Seven random crumbs for 2016


I have, as usual, enjoyed a holiday season of over-indulgence: too much travel, too much spending, and too much eating. So, as a matter of tidying up, I might as well gather up a few random crumbs so I can figure out where the year went. Here are seven items:

1) One hallmark of the year was the tourism-oriented construction and the visitor activity on Saipan. Next year, of course, promises to be an eventful one on the tourism front. Guam, meanwhile, is topping its records for tourism arrivals. The year 2016 isn’t over yet, of course, but in 2015 of every four visitors to the Mariana islands, three went to Guam. Anyway, stay tuned: Tourism is going to be a lively topic next year.

2) On May 6 in this space, I noted that of the 1,000 Gates Millennium Scholars selected nationwide for the year, 11 of them were from the CNMI. Gates Millennium scholarships provide very generous college funding. Just as I was chilling our champagne in preparation for New Year’s Eve, I got an email from one of the CNMI’s 2016 Gates Millennium Scholars. This particular scholar reported earning a 4.0 grade point average for the first college term. It’s nice to see a good story getting even better, so I’ll offer a toast to all of our Gates Millennium Scholars.

3) As the annual routine of holiday catching-up propagated through my circle of friends, I noticed a trend that has continued for a long time now: The ones who are doing the best are either self-employed professionals or are business owners. The line between those two realms is, admittedly, a little bit blurry. But what I remember clearly is that when I left college the corporate realm was considered the primary option for employment. Now, at least among the people I know, it’s not.

4) Here’s an update to my Nov. 11 column, “Old man and the MP3,” in which I lamented the loss of my SanDisk Clip Sport MP3 player. I am now happy to report that the replacements I ordered are working as well as the original one.

Since everything I like gets discontinued, I was surprised that this model has remained on the market at all. After all, it’s not something flashy and trendy. It just does its job with inconspicuous competence.

Now that I’m back up and running in the audio department, I’ll note that one of life’s great pleasures is listening to recordings of old-time radio shows. My favorite series is “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar,” which aired between 1949 and 1962. Heck, I wasn’t even born back then, but, thankfully, the audio has lived on.

5) When it comes to old-time pleasures, there’s nothing more distinguished than Scotch whisky. Me, I don’t like anything stronger than beer. But I’m apparently the exception, and 2016 was the year by which everybody I know has been won over by Scotch.

You might envision a Scotch aficionado as a paunchy, red-faced old gent who wears Harris Tweed jackets. But even my wife, who is 100 percent Filipina, has become a single-malt snob.

I ordered a book on Scotch just so I can feign enthusiasm when everybody else is talking about it. I intend to share this information with you next year just in case you need it. And then, after you bamboozle the Scotch drinkers well enough to keep them at bay, you and I can retire to our beach chairs for some cold brews and pretzels.

6) Speaking of books, in August, author Tom Wolfe released another book, this one titled The Kingdom of Speech, which is about human speech and evolution. I don’t know if I’ll get around to reading it, but I was happy to see that Mr. Wolfe, who is 85, is still behind the keyboard.

Wolfe’s first book, The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, came out in 1965. My pals and I discovered Wolfe in the 1970s, mostly via our parents’ bookshelves. Wolfe was a big influence on many aspiring writers, as was his contemporary, Hunter S. Thompson, who passed away in 2005.

7) Just to keep myself occupied as the New Year settles in, I’ve decided to dedicate a computer as a desktop flight simulator. I just bought the computer, a refurbished Lenovo with Windows 7. Thus far I think I can take a basic cut at this project for under $350. I can already see a lot of temptations to improve things, all of which would come at a price, of course. Anyway, first things first; I’m still awaiting the arrival of the software I’ll be using. The software is called X-Plane 10. If the project works reasonably well and for a reasonable cost, I might report on it next year.

So, with an eye toward 2017, I’ll await the popping of the corks. Then I’ll offer a few polite toasts, pour the bubbly stuff into the sink when nobody’s watching, and get myself a doggone beer. You did bring the pretzels, right?

Ed Stephens Jr. | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Visit Ed Stephens Jr. at His column runs every Friday.

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