Friday, December 31, 2010

Skype Apologizes for Outage With 30 Minute Free Land Line Call

I mentioned last week that Skype wasn't working.  Today they emailed an apology:

To our valued customers:

As 2010 draws to a close, I would like to take a moment to thank each of you for your patience, understanding, and support during Skype’s recent outage.

We know how important your Skype conversations are to you and we take any disruption to our service very seriously. We are pleased to confirm that Skype is back to normal allowing you to connect with friends, co-workers, family and loved ones.

As a valued customer of Skype, we would like to offer you a sincere apology and offer you our gratitude with a credit voucher worth a call of more than 30 minutes to a landline in some of our most popular countries, such as USA, UK, Germany, China, Japan. Or spend it however you like on Skype. . .

30 minutes on Skype to a landline phone wouldn't cost anyone too much, but still it's a nice gesture.  

Thursday, December 30, 2010

More Beach, Sun, Snow, Canals, But It's Not Warm

I'm not complaining.  The sun's out, I'm in shorts, but I did wear a fleece jacket for my bike ride this morning.  I'm guessing it's in the 50s (F) with low for tonight around 41˚, but as you can see, it is beautiful.

Here's Santa Monica Bay with the Santa Monica Mountains in the background, Venice in the foreground.  I'm near the Marina Del Ray breakwater.


Here are three pictures glued together crudely with photoshop to show the whole bay and the edge of the breakwater on the far left. 



From the here I could see the mountains to the east of LA over the Marina Del Rey.  I think - but I'm not sure - the biggest one is Mt. Baldy.

And then I biked back past the Venice canals.  This one had pelicans and grebes and an egret.  I must say the grebes' winter plumage is pretty dull.  For the Southern California folks who said they'd never been to the old zoo, I have to admit that I don't remember when I was last at these canals.  I've always known they were here, and I know I've seen them, but they just are a little out of normal range, even though they are close.  And today was a spectacular day. 


Tonight we're off to dinner with our son and his fiancé and to meet her parents for the first time.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Venice Beach, Sun, Snow

Monday, in deference to my still (but not as) sore ribs, I biked instead of jogging to Venice Beach.  It was a clear day by LA standards - you can see Catalina off in the distance.  I know for you Anchorage readers, those vague outlines 26 miles away are a joke.  You see Denali 150 miles away more clearly.  But, this is LA.

I also passed the Kush doctor's place and was surprised to see it was now for lease.  I've been looking online to see what happened to it.  Here's the best I could find from Yelp last June:

Pomona, CA
6/17/2010
October 2009
I am SO GLAD this place got shut down.  I moved to Santa Monica and was looking into investment opportunities when I decided to get a job at one of the places to see how it works from the inside.  They wanted me to hold a sign and SCREAM at tourists to "get legal", except when the cops pass by and then we were to stand back.  What a terrible job!  The two men that run this joint (ran, I should say, I heard Sean was going to jail, where he belongs!) are the BIGGEST DOUCHE-BAGS ON VENICE BEACH!  Sean is the worst.  He screamed at me several times, in front of potential customers and made himself look more like an idiot than a businessman.  Needless to say, I got stiffed my last paycheck and my attempts to collect on a measly $50 (just to make a point) was unsuccessful.  I did manage to make friends there, the staff was really cool and in this economy they figured a job is a job. I got my wages back in medicine so I felt vindicated.  I hope Sean, the ugly tattooed short idiot is really going to jail.  That is where both of them, Andrew AND Sean belong!!

 Most of the other Yelp comments weren't too complimentary either.




I stopped by the skate plaza too.  They seem to have adopted some safety protocols since it opened in October 2009.  At least while I was there, only one person was going in the near run at a time.  Or at least they were trying to.  Note how clear the Santa Monica Mountains are in the background.




By Tuesday when we rode back down to catch some chilly rays, the Santa Monica Mountains were barely visible in the clouds and Catalina had evaporated completely.

















Back to Monday, you could see snow on the top of the San Gabriel Mountains in the distance.  They get up to 10,000 feet.







It was raining this morning (Wednesday), but by afternoon it had cleared up.

AIFF 2010: Features - My Favorites

This is Part 2 of a post started here comparing my favorite features at the Anchorage International Film Festival to those that won.

The Ones I Liked and Why



Fanny, Annie, and Danny

I've already written about this one and you can read about it there.  But the longer it's been, the more I think this is an almost perfect little film.   Just really good characters, really good acting, and a story that moves at just the right pace to bring all the characters together to the climax.  I was drawn right in and assumed I knew what happened when the screen went black.  It never occurred to me that the off-camera conclusion could have been different than the one I 'saw' until someone else was sure of a different conclusion.  This is a film whose characters were still in my head the day after I first saw it and wouldn't let go of my brain. 


The Temptation of St. Tony

Other reviewers had suggested the cinematic homages paid to various high brow film directors would be over the heads of most viewers.  While the film bleakly followed the excesses of Estonia's nouveau riche, often juxtaposing their excesses against the plight of the poor, I found it compelling throughout.  The images were stark and sometimes surreal.  The star of the movie, Taavi Eelsma, told me it was basically about whether it is possible today to be a good person.  Knowing that made it all work for me.  


Hello Lonesome

Hello Lonesome was, like Fanny, Annie, and Danny, about people and relationships.  We watched three lonesome people connecting with other people.  The move weaves in and out of each of the three stories - and all three stories are unexpected, yet very believable.  Excellent acting and all the other basics of good film making made this a poignant movie.  All the people, odd as some were, felt real.  This was simply a good movie.


Two more

22:43 - This Twilight Zone-like Austrian mystery had great characters and stories that moved along on several levels so the viewer had to pay close attention to keep track of them all.  It was an ambitious movie that was nicely done.  It isn't a great movie, but certainly better than much of the formula garbage that comes out of Hollywood.  And it's world premier was in Anchorage at the festival.  You can watch premier audience reactions.


The Red Machine - This movie fits into the category of hip outlaw films such as The Sting.  The lead character is one of those smart criminals who has a strong work ethic, a problem with authority, and a lip. He's hired to help steal, not the Japanese secret code machine - which would make knowing the code useless - but how the machine works in the mid 1930s. 

This film was invited to the festival and thus was not in competition for an award. It's Hollywood slick, but better than average Hollywood smart. Good characters and dialogue throughout, though I was left scratching my head over a couple of points in the film. For example, I didn't get the strong animosity over the guy who was brought back to the team to do the heist. His relationship with the Japanese ambassador was made clear, but not with the other Navy guys. They really didn't like him.

In an earlier post I lamented that the film was shown on Dec. 6 and Dec. 8, but would have been much more appropriately shown on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor Day.  I also called the movie very slick and irreverent.  The directors left a comment that took me a second to catch.
Argy and Boehm said...
Oh...it would have been cool to have The Red Machine play on the Day That Shall Live in Infamy! Thank you for the thought...
Stephanie Argy (slick) and Alec Boehm (irreverent) Co-directors The Red Machine
That gives a hint of their quick wit throughout the film.


OK, I've got two more I want to at least mention.

Ashes  is in the 'infected' genre and I probably wouldn't have seen it at 10pm when it was playing against a well hyped local feature - Beekeepers.  But I'd met film maker Elias Matar  just after he arrived and he kept inviting me to the film.  I'm not a zombie movie fan.  I don't quite get the attraction.  And I learned from Matar that infected movies are NOT zombie movies.  Ashes was filmed in a real hospital and follows a pretty realistic emergency room doctor.  Matar (here's a video of him talking about the film) explained that his sister is an ER doctor and so many of her stories are meshed together in this film.  All this is to say that the film begins as a serious film about an infection in a hospital before people start going strange as they become infected.  It's possible that the film could attract what I would think would be two different audiences - the serious hospital crisis drama  audience and the infection/zombie audience. Or each might be turned off by the joining of these two different genres.  I would note that the film was marred by the fact that the Blue Ray version stopped about 20 minutes in and we had to first wait, then watch much of the beginning over again until the DVD copy caught up to where the first one ended.  This is something the festival has got to do better in the future if it is going to be more than a funky, way-off-in-Alaska festival.  And I don't recall any of the audience leaving during the interruption. 




Ticked Off Trannies With Knives gets my award for best title at the Festival.  The transvestite characters were spectacularly bigger than life, but we also got to see behind the make-up a bit.  And just listening to them and watching them is worth the price of admission.  The sadism and violence in the movie is not something I normally watch, but all the characters were real - which made it even more distressing.  And as I said in a short previous comment on this film, the very ending line asked the same question I was asking, saving the movie, because it was so self-aware. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

LA's Old Zoo Then and Now

Sunday, we were in the area of the old LA zoo in Griffith Park - the zoo I remember as a little kid.  With all it's horrible old cages.  Yet it was a place where this little kid could see lions and tigers and bears, up close, live.  And all those creatures fascinated me.  I was lucky my Dad was willing to take me there frequently. 

OK, my older, more aware self has real issues with zoos - they can be seen as both places where great wild creatures are imprisoned in cages as entertainment for humans OR the place where rare species might be able to survive because their natural habitat has been wiped out by humans.  Either was it doesn't say much for humans.  But this post is about nostalgia.  About visiting the zoo I visited as a child.  I remember walking up the canyon and hearing the roar of the lions and the trumpeting of the elephants. 

The old zoo closed down in 1965 and the new LA zoo opened a couple of miles away.  But somehow some remnants of the old zoo have been preserved.  While this is nice for nostalgia, it also is a bit of history that shows people that zoos today are much nicer prisons than they were in the past. 



We walked up what turned out to be the back way.  I first refound the old zoo with my son about 35 years ago one grey, windy day.  It was a very spooky experience walking through this old zoo ground I'd been to many times as a child. 

I found it again sometime in the last ten years with my wife.  So, since we were nearby Sunday, I thought I'd go by once more. 



Here's part of a row of prison like cages that housed big cats and possibly some bears.  I remembered being here well, watching these amazing creatures.  So last night I asked my mom about old photo albums and she pointed me to one where I found this picture taken pretty close to this spot in 1951. 

There I am (in the white shirt), with some family friends, at these very cages.  In those days there was a fence, then an inside walkway, and then the cage itself.  The outer fence is gone today, and the cage doors are open. 

Here's the leopard's eye view of the people at the zoo.  This may just look like a picture to you, but to me it is amazing, to be able to get on the other side of the bars and look out.

Here's inside one of the cages.  Again, horribly small for the majestic animals that were imprisoned here.  

These were the more modern cages back then.  I remember bears being in cages like this.  There used to be a low wall on the outside and a moat - some with, some without water - between the people and the animals.  Again, walking back where the bears could hide when they got tired of being watched was an amazing experience.  

One of the not particularly well advertised spots where you can see Los Angeles history - and American zoo history.  I suspect that most places like this were simply torn down and built over.  Through some quirk of historical fate, these cages were preserved.  (I'm sure there is a story first of neglect, and then dedicated folks who worked to make sure these remnants were preserved.)  Probably not well advertised because it's part of a public park you can enter without buying a ticket.  It's in Griffith Park about two miles from the 'new' zoo. 

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Mystery of the Unused Shea Butter Machines

Often things that other people do or say make no sense at all.  Until you see the story from their point of view.  

Maria Karlya is a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Ghana.  In an article in the Fall 2010 Worldview magazine she writes about the problem of the shea butter machines that are locked up in an old factory, while the women keep laboriously whipping the shea nut butter by hand. (I didn't know what shea butter was either so I looked it up.)  They work so much harder than necessary, but the machines go unused.

So Maria contacted Adisa, an Ghanaian woman who works at an NGO that helps women to become self sustaining.  Her encounter with Adisa leads to another long story about Peace Corps and Adisa's life, but for this post I'm just concerned with the shea butter mystery.


After a long conversation with Adisa, Maria asks her about the shea butter machines.  Adisa responds:
"Maria, here is the problem.  Making shea butter is a social event for these women.  All day, they are in the house serving their men and children.  They can't discuss their problems, because the men will hear.  They have no privacy.  But when they are under the trees making shea butter, the men won't mind them.  That's when they can talk.  They give advice to their daughters;  they share ideas and discuss their troubles.  They cherish that time.  Those machines are incredibly loud, and only a few can use them at a time.  The process ceases to be social. . ."


I try to remind myself that most things do make sense if you have all the data.  Especially at home.  But my wife will tell you I forget a lot.  

Sunday, December 26, 2010

New Hungarian Law Has Chilling Effect on Media including Blogs

Deutsche Welle says:

Lawmakers in Hungary have given a controversial new body powers to oversee public news production and levy high fines on private media that break rules on political reporting.
The Hungarian parliament passed the law establishing the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) on Monday evening, according to the Hungarian national news agency MTI.
Some 1,500 protesters gathered outside the parliament in the hours before the vote, claiming that it would restrict press freedom, after an appeal was made on the social network site Facebook.

The BBC writes
Unbalanced coverage or breaches of the rules on coverage of sex, violence or alcohol are now expected to prompt the imposition of sanctions by the new authority.
The NMHH will be able to impose fines of up to 200m forints (£615,000; $955,000) on TV and radio stations, MTI reported.
Newspapers could face fines of up to 25m forints and news websites 10m forints.
A media freedom representative for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Dunja Mijatovic, said the law "could lead to all broadcasting being subordinated to political decisions".
Freedom House also warned that it would be "a major setback for press freedom in Hungary". The definition of "violations" is "very broad", it added.
The NMHH is dominated by Fidesz appointees, Reuters news agency reports.
The government argues that the new law is long overdue, saying Hungary's legislation needs to catch up with rapid developments in media technology and content.

Reuters adds:

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said it [the new Hungarian law] severely restricted print and online media, which runs counter to OSCE standards.
"Regulating print media can curb media freedom and free public debate, which are indispensable elements of democracies," OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic wrote in a report.
"Regulating online media is not only technologically impossible but it exerts a chilling, self-censoring effect on free expression."


From the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe.
Strasbourg, 23.12.2010 – “In a democracy, media must not be treated as enemies of the state. The Media and Communications Authority  to be established in Hungary on 1 January is an alarming sign that Hungary wishes to police the media,” said Markku Laukkanen (Finland, ALDE), the Chairman of the Sub-Committee on the Media of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

“Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights protects freedom of expression, information and opinion throughout Europe. We see an overly broad Hungarian legislation, which enables state authorities to impose severe sanctions on media for having raised political criticism. This will cause a severe chilling effect on media freedom and would therefore in principle violate Article 10,” Mr Laukkanen said.

“The PACE Sub-Committee on the Media will discuss the state of media freedom in Europe in January 2011. I do hope that the Hungarian government will have clearly set by then the limits on this new Media and Communications Authority, which must not function like the censorship bodies sadly known in Hungary under communist and fascist rule. Media censorship has no place in the democratic Europe of today.

There is also a video press conference on this bill at the European Commission.

I try to keep loaded words out of my posts.  The basis for saying 'chilling effect' in the title is a message I got from a Hungarian blogger I've been reading for several years who has shut down his blog because of fear he might run afoul of the law.  That, by definition, is what chilling effect means.  And that's what caused me to look into this more.

Roots, Ribs, Sidewalks











Why cut a beautiful, healthy tree growing in the city?

I was taking advantage of the sunshine and warm temps to go for a run Saturday morning from the motel to my mom's place. (Which was full up with our kids.) 




And saw a long row of cut trees.  And there was probably a good reason when I saw what the roots had done to the sidewalk.  But it's not the big buckling that's a problem for me.  It's the part where the next slab sticks up about two inches.

Shortly after taking those pictures, the toe of my shoe caught the edge, and I went airborne, all in slow motion now.  I thought about the dislocated finger caused by just such a flight a year and a half ago, I saw the grass to my left, I pulled in my arms, pulled down my head and landed in beautiful shoulder roll and was back up on my feet all probably in no more than three or four seconds.

But when I started walking I could feel the ribs on my left side.  I had about a mile to go and walking wasn't bad.  I eventually started a slow run and made it ok.  But the ribs were very tender.  I slept on my right side last night and things are a better today. 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

AIFF 2010: Features - My Choices v. Festival Choices

 Three films in each category got recognized by the Anchorage International Film Festival juries and by the audiences.

AIFF 2010 Jury Awards - Features

Winner The Wild Hunt Alexandre Franchi (Canada 2009)
Runner-Up The Drummond Will Alan Butterworth (UK 2010)
Honorable Mention Bai Yin Di Guo (Empire of Silver) Christina Shu-hwa Yao (China/Hong Kong/Taiwan 2009)


AIFF 2010 Audience Awards - Features

Winner Bai Yin Di Guo (Empire of Silver) Christina Shu-hwa Yao (China/Hong Kong/Taiwan 2009)
Runner-Up Son Istasyon (Last Station) Ogulcan Kirca (Turkey 2010)
Honorable Mention The Drummond Will Alan Butterworth (UK 2010)

My choices (With a caveat, of course.  It really makes no sense to make films compete for various reasons I'll mention below.  But I've decided to bite the bullet and pick three that make me feel most satisfied looking back at the festival.  And I've added two extras.  The first three are not distinguished in priority. The fourth is a runner up, and the fifth is in a different category as an invited film)

What Do I know?  Most Satisfying/Thought Provoking Features (three way tie)

Fanny, Annie, and Danny,  Chris Brown  USA
Temptation of St. Tony Veiko Õunpuu  Estonia
Hello Lonesome Alan Butterworth UK

Runner Up:  22:44   Markus Hautz   Austria


I'll add one more which was a special feature (meaning it was invited and not in the running for an award)

The Red Machine  Alec Boehm  S. Argy   USA

Below is the list of all the features at the festival.  As I compiled the list, I realized that we saw all but two.  Those two are at the bottom.  

Films I saw:
22:44   Markus Hautz   Austria
Ashes  Elias Matar  USA
Bai Yin Di Guo [Empire of Silver]*   Christina Shu-hwa Yao  China
The Drummond Will*  Alan Butterworth  UK
Fannie, Annie & Danny  Chris Brown   USA
Hello Lonesome*   Adam Reid   USA
Karma Calling*  Sarba Das  USA
The Red Machine  Alec Boehm  S. Argy   USA

The Silent Accomplice  Erik Knudsen  UK
Son Istasyon [Last Station]*  Ogulcan Kirca  Turkey
Temptation of St. Tony*  Veiko Õunpuu  Estonia
Ticked Off Trannies With Knives  Israel Luna  USA
The Wild Hunt*  Alexandre Franchi   Canada

Films I didn't see:  
Rocksteady   Mustapha Khan  USA
The Violent Kind   The Butcher Brothers   Phil Flores  Mitchell Altieri USA

* means in competition

My Problem with Choosing "Best"

In the Olympics, in sports like diving and gymnastics, they give people more points if they do a more difficult dive or routine. If you make a mistake in a harder routine, you could still beat a perfect, but less challenging one.

How can you compare a multi-million dollar movie with one that cost a half-million, or one that cost $50,000? How do you compare a movie that does a good job in a fairly familiar genre from one that takes risks by trying something different? I could do several lengthy posts on this topic, but you get the point. 


Why my choices compared to the Jury and Audience choices.

The Festival winners:

Empire of Silver was an epic historical drama full of magnificent photography and interesting characters. I must admit some bias against the film at first, because the reviews I read from Hong Kong and Taiwan weren't very good. From screen daily review
[Empire of Silver] will have some purchase in Asia. But elsewhere, this will face the distribution dilemma of decent but unexceptional Chinese costumers like The Banquet: there’s little beyond one relatively flatline swordfight here to keep the action fans happy, and not enough dramatic substance for more highbrow audiences. 
And this Twitch review:
Down but not completely out, then, Empire of Silver is far more than a curio. Its weaknesses may condemn it to relative obscurity outside mainland China or the main Asian markets but for anyone willing to look the other way every so often it is still very much worth watching. Gorgeously presented, with enough star power to keep the viewer engaged, while undeniably incomplete what's left here comes recommended nonetheless.

So when I finally got to see Empire of Silver I was pleasantly surprised.  The cinematography is beautiful.  The movie comes from a trilogy by Cheng Yi, so condensing three novels into a two hour movie already sets the viewer up for some confusion.  Plus viewers who know nothing about Chinese history have no context.  I was even more frustrated because two nights before I finally saw the film in Best of the Fest, I had driven director Christina Yao back to her B&B and wasn't ready to ask the questions I wanted to ask after the film.

Clearly the Anchorage audience wasn't too upset about following all the details, because they chose it the Audience Award winner.  And its coverage of a banking crisis 100 years ago certainly gives it more relevance to US viewers today.  The website - which I avoided before the movie - gives extensive explanation that I would recommend to read before the movie to help viewers appreciate it at a richer level.

I'd also like to know more about the role of Chinese women directors and what I thought was a lot more focus on women's rights than I recall from other Chinese movies.

This was clearly a well financed movie that tells an interesting story reasonably well and I don't quibble with the the jury or audience awarding this film.  I just was more stirred by other movies.

The Drummond Will

I also enjoyed this - in Best of the Fest - but didn't move me particularly.  It was a British murder comedy and I didn't think it did anything particularly new or inventive.


The Wild Hunt

I've written about this one already.  It had lots of potential as it explored notions of reality and fantasy but I found the main female character particularly empty.  While she may reflect lots of young women, we didn't learn much about her except that she dumped her boyfriend in a way that kept him dangling just in case and went off to explore some bizarre options. 



The Last Station

This one was mainly interesting to me because of its glimpse of modern Turkey.  It had the feel of a soap opera, but was an engaging movie. The discussion  after the film with the film maker and his father - the lead actor - added some context I could only guess at.  The film addressed similar issues (conflicts between old and new values as capitalism creates new winners and losers** and ethical challenges) that were addressed in the Temptation of St. Tony in a more accessible film style and with less depth.  But while the film gave us an in-depth understanding of the older generation's perspective, it wasn't clear to me how all the children went so astray.  Especially since the best friend's son did not go astray. 

Let me end here and discuss the ones I chose in part 2. 

**St. Tony's creators would probably say only losers, the winners only are materially better off.

Hurtling Through the Sky in a Metal Tube

Assume it's 1527 London and Thomas Cromwell is telling Cardinal Woolsey that he can just get into a metal tube and fly to France without having to get seasick crossing the English Channel. 


Or riding up the Congo in the late 19th Century telling Joseph Conrad  he can return to Europe by air. 

I'm still amazed that we get into these metal tubes and fly 37,000 feet above the trees and rocks and waves.  There I was flying over the US West Coast, but lost in Cromwell and Woolsey's England as I read Wolf Hall, while the woman next to me was lost in the Congo reading King Leopold's Ghost. 

Earlier we got to the airport with time to spare, the long lines at security weren't there.  We walked through at 7:50am without anyone in front of us.  That gave us time to get some walking in before having to sit for 6 hours. We figure the distance from the end of Terminal B to the end of Terminal C in the Anchorage Airport is .14 miles.  So one lap is about .28 miles, and 3.5 laps would be close to a mile.  We got about 40 minutes walk in before going to our gate.  The geese in Terminal B were decorated in Christmas garb.











The sky was rosy above the Chugach as we passed over Prince William sound around 10am.









Seattle was socked in. 












But we got to see Pat McGuire's FOOD CHAIN:  Silver Salmon and Herring as we went from Terminal D to Terminal C to catch the plane on to LA.









It was great to be picked up by my mom and son.  The rain was gone and moon is shining bright.  We hooked up with my daughter and her friend for dinner.  Good times. 






Merry Christmas to all who celebrate it.  For the rest, enjoy the time off and I hope you have some family and/or friends nearby and you enjoy your time with them. 

Friday, December 24, 2010

Off to Visit Mom and the Kids

It doesn't happen often, but the basic family is scheduled to be together for a couple of days in LA.  We're headed out this morning and our kids are already with their grandmother.  Our house sitter was over yesterday to get the keys and check on the plant watering schedule.  He's been here before and so there wasn't much to go over. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Alaska Energy Rating with Kyle Lepping

We signed up with the State last May for an energy audit rebate.  The State will reimburse people with $325 for the audit and up to $10,000 more for implementing projects recommended in the audit.  Someone had recommended a good rater, but he said we had to get on the State list and there was a wait.  We were something like 1200th on the list. 

Well, in November we finally got on the list and Kyle Lepping's firm (the one that had been recommended) was notified and we set up a date.

I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I wasn't quite prepared for all that happened.  He brought all this equipment in.  I thought the telescopic ladder (next to the red case on the bottom right) was very cool.  He also had a smoke generator so he could see which way the draft was going.  the frame goes on the door way with a plastic cover, then he took a fan out of the red case and used it to depressurize the house so he could see where leaks came in - around windows, electrical sockets, etc. 



Here's Kyle in his vest of many pockets and gadgets, and his nifty head lamp checking in the garage.

Throughout he acted as though he acted as though being middle of the clutter wars was perfectly normal. 







He had his BPI Patch on his shoulder.  Their website says:


We are a national standards development and credentialing organization for residential energy efficiency retrofit work – providing training through a network of training affiliate organizations, individual certifications, company accreditations and quality assurance programs. As an independent, not-for-profit organization, we bring together leading building science experts from across North America to develop our standards using a consensus-based methodology.
The result? Sustainable, green-collar jobs in local communities that improve the comfort, health, safety, durability and energy efficiency of America’s existing houses.

Kyle said there were only a few BPI certified contractors and raters in the state.  Federal energy loans which are coming up in the future will require certified contractors to do the work, but the State program doesn't.






Here he has the front door open and is using the frame to hold the plastic in place and the hole is where he's about to put the fan.


On the video he explains a bit what he's doing and then explains his report at the end.  I've left about five minutes of the report and then cut off the rest.   [I'm having trouble uploading the video.  I'll add it when it works later.]

Supreme Court On Cable, Online? Specter Said Yes

In his "Closing Arguments" Sen. Arlen Specter didn't mince words when talking about the US Supreme Court.

  • The Next Congress should try to stop the Supreme Court from further eroding the constitutional mandate of separation of powers. . .
  • Ignoring a massive congressional record and reversing recent decisions, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito repudiated their confirmation testimony given under oath and provided the key votes to permit corporations and unions to secretly pay for political advertising, thus effectively undermining the basic democratic principle of the power of one person, one vote.
  • Chief Justice Roberts promised to just call balls and strikes. Then he moved the bases.
Recognizing the separation of powers doctrine limits what Congress can do, Specter recommends televising Supreme Court proceedings.

  . . . Congress could at least require televising the Court proceedings to provide some transparency to inform the public about what the Court is doing since it has the final word on the cutting issues of the day. Brandeis was right when he said that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
   The Court does follow the election returns, and the Court does judicially notice societal values as expressed by public opinion. Polls show that 85 percent of the American people favor televising the Court when told that a citizen can only attend an oral argument for 3 minutes in a chamber holding only 300 people. Great Britain, Canada, and State supreme courts permit television.
   Congress has the authority to legislate on this subject, just as Congress decides other administrative matters such as what cases the Court must hear, time limits for decisions, number of Justices, the day the Court convenes, and the number required for a quorum. While television cannot provide a definitive answer, it could be significant and may be the most that can be done consistent with life tenure and judicial independence.
But opening the Supreme Court to television is going to take a lot of citizen pressure.  It's hard getting Congress to open up.

From C-Span's website
On November 9, 2010, C-SPAN sent a letter to U.S. House Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH), the presumptive next speaker, requesting that the House allow floor proceedings to also be covered by C-SPAN cameras.
House floor debates are currently televised by cameras owned, operated, and controlled by the House. Reaction shots and wide shots of the chamber are not permitted under House rules. C-SPAN, as well as other media outlets, must use the floor feed provided by the House in its coverage. Congressional policy does allow for C-SPAN's coverage of other Congressional events, such as committee hearings, press conferences, speeches, and the like, to be produced by its own cameras. C-SPAN argues that allowing its cameras to be installed in the House chamber would give the public a more complete and transparent view of Congressional debates. If granted permission to install cameras, C-SPAN proposes to make its feed available to accredited media and stream it live on its web site. 
[emphasis added in all the quotes above]

C-Span's been writing letters like this for a long time.  Here's a linked list of the letters they've sent to Congress, the Supreme Court, and others requesting access to televise proceedings.  And a couple of politely negative responses. 

C-SPAN's Requests for Increased Camera Coverage
Throughout its nearly 32-year history, C-SPAN has pushed for greater public access to the federal government, requesting more television access to the House and Senate and to the Supreme Court. Samples of earlier correspondence are listed below.

Back in the mid-80s I was convinced that the Anchorage Assembly needed to be on cable and worked hard to make it happen.  The basic concerns were things like:
  • Assembly members will play to the cameras
  • Poor people wouldn't have access
  • People, in general, wouldn't watch, so
  • It wasn't worth the cost
We got the Assembly to try it out for six months and found a low cost videographer who was willing - after some convincing - to use volunteer camera operators.

In only a couple of weeks the doubters were convinced.  They told me things like:
  • people come up to me in the market and say they saw me on cable
  • people testify, saying, "I saw this on television and had to come down. . ."
And they realized that poor people tend to have cable - it's much cheaper, per month, than taking the family to the movies.  

There is NO LEGITIMATE excuse not to have the Supreme Court arguments live on television and online.   "Dignity of the Institution" and such excuses are, well, just excuses.  The less Americans see, the more they speculate.  The more they see, the more they understand.  It's pretty simple.  The majority of American people can be trusted to watch democracy happen live.  The quality of our democracy improves as people see what is really going on.  People are much more likely to listen or watch than read. (Note:  this is opinion, not necessarily fact.)

Yes some will try to abuse the broadcasts and play snippets out of context on YouTube.  So what?  Others will correct them, because they'll have access to the whole proceedings.  The only possible losers are judges who aren't competent or are not fulfilling their duties.

While writing this I came across the name Carl Malamud.  He's someone we all should know.  He's used his imagination and understanding of how people work to get government information online.  James Fallow wrote:
. . . An internet innovator named Carl Malamud is correcting this with a kind of web-based supplement to C-Span. Ten years ago Malamud tricked the Securities and Exchange Commission into making corporate financial data available free, on line. The corporate filings were already public in theory but in practice were hard to find. Malamud set up his own free web site with searchable access to the filings . After two years of operation, when the site had become widely popular, he said he would close it in 60 days and told people how to complain to the SEC if they wanted to keep getting the data. The resulting public demand forced the SEC to set up its own site.

Malamud is now doing the same thing with hearings. The committees have their own webcasting services to record their meetings, but the recordings are not centrally catalogued or, in most cases, easy to download. Also, C-Span asserts copyright over its own recordings, so they cannot be distributed over the web. Malamud is amassing the committees' recordings, converting them to a standard format, and making them available, free. If you go to www.archive.org and enter the search term "hooptedoodle" (a literary allusion to John Steinbeck), you'll see his collection. He hopes people will eventually ask why Congress is not doing this job itself. . . 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Skype Seems to Be Having Problems

I can't get onto skype.  It seems others are having similar problems. 

From tech.spreadit.org

After Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Amazon suffered major down time, earlier today Skype was the latest internet service to suffer a long power outage – and it appears that the massive interruption of service is global.
Skype tweeted a message from their Twitter page at 12PM ET where they apologized for the inconvenience and promised to find the cause of the problem.
The tweet read:
“Some of you may have problems signing in to Skype – we’re investigating, and we’re sorry for the disruption to your conversations.”
Skype posted another tweet at 1 PM that said:

“Our engineers and site operations team are working non-stop to get things back to normal – thanks for your continued patience.”
The internet voice call giant issued a third statement explaining the outage:
Under normal circumstances, there are a large number of supernodes available. Unfortunately, today, many of them were taken offline by a problem affecting some versions of Skype. As Skype relies on being able to maintain contact with supernodes, it may appear offline for some of you.
What are we doing to help? Our engineers are creating new ‘mega-supernodes’ as fast as they can, which should gradually return things to normal. This may take a few hours, and we sincerely apologise for the disruption to your conversations. Some features, like group video calling, may take longer to return to normal.
Currently, we have no more information on the causes of the interruption or when service will be up and running again – which means that over 8 million users must be very angry not to have their conversations restored.

"Supreme Court Has Been Eating Congress's Lunch" - Senator Arlen Specter's Exit Interview

Brief Overview:

   I've tried to organize this speech by main topic areas and have highlighted key points.  In doing so I don't keep the order of Specter's speech.  I begin with a brief intro to the idea of exit interviews and then identify highlights of Spector's speech.  Here's the link to Sen. Specter's speech on his website.

Here are what I see as the main points:

End of Senate as Forum of Great Debate 
  • Nobody on Senate Floor 
  • Cooperation Across Party Lines has Ended 
    • Party Loyalty and Retribution  
    • Compromise Becomes a Bad Word 
    • Polarization and Campaign Attacks Based On Single Vote 
    • Murkowski's Write-In Win is Sign of Hope  
  • Senators' Right to Make Amendments Limited While Filibuster Threats Stop Debate 
Recommendations on Senate Rules

Recommendations on Supreme Court,  National Institute of Health and Senate Travel


Start of Post:



Exit Interviews:  Why we should pay attention to Sen. Specter


The most successful organizations have exit interviews with employees who are leaving to take advantage of the employee's inside knowledge of the organization, especially when they have nothing to lose by being honest.

[NOTE: Don't believe everything you read. That might sound good, but I have no idea whether 'the most successful organizations" do that or not. And people leaving organizations who have not been forthcoming previously, probably do not change that behavior overnight. But exit interviews can be a source of useful information but here's a contrarian view.]

Senator Arlen Specter gave his version of an exit interview on the floor of the US Senate yesterday (Tuesday). Apparently these are traditionally called something like Farewell Addresses.

[NOTE AGAIN: I'm not sure this is true. The US Senate's Page on Senate Traditions identifies a Senator's Maiden Speech. It does not mention final speeches, though a link does say:
Members deliver floor speeches to honor colleagues who will not be returning for the next Congress. For senior members, those remarks extend through many pages of the Congressional Record and in some instances are subsequently published as Senate documents.]

In any case, Sen. Specter called his address to the Senate not a Farewell Address, but
a closing argument to a jury of my colleagues and the American people outlining my views on how the Senate and, with it, the Federal Government arrived at its current condition of partisan gridlock, and my suggestions on where we go from here on that pressing problem and the key issues of national and international importance.  [from Specter's speech]

There are reasons to listen to Specter.  He's had 30 years in the US Senate, 28 of which were as a Republican.  In 2009 he switched to a Democrat saying, "he did not leave the Republican party, the party left [him]."  Ironically, the Democrats of Pennsylvania left him too, in the 2010 primary, and he will be replaced in the US Senate by Republican Pat Toomey in January.


In today's channel surfing world, Specter's speech, and his accumulated experience and wisdom,  are likely to be missed altogether by most, and forgotten by those who actually heard or saw it.

So I'd like to hightlight some of his key points and suggest readers take ten minutes from reading Palin blogs or other celebrity distractions and read Specter's 'closing arguments' and then discuss them with your US Senators. (Here's a list of Senate contact info.)



End of Senate as Forum of Great Debate 
  • Nobody on Senate Floor

    The Washington Post noted the poor attendance at my colleagues' farewell speeches earlier this month. That is really not surprising since there is hardly anyone ever on the Senate floor. The days of lively debate with many Members on the floor are long gone.

    [When we visited the Senate in April, there was almost no one listening to the floor.  Sen. Begich was the acting chair.  When I asked how a junior senator got that honor, I was told it wasn't an honor, but a chore.  But Begich and the Senator who took his place used their time well on their Blackberries and reading. ]

    • Cooperation Across Party Lines has Ended
    Senator Chris Dodd and I were privileged to enter the world's greatest deliberative body 30 years ago. Senators on both sides of the aisle engaged in collegial debate and found ways to find common ground on the Nation's pressing problems.
    He lists all the centrists Senators on both sides of the aisles then.  Later he raises:

      • Party Loyalty and Retribution
        Senators have gone into other States to campaign against incumbents of the other party. Senators have even opposed their own party colleagues in primary challenges. That conduct was beyond contemplation in the Senate I joined 30 years ago. Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone simultaneously out to defeat you, especially within your own party.
      • Compromise Becomes a Bad Word
    . . .``compromise'' has become a dirty word. Senators insist on ideological purity as a precondition. Senator Margaret Chase Smith of Maine had it right when she said we need to distinguish between the compromise of principle and the principle of compromise. This great body itself was created by the so-called Great Compromise, in which the Framers decreed that States would be represented equally in the Senate and proportionate to their populations in the House. As Senate Historian Richard Baker noted: ``Without that compromise, there would likely have been no Constitution, no Senate, and no United States as we know it today.''
      • Polarization and Campaign Attacks Based On Single Vote
    Politics is no longer the art of the possible when Senators are intransigent in their positions. Polarization of the political parties has followed.
    A single vote out of thousands cast can cost an incumbent his seat. Senator Bob Bennett was rejected by the far right in his Utah primary because of his vote for TARP. It did not matter that Vice President Cheney had pleaded with the Republican caucus to support TARP or President Bush would become a modern Herbert Hoover. It did not matter that 24 other Republican Senators, besides Bob Bennett, out of the 49 Republican Senators voted for TARP. Senator Bennett's 93 percent conservative rating was insufficient.
      • Murkowski's Write-In Win is Sign of Hope
        The spectacular reelection of Senator Lisa Murkowski on a write-in vote in the Alaska general election and the defeat of other Tea Party candidates in the 2010 general elections may show the way to counter right-wing extremists. Arguably, Republicans left three seats on the table in 2010--beyond Delaware, Nevada, and perhaps Colorado--because of unacceptable general election candidates. By bouncing back and winning, Senator Murkowski demonstrated that a moderate centrist can win by informing and arousing the general electorate. Her victory proves that America still wants to be and can be governed by the center.
      • Senators' Right to Make Amendments Limited While Filibuster Threats Stop Debate

      The Senate rules allow the majority leader, through the right of his first recognition, to offer a series of amendments to prevent any other Senator from offering an amendment.

      That had been done infrequently up until about a decade ago and lately has become a common practice, and, again, by both parties.
      By precluding other Senators from offering amendments, the majority leader protects his party colleagues from taking tough votes. Never mind that we were sent here and are paid to make tough votes. The inevitable and understandable consequence of that practice has been the filibuster. If a Senator cannot offer an amendment, why vote to cut off debate and go to final passage? Senators were willing--and are willing--to accept the will of the majority in rejecting their amendments but unwilling to accept being railroaded to concluding a bill without being provided an opportunity to modify it. That practice has led to an indignant, determined minority to filibuster and to deny 60 votes necessary to cut off debate. Two years ago on this Senate floor, I called the practice tyrannical.
      The decade from 1995 to 2005 saw the nominees of President Clinton and President Bush stymied by the refusal of the other party to have a hearing or floor vote on many judicial and executive nominees. Then, in 2005, serious consideration was given by the Republican caucus to changing the longstanding Senate rule by invoking the so-called nuclear or constitutional option. The plan called for Vice President Cheney to rule that 51 votes were sufficient to impose cloture for confirmation of a judge or executive nominee. His ruling, then to be challenged by Democrats, would be upheld by the traditional 51 votes to uphold the Chair's ruling.
      As I argued on the Senate floor at that time, if Democratic Senators had voted their consciences without regard to party loyalty, most filibusters would have failed. Similarly, I argued that had Republican Senators voted their consciences without regard to party loyalty, there would not have been 51 of the 55 Republican Senators to support the nuclear option.

      Recommendations on Senate Rules
      There is a way out of this procedural gridlock by changing the rule on the power of the majority leader to exclude other Senators' amendments. I proposed such a rule change in the 110th and 111th Congresses. I would retain the 60-vote requirement for cloture on legislation, with a condition that Senators would have to have a talking filibuster, not merely presenting a notice of intent to filibuster. By allowing Senators to offer amendments and a requirement for debate, not just notice, I think filibusters could be effectively managed, as they had been in the past, and still retain, where necessary, the opportunity to have adequate debate on controversial issues.
         I would change the rule to cut off debate on judicial and executive branch nominees to 51 votes, as I formally proposed in the 109th Congress. Important positions are left open for months, and the Senate agenda today is filled with unacted-upon judicial and executive nominees, and many of those judicial nominees are in areas where there is an emergency backlog. Since Judge Bork and Justice Thomas did not provoke filibusters, I think the Senate can do without them on judges and executive officeholders. There is a sufficient safeguard of the public interest by requiring a simple majority on an up-down vote. I would also change the rule requiring 30 hours of postcloture debate and the rule allowing the secret hold, which requires cloture to bring the matter to the floor. Requiring a Senator to disclose his or her hold to the light of day would greatly curtail this abuse.

      Recommendations on Supreme Court,  National Institute of Health and Senate Travel
      • Supreme Court
      The Next Congress should try to stop the Supreme Court from further eroding the constitutional mandate of separation of powers. The Supreme Court has been eating Congress's lunch by invalidating legislation with judicial activism after nominees commit under oath in confirmation proceedings to respect congressional factfinding and precedents. That is stare decisis. The recent decision in Citizens United is illustrative. Ignoring a massive congressional record and reversing recent decisions, Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito repudiated their confirmation testimony given under oath and provided the key votes to permit corporations and unions to secretly pay for political advertising, thus effectively undermining the basic democratic principle of the power of one person, one vote. Chief Justice Roberts promised to just call balls and strikes. Then he moved the bases.
         Congress's response is necessarily limited in recognition of the importance of judicial independence as the foundation of the rule of law, but Congress could at least require televising the Court proceedings to provide some transparency to inform the public about what the Court is doing since it has the final word on the cutting issues of the day. Brandeis was right when he said that sunlight is the best disinfectant.
         The Court does follow the election returns, and the Court does judicially notice societal values as expressed by public opinion. Polls show that 85 percent of the American people favor televising the Court when told that a citizen can only attend an oral argument for 3 minutes in a chamber holding only 300 people. Great Britain, Canada, and State supreme courts permit television.
         Congress has the authority to legislate on this subject, just as Congress decides other administrative matters such as what cases the Court must hear, time limits for decisions, number of Justices, the day the Court convenes, and the number required for a quorum. While television cannot provide a definitive answer, it could be significant and may be the most that can be done consistent with life tenure and judicial independence.

      • National Institutes of Health
       I urge Congress to substantially increase funding for the National Institutes of Health. When NIH funding was increased from $12 to $30 billion annually and $10 billion added to the stimulus package, significant advances were made on medical research. It is scandalous--absolutely scandalous--that a nation with our wealth and research capabilities has not done more. Forty years ago, the President of the United States declared war on cancer. Had that war been pursued with the diligence of other wars, most forms of cancer might have been conquered.<

      • Foreign Travel for Senators  
      I also urge colleagues to increase their activity on foreign travel. Regrettably, we have earned the title of ugly Americans by not treating other nations with proper respect and dignity.
      He goes on to discuss how his own foreign travel enabled him to understand the world we live in by talking to world leaders and seeing the impacts of US policies in the world.

      These are just highlights (and I've added emphasis here and there.) Here's the link to the whole speech.  And here's a list of Senate contact info so you can discuss his suggestions with your own Senators.

      Tuesday, December 21, 2010

      Solstice Not So Short When Sun's Out - Photo Shop Fun








      Original A








      Colored Pencil filter with red and yellow.









      Colored Pencil filter with light blue and white.











      Top picture cropped with colored pencil filter yellow and red.










      This is Original A above, using liquefy in filters and then adding the colored pencil filter. 

      Moon Returning

      It's still somewhat cloudy, but the bright moon is visible again as the eclipse continues.

      [There are five posts showing different stages of the eclipse.]

      Monday, December 20, 2010

      Total Eclipse


      UPDATE 11:12pm - the clouds have shut down the show. At least for now. Maybe they'll just pass by.



      [There are five posts showing different stages of the eclipse.]

      It's Almost Gone

      As it gets darker, my little camera's limits show more and more.  You still have time to go out and watch the moon covered completely and then come back. 


      [There are five posts showing different stages of the eclipse.]

      All You Have To Do Is Go Outside - Moon's Half Gone


      If you are in Anchorage, you've no excuse not to go out and watch this rare wonder as the moon vanishes.  If you are elsewhere in North America, you're only excuse is an overcast sky.  I'm going back out to watch more.  (The pictures are all with my wee Canon Powershot and a tripod.  On this one I used spot focus, about 6X enlarge and pushing the exposure down two stops.)


      [There are five posts showing different stages of the eclipse.]

      I Know It's Cold, But The Moon Is Disappearing As You Watch


      Now get out there and watch the moon disappear!  On the solstice no less. 


      [There are five posts showing different stages of the eclipse.]

      Go Out Right Now and Watch the Eclipse



      Here's the pre-eclipse Anchorage moon about an hour ago.  It should be starting any time now.











      It snowed again last night so I took this picture of the deck where I'm headed after I post this and then shoveled the snow.  The moon is visible and bright.

      It will be going on for several hours so you have time. 


       From Drsky:

      Observers in the western hemisphere will be treated to a great

      total lunar eclipse on the night of December 20th/21st.

      Total lunar eclipses are some of the most amazing events to view

      in the night sky!

      What makes this years eclipse so amazing; is the fact that the moon

      Will ride very high in the sky and the eclipse will be seen from coast to coast.

      Here are some details and links on this most amazing celestial event, as we end 2010!

      Go to the drsky link for more info.

      Politics Not As Usual - Murkowski Votes To End Don't Ask Don't Tell

      Sen. Lisa Murkowski was among eight Republicans to vote to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), staying consistent with comments she made a couple of weeks ago that she thought it was time to end the policy.   But this must have been a pretty hard decision for her, harder than probably any other of the Republicans who voted against their party position. 

      Murkowski lost the Republican primary.  This vote on DADT  ensures that the rabid right of the Alaska Republican party will work hard to defeat her again in the 2016 primary.  While her write-in re-election (close to being settled now in the Alaska Supreme Court) required the support of lots of Democrats and Independents who believe she owes them votes on some critical issues, she didn't have to break ranks with most of the Republicans here.  Perhaps she believes that in six years gays in the military will be a non-issue.  A likely US Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of California's Prop. 7 is likely to keep GLBT issues hot for the 2012 Presidential election and possibly beyond.

      Plus Alaska has not been friendly to GLBT issues.  Alaskan voters amended the State Constitution to make explicit that marriage means one man and one woman.  

      Can Murkowski win her next Republican primary?  At this point, I would expect her to have some heavy opposition.  Would she run in the primary as an independent?  Six years is a long time in politics, but she must have been thinking about these things when she voted to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell. 

      I don't see this as anything but a principled vote for what she believed was the best policy, in the face of her party's general opposition.

      Looking at all eight Republicans who voted for repeal, on the surface there seem to be three key factors:

      • State support of same-sex marriage or civil unions
        • Collins and Snowe of Maine, Scott Brown of Massachusetts
      • Gender 
        • The only woman of 17 in the Senate not voting for repeal was  Kay Baily Hutchinson (R TX.)  The other three Republican women - Collins, Snowe, and Murkowski - voted for repeal.
      • Age
        •  Of the male Republicans who voted for repeal all but one were among the 20 youngest Senators.  The exception, George Voinovich, is retiring. 

      Here's a bit more on the:
      • other seven Republicans who voted to repeal DADT
      • three Republicans who were absent
      • one Democrat who was absent (no Democrats voted against it)

      Republicans who voted for repeal


      Scott Brown  (51) (R-Mass.)

      Brown won the right to finish Ted Kennedy's term as US Senator, is up for reelection in the first US state to allow same-sex marriage.   


      Richard M. Burr (55)  (R NC)

      The National Review writes:
      Burr said it was not a difficult vote to cast, despite his state’s being home to Camp Lejeune, the largest Marine Corps base on the East Coast. Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, had been one of the most high-profile opponents of repeal. “Hopefully we all think independently here and we listen; we don’t have to be lobbied or influenced,” he said.
      Burr told reporters that he supported repeal because “this is a policy that generationally is right,” but said he “didn’t necessarily agree” with those who have characterized the issue as a civil-rights struggle.
      “A majority of Americans have grown up at a time [when] they don’t think exclusion is the right thing for the United States to do,” Burr said. “It’s not the accepted practice anywhere else in our society, and it only makes sense.”
      I don't know enough about North Carolina politics to know how his vote compares to Murkowski's.  He has the largest Marine Corps base in the US in his state and the Marines were the of branch of the military most strongly opposed to repealing DADT.  On the other hand he did well in the 2010 election according to Wikipedia:
      Burr defeated North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (D) on November 2nd, 2010 with 55% of the vote. He is the first Republican since Jesse Helms to be re-elected to the United States Senate from North Carolina and garnered the largest percentage of votes of any Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in North Carolina history.

      Susan Collins (R-Maine) (58) and Olympia Snowe (63) (R-Maine)

      Collins has been the leading Republican Senator in support of repealing DADT.  She was the only Republican Senator who voted in favor the Defense Bill that had DADT attached earlier in December.  Olympia Snowe joined her when DADT was a stand alone bill.  Both Maine's Representatives (both Democrats) in the House voted for the bill.  I haven't checked, but this is the only state I know of where the whole Congressional delegation voted for repeal.  Maine allows domestic partnerships.
      Same-sex marriage in Maine was a divisive issue in 2009: a bill to allow same-sex marriages in Maine was signed into law on May 6, 2009, by Governor Baldacci following legislative approval, but opponents successfully petitioned for a referendum on the issue, putting the law on hold before it came into effect before going on to win the referendum by 300,848 to 267,828 on November 3, 2009. Maine's domestic partnership law remains in effect. [Wikipedia]

      John Ensign (52) R Nevada

      I'm stretching here, but Nevada seems a little looser on moral issues with long time legalized gambling and prostitution.  Liberace was an institution in Las Vegas.  

      The National Review wrote: 
      Before the vote, Ensign said the choice for him was a struggle between what he personally thought was the right thing to do, and the circumstantial concerns of various military chiefs.
      That’s why, he explained, he had voted against taking up the measure.
      But in the end, once the question on the table, it appeared personal conviction won out over political circumstance. “My personal feeling is that it should be repealed,” he’d said before the 65-to-31 vote.
      Ensign left the Senate chamber quickly and quietly . . .



      Mark Kirk (51) (R-Ill.)

      Kirk, a Naval Reserve Officer, moved up to the Senate from the House in a special election to finish out Obama's Senate seat and start his own six year term in January.  In the House he voted "against   Constitutional marriage amendments, he supported ending job discrimination based on sexual orientation and received a favorable 75 percent rating from the Human Rights Campaign on gay rights issues."  [Huffington Post]

      From The Examiner.com in Chicago
      Is Sen. Kirk really in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military?  His past history suggests otherwise.  As a member of the House Armed Services Committee Kirk voted against a measure to repeal DADT as recently as last May.  One suspects that his slim margin of victory in November's senatorial contest may have sensitized Sen. Kirk to the realities of representing the entire state of Illinois, not just the 10th congressional district.  Once Governor Pat Quinn gets around to signing the Illinois Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act already sitting on his desk, the state of Illinois will recognize civil unions. A "no" vote on DADT would have put Mark Kirk at odds with a very large bloc of Illinois voters.  It also would have provided potent ammunition for the next Democratic challenger for his senate seat.

      George Voinovich (74) (R-Ohio)

      Voinovich is retiring from the Senate.  






      Republicans who didn't vote

      Jim Bunning (79) (R KY)

      Bunning, who barely won his last election in 2004, and was named by Time Magazine as one of the five worst Senators, is retiring at the end of this term.



      Judd Gregg (63)  (R (NH)

      Same sex marriage became legal in New Hampshire in January 2010.

      Gregg is retiring at the end of this term.


      Orrin G. Hatch (76) (R UT)

      Polygamy has a history in Utah, but the Mormon church has been strongly opposed to same-sex marriage and Hatch is an institution in Utah who doesn't have to worry that his absence would harm him in any way. 

      The Salt Lake City Tribune reports:
      Sen. Orrin Hatch was absent for the vote but registered his dissent from afar. He said November’s election should have shown that voters want Congress to focus on the economy — not try to appeal to their liberal supporters.
      “Rather than take part in this cynical exercise in political charades, I am honoring a long-standing commitment I made more than a year ago to attend my grandson’s graduation in Missouri,” Hatch said.



      Democrat who didn't vote

      Joe Manchin III (63) (D WV) 

      It appears that Manchin, newly elected to fill the seat of Sen. Robert Byrd is trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing. He's up for election again in 2012. He skipped this vote and the vote on the Dream Act. He's the only Democrat who didn't vote for repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.