Saturday, April 30, 2016

Why Do Ponds Freeze Differently?

I'm afraid this post raises questions rather than answering them.   Limited time and physics savvy make this necessary.  But there are some links to offer a little bit.

These are pictures of frozen puddles I saw at Denali.  And naturally I wanted to know why they were so different.

First this one in our campsite the first morning.  Why did the ice freeze in the long roundish spikes?

Second, why did this puddle freeze round, but then have more angular geometric patterns in the middle?

I'd note, the next morning, there was no more ice.  In fact these two puddles were gone altogether.  Just depressions in the soil.

Why is this puddle in the tundra frozen yet clear?

While this one is frozen by clouded?

The internet offers some insight into the freezing of puddles.

Here's  Story of Snow's explanation of why puddles get these curvy lines as they freeze.   Here's an excerpt (it has good illustrations too.)
"The thick, continuous curves show places where the ice is thicker underneath. Other lines may mark the boundary where the ice thickness changes. The ice thickness varies because of the way the meltwater drained below the ice. The sketch below shows a puddle just starting to freeze. We are viewing a cross-section, and the ice is coming in from the edge."

There's some conjecturing on the geometric patterns on the ice in this discussion board.

I could only find posts on why ice cubes are sometimes clear and sometimes cloudy.  Here's part of an explanation at Today I Found Out:
"The answer to this mystery lies in the temperature of the water. You see, at room temperature there are a lot of impurities that are dissolved in regular old tap water. And as you may recall from high-school chemistry, the warmer water is, the more of a given substance it is possible to dissolve in it. For example, sugar has very weak molecular bonds that require only a small amount of energy to break. Thus, as you supply water with more energy by heating it, the amount of sugar you can dissolve within it increases and vice versa. You perhaps have noticed this phenomenon when sweetening hot tea vs. cold, or after letting a sugared cup of coffee get cold, with the sugar dissolving fine when it’s hot, but showing up at the bottom of your cup when the coffee gets cold. This is essentially what happens with ice. As you cool the water, all of the impurities that were happily dissolved in it at room temperature separate themselves from the liquid and become visible."
It goes on to explain why the cloudy part is usually in the middle of the ice cube.  I suspect this could explain the differences between the puddles that were clear and that were cloudy.  But I'm not sure.

Actforlibraries  explains why puddles freeze at different temperatures.  This one is short and easy to follow.

UCSB Science Line explains why water freezes on the surface of a lake, but not below.  That seemed pretty obvious (the air temperature is colder than the ground temperature.)

Another article on the Thermodynamics of Freezing Puddles in Autumn-Winter Period looks at sea water.  I could only see the abstract and decided not to pursue the whole article since it was about fresh water.  I also wasn't sure I'd understand much of it, but someone else might find it interesting.

There's even something called an ice spike which sticks up out of the water.  I've never seen one and they're rare it says

Mike Gravel On Mike Gravel

Former Alaskan US Senator Mike Gravel spoke Thursday night at UAA, sponsored by the journalism department and Alaska Native Studies and there was a connection with the College of Business and Public Policy as well.

Gravel was elected in 1968 and served until 1981.  We came right on time and the auditorium was full and we got seats in the very back row.  This was not a good decision as they did not use miss, and as good as the acoustics are in that room, I didn't hear enough of each sentence to write too much here with confidence.  I would guess the average age in the room was around 70 and many were people who knew and/or worked with Gravel.

As one observer said afterward, "I don't remember things being quite as good as he does, but it's probably good to be able to remember your life rosier than it was."

Two points I heard clearly enough to report were:

1.  When Clinton is president the Republicans will begin impeachment hearings that will continue through her four years.

I've been telling friends that I thought the hatred and disrespect shown our first black president will be nothing compare to the invective our first female president will receive.  So this one seems pretty likely.

2.  He began by telling us how he got to Alaska.  Basically, he'd decided he wanted to be a politician and he did research on where the best states to get elected would be.  His choices narrowed down to Alaska and New Mexico.  Alaska wasn't even a state yet, but he was sure it would be soon.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Savage River Walk - Then Home

[UPDATE May 4:  Little did we know when we were hiking last Wednesday, that we were passing very close to a missing hiker, Michael Purdy, who, it is believed, died Tuesday night from a fall, and wasn't found until Saturday.  I've addressed this in a follow up post here.]

We drove back to Savage River yesterday morning.  It's about 12 miles into the park and as far as you can drive once the buses start - May 20.  There's a 2 mile loop trail on each side of the river connected by a little wooden bridge.  And you slip quickly into the natural world, in a slightly tamed way.  Here's from past the maintained trail looking back where we'd hiked.  Up this point it's an easy stroll, with rocks placed here and there to take the runoff from the hill.  But there are some muddy spots.  Usually in May we've had a fair bit of snow and ice still on the trail.  Not this year.  Just one snowy spot at the end.  We were on the west side (cross the bridge on the road and start from the unpaved parking lot.)  On the other side there were still some significant snow and ice patches.

[I looked for older posts about Savage River, but couldn't find any just focused on that spot, but here's one from May 19, 2007 that is mostly Savage River.]

As always, click on a picture to enlarge and focus.

The motion and sound of the water rushing were a major attraction on this hike.

lichen on a big rock

We didn't see much wildlife yesterday - none of the big ones.  We'd seen caribou, moose, and bears the day before.  But we did see a Ptarmigan along the road (still mostly in its winter white - just the head had turned brown.)  And this ground squirrel along the trail.  We've seen Dall Sheep on this trail, but not this time.  

This was the only blooming flower we saw on this trip - a moss campion I think.  We've never been here so early.  Usually closer to mid May, just before the buses start.  But it was a very warm winter in Alaska and the road has been open to Teklanika for a while now.  We didn't see many birds at all and the plant life was still waiting for spring.  Except this one.

Orange Lichen this time

There are lots of big and interestingly shaped can colored rocks along Savage River.

There are lots of rock outcroppings that I suspect were sculpted by the ice and snow.

There was lots of ice on the river at the beginning of the trail, but at this spot it had all melted and the mud was visible.

We had things to do, but our two days at the park were refreshing.  As we drove south, there were spots where the birch lining the road had leafed out, and the clouds offered a constantly changing tapestry.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Good Day At Denali - Mountain, Moose, Caribou, Bears, And Blue Skies

click to enlarge and focus

A great day at Denali National Park.  I forget that not everyone who finds their way here knows that Denali is the name of the national park, and now, officially, of the highest mountain in North America that used to be named Mt. McKinley.

This was our first view this morning with the caribou moving in to pose as well.  Denali is on the right in the background.

There were several more caribou in the distance.

A little further on there was a moose with last year's calf on the mountain side.

Since moose are fairly common in Anchorage, these are a little less exciting, but still good to see in more natural settings than crossing the road.

Being in the park reminds me why I'm alive.  It's just so spectacular.  Again, click the picture to enlarge it, and more important, get it sharper.

The road is open to Teklanika campground.  From their you can walk or bike as far as you want.  Once the buses start, May 20, cars aren't allowed.  We walked down from the Teklanika view point to the bridge - the view here - and then on another mile  and a half down the road, for a good, warmish (the sun had warmed things up into the high 50s, maybe low 60s and the wind was much less than it was yesterday.)

 And nearly back to the visitor center, there were cars stopped on the road, and three bears walking along the tundra across the river below.  I don't know that we would have seen them without seeing the others watching them.  But the telephoto makes them a little more than specs.

Lots more pictures, but I want to post this before they shut off the wifi at the visitors center.

April In Denali

Our May - before the buses run - trip to Denali is in April this year.  It's been the warmest winter on record and the weather forecast was good.

On the right is the view from the Mile 135 look out.  That's the Chulitna River.  On a clear day you can get one of the best views of the mountain from this southern viewpoint.

Current conditions at

McKinley Park, McKinley National Park Airport (PAIN)

Lat: 63.73° N Lon: 148.92° W Elev: 1719 ft.

Wind SpeedCalm
Barometer29.61 in
Dewpoint25°F (-4°C)
Visibility10.00 mi
Last update26 Apr 8:16 am AKDT 
Detailed forecast for


Mostly cloudy in the morning...then partly sunny in the afternoon. Highs in the upper 50s to lower 60s. Local south winds gusting to 25 mph in passes...otherwise variable winds less than 15 mph.
Partly cloudy in the evening then becoming mostly cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s. In passes...south winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 40 mph. Elsewhere variable winds less than 15 mph.
Mostly cloudy. Isolated rain and snow showers in the morning...then scattered rain showers in the afternoon. Highs in the lower 50s. In passes...south winds 15 to 25 mph with gusts to 40 mph. Elsewhere variable winds less than 15 mph.

[Weather forecast from]

As you can see, it wasn't completely clear. But you can see the base of Denali and a little bit more in the veil of clouds, flirting.

A little further down the road after Honolulu Creek, you get to the plateau surrounded by these exquisite mountains.

We got here a little after 4pm yesterday and drove to the Savage River bridge where we had dinner.  Just a ribbon of water flowing through the ice.  And it was windy.

Not much wildlife.  Some ravens, seagulls, and a squirrel.

It's sunny and blue this morning and we're hoping to get a better view of Denali today before the clouds come in.  Just stopping at the visitors center to borrow some wifi.  (It was shut off when we came back to Riley Creek campground about 8:30 last night.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Genre: Legislative Fiction - Story: Alaska Legislature Selling UAA to Charter College

This story idea popped into my head recently.  Probably because of all the stories about huge budget cuts to the University of Alaska plus bills to make it legal to carry guns on campus.  Along with the legislature's reluctance to end subsidies for the oil companies and all the mega-projects which are, in effect, subsidies for construction companies.

We've already passed April 1, so I can't just put this up straight.  Although it's far fetched, some of the people I've mentioned this story to said things like, "Oh, I didn't hear that yet."  They just took it for real without blinking.  An Irony icon (*I*) might get overlooked.

So I want you to consider this genre of literature:  Legislative Fiction.  Like science fiction, which imagines a world changed by future developments in science and technology, legislative fiction imagines a world in which the wildest desires of some legislators are fulfilled.  In this case, I'm pushing to the limits conservative desires to privatize government functions that they think could be done as well by the private sector, their concern about radical left-wing faculty brainwashing their students, and their desire to reward private sector supporters and funders.

So here's my short story.

Alaska's Majority coalition legislators have announced they are working to sell the University of Alaska Anchorage to Charter College.  The deal is being handled by developer Mark Pfeffer, whose commission should more than make up for any losses at the LIO.  In the tradition of the Alaska Republican majority, not only do they propose to sell the campus, they are giving Charter College a $500 million zero interest loan,  so Charter can afford to make the purchase.  The sale will also effectively cancel all union contracts, pension obligations, and health benefits.

Reporters noted Charter College's questionable record*, according to College Factual:
Among the Worst Graduation Rates
Only 23.6% of students graduate from Charter College - Anchorage on-time (two or four years depending on the degree) and only 25.4% graduate at all, ranking this school among the worst in the country in both categories.
Graduating From College Isn't for Everyone.
The Majority of Non-Grads at this School Dropped Out. 74.6% of students at Charter College - Anchorage failed to graduate within 150% of the expected time. The majority did so because they dropped out.
Senator D, said he thought they could also achieve those levels with the University.

*This part, unfortunately, isn't fiction.

Pictures From An Alaska Press Club Conference

To add a bit of drama to this meeting, you might want to imagine the strains of Mussorgsky's suite.  Here's some help if you can't.

Clifford Levy, NY Times Pulitzer Prize winner, giving the keynote where he discussed how the Times is dealing with the move from print to online presence - the experimenting, what's worked, what hasn't.

The Press Club's Saturday morning business meeting.

[click on any of the images to enlarge and focus]

Board nominees:

Erin Lee Carr, Friday morning, on making dark documentaries, from identifying subjects, getting their confidence, and finding money.  

Levy, LA Times Puliter Prize winner Kim Murphy, and ADN's David Hulen on story building in the digital age.

The Washington Post's Audience  Enhancement director discussing Facebook's algorithm and Snapchat.

Former ADN editor, UAF Snedden Chair Richard Murphy, and UAA Atwood Chair Julia O'Malley talk about story telling and Pulitzer prizes.

Lisa Demer's panel of Alaskan media folks who have done cross platform collaborations.

The AP's Northwest Regional Media Director Jim Pollock, West Region Director Jim Clarke, and Alaska/Hawaii News Editor Mark Thiessen.

As I look through my photos, I realize that this time I didn't really take out my camera except in the sessions.  While I had my pocket Powershot, I also had the bigger camera and the Powershot images no longer seem adequate.  But the Powershot is much easier to pull out and use.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How Does Facebook Algorithm Work? Ryan Kellett At AK Press Club - Wow! [Updated]

[Sunday April 24, 2016:  I've gone through and edited this a little, added some links.]

There are sessions that complain about how hard life is to be a journalist today, and there are sessions that look ahead and give tons of information on what's happening and how to get in on it.  This was the latter.  These are my running notes, so read with care.  But there was lots of great content on FB and some on Snapchat.

Ryan's presentation yesterday was also great - there's a bit of video on that post.

People at FB probably don't understand the algorithm completely.

News Feed was main product.  Now Messenger.  Is News Feed still relevant?


  • Algorithms 
  • How Facebook puts you to work "texting" content on you
  • Why do people Share?
  • Snapchat

Landscape before Algorithms?

How organized before algorithms?  
Pages - most important, chronological  

FB reverse chronology  - Twitter feed continues this way. though Twitter is tweaking.

Algorithms to solve problem:  Too much content

But they're not neutral.  

Instagram just went through this.  70% of posts you don't see because in reverse chronology.  
Filtering is the purpose.  

People placed value judgment on what is worthwhile and what is not worthwhile.  That's the scary part of the algorithm.  Value judgment of what is important.

That's what journalists questions.  Who decides what's important?  Keep this all in mind.

How does FB put together the News Feed?  Testing.  And users are the lab rat.  

Small group of people.  WP posts something on page.  First second published tested against small audience.  A tiny percent.  Then the next group.  Then the second group.  (did it over or under perform baseline?)  If over performs, then to the next round of people.  At some point it stops over performing.  

You have 4 millions fans, 4 million did not see the post in the first minute.  Larger and larger groups may see it over time.

What's the value of a like, share, comment, click?
Or open or play (video).  Most people think, that my like is the same value of everyone else's like.  But that's not so.  "If I only I can get enough likes."  No. Algorithm weighs different users differently. If someone likes every post and never shares, that counts as nothing or less.  But if she shares after never sharing, then it's a huge value boost.  Because she rarely shares.  Comments etc.  
User B:  Only clicks or watches videos.  Again, if does something they don't normally do, it gets more weight.  
User C:  Comments on everything.  Sometimes shares.  

Q:  If person has lots of friends, do they have more weight?
A:  Probably, lots of things go into algorithm.
Q:  Does watching an automatic video count?   
A:  Yes.  If you have regular link, test how long the user spent over at the story.  Way to calculate the value of the story = time spent away from FB.  
Google does click through and checks out the link.  Video - ten minute video.  

No one thing on the algorithm, it looks at many different things.

Q:  Sort of a private social credit score for individuals.  
A:  Yes, but they would never admit an individual score.  

Play the game - ways to game the system.  Think about the value of your like clicks.  Robert Gobel  [Scoble - I should have known better because I posted about his book Naked Conversations back in 2006] thinking about ways to manipulate the algorithm  [go to this link! it's amazing] for your personal advantage.  

Q:  How do ad clicks affect things?  They would be more valuable to FB?
A:  I don't know exactly  Value of the ad can be different for different parts of the screen.  Some ads need clicks, others just impressions.  Whether you should pay for distribution is question for journalists.  50% is paid social media.  

350 BC  - New Yorkier Maria Konnikova - about 2011 best job on describing world we live in.  Aristotle wanted to know what would make speech persuasive and memorable.    three principles:  ethos, pathos, and logos.  Content should have an ethical appeal, an emotional appeal, or a logical appeal . . .
Formulating stories 

Why do people share?

We want to feel smart and for others to perceive us as smart and helpful, so we craft our online image accordingly 

Lists:  Practical Value, Memory Trigger
Social currency:  LOLcats  - you want to be on the inside, 'we get it"

I see it as a batting average."  Jonah Berger says:  " No one is going to hit a home run every time, but it you understand the science of hitting your batting average goes up.  
Lots of reasons why succeed or fail, but need to be improving batting average over time.  The algorithm will kill you cause you don't know what it does.

Jonah Berger and Aristotle quotes from this New Yorker article by Maria Konnikova:

Q:  What about stuff that makes you feel good?  
A:  Yes!  We have Inspired Life blog.  I was skeptical, but it really works

Mistrust of media.  Generally part of journalism, but not everything.  

FB Tips

Repurposing content:  Why the URL matters on Facebook.  Role of recycling stories on FB.  Algorithm looks at URL, FB recognizes you've done this once  If do it again, oh, I've seen it and it gets downlinked.  (specific url, not the generic url of your website, but the specific article or post)

Q:  Autopost or manually do it?
A:  People would say FB wants people to do it manually.  All my tweets to FB automatically, two things against you.  1)  Tweet language doesn't translate to FB 2) Auto feed is Twitter, not the best.  But Wordpress better probably.  

Testing yourself with guide.  
How often should I post?  - No one answer.  Overall, more.  FB has told news orgs:  post more.  I tend to test how much is right.  Let's start with baseline and add 5% for two weeks.  # of posts can be tested because it's in your control.  Newer products, volume seems better.  I'm in the 30minute to an hour camp.  Huff post did every 7 minutes, NPR every 3 hours.

What type of posts?  Links and video now.  Great photos ok, on every day, links and video.  BUT this changes regularly.  FB live is new product.  Major thing they are pushing.  Paying some publishers to produce FB live for FB.  [Also see this link for live video to FB and Twitter.]

Should you post other people's content?  Someone else posting Wash Post. I checked, why would they push our content?  It was mainly parenting posts, home and gardening posts.  Looking at what is doing well for other pages.  Already know it's a good post.  

Q:  how exactly do you do your testing of whether things work, like how often to post?  
A:  Number of likes, shares.  I look at referrals coming in from FB.  

Q:  Change headlines for FB?
A:  We did in past, but lots of work.  Taught reporters to write better headlines from the beginning.  WP style has some weird things - Florida is FLA, which makes no sense on FB.  

Paying for distribution?  I don't do this, but I can talk to you about this later.  A lot of people work on paid social side.  Gone from "don't love it" but have become more accepting, as way to build certain communities, or verticals.  

A Great Facebook Post

Obama meets most powerful 2 year old.    

Great headline, short, Small curiosity gap.  
A clear and compelling image, maybe obscured
Clear invitation to click - curiosity gap headline, mentioning, but gap between what is there and what is on the other side of the link:  "here are the ways your city has eased up your parking rules."  What are they?

Text that serves up an expected emotion   - something that is fun, light, you want to click to participate and celebrate with everyone else.  

Q:  Text elements of FB post?  How do they need to work together.  See Obama Prince Image.

OG code terms, you can use whatever you want.  
click bate - headline is like a product, always deliver on that product.  We cannot oversell a headline.  
Answer has to be in top of the story.  


Snapchat wants to rule the world.  
Tier 1  FB, Twitter, Snapchat
Tier 2  Most everything else

3 major parts:

1.  Chat - messaging chat can type and video messages one to one or group
2. Story - totally different product, even tho same app, they see three parts, live stories, 
3. Discover - brands, super produced products

Settings - lots open and say, "what is going on?"
Drag Ion down

Added Me
Add Friends
My Friends

Add by username is simplest.  By snapcode interesting.  Boo-R code (ghost)

Stories - swipe left 
Chat  - swipe right

Why do things disappear? - 24 hour limit for stories.  People want to appear smart.  Something disappears is powerful, not preserved for ever.  Crazy weird on the fly.  Not forever.  

Lowering barriers to perfection.  See Instagram
What bad User Interface (UI) does for Snapchat.  - If you know how to use it, you're cool.  
No search, no share = discoverability nightmare  - need to know specific username
"Secret" features

Stories - once familiar with the elements.  Telling stories using regular snap stories.  
Average regular snap story.  India recognizes transgender status - pictures, first holy dip from WP

Example 2:  Seed vault - steps in pictures from outside, going down, there (capacity for 2.5 million)

Some accounts to follow

examples:  Washingtonpost (well, it's Ryan's company so he has to put it here)
ajenews,  thenytimes

local news:  the.oregonian

funny:  theflama, lacma (Los Angeles County Museum of Art artworks set to rap)

#brands:  everlane, tacobell

personalities:  juistinkan, snapatunde,  arnoldschnitzel

reporter:  djbdca

[I was going to put links here, but I'm not a Snapchat user, and as Ryan said, finding actual accounts is hard, intentionally, so people who can do it can feel like cool insiders.   I'm obviously not 'cool' in Snapchat's world.]

Friday, April 22, 2016

Ryan Kellett, Wash Post, What Works With on Online Readers

I'm at the Alaska Press Club annual conference - where I generally get out of my lone blogger cocoon, get stretched a bit, and once and a while get confirmation I'm doing some of the right things.

Ryan Kellett, the Audience and Engagement Editor at the Washington Post, got me stretching.  His talk was highly focused on the technical aspects I've stopped paying enough attention to.  It's the stuff about how to get people to pay attention, keeping audience, links, and other ways to engage the online reader.

This is a quick and dirty post, but I think the video will give you more of a sense of Ryan than a long outline of his talk.
So here's a brief overview he gave at the beginning and the video is below:

  • Who’s coming to my website? 
  •  How are they getting there 
  • Mobile Moble. Mobile. Mobile, Desktop 
  • What are you doing to serve your most loyal readers? First-timers? 
  • Article as a homepage 
  • What are you asking the reader for? 
  • How does your story look when prompted off-site? (This one he's going to cover at a different session.

As a blogger who doesn't have ads and doesn't really need to worry about traffic, it is good for me to hear about these things.  Of course, I pay attention to traffic, but it doesn't drive me.  I get to write what's interesting to me, but I'd like as many others who might share those interests to be able to find me easily.  So this got me to thinking about how to do that without spending too much time.  Ryan gave me lots to think about.  He's a dynamic speaker, so I thought it would be good to give you a bit of video from his presentation.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Anchorage Early Spring

As we flew back into Alaska yesterday, the mountains and glaciers of Southeast welcomed us.

And here's a photo of the Chugach that edge Anchorage.  If this were a painting, some folks would complain it was just patterns, but this is an undoctored photo.

AND, most amazing, here are the new leaves today on the birch tree out front.  It's April 21.  The earliest I ever remember fully budded leaves on the birch was around May 7.   Usually it wasn't until the end of May.  OK, I'm not sure about last year.  We were in LA with my mom about this time and there were leaves on the cottonwoods when we got back on May 13.  Then we headed for Denali where things weren't green yet.

When we got to Anchorage in 1977 we were told not to plant anything until June 1.  This year I put in sweet pea seeds on April 3, because over the years spring comes earlier and earlier.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Is My Struggle Book 1 A Reality Novel?

I ended my previous post on Karl Ove Knausgaard's book this way:
"I'm only on page 200 of the first book of this six volume set, so who knows where it will go?  It was a huge hit in Norway (he's Norwegian, but lives in Sweden)."
So now I'm on page 389.  It hit recently that this could be called a 'Reality Novel.'

It's like a written reality show.

The camera covers every minute detail.  We see everything that's happening.  But the novel form allows us to go inside the subject’s head in a way a reality tv show couldn't. That subject is also the author.

I was trying to figure out how we kept switching from one time and place to another and back again.  It feels like mid-sentence you start time traveling.  We’re in the present. In excruciating detail. Then suddenly we’re in the past and these jaunts into the past fill in the back story and also present us with observations about life, that usually are based on those details.

 And then we’re back in the present. So I think this is the pattern.

Here's an example, starting in the present:
 “As his steps receded on the staircase, I swung my feet onto the floor and grabbed my clothes from the chair. Looked down with displeasure at my stomach where two rolls of fat still protruded at the sides. Pinched my back, no excess flesh there yet, fortunately. Nevertheless, I would definitely have to start running when I got back to Bergen. And do sit-ups every morning. 
I held the T-shirt to my nose and sniffed. 
Hm, probably wouldn’t make another day.” 

 Karl Ove is at his grandmother’s house. He and his older brother slept in the attic, one of the few relatively clean rooms in the house.  They’re there for their father’s funeral. Karl Ove's father, whose  drinking and dementia led to the whole house becoming filthy and disgusting.

 The brothers are cleaning the house each day. Karl Ove goes into a discussion of cleaning products and their smells. Then slides into the past, then into smells in general, and infinity and meaning, before returning to the mundane present.

 “I filled the bucket with water, took a bottle of Klorin, a bottle of green soap and a bottle of Jif scouring cream and started on the banisters, which could not have been washed for a good five years. There were all sorts of filth between the stair-rods, disintegrated leaves, pebbles, dried-up insects, old spiderwebs. . . . Once a section was clean and had regained something of its old, dark golden color, I dunked another cloth in Klorin and kept scrubbing. The smell of the Klorin and the sight of the blue bottle took me back to the 1970s, to be more precise, to the cupboard under the kitchen sink where the detergents were kept. Jif didn’t exist then. Ajax washing powder did though, in a cardboard container: red, white, and blue. It was a green soap. . . . There was also a brand called OMO. And there was a packet of washing powder with a picture of a child holding the identical packet, and on that, of course, there was a picture of the same boy holding the same packet, and so on, and so on. Was it called Blenda? Whatever it was called, I often racked my brains over mise en abyme, which in principle of course was endless and also existed elsewhere, such as in the bathroom mirror by holding the mirror behind your head so that images of the mirrors were projected to and from while going farther and father back and becoming smaller and smaller as far as the eye could see. But what happened behind what the eye could see? Did the images carry on getting smaller and smaller? [italics added to show when we slip into the past.]
A whole world lay between the trademarks of then and now, and as I thought about them, their sounds and tastes and smells reappeared, utterly irresistible, as indeed everything you have lost, everything that has gone, always does. The smell of short, freshly watered grass when you are sitting on a soccer field one summer afternoon after training, the long shadows of motionless trees, the screams and laughter of children swimming in the lake on the other side of the road, the sharp yet sweet taste of the energy drink XL-1.  .  ." 

 He goes on about the taste of salt in the water, the feel of water dripping off the body as you pull yourself out of the water unto the rocks. And how those rocks are still there today, and the starfish and urchins are still under the water.  But it's not the same.
 “You could still buy Slazenger tennis rackets, Tretorn balls, and Rossignol skis, Tyrol bindings and Koflach boots. The houses where we lived were still standing, all of them. The sole difference, which is the difference between a child’s reality and an adult’s, was that they were no longer laden with meaning. A pair of Le Cock soccer boots was just a pair of soccer boots. If I felt anything when I hold a pair in my hands now it was only a hangover from m childhood, nothing else, nothing in itself. The same with the sea, the same with the rocks, the same with the taste of salt that could fill your summer days to saturation, now it was just salt, end of story. The world was the same, et it wasn’t for its meaning had been displaced and was still being displaced, approaching closer and closer to meaninglessness.” 
[Is that true?  It had meaning for children that no longer exists for an adult?  I can think of things that have meaning for adults that had no meaning when I was a kid.]

 And then, in the next sentence, we jump back into the present.
 “I wrung out the cloth, hung it from the edge of the bucket and studied the fruits of my labors. The gleam in the varnish had come to the fore although there was still a scattering of dark dirt stains as though etched into the wood. I suppose I must have done a third of the woodwork up to the first floor. Then there were the banisters and the railings to the third floor as well. . ."  [Italics show how we return to the present.]
With all that detail, you can understand why this is only Book 1 of six.  I think this one will be enough for me.  I have hung in there because this is a notable book.  Here's some background courtesy of Wikipedia:
"While Knausgård´s two first books were well received, it was with the six-volume Min Kamp series of autobiographical novels, published from 2009 to 2011 and totaling over 3,500 pages, that Knausgård became a household name in Norway, due to the books' large success as well as the controversy they raised.[2][4] The controversy was caused partly because the Norwegian title of the book, Min Kamp, is the same as the Norwegian title of Hitler's Mein Kampf, and partly because some have suggested Knausgård goes too far in exposing the private lives of his friends and family, including his ex-wife and grandmother. The books have nevertheless received almost universally favourable reviews, especially the first two volumes, and, even before the final book's publication, they were one of the greatest publishing phenomena in Norway ever. In a country of fewer than five million people, the Min Kamp series has sold over 450,000 copies.[5]"
I came up with the notion of a 'reality novel' because I am still reading and I think much of the fascination comes simply from the 'camera' following this man and his family and friends.  I'm sure for many Norwegians, he's articulating things openly about the world his generation grew up in.

I just picked up Atul Gawande's Being Mortal, which my mother's neighbor had strongly recommended some time back and will be discussed at my next book club meeting..

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How About A Pound For Plants - Where They Can Be Rescued And Adopted?

I just found a home for five containers of  cymbidiums from my mother's yard.  The first cymbidium came into my mother's possession on Mother's Day in 1958 or 59 or 60.  I carried this magnificent plant with three or four sprays of orchids.  My mother kept them alive for all these years.  Well, I can't guarantee these are the same plants.  But I know over the years she repotted them.  She also acquired new ones as gifts.

One of the pots had a beautiful spray right now.  A couple of others had stunted sprays of a couple of flowers budding.  I knew these plants weren't going to survive and went looking for a good home.  Fortunately I know some retired greenhouse owners living in LA and so I offered them to their daughter.  She'll get good help with them.

[Since I used this photo in a post the other day, I ran it through the dry paint filter in Photoshop for this one.]

Most of the other things in my mom's yard are pretty resistant to drought or they wouldn't have survived all these years - like the walls of jade plant and pencil plant.

But it made me think that there should be a pound where people can take plants to be adopted by new owners.  Looking on line I've found someone named Trina Studabaker in Aloha, Oregon who takes in plant orphans.

There are some organizations that do something like that.

The US Department of Agriculture has a Plant Rescue Center for plants that have been confiscated.  

There's the Williamsburg Native Plant Rescue
Williamsburg Native Plant Rescue (WNPR) is a group of volunteers located in Williamsburg and Hampton Roads, Va. The volunteers transplant native plants from construction sites prior to development, usually relocating them in public spaces, such as local parks and schools. However, recent interest in landscaping with native plants has led to projects involving replanting at the rescue site after it has been developed.
The Benson Plant Rescue in Omaha, Nebraska is in . . .
". . .  their 16th year of rescuing plants and recycling them with proceeds benefiting the Omaha Public Library by buying children's books. They distribute thousands of overstock and end season plants free of charge to low income gardeners.

Here's part of PlantAmnesty's mission:
PlantAmnesty, established in 1987, is a 1000-member mock-militant nonprofit organization whose purpose is to end the senseless torture and mutilation of trees and shrubs caused by mal-pruning. We have a sense of humor and a mission. We specialize in using the media to alert the public to crimes against nature being committed in their own back yards, specifically tree topping and the nuisance shearing of shrubs. Once we have the public’s attention, we supply all the solutions: a referral service of skilled gardeners and arborists, classes and workshops, and YouTube videos and how-to literature on selective pruning in English and in Spanish. And we host volunteer pruning events for needy and deserving trees and gardens, including the Arbor Day Tree Prune and Volunteer Yard Renovations.For our work on pruning reform we have won several awards including three Gold Leaf Awards from the International Society of Arboriculture, the Arbor Day Foundation’s Education Award, and Washington State’s Urban Forest Stewardship Award.

Bixapedia says there used to be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants.

Antilandscaper also plays with that idea.

And Earthly Perfect also has a plant rescue addiction.

And there is an organization called P.C.A.P. (Pee-Cap) Prevention of Cruelty of Animals and Plants.

The Bureau of Land Management has a program for people to adopt Joshua Trees in the El Mirage Recreation Area.

You could find people to adopt your plants on Craigslist, but more likely it's about selling.

Freecycle is the best I can find so far.  It's a site where you can give away anything - not specifically plants.

While I didn't find exactly what I was looking for online, I think there's enough interest here for this to become a thing in the future.  Just have to figure out how to keep things healthy and pest free.  And I'm hoping readers might point out some examples where this is already happening.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Women In Combat - Going In The Wrong Direction

This headline
Army to commission first 22 female officers into ground combat roles
9 to join infantry in service’s first intro of women in combat.

in the Alaska Dispatch over a Washington Post article made me want to repost this item on lifting the ban on women in combat I did three years ago .

"Instead, we should be banning men from combat.
". . . they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore." [Isaiah 2.4] 
Now this is a bible passage that I'd like to see more pastors getting fanatical about."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Prime Minister Trudeau Reveals He's Not Just A Pretty Face

A reporter, apparently, jokingly asked  Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to explain quantum computing, as a preface to really asking a question on policy, at The University of Waterloo.  Instead of going for the policy question, Trudeau answered the quantum computing question.  Here's how Fortune described it.  
"At a press conference on Friday at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, a journalist jokingly half-asked Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to explain quantum computing, before moving quickly on to a policy point. Instead, the young PM offered a quick and clear answer to the first question. “Very simply…normal computers work, either there’s power going through a wire or not—a one, or a zero.
They’re binary systems,” said Trudeau, triggering a wave of surprised applause. 'What quantum states allow for is much more complex information to be encoded into a single bit…a quantum state can be much more complex than that, because as we know, things can be both particle and wave at the same time.'”
[It's more impressive on the video (below) as he easily and articulately explains.]

The people in the audience were impressed and a lot of people have looked at the video.  It would be nice to see more of our politicians able to respond so coherently to technical questions.  To any questions really.

But Fortune plays down his response.  The subtitle was:
"But should we really be so impressed by a politician’s grasp of basic science?"
Maybe not, but given the level of discourse we're hearing today, this was definitely impressive.

The writer then goes on to say quantum physics was "conclusively established" in 1964.
"In other words, this is kind of like being impressed by Thomas Jefferson demonstrating a basic understanding of gravity."
First of all, Trudeau wasn't explaining quantum physics, he was explaining quantum computing.  Though you could say he was, sort of, doing both - applying quantum physics to computing.

And I suspect that by comparing him to Jefferson, the writer already destroys his own case.  I can't think of any current American politicians who could reasonably be compared to Jefferson.

But maybe the real standard should be how many people in the room and watching the video could explain quantum computing themselves if asked, and how many of them know enough about it to evaluate Trudeau's answer, as opposed to just being impressed.

The the writer tells us that Obama is something of a nerd himself.

So is the niggling because the writer disagrees with Trudeau's liberal policies?  Is it merely concern that the US looks bad in comparison - thus the Obama reference?

In any case, I'd like us to start using Trudeau as the new standard for judging politicians' knowledge and fluency.   Here's the video:

[I'd note:  It did occur to me that this might have been a set up.  But the way he answered suggests that at the very worst, he was asked a question that the reporter knew he could answer.  I'd prefer to belief it just happened.

Another question  - was this just a ruse to avoid answering the question about ISIL?

As I looked for an answer about the ISIL question, I came up with a Huffington Posr Canada piece that  answers the first question as well.

1.  Apparently the quantum computing lesson was part of Trudeau's tour of the institute that morning and there was even a link to the University of Waterloo's Quantum Computing 101 webpage.   So it seems the reporter knew this and was checking, cheekily, on what the Prime Minister had retained.

2.  The post also says that he also did respond to the ISIL question.  The Huff Post Canada post has a video of Trudeau talking about Canada's response to ISIS, though it looks like this was another time and place.

Finally a thank you to my physics advisers for their guidance on this post.]

Friday, April 15, 2016

What Do All These Mean Spirited Republican Bills/Proposals Have In Common?

  • Guns on Campus
  • Keeping Transgender Folks Out of Public Restrooms
  • Rules that Make Abortion Inaccessible
  • A Border Wall With Mexico

These are all made up issues that distract from the important, consequential issues.  They're what used to be called wedge issues designed to stoke fear by tickling the amygdala.   Emotions take charge, reason doesn't come to play here.  So the target audience gets aroused and angry.  No debate here, no discussion, no analysis.  Just fear based anger.

If you notice these are all tangible, concrete concepts we can visualize and easily understand.  They create all too easily imaginable images of someone shooting someone on campus.  Or of a six foot something, former NFL football player like John Irving's Roberta Muldoon, leeringly entering the women's restroom in a dress.  Visions of tortured fetuses and hordes of Mexicans streaming across the Rio Grande to take away American jobs.  

And they don't have to think about how to balance the budget, how to curb global warming, the tens of thousands of civilians who have died because of the United States' attempts to avenge the World Trade Center deaths and destruction.  They won't have time to think about how 1% of Americans came to hold 40% of our wealth and how to change that.

In Penn & Teller's seven basic principles of magic, this is called Misdirection."
Draw attention away from a secret move.
The main issues - guns, sexuality, abortion, and immigrants - aren't made up.  But the legislation being debated and passed these days is so outrageous and mean-spirited I'm convinced it's a form of political sleight of hand to keep us from seeing and dealing with the truly important issues.

It's the only theory that explains for me all the nasty and divisive legislation that Republicans have been introducing and even passing in many states in the last year or so.  It's to keep us distracted over guns, abortion, bathrooms, and walls, so we don't focus on inequality, voting rights, and how the law is rigged in favor of the 1%.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

"the 24-hour rule is a 'nonsubject"

Nat Herz has an ADN article today about the Republican majority ignoring the 24 hour rule for notifying people of a committee hearing.  He notes that Jeremy Hsieh, the news director for Juneau’s public television and radio stations,  regularly tweets violations of this rule, though he acknowledges that there is no penalty for the legislature violating their own rules.  The title quote comes from Cathy Giessel (R-Conoco-Philips).
"Asked about Wielechowski’s objections about the oil tax bill, Giessel, the resources committee chair, responded that the 24-hour rule is a 'non subject.'”

What exactly is a 'non subject'?   Here's what the Collins dictionary says:

Clearly, she isn't using it in the first or third sense.  Definition number 2 seems the closest.

It's of no interest or importance.  Obviously, this isn't exactly true because the article says that Hsieh's tweeting
". . . drew a sharp response this week from the Republican-led Senate majority caucus. 
The caucus press secretary, Michaela Goertzen, asked Hsieh to remove one of his tweets that said the Senate’s labor and commerce committee, chaired by Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage, appeared to have broken the 24-hour rule."
So they are interested and pissed at the attention.  They'd rather just do it and no one knows.

I think what Giessel means is that she has no interest in the 24 hour rule and it's not important to her.  She doesn't care.  And she doesn't have to care.

That's the problem we have when one party has a significant majority and can simply ignore the other party and the rules that have been set up to protect the people of Alaska from bills being rushed through with inadequate notice for anyone to prepare a response.  

Giessel has done this sort of thing before.  When it comes to oil issues, she pushes through, because that's her job, taking care of the needs of her husband's employer.

But this callousness to anyone who disagrees with them is having its effect on Republicans nationally and I expect that it will spill over to the states in November.  Giessel's district has proven to be well gerrymandered to protect her, but eventually power leads to enough arrogance that people finally say

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Now That Republicans Are Trying To Dump Trump, Maybe They'll Nominate Darth Vadar

So, Trump will go to the convention with the most votes.  But you need a 1237 delegates. If no one reaches that number, then the second round is wide open.  Trump may argue that he has the most votes so he should win, but that's not the rules.  And despite his 'most votes.'  a large majority of Republicans who voted or caucused, chose someone other than Trump.  He can't claim 'majority wins,' if he doesn't have a majority of the delegates.

And the Republican establishment as well as many non-establishment Republicans think he'd be a terrible candidate.  Personally, I think that for the most powerful - whether in elected or unelected positions - it's less about his policy and more about the fact that they don't control him and he doesn't owe them anything.  They fear for their power, positions, and access to the inner workings.  After all, he merely says what they've been using code to say all these years.  (OK, there are rational Republicans who are sincerely repelled by what he says as well as concerned about losing power.)

And they aren't too excited by the number two man Ted Cruz.  After all, he thumbed his nose at the Senate leadership with a 21 hour filibuster against Obamacare against the party leadership's wishes.

So now things seem wide open to find a candidate wh will appeal to the leadership and to the American voter (not just Republicans.)  Paul Ryan's just emphatically said he wouldn't run or be drafted.  So who's left?   In the Senate there are 55 Republicans.  The ones with the most name recognition are from places like Alabama .  Then there are few folks whose names will cost them 5% of the vote - like Flake and Crapo.  Sorry, this is not a cheap shot, but the reality of life, like the fact that good looking people get an advantage.  [Trying to find some study to support the idea that a weird name will lose votes was distracting and unsuccessful.  Maybe Johnny Cash was right and I'm wrong.]

And then there are former Republican officials who weren't elected - like Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell.  Republicans do like conservative blacks.  I think it's because they think it proves they aren't racists.  They can say things like, one of my best friends . . .

So who's out there?  There are the Republican governors.  Unlike legislators, governors actually have to govern, not just talk and posture.   The FiveThirtyEight blog has a list of governors by popularity ratings.  Here are the top few:

From FiveThirtyEight blog

So we start off with a governor from a coal state, in this day and age of climate change with coal being one of the biggest culprits.  Then we get a governor from the state that Bill Clinton was governor of.  The last presidential candidate who was governor of Arkansas was, oh yea, Mike Huckabee.  Nice try, but Beebe is a Democrat.  Utah's Gary Herbert.  He's two months younger than the last Republican nominee and he's also a Mormon.  Are the Republicans ready to try that again?  The governor of North Dakota?  That state was hot when oil was $100 a barrel, but things aren't so good there any more.  Oklahoma has a woman governor..   Didn't McCain pick a woman governor with high popularity ratings?  As I recall, that didn't work out too well.

There may or may not be some good Republican politicians out there who would make good presidents, but name recognition matters.  I suspect that Republicans will do what they've done several times before - pick a celebrity candidate with name recognition.  You know, like Reagan, Schwartzenegger, or even Sonny Bono.

So, what Republican celebrities are out there?   I found a list.   None of these on the list has held office to my knowledge.     Reagan at least had been governor of California.  ((If you're looking for another celebrity governor, Jesse Ventura, well, he was in the Independence Party, not the Republican.) Here are some from a list I found at Buzzfeed.

  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Tom Selleck
  • Wayne Newton
  • Bruce Willis
  • Chuck Norris
  • Clint Eastwood
  • Mary Lou Retton
  • 50 Cent
  • Robert Duvall
  • LL Cool J
  • James Earl Jones
  •  Gloria Estefan
  • Adam Sandler

Some we'll just ignore.

From my way of looking at this, there are only a couple of names here that have any traction, but really only one that is solid.

Not even the Academy Awards could find its way to give Sylvester Stallone his long denied Oscar this year, so he's out.

Bruce Willis, Chuck Norris, and Clint Eastwood all could give strong performances as president.  "Make my day!" is so Trumpish, but with much more style.

Robert Duvall seems to have a little more depth and breadth.

Gloria Estefan would allow the Republicans to nominate a Cuban, since they wanted Rubio so bad and, well,  the leadership did. Except Jeb!  And since they'd be bumping Cruz too.

Jones image from E
For my money, there's one on the list who is the perfect candidate.  He's got great name recognition and even greater voice recognition.  He's already been a king several times (Lion King and King Lear.)  He's been President (The Best Man.)   He was a Vice Admiral (The Hunt for Red October) And, of course, he was Darth Vadar.  That voice would make people jump and vote Republican.  James Earl Jones for president.  And he wasn't born in Kenya. You know he'd win.

[I want to put up an Irony alert on this post, but I'm afraid this could happen.]