Thursday, January 17, 2019

Anchorage-Seattle Views

Yesterday's post was about the politics of traveling.  Here's some of the joy one can get if the weather's ok while flying south from Anchorage, just by looking out the window.  Aisle seats may mean you can get up easily, but you lose the great vistas outside the plane.

Here's Eagle River and beyond at 9:30am in January.  Light, but the sun's not up yet.


It clouded up quickly, and I was sitting in the exit row, so my view was often blocked by the wing. Here's further along somewhere in Southeast Alaska. (These all get bigger and sharper if you click on the image.)

Bellevue, Washington, just before landing at SeaTac.

The train from the airport.

And then on the ferry.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Dear Lisa, I'm at the airport now . . . UPDATED

I just sent an email to Senator Lisa Murkowski after talking to the TSA folks here at the airport.  One said I better fly while I can.  Alaskans are particularly dependent on air travel.  Driving out of state is not practical for most people.  It takes too long.

The TSA agents have rent or mortgages to pay, they have food to buy, utilities to pay for, and all the same monthly expenses everyone else has.  But they are now working for no pay.  The promise of eventually getting paid isn't very helpful if you can't pay your current bills and you fall behind on student loans or a mortgage payment.  It is unconscionable to not pay them.

Meanwhile Trump talks about a 'crisis' that he's going to solve with a wall that will take at least ten years to build.  That's not a crisis.  And blaming the Democrats, well Trump blames others for everything.  He had a Republican Congress for two years if he really needed a wall.

It's hard to tell if this is just one more tantrum from the president because he can't get his way and can't acknowledge ever being wrong, or this was suggested by his patron in Moscow to help make the US unable to serve its people and the world.

Either way it's a disgrace that Senate Republicans, who apparently complain about the president privately, but won't do anything to stop his destruction of the US publicly.

UPDATE 8:19pm:

When we walked out of SEATAC this afternoon we were given this pamphlet.

The link goes to here.  So to 'protect' the American people from terrorists coming across the border, we aren't going to pay TSA agents and FAA employees, but force some to work and furlough others.  Really.  What more could Putin wish for than to destroy the US from the White House?  You don't believe in collusion with Russia?  Read Seth Abramson's Proof of Collusion, carefully, then tell my where he's wrong.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Genesis 2.0 - Mammoth Hunters Of Siberia

We just got back from a strange documentary film about Siberian native men who go searching for ancient  mammoth tusks in islands in the arctic and sell them to Chinese.  They find a whole mammoth - it bleeds when they accidentally hit the flesh with an ax -  and eventually parts of it go to the South Korean genetics lab of Woo Suk Hwang that clones dogs for $100,000 a pup for those who can't bear their dogs' death.  Woo Suk Hwang hopes to find a living cell in the ancient mammoth flesh so he can clone it.

At the end we watch  interspersed shots of the native men trudging across the tundra on ancient - and very smoky - off road vehicles  and shots of visits to super new genetics labs in Korea and China.

My gut reaction to what was going on - raking the mostly untouched tundra for ancient bones, then the Korean cloning factory - seemed at odds with the film's apparent support for the activities it was portraying, but eventually the film seemed to twist in my moral direction.  There was an early hint as traditional poems were read that warned the local people not to dig in the earth and not to be seduced by the spirits that tempt them there. There was mention of native taboos for touching the bones and flesh of the buried mammoths.  Later, after seeing the Korean cloning king showing off his prowess, even watching a Caesarean birth of cloned puppies, the film briefly mentions that Woo Suk Hwang had been shown to have committed fraud in past scientific journal articles,  Then, during the visit to BGI, a giant Chinese genome sequencing lab, a Swedish scientist in the party raises ethical questions after the guide talks about using sequencing to prevent Downs Syndrome babies (our cash cow she says).  Toward the end we once again hear the traditional warnings against digging into the earth and tempting sprites and spirits who live there.  Finally the men get their tusks back to the Siberian mainland where a Chinese buyer inspects them - not very good quality - and we're told that 20-30,000 tons of mammoth tusks are undug every year!  The film ends when the camera man is told to stop filming while the native men are selling their tusks.   It was called Genesis-2.0.  

Global warming is unearthing artifacts frozen in the perma-frost for tens of thousands of years.  This film offers us a glimpse of what that actually means. The people involved, and the stark contrast between the rough wilderness conditions where the bones are found, and the super-modern genome factories.  Lots to digest.  (Yes, one of the native men who found the ancient flesh mentioned that eating raw meat was part of his culture, as he tasted the flesh.)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Welcomed Back To Alaska With A 7:45 am Aftershock

I was awake, too early after opening mail last night when we got home.  I felt it coming.  A slight something, then the jolt.

Yes, the red dot.

5.1 is noteworthy, especially when it is close.  Especially after a recent (Nov 30) 7.0.  I guess I'm up for today.  

I couldn't even get into the Alaska Earthquake Center website.  It didn't last too long - maybe 10 seconds - but enough to get us on high alert fast.  

Leaving LA. Arriving Seattle. Then On Home To Anchorage

The rain stopped during the morning in LA and we had periods of sunshine.  We even got a rainbow while waiting on the plane to take off.

And here are all those beaches I've been posting pictures of.  This time from the air.  The line out to see at the bottom is the north side of Marina del Rey.  Then comes the Venice Pier, and beyond that is the Santa Monica Pier.  Strange light close to sunset time.

I spent most of the flight trying to catch up on my reading of Abramson's Proof of Collusion.  I'm trying to imagine the explanations we'll get when current Republican Senators write the memoirs.  Murkowski might write something like, well, I opposed when I thought it would make a difference, but I had to balance getting things for Alaska vs losing all leverage vs being attacked and cut out completely.  I waited until there were enough other Republican senators to act in ways that would make a difference."   All the pictures of her I see nowadays have this terribly pained expression.  Is that her current look, or is that what the editors think is the most likely to get readers' attention?

Abramson tells a bunch of different stories that all tie together to explain Trump's historic and more current ties to Russia, gives details on the key players, and a massive backup of footnotes, of sources.  He doesn't make extravagant claims.  He mentions things that are missing in the evidence.  One can't help but wonder how the Republicans piled up on Clinton, yet the evidence of Trump's collusion is overwhelming.  Yet they do nothing, letting him stay in the country's cockpit pulling the levers.  If there was a hint that a pilot had a drinking problem, he'd be suspended until it was determined if it were true.  If a teacher were accused of inappropriately touching a child, he'd be out of the classroom immediately.  Yet the Republicans allow Trump to keep tearing apart the United States' political and physical infrastructure, honor, economy, and ideals while they let Mueller gather the details.  (It's not bad that they let Mueller do his work.  I'd like them to protect Mueller from being removed, and protect his work from being buried by Trump's new Attorney General.)  But in the meantime they let him continue to do his damage.

I do recommend the book for anyone who isn't quite sure of how and why Trump will be found guilt of colluding with the Russians to get elected in exchange for wrecking Western alliances, removing sanctions, supporting Russia's annexing of Crimea, pulling out of the Paris Climate Treaty, and on and on.

And then I noticed we were flying over downtown Seattle.  You've seen enough pictures of all the buildings.  Here are a couple of more impressionistic pictures.

The wide shot.

And the closer shot.  (The green is the ferris wheel on the waterfront.)

Eventually we caught the next flight and made our way home to Anchorage where it feels a lot warmer than our outdoor thermometer's 14˚F (-10˚C) reading.  The temperature at the drug store sign up the street seemed a bit off in the other direction.  It said 42˚F.

Friday, January 11, 2019

The Ocean Never Ceases To Hypnotize Me

Even in a big city like Los Angeles - a city which has, I discovered today, escalators for shopping carts - the ocean still connects you with the most ancient and basic forces of nature.  (But first, I can't resist documenting this triumph of consumerism.)

It's supposed to rain tomorrow, and we're scheduled to fly home, so I decided to get one more bike ride in just in case it really does rain.

So off to Venice Pier this time to see if those huge waves from the other day were still around. (No, they weren't).  I even took my big camera which refused to work (seems it was something with the sound card, it works now, but I had to use the little camera.)

South of the pier
North of the pier

I can just feel that wave pulling the water into it as it forms.

And then as it crashes it pulls the water from behind. (Or does it just look that way?)

Related to that escalator for shopping carts, this Venice resident seems to be reacting to the gentrification that's finally catching up with Venice, particularly with the growing population of well-paid techies working in the neighborhood.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Time Travel Is Real - The First Time Trump Offered To Save Everyone By Building A Wall

I used to think that imaginative fiction writers (especially science-fiction) were the ones who thought up new ideas and possibilities that less imaginative, but technically competent, engineers would eventually make real.  Things like Dick Tracy's radio watch or sliding automatic doors and other inventions.

But after seeing this excerpt from a 1958 TV show featuring a con-man named Trump who scams a whole town into believing he can save them from the end of the world by building them a wall. .

Well now I'm sure it was the other way around.  Time travelers went into the past and used their knowledge of the future to write stories like this one.  He was warning us back then.

Here's the whole episode for people looking for ways to avoid doing what they should be doing.  You'll see how skeptics were scorned and even used to increase people's gullibility.  How people lost all reason to fear.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Venice Boardwalk - High Surf, Skateboarding, T-Shirts, Scooters, And A Macaw

It was a warmer, but hazier day and the recent rains seem to have stirred up the surf.

I'm not sure how high this surf was, but the people are closer (to the camera) and higher than the base of the wave, so it was a good size wave.

And then it crashed into the rocks.  There aren't a lot of rocks along this part of the beach, but they made for some dramatic splashing.

This was near the skateboard park.

We talked to this guy - Ryan.  He and three brothers, he said, had started their own clothing company.  He's the youngest.

You can see what they sell at Havet Clothing.

Back to the Boardwalk

Where to one side people were filming.  TV?  Movie?  Commercial?  Don't know.  It's a pretty busy shot, but if you look carefully, you can see a camera on the left.  There were also a couple of big screens for the lighting.  But they're not in the picture.  They seemed to be focused on the guy on the merry-go-round horse,

A guy was finger-painting, so to speak, high above us.  Is that going to be an accordion?

And on we walked  by a T-shirt shop.  If you click the image you can see the shirts better.

Those are scooters he's holding and was riding. They're ones he found that need to be recharged.  He collects them, takes them home, recharges them, and gets paid, I think he said $5 for each one.  We saw another guy riding about five scooters.  This is another piece of the scooter boom story.

And finally, before we headed home, we came across this magnificent blue macaw sitting on a railing with his caregiver.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Merlí - High School Philosophy Teacher, Student Issues, Barcelona Make Fascinating Netflix Series

We finished season one last night on Netflix.  It pulled together a number of loose ends in a satisfying way.

Photo of Merli (Francesc Orella) from Season 1 Episode 13
Episode 1 (I just went back to remind myself) opens with Merlí meeting his ex-wife in a bar across the street from his apartment.  As he talks to her about her new job (and boyfriend) in Rome, he watches police vehicles in front of his apartment.  He assures her he will take good care of his 17 year old son whose been with the mother.  Merlí goes across the street to talk to the police about his eviction while the wife goes to pick up the son, Bruno, at his ballet lesson.  Merlí packs his stuff and moves in with his mother a once famous actress.  Shortly after Bruno reluctantly moves in too, Merlí gets a call to fill an opening for a high school philosophy teacher.  In Bruno's school.

I'm not giving anything away.  This all happens in the first 15 minutes of Episode 1 of 13 nearly hour long episodes.  That's probably one reason this series goes so well - there is a lot packed into every minute.

Pol and Bruno (Carlos Cuevas and David Solans)
Each episode is titled after a different philosopher.  Episode one is The Peripatetics - and he takes the students for a walk to the school's kitchen.  He tells them the Peripatetics thought while walking.  A student asks him if everyone can do philosophy.  He stops.  Ponders for a long time as the students start snickering.  Then he tells them that he paused that long so he could think about the answer, and to make the point that people don't respect people who think before they speak.

As he engages the students, he antagonizes the other teachers, particularly one who starts a campaign to get rid of Merlí.  The show focuses on about ten of the students - we never find out anything about the black or the Asian student we see now and again in the class.  The students all have their own issues - absent parents, over protective parents, poverty, sex, difficulty in school, and one absent student who has been diagnosed with agoraphobia and never leaves his house.  Merlí helps them all through the application of philosophy.

Merlí is an inspiring teacher, but a difficult human being.  His pursuit of women is out of synch with #Metoo standards, yet he genuinely likes women and sex with them and they like him.  His constant violation of school rules and protocol is exasperating yet it's done in the interest of exciting his students with philosophy.  My sense is that the writers made his transgressions work out way too perfectly, but why not imagine such a world now and then.

I enjoyed it all - the acting, the dialogue, the issues, the look at teachers' lives and students' lives, all wrapped up in philosophy lessons as well.  We also get to see a bit of Barcelona, though mainly the neighborhood around the school and regular panoramic views of Barcelona.

Speaking of Barcelona,  Merlí teaches at Angel Guimera Institute.  Wikilpeida tells us:
Àngel Guimerà[a] (6 May 1845 or 6 May 1847[1] or 1849[2] – 18 July 1924), known also as Ángel Guimerá, was a Spanish Nobel-nominated writer in the Catalan language. His work is known for bringing together under romantic aspects the main elements of realism. It is considered one of the principal representatives of the so-called Renaixença,[3] at the end of the nineteenth century.
It goes on to tell us his most famous play was translated and performed internationally, including on Broadway.  That he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 23 times, but that Spain prevented a Catalan language writer from getting the prize. Clearly, the name of the school was no accident.

I'm writing this because I know that lots of people will enjoy this show.  I can find very little online about the show - basically a Reddit discussion group, but even that is brief.  One person who summarizes what he's found out on Spanish interviews of the actors who play the roles of Pol and Bruno.

What I've learned is that there are two more seasons.  That many think season 2 doesn't keep up the pace of season 1, and I'll leave it at that.

And I still haven't figured out what the owl symbolizes.

Netflix - and the other streaming channels - are transforming the movie watching experience.  We now have available outstanding movies and series from around the world.  It used to be that US culture was sent out into the world via films and music and television.  Now there's a bit of a two way exchange.

All of you with Netflix, especially those who are in education - students and teachers, - at least watch episode one.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Rain, Sun, Rain, Food

Saturday threatened rain.  There were drops on the ground when I finally got round to my bike ride, but I figured I could turn back if it rained harder.  But it didn't.  Just clouds.  Some spots the pavement was wet, other spots not.  But the traffic jam along the beach bike trails was greatly reduced.  (They are bike trails.  It has pictures and the word bike stenciled on the pavement.  But scooters and joggers and strolling tourists can make it something of an obstacle course during the holidays and weekends)

It felt so good to just ride without worrying about hitting people or being hit, that I just kept going the seven miles to where the bike trail ends and then turned back.

This is looking south on the return trip from Will Rogers State Beach.  The buildings on the left are around downtown Santa Monica.

It rained seriously during the night, but by morning the sun was out again and we met (J walked and I biked) at the Mar Vista Sunday market.

The quiche was at Sandra's Soups and Sweets and I agreed to let people know.  Open food like this is required to be kept behind screens.  There are zippered openings for purchases.

I pointed out to one of the servers at Vegan Bite Bowls, that the name Buddha Sauce seemed a bit disrespectful to me.  He listened as I went on about cultural appropriation, and how I suspect that they didn't ask permission of any Buddhist temples or associations to use the name to make a profit.  Or that I suspected they didn't contribute any of their profit to any Buddhist organizations.  He listened and said he'd think about it and that no one had ever made that kind of comment before.

We woke up to rain this morning.  The sky seems clear again now, but everything is nicely watered .