Saturday, May 31, 2008

Bike Racks

When the price of oil hit $3 people groused, but didn't seem to significantly change their energy use patterns. But now that it's flirting with $4, I'm seeing friends who are reconsidering whether they can use their bikes to commute to work, at least sometimes.

For people to use bikes more, we have to have infrastructures that make bikes more convenient - like good and plentiful bike racks. Portland has lots of bike racks and they are often interesting designs.

Friday afternoon I used this bike rack at the Court building when i went to the wedding.

At the Sullivan Arena for the Elton John concert, we couldn't find the bike racks (I'm assuming there are some somewhere.) Neither could these folks.

Or these folks.

Trees and parking meters and no parking signs are fine right now, but when more people start using bikes, non bikers are going to get tired of bikes tied up to everything strongly fastened to the ground.

And then I always wonder when I see a lock like this. Was the bike stolen? If so, why didn't they at least take the lock home? Or maybe these reflect people who lost the keys for the locks.

Alaskans Cheer Man Married to a Man While Attorney General Fights Same-Sex Marriage

The same week that the Alaska Attorney General

joined conservative legal groups in urging the California Supreme Court to delay finalizing its ruling to legalize same-sex marriage

approximately 22,000 Alaskans spent around $2.5 million to see a married gay man and to cheer him wildly.

[My tiny Canon Powershot SD550 was totally overwhelmed by the noise level at Sullivan Arena and didn't catch many of the decibels flying around.]

Perhaps these 22,000 were among those 71,631 people who voted against Prop. 2, the 1998 Constitutional Amendment to ban same sex marriages. Perhaps some of these people voted for the ban. Or perhaps they didn't vote at all.

The Amendment passed 152,965 yes to 71,631 no. It wasn't even close. But that was ten years ago. The evidence that sexuality is basically genetic and not a choice has grown, but this isn't something that lends itself to . this clear proof. Logically, to me at least, it makes no sense for so many people to 'choose' desires that result in their being so strongly condemned by society. And why would people who could 'choose' their sexuality commit suicide because their choice was condemned? Wouldn't it be easier to just choose a different desire if they could?

Given the wildly enthusiastic response of the Elton John audience last night, I suspect that today the vote would not be so lopsided. It might not even pass. Especially if the people who went to the concert campaigned against the amendment with 1/10th of the enthusiasm they showed at the concerts. And if they all contributed half what they paid for the tickets to see a man whose married to another man perform.

BTW, $2 from every ticket was earmarked for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, so that would be around $44,000 that Alaskans contributed.

The exact figures really don't matter as long as we are reasonably close. Calculations for the number of people who attended the concert were based on reported seating capacity of the arenas for the three sold out concerts (2 in Anchorage, one in Fairbanks)
and an estimate of how much they paid given the prices. For this I calculated one figure based on there being as many 'cheap' seats as expensive ones. Then I figured it again with 70% of the seats being expensive and 30% being cheap. Then I split the difference.

The Sullivan Arena's Seating Capacity

  • Table seating: 1500
  • Concerts: 8,751
  • Basketball: 7,987
  • Hockey: 6,290
  • Boxing or wrestling: 8,935 for
  • 5' crowd barrier available

Fairbanks (for Hockey)
Name of Home Arena
: Carlson Center
Capacity: 4600 or so Dimensions: 200x100

The largest meeting and exhibition facility is the Carlson Center, which features a 35,000-square-foot arena and several meeting rooms, for a combined total of 50,000 square feet of space that can accommodate more than 1,200 meeting participants, 200 trade show exhibits, or 4,000 people for a concert or sports event.

While I suspect the first website is moLinkre accurate, and concerts should have a larger seating capacity than hockey (as in the Sullivan Arena), I'll be very conservative here and round it to 4500 between the two different sources.

Bent Alaska tells us the prices were:
$56.50 to $116.50 in Anchorage
$75 and $115 in Fairbanks

The image of Talis Colberg in the video comes from the State Website.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Elton John Wows Anchorage

Here are a couple of blurry shots to at least give you a sense of the concert. John came out about 8:10pm to a standing, well ovation is to applause what the crowd actually did is to ovation. It was loud and sustained.

We left Sullivan Arena about 11pm. He played non-stop, except for a couple minutes off stage before an encore and about ten minutes of signing albums, t-shirts, pieces of paper, hats, and a red shoe.

Here he is up on the big screen.
Some video and more comment tomorrow.

For all the posts on the Elton John concert, including videos click here.

J and K Get Married

Last week when I had to take the bus home because I got a flat on my bike, I ran into J on the bus who told me he was getting married. Well that was today. Here's J and K waiting to go into the courtroom.

And here they are listening to the magistrate during the ceremony.

And now they are married and checking the rings. Let's all wish them a very happy life together.

Casting Call

It gets better. Suzi, the director of Dear Lemon Lima wrote back in answer to some questions I had:
I'm still trying to find the lead character (in the short, the blond girl). I would
like tocast a 13-18 year old Alaska Native actor. Any help spreading the word on that
would also be amazing.
Any female Alaska Native actors in the 13-18 year old range?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Calling Fairbanks - Let's Get this Movie Made in Alaska

At the Anchorage International Film Festival last December I saw Miss Lemon Lima. It was a short but with the intention to make it into a feature. I remember lush summer color and very compelling young characters. Some over the top controlling parents, and an ice cream cone that falls to the ground. In fact, I'm surprised at how well I remember it now - the images were so compelling that I can see them clearly.

Why am I seeing Miss Lemon Lima in my mind now? Because I got an email from the director:

Hi Steve - I hope this email finds you well. I am writing regarding my feature film Dear Lemon Lima - I believe that you saw a screening of the short during the Anchorage Film Festival. I am currently prepping to shoot the feature this summer and I am desperately trying to figure out a way to film in Fairbanks. I have accepted that filming the entire film is financially impossible, but am still trying to work out a way to film for 2 days. It has been impossible to find in-kind accommodations, so I thought I would touch base to see if you had any ideas of who might be empathetic with my cause. I've tried to call many bed and breakfast lodges, the tourism office and local hotels, and I'm hitting a brick wall. We are looking for someone to put up 15 people, 12 for 5 days and 3 for two days and hoping someone could lend us a truck, car and passenger van for 5 days. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciation * Thanks in advance for your thoughts, Suzi
So why is she emailing me about this? Because the story is set in Fairbanks. And I fussed in my review of it that the feature was going to be shot in Seattle. In the same post I'd written about a French movie where they actually came to Alaska and went from Valdez to Barrow with horses. Here's what I wrote:
The director - I think that was her role - was there after the film to talk. She also talked about a feature to be filmed next summer that is set in Fairbanks. To her credit, she's been to Fairbanks - after writing several chapters of the screen play - but it will be filmed in Seattle (did she really say Seattle? How can you do Fairbanks in Seattle?) because, you know, it's really expensive to do it in Fairbanks. You know, I think that people in Fairbanks and Anchorage would put the whole crew up in their houses to help you keep the costs down. If those other guys could walk their horses across Alaska, you can surely shoot your film that takes place in Fairbanks, in Alaska. Imagine a movie, "Crossing Alaska with Horses" filmed in the Alps, because, you know, going to Alaska would be so expensive.

To her credit, she's trying to do at least some of it in Fairbanks. Flying fifteen people to Fairbanks isn't cheap. Does she know that there are some really good film people in Alaska? I talked to some at the Film Festival. Maybe she can fly ten up and get five from here. Well, the actors will have to be the same actors. Anyway, let's put our heads together and get some of this done in Fairbanks!

So, to my Fairbanks blogger mates - can you help get a Fairbanks based story at least partially filmed in Fairbanks? It might be too much to get the whole crew in one place, but perhaps in four or five. And maybe you can't get her everything for free, but at least for prices equal to Seattle or less. And get them some salmon and make them tell everyone back home how fantastic it is to actually do the shoot in Alaska.

We've got this fantastic backdrop for films, let's try to get more actually made here. Especially when the story takes place in Alaska. There's an email link to Suzi in the link above to the movie.

Can Alaskan bloggers pull this off? I could handle this in Anchorage, but this is a Fairbanks film. My Fairbanks Life, Fiery Blazing Handbasket, Ester Republic, Fairbanks Pedestrian, Murphy Dome Diaries, Subarctic Mama, Radio Icebox can you folks help out with this?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

AGIA (Alaska Gasline Incentive Inducement Act)- The Cliff Notes

What I Learned at the AGIA Forum Today (You'd think I could get the name right at least.)


There were four basic questions:
  1. Is TC Alaska up to the task? (TC Alaska is term people will need to know - it is the name of the company that submitted the proposal, Trans Canada Alaska)

  2. Why should the Legislature choose the TC Alaska proposal over the LNG and the Producers (Conoco-Phillips/BP) proposals?

  3. If the Producers control the gas, how do we get them to give us the gas?

  4. Why does the state have to pay $500 million as an incentive?

There are other issues - jobs, energy cost relief now, tariffs - but these are essentially addressed directly or indirectly in the answers to these four questions.

Below, I’ve given a brief outline of the answers as I heard them today. But first a few more overview comments.

At the Special Session beginning June 3, the Legislators will decide whether to license TC Alaska to pursue the various permits they need to build a pipeline. Commissioner Irwin summed up what the legislators face very succinctly. Asked by a legislator something about various choices, Irwin bluntly replied (approximately),

“There are only two choices - yes or no. If you vote ‘no’ on AGIA, you are giving the Producers a free hand and giving up the state’s sovereignty.”

The Department of Natural Resources has reviewed the various proposals and decided the AGIA proposal from TC Alaska is best. Of course, there is some history here. Commissioner Irwin and some of his staff were among the state employees who resigned in protest to how Governor Murkowski was negotiating with the oil companies. They felt that he was making far greater concessions than he should.

There is a lot of research that underlies their proposal. Far too much for the average person, and even for most legislators.

Ultimately, the people of Alaska, and their legislators really have to decide if they trust the Department of Natural Resources or ConocoPhillips and BP. I, for one, was very impressed with
  1. the quality of the data, (this was not fluff or buzzwords, it was hard content)
  2. the arguments,
  3. the transparency,
  4. the ability of the staff and contracted experts to answer all the questions easily and in detail,
  5. the apparent dedication to this process and to the people of Alaska
These are competent, skilled people who seem very much to have the public interest as their goal. This is a far cry from the Murkowski administration and the oil companies he negotiated with in secret who, now that their bluff was called, are making a (veiled?) threat of not releasing the gas.

For me the choice of whom to trust is pretty easy. I would mention that one legislator (Therriault, I think) asked if the experts were free to give their honest opinions or if everything was scripted. Irwin responded quickly, that they are expected to give their honest opinions and if anyone has a script he doesn’t belong here. Compare that to the secrecy and deceptions of the previous administration and the oil companies they dealt with.

The Basic Issues

  1. Is TC Alaska up to the task?
    1. They’re a big, well run pipeline company, “one of the best if not the best”
    2. They are Canadian with connections to the Canadian galine hubs we need to go to, and probably will be able to work well with the Canadian regulatory agencies
    3. They are in financially good shape, with strong ratings from Moody and Standard and Poors so they will be capable of getting the financing
    4. The questions raised about former partners suing them for competing with them if they take on this project seem remote and not likely to win

  2. Why TC Alaska over the LNG and Concoc Philips-BP Plans? (I refuse to call it the Denali - with a little trademark symbol - Plan because I think it’s disgustingly arrogant for ConocoPhillips-BP to trademark something as Alaskan as Denali and because that hides who the people behind the plan are. The other way they were described was “The Producers.” Hmmm, maybe we could make a Broadway play about this and the LNG plan)
    1. The TC Alaska plan has the following benefits
      1. It includes an open access policy. Open Access means to the State that anyone producer with gas has access to use the pipeline, not simply the pipeline owners.
      2. It includes an expandable pipeline Expandable pipeline means that the capacity of the pipeline must be increased if there is demand by producers to use the pipeline to get their gas to market.
        [Both of these were identified as “must haves” by Commissioner Tom Irwin, because they make the long term jobs and revenue potential much greater by encouraging other developers to explore and produce gas once the pipeline is approved.]
      3. It includes lower tariffs
      4. It maximizes state revenue and future economy
      5. It is the only proposal that was responsive to the States requirements and on time.

    2. TC Alaska, unlike the Producers, is a pipeline company, not a producer. Their incentives are to move gas. They aren’t competing with other gas producers. “If the tarifff's high, at the end of the year, a producer owner gets its own tariff money back. The state’s high tariff money goes out of the state and to the producers. Independents just might not want to be here.”
    3. The Producer proposal had no enforceable commitments. No time lines. No specific goals. No conditions on tariffs.

    4. Maximizes state revenue and creates future growth of the state economy and jobs, because open access and expandable pipeline conditions mean more exploration and production and jobs in the future.

    5. The Producers did not submit a proposal to the state under the bidding process. Their later proposal does not meet the conditions set up by the State. TC Alaska had the only proposal that complied with the Request for Application (rfa). The LNG proposal needed some fixing, but when they resubmitted it, it was a totally new proposal. "We feel we need to keep our word and play by the rules to develop credibility with all future bidders." AGIA does not preclude LNG in the future.
    6. There were issues with LNG
      1. The market is Asia. That market requires a higher grade of gas which raises various issues.
      2. With the high price of oil and the US’ need tor energy independence, Congress is not likely to approve exporting our gas to Asia.
      3. Financing is more difficult

    7. Preserve state sovereignty. In the TC Alaska plan, the various state conditions have been met. The Producers have refused to meet the State's conditions - ie, open access, mandatory expandable pipeline, lower tariffs, etc.
      [Some of this is repetitive because the issues overlap. But the repetition will help you remembr.:) ]

  3. If the Producers control the gas, how do we get them to give us the gas?
    1. Economic Incentives. Even without considering Point Thompson, the Producers will make lots and lots of money from this.

    2. Pressure. There will be pressure from Congress to get the gas to the Lower 48 because of shortages. When stockholders understand the money the Producers will make, they will pressure them too.

    3. Much of this is gamesmanship. They thought they had a deal with the former governor to get an agreement that would give them concessions from the state without their having to make any commitments. The state didn’t fall for their bluff. Now, after the process, they came back with a new proposal, but it still has no concessions. Technically, they could build their own pipeline, but we expect that in the end this is part of their negotiating ploy for when they work things out with the State and TC Alaska.

    4. The regulatory commissions will weigh everything and consider it all. FERC (US) is looking after the interests of the US, not Alaska specifically, so we do have to look after our own interests in what they don’t require.

    5. The Producers say they can't do a pipeline without State concessions.

    6. Potential lawsuit and/or cancellation of their leases by the State.

      Ultimately, there is a risk that the Producers could refuse to release the gas or could build their own pipeline, but the various presenters felt that much of this is posturing in hopes that AGIA is rejected and the Producers can then get what they want. Or can negotiate some piece of AGIA after all, even though they have missed the boat now.

  4. Why does the state have to pay $500 million as an incentive?
    1. Shouldn’t think of it as a subsidy, but as an investment.
    2. The beginning is always the hardest part of a big project like this. The money will help show we are serious and help get the project off the ground.
    3. The money we invest at the beginning has a much higher return than money we invest later down the line.
    4. We get the money back in lower tariffs.
This is an incomplete outline of the arguments. I was there for almost eight hours of presentation. But it gives a sense of the basic arguments I heard today. They were backed up with a lot more information, which is further backed up by the report which is available on the AGIA website.

The Executive Summary is 17 pages and fills in some of the pieces I left out above. People who want to have an idea of the issues would do well to read it.

And today's session should be up tomorrow on Gavel to Gavel. The morning session - about three hours - should give you a good introduction as well.

AGIA Forum Commissioner Tom Irwin

[Blogging on the fly here, so I may give up a little accuracy to get this up quickly. At least the video is exactly what they said.]

Commissioner Tom Irwin gave a brief introduction of the project and then introduced the various experts the State has hired. The videos show that introduction.

[I'll get the second part of this video up later. It is only a few more minutes but Viddler has a ten minute limit so I couldn't do it all in one video]

(6pm - OK, here's the second part of the video)

The report is billed as over 2000 pages - including all the appendices. Essentially, today's presentation came off to me as a sales pitch to the legislature. The pitch is to pass the AGIA legislation which will authorize the pursuit of permission from regulators to build the pipeline.

When I say sales pitch, I do need to qualify this. The State's job is to get the best deal for the State - for the people of Alaska. I believe that the Department of Natural Resources team is dedicated to that goal. I've had the pleasure of a couple of meetings with Marty Rutherford, who is in charge of this project, a number of years ago when I as working as a professor of public administration. They were hour long open ended meetings in which she impressed me as bright and a dedicated public servant.

Additionally, the team working on this is essentially the team that resigned their jobs during the Murkowski administration because they believed the Murkowski administration was giving away the store in its negotiations with the oil companies. My sense, given that history, and listening to them this morning, is that they strongly believe what they are doing is in the public's interest.

Key points the presenters have made are:

The heart of the AGIA - the must haves, our obligation to

  • Expandable pipeline
  • Low tariffs
  • Allows explorers an open basin
Our birthright to protect open access.
For these rights we were willing to give something
  • Move with fixed timelines
  • Put up $500 million - not a giveaway, our investment to get the gas to market. Most comes back to the state in lower tariffs. Tells them we are serious.
  • An AGIA project coordinator
  • Stable production tax rate for ten years - it makes sense from a business perspective
They also spent time comparing the AGIA proposal to the Producer Proposal and to the LNG options.
They discussed why the Producers, who control the gas, are likely to release the gas eventually. Rep. Mike Dugan pursued this question when the legislators had a chance to ask question.s

All this will be available on the Gavel to Gavel tomorrow.(The link gets you to Gavel to Gavel, they don't have the link to today's sessions up yet.) I think this morning's session gives a good overview of the areas the state thinks are important and their rational for why this is the best path.

Watch the first couple of hours. They start with an overview. Then the repeat that overview with more detail. Then they open to questions from the legislators.

At one point Irwin responded with something like,

"If we get the state resolve - to protect open access - the companies will adjust to the new realities."

Open access refers to a pipeline where all producers have open access to get their gas onto the pipeline which is different from the current oil pipeline situation as I understand it.

I'm going to stop here so I can get this posted and return to the afternoon session.

AGIA Public Forum - Gov. Palin Introduction

The AGIA discussions began this morning at the Sheraton Hotel. The tables in front were reserved for legislators and most were there. Governor Palin opened the meeting with a short talk.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Did You Know There's an AGIA Information Meeting Wednesday in Anchorage?

And Thursday. And Friday?

Click on the images to enlarge them

This is in the Howard Rock Ballroom of the Sheraton Hotel starting at 8:30am

OK, you (Alaskans) have all heard the term AGIA. But do you know what the letters stand for?

Go ahead, write down as many of them as you think you can.

No, don't skip it, do it. Think hard. You should get some of the letters right.

The Anchorage Daily News had an editorial in Sunday's paper explaining some of the basic issues. Well these aren't all issues, but these are their headings:

  • Open Access is Key
  • Binding Commitments
  • The Legislature's Turn
  • The Conoco-BP Proposal
  • Tax Changes?
  • Sovereign, Not Supplicant
I've looked hard in today's paper but I see nothing about the issue at all. Not even a mention of tomorrow's public information sessions. Maybe I just missed it.

Steve Heimel interviewed Marty Rutherford, Deputy Commissioner, Alaska Department of Natural Resources, on APRN's Talk of Alaska (links to audio of show) today about the subject. There's a lot more information there. Rutherford says at 5:19 of the APRN audio:

The distinction between the two is stark. And I want to focus on that, because what AGIA is all about is saying that if in fact the State is going to give value from the ledger, that is the people’s ledger to the stockholders of the companies’ ledger then in fact there are some things you have to protect to insure Alaska’s economic interest And that has to do with an open access pipeline. So, what does an open access pipeline mean? It is all about insuring that it is an expandable line, a line that is run by a company that is motivated to expand that line when new gas is available, not to use that transportation system as some sort of a monopoly. Not as some sort of barrier to entry to the North Slope basins. That is one of the most significant ways Alaska’s future economic interests are protected, because you only have people willing to make investment decisions to explore for gas and often times they will find oil as a result of that. You only have that opportunity if you know in fact you can get your gas into the pipeline.
(This starts at 5:19 of the audio from APRN’s audio. It's 59 minutes long. You can put it on your iPod and listen while you ....)

(Yes you have to listen to the audio to find out what "the two" refers to.)

The decisions that are made on these issues - the legislature has a special session on this staring June 3 - will significantly impact the future of the state. Many Alaskans have opinions on this already. But do they, do you, know what it is about?

We all have opinions of whether it should be all Alaska, LNG, through Canada, etc. But how many know any of the facts? Or more than just the facts that justify our opinions? Or even the terminology. Below is the glossary from the Department of Natural Resource's Report on the pipeline. Do you even know 20 of the terms? Ten?

The answers are all here. Check them out. Print them out. Put them on your refrigerator. Have a contest with your housemates. Carry them in your car and test yourself while you are waiting at a red light. If you don't even know the words, how can you have an opinion?

By the way, AGIA stands for Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Copper River Red on the BBQ

One of the blessings of living in Alaska is incredibly fresh, wild salmon. I just don't eat salmon elsewhere because I'm always disappointed. J brought this home from the market. I have to say this was as good as anything I've ever barbecued. And a salute to those who died in war.

60 Page Blogger Comment Blocking Trash Button

I got an email telling me there was a new comment on one of my posts. I checked it. It was long. I kept scrolling down and kept on. It was some sort of religious anti-everything tirade. When I looked at the scroll bar I saw I was only at the beginning.

I went to the post to delete it using the trash can icon. But when I finally got to the bottom, there was a grey box at the end of the post. It was covering the trash icon, so I couldn't just trash the comment. I copied the original post and put it into Pages (Mac's Word). It was 60 pages long!

So, how do I get rid of it?

I ended up
  1. going into edit posts,
  2. put the original post into html mode,
  3. copied it,
  4. pasted onto a Pages document.
  5. Opened a new post,
  6. pasted the original post there,
  7. opened the Post Options to back date it to the original post date.
  8. Copied the title and the tags and pasted them in.
  9. Then I reposted the original.

Then I copied the two comments. In the new post, I posted a new comment explaining what happened and pasted the two legit comments into this new comment.

Then when I was sure it was all ok, I went back into edit posts and deleted the original post with the strange comment.

I think this is the second comment I had to delete in a week or so. It is rare. The last one was more benign, but spam. This one had nothing to do with my post and whoever posted it needs serious help. Here's a bit of it.

Sat May 24, 09:57:00 AM AKDT
Anonymous said...
The Anti-Christ was always a clone host, as were all industrialists, and the coming Biblical battle of good and evil will be scripted and fake as well, and likely only be telepathic theater at that. (p. 1 when I pasted it into Pages)

The gods are asexual. They have no sex organs nor rectums.
When the gods take children these individuals have the opportunity to become "god-like". Temptations are employed and, if sucessful, these are the individuals who make up the human race's immortals.
I believe there are opportunities that exist for females that do no exist for males. I don't mean to paint with a broad brush but women's "sexual peak" may represent the transistion to "sociological males" and their "fall from grace". Considering today's promiscuity I question whether this is currently applicable, and is yet anther 20th century-earlier phenominah. (p. 4)

They gave back the Mormon's children. They never intended to take them.
It only took less than a week to poison those children's minds. They are going to lose some of them because of this.
They've gone from reading the Bible to playing GrandTheftAutoIV. And this was the goal.
Never forget:::::The gods did this to you. You are being punished for your sin of polygamous sex, and they deem some of your children "acceptable losses" to achieve this. (p. 6)

When the Earth's axis shifts people will be cast into outer space with gold cards in hand.
I think this was foreshadowed on an episode of the Simpsons where Homer and Bart are on the disfavored ship and eject, only to experience a sense of euphoria, expand then explode in the vacuum of space. (p. 10)

Incidentally, in the course of this Situation the gods made many movies, using daily events in my life as inspiration. One of note:::Unhappy about the god's behavior in the context of this event, while in favored redwhite&blue's facility I looked at their mascot and flippantly declared::::"Why don't you make a movie about these things?" Two years later ____ came out.
(p. 14)

Show on gangland drug sales.
The gods orchistrate this whole underworld, just as they did with the Italians early in the 20th century.
The gods convince Oakland pimps that chilldhood prostitution is OK - Learn from the lies they tell other groups!!!(p. 27)

The gods manufacture "open doors" to justify creating problems in the lives of people who engage in behavior they shouldn't. Some of these "open doors" apply to all (a supermajority) of the people::::
- Democracy is used to create pathologies of empowerment and control.
- Materialism/greed generate problems with money, glorify overconsumption, etc.
Other "open doors" are specific to each individual::::People shouldn't be watching movies, TV, listening to music. When this ocurrs the gods use themes and topics presented therein and instruct Artificial Intelligence to create pathologies. (p.44)

Don't forget:::automatic transmissions dominate in the United States, and NOT for good reason. European vehicles historically are mostly manual, for they have more favor.
Females are the favored gender:::What cars DO have manuals here in the US have traditionally been marketted towards the women AND are those which get the highest mileage.
Buy manual transmissions. Automatics are NOT respected!!! (p. 53)

"I'm going to do what I'm told." You learned temptation would be used to test you. These requests are the gods tempting you.
You are fucking up.
This is the REAL battle of good and evil.
Mon May 26, 05:53:00 PM AKDT (p. 60)

Since I have the time this person visited, I can look up the sitemeter report:

Castro Valley, California
Got here from a link on FieryBlazingHandBasket.

I checked a few posts there to see if they were blessed with this manifesto too, but didn't find it. But mine was buried down about ten or 15 posts from the current one.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Alaska Democratic Convention - Leftovers

I've mentioned that the Alaska bloggers and media have been very helpful and cooperative of one another. While I think that covering how the media cover stories is important, sometimes I wonder if this doesn't get a little incestuous. I just want to raise this point now and maybe when I've been able to sift through my thoughts on this I'll do a longer post on it.

Meanwhile, here are some leftovers from yesterday at the convention - filling in some details, and odds and ends. First, the delegates:

The Democratic Party Website explains how many delegates there will be and how they were to be selected. I should have read that before I went to the convention yesterday. Things would have made more sense.

Here's a peek at the list of candidates the Obama delegates had to vote from.

Alaska Report has a list of the people who were selected as delegates and the Barack Obama video address to the convention yesterday.

Representative Gruenberg explained to me the precise purpose of the legislative special session starting June 3.

I got to meet Celtic (pronounced Keltic) Diva, who is the blogger chosen to be the official Alaska blogger at the Democratic National Convention in August. I should have recognized her without someone having to tell me - she's hiding in plain sight on the header picture picture on her blog. Her coverage of this weekend's convention will probably be the most insightful, she's left it to the rest of us to post while driving, so to speak. She's putting her notes in the garage for a few days to figure out what happened and how to write about it.
[Later: I also met Matt Browner Hamlin who was introduced as the blogger honcho who is here to run Mark Begich's campaign website. He seemed decent enough in our short hat. He has posted his observations of the convention on Daily Kos and the Mark Begich blog.]

Like a rare bird among birders, Mary Beth Kepner's appearance attracted a lot of attention among the bloggers and reporters (Alaskareport, ADN, Progressive Alaska, who covered the political corruption trials last year. Kepner is the FBI agent who initiated and ran the whole investigation into Alaska's political corruption. She sat next to the prosecution throughout the trials, but inside security at the courtroom, no cameras were allowed. (Computers and cellphones were allowed for the Kott and Kohring trials for attorneys and members of the press and no one that I know of violated the no camera rule by using their cell phone or computer to take pictures inside security.) And Kepner must have taken back ways through the building back to her office since I never saw a picture of her. So, everyone had their cameras out for this rare sighting. As everyone else has reported, she said she's an independent and was only at the convention to hear John Dean speak. This wikipedia excerpt shows why an FBI agent might be interested in seeing Dean.

As White House Counsel, he became deeply involved in events leading up to the Watergate burglaries and the subsequent Watergate scandal cover up, even referred to as "master manipulator of the cover up" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[1] He was convicted of multiple felonies as a result of Watergate, and went on to become a key witness for the prosecution, resulting in a reduction of his time in jail.
For the record, he said last night that he knew nothing before the burglary and that he had thwarted another Liddy plan to firebomb the Brookings Institute. If I recall right, this was when he was signing books, not in the speech, but it's all kind of a blur.

And Kepner breaks all one's stereotypes about FBI agents. So, will seeing her picture and hearing us report she's a real person, change people's stereotypes about what women can do or about the FBI? Just a little? Or just convince you that bloggers are overly gullible?

Alaska Democratic Conference Last Post - Headed Home

We left the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer at 11:15pm. It is summer in Alaska, though it was still raining.
Despite my wish to ride my bike as much as possible, the 40 miles to the convention, in the rain, was beyond my resolve. Besides, my wife was going with me and while she enjoys the bike we got her last summer, she isn't into long distance biking. But we managed to stay behind slow cars in both directions.
Here we are near Eagle River, it's about 11:40pm now.

And the rain has finally stopped. It sure smells good out after the rain.

It was a good day. I'm afraid that I wasn't well focused on the details of the delegate count, but rather on capturing the look and feel of the convention. I've never been to a Democratic convention in Alaska even though this is my 31st year here. And I'm not alone. But a LOT of people were there today and it's pretty clear that Barack Obama got most of us there. Well, the chance to actually see and talk to John Dean, which I did before we left, was a big draw for me. While I was posting the beginning of his speech, J was getting an autographed copy of his new book, Broken Government which was the basis of his presentation to the convention.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Alaska Democratic Convention Post 9: John Dean

John Dean just finished telling us how awful life will be if John McCain wins in November. While I'm waiting for the video to upload, let me just say I spent the summer of 1973 glued to the radio and television set listening to the Watergate hearings. I remember John Dean being the highest member of the Nixon administration to stand up and say we did wrong.

Alaska Democratic Convention Post 8: Mark Begich

Frank Vondersaar and Ray Metcalfe , US Senate candidates spoke to the convention while I was eating dinner. I'm afraid I wasn't paying enough attention. Here's the beginning of Mark Begich's speech.

Right now John Dean, President Nixon's personal attorney who told the Watergate hearings what was actually happening and helped blow open the Watergate Scandal, is answering questions after his prepared remarks in which he lambasted the current Republican administration and the dangers to the Supreme Court if another Republican is elected.

Alaska Democratic Convention Post 7: Benson and Berkowitz Speeches

I posted a clip from Ethan Berkowitz' speech earlier. But I didn't have anything from Diane Benson's speech. (They are the two Democratic candidates for the US House Race.) David Shurtleff of APRN offered me his audio copies of the two speeches. I've mentioned the cooperation and helpfulness of the Anchorage media and this is a great example of it. Thanks David. So I'm getting them uploaded as I write now

Remix Default-tiny Benson's Speech by AKRaven

Remix Default-tiny Berkowitz Speech by AKRaven

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 6 - Delegate Candidates

The delegate candidates are going up and giving 10 second speeches on why the others should send them to the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The video gives you a sense of what things are like right now. There are lots and lots of candidates. Kay Brown just told me there were 265 to start with, but many have withdrawn or just aren't here and are being dropped from the ballot. But it does seem to indicate the excitement here that so many people have signed up to be among the 18 delegates to go.

I'm saving this next video at higher quality, so the download will take a bit longer. People are still telling the convention why they should be chosen to be one of the delegates. The last candidate - Zipkin - just did her talk and now the very last one, a write-in candidate who was accidentally left off the ballot.

You might also what to check the ADN blog, Sean Cockerham is across the table writing.

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 5 - The Official Delegate Count

OK, so they have counted the delegates here and that determines how many Obama and Clinton delegates go to the Democratic convention. I'm not sure how this works out since there were about 77% of the votes for Obama. But you can listen to the video and hear the details. I can barely keep up with my videoing, uploading, posting, and paying attention to what's going on.

Right now the Obama and Clinton delegates here are supposed to be voting for the delegates who will go to the National Convention in August.

I'm balancing off speed and quality, downloading these clips at lower quality so that I can get them up faster. Sorry.

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 4 - counting Obama delegates

I tried to video directly to youtube from the camera. It worked, but you can see that the video quality is low. This was the counting of the Obama delegates.

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 4 - Random Shots

It appears that Viddler is down and so all my viddler videos are (temporarily, I hope) not working, including the first post here. So I've switched to YouTube.
Talking to state rep Max Gruenberg.

Ron Z a delegate from my district talking to Assembly member and University Professor Sheila Selkregg chatting.

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 3 - Katie Hurley

From Hold This Thought, here's a brief bio of Katie Hurley:

Katie Hurley, Chief Clerk to Alaska's Constitutional Convention. Katherine Torkelsen Alexander Hurley was born in Juneau to Norwegian immigrants on Seward's Day. She has been a public servant in the territory and state since December 1940 and is the proud mother of three children and four grandchildren. Despite her 86 years, she remains a vigorous activist.

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 2

Figuring out how to do this is going to take a bit. I'm going to save the videos at a low quality so it all goes faster. Right now people are dividing up into precincts. Here's the video of Ethan Berkowitz, US House Candidate. Unfortunately I got here too late to capture Diane Benson's speech. Maybe I can get her to say something directly to the blog later. [Both speeches are now posted here thanks to David Shurtleff at APRN.}

[viddler seems not to be working so I'm reposting from youtube.]

Alaska Democratic Conference Post 1

I'm at the Alaska Democratic Convention now as a delegate. This is the closest to 'live blogging' I've been. At the court I had to go out and down to cafeteria for the wifi, but here in Raven Hall at the Alaska State Fairgrounds
It was raining and we needed gas to get to Palmer.

You can figure out the rest. This is what I was all trying to deal with as we drove out and found Raven Hall and got registered as a press rep for the conference.

As I'm posting, Obama is talking to the conference via I'm not sure what, but I hear his voice. He was introduced by Heather Kendall Miller, an incredible Alaska Native attorney who went to law school with Barack Obama.

Before that, a Congresswoman from California (so I was told) whose name I couldn't catch, explained why Hillary should be the nominee to a skeptical, but friendly audience.

Diane Benson was giving a stirring speech as we were registering and before I got my bearings. Then Ethan Berkowitz and by then I was together enough to get a little video which I'll post soon.

Friday, May 23, 2008

20 More Ways for Airlines to Charge

American, Cutting Back, Plans $15 Bag Fee:
American Airlines said Wednesday that it would soon start charging passengers $15 to check their first bag each way, or $30 round-trip, if they are flying on a discounted fare. The airline’s new policy — to take effect June 15 — comes only two weeks after many major carriers, including American, began charging $25 each way for checking a second bag.

The new fee is just the latest example of airlines adding charges on top of rising airfares, even at the risk of angering travelers further, to make up for the billions of dollars they are losing as fuel prices soar. . .

American Airlines executives said they had little choice but to impose such fees, given that the price of jet fuel is up more than 80 percent from a year ago.

These executives need some training in logical thinking. What they meant to say was:

"Jet fuel has gone up more than 80% from last year, therefore we have to do something to lower other costs or raise other revenue."

This wasn't the only option. They had choices. Imposing "such fees" was the one they chose. One choice is to come clean with the costs. Publish all the expenses - including executive salaries and perks (including how much you pay the people who say they had no choice) and show us how much it really costs to fly from one place to another listing every cost, per passenger. And how much an extra piece of baggage costs. Then we can all look at possible ways to cut costs. If there aren't any, then we have to face reality and fork over more money if we want to fly.

From one perspective, the new charge makes sense. If extra luggage means more fuel is used, then perhaps you could justify an additional fee to those who bring extra suitcases. Those who don't use the service shouldn't pay. But by that logic, we should weigh every passenger and charge by the kilo.

But we are also human beings, and there is a reason that the phrase "nickel and dimed" has come into our language. And for me, and it sounds like many others too, it applies here.

The market is supposed to work to keep prices in line. When something gets too expensive, people are supposed to change their buying habits. I'd like to see if anyone has studied the distortion effects that unlimited credit card debt and a growing sense of universal entitlement have had on the demand side.

We are like the airline execs who say, "We had no choice." Sure we have a choice and
in the case of driving and flying, cutting back could also help the environment. We need to just say no. Find things to do close to home. Talk to our loved ones via Skype instead of flying to see them. Or not leaving them in the first place. No one flew in a plane to get anywhere before 1908. Very few people had actually flown anywhere even in 1960. I recall being shocked by learning that something like only 20% of the US population had flown in an airplane in 1960. Finding that sort of information now is not easy, but I did find this:

Whereas only 10 percent of the adult US population had ever traveled in an airliner during the late 1940s, 63 percent had done so by 1977...
and this:
The growing pervasiveness of air travel can be seen by the increasing numbers of people who have flown on a commercial jet: less than 50 percent in 1975 compared with more than 80 percent today. [ Last modified: April 29, 2008 15:55]
Still today then, 20% of the population has survived without ever flying in a commercial jet.
Life without jets is possible. If flying becomes inconvenient enough and expensive enough, we may find that returning to trains (though more hi-tech than those that lost out to planes) and traveling overseas by ship may once again become more comfortable and make more sense. Only those with urgent speed needs would fly.

But, in case we can't say no, here's my list of:

20 More Ways for Airlines to Charge

  1. Seat reservations (hmmmm, Air Asia already does this)
  2. Bathroom tokens $3 each - auctions for those who want to go to the head of the line
  3. Surcharge to use a bathroom that gets cleaned between flights
  4. $5 to view flight arrival and departure information board
  5. Extra for seats - others stand like in a subway, or for a lower charge get to sit on wooden benches, maybe discount fairs will mean flying in the baggage compartment
  6. $5 exit fee to get off the plane
  7. Entrance fee to the baggage pick up area
  8. Service charge for using the light, head phones, call button which is calculated by an onboard computer plus an administrative fee for that
  9. $1/minute fee (rounded up to the nearest minute) for all flight attendant service - smiles extra
  10. Overhead luggage space will be converted to pay lockers
  11. Surcharge to cover cleaning the plane between flights
  12. On time arrival surcharge
  13. Charge passengers by the kilo
  14. Trash pick up service charge, fee for empty barf bags, much bigger fee if you fill one
  15. Life vest surcharge and fees for the flight emergency instructions card
  16. Extra $3 if you want to open the window shade
  17. $10 extra if you want a seat with an overhead oxygen mask
  18. $3 for a clean head rest cover
  19. $10 for wheel chairs
  20. $5 a minute for screaming kids

Brief Guide to Ten (10) Common Birds of Chiang Mai

We got to know a number of birds pretty well after our two and a half month stay in Chiang Mai. I'm only a casual birder so we were dependent on bird books and the internet to identify most of these.

The pictures are from my pocket Canon Powershot so most are just good enough to help you identify the birds. Since I have the pictures, I thought it might be nice for visitors to Chiang Mai to have a brief guide to some common birds they might see or hear. We were in Chiang Mai from early February to late April, so I can't guarantee these birds are all around or sound the same at different times. Regular visitors to this site have seen most of the pictures and videos as they came into being. But here they are all gathered in one post.

#1. Red Whiskered Bulbul

This is one of the easiest to spot because of its distinctive black crest and because it is so common. It's a red-whiskered bulbul. You can see it better in the video below. From the Honolulu Zoo:

The Red-whiskered Bulbul has a distinct red ear patch, and red tail coverts. Both features are very distinctive from other birds. This bulbul averages seven inches in length and can weigh from 23 to 42 grams. The birds are brownish above and white below their stomach region from birth until an age six months. The head is black with a pointed crest and there is a red patch, the "whiskers", behind the eye. The beak is slender and notched. Their nostrils are ovalshaped, and have bristles. The legs and toes have little strength and are usually short. The wings are short and rounded and the tail shape varies from rounded to squared. Immature bulbuls resemble adults except that they lack the red marking on the head.
And for better pictures, check here, and here.

#2. Racket Tailed Drongo

The racket tailed drongo has a number of different calls. One call is on the video below. The long trailing feathers give it away.
From Wikipedia we learn:

The species is well-known as a very accurate vocal mimic, and according to Goodale and Kotagama (2006) appears to learn its alarm calls through interactions in mixed-species flocks. This is quite unusual, as avian vocal mimicry has hitherto been believed to be ignorant of the original context of the imitated vocalization (parrots are known to use imitated human speech in correct context, but do not show this behavior in nature). This drongo's context-sensitive use of other species' alarm calls is thus analogous to a human learning useful short phrases and exclamations in a number of foreign languages.

#3. Black Drongo

A black drongo's tail is more forked and doesn't have the long trailing feathers. For more see

#4. Greater Coucal
You are more likely to hear than see this bird. It makes a deep toop-toop sound. It's faintly in the background of one of the videos below. It also has a long tail. You can see clearer pictures at

#5. Magpie Robin
The magpie robin is also pretty distinctive with the white streak on the black wing and white underbelly.

#6. Common Myna
Common Myna.

#7. Spotted Dove
You can hear the spotted dove coo-coo-cooing on one of the videos below.

#8. Pigeon
Pigeon landing.

#9. Scarlet backed flowerpecker. These are tiny and move around a lot. But the red head and back are good tips this might be what you are seeing flitting in the leaves. For much better pictures go to

#10 Koel

In this video you can hear the dove and bird #10 the koel (this is a great collection of Thai birds, the koel is in the first row), and one of many calls of the racket-tailed drongo. I did manage to see a few koel, but never managed to get a picture. They're not easy to spot unless they fly, but their voices are very distinctive and very common, at least during the time we were there. You can also see a greater coucal's fuzzy silhouette with its long tail. These are pretty big birds, maybe two feet long,

In this video you can see a red whiskered bulbul, a greater coucal, and a black drongo. You can hear the coucal very, very faintly in the background when the bulbul is on. There is a comment when it starts - put your cursor on the light grey dot on the blue playbar (I know, what's a playbar? I'm trying to figure out a simple way to describe the line that shows where you are on the video. There are two such comments on the first video too.)