Monday, December 31, 2012

Famous People Born In 1913 Part I: The Events of 1913

As 2013 opens, it's instructive to look back 100 years to 1913.  Particularly I want to look at some of the people whose lives impacted the world enough to gain widespread attention.  From the lists I've found, I've narrowed the list to 44 people who I was aware of or who seem to have made important contributions even if their names weren't well known.

The list has few giant events - but it was a year building up to World War I.  The Balkan War was ending. (pdf)

First though, let's review some of the things that happened that year:

Feb 17 - March 15 - Armory Show in New York - Duchamps Nude Descending a Staircase
Feb 25th - 16th Amendment ratified, authorizing income tax
Mar 4th - 1st US law regulating the shooting of migratory birds passed
Mar 4th - Woodrow Wilson inaugurated as 28th president
Mar 12th - Foundation stone of the Australian capital in Canberra laid
Mar 14th - John D Rockefeller gives $100 million to Rockefeller Foundation
Mar 21st - -26] Flood in Ohio, kills 400
Apr 8th - 17th amendment, requiring direct election of senators, ratified
Apr 9th - Brooklyn Dodger's Ebbets Field opens, Phillies win 1-0
Apr 21st - Gideon Sundback of Sweden patents the zipper
May 7th - British House of Commons rejects woman's right to vote
May 12th - Harry Green runs world record marathon (2:38:16.2)
May 13th - 1st four engine aircraft built and flown (Igor Sikorsky-Russia)
May 19th - Webb Alien Land-Holding Bill passes, forbidding Japanese from owning land
May 26th - Actors' Equity Association forms (NYC)
May 29th - Igor Stravinsky's ballet score The Rite of Spring is premiered in Paris, provoking a riot.
May 30th - New country of Albania, forms
Jun 2nd - 1st strike settlement mediated by US Dept of Labor-RR clerks
Jun 4th - Suffragette Emily Davison steps in front of King George V's horse Anmer at the Epsom Derby
Jun 5th - Dutch Disability laws go into effect
Jun 16th - South-African parliament forbids blacks owning land
Jun 21st - Tiny Broadwick is 1st woman to parachute from an airplane
Jul 3rd - Common tern banded in Maine; found dead in 1919 in Africa (1st bird known to have crossed the Atlantic)
Jul 3rd - Confederate veterans at the Great Reunion of 1913 reenact Pickett's Charge; upon reaching the high-water mark of the Confederacy they are met by the outstretched hands of friendship from Union survivors.
Jul 10th - Death Valley, California hits 134 °F (~56.7 °C), which is the highest temperature recorded in the United States.
Jul 19th - Billboard publishes earliest known "Last Week's 10 Best Sellers among Popular Songs" Malinda's Wedding Day is #1
Jul 23rd - Arabs attack Jewish community of Rechovot Palestine
Jul 30th - Conclusion of 2nd Balkan War
Aug 13th - Invention of stainless steel by Harry Brearley.
Aug 16th - Tōhoku Imperial University of Japan (modern day Tōhoku University) admits its first female students.
Aug 19th - Frenchman Pégoud makes 1st parachute jump in Europe
Aug 28th - Queen Wilhelmina opens Peace Palace (The Hague)
Sep 10th - Lincoln Highway opens as 1st paved coast-to-coast highway
Sep 29th - Sam S Shubert Theater opens at 225 W 44th St NYC
Oct 7th - Henry Ford institutes moving assembly line
Oct 14th - Explosion in coal mine at Cardiff kills 439
Oct 22nd - Coal mine explosion kills 263 at Dawson New Mexico
Nov 6th - Mohandas K Gandhi arrested for leading Indian miners march in S Africa
Nov 13th - 1st modern elastic brassiere patented by Mary Phelps Jacob
Nov 17th - 1st US dental hygienists course forms, Bridgeport, Ct
Dec 1st - 1st drive-up gasoline station opens (Pitts)
Dec 1st - Continuous moving assembly line introduced by Ford (car every 2:38)
Dec 8th - Construction starts on Palace of Fine Arts in SF
Dec 12th - "Mona Lisa," stolen from Louvre Museum in 1911, recovered
Dec 12th - Hebrew language officially used to teach in Palestinian schools
Dec 13th - Mona Lisa stolen in Aug 1911 returned to Louvre
Dec 16th - Charlie Chaplin began his film career at Keystone for $150 a week
Dec 21st - 1st crossword puzzle (with 32 clues) printed in NY World
Dec 23rd - President Woodrow Wilson signs Federal Reserve Act into law
Other Events in 1913:
Ernest Rutherford and Niels Bohr describe atomic structure.
Nobel Prize for Literature: Rabindranath Tagore (India)
US Population: 97,225,000

List sources: historyorb and  Infoplease.  I did find some errors, but haven't double checked every date, so there may still be a few.

Culturally, this was, apparently a major year of change.  Stravinsky's Rite of Spring was introduced and the Armory Show in New York introduced many European artists to the US.  

The Green Space offers a 70 minute video discussion of this tumultuous cultural environment of 1913.  Well worth listening to to get a sense of the cultural upheavels of 1913.  At about 50 minutes in, the discuss 1913's similarities to and differences from today. 

Post II has video of the two folks that appear to still be alive (both opera singers), Risë Stevens and Licia Albanese.   It also has the list of all 44 that I chose in birth order.  So the 'oldest' born January 4, 1913, Rosa Parks, starts the list.

Post III includes short bios and images in the order of their deaths, beginning with Albert Camus (1960) and ending with William Casey (1987).  Since these posts are so long, I'll divide them up into shorter posts.

Post IV has a video of Ruth Ungar Marx who's planning to celebrate her 100th birthday on May 26, 2013.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Bike Lane Light

From This Is Why I'm Broke :

Screenshot from This Is Why I'm Broke

This looks like a good idea, but I'm not sure.  Why is this better than a flashing red light on the bike?  [And a commenter said the cyclist logo doesn't come with it.] 

I predict that as we grow to understand our weird relationship to technology, we will be seeing more human powered tools for situations where they are appropriate.  When we first started applying engines and electricity, people labored pretty hard and getting, say, a washing machine instead of hand washing was a huge labor and time saver.  The same with tractors over plows and horses (or water buffalo).

But then we applied motors to everything without thinking where it was necessary and where not.  To the point where we drive our cars and take elevators to the gym where we use plugged in machines to exercise.

Now that we've discovered that we've gotten lazy and fat, people are considering how human powered activity - like walking or biking to work, taking the stairs, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, etc. - not only reduce our use of fossil fuels, but also provide natural exercise to keep us fit.  And connect us to the natural rhythms of nature. 

That said, one electric gadget that has become essential for safe night biking is the LED light that means that cyclists can be seen at night by cars.  I wonder whether LED lights could be powered by the old generators we used to have that got power from the wheel turning.  Then we wouldn't need to buy batteries. 

Of course, when I ask questions like that, I have to go look it up and yes - the old dynamo idea is alive and well.

Kent 96049 Generator Light Set

$11 online
Bicycle light set generator Never run out of the light you need to see what's in front of you. Large white headlight and small red tail light are powered by a 6 volt, 3 watt generator. No need for batteries, every pedal powers the lights.

But does this have the brightness of LED?  And does it work after you stop?

Planet Bike has a front light that attaches to a dynamo.

And here's a Supernova kit for the dynamo. 

Check on liine - the prices vary enormously. 

Ruth Gruber - First To Report On Soviet Arctic - At Museum One More Week

Photo of Photo at Anchorage Exhibit

"In 1941, US Secretary of the Interior Harold I. Ickes appointed Ruth Gruber as his Field Representative to the Alaska Territories. . .  For 18 months, she reported on the conditions and experiences of American soldiers stationed there and documented the abundance of natural resources, development of industry, progress of the Alaska railroad, government initiatives, and the opening of land and air routes.  Encouraged by Ickes to take moving footage and color photgraphs - exhibited here for the first time - Gruber became a serious photojournalist."  [From Museum exhibit description.]

  The museum has a display of some of the old Alaska photos and some of the film footage.  There are also photos of her trip to the Soviet Arctic.  And her documentation of the Holocaust survivors on ships the British refused entry into Palestine after the war.

There's also a seven minute video interview with Gruber.  I don't remember when the video was taken, but it was recent and she was in her late 90's at the time.

From Ruth Gruber Video about Age 97
She's still alive today at 101. The exhibit is at the Anchorage Museum until January 6, so there isn't much time to see it.  There's a lot of history covered here and a lot of things to think about.  For example, her Alaska time coincided with some of the time covered in the book I'm reading Brian Garfield's Thousand Mile War about the Aleutian campaign in WW II.  There's also coverage of the Jews coming after WW II to Palestine which feeds into another post I've been thinking about - my comments on the AIFF winning Documentary Roadmap to Apartheid. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012


It was 43˚F (6˚C) this morning.  No more excuses left to not run.  Last week we thought 30 felt warm.  43 felt even balmier.

 The Weather Service website said it was 44 and here's the map of our weather pattern.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Alaska Supreme Court Orders Redistricting Board "to draft a new plan for the 2014 elections."

I was doing other things when this came out today, but let me get this much up and I'll read it more carefully and add more later.

In the previous chapter of this never ending saga, last May the Supreme Court accepted for the August primary and the November election one of many plans created by the Redistricting Board, which was starting to sound very frustrated.  But the Supreme Court did let it be known that this might not be the last plan, but this seemed to be the best available plan ready in time for candidates to file for the elections.

The plaintiffs in the previous lawsuit challenged the plan used in November's election and this decision today does say that they must follow the requirements set out last spring. 

I've added brackets and step numbers [Step 1, etc.] to make it a little easier to see the steps along the way.   Here's the Introduction to Supreme Court No. S-14721 [pdf]:
Earlier in the current redistricting cycle, [Step 1] we issued an order remanding to the superior court with instructions to remand to the redistricting board to formulate a new plan in compliance with our case law. We agreed with the superior court that, in drafting its plan, the board failed to follow the process we mandated in order to ensure that the redistricting plan would comply with the Alaska Constitution and thus may have unnecessarily violated the Alaska Constitution. [Step 2] Upon remand, the board was instructed to follow this process so that we could appropriately judge whether its violations of the Alaska Constitution were absolutely necessary for compliance with federal law. [Step 3] The board then submitted a modified plan to the superior court that changed only four out of forty house districts from the original plan; [Step 4]  this amended plan was similarly rejected by the superior court because, among other reasons, the board failed to follow the process that we required in order to ensure compliance with the Alaska Constitution. [Step 5] The board petitions for review of the superior court’s decision. [Step 6] We accept the petition for review and, because the board failed to follow the process that we ordered upon remand, we affirm the decision of the superior court and require the board to draft a new plan for the 2014 elections. We agree with the board that it is not required to make specific findings about each individual district relating to the requirements of the Alaska Constitution nor to submit a plan to the superior court at each stage of drafting. [emphasis added]

It might be useful to also include the majority's conclusion:

Because the Board failed to follow the Hickel process when drafting its Amended Proclamation Plan, we AFFIRM the superior court’s ruling invalidating that plan and REMAND this case to the Board to draft a new plan based on strict adherence to the Hickel process. We REVERSE the superior court’s rulings that the Board must make specific findings on the constitutionality of each house district and that the Board must submit the plan to the court for approval at each stage of drafting.

I would further note:

1.  This was a three to two majority opinion.
2.  Within the majority, Judge Winfree wrote a dissenting opinion, in part, with which Judge Stowers joined.
3.  Judge Matthews wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Fabe.  This dissent is a bit longer than the original decision and concludes:
Today’s opinion sends the redistricting process mandated as a result of the 2010 census back to ground zero. Much new litigation, by new parties as well as those already before us, will result. All the disruptions of redistricting that are necessarily endured every ten years will be repeated in the next two.

The cause of this drastic remedy, according to the majority opinion, is the Board’s use of unchallenged districts in devising a Hickel plan. But the Board did not consider that its hands were tied by the unchallenged districts, and there were practical reasons why the Board would choose to build on rather than toss out the unchallenged work that it had already done. Rather than force a return to the point of beginning, I think we should take the next logical step in this litigation and determine whether the Board’s Hickel plan was based on the requirements of the Alaska Constitution. 
4.  The Redistricting Board knew its plan had been challenged and the board members knew there was a possibility they would be called together to redo the plan after the election.  Presumably they are ready to come back together.
5.  As I understand it, all but one of the staff have been let go.  I know the executive director has taken another job and presumably the others have too. 

Let's Get This Congressional 'Moderates' and 'Extremists' Stuff Straight

I'm increasingly hearing that there are no moderates left in in Congress as both parties are now made up of extremists.  I'm going to refute that line of reasoning here, by arguing that basically the country has moved way far to the right.  Identifying extreme liberals in Congress is a joke.  There are none.  By 1960's and 1970's political benchmark, this nation is, except on race, gay rights, and marijuana, far, far to the right. 

My example of media 'extremism'  here is a short CBS clip titled "Moderate Senators Disappear." 

Watch the short video and see if you come up with the same questions I had.

Now let's reflect on what was said.  More important, on what was not said. 

The guts of the message are these four diagrams (screen shots from the video) purporting to show the Senate's liberals, moderates, and conservatives. The text next to the images comes from the US Senate website.
Screenshot from CBS YouTube

97th Congress (1981-1983)
Majority Party: Republican (53 seats)
Minority Party: Democrat (46 seats)
Other Parties: 1 Independent
Total Seats: 100 [from US Senate]
[The Senate had just changed to Republican dominance after Reagan swept into office in the 1980 election.]


Screenshot from CBS YouTube
103rd Congress (1993-1995)
Majority Party: Democrat (57 seats)
Minority Party: Republican (43 seats)
Other Parties: 0
Total Seats: 100
Note: Party division changed to 56 Democrats and 44 Republicans after the June 5, 1993 election of Kay B. Hutchison (R-TX).

Screenshot from CBS YouTube

107th Congress (2001-2003)
Majority Party (Jan 3-20, 2001): Democrat (50 seats)
Minority Party: Republican (50 seats)
Other Parties: 0
Total Seats: 100

Screenshot from CBS YouTube

 111th Congress (2009-2011)
Majority Party: Democrat (57 seats)
Minority Party:  Republican (41 seats)
Other Parties: 1 Independent; 1 Independent Democrat
Total Seats: 100
Note: Senator Arlen Specter was reelected in 2004 as a  Republican, and became a Democrat on April 30, 2009. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut was reelected in 2006 as an independent candidate, and became an Independent Democrat. Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont was elected in 2006 as an Independent.

  1.  How do you define moderate?
    1. NJ does it by counting a set of votes on key bills important to each party.
  2.  If you aren't moderate, does that imply you are an extremist?
    1. NJ gives each Senator a percentage  on how they voted on the key votes.  Most fell somewhere between 98% consistent on key votes to around 50% consistent on key votes
    2. But CBS has converted those outside the middle as "most liberal" or "most conservative" and by 2010 everyone is in the 'most' category.  (NJ can identify more precisely - such as the ten most liberal or conservative Senators.)
    3. The implication left is that if you aren't moderate, you are, I guess, extreme.
  3. Do those votes NJ picked even accurately measure extreme and moderate?

Well, the original definition in the National Journal article was those who fit in between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican.  Back then, the Democratic party still had leftovers from the South who were very conservative on a number of issues.  There were also 'Rockefeller Republicans" who were very liberal on many issues.  So there was a lot of room.  But if you look at the 1982 picture, you'll see that the 'extremists' were mostly Republicans - 30 Republicans were considered extreme (to the right of the most conservative Democrat) and only 10 Democrats that were extreme (to the left of the most liberal Republican.)

Those numbers keep moving up so the middle eventually disappears.  In all four of the CBS diagrams, there are more red extremists than blue ones.   And I'm not sure where CBS got their numbers for 2010, because there are more conservatives than there were Republicans in the Senate.  They have 55 most conservatives and 45 most liberals.  But that year there were 57 Democrats, 41 Republicans, and 2 Independents who hung with the Democrats.  Are they counting Democrats among the most conservatives?

Game theory - particularly the prisoner's dilemma - tells us why you need to stand firm if your opponent keeps screwing you over.  If Democrats hadn't gotten more 'backbone' and hadn't voted for or against key legislation in reaction to what the Republicans were doing, they would have sold the whole country out by now.  And many liberals already say they have. 

But the CBS clip appears to have already changed the terms from the National Journal article. 

I found what appears to be the chart they worked from.  We're focusing on the lower one - the Senate - in this post.

First, this chart doesn't call them the Senators outside the moderate category "most".  It just identifies a group that is in the middle. 

But I would argue that on almost all important issues, the Republicans moved further and further to the right.  I would ask,  if the Republicans moved way to the right,  and the Democrats didn't move, does that mean the Democrats have become more extreme?  But the truth is the Democrats moved to the right as well.  On almost every major issue, the Congress has moved to the right:
  • Environmental issues - The EPA and Clean Water Act were Nixon era creations.  (So was Affirmative Action.) [Conservatives will say that there are more environmental regs now than then.  But I would respond that the environment was a bi-partisan issue then and it isn't now.]
  • Abortion - Abortion rights have gotten weaker and weaker every decade
  • Taxes - We have now have the lowest income taxes since the 1950s.
  • Deregulation - Environmental laws, oversight of banking, you name it and businesses have had less regulation over the years these stats were kept.  Trade barriers have come down - now everything can move freely across borders except for workers.
  • Guns - Restrictions on gun ownership have gotten looser and looser.
  • War and Defense - we have been at war for longer than any other period in our history.
  • Health Care - this was a Heritage Foundation proposal, adopted by Gov Romney in Massachusetts and only because evil to conservatives when Obama latched on to it.
Basically things have moved steadily more business friendly and more worker rights and consumer hostile.

There are only two areas that have significantly moved in what could be called a more liberal direction:
Marijuana laws - but at the state level, not the federal level
Gay rights - again, mostly at the state level, but a little at the national level

When we talk about extreme legislators, I think there are two ways to consider this:
1.  Extreme in their views - such as people who believe that legitimate rape doesn't result in pregnancy, or that every school should have armed guards (though the 'at federal expense' would be something conservatives would say is liberal, even though a conservative proposed it.)

2.  Extreme in their tactics - stonewalling every vote, filibustering huge numbers of  presidential nominee,  and playing chicken with the economy are all things that the Republicans have done consistently in the last decades.

When there is talk about losing moderates, we need to be straight about this.  The Republicans have pulled this country so far to the right that Nixon would appear to be an extreme liberal today.  Most Democrats in Congress would be considered conservatives by the 1960 and 1970 benchmarks.  What commentators are calling 'extreme liberals' today would have been considered moderate to conservative back then.  The standards of liberal and conservative have been shifted far to the right.

The only liberals I see these days are out in the streets, because there is no room for them in national elective politics.  Or at least there hasn't been lately.  I have mentioned gay rights.  Rather than say we've moved left on this issue, I'd say we've moved toward the American ideal of equality, helped by science and by education on why people are gay and what it means.  We've stopped demonizing gays and forcing them to hide their sexuality. 

The National Journal issue that has all the stats about the loss of Congress' moderates seems,  deep in the article, to agree with my assessment.
Mann and Ornstein have spent, between them, almost a century studying Congress. They thought long and hard before concluding, in their new book, that the Capitol is in the grip of an “asymmetric polarization”—that the Republicans have moved further right, in greater unity, than the Democrats have shifted toward the left.
Though, again, I would argue that except for gay rights, and to a lesser extent marijuana, the Democrats have moved to the right as well. Not to the left.  They go on:
The tea party’s advent helped make it so, pushing GOP members of Congress in a “right-wing thrust” that is “as extreme as we have seen,” said Theda Skocpol, a Harvard political scientist and the author, with colleague Vanessa Williamson, of a new book, The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism.
Poole agrees. As does Bell. “I agree with the Left,” Bell says. “Social conservativism is keeping polarization alive. And it is keeping the Left from succeeding.”
“Republicans are the insurgent outliers,” Mann says. “They are ideologically extreme and opposed to compromise on principle.” Some tea party members “are prepared to take everything down, like kamikazes,” he says. “It’s the goddamndest thing.” [From National Journal]

Yet, the CBS piece gives us pictures that identify Democrats as not at all moderate, as now all 'most liberal,' with the implication of extreme, even though the very article they cite from the National Journal doesn't come to that conclusion.

So, when people talk about the lack of moderates, be sure to remind them that the Democrats have moderated themselves way to the right and to call them extreme liberals is a joke. 

A Note On How They Determined Who Was Liberal And Who Republican?

And to give you an idea what makes someone an extreme Democrat, here are  a couple of the votes they counted to determine liberals and conservatives:
Provide for reauthorization of Federal Aviation Administration programs. Sept. 15. (62-37) L-3
Reduce funding for the Federal Aviation Administration to fiscal 2008 levels. Sept. 15. (36-61) L-3

When did funding the FAA become an extreme liberal position?
When did voting against cutting the FAA budget back to 2008 fiscal levels become an extreme liberal position?

When someone thinks labor unions should be forbidden - that's an extreme position.
When someone thinks we should nationalize oil companies - that's an extreme position.

But when someone wants to fund the agency that maintains air safety, that's hardly an extreme position.  

[I may need to come back and make some cosmetic changes in this, but I think I need to get it up so I can move on to other things.]

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2013 Calendar Same As 1985, 1991, 2002

If you are looking to recycle old calendars, this is a good year - there are three relatively recent years that will work again for this year.


This chart comes from a post I did for the 2012 Calendar.  The info comes from Time and Date, an interesting site dedicated to, well, you know, the time and the date.

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How The US Got Its First Japanese Zero In WW II

Synchronicity - I thought I would use that word to describe how I've been reading Brian Garfield's The Thousand Mile War:  World War II In Alaska And the Aleutians and just recently saw a photo at the Anchorage Museum of an event I had just read about.

But when I looked up synchronicity online, I realized that while it sort of has that meaning, it has a lot more meaning than I really want to imply.  I don't think I want to suggest that these two events - reading about Japanese Zeroes in the Aleutians and finding a picture of a downed Aleutian Zero at the museum - had any special meaning beyond coincidence and the fact that I was especially alert to WWII Japanese Zeroes when I happened to see this picture at the museum.  I might have passed by a similar picture a month ago, not giving it any special notice.  But now that I just read about it, I'm paying more attention.  Like when a couple is pregnant, suddenly they see a lot more pregnant women than they had before.

But, I will take this opportunity to share some Alaska WWII history with you.  The book is full of stories of incredibly far sighted thinking on the part of some - General Simon Bolivar Buckner gets lots of credit for getting Alaska as ready as possible given the inter-service rivalries, the general lack of military resources in the US in general, and the belief by many that Alaska was irrelevant - and equally incredible lack of preparedness as, for example, primitive communications systems that prevented critical information from getting delivered.

Photo of photo at Anchorage Museum
The quote below comes from a description, in The Thousand Mile War, of day two (June 4, 1942) of the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor.  The weather is horrible.  Buckner has managed to put in a landing strip on Umnak Island and get some planes there to help protect Dutch Harbor.  The Japanese have no idea this air strip or these fighters are there.  The whole Japanese mission to go after Dutch Harbor was to divert US ships and planes to Alaska while the Japanese attack Midway.  US planes fly out into the storm to try to locate and torpedo the Japanese fleet.  (Yes, they have torpedoes, not bombs.)  They find them, but can't hit them.  The Japanese zeroes are far superior planes to the ragtag collection that Buckner's been able to cadge out of the military brass in the Lower 48.

The Japanese have bombed Dutch  for 20 minutes,  hitting a wing of the hospital and setting fire to a warehouse.  750,000 gallons of fuel exploded when they hit four storage tanks.   Garfield writes that because Dutch Harbor knew the Japanese were coming, only eighteen men died.
Heavy antiaircraft flak scored no hits on the wheeling enemy aircraft, but the Japanese did not escape untouched.  The Rube Goldberg radio had failed to get through, but Umnak had been alerted by the noise, and the Japanese choice of the west end of Unalaska Island as a rendezvous point to rally after each attack.  Now eight Japanese planes from Junyo had formed up in plain sight of the Umnak runway - and eight Flying Tiger Warhawks scrambled to meet them.
American fighters corkscrewed through the enemy formations, striated the sky with tracers, and sent one Zero into a spin, surrounded by a white vapor that turned black and erupted before the Zero touched into the water.
Lieutenant John J. Cape, a good-natured boyish twenty-three year-old pilot who loved to drive an old tractor around Umnak, watched a Japanese dive-bomber swell in his gunsight until, at point-blank range, he triggered a burst that hammered the enemy plane into a ball of flame and sent it down in fragments.  Then a snapped warning in his radio headset made him look behind:  he had a Zero on his tail.  He zoomed upward, hung desperately on his propeller, and rolled over on his back in a wild attempt to evade the Zero. 
In 1942, the United States had no fighter capable of outmaneuvering the Japanese Zero.  When Cape righted his P-40 he found the Zero still with him.  The panel instruments blew apart in Cape's face.  Ammunition exploded in his gun racks and fumes rolled through the cockpit.  Engulfed in flame, Cape fell into Umnak Pass, unable to get out of the spinning airplane.
From Navy webpage The Forgotten Theater  (Japan to lower left not on map)
As Cape when down, Lieutenant Winfied E. McIntyre tried to break away from another pursuing Zero.  The Zero's guns knocked out McIntyre's engine and set it afire.  McIntyre put the ship into a screaming dive, trying to blow out the fire;  he could not get the engine restarted, and almost went into a spin before he glided to a crash-landing on the Umnak beach.  He put the burning P-40 down so skillfully that he climbed out of it and walked unaided into camp.

Meanwhile, four of the homeward-bound Zeroes spotted an American PBY flying low on the water.  The PBY's waist-blister gunners raked the sky with tracers that seemed to have no effect on the diving fighters.  But three of the Zeroes broke off and headed away, too low on fuel to stay for the finish.  One stayed behind to finish off the PBY:  Flight Petty Officer Tadayoshi Koga, a slim young man with an abiding hatred for Americans.  Koga blew the plane apart in the air with his guns.  The Catalina splashed into the ocean, but Koga stayed to make sure.  Finally one man (Aviation Machinist's Mate W. H. Rawls) crawled out of the burning wreckage and paddled away in a life raft.  
Rawls, the blister gunner, had put a machine-gun bullet into Koga's plane, though Koga did not know he had been hit.  That one bullet, a third of an inch in diameter, was to bring the Allies a decisive prize of war.  Koga circled the bobbing rubber raft and machine-gunned Rawls to death in the water.
Koga climbed into the soup after that, but at that moment the needle of this oil-pressure gauge dropped to zero.  Convinced his engine was about to pack up, Koga turned toward the nearest land - Akutan Island.  He sent out a voice broadcast to the I-boat submarine which he had been told was standing by to pick up downed pilots.  Coming in over the island, he prepared to make a forced landing on the flats.  
He made the mistake of lowering his landing gear;  his wheels caught in the boggy tundra, snagged and flipped the Zero on its back.  The crash broke Koga's neck.
The alerted Japanese submarine searched the coast by periscope, but could not find Koga's plane.  (The Zero remained undisturbed on the lonely island until a month later, when a U. S. Navy PBY sighted it.  Navy crews were immediately dispatched to collect the prize.
(Aside from a few dents, Koga's Zero was intact.  Its only damage was a single bullet hole, from A/M Rawls' gun, severing the pressure gauge indicator line.  The gauge was broken, but the engine was unharmed.  American crews quickly dismantled the Zero and shipped it back to the States.
(Tadayoshi Kogoa's fighter was the first Zero captured intact by the Allies in World War II.  The apparently trivial loss cost Japan dearly.  American engineers, with this opportunity to fly and study the war's fastest, deadliest and most secret fighter aircraft, would design the Navy's F6F Hellcat around the principles they learned from Koga's Zero;  in less than eighteen months the Hellcat would drive the zero from Pacific skies and insure Allied supremacy of the air.) [pp. 40-42]
Such little things can make such a big difference.  One bullet in the pressure gauge indicator line, because Koga hung around to kill Rawls before flying back.  Koga trying to land, not knowing he could get back to his carrier, and getting his landing gear caught in the brush.

The book was published in 1969.  I'm not exactly what you'd call a war buff, but as you can tell from this quote, the prose moves you right along.  And for Alaskans, the book is full of back stories on familiar names and places. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Walk In The Woods On A Warm Snowy Day

After weeks of days with the temperature wandering around the 0˚F mark, 30˚F seems really warm so we did a walk to Goose Lake and back. 

Student art I think in the woods

Fat tire bikers

We've had so little snow that there's still a fair amount of grass still up.

Cross country skiers on Goose Lake

It's Christmas. There should be something nice up.

Here are three pieces from the All Alaska Juried XXXIV exhibit at the Anchorage Museum of History and Art through February 3, 2013. I offer them for those who happen to drop by here on Christmas day.  (I know, I know, just because I liked them doesn't mean others will.  But at least the Juror agreed with me on the first one.)

There were two others similar to this one and the three won the Juror's Choice Award. Three powerful pieces.

I'm  partial to encaustics after learning about the technique a few years ago. From  jocelynaudette:
Encaustic paintings are painted with beeswax, resin, and pigment. It is an ancient process that was used by the Egyptians and Greeks, and examples have been found in Egyptian tombs. Generally, the painting process involves using a hot palette to melt and mix the colored wax, painting it onto the panel using a brush, and fusing the layers with a heat gun. All paintings are on wood panels which provide a rigid and supportive surface.
While the encaustic paintings I've seen have depth, this piece takes that to another level.

This is a close up of one of Chad Harpel's pieces.  They sort of looked like something corporal but he took liberties.  Definitely a thought form.  Interesting. 

Have a good day.  Make some kind of genuine contact with your quirky relatives. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Kindergarten Killers And The NRA

Here's what the NRA's LaPierre said:
And here's another dirty little truth that the media try their best to conceal: There exists in this country a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people.
Through vicious, violent video games with names like Bulletstorm, Grand Theft Auto, Mortal Kombat and Splatterhouse. And here's one: it's called Kindergarten Killers. It's been online for 10 years. How come my research department could find it and all of yours either couldn't or didn't want anyone to know you had found it?

Kindergarten Killers

I decided to check up on this video game.  It's free to play online.  It's very cartoonish - not at all realistic.  Remember that the LaPierre's basic argument was that the only way to stop massacres is to arm the schools.  It's interesting to note what he didn't tell us when he used Kindergarten Killers as an example of vicious, violent video games:
  • the guy with the gun is the school janitor AND 
  • all the kids have guns!

Screen Shot from Kindergarten Killers

Yes, the man who said schools needed to be armed, had problems with this video in which the kids were armed.  Maybe it's because despite the kids with guns, the shooter can still carry out his vile act.

Video games are different from the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm.  Not because Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood didn't have violence aimed at scaring little children.  They did.  

But in the video games, instead of being the victims, the players can become powerful and take on all the people who are making their lives difficult.  So, if someone were being bullied at school, I'm sure that Kindergarten Killer would give a kid a sense of power by getting back at his tormentors.

Screenshot from Kindergarten Killers

Do Video Games Cause People To Kill?  

I personally don't think that kids can play violent video games which include graphic acts of violence on the part of the player without it having negative effects on the players.  An LA Times article had an overview of research on the impacts of violent video games:

A number of studies have shown that watching a lot of violence on television or playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt produces aggressive tendencies in kids. Rowell Huesmann, a professor of communications and psychology at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, says that the strength of the evidence is on par with data that say smoking cigarettes causes lung cancer.
Other researchers pooh-pooh such assertions and say that scientific findings have been decidedly mixed — with several studies finding no effects of violent video games on children and teens who play them.
In addition, such critics say, when effects are observed in studies, they have little or no relevance to psychological states that trigger violence in real-life situations.
It goes on to say the research has positive and negative findings, but looks to more longitudinal studies that will look at effects on the same kids over time.

Generalizing from any single study to the whole population of is always suspect.  Finding cause and effect relationships, when there are numerous other and often hard to determine  factors in the environment is tricky.  But if I had to put money down on what researchers will say in twenty years, I'd bet that they'll say something like:

  • While the vast majority of kids who play violent video games may have immediate short term increases in aggressiveness, there is no danger that the games lead them to acts of illegal violence.  However, for some small number of kids with psychological issues, insufficient parent supervision, and/or a variety of other compounding factors, the games can lead to a greater likelihood of committing violent acts. [Don't quote this without the caveat above]
But then, the number of people who commit mass shootings is a tiny fraction of the people who kill people annually with firearms.  As a percentage of the whole American population, it would require so many zeroes after the decimal point that most people wouldn't even know how to say it.  (Over 30,000 people a year are killed by firearms in the United States.)

Also, most of the people who have committed mass murders in the last 30 years, didn't play violent video games as kids, because they weren't around.  

While I personally could live very happily in a world without violent video games,  I still don't think that banning them would significantly reduce the number of mass shootings. 

Antonin Scalia Gave Game Makers First Amendment Rights

Let's see now.  If I recall correctly, Scalia is considered one the most conservative members of the US Supreme Court.  Yet in 2011 he wrote the opinion that rejected the California (that home of Hollywood and many video games) law that restricted children's access to violent video games.  From the LA Times:
“Scalia dispatched all of the major arguments for the law. A technical but vital issue was whether the court must look at the law with "strict scrutiny," the practice in other free-speech cases. Scalia answered yes, meaning that the law had to serve a compelling state interest and be narrowly tailored to meet that purpose. Scalia found no such interest in the protection of children from imaginary violence. He ridiculed studies relied on by the state to show a link between playing video games and aggression in children. Referring to one expert, Scalia said that "he admits that the same effects have been found when children watch cartoons starring Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner."”

Other Issues

NRA vice president LaPierre's statement Friday is an interesting basis for doctoral dissertations in a number of fields from linguistics to criminal justice to media.  That was my realization as I started to review it Friday.  A quick analysis just wasn't in the cards.  But I hope to make a number of smaller posts, like this one, from it.

I would also add on this topic - violent video games - that LaPierre's attack on video games might have had some persuasive power had he:

  1. Not convicted them ("a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells, and sows, violence against its own people."), but simply raised the legitimate questions that should be raised.
  2. Had not blamed them and a number of others (violent movies, politicians, the media, etc.) yet exonerated the one item without which these mass murders couldn't have happened as horrifically as they have - the guns that were used in them.  They are the single factor that is linked, without any question, to all the mass killings.  And, of course, had he not so emphatically exonerated the NRA. 

[I accidentally hit the publish button before this was finished and then deleted it.  On some blogs the link stayed up.  Sorry if you had trouble finding it.]

Wood Stove Is Off - That's A Good Thing

Our heating system has been a problem for a while now.  Our plumber had been out here way too often trying to figure it out.  He changed this, added that.  We got a new water heater.  But we were still having trouble.  When we got back from a trip early November, our house sitter only 12 hours out of the house, it was in the 40s F in the house and I couldn't get the boiler to fire up.  The pilot was on, but the rest wouldn't kick in.

Our old wood stove saved us that night and the plumber managed to get it working the next day.  But the waterheater kept showing ERR3 - which meant it wasn't getting hot water fast enough.

For a while, when we got ERR3, we could flip the switch that turned off the electricity and turn it on again, but it was happening more and more frequently.  During the film festival I was regularly coming home to a chilly house.

The plumber was out several more times to tweak this and that.  The last thing he did for us was lock the air vent open, "if it is closed, the heat won't fire up."
Jon Replacing Pilot Assembly

Yes, I was beginning to wonder if he actually knew what he was doing.  I didn't know anything about heating systems (I know a bit more now) but I do know about problem solving and his method didn't seem right to me.  Rather than thinking about the whole system and then identifying the possible problems and testing to eliminate the false leads, he seemed to be just trying this and that. Maybe he was just a poor communicator and he was really thinking a lot, but I don't think so.

Here's an example of not thinking beyond the immediate situation.  He was replacing the water heater.  He complained that there was a pipe placed so that you couldn't get the water heater out without taking the pipe off first.  When he got the new water tank in place, instead of redesigning the piping to leave an opening for the water heater, he just put it back the way it had already been.  When I asked about that, it was clear he hadn't even thought about it.  He said, 'Yeah, I could have done that, but I just wanted to finish the job.'  Later, when he had to play with that pipe again to put a pump on it, I suggested making the change while he was at it and he did.

So, a week ago today, flipping the switch after ERR3 wouldn't get the furnace to fire up.  I knew the plumber was closed on Sundays, but I left a message and started the wood stove again.  We caught it before the house had cooled down, so we were able to keep the house relatively comfy with the wood stove.

New pilot assembly going in

When I called the plumber Monday, they hadn't gotten the voice message.  When I expressed some concern about the tech who'd been playing with our boiler all this time and how he didn't seem to be getting to the heart of the problem, the message came back through the receptionist from the owner that if I wasn't happy with the tech, maybe I should find someone else to work on it.

Really.  That was the message.  I'd already been getting to that decision.  The company had come well recommended from a contractor friend, so I had given them the benefit of the doubt.

Jon taking off old gas valve

I called a friend who'd recently had a new heating system installed and got a name of another company that had 'Heating' in the name.

Jon would come out the next afternoon.  The wood stove was keeping us warm and we had plenty of dry wood.  Plus, the furnace had finally kicked in again when I flipped the switch (I'd been doing that with no result, but kept trying.)

Jon and I talked when he got here.  He asked me questions and finally said that it could be one of two things:

1.  The pilot assembly or
2.  The gas valve

Since the pilot assembly was cheaper, he tried that first.

We went twenty four hours before we got ERR3.  Flipping the switch got the heat back on. Called them back and Jon was out that afternoon with a gas valve.

It's been 48 hours now with no problems.  I'm waiting for two weeks before I declare a victory.  But I did let the wood stove burn out and cleaned out the ashes.  It was a wonderful heat that came from the stove and it could go all night on two logs.

Reconnecting gas pipe
Jon was a great technician.  He was thinking about this problem holistically and took the clues and narrowed it down to two possibilities.  But the parts were pretty expensive - the gas valve was $443.  And for this post when I tried to look it up to be sure my terminology was ok, I've found the part online for $161.  Even if the shipping cost me $40, that's a 100% markup.

So, I hope this might be of help to others.  While heating systems are reasonably complex with their mix of mechanical and electronic equipment, they aren't all that complicated and people who work with them should be able to solve the problems fairly quickly.

Screenshot form Pex Supply
And, if you (I'm thinking about people living in Alaska) can wait a week, you can probably get the part online a lot cheaper.  And if your tech company is reasonable, they won't insist on their supplying the part with 100% markup. 

I thought about using the names of the two companies.  I don't think the first company was conning me to keep getting business.  A lot of the trips I wasn't charged for.  I just think their tech wasn't much of a problem solver and the small company was in a bind and that the owner just doesn't know what to do either - in this case how to deal with a decent, but not real good tech.

And we've been dealing with problems with the heating system for so long now - at least a year - that I'm not ready to say things are all settled until it's been a lot longer.

But if anyone in Anchorage wants to know names, just email me.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Fight School Shootings By Arming Kids With Critical Thinking Skills

I've never met Alan Boraas, but whenever the Kenai Peninsula College professor has has a comment piece in the Anchorage Daily News, I know it's going to be well written and  cut right to the heart of the issue. 

In today's piece he did just that once again.  He starts right off by challenging most peoples' feel-good solution:
"If I thought banning assault weapons would help aver school killings, I'd be for it."
He goes on to say that Lanza (and others) could have done their deeds with conventional weapons.  He goes on to talk about a variety of things  - particularly "Call of Duty" video game.  How difficult it must have been for the unperfect Lanza to grow up in the perfect idyllic community. 

He ends by saying:

Banning guns or arming teachers won't do much.  But we can arm the curriculum with the power of analysis.  Teach how to deconstruct mythology that subconsciously effects behavior.  Bring to the surface the values embedded in movies, television, social media and video games.  Expose the message that the gun is not  the solution to problems, nor is the size of your pistol a measure of your manhood.
Arm kids with the knowledge that perfectville is not the only notion in a diverse world of possibilities.  Fight back with critical thinking.
Alan nails it.  

I'd link you to the article, but the ADN has begun to block their website unless you sign up.  I got a letter recently saying as a subscriber I could get in.  But the popup window they are using is one of the most annoying and impenetrable ones I've seen. I can't shut it down.  And they don't have a choice for me to say I'm a regular paper subscriber.  And their answer machine, after saying they are getting a heavier call load than normal and the wait will be long (I wonder why?), then says they are closed and not taking calls.  This is not the best way to initiate online registration.  More likely to send people to other sources of news.  

Peggy Shaw Took Me Inside Her Stroke

No one wants to go see a performance about a stroke, it sounds way too depressing.  But Peggy Shaw's bio already suggests she's not your run of the mill performer.  She's gotten three OBIE's* and several other impressive sounding awards, like a Lambda Literary Prize for Drama and Performer of the Year from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Theater.

[LAST SHOW:  Saturday, Dec. 23, 2012 - 8pm Out North]

This is a serious performer who invited the audience into her brain through her monologue, her virtual on the wall band that appeared and disappeared throughout.  She had three large monitors with her script - memorizing is hard for people who have had strokes - which she shared with the audience.  She talked, she sang, she danced, and she exposed her lapses along with her powerful personality as part of the show.

The photo was taken after the show. The show is dedicated to Ellen Stewart, La Mama, who never allowed green on stage because it was bad luck.  Peggy had her stroke right after Stewart died, and in this piece uses this huge roll of green paper which seemed to be a loud declaration of independence from Stewart, despite the clear admiration and love for her. 

Things went from normal music and video to sounds and visuals that probably simulated what the world is like to a stroke victim.  There was a great 60 second or so spot on how to know you're having a stroke.   There were floating fish.  Audience members were asked to hold onto things for Peggy until she needed them.

After the show
There was an intro that warned us of things that might happen - like she could start coughing, in which case to just hold on until her cough drops take effect.  What that did for me and I think the others there, was to include us as part of the insiders rather than just being an audience.  It was as though she were relating things to a friend rather than to an audience of strangers.

For people looking for drama with a plot line, this isn't it.  For people who find drama, as I do, in a heart-to-heart with someone who shares their near death experience and its aftermath, this is definitely worth attending.  And the show I saw Friday night was only the second time this piece has ever been performed before an audience.  The first time was a dress rehearsal Thursday night.  Shaw is still getting aligned with all the audio-visual aspects.  Though I was pretty impressed by how most of the time she was already synchornized with  the sound and video.

Out North consistently gives Anchorage audiences these incredible opportunities to be on the inside of contemporary international art and theater.  Here's this serious, award winning, very New York performer with helpers from Australia and Boston here as they spent ten days in Anchorage getting this performance piece ready to take to New York and London.  It's amazing what we have here.

The performance made me think of Anchorage's Peter Dunlap-Shohl, the cartoonist who has been communicating with the world about his Parkinson's through his medium - comics on his blog.  Like Peter's work, Peggy's uses art to experientially, and with humor, share her stroke experience with the world. For me the content was interesting as was the presentation. For someone with a close friend or relative who's had a stroke, this is the artist's, rather than the doctor's story of a stroke, that helps you understand a little of what is going on.  And it follows the stroke's story line, which includes lack of clear direction, even knowing where one is, not Hollywood's neatly packaged kind of story line.

The second video is mostly Shaw's co-writer, director talking after the show.  This is just a snippet.  She's talking about the moving images that had been on the green space that I had thought were brain scans.  It turns out they were the signals from an actor's body that are used in animation to get the character's body movements right.  Then she talks about the band.

*The Village Voice OBIE Awards were created soon after the inception of the publication in 1955 to publicly acknowledge and encourage the growing Off Broadway theater movement. The VOICE OBIES were purposely structured with informal categories, to recognize those persons and productions worthy of distinction each theater season. The OBIE Awards are an important part of the VOICE's long history of championing Off Broadway and Off-Off Broadway productions. [From The Village Voice]