Friday, February 03, 2023

About Making Assumptions: Looking Up Lisa Blatt Before Finishing This Post

 A week or so ago an attorney arguing before the US Supreme Court claimed:  [You can read the transcript here page 28.]

"but, yes, it's just been -- I mean, the world has been around for, like, 7,000 years, and no country has ever tried another country.


The case is TURKIYE HALK BANKASI A.S., )AKA HALKBANK, )  v. UNITED STATES and involves a challenge to the US' ability to bring suit against a Turkish bank on the grounds it is part of the sovereign nation of Turkiye.  (Yes, that's the new formal name of the country.)

"the world has been around for, like, 7,000 years"

Was this a joke?  Was it pandering to the Federalist Society appointed judges?  Was it the attorney's actual understanding of how old the world is?  

Trying to comment meaningfully on today's world is how I imagine a mosquito swarmed caribou in the midsummer Arctic must feel.  Every bite hurts a little but there are just too many to deal with. 

But I also know we must stand firm.  All the voting fraud legal losses have weakened Trump and his follower, and claimed  We shouldn't assume they have more power than they have.  

That said, I looked up Lisa Blatt to see if she's also a docent at Kentucky's Noah's Ark Encounter?

Sarcasm often floats over people's heads.  I learned quickly that I couldn't use it in class because there were always a few students who took my words literally.  

Not everything is as it appears.  Lisa Blatt is said to be the female attorney who has appeared most frequently before the US Supreme Court.  She's also a former RBG law clerk.  

Here's an interview with Lisa Blatt chair of the Supreme Court and appellate practice at Williams & Connollythat makes it pretty clear that she knows the world is more than 7000 years old and this might have been an unintentional bit of humor.  

 Is this post worth writing? If I just dealt with one mosquito among millions?  I think so, because the real point is to be careful about jumping to conclusions - which seems to happen with greater frequency as online media rush to be the first to report anything.  And if anyone reads this and checks on an assumption she's about to make, then yes.  

And I'm going to reiterate this theme in an upcoming post, so this is just a seed to get you ready.  

Thursday, February 02, 2023

Slow: Busy First Day At Spoutible And Envelope Navigating USPS [UPDATEd]

While there were some influential (the word influencer grates) folks invited to try out early, the pre-registered folks, like me, got our first look yesterday.  At 10am Alaska time.  The previous post covers what Spoutible is/hopes to be.  It appears to have been wildly successful in terms of lots of people signing up, but it's also been a massive traffic jam as the servers had trouble keeping up with everyone clamoring through the front door.  It took forever (30 seconds to over five minutes) for the site to respond to the cursor.  Here's this morning's Tweet from the driver behind Spoutible.

Clearly the 100,000 (my mind also remembers 200,000) folks who preregistered were eager to sign in right after the gates opened.  And that seems to have made it so sluggish that I've decided to wait a few days before trying to use it again.  Boozy had said Tuesday that they had built the platform with anticipation of lots of users.  Was he wrong?  Or were there more sinister players involved in making the debut hard to navigate?  I'm not accusing, just thinking out loud.  

The rest of the world can join next Wednesday as Bouzy launches this safer, less toxic version of Twitter.  And I will say, I saw no hate and lots of joy there.  Though I didn't see that much because of how slow it was.  

[UPDATE Feb 2, 2023 10pm:  I did go back and now Spoutible is running at a good pace.  They've fixed things, for now.]

And here's my other visual today (Feb 2):

We* mailed an 8X10-ish envelope at the midtown post office of January 14, 2023.  I made the envelope using old calendars pages.  It's going to Chile.  

As you can see, it purportedly left the midtown post office about five hours after we gave it to the clerk.  Then it took three days to get to the Anchorage distribution center.  (Not sure what that is - Airport Post office?  Something else?) THREE DAYS!  I've gotten mail from Los Angeles in three days.  

Four days later it was reported "in transit to next facility."  I took this to mean it was on it's way to Seattle.  But clearly I was wrong.  Why did this take four days?  It's got got a scannable code on it.  It's not some holiday mailing rush.

Nine days later it left Anchorage!  It took 15 days, just over two weeks to get from the midtown post office until it finally (it seems) departed from Anchorage.  It went first class and registered.  

I've had problems sending things to Chile in the past, but generally on the other end.  Just want this on the record here.  Not quite sure who to try to contact at the post office.  I'd leave a note for my mail carrier, but we're spending time with our daughter and her family.  

*I was sending it, but my wife actually took it to the post office.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Spoutible - From The Bird To The Whale

 Tomorrow, Spoutible will be available for the 150,000-200,000 people who have preregistered.  

Right now [well I was from 9am PST to 11ish]  I'm listening to Christopher Bouzy on a Twitter Space talking to several thousand people about tomorrow's launch.  I've heard him several times before talking about how they plan to make a platform that's easy for Twitter users to navigate, yet corrects many of the problems of Twitters.

[I'd also note that Boozy was the creator of Bot Sentinel, a site where you can check on people who post on Twitter.  Using Twitter's standards, Bot Sentinel rates users so you can see if the account is normal or harasses people.  They'll use that technology to track Spoutible users and I heard earlier you will be able to see the Bot Sentinal rating of people who reply to you.  At right is an example of a Bot Sentinel report.] 

First I'll list some key points I heard, then I'll just leave a very rough transcript of what was said (starting about an hour into the discussion)

Overview of Key Points as I heard them

  • User safety and security - the platform was designed to give users a safe space for discussion.  To that end a number of features have been put in place.
    • General security of the site aimed at making it harder to be hacked, and if hacked, harder to steal personal info of users because all is encrypted
    • Users can delete replies and block hateful users, this also blocks replies to the blocked users
    • Spoutible has tighter security for users joining (they have to give their phone number which also prevents someone from making more than two accounts with one number) and more vigilant system to detect users abusing the rules
    • Key feature ways to keep mis- and disinformation to a minimum 
    • Money and size less important to Spoutible than safety and security
  • Acknowledgement, repeatedly that 
    • no system is completely safe from hackers
    • that there will be mistakes, but they'll jump to fix them as fast as possible
    • determining the  right balance on issues (ie what is misinformation) will always be difficult
    • we're just starting, give us time to discover and fix bugs, work with us
  • Want to promote media and news outlets important
  • Only three months old, but have experience of Twitter, and will be adding features and tweaking system as it develops
  • Intentionally made it easy for Twitter folks to move over to Spoutible - it will feel comfortable and familiar.  
  • Expects that Twitter users with lots of followers will stay on Twitter until followers move over - but working on ways to post on both platforms at once

My notes - (not sure what time I moved to the laptop to take notes) (These are pretty rough, but I hope I've gotten the gist of the questions and the answers)

Anne - how quick a turnaround response to a hate attack? (She said she'd been a victim with death threats etc. on Twitter, had to call FBI and that Twitter was slow in responding.)

Christopher - we have tools to address swarming, trying to get folks to harass you, they'll get time out.  On the other side, sometimes people say dumb things, and they we won't take action if they aren't crossing the line.  

Crossing the line - is used a lot.  But Christopher recognized that figuring out where that line is.  

We have tools - you can delete replies and block people.  Would like to have folks hold off on those things until the platform has been up a while.  But you have tools to block things yourself if necessary.

Michael Morgan (was a test account for the last couple of weeks - says was not paid and is not connected to Spoutible)

Safe, Fresh, has your interests at heart.  Some platforms push the issues that rile you.  On Spoutible that isn't going to happen.  

Smoke detector - tells you about accounts.  [ I wasn't sure what Smoke Detector means.  sounds like some sort of warning system, or notification system.]

Spoutible eels like wearing comfortable slippers as you move from Twitter.

Q:  Will edition up tomorrow have push notifications?  What will Spoutible do to address feature parity  with other platforms.

Christopher:  We are trying to get Spoutible out as soon as possible, so focused on what people wanted first.  So yes, there will be push notifications so you know when people respond.  We can add features in suitable time frame.  Twitter, sometimes take months.  Some stuff we'll do in days, other in months.  The push stuff we'll have up soon.

Freature parity, laugh, we're trying not to fall into the trap, but don't have an  answer for that.

Melinda:  Thanks, sounds very good.  Planning on platform or stand-alone app, like Tweet deck, but they cancelled it.  Like it because dynamic.  Going to do something like that?

Christopher:  Tweet deck does still exist.  Don't worry about being nervous - I'm nervous.  It's in the pipeline to allow customize platform.  Most don't want that because they want to maximize platform.

Going to launch own app store to allow developers to extend the capability of Spoutible.  Not having that made making Spoutible work was much harder.[Not sure how to fix that sentence.]  Not sure when, but we'll do it.  Part of the road map to allow developers to come in.

Rick:  Working with media orgs?  Birdwatch?

Christopher:  That's the plan - like to work with other outlets to let you to text certain stuff.  Don't want just anyone to come in.  Not sure how, but will invite journalists to discuss.  Important to platform, but also to democracy in general.  Want to work with outlets to keep garbage off.  Don't want mis- and disinformation rampant.  Do we take off this misinformation?  Tag it?  Something deadly like treat COVID with bleach, will be removed.  Want to be the platform for media, researchers - people who fight this stuff.

???:  You're being really thoughtful in how you approach this stuff.  Use tools available and protect yourselves.  

Christopher:  Thanks for saying this.  I have a vision and had for a while.  Tried to get Twitter folks to see this, but they went on as business as usual.  Rare opportunity.  Twitter isn't the same anymore. If we had launched five months ago, it would have failed.  You wouldn't have moved.  I think we have a chance now - people want to leave for a better alternative - content moderation at scale is difficult, but we've built Spoutible with that in mind.  Someone being doxxed with phone number, user can remove themselves.  Be patient with us.  There'll be bugs.  Twitter had a long time to do this.  Give us time.  We've only had three months.  A year from now if you don't see us listening, then call us out.  First few weeks allow us to get our bearings.

Q:  Thanks, doing great job.  1.  Will you be able to keep media and reporters 

Christopher?  Will we address folks in the media who target Spoutible?  yes

2.  Have global manpower to support?  They have people in other countries, do you have that?

3.  Do you communicate with followers across the platform.  I have followers who are important for online fundraisers, will I be able to communicate with them.  

Christopher: 1.  going after journalists, I am pro journalists, news outlets, even ones negative to me.  But there are people who do that actively.  It would probably be addressed by the panel, do we ban the president, do we kick off journalists who are attacking?  Difficult questions.

2.  International?  Not yet.  Focusing on US first.  But there will be people using the platform, but if someone is spouting in another language, there are translators doing it automatically and can see.  But ultimately we will have people.  I believe in work from home model - you can have people moderating in France or Brazil and not have everyone in central place.  My team is spread around the world to develop safe platform. 

3.  Want to allow folks to cross post, - allow to Tweet and Spout simultaneously.  But present owner may shut that down.  One tech hurdle.  Spout 300 characters but Twitter fewer.  If you want to cross post you'll have to reduce # of characters.  I'm going to be Tweeting a while trying to get people over here.  People with 500k are going to stay on Twitter as well.  Not giving up those followers.  But eventually hope followers move.  If he shuts it off, he shuts it off.  Haven't figured out how to have seamless transition from one platform to another and keep all your followers.  

Dr. Kate - a lot of people earn a living saying terrible things about people.  Would you moderate for me or expect me to block them.  

Christopher -Say Meghan Markle.  How help this lady to breathe?  VP Harris and others.  Overwhelmingly women and women of color who go through this.   You have those tools in place you can use to prevent them from posting in your feeds.  I have been victim of people profiting off of hate.  On Spoutible will be extremely hard to do that. [But of course people will take that as a challenge.]  We also have to be proactive knowing who is own our platform.  If account is focused on attacking Meghan Markle or VP Harris we'll take it off.  Other platforms have this policy, but they don't enforce it.  Youtube channels could have 50 videos on Markle, they don't take it down.  On Spoutible, they will get removed.  Not just user, but Spoutible will too.  We know hostile nations will do this.  Why we want phone numbers.  We won't be perfect, but your experience on Spoutible will be vastly better than on Twitter

Gadi Ben-Yehuda - been on T since 2006.  I'm a  social media director, ability to manage those.  Someone mentioned Tweet deck, if I'm overseeing multiple accounts can I use single platform?  Encouraging businesses and more important government on.  My school is delayed, National Park Service.

Christopher:  Yes.  Extremely important.  But flip side to third parties to post on your behalf is completely different from a hostile foreign nation.  Only certain verified will be able spout on behalf of a user.  Outreach - we've had conversation, but focus for last few months was to get this up and running and then go for govt. agencies.  There are a lot of officials who have preregistered and even are on and testing.  Hope word of mouth.  Also want local organizations and authorities, so amber alert will be available on spoutible.  How can we make the platform better?  Part of us communicating?  Gotta be honest.  Only three months.  

Akunjee - They successfully brought in ways to onload people onto platform.  Get to set ethos - these are the sort of people here.  There townhall system allowing local conversations, to set up discussions on those issues.  Going to look at these?  

Christopher - Yes, no.  Not opposed to.  Open to suggestions.  How we've developed this platform - allowing you to give your ideas.  We took a lot and implemented them.  I took flak.  I had a vision.  Wanted you to participate.  So far worked well.  Something like that is a feature we'd be interested in that.  If you ask 10 people you get 10 different answers.  But if ask 10K you start seeing patterns.  I said earlier, no Nazis on the platform.  Misinformation/Disinformation number 2.  Took top stuff you wanted us to address.  Yes.  Clubhouse could work well on Spoutible.  Totally against waitlists.  You build something, you want a few folks to test.  We did.  But then need to open up.  If you have a waitlist, it stifles the momentum.  Even what we're doing, a week for the preregistered people, will slow us down, but I think it's for ???.  Not studio 54, you can come in, you can't.  Once the preregistered week is over, all can join

Julie - I was targeted by horrific racists - N word, videos, my 5 year old daughter.  Had to call FBI.  Eventually Twitter .   He duplicated my account  - bio, pics, etc.  And he Tweeted terrible things in my name.  Twitter wanted my drivers license.  I didn't want to give them that info.  If that happens on Spoutible.  Would we have to give Drivers License to verify identity.

Christopher.  Look at this from Twitter's perception, and sorry you had to go through this.  Horrible on platform and feel like platform not helping.  From Twitter's perspective.  How do I know that picture belongs to you.  Basic verification - customer service that handles bank security.  We don't want that.  But whatever company we partner with, what will they do with it?  Sell it?  No.  Just for verification.  If user targeted, get verified.  If another account steals it, we can take it down.  If this account is doing other stuff and doing crazy stuff - we'll take them down for other stuff.  But if stealthy, we have the problem of verifying.  People in this room opposed using phone numbers to verify.  We had to find balance.  Not looking to sell numbers or spam people.  With Spoutible resend an email or two a week.  No spam stuff.  Also to keep people from creating a bunch of accounts with one phone number.  It's encrypted.  Not selling.  

Hoping to launch about 12am, maybe 3am.  Definitely tomorrow.  Probably early.  

If you preregistered, your email address is on the list.  You have to use same email address, you have to use same email address.  Still debating about phone number confirmation.  Have 60-70 people try it out, have some bugs, but it's built to handle 1 million users, but we don't get those numbers.  If we have tech difficulties, be patient.  Prepared for more people.  Don't think 200K will sign up, it will be staggered.  

Is it fast?  Fast now, but we'll see in a week if it holds up.  Built with scale in mind.   Using service called ??Detectify.  Looking for vulnerabilities in our code.  Tried our best to make it as secure as possible.  But if a hacker finds something - there are people who spend all day hacking.  If firm tells us there's a problem, we'll notify you immediately.  Microsoft finds vulnerabilities all the time.  We will be.  If it happens, all they get will be encrypted data.  

Thanks for taking this journey with us.  I promised we'll get it up by mid-Jan or February.  We did that.  I promised certain features.  We did that.  Look at what we've done in 3 months and think about what we can do in a year.  Give us time to work it out.  It's not going to feel like a beta.  

We don't have to accept this crap, this misinformation/disinformation.  We can do something about it.  If you see us turning into another Twitter, you need to hold our feet to the flames.  Not about how many users or money, but success for us is protecting users.  


I did notice the remarkable situation of Spoutible holding this meeting on Twitter to encourage people to leave Twitter.  Did Twitter not notice?  Not care?  One commenter during the meeting asked when Twitter was going to shut them off.  Twitter never did.  

Thursday, January 26, 2023

"You have to risk it to get the biscuit." Sharman Haley On Hiking The Haute Route Through The Pyrenees

Sharman Haley's book, Perspectives on Place: An Alaskan Explores the Pyrenees came out early December.  It's an account of her walking tour on the the Haute Route, some 800 kilometers (500 miles) through the Pyrenees of Northern Spain. Sharman is a retired economist and sometimes that's reflected in the depth she explores things.  But the beautiful water colors of her partner and travel companion Michael Samoya offer a refreshing respite from the more difficult passages.  A good reflection of the hike itself I would imagine.  

Sharman is a friend and was a colleague at the University of Alaska Anchorage.  She let me view a prepublication copy in November and I've left a draft of this post languish since early December.  My hope here is to give a sense of the book by using quotes that reflect the variety of topics she experienced on the trek.  Not unlike many posts on this blog.  

This book is probably most useful and interesting taken along when doing this hike through the Pyrenees.  It's most basic organization is chronological, so hiking along the trail, one gets history, geography, natural history, along with descriptions of the trail and refuges along the way.  So Sharman's details of the history of various locations would add richness to one's hike.  

There's often a tendency to compare what you're seeing to what you know.  It's how we expand our world view and gives us insights into our own homeland and assumptions. Sharman does this explicitly by adding an Alaska perspective to each chapter.   For example, one chapter describes wars and treaties going back to the 1300s in Aragon.  The matching Alaska history only goes back as far as the Russian invasion in the 1700s.  While Haley acknowledges that Alaska Natives have been on the land for tens of thousands of years, she excuses leaving  out any of that older history on the grounds that Native cultures were oral, so we don't know.  However, there are archeological digs in Alaska that go back further than the Russians and matching them to archeological sites on the route might have been a better connection - perhaps comparing the archeology experiences of both places.  Using invasions as the common thread seemed a stretch.  

Here's a sampling of what you'll find on the pages of this unique book and, for me, engaging trip through the Pyrenees.  

Useful travel advıce:

"Sleeping at the refuge with 30 other people side by side in two long

bunks was an experience. It was surprisingly comfortable and went remarkably

smoothly. Everyone was organized and quiet and respectful going to

bed and getting up. We were comfortable, yet didn’t sleep soundly.

The showers were great and the water was really, scaldingly hot! I

washed my hair. There was no gender separation in the bathrooms but of

course doors on the stalls. Our two showers, two red wines, veggie dinner,

two beds and breakfast cost 96€. The refuge administrator was a very

friendly, funny, multilingual middle-aged woman. In the winter she teaches

informatics. The guests are totally international from all over Europe. We

met no other Americans. Everyone uses English as their travel language." (98)


There's mountaineering history:

"Interest in mountaineering surged in the late 19th century. The

climbing and camping equipment was primitive by today’s standards:

Hemp ropes and iron crampons were heavy, and canvas tents were out of

the question. In the Pyrenees, early rock and ice climbers targeted the north faces of the peaks surrounding the Cirque de Gavarnie, mostly a day trip out of town. As their ambitions extended further, the need for overnight mountain lodging grew. Caves and shepherds’ huts were their earliest forms of shelter on multi-day climbs.

The first mountaineering club was formed in Gavarnie in 1864, named

the Société Ramond in honor of the illustrious Pyrenean naturalist Louis

Ramond de Carbonnières. The French Alpine Club (FAC) was founded in 1874 with the aim "to encourage and favor the knowledge of the mountain and its individual or collective frequentation in all seasons," including in its mission "the construction, improvement and maintenance of shelters, chalets, shelters and trails." The !rst mountain club in Spain, the Centre Excursionista de Catalunya (CEC), soon followed in 1876. These organizations, along with individual benefactors, launched the network of mountain refuges we enjoy today." (99-100)

Along with Michael's water colors.


Details on wildlife:

"My favorite insect of the whole trip was the burnet moth (Zygaena anthyllidis).  While burnets are common throughout Europe, this particular species of burnet is unique to the higher elevations of the Pyrenees. The burnet is the most brilliantly colored moth I’ve ever seen: iridescent black, with big, red spots on the wings. Most moths are dull brown and only around at night to evade predators. The burnet doesn’t have to worry about that. The red spots tell potential predators that it is poisonous. The burnet carries hydrogen cyanide, both for protection and—get this—for mating. Sounds a little kinky, doesn’t it?" (p. 61)

We also learn about honey bees after Mike gets stung.  After Sharman relates the physiology of the sting and the  response in the body, we learn about the bees of the Pyrenees, and the history of domesticated honeybees in the region..

“Honey has been produced and consumed in France and Spain for

millennia. Cave paintings near Valencia, Spain, more than 8,000 years old depict men collecting honey. The Bible and the Koran praise the virtues of honey as a food of nutritional value. Spain is number one in the EU in the number of hives and sixth in honey production. Spain also produces more than half of the beeswax in Europe. I don’t know how many honey producers there are in the Pyrenees specically, but there are 27 in the Ariège region alone. You can find a lot of them online who advertise in glowing terms the high quality, "flavor and ecological properties of their mountain product and sell direct to the consumer.” (118)

Here's one of Mike's paintings showing the beehives along the path.  

I learned a few words:
"Compounding the economic squeeze, the emigration of rural labor to industrial centers resulted in a shortage of shepherds to conduct the seasonal transhumance* of sheep." (126)
*"Transhumance:  noun
the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains." (from
You can also tell that Haley was an economic policy analyst in a past life:
"More than two-thirds of the territory of Pallars Sobirà is under some
level of environmental protection. It also hosts seven ski resorts. In five
decades, the number of second homes in the region has mushroomed a
hundred-fold, from fewer than 25 to more than 2,500. While this boom in
the tourism economy has provided jobs, increased wages and helped to keep
some youth in the region, it has also increased property values and housing
costs for local residents. While the infrastructure has greatly improved,
temporary visitors and part-time residents do not enhance the social vitality
of the local communities. The transition also marks a decline in local
control, as more and more of the land use policies are defined by higher
levels of government and more and more of the businesses are owned by
nonlocal corporations."  p. 127
Interview with Jan, a German hang glider about why he was on the trail, people he'd met, and a link to this video :  - his version of this trail. (Worth watching.)  He related some lessons he learned on the hike to Sharman:
"First: Don't keep your food inside the tent! You could wake up in
the middle of the night with a hungry fox next to your sleeping bag.
Second: You can easily compensate for your lack of fitness with
good navigation skills.
Third: There is no excuse! Even an Acute Respiratory Distress
Syndrome* should not hold you back from experiencing great adventures.
You have to risk it to get the biscuit.
And fourth: François Lelord is a wise man." (147-8)

*Earlier he had recounted a hiker he'd met who slept with an oxygen device at night.   

The next quote contains an extraordinary account of surviving in the cold.  I guess it's not the only instance of something like that happening.  It's also a reminder that despite the different environments, people who lived 1000 years ago were not that much different than we are.   

"The town L'Hospitalet-près-l’Andorre was named for the hospital (travelers’ hostel) that was established there in the first decade of the 11th century. The hospital was founded by the knight Bertrand d’Enveight in fulfillment of his vow to do so if he survived a snowstorm that caught him on the westside of Col de Puymorens, south of the Haute Route, where Route Nationale 20 (N20) crosses today. He saved himself by slitting open the belly of his horse, removing the entrails and climbing inside till the storm passed. He fulfilled his vow and dedicated the hospital to Saint Suzanne,  patron saint of his aunt, Suzanne d'Enveight, dowager of Cerdanya, in whose domain he was traveling." (159)

Some of the history can get a bit tedious, but then there is another disaster story that would fit in any modern tabloid or social media.

"The hospital was damaged or destroyed by avalanches several times over the years and rebuilt. In one case, year unknown, Moles wrote:This time the incident had a more tragic outcome than the previous one, entombing 5 women and 3 children, amongst them the wife and children of the Landlord who being away in Benasque survived but returned to the shocking news that he was now a widower and childless."  (162)


We learn about the cork forests they walk through and how they fights climate change.

"Not only is cork production sustainable, but a harvested cork oak tree stores up to five times more carbon than an unharvested tree, since the tree

utilizes additional carbon in the regeneration of its bark. Each year, cork oak

forests account for 9 million metric tonnes (10 million tons) of CO2

absorption. Cork stoppers for wine bottles have a much lower carbon footprint

than wine stoppers made from aluminum or plastic. And the byproducts

are made into bulletin boards and floor tiles."  (186 -7)

The Author Gets To Win Arguments 

"May 25-26

The morning was overcast, giving way to partly sunny and windy in

the afternoon when we set out for our next waypoint, Montalba

d’Am.lie. Mike was a little impatient with how slow I was going

uphill, and needing to stop to eat, so he said, “Give me more weight. The

less you carry, the better off I am.” So he carried almost all the food, as well

as all the camping gear. I carried the potato chips and toast. Lightest pack


...On top of that, Mike’s knee became painful—probably from too heavy

a pack on too steep and rough a trail down after too many weeks without

hiking. [They did the whole trail in two parts.]  So the last hour coming down the road I took all the food. He tried to say it wasn’t making any di#erence in how his knee felt, but I said, “The less weight you carry, the better off I am.” The easy grade and firm surface made road walking easier on his knee than the trail had been, but it was easier for me too, and I was faster than he, even with the added weight, which, frankly, felt good. (196-8)

And a little more history

A second medieval monastery in the eastern Pyrenees, the abbey of 
Saint-Martin-du-Canigou, perches on a high cliff on the west flank of the Pic du Canigou. The primary access is by foot, 1,600 meters (1 mi) on narrow, steep path through the woods, above the town of Casteil. The original Benedictine monastery was endowed by Guifred, Count of Cerdagne, and consecrated in 1009. The Romanesque-style church was built on two levels: the lower, older crypt dedicated to the Virgin Mary, and the upper

church, completed in 1020, dedicated to St. Martin. The cloister was also

built on two levels, due to the steepness of the terrain.

The monastery has had a traumatic history. It was damaged in the

Catalan earthquake of 1428. It was secularized in 1782 by Louis XVI, abandoned by the monks and fell into disrepair. During the French Revolution,

the abbey was closed and its contents, including the sculptures and furniture,

were looted. Even the marble capitals from the pillars in the upper

cloister were removed and scattered through the neighboring villages. The ruins of the monastery lay empty for the entire 19th century. (192)


Some topics are hard to convey in words.  The birdsong descriptions probably mean little to those who haven’t already heard them or are very musical.

"The song of the tiny ruby-crowned kinglet is similarly loud and

complex. It typically has three parts: a series of high-pitched notes (zee-zeezee or tee-tee-tee), two to have low trills (turr or tu) and a repeated three note "galloping" phrase (tee-da-leet, tee-da-leet). Individual males sing their own variations, and females sing a shorter version of the song. The population of ruby-crowned kinglets is on the rise in less-disturbed habitats in northern latitudes".(p. 201)

While there are times Haley gets a little poetic, others are pretty dry recitation of facts: 

"In 1659, at the conclusion of the Thirty Years’ War, The Treaty of the

Pyrenees moved the border between the French and the Spanish monarchies

100 kilometers (62 mi) to the south where it is today, dividing French

and Spanish Catalonia. Roussillon became o#cially and permanently

French, but many inhabitants were still Spanish at heart. The medieval

fortress guarding the new border was handed over to France. In 1674,

during the Franco-Dutch War, the Spanish army occupied Bellegarde, but

the fortress was retaken by the French the following year.(p. 206)"

I'm sure sitting on the grass where this all took place after six hours of hiking makes this an interesting break.  

As I mentioned, this post has been sitting here as a draft for six weeks.  Today I added the pictures and cleaned up fonts and quotations.  So I'm going to just end abruptly here.  I enjoyed vicariously traveling with Sharman and Mike. For people not taking this hike, the book can give you a sense of what such an adventure is like.  And Mike's water colors are a delight and there's at least one in each chapter.  And I haven't really touched the sections on Alaska.  

Paperback Premium Color Print  (ISBN: 979-8-218-09640-3):              $35.95   $26.54   

Kindle e-book:   $9.99

Available at Alibris.  Publication date: December 1, 2022.





Monday, January 23, 2023

Harbor Walk And A South African Lawyer

Yesterday I took a walk down to the harbor here on Bainbridge Island.  

 And on my way back I did a double take when I saw this fairly mature palm tree.  Don't see a lot of them as far north as Seattle.  But All About Palm Trees tells there are some:

Palm Trees In Washington


There are specific varieties of cold hardy palm trees that can survive zones 8 and 9 of Washington state. Here are palm trees that can live in Washington: 


California Fan Palm Tree – Zones 8b - 11 (15 to 20 F) 

Canary Island Date Palm Tree – Zones 8b - 11 (15 to 20 F) 

Chinese Fan Palm Tree – Zones 8a – 11 (10 to 15 F) 

True Date Palm Tree – Zones 8b - 11 (15 to 20 F) 

European Fan Palm Tree – Zones 7b – 11 (5 to 10 F) 

Mexican Fan Palm Tree – Zones 8b - 11 (15 to 20 F) 

Queen Palm Tree – Zones 8b - 11 (15 to 20 F) 

Saw Palmetto Palm Tree – Zones 7a - 11 (0 to 5 F) 

But none of these quite look like the one in the picture.

And the South African lawyer.

My book club met tonight to discuss The Promise by Damon Galgut.  It won the 2021 Booker Prize. There were interesting things about it, but each of the  four parts involved a death and a funeral starting before Independence and then continuing afterward.  No one's life seemed to improve.  But there were a number of sentences with great imagery.  So I just wanted to share two:

"She's not so far advanced in matters of the spirit not to recognize the sound of a rare opportunity clearing its throat."

"The lawyer has amplified over the years, in harmony with her burgeoning practice.  Consumed two husbands along the way and still lazily digesting then. like a python in hibernation."

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Political Arsonists Need To Be Dealt With Firmly

 It's harder for me to actually sit down and write blog post these days.  I think it's because there are so many outrageous things happening that it's impossible to keep up with them, let alone do the research necessary to say something worthwhile.  Republicans are like political arsonists, setting fires everywhere.

And that may be the point - just ignite the world with so much brazen, anti-democratic bullshit, that the still sane part of the world spends all its time fighting these outrages and can't get anything else done.  It's part of Trump's legal strategy - just sue and countersue and sue again until the other side runs out of money or patience.  

Fortunately a judge finally called him on this. United States District Judge Donald Middlebrooks wrote a blistering order.  I've pulled out some of the conclusions he made.  Each conclusion is followed by detailed citations of law and the facts of the cases, for which you'll have to read the whole ruling itself here. 

"This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start. No reasonable lawyer would have filed it. Intended for a political purpose, none of the counts of the amended complaint stated a cognizable legal claim."

"Thirty-one individuals and entities were needlessly harmed in order to dishonestly advance a political narrative. A continuing pattern of misuse of the courts by Mr. Trump and his lawyers undermines the rule of law, portrays judges as partisans, and diverts resources from those who have suffered actual legal harm."

"I find that the pleadings here were abusive litigation tactics. The Complaint and Amended Complaint were drafted to advance a political narrative; not to address legal harm caused by any Defendant."

"The 819 paragraphs of the 186-page Amended Complaint are filled with immaterial, conclusory facts not connected to any particular cause of action."

"The Amended Complaint is a hodgepodge of disconnected, often immaterial events, followed by an implausible conclusion. This is a deliberate attempt to harass; to tell a story without regard to facts."

"In order to understand the scope of this abuse, multiply the above discussion by thirty-one defendants and their lawyers, forced to try to analyze and defend against the sprawling Complaints."

"I sifted through the thread of allegations against each defendant only to find they added up to no cognizable claim. And the pleadings were drafted in a way to disguise that fact."

"The Plaintiff consistently misrepresented and cherry-picked portions of public reports and filings to support a false factual narrative. Often the report or filing actually contradicted his allegations. It happened too often to be accidental; its purpose was political, not legal. Factual allegations were made without any evidentiary support in circumstances where falsity is evident."

"C. The Plaintiff’s Legal Theories Were Frivolous, Foreclosed By Existing Precedent.
The Plaintiff recklessly advanced claims foreclosed by existing precedent that the most basic legal research would have revealed. It was not that the Complaint and Amended Complaint were inadequate in any respect, they were inadequate in nearly every respect, even after the deficiencies had been identified in the multiple motions to dismiss."

I have explained why the totality of the problems with the Complaint, Amended Complaint, and the arguments and statements of Plaintiff’s counsel show that this lawsuit was filed and prosecuted in bad faith. But this case is part of Mr. Trump’s pattern of misusing the courts to serve political purposes. Federal courts have both the inherent power and the constitutional obligation to protect their jurisdiction from conduct that impairs their ability to carry out Article III functions."

This was punctuated with a $937,989.39 judgment, mostly to pay the attorneys fees of the defendants.  

Thomas Zimmer, @tzimmer_history, who  teaches history at Georgetown University warns that  putting out these fires won't only be done with reason and logic.  

Fortunately, most judges still base their decisions on reason and logic as did Judge Middlebrooks.  But Trump's weapon is bravado and bullshit.  Bravado for his cult members and bullshit to clog up the courts, muck up the media, and generally make truths harder to discern.  

To a great extent these political and social arsonists have escaped serious punishment if any at all.  That emboldens them to set more fires. As the judge pointed out in his ruling, the court losses that Trump suffered were all used as evidence to his cult of the corruption of the courts.  

Until we find the tools and the will to adequately apply consequences for these arsonists, things will just get worse and worse.  

[Readers, either accept this ending or create one of your own.  These topics have no neat endings, they spill out into all directions defying a succinct wrap-up with which NPR and other media are wont to end their news stories.]

Monday, January 16, 2023

If You Live Long Enough . . .

 While we were in LA I tried to go through more boxes of stuff in the garage.  The most obvious things have been taken home, given away, donated, recycled, and tossed into the trash.  What's most left are various tools - screwdrivers, saws, gardening tools - that can be used around the house, and items that have some sentimental value.  

One day I found a valise full of condolence cards my mom received when my step-father died back in 1983.  That's almost 40 years ago!

The nearest empty  horizontal space was the hood of the car.  There were lots of cards and letters, most local, but a fair number from other parts of the US, Mexico, and Europe.  Do people get so many letters still today?  Not famous people, but just ordinary folks?  Or has email and FB and text and other media cut way back on communications via the post office?  

I went through them all and decided it was time for most of them to go on to a new life via the recycling bin.  I saved some with foreign stamps for my grandson who I'm hoping will find them of interest since there are drawers of stamps in the garage too.  

Most of the cards and letters were what you'd expect from condolence messages.  There were quite a few from people I had never hear of.  And then there was one that stood out from all the rest - from someone I'd never heard of that gave a glimpse of my step-father's life I'd never heard about:  his World War II service in the US Army.  

I don't know the exact chronology, but he was a German Jew who had escaped Hitler before the war broke out.  He had gotten his US citizenship and then (probably) was drafted into the army when WWII broke out.  What he did during the war, I had no idea.  

Until I read this letter, which I think may be of interest to others as well.  It covers, fairly briefly, the story of native German speakers, who were also fluent in English, who were used in Europe to interrogate prisoners and translate documents.  I've made it higher than normal resolution in hopes people will be able to read it.  

you should be able to enlarge by clicking on the image

I'm also putting it here in hopes that it might eventually be discovered by John Henry Richter's children and/or grandchildren because I would love to hear the tapes he talks about making in the letter.  Or maybe someone has transcribed them.  

The letter got me to do something I'd been putting off - call my mom's friend Edith.  We'd been taking her out to dinner during out annual visits to LA, but hadn't seen her since before the pandemic.  And I know why I didn't call.  She was about 95 last time we saw her.  I was afraid she was no longer with us.  But I called anyway and left a message - though it was her daughter's voice on the voice mail.  

But Edith called us back shortly and invited us for coffee.  We offered to bring the pastries.  She told us she was 95!  When we got to her house the next day we were pleasantly surprised to see how easily she was walking and carrying things from the kitchen to the dining room, and even bending down to pick things up.  And her mind was totally clear.  Only her hearing is a problem.  She was good on the phone because she has an app that turns the speech into text on the phone.  And while she did talk about the past in response to a couple of questions I had, she also asked detailed questions about the mechanics of renting out my mom's house when we aren't there (most of the time.)  I was going to video some of her WW II experiences - she got out of Austria as a 14 year old just after the Germans took over there.  She got to England where her mother was doing domestic work in a large house.  

But she said that the Austrian government had sent someone out to interview her a couple of years ago.  They are documenting the lives of Austrian Jews who fled - and perhaps some that survived but I don't know.  In fact you can hear her story here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

More Water Pictures

 Not sure why keeping this up-to-date is getting so difficult.  It's hard to blog while driving from SF to LA.  And then there were a bunch of followups on the repair work at my mom's house.  

But despite the rain last Tuesday night, the morning had cloudy sunshine.  

And walking along the boardwalk in Cambria  was spectacular.  

The rain that was predicted hadn't arrived yet.  

There was a steady supply of waves roaring toward the shore. If you ever consider a stopover between LA and SF, I highly recommend a hotel along Moonstone beach.  It's off the main highway and the Boardwalk offers magnificent, life affirming views and sounds.  

The birds were enjoying it too.  And part of my delay was me remembering how I used to play around with my photos before putting them up, and so I dabbled with Photopea - a free online program that is very close to photoshop.

But we had to move along to get to LA before five to turn in the rental car.  But we did have sun most of the way.  Everything was significantly greener than when we'd driven up this way.  

We stopped in Santa Barbara to test the reciprocity between the Anchorage Museum and the Santa Barbara museum of art.  Key areas of downtown maintain a Mexican like architectural style. Below is the city hall.

And here's a nearby city parking garage, where parking was free for the first 75 minutes.  Since we didn't have too much time, that was perfect.  
Then on back to LA where we dropped off the car and found a good vegan restaurant.  In LA it was threatening to rain again and but the storm held off for another day, and then we got lots and lots of rain.  But we haven't seen any flooding except for the normal rush of water going down the hill the house is own.  Had to rescue trash cans that floated down the street.  

We did have a Persian dinner the other night with lamb shanks. When I stray from the basically veggie and fish, it should be really worth it.  And it was.  Looking forward to being back in Anchorage soon.  

Saturday, January 07, 2023

Calm Before The Storm

Sunday (I'm so far behind here)  in San Francisco was beautiful and I went along with my son's family and two other couples with kids to Mussel Rock - which turned out to be a hang gliding spot.

If you look closely, there's a hang glider in the upper right hand corner. Gliders are easier to see in the next shot. I'd note that we're technically in Daly City and that water curves right at the top and under the Golden Gate Bridge.     

This was also January 1, 2023,  the day after San Francisco had record rains and headlines said things like "California brought to its knees by weather."  Clearly we were fine, the weather was great and we didn't pass any flooded streets.  Beware of headlines, particularly about disasters.  The photos tend to show the one or two extreme examples.  Of course, there are actual disasters where there is widespread damage.  

As you can see from the background, this is the same spot.  

And the first moonrise of 2023 was happening above the houses on the cliff above the beach area.  I'm sure these houses have great views of the ocean.  But I grew up in LA and remember houses like this siding down the side of the hill.  

And another sign nearby showed that the parking lot where I took the first pictures from was right on the San Andreas fault line.  What could go wrong?  But I'm the sort of guy who sees a glass near the edge of a table and I see it getting knocked off the table.  And move it toward the middle of the table.  

Monday more rain was predicted and there was some drizzle as we headed back down to LA.  We had wanted to go back down Highway 1 through Big Sur to look once more for condors and then to the elephant seal beach again.  But there was a rockslide a bit north of the elephant seal beach.  Coming down Highway 101 was easier and we could cut back to the coast to Cambria and be about 15 miles south of the targeted beach.  

It was a bit windy and chilly and there was some rain watching the seals.  But I think it would take a long time for me to get tired of watching them.  There were a lot more and this time we could see lots of little pups. 


I checked several sites because I'd assumed that the ones with the elephant like noses were the miles and the internet confirmed that.  So this is a male with the baby that was exploring and generated an attack from a nearby female.  The male just put his considerable weight on the pup to keep it from scooting off into trouble.

They work really hard moving on land.  You can see this one's trail up out of the water.

So that gets us to Monday afternoon.  We spent the night in Cambria again.