of delegates for the NMI Democrats first caucus to nominate a presidential candidate.  Surprisingly, I won.

In July I had the chance to travel to Philadelphia with other NMI Democrats to cast our ballots.  I cast mine for Hillary Clinton.  I hope this one is not a once in a lifetime experience, but rather something I get to do every four years.  I should have blogged about this experience, which I did not, but we did manage to get a lot of earned media.

We spent time with Kevin
Kevin came out to Hawaii for 10 days in June during the International Coral Reef Symposium.  In exchange for a couch and food, he offered unlimited, unpaid labor.  During the conference my employer was releasing the scientific paper for Papahanaumokuakea I reference above, and Kevin helped collect signatures from 1,500 scientists and graduate students in support of expanding the monument.  His labor involved a lot of carrying things and passing out clipboards.

They just hiked Koko Head
Kevin also came with me to talk to a retired Marine colonel about protecting the remnants of the Battle of Midway with the monument and during that conversation we were asked by the 70 year old jarhead if we wanted to "catch some air."  Two days later we jumped out of a perfectly good airplane with retired Colonel John Bates, one of the highlights of my year.

We spent time with Tiana
Tiana came up to Washington, DC over July 4th and stayed for Edz' citizenship ceremony.  Pokemon Go came out while she was here, so in addition to going all over the city to see the museums and monuments, we also caught lots of stupid Pokemon.

I got to know the Aloha spirit
I spent a lot of time in Hawaii this year.  I could look it up in my calendar, but I actually lost count of how many trips I made.  I do know from my Marriott Rewards account that I spent more than 90 nights there.

Coolest guy on the planet!
I've never spent much time in Hawaii.  I've been there, of course, but usually it was just as a layover between the East Coast and Micronesia.  This year I was able to visit Molokai and Kauai for the first time, and I hopped over to Hawaii Island, too.  But most of my time was spent on Oahu.

Edz came to Hawaii, too
I had the opportunity to help with the expansion of the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.  I made a lot of new friends, and had the chance to work with some old friends, too.

I'm still trying to protect the Marianas Trench
I spent a lot of time in Saipan this year.  I was there in February to speak at a tourism summit, hopped over in June while I was in Guam for APIL and the Festival of Pacific Arts.  And then in September Governor Ralph Deleon Guerrero Torres and Delegate Gregorio Camacho "Kilili" Sablan wrote to President Obama to ask him to overlay the Marianas Trench Marine National Monument with a National Marine Sanctuary.  I flew straight out to Saipan and ended up spending more than 50 days there to finish out the year (with a trip to the Netherlands for a science meeting and Washington, DC to meet White House officials in between).

Yup, still talking science and conservation to anyone who will listen
At the beginning of December we submitted an official nomination for sanctuary designation -- most of which I either wrote or plagiarized -- followed by a four island tour in which Rick MacPherson and Andrew Thaler talked to more than 1,000 students on Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam about new science taking place in the Marianas Trench and the potential for mini-ROVs in science classes.  I tweeted most of the trip, but did not blog (I might yet).  Andrew, champion that he is, blogged the whole trip.

I went to a bunch of conferences
I started the year out by speaking at a tourism summit with students in Saipan.  It wasn't what I would call a conference -- but I shared the stage with the President of Palau for a few hours so it goes on the list.

So where did i go?  In February I went to a conference about the human dimensions of large scale marine protected areas in Honolulu.  Then in June I went to the Association of Pacific Islands Legislatures (APIL) in Guam and updated the members on the activities of the Pew Charitable Trusts in the Pacific.  I attended the International Coral Reef Symposium, also in June, in Honolulu, where I helped organize the scientific support behind the expansion of Papahanaumokuakea.  In August I was in St. John's, Newfoundland for the International Marine Conservation Congress, then the IUCN World Conservation Congress was in September, followed finally by the Pew Fellows meeting in the Netherlands in October.

That's more conferences than I ever want to go to again in a single year.  I'd be happy just going to APIL from now on (the best meeting in the world!)

I was a finalist in a photo contest
This photo was worth $500
This isn't really a highlight for me, but I got a $500 gift certificate to American Eagle after Edz submitted one of my photos into an Instagram contest.  I got a new pair of jeans and a few shirts out of the deal, and Edz took the rest.

I'm sure there's more
And that's enough.  All in all I don't subscribe to the widely held belief that 2016 was a terrible year.  Things worked out well for me and Edz.  We're both healthy, we get to do fun and exciting things, we both have jobs that we enjoy, and we have lots of people that we love.

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