Monday, January 28, 2008

Sour Grapes for January 22nd, 2008

Ban Black Cats?

In defense of fireworks

Another freedom disappears under the rock of oppressive nanny government intervention. This time we citizens are found incapable of celebrating Christmas, New Years and the Liberation Day as we might wish to. Laws have been passed to stop the sale and personal enjoyment of fireworks by CNMI citizens.

Each year around Christmas a small but vocal group trundles out the timeworn complaints of possible injury and noise pollution. You are far more likely to be ‘possibly injured’ crossing the street. Should we outlaw it, or worse, mandate that a government crossing guard accompany you each time to assure your safety? Should you be allowed to play a Wagnerian opera at anything above 25 decibels without a court decree?

Instead of some simple rules to enforce courteous use and a safety course to teach proper handling methods, our knee jerk reaction is to legislate fireworks displays as a permitted, government only, exercise. I can see it now. A Department of Artistic Fireworks and Fanciful Yodeling (DAFFY) with 200 employees and a several million dollar budget. One need only fill out these 62 pages of request forms, have each duly stamped with a notary seal, stop by 6 different offices and voila, within 2 or three years of processing a dandy fireworks display will be forthcoming at your 40th birthday party. So sorry, Christmas will have to be celebrated on March 14th next year as the backlog of processing requests won’t be finished by December 25th. Not to worry, it’s for your own good. Stand by for instructions on how you must cook your morning breakfast, coming soon from your friendly protectors up on the Hill.

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A Donut Tree

Thanks to online blogging articles and comments made recently, I went out and enjoyed one thing I never knew existed and revisited another I had not been to in a long time.

I must have driven past the Galaxy donut shop dozens, maybe hundreds, of times and never even noticed it was there. Not having a sign does not help their marketing effort or their visibility. Delores, the proprietress didn’t seem to care much one way or the other. Having been in the same location since NMC was a hospital instead of a college (1978), most folks know where she is and what she serves. The donuts are what are called ‘sinkers’ in the US, a heavy cake like donut with iced glazing. I liked the simple fare and the homey, comfortable feel of the place. I’ll be going back for some more donuts and another sack of that cooked Pork. Look to the right as you drive from the traffic light to the main parking lot at the College and you will see the nondescript white building above you on the rise. This is not the place to go if you want Internet wifi and a 6 dollar cup of burnt bean bitter yuppie coffee. This is the place to go if you want a good donut, a good cup of coffee, nice company and a screened porch all at a very reasonable price.

My 3 year old son and I visited the Botanical Gardens the other day. It was his first visit and my first in a year or two. We tromped around the paths, climbed up into the tree houses, scrambled up the stairs to the overlook and swung in the hammocks spending several very enjoyable hours there. We drank fresh guava juice at the snack bar and pored over the historic Japanese era pictures and piggy banks made from coconuts in the museum/gift shop. Alexander tested each tire swing for safety and efficacy and found they all passed his stringent examination. This is one of the really nice tourist venues on Saipan and one those of us who live here are fortunate to have at our disposal any time we need a quiet stroll down a garden path to sooth a bothersome day or a bad mood. The descriptive signage is woefully dilapidated making plant identification difficult but the park is well maintained otherwise. This is a joyful way to spend a day of your life. The local-rate entrance fee is minimal, so go on out and give it another try. I bet you haven’t been there in a long time either.

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Fold flap A into slot B

I’ll admit right off as a first time parent there may be some room for improvement in my technique. I noticed immediately there was no operator's manual attached by little ball chain anywhere near Olivia's enlarging belly when she was pregnant so decided I had better hit the library, the bookstore and Amazon to find out how to deal with the Salamander, as I called him then. (The ultrasound gave me little hope that he would turn out to be another Homo Sapiens).

I got about a dozen books expecting to use the best of each and also expecting there to be broad consensus on the most important items of child rearing expertise. Was I ever shocked to discover that just about every book had a different viewpoint and offered wildly different advice on how best to deal with the little buggers once out of the chute.

If there is definitive proof of a superior method, I have yet to run across it so I use some of the suggestions I learned from the how to manuals, especially the first aid stuff and just wing it for the most part on those items I don’t really know the proper method of dealing with.

The best laid plans, however, are sometimes difficult to actually put into action as he runs over your foot with the electric ATV on his way to stand on the handlebars, open the drawer, climb up, causing the cabinet to overturn smashing the laptop you are doing your research on. A hearty DAMN IT seems to pop out of my mouth, apparently from nowhere when a series of 8 or 10 experiences like those described above all happen in the space of 10 minutes. So much for vocabulary building lesson 202. It can be a bit frustrating.

This child rearing is not child’s play, this is serious stuff. Mine is three now, and I can only imagine what surprises await me as he gains acumen with that opposable thumb and learns to research winning sales techniques, the better to slam dunk me with at the checkout counter.

Making babies is simple: unskilled labor, happy at their work. What to do with them afterwards is certainly a more complex endeavor. If you have any suggestions or a reading list, feel free to email them to me. Help is needed before the men with the nets come for me.

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Quotes of the week: There comes a time in every rightly constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. Mark Twain (1835 – 1910)

The voice of parents is the voice of gods, for to their children they are heaven’s lieutenants. William Shakespeare (1564 1616)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, January 15th 2008

Speak out, and Listen
Pardon my French
It seems last weeks article trying to advertise the Zoning Department’s training classes by panning the hilarious Chinese-to-English translations found in some owners manuals was misconstrued by some folks to be a real translation. Nope. I can’t read a word of Mandarin and just made up the piece by playing fast and loose with the English version of the Training Class announcement in an attempt to be entertaining and to get the word out about the class schedule.

My apologies for any inconvenience or hurt feelings.

I do hope you had a chance to attend the classes given for free by the Zoning Administrator, Steve Tilley, to clarify the new law and how it will be administered and enforced. If not, you may still drop by their offices on the 2nd. Floor of the Joeten Dandan building and get your questions answered. You can also call 234-9663/7 or go online to for more information. Email questions can be sent to .
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Hillary is Dead!
No, they didn’t let Sirhan Sirhan out of jail. So it’s not Hillary-the-one-who-doesn’t-want-to-use-her-last-name Clinton who’s on the slab. It’s Sir Edmund Hillary of Mount Everest fame. The guy who “climbed it because it was there”. The guy who made himself and Tenzing Norgay famous by being the first to climb up the biggest hill on the block back in 1953.

In the intervening 50 odd years since his famous climb, Sir Edmund (an informal guy who liked to be called Ed) went back to Nepal over 100 times to raise funds for schools and health clinics for the Sherpas and other residents of the mountainous country. He also led huge expeditions to clean up mountains of garbage, equipment and trash left behind by the many climbing teams that followed in his wake. (Sort of the Angelo Villagomez of the Himalayas).

This man was a hero to thousands, maybe millions of kids and adults the world over, not so much for climbing the mountain, but for persevering in the face of adversity and for getting the job done even though the going was difficult. There was no ‘quit’ in Sir Edmund. He epitomized the ‘finish the job’ credo that makes successful civilizations successful.

Thanks Sir Edmund Hillary for inspiring multitudes to be better than they thought they could be.
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Speak No Evil
I sat down to write an article about the importance of effective communications as it relates to the newly inaugurated Legislature and their ability to keep track of where their constituents stand on issues and events. To generate effective input, the electorate also needs to communicate with each other and with the Legislative bodies regularly. The topics of the day need to be discussed intelligently and rationally. What we find in most non-formal discussions about local, national or international politics is communication hampered by impolite and often uninformed bullying tactics.

I realized I had read an outstanding article by Mr. Michael Cloud about effective communications a few months ago and rather than only paraphrase him or just use his ideas it would be better to reprint the majority of his thoughts on the matter here with only minor editorial input. He states the case with rational clarity:

Gresham's Law of Communication -- and How to Reverse It.
"Bad money drives good money out of circulation," says Gresham's Law of
Money, "when there are legal tender laws."

Imagine that you have two coins, each with a face value of $10. One has ten dollars worth of silver or gold in it. Good money. The other is made from cheap metals and has, perhaps, ten cents' worth of metal in it. Bad money. Now imagine that the government legally requires you and everyone else to accept both coins at their face value. Ten dollars. You can spend either coin for ten dollars worth of goods or services. It might seem like no big deal.

But there's a wrinkle. The government starts coining billions of dollars worth of the cheap metal money. Increasing the money supply. Inflating the currency. The purchasing power of money falls. You and everyone else expect the government to print and coin more money every year. And the next. And the next.

Imagine that you receive $20 for work. Two coins. One with gold or silver in it. The other without. Which coin do you spend? And which do you keep? Right! You spend the bad money. And save the good money. And so does every other sensible person.

That's Gresham's Law. Gresham's Law only operates when there are legal tender laws. When government decrees that "this note is legal tender for all debts, public and private" and legally requires people to accept it.

The corollary, Gresham's Law of Communication, says, "Bad communication drives out good when both are equally acceptable." Rude, insulting, profane, and inflammatory discussions drive out those which are courteous and respectful. Shouting and name-calling discussions drive out those that are conversational and reasonable. Talking-without-listening discussions drive out those that are open-minded and thoughtful.
We can see it on political talk shows. Hear it on talk radio. Read it on the Internet. We especially see it in blogging and chatting. We see it around tables where people gather to discuss political ideas. We spend our vices, and hoard our virtues. Because bad communication drives out good.

But there's a way to reverse Gresham's Law of Communication. There is NO "legal tender law" of communication. You do NOT have to accept bad communication. You do NOT have to accept profanity, rudeness, shouting, inflammatory language, insults or any other kind of communications you find offensive. Conversations and discussions are based on mutual consent. You can negotiate the terms and conditions of your communications. How? Tell people what you want -- and ask if they will do it.

* "John, I really want to talk with you about this, but when you raise your voice, when you call me names, I feel insulted and talked down to. Are you willing to lower your voice and stop name-calling -- so I can carefully consider your arguments and evidence?"

* "Janet, I know you're passionate about global warming, and I respect that.
But when you call people who disagree 'deniers,' you are putting them in the same category as Holocaust deniers. Your language is designed to stigmatize and silence them. Are you willing to stop using the word 'denier,' and show us your evidence? Will you do that?"

* "Tom, I know you feel very strongly about the Iraq War. I want to hear you out. But when you condemn the character and motives of those who disagree with you, when you loudly insult and revile them, I find it almost impossible to listen to your actual arguments and evidence. I need you to stop insulting people who disagree with you. And I need you to calmly lay out your thinking. Will you do that for me?"

You can explain what kind of language and behavior is and is not acceptable to you. Ask the other person what kind of language and behavior is and is not acceptable to her. You can negotiate. Work it out together.

What if they refuse to converse in a way that's acceptable to you? What if they continue to engage in offensive language and behavior? Tell them what is unacceptable. Tell them why. Walk away.

Requesting, negotiation, and walking away are three powerful tools for creating good communications, for building courteous and civil conversations. You can use them with your family, friends, and co-workers, and with casual acquaintances and strangers. And you will begin to make a difference. As will others who do likewise. From such small beginnings, we can set in motion a social trend of courtesy and cooperation. You and I and others can reverse Gresham's Law of Communication.
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Quote of the week:
Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Bible, 1 Corinthians xv, 33

The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said. Peter Drucker (1909 – 2005)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

USS Jefferson City Port Call

The fast attack submarine USS Jefferson City (SSN759) recently visited Saipan for some well deserved rest and relaxation. While they were here we met many new friends and saw others for the first time in quite a while.

We held the official reception for the officers and crew at Porky's Beach Bar
Last Monday and all had a great time. Everyone seemed to enjoy the local dishes prepared by Simeon and Lito and the service by Porky’s friendly staff.

The CPOs had a blast as we toured Saipan and saw some of the historical sites.

We organized a fishing trip for the JOs. They ate most of the catch as sashimi as it came aboard. The rest we prepared for them at Porky's Beach Patio.

They take the "Island Taxi" back to the boat.

We are proud to display the ships plaque.

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The Crewmen of the Jefferson City are back underwater now and it will be a while before they get back to their home port and their families. Meanwhile we wish them smooth sailing and good hunting.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, January 8th 2008

Hakuna Matata
Yan can Cook
I saw that our local newspaper printed an announcement transcribed in three languages the other day. The article describes the Zoning Law training classes available to the public written in Japanese, Chinese and English. It makes me wonder if they hired the services of the same translator used by Chinese factories to describe ‘how to’ information in owners manuals of many China made products. If so, when Mandarin speakers read the characters printed in the message, it might sound to them something like this:

Wistfully requiring attendance to the smiling home to built or sign changing. On repairing moon washed Multi-Purpose Center needed only come to see, then finding cement and Adult Business presents.

Please to secure arriving in January toward the 8th day including 8:30AM atop 11:30AM. Now may experience feeling enlightened to many Engineers plus additionally finded Architects also on view to Government Agencies pleasing fountains of truth. Leveling Tuesday.

Plan next being surprised aground Adultry Business must take in to be late after 1:30PM after lunching needless unto 2:45 in days leaving part.

Oneness on smooth enterprise of painting languished signage to be determined without existed relief in 3PM left of 4:45PM in waning silvery hours. Even constructions of new ones deftly placing old too also.

Lasting life harvests 6:30PM overlooking subjective wholeness population message agreed next to 8:30PM.

Please to attendance every personally wanted now upon invite.

Then halting confabulation circuit to inform others maybe Zoning Orifice lest 234-9663/7 electron mailing . Downloaded perhaps appealing map with selection putting Law Bundle to bring with, together inside webbing online. Includes $5 general sale take away to Dandan Joeten lift to next up floor from 2nd so may attract information extra to proceed bringing along.
---- ----
I’m wondering if Mandarin readers will get as big a laugh out of it as we English speakers do when we read Chinese to English translations. Please to not taking offence here, I’m only having fun at the translator’s expense. I’m sure he/she is a fine person.

My son, by the way, at 3 years old is learning Mandarin (also Chamorro, Carolinian, Tagalog and even some English). He will be much better able to cope with a changing world in 15 years than his Dad who speaks no Chinese as yet, halting or not. Kudos to all the multilinguists in our Marianas melting pot. Shea Shea (sp?).

Please plan to attend the informational/instructional classes on the new zoning regulations as indicated in special code above. You will find it worthwhile.
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Oer the Bounding Main

The 32nd running of the Laguna Regatta was held the last weekend in December. The sailboat race using 16 foot Hobbie Cat boats has been organized by the Over The Reef Yacht Club (OTRYC) every year since bell bottom pants and tie-dyed Tshirts were the in clothing to wear at the awards banquet. Visualize long sideburns and FuManchu mustaches blowing in the wind.

The Laguna Regatta (not to be confused with Hakuna Matata) is the longest running, consecutively held sporting event in the Marianas for sure, and perhaps in all of Micronesia. The race is held each year in Saipan’s beautiful lagoon north and east of Managaha Island around preset buoys marking off a challenging high-speed course.

This year’s twice weather delayed race was won by Janet McCullough and her husband Dr. Tony Sterns. The perennial winners were followed by Ron Smith piloting and Ted Parker crewing their boat into second place while 3rd place points were racked up by Tice Mister and his crewperson Angie (amazing coincidence) Mister during the 4 heat racing event. Fourth place points were tied between Lino Olopai and Derrick his crewman, and Cecilio Raiukiulipiy and his crewman Sabino. 5th went to Bruce Berline and crewman Dale. Congratulations to all who raced and had fun in the 2007 Laguna Regatta.

Sailboats have been plying the waters of the Marianas since the first inhabitants settled here so it is especially appropriate that this race commemorates those brave and daring souls who sailed their ocean going outriggers all across Micronesia and beyond. Captain Lino Olopai, one of this year’s Regatta participants, has sailed and navigated on a Carolinian designed ocean going canoe from the Western Carolines here to Saipan and elsewhere. Another similar craft, the Flying Proa, or Sakman outrigger of Chamorro design was considered the fastest sailing ship on the planet back in the days before motors and modern hi tech materials replaced breadfruit tree hulls and woven sails.

If you missed seeing the race in 2007, you should plan on coming out in April 2008 to watch the 33rd. annual Laguna Regatta. You can watch from Managaha Island, from any number of small boats that gather to spectate, or from Saipan’s shore anywhere from Tanapag Beach to Charlie Dock. It is exciting, fast paced fun. Contact Ron Smith, Defacto Commodore, at 235-5513 for information or to volunteer to help with this year’s race.
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Quote of the week:
This sentence would be seven words long if it were six words shorter. Anu Garg (1967 - )

Thursday, January 3, 2008

What to do on New Years Day??

Alex tires of choking the puppy and suggests a road trip.
We stick him in the car and chain him down carefully.

Mom, Auntie Doe, and Nena suggest a trip to Topachau and we are off!
Alex tries to throw me off the cliff but I resist manfully.
I want to ride the ATV's and will hold my breath until you relent.
Maybe later Kid. Goats, that is
We see beautiful tree flowers blooming.
We visit the Shrine at Santa Lourdes and cop some holy water.
We see a snowman...a bit of a rarity here in the tropics.
Alexander drives the 2-man go cart at Marianas Resort...Full tilt boogie, pedal to the metal the entire time. The kid is pretty darned good for 3 years old.

As you can see there is lots to do on Saipan for New Years Day. After the above pics we spent a little time at the beach. Then Olive and I ate dinner at the 2298 and drank a bottle of Mouton Cadet Phillipe Rothchild (all of it) then had a congratulatory Bananna Split at the Big Dipper. By then each of the NYD resolutions had been compromised so we headed home. I spent the rest of the evening playing with the baby's Momma. Fun.

Sour Grapes for Tuesday, January 1st 2008

Working on the Railroad
Labor Abuse
I and a few hundred other people were at the Labor Department Processing Office last week standing in interminable lines. The reasons for the lengthy wait for service are twofold:

First, there are lots of contract workers trying to get in under the deadline to be consensually or otherwise transferred before the new labor regulations come into effect on Jan. 1st. 2008. Many hundreds of them, perhaps a couple of thousand have come forward in the past few weeks to beat that deadline, after which they cannot transfer without an administrative order and some serious hoop jumping.

Second, a couple of months ago Labor Department management decided to reallocate manpower to reduce the then large backlog of labor processing applications. Because of a lack of funds and a lack of manpower it was decided to split the workday into mornings during which Labor Department employees work on clearing the backlog of applications and afternoons when the service windows open up allowing new applications and other business to be transacted.

The second of these reasons brings us around to the subject of this article, labor abuse. The ones being abused here are the Labor Department employees. They are required to come to work at the regular time early in the morning and work for half a day on the paperwork backlog mentioned above. Then after a lunch break they are tasked to come back to work and do another entire days work of accepting and verifying new applications and all other window service tasks but have only the afternoon hours to accomplish it. In other words they must do another whole days work in half a day.

The right way to clear this big backlog might be to hire temporary manpower to do the grunt work. 10 or 15 data entry and filing clerks could do the drudgery while a couple of knowledgeable Labor Department employees could oversee and check their work. Another possibility would be to allow overtime for the entire staff, say 2 to 4 hours per day until the backlog is cleared. I’m sure management thought about these solutions and said “nice options but where do we get the money to pay the salaries or the overtime?”

So what it all boils down to is a group of hard pressed individuals down there in Processing are working doubletime and regular hours ‘overtime’ without benefit of being paid for the extra work. I’ve been there transacting applications two or three times in the last couple of months and saw these folks gamely trying to keep up with this pace and doing so with a great deal of skill and with smiles on their faces. The other sections like JVA and Records and Enforcement and Hearings are also in for a lot of extra work in the coming months as new labor regulations go into effect and contract workers shuffle to try to stay here in the CNMI.

Labor Department employees’ jobs are not likely to become easier in the coming months, and the workload will probably increase instead of decrease. Add to this the looming possibility that a federal takeover of Labor and Immigration may be imposed by the US causing some or all of them to lose their jobs altogether. Both are tough on morale.

I for one am amazed at the show of good spirit shown by these hard working individuals and I salute them for their diligent efforts. If the workload without overtime doesn’t ease up soon maybe they should walk across the hallway and file a labor case. (Kidding there).
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Omnibus Railroad
If you are watching right now you can see from current events how the US system of government works. Lobbyists and other paid special interest groups suggest a course of action. Some of these special interests are from inside the government, others come from outside. Closed-door inner sanctum committee meetings are held where other insider special interest government groups, committees, staffers and others draft the legislation, often with a self interest agenda to push or a chip on their shoulder to avenge. Bills are then packaged together, dozens sometimes, seldom if ever read by lawmakers, claimed by their sponsors to be uncontested then passed while most members are back in their home states diddling the wife and vacationing on the taxpayers dime. Four senators and a sticky dress aide are often enough to get the legislation passed.

In our case they disguise a federal takeover of the CNMI as a tree hugger/feel good package of “uncontested” environmental measures. Seriously, the bill designed to terminate self government in the Marianas is hidden inside a package called the National Parks, Forests, Parks, Public Land and Reclamation Act of 2007. Does that sound like a federal takeover bill to you? Want to guess how many US Senators will actually read even part of even one of the ‘nearly 60’ bills packaged inside S.2483? My guess is zero. Want to guess how many even realize they will be voting on a measure to nullify government autonomy in the CNMI? I wonder who else is being screwed to the wall by other bills hidden in this ‘uncontested omnibus’ package?

This is sadly, not an unusual strategy. Committee chairman Sen. Bingaman is ‘delighted’ and hopes for speedy passage of the unread bills. I bet he is. I wonder what his cut will be?

So American History and Civics teachers take note. If you are still giving kids in your government school classes the party line egalitarian, citizen-representative, bills passed on their merits story; you are doing them a huge disservice. Tell them how the system really works. Wake them up to reality. The system touted as a measure to facilitate flow of legislation is really a system of pat-my-back-I’ll-pat-yours patronage where US Senate and Congressional votes are traded like cattle at auction to the highest bidder. Nothing new there, it just happens to be affecting us directly this time.
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Quotes of the week:
A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)

The history of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors. Meridel Le Sueur (1900-1996)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!!

To all you out there in Blogland, the Bateman family wishes you a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

May 2008 be a banner year for each of you.