Friday, January 20, 2017

Obama Still Alive And Well After 8 Years - What Did Trump Say Today?

I remember back in 2009, that many of us worried that Barrack Obama wouldn't survive his presidency.  So as I watched the new president being sworn in, I was delighted to see Obama there.

I hope those who have great fears about the next four years, will see at the conclusion of the Trump presidency, that their worst fears weren't realized.

Meanwhile, some reactions to the new president's inaugural speech.  It wasn't a typical Trump speech.  He only used the word "I" about three times. (I say 'about' because the word counters can be tricky, especially with single letter words.  I checked some words using a search function, but I also used an online word counter. The numbers vary a bit, so my numbers here are approximate.)  He used 'we' over 40 times and 'you' and 'your' about 23 times.  The words 'environment,' 'constitution,' 'climate,' and 'health,' were not mentioned. Though he did mention 'the misery of disease.'   "Law' was mentioned once - as part of 'law enforcement.'

But it painted a vision of a dark America with many people suffering poverty, unemployment, crime, and bad schools which will all be made great again.  He talked about America First, a phrase used by Nazi sympathizers who wanted to keep the US out of the second world war.  You can see his competitive model of the world throughout his speech.  Our team is going to start winning again was a key message.  Another key message was giving power back to the people from the corrupt politicians.

Here are some excerpts and my reactions.  You can watch or read it all here.

"Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come."
That was one of two uses of the word 'together.'  The other time it was attached to making America great again.
". . . today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another -- but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People."
Exactly who the 'American people' are, who 'you' is supposed to mean is not clear in this speech.  Though I suspect Trump supporters think it means them and Trump opponents think it means Trump supporters too.  
"For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered -- but the jobs left, and the factories closed."
Government is the bad guy.  That's a pretty common theme in the US.  I've been thinking about a post that argues government isn't the enemy because it's been taken over by business.  If government is corrupt, whose paying to corrupt it?  All the corporations who spend billions on lobbying to pass laws that help them and kill laws that would make corporations more accountable.  

Trump doesn't mention the non-governmental multi-millionaire and billionaire class that is getting richer at the expense of everyone else, he only mentions their puppets, the politicians.  
"January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
Who exactly will become the rulers again?  Not Native Americans or African-Americans, since they never were the rulers.  Not Asian-Americans or Hispanics.  Not LGBT folks.  Not women.  Who does that leave?  OK, he does mention women in the next sentence, but this is the 'forgotten men and women.'  Is this where he's talking about the Native Americans and all the others? Why does that seem like putting words in his mouth?  Toni Morrison's essay in the NYTimes offers one explanation of this part of the Trump appeal.
"You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens."
This comes closer to classic Trump rhetoric - 'which the world has never seen before.'  You can make statements like this if you never read about history or about the rest of the world.  
"Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public."
I bet if we sat in with the speech writers, we would have heard some debate about whether to mention health care.  Well, maybe not.  I doubt there was any discussion about climate change.

Here is where it begins to sound like a Communist Chinese report on human rights abuses in the US.
"But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential."
"This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
Why don't I think this is a call to restrict the sale of automatic weapons?
"We are one nation -- and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."
This is the closest this speech comes to a unity theme.  But the idea that Trump feels anyone else's pain just doesn't ring true to me.  
"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon." 
When I was a graduate student, I was surprised to read a review of American foreign aid packages. The aid bills in Congress always stipulate that US products are used to aid other countries and for the most part US companies get contracts to do the work.  It was always a good way to distribute money to American companies and workers in the guise of helping others.  Let's not fool ourselves that spending money abroad hurts the US.  If it did, Congress wouldn't pass those budgets.  They get lobbied by all the companies whose products - often things they can't sell - are going to be bought by the US to ship overseas.  It's a great stimulus to the economy. (See especially the bottom of page 44 in this report.)  And military spending has enriched American businesses since the Revolutionary War.  

Seeing American infrastructure rebuilt would be a great thing.  And it would be great for American businesses to thrive and for them to create lots of good paying jobs to build that infrastructure.  I just don't want them to get unduly wealthy, their employees overworked and underpaid, and a shoddy end product.  
"One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world."
This is a side-effect of capitalism.  Companies work to make a profit.  If they make more profit by going overseas, that's what they'll do.  But as many jobs, maybe more, are lost to automation of jobs.  In the 50s and 60s there were articles about how Americans would spend their leisure time when automation brought the work week to 30 hours.  What those writers weren't thinking was that the benefits would go to the owners, not the workers.  That 'leisure' is called today 'unemployment.'

It seems to me that 'ripped from their homes' was related to unregulated mortgage schemes ultimately the fault of big banks that were making money so fast they didn't care about the consumer.  Government's involvement was that they didn't regulate the banks closely enough.  
"We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it's going to be America First."
As mentioned above, America First, has a dark history.  If Trump sticks to his word here, his friend Vlad is in for a surprise.  I'm not holding my breath.
"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."
No, other countries aren't 'stealing' our companies.  Even though they may be owned by Americans, these are Americans who weigh their costs and benefits and decide to ship jobs overseas.  
"We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
I can't in any way defend people who murder women and children in cold blood.  But they are still human beings.  To deny that may be an attempt to distance oneself from the atrocities that humans commit.  The leaders who led the genocides in Africa used similar language - calling their enemies cockroaches to be eradicated.  Dehumanizing the enemy is practiced all over the world.   However misguided ISIS terrorists are, they come from situations where they are alienated enough to be susceptible to recruitment.  And then they are trained to obey orders and be loyal to the group.  

Here's a passage I'd love to have the new president discuss with, say, Charlie Rose or Bill Moyers.
"At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."
Whoa!  Total allegiance to the United States of America!  I imagine a lot of Christians might argue that their first allegiance is to God.  Others might say their allegiance is to all of humankind, not just to Americans.  And what does that mean for people who don't agree with what the United States is doing - say like Trump until today?   Or people who have dual citizenship?  Is that going to be abolished?  What will happen to someone who has only 75% allegiance to the USA?  Should we have more loyalty to corrupt Americans than to saintly citizens of other countries?  

I like that he suggests there is no room for prejudice, but I don't understand how that follows from loyalty to the US. White Nationalists would argue they are completely loyal to the US, but with whites in power.  

Then there is the bible quote.  What exactly does "God's people" mean to Trump?  It's from the Old Testament, so does it refers to Jews?  Is it understood to mean Christians?  Christians and Jews?  What about Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists?  It would be nice to hear an explanation of what Trump, or the speech writers, had in mind.  

Knowing that bible translations vary greatly, I looked it up.  Of 22 different translations, biblehub  shows only one that mentions "God's people."  All the others refer to when "brethren" or "brothers" live together in unity.  (One says 'brothers and sisters.")  To suggest that it's "good and pleasant' when brethren live together in unity, also suggests that it's common for them not to.  The bible it comes from appears to be one of the most used, which raises questions about how close to the original biblical language most American Christians are.  

This is going to be an interesting four years.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Alaska Legislative Info Office Joins Facebook And Twitter

Well, it's a lot cheaper than a new building.

Here's their announcement:  (The links below should help people connect.)


Alaska LIOs Launch New Facebook, Twitter Accounts
Live video/audio links to be shared with Alaska media

Alaska’s Legislative Information Offices will have an increased social media presence as the 30th Alaska Legislature begins this week, providing more ways to keep Alaskans informed about legislative news and events.

The additions include a Legislative Information Office (LIO) Facebook page and the LIO Twitter handle @AKlegislature. The social media platforms will be used to provide immediate notice about new information added to the Legislative Affairs Agency website at

The LIO Facebook page will promote information such as the weekly schedule of committee meetings and events, educational resources, opportunities for public testimony, and more.

The Twitter account will share links to live-streaming video and audio of committee meetings via

In addition, the LIO’s Media Services section will begin distributing video codes to Alaska media outlets interested in hosting the live video and audio feeds produced through To learn more about hosting these live streams contact the Juneau LIO at 465-4648.

“The LIO’s core mission is to provide accurate and timely information to Alaskans to encourage engagement in the legislative process, and having a strong social media presence will go a long way in furthering that goal,” said LIO Manager Charles Westmoreland.

About Legislative Information Offices
Alaska has 23 nonpartisan Legislative Information Offices located throughout the State, with 11 staffed year-round and 12 staffed during the legislative session. The LIOs operate under the Legislative Affairs Agency. To learn more about LIOs and where they are located, visit To learn more about the Legislative Affairs Agency, visit

Contact information
Juneau Legislative Information Office
Phone: (907) 465-4648

Click HERE to visit the Alaska State Legislature Website
Click HERE to watch live streaming of the Alaska State Legislature
Click HERE to send a Public Opinion Message during session

Quick Turnaround

We only got back to Anchorage last Thursday night and already Tuesday we were looking at the Chugach Range from above again.

We're in Seattle at the request of a certain four year old who wanted us at her birthday party.

So we'll stay a while and give her mom some relief.  A win-win situation.  Besides, the temperatures in Anchorage have dropped below zero.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

About This Blog

When I first started blogging, many of the posts were about blogging itself, as I was learning what this is all about.  But once I got out most of the kinks, figured out how to put up pictures and videos, and how to put up a stat counter and tables, I stopped paying that much attention to the technical details, unless I had new problems.

Also, as things went along, I began to have a better sense of why I was blogging and what I was blogging about.  I figured a page on top would be a good intro for people who wanted to know such things.  I've finally put it up today.  It's the top left tab under the header.  Or just click here.   It links to some of the old posts I've done which help people understand what this blog is about.

I also looked on the right hand column and deleted the "Can't Find It?" reference on the upper right.  It  looked like this:

Can't Find It?
1. Try the search blog button, upper left
2. Try Edit on toolbar, then Find in this Page
3. Try the labels list on the lower right.

I think nowadays people are more used to blogs and know how to find things.  

I've also been wanting to change the copyright announcement there and move to Creative Commons, but it seems that is more complicated than it used to be.  So now I have to figure out which of the six options I'm most comfortable with.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Close Are Trump's Actions To Putin's Priorities?

Is Putin pulling Trump's strings?  Let's look at some of the signs.

What are Putin's biggest obstacles?

1.  NATO, as weak as it is, is still a threat.  Anything he can do weaken NATO would help him restore the Soviet era power balance in Eastern Europe - Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, etc.

2.   China has a long, long border with Russia and there's always been conflict on that border.  Anything he can do to weaken China's ties with the US would be helpful.

3.   Turkey holds the key to the waterway from southern Russia.  Good relations with Turkey is to Putin's advantage.  Putin's performance in Syria contributed to refugees into Turkey and Europe, destabilizing the EU and threatening Turkey's acceptance into the EU partnership.  But Putin forgave quickly Turkey shooting down a Russian military plane and is making nice to Turkey.

4.   The US Intelligence agencies are always keeping watch on Russia.  The less capable they are, the more power Russia has.

Now, what are some of the things Trump has been promising to do?

1.  NATO is obsolete and doesn't pay its bills according to Trump.  He's going to shake things up.

2.  Trump's been riling China - congratulations call from Taiwan's president,  Secretary of State nominee Tillerman is challenging China's access to nearby islands.   All this looks aimed at making the US-China relations much more fragile and making China's border with Russia weaker.

3.  Trump supports Erdogan and his strongman ways.

4.  National-Security Republican elite fear they are being kept out of Trump administration.

OK, Trump is anti-establishment and we can expect some of his views to be a big change from the past.  But these all seem to line up in one direction - supportive of Putin's agenda.  They are pretty big deals.

And given the help Russia gave Trump in the campaign, and all the Russia friendly appointments, and the most recent news about Russia's leverage on Trump, I'd say that the evidence is lining up to a very dire conclusion.

It took a lot of [for] people to give up their support of Nixon.  They couldn't believe the president would lie, and it meant a change of their whole way of thinking.  But the Watergate committee in the Senate was made up of Republicans as well as Democrats.  While the Republicans made the Democrats prove things, they weren't in denial, and they didn't stonewall the hearings.  This is going to be 'interesting times.'

Monday, January 16, 2017

Snowy Day In Anchorage

The clouds are low and heavy.

The clouds have been spitting snow all day.

This bull moose snacking on BP trees reminded me why I'm here.

Downtown was quiet on this MLK holiday.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"The copulation of cattle as an enterprise in Ballona was soon mounted" and Other Notes

1.  Mar Vista History

My mother's house is in a part of Los Angeles called Mar Vista and a local realtor there dropped off a flier with a lengthy excerpt from a history of Mar Vista.  When I looked up the source - the Mar Vista Historical Society - I found the whole long and, for some of us, interesting document.

But I have to say that the sentence in this post's title jumped out at me.  One possible explanation is that this part was translated into English, presumably from Spanish, and the the computer stuck in 'copulation' instead of 'breeding.'  But I can't account for the 'mounted.'

I'd note that the excerpt in the real estate flier left out the story in the original of how the Spanish settlers' land grants displace the indigenous people in the area and then after the Spanish American war, the Americans either invalidated outright or set up administrative barriers that effectively dispossessed the Mexican landowners of their property.

2.  Viewing Sourdough Starter As A Pet

It's been a long time since Cocoa died, but we decided against another dog because we didn't think it fair if we were going to be away for longish periods.  But I realized on this trip, that in some ways my
sourdough starter is a kind of pet.  But one that can stay safely in the refrigerator for fairly long periods of time.  But as we were close to returning to Anchorage, I began to wonder how my starter was doing.

When we got home I took it out, let it warm up a bit, then fed it a bit of flour and water.  Soon it had risen in the jar and was actively bubbling.  So I had to do the sourdough starter equivalent of taking it for a walk, I had to make a bread.

The rubber band around the jar shows where the starter was after I fed it.  When it grows like that, it's like a dog jumping and yipping to go for a walk.

I made two breads.  First a baguette and then a second round loaf.  Here's the baguette.

3.  One Step Closer To Filling The Gap

Picture from Mayo Clinic

Back in October I wrote about the post the oral surgeon embedded in my gum.  On the left is a picture from the Mayo Clinic.  In the October post, I talked about the process and there's a picture of my post implanted in my mouth.

It takes time for the post to get connected firmly to the existing jaw bone.  So Friday the oral surgeon checked to see if it was in ok.  Monday I go to my regular dentist who will do a mold for a new tooth.  The oral surgeon was pleased with his work and said no one would notice.

I couldn't help but think about having the dentist give me a green tooth so they would.  After a bit more thought, I was thinking I should have the tooth on the other side pulled too and get vampire like fangs.  It would be great if you could have several different teeth and you could trade them out by yourself.  I suspect the dentist has to do that.  I'll check on Monday.  The dentist had a full display of teeth in the window sill.

The 'flipper' (sort of like a retainer with a tooth on it) that was supposed to fill the hole until all this work is done, was a pain.  It interfered with speech - my tongue would rub against it on the roof of my mouth when I spoke - and it made eating unpleasant.  It might be a good diet tool, but I found it a pain.  So I wasn't too upset when it disappeared somewhere in the house.  If you don't mind a gappy smile, I'd recommend skipping the flipper.  Fortunately, the missing tooth isn't right in front.

On the way home I passed this hoar frosted hedge.  Most of the trees I saw looked like this. Yesterday there was more snow, warmer temps, and all the frost is gone.

3.  Citizens Climate Lobby Meeting

The second Saturday of the month is the international CCL meeting.  The Anchorage chapter meets at UAA.  The speaker was Yareth Bauman, the man who lead the Washington state's initiative for a revenue neutral carbon fee in that state.  It didn't pass, but it got 40% of the vote, and potential opponents with deep pockets, chose not to campaign against it.

You can listen to the podcast of the meeting here.

4.  Shoveling Snow - My Winter Exercise

Yesterday we got about 5 inches of snow, and showering out the driveway and sidewalk was a productive way to get in some good exercise.  People didn't used to have to go to the gym to stay fit, they just walked more and did chores without all sorts of motorized devices.

When I got back from the meeting, there was another inch of snow and it was windy.  Our mountain ash tree tends to keep its leaves as long as it can and the wind had scattered some of them onto my recently shoveled driveway.  But I got out the shovel and did another rep.   I feel great after 30-60 minutes of moving snow around.

By the late afternoon, there was sunshine and clear sky.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It." BUT How To Use It Right?

People can use the bible to support slavery (and oppose it.)  Or justify male domination over women.  Until Luther, the quote about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, was used to condemn the rich until Luther made being wealthy godly.

And so with learning from history.  We can learn the wrong thing if we choose the wrong event, or interpret it inappropriately for today's situation.   People, including myself, have made comparisons between what is happening in the US now with the rise of the Third Reich in Germany.  There are areas where comparisons are justified - such as how to use the media for propaganda.  We can learn something useful today about that.  But that doesn't mean that the writer thinks Trump is going to copy everything else Hitler did, like set up concentration camps, as some people assume.

I got to thinking about this when I read a passage about Hitler's plundering of art and jewels the other day.

Sergeant Major von Rumpel is a gemologist in Anthony Doerr's All The Light One Cannot See.  
"Because of the war [WWII], his job has expanded.  Now Sergeant Major von Rumpel has the chance to do what no one has done in centuries - not since the Mogul Dynasty, not since the Khans.  Perhaps not in history.  The capitulation of France is only weeks past, and already he has seen things he did not dream he would see in six lifetimes.  A seventeenth-century globe as big around as a small car, with rubies to mark volcanoes, sapphires clustered at the poles, and diamonds for world capitals. He has held - held! - a dagger handle at least four hundred years old, made of white jade and inlaid with emeralds.  Just yesterday, on the road to Vienna, he took possession of a five-hundred-and-seventy-piece china set with a single marquise-cut diamond set into the rim of every single dish.  Where the police confiscated these treasures and from whom, he does not ask. . .
"Rumor is that the führer is compiling a wish list of precious objects from all around Europe and Russia.  They say he intends to remake the Austrian town of Linz into an empyrean city, the cultural capital of the world. . .
"The document is real, von Rumpel has heard.  Four hundred pages." [emphasis added]
While All the Light One Cannot See is fiction, Hitler's plan for museum in Linz was real.  And the plundering of art and other valuables was real.

I don't see Trump with plans to plunder art, but it would probably  be safe to say he has his eye on prime real estate around the world for Trump hotels and towers.   His website shows fourteen Trump hotels, half of which are in the US. That leaves lots of countries without Trump hotels yet.  The Washington Post, for example, says he'd like 20 - 30 in China alone.  

As president of the US, he won't have have to steal them, he can just trade American favors for them.  "Sure, we can sell you some jets.  That means jobs for Americans and, I'd sure like that historic castle to be a Trump hotel."

I'd note that Wikipedia says that Hitler didn't steal everything he collected.  He sent one of his art experts
"on trips to Italy and France to buy artworks, which Hitler paid for with his own money, which came from sales of Mein Kampf, real estate speculation on land in the area of the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg, and royalties from Hitler's image used on postage stamps.[28] The latter, which was divided with his official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, amounted to at least $75 million marks over the course of Hitler's reign.[29]
This, however, was not the primary method used to build up the collection."
Did you skip over that quote?  If you did, you missed the part about him getting royalties from having his image on postage stamps!  Wow. Trump's picture on forever stamps.  With him getting royalties for each stamp.  Now that's something to look forward to.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

We Made It To Seattle

We made it by bus to the airport without it raining on us.

I want to say thanks to Theresa at Alaska Airlines for changing our ticket because she was sure we wouldn't make our connection in Seattle.  (We'd changed our flight that was supposed to stop in Portland to one stopping in Seattle because of the weather.  Alaska lets you change flights when there are big weather issues without having to pay the flight change or change in cost of the ticket.)  We learned another big advantage of being MVP on Alaska.  You get a leg up on the waiting list.  I have issues about this airline class system, but if it exists, I'm glad we were on the right side and I apologize to anyone who might have not gotten on because of us.

We got our ticket and you can see the view through the window above as we waited to take off.

The landscape around Portland was pretty white as we flew by Mt. Hood.

But as we got further north, things were looking better and we landed in the sun in Seattle.

Our gate has been changed from C11 to D1 and my wife is waiting for me to finish this so I will. Be back in Anchorage soon if all goes well.

In LAX Travel Chaos Hoping to Get On This Flight -Updated

Our original flight to Seattle was delayed and the checkin person didn't think we'd make our connection to Anchorage, so she put us on the earlier 11:45 am flight which is overbooked, but she thought we might be able to get on when they upgrade people to First Class.

This one is also delayed.  Passengers are just getting off the plane now.  It's 12 noon.

We've been lucky to avoid this sort of mess most of the time.  I do have an appointment in Anchorage at 1pm tomorrow.  Fingers crossed.

UPDATE  12:12 pm -  we now have boarding passes with seats.   On to Seattle with plenty of time to connect to the Anchorage flight.

UPDATE:  4:40pm the follow up to this post is here.  We made it to Seattle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Diamonds And Volcanoes, Oceans And Space

I wasn't sure what to do with this piece on diamonds.  It was interesting - both because of what it said and because it exposed a gap in my knowledge that probably most people know already.  (Did you?)   I tend to think diamonds and their high prices are due to monopoly and marketing.  Young men are cowed into buying sparkling rings by all the hype about diamonds being forever and the made up tradition of diamond wedding rings.  I'm not making this all up, people have studied this.  The article mentions that diamonds weren't associated with weddings until the 1930s.

But I acknowledge that industrial diamonds probably play an important role in society.  From the USGS:
"Because it is the hardest substance known, diamond has been used for centuries as an abrasive in grinding, drilling, cutting, and polishing, and industrial-grade diamond continues to be used as an abrasive for many applications.  .  . Diamond also has chemical, electrical, optical, and thermal characteristics that make it the best material available to industry for wear- and corrosion-resistant coatings, special lenses, heat sinks in electrical circuits, wire drawing, and advanced technologies."
I actually started yesterday's post with the quote below on diamonds.  That's why yesterday's title was  misleading.  The post was going to be bits and pieces of different things that weren't related and not enough to be a post on their own.  But the post evolved and the photos about the Silverlake walk were enough.  So I cut the diamond reference, but forgot to update the title.

So here's what I edited out yesterday:
"Most diamonds come from depths of 90 to 120 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, Smith said. The only reason they are accessible to us today is because they traveled up through the crust millions of years ago, carried along by rare and powerful volcanic eruptions.
But chemical clues culled from the Cullinan diamond and others like it suggest they were forged at even greater depths than most diamonds — about 224 to 446 miles beneath our feet."
- From an LA Times article on what scientists are learning from diamonds about deep in the earth .

I resurrected the post because last night before going to sleep I picked up my next book club volume - Anthony Doeer's All the Light We Cannot See - and read this:
"A diamond, the locksmith reminds himself, is only a piece of carbon compressed in the bowels of the earth for eons and driven to the surface in a volcanic pipe.  Someone facets it, someone polishes it."
I got the same lesson about diamonds and volcanoes from two different sources on the same day.  Did I ever learn that diamonds were spewed out of the bowels of the earth by volcanoes?  Maybe, but if I did, it didn't stick in my conscious knowledge.  But I was getting a message from someone to pay more attention now.

The original LA Times article is about a scientist studying large diamonds for what they tell us about so deep in the earth - a place, the article tells us, scientists can't reach, so these travelers from this distant region of our own planet offer up clues to what else is there.  And the article says there's a lot more minerals than had been previously thought.

This also got me to thinking.  Voyager has travelled about 12 billion miles from our sun,  about how we can send missions to to explore our solar system, but we on earth,  according to the Smithsonian:
"as of January 22, drilling had only reached a depth of 2,330 feet beneath the seafloor."
That's less than half a mile.  The earth's core is 6,371 kilometers (3,958 mi) according to this extreme tech article.    This site has a lot of clickbait, so checked further.  National Geographic says "about 4000 miles" so it's ok.  [There's an interesting graphic representation of traveling to the center of the earth at this BBC page.]

Is it really harder to drill into the earth than to go out into space?  Or is space just more romantic and better sold - like the diamonds - than earth core exploration?  Perhaps it is simply more difficult.  I found lots of articles comparing exploring space to exploring the oceans (where getting to the earth's core seems to begin).  This article from American Progress suggests it IS 'marketing' or at least what has stirred our exploratory imaginations:
"Yet space travel excites Americans’ imaginations in a way ocean exploration never has. To put this in terms [James] Cameron may be familiar with, just think of how stories are told on screens both big and small: Space dominates, with “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” and “2001 A Space Odyssey.” Then there are B-movies such as “Plan Nine From Outer Space” and everything ever mocked on “Mystery Science Theater 2000.” There are even parodies: “Spaceballs,” “Galaxy Quest,” and “Mars Attacks!” And let’s not forget Cameron’s own contributions: “Aliens” and “Avatar.”
When it comes to the ocean, we have “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and Cameron’s somewhat lesser-known film “The Abyss.” And that’s about it."
And since this quote mentions 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I should mention that a key character in All The Light We Cannot See is reading Jules Verne's classic story in braille.

Bits And Pieces January 9, 2017

It rained hard before it got light Monday morning.  We had a walking tour through Silverlake planned with friends.  J and my old neighborhood.  Back in the 1970s.  J was working downtown and I was going to school at USC so it seemed like a reasonable location.

It wasn't cool back then.  Just a funky neighborhood.

As I was preparing breakfast, I noticed a car out front of my mom's house.  I went out to take in the garbage can and saw that it wasn't a car.  It was traffic.  This quiet, out of the way street has become a way to beat traffic.  It's insane.  But it's only for a short time in the morning.  Maybe 20 minutes.  But it's sick that there is so much traffic that cars are backed up the block on this out of the way residential street.

There was a fair amount of nostalgia as we walked up and down the hills of streets roamed in our 20s, newly married, and discovering interesting people and places every time we went out.

In a lot of ways, the neighborhood looks remarkably the same.  While in my mom's neighborhood contractors buy old little houses, tear them down, then build lot squeezing villas, there was very little of that on the streets we wandered.  Places had new paint, maybe even a new facade, but most looked like the original buildings we'd wandered past over 40 years ago.

And this neighborhood is as likely to have lost parrot posters as lost dog posters.

The biggest difference I noticed was security.  Rambling hillside apartment buildings that had interesting steps used to be open to the world.  Now, many of them have security gates and locks.  Our building's old inviting opening onto a courtyard with a view, now had a glassed in wall with a door.  Fortunately a tenant came in and let us in so we could look around.  But here's an examples of what I'm talking about.

So many places now have iron gates.

But the neighborhood's funkiness is alive and well.  Here's a fence with little arm chairs and signs on it.  Since this is a nostalgia trip, I've taken the liberty to play around with a few of the photos below in photoshop.  In this case it was to get some closer views of the chairs along with the larger picture of the fence.  But then I played with the color of the sky and the saturation.

And we walked down the Micheltorena stairs.

We stopped at Night Market Song - a Thai place that left my mouth with a satisfying, if low watt,  glow - and wandered on Sunset past this motorcycle shop where our friend fell in love with an old used Vespa.

Much to my amazement, the Free Clinic was still there.  As part of a graduate class, I volunteered as an intake worker there several nights a week for a semester.

It looked a bit tired, so I took some liberties again in photoshop to perk it up a bit.

After a couple of hours of exploring the old stomping grounds, we got back to the car and made one last stop at Barnsdale Park where I took this view of Hollywood from outside the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Hollyhock House.

I've got lots more thoughts, but no more time.  It was good to just go out and have fun for the day after lots of paper shredding, sorting of boxes, and looking through old documents and memorabilia that give a little back story of my family that I never quite understood.  If I have time . . .

Sunday, January 08, 2017

AIFF2016: GayLa Night Filmmakers Bennett Wallace (Real Boy) and Alex Myung (Arrival) Q&A

Back in December I got some video of the Q&A at the Anchorage International Film Festival's GayLa night.  Alex Myung's animated film Arrival opened.  It's a visually beautiful story of a young, Asian-American gay man leaving for the big city and later coming out to his mom.  It got the first runner up award for animation at the festival.

The second film, a feature documentary called Real Boy, follows Bennett Wallace's transition to a boy.  

[You can see the trailers for both films here.]

After the showing, they went on stage together to answer questions.  I've paraphrased the question below.  I got most of the Q&A but I think there were a few more questions I missed.
The first went to Alex.  The Bennett got some, and then it went back to Alex for the last one.

For Alex:

Q1:  Was this how you came out or someone you know?
Q2:  Was it always going to be a film without dialog?

For Bennett:

Q3:  How has the relationships with your parents evolved since the film?
Q4:  Given that the film portrays your cutting yourself, what would you tell kids today who are cutting?
Q5:  Would it have helped you to see a film like this?  [Spoiler:  "It would have changed my life."
Q6:  How did the film come about?
Q7:  How did it feel living your life with the camera on you all the time?  [Spoiler:  "At first I felt I always had to say something really profound.  That didn't last long."  "It was difficult when we filmed in public."
Q8:  How is Joe doing now?

For Alex:

Q9:  I seemed to see a Miyazaki influence, was he a model for you?

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Painting Beauty On A Wall

We went to the UCLA hazardous waste drop-off this morning and saw these guys actually painting this Beauty and the Beast billboard onto the side of the building.

If you enlarge the one below (click on it) you can barely see the lines on the wall where they are supposed to paint.

Glad to see that these painters haven't been replaced by a giant ink-jet printer.

Friday, January 06, 2017

John Berger - "Tenderness is a Refusal to Judge"

John Berger died January 2, 2016 at age 90.

I didn't know him or even of him until this afternoon when I heard this interview on PRI with Teju Cole, who did know him.  This is a man I would have liked to have known. And I'm hoping to start an acquaintanceship through his books, and through the videos that have been left behind. The PRI interview begins like this:
"You may never have heard of John Berger.
But the English writer and artist, who died this week at 90, changed how countless art students thought about art and maybe even the world.

His 1972 television series and book ''Ways of Seeing" was designed to upend traditional, and what he termed elitist, ways of evaluating art work.
But Berger wasn’t just an art critic. He was also a novelist.
His book, “G,”, a non-linear account of a man travelling around Europe before World War One, won the Booker Prize."
[I tried to embed the audio here, but I couldn't make it work.]

It's a beautiful interview worth listening to.  It got me to look the man up and try to find out more about him.  He took on the conventional reverence for art as culture.  He also moved to rural France where he lived for 40 years or so.  Most important to me is that he saw the world and how we see the world differently from the way most people do.  Here's the first episode of that 1972 television show mentioned above.

Below is from a much later interview (I'm not sure exactly when - the posting date on Youtube isn't necessarily the date of the interview). The whole interview is available too. In it he talks about tenderness, defining it in different ways - "a refusal to judge"

In the PRI interview about Cole relates Berger's characterization of the dead as really being merely in hiding who are around us.
“Part of the storytelling is about memory,” Cole explains, “but part of it is about how the dead have not gone away. … [They] are always with us, actually supporting us.”

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Jane Wyman's 100th Birthday, Rain, Clouds, And Fences

Jane Wyman was an Oscar winning actress and she married a B movie actor in 1940 named Ronald Reagan until they split in 1949.   Here's the New York Times obituary.  She'd be 100 today.  Here is the first birthday from my list of people born in 1917.

It's been mostly cloudy, with breaks of sun and breaks of rain.  Southern California can use every drop of rain it can get, so I'm not complaining. When we came home after seeing Fences Thursday evening, it was raining, which I tried to catch, not too successfully, in the lights at this soccer field.  But the fence is a good lead into talking about the film.

Fences was powerful.  The language was magnificent, but then it was written by August Wilson, a playwright who has written some of the best American plays of the 20th Century.  I couldn't help thinking about Death of a Salesman - another play about a father who was doing all he could to cope in his role as the family provider.  But while we can see that Willie Loman is a victim of the social expectations of his times, he's essentially a weak man who could have made different choices in his life.

But in Fences the father, Troy, - played by Denzel Washington in the film - was a much stronger and competent man, restricted by much harsher limits.  But flawed as well.  His anger at the injustices he experienced and perhaps some he just perceived prevents him from enjoying the comparatively decent life he has built.   He was a great baseball player, he hit home runs against Satchel Paige he claims, but it was before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball.  Now he's fighting the system to break out of the restrictions of the Pittsburgh sanitation department.  He's tired of throwing the garbage into the truck.  He wants a promotion to the job reserved for white men - driver.

As the play progresses, we learn why he's such a hard ass father, and why he can't tell his son, Corey (Courtney B. Vance  in the 1987 version and Chris Chalk in the 2010 version)  he likes him, let alone loves him.   Here's that scene I found online from the play - first the 1987 version with James Earl Jones as Troy and then in the 2010 version with Denzel Washington in the role he plays in the movie.  (Washington also directs the film.)

Troy's father had abandoned him and we can see throughout the play* how stretched he is trying to provide for his family - which includes his mentally unhinged brother, a son from an earlier wife, and a son from his present wife of 18 years or so, played by Viola Davis. And you can see the pressure he feels to raise his son to be responsible and tough in a world that shortchanges black men.

And Davis is fantastic. Here's a later scene, after Washington had told Davis he's going to be a father again, and how he just needed a place where he could let go of all those pressures, where he didn't have responsibilities to pay the rent and feed the family, where he could escape and laugh and be himself. She doesn't take kindly to that at all.

No one should be saying that while men have it easy in today's world. Few people have it easy.  The system isn't kind to human beings.  But all things considered, there have been fewer barriers to success for white men than for black men. (I'm avoiding women because that's a whole other issue.) 

But I wonder how many white men who hate the slogan 'black lives matter' can watch this film and get its humanity. The issues are universal, but will the racist wing of the Trump team  be able to see past the skin color and the language? One would hope so, but how many will ever see it? And if they do, and if they felt Troy's pain, could they tell their friends?  I don't know, I'm just asking.

* I say play deliberately as I'm vaguely aware of some critics finding the movie not cinematic enough.  As I was looking for cast names I saw a link to a New Yorker article on that topic, but haven't looked because I wanted to finish this first.  I'll look now.

Before I found it, I found an article by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and I can't think of a smarter or more suited man to talk about this film.  The link also includes a video interview he had with the two lead characters of the film.  Jabbar writes as part of the intro:
"The Maxson family's unhappiness results from a toxic mixture of the patriarch's unapologetic hubris and the pressures of being raised black in a white society that marginalizes, degrades and oppresses anyone not in the mainstream. Troy Maxson (Washington) isn't aware that while he battles for equality from the white society, he's imposing the same tyrannical restrictions he's struggling against on his own family. He has become the very enemy he's fighting."
Most of it is the transcript of the video and the video itself.  They are exactly the same.  There are a few things in the written interview that aren't in the video and vice versa.  Also, in the video Davis correctly says 'baseball league,' not the 'football league' that's written.

Thursday was a break from the rain.  When I did a quick bike ride down to the beach just to move my legs a bit, the clouds were out over the ocean, but it wasn't the solid gray we'd had.

We had dinner with a friend of my mom's, a woman who came by weekly and always brought some food for my mom.  They'd been good friends for a long time.  She told us stories about after WWII when she met her husband in London.  They were both young refugees in England during the war.  They'd both gotten out of Germany before the war started.  His sister had lived through the war in Berlin with fake papers.  They had both applied for jobs as translators for the American military in Europe.  Her father took her down to the station and started talking to a young man while she was away a moment.  So, it turned out he introduced her to her future husband.  She was 20 and they first were sent to Paris for a week of training and then to Germany where their fluency in German and English were helpful.  Despite the hardships of those immediate postwar days in Germany, love and adventure are what she remembered most.

For those of you who are wondering about the New Yorker article, I did find it after I finished this.  I think the reviewer got so hung up on the idea that this should have been done more cinematically that he missed the fundamental power of the story.  He's focused on technique, even when he has praise, which he has.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Amazon's Proposed 30 Minute Delivery From Airborne Warehouse

The ADN had an article touting Amazon's patent application for a floating warehouse that could reduce delivery to 30 minutes or less.

I can imagine that there are some items that one must have in 30 minutes.  I'm not talking about an onion you forgot to buy with dinner guests due in an hour.  There could be some life-saving items that are occasionally needed quickly.

But, generally, what's the point?

I remember when my son got impatient waiting for something to appear online in 20 seconds because he was used to a faster connection.  But this instantaneous gratification comes at a cost.  Actually, a lot of different costs.

1.  Opportunity costs of creativity and money spent on this rather than on  projects that make a greater contribution to humanity's well being.

2.  Continued reduction of people's long term thinking and planning skills as businesses work compete over speed of gratification.

3.  Loss of patience as a human quality, and thus, the devaluing of things that take time to grow - trees, babies, friendship, love - and inability to deal with any delays.  It seems we already have enough road rage.

4.  Loss of attention span, necessary to evaluate ideas, test theories, make good decisions.

5.  And whose airspace will these warehouses be in?  Whose sunlight will they block?  Where will their pollution pollute?  Will they be silent or add to the noise we all suffer daily?

The article talks about using such flying warehouses at events where lots of people gather - such as a baseball game.
"Imagine you're at a baseball game and wanted to buy a meal or a jersey without ever leaving your seat. The system Amazon describes would allow you to place an order and receive the item within minutes."
Well, I'm imagining 30 drones zooming down to three rows trying to figure out which person to deliver the hot dog to and how to avoid crashing into the other 29 drones.  I'm imagining people snatching someone else's lunch, that was paid for already electronically when the order was placed.  I'm imagining drones picking up bottles of urine for a fee so the patron doesn't have to leave his seat.

Doesn't this all sound a little like the people in Wall-E?

But maybe virtual reality will make going to the stadium totally unnecessary.

But I take hope from other trends.  Here's another Alaska Dispatch News article that goes in the opposite direction:

"Folk schools offer lessons for battling ‘convenience culture’"

"Raising urban chickens, making a leather belt or building a traditional kayak aren't among the offerings you'll usually find at mainstream educational institutions. But they are skills you can learn at two of Alaska's newest schools. 
They're known as folk schools, and they focus on teaching and sharing traditional, hands-on knowledge and homesteading skills typically nonexistent in the educational system."

And the Los Angeles Times had an article about the growth of the vinyl record business.

But it shouldn't be an either/or, thus versus them issue here.  There are some great benefits from new technology.  We just need to consider the environmental, cultural, and human costs of the technology against the benefits.  People can argue that if consumers don't buy, businesses won't make the products.  But since business spends so much money tapping into people's primal brains to get them to 'need' every new product, I think that's a specious argument.  But it is true, if people don't buy, those things will no longer be on the market.

But I think that humans should always be ready for the day, or the year, when the power goes out, the satellites fail, and that infrastructure that supports the life so many are totally dependent on crashes.  Humans need to be able take care of themselves when all the conveniences collapse.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Venice Beach Sunset - But Which Picture Would You Prefer?

I didn't get on the bike until late this afternoon.  The downside is I have to ride back at dusk when, even with blinking bike lights, I'm not as visible to the cars.  The upside is a great sunset.

So, this picture looked pretty good right off the disk.

Directly from the camera

There's the bright pink clouds, a bit of ocean at the bottom, framed by the palm trees.

But could I make it better with a little tweaking?  Nothing fancy.  No photoshop.  Just playing with the contrast.

Contrast bumped a little

Which would you prefer to see?
Does it matter if it's digitally enhanced?
Would you know it was enhanced if I didn't say so and the other picture wasn't there?
Would you know the other one wasn't enhanced?

And, does it even mean anything, since the camera doesn't capture a true image anyway?

Do you even care?
Would you like enhanced images to be marked somehow so that you know?
Does cropping count as enhancing?
Does increasing the contrast matter?
Where is the line?  Adding in the palm trees?  (I didn't, they were there)  Changing the color radically?

For pictures like these, my questions are more aesthetic.  But when wrinkles are removed (or added) to people's faces larger ethical issues arise.  And what people are doing is manipulated (a gun is put in someone's hand, or removed) there are more questions. (I removed a cigarette once from someone's hand because he wanted to share the post with family, but they thought he'd stopped smoking.)

Will people just become sheep and accept what they see if it supports their world view?  Or will they not believe anything?  Both situations become debilitating for a civil society.  

These aren't new issues.  Jerry Lodriguss goes into more detail on this issue in The Ethics of Digital Manipulation.  He even says there are times when it would be unethical to NOT manipulate the picture.  I couldn't find the date of the post.

Another post, on what sounds like a promising website - Ethics in Photo Editing - offers some examples starting with an Abraham Lincoln photo.  The problem is that the posts I could find were all 2009, so either this blogger moved stuff elsewhere, or just gave up.

Another problem is that the post is dated April 1, 2009.  I always have to wonder about things posted on April 1.  But whether the examples are real or not . . .

[Writing that caused me to google one of the pictures (Oprah Winfrey's head on Ann Margaret's body on TV Guide, with neither of their permission) which got me to a 2012 Atlantic article with some of the same examples, which linked to Izitru (say that out loud) which has a large collection of such doctored photos.  It also has a service where you can send your jpg pictures and they will officially verify that it's not been manipulated.

There are some pretty egregious ethics lapses - there's one where anti-John Kerry folks added him to a picture of Jane Fonda talking to a crowd making it look like they had appeared together.]

I guess, since I posted about The Cloudspotter's Guide, I should be saying something about the clouds.  I still haven't read that much more of the book so I'm not too sure.  My guess would be cumulus medics radiatus but that's because it's one of the few I've read about.  And cloud experts out there can you confirm or correct?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Famous People Born 1917 - Some Biggies - JFK, Thelonious Monk, Indira Gandhi, Lena Horne - 2 Still Alive

It's a reflection of how the human brain and heart combine to decide who is important.  How else can one explain why I've got people whose influence on the world is as varied as Buffalo Bob Smith and Ferdinand Marcos?   There are three assassinated heads of state (Kennedy, Gandhi, and Park) and seven Nobel Prize winners (marked in the table below.)

Two are still alive - architect I.M. Pei and voice of Rocky Squirrel June Foray.

There's one Alaskan on the list - Judge Robert Boochever.  He's probably not a household name, but he was a fine judge and he was also the father-in-law of my doctor (until he retired.)

I hope to do more with this list, but I wanted to get it up on this first day of 2017 - one hundred years after these people were born.  While we know about people who gain public attention, we rarely (at least I rarely), think about people who are in the same cohort, or in this case the same birth year.  It fascinates me to think about these people all going to the same schools from Kindergarten through high school.  In that context, this chart below makes sense.  The famous folks are listed in birth order - something that would have meaning to kids.

These are all folks who would have grown up at the same time and been impacted by the same historical events - though from different parts of the world in a number of cases.  Ray Massey had a popular video tape many years ago that argued that people's world views are shaped by the times they lived and that explained differences between those who grew up during the depression and those who grew up after WW II.  We see the same sort of thing today in discussions about Millennials and other generations.  That certainly plays a factor in our world views.  So seeing this group of people who were all born in the same year gives one lots to think about.  In addition to the time they grew up, one has to consider their economic situation, race, geographic location, family influences, etc.

When I first made a list like this - 2008 - it was much harder to track people down.  That year I was googling "born 1908" to find people until I found a website that listed historical events by day in a year.  That's how I picked up many of the names.    Nowadays there are lots of sites that list people by birth year.  This year I used  NNDB  which has a long list of people born in 1917 and links to bios about each.   I'll try to do some bios about a few people on the list - particularly those not so well known, but who made significant contributions to the world.  You can see similar posts for other years by clicking on the "Famous People Born label".

If you find substantive errors or typos you can email me (see just above 'blog archive') or leave a comment.  Thanks.