Friday, October 31, 2014

Good Design Or Just An Accident?

This was the view from the room where the complexity presentation was held.  It's really a peaceful landscape.  What impressed me was . . . well look at the next picture.

Yes, there is a road that goes through this landscape.  But from this room, at least,  you don't see the road.  When there's no car, you don't even realize it's there.

So, I was wondering - was this designed this way?  Or just an accident?  From the second floor, you won't have this same illusion that it's just an unbroken field to the trees.

Now, on the way to the presentation, I did pass an accident.  There were at least two other cars behind me that were also involved.  I didn't see an ambulance and you couldn't crash much closer to the emergency room than this intersection right between UAA and Providence hospital.   Not sure how this car got in this position.  Well designed intersections have fewer accidents. 

And putting some thought into land use can avoid making terrible mistakes too.

At the complexity talk, Dr. Jamie Trammel's presentation was titled: Alternative Landscape Futures: Using Spatially-Explicit Scenarios to Model Landscape Change.

OK, that title sounds pretty academic.  Basically, he was looking at ways to look at land use by gathering data, then projecting maps of the landscape with different possible futures based on different conditions.  If you, for example, see where threatened species live, leave wilderness corridors, look at the best land for urban areas, you can make maps that show different possible land use patterns.  He gave examples from Australia, Las Vegas, and the Kenai Peninsula.   This slide probably gives a better sense of how this works. 

Clearly Trammel's work is to try to bring some sense and order to future land use rather than letting things just happen haphazardly.

This was the slide that I didn't quite understand and I didn't have a chance to ask him to explain it more fully.  But it's a diagram, as I understand it, for developing these alternative futures so that people can visualize all the data that normally is too dense for most people to make sense of. 

This is a little late, but UAA at 11:30 today - Alternative Landscape Futures

Title: Alternative Landscape Futures: Using Spatially-Explicit Scenarios to Model Landscape Change.
Presented by: Dr. Jamie Trammell. UAA. Geography and Environmental Studies.
When: October 31st 2014 11:30-12:45
Where: CPISB 105A (see map)
There are ways to strenuously stretch your mind  in Anchorage.  

Jamie was one of the new faculty I worked with a couple of years ago and this should be good.  Parking is free at UAA on Fridays.  The last one I went to, two weeks ago, was really good.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don Young And The Non-Apology Apology

When I blogged the Alaska legislature in 2010, a staffer was treated very rudely by a committee chair.  Later, the staffer's boss told the chair to apologize.  What the staffer got was:  "I'm sorry you were offended."  The staffer was irate.  That wasn't an apology he told me, essentially that means, "I did nothing wrong, but if you were offended, I'm sorry."

I realized that he was right.  I hadn't really paid close attention to that phrase before.  But now I do. 

From today's Alaska Dispatch News:
A week ago, in a speech to the Alaska Federation of Natives, [Don Young] was “profoundly sorry for those that took offense at what I tried to say because they did not and will not take time to understand we have to stop” suicides.
Not only does he not own up to doing anything wrong, but he blames the people who were offended for not taking the time to understand.

He's got this routine down pat. 

From his press release on October 24, 2014:

“Because of my comments, I am profoundly and genuinely sorry for the pain it has caused the Alaskan people. I am genuinely sorry for the pain I have caused the individual, as I have experienced it, and hope that you won’t have to experience that.
Here again, he did nothing wrong, but he's sorry "my comments" caused pain.  The hidden message, "Get over it, you're overly sensitive."  He doesn't even apologize for the bad grammar which is excusable when talking, but not in press release.

I realize that Young is running for reelection next week and most people in such a situation would attempt to phrase the apology in the best light.  But sometimes the best light is to actually apologize.  People are starting to see through the fake apology.

In a Washington Post article in August 2014 titled GOP Rep. Don Young apologizes for strong-arming staffer we get another non-apology apology.
“While returning to the GOP conference meeting to discuss the ongoing situation on our southern border, I was caught off guard by an unidentified individual who was physically blocking me from re-entering the room,” Mr. Young, 81, said in a statement, Politico reported. “Regardless, my reaction was wrong, and I should have never placed my hands on the young man.”
 I was caught off guard - unidentified individual - physically blocking me.  Even though the Post calls it an apology, I don't see an apology.  I do see an acknowledgement that he did something wrong, but only after being severely provoked.  And no apology.  Maybe there was more that was edited out. 

Washington Post  March 29, 2013
“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” he said, as reported by the Alaska Dispatch. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect.”

This sort of non-apology apology actually has an entry in Wikipedia
A non-apology apology is a statement that has the form of an apology but does not express the expected contrition. It is common in both politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry not for a behavior, statement or misdeed, but rather is sorry only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology, expressing a grievance, or is threatening some form of retribution or retaliation.

Contrition.  A good word. 

Winter Creeps In

When we got back to Anchorage Friday night, it was still warm enough to be comfortable in a fleece jacket over a shirt.  It was about 35˚F. I know for the people we left behind in LA, that sounded frigid.  But without much humidity and no wind, it's no big deal.

But it's dropped down a bit since and night time temps are down into the teens.  Still not too bad without wind and a good jacket, hat, and gloves.  But it does mean ice on the windshield.  There was an opaque crust Tuesday, but yesterday it was just this light pattern of crystals. 

One of the benefits of the rapid loss of daylight that comes this time of year, is that it's much easier to see the sunrise.  We do still have 8 hours and 40 minutes between sunrise and sunset, which means we still have three hours to lose in the next 50 days or so. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Awful Layout Design

I got to part B of the paper today and was startled to see this picture and headline.

These two stories just should not be placed together.  A picture of five family members matches the five people around the table above.  Someone wasn't paying attention.  I don't know enough about how the stories are laid out, but I know this is just wrong.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Heavy Early Voting Yesterday

I finally made it to vote early yesterday over on Gambell.  I got there about 1:30 pm.

I've never seen the early voting so crowded.  There were about eight people in line in front of me and all the voting booths were full.

People working there said last Monday (the first day of early voting) they had about 800 or 900 and they thought yesterday was going at the same pace.  That's about 100 voters per hour.  This is the main early voting spot in Anchorage, so there are people from all precincts.  And maybe I was there at a particularly crowded moment.  But candidates are trying to get their supporters to vote absentee or early.  

You can check the hours this week - through Sunday - at this link. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Big Outside Sullivan Backer Also Supports LGBT Rights, Immigration, Role Of Government

Things get curiouser and curiouser as Alice said.   As I was following the tracks on Paul Singer, a major donor to the Dan Sullivan campaign, identified as the money behind Opportunity PAC which is funding letters to folks in Anchorage that list their neighbors and their voting records, I discovered a much more complex man than the standard image of Rich White Republican Billionaire. 

Singer, according to this article has been a major backer of same-sex marriage.  He's also far more nuanced on the relationship between government and business - calling for regulation of financial sector.  He also has been a big supporter of immigration reform.  Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post article titled:
Meet the wealthy donor who’s trying to get Republicans to support gay marriage
. . .   Since 2010, Singer has spent more than $10 million trying to get states to legalize gay marriage and get Republicans to join the battle.
 He's not completely opposed to government regulation of the financial sector:
In April 2009, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal stating, "conservative opposition to any expanded role for government is a mistake. There is an urgent need for a new global regulatory initiative that addresses the primary cause of the financial collapse: highly leveraged and concentrated positions."
And on immigration:
"He also favors immigration reform, and gave a six-figure donation to the National Immigration Forum last year. "
It says he also gave a modest amount to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - that highly deceitful ads that helped sink John Kerry's presidential bid.

He seems to be a competitor, into winning.  That's a mindset that reduces life to a game that often overlooks the damage that results.   The article says that as a hedge fund manager he's best known for distressed debt investments  (though the company does less of that now).  The article says:
In the summer of 2013, Singer told Institutional Investor's Alpha Magazine that forcing debt payment is a Singer-flavored form of activism. "We've made the point over and over again that sovereigns that could pay their debts and choose not to may be attempting to save some money but are harming their people and their economies by making investing in their countries more risky and more problematic and by discouraging foreign investment." In Singer's view, he isn't just forcing indebted companies and countries to pay up. He's trying to create a world where distressed debt doesn't exist.
Depending on your own views, that makes Singer an activist investor, or a "vulture capitalist."
I mention this in part because it displays the attitude to debt that David Graeber attacks in his book Debt: The First 5000 Years.  Graeber takes an historical view of the moral and business history of the idea that it's morally important to pay one's debts, especially third world countries whose debts were often obligated by dictators  who deposited most of the money in their foreign bank accounts.  The people who end up paying the debts are the struggling citizens who never would have approved the debt and who find foreigners prescribing the dismantling of what meager infrastructure and social supports the country has to pay wealthy first world banks and their rich investors. 

This is loansharking at the international level and how Singer apparently got the money he is now using to play power broker in American politics.

And why is supporting same-sex marriage?  According to the Washington Post article, that was
"first inspired by his son, who was married to his husband in Massachusetts — the first state to offer same-sex marriage."
But in politics, candidates rarely look too carefully at where their money comes from.  But I wonder how many of Sullivan's supporters know their candidate is getting lots of money from someone who helped to make same-sex marriage a reality in the US.   What does a Senator say to someone who's donated hundreds of thousands to his campaign.  I would imagine his door is always open and he's more than willing to help him get legislation that he wants.  OK, this is true for every politician who gets big donations.  But I don't think very many get such significant help from individuals.  Before Citizens United it was illegal.  You can compare Begich and Sullivan contributions at Open Secrets.  Singer's company is Elliot Management and he also was a big donor to Club For Growth.  And these seem to not include all the contributions to PACs that support the candidates. 

I also found out in my googling that Dermot Cole reported much of this back in February.

". . . mere birdsong in the bushes of things"

They’re looking at the name on a portrait in an old book,  and she wonders to herself, who was he? 
“Who was he, who was he?  Did he labour under the whip of his father, or was he treated with gentleness and respect?  Names, names, all passed away, forgotten, mere birdsong in the bushes of things.”
What an image to characterize the ephemeral existence of a human being - "mere birdsong in the bushes of things."   Such word magic caused me to sit up in bed and wonder in awe - both at the meaning of the image and at the mind of the writer.   

Roseanne McNulty lives in an Irish asylum.  She thinks she may be 100.  Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture paints her portrait using peripheral vision,  with shadows and reflections, with the movement of curtains in the wind, with the ripples on the water.   

Barry sees Roseanne and the people around her in ultra slow motion capturing the signals, invisible to most people observing at normal speeds, that, like pieces of bone to archeologists, reveal their souls.  It’s so slow.  So powerful.  So unlike the superficial flash we’re used to. 

Writing, through the eyes of Roseanne, about Dr. Greene, who looks after the patients in the asylum . . .
Then he sat there in his own version of silence for a long while.  He sat so long he was almost an inmate of the room!  As if he lived there himself, as if he had nowhere to go to, nothing to do, no one to attend. 

He sat in the chill light.  The river, drowned in its own water, and drowned a second time in the rains of February, was not in a position to throw its light.  The window-glass was severely itself.  Only the still grass of winter lent it a slight besmirch of green.  His eyes, now much clearer somehow and more distinct without the beard, were looking forwards as if at an object about a yard away, that stare that faces have in portraits.  I sat on the bed and without the slightest embarrassment watched him, because he wasn’t watching me at all.  He was looking into that strange place, the middle distance, the most mysterious, human, and rich of all distances.  And from his eyes came slowly tears, immaculate human tears, before the world touches them.  River, window and eyes.
Wow!  "[T]hat stare that faces have in portraits."  "[T]he most mysterious, human, and rich of all distances."  Barry sees the invisible. How much of life am I missing?

Over and over again he daubs images onto the page and I think, where did that come from and what’s it doing here?  And then he pulls it all together - “River, window and eyes.”

Here's another one. Roseanne reflects about her husband who fished for salmon.
Most of the time, he stood by the lake, watching the dark waters.  If he saw a salmon jumping, he went home.  If you see a salmon, you will never catch one that day.  But the art of not seeing a salmon is very dark too, you must stare and stare at the known sections where salmon are sometimes got, and imagine them down there, feel them there, sense them with some seventh sense.  My husband Tom fished for ten years for salmon in that way.  As a matter of record he never caught a salmon.  So if you saw a salmon it seems you would not catch one, and if you did not see a salmon you would not catch one.  So how would you catch one?  By some third mystery of luck and instinct, that Tom did not have.
Dark waters.  Barry paints with dark waters.  With "some third mystery of luck and instinct."  Where is this going, I’m thinking, and then I read on:
But that was how Dr. Greene struck me today, as he sat in silence in my little quarters, his neat form stretched out on the chair, saying nothing, not exactly watching me with his eyes, but watching me with his luck and instincts, like a fisherman beside dark water. 

Oh, yes, like a salmon I felt, right enough, and stilled myself in the deep water, very conscious of him, and his rod, and his fly, and his hook. 
The patient's view of the doctor!  It’s with these tiny brush strokes that Barry paints his portraits.  I’m not reading a book as much as watching a painter starting with a blank canvas.  He mixes his paints, he draws some lines on the canvas.  Slowly daubs marks here and there.  Slowly, slowly the thin pencil lines gain dark color and richness and the souls of people are revealed. 

This isn’t a book for everybody.  It's too slow.  We aren't use to paying painfully slow attention to amorphous signs.  To looking without looking.  I’d once recommended Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country  to a good friend.  He couldn’t finish the short novel.  His verdict, “Nothing happens.”  It’s inside that nothing that everything happens.  The same in The Secret Scriptures.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Voting Report Card - And Other Political Fliers

We were only gone from Sunday to Friday, but here's what was in our mail when it was delivered Saturday.   Up til now Alaska's never been a critical state.  Our outcomes were generally not close, nor would they impact the balance of the Senate.  It's not that much mail, about two pieces per day. 

Then there was this one.  My voting report card.

What?  Someone's grading my voting?  Well, someone was checking how often I vote.  I knew that campaigns do that, because they particularly target the people who vote all the time.  Do I didn't think too much about it until I saw this post at Immoral Minority that was citing a report at KTUU about letters to people telling them how often their neighbors vote - by name!   That's takes this a step further.  This one comes from America Votes, what appears to be a liberal PAC.   The letter with the neighbors' names and voting records apparently comes from The Opportunity Alliance PAC, conservative group.  At their website - Alaska Votes - you can plug in your address and see how often your neighbors vote.  KTUU cites the letter:
“This year, we’re taking a new approach,” ASVP members wrote. “We’re sending this mailing to you, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues at work, and your community members to publicize who does and does not vote.”
It's not clear to me how long the organization has existed and thus whether the 'this year' is misleading or not.

The KTUU piece talks about people's outrage over their voting record being circulated like this.  This is public information, though it's tricky for members of the public to get it.  I know parties and candidates pay for lists of people's voting records.  I'm trying to think about reasons why people's voting record (whether they voted, not how they voted) should be kept secret or made public like this.  Would more people vote if this information was readily available?  I'm guessing they would.

But then this led to the backers of Opportunity Alliance PAC - mainly Paul Singer.  Now, he's an interesting person and I'll focus on that in another post soon. 

The Boot

A year ago I wrote about exercises I was doing in hopes of healing my heel and being able to run again.

Since then, despite the exercises, my heel's still a problem.  Most of the time I can walk without any more than a slight pressure that reminds me not to run.  I've substituted biking for running, but it's just not the same.

Once in a while the heel gets inflamed and becomes a serious hassle.  So I finally went back to the podiatrist.

He wasn't encouraging.  I'd done all the physical therapy exercises and it hadn't improved things. They were supposed to strengthen the calf muscles to take pressure off the Achilles tendon.  There's also a bone spur that the exercises weren't going to help and might be irritating the tendon. Well, he says surgery will fix it, probably, but no guarantees.  Naturally, I'm not too excited about that option and reminded him that he'd said a boot was the next step.  He doesn't hold out much hope for the boot, but it could help.  Since it's not urgent and I don't really see a good time in the near future for recovery, and since I need to do more research, I opted to try the boot.  This one is a product of Iceland.  Lots of velcro and the blue ball is a pump to tighten it more with air.

I took it with me to LA in September and did short term tests.  I could walk on it ok, but after a few days my knee hurt.  When you change your gait radically, other parts have to compensate.

So I started my four weeks for real not quite two weeks ago.  I thought I had a month at home to do this.  Did expect this last short trip to see my mom.  It started with six days of a corticosteroid.  I can't find anything online that explains exactly what the med was supposed to do. What I recall the doctor saying was it makes the muscle more pliable.  The boot is supposed to keep my heel from moving and it is pretty snug.  The boot's on all day except for the shower and driving - since it's my right foot.  And I'm not biking during this period.

Two weeks into full time boot and so far so good.  The test period was a good warning to be aware of how I'm compensating and this time there's been no knee problem or other issues.  TSA wasn't happy with my boot. When they rubbed the chemical tester on the boot, it tested positive.  Coming home, I just took it off and put it on the conveyor belt and walked very gently through the scanner.  I must have looked pitiful because the TSA guy asked if I could lift my arms for the scanner.

When I take it off at night, my foot feels good.  And I look at all the people around me who walk around without thinking how amazing it is to be able to walk.  They just take it for granted, as I have all my life.  And that's how it should be.  But it is a blessing that you realize only when you lose it. I wrote a post on that two years ago. 

 And I'm still very appreciative that my problem is relatively minor.  It could be a lot worse.  But I still have lots of research to do before I consent to surgery if this doesn't work.