Monday, April 30, 2018

"Nextdoor: An alternative reality where black Audis terrorize and everyone is a meth-addled menace"

Someone convinced me I should join Nextdoor - an online community where you can get to know people in your neighborhood and keep up with very local news - and it sounded like a good idea, so I did.  That was about a year ago.

More recently I've been noticing that a lot of people are posting about crime and suspicious people and situations.  I was beginning to think that there were a lot of fearful people on Nextdoor.  Sure, if someone breaks into you car or house, it's reasonable to be upset.  But if most of the posts on something like Nextdoor are about crime, it also magnifies people's perception of the dangers of their neighborhood.  (The same can be said for newspapers and tv news.)

Here are some recent posts from the Nextdoor pages from my neighborhood in Anchorage:
  • Unsupervised Kids in Subsidized Housing Neighborhood [she's seen them carry hatchets and guns and take drugs]
  • 2003 Black Tahoe stolen in midtown 1/30
  • Car rifled. Stolen change, coffee cards, glasses and keys. They keys are for out o state property so not usable for them but a pain for us
  • Abandoned Vehicle
  • Mail thieves

These were interspersed with lost (and found) cats and dogs, items for sale, but I'd say at least 50% were crime or safety related.    

I guess it came to a head for me when someone posted a warning  earlier this month to be careful during the political seasons for misleading posts:
"Be aware of political actors for 2018, even now
Hey all, you may or may not have seen my activity in a thread regarding the mail voting situation. Just know, the Koch brothers have spent a TON of money in this area(I'm not joking or exaggerating), especially regarding unions, and don't take every resident at their word, because they may not be residents. You can talk to me in person, I'm not a member of anyone except my dance group."
That led M to write:
This is not a political site please do not post political posts .
Followed with:
Thank you M.  I'm thinking of quitting this site as I don't appreciate the nasty attitudes of some of these people.  When I signed up for this site I thought it was for neighbors to let neighbors know about thefts, car break-ins, etc., not an agenda to spout your political views no matter which side.  Surely there are other sites where you can go to vent.
Did that "Be aware of political actors" post sound nasty to you?  I guess "nasty attitudes" means things I disagree with because "Thank you M" was the nastiest attitude I saw.  Then others pointed out the guidelines allow for civil discussions of political issues that impact the local area.  But it appears that some people think this is just for reporting crimes and it seems there are people who see nothing but suspicious people and vehicles.

I'm not sure if people who aren't members can go to the link, but here are the guidelines for Don't Use Nextdoor as a Soapbox.

And so yesterday, when I saw this LA Times opinion piece, I felt a kindred spirit had written it.
Nextdoor: An alternative reality where black Audis terrorize and everyone is a meth-addled menace
He says all I've said, but he's much funnier.  Here's a brief sample:
"In the alternative reality that is Nextdoor, people are committing crimes I’ve never even thought of: casing, lurking, knocking on doors at 11:45 p.m., coating mailbox flaps with glue, “asking people for jumper cables but not actually having a car,” light bulb stealing, taking photos of homes, being an “unstable female” and “stashing a car in my private garage.”
From the very first time I logged on, my mission was clear: Do not let my lovely wife Cassandra find out about Nextdoor. Not because I didn’t want to worry her pretty little head, but because I didn’t want her bothering my pretty little head in panic about every black Audi driving down our block."

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Theorizing The Web Conference: You Can See Most (All?) Of The Panels Here

My immediate conception of "theorizing the web" was:  people talking about what the meaning and consequences of what's happening online.  Here's their description:
"Theorizing the Web is an inter- and non-disciplinary annual conference that brings together scholars, journalists, artists, activists, and technology practitioners to think conceptually and critically about the interrelationships between the Web and society. We deeply value public engagement, and consider insights from academics, non-academics, and non-“tech theorists” alike to be equally valuable."
Pretty much what I was thinking, but more specific.

So I found out about this from a @nathanjurgenson Tweet which offered a link to the online proceedings.  Here are a few of the panels and panelists.  There's video here  of each these panels and a bunch more (maybe all).

Millie Christie-Dervaux   -  How we capture bodies in art and visual communication media sheds light on how bodies are imbued with identity.
Ayşenur Benevento  -  Capturing Their Aspirations: Examining Parents’ Photographs of Their Children on Social Media
Emily Stainkamp  -Looking back at the selfie: A survey of Western self-portraiture from antiquity to Selfish
Rachel Coldicutt    -   The Woman’s Gaze and The Robots’ Gaze
Anja Dinhopl  -  The Looking Glass Self(ie)

.Moderator:   Jessie Sage   -  Our expectations of romantic relationships are deeply heteronormative. The experiences and transgressive actions of queer people stand to change that for everyone.
Tommy Ting  -  Cruising Heterotopia: Queer Play in Video Game Space
Lindsay Ferris  -  I’m queer – don’t fuck with me if you’re not: Exploring queer women’s use of Tinder
mattie brice  -  Catfishing in 3 Acts: Investigating Emotional Labor Networks Supporting Progressive Masculinity
Aaron Su  -  Recuperating the Cybernetic Libido

.Moderator  -  Molly Knefel
.Participants  -  Malcolm Harris, Osita Nwanevu, Crystal Abidin
While it’s often claimed that young people’s social reality is dictated by phones and social media, the actual forces at play have deeper historical roots. Like everyone else, everyone born within 20 years of the new millennium are affected by surveillance, unemployment, and self-determination, but they are uniquely situated within social antagonisms they have inherited. 

Michael Connor  -  To sustain protest we must also turn to one another for support. Can digital media serve as a means for this without undermining it?
Kristen Barta  -  Reclaiming visibility after sexual assault: Lessons from sexual assault survivors’ use of social media for designing digital supportive spaces
Olga Boichak  -  Mediatizing War: digital media and the battlefronts
Ada Cable  -  Perverse affordances: The victims of
Sara Lillo  -  Declarations and Diagnostics: Mental Health Tweets and Our Perceptions of Twitter

Moderator  -    Damien Williams  What it means to exist with technology, and what it means to exist as technology
Emma Stamm
Robin Zebrowski
Johnathan Flowers 

Jeremy Antley - Digitality hasn’t obviated geography as was anticipated; it has made geopolitical boundaries simultaneously more visible and more intensely monitored. Sometimes technology even makes visible border practices that states intend to be invisible.
Anne Jonas - Embedding Inequality: The Implications of Regional Blocking in Web Services
Matthew Sekellick - Hot Hot Heats: Strava’s Global Heatmap and (the Aesthetics of) the Corporate Subject
Jan Rydzak - Disconnected: A Human Rights-Based Approach to Network Disruptions
Jasmine Vallve - Cross-Border Solidarities of Racialized Violence and Surveillance 

Tanya Lokot - Digital media has taken on a structuring role in more and more of our lives, including participation in civic life. The role of citizen is now deeply entwined with digital platforms’ interests and affordances.
Amrita Sengupta - Collective Identity in Digital Spheres: Feminist movements and struggles for public spaces
Anastasis Germanidis - Sybil Society
Colin Kielty - Analog Analogies to Digital Citizenship: “Nodality” Online and Off
Kaveh Azarhoosh - Uberization of jobs and decline of deliberative democracies in Western European Democracies

.Moderator -Joelle Woodson.  Moderator -  Britney Gil
No tech platform can solve how communication and emotions are fraught with contradiction and confusion. As machines start to speak the language of affect, these contradictions may only intensify.
Jacqueline Feldman - AI and Affective Labor: an inquiry into how easily bots can fake it
Erin Gordon - Do You Want to Quit? Intimacy, Site, Self
Amber Westerholm-Smyth - Consumers of our own grief? Exploring the commoditisation of grief following terrorist attacks on social media platforms.
Tim Cowlishaw - A Digital Dérive: Situationist strategies for reclaiming digital public space. 

No, I haven't looked at all of the videos.  Hardly any so far.  They seem to all be an hour or more.  But here's a chance to sit in on New York based conference on a really important topic, without spending all the time it takes to get to New York.  But you also don't get to ask questions during the sessions and mingle with the crowd between sessions.  But I'm sure if you really have a burning question or comment, you can find the presenters' email addresses and contact them.  

Saturday, April 28, 2018

“Padre, you just got to stay out of politics,” he recalled the speaker saying.

As I'm sure you all know, Paul Ryan fired the House's chaplain - a Roman Catholic priest, Father Conroy.

The title quote and quotes below come from a New York Times article that points to the prayer that is said to have caused Ryan's remark (in this post's title.)  Apparently he was miffed by this comment about the Republican tax plan that Ryan helped pushed through:
 “May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”
This focuses on a key difference between the Catholic interpretations of the bible and many Protestant interpretations which talk about work as being a divine calling and the importance of self reliance.

But as I read the quote, I couldn't help but think about what Ryan probably really meant by the word 'politics.'  I think he meant don't take positions that challenge my positions.  Surely, if the Father had spoken about saving fetuses from abortion (as political a topic as you could want, and one consistent with the Catholic church's beliefs) Ryan wouldn't have been upset at all.

 Merriam Webster's online dictionary's first definition of political is:
"of or relating to government, a government, or the conduct of government" 
How could a Congressional chaplain say anything of relevance that would not be political?  Even if the chaplain's job is purely ceremonial, there's no way a chaplain can say anything without it being interpreted as political by someone.

The article goes on to discuss simmering tension between Catholics and Evangelical Christians in the House.
"The controversy was heightened when Representative Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina and a Baptist minister, said Thursday in an interview with The Hill newspaper that he hoped the next chaplain of the House might come from a nondenominational church tradition who could relate to members with wives and children.
Catholic Democrats quickly called his remarks anti-Catholic, as Catholic priests are celibate . . ."
The Times article also offers another explanation for the firing - that the Chaplain wasn't carrying out his pastoral duties satisfactorily.  It also suggests this was one more Republican 'unforced error' that would help Democrats in the November election.  I don't know about that.  There are so many things that will influence whether and how voters vote.  Add this to the list.

Friday, April 27, 2018

A Serious Life And The Two Horses Of Genghis Kahn

I met Michael Sidney Welch a number of years ago when I taught a class at Olé on blogging.  I insisted that we have it in a computer lab and that everyone would get their own blog in the several weeks we met.  My expertise was just my own blogging experience, but I knew if I just talked and they didn't try it out themselves, it would be really boring.

Just about everyone - I think there were about 20 folks - got a blog up and several have kept those blogs going or got new ones up after that.

Michael is a philosopher.  I see him around town, usually he's with his wife, particularly at the Anchorage International Film Festival.  Recently his wife invited us to a group I can best describe as a movie club.  I mean that in the sense of a book club that watches movies rather than reads books.

This week we met to see "The Two Horses of Genghis Kahn" - a really beautiful Mongolian movie about a woman who travels around Inner and Outer Mongolia in search of the lost lyrics of a song her grandmother taught her.  She knows some of them, but there were more inscribed in a horse head violin that was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution.  She still had the broken off horse head and sought someone to make a new violin for it while she went searching elders for the missing words.

The broad landscapes and the search for lost culture are familiar to Alaskans and it provoked a lot of discussion about cultural change, both natural and. . .   I'm sitting here thinking about the right word and I'm not succeeding - unnatural isn't right.  Forced comes to mind - as when one culture tries to wipeout another culture by banning the language and music and other ways the culture is transmitted from generation to generation.  And we could talk a long time by what 'natural' cultural change entails.  We talked about how younger generations live in different worlds than their parents' generation.  But is this really natural?  Or is it a product of the industrial revolution that fosters so much rapid change in the last few centuries?

I haven't found any serious reviews, but this one gives an introduction to the film and the director.
Anchorage's Loussac Library has a copy. Youtube has a tease that looks like the whole copy from Netflix, but it doesn't seem to be so.  It apparently has been on Netflix (couldn't find it today) and may be on Prime.   It has a much slower pace than US viewers are used to.  Here's a preview, though we watched it in the original (which I assume was Mongolian, but may have been a dialect) with English subtitles.

As we were leaving Michael told me he has his newish blog - A Serious Life - up now.  When I say he's a philosopher, I'm not joking.  This is not for the Tweet at Heart.  I'll also link it in the right column, since some of the bloggers I've had there have been, shall we say, preoccupied with other things than their blogs.

For those who make it this far, the title of the movie is also the title of the song Uma is seeking.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Regular visitors to the blog already know Zainol's work.  Actually, anyone who's been here has seen his work.

Zainol is a Malaysian artist.  I bought three small paintings from him back in 2005 I think when I went to a conference in Malaysia.  I immediately fell in love with the pictures, but as a very light packer, didn't even consider buying them.  But the artist - it was an outdoor art fair in Kuala Lumpur - convinced me they were light and would survive the trip and they made it back to Anchorage.

When I began this blog in 2006, I figured out quickly that I wanted the pictures, somehow, into the banner on top.  It fit the idea of What Do I Know?   I finally got a picture I wanted and figured out how to add some writing.  But I couldn't figure out how to get it the right size to fit in the banner.  That didn't happen until May 2007 when I put up a brief post about the blog's new look.

I wanted to let Zainol know that I'd used the picture for my blog, but I couldn't contact him.  I couldn't find him on google.

Yesterday, as part of moving the upstairs downstairs as we get ready for painting, I took the three pictures off the wall.

[I had to put them back up so I could take the picture and I didn't check the alignment carefully.  I put them up with I on the left and III on the right.  They hung straighter before so I think I had them in a different order.]

So when I took them down, on the back was the name of the painting and the artist.  It was easy to google and I got Zainol Ariffin Mustafa Alfandi's Facebook page right away.  

Then I tried to find where I wrote about the picture I used for the blog header.  It wasn't in my personal information or on the right column.  I searched the blog for Zainol but Blogger hasn't been good about finding words in the older posts.  So I added something on the right sidebar near the top.  

But it bothered me and so yesterday I looked through the posts for 2006 and then 2007 until I found it in May 2007.  I didn't include a picture.  I guess I figured the banner was good enough.  

But now I can include Zainol's full name and his FB link in case anyone is interested in his art.  Thanks, Zainol.  The paintings are still fresh, beautiful, and thought provoking.  

So, people who visit here often have seen part of one of Zainol's painting often.  Now you can go to his FB page and learn a bit more about him.  And I can fully recognize him here.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What Does It Mean To Live To 117?

The Anchorage Daily News had the following short piece in its collection of short stories on Monday:

At 117, Nabi Tajima was older than modern-day Australia, and everyone else known to live on the planet. 
Tajima, born Aug. 4, 1900, in Araki, Japan, and recognized as the world's oldest person, has passed on that mantle. She died Saturday, having been hospitalized since January, the Associated Press reported, and was the last known person born in the 19th century. 
She was living in the town of Kikai on Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, the AP reported. 
The title of 'world's oldest living person' is a remarkable, if not fleeting, one. Tajima claimed the distinction in September, when fellow 117-year-old Violet Brown died in Jamaica. Brown was the oldest person in the world for about five months. 
Tajima straddled the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and is one of the few people who could recall a time before World War I.  Two days after her 45th birthday, the United States dropped the first of two atomic bombs northeast of her home island.
Tajima's secret to longevity was “eating delicious things and sleeping well,” the group said. She danced with her hands at the sound of a samisen, a traditional three-string instrument."
This is the kind of story the paper clips from elsewhere and so when I looked for it online, I found it in the Washington Post, with a few more paragraphs and some pictures.

My thoughts when I read this were about what was not in this piece.  What was her physical and mental condition when she died?  How long was she able to converse and recognize the people around her.  Did she still do the things she liked to do?  What did she eat and did she enjoy the food?  And how long has it been since she did those things?  What parts of her body were still functioning?   

I think about my own mom's two and a half year decline from going out, walking on her own, mental alertness.  The physical mobility went first.  She had some ailments which didn't bother her when she was in bed, so she started spending more time in bed.  That led to loss of her muscle strength and ability to walk.  For the last year or so getting into the car was a problem.  Eventually eating got difficult - things got caught in her throat and she'd start coughing.  Her mobility was via a wheel chair and someone to move it.  She sat out in the sun daily, reading, and I would walk her up the street and back.  Sometimes around the block, but the next street over was very steep and had terrible sidewalk breaks.  

While she had moments of confusion - particularly when she woke up in the morning and transitioned from her dreams to being awake - for the most part she was lucid and understood what people were saying and responded pretty normally.  She could answer our questions about the past as we found things in the garage whose history we didn't know.  My mom passed away at 93 after a vigorous life, which included working at a job she loved until she was 85.  

My father had a distant cousin who lived to 102.  The last time we saw him he was 101 I think and we picked him up at the assisted living home where he lived.  He was dressed in a suit - how he dressed himself every day - and we drove to a nearby Thai restaurant where we talked and he ate with relish.  I dropped him and J off and then parked the car.  But he walked, without a cane, the quarter mile or so back to the car.  At that point, I'd say he was in great condition and he helped fill me in on a lot of family history I hadn't known.  So living that long isn't necessarily a painful thing, though i don't know how the last year or so went.  

After watching my mom's decline, I read these stories about 'the oldest person on earth' with some skepticism.  I guess it's a remarkable thing to live that long, but is it something anyone would want to do?  The article says, 
Tajima claimed the distinction [of being the oldest in the world]  in September, when fellow 117-year-old Violet Brown died in Jamaica
I suspect people claimed it for her and I wonder what she thought about that title.  Our Guinness Book of Records Syndrome makes us note these oddities, and I realize that for medical researchers there is significance.  And if the title brought Tajima any joy, that's a good thing.

The Washington Post has a few more paragraphs the ADN left out as well as some pictures.
“She passed away as if falling asleep. As she had been a hard worker, I want to tell her 'rest well,'" said Tajima's 65-year-old grandson Hiroyuki, local media reported.Tajima was in the exclusive group of supercentenarians, people who have crossed the 110-year threshold. The U.S.-based Gerontology Research Group, which tracks certified people who become supercentenarians, reports 36 worldwide. All but one of them are women, and 18 of them are Japanese. Good diets and supportive family structure have been linked to Japan's world-leading life expectancy.
Her legacy is similarly expansive; she had nine children and 160 descendants, including great-great-great grandchildren, the Gerontology Research Group said.
Chiyo Miyako, also in Japan, has become the world's oldest person, according to the group. At 116 years and 355 days, she has about nine months to reach her countrywoman's mark of 117 years and 260 days.
Miyako would not have to travel far to visit her male compatriot. Japan's Masazo Nonaka, at 112 years and 271 days old, was confirmed to be the world's oldest man by Guinness World Records this month. The organization had been set to recognize Tajima before she died, the AP reported."

I'd add that as old as 117 might seem, the National Geographic notes:

 One study in the journal Aging Research Reviews notes a deep-sea sponge from the species Monorhaphis chuni lived to be 11,000 years old
"Ming, a quahog clam, died at the age of 507 when researchers tried to dredge the bivalve up from Icelandic waters."  
"As far as mammals go, bowhead whales seem to have the most candles on their cake—over 200. It makes sense, since the marine mammals live in chilly waters, says Don Moore, director of the Oregon Zoo in Portland. . . 
A cold environment causes a low body temperature, which in turn means slow metabolism—and thus less damage to tissues, Moore says.
I knew there was a good reason to move to Alaska.
"Currently the world's oldest known land animal is Jonathan, an 183-year-old Aldabra giant tortoise that lives on the grounds of the governor’s mansion in St. Helena, an island off West Africa." 
Here's a picture of the still living Jonathan taken in 1900 [!] that I found at a website called ODDEE.  (It also has picture of the oldest clam.)

 I'm afraid the title question was not answered in the passing note of Tajima's death.  The missing Washington Post does hint at the research interest in such people.  For the ADN,  it's just a newsy tidbit like the picture of Jonathan.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Alaskans Need To Prepare To Stop The Dunleavy For Governor Campaign

[What Do I Know?  tends to shy away from taking explicit partisan stances on political races, preferring to present facts and let the reader decide.  And technically, my objections to Sen. Dunleavy are not because of his party membership, but because of his individual actions.  The specific actions I saw that so disturbed me were in defiance of the vast majority of his party. This post is an early warning]

From a Walker/Mallot (for governor) campaign email:
"The Walker Mallott campaign released polling this morning that shows Governor Bill Walker and Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott leading a two-way race against potential opponents Mike Dunleavy and Kevin Meyer by 36% to 33%."
From my perspective, this is truly scary.  I watched Dunleavy up close in May of 2015, when he chaired a committee responsible for passing Erin's Law (which had overwhelming bi-partisan support) during a summer special session.  Here's a quick summary of my  impressions a year later as in a post where I wondered whether Mat-su shouldn't be allowed to be annexed by Texas.
wrote about Sen. Dunleavy last summer when he tried to gut the proposed Erin's Law by filling it with his far-right wing national parents' rights nonsense.   I say 'nonsense' because it's only about parents' rights in a very twisted way.  One whole section, for example, is really about crippling Planned Parenthood.  He had language then, and it's back now in SB 191, to ban school districts from contracting with any abortion provider or anyone who has any contract with an abortion provider.  I wrote about all of this in detail last summer. This was all understood to be aimed at Planned Parenthood.  
During that special session, I coined the term "to dunleavy" which summarized my impression of what Sen. Dunleavy was doing to Erin's Law during that session.  (The link explains the poster.)

Note:  This is a warning about Mike Dunleavy and not an endorsement of Walker/Mallot.  There are still possibilities of other candidates to challenge them both from the Left and Right.  And I would add that I think the Kevin Meyer is a much more decent person, but he suffers from the fact that his full-time employer is Conoco-Phillips.  While that, inexplicably, is not a conflict of interest in the Alaska legislature, it would be seen as much by most people who study governmental ethics.

Monday, April 23, 2018

My New Hears

Choose your own opening:

Opening 1
My wife was an audiologist part of her career.  Her stories were about
how hard it was for people to adjust to hearing aids.  Problems with background
noise and lots of other issues.  I learned that putting on hearing aids doesn't
magically improve your hearing the way glasses immediately improve your seeing.

Opening 2
Glasses aren't called Seeing Aids, so why don't we have a word for hearing aids that isn't so clunky and off-putting?  

Opening 3
As I grow older, the people around me mumble more and more.  Some people speak clear as a bell.  Others sound a little fuzzy.  I can catch most of what they're saying, but key words stay sounds without meaning.   

The Story

So I went to Costco to have my hearing tested.  Then the technician,  The higher frequencies weren't within normal range.  Aaron programmed a hearing aid, showed me where the ignition was, and let me take them for a ride around the warehouse.  Despite my expectations of annoying noises and difficulty pulling out the things I needed to hear, it was, in fact, like putting on glasses.  All the gauze that seemed to muffle some people's voices disappeared, and those high tones needed to interpret certain words or certain voices came through loud and clear.  (Not too loud, just loud enough.)  The technology is much better than it was.  The aids are programmed to boost the frequencies my ears have trouble with, they dampen the background sounds, adjust to different backgrounds, and they even boost soft voices.  We shopped and went back to the hearing center where he started taking the aids out.  I protested.  I can't keep them?  No, these are ours, yours should be here in two or three days.  I was really disappointed.  But they came soon and now it's been a little more than a week.

So, now I'm looking for a good name for these little guys who ride behind my earlobes, hooked into my ear canals by little clear tubes.  I narrowed it down to 'ears' and 'hears' and after a tiny sample sized opinion survey, I've decided to call them my 'hears.'  [I'm still open to better suggestions.]

And today I went to the doctor for a slightly longer ago than annual check up.  No serious issues and all the lab results came out in the normal range. (I didn't plan it, but I kind of like having 'out in' in a sentence.)  He did mention that lots of men won't get hearing aids.  I understand not wanting to display one's infirmities to the world.  But I figure every time I say, "Pardon?" or "What was that?" or "I didn't catch that" I'm doing that anyway.  And I can hear everything now.  Particularly noticeable is the alarm on my watch, which is in a high frequency.  I could hear it faintly under good conditions, but if it's covered by a sleeve or there's a lot of background noise, they only way I knew it was going off was when people told me it was.  Now it's really loud!  So are paper and plastic sounds.

The three rules I was given was NO swimming, showering, or sleeping with the hears in.

 I used to say that I didn't need hears because what I heard was much more interesting than what people actually said.  This picture is like that.  And it gives you a sense of what high frequency words and voices sounded like before I got my hears.  You get a lot of the info, but it's fuzzy.

Oh yes, one more cute feature - there's a red mark on the hears for the right ear and a blue one for the left.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

FBI Names Kokayi Nosakere As Anchorage Community Leader

I got a text message from a friend with a link.  Being a troglodyte, I can't go to websites on my phone (but I do get texts!), so I checked on my computer.  It was ominous in that it had FBI in the url and Kokayi thinks of himself as something of a trouble maker.  Was he showing me that he was now on some FBI watch list?

Here's what it says:
"The Anchorage Division honors Mr. Kokayi Nosakhere. Mr. Nosakhere works to address teen violence and homicide by bringing together minority groups to get to know one another. Through employment resources and spiritual, educational, parenting, and leadership support, Mr. Nosakhere is motivating young men to put an end to violence."

Congratulations Kokayi!

Here's what their website says about these awards:

"Since 1990, the annual awards have been the principal means for the FBI to publicly acknowledge the achievements of those working to make a difference in their communities through the promotion of education and the prevention of crime and violence.
In his remarks to the group this morning, Director Christopher Wray thanked the honorees for their efforts to make the country safer and noted the similarities between community leaders and the FBI’s own workforce—both are dedicated to public service and “doing the right thing in the right way,” he said.
“We need the support, the understanding, and the trust of our community partners and the public. You’re out in your neighborhoods and your communities every day building that support and that trust and that understanding,” Wray added."

Friday, April 20, 2018

AK Press Club: Some Afternoon Highlights - Panels on Data and Anonymous Sources

I can't keep up the pace I started this morning.  Here are just some notes

Heather Bryant presented on Using Data.  A great quote went something like, "Data and Fact are synonyms in the dictionary only."

This is a topic I've scratched a number of times.  Heather reminded me of lots of things I've heard before but had forgotten.  Most useful for me was a list of links to resources.
Sorry, the light in the room was bad and even playing with contrast didn't help the image much, but I've listed a bunch below.

DataViz Tools

The Next Panel:

Anonymous Sources  - NPR - KTVA-TV News Director Janis Harper, Managing Editor Sara Goo, CoastAlaska's Ed Schoenfeld.

This really was a panel discussion.  I don't think any of the panelists actually made a presentation.  They just jumped into discussing the topic.  Here are some highlights.  Again, this is rough in the interest of getting this up quickly.  If I have time, I may come back to clean it up a bit.

Reasons people want to be anonymous:

  • People had genuine story and good reason not be be identified
  • People who didn't understand how journalism works 
  • People who saw journalists on TV or movies - someone wanted to be paid for his story or wants something

Examples, of anonymous source

Goo:  I need to understand something even if I can't report it.  Situation where people are ok giving their names, but we think it's not a good idea, that they might not understand the impact.  Case where interviewed someone for print, but when it went online we decided not to put name up because not sure that person agreed to the online use.

Using actors to read out the words in the interview - in a video on drug addicts.
In small communities often hard to get someone that people can't figure out.

Remember the guideline "to do no harm."    

Panelists had already handed out the Fairness section of the NPR ethics code.

Take pressure off source by getting them to help you find a document that has the information in it.  

Examples of getting documents and hard drive data anonymously.  In one case, salacious, but no real wrong doing.  Confirming with others.  

Even in small towns where you think you know people, you can still get used by someone.  Be suspicious about another person and why they're telling me the story.  But if they have documentation, even if the person doesn't have honorable intentions.  Another person's intent was to positively impact someone else.  Or just ask, "Why are you telling me this?  Why me?"

Someone doesn't want to be on the record, you can refuse and say, "just don't tell me."  Because they really want to tell you.  Or someone tells you it's off the record thinking that means you can't report it.  Response:  No, I just need to find another source for the information and not attribute it to you.  

AK Press Club: Libby Casey - How To do Good Video

OK, this session by Washington Post on-air reporter Libby Casey is about using video as part of your news stories.  But she was a reporter in Alaska for many years.   She's talking about how and why to pull out your phone and video.  So here's some video of the speaker.

OK, the disadvantage of the video is that I couldn't track most of the session because I was editing the video and uploading it.  Youtube decided not to recognize my computer today and so I had to search for my password to upload to my Youtube account.  And I didn't listen to the audio because I'm in the session and I don't have earbuds.  I had to sort of just jump in at the beginning.

Since I've been using video on this blog since 2006, most of this is stuff I already know.

Going to drop into the session again now.  Some rules:

  • Can't stage a scene.  
  • But you can take control of an interview.  Tell interviewee where to look, etc.
  • Horizontal or vertical?  Traditionally horizontal.  More complicated now because media like SNAP going vertical.  But still horizontal.  Some going square even.  Never shift partway through.  
  • Need good audio.
  • Keep shot steady - use a mono-pod.  Selfie stick works, table tripods.  Gorillapod.  Also can get stabilizer.  She's talking about things to use with your cell phone.
  • Audio - lavelier mics, good, fit right into your phone.  Audio! website - Smartphone Lab $79.  The more connections you have, the more likely to screw something up.  If you have none of these tools can use headphone or earbuds as way to get the sound to make sure it's good

What makes you so special?  What is your experience that gives you creditability?  Take advantage of what you know, in your community.
Do's and Don'ts

  • Don't worry about production perfection - it's ok raw.  
  • Don't get overwhelmed


  • Authentic
  • Journalism standards
  • Be aware your video can travel - if you are talking trash about neighboring community, they will get that eventually.  

11:20 Questions?

Q:  Working with kids?
A:  Never work alone - work as a team.  Sign permission forms for kids.  Don't need to know more th

Q:  Why stop with FB Live?
A:  First had grant and it ran out, but that wasn't the reason.  Just not getting enough traction right now.  If at protest, that's compelling and people want to share.  Why?  Wish I was there.  Supporting you by sharing.  I want to show this crazy thing happening.  Using periscope more.  Hit and miss to see what works.  Using more watch pages on FB.

Q:  Comments - don't they become overwhelming?
A:  My ?? series not that popular, so not overwhelming.  Can be.  At the post have team of social media people.  Before that I had other pages at FB.  I ended up shutting down my fan page because it was all like, 'you looked good today."  I just didn't want to engage in that.
My FB page - how to be a journalist page.  Put up good stories that don't fit elsewhere.  NRA said media loves mass shootings.  Got to us.  Should we even mention the NRA?  We did, but not until minute 16, not a reaction to them, but it's mentioned.  Just can't keep up with it, I do it on my own. But we do delete mean and demeaning comments.

I had to take some breaks here but you get a sense of the session.

AK Press Club: Tim Evans Investigative Journalism

These are rough notes from my first session at the Alaska Press Club Conference at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Tim Evans - Indianapolis Star

[Tim Evans broke the US gymnastics sex scandal story.]

Your reputation is the most important thing you have.

Don't push things beyond what you can do.  If you don't have the facts, don't do it.  I've got editors who push for stronger language.   Don't cave to the editor.

Try to have no errors, be exactly right.  Little screwups - name misspelled - will be attacked "If you can't spell my name, how can we trust anything you write."  Can't be too careful.  Not going to have two years on a project generally.  Don't be afraid to think small.  Not everything has to be a home run.

When we started gymnastics, Nassar was not on our radar.  Narrowed things down to four coaches.  Looking for situation where someone had done something, then went on to harm someone else.  If gymnastics had not taken any action.  Found coaches who had been reported, no action, went on to harm someone else.  Get beyond hypotheticals, get actual examples.

Given a gun permit despite law where they shouldn't have, caused problem, then did it again.  Police already had four coaches, multiple warnings, did nothing.  Nassar, a doctor, wasn't on the list.  Did the four coaches, and someone saw the story, then started getting calls about Nassar.  The calls were so strikingly similar,  Things he said to them all the same, sounded coached, working together.  We actually backgrounded the victims to make sure they weren't working together.  Their stories were so similar.  Made sure they were on different teams, didn't know each other.  Got two victims to agree, third didn't want to be named (has since come out.)  Editors had strict rules for anonymous stories.

Nassar denied - never penetrated.  That caused response from victims
Got tip Aug 4, story ran Sept 12.  Biggest sports sex scandal in US maybe world history.

I don't have a beat any more - advantages because people know you and give you tips.  Now I helicopter in, don't know squat.  Beat contacts really helpful.  Going to meetings, see people every day.  Staffers.  Spend time with them, they know what's going on.  I don't have that luxury now - harder to develop sources.
Downside - if you're the only people in the meeting, if you skewer someone, you have to deal with them next week.  But if you do it with a little care.   Commissioners filed suit against each other over open meetings,  I knew something was going on.  You're going to ruin our reputation - it's going be on the first page, then it will be dismissed in 3 months and won't get covered.  And we did put it on the first page when it was dismissed.  That helped.  You have to report those kinds of things, be as fair as possible.
Don't pisss off a good source, or people you deal with day in and day out.

Beat - got to maintain good relations.

Investigation - more advocacy.  Have to give both sides, laying out a problem, identifying the causes, how to correct the problem.  Little difficult to shift in and out of that.  Have to stop and think about.  Easy to get more accusatory, but have to pull back.

Q:  At what point do you contact the person you're targeting?

A:  Final interview, wait nervously close to the end.  They could come up with something that blows your story out of the water.  Early, you might ask "what is your policy, I'm just trying to understand?"  I play dumb real well.  We wait to within a few days of publication.
First Start story on child abuse.  State agency lying about kid who died in forster care.  Hard to tell because kids are all anonymous.  Got an insider who gave us a list of kids who died.  20% more than in the report.  Did our investigation, they were short counting.  About a week before, on Thursday, governor said "We just discovered we miscounted."  But we were ready because we'd done our homework and could say they only reported that after we called them.  Can't give them too much time.

Try to get someone else to go with you.  They could have lawyers and others around them.  They'll try to intimidate you, keep you off your questions.  Have someone taking notes.  Two heads better than one.  Can say, "We'll get to that, but now I'm asking this question."  We rehearse our questions, try to anticipate their responses and not get caught off guard.  Worst thing is to ask your million dollar question and they have a good response you aren't ready for and throw you off.  Again, two heads better than none.  You may be there an hour, but really looking for their quick deflection.

Q:  Doing a story what are the factors you consider ,what effects do you want?
A:  1.  Who's going to care?  Gotta know your audience.  In Indiana, lots of gun owners, I am too, so not an issue.  But we began to notice lots of guns.  Laws say you have to be good character which is vague - sheriff can sign you off.  Don't have to have felony, just bad character.  Started looking at gun violence.  Tighter gun laws, not going to work.  But wanted to get them to enforce laws in effect.   Looked at people of 'bad character' who got concealed carry permits and committed crime.  We showed state not doing good job of enforcing law.  We felt good,   Indiana didn't fix the problem, they just hid it by concealing list of concealed permit holders.

All info about permit holders was online including addresses and phone numbers.  when we published in the newspaper they freaked out and cut back.

Q: Impacts of investigative reporting.
A:  We work with the net.  We have big commitment to investigations.  We may work for three weeks and come back and say, this really isn't a big story, won't make an impact, let's move on to something else.  I'm lucky in good newsroom with strong leaders.

Q:  How investigative stories are packaged, put on social media, what's the choreography for that?
A:  Big investigation roll out on Sunday, big headlines.  20, 10 years ago.  Don't think we do it that well at the Star.  Our first Nassar story, probably had 100 links in it.  That got us attention early on.  Highly sourced, well documented.  Can embed documents right into the story.  Had a social media plan for launch of USA gymnastic stuff, designer got faces and Olympic logo, facebook and twitter.  We have a long form template we have to use that isn't very good.  In gymnastic story got much more traffic online as in print.  Center was in Indianapolis, but it was a national story.  USA Today pushed it.  Readership far beyond print reach.
Copy editor because a visual producer, was great.  Digital more important than the print.  Print almost afterthought?

Q:  When did you think about the headline?
A:  Them was "out of balance".  On balance team they mark where they should get off, and Simone marked it with a dollar sign.  Started story in March, first published in August.  Theme came up in June.  Got people helping from USA Network.  First story read like everyone had an input - because they did.

Q:  How did online and print headline differ?
Online to get best SEO, best google search results, online people focused on that.  Might have twisted words a bit to boost search hits.

Q  ???
A:  8-5 shift in the past.  I take every phone call  Work 70 hours.    Roman Finnegan.  Source on child abuse in state system.  He was scattered.  Knew he had a story, but couldn't pin him down.  Said, send me one page email with five key points.  He sent 20 pages.  I finally gave up on him.  He got an attorney and eventually got $9 million settlement and I didn't get the story, pissed me off.  But at certain point you have to cut and run.

Q:  ???
A:  Got to watch it in small market.  I've asked to talk to all employees, and then people want to know what I'm looking at.

Q:  When you devote more resources to investigative project, you have to give something up.  How do you make that decision?
A:  I don't have to make that decision.  It is a huge investment.  We got a lot of clicks.  I could have been writing breaking stories every day and gotten more clicks.  Job is investigative reporter but also do consumer help line.  We got back $1 million through that.  I've done two investigations based on that.

One other thing I want to get to - fact checking is HUGE.  Get detail wrong, diminishes everything else you do.  Most of our stories, take the expert, he takes victims, 3rd person takes another view.  Everyone reads everything and everyone knows everything.  Then one would take lead on writing so one voice, print it out, project on screen and go through it line for line.  Any fact or assertion we  made, we got back make sure we know it's good.  Go back to documents.  Not that don't trust each other, but want to prove before it's out.    Reedited at the end, we go through it all again.  Every assertion, every name, claim in court document, we have to show the others.  Haven't had any corrections or lawsuits.  Credibility is everything you've got.
For print, we're there at night to watch the page proofs, that's an easy place for someone to insert an error.

Q:  How often seek out research grants for investigations?
A:  Not as often as we should.  But did use state law to get access to child abuse stats.  Kaiser reporters, got some travel money.  People dying after minor surgery.  For profit hospitals.  Great opportunity for smaller papers.  Fellowship for narrative investigative project on child welfare.  They're out there.  Will help convince an editor.

A:  Always start with high hope.  Sometimes just can't pin it down.  Used staff to substantiate charges against ??, got close but couldn't prove it, protected records.  Knew it was good story.  Don't give up on your sources.  People may eventually feel they can talk.  Gymnastics people feared career.  I'd just call back and ask if there was any change.  Once the dominoes started to fall, more people will talk.  Some blame victims for not speaking up early.  But that's such an intimate thing if they are victims themselves.  Some will never talk, others will come forward.  Victim shaming really pisses me off. People are ready at their own time.  Every do a rape case?  Questioning is discussing.  People ask how did you get the to talk?  When they are ready, they are happy to talk to someone who would listen.  Parents pushing their kids to say nothing so they don't jeopardize their sports careers.  Lots of remorse.

Q:  Star made a decision on that?
A:  Mixed feelings.  Easy to say if someone arrested or targeted in lawsuit, but this doctor with no malpractice, no complaints, icon in the sport, and we come out of the blue with two women saying he molested me.  Pillar of local and sports community, we had to nail it in the first story.
Just because someone tells you something, that doesn't release you from your liability.  Lawyers there too.

Q:  What are the metrics - official and
A:  Lucky don't have a click quota.  Some beat reporters do have quotas.  We're isolated ab it because of big story.  If  I don't know how they calibrate it.  Clicks are important.
Page views, volume.  Now shifted to time spent on page.  In and out quick hurts you.  Return readers.  Engage time.  Click to other stories from our site.
Investigations 50-100K readers first day.  
Q: What about impacts.  Impacts outside the clicks.  Beyond that change laws, change lives, survivors to say if it weren't for you, he'd still be molesting little girls.  Pulitzer.  Obit - should have one Pulitzer.  Not doing it to get rich or make friends.  WW II vet paid $9000 to fix wife's car, got ripped off, I wrote a story on this, and a couple weeks ago, got the Mustang back all restored, he's 96.  That's the power.  Little things that make it rewarding.

Again, these are rough notes, but should give you an idea of what happens in these sessions.

The Mountains At Sunset

We're getting rid of our popcorn ceiling upstairs and since we have to clear out the upstairs pretty much, we're getting the upstairs painted too.  We just went through all this at my mom's house in LA, but it really needs it.
So I'm trying to get rid of things along the way instead of just moving everything as is.  And working an hour or so a day in the yard as the snow is mostly gone now.  And tomorrow and Saturday I go to the Alaska Press Club conference.

So while I have a backlog of posts I'm working on, they just aren't ready yet.  I didn't get to my bike ride today until 9pm.  Fortunately, our summer light is here already.  The picture below was at 9:30 pm as I was almost home.  Maybe "clouds at sunset" would be more appropriate since there is more sky than mountains.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bill Passes Alaska Senate Making it Easier and Clearer For Mom To Terminate Parental Rights Of Her Rapist

From the Alaska State Senate Democratic Press Office:

JUNEAU - Today, the Alaska State Senate passed SB 134 by Senate Democratic Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). The legislation clarifies that a parent who chooses to keep a child conceived through rape can sever ties with their rapist, if approved by the court and in the best interest of the child.

In 1987, the Legislature passed a law allowing a mother to terminate a rapist father's parental rights. This law was inserted in AS 25.23, which focuses on adoption. The current termination statute has confused advocates and attorneys. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, has erroneously interpreted Alaska's statute as pertaining only to adoption cases. Family law lawyers within the state of Alaska have claimed they were not aware of the applicability of existing statutes.

"This does not affect a lot of people in this state but is a huge issue for those impacted people. It is important for a woman who becomes pregnant through rape to be able to be aware of her options," said Sen. Gardner. "Without a clear legal protection, a woman could be forced and locked into a long-term relationship with her abuser."

There are currently 45 states with statutes that allow for the parental rights of rapists to be reduced or terminated.

The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and moves to the Alaska House of Representatives for further consideration.
Members of the press with questions may contact Alaska Senate Democratic Press Secretary, Noah Hanson at 465-5319.

Initially, one might think this should have happened 60 years ago - when Alaska became a state.  And there was legislation, but apparently it wasn't all that well known by attorneys and there was some confusion whether it only related to adoption cases.  (One judge, according to the testimony, interpreted that way.)

And not everything is cut and dried.  One case was discussed in the hearings at Health and Human Services Committee* in which a 13 year old was in a relationship with a young man 'over majority' who was convicted of statutory rape and served prison time.  But the baby was raised, in part, by the paternal grandparents and was attached to them.

Miles Curtis testified on this in support of the bill.  The child was in the maternal grandparents care until he was eight and only recently into the custody of the paternal parents.  The child didn't want to be with the family, hard on the child, hard on the mother, hard on us financially.  The current law was used against the mother.  Problem wasn't with the abuser, but with the state of Alaska who have taken over the role of the parent.  We would like it so that rapists are never in the best interest of the child.  It won't help our case, but for others in the future it will help.

*Testimony on this bill begins at about 1:36 pm on the video.

I'd note that perhaps one reason it took so long for this bill to be heard (first hearing seems to be April 6, 2018)** is that it was sponsored by two Democratic Senators - Berta Gardner and Tom Begich - in the Republican controlled Senate.
**The video says this hearing was April 6, 2018, though the legislative record says April 9.

The bill now goes to the Democratic controlled House where one would expect it to pass fairly easily.

Here's the complete text of the bill.

I'd note that I haven't done a lot of coverage of the state legislature since I spent a session in Juneau in 2010.  Getting around on the state's BASIS website seems a lot easier than it was - particularly getting the video and audio of hearings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Kind Of Story You Don't Hear Too Much

From Having Our Say by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, with Amy Hill Hearth:
"This is what were told by our Mama:  A fellow named John Logan, who was white, was an army officer called away to fight during the War of 1812.  While he was gone, his wife took up with a Negro slave on their plantation.  She was already the mother of seven daughters by her husband, and her romance with the slave produced two more daughters.  When the husband returned, he forgave his wife - forgave her! - and adopted the two mulatto girls as his own  They even took his last name, Logan.  No one remembers what happened to the slave, except he must've left town in a big hurry.  This slave and his white woman were our great-great-grandparents." (pp. 33-34)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Turnagain Arm Mudflats - A Favorite Beach Walk Has Fewer Rocks, More Mud

There are lots of spots along Turnagain Arm to stop and explore.  On the east side (away from the water) they tend to go up pretty steeply and that's less and less appealing as we get older.  On the west side are favorite spot is a small parking spot near Indian where the bike trail starts.  But where you can get over a small chainlink fence and then over the railroad tracks down to a rocky beach.

Though we discovered yesterday that the rocky part is much more limited than it used to be  It's mostly mudflats now.

Yesterday there was only a thin area that was rocky, right along the where you climb down the boulders from the railroad tracks.  Then it turned quickly to mudflats.

Here's a picture from September 2012 at this same beach.  While it's not the same exact spot, you can see the same mountains in the background.  You can't even see the rocky slope on the left where the railroad tracks are.   The area between the railroad tracks and the mudflats was much greater.

But let's enjoy the amazing textures of the mudflats.

This one is from the road.  I can't remember such a low tide where I couldn't see any water except for in the deeper channels.

As we got over the railroad tracks we found a couple and their dog enjoying a picnic overlooking Turnagain Arm.  It was warmish (high 50s F) and no wind at all.)

And here we are on the railroad tracks (looking south) as we head back.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Prepare For The Coming Fall Of Trump

Trump's past has been glossed over for many, but it seems to be bubbling up in the Justice Department.  If you want to understand how Trump got where he is and why that is soon to undo him, you need to dig deeper than social media and mainstream media.

I'd recommend a few sources of information to get you up to speed if you aren't already there.

This New Yorker article by Adam Davidson steps back then steps forward to explain why even Trump supporters will start having doubts when all the facts about his business dealings come out.  He talks about how, as a reporter in Iraq, he saw the inevitable, but it took the American public much longer to realize we weren't winning there.  Then he talks about studying the Collateralized Debt Obligations and realizing that the banking world was going to come crashing down.  Again before the public did.
"I thought of those earlier experiences this week as I began to feel a familiar clarity about what will unfold next in the Trump Presidency. There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded. Last week, federal investigators raided the offices of Michael Cohen, the man who has been closer than anybody to Trump’s most problematic business and personal relationships. This week, we learned that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months—his e-mails have been read, presumably his phones have been tapped, and his meetings have been monitored. Trump has long declared a red line: Robert Mueller must not investigate his businesses, and must only look at any possible collusion with Russia. That red line is now crossed and, for Trump, in the most troubling of ways. Even if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then had Mueller and his investigation put on ice, and even if—as is disturbingly possible—Congress did nothing, the Cohen prosecution would continue. Even if Trump pardons Cohen, the information the Feds have on him can become the basis for charges against others in the Trump Organization.
This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth."

Essentially, when the remaining Trump faithful see behind the curtain, they too will realize they've been swindled.  Eventually it happens to all frauds.  Watch as Toto pulls down the wizard's curtain.

Next, for those of you who have Netflix, the documentary series Dirty Money  ends with an episode on Donald Trump.  For those who have been paying attention there isn't that much new, but as names like Michael Cohen start getting more airtime, this gives some background on them and their relationship with Trump .  Just search for Dirty Money on Netflix, then go to the last episode of that series.  [I don't think I can link you straight to the movie within Netflix since you have to put in your passwords, so the link just goes to Netflix and you have to find Dirty Money episode six yourself.]

If you have more time, Netflix also has a four episode series called Trump: The American Dream.  This one gets much deeper into the Trump story.  (The use of superlatives to describe everything he does goes back a long time.)

Watching these videos will be like reading the program at the opera.  Soon the names and stories of Trump's henchmen and cronies will flash by in the news.  If you read the program now you'll know the backstories of these folks.

Just like with Nixon, there was a majority of Americans who stood by the President, simply because he was the President.  But slowly the circle around him got smaller and smaller as people in his administration were indicted.

At that time the Vietnam War also had the country polarized and those who held onto their belief in the President's innocence the longest were those who didn't want to believe these things about the president who was waging the war they so strongly believed in.

The details will be different this time round, but I suspect the end will be similar.  Nixon was much more traditional, much better informed about how Washington worked (he'd been a member of Congress and Eisenhower's vice president for eight years.)  Trump, I guess, believed that saying  "if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere."  He's in way over his head. And he has no self-control.   So his decline will  probably much more volatile.

And here are some posts I did to understand who Trump was back in 2016 that give background into his father and his mentor:

March 13, 2016:  To Know The Son, Know the Dad - So What Can We Learn From Trump's Dad?

June 24, 2016 -  "Roy Cohn was one of the most loathsome characters in American history, so why did he have so many influential friends?"] Roy Cohn was important in Trump's rise to power and appears in the videos.

November 6, 2016:    What A Trump Presidency Would Look Like   -  If you do your homework, some predictions aren't that hard.  I suspect many of you would have made similar predictions.  I'm comfortable pointing out what I said before we knew who won the election.

The Peanut Files

The last two posts (#1)  and (#2) weren't really meant to tease you, but to overcome your natural tendency to actually stop, get a piece of paper and pen, and draw something.  You're surfing the net and your fingers are only supposed to be tapping the keys.  So I wanted to get at least a few of you to break that pattern and draw a peanut.

You can still do that.  I'll leave some space and if you don't scroll down you won't see the peanuts.

I'll put my peanut drawing up again, so you don't see what's below until you've drawn your own peanut.  We can wait while you do that.

Don't scroll down until you've drawn your own peanut.  (Of course, I have no power to stop you from scrolling down, but I think this will mean more if you draw first.)

OK.  Now let's look at some peanuts closely.  Let's start with the ends, because they're different.

One end - the top in the picture above - has a little hook, a parrot beak.  

The other end - on top in this second picture - has what I'm calling a navel, a little dimple.  The two ends of the peanuts are connected by ribs that go from the navel to the hook.  I counted ribs on about five peanuts and there seemed to be nine or ten.  They're not exactly straight.  You can see them best on the upper photo.

And between the ribs are little weblike patterns, which I assume help make the peanuts harder to crush.  You can see them better in the next picture where I've taken the same peanut and put it through a few different Photoshop filters so that different ridges and edges would be emphasized.

So now my drawing of a peanut looks pretty simplified.  As I wrote in the previous peanut posts - that this isn't really about peanuts, it's about knowing things and about being observant.  But as I was typing this post I was thinking it had much more application than just that.

  • We have the notion I mentioned that when we can label something, we stopping 'seeing' it.  The first time you get a peanut (or meet someone) you check it out to figure out what it is and how to recognize it next time you see it.  But once that's done, we tend not to look too closely.
  • This holds true for all the things we've named (or labeled).  As soon as we recognize it's a peanut we're satisfied.  We don't necessarily go beyond that simple first drawing of a peanut.  Instead they all look the same.  (Remember, in the picture immediately above, they are all the same peanut.)
  • But really the idea of a peanut is much more complicated - the two different kinds of ends where the ribs all meet.  The weblike designs between ribs.  If we look closely we can see that each peanut is unique, though we may have to look pretty closely to see the differences.
  • And I suspect that our ideas about health, ethics, nature, politics, and everything else are also prematurely identified and labeled and then not really examined too carefully after that.  

And you thought this was just going to be about peanuts.  Well, so did I.  But that also helps make my point about looking at things closely opens up new possibilities in areas we thought we knew.  Like when Alaska gained a huge Japanese market for fish roe after a Japanese visitor watched how the salmon were being cut open and the roe was thrown away.  He asked why and Alaska fishers discovered that they were throwing not just roe away, but lots of money, because there was a demand for roe in Japan.

When I tried to find out more about the structure of peanut shells, I wasn't too successful.  Most of what I found was about the molecular structure, not the actual peanut shells themselves.  But there are lots of uses.  In India - peanut ash is used in producing concrete.  And ground peanut shells can also be used to absorb dye from liquids.  And Google has a patent to use ground peanut shells for insulation.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Does Your Peanut Look Something Like This?

Here's a quick peanut drawing I made.  It took less than 30 seconds to draw, color in, and photograph.  So in my last post when I asked you to draw a peanut from memory, I wasn't asking you to spend a lot of time.

This post is for people who missed the last one.  Go back and look at it.  And for people who saw it but didn't make a drawing.  It's just for you, no one else will see it.  I'm trying to give folks a chance to think about what peanuts look like before I post the pictures of the peanuts I took yesterday.

So, here's my quick drawing:

What does yours look like?  I'll either update this post with my peanut photos or put up a whole new post so you can draw without peaking.  (I'm not even labeling this post art - I don't want anyone intimidated by that word.  But it is about knowing.)