Thursday, May 31, 2007

93. REVVING UP for Script Frenzy--Zoom, brzhoom

ScriptFrenzy starts in just about 2 hours. READY, set....

You can find links listed under theatre on the side bar of this blog for some helpful places to start, including, of course, the link to the official FRENZY site.

To stay on track for the goal of 20,000 words by the end of June, the daily target is 677 words. I'll be rounding that up to 700, for easy comparison and to build in a little padding to cover those difficult days.

92. A Village for All of Us

When I think about immigration, I think about places I'd like to see, and where I might like to live. Like here.

Hogwarts and the land of magic, a la Harry Potter, seems like so much fun when reading about it, although I have my doubts that I would really enjoy it, if forced to live such a life. Now, perhaps, I'll have a chance to explore the fantasy, with millions of other thrill seekers. A new HP Theme Park-- ComingSoon . What fun!

Thanks to Dotti for the link.

And you can read more here .

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

91. Some Thoughts on the Proposed Alien Labor Bill

H.B. 15-38. AvailableHere . It's called the Commonwealth Employment Act of 2007, but it's all about alien labor. I haven't been invited to comment on it in my official job, so I can't submit these comments to the Legislature. But as a citizen and human being, I can speak my mind here.

I've made it through the first 10 pages of 63. The bill is long enough to suggest that it took some sincere effort. And I appreciate that.

But from what I've read so far, I already feel sick to my stomach from it.

This bill can't be good because it is based on assumptions that are wrong, assumptions that start with a view of our economic woes through the wrong end of the scope, assumptions aimed at rooting out the evils caused by those d___ foreigners we bring in to work for us, assumptions that are foolish and immoral.

Here are some things in the "findings and purposes" section that rankle:

"The employment preference for citizens and permanent residents is implemented by clarifying and improving provisions of the current law, such as limiting public sector jobs to citizens and permanent residents...requiring that employers provide jobs to citizens and permanent residents least 20% of the work force, and restructuring the moratorium on new hiring of foreign nationals..."

WRONG. #1. This law will not help get locals into the labor force. Locals and permanent residents will continue to rush to the mainland where they can earn $7.25 per hour or more. What will get them into the local labor force are higher wages and better working conditions. Until employers are FORCED to provide these, no amount of law or administration is going to improve the preference for hiring locals. Locals don't want the bad jobs, and cheap foreign laborers complains less, are easier to dupe and scare into obedience, and are still readily available.

WRONG. #2. Employers must hire locals in numbers that make up at least 20%?!! That's the ratio of local workers to foreign workers we are aiming for? Four foreign workers for every local? Do you think locals want to work in those conditions? Do you think our US. citizens and permanent residents want to be the outcast, the minority, at work on our islands? Better to head to the US. Our Chamorros, Carolinians, Chuukese, Palauans, etc. will be a minority there, but they'll earn more and get full rights.

WRONG. #3. Restructuring the moratorium is a load of waffle. Set a moratorium and enforce it. Stop cheating.

"This employment preference is promoted by effective job referral services...effective advertising...and effective training to qualify citizen and permanent resident employees for jobs that require special skills."

WRONG. #1. What makes you think that we can have effective job referral services with a new law. We have a law. We have a job referral office. It doesn't work. The problem is not that workers aren't signing up for jobs. The problem is not that referrals aren't being made. The problem is that employers WANT TO HIRE ALIEN WORKERS. We don't need to fix the government office or train the workers. We need to force an attitude change on the employers. WE NEED TO TAKE AWAY CHEAP FOREIGN LABOR. Otherwise, there will never be good jobs for our local people in the CNMI.

WRONG # 2. We can qualify our local population for skilled jobs, but if we allow employers to pay minimum wage for these jobs, because alien workers will accept the jobs at that price, we will never get our local population into the jobs. Accountants at minimum wage. Engineers at minimum wage. Paralegals at minimum wage. Nurses earning far below stateside standards. We will never get our local population into these jobs. W ell, at least not here. And the brain drain will continue and get worse.


"The Covenant envisioned the employment of foreign nationals create an economic base that would provide the citizens ...the economic opportunities and standard of living that their counterparts on the mainland enjoy..."

WRONG. #1. The Covenant envisioned that the CNMI would strictly limit immigration. The reason for local control was to allow fewer aliens into the CNMI than might come in under U.S. control, not to allow more. We screwed up.

WRONG #2. Are we really going to pass a law that says we're using the poor of the world to enrich ourselves? That's what this says. And it's immoral.

"The Commonwealth's...investment in produced a local work force...for managerial, supervisory, technical, professional, and other skilled jobs.... foreign national workers must be available to fill the unskilled and lower skilled jobs..."

WRONG. #1. (I'm screaming here.) We are so superior that we continue to think we should "supervise" and "manage" others. We've done such a good job with our government, with CUC, with the state of our roads, our capital assets, our retirement program... This is so wrong.

WRONG. #2. Even if we have some talent (and we do), some educated (and we do), some imaginative thinkers (and we do), as a general policy, we should want only the best for the CNMI. We should always be looking for the skilled, the educated, the professional. WE DO NOT NEED MORE CAR MECHANICS, FARMERS, MAIDS, FACTORY WORKERS, WAITRESSES, STREET-WALKERS, PIMPS AND PROSTITUTES.

These are not the key to a sustainable economy. These are not the people who will make us smart, beautiful, welcomed in the world. We do not need the masses. And we can't sustain them. For Pete's sake, we import food! We import all our fuel! We have limited land. WE DO NOT NEED THE MASSES, THE TEEMING HORDES. We want fewer people, doing more. And that means we need to entirely revamp our thinking about who we allow to enter the CNMI.

If we are truly so smart and educated, we won't be afraid of the competition from other smart, educated people that we let come in. We'll benefit from the exchange of ideas. We can become a mecca of learning, of advanced research and design for oceanography, for the environmental green campaign, for something to help the world. We do not want to become a floating casino, money-laundering off-shore bank, dung-hole of the Pacific.

"The current economic situation...requires the continued availability of foreign nationals...but also demands that the more efficient and less costly to operate."

WRONG & RIGHT. This says we want cheap labor! We don't want to spend the money on an immigration and labor system that would be fair--just cheap. Well, the cheapest way would be to completely turn over immigration control to the U.S. Then the CNMI wouldn't have to pay for it at all. LET'S DO THAT!


"The early-intervention mediation...achieves good results in promoting fair employment relationships..."

A THOUGHT. I don't know about this program. To be truthful, I've never heard of it. I wonder how many alien workers know about it. Perhaps it does work, in which case it should be advertised more widely.

ANOTHER THOUGHT. The biggest labor problem alien workers face is not getting paid for their work. When this happens, they are stuck. If they complain, they can be terminated and sent home without the benefits of the employment contract they made. If they don't complain, they may end up working for long periods of time without ever being compensated. They are helpless. This is why Buddi Dhimal set himself on fire--he worked and didn't get paid, and the CNMI government helpfully decided to send him back to Nepal without his pay. This is why the Chinese and other garment workers marched in protest. This is what makes work in the CNMI into slavery.

We can't make employers pay their workers because the employers leave, or have no money or assets that we can reach here. And we have "helpfully" stopped requiring employers to post bonds, if they ever did.

What we really need is a requirement that for every alien worker hired, the employer posts one year of salary and benefits. Then the CNMI government can issue the paychecks to them. When the next year comes, the employer has to post another year's advance payment to renew the contract. If employers don't like it, perhaps they'll hire locals.


"Economic stability and growth ...require support for the visitor industry and other investments, both local and foreign, that generate new employment opportunities."

WRONG. #1. We don't need to generate new employment opportunities. Who will fill those jobs? More aliens. This system only provides stability for continued dependence on foreign workers.

What we need is to figure out a new economic model, a sustainable economy, that recognizes the limits of our environment and resources, and takes advantage of our natural strengths. We need to generate self-sufficiency, and something to export to help our GNP.

WRONG. #2. Not all economic investment is created equal. I am tired of seeing little tire shops along the road--we have enough already. On the other hand, the plastic recycling venture should be applauded and supported and multiplied everywhere. I am not totally against garment factories. I like clothes. But I want all of our businesses to be fair to their employees, zealously considerate of our environment, and basically moral. Not the robber-baron version of enterprise.

WRONG. #3. We need to support the visitor industry, but I fear that this statement in a bill that addresses alien labor means that we have to make exceptions to our good limits and standards on alien labor, exceptions for hotels and tour companies. And I think that's a bad idea. Look around. We have a local population that can fill many of these jobs. Visitors like to see local people when they visit. If there's one place our local population should be, it's in the visitor industry--spreading that island friendliness, creating our own "hafa adai" spirit to rival the aloha spirit of Hawaii.

I'm ready to tackle page 3, but it's late, I'm tired, and this post is already long. I'll come back to it tomorrow or the day after. But for now--let's just say, I think this bill will not take the CNMI in the right direction.

Just a brief summary, observation, here. This bill is aimed at alien workers. We can't change the vast number of impoverished, desperate people in Asia who are willing to come and work for low wages in the CNMI, willing to pay recruiters, willing to cheat and lie their way into the CNMI, just desperate to be willing enough to do anything. We have to stop focusing on our alien workers and start focusing on what we can change. Ourselves. Our own attitudes. That's where the solution to our economic woes lies. And that's where we need to put our energy.

90. Cost of Living--a postscript on Minimum Wage

If the new minimum wage went into effect immediately, an hour of work would buy a gallon of gasoline (well, except for taxes paid on the "earnings"). But it doesn't go into effect until July. So for now, an hour of work is not enough, even if there weren't income tax, for this basic purchase.

89. Minimum Wage in the CNMI

The minimum wage is going up a whopping 50 cents, to $3.55 per hour, starting in July 2007.

Meanwhile, the U.S. minimum wage rises to $7.25, in a leap of $2.10. Notably, 30 states already have local minimum wages at that rate or higher.

And still our businessmen, like Juan Pan, complain and cry that this raise will hurt "us." Still, on our local news, we hear conjectures and hopes that there are loopholes, that this wage hike will be limited to one year, that the full effect of 50 cents per year until we reach the U.S. level just won't happen to us, won't be forced on us.

What "us" do these concerns purport to address? Not me. Not the fair businessmen and women here who already pay more than minimum wage. And certainly not the vast majority of people in the CNMI who are adversely effected by the wages kept low by a stagnant minimum wage and a ceaseless influx of desperate foreign workers, while prices continue to rise.

And yet it is these loud protests against raising the minimum wage here that make the news, are heard and repeated, are echoed by our Governor, are shown to represent us.

I am deeply ashamed of the CNMI.

The churches are full on Sundays, and the same people who sit in the pews and "pray" are willing to treat their brothers and sisters in God with contempt and disdain. Is it simply too much for us to share our earthly wealth? And why aren't our priests and ministers speaking out more forcefully about the needs of the poor? Don't all major religions include the precept of the need for charity? Isn't Christianity a promise to the poor, where a rich man will have as much chance of entering heaven as a camel of getting through the eye of a needle? Obviously, there are limits to the faith we share, weaknesses in our practice of it.

Instead of taking a chance on offering a living wage, the CNMI, through its loudest voices, insists that even a small pittance added to the miserable wages paid now will hurt us. What about all the employees, the "us" who are hurt by the constantly decreased value of static earnings?

The minimum wage hike that is now law, as it will be applied to the CNMI, is inadequate and is designed (intentionally?) to sabotage future wage increases. It's enough to force some marginal businesses to close, but it's not enough to do much good for people here to increase their spending or boost the economy in that regard.

I'm glad that the U.S. stepped into the long-time breach in fair wages here. I'm glad that there is some wage increase. But I wish that all of us in the CNMI would raise our voices to drown out the greedy, the heartless, and the users who protest this wage raise.

WE WANT A LIVING WAGE FOR EVERYONE. We support this and more raises to the minimum wage. All together now...WE WANT A LIVING WAGE FOR EVERYONE.

Monday, May 28, 2007

88. Flame Trees

I heard there's a photo contest for the best picture of a flame tree.

My favorite photo is one I took a few years ago, of the huge tree at the intersection of Quartermaster and Middle Road.

Because I love flame trees, I took some earlier this month, in Garapan. So the first photo here is from that group. And in the spirit of the contest, I took some more on gray Saturday (May 26) at P.I.C. The rest of those posted here are from that series.

None of these would be award winners, but I love the colors, so I'm sharing them here.

I love the characteristic umbrella shape of the canopy. I love the twisted tangle of the trunk branching out. I love the beauty of the individual flowers and the form of the clusters, and did I mention the color. Flame trees make me happy. Love this season.

Friday, May 25, 2007

87. Why Would We Read a Sad Story?

I loved CURES FOR HEARTBREAK by Margo Rabb. You can read my review in the Marianas Variety here . But I expect there are many who shy away from stories and books that seem "depressing" or "sad." I do that, too. I won this book in an on-line contest and had it sitting on my shelf, but seeing that it was about a teen whose mother dies from cancer, I wasn't eager to dive into it.

What prompted me to read this young adult book was the recommendation on Roger Sutton's blog ReadRoger . Mr. Sutton is the editor-in-chief of the Horn Book Review, a periodical that I love (and subscribe to) because it discusses children's books, reviews the notable and new releases, and adds a bit of humor at the end. His glowing review of CURES FOR HEARTBREAK prompted me to start reading it. And the first page was enough to pull me in and keep me reading it until I finished.

So I've also been thinking about why we read books that make us cry and then we discover that we love them. Are we sadistic that we love pain and hurt? I don't think so.

This book isn't just a wallow in misery and sorrow. It is an epic tale of courage in the face of danger, an adventure into foreign territory, and most importantly, a shared experience. It isn't a sad, depressing tale, although it made me cry copiously--it's a celebration of life, the life of a teen who is strong, witty and capable of deep love.

By sharing that experience, by listening to Mia's voice in this book, we elevate our own grief and the need to cope to a higher level. We participate in humanity, in its fullest sense.

For me, the fact that I've lost my mother-in-law, my sister-in-law, one of my best friends, and others to cancer doesn't excuse me from reading this book or others like it that are similarly worthy. This book renewed my spirit, and connected me to a little bit inside of me that is better than the rest, the part that loves, that expresses compassion, that laughs in the joy of life, despite the sorrows from the death of loved ones.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

86. Coming Attractions

My book review will be in Friday's Marianas Variety. CURES FOR HEARTBREAK by Margo Rabb, a young adult novel--five stars. I'll link to the review when it's out.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

85. Reflections on Iraq War and How It Is Affecting Us All

My condolences to Ray Quichocho and his wife on the death of their son/stepson, Victor Michael Fontanilla. I'm sorry he died in Iraq. I'm sorry that we Americans have funded war, rather than peace. I'm sorry that this soldier and others won't be coming home again to these beautiful, pacific, islands.

The sun shines here. The CNMI is intensely beautiful, with flame trees in brilliant reds, plumeria laden with fragrant blossoms, flourescent-pink bougainvilla climbing everywhere. And yet, our young people are attracted to the military life. I have trouble fathoming that choice.

The "glory" of war isn't much like war as depicted in the movies. We can see the real thing up close in images available with a click. Just go to You Tube and type Iraq. You'll find footage of what's really happening there. You can view events as "officially" reported by

Like this, taken in March 2007:

And this night raid, also in March 2007:

What strikes me about these skirmishes is the almost casual nature of some of the fighting. Standing around outside in the open, uncertain where shots are coming from, or stepping over bodies.

You can also see Iraq before America's invasion, what the Iraqi people see when they look at their country. Like this:

Or this, footage taken 2 weeks before America invaded:

Real life doesn't come with a soundtrack, so the music adds artifice, makes it seem perfectly peaceful, and we know it wasn't, but it looks pretty normal.

So what does it all mean? What are we, as Americans from a very peaceful island, supposed to think and do, for our country, for God? So many of our youth sign up with noble intentions. But I hope that those now contemplating joining the US military take a closer look and listen.

If you've missed this Iraqi-American rapper, you aren't confused enough yet about America's role in Iraq.

And if you stray from the "official" footage of the war in Iraq, the chaos of the situation, and what our soldiers are facing, becomes much more evident. Perhaps this video captures it best:

As for me, I'm still praying for peace.

Monday, May 21, 2007

84. Adios and Dangkolo Si Yuuse Maase to Miss Snark

Another blogosphere icon of the literary world has hung up her keyboard. Miss Snark's blog is a treasure trove of great advice from a working literary agent. Her voice in present tense will be gone from the blog, and her loyal fans are wandering about, looking for another fix, dropping in at odd corners of the blogosphere, and patting their red eyes everywhere. More than 470 posts in the comments trail of her retirement post are a small testament to her popularity. The video is another.

Oh, what nitwits we will be without her constant refrain.

Write well, query widely.

A fond farewell and best wishes to the one and only MISS SNARK. And unending thanks. [sniff]

I Love Miss Snark!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

83. Managaha

Friday was a perfect day, especially at Managaha, which is as beautiful as ever.

My office had its annual "burn-out" day on Managaha.
This is the time we talk about what we've done right and what we need to do to improve our services to the community.
And we relax and have fun together as a means of avoiding "burn-out," that common ailment that gets the best of advocates and providers in the social-welfare field.

I found out that others in the legal field use Managaha for their austerity Fridays, too. Some of the clerical staff from the Attorney General's office and the CNMI Bar came to picnic.
The Public Defenders office showed up, too.

Where were you on austerity Friday? Preparing for the March Against Cancer? Enjoying beautiful Saipan? Doing what?
AN UPDATE: You can see Angelo's video from Managaha shot a month later (May 30, 2007) here . It's worth the watch.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

82. Ethics at Work in Building Blog Traffic

The Saipan Blogger (Angelo) has me thinking about the ethics of tactics used for building blog traffic. Promoting a blog is like advertising in print, audio or visual media. What tricks you use say a lot about who you are.

I am all for content, or as they say: Content is king.

People will keep coming back if they liked your content. Unfortunately, content is only king if you have someone reading it and spreading the word. So promotion is a necessity.

For the basics on promotion, there's this very simple primer at Fred Quattrone's blog here . I like this because it all seems doable and legitimate.

I disagree with Angelo's advice to check what is the number 1 search topic of the day and then blog on it. Unless you wanted to blog on that topic, anyway. To me, it seems dishonest. But he's not alone in suggesting blogging on hot button issues and popular celebrities. Dean'sBlog also offers it as advice.

ThisBlog (Seth Godin) has a list of 54 ways to increase traffic. There are some good suggestions here, despite the humor and sarcasm. Obviously, not all of them can be done simultaneously--such as # 11 (don't write about your cat, your boyfriend or your kids) and #13 (write about your kids); and the similarly contradictory advice at # 27 (include comments so your blog becomes a virtual water cooler) and # 34 (don't include comments), and that at # 9 (write short, pithy posts) and # 12 (write long, definitive posts).

I try to make my blog like the ones I like--simple formats, good content, some photos and other interesting things to look at, frequent updates. I like links to other blogs in a topic under discussion. I like puzzles and polls, but only up to a point. And comments--giving and receiving!

The idea of increasing traffic interests me. When we drive along the road, we don't usually like traffic. When you own a business with a physical location, you want traffic, but also easy access, and sometimes the two are at odds with each other. And on the Internet, you want traffic, and more traffic (until you overload your system and then have to upgrade, but it's all for the good).

So for me, I want my blog to not only have readers but to be an expression of me, who I am. And I'm not the ambulance-chaser. I'm not the slick, pat-you-on-the-back guy who smiles for the camera. I'm not one with the razzle-dazzle, power-point presentation that impresses with color and sound and doesn't give you time to think or analyze.

I'm the one who works hard, concentrates, thinks out loud sometimes. I like my work to be a finished product, but I know the importance of deadlines. I want to hear the voices around me, take a moment to smile and chat, and then get back to work.

From my perspective, tools to increase traffic, like search engine listing and exchange links, are useful. Tricks, gimmicks and posting just to be popular--these are probably not for me. Not even the Google-ping, as used and explained by EricLuper .

So even on the Internet, I'm probably on a remote island like Saipan! And I'm happy where I am.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

81. Mother's Day -- Grateful for the Little Things

Mother's Day had its beauty--sunshine, a lovely church service, my daughter's original poem. I prepared a scrumptious brunch and the world seemed totally right. I even got to take a nap. And then the downside of life started--a slow slide into unexpected pain. My left hip started twinging, and by evening, I couldn't walk without excruciating pain.

I went to the ER, where everyone wished me a Happy Mother's Day. Better yet, I got a painkiller so I could at least answer questions, and after two hours, I had a diagnosis (nothing serious), a prescription for painkillers and muscle relaxants, and a wheel chair ride back to the car for the trip home.

It's amazing how I take everything for granted but as soon as it's gone (even temporarily), I suddenly realize just how valuable it is--like walking, bending, sitting, even rolling over in bed--when you can't do those basic things they suddenly seem like the most important things in the world. They aren't, of course--to my daughter, my friends and my co-workers who all pitched in to help me through Sunday and the next two days--thanks. People are the most important. Still, I'm glad that I can now sit down and stand up (even if there's still pain, it's not the excruciating, can't do it kind of pain, just the unpleasant, discomfort, occasional-twinge kind of pain.

And I'm hoping to go back to work tomorrow. It's no fun to be home when all you can do is hope to lie down and be able to get back up again!

Friday, May 11, 2007

80. Dirty Wow Wow and other contest news

10 Speed Press is having a Dirty Wow Wow contest. Send in a photo of your own dirty wow wow and win a free tee shirt.

What's that, you say? Well, it's "dirty" in a kid sense! And it's wow wow in a kid sense!

To celebrate a new children's book by Cheryl and Jeffrey Katz that honors all the stuffed animals that have been drooled on, slept on, pressed flat and dragged through the mud, but are nonetheless BELOVED, like this one

10 Speed Press is having the daily contest. Find more details here .
Thanks to GalleyCat (May 10) for catching this one!

If that's not enough contest for you, and you're writing for children, you can still get your unpublished manuscript to Smartwriters for their W.I.N. contest.
The W.I.N.-Write It Now-contest is open to all writers. Contest areas are Young Adult (novel), Mid-Grade (novel), picture book, poetry, non-fiction and illustration. For $10 you can get a critique, too. Deadline though is looming--May 15, 2007. For details:

Thursday, May 10, 2007

79. What Are You Afraid Of? More Gearing Up for Script Frenzy.

One of the often-repeated pieces of advice for writers is to incorporate your greatest fear into your writing. Make your main character suffer and face the demons that scare you the most.

Like this bit from Simon Wood at Murderati :

Fear makes for great storytelling. It’s a fossil fuel with an
inexhaustible supply. It drives stories. It forces the reader, the
writer and the characters to face what frightens them full on. Stories
thrive on conflict and facing your fears is the greatest conflict. No one
is fearless, so everyone can relate.The best scary writing explores our
archetypal “core” fears.

So this is a great place to start plumbing for script ideas. If you need help figuring out your fears, there's a great list of possibilities here or here .

Go check them out. It's amazing just how long the list is.

While fears help create tension, drama and conflict, there are some that might be better used for humor (not that fears are a laughing matter, but, hey-they could be!)

Anablephobia-the fear of looking up (MUST keep eyes averted at all times-uh, huh!)
Anthrophobia-the fear of flowers (What a good excuse to skip sending that Mother's Day bouquet!)

and that triumverate of evil:
Leukophobia, melanophobia and porphyrophobia--fear of colors white, black and purple respectively (you can keep looking and find fear of yellow, too)

One must not get confused by the various spellings-or you might find genophobia (fear of sex) when you REALLY wanted geniophobia (fear of chins-hahahah!)

Some of the lesser known are totally familiar in content, if not verbiage-like nostophobia. That's the fear of returning home. I think that must be a specialty for teens who are out past curfew, or the student with an F on a test, or perhaps the spouse who's had a tad too much to drink or forgot some important event, or just any of us feeling a bit guilty about something...

But my TOTALLY MOST FAVORITE of all is consecotaleophobia--just try to say that. It rolls around the mouth and sounds most foreign of all. I'm sure that knowing it will come in handy, too. It's the fear of chopsticks. :-)

78. About bees and butterflies

Thanks to Writtenwyrd's blog, I learned that I had missed some recent American news: the disappearance of honey bees.

NYTreports in February 2007 that honey bees across North America have been dying off in droves, or just missing in action and not returning to the hive, affecting not only production of honey, but all things bee-related including agriculture, like the fruit and nut crops. The phenomenon has been labeled "colony collapse disorder" or CCD.

CCD has honey bee "farmers" in a dither and the worry is spreading.

According to this YahooArticle , our whole lifestyle, table of plenty, FOOD is in jeopardy by the problems facing honeybees. New Zealand reported fears about CCD spreading to their shores, and Australia had a bit of a panic upon finding a nest of Asian honeybees (known to carry a problematic mite that might be causing the CCD) in the mast of ship in Cairns harbor, Queensland. ABCNews

Then in April, a prominent scientist released his report closing in on a fungus found to have affected Asian bees and discovered in the corpses of American bees. JoeDiRisi'sDiscovery But not all scientists agree this is the sole cause of CCD.

THE BEST ARTICLE is this from Guerilla News Network. And the answers don't seem simple, but of course, at least some of the the problem's cause seems to lie with humans.

So now what I really want to know is where are all the yellow sulphur butterflies in Saipan? We used to have so many, and they flocked across Chalan Monsignieur Guerrero in droves so that I thought of getting a bumper sticker that read "I brake for butterflies." Now I've seen a few this year, but usually in groups of two or three, not the twenty or more that was common.

Can someone educate me? Are they disappearing due to habitat loss (my suspicion) or something else?

Monday, May 7, 2007

77. Gearing Up for Script Frenzy

Now is the time to think about that play or script you want to write, because in June the madness begins.

A collective of writerly fanatics are signing up for the first ever ScriptFrenzy . You, too , can get in on the ground floor and join this earth shattering event. The plan--sign up, write a movie, television or stage script during the month of June, pat yourself on the back and return in cognito to your ordinary life.

Don't know anything about writing a script? Well, neither do I. But I plan on learning, and learning by doing is the best and most fun way. Besides, Script Frenzy has a list of resource links and advice columns and, did I mention, a community of writing fanatics who will answer your questions with their wisdom (or best guesses or hilarious estimates) in the forums.

You weren't going to do anything in June, anyway, were you?

And the adventure is open to writers of all ages. For the teens and younger, there is a special program where you can hang out on line with other like-minded, not-old-fogeys, writers.

I'm doing this. Let me know if you're willing to join me in this adventure. Just post a comment here.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

76. Summer Reading List-for Children,YAs, and the Young at Heart

Start getting ready for summer. Here's a list that has something fun for everybody. Scholastic'sReadingList

I've already got some of these sitting on my TBR shelf. And others I've already read. (sigh)

If you want to go to Venice, but haven't the money, and you're an adult, you might also try this Lucifer'sShadow Wow!

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

75. Flame Tree Arts Festival

This post is for those not in Saipan, and those who are here but somehow missed this annual event in 2007. (Fools, all!)

The Flame Tree Arts Festival was held from April 26 through the 30th. This year it was staged at Kilili Beach/Civic Center. You can see some great photos at the Saipan Tribune fotogalleria (pull down menu to 26th Annual Flame Tree...) here .

My own (less fabulous) photos are below. Creative commons license applies to all photos here.
We had fabulous weather-perfect temperatures in the low to mid- 80's with cooling breezes. The flame trees were (are) in bloom, so Beach Road on the way to the festival was lined with their vivid orangesand red blossoms.

Parking was no problem --with available spaces at the beach, at the court, at the gym and in front of the Multipurpose Center. DPS had set up orange cones to create additional pedestrian crosswalks for those parking across from the beach site. There didn't seem to be traffic jams or problems in the transit department.
The festival seemed smaller this year, with fewer booths, but each one had something wonderful to offer. The food booths were aggregated in one area, and there were very few of those. The arts booth and the agriculture/vegetable booths created a lane from the stage area all the way to the old Senate. And at least one enterprising person had avoided the cost of the festival booth entrance and just set up shop in the pala-pala by the playground!

So let's enter a booth at the festival:

The fine art of the nap! This booth was lovely, with lava-lavas and flower garlands keeping the interior shaded and fragrant.

After shopping around the many booths, I found three large-ticket items I wanted to buy (besides all the small things-like crocheted hats from Ms. Soll and photos of the old Coca-Cola bottles along the road from Whispering Palms School). My three BIG favorites were the sand paintings from Rota--large scale, beautiful local subjects, original and well-executed (but at $500 each, out of my budget); the Palau story board carving technique applied to the Chamorro icon of a latte stone-rich mahogany color, intricate carving, Marianas and Palau mix-just marvelous (but at $250, I was still feeling nervous); and one painting by Rino Obar of a woman weaving pandanus, done in oil on canvas, with light coming through a door into the dark tin house, a boonie dog watching (at $120, this was my choice). [The image below is a photographed version, but the original is much darker, with the light more captivating.)

The best part of the arts festival, though, in my opinion, is the non-stop entertainment. I listened to the Falun Dafa lead us through meditations, watched the Talabwogh dancers perform the Maas, enjoyed the Korean fan dances, Te Kanahau Nui's Tahitian dances, the popular Island Cruisers-renamed Northern Star-band performing old standards & local favorites, and Glushko's excited students prance and dance in their tutus. That was just Saturday afternoon and evening! On Sunday, I listened to more talented residents singing and playing as I sat at the beach, reading a novel! Ah, live entertainment.

Here's a little glimpse through my lens.

This is the long view of the stage, with flags waving in the breeze and the (Talabwogh?) Maas dancers on stage. Notice their woven basket in front. Wild women and a few children ran up to stuff it with money and spray the dancers with perfume. I love Refaluwasch style!

The stage, with Flame Tree blossoms and bamboo.

Korean fan dancers (from a gospel ministry!)

Te Kanahau Nui dancers.

This skirt is made of fern leaves from the boonies in Marpi, with a ti leaf hipster. Notice the drawstring -packing ties. Standard coconut bra!

Hope you enjoyed the glimpse. I love festival season and am looking forward to Taste of the Marianas.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

74. Another Great Video from Angelo

This is just another reason why Saipan is wonderful.

For more photos and details of the great turtle trek to the sea, check Angelo's blog HERE .