Monday, October 31, 2011

Why Brent Scarpo Switched From Casting to Inspiring

Brent Scarpo was a casting director for The Shawshank Redemption and other Hollywood films, but switched to what he calls 'transformational' engagements on the topic of hate and how to end it.

He's coming to Anchorage Nov. 7-11.  I talked to him via Skype last Monday and video taped our conversation and intend to post excerpts from that conversation this week.  Note: I've never tried to record from Skype before and this time I did it by taping the screen with my camera.  The picture on the screen wasn't that good to start with, so I played with the special effects to make it not as obvious.  A friend who saw this said the original would have been better.  Sorry.  We learn by experimenting and I found out there's software out there to record directly from Skype and that is probably part of my future.

In the meantime, find out why Brent took a year off.  And the chance phone call he got from a college student that changed the direction of his life.  

Monday, Nov. 7, 2011  (You have a week left, put it on your calendar)
East High Auditorium 7pm
Free Public Presentation
I've said in a previous post about Brent that I'm on the Healing Racism in Anchorage Steering Committee, so, yes, this is a blatant plug for people to come when he's here. But I wouldn't post this if I didn't think it was a good thing to do. There's also a smaller workshop on Tuesday night from 5:30 - 9:00 for $50 for people who want more time with him and tips for working with other people on combating hate and racism.

And, as you'll hear in the video, he still has his fingers in a lot of pies.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Oedipus Wrecks Tree or the Sweeny Todd of Anchorage Tree Trimmers

Men of London went into Sweeny Todd's barber shop for a trim, and left the shop through a trap door with their throats slit and into Mrs. Lovett's famous pies.
Images from Blue-In-AK's Democratic Underground post

Blue_In_AK suggests at Democratic Underground a few days ago that Carlos Tree Trimmers of Anchorage, on contract with an Anchorage utility to trim trees around power lines, has a Sweeny in their employ.  (Well, she didn't mention Sweeny.)

"We had an absolutely beautiful Mayday tree in our front yard [BEFORE] that was probably at least 40 or 50 years old. It was already huge when I moved in here 22 years ago. Here's a picture of it last spring in full bloom. The blossoms were so fragrant, you could smell the tree all along our streert [sic].

"This morning the tree trimmers who the electric utility hires to cut out branches around the lines came by and asked us if they could trim the tree up. We said sure, they've done it many times before when the branches go up in the wires. We then went downtown to buy me some shoes, and when we got home, the tree looked like this [AFTER].
(The trouble buying shoes gets one into.)

I learned about this because comment 148 has a link to my post on May Day trees being an invasive species in Anchorage.  Lots of people have May Day trees here, so that's not my issue in this story.  

This sort of trim is completely inexcusable.  If the utility contracts out with tree trimmers, there should be a huge penalty clause for situations like this.  What kind of a person does this?  Someone, like Sweeny Todd, who has been badly warped by past ill treatment and now takes it out on poor trees and their unsuspecting admirers?

Blue_in_AK writes (comment 171) in response to comments about a company rep's visit:
He just kept saying I'm sorry, I'm sorry,
as if that was going to make any difference. And as it turns out, he is the owner's son who we later learned from a different supervisor had taken out someone else's ornamental earlier this week. The second supervisor who came to talk to us said he had worked on that tree many times, loved it himself and was very sorry that this had happened. The guy in charge of "danger trees" at the electric company said there are some things he wants to talk to us about that he didn't want to discuss while he was at work, which leads me to believe that they may be having many complaints about Carlos Tree Service. He and Carlos himself are coming out here tomorrow to discuss what can be done.
Oedipus was beyond sorry when he learned he'd killed his father.  He blinds himself in despair.  And Freud's most famous diagnosis was named after Oedipus. What sort of father-son stories underlie this defoliation?  Maybe he really doesn't want to work in the family business and sometimes he takes out his frustration on the trees.  Of course this is pure speculation with no factual basis whatsoever, but no one who loves trees would have done this.

I have to say that Carlos' company trimmed trees in our yard once - also on contract to the utility - clearing branches around the wires to our house from the utility pole.  They carefully trimmed - at our request and with us watching - the trees in our yard and while they left no branches leaning against the wires, you wouldn't have known they'd been there.  

So this wasn't what they normally do.  This goes back to a trimmer with a problem.  

If the mountain ash in front of our house were to be reduced to naked trunks overnight, I'd be upset as well.  And it's worse if something like this happens due to someone's recklessness than natural causes.

My heart goes out to Blue-in-AK and I hope you quickly find new opportunities to enjoy the yard.  Perhaps you can grow some vegies in the added sunshine until a new tree takes hold.  Or, as others have said in your comments, the tree may surprise you with thick regrowth in a year or two.  I know rose bushes need to be severely trimmed, and I've seen other trees come back quickly from such radical trimming. 

First Snow

It's not an impressive snow. Just a very thin covering. But it's here and there will be more.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

What The Joker Can Tell us About Occupy Wall Street -

First, I'm the kind of person who can separate the idea from the person who said it. And even take the good ideas and leave the bad ones behind. I'm taking some ideas from a crazy, freaky character, because even he, sometimes, touched on the truth.

But I'm  NOT suggesting the Occupy Wall Street people share, in any way, the Joker's crazy freakiness. Heath Ledger, in this role, made this evil character, somehow human, somehow necessary.

I am suggesting that some of what he said can help us understand why the Occupy Wall Street folks are occupying, why many Americans support them, and why some people are freaking out over it. And why some of them are trying to portray the Occupiers as low-lifes, as lazy malcontents, and in the extreme case, as agents of the Joker's brand of craziness.

 It's about control, about planning. (And I don't for a second believe the Joker when he says he doesn't plan. You couldn't have bombs in all the right places without planning.)

Here's my take on what the Occupiers are saying,

"Whoa, the banks and other corporations and their lobbyists have planned and schemed so they now control the people who make the rules, the supposedly democratically made rules, so that the rules more and more favor the rich over everyone else. 
"The rules now legitimately take money from the middle class and the poor, and legally transfer it to the rich.

"The increasing gap between the poor and the rich isn't because the rich are deserving and the poor are lazy and unmotivated, but because the rules have been corrupted. We only have the facade of democracy. It's now time to disrupt those plans."

Of course those who have worked so hard to put the plans into place - to the point where they control five of the nine Supreme Court seats so they can validate or invalidate any law they need or need to destroy - aren't happy about disruptions. 

They don't like chaos. But the occupiers are, at least unconsciously, aware of the Joker's conclusion. Some chaos in an unfair system is the means to returning fairness. But chaos, not in the Joker's terms of destroying people and property in spectacular fashion,  but small disruptions of daily life. Blocked traffic. Some flowers trampled.  Third world sanitary conditions. Confronting business as usual.  Making people stop their normal merry-go-round lives and pay attention to what is going on. 

Support among the powerful for the Arab spring was muted. "What if the radical Muslims take over?"  they worried.  They are much less interested in fairness and human rights than predictable governments with whom they can make deals. They've never been concerned that Saudi women couldn't drive or vote as long as they got their oil deals.  And they're certain that they know what is best for everyone.  They can break laws spectacularly, but Occupiers must be held tightly to the laws.

And they are now acting as if the occupiers around the country were no different from the Joker, because underneath his freakiness, he understood what made them nervous - any challenge to their plans, any spontaneity, disruption of their normal way of doing business, and the possibility that other people might begin to question their plans.  Have you noticed the complaints about the Occupiers not having a plan?  That's what really disturbs them.  They can understand plans.  They can't understand or predict this though.

And so mayors around the country are coming up with excuses to send in the police, with batons blazing.  But people like veteran Scott Olsen who served in Iraq and had a good job and place to live are the faces of the Occupy movements.  Even though the planners want us to think that the Occupiers are more like the Joker.  [I have no illusion that there are some malcontents among the occupiers.  They always show up when something is happening.  But they aren't the face of the occupation any more than the corrupt business execs are the . . .well, hold that thought.  In today's USA I'm not so sure about the business executives.]

Read the small print from the script.  "Nobody panics when the expected people get killed.  Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even if the plan is horrifying.  If I tell the press that tomorrow a gangbanger will get shot, or a truckload of soldiers will be blown up, nobody panics.  Because it's all part of the plan.  But when I say that one little old mayor will die, everybody loses their minds!"
Do I buy into everything the Joker says?  Of course not.  I'm not really a fan of chaos, except when the controllers have way too much control.  Remember all the Republicans who complained about the chaos demonstrators created in the Soviet bloc in 1989?  Me neither.   And the Tea Party folks use the chaos of the Boston Tea Party as their mascot.  Rebellion and revolution are good or bad depending on whose side you are on.

This is serious stuff going on.  Is the US going to be like Syria or Tunisia? 

[The excerpts from The Dark Knight script come from here.  And the video clip I did from a Blockbuster copy of the Dark Knight I rented.  Thanks Warner Brothers.  I have no ads here and I promise not to sell it or make any money off of it.]

Friday, October 28, 2011

First Play, Then Eat - The Vegetable Orchestra

Watch them make and the play their instruments.  They don't show them later eating them unfortunately.  Local foods people - certainly a vegie orchestra should perform at your farmers' markets! A more recent video shows them recording their album - Onionoise.

And on the vegetable orchestra website I found that eating is, indeed, part of the concert experience:
A concert of the Vegetable Orchestra appeals to all the senses. As an encore at the end of the concert and the video performance, the audience is offered fresh vegetable soup.

But I have to mention that hundreds of millions of people (actually more than three times the population of the USA)  around the world are going to bed hungry, even starving. Such orchestras can only exist where there is plenty of food.

Lingering Signs of Fall as Winter Approaches

Rain drops washing fallen mountain ash leaves the other day, 
but the sun's out again. 

Not all Canadian geese have left for warmer climes.

 And the water flows freely along Campbell Creek as it tumbles wildly under one of Anchorage's most busy roads - the New Seward Highway.   Cyclists have to negotiate the rocky banks to get past this spot still,  but a memo from Rep. Berta Gardner tells us that a real bike path is scheduled here by September 2013.

 The Seward Highway Upgrade Project, Dowling to Tudor, will also go to bid in October with groundbreaking in spring 2012 and scheduled completion in September 2013.  We continue to confirm that sound barriers along the freeway are included in the plan, as well as the long-awaited connection of the Campbell Creek Bike Trail under the Seward Highway.   This connection will give neighborhoods safe and easy access between east and west portions of the trail, opening up miles of trail to surrounding neighborhoods.

"We continue to confirm" sounds less than certain.  And I've ducked my head negotiating my bike over the rocky and sometimes wet path under the highway often enough that I might just miss it when it's paved and civilized here.  And will it be open the year they are building?  Who knows?

But we can be certain that winter is on the way.   It's the end of October and so far the snow's stayed in the mountains.  But the word is creeping into the weather forecasts for us lowlanders.

Translation Problems - Thailand's Flood "Holidays"

Translation from one language to another is complicated. Many words don't translate exactly.

  • A word in one language may not exist in another language.  In German, for instance,  there is a formal and informal word for "you"  (Sie and Du.)  You address people close to you with Du, and use Sie for others.  If you use 'you' in a translation, English language readers won't immediately catch the nature of the relationship the way a German would.  (Germans today are more casual about using Du than they were in the past.)
  • A word in one language may have a totally different implication because the cultural context is so different.  "Dan wei" is usually translated from Mandarin into English as "Work unit." When I spent some time in China in the early 90s a "dan wei" was not merely a place where you worked, but a place that pretty much defined your whole life - where you lived, where your kids went to school, how you got your food and other goods, and even whether you could get permission to get married.  Translating that as 'work unit' into English simply didn't carry all that meaning for readers unfamiliar with the cultural context.   
  • And words often have overlapping meanings;  if you look up a foreign word in the dictionary and there are several choices in your language, you may pick the wrong word.  That seems to have happened in this headline below.

The headline at ThaiVisa was:

Thailand declares holidays to cope with flood crisis

BANGKOK, October 25, 2011 (AFP) - Thailand on Tuesday declared a three-day holiday in Bangkok and other flood-affected areas as high tides are forecast to flow up the city's main river and worsen floods creeping into the city.
ThaiVisa is a website for ex-pats living in Thailand.  Some of those commenting responded to the word 'holidays' by making snide comments about the Thai government:
"Only in thailand do they call disaster a holiday,,,land of smiles"
"a 5 day holiday is just what the people need
No food on the store shelves
No money in the bank machines" 
Companies and the economy is falling to pieces as we struggle to keep things going despite the chaos around us
Maybe Yingluck needs a holiday! The rest of us have to work to fix the mess they make... "

It's easy to be smug and put down others.  Often it reflects more on the speaker than on the object of derision. [So, one might ask, am I putting down those commenters?  Perhaps one could read it that way, though my intent is to give an example of translation problems and where they can lead. But perhaps I'm not completely innocent here myself.]
The word the Thai government probably used was วันหยุด (wan yut.) This means, literally, 'day' + 'stop'.   It's commonly used to mean a day off, a day when you don't work.  One might say, "Let's go out Tuesday because it is 'wan yut.'"   It could be a holiday, it could be a day after exams and there are no classes, or it could be an emergency.  A day off.

It's an appropriate word to use in Thai for this instance.  They were stopping business as usual. If they explicitly wanted to say holiday or festival day they could have used วันฉลอง (wan chalaawng) which means, literally, 'day' + 'festival'. (I double checked my Thai at

Meanwhile, Friends of Thailand, a returned Peace Corps Volunteer group, is accepting donations that will go to the Thai Red Cross for flood victims.  If you'd like to help out, go to the Friends of Thailand website and in the lower left is a donate button.  Carolyn who runs the group asks that after you donate
". . . you send me an E-Mail message saying you have made a donation to Thai Flood Relief. The E-Mail address is: email carolynnickels[AT]" ;
3. As I receive notice of your donations from Google and your messages, I will send you a thank you letter you can use for your 2011 Federal, State and Local tax returns
4. At the end of two weeks, I will send the full amount the FoT Community has donated to the Thai Embassy with a list of donor names
5. The Embassy will immediately send the funds to Thailand via diplomatic pouch as they have been doing since the crisis began
6. Upon arrival in Bangkok, they will immediately transfer the money to the Thai Red Cross, which they have been doing with donations since the crisis began"
 Nothing is guaranteed perfect when you donate, but this is probably as reliable as you will find for this.

Meanwhile, here's a video (which I found at Bangkok Pundit) explaining the flood situation in Thailand.  It's in Thai, but it has English subtitles, though it's pretty fast.  But it's an interesting example of explaining a disaster to the public and what they should do.  There are more at Rusuflood's Youtube page. 


Thursday, October 27, 2011

From Combat Girls [Kriegerin] to An African Election - The Anchorage International Film Festival 2011, First Peek

With over a month before the 2011 Anchorage International Film Festival opens, we can at least start to savor all the films we'll get to see.  The pre-screening committees have chosen the official selections (films that were selected to be in the festival from all the ones that were submitted) and the films in competition (the ones deemed best and thus in the running for the  prizes.)

It's a bit early, but I thought I'd post the feature and documentary films (a lot of the festival jargon and process is explained here) in competition  now for three reasons:

  1. To remind folks in Anchorage that the Festival starts December 2.  Start thinking about whether you want a festival pass or you just want to drop in to see a few of the films.  
  2. There is still time to volunteer at the festival.  This is a great way to see things from the inside.  Check out volunteer options here.
  3. There's something delicious about getting to see the names of the films for the first time.  They mean nothing.  They're just titles, names of directors, and countries.  It's like getting the name of your blind date.  Over the next five weeks, I'll be doing homework on the films in competition and slowly putting up what I find on the blog.  We'll get to know which ones we hit it off with and which we don't.   By mid-December some films will be favorites and Anchorage will have met many of the directors.  And Anchorage is small enough and the festival casual enough, that if the director is here and you want to meet her, you can. 
So, look through the list of names.  Pick ones that sound good.  Imagine the possibilities.  And in six weeks we can look back at this page and remember this day when they were nothing but names, potential blind dates, and how much we've learned about them since. I've put in screenshots from trailers of three of the movies listed.  Can you match them to their titles?  If you click on them you'll be linked to their trailers. 


Title Director(s) Country Runtime In Competition
Combat Girls [Kriegerin]
[Combat Girls was pulled, not sure why.]
David Wendt Germany 102m
Inuk Mike Magidson France, Greenland 89m
Kinyarwanda Alrick Brown USA/Rwanda 100m
Mabul Guy Nativ Israel, Canada, France, Germany 101m
The Casserole Club Steve Balderson USA 95m
The Dead Inside Travis Betz USA 98m
The Dish & The Spoon Alison Bagnall USA 93m


Title Director(s) Country Runtime In Competition
Allentsteig Nikolaus Geyhalter Austria 79m
An African Election Jarreth Merz Ghana 89m
Give Up Tomorrow Michael Collins USA/UK 95m
Goold’s Gold Tucker Capps / Ryan Sevy USA 76m
The Green Wave Ali Samadi Ahadi Germany/Iran 80m
We Were Here David Weissman USA 90m
With Great Power: The Stan Lee Story Will Hess USA 80m

We Were There is no longer listed on the program
[UPDATE Nov. 15:  I got word that there was a mixup and now African Election, The Green Wave, and We Were Here are no longer listed on list.  I will try to get the details and fill you in.  In their place now are on the updated website page are:
Beatboxing–The Fifth Element of Hip-Hop 
Locked Out.]

Go to the Anchorage International Film Festival website for all the entries in these categories and the others.

I have a film festival tab up on top from last year. It was my first use of tabs and I need to update it soon, but it gives you some background on the festival in general and some of the films and directors from 2010.

And remember, this is the long time legitimate Anchorage (not Alaska) International Film Festival. If you have any questions about the two different names, especially if you are a film maker, you can see my comparison of the two events here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Apparently Phony Buffett Email Chain Letter To Strip Congress of Pension and Health Care

If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.  Hey folks, read stuff before you pass it on.  Here's an email I got from a friend today:  [My comments in brackets]
Warren Buffett, in a recent interview with CNBC, offers one of the
    best quotes about the debt ceiling:
['recent' turns out to be a July 7, 2011 Idaho mountainside interview with Becky Quick on the impending Congressional default on the national debt. ]
"I could end the deficit in 5 minutes," he told CNBC. "You just pass a  law that says that anytime there is a deficit of more than 3% of  GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election."
[He doesn't say this until 5 minutes and 24 seconds into the 8 minute interview.  While I'm guessing he'd thought about it before the interview, I don't think he had any thoughts of this being a constitutional amendment when he said it.]
 The 26th amendment (granting the right to vote for 18 year-olds took only 3 months & 8 days to be ratified!  Why? Simple!  The people demanded it. That was in 1971 - before computers, e-mail, cell phones, etc.
Of the 27 amendments to the Constitution, seven (7) took one (1) year or less to become the law of the land - all because of public pressure.
Warren Buffet [sic] is asking each addressee to forward this email to a minimum of twenty people on their address list; in turn ask each of those to do likewise.
[I looked online to see if I could find any evidence that Buffett was asking. I couldn't.  I did find my way to  Rumor Has It which says there was a similar email, without the Buffet introductory reference in 2009.  It then goes on to fact check the rest of this.]
In three days, most people in The United States of America will have the message.  This is one idea that really should be passed around.
 _*Congressional Reform Act of 2011*_
[An "Act" tends to be something passed by Congress, not a Constitutional Amendment. More evidence that this was cut and pasted onto an older document, that was a Constitutional Amendment.]
  1. No  Tenure / No Pension.
 A Congressman/woman collects a salary while in office and receives no pay when they're out of office.
[This sounds more like the  governor of Wisconsin who ended collective bargaining for public employees and Koch brothers sponsored ALEC - who have all kinds of proposals for defunding government including cutting public pensions.]
 2.  Congress (past, present & future) participates in Social Security.
All funds in the Congressional retirement fund move to the Social Security system immediately. All future funds flow into the Social Security system, and Congress participates with the American people. It may not be used for any other purpose.
[The Snopes link says they are part of Social Security as of 1984.  Here's a link on this from the US Senate. that says members of Congress DO pay the same Social Security everyone else does.]
 3. Congress can purchase their own retirement plan,  just as all Americans do.
4. Congress will no longer vote themselves a pay raise.  Congressional pay will rise by the lower of CPI or 3%.
5. Congress loses their current health care system and participates in the same health care system as the American people.
 6. Congress must equally abide by all laws they impose on the American people.
 7. All contracts with past and present Congressmen/women are void effective 1/1/12. The American people did not make this contract with Congressmen/women.
Congressmen/women made all these contracts for themselves. Serving in Congress is an honor, not a career. The Founding Fathers envisioned citizen legislators, so ours should serve their term(s), then go home and back to work.
[Not sure what contracts this refers to.  But the 1/1/12 date - less than three months away - adds credence to the idea that this isn't a new proposal.  There's no way this could become effective that soon.  Besides, stereotypes of Congress members are like all stereotypes - there are enough examples to make them believable, but you have to judge each person individually and not because of the class they're lumped in.  When it comes to public pensions, people like me, who have made career decisions that traded higher salaries for secure pensions, breaking those contracts is unthinkable.  It's a legal contract that we entered into and performed our end of the bargain.   Changing future conditions is more acceptable if there truly is an impending crisis.  But we know that Alaska legislators made such changes based on faulty contractor predictions which led to a $500 million settlement paid to the state by Mercer.  So let's be careful here when we make these kinds of decisions.]
If each person contacts a minimum of twenty people then it will only take three days for most people (in the U.S.) to receive the message.  Don't you think it's time?
If you agree with the above, pass it on. If not, just delete.
You are one of my 20+ - Please keep it going, and thanks.

[A couple more comments.
  1.  This proposal never actually addresses what Buffett proposed - ending the terms if they get the deficit is over 3%. 
  2. The judges in the Alaska Court system have their pay withheld if they have have any decisions uncompleted or undecided for more than six months.  (See this memo for details.)  That seems like a much better option.  This could be used, particularly for important Congressional functions like passing the annual budget on time.  Though the pressure would be less on wealthy members of Congress and there might be incentive here for lobbyists to make up the salary.
  3. In general Constitutional Amendments should be reserved for important general principles, not for details that then become very difficult to fix as unanticipated consequences show up.  And in this case Constitutional Amendment and Act seem to be mixed up.  There's no way Congress would pass this.]

Putting the Plundering of Alaska's Resources Into Context

I'm still reading Charles Wohlforth's The Fate of NatureAfter my initial post on the first chapters of the book,  I began to wonder if, like chocolate, the rich prose would be too much to keep reading.  But it suddenly shifted and we watched Carol Treadwell's brain tumor illustrate the question "When do you stop being human?"  We visited experts on animal language.  A blind professor who specializes in how mollusks adapt.  And then we explored Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet with its namesake, Captain Cook.

But given the struggle to wrest Alaska's natural resources going on today - the struggle between those for and against Pebble Mine, for example - I was particularly struck by these passages of early destruction of Alaska's natural resources. 

Russian frontiersmen dismantled Alaska's marine ecosystems amazingly rapidly.  The first to arrive at the unpopulated Pribilof Islands found rafts of sea otters so numerous they impeded vessels trying to land.  Animals were easy to approach and kill.  Int heir first year a Russian expedition took 40,000 fur seal skins, 2,000 otter pelts, 14,400 pounds of walrus ivory, and more whale baleen than a ship could carry.  Within six years, no otters were seen on the Pribilofs.  Fur traders exterminated the region's most extraordinary marine mammal before Captain Cook arrived.  The Steller sea cow grew up to forty feet long grazing on seaweed.  A single pelt stretched over a wooden frame made a large boat.  The tasty meat - 7,000 pounds from one animal - could be eaten fresh or dried and used like bread.  The thick fat layer provided oil to drink, cook with, or use for light and heat.  In 1742 the first Russian expedition to reach Alaska discovered the sea cow;  in 1755 a Russian government engineer noted sea cows were getting scarce and said hunting should be reduced;  by the 1780's the sea cow was extinct.  (p. 94)
The Russian American population peaked at 823 people, all on the coast, leaving large swaths of Native Alaska untouched.  A drunken and undisciplined U.S. Army detachment assumed control in the former Russian capital of Sitka, sexually assaulting Native women and meting out retribution for perceived crimes by individual Tlingit Indians with indiscriminate killings and burnings of entire villages - acts similar to the first Russian fur traders' behavior of a century earlier.   .  . (p. 102)
Like the Russians, Americans never displaced most Alaska Native peoples.  The conquest was ecological rather than geographical:  they took the food.  New Englanders and Californians slaughtered whales for baleen and walruses for ivory on the western and northern coasts, wasting hundreds of millions of pounds of meat and inflicting starvation on the Iñupiat.  Fur traders acquired the last of the otter pelts and depleted other valuable furbearing animals.  As wild furs ran out, fox farmers appropriated islands as natural enclosures, especially in the sound, the foxes running free and fattening up in part by eliminating nesting geese.  Salmon canneries began cropping up next to rivers in southeast Alaska in 1878 and quickly spread up the coast, competing without regulation, competition sometimes causing gunfights - Alaska had no civil law at all until 1884 and little practical law enforcement for decades more.  An entrepreneur could steam in from San Francisco or Seattle  with his equipment and Chinese manpower, block a stream with a barricade to scoop up every fish, and maybe make back his investment in a year.  Preventing any fish from from escaping to spawn wiped out the run over time, but there were always more rivers with seemingly unlimited fish farther along the coast.  .   . (pp. 102 -103)
Copying these paragraphs reminded me of the letter to the editor I read Tuesday morning.  A woman from Wasilla was 'disheartened' that Rep. Don Young told the crowd at AFN (Alaska Federation of Natives) that he hoped his replacement would be an Alaskan Native.  She took this as unconstitutional racial favoritism and couldn't see it as the kind of flattery politicians use on their audiences whether they be soldiers, union members, retailers, Catholics, etc.  He wasn't giving someone a job simply based on Native blood.  He was voicing an opinion, perhaps influenced by his deceased Native wife of many years.  Why wouldn't Young tell his audience this, especially when talking to the people who have lived in Alaska for thousands of years, but never had one of their own representing the state in Washington DC.  I understand her point, but her letter seemed to take the comment way out of context.  Especially when I read the next sentence - and in light of the previous quote from Wohlforth:
"It seems to me that few villages would survive without the federal/state government  - our tax dollars - subsidizing their 'way of life/culture.'"
Whoa!  Let's see.  After killing off their food and clothing and resources as described above, and killing off much of the population and cultural wisdom through disease, and imposing Western religion and schooling (leave your languages and customs outside thank you), she begrudges them the relatively small amount of assistance they get?  You think I exaggerate?  It's telling when you recognize that after ten thousand years of survival, it's only after less than 300 years of Western contact that Alaska Natives are no longer totally self sufficient.  I'm sure there were crises over the millennia where survival was tenuous, but they were always self sufficient.

And what about 'our tax dollars?'  Unless this writer runs a business, she pays no state taxes.  And Alaska gets back nearly $2 for every dollar Alaskans pay in US taxes.  So presumably she's benefiting from this too.  And, let's not forget, most of Alaska's wealth is from what had been Alaska Natives' land until the Russians decided it was theirs and then later sold it to the US.  So, maybe she should consider all her PFD checks as largess stolen from Alaskan Natives. 

Perspective.  It's all about context and perspective.  

But back to Wohlforth to get more perspective on the plundering of Alaska that is worth keeping in mind today.  

The cannery owners must have felt like they had won the sweepstakes, the prize to grab as much cash as they could hold.  Conservation wasn't on their minds.  They would have needed to leave behind only a fraction of a salmon run to spawn each year for the abundance to continue indefinitely.  But they didn't plan to stay indefinitely.  Competition ruled out long-term considerations.  Like found money, Alaska salmon were yours only if you grabbed them first.  A cannery operator who abstained from fishing to allow for the next year's harvest might not be in the same business when the fish came back.  (p. 103)
The best private economic decision might be to destroy a salmon run - or wipe out a marine mammal population - if you could thereby obtain a profit quickly and invest it somewhere else, in Alaska or on Wall Street.  Unsustainable practices often make sense when you're free to move and take your profits with you.  Our economic lives depend on this fact.  Nothing made of plastic or metal or manufactured and shipped with fossil fuels is sustainable.  Look around you.  We buy these things as cheaply as possible - technology, vehicles, energy - knowing we will discard them after we've exhausted their value.  (pp. 103-104)
But people didn't know about ecology back then, right?  Maybe they didn't know the word, but they weren't stupid. 
An illusion protects us:  the illusion that those who depleted fisheries and drove marine mammals to extinction didn't know what they were doing.  It's not true.  Even Russian America had voices of conservation.  The herring fisherman in Kachemak Bay were told they were overfishing, but instead of restraining themselves they tried to stop the Natives from eating roe on kelp.  Members of the salmon industry recognized fish were rapidly diminishing before 1900 at the same time they were saying salmon were inexhaustible. (p. 110) 

The oil companies and mining companies offer jobs for Alaskans.  So did the Russians offer jobs for Aleuts.  The deal is a lot sweeter today, but it seems a very similar structure.  Temporary occupation and control until they get what they can, then off for greener pastures.  You can clean up the mess after we leave.

Wohlforth's book endeavors to do a lot.  It's trying to tie together many, seemingly disparate subjects and synthesizing them into one big integrated explanation of how and why humans impact nature and whether we can control ourselves.  I have to confess, the synthesis is the sort of thing I like to attempt.  It's hard to put all your exhibits out for the readers who have to remember them when they get to the point where you tie them all together.  I'm still not much more than one quarter of the way through the book, so I can't tell you yet how well he succeeds.  But so far it's good reading each of the pieces by themselves.  If he pulls them all together, that will be frosting.

And, yes, he does cite sources at the back for the claims he makes. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Would They Still Be Alive Had They Read Romeo and Juliet?

Under today's Anchorage Daily News headline, "2nd man charged in Muldoon shootout"  was a story as old as time.  Two young men from rival clans have words.   Their friends try to calm things but when blood is drawn, they too draw blood.

What if Ramirez and Chang had read Romeo and Juliet?  Better yet, what if they had been cast in high school as Mercutio and Tybalt and played their parts with wooden swords?  Would they now both be dead? 

Consider this rough juxtaposition of Act 3, Scene 1 of Romeo and Juliet and Kyle Hopkins' ADN story.

Shakespeare in  Romeo and Juliet:

O calm, dishonourable, vile submission!
Alla stoccata carries it away.
Tybalt, you rat-catcher, will you walk?
What wouldst thou have with me?
Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine
lives; that I mean to make bold withal, and as you
shall use me hereafter, drybeat the rest of the
eight. Will you pluck your sword out of his pitcher
by the ears? make haste, lest mine be about your
ears ere it be out.
I am for you.
Gentle Mercutio, put thy rapier up.
Come, sir, your passado.
They fight

At some point, Laulu told police, the argument that ignited inside the lounge spilled outside and turned physical. Ramirez and another, unnamed person began wrestling two men described in the charges only as "Asian males."
Others joined in the fight. Guns were pulled, the charges say.

Draw, Benvolio; beat down their weapons.
Gentlemen, for shame, forbear this outrage!
Tybalt, Mercutio, the prince expressly hath
Forbidden bandying in Verona streets:
Hold, Tybalt! good Mercutio!
TYBALT under ROMEO's arm stabs MERCUTIO, and flies with his followers

"(Ramirez) says, 'I haven't got a gun on me. I wouldn't bring a gun into your bar,' " Buffington told the Daily News.
"I says, 'Well if you do, take it out to your car,' " Buffington recalled.

Laulu spotted a man approaching from across the street, the charges say.
Chang died from a gunshot wound to the head, an autopsy found, according to the charges. His body was picked up from Muldoon Road.
Laulu saw Chang fall to the ground and called to Ramirez to leave, the charges say. That's when another man, whom police have identified as 25-year-old Lee Chee Chang, began firing on Ramirez, according to the charges.

I am hurt.
A plague o' both your houses! I am sped.
Is he gone, and hath nothing?
What, art thou hurt?
Ay, ay, a scratch, a scratch; marry, 'tis enough.
Where is my page? Go, villain, fetch a surgeon.
Exit Page
Courage, man; the hurt cannot be much.
No, 'tis not so deep as a well, nor so wide as a
church-door; but 'tis enough,'twill serve: ask for
me to-morrow, and you shall find me a grave man. I
am peppered, I warrant, for this world. A plague o'
both your houses! 'Zounds, a dog, a rat, a mouse, a
cat, to scratch a man to death! a braggart, a
rogue, a villain, that fights by the book of
arithmetic! Why the devil came you between us? I
was hurt under your arm.
I thought all for the best.  .  .
O Romeo, Romeo, brave Mercutio's dead!
That gallant spirit hath aspired the clouds,
Which too untimely here did scorn the earth.
This day's black fate on more days doth depend;
This but begins the woe, others must end.
Here comes the furious Tybalt back again.
Alive, in triumph! and Mercutio slain!
Away to heaven, respective lenity,
And fire-eyed fury be my conduct now!
Re-enter TYBALT
Now, Tybalt, take the villain back again,
That late thou gavest me; for Mercutio's soul
Is but a little way above our heads,
Staying for thine to keep him company:
Either thou, or I, or both, must go with him.

A passing driver told police he saw Lee Chee Chang stand above Ramirez in the parking lot, rack a round into the chamber and shoot him. Ramirez died from multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head, an autopsy found.

Thou, wretched boy, that didst consort him here,
Shalt with him hence.
This shall determine that.
They fight; TYBALT falls
Romeo, away, be gone!
The citizens are up, and Tybalt slain.
Stand not amazed: the prince will doom thee death,
If thou art taken: hence, be gone, away!
O, I am fortune's fool!

After seeing Ramirez fall, Laulu left in the Infiniti, the charges say. Laulu wiped the gun clean and tossed it from the car as he escaped, he told police.

Who knows?  Maybe they did read Romeo and Juliet.  And this still happened. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

What Do The Shawshank Redemption, A Cemetery in Texas, and Anchorage Have In Common?

Image from All Posters
Brent Scarpo

Brent was the casting director of The Shawshank Redemption (and other movies like That Thing You Do, Air Force One, and Matilda).  Then he decided he wanted to make his own films and work on eradicating hate.

"Journey To A Hate Free Millennium" was, he told me by phone Sunday,  inspired partly by the Shawshank experience, encapsulated in the motto on the Shawshank Redemption poster -

Fear can hold you prisoner, 

Hope can set you free

"To A Hate Free Millennium" looks at three hate crimes in the US:  Columbine High School, Matthew Shepard, and James Byrd.  That's where the cemetery in Texas comes in. 

Picture emailed to me by Brent Scarpo
He told me that when he was there, the caretaker pulled him aside by a line of holes in the lawn and said,

"Here's what you really need to see."

"These holes?"

"Yeah.  These were the post holes of the fence separating the white and black sections of the cemetery.  The dead were still segregated until a couple of days ago.  They didn't want the national media focusing on that when they came here for the memorial."

Brent has taken this so seriously, he dropped out of his successful Hollywood career so that he could concentrate on doing his part to help free people from hate and fear.  He's coming to Anchorage in two weeks.

After speaking to him on the phone yesterday, I can tell you, this guy can talk and he can excite you about the possibilities of making the world better.  While there are seriously depressing topics in his film, his message is how to get past it, how to set yourself and your community free. 

The video below showcases some reactions of teachers, counselors, and students at a school Brent visited.  The video is blurred, but the message is clear.  Watch it!

Disclosure: I'm on the steering committee of Healing Racism in Anchorage, the tiny non-profit that is bringing Brent here, with help from community partners.  But regular readers know, I hope, that I wouldn't post stuff I don't really believe.  And I believe Brent's presentations are going to be special.    You can see more at the Healing Racism Website and Facebook page.  If you're interested in the Tuesday evening workshop - it's limited to 30 folks - you can email me or email Healing Racism in Anchorage for more information or to register.


What can I say about this art?  Nothing that you can't figure out yourself by looking at it.  I found this photo at   and then I went to the artist's website, where you can see a lot more examples.  His name is Lorenzo Duran.  I learned you can buy a leaf.  The prices?  Here's what the artist's website says:



Puede ver más detalles sobre esto haciendo clic aquí.

His page about how and why he does this is both in Spanish and English and tells us:

The entire process is: picking the leaves, washing, drying, pressing, and cutting. While they are in the press, I sketch out the drawing, which I attach to the leaf before starting to cut it. At the end, I peel it off, and this last step is the most delicate of all because the leaf is fragile and days of work can be ruined in just moments. 

 I think this work is pretty amazing, but it also seemed familiar.  And then I remembered at picture we received as a gift in India that was made from a kind of palm leaf if I recall correctly.  Here's a part of it.  

Without such talent myself, I have to be content with the natural leaves growing outside my window.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Digging A Hole To Save Energy

Here it is on a sunny day as the dust slowly settled.

It began with  this job listed on our energy audit:

78.0 points

4 Stars

2.5 pts, 1 step
Install R-25 rigid foam board to interior or exterior side of wall. Does not include cost of coverings.

Location - Below- (part or all) Grade Wall: Garage masonry, West + North

[I'm reading this laughing because there were several different recommendations about the garage masonry and I see this says R-25, but the others say R-30 and that's what I ended up doing.]

We had the audit at the end of last December.  You have 18 months to complete as much as you can to get a rebate from the state on the work done.  The limit is $10,000, but in our case, since we are starting from an initial rating of 3 Stars plus, our maximum rebate is $7,500.  We didn't feel much pressure.  We went to an Alaska Housing workshop, which we thought was going to tell us how to read the audit chart.  We should have read the notice better.  It was about heating.  It was well done and we learned a lot, but heating was not on our recommendation list.  But they got us to the right place - the Research Information Center at Boniface and Tudor - for the workshop on how to read the audit report.  (All the workshops are free and held frequently, see the links.)

So, I decided to do the garage walls, lower part, which are uninsulated cinderblock.  The choice was interior or exterior.  We went to the insulation workshop.  It wasn't nearly as good as the heating workshop and while it pointed out issues for me, it didn't answer the questions.  But I did decide that since R30 means 6 inches of board, that would take up a lot of space inside, I would do the exterior for the west wall.  We don't go to that side of the house much and there was a long neglected flower bed and a cement path.  (The path is so covered by old leaves and soil you can only see parts of it.)

So I started to dig.  But I still had questions.  Which foam boards should I use?  What adhesive did I need to glue them together?  Against the house?  How deep did I need to go?
I looked on line but couldn't find my specific answers.  I called the Alaska Housing Authority, but they just recommended more websites.  The sites may have had the answers, but I couldn't find them.  I went to Lowe's to see my options.

This board is R-3.9 per inch, so it would need 7 or 8 inches (and boards) to get to R-30.  There was a blue board that was R-5 per inch. I asked about adhesive and the stockman pointed to this foam, but said this wasn't his expertise.

I had an email in to the energy audit rater and called a friend who'd done the same project a couple years back.  He said no glue - the dirt will hold the foam against the house.  And to get a metal cover.  He sent me to Combs Sheet Metal.  But I was going to hold off on that until I knew exactly what the measurements would be.

I took things easy.  No more than an hour a day so as to not mess up my back.  Actually, the digging was like going to the gym and it felt good.  But it took some time at that pace, but it also let me get more information.  The energy rater called me and added some foam on the bottom horizontally.  He said 2 feet, but I didn't have that kind of room, so we settled for 18".  And he suggested 6mil plastic for vapor barrier.  I'd thought some sort of plastic cover between the boards and the dirt was a good idea already.

I decided to check out Home Depot and the prices were about the same as Lowe's and so I got my foam there.  This was R-5 per inch in 2" boards.  The trusty van had room for it all. 

You can see time passing - now there are leaves on the ground.  But the hole is getting deeper.   In the third picture, the horizontal foam is on the bottom - with some dirt on top - and the vertical foam against the wall.  I was starting to have trouble on one end with cave-ins as I dug.  But the foam was down and it was time to work on the 6" foam against the walls.  Lots of measuring and cutting.

The 10/21 shot has the metal cover on it.  That was amazingly easy to arrange.  They just needed to know the dimensions and the color and it was ready the next day.  I have no idea what it should cost, but at $160 didn't seem that much.  But what do I know about sheet metal prices?  Nothing.

In this picture you can see the first panel.  I got the 2 feet X 8 feet X 2 inch panels.  But the hole was 35 inches deep after the horizontal panel went on the bottom.  So I wrapped up three panels here and then I had to cut the others to go on top to fit to the edge of the siding.

Here I've got all the panels - two 8 foot packages of 3 and one 7 footer.  Then on top of those the same thing but only 12 inches instead of 24.  And this picture has one of the pieces of metal to cover it.  There's a lip that goes under the siding.  They come in 10 foot sheets, so I had two of those and this smaller one for the middle.

Now all that is left is to fill in the dirt.  And it hasn't snowed yet.  I got a fair amount in yesterday.  I think I'll just fill it up to where the metal goes and then in the spring I will add some compost and manure.  The sun's just come out so I'll go out and finish this off.  I'll add the pictures to here later.

So now I've got to do other things on the energy rater's list. This was the west wall of the garage, and I still have the north or back wall of the garage. I'll do that on the interior side because it's much harder to dig in that   part of the yard.  And now that I've read more carefully, I only needed 25R, so it won't take up as much room - 5, not 6 inches. And the front is two small panels that I might just do inside as well. They'll be relatively easy. And then there are other things to get us up to the next level.

It's nice to do something you've never done before and get past the obstacles of ignorance.  The only hangups were knowing what I needed to do and what stuff I needed to buy.  And this should save us a little on heating costs and certainly pay for the materials in a couple of years.  And I have a much better understanding of how all this works now.  And I'm pumped to do other projects around the house I have no idea how to do.

UPDATE 9:40pm:  Here's what it looked like when I finished today.  I might leave it like this until spring when I'll put in some compost and manure or maybe I'll even do that now if there's enough time before it snows.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Theory U and Other Textbooks For Rent

 I'm trying to catch up with older unfinished posts. This one's from the George Washington University bookstore in DC from our Labor Day visit for a post-wedding reception for B&J's DC friends and relatives.

University bookstores are always interesting and in the short time I was let off the leash, I perused a couple of shelves.

Maybe most noteworthy is that students can rent their books these days. The rental price wasn't a whole lot different from the used prices, but I guess it saves the hassle of trying to sell it back. And, of course, there are also digital books available online.

Here are a few that were on the shelves.  Note, I'm not recommending any of these because I haven't read them.  I'm just throwing you some brain candy.

"The Theory U (also called "U" methodology) is a change management method targeting leadership as process of inner knowing and social innovation developed by Otto Scharmer and originally based on a process known as the U-process or U-procedure (also called 'bath tub' and 'U Way') developed by Dr Friedrich Glasl and Dirk Lemson of the NPI (Netherlands Pedagogical Institute) in 1968 (Bos, 1974 and Friedrich Glasl & Leo de la Houssaye, 1975) and presented systematically from the 1980s. It has been a valuable tool in organisation development and social development since that time (Allison, 2008, GOSH Trust, Büchele, U). Recently it has been elaborated as Theory U by Otto Scharmer.
"The initial method developed by Glasl and Lemson involved a social process involving a few or many co-workers, managers and/or policymakers proceeding from diagnosis of the present state of the organisation plans for the future. They described a process in a U formation consisting of three levels (technical and instrumental subsystem, social subsystem and cultural subsystem) and seven stages beginning with the observation of organisational phenomena, workflows, resources etc., and concluding with specific decisions about desired future processes and phenomena. The method draws on the Goethean techniques described by Dr. Rudolf Steiner, transforming observations into intuitions and judgements about the present state of the organisation and decisions about the future."  (From Wikipedia)

Barnett (2001) in his theory-laden book The Meaning of Environmental Security, looks at the increasingly global recognition of environmental problems by examining what he calls the “collision of environment and security.” He places the concept in the realm of politics, though embedded in an increasing awareness of the interconnectedness of modern problems. The traditional approach, which Barnett calls a view of environment and security, is that the state is the object to be secured, and this view is consistent with strategic concerns about warfare and territorial defense and is influenced by political and international relations theory.

The alternative approach of including the environment as a dimension of security advocates the security of the biosphere and its ecosystems as a means of protecting the habitat of all life on Earth, emphasizing that it is the eco-systems and ecological processes that must be secured (that is, their health, integrity, and functioning maintained). By shifting the focus to the ecosystem, the concept of ecological security concerns the overall welfare of the planet. (From Haven D. Cook, "Transboundary Natural Area Protection: Broadening the Definition of National Security")

Just Give Money to the Poor:
Amid all the complicated economic theories about the causes and solutions to poverty, one idea is so basic it seems radical: just give money to the poor. Despite its skeptics, researchers have found again and again that cash transfers given to significant portions of the population transform the lives of recipients. Countries from Mexico to South Africa to Indonesia are giving money directly to the poor and discovering that they use it wisely – to send their children to school, to start a business and to feed their families. (from Kumarian Press)

The publisher of Irony has this quote from Barack Obama on its website:
“[Niebuhr] is one of my favorite philosophers. I take away [from his works] the compelling idea that there’s serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn’t use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away . . . the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard.”—President Barack Obama

 From The Irony of American History which was first published in 1952:
 Our dreams of bringing the whole of human history under the control of the human will are ironically refuted by the fact that no group of idealists can easily move the pattern of history toward the desired goal of peace and justice. The recalcitrant forces in the historical drama have a power and persistence beyond our reckoning. Our own nation, always a vivid symbol of the most characteristic attitudes of a bourgeois culture, is less potent to do what it wants in the hour of its greatest strength than it was in the days of its infancy. The infant is more secure in his world than the mature man is in his wider world. The pattern of the historical drama grows more quickly than the strength of even the most powerful man or nation.  [Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 1–11 of The Irony of American History by Reinhold Niebuhr, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1952 by the Estate of Reinhold Niebuhr. All rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. (Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text.)]

And here's where they'll gladly take your money.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dinner Slices

Providence Alaska Medical and Animal Park

I went to get my stitches taken out today. (Monday I had a basal cell carcinoma removed.)  I also had to go pick up some metal siding (that will be another post about insulation as part of our energy audit recommendations) so I drove.  As I got toward the end of the parking garage I noticed a woman staring off the balcony. 

At first I only saw the two young moose in the front.  The security guard pointed out the mom on the right and suggested I go the other way around.

Some places have stuffed moose or bear in the lobby.  Providence has them unstuffed, outside.  (Sorry about the reflection.  Putting the camera up against the glass got rid of the reflection, but I didn't like them.  I did look for a light switch, but decided that wasn't a good idea either.  I'm just not dedicated enough I guess.)

So I went upstairs and the stitches were out within ten minutes of parking and moose watching - and no, I don't need a bandage any more, though the nurses remarked on people's creativity in covering the stitches with band aids.  The spot is just too long and too close to the eye for normal band aids to fit right. 

In any case, she assured me that in six months it will be hardly noticeable, something about it being along the cheek bone.  Check back April 21.  The black eye should be gone much sooner.  (You can see what it looked like Monday here.) (Since I've only seen this in the mirror, it looks like the wrong side to me, but it's on my left cheek.)

Then back outside and the moose had wandered a bit.  Here they are from the second level of the parking garage.

And then Mom modeled terrible behavior for the calves by not looking as she crossed the street.

But the babies weren't even looking at her anyway.  So I guess it doesn't matter. 

I read today that Alabama farmers can't get people to pick their crops now that Hispanics are leaving the state because of the new immigration law.  Maybe they should contact Providence about their moose gardeners who trim the landscaping.  I should have stopped earlier to get a picture of the fifty or so Canadian geese fertilizing and weeding a lawn on the Providence grounds. 

To be fair, Providence along with UAA across the street, has by far the best landscaping of any company in Anchorage.  They take this seriously and it makes for a much more pleasant experience.