Friday, October 31, 2014

Good Design Or Just An Accident?

This was the view from the room where the complexity presentation was held.  It's really a peaceful landscape.  What impressed me was . . . well look at the next picture.

Yes, there is a road that goes through this landscape.  But from this room, at least,  you don't see the road.  When there's no car, you don't even realize it's there.

So, I was wondering - was this designed this way?  Or just an accident?  From the second floor, you won't have this same illusion that it's just an unbroken field to the trees.

Now, on the way to the presentation, I did pass an accident.  There were at least two other cars behind me that were also involved.  I didn't see an ambulance and you couldn't crash much closer to the emergency room than this intersection right between UAA and Providence hospital.   Not sure how this car got in this position.  Well designed intersections have fewer accidents. 

And putting some thought into land use can avoid making terrible mistakes too.

At the complexity talk, Dr. Jamie Trammel's presentation was titled: Alternative Landscape Futures: Using Spatially-Explicit Scenarios to Model Landscape Change.

OK, that title sounds pretty academic.  Basically, he was looking at ways to look at land use by gathering data, then projecting maps of the landscape with different possible futures based on different conditions.  If you, for example, see where threatened species live, leave wilderness corridors, look at the best land for urban areas, you can make maps that show different possible land use patterns.  He gave examples from Australia, Las Vegas, and the Kenai Peninsula.   This slide probably gives a better sense of how this works. 

Clearly Trammel's work is to try to bring some sense and order to future land use rather than letting things just happen haphazardly.

This was the slide that I didn't quite understand and I didn't have a chance to ask him to explain it more fully.  But it's a diagram, as I understand it, for developing these alternative futures so that people can visualize all the data that normally is too dense for most people to make sense of. 

This is a little late, but UAA at 11:30 today - Alternative Landscape Futures

Title: Alternative Landscape Futures: Using Spatially-Explicit Scenarios to Model Landscape Change.
Presented by: Dr. Jamie Trammell. UAA. Geography and Environmental Studies.
When: October 31st 2014 11:30-12:45
Where: CPISB 105A (see map)
There are ways to strenuously stretch your mind  in Anchorage.  

Jamie was one of the new faculty I worked with a couple of years ago and this should be good.  Parking is free at UAA on Fridays.  The last one I went to, two weeks ago, was really good.  

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Don Young And The Non-Apology Apology

When I blogged the Alaska legislature in 2010, a staffer was treated very rudely by a committee chair.  Later, the staffer's boss told the chair to apologize.  What the staffer got was:  "I'm sorry you were offended."  The staffer was irate.  That wasn't an apology he told me, essentially that means, "I did nothing wrong, but if you were offended, I'm sorry."

I realized that he was right.  I hadn't really paid close attention to that phrase before.  But now I do. 

From today's Alaska Dispatch News:
A week ago, in a speech to the Alaska Federation of Natives, [Don Young] was “profoundly sorry for those that took offense at what I tried to say because they did not and will not take time to understand we have to stop” suicides.
Not only does he not own up to doing anything wrong, but he blames the people who were offended for not taking the time to understand.

He's got this routine down pat. 

From his press release on October 24, 2014:

“Because of my comments, I am profoundly and genuinely sorry for the pain it has caused the Alaskan people. I am genuinely sorry for the pain I have caused the individual, as I have experienced it, and hope that you won’t have to experience that.
Here again, he did nothing wrong, but he's sorry "my comments" caused pain.  The hidden message, "Get over it, you're overly sensitive."  He doesn't even apologize for the bad grammar which is excusable when talking, but not in press release.

I realize that Young is running for reelection next week and most people in such a situation would attempt to phrase the apology in the best light.  But sometimes the best light is to actually apologize.  People are starting to see through the fake apology.

In a Washington Post article in August 2014 titled GOP Rep. Don Young apologizes for strong-arming staffer we get another non-apology apology.
“While returning to the GOP conference meeting to discuss the ongoing situation on our southern border, I was caught off guard by an unidentified individual who was physically blocking me from re-entering the room,” Mr. Young, 81, said in a statement, Politico reported. “Regardless, my reaction was wrong, and I should have never placed my hands on the young man.”
 I was caught off guard - unidentified individual - physically blocking me.  Even though the Post calls it an apology, I don't see an apology.  I do see an acknowledgement that he did something wrong, but only after being severely provoked.  And no apology.  Maybe there was more that was edited out. 

Washington Post  March 29, 2013
“During a sit-down interview with Ketchikan Public Radio this week, I used a term that was commonly used during my days growing up on a farm in Central California,” he said, as reported by the Alaska Dispatch. “I know that this term is not used in the same way nowadays, and I meant no disrespect.”

This sort of non-apology apology actually has an entry in Wikipedia
A non-apology apology is a statement that has the form of an apology but does not express the expected contrition. It is common in both politics and public relations. It most commonly entails the speaker saying that he or she is sorry not for a behavior, statement or misdeed, but rather is sorry only because a person who has been aggrieved is requesting the apology, expressing a grievance, or is threatening some form of retribution or retaliation.

Contrition.  A good word. 

Winter Creeps In

When we got back to Anchorage Friday night, it was still warm enough to be comfortable in a fleece jacket over a shirt.  It was about 35˚F. I know for the people we left behind in LA, that sounded frigid.  But without much humidity and no wind, it's no big deal.

But it's dropped down a bit since and night time temps are down into the teens.  Still not too bad without wind and a good jacket, hat, and gloves.  But it does mean ice on the windshield.  There was an opaque crust Tuesday, but yesterday it was just this light pattern of crystals. 

One of the benefits of the rapid loss of daylight that comes this time of year, is that it's much easier to see the sunrise.  We do still have 8 hours and 40 minutes between sunrise and sunset, which means we still have three hours to lose in the next 50 days or so. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Awful Layout Design

I got to part B of the paper today and was startled to see this picture and headline.

These two stories just should not be placed together.  A picture of five family members matches the five people around the table above.  Someone wasn't paying attention.  I don't know enough about how the stories are laid out, but I know this is just wrong.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Heavy Early Voting Yesterday

I finally made it to vote early yesterday over on Gambell.  I got there about 1:30 pm.

I've never seen the early voting so crowded.  There were about eight people in line in front of me and all the voting booths were full.

People working there said last Monday (the first day of early voting) they had about 800 or 900 and they thought yesterday was going at the same pace.  That's about 100 voters per hour.  This is the main early voting spot in Anchorage, so there are people from all precincts.  And maybe I was there at a particularly crowded moment.  But candidates are trying to get their supporters to vote absentee or early.  

You can check the hours this week - through Sunday - at this link. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Big Outside Sullivan Backer Also Supports LGBT Rights, Immigration, Role Of Government

Things get curiouser and curiouser as Alice said.   As I was following the tracks on Paul Singer, a major donor to the Dan Sullivan campaign, identified as the money behind Opportunity PAC which is funding letters to folks in Anchorage that list their neighbors and their voting records, I discovered a much more complex man than the standard image of Rich White Republican Billionaire. 

Singer, according to this article has been a major backer of same-sex marriage.  He's also far more nuanced on the relationship between government and business - calling for regulation of financial sector.  He also has been a big supporter of immigration reform.  Here are some excerpts from the Washington Post article titled:
Meet the wealthy donor who’s trying to get Republicans to support gay marriage
. . .   Since 2010, Singer has spent more than $10 million trying to get states to legalize gay marriage and get Republicans to join the battle.
 He's not completely opposed to government regulation of the financial sector:
In April 2009, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal stating, "conservative opposition to any expanded role for government is a mistake. There is an urgent need for a new global regulatory initiative that addresses the primary cause of the financial collapse: highly leveraged and concentrated positions."
And on immigration:
"He also favors immigration reform, and gave a six-figure donation to the National Immigration Forum last year. "
It says he also gave a modest amount to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth - that highly deceitful ads that helped sink John Kerry's presidential bid.

He seems to be a competitor, into winning.  That's a mindset that reduces life to a game that often overlooks the damage that results.   The article says that as a hedge fund manager he's best known for distressed debt investments  (though the company does less of that now).  The article says:
In the summer of 2013, Singer told Institutional Investor's Alpha Magazine that forcing debt payment is a Singer-flavored form of activism. "We've made the point over and over again that sovereigns that could pay their debts and choose not to may be attempting to save some money but are harming their people and their economies by making investing in their countries more risky and more problematic and by discouraging foreign investment." In Singer's view, he isn't just forcing indebted companies and countries to pay up. He's trying to create a world where distressed debt doesn't exist.
Depending on your own views, that makes Singer an activist investor, or a "vulture capitalist."
I mention this in part because it displays the attitude to debt that David Graeber attacks in his book Debt: The First 5000 Years.  Graeber takes an historical view of the moral and business history of the idea that it's morally important to pay one's debts, especially third world countries whose debts were often obligated by dictators  who deposited most of the money in their foreign bank accounts.  The people who end up paying the debts are the struggling citizens who never would have approved the debt and who find foreigners prescribing the dismantling of what meager infrastructure and social supports the country has to pay wealthy first world banks and their rich investors. 

This is loansharking at the international level and how Singer apparently got the money he is now using to play power broker in American politics.

And why is supporting same-sex marriage?  According to the Washington Post article, that was
"first inspired by his son, who was married to his husband in Massachusetts — the first state to offer same-sex marriage."
But in politics, candidates rarely look too carefully at where their money comes from.  But I wonder how many of Sullivan's supporters know their candidate is getting lots of money from someone who helped to make same-sex marriage a reality in the US.   What does a Senator say to someone who's donated hundreds of thousands to his campaign.  I would imagine his door is always open and he's more than willing to help him get legislation that he wants.  OK, this is true for every politician who gets big donations.  But I don't think very many get such significant help from individuals.  Before Citizens United it was illegal.  You can compare Begich and Sullivan contributions at Open Secrets.  Singer's company is Elliot Management and he also was a big donor to Club For Growth.  And these seem to not include all the contributions to PACs that support the candidates. 

I also found out in my googling that Dermot Cole reported much of this back in February.

". . . mere birdsong in the bushes of things"

They’re looking at the name on a portrait in an old book,  and she wonders to herself, who was he? 
“Who was he, who was he?  Did he labour under the whip of his father, or was he treated with gentleness and respect?  Names, names, all passed away, forgotten, mere birdsong in the bushes of things.”
What an image to characterize the ephemeral existence of a human being - "mere birdsong in the bushes of things."   Such word magic caused me to sit up in bed and wonder in awe - both at the meaning of the image and at the mind of the writer.   

Roseanne McNulty lives in an Irish asylum.  She thinks she may be 100.  Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture paints her portrait using peripheral vision,  with shadows and reflections, with the movement of curtains in the wind, with the ripples on the water.   

Barry sees Roseanne and the people around her in ultra slow motion capturing the signals, invisible to most people observing at normal speeds, that, like pieces of bone to archeologists, reveal their souls.  It’s so slow.  So powerful.  So unlike the superficial flash we’re used to. 

Writing, through the eyes of Roseanne, about Dr. Greene, who looks after the patients in the asylum . . .
Then he sat there in his own version of silence for a long while.  He sat so long he was almost an inmate of the room!  As if he lived there himself, as if he had nowhere to go to, nothing to do, no one to attend. 

He sat in the chill light.  The river, drowned in its own water, and drowned a second time in the rains of February, was not in a position to throw its light.  The window-glass was severely itself.  Only the still grass of winter lent it a slight besmirch of green.  His eyes, now much clearer somehow and more distinct without the beard, were looking forwards as if at an object about a yard away, that stare that faces have in portraits.  I sat on the bed and without the slightest embarrassment watched him, because he wasn’t watching me at all.  He was looking into that strange place, the middle distance, the most mysterious, human, and rich of all distances.  And from his eyes came slowly tears, immaculate human tears, before the world touches them.  River, window and eyes.
Wow!  "[T]hat stare that faces have in portraits."  "[T]he most mysterious, human, and rich of all distances."  Barry sees the invisible. How much of life am I missing?

Over and over again he daubs images onto the page and I think, where did that come from and what’s it doing here?  And then he pulls it all together - “River, window and eyes.”

Here's another one. Roseanne reflects about her husband who fished for salmon.
Most of the time, he stood by the lake, watching the dark waters.  If he saw a salmon jumping, he went home.  If you see a salmon, you will never catch one that day.  But the art of not seeing a salmon is very dark too, you must stare and stare at the known sections where salmon are sometimes got, and imagine them down there, feel them there, sense them with some seventh sense.  My husband Tom fished for ten years for salmon in that way.  As a matter of record he never caught a salmon.  So if you saw a salmon it seems you would not catch one, and if you did not see a salmon you would not catch one.  So how would you catch one?  By some third mystery of luck and instinct, that Tom did not have.
Dark waters.  Barry paints with dark waters.  With "some third mystery of luck and instinct."  Where is this going, I’m thinking, and then I read on:
But that was how Dr. Greene struck me today, as he sat in silence in my little quarters, his neat form stretched out on the chair, saying nothing, not exactly watching me with his eyes, but watching me with his luck and instincts, like a fisherman beside dark water. 

Oh, yes, like a salmon I felt, right enough, and stilled myself in the deep water, very conscious of him, and his rod, and his fly, and his hook. 
The patient's view of the doctor!  It’s with these tiny brush strokes that Barry paints his portraits.  I’m not reading a book as much as watching a painter starting with a blank canvas.  He mixes his paints, he draws some lines on the canvas.  Slowly daubs marks here and there.  Slowly, slowly the thin pencil lines gain dark color and richness and the souls of people are revealed. 

This isn’t a book for everybody.  It's too slow.  We aren't use to paying painfully slow attention to amorphous signs.  To looking without looking.  I’d once recommended Yasunari Kawabata’s Snow Country  to a good friend.  He couldn’t finish the short novel.  His verdict, “Nothing happens.”  It’s inside that nothing that everything happens.  The same in The Secret Scriptures.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

My Voting Report Card - And Other Political Fliers

We were only gone from Sunday to Friday, but here's what was in our mail when it was delivered Saturday.   Up til now Alaska's never been a critical state.  Our outcomes were generally not close, nor would they impact the balance of the Senate.  It's not that much mail, about two pieces per day. 

Then there was this one.  My voting report card.

What?  Someone's grading my voting?  Well, someone was checking how often I vote.  I knew that campaigns do that, because they particularly target the people who vote all the time.  Do I didn't think too much about it until I saw this post at Immoral Minority that was citing a report at KTUU about letters to people telling them how often their neighbors vote - by name!   That's takes this a step further.  This one comes from America Votes, what appears to be a liberal PAC.   The letter with the neighbors' names and voting records apparently comes from The Opportunity Alliance PAC, conservative group.  At their website - Alaska Votes - you can plug in your address and see how often your neighbors vote.  KTUU cites the letter:
“This year, we’re taking a new approach,” ASVP members wrote. “We’re sending this mailing to you, your friends, your neighbors, your colleagues at work, and your community members to publicize who does and does not vote.”
It's not clear to me how long the organization has existed and thus whether the 'this year' is misleading or not.

The KTUU piece talks about people's outrage over their voting record being circulated like this.  This is public information, though it's tricky for members of the public to get it.  I know parties and candidates pay for lists of people's voting records.  I'm trying to think about reasons why people's voting record (whether they voted, not how they voted) should be kept secret or made public like this.  Would more people vote if this information was readily available?  I'm guessing they would.

But then this led to the backers of Opportunity Alliance PAC - mainly Paul Singer.  Now, he's an interesting person and I'll focus on that in another post soon. 

The Boot

A year ago I wrote about exercises I was doing in hopes of healing my heel and being able to run again.

Since then, despite the exercises, my heel's still a problem.  Most of the time I can walk without any more than a slight pressure that reminds me not to run.  I've substituted biking for running, but it's just not the same.

Once in a while the heel gets inflamed and becomes a serious hassle.  So I finally went back to the podiatrist.

He wasn't encouraging.  I'd done all the physical therapy exercises and it hadn't improved things. They were supposed to strengthen the calf muscles to take pressure off the Achilles tendon.  There's also a bone spur that the exercises weren't going to help and might be irritating the tendon. Well, he says surgery will fix it, probably, but no guarantees.  Naturally, I'm not too excited about that option and reminded him that he'd said a boot was the next step.  He doesn't hold out much hope for the boot, but it could help.  Since it's not urgent and I don't really see a good time in the near future for recovery, and since I need to do more research, I opted to try the boot.  This one is a product of Iceland.  Lots of velcro and the blue ball is a pump to tighten it more with air.

I took it with me to LA in September and did short term tests.  I could walk on it ok, but after a few days my knee hurt.  When you change your gait radically, other parts have to compensate.

So I started my four weeks for real not quite two weeks ago.  I thought I had a month at home to do this.  Did expect this last short trip to see my mom.  It started with six days of a corticosteroid.  I can't find anything online that explains exactly what the med was supposed to do. What I recall the doctor saying was it makes the muscle more pliable.  The boot is supposed to keep my heel from moving and it is pretty snug.  The boot's on all day except for the shower and driving - since it's my right foot.  And I'm not biking during this period.

Two weeks into full time boot and so far so good.  The test period was a good warning to be aware of how I'm compensating and this time there's been no knee problem or other issues.  TSA wasn't happy with my boot. When they rubbed the chemical tester on the boot, it tested positive.  Coming home, I just took it off and put it on the conveyor belt and walked very gently through the scanner.  I must have looked pitiful because the TSA guy asked if I could lift my arms for the scanner.

When I take it off at night, my foot feels good.  And I look at all the people around me who walk around without thinking how amazing it is to be able to walk.  They just take it for granted, as I have all my life.  And that's how it should be.  But it is a blessing that you realize only when you lose it. I wrote a post on that two years ago. 

 And I'm still very appreciative that my problem is relatively minor.  It could be a lot worse.  But I still have lots of research to do before I consent to surgery if this doesn't work. 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Real Alaska - New Book You Probably Won't See In Your Local Bookstore

Image from email from Thanachart
Unless you live in Thailand.  But maybe we can convince a few Anchorage stores to stock it.

Thanachart (Benz)    Siripatrachai first came to Alaska last December (2013) along with his award winning short documentary The Words I Love.  He's a Thai who was finishing film school
in New York City and he stayed with us a few of the days he was in Anchorage.  Here's my post including a video where he declares his love of Alaska.

Then in April 2014 he sent me a copy of his book New York First Time and a link to a video he'd made to promote the book.  It had, at the time over two million hits!  The book went to the top of the Thai best seller list.

Later he sent me another email saying he was coming back to Alaska because his publisher wanted him to do a book on Alaska, because, he said, there aren't many in Thai.  So he was back in Alaska this summer and we got to see him again for a couple of the days he was here. 

So, now the Alaska book is out.  If it's anything like the New York book, it will have lots of photos, chapter titles and headings in English, and the main text will be in Thai.  It will be humorous and the language will be a little spicy.

He said he'll send me a copy when he gets back to New York from Thailand where he's promoting the book at the National Book Fair in Bangkok.

Image from email from Thanachart
I'm going to try to convince him that some of the books should be on sale in Alaska.  I'm sure some people would buy it, even if they can't read it all.  And there's a sizable Thai-Lao community here who can read it.

This page shows the monk at the Thai Buddhist temple on D St just north of Fireweed.  They have lots of Thai readers and I'm sure this is one of the first books to cover their temple.  The money tree in the picture is covered with donations from many different countries.  (Benz didn't get to the temple last December, but I made sure he got there on his summer trip.)

Below is a picture Benz sent me of him signing his books at the Thai Book Fair.  He's sitting in the center in the dark blue shirt.

Image from email from Thanachart

His video for the New York 1st Time book made him something of a celebrity in Thailand, so I suspect this book on Alaska will get a lot more attention than such a book normally would.  I'm pretty sure the title is tongue-in-cheek, but we may see an uptick in Thai visitors to Alaska.

And none of this would have happened without the Anchorage International Film Festival (which will be Dec. 5-14 this year) which got Benz to Alaska for the first time. 

Friday, October 24, 2014

"They can afford 'em, but they can't drive 'em"

That was the announcement on the ferry loudspeaker system.  There had been a series of loud blasts of the deeeep horn and we'd come to a stop.  Then I looked up to see the cause of the noise and the crew's derision.

The sailboat was no longer in danger of being run over by the ferry.   Is public shaming over the ferry loudspeakers a suitable activity for a public entity like the Bainbridge Ferry?  I suspect not, but I suspect it made the announcer feel a little better.  Will it make the little boat's driver change?  I suspect forcing the ferry to stop was embarrassing enough. 

But we enjoyed the warm sunny crossing into Seattle last Sunday after a family visit on a long layover on the way to LA.  Here's a shot of us approaching the dock in Seattle.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Incumbency Is Not Forever: The Difference Between A 'Nobody' And A Congressman Young Is Just Votes

The way labels affect how people treat each other has always fascinated me.  When I was a doctoral student and teaching my first graduate classes, I tried an experiment that was very revealing, though not completely successful at first.

The Experiment 

I was young and I looked younger.  I came to the first class and sat down just like all the other students.  I had arranged for someone to come in and say the instructor asked that the students divide into groups of four and talk about what they expected from a graduate class.  I went off with one of the groups as though I were an MPA student like everyone else.  Which I had been until just a year earlier.

When we got back into the class, there was a discussion led by the students.  My voice was not given any more deference than anyone else's and a few people vigorously disagreed with what I said.  When I tried to transition from the exercise to getting the class to move on, students resisted.  Finally, I went to the front of the class and declared I was the instructor.  Some people laughed.  Others told me to sit down. Slowly, my identification and status in people's heads changed.  I apologized for the deception, but said I couldn't think of a better way to make an important point.   How we treat people is based on all sorts of labels and social instructions we get.  I pointed out I had been a masters degree student not long ago and that I wasn't much different from any of them and that's how they treated me at the beginning of class.  But now that they learned I was the class instructor, they treated me differently and thought about me differently.  In reality, I was the same person.  But in their heads I was a different person. 

Most of the students got the point and took it in the spirit I intended: it was a learning experience about how we know things and treat people.  But one student, who refused to even give her name when I asked everyone to introduce themselves, went to the dean to complain.  She was sure that I would retaliate against her for things she said when she thought I was a student.  Fortunately, the dean knew me and he convinced her my intent was good and to stick with it.  At the end of the semester she invited the whole class to a party at her house.

I tell you this story because we think of people in special positions - teachers, police officers, doctors, elected officials - as somehow specially anointed.   And in their roles, they do have some special authority in certain areas and we are expected to give them deference consistent with those roles.  And they are expected to fill those roles with an appropriate level of dignity and respect. But the special stuff applies only when they are acting in those roles.  The rest of the time, they are just human beings like the rest of us.

Alaska's Congressional Race Between Don Young and Forrest Dunbar

I say all this because Alaska has a Congress Member who has been in that role since 1974.  He's been the Congressman from Alaska for the lifetime of both my kids.  But, he's just a human being, though it appears that he no longer sees a difference between his official role and his private self.  And he doesn't particularly stick to the level of decorum expected of a Congress Member.  In fact, he's a pretty fallible human being as he most recently demonstrated at Wasilla High School.

Yet despite his bizarre behavior over the years, Alaskans have continued to reelect him.

Partly, because he is a pretty smart guy, who has been able to pull himself together when it counted.  When he debated Ethan Berkowitz in the US House race in 2008, for example, he had facts at his finger tips, he was charming and funny, and he handily took the debate, much to many people's surprise.  He wasn't the bumbling clown some expected.

But I also think that voters are dazzled by the pixie dust that transforms incumbents into a special, superior species.  But they are just normal humans, with more power.

This year Young's opponent, Forrest Dunbar, is an extraordinary, ordinary human being.  But a lot of people looking at him might think, well, ok, but he's nobody. How can he transform into "Congressman?"  That just means they haven't done their homework and found out who he is.  After all, there was a time when Don Young was just as 'nobody.'

In fact, all of the next ten presidents of the United States are now alive and many, if not most, are living their lives as relative 'nobodies.'  You could probably set up lunch dates with most of them.  They are just people.  But at some point they will morph from just people into "The President."

 The 'nobody' who is challenging Don Young this year is just like you and me - some guy from Alaska.  And if he were elected, he'd stay a genuine guy, I'm sure.  He's like me in class as a student, before I became, in their eyes, the instructor.

Here's what the Alaska Public Media said about Dunbar:

He spent his pre-school years in the Yukon River town of Eagle, cutting his teeth on caribou while his father worked as a Fish and Game biologist.  After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the family moved to Cordova, where Dunbar says they had running water for the first time. . . 

Dunbar spent summers working on a commercial fishing boat and was an exchange student in Japan. A high school teacher, Tim Walters, remembers him as determined.
“Forrest was intense. And he was serious,” Walters says.
He says it was obvious, even then, that Dunbar was going places.

“In a teacher’s career, there’s usually a handful of students that really kind of stand out, that ‘Some day,’ you say to yourself, ‘they’re going to be on the cover of Time magazine.’ And Forrest was one of those kids,” Walters says.

Dunbar went on to an East Coast education:  Undergrad at American University in Washington. Harvard for a Master’s in public policy, Yale for law school. He fought wildfires out of Fairbanks for a summer and served in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan. He was an intern for then-Sen. Frank Murkowski in Washington. He worked for Guam’s delegate to Congress. He worked in the Alaska Office of Public Advocacy. Last year, he joined the Alaska National Guard, as an officer and an attorney — a JAG.
He's a pretty special 'nobody.'

People vote for Young for all their own special reasons.  But if anyone is thinking, "yeah but the other guy's nobody" well I'm writing this to say
  1. Everyone is nobody until they suddenly become somebody - as I was just another student in my class until I became 'the instructor'
  2. Don Young was nobody until he got elected
  3. One day, a nobody will replace Don Young
  4. Forrest Dunbar is one perfect candidate for Alaska's sole US House seat - he was raised in rural and small town Alaska, he was educated in some of the best universities in the US, he's got experience in Washington DC, and he's got international experience.
  5. Dunbar is far, far better prepared to be a Congress member than Young was in 1973
Young has criticized Dunbar as immature.  I think he was referring to his being only being 29.  But I'd point out that Alexander the Great was 32 when he died and Jesus was 33.

Don Young's recent arrogance at Wasilla High School should convince people that he really needs to retire.  'But what's the alternative?" 

I'm here to assure folks that we have a very viable replacement who would change our lone Congress Member's office from an embarrassment to the state to one that will bring honor to Alaska.

It's all a matter of people getting their head around the idea of what makes a nobody a somebody.

Incumbency Is Not Forever

And that change can happen.  Here's an example from the LA Weekly Voter Guide:
A year ago, Lee Baca was considered a favorite to win re-election to a fifth term as sheriff. Historically, incumbent sheriffs have needed only to be able to fog up a mirror in order to win. And though Baca was beset by scandals in the county jails, it was an open question whether voters would care. How times change. After 18 sheriff’s officials were indicted last December, Baca was forced to resign.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Parnell Still Doesn't Get It - Response To Sandy Parnell's Commentary

9/5/14 Governor Finally Sack Katkus After National Guard Bureau Office of Complex Investigations (OCI) Report On Sexual And Other Abuse

10/4/14 "Governor Says He Responded To Every allegation but was misled by leaders."

10/9/14 What Did He Know And When Did He Know It? Still The Relevant Questions

I've already written too many posts on Sean Parnell's reaction to the National Guard scandal. 

But when I read Sandy Parnell's commentary in today's ADN, I couldn't help but do one more.

Here are some things she says that beg a response.

"I was with my husband, Sean, when he got the call in February with concrete information that called the Alaska guard command into question."
"concrete information"  -  Anyone with concrete information knows you have to act.  But sexual abuse victims and their advocates rarely walk in with concrete information.  It's the nature of the crime that it's done in secret and without witnesses and without much evidence.

The governor is supposed to be a savvy person who can judge people and situations and then can act appropriately.  The governor, in this case for sure, misjudged people and didn't know what to do.

It's like going to the doctor. A good doctor will diagnose the symptoms, do the necessary tests, and get you cured before you go to stage three.  But when the patient came in to see Sean Parnell, he said, "there's no concrete evidence."  He let the cancer in the Guard fester and grow causing far more pain and anguish than had he treated it right away.  He simply didn't know what tests to perform to get the evidence needed, so he said there was none.

Doctors go through hellishly intense schooling.  Politicians just need enough money and backing to get elected.  Fortunately for politicians, there's usually not much concrete evidence of their bad judgments either.  Nor can they be sued for malpractice.  Unfortunately for Parnell, the evidence of his incompetence has been spelled out pretty clearly.  And an upcoming election is the political version of a malpractice suit.

The point here is that when the Guard came to see Dr. Parnell, the Guard was sent home, and presumably didn't even get an aspirin.

"I am thankful that the bureau’s OCI responded so quickly and so professionally when my husband called for this independent, outside investigation."
Yes, too bad Sean Parnell didn't act that quickly and professionally back in 2010.
"The insinuation by some that Sean would not take action is wrong. That is not who my husband is, and that’s not what I have seen him do. He took action, immediately, every time. When he got the facts, he acted. With every specific allegation of assault, he followed up personally.
I believe that Sean and Sandy Parnell believe this.  Unfortunately, the action he took was inadequate and ineffective.  That's why people are upset.  The governor wasn't up to the task and people at the Guard suffered another four years, before real action was taken.  
My husband is committed to protecting the integrity of their mission, and ensuring they can carry out their work for all Alaskans in an atmosphere that is safe, with accountable leadership.
 Again, I believe Sandy believes this.  Again, that's nice, but we need a governor who is as competent as he is committed.  We don't have that.

I realize that it's hard for anyone to admit incompetence.  It's particularly hard for a politician several weeks before an election.  Good intentions aren't enough.  You also need the ability to take timely, decisive, and effective action.

The governor can't blame this on a divided legislature, because it's not divided.  It's full of his fellow Republicans.  And because this was something the governor could have and should have handled all on his own. 

One more comment on that first quote:
"I was with my husband, Sean, when he got the call in February with concrete information that called the Alaska guard command into question."
Allegations of sexual abuse require a high degree of confidentiality.  These aren't things you should share with people not directly responsible for acting, including the First Lady.  Governor Palin was criticized for including Todd in policy issues.   I say this, recognizing that the relationship between a husband and wife is special.  Spouses need counsel from each other.  But if that happens, the spouse's role is to never disclose what he or she knows.  Like in a commentary in the newspaper where she acts as a witness to what her husband learned and when.   

Fresh Keta Salmon

We saw this in the market yesterday here in LA.  I asked the man what Keta Salmon was and where it was from.  All he could say was "USA."   "Is it Alaskan?"  He didn't know.  And it didn't say.

I know a bunch of names for different kinds of salmon, but Keta isn't one of them.

It turns out it's chum or dog salmon.

From Wild Pacific Salmon: (a seafood marketing site)

Wild Alaskan Keta Salmon

Keta (Chum) Salmon

Scientific Name: Oncorhynchus Keta

Market Names: Chum, Keta, Silverbrite

Vernacular Names: Dog Salmon, Calico Salmon, Chub, Keta Salmon

Description: Keta Salmon have greenish-blue backs with silver splashes in the tail. It looks very similar to a Sockeye salmon when ocean fresh. Keta salmon range from 6-17 pounds and are mature at 3-6 years old. The Keta salmon has very light colored flesh and is very mild in flavor.
It's no wonder they don't sell it as dog or chum salmon.  Chum is, as I recall, the least desirable salmon, and that's confirmed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game:
General Description
Chum salmon, also known as dog salmon, are the most widely distributed of all the Pacific salmon and generally occur throughout Alaska. Like most other Pacific salmon species, chum salmon spend most of their life feeding in saltwater, then return to freshwater when mature to spawn once in the fall then die. Most chum salmon populations do not travel far upstream to spawn; however, some travel up to 2,000 miles upstream to the headwaters of the Yukon River. Although generally regarded as one of the less desirable species of salmon, in Arctic, Northwestern, and Interior Alaska, chum salmon are highly prized as a traditional source of dried winter food. Since the 1980s, commercial chum salmon harvests in Alaska have more than doubled as a result of the Alaska hatchery program and increased foreign sales.

Is this an Alaskan product?  They aren't advertising it as such. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Exploring The World With Fresh Eyes

We're back in unexpectedly in LA because my mom was having a downspell and we decided we should come back.  Ninety two offers challenges.  Things aren't going to get dramatically better and there is a steady stream of health adventures.  She's doing better though she's weaker than she was a month ago. 

I was able to schedule our trip down to include a long layover in Seattle to see our daughter and granddaughter.  And we got a beautiful warmish fall day.  I got to go to the park with the little one.  She's pushing two now. There are lots of words.  Quizical looks.  Big smiles.  We walked over to the playground,  looked at lots of stuff, rode on the swings, went down the slide, and just explored the world.  Here are some things we saw. 

Here's the mystery fruit.  It was about the size of a ping pong ball, with little spines all over it.  There's a smaller one in the background.  My google search, even a reverse photo search, didn't come up with a name.  Or whether it was edible.  I'm hoping someone out there will know it. 

She can say pine cone now and so she chose this one to examine.  My pocket camera is, it turns out, also a sort of microscope so we could look a little closer. 

(I have to admit, this is not my childhood image of pine cones.  My pine cone is rounder, harder, with sharp tips.)

Then we had to lay all our treasures out on the picnic table in the park.

But it wasn't just biology that interested her.  As we went back home she pointed out some features she wanted me to take pictures of. 

The pipe coming out of the wall.

And then the sewer cover. 

And the drain.

And then we looked a little closer to see the reflection in the water down below.

Getting to spend time with this magical child (I'm not claiming any special magic in my granddaughter, they're all magical, in fact we are all magical, but it's so much easier to see when they're little like this and not hiding it) is a great energy boost on my way to seeing my mom.  And my mom enjoys the pictures I bring her of her great granddaughter. 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Monetizing Ebola

Some people see everything in terms of whether they can turn it into money.  An empty lot, a disaster, older folks who aren't as sharp as they once were, and now Ebola. 

I got this in my emailbox this morning:

  From sort Date sort   Subject sort Size sort
Ebola Bulletin Oct 19, 2014   Shocking Revelations from Ebola Expert 27 k

I'd seen an article or post on people exploiting Ebola, but the email above was the first direct contact I'd had.

My first reaction was - how low can you go?   How despicable must you be to use Ebola to victimize others for personal gain?

But I don't think it's quite that simple.  I can think of at least two factors at play here. 

First, there are people who, for whatever reason - no conscience, no empathy for other people, or personal desperation, or whatever else - think nothing of scamming people for their own personal gain.

Second, a society that values money above most everything else.  It doesn't matter how unscrupulously people make money in our society (and much of the world), if it's not illegal or if you don't get caught, the money gives you a veneer of respectability.  Certainly money can buy you all the facades of respectability and it can even buy you a 'get out of jail free card.' But I can envision a society where such bad behavior would so taint the money one gained that far fewer people would be tempted.

Until we find a cure for conscience numbing conditions like  psychopathy  we're going to have people among us without a conscience, thus unconstrained from the kinds of social and moral constraints that keep most people from exploiting others. 

But we can make people accountable for how they made their money.  We can give other factors - decency, less monetizable skills and talents, helpfulness, etc. - more respect and power in our society than we currently do. 

Every time we do something that gives respect to people simply for having money, regardless of how they get it, we support the culture of wealth worship.  Every time we click the teaser links on every monetized website that take us to trivial information, we reward this kind of mentality. 

Unless, of course,  people start using that method to exploit the exploiters.  How about teasers like "The Ten Slimiest Ways the Koch Brothers Make Money" or "Frank Murkowski's Wealth Analyzed, Dollar By Dollar"?  Teasers that lead us to solidly researched information that helps us better understand why some people have more power than it seems they should. 

I'm still thinking about possible legitimate ways to profit from Ebola - drug companies that make legitimate cures, comedians who profit from Ebola jokes (if their joke make people think, it's probably ok), media coverage of Ebola.  But that's tricky, as can be see from this MediaMatters piece entitled  Right-Wing Media Exploit Ebola Outbreak In West Africa To Spread Immigration Fears.

Basically, I think the kinds of people who send out emails like I got - I didn't even open it by the way - are despicable.  I'm just trying to point out though that people aren't despicable in a vacuum.  The more we understand the factors that make them do despicable things, the greater our likelihood of figuring out ways to reduce the number of people doing them.   

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Lost Causes Are The Only Ones Worth Fighting For" - Should Parnell Keep Fighting Same-Sex Marriage?

A lot of people are criticizing Governor Parnell's decision to continue to appeal the rulings allowing same-sex partners to get married in Alaska.  Mainly, they argue, given the Ninth Circuit and US Supreme Courts' recent actions, appealing is a lost cause.  But are no lost causes  worth fighting for?  Which ones would you fight for?  Which wouldn't you?  And what factors make the difference?   I'm going to start that discussion in this post.

"Lost Causes Are The Only Ones Worth Fighting For"

After the death of a US senator in the movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington Mr. Smith (Jimmy Stewart)  is  appointed to take his place. His hero is the senior Senator from his state, Mr. Paine.  But Smith learns that Mr. Paine is supporting corrupt legislation and Smith filibusters to stop the legislation.  Near the end of the filibuster, tired and near collapse, Mr. Smith says:
"I guess this is just another lost cause, Mr. Paine. All you people don't know about lost causes. Mr. Paine does. He said once they were the only causes worth fighting for,  and he fought for them once, for the only reason that any man ever fights for them."
Here's the clip of that scene:

What Exactly Does It Mean?

"Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for."  If might be good rhetoric, but it really doesn't make any sense.  It implies that good causes that  have a chance of winning aren't worth fighting for.  That's clearly not the case.  It's a phrase, spoken passionately though, that might sway an unthinking audience

And it wasn't the last word on lost causes in the movie either  If you watched the video clip to the end, you heard that Jimmy Stewart didn't stop there.  He gives a rule for why you fight lost causes.
". . .   for the only reason that any man ever fights for them. Because of just one plain,  simple rule, "Love thy neighbor,"     

That makes a lot more sense, but again, this is rhetoric.  It sounds good.  "Love thy neighbor" is a sentiment many will agree with (until they think about the neighbor who leaves his barking dog outside in the cold all day) but is it really the only reason to fight lost causes?

I'm going to end this post here and in a near (I hope) future post, try to come up with a model of lost cause situations.  I've already come up with a list of different situations that onlookers might label a lost cause.  I'll try to tease out of these examples, a way to evaluate how noble any specific lost cause situation is. 

Here are a couple I've thought of so far:
  1. Searching for a missing child, all leads are cold, and the odds of finding her now are low to nil.
  2. Fighting an armed battle, grossly outnumbered and outgunned, against an enemy who tortures and kills their captives.
  3. Refusing to divulge information about your fellow rebels to your torturer. 
  4. Refusing to accept a plea bargain because you know you are innocent, even though there are witnesses who swear they saw you and you’ll get life, when you could bargain for a lighter sentence. 
Then when the model is complete, we can apply it to the Governor's insistence that he must spend state resources to fight the overturning of the same sex marriage ban in court.

One friend I chatted with about this said I was making this too complicated.  It's just about power and the election.  That may well be the case.  But I hate to jump to conclusions about other people's intentions.  And such a model surely will have usefulness in other situations. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

AIFF 2014: Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Hungary, Poland - Some Countries Getting Features Into Anchorage International Film Festival 2014

The Anchorage International Film Festival is just around the corner - Dec. 5 - 14.  The films selected for the festival recently were announced, and if I weren't ping-ponging between Anchorage and LA to look in on my mom, I would have had this up earlier.  But here's a quick look at the features selected.  Those checked as being "In Competition" were selected by the judges to be in the running for a Golden Oosik Award.

You can check out the AAIF website to get more details of these films and information about the films in the other categories.

Feature, at AIFF, means 'fiction films over 55 minutes.'


Title Director(s) Country Runtime In Competition

6 Bullets To Hell Tanner Beard Spain, USA 80m
The Ambassador to Bern Attila Szász Hungary 77m
Appropriate Behavior Desiree Akhavan USA 90m
Come to My Voice [Were Denge Min] Huseyin Karabey France, Germany, Turkey 90m
I Believe In Unicorns Leah Meyerhoff USA 80m
Kurmanjan Datka [Queen of the Mountains] Sadyk Sher-Niyaz Kyrgyzstan 136m
Listening Khalil Sullins USA 98m
The Lookalike Richard Gray USA 100m
Mr. Intangibles Ben Bolea USA 82m
Porch Stories Sarah Goodman Canada 73m
Rocks In My Pockets Signe Baumane USA, Latvia 88m
Sacrifice Michael Cohn USA 105m
The Secret Sharer Peter Fudakowski United Kingdom, Poland 103m
Teacher of the Year Jason Strouse USA 82m
These Hopeless Savages Sean Lewis USA 87m

It's That Time

Birch and Amur Maple Leaves


Amur Maple

Dantzing With Pollsters - Follow Up

Yesterday I did a  post about ways to respond to political pollsters that raises questions like what do you owe telephone survey folks?  The only things I said you owe them are some respect and friendliness, because it's not an easy job.  I just got a call from a local Anchorage number - 268 2121.  It's a bit late for calls, but I answered it.

Caller:  May I speak to Steve?
Me:  Whose calling?
Caller:  Tanya.  I'm from MRS.
Me:  [She sounded tired, and remembering my advice, I answered in a very friendly]     Hi Tanya, how are you doing tonight?  What is MRS and where are you?
Tanya:  McQuire Research Service, in Nevada.

Well she was clearly pleased to get a friendly response and, in her words, "not to be yelled at."  But I did tell her about yesterday's blog post and she asked if I wanted to do the survey.  Since she'd identified her company, which I'd said yesterday legit pollsters should do,  I said, 'Sure."

Tanya:  How likely are you to vote next month?
Steve:   Barring getting hit by a bus . . . you know Tanya, actually, I plan to vote next Monday when early voting starts.  So I'm definitely voting in October, not next month.
Tanya:   . . . .
Steve:  If I say I'm not voting next month, that ends the survey, doesn't it?
Tanya:  Yes . . .
Steve:  I guess they didn't write the question very well, because I'm sure they don't care when I vote, do they?  But since I'm not going to vote next month, and I answered honestly 'no,' you have to end this right?
Tanya:  Yes,

I thought I heard an unspoken, "but . ."

I hope she still gets paid, even though we only did the first question.  But she shouldn't be penalized if people don't plan to vote.  That's information too.  I should have asked her. 

[OK, this post is sort of a stall.  I'm working on several longer posts that aren't quite right yet, and this seemed like an easy filler.  But if you didn't see the original post Dantzing With Pollsters, that has a little more meat.

I don't generally watch television or listen to much AM radio, so I'm relatively spared a lot of the political advertising.  The mailed advertising doesn't make noises and is easy to put into the recycle bin.

But I noticed tonight, getting a Youtube clip for a post I'm working on, that I got a Dan Sullivan ad linking Mark Begich to Obama before the video.  But I had to play the video several times and then I got Begich ads with a women talking about how Sullivan would interfere between her and her doctor at her clinic. 

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Complexity Talk Human-Environment Interactions - And Free Maps

I'm on the mailing list for the UAA complexity series.

I realize this is a specialized topic, but I've always found the complexity presentations particularly interesting.  The talks are designed for an interdisciplinary audience.  It's free and Fridays offer free parking on campus. 

Title: Spatially Explicit Modeling of Human-Environment Interactions.
Presented by: Dr. Frank Witmer. UAA. Computer Science and Engineering
When: Friday,  October 17th 2014 11:30-12:45
Where: CPISB 105A 

Abstract: Modeling complex human-environment interactions can take many forms.  Most of the data we use to inform our models has a spatial dimension to it, even if it is not recorded as an attribute in the dataset. This presentation discusses the importance of explicitly incorporating the spatial dimension when modeling human-environment relationships.  Some common modeling approaches using simulation and regression will be discussed before looking at an example from my research modeling climate variability and violence in sub-Saharan Africa.

Note:  The names of buildings at the university are difficult enough, but then when they become acronyms they are almost impossible.   This talk is in CPISB.  I figured the B was for building.   What mnemonic device can I use to remember this? I didn't have to think.  It jumped right out.   See Piss Building.  So I immediately thought of this famous Belgian statue. Mannekin Pis, which should be on top of the building.

Image (and there are many more) from Minube

I looked it up.  Probably this should be on top of the building:  Conoco-Philips Integrated Science Building.   It's back behind the library. 

And  Free Maps

I also got a link to the USGS site which announces:

Nearly Every USGS Topo Map Ever Made. For Free.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has been producing detailed topographic maps for more than 125 years. Today they are nearly all digitized and free to download through the USGS Map Store, an incredible treasure trove for both map junkies and casual hikers alike.

Dantzing With Pollsters

I didn't answer, waiting for them to leave a message.  They called twice yesterday.  Once he must have been paying attention to something else and missed the message because he said, "Steve?"  six or seven times on voice mail.

But they left no messages.  I googled "Dantz 925 948 9469" and got 2012 stuff at 800Notes:

"R Squared
Just got a call today from that number. This is research center conducting statistics for the upcoming elections. The agent asks: "are you going to vote during the upcoming elections?" And you answer yes or no. That was it.
Caller: Research Center
Call Type: Survey"

This number has called me several times in the past few days. I don't pick up and they don't leave a message. I tried calling back, but it said the number wasn't in service."
Why are they calling?

Well, basically, they are calling you to get information from you that they get paid to gather.

OK, pollsters call for different reasons.

  1. On the top of the pecking order (for me)  are academic researchers who are trying gain understanding of some issue or human behavior and the results of their research will be available to all and might give us more insight into how the world works.
  2.  Political pollsters whose data are available to anyone.  They are trying to get a handle on a coming election or some other issue.  And to improve their reputations so clients will pay them to do private polls. 
  3.  Pollsters who get paid by a political candidate so that candidate can see how close the election is and to figure out the best way to reach voters with his message or get voters to actually vote.

  4. Pollsters who get paid by PACs or other political operators who want to figure out how to get a particular candidate elected or a particular initiative to pass or be defeated.

It's not unreasonable during an election, to try to get a sense of how likely it is for one candidate or another to win, especially if you are one of the candidates.  Nor is it unreasonable for candidates to try to get a sense of which issues are most important to the voters.  But some candidates do this more honorably than others.

And nowadays, when outside PACS have tens of millions of dollars to spend to manipulate an election, things get less honorable and reasonable.

What Do You Owe The Pollsters?

They're making money off of your information.  You didn't invite them to call.  In fact you may even be on the "do not call registry."  While I think there can be a public benefit for answering the calls of academic pollsters, and there are honest politicians who are legitimately gathering information to better get their message out (rather than to pander to whatever the voters seem to want to hear),  it's hard to tell which pollster is which.

A good, legitimate pollster will tell you which organization they work for, but not necessarily who their client is, particularly if it's a political poll.  Knowing the client might bias the respondent's answers.

Basically, I've come to the conclusion that I don't owe them answers.  I don't owe them picking up the phone, answering their questions, or if I do answer, I don't have an obligation to tell the truth. 

I do owe them a modicum of respect and friendliness.  After all, these are people who are trying to earn a living in difficult economic times.  Of course, this goes with all transactions.  And if they are not respectful or friendly back, you don't even owe them this.  Though, staying polite, if uncooperative, shows them you are a nobler person.

Can You Have Fun With Pollsters?

Happiness is all about finding the positive in what you encounter in life.  Look toward these calls as an opportunity to be playful.  Some options.

Pollster:  Hello, I'd like to ask you some questions about the upcoming election.
Answer:  No problem, I charge $120 per hour, with a 15 minute minimum.  Send me a $30 check and when you call back I'll be happy to answer for up to 15 minutes.

Pollster:  Hello, I'd like to ask you some questions about the upcoming election.
Answer:  And I'd like to ask you some questions too.   Let me ask you some questions and depending on your answers, I'll then let you ask me.
1.  Who do you work for and where are you calling from?  [This one they should answer - at least the polling company, not the client]
2   And what client is paying you to do this poll?
3.  How much are you getting paid per hour?
4.  If your company is getting paid and you're getting paid for my information, don't you think it is reasonable that I get paid too?

Pollster:  Hello, I'd like to ask you some questions about the upcoming election.
Answer:  Sure, no problem, but I don't promise to answer honestly.  [This has sometimes ended the call and other times not.]

Pollster:  Hello, I'd like to ask you some questions about the upcoming election.
Answer:  Hey, I'm sorry that the economy is so bad that you've had to stoop to making these kinds of calls.  What did you do before?  or What is your degree in?

If you get a particularly nasty push poll (where they give you leading questions and the poll isn't to get information, but to influence your vote by slandering a candidate) you can
1.  record the call (in Alaska it's legal to record a call if one party knows it's being recorded - for an overview of this one-party consent nationally see here) and then send the recording to the slandered candidate so they know what's going on.  If both parties must consent in your state, you can simply tell them "I hope you don't mind but I record all my calls" or you can just ask if they mind and if they do, say, "Sorry then. Goodbye."
2.  move to your computer and type up their scripts as they read them.  You can ask them to slow down and repeat questions because you can't hear them or because you need to think about it.  You can make a 30 second call take five minutes.  It will drive them crazy.  And you can send your transcript of the questions to the candidate they are trashing.

Another activity is to try to get the pollster off their script.  If it's a legitimate poll, they should be asking each person the exact same question and not give any extra information, except to repeat the question.  But these folks have been doing a lot of calling and they can get bored and might be susceptible to a little subterfuge of their polls.

Again, try to ascertain what kind of poll it is.  The most reputable will tell you who they are and possibly what the poll is about (if that doesn't bias the information.)  For instance:

Pollster:  Hi, I'm calling from the University of X and I'd like to ask you some questions about health care.  The information will be confidential, your name will not be on the response sheet I keep, though we will have a coded identifier. 

But remember, a lot of university polling is done, not really for academic research, but because the university is being paid by a client to gather the information.  Sometimes this might be for a state agency, other times it could be for a private company.  You can ask and if they won't tell, you can politely decline.

Make this into a little dance of wits.  A game you play with the pollsters.  With a little imagination you can change how you view pollsters, change them from a nuisance into   pollsterade.  Think of each new call as a challenging game.  Some of the callers will enjoy it too if you're polite and clever about it. 

One more catch - robot calls.  You can't play with them usually because they aren't programed to hear you.  The best I can think to do is just not respond and make them use up as much time as possible before they automatically hang up.  If they do respond to voice, tell them you only respond to real people. Or try "Operator" to get a real person.  But don't hold your breath. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Speaking of Conspiracies - "I cannot be certain that they were all humans"

I got this email yesterday.  Generally these go straight to junk, but with the conspiracy theme in my head, I decided to look.  These people should either be getting psychiatric help and/or writing science fiction, except there's no science involved.  This is just an excerpt.
After I prayed today with a friend, our Blessed Saviour gave me several visions relative to the ebola plague, its spread in this nation and also its spread in some other nations. . .
After seeing this nation, which seemed to be covered in blood, I saw piles of dead people. The dead seemed to pile up so quickly! In great heaps, they were piled up! Then, I saw workers, who took the dead, who were stashed in plastic bags, and they began to toss the heaps of dead bodies into open box cars and onto long flat-bed trucks. Thereafter, I saw them unload masses of these dead bodies and throw them into empty houses and set afire those houses, which were stacked with dead bodies and they burned the bodies and the houses together! Then, I saw these workers take more bodies and throw them into square pits, which had concrete bottoms and concrete sides, but were otherwise open pits and on top of the bodies, they poured accelerants and set afire these bodies and burned them in this way.
After I received the above part of this vision, I then was taken into an underground base and there I saw the President of this nation. Along with him were a small group of people, though I cannot be certain that they were all humans; and I say this because of the high-reptile hybrids, who look like humans. However, they are not human, but can be up to 99% reptilian and they are very great enemies of all people.
I watched them there and I knew that they were in the midst of a plot, a very great plot, indeed; and that plot was to determine how to spread this virus among the people in this nation at a more alarming rate. I saw what they plotted, at least some of it, and firstly I saw that they were planning to put this virus into packaged meat in some of the grocery stores. Then, I saw that they were plotting to put some of this virus into open reservoirs of drinking water. Then, I saw that they were plotting to release terrorists into shopping centers, who would run quickly from one to another shopper and inject certain of these unsuspecting shoppers with the ebola virus, and thereafter flee! . . ." [emphasis added]

Yet people think the CIA raising money for Nicaraguan arms by selling drugs (see previous post)  is far-fetched and they belief this deluded fantasy.  The reptilian stuff is listed at Mother Jones' list of Obama conspiracies.  It's second from the end today as i write, but surely more will be added quickly.   The email did not ask for money or even have a link.  But I guess when I opened it they took all the information they needed from my computer.  Oh, yeah, another conspiracy.