Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Gun is a Coward's Weapon

I'm at the hospital right now where we are all scrambling because of a shooting spree, possibly at two locations. There is a lot of hearsay and rumors about what happened, and what is happening right now. Schools are all on lockdown as well as most government offices.
Saipan is peaceful and safe most of the time. But too many idiots can and own guns. Guns make killing easy. It is a coward's weapon.

This is all too familiar to me, and too close to my heart as an issue. I am sure today will be a day that we will all mourn about and one that will not be easily forgotten.

Be safe. Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

Update: One of the first details here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Friday the 13th has a creepy connotation to some people who may believe it to be a day of bad luck. I’ll just use it as a day to talk stories about something else that some people think is creepy: Arachnids!

Arachnids are a class of invertebrates that have jointed legs. Arachnids look like insects, but a major difference is that the former has eight legs and the latter, six. This class includes spiders, scorpions, harvestmen, ticks, and mites. If you have a fear of spiders or other arachnids also known as arachnophobia, then do not proceed! I want to talk stories about some discoveries that I personally think are cool!
Crab spiders
I was admiring the beauty and appreciating the sweet smell of the oleander flowers one day. I always think about how deadly this plant is because of the cardiac glycosides, oleandrin and neriine, that they contain. Ingesting any part of the plant can be deadly to people, especially children. A closer look at the beautiful yet deadly flowers yielded another deadly agent at work! Well, deadly to other bugs, that is.

Can you see the crab spider hidden within the flowers? It is easy to miss her at first glace.
Crab spiders (Thomisidae family) are called that because they look like crabs and like crabs, they can move sideways or backwards. Their two front pairs of legs angle out and are always ready to grab their prey. They usually have flattened bodies that are often angular.
Crab spiders do not build webs to trap prey, but are hunters. Some species sit on or among flowers, bark, fruit or leaves where they ambush visiting insects by grabbing them. Some are even able to change colors to match the flower on which they're waiting.
I can't identify what type of crab spider this is. I've seen at least two kinds here. Another kind is half the size of this one with a white body and green legs. This one is ready to strike any insect seeking the oleander's sweet nectar.
I owe this next discovery to DJ. A few nights ago, he asked me if we had any scorpions on Saipan. I said, "yes we do" but have only seen them in pictures. DJ then told me where he could find some, and even though it was already dusk, we grabbed a flashlight and headed to the field behind his house.

He showed me where to collect them in the loose bark of a guava tree, and they were tiny! The body is about 1.5mm! Ashley, DJ's older sister remembered finding these as well when she was in grade school at Mount Carmel.
Here's a closer view where you can see the segmented body. Pseudoscorpions or false scorpions are called that because they lack the stinging tail found in real scorpions. I am sorry that I can't identify these little guys, but there are at least 5 types of pseudoscorpions in the Marianas.
Pseudoscorpions aren't dangerous to humans. They are actually beneficial since they eat a lot of other insects that we consider as pests. In fact, some of them live in books and eat book eating insects like silverfish and moths (some people call them book scorpions because of this). Because they don't have stinging tails their poison can be delivered by their pincers to kill or paralyze their prey. Some pseudoscorpions even hitch rides on flying insects, like flies, to get from one place to another!
We returned our friend back to his home soon after taking these pictures. We will now have to find some real scorpions now that we have an idea how to find them. I read somewhere that you can find them in Causarina or ironwood bark.

Well, I hope that all this talking about arachnids wasn't too creepy to you all. Until the next discovery:

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber

UPDATE November 19, 2009: A list of NMI pseudoscorpions on record can be found in the Washington Museum website. It lists 12 kinds here. The one DJ found is most likely Geogarypus longidigitatus (Rainbow, 1897). The crab spider is most likely Misumena vatia (Clerck, 1757), which is also commonly called the Goldenrod Spider or Flower Spider.

Monday, November 9, 2009

7724: Too late or Too early

A few friends have sent me pictures of their autumn season this year and a couple like Mai and Sean have blogged about theirs. I envy them this because I have never experienced the turning of the season and have never seen the leaves turn colors.

It was too early too see any of the Fall colors when I visited Atlanta in August. There were some colors in the trees that caught my eyes here and there and made me excited thinking that I am catching a glimpse. But no- it was just too early.

It is pretty clear from this Maple tree that it was too early.

Even this Japanese Maple said the same thing. There is a hint of color.
Or is that just me seeing things?

These young sycamore fruits caught my eyes though! Close, but no.
Then, there was this dying branch that turned its leaves all red! Pretty exciting huh?
I saw some color in these trees. I believe they were crab apple trees and the few people I asked didn’t seem to know whether these colors are “normal” for that time of the year. These were at the parking lot of the DeKalb Farmers Market.

Not sure what's going on here with these colors,
but I was pretty excited to see them, none the less.
The market is a huge 140,000-square-foot building that boasts foods from all over the world. It began humbly as a produce stand in 1977 and the market expanded in 1986 to its current dimensions.
One of the things I listed in my “2009 To Do List” was to eat a Georgia peach. They had fruits from all over the world but to my dismay- No Georgia peaches! It was too late in the season! I did eat some from Oregon and sampled a few kinds of plums and nectarines. I also tried some exotics from Latin America like guineps, mameys and pluots. Of course, who from Saipan can resist strawberries that's less than $4.00?

This is a Mamey sapote (Pouteria sapota) and it is related to our local chiko or Sapodilla (Manilkara achras). Too bad it wasn’t ripe enough for me to eat.
It is more aromatic than the chiko; the flesh more orange than brown.
Check out the huge seed. Doesn’t it look like a beetle?
I also had "Smell a Magnolia flower" in my 2009 To Do List, but again, I was too late. I only saw full blooms on route to the airport and I couldn't get to them without lugging my luggage with me. Oh, well. Maybe next year. Here is a Magnolia bud I saw unopened.
Enjoy Autumn, wherever you are.

Ti napu.

The Beachcomber