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Blue Water

November 11, 2011

“Wow!  It’s kind of shallow here!”

I’d recevied an email yesterday afternoon from Mike asking me if I wanted to go fishing tomorrow morning.  It’s Veteran’s day (Guam is a day early), and my client had a holiday.  I had an unplanned free day, so yes.  We went out.

We left from the Agana boat basin before dawn.  With only two public boat launches on the entire island, earlier is better.  On the way there, I witnessed a spectacular moonset – every bit at pretty as a sunset, albeit surreal.  Unfortunately my equipment was not up to the task of capturing the sublime event and I had a boat to catch.

Today’s trip was different.  Instead of heading south, we were to fish in the lee of the island as the combination of wind and waves were to be pretty choppy as the day wore on.

“So how deep is it?”  I needed to know.

“Well…about 300 feet.”  I guess when you’re used to fishing in 5,000 feet of water, 300 is shallow.

Mike sets every line as if it were to land a 500 lb marlin.  After spending a few days out on the open ocean, it makes sense.

These big Penn reels are tremendous instruments; if ever I were to follow in Hemingway’s footsteps and spend time on the sea, they’d be the first things I’d buy – after a boat, of course.

The weather perfect, vistas magnificent.

Mike took us up into the water north of Guam.  Rota could be seen in the distance – but not in this shot.

This end of the island is the exclusive domain of the US Air Force.  The beaches are truly the finest on the island – perhaps because no one uses them.

The first half of our fishing sojourn was a goose egg.  Nothing – not even a hit.

There’s an ocean current which passes close to the northern tip of Guam which churns up the sea much the same way the Gulf stream does.  There were times we looked at walls of water half again as tall as the boat.  No – no photos, as one needs every extremity to stabilize one’s position.

On the way back, fortune smiled on us.  We were able to land a pair of wahoo and a pair of mahi-mahi.  They’re both great eating fish, and the last mahi was closer to four feet in length than three.

I haven’t been feeling all that well lately, so I asked to call it a day at lunchtime.  Mike complied with some reluctance – I could tell he was going to head back out for more upon dropping me off.

I’m happy, though, as I was able to capture something I wanted to share:

Blue water.  The colors of the photo are not retouched (it has been rotated a bit to compensate for the boat’s tendency to roll), the water is actually this blue – and clear as spring water.  To land a mahi-mahi in this is to fight with a neon blue metallic beast – colors more brilliant than a mainlander could ever imagine.  No – no fish photos.  To photograph a mahi-mahi after its separation from blue water is to attempt to explain Technicolor or Kodachrome armed with a palette of black and white.

I now understand the pull of blue water.  I suspect it will hold sway over me for some time to come.


Beating Planned Obsolescence

November 10, 2011

Being a man of my word, we are about to embark upon our grand experiment in beating planned obsolescence.  Behold:

A restored 1965 Volkwagen Beetle.   This is an original black plate California car.  Why is that important?

Well, “black plate” refers to vehicles licensed in the state of California prior to 1971.  CA plates stay with the car its entire life; it’s a way to validate the car never saw snow or salted roads.  Makes the body solid, even after 46 years.

This one is the product of a 6 month amateur restoration, with a rebuilt motor, new master cylinder and wheel cylinders, new window rubber, fresh paint and,

A new interior.  While not fond of the black carpeting, it will do for a while.

What’s important to me? Floor pans have been replaced, and the car is nearly plastic free.

A gas gauge and a speedo – what more does one need?

The color is not a stock color, but it’s very period – and – very Pheebish.

As a matter of fact, mint green and white is about as Pheebish as it gets.

I like that it’s been painted in good old fashioned single stage enamel.  No nasty clearcoat to dry up and flake off in Florida sun, and pretty easy to color match when some drunk-assed idiot tourist whaps it at 2:00 AM.  Don’t laugh – it’s happened to us twice.  With a couple hundred bucks and a paint code, I can repair it in a week.

And it’s straight and shiny!  The Pheebs loves shiny!

It will get some tweaking (as do all my things-with-motors) but the tweaking will be minor.  Biggest short-term change will be a nice set of wide whitewalls, as this car will be the bee’s knees with a set of wide whites.

What did we pay for this little cutie?  Well – about the same amount as an eight year old Ford Focus with 100,000 miles on the odometer. The next big trick will be getting it home from Los Angeles, but we’ve done this a few times.  Hopefully we’ll have it in time for Christmas, as it’s the Pheebs’ big present…for the next five years, minimum.

Wish us luck!

Planned Obsolescence

November 9, 2011

I have an allergy.

I’m allergic to depreciation.  We own but one car, a 1996 Geo Tracker.  We bought said car as a ‘learner’ car for the girls; when we quit the mainland and moved to Key West, we sold everything save two cars – a magnificent 1995 Buick Roadmaster Estate Wagon, and the crusty-yet trusty Geo.

I have a couple of secrets I’d like to share with you, and the aforementioned car serves to illustrate them:

Secret #1 – The purchase of a new car is quite possibly the most asinine thing one may do with one’s money, save for perhaps gambling and snorting cocaine.  The estimated rate of depreciation on an average new car is over $500 a month – that’s money which goes away and never comes back. $17 a day spend just to have a car sitting in the drive – you’ve not insured it, no gas in the tank.  Tack on another $250 a month for insurance and fuel – now you’re at $750 a month.

The arguments for a new car are equally as idiotic.  “I want peace of mind – that it won’t leave me stranded, and that it has a warranty.” Horsepucky. Modern cars a stupidly bulletproof, and damned near every idiot I see driving down the road has a cell phone plastered on their ear – if one does get hit by the lighting bolt of mechanical failure, relief is but a phone call and a short wait away.  If todays driver’s had to endure the trials and travails if their motorist ancestors, hell…they’d never leave the driveway.

No – it’s possible to drive an older car some time and distance without issue.  Exhibit “A”:

A 1972 Opel 1900.  Paid $900 for it off a back lot in Southern California.  Used it as a daily driver for several years, then sold it in 2006 for $2500.  Did it break from time to time?  Yes.  Was it worth it?  Well, considering it was sold for more than the initial puchase price, maintenance and repairs…Yes again.  I drove a car for the cost of insurance and gas for 40,000 miles.  Closest comparison is my wife’s last car, which we leased for about the same amount of time.  Total cost of lease?  $9,000.  That’s easy math – driving Maggie the Opel was $9,000 cheaper.

Exhibit “B”:

Shortly after Alicia was born, I bought the Pheebs a 1956 Chrysler.  The one in the photo is a ’55 – a later acquisition.  I paid $700 for the car; I had to spend several months whipping it into shape, including a paint job.  It became the Pheebs’ daily driver for the next four years, and it  never left her stranded – ever.  I sold it for more than we had in it – yet another free car.

So – buying an older car is the hot ticket, right?  Well..not so much these days, which brings us to the next point.

Secret #2 – Modern (as in post 1970 cars) are designed to die.  Yes, that’s right – they are designed to fail after a given period of time.  It’s in their DNA.

Want proof?  Easy.  Go to Ebay, and type in Ford Galaxie.  See how many are available for sale.  At the time of this posting, 59 were listed on Ebay.  They stopped making them in 1970, I believe.

Now type in Ford Granada, followed by Ford Fairmont.  Add those numbers together.  The total at time of writing?  Three.

Ford Escorts?  Absolutely none of the first generation Escorts, built from 1981-1990.


How is this possible?  Well, as near as I can tell, around 1970 the automakers really started to use large amounts of plastic everywhere in the vehicle.  This plastic begins to break down 15-20 years out, causing all sorts of issues. Where plastic in the car is a significant problem is in electrical componentry; its degradation causes failure.  The gorgeous Estate Wagon at the top of the post was pristine, yet the plastic bits started failing all at once – load leveling system, harmonic balancer rubber, memory seat electronics, and then the last straw – an optically triggered electronic ignition system which cost $1500 to replace. Near the end, I was epoxying trim tabs and resetting trim moldings every other month.

To add insult to injury, the manufacturer stopped carrying repair parts after about ten years.  A $30,000 car new, it was impossible to maintain after the supply of parts ran out 15 years later.  It was, in effect, a disposable car – as are all modern cars.

The Geo’s DNA is in process of breaking down.  Plastic bits are as fragile as eggshells, and the stock of repair parts are dwindling.  Time for it to go.

The replacement?

Well, I learned something from my Dad.  He bought a car in 1973 – a car which he still has today…A 1929 Model A.  There’s virtually no plastic in a Model A (save for a Bakelite steering wheel and shift knob) and the aftermarket industry is strong enough that if one has a rebuildable engine block, one may build a complete car out of spare parts!  And no – after 38 years of ownership, the car has never stranded him, even when he took it to the top of Pike’s Peak.

So – how does one beat the depreciation and planned obsolescence bugs?

With a bug!  Early VW’s (pre 1967) had very little plastic, and since millions were made, it’s possible to build a bug with spare parts.  Full pan off resotrations are available for about $10,000, or the cost of a well-used car.

So – we look forward to whipping planned obsolescence into submission shortly by avoiding bad DNA and buying a car which, maintained properly, should last as long as Pop’s Model A.


I got nothin’.

November 8, 2011

It happens now and again; sorry.  Between not feeling well, being Pheeb-less and such I’ve not much to talk about.  Some days it’s best to be quiet and contemplative.

I’ll be sharper on the morrow, I promise.

Quiet Place

November 7, 2011

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name 
It felt good to be out of the rain 
In the desert you can’t remember your name 
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain 

Horse with No Name”, America, 1971

The song has spoken to me thoughout the years – finding solutiude to work out life’s issues.  There is a place as this on Guam.

A national wildlife refuge with miles and miles of crashing surf and empty beach, a place where the world may be left behind.

I’d taken off to this place with half intents – I’d half wanted to see latte stones at their original site, and half wanted to do a long walk free of distractions.  I started off on the latte adventure first.

For a guy who loved the green canopies of the north woods, the jungle is absolutely breathtaking.  Ground soft underfoot, one could move soundlessly through vegetation while breathing in the fecundity of nature.

About a half mile in, signs of boar rooting were found.

A short distance from this spot the entire trail became a rooting area, fresh soil overturned that morning.  At this point, the idea of encountering a 400# boar on his stomping grounds seemed like a Very Bad Idea, so latte were left in favor of the relative safety of an open shoreline.

 There’s something special about a place as beautiful and as desolate as this.

The Pheebs and I have been to Ritidian several times, but we never made it past a rock outcrop at the southern end of the refuge.  My immediate goal was to do just that.

Water, wind a sea do stange things to rock, reminding us that even the most durable stuff on the planet is transient.

After a while, my mind went quiet.  I was aware of the surf, the crunch of fresh ground coral underfoot and the occasional whistle of a sea bird.

Quiet times serve to refine and define where we are in life.  A wise man advised one is to follow the run of one’s own river; to deviate from its path is to toil needlessly for a questionable goal.  I believe there are times one must pull the paddle in and drift – if only to see where ones’ river takes them.  The day before, the Pheebs asked me to bring home a seashell.  I’d thought about how many seashells I’d seen (not many) and that a trip to Chamorro Village was needed to get her one.  The weekly crap-on-a-stick ritual of the Village is not may favorite thing to do so I told her no.  The memory of the discussion floated up while walking along the beach.  If a perfect shell appeared directly in my path I’d accept it as a sign – a sign it was time to pull the paddle in and drift a while.

Within a minute of thought’s completion, the answer appeared.

I believe it’s a type of Conch shell, and at nearly 6″ end to end, it’s the largest intact specimen I’ve seen on any beach on Guam.  I saw no other complete shells in five miles of beach.

After nine days I let the horse run free 
‘Cause the desert had turned to sea 
There were plants and birds and rocks and things 
there was sand and hills and rings 
The ocean is a desert with its life underground 
And a perfect disguise above 

I have a shell – and an answer.

Such is the nature of solitude.

End to End to End

November 6, 2011

I had nothing to do and all day to do it, so I decided to hike Tumon Bay from end to end.

Passing through the beach gate shortly before 11:00 AM, my first destination was to be the chapel at the southwestern end of the bay.

You can barely make it out in the photo – it’s the tiny building at the end of the point.  Distance?  About two miles, by my reckoning.

45 minutes later, I’d stumped to the foot of the chapel.

My goal was to take some scenic shots off the patio but there was a wedding underway, thwarting my best efforts.

Fortunately, there were great views to be had on the way back.

Try as I might, I’ve not been able to properly capture the brilliance of Tumon Bay when the sun is high in the sky.

Maybe it’s time for a better camera.

We’ve had rain every day for months now, coming up on nine feet of the wet stuff.  Makes everything quite soggy, and hiking overland can be messy.

Hiking sans footwear has its distinct advantages.

This place is a damned wedding factory.  During my hike, I witnessed no less than five weddings.

They are happy occasions, these, virtually guaranteeing return visits with the fruits of the union in tow.

About an hour and a half later, I’d made it past the Nikko and onto Gun Beach.

You can just make out the chapel on the far left.  The tan building in the center of the shot is Guam Memorial Hospital, and the breaker below it is a good 30′ high.  Big surf today.

On the way back, I captured Boy with Pig.

I guess it pays to have a camera handy.

I’d hoped for some good surf shots,

But my favorite shot of the day turned out to be these guys.

Kids playing in a tidal pool.  Nothing to do and all day to do it.

I am NOT the 53%.

November 5, 2011

Early this year, I was having trouble with acid reflux.  Went to see my doctor, who had me step on a scale.

235 lbs.

I’d seen my weight steadily increase over the years; a gradual thing, this.  I’d not considered myself overweight, merely a little on the chubby side.  A combination of genes did a pretty good job of evenly distributing mass over my entire frame, so much so that most folks guess my weight a good 20# low.  I’d not worried much about it, save for pants being a little on the tight side.

About ten years earlier, I’d reached the questionable goal of 250 lbs.  I’d been asked to do an energy audit at an aluminum foundry.  They had a rule about no jewelry of any kind on the foundry floor.  It tool me fifteen minutes and a generous amount of hand soap to dislodge my wedding ring, as I’d gotten married at 175 lbs.

I went on a diet.  The Atkins diet, specifically.

It worked – worked like a charm, actually.  Was able to shed 55 pounds in about seven months, a little less than 2 pounds a week.  I’d made it down to a size 32 waist and a trim 195 lbs.

Life was pretty good.  Did great on a heart stress test, blood pressure good, no acid reflux.

Truth be told, however, I went on Atkins because, well…I like eating.  I like eating rich, foods, comfort foods – hell, I’m on a see food diet.  That – and I was taught to clean my plate.  Go to a retaurant these days, and they pile it on – a days worth of food in a single meal.  Atkins allowed me to ‘cheat’; I ate well and stil lost weight.

Then…the Pheebs started having serious heart issues.  I’d become convinced she had the most advanced version of her disorder; a version whereby people rarely live past the age of 50; she was 43.   I stopped watching what I ate , or perhaps more correctly, I watched just about everything go in – and the weight went up.

We fixed her heart issues (mostly) late last year;  I’d awoke to my body mass upon stepping on the scale this past January.

Still refusing to modify eating habits, I took to walking.  A lot.  Several miles every morning, over 20 miles a week.  Dropped ten pounds, maybey fiteen by the time of our anniversary.

It helped a bit, as here I am pulling up my pants in downtown Tokyo.  Problem was I still had a borderline dickie-do; that is to say one’s belly sticks out more than one’s dickie do.

With the Pheebs back on the mainland, I decided to approach weight loss like I would when I performance-tune a car or a building: incrementally and by trial and error.  With sixteen weeks to work with and end goal of  195 lbs by November 15th, I started in earnest.  Here’s what I found:

1) ANYTHING with sugar listed as an ingredient = Not Good.  I’ve all but eliminated refined sugar from what I eat.  Takes about three weeks for the desire to eat it to go away, but trust me – it does.

2) Bread, pasta, potatoes and rice shut down my fat burning ability immediately.  I suspect it’s a function of my Eastern European genes; my ancestors would damn near starve during harsh winters, so the ability to pack on the pounds by converting starch to fat was a prized ability in 1811.  It’s not 1811 anymore, so these things have to be stricken from my intake with the exception of an occasional piece of toast or a tortilla once or twice a week.

3) Fruits are good, but in a strainge quirk of geography, most fruit comes to Guam from the mainland – and it mostly sucks.  Apples and Korean pears are about the only thing I get to eat in the fruit world, and occasionally at that.

4) Salads are good.  I make myself spinach salad twice a week, and eat a fresh green salad at a local restaurant once a week.  Occasionally, I’ll have a half Thai Crunch salad at California Pizza Kitchen – but only once or twice a month.

5) ANYTHING sold in a box is off-limits.  I sincerely believe the greatest ill of our modern diet is processed food.  Read, really READ a cereal box ingredient list and you’ll see what I mean.  The front?  Whole Grain Guaranteed! Great Tasting & Heart Healthy!  The side of the box?  20 discrete ingredients, including four types of sugar.

6) Same thing goes for the snack food aisle.  Carbohydrates – and if it’s not an empty carb, it’s slathered in enough salt to save the Bonneville Salt Flats.

I’ve hit upon a mix of non-processed foods – meats, cheeses (l still loves me cheese), peanut butter and eggs supplemented with salads and fruits.

Speaking of fruits – the fruit of my labor?

After 13 weeks, I’m down to 197 pounds; an average wieght loss of 2.15 pounds per week.  I’ve been checked my progress on a Body Mass Index Calculator, and was shocked to discover that….

I’m still overweight.  I have another 13 pounds to go to be in the normal range.

The interesting part?  At 197 pounds, I’m lighter than the average guy of my height and weight.  I weigh less than 53% of them.

I’ve a long way to go before I’m skinny, but at least I’ve lost my dickie-do.