Saturday, May 31, 2014

U of Alaska Joins Ranks of Top Universities - US Investigates How They Handle Sexual Assault

Harvard, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Columbia, and Michigan were among 55 colleges and universities listed by the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights on May 1, 2014, as under investigation for possible violations for how they handle sexual violence and harassment complaints.

The University of Alaska system was not on that list.  But not to worry.  Alaskans are as bad as the rest of the country, maybe even worse, in how we handle sexual assault and violence and Wednesday, May 28, the University of Alaska system and four other institutions were added to the list.  From the Huffington Post:
Since releasing the [original] list, the department has launched Title IX investigations at the University of Alaska system, the University of Delaware, Elmira College in New York, the University of Akron in Ohio and Cisco Junior College in Texas. This brings the total number of schools with federal probes to 60.  [emphasis added]
The department did not elaborate on whether the five new inquiries are proactive investigations or come in response to specific complaints.

Alaska is frequently not taken seriously, so I'm pleased that the Department of Education does recognize that in this area our University does deserve their attention, even if we got listed almost a month later than the others.

NOTE:  For folks who read my sarcasm as making a joke out of this, I'd point out that humor is one of the ways folks deal with serious problems.   In no way do I mean to make light of this situation.  I'm sorry that the US Department of Education has enough cause to include Alaska on the list.  But, given that we have the highest rates of rape in the country,  those fighting sexual assault in Alaska should be glad the Department will look into this.  Even our governor, who generally is opposed to federal intervention in Alaska.  But our governor has pledged
"that Alaska would take every step necessary to stop the epidemic of domestic violence, sexual assault, and child sexual abuse in Alaska. "
I hope that means supporting a federal investigation that adds resources to help fight domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska. 

Maybe the Feds will review the dismissal of the complaint at UAF this year. The original issue of the student's name being published seems moot given she wanted it published, but how the University handled the case and the impact on the campus climate and students' feelings of safety should be reviewed.

If anyone wants information about those fighting intimate partner violence and sexual assault and/or need help, go to the website of ANDVSA (Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault)

Power Outage: Just Your House Or Whole Neighborhood?

At night, of course, you can just look out the window and see if the neighbors lights are out too.  But it’s summer in Alaska and we don’t have much night.  And the power went out in the middle of the morning. 

But as my wifi connection stopped, I realized I could check to see if any of the other 20 or so wifi signals that show up on my computer were there too.  Two were there for a little longer than the rest, then they disappeared too. 

Actually, it has been fairly windy, so I assumed it wasn’t just our house.  But the wifi signal check is something I hadn’t thought of before.  And now the outage is about two hours and my old Macbook battery is running low. 

So, I’ll post this when the power goes back on and I get reconnected to the wifi. 

It was out for just about three hours.  Got done a number of things that I've been trying to avoid. 

Friday, May 30, 2014


My daughter and granddaughter came down to LA while we were visiting my mom there this past week.  Tuesday, while the mom and grandmother went for lunch, the grandfather and granddaughter went to the Santa Monica pier to check out the amusement park, the pier musicians, the magician, the fisherfolk, the merry-go-round, and the sea gulls and pelicans, the surf below, and other colorful distractions.  Then the mothers met up with us and we beached.

From the beginning I wondered about how well my granddaughter would recognize us since we live far away and don't see her weekly.  We did spend the first seven weeks with her - basically taken care of her during the day while our daughter recovered from being up much of the night.  I'm sure that played a role.  So, I've been googling things like "How do babies remember people?" to see what actual research there is.  This Baby Center post  supports my belief that the early daily contact probably worked:
"For infants, the degree of exposure really counts," says Lyuba Konopasek, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Weill Cornell Medical Center, based in New York City. If your child sees her grandparents once a week, she'll probably recognize them by the time she's 6 to 9 months old, but if she sees them daily, it may take only weeks.
Here are some other findings - but be warned.  It looks like we don't know a lot about this and the answers will be adjusted as more research is done.

1.  Babies remember more than adults think - though not necessarily consciously.

A recent Danish study tested babies at one year and then when they were three years old they were shown pictures of the two researchers - one whom they'd seen before and one they hadn't.  The three year olds spent more time looking at the image of the researcher they hadn't seen before.  They claim that it is normal for people to spend more time looking at new things than familiar ones and so this confirms the babies subconsciously remember the original researcher.

Another study showed 11 year-olds pictures of their friends when they were 3 and 4.  Most couldn't recognize them.  But a galvanic skin test showed that subconsciously they did remember.

2.  Different kinds of memory

This article says that first babies have procedural memory.  They can learn a sequence of actions - rolling over, using a spoon, riding a bicycle - and they can remember this for up to 2 years.  So perhaps they can't do it when they are first shown, but when they develop the needed motor skills, they can remember and do it. Reminders along the way help them remember. 
Then along comes semantic memory "which researchers define as knowledge about the world that extends beyond our bodies. Semantic memory allows us to make simple associations."

3.  Which senses work best?

Much of what I'm reading focuses on visual memory.  They test with visual cues.  But I'm guessing that audio is also important.  I'm pretty sure Z knows me both from visual and audio cues.  And I'd guess that smell plays an important role.  Here's a blog post that confirms the importance of smell with references to scientific research.

4.  Sign language can help babies communicate their needs sooner

My daughter taught Z sign language.  It's easier for babies to sign than to vocalize words.  So Z early on learned signs for things like milk, more, apple, hat, etc.  My guess is that this reduces frustration because babies can let parents know what they want specifically rather than crying and making the parents guess.  This video (which has a vested interest in our believing this) agrees with my conclusion. 

We did have a jolly good time.  And it's delightful seeing how much other people enjoy seeing babies.  When I thanked the magician on the pier for doing some tricks just for Z, he turned it around and thanked me for bringing her.  Babies are possibilities - still innocent, unselfconscious, and honest about how they feel.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Alaska Reporter Bob Tkacz Dies

Bob Tkacz was found dead Tuesday.  I met him briefly while I blogged about the legislature in 2010.   Here's Bob Tkacz's empty chair and desk in the press room of the Alaska Capitol Building from that time. 

I was blogging the legislature that session and dropped into the press room to check on the other folks who were covering the legislature.  Folks suggested that I apply for a press pass - which would allow me to get on the floor of the House and Senate chambers and allow me to ask questions at press conferences.  Bob, particularly, pushed that idea.  A blogger had recently been turned down for a pass.  While I was interested in the idea of a blogger getting a pass, I didn't see any great advantages - I could walk around at will and talk to folks except on the floors of the chambers - and wasn't sure how much extra work it would take to get.  The told me that such press passes hadn't been required before Palin was governor.  Then, apparently, there was concern that Outside media would cram the Capitol and that they'd need a way to control that.  That seems to have been an unnecessary fear.

I also was told to look up Bob's past, and found that earlier he'd been stabbed and been found at the bottom of the long outdoor stairs that go from near the City Museum down to Willoughby.  I looked it up, but didn't post about it in my post about meeting the press

Bot struck me as an interesting person who didn't sugar coat anything.  At only 61, he's gone way too soon.   A lot of Alaska legislative history that was stored in his brain is now now gone.  May he rest in peace. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mushroom Shaped Cloud Over Oregon

This was 12 minutes north of Crater Lake on Alaska Airlines from LA to Seattle almost 4pm PDT.  Actually, there were two of these clouds side by side.

The dark spots are dirt on the plane window.  I'm looking west.

This was the first one (southern) that we came to.

I couldn't find much about mushroom shaped clouds on line other than nuclear clouds.  There was an article in The Guardian that discussed non-nuclear mushroom shaped clouds.
However, mushroom clouds are not unique to atomic explosions. Any sufficiently powerful source of heat, such as a volcano or forest fire can produce one. The heat creates a powerful updraught, channelling dust and smoke from the ground into a narrow chimney, forming the stalk of the mushroom. This chimney continues to rise until it meets an obstruction in the form of a boundary layer in the atmosphere. The rising column then spreads out and forms the cap of the mushroom.
National Atlas has a map of potentially active volcanoes in Oregon, but I don't know that any created these.  

Wikipedia has a picture of a cumulusnimbus cloud which it calls an anvil cloud.  The stalk is a lot narrower than the two above. 
Wayne Flann Avalanche blog has a picture of a mushroom shaped cumulus cloud.

I expect that these two clouds would not have been as obvious, or even visible, from the ground.

BTW, here's a picture of Crater Lake which we passed 12 minutes before the clouds above. 

May In LA - Jacaranda Time

Trees lush with lavender flowers are one of the joys of Los Angeles.  I remember as a child I was always awed by how outrageously wonderful this color was for a tree.  And it still is.  And as you drive through LA this time of year, you can see them everywhere.

This one's from our walk to the Saturday market at Virginia St. Park in Santa Monica.  The sky's been greyish so I didn't take pictures of any whole trees.  I was also struck by these bright yellow flowers on another tree.  I asked a woman who was working in her yard who said she was told it was a golden medallion tree.

An October 2006 Pacific Horticulture article by Steve Brigham says these trees come from Brazil and have turned out to do well in Southern California.  The lady I talked to said they were terrible street trees.  They were fragile and branches broke off easily.  They were a mess to clean up after the flowers fall off, and later they have long dark pods that squirrels make a mess with.  She wasn't real happy about them being put in by the City on her street.  But the flowers are pretty spectacular.

The market had a nice array of fruits, vegetables, breads, dried fruit and nuts, honey, flowers, and more.

Fava beans

A bunch of three onions, including the big one, was $2.

The strawberries were sweet and delicious.  Not at all like the hard supermarket variety that are white inside.

Phillip King is still playing his natural style harp at the market.  He said he's just recorded a new CD.  Click the picture to get to Phillip's website for more information.

There's also a new library in the park.  I was worried it would mean that the Fairview library on Ocean Park - less than a mile away - would have to close.  It's the one I used to walk to as a kid and take piles of books home.  But I checked.  They will close for a couple of months - but only to remodel.  Then they'll be open again.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Having Daughters Makes Men More Liberal

There are several studies here that support this contention.  The most recent is February 14, 2014 paper, Identifying Judicial Empathy:  Does Having Daughters Cause Judges to Rule for Women's Issues?  by Adam Glynn and Maya Sen.

In this paper, we ask whether personal relationships can affect the way that judges decide cases. To do so, we leverage the natural experiment of a child's gender to identify the effect of having daughters on the votes of judges. Using new data on the family lives of U.S. Courts of Appeals judges, we find that, conditional on the number of children a judge has, judges with daughters consistently vote in a more feminist fashion on gender issues than judges who have only sons. This result survives a number of robustness tests and appears to be driven primarily by Republican judges. More broadly, this result demonstrates that personal experiences influence how judges make decisions, and it is the first paper to show that empathy may indeed be a component in how judges decide cases.

This follows a 2008 study,  Daughters and Left-Wing Voting by  Andrew J. Oswald
and Nattavudh Powdthavee
What determines human beings’ political preferences? Using nationally representative longitudinal data, we show that having daughters makes people more likely to vote for left-wing political parties. Having sons leads people to favor right-wing parties. The paper checks that our result is not an artifact of family stopping-rules, discusses the predictions from a simple economic model, and tests for possible reverse causality.
 Oswald and Powdthavee reference two earlier studies.
Warner (1991) and Warner and Steel(1999) study American and Canadian mothers and fathers.  The authors’ key finding is that support for policies designed to address gender equity is greater among parents with daughters. This result emerges particularly strongly for fathers. Because parents invest a significant amount of themselves in their children, the authors argue, the anticipated and actual struggles that offspring face, and the public policies that tackle those, matter to those parents.
In the words of Warner and Steel (1999), “child rearing might provide a mechanism for social change whereby fathers' connection with their daughters undermines ...patriarchy”.

All this comes originally from a link to MetaFilter sent by a close relative.  The comments at MetaFilter offer lots of interesting follow up thoughts, particularly warnings that these are statistical predictions, and, of course, you will be able to find individual cases that don't seem to bear this out.  Someone pointed to Antonin Scalia who has four daughters.  But another pointed out that the study says the prediction doesn't work when there are more than five children. (Wikipedia says Scalia also has five sons.)

This makes sense in that when people know people in other conditions well, they are more likely to sympathize with their situation.  From a Harvard Magazine artilce on How Same-Sex Marriage Came to Be:
"Perhaps the most important was that the proportion of Americans who reported knowing someone gay increased from 25 percent in 1985 to 74 percent in 2000. Knowing gay people strongly predicts support for gay rights; a 2004 study found that 65 percent of those who reported knowing someone gay favored gay marriage or civil unions, versus just 35 percent of those who reported not knowing any gays."
 I couldn't find a citation in the article for the 2000 study, but here are some longitudinal data on the these questions from Gallup.

Food for thought.  Thanks to S

Monday, May 26, 2014

What's The Difference Between Memorial Day and Veterans Day ?

The Veterans Administration FAQ page answers the question this way:

A. Many people confuse Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military - in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served - not only those who died - have sacrificed and done their duty.

Let's start with Memorial Day, since it's what is being celebrated today.  From another VA page:

Three years after the Civil War ended, on May 5, 1868, the head of an organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established Decoration Day as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Maj. Gen. John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.
The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. . .
. . .  By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30 throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for proper observance at their facilities.
It was not until after World War I, however, that the day was expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress, though it is still often called Decoration Day. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May, as were some other federal holidays.

And now Veteran's Day.  Again, borrowing from the VA website:

World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France. However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars. . .”
. . . In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day . . . 
. . . The original concept for the celebration was for a day observed with parades and public meetings and a brief suspension of business beginning at 11:00 a.m.

The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926 . . .

. . .An Act (52 Stat. 351; 5 U. S. Code, Sec. 87a) approved May 13, 1938, made the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday—a day to be dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as "Armistice Day." Armistice Day was primarily a day set aside to honor veterans of World War I, but in 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the Nation’s history; after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress, at the urging of the veterans service organizations, amended the Act of 1938 by striking out the word "Armistice" and inserting in its place the word "Veterans." With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars. . .

What happened to the part about being 'dedicated to world peace.'  Let's listen for that language next November. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

"But this is the purest of bullshit"

Mungo Park is writing in his journal about his reception in Segu where he first set European eyes on the Niger River.  He's just shown his notes to Johnson, his African assistant, who's been to England and is quite a remarkable man in his own right.  I'm on page 121 of T.C. Boyle's novel about Park, Water Music.  Johnson looks at Park's notes, which paint a much rosier picture of the events and their reception by the local chief, and responds:

"But this is the purest of bullshit," says Johnson, handing the slip of paper back to the explorer.  " A distortion and a lie.  About the only thing that's accurate is the seven-foot guards.  And the cash."
Mungo rides on in silence, something like a superior smirk tugging at his lip.  He and Johnson have just passed the last sagging hut along the road out of Segu. . .
The explorer twists in his saddle to look back at Johnson. "Exactly,"  he says, folding up the scrap of paper and working it under his hatband. [His journal consists of scraps of paper tucked under his hatband.]  "Can you imagine how unutterably dull it would be if I stuck strictly to bald bare facts - without a hint of embellishment?  The good citizens of London and Edinburgh don't want to read about misery and wretchedness and thirty-seven slaves disembowled, old boy - their lives are grim enough as it is.  No, they want a little glamor, a touch of the exotic and the out-of-the-way.  And what's the harm of giving it to them?"
Johnson weaves along on his ass, parting leaf and stem like a swimmer parting the waves.  He is shaking his head.  "But you're suppose to be an explorer.  The first white man to come in here and tell it like it is.  A myth-breaker, iconoclast, recorder of reality.  If you ain't absolutely rigorous, down to the tiniest detail, you're a sham, and I'm sorry to say it."  Johnson's voice is raised. .  . "A sham," he repeats.  "No better than Herodotus or Descelliers or any of them other armchair heroes that charted out the interior of Africa from behind the four walls of their book-lined studies."
"No Johnson, you're not being fair at all.  I'm giving them facts - of course.  About the geography, the culture, the flora and fauna.  Of course I am.  That's what I'm here for.  But to stick to facts and nothing but - why the English reading public wouldn't stand for it.  They can read Hansard if they want facts.  Or the Times obituaries.  When they read about Africa they want adventure, they want amaze.  They want stories like Bruce and Jobson gave them.  And that's what I intend to give them.  Stories."

This is about history.  It's also about news.  To what extent are both colored by the biases of the reporters?  Or, as in this case, by intentional 'embellishment'?  Why is Park concerned here about what the folks in London and Edinburgh want to hear?  Because  some of them are funding his expedition.

It's a reminder that what is happening with today's media is not new.  From The Free Press:
Too often, mainstream media companies and the think tanks they fund, defend the erosion of quality journalism by arguing: “We’re just giving the people what they want,” or “There is no demand for other kinds of news.” These folks usually describe accountability journalism and public affairs programming as “broccoli journalism,” calling up images of parents force-feeding their children vegetables, just because they are “good for them.”
The Free Press article goes on to say, citing a study of Philadelphia, the media are wrong:
“Simply put, people in Philadelphia are mad at the city’s dailies,” the authors of the report summarized. Citizens complained to the researchers that local coverage is “superficial,” lacking careful follow-up reporting and too often comes “days late.” Many local citizens could point to numerous key issues facing the city that were un- or under-reported. People clearly know what they want and the local commercial media doesn’t seem to be giving it to them.
They go on to cite a PEW study that says basically the same thing.

But Eric May, in a long and interesting piece at his website  traces the US media tilt toward the sensational over the important to a) corporate takeovers of formerly local media and b) the increased competition of cable.  News now had to keep its audience to make money but the audience had a lot more choices. Here's a short snippet:
So the efforts of the smart people at the stations were directed at ways to find and hold the viewers, especially for their one source of local programming revenue, the relatively inexpensive-to-produce news.

Audience research, which has been directed at entertainment program audiences was now focused on news audiences. How much news do you watch? Why do you watch? What stories do you remember? What do you want?

As the data was gathered and analyzed, stations became more and more aware of what viewers wanted. And they watched their own newscasts, and looked at their competitors, and looked at the ratings for both, trying to understand the patterns. What worked (higher ratings) and what didn't? 
What didn’t always show up in the audience research but almost always showed up in the ratings was that people would tune in to watch sensationalism and triviality- blood, murder, sex, cute animal stories- as one news anchor put it “tits, tots, and pets.”  [emphasis added]
I suspect May is closer to the mark.  Our amygdala reacts before our frontal lobe does. But also keep in mind who May is.  Again, from May's own website:
Eric May is an Emmy Award winning media consultant and internationally recognized expert in storytelling technique, visual language and expressing complex ideas clearly.

Eric works with news organizations, scientists and researchers, diplomats and development agencies worldwide helping them build their audiences, raise awareness of their initiatives, and tell their stories better.
He gets paid to tell news folks and others how to sell the stories. 

So, was Park wrong when he said, "The good citizens of London and Edinburgh don't want to read about misery and wretchedness and thirty-seven slaves disembowled"?

Maybe not.  While most of the good citizens he referenced, did indeed lead grim lives, and probably were just as anxious to hear about other people's misery as are people today,  I suspect that  the good citizens he was actually writing for were the educated and wealthy members of the African Association that were funding Park's explorations and didn't want to fund someone who was being so humbled by the locals. (See the opening lines of the book below.)

 TC Boyle is a prolific writer whose prose does not rely on cliches.  For example, Boyle opens the book:  
"At an age when most young Scotsmen were lifting skirts, plowing furrows and spreading seed, Mungo Park was displaying his bare buttocks to al-haj' Ali Ibn Fatoudi, Emir of Ludamar.   The year was 1795, George II was dabbling the walls of Windosr Castle with his own spittle, the Notables were botching things in France, Goya was deaf, De Quincey a depraved preadolescent."
[Note:  Park was the Emir's prisoner and wasn't voluntarily exposing himself.]

But Boyle doesn't live in 1795.  He lives in today's world and published this book in 1981.  As much as I like to take insights from history that enlighten today, it works much better if the writing was done at the time of the event.   When present writers highlight an issue in the past, one has to wonder how much that insight was apparent in the historical period and how much was the writer seeing those events with modern eyes.  For example, would an African, even one who'd spent time in England, say, in 1795, "this is the purest of bullshit"?  I don't know. 

By the way, Mungo Park is a real, and well known Scot.  You can read more about Park here.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Heads At the Getty - From Degas Selfie to Mosaic Of The Coffee Pope

Friends invited us to go with them to the Getty Museum, which I've posted about before.  They wanted to see the Ansel Adams exhibit.  When I asked one of the guards about the photography policy, he said, no photography in the photography exhibitions.  Other places it varies.  If a guard stops you, don't feel bad, he's just letting you know.
Degas selfie @ age 20
So as we walked around other galleries I decided - after seeing this self portrait of Edward Degas - that maybe I could focus on just heads.

The description said it's one of about 20 self portraits by the artist.  This one was done at about the age of 23 (1857 or 58.)

"In a picture never intended for public display,  Degas presented an intimate yet uncompromising view of himself."

People didn't start losing control of their images with Facebook.  The museum has no problem with displaying an image the artist didn't intend to be public.  I don't know how I feel about this.  Anything one leaves on one's death could end up anywhere I guess.  Does the world's 'right to know' trump the artist's intend?  Does his fame and 150 years moot his wishes?

This portrait of Suzanne Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau was done in 1804 by Jacques-Louis David.  She was 22 at the time.  It said:
"This portrait is one of the few private commissions David accepted once he began working regularly for Napoléon."
Carnavalet histoire de Paris tells the story of the Le Peletier Hotel in Paris.  I'm citing from well into the post:
. . . Without a doubt, the hotel’s most famous occupant is Michel Le Peletier de Souzy’s great-grandson, Louis-Michel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau (1760-1793), who inherited the property in 1779. A representative of the nobility in the Estates General, he joined the Third Estate in July 1789. He thus became one of the most ardent defenders of the people’s cause. As Deputy of Yonne under the Convention, he voted for the execution of Louis XVI on 20 January 1793. That same evening, while dining in a restaurant at the Royal Palace, he was stabbed by one of the king’s former bodyguards, Philippe de Pâris; he was brought home and died on the morning of 21 January, a few hours before the king was executed. The Nation then declared him a “Martyr for Freedom” and he was given a grandiose funeral, organised by the painter Louis David, before his body was transferred to the Pantheon. Louis-Michel Le Peletier de Saint-Fargeau, Jean-Paul Marat (assassinated on 13 July 1793) and Marie-Joseph Chalier (executed the following 17 July) would become the three “Martyrs of the Revolution”, the focus of an official cult during the Reign of terror.
The daughter of the appointed regicide, Suzanne, married her cousin Léon Le Peletier de Morfontaine. Living elsewhere, she sold the hotel in 1811. The hotel then passed through many hands and later housed several educational institutions. In 1863, it was occupied by the Compagnie générale de la poste aux paquets et des transports internationaux. In 1895, the City of Paris acquired the hotel for its historical library which, since 1872, has existed alongside the municipal historical collections at the Carnavalet hotel. Relocation took place between 1896 and 1898.

This one is by Gauguin in 1892 in Tahiti.  From the Getty website description:

"I have just finished a severed kanak [Pacific Islander] head, nicely arranged on a white cushion, in a palace of my invention and guarded by women also of my invention.
--Paul Gauguin

Writing to his friend Daniel de Monfreid, Paul Gauguin referenced in an almost offhand way this startling painting of a decapitated human head, which he made during his first stay in Polynesia in the early 1890s. Real events, from Tahitian King Pomare V's death soon after Gauguin's arrival, to the artist having witnessed a public execution by guillotine several years earlier, likely influenced its dark subject matter. Gauguin added the Tahitian words "Arii" and "Matamoe" in the canvas' upper left. The first means "noble;" the second, "sleeping eyes," a phrase that implies "death."
 From the BBC.  I don't usually take so much, but it's a good story.

Born in Jamaica in 1805 (a year after the Peletier painting was done).  Mary Jane Grant was the daughter of a Scottish soldier and a Jamaican woman who ran a boarding house for invalid soldiers, where Mary learned nursing. 
'Although technically 'free', being of mixed race, Mary and her family had few civil rights - they could not vote, hold public office or enter the professions. In 1836, Mary married Edwin Seacole but the marriage was short-lived as he died in 1844.
Henry Weekes:  Mary Seacole 1859

Seacole was an inveterate traveller, and before her marriage visited other parts of the Caribbean, including Cuba, Haiti and the Bahamas, as well as Central America and Britain. On these trips she complemented her knowledge of traditional medicine with European medical ideas. In 1854, Seacole travelled to England again, and approached the War Office, asking to be sent as an army nurse to the Crimea where there was known to be poor medical facilities for wounded soldiers. She was refused. Undaunted Seacole funded her own trip to the Crimea where she established the British Hotel near Balaclava to provide 'a mess-table and comfortable quarters for sick and convalescent officers'. She also visited the battlefield, sometimes under fire, to nurse the wounded, and became known as 'Mother Seacole'. Her reputation rivalled that of Florence Nightingale.
After the war she returned to England destitute and in ill health. The press highlighted her plight and in July 1857 a benefit festival was organised to raise money for her, attracting thousands of people. Later that year, Seacole published her memoirs, 'The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands'.

This is Queen Victoria, from an interesting photo exhibit called Past Tense by Horoshi Sugimoto.

Go here the original is so much better
The Getty website says:
Since the mid-1970s, Hiroshi Sugimoto has used photography to investigate how visual representation interprets and distills history. This exhibition brings together three series by the artist—habitat dioramas, wax portraits, and early photographic negatives—that present objects of historical and cultural significance from various museum collections. By photographing subjects that reimagine or replicate moments from the distant past, Sugimoto critiques the medium's presumed capacity to portray history with accuracy.
Since it was a photo exhibit, I couldn't take photos.  The Queen Victoria picture was on a poster for the exhibit outside.  Inside were interesting pictures of animals in amazing settings - a polar bear with a ribbon seal; elk in a field.  I suddenly realized these were pictures of museum dioramas of stuffed animals.  It turns out it was the New York Museum of Natural History, where Robert Sapolsky first started dreaming of gorillas

The museum diorama pictures are part 1 of playing with photography and how it can depict false reality.  Then there are the old photographs that Sugimoto rephotographed, like Queen Victoria's.  And third part was photogenic drawings.  Again from the Getty site:

Photogenic Drawings

In 2007 Sugimoto visited the J. Paul Getty Museum to study the earliest photographs by William Henry Fox Talbot in the collection. After photographing some of Talbot's photogenic-drawing negatives, he produced large-scale prints and colored them with toning agents to replicate the hues of the paper negatives. The scale of the enlarged prints reveals the fibers of the original paper, which create intricate patterns embedded in the images. These works connect the artist intimately to Talbot and the origins of photography.

At the Art Diretory, the bio of Alexei Jawlensky begins like this:

Alexei Jawlensky: G. II
"Jawlensky only began his artistic training in 1889 in St. Petersburg after a career as an officer in the tsarist army. He studied under Ilja Repin who introduced him to Marianne von Werefkin and Helene Nesnakomoff, his later wife. Jawlensky accompanied these two to Munich in 1896 where they wanted to visit a private art school. Here Jawlensky met Wassily Kandinsky."
It also says he was born in 1864.  That would make him 25, somewhat young to have had a 'career' in the army.  The picture - G. II - belongs to the Long Beach Museum of Art. 

 Antonio Canova - Herm of a Vestal Virgin

Since Procol Harum's A Whiter Shade of Pale is one of my favorite songs, I had to include this "Herm of a Vestal Virgin."

From the Merriam Webster dictionary:
[Herm]  a statue in the form of a square stone pillar surmounted by a bust or head especially of Hermes.
The Met's website says:
"Canova (1757–1822), the greatest of all Neoclassical sculptors, remains famous above all for the elegant nude mythological subjects that he carved exquisitely in marble. He also worked in a deeply serious, deceptively simple style. "

Rietschel's Mendelssohn 1848

 This is a bust of Felix Mendelssohn, the great German musician, by Ernst Friederich August Rietschel.  From Felix
"Felix Mendelssohn is regarded by classical music aficionados and critics alike, as one of the most prolific and gifted composers the world has ever known.  Even those who could not name any of his works have heard it, as his "Wedding March" from "A Midsummer Night's Dream", which has accompanied many a bride down the aisle. "
 But, this is about art, so we should look at the artist as well.  From Wikipedia:

Rietschel was born in Pulsnitz, Saxony. At an early age he became an art student at Dresden, and subsequently a pupil of Rauch in Berlin. He there gained an art studentship, and studied in Rome in 1827-28. After returning to Saxony, he soon brought himself into notice by a colossal statue of Frederick Augustus, King of Saxony; was elected a member of the academy of Dresden, and became one of the chief sculptors of his country. In 1832 he was elected to the Dresden professorship of sculpture, and had many foreign orders of merit conferred on him by the governments of different countries. He died in Dresden in 1861.
The Mendelssohn bust was done in 1848.

Mosaic of Pope Clement VIII 1600-01

The Catholic Encyclopedia paints a picture of a very holy man.  In part:

. . . His election was greeted with boundless enthusiasm by the Italians and by all who knew his character. He possessed all the qualifications needed in the Vicar of Christ. Blameless in morals from childhood, he had at an early period placed himself under the direction of St. Philip Neri, who for thirty years was his confessor. Upon Clement's elevation to the papacy, the aged saint gave over this important office to Baronius, whom the pope, notwithstanding his reluctance, created a cardinal, and to whom he made his confession every evening. The fervour with which he said his daily Mass filled all present with devotion. His long association with the Apostle of Rome caused him to imbibe the saint's spirit so thoroughly, that in him St. Philip himself might be said to have ascended the papal chair. Though vast political problems clamoured for solution, the pope first turned his attention to the more important spiritual interests of the Church . . .
One Evil paints a very different picture.  Among their complaints:

". . . Pope Clement VIII was fanatical in his antagonism towards the increasing debate that human beings possess free will. Despite the Synod of Brest in 1595 invoilving both Jesuit and Dominican leadership, Pope Clement VIII refused to pronounce a decision.
He ruthlessly sought out those showing signs of creative genius and a desire to break from the madness of the Papacy "flat earth" view. On February 17, 1600, Giordano Bruno, a strong believer of free will, was burned alive due solely to the order of Pope Clement VIII.
Of the many evil acts done by Pope Clement VIII, one of the worst was the murder on orders of the Pope of Francesco Cenci, a wealthy family who held various estates and property including Palazzo Cenci. In 1598, Pope Clement VIII ordered Cenci killed. He then proceeded to have his children arrested for the murder of their father, having Giacomo quartered with a mallet, his limbs being hung in four quarters; Lucrezia and Beatrice beheaded. Pope Clement VIII then proceeded to give the properties of the Cenci to his Aldobrandini family.
In 1599, Clement VIII directly ordered Menocchio, a famous philosopher who had created a cosmology all by himself, holding that all life evolved like rotten cheese, was also put to the stake and burned alive.
Pope Clement VIII was also a fully committed anti-semite with deep hatred of the Jews. . ."
But most online links point out he was the Pope who blessed the coffee bean.  Anyone who lives at Starbucks will probably forgive him for everything else. Nils-Bertil Wallin at Yaleglobal writes:
"Italian traders introduced coffee to Europe and in 1600 Pope Clement VIII blessed the bean because it was claimed to help sober a population whose fluid intake was largely alcoholic beverages."

BTW, the mosaic was designed by Jacopo Ligozzi
"one of most prolific and remarkable artists of the Medici court. With the decline of Mannerism, artists sought new ways to attain a sense of magnificence and the sublime. Ligozzi's drawings—by turns weighty or refined and elegant—are windows into a fantastical world, featuring scrupulous natural details and free-ranging imaginative elements."  (From the Louvre website

and produced by Tadda (Romolo de Francesco Ferrucci) according to the description with the work.

J. Paul Getty by Pier Gabriele Vangelli
And finally - not that there aren't a lot more heads at the Getty - here's a bust of J. Paul Getty himself, by Pier Gabriele Vangelli, whose google fame seems to be for doing the Getty bust in 1939.  He also seems to have done a bust of Wilbur Wright. 

You can learn a lot more about the Getty Museum here which is possible because Getty made a lot of money in the oil business

Friday, May 23, 2014

Strange Encounter In Parking Garage

We'd been at the Getty Museum (in LA) and were in the parking garage, in the car, ready to drive home when I man came up to the passenger window.  Our passenger opened the door and the man accused him of hitting his car. 

My first reaction was that we were parked before he was, so how could we hit his car?  But he said the passenger had done it when he opened the door. 

I got out and walked around.  I looked at this car.  My passenger said the door couldn't hit his car because the mirror was in the way.  But I opened the car door and it could make it to the door despite the mirror. 

But there were no marks there.  Well there were a couple of light brown marks and the other guy flicked them with his fingernail and they fell off.  Dirt.

Me:  It doesn't look like there's any damage.  So, no problem.

Him:  I want your insurance information.

Me:  What for?

Him:  It's dark here.  In the light I may find damage.

Me:  You're kidding.

Him:  I need to take a picture. 

I got out my camera.  The first picture, without a flash, was pretty dark.  So I turned on the flash, something I rarely do.  It's not a great picture, but it only shows dirt.  No marks.   And there was clearly nothing near where the door would have reached the side of the car. 

I went back and took a picture of the two cars.  His is the one on the right at an angle.  The flash caused it to look like his lights were on.  He's standing between the cars.  He took pictures with his cell phone.  

Him:  I want your insurance.

Me:  (I'm still reasonably calm.  There's no damage.)  What for? 

Him:  You hit my car.

Me: Even if we did, there's no damage. 

Him:  I'm going to get a security guard.

Me:  Go ahead.  He won't do anything.

(In hind sight, perhaps this was his way of letting us go, though some people we talked to said this would cause him to say it was hit and run.)

We wait.  He comes back without a security guard.

There's some repetition of the previous exchange.  Then:

Me:  What do you want me to do?  There's no damage.  What do you want?

Him:  You didn't say you were sorry.

Me:  I'm terribly sorry the door hit your car.  I'm glad there was no damage.

Him:  OK

And he walks away from the car and I start to back out. 

People we've talked to have had a variety of opinions from he's a little crazy, cross-cultural misunderstanding, to it's a scam. 

I've looked on line and found a few parking lot scams.  From NBC Los Angeles:
According to a press release from the Santa Monica Police Department, the duo – sometimes working alone and other times as a pair – approach the elderly victims as they’re leaving parking lots.
They then claim the victim hit their car and demand money from them, saying that the damage is less than their insurance deductible.
 But we were in the Getty Museum parking lot.  It costs $15 to park.  (The museum itself is free.)  And he didn't demand any money.  Here's another from laist:

[She] was returning home from Ralph's on Coldwater & Ventura when she was waved over to the side of the road at Dickens and Van Noord by 2 men in a car who claimed she had hit their car at Ralph's. (They had likely followed her from Ralph's) The driver of the car exited his vehicle and approached the woman who never left her car. He pretended to call the police and told her that they would be on the scene in 45 minutes. 

Again, not the same.  It didn't occur to me it could be a scam while it was happening.  The man had an accent and I just assumed he was overly protective of his car.  And the apology request and resolution seemed to support that idea - he didn't lose face at the end.

But maybe he could do something my insurance information had I given it to him.  Some people we talked to even questioned if it was his car at all.

I thought he was getting into it as we drove off, but I didn't actually see him do that.  Another car was pulling into a space on the other side of him and I remember thinking:  Don't hit his car.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Spanish Artist Blogger Depicts His Dinosaur Encounter In Seward

Here's the link to Unexpected Encounter at the Van Gilder Hotel.  

With permission from TS @ Walkdo Walkiria World
I first 'met' Tomás Serrano when told me about how much he enjoyed Exit Glacier in a comment in this post in 2008.  And expanded when he and his family came for breakfast before heading back to Spain.  I've been following his blog ever since (Waldo Walkiria World in the Friends blog roll on the right.)  It's a gallery of amazing art, particularly caricatures, many of them of people I'm not sure I know.  Sometimes they're European politicians I don't recognize.  He's also a great movie buff and does a lot of actors.  He even won a World Press Cartoon Award  in 2011.

But when I looked at Unexpected Encounter, I thought, now this is really obscure, but somehow familiar.  What movie was the Van Gilder Hotel in?  Then I googled the Van Gilder Hotel.  I was a little embarrassed to see it was actually a hotel I'd visited (but not stayed at)  in a small Alaska town I love.  Very near Exit Glacier.

I can't believe Tomás never told me about the dinosaur.   I talked to him just days after it would have happened.  I guess he didn't want me to blog it until he did it first.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Going Through The Old Liquor Cabinet - Mumms, Peter Heering, Vandermint, and Tawny Port

There were some old photo albums in the living room that I hadn't put back in the hall closet last time we were visiting my mom.  But to put them back I had to make room.  I did this by pulling out some old boxes that had alcohol in them.  Old champagne, tawny port, vermouth.  I'm not a drinker.  I drink a beer now and then and I like a good glass of wine, but I never really got into hard liquor.  Well, all the Mekhong - a common Thai whiskey - that was forced on me when I was a Peace Corps volunteer so many years ago, when I would, to be culturally open, say yes to anything, probably cured me of wanting hard liquor. 

I started googling how long champagne and the other bottles are good for.  The answers I found online suggest things are still drinkable but not in their prime.

From For The Love Of Port:
How long do I cellar Vintage and other styles of port?
Vintage Ports typically need at least 15 years to start reaching maturity. The top Vintage Ports can easily last 30-100+ years if stored properly.
Late Bottle Vintage Ports that are filtered are not meant to be aged. So there is no reason to do so. Unfiltered LBV’s generally will start showing their best at around 10+ years of age. Generally, they are not designed to be aged beyond 20 years, with a few exceptions.
Tawny Port with an Indication of Age is not meant to age in bottle. This type of Port group is usually best when consumed closer to the date of bottling.

This all led to another cabinet that was full of a wide variety of bottles.  I offered my mom a couple of sips of the Vandermint.  And she seemed to really enjoy it.  The fragrance lingered most of the night around the dining room table.  I found this description at This Next:

"Few things are as obscure and good as Vandermint: the chocolate and mint liqueur from Holland. You might not take milk glass-like bottle seriously but the contents will surpise and likely amaze. Unlike its lesser mint & chocolate counterparts this elixir is smooth, rich, creamy and alluring - all without being milky, syrupy sweet or heavy in any way. Dont be fooled, this is a serious drink with refined taste. If you want alcohol steeped candy, look elsewhere. A few sips and you'll be solving the world's problems from your sofa throne in no time at all."

After reading that, I guess I better try some before I go to bed tonight.

When I looked up the Peter Heering Liqueur, I learned this history about the Singapore Sling (which I'd known about, and I think actually have had one in my younger days.)  From

The Singapore Sling was created at Raffles Hotel at the turn-of-the-century by Hainanese-Chinese bartender mr Ngiam Tong Boon. Till today, in the Hotel’s museum, visitors may view the safe in which Mr Ngiam locked away his precious recipe books, as well as the Sling recipe hastily jotted down on a bar-chit in 1936 by a visitor to the Hotel who asked the waiter for it. Mr Ngiam Tong Boon concocted the very first coctail to achieve global fame by mixing 30 ml gin, 15 ml Heering Cherry Liqueur, 120 ml pineapple juice, 15 ml lime juice, 7.5 ml Cointreau, 7.5 ml Dom Benedictine, 10 ml Grenadine and a dash of Angostura Bitters. Shaken not stirred, served on ice in a cocktail glass.

Somewhere I have a slide of the Raffles Hotel from 1968 or 69, and a more recent one - it didn't look at all the same - from when I visited my son in 2008.

 One more thing.  Does anyone have any idea what this item is for.  I've photoshopped two views into this one image.  One of the excuses I've used to get my mom to allow me to go through the stuff in the closets now, is so that she can explain things.  But she didn't know what this was either. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

What If Marriage Was Only Expected To Last Until The Last Kid Turned 18?

We got to LA late last night and my mom had saved us the Sunday Times.  This quote caught my attention in an article called "Middle-raged woman."

"I think there are some people for whom long-term marriages really work;  it's a wonderful thing to see.  But biologically speaking, probably one in every four couples can do that with some level of comfort.
There are other cases where a long-term marriage may not be the best choice for two people. . .

I feel like I married the right person.  I made the right choice then, had a 20-year relationship, and I'm so grateful for the time that we had together, the children that we made and how we continue to take care of those children."
Basically the article is a book review interview for Sandra Tsing Loh's The Madwoman in the Volvo:  My Year of Raging Hormones.

She also mentions in the interview that therapists sort of do and don't work.
". . . some midlife advice you need to hear is:  I guess you need to divorce your husband, or have an affair, or date a younger man, or go on a cruise, or move to Africa.  You might actually need to do something extreme to change your life and a therapist really can't give you advice that's not healthy or sensible."
First she says this is what one needs to be told, but then, that it's not healthy or sensible.  Is she saying you only need to be told, but not act on it?  I think not.  She seems to be saying you should do 'something extreme to change your life.'   But is it just that her well conditioned societal norms take over to suggest this isn't healthy or reasonable?  If it's what you need, why isn't it healthy or reasonable?  Maybe she's implying different short term and long term consequences.

That got me thinking.  What if marriage was more like a job?  It could be for a lifetime or at least for one's working career.  Or it might not last and you get another one.  What if marriage was for ten years, or, if there are kids, until the last kid turns 18?

What we actually have now is much worse than that.  We have divorce and lots of folks take advantage of that while their kids are still young.  And I don't disagree with those who think the best child-rearing setting is with the natural parents, but with the caveat that they are reasonably happy together and know how to solve problems without violence (verbal or physical).  Having grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins nearby can certainly help.  But there are lots of different alternatives to this ideal that also work reasonably well if the people taking care of the kids are 'good parents' [maybe defining  that's for another dozen posts] no matter who they are. 

BUT, divorce is, seen as a failure. A broken marriage.  What if it were seen as normal?  What if marriages that were renewed past the due date were also seen as normal?  Kids would know that their parents had a good chance of splitting up eventually, so that when it did happen, it wouldn't been seen as a terrible thing.  And maybe more importantly, the marriage partners would know that things would end and they would have new choices and opportunities.  They would do better financial planning for that day.  Both partners would have a stake at both parenting and having a career - or would work out an agreement so that the working partner's income would be seen as something that would be potentially split.  Pre-nuptial agreements would probably become a lot more common.  Affairs, especially as the marriage came closer to its due date, would become more acceptable, and possibly even feel normal and not a threat.

When asked what marriage advice she gives her daughters, Tsing Low says she hasn't thought about it, but goes on:
In the end, for a family core to rely on the notion of a man and a woman feeling romantically in love with each other for 10, 20 or 30 years - it's the most unstable thing to rely on.  Biologically, romantic feelings wane after four years, then you have to work on it.   
Without a doubt, the excitement of a new relationship doesn't last unless you work on it.  But a different kind of relationship also grows, one that can be stronger.  But as someone who's been married over 40 years, I can attest that you need to work at it.  Be imaginative, be honest, talk.  More than talk.  Communicate.

Would such an environment be perfect?  Perfection may be achievable in endeavors such as moon landings, but it's an impossible standard for social projects.  The real standard for change is whether the proposed program is likely to work better than the existing one and any other options proposed.  The poster below from Daily Infographic offers some standards for the status quo.  But like all internet info, take it with a grain of salt until you double check all their stats.  And remember that divorces (and when there are kids involved, how the parents handle their parental responsibilities post divorce) come in many different shapes and forms and if they identified five main types of divorce, I suspect the worst impacts on kids would be mostly found in the worst two or three types of divorce.

From Daily Infographic

Note: It says that 41% of first marriages end in divorce. That means, of course, that 59% do NOT end in divorce. A few may end in murder of one spouse by the other, but it's still the vast majority last.

[UPDATE 4:36pm ADT:  Here are two This American Life shows that give long and thoughtful attention to this topic:
Monogamy and look at Act 1: Best Laid Plans in the Valentine show.]

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Elvis Heads To Germany And Mao Takes Over China - Pathé News Footage Archive On Youtube

When I was a kid, when you went to the movies there was typically a newsreel and a cartoon before the movie.  And sometimes, I particularly remember Saturdays, there would  be a short episode of some continuing weekly serial.

A month ago (April 18) Pathé put its collection of 85,000 newsreels onto Youtube.  The ones I looked at have that typical authoritative male announcer voice with the typical music to fit the film.

Pathé's site gives this description of their newsreels:

Created at the beginning of the 20th Century by the Pathé brothers, the newsreel was the world's first televised news platform. Pioneering the technology and methods of cinema, British Pathé stayed at the forefront of filmed news for decades.
Releasing 3 newsreels a week during that period, British Pathé was the way the people of Britain experienced world events until the advent of television. Every one of those thousands of newsreels are now here and available for you to view.

Open Culture gives a little more background on this new online resource:
British Pathé was one of the leading producers of newsreels and documentaries during the 20th Century. This week, the company, now an archive, is turning over its entire collection — over 85,000 historical films – to YouTube.
The archive — which spans from 1896 to 1976 – is a goldmine of footage, containing movies of some of the most important moments of the last 100 years. It’s a treasure trove for film buffs, culture nerds and history mavens everywhere. In Pathé’s playlist “A Day That Shook the World,” which traces an Anglo-centric history of the 20th Century, you will find clips of the Wright Brothers’ first flight, the bombing of Hiroshima and Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, alongside footage of Queen Victoria’s funeral and Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile. There’s, of course, footage of the dramatic Hindenburg crash and Lindbergh’s daring cross-Atlantic flight. And then you can see King Edward VIII abdicating the throne in 1936Hitler becoming the German Chancellor in 1933 and the eventual Pearl Harbor attack in December 1941 (above).

There's a section called "A Day that Shook History" that seems to be, not from the weekly movie newsreel footage, but a brief overview of events after the fact.  For example the day the Chinese Communists took over China gives a slightly longer time line. It's not clear if these were produced to be shown in movie theaters or what.

This is how people's views of world events were shaped before television.  The newsreels themselves are a little formulaic and stuffy with a definite male and Western bias if you look at them to learn about what happened.  But for a sense of how news was packaged, it's interesting to explore.  And I expect there is a lot of interesting footage and pictures.

Here's a list from the categories pull down menu:
There's Programmes:

And there are photo archives with collections like Nerves of Steel where I got this photo:

From Pathé Photo Collection Nerves of Steel

Have fun exploring - especially in the very extensive WW I - the definitive collection

Arctic Terns Potter Marsh At Sunset

After a wonderful dinner with friends not far from Potter Marsh, we swung by to see what birds we could find.  Note the official time of sunset tonight in Anchorage was 10:46.  This picture was about ten minutes later.

Here's an arctic tern (as was the first one).  They fly between here and Antarctica and back each year.  They're such beautiful, sleek birds. 

This spot has terns and gulls nesting near each other.  Things were relatively calm, when all of a sudden the birds were all in the air screeching and flying this way and that.

And then I heard the unmistakeable croaking sound of a sandhill crane which flew over me, and I'm guessing disturbed the gulls and terns.  They're huge birds - wing span about 6 feet, probably a little less than bald eagles (though the web shows a variety of wingspans for bald eagles.)

[UPDATE May 18, 2014 noon:  Edgywytch comments below that sandhills eat tern and gull eggs.  The Crane Foundation website linked below says:

"All cranes are omnivorous. Sandhill Cranes are generalists and feed on a wide variety of plant tubers, grains, small vertebrates (e.g. mice and snakes), and invertebrates such as insects or worms. Sandhills find these foods in uplands and in shallow wetlands. Like most cranes, flightless chicks forage primarily on a diet of insects and other protein filled foods during their early stages of rapid growth. The Sandhill's tendency to feed on plant tubers creates conflicts with farming. Sandhill Cranes are adept at probing in the ground and finding planted agricultural seeds such as corn. When large flocks of cranes feed on planted fields, the damage they cause to an unprotected crop can be severe enough to force the farmer to replant the entire field. "]

Sandhill cranes are another great bird we get to see in Alaska.  You can read a lot more about them at the International Crane Foundation website.   I had my telephoto on and finding the bird in my camera and focusing in the fading light was beyond my ability and I'm a little embarrassed by how fuzzy the bird is in the next picture, but it gives you and idea of how big it is.  It's the white horizontal line in the picture.  I'm guessing it's approach is what upset the gulls and terns.  Since its wingspan is close to that of eagles, perhaps they originally thought it might be an eagle.  But that's merely a wild guess  - you'd think they should have learned to distinguish between the two.

It was pretty far away by the time I got this picture - about 11:05 pm.