Thursday, July 20, 2017

"the discrepancy has been resolved"

It's hard not to blog, but the stuff I'm working on is using that part of the brain that I would blog with, but I can't blog it.  Yet.

Check out my favorites in the tab above in the mean time.  (Or see previous post.)

But here's a little follow up of something long ago.

I wrote last year, June, that the income tax problems from my mom's estate - really it was about the tax withheld from her caregiver's checks - was resolved.  And I got letters to that account and refund checks.

But this was zombie resolution and it came back this May.  They Social Security records didn't match the IRS records.  I'd sent all that information in once already, but I sent it again.

Today I got a new resolution letter.

I would remind people, as I did in the post last year, that a lot of the trouble here is due to continuous cuts to the IRS budget.  They simply don't have the people to keep up with all this.  And the people who get screwed are the small fry.  The really rich guys and corporations have lawyers who can run circles around a tax bill forever.  And that's true for all the other agencies that protect the public health, the environment, worker safety, and on and on and on.  Corporations know if government isn't properly funded, regulators can't come out and regulate them.  And they can get away with murder.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Some Of My Favorite Posts

The next few weeks I'm enmeshed in a project that will take a lot of time and about which I can't blog about until it's all over.

I'll try to put something up now and then, but only if I think I can write something that isn't a waste of your time.

However, I've been putting together a "Page" which is what Blogger calls Tabs at the top of the site.  And I've help off putting it up until now so you could look at some good older posts you might have missed.  You can either go to the top of the page and click the tab that says "Favorite Posts" (right next to "About This Blog") or you can click here.  But while this post will flow down the river of posts, the tab will stay at the top.  Below is what it looks like on this page.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Early Flowers Fade, New Ones Bloom - And A Link to a "Happy Uterus Tea" Recipe

Let's get this out of the way first.  My favorite gardening book is Bob Flowerdew's No Work Garden.  Most of the yard is natural birch, spruce, willow, cottonwoods, and high bush cranberry.  What was here before houses.  The 'lawn' has grass, dandelions, and clover.  The neighbors have accepted the fact that it's never going to look like a Sunset Magazine yard.

But I do have a rock garden in the front - we have a hill and I was trying to capture water so it doesn't run into the street as much - and over the years I've put in various perennials and that part looks ok.  And through no fault of my own (this was purely accidental) the plants bloom at different times of the summer.  We start off with lovely pink phlox, and then other plants bloom, and we have color all summer.

And this post shows some that have started blooming now.  But, to make my point, here's a lily that has finished its bloom.  (Budding and Blooming shows these lilies budding in early May.)

The hosta is just starting to flower.

So's the Maltese Cross.  Wikipedia lists 20 common names for this flower.

And the trollius.

This lily doesn't really count.  My neighbor gave it to me a few weeks ago and its still in a pot.  But it's there and smiling to the world.  

And the Achillea is starting to bloom as well.  From the Vintage News:
"Achillea millefolium, commonly referred to as yarrow, is a flowering plant that belongs to the family Asteraceae.
Depending on the region where it’s found and used, the plant goes by many names such as little feather, nosebleed plant, devil’s nettle, old man’s pepper, soldier’s woundwort, thousand-leaf, and more. . .
According to the legend, the plant’s original name, Achillea, was given it by Achilles who carried it on the battlefields and used it to cure battle wounds."

The Herbal Academy tells us that:

"Lady’s mantle is a powerful female herb for anytime during a women’s reproductive life. It helps relieve mild aches and pains during menstruation, with a tea or tincture able to stop spotting between periods and lessening excessive menstrual bleeding (Soule, 1998). Lady’s mantle has astringent qualities so it is useful for loose stools, and shrinking sores in one’s mouth or skin (Hoffman, 2003). Lady’s mantle is also helpful for the menopausal years (Hoffman, 2003), easing those troubling symptoms due to its astringent and anti-inflammatory actions."

They have recipes too.  

And finally, the Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata):

I'd note a post from 2009 called "Trojan War Reenacted In Our Garden" shows many of these flowers eight years ago and also features the book No Work Garden mentioned up top.  The Veronica spicata - or Spiked Speedwell also mentioned in the older post - is almost ready to bloom.  

So, should I call this an example of repetitive posts?  I'd prefer to think it's a reminder of the seasons' returning visitors.  

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Living In Different Worlds

While adult Americans are enmeshed in topics like Russian influence in elections, health care reform, and immigration, I'm watching our visiting four year old going about her life blissfully unaware of any of that.

She's enjoying helping her grandfather water the garden, sifting the compost, making bread, putting away the dishes.  She's enjoying when her grandfather is being silly, but also learning to distinguish between when he's telling a joke and saying something serious.  And when he's working on something else, she has ways to poke him, pull his shirt, call his name repeatedly, wiggle her way onto his lap to get him to reengage with her.

She's been enjoying the magpie family that stops in our yard now and then and this morning while we were eating breakfast on the deck a Steller Jay got very close looking for loose peanuts.  On this trip she's seen a real wild moose for the first time, musk oxen at the musk ox farm, and various other Alaska animals at the zoo.

She's adding words to her vocabulary daily.  She's got projects she's working on - like getting across the monkey bars by herself, and riding a bike.  She wanted me to take the training wheels off the bike and worked on the bolt with the monkey wrench.  But keeping balance, pedaling fast enough, and steering without the training wheels proved much harder than she expected.

She can recognize all the letters and some words and she's learning how to write them.  When I'm doing the Sudoku in the newspaper, she wants me to do the crossword puzzle with her.  I have to figure out the word and tell her how to spell it and she tries to write the letters in the little boxes.  The letter S tends to backwards.  When I say things like, "That's great, but it is upside-down," she quickly replies, "Not if you are sitting over there."  This morning she said she couldn't make a B, so I showed her to make the line first, then one loop, then the other.  She copied what I did and made B after B after B, reveling in her new B writing skill.  In the picture it's easy to spot what I wrote and what she wrote.

She's got this whole world that she's absorbed in that overlaps with mine in many places, but the larger world of politics is definitely not part of her realm.  Lucky her.  And lucky me to have her visiting and getting to enter her world.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Chinese Nobel Prize Winner And Anchorage Judge's Opinion

I'm busy with granddaughter duties and I have a project that's going to consume me for the next several weeks that I can't blog about until it's over.  I'll try to put up some posts.  But mostly, I'm afraid, they will be brief.  But worth a look, I hope.  Here are a couple of things others have written that are worth checking out.  

From a Washington Post piece on Chinese Nobel Prize winner Liu Xiaobo
"Why are they so afraid?
Why would they keep Liu Xiaobo in his cell until his cancer was so advanced that he was near death — and then keep him from traveling abroad, where he might yet have gotten care?"
"Perhaps most perilously, the Communist Party rules over a population that no longer believes in communism. The regime’s only remaining justification is that it delivers economic growth. Yet, as the economy becomes more complex, growth becomes more and more dependent on people being free to think, read, challenge and compete. The regime is caught in this paradox — and afraid."
The article says they tell the story of China's economic development that has lifted tens of millions of people from poverty.
"The story, it’s important to note, is partly true: The regime has, in the past quarter-century, presided over steady economic growth that has brought hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and into the middle class. On its scale, it is a unique achievement in human history.
But their story is also, in many respects, false. Far from being selfless patriots, the ruling elite has grown fat off the state. They do not want Chinese people reading about their overseas bank accounts or their children attending elite foreign prep schools and universities."

From the Alaska Dispatch News, Charles Wohlforth follows up on his earlier coverage of the lawsuit by two Anchorage police officers against the department for discrimination.  Why all power - even those we want to trust - must always be questioned and not given the benefit of the doubt.  Alaskans particularly should pay attention, but it's relevant to all.
"In his decision, Pfiffner wrote, 'The citizens of Anchorage could well conclude, that (the municipality) and its lawyers were more interested in winning the lawsuit than protecting the citizens of Anchorage from sexual assault and illegal drug dealing by members of the Alaska National Guard.'
'The 'hide the ball' litigation tactics that (the municipality) employed in this case rarely work. The consequences of such action are usually not good if the dirty tricks are discovered. Richard Nixon learned that lesson the hard way in an incident known as Watergate,' he continued.
'(The municipality) has learned the same lesson in this case. Part of the lesson for (the municipality) will be an enhanced attorney's fees award to the plaintiffs,' the judge wrote. . .
He likened the litigation to World War I trench warfare, with scorched-earth tactics designed to make the other side give up."
I'd note that Judge Pfiffner was appointed to his position in 2009 by Gov. Sean Parnell.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Grit And Determination

She's only four years old, but she has a mind of her own.  And she even sets goals, though she wouldn't put it that way.  

We went to the zoo the other day, just the two of us.  The whole notion of a zoo is worth a blog post or two and I want to talk to someone at the zoo before I write that post, so this one is about my granddaughter and the monkey bars.

When we got to the zoo and looked at the map, she wanted to go to the playground.  I silently groaned, thinking we could go to the playground any time without paying to do so, but I smiled and off we went.

Then she found the monkey bars.  It turned out they were perfect for her.  Low enough that she could drop off without any harm.  And she set out to get across.  I didn't realize that at first.

She wanted me to hold her as she let go with one hand to reach for the next bar.  I did, but lightly.  My hand was really a placebo.  She waited patiently as other kids wanted to use the monkey bars too.  She would get two hands on one bar.  Then wildly let go and grab for the next bar with one hand.  Then she was stuck.

With my help she could get across.

It was crowded and I suggested we look at some animals and come back at the end.

When we got back, it wasn't so crowded.  With my hand on her back and tummy, gently, she started reaching from one bar to the next and then swinging the other hand all the way from last bar to the next one.

And then I moved away to take a picture and she managed to swing from one bar to the next to the next until her feet reached the other side.  This was what she'd wanted to do and it involved periods of hanging with a very pained look on her face before she dropped to the ground.  But she was so determined to make it happen.  She yelled and whooped when she was done.

And so yesterday, we searched for another playground that had monkey bars low enough for her to drop to the ground safely.  Our second playground, at the Midtown Cuddy Park by Loussac Library (which is closed while they rush to be ready for the reopening July 18), had what she needed.  Again, she needed my steadying hand the first couple of times.  And again there were frozen poses as she was stuck in the middle with pain on her face before dropping.  But eventually she screwed up the courage to just go.  And as painful as it was to watch as one little hand let go and struggled to reach the next bar, she was determined and she did it.

It was so exciting to see her setting a difficult goal for herself and overcoming everything to reach it.

And I think of all the little kids who aren't being nurtured and given the opportunity to explore the world and their possible roles in it.  The ones whose parents are both working full time just to pay the rent and get food on the table.  The ones who are earning a good living, but must give up family time to do that.  The ones who end up in foster care because their parents can't provide what they need.   Or whose teachers can't provide what they need.   And I think about all that society loses when we turn a potentially great human being into an angry, frustrated person.  The chart below shows that in May 2017, 3,103 kids were in some form of foster care in Alaska, up almost 100 from June of last year. (From DHSS website.)

This is less than 1%, but it's still too many, and the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) is overworked and can't really keep track of all these kids well.  Here's a 2012 workload study for the Office of Children's Services (OCS).  It said they needed nearly 50% more first line employees.

And here's from a June 29, 2017 KTUU story by Kyle Hopkins:
"Q: What about the number of cases per worker?
A: We’re shooting for a national average of 12 families per worker. So, if you think of a family having two children in it. That would mean that worker would be responsible for maintain records for two children as well as their parents as well as any relatives that may be involved with that case. So what we’re shooting for is the national average of 12 families per worker.
The reality is, what we’re seeing, is we have caseloads that are as high as 43 in Wasilla and can be as low as say five in Valdez.
And most cases are averaging in the 20 to 30 range in other areas of the state."

Monday, July 10, 2017

Seward Highway Backup Causes Change In Plans And Spectacular View

There were eight us plus two dogs, so we headed for Bird Point in two cars.  When we got to Potter Marsh we were suddenly in stop and go traffic.  This was one of those times when cell phones really make an important contribution.  We called the other car and asked if it might not make more sense to take a trail nearby.
The other car was thinking the same things, so we turned at the Potter Trailhead and did a short walk along the Old Johnson trail. (Alaska Hike Search calls it the Turnagain Arm trail, but says 'Some of the locals refer to this as the Old Johnson Trail.")

We didn't go all that far;  to a rocky viewpoint over the inlet.  We had some people recovering from foot and leg issues and someone who had to get back by 5pm.  The view was spectacular as the tide was out and the clouds were reflected dreamily on the wet.

And my granddaughter got to see her first moose on the hike.  I think she would have felt safer had we been in a car rather than on foot.  But no harm.  The moose was eating a little above the trail.  Others in the group were waiting for it to move further away.  I think the moose was thinking, 'Just go on.  I see you and I'm eating and why should I have to move just because you want to go by.  Just go."

Today's paper said there was an accident further down the road involving four cars and a boat being towed.  So changing plans meant we spent our time in the woods instead of in the car.  And in the pre cell phone age, we could have pulled by the side of the road and waited for the other car to catch up.  But that would only work if the first car wanted to make a change.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Reminder: Corporate Charity Comes From Marketing Budget - Wells Fargo's Iditarod Sponsorship Ends

A recent ADN story recounted how Wells Fargo had decided to stop sponsoring the Iditarod dog sled race.  While PETA claimed credit for the change, Wells Fargo didn't confirm that.
"David Kennedy, Wells Fargo spokesman for the Alaska region, declined to say whether outreach from PETA and its supporters influenced the company's decision. Kennedy said in an email this week that Wells Fargo made the decision as part of its "regular marketing sponsorship review process."
'Wells Fargo regularly reviews where we allocate our marketing resources to ensure that our efforts help our customers understand how we can help them achieve their financial goals," he said. "We have nothing further to add.' (emphasis added)

Corporations regularly tout how much money they contribute to communities.  Often the amounts look significant, though only when compared to what an average individual might contribute.  Back in 2008 I looked more carefully at an Exxon contribution to the Anchorage Symphony:
"Now Exxon's 2007 after tax profits were about $40 Billion. Let's say they kicked in $40,000 (I'm guessing it might not be that much, but it's easier to calculate.) Someone making $100,000 before taxes, if I calculated this right, would have to donate 10 cents to donate an equivalent percent of their income. " [It turned out they only donated $10,000 so it would really come out to 2.5¢.]
Consider this a note, a reference if needed in the future, to show that the companies themselves say allocate this so called charity from the marketing accounts.  It's to make them look good in the community and it comes pretty cheap.  While there might also be a serious attempt to do good in a community by some companies as well, it is, fundamentally a marketing decision.  Just as we see companies sponsoring booths at the Pridefest, because it's now good for business, ten years ago they wouldn't help gay organizations because it wasn't good for business.  (See Jacob's comment on this Pridefest post.)

I don't fault the businesses for this, but I do fault a system (which businesses do lobby to maintain) which forces non-profits into a position to passively, if not actively, endorse corporations, often those that do significant harm to the communities they're in.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Four Year Old Behavior

My granddaughter is visiting for several weeks with her mom, my daughter.  So, no, this isn't about Trump.

There's lots of love and hugs.  Curiosity.  Sometimes brave - like taking the metal mesh tram over Winner creek.  Sometimes shy, when meeting new people and leaning tight against my leg, face into my let.

Stubborn sometimes. When she decides she isn't going to put on her jacket, or pick up the pen she just threw down, or when she grabs my fingers and pulls them away from the keyboard.  Or when she's walked enough and just quits until I put her on my shoulders a while.

Dave at Off the Chain DIY Bike Coop
She has good reasons for why she doesn't want to do things, but can't always articulate them.  Like when she didn't want to ride with me on her little bike attached to mine.  We'd gone to Off The Chain to get the hitch more solidly connected to my seat post so it wouldn't slip and pull her bike in a strange position.

Even though she'd really liked it when the hitch was working right, she didn't want to ride any more even after we fixed it.

Finally, after lots of questions, she said she didn't like it when the hitch slipped around.  And even though I assured her it was fixed, her fear continued.  Her mom urged her to go with me.  No!  Then she was hungry.  I suggested we could stop for a snack on the way to the post office on the bike.  And that did it.  OK, and we biked away.

After putting the letters in the mailbox, we went across the parking lot to see about eating.  Was SnoFlo even open?  And what food did it have?  The place looked deserted from outside, but inside were about a dozen people eating and talking, mostly under 25 I'd say.  A strange hidden hangout.  Z got a shaved ice.

She likes trying out the different equipment at the playground, but she didn't want to take off her shoes and go into the creek with the other kids.  But she was very interested in the fish that one of the boys was catching in his net and putting into little buckets.

She loves to take pictures with my camera.  Here's one she took of me and a baby musk ox at the Musk Ox farm Friday.  But she doesn't want me to tell her how to hold the button down half way to focus or to not jerk the camera when she pushes the button down.  But she does want to see the picture she just took.

She like to hit my arm and have me hit her arm over and over again.  Same thing with pushing each other.  Lots of giggles.   (She has three older half-brothers, so I'm guessing that comes from them.  A boy thing.  Her mom and grandmother disapprove.)  She also likes to sting me when she's wearing her bee shirt.
She just came upstairs and is jumping up and down and wants me to come downstairs and see "Dusty" on the computer which is just like she saw in a book at play school.  Be right back.

OK, back.  Not excited about what she's watching, but screen time is inevitable, even when your parents really don't believe in it.  It's just too easy a way to get a break from non-stop four year old.  But she and I are going to take the bus to the museum in 20 minutes.  So let me finish up.

We also visited Hatcher Pass after the Musk Ox farm.   Here are some chocolate lilies we saw there.

Oh, and she has her own rules for lots of games, like Scrabble.  Here's a picture of her letters.

As you can tell, I'm having lots of fun.  And being with her is a much better investment in the future than anything else I can think of.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Making Assumptions - Muslims And Whites, Conservatives And NPR

Here's an interesting piece about a Muslim/Indian-Amerian doctor practicing in a small western Minnesota town.  He's been there a couple of years when the Trump campaign starts unleashing anti-Muslim tirades.  Then the election.  Then he finds out his county AND his town voted 60% for Trump.  What should he do?  Stay?  Leave?
"In two hours, he was supposed to give his third lecture on Islam, and he was sure it would be his last. A local Lutheran pastor had talked him into giving the first one in Dawson three months before, when people had asked questions such as whether Muslims who kill in the name of the prophet Muhammad are rewarded in death with virgins, which had bothered him a bit. Two months later, he gave a second talk in a neighboring town, which had ended with several men calling him the antichrist. . .
. . . He began talking about Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who had referred to Islam as a “vicious cancer.”
“There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world! Now, according to General Flynn, we have to purge them? ‘We have to purge the world of Islam!’ ” he said in a mocking voice.
He was far off his outline now.
“You can sense I’m angry about that,” he said. “Wasn’t Jesus angry when he went into the temple and knocked over the tables of the money changers? He was angry. Injustice should make us angry! Okay? I am angry about the election. Because there is injustice there, and I have felt that within my family. And with the burning of mosques? And something like 150 bomb threats to Jewish synagogues? We should think.”
He looked at Duane again, a neighbor he had considered a friend before the election but had barely spoken to since."
This article highlights (for me anyway) how susceptible people were who had never really knowingly met a Muslim and their assumptions.  Also how the Muslim doctor has to guess at what his neighbors are thinking about him and his family - his assumptions.  It's also a reminder that the divide is not a clearcut as it's portrayed.  And that talking to each other can make a difference.  A good story, well told.

A second example of assumptions happened when NPR read on the air and tweeted the Declaration of Independence.  Apparently many Trump supporters, seeing tweets with 180 characters of sentences from the Declaration, thought NPR was mocking Trump.

“He has obstructed the administration of justice, by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers,” read one line of the document.
“A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people,” read another.
Some people — presumably still in the dark about NPR’s Fourth of July exercise — assumed those lines were references to President Trump and the current administration.
“Propaganda is that all you know how? Try supporting a man who wants to do something about the Injustice in this country #drainingtheswamp,” tweeted one user whose account has since been deleted but whose messages were captured by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Melissa Martin. 

So many things these days are like Rorschach tests - how we interpret them says more about us than it does about the original.

When I heard the NPR folks reading the Declaration, I was struck by some of the items on the list of grievances against King George:
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
It was amazing how the colonists could so vehemently protest these wrongs, when they were committing similar wrongs, and would continue for over a 100 years more, on Native Americans.

But in their eyes that was different.  Another grievance against the king was this:
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions. 
I wonder if English newspapers ever referred to the rebelling colonists as 'merciless savages'?

It was ok for the colonists to plunder the native lands, override tribal governance systems, burn towns and destroy lives of the indigenous peoples of North America, but not for the British to do these things to the colonists but in a much less heavy-handed way.

Lots of assumptions here - those of the more conservative listeners and mine, plus the colonists assumptions about the Native American people, whose plunder was justified because of the assumption that they were uncivilized children compared to civilized Europeans whose job it was to teach them the ways of Christianity and civilization.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

A Good Alaska Day - Winner Creek Tram

Drove down to Girdwood with my daughter and granddaughter in the car.

A stop along the way to check out the Dall sheep above the highway.

In the other direction were the mudflats of Turnagain Arm. (I didn't do any editing of the shot below.)

The Winner Creek trail includes a tram across the river.  Here's looking at the next people in line pulling the ropes that got us across the gap.

Someone said there aren't too many of these left in the U.S.  And as I was looking up whether there are others, I kept getting sent back to just this one.  I did find this 360˚ view of the tram which gives you a much better view than mine.  (And for Jeremy, I found this video of Tram D201 hand wired with nine original tram tubes.)

And here's a view of Winner Creek from the tram.  The tram was much more primitive when we first pulled our way across, I don't know how many years ago.

From the tram it's a short (really short, sign says .2 miles) walk to the bridge over the Winner Creek gorge.  Here's a picture long down creek from the bridge.

And here's looking up the other side where the wide creek is forced into the narrow gorge.  Again, from the bridge.

Here it is from a little trail going up the creek a ways.

And since silent, still photos simply cannot do this experience justice, I took a bit of video from this spot to give you a better sense of the glory of this spot, one of my favorites in Alaska.  (Which means, of course, in the world.)

And then you can look on down below to see where it goes after the end of the video.

Here's a closer view of one of the rock walls above the water.

Then we took the tram back.  It's Independence Day holiday and people have found out about the tram.  There were 30 people waiting to get back across.  The tram holds two people (we took my granddaughter, but she's a wee thing).  It gets hand pulled across the gorge, then hand pulled back.  So it was a bit of a wait.

Late lunch at the Bake Shop and dessert at The Ice Cream Shop at what can only be called a strip mall where the Alyeska road meets the Seward Highway.  Good day with good friends.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Fireworks Quiz

Here's a quiz for the Fourth of July.  I've double checked some of these, but not all, so if any of these answers is important, you better check some more sources.  Have a safe, fun holiday.  And be politically active so we can celebrate many more Independence Days

1.    Fireworks originated in (A)--------- some  (B)------- years ago.

A.   1.  Japan    2.  China   3.  Egypt    4.  Greece

B.    1.  700       2.  1000    3.  2000     4.  3000

2.   Firecrackers originated in (A)________  some  (B) ________ years  ago.

A.   1.  Japan    2.  China   3.  Egypt    4.  Greece
B.   1.  700       2.  1000    3.  2000     4.  3000

3,  Which European nation was the first to develop elaborate fireworks displays?

      1.  Germany    2.  Italy    3.  France    4.  England

4.  The first fireworks display in North American colonies took place in

     1.  1608 in Jamestown   2.  1623 in Plymouth    3.  1727  in Boston   4.  1776 in Philadelphia

5.  What's the minimal insurance needed for a fireworks display in Alaska?
      1.   Half a million dollars    2.  $1 million     3.   $5 million     4.  $10 million

6.   To get red,  fireworks makers mix ____________  salts.
       1.  Strontium      2.   Calcium     3.  Sodium    4.  Barium

7.    Total annual fireworks industry revenue was  (A) _________  of which (B) _________ was from consumers (not displays).

(A)  1.  $100 million   2.  $350 million   3.  $725 million   4.  $1 billion

(B)  1.  $30 million   2.  $70 million   3.  $200 million   4.  $ 725 million

8.  Number of annual US injuries per 100 pounds of fireworks used was (A)______ and number of deaths was (B)_____.  (This appears to be for 2015, but I'm not sure.)

(A)  1.  .5       2.   3.5       3.  7.5    4.  10
(B)  1.   1       2.    4         3.  22     5.  63

9.   How do you get the biggest bang for your fireworks bucks?

      1.  buy in May   2.  concentrate on reds   3.  don't buy the finale   4.  go to local display

10.  How hot are three sparklers together?
       1.  three times hotter than boiling water   2.  as hot as charcoal to cook a steak   3.  same as a blowtorch     4.  1240˚F


"Fireworks originated in China some 2,000 years ago." (From Fireworks University)
"A Chinese monk named Li Tian, who lived near the city of Liu Yang in Hunan Province, is credited with the invention of firecrackers about 1,000 years ago." (From Fireworks University)

"The first European people to make headway in the art of pyrotechny proper appear to have been the Italians. In the book of Artillery by Diego Ufano, written in 1610, he reports that while only very simple fireworks were made in his time in Spain and Flanders, consisting merely of wooden frameworks supporting pots of fire wrapped round with cloth dipped in pitch, more than fifty years earlier magnificent spectacles could be seen in Italy. Vanochio, an Italian, in a work on artillery, dated 1572, attributes to the Florentines and Viennese the honor of being the first to make fireworks on erections of wood, decorated with statues and pictures raised to a great height, some in Florence being seventy-two feet high. He adds that these were illuminated so that they might be seen from a distance, and that the statues threw fire from their mouths and eyes." (From Gizmodo)
"Captain John Smith, governor of the New England col­onies, records in his The Generall Historic of Virginia, New-England that on the evening of July 24, 1608, "... we fired a few rockets, which flying in the ayre so terrified the poore Sal­vages [the Indians], that they supposed nothing unpossible we attempted; and desired to assist us." These firework rockets were brought from England, but beginning in the eighteenth century a native pyrotechnic industry took hold in the new country." (From Gizmodo)
Required. Minimum $1,000,000 for personal injury and death, minimum $500,000 for property damages. (From

Annual consumer fireworks revenue $725,000,000.  Total annual fireworks industry revenue (combined display and consumer) $1,060,000,000  (From Statistic Brain)

Number of injuries per 100 lbs of Fireworks used 3.5
Number of deaths in the US annually due to fireworks 4 (From Statistic Brain)

"The tighter the firework is packed, the bigger the boom and higher the burst." (This comes from a post from Penny Pinching Mom that has five points on how to get the best bang for your fireworks bucks.

"A sparkler burns at a temperature over 15 times the boiling point of water. Three sparklers burning together generate the same heat as a blowtorch. When your sparkler goes out, put it in a bucket of water." (From the fireworks firm)

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Connecting Our Hearts And Our Hands - Do You Know Who You Are?

Knowing oneself isn't easy.  Every society, every community projects models of who we should be, what we should do.  When who we actually are, deviates from the social, cultural, political, religious, or economic ideal, those who don't fit the ideal perfectly are alienated from themselves, their community, or both.

I'm sure readers either know what I'm talking about or strongly reject that notion.  I suspect those who strongly reject it are likely to be the ones most denying their own true selves.

OK, let me clarify what I'm talking about.

I've recently finished Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace.  It starts out in 1885 in Mandalay, the capital of Burma then, just as the British are moving up from Rangoon to capture Mandalay and exile the King and Queen of Burma to a small town on the west coast of India.  The main character is an Indian orphan who has gotten a job on a ship that ended up in Mandalay.

The whole book focuses on the Indians who served the British empire and the fundamental question (for me anyway) throughout is, "What does it mean to be an Indian?"  Particularly if you are a soldier keeping order among your conquered fellow Indians, and conquering and maintaining order in other colonies like Burma and Malaya?

At times Ghosh is a little heavy handed in this discussion, not that he's wrong, but as a novelist, he could have handled it more subtly.  It's hard tracing the way a person slowly awakens to the fact that he's been a prisoner his whole life.  But it is a topic all people must ask themselves now and then.  Sometimes it's a very heavy burden, sometimes people fit well into the world in which they were born.  Or at least think they do as is the case of Arjun in the book.  ('Think' isn't even accurate, because Arjun is portrayed as taking things as they are and not even consciously aware of who he is.)

He comes from a well-to-do family and got into officer training school, much to his surprise, since this was not something Indians had been accepted into until just recently.  It was a job and adventure to him.   But WWII has started and he's sent to Malaya.  Skipping lots of details, a woman, Allison, he's attracted to abruptly breaks things off.
"Arjun - you're not in charge of what you do;  you're a toy, a manufatured thing, a weapon in someone else's hands.  Your mind doesn't inhabit your body." (p. 326)
He responds, "That's crap."  But the issue comes back very soon when the Japanese surprise the British and their Indian soldiers and successfully invade Malaya (as well as the rest of Southeast Asia.)  He's with a fellow Indian soldier, Hardy, a long time pre-military friend, who has thought these issues through much more as they face the fact that the Japanese have landed.  They've also bombed the Indian troops with leaflets that begin:
"Brothers, ask yourselves what you are fighting for and why you are here:  do you really wish to sacrifice your lives for an Empire that has kept your country in slavery for two hundred years?" (p. 337)

Their peril opens Arjun and Hardy to a probing conversation:
"You know, yaar Arjun, over these last few days, in the trenches at Jitra - I had an eerie feeling.  It was strange to be sitting on one side of a battle line, knowing that you had to fight and knowing at the same time that it wasn't really your fight; knowing that whether you won or lost, neither the blame nor the credit would be yours.  Knowing that you're risking everything to defend a way of life that pushes you to the sidelines.  It's almost as if you're fighting against yourself.  It's strange to be sitting in a trench, holding a gun and asking yourself:  Who is this weapon really aimed at?  Am I being tricked into pointing it at myself?"
"I can't say I felt the same way, Hardy."
"But ask yourself, Arjun:  what does it mean for you and me to be in this army?  You're always talking about soldiering as being just a job.  But you know, yaar, it isn't just a job - it's when you're sitting in a trench that you realize that there's something very primitive about what we do.  In the everyday world when would you ever stand up and say - 'I'm going to risk my life for this'?  As a human being it's something you can only do if you know why you're doing it.  But when I was sitting in the trench, it was as if my her and my hand had no connection - each seemed to belong to a different person.  It was as if I wasn't really a human being - just a tool, an instrument.  This is what I ask myself, Arjun:  In what way do I become human again?  How do I connect what I do with what I want, in my heart?'" (p. 351, emphasis added)

Somewhat later, the Japanese return and as the group flees, Arjun gets hit, but manages to get under cover and his batman, Kishan Singh, pulls him into a culvert where they are hidden.  His leg wound gets bandaged but he's in pain, thinking about what he's heard.
"What was it that Hardy had said the night before?  Something about connecting his hand and his heart.  He'd been taken aback when he'd said that, it wasn't on for a chap to say that kind of thing  But at the same time, it was interesting to think that Hardy - or anyone for that matter, even himself - might want something without knowing it.  How was that possible?  Was it because no one had taught them the words?  The right language?  Perhaps because it might be too dangerous?  Or because they weren't old enough to know?  It was strangely crippling to think that he did not possess the simpler tools of self-consciousness -  had no window through which to know that he possessed a within.  Was this what Alison had meant about being a weapon in someone else's hands?  Odd that Hardy had said the same thing too."(p. 370)
Then he asks Kishan to just talk and he talks about the fighting history of his village.  He says the soldiers went to fight out of fear.  Arjun asks, fear of what?
"'Sah'b,' Kishan Sing said softly, 'all fear is not the same.  What is the fear that keeps us hiding here, for instance?  Is it a fear of the Japanese, or is it a fear of the British?  Or is it a fear of ourselves because we don not know who to fear more?  Sah'b, a man may fear the shadow of a gun just as much as the gun itself - and who is to say which is the more real?" (p. 371)
Arjun is confused.  How could his uneducated batman be more aware of the weight of the past than he himself?  He thinks to himself, fear had played no part in his joining the military academy, becoming a soldier.
"He had never thought of his life as different from any other, he had never experienced the slightest doubt about his personal sovereignty;  never imagined himself to be dealing with anything other than the full range of human voice.  But if it were true that is life had somehow been molded by acts of power of which he was unaware - then it would follow that he had never acted of his own volition;  never had a moment of true self consciousness.  Everything he had ever assumed about himself was a lie, an illusion.  And if this were so, how was he to find himself now?"(p. 372)

It does seem to me that the author, Ghosh, is helping Arjun articulate his thoughts.  But the points are important ones.

We know that African-American soldiers in WWI and WWII began to question their treatment in the US after being in Europe.  Here's a quote that sounds very similar to Arjun's struggle from Philip Klinkner and Rogers Smith, The Unsteady March: The Rise and Decline of Racial Equality in America 167 (2002) cited on the Equal Justice Initiative website.  (The piece starts with civil war veterans and moves up to WWI and WWII.)
“It is impossible to create a dual personality which will be on the one hand a fighting man toward the enemy, and on the other, a craven who will accept treatment as less than a man at home.”1
 Throughout the 20th century women continually questioned their treatment - demanding the right to vote, to own property in their own name, equal pay, access to universities and to jobs.  Gay rights are another obvious example, and listening to Scott Turner Schofield last night telling stories about his transition from female to male I also couldn't help but think of this passage.

But those are obvious examples.

What about white soldiers and veterans, recruited to overseas wars to 'protect American freedoms'?  What happens when they see how much of war is to protect corporate interests overseas, to keep the arms industry profitable?  When they see how many civilians are being killed?  When the realize that their fellow recruits are disproportionately less educated and poorer than the average American?  And when they get home and they can't get adequate help for their war caused physical and mental problems?  Do they start thinking about their true identity and who and what they've really been fighting for?

[Consider the rest of this to be a draft application of the ideas above to current American situations.  I don't want to omit it completely because the points from the book do apply to nearly everyone and I don't want readers to feel they are only relevant to history or to other people.  They're part of being a human among other humans.  But I don't think I've made my points as clearly as I'd like.  So consider the following to be rough notes and any support or thoughtful criticism is welcome, which is always the case.]

But this is really about everybody.  Because as individual people we have individual interests that aren't consistent with what others expect of us.

What about the people who voted for Donald Trump?  How many will ever see how they've been duped for years and years by Fox News and talk radio that panders to their inadequacies and their sense of victimhood?  That they've been baited into hating other victims instead of the perpetrators of their problems?   How do they square their own sense of victimhood with their ideal of personal responsibility?  How do they come to believe that the system is stacked against them when the system has, for so long, been structured to favor them over women and people of color?  They never worried about those injustices.  They're only upset when the playing field is being made more level and they now are losing their advantages over women and people of color in getting jobs and power.  The dysfunctional president we have today was evident throughout the campaign.  There's no way anyone should be surprised at the American disgrace in the White House now, unless their hearts were separated from their hands, as Hardy put it in The Glass Palace.  

But liberals aren't immune either.  I don't want anyone to think I'm setting up a false equivalency here.  From Reagan on, conservative ideology has been part of the national oxygen.  Being liberal takes more effort than being conservative, more consciousness of inequity and of the gap between American ideals and reality.  One has to move beyond an individualist Ayn Rand view of the world and understand the power of mutual cooperation.  (Yeah, I know that's an assertion  that needs lots more back up.  For now let me assert it but I'll need to offer more evidence.  I think it's true and if anyone has some support for me on that, let me know.  Or proof to the contrary.)  But I would argue that people get to their political stances more through environmental influences - family, personal experiences, education, etc. - than by careful, conscious, reasoning.

But group-think infects every group when there isn't active debate and dissent.  And much of the separation of heart and hand is related to personal issues and beliefs that are accepted without analysis - like the myth of the magic of the work ethic to allow anyone to succeed in America.  What America would look like if everyone became a millionaire (in 2017 dollars).  How would all the minimum wage work get done?  And at most (not counting deaths in office) only 25 people can be US president per century.  What happens to the other 10,000 who believed they could be president if they only tried hard enough?  I don't hear work ethic believers talking about how that would actually work if everyone worked hard.

I'm starting to ramble - on topic, but not in a well organized way.  The key here is to think about our own conflicts between self and societal models.  A certain amount of compromise is necessary for people to live in groups, but how much of that is organized oppression of differences for the benefit of those in power?  That, I think is the basic question raised in this Indian/British debate from the book.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

"He has comic timing tattooed to his genes" Scott Turner Schofield Saturday Night At Out North

Tonight night - Saturday, July 1,  7pm - Out North will be presenting  Scott Turner Schofield in "How I Became A Man."   Out North has transferred their old home in Airport Heights to Cyrano's and Out North is moving to the Alaska Experience Theater.  It will be there - 4th and C Street.

There's a lot of unsaid in that first paragraph.  I don't know the details, but the ADN had a story two weeks ago.  And Friday's paper had a story about Scott's show.

I just think that Scott is an amazing performer and I'd go see anything he was doing.  But let me give you some background on how my admiration for Scott came about through some links to old blog posts.

 I like to think that I have a good eye now and then, and with Scott I did.  I first saw him acting as an MC at OutNorth introducing the Under 30 acts.  That was Jan 3, 2010.  I wrote:
The performances were introduced by Scott Turner Schofield who is a visiting performer who will be putting on Debutante Balls Jan. 14 -17. He seemed totally comfortable onstage and I'm sorry we're going to miss his show, but we leave for Juneau on the 11th.

The next time I wrote about Scott was July of that same year.  Again, he introduced the act - Wu Man and Friends- and this time I was really impressed.
Scott Turner Schofield
"On the right is Scott Schofield, Out North's new artistic director after the performance.  Preparation for the performance began just as he arrived at OutNorth.  His introduction Wednesday was a pleasure to listen to.  His words were good, his delivery fluent, and he effortlessly rotated to acknowledge the audience members sitting behind him on the stage.  (See, there are some things I feel have some basis for evaluating.)  We're lucky to have him here and I look forward to continuing great nights like Wednesday at OutNorth."

Then that October, he mc'd Out North's coming attractions show.  I caught a bit of it on video and posted it here.  This was just a random couple of minutes, but even then you can see that he moves his body and expresses himself with a lot more fluidity than your average person.

The following September, 2011 Scott has been busy at Out North for a little over a year and here's a post about the introduction to the year.  It was a full house.  There's some underlying tension as Out North had lost some grant money.

Here's some video of that night. The first four minutes is Scott talking about Out North's evolution.

That November Scott performed 'Two Truths And A Lie."  It was his story.  Up until then I'd seen him only as an mc, but that night he performed and confirmed my original gut feelings.  Here's that post "He has comic timing tattooed on his genes" - Scott Schofield Performs at Out North, 
and it explains a lot of what tonight's performance will be about.

And then he quit suddenly and somewhat mysteriously.  Eventually he came back and did a show that explained it all.  I can't find a post about it, but it was powerful and for many of us an important closure and explanation of why he'd left.

In 2015,  we got news that Scott had gotten a role in the tv show "The Bold and the Beautiful."  My post on that was called My Fantasy:  Jim Minnery and Amy Demboski Meet Scott Turner Schofield.
Wouldn't it be great if they came tonight?

I'm excited we get another chance to see him perform.  As I mentioned, Scott has performed this in Anchorage already.  It's called, Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps.  At that time, it was Two Truths And a Lie.  As I recall, he was already talking about the 127 Easy Steps and each number between 1 and 127 had a story attached.  The audience got to pick numbers and he told the stories of those particular steps.  So each performance is different.  The ticket agency for the show tonight says he's done this all over the US and Europe and it will be made into a movie.  So this is an opportunity to see the movie before it becomes one.

Tickets are available here for only $25 which is a deal considering how good Scott is and how close you'll be to the stage at the Alaska Experience theater.