Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Wabi-Sabi Home

I first became aware of 'wabi-sabi' last spring reading Lynn Schooler's  Walking Home [fixed the link, sorry] where he's writing about building a house in Juneau. 
The woods I was using - spruce and hemlock for the cabinets, fir for the timbers and frame of the house, rot-resistant cedar for the outside decks and siding - were soft woods, without the defenses against marring offered by hardwoods like oak and maple or “engineered” products like laminated bamboo.

But this was part of the plan.  In time, I hoped, day-to-day wear, weather, guests, and rambunctious children or grandchildren would eventually mark and smooth the various parts of the structure into what the Japanese call a wabi-sabi home.  At it’s simplest, sabi can be defined as the beauty that comes to physical things with the passage of time, such as the way an old wooden door weathers into striking colors and patterns, or the grip of a tool develops a glowing patina after years of respectful use.  Wa, the root of wabi, means “harmony” and connotes a life of ease within nature.  When applied to objects,  wabi-sabi  implies the beauty of simple practicality.  More important, the phrase carries a Zen overtone of living in the moment and accepting the inevitability of decay.  It might take decades, but years of good living would transform the assemblage of wood and concrete into a comfortable wabi-sabi  home, where my wife and I could grow old together graciously.  pp. 25-26

There's a lot packed into that.  The obvious is the idea of cherishing the scratches and dents as like a physical photo album of the family.  These marks are when Billy was 6 and tried to eat the door.  This reddish spot is from our 1st Thanksgiving when we spilled the cranberry sauce on the tablecloth. Marking a kid's growth on the wall is almost a movie cliche.

The positive flip side means not getting so hung up about making a spot or dent. 

But it goes deeper than just family history.  Schooler was building a not just a house, but a home that was going to last for generations.  Most people today build or buy homes as investments as well as places to live.  Our economic system promotes that by turning everything in our lives into commodities.  And by encouraging people to move around in pursuit of higher paying jobs.  Toward this end, the house is to be kept as 'new' as possible.

I copied down the passage, but left it to settle.  And then eight or nine months later my wife showed up with a book simply imperfect by Robyn Griggs Lawrence.  The subtitle is "revisiting the wabi-sabi house."

It's clear that wabi-sabi is more than marks in the dining room table and scuffs on the floor.  One of Lawrence's attempts to describe wabi-sabi:
...wabi-sabi is the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection and profundity in nature, of accepting the natural cycle of growth, decay and death.  It's simple, slow and uncluttered - and it reveres authenticity above all.  Wabi-sabi is flea markets, not warehouse stores;  aged wood, not Pergo;  rice paper, not glass.  Minimalist wabi-sabi reveres age and celebrates humans over involnerable machines.  It celebrates cracks and crevices and all the marks that time, weather and use leave behind.  It reminds us that we are all transient beings - that our bodies and materials world around us are in the process of returning to the dust from which we came.

We'd learned about feng-shui while we lived in Hong Kong before it came to be hip in the U.S.  So I look at books like this with caution.  They offer us a glimpse of a view of the world from another culture.  That's good.  But we shouldn't think we understand it just from this one book.  After all, how wabi-sabi can a book with a bar code on it be?

I grew up in a family where things were to be treated with care and respect.  Wabi-sabi was not in anyone's vocabulary or world view.  On the other hand,  only a few of my grandparents' possessions survived Nazi Germany so there was always the understanding that mere things were transitory and not to be overly valued.

It seems that in the end there's a balance between caring for things so that they last, yet recognizing that things age with use and to accept and cherish those age marks. Including those on my wabi-sabi body.

The last day of the year seems to be a good one to wrap one's head around the idea of wabi-sabi.  A good time to consider how things have aged this year and how we'll think about them next year. 

I also have to mention that Schooler's marriage never got wabi-sabi.  His wife left pretty early on. 

Friday, December 30, 2011

Lake Otis Sidewalk/Bike Path Ends, Forcing Me Into The Street

Finally running again yesterday, I decided to bike to an evening meeting that wasn't far off.  The bike path along Lake Otis was cleared, a little messy with loose snow, but doable if you like adventure.  I can understand why some cyclists move into the street. 

But then I got north of Northern Lights.  Cross the first street and then the trail/sidewalk abruptly ended.  It just stopped and there was a big pile of snow.  I thought maybe the trail would pickup again. 

But no, there was a 2-3 foot high berm the rest of the way with one set of six inch deep footprints on top. 

There was no other place for pedestrians or bikes except the street. 

Lake Otis and Tudor is one of the busiest intersections in town.  This is less than a mile north of there and there's no place to walk or bike except the street. 

When the traffic light back at NL was red, there was a pause in the traffic where I was.  I slipped into the street and went down the hill, past the Chester Creek bike trail, then up the hill.  At least my rear bike light was flashing so the cars knew I was there when the light changed and theycaught up with me. Fortunately the traffic was light enough that they could all pass me in the left lane.  At the top of the hill I turned right into the neighborhood where I was headed. 

Snow plowing started out fine this year, but quickly deteriorated.  I know there's been a lot of snowfalls - there's another inch this morning.  But this is a major street and pedestrians shouldn't be forced into the streets. 

What Does "Taking Responsibility" Mean these days? Sheffield Resigns for $60K/year

ADN on line has this headline:
Sheffield resigns as port director
CONTRACT: Ex-governor will earn $60,000 a year as city's liaison on the project.
Anchorage Daily News Published: December 29th, 2011 11:06 PM
Last Modified: December 29th, 2011 11:26 PM

It took long enough to get him out of the Port.  The story tells us:
The cost of the port expansion project, as envisioned by Sheffield, has jumped from $360 million in 2005 to about $1 billion. [Anchorage Mayor] Sullivan has proposed a less ambitious project. The city late this year asked the Legislature for $350 million to continue port construction work.

The port was supposed to be finished in 2011, but the ADN reported last July, that the completion date is now 2021.  That's not a minor adjustment.  Why the delay?  Because Sheffield had championed a controversial, untested piling design which failed.
Some engineers are questioning whether the new dock can even be built as designed. Much of the work done in 2010 involved dismantling construction from just a year earlier. Numerous sheets of steel that were planted in Cook Inlet as part of the dock expansion have been ripped up and now lie stacked in twisted and warped piles at the port.
You can see some of these on a video of a Port tour in a 2009 post.

But according to Sheffield and his supporters, it wasn't his fault.
"The project has faced challenges but we have worked hard over the last two years to get the management and construction back on the correct course," Sheffield said in a written statement . . .

. . . Sheffield supporters say the port construction problems were largely beyond his control, and that a federal agency and a contractor are responsible for quality assurance, not the port director. Former Assemblyman Dan Coffey, whom Sullivan has hired to lobby the Legislature for additional port funds, says he thinks Sheffield "is the face of a mess not of his making."
Yeah, it wasn't me.  Just because I was the port director, you shouldn't blame me.  The Feds should have done it.  Ask the feds who was pushing the controversial pilings. 

Let's see.  This is the former governor who was brought up for impeachment inquiry by the legislature in 1985.  The LA Times reported:
Alaska's impeachment inquiry stems from what might be considered routine patronage politics in some places: the steering of a $9.1-million lease for state offices to a Fairbanks building in which one of Sheffield's supporters and fund-raisers held an interest. . .
. . .The office lease matter took a serious turn on July 1, when the special grand jury investigating it, citing page after page of Sheffield's failed memory in his testimony, declared that the governor is "unfit to fulfill the inherent duties of public office."
'Lack of Candor'
The jurors added that "Sheffield's testimony reflects a lack of candor and a disrespect for the laws of this state."
In the end, he was not impeached.

But here's some more history from a 2007 post I did on Carnival Cruise Lines:
1987 - Sheffield sold Sheffield Enterprises to Holland America [which belongs to Carnival Cruises.] His number two man at Sheffield Enterprises, Al Parish, eventually became a vice president of Holland America.
And from the Alaska Railroad website we get the following:
April 1995
Former Governor Bill Sheffield is appointed to the Board of Directors and elected chairman.
During his tenure, the Anchorage International Airport got a new train depot, that the Railroad says cost $28 million (I think that was just the federal money, others have hinted it was much more) that is now named after Sheffield.  The only passengers who ride on trains from that depot are people who travel to or from the airport to downtown train station (a ten minute taxi ride) which is part of their Alaska cruise ticket.  And the cruises only come up during the summer months.  But us Anchorage folks can rent it out for a party if we want. 

The Alaska Railroad's 1998 Annual Report says about the Depot:

Anchorage International Airport
What It Is: A $28 million project to develop a state-of-the-art rail
station at the Anchorage International Airport. The station will be
the centerpiece of all passenger services development at the
Railroad, connecting Seward, Whittier and Girdwood, making
commuter services to Wasilla and Palmer a more viable option. (p.10)

In the Chairman's message it even gives a time estimate:

And by 2005, we hope to be carrying commuters from the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and Girdwood into Anchorage with safe, cost-effective, environmentally friendly rail transit.(p. 1)
It's the end of 2011 and no one has gone anywhere but downtown from that depot.  But maybe, like the port, the commuter service had to be delayed 10 years.  But don't hold your breath until 2015.

Heads of agencies and governments and corporations frequently tell us that they have the responsibility to make important decisions, but when things go bad, they rarely seem to be held accountable.  How are those bankers doing who made all those bad loans?  Do you think W. is going to apologize any time soon for getting us into Iraq?   The only Alaskan politicians who have been held accountable were convicted by the feds after an FBI investigation.  And the ones who spent the most time in prison were convicted of crimes involving $10,000 or less. 

Mayor Sullivan's been cutting the Municipal budget on the grounds of being fiscally responsible, but this is the end of his third year as mayor.  He's left Sheffield at the port all this time. 

Some folks thought the political corruption cases might change things, and they did for a bit.  They helped get Sarah Palin elected governor, for example.  But just looking at Sheffield's record as Governor, railroad president, and head of the port raise very troubling questions about accountability in this state.  The gift of the railroad depot to the cruise lines all by itself should have been investigated.  It has cronyism written all over it. 

Who's accountable for it never being used for commuter service?  Who still thinks there was ever that intention?

The current ADN story says that no one knew about the resignation and it was announced at a Wednesday night fundraiser for Mayor Sullivan at Sheffield's home.  Sweet deal.  I'll resign and I'll give you a fundraiser, but I want a $60K retainer after I resign.  Or even worse, maybe he didn't have to ask.  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Watching Eagle Harrassed by Ravens and Magpies While Running

I've been rationalizing that shoveling the driveway has been my exercise since October 30 and we've had measurable snow about every three days since then (at least that's how I remember it.)  But shoveling isn't running.  Today I cleared the snow that had accumulated on the deck.  Did some indoor tasks and the sun came out which got me itching to run.  It's a little colder than I like (10˚F or -12˚C), but I thought I should go at least on a short run.  I forgot how good it feels to run outside, even in the cold. 

I also got to see ravens and magpies ganging up on a bald eagle.

The raven is on the right above the eagle

The bald eagle, alone

And now a magpie (left) comes over to keep an eye on the eagle (right)

The sun was already covered again by the clouds at 2:30.  Official sunset was at 3:48pm - we gained, according to the newspaper, 1 minute and 27 seconds of sun over yesterday.  That may not seem like much, but at that rate, it's ten minutes in a week, and the amount we gain is increasing daily.  And for those of you wondering about sunrise - it was officially 10:15am. 

I know the photos aren't very good, I was running.  And my pocket canon powershot doesn't do distance well.  But I'm just documenting here what I saw. 

What's Wikipedia's Annual Budget? Is Donating $5 Too Much? Too Little?

If you've been to Wikipedia lately, you've seen a photo of  Jimmy Wales and an appeal to make a donation.

I use Wikipedia a lot here so I've been thinking I should make a contribution.  How often do you use Wikipedia?  Do you think it might average, over a year, once a day?  Twice a day?  Three times?

Think about it.  OK, some days you don't look at it at all, but other days you might look something up on Wikipedia five or six times.  Or you might read something here or on another blog that comes from Wikipedia, in which case you are a second hand Wikipedia user.

Let's take twice a day.  That would be 730 visits per year.  At a penny a visit (it's worth that much isn't it?) that would be $7.30.  And they are saying that if everyone sends them just $5, they're ok.

There are three days left until the end of the year and their current fund raising campaign.

It takes less than a minute (if you don't put the wrong credit card expiration date in as I did) to fill out their form on their website.  

If you don't like to pay online, you can send a check:
Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 98204
Washington, DC 20090-8204

OK Steve, so what's the budget already?  That's what the title said I'd get. 

Here's from their FAQ page:

How much money are you hoping to raise?

The 2011-12 plan posits revenue of $29.5 million, a 24% increase over projected revenue of $23.8 million for 2010-11.

Why Should You Contribute?

Contributing your fair share or not is the difference between someone who believes in making the world a better place by giving back at least as much as he's given, or what economists call free riders.  People who sponge of the work of others.

Wikipedia isn't asking us to pay back the real value of Wikipedia.  They have lots of volunteers who give their labor free. (Their annual report says hundreds of thousands.) They're just asking for us to help out with things they actually have to pay for.  Imagine if you had to buy all the information you get from Wikipedia.  Hire someone at $25- $100 per hour to look it up.

Does Wikipedia  Spend It's Money Well?

OK, I've wandered way off from, "is it worth 1¢ per visit?" to writing how I imagine  Wikipedia works.  I don't know how efficient they are or whether anyone gets a $100,000 salary or not.  And if they do, whether it's money well-spent.  But . . .

. . . whenever I ask questions like those I have to go look, so here's from the overview financial page from their annual report (pdf):

Where the money goes
The Wikimedia Foundation continues to enjoy a stable base of revenue, stemming largely from its annual community giving campaign. In 2010–11, we doubled the number of small donors to over 500,000 individuals from all over the world.
Now in the second year of our five-year strategic plan, we are hiring new staff members, increasing the capacity of our server network to deliver Wikipedia and our other projects to the world, and intensifying our efforts to expand the reach of our projects in the Global South through on-the-ground initiatives.

44%  Maintaining our site and improving our software Operations and engineering, purchasing servers, maintaining and improving our data center, internet hosting, and software development and product engineering. $8,869,675

12%  Expanding our global reach
Improving access to Wikipedia on mobile devices in the Global South, public and education outreach, support and grants for our global chapters. $2,388,698

9%  Direct support to our volunteer community Researching community activity trends, increasing editor retention and recruitment, improving new technologies to help project editors. $1,889,084 

11%  Fundraising

Planning and development of our annual giving campaign, global payment collection fees (including Paypal and other fees). $2,142,217

6%  Board of Trustees administration and special projects Travel and professional development for our governing Board, as well as special research projects and initiatives to support the Wikimedia community. $1,172,654

18%  Administration
Benefits and related administration costs for Foundation staff, capital expenses, leases, training, travel, and other costs. $3,636,236

Total cash expenditures, including all capital purchases. $20,098,564
I just realized that was this year's annual plan.  Here's a link to the Wikimedia 2011-2012 Plan.

Charity Navigator gives them 65.49  points (out of a possible 70 points)  and four big stars overall.  Here's what they say that means:

4 Stars Exceptional Exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.

So here's the donate page link again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Record Your Skype Calls Easily With Call Recorder

Back in October I talked to Brent Scarpo via Skype before his trip to Anchorage.  I wanted to record it, so I used my digital camera on a tiny tripod to do it.  It was ok (the problems were more in the quality of his cam), but I realized what I needed was software to do it through Skype directly.

I quickly found ecamm's Call Recorder - made especially for Macs.  One of the perks of being an Alaska Apple User Group member is that if you review books and software and other products for them, you get to keep the item.  So I checked to see if they could get Call Recorder for me.  Actually, it was only $19.95 so it wasn't that big a deal.  But I figured writing up the review and this post, got me twenty bucks.  And I can buy my wife some flowers or use it for a dinner out.

click to make clearer
This software is really easy to use.  You download it, turn it on (and they walk you through all this), and there it is.  You turn on Skype and you get this little Call Recorder box (upper left.)

Click the middle circle with the yellow dot and it starts recording.  The dot turns red when it's recording.  And the green volume indicators get bright.

Click the circle to the left of that and you get the skype preference box with the Recording options.

If you click on the image you can get it bigger and sharper.  (Blogger, why do they have to do that?  Why can't you make it sharper right here?)   Anyhoo, you can see that you can set it different ways.
The key ones that mattered for me were:

1.  Tell it where to save the files.  Once you click record, it starts recording.  When you stop it, it automatically saves the very compressed files (about 11 minutes was 14mb).  So you might want to figure out where you want it to be saved and do that on the preference window.  If you don't, the button on the right of the yellow dot, shows you where the files are.

2.  Set how you want the video to record.  It came set to record both cams, split screen.  I just wanted the person I was interviewing.  So I set it that way.  But you can also just record yourself or put yourself in a small box with the person you call.

3.  You can mark the recording as it is happening so it will have separate chapters.  I haven't tried that yet.

4.  You can record a voice chat as well.

Very cool and very easy.

Of course, this also means that your Skype chat could end up on YouTube so be careful who you chat with and what you say.  [Update Dec. 31, 2012:  People have been telling me that there's a red light on when it's recording.  Then I saw the red light too.  So, if the other person is paying attention, they may notice the red light and figure out they are being recorded.  I'm not sure if this was there the whole time or it was added more recently.]

Ecamm does note on their site that different states have different laws about recording phone conversations without the other party knowing.  In Alaska, just one person has to consent (me or the other guy).  You can check Summary of Consent Laws Requirements for Taping Telephone Conversations which has  a table of states (38+DC) that allow one party consent and all party consent (12 states).  But even if you are in a one party state, if you call another state, its laws and federal laws apply.  And there's no date on that website and laws change.

I was making videos for the blog, so I let the people know.  I think it's probably a good idea to tell the person you are recording and keep the clip that says they know in case anyone says they didn't know they were being recorded.

The video quality is only as good as the Skype video - and nothing I got was nearly as great as what ecamm shows on their website. 

I did three of these of film makers who had films at the Anchorage International Film Festival, but who weren't able to get to Anchorage.  You can see how it turned out.
1.  Nayeem Mahbub - He was in Nairobi, Kenya.  The video quality was terrible on Skype.
2.  Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter - They were in Tilburg, Holland.
3.  David Andrade - He was in San Diego, California. 

David's was the best video.  You could see his lips and the audio wasn't synched right, so I had to move the audio track a smidge to get it to synch.

For what I need, this is perfect.

[Disclosure:  As I said on top, I did get a free copy through the Alaska Apple User Group and I had to write a review for them.  But otherwise I have no obligation to the company and I'm posting this because I think it's neat and easy and some of you might be looking for a a way to record Skype conversations.  It doesn't do iChat or MSM.]

Check the website for more details.

The Difference Between "Oral" and "Verbal" Overturns Alaska No Texting Law

Magistrate Jennifer Wells in Kenai ruled that the state law that sponsoring legislators thought bans texting is too ambiguous.  The Anchorage Daily News reports:
The Kenai case involves Tyler S. Adams, 21, who was charged in May with texting while driving. Adams sought to have his case dismissed, which Wells did in October citing the ambiguous language in the law. Earlier this month, she declined to reconsider her decision.
So, what is the problem?  The law (see complete law below) says:
(a) A person commits the crime of driving with a screen device operating if
(1) the person is driving a motor vehicle;
(2) the vehicle has a television, video monitor, portable computer, or any other similar means capable of providing a visual display that is in full view of a driver in a normal driving position while the vehicle is in motion; and
(3) the monitor or visual display is operating while the person is driving.
"Screen Device"?  The dilemmas of trying to be specific enough to cover what you want to cover, but broad enough to not get left behind by new technology.

This does sound like they are talking about some sort of a television-like monitor or computer "that is in full view of a driver in a normal driving position" which makes it sound like it's mounted.  What about GPS?  Well that's covered in the exceptions as are a number of other such mounted screens used by different professionals as part of their work:

(c) Subsections (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to
(1) portable cellular telephones or personal data assistants being used for verbal communication or displaying caller identification information;
(2) equipment that is displaying only
(A) audio equipment information, functions, and controls;
(B) vehicle information or controls related to speed, fuel level, battery charge, and other vehicle safety or equipment information;
(C) navigation or global positioning;
(D) maps;
(E) visual information to
(i) enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind, or to the sides of the motor vehicle for the purpose of maneuvering the vehicle; or
(ii) allow the driver to monitor vehicle occupants seated behind the driver;
So, clearly the legislators had to be very careful to identify screens they meant to outlaw and those that are ok.  The problem cited by the newspaper article was the use of the word "verbal."

Language is a tool for communication.  Good tools should be used for their intended purpose.   You can often use a good bread knife, say, to cut other things it wasn't intended for, like string, and get the job done.  But when you go back to the bread it doesn't do that job as well.   The same is true for words and grammar.  For most everyday uses there is enough context that using a close, but different word, can get the meaning across.  But if you do that enough, people forget the original meaning of the word, and you've lost a precision tool. When you want to use it for its precise meaning, people no longer know that meaning.

In this case we have the word verbal which means precisely "related to words." 
The Kenai case involves Tyler S. Adams, 21, who was charged in May with texting while driving. Adams sought to have his case dismissed, which Wells did in October citing the ambiguous language in the law. Earlier this month, she declined to reconsider her decision.

Read more here:

From kerryr:
Q:  Do I use verbal or oral?
A:  Verbal is the more generic term, and means 'related to words', whereas oral in this context means 'using speech'. The distinction is somewhat blurred these days, but if you mean something spoken, use oral.
  • We had an oral contract.
  • I gave an oral presentation.
  • We have a verbal agreement.
    (The agreement could be spoken or written.)
 So, the exception written in the law is for 'verbal' communication, which could be either oral or written.  If the lawmakers had written 'oral' perhaps there would be no ambiguity here.  The bill was first introduced in 2005 and passed finally in 2007. It makes an exception for Cell Phones and  Personal Data Assistants (PDA's).  That suggests to me that reading small handheld computer screens was allowed in the law.  And from PDA to text messages?  Yes, there's a difference between thumbing a message and reading it.  But I don't think the law goes there. 

The magistrate, it appears to me, made the right call.  The law is ambiguous.  If one looks at the DMV's Driving Manual (p4 and inside back page), there is nothing about texting.  Cell phone use is listed as something that could be distracting, but not forbidden:
  • All parents should consider other restrictions, which may help their young driver have a safer beginning experience as an independent driver. Cell phone and stereo use should be discussed as well as eating and drinking while driving. Any activity, even conversation, can take the focus off the driving experience, causing distractions, which can lead to violations and crashes.  (p. 4)
  • Driving is not just getting behind the wheel and taking off down the road. Driving involves many other issues
  • Privilege - Driving is a privilege, not a right. 
  • Distracted Driving - The use of cell phones, eating, grooming, playing the radio or CD player extremely loud, or other activities while driving contributes to crashes.  (Inside back cover)
And the search found nothing about texting.  But the the Manual says at the very beginning:
The purpose of this manual is to provide the reader with a general familiarity with the principles of safe and lawful operation of a motor vehicle.
The contents of this manual are NOT intended to serve as a precise statement of the Statutes and Regulations of the State of Alaska pertaining to the opera- tion of a motor vehicle and should not be understood by the reader as such.
REV. 01/2010 Printed 01/2010
But it seems texting and cell phone use happen frequently enough that when there is a new law, it should be in the manual. 

I would also observe that I went into this with a story line about the difference between the two words.  And that's basically what I've written.  But as I got more into it, I suspect that it wasn't simply the use of 'verbal' that caused the magistrate problems.  The fact that cell phones and particularly PDA's are exempted suggests that reading text was not prohibited.  Should I drop the post because it's not exactly the story I had in mind?  I think this paragraph is probably better than dropping the post altogether.  It allows me to make my point about why using the right language is important and it also let's me make a point about how reporters and bloggers can write the story they looking for and not the one that is really out there. 

Here's the complete statute:

Alaska Statute Section 28.35.161
Driving a motor vehicle with a screen device operating; unlawful installation of television, monitor, or similar device.
(a) A person commits the crime of driving with a screen device operating if
(1) the person is driving a motor vehicle;
(2) the vehicle has a television, video monitor, portable computer, or any other similar means capable of providing a visual display that is in full view of a driver in a normal driving position while the vehicle is in motion; and
(3) the monitor or visual display is operating while the person is driving.
(b) A person may not install or alter equipment described in (a)(2) of this section that allows the images to be viewed by the driver in a normal driving position while the vehicle is in motion.
(c) Subsections (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to
(1) portable cellular telephones or personal data assistants being used for verbal communication or displaying caller identification information;
(2) equipment that is displaying only
(A) audio equipment information, functions, and controls;
(B) vehicle information or controls related to speed, fuel level, battery charge, and other vehicle safety or equipment information;
(C) navigation or global positioning;
(D) maps;
(E) visual information to
(i) enhance or supplement the driver's view forward, behind, or to the sides of the motor vehicle for the purpose of maneuvering the vehicle; or
(ii) allow the driver to monitor vehicle occupants seated behind the driver;
(F) vehicle dispatching and response information for motor vehicles providing emergency road service or roadside assistance;
(G) vehicle dispatching information for passenger transport or freight or package delivery;
(H) information for use in performing highway construction, maintenance, or repair or data acquisition by the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities or a municipality; or
(d) Subsections (a) and (b) of this section do not apply to devices and equipment installed in an emergency vehicle. In this subsection, "emergency vehicle" means a police, fire, or emergency medical service vehicle.
(e) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under (b) of this section that the equipment installed or altered includes a device that, when the motor vehicle is being driven, disables the equipment for all uses except those described in (c) of this section.
(f) A person who violates (a) of this section is guilty of
(1) a class A misdemeanor, unless any of the circumstances described in (2) - (4) of this subsection apply;
(2) a class C felony if the person's driving causes physical injury to another person; (3) a class B felony if the person's driving causes serious physical injury to another person; (4) a class A felony if the person's driving causes the death of another person. (g) A person who violates (b) of this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

Monday, December 26, 2011

From "Braile Tattoos" to "jesus of course i accept people with pierced bodies cartoon" - More Google Searches

Here are a few terms people used to get to this blog that caught my attention in the last couple of months for one reason or another.

diminutive crony -  Is this like a Leprechaun lobbyist?  The person got to the post on Cronyism at UAA. 

I got enough searches for this that I looked to see why.  It was part of clue #2 in the Independence, Kansas Neewholah Medallion scavenger hunt.  Here are the clues (regular font) with the answer in the bold font:
Allan and Mikael sang in this band,
the song was a big hit.
Two singers for the Hollies – “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother”
A diminutive crony, they lent him a hand,
“He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother”
the first two lines provide the fit.
It’s a long road, with many a winding turn.

Diminutive Crony = My Brother?  That's a stretch, but it's a great, old song that people should listen to today when so many of our brothers (and sisters) need a little help. So I put it here on top so you can listen while you read the rest of the post.

The medallion was found:
LOCATION: Taped underneath a big green dumpster. Adjacent to the parking lot at the 10th street baseball/softball fields 

jesus of course i accept people with pierced bodies cartoon - they got to a photo of the cover of Gary Trudeau's book The Long Road Home.   But I want to see the Jesus cartoon.

utozombiesbra - This one got to a post on when the first Permanent Fund Dividend check was due out in 2010.  Searching the page found 'uto' in statutory and 'bra' in librarian, but no zombies.  The word vampire did appear though. 

ant egg oil reviews -  I didn't know people were using ant egg oil.  For cooking?  For driving?  This searcher got to the post Catching Up- Thai Bugs, which included a photo of a baggie full of red ant eggs - a delicacy for a Thai friend in Chiangmai. 

is there farsi book shop in london - This got to a post from LA which included a visit to a Persian book store.

blurk for newborn baby - Got to Baby Burke Brouhaha. But what's a blurk? The Urban dictionary offers two meanings that don't fit:
  1. Popular, conventional wisdom which may be factually right or wrong, but which loses meaning through frequent, often thoughtless repetition

    "Tommy never thinks for himself. He just repeats these blurks that he hears all day on CNN and then tries to pass it off as wisdom.

  2. to spew, chuck, or to throw up.

    when something is disgusting 
Maybe it was just a typo.  Maybe someone whose vocabulary includes 'blurk' can clarify.

wooden post old timey pig pen - Not too many people say 'old timey' these days. [Actually, since I wrote this, I've started to notice it again.] It's cool when the kind of word someone uses amplifies the meaning of the word itself. And this searcher got to a post (no pun intended really) with an old wooden pig pen in Thailand.
Someone else 20 minutes later got there with natural pig pen which worked, but just didn't have the same ring.

I've been noticing that sometimes two folks get to the same post, one after the other, seconds apart. Does someone clicking on a link cause Google to push that post higher for the very next person who searches for the same or a similar term? For example:
what do i know (from Toronto at 9:26:26am Alaska Time) came right on the heals of explain the quote "what do i know" (from Alexandria, VA at 9:26:25am). But messing up my speculation here (or maybe there's even more going on than I know) the first one came from Bing and the second from Google. This is probably a bad example because the second one got the post with the Victor Lebow quote and the second to the main What Do I Know? page. Or maybe that's evidence that it's just coincidence.  But I've been seeing this pattern lately.

braille tatoos - Never thought about this, though I have thought that surgeons should learn how to make artistic stitches so that the scars they leave have a cool design. This searcher got to a post on braille playing cards.   I'd also note that tattoo has 3 t's, but bloggers who misspell words pick up readers who misspell them too.

what if i didn't get my alaska permanent fund check yet - This one came October 22 from Las Vegas.   The checks were distributed October 6.  But the website also says, "Applications in eligible status after September 23 and before October 21 will be distributed October 27."  So it may still be coming.  But searches like this stir my imagination. How many stories can you create to explain this inquiry? An Alaskan living Outside? Visiting Oustside? Former Alaskan hoping to get one more PFD check? Or a gambling addict waiting for his check? Lots of possibilities.
BTW, the searcher got to a 2010 post on the PFD, not the 2011 post.   Neither would have answered the specific question.  But this gave me a chance to respond to an overlooked question from Kathy in KY.

how many black us congressmen have been members of the us congress - My snarky answer: All of them. Sorry, I just can't help myself. This is not a biggie, but it shows how people can't quite say what they mean. But Google has a lot of tolerance for such people  and this person got to my post on the number of black congress members. Did you want to know about black Congresswomen too?
For those of you who have no idea what I find wrong in the query, leave a comment or email me and I'll explain.

modern office lobbies with taxidermied animals - This was an image search which gave them this picture and highlighted this sentence from the post "Providence Alaska Medical and Animal Park" : "Some places have stuffed moose or bear in the lobby."

This is indeed an office building lobby, but the moose isn't in a glass case.  This is Anchorage and the moose is live,  outside, browsing the landscaping.

andropi -  Do you think they were looking for entropy?  In any case the got the post Happy Birthday, Moni, Alex, and Ropi see the andropi?).  Probably not what they wanted.  It said North America, on a computer using US - English and Linux but in a European time zone. (Yes, Sitemeter tells me all that, and usually the city and country too.)  While computer time in Sitemeter is usually a good clue to the visitor's location when location itself is 'unknown', it reflects the timezone set on the computer.  So, when I'm traveling, my computer still reflects Alaska time.

what to google when you cant sleep Why not?  You can find everything else on google.  This person got to a previous google search post "those nights when you can't sleep, it might be bacause you're awake in someone else's dream film" - More Google Search Terms which had gotten that person to a post on the movie Inception.

what is the name of the flower you blow on it and everything little whote thing come out when you make a wish - Google got this person to an archive page.  If the searcher scrolled down long enough, she would have gotten a picture of a dandelion flower gone to seed and an explanation about making wishes.  Not bad Google.  But why didn't you just take the person straight to the dandelion post instead of the whole archive page?

owl to put in tower -  What does this mean?  Is this some sort of Harry Potter reference?  This person got to this picture of a great horned owl up close at the July 4th celebration on the park strip post.  There was also a climbing tower in the post.

frank "the tank" sullivan has acquired 38 plates at the flying saucer - Here's another good example of how one could use Google search terms to write short stories. Clearly there is a story behind this. Google gave him an archive page (August 30, 2011 back to Aug. 17) which includes the words: Frank (Murkowski); tank (underground storage); plates (license); and flying saucer (house). The number 38 is on the page too.

how do you eat them orchestras - Who knows what this person was thinking?   He got to a post about an orchestra that makes its instruments out of vegetables.  I guess Google did about as well as could be expected.

2012 number missouri delegates republican convention  - Google got this person into the vicinty, but should have taken him to the exact page. This person got sent to the blog, but not to a specific page.   I'd done a post recently on the Republican primaries and the possibility of selecting their candidate at the convention specifically answered this question.  I'm not sure if the searcher found it.  If he searched 'Missouri' on the page, he should have found it.

That's it for now, for previous such pages click here.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Why Not Blue Snow?

Imagine there was no snow on earth and some science fiction writer talked about this cold white powder that fell from the sky covering everything.  In the cities it covered a lot of dirt and ugliness.  In the woods is decorated the trees in a mantel of white.

How many of us would be able to picture snow as we know it?  I grew up in Southern California so my neighborhood never got that sort of transformation that still amazes me here in Anchorage, even after 34 years of snow.

So let's push it further.  Imagine that snow doesn't just come in white.  How about blue snow?  Perhaps in another world their god  would send different color snow to signal different situations.  For communities that were welcoming and decent and helped each other out, they might get blue snow to recognize their decency.

Or maybe the colors would be changed now and then for variety, but without any moral significance.  Or it could reflect sadness and sympathy, or the beginning of winter.

People might start betting on what color the next snowfall would be.  And ski clothing companies would sell more because people would want outfits that matched the snow. 

Snow White would be joined by other fairy tale heroes, like Snow Blue, and Snow Pink.

Whatever the reasons, colored snow would be an interesting diversion.

But this morning, my car woke up, slowly, and reluctantly, to normal white snow.  And  I got, once again, to go out and shovel the driveway and around my car.

I did give the Muni credit a while back for how they were scraping our street clear down to pavement this year and managed to keep getting back here despite the every-few-day-snow-falls.  (I can find records for amount of snow in a month or year, but not for frequency of measurable snow.  I have to believe that we have set a record for that.  I sure don't remember a year when it snowed so often.  It's been every few days since October 30.)

Today is Christmas, so I don't begrudge the snow plow folks staying home with their families.  (And I'm sure some were out on the main roads despite the holiday.)  But our street hasn't had the snow berms cleared and they are getting higher and higher and wider and wider.  Parking is getting scarce, or worse, dangerous as people park so that there is only one usable lane left for through traffic. 

And while there is blue sky in this picture from this morning, it's been snowing off and on since then. 

By the way, physicists can explain why snow is white.  There are lots of websites with explanations more or less the same.  But of the dozen or so I saw, ColourLovers was by far the most interesting.  I'll give you a tiny bit, but you'll have to go to the site to see the images and the explanation of why glaciers are blue.  AND it turns out there is a pinkish snow, called watermelon snow.
When white sun light hits snow there are so many pockets of air and ice crystals that it causes a diffuse reflection of the whole spectrum scattering every wave length right back at us, and the combination of all color frequencies appears white.
 Perhaps photographer, color expert, and sometime reader Mark M has a link to a better explanation.   Or his own explanation.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Truthout's 14 Techniques Fox Uses to Brainwash Listeners

Dr. Cynthia Boaz at Truthout nicely identifies 14 techniques Fox News uses to brainwash their listeners.  The link explains each more thoroughly and puts it all into context.

The first step to brain liberation is to recognize the techniques used to slip ideas into your brain. 

1. Panic Mongering. This goes one step beyond simple fear mongering. With panic mongering, there is never a break from the fear. . .
2. Character Assassination/Ad Hominem. Fox does not like to waste time debating the idea. Instead, they prefer a quicker route to dispensing with their opponents: go after the person's credibility, motives, intelligence, character, or, if necessary, sanity. . .
3. Projection/Flipping. . . It involves taking whatever underhanded tactic you're using and then accusing your opponent of doing it to you first. . .
4. Rewriting History. This is another way of saying that propagandists make the facts fit their worldview. . .
5. Scapegoating/Othering. . . The simple idea is that if you can find a group to blame for social or economic problems, you can then go on to a) justify violence/dehumanization of them, and b) subvert responsibility for any harm that may befall them as a result.
6. Conflating Violence With Power and Opposition to Violence With Weakness.
7. Bullying.
8. Confusion. . . The idea is to deliberately confuse the argument, but insist that the logic is airtight and imply that anyone who disagrees is either too dumb or too fanatical to follow along.  . .
9. Populism.  The speakers identifies themselves as one of "the people" and the target of their ire as an enemy of the people. The opponent is always "elitist" or a "bureaucrat" or a "government insider" or some other category that is not the people. . .
10. Invoking the Christian God.
11. Saturation. There are three components to effective saturation: being repetitive, being ubiquitous and being consistent. . .
12. Disparaging Education.
13. Guilt by Association. . . if your cousin's college roommate's uncle's ex-wife attended a dinner party back in 1984 with Gorbachev's niece's ex-boyfriend's sister, then you, by extension are a communist set on destroying America. Period.
14. Diversion. 

  Again, the details are here.

Below is a template you can print out and put on an index cards and hand them out to your Fox watching relatives and acquaintences.  Ask them to read the list and see if they can see these things happening on Fox.  Even if they just read this and recognize one or two of these, it's a step forward. 14 Ways Fox Brainwashes Card

Friday, December 23, 2011

When Was the Last Presidential Nominee Decided At A Convention? Will It Happen Again This Year?

Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division
On July 14, 1960, a school friend and I sat way up in the highest section (black arrow) of the Los Angeles Sports Arena watching Lyndon B. Johnson get nominated as John F. Kennedy's vice presidential running mate.   Only the day before, had Kennedy clinched the nomination in the first vote with 52% of the votes.

Presidential candidates used to be chosen at conventions. The process for picking them was pretty murky.  From Wikipedia:
Conventions were often heated affairs, playing a vital role in deciding who would be the nominee. The process remained far from democratic or transparent, however. The party convention was a scene of intrigue among political bosses, who appointed and otherwise controlled nearly all of the delegates. Winning a nomination involved intensive negotiations and multiple votes; the 1924 Democratic National Convention required a record 103 ballots to nominate John W. Davis. The term dark horse candidate was coined at the 1844 Democratic National Convention, at which little-known Tennessee politician James K. Polk emerged as the candidate after the failure of the leading candidates - former President Martin Van Buren and Senator Lewis Cass - to secure the necessary two thirds majority.
Primaries didn't replace conventions until recently.
A few, mostly Western states adopted primary elections in the late 19th century and during the Progressive Era, but the catalyst for their widespread adoption came during the election of 1968. The Vietnam War energized a large number of supporters of anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota, but they had no say in the matter. Vice President Hubert Humphrey—associated with the unpopular administration of Lyndon B. Johnson—did not compete in a single primary, yet controlled enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. This proved one of several factors behind rioting which broke out at the convention in Chicago.
Media images of the event—angry mobs facing down police—damaged the image of the Democratic Party, which appointed a commission headed by George McGovern to select a new, less controversial method of choosing nominees. The McGovern–Fraser Commission settled on the primary election, adopted by the Democratic National Committee in 1968. The Republicans adopted the primary as their preferred method in 1972. Henceforth, candidates would be given convention delegates based on their performance in primaries, and these delegates were bound to vote for their candidate.
As a result, the major party presidential nominating convention has lost almost all of its old drama. The last attempt to release delegates from their candidates came in 1980, when Senator Ted Kennedy sought the votes of delegates held by incumbent Democrat Jimmy Carter. The last major party convention whose outcome was in doubt was the 1976 Republican National Convention, when former California Governor Ronald Reagan nearly won the nomination away from the incumbent, Gerald Ford.
So, it's only 30 some years since the last time the nomination was decided at a convention.  Recent conventions have been more like coronations for the party nominees and a public relations opportunity for the parties to show their candidates in the best possible light to the world.  1976 convention clips begin this C-Span program which includes discussion with supporters of both Ford and Reagan.

2012 Republican Primary Race

But today the majority of the Republican Party appears decidedly unenthusiastic about any one of its candidates.  There are passionate supporters for some, but not enough for any one candidate.  The more establishment members of the party seem to be reluctantly supporting Mitt Romney, but there's little enthusiasm.  I get the sense that he's the pick only because they see the other candidates as worse but they'd love a sexier candidate.

A few folks have begun to talk about new candidates still coming into the race, which seems to be technically more feasible than in 2008.  The Republican Party changed the rules of the primary last year to make the votes from the early primaries proportionate to how many votes each candidate received.  Only after March 31  can a state have a winner-take-all primary. 

From Wikipedia's page on the Republican Presidential Primaries 2012:
Under this plan, elections for delegates to the national convention were to be divided into three periods:
  • February 1 – March 5, 2012: Contests of traditional early states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina
  • March 6 – March 31, 2012: Contests that proportionally allocate delegates
  • April 1, 2012 and onward: All other contests including winner-take-all elections
By the fall of 2011, several states scheduled contests contravening this plan, pushing the primary calendar into January. These contests are in violation of RNC rules, with New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona, and Michigan set to be penalized with a loss of half of their delegates. As they are holding non-binding caucuses, Iowa, Colorado, Maine and Minnesota will not be automatically penalized, as their contests to bind national delegates are made later.
 The total number of delegates to the Republican National Convention is about 2282.  I can't find total agreement out there - Sabato says 2282, but Green Papers says 2286.  And the Christian Science Monitor says 2422. The calculation is complicated because states get more delegates if their Senators or Governors, or more than 50% of their Congressional delegation, are Republicans.  If the state legislature is Republican, that also changes the count. [The Green Papers site gives all the details of how this works, plus a link to a pdf of the Republican rules.]

As mentioned above, delegates from states with primaries before April must vote proportionally (no winner-take-all) at the convention.  And states can be penalized with the loss of 50% of their votes for having primaries before March, I think. This gets confusing.  In any case March 6 is the first Tuesday in March 2012, which will be Super Tuesday, with 10 states holding primaries or caucuses.  The point is that they've attempted to use these penalties to keep states from moving to earlier dates on the calendar.  Salon gives Missouri as an example of how this changes things from 2008:
The mathematical implications are stark. Take Missouri, for example, which votes on March 17, 2012, meaning its delegate will be allocated proportionally. Back in 2008, Missouri was winner-take-all. On the GOP side, John McCain edged Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney in a tight three-way contest, 33 percent to 32 percent to 29 percent. Despite the narrow win, McCain took all 58 of Missouri’s delegates.

Fast forward to 2012. If  Mitt Romney performs as well in Missouri as McCain did in 2008, a big if, he would gain fewer than 20 delegates from the state. More to the point, the candidates collectively known as “Not Mitt Romney” would gain 38, making Not Mitt Romney the big winner.
In any case, a winning candidate has to have a majority of committed delegates going into the convention.   From National Review via CBS:
Even if a dark horse couldn't win enough delegates to win the nomination, he could win enough to prevent his competitors from winning. "I think that a contested convention is a distinct possibility," admits Bopp [Committeeman for Indiana.] "I think the RNC is carefully thinking about that prospect and what needs to be done by the RNC to make sure that the convention is successful."
Late entrants into the race are also faced with issues about qualifying for the primary.  Virginia, apparently has  particularly difficult qualifying hurdles.   But a candidate who comes into the race late and does well in a few of the late primaries, and who looks more electable than the other candidates, might be able to start pulling votes from other candidates if no one wins the first ballot.

I'm still not clear to what extent delegates are bound to honor the results of the primary voters. Fair Vote argues:
As set out in the Rules of the Republican Party, delegates have the ability to vote according to the delegates’ preference, even if that is contrary to the outcome of each state’s primary. According to one source, the legal counsel for the Republican National Convention in 2008 stated: “[The] RNC does not recognize a state’s binding of national delegates, but considers each delegate a free agent who can vote for whoever they choose.” Thus, if a delegate were to challenge his or her ability to vote as a free agent, he or she would have grounds under Rule 38.
 Looking in the Rules of the Republican Party I find this:
Unit Rule
No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule.
But the National Review via CBS suggests differently:
The RNC no longer allows unpledged delegates, [new Gingrich consultant Craig] Shirley says, but delegates aren't required to vote for their designated candidate beyond the first ballot. If no candidate wins the nomination on the first ballot, the convention would no longer be constrained by the primary results; it could nominate whomever it wanted.
The Democrats had a rough and tumble primary last year, but in the end, Obama gained lots of debate experience for the race against McCain.  The one candidate in 2008 who hadn't been tested by the primaries was the Republican vice presidential nominee.  This might be a lesson for Republicans to heed in 1012 if there are viable convention candidates who were not tested in the primaries.  But could they resist a Jeb Bush candidacy?

Elves Clear Snow - Thank You!

It snowed yet again last night.  It was coming down heavily in very tiny light snow.  And the weather forecast on the radio suggested it had continued all night.  Nine or ten inches they said.

But when I looked out this morning to see how much I had to shovel, I saw that our driveway and street in front had already been cleared.  I'm guessing the elf came in the guise of our neighbor Roy.  So thanks.  I'll go out and look for you today to say it in person. 

Roy and I have seen a lot of each other this year as I'm out shoveling my driveway and he's with his snow blower clearing a long stretch of street where people park across the street.  Ten days ago I got this shot when he came over and cleared in front of my car parked out front after I'd done the driveway and part of the street in front.

Thanks Roy.  It's great having good neighbors.  And great snow.  And if it was someone else, thank you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Recycle Your Calendar: 1984 = 2012

Somehow we've hoarded a bunch of old calendars, some were used and some not. And I've thought that some of these must work again in future years, but I never worked hard at it.  I guess this is good for recycling and trees, but not so good if you have a capitalist society where spending boosts the economy. 

But knowing that people have put all sorts of information onto the web, and Google helps us get to these places, I checked yesterday to see what year calendar starts on the same day as 2012. This one is tricky, because it's a Leap Year.

I quickly found Time and Date, a website with a number of potentially useful ways to play with time and dates. One page allows you to pick a year and see all the other years that have the same calendar.  Here's the list for 2012 and beyond.

Please note that holidays will not match exactly.

So,  we have to go back 28 years to George Orwell's ominous 1984 to find a calendar that will match 2012.  Or, if you have a 1956 calendar, that will do as well. 

So I went downstairs and pulled out all the old calendars I could find.  And I actually had a 1984 calendar.  This was given to me by a relative who knew I had an interest in plants.  It's a Wild Flowers of Chile calendar.  (In Spanish and English.)

This turns out to be an unused diary style calendar.  But I imagine if you have a used calendar, it might be interesting to see what you did in that previous year as you mark down this year's events.  You just have to find a distinctively colored pen for this year.

So, if you have a pile of calendars, here are some of the years that will work for the next five years.

Current Year Old Matching Calendar Years
2012 1928, 1956, 1984  (Leap Year)
2013 1985, 1991, 2002
2014 1986, 1997, 2003
2015 1987, 1998, 2009
2016 1932, 1960, 1988  (Leap Year)
2017 1989, 1995*, 2006

*See comments Dec 17, 2016

There are also some interesting patterns.  Leap Years seem to return every 28 years (though after 2096 there's a 12 year bump.)  For the other years, there are lots of 11 and 6 year bumps.

There are a lot of interesting things on Time and Date and they appear to all be free.  Here's some info from their Founder's Page:

About Steffen Thorsen

Steffen Thorsen is the CEO of Time and Date AS, the company that maintains Steffen lives in Sandnes, near Stavanger, Norway.

My company

This site is operated by "Time and Date AS" which is a private Norwegian company.
Steffen and his staff can be contacted at: If you have any queries or comments, email is the preferred way of communication initially.

My intentions with this site

I want this website to be a free, informational, continuously updated and accurate service available all over the world. Over the years, has gone from a hobby project to my primary occupation, which encompasses enhancing and developing new services, as well as responding to emails from users worldwide. However, these are not my only tasks. I have other responsibilities in proactively ensuring that the company meets its annual goals and objectives. As the company’s leader, I am responsible for utilizing, fostering and expanding our resources and ensuring smooth operations within the company. Ultimately, I want to provide value to the people who use this website. The project originally started in 1995, with the World Clock, Calendar and countdown to year 2000 on my old Unix account, which I used when I was a university student. In 1998 and 1999 the services gradually moved to the domain, and the services on the old account were eventually discontinued in 1999. On May 24, 2008, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of You can read about’s 10th birthday, which also provides the history of this website. Also see the history behind The World Clock.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chinese Television - Amazing Acrobats

When we lived in Beijing for 3 months we watched a lot of CCTV (Chinese Central Television). There's even an Engish channel you can listen to. I didn't see a live feed, but there are lots of programs to watch in English. So when this one popped up the CCTV was familiar. This particular example of Chinese acrobatics is pretty exceptional though. Amazing. Trust me on this - just hit the play button and watch 20 seconds before you move on. 

It shows what humans can do if we really put our minds to something. But I also know that these kids led a pretty rigid life practicing mercilessly to be able to do this. The movie Mao's Last Dancer offers a look at kids being groomed to be ballet dancers. The trailer only shows a bit of that training. The movie itself was very worthwhile watching.

Beginning of Winter for Some, But Beginning of More Light for Alaskans

While today is the official first day of winter, for Alaskans it's the end of shortening days and the beginning of more light.  At first it's slow - seconds a day.  But before long we'll be gaining 5 minutes of light a day.   So in a way it's our spring, our turning point. I do have one blooming plant in the house.  This little begonia never quits. 

But even with the begonia, the arrival of a Park Seed catalog the other day was like being at the grocery store after fasting all day.  I want everything.  But I went downstairs and pulled out the seed packs from last year that are still unopened.  I need restraint at the time of the solstice.

The earth is changing its tilt today.  Bad Astronomy puts it this way:
The Earth is tilted about 23 degrees, so that sometimes the North pole is tipped toward the Sun, and other times the South pole is pointed more toward the Sun. From here on the Earth, this means the Sun moves north and south about 46 degrees over the course of the year. In the summer, the Sun is very high in the sky, but in the winter it never gets as high; the difference is that very same 46 degrees (about 1/4 of the way around the visible part of the sky!).
[I'd note that Bad Astronomy seems to be northern centric in the second part since the opposite is true in the Southern Hemisphere.]

I've written about the solstice and Jean Meeus before.  He's the man who determined the way to figure the exact time this change happens.  When I checked a few days ago, it said December 22 this year.  I should have looked more carefully.  It's December 22 at 12:30am - East Coast Time.  So that means it's December 21 for the rest of the US -  specifically 8:30pm Alaska time. 

Enjoy the end of the darkening and know that from now until mid June, each day will be brighter.  Not as dramatically as this far north, but brighter nevertheless. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sometimes I Wonder What I'm Doing Here

Intense blogging events like the recent film festival are like going on a busy business trip.  I'm still in Anchorage, but I'm constantly busy watching movies, meeting folks, and posting, and I act as if I'm out of town, passing up all other activities.  But it's over and I have had time to think about where this is all going. 

What To Do With All Those Posts?
But it also makes me wonder where all this blogging is going.  Blogger says I have 3279 published posts.  The clutter war moves out of the closets and onto my blog.  I'm wondering if I should pause a bit and look back at what I have and whether I can do something with it all.

The Blogger label function (that long list of words on the lower right) would be a lot better if there could be a hierarchy of topics.  For instance, I could have a Birds label and if you clicked that you could see Eagles, Ducks, Ravens, etc.   Part of me thinks I should get rid of all the labels that only have one post.  But then I see people finding that one post and linking to it.  And Blogger doesn't listen to me when I suggest fixing labels up a bit. 

I still have room for more pages on the tab bar on top (you can have ten.) I've used the current ones as annotated tables of contents to posts on specific topics - Redistricting and Film Festival.   I thought I might use a few more to offer links to some of my favorite posts now lost somewhere in the 3279.

In a sense the blog has been a journal of what I'm seeing, doing, thinking, and people I'm meeting.  It's been a place to jot notes on topics as the ideas come.  It seems that going through my notes might be a good idea.   Are there some ideas that could be combined into something longer - perhaps an article or two?

The Photos
What about all the photos?  I sometimes make cards with them to send to friends and thought I might offer readers the opportunity to get cards, but would they want the ones I pick and would it be worth my time to let people pick the photos they want?  Probably not.

I've been thinking of making calendars for friends too.  But haven't yet.  I could also make those available to readers.  Then I could make some money off the blog, at least enough to buy a sound cards for my camera once in a while.   But I'm not sure anyone is interested. 

And the film festival has inspired me to try to use the video I've taken over five years of Anchorage International Film Festivals and make a movie for next year's festival. I know it's a bit incestuous, but it doesn't have to be in competition.   I think I need to move up from iMovie to Final Cut for that. And looking at all the people in the credits of even the two minute movies, I'm going to have to reach out to others.  But the film maker workshops let me know those others are out there waiting to do the same.  I have video of Travis Betz' workshop and also Richard Cunningham's and I try to get those up before long. 

Not Becoming Consumed By The Blog
I tend to rationalize that the blog is merely an electronic journal to record things that interest me anyway.  I just take my camera with me when I go places.  And blogging gives me an excuse to talk to folks I might not otherwise talk to.  But it's also a good excuse to avoid other things I need to do.  Longer writing projects mostly, but also liberating a room downstairs and the garage from the clutter monster.

Who Are You All?
Some people who visit here regularly I know because they sign their names when they comment - Jacob (aka Jay), Ropi, Dianne, alaskapi, Tomás, Mark M, m, Iatto, Kathy in KY, and many others now that I think about it.  Some of these folks I've met only via the blog.   But there are 33 followers listed and most of you I don't know.  Or if I do, I don't know you by your blogger ids.  Some folks have sent emails to say hi. (Thanks)  Others leave friendly comments to say they've been by.  Some people tell me when they see me that they read the blog.

Many visitors get to very specific posts via Google.  It's nice to know that someone has found something helpful - like those who google "my linksys router was hijacked"  or "snow leopard causes black screen."  Or, "can you use fluorescent lights with dimmer?"  Or "hiking trail to Doi Suthep." But those folks are coming for one thing and they probably won't be back.

But if you stop here more than once a month, when you feel comfortable, say hi - either in the comments or by email.  (I know the comments aren't always that easy to use.  There's an email link in the upper right side bar.)

And do give me feedback about cards and calendars.  I'd do cards by hand and at cost plus shipping and a small profit.  I'd do calendars through one of the online operations.  It's a bit late for calendars for 2012, but in the future?  Or if you have other ideas, let me know.