Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Amimintik - Mantis Shrimp

Greg Laden's Blog has a fascinating film about the truly amazing speed that these 'shrimps' move, which is quite unbelievable - they would have put Mohammed Ali in the shade.
It's a fascinating film. We have 'amimintiks' here in the Philippines - they're the spearing species shown in the film. They are extremely fast, and their grabbing arms are lined with needle-sharp spines - very sharp - you can't even handle one without getting pricked.
When you're snorkelling, you can hear them underwater - sharp reports from time to time - not all their efforts result in anything very much.

I featured them in a tale about Sunday afternoon reef foraging (right at the end):
and I can confirm that they are very tasty indeed - like lobsters but at 1/10the price. Here, they catch the spearers with sprung nooses set just above their sand holes. A bit of springy bamboo, a bit of string, and some fishy bait is all that is needed.


At some time in each month, some of them come loaded with 'coral' - eggs, that are the most tasty part. But, unlike lobsters, crabs, etc, that grow their eggs under their bellies, amimintiks grow theirs under the shell of their backs, so they have to moult to give birth.
There's a small local estuary here that no-one will dare cross, because although it is shallow enough, it is full of amimintiks, and they've been known to kill carabaos - the local domesticated water buffalo.

In the two photos above, you can see the creature in full size (about 10" long), and the truly awful structure of its grabbing claws.

But they are very tasty

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Why Can't the Israelis Behave Like Boers?

Remember this? It was the day in 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison in South Africa.

The US had withdrawn its support for the apartheid Afrikaaner government in South Africa, and Mandela, as part of the consequences, was released.

Within three years, elections were held, with full participation by the now properly-enfranchised black majority of the country, who won, hands down.

The Afrikaaner sate was gone, finished, dead. But the Afrikaaners themselves, many of whom had been settlers since the 18th century, and who had themselves fought (and lost) a war for independence, were not massacred, or 'pushed into the sea'.

Sure, their rights are now no better than anyone else's in South Africa, but they're still there, but not lording it over everyone else.

Why can't Israelis accept the same?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Good News From Gaza

I've been too depressed by the whole situation between Israel and the Palestinians to wite anything at all recently.
Incompetent US Presidents, Secretaries of State, ex British Prime Ministers, etc, flock to Israel to kowtow and pay obeisance to, and fulfil every wish of an incompetent Israeli Prime Minister (just about to be sacked, finally, for his incompetence) and a so-called Palestinian President who has no control over a large section of his subjugated population.

Meanwhile, the 1.5 million inhabitans of Gaza were being put under total siege, while the rest of the world ignored them.

Now, thank God, they've taken matters into their own hands:

Tens of thousands of Palestinians have surged into Egypt from the Gaza Strip after masked militants destroyed parts of the border wall. Gazans rushed to buy food, fuel and other supplies that have become scarce because of an Israeli blockade - aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Gaza.
Egyptian police took no action to stop people crossing.
Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak says he allowed Gazans in to buy food, but Israel urged Egypt to restore security.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniya called for urgent talks with Egypt and his Palestinian rival, President Mahmoud Abbas, on border crossings.
"We do not want to control everything, we are part of the Palestinian people," Mr Haniya said, apparently in response to an offer from Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayad to control Gaza's borders - so far rejected by Israel.
Hamas has controlled Gaza since last June.

A total of 350,000 Gazans crossed the Egyptian border, Israel's Haaretz newspaper reported.
Hamas has not taken responsibility for breaching the border but quickly moved in to police it, the paper said, confiscating seven pistols from a man returning to Gaza.
We want to buy rice and sugar, milk and wheat and some cheese
Haaretz quoted one Gazan, Mohammed Abu Ghazel, as saying he had crossed the border three times with cigarettes which he had sold for five times the price he bought them.
"This can feed my family for a month," he said.
Correspondents say the breaching of the border is a security concern for Israel, as Egypt is a main source of weapons for the militant groups in Gaza.
But the BBC's Tim Franks in Rafah on the Gaza-Egypt border says it will be difficult for the Egyptians to reseal the border on their own, and Hamas has very little incentive to co-operate.
EGYPT-GAZA BORDER 12km (7.4 miles) long. Egyptian side patrolled by 750 soldiers under 2005 agreement with Israel. Border crossing terminal south of town of Rafah. PA control of terminal under EU supervision collapsed after Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007 Border closed almost continuously since
Palestinians have broken through the border before, in 2005, and it was quickly resealed with barbed wire, but reports say that on this occasion two-thirds of the border wall was destroyed.
Overnight, gunmen set off a number of explosions along the wall near the Rafah crossing.
People then packed into cars and donkey carts, or crossed the border on foot, to buy essential goods.
Among them was Ibrahim Abu Taha, a father of seven, who told the Associated Press news agency: "We want to buy rice and sugar, milk and wheat and some cheese."
One Gaza woman told the BBC as she crossed the border: "We're going over there to our family. They're all there. I haven't seen [them] for 10 years."

President Mubarak said he had allowed the Palestinians to come in.

He said he had told Egyptian troops to "let them come to eat and buy food and go back, as long as they are not carrying weapons".

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said his government was concerned about the chaos.

But in a BBC interview, he added: "It's the responsibility of Egypt to ensure that the border operates properly according to the signed agreements."

US State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Washington was concerned about the situation, as was Egypt.

In recent months the border has been mostly sealed, in an understanding between Israel and Egypt.

The territory has been short of fuel and other essential goods since last week, when Israel imposed the blockade.

It was eased slightly on Tuesday to allow some fuel and medicines through.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Why Can't General Luna Make Real Money From Surfing?

Well, GL can, and it does, but not terribly well.

Newquay is a cold, nasty place, but has the only good surfing waves in England.

Read on:
Building bonanza for Cornwall's capital of surf
· Improved transport links make Newquay a hotspot · Well-to-do young invest in apartments and lifestyle

Steven Morris - The Guardian - Saturday January 5 2008
There are two sounds associated with the Cornish resort of Newquay at the moment - the crashing of surf and the clang and clatter of heavy machinery.
While developers in other parts of the UK are gloomily wondering what 2008 holds, their counterparts in the country's surf capital are enjoying boom times. The ever-increasing popularity of surfing, coupled with much-improved transport links to north Cornwall, have created a race to build new and ever more swish apartments.
Chintzy hotels are being turned into trendy apart-hotels - flats with hotel services - while tired guest houses are being converted into studio flats, or surf-pods, as the developers call them.
Two penthouse apartments have just sold for more than £1m, amid rumours that David Beckham was thinking of investing.

All this in a town which until recently had a reputation of a tatty, kiss-me-quick sort of place and is still a favourite haunt of drink-sodden stag parties.
Such is the speed of developments that no one seems sure just how many new homes are being built. But the best guess seems to be that some 1,400 properties are either under construction or going through the planning process.
Stuart Brereton, land director for the south-west with the Acorn Property Group, said young, well-to-do people were keen to invest not just in mortar and bricks but in the surf lifestyle, which generates £42m a year for Cornwall's economy.
[£42m a year - about 3.5 billion pesos - might be a bit much for Siargao to handle, but about a tenth of that might make the island a very rich place indeed - the politicians and foreign investors would take most of it, but some would filter down to the people, and they are the ones who matter]
"It's all about the sea, the surf, the buzz of surfing. A few years ago Newquay seemed a long way from London. Now there are good links to the airport and the roads are much better too."
Acorn has a cluster of developments close to Fistral beach, one of Europe's best for surfing. From its glass and aluminium sales zone overlooking the beach, it has already sold half of the 52 apartments in its Zinc complex, though they will not be ready for more than a year. Ten of the 14 properties in its Pearl development are sold, including £2m-plus penthouses.
The boom is giving established hotels a helping hand. Will Hatfield, owner of the Carnmarth, said that three years ago his customers were almost all pensioners who arrived on a coach. Now he sells his rooms mainly to professionals aged 25-45 at double the rate. "The modern-day surfer isn't a hippy in a VW van," he said. "He's a doctor, a surgeon, a solicitor, a banker. He's flying down into the airport at the weekend or flying down the A30 in his BMW."
The boom is great news for builders. "It's never been like this," said Peter Anstey, who is working on the Ocean Gate development. "There's loads of work for us." But Anstey, who was born and bred in Cornwall, also sees a downside. "Newquay is getting a makeover but the problem is very few Newquay people can afford it."

...very few Newquay people can afford it.".

That's true of GL too, if local people get cut out of the profitable developments by foreigners who set up their own exclusive enclaves.

(see: Patricks On The Beach for a perfect example of a greedy foreigner who even puts up barbed wire fences to keep the people of Siargao out of his 'exclusive' resort. Follow his link to see what his real scam is).

Of course, General Luna people cannot even think about buying some of the new buildings put up by foreigners. But neither can the people of Newquay. They are both restricted to their own old ways of life, but they'll manage.
If a foreigner pours a million pesos into his new luxury house, a Siargeño can build something just as good (and probably better for his lifestyle) for just P100,000. Or, not quite as good, but still very adequate, for P10,000.

Access to Newquay has turned the place around - all it had, until recently, was fishing and a few waves. Now it has good road access from London and other parts of the UK, so you no longer have to spend two days getting there.

Fishing and a few waves is all that General Luna has.

But access to Siargao and GL is extremely difficult

Minimum time from Cebu, the nearest international airport is 24 hours, including one overnight boat trip, a six-hour wait in Surigao City, and a 3-4 hour trip to Siargao. If you mis-time it, it can take a day longer. Don't forget, also, that the visitor may have already been travelling, by air, for 6-18 hours.
If the Island's politicians had any brains at all the very first thing they could do to help tourism along would be to organise the boat schedules.
Why do all the boats leave at about the same time?
(6am from Siargao, 12 noon from Surigao City to Siargao? No alternatives).
Does whoever gives them the license to run have no control at all over their schedules?
(Or is it, as most island residents think, a conspiracy to concentrate all the work of coastguards, customs, pilots, etc into as short a time as possible so they can rest for the remaining day?)

The boat services treat people like cattle. Why are they allowed to do so?

Then, when visitors arrive in General Luna, they face a horrendous road trip to Cloud 9. It's only about 4km but it can take a good hour of bumpy road travel. In the wet season, the road is almost impassable due to flooding.

This is the most important road for General Luna's prosperity, but it has been entirely neglected.

Our bright new mayor could have saved half the money he spent on fireworks to celebrate his inauguration and for 'his people' at Christmas (that was a total waste of money, because he destroyed the Boulevard where 'his people' could have sat and enjoyed the show).

Perhaps P20000 ($500) could have been spent just on dumping loads of coral rock and sand to fill the potholes between General Luna and Cloud 9

I've driven over most of the island's roads, and although some of them can be said to be bad, this stretch is definitely the worst.

The ever-increasing popularity of surfing, coupled with much-improved transport links have brought prosperity to Newquay, that cold, chilly place in England

but, here in GL, a tropical island paradise, our politicians don't seem to have given any real thought about how their town could make some real money from surfing, and no thought whatever about what they could do to help.

I like fireworks, very much, but I'd prefer to do without them and have a decent road.