Friday, December 25, 2009

For naughty, press 1...

Click HERE for today's column. Santa is shutting down his North Pole operation and outsourcing his customer service to a call center in Bangalore, and Santa himself is moving to Guam.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Don't ask me

Click HERE for today's column, where I note that nobody has ever had to stand still for a lecture from me on what to do for a living... since I've never given such a lecture. I also mention a couple of interesting writers: Robert Ringer and Baltasar Gracian.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Air wars

Click HERE for today's column. Saipan and Boeing aircraft have at least 65 years of history together, so here's a look at Boeing's 787 airplane and its rivalry with Airbus.

Some links: Here's a link to a good Wikipedia article on the Boeing and Airbus rivalry. Here's a recent Xinhua newspaper article on United Airlines' latest purchase, in which you'll note that United is hedging its bets and splitting its order between the 787 and the A350.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday stress?

Click HERE for today's column...and count your blessings this Christmas season, since those who have all the blessings don't know how to count.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Be a high-tech Santa in 2009

Click HERE for today's column, which has some "travel tech" suggestions for the traveler on your Saipan Christmas gift list.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why I'm so sweet

Click HERE for today's column, which tallies the sugar payload for an impulsive snack. I'm no health guru--I'll eat anything, but when I see numbers like 20 teaspoons of sugar, well, that gets even my attention...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Travel season is on the way

Click HERE for today's column, which offers a few thoughts on the coming travel season.

And here's a link to last year's article about the Cabela's Attache, which holds a lot of stuff. I note that the price has gone up ten bucks but I think it's still a good buy.

Happy trails...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Wacky money and big debts

Click HERE for today's column, where we put China and South Korea on the fiscal winner list while Japan and the U.S. borrow themselves into oblivion.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Check engine

Click HERE for today's column, in which we unravel (sort of) the mysteries of the cryptic "Check Engine" light.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Four-handle mugs

Click HERE for today's column. Windows 7 is on the way, which is something to be aware of if you're shopping for a computer.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A piece of Pacific history: The B-25

Click HERE for today's column. We take a look at the B-25 Mitchell, a bomber that has quite a history in the Pacific.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Thirty Years War

Click HERE for today's column, in which I note that the acrimony between Iran and Uncle Sam isn't just a recent thing, but has been simmering for 30 years now. This article looks back to the hostage crisis of 1979-1981.

I scribed a more contemporary look at things on April 13, 2007, which is available here.

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Narcissism Epidemic

Click HERE for today's column, which might shed some light on behavior that's visible in Saipan, and which confuses many business managers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Making a pitch

Click HERE for today's column, which looks at success, and failure, in making advertising pitches.

Here's the BBC News item on the VisitDenmark ad my column mentions

And here's the other ad featuring the epic tantrum, and a sales pitch.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 3, 2009

These three things

Click HERE for today's column, which distills decades of international economics and travel into three simple factors that anyone can assess. The object of meaningful analysis is to make things as simple as possible; that's why I created this list.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Sun! Sand! Co-payments!

Click HERE for today's column, which provides yet more evidence for my pet theory: If you have let the good times roll, you will spend the last half of your life hoping the first half doesn't catch up with you.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Viewing a global powerhouse from Saipan

Click HERE for today's column, which takes a look at one of the world's strongest brands--one that is a part of life in Saipan and, in fact, in 118 countries.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Chinese: An after-action report

Click HERE for today's column, which tallies my progress after a semester course in Chinese.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Slip F-18, Saipan

Click HERE for today's column, which introduces an old "friend" of mine, Travis McGee. McGee, a fictional hero of a series of adventure/mystery novels, would feel right at home in Saipan. And the books would certainly appeal to a lot of folks in the islands who enjoy an independent lifestyle.

Although Saipan's Bestseller books can order the novels (no, they don't carry them as normal stock; yes, they're still in print), I didn't have space to list the titles in my column, but this link (a great site indeed) has the information

The photo here (from Wikipedia) is of the first edition of the first McGee book, The Deep Blue Goodbye, published in 1964. I like the old, retro covers, the modern ones don't have as much character.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Weird germy things

Click HERE for this week's column, which takes a look at one of many creepy-crawlies that can dwell in water.

(Math note: I wrote that a micron is a thousandth of a meter, which is correct, but a more formal definition would be a millionth of a meter. Same thing.)

The photo of the Leptosira bacteria is from

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Partitions: Not just for geeks

Click HERE for this week's column, in which we relish the joys of hard drive partitioning. Hey, it's not just for geeks. Really.

Incidentally, various computer manufacturers call their system recovery features various names. That's why my article says "whatever they call it" to refer to this stuff. If there is a universally accepted generic term for the concept, I don't know what that term is.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Shopkeeper's wisdom

Click HERE to read today's column, which relates a young economist's secret weapon in market research: a smart shopkeeper.

Other notes:

An alert reader in the mainland requested that I post this link to a map of U.S. unemployment rates. Put your cursor over a state to see its data. Note that the "official" unemployment rate (which notoriously understates actual unemployment) is sometimes about half of the actual rate of unemployment. For example, in South Carolina, the "official" unemployment rate is 11 percent, but the actual rate is (according to the link) 20 percent.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Fantastic plastic

Click HERE to read today's column, where we look at the weirdness in credit card markets, namely, lines of credit getting chopped.

This weirdness started last year, but the year before that, on October 26, 2007, I gave a heads up; here's the piece. So, yeah, uh, "told you so."

About a year later, the headlines started noticing a credit card crunch. Here's a November 14, 2008 piece in the Wall Street Journal's Smart Money. And here's a March 3, 2009 piece from

I know that credit cards aren't as common in Saipan as in the mainland, and there are a lot of folks who are just learning about this realm. For them, a handy link is Clark Howard sometimes lists the best credit cards (you can do a search for that on his site), which is a useful starting point.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Of tourists and wings

Click HERE for today's column, in which we do some hangar flying and note that China is now producing Airbus airliners. This is an impressive milestone in China's economic development, and the implications for the west Pacific tourism industry are positive indeed.

If today's column interests you, then you can see this link (about the launch of the first Chinese-built A320) and this link (about Boeing's 787 struggles) and this link (about Airbus' latest struggle).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A free six-pack

Click HERE for this week's column, in which I suggest six free programs that are ideal for older computers. Paradoxically enough, good freeware is often better and more efficient than the bloated commercial products out there.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The waters are stirring

Click HERE for today's column, which highlights the Pacific's changing naval scene, including last week's incident off of Subic Bay between a U.S. Navy destroyer and a Chinese submarine.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking and leaping

Given Saipan’s lousy state of affairs, bailing to the states never looked so good.

Unfortunately, bailing to the states never looked so bad, either; the economy is shedding over a half million private sector jobs per month.

These thoughts are continued in today's column.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wage stuff and bigger issues, too

Economically, there's so much doggone stuff brewing now that it's hard to know where to start. The minimum wage is a good place, but there are bigger things to contemplate as well, so I also offer some insights into upcoming topics in this week's column. Once again I can't resist the temptation to mention economist Joseph A. Schumpeter, who had an eerily accurate understanding of how mass psychology meshes with economics.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Computers for the Commonwealth

Many people don't know about these yet, but super-small "netbooks" computers are starting a trend in computing.

The first models were, well, "cute" and "intriguing," but that was about it. But the latest models are downright impressive. I think they're just the thing for island living; they're easy to tote, they're cheap, and some models can go as many as six to nine hours on battery power.

Friday, May 15, 2009

When the world is right

"When the man is right, the world is right." That's the moral of a story I got from W. Clement Stone, and I took it to heart as a kid (still do, actually). At the time I had no idea I'd actually get to meet Mr. Stone. So here's today's column.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chinese 24/7

As a beginning student in Mandarin Chinese, I've been wading through a galaxy of books--phrase books, grammar books, writing books, and text books. The best I've found so far is Chinese 24/7, which I review in today's Tribune. This book has really helped me out a lot.

Here are some related links, as promised in my review:

The book's author, Albert Wolfe, is also author of, and it's via this site that I discovered Chinese 24/7.

Chinese 24/7 has associated audio files that are free to download at, which also carries more information about the book.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Let's not shake on it

Everyone in Saipan, and probably everyone reading these words, has experienced this minor annoyance: You’re sitting in a restaurant, just about to take hold of the cheeseburger you’ve been craving all day, and along comes a colleague of yours who, just your luck, has six visitors in tow. Your colleague, of course, can’t help from dispensing introductions. The hands extend automatically, and you find yourself rubbing more raw flesh than a Bangkok go-go dancer. And you don’t even get a tip or a lady’s drink out of it....(finish today's column here).

Also, here's the link to the Jim Rogers interview I mentioned in my column.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Still strategically strategic

The coming Asian arms race is finally getting notice in the world's press. Today's column is about that gig, and here's a link to a piece in the same vein I did back in 2007.

We're at the juncture where economic changes (namely, Uncle Sam's slide, but, as a secondary factor, China's rise) are going to induce military changes in the Asia-Pacific region. After all, armies march on their wallets.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The smart are scared. The others aren't.

Anywhere under the U.S. flag, be it Saipan or the mainland, the total disconnect between popular perception and economic reality is really shocking now. But emotion will prove to be a very poor substitute for reason (isn't that always the case?).

If you think that my take on things is less than cheery, then here's a link to the Atlantic magazine's May edition, in which economist Simon Johnson has his say.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The economic shoe

The U.S. economy will the be the "other shoe" that drops, after the financial shoe has hit the stage. If you've got ties to Asia, opportunity will eventually knock, because the world's economic order is going to change dramatically.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Wacky economics

If you’re serious about earning a living in Saipan, then you might want to look at the opportunities appropriate to these kinds of economies. No, they’re not particularly glamorous, but they are definitely proven.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The closer

Sometimes being a fly on the wall can be mighty instructive. This week's column is about 12 minutes in a cafe that offered profound insights into investment psychology. I'll probably do a follow up piece in the near future.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

This is a test...

Need to take a written test? Here are a few thoughts on making it to the right side of the Bell Curve...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Romeo void

No matter how bad your financial lot is on Saipan, you can still enjoy sunsets and warm breezes. Don’t worry, I haven’t punted economics for kum-bay-yah platitudes..." Here's the entire column.

As for the title, "Romeo void," here's a YouTube link to the 1980's New Wave band.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A few words of Tagalog

What's the most useful language for a tropical adventurer? I think that a little bit of Tagalog can go a long way, and for those who agree, today's column reviews an unassuming little book, Tagalog (Pilipino) Made Nice & Easy (Amazon link here). Synopsis: It's a great book for picking up a few useful words and phrases.

As for Saipan, it would be fun to make a list of all the languages that have been spoken here, since we're a linguistic crossroad, but I don't know if anyone will get around to it....

Saturday, February 28, 2009

See? I told you so!

As the hysteria over the U.S. economy, and its moribund stock market, flows through headlines, here’s a fact for you: I warned you about this gig over five years ago. Here's today's column on the gig.

Best of all: Here is a link to my Feb. 13, 2004 column that boldly predicted exactly what we've seen recently. Not bad, eh?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Netbooks: yes or no?

Netbook computers: yes or no?

At first blush is sounds like the ultimate tool for tropical life: A tiny, dirt-cheap (under $300), Wi-Fi capable notebook (OK, "subnotebook" or "netbook" ) computer that can be toted anywhere. You can check the news over your Shirley's Special Omelet, update your blog over coffee, then head to Micro Beach to finish work on your blockbuster novel as Jimmy Buffet (or, in my case, Jerry Reed) plays from the hard drive...." Here's the article.

(Note: This article ran on a Monday instead of the usual Friday.)

Expats: The next generation

Some intrepid folks from the mainland are looking to follow tropical rainbows. Here are some thoughts.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The betel nut bikini team?

When it comes to betel nut Saipan holds world-class status. But even in this sacred realm we're being upstaged, as Taiwan's betel nut culture puts some very sexy spin on the otherwise mundane chore of vending betel nut.

(Photo: Wikipedia)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Book review: The Oil Card

Here's an interesting book: "The Oil Card."

My review is here.

The author's web site is here.

The publisher's web site is here.

The Amazon page is here.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Change in the Commonwealth

"Remember when June 1, 2009, seemed so far away? That’s when CNMI immigration matters will grow some real teeth. Well, it ain’t far. It’s just 129 days down the road." Catch this week's column here.

* * * * *

At the end of my column I noted three tech items of interest. Here are some links:

1. Conficker worm: Here's a CNN piece. It sure looks like the security software companies are hyping this to promote their products.

2. Seagate hard drive failures: This came to my attention thanks to John C. Dvorak's Jan. 21 podcast. Here's more information.

3. Heartland credit card hack: Here's a WSJ article.

Friday, January 16, 2009

G_tting th_ngs d_ne

If you're looking for some good news, you can consider that on a business-to-business basis, what remains of Saipan's private sector is a pretty cozy proposition. So cozy, in fact, that it can spoil us. As more folks use the Internet to venture into international commerce, there are frustrations...some of which I address is a bilious screed for this week's column.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The crab pot economy

"Saipan has experienced this lesson in economics, though it has never learned it: Destruction follows delusion. Personally, I'd like to see construction follow coherence, but it's not up to me to determine such things for the Commonwealth..." Thus starts today's article.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A powerful thirst

Every columnist picks their opening theme of a new year with great deliberation. I'm not part of the huffing-and-puffing crowd about the economic situation, since I forecast it for years in my column and it's pretty much old news by dint of long inevitability.

So my first piece of 2009 is about....water.

Yes, water.

Saipan's water situation is sometimes ticklish, but seldom dire. Still, typhoon preparation does require some thought in the water realm, and for those who enjoy adventuring, or even living, in the more remote tropics, finding clean water is more than a matter of taste, it's a matter of health.

The photo, incidentally, is the Katadyn Pocket Filter, one of many such devices on the market to help clean up water for hikers, travelers, or for emergency preparation. Actually, to get a bit pedantic here, water "filtering" and water "purification" are two different things; purification is the higher standard of cleanliness. But that's a more detailed topic for a different day. For now, I just thought the basic topic is a useful thing to consider for the new year.

(Note: Because of the New Year's publishing schedule, this column ran Saturday, January 3, instead of Friday.)