Tuesday, May 27, 2008

George is getting angry

On this past Sunday George the eel from Wing Beach bit Harry Blalock and came flush out of his hole and chased me down the canyon for a while. Harry and I weren't diving together, but we saw each other at the dive site and these events came about 30 minutes apart. It was actually a very stange experience. Other than some nutty triggerfish, I've never seen an aggressive underwater species. Maybe he just thought I was Harry, or perhaps George has a problem with bald divers. I can see a suspended sentence in George's future.

I've been saying it for years

I hate to pull an Ambrose Bennett, but I've been saying this for years: School principals in the CNMI have too much power. Let me preface this by saying school principals are wildly underpaid here -- far more than teachers. Principal here is an awful job that barely pays more than teachers. These people don't get the summer break and they also get most of the abuse. Wild horses couldn't get me to take that job. I told my friend Betty Miller not to do it, but she forged ahead. My own administration is very fair and reasonable at SSHS, and they are about the only tandem to be in place for six years, which is one of the reasons that my school runs well. The administrative turnover at most schools is enormous. One of the reasons Hopwood is such a horror is the musical chairs taking place at the head of that place over the last few years.

People have been complaining about this woman in Tinian forever. Factoring in that it's Tinian, which let's face it, is a hard place to live and to recruit people to, makes the situation even stranger. I'm surprised this situation goes on.

Some of the people that become principals or vice principals in PSS are absolute dolts who shouldn't be running a children's mango stand on the side of the road -- and they're the ones empowered with hiring and firing responsiblity with little oversight. It's ridiculous, and it has been ridiculous for years. Of course, it wasn't until a pissing match occurred between a principal and a board member that this became an issue.

THE Board of Education will revisit the existing policy on the hiring and
firing discretion of school principals. During a special BOE meeting, Rota board
member Denise Tanya King questioned the existing procedures and policy of the
Public School System regarding the “authority” given to school principals.
“If the only person who will evaluate the teacher is her/his principal, I think
the system is giving our principals a tremendous power,” King told the board. It was earlier disclosed that 31 teachers have either resigned from their posts or their contracts were not renewed.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Queen Matakaw

Queen Matakaw anticipates a kiss from her dad. Matakaw means always wants to eat in Tagalog, which describes my little girl extraordinarily well.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Not again

I wrote about this last year. I wasn't there yesterday, so I have no opinion on who deserved to win this year's Attorney General's Cup. I do know that before yesterday some reasonable people from various schools, mostly public, think these speech and debate competitions are not on an even playing field and are getting close to the point of suggesting non-participation by their schools in protest. I think that might be a statement that needs to be made. The result yet again won't dissipate that feeling.

I flat out saw Harry Blalock's daughter get robbed four years ago and not even place when she should have won outright. The mere fact that Diego Benavente was a judge that year raised questions given Harry's relentless criticism of the Babauta administration. I read last year's winning MCS speech and didn't find it all that great, and it seemed people put words into that Filipino kid's mouth that pandered to this island's irrational federalization phobia and bias that I doubt would otherwise have come out of him. I said that to Galvin, and he insists no. He's a good man and a friend, so I'll take him at his word, but that's how it struck me. I was there in Rota and the Mt. Carmel kid seemed to get a warmer reception from the refs than Michael Jordan in his broken down and ill advised return engagement to the Washington Wizards. It just seems plain unlikely that in something as subjective as this, Mt. Carmel is tops seven years in a row. In the NFL All-Pro voting, with far more scrutiny, players get chosen on reputation.

Galvin offered this: “We're the ones that people are out to get, which makes it harder every year. But we treat each year as if it's the first year. We don't see ourselves as defending a title, we see ourselves as winning it anew each year.” You've got that pegged. Mt. Carmel, at least when it comes to the AG Cup, is quickly becoming more unlikable than Bill Bellicheck's Patriots, though G is better dressed and is nowhere near as grim and lugubrious as Bellicheat.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Living in the limelight, the universal dream

A bunch of us took a trip aiming to hit Spotlight Cave and Bonzai Cliff. The latter almost never works out because the conditions are usually too rough, as was the case yet again on Sunday. Spotlight is quite unique with that beam of light. It doesn't rivet me for a full 50 minutes of diving, but I still like this site. Here is my revised top twenty list for CNMI diving. Sport Diver chose two dives I rank last on the top 20 list as must do dives in the CNMI. It might be easier to see here. To each his own I guess. I'm big on caves and grottos and places with cool landscapes and contrasts of light and dark.

Here is a thought that might ruffle a feather or two, and this is from someone who loves diving and has done it alot: Sometimes the pictures are even more impressive than seeing these things in person. The macro in particular brings out the contrasts in the subject and intensifies the experience -- kind of like reducing a sauce. For instance, I've looked at the nudibranches Harry Blalock is so enamored with. They're reasonably cool, but to me, they look much cooler in Harry's photos. Now, there's more to diving than the visual landscape. It's also a mindset -- enhanced by the adventure and the feeling of escape from the humdrum nature of daily life. Some of the dives stick with you a long time. For me, the long, deep descent into the Blue Hole in Palau, left, really sticks out. You make this long, slow descent through this wide, deep hole with the sun shining in and along the wall are these rich sea fans and the normal bevy of fish Palau is noted for. Beyond that, you can do this on the same dive as the renowned Blue Corner.

These Spotlight Cave pictures here in Saipan come courtesy of Mark Robertson, who captures a diver deep in prayer in the lower pic. I'm merely ascending to heaven in the pic up top. I only got part of the way. Apparently, Hendrix isn't touring this summer.
On a completely unrelated note, there is a great story on blogging in the Sunday New York Times. Completely unrelated not number two: The burgers at Java Joes are shockingly good.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Twenty four new blogs out there

I finally thought my students were ready for it, so there are now twenty four new blogs out there by some of my students at Saipan Southern High School. Some of these young men and women have put together some very appealing blogs. Some are still a work very much in progress. At least half of these students do not speak English as their first language. Here is one of the blogs, and there are links to many others on that site. These are 14-year-olds finding their voice and finding out their voices matter. Feel free to leave them a comment, make suggestions, encourage them, even argue with them a bit to make them think.

Many of my students began the year thinking "Baby Ruth" was the first African-American in major league baseball, the governor determined the price of gas and World War II occurred in 1860 or 1960. Many expressed these thoughts in giant uni-paragraph essays with his and he's mixed up and subjects and verbs that agreed less often than Bruce Bateman and Lil Hammerhead. Those problems haven't been completely eradicated, but progress has been made. These students are also putting together a powerpoint presentation for the first public speaking engagement of their lives, and they will conclude the year by creating a podcast.

While I was on paternity leave I gave these students a giant research project. I asked them a series of questions, fifty to be exact, from all branches of world awareness. I had them find out for themselves everything from how to make chicken soup and better tasting coffee to details on the Kyoto Protocol to awareness of what mutual funds and equity derivatives are and what they can do, to the reasons for tensions between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. I'm hoping they learned they can find things out on their own, and more importantly, I hope it lights a spark that ignites a raging intellectual curiosity. There are now many things they know something about that I didn't know at all until I was twice their age.

I have many faults as a teacher. I'm fairly impatient, I'm not as warm and fuzzy as I probably should be, I get frustrated and I'm from an area of the world where people talk quickly, so I have to remind myself to slow it down. I don't know whether this is a good or bad thing, but I don't talk to them like they are little kids or be any less honest and forthright with them than I am with anyone else. I think they appreciate that aspect, and the humor, which tempers the fact that I'm a demanding and sometimes tough SOB. I also brood about the state of education overall on this island too often, but in reviewing recently the progress these kids have made in these last ten months, I feel good about it today. A teacher needs those days.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The movie theater is re-opening

I just heard from my friend Zaldy Dandan that Hollywood Theater is re-opening on May 26. I'm sure the Marianas Variety will have the details tomorrow. I'm kind of surprised with the price of power going higher, but summer tends to be peak movie season. I don't have to fly to Guam to catch the new Indiana Jones.

Monday, May 12, 2008

1234 I can't take it anymore

I haven't jumped in with this Marine Monument imbroglio, or most anything else of late including my column, for a lot of reasons. Number one is the fact that I'm intellectually tired of pointing out the raging idiocy that simply can be expected here. Lately I have watched KSPN's broadcasts of "Old News" that comes on in the late evening, and it is astonishing how all the same identical issues: minimum wage, federalization, luring investors or CUC's latest show of incompetence have been around for twenty years now. KSPN could save money and just put that on at 6:00 p.m. A lot of the same people appear -- Heinz, Fitial, Pete A -- only the video is granier and those people are a bit lighter and have more hair.

Number two is that I'm otherwise focused on my new baby and other personal tasks I have at hand. Three is that I've almost completely lost hope that this place can be turned around, and I think a lot worse is yet to come. An honest appraisal of this situation is just too depressing, and I don't want to be that guy -- at least repeatedly. Prices have gone up, and they are going higher. The one good thing about the garment factories is the shipping containers that would come here for export. Those will be gone and the shipping to our remote rock in the ocean will be even more expensive and less common and that brings the supply of goods down, which will make things even more expensive. I think we are a long, long way from the economic bottom. Oil is on an inexorable march upward, with many experts seeing it headed toward $200 per barrel. This place simply isn't set up to manage that situation. I think $7.00 a gallon gas and .70 cent a KWH power turns this place into Beirut circa 1983, and there is no reason to think those prices won't head there. If there was real risk management going on, we would have prepared for the inevitable spike in oil, but we didn't even find it wise to maintain the power plant, but we did keep the municipal councils, we do string along those same workers and "save" their jobs every couple of months instead of just paying them a severance to go get retrained for a useful job. Beyond that, we still hire PIOs, we still have the various affairs offices, we still hire useless lobbyists and we still have almost two years left of Governor Fitial, who is ascending the ladder to Bushian levels of incompetence. While this island suffers from expensive and unstable power, he still has his eyes on this revolting and decided minimum wage and federalization issue. I bet the ranch he uses his reprogramming authority to enrich some connected law firm with whatever corporate welfare he can get away with distributing from the CNMI's meager coffers to take on the U.S. Congress -- with our sordid reputation on labor and wages. He gives every indication of grasping at straws in his public comments. His stand on this PEW monument is but the latest revolting decision he has made. I read his letter to President Numbnuts, and it is an exercise in shoddy reasoning and petulance.

But, the biggest reason I've stayed out of this is that a number of people have done a good job expressing my feelings for me. Ruth Tighe has said a lot of sensible things. Ken Kramer wrote about it in a style similar to how I would -- only he brings much more environmental knowledge to the table than me. Mike Tripp wrote a decent piece on this controversy. Mike tried to be nice and diplomatic, but this situation doesn't call for niceness and diplomacy -- especially at this stage. It calls for someone to point out the corrupt nature and the shoddy reasoning of the governor, the legislature, John Gourley, as well as the rest of WESPAC and their minions. Fortunately, Jane Mack did that brilliantly in her Variety letter.

These are my three favorite graphs from Jane's letter:

Why do we turn a blind eye to the past damage and continuing harm these fishing
interests and WESPAC are doing? Because there are liars and cheats among us,
people willing to twist the facts and prey on fears and prejudices to get what
they want, to keep their pockets full while emptying us of our world’s natural
resources. Twist the facts to pretend we’ll lose control that we don’t have.
Prey on fears about the federal government, when WESPAC, which is now in
control, itself is a federal agency.

It is the governor who is shutting down the process, not letting us be heard! Where is the due process and public involvement in the governor’s way of handling this?
There is NONE.

The decision is too important to be left to Charles Reyes Jr. or Governor Fitial, or our Legislature who have not listened. It is ironic that John Gourley complains that Pew Charitable Trust hasn’t listened to him — he is one voice, speaking with and from the experience of an advisory council member for WESPAC. If you want to be heard, then let the process continue so that we can all have a voice on the matter. Please make the stupidity stop. Make corruption stop. Make the devastation of our natural world stop!

Mike Tripp, who later went on to praise Angelo, said this in his post: "A number of people don’t like the locally hired Pew coordinator or lobbyist if you prefer. No doubt Angelo O'Connor Villagomez can be cocky and arrogant. His sense of humor often easily missed, especially by strangers."
The Marianas Variety said this: "We have come to conclusion that the local community support required by this undertaking is simply not there.This is not a question of whether the monument proposal is good or bad for the NMI — but of whether the local community can stomach what some perceive as yet another unilateral attempt by an “outsider” to “take away” yet another portion of local cultural identity... At this point, its proponents must take one on the chin, and acknowledge that they have to do a better job of reaching out to the local community and its elected leaders."

Angelo never had a fighting chance with this thing. The timing was off with the federalization takeover about to be finalized. Global issues have grown far more complex and people's willingness, and ability, to comprehend them has gone down, and this is without expounding upon the media's willingness to cover these issues in a world with Britney Spears and professional sports. This is the recipe that led to the disastrous regime of Bush. People focused on "values" and "guns," and not competence and corporate plunder.

This monument fiasco is just the latest example of how easily people can be manipulated. WESPAC spun the elected powers that be, who are largely too ignorant to fully comprehend this issue, have never really represented the people and can't think much beyond the next election anyway. This issue was ripe to be easily demagogued. There has been years of propaganda about the evil feds. "Anger over foreigners telling them what to do" is an act of cutting off your nose to spite your face. There would be $20 million in federal gravy coming in here, not to mention the help to our very sullied reputation. That good publicity is now all but foregone, and it would have boosted the engine of this economy: tourism. But people here want to oppose this because they're angry over federalization. Boy did they show them.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Let the crying begin, it's over

"It aint over until it's over."
- Yogi Berra

It is indeed over and hurrah for that. All the CNMI lobbyist money went for naught. The forces of douchebaggery: Abramoff, DeLay and his corrupt minions, as well as the vast majority of the imbeciles making up our local government lost. President Numbnuts signed the bill to federalize immigration in the CNMI. The CNMI will now be forced to do the things necessary to turn this place around instead of just running the same old immoral and unsustainable play from their tired out cheap labor, no viable private sector playbook. The fact that Governor Fitial, with the reverse Midas Touch, will be crying tomorrow is a guarantee that this is the right thing. Just by following the near flawless "Do the opposite" approach with the CNMI government, we have the paradigm for improvement. Even funnier is that a lot of the people who should be happy will be angry, like Greg Cruz, and the people who should be concerned will be celebrating, like the guest workers.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Thank god I have a leader now

In case anyone was wondering, I'm a supporter of HaoHao Haole. I requested their position on green versus red apples. Breathless updates on all issues should be forthcoming -- especially their report on their tour of the suncreen factory. Check this site for the full HaoHao Haole Manifesto.

So a friend of mine was telling me the other day that he has decided to start a
group called HaoHao Haole on island, and well, since its his idea I guess that
means he's the president...no, of course there were no elections, but I'm sure
all of its members will agree that he should be president. Oh and did I mention
that HaoHao Haole represents all the haole's on island. That's right all of the
mainlanders in the CNMI will now be represented by the HaoHao Haole group,
shoot, you don't even have to be white, see we're not racist, and no...I know
you didn't ask for our representation you're just going to get it anyway.So as
the HaoHao Haole spokesperson, that's me, I just appointed myself...see how easy
this is...I would like to question the blueness of the sky. That's right those
of us on the HaoHao Haole board have decided that the sky over the CNMI has not been blue enough as of late and we feel that this is, of course, the governments
fault and that they should look into this situation immediately as it may soon
have some adverse effects on our most prized tourist industry.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Yankees fan accused of running down and killing Red Sox heckler.

Maybe Angelo should be more careful in general.

A woman accused of running down a man in her car after a Red
-Yankees argument in a bar never hit her brakes as she accelerated toward
the small group he was in, a prosecutor said Monday. "She never braked, and she
accelerated at a high speed for about 200 feet. She went directly at this group
of people," prosecutor Susan Morrell said of Ivonne Hernandez, who is charged
with reckless second-degree murder in the death early Friday of Matthew
Beaudoin, 29.

Authorities won't describe the argument beforehand in
Slade's Food & Spirits, but witnesses said it heated up when Hernandez
identified herself as a New York Yankees fan. Bartender Tanya Moran said the argument spilled outside, and at least one person in a group that included Beaudoin began chanting "Yankees suck!" when they saw a Yankees sticker on Hernandez's car. Hernandez, 43, allegedly gunned her car and struck Beaudoin and his friend Maria Hughes, 21. Hughes had only minor injuries, which Beaudoin's sister Faith said was because her brother shielded his friend.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wing Beach diving and other things

Let it not be said that I never changed a diaper. My five year old found this extremely amusing:

I am starting to get more into shore diving. The price at least can't be beat, and it's good exercise. I dove Wing Beach today with Mark Robertson, who took this picture. It was clear, calm and perfectly pleasant today. There isn't a permanent rope there yet, but Mark brought one. There are some triggerfish that are a bit territorial hanging out over there, so be mindful of those SOBS.

I'm also getting over my Grotto worries, as I did three dives there this week, the last with Saipan Bev, who is heading to Palau and then heading home for good. I also did a Lau Lau dive during the week - a place I'm a bit tired of diving. Scott Eck is going on vacation in late May and taking the Aquajet out of the water for several weeks, so I'm hoping to get in a Bonzai/Spotlight dive next weekend May 10 or 11 before he takes off. Leave a comment or send an email if interested in getting on that trip. There is also a lecture at American Memorial Park Monday night at 6:00 pm on Underwater Archaeology that looks fascinating.

There is a new gourmet shop next to Coffee Care where the old Wine Shop was located. I got some good quality Jasmine Tea over there, as well as some pate. They have some nice cheeses as well, and deli meat is said to be on the horizon. The place is worth checking out.