Saturday, June 30, 2007

Snorkeling Saipan

Thanks to Borega's comment and Angelo's letter to the editor which started me off on this idea.
I'm looking forward to diving in Maine when I return, although it will require some adjustments. Like a dry suit, or horrors, even a full wet suit, or for that matter anything other than shorts. I sure won't be seeing anything like the brilliant blue starfish. Can you all imagine? How I feel; looking forward to a lifetime of swimming through kelp beds in water cold enough to shrivel any substance known to - and certainly any - attached to man, while all the time hiding my ill-gotten lobsters from the DNR? Naw, I'll adjust and take what I can get.
For the snorkelers, I really enjoy the outer edge of the channel at the Tannapeg boat launch. If you don't know it, Stop by Porky's. Bruce B. lives nearby and he or Olive can help you out. Just make sure to swim it, before the tide turns to outgoing. Good exercise at that time, but the fish tend to run away from the amount of splashing involved. Great fish for a snorkeling site and always plenty of blue starfish all the time.
Diving is great and you see so much, but snorkeling reguires so little. One bag (light) of gear, a drive, and that is it. Warning though! Snorkeling is the equivalent of a "gateway drug". I started snorkeling in the Pacific region on the edge of the ship channel in Guam. I found myself lugging bigger and bigger rocks forward ten feet at a time, so I could go deeper. I still love to snorkel. Partly, because I can carry the stuff with me everywhere and choose any short period of extra time for a little sightseeing. In addition, I was using my diving time; teaching the missus how to swim (not a big activity in Mongolia), and then the pumpkin came along. Can't beat it, I missed some great dives, but teaching an enthustiac beginning swimmer and snorkeler is worth missing; what I've seen from Harry and Mike Tripp's pictures. Well, nearly so, but I collect some great kisses when she comes across a new fish or coral or shell. I did say she was enthustiac; even a cool slug.
I've heard it said/written that Saipan is lacking in decent tourist activities and is an expensive place to visit to boot. True enough, for the short term visitor. How about the MVA putting out guides for how to live cheaply on Saipan and to have fun (really unique, special fun) on a shoe string. Not likely to happen, but how about the bloggers putting out a guide. Certainly the MVA has a long record of failure and underachievement on the creativity scene. I have some idea's, I'll post. Crap, this little comment has gone on long enough for a regular post. Might as well start here. Thanks for the idea, Boni.
I've forgotten the original technical description of Saipan
tourism. Maybe Ed Stephens had it in an article, but Saipan is an expensive place to live in without a major expensive (euroland, legoland, disney) types of draws. No disagreement there. Fairly expensive to travel to, as well. Can't help that, unless the planes are more full. Hmm.. Entice more people to visit, even if they aren't staying at and eating at the higher end hotels, might increase the ridership and lower the ticket price overall. Doesn't necessarily have to involve the whole B&B experience, but a hot plate and a fish stand/truck along with a vegetable truck has fed many a saipan resident teacher. One problem is, don't always rip off the visitor. A higher price is one thing, but ten bucks for a bag of long beans? It happened to one of my guests. Just because they don't know isn't a reason to suck them dry.
There are some great activities here, if the visitor is willing to live outside the box. There are always going to be people who want the package, all safe and secure, but has that worked for Saipan, so far? The trick as I see it, is how to help the accidental tourist avoid the pitfalls and enjoy the experience. Building up the off road trails and giving the mayor some money to maintain the underutilized roads would be a start. If you get too hot tooling around the backroads,then find a beach. Snorkeling gear rental, at a reasonable price and varied locations wouldn't hurt. Except for the southern beaches, there are plenty of small stores which would pick up a rental franchise. More healthy for the employees, than Poker Palaces. A caveat though. Snorkeling outside the reef is near certain death for the unskilled, dangerous enough for the well-equipped and skilled. What a selling point! "We have fewer drownings, than Gaum". Lets not have another oversight, such as the one most recently at Forbidden Island this past winter. Warnings in several languages would be my idea here.
I think my overall aim is, as Angelo stated so well, exploit Saipans' strengths, the natural ones. The ones which don't reguire 300 million dollar investments, paving, or government involvement. Anyway, I'll keep this one going after I leave, as I have enjoyed many an afternoon, just looking around. I just feel duty bound to pass the word. Something I can do, so the rest of you will be able to enjoy.

pets of a sort

Friday, June 29, 2007

Erdene's pets

My good wife Erdene loves Saipan, partly for the easy availbility of pets. Feed 'em once and they are your friends for a long time. These are her selections. I tend to take pictures of unusual dents in cars and dogs having sex in the roadway.
The tiger striped cat is our first Saipan adoption. I was waiting for Erdene one evening on the side of Beach Road and witnessed a scrawny little kitten narrowly escape the wheels of a police prowler. Poor thing knew a sucker when he saw one and after a few meows found himself sitting on a nice warm scooter seat. He grew up to be an excellent cat; full of character and free of the more usual cat flaws. We were forced to remove him from his loving home, after the baby came, but found him a good situation at the Sandcastle. The tiger handler was having problems with rodents eating the discarded food from the magic show doves. I was a little nervous when I dropped him off. No one likes to think of a pet as tiger bait, however, all is well.
The hermit crab is a frequent visitor to our home. Seems like no matter how hard you look into a shell, there is going to be something hiding in there. I always wear shoes on the deck, after a shell collecting trip to the beach. They have a funny way of migrating to the floor. I'll freely admit transplating crabs from every beach on the island to the rocks along Sugar Dock.
Blue starfish; how cool are they. In Maine, the more plain starfish is considered a nuisance to the clam diggers (or more pc- the shellfish harvesters) Saipan starfish are an art form.
The spam bumper sticker is just me. I Love Spam and am not afraid to admit the fact. My dad was never much of a cook in the early years and spam was a staple on many a dry fishing trip. A certified spam lover since 1971. I have the hat and the tshirt. If we could round up enough bumper stickers, it would be possible to assemble an "I love Saipan" sticker with the familar spam colors and lettering. Don't be suprised to find one in your mailbox, one day, Angelo.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

We do love Saipan

I feel more able to explain myself, since meeting so many of the bloggers Weds day evening. A fun group with the ability to really make a difference here. I’m a native of the State of Maine. Well, actually not a native. I was born in the city of Boston, but my parents had the good sense to move to the Pine Tree state when I was still in my infancy. There is a saying in Maine, about those who moved there and consider themselves native. “Even if my cat had kittens in the oven, I wouldn’t call them biscuits.” Mainers are a clannish bunch. My wife is a native of Mongolia, a country, short on running water, but blessed with a rich history and strong national identity. Not to mention, they kicked butts from one end of Asia to another, for several centuries. She will be able to hold her own, I think.
My courtship of the lovely woman, now my wife and mother of our child, was conducted from the seat of a scooter. We found a lot in common, while exploring the nooks and crannies of Saipan. I believe we found more to share, because we were seeing, smelling, and feeling everything we came near, in such close proximity to each other. The natural beauty of the island certainly didn’t hurt either. I remember returning to Garapan from our first visit to Pau Pau, in blinding rain at five-thirty in the morning, and having to wait, while what was either an ex-terra race or a triathlon passed ahead of us. Neither one of us cared about the rain or the delay and breakfast awaited at Shirley’s. Our first day at the beach and her introduction to swimming, was the highlight of both of our lives, prior to the arrival of the pumpkin.
Erdene and I took what was probably our last scooter ride on Saipan, a couple of days ago. What a time for a very special final voyage; curtains of flame trees, living the memories of winding roads, and vistas covered with all the shades of green, alongside the brilliant views of the ocean as a backdrop. I used every road I know of to make the trip longer, what I wouldn’t give to make it last forever. We’ll have the memories though and for that we love Saipan. I would certainly love to return and am going to keep that option alive in the back of my mind. For now, though, we have obligations to keep on a couple of continents. After that, who knows?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Smokey, clears the air

I was extremely pleased to find this article on the Pacific Times website. While I don't consider the AG a close personal friend, I like the guy and think he is a positive contributer to the CNMI. Why didn't we see his viewpoint over the weekend in the trashbin, and maybe we'll see his response in the fish wrapper on monday? Anyway, this version of the great smoking debate should end here. Where the Drunken Stanley vs the foul mouthed, (but sober), Pierce/fish wrapper debate ends, is still up in air. I haven't been very happy with the whole mary jane debate or the drunk vs reformed abuser drug test altercation. There are many more positive issues that can be addressed and maybe solved, than the endless debates involving personal attacks and generally useless discussion over these mostly inconsequential matters.

Breaking his silence over mounting criticisms, Attorney General Matthew Theodore Gregory lamented that he has been a "victim of politics" since he started working as the government's chief legal counsel.
Gov. Benigno R. Fitial echoed the AG's sentiments, noting that Gregory has become a political target since his appointment to the office in 2oo6.

Gregory feels that his being considered an outsider contributes to the barrage of ridicule he gets as Attorney General. "I am obviously not local and I assume that it also has something to do with the pointless criticisms."

Senate Vice President Pete P. Reyes earlier accused Gregory of endorsing the legalization of medical marijuana in the CNMI, which prompted waves of censure from the community.

The veteran Saipan senator used a May 29-letter of Public Health Secretary Joseph Kevin P. Villagomez that indirectly identified the Attorney General's Office as the proponent of the decriminalization of marijuana use on the islands.

"I categorically say this is untrue. This is politics," Gregory said. Asked to comment about Villagomez's insinuation the he is endorsing the plan, the AG said: "[The Public Health Secretary] is trying to score a shot on the administration by printing inaccurate allegations."

Villagomez did not return calls from Pacific Times.

Gregory, however, said he has no beef against the Public Health Secretary.

The AGO has been in close coordination with the Department of Public Safety and the US Drug Enforcement Administration in the aggressive fight against peddling of marijuana in the Commonwealth.

"The Attorney General is being victimized for political reasons. It is convenient to blame the Attorney General when in fact he was not an advocate for the legalization of marijuana. There is a misunderstanding here that needs to be corrected," Fitial said, through his spokesman Charles Reyes, Jr.

"He is an unwitting victim and a convenient scapegoat. Every time there is a problem it is always so easy to blame the Attorney General," he added.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Red Sox, play by play

As a major time waster, I'm offering this link. If the link doesn't perform, try and navigate to the scoreboard section.
There is another from, but I like the play by play on this link. Select "log" from the bottom of the scoreboard. Mine doesn't automatically refresh. My brother says his does. Not sure if the difference is in our connections, browsers, or operating system, but manually refreshing seems to work.
Play by play on the internet isn't even close to a bleacher seat, but you make do with what you got and like it. I feel really stupid when I'm out watching the game on ESPN and STILL checking the log. That's what I get for mutitasking. Occasionaly, I'll ask my wife to spill a little beer on my leg and curse a little, that completes the experience.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thomas the train recall

I’m going to take a third try at this post. For some reason, I was overcome with a sense of urgency to publish last weekend, and upon reflection, I could still do a little better. My younger brother forwarded the thomas recall notice to me early in the weekend. Great way to start the day; thinking about all the progress which has been made on removing lead paint, only to find it on my nephew’s favorite toys. Apparently, the quantity of lead involved in the paint is at low levels, but lead isn't really something you want in any amount. Of course, my little boy isn't up to the train stage yet, so I'm not running to the doctor just yet. My siblings with kids probably are though. I'll settle for getting the word out to others and feeling just a bit ticked off. This isn't a case of a "cheap chinese product, either. My recollection is the price for Thomas products runs in the twenty dollar range.
Searching on google for "thomas the train, lead" pulled up some interesting information on the recall and reasons behind the continuing failure of the chinese to produce uniformly safe products.
This article from the tampa times was particularly enlighting. I’m going to reserve editorial content, as I think the writer, puts the whole Chinese issue much more succinctly than I ever could. Plus, I'm heading to Mongolia shortly and may have to travel in China. I don't mind if my blog is banned, but I don't want to be.
WASHINGTON - Thursday's huge recall of Thomas & Friends, the train set wildly popular with the preschool set, is just the latest in a string of problems with Chinese-made products. And you've probably never heard of most of them.

Aside from the high-profile recall of China-made pet food that killed hundreds of dogs and cats this spring and the recall of bogus Colgate toothpaste made with toxic Chinese ingredients, federal regulators recently have yanked infant swings, jewelry, cribs, and floats for kayak paddles, all in the name of safety, and all made in China.

In fact, 60 percent of products recalled since October came from China, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. And despite growing public and congressional concern with the standards of goods shipped from China, experts say they expect the problem to get worse before it gets better.

"It's not a state known for transparency, and the way that a regulatory system works well - look at the United States - is when a journalist or a member of Congress or a watchdog group shines light on what the state's doing wrong, " said Jeffrey Sosland, a professor of international business at American University who studies the economies of Taiwan and China.

"That transparency forces the state to fix it. In China, you don't have that. ... The economy has grown so quickly that's starting to catch up with them."

China and the multinational companies that make or contract for hair dryers, circuit boards, drugs and toys there are balancing two competing interests. Consumers and regulators expect safe products. But consumers and manufacturers also expect them cheap.

The two aren't necessarily compatible, considering the lack of regulation that contributes to low costs also contributes to safety problems, experts say.

American companies and regulators also complain that China hasn't done enough to curb its production of counterfeit goods.

According to the Associated Press, China was the source of 81 percent of all phony goods seized here in 2006.

"We're seeing a number of different kinds of products ... that are an indication of a very weak inspection system in China, as well as a very cavalier attitude by the people there who make the products, " said Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland who specializes in U.S.-China trade.

"You can create all manner of problems, especially with exports where you're not harming people in China, without consequence."

Thursday's recall involved 1.5-million Thomas & Friends wooden railway pieces because they had been painted with lead-based paint, a neurological hazard to children. The sets are sold by RC2 Corp. of Oak Brook, Ill., and made in China.

Pieter Bottelier, an economist in China studies at Johns Hopkins University, said it's too simplistic just to blame China. He noted that 60 percent of Chinese imports to the United States are made at plants owned or run by U.S. or other foreign companies.

"They are subject to foreign or U.S. quality controls, or they should be, " Bottelier said. "Or there's a problem with those companies."

Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Consumer Product Safety Commission, said the United States and China have had a formal agreement since 2004 that allows them to exchange technical information about recalls, and American inspectors visit China to try to improve safety and quality.

"Chinese manufacturers need to build safety into products intended for the U.S. marketplace, " Wolfson said.

The commission checks goods arriving at U.S. ports and buys items off store shelves. It specifically targets cigarette lighters, toys, electrical products and fireworks from China.

Lately, Congress has taken a more aggressive stance toward trade with China, with a bipartisan group of senators complaining this week that China manipulates its currency to keep it artificially low, contributing to the U.S. trade deficit. Members also have pushed for tougher inspection standards for drugs shipped from China to the United States.

But while the federal government can seek sanctions against U.S. companies that sell substandard goods, including goods made in China by U.S.-owned companies, it can't do anything about Chinese companies that make goods for the U.S. market.

Nor does China have a tort system that serves as extra incentive to make safe goods.

For significant change to take place, Sosland and Bottelier said, consumer confidence - and sales - of goods made in China must slip enough to push the Western companies that contract with Chinese manufacturers or that sell Chinese-made products to demand better.

"There's such a pressure to make things cheap that people are cutting corners. ..." Sosland said.

Times researcher Cathy Wos contributed to this story. Wes Allison can be reached at or (202) 463-0577.

The below is the original email, which I received from my brother and links to a child protection site.
The recall includes wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set parts sold between January 2005 and June 2007.
According to Davis, the Chinese factory that produces the toys changed the type of paint used in January of 2005, causing the lead to be introduced into the product. She added that the CPSC is looking into all of China's product standards.
"Our chairman recently visited (China) within the past two weeks and met with top officials," she said. "We want to see China make a real effort to comply with U.S. safety standards and bring their own safety standards up to U.S. levels.
Not included in the recall are toys marked with the letters WJ or AZ.
The recall includes wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set parts sold between January 2005 and June 2007.
According to Davis, the Chinese factory that produces the toys changed the type of paint used in January of 2005, causing the lead to be introduced into the product. She added that the CPSC is looking into all of China's product standards.
"Our chairman recently visited (China) within the past two weeks and met with top officials," she said. "We want to see China make a real effort to comply with U.S. safety standards and bring their own safety standards up to U.S. levels.
Not included in the recall are toys marked with the letters WJ or AZ.


From: Allison Wells
Sent: Friday, June 15, 2007 3:49 PM
To: NRCM Staff
Subject: FW: Recall notice on Thomas trains!

To all of you with young children who play with Thomas Toys:

Dear MomsRising member,
We heard from outraged young moms, grandmas, pre-schools, and our own team members about one thing yesterday: Toxic lead in a popular line of children's toys. It's a scary thing. Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends toys are now the subject of a major recall by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The CPSC advises consumers to immediately stop using these toys. Here's the link to their recall notice so you can find out exactly which toys are trouble:
*Pass this email along to friends with kids so they can make sure their kids don't have these toys, or put them in their mouths! Sadly, more and more imported toys are being recalled due to toxics. So after you tell your friends about the Thomas recall, then please take action to stop this toxic trend by signing our petition (the link is below).
TELL CONGRESS & THE CPSC TO GET THE LEAD OUT: Sign the petition to let Congress and the CPSC know that, "Testing children's products for toxic chemicals must be a priority. No more toxic toys and children's products!"
*Just click here to sign the petition for children's safety now:

p.s. For more information about the Thomas the Tank Engine product recalls, as well as about the increase in imported children's products with lead, read this ABC News story:
p.p.s. Here's a Center for Disease Control web site which is very informative about lead poisoning:
p.p.s.s. Find out about other recalled children's products at:

-Your donations make the work of MomsRising possible. To donate today on our new, secure website go to:
-You have received this email because you are a supporter of MomsRising, if you would like to unsubscribe or to update that information click here.

Anyway, hope this all helps. Lead is a poison, cumalitive in it's effects, so minus any lead chips in the house the kids are allright.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Dolphins, are not a fish pics

porpoises check the spelling

a little better

I've learned a few lessons after day one of creating a blog. Number one, watch the publish button. Very easy to hit it too soon. Number two, you don't have to create a blog if you want to respond to one. With that said/written, I'm done with this. I'm great on writing letters, but not to the great internet ether. Maybe, I'll try the letter writer blog, which must be out there.
Speaking of which. anyone see "letters" the Japanese side of the battle for Iwo Jima? I'm a big history fan and war movies. This one beats anything I've ever seen. Better than the history channel even. Mentions of obscure historical references were short and somewhat obtuse, but at least they mentioned the difficulties between the Japanese army and navy, plus the pathos of the young Japanese soldier who was willing and told to die, but still wanted to live. Saipan would have been even more fitting a setting for such a tale.
I watched most of the movie waiting to criticize something, but left with feelings of overwhelming commiseration for the soldiers of both sides. "War is hell" (WT Sherman). Young men go to war willing to die, while hoping for life, and at the same time prepared for death. Any wonder, why in this age of universal good will and possible global world order, that young men come back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Seeing this movie, even on a small screen, gives everyone who cares to pay attention, some idea of how horribly twisting war can be. No petty or even serious political disagreement comes close to the reality of war. Young men bravely serve. Life is not a movie set sixty years in the past. We don't know and will not fully realize what is right and correct today. Maybe someday in the future, we will, but not today. The young men of today serve and sacrifice Today. We must honor them on that basis, just as we do the veterans of yesterday. Quite some lesson from a movie, which portrays the "other" side, but quite some movie.
Just an aside about blogging from Saipan. The Japanese occupation of the cnmi and the Philippines was brutal as was the viewpoint of the american fighting soldier. I can see why from that viewpoint that, any depiction of the japanese would be anything other than revisionist, but I saw the movie as the struggle for a young man to live, no more. Very moving movie and from my viewpoint, extremely historically accurate.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

oh Lord, forgot the missus

My better half, also enjoys Saipan.

just starting

I wanted to send a message to Angelo in Majuro, but was redirected, so now I'm going to blog. Please give me a little time to figure this bl***ing thing out. Anyway, Angelo, at least your flight ended more safely, than the bottom of the ninth ended for the Sox. Just for the record, I love Saipan, rocks. A fun and creative method to comment on the world which is Saipan. I've only been exploring blogs for a month or two now, but if there is an environment ready for blog content, this is it. Congratulations to all of you for making a positivoutlet. Alle right, that's it. I'll post some pics and lets all take some time off from the computer, while we enjoy the beauty of the finest kind flame tree bloom this spring.