Monday, March 31, 2014

Anchorage Spring

Spring doesn't necessarily mean that robins are pulling worms out of warm soil and that green leaves are sprouting all over.

In Anchorage it means that the sun is high enough on the horizon that you can feel its heat and that every day gains five or six minutes of daylight (13 hours and 16 minutes today.)  Sun both melts and evaporates snow, ice art forms again at night.  Here's what it looked like today near Campbell Airstrip.

Cottonwoods reaching skyward, basking in the sun's warmth, 


Campbell Creek still mostly covered by snow below the bridge.

The birch sending out its own Morse code messages.  
I'm sure it's profound; if I could only read it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

UCLA IS THE CHAMP - Sports Illustrated Cover Story 50 Years Ago Today

When I was a college student, sports was a big deal.  Probably because I started college when UCLA started winning basketball championships.  When I was at my mom's in LA recently, I found this old copy of Sports Illustrated with the cover story of UCLA's first championship.  It was exciting times.

Here's the article inside.  I saved these as really big files so you can click on the pictures below and magnify them and you'll be able to read them.

Click on the picture and use the magnifying glass and you can read this

To get some perspective, that cheerleader on the right has got to be somewhere between 67 and 72 today.

This is, in no way, intended to take any glory from today's final four.  I just thought it appropriate to post this on the 50th anniversary of the publication.  In fact, I did post on this once, but I didn't have the pictures.  I thought I'd just add the pictures to that post, but since it is the exact day today, another post seemed appropriate.

Cashing In On The New Cannabis Industry

I noticed this ad in the Anchorage Daily News today.

From their website: 
Welcome to the Alaska Cannabis Institute and the exciting CannaBiz industry. The opportunity to enter an industry on the ground floor comes around very rarely in most peoples lives.  Many say it is no longer a question of whether cannabis will be legalized in the US, rather a question of when and how it will be legalized. Alaska will vote on August 19, 2014 to allow adults, 21 and older, to own, smoke and buy cannabis while also allowing individuals to grow up to six plants. If passed, Alaska will become the third state to legalize retail marijuana. The Alaska Cannabis Institute is excited to lead the way by providing two-day seminars to educate people about CannaBiz. Day 1 will cover the legalization of marijuana, marijuana tax policy, and the juxtaposition between Alaska and Federal marijuana law and policies. Day 1 also features a comprehensive lecture on setting-up and running a CannaBiz while maintaining compliance. Topics to be covered include: CannaBiz planning, CannaBiz accounting, CannaBiz banking, CannaBiz site location, and more.
Day 2 will present a comprehensive overview on marijuana horticulture and growing. It is so important for anybody getting involved with the cannabis industry to have a broad understanding of how to grow marijuana. The Alaska Cannabis Institute provides: step-by-step instructions on setting up an indoor grow for year-round production, garden calendars and checklists, soil and containers, lights, lamps, and electricity, air, water, and nutrients. Day 2 also examines equipment, seeds, vegetative growth, flowering, harvesting and more.

Medical Marijuana Business Daily has a list of training organizations nationwide and state by state.  Although Alaska is listed, there's nothing listed.  There's no mention of the Alaska Cannabis Institute. 

The Alaska Cannabis Insitute FAQ's under "Where is the ACI headquartered?" tells us it's
"headquartered out of Tacoma, WA. Our parent company is a licensed Limited Liability Company called Pacific Sun West, LLC. Upon sign up, charges on your credit card will be shown as Pacific Sun West. There is a reason for this, which is one of the tips we will discuss in the seminar. Confirm our LLC license status here"
The link doesn't take us to Pacific Sun West, LLC.  It goes to a State of Washington website that lists a company called PENNY HARRISON AND COMPANY.  A link to a Secretary of State page gets us a little more information including a list of officers.
Vice President   HARRISON, MAX P,   EVERETT, WA
President, Chairman   HARRISON, PENNY L,   EVERETT, WA
An Alaska Dispatch story on Alaska entrepreneurs in getting ready for the initiative to pass, mentions the seminars and quotes someone called Cory Wray.  Looking for Cory Wray is  difficult because there appear to be a number of folks with that name, including a race car driver, and someone who has an online jewelery shop out of Topeka, Kansas/Choctaw, Oklahoma that has a long complaint about it on Ripoff Report.  The Topeka Better Business Bureau has 35 complaints on them.  I don't think this is the same Cory Wray. 

There's a Cory Wray website that offers a few marijuana posters and two hemp products.  The contact information says:

Tacoma Parkland seattle renton kent pullma Spokane fircrest university place
I'm guessing this is probably the one.

Another FAQ from the Alaska Cannabis Institute:

Alaska laws have not been passed yet, how can you speak on those issues?

Although Alaska policy has not been set, we do know what the Federal policy is. Understanding the Federal policy on MJ; Federal tax policy and 280e; banking regulations and how to troubleshoot them - provides extreme value. We also know Alaska plans to model states like Colorado and Washington when it comes to writing their policy. So, some things we expect AK lawmakers to enact are: setting the minimum age at 21-years-old, tracking from seed-to-sale, and licensing. We will be lecturing on these concepts and more. Also, medical MJ is already legal in Alaska, so we will also cover topics related to the current laws.

The price of the two day seminar is $420.  420 is a code for marijuana.  If the code were 320, would the seminar be $100 less?

I checked one of the programs listed on the Medical Marijuana Business Daily site and I found the Washington Marijuana School  where you can take a two day course for only $300.   But you have to get to Seattle.

Or you can buy a set of videos for $150.

Business Insider has an article called  "Weed Startups in Washington Face Huge Challenges."   I suspect anyone interested should assume that like in the Alaska gold rush, lots of folks participated, but very few made money.  A higher percentage of those selling to the miners probably made money.  And people like this school will probably make more money teaching classes than the participants will make selling marijuana.

[Note to regular readers:  This was supposed to be a quickie post based on the classified ad. I have other posts lined up, but I didn't want to spend the time I thought I needed to do them.  But I could have done one of them given the time this ended up taking.  I think blogging may be a disease.]

Friday, March 28, 2014

Roll Call Reports On Mary Beth Kepner Discipline

Rollcall reported yesterday:
"FBI Director James Comey told a Senate subcommittee Thursday that an agent faced discipline for conduct related to the investigation of late Sen. Ted Stevens.
Comey was ready for a line of questioning from Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski about the FBI’s conduct in the probe of her former Alaska colleague. Murkowski asked for an update from 2012 on allegations made by FBI whistleblower Special Agent Chad Joy about inappropriate conduct by a fellow agent.

“I did learn about this in the last week and get briefed in detail. The Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) inside FBI did investigate in response and identified an agent who had engaged in improper conduct there, and the agent was severely disciplined,” Comey said. “The discipline has been imposed.”
Comey was sworn-in as FBI director last September, succeeding longtime director Robert S. Mueller. Mueller previously faced questioning at the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce-Justice-Science about the Stevens case from both Murkowski and then-Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas."

I attended and blogged the three trials in Anchorage.  When Chad Joy's so called "Whistle-blowing" document was released, I reviewed it in great detail.  As I saw it, the charges could be broken down into two categories:

1.  How Agent Kepner ran the investigation
2.  Misconduct involving the handling of information at the trial

I found the complaints about the investigation to be about subjective issues of administrative discretion (things like how close do you get to a source and what information do you tell a source) and not about breaking any clear laws or regulations. [In fact, he never cites any laws or regulations or policies that were violated.]

I would also note that there was nothing in Joy's memo that showed concern that the behavior might result in injustice for any of the defendants.  The 'victim' of her alleged misbehavior was Chad Joy himself.  He complained she told witnesses personal information about him and there was a sense that he was worried things would go bad and he didn't want to be blamed. 

I had no way to judge the allegation regarding what happened with information at the trial, but I was struck that he provided few specifics about what he thought had been done wrong.   The only specific details he gave were about a meeting that Kepner had with their key witness in a hotel room which he used to suggest they were having an affair.  I discussed that allegation in depth in this post

And here's a post I wrote in November 2010 trying to understand the general context of the investigation itself.

I mention all this because the media coverage has tended to jump all over Kepner and I see this as far more nuanced.  After all, she's the agent who set up the surveillance of Bill Allen's hotel room that revealed how he was managing key legislators' votes regarding changing oil taxes.  The reporting doesn't ring true with my impressions of the agent I had a few opportunities to talk to in some depth.

I don't know what happened.  I recognize that that the FBI and prosecutors in general often have extraordinary power over most defendants and they do a lot of stuff we don't know about to intimidate suspects into cooperating.  I also know that getting information about white collar crime is extremely difficult and without insider informants almost impossible.  And whenever you use informants, lots of tricky issues arise.  And there was some mishandling of evidence.

But the Ted Stevens team had the money and brainpower to take on the FBI and the DOJ and while they lost in the trial, they did 'win' in after trial maneuvering.

quotes Jeffrey Toobin in an The American Law article about two young Jersey attorneys beating the law firm that defended Ted Stevens.  He writes about Brendan Sullivan:
In court, however, Sullivan is often silent during pretrial proceedings. According to a story repeated in legal circles, a judge once asked Sullivan about his lack of involvement during a hearing. Sullivan pointed at the jury box and said: "I work when they work." Arguing pretrial motions is often the job of his partner, Barry Simon.
Longstreth continues:
"There are no school yard fights," says Toobin, who was the junior member on the North prosecution team, about Simon. "Every battle is nuclear warfare. Everything is prosecutorial misconduct." (Sullivan declined a request to speak for this article. Simon did not return calls.) 
Everything is prosecutorial misconduct.  That's part of the Sullivan strategy. The team is good at defending high profile defendants, for very large amounts of money, and forcing the prosecution to make errors.  That's no excuse, but it does shade the story differently than most coverage. 

It's possible that the main offense Kepner committed was to catch Republican legislators, particularly Stevens.  And to interrupt the oil companies' influence in Juneau.  The infractions Stevens committed are dismissed as minor given all the pork he brought to so many Alaskans, but Kepner's infractions are used to define her and all her accomplishments are dismissed.

Cliff Groh, who attended the Stevens trial in DC and believed that Stevens would have been convicted without the evidence that was tainted, in one post cites interviews with jurors who found Stevens not credible.  It wasn't just the recording of Stevens telling Bill Allen
"that the worst they could expect was 'a little time in jail.'” 
I think there's a much bigger story behind all this.  With the prosecutions behind us and Kepner and others in the prosecution team disciplined, the oil companies are once again as cozy with Alaska's governor and legislators as they were before this diversion that Agent Kepner started.. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Just War and Christianity and Eastern Thought

Matthew Strebe

The basic premise of Matthew Strebe's paper, "Reformulating Warfare:  Just War Theory and Kantian Ethics," was that the theory of just war was created for a very different kind of war than what exists today.

OK, I'm copping out by not giving more details, but I know I wouldn't do it justice.  I should be taking better notes.  I'll check and see if any or all of these papers are online somewhere.

Strebe argues that Kantian ethics better suited to this than utilitarian ethics used in Just War Theory.

Tara Harrington's paper was "Thoughts from a Christian:  Can the World Afford to Practice Wu-Wei When it comes to Our Environment?"

She challenged Lynn White's assertion that  that biblical language about humans dominion over the earth is anti-environmental.

Right now Jacob Land is presenting "Drawing from the Same-Well:  Eastern Thought in Christian Ethics." He's highlighting quotes from Eastern thinkers and the bible.

When I saw Jacob just before this panel, I realized he was the man who was not allowed to carry his backpack on board the plane from LA yesterday.  I thought at the time - when Jacob showed him the backpack fit into the frame they have to test the size of carryons - that the Alaska Airlines rep was being pretty rigid. 

Changing Ed Philosophy in China and Comparison of Aristotle and Xunzu

The first presentation raised lots of issues I've worked on - particularly the conflicts between the rule of law approach to ethics that we pursue that ignores all the other emotional obligations that humans have.
Vivian-Lee Nyitray

I connected to the second for other reasons.

Vivian-Lee Nyitray is the Dean at two Chinese colleges -

Prospect in Chongqin and Taigu in Shanxi - and spoke about introducing more interactive teaching practices in those colleges and her own conflicting moral obligations to her students, her colleagues, and to her mission.  

Having taught in China, I understood her issues of changing the rows of seats into circles so that students were more involved and better able to interact with each other.   

But I only really had to focus on what happened in my class and not try to get other faculty to adopt more participatory teaching methods. 

Though there were some issues that went beyond the classroom - such as how my teaching methods impacted some of the Chinese faculty.  Fortunately, I had support from high in the college and a Chinese teacher who'd studied in the US also worked with me.

Nyitray looked toward Confucian philosophy as a way to work out some of the dilemmas she faced.

Shi Shan

The next speaker,  Shi Shan, was of interest because she's from the university I taught at in Beijing. 

Her presentation made comparisons of Aristotle and Xunzi's definitions of good. 

Unfortunately, trying to blog and listen at the same time is impacting my ability to concentrate sufficiently on some of the papers.

Here's the room we're in.  I know it as the Pub when it first opened here at UAA.  But there was strong local opposition to serving alcohol on campus and so it never has served as a pub.  Now it's called 'the den.' 

 Shi Shan presenting at UAA

"The Good, the Bad, and the Ethical"

That's part of the title of the first paper. 

Bauer and Kelly
I'm at the UAA Undergraduate Ethics Conference in the Pub.  It goes on today and tomorrow and Saturday morning.

This first presentation by Stephanie Bauer and Terry Kelly looked at the conflicts between Ethics and Morality -  a lawyer who has to win and may violate other values to do that.  I'm not going to try to explain what they said, but I'll give you the last couple of slides that summed things up.

I'll let you ponder this.  You don't have to understand it, just let it provoke your brain into thinking.  

I posted the whole program here the other day.  The conference is open to the public and free.  There's a community presentation tonight (Thursday) at East High on ethics and education.  7-9 pm.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Studying My Canon Rebel Instruction Manual Flying Over Magnificent Alaskan Views

I have no excuse. If it's clear and daylight as we return to Anchorage, I simply can't stop staring out the window and snapping pictures.

We flew up Turnagain Arm right past Girdwood. 

And here's a look back down Turnagain Arm as we came into the airport. 

When we left LA, there were lots of small puffy clouds and I took a lot of pictures.  And they all turned out white.  I'd had it on manual for when we flew in ten days ago at night and the ISO was 3200.  So all my pictures were just white. 

That stirred me to do more reading in the manual for my Canon Rebel.  I still think there are way too many things to remember, but I did go through some of the settings and the options for those settings.  As we got out of the clouds - at the northern end of Vancouver Island - and then started to see the coastal mountain ranges, I took a series of pictures using the mountain setting and then trying out different Ambiance settings.  It's sort of like using different filters.

 If you click on the strip below and magnify it, you'll be able to see the labels better.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Robert Taub - Too Brutal To Name

The pictures grabbed me as soon as I walked in.  It took a second to realize they weren't photos, though they look like they are derived from photos.  The program says 'graphite drawings on Arches paper."   The picture on the left is Abba Kovner, commander  of the Jewish Partisans Organization.

From Jewish Virtual History:
"On the night of December 31, 1941, Kovner read before a meeting of delegates of all Jewish Youth Movements a public announcement:
'Hitler is plotting to destroy all European Jews. Lithuanians Jews will be the first in line. Let us not be led like sheep to the slaughterhouse. It is right, we are weak and without defense, but the only answer to the enemy is resistance!'”
It also says he was born in "Sebastapol, Russia."  In 1918.  Four years before my mom mom was born.

This picture did me in.  How evil must you be to shoot a man and the child he's holding?  And I imagine that the shooter had children himself. Or would one day. And they would think of him as their Daddy, never knowing the role he played in this murder.  Or maybe he too got killed a little later in the war.   When I looked for the name of this picture, I found "Untitled - 'Too brutal to name' - Robert Taub."  Perfect. 

This one provoked me to wonder:  How does one spend these moments?  I assumed that those on the ground had already been shot and these men were just waiting for their own bullets.  But I can't match this picture to a title in the list.  And it's possible the others were already dead.  Most of us in the US don't face public violence, don't have to contemplate our imminent deaths like this.  But there are neighborhoods in the US where this does happen.  And there are still way too many parts of the world where law and order evaporates and people go crazy.  Just like this.  And if we aren't careful, this could happen in the US.  I know this because I grew up with parents who lived in a country where it couldn't happen either.  But it did. 

This one is called "Partisans, Ukraine 1943." 

All the pictures are haunting.  A description of the show said that this was personal for Taub and how his grandmother never talked about what happened in Europe.  This history is also personal to me.  My grandparents never got out of Europe, and by various lucky breaks, my parents were able to get out before the war began.  Barely.  Questions about how people could torture and slaughter fellow human beings have filtered through various parts of my brain trying to find ways to construct answers since I first saw the numbers tattooed on the arms of holocaust survivors in our neighborhood in LA.

From Robert Taub's website:  
Much of his work is visually beautiful and poignant, and at the same time confrontational and violent. He has chronicled revolutionary and outlaw movements in the US, Latin America, Mexico and Africa, as well as the fratricidal struggles for power within the Russian Mafia and Los Angeles street gangs. Recently he has turned to the events and consequences that led up to and finalized in Europe's two world wars. A project intensely personal and many years in the making.

There are more pictures from the exhibit at the website.  

I couldn't look at them all too closely.  It was too grim.  This is a collection that should be somewhere, as a whole, where people can see it.  These are not the kind of pictures I would want to look at every day at home. 

Fortunately, I was greeted by a lemon (lime?) tree outside the gallery.  You can see it below, but you can't smell the intense sweetness of the flower which eased me out of the exhibit.

The Lois Lambert Gallery is at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Would Confucius Have Cut The Education Budget?

As Alaska's legislature is busy cutting the state education budget and trying to use what public money is left to give to private schools through vouchers, it might be a good time to get a bigger perspective on this.  The University of Alaska Anchorage Philosophy Department with an assist from the campus Confucius Institute is putting on a conference titled "Living Ethically in the Global World." 

The conference is pretty wide ranging and open to the public.  On the first night, there will be a community panel at East High School.   This was planned before the Governor, in his Orwellian way, declared this the "Year of Education."  I'm not sure the question in the title will be answered, but the recipient of the 2013 Confucian Prize will be on the East High panel.  So you can ask him if he doesn't address the issue in the panel.

“The Priorities and Ethics of Educating”

Thursday, March 27, 2014
7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Community Panel at East High School Auditorium

Andy Josephson, UAA Graduate and Alaska State Representative (It appears that Rep. Josephson's legislative duties will keep him in Juneau.)
Roger Ames, 2013 Confucian Prize Recipient;
Maria Williams, Director of Alaska Native Studies at UAA;
Ed McLain, UAA College of Education

Respondent: Francisco Miranda, UAA Department of Languages

This is actually both the Ninth Annual UAA Undergraduate Philosophy Conference and the UAA Ethics Center's Inaugural Convocation.

Here are some of the paper titles I pulled out of the program:

“Drawing from the Same Well:  Eastern Thought in Christian Ethics”

“Yup’ik Culture is also Confucian”

“Role Ethics in the Yijing”

“Human Rights and Daoism: An Alternative Chinese Perspective”

"Confucian Role Ethics for Women: A Response to Roger T. Ames’ Vocabulary”

“The Impossible Junzi and Global Ethics”

“Eastern Tones:  What Can Contemporary Acoustics Learn from Yin-Yang?”

“Taking Responsibility: Toward a Sixth Confucian Relationship (with Notes from my Life as a Dean in China)”

“Confucian Revivalism and Its Role in Chinese Society and Education”

You can find the exact times and locations for each of these in the program embedded below.

And here are the Universities that will be represented (in addition to UAA):

Prospect College and Taigu College (Chongqin and Shanxi Province, PRC)
Renmin University (Beijing, PRC)
Northeast Normal University
Belmont University (Nashville, Tennessee)
University of California Santa Cruz
Loyola Marymount University
University of San Diego (California)
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (Yongin, Korea)
University of Wales (Great Britain)
University of Hawai’i at Mānoa
Central Washington University
University of San Diego (California)
Adrian College

I'd note that the UAA  Department of Public Administration has had a long going relationship with the public administration program at Renmin (People's) University in Beijing and I taught there in 2004. 

I checked and all the panels are open to the public at no charge. Fortunately, we'll be back in Anchorage.   Here's the full program:

And I'd urge people to get off the internet merry-go-round and take a few moments to think about the title of this conference: Acting Ethically in a Global World. What are some of the topics you would explore under that heading? Talk about it over dinner with your parents.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

As Michigan Judge Allows Gay Marriage, Good To Remember Alaskans Who Sowed Seeds 20 Years Ago

A federal judge struck down Michigan's ban on gay marriage.  As most breathing Americans know, this is just one more in a string of such decisions in states including Utah, Texas, and Kentucky, and following the US Supreme Court decision last year.

In light of this, it's useful to remember that Gene Dugan and Jay Brause, an Anchorage couple then, sued the State of Alaska over this same issue back in 1994.

From Religious Tolerance:
"The plaintiffs asked that the existing Marriage Code be declared unconstitutional because it violates two rights guaranteed by the Alaska constitution: their rights to privacy (their right to be let alone) and their rights of equal protection. Wagstaff pointed out that there are over 100 state statutes that provide rights and protections to married couples which are not available to homosexuals who live together in a permanent partnership. The Alaska Constitution forbids gender-based discrimination, yet is withholding privileges from Brause and Dugan solely because of they are both male."

From Superior Court judge Peter Michalski's ruling:
"It is the duty of the court to do more than merely assume that marriage is only, and must only be, what most are familiar with. In some parts of our nation mere acceptance of the familiar would have left segregation in place. In light of Brause and Dugan's challenge to the constitutionality of the relevant statutes, this court cannot defer to the legislature or familiar notions when addressing this issue." He ruled that "marriage, i.e., the recognition of one's choice of a life partner, is a fundamental right. The state must therefore have a compelling interest that supports its decision to refuse to recognize the exercise of this fundamental right by those who choose same-sex partners rather than opposite-sex partners."
This was not the first such ruling in the US.  Hawaiian courts had also found no reason to ban same-sex marriage.  Thus the last two states admitted into the union, were the first to recognize same sex marriage.  But it wasn't to last.  In Hawaii and in Alaska constitutional amendments limiting marriage to one man and one woman passed and in both states the courts bowed to the new constitutional language.

Alaska's a small state and people tend to know each other.  I've met a lot of people that I write about.  In the case of Brause and Dugan and Judge Michalski, I should say that I know them well enough that I've eaten dinner at their homes.  But that doesn't change the facts that Alaska was on the forefront of attempting to legalize same-sex marriage.  What's different is inside the brains of the American public, including the judges who are ruling. 

In a recent post a commenter challenged my trying to understand the thinking of people with whom I disagree.  This shift in the way people think about same-sex marriage is, for me, evidence that such theoretical speculation pays off.  But, of course, it also needs a lot of other. more action-oriented strategies by many different people. Minds have changed radically in the last 20 years. 

I would note that Jay and Gene couldn't wait for Alaska to change and moved to the UK where they could get married.  And Jay, using the more formal version of his name, Jacob, is a regular and thoughtful commenter on this blog.

I know that each positive court decision helps salve the wounds they received in their battle, which seemed so Quixotic at the time.  They know that their fight in Alaska did help set the groundwork for the victories in recent years.  And it's one of those quirks of life I find so amazing, that they can walk around London (or wherever they happen to be) without anyone knowing the historic role they have played.  But you can read about it in detail at Religious Tolerance.  Judge Michalski is now retired, but he too, can rest easy, knowing that he made a decision back in the dark ages, that would eventually be recognized as the right decision.  And then there's former Sen. Lyda Greene who helped keep Alaska in the dark ages by sponsoring the Constitutional Amendment limiting marriage to one man and one woman.

You can read Judge Michalski's decision here.

Note:  Since I drafted this yesterday and slept on it before posting, 300 couples have married in Michigan before a Federal judge put a stay on further marriages pending appeal. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dogs, Long Time Frame, Cloudy Descent - Random SF/LA Shots

There are lots and lots of dogs walking their owners around San Francisco.   Lots of shops have water bowls set out for them and most allow dogs in. 

The Long Now Foundation was closed as we walked by, but they'll be back in a while.  It's an organization founded by Stewart Brand (of the Whole Earth Catalog) and others.  They're building a ten thousand year clock. 
"The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide a counterpoint to today's accelerating culture and help make long-term thinking more common. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years."

Their website has an essay by Steward Brand, of the Whole Earth Catalog and one of the Long Now founders which says this quote from Dennis Hillis helped start the clock project:

 "When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 02000. For the next thirty years they kept talking about what would happen by the year 02000, and now no one mentions a future date at all. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. I think it is time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of an
ever-shortening future. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium."
 For me, 1984 was the year we were moving toward.  Then 2001.

We were at the Long Now because we were headed for greens for dinner.  But they were closed for a private party.

I took this shot as we headed back for the car and another place to eat.

Talking about about greens, I thought this Plant Exchange idea was worth posting.  Lots of people have too much of one thing in their yards and not enough of other things.  I'd love to see this happen in Anchorage.  Just a spot to bring extra plants and exchange for ones you'd like. 

Our trip to the Bay area was much too brief, but we got to see my son and his wife and other good friends.  And soon we were back over an overcast LA and slipped down through the thin cloud cover. 

They announced we'd be on the ground in 15 minutes.  I thought we were further away than that, and once we got over the opening of Marina del Rey, we wandered around the LA airspace and finally landed in 20 minutes.  But it took another 20 minutes before we got a place to park. 

Here's one last shot I took as we meandered around LA waiting to be cleared to land.  A freeway interchange. (As you can tell, I used the little camera.  We were cutting down on what we carried on this trip and my bigger camera was on the don't take list.)

I found myself trying to trace all the connections from one direction to another.  I see how you can switch from the vertical freeway to the horizontal freeway and go either direction.  But I only see a way to turn right from the horizontal freeway to the vertical one.  There's a little something above the loop on the right and below the one on the left, but I can't figure out what they're for. Maybe they go down to a street below.   My other camera would have made this all much clearer.  (No I don't even know what interchange this was.  You can see park area below, and there was a lake on the upper left.)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Christian Nation Myth

There were four candidates in the 1912 US presidential election.  In Nonbeliever Nation, David Niose uses that election as a benchmark to show that the impact of the religious right on the 2012 election was not really part of the American tradition.  He quotes each of
the four candidates.

Woodrow Wilson, whom he describes as the most religious of the four: 
"Of course, like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution.  It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised."
Theodore Roosevelt:
"Thank Heaven I sat at the feet of Darwin and Huxley."
William Howard Taft:
"I do not believe in the divinity of Christ," he wrote in an 1899 letter, "and there are many other of the postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe."

Eugene Debs:
"I don't know of any crime that the oppressors and their hirelings have not proven by the Bible."

Niose argues that secularism was the position of most politicians, Democratic, Republican and other until the rise of the Moral Majority in the late 1970s.  They, he writes, have skewed politics back into the idea of the US being a Christian nation.  In contrast to the 1912 candidates he offers some quotes from 2012 Republican hopefuls.
"Today, a full-century after the era of Roosevelt and Wilson, we routinely see presidential candidates assure voters that they are doubtful of the theory of evolution, pandering to a large segment of the electorate that believes the world is just a few thousand years old.  Rick Perry, for example . . . lucidly conveys America's intellectual decline by expressing his views on evolution this way:  "God may have done it in the blink of the eye or he may have done it over this long period of time, I don't know."  Evolution "is a theory that's out there,"  Perry explained, but it "has some gaps in it."  The Texas chief executive is by no means an anomaly, as other major political figures, such as Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, and Mike Huckabee, have made a point of emphasizing their refusal to accept evolution theory, and even former president George W. Bush favored teaching creationism, disguised as so-called intelligent design, in public schools."
 Niose is arguing in the book that, in fact, a significant portion of the US population does not believe in a diety, but they have not identified themselves as secular.  Thus statistics suggest that the US is a much more religious nation than it really is.  This includes the 20% that answer "none" or "don't know" when asked what religion they are.  It also includes those people who do not practice a religion or believe in a religion, may still identify with the religion they grew up with, and might say "Catholic" or "Methodist" if asked. 

He points out that just 15% of the US population would be 50 million people, which would be more than the combined total of Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Presbyterians,  Jews, Mormons, and Muslims.

His goal is to get secular Americans to identify as such to demonstrate a) that the US is NOT a Christian nation, as argued by the religious right, and that there are many secular Americans, and b) to get make secular Americans a potent political force to counter the power of the religious right.  Secular Americans aren't out to attack other religions, but to stand up for their own rights and to prevent the fervently religious from using government to enforce their own religious beliefs on others. 

I'm only about a third of the way into the book, but I thought I'd share this much for now.  It's a topic that I wrote about last November when my attention was caught by the tornado survivor who responded on national television to Wolf Blitzer's question about thanking the Lord for surviving, by saying, after a pause, "Well, actually, I'm an atheist."  I realized how prejudiced the US is against atheism when I found myself surprised that they hadn't cut that part out of the broadcast. 

David Niose is identified as the President of the American Humanist Association

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

50 Years Since UCLA Bruins Won Their First Basketball Championship

My first semester at UCLA, Spring 1963 (yes, back then you can start school and graduate in the mid-semester, not just June).  I remember watching the basketball championships on a big tv screen in the student union.  UCLA lost somewhere well before the championship game.

But the next semester, things were different.  Walt Hazard, Gail Goodrich, Fred Slaughter,  Keith Erickson, Kenny Washington started off with a bang.  They won their first few games and then there was the LA championship (I don't recall the exact title of the tournament) at the Sports Arena.  They were playing Michigan, a traditionally good team.  A friend in LA had a boyfriend from Michigan who told us UCLA hadn't played any real teams and when they played Michigan, the winning streak would be over.  I just recall the first four minutes of the game, where UCLA put its full court press on display for the first time that I think it really got noticed.  At the end of four minutes it was 16-0 UCLA and they went on to win 30 games that season with no losses.

Every game was a nail biter as we wondered if they could extend their winning streak, which they did into the final game against Duke.

This all came back to me in January when I was cleaning things out in my mom's garage and ran across my copy of the mid-March 1964 Sports Illustrated with the cover story on UCLA's win.  I decided to wait until March to post it, but it seems, the picture I took is on an older sound card and the magazine is back home in Anchorage now.  But this is the time, so I'll put the picture up when we get back to Anchorage.

[UPDATE:   I posted the cover and the article here on the exact 50th anniversary of the Sports Illustrated date.]

A couple years later I remember watching the Freshman team with the new recruit Lew Alcindor, play the national champion varsity team and win.  A sign of even more championships to come.

UCLA basketball and football helped me understand the power of group spirit (and insanity), as the whole school, it seemed, had its spirit lifted and dashed if the team won or lost.  I got over that after I graduated, though at times in my rural Thailand town, I could listen to UCLA basketball games late at night coming via the Armed Forces Network in Saigon. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Visiting My Chinese Grandson And His Grandmother

D was a student of mine in Hong Kong 20 some years ago and helped me with research in Beijing.  My family attended his wedding in Beijing and he's been to visit us a number of times in Alaska and now he's a college professor himself, doing very well. He's like a third child for us. 

So in addition to visiting our other son here in the San Francisco area, we're here to visit our new 6 week old grandson, J.  A special bonus is that J's biological grandmother is here from Beijing, where we last saw her ten years ago.

D stopped at a Chinese grocery on the way home.  Lots of interesting food available.

The fish department announced itself to my nose as soon as we got inside.  Lots of fish, live and not.  Turtles and fat frogs too.

And disappointingly, for an Alaskan, is this package of farmed Canadian salmon

Lots of great fruits and vegetables and fungi.  The jackfruit on the left is an old reminder of Thailand where it is common and strangely grows from the trunk of the tree. 

For dinner, J's grandmother made Jiao Zi (dumplings) from scratch.  First the dough, then she cut the little round dough pieces and flattened them for wrappers, the filling, and then she boiled them.  Delicious.

Mind your stereotypes here.  While it's easy to see a quaint older woman, with limited English, visiting from China to help with her new grandson, this is actually a retired physics professor who is also an accomplished artist.   

As we walked around the block with J and tried to retrieve our meager Chinese vocabulary, we traded English and Chinese words for the flowers we saw - azaleas, wisteria, rosemary, iris, and on and on.  I couldn't help thinking about the magnificent day she and her daughter (the new mother) took us to see the peonies in the park in central Beijing.  Acres and acres of magnificent blooms.  She waited until the ideal day when they were all blooming.  That's the day I started to understand peonies.  Growing up in  Southern California, I just never appreciated peonies.  They're really a more northern flower.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Missing Malaysia Flight 370

I haven't commented on this because everyone else has and because I have nothing to add.  But as I listen to all the speculation, I do have some thoughts on what might have happened.   Some of the key factors would seem to be:
  • Intentional or Unintentional?
  • Who?
  • Why?
The chart starts to outline those choices:

The Why?

If it's intentional the two basic motives (I'm sure there must be more) that I can think of are personal and political/terror.

Personal could be any situation where someone wants revenge or to collect insurance or ??? - possibly in a way that can't be traced.  A business feud, a family feud, or any of the many different reasons people get very angry at each other.

Political/terror would be a situation where some group with relatively little legitimate power is using terror to make their statement.

That brings us back to Who?  There are the usual suspects
  • Al Qaeda and various offshoots.  
  • But this plane was headed to China and had lots of Chinese passengers.  And just on March 1, there was a terrorist attack in Kunming which the Chinese government tells us was mounted by Uighurs during the China's National People's Congress. So there's a possibility there too.
  • Some organization that's either under the radar or not previously connected with terror attacks.

If it was unintentional, something mechanical happened in the plane and it just went down.  But how do you account for the change in flight direction?  Were the pilots trying to go back after there were mechanical problems but the problems were too much?  Why no messages to aviation controllers?  Lots of questions here.

But if it was intentional, there are different options.

  •  I'm not quite sure what would be required to bring down a plane while one passenger attempted to kill another.  I suspect a gun wouldn't be enough. 
  • If someone loaded explosives into someone's luggage, this could have done the trick.
  • And someone on the ground attacking with missiles seems a stretch, especially since they were flying at such a high altitude.  
And none of these scenarios is consistent with the plane making a radical course change and continuing to ping for so long


Petronas Towers from What Do I Know?
Kidnapping - Uighurs possibly thought they could kidnap a plane full of Chinese hostages and negotiate with the Chinese government for concessions.  But given the other Uighur attack with knives in a train station, this seems like a pretty sophisticated plot.  And there is little likelihood the Chinese government would honor any promises that were made to save hostages.  More likely there would be harsh reprisals.

Suicide attack - The last major successful airplane suicide attack was 9/11.  Could plotters have tried to duplicate that effort by attacking the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur?  They were, for a while, the tallest buildings in the world.  What if they tried to take over the plane, but somehow the attempt was thwarted like the third plane in the 9/11 attacks and the plane went down? 

Obviously there are many possible scenarios.  I have no crystal ball, but I suspect that the eventual story, if we ever learn it, will fall within these options. 

Whatever the final story, one can't help but feel great sympathy for the passengers and for their families and friends as the agony of waiting drags on.