Monday, April 30, 2012

Obama Can Learn From FDR

I'm sure that folks around Obama have read No Ordinary Time, in which I now have about 80 pages left for tonight.  (I'm 50 pages from my scheduled 100 per day for the last three days, but I didn't count the 36 pages past page 600.) 

There are many similarities between Roosevelt facing the 1944 election and Obama facing the 2012 election.  (There are many dissimilarities as well.) 

Race - A lot of Southerners (and Northerners) are incensed over racial issues.  FDR's  [I usually don't use acronyms without spelling them out, but I figure that people should know this stands for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but there's no reason everyone should, so there it is.] constant push to get the navy and other services to treat all military men equally regardless of race is a big issue.  Eleanor's constant championing of equity gets her many hateful letters.  It seems that Obama's being half black by itself has stirred similar strong feelings in a very vocal minority. 

Economy - FDR came into office with a huge economic crisis he inherited from his Republican pro-business predecessor, much like Obama. 

War and returning veterans - FDR, in 1944, was in a war in Europe and Asia and Africa that was winding down.  The US had been officially in that war since Dec. 7, 1941.  Obama finds himself waging two, maybe three if you count Yemen, wars in the Middle East, which are also supposed to be winding down.  Roosevelt was pushing hard to prepare the economy for returning GI's - with housing, unemployment insurance, the GI bill for college funding, and other issues.  Obama has as well and has to let people know this in the campaign. 

Here's part of a speech Doris Kearns Goodwin offers, that FDR gave to Teamsters in Washington DC, which apparently was broadcast to the nation.

After joking a bit about his advancing age,

Roosevelt proceeded, with a voice that purred softly and then struck hard to ridicule the Republicans for trying to pass themselves off every four years as friends of labor after attacking labor for three years and six months.  "The whole purpose of Republican oratory these days seems to be to switch labels.  The object is to persuade the American people that the Democratic Party was responsible for the 1929 crash and the depression, and that the Republican Party was responsible for all the social progress under the New Deal.
"Now,"  he said drawing out his words, "imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - but I am afraid that in this case it is the most obvious common or garden variety of fraud."  Indeed, he went on, when he first heard the Republicans blaming the Democrats for the Depression, he rubbed his eyes and recalled an old adage: " 'Never speak of rope in the house of a man who has been hanged.'  In the same way, if I were a Republican leader speaking to a mixed audience, the last word in the whole dictionary that I think I would use is the word 'depression.'
The audience loved it.  They howled, clapped, and cheered. . .   (p. 548)
It seems to me that Obama, when he's talking genuinely from his heart about what he believes, can be just as charming and convincing as FDR.  I'd like to see him come out in this campaign, not defensive, but offensive.  We somehow seem to think that Fox news and modern talk radio invented political hit men.  But they've been alive and well in FDR's time and earlier.  

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay

That's the title of a New York Times article today.

Here's what I wrote in 2009 in a post I recently reprinted as the topic came up again in Anchorage over Prop. 5.
When people focus so strongly on demonizing people over their sexual practices, one wonders what they themselves are trying to hide. Is the lashing out at others a way of projecting punishment for their own desires or guilt? Is it 'just a veneer?" I'm sure for some that is the case. What drives the others to such extremes?
All this made me think we could end vocal nastiness against gays if we had evidence that such behavior indicated repressed homosexuality among the strongly anti-gay.   If their vocal homophobia is a way to hide their own same-sex attractions, then exposing homophobia as a sign of homosexuality might cause them to stop taking those stands because a strong homophobic position would be simply outing yourself. 

It's nice to have one's hypotheses supported by scientific studies.  Of course, there's always the temptation to accept studies that support your beliefs without careful scrutiny. I need to read it more carefully.   Nevertheless, I'll offer a bit from this New York Times article that supports the notion that some (some, not all) homophobes have same-sex attractions themselves. You can judge for yourself.

[I'm not sure who can read the NYTimes online anymore.  They've limited how many articles non-paying subscribers can read.  But if you have an Anchorage library card you should be able to read the article through the library website.  Here's the link and title if you can't get to it this way.  "Homophobic? Maybe You’re Gay" by Richard M. Ryan and Robert S. Ryan.  April 29, 2012.]

Using this methodology we identified a subgroup of participants who, despite self-identifying as highly straight, indicated some level of same-sex attraction (that is, they associated “me” with gay-related words and pictures faster than they associated “me” with straight-related words and pictures). Over 20 percent of self-described highly straight individuals showed this discrepancy.
Notably, these “discrepant” individuals were also significantly more likely than other participants to favor anti-gay policies; to be willing to assign significantly harsher punishments to perpetrators of petty crimes if they were presumed to be homosexual; and to express greater implicit hostility toward gay subjects (also measured with the help of subliminal priming). Thus our research suggests that some who oppose homosexuality do tacitly harbor same-sex attraction.
What leads to this repression? We found that participants who reported having supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation and less susceptible to homophobia. Individuals whose sexual identity was at odds with their implicit sexual attraction were much more frequently raised by parents perceived to be controlling, less accepting and more prejudiced against homosexuals.
It’s important to stress the obvious: Not all those who campaign against gay men and lesbians secretly feel same-sex attractions. But at least some who oppose homosexuality are likely to be individuals struggling against parts of themselves, having themselves been victims of oppression and lack of acceptance. The costs are great, not only for the targets of anti-gay efforts but also often for the perpetrators. We would do well to remember that all involved deserve our compassion.

My understanding is that Jerry Prevo had a very strict (ie controlling) father who certainly would not approve a gay son.   There are places, Jerry, where you can talk to people about your repressed desires.  Places where you'll be shown a compassion you have not shown to others.   And as my post cited above shows, you have plenty of brethren among homophobic clergy and politicians who have turned out to have same-sex attractions.

Civil Rights, White House Intimacy, and Other WW II Thoughts To Ponder Today

As I read Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time I'm constantly thinking about how things were 70 years ago compared to today.  A few things that stood out in the last 100 pages.

1.  Civil Rights Issues  - clearly things are much changed today, but there are still people infected by racism.  It's not as blatant nor as widespread as this book reminds us.  Back then Eleanor was pushing her husband to have the Navy open more than mess positions to black sailors.  There was strong resistance by the Navy to FDR's request for the Navy to review ways to bring black seaman into more than mess jobs.
"Two weeks later, the board reported back, concluding in no uncertain terms "that members of the colored race be accepted only in messman branch."  The rationale once again was the intimate nature of life on a ship.  "Men on board ship live in particularly close association, in their messes one man sits beside another, their hammocks or bunks are close together, in their common tasks they work side by side . . . How many white men would choose that their closest associates in sleeping quarters, in mess be of another race?"

But FDR didn't accept this and demanded further study.  He was backed by popular pressure.

Through February and March 1942 every black newspaper carried the story of black mess man Dorie Miller, whose heroic exploits on the bridge of his battleship at Pearl Harbor earned him the Navy Cross.  The example of Miller's heroism became a principal weapon in the battle to end discrimination in the navy.  Here was a high-school dropout who raced through flaming oil to carry his captain to safety.  Seizing a machine gun left beside a dead gunner, Miller, without any weapons training began to fire at the oncoming Japanese planes, downing one or maybe two of the enemy aircraft.  Only after his ammunition was exhausted, the ship sinking rapidly, did he finally obey the order to abandon ship.    
Although Miller's acts of heroism were mentioned in the first navy dispatches, he was referred to simply as "an unidentified Negro messman."  The navy, it seems, did not want the first hero of the war to be a black man.  That honor was reserved for West Point graduate Colin Kelly, who perished three days later.  When Miller's name was finally released in March, the result of a determined effort by the Pittsburgh Courier, bills were introduced to accord him the Congressional Medal of Honor, and schools and parks were given his name.  But "the greatest honor that could be paid mess attendant Dorie Miller,"  the NAACP argued, "would be for the U.S. Navy to abolish restrictions against Negro enlistments at once."  (329-330)

The new policy allowed for Negroes to enlist in other positions, but only as long as training and the units remained segregated.  It was a start.

Japanese internment was a less positive effect of the war.  Despite Eleanor's pleas, FDR followed the united front of West Coast politicians and the military to evacuate Japanese Americans into internment camps.  (I'd note that I had Japanese American classmates in elementary, junior high, and high school who had been born in these camps.)
Though the Army's West Coast commander, General John De Witt, admitted that nothing had actually been proved, he proceeded, in a tortured twist of logic to argue that "the very fact that no sabotage has taken place is a disturbing and confirming indication that such action  will be taken." (p. 321)

Born in Seattle, Washington, Nakashima was the third son of Japanese parents who had been in the United States since 1901.  His father was an editor, his oldest brother an architect, his middle brother a doctor.    Yet all three brothers and their parents were forced to leave flourishing careers behind and spend their days amid the suffocating smell of horse manure in a stall that was only eighteen feet wide by twenty-one feet long.
"The senselessness of all of the inactive manpower,"  Nakashima observed.  "Electricians, plumbers, draftsmen, mechanics, carpenters, painters, farmers - every trade - men who are able and willing to do all they can to lick the Axis . . ." (p. 323)

"Originally," Eleanor wrote, the Japanese immigrants "were much needed on ranches and on large truck and fruit farms but as they came in greater numbers, people began to discover that they were not only convenient workers, they were also competitors in the labor field, and the people of California began to be afraid."  Though Japanese-owned farms occupied only 1 percent of the cultivated land in California, they produced nearly 40 percent of the total California crop.  One pressure group, the Grower Shipper Association, blatantly admitted wanting to get rid of the Japanese for selfish reasons:  "We might as well be honest," they said, openly coveting the rich farmland of the Japanese. (p. 321)
That's a pretty amazing statistic (40%).  I've emailed Richard Lingeman, the author of the book cited, Don't You Know There's a War On?, to double check.  [UPDATE April 10:40am:  Mr. Lingeman emailed back, "The only relevant quote in my book is:  'they [Japanese Americans] had specialized in vegetable farming, raising more than one-third of the total California crop.'" We can see here how things can easily get distorted.  First we go from "more than one-third" (33.3%) to "almost 40 percent."  Another problem is that Goodwin first talks about Japanese working on truck and fruit farms.  Then she's talking about them owning 1 percent of the cultivated land.  Does that include grains and other crops?  Because Lingeman's data are only for vegetable farming. Goodwin's had a plagiarism controversy in the past.  If one took Goodwin here as a source and reworded it a bit to change the meaning a little more, you can see how the truth can get stretched.]

2.  Close Quarters in the White House

I'm not sure how they do things now, but Roosevelt had a lot of his officials sleeping at the White House and sometimes when guests came they slept their too.  Churchill lived there on several extended visits.  It seems that the intimacy of staying at someone's home - even if it is the White House - allows for much closer relationships.  In one scene, Goodwin has FDR coming into Churchill's room as he walking, fully nude, out of the bath.  Churchill responds by saying that nothing his hidden between the prime minister and the president.

Perhaps this was the legacy of FDR's wealthy upbringing in which guests visiting his Hyde Park home stayed in the many extra rooms for days or longer.  It struck me as an interesting aspect that probably bears greater scrutiny.  Was this common then?  When did it end?  Was it unique to the war years?  What other presidents practiced this sort of hospitality?

3.  Productivity and Creativity

During the war there was a shift from the production of domestic items to war items of amazing proportions and consequences.  On a lighter level first.
. . . manufacturing concerns of every imaginable type were moving to concert old plants to the productions of weapons.  A merry-go-round factory was using its plant to fashion gun mounts.  A corset factory was making grenade belts.  A manufacturer of stoves was producing lifeboats.  A famous New York Toy concern was making compasses.  A pinball-machine maker was turning out armor-piercing shells.  Despite continuing shortages of raw materials in 1942 would  witness the greatest expansion of production in the nation's history. p.  (p. 316)
Ford, GM, and Chrysler were turning out aircraft, tanks, and weapons.  Steel man, Henry Kaiser, took over shipbuilding.  All of them began to turn out products in record numbers.

At the time of the president's visit [September 1942], tanks were rolling off the assembly lines at Chrysler, Cadillac, and fifteen other plants at the phenomenal rate of nearly four thousand a month.  This extraordinary level of achievement an best be understood by recognizing that Germany, the previous world leader in tank production, was currently producing at a rate of four thousand a year.  In September, Hitler announced a major expansion in Germany's tank production.  The goal he set - eight hundred tanks per month - was less than 15 percent of Roosevelt's objective for 1943!  (p. 363)
 "Under Kaiser's leadership, the average time to deliver a ship was cut from 355 days in 1940 to 194 days in 1941 to 60 days in early 1942" (p. 318)
Women and, to a lesser extent  blacks, came into factory jobs and won the grudging respect of the male supervisors who opposed them at first.  

4.  The President's Ability to Call On People's Patriotism 

Silk and rubber - but not girdles

Rubber sources had been taken over by the Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia and so there was a great push to limit the purchase of tires, where 80% of US rubber was used.  An attempt to limit rubber in women's girdles was quickly abandoned when it met with massive resistance.  Gasoline was limited, not because it was short supply, but because reduced driving would reduce the demand for rubber tires.  A two week period was set aside in to collect rubber in June 1942.
The response was overwhelming.  In the course of two weeks, the nation's stockpile was increased by more than four hundred tons, the average contribution was almost seven pounds for each man, woman, or child. (pp. 357-8)
 Rationing was also begun on the grounds that basic goods shouldn't simply be available to the wealthy.  Everyone was guaranteed a base level amount.

To a large extent this was brought about by the president's ability at his fireside chat radio programs to inspire the public to support the war and to make sacrifices.

A sharp contrast to today where most people hardly know that a war is going on and are happy to let those involved do all the sacrificing.

5.  A good dose of vitriol aimed at the Roosevelts

It wasn't all warm and fuzzy in face of the enemy.   Roosevelt's stretching of government authority in price ceilings, rationing, and pressuring auto plants to switch to war production caused a great deal of hostility.  So did Eleanor Roosevelt's strong support of rights for blacks and support for women in factories. 

Enough for now.  But if I'm going to blog AND get this book finished, you're going to get book reports.  And it's a good book, worth reporting on. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Spring Showing and a Bit of Nutcracker Keep Me From Reading

I've got 100 pages targeted for each of the next three days to get this book finished by Monday night's book club.  So I'm going to minimize my time here.  You can see by the bookmark, I'm only halfway through.  It's great reading.  I just have to keep away from this computer.

Meanwhile the birch buds are showing.

And the daffodils are coming up.

I'm not sure what this is.  Something new I got last year.  But it shows you the struggle I'm having with my camera's automatic focus.  Usually I can figure a way to trick it into getting what I want sharp, but it sure liked the background leaves better than the bud, and no matter what I did, it wouldn't yield.

And finally a little music from Yeonhee Freeman's music students who put on a recital today.  What a delightful interlude.  This is one of our honorary nieces in the red dress.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Did Roosevelt Know The Japanese Would Attack Pearl Harbor? - What Did The President Know and When Did He Know It? Part II

Here's the end of "What Did The President Know and When Did He Know It? Part I - which discussed comments by Neal Conan at the Alaska Press Club conference a week ago.
So last night, reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time in bed after hearing Neal Conan,  I got to Franklin Roosevelt's Atlantic 'fishing trip' which turned into a secret meeting at sea with Winston Churchill in August 1941.  Part of the discussion at the "Atlantic Conference" was about the negotiations between the US and Japan.  Which brought to mind, Conan's mention of "What did the president know   . . .?" and the debate WW II buffs have had over whether President Roosevelt knew in advance about the Pearl Harbor attack.

I was going to include that here, but I think this is enough for one post and I'll follow up with another post on that topic. 
This is that follow up.

Roosevelt and Churchill are at sea.  It's August 1941.
The opening discussion centered on what to do about Japan's increasingly aggressive stance in the Pacific.  For more than a year Roosevelt had  been trying to avoid a showdown with Japan, whose expansionist policies under Premier Fumimaro Konoye threatened American interest in the Pacific.  To the president's mind, a détente with Japan was essential to gain the time he needed to train the armed forces and mobilize the factories to accomplish the real end of American Foreign policy - the destruction of the Hitler menace.  Roosevelt believed an early war with Japan would mean "the wrong war in the wrong ocean at the wrong time." (p. 265)

There had been earlier disagreement in the cabinet. Some, including Treasury Secretary Morganthau, wanted a total embargo on oil to Japan, while Secretary of State Hull felt that would precipitate war.
In June, the debate over the oil embargo had assumed political significance at home when Ickes, in his capacity as fuel administrator, was forced to ration oil in New England.  "It's marvelous,"  Morganthau taunted the president, describing a cartoon just published in the Washington Star.  "It's got a car driving up with a Japanese as a chauffeur and Hull filling the gas tank. . ."
Roosevelt was afraid an embargo would drive Japan to the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) and Roosevelt didn't have enough navy for both the Atlantic and Pacific.
"The Japanese are having a real drag-down and knock-out fight among themselves,"  Roosevelt further explained, "and have been for the past week - trying to decide which way they are going to jump - attack Russia, attack the South Seas (thus throwing in their lot definitely with Germany) or whether they will sit on the fence and be more friendly with us.  No one knows what their decision will be."
But in mid-July, when forty thousand Japanese troops invaded rubber-rich Indochina [the French colony, now Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia] and quickly took over the country, the president finally agreed to take retaliatory action.  He froze all Japanese assets in the U.S., notified Japan that the Panama Canal would be closed for repairs, and announced that he was cutting off all high-octane, [sic] gasoline.  Whereas [Secretary of War] Stimson and [Secretary of Interior] Ickes believed that all gasoline - not just high-octane, suitable for airplanes - would be embargoed, Roosevelt preferred to move one step at at time, "to slip the noose around Japan's neck, and give it a jerk now and then." (pp. 265-266)
 So in July before the December Pearl Harbor attack, the US was still selling oil - but not high octane - to Japan.   That doesn't sound like he was expecting to be attacked by Japan.  Actually, it turned out, while Roosevelt was with Churchill in August, "implemented by subordinates  . . . the limited embargo he had sanctioned had become full-scale." (p. 283) 

At the August Atlantic Conference, Goodwin reports that Churchill wanted Roosevelt to get tough with Japan.
Roosevelt seriously considered Churchill's proposal [warning that Great Britain and the US would be compelled to go to war if Japan encroached the South Pacific], but in the end settled on a softer, unilateral message, fearing that the strong language of the joint declaration would guarantee war. (p. 266)
In the fall of 1941, the president wanted to arm merchant ships taking supplies to Great Britain.  Congress balked, believing the president was trying to provoke a war with Germany.  It passed November 8 after 11 days of debate.
The closeness of the vote made it clear to Roosevelt that, short of some dramatic event, there was no chance of getting Congress to vote a declaration of war against Germany.  "He had no more tricks left,"  [Playwright, biographer, and FDR speech writer] Robert Sherwood observed.  "The bag from which he had pulled so many rabbits was empty."  His only recourse was to wait on events. (p. 283)
Japan could not tolerate the embargo on oil.  The crisis strengthened the hand of the military.  On October 16, War Minister General Hideki Tojo replaced Fumimaro Konoye as premier, and gave Japanese diplomats until the last day of November to arrange a satisfactory settlement with the United States that would end the sanctions;  if they failed, war would begin in early December.  In the meantime, active preparations were under way for a massive air strike against Pearl Harbor.

The stumbling block in the negotiations was China.  Whereas Japan was willing to remove its troops from Indochina and promise not to advance beyond current positions in return for America's lifting of the embargo, she refused to withdraw completely from China.  For a time, it seemed that Roosevelt would accept a partial withdrawal of Japanese troops from China, but strong protests from Nationalist Chinese leader Chiang Kai-Shek hardened the U.S. position. (p. 283)
 Goodwin then writes about other events going on from Thanksgiving dinner to a coal strike.  After the coal settlement, the president was heading for a break in Warms Springs when word came that a Japanese expedition was headed south from Japan.  Roosevelt responded angrily at the evidence of Japanese bad faith.  It was now the last days of November.  Admiral Stark warned:
Japan may attack:  the Burma Road, Thailand, Malaya, the Netherlands East Indies, the Philippines, the Russian Maritime Provinces  . . . The most essential thing now from United States viewpoint, is to gain time.  Considerable Navy and Army reinforcements have been rushed to Philippines but desirable strength not yet been reached.  Precipitance of military action on our part should be avoided so long as consistent with national policy.  The longer the delay, the more positive becomes the assurance of retention of these Islands as a naval and air base."

The President agreed with Stark about the importance of playing for time.  Though he had little hope now that an agreement could be reached, he instructed Hull to send a proposal to the Japanese demanding that Japan leave China and Indochina in return for an American promise to negotiate  new trade and raw-materials agreements.  The note reiterated what the United States had been saying for months:  that Japan could at any moment put an end to the exploding situation by embracing a peaceful course, and that once she did this her fears of encirclement would come to an immediate end. (p. 286)
Then the president proceeded on his trip to Warm Springs.  But shortly after he arrived,  he got a call.
When Hull called at 9 p.m. he told Roosevelt that he had just finished reading an explosive speech which Premier Tojo was scheduled to deliver the following day.  The speech called on Japan, "for the honor and pride of mankind," to take immediate steps to wipe out U.S. and British "exploitation" in the Far East.  Hull was convinced that a Japanese attack was imminent;  he advised Roosevelt to return to Washington as soon as possible.  The president agreed to leave the following day. [which would be November 30] (p. 287)
The Japanese intentions had everyone's attention the next week and Goodwin [I'm sure some of you have forgotten Goodwin was the book's author] reports that at a meeting on Friday, December 5 there was discussion of where the Japanese fleet was.  Secretary of the Navy Knox assured the president they would know in a week.  Saturday afternoon they had an intercepted Japanese cable to the negotiators in Washington rejecting the first 13 points of Hull's proposal and promising the 14th on Sunday.

The improbable hope of Saturday night was crushed on Sunday morning, December 7, when the fourteenth part of the Japanese message terminating diplomatic negotiations arrived.  Within minutes, a second message came through, instructing Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura to deliver the entire fourteen-part reply to Secretary Hull at precisely one o'clock.  To colonel Rufus Bratton, chief of the Far Eastern Section of the War Department, the timing of the 1p.m. deadline seemed significant.  With a sinking heart, he told General Marshall that he feared it might coincide with an early-morning attack somewhere in the Pacific.  "The Japanese are presenting at 1p.m. EST today what amounts to an ultimatum.  Just what significance the hour set may have we do not know, but be on the alert."  Uncertain of the security of the scrambler phone, Marshall opted to send his warning by the slower method of commercial telegraph.  In order of priority, the warning was to go first to Manila, then to Panama, and finally to Hawaii.  By the time the message reached the telegraph station in Honolulu, the attack on Pearl Harbor had already begun. (p. 288)
 So, when I finished this section, it was clear that Goodwin did not think the president knew before the attack.  A few pages later she punctuates that conclusion.
"I remember," Perkins later said, "the President could hardly bring himself" to describe the devastation.  "His pride in the Navy was so terrific that he was having actual physical difficulty in getting out the words that put him on record as knowing the Navy was caught unawares. . . I remember that he said twice to Knox, 'Find out for God's sake, why the ships were tied up in rows."  Knox said, 'That's the way they berth them!'  It was obvious to me that Roosevelt was having a dreadful time just accepting the idea that the Navy could be caught so off guard." (p, 292)

Goodwin addresses the title question explicitly on the next page:
Historians have focused substantial time and attention trying to determine who knew what and when before the 7th of December - on the theory that Roosevelt was aware of the Japanese plans to attack Pearl Harbor but deliberately concealed his knowledge from the commanders in Hawaii in order to bring the United States into hostilities through the back door. (p. 293)
She goes on to address why she is convinced that he didn't.

Here it is, 61 years later and the question of what the president knew and when he knew it is still being debated.  I'd like to think that given our greater access to information and ability to disseminate information, we'll get the answers faster now than in the past.  

ReStore - Habitat For Humanity Thrift Shop For Building Supplies

I had to bike to Central Plumbing on International Road Monday and since the sidewalk on International is more theoretical than real I decided to go exploring down side streets on the way back.

I immediately discovered Restore - the Habitat for Humanity's thrift shop for building supplies.  Their website says
The Habitat ReStore is a retail business which sells donated new and used building materials, electrical fixtures, appliances, kitchen cabinets, and more - at greatly reduced prices.
We accept new and used building materials in 100% working condition from remodeling jobs, business closeouts, contractors and builders.  
The income generated from a ReStore is used to support Habitat's mission of building homes for families in order to eliminate substandard housing in Anchorage.  

The part that really caught my eye was this line:
"Since 2004 the ReStore has diverted over 6 million pounds of product from the Anchorage Landfill."

But Monday I didn't know any of this.  As I rode past I decided to check it out.  

There's all this stuff sitting around.  A lot of it had sold stickers.  We're trying to get rid of stuff, not buy more stuff.  It says they will pick up things.  I like that idea a lot.

There was also an inside section.

For someone who wants inexpensive stuff and is willing to refinish or paint, this is a great opportunity.  It's been there since 2004.  Am I the last person to know about this place?

But now I have found it,  all because I was on a bike, not in a car.  

The proceeds go to Habitat for Humanity.

Here's the link to their guideline for donations. (It's a PDF file)

  • there's lots of inexpensive stuff
  • much of what they have would have gone to the landfill otherwise even though it's perfectly reusable
  • you can get rid of stuff here
  • it all benefits a good cause

Just so you know, recycling is chic.  Check this page at the New York Times:

At this year’s International Furniture Fair, pieces made of industrial waste contrasted with luxurious items like deep-cushioned sofas that provide infantile comfort.
 After reading the whole article, there's a lot more luxury than landfill in the Milan exhibit.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Music Licensing Fees Keep Wrecking Crew From Commercial Release

I was recently thinking about doing some posts on the fate of the best movies that have been at the Anchorage International Film Festival.  Whatever happened to them?  Did they fade away?  Did they get audiences?

Today I saw this New York Times article about The Wrecking Crew.

The Wrecking Crew wowed the people who saw it at the Anchorage International Film Festival - in the museum theater - and it won an Audience Award for Best Documentary.

On December 12, 2008, I wrote:
Then we saw one of my favorite films of the week - The Wrecking Crew. When I first saw it in the schedule I figured it had to be good if just for the music. The Wrecking Crew was the backup band for most of the big hits in the late 60s pop music in California. It turned out to be an interesting movie that filled in a lot of gaps - these guys and one woman - played in literally every big hit. It was sort of like a public television fundraiser oldies show, but much, much better.
That was typed in quickly and without enough reflection time at the Bear Tooth just before a final movie for the day.  As the days went by, the power of the The Wrecking Crew story, highlighting the musicians who backed up so many of the great songs of the 60s, sank in.

And all that great music is the problem.  They are still struggling to pay the royalty fees for 132 music cues.
In the 1960s many of the hits coming out of Los Angeles under the names of
the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, the Mamas and the Papas, the Monkees and other top pop acts were actually recorded by an elite but largely anonymous corps of studio musicians nicknamed the Wrecking Crew. To gain them some belated public recognition Denny Tedesco, a son of one of the most prolific of those session players, spent more than 15 years making a documentary about the ensemble.

But there’s just one problem, and it has held up commercial release of “The Wrecking Crew” since 2008, when the documentary made its debut at the South by Southwest film festival. The film includes dozens of snippets from songs the Wrecking Crew played on, but the record companies that own the recordings want so much money from Mr. Tedesco, whose total budget was less than $1 million, that he has turned to a fund-raising campaign, including an event scheduled for New York in mid-June, to meet their demands. [Read the rest here.]
And go to the Wrecking Crew website just to hear the music.  

And it's coming soon to
  • Annenberg Center for Performing Arts - Philadelphia, April 28-29
  • Woodlake Elementary School in Woodland Hills, California, May4
  • The Cutting Room in NYC on June 13.
Check here for details and other upcoming showings or if you want to put one on.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Polling Gap - Dittman Confirms It's the Biggest

A Dittman poll predicted 50% for and 41% against Prop. 5 a week before the April 3 Anchorage Municipal election.  The actual outcome was 58% no and 42% for - a 17% switch in the 'no' votes.

That seemed like a huge switch in a week.  Polling has gotten to be pretty sophisticated and more accurate in recent years.  When all the other issues in this election began to come out - see Bent and  Mudflats  - this seemed to be another anomaly that should be in the mix to be checked out.

So, when I saw that Dittman would be on a panel with the other two best known Anchorage pollsters, I wanted to take the opportunity to see whether this was, as it seemed to me, the biggest difference between polling outcome and election outcome so close to the election.

I got the chance to ask.  I had to ask three times before Dittman confirmed my suspicion.  I've tried to focus just on that part of the video.

[UPDATE 4/29/12 - Someone suggested I add the transcript from the video.

Steve:  Can you think of an election where there was such a big shift [from the poll prediction to the election outcome]?
Dittman:  No.  The answer is no.  I think if you look back historically, the polls have been pretty darned good.  We have on our website the graphic tracks, we have the final poll and the election, it’s just within a percent. It’s dead on. And I think if you look back over time, the polls have been pretty darn reliable.  And in this case you’ve got like a ten percent shift or maybe even twenty . . .
Steve:  Well, it’s almost twenty for the no people.
Dittman:  Yeah.  When you look . .I think that’s one of the highest I can remember.]

Does this even matter?

Some people I've talked to about what I'm calling anomalies in the election have said, "So what? That doesn't prove anything." But I'm working on the grounds that when you're in a situation and you notice things that seem unusual or abnormal, these are signs that something may be amiss. "How to develop Sherlock Holmes intutition" at WikiHow talks about reading the situation.

Understand how to read a situation. There are three parts to reading a situation:
  • See. What do you see that is happening? 
  • Observe. What do you notice that is different; a stain, a crease? 
  • Deduce. What does this imply?

See:   We had an election that ran out of ballots and people were turned away.
Observe:  This is the step that I and other bloggers are going through.  We're looking for things that are different.  The polling gap is one of five or six 'differences.'  In this case it is the extreme variation between the predicted and actual outcome of the election - a greater variation than veteran Anchorage pollster Dave Dittman can remember.
Deduce:  The 17 point shift among 'no' voters - from 41% no to 58% no - that something is different here from other elections.  The two obvious implications are:

  1. The polling was inaccurate or
  2. The vote counting was inaccurate.
[NOTE:  Never be taken in by such either/or options.  There are others (i.e. it just was an odd set of circumstances, like winning the lottery), but for now these are the key ones and most of the others are subsets of these.

The panelists in the video, all pollsters, focused on their area of expertise (polling) and discussed what could have gone wrong with the polling.
  • Polls asked wrong questions - focus on discrimination v. focus on freedom;  use of term gay v. homosexual - will all result in different responses 
  • Voters changed their minds - negative campaigning - the panel suggested the no campaign might have frightened voters and the yes campaign may have irritated voters
  • Size of turnout -  Craciun said that the low percentage of people who vote in general is a serious problem.  Moore said this was the highest turnout election.  (In the end, the turnout edged out the 2006 Mayoral race by 240 ballots, and Prop. 5 had the most people voting.)
Nevertheless, all these possible polling errors can happen at every election and these are experienced pollsters who can explain the ways polls go bad and are paid to avoid these types of bias in their polling. At this election, Dave Dittman agreed this was the highest deviation between what was predicted and the outcome in a week's time [that he could remember.] 

The other option: there was an irregularity in the election itself and how the votes were counted

This all came to light when polling places ran out of ballots.  We also know that Jim Minnery sent out emails to evangelical Christians telling them they could register on the day of the election, even though he'd previously sent out an email telling them to get registered 30 days before or they wouldn't be able to vote.
We also have reports of broken seals on ballot boxes and the deputy clerk in charge of the elections telling a polling worker not to worry about the broken seals.

Back to the Sherlock Holmes webpage:
"It is the highest importance in the art of detection to be able to recognize out of a number of facts, which are incidental and which are vital."[7]. And don't dismiss the smallest details - Holmes made it clear that "The little things are infinitely the most important."[8]
There are lots of individual pieces.  Some, like the broken seals and the missing ballots, should call for an investigation on their own.  Elections are simply too important to not make sure that any problems this time, won't happen again.

This time, the vote was not close in any particular race.  Thus, the investigators need not worry about the political consequences of their findings.  Though there are potential consequences for individuals who may have fallen down on the job.  Higher level public administrators are not merely supposed to do things the way they've always been done, they are expected to be aware that the world is constantly changing and they have to be adapting to those changes.  Based on the video I did with former elections head, Lupe Marroquin, some good things from the past weren't done and some new bad things were.

In any case, I'm adding this long explanation so that people understand that the video, which raises the issue of the gap between the predicted outcome and the actual outcome is simply one of many clues that, all together, raise serious questions about the integrity of the election.

When there is an accident, the police can conclude it was simply an accident and move on, or they can notice clues that suggest that perhaps there was more to it.  I'm just saying, along with others, that there are enough clues, little things that are out of place out there, that suggest there is possibly something more than just an accident.

The Assembly Chair seems to agree, because he's going to appoint an investigator.  I'm just adding this bit of evidence into the mix so that it's considered during the investigation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Board Votes to Appeal to Supreme Court and Authorize Attorney to Submit Interim Plan

Essentially they met in executive session to discuss litigation and then in open session they moved:
1.  To appeal the Superior Court decision to the Supreme Court
2.  Authorize the attorney to submit the Interim plan for adoption.

This is quick and dirty.  Here are my rough notes from today's board meeting.  Recognize they are just a rough image of what was said.

Redistricting Board

11:41  Roll call - after problems getting Marie Greene connected from Canada.  In Anchorage only Board member is John Torgerson.  The others are all here via teleconference.

Staff - Michael White, Taylor Bickford, and

White:  Submitted Amended Proclamation.  Last Friday it disagreed with how we interpreted the Hickel Process.  Didn’t say we should have done the whole state over, but did say we should have reviewed each district.  Also problem with District 32.  Bottom line:  We didn’t follow the Hickel process at the first level.  Have to make findings on each and every district.  Then plan goes back to him and he approves the constitutional issues and then it comes back and we go from there. 
We didn’t follow first process of Hickel Process.

Decision today is to appeal or comply.  That’s what we’ll decided in executive session today. 

Torgerson:  Questions of Mr. White. 
Hearing none, we’ll go to item 5.  Motion to go into Executive Session to discuss strategy to go to the supreme court. 
Roll Call:  5-0 yea

11:46 - disconnect from teleconference and clear the room and we should be back on in a few minutes. 

12:26pm  Board room now opening and setting up the bridge for the teleconference.
12:28 back in session. 
Motions out there?
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  Authorize counsel to appeal trial court’s ruling to the supreme court.
Holm:  Second.
No discussion.  Vote 5-0 in favor.
PeggyAnn McConnochie:  Move to authorize counsel to petition the court to institute the interim plan.
Holm:  Second
Discussion:  None   vote 5-0 yea

PAM: Motion to adjourn:
12:31 adjourned.

[UPDATE 3:30pm -  Here are links to the Interim Plan - statewide and closer look at Fairbanks in the Interim Plan. These are from a redistricting board post dated April 5, 2012.]

Alutiq Baskets - Primitive and Advanced - Flawed Concepts

Often people in so called 'advanced' countries feel, at least subconsciously if not consciously, superior to the people in 'third world' or 'less advanced' countries.  Having dropped back in time, technologically, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand in the late 1960s, I quickly learned that Thais had many advanced skills I couldn't ever hope to match.

I thought about this while watching this new video released by Frontier Scientists in a series of films of Alutiq basket weaving.  In Thailand there were many 'simple' basketry products.  But I would challenge the vast majority of Americans to create even a simple basket on your own, even after googling basket weaving.

How many of us, if we had never seen or heard of something called a woven basket, could even imagine, when looking at the grasses, that this could be turned into a beautiful and useful object?

This video is just about collecting and curing the grasses.  There are six more videos on Alutiq weavers.  You can see a 500 year old basket in the second video (Karluk One Baskets).

Alutiiq Weavers

[ video ] Collecting and Curing Grass
[ video ] Karluk One Baskets
[ video ] Coral’s Cabinet
[ video ] Coral’s Basket Feat: Russian Inspired
[ video ] My Little Basket
[ video ] Where Are My Grass Socks?
[ video ] Teaching and Learning the Art of Basket Weaving

Coming to appreciate the imagination, the knowledge, the technical skill, and the social bonds necessary to create the objects used by pre-industrialized peoples helps us recognize that there aren't superior and inferior peoples.  Rather all human societies  have a range of people with and without many talents and many flaws.

Progress, for me, in this world is figuring out how societies can create environments which promote those qualities that foster the talents that lead to happy communities (really all the other things - prosperity, health, loving families - are means to the end of happiness) and minimize the human flaws that hinder happiness.

Every culture, every human, has aspects of being 'advanced' and 'primitive.'  Recognizing that all cultures have some unique knowledge and skill is the first step toward recognizing we are all equals in this world, which itself is the first step to respect and humility. 

By the way, I imagine most people in the world have no idea who the Alutiq people are.  The Alutiq Museum and Archeological Repository has a great website.  In the Educational Handouts section of the Resources page I found a link  with a page of explanation of names used to identify alutiq people.  Here's a part of that page:
alutiiq – “Alutiiq” is the way Sugpiaq people say Aleut. It is the Native way of pronouncing the Russian-introduced word “Aleut” in their own language. Alutiiq is a popular self- designator in Kodiak, and reflects the region’s complex Russian and Native history.” People used this term occasionally in the Russian era. It gained popularity starting in the 1980s.
 Here are some other links on that page:


Agenda Item 4 Should Be Interesting

The redistricting board meets at 11:30 Tuesday, April 24.  I don't imagine it will be a long meeting, but it should be interesting when the attorney talks about the decision.  You can listen in by calling  1-855-463-5009, or via live stream at

The board members were not at all pleased with the Supreme Court's decision that had them redo their Proclamation Plan.

They revised it, though they were clearly annoyed.

But Judge McConahy has just ruled in drawing the second proclamation plan, they had not complied with the letter or the spirit of the Supreme Court's charge to follow the "Hickel Process" meaning they had to first draw districts that met the Alaska constitutional requirements.  Only then could they make the most minimal adjustments necessary to the constitutional standards, so that it complies with the federal Voting Rights Act.  McConahy basically told them to start from scratch.

The board is clearly not going to be in a good mood.  The Supreme Court has to rule on whether any state constitutional deviations are necessary to comply with the VRA and are the absolute minimal necessary.  Without a benchmark plan that is constitutional, they argued, how can they tell if the final plan does the least violation to the constitutional requirements?  I understand that, but having watched the board working on these maps, I recognize that this is not an easy process.  I think that they have to make the constitutional plan, but they cannot do it without keeping the VRA requirements in mind. 

Here's the agenda for the meeting. 


Tuesday, April 24, 2012, 11:30 AM

The legal overview, presumably presented by board attorney Michael White, will, I suspect, be the highlight of the meeting.

I would also guess that this new plan will not be ready in time for the June 1 candidate filing deadline for the November election.  If not, the interim plan would go into effect.  But will it be the interim plan they submitted with this recently rejected plan?  Or the original proclamation plan?  Or will there be a new interim plan?  

Will all the districts now be subject to change throwing everything into uncertainty?

You can call in at 1-855-463-5009, or via live stream at  <

  11:30 am

Monday, April 23, 2012

What Do The Election Percentages and Numbers Tell? Maybe Nothing

The Assembly chair has said he will appoint an investigator to review the April 3, 2012 Anchorage Municipal election.  A number of people have gathered data.  None of it proves anything.  But there are lots of anomalies, which taken altogether call out for a thorough investigator to determine whether these anomalies are just coincidences or whether they add up to something seriously wrong with the election.

Elections are important because voting is the fundamental basis of our democracy, which is based on the idea that the public determines our political leaders through elections.  The power comes from the people.  We can argue about whether voters are duped by election propaganda and many other ways elections can go wrong.  But most fundamental is that every person has the right to vote and every vote is counted right.

As I looked at the percentages for the various propositions after the election I was struck by wide margins in each case.  It seemed to me that often school bonds and parks and public transit either lost or won by narrow margins.  But not this year.  So I went back to the Muni website and pulled out the data for several categories of city wide bond propositions.  The data come from the Municipal website.  While I tried to be careful, there is always the possibility of mistakes.

The numbers in the Scribd table show bond elections for the last 6 Anchorage elections. (2012 numbers are from the 4/20 final count.)  All of the bonds for 2012 were at the highest percentage "for" votes in the last six Municipal elections. The school bonds tied 2007 and 2008.  The others were record highs.  Two areas that are most likely to be voted down are public transit and general parks and recreation. (The 2008 vote was for swimming pools and there was a very strong parent backed campaign to pass it.  But when parks and bike trail upgrades are in the ballot, it's likely to barely pass or fail.  Even when it's bundled with emergency medical services as it's been often.)

Why would a surge of conservative voters (there to vote no on Prop. 5) vote in record percentages for bonds that normally win narrowly at best or not at all?  Such voters generally vote to keep property taxes down.  It's an anomaly the investigator should check into. 

A larger percentage of people voted for public transit (in with emergency vehicles) than ever before
Anchorage Prop Vote History 2006-2012

(You can play with the Table above here or go to Scribd and download it.)

I'd note the election data are posted by year and some of the results pages show some Propositions more than once - it appears that they had different numbers of precincts in.  I choose the ones with 100%.  You'll also note that transit is usually packaged with emergency vehicles and it's difficult to figure out it includes public transit funds.

You can see all the past election results here.
Since the results pages are vague, I also checked the sample ballots to see what people were voting for. 

The table below looks at the total vote for the 2012 election,
  • for each Muni-wide bond issue and
  • each Muni-wide office (mayor and school board members), and 
  • compares them to the total votes for or against Prop 5, and 
  • then compares them to the total number of voters.

Muni-Wide Votes Prop 5 Total Fewer than Prop 5 Total Vote Fewer than total
Schools 68,376 70,431 2,055 71,099 2,723
Roads/Drains 69,523 70,431 908 71,099 1,576
Med/Transit 69,890 70,431 741 71,099 1,409
Parks 68,246 70,431 1,185 71,099 1,853
Prop 5 70,431 70,431 0 71,099 668
Mayor 69,655 70,431 776 71,099 1,444
School Seat E 55,226 70,431 15,205 71,099 15,873
School Seat F 53,615 70,431 16,616 71,099 17.484
School Seat G 55,921 70,431 14,510 71,099 15,178
[UPDATE 8:30: I fixed a typo in the Prop 5 column changing 70451 to 70431.  Fortunately it was correct in the chart I did the calculating so the next column should still be ok.]]

You can see no issue or person on the ballot had more people voting than Prop. 5 (to make it illegal to discriminate against GLBT folks).  The difference ranges from 741 to 2, 055 among the bond propositions and 766  to 16,616  among the candidates running.

Despite the fact that Prop 5 got the most total votes (for or against) there were another 688 people who didn't vote on that proposition.

I don't know what this means, if anything.  It makes sense that Prop 5 attracted more voters than any other issue.  It was the most emotional and the one subject to campaigns for and against. 

I do think that whoever does the investigation ought to look at these figures, probably with the help of a statistician, and determine if they are consistent with past elections. Or if the extra numbers and the high percentages in favor of bond issues Conservatives normally vote against could be the result of tampering with the voting machines.

I would also note that the total number of voters - 71,099 is the highest count going back to 2006.  But it's not something the election planners shouldn't have anticipated.  The 2006 election - also a mayoral race - had 70,859 ballots cast.  That's only 240 fewer ballots than 2012.  If the Deputy Clerk was going to consider more than one previous mayoral race to figure out how many voters to expect, she would have had to have seen this figure.

[UPDATE 9:30 am:  I'm presenting numbers here as objectively as I can.  What they mean is much harder to ascertain.  A good example of this data interpretation problem is in a New York Times article today that looks at attempts to get data to determine the US income gap.  It's  not easy to get clean numbers that reflect what you want to know.  But once you get the numbers it's easy to twist them to make them support your position.  Well, easy if your audience isn't asking hard questions.  In any case, the election numbers are pretty easy to get.  They raise questions that require more investigation.  Are the high percentages for increasing bond indebtedness really high enough to raise eyebrows?  If so, is it just an anomaly or is there something wrong in the vote count?  We can ask similar questions about the overall vote counts for each ballot issue.  Given so many signs from different aspects of the election, the investigation coming up is clearly justified.]

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It Worked. I Ran. I Got Smarter.

I finally went out running today.  There were simply no excuses left.  No snow to shovel.  Not meetings to rush off to.  I didn't hike or bike.  And I'd just posted the article on running making you smarter. 

Chester Creek Bike Trail

The bike trail was better than I expected.  They've obviously done some grooming - you can see that snow has been pushed to the sides.

And parts with more sunshine even were bare to the pavement.  But the boggy area to the right which is mostly frozen will be flooding parts of the trail as things thaw.

And some parts of the bog - here right up against the snow berms on the side of the trail - are just water.

Smarter? When I got home I saw that the title for that post was "Running Make You Smarter" so I fixed it. Obviously the running was already working. I know the running does more than the walking or biking because when I run I'm always pushing my pulse up and challenging my lungs to keep me in oxygen. And I sweat. That doesn't happen walking or biking.

"What Did The President Know and When Did He Know It?" Part : Asking The Right QuestionI

Neal Conan's after lunch talk at the Alaska Press Club was about asking the right question.  He gave two well known examples:
  • Follow the money
  • What did the president know and when did he know it?
I know.  The first isn't a question, but it directs you to ask questions. 

[Do I need to say that Neal Conan is NPR's Talk of the Nation host?]

But his point was that the question depends on the story. And a critical question at one point, may not be relevant to a new story and asking what the president knew about Iraq was the wrong question.   [I'm afraid that somewhere in his talk I got distracted.  Looking at my notes I think I have this,  but I'm not totally sure.  My apologies to Neal if I've misstated this.  The overall point is solid, but take my details with a grain of salt.]

He went on to say his biggest mistake and best story both came from asking the wrong question about Iraq.  As I understood, he was pursuing the story of weapons of mass destruction and whether Iraq had them [his answer was 'no' but Saddam didn't want to say this publicly because he wanted Iran to think he did].  Conan's big story was about a defecting Iraqi scientist who claimed there were secret weapons and had sought asylum with the American military in northern Iraq where Conan was reporting.

The question he said they should have been asking [I think] was, "What was the real reason Bush wanted to go into Iraq?  Conan said he missed this completely, and said it wasn't WMD or even oil. 

[These are my rough notes, cleaned up to make complete words and sentences. I think they capture what he said, but not his exact words.]

What was the real reason?  Why did they want to go to Iraq?  Oil wasn’t the reason.  As long as oil is pumping and getting into the market, it’s ok.  We can get it from somewhere else if ample supply. 

The Bush administration was honest when saying they wanted to establish an honest democracy and drain the swamp. They believed that Al Qaeda recruits from the poor.  If you change the political structures of the Middle East that we were so aligned with for so long, you could dry up Al Qaeda's supply of poor soldiers.  This was a hugely dangerous option.   Why did they think Iraq would change to become like the Netherlands instead of, say, Yugoslavia?  It took Tito to hold the ethnic divisions together.  Afghanistan is similar.  Forces had been unleashed by the Russian war and wouldn’t go back. . . Pashtun people upset all the other groups.  Why did we think Iraq’s ethnic groups held together by Saddam wouldn’t do the same?
. . .  I contributed to problems by not asking the right questions.  Why do we think this place after being held together by Saddam Hussein's . . . rings of spies [wouldn't fall apart into ethnic divisions like Yugoslavia or Afghanistan.]  We think of armies to win wars, but no, [many in the world] are there to hold the regime in power. 

There's a lot to digest after three days of the Alaska Press Club conference and the many thought-provoking speakers and I'm still processing what I heard and how it can help me improve my blogging.  There is no way I can do a full report on the conference.  The best I can do is pick up threads - like this one - and follow them a short way.  This helps me figure things out and lets readers have a peek into what went on.

So last night, reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time in bed after hearing Neal Conan,  I got to Franklin Roosevelt's Atlantic 'fishing trip' which turned into a secret meeting at sea with Winston Churchill in August 1941.  Part of the discussion at the "Atlantic Conference" was about the negotiations between the US and Japan.  Which brought to mind, Conan's mention of "What did the president know   . . .?" and the debate WW II buffs have had over whether President Roosevelt knew in advance about the Pearl Harbor attack.

I was going to include that here, but I think this is enough for one post and I'll follow up with another post on that topic. 

Running Makes You Smarter

It was easy to run when we were in LA earlier this year, but with all the snow we had, I switched to shoveling snow as my exercise.  I haven't been a total slug, but I know some serious and regular movement is needed.  The streets are clear of snow and I have no more excuses. 

It sounds like any good exercise will do.   

From Sunday's NYTimes:
For more than a decade, neuroscientists and physiologists have been gathering evidence of the beneficial relationship between exercise and brainpower. But the newest findings make it clear that this isn’t just a relationship; it is the relationship. Using sophisticated technologies to examine the workings of individual neurons — and the makeup of brain matter itself — scientists in just the past few months have discovered that exercise appears to build a brain that resists physical shrinkage and enhance cognitive flexibility. Exercise, the latest neuroscience suggests, does more to bolster thinking than thinking does .(emphasis added.)

Of course every week there is some new food or activity to add or avoid.  But walking and running have been on the good list a long time now.  None of these mean you (specfically) will or won't live longer and get smarter, but it means people in general will, and you might be in the group that does.

[UPDATE:  See follow up post:  It Worked, I Ran I Got Smarter. ]

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blogging Rewards - Connecting With Far Away Reader With a Post

Recent Email:


I found your email address on your blog... and I found your blog because I've been searching bird song in Thailand for about two hours and I narrowed my search to trying to order Tony Ball's CD from a company in Holland that won't accept my Thai address and my French bank info... who could blame them. Somewhere in the Tony Ball google search your blog was quoted because you bought volumes one and two -- as it turns out, after actually going out with him as a guide!

I just want volume 1... and it feels like it SHOULD be easy to get since I'm IN Thailand!

I am NOT a birder. . . [She provided some personal information - an American living in Thailand who'd lived in Europe.]
You can't help but notice the birds here -- and I have seen at least one magnificent one that I can't find a picture of on line. But what is driving me crazy is that I am surrounded by their calls all morning and all evening but I can never find the one that's making a distinctive sound -- so I can't match sight and sound.

I don't want to study ALL birds -- I just want to know who's in my neighborhood... and I want to do that by sound.

That seemed simple until I started googling this morning!

Can you please help by sending me contact info for Tony Ball?

(When I go to his site, all that kind of info is in Thai!)

Thanks in advance,


Google makes it possible for EM living in Chiang Mai, Thailand to find me in Anchorage, Alaska to help her get in touch with Tony Ball, back in Chiang Mai.  So I contacted Tony and emailed her back with his email address and a link I made to a post about ten common birds in Chiang Mai. It also let me revisit our wonderful Saturday morning birding with Tony Ball.
I got a second email:  

Greater Racket-Tailed Drongo
Oh I am so SO excited! There he is! Yes, of course Tony Ball is exciting too, but I mean "my" magnificent and heretofore nameless bird is number 2 on your blog list! A Racket-Tailed Drongo! 

And that fat one with the rust-colored wings is a Greater Coucal?

My computer (like me) is old and slow and can't download the latest Flash whatever, so I can't see your video... but because I had the names now, I could go to youtube, and there I found the sound I've been looking for! 

There must be a very large and very lonely Asian Male Koel in the neighborhood because you can hear that mating call on all three "soys".

I love that most of my "mysteries" are already solved AND that I am now able to consult the bird expert directly!

I can't thank you enough!

God willing and the creek don't rise I will be able to "book" Tony for a walk around my neighborhood -- I'll be sure to send you a report on that!

I'll send a separate email to Tony Ball -- I'm really looking forward to meeting him!

Best regards,
Just got an email cc from Tony that she's going to come by and get her CD and they'll plan a birding walk in her neighborhood.   And I love the drongos with those long tails with the feathers at the end.  You can hear them and the koel on the video here.  And it took forever to get that picture of the drongo flying.  Living on the 5th floor surrounded by tree tops helped. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Judge Rejects Redistricting Board's Amended Proclamation Plan

I'm in a workshop on doing video by Ted Warren from AP.  It's reassuring that at least there is something I'm up to speed on, plus there are good tips for improvement.

But I just checked my email and a reader sent me a copy of the Judge McConahy's order on the Amended Proclamation plan.

Let me get this up now and I'll add more later.   This seems to be the key sentence in the ruling, but I'll have to read more.  I can't cut and paste the pdf I got. 

Essentially, the Board's been told to do a real Hickel process and I suspect the Board is not going to be pleased.  I'm not sure the order is completely realistic - the Board is told to redo Southeast Alaska without consideration of VRA.  My sense is that you have to take both the constitution and VRA into consideration at the same time.

UPDATE:  3:05pm  I'm attaching a copy of the whole order. 120420_Order - Order Remanding Alaska Redistricting Amended Plan Back To Board April 20, 2012

Way Too Busy With AQR, Press Club, Confucius Institute, and More Redistricting Stuff

Wednesday night I went to the 30th Anniversary Celebration of the Alaska Quarterly Review.  The new volume includes a remembrance of the two stellar photojournalists who died in Libya Tim Hetherington, and Chris Hondros almost exactly one year ago.  Anchorage raised photographer Benjamin Spatz coordinated the collection of photos representing With Liberty and Justice for All from 68 outstanding photographers who knew the two men.  At the event at the Anchorage Museum were two of the photographers who submitted photos, original Good Morning America host Dave Hartman and two time Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Barbara Davidson.  This event deserves a longer post of its own, but it's late and so I'm just putting up these two photos of Hartman and Davidson with the photos they submitted.  You can get a copy of the 30th Anniversary issue of the AQR - truly a nationally and internationally recognized literary journal published right here in Anchorage - here.  Or try some local bookstores. Or a good out of state bookstore.  They sold all the copies they brought Wednesday night. 

Then Thursday I went to the radio day of the Alaska Press Club.  I finally decided I should join this organization and go to their conference so I could learn something about what I'm doing here and how to do it better.

Not sure how much I'll improve, but it won't be from lack of great discussion from masters of radio.  OK, I don't do radio, but much of the wisdom imparted can easily be adapted to video.  It was good timing for me because I've been thinking about my rather raw style and why I think it's appropriate here.  While I'm not backing off, I did get some good ideas to at least modify my ideas and maybe improve my technique.

Neal Conan
First there was Jason LeRose from NPR West.

And then came Neal Conan.  It was quite eerie when he opened his mouth and this voice floated out - a voice I know so well from Talk of the Nation and other shows he's done on NPR.  And now it was attached, so to speak, to an actual physical human being.   I'll post more about this later, but just want to explain why I've been so busy.

I'll get back to this.  But I was a bit confused and went to hear Howard Weaver in the bookstore.  It turns out he'll be there at 4pm on Friday.  But Thursday there was a talk by Chinese Fulbright Scholar Wei Jaijiang on A Contrastive Study of Chinese and English Emotional Metaphors.  I have to go to bed now, it's after 2am and there is more Press Club starting about 9am.  So I won't get into details of the talk.  But I got to meet the director of the Confucius Institute and the instructors and I may have committed myself to try to pick up on where I left off in Chinese.  There's quite a bit in my brain, but it has a great deal of difficulty getting out of my brain via my tongue these days.  Possibly I can dislodge some of that vocabulary and syntax, not to mention the characters.

I just want you to know I'm not goofing off here.   Oh yes, the Redistricting Board put up the responses to their latest submission.  I only barely opened one and haven't had time to read it yet.  Here are the documents:

Fairbanks North Star Borough
Aleutians East Borough
City of Petersburg
Calista Corporation
Bristol Bay Native Corporation
RIGHTS Coalition
Riley Plaintiffs

Alaska Redistricting Board

Here's what's scheduled tomorrow at the press club:

9 – 10:15 a.m.
Telling stories through photography
 Barbara Davidson will discuss long-form photo storytelling and ways to use narrative and storytelling in shorter-form daily journalism. Rasmuson Hall 101

Carolyn Ryan critique
Carolyn Ryan, metro editor at the New York Times, critiques stories written on deadline. Three works will be reviewed. Stories with multi-media components will be given priority. Rasmuson Hall 111

One-on-one coaching (radio)
With NPR’s Jason DeRose, APRN’s Lori Townsend and Annie Feidt, CoastAlaska’s Ed Schoenfeld, UAA’s Elizabeth Arnold and others. Rasmuson Hall 316

10:30 – 11:45 a.m.
Covering religion
The nuts and bolts of covering religious issues and institutions, from sex-abuse scandals to denominational conflicts to involvement in local politics. With Jason DeRose, NPR Western Bureau chief and former religion reporting instructor at DePaul University and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He also holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Rasmuson Hall 101
Personal photojournalism u u Richard Murphy, long-time photo editor at the Anchorage Daily News and Atwood Chair at UAA, will show recent work made with an iPhone and talk about what he’s discovered about the tool in a reprise of his popular lecture

Professional photojournalism to personal photojournalism or how my cell phone set me free.” Rasmuson Hall 111
Polling the pollsters: It’s all in the numbers
We’ve all seen pre-election numbers, approval surveys and other statistics offering public opinion information. But where do they come from and how do they work? How can two polls sometimes offer such different results? Get the lowdown on polling and information research— and find out how to best use these numbers in your reporting — at this panel featuring some of Alaska’s top specialists: Jean Craciun is CEO of Craciun Research, where she helps businesses and organizations deal with changing environments and reforming industry sectors. David L. Dittman (Dittman Research and Communications Corporation) is widely recognized as Alaska’s senior public opinion analyst. Ivan Moore, Ivan Moore Research, is a public opinion pollster based in Anchorage who works with both Democratic and Republican candidates. Moderated by UAF Journalism Professor Lynne Lott. Rasmuson Hall 316

1:15 – 2:30 p.m.
Covering the military from the home front
Kimberly Dozier shares the lessons she learned the hard way when covering the military – how to learn how troops see the world, and the media, how to win their trust – and most importantly, represent both them and the U.S. public in reporting that pulls no punches. Rasmuson Hall 101

Simple videos for websites

Shooting and editing simple videos that can be easily used on media websites. This session is for reporters with limited background in video production. With Ted S. Warren, Associated Press. Rasmuson Hall 111

Notebook to page u KTUU’s Jason Lamb, ADN’s Kyle Hopkins and APRN’s Annie Feidt share tips and tricks for writing accurate, compelling stories quickly. Moderated by Julia O’Malley. Rasmuson 316

Sorry the formatting got messed up, but I really have to go to bed or I'll sleep through all this.