Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Meanwhile, in Pakistan . . .

If you listened to the foreign policy debate of the Republican candidates, you might want to read something with real meat.  The source article is by, according to the blurb in the Asian Times, Indian career diplomat Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar whose assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.
The heart of the matter is that the Pakistani citadel has pulled back the bridges leading to it from across the surrounding crocodile-infested moat. This hunkering down is going to be Obama's key problem. Pakistan is boycotting the Bonn Conference II on December 2. This hunkering down should worry the US more than any Pakistani military response to the NATO strike.

The US would know from the Iranian experience that it has no answer for the sort of strategic defiance that an unfriendly nation resolute in its will to resist can put up against an 'enemy' it genuinely considers 'satanic'.

The Pakistani military leadership is traditionally cautious and it is not going to give a military response to the US's provocation. (Indeed, the Taliban are always there to keep bleeding the US and NATO troops.)

This is an Indian talking about US-Pakistani relations. Someone in a position to know a lot more about this sort of thing than most Americans, including most members of Congress and presidential candidates. He's also someone with skin in the game.  It does provide a lot of information to use to help assess other information (or lack of information) you read on this topic.  In discussing the Pakistani response to the NATO air raid which killed 28 Pakistani forces, Bhadrakumar writes:

Exactly what happened in the fateful night of Friday - whether the NATO blundered into a mindless retaliatory (or pre-emptive) act or ventured into a calculated act of high provocation - will remain a mystery. Maybe it is no more important to know, since blood has been drawn and innocence lost, which now becomes the central point.

At any rate, the DDC [Pakistan's Defence Committee of the Cabinet] simply proceeded on the basis that this was a calculated air strike - and by no means an accidental occurrence. Again, the DDC statement implies that in the Pakistan military's estimation, the NATO attack emanated from a US decision. Pakistan lodged a strong protest at the NATO Headquarters in Brussels but that was more for purpose of 'record', while the "operative" part is directed at Washington.

The GHQ in Rawalpindi would have made the assessment within hours of the Salala incident that the US is directly culpable. The GHQ obviously advised the DDC accordingly and recommended the range of measures Pakistan should take by way of what Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani publicly called an "effective response."

The DDC took the following decisions: a) to close NATO's transit routes through Pakistani territory with immediate effect; b) to ask the US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days; c) to "revisit and undertake a complete review" of all "programs, activities and cooperative arrangements" with US, NATO and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), including in "diplomatic, political and intelligence" areas; d) to announce shortly a whole range of further measures apropos Pakistan's future cooperation with US, NATO and ISAF.  [Read it all in the Asian Times.]

It makes me think of the advice Vaclav Havel gives in Power of the Powerless. I wrote about it earlier in the context of TSA.  Here it fits in the relation of one nation to another.  Of course, it's a form of civil disobedience as well.  Just say no.   Those who have power say everyone should fight like they do.  That's because they have all the weapons in that sort of battle.  But disobedience is the main  tool of those without power.  There is immense power in simply refusing to cooperate.  Ask the Occupiers.  Ask the Republicans in Congress. 

Thanks to my friend who alerted me to this article.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Arts and Crafts at the Museum Sunday

 We went to the museum arts and crafts fair on Sunday.  Here are a few examples of the art and the people who made it. 

KC Lowe was a neighbor when we first moved to Alaska.  She had these bars of soap dressed in wool felt. The lanolin in the wool is supposed to do good things for you and the cover makes the soap last much longer.  Is this art?  I don't recall ever seeing soap wrapped up in felt before.  And look at those colors.  And the fact that it's something you actually use,  doesn't exclude it from being art.  What she is holding is the left over felt cover after months and months of use.  I've been thinking about soap for a while now and I've been planning to do a blog post.  It's coming, think of this as a preview.

I knew Larry Kingry back when he was an administrator at ACC and then UAA.  Now he's turning wood into interesting and unique bowls.  His card says you can email him here if you're interested in a bowl. 

Another old friend, in that we've had one of his water colors up on our wall for 30 years or so, is Ken Lisbourne.  He's originally from Point Hope, but now lives in Tok. 

We had a long talk and it was interesting to hear the stories behind his paintings.  It really is a collection of Inupiaq culture and legends.  Matt Shields did a long post on Ken a few years back that gives a lot of information.

Guitta Corey's work is amazing.  I only took one photo which does a poor job of portraying the artist and her work.  But it's all I've got.  But you can see more at Alaska Home.  The work she had for sale Sunday was various sized and shaped glass trays that were 'painted' with exquisite papers.  I can't explain.  Just check the link. 

As Jacob suggested in a recent comment, if you don't keep using photoshop, you forget it.  So you'll have to bear with my experimenting.  Someday it will work more consistently for me.  There are parts of this I like and parts that I just couldn't make do what I wanted.  And parts I didn't know what I wanted. 

But Wendy Gingell's ceramics aren't ordinary.  They're strong and opinionated.  I love the shapes and designs and colors.  Her inspiration for the large plate in the background was a cyst she had in her abdomen.  The two little ones on the lower right, I was told, were a parent's eye view of kids.  And can you tell she likes yellow and black? 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tacky Spam Comment with Dentist Ad Suggests Businesses Be Careful of SEO Firms

[UPDATE:  I've had a legal threat which I responded to and then a much more rational email concerning this post.  I'll post them soon. [Part 1]  I've decided that the dentist in question had some legitimate points on my stereotypes about large dental practices.  He has said that he was unaware of the SEO firm doing this sort of commenting promotion and that they have contacted the SEO firm to end such practices.  I have decided to take his word on this.  The intent of the post is to alert people to sleazy SEO companies and the specific dentist is irrelevant.  Thus I’ve removed the name of the dental group involved.   So I've removed the name of the dental practice.]

[PART 1:]  Sometimes, posts force their own way onto this blog.  It's Monday Nov. 28 and I have better things to do than this, but I can't help it.

[Note to readers: This is a blogging-behind-the-scenes post.  The stuff in brackets I added after I finished this 'investigation.' This post wrote itself as I got more information.  It started out as a snarky post about a tacky dentist.  Now I'm not sure how tacky the dentist is  or if he just got a sleazy SEO firm to jack up his google position.  Have I lost you yet?  I'll explain SEO down below.  But let's begin at the beginning now.  The parts without brackets, I wrote as it was unfolding.]

Occasionally I get comments on a post that have nothing to do with the post. I've written about 'Kevin' who posted Chinese spam from Taiwan in the comment section for a while. These are spam ads that require a bit of work because someone has to get to my blog, then write something in the comment area, and then get past the Captcha code.  So it generally takes a human being to do this.

Most such comment/ads I get are for companies in China or India, and generally for electronic or industrial products.  Today on a post about planned obsolescence and the Anchorage building code, I got this comment:
[This is a screen shot image, not text, so the links don't work.  Also, I've deleted this comment on the original post.  See Update at top of this post on not identifying the dentist.]

To me, this is pretty bizarre.  And extremely tacky.  Enough so that I called the XXXXXXX Intelligencer which the internet told me was a newspaper that covered Lititz (emphasis, I learned, was on the first syllable, not on the body parts) and talked to a reporter who agreed it was strange, but didn't know anything about the business.  He said he'd check with some dentists he knows nearby.

I also called the XXXXXXXXX Dental Arts office and left a message on their voice mail.  You have to admit it takes a little thought to explain what I wanted for a voice mail.

I did learn while I was listening to their answer recording that they are open from 8:00am to 8:00pm two days a week and shorter hours the other days.  I also learned that they have done some serious internet work - they dominate  the first five pages when you google them.

So, for now here are a couple of tentative explanations:
  • They are a tacky, factory dental clinic that will do whatever it takes to get customers.
  • They are a dental group that has hired an SEO company to pump up their web presence and they don't know they bought spam comment/ads. 

PART 2:  Beware of sleazy SEO companies.

So, what is SEO?  SEO stands for Search Enhancement [Engine] Optimization.  That's geek speak for doing things to get a higher google rating so that your website shows up in the first two or three pages when people search terms related to your site.

Here's what Ethical SEO says (in part)

Promote your website, getting as many quality backlinks as possible; a backlink is a link posted on somebody else’s website which leads to your website. The backlink should ideally have a good “anchor text”, a text that describes what your website is about. As an example, instead of having a link to my website that says “click here”, I would rather have a link that says ethical seo company [they had this linked in the original, but I've already given them a link above, so I took it out] if I plan to get a good rank for the “ethical seo company” search phrase.
This is called off-page SEO and is by far the most important (and time-consuming) part of the SEO process, being responsible for about 90% of its success. While finding the proper keywords to target and optimizing the web pages is a one-time operation, building backlinks to your website must be an ongoing process, especially if the industry you’re in is profitable. Most (or all) of the companies on the 1st Google page invest in SEO on a monthly basis; othewise, they wouldn’t get these good ranks and sales. [emphasis added]

So, the point is to get backlinks; ideally, links with the name of your website on other websites.  It doesn't even matter if no one uses the link, because the point is to have Google count all these back links - and they are worth more if the site they're on is rated well - so that when people google 'your name'  your site will come up on page one of google.

[I'd also note that I don't invest in SEO, but I still get on page 1 on Google.  My guess is that my frequency of posting and some backlinks have helped.] 

SEO Primer Backlinking Tips

. . . Getting inbound links (backlinks that point to our website) which contain proper anchor text (the keywords we’re interested in) is an art in itself; fortunately, there are several 100% ethical (also called white hat)  methods that allow us to get them. If you have written a good piece of content, for example an interesting article, you can submit it to thousands of article directories and format it in such a way that you will get the desired backlink with proper anchor text. Sure, many article directories will reject your submission, but if your article is really good and you are submitting it to thousands of directories, you will definitely get not only a few hundreds of backlinks to your website, but also traffic (website visitors) from the tens of millions of people that are visiting the article directories each and every day. [So that explains the people who have asked to post guest posts here.]
So I left a message at the Dental Center, but wasn't expecting much.  However, it wasn't long before I got a call back from XXXXXXX [I'm guessing at the spelling].  She said this was the second call about this in one week.  She said she needed to call the SEO person and let him know.  She even found the blog without my telling her the name.  I did leave my name, but not too many people can spell my last name just hearing it on a voice message.

OK, so giving her the benefit of the doubt, she wasn't planning to have spam comments on blogs.  And she was going to change it.

But then I got to thinking, "Not only does she know what SEO is, but that was the first thing she mentioned."  These people are serious about their marketing.  I doubt that my dentist's office manager has heard of SEO.  I wasn't sure if my dentist even had a website.  [I checked and he does, but it's pretty generic. Mine has four dentists just like the one in Pennsylvania.  But the XXXXXXXX one just gives the names and photos of the dentists.  Mine doesn't have photos, but has a lengthy background on each dentist.  And my dentist doesn't have such long hours.  But he probably charges more.  After all, this is Alaska.]

Anyway, I guess there are several lessons to be learned here.

For me:
  1. Now I better understand why people are putting  links in spam comments.  It's less about getting people to link to their sites.  It's more about getting lots of links out there to goose their google search ratings.  So, if a blogger left the links because she didn't pay attention or didn't think anyone would use them, the source is still getting a benefit through bogus comments.
  2. Don't jump to conclusions.  I still think there are signs of tackiness here on the dentist's part - the long hours, the heavy push on SEO, including a staff member who knows the term, and the multiple offices in the area.  But it could just be a younger dentist with more internet savvy whose SEO specialist used unethical ways to boost the google ratings.  
For businesses with websites:
  1. There are lots of SEO companies out there trying to get your business.  I get regular solicitations here myself.   It's probably a good idea to ask them what their ethical standards are and what practices they use and don't use. 
  2. Not being careful means, like with this Dental Center, that you can end up with ads that make you look really tacky.  But then maybe that's why the ads were put on an Alaska blog, where XXXXXXXX area patients aren't likely to see them. But the internet is beyond borders, so that doesn't matter. 
If you search "SEO Ethics" and "Finding an Ethical SEO" you can find tips on ways to identify more ethical SEO firms.  I didn't find any specifically good ones so I'm not going to link.  And one of my readers might add some additional comments.

And if you get spam comments on your website, or see such tacky ads, call up the company and let them know what you think. If it's on your website, delete it right away.

[Just in case someone is asking, "What's wrong with the ad?"
  1. It's fake.  It was put on the blog, not as a legitimate part of the discussion of the post, but simply to drop a flyer for this company.  
  2. It's spam.  It's like internet litter.  Like putting your ad on someone's fence.
  3. It tries to game the system.  It distorts the ratings that Google (and others) use to determine who gets on page one of searches.  I'm not saying Google's system doesn't have flaws, but it's like cutting in line, or cheating on a test, in my book. There's a better way to say this.  It's like learning all the tricks of looking good without actually being good.  But when people see through it, it looks tacky, like a bald man wearing a toupee. 

Occupy Your Brain

Everyone is telling us what and how to think.
There are so many claims made every day that some will slip past your crap detectors and make their way into your brain.

The occupiers - whatever their message - have tapped into a general distaste for all the bullshit we live with everyday.  There is no one message.   Those who say the occupiers need to brand themselves, don't get that this is an anti-branding movement. The critics so take for granted their own brainwashing that they don't realize this is about paradigm shifting.  Each person feels the anomalies, feels that something is fundamentally wrong with how our economic system is conceived.  As we watch the hope of Obama ground up by Washington's establishment power brokers, each of us can join the Occupiers for our own reasons.

But underlying it all, it seems to me, is the need to occupy one's own brain.  To be alert to the ways our brains are manipulated - by the media, by advertising, by churches, by schools, by music, by everyone.  We need the ability to filter the bull shit out of the constant bombardment of invading messages.

We need times of peace and quiet, with no external brain assaults other than the warmth of the sun, the smell of fresh flowers and grasses and trees, the sound of running water and rustling leaves.  No words.  Time to sort through all the crap we've accumulated, to consider where it came from, to reassess its validity, and to toss out the garbage.  Then we can see the ideas that matter, that are grounded in reason and feeling and some sort of rational correspondence to the world outside our heads. 

So Occupy Your Brains.  Once others have control over your brain, they have complete power over you.  It took years for them to infiltrate.  Cleaning them out won't happen overnight.  But begin now and do a little bit each day.

And as I offer this video - which I saw at Immoral Minority - I remind you to question the video as well.  Don't simply accept it (or reject it) because it fits what you (don't) want to believe.  Or because you like the music.  Look it over, test it, put it in the quarantine section of your brain to make sure there isn't some hidden infection.  And remember to beware of those who would hijack this and other good ideas and pervert them for their own benefit.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Spanish Unemployment Brought Home - The Wicked Power of Great Animation

Fellow blogger and friend, Spanish architect and wicked* artist, Tomás Serrano, just posted a short animated film he made that is NOT in the Anchorage International Film Festival this year (maybe next year?)  But it shows the power of animation to convey the emotional impact of Europe's economic hard times. Even though this short cartoon is in Spanish - spoken so fast only a supersonic speed reader could keep up with subtitles if there were any  - it's completely comprehensible to anyone whether they understand Spanish or not. 


*Since English is not Tomás' first language and I've used a slang version of the word 'wicked,' I guess I should explain.  The Urban Dictionary doesn't quite cover the meaning I intend.  "Wicked" here, means "something so honest about an unfortunate truth that it is both painful and delicious." 

AIFF 2011: Animated Films in Competition - Ducks, Nuts, Mutant Chickens, Zombies, and More

The 2011Anchorage International Film Festival starts in less than a week - Friday, Dec. 2.

These are the animated films that have been chosen by the screening committees as the best and they are in competition for the festival prizes.

All the Animated Films in Competition will be in the same program this year, so seeing them all will be much easier.  See the schedule at the bottom. 

8 Second Dance  Trey Moya  USA  8 minutes

8 Second Dance was created by 12 students at the University of Colorado Denver's Digital Animation Center.

8 Second Dance from Bart Tyler on Vimeo.

Attack of the Killer Mutant Chickens [Murgi Keno Mutant] Nayeem MahbubBangladesh 15 minutes

Nayeem Mahbub
Mutant Chickens just started on the film festival circuit in September. It's already won Best Animated Film at the Rockport Film Festival and the Offshoot Film Festival. Nayeem Mahbub seems to have many overlapping roles - columnist for the Independent (Bangladesh), BBC producer/director, and graduate of Oberlin in cinema studies.

Probably, when most Americans hear the word Bangladesh, if they have any image of the country at all, think about poverty and flooding.  They probably don't think about
Bangla poet and philosopher Rabindrananth Tagore (1861 - 1941) was the first Asian novelist to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. The award was for an English translation of his mystical poem "Gitanjali" (Song offerings).[From]
Or that's it's the 9th most populous country in the world with over 142 million inhabitants.  So it's good that we have a film from Bangladesh.

Not quite Tagore, in this film killer mutant chickens terrorize Bangladesh, but it's much better than that description sounds.

Landscape With Duck Patrick Neary  USA 4 minutes

This is a hand drawn animation about a duck who's late for migration and has to find his own way south.  Kinografx's facebook page says Duck's flying north to Anchorage for the festival. Does that mean Patrick Neary is coming along? [UPDATE 11/27/11 - 1:13pm: Comment below says 'yes.'  Also, I see I missed that Northwest Animation Festival selected  "Landscape with Duck" for their Best of the Fest.]

Nuts For Pizza  David Andrade  USA  2 minutes

This 2:21minute animation has 32 people listed in the credits.  Back in July last year, the Director posted a request on CGSociety requesting internet collaboration on this film.   The sums up what happened next:
Nuts for Pizza represents a new wave of film-making techniques and is the first truly online collaborative animated short film. Simply by logging into a website, artists from the United States and Canada were given the means to produce Nuts for Pizza without ever meeting in person. In total, 32 skilled artisans worked together to produce the short, which was inspired by actual events.
Theory Animation began in early 2008, born from the desire to allow artists hundreds of miles apart to collaborate in a studio-like setting over the Internet. Because nothing like this had existed before, the goal was to create an easily-accessible portal that would allow anyone to use their skills to contribute to creative projects in production. With talented artists scattered throughout the globe, Theory Animation crosses borders and marries technology with art.
It's been at a few festivals so far won a Grand Festival Award at the Berkeley Video and Film Festival November, 2011.   Here's a medley of three different animations by director David Andrade.  The Nuts for Pizza clip begins at 45 seconds.

2011 Reel from David Andrade on Vimeo.

Something Left, Something Taken Ru Kuwahata Max Porter  USA 10 minutes

Their vimeo site has a picture of Max and Ru which I've paired up with a screen shot of the main characters from Something Left, Something Taken.

This one fits neatly in a theme I've mentioned on this blog at various times:  We see what we're conditioned to see.  This video below is the whole movie.  You can see it with French or Japanese subtitles at their Vimeo page.

Something Left, Something Taken- Full Version from Tiny Inventions on Vimeo.

Check their bi-lingual blog (Japanese and English) and this interview at Wacky Shorts Creations where they each answer the question: 

HW: What does being able to draw mean to you?
RK: Being able to create a world from nothing.

MP: Drawing can mean a lot of different things A drawing can be pure communication or a plan for something else. Sometimes the drawing is a finished product and sometimes it a way to study the world around us. I guess it’s all about the context.

This Is Not Real  Gergely Wootsch  UK 7 minutes

Gergely, according to his website, is a Hungarian who's living in London recently got his MA at the Royal College of Art in Animation.  By the way, he's planning to be in Anchorage for the festival. 

This is Not Real - Trailer from Gergely Wootsch on Vimeo.

Year Zero Richard Cunningham  USA  24 minutes
Richard Cunningham
HTML Tables

This is an animated zombie movie. Last year Elias Matar explained that Ashes was an "infected" movie rather than a zombie movie and this too seems to fit in the infected category, but I'm not an expert on these things.

The photo is a screen shot from Zombies 

"He spent 14 to 16 hour days at work in his Astoria basement apartment while "slowly draining away my savings." Without training as an illustrator or animator, the one-time Bard College student depended on online tutorials and forums and, for much of the process, a 10-year-old computer.
"I learned so much from 15-year-olds, just how to solve problems in Final Cut [video editing software]," Cunningham said. "It's kind of embarrassing listening to this pubescent kid tell you what to do, and yet they're totally right.'"Read more:

Video from DNAInfo

They will all be part of the porgram called "Animation World-Wide"  which will show twice at the Alaska Experience Theater and twice at Out North.

Day Time Venue
Sunday Dec 4 12 pm Alaska Experience

Tuesday Dec. 6
7pm Out North
Friday Dec. 9 7:20 pm Alaska Experience
Saturday Dec 10 6pm Out North

Seven addition animated films will be part of the Animation World-Wide package.

One thing to pay attention to when you watch these films is the difference between hand drawn and computer drawn animation.  I'm not taking sides, but viewers should pay attention and learn to distinguish between the two.  Here's part of a blog post in which Tom Benthin addresses this:
I’ll start by saying that I believe that drawings that are hand-made and loosely or roughly drawn engage us more, drawing us into the process of animating what we’re viewing. By “animating” I mean the way we bring a drawing to life in our mind. Here’s a cartoon from the New Yorker that I’ve shown to graphic facilitation classes I’ve taught over the years:
You can read the whole post and see his illustrations here. 

If you want even more, in 2002, David Mitchell wrote a Masters Report on The Future of the Cartoon Feature Film.  But that's like a historical document given how fast technology is changing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Two Links - French Blog Post on Planned Obsolesence and Anchorage Post with Title 21 Housing Design Horrors

I ran across the French blog with a good post on Planned Obselecence  because it has a link to my post on Victor's Lebow's quote in the Story of Stuff.  It documents more on how corporations design products to encourage hyperconsumption. 

Planned Obsolescence: How Companies Encourage Hyperconsumption

Like many of their professors, students at the Sorbonne had become used to going to buy their ink cartridges from a small shop on a nearby street. With no manufacturer affiliations, it carried shelves full of ‘generic’ cartridges that worked with printers from big name brands like Epson, Canon, HP and Brother. But that small shop soon faced a very big problem: some new printers only recognise ‘proprietary’ consumables that they can detect by matching their hardware signature against a signature in a chip on the cartridge. Anybody hoping to get round that by using a syringe to top up their existing cartridge with new ink was soon caught out because the chips can also track ink levels. But try seeing things from the manufacturers’ point of view: print cartridge sales can represent up to 90% of their turnover, so it’s not hard to see why they want to prevent consumers from going elsewhere. This process of trapping consumers in an endless cycle of buying more by supplying products that soon become unusable or beyond repair has taken on the almost cult name of ‘planned obsolescence.

This is just the beginning.  It also talks about light bulbs, iPads, and the 'lift cartel' (elevators in American). This is part of the underlying problem that Occupy is about - the way large corporations gain control over our lives and income. 

During the depression people's consumption dropped and corporations had the problem of how to sell more to people who already had enough. The OWNI post says there were three lines of solutions:  Technical, Design, and Legal. 

The Technical line:
"technical: built weaker, less durable products that are impossible to repair;"
brings to mind our recently worn out bread machine.  The motor still worked, but stopped turning the dough after the first rotation.  The repair shop owner apologized when he told us he can't get the part we need any more. All that metal, the motor, the power cord, everything, has to be tossed because one small part isn't working.  (We left it with the repair man, hoping he might find ways to use some of it, but at least that he knew a way to recycle it if he couldn't. 

Large Scale Designed Mess

In Anchorage, the Assembly passed a revision of Title 21 last year that changes all sorts of standards for design and construction of housing which would address a similar problem - builders who cut corners to build ugly, treeless projects with erosion problems, minimal and unusable outdoor space.

But the mayor hired a former Assembly member at $60,000 to come up with changes that would make the development community happier.  The mayor has dropped most of the consultant's recommendation, but still  has offered a series of about 38 amendments to implement the development industry's wish list which would overturn many of the most critical improvements already approved.

Photo from Mt. View Forum used with permission (link to see more)
These amendments go to the Planning and Zoning Commission in December and then to the Assembly.  Mt. View Forum posted about Title 21 back in 2009 with a series of photos that show what shoddy Anchorage construction looks like.

The photo caption at Mt. View Forum read:
"Does it get any worse? Yes! Four-plex apartments, street sides windowless, entire area between buildings and street 100% paved, no landscaping."
Do you really think it's too hard for apartments and office to hide their dumpsters from street traffic?  How about 25 foot setbacks for buildings from creeks and only 10 feet for other parts of the property?  I'm hoping to write more on this soon, but let me jump the gun a bit to get Anchorage folks not only aware of this, but alarmed enough to start calling their assembly members.  Here's what the Planning staff at the Muni wrote about the 25 foot setback:

After considerable research, discussion, review and compromise with the T21 subcommittee, the provisionally adopted 50-foot setback is much lower than what is recommended in scientific literature and used in other cities. For comparison, based on scientific data the standard recommendation is 300-feet3. In most communities, stream setbacks average 100-feet nationwide. In Alaska: Soldotna has a 100-foot setback, the Mat-Su Borough has a 75- foot setback, and both Juneau and Homer have 50-foot setbacks. Stream setbacks are necessary to control floodwaters, provide water quality treatment by capturing and filtering pollutants, protect base stream flows to reduce threats of flash floods, maintain stream stability preventing channel migration and maintain stream health for fish and wildlife habitat. Anchorage’s existing 25’ setback came about because of politics, compromise and what was acceptable in the mid 1980’s—it was not based on scientific or practical findings. The consultant’s amendments reduce the role of setbacks from even current code, as illustrated following page 56 below. As proposed, allowing additional uses within 10-ft of streams threatens the very effective vegetative buffer for water quality and flood control. Vegetation along stream banks serves many purposes. Trees slow water velocity and hold the soil in place with their root system stabilizing stream banks. Overhanging vegetation regulates water temperature, provides shading for salmon, and contributes insects and other nutrients in the stream. Ground-cover vegetation filters stormwater runoff removing sediments and pollutants before entering streams.
This is from a list of the changes with staff comments put together by former Planning and Zoning Commissioner John Weddleton.  I've posted the whole document (21 pages) at Scribd., but they group opposing the changes, FreeTitle21, passed out a more concise version (4 pages) Tuesday night at the Assembly meeting.  Free Title 21's concise version, more a list of recommendations and reasons to reject most of the amendments,  is also at Scribd.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mrs. Nash Gets a Baby In Seattle Because Folks In Anchorage Wouldn't Give Her a White Baby

The title summarizes one of the stories Mrs. Nash tells on a tape my daughter made before Mrs. Nash died. There are a number of interesting bits of Anchorage history on the short audio tape below.

Mrs. Mildred Nash was our neighbor for over 25 years. It would be more accurate to say that we were her neighbor, since she'd lived in this neighborhood 20 years before we moved in. When our house, our side of the street, was still woods. I don't even know if our street was even here. I wrote about Mrs. Nash recently because the ally across the street was made into a street and called Mildred Place.

Today, November 25, is her birthday.  This seems like a good time to post the audio my daughter made with Mrs. Nash.

[Note, it might take a while - it took me a few minutes - for this to upload, but read something else and come back to it.]

If I close my eyes and listen to the tape, it's like Mrs. Nash is here in the room with me. And you can catch the infectious love of life in her voice. She was about 86 and dying with cancer when this recorded. But you wouldn't know it.   If you want to get a little boost today, listen to a truly at-peace woman thinking back on her life.  And hear the story about how she had to go to Seattle to adopt her son, because they didn't have black babies and they weren't going to give her a white one.

I should note it would also be my mother-in-law's birthday today. In one of those strange coincidences in life, her name was also Mildred.  Happy Birthday to both my Mildreds.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Should You Wash The Turkey? How Long To Cook It? And Mary's Little Lamb

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.  Is there anyone in your life who made a difference when you needed it?  This is a good day to call her up and say thank you.  Go ahead.  Even if you have people coming over in two hours.  Just say, Hi, I wanted to say thank you.  I don't have a lot of time now, but I'll call you back.  But I didn't want to wait any longer.  Thanks!

Meanwhile, if you're trying to figure out how to prepare that turkey, you'll find a bit of variation in the  advice online.

Wash the turkey or not?  I get contradictory advice:

Better Homes and Gardens:
Don't wash the bird. Washing raw poultry is not necessary, and the splashing water may contaminate surrounding objects. In general, the less you handle poultry, the safer it remains.


Finally, rinse the outside of the turkey and inside the cavity with cool water and pat dry. As a precaution against the spread of harmful bacteria, be sure to wash the sink, countertop, and any utensils that have come in contact with the uncooked meat, as well as your own hands, with soap and water.

 Cooking times are closer but still vary greatly

Here are three recommendations.  We have a 21 pound turkey the advice from these three different sites are, for cooking at 325˚F: 4.5-5 hours,  5.5 - 6 hours, and 3.5-4.5.  What seems to be common among them all is that it's done when the inside temperature should be 165˚F.

From the United States Department of Agriculture  Food Safety Inspection Service :

Timetables for Turkey Roasting
(325 °F oven temperature)

Use the timetables below to determine how long to cook your turkey. These times are approximate. Always use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature of your turkey and stuffing.

4 to 8 pounds (breast) 1½ to 3¼ hours
8 to 12 pounds 2¾ to 3 hours
12 to 14 pounds 3 to 3¾ hours
14 to 18 pounds 3¾ to 4¼ hours
18 to 20 pounds 4¼ to 4½ hours
20 to 24 pounds 4½ to 5 hours

 From Homecooking at aboutdotcom:
Approximate Roasting Times for Unstuffed Turkey

Turkey Weight

6 to 8 pounds2-1/2 to 3 hours
8 to 12 pounds3 to 4 hours
12 to 16 pounds4 to 5 hours
16 to 20 pounds5 to 5-1/2 hours
20 to 24 pounds5-1/2 to 6 hours

 This one, I just realized, is from AskAndyAbout Clothes.
Do I want to take turkey cooking advice from a clothes blog?  And he doesn't say where his information comes from.  But I like his times.

Turkey weight with giblets Oven temp Internal temp when done
Cooking time
10-13 lb. 350° F 165° 1 ½ to 2 ¼ hr.
14-23 lb. 325° 165° 2 to 3 hr.
24-27 lb. 325° 165° 3 to 3 ¾ hr.
28-30 lb. 325° 165° 3 ½ to 4 ½ hr.

Last year we took advice to cook the turkey faster and it was great. 

And what does Mary's Little Lamb have to do with Thanksgiving?  Find out below.

In 1817, New York became the first of several states to officially adopt an annual Thanksgiving holiday; each celebrated it on a different day, however, and the American South remained largely unfamiliar with the tradition.

In 1827, the noted magazine editor and prolific writer Sarah Josepha Hale—author, among countless other things, of the nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb”—launched a campaign to establish Thanksgiving as a national holiday. For 36 years, she published numerous editorials and sent scores of letters to governors, senators, presidents and other politicians.
Abraham Lincoln finally heeded her request in 1863, at the height of the Civil War, in a proclamation entreating all Americans to ask God to “commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife” and to “heal the wounds of the nation.” He scheduled Thanksgiving for the final Thursday in November, and it was celebrated on that day every year until 1939, when
Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the holiday up a week in an attempt to spur retail sales during the Great Depression. Roosevelt’s plan, known derisively as Franksgiving, was met with passionate opposition, and in 1941 the president reluctantly signed a bill making Thanksgiving the fourth Thursday in November.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Dr. Doug Brinkley Stands Up To Don Young's Bullying

From the LA Times:

Famed biographer Doug Brinkley has written exhaustively on the history of Alaskan wilderness, but Alaskan Rep. Don Young was having none of it recently when it came to the issue of drilling for oil at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The two men clashed bitterly last Friday as Brinkley, a professor at Rice University and the author most recently of “The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom 1979-1960,” [sic] testified at a House Natural Resources Committee meeting regarding the effects of drilling in the refuge. Young interrupted Brinkley’s testimony, calling him “Dr. Rice” and saying his testimony was “garbage.”

“Dr. Brinkley. Rice is a university,” Brinkley shot back. “I know you went to Yuba College and you couldn't graduate.”

Young, getting visibly upset, retorted: “I'll call you anything I want to call you when you sit in that chair. You just be quiet.”

"You don't own me," Brinkley said. "I pay your salary.”

"Brinkley got the last word when he expressed his surprise to 'hear a congressman today say there’s nothing in his district. It’s boring. It’s flat. It’s not exciting. I don’t know a representative who doesn’t love their district. Every state in America’s landscape is beautiful if you love it. But some people love money more than their homeland or where they live, and I’m afraid that that’s why this fight has to keep coming up 50 years later, we’re still trying to tell people the Arctic refuge is real. It belongs to the American people.'”

The Washington Post has more detailed comment
on the exchange and longer video from C-Span with more context.

Don Shelby, who says he's a friend of Brinkley's, talked to him about the incident.

Dr. Brinkley gets a little heated himself, but I think just sitting there while the Congressman calls you garbage, isn't the answer.  Bullies, especially those with power, get away with their tantrums because people don't stand up to them.  The Committee Chair tells Brinkley to act civilly, but he doesn't tell his colleague Don Young that.

I just learned about this today (thanks J), but Gryphen at Immoral Minority posted about it on Monday and the Fairbanks News Miner had it  Saturday.  And Mudflats discussed it Sunday with comments on the ANWR debate itself that got Young so aroused.

The Anchorage Daily News finally got something posted online today:
Rice University historian Douglas Brinkley says he has no regrets about his dust-up with Alaska Rep. Don Young Friday during a Capitol Hill hearing on oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In a follow-up interview with KHOU in Houston, Texas, Brinkley accused Young of "bullying." Young, meanwhile, claimed Brinkley was just trying to boost sales of his recent book on the history of Alaska conservationism.
That's all they had to say.  So the newspaper in the biggest city in the state by far, put up just a little bit and focused on Brinkley's behavior rather than Young's. 

Though they included a video news report  from Houston, where he teaches at Rice University which includes comments from Dr. Brinkley:

It was only two weeks ago that Brent Scarpo was in Anchorage discussing bullying at many different venues. A key point he made is that bullying continues when bystanders allow bullies to bully.

People have criticized Joe Paterno and others who did not follow through when they knew about Coach Sandusky's abuse of the kids under his care. But how many of Don Young's colleagues interrupt his bullying of witnesses who have been invited to testify.

It's easy to criticize others' inaction, but it's much harder to act when the bully is someone with power in our own spheres of influence. The Alaska voters who reelect Don Young every two years are, to an extent, his enablers.

And let me just note, there is a difference between being passionate in your arguments and being abusive. Young is, and has frequently over the years, been abusive to people who disagree with him. This is not the kind of role model I want for the people and youth of Alaska. Don Young owes Dr. Brinkley an apology. And when he gives it, then Dr. Brinkley can accept it and apologize as well - not for standing up to him, but for getting personal (ie. bringing up Young's college record) rather than staying on topic.

Congressman Young, here's a link to the Good Samaritan Counseling Center in Anchorage. They have an anger management program that might be helpful.

And here's a link for an 8 hour Anger Management class in Washington DC.  It's only $65.  I'd be more than happy to pay what isn't covered by your Congressional health insurance.

Road to Child's Glacier and Million Dollar Bridge Closed Until after 2015

[UPDATE May 1, 2015:  Here's an update on the road. 
Q: When's The Cordova Road To Child's Glacier/ Million Dollar Bridge Going To Be Ready? A: It's Not]

We spent two days at Child's Glacier in July when we went to Cordova for Joe and Martha's wedding.  The campground host told me that there were problems with one of the bridges
Alaska Dept of Transportation photo
and it could be closed down any time.  So I took pictures of the bridge as we crossed over it on the way back.  At least I'm pretty sure this is the right bridge, but clearly the water level when we passed it was much different from in the DOT aerial photo below.

In any case, you can't go to Child's Glacier or the Million Dollar bridge any more by car.  The bridge was closed August 20 and today I got a press release from the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities saying if everything goes well, the might begin construction in 2015.  That means no campers will be using that great new campground at Child's Glacier for at least another five years.

River very near to Copper River Highway
Or maybe the intrepid entrepreneurs of Cordova will find ways to boat and fly people out there and just permanently park campers in the campground for several years until the bridge is finished.  But I have to say, the road itself seemed threatened by high waters for a good part of the way too.  I was standing on the edge of the highway when I took the picture on the left. 

DOT&PF Extends Copper River Highway Closure
Bridge at mile 36.5 must be replaced before road can reopen.

(FAIRBANKS, Alaska) — The Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities (ADOT&PF) has indefinitely closed the Copper River Highway at mile 36 due to safety concerns at Bridge No. 339. The closure will last until the bridge is replaced.

I'm pretty sure this is Bridge 339

The 56-mile Copper River Highway is located near Cordova and ends at the Million Dollar Bridge. The road, frequented by hunters and recreationists, leads to vast areas of proposed resource development.

Bridge No. 339 is one of 11 bridges crossing the Copper River Delta. Naturally occurring changes to the flow of water between channels across the delta led to a dramatic increase in the amount of water running under the bridge. Due to the increased amount of water, 50 ft of “scour”, or erosion, was observed at the bridge in 2011. The scour resulted in a lowering of the channel bottom that compromised the structure of the bridge and necessitated the closure. 
Bridge No. 339 was constructed in 1977. Based upon the channel configurations at that time, bridge designers estimated that water under the bridge would flow at 18,500 cubic
feet per second (cfs). During the summer of 2011, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) hydrologists measured the water flow to exceed 85,000 cfs.  Channel and flow distribution changes are a natural part of deltaic river systems. The adverse effects of these changes on Bridge No. 339 was first noted in 2009, when the bridge began receiving a greater portion of the total Copper River flow than its neighboring bridges. In 2010, ADOT&PF and the USGS began a comprehensive monitoring program at the bridge that included frequent on-site inspections and the use of bridge sensors that enabled remote observation of the bridge.
ADOT&PF received funding this fall to start the design phase of a replacement bridge; the design phase will progress through 2013 with agency permitting in 2014. Pending the availability of construction funds, the construction project could begin as early as 2015.
ADOT&PF oversees 254 airports, 11 ferries serving 33 communities, 5,700 miles of highway and 660 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of ADOT&PF is to “Get Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”

Attached photo [aerial photo top of post]: Bridge No. 339, located at mile 36.5 of the Copper River Highway, is closed until a replacement bridge is built. A dramatic shift in the Copper River increased the amount of water flowing under the bridge, resulting in severe erosion. (Photo by Jeff Conaway, USGS).

From Bridge Looking East
[UPDATE Feb. 8, 2012 - There's a long discussion at Trip Advisor - Child's Glacier - which includes this comment (#51- Feb. 7, 2012):
I am the person building Childs Glacier Lodge ( I am hoping to provide transportation to and from the Glacier. Problem is, the Forest Service wants their piece of the pie. I was informed a USFS permit is necessary to have people walk from the road to my boat and back to the road across the river on the other side of the closed (washed out) bridge 339. I have a 15 passenger van on the other side of the washout. I have applied for the permit and have been informed I may have an answer sometime in March. The USFS has however stated to me that the USFS Campground will be closed but that they are reviewing that decision. Issues that need to be addressed by the USFS for their campground are sewer and garbage disposal. Even if the campground is closed, my facility in front of the glacier will be where I will take people if they (the USFS) gives me the permit. I am allowed to go there as long as I don't charge so I will be working on my lodge as soon as the snow and ice situation allows. If the permit is granted the permit conditions will determine terms, schedule and price. If everything works out, there is nothing more grand than Childs Glacier calving. There was a reason two world champion surfers chose it as the only glacier calving waves ever surfed.]

Anchorage Passes John Martin Sidewalk Law

John Martin and Police Chief Mark Mew Chat at Break
It's rare that a government passes a law to deal with just one person.  One person.  Where's the imagination to come up with Solomon-like solutions?  It's also the easy way out - like a parent telling his kid, "Because I'm your father and I said so."  Except Dan Sullivan is not John Martin's father.

[An aside - I talked to Dan Sullivan for the first time ever today.  He was at the meeting, there was a break and I thought I'd get a picture of the Mayor.  He saw and waved.  It was out of focus so you won't see it.  But went over and introduced myself and I told him I had talked to Sam Abrams - the expert on Finnish education he'd invited up to his Education Conference last week - and that I was delighted to hear from Sam that the Mayor backed free school lunches for all students.  It was a very cordial and pleasant short conversation.  He told me Sam went out to Bethel today.  I do think that people have a lot more in common than they think and if we could break down our images of each other we could get past a lot of unnecessary bickering.  But that's another post.]

Here's a video of Martin I made during a break.  He explains why he was there.

I had to leave the Assembly meeting about 6:30 for another meeting, but I got an email at 10:30 saying the sidewalk ordinance had passed.  Bummer.  It had failed in July after the
 Anchorage Daily News  carried a story about a homeless man who'd taken up residence on the sidewalk in front of city hall. 
The idea of a new law came up, said city attorney Dennis Wheeler, because the administration wanted to remove John Martin. Martin hung out with his blanket on the City Hall sidewalk for days and nights in late June. He is now set up on the sidewalk kitty-corner from City Hall at Sixth Avenue and G Street
Martin said Tuesday that he is protesting the mayor's treatment of homeless people -- particularly, the city's decision to take and destroy some homeless people's possessions during the course of clearing out illegal camps on public property around town.
The law didn't pass in July, but it did, apparently, Tuesday.

From a Nov. 7 ADN:
The law, if passed, would make it illegal to sit or recline on a sidewalk downtown from 6 a.m. until late evening, with exceptions for things like medical emergencies or parades and demonstrations that have permits.
It would also prohibit panhandling downtown.
The revised ordinance extends the no-sitting provision later into the night on Fridays and Saturdays than the initial version -- until 2:30 a.m.-- to keep sidewalks clear for people downtown late on weekends, Sullivan said. On other nights, it would be OK to sit or recline on the sidewalks at midnight.
The idea for the law arose out of a homeless man's sit-down protest on sidewalks near City Hall. The protestor, John Martin, has been sitting or standing on a blanket either right in front of City Hall or across the street, off and on for months. He has said he's protesting the city's treatment of homeless people.
The administration wanted to remove him, but found there is no city law that forbids lying or sitting on a sidewalk, city officials have said.
It's unclear how or if new sidewalk rules would affect the more recent protest, Occupy Anchorage, in which people are demonstrating in Town Square Park across from City Hall. They've had a tent set up, a chair or two and a portable heater, along with signs.
I've sat down on the sidewalk before.  This seems like an overly broad bill.  Can't I bring a folding chair and sit discretely and watch the world go by?  I guess not any more in Anchorage.  
I really wanted a friendly but serious conversation with the Mayor about why he couldn't have come up with a more compassionate and imaginative way to resolve this.  Instead of thinking like a mediator or negotiator, he seems to have needed to show that he was boss.  He made it into a win-lose confrontation.  But who actually won.  John Martin has gotten a lot of attention and he got the mayor to spend a lot of time on an ordinance to prevent him from sitting on the sidewalk.  It didn't seem the right time, and I had to go anyway.  But it would have been nice. 

In my world, a true leader knows he's the mayor for all the people of Anchorage, not just the people who agree with him.  Putting the city hall lobby television on Fox News is like a poke in the eye to more than half the population of Anchorage.  It says to me, Hey, I'm mayor and I can do what I want.  Just as bad would be if he didn't have a clue how offensive having the city play Fox News in OUR city hall lobby.   This isn't high school where our clique tries to beat out your clique.  This is the adult world where we realize that we all are humans with human problems.  Some of us got better starts in life than others.   Some of us believe strongly in obeying all the rules, some of us believe everyone else has to obey all the rules, and others challenge those rules we don't think are fair.

But both sides have to recognize that they need each other so that neither side goes too far out toward one extreme or the other.  We need to find that kernel of humanity that we can respect in everyone, so that we can work things out instead of carrying on never-ending feuds between 'us' and 'them.'

OK, it's late and I'm starting to ramble and get preachy.  Dan, I challenge you to find a more imaginative solution to your next confrontation.   John Martin, I wish you well, and in my mind, this will always be the John Martin Sidewalk Law.

[UPDATE - I've got some follow up posts with video on this:
March 27, 2012:    John Martin Back Camped Out In Front of City Hall
March 27, 2012:    Mayor Sullivan Brings Coffee and Chats With Sidewalk Sitter John Martin  (with video)
March  30, 2012:   Police Bust Sidewalk Campers - $1000 Fine (with video)]

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Occupy Anchorage and Title 21 People Lure Me To Assembly Meeting

Occupy group at Assembly Meeting
I'm still trying to finish a post from the last Assembly meeting I attended last June (on the mayor's veto, coming soon, I promise) but both the Title 21 citizens' group and Occupy Anchorage folks were both set to testify at the Assembly meeting at 4:30 today.  And though I knew I was going to be late, I came anyway.  Didn't matter.  It's 5:20 now and the Assembly just got started and they're doing housekeeping stuff.  So I had a chance to talk to some people before the meeting.  I'm waiting for one of the videos to get uploaded now.  The Loussac Library where the Assembly chambers are has wifi, but it's slow.

Jo-Ann Chung,Pamela Scott,   Assembly Member Elvi Gray-Jackson

5:27  They are honoring former Assistant Muni Prosecutor Pamela Scott and now Jo-Ann Chung who have gotten judicial appointments.  Both approved.

5:36  Now they are recognizing and celebrating Alaska native Heritage Day November 25, 2011.

I have a 6:30 meeting nearby.  Am I going to get to see anything I came to see at 4:30?

Now it's a liquor license issue on Muldoon. Now a whole slew of them.  The image has a few of the many they are approving. There's one for a Tesoro Station on Government Hill that had problems with selling to inebriates that seems like it's going to be held til later.

The video's ready now, so I'll post it. 

You can watch this live on cable or online.
Though who knows when the Occupy folks and the Title 21 folks.

Assembly member Trombley is now questioning someone about the Sullivan Arena and asking why they had a monthly loss of $750,000. The respondent says it's for the year and there is money coming in through visitor taxes and other items. Now Trombley is asking about the new figure of $39,000.

I could go on and on. Now Assembly member Starr is questioning about how someone had asked his girlfriend to marry him using the scoreboard at a hockey game, but so many lights were burned out she couldn't read her name.

I'll post this now.

UPDATE: 6:10pm - someone is now talking his 3 minutes to tell the Assembly about the dangers of power toothbrushes. His time was up but Assembly Member Gray-Jackson asked him to continue up to 3 more minutes. Dental profession has recognized harm called toothbrush abrasion. Spinning, rotating, osculating power toothbrushes.

I've been here since 5:45pm and I'm really starting to wonder how the Assembly plans its time. I understand the importance of honorary motions etc. But it seems there are some really serious meaty issues before the Assembly and they ought to address them.

This guy wants the Assembly to take action to prohibit sales of power toothbrushes so that kids don't live their lives with the pain of toothbrush abrasion.

6:15 pm Assembly is now going to take its dinner break. And I'm going to leave and miss all this for my other meeting. But I do have another video I'll put up later.