Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Why Wait Till 2020, Let's Ask For An Annulment Of The Election

OK, so you're really drunk when you get married, and you really didn't know what you were doing and you married someone you didn't even know the person you married.   If you're Catholic, you can get an annulment.

So I was thinking the same should hold true for an election.  So I looked up the grounds for an annulment of a marriage in the Catholic church.  We could incorporate some of these as part of a constitutional amendment.

For example, the document I found starts like this:
Grounds for Marriage Annulment in the Catholic Church  There are very well defined canonical grounds for Marriage Annulment. Once these have been established marriage Annulment can proceed. It is important to understand the grounds for Marriage Annulment before making application, and if in doubt you should consult your local priest.
So what are some of the grounds that might apply here?
  • Insufficient use of reason (Canon 1095, 10)
  • Grave lack of discretionary judgment concerning essential matrimonial [presidential] rights and duties (Canon 1095, 20)
  • Psychic-natured incapacity to assume marital [presidential] obligations (Canon 1095, 30)
  • Ignorance about the nature of marriage [presidency] (Canon 1096, sec. 1)
  • Error about a quality of a person (Canon 1097, sec. 2)
  • Fear (1103)
I think most of my readers can figure out the logic one could use to argue most of these.  But there's one more that might need a little clarification because the metaphor is not perfect.  While the Catholics talk about marriage and then "you or your spouse", we're talking about the 'election' in part and the 'presidency' in part.  And the 'you' here is the 'voters' and the 'new president' is the spouse.  But after the election, we have to talk about the nature of the presidency.  

With that in mind, I offer one more ground for an annulment:

  • Willful exclusion of marital [presidential] fidelity (Canon 1101, 12)
My thinking here is that the president thought he could take on the presidency and still keep his old partner (the Trump businesses).  I think that qualifies as willful exclusion of presidential fidelity.  He's just put his businesses in his sons' houses where he can sneak a visit any time he goes over for dinner.  

Monday, January 30, 2017

Boys' Life Explains What Makes A Good Leader - UPDATED

I had a chance to glance at the January 2017 Boys' Life magazine while waiting for my granddaughter at the doctor's office.  (Just a routine post birthday checkup.)

I sometimes forget about the huge impact the Boy Scouts had on my life.  The organization gave me lots of opportunities to go camping.  I got leadership training at Philmont in New Mexico and Sequoia National Park.  I learned how to plan, organize, and run a meeting as a teenager.  There are a lot of good skills I learned with them.

And I had a subscription to Boys' Life too.

But in recent times the Boy Scouts have had some issues with their stand against gay scouts that have cast an unfortunate (though not unjustified) cloud over the organizations.  So I paged through the magazine.

One of the first articles was an "Ask Pedro" column.  (I didn't find any old Boys' Life magazines in my mom's garage so I can check my memory, which thinks maybe Pedro was answering questions 60 years ago.)

Here's the way the head of the Boy Scouts describes the quality needed for leadership that's published in the January 2017 Boys' Life magazine.
"You want to be a leader others want to follow, and you always need to put the other person first."
The Boy Scouts is NOT a liberal organization by any stretch of the imagination.  As I thumbed through this issues 52 pages, I saw mostly white boys.  All group pictures were white kids.  There were two girls pictured.

The only faces of color were a kid with an Hispanic name who had helped clean up Louisiana after a flood,

and two dark skinned comic faces - one teaching a white kid how to compost, the other used to show how to make a balance board.      

Most of the boys pictured looked like this.  I know there have to be black boy scouts, but they didn't have any actual photos of them.

There was also an ambiguous picture (another cartoon who was maybe Asian, maybe white, maybe Hispanic) who was identified as an electrical engineer. You can judge for yourself.  But given that "everyone knows Asians are good at math" . . .

The point here is that even the boy scouts -  known as a pretty conservative organization that seems to have trouble finding actual photos of kids of color, but makes an effort to include a few in Boys Life, even if they are cartoons, has a description of a leader that essential say Trump is not the Boy Scouts' image of a leader.

[UPDATE Jan 31, 2017 - The Boy Scouts announced yesterday that they are changing their policy to accept transgender scouts.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

American People Are Starting To Fight Back

When FDR called for Americans of Japanese descent to be rounded up and put into camps, most Americans did nothing in protest.  A number took advantage of the situation to take possession of the property of those rounded up.  Though there were exceptions as the movie The Empty Chair documents.

But when Donald Trump ordered a ban on refugees and Muslims, American people went to the courts to file suit against the president, and they went to the airports to protest the holding of refugees and others held in airports from being sent back.

We've had presidents who have done things people disagreed about.  But we haven't had a president who ignores every tradition, every norm, every law, every norm of decency that interferes with his whims.  We've never had a president who has put into place so many people who have no regard for the basic values of the Constitution and the law.

We've watched this sort of thing happen in other countries, but we're only just learning how to handle someone who comes to power and abuses that power every day in his first week as president.  But we're learning.  I'm proud of the people who are finding their voice and their power to stop the illegitimate actions of this elderly child president.

There will be a backlash.  The real test is when people get hurt, even killed.  We all have to stand up and assume the role fate demands we play.  I hope we learn this quickly and well and that Congress sees where the power of the people lies and stops Trump before he carries out any of the orders he got from Putin*.

World, we want you to know we are planning on taking our country back from this madman.**

*If these aren't orders from Putin, they might as well be - take down NATO, take down the EU, weaken the US Intelligence Agencies, destroy US relations with countries like China, and, it appears more and more, take down the USA.

**I don't use this term lightly.  And the man who has called everyone who has opposed him all sorts of disparaging things, has not standing if he protests when people do the same to him - especially when they are close to or right on the mark.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Meanings of "Pay" - As In "Mexico Will Pay For The Wall"

There are two basic meanings in English of the word "PAY."

One is a free market sort of concept where people sees what they need or want, and voluntarily give someone the money for the product or service.

The other is a more sinister concept, more like retribution from someone who has the power to 'make you pay."  It's what the Mafia are said to do to knee caps.

So when Trump says the Mexicans will pay, one way or the other, it seems like demanding protection money.  Trump said he'd build a wall and get the Mexicans to pay.  Now he's trying to keep his promise to his angrier supporters, by demanding Mexico pay 'voluntarily' or, if not, he'll find some other way to punish them.

I do have to say here, that this is not new behavior by Americans toward foreign countries that didn't do as the US wanted.  The embargo of Cuba is an example.  But there have been many cases of clandestine retribution.   The difference today is that Trump says these things out loud.

AIFF2016: Suggestions for Next Year's Film Festival

Overall, the 2016 Festival went well.  There were lots of good films, lots of visiting film makers, and some nice extra touches - like music before some films.  On the opening night, for instance, the Alaska based band whose music was in the opening night film, played before the film.  That was some thoughtful planning.

But there are always improvements to be made and here is my list for next year.

1.  Scheduling -

This is my biggest issue.  Here are two guidelines I'd like the schedulers to strive to follow.

A.  Maximize number of films someone can see.  From one time slot to another, there should be enough time for viewers to get to any of the next films.   Here's an example of what I mean.  Below is the first Saturday morning schedule. ( I realize it's hard to see the details, but you can get the basics points.)

Top row (A,B,C,D) - films that began between 11:30am and 12.  The blue-green stars indicate how many of the four following films a viewer has enough time to get to.
Someone watching film B could get to four.
Someone watching A or C could get to three.
Someone watching D could only get to two.

The pea-green circles show the number of prior films from which one could get to  the next set of films (E, F, G, and H).

Why not schedule the end times and starting times so someone could get from any of the first four to any of the second four?  This also has to take into consideration walking distance between venues.

All it takes is paying attention to
a.  how long each program is
b.  adjusting the starting times (and thus the ending times) of A, B, C, and D 
c.  adjusting the starting times of E, F, G, and H

They didn't need big adjustments as the following image shows.  A few minutes this way and that.

By starting the longest showings of A, B, C, and D a little earlier and slightly adjusting the starting times of E, F, G, and H, the movie goers' options are greatly improved.  They can see ANY of the following four films from any of the previous four films.  And it can work for the next set of films (I, J, K, and L) as well.

If someone is trying to see two particular films, it's not possible if the two are playing in the same slot.  Festival goers understand they can't see every film.   But one shouldn't have conflicts between slots.  (Slot meaning here - all the films that are showing between, say, 11:30 and 1pm, and then 1:15 and 3pm, etc.)

B.  It should be easy to see the films in competition in each category.

Films in competition are the ones the reviewers thought were the best.  I haven't always agreed, but overall, that's a good guide for picking out better films in a very crowded, generally unknown field.  So it should be easy to find and to watch the films in competition in each category.

For feature length films 
a.  they shouldn't be shown at the same time
b.  they should be marked as films in competition so it's easy to identify them
c.  as much as possible, feature length docs and features, shouldn't play at the same time

Shorts and supershorts
These are more complicated because they are shown in programs with other films.
a.  put as many shorts in competition together in the same program as possible
b.  don't have orphans - just one film in competition in any program
c.  put the films in competition at the beginning or end so someone doesn't have to sit through the whole program to catch them
d.  show more of the short, particularly the short shorts, before feature length films - this year, for example, "Arrival" was shown on GayLa night before "Real Boy."
e.  pay attention to which films are repeated in different showings - there were some shorts I saw three or four times and others I never got to see

2.  Other Issues 

Indicate Films in Competition in the list of selected films on the website
This has been the usual practice, but this year this was only done for the Docs and Short Docs.  There was a place for them to be marked, but they just weren't.  Even though the festival was notified in advance, it didn't get done.  Aside from alerting viewers, it's important information that verifies what a film maker says about her film.

Memberships - I don't know how many people are aware of AIFF memberships, what they mean, and what benefits members get. (I don't.)  Membership is not pushed on the website or at the festival.  I suspect more people would join if it were pushed a little.

49th Brewery basement room - all seats are at the same level and the screen isn't elevated so it is hard to see films,  particularly those with subtitles.  On weekend nights there was a lot of noise from nearby rooms.  Having food available is good.

Alaska Experience Small Theater - temperature regular goes from cold to hot to cold to hot.  If you sit under a vent it's really bad.  Also latecomers have to walk in at the front and opening the door lights up the screen.  Otherwise, it's a cozy little theater.

When scheduling, remember that it probably takes about ten minutes to get from the Brewery to the Alaska Experience and another ten or so to the museum.

Award titles - get them consistent
  Generally, the awards have been titled:  Winner, First Runner Up, and Honorable Mention.  But at least one of the announcers at the Awards ceremonies used other names, like Winner, Second Place, and Third Place.  I'm not sure the official names are the best.  Would someone not associated with the festival who hears "Honorable Mention" realize this is a third place honor?  It might be useful for the board to consider what names they want to use.  And then get everyone to use them consistently.

World Premiers - Mark any films that are world or North American premiers in the schedule, online, and announce it before the film is shown.

Computer Instructions  -  The audience shouldn't have to see the projectionist's computer screen.  It happened often enough - particularly at the Alaska Experience Theater - to be something worth mentioning here.

All that said, I think this was one of the better run festivals.  The volunteers were great - helpful, cheery, thinking on their feet.   The festival remains low key and, from what I hear from the film makers, one of the most hospitable festivals around.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

This Video Overview Succinctly But Thoroughly Explains Redistricting And Gerrymandering In The USA

I watched a video today which spells out very clearly and accurately the electoral problems in the US based on our redistricting process.  (It's below.)

I say this as someone who knows a little bit about redistricting

I blogged the Alaska Redistricting Board that met from 2011 through 2013.  I learned a lot about redistricting both in the Alaska and in the US.

Among the things I learned (and are echoed in the video):
  • Whoever controls the state governorships and legislatures generally gets control of redrawing the maps.  That includes the congressional districts (this doesn't matter in states like Alaska where there is only one member of congress) and the state legislative districts
  • There are a number of different ways to gerrymander (make the maps so they favor your party):
    • "The first method is called the "excess vote." It is an attempt to concentrate the voting power of the opposition into just a few districts, to dilute the power of the opposition party outside of those districts that contain an overwhelming majority of the opposition's voters. [Sometimes called 'packing.']
    • The second method is know as the "wasted vote." This method of gerrymandering involves diluting the voting power of the opposition across many districts, preventing the opposition from having a majority vote in as many districts as possible.
    • Finally, the "stacked" method involves drawing bizarre boundaries to concentrate the power of the majority party by linking distant areas into specific, party-in-power districts."  (I originally posted this list on a blogpost on Anchorage redistricting.  It comes from Matt Rosenberg.)  
  • The Republicans were much more sophisticated and foresightful before 2010 and had captured a large majority of state governorships and legislatures.  Thus they controlled redistricting in most states.   This resulted in the House of Representatives having far more Republicans than the number of Republican voters would likely have produced if all districts were fairly drawn.
  • These lopsided districts limit the likelihood Democrats will retake the majority in the House of Representatives.  Some long shot ways Democrats can win in these districts:  
    • get out the vote of people who generally don't vote, and do so in huge numbers.
    • enough Democrats move into the Republican districts to even the lopsided-ness
  • Unless Democrats capture enough state governorships and legislatures, the Republicans will be able to keep control after the 2020 census redistricting.
  • The US Senate's two Senators per state is itself a form of gerrymandering which gives the many smaller states a lopsided influence in the Senate.

Here's the video, it gives a great overview of what's wrong.

If all the people who marched last weekend and are organizing to resist the Trump administration want to make a real difference, I'd suggest they take a good look at redistricting in their states and how to either change the system or get more seats on the redistricting board. Here are some starting resources.

ACS Revamped Email - Second Attempt Coming Soon, Maybe

Here's an email I got from ACS last November announcing their revamped email system.

If they sent an email saying it didn't happen, I never saw it.  I did eventually call and ask and was told, no, it didn't happen.  Postponed.

So here's an email I got yesterday.

They ACS email is pretty basic, so it would be nice to get a revamped version.  Or maybe not.  The old one is serviceable without a lot of bells and whistles.  We'll see a) if the new one really comes Feb. 1, and b) if it's worth the trouble.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

ADN: Fake Quote In Ad

Since the Anchorage Daily News became the Alaska Dispatch News, the local and state coverage has increased significantly.  There are more reporters covering the legislature, the assembly, the university, and other significant organizations and issues.  But in the new world of Fake News, I'd like to see the ADN also take on Fake Quotes in ads.

This anti-income tax ad appeared in the ADN Sunday.

Bob Gillam, Alaska's richest person according to Forbes, and the money behind the anti-Pebble Mine campaign, doesn't want Alaska to reestablish the income tax as this ad in Sunday's ADN suggests.  If I were a billionaire with lots and lots of income, I might feel the same.

But when I read the quote from Johnson - "The 20th Century proved, if you were paying any attention, that taxation is the great enemy of civilization"  - I was skeptical.  Johnson wasn't an anti-tax guy.

So I googled and couldn't find the quote linked to Johnson.  I emailed Jim Gillam's company to see if they could tell me when and where the quote was published or he said it.  Then I emailed the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas.

I haven't heard back from Gillem, but the library was back to me quickly.   Archives Specialist Ian Frederick-Rothwell wrote back:
"I can find no record in the Public Papers of Lyndon B. Johnson that he ever said this. I searched the American Presidency Project website, which holds full, searchable text of all of President Johnson's speeches, statements, messages, and remarks as delivered or published."
He did find an article that included the phrase written by Buffalo, New York attorney Jim Ostrowski.   But I guess Ostrowski's name and picture wouldn't be as meaningful as Johnson's.

And the statement under LBJ's picture about every state that introduced an income tax since 1960 experiencing economic decline seems pretty sketchy as well.  Most states have had periods of 'economic decline' (however one might define that) since 1960.  Is there any cause and effect relationship that can be proven here?  I doubt it since all but a handful of the other states already had income taxes before 1960, so they should be totally depressed by now.  The only 'truth' this add is might prove is that some folks will believe what they want to believe, without any thought.

Billionaires have the resources to check their facts, though as our current president proves, having money doesn't necessarily lead to the truth.

But in this day of FAKE NEWS, I's urge the ADN and other reputable media, to require ads like these to provide sources before they print them.

Another option is simply to put a fact check next to advertisements so that readers don't have to each do this kind of homework.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Inaugural Graphic - Length, Words, Great Interactive Visuals

My last post talked about the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) I'm taking now on Data Exploration and Storytelling.  Below is an example of a pretty spectacular example of taking data and presenting it in a relatively easy to use graphic.  It's a Google undertaking.   I'm not sure how critical the content is, but I foresee media doing this sort of thing on state or municipal budgets, crime statistics, proposed legislation, etc. that makes it much easier for citizens to get better way to understand important public policy issues.

Alberto Cairo, one of the instructors in the my class, was an advisor to this graphic that compares the eleven most searched presidents' inaugural addresses.

It's highly interactive and you can see each use of a particular key word, including the sentence it is in.

The five categories of words (and five diagrams) include:
  • Politics (Words:  Justice, Constitution, Democracy, President of the US, Communism, Republic, US Congress)
  • Finance (Tax, Money, Commerce, Economy)
  • Emotions & Human Traits (Love, Happiness, Dignity, Courage, Sacrifice, Compassion, Loyalty, Patriotism, Morality)
  • Spirit and Mind (Bible, God, Spirit, Soul, Destiny, Prayer, Faith, Truth, Wisdom, Conscience)
  • Society (Liberty, Hero, Freedom, Crime, Revolution, Peace, Promise, Wealth, Poverty, Hatred, Common Good)  
Guess who used the word 'wealth' more than anyone else.

Below is a screenshot, which doesn't have the interactivity of the original.  But click on the image to go to the original.

You can see the total length of the speech by how far down it goes. Each bar or rectangle represents a sentence and your cursor can pop up each sentence.

The dots represent each time the president used one of the word listed above. Yellow shows the word that is highlighted - in this screenshot, it's the word democracy. You'll notice that Trump didn't use any of these words - but neither did Lincoln, Kennedy, or Nixon. For the screenshot, I highlighted one of the first Bush's use of the word Democracy.

As I said in yesterday's post, readers have to be vigilant, perhaps even more vigilant, of graphics like this.  There's always the danger that the cool factor will depress people's attention to design or factual issues.  People need to understand the assumptions of the graphic makers.  In this case the creators explain their decisions:
  • "we picked the presidents based on the most searched presidents on Google since 2004"
  • Our analysis of a selection of historical inauguration speeches allowed us to extract the most common subjects mentioned in speeches. 
  • Subjects that were at least mentioned 4 times overall were selected. 
  • These subjects are organized by theme, and 
  • by comparing them with average search interest from Google search data in 2016, you can explore if these subjects are still searched for today."
There are lots of decisions that have to be made and that could effect the comparisons.  Perhaps picking presidents who came into offie under similar economic or war conditions as Trump would have made more sense.  But determining that would also involve lots of decisions.

And there's an assumption that all this is accurate.  But the website (before the Society chart) says:
"Contrary to other recent Presidents, President Trump does not mention the word Freedom."
Well, that's not exactly true.  Trump said,
". . . we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag."
I'm not sure how long this took to prepare and how many people were involved.  There's a brief overview at Alberto Cairo's blog, where I learned about it.  

Monday, January 23, 2017

Data Journalism In The Alternative Fact Era

This is the second week of a MOOC class I'm taking called "Data Exploration And Story Telling" taught by Alberto Cairo and Heather Krause.

I'm taking this class because several work sessions at Alaska Press Club conferences (for example this session with Chrys Wu)   have convinced me of the power of being able to extract information from online or otherwise acquired (with permission of course) data bases and then manipulating that data, offers opportunities for really powerful stories.

[For those of you still scratching your head about MOOC, it's Massive Open Online Course.  This class has some 6000 students.   And when I write 'manipulate' I mean it in the sense of reorganizing the data so that the meaning of the numbers is easier to understand.  But I acknowledge that it is easy to misinterpret the data both accidentally and intentionally.]

Data Journalism seems to be a hot topic these days as large data bases are increasingly becoming available.  For me the issue is figuring out how to download them, clean them up, and then play with them to find interesting patterns.   That's what I'm hoping to get out of the class.

Here's a link to a Guardian article on data journalism.  Here's a section of that article that is becoming increasingly clear to me
"5. Data journalism is 80% perspiration, 10% great idea, 10% output
It just is. We spend hours making datasets work, reformatting pdfs, mashing datasets together. You can see from this prezi how much we go through before we get the data to you. Mostly, we act as the bridge between the data (and those who are pretty much hopeless at explaining it) and the people out there in the real world who want to understand what that story is really about."
This is both encouraging (I'm not a dummy because I think this looks like a lot of work) and discouraging (because I'm one blogger without a team of folks to help figure this out and do the work.)

Numbers, graphically displayed, can powerful tell stories that are otherwise invisible.  I've known this for many years.  It can often be relatively simple to prove or disprove someone's idea by getting the numbers.  I remember back in the 1980s at the Municipality of Anchorage, a couple of fairly easy projects where data ended or changed the conversation.

One was about the use of pool cars.  The Muni had some cars that employees could use to go out on Muni business.  We were getting complaints that there weren't enough cars and people were getting turned down.  We just asked the person who assigned the cars to log the requests for a month.  It turned out that anyone who asked for a car 24 hours in advance, got one.  But people who wanted a car in ten minutes sometimes got turned down.  That report ended the discussion.

Another study of the people making over $10,000 a year in overtime was sent to all the department heads, just to let them know.  This highlighted some departments with high rates and led to more careful monitoring and in some cases to adding positions.

Hospitals have used data on treatment and length of stay and recidivism rates for each doctor's patients in certain units.  The data led to doctors making changes in their treatment of patients.

So I know this can be very powerful.  We'll see whether I can learn to do this with the tools I have - I've been an Excel holdout, trying to by with Apple's version, Numbers.  And there seem to be a number of folks in class who are doing this already as part of their work.  And this class seems a little harder to negotiate online than the Coursera class I took in the fall.  There are so many forums and comments - which there should be with 6000 students - that it feels a bit like being in jammed train station at rush hour.

And then there's the issue of storytelling.  I believe in the power of stories and their importance.  But I'm starting to get concerned about how loosely it is being used, and how it can lend to people dismissing the stories as, just that, stories.  Something made up.

We're in the era when photos can be easily manipulated by anyone and now video can be manipulated to change the narrative.  The use of story lines by media is nothing new.  The broader skepticism on the part of the public is also a good thing.  But skepticism without the critical skills to assess a story's accuracy is problematic.  We're in an era where people shop around until they find the spin that fits their world view, wether it's accurate or not.

And some take full advantage of this.  Trump tells whatever story makes him look good and challenges those that don't.  From the LA Times:
Challenged on NBC's "Meet the Press" about Spicer making incorrect claims, Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway made a startling characterization , that Spicer gave "alternative facts."
“You're saying it's a falsehood, and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that,” Conway told host Chuck Todd, who immediately interjected his disbelief over her description.
Conway eventually backed off Spicer's adamant claims and inflated crowd estimates. “I don’t think you can prove those numbers one way or the another,” she said. “There's no way to really quantify crowds."
Alternative facts?  No way to really quantify crowds?   Really?

If you live in Trump's competitive world where everything is about winning, then facts only matter if they help you win.  You challenge the umpire every time he calls you out and every time he calls your opponent safe.  Whether you got to the base before the ball did is irrelevant.  Instant replay is only your friend if it confirms your claim.

Can data journalism become a form of instant replay?  I suspect not.  It plays a different role.  Instant replay shows us, in slow motion and from a better angle, what we all just saw from different angles at high speed.  Data journalism goes through lists of numbers and converts them into visuals that make sense of the numbers.  It makes the incomprehensible, comprehensible.

And people will have to become more sophisticated about data collection, about categories used in collecting data, about survey questions, and a whole lot of other things if they're going to be able to evaluate the accuracy of data journalism.

Journalist have to learn those things.  In the first week of the class, Heather Krasue offered students a checklist for data:
  • Who collected the data?
  • How they collected the data?
  • Who was included? 
  • When it was collected?  
  • Why did they collected the data?  

So, between watching the class videos, reading the articles, participating in the forums, and doing the assignments, not to mention playing with my granddaughter and other duties as assigned, keeping up here is getting sketchy.

Here's another look at this topic that my friend Jeremy posted on FB the other day.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Great Way To Start First Full Day Of Trump Administration - “Come out of the circle of time And into the circle of love.”

My granddaughter's birthday party with her friends was this morning at 10.  So my wife and daughter marched to the ferry terminal with the people headed to the Seattle Women's March.  I got to take care of my granddaughter and then walk with her to the party location.  A four year old birthday party is a great reminder of what's important in life.  

Then this evening we went to a presentation by Jamal Rahman, a Sufi iman from Seattle who came to talk. Every now and then you meet and/or hear a person talk who touches deep inside of you.   That happened tonight.

A key theme was the five steps to peace.   Here are my notes from a napkin I had.

Obviously, that's not going to convey much to you, but while I'm inspired by hearing and meeting this man, I also need to process a bit more.  I just want to say, Jamal was wise, spiritual, funny, patient, humble, and peaceful, and insightful.   Yes, there's a little bit of confirmation bias here, but sometimes you know, just know, this man is the real deal.

The title quote is from Rumi.  It was one of many quotes and stories that left my mind and heart full
and brought peace. The message basically was what we all know - we must communicate with the 'others' in our world.  To do so, we have to open our hearts and listen rather than try to convince.  We have to first meet human to human.  We have to let go of our own ego.   Something I've been trying to say on this blog, but not nearly as articulately and as comfortably as Jamal has done.

So I'll leave you with this partial description from Jamal Rahman's website:
"Jamal Rahman is a popular speaker on Islam, Sufi spirituality, and interfaith relations. Along with his Interfaith Amigos, he has been featured in the New York Times, CBS News, BBC, and various NPR programs. Jamal is co-founder and Muslim Sufi minister at Interfaith Community Sanctuary and adjunct faculty at Seattle University. He is a former co-host of Interfaith Talk Radio and travels nationally and internationally, presenting at retreats and workshops.
He is the author of Sacred Laughter of the Sufis: Awakening the Soul with the Mullah's Comic Teaching Stories and Other Islamic Wisdom; Spiritual Gems of Islam: Insights & Practices from the Qur'an, Hadith, Rumi & Muslim Teaching Stories to Enlighten the Heart & Mind; The Fragrance of Faith: The Enlightened Heart of Islam; and coauthor of Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith; Out of Darkness into Light: Spiritual Guidance in the Quran with Reflections from Jewish and Christian Sources; and Getting to the Heart of Interfaith: The Eye-Opening, Hope-Filled Friendship of a Pastor, a Rabbi, and an Imam.
Jamal's passion lies in interfaith community building. He remains rooted in his Islamic tradition and cultivates a "spaciousness" by being open to the beauty and wisdom of other faiths. By authentically and appreciatively understanding other paths, Jamal feels that he becomes a better Muslim. This spaciousness is not about conversion but about completion.
Since 9/11 Jamal has been collaborating with Rabbi Ted Falcon and Pastor Don Mackenzie. Affectionately known as the Interfaith Amigos, they tour the country sharing the message of spiritual inclusivity.
Imam Jamal, originally from Bangladesh, has an abiding faith in the power of heart-to-heart connections to encompass differences and dissolve prejudices. He enjoys programs that celebrate life and unity through delight, laughter, and food. He has a private spiritual counseling practice serving individuals and couples, and is available for interfaith weddings and ceremonies. Jamal offers a variety of classes and workshops, including the popular "Blush of the Beloved," a course in spiritual deepening and discernment drawing upon the practices, insights, and wisdom within Sufism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism."

Friday, January 20, 2017

Obama Still Alive And Well After 8 Years - What Did Trump Say Today?

I remember back in 2009, that many of us worried that Barrack Obama wouldn't survive his presidency.  So as I watched the new president being sworn in, I was delighted to see Obama there.

I hope those who have great fears about the next four years, will see at the conclusion of the Trump presidency, that their worst fears weren't realized.

Meanwhile, some reactions to the new president's inaugural speech.  It wasn't a typical Trump speech.  He only used the word "I" about three times. (I say 'about' because the word counters can be tricky, especially with single letter words.  I checked some words using a search function, but I also used an online word counter. The numbers vary a bit, so my numbers here are approximate.)  He used 'we' over 40 times and 'you' and 'your' about 23 times.  The words 'environment,' 'constitution,' 'climate,' and 'health,' were not mentioned. Though he did mention 'the misery of disease.'   "Law' was mentioned once - as part of 'law enforcement.'

But it painted a vision of a dark America with many people suffering poverty, unemployment, crime, and bad schools which will all be made great again.  He talked about America First, a phrase used by Nazi sympathizers who wanted to keep the US out of the second world war.  You can see his competitive model of the world throughout his speech.  Our team is going to start winning again was a key message.  Another key message was giving power back to the people from the corrupt politicians.

Here are some excerpts and my reactions.  You can watch or read it all here.

"Together, we will determine the course of America and the world for years to come."
That was one of two uses of the word 'together.'  The other time it was attached to making America great again.
". . . today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another, or from one party to another -- but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People."
Exactly who the 'American people' are, who 'you' is supposed to mean is not clear in this speech.  Though I suspect Trump supporters think it means them and Trump opponents think it means Trump supporters too.  
"For too long, a small group in our nation's Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished -- but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered -- but the jobs left, and the factories closed."
Government is the bad guy.  That's a pretty common theme in the US.  I've been thinking about a post that argues government isn't the enemy because it's been taken over by business.  If government is corrupt, whose paying to corrupt it?  All the corporations who spend billions on lobbying to pass laws that help them and kill laws that would make corporations more accountable.  

Trump doesn't mention the non-governmental multi-millionaire and billionaire class that is getting richer at the expense of everyone else, he only mentions their puppets, the politicians.  
"January 20th 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer."
Who exactly will become the rulers again?  Not Native Americans or African-Americans, since they never were the rulers.  Not Asian-Americans or Hispanics.  Not LGBT folks.  Not women.  Who does that leave?  OK, he does mention women in the next sentence, but this is the 'forgotten men and women.'  Is this where he's talking about the Native Americans and all the others? Why does that seem like putting words in his mouth?  Toni Morrison's essay in the NYTimes offers one explanation of this part of the Trump appeal.
"You came by the tens of millions to become part of a historic movement the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens."
This comes closer to classic Trump rhetoric - 'which the world has never seen before.'  You can make statements like this if you never read about history or about the rest of the world.  
"Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are the just and reasonable demands of a righteous public."
I bet if we sat in with the speech writers, we would have heard some debate about whether to mention health care.  Well, maybe not.  I doubt there was any discussion about climate change.

Here is where it begins to sound like a Communist Chinese report on human rights abuses in the US.
"But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential."
"This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
Why don't I think this is a call to restrict the sale of automatic weapons?
"We are one nation -- and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny."
This is the closest this speech comes to a unity theme.  But the idea that Trump feels anyone else's pain just doesn't ring true to me.  
"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military; we've defended other nation's borders while refusing to defend our own; and spent trillions of dollars overseas while America's infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay.
We've made other countries rich while the wealth, strength, and confidence of our country has disappeared over the horizon." 
When I was a graduate student, I was surprised to read a review of American foreign aid packages. The aid bills in Congress always stipulate that US products are used to aid other countries and for the most part US companies get contracts to do the work.  It was always a good way to distribute money to American companies and workers in the guise of helping others.  Let's not fool ourselves that spending money abroad hurts the US.  If it did, Congress wouldn't pass those budgets.  They get lobbied by all the companies whose products - often things they can't sell - are going to be bought by the US to ship overseas.  It's a great stimulus to the economy. (See especially the bottom of page 44 in this report.)  And military spending has enriched American businesses since the Revolutionary War.  

Seeing American infrastructure rebuilt would be a great thing.  And it would be great for American businesses to thrive and for them to create lots of good paying jobs to build that infrastructure.  I just don't want them to get unduly wealthy, their employees overworked and underpaid, and a shoddy end product.  
"One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions upon millions of American workers left behind.
The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world."
This is a side-effect of capitalism.  Companies work to make a profit.  If they make more profit by going overseas, that's what they'll do.  But as many jobs, maybe more, are lost to automation of jobs.  In the 50s and 60s there were articles about how Americans would spend their leisure time when automation brought the work week to 30 hours.  What those writers weren't thinking was that the benefits would go to the owners, not the workers.  That 'leisure' is called today 'unemployment.'

It seems to me that 'ripped from their homes' was related to unregulated mortgage schemes ultimately the fault of big banks that were making money so fast they didn't care about the consumer.  Government's involvement was that they didn't regulate the banks closely enough.  
"We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land.
From this moment on, it's going to be America First."
As mentioned above, America First, has a dark history.  If Trump sticks to his word here, his friend Vlad is in for a surprise.  I'm not holding my breath.
"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength."
No, other countries aren't 'stealing' our companies.  Even though they may be owned by Americans, these are Americans who weigh their costs and benefits and decide to ship jobs overseas.  
"We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."
I can't in any way defend people who murder women and children in cold blood.  But they are still human beings.  To deny that may be an attempt to distance oneself from the atrocities that humans commit.  The leaders who led the genocides in Africa used similar language - calling their enemies cockroaches to be eradicated.  Dehumanizing the enemy is practiced all over the world.   However misguided ISIS terrorists are, they come from situations where they are alienated enough to be susceptible to recruitment.  And then they are trained to obey orders and be loyal to the group.  

Here's a passage I'd love to have the new president discuss with, say, Charlie Rose or Bill Moyers.
"At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.
When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity."
Whoa!  Total allegiance to the United States of America!  I imagine a lot of Christians might argue that their first allegiance is to God.  Others might say their allegiance is to all of humankind, not just to Americans.  And what does that mean for people who don't agree with what the United States is doing - say like Trump until today?   Or people who have dual citizenship?  Is that going to be abolished?  What will happen to someone who has only 75% allegiance to the USA?  Should we have more loyalty to corrupt Americans than to saintly citizens of other countries?  

I like that he suggests there is no room for prejudice, but I don't understand how that follows from loyalty to the US. White Nationalists would argue they are completely loyal to the US, but with whites in power.  

Then there is the bible quote.  What exactly does "God's people" mean to Trump?  It's from the Old Testament, so does it refers to Jews?  Is it understood to mean Christians?  Christians and Jews?  What about Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and atheists?  It would be nice to hear an explanation of what Trump, or the speech writers, had in mind.  

Knowing that bible translations vary greatly, I looked it up.  Of 22 different translations, biblehub  shows only one that mentions "God's people."  All the others refer to when "brethren" or "brothers" live together in unity.  (One says 'brothers and sisters.")  To suggest that it's "good and pleasant' when brethren live together in unity, also suggests that it's common for them not to.  The bible it comes from appears to be one of the most used, which raises questions about how close to the original biblical language most American Christians are.  

This is going to be an interesting four years.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Alaska Legislative Info Office Joins Facebook And Twitter

Well, it's a lot cheaper than a new building.

Here's their announcement:  (The links below should help people connect.)


Alaska LIOs Launch New Facebook, Twitter Accounts
Live video/audio links to be shared with Alaska media

Alaska’s Legislative Information Offices will have an increased social media presence as the 30th Alaska Legislature begins this week, providing more ways to keep Alaskans informed about legislative news and events.

The additions include a Legislative Information Office (LIO) Facebook page and the LIO Twitter handle @AKlegislature. The social media platforms will be used to provide immediate notice about new information added to the Legislative Affairs Agency website at akleg.gov.

The LIO Facebook page will promote information such as the weekly schedule of committee meetings and events, educational resources, opportunities for public testimony, and more.

The Twitter account will share links to live-streaming video and audio of committee meetings via AlaskaLegislature.tv.

In addition, the LIO’s Media Services section will begin distributing video codes to Alaska media outlets interested in hosting the live video and audio feeds produced through AlaskaLegislature.tv. To learn more about hosting these live streams contact the Juneau LIO at 465-4648.

“The LIO’s core mission is to provide accurate and timely information to Alaskans to encourage engagement in the legislative process, and having a strong social media presence will go a long way in furthering that goal,” said LIO Manager Charles Westmoreland.

About Legislative Information Offices
Alaska has 23 nonpartisan Legislative Information Offices located throughout the State, with 11 staffed year-round and 12 staffed during the legislative session. The LIOs operate under the Legislative Affairs Agency. To learn more about LIOs and where they are located, visit http://akleg.gov/lios.php. To learn more about the Legislative Affairs Agency, visit akleg.gov

Contact information
Juneau Legislative Information Office
Phone: (907) 465-4648
Email: lio.juneau@akleg.gov

Click HERE to visit the Alaska State Legislature Website
Click HERE to watch live streaming of the Alaska State Legislature
Click HERE to send a Public Opinion Message during session

Quick Turnaround

We only got back to Anchorage last Thursday night and already Tuesday we were looking at the Chugach Range from above again.

We're in Seattle at the request of a certain four year old who wanted us at her birthday party.

So we'll stay a while and give her mom some relief.  A win-win situation.  Besides, the temperatures in Anchorage have dropped below zero.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

About This Blog

When I first started blogging, many of the posts were about blogging itself, as I was learning what this is all about.  But once I got out most of the kinks, figured out how to put up pictures and videos, and how to put up a stat counter and tables, I stopped paying that much attention to the technical details, unless I had new problems.

Also, as things went along, I began to have a better sense of why I was blogging and what I was blogging about.  I figured a page on top would be a good intro for people who wanted to know such things.  I've finally put it up today.  It's the top left tab under the header.  Or just click here.   It links to some of the old posts I've done which help people understand what this blog is about.

I also looked on the right hand column and deleted the "Can't Find It?" reference on the upper right.  It  looked like this:

Can't Find It?
1. Try the search blog button, upper left
2. Try Edit on toolbar, then Find in this Page
3. Try the labels list on the lower right.

I think nowadays people are more used to blogs and know how to find things.  

I've also been wanting to change the copyright announcement there and move to Creative Commons, but it seems that is more complicated than it used to be.  So now I have to figure out which of the six options I'm most comfortable with.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Close Are Trump's Actions To Putin's Priorities?

Is Putin pulling Trump's strings?  Let's look at some of the signs.

What are Putin's biggest obstacles?

1.  NATO, as weak as it is, is still a threat.  Anything he can do weaken NATO would help him restore the Soviet era power balance in Eastern Europe - Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, etc.

2.   China has a long, long border with Russia and there's always been conflict on that border.  Anything he can do to weaken China's ties with the US would be helpful.

3.   Turkey holds the key to the waterway from southern Russia.  Good relations with Turkey is to Putin's advantage.  Putin's performance in Syria contributed to refugees into Turkey and Europe, destabilizing the EU and threatening Turkey's acceptance into the EU partnership.  But Putin forgave quickly Turkey shooting down a Russian military plane and is making nice to Turkey.

4.   The US Intelligence agencies are always keeping watch on Russia.  The less capable they are, the more power Russia has.

Now, what are some of the things Trump has been promising to do?

1.  NATO is obsolete and doesn't pay its bills according to Trump.  He's going to shake things up.

2.  Trump's been riling China - congratulations call from Taiwan's president,  Secretary of State nominee Tillerman is challenging China's access to nearby islands.   All this looks aimed at making the US-China relations much more fragile and making China's border with Russia weaker.

3.  Trump supports Erdogan and his strongman ways.

4.  National-Security Republican elite fear they are being kept out of Trump administration.

OK, Trump is anti-establishment and we can expect some of his views to be a big change from the past.  But these all seem to line up in one direction - supportive of Putin's agenda.  They are pretty big deals.

And given the help Russia gave Trump in the campaign, and all the Russia friendly appointments, and the most recent news about Russia's leverage on Trump, I'd say that the evidence is lining up to a very dire conclusion.

It took a lot of [for] people to give up their support of Nixon.  They couldn't believe the president would lie, and it meant a change of their whole way of thinking.  But the Watergate committee in the Senate was made up of Republicans as well as Democrats.  While the Republicans made the Democrats prove things, they weren't in denial, and they didn't stonewall the hearings.  This is going to be 'interesting times.'

Monday, January 16, 2017

Snowy Day In Anchorage

The clouds are low and heavy.

The clouds have been spitting snow all day.

This bull moose snacking on BP trees reminded me why I'm here.

Downtown was quiet on this MLK holiday.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"The copulation of cattle as an enterprise in Ballona was soon mounted" and Other Notes

1.  Mar Vista History

My mother's house is in a part of Los Angeles called Mar Vista and a local realtor there dropped off a flier with a lengthy excerpt from a history of Mar Vista.  When I looked up the source - the Mar Vista Historical Society - I found the whole long and, for some of us, interesting document.

But I have to say that the sentence in this post's title jumped out at me.  One possible explanation is that this part was translated into English, presumably from Spanish, and the the computer stuck in 'copulation' instead of 'breeding.'  But I can't account for the 'mounted.'

I'd note that the excerpt in the real estate flier left out the story in the original of how the Spanish settlers' land grants displace the indigenous people in the area and then after the Spanish American war, the Americans either invalidated outright or set up administrative barriers that effectively dispossessed the Mexican landowners of their property.

2.  Viewing Sourdough Starter As A Pet

It's been a long time since Cocoa died, but we decided against another dog because we didn't think it fair if we were going to be away for longish periods.  But I realized on this trip, that in some ways my
sourdough starter is a kind of pet.  But one that can stay safely in the refrigerator for fairly long periods of time.  But as we were close to returning to Anchorage, I began to wonder how my starter was doing.

When we got home I took it out, let it warm up a bit, then fed it a bit of flour and water.  Soon it had risen in the jar and was actively bubbling.  So I had to do the sourdough starter equivalent of taking it for a walk, I had to make a bread.

The rubber band around the jar shows where the starter was after I fed it.  When it grows like that, it's like a dog jumping and yipping to go for a walk.

I made two breads.  First a baguette and then a second round loaf.  Here's the baguette.

3.  One Step Closer To Filling The Gap

Picture from Mayo Clinic

Back in October I wrote about the post the oral surgeon embedded in my gum.  On the left is a picture from the Mayo Clinic.  In the October post, I talked about the process and there's a picture of my post implanted in my mouth.

It takes time for the post to get connected firmly to the existing jaw bone.  So Friday the oral surgeon checked to see if it was in ok.  Monday I go to my regular dentist who will do a mold for a new tooth.  The oral surgeon was pleased with his work and said no one would notice.

I couldn't help but think about having the dentist give me a green tooth so they would.  After a bit more thought, I was thinking I should have the tooth on the other side pulled too and get vampire like fangs.  It would be great if you could have several different teeth and you could trade them out by yourself.  I suspect the dentist has to do that.  I'll check on Monday.  The dentist had a full display of teeth in the window sill.

The 'flipper' (sort of like a retainer with a tooth on it) that was supposed to fill the hole until all this work is done, was a pain.  It interfered with speech - my tongue would rub against it on the roof of my mouth when I spoke - and it made eating unpleasant.  It might be a good diet tool, but I found it a pain.  So I wasn't too upset when it disappeared somewhere in the house.  If you don't mind a gappy smile, I'd recommend skipping the flipper.  Fortunately, the missing tooth isn't right in front.

On the way home I passed this hoar frosted hedge.  Most of the trees I saw looked like this. Yesterday there was more snow, warmer temps, and all the frost is gone.

3.  Citizens Climate Lobby Meeting

The second Saturday of the month is the international CCL meeting.  The Anchorage chapter meets at UAA.  The speaker was Yareth Yoram [not sure where Yareth came from] Bauman, the man who lead the Washington state's initiative for a revenue neutral carbon fee in that state.  It didn't pass, but it got 40% of the vote, and potential opponents with deep pockets, chose not to campaign against it.

You can listen to the podcast of the meeting here.

4.  Shoveling Snow - My Winter Exercise

Yesterday we got about 5 inches of snow, and showering out the driveway and sidewalk was a productive way to get in some good exercise.  People didn't used to have to go to the gym to stay fit, they just walked more and did chores without all sorts of motorized devices.

When I got back from the meeting, there was another inch of snow and it was windy.  Our mountain ash tree tends to keep its leaves as long as it can and the wind had scattered some of them onto my recently shoveled driveway.  But I got out the shovel and did another rep.   I feel great after 30-60 minutes of moving snow around.

By the late afternoon, there was sunshine and clear sky.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It." BUT How To Use It Right?

People can use the bible to support slavery (and oppose it.)  Or justify male domination over women.  Until Luther, the quote about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, was used to condemn the rich until Luther made being wealthy godly.

And so with learning from history.  We can learn the wrong thing if we choose the wrong event, or interpret it inappropriately for today's situation.   People, including myself, have made comparisons between what is happening in the US now with the rise of the Third Reich in Germany.  There are areas where comparisons are justified - such as how to use the media for propaganda.  We can learn something useful today about that.  But that doesn't mean that the writer thinks Trump is going to copy everything else Hitler did, like set up concentration camps, as some people assume.

I got to thinking about this when I read a passage about Hitler's plundering of art and jewels the other day.

Sergeant Major von Rumpel is a gemologist in Anthony Doerr's All The Light One Cannot See.  
"Because of the war [WWII], his job has expanded.  Now Sergeant Major von Rumpel has the chance to do what no one has done in centuries - not since the Mogul Dynasty, not since the Khans.  Perhaps not in history.  The capitulation of France is only weeks past, and already he has seen things he did not dream he would see in six lifetimes.  A seventeenth-century globe as big around as a small car, with rubies to mark volcanoes, sapphires clustered at the poles, and diamonds for world capitals. He has held - held! - a dagger handle at least four hundred years old, made of white jade and inlaid with emeralds.  Just yesterday, on the road to Vienna, he took possession of a five-hundred-and-seventy-piece china set with a single marquise-cut diamond set into the rim of every single dish.  Where the police confiscated these treasures and from whom, he does not ask. . .
"Rumor is that the führer is compiling a wish list of precious objects from all around Europe and Russia.  They say he intends to remake the Austrian town of Linz into an empyrean city, the cultural capital of the world. . .
"The document is real, von Rumpel has heard.  Four hundred pages." [emphasis added]
While All the Light One Cannot See is fiction, Hitler's plan for museum in Linz was real.  And the plundering of art and other valuables was real.

I don't see Trump with plans to plunder art, but it would probably  be safe to say he has his eye on prime real estate around the world for Trump hotels and towers.   His website shows fourteen Trump hotels, half of which are in the US. That leaves lots of countries without Trump hotels yet.  The Washington Post, for example, says he'd like 20 - 30 in China alone.  

As president of the US, he won't have have to steal them, he can just trade American favors for them.  "Sure, we can sell you some jets.  That means jobs for Americans and, I'd sure like that historic castle to be a Trump hotel."

I'd note that Wikipedia says that Hitler didn't steal everything he collected.  He sent one of his art experts
"on trips to Italy and France to buy artworks, which Hitler paid for with his own money, which came from sales of Mein Kampf, real estate speculation on land in the area of the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg, and royalties from Hitler's image used on postage stamps.[28] The latter, which was divided with his official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, amounted to at least $75 million marks over the course of Hitler's reign.[29]
This, however, was not the primary method used to build up the collection."
Did you skip over that quote?  If you did, you missed the part about him getting royalties from having his image on postage stamps!  Wow. Trump's picture on forever stamps.  With him getting royalties for each stamp.  Now that's something to look forward to.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

We Made It To Seattle

We made it by bus to the airport without it raining on us.

I want to say thanks to Theresa at Alaska Airlines for changing our ticket because she was sure we wouldn't make our connection in Seattle.  (We'd changed our flight that was supposed to stop in Portland to one stopping in Seattle because of the weather.  Alaska lets you change flights when there are big weather issues without having to pay the flight change or change in cost of the ticket.)  We learned another big advantage of being MVP on Alaska.  You get a leg up on the waiting list.  I have issues about this airline class system, but if it exists, I'm glad we were on the right side and I apologize to anyone who might have not gotten on because of us.

We got our ticket and you can see the view through the window above as we waited to take off.

The landscape around Portland was pretty white as we flew by Mt. Hood.

But as we got further north, things were looking better and we landed in the sun in Seattle.

Our gate has been changed from C11 to D1 and my wife is waiting for me to finish this so I will. Be back in Anchorage soon if all goes well.

In LAX Travel Chaos Hoping to Get On This Flight -Updated

Our original flight to Seattle was delayed and the checkin person didn't think we'd make our connection to Anchorage, so she put us on the earlier 11:45 am flight which is overbooked, but she thought we might be able to get on when they upgrade people to First Class.

This one is also delayed.  Passengers are just getting off the plane now.  It's 12 noon.

We've been lucky to avoid this sort of mess most of the time.  I do have an appointment in Anchorage at 1pm tomorrow.  Fingers crossed.

UPDATE  12:12 pm -  we now have boarding passes with seats.   On to Seattle with plenty of time to connect to the Anchorage flight.

UPDATE:  4:40pm the follow up to this post is here.  We made it to Seattle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Diamonds And Volcanoes, Oceans And Space

I wasn't sure what to do with this piece on diamonds.  It was interesting - both because of what it said and because it exposed a gap in my knowledge that probably most people know already.  (Did you?)   I tend to think diamonds and their high prices are due to monopoly and marketing.  Young men are cowed into buying sparkling rings by all the hype about diamonds being forever and the made up tradition of diamond wedding rings.  I'm not making this all up, people have studied this.  The article mentions that diamonds weren't associated with weddings until the 1930s.

But I acknowledge that industrial diamonds probably play an important role in society.  From the USGS:
"Because it is the hardest substance known, diamond has been used for centuries as an abrasive in grinding, drilling, cutting, and polishing, and industrial-grade diamond continues to be used as an abrasive for many applications.  .  . Diamond also has chemical, electrical, optical, and thermal characteristics that make it the best material available to industry for wear- and corrosion-resistant coatings, special lenses, heat sinks in electrical circuits, wire drawing, and advanced technologies."
I actually started yesterday's post with the quote below on diamonds.  That's why yesterday's title was  misleading.  The post was going to be bits and pieces of different things that weren't related and not enough to be a post on their own.  But the post evolved and the photos about the Silverlake walk were enough.  So I cut the diamond reference, but forgot to update the title.

So here's what I edited out yesterday:
"Most diamonds come from depths of 90 to 120 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, Smith said. The only reason they are accessible to us today is because they traveled up through the crust millions of years ago, carried along by rare and powerful volcanic eruptions.
But chemical clues culled from the Cullinan diamond and others like it suggest they were forged at even greater depths than most diamonds — about 224 to 446 miles beneath our feet."
- From an LA Times article on what scientists are learning from diamonds about deep in the earth .

I resurrected the post because last night before going to sleep I picked up my next book club volume - Anthony Doeer's All the Light We Cannot See - and read this:
"A diamond, the locksmith reminds himself, is only a piece of carbon compressed in the bowels of the earth for eons and driven to the surface in a volcanic pipe.  Someone facets it, someone polishes it."
I got the same lesson about diamonds and volcanoes from two different sources on the same day.  Did I ever learn that diamonds were spewed out of the bowels of the earth by volcanoes?  Maybe, but if I did, it didn't stick in my conscious knowledge.  But I was getting a message from someone to pay more attention now.

The original LA Times article is about a scientist studying large diamonds for what they tell us about so deep in the earth - a place, the article tells us, scientists can't reach, so these travelers from this distant region of our own planet offer up clues to what else is there.  And the article says there's a lot more minerals than had been previously thought.

This also got me to thinking.  Voyager has travelled about 12 billion miles from our sun,  about how we can send missions to to explore our solar system, but we on earth,  according to the Smithsonian:
"as of January 22, drilling had only reached a depth of 2,330 feet beneath the seafloor."
That's less than half a mile.  The earth's core is 6,371 kilometers (3,958 mi) according to this extreme tech article.    This site has a lot of clickbait, so checked further.  National Geographic says "about 4000 miles" so it's ok.  [There's an interesting graphic representation of traveling to the center of the earth at this BBC page.]

Is it really harder to drill into the earth than to go out into space?  Or is space just more romantic and better sold - like the diamonds - than earth core exploration?  Perhaps it is simply more difficult.  I found lots of articles comparing exploring space to exploring the oceans (where getting to the earth's core seems to begin).  This article from American Progress suggests it IS 'marketing' or at least what has stirred our exploratory imaginations:
"Yet space travel excites Americans’ imaginations in a way ocean exploration never has. To put this in terms [James] Cameron may be familiar with, just think of how stories are told on screens both big and small: Space dominates, with “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” and “2001 A Space Odyssey.” Then there are B-movies such as “Plan Nine From Outer Space” and everything ever mocked on “Mystery Science Theater 2000.” There are even parodies: “Spaceballs,” “Galaxy Quest,” and “Mars Attacks!” And let’s not forget Cameron’s own contributions: “Aliens” and “Avatar.”
When it comes to the ocean, we have “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and Cameron’s somewhat lesser-known film “The Abyss.” And that’s about it."
And since this quote mentions 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I should mention that a key character in All The Light We Cannot See is reading Jules Verne's classic story in braille.