Thursday, November 22, 2007

Work in Cambodia as a copy editor

I know there are a fair number of Cambodian ex-pats living on Guam. This job that sounds like a wonderful opportunity for someone with copy editing skills. A publication, The Cambodia Daily, is seeking several copy editors. The pay is only $10,000 a year, but it includes a place to live. It's an English language publication.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Two interesting posts about Guam

Final Thoughts on Guam at the Everthing Everwhere Travel Blog. The writer reflects on his visit to Guam.

Guam Is Doomed If We Don't Wake Up. Will the increase military build-up increase the military threat to Guam as well? That's what this writer is arguing.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Guam’s own shock and awe

The U.S. Department of Defense is getting ready to transfer 8000 marines and 9,000 family members from Okinawa to Guam. Add to that thousands of contractors, support personnel and you have the makings, of "a huge shock to our system ...." according to the testimony of Trina Leberer, marine conservation coordinator for the Micronesia Program of The Nature Conservancy.

Lebere's testimony was part of a hearing in August by the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Insular Affairs, on the "U.S. Military Buildup on Guam and Challenges Facing the Community."

The testimony, in total, outlines the impact this build-up will have the enormous cost imposed to expand utilities, improve roads, and other services.

What follows are excerpts from some of the testimony.

Facilities must be constructed for the 8,000 Marines and 9,000 family members. It is anticipated that such construction will require 12,000 to 15,000 construction workers, with 75 percent of such workers coming from outside of Guam.

The increase in Guam’s population, by an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 people or over 20 percent including military and family members, construction workers, and other public and private sector service providers, will create opportunities.

-- David Cohen, deputy assistant secretary, Dept. of Interior.

Our preference is to remain on land owned by the federal government, but at this stage we have not determined whether our requirements will fit on existing DoD lands.

-- David Brice, executive director for the Joint Guam Program Office, and the person responsible Department of Defense planning.

Guam’s population is expected to increase from 168,564 in 2005 to 180,692 in 2010, without factoring any increase to the local military population by the U.S. Department of Defense.

The Government of Guam has estimated the costs to support the military buildup at an estimated $1.1. Billion dollars.

-- Felix Camacho, Guam governor Our water and power systems are at near capacity; our roads are in need of repair; there is an immediate need to close Ordot dump and to open a new sanitary landfill, and our only civilian hospital has been struggling to meet the needs of the current population. Imagine the impact of additional military personnel and support staff and their families totaling 30,000 people on our ailing infrastructure.

-- Senator Judith T. Won Pat, minority leader, Guam Legislature

The increase of vehicle traffic throughout the island on the major roadways is definitely a concern by all motorists.

-- Melissa Savares, mayor of Dededo

... our people’s voice really do not count.

-- Hope Cristobal, University of Guam, adjunct professor who teaches the history of Guam.

The Districts are also recommending that the military buildup address the issue of alternative types of renewable energy generation such as bio energy, ocean wave energy, wind power and other sources of renewable energy as part of its buildup operations.

-- Benny P. San Nicolas, chairman of the Southern Soil & Water Conservation District

A majority (71%) of Guam residents polled support an increased military presence, 14% opposed, and 15% were either neutral (9%) or don’t know (6%).

-- Stephen Ruder, chairman, Guam Chamber of Commerce

For an island of only 212 square miles, this will be a huge shock to our system ....

-- Trina Leberer, marine conservation coordinator for the Micronesia Program of The Nature Conservancy.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Brown Tree Snakes

March 25, 2007 I realize Brown Tree Snakes are predators and a particular threat to some birds, especially the Guam Rail. I live in DC and have seen that bird at the National Zoo. Here’s what the zoo’s Web site has to say about the Guam Rail and the Brown Tree Snake:

The introduction of brown tree snakes (Boiga irregularis) in the 1950s almost spelled doom for the rails. Snakes feeding on the rails’ young and eggs caused the Guam rail population to crash to only 21 birds by 1985. Other birds on Guam have been similarly affected by the brown tree snake. Guam Micronesian Kingfisher.

I have to admit that in the years I was on Guam, almost three years in the mid-1970s and for a return visit about five years ago, that I have never seen a Brown Tree Snake. I spent much of my time living off base in the southern end of the island. The snakes are largely out of sight.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Guam housing price run-up

May 17, 2007 The Pacific Daily News reports a sharp increase in value of homes on Guam (the post is no longer available), and I’ll bet the price acceleration is just starting

. The story said in part:

The median price of Guam homes has soared to $195,450 during the first three months of this year, a whopping increase from $170,000 the previous quarter, according to statistics released yesterday by market tracker The Captain Company. Although the military build-up will get credit for much of the price increase, I would not be surprised if the major reason is investment from people who live on the mainland.
For instance, a two bedroom townhouse in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington DC area where I live could be purchased for about $250,000 to $300,000 in 2000. Today, that same home would cost more than $700,000 — such has been the run-up in prices over the last seven years.

People who want to return to Guam or purchase a second home can either tap the equity in their existing home or just cash out, buy a comparable home on Guam, and have money to spare. Guam is still a relative bargain.

While military families will drive up prices, there is a limit to what they can pay and many will rent. My guess is Guam will see a price housing price acceleration as people seek to buy first and second homes on the island.

But a run-up in housing prices can become a serious problem as well for young families who want to stay on the island. This may quickly become a serious issue.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Ah, paradise! On Guam, the living is easy

When I was in the Navy, I spent nearly 3 years on Guam, most it working at the U.S. Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center West Joint Typhoon Warning Center. When I left in the mid-1970s, I wasn't able to return again until 1998. Computerworld, my current employer, sent me out there to do a story about Guam and computing.

Guam, for all its tropical wonder, is a very difficult environment for electronics. Its wet, humid weather, coupled with the electric supply issues, typhoons and earthquakes make it a harsh environment. I'm sure things have gotten easier for information technology workers since I traveled to Guam, nearly 10 years ago now. I have to believe that Internet services have improved significantly, and companies have better backup systems then they did when I visited.

I had a great time on the island. I so loved it and someday hope to return, perhaps to live. Sometimes a place just feels right, and that's what Guam has meant to me. I realize I have spent relatively little time there, compared to so many others but sometimes a feeling can persist a lifetime and that's how it has been for me.

I couldn't find the story I did for Computerworld online but I did have a copy. It's what I wrote after my visit in 1998:

Ah, paradise! On Guam, the living is easy. Except for the typhoons. And the earthquakes. Oh, and the bird-eating snakes. Island IS workers develop self-reliance and a good backup system News Story by Patrick Thibodeau

MARCH 30, 1998 - A few days after Wolf Hofer arrived with his family in Guam in August 1993, the island suffered the largest earthquake on the planet that year. The quake measured 8.1 on the Richter scale, close to the magnitude of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Hofer wasn't shaken.

In the past four years, Hofer, manager of information technology at Deloitte & Touche's island office, has experienced less severe shakes, near brushes with major typhoons, power outages, power surges and mysterious communications breakdowns that occasionally plague his off-island network connections.

But as he sits at the outdoor bar of the rebuilt Guam Hilton, which was severely damaged in the big quake, and watches hotel workers tie down palm trees and remove deck chairs in anticipation of a typhoon that soon will pack 150-mph winds, Hofer has nothing bad to say about working on the island: "It's a user-friendly environment," he says.

It isn't, however, systems-friendly.

Guam, a U.S. territory, isn't an easy place for information systems professionals to work. Yet the obstacles that threaten hardware and networks and make disaster recovery a top concern also have helped IS workers thrive.

Guam's isolation and time zone difference -- it's a seven-hour flight from Hawaii and a 14-hour difference from the East Coast -- encourage self-reliance. And many IS workers on the island say that has given them a chance to make a real impact. It's a frontier attitude.

"If it has anything to do with automation, I'm the person who has to solve it," says Dan Sanders, IS manager at Mid Pacific Liquor Distributing Corp., which distributes beer, liquor and cigarettes to islands throughout the Pacific -- an area roughly the size of the continental U.S.

Protecting his systems from calamities, both man-made and natural, is high on Sanders' priority list. "We feel pampered nowadays because we only have one or two power outages a week," he says.

Protection from power outages, often caused by brown tree snakes that climb onto power lines and have eaten most of the island's native birds, can be accomplished with generators, line conditioners and uninterruptible power supplies. Most information systems have backups for the backups and the software to make sure they're working. Even grounding power supplies is tricky; builders have to drill through 100 feet of coral to get to solid rock.

Systems backups are mandatory. "Nobody wants to do the backup often, because you have to shut down systems, synchronize everything. But the trade-off is you have a reliable system," says Luan P. Nguyen, director of the University of Guam's computer center.

Systems protection begins with the building. With the exception of the hotel high-rises and some downtown office buildings, most structures are no more than two or three stories tall. They are also flat-roofed and made of concrete. Wood structures are hard to find. Typhoons such as Omar, which hit the island in 1992 with wind gusts of 220 mph, weed out weak structures.

Kmart Corp. took the island's tough conditions to heart when it opened a Guam store in 1995. Constructed with thick, reinforced concrete that is capable of surviving an earthquake registering 8.5 on the Richter scale and winds of more than 200 mph, the store also has its own water reservoir and sewage-pumping facility so it can reopen quickly after a storm.

"It's been built to withstand just about everything known to man," says Charlie Overmire, co-manager of the store.

Ron Schnabel, IS director of DFS Group LP's Pacific region, has turned disaster protection into a competitive advantage for his company. He keeps his stores open during a disaster.

With $5 billion in annual sales, San Francisco-based DFS Group operates the world's largest chain of duty-free shops. The company is Guam's largest private employer, with shops in all the major hotels.

Sales to the more than 1 million Japanese tourists who visit the island annually can be brisk during typhoons. "We don't miss a beat, basically," Schnabel says.

Kyle Davie found more than natural disasters on Guam: He discovered opportunity that was missing in many mainland companies. The Texas native arrived in Guam a year ago as IS manager at airline Continental Micronesia.

Instead of being confined to a niche role, Davie took responsibility at Continental for everything from installing voice mail to upgrading a legacy environment. "If a person has initiative and the desire, you can really make a difference a lot quicker here than you can in the U.S.," he says.

Davie says the biggest problem he deals with, one often cited by other IS managers, is finding qualified help. Working on Guam's mere 212 square miles can be a difficult adjustment, and it's common for mainland workers to get "rock fever" and a ticket back home.

The IS labor shortage is compounded by the decision by many Guam natives to leave for college and IS careers and never return to the island.

Vince Munoz's career path exemplified that pattern at first, but he came back after working for several years on the West Coast.

Munoz is now automating Guam's paper-based criminal justice system. A year was spent entering data from 15,000 records into a Windows NT-based system that included document imaging and photographs of suspects. The imaging gave police officers immediate access to restraining orders.

Munoz says he misses the access to people and technologies he had on the West Coast, but the problems he's had working in a remote location have improved his skills in other ways. "I've learned not to be intimidated and increased my ability to discover things on my own," he says.

The Internet has helped Munoz and others working on the island stay in touch.

In Guam, people speak of the Internet in almost reverential terms. It has made a huge difference in everything from helping people feel connected to the larger world to improving their ability to get technical help.

But the Internet can't solve all problems. Ordering supplies from new and even old vendors can be difficult; salespeople often treat Guam as a foreign country and cite shipping restrictions.

That's frustrating to people such as Robert Leonard, a network designer at New World Information Systems.

"Make it easy for us to give you our money -- that's how we run our business," he says. The business of Guam is shifting to tourism from defense-related jobs, and the role of private-sector IS professionals seems to be expanding.

Guam, with its never-ending summer, clear ocean waters and lush vegetation, has become the permanent home for people such as Hofer, who worked for 10 years in the Arctic Circle before coming here.

The 150-mph typhoon that was spinning toward Guam when Hofer told his story from the Hilton's outdoor bar missed the island. So did the 220-mph storm that whipped by less than a week later. But in December, Typhoon Paka hit Guam with what may have been the strongest winds ever recorded -- up to 236 mph before the monitoring equipment blew away. It uprooted trees, demolished businesses and snapped cement power poles built to withstand 220-mph winds.

At Hofer's office, the emergency generators kicked in. As soon as the storm ended, "it was back to work as normal," he says. "Except, of course, for the dress. Without power and water, people rapidly ran out of clothes and came to work in shorts and T-shirts."

Hofer, like many on the island, says he can handle whatever catastrophe nature delivers. The trade-offs are worth it. "I like living on Guam," Hofer says.


"I really like living on Guam."


Weather watching

Two-thirds of the world's cyclones -- storms with winds of 25 knots or more that frequently develop into typhoons -- occur in the western Pacific. And they frequently form just east of Guam. Eighty-eight cyclones were recorded in 1996 alone.

The U.S. Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center West Joint Typhoon Warning Center on Guam keeps naval ships out of harm's way and warns everyone else about a typhoon's storm track.

Improved computer forecasting models and access to the Internet have increased the accuracy of storm tracking, which potentially saves the military and area government and businesses millions in unnecessary storm-preparation costs.

A few years ago, the average error in a 72-hour forecast for a storm track was about 325 miles. It's now down to about 250 miles. "This Internet technology has played a role in that," says Air Force Lt. Col. Mark J. Andrews, director of the warning center.

The U.S. Navy weather forecasting system uses wireless connections to transmit weather data via World Wide Web protocols to ships at sea. Maps, storm tracks and weather data can be viewed through Web browsers by ship crews, and weather officers at sea can surf the 'net to compare forecasts made by other agencies and governments. That can sometimes lead to quick electronic mail from an inquiring weather officer or captain.


Saturday, March 31, 2007

The new U.S. Postal Service Guam stamp is poetic for its use of lighting, especially the palms in silhouette, and its human scale, sense of movement and vitality added by the jogger. Here's what the post office had to say about it:
Hagåtña Bay (international price) 90 cents – on sale June 1The Postal Service will issue this stamp in the Scenic American Landscapes series to honor the Territory of Guam. Located approximately 1,600 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean, Guam is the largest and southernmost of the Mariana Islands. Approximately 212 square miles in size — roughly three times the area of Washington, D.C. — Guam is home to a population of approximately 158,000 people, including native Guamanians, known as Chamorro, as well as others of European and Asian descent. Today the island is a popular destination for tourists, with some 1.5 million people visiting the island annually to enjoy its natural beauty. The stamp features a photograph by Michael S. Yamashita of a sunset of Hagåtña Bay in Hagatna, the capital of Guam.
Others who had posts about the stamp before me include Life on an Island Paradise and Latitude 13. Pacific Daily News: Guam stamp debuts June 1 This isn't the first Guam stamp. I don't know what the history of Guam stamps are, but here are are some images of 1 cent and 2 cent Guam stamps postmarked 1930 and 1931