Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hummel Story Makes LA Times Leads Me To Thoughts About Online News Issues

The headline, "Alaska - Woman named to lead Guard," probably explains the interest.  It follows up with discussion of the sexual abuse scandal.  (I wrote about Hummel's appointment yesterday.)

The article itself exemplifies one of the issues I've been having over online news (including ethics of updating blog posts).  In this case, the online stories and the print stories don't match.
Here's the link to the online LA Times Story.

The first two paragraphs are the same, but the print story capitalizes Department of Veterans and Military Affairs while the online version doesn't.  Maybe I noticed that because capitalization is one of my problems here.

The two seem to be the same until the end of the paragraph that starts "In September . . ." and ends " . . .confidentiality had been breached."

The online version adds that she was a professor at West Point and doesn't mention that she's a Democrat.  Neither mentioned her PhD in geography.

The print version ends abruptly:
"Hummel graduated from West Point in 1982 and served 30 years of active duty.
A Democrat, Hummel ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the state House of Representatives in November."
I find the last sentence interesting because I suspect that a lot of folks will say, "Another unsuccessful politician gets a helped by the party into a cushy job."  But that would be a very wrong conclusion.  First, party stuff is all mixed up in Alaska now that we have an 'independent' former Republican governor teamed up with a Democratic Lt. governor.  But much more than that.

This is a story I know better than most stories.  I met Hummel right after the 80% Republican Redistricting Board rejected her and two other candidates for their Executive Director position - a non-partisan position for which she was exceedingly well qualified.   I talked to Hummel shortly after that - I was so impressed by how she handled herself that I contacted her because I just wanted to meet this well qualified and well-spoken woman.  We kept in contact while she was recruited by the Democrats to run for the state house in her district.  She laughed at them at first, but as she met some of the other Democratic legislators in Anchorage who came to persuade her, she was impressed with them.  They appealed to her sense of duty and public service and she finally agreed. (Really, I know this sounds like a pr piece, but that's really what happened.)   She'd never been involved in a political campaign and was particularly displeased about the having to ask people for money.  But she put herself totally into it and lost to an incumbent by 2l3 votes, less than 1% of the vote.

Is this a cushy job for Hummel?  It's one she's excited about and also a little anxious about.  She's never been in the National Guard and there's a lot of stuff to do.  She also doesn't believe the Adjutant General should be head of the National Guard AND the state head of veteran and military affairs. Because it's a military job, she has to forego her military pension and disability* payment.  Even more problematic is that her husband, who works in the Army National Guard in Alaska, has to resign his position.  But, she told me, he insisted this was an opportunity she couldn't pass up.

But let's get on to other questions, questions I ask myself as I blog, both as a blogger and as a user of online news.  Some differences between online and print and how I feel about them:
  1. An online piece can be longer than a print piece so you can include more than you would print.  Print stories should say if there is more online, and some do.   It would be nice if the online story content that was in addition to or different from the print story, were a different color or otherwise marked.  I suspect most print media don't keep such close track of those things and would claim it would be a big burden.
  2. You can update an online piece.  You can only print a later correction in print.  I think it makes sense to update and correct only stories, but those changes that are substantive should be marked.  I do that here.  Otherwise, unless someone saves each version or finds a different version cached, there's no way to know whether a story you read - say three months later - is the same story that was there in the beginning.  This has all sorts of Orwellian possibilities.
  3. Typos that have no consequence to the meaning should be fixed when spotted and don't need to be marked.  Minor word changes that clarify but don't change the meaning also don't need to be marked, but this hangs on people's interpretation of 'minor' and 'change the meaning.'
I decide it would be prudent to check what professional journalists have to say on this.  There was an article in the April 2014  American Journalism Review about a draft Code of Ethics from the Society for Professional Journalist coming out in September 2014:
The code draft acknowledges a different environment for news by advising journalists to “Aggressively gather and update information as a story unfolds and work to avoid error. Deliberate distortion and reporting unconfirmed rumors are never permissible.”
Well, that agrees with me about updating, but doesn't mention identifying the updates.  Should the story be dated as of the latest update or the original story?  This will matter later when people look back to see when something was known.  And in the competition between news companies, who gets the credit for being the first to report?  

I'd note that I tried to contact Soumya Karlamangla, the reporter on the LA Times Hummel piece.  I originally wanted to ask her questions about the differences between the online and print versions and who makes those decisions.  As I looked at other stories she's written, I was wondering how she got this story.  There was an AP story and and ADN story.  It's unlikely she was writing this as an original piece.  But there is no source identified and it's not labeled an AP story.  What is it that she did to what she found online that changes it from a wire story to one that deserves her own byline?  (I couldn't find an email address for her but I did tweet her.  But didn't hear anything back.  I'm not clear about whether a tweet to her is public or not.  When I saw it in my list of tweets much later, I took it down.  There are too many protocols on too many systems for me to keep up.  OK, I looked it up, only folks who subscribe to both me and Karlamangla would get it in their timelines.  There's a table online that tells you who can see different kinds of tweets.  Here's the relevant information from that table to my question.  It would be publicly visible on my timeline.

click to enlarge and focus

Back to the American Journalism Review article mentioned above that talked about updating online articles.  I went to the Society of Professional Journalists website to see what their revised code looked like and if it had that language.  I couldn't find any language that specifically addressed updating online articles.  Here are the four main principles.  Each then has a list of standards of practice under it.  You can get the Code as a pdf here.

  • SEEK TRUTH AND REPORT INGJournalists should be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.Journalists should: 
  • MINIMIZE HARMEthical journalists treat sources, subjects and colleagues as human beings deserving of respect.Journalists should:
  • 􏰀 ACT INDEPENDENTLYJournalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public’s right to know.Journalists should:
  • 􏰀BE ACCOUNTABLEJournalists are accountable to their readers, listeners, viewers and each other. Journalists should:  
Doesn't really address my questions.  

*I asked Hummel during the campaign about what her disability entailed.  On the one hand, it's none of my business, but I suspected that some voters would wonder how she could hold the job of legislator if she was disabled.  Her response was that it was not a payment because you were so disabled you couldn't work, but rather compensation for injuries caused by your service in the military.    She was at West Point ages 18-22 and then in the military until she was 51.  She said hers were mainly orthopedic; "running too many miles with a heavy rucksack and jumping out of too many airplanes."  There is a very specific protocol for doctors to determine the injury and the percent of disability for each injury.  You can see how they calculate it precisely here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

West Point Grad Laurie Hummel To Be New Alaska National Guard Adjutant General

The ADN has a good report on this up already so I'll try to add what I know about Laurie Hummel.

I first 'met' Laurie Hummel when she was interviewed by the Alaska Redistricting Board to be their executive director.  I was so incredibly impressed by how perfectly her background qualified her for the job AND by how well she presented herself and her knowledge.  She was both assertive and respectful.  In that interview she was asked to describe her managerial experience as it related to the job.  It was all impressive and you can see my very rough transcript here.

A part that particularly warmed my blogger heart was when she spoke about confidentiality and public information.  She said you have to set up categories:
"what you have to share, should share, can’t.  Things that have to be shared with the public [you share]  and that’s how it should be.  I come from climate that values ethics.  I hold the highest ethical standards. I see a big difference where there’s an enemy.  Here I see no enemies.  Press and people are not enemies."
I was blown away by Hummel that day and wrote one of the most enthusiastic posts I've ever written about anybody on this blog.

Second Applicant Incredible: Laurel Hummel, Vet and Geographer
When the Board decided not to fill the position, I was seriously disappointed and wrote a two part post exploring possible reasons why.

The last post I did that focused on Laurie Hummel was about her announcement to run for State House.  
Laurie Hummel Announces Bid for State House Seat - Laurie Who?

I was (and still am) so impressed with Hummel that I decided I had to help her win.  People complain about the lack of good politicians all the time.  But there won't be any unless the rest of us work hard to elect those who are willing to run.  It was time for me to get directly involved.

After I became involved in her campaign  I felt I could no longer report on the race.  Sure, I could have declared my involvement and written, but I didn't want this blog to be a billboard for one candidate.

Hummel ran a great campaign and came very close to beating an incumbent in her first race.  
Today I learned of her appointment to be Adjutant General of the Alaska National Guard by Governor Walker.

I called Hummel today to congratulate her.  She told me she hadn't expected this.  Her husband, Chad Parker, is a colonel in the national guard and when the governor asked her to take the position, she decided she'd ask to be deputy.  That's a civilian, state position, that wouldn't put her directly over her husband.  But Chad told her she couldn't turn this opportunity down.  Accepting the position requires her husband's resignation from the Guard.

In October, during the campaign, she'd written an op-ed piece in the ADN on how to reform the national guard. (I'm assuming my readers know about the scandal which played a role in defeating our former governor's reelection bid.)  She listed six steps to heal the Guard, which I'm abbreviating here.  You can read the whole piece here.
1. Immediately hold legislative hearings -- with witnesses under oath -- to independently investigate malfeasance in the Guard.
2. Appoint an independent special prosecutor to address criminal actions not currently enforceable by the Guard’s antiquated, ineffective state version of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
3. The Legislature must create a viable UCMJ. The Guard must advise and guide but the state’s Military Code is a state statute. This is the province of our Legislature. The heavy lifting for creating a meaningful and effective code is done in committee. This would appropriately be accomplished by the House Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs. But again, nothing is happening on that front.
4. Separate the adjutant general (TAG) position from the commissioner, DMVA position. Tom Katkus and his predecessors were dual-hatted as the TAG and commissioner.
5. Fill the existing military legislative liaison position to the Alaska Legislature.
6.  The commander-in-chief (our governor) must demand, receive and embrace unfettered access to Guard issues and take a personal and active part in restoring a culture of transparency. 
She was hoping to work on these as a legislator and these focus on what the legislature and governor need to do.  But now she gets to work on these from the inside and from the top.

Side note:  Hummel will become the first female adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard.  She told me there had been women heads in Vermont and Ohio, but they have left office.  Other states are appointing their heads now as well and she wasn't sure if there would be another woman among them.

As I explore google's offerings on "women adjutant generals national guard" I get
Ohio's Maj. Gen. Deborah Ashenhurst and Vermont's Major General, Martha T. Rainville and Alaska's Col Laurel Hummel in the first five hits.  Moving down the lists there are a number of male adjutant generals whose page mentions "the fine men and women."  

But then up popped up BG Mary Kight who became California's first female, African-American adjutant general in 2010.  Are there others?  If Hummel pops up already, I'm guessing that if there were other women appointed to be their states' adjutant generals recently, they would show up.  But proving there are no black swans is harder than proving there is one.

Charles Townes, Laser Inventor Dead at 99

From the LA Times:
"Charles Townes, the Columbia University physicist who transformed modern society with his invention of the maser and the laser, receiving the 1964 Nobel Prize in physics for his effort, has died. He was 99."
He died Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

Townes (born July 28, 1915) was one of three people born in 1915 that I had in this year's list of people born 100 years ago who was still alive.  The other two are David Rockefeller (born June 15, 1915) and Herman Wouk (born May 27, 1915.)  You can see the main list here and a short follow up post here.

Birthday, Bike, Beach

We visited a relative today on her 93rd birthday (not my mom, hers is next month) and it was a nice visit.  Then we had some errands to run.  When I got home I needed some exercise and rode my bike down to the beach.  Cloudy days are better because the bike trail is less crowded.  This was my turnaround point - about 6 miles.

I'd seen this black something on the beach as I approached, but there it was.  A man with his bike and laptop.  My initial reaction is the computer doesn't belong at the beach.  But on the other hand, he came on his bike and he was here with the sounds of the surf and the setting sun.  Better than being inside.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

LA Parking Ticket Follow Up #2 And More LA Driving Hazards

As I was going through my mom's bills and other mail, I found an envelope from the LA Traffic Enforcement Division.  It was dated Jan. 22, 2015.  I had sent in an appeal which the post office tracking system said had  arrived on Jan. 16.  That's six days before the notice.  The notice said my mom's car had gotten a parking ticket that needed to get paid.

So I called the number and after a fair amount of "if you need X, press 1, if you need Y, press 2" runaround, I finally got to talk to Edwin.  I explained the appeal date and the notification date.  He took the violation number and looked it up.

Edwin:  We received your appeal and it was decided and the decision was sent to your out of town address on January 23.  (We came down here on January 24.)
Steve:  I'm in LA now and so I can't see my Anchorage mail.   Can you tell me the decision?
Edwin:  The appeal was approved.  The violation is removed.

Well, that was good news.  The ticket's gone.  Chalk one up for reason and justice.   I'd like to think it's because I wrote a sensible appeal letter.  (Basically what I posted, but desnarked.)  But it might just be the 'Alaska card.'  People tend to be nice to people from Alaska, like they think living there is enough suffering.   Or maybe they're dismissing a lot of violations now because there have been so many complaints and because the City Council is trying to get them to simplify the signs.  Whatever the reason, it was nice.

After my previous posts on this, someone sent me a link to a story about a design student who got a parking ticket in LA and designed a sign that should be easier to figure out - well it takes a minute or two to adjust, but it does look like a much better idea than what they use now.

Then, I opened the next envelope.  It a "Notice of Toll Evasion Violation."

Where was I January 2?  That was the day we drove out to San Bernadino to visit our former Alaska friends.  We used the carpool lane when the other lanes stopped moving.

I went to the website  listed in the notice.   It turns out that some of the carpool lanes are actually toll roads and that you need to sign up and pay ahead and they give you a little transponder to put on your car and it deducts the toll for using the road.  I had no idea.  I did see such things in Singapore  (you can see the ERP signs and a transponder on a dashboard near the end of the pictures in this post from 2008), but I didn't know that they had them here.  As you can see it was pretty dark at the time.  It said you could sign up and get a transponder and pay in advance and the fine would be applied to the purchase.  But I really didn't need one.

So I called them.  I talked to someone I thought said his name was Dorman, but maybe it was Norman.  He listened to my story and my question about buying a transponder and he said, that since I was from Alaska it didn't make sense to buy one and that he'd waive the violation this time.  I'm guessing that happens all the time, though I suspect a lot of times it's rental cars.

I did ask if all the carpool lanes required such a pass and he said no.  Only if it says EXPRESSLANE or FAST TRACK.

The website says it's an experiment and that the grant funding would run out Feb. 2014.  I guess the experiment worked because they're still using it.  But they haven't updated the website to say what happened after the funding ran out.

I can't wait for cars that drive themselves and have all the rules programmed into their computers.

Problem Linking Text in Pages Document In Yosemite - A Solution

[This is for folks who use Mac's Pages rather than Word.  In Mac's Yosemite operating system.]

Here's the problem:  I follow the steps and put in a link but it reverts back to the default link.

I got so frustrated that I made an appointment with an Apple tech guy to call me and after screen sharing with my computer, he agreed it was a glitch, but we came up with a workaround.

STEP 1: write what you want to link.  I wrote the name of this blog:

What Do I Know?

STEP 2 is to highlight it.  You can see I did that in the screenshot to the left.

STEP 3:  Click on the Insert icon (3rd from the left on my computer) then at the bottom is Add Link.  This window (below) should pop up right under the words you highlighted.  In this case, What Do I Know?   So far so good.

Notice that the link says  That's the default and where the trouble comes in soon.

STEP 4:  Highlight the and replace it with the url you want to link to.  I added whatdoino-steve.blogspot

STEP 5:  The next obvious step is to click "Go to Page."  But this is where the problem lies.  Instead of taking me to my blog, it reverted back to the apple link.  I got to the page below.

Now this turns out to be a cool page showing different kinds of art that people had figured out how to make on various apple devices.  I even did a  blog post about that link.  But that's not where I wanted to send people.

After much frustration I was talking to an Apple tech who took me through the steps and did what I did and, much to his surprise, ended up where I ended up.  He toyed around with it and finally came up with a work-around.

STEP 5 (the one that works for me):  After you type in your URL,

  • retype the words you want to be highlighted in the box.  I know, not very efficient, but do it.  And there's one more step.  There shouldn't be, but there is.

STEP 6:  Click outside the little Add Link window.  Somewhere on the page so the window disappears.  If I just click on Go to Page, without first clicking outside the box, it reverts back to the link.

STEP 7:  Put the cursor onto the words you just added the link to - in my case What Do I Know? - and click. Here's the window I got:

BINGO!  it's got the right link. No more  It has my URL.   Hit "Go to Page" and it should take you where you want to go.

It shouldn't be like this and the tech I talked to was writing it up and sending it in.  If we're lucky, this post will become moot.  But in the mean time, this is how you can do it.

Some other thoughts.

1.  This isn't a problem if the words you are linking are the actual URL that you want people to go to.  That works right away.

2.  There's one other little glitch that can hang you up.  When you highlight the words you want to link, from left to right, you may accidentally pick up a little symbol.  It looks like the INSERT symbol we started this all with.  I think it just shows the end of the line (or return).  If you get that into your highlight, then when you hit the insert icon above to start all this, the Add Link option won't be active.  You can see in the picture on the right.

If you look closely at the words I highlighted (What Do I Know?),  you'll see a little blue symbol after the question mark.  And you'll see that in the dropdown window above it, Add Link is not active.  (It's light grey, not  black.)

If you highlight from right to left, you don't get this little icon.  You need to highlight the words without the little icon so it looks like the first screenshot above (Steps 1, 2, 3)

That's it.  I hope this helps people overcome this design flaw.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Ballona Creek, Birds, Curves

Ballona Creek today is a body of water in a concrete embankment in Los Angeles that flows into Santa Monica Bay.  Wikipedia gives us these choice bits of history:

 Ballona Creek and Lagoon are named for the Ballona or Paseo de las Carretas land grant, dated November 27, 1839. The Machado and Talamantes families, co-grantees of the rancho, heralded from Baiona in northern Spain.[5][6
...At the time of Spanish settlement, the Los Angeles River turned to the west just south of present-day Bunker Hill, joining Ballona Creek just to the west of its current channel. However, during a major flood in 1825, the Los Angeles River's course changed to its present channel, and Ballona Creek became a completely distinct waterway. Much of the above-ground section of the creek was lined with concrete as part of the flood-control project undertaken by the United States Army Corps of Engineers following the Los Angeles Flood of 1938.[7]
Birds, well you know what birds are.

Curves is a tool in photo software like photoshop that does strange things to light and dark and colors.  I don't understand quite what it does and I tend to experiment.  I figure if I do this enough, I'll start to see patterns for how the images change.  You can see, if you check the link, that what people write is interesting, and I've done some minor adjustments like they talk about, but the color freak in me is much more interested in the extremes, as you'll see in a couple pictures below.

I'd note I've saved the most interesting pictures for the end on the grounds that my readers will be rewarded for at least scrolling through the pictures, even if they don't read any of the text.

Part of this experimenting results from leaving my bigger camera in Anchorage and having to do bird shots with the little one that doesn't do distance well.

This first one was not altered in photoshop or anywhere else.  This snowy egret was standing near the Lincoln Blvd. bridge and the sun on the green and yellow of the bridge just rippled in the water like this.  I did crop the picture, but that's not altering.  How you frame the picture in the camera is cropping.

There was a sun cracked and warped bird sign where I got off the creek (at Centinela) that listed some of the common birds at the creek.  You can see the sort of baked look of the sign and when I enlarged the row of birds I shot, they were getting fuzzy in a similar way.  I didn't do anything to these pictures except resize them and put them together.

Below starts the curves experiments, first with the brown pelican.  (This is my least favorite of the group.)   I cut out the pelican in a circle and then I applied the curves to the whole picture and put the pelican cut out on top.  In this series I've include some of the original picture in with the curved portions of the photo.

Here's what the curves chart looks like.  The grey, as I understand it. . . actually, I don't understand it, and I'll just let you look it up yourself.  You know that's not like me, but I've decided that I'm just going to have to learn this non-verbally, by experimenting.

The curves box starts with a line going diagonally from the lower left corner to the upper right corner. As you move that line around (this one is probably a bad example because most of the ones I've done are curved) you get different effects - changes in light and dark and in color.  It's good to use if part of the picture is too dark or too bright for the rest of the picture.  You can change the one part to work better with the other part.  In this case I made it more horizontal and vertical than curvy.

Next is the great blue heron.  (The bird sign only listed the great blue and when I checked on line, it matched pretty closely.)   In this shot, I first split it diagonally and the applied curves to the top part.

I'm calling this one Ballona Creek Bore Tide.  I don't know if that's what they call it here, but these waves came in all of a sudden and reminded me of the bore tide on Turnagain Arm.  Here, I curved the middle - and in this case it really had a functional purpose:  it emphasized the waves and ripples I was trying to show.  I left a bit of the original as a frame.  

Now we get freaky.   The sun was on the cement legs of a bridge.  I came close to what it really looked like by adjusting the hue and.  So then I went crazy with curves.  

In this one, the center is the slightly hue and saturation enhanced original and the outside is the rest of the original picture, curved hard.

In this one, the center, horizontally, is the original picture, and the top and bottom are curved.  Even the original looks a bit unreal.

I'm not sure what this all means, but I think it fits in with the blog's basic theme - how do you know what you know?  The altered colors forces me to see things in the landscape that I never saw before.  And I'm still trying to absorb the combination of the original and the altered state.

And, it's a reminder that photos no longer represent reality.  Seeing is not believing.  I still think that photographers should distinguish between pictures that are unaltered from the camera and pictures that were tweaked, even slightly.  But I'm afraid that so many photographers are tweaking hard after they take the picture, that it's a lost battle.  I suspect some photographers assume that the viewer must know they picture was tweaked.  But I think many don't realize how much.  

University of Alaska Gets Four New Regents

The Governor's office announced the appointment of four new regents for the University of Alaska.  The indented text comes directly from the governor's press release.  The photo sources are linked to the names under the images.

“These appointments represent a broad spectrum of Alaskans and Alaska,” Governor Walker said. “All four will bring unique qualities to the Board of Regents that will help guide the future of our great university system.”
Andy Tuber
Andy Teuber (pronounced “TOO-ber”) of Kodiak has served as the Chairman and President of the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) for seven years. During his tenure, he negotiated a $153 million settlement with the Indian Health Service for contract support costs, and has directed the organization from a $5 million loss in 2009 to a financially healthy position that allows the Consortium to invest its additional revenue in service expansion and improvements to ensure Alaska Natives have better access to health care. For the past nine years, Teuber has also served as the President and CEO of Kodiak Area Native Association, a non-profit corporation providing health and social services for the Alaska Natives of Kodiak Island. He holds a master of business administration degree from the University of Washington, Foster School of Business. 

Sheri Buretta
Sheri Buretta (pronounced “bur-ETTA”) of Anchorage is the Chairman of the Chugach Alaska Corporation Board of Directors. She has also served on the Board of Directors for the Alaska Federation of Natives since 1997, and the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation Board since 2012. Born in Anchorage, Buretta’s family is from the village of Tatitlek in Prince William Sound. She holds an associate’s degree in accounting from the University of Alaska and an associate’s degree in business from Gulf Coast Community College in Florida. 

 John Davies

Governor Walker also appointed John Davies (pronounced “DAVE-ease”) of Fairbanks to the Board of Regents. A former member of the Alaska House of Representatives, Davies has a long career in public service, including 10 years in the Alaska Legislature and seven years on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. For the past 12 years he has worked as a Researcher at the Cold Climate Housing Research Center in Fairbanks, where he carries out research on public policy related to energy efficient building techniques for cold climates. Davies also worked for 12 years as a state seismologist and research associate for the UAF Geophysical Institute. He holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Reed College, and Ph.D. in geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

 Lisa Parker
To represent the Kenai Peninsula, Governor Walker appointed Lisa Parker of Soldotna to the Board of Regents. Currently the External Affairs & Government Relations Manager for Apache Corporation, Parker has an extensive background in natural resource development and state and local government. Prior to her work at Apache, she spent eight years as the Government and Community Relations Manager for Agrium USA, one of the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturers. She is also the former Planning Director for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and served six years on the College Council for the University of Alaska, Kenai River Campus. Parker, a lifelong Alaskan, holds a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from The American University in Washington DC.

The Board has eleven members.  So this is almost 40% of the Board.  The only person I know at all is Lisa Parker, the daughter of Walt Parker.  Walt was one of the greatest Alaskans I've known.  The group represents people whose highest degrees are  an Associates degree, Bachelors degree, Masters degree, and Doctoral degree.

Since the Board of Regents sets the policy the University of Alaska,  it's important to have people who know how universities work from the inside, not just as a student, but also as a teacher and as a researcher and as an administrator.    I think it's important to have people with an Associates degree to represent the perspective of those students.  I would like to see more with PhDs.  The Board already has several people with business degrees, so I would like to see more diversity in subject matter.  Our society is already dominated by a business way of calculating and making decisions.  But we can't judge people by their degrees, but by who they are as individuals and what they value, and what they do.  Let's hope these four bring new energy and vision to the University of Alaska.

[The four regents stepping down were profiled here.]

Monday, January 26, 2015


The wind was coming from the south, the bike path was pretty empty and I got further up the coast in 30 minutes from my mom's house than before.  It was threatening rain, but really the few drops weren't serious.

It took a little longer to get back, and by the time I reached home, the streets were wet, but I wasn't really.

Good ride and LA can use some rain, but more than what's fallen so far.

Mac Art Options

The fact that I'm linking to a Mac ad, should tell you that I think this is pretty cool.  It certainly stretches my options for creating images with my camera and Macbook.

I got to this website due to a glitch in iWork's Pages (the Mac version of Word) so I'm even less inclined to highlight it.

It  has a dozen or so examples of things people have done with their iPhones and other Apple products with a little description of how.  Inspirational, in the literal sense.  Here are just a couple of examples from the site.

Marcello Gomes


Roz Hall

Here's the link again.  Start playing around.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Five Hours - Two Worlds

Five hours from Anchorage, non-stop, to LA.  Actually, it was about four hours and forty five minutes.  After getting the house-sitter settled, we took off a little before midnight Anchorage time.  And we landed just before six am LA time.   The LA picture is actually about seven hours later - after we got the bus, had breakfast, and then were walking the last mile to my mom's.

I hadn't planned on this order of the pictures, but when I looked at them, these two seemed so similar (long flat foreground, looking into the light) that they seemed a perfect pairing.  And a perfect contrast between the two worlds we've been bouncing back and forth between, as we visit my mom each month.

I've always been fascinated by how easy it is today to walk through a door in an airport in one part of the world and walk out another door into another part of the world.  I remember walking through the Brussels airport and seeing (to me) exotic African cities listed at the gates.  And the contrast between Anchorage and LA in January is pretty stark.

I contrast this with the ten days (in my memory anyway) it took to sail from New York to Le Havre in   1964 on the way to spending a college year in Germany.  Or to driving from Anchorage to Boston and back.  Overland (or oversea) one has time to feel the distance.  One's body has time to adjust to waking up closer or further from the sunrise.  One's brain has time to process the land or sea scape.  But planes abruptly fling one from one point on earth to another.  That's one reason I like window seats - so I can, when it's clear and light - get some sense of the topography I'm traveling through.

OK, enough musing.  Here are some shots as we got to enjoy the dawn.  (A positive side of the shorter days in Anchorage is that even people who sleep late get to see the dawn.)

Just off the plane in LAX terminal 6

Still dark waiting for the shuttle to the bus station
Just starting to get light as we get to the bus station

We then slept for half the day.

[Photo notes:I didn't bring the bigger camera on this trip.  Our flights are both in the dark, so no landscape shots, and I'm trying to travel as light as I can.  It would have been nice to have the polaroid filter Joe Blow suggested in comments to an early post, so the Good Bus Karma didn't have all the reflection.  I could have just cropped the picture to that sign, but I wanted the sense of being on the bus as well.  So I stretched the crop to keep the word bus and I included the driver and steering wheel.  The palm trees outside were pretty washed out, so I did play with brightness in photoshop for that part.]

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Snow Drought Relief Means Driveway Work

Anchorage got a little snow in the last couple of days.  Not much, but enough.

Having a one car garage and two cars becomes problematic in the winter.  My car is essentially a back up vehicle most of the time and a summer camping vehicle.  But when it snows, it has to get off the streets so the snow plows can clear.  At least we don't get tickets or towed if it is on the street, but it's a nuisance for the plow drivers.  And for the neighbors and us if there's a gap that isn't cleared.  

The snow also gets me some exercise shoveling the driveway.  It's nice to be out with the clean white powder  and the quiet and being able to very tangibly see the impact of one's labor.  And yesterday as I was shoveling, a young moose ran down the street.  No moose today, but I got to say hi to the neighbor as he put his snowboard in his car and headed off.  

We have a driveway with a bit of slope.  That means that if I don't clear it right away, the car tracks pack down the snow which eventually becomes ice and walking up and down the driveway gets treacherous.  So I try to clear right away.  Before my wife backs out of the driveway and starts to make tracks.  It's much, much easier to just clear the fresh, unpacked down snow.  (I did post a picture of the driveway two years ago when we had lots and lots of snow, here.)

But today, there were already tracks in the driveway.  I'm guessing the paper delivery folks drove up the driveway because there were no footsteps, just the truck tracks.  

You can see the tracks, on the bottom where I've already shoveled and then on the left up through the fresh snow.  

And here's what it looks like when I've shoveled the whole driveway, leaving the packed down snow from the tire tracks.  Then I have to get out the ice scraper and scrape off the tracks.  Just one pass on the fresh snow wasn't too hard.  But if a car goes back and forth over the uncleared driveway, the packed area gets wider and wider and harder and harder to scrape off.  And when it becomes icy it's much harder.  For people with flat driveways, this is less of an issue.

So I used the ice scraper.  

Now, if it gets sunny and/or windy and dry, then this will just evaporate and not leave any ice to catch an unwary heel.  But if it rains and freezes, then I have to get out the gravel.  I should have no trouble getting my car up the driveway now for when the snow plow comes.  

Sometimes I wonder why I write posts like this. I think there's value in documenting the ordinary, things that normally don't get noted. It's also because I don't have to think too much to get a post up,   people who don't have snow don't think about these things.    We do have a southern exposure, so when it is sunny and warms up a bit (it's in the teens now) the driveway will get all icy as snow on top melts, flows down, and then freezes overnight.  This is all preventive work, and I'm glad I'm still fit enough to be able to do it.  The body likes being given a workout in the fresh cold air.  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Four Regents Terms Up; Expect New Appointments From Walker Soon

The University of Alaska regents whose terms expire in 2015 include:  (descriptions are excerpted from from the University website bios of the regents.)

[UPDATE Jan 27:  Governor Appoints Four New Regents]
Term: 2005-2015 
Timothy C. Brady of Anchorage was appointed in 2005 by Governor Murkowski and reappointed in 2007 by Governor Palin. Regent Brady is from a pioneer Alaska family. He serves as president of Ken Brady Construction Company, where he has worked in various positions over the past 30 years. He holds a bachelor of science degree from Arizona State University's School of Engineering, Division of Construction. Regent Brady is involved with the Anchorage Downtown Rotary, Boy Scouts of America, American Red Cross, Better Business Bureau, and Associated General Contractors of Alaska.
Every time I look at these, I have new questions.  In this case, it's about why would Brady have to be reappointed by Palin?  He'd only served two years of an eight year appointment.

Term: 2007-2015 
Fuller A. Cowell of Anchorage was appointed in 2007 by Governor Palin. Regent Cowell was raised on a homestead in Fairbanks, attended Lathrop High School and studied biology at UAF. He completed his bachelors of business administration with an emphasis in marketing at National University, Sacramento, California graduating Summa Cum Laude. Cowell completed the Advanced Executive Program at the Kellogg Business School, Northwestern University, in Chicago, Illinois. In 1995, he was awarded the UAF Alumni Achievement Award for Community Achievement. The award was established to recognize outstanding UAF alumni.
I posted about Cowell in more detail when he was the lone regent who voted to retain the president's $320,000 longevity bonus.  

Term: 2007-2015 
Patricia Jacobson of Kodiak was appointed by Governor Palin in 2007. Regent Jacobson grew up in southern Arizona. She graduated in 1969 from the University of Arizona with a BA in Elementary Education, and from the University of Alaska in 1972 with an MA in Elementary Education.  Regent Jacobson taught various elementary grades, primarily gifted classes, for 26 years, 25 of which were in Kodiak. She was appointed to the Professional Teaching Practices Commission (PTPC) by Governor Hammond in 1979. She received the Christa McAuliffe Fellowship for Alaska in 1992.  As a teacher, Regent Jacobson was active in Kodiak and Alaska NEA and is a life member of NEA-Retired. After retiring she worked independently for the Kodiak School District as the village technology liaison, serving all of Kodiak's villages and logging camps, until she was elected to the local school board, ultimately serving as its president.  
She was chair when the president's bonus was approved and supported it strongly when it was challenged.
Term: 2007-2015  
Kirk Wickersham of Anchorage was appointed to the Board of Regents in 2007 by Governor Palin. Wickersham is an actively retired attorney and real estate broker. He is the developer and owner of FSBO System, Inc. a company that provides professional coaching to home sellers, and a former chair of the Alaska Real Estate Commission. Previously, he was an economic development consultant and won a national award for innovative community development regulations.

I'm pleased to see that each of these regents stayed in service for the whole eight years of the terms.  In the past, there has been very high turnover with people leaving well before their terms were up.

Let's hope there are some people with a higher education background in the new group.   

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Selma's Garbage Bag Problem

We thought it would be a good idea to finally see Selma on MLK Day.  And it was.  I'm hoping to get a post up on why before long.  But there was one scene that jarred me and I've done a little checking.

MLK and his wife are in the kitchen.  He takes a full garbage bag out from under the sink.  It's a clear plastic bag.  He empties it and then she unrolls a new bag which puts bag under the sink for the rest of the garbage.

What's wrong with that scene?  My problem has nothing to do with division of household labor.  My immediate thought when I saw that was:  No one used plastic garbage bags then.  Especially not clear plastic bags.

In Los Angeles, people used incinerators to burn garbage until they were banned in 1957 in an attempt to reduce smog.  (There's still an old one in my mom's backyard.)

I checked online and here's what I found:
  1. Plastic garbage bags weren't invented until 1950 (by a Canadian) and the first ones  were sold to businesses, not households.  The bags were green.
  2. The first green plastic garbage bags for the home were sold by Union Carbide - Glad Bags - in the late 1960s.  (The movie takes place in 1965.)
  3. Plastic bags weren't introduced to grocery stores until 1977!
I recall putting garbage into paper shopping bags until plastic bags were available.  And paper bags don't really hold  garbage well when they get wet.  

Here are some sources:
The familiar green plastic garbage bag (made from polyethylene) was invented by Harry Wasylyk in 1950.Harry Wasylyk was a Canadian inventor from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who together with Larry Hansen of Lindsay, Ontario, invented the disposable green polyethylene garbage bag. 
Garbage bags were first intended for commercial use rather than home use - the bags were first sold to the Winnipeg General Hospital. However, Hansen worked for the Union Carbide Company in Lindsay, who bought the invention from Wasylyk and Hansen. Union Carbide manufactured the first green garbage bags under the name Glad Garbage bags for home use in the late 1960s.

“PAPER OR PLASTIC” WARS BEGIN: The plastic grocery bag is introduced to the supermarket industry as an alternative to paper sacks.[iv] At this point, plastic produce bags had long overtaken paper bags in the produce aisle. The grocery sack market was later, in 1986, described as “paper’s last stronghold” by Mobil Chemical’s marketing manager. [v]

Film makers:  If you're doing a film that takes place before you were old enough to remember, but not so long ago that there are still people alive who do remember, show the geezers the film and let them spot the anachronisms.

With technology changing so much faster today, future film makers will have an even harder time.
Is it a biggie? No.  But for people my age,  it's like seeing a film that takes place in 2000 with people using iPhones.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

For Anchorage Folks Waiting For Snow

I offer this picture I posted on January 12, 2012 to remind you what winter used to look like.

For those of you reading this from afar, this year there is a thin, raggedy carpet of hard, old snow with dead grass and fallen leaves poking through.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Low Tech Drying

Maybe it's because we never had a dryer at home.  For me hanging up the clothes to dry is restful - even when it's inside.

The clothespin and a line is such a simple design.  And with the low winter humidity inside Anchorage homes, the clothes  dry quickly. I like to think that it helps the humidity, but I'm sure only negligibly.

The simple dollar website cites about 3.3 kilowatt hours per load.  And Municipal Light and Power says 1 kw hour costs me 5.6 .   So I'm not doing it for the money since it only saves about 17  per load, and reduces my carbon footprint slightly.  But if one million other folks did the same it would have an impact.

Mindless tasks you can do without thinking let the brain relax and wander, and they're a good break from more concentrated brain work.

I don't want to give the impression I always use the clothesline.  But I feel better when I do.

Why I Live Here - Anchorage Folk Festival And The California Honeydrops

It's a five minute walk to the Wendy Williamson Auditorium.  The folk festival had concerts there Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.  And I'm guessing it's one of the last of the free concerts of this calibre in the US.  And the auditorium was completely full.

High Lonesome Sound

We saw several fine acts - Shirley Mae Springer-Staten's group made amazing sounds.  High Lonesome Sound also got the crowd riled up.

I was among those who came into the concerts with no awareness of who the California Honeydrops were.

California Honeydrops
But it took less than a minute to realize how good they were and what a fine voice the lead singer had and how much he was in control of it.  The MC told us that the Honeydrops don't do concerts, they do dance events (I can't remember the exact word he used) and right from the start there were people up and dancing.  It was an exhilarating concert.  I'm always hesitant to put up videos of music from my little camera because the sound is only an echo thrice removed of the original.  But it will give you a sense of the rocking scene Sunday night.   I guess it blended blues and jazz, but you can judge for yourself.  You can hear some of their music with much better audio at their website.

The festival continues through next weekend.  Check out the schedule here.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Saudis Condemn Charlie Hebdo Killings While They Flog Blogger Raif Badawi

The world is complex and we face plenty of challenges.  Unless we're willing to stop accepting simplistic (and often nationalistic) explanations of what's happening, things won't get better.  This post reflects a bit of that complexity by following a few threads from the coverage of the Paris killings at Charlie Hebdo.

From the Guardian:
Arab governments and Muslim leaders and organisations across the world have condemned the deadly attack in Paris, but it was praised by jihadi sympathisers who hailed it as “revenge” against those who had “insulted” the prophet Muhammad.
Saudi Arabia called it a “cowardly terrorist attack that was rejected by the true Islamic religion”. The Arab League and Egypt’s al-Azhar university – the leading theological institution in the Sunni Muslim world – also denounced the incident in which masked gunmen shouted “Allahu Akbar” – “god is great ” in Arabic.

Screenshot from Australian News  with text added
Meanwhile, a Saudi blogger is being flogged as part of his sentence.  His crime? reports (part of Murdoch's News Corp):
His brutal punishment follows his arrest in 2012 after he created an online forum that his wife insists was meant to encourage discussion about faith. Following his arrest, his wife and children Najwa, Tirad and Myriyam left the kingdom for Canada.
Last year, Badawi was initially sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes in relation to the charges. But after an appeal, the judge stiffened the punishment.
The charges related to articles he wrote criticising religious authorities in Saudi Arabia, as well as pieces written by others that were published on his website.
According to Amnesty International, the prosecution had called for him to be tried for ‘apostasy’ (when a person abandons their religion), which carries the death sentence. As well as the weekly flogging, the 31-year-old’s sentence also includes a 10-year travel ban, and a ban on appearing on media outlets.

Here's a video that purports to be of the first public flogging of Badawi.  It's apparently done with a cellphone and I would imagine that the person who filmed it took considerable risk.

It's not easy to see what is happening.  At the end, it appeared to me that the strokes were more symbolic than serious.  But I don't have any personal experience with flogging.  I do know that sometimes what appears to be a slight impact can do serious damage.  But I looked up about how much damage flogging can cause.

 From a 2007 ABC News report:
". . . Floggings in Saudi Arabia typically take place Thursday nights outside of prisons or marketplaces. The accused is shackled and sometimes permitted to wear a single layer of clothing, like the popular Saudi tunic or dishdash.
This flogging clearly didn't take place at night, nor on Thursday.

Screenshots from YouTube video
A police officer administers the lashes with a bamboo whip about 7 feet long. Under his arm, the officer will typically hold a copy of the Koran in order to regulate the power with which he can whip the accused.
It's hard to know whether this is bamboo or something else.  It's clearly not 7 feet long and it appears the flogger does not have a Quran under his arm.  Here are some screenshots from the video.  I tried to get shots that would show the Koran if he had one.  The bottom picture shows his arm out from his body so that a book would have dropped.  I did talk to an official for an Islamic country who has spent time in Saudi Arabia and he said he'd never heard of the Quran being used this way.

"In the sentence a judge will specify three things: One, the amount of lashes; two, whether the flogging will be held in the prison or publicly; and third, what portions are to be administered at one time," Wilcke said. "No more than 60 to 70 lashes are administered at any one time with usually one to two weeks between floggings. Women will get 10 to 30 lashings a week; a man might get 50 to 60 per week."
If a complete sentence was administered at once, the accused could potentially die. Doctors in Saudi Arabia examine prisoners before each flogging to determine if they are healthy enough to withstand the lashes."
It's not at all clear that the person who wrote this description of the rules was accurate or that if he is, where the rules apply, or who enforces them.  I include them and this caveat to remind people that things are more complicated than we assume at first blush, and that we can't rely on the information.

I would note that I began this post yesterday (Thursday) and today it is reported that the sentence  has been referred to the Saudi Supreme Court and this week's flogging was postponed for medical reasons.

The Bigger Context

This situation raises all sorts of ethical conflicts.  We understand that the Saudis are fighting ISIS so their condemnation of the shootings makes sense on that level.  This punishment falls short of a death penalty (though his wife fears the cumulative floggings could kill him).

Meanwhile the US has condemned Badawi's sentencing and punishment  but shortly after that the State Department, according to Amnesty International's Steve Hawkins,  was praising Secretary of State Kerry's relationship with King Abdullah (about 1:30 into audio.)

Our media has framed the Paris attacks as extremist terrorists attacking freedom of speech.  But others see it in a much larger context.  People like Chris Hedges speak bluntly about this:
We have engineered the rage of the dispossessed. The evil of predatory global capitalism and empire has spawned the evil of terrorism. And rather than understand the roots of that rage and attempt to ameliorate it, we have built sophisticated mechanisms of security and surveillance, passed laws that permit the targeted assassinations and torture of the weak, and amassed modern armies and the machines of industrial warfare to dominate the world by force. This is not about justice. It is not about the war on terror. It is not about liberty or democracy. It is not about the freedom of expression. It is about the mad scramble by the privileged to survive at the expense of the poor. And the poor know it.
These are fighting words to the 1% and those who swallow their propaganda.  Notice he didn't say 'capitalism' but rather 'predatory capitalism.'  If the media pays any attention at all to Hedges it mostly will be to label him (not what he says)  disloyal, communistic, anti-American, or traitorous.  If we start to seriously discuss Hedges' arguments (and Hedges is a former Pulitzer Prize winning New York Times  reporter who has spent years reporting from the Middle East, Central America, and the Balkans), lots of corporate friendly versions of the how the world works will start to unravel.

So, it's easy to criticize the Saudi royals, but as I recall, Saudi royals have a special relationship with the Bush family. They were the only people allowed to fly in the US immediately after the World Trade Center attacks.  Which links fairly smoothly to asking what exactly is the Saudi role in the plummeting price of oil?  Merco Press, with a general link to, speculates that the US and the Saudis are in this together to put pressure on Iran, Syria, and Russia.  Arthur Berman, in an interview at doesn't dismiss the political factors, but claims income is the basic Saudi driver.

I don't claim any inside information, except I do know that the world is more complicated than our media present it.  And that Americans (and probably many others) are content with simplistic explanations - so long as they imply, "So go on and don't change anything."  And coverage and reactions are selective.  Why so much more reaction to Charlie Hebdo where 12 were killed, while hundreds, perhaps thousands, are being killed by Boko Haram in Nigeria?   But with climate change and with growing economic inequality both inside the US and globally, those answers won't work for too long.