Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Catchup: RBG At Bear Tooth, May Day Tree Invasion In Back Yard,

The much abbreviated (from last year) bike rack at Bear Tooth Cinema was packed when I rode over Sunday to see RBG, the movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  What I didn't know about her (well there was a lot of personal stuff too) was the key role she played in winning cases at the Supreme Court that broke barriers for women before she got on the court.

I did think about how conservatives might view this movie.  But then we would probably need a couple of hours to define conservative.  After all, Orin Hatch (certainly we'd classify him as a conservative) seemed convinced (in the movie)  that she was well qualified to be on the bench, even though he didn't agree with her on many issues.  I also wondered how I'd react to a similar film on Antonin Scalia, who also had some screen time in RBG.  I was also encouraged by the scenes of her working in the gym with her personal trainer.

I've written in the past about the May Day Tree (also known as choke cherry) invasion in Anchorage.  They've snuck into our backyard.  Last summer I clipped off the branches of one I discovered blooming profusely on the other side of the fence way in the back.  I had to get all the flowers and put them in the garbage.  I didn't want any stray seeds growing in the yard.  The I let the leaves die and fall off and cut up the branches.  Some I've shown out in the garbage, most I've been able to scatter in pieces around the yard.

I was planning on cutting down the tree, but someone - I'm guessing the utility folks since it was growing into the power line - did that for me.  But what they left has green shoots growing out of it this year.

Blooming May Day tree well hidden on left
There is another one near our deck. Last summer I clipped all the flowers off it as well, but decided to leave it for the rest of last summer because the leaves were green and partially blocked the neighbor's yard.  My plan was to get rid of it this summer.  It's green now - and lovely - with only one bunch of flowers. It's going soon.

 But to my dismay, I found another tree, about 14 feet high - full of flowers.  It's well hidden by the other trees - it's on the left in the picture.  But I can't see it, which is why I didn't spot it last summer I guess.  Our yard is just a normal 1/4 acre city lot, but it has a hill and lots of trees.  But I was checking on what's growing and found it.  So yesterday I clipped all the flowers, put a few in vases in the house and bagged the rest.  Cut off all the branches and I'll cut that one down too.
Cut branches of Choke Cherry (May Day)  flowers

The problem is that these trees, which are not native to Alaska,  thrive in Anchorage.  They grow fast and spread seeds all over choking out native plants.  And they make moose sick.  The older post explains the details and how it kills moose.

There are other invasive species as well.  The one I've come to terms with is the dandelion.  Especially now as the new ones start growing; soft and tender leaves make a nutritious mea.  So I go out and pick very fresh greens for omelets and salads.  Here's some nutritional information from an earlier post.

cooking dandelion greens
I also used dandelions as part of blog contest much earlier in this blog's history.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"Stolen antifreeze, alcohol and fake fingernails: Fred Meyer shoplifting sting nabs 25 suspects

That was the headline in the story in the Anchorage Daily News about a shoplifting sting at Fred Meyer's on Northern Lights and New Seward Highway.  I'd been at a hearing on crime last year where lots of folks complained.  Particularly some guys from Home Depot and Lowe's about shoplifters regularly walking out with big ticket items like chain saws, and how the stores did nothing because of SB91that made such arrests futile.  One guy claimed they'd lost about $800,000 last year.

So this sting to catch shoplifters at Fred Meyer sounded like a good idea.  About time.  Until I read it.  The fake fingernails should have been a red flag, though they turned out to be one of the more expensive items.

This program, called "Retail Detail" is, it says, a partnership with the big box store loss prevention teams and the Anchorage Police Department (APD), and began about six months ago.  Well, that was just after that hearing I went to last October.
"Carson said about 20 police officers, both undercover and marked, took part in the shoplifting sting. The operation lasted about nine hours, from the afternoon into the night."
I don't know that all the police officers worked all nine hours or that they weren't doing other work and came when called.  But let's say 10 officers for nine hours.  Say their pay is $32-42/hour and  the State Labor Department says the mean statewide pay for police/sheriff is $39 and the median is $40. An Alaska Policy Forum report says on MOA salaries says that benefits are about 30% of salaries.  Though that's an average and I'm guessing it's a bit higher for police.  But let's use 30%.

So they'd be costing about $50/hour.  Times ten (we're being conservative and assuming not all were working all nine hours)  = $500.  Times nine hours = $4500.  This is an extremely conservative number because it doesn't count any time in preparation for this sting or follow up.  This doesn't count the time of the loss prevention team members.

So what did they get?  The headline says 25 suspects.  I'm assuming these are arrests, not convictions.  What grabbed my attention was the value of the merchandise of each shoplifter.  From the article:

#1 [the article includes name and age, but I don't see the point here] "was arrested after he ran into the side of a patrol car on a stolen bicycle. Dickson had taken the bike from outside of the store. . .  the bike brakes didn't work. #1 smashed into the side of the patrol car, causing "pretty good damage" to the rig." 
So we have to add the cost of the damage to the rig.  Not sure how much a bike with no brakes is worth.  Not much I'm guessing.  I'll put down $20 which I think is generous.  But it clearly wasn't store merchandise.  Just a brakeless bike someone left there.

#2 hid fake fingernails worth $48.25 in his jacket pocket 
#3A stole three cans of spray paint and ran from officers as #3B, sat waiting in a getaway vehicle, police say. #3A was arrested for theft, resisting arrest and violating conditions of release. #3B was arrested on two counts of misconduct involving a weapon
Fred Meyer's website wasn't very helpful (one kind of Spray Paint wasn't available at the Northern Lights store, another kind didn't have a price.)  At Walmart, spray paint ranges from $2.64 - $5.68. So let's say three cans were worth $15.

#4  and a 13-year-old girl stole $103.86 worth of food. #4 was arrested for theft, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and violating conditions of release. The teenager was arrested and released to her parents.
Age might be relevant here if these two aren't relatives.  He was 32.

#5  stole $47.83 worth of various merchandise. She was arrested for theft, and had an outstanding warrant for a probation violation.
#6A  and #6B stole $215.17 worth of food and merchandise. Both were arrested for theft; #6A had an outstanding warrant for a probation violation. 
#7  stole a comforter costing $34.99. He was arrested for theft. 
#8  stole $11.16 in food. He was arrested for theft. 
#9 stole $288.56 worth of merchandise. He was arrested for theft and failure to register as a sex offender.
#10 tried to run from the store with $40.55 worth of merchandise, but officers caught him. He was arrested for theft, resisting arrest and violating conditions of release.
#11 stole $5.48 worth of food. He was arrested for theft, and on an outstanding warrant for failure to appear in court.
#12 stole $13.69 in alcohol. He was arrested for theft.
#13  stole $54.99 in shoes. He had a concealed gun on him and didn't tell officers; he was arrested for theft and misconduct involving a weapon.
#14 stole $52.50 in shoes. He was arrested for theft.
#15 was recognized by employees as having an outstanding misdemeanor warrant for theft. She was arrested on the warrant.
#16  put $87.87 of merchandise in his backpack and walked out of the store. He had heroin on him. He was arrested for theft and misconduct involving a controlled substance.
#17 stole $22.98 in antifreeze. He was arrested for theft.
#18 was recognized by employees as a repeat trespass offender, and was arrested for trespassing.
#19 stole $6.59 of food. He was arrested for theft.
#20 was recognized by officers from two outstanding warrants: a felony warrant for promoting contraband and misconduct involving a controlled substance, and a misdemeanor warrant for failure to appear in court. She was arrested.
#21 stole $337.15 worth of assorted merchandise. She was arrested for theft. 
#22  stole $221.22 in merchandise. She was arrested on an outstanding felony warrant for failure to appear in court, as well as theft and resisting arrest.
The headline says 25 suspects, but the numbers only go up to #22.  There were two listed in #3, #4 (a 13 year old girl), and #6.

By the time I finished this list, I was nodding my head.  Let's look at the numbers:

Some Key Numbers
25 arrests
Total value stolen = $1630 or $181/hour
Average amount(mean) = $74
Median = about $38 (two middle numbers were $35 and $41)
If you order from lowest to most, #16 is $19 below the average.
The last six accounted for $1254.
Conservative estimate of cost of sting:  $4500

We're looking at a people who stole $5, $6, and $11 worth of food.  Several people who hadn't taken anything, but were recognized by store employees as problems.  

This doesn't reflect the stories I heard about Home Depot and Lowe's.  Most of these sound like poor people - homeless? - who took small amounts. 

I'm not saying there's no problem here.  Fred Meyer is open (at least now) from 7am - 12 am, or 17 hours.  For simplicity sake, let's calculate  the other seven hours at the same rate.  We get $3070 per day in theft.  And assuming Fred Meyer is open every day, $1,123,470 a year.    (We don't really know if this is an average day, a high day, or a low day, or if the hours they didn't work the sting had the same level of theft.  So this is just a ball park guess.)

That's not peanuts.  But is the cost of preventing those thefts greater than the costs of the thefts?  For this particularly day it cost at least three times more than the value of the items stolen.  (I'm assuming that my $4500 figure is way low.)  Could the money be used in a way that prevented the most of the thefts instead of simply (temporarily for most) incarcerating the thieves.

Or, is there a certain number of shoplifters who cause the bulk of the problem  - like the ones who took over $88 each?  If they're removed would that cut the bulk of the problem?  In this sting, six people were responsible for 77% of the value of the stolen goods.   (from the table, $1254 (value taken by top six)/1630 (total value taken) = 77%)

Maybe there's some value to catching people with outstanding warrants or who violate their parole that goes beyond the value of what was stolen.  Some of these might be clever thieves.  But most sound like pretty desperate people.  Maybe some who aren't so desperate, but have some mental health needs to shoplift.  It's not clear how many of these people actually bought other items in addition to what they were stealing and how many just tried to walk out without paying anything.

I don't know the answer to this.  Obviously social and mental health services for those who are unable to work or cannot find a job or hold one  might help cut into this problem.

I just wanted to put all those costs together and match them to the cost of the sting.  There may well be costs and benefits I've missed.

It may seem like a trivial issue, but the kind of thinking through the numbers and different ways to spend the money, different ways to lessen shoplifting, is the kind of thinking we should be applying to all sort of issues from immigration to terrorism.  Arrests by law enforcement at Fred Meyer or on the border, or combat, only means that other means have failed, or haven't even been tried.  

Monday, May 28, 2018

Plant Trees While You Browse, But Does It Really Work?

Someone in Holland got here (this blog) via a browser called "Ecosia."  I'd never heard of it before so I checked it out.

The image isn't too clear, but if you click on it you'll get to Ecosia search engine and you can play around there to find out more about what they're about.

For those wondering why planting trees is a good thing, here's a list of reasons from ClimateRally
  1. An average size tree creates sufficient oxygen in one year to provide oxygen for a family of four.
  2. Planting trees in the right place around buildings and homes can cut air-conditioning costs up to 50 percent. 
  3. Planting trees for the environment is good as they are renewable, biodegradable and recyclable. 
  4. If we plant 20 million trees, the earth will get with 260 million more tons of oxygen.
  5. Once acre of trees can remove up to 2.6 tons of Carbon Dioxide each year.
  6. During photosynthesis, trees and other plants absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.
  7. Trees keep in cheek the air and water pollution.
  8. Why planting trees is important is evident as they are the natural habitat of the animals and birds, as well as many endangered species.
  9. Planting trees means more wood and paper products which can be easily recycled.
  10. A newly planted whole forest, can change tons of atmospheric carbon into wood and other fibrous tissue, thus reducing global warming.

Here''s more from Trees Utah.

I was really excited about this, but figured I better do some checking to see how they can do this and whether I can trust them.

Does Ecosia do what it says?

Reviewopedia discusses what Ecosia says about itself, but doesn't seem to have any independent analysis.

Green Review gives a fairly harsh review, saying that Eosia uses Bing, which is owned by Microsoft and that clicks, not searches, generate money for trees.  But only after Microsoft gets its cut. It recommends Google over Ecosia.

A Path Around The World - has a long and thoughtful review.  But it doesn't mention the connection to Bing and Microsoft at all.  But it looks at Ecosia's financial reports (unaudited self-reporting) and does some comparisons of its utility as a browser to Google.

Being ethically responsible isn't easy.  Make your own evaluation.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sleeping In Public, Immigrants, Separating Kids From Parents, Can Getting Stoned Cure All This? Sunday Reading

NPR's Ted Talk show this week* , Attention Please, was about how the world is vying for your attention.  They noted the average person sees (does that include hears) 4000 - 10,000 ads a day, all competing for your attention.  I've been writing here about how people's attention is diverted from critical issues, from learning deeply enough to understand critical issues.
*Link gets you to this week's show which will thus be out of date soon  This link gets you to one of the talks on this subject.

And I'd remind you that this blog DOES NOT TAKE ANY ADS.  The more time you spend here, the fewer adds you're subject too. :)

Here are some recent  articles that cover well issues that we either don't hear or think about enough, or at all.

1.   Sleeping In Public - Starts with a story about a Yale student calling the police because black Yale student dozed off in a dorm common room, but goes on to explore our norms against sleeping in public.  It gives some examples of where it's ok, but doesn't mention the beach, where it's ok if you're in swim wear, but not if your in street clothes.  Think about your reaction to people you see sleeping in public - when is it ok, where is it ok, does it matter how they're dressed or what color they are?

2.  Crackdown on immigrants takes a toll on federal judge: 'I have presided over a process that destroys families' - a judge talks about how soul destroying his job is.  Here's a brief snippet:
Brack also sees migrants charged with drug offenses or long criminal records and is unsparing in their punishment. But they are a minority, he said.
“I get asked the question, ‘How do you continue to do this all day every day?’ I recognize the possibility that you could get hard-edged, you could get calloused, doing what I do,” he said. “I don’t. Every day it’s fresh. I can’t look a father and a husband in the eye and not feel empathy.”
Brack, 65, is the son of a railroad-worker father and homemaker mother and earned a law degree at the University of New Mexico. He served as a state judge before being named to the federal bench by President George W. Bush.

3.  Taking Children from Their Parents Is a Form of State Terror - Masha Gessen is bi-cultural having grown up in both the US and the Soviet Union/Russia (maybe they makes her trip-cultural.)  She was a journalist in Russia and has written a searing biography about Putin.  She's someone I think understands the world better than most.  Here's a paragraph from that piece that is a relevant follow-up to #3 above.
"Hostage-taking is an instrument of terror. Capturing family members, especially children, is a tried-and-true instrument of totalitarian terror. Memoirs of Stalinist terror are full of stories of strong men and women disintegrating when their loved ones are threatened: this is the moment when a person will confess to anything. The single most searing literary document of Stalinist terror is “Requiem,” a cycle of poems written by Anna Akhmatova while her son, Lev Gumilev, was in prison. But, in the official Soviet imagination, it was the Nazis who tortured adults by torturing children. In “Seventeen Moments of Spring,” a fantastically popular miniseries about a Soviet spy in Nazi Germany, a German officer carries a newborn out into the cold of winter in an effort to compel a confession out of his mother, who is forced to listen to her baby cry."

4.  Why We Should Say Yes to Drugs  - Andrew Sullivan argues that psychedelic drugs help expand people's minds,  help people  experience universal love  and  see the unity of humankind. From Jesus to Lennon we've heard "All You Need Is Love."   And that's why authoritarian leaders over the same time period have wanted them banned.  (The last sentence is my thought. But the idea is connected with George Carlin's piece  )

Saturday, May 26, 2018

We Should Praise The President, When Praise Is Due

If Trump ever meets with Kim Jong Un and they work out a plan that denuclearizes the Korean peninsula, the folks on the Left ought to give Trump credit.

I played with this thought as we moved toward the summit in Singapore. Then Trump's cancellation seemed to reinforce my hesitation.  I ended up writing about how it seemed to me that Trump really only cares about policy if he thinks it will burnish his image, his brand, his fortunes, his sexual reputation.  (Note, he's one of the few, if not the only high profile male who's been accused of sexual predation but hasn't apologized, resigned, or been indicted.)

Talking about policy triumphs is difficult because it takes a while to determine if something actually was a good thing or not.  The 1991 first war against Iraq that pushed them out of Kuwait seems to have worked.  But Jr.'s attack on Iraq a decade later seems to be a total disaster.  We were supposedly going in because of weapons of mass destruction that turned out to be non-existent.  (Just as LBJ's premise for entering the Vietnam war was fabricated.)  We were supposedly avenging the 3000 deaths in the World Trade Center attacks.  There have been about 200,000 Iraqi civilian deaths to date.  Saddam Hussein was NOT a man to admire, but like Tito in Yugoslavia, he maintained peace among different ethnic groups in Iraq.   More importantly for some, Saddam's Iraq was a major force for keeping Iran in check.

I'm not defending Saddam here.  There would have been many civilian deaths had he stayed in power.  And one could argue that the young men he sacrificed in wars against Iran, had been civilians before they were forced into the military.  But it didn't need to be the United States' problem.  Our desire to help oppressed people is laudable (when that isn't simply an excuse to help US corporations access raw materials like oil).  But sometimes if someone is drowning, jumping in after them only results in the rescuer drowning as well as the original victim.

The Arab spring seemed like a loosening of harsh rule in various countries.  But when we look at Libya and Syria and Egypt now, the end results aren't all that good.

So, lauding Trump for arranging a meeting with Kim Jong Un seemed premature at best.  After all, any of our presidents could have met with Kim or his father.  Meeting with them is NOT a victory for the US, but it IS a victory for North Korea.  A victory for the US depends on what the US gets in return for giving the head of North Korea equal footing with the president of the United States.

Is there a chance, as Trump now hints post cancellation, that the meeting might actually happen?  The one attribute Trump has that past presidents didn't which could give him an edge, is that he's just as volatile, outrageous, and unpredictable as Kim Jong Un.  Perhaps even more so.  Thus, there's a chance that they actually understand each other.  But don't hold your breath.

Kim went to a German language high school in Switzerland.  He went to school with people from a variety of countries.  And he and his country have been focused on the US for all his life, while I'm not sure Trump could have found Korea on a map before he was president.  (May not be able to now.)  I suspect that despite appearances, Kim is far better prepared to deal with the US than vice-versa.

Furthermore, Trump reverses himself so often, that one has to be cautious.  What seems good  (or possibly promising) right now could be reversed by a tweet in an hour.  So praising our president for anything is a risky business.  Time will tell if he ever does something that improves the United States or the world.  So far, there is infinitely more damage being done than we can keep track of.  That too will take time to sort out.  (Yes, I can go through a list of things that I see as damaging, but it seems evident to me and others.  Those who are skeptical aren't likely to be persuaded by a list. But we could go into it more if you leave serious comments.)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Graham v MOA #12: Fire Chief LeBlanc Retires

First paragraphs from an ADN article:
"Anchorage Fire Chief Denis LeBlanc retired Friday after nearly three years on the job, officials said.
A successor to LeBlanc will be named in a few weeks, said Kristin DeSmith, spokeswoman for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Jodie Hettrick, the fire department's deputy chief of operations, is serving as interim chief.
LeBlanc, who is 70, said he told the administration of his decision in early May. He said he has loved the job, but he's been working on and off for 53 years, including a few decades in the oil industry. . ."
I'm including this hear because LeBlanc was fire chief while the Graham suit went to court.  He was never a fire-fighter (usually required for the chief's job).  He came from the oil industry, was City Manager for Begich, then went to CM2HHill (the company that bought VECO).

He was asked to get the AFD budget under control.  In his deposition he expressed no interest in reaching out to the community to increase the number of women or minorities in the AFD.  My hope is that the Diversity Mayor will be able to find a new chief for whom increasing the number of women (about 2% now) and people of color (about 12% now) in the fire department will be a major priority.

I'd note that LeBlanc was on the public administration advisory board when I was chair of the department at UAA and he is a very affable person who was always supportive of the program.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Methinks North Korea Was Always Just A Distraction Trump Used To Get The Media Off Important Stories

[Quick synopsis:  I'm proposing that Trump never intended to meet with Kim Jong Un.  He always knew he couldn't get Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.  The whole point was to have something bright and shiny with which to distract the media from covering other issues.  The time spent by NPR this morning on this summit that isn't going to happen makes it clear that Trump succeeded.]

NPR spent a lot of time this morning talking about North Korea and Trump's cancellation of the summit with Kim Jong Un.   Here's the list of segments they have on the May 24 show listings.  The Korea pieces are at the end.

North Korea Demolishes Its Nuclear Test Site In A 'Huge Explosion" 3:59
Trump Cancels U.S.-North Korea Summit 10:19
North Korea Expert Reacts to Trump's Cancellation of Summit 4:00
There Was A Lot Invested In U.S.-North Korea Summit.  What Happened? 8:40
Mike Pompeo Reads Out Loud Trump's Letter Cancelling U.S.-North Korea Summit 1:10

That comes out to a little over 28 minutes - one fourth of the show, talking about something being cancelled.  My sense is that the 'Korean Expert' covered most of this.  The rest was somewhat informed chatter.

The ten minute segment had several NPR reporters discussing the cancellation.  They really didn't say anything that couldn't have been covered in two minutes.  They didn't really seem to know more than any reasonably educated person knows.  At one point, David Greene says,
"Ayesha, I just looked at the letter, and there seems to be some important - I don't know if we call it caveats. "
Maybe I'm misinterpreting this.  Is he only now reading the letter, several minutes into the discussion?  Maybe this was more 'breaking' than I realized and he just got it.  Maybe that explains why the discussion is so disjointed - he was reading the letter and not paying attention to the conversation.  Or doing both and not really absorbing either well.   And they didn't have a script to keep them focused.

One person talks about how the cancelation was a surprise.  But Trump's been tweeting that he might not have the meeting.  So it wasn't that much of a surprise.  Why was it a surprise?

And as I listened and got increasingly frustrated by the ten minute segment, the lightbulb went off.  Trump doesn't care about North Korea or having them denuclearize.  Sure, getting Kim Jong Un  to get destroy his nuclear toys  and then become a target for US corporations would have enhanced his deal making image.  But only because it would make Trump look good, not because the world would be a safer place. And if it gets more dangerous, that's not Trump's worry.  Even as North Korea experts said it couldn't happen, others, as they did during the campaign, started saying, well, maybe  his unconventional approach will work.

I would say now that his unconventional approach DID WORK.   He got media - even the supposedly more sophisticated' NPR - to spend almost one-quarter of today's Morning Edition time covering something that isn't going to happen.  Instead of spending that time on more substantive news that Trump doesn't want them to cover.

This shouldn't come as a revelation - he's been doing this all his career.  It's the main tool of scammers and magicians:  keep the eyes of the audience away from the real action by distraction.  But it takes a while for people to realize that what was critical to other presidents - evaluation of the success of their policies (as subjective as that might be),  doesn't matter to Trump.  Policy is just one of the shiny toys he can use to distract the media.  Outrageous racist comments are another such toy.

Trump, it would seem, never expected to meet with Kim or to get him to denuclearize.  But it was a dramatic enough story that he could get endless coverage of it and thus take coverage off of the campaign's dealings with Russia, his numerous conflicts of interest, the shady backgrounds of his constantly changing sets of advisors.  You name it and there are plenty of things to cover.

Trump's career has been all about getting attention.  'Good' news for Trump is coverage that makes Trump appear like a business genius and a stud with women.  'Bad' news is only stuff that threatens his power - like the Mueller investigation.  Policy issues, whether the tax bill, DACA, climate change, Iran, or North Korean nukes, are neither good nor bad news (unless they affect his 'brand.')

The policy stuff is just glittery distractions he can use to get the media to watch his left hand while his right hand performs the real tricks.   He's a kid loose in the White House, pushing buttons, raising and lowering levers, poking here and there without any concern for the damage he might do or what costs the world will bear.

Wake up media!   Set your own agenda.  Don't let the President lead you by the nose with distracting hijinks.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

For Those Who Want A Break From Watching "the downfall of democracy in real time."

I saw this tweet today.

It was telling me that I don't have to discuss the end of the world in every post.

I'm adding this license plate image to my post on the Vampire History Of Alaska.

One of the workmen who helped with the house last week, showed me this accordion he found in a 'suitcase' (it looks like a suitcase, but it was clearly the accordion case) at a house they were hauling trash from.  He told the owner but she told him to take it.  He's found a person in Anchorage who can fix it, but now he's debating if it's worth the cost.  He doesn't know how to play it, but it's clear he respects good workmanship.

Speaking of the house, we're getting used to having the new light switches that you press instead of flipping up or own.  And we're enjoying the clean walls without anything on them.  But that leaves stacks of pictures downstairs.  I'm thinking of putting up some that haven't been up, and rearranging where the others go.  It's odd how changes make us aware of old habits.

And this picture is less inspiring.  I don't recall things like this in Anchorage creeks in the past.  I'm sure they were there, but I don't recall seeing them.

I thought about pulling it out, but I was on the bridge above on my bike and didn't want to ride on with cold, wet shoes and pants.  Maybe I can figure out a rope with a hook if it's still there next time I go by.

And finally, flowers are starting to bloom, perennials are poking out of the ground, and Anchorage is getting green again.  This is a rather ruffly daffodil.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Enough Cottonwoods? Electronic Health Records, Senior Joy, Climate Illogic

Some reactions to yesterday's Anchorage Daily News.  Nothing earth shattering here.  Don't have time to right now for that.

1.  How essential are electronic health records for treating patients? 

In an article on loss of FCC funding for rural health care, Anchorage Daily News reporter Annie Zak wrote:
"They rely on that connectivity for electronic health records, essential for treating patients."
I remember going to a focus group on electronic health records eleven years ago.  At that time the hospitals here didn't have EHR and were pushing to get them.  And now you can't treat patients without them?  I wonder what all the doctors who practiced medicine before EHR existed would say about this statement  or what all those doctors around the world who don't have electronic health records do?  Shut up shop because they don't have an essential tool for treating patients?

Yes, electronic health records make it easier and faster to get patient medical histories and to share records when referring patients to other doctors.  BUT they are NOT an essential tool for treating patients.  If they are essential in some settings, it's only because hospitals have now made them the only records kept.  But, if worse comes to worse, the doctor can ask the patient like they used to do.  And they also mean that confidential medical records are now highly vulnerable to hackers.  It's not a question of if they are breached, just when.

2.  Does senior joy make older folks irrelevant to the young?

Charles Wohlforth had a piece on Tom Choate who climbed Denali five years ago at age 78.  The article talks about older folks giving up ambition and competitiveness for happiness.  He then writes,
"But Angell noted that his quality [being happy and not competitive)] has the perverse effect [of] getting old people ignored, as if contentment means you don't matter."
He gives an example of being ignored in conversations with younger men.  Wohlforth muses:
"Interesting, isn't it, our tendency to patronize the old as we do the young? It's as if, like children, their joy disqualifies them, indicating they can't understand the true toughness of life. As if they don't know adulthood's difficult struggle for goals and status." 
This seems to me a giant leap to a questionable conclusion.  Is it the joy that disqualifies them?  Is it even joy he means here, or rather contentment?  I suspect other possible explanations.  One, the contented senior doesn't have the need to push himself into the conversation as much.  Or, if it is about the younger men's regard for the older, it's that he's no longer keeping current in all the details they think are important and/or he doesn't have power in the world that matters to them.  This would be more consistent with Wohlforth's earlier (in the article) note that being ignored is a condition shared by women and that form of snubbing is much more about power than it is about joy.

3.  Climate Illogic  

This was a letter to the editor.  It's short.  So I can give you the whole letter:

Is there climate change? Of course. Earth's climate has always been in a state of change. Alaska was once a sub-tropical area that became an arctic environment.
Puny man cannot stop or slow this change. One volcano eruption can put tons of greenhouse gases into the environment. Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas produced by every animal that breathes air. It is used by plants and is needed by them to grow and the plants turn this CO2 back into oxygen that we animals breathe in order to live.
If you want to really make a difference, plant trees, disconnect the natural gas and electricity to your house, throw away your vehicle keys and walk everywhere.
Charles Brobst
Anchorage    [emphasis added]
There's plenty of evidence that while climate has changed over the billions of years of earth's existence, that the last 200 years or so have seen a much more rapid change than in the past and this change coincides with the beginning of the industrial revolution.

But that's not my point here.  First Mr. Brobst tells us that "Puny man cannot stop or slow this hang"  and then he makes a list of how 'you' can make a difference (which I take to mean slow the change.)  All the things he lists seem to imply - give up our modern life style.

So I'm guessing he really means to say, "If you want to stop climate change, we have to go back to the StoneAge."  This is not the case.  We just need to find alternative energy sources, cut back in consumption that isn't sustainable, an be willing to explore alternatives to how we live - and the Stone Age isn't the only alternative.  The impacts of climate change - if we do nothing - is clearly problematic for our economy.  The impact of actions to stop climate change actually improve our economy.

4.  People really do hate cottonwoods

In another letter to the editor, Patricia Wells laments to poor state of the Anchorage Coastal Trail - cracking asphalt, trash, leaves piled up on the trail, trees blocking views.  And then she says it:
"Believe me, we do not need any more cottonwood trees."
I get her sentiment - particularly now when the sticky cottonwood catkins pile up on our deck and stick to your feet as you walk on them, using you as their way into your house.  I've written a few posts on cottonwoods. (I just looked - there are 30 posts with the label 'cottonwood.'  Here's one that takes an alternative look at these trees.)  Ultimately, they are huge trees - an anomaly this far north - which grow fast (also an anomaly here) and clean the air, anchor the soil, provide habitat for birds and other animals.  But I get it.  Besides the catkins now, the fluffy cotton will start littering Anchorage later in the summer.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Graham v MOA #11 - Oral Exams 4 - Jeff Graham Passes New Promotion Exam

Although Jeff Graham won his lawsuit over discrimination in his 2012 promotion exam with the Anchorage Fire Department, the Municipality told him he still had to take the promotion exam now before he would get promoted.

After 2012 he stopped taking the exam because he figured it was futile - they weren't going to promote him.  He'd heard rumors, but they weren't confirmed until he learned that another fire fighter had heard the head of the promotion training and testing in 2012 (and later) say to him and a couple of others at the promotion academy that "As long as I'm in charge of promotion, Jeff Graham will never promote."  He only got a name of someone who heard it directly during the second week of the trial.  But that person agreed to testify.

In any case, Jeff passed the written, practical, and oral portions of the exam this time and ended up number five on the promotion list, which is much longer than the list when he last took the exam.  But five is reasonably high and if the past is a good predictor, there should be at least five openings in the next two years.

So, he hasn't been promoted, but based on the past, I'm reasonably optimistic.

I'm still writing about the 2012 exam and there have been some changes in the exam recently, but from what I've seen, there are still egregious violations of how things should be done.  I'm not sure if Jeff passed because the whole trial experience has given him a better sense of how to prepare for the exam, because there were different people grading the exam, or the word went out to make sure he passes - particularly the oral part of the exam.  And I'm sure there are other possible explanations and that none of these are mutually exclusive.

It's a step forward for Jeff and his career.  But the oral exam is still overly subjective, the scoring sheets are still bizarre, and the training materials say things that really are in conflict with merit principles and evualating someone based on job related issues only.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tom Wolfe (1930 - 2018)

See Note About the Cover Below*
At the end of my stint as a Peace Corps volunteer, I read Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.  I'm not exactly sure anymore what my feelings were about the novel itself, but I was obsessed by the question:  "Who wrote this?  Who is he?  How and why did he write this?"

From Thailand I flew to Hilo, Hawaii to work at the training program for the next group of Peace Corps teachers - Thai 30.

Early on, I encountered a new trainee with a book called Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.  The title caught my attention.  When I checked it out - I don't remember now if it was on the back cover or just reading the first couple of pages - I realized the book was about Ken Kesey.  This book was going to answer the burning questions that Cuckoo's Nest had ignited in me.

Reading Wolfe is like talking to someone who never pauses - there's no place to interrupt, to say you have to leave; there's just a steady stream of uninterruptible words.   You end up just reading until the end.  Or at least I did.  I probably violated my position as a trainer when I asked the trainee if I could borrow the book.  I don't think I even asked, I think I told him I HAD to read this book.

Here's from pages two and three of the book (online here):

ABOUT ALL I KNEW ABOUT KESEY AT THAT POINT WAS THAT HE was a highly regarded 31-year-old novelist and in a lot of trouble over drugs. He wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), which was made into a play in 1963, and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964). He was always included with Philip Roth and Joseph Heller and Bruce Jay Friedman and a couple of others as one of the young novelists who might go all the way. Then he was arrested twice for possession of marijuana, in April of 1965 and January of 1966, and fled to Mexico rather than risk a stiff sentence. It looked like as much as five years, as a second offender. One day I happened to get hold of some letters Kesey wrote from Mexico to his friend Larry McMurtry, who wrote Horseman, Pass By, from which the movie Hud was made. They were wild and ironic, written like a cross between William Burroughs and George Ade, telling of hideouts, disguises, paranoia, fleeing from cops, smoking joints and seeking satori in the Rat lands of Mexico. There was one passage written George Ade—fashion in the third person as a parody of what the straight world back there in the U.S.A. must think of him now:
"In short, this young, handsome, successful, happily-married-three-lovely-children father was a fear-crazed dope fiend in flight to avoid prosecution on three felonies and god knows how many misdemeanors and seeking at the same time to sculpt a new satori from an old surf—in even shorter, mad as a hatter.
"Once an athlete so valued he had been given the job of calling signals from the line and risen into contention for the nationwide amateur wrestling crown, now he didn't know if he could do a dozen pushups. Once possessor of a phenomenal bank account and money waving from every hand, now it was all his poor wife could do to scrape together eight dollars to send as getaway money to Mexico. But a few years previous he had been listed in Who's Who and asked to speak at such auspicious gatherings as the Wellesley Club in Dah-la and now they wouldn't even allow him to speak at a VDC [Vietnam Day Committee] gathering. What was it that had brought a man so high of promise to so low a state in so short a time? Well, the answer can be found in just one short word, my friends, in just one all-well-used syllable:
"And while it may be claimed by some of the addled advocates of these chemicals that our hero is known to have indulged in drugs before his literary success, we must point out that there was evidence of his literary prowess well before the advent of the so-called psychedelic into his life but no evidence at all of any of the lunatic thinking that we find thereafter ! "
I think I gave the trainee his book back the next morning, so my abuse of power was short-lived.  (Whoever I borrowed it from, thank you for having it and letting me read it.)

From Acid Test I went on to Radical-Chic and Mau-Mawing the Flak Catcher.  I suspect that The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby was next and then The Right Stuff,  then Bonfire of the Vanities and I think the last one I read was A Man In Full.  

So, Tom Wolfe, thank you for giving me great reading pleasure over the years and for shaking up the worlds of journalism and novel writing.  Here's a recollection by Paul Elie from The New Yorker of editing A Man In Full.

*The image is from Bookazon.  It's a much later edition than the one I read because it mentions The Right Stuff which didn't come out until 1978.  I know I ran across my own copy recently, but with all the mess here (the workers finished up today, but there's still plenty of stuff piled up in the downstairs bedroom.  I'm hoping much of it leaves the house rather than coming back upstairs), I couldn't find it.  Besides, it might well be on a book shelf in my mom's house in LA.  Or maybe it was really The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby that I saw.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Death Of Stalin And a Bit More

I just saw The Death of Stalin.  It was a very disturbing film.  Of course, the topic is disturbing, and so perhaps the film was successful.  The film seemed somehow out of sync.  It was in English - mostly British accents, but Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) had an American accent.  And only vaguely looked like Khrushchev.  It didn't seem right in English.

But even more jarring, it was slapstick.

I know too little (maybe that part was also disturbing) about Stalin's last days and the in-fighting that followed his death to judge whether, in fact, the film makers did a good job of their portrayal.  I certainly have never thought of the Soviet leadership in terms of slapstick.

Later:  I wrote that Wednesday night.  I've let it sit a couple of days until I could learn more about the death of Stalin.  This October 2017 Smithsonian article - which notes the (then) upcoming movie - runs through briefly what's known of the last few days of Stalin's life.  It confirms the 'guys' night' atmosphere portrayed in the movie and also the purge of physicians that made it difficult to find a good doctor to call.  The best doctors had all been sent to the Gulag or were on their way.  One of those surrounding Stalin said something like, "If Stalin lives, then the doctor is a good doctor.  If he dies, then Stalin won't know we picked a bad doctor, but we can have the doctor shot."

But I was also disturbed with myself that night.  The woman next to me kept looking at texts.  The light, right next to me, kept pulling me out of the movie.  It's not that big a deal, but people are told over and over again to shut off their phones, or if there is some possible critical call coming in, to sit where they can easily get out and take the call.  The theater was crowded and aisle seats were full, but generally the balcony has lots of room.  Should I say something to the woman?  Should I say something during the movie?  Should I wait for the movie to be over?  Should I just forget about it?  I try to not be accusatory but I also think people should confront, politely and leaving people an opening, about behavior that tends to disturb others for one's own benefit.

At the end I mentally debated if I should say something.  Finally, I said, quietly to the woman, as politely as I could, "Most people consider checking texts during a movie to be rude."  She looked at me upset and said gently, "Did I disturb you?  I'm very sorry.  I was checking my insulin pump monitor."

Boy did I feel like a jerk and I told her I didn't realize that and was terribly sorry for mentioning it. I tried to be polite about it.  I didn't say anything about her specifically and gave her an opening to explain, which she did.  I never would have known what she was really looking at if I hadn't said anything.  Ideally she could have sat on the aisle with her husband next to her and probably no one would have noticed, but aisle seats probably weren't available.

If she ever reads this, I apologize again and thank her for expanding my awareness and reminding me not to jump to conclusions.

But it's one more reminder how easily people judge others based on appearances plus ignorance.   I try to phrase things in ways that give people an out:  "Sir, it appears you turn indicator light isn't working."  "I bet you didn't realize you dropped this paper."  While such an approach calls attention to a violation of a norm, it also gives the guilty a way to ease out of a potentially sticky confrontation and the innocent a way to explain what really happened.  And the observer a way to avoid getting an angry response or looking really callous and stupid.

I think I should see the film again, but only after I read more about the four men who were vying for power around Stalin at the end.

And for those of you with Netflix, I'd strongly recommend the movie Faces, Places.    It's a French documentary about a young photographer who teams up with a much older photographer as they go around France taking pictures of people, the blowing the pictures up into wall size murals and posting them on structures meaningful to the people in the pictures.  A sweet and imaginative story.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Using Super Glue To Seal Cuts

I'm not getting much done today.  The workers are still finishing up.  One cut his thumb and asked for paper towels.  The he went out to his truck and got superglue.  He squeezed the skin over the cut tight and put superglue on and wrapped it in tape.

Is that safe?  Dr. Andrew Weil writes:

"My answer is "It depends." I’ve applied Super Glue on heel cracks and on minor cuts, and it works really well. Its wound-sealing attributes were noted in the Vietnam War, when medics used it before sending troops on to surgery. . ."
He goes on to say that there's now a prescription version that doctors use called Permabond that's a different chemical combination.  But it costs about 20 times more than superglue and you need a prescription to buy it.

Judging from all the hits on google, I'm the last person on earth who knows about this.  Here's a video demonstration by a knife guy - not for the squeamish.

Here's the conclusion of a longer piece at Ask A Pharmacist:

 "Based on all of the above information, I always recommend the medical adhesives over plain superglue. Superglue should really only be used if necessary. If it is going to be used, it should only be on small cracks or small cuts on the skin."
As I read different things that pop up on google, the message tends to be

  • Yes, super glue works
  • Medical super glue is better because
    • Regular superglue may irritate the skin
    • Regular superglue isn't safe for deep cuts

I'm guessing that folks use regular superglue because it's cheaper and more convenient that going to the doctor and you don't have to get a prescription.  The guy today clearly had done this before.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Congressional Republicans Show Signs of Battered Wife Syndrome

Medical News Today says battered women suffer from PTSD but then adds they suffer their own special symptoms as well.
In addition to PTSD, people with battered woman syndrome show symptoms that may be confusing to outsiders.
Those include:
  • learned helplessness
  • refusing to leave the relationship
  • believing that the abuser is powerful or knows everything
  • idealizing the abuser following a cycle of abuse
  • believing they deserve the abuse

Let's look at these one at a time and see how closely they apply to Congressional (and other) Republicans.  Naturally, not all Republicans are the same, but I suspect a good number fall into this category.

Learned Helplessness:  There are countless examples of Republicans unable to act appropriately.  Many Republican members of Congress privately complain about Trump.  He kept changing his position on immigration and they couldn't get a bill passed.  Many were upset with  Trump's imposition of tariff's and then breaking the Iran Nuclear Treaty.   There were the tax cuts that are predicted to raise the national debt to historic highs.  They cringe at his tweets, but are powerless to do anything.

Refusing to leave the relationship:  Actually, many are leaving.  Ballotpedia lists 3 retiring Republican Senators and 24 House members.  Two of the Senators are clearly leaving because of Trump - Corker and Flake.  The House members includes the Speaker of the House.   But the others seem to feel that can't break up the relationship, they have too much to lose.  Maybe they are vested in their prestige, income (payroll and side deals), influence, ideology, or whatever, that they rather stay taking abuse than leave or call out Trump's abusive behavior.

Believing that the abuser is powerful or knows everything:  It's clear they believe he's powerful.  He has the power to give them demeaning nicknames in his tweets and the power to support political opponents in the coming election.  He can sway the Republican base in the primaries.
But you might question their belief in his knowing everything.  Clearly, they don't think much of his knowledge of foreign policy, how government agencies operate, or how to manage his staff, let alone a presidential administration.  But because of social media, he will know anything they say publicly that's critical of the president.  And he'll punish them if he thinks there was any disrespect.

Idealizing the abuser following a cycle of abuse:   Chris Cilliza at CNN lists 11 Republican (one out of five) Senators that Trump has personally attacked.  Yet most of them have put their tails between their legs and made nice to Trump.  (Corker and Flake are exceptions.)

Time, back in July 2015 (!) listed 21 Republicans Trump had tweetsulted,  though many on the list are not current Congress members.

Vice asks, "How Many Insults Will It Take for the Entire GOP to Turn on Trump?"

But they seem to get over it and be charmed by, well, I don't get it myself.

Believing they deserve the abuse:  I don't have evidence of this, though I'm sure some of the more extreme Republicans believe the others deserve the abuse.  And I'm sure many, at least subconsciously, have some guilt for the kinds of compromises they had to make to get to Congress.

How to Get Out Of An Abusive Relationship

Help Guide offers lots of good information, too much to cover here.  But here's one section:

If you’re hoping your abusive partner will change... The abuse will probably happen again. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for his behavior, seeks professional treatment, and stops blaming you, his unhappy childhood, stress, work, his drinking, or his temper.  
Trump has not even started to take any responsibility for his behavior.

If you believe you can help your abuser... It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands him or that it’s your responsibility to fix his problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the abusive behavior. Instead of helping your abuser, you’re perpetuating the problem.
A number of folks - both in and out of Congress -  thought that by being involved with the Trump, they could modify his behavior.  The Boston Globe quoted a Romney aide as saying Romney wanted the Secretary of State job so he could influence Trump, as did a whole bunch of people who actually did get positions and have since lost them.  The Hill writes:
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he tries to “lead by example” when it comes to influencing President Trump’s behavior and character.
But we know that Ryan has since decided to lead by not running for reelection, a model we all hope Trump will follow.  Actually, many hope he won't be in office that long.  Don't hold your breath.
If your partner has promised to stop the abuse... When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behavior once they’ve been forgiven and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave.
Trump's basic rule is "Attack, Counter-Attack, Never Apologize."  So this is never going to happen.  He may talk sweet when he wants something, but he's never going to admit he's done anything wrong.  And he's more likely to threaten when he wants something.

If your partner is in counseling or a program for batterers... Even if your partner is in counseling, there is no guarantee that he’ll change. Many abusers who go through counseling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped minimizing the problem or making excuses, that’s a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who he is now, not the man you hope he will become.
Yeah, right.  He'll never be in counseling.  The next point is the one members of Congress should focus on.
If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave... You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation.
They should be afraid.  But Congress and the President is NOT a marriage situation.  Republican members of Congress could actually gather together, get a backbone, even join with Democrats (they did during Watergate), and stop Trump's destructive behavior.  They don't have to leave Congress, they can make him leave the White House.  Though some may find such a move ends their political careers if they are up for reelection in November.  But at least they'll be able to face their grandkids in the future with some pride.

One Last Note

The quote near the top mentioned that battered women "show symptoms that may be confusing to outsiders."  Perhaps this experience with Trump will make some Republican politicians more sympathetic to the plight or battered women, whose decisions to stay with abusers seem counter-intuitive.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Senator Dan Sullivan Defends McCain In Tweet, But Tweeters Call Out His "Both Sides" Nonsense

Then one after another, people remind him that it was a Republican, talking to Republicans, supporting the Republican president who dissed Republican Sen. McCain.

Here are just a few.

For the whole thread go here.

This idea that the blame for the decline in civl discourse in the US belongs equally to both parties is part of the Republican mythology.  Sure, there are people on the left who unnecessarily and harshly insults about people instead of debating issues, but the actual politicians - from Obama and through Congress - tend to be far more respectful and nuanced than the vast majority of the current Republicans.  As loopy as many of  George W. Bush's comments were, his mother brought him up with basic manners and decency.

I'd comment that the last few replies I've received from Sullivan's office have been detailed and thoughtful discussions.  They are general letters based on the topic, but they reflect that his staff, at least, understand more than one side of most issues.  I really think that this 'both sides' comment comes from hearing his fellow Republicans' say this so often that he didn't think it through - that this was a Republican on Republican insult.  Or, he more cynically, he was trying to blame the staffer's disrespect on a general decline that he sees both sides being responsible for.  But there is, and I doubt ever has been, anyone US politician at a high level of government who has every insulted so many people, so often, and with so many lies, as the current president who is a member  of Sullivan's own party.  And to Sullivan's credit, he dropped out of the Alaska Republican Party's Central Committee in protest against Donald Trump and said he would not vote for him.

Why I Keep Saying "VOTE!!!!"

From a Salon interview with 

"Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. For 30 years, Johnston has covered Trump's life and career, as detailed in the bestselling book "The Making of Donald Trump." His new book is "It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America."

"Based just on normal historic averages, the Republicans should lose control of the House by about four seats. They should lose control of the Senate as well, although the map is pretty awful for the Democrats. If Republicans retain control, then I believe what will happen over time is that someone who shares Trump's dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies but doesn't have his baggage -- someone who is a competent manager and just as charismatic -- will eventually arise and you can kiss your individual liberties goodbye. That will take time, but it's the trend we are heading towards.
On the other hand, if enough people go to the polls -- remember, roughly 100 million people did not vote in 2016 -- if the Democrats get organized, if they can persuade the public they have an agenda that goes beyond just getting rid of Trump and they get control of Congress, they will move to impeach him. They need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict him, but they will certainly move to have public hearings."
This interview covers a lot of other topics about Trump, why he won, what the media and others didn't do, all of which yield just as important quotes.  But this seems to be the one that everyone can act on - voting and getting others to vote in November and beyond.

I grew up with parents who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930's and taught me that what happened there could happen here.  People forget that Hitler was democratically elected and then started changing the laws to keep his power.  He theme was to make Germany great again after the humiliation of losing WWI and the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles.

But I also feel that most US citizens are basically good people.  If they aren't voting based on politically generated fear or they aren't distracted by all their consumer products and consumer entertainment, they will make better decisions.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Screws And Nails - More Denali

Sanctuary Campground has seven tent campsites.  It's along the Sanctuary River and it's  23 miles into the park.  It's the first place we camped ever in Denali, back in the summer of 1978.  You could drive in back then.

Before May 20, the campground is closed and there's a gate with a long bar that blocks the road into the campground.  But you can park and walk into the campground, which we did.  I got one leg over the bar and as the second leg came over I heard this ripping sound.

I looked back at the bar to see how this happened.

My pants were ripped (that's why I brought another pair), but there isn't a lot of room between my pants and my leg and I was only thinking about the bloody mess I could have made.  Lifting your leg over the bar isn't a slow move that you can just stop - as the rip shows (it happened in less than a second).  We do have first aid stuff in the van, but I'm so glad I didn't need any of that.

While at Sanctuary, I got this picture of a snowshoe hare.  This is a beautiful fur coat worn by its intended owner.

And there's an old cabin at the entrance to the campground but I'd never noticed before how they bear-proofed the door.

I guess that would discourage bears from hitting the door too hard.  But I don't think the screw in the bar blocking the road was intentional.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Arctic Entries - Then And Now - Alaska Story Tellers Share Their Stories

Back in November 2010 we went to see and hear something called Arctic Entries - seven story tellers each with seven minutes to tell their stories.  It was a Cyrano's (the original theater on D St) that held about 90 people.

Here's what it looked like back then at Cyrano's:

Image from the 2010 post on Arctic Entries
Like most things at the old Cyrano's stage, it was intimate.  The guy on stage in the picture is Max [Matt] Rafferty who was one of the hosts this week.  He was stepping down from that role, saying the speakers get seven minutes and he's had seven years.  So he thinks it's time. [UPDATE May 14, 2018:  Barbara Brown has become my new editor, letting me know when typos slip in here.  Thank you Barbara!  I do appreciate it.  Memory is a weird thing.  All I can think of is that Max Rafferty was a politician in California long ago and my fingers without my knowing replaced Matt with Max.  Not even a politician I liked.]

We'd heard it had grown a lot - so much so that tickets at the Discovery theater sold out in minutes.  That seemed like too much work.  But I heard the last one of the season would be held in the Atwood Concert Hall (holds around 1900) so I checked on tickets when I had to go downtown anyway.  I got two tickets, in the upper balcony was all that were left.

Arctic Entries has seven story tellers tell seven minute stories each evening.  They have to be their own stories of their own experiences.  Those are the basic rules.  These are generally everyday folks, not professional story tellers.

The image is from before the story telling began.  The place got packed.  They said it held 1900 people.

They also had a band - Blackwater Railroad from Seward.

But the stories were compelling, even from so far away.  It just wasn't possible to find and talk to individual story tellers afterward.

The theme was "Timelapse" and each story teller represented a different decade.  It began with 2000s and went back to the 1970's.  Then after intermission, it went in the other direction - 1940's to 1960's.

The group was diverse!  Adil Raja is a Pakistani immigrant who talked about winding up in Anchorage and falling in love with Alaska.

Mao Tosi, born in American Samoa, moved to Anchorage as a child, got into sports in high school and spent a couple of years in the NFL until he got injured.  Then he came back to Anchorage and became a community organizer.  He told about how his parents left him, when he was in junior high, to live with his 19 year old brother.  It was through sports and people at school and in the community that he kept away from drugs and graduated from high school.  His message was that the love of strangers that 'saved' him is important and we should all share our love.

Penny Scales Fairbanks is a Fairbanks hairdresser and she was recruited by one of the Arctic Entries organizer after hearing the story when she got her hair done.  She talked about how her brother told her he was gay in the 1980s, living in California.  And then that he was HIV+ and wanted help in telling their parents, and how her father's attitude changed while they were in California being with her brother while he was dying.

Donna Walker, Alaska's current first lady, talked about coming to Alaska in 1976 right after graduating from college to become a recreation director at an Alaska pipeline construction camp in Glennallen.  From there she took a similar job in Valdez where she met Bill Walker.  She said before getting married, she told him she wanted four kids and he said he did too.  Later he admitted that however many kids she said she wanted he would have given the same answer.

Then there was intermission and we moved forward from the 1940's.

Margaret Anderson, born in 1933, talked about growing up in Seward in the 30's and 40's.  On the one hand she said it was a great life for kids back then, but on the other hand, she said she couldn't wait to get on the ship out after high school.  But she came back to Seward and packed her seven minutes with lots of stories.

Carmel Walder talked about spending time with her grandmother in SE Alaska while her parents were having trouble and there she learned about order and calm and harvesting herring eggs and fishing.  She went back to her parents and more chaos, but staying at grandmother's had shown her there was another way to live and she graduated from high school and made a life which now includes her own grandchildren.

And finally, we had Paul Ongtooguk who grew up in Nome and was put into a program in the 1960s where Alaska Native kids were sent to white Christian families to live.  He was sent to Oklahoma.  As disturbed as that program was, he did see another life and got through college and has worked at the University of Alaska Anchorage for many years.

At the end of the program, the hosts unfurled a huge check - no one gets paid for working at Arctic Entries and all the proceeds go to Alaska organizations.  The fall non-profit partner was Hospice and the spring 2018 partner is the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Service (RAIS).  I looked on their website to try to find more on the checks, but couldn't.  I think there was a check for close to $20,000!

Arctic Entries website is here.  And at another page you can find links to most of their old story tellers.  (A few in the first year are missing, presumably they weren't recorded.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

If You Didn't Live Through Watergate, Here's A Way To Let That Story Help You Understand What's Happening Now

Overview:  This post is all about getting readers to listen to Slow Burn over at Slate.  You can just go there now or read further why I think you should.

I was in graduate school during the Watergate years - the break-in, the coverup, the long painful years leading up to the impeachment and Nixon's resignation.  I've written a few posts already to help let what happened then, shed light on what's happening now.
Well, Slate, has an audio series. Leon Neyfakh's Slow Burn sets out to help those for whom Watergate is simply history (Neyfakh included) get a sense of how it felt to slowly unfold.  It puts things into a much more complete overview than my few posts.  

There are eight fascinating, 25 plus minute, episodes.  Neyfakh's show reminds me of the huge influence of Ira Glass' This American Life style on radio journalism.  It's gripping.  And does a great job of showing how concern about Watergate very slowly grew, how Nixon's administration fought and retaliated against those who wanted to investigate Watergate.

It took a long time for the story to gain any traction.  The Democratic headquarters at the Watergate Building in Washington DC happened on June 17, 1972.  
"Months after the break-in, a Gallup poll found that 48% of Americans had never even heard of Watergate."

The 1972 election, which Nixon won by 23% over George McGovern, was not quite five months later.  

Nixon, despite his very serious flaws, was the president who
  • founded the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970
  • supported the passage of the Clean Air Act
  • opened the doors for women in collegiate sports when he signed Title IX in 1972
  • became the first sitting US president to visit China, breaking years of US refusal to recognize China

So, while the wheels of justice turned slowly, Nixon wasn't a maniac in the White House destroying treaties, trust, administrative infrastructure, and tradition and protocol every day he had until he was forced to leave.  

But it's useful to understand the Nixon history to get a better sense of what's happening today.  And maybe stop Trump from doing all the damage he's capable of sooner rather than later.  

Here's the link to Slow Burn.  I've listened to the first three episodes.  The first episode is about Martha Mitchell, the wife of Nixon's  Attorney General, who tried to get the word out early.  The second is about a House committee whose early investigation was shut down by strong-arm tactics by the Nixon White House.  

This is a good review for those who were listening to all this while it was happening.