[warning: not-so-clean language is contained herein]
For a moment, Iíd like to discuss the marvel that is Guam traffic engineering. Iím really not sure who is responsible for the design and construction of roads here, but my guess would be good olí ďGov GuamĒ as itís known. Gov Guam, the sorry excuse for a local government, is not known for being very reliable or thorough in basically anything they do. The governor is no exception to this rule. I donít know much about the current governor, but the previous governor is currently up to his neck in shit for stealing tax money to fund the building of his estate. Nice job, gov. Then there was another governor, or maybe it was the same guy, who closed down one of the local schools in order to make it the Governorís Complex. Why in the world would he do that? Well, the school was in a beautiful location right on the ocean and it looked more like the summer getaway of a Colombian drug lord than an establishment for education. Thatís not to say it was a sketchy place- it looks like it was a great place for a school. In a nutshell, the governor said fuck the kids, booted them out, and made it his office space. Oh, and he put a nice big statue of himself out front. How nobleÖyou self-aggrandizing, narcissistic piece of crap.
Anyway, weíre not here to lambaste (too much) the governor or his shoddy organization. No, weíre here to laugh at the roads. Now, Iím no traffic engineer, but I do have some semblance of common sense and a little insight from my Dad, who is, in part, a civil engineer. Iíve learned from him that there are certain important things needed on major roadways like, say, drainage. If the roads are filling up with water, itís not exactly conducive to driving. Apparently they donít get that concept here on Guam, despite the fact that it rains here, often heavily, every day during this time of year.
The primary road, Marine Corp Drive, which runs right outside my door, is in the busiest area of the island. Itís a 6-lane divided road that, in this area of Tumon, is along the side of a steep hill. The topography would promote perfectly decent draining of the roadways when torrents of water come rushing down during a storm. However, culverts are few and far between, placed in stupid spots (i.e., in some places higher ground than the surrounding spots), or clogged. Water flows down the streets so abundantly during large storms that often some of the lanes are full of water. But maybe thereís just nothing they can do about it. I mean, thereís a lot of rain, right?
Then thereís the omnipresent construction going on. Either theyíre perfectionists and never satisfied with how the roads turn out or, more likely, theyíre screwing up and have to keep going back to redo their work. A classic example of this is how they will frequently pave a road and then, sometimes days, sometimes weeks later, go back and rip up a chunk of the road to repair something. Now, often this may be because they have to repair a water main or sewage line (which conveniently run side-by-side here), which has nothing to do with the road. But other times they just tear up pavement, without further digging, and leave it that way for weeks.
Hereís one of my favorites. Just a couple years ago, there were no contiguous sidewalks along Marine Corp Drive. Gov Guam decided that, perhaps, they should allow some other option besides driving or certain death. So, they built sidewalks running for several miles. Theyíre a little lumpy, theyíre poorly maintained, and there are huge, concrete power poles that in some places take up half the sidewalk, but they do have them. I appreciate that. What I donít appreciate is when, for no particular reason, they rip up a huge chunk of the sidewalk, donít flag it in any way, and I crash into it on my bike at 25mph.
So, Iím biking along and everything is wonderful. The sun is shining, a light breeze in my hair, the birds are singÖ oh, wait, there arenít birds here. Anyway, Iím just tooting along, minding my own, and I decide to ride on a section of sidewalk I donít normally traverse. Well, at first the sidewalk is fine (most of it is new in this area) and Iím swerving around power poles per the usual. Unexpectedly, thereís this gap in the sidewalk about two feet wide and 10íí deep, stretching across the entire thing. Itís narrow enough that I donít see it until the last second, but too wide (and deep) to successfully cross without screwing up my bike. On one side is a drop off with loose gravel and the other death-by-speeding, exhaust-spewing automobile. Thinking quickly (as I always do not do), I jump over the gap with my front tire, but lacking the skill or clipless pedals to bunny hop the entire thing, I slam my rear tire directly into the crevasse.
Amazingly, my tire didnít explode and I didnít fall off my bike, but my rim was effectively destroyed. It had a major dent from the impact and I broke two spokes in the process. When you break even one spoke, it temporarily warps the rim. Having a bent rim and two broken spokes makes for one silly-looking wheel. Being too far to head back home, I decided to ride another 5 miles or so to Potts, from where I could get a ride from someone.
Iím impressed with my bike that it made it to Potts. Now my wheel is fixed, but it set me back about $80 for a rim, new spoke set, and labor. My frustration came primarily from the fact that I had just been into the bike shop twice in the past two weeks to repair broken spokes on my rear tire. For some reason, they were breaking while doing things that normally donít break spokes, such as riding down a flat stretch of asphalt. Maybe this close encounter with the fault line was to prevent me from having to walk a broken bike in the adventure race next week. Then again, maybe itís just karma having a laugh. Either way, Hornets sporting goods made off like bandits.
Ironically, the hellhole is now marked off with cones. My guess is that someone remembered, after a couple months, that, ďOh, yeah. We forgot to mark that huge, gaping hole in the sidewalk, didnít we?Ē However, itís also likely that someone else had a similar incident and, rather than bitching about it on their web journal, actually called up Gov Guam and chastised them for being the morons they are.
Another engineering marvel is the road design at the airport. Take the average electrical cord sitting in a box in the back of your closet for 15 years and youíve got a pretty good schematic of the road layout there. The traffic is horrible, no one knows where to go, and by all accounts there should be a lot more accidents then there are. However, no one can go very fast since theyíre all crammed bumper-to-bumper in failed attempts to move anywhere.
All right, I think thatís enough of deriding for the time being. Iíd like to continue by discussing the abnormal amount of rain weíve been getting over the past week. Today was the first day in over a week that I was able to ride my bike to work without the imminent threat of being killed by a car sliding on the coral-based roadways. Old coral, being in abundance here, was once used to pave the roads (it may still be mixed with the asphalt even now). The only major problem is that the coral easily grows thin layers of algae when itís wet, creating a very slick surface on which to make poor attempts at safely driving. So, if itís pouring rain in the morning, I donít ride my bike. I would be pretty upset (I think my family wouldnít be too pleased, either), if I met my demise on the grill of an out of control car, especially in Guam.
Every day the same basic series of events has panned out. It will be pouring in the morning, the rain will let up in the afternoon, it will rain again in the evening, stop at night, and start back up all over again the next morning. Today the rain held off until just after I got home. Now itís dumping down with full force. Itís not exactly a monsoon, but itís about as close as Guam gets to one without the presence of a typhoon. The heaviest rain weíve had so far was conveniently when Chris and I were checking traps out at closed pop. on Sunday.
It began lightly raining right as we started, which happens frequently. As we continued along our way, the rain picked up and became pretty steady. By the time we were finished the trap lines inside the fence, we were both completely soaked. However, the storm was just getting started. My first outside line was fine, but the very dark, very ominous clouds rolling in our direction didnít bode well for what remained. As I began the next line, the shit hit the fan. The temperature felt like it dropped about 10 degrees and I nearly expected to see some hail. The rain picked up to such an extent that it was coming in sideways and I could barely keep my eyes open. It was actually a hell of a lot of fun. That is, until the lightening struck Chris. No, no, Iím kidding. Lightening was striking nearby, but not quite close enough to be any real imminent danger. Well, unless youíre picking up the large aluminum ladder we use to get in and out of the fence. As Chris was taking it down, I yelled to him, ďHey, why donít you hold that up a little higher?Ē Itís bad enough that weíre some of the tallest things out there since the vegetation is stunted. The last thing you need is a large metal object in your hands. I nearly expected a reenactment of the storm scene from Caddyshack.
While Iím on the subject of movies, I was luckily able to see Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It came out about 2 months ago at this point, but it never showed up in theaters here, much to the disappointment of both Brent and I. However, Karen called me up on Friday to let me know it was playing at the $2 theater down the street. Excellent! I had to work that night, so she saw it, but Matt, Chris, and I went to check it out Sunday night. We were soon accompanied (although we didnít see them until leaving) by Ginger and her boyfriend Justin who just moved out here. We were also greeted by Claudine and her boyfriend Mark, who is in town for a couple weeks. Apparently the 5:30 showing of Eternal Sunshine was the place to be. It was really a fantastic film and probably one of my favorites in a while. Just in terms of creativity, Eternal Sunshine and Big Fish are right up there. For those of you who havenít seen it, I recommend checking it out.
After such an acclaimed film packed with substance, we decided to dumb it down a bit and go see Dodgeball. After some dinner and pool at the Mariana Trench, we went over to the Guam Premier Outlets (oh, yeah, baby) and saw one of the stupider, but really funny, movies Iíve seen in a while. Ben Stiller's character is classic, accentuated by his incredibly fake handlebar mustache (a la his character in Happy Gilmore). This is at least the third time he has played an arrogant imbecile and the character is nearly identical to the one he played in Fat Camp. However, itís still funny and heís good at it, so thatís really all that matters for this movie. There was even a random Guam reference at the end. It was definitely entertaining, albeit ridiculous. Of course, I really liked Tommy Boy, Ace Ventura, and Jackass: The Movie, so that letís you know where I stand.
All right, just one more thing to bitch about, this time it involves our local, not-so-friendly postal workers. A couple of the people at the post office appear to be very much the classic disgruntled postal workers. Thereís one guy in particular that just rubs me the wrong way. He appears to be in his early 50ís, he wears thick glasses, sports a thin mustache, and he always looks like he holds contempt for all his customers. He also takes his sweet time in every task there. Itís not as though I want the guy to run around like an idiot in an attempt to get the line moving as fast as possible, but his frequent trips into the void that is the back room are really annoying. Heíll often wait on a couple customers and then stroll out back under the guise of doing something important, not returning for several minutes. None of his coworkers do this. This probably isnít much to be perturbed with, but thereís just something about the guy I donít like. It could be the large ďI loath Isaac ChellmanĒ tattoo on his forehead, but I may be reading into it.
No, I donít think I necessarily am and hereís why. I biked down to the post office today to send off some things. I brought my bike inside, setting it way in the back, in an area never used by anyone in all the times Iíve been there. A couple of the employees saw me come in and said nothing. So, I prepared my package and got in line. After about five minutes, I was staring off into space when I caught eye contact with my buddy from above. Immediately afterward he broke eye contact with me and said, ďWhoís bike is that?Ē Now, keep in mind there are about a dozen people in line. Me being the exception, everyone is at least older or not dressed at all for biking (unless youíre into biking in heels and a dress). Iím in shorts, my t-shirt is soaked with sweat, Iím wearing a backpack, and I have bike gloves on. Gee, sir, who could POSSIBLY have brought that bike in here several minutes ago while your head was in your ass?
Attempting to keep some composure, I say, ďItís mine.Ē ďPlease put your bike outside.Ē ďDo you mean outside the room or outside of the building?Ē ďOutside of the building.Ē Suppressing the strong desire to throw my helmet at his fat head, I turn around to get my bike. The guy behind me, an older man proudly displaying his Veteran hat, said to me, ďDo you have a lock? Someone will take it out there.Ē I nodded, went outside, and locked up my bike on a tree. When I came back in, the Veteran gentleman kindly let me back in my spot and said, ďYour bike wasnít bothering anyone.Ē I responded, purposely speaking in a normal volume in my postal friendís direction, ďYeah, I know it wasnít. Apparently itís a breach of security to have your bike inside the room.Ē The jerk didnít look up, of course, but he did leave after finishing with his customer to get a fan (apparently to cool off his desire to vaporize me with an AK-47).
By a stroke of luck, he was the one who waited on me. I was polite, as was he, although I did have to suppress the urge to strangle him with my bare hands. Maybe I need a punching bag to let out some of this aggression? I think itís exacerbated by the story my brother recently discussed on his live journal of people being stupid on a train ride he and Lisa took to a concert this weekend. Itís annoying enough when people are jerks to you, but itís much worse for me when I hear of it happening to my brother.
In happier news, I updated my Friendster account this weekend and added a few friends to my list who I havenít talked with in a long time. Theyíre all folks I met at Kingswood and with whom I have some fond memories: Evan Coffey, Ashley Allen, and, to my shock, Ryan Crossan. As I told Ryan, I made several half-assed attempts to contact him over the past several years with no success. Iím not positive, but I believe the last time I saw him was my sophomore year at UVM. The two of us were close friends my senior year of high school, but things kind of fizzled out when I went off to college. Itís great to be back in contact with him and hopefully weíll be able to e-mail regularly. Evan was another guy I knew later on in high school. He was in the same crew as Ryan and I, a bunch of obnoxious comedians in the drama club. Evan is a hilarious kid and fantastic at improv. I really think he could go far as an actor if he set his mind on it. The same goes for Ryan.
I believe the first time I met Ashley was in my sophomore biology class. She was a year younger than me, but in many classes above freshman-level. Ashley is exceptionally bright and has always done well in school. She excelled at Kingswood and often got a lot of crap from people because of it. Some people thought she was an intellectual snob, which was not the case. It was a classic case of those people who felt inferior deciding to harass the person smarter than them. Fortunately, it seemed like she had to deal with that less as she got older. The first time we spent any amount of time together was in our AP biology class taught by the devilish(ly handsome) E. Kevin Thorsell, whale-watcher extraordinaire and captain of the Cetus. Ashley, Allison, and I had a great time on a whale watch the summer after my freshman year of college, a day-long excursion that left me the color of a seared steak.
The last bit of news thatís fit to print is that my good friend Priya, who I worked with at Patuxent, is now engaged. She recently took a trip to Italy with her then boyfriend, now fiancť, Shannon and he proposed to her in Tuscany. Apparently it was very unexpected for her, in a very good way, and she sounds ecstatic. Now if only I can make it back for THAT wedding and not have a repeat like missing Brianís wedding! I suppose that will be up to me, now wonít it?
The wet season seems to have officially begun here in the north Pacific. When I arrived on Guam, it was the beginning of the dry season. Of course, you wouldnít have known that since it rained at least once every day for the first month. For the past week, however, weíve had more rain than Iíve seen since arriving. What really signified prototypical wet season for me was thunder. Last night was the first time I have actually heard thunder since arriving here. Living on a tropical island, one would think that there would be thunderstorms all the time. Well, thatís not the case here. I think it may be because thereís not much land area here and thunderstorms often feed on convective heat generated by large chunks of warm ground. Despite the lack of satisfying thunderclaps, I have often seen distant lightening here, however, it was never close enough to see a solid bolt in the sky. We got the full show Wednesday night: thunder and lightening close by, though not so close that our hair stood on end.
The event that evening was night searching. Myself, Haldre, and Karen went for a brief search at Andy South (some rarely used land owned by Andersen Air Force Base) with Jason Gibbons, one of our recent trainees who works with Guamís USDA Wildlife Services. We were accompanied by Lee, Lloyd, and Bruce, some guys who were here together as a panel whose purpose was to review the brown treesnake project. Lee is a laid-back herpetology professor at Texas A&M who reminds me of James Taylor. Bruce is sort of an environmental consultant, although heís dabbled in a little bit of everything, including acting as overseer of environmental aspects on the construction of the Dalai Lamaís new temple. Lloyd is a very quiet guy who plays a large role in Hawaiiís wildlife program. I believe he works for in Maui, but Iím not sure of his exact position. There was also Mike, the other individual of the panel, who didnít join us for the search. Mike has a lot of experience in mammal research, much to Andyís joy.
It was a good search and a few snakes were found (always a plus when the review panel is out there). My search abilities werenít quite up to par, mainly because I was really tired. Despite having several days off this week, Iím still recovering from the rapid response training. Of course, maybe itís more the fact that I woke up at 6am yesterday after sleeping in over the previous days. So maybe Iím just lazy. But I think I deserve a little laziness after this training.
Overall, the training was a success and I think all the people involved effectively learned what they needed to. These trainings are always a lot of work: long days and night searches 5 or 6 nights per week. This particular training was more stressful in that Karen and I were running the entire thing on our own, with help from Haldre only when we needed it (she was there for us if necessary, which was great). Also, there were some other issues that I canít divulge in an open forum like this. Suffice to say, both Karen and I are glad its over. Iím really astounded Haldre used to do these trainings on her own. I know she was completely wiped out and I understand why.
On a completely unrelated subject, I bought some filters for my camera a couple weeks ago. I bought two polarization filters (for two different lenses) and whatís called a graduated neutral-density filter. The polarization filters cut back on glare, block some forms of unwanted light (one of them blocks UV, too), and enhance color. The GND filter uses the same basic concept as those highly fashionable tinted glasses that are clear on the bottom and shaded up top. It has tinting on one side that gradually fades out about halfway down the filter face. The most common situation in which you would use a GND filter is when youíre taking a landscape photo with land, water, etc. in one portion of the frame and sky in the other, but it can be used in any situation where there are two highly contrasting portions within the same frame.
In the landscape example, either the sky or the land portion of the frame often gets exposed incorrectly. Either the sky will be washed out (if the light meter is read to expose the land) or the land will be far too dark (if the light meter is read to properly expose the sky). With such a high contrast difference, the camera canít properly meter (i.e., adjust the aperture and shutter speed) both portions of the shot and create a happy medium. With the GND filter, you can rotate the shaded portion of the filter over the sky, adjust the camera to properly expose the darker land, and have the entire shot be exposed properly. Itís a pretty basic concept (just shade the bright area) and it works well. The only thing Iíve found on my shots is that I wish the shaded portion extended farther down the filter. Often the upper part of the sky was exposed nicely, but the lower portion before land meets sky was still washed out a bit. This gave the sky a weird, two-toned look (blue up top, whitish-blue on bottom) that, although kind of cool, isnít natural.
Okay, that was just way too much information about filters. Sorry if that lulled you into a deep comaÖ I just wanted to explain their purpose for the non-camera savvy. Iíd like to get out there and experiment more with the filters to really get a feel for what they can do. At some point this week (once I have access to the high-speed connection at work), Iíll post some of the initial photos I took, all of which I have on CD.
At some point soon, either this coming weekend or the weekend after (I really should find out for sure), Iím going to be participating in another GEARb (Guam Extreme Adventure Race, baby) sprint. I think this one is a little more involved than the last one I did, which ended up being just a long mountain bike ride. That was a lot of fun, donít get me wrong, itís just not what I would consider an adventure race. This one involves biking, running, and maybe some swimming, although Iím not exactly sure. That sounds like an ironman triathlon, but itís not quite that hardcore. According to Haldre, the date for the race was pushed back, which is the main reason I donít know when itís occurring. Iím pretty sure thereís a GEAR website (if I didnít, I meant to post a link for it when I talked about the bike race in one of my previous entries) and that should have all the information. Iím looking forward to it and I plan on biking to and from work as much as I can in order to prepare for it. My partner is going to be a friend named Renee I met through Haldre at the hashes. Renee is a helicopter pilot for the Navy and sheís a cool girl. Sheís also in great shape and swims like a fish. If thereís a swimming potion, hopefully I can summon up some of my Dadís swimming genes so I donít end up 20 minutes behind her.
I suppose to help prepare for this, and to just avoid being lazy, I should stop watching so many movies. During the past highly uneventful week, Iíve watched way too many films. Part of that is because I discovered Blockbusterís moviepass deal, which works a lot like Netflix. You pay $30 for three movies, which you can exchange for another 3 movies as many times as you want for a month. If youíre a ridiculous movie junky, you could potentially get three new movies every day (hey, every 6 hours if you wanted) for a month for only that initial price. Another plus is that thereís no due date for anything until the month ends. Itís a great deal if you watch movies a lot and I definitely fall into that category. Iíve seen several movies Iíve wanted to check out for a while, such as House of Sand and Fog, 21 Grams, Monster, Girl with a Pearl Earring, and Dirty Pretty Things (all of which are very upliftingÖ or not so much). So, maybe they arenít exactly feel-good flics, but they were all great movies. I would recommend them all (Girl with a Pearl Earring more for itís cinematography than anythingÖ oh, and Scarlett Johansson), just donít watch them all in a row, lest you become incredibly depressed.
Hey, I just saw the Magnum P.I. helicopter fly by! Nice. Iíve seen that helicopter a few times before. Itís not the exact same helicopter, of course, but I think itís the same model with similar colors. Maybe T.C. has decided to move to Guam since all the action is here now. Hell, weíve got Kurt Kessler, our very own Magnum (as mentioned in one of my entries from a long time ago), so itís only fitting.
Anyway, enough of that tangent. Right now itís time to be jealous of Brent and Haldre. Currently the two of them are taking it easy in some beautiful areas of Bali. They left on Friday for a two-week vacation to Bali and Sumatra. For the first three days, theyíre staying at this gorgeous place in a fairly remote area of the island. I saw photos of it from the companyís brochure and itís quite the place: the idyllic tropical hideaway. After that, theyíll be living simply at hostel-type places, which is also a lot of fun. I think theyíre in Bali for just a few days and then theyíll take most of the time to explore Sumatra. The latter island is huge, so thereís a lot to explore. Bali, although a beautiful place from what Iíve heard, is much smaller, only about 50 or 60 miles long whereas Sumatra is roughly 1000 miles along its longest stretch. I hope they have a fantastic time and I canít wait to see the photos from the trip. They may help me determine where Iíll be going over the holidays.
Speaking of which, the first vacation Iíll be taking is over Christmas and New Yearís. Iíll have enough vacation time racked up to take off two weeks (since we have a couple holidays thrown in there), so Iím planning on heading to somewhere in Indonesia. I may have talked about this in a previous entry, so if I did, I apologize. Iím more releasing thoughts about where Iíll be going. Indonesia has been one the primary destinations to which Iíve wanted to travel since I knew I was coming here. I also wanted to check out Papua New Guinea, but the political climate and overall situation there may not allow it. Apparently itís basically a death wish to go there if youíre a white English-speaking person such as myself. Iím going to look into it more since Iíd like to get a better idea of the situation with my own eyes. If I donít go, Iíd like it to be based on legitimate issues of imminent danger, not rumor. Anyway, PNG is likely out of the picture, but Iím thinking of possibly Sulawesi or Sumatra. What I would really love to see are native rainforests, and wildlife, in somewhat pristine condition. Apparently much of Borneoís rainforests have been decimated and what remains is difficult or expensive to access. From what Haldre mentioned, Sumatra and Sulawesi have much of their native forest still intact.
Nothing is settled yet and soon Iím going to get some books on Indonesia and begin researching. There are innumerable places one can go in that area. I purchased three maps from a local bookstore a couple weeks ago that cover essentially all of Indonesia. Theyíre really nice USGS topos that also show sea depth, which is cool to check out. I spliced the maps together into this huge beast, now on my wall, that covers the entire archipelago. The thing is ridiculous (at over 10 feet long), but it will be really useful when Iím researching where to go (plus the level of detail at that scale is fantastic). So, if you have any questions on Indonesia geography, just let me know.
Jumping rapidly to the next unrelated topic, Iíve finally posted a drummer-looking-for-band type ad up at a local music (as in instruments) store. I think the odds of actually getting in contact with someone that way are pretty slim seeing that there were several other ads there, the store, although apparently a hot spot for musician-types, is off the beaten path, and I donít have a car. Now, maybe I shouldnít have posted that on the ad, but I think itís important people realize I donít have a reliable way to personally transport my drums. That is my major downfall in hopes of ever playing somewhere outside my apartment, but thatís how it goes. Of course, people may read the ad thinking I donít have a car because Iím 14. Hmm, maybe I should make some editsÖ
I think a better way to do it is to just get out there and talk to any bands playing in the area. Iíve only seen a few, but I know there are several that consistently play at local bars. Iím not necessarily looking to start a band, it would just be nice to jam with some people. That way I could drive my neighbors completely insane with the cacophony of a full band.
Over the next couple months (after which there is another training), I hope to be more consistent in the way I post to this blog. It has been way too long since I made my last entry! I was busy for much of that time, so it makes sense. Itís just much easier to keep everyone informed of whatís going on if I post consistently. In waiting too long, I canít remember a lot of the funny details to events that happen. It turns into a jumbled mess of thoughts like this posting, which make less sense and arenít quite as entertaining. So, Iíll try my damnedest (that looks really strange when itís written outÖ is that right?) to post once a week. I canít promise anything, but Iíll do my best.