Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Wasn't I Surprised That The Guy Who Killed Cecil The Lion Was A Dentist?

It's been a while since I noticed the DDS on the ends of the names of people who have trophy bears in the Anchorage Airport. 

These are only two bears representing two dentists over a 40 year period so let's not jump to conclusions about dentists. Yet.  .  .
Not all the stuffed bears at the airport had their shooters identified, but a couple that did were hunting or fishing guides.

Dr. Walter Palmer of Minnesota, is reported to have said of the death of Cecil:
“I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits,” read a statement from Palmer to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.”
He added: “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt. I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
Let's remember that most of us know almost nothing about Dr. Palmer and we're filling in the details to fit our own belief systems.  I think we all have a tendency to believe what we want to believe - those of us reading the stories and Dr. Palmer himself..  He wanted a lion and the guys he contacted said they'd get him one.  How carefully did he look into their credentials?  How would an American hunter even check Zimbabwean credentials?  As for the rest of us, many are blasting some version of the evil hunter killing innocent animals.   Others are praising the good hunters and singling Palmer out as the bad apple that gives all hunters a bad rep.

While I'm not likely to let this guy off easily, the real issue to me is: what is it that causes grown men, with a good education to want to go out and kill animals, not for food, but for trophies?  (And a follow up question that I won't explore here, is how this sort of killing connected to killing human beings?)   My representative in Congress is known for his wall full of animal heads and hides. He even missed a key subcommittee vote because he was on safari in South Africa.  I had a student once who explained how hunting was a bonding experience between him and his dad.  I get that, and I'm glad my dad and I bonded over other things, like hiking, books, art, baseball, and movies, rather than killing animals.

Some defend hunting as part of their cultural tradition and point out how hunters help protect the environment where animals live.  I think there's merit to those arguments, up to a point.  There are lots of traditions that modern societies no longer openly practice - like slavery, like beating kids as punishment, like cock and dog fighting,  like burning witches, like exorcising demons, or child labor and child marriage.

I look at that picture of Dr. Eberle and wonder what he was thinking at the time.  I too like to shoot animals, but with my camera rather than a gun.  That allows me a connection with the animal, but allows the animal to go on living and for others to enjoy seeing them too.   What causes grown men to want to kill big animals and display them?  Is it some sort of feelings of inadequacy, of lack of power?  Is it part of the DNA  they inherited from ancestors who hunted for survival?

A New Zealand study, done to help a government agency prepare to manage hunting on public estates, looked at lots of previous studies to try to determine motivations and satisfactions of hunters. 
Decker and Connelly (1989) proposed three categories of motivations; achievement oriented, affiliation oriented, and appreciation oriented.
  • -Achievement oriented hunters are motivated by the attainment of a particular goal,  which may be harvesting an animal for meat, a trophy or a display of skill.
  • -Affiliation oriented hunters participate in hunting with the primary purpose of fostering personal relationships with friends, family or hunting companions.
  • -Appreciation oriented hunters are motivated by a desire to be outdoors, escape everyday stress or to relax.
The study goes on to list a much wider range of specifics, that tend to fall into these categories.  It doesn't seem to get into deeper psychological reasons such as the need to demonstrate power (maybe getting a trophy is the proxy for this) or where these needs come from.  Why some people (mostly men) have such a need to kill animals and others do not.  There's lots to ponder here. 

I'd also note that the Alaska Dental Association strongly opposed the use of dental aides to perform basic dental work in rural Alaska.  Most, I'm sure, believed that dentists would give better care and that aides lacked the extensive training necessary to make critical decisions.  They didn't seem to weigh the benefits of many, many more kids and adults getting very simple basic dental care and education that local aides could provide in an area where few dentists lived.    I think their belief was genuine, but colored by their own conscious or unconscious self interests.  As are most all of our beliefs. One such interest was simply the same as all professional licensing - limiting the amount of competition.  Also dentists could fly out to rural Alaska and see patients and also go hunting and fishing on the side.  That is true of many urban, non-Native Alaskans who provide professional services in rural Alaska.  And my saying it shouldn't cause people to question the motives of people who do such work.  But we should be aware of how such side benefits might bias one's beliefs about what's right and wrong, good and bad.

When it comes to endangered species, there are bigger issues  - like resource extraction that destroys habitat, like overpopulation that impinges on wild habitat for housing and food.  And climate change which is changing the landscape world wide.  We should be concerned with individual abuses such as luring a well known collared lion out of a refuge to be shot.  But the bigger environmental trends are much more impactful and threatening to all living things, including humans.  These are the least immediately visible and seemingly the hardest to fight.  But there are ways and many people are pursuing them.  One just has to look, and the internet makes that easy. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Board of Regents Appoint Jim Johnsen To Be President Of The University Of Alaska

From the University press office:
"With a unanimous vote of all regents participating, the University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents appointed Dr. James R. Johnsen as the 14th president of the UA system. The vote took place during a special meeting of the board on July 28."  [Note:  the link seems to go to the press releases in general.  I couldn't find a way to link to this specific one.  It's July 28, 2015 if you try to find it later.]

Here is most of the position description the Board put out for this job.  I've bolded those parts that speak to what the president must be or do:

 The board seeks an accomplished, astute and effective leader who can provide strategic, innovative and collaborative leadership for the university.

The Presidency of the University of Alaska is an outstanding opportunity for a leader who enjoys the challenge of moving a  complex  academic  organization  to  greater  levels  of  achievement.
The  board  seeks  a  highly  experienced,  politically savvy leader  who  understands  how  to  advance  agendas  in  higher education  and  to  manage  a  multifaceted  university system.
As  one  of  the  most  influential  and  visible  leaders  in  Alaska,  the  President  of  the  University  of  Alaska  must constantly draw the connections between higher education and the state’s economic viability.  He or she must be a tireless, persuasive advocate willing to travel widely within Alaska to encourage support for education and training beyond high school. The  president  should  be  a  visible  participant  in  national  higher  education  issues  and persuasive  with  federal agencies.
He  or  she  must  be  a  coach  for  chancellors,  a  wise  counselor  for  the  board  and a  trustworthy  resource  for  the legislature. He or she should work effectively with University of Alaska Foundation leaders.
The next President should think  creatively,  develop  collaborative  and  innovative solutions  to  challenging  issues and  be  technologically  informed.  With an approachable style and a genuine respect for others, the next President should be dedicated to earning public and private support for the University of Alaska.
A lot of bureaucratic jargon, not much that's specific.  I mention this because the press release also says:
"The new president’s contract is for five years and provides for an annual salary of $325,000 for the duration of the contract.  An annual performance bonus of up to $75,000 will be tied to mutually-agreed upon metrics which are to be determined by September 30."
Exactly how are they going to get from that job description 'mutually-agreed upon metrics'? 

This sounds like an agreement that says, "If you do these things, you'll get a bonus."  And it can be up to 23% of your base pay.

Let's compare that to what faculty get (as outlined in the United Academics contract):

15.5 Merit Bonuses
In addition to the base salary adjustments provided in this Article, the University may, in its sole discretion, award nonrecurring bonus payments to unit members for extraordinary performance far beyond expectations. If the University determines that merit bonuses will be awarded, the dean/director shall recommend to the provost those unit members whose exemplary performance may warrant a bonus. The provost shall then determine the recipients and amounts of merit bonuses.
The University may provide up to one percent (1%) of the total base payroll for merit bonuses each fiscal year. The one percent (1%) of the total base payroll will be calculated as of July 1 of each fiscal year.
There shall be no merit bonuses during the term of this agreement after December 31, 2016.

Faculty bonuses are not based on mutually agreed on metrics, but at the sole discretion of the university, and they have to be 'extraordinary performance far beyond expectations.' 

It will be interesting to see the process for coming up with the metrics and to see whether they too reflect 'extraordinary performance far beyond expectations.'  Maybe like increase the university revenues by 30% per year.  But fund raising isn't even specifically mentioned in the job description.  It's only hinted at - good relations with the UA Foundation and the legislature.

In any case, we have a new president.  I offer my congratulations to Dr. Johnsen and wish him and the university community all the best.   I'm reasonably convinced he wants to do an outstanding job.  My hope is that a) he is able to do that and b) his definition of an outstanding job overlaps closely with that of faculty, staff, and students.  I wish Dr. Johnsen and the university well. The future of Alaska in many ways depends on how well the university performs.  I will do what I can to assist, including reporting on what I think needs attention.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Anchorage Felt Earthquake 6.2

Felt an earthquake just a little bit ago.  I've been checking and think this is the one:


Click the image to see it better.  It says it was 69 KM SSW of Mt Redoubt Volcano.

I felt it ever so slightly, then after about 15 seconds it began to rumble very clearly and the lamp moved a bit.  And then it slowly faded.  I'd guess it went on for 30 seconds.  The time is UTC- 2:35 am July 29 which would be 7:35pm Alaska time July 28. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hello StatCounter, Goodbye Sitemeter (Including How To Add StatCounter And How To Delete Sitemeter)

I've been chronicling my problems with Sitemeter for a while.  My Love/Hate Relationship with Sitemeter and Sitemeter Out of Control  are two examples.  I suspect all the younger more tech savvy folks have abandoned Sitemeter long ago.  It's a story that highlights one of the downsides of capitalism -
Step 1:  clever entrepreneur following his passion creates great product and services his customers well
Step 2:  clever entrepreneur gets a great offer for his product and is tired of all the work he's created for himself, so he sells
Step 3:  new company doesn't really care about the product, just the potential money it can make, or wants to eliminate a rival,  and stops servicing customers and basically ruins the once good product

Sitemeter was created by David Smith, who sold it (as I understand) to My Space who sold it to someone else.  Here's the page that I really liked about Sitemeter and made me reluctant to give it up even when it was slow and then buggy.  It consolidates a lot of information about individual visitors.  It's not that I was trying to pry, but I was trying to get a sense of who was visiting and connecting location, sometimes organization (when it showed in the domain name), what they looked for on google, what post that took them to . . . all that helped me understand what an individual sought and sometimes told me that an agency or company I'd posted about was looking at what I posted about them.   

When I first saw all this information that was gathered on each visitor I was shocked.  But I came to understand that Sitemeter merely reformats the information that my computer has already gathered about visitors.  I like to show this page to people to let them know what kind of tracks they leave when they visit websites. 

But the recent problems - shutting down for nearly a week and selling of client websites and their readers to third parties, like x-vindicosuite - started to bring things to a head.  I quoted this before from a google forum: seems to be "passive DNS replicator", which may be performing a genuine function; but apparently buggy software at sitemeter results in pages with sitemeter counting code on them getting redirected there.
In the screenshot below, you can see the message in the lower left, that things had been sent to this mysterious site.  It was like it was sending stuff through x-vindicosuite before I could see the next Sitemeter page, often slowing things down terribly.  

When I posted about this recently, commenters suggested StatCounter as an alternative, but I had lots of things vying for my attention,  so I procrastinated.  But I finally went there to check how difficult it would be to add StatCounter.  It turns out not difficult at all. 

Here's the StatCounter page that tells you how to put the code into your blogger template  It's pretty straightforward and took me less than five minutes.  

After poking around at StatCounter for a week, I see that the kind of information that I got from Sitemeter is available in different formats, and as I'm getting more familiarized, I think it probably gives me most of the same information in better (ie faster to go through) templates, and it allows me to drill down to more information on a specific visitor if I choose. 

For example, here's an example of one of the pages that tracks visits on Sitemeter.  This one tracks by search word:

StatCounter has several pages that do a similar list, but with a lot more information.  Here's one, for example:

click to enlarge and focus

And I can drill down (magnifying glasses in second column next to "Page Visits" to get more information on any of the specific visitors.

There's actually lots and lots of reports and I still have to figure out all that I can get and what I need and want.  And it shows me how Sitemeter was left to stagnate, while StatCounter found new was to display available data. 

And I also found out why so few actual 'search terms' are visible these days compared to four or five years ago.  StatCounter had a link next to 'search term unavailable' that led me to a 2011 Google page that says: 

"As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver. As a result, we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users. Over the next few weeks, many of you will find yourselves redirected to (note the extra “s”) when you’re signed in to your Google Account. This change encrypts your search queries and Google’s results page. This is especially important when you’re using an unsecured Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in an Internet cafe. You can also navigate to directly if you’re signed out or if you don’t have a Google Account.

What does this mean for sites that receive clicks from Google search results? When you search from, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won't receive information about each individual query. They can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools. This information helps webmasters keep more accurate statistics about their user traffic. If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you."
OK, I'm only four years behind the times, and StatCounter is what is getting me a little more up-to-date.  And even if they can't tell you what the search words were, they can tell you if you ranked high in the search.  For example:

Of course, this will depend on the exact words they used on google.  Other visitors to that page must have used other terms to get there and What Do I Know?  didn't rank high enough to get a note on StatCounter.  (What you see is just the little balloon with the #3 on it, but if you hover the cursor over the #3, you get the popup that says "Your page ranked #3 on Google for the query."

A blogger forum gives instructions on how to remove sitemeter from your blogger template.  It is technical, but not that hard.  They highlight the key script in yellow, so scroll down. 

I've still not deleted Sitemeter, but because of the x-vindicosuite problem, I must.  But I need to copy some of the summary pages for when I left to document the number of hits they say I have had.  I don't know how accurate it actually is, but it's something.  So you can look for the sitemeter logo and tracking numbers (well it just shows a black box now)  in the column on the right above "About Me" if you read this today, but I'll try to delete it in a day or two.  You can check back then to see if I was successful.   Here's a summary screenshot I just did saying there's been 811,778 total unique visits and 1,245,231 page views since I first installed Sitemeter. 

I tried to figure out when I first added Sitemeter to the blog.  My email shows a message from Sitemeter in Feb 2009 thanking me for setting up an account.  But I have a post about my 10,000th visitor in December 2008 based on Sitemeter stats.  I'm guessing I set it up in 2007 sometime.  I started the blog in July 2006. 

Goodbye Sitemeter.  Hello StatCounter

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunshine In The Rain

I went out onto the deck to enjoy how green and wet it is here in Anchorage.  The dahlia was providing it's own sun power in the rain. 

We left a hot and muggy LA last night and followed the northern glow all the way home dropping into the clouds and rain for what seemed a long time before landing.  My guess was that we had maybe 30 seconds from when I could see the ground until the wheels touched down on the runway. 

This picture on the right was looking out the window at the horizontal rain lit up by the plane's lights.  The camera's take on this is different from my eyes' take. 

The airport was jammed at midnight when we arrived.  It was hard to get through the crowd to the steps down to baggage and all three lanes were full of cars picking people up outside of the baggage claim.  I do have to say that Alaska Airline's 20 minute baggage guarantee is great.  We were outside getting into the car less than 20 minutes after we got off the plane.  And that's been true in Anchorage and LA. 

It's nice to be back in some semblance of order - at least where I know where things go and I can find them easily.  As messy as our house is, compared to what we left in LA, it could be in a magazine article on orderly.  It helps having a house sitter you have to clean things up for. 

And the sweet peas I planted by seed in May, and were budding when we left for LA, are starting to bloom.  Nice to be home in the cool, low 60's, so nice after LA's unusually mugginess. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Traces Of A Life

People's lives tend to be put in brackets of birth date to death date.  Inside those brackets we list basic facts like parents, spouses, kids, employment, and other key achievements or events.  But a life is made up of much more than that and I've been going through the traces of those other things in my mom's life.

There's so much I could write about but there are things my mom wouldn't want on the blog, so I'll just do a couple of examples.

The deer and the squirrel sat on my mom's night stand when I was a little kid and probably longer.  I don't know when they got put away.  I'd forgotten all about them until I found them wrapped up in the back of a drawer.  They're small.  The squirrel could sit on a quarter.  But they were part of our life together, a connection we had over these little animals. 

Another little piece is this temporary pass that was in my step-father's belongings.  He was a good friend of both my parents (and my father continued to have good relations with my mom and step-father after they divorced).  I'm not sure what meaning this particular pass had.  But it's interesting as a connection to the man and to a bit of documentation of history. 

Below is the back of the pass.

Here's part of Thailand Peace Corps Group 19's picture when we got to Thailand and just before we headed off to our assignments in 1967.  My mom wasn't particularly excited to see me off to Asia then, but she never let on until we talked about it much later. 

This is a shot from near the water at Venice beach the other evening.  We finally were able to get some time together, just sitting on the beach enjoying the surf.  There were more dolphins out there.  My mom and I also had a beach bond much of which developed at Venice beach.  She was still using her boogie board in her 70s.  And there are a couple still in the garage. 

And here's a picture she had in her room of my brother Glen, who died in a work accident at age 23.  That had a huge impact on my mom, but she kept working and helping others. but went to the cemetery every week to give him new flowers.  It's actually a picture I took and developed, including burning in the picture of him surfing in the background.  That was before photoshop when you could doctor pictures in the darkroom. 

There's also wedding pictures of my mom an dad, her wedding ring, and thousands of other little things. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

We Need An Emergency Attorney Number Like 911

Given the Sandra Blank incident I mentioned yesterday, it seems like it would be useful to have emergency attorneys available for people being pulled over by police.  We've all heard the adage "A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client."  But that's exactly what happens when a cop pulls you over.  For most of us, it's much easier to advocate for others than for ourselves.  We tend to be more emotional than an independent advocate.  And we don't know the law as well.

So, I propose an emergency number, like 911, that people could call when a cop pulls them over and they think it might go badly. 

Let me also say that there are cops and there are cops.  Many become police officers because they sincerely want to protect the public.  Even some of this group, unfortunately, have an image of the bad guy they are protecting the public from, that arises from the prejudicial stereotypes Americans have been saturated with by every part of our culture (media, schools, family, churches, courts).  Another group of cops became cops because they needed a uniform and a gun to make them feel important.  It's way past time for good cops to call out the bad ones, and also to expose the structural barriers to doing that.  Things like the police code of silence.

Meanwhile, here's something on your rights when stopped by the police. 

And an old post on  Our Rights To Film Cops In Public

By the way, California recently passed a SB411 specifically making it legal to photograph or record police in public if someone is where they are legally allowed to be.  From what I can tell, it's waiting for the governor's signature. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Abuse Of Power Dream and Reality

I was standing next to a three foot glass cube in a museum when a man ordered me to do or not do something.  I looked at him and made some small protest comment.  Immediately, he said something like, "OK, you're out of here" and started to escort me to the exit.

That's when I woke up.  Upset.  WTF?  I wasn't doing anything and this jerk guard totally abused his power.   I tried to go back to sleep but I was agitated.

This time the guard grabbed my arm to escort me out.  I looked around to see if anyone was getting this on their phone. 

I'm on the edge of sleep and waking.  This time I demand his identification.  Who are you?  He refused to share his identification.  He wasn't wearing a badge or even a guard uniform.  He grabbed my arm.  I sat on the floor. 

The next time after I demanded his id and he refused - I said loudly to other people in the room, "Make a video."  I said I didn't have to listen to him because I didn't know who he was and he looked just like any museum visitor. 

I bobbed up above the dream surface, got some air, then slid back down under. 

This time I said forcefully, "I'm a museum investigator asked to find the guy who's been harassing museum guests."

This time I surfaced above the dream and stayed awake.  I described the dream to my wife.  Then I hit the snooze button, hoping Morning Edition would put me back to sleep.  But soon we were hearing my dream as a real-life nightmare.  It was bits and pieces of the tape of the Texas police officer harassing a black woman he'd pulled over for not signaling a lane change.  I have to say, as we've been driving around LA, that there are a lot of people who don't seem to know they have a turn signal.  These folks should be pulled over and shown the indicator and told to use it.  It should go on their record, so if they are seen without signaling again, they wouldn't get off so easily. 

But the cop in the tape is way over the line.  And then he tells the lady who is sitting in her car still, to put out the cigarette!  Even if I thought he might have been concerned about her health, I'd say he was way out of line.  That it sounded more like he just got off on his uniform and the ability to order people around. 

I was pissed when I woke up from my dream.  My pseudo guard was way out of line and had no business ordering me around.  But this cop was even worse.  I can imagine the woman, Sandra Bland, was thinking about the days not so long ago that blacks had to take crap from whites in the south and just bite their tongues. 

This Texas cop seems to be keeping the old days alive.  Oh, yeah, as most of you probably already know, the next day Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell she never should have been in.  Trying to keep one's cool when one is being humiliated for no reason is not easy.  And how long has this been going on - out of sight of most people - before anyone began taking the victims seriously.  Only the advent of people's video cameras and a platform to play them has caused enough people to seriously protest. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Theodore Bikel Is Gone

When I got to Germany in 1964 for a year at the University of Göttingen, I had a number of record albums, including one with Guela Gill and Theodore Bikel.  During that year I became good friends with a married doctoral student and his wife who lived in the student housing I was assigned to.  When Jurgen heard the Bikel album he went crazy.  He loved it and we played it over and over again.  And, of course, I left the album with them when i went back home.

Years later when we visited Jurgen and Inge, Jurgen had gotten every album Bikel had ever put out and could sing all the songs - particularly those in Yiddish.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I learn about Bikel's death today.  But like my mom, he was in his 90s and has had a good life. 

Here's the only Youtube I could find of a song from my old album.  It's been forever since I heard this.  It's in Spanish, not Yiddish.

[sorry, this is another reposting because Feedburner didn't pick the original up]

Monday, July 20, 2015

LA In Disguise

LA is pretending to be a tropical city.  Grey cloud cover and humidity that's making the 76˚F feel like 90˚.  We got as much as we could out for garbage day, borrowing space in the neighbors' cans where we could.  But we haven't made a dent. 

But I needed to clear my head a bit so rode down to the beach before it either started raining again or got too hot. 

At my turn around point, I noticed black figures in the surf.  Just as I realized they were dolphins, not surfers, another guy stopped and speculated they might be orcas.  But if there were that many orcas (at least twenty scattered around) I think it would have been a much bigger deal.  And when he suggested the water was warmer than usual, I pointed out they like the waters of Alaska.  So, I'm saying dolphins, and this picture of Monterrey Bay dolphins supports my conclusion.

I was just going out for the exercise, so I had my pocket camera with me, not the good one that would have made those black dots individually distinguishable.  Clicking on the picture will help a bit.  You can see how grey a day it is. 

And there was also some excitement on Rose as a film crew was somehow doing its thing without really blocking traffic too much.  I promised myself I could remember the name I saw on some of the vehicles, but all I can remember is Down Under, which was the mnemonic that was going to help me remember.  It's two words, one of which is either Down or Under.  I'm guessing it was something with Under. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

LA Rain

We woke up this morning to the rumbling of thunder and the sound of rain.  Not measurable rain, but in this land of brown lawns, any rain is a big deal. 

Thunder is rumbling again now near 3pm and this time there was, and still is, real rain. 

Earlier I sat outside eating breakfast, watching the scattered raindrops darken the driveway, the dry in seconds.  Now they're sticking.  And the warm humidity of this morning has given way to a comfortable coolth. 

How serious is this drought?  From the July 15 California weekly drought update:
As a result of continuing drought conditions, emergency legislation was enacted in March 2015 that appropriated over $1 billion of additional funds for drought-related projects and activities.
The Administration’s May Revision proposal includes an additional $2.2 billion for programs that protect and expand local water supplies, improve water conservation, and provide immediate relief to impacted communities.

But before our Alaska majority legislators sigh in relief that they don't have this expenditure, they should think about what they're going to need to spend in climate change mitigation - from village relocation due to shore erosion to massive infrastructure reconstruction due to melting permafrost, just to name a couple of the more obvious effects.  This doesn't include the impact on fish and other species due to ocean acidification.  Oh, did I forget fighting forest fires?  The short term income we get from oil (well, now that the legislature has created massive tax credits, and the price of oil dropped, it isn't much) will be dwarfed by the costs of responding to the impacts of carbon caused climate change. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Life After Death: Random LA Shots

My mom was 93 and we've been able to spend a lot of time with her over the last two years as she lost her mobility, but not her wit.  She never wanted to be 'kept alive' and she was able to stay in her home with the help of a full time caregiver and our monthly visits.  She flunked the hospice test twice - including last May.  But this time she qualified as her body was starting to shut down and she stopped eating and drinking.  And even though it's expected, and it's at the end of a long, interesting, and very productive life of service to others, it's still the final, irrevocable cutting of ties to the past.

So we're doing our best to enjoy the memories as we start cleaning up things she wouldn't let us throw away while she was alive.  I understand.  She knew where things were.  Really, she'd tell me exactly where to find things.  But there were also way too many old plastic containers, pens, old papers, dried pussy willows, and bars of soap.  And so now we're trying to take stock of what there is.  What needs to go, what's still good.  We're reading old letters and the deed to the house, finding little surprises everywhere.

The rest of this post is just some pictures I've taken as we run our errands around LA with a little bit of commentary.

I was coming back from a bike ride to the beach to clear my head.  I couldn't imagine how this car got squeezed between the wall and the light post.  Someone told me another car, removed already, had been speeding down Pacific.  I'm guessing it clipped the front of this one and pushed it into there.  It was only a little later that I realized that I'd been right there on my bike not more than 30 minutes before this happened on the way to the beach.  And people think riding in the street isn't safe.

This iris was blooming outside my mom's window the day she died.

I was so relieved to learn I could get gluten free vodka!

I remember being impressed with the irony of this sign when I was a young kid.  It's still up in the garage 50 some years later.

We had to go downtown to get death certificates.  It took less time to fill out the application, wait in the short line, and have them printed, than it did to listen to the whole taped message on the phone so I could talk to an actual person to see if they were ready to be picked up.  Phone service - moderate.  In person service - excellent.  LA County Health Department.

After passing a parking lot where you could park for $4 for the first ten minutes, finding a meter that cost only fifty cents per hour seemed like a deal.  Plus it was right next to Mexicali restaurant, a modest but delicious lunch spot.  Here's the array of salsas. 

Korea Times - click to read more clearly

Since things went so much faster than expected at the health department, we took a leisurely ride along Wilshire Blvd to the attorney's office.  We passed the old Ambassador Hotel where Robert Kennedy was shot.  It now has a Robert Kennedy park in front and what looked like a school where the hotel was.  Across the street was a sign for the old Brown Derby, but the derby shaped building was gone.  The magnificent art deco Bullocks Wilshire department store now houses Southewestern Law school.

Korea Town edges into Wilshire as well and this sign for the Korea Times seemed a good reminder of how cities evolve.  

Here's an unfinished metro station near the LA County Museum of Art, as the subway is finally reaching west after years of opposition from Beverly Hills folks who didn't want to give the riffraff an easy way to their neighborhoods. 

And here's a lantana that I grew up with and is still blooming after so long.  But I didn't know that it was poisonous.  From the Illinois Veterinarian Medicine Library:
"Lantana (yellow sage) is a native of tropical Americas and West Africa. In the northern states including Illinois, it is grown as a garden annual reaching 12-18 inches tall . In the south, from Florida to California, it grows as a perennial shrub of 3-6 feet tall. In the tropics, it may grow even taller. Leaves are opposite, ovate, 1-5 inches long and 1-2 inches wide, with very small rounded teeth, somewhat rough and hairy. Leaves are aromatic when crushed. Flowers are borne in dense clusters 1-2 inches across on the axils near the top of the stem. Each flower is tubular with 4 lobes flaring to about 1/4 inch, initially yellow or pink gradually changing to orange and deep red. Often, the different colored flowers are present on the same cluster. Fruit is fleshy, greenish-blue to black, and berry-like with each containing one seed."
I didn't know it was poisonous:
"Animals in pastures with sufficient forage will often avoid Lantana, perhaps because of its pungent aroma and taste, but animals unfamiliar to the plant may ingest enough to affect them. Fifty to ninety percent of animals newly exposed may be affected. Foliage and ripe berries contain the toxic substances with the toxins being in higher concentrations in the green berries. Species affected include cattle, sheep, horses, dogs, guinea pigs, and rabbits (Ross, Ivan A. Medicial plants of the world. Totowa, N.J.: Humana. 1999. p. 187.)"

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Alaska is now the 30th state to accept Medicaid expansion

An email this afternoon from my Alaska State Rep, Andy Josephson says:

"Today, Alaska Governor Bill Walker announced plans to take advantage of federal funding to expand eligibility for Medicaid in Alaska. This action is supported by the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition, which made Medicaid expansion a priority during the First Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature. Medicaid expansion comes with tremendous benefits including over a billion dollars in new federal revenue over the next six year, the creation of 4,000 jobs, and $1.2 billion in additional wages and salaries. Studies suggest Medicaid expansion would result in $2.49 billion in increased economic activity across Alaska.
There are multiple legal opinions showing that the Governor has the authority to expand Medicaid. Medicaid expansion is supported by the public and, I believe, a majority of lawmakers but that did not sway the Majority leadership, which refused to allow an up or down vote on the matter. I believe the Governor’s decision is justified based on the merits of the argument and the inaction of the Alaska Legislature. . . ."

The Republican leadership in the House and Senate in Juneau refused to pass this and fortunately Walker has found a way to do this administratively.  They have been and still are wrong on so many issues:  climate change, medicaid expansion, oil taxes, big construction projects, passing budgets that ignored warnings about declining oil revenues year after year, etc, etc. etc.  Influence from major donors/lobbyists (oil and construction particularly) or national far right wing pressure like the Koch's ALEC keep them from getting it right, from making decisions that benefit Alaska in the long term.   One can make micro-level arguments for many of the things they did or didn't do, but the long term evolution of things has proved their blindness to the larger issues.  

I make that fairly sweeping statement in light of this example of the Alaska Republicans who spearheaded the move for a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman and who fought the addition of lgbt folks to Anchorage's anti-discrimination ordinance:
"On Thursday, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission unanimously ruled that sexual orientation discrimination is already illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner reports, the EEOC's groundbreaking decision effectively declares that employment discrimination against gay, lesbian, and bisexual workers is unlawful in all 50 states."  [From Slate]
I guess the Anchorage ordinance has been effectively amended, at least in employment.  

And in light of Obama's visit to the Federal Correctional Institution El Reno near Oklahoma City to highlight the horrendous outcomes of the simplistic War on Drugs and Three Strikes You're Out programs which gave non-violent drug offenders long prison sentences.  This resulted in (Obama's stats) the US, with 5% of the world's population having 25% of the world's prisoners.  In ripping apart families, huge costs of prisons, and so many lives wasted behind bars.  And the Right's solution of privatizing governmental functions including prisons, meant there was now a new industry with a vested interest in expanding the prison population.  This is also in light of the legalization of marijuana in a number of states - both medical marijuana in many states and recreational marijuana in a few. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

El Chapo Prison Break Background

I ran across a documentary on the Mexican drug trade a while back that will give you some background on El Chapo, who broke out of prison the other day. 

Here's the post with the video "Narco Bling" (at the bottom).  Well worth a look. 

Will try to get back to regular blogging soon. 

 [Trying again to get Feedburner to work.]

Saturday, July 11, 2015

February 27, 1922 - July 11, 2015

An eventful two days.  Our kids and grandkids got here yesterday. My mom was well along, but she clearly knew we were here.  And then we all said good bye.   She left at noon today.  At home. 

This picture with her brother was on the dresser.  I think this would have been about age 3 - 90 years ago. 

And this was in May of this year, playing with her great grandson. 

I don't put much family stuff up but this is an important day in my life.  She had a long, interesting, and mostly good life, with some big tragedies as well.  She was ready, but those of us left behind are never really ready. 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Early Morning Departure

5am at the Anchorage Airport. 


Rachel Dowdy's jaunty geese. 

And the gift shop in the Anchorage Airport has T-shirts poking fun at gun rights folks. 

Heading south.  Mom's taken a turn for the worse. 

Thursday, July 09, 2015

U Of Alaska President Search Part 4: Finalist Johnsen Meets With Community (and me) At UAA

My blogger identity and my human identity came together yesterday afternoon when I went to the newish sports center at UAA for the community forum with president finalist Jim Johnsen.  Fortunately, I thought it was at 4pm so, while I didn't get there until 4:10, I was early for the real time of 4:30.  I checked out the view from the Sports Grill looking through the glass wall down to the
arena floor.  (Someone later asked Johnsen whether more student residences wouldn't have been a better use of the money than this slick arena.  He diplomatically said he tried not to second guess past leaders' decisions, knowing that various factors come together in a way that make some decisions right in the context.)

Anyway,  I used my extra time to call my mom who went back on hospice earlier that day, and I waited for the tv interview to end, before I went over to talk to the finalist, knowing that neither of us were probably too excited about meeting given that I'd posted the day before my belief that he had padded his resume over publications.  He said, "Hi Steve" as I walked over and we shook hands as I acknowledged the awkwardness, he thanked me for at least giving him a heads up email before posting, and we got past it and chatted amiably.  If he would have preferred to make me vanish, it wasn't obvious, and I sincerely told him that if he becomes president that I would support him however I could.  I'm not a confrontational person and coming face-to-face with the man I'd just written about was uncomfortable, but we both worked to put each other at ease.

It wasn't til after the event that I thought back to several weeks ago when I asked if I could interview him then and he said the search committee had told him not to talk to folks before the campus visits.  I think my inability to talk to him (other than brief emails) prior to posting put us both at a disadvantage.  It set me up to wonder why the regents didn't trust him (or the media) enough to let us talk and made him less of a person and more of a character in a story where I had to fill in the details.  The email exchange we had over the publications was cordial but factual and we didn't discuss why he characterized them as he did in the resume.  If we had met and talked, I know we would have gone into more depth that would have given him a chance to give his view of the resume.   As I think about all this now, I realize that in our former interactions back in the late 1990's, we were cast in adversarial roles - he was labor relations director and I was grievance coordinator for the union.  And with him based in Fairbanks and me in Anchorage, when we met it was basically over business. 

There were appetizers out and people found their way up to the grill and by the time Chancellor Case introduced him there were about 40 people in the room.  He gave his introductory comments - which he's repeated maybe ten times in the last two days first in Juneau and yesterday in Anchorage [Fairbanks]- articulately.  He went on to answer people's questions - about graduation rates, how the university can participate in the state discussions about the economy, about tuition and other student fees, the residence halls v. the sports center - knowledgeably.  He spoke in detail revealing a good grasp of the Alaska situation and awareness about what's done Outside in similar situations.

He doesn't have the commanding presence of the generals - past president Hamilton, current president Gamble - which is not a bad thing.  Nor does he have the nice guy presence of the third general - Chancellor Case - who introduced him at the gathering.  He said he's used to thinking about himself as a bit of an introvert, but that he really has enjoyed the past two days getting to talk to so many people.  And perhaps that's a good description of his manner - the introvert working hard to pass in an extrovert role.  That's an observation, not a criticism; I can relate to that myself.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

University of Alaska Presidential Search Part 3: Resume Padding -Or- When Is A Publication Not A Publication?

It's with a heavy heart that I have to conclude that UA President finalist Jim Johnsen has padded his resume.  In a section labeled "Selected Publications"  there are three items listed.  None of them can be legitimately called a 'publication.'  While this may seem trivial to some, in the academic world where he has spent a good part of his career and where this job would be, publications make or break a faculty career.

Dr. Johnsen, according to his resume, has never been in a tenure track position, so actually having publications is not something that would have been required of him.  Sure, having some publications might enhance his standing, but they aren't necessary.  My concern is that he padded his resume to make his accomplishments look like more than they were.  And while this section was labeled 'Selected Publications,' implying that there are other works that would be legitimately called publications in an academic setting, there aren't.  The rest of this post will give the details of the documents identified in the resume and discuss the issues of academic publications and resume padding.

Finalist Announcement

When the one finalist for the UA president was announced, I was partly surprised by who it was - someone I had interacted with in my role as a faculty union grievance representative - but even more so by the fact that there was only one candidate.  There was a search in 1998 that resulted in only two candidates, but the 1990 and 2010 searches had four and three respectively.

The Board of Regents webpage had a link to the resume.  As I looked through it I saw there were three items listed under "Selected Publications."  They were all topics that related to University of Alaska labor relations, my connection to Johnsen.

Screen shot from Jim Johnsen resume

So I googled to find them.  I got nothing.

The 'Publications'

I called the UAA Consortium library reference desk and the librarian said she had been looking unsuccessfully herself.  She suggested I contact the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education, where  "The Restructuring . . ." piece was supposed to be in their 2000 proceedings.  (I had already been to their website, but hadn't done more.)  So I called and asked if they had a copy. Michelle told me that they had copies of all the proceedings online, but that the organization had been in turmoil for about five years and their collection went from 1972-1999 and then 2006-the present.  The years 2000 - 2005 are listed as unavailable.

The next day my inbox had two copies of that paper.  Both the people I'd talked to had contacted Jim Johnsen.  The National Center sent me a copy they got from Johnsen and Johnsen himself sent me a copy with a promise to send the other two when he got home over the weekend, which he promptly did.

The first one - "The Restructuring . . ." -  looked like a rough draft, partially in outline.  Something that one might use as notes for a presentation.  I called the National Center for the Study of  Collective Bargaining in Higher Education back and asked about their proceedings; were they refereed or edited?  I was told they were, at best, loosely edited for typos, but were basically presenters' papers printed out for conference attendees.  Some conferences publish peer reviewed and edited conference proceedings.  That wasn't the case here.  And, the year that Johnsen presented this paper, the organization was in turmoil.  The Center didn't have any copies of proceedings for that year.  I later emailed Johnsen to see if he had a copy of the proceedings and he didn't.  That doesn't mean something wasn't printed up that year, but neither the Center nor Johnsen has copies.

Then I got the other two papers.

The Essential Elements of a Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreement in Higher Education  says "30 September 2008 draft" at the bottom of each page.  In the text it says, "In this chapter . . ." but the citation didn't include the name of a book.  This was clearly not a publication.

Innovation in Faculty Collective Bargaining  is another conference presentation, but not a publication.

So I emailed Jim Johnsen and asked:
1.  “The Essential Elements of A Faculty Collective Bargaining Agreement in Higher Education”  Is there an actual published version of this?  It says Chapter and it says “draft” so I was wondering.

2.  "Innovation in Faculty Collective Bargaining"  - This says “Presented at” and begins, Thank you.  Good morning.  Is there a published version of this somewhere?

3.  “The Restructuring of the University of Alaska System”  - This mentions Proceedings.   Given the nature of the paper - lots of outline - I’m assuming this was not peer reviewed?  Was this anything more than all the papers at the conference were bound for attendees?  Do you have a copy of the proceedings?

4.  Your resume has these documents in a section called “Selected Publications.”  Are there additional publications as that suggests?  Can you give me links to them?

Jim Johnsen replied quickly:
"Happy to clarify, Steve.

"Elements" was written for a book, edited by Dan Julius, in faculty bargaining. Last I heard (several years ago) it was published by some academic press. Not sure of its status.

"innovations" was a presentation at the CUNY higher education collective bargaining conference that I was told would be included in the proceedings of the conference. I refer you to CUNY for those papers I presented there over the years that were in the conference proceedings.

As to other papers, I gave UA all the papers I managed to hold onto through numerous personal and job moves over the years."
I don't know of any faculty member who doesn't know if the chapter he wrote got published or not.  Maybe if they've got 30 chapters in various books they might not remember about one or two of them, but if it's your only publication, I'd think you'd remember for sure.  So I checked further.

I quickly found an email address for Dan Julius and asked him if the book had ever been published.  He also wrote back quickly:
"Good day. What Dr. Johnsen says is true. He did write that chapter and it was accepted for the book. The book has not yet been published due to a variety of reasons having to do with the editors, one of whom is myself. So the book has not been published yet, if it is, Jim's chapter will be included. I hope this helps.

Dan Julius"
So, it hasn't been published and 'if it is' Jim's chapter will be in it.

Does it matter? Publications

The tenure and promotion process in universities is excruciating for most faculty.  The worklife of a college professor these days is much more stressful than it was in the recent past even, and for many, particularly mothers, it can be impossible. (For example or example 2)  In UAA tenure reviews all the documents are scrutinized by the chair, by the college promotion and tenure committee, by the dean, by the campus wide committee, the provost, and then the chancellor.  The decisions can end someone's career.  Of the three parts of the faculty workload - teaching, research, and service - the most difficult for the majority of faculty, in teaching institutions like UAA, is research because research involves long-term projects that have to be squeezed out on top of the short term demands of teaching and service activities.  In some departments the criteria are vague and in other departments they are listed fairly clearly, such as "at least X peer reviewed articles or book chapters and Y  presentations." 

From Wikipedia:
Academic publishing is the subfield of publishing which distributes academic research and scholarship. Most academic work is published in academic journal article, book or thesis form. The part of academic written output that is not formally published but merely printed up or posted on the Internet is often called "grey literature". Most scientific and scholarly journals, and many academic and scholarly books, though not all, are based on some form of peer review or editorial refereeing to qualify texts for publication. Peer review quality and selectivity standards vary greatly from journal to journal, publisher to publisher, and field to field.
While different disciplines define their publications differently, by no stretch of my imagination, do the documents listed under 'Selected Publications' fall into the category of publications.  These are conference presentations, the first of many steps toward publication.

Does It Matter?  Enhancing One's Resume

From CNN article  "Resume Padding: Inconsequential or Inexcusable?":
"It may sound crazy.  Why would a high-ranking executive lie about his or her credentials, especially now, when all it takes is a quick phone call or Internet search to verify information?
Yet it happens more often than you might think. From a white lie about time spent as a customer service rep to a whopper about earning an MBA, résumé padding occurs regularly across industries, experts say. In a 2010 survey of 1,818 organizations, 69% reported catching a job candidate lying on his or her résumé, according to employment screening service HireRight."
The 2012 article goes on to ask readers what they think should happen to the then newly hired Yahoo CEO Scott Thompson.   A dissident shareholder had pointed out that Thompson's resume said he had BA degrees in computer science and accounting. Many called for his resignation, others defended him.
"Thompson has a degree in accounting, not computer science, but frankly at this point in his career does it really matter what he studied as an undergraduate?" Newsweek technology editor Dan "Fake Steve Jobs" Lyons asked in a Daily Beast column.
"(Thompson is) 54 years old, has been CEO of PayPal, and before that held high positions at Inovant, a subsidiary of Visa, and Barclays Global Investors. He's qualified to run Yahoo."
A 2014 BBC Capital article finishes the Scott Thompson/Yahoo story:
Remember Scott Thompson? He was the chief executive who had to leave Yahoo in 2012 for misstating his educational credentials on his resume. Thompson had said that he graduated with a computer-science degree, but it turned out that the university he attended didn’t offer such a degree until he had completed school. When this fact came to light, he left after just four months in the job.
In Scott Thompson's case, it probably didn't matter if he had a second degree in computer science.  He'd proven himself on the job since he graduated from college.

The real issue is integrity, honesty.  Is this someone who is straightforward?  If he lies in little things like this, when else might he sugarcoat the facts?

The same applies to Jim Johnsen.  Johnsen hasn't been in a tenure track position or any other job that required he have publications.  It's good that he has some conference presentations.  What's not good is that he felt the need to enhance his record by calling those papers, 'publications.'

Let me put this into context.  I was a grievance representative when Jim Johnsen was the university labor relations officer.  If I had had a faculty member whose resume had the same sort of 'Selected Publications" section, he would have been turned down for tenure and required to leave the university.  And if that employee would have appealed and it got up to the statewide appeal level, I have absolutely no doubt that Jim Johnsen would have had no mercy in his rejection of those publications.  And rightfully so.  I probably would have done my best to talk the faculty member out of making an appeal in the first place because there would have been no way he could have won.

I challenge the Board of Regents to take this issue seriously.  I know they are in a hard spot.  They've spent time and resources on this search since President Gamble announced his retirement last December.  They felt at the end that there was only one candidate who was worthy to be sent out to the campuses to meet with the university community. 

But I would argue that it doesn't bode well for the University of Alaska to hire a president who would pad his resume to make his record look better than it is.  Yahoo's board knew it probably didn't matter whether Scott Thompson had one or two degrees.  But he still had to leave.  It was about integrity. 

When Dennis McMillian retired recently as CEO of the Foraker Group, he wrote some parting thoughts in their newsletter, including some "Dennisisms" on hiring.  Here are three of the six:
  • Stop hiring people based on superficial qualities — it’s easy to put lipstick on a pig. Rather, hire the person with the right values and attitude.
  • Skills can be taught, attitude cannot.
  • Obviously, some positions require credentials, but even in those situations, rate values and attitudes higher than degrees or experience, then you will minimize turnover and maximize your organization’s capacity.
People with the right values don't embellish their resumes. 

The Board of Regent has posted a Leadership Profile for the UA President (in part):
"The next president should continue to elevate UA’s national visibility and be effective with relevant agencies of the federal government. He or she should work effectively with University of Alaska Foundation leaders. He or she must be a coach for chancellors, a wise counselor for the board and trustworthy resource for the legislature."
I doubt that a person who has padded his resume would positively elevate UA's national visibility.  And the chancellors, the board, and the legislature would be constantly wondering whether his coaching and counseling was trustworthy.

This sort of post is troubling to publish.  It does not make me happy.  I'd rather this search were over and the university could move along to find creative responses its many challenges.  But I don't see that I have a choice.  It's better we know this before anyone is hired than afterward as in the Yahoo case.