Friday, May 31, 2013

Blogging PATNet Not Like Blogging Other Events

(l-r) Howe, Bevir, Catlaw, Stanisevski
PATNet is the Public Administration Theory Network.  It's the faculty of public administration who have more of an abstract/philosophical bent.  Someone asked if I was blogging the conference.  I thought about it.  This is a conference that always pushes my brain beyond the point where I usually stop.  It's hard work.  The panels I've been to took all my attention to catch 70 or 80% of what was being said.  I need too much time to let this stuff settle to write intelligently about things as it happens.  Plus, I need the breaks to talk with folks.

Right now the head of the Asia Foundation is talking about their work in Asia, which is relatively easy to listen to as I type.  For now though I want to just let you know about the previous session.  I got enough of my blogger mode going to take some pictures and I can tell you the paper titles.

This is the conference that kept me sane and intellectually challenged over the years.  The people here pulled me into the larger issues that underlay the everyday things.  I realize the titles in this panel are particularly abstract.  But these are important intellectual challenges that push the boundaries of what I know and force me to question what I know.  This conference is probably the basic source of the title of this blog. 

Concurrent Session II, Session #2
Friday May 31, 2013
1:00 pm

Panel: “Utopias, Pluralisms, and Modes of Inquiry”


“Interpreting Governance: On Dystopian and Utopian Modes of Knowing”
Mark Bevir, University of California, Berkeley
This paper explores the relationship between forms of knowledge and utopian and dystopian visions. I offer a dystopian view of formal and technocratic knowledge: such knowledge erodes democracy and leads to policy failure, for it privileges experts and ignores the creativity of human agents. Thereafter I turn to the type of knowledge needed to sustain a humanist democracy and the scholarly and political practices associated with such knowledge. I emphasize the importance of an interpretive social science that allows properly for intentionality, historicism, and reflexivity. This interpretivism entails a more decentred approach to public administration – and approach I illustrate by considering work on policy networks and governance. Finally, the paper concludes by discussing the implications of the argument for policymaking: practitioners should adopt: an eclectic approach to data, a suspicion of formal models and frameworks, and a greater role for storytelling.

“Ontology Beyond Typology: Pluralism, Onto-theology, and Afoundationalism in Public Administration”
Thomas Catlaw, Arizona State University
Much work in social science has elaborated the ways in which the “ontological” assumptions of a paradigm, framework, or conceptual scheme are connected to the epistemological and methodological possibilities of those frameworks. Drawing on the work of Alain Badiou, this paper argues that, by and large, efforts to typologize social scientific paradigms share an underlying commitment to ontotheology, or the utopian proposition that Being is One. This paper elaborates the various ways in which this proposition is expressed and argues that this commitment retains a stumbling block to the development of an open, pluralistic approach to social science. The paper presents Badiou’s ontology of the pure multiple as an alternative way of approaching ontological questions and to rethinking the grounds for pluralism in social inquiry."

“Khōra: An Inquiry into Polytopian Philosophy”
Dragan Stanisevski, Mississippi State University
The proposed paper examines polytopian philosophy as an envisioning of plural societies (many-places) that could be both utopian (no-place) and eutopian (good-place) (Landi, 1536, in Tucker, 2003). The paper first looks at polytopia through Kristeva’s lens as a philosophy of inclusion (1977, 1984, 1993, 1994). The paper then connects polytopian philosophy to Derrida’s (1995) discussion of Plato’s khōra. Khōra is a space that is simultaneously an evading receptacle and an erasure and as such does not give an established architecture, but it allows an opportunity to deliberatively participate in the process of co-creation of polytopian narrative(s) of societies to be (Derrida and Eisenman, 1997, pp. 35-36). Polytopian philosophy enables us to think of possibilities of better societies where differences could meet again and again without imposition of ideological absolutes (see Mannheim, 1936).

Moderator/Discussant: Louis Howe, University of West Georgia


The folks listening

Louis Howe did a great job as moderator, giving a seemingly rambling, but clearly well thought out, set of comments and reactions and questions for each presenter.  He was self-deprecating and funny in the lowest key possible way.  And as, he said, this was a really challenging set of papers. 







I don't think I can blog too much of the conference.  This is far more challenging than blogging, say, the legislature or the redistricting board. 

I Needed A Break

Last night I took a break and walked around the block and took some pictures.






 Some jade plant leaves.



Not sure what this flower is.  It's in a large leafy tree.  Anyone know?




A hummingbird resting in a tree.  It had been checking out the red flowers above.





An ice plant flower, mostly closed for the night.









Hibiscus





Thursday, May 30, 2013

Here's The Superior Court Decision - Short and To The Point: "Poor Alaska"

Here's Judge McConahy's ruling. 







I've read the court filings and the judge's ruling.  Was the Board unfairly treated?  Or is the Board the problem?  As a close observer of the process since it began, it's my sense that Board chair tends to be fairly stubborn.  There's also a strong pressure to make sure the plan protects the Republican majority in the Senate which enabled the oil companies to get their $2 billion a year tax relief.  And the Board doesn't like anyone telling them what to do. 

The Board's attorney, Michael White's style in his briefs is confrontational.   He rarely allows for any ambiguity - his opponent is flat out wrong, his position is unquestionably right.  His response in this case wasn't much different from that.  Yet I can't help but wonder what he really thinks about his argument?  Does he really believe it?  Or are these the marching orders he got from the Board? 

The basic issues in the case were:

1.  Should the Court set a faster schedule for completing their Proclamation Plan?  (The Plan is the redistricting plan for the state.  Our 2012 elections used an interim plan that included some districts that were ruled unconstitutional.)

2.  Is the Board required to have public hearings on the final Proclamation Plan?

Others were raised in support of these, but the judge narrowed his ruling to these two questions.  In both he gave a resounding 'yes.'  Though he did not give the Board any specific timeline or deadline.

Below are just a few of my thoughts on this.  You can go to each of the four documents submitted to the court at Wednesday's post on this.

Scheduling

On the schedule, the Board's response allowed no possible other right interpretation.
“Beyond complying with the Open Meetings Act, the Public Records Act, and Article VI, Section 10 of the Alaska Constitution, the Board has the discretion to conduct its proceedings in a manner that it believes best facilitates the formulation of a new redistricting plan that is in compliance with the Supreme Court’s December 28, 2012 Order.  The Plaintiffs’ baseless arguments to the contrary have already been rejected by this Court.”
When I read this Tuesday, I thought about other situations where courts have intervened and told other agencies how to do their jobs.  School integration came immediately to mind (and Judge McConahy used that example in his ruling) as well as mandating the release of prisoners to relieve overcrowding of prisoners.  It seemed to me if the Court felt that the Board's schedule would lead to another election with an interim Plan, they really would have to intervene.



I was particularly struck by this argument by the Board:
“The Board is fully aware of its constitutional obligations as well as the deadlines it must meet in order to complete its work and allow for judicial review of that work in time to implement its Second Amended Proclamation Plan for the 2014 elections, and it will, as it has done in the past, act accordingly.”  (Emphasis added.)
REALLY?!  "As it has done in the past?"  The facts are indisputable that the Board was unable to complete its Proclamation Plan in time for the 2012 election and we had to settle for an Interim Plan which was seen as unconstitutional. 

One of the issues the Court pointedly did not rule on was the idea of waiting until the Shelby County v. Holder case is decided by the US Supreme Court.  It's nearly June and the Court will most likely decide the case in the next 30 days.  However, there is no reason that the Board has offered that to me would justify waiting.  And there seems no legitimate reason to wait.

The Hickel Process that the Court has said the Board must follow requires the Board to FIRST come up with a redistricting plan that meets the Alaska Constitutional requirements.  Then, and only then, should they consider the Voting Rights Act requirements.  They are waiting on the Shelby County decision on the hope that it will remove the requirement for pre-clearance of their plan by the Department of Justice. 

But because the Hickel process requires them to use the Alaska Constitution first, there's no reason why they couldn't have begun back in March.  Or February.  Or January.  If the US Supreme Court maintains the pre-clearance requirement, the Board would at least have done the first part of the process.  They would have created a map of the districts using only the Alaska Constitutional requirements.  The next step would be to make the most minimal adjustments necessary to also meet the Voting Rights Act.

If the US Supreme Court decision results in eliminating the need to get pre-clearance, then the Board would be done.

But this does raise other issues.  Even though they wouldn't need pre-clearance, they would still have to meet other sections of the Voting Rights Act.  But those other sections, if I understand it right, require proof of intent, whereas section 5 only looks at the outcome compared to benchmark districts from the past and doesn't concern itself with intent.  Short of documents or public statements, it's very hard to prove intent. 

Will the Board, freed of pre-clearance requirements, gut Native representation?  The Board's Response raised the issue of not having to meet the seven benchmark Native districts. Do they have some strategies for redistricting if they are free of the pre-clearance requirement?

There are no legitimate reasons to wait for Shelby that I can think of, but the Court didn't rule on these arguments directly.  But the general ruling seems to suggest he didn't think much of the Board's argument for waiting.

Public Hearings

On the second issue - whether a public hearings are required - the Board argued that while the Board hadn't decided whether to hold public hearings (where the the public can testify, as opposed to their regular board meetings where the public can attend but not talk), it was at their discretion because such hearings are not Constitutionally required.   The judge succinctly disagreed.

The Constitution clearly required the Board to have public hearings before they finalized their plan.  Since they are developing a completely new plan, even if the Constitution doesn't specifically say that "if the first plan fails they need to do public hearings again," it would seem to thwart the intent of the Constitution to not have public hearings.

Yes, as the Board argued, they had lots of public hearings already.  But not on the new plan.  And it doesn't make administrative sense to not have such hearings.  Local people can let the Board know obvious mistakes that locals see that the Board wouldn't see.  This allows a lot of simple things to be corrected.  But they might also see politically motivated quirks that the Board would rather not have people discovering.   Not having hearings increases the likelihood of court challenges.  I realize these challenges are inevitable, but there will be more issues raised and possibly more people raising them if there are no public hearings and the obvious problems aren't worked out before the Plan is final.


Conclusions

It would seem that the Board should be moving as expeditiously as possible.  They should have the first step of the Hickel process done and be waiting to do the second step - comply with the VRA - as soon as the Shelby County case is decided.

Why might they be taking their time?  To make it harder for people to see and review what they do?  That would be consistent with cutting out public hearings.  Or, as the Petersburg Plaintiffs hypothesized, to let the interim plan stay in place for the 2014 election too?

Maybe they just have a different sense of time and urgency than I have.  But when I saw their arguments, I just saw, well nothing that was a strong case.  And the judge apparently didn't either.

They also should be pursuing the idea of public hearings.  They don't have to do the ridiculous schedule of visits all over they state they did last time.  Much of that can be done through telecommunications.  And their hearings should involve much more information about the maps the Board proposes to the communities before the fact, so people can study them and make informed comments.

The Court should [showed] its impatience with the Board.  What will it take from the Board to have the Courts step in and set up their own process for getting this done?  It's happened in the past.  And this Board is being pretty confrontational with the Courts.  

Superior Court Apparently Unimpressed By Alaska Redistricting Board's Arguments


From the Fairbanks News Miner:

Superior Court judge orders Alaska Redistricting Board to get to work pronto

 From the Anchorage Daily News:

Judge scolds Alaska Redistricting Board

 

We flew from LA to San Francisco today so I haven't gotten hold of the decision yet, but you can see what the Fairbanks and Anchorage papers had to say at the links above.   And for more background and detail about the runup to the decision you can look at my previous post which gave an overview of the court filings.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Alaska Redistricting Board - Riley and Petersburg Ask For A Schedule and Public Hearings, Board Says to Court: Don't Interfere

The Alaska Redistricting Saga continues. It's a little difficult to keep up with this, and I'm not sure I have everything, but here are some court documents that have been filed recently concerning the Alaska Redistricting Board's process for creating a third, and hopefully final, Proclamation Plan (redistricting plan) for the rest of the decade.  (I said third, but I guess it depends on which ones you count. The Board references a second proclamation plan. There was the original and the amended original.  There's also the interim plan that was in place for the 2012 election.)

This post will give an overview of the four documents I've gotten hold of that were filed in May with the Alaska Superior Court.  Then I'll try to go through each of them individually in separate posts.  In the meantime I've posted all four on Scribd and for those who are impatient, and can't sleep, you can look there.  I've linked them at the bottom of this post.  

Background

Their first plan was rejected and they were told to follow the Hickel process.  That means, briefly, that they need to design a plan using the Alaska Constitution's guidelines first.  Then, if necessary, they must make the minimal adjustments necessary to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The last plan was rejected and their next one - the Amended Plan - was also rejected, but was used, with some little changes, as the Interim Plan for the 2012 election because there wasn't enough time for another round before the election. 

In December, the Alaska Supreme Court told them that the Interim Plan that was used for the 2012 election had to be redrawn from scratch.  A couple more appeals and orders from the Court have repeated this order. 

The Board hasn't done much lately.  They had a meeting in February.  They met again in March to select a new Executive Director, but after they were forced to hand out the resumes of the candidates they decided to not hire an Executive Director.  So two plaintiffs have filed with the Superior Court to get the Board moving.


The May Court Filings in Superior Court

The original plaintiff - Riley - May 15, 2013 -  filed a motion with the Alaska Superior Court in Fairbanks
1. to give the Board a schedule that will insure that there will be enough time for Voting Rights Act clearance and for the almost certain lawsuits that will be filed to all be resolved in time for the 2014 election.  At the very latest, that means May 2014 so that the Board of Elections can do its job and so candidates will know the districts they will run in.
2.   to require the Board to hold public hearings before they finalize their plan. 

The City of Petersburg  - May 15, 2013 -  whose original filing was consolidated with Riley before Petersburg dropped out, has filed asking for the same things as Riley - a schedule and a requirement for public hearings. In addition they asked the Court to set a deadline by which the plan should be completed.

The Petersburg's motion is much longer and detailed than the Riley motion, with lots of reasons listed for each request. 


The Alaska Redistricting Board Response - May 22, 2013 - rejects the claims of both Riley and Petersburg.  The Board's two major points were:
A.  It is within the board’s authority to set its administrative schedule and the Board fully intends to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to have a final plan in place for th 2014 elections. 
1.  The Board is an independent constitutionally established entity whose administrative schedule this court has already recognized it does not have the authority to mandate.
2.  The Board has not yet actually adopted a timeline for completion of its work, but if it should follow the Board chair’s draft timeline, that timeline provides more than sufficient time for judicial review of its new plan.
3.  The Board’s decision to wait for the US Supreme Court Decision in the Shelby County Case is rational and reasonable.
4,  The Board’s second amended proclamation plan is not subject to new litigation challengers or full blown litigation.
B.  While the Board has made no decision on whether it will hold public hearings on its second amended proclamation plan, it is clear that the Alaska Constitution does not require public hearings on remand.
There are lots of details backing this up, which I'll try to outline in the following posts.

Finally,
Petersburg - May 24, 2013 - filed a reply to the Redistricting Board's response.
A.  The Board’s Authority to set its timelines
“Petersburg Plaintiffs recognize the Board’s authority to prescribe its own timeline.  However, this authority is by no means absolute and is directly limited by the Board’s obligation to comply with the Supreme Court’s Order that the final plan be adopted before the 2014 elections.”
 It goes on to raise their fear that there will not be enough time and the 2014 election will be held using the current interim plan, which, they point out, the Supreme Court has said, includes unconstitutional  districts in SE Alaska, where Petersburg is.
“B.  The Board should not postpone the Redistricing Process until a decision in Shelby County, AL v. Holder, Att’y Gen., et al., No. 12-96 (November 9, 2012)”

C.  The Board Should prepare for and expect lengthy judicial review
[The Board, in its Response, argued that “the Board’s second amended Proclamation Plan is not subject to new litigation challengers or full blown litigation.”]

“D.  Public Hearings Are Required”
[Note:  I've had trouble with the capitalization - Blogger changed all the title caps in the sections from the filings.  Further I can't cut and paste from pdf's I have.  I'll trust that this won't bother anyone too much.]

You can read each of the documents at the links below:

May 15:  Riley Plaintiffs Motion For Order Establishing Deadlines And To Holding Hearings on Final Plan

May 15:  [City of] Petersburg Plaintiffs' Motion for Adequate Timeline and Public Hearings on the Final Redistricting Plan

May 22:  ARB’s response 20 pages plus exhibits (total 36 pages)
Defendant Alaska Redistricting Board’s Consolidated Opposition To Riley Plaintiff’s Motion For Establishing Deadlines And To Holding Hearings On Final Plan And Petersburg Plaintiffs’ Motion For Adequate Timeline And Public Hearings On the Final Redistricting Plan

May 24:  Petersburg Plaintiffs’ Reply to Defendant Alaska Redistricting Board’s Consolidated Opposition to Riley Plaintiffs’ Motion For Order Establishing Deadlines on Final Plan and Petersburg Plaintiffs’ Motion for Adequate Timeline and Public Hearings on the Final Redistricting Plan


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I'm Guessing It's Child Car Seats, Not 50 Shades of Gray, That's Increasing Bondage Popularity

There are articles around, like this one, that credit Fifty Shades of Gray with an increase in bondage.    But after watching my grand child being introduced to her car seat, I think there are other explanations.

Essentially, I'm suggesting there needs to be research in the correlation between child car seat restraints and the popularity of bondage.   When I first had to strap my grand child into her car seat - she hated it and I thought it was pretty restrictive myself.

My own kids weren't covered by any laws requiring them to be in such restrictive devices.  Yes, there was an infant seat, but it didn't involve their arms and legs in such a restrictive manner.

The various state laws came into place from 1978 to 1985.  If we say 1985, it means that people today, 28 and under, are the people that first grew up spending a good part of their time strapped down tightly. 

From Safe Ride News' detailed history of child car seat legislation:
1978: First child passenger safety law passed in Tennessee, requiring parents to put their infants and young children in CRS that meet the current federal standard (FMVSS 213). Becameeffective in 1979. Legislative effort begins in other states. . .
1985: Final state passes child passenger safety law. All states plus District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have requirements, but many have limitations, such as applying only to
parents or guardians or allowing lap belt use as an alternative for very young children.
All are primary laws (allowing police to stop a vehicle for the violation).
 Maybe Fifty Shades got people going, but I'm betting that book just tapped into a generation that's been in bondage since infancy. 

Blog That Reprints My Complete Posts Verbatim

I discovered a blog today that is reposting my blog's posts verbatim.  I'm not going to link there, but  here's what it looks like (just the two most recent posts with the website name removed):

 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What Do I Know?

What Do I Know?


Posted: 27 May 2013 08:43 PM PDT
"They mash in close, push and shove, grab at his arms and talk too loud, and sometimes they break wind, so propulsive is their stress.  After two solid weeks of public events Billy continues to be amazed at the public response, the raw wavering voices and frenzied speech patterns, the gibberish spilled from the mouths of seemingly well-adjusted citizens.  We appreciate, they say, their voices throbbing like a lovers." (p. 37)

Billy, the title character of the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is with the rest of  Bravo squad
("though technically, there's no such thing as  Bravo squad.  They are Bravo Company, second platoon, first squad, said squad being comprised of teams alpha and bravo, but the Fox embed christened them Bravo squad and thus they were presented to the world." (p. 4))
at a Dallas Cowboys pregame.  Not too far into the book, I know there was some brave rescue the squad made and now they are on a two week victory lap around the US getting maximum publicity for themselves, the war, and President Bush.  There's even a movie deal being worked during this chilly afternoon in Dallas.

In the opening quote, they are sitting in their seats when their names are flashed on the Jumbotron.  People come up to them to connect with the soldiers before they go back to complete the last 11 months of their deployment in Iraq.
"No one spits, no one calls him baby-killer.  On the contrary, people could not be more supportive or kindlier disposed, yet Billy finds these encounters weird and frightening all the same.  There's something harsh in his fellow Americans, avid , ecstatic, a burning that comes of the deepest need.  That's his sense of it, they all need something from him, this pack of half-rich lawyers, dentists, soccer moms, and corporate VPs, they're all gnashing for a piece of a barely grown grunt making $14,000 a year.  For these adult, affluent people he is mere petty cash in their personal accounting, yet they lose it when they enter his personal space.  They tremble.  They breathe in fitful stinky huffs.  Their eyes skitz and quiver with the force of the moment, because here, finally, up close and personal, is the war made flesh, an actual point of contact after all the months and years of reading about the war, watching the war on TV, hearing the war flogged and flacked on talk radio.  It's been hard times in America - how did we get this way?"  (p. 38)

It seemed like an appropriate quote for Memorial Day, the day we honor the war dead, the idea of war and of sending soldiers around the world to protect democracy at home.

Ben Fountain's novel, which looks like it's all going to take place at the football game, is starting to paint a different picture of that adoration.  As the afternoon  progresses, we get flashbacks to Iraq and the incident that made them heroes and gave them this two week reprieve from living on the edge of death.  (Two of their squad didn't make it home alive already.)

So far this book explores Americans' need to see these soldiers as heroes, their own need to fill some void in their own lives.  And to fill that need, they see the soldiers into their own narrative of American greatness protected from the evil outside world by these brave soldiers. A narrative that is clearly different from the one playing in Billy's head. 

Here's a New York Times review - which I haven't read because I want to finish the book first - to get another take on this book.
Posted: 27 May 2013 05:32 PM PDT
We're in LA visiting my mom, before the PATNet conference in San Francisco.  When we were here in March we arranged for a caregiver to stay with her and we were very lucky to get someone she likes.  It's good to see how nicely they work together.
Z

On the way we were able to get a four hour layover in Seattle and my daughter and four month old granddaughter picked us up for lunch at the IKEA which is close to the airport.  So I got a wonderful dose of Vitamin Z.  Except for being strapped up in the car seat, she was alert and smiley the whole time.

I did manage to stop the car seat crying by rocking the car seat.  And Z and I got to have our inter-generational conversation through intense eye contact, touching, babbling, rocking,  and just talking, with lots of smiles and some mischievous grandfatherly advice that her mom didn't seem to appreciate.  But that's between me and Z. 

It was very hard to say goodbye. 






That led me to google "report abuse to blogspot"  which got me a page explaining how to complain and I linked to 'legal issues' which got me a form to fill out. 

That didn't take long.  And I quickly got the email confirmation they received my complaint. 

Hi,

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each 
day; your message is in our queue, and we'll get to it as quickly as our 
workload permits.

Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that we 
will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your 
request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond 
with questions or requests for clarification.  For more information on 
Google's Terms of Service, please visit http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS

We appreciate your patience as we investigate your request.

Regards,


After I pasted what it looks like above, I saw that there was a name for the blogger posted.  It looks like a kid in Thailand, so I'm going to email him too.  He has a bunch of blogs listed. It doesn't look like somebody trying to rip off stuff.  Not sure what his motivation is.   Life is full of new stuff that might be fun to follow up on, except I don't really have time for all this.  Here's the email:

XXXXXX,

I learned today that you are posting all my blog posts on your blog XXXXXXX.  This is illegal - even in Thailand.  I have reported this to Google.

Please remove the blog immediately.

ถา ให่มเข้เใจผาษาอัง่ดรืษฤ ตอบผาษาไทย.

Steve

Monday, May 27, 2013

More On Our Hero Worship of the Military

"They mash in close, push and shove, grab at his arms and talk too loud, and sometimes they break wind, so propulsive is their stress.  After two solid weeks of public events Billy continues to be amazed at the public response, the raw wavering voices and frenzied speech patterns, the gibberish spilled from the mouths of seemingly well-adjusted citizens.  We appreciate, they say, their voices throbbing like a lovers." (p. 37)

Billy, the title character of the novel Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk is with the rest of  Bravo squad
("though technically, there's no such thing as  Bravo squad.  They are Bravo Company, second platoon, first squad, said squad being comprised of teams alpha and bravo, but the Fox embed christened them Bravo squad and thus they were presented to the world." (p. 4))
at a Dallas Cowboys pregame.  Not too far into the book, I know there was some brave rescue the squad made and now they are on a two week victory lap around the US getting maximum publicity for themselves, the war, and President Bush.  There's even a movie deal being worked during this chilly afternoon in Dallas.

In the opening quote, they are sitting in their seats when their names are flashed on the Jumbotron.  People come up to them to connect with the soldiers before they go back to complete the last 11 months of their deployment in Iraq.
"No one spits, no one calls him baby-killer.  On the contrary, people could not be more supportive or kindlier disposed, yet Billy finds these encounters weird and frightening all the same.  There's something harsh in his fellow Americans, avid , ecstatic, a burning that comes of the deepest need.  That's his sense of it, they all need something from him, this pack of half-rich lawyers, dentists, soccer moms, and corporate VPs, they're all gnashing for a piece of a barely grown grunt making $14,000 a year.  For these adult, affluent people he is mere petty cash in their personal accounting, yet they lose it when they enter his personal space.  They tremble.  They breathe in fitful stinky huffs.  Their eyes skitz and quiver with the force of the moment, because here, finally, up close and personal, is the war made flesh, an actual point of contact after all the months and years of reading about the war, watching the war on TV, hearing the war flogged and flacked on talk radio.  It's been hard times in America - how did we get this way?"  (p. 38)

It seemed like an appropriate quote for Memorial Day, the day we honor the war dead, the idea of war and of sending soldiers around the world to protect democracy at home.

Ben Fountain's novel, which looks like it's all going to take place at the football game, is starting to paint a different picture of that adoration.  As the afternoon  progresses, we get flashbacks to Iraq and the incident that made them heroes and gave them this two week reprieve from living on the edge of death.  (Two of their squad didn't make it home alive already.)

So far this book explores Americans' need to see these soldiers as heroes, their own need to fill some void in their own lives.  And to fill that need, they see the soldiers into their own narrative of American greatness protected from the evil outside world by these brave soldiers. A narrative that is clearly different from the one playing in Billy's head. 

Here's a New York Times review - which I haven't read because I want to finish the book first - to get another take on this book.

[UPDATE:  I've put up a second post on the book here.]

Getting Some Vitamin Z on Seattle Stop

We're in LA visiting my mom, before the PATNet conference in San Francisco.  When we were here in March we arranged for a caregiver to stay with her and we were very lucky to get someone she likes.  It's good to see how nicely they work together.
Z

On the way we were able to get a four hour layover in Seattle and my daughter and four month old granddaughter picked us up for lunch at the IKEA which is close to the airport.  So I got a wonderful dose of Vitamin Z.  Except for being strapped up in the car seat, she was alert and smiley the whole time.

I did manage to stop the car seat crying by rocking the car seat.  And Z and I got to have our inter-generational conversation through intense eye contact, touching, babbling, rocking,  and just talking, with lots of smiles and some mischievous grandfatherly advice that her mom didn't seem to appreciate.  But that's between me and Z. 

It was very hard to say goodbye. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Stupid Google Tricks

First there was Weenie Google.

Next there was Epic Google.

Then Mr. Doob's Google Gravity

And now I've come across  Revolving Internet.



The links above go straight to websites, which are examples of people's humor and imagination on the theme of the basic google website.   Clever and unexpected enough, that I thought them worth a post when I first ran across each of them.  You can see my posts on the first three here: Mr. Doob's Google Gravity, Weenie Google, Epic Google,  and the Revolving Internet.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Six So-So Sites to Check Out

Have you noticed a trend on websites with lists of the ten, or 24, or 100 most amazing, awesome,  or dangerous whatevers?  MUST SEE! is a frequent descriptor.  Do you click on them?  Sometimes? 

Lists are big on the internet.  I've known this, but I try to write how and what I want to write about, not use gimmicks to get people here, except in situations like this where I'm spoofing a bit and pointing out exactly what I'm doing.

But there are good reasons to use lists and ProBlogger listed a few of them way back in 2005: 8 Reasons Why Lists are Good for Getting Traffic to your Blog

  1. Lists are Scannable
  2. Lists keep posts succinct
  3. Lists look ‘neat’ [as in tidy I assume, not as in cool]
  4. Lists are easy to link to
  5. Lists can be comprehensive
  6. Lists can add to the ease of writing
  7. Lists as Memes He gives a little more explanation for each at the link.
I naturally use lists because of 2, 3, 5, and because they are easier for readers to find important points if they aren't buried in a paragraph. 

So here's my list of a few internet stops you may or may not find interesting:  

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From the May 2013 Vanity Fair

Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%

Americans have been watching protests against oppressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.
Joseph E. Stiglitz
Stiglitz is a Nobel Prize winning economist whose work is on income distribution.









               
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Before I Die I Want To - A website about the end of the Polaroid camera,  psychological safety contracts, and getting people to think about what's really important.  Hundreds of photos and "Before I Die. . ." statements.  Here are just two.


On the site, scroll to the right.  











  ____ 
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  _/_ <_ 
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A librarian's very patient, detailed, and thoughtful response to a patron who requested a book be restricted.  It's the kind of response I try for here, but rarely achieve. 

"Uncle Bobby's Wedding

Recently, a library patron challenged (urged a reconsideration of the ownership or placement of) a book called "Uncle Bobby's Wedding." Honestly, I hadn't even heard of it until that complaint. But I did read the book, and responded to the patron, who challenged the item through email and requested that I respond online (not via snail-mail) about her concerns. .  ."
Read it all at the link.  


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For those with a very short attention span:  One sentence stories.   Here's one example from July 2012.

StacyLynn

My deep resentment towards your family began when you were diagnosed during my FIRST semester of nursing school, because they expected me to be an oncology expert, and when I didn't have an answer they told me I was going to be a horrible nurse.



Screen shot from SFMOMA site



 ______
    / ____/
   /___ \  
  ____/ /_ 
 /_____/(_)


Visit the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art - it looks like they have all their art work here for you to explore.  Well, it says 6,793 pieces from their collection.










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 / /_/ /         
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Or use a figlet generator.  So far I'm not too impressed.  I used it to make the numbers on my list here.  I'm sure there's more to it than this.  You can find out more about figlets here.



                 ___                       ___           ___           ___     
                /\__\                     /\  \         /\__\         /\__\    
               /:/ _/_       ___          \:\  \       /:/  /        /:/ _/_   
              /:/ /\  \     /\__\          \:\  \     /:/  /        /:/ /\__\  
             /:/ /::\  \   /:/__/      _____\:\  \   /:/  /  ___   /:/ /:/ _/_ 
            /:/_/:/\:\__\ /::\  \     /::::::::\__\ /:/__/  /\__\ /:/_/:/ /\__\
            \:\/:/ /:/  / \/\:\  \__  \:\~~\~~\/__/ \:\  \ /:/  / \:\/:/ /:/  /
             \::/ /:/  /   ~~\:\/\__\  \:\  \        \:\  /:/  /   \::/_/:/  / 
              \/_/:/  /       \::/  /   \:\  \        \:\/:/  /     \:\/:/  /  
                /:/  /        /:/  /     \:\__\        \::/  /       \::/  /   
                \/__/         \/__/       \/__/         \/__/         \/__/    
                                                                               
                                            _____                     _____    
                      ___                  /::\  \       ___         /::\  \   
                     /\__\                /:/\:\  \     /\__\       /:/\:\  \  
                    /:/__/               /:/  \:\__\   /:/__/      /:/  \:\__\ 
                   /::\  \              /:/__/ \:|__| /::\  \     /:/__/ \:|__|
                   \/\:\  \__           \:\  \ /:/  / \/\:\  \__  \:\  \ /:/  /
                    ~~\:\/\__\           \:\  /:/  /   ~~\:\/\__\  \:\  /:/  / 
                       \::/  /            \:\/:/  /       \::/  /   \:\/:/  /  
                       /:/  /              \::/  /        /:/  /     \::/  /   
                       \/__/                \/__/         \/__/       \/__/    
                                           ___           ___                   
                                          /\  \         /\  \                  
                                          \:\  \       /::\  \         ___     
                                           \:\  \     /:/\:\  \       /\__\    
                                       _____\:\  \   /:/  \:\  \     /:/  /    
                                      /::::::::\__\ /:/__/ \:\__\   /:/__/     
                                      \:\~~\~~\/__/ \:\  \ /:/  /  /::\  \     
                                       \:\  \        \:\  /:/  /  /:/\:\  \    
                                        \:\  \        \:\/:/  /   \/__\:\  \   
                                         \:\__\        \::/  /         \:\__\  
                                          \/__/         \/__/           \/__/  
                                                         ___           ___     
                                                        /|  |         /\__\    
                                           ___         |:|  |        /:/ _/_   
                                          /\__\        |:|  |       /:/ /\__\  
                           ___     ___   /:/__/      __|:|  |      /:/ /:/ _/_ 
                          /\  \   /\__\ /::\  \     /\ |:|__|____ /:/_/:/ /\__\
                          \:\  \ /:/  / \/\:\  \__  \:\/:::::/__/ \:\/:/ /:/  /
                           \:\  /:/  /   ~~\:\/\__\  \::/~~/~      \::/_/:/  / 
                            \:\/:/  /       \::/  /   \:\~~\        \:\/:/  /  
                             \::/  /        /:/  /     \:\__\        \::/  /   
                              \/__/         \/__/       \/__/         \/__/    
                                                           ___                 
                                                          /\  \                
                                                         |::\  \         ___   
                                                         |:|:\  \       /|  |  
                                                       __|:|\:\  \     |:|  |  
                                                      /::::|_\:\__\    |:|  |  
                                                      \:\~~\  \/__/  __|:|__|  
                                                       \:\  \       /::::\  \  
                                                        \:\  \      ~~~~\:\  \ 
                                                         \:\__\          \:\__\
                                                          \/__/           \/__/
               ___           ___           ___                         ___     
              /\  \         /\  \         /\  \         _____         /\__\    
              \:\  \        \:\  \       |::\  \       /::\  \       /:/ _/_   
               \:\  \        \:\  \      |:|:\  \     /:/\:\  \     /:/ /\__\  
           _____\:\  \   ___  \:\  \   __|:|\:\  \   /:/ /::\__\   /:/ /:/ _/_ 
          /::::::::\__\ /\  \  \:\__\ /::::|_\:\__\ /:/_/:/\:|__| /:/_/:/ /\__\
          \:\~~\~~\/__/ \:\  \ /:/  / \:\~~\  \/__/ \:\/:/ /:/  / \:\/:/ /:/  /
           \:\  \        \:\  /:/  /   \:\  \        \::/_/:/  /   \::/_/:/  / 
            \:\  \        \:\/:/  /     \:\  \        \:\/:/  /     \:\/:/  /  
             \:\__\        \::/  /       \:\__\        \::/  /       \::/  /   
              \/__/         \/__/         \/__/         \/__/         \/__/    
                                                         ___           ___     
                                                        /\  \         /\__\    
                                                       /::\  \       /:/ _/_   
                                                      /:/\:\__\     /:/ /\  \  
                                                     /:/ /:/  /    /:/ /::\  \ 
                                                    /:/_/:/__/___ /:/_/:/\:\__\
                                                    \:\/:::::/  / \:\/:/ /:/  /
                                                     \::/~~/~~~~   \::/ /:/  / 
                                                      \:\~~\        \/_/:/  /  
                                                       \:\__\         /:/  /   
                                                        \/__/         \/__/    
Have fun. Don't forget to bookmark this website :)

                           dd          
                            III   ff    oooo  uu   uu nn nnn       dd    aa aa 
                            III   ffff oo  oo uu   uu nnn  nn  dddddd   aa aaa 
                            III   ff   oo  oo uu   uu nn   nn dd   dd  aa  aaa 
                           IIIII  ff    oooo   uuuu u nn   nn  dddddd   aaa aa 
                                                                               
                           dd iii  fff  fff                              tt    
                           dd     ff   ff     eee  rr rr    eee  nn nnn  tt    
                       dddddd iii ffff ffff ee   e rrr  r ee   e nnn  nn tttt  
                      dd   dd iii ff   ff   eeeee  rr     eeeee  nn   nn tt    
                       dddddd iii ff   ff    eeeee rr      eeeee nn   nn  tttt 
                                                                               
                                                              iii tt           
                                                         sss      tt      eee  
                                                        s     iii tttt  ee   e 
                                                         sss  iii tt    eeeee  
                                                            s iii  tttt  eeeee 
                                                         sss                   

The second site calls itself an ASCII generator.  The first font was a called isometric and the second one is called letters.  I like that the letter is made up of its own letter.  There are lots more fonts to play with.  Don't worry, I don't think this will be my new style.  Just playing around to avoid doing all the things I need to do.  

Friday, May 24, 2013

Things I Couldn't Do With My Pocket Camera


We took an evening stroll around 10pm the other night to a nearby nature sanctuary and I experimented a little more with the new Canon rebel.  While I still have lots to figure out with this camera, these are shots I could never have gotten with the Powershot. 







These are really far away, but I was able to enlarge the images in reasonable focus.  I'm hoping to confirmation from my bird guru Dianne (got the confirmation), but I'm reasonably sure these are ring-necked ducks.   My Guide to Birds in Alaska says:
"Breeds in eastcentral Alaska in such places as Tetlin Lakes and the Yukon Flats and more rarely in southcoastal and southeastern Alaska."
And I don't recall ever seeing these before. At least never identifying them before.  But this camera makes it easier to remember exactly what they looked like. 














click to enlarge a bit
This camera makes it possible to see the ordinary in a new light.  Just look at the feather pattern on the wing of this gull.  (I think it's a ring billed gull)  Below it's circling back.



All that said about the new camera, it doesn't fit in my pocket and so it's not nearly as convenient to carry with me all the time.  So it will only be going out when I'm specifically going to look for birds or other distant objects.  For now anyway.  It's hard to remember the days when I dragged my old Pentax camera and telephoto lens around. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Our Rights To Film Cops in Public

I ran into this post the other day - filming cops in public can get you in trouble:

Saturday, July 30, 2011


A disturbing trend: many innocent Americans arrested for legally filming on-duty public servants

Madison Ruppert, Contributing Writer
Activist Post

In recent years an unsettling pattern in law enforcement interactions has emerged. American citizens, innocent of a crime, filming a public servant performing their duties in public, have been targeted and had their constitutionally protected rights destroyed.

The cases continue to pile up, some more disturbing and egregious than others. One of the most shocking examples is the case of the Las Vegas man, Mitchell Crooks, who was brutally assaulted by an on-duty police officer for filming the officer from his own property. [It goes on to give a number of other examples of photographers being harassed.]
I knew I'd written about this topic and it turns out that it was not quite a year ago - Photography is Not a Crime - Blogging, The First Amendment, and Your Camera.   It's an important enough topic for bloggers with cameras to be raised now and again.  That older post had three rules on how to film cops from Carlos Miller:
Get it on video.
Assert your rights.
Just leave.  
[
The link has the details]

I looked for something newer and found that the Illinois' Supreme Court upheld photographer's rights.

Aaron Dykes
Infowars.com
November 26, 2012

The state of Illinois has some of the harshest “eavesdropping” laws on the books, and those statutes have been frequently abused to prosecute individuals for filming police actions in public in numerous cases.
Now, a fresh Supreme Court decision has declared this to be a violation of the First Amendment, refusing to hear an appeal from Cook County officials to allow prosecution of those recording cops, and instead upholding a lower court decision that resulted from an ACLU lawsuit.

Michael Zhang at Peta Pixal, in March of this year reports:

The US Department of Justice issued a statement this past Sunday that confirms the fact that the 1st, 4th, and 14th Amendment protect citizens’ rights to photograph police in public places.  (emphasis added)

The Statement of Interest document is a message to the US District Court in Maryland that it supports photojournalist Mannie Garcia in his lawsuit against the Montgomery County police. Garcia photographing police back in June 2011 when he was arrested and had his camera equipment (and photographs) taken away.  [Get the rest here.]

Below is a quote from the United States District Court in Maryland Court Decision.  It says that citizens, not just journalists, have First Amendment rights to record police conduct and other items of public interest:
"Courts have long held that recordings made by private citizens of police conduct or other items of public interest are entitled to First Amendment protection. See, e.g. , Glik , 655 F.3d at 84-85 (findingFirst Amendment right to record “clearly established”); Smith , 212 F.3d at 1333; Fordyce , 55 F.3d at439; Blackston v. Alabama , 30 F.3d 117, 120-21 (11th Cir. 1994); Lambert v. Polk Cnty. , 723 F. Supp.128, 133 (S.D. Iowa 1989). Similarly, the Supreme Court has established that journalists are not entitled to greater First Amendment protections than private individuals. See,e.g. , Nixon v. Warner Comm., Inc. ,435 U.S. 589, 608-09 (1978) (“The First Amendment generally grants the press no right to information Case 8:12-cv-03592-JFM Document 15 Filed 03/04/13 Page 12 of 13 13 about a trial superior to that of the general public.”); Branzburg , 408 U.S. at 684 (“It has generally been held that the First Amendment does not guarantee the press a constitutional right of special access to information not available to the public generally.”) (citing cases). Thus, this Court should make clear that Mr. Garcia’s status as a credentialed journalist does not influence its analysis of his First Amendment right to document police activity occurring in public."
The judge seems to be going out of his way to say that Mr. Garcia isn't winning because he's a journalist, but simply because he's a citizen.  I guess that's good for citizens, does it have downsides for journalists?  I'm not sure.  I'm glad everyone is protected, but is there some inherent loss for journalists?  I don't know.

This part of the decision might be a good thing to have on one's person if one might be filming cops who might object.  A way to follow Miller's second rule:  Assert your rights.

Don't take this as the last word on this.  Just a little more info to think about when you want to whip out your camera and take video in public.  

[UPDATE:  See July 30, 2013 post including video on filming Swedish cops.]

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sugar Shack Coffee Stand Trashed




Vandals hit the very popular Sugar Shack coffee stand at 37th and Lake Otis.  This isn't something I'd normally cover, but it's a place I pass frequently and as I rode by today I couldn't help noticing.

[UPDATE 9/10/13:  Sugar Shack reopens.]




The owner, Gary, explained what he knew.


)



I remember when the Sugar Shack opened.  I was telling a neighbor that I didn't see how it could survive.  Yes, Lake Otis is busy, but people would have to make left turns in the morning to get in and the afternoon traffic would make people hesitate to stop.  She looked me in the eye and said, "You don't drink coffee do you?"






Another part of my cross-cultural education.  Coffee drinkers think differently.  And boy was I wrong.  The Sugar Shack is always busy. 






This appears to be the window they broke in through.

Gary made a comment off camera that I appreciated.  Something like, we don't have problem kids, we have problem parents.







[UPDATE March 12, 2014: Viddler video replaced with YouTube.]
[UDATE October 10, 2014:  The stand was rebuilt, but now the land has been leased to Northrim Bank and they are working quickly to build a branch at this spot.  It's due to open in February.]

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Peace Corps Will Accept Applications From Same-Sex Domestic Partners Who Want To Serve Together

From the Peace Corps today:  

Peace Corps Deputy Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet today announced that the agency will begin accepting applications from same-sex domestic partners who want to serve together as volunteers overseas.  Same-sex couples may begin the application process starting Monday, June 3.
“Service in the Peace Corps is a life-defining leadership experience for Americans who want to make a difference around the world,” Deputy Director Hessler-Radelet said. “I am proud that the agency is taking this important step forward to allow same-sex domestic partners to serve overseas together.”
Expanding service opportunities to same-sex domestic partners who want to volunteer together further diversifies the pool of Peace Corps applicants and the skills of those invited to serve overseas in the fields of education, health, community economic development, environment, youth in development and agriculture. Married heterosexual couples have been serving together in the Peace Corps since its inception in 1961. Currently, 7 percent of Peace Corps assignments are filled by married volunteers serving together.
The Peace Corps requires formal documentation for all couples who want to serve, and same-sex domestic partners will be required to sign an affidavit before leaving for service that will act as verification of their relationship. The Peace Corps continually works with staff in host countries to identify placements that allow for safe and productive assignments.
Couples who serve together gain a unique perspective of host country customs and culture, but opportunities for couples are limited, as both applicants must apply at the same time and qualify for assignments at the same post. Many factors affect placements, including an applicant’s overall competitiveness, program availability, departure dates, and safety and medical accommodations. For any applicant, the number one factor in determining an assignment is the demand from host countries for skilled volunteers.
To learn more about serving in the Peace Corps as a same-sex couple, visit http://www.peacecorps.gov/learn/howvol/couplesfaqs/.

While there are still people whose religious beliefs or personal issues will have problems with this, for most of us, this is a good move. As you can see, there have been discussions about what might and might not be appropriate placements.  I guess they've narrowed it down to 'safe' and 'productive.' What happens when a country says they do not want same-sex couples serving?   What role will same sex trainees get in discussing these options with the people who make the placement decisions?  Yes, there are issues, but nothing that can't be worked out fairly easily. And besides, there have been gay volunteer from the beginning, though I'm not sure when openly gay volunteers started serving. 

Luke's Teaching This Summer In Denali National Park


We met Luke at the Murie Science and Learning Center in Denali National Park last Friday.  He'd just arrived a week before and was still in training as an education intern for the Student Conservation Association.







Here's some info from the Student Conservation Association website:

Conservation Internships

For college and graduate students, as well as other qualified individuals, SCA internships provide the opportunity to learn from resource management professionals, gain tangible skills and experience, and make a substantial contribution to our natural and cultural treasures. SCA Internships are available throughout the year, in all conservation disciplines, and range in length from 12 to 52 weeks.  All positions are expense-paid and most offer insurance and education awards.  Search internship opportunities.

The SCA is also listed in a book called Best 109 Internships.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Shots of Snowy Denali National Park

Is this a Denali post or a photography post?  These are the first out-of-the-house experiments with my new Canon EOS Rebel T3i.  Without a doubt, these are pictures I would not have gotten with my Powershot.



As pristine and natural as the top raven scene looks, the bird was headed for the muddy red truck that you see in the lower shot, which sure looks like a Yupik dancer in a kuspuk.  It was snowing at the time.  And while ravens are very cool birds, the fact that I'm shooting ravens in Denali should be the first hint of how few animals of any sort we saw.  Just like the moose, these are common Anchorage sights, and when we go to Denali we generally are hoping to see critters we don't see in our back yards at home.


Nevertheless, given that the first day the biggest mammal we saw were two ground squirrels, and this was the only one we saw the second day, we stopped and spent some time.  We had given up on seeing any animals when this one showed up on the side of the road above us coming toward us.  And no matter how many times you see moose, they are magnificent animals.  And this one was not an urban moose.  


The landscapes were magnificent, even with the clouds cutting off the larger mountains.  I'm not sure what the bluish/greenish tinge in the forefront is.



Another critter I might overlook on a more active day, the mew gull is a bird one is sure to see in Denali.  White head, and the white dots in the wing tips.  And not shy around people.



I couldn't help noticing the stark black and white contrast between the fresh snow and the stubble of last year's shrubbery.



Here's one my Birds of Alaska book says I saw in Denali before - the American Tree Sparrow.  Trying to identify it was hard in my book, but once I found the picture on the  Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  it matched perfectly.  The two colored beak (orange on the bottom and black on top, which was clearer in the originals), the buff shoulder, the white bar on the wing.  The picture is actually the same bird photoshopped onto one picture.  From the Cornell link, where you can also hear its call:
Come snowmelt, these small rusty-capped and smooth-breasted sparrows begin their long migrations to breeding grounds in the tundra of the far North.
 And they had every right to believe it would be tundra and not more snow this time of year.  

[UPDATE 1:30pm:  Wickersham's Conscience has a more detailed post on hungry songbirds arriving in Alaska. Better photos too.]



This is a break in the ice on the Teklanika River.  We were walking from the Teklanika River bus stop - the end of the road open to the public until today - looking down.  When I got this picture up on the computer, I noticed there are tracks going from left to right (well, I'm not sure which way the animal was going).  They stop at the water and then pick up again on the other side.  (They are clearer if you double click.)  So, I thought, the ice must have broken since the animal went by.  But where would the ice go?  I assumed that open water like this just never froze, but the tracks made me think about it.  Ice floats, so it shouldn't just sink down and under the ice that didn't break.  I may have lived here a long time, but I don't live along a river.  Here's a bigger view of this hole in the ice.

So, when I ask a question like that, I know I should try google, though I wasn't quite sure what to ask.  There are a number of scientific studies of river ice break up online and ice chunks can go under sheets of ice.  But that seems to be when there is more water flowing than here.  The jagged edges of the ice would suggest to me it broke and not that this was open all winter.  Perhaps someone will leave an answer in the comments.