Thursday, September 29, 2011

Redistricting Board's Submission to DOJ - Part 1

The Alaska Redistricting Board submitted its plan for approval from the Department of Justice (DOJ) on August 9, 2011.  DOJ has 60 days to approve or not - which gets us to about October 10 or 11.  It's taken me a while to get to posting about this, but I do think people should know about it.  So I'm finally getting Part 1 up.

Alaska is one of 16 states (I've seen different numbers, but this seems to be the most common) that are required to have their decennial redistricting plans cleared by the DOJ.  I haven't tracked down the specifics of what got Alaska onto the list.  You can read more on the Voting Rights Act on Wikipedia.  Here's a bit from the Minnesota Senate website on preclearance under the Voting Rights Act:

In 1975, Congress extended the preclearance requirements for an additional seven years (through the 1980 redistricting cycle). The 1975 amendments added to the list of tests and devices the conduct of registration and elections in only the English language in those states or political subdivisions where more than 5 percent of the voting age population belonged to a single language minority group (including Alaskan natives, Native Americans, Asian Americans and people of Spanish heritage). The 1975 amendments also required the use of bilingual election materials and assistance if 5 percent of the jurisdiction's voting age citizens were of a single language minority and the illiteracy rate of that language minority group was greater than the national average. Finally, the coverage formula was extended to include jurisdictions that maintained any test or device and had less than half of their voting age population either registered on November 1, 1972, or casting votes in the 1972 presidential election. In all, 16 states or parts of states now are covered by Section 5 preclearance requirements, as shown in table 6.  [red font added]
You can get a .pdf copy of the Alaska Redistricting Board's  submission at the Redistricting Board's website. (See DOJ Submissions on the right at the Board's website) They sent in lots of material. 

A key part is the Submission Statement.  The statement is 18 pages long and essentially goes through the steps of how the plan was developed.  It's relatively straightforward, though it is written by an attorney for attorneys in the Department of Justice and uses a lot of terms of art that people familiar with the topic will understand, but others might find hard to get through.  This isn't a criticism, just a warning.

As I understand this, the key thing the DOJ must do is determine that there has been no retrogression - or as the board's attorney would assert, "No unjustifiable retrogression."  The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965, shortly after the Civil Rights Act was passed to ensure that barriers to voting under segregation in the South would be removed and that African-Americans would be able to not only vote, but have meaningful votes.  Part of this means that they wouldn't be gerrymandered into districts that diluted their voting strength.  But this applies to other minorities whose voting strength is diluted by the way districts are drawn.

Alaska is one of the 16 states because the courts, in the past, found discrimination against Alaska Natives.  Part of the test of the fairness of the districts is whether the votes of Alaska Natives can make a difference, whether their percentage in the population is reflected in the voting results.  Past law suits have resulted in what are called Native Districts.  From the Board's submission:
Alaska Natives are the only minority group covered under the Voting Rights Act (“VRA” or “Act”) of sufficient size and geographic concentration in Alaska that qualify as a language minority of potential concern for purposes of redistricting. The proposed redistricting plan is free from discriminatory purpose and will not result in retrogression in the position of Alaska Natives with respect to their exercise of the electoral franchise because it maintains the same number of effective Alaska Native legislative districts as the Benchmark plan.
"Same number of effective districts" is the key phrase here. 
The Benchmark Plan reflects the current legislative districts with the 2010 Census population data. Using the target “effectiveness’ standard derived by Dr. Handley, the Benchmark Plan contains four “effective” Alaska Native House districts (Districts 37, 38, 39 and 40) and three “effective” Alaska Native Senate districts (Districts R, S and T) that consistently elect Alaska Native-preferred candidates even when voting is polarized. Additionally, there is one “equal opportunity” House district (District 6) that contains substantial Alaska Native voting age populations but did not always elect the minority-preferred candidate, and one “influence” district (District 5) that has consistently elected an Alaska Native even though not always the Alaska Native-preferred candidate.
What does that mean?

Benchmark plan, as I understand this, is the plan the new one is evaluated against.  It's the final 2001 plan which was the basis for the existing Alaska legislative districts which, until the new plan is adopted, is still in effect.  The VRA requires that there be no 'retrogression,' that is, no decrease in the number of Native districts from the benchmark plan.

It turns out there are different kinds of "Native" districts:

Effective districts - consistently elect Alaska Native-preferred candidates even when voting is polarized. [Polarized voting means that non-Natives vote as a bloc against the candidates the Native voters favor.]

Equal opportunity districts -  contain substantial Alaska Native voting age populations but did not always elect the minority-preferred candidate,  [Minority here means Native]

Influence districts - consistently elected an Alaska Native even though not always the Alaska Native-preferred candidate.  [The key example used here was District 5 where a Republican Native was elected over the Native preferred Native.]

Actually, the terminology used last time and at the beginning of the process this time included "majority" and "influence" districts.  I discussed the old terms - Majority-minority and Minority-influence districts- in a post last April for those who need more than this post to get to sleep.

In any case, no retrogression means maintaining nine Native districts at least six of which are, in the new lingo, "Effective Districts" plus three "Influence Districts." 

The Board's submission explains to the DOJ - which of course understands the terminology since they created it - how things had changed in Alaska (ie. many rural Alaska Natives had moved into the cities thus decreasing the populations of the previous Native districts) and how the Board adapted to the changes.  I would note that the census indicates there are enough Alaska Natives living in Anchorage to make a Native Majority district, but since they are scattered throughout the Anchorage area and not 'geographically concentrated,'  it's probably impossible to create such a district.

Why is it likely to be approved?

I'm not an expert on this and I'm simply going on what I absorbed watching the Board meetings.   On the whole, I'm guessing the DOJ will approve the plan even though one of the districts (38) is very large and combines suburbs of Fairbanks with Yupik speaking coastal villages off the road system.
  • The old plan contained a similarly large district (but without such an urban area)
  • None of the private groups that submitted alternative plans were able to come up with more than nine Native districts - though perhaps DOJ might find that they have better districts
  • There have been no court challenges regarding the Voting Rights Act districts (the deadline for suing is long past) and 
  • the Voting Rights Act consultant, Lisa Handley, is someone who works closely with the Department of Justice on these sorts of issues.   As she presented herself to the Board, she's pretty current on the standards they use to approve and she herself approved the plan before it got sent in.  
But it's much less expensive to send in comments to the DOJ than to file a law suit, so perhaps people who think the VRA standards were not met have sent their comments to DOJ.

There are three law suits - two from Fairbanks  about District 38 and one from Petersburg.  District 38, which splits relatively close Yupik villages from Bethel and connects them to Fairbanks, may be of interest to DOJ as well, but I wouldn't hold my breath.  The Board had a difficult job crafting a plan with nine Native districts which also following the other standards set forth in the Alaska Constitution and statutes - particularly having compact and socio-economically integrated districts.  It's hard getting districts the right size (close to 17,755 people each) and meeting all the criteria.  And, as the Board's attorney told the Board, Federal law supersedes the State Constitution and Statutes.

Coming Soon

What I've discussed above is the important part of the Submission.  But my time has been spent recently focused on the section of the Submission called "Publicity and Participation."  It's the part I have the most expertise in and the part I encountered daily as I blogged the Board.  It's also the part where I think the board did poorly.   I spent a fair amount of time comparing what the Submission says to what I experienced.  I've sent a lengthy comment on that to the DOJ and am figuring out how to make that into a reasonably sized post.  I'll get something up on that soon.

Libyan Rebel Leader Says He Was Victim of CIA Torture in Bangkok's Don Muang Airport 2004

I don't have a lot of time for this, but did want to at least link to this piece which comes from documents found in Gadaffi's stash which adds information to what we know about the CIA torture activities in Thailand.  It comes from journalist Richard S. Ehrlich.  It's at what appears to be a New Zealand website Scoop:

Mr. Belhaj -- known by his nom de guerre, Abdullah al-Sadiq -- was named in at least two of the tens of thousands of documents recently discovered in Mr. Gadhafi's External Security buildings, in the Libyan capital, after rebels took over Tripoli.

As the article itself says at the bottom, a CIA interrogation site had been mentioned in the past.
Testimony by U.S. officials and other investigations earlier confirmed the CIA secretly waterboarded other suspects in Thailand in 2002, two years before Mr. Belhaj's ordeal in Bangkok.
At that time, the CIA secretly waterboarded suspected al-Qaeda facilitator Abu Zubaydah, and USS Cole bombing plotter Abd al-Nashiri in Thailand, but the location has not been made public.
In 2005, the CIA's former head Porter Gross, and his top aide, reportedly agreed to destroy videotapes kept in Bangkok documenting harsh interrogation, according to internal CIA e-mails.

He apparently was fingered by Gadaffi and caught and tortured at Don Muang - Bangkok's main airport until a few years ago.
London's Guardian newspaper reported on Sept. 5, however, that Britain's M16 intelligence agency helped the CIA in March 2004 arrest Mr. Belhaj, who is now a powerful commander in Tripoli for the anti-Moammar Gadhafi transitional government.
"Belhaj was detained by the CIA in Thailand in 2004 following an MI6 tip-off, allegedly tortured, then flown to Tripoli, where he says he suffered years of abuse in one of Muammar Gaddafi's prisons," the Guardian reported.
"MI6 had been able to tell the CIA of his whereabouts, after his associates informed British diplomats in Malaysia that he wished to claim asylum in the UK.
"Belhaj was then allowed to board a flight for London and abducted when the plane called at Bangkok," the Guardian reported.
In 2004, all international flights in and out of Bangkok -- including Mr. Belhaj's supposed British Airways flight -- used only Don Muang International Airport.
In Malaysia, he had bought "a ticket to London via Bangkok," the paper said.
"I got on the plane," Mr. Belhaj said, believing the flight would stopover for refueling in Bangkok and that he would be welcomed in London and given political asylum.
"Belhaj was captured by CIA officers, in co-operation with Thai authorities, inside Bangkok airport.
"He says he was tortured at a site in the airport grounds," the Guardian said.
"I was injected with something, hung from a wall by my arms and legs and put in a container surrounded by ice," he told the Guardian on Sept. 5, describing his alleged treatment at Bangkok's international airport by two people he described as CIA agents.
"They did not let me sleep, and there was noise all the time. And then they sent me to my enemy," Mr. Belhaj said, referring to his secret rendition flight by the CIA from Thailand to Libya.
 The whole piece is at Scoop.

Here's what it says about the author:
Richard S Ehrlich is a Bangkok-based journalist who has reported news from Asia since 1978. He is co-author of "Hello My Big Big Honey!", a non-fiction book of investigative journalism. His web page is

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Adapting Old Traditions to New Times - Dipping the Apple in the Honey

Tonight is the eve of Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the Jewish new year.  Services begin tonight at sundown, then continue tomorrow, and Friday.  Rosh Hashana is the holiday, along with Yom Kippur, ten days later, that even Jews who rarely attend synagogue observe.

One of the traditional customs of Rosh Hashana is to dip pieces of apple into honey as a symbol of a sweet new year.  From the Baltimore Jewish Times:

The most popular [tradition] is, of course, dipping apples in honey. Here’s the story behind this delicious activity:

The honey is all about sweetness, of course.

The apple was selected because of its abundance throughout the ancient land of Israel. The Torah, the Talmud, rabbinic and kabbalistic literature all mention—and praise—the apple, an honor accorded no other fruit.

When the apple is dipped in the honey, this pronouncement is recited:

“May it be Thy will O Lord, our God and God of our fathers, to renew unto us a good and sweet year.”

Of course, this being about Jewish customs, everyone will give you a different interpretation of the origin of the custom.

But this year, thanks to Deb's post on Facebook, I have learned about a slight adaptation of this custom.  Even if you are not Jewish, you should watch this video.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Image in Images Out - Google's New Reverse Image Search

I noticed today Google was offering me the ability to do an image search,  not by using words, but actually putting the image into the search window. (Did this start a while ago and I just missed it? See more below on this.)

click to make it clearer

I tried it. First I dragged in a picture I'd recently put up on my blog and it found it. It wasn't instant, but maybe 15 or 20 seconds. (A 2.7 MB image took over 4 minutes)

Then I tried an image of a painting of a lotus I'd taken, but not posted.. It found nothing, but gave me what it called "visually similar images."

You can judge for yourselves how 'similar' these are. I need some visual artists to tell me why Google found these others similar.  To me, color is clearly important.  Then the shape - Google seems to see two circles, and how space is taken up in the image.

There are a lot of potential consequences of this ability - whether they are positive or negative depends on whether you are the beneficiary or victim.

1.  You see someone on the street and you take their picture.  Then you could look them up on the web.

Well, this is still in the future.  They don't seem to be doing face recognition yet as you can see below.

It's basically faces that are approximately the same size and have a similar color background.  The original has a full head of hair and a beard, but the pictures include smooth shaven and bald folks and even two women and a baby.   The baby might have been chosen because the background is so similar. 

2.   If someone wanted to see if others were using his copyrighted image, this might help find it.
At this point, this seems like a good use.  It appears the closer the picture is to the original the more likely it is to show up.  Of course if they only used a part of the picture, it probably won't show up because it would change the shape/form and basic colors.  [See more below.]

3.  If you wanted to identify a bird or a flower, this could be a good tool, but so far it isn't.  When I tried a close up of a  round pink flower, it gave me other round pinkish flower closeups, but it clearly wasn't paying any more attention to the flower details than it was paying attention to the facial details above.  They were totally different flowers - again, it was all about the color and shape in relation to the size of the image.

I'm sure this will be refined, and as it is, it will start to change the conditions of privacy even further than Facebook and other internet applications already have.

When you click on "Learn More" you get a page which tells you which browsers are compatible with this:
  • Chrome
  • Firefox 3.0+
  • Internet Explorer 8+
  • Safari 5.0+
It also says that the pictures you put into search then become part of their library.  I think I'll be sparing about what I put in.

"Google's use of user-submitted images and URLs

When you use Search by Image, any images that you upload and any URLs that you submit will be stored by Google and treated in accordance with our Privacy Policy. Google uses those images and URLs solely to provide and improve our products and services."

This is below, where the more is.

I decided I better google to see if it's been there a while and I just missed it.  First I found this (notice 2009) and I couldn't believe I'd been so unaware - until I read it all.

Similar Images graduates from Google Labs

10/27/2009 03:34:00 PM
Today, we're happy to announce that Similar Images is graduating from Google Labs and becoming a permanent feature in Google Images. You can try it out by clicking on "Find similar images" below the most popular images in our search results. For example, if you search for jaguar, you can use the "Find similar images" link to find more pictures of the car or the animal.

Same words - ' similar images' - but for text searches.  So that's totally different.

It appears the video they use to promote this when you click learn more, was on  Youtube June 13, so I am a bit behind here.

Searchnewz has a June 15 report saying this feature, which was originally available on something called TinEye and called 'reverse image search' was appreciated by photographers looking for copyright infringement.  It was available on Chrome then, so that might be why I hadn't seen it earlier.  [I've added 'reverse' to my title now.]

Pundit Kitchen did a search like my face search above on June 15 and found Google couldn't distinguish between Obama and Bush.

A July 15 article at addons suggest this was only available on Firefox as an addon, so perhaps it's just recently become a standard Firefox feature.

Technicallydigital has a post touting it as an addon for Mozilla-Firefox on September 19.  I'm feeling better about just noticing it on Firefox today, but I'm guessing it's been up a few days.

La Casa de las Conchas - Manhattan Shorts in Salamanca

Tomás sent me this picture of "the house of the shells" in Salamanca, Spain where he's going to see the Manhattan Short Film Festival Wednesday.  He's a  serious film buff as well as a wickedly good artist/cartoonist.  His blog is listed on the right - Waldo Walkiria.  He's also put up a new website. 

This an idea of a world wide film festival, where everyone sees the same ten films at the same time around the world, along with internet technology, means that Tomás and I will be able to discuss these films even though I live in Alaska and he lives in Spain. I'm interested in finding out which film he votes for as the best and what he thinks about them all.

If anyone else has a photo of your local Manhattan Short Film Festival venue - send it in and let me know which films you liked.

The website doesn't show the different cities well.  When you find the country - or state - the cities are listed on the top.  The brochure we got shows some Alaska locations and dates.  The website shows venues but not dates.  So here are the Alaska ones:
  • Matsu folks - it says Strange Bird (venue) online and in the brochure in Palmer on  October 1 and 2 
  • Petersburg  is on the brochure for September 29 and online  at the Arts Council at 12 Nordic Drive at 7pm.
  • Juneau isn't in the brochure, but online it says it's at the Gold Town Theater Sept. 29, Oct. 1 and 2. 
  • Talkeetna and Anchorage - it's already over in these places.  
Then let's chat here about which films you liked and why.

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Meet Mildred, Anchorage's Newest Street

    Well, probably newest street sign might be more accurate.  I'm pretty sure it wasn't up this morning.  Mildred Place is named after Mildred Nash who came to Anchorage with her husband RD.  They'd grown up in Texarkana picking cotton.  Got married and then moved to California.  And then drove up to Anchorage.

    We moved in across the street from the Nashes in the late 70s.  They'd been here since the 50's when our side of the street was all woods and they would tell us of seeing bears now and then.  We learned a lot about the history of Anchorage from them.  My basic bread recipe is also from Mrs. Nash.  It's still on our refrigerator door in her handwriting, just so I don't leave an ingredient out. 

     Mr. Nash died in 1989 or 90 - while my family was with me on sabbatical to Hong Kong.  This picture was taken by my daughter when Mrs. Nash was in her 80s.  There's an audio tape too which I'll try to put up in a future post. 

    Mrs. Nash was the best neighbor you could ever want.  We laughed a lot together.  When she was 87 her cancer returned and this time she couldn't fight it off.  Friends from church were organized and a different person stayed with her each day and her son and her dog Ebony were always nearby.  Ebony, a tiny little dog, slept on her bed with her.  My job was to sneak in her favorite foods and to make her laugh.  It wasn't long before she was giggling whenever she saw my face.  What a great pleasure it was to be able to put a smile on the face of my dying friend. 

    Nash Place is just a block long, starting along Mrs. Nash's property where her son still lives today.

    The alley's been there forever.  But as I understand it, a new duplex was built with its 'streetside' facing the alley, and they petitioned to have the alley made into a street.  Here's the only address on Mildred Place.  

    This is one 'new' street that I totally approve of.  It actually has been around for at least 40 years, it was left unpaved just as it's been, and it was given a name that honors a woman who lived next door and made the lives of all the people in the neighborhood sunnier.

    What a great way to remember a great member of the Anchorage community.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Great Story Behind Incredible Lace

    click to enlarge

    As I looked into the gallery at OutNorth

    my eye was drawn immediately to the lace. 

    It was incredible.  I'm not a connoisseur, but when something is this good, even I notice.   My camera slipped itself out of my pocket and into my hand and started trying to  capture the exquisitely detailed beauty of this lace.  My camera and I were only moderately successful.  Between the light, the detail, the reflections, and how high up on the wall some of the lace was, and no tripod, this is the best we could do. (I saved the top photo in higher resolution than normal, so click on it for details, but I didn't want to make this page too slow to open, so the others are lower res.)  If you're in the Anchorage area, you can go see these masterpieces yourself.

    Nothing was up about the exhibit except the labels with the name Beverly Bronner and descriptions like "Bobbin Lace (Belgian Binche), 140 cotton."  What did that mean?  I found Ryan who gave me the email of curator, Keren Lowell.  And she promptly sent me this reply:

    "The lace was made by Beverly Bronner. She lives in Anchorage, and is an incredible person. She's older, and she got it into her head to learn how to make bobbin lace, which in its simplest form involves tracking the interlacings of dozens of little tapered spools of thread.

    "The beginnings of the lace are pinned to a special pillow, which keeps the order of the threads in place while it is being made. Coarse lace is difficult to make even for someone used to the complex patterns of weaving, knitting and crochet.

    "Beverly took a workshop in basic Belgian lacemaking techniques, and then taught herself how to make the work you saw in the gallery. It is made with the finest (thinnest) cotton thread made (140 count).  [For an interesting history on thread count, see Anichini.]  The piece that had a border of swans intertwined with lace took her three years to make. It was all done by hand, and as far as I can tell, is indistinguishable from lace made by masters.

    "After she made the lace, she had to locate the cloth for the center. A place in Belgium sells the antique fabric, but would not sell it to her until they saw the lace in person, so she flew to Belgium to gain their approval.
                 This piece was about 4 inches across
    "After she bought the fabric, she had to find a lacemaker who knew how to stitch the lace to the fabric, and she found a woman in her 90s who agreed to do the work (for no pay). The rest of the pieces in the gallery have equally interesting stories, and Beverly would be glad to relay them. She is amazing. She just took up weaving and her first woven piece was something a weaver with several years of experience would be proud of.

    So, there you have it.  Lucky folks in Anchorage can see this incredible work for themselves.  OutNorth is on Primrose and DeBarr (3800) - kittycorner from Costco DeBarr.  Their website gives their hours:

    Gallery Hours
    12-6pm Tues-Fri
    and during events

     Thanks Beverly for sharing your passion, and to Keren for putting this show together and taking the extra time to give me that background. 

    Some people might wonder about my breathless posts, but we have such talented folks in Anchorage who do such amazing things, that there's lots to be breathless about.  And I'm convinced that Scott Schofield, the artistic director, somehow manages to pull a lot of them into OutNorth.  And I tend not to write about things I didn't like.  There's enough good stuff to keep me busy.

    By the way, the other fabric work in the exhibit was also worth looking at.  Here's a scarf by Clydene Fitch. 

    And a yarn basket offered by Sherri Rogers.

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Ten Films - Two Hours - One Week - Around the World - Manhattan Short Film Festival

    The films have been narrowed down to ten.  From Peru, Canada, Hungary, Scotland, Australia, USA (2), Egypt, Sweden, and Switzerland.  The shortest one was 8 minutes, the longest 18, but most were right around 10 or 11 minutes.

    We were at this Festival in 2008.  My blog post shows that tickets then were $10.  They were only $7.50 this time.   At the first one I was madly writing notes in the dark on a piece of paper so I could remember all I'd seen.  This time there was a fancy program and each film had a whole page. 

    The audience gets a card with all the films listed and you can only select one.  They are all tallied and the winner will be announced October 2 on the Film Festival website. 
    Each was a story.  These were pretty straightforward story telling.  They were all very good as stories.

    They are played around the world in a one week period.  Actually, it looks like a little longer.  From the list in the program, it appears tonight was the first night in any venue. 

    Tomás, they are playing in Salamanca Oct. 1 and 2 at Auditorio de la Hospederia del Colegio Fonseca!

    Jay and Gene, they'll be in London.

    Ropi, even though there's a Hungarian film among the ten finalists, there are no showings in Hungary.  I'm guessing the closest place to see them is in Vienna or Krakow.

    Anchorage folks, they're at Out North Saturday at 7pm and Sunday at 4pm.
    Palmer folks, you get them next weekend, October 1 and 2.
    I just noticed Talkeetna (Sept. 24) and Petersburg (Sept. 29) have showings.

    The rest of you can check locations around the world where you can watch these ten films and help chose the winner.  There are lots of venues in Russia and even one in Beijing.

    These were good films.  Selecting one as the best is both hard and probably unfair.  The finalists were all good stories.  No artsy stuff in this festival - all very straightforward narratives.

    The festival founder, Nicholas Mason introduced, on screen, the show.  Each director also introduced his or her film.  It was unfortunate that they had a beer commercial at the beginning and before the intermission.  I understand the funding isn't easy.  I hope they gave a lot of money to be able to add their own commercial. 

    Dogs played significant roles in I Love Luci and in David and Goliath, both of which I liked a lot.  The relationship between Marjory and Tommy is truly sweet.   Perhaps David was so powerful for me is because I know people like David - the real David at the end of the movie.  I didn't see how the title of David and Goliath fit - in the original, they don't become friends in the end.

    I found the first film, Incident by a Bank, compelling film making - the film makers recreated a bank robbery they originally witnessed and filmed with a cell phone.  DIK was easily the most fun yet it had a good lesson about communication and assumptions.  And Sexting was a tour de force for Julia Styles - talking pretty much the whole ten minutes full face into the camera. 

    There were only two that I were easy to eliminate from consideration when picking 'the best.'   Mak and A Doctor's Job both were in the competition for my vote too.

    These are good films.  Different from run-of-the-mill Hollywood stuff.  They show 10 films selected from over 500 submitted from 48 countries. 

    There was also a spectacular fabric show at Out North.  I'm going to find out more - but the lace was incredible.  Here's a preview from Beverly Bronner.  The card said Bobbin Lace (Binche Belgium) 120 Cotton.

    This isn't normally something I'm into, but when you see anything that is really high quality, it's worth paying attention to.  All the lace was exquisite as were the other fabric creations - scarves, jackets, and other items.  If you are interested in this sort of thing, it is well worth a stop at Out North kittycorner from Costco on Debarr.

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    Copper River Delta Brown Bear Learning To Fish

    As we drove out to Child's Glacier last July, a car was stopped on bridge.  We stopped to see what they were looking at.  A young brown bear was in the creek trying to catch fish.  The half hour we were there he didn't have much luck.  But then the glacial silt made it hard to see what was in the water.

    But it was a beautiful spot and a magnificent young animal.

    Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Termination Dust On The Chugach

    Summer's is ending when there's termination dust on the mountains.  When the clouds lifted Tuesday we saw white.

    September 16 marked the day that studded tires are again legal. The Department of Transportation website  gives details:
    It is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle with studded tires on a paved highway or road from May 1st through September 15th, inclusive, north of 60 North Latitude and from April 15th through September 30th, inclusive, south of 60 North a motor vehicle with studded tires from May 1st through September 15th, inclusive.
     The leaves are changing colors and some are already on the ground.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    US Soldier Documents Call To Dad In Alabama After Don't Ask Don't Tell Ends

    The words are abstract: Don't Ask Don't Tell Ends. But this video makes it concrete and very personal. You can read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.

    It also talks to the power of identity - how we see ourselves, how others see us, and what it takes to change that identity, especially in an environment that is hostile to the new identity.

    2011 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend = $1,174

    The Governor announced the value of this year's Permanent Fund Dividend a few minutes ago.
    From Gov's Website video

    I've posted on the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend in the past, so I won't repeat all that, but you can look here for some background.

    The value of the fund as of yesterday was:

    unaudited, as of Sep 19, 2011
    US Bonds$5,950,200,000
    US Stocks$5,620,700,000
    Non US Stocks$7,003,400,000
    Global Stocks$4,418,800,000
    Non US Bonds$1,369,200,000
    Real Estate$4,115,100,000
    Real Return/External CIO$3,041,300,000

    That's down over $2 billion since June when it was $40 billion.

    Here's a history of the payments from the Permanaent Fund Corporation website.

    1982 $1,000.00 1990 $952.63       2000 $1,963.86        2010 $1,281.00
    1983 $386.15 1991 $931.34 2001 $1,850.28 2011 $1,174.00
    1984 $331.29 1992 $915.84 2002 $1,540.76
    1985 $404.00 1993 $949.46 2003 $1,107.56
    1986 $556.26 1994 $983.90 2004 $919.84
    1987 $708.19 1995 $990.30 2005 $845.76
    1988 $826.93 1996 $1,130.68 2006 $1,106.96
    1989 $873.16 1997 $1,296.54 2007 $1,654.00
    1998 $1,540.88 2008 $2,069.00
    1999 $1,769.84 2009 $1,305.00
    [2008 = highest amount (Corrected, thanks Harpboy)2011 dividend added]

    Norway's oil based Fund, which began in 1998, is about $530 billion.

    BTW, when did the Alaska Permanent Fund become a Sean Parnell initiative?  On the Governor's webiste, we see this spin:


    Getting fruits and vegies through Full Circle Farm means we get foods that we wouldn't normally buy.

    Last week we got tomatillos.

    The tomatillo is of Mexican origin and is related to the husk tomato. It is an annual low growing, sprawling plant usually not more than 2 feet high. The tomatillo has small, sticky, tomato-like fruits enclosed in papery husks. They are 1 to 3 inches in diameter and green or purplish in color. . .

    The tomatillo is an important vegetable crop in Mexico (11,000 ha) and is grown in small plantings in the warmer areas of California. Commercial cropping has been successful along the central and south coasts, as well as in the low deserts and the central valley. . .
    Use. Tomatillo is widely used as a principal ingredient in green salsa, but also in soups and stews. It should be harvested in a developed but unripe stage. Quality criteria include the intensity of green color of the fruits and the freshness of the husk. Fruit which begins to yellow is of low culinary value.
    Nutrition. The tomatillo is similar to the tomato in vitamin A, and second only to mushrooms in niacin. It also provides fair amounts of vitamin C. The fruits are high in ascorbic acid (36 mg/1,000 grams).

     J got a recipe out of her old 'the vegetarian epicure book two' by anna thomas:  enchiladas salsa verde.  The salsa part includes:
    "Peel the dry skins off the tomatillos, wash them, and boil them in lightly salted water for 7 to 10 minutes, or until they are just soft.  Drain, purée them in a blender, and put them in a saucepan with the minced jalapeño peppers, 4 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro, the salt and 1/2 cup of the chopped onions.  Simmer the sauce gently for about 40 minutes."
    It was really good.  There was a wonderful new taste.  

    J modified the enchilada recipe.  You can see some of the green sauce on the tortilla.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Why I Live Here - Fall Walk On Beach - Plus a Bear, a Dog, Swans, Mud, and Fiber Optic Cable

    In 30 years, my definition of a beach has stretched beyond sand and palm trees.  There's a spot of rocky beach and mudflats that we like on days with sun and no wind.  Today qualified.

    Looking South Down Turnagain Arm

    Looking North
    First we stopped where cars were parked along the side of the road.  Not unusual when the Dall Sheep are around.  But the sheep we saw was black and looked a lot more like a bear. 

    He's up there top, left of the middle.  Ignoring all the people and stopped cars below.  We went years and years seeing less than a handful of bears in the Anchorage area.  This was my fifth bear this summer in Anchorage.  (Anchorage stretches a long way south along Turnagain Arm.)

    I made a self-portrait out of Turnagain mud and rocks.

    One train went by headed north and another south while we were on the beach.  We walked  back on the tracks, which was a lot easier than the rocky beach.  We kept a close lookout for trains, but we didn't see another one until we were 15 minutes down the road in the car.

    I found a long description of this cable line on a 2006 post at Diesel Generator:

    "Fiber optics involves the transmission of laser signals along glass fibers at the speed of light. In the case of the ANC/WCIC cables from Whittier, communications equipment connected to the fibers enables signals to be transmitted at 10 billion bits per second. These 10 billion bits per second will encompass voice, data, and Internet traffic, at a rate equivalent to 128,000 simultaneous telephone calls.
    "In some respects, the companies putting up the facilities are competitors. On one side of the railroad tracks on the upper side of town, a facility is being installed by General Communications, Inc. (GCI). GCI will service submarine cables laid to Valdez, Juneau and Seattle. WCI Cable, Inc. (WCICI), will operate submarine cables laid to Valdez, Juneau and 2000 miles on the North Pacific sea bottom to Portland and Seattle via a "landing site" at Tillamook, Oregon. . .
    "Worldnet Communications, Inc. Alaska Fiber Star (AFS), WCI Cable, Inc., and Alaska Northstar Communications (ANC) are companion units in a family of communications companies that are owned by an Australian insurance and investment company, AMP Ltd.
    An existing AFS "backbone" - terminology for the routing of a fiber optics system - emanates from Anchorage and runs to Fairbanks with ADMs (add/drop multiplexers) at Wasilla, Talkeetna, Cantwell, Healey, Clear, Nenana and Fairbanks. At these sites, traffic can be added to or dropped from the backbone system to provide communications access to local carriers. The fiber optic signals are also regenerated and passed on to the next site. Presently these stations are sited about every 60 miles.

    From the Anchorage NOCC, the backbone runs south along the Alaska Railroad route to Whittier. A 100-mile submarine cable runs to Valdez.
     The friend enjoying the sun and sea with us said that WCI no longer exists.  While trying to check that out online, I found a 2002 Bankruptcy Court opinion (pdf) regarding the fee they paid for this cable to the Alaska Railroad:
    "The WCI Group has installed, maintains and uses its fiber 26 optic cable between Anchorage and Eielson Air Force Base (the “Northern Route”) and between Anchorage and Whittier (the “Southern Route”) in Alaska pursuant to two “Transportation Corridor Permits”  (the “Permits”) with the Alaska Railroad Corporation, which owns the rights of way. Under the Permits, the fee for the WCI Group’s use of the Northern Route right of way is $150,220 per month, or a total of $1,802,640 per year, and the fee for the WCI Group’s use of the Southern Route right of way is $297,320 per year, payable in quarterly installments of $74,330. The WCI Group’s payment obligations under the Permits represent a heavy financial burden that the WCI Group would like to lessen."

    But we weren't thinking about any of this as we walked.  Rather we were absorbed in all the colors.  Like this fireweed.

    At the parking lot, I found an answer to a question in yesterday's post.  Yes, there is a dog.

    This calm reflection of sky and fall colors at Potter Marsh belies all the cars and highway noise as people returning to Anchorage slowed down and stopped to watch the seven trumpeter swans getting ready to head further south for the winter.

    Saturday, September 17, 2011

    2000 As Seen in 1910 And A Few Other Goodies

    I offer you few examples of human imagination to remind you there's always a better - or at least different - approach.  (They all have images, though in respect to the creators of the images, I've limited my use of them severely and altered the ones I used.)

    1.   How about a pocket garden?  Literally, a garden in an altoid tin?

    2.   Get a quick nap in a sleepbox at the Moscow Airport.

    Click to enlarge and read small text

    3.   Then there's this great poster.    Click on the image to go to the original and read the all important small text. (The image info says it's from, but I can't seem to use the search there successfully.)

    4.    If you've ever wondered what those initials stand for, you can find out at Mental Floss.

    H.G. Wells
    H.P. Lovecraft
    J.D. Salinger
    F. Scott Fitzgerald
    J.K. Rowling
    E.E. Cummings
    W.B. Yeats
    T.S. Eliot
    P.G. Wodehouse

    There are nine more.

    5.  How about the year 2000 as envisioned in 1910?  Here's one of French artist Villemard's  visions - teleconferencing. 

    See more the images with descriptions at Sad and Useless.

    The Paris Traveler has posted some of these and others from the National Library in Paris.

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Death of the Adversary

    "The papers published in this volume were given to me some time after the war by a Dutch lawyer in Amersterdam."

    So begins Death of the Adversary.

    The narrator asks some questions but the Dutch lawyer is evasive.  We learn the papers are written in German. A page and a half later, we're reading the papers themselves.

    "For days and weeks now I have thought of nothing but death.  Though I am normally a late riser, I get up early every morning now, calm and uplifted, after a night of dreamless sleep." 
    I was having trouble at this point, but the book was supposed to be a masterpiece.  My mother had alerted me to an LA Times obituary of the author Hans Keilson who died this past June at age 101.   
    "Hans Keilson was a newly minted physician in the mid-1930s when the persecution began. As a Jew in Hitler's Germany, he was stripped of the right to practice medicine. A writer, he soon lost that identity too: His autobiographical first novel was pulped soon after it was released because of a Nazi ban on Jewish writers.
    "He fled to the Netherlands, where he wrote the beginnings of two more novels and buried the pages in his garden. After the war's end, in 1945, he dug them up and finished them. "Comedy in a Minor Key," a darkly humorous story set in Nazi-occupied Holland, was published in Germany in 1947, the same year as Anne Frank's diary. The second, more philosophical work, "The Death of the Adversary," earned enthusiastic reviews when it was published in America in 1962.
    "That was the last that American audiences heard of Keilson — until last year. After five decades of literary obscurity, he landed on bestseller lists when both books were published again. It was a miracle of literary reclamation all the more remarkable because the long-forgotten author had lived long enough to witness his rediscovery."
    Fortunately, Loussac had a copy.  The book is about a man whose life is dominated by his enemy whom he learns about overhearing his parents talking.
    My enemy - I refer to him as B. - entered my life about twenty years ago.  At that time I had only a very vague idea of what it meant to be someone's enemy;  still less did I realize what it was to have an enemy.  One has to mature gradually towards one's enemy as towards one's best friend.

    I frequently heard Father and Mother talk about this subject, mostly in the secretive, whispering voice of grown-ups who do not want the children to hear.  A new kind of intimacy informed their words.  They were talking in order to hide something.  But children quickly learn to divine the secrets and fears of their elders, and to grow up towards them.  My father said:

    "If B. should ever come to power, may God have mercy on us.  Then things will start to happen."
    My mother replied more quietly, "Who knows, perhaps everything will come out quite differently.  He's not all that important, yet."

    This book mixes abstract ideas of the nature of 'the enemy' and the relationship between adversaries and very concrete detailed incidents as he grows up and learns more about the enemy.  He's excluded by classmates, he meets others with the same enemy,  he runs into the enemy in the flesh on two occasions. 

    He never mentions Hitler or Jews by name.  It's all sort of vague.  It took a while for me, reading it, to figure out this was not some personal family adversary.

    At the end, when the narrator is returning the papers to the Dutch lawyer who says,
    "I received them from the author with the assurance that they contained not a single word that could endanger me, if I kept them."
    "Did you believe him?"
    "In the beginning, yes, but that was before I had read them.  Later I did read them."
    "And then?"
    "Then I buried them. . ."

    What struck me throughout wes the wrestling of the narrator of the text (rather than the narrator of the intro) with his relationship with the adversary.  First it was understanding what it meant to have an adversary.  Then there was the denial of the serious impact the adversary would have on his life.  Here's an example of fellow victim of the adversary who feels he's being too complacent:
    "At bottom you know as well as I where you belong, nor do I believe that you are rebelling against it.  That's not what worries you.  What you're after is something impossible:  you are trying to plaster up the crack that runs through this world, so that it becomes invisible;  then, perhaps, you'll think that it doesn't exist any more.  You are right in the centre of a happening and are trying to render an account of it to yourself, and at the same time to alter the situation so as to allow you to extricate yourself from it with a single leap and to look at it from the point of view of the man in the moon.  You're trying to look at something that concerns you as though it both concerned and did not concern you.  Am I right?"
    Today we are all struggling with the adversary.  People are denying reality, trying to either maintain their life as it has always been, or trying to analyze it abstractly and objectively.  We do this with the crashing economy.  We do this with politics.   Some take things seriously and act.  Others carry on as though  things will just pass. Jews in Nazi Germany - the most scientifically and  technically advanced nation in the world at the time - responded in many different ways.  Some realized the danger and got out if they could.  Others thought it would pass and things would return to normal.    The book gives a very intense, and from what I can tell, pretty much contemporary account of the mental processes people struggled with. 
    "Self-deception is the pleasantest form of lying.  It is a panacea for all personal ills and injuries, it can heal even metaphysical wounds.  The experience with my friend had been a hard blow, of course, [A good friend had declared his allegiance to the enemy and their friendship ended] but it had not brought me to my knees.  On the contrary.  This first and severe disappointment had strengthened me and prepared me for all the future ones.  I no longer confronted them unprepared.  Had my loss not brought me a gain, or was this the beginning of self-deception?"

    I think this is an eternal dilemma.  How does one know when there is imminent and serious danger and when it's no big deal?  While Tea Party members seem to be certain they must act now, and ruthlessly, to prevent the US from collapse, so too there are those who see the Tea Party as being manipulated by rich conspirators who are the greatest threat to American democracy.

    And in the land that Keilson wrote about there was a similar sort of dichotomy.  Many Germans were spellbound by Hitler's charisma and demonizing of Jews, Socialists, and others.  It wasn't till many people died - not just those who died in concentration camps, but also those who died on the battlefield - that the bubble burst and they recognized they had been deceived.  Though there were many who continued (continue) to believe in Hitler.