Thursday, August 31, 2017

A Sprinkling Of Sun; A Family Of Mergansers

It's been rainy lately.  I try to sneak in a bike ride when the rain pauses and streets are only damp.  So when I got up this morning and saw the sunshine sprinkled into our yard, I decided to bike right away before the predicted rain came back.

Once I was on the bike trail I started thinking about the platform that looks out over the creek.  It's had a chain link fence blocking it with a "Park Closed" sign since last summer. The ramp to the overlook wasn't all that even so they might have thought it was unsafe.  Or they may have closed it because it had become a hangout for homeless folks.  I thought:  I really need to check whether they're ever going to open it.

And then I rounded the bend and there was a Muni vehicle in front of the walk way, and more important, no fence.  I stopped and talked to the guys at the truck.  The part of the platform that was over the creek was having trouble.  The creek was messing up the post that held it up.  They'd cut off about half the platform.  But it was now open.

I went out onto the deck to see how much was left - about half - and looked out over the creek to see what looked like a family of mergansers just below me.

I got a good bike ride in and then came home to eat breakfast and read the paper - while we still have one now that the ADN has filed for bankruptcy and the Binkley family of Fairbanks is set to be the new owners, maybe.

Did a number of things on my to-do list today.  I finally called the name I'd gotten of someone who can fix my turntable and dropped it off with him.  An interesting man.

Late August In Anchorage: It Gets Dark Again At Night And There Are Raspberries

I took out the garbage tonight at about 10:30pm and it was dark!

It's the end of August and in 30 weeks it will be the equinox when everyone, everywhere gets the same amount of light.  Then those of us further north, get more and more darkness.

But it's also the time when I can go out into the backyard and pick raspberries every day.

There's lots to write about.  I've been trying to imagine what it's like to be in Houston these days.  We are seeing lots of pictures of roads turned into rivers and someone posted a picture of a guy catching a fish by hand in a foot of water in his living room.  But it's not like everyone in Houston has been washed out of their homes.  It's just that the media focus on the most dramatic scenes.  The Guardian reports that:
"More than 2.3 million people live in Houston, the nation’s fourth-largest city. Tens of thousands of homes in and around Houston are semi-submerged and thousands of people have sought emergency shelter from the wind and rain. Officials estimate that 30,000 residents are likely to need shelter."
My calculation says that 30,000 people is 1.3% of Houstonians.  I'm not hearing much about the other 98.7%.

And it feels like we're in a constant bombard of craziness from, it's not clear.  Trump supporters?  Russian bots?  Right wing propaganda mills?  A combination?  So many counter attacks to take the attention off of Trump, to try to put anti-trumpets on the defensive.  To let them pass unanswered leaves some people vulnerable to believing the nonsense.  Things like "where was Obama during Katrina?"  (He was representing the state of Illinois in the US Senate.)  But to have to keep answering everything takes our eyes off the really important and damaging destruction of the Trump administration.  Like dismantling the State Department.  Is that part of his instructions from Putin?

Netflix has the Manchurian Candidate.  If you've never seen it, you should.  If you have, it's time to see it again.

I haven't had a chance to write about my short jury duty call.  I got called for a jury, along with 59 other potential jurors.  Jury selection took two days and 30 potential jurors, including a current state legislator.  Eventually they got 14 (two alternates), and I was never more than an observer of the jury selection.  The legislator didn't make it onto the jury either.

Remember the number above - 1.3%.  The media want sensational stuff to get your eyeballs for their sponsors.  And that's true for all the news, not just Harvey.  Remember, for every person who gets shot on any given day, over 300 million people didn't see or hear any gunshots.  But those stories aren't as interesting.  So don't let the news get you down.  Just turn it off and go for a walk or a run or a bike ride.  Get into a park or a garden or the woods or by the ocean or other natural waterway.  Take advantages of what you do have and be kind and loving to those who don't have.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Puzzling Over Escher

I found an old jigsaw puzzle in the garage when I was decluttering.  I'm not a jigsaw puzzle person.  I figure they are just time sinks without much gain.  In a time when there was no radio or television, not to mention internet, maybe they might have been a way to pass the time, but I'm much too busy to need a jigsaw puzzle in my life.

According to puzzle warehouse,
The origins of jigsaw puzzles go back to the 1760s when European mapmakers pasted maps onto wood and cut them into small pieces. John Spilsbury, an engraver and mapmaker, is credited with inventing the first jigsaw puzzle in 1767. The dissected map has been a successful educational toy ever since. American children still learn geography by playing with puzzle maps of the United States or the world.
Yes, I learned the 50 US states that way.  That's a great use of puzzles.

But I do like MC Escher.  So I pulled the puzzle box upstairs and started putting the borders together.

So I came to this as jigsaw novice.  But it did seem to me that there were certain difficulties in this puzzle"

  • black and white
  • white border
  • lots of similar features scattered throughout the picture

 I can imagine that a Jackson Pollack would be a lot worse, but this one seemed more than enough of a challenge.

So, if you can't group pieces by color, what do you use?  Starting with the border, I found I had to group pieces by shape, since all the pieces were simply white.  This was back in June I think.  Because then my daughter arrived for several weeks and she got us past just the border.  But it was clear there was one missing piece.  There simply was not another piece that had one totally flat edge, yet there was a missing piece in the lower right hand side.

At some point I decided to take pictures of the puzzle each night, just so we could remind ourselves that we did actually make some progress.

This is August 18 with some of the loose pieces in the middle.  We got to a point where we stopped trying to add to what was already in the puzzle and try to work on pieces that had similar images.  I say images because they weren't all that clear.  You can see the hole in the lower right hand corner on the border.  Even when there were no pieces left, that was still a hole.

Here's August 19.  We've taken the extra pieces out of the middle of the puzzle, mostly.  There is progress from one day to the next, but you have to look closely to see it.

Somewhere along the way I tried to count how many pieces were already in the puzzle and how many were left.  The box said there were 551 pieces and my numbers were far short of that.  So in addition to the problems I mentioned above, we also had an undetermined number of missing pieces.

But by this point we were going to push all the way to the end.

Here's some more jigsaw history from puzzle warehouse:

"Puzzles for adults emerged around 1900, and by 1908 a full-blown craze was in progress in the United States. Contemporary writers depicted the inexorable progression of the puzzle addict: from the skeptic who first ridiculed puzzles as silly and childish, to the perplexed puzzler who ignored meals while chanting just one more piece; to the bleary-eyed victor who finally put in the last piece in the wee hours of the morning.
The puzzles of those days were quite a challenge. Most had pieces cut exactly on the color lines. There were no transition pieces with two colors to signal, for example, that the brown area (roof) fit next to the blues (sky). A sneeze or a careless move could undo an evening's work because the pieces did not interlock. And, unlike children's puzzles, the adult puzzles had no guide picture on the box; if the title was vague or misleading, the true subject could remain a mystery until the last pieces were fitted into place." [emphasis added]

Well, we did turn into those folks addicted to getting this thing done.  How long would this have taken if there was no picture on the box?  That's something they wouldn't even allow at Guantanamo. I ended up looking at the cover picture very closely trying to figure out from the background, which piece of pillar fit in which part of the puzzle.

We kept switching from grouping the pieces by shape and then by content (as hard as that was to figure much of the time) and then by shape again.

Here's August 23.  Some days we only got a few pieces added.  But if you look closely, we did fill in some holes and filled in along the inside edges.

August 26 and things seemed to be moving faster, after all there weren't as many pieces to choose from any more.  And it seemed like there were far fewer missing pieces than I had thought.

And then, on August 27 we were out of pieces.  There were only nine missing pieces.

So, now we have to figure out what to do with this puzzle.  After all that work, just taking it apart and putting it into the box seems terrible.  Some things you make are intended to disappear - like a pie.  But it's anti-clutter season in our house, so this will go back in the box, and we'll give it a way.  And the next victim will at least know that there are nine missing pieces.

It did make me think of the assignment I had in the computer art class.  We had to digitally recreate a masterpiece.  I certainly learned a lot more about the picture I had chosen.  And in this case I got to know Escher's painting in much more detail than I ever would have.
Also learned to look at shapes AND content.  There were lots of different shapes but they fell in clear patterns.  Here's an example of three-knobbed pieces.

And I was reminded once again that slow but sure wins the race.  Well, I'm not sure about the race, but it does get the puzzle done.

And jigsaw puzzles, like other puzzles, take you out of daily routine.  The work on the puzzle seems to block out other things.  The other parts of your brain get a rest.

Jigsaw puzzle benefits lists 42 benefits of doing jigsaw puzzles.  I think this sentence gives an overview - though not the specific individual benefits.  Those are at the link.
"The educational value of doing a jigsaw puzzle is twofold: first, by building up a base of useful individual skills; secondly, by transferring these skills to other situations where they can be applied to solve new problems." 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Three Steps Forward, Two Steps Back - Transitioning On Transgender Awareness and Rights

When conservatives cry about liberal control of the national agenda, they think about gay marriage, the shrinking white majority, pornography, legalization of marijuana, loss of public Christian displays.

When liberals cry about conservative control of the national agenda they think about ever increasing abortion restrictions, shrinking government, public funding going to private schools,  tax cuts, the wealth gap, rollbacks of regulations on the environment and corporate mergers and finance, about the attacks on evolution and science in general.

People who identify as liberal or as conservative all seem to think 'the other side' is winning and destroying the country.

Ignorance plays a big role in this,  That's certainly been the case with gay rights.

In this post I want to talk about the issue of transgender rights. On the one hand, great progress has been made, on the other hand there is a backlash to take it back.

At the national level, Trump has decreed that transgender folks should no longer serve in the military.   (I'd agree with this policy if it included all people of all sexual identities.)

On the local level, the forces that have fought gay rights forever here, have now put an initiative on the April Municipal ballot that would roll back transgender rights in Anchorage.

Growing up in the US, I never even had a word for transgender folks (and even now I'm not sure I'm using the right words).  If I search my memory, I'd say my awareness of the issue was when Christine Jorgensen had a sex change in 1951.  I was really young back then, but somehow the news got through to me.  I obviously had no real understanding of what had happened, just that a man had turned into a woman.

I think my real transformation came from reading.  There was Roberta Muldoon in The World According to Garp who was written as just another character who happened to have had a sex change.  The book that really focused my attention on the experience of a transgender person was Jeffrey Eugenides' Middlesex.  (You can listen to the book on Youtube.)

My son had a college classmate who later transitioned to female.  I've spent time with him before and her after, but we didn't talk much, if any, about the transition.

[I'm running out of time here.  The above is to give people some references to this topic, but I don't pretend this is the best list.  It's my personal list.  There have also been a number of films on this topic I've seen at the Anchorage International Film Festival over the years:  The Prodigal Sons, From This Day Forward, and Real Boy.  All have added nuance to my still limited understanding. So I'm going to leave links here for people who haven't encountered transgender folks and want to understand this better.  And below I'll give people some things they can do to help others understand.]

What You Can Do #1

More recently, I got to know Scott Schofield when he came to Anchorage and headed Out North theater.  He was back again this summer performing his piece, Becoming A Man in 127 Easy Steps.

Yesterday I got an email from Scott saying he's working on making his performance piece into a movie.  So if people want to be supportive during these times of transgender rights backlash, this is a way to do it.  Your contribution will help make this film a reality.  And the more people who see the film, the more people will 'know' a transgender person and have a better understanding of what this is all about.  And they'll get a more complex awareness that our binary male/female dichotomy is not nearly as simple as that.   Here's a short video of Scott explaining the film project.

What You Can Do #2   

I got a another email today pointing me to a presentation here in Anchorage by
"Mara Keisling. She has served as the director of the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) for 14 years and is one of the country’s most prominent transgender civil rights activists."
 Wendy Williamson Auditorium  (UAA)
7 pm  Tuesday (August 29).

The email goes on to say:
"The focus of our discussion with Mara will be, first and foremost, how we can most effectively fight Prop 1, the harmful anti-transgender initiative on the April 2018 ballot in Anchorage. This ballot question is drawing attention from national organizations—like the NCTE—because it is, unfortunately, the worst anti-transgender ballot initiative in the country.
Through her work with the NCTE, Mara has been on the front lines in so many fights similar to what we’re facing now in Anchorage. Her guidance and words of wisdom will be indispensable, so you will not want to miss out tomorrow."
Even if you aren't sure where you stand on the initiative, this would be a good chance to get to hear a person who has been prominent nationally on this issue.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Trump Supporters In The News This Week - Who Are They Really? Arpaio, Black Guy For Trump, Roger Stone, and Sam Clovis

The names and images flash past us quickly on the radio, TV, Facebook, Twitter, newspapers or wherever you get what passes for news these days.  There are so many different characters that most of us never really know who they are.   Here are a couple of Trump cronies you might want to know more about.

Joe Arpaio - Trump just pardoned Sheriff Joe.  How bad is he?  You already know about his racial profiling of Hispanics, and his role in pushing the Obama-is-a Kenyan bullshit. (Sorry, it's the right word), but there were other tricks too.  Here's a story from the Phoenix New Times* about how he staged an assassination attempt on himself including framing the fake assassin.
"In 1999, Arpaio's staff rigged the entire fake assassination plot – just so he could get his mug on TV.
News cameras were already rolling when deputies arrested Saville. Gullible TV reporters gobbled up Arpaio’s story about a local Unabomber who was plotting to kill America’s “toughest” sheriff.
In 2004, a jury found Saville innocent of all charges. Not only that, but it ruled that Arpaio’s minions helped buy the bomb parts themselves and “entrapped” Saville in a TV-ready murder plot.
Arpaio was re-elected just months after the jury verdict. (Journalists John Dougherty and Janna Bommersbach unraveled the tale in separate articles).
“Jurors listened in disbelief as testimony showed it was the sheriff’s money that purchased the bomb parts, and an undercover officer who drove Saville around to buy the parts,” Bommersbach wrote.
Records show that the final payment to Saville went out on August 28, 2008. The total $1.1 million that taxpayers spent to settle with him doesn't include money that the county attorney spent prosecuting him, or funds paid to deputies who worked long hours to frame him."
Here is the Phoenix New Times list of key stories they've written in the last 20 years on Arpaio.

*Since I didn't know this newspaper, I did check on line.  Wikipedia says that the Phoenix New Times has been reporting on Arpaio for a long time and the editors were arrested over an Arpaio story and the paper eventually won $3.75 million for false arrest.

Screen Shot from Daily Kos

Black Guy For Trump -  Maybe you saw this guy prominently behind Trump when he gave his 75 minute speech in Phoenix this week.  Well, here's some background on him from The Daily Kos.

That story links the website on his T-shirt in the picture.  Here's the first thing I saw there:
​​​ "The Real K K K Slave Masters Revealed, 2Thess.2:1-11 & they
are CHEROKEE Indians (Hidden Babylonians). The reason GOD​
YAHWEH chose TRUMP to be President is to be the  White & Black
Man's DELIVERER from the Babylon, like the Gentile  King CYRUS,

Roger Stone -  The other day, Fox News, among others, reported that Roger Stone
"'The people who are calling for his impeachment are the people who didn’t vote for him. They need to get over it. They lost. Their candidate had every advantage,' he said, pointing out that the Hillary Clinton campaign spent $2 billion dollars compared to the Trump campaign's $275 million.
'Sorry, he whipped her a**. It’s over. You lost,' Stone said. 'Try to impeach him. Just try it. You will have a spasm of violence in this country, an insurrection, like you’ve never seen.'
So who is this Roger Stone whose words are important enough to quote on Fox and other places?
If you have Netflix, find Get Me Roger Stone to see his life story starring Rogers Stone.  But if not, you can read the sordid tale on Wikipedia.  Here's a short excerpt:
"When he was a junior and vice president of the student government at a high school in northern Westchester County, New York, he manipulated the ouster of the president and succeeded him. Stone recalled how he ran for election as president for his senior year:
'I built alliances and put all my serious challengers on my ticket. Then I recruited the most unpopular guy in the school to run against me. You think that's mean? No, it's smart.' . . .
As a student at George Washington University in 1972, Stone invited Jeb Magruder to speak at a Young Republicans Club, then successfully asked Magruder for a job with Richard Nixon's storied Committee to Re-elect the President.[29] Stone then dropped out of college to work for the committee.[30]
Stone's political career began in earnest with activities such as contributing money to a possible rival of Nixon in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance—then slipping the receipt to the Manchester Union-Leader. He also got a spy hired by the Hubert Humphrey campaign who became Humphrey's driver. According to Stone, during the day he was officially a scheduler in the Nixon campaign, but: 'By night, I'm trafficking in the black arts. Nixon's people were obsessed with intelligence.'[31] Stone maintains he never did anything illegal during Watergate.[30]"

Image from Science 
Sam Clovis - Trump's nominee for for science advisor at the United States Department of Agriculture  (USDA) who will be in charge of $3 billion of research and education money.  No satirist could have made up a more ludicrous nominee.  Here's the Pro-Publica piece on Clovis.  A snippet:
"Clovis has never taken a graduate course in science and is openly skeptical of climate change. While he has a doctorate in public administration and was a tenured professor of business and public policy at Morningside College for 10 years, he has published almost no academic work.
Clovis is better known for hosting a conservative talk radio show in his native Iowa and, after mounting an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2014, becoming a fiery pro-Trump advocate on television."
You'll note it says he has a doctorate in public administration.  Since that's my field, I wanted to know where it was from.  Clovis' Linked in page says it's from Morningside College in Sioux City Iowa.  I checked Morningside College's website.  It says they have two graduate programs:  A masters in education and one in nursing.  It's Saturday, so I can't call Morningside College.  So there may be some explanation.  Maybe they had a program in the past.  But I couldn't find it on the website.

[UPDATED August 27, 2017:  Responding to Mike from Iowa - I should have given the link to the Clovis Linkedin page.  Here's a screen shot showing what is listed on education there.]

Friday, August 25, 2017

Calling Bullshit For Credit At UW - Or Bookstore Talks At UAA

Carl Bergstrom ( Biology), and Jevin West (Information School) are offering "Calling Bullshit."  Their website is worth looking at - they are posting all their materials. [I've fixed the link, sorry, not sure what I did the first time.]

Locally, the UAA bookstore is offering an interesting selection of speakers in September.  From an email from Rachel Epstein who organizes these things.  You can see the whole list through December.  (Click on Calendar when you get there.  Details if you click the individual talk.)
Thursday, September 7 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Author Heather Lende discusses The Local and Community in Small Town Alaska Politics 

Monday, September 11 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Dr. Sharon Emmerichs presents The Kingdom of our own Language: Language as Space and Nation in Shakespeare

Tuesday, September 12 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Conflicts and Climate Change with Dr. Frank Witmer and Dr. Jennifer Schmidt
At this event, Dr. Frank Witmer presents his research analyzing causes of violence in Sub-Saharan Africa and Dr. Jennifer Schmidt discusses climate adaptation in the Arctic and TUNDRA

Wednesday, September 13 from 5:00 pm - 7:00 pm
Darren Prokop presents his Book, Global Supply Chain Security and Management:  Appraising Programs, Preventing Crimes

Thursday, September 14 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Darrel Hess presents "Leave It To Beaver, Cocaine & God: My Journey to Community Engagement"

Friday, September 15 from 3:00 pm-5:00 pm
Dr. Shinian Wu presents Linguistic Challenges in Learning Chinese

Saturday, September 16 from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm
Dr. Sebastian Neumayer presents Fiber Infrastructure and Natural Disasters

Tuesday, September 19, from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Xuanyi Qu and Yang Liu present WeChat Culture and Functions in China
Saturday, September 23 from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm
Doug Vandegraft presents More Notorious Bars of Alaska
Tuesday, September 26 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Xiao Wang and Yuan Tian present Financial Management with Cellphones in China

Wednesday, September 27 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Artist Thomas Chung presents Art and Everything Else

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Fathers And Sons: A Way Of Respectfully Resolving Disagreement

"Siddhartha said:  "With your permission, Father, I have come to tell you that I wish to leave your house tomorrow and join the ascetics.  I wish to become a Samana.  I trust my father will not object."
The Brahmin was silent so long that the stars passed across the small window and changed their design before the silence in the room was finally broken.  His son stood silent and motionless with his arms folded.  The father, silent and motionless, sat on the mat, and the stars passed across the sky.  Then his father said:  'It is not seemly for Brahmins to utter forceful and angry words, but there is displeasure in my heart.  I should not like to hear you make this request a second time.'
The Brahmin rose slowly.  Siddhartha remained silent with folded arms.
'Why are you waiting?' asked his father.
'You know why,' answered Siddhartha.
His father left the room displeased and lay down on his bed."
The father has trouble sleeping and gets up hourly and sees his son still standing arms folded.
"And in the last hour of the night, before daybreak, he returned again, entered the room and saw the youth standing there.  He seemed tall and a stranger to him.
'Siddhartha,' he said, 'why are you waiting?'
'You know why.'
'Will you go on standing and waiting until it is day, noon, evening?'
'I will stand and wait.'
'You will grow tired, Siddhartha.'
'I will grow tired.'
'You will fall asleep, Siddhartha.'
'I will not fall asleep.'
'You will die, Siddhartha.'
'I will die.'
'And would you rather die than obey your father?'
'Siddhartha has always obeyed his father.'
'So you will give up your project?'
'Siddhartha will do what his father tells him.'
The first light of day entered the room.  The Brahmin saw that Siddhartha's knees trembled slightly, but there was no trembling in Siddhartha's face;  his eyes looked far away.  Then the father realized that Siddhartha could no longer remain with him at home - that he had already left him.
The father touched Siddhartha's shoulder.
'You will go into the forest,' he said, 'and become a Samana.  If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me.  If you find disillusionment, come back, and we shall again offer sacrifices to the gods together.  Now go, kiss your mother and tell her where you are going."

These are not, of course, ordinary men.  Siddhartha went on to find enlightenment in the forest to become the Buddha.   But then everyone has the capacity to do extraordinary things.

The way they speak to each shows what true respect sounds like.  I particularly like the father's expression of displeasure:
 'It is not seemly for Brahmins to utter forceful and angry words, but there is displeasure in my heart.  I should not like to hear you make this request a second time.'
Just imagine our president saying these words to a New York Times reporter at a press conference.

This comes from the first chapter of Herman Hesse's Siddhartha.  Translated by Hilda Rosner.  You can read the whole book at , though it may be a different translator.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

What Will It Take To Get Trump To Resign?

Why would he quit?  For the same sort of reasons Sarah Palin quit - it was too much work, too much hassle, and not enough compensation.  And trouble was ahead if she didn't.   Let's look at the pros and the cons.


  • Gets lots of attention
  • Foreign governments hoping to get deals from the US, patronize his businesses and approve his businesses' applications for permits and trademarks, etc.  
  • Gets to be President of the US.  


  • Can't get people do do what he wants them to do. (Health care, immigration, the wall, etc.)  At his company he didn't need approval for everything and if people didn't meekly do his bidding, he could fire them. If other organizations got in the way he could bribe them or sue them.  
  • Everything he's doing is under scrutiny - from the media, from Congress, from Mueller's investigation, and various states and others.  
  • He's stuck in DC and when he leaves he gets criticized for spending money for secret service. 
  • Everyone is telling him what to do and how to do it.  He must hate that as we can see when he quickly goes off script.  For example somebody got him to read the Afghanistan speech which was so out of character  - "Can't we all just get along?" And the next night he's not getting along with anybody - ripping the press, Congress, protestors, etc.  
  • His family is being investigated
  • His businesses aren't being attended to properly 

I'm sure everyone can find things to add to each category.

But my point is, it didn't seem like he really wanted to be president from the beginning.  He just wanted to get lots of attention.  And now that he IS president, 'Nobody knew health care could be so complicated.'  And now, instead of getting out of Afghanistan, he's sending more troops.  And Mexico's not paying for the wall, and they won't even pretend they are for publicity sake.  And the Israelis and Palestinians haven't signed a peace deal yet.

He's not even talking to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, who should be a staunch ally.

I suspect that all he needs now is a face-saving way to resign.  Here are some possibilities.

  • A serious health issue - something that can go away after a respectable amount of 'treatment', but gives him a way to step down so as 'not to hold up the nation's business.'
  • Some family crisis - someone else seriously ill,  or some major situation that he needs to attend to.  Maybe Trump properties around the world being attacked by terrorists, but then he might feel he can't give in to terrorists by stepping down, so that probably won't work
  • A hugely lucrative job offer, or maybe he can be offered the ceremonial title of King that wouldn't require him to do more than preside at a few events per year
As you can see, I'm running out of ideas here.  There aren't many good reasons for someone to quit being president.  You can't be offered a more prestigious job (at least not before Trump became president), and people don't become president for the money.  

There'd be conditions if he resigned.  He'd want to have all investigations shut down and immunity from prosecution on anything.  I think the immunity could only cover things that happened before he left the presidency.   Immunity for his family too I'm sure.    I don't know that he'd want a Presidential library since it doesn't appear he reads anything longer than a tweet.  Maybe a Presidential Video Arcade.  

On the other hand, I'm not sure we wouldn't be better off waiting for the investigations to run their course and to see if impeachment hearings are warranted.  We'd learn much more about what he's hiding and I don't think the concessions are worth his leaving.  We'd just get Pence instead who would look much more presidential, but would do the same terrible things without tweeting what he was thinking and doing.  We're better off with a terrible president who acts terribly.  We've had plenty of terrible presidents who covered it up well.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Moose Musings And Shiny New Bike Trail.

I figured it wasn't raining and the ground, while damp, wasn't splashy wet, so it was time to get on the bike before it started raining again.  Almost to the tunnel under Elmore, there was a moose in the path.

This is not an uncommon situation on the Anchorage bike paths.  This one saw me and kept moving into the brush.  But I wasn't sure if there was another one nearby.  It got about 15 feet off the trail and I decided that it was more interested in eating than chasing cyclists, so I went on by.

Further on I got to Campbell Airstrip Road and discovered the new bike path was completed.  There had been short stretches of bike path - a little on the east side for maybe half a mile up from Tudor and then a ways up more on the left side.  But like the road itself, it was in bad condition.  Earlier in the summer when I biked up here I saw them working on the road and what looked like a new bike path.  But since mid-July I had stuff to do downtown, so that took care of most of my biking and I realized I hadn't been up this way for about six weeks.

Well, now there's a spanking new bike trail, separated from the road.  As I enjoyed the crack and bump free trail, I also thought about why I sort of liked riding on the road.  This road dead ends and doesn't have a lot of traffic.  There are some trail heads, and after a few miles through the woods, there is a scattering of houses.  This is also bear country in the summer.  They like the salmon that come up Campbell Creek.  I have never seen a bear here, but this is their territory.  And this has been the summer of bears in Anchorage.  I've never seen so many people carrying bear spray on hikes and even on the bike trails in the middle of town.  So being on the road means that if I encounter a bear, there should be a car coming by within a couple of minutes.  But now much of the trail can't be seen from the road easily.

As I was thinking about all this I did encounter this cat, still clearing debris on the side of the trail

The new trail is done, pretty much.  They're still working on the road.  They both go just about to the bridge before the Campbell Airstrip Trailhead.  Here's a picture as I came back.  I was on the little bit of the old bike trail that's left.

The new trail ends where the saw horses are on the other side of the bridge.

So, as I was biking back home, I thought about whether the moose would still be in the area.  I also thought about the guy I heard on KSKA's New Arrivals program this morning.  He'd been in Anchorage about a month and he has a degree in assisting the blind.  Too bad my friend Lynne moved out of town last fall.  He sounds like he'd be a good resource.  But he mentioned seeing his first moose and swallowing a scream.

My experience is that most urban moose are used to humans as long as we act predictably.  We can pass by them pretty close - 5-10 feet even - if we stay on the trail, or the road, and just keep going in the direction we're headed.  The only time I've seen a moose charge someone was when a small crowd of people stopped on the bike trail and started getting closer to the moose to take pictures.  She did a fake charge and scared the hell out of them - one was a friend of mine who wouldn't listen to my pleas to get back.   (You reading this Doug?)

I'd recommend a much greater distance than five feet, but there have been plenty of times when I was running or biking and didn't see the moose as much as felt its presence as I was going by and then saw it as I turned my head.  It would just keep on eating.  Last winter I shoveled the driveway in the early morning darkness and when I got to the bottom and turned around, there were two moose eating the Mountain Ash tree just a few feet from the driveway.  I pulled back and let them wander off, before I went back up the driveway.

And earlier this summer I passed a mom and two calves.  The mother was right on the edge of the path, but by the time I saw her, it was too late to stop and there wasn't any other way to go, so I just rolled on by.

So I was thinking all this as I came out of the tunnel near where I'd seen the moose earlier and there it was again on the trail.

This time, there was an easy detour that would get me back onto the trail just beyond where the moose was and I took it.  [Well, it was available the first time too, but I would have had to backtrack and the moose was calmly eating far enough off the trail anyway.]

And as I kept riding, I kept thinking about moose and bikes, and I suddenly realized that there was another moose about five feet to my left as I rode past.  The moose didn't even wiggle its ears as I went by.  I didn't stop to take a picture of that one.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Press Release: Alaska's 'Independent' Gov Walker and Lt. Gov Mallott File To Run Again

 I get a fair number of press releases, but I'd don't normally put them up here, but this one is a good example of what the media get from people who want some media attention.   And it's interesting news - particularly for people outside of Alaska.  

Last time round, Walker was running as an independent and Mallott was running as a Democrat.  They both saw from the poll numbers, that if they continued that way, the incumbent governor, Sean Parnell, who came into office when Sarah Palin resigned, would win.  So they paired up and ran as a team and won.  A lesson for others trying to figure out how to win in a red state if you aren't red.  And
a lesson in bi-partisan ship at its finest.  And in 2016, the Democrats got control of the state house, which meant that the Republicans couldn't do whatever they wanted.  But there are still big struggles over budgeting with declining oil revenue and the Senate steadfastly opposes an income tax to make up for the lost oil money.

The picture is from my first post of their 2014 media conference to announce their partnership.

Here's a link to my second post of the media conference they held in 2014 to announce their joint campaign when I'd had time to edit and upload the video of each of them.

So here's today's press release:
"Bill Walker and Byron Mallott File for Reelection

On Monday, August 21, 2017, Bill Walker and Byron Mallott filed for reelection at the Division of Elections in Juneau, Alaska for the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. The incumbents once again filed as non-partisan candidates, commonly referred to as "independent". A lifelong Republican, Walker changed his affiliation to non-partisan in 2014. Mallott will maintain his affiliation as a Democrat. Their administration is currently the only independent administration in the United States.
Bill Walker and Byron Mallott are lifelong Alaskans born into the Territory of Alaska. Each served as mayors of their communities as young leaders in their twenties. Walker worked as a carpenter, teamster and laborer during the construction of the TransAlaska Pipeline. He was a businessman and oil and gas and municipal attorney prior to becoming governor.

Walker said of seeking reelection: "Serving as governor for the people and state I love has been the honor of a lifetime. This is a job that requires the kind of hard work and tough decision making I have always faced. Byron Mallott and I have refused to put off the difficult decisions because doing so would jeopardize future generations. We believe that independent leadership that relentlessly puts Alaska's priorities first is critical to finishing the work we have started to stabilize and build Alaska."

Byron Mallott has worked for or with almost every governor since Statehood. He has served as the Executive Director of the Alaska Permanent Fund and as the President of the Alaska Federation of Natives.
"The prosperity of our people and our state depends on putting the needs of Alaska above personal aspirations, and politically comfortable decisions," Mallott noted. "This is how Governor Walker and I have led the state.  Alaska's path to a strong future hangs on the decisions made in the next four years."

In order to appear on the November 2018 general election ballot, each candidate will gather 3,213 signatures.  The candidates will run separate campaigns until the collected signatures are submitted on August 21, 2018 - the date of the primary election. As separate candidates, they can participate in shared campaign activities so long as each candidate shares an equal cost of the activity and files a shared campaign activity form with the Alaska Public Offices Commission."
I'd note that if I do put up a press release, or parts of one, I always let you know what I'm doing.  You might check what other news sources say about this and see if they tell you where the news comes from and how much they repeat verbatim.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Comparative History Lessons

Enough has been said about whether statues are erected as history lessons or to honor people who protected collective values.  I don't think it's hard to see through the rhetoric of those discussions.

But I'd like to share this tidbit about comparative history teaching, from South AfricanTrevor Noah's Born A Crime.
"In Germany, no child finishes high school without learning about the Holocaust.  Not just the facts of it but the how and the why and the gravity of it - what it means.  As a result, Germans grow up appropriately aware and apologetic.  British schools treat colonialism the same way, to an extent.  Their children are taught the history of the empire with a kind of disclaimer hanging over the whole thing.  “Well, that  was shameful, now wasn’t it?” 
In South Africa, the atrocities of apartheid have never been taught that way.  We weren’t taught judgment or shame.  We were taught history the way it’s taught in America.  In America, the history of racism is taught like this:  “There was slavery and then there was Jim Crow and then there was Martin Luther King Jr. and now it’s done.”  It was the same for us.  “Apartheid was bad.  Nelson Mandela was freed.  Let’s move on.”  Facts, but not many, and never the emotional or moral dimension."
For those who need more clarification on how the US has treated slavery and its aftermath, I refer you to some posts I made on the book White Rage.
Part I   Looks at how the Supreme Court essentially nullified the rights blacks had won with the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th and 14th Amendments.
Part II  follows up with a list of court decisions and their practical implications,  and
Part III, which looks at more modern times - the great migration of blacks from the South, Brown v. Board of Education and its aftermath, and up to today with our Attorney General who was born in Selma, Alabama in time to be embroiled on the white side of the civil rights movement.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nice To Be Back Online - ACS, The Good And The Not So Good

There was no internet yesterday morning when I got up.  The wifi worked, but there was not internet.

I called ACS (Alaska Communications) and B had me unplug and plug and reset and nothing worked.  

  • That's all I can do, I'll set up a problem ticket (or whatever he called it) and they'll check it from here. If they can't fix it, someone will come to your house?
  • Today?
  • Probably not, we're really busy now.  
Not today (it was Friday) didn't sound good, but I'm supposed to be a resilient person.  I can go to the library to use the internet.  And less time online is good.  

After a couple of hours I called in.  The voicemail actually identified that I had a problem ticket and sent me to S.  She explained that I was on the list, but that they were busy.  

Had they done the internal check or not?  Yes, and someone had to come to the house.  Today?  Probably not.  Do they come over the weekend?  I don't think so.  
Much better if you click to enlarge and focus

After I explained that I'd been waiting around and no one had called to tell me the status, she apologized.  

So I went to the library, sat in the parking lot and checked my email and put up yesterday's post.   Visited a friend, walked to the bridge from the Prospect Heights trailhead,  went to dinner at Thai Kitchen, and went to a Reflection service at Temple Beth Sholom where we heard from a number of speakers - someone from the FBI, from the governor's office, a Presbyterian pastor, a local assembly member (Forrest Dunbar), and a Muslim doctor, all reflecting on Charlottesville and Anchorage.  There was some food and discussion.  A positive and encouraging way to move forward.  

So this morning, when I was doing some yoga stretching - I should be doing these several times a week, but even once every ten days or so is better than nothing - there was a knock on the door.  The ACS man wanted to check the connection.  He was there maybe 20 minutes before he knocked again.  He checked the modem and decided we needed a new one.  He got it all set up, called in to reset the modem name and password, and I was back, connected to the new modem.

But no connection to the internet.  D was good.  I had told him I was told no one worked on the weekend and he smiled and said, us old guys still do.  But it wouldn't work.  He said he would have to go back to the office and fix it from there.  A bunch of calls later, tweaking this and that, and I'm now back on line.  

Since I wasn't expecting any help until at least Monday, I'm happy to be reconnected.  Everyone was polite enough, they just didn't know much.  But D wasn't going to let go of my case until things were working again,  

So now I've got a bunch of things to do that I have been pushed to the side while the internet connection got fixed.  But it did get fixed.  

Here's a picture of a monk's hood from yesterday's hike - one of my favorite Alaskan flowers  Such a beautiful shape and color.  


Friday, August 18, 2017

She Stands By Her Man - Both of Them

So Axios had a couple of posts up yesterday, one after the other.

The first was about Sen. McConnell and Trump feuding.  They show McConnell's tweet supporting Sen. Flake's reelection a few hours after Trump tweeted his support for Flake's opponent in the Republican primary.  Then they go on to explain why it matters.
McConnell, who was reportedly livid with the way the president handled the violence in Charlottesville, has been engaged in an ongoing feud with Trump following the president's series of tweets criticizing the Majority Leader's performance. McConnell's latest statement in support of Flake only adds fuel to the fire.

Their earlier post which was the immediately before the McConnell piece was titled :
"White House calls it quits on Infrastructure Council"
Screenshot from Axios

And had this picture:

The woman on the right is Elaine Chao, Secretary of Transportation, who probably could use the political support of an Infrastructure Committee.  But more than that, she's also Mitch McConnell's wife.

What I didn't know until I googled Elaine Chao to double check her position in the Trump administration, was that after this press conference, she was asked about Trump's tweets that criticize her husband.  Her answer:

"I stand by my man - both of them."

Thursday, August 17, 2017

NPR Adopts Simplistic "Good People"/"Bad People" Dichotomy

The use of terms like 'good guys' and 'bad guys' in political discourse has increased over the years.  That oversimplification of terms is reminiscent of Hollywood's white and black cowboy hats and the religious dichotomy of good and evil.  

Life isn't that simple.  First of all, people are either good or bad.  Most are a mix of morally positive and negative behaviors.  In Born A Crime, Trevor Noah writes about his step-father Abel who gets nasty when he's drunk.  
"The Abel who was likable and charming never went away.  He had a drinking problem, but he was a nice guy.  We had a family.  Growing up in a home of abuse, you struggle with the notion that you can love a person you hate, or hate a person you love.  It's a strange feeling.  You want to live in a world where someone is good or bad, where you either hate them or love them, but that's not how people are."
Lots of intercommunications experts (for example) tell people to talk about behaviors rather than to talk about their character.

So it's depressing to hear hear this sort of language on NPR, where they like to think of themselves as having a somewhat higher standard of reporting.  Their code of ethics talks about their guiding principles:
"Our journalism is as accurate, fair and complete as possible. Our journalists conduct their work with honesty and respect, and they strive to be both independent and impartial in their efforts. Our methods are transparent and we will be accountable for all we do."
Those principles include Impartiality:
"We have opinions, like all people. But the public deserves factual reporting and informed analysis without our opinions influencing what they hear or see. So we strive to report and produce stories that transcend our biases and treat all views fairly. We aggressively challenge our own perspectives and pursue a diverse range of others, aiming always to present the truth as completely as we can tell it."

Yes NPR too slips into the simplistic and dichotomous thinking of 'good people' and 'bad people' too.
[An abbreviated excerpt from the audio interview.]
Rachel Martin:  The president said there were good people on both sides, did you see them?
UVA Professor  and 'presidential historian' Michele Hemmer:  The people who came on behalf of the white nationalists were not good people. . .  Among the counter protesters there were plenty of good people, but not among the white nationalists.  
I realize they were working off of things Trump said.  (Though I could find 'very fine people' in his recent discussion rather than 'good people.')  But rather than fall into the trap of adopting this good/bad dichotomy themselves, it would be better to step back and point out how simplistic and misleading it is.  Thinking about Trevor's step-father, I'm wondering about the 'plenty of good people' among the counter protesters.  Are they good because they are against racism?  Are they being labeled 'good people' because of what they are doing on that day?  Do any of them get drunk and beat their spouses and children?  Would that disqualify them form being 'good people'?

Not only are they simplifying human complexity, they are also dropping their impartiality to make a judgment call about the morality of the marchers and counter-marchers.  Not about the morality of their actions, but whether they are 'good' or 'bad' people.

What I want to know is why these men have adopted white supremacy as their guiding principle.  Do they believe it?  Do they do this simply because it makes others angry?  Do they feel so isolated and unloved in their lives that espousing white supremacy is a way to justify why people don't like them?   Not only is that a much more nuanced way of thinking about the neo-nazi marchers, but it's the only way we, as a society, can start to figure out how to locate people who are vulnerable to this path and how to rescue them before they swallow this poison.

OK, I know these terms are a short hand.  Radio news formats allow a limited amount of time to tell the story.  But the more we use this short hand, the more we also think it.  And as soon as we put someone in the 'bad person' category, we're less concerned about what happens to them.  That's why we allow terrible things to happen in prisons.  It also inoculates 'good people' from harm when they do terrible things.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Who's The Average Person?

A letter in Tuesday's Alaska Dispatch News says:
"I refer to the phenomenon of the disappearance of affordable homes.  The average person is no longer able to afford a home."
The US Census Bureau data says that 60% of people in Anchorage lived in owner occupied homes between 2011 and 2015.

The same Census chart shows the median household income in Anchorage for that same period was $78,326.  (I'd note that median is the number in the very middle from highest to lowest.  There should be as many people above the median as below it.  It's not an average where a small number of very rich people could offset a lot of very poor people to have a misleading 'average income'.)

The per capita income was $36,920.  They define that to be the mean income of every man, woman, and child.  So, this number is the 'average' and is not the 'middle' number.  Obviously, adults earn a lot more than do children, though in Alaska, Permanent Fund Dividend checks mean the average child here probably earns more than they do in other states.

I'm guessing the letter writer thinks of herself (and maybe the people she knows) as 'average persons.'  But the way I read this, the average person is the typical person, the one that is like most of the others.  So 60% living in owner owned homes means to me that the average person can afford a house.  I realize that the people in the homes include children and spouses.  And if we simple look at adults, the percent living in owner occupied homes is probably lower.  But more than half of all people in Anchorage, during that recent time period, did live in owner occupied housing.

The same chart listed 8.7% of people in Anchorage as living in poverty.

This is not to say that working for a living is what it used to be.  It's not.  It used to be pretty easy - if you were white and male - to earn a good living, live decently, and afford things like buying a house. But a lot of people who start off with very little - many immigrant families for example - are willing to work very hard, live frugally, and save money to buy a home.  A lot of people who grew up comfortably seem not willing to give up the life style they've grown up with, but aren't earning enough money to maintain that lifestyle.  It's a shock when they find that not only aren't they keeping up, they are falling into debt.

Part of the problem is that more and more of the income of businesses is going to the higher levels of management and less and less is going to the workers. offers this chart comparing the US gap to other countries:

Click on Chart to enlarge and focus or go to Statista

And here's a Seattle Times article on the subject.  The subtitle of the article is:
"The average CEO earned 20 times the average worker pay in 1965. Now S&P 500 CEOs make 335 times the pay of their average employee."
 So while it appears to me that 'the average person' in Anchorage can afford to buy a house (or at least lives in an owner occupied house) it's also true that the hefty PFD cut Alaskans got will impact the 'average Alaskan' worker much more than it will the oil and other large corporate executives.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Worth Noting - Redistricting, Court Info, Teaching Tolerance, Trees and Crime

Free Law has put up 1.8 million free opinions from PACER.  What's PACER you ask.  From PACER's website:
"The PACER Case Locator is a national index for U.S. district, bankruptcy, and appellate courts. A subset of information from each case is transferred to the PACER Case Locator server each night.
The system serves as a locator index for PACER. You may conduct nationwide searches to determine whether or not a party is involved in federal litigation."

Teaching Tolerance has lots of resources for educators.

Do trees lower crime?  That's the claim a Chicago group is making after mapping tree density in 284 municipalities in the Chicago area.  My reaction was 'whoa, that's correlation, not causation.'  My take would be it's the other way around:  Where there's less crime, people plant more trees.  Where people have more money they have bigger lots, more trees and more park area.  And where there are already lots of trees, the property values are higher, and wealthier people buy the land.  But the article expected people like me:
"Of course, skeptics might argue that this sort of data is only correlation, rather than causation. Underserved communities have high crime and fewer trees—not high crime in part due to fewer trees. So to support their claims, CRTI compiled all the benefits that trees provide, with citations for the various studies backing up the claims. One of those studies suggests that trees 'may deter crime both by increasing informal surveillance and by mitigating some of the psychological precursors to violence.'”
Yes, I've posted about the psychological benefits of trees, but I'm still skeptical.  Trees may, to a certain extent 'sooth' a community, but I'm still guessing that there's an economic correlation between low income and fewer trees and that the economic factor is the bigger driver of crime.  I would guess that Anchorage has a pretty high level of trees per people and a fair amount of crime.  And much crime happens where trees give cover for the homeless who commit crimes in the greenbelt areas.  But it's interesting research.  And I'd love to be wrong on this.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Anchorage Jury Sides With Firefighter Against Municipality of Anchorage

Thursday afternoon, August 12, 2017 an Anchorage jury found that the Municipality of Anchorage caused harm to firefighter Jeff Graham by violating the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.  They also found that the MOA caused harm to Jeff Graham by violating the implied promise of good faith and fair dealing in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.   The case stems from AFD promotional exams that Graham complained were biased and unfair.

The plaintiff’s economics expert had put the damages at $1.7 million.  The MOA’s expert had put the damages at $200,000.  The jury’s award was closer to the latter - a little over three times the MOA estimate and about one-third of the plaintiff’s estimate.  

The trial began on July 17 and the jury began deliberations on Tuesday August 10.  

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Anchorage People Gather In Support of Democracy

Somewhere between 300 and 400 people gathered on the Anchorage town square.  I just crossed out my first couple of attempts to describe why they were there.  The speakers talked about welcoming all people, love, making America stronger for all.  Signs people held were in support of love and diversity and against hate.  You can see some below in the pictures.  I'm just posting here to document Anchorage's participation in the nationwide demonstrations against the white power violence in Charlottesville.

As you can see, I clipped three photos together and photoshopped them to give a little more accurate perspective of the view I saw.  If you click on any picture it will get bigger and sharper.

The mayor and his wife were there.

Some Native Drumming.

And as I was leaving, I ran across this young man with this unexpected sign.  I wanted to ask him what he was doing in Indian country, but others were talking to him and I didn't want to wait around.  Ah, the power of simplistic thinking.  But consider some of the implications.

Some 230 million Euro-Americans would need to find space in Europe and leave just the United States alone - not counting Canada, Central America, or South America.  (And I'm not counting Hispanics, who, I assume would go to Europe too.)  Some 40 million Africans-Americans would be headed back to Africa.  That would leave what is the US today with about four million "Indians."  I'm basing my numbers on this census data, but I wasn't scrupulously careful here.  These are just ballpark figures.  

And what about people with mixed parentage?  There's lots and lots of them.  Do they get to choose which heritage they're going with?   Maybe their destination will be Australia since it isn't mentioned here.  Who will make those decisions?  What can these folks take with them?  Will the inhabitants of the listed continents be able to allow people from other continents to come live in their continent?  What about to work?  Who will make these decisions?  Only the racial purists?  Or will there be a democratic vote?  

What exactly does the last part mean?  "The existence of my people is NON-NEGOTIABLE"?  Who are his people?  Europeans?  Northern or southern?  Neanderthals were in Europe when the first humans showed up about 40,000 years ago.  From what we know now (not necessarily what we'll know in 20 or 50 years), all the humans came from Africa in the first place, and when they left, they mated with Neanderthals.  

And, of course, all this assumes something called 'race' exists in more than the most superficial physical characteristic.  I understand that people want to know who they are and if their parents haven't done a good job of raising them, they'll latch onto whatever people or groups reach out to them and nurture them.  So lots of lost souls - whether educated or not, from any rung of the economic ladder - can get attracted to explanations that answer their questions about themselves.  This man's solution does reveal a lack of thinking through how all this would work, or even the idea of 'my people.'