Saturday, June 30, 2018

It's Easier For Dogs To Get Into The US Than For People - Thoughts and Pics From Anchorage Immigration Protest

There were lots of folks at the demonstration on the park strip this morning.  Counting is hard on the ground, but my calculations put the number near or over 1000*.

*I didn't think there were that many folks, until I got into the crowd which was really deep.  I counted a thin wedge of folks and estimated how many wedges there were which got me to about 1000.  In NYE that would come to about 25,000.   NYE - New York Equivalents - is a device I invented at women against Sarah Palin march back in 2008 to give people outside of Alaska a sense of what a given number of Alaskan's would mean in a bigger city.  It gives the crowd  size if the same proportion of New Yorkers were out.  I updated things for more current population figures.  And remember, I could have under or over estimated the size of the crowd.

I got there after the Mayor spoke, but I was told his words were powerful.  Someone else told me the best speaker was the first lady.

I'm going to break this into two posts because I've go so many pictures, mostly of signs - original hand made signs seem to me to be an indicator of people's passion on a topic.

Here's the follow up post.

The big sign with God on it was part of a small anti-abortion contingency that tried to interrupt the speakers by speaking with a bullhorn.  It didn't work.

And these folks seemed to anticipate their presence here

And some bible quoting on behalf of

After walking around and seeing all the dogs in the crowd, I suddenly realized:  Dogs can enter the US more easily than people can.    Imagine:  Some American citizens can bring a dog back from Mexico, but not their own children!  Here are the rules - basically they're about health.

There were lots of dogs.  Here, with  the help of photoshop, you can see both sides of the same dog in one picture:

Even the Statue of Liberty was here to protest.


Jesus Christ with sunglasses?

Speaker Robin Bronen from the Alaska Institute for Justice.

Voting showed up in signs here and you may have noticed the Voter Registration table in the 4th picture from the top.

And speaking of voting, former US Senator and current candidate for Governor was talking to folks in the crowd.  Many people have been wondering why he would jump into the governor's race and split the progressive vote.  Including me.  But my answer, to myself and to others has been:  his brother Tom knows the numbers as good as anyone and Mark wouldn't make this decision without talking to Tom.  Well, Tom (who is a Senator in the Alaska Senate) was also there and I posed that question to hm and he gave me a very convincing response.  I've got it on video (I hope, I haven't downloaded it yet)  and I'll put it up Monday or Tuesday. [It's up now here.]  Stay tuned.


The women holding these signs said if I do anything with the picture to give credit to the artist, so here: Julio Salgado's online stencils.

More pictures coming soon.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Wash Post Article Sounds Pretty Sexist And Racist As It Attributes Ocasio-Cortez' Win To Tribalism

A Washington Post article that appeared in Thursday's Anchorage Daily News really bothered me this morning.  It seemed pretty clear to me this was written by a white male (turned out to be by two white males), who despite writing at the Post and appearing to be generally left-leaning, acted as though women and people of color winning elections were some sort of quirky desperation play by Democrats.

Let's look at some of it.  (The second half was less disturbing.)
"The newest star of the Democratic Party, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, launched her New York congressional campaign by declaring “women like me aren’t supposed to run for office” — a jarring embrace of her distinction as a 28-year-old Latina less than a year removed from a job tending bar."
Many people's stereotypes tend to dismiss young women (28 is young to me), even white women, as not very important.  Young men, especially if they're wearing suits, get more respect.

The idea that women like her shouldn't run, was so true that no one paid attention to the race, assuming the long-term white male incumbent would easily get reelected.  Even in a district that has 18% whites and 49% Hispanics,  The percentages come from Wikipedia. I'd note a Twitter feed pointed out that a Wikipedia moderator had taken down her Twitter page because she wasn't deemed important enough to have a page of her own. (I'd note that neither the white female (Alyse Galvin, Independent) nor the white male (Dimitri Shein, Democrat), running to unseat Rep Don Young of Alaska have Wikipedia pages either.)

The fact that she worked tending bar less than a year ago basically dismisses her.  Here's a mere bartender running for Congress.  I'd note Randy Bryce, who is running for Speaker Paul Ryan's seat, was a steel-worker a year ago.  Did the reporters bother to find out if she was more than 'just' a bar tender?  If they found out that she'd tended bar, why didn't they find out she's got an asteroid named after her too, because she did really well in a science fair project?  But apparently that didn't fit their story arc.

Our economy is such that even highly qualified people find tending bar a better option than other available jobs.  But it doesn't define who they are.
"Her campaign slogan: “It’s time for one of us.” 
That appeal to the tribal identities of class, age, gender and ethnicity turned out to be a good gamble, steering her to the nomination in a year when Democratic voters are increasingly embracing diversity as a way to realize the change they seek in the country."  (emphasis added)
Tribal identities?  First, I'm already disgusted with the sudden popularity of 'tribal' to describe America's current political scene*.  Let's take a term from anthropology where it has a fairly specific definition that most people don't understand well, and then use it as a metaphor for current US politics.  What could go wrong?

The wealthier, white, Protestant male good-old-boys have dominated American politics since we were still a colony.  No one called that tribalism.   But when a woman of color unexpectedly wins an election in a district with a strong Hispanic plurality, it's because she's appealing to tribalism?  Please.  Class, age, gender, and ethnicity used to be demographic characteristics, but now that white males are losing, they are suddenly tribal identities?!  I know that word is currently floating in the US political ether, but like all popular new terms about to become clichés, they are easy to bandy about without considering all the implications let alone the accuracy of the term.  Maybe it was 'unexpected' because people don't take young Hispanic women seriously, or they didn't pay attention to the current demographics of the district.

As I recall, it was Richard Nixon's Southern strategy that got racist Southern Democrats to switch to the Republican party by using not so subtle racist appeals.  And Trump has been much more blatant about his white-nationalist leanings.  What exactly are these two reporters trying to say?
"The tribal trend has implications for the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, where a historic number of nonwhite and female candidates are considering launching campaigns, including Sens. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.) and Cory Booker (N.J.). They will likely face off against a cadre of more traditional white male candidates, including possible bids by former vice president Joe Biden and former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe."
What's their point?  Nobody called it tribalism when Irish or Italian male politicians appealed to Irish and Italian voters.   Isn't increasing the number of women in Congress long overdue?  The Senate has the highest number of women ever - 23% and in the House of Representatives it's only 20%.  So having women candidates is tribal?  Maybe it's a reaction to the sexual predator in the White House.  Or the 80% of male majority in the House?  They don't trust white males to represent their interests any more.  How many women presidents have we had in 220 years?  India and Pakistan have had women heads of state already.
"Many of the key Democratic House primaries this year have been competitions over biography, with a premium given to those who break new ground or remove old barriers. House nominees in key races to unseat Republicans include a black former NFL player turned attorney, a female retired fighter pilot and a lesbian Air Force intelligence officer, all of whom defeated more conventional opponents."
Aren't most elections about biography?  Most candidates campaign on who they are more than on their policies and programs.  The people on this list sound highly qualified, with a wide array of experience not normally represented in Congress.  I'm sure these folks could represent more different Americans than 'more traditional white male candidates.'

The rest of the article gets less problematic in its language and analysis, but the beginning parts quoted here sound much more like off-the-cuff, testing of political opinion that reflects a white male bias, rather than serious, knowledgeable analysis.  And this comes from the Washington Post!  No wonder people are focused on gender and race rather than qualifications and policy.  It's where media direct our attention.

Oh yeah, the title of the article was:
 "The worst thing to be in many Democratic primaries? A white male candidate."
The reporters generally aren't responsible for the titles.  This goes to the editors.   Nothing like stoking Trump supporters fears that they are being targeted.  Why not turn it around and say 'Females and people of color trying to get more balance into our legislatures."  Not as catchy of course, but not as inflammatory either.  And more accurate.  But alarmist titles get more clicks.

Here's a link to the whole article on misusing 'tribalism'   I needed a password to see it, so it probably won't work.  But if you have a local library card, you might be able to get to it.  It's better than the abstract you can get at the link above.  ‘Tribalism’ gets a bum rap"  Guest Editorial by Lawrence Rosen, Anthropology Today, October 2016.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Bullshit Jobs

As I gather my thoughts - which I've done a couple of times here - on the problems with our economy, I sometimes run into articles that are of interest, but maybe not directly related  to my thesis.

[There's a fairly long introduction here before you get to bullshit jobs.  For the impatient, just skip down to the quotations below.]

Basic Thesis:  Underlying everything, the Protestant Work Ethic is no longer applicable and probably never was all that good a model for an economy.  Basically, the Protestant work ethic made work an intrinsically 'good' thing.  Work became a religious 'calling' from God.  Your worth in society is based on your work.  On keeping busy.  If you aren't working, you are a parasite.  Idle hands, you know.   That may have seemed useful at a time before steam engines and electricity and food and housing and the basics of life from dishes to clothing required as many hands as there were.  Yet even then, the wealthy didn't have to work.  But  children did.  (And I'd point out that all that work may not have been necessary.  In fertile lands, lots of cultures had times for art and music and elaborate festivals.)

The work ethic may not be a good economic model, but it's a great moral model to keep workers working and  to help the rich  justify why they have so much more than they need while others are barely scraping by.   And so  the rich folks really have no obligation to the poor.  Quite simply, the rich worked and 'earned' their wealth, and the poor were simply lazy. We still hear a lot of this from Republican politicians.  Even many liberals believe this.  It's fed to us with fairy tales and television and movies.  Our whole society is based on this notion.

In the US in the 1950s there were lots of articles about what Americans were going to do with all their spare time when automation cut jobs to 30 hours a week or less.  The 50s were a rare time in the US when the gap between rich and poor was fairly low.  Income taxes (at least before deductions)  were near 90% for the wealthiest.  (I don't think that's part of Trump's vision of making America great again.)  Unions were strong, blue collar workers could make a lot of money.  There were decent wages and benefits for people without a college degree, even a high school degree.  So the economists maybe saw things going along at the same pace, with robots taking over some jobs, allowing workers to work less for the same income.

But they forgot this is a capitalist society.  As the owners brought in more automation, instead of cutting back the work week, they cut back jobs.  People got full time leisure (also known as unemployment).  Those who kept their jobs often ended up working well over 40 hours a week, often without an increase in pay.   The financial profit of automation went, not to the workers, but to the owners of the businesses and their shareholders. And politicians acknowledged these realities - that not all unemployed folks were deadbeats - enough to set up various welfare program for some of them.

And so as this trend continued - more automation replacing workers who can no longer find good paying jobs with pensions and health care - we've ended up with a huge gap between rich and poor and lots of unemployed (not just those officially 'unemployed')  and a growing homeless problem.   Building houses for the homeless isn't the solution, because if the economy continues in this trend, there will be an endless stream of people who become superfluous and who can't earn enough to pay for housing.

We need to change the economy so it doesn't bleed workers, or so that work doesn't become the only way to morally redistribute wealth.

So we need a new model for the economy, one not based on a 16th Century religious revolt against the excesses of the Catholic church, but one based on the reality that not everyone needs to work to support the economy any more.  Jobs should no longer be the only morally acceptable means of distributing income.  Paid work shouldn't be mandatory for a decent basic lifestyle.  A practical alternative model is what I'm looking for.

But in the meantime, here are some thoughts from a book about bullshit jobs by David Graeber.  First a quick definition and second a simplified list of examples of bullshit jobs.
"How does Graeber define a “bullshit job”? Essentially it’s a job devoid of purpose and meaning. It’s different to a “shit job”, which is a job that can be degrading, arduous and poorly compensated but which actually plays a useful role in society. Rather a bullshit job can be prestigious, comfortable and well-paid, but if it vanished tomorrow, the world would not only fail to notice, it may actually become a better place. Bullshit jobs ‘take’, more than they ‘give’ to society. 
Graeber refines his definition by providing his own hilarious typology of bullshit jobs. There are “flunkies”, also known as “feudal retainers”, who are specifically hired by directors to make them appear more important. “Goons” are the aggressive, hired-muscle frequently found in telemarketing teams and PR agencies, employed solely to cajole people into do something that contradicts their common sense. “Duct tapers” who are employees hired only to fix a problem that ought not to exist. “Box tickers”, which we need no introduction to and “task masters”, whose sole function is to create whole new ecosystems of bullshit (the latter can also be described as “bullshit generators”). And there are various combinations of the above, which Graeber describes as 'complex multiform bullshit jobs'”.
But Graeber doesn't blame capitalism ( I need to read more on this to be sure  that's accurate).  Rather he says capitalism has been perverted by "Managerial Feudalism."  And this results in the creation of bullshit jobs.
"One of the most compelling arguments in Graeber’s book is the simple observation that the creation of meaningless jobs is exactly what capitalism is not supposed to do. Governed by the need to maximise profits and minimise costs, companies subject to “pure” capitalism would gain no advantage in hiring unnecessary staff. However, Graeber points out that many industries no longer operate on this dynamic of profit and loss. Instead some industries like accountancy, consultancy and corporate law, are rewarded through huge, open contracts, where the incentive is to maximise the length, cost and duration of the project.
One testimony from a former consultant helping a bank resolve claims from the PPI scandal described how they, 'purposefully mistrained and disorganized staff so that the jobs were repeatedly and consistently done wrong… This meant that cases had to be redone and contracts extended'”.
Bullshit jobs really isn't what I'm talking about.  Though it shows the hollowness of the Protestant work ethic - since these jobs aren't needed, yet they are there.  People work at these jobs that are not only unnecessary, but at times harmful, and probably not mentally healthy for the workers.

So, consider this post as notes.  As I run across interesting things like this, I'll post them as more notes.     Is Managerial Feudalism just a disease that capitalism caught, or is it a natural outcome of competition leading to power and greed that sets up perverse incentives for corporations to make money?  (Think about the housing crisis where banks made loans they knew wouldn't be repaid, but everybody was making big profits on.  Think about Wells Fargo setting up false bank accounts to bleed their customers who had set up real accounts.

Enough for now.  But also note, if we move to fewer and fewer real jobs, then the Supreme Courts' regular cutting back of union powers may not matter.  Unions too need to refocus so they can help define the new economic and moral model for wealth distribution to go along with or even replace work.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

It's Up To "Actions Of An Aroused Citizenry" To Keep This Democracy - Some Words From Howard Zinn After Roberts' Confirmation

If your stomach dropped at today's decision further weakening unions power to protect workers, and then dropped further when Justice Kennedy's retirement was announced, I recommend reading this  Howard Zinn article in 2005 after John Roberts' confirmation hearing.  Take two readings, then walk 30 minutes and you should be ready for the fight to save our democracy.  He reminds us that the Court has always been conservative, has always favored the powerful over the weak.  The only times it has inched forward have been when the people had already demanded change.

Here are a couple of excerpts, but you definitely should read the whole thing.

"Still, knowing the nature of the political and judicial system of this country, its inherent bias against the poor, against people of color, against dissidents, we cannot become dependent on the courts, or on our political leadership. Our culture--the media, the educational system--tries to crowd out of our political consciousness everything except who will be elected President and who will be on the Supreme Court, as if these are the most important decisions we make. They are not. They deflect us from the most important job citizens have, which is to bring democracy alive by organizing, protesting, engaging in acts of civil disobedience that shake up the system."
"The distinction between law and justice is ignored by all those Senators--Democrats and Republicans--who solemnly invoke as their highest concern "the rule of law." The law can be just; it can be unjust. It does not deserve to inherit the ultimate authority of the divine right of the king. 
The Constitution gave no rights to working people: no right to work less than twelve hours a day, no right to a living wage, no right to safe working conditions. Workers had to organize, go on strike, defy the law, the courts, the police, create a great movement which won the eight-hour day, and caused such commotion that Congress was forced to pass a minimum wage law, and Social Security, and unemployment insurance. 
The Brown decision on school desegregation did not come from a sudden realization of the Supreme Court that this is what the Fourteenth Amendment called for. After all, it was the same Fourteenth Amendment that had been cited in the Plessy case upholding racial segregation. It was the initiative of brave families in the South--along with the fear by the government, obsessed with the Cold War, that it was losing the hearts and minds of colored people all over the world--that brought a sudden enlightenment to the Court."

"Let us not be disconsolate over the increasing control of the court system by the right wing. 
The courts have never been on the side of justice, only moving a few degrees one way or the other, unless pushed by the people. Those words engraved in the marble of the Supreme Court, "Equal Justice Before the Law," have always been a sham. 
No Supreme Court, liberal or conservative, will stop the war in Iraq, or redistribute the wealth of this country, or establish free medical care for every human being. Such fundamental change will depend, the experience of the past suggests, on the actions of an aroused citizenry, demanding that the promise of the Declaration of Independence--an equal right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness--be fulfilled."

I came to this article through a tweet by Dr. T’Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, retweeted by Hari Kunzru.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Importance of Voter Turnout -The Huge New York House District 14 Upset

New Yorkers voted in US House primaries today.  There was a huge, upset in District 14.  Does it tell us anything about other races, including the Alaska House race?  (Spoiler:  probably not.)

From the New York Times tonight:

Candidate                       Votes Percent
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez 15,897 57.5%
Joseph Crowley
11,761 42.5

27,658 votes, 98% reporting (440 of 449 precincts)

Joseph Crowley has been in Congress since 1998 and was fourth in line among Democrats in the House.  Ocasio-Ortiz is a 28 year old who has not held office before, but she was a key player in the Sanders campaign in her area.

This is an upset that the reporters are saying no one expected.  Crowley had a good shot of replacing Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House.

Note:  Congressional districts in the US after the 2010 Census should have a population of about 710,767.

This district is made up of part of the Bronx and part of Queens -  a heavily Democratic district.   Democratic presidential candidates regularly get over 70% of the vote.  The Bronx has 553,000 active registered Democrats and 29,000 active registered Republicans.  Queens has 735,000 registered Democrats.  So it's taking parts of both counties, there could be 600,000 active registered Democrats in this district.  Though that number seems high given that the district would have a lot of people under 18.  And, I may have the numbers for the district wrong - the state offers party registration by county.  I couldn't find numbers by House district.

But ball parking this, with those numbers I had, the turnout was less than one percent, even if you doubled the turnout! [UPDATE June 27, 8:30am:  I shouldn't do math in my head in the evening - it's really closer to 5%] Rachel Maddow's guest (in video) points out that there are two Democratic primaries in New York - one for the governor's race and this one for Congress.   So that would also work to keep turnout low.

Here is the demographic breakdown of the district as reported on Wikipedia:

  • 18.41% White
  • 11.39% Black
  • 16.24% Asian
  • 49.80% Hispanic
  • 0.45% Native American
  • 3.71% other
A well organized candidate with a good grass roots team to get voters to the poll could pull off an upset like this in a large urban district with very low turnout.  They really only needed 1000 votes or less even to win.  She won by 4000 votes.

So does this tell us anything about other primaries and fall elections?

I doubt it.  With very low turnout, anything can happen.  And this is a district whose boundaries have changed a lot since Crowley was first elected.  Whites are now under 18% and nearly half the population is Hispanic.

Should Alyse Galvin (I) or Dimitri Shein (D) take hope about knocking off Don Young in the fall?  The upset does show that the unexpected can happen and that turnout and getting your voters to the polls is important.

But in a district you could easily walk across in a day, it is a lot easier to get your voters to the polls than in a district you could walk across in maybe 6 months if you're super fit and could trek across roadless land and mountains.  Or you could dog sled across in two weeks if you trained for the Iditarod.

One of these two candidates will meet Don Young in the general election, not the primary.  And Alaska's  been a pretty red state for a long time.  But upsetting a powerful incumbent is a precedent all challengers take inspiration from.

Sun In The Garden

Too nice out to be on the computer.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Plane Spotting From Home

Below is a collage of planes I shot while sitting on the deck yesterday and Thursday.   The Anchorage Daily News has a story online (they don't have a Saturday paper any more so I'm sure it will be in Sunday's) that says this current three week traffic pattern and noise level will be all summer next year.   Now it says we're getting 150 to 170 jets taking off over Anchorage a day.

That comes to about 6 - 7 every hour, 24/7.  Or about one every nine minutes!   My sense of the last two nights is that the traffic is less at night, so that could make it every 4 or 5 minutes during the day.   I mentioned this on Nextdoor the other day. [Not sure if you can get to the post if you're not logged in or in the community.]  Based on the comments, this affects people in a considerably larger area than I mapped in yesterday's post.  A few folks say they don't mind.  Others say they can't sleep with the noise all night.  One said his house must have better sound proofing than others.  I suspect the folks who felt the noise level was ok, for the most part were a) inside or away most of the day, b) further from the flight path,  c) already a bit deaf.  But it's not just the loud noise that's a health hazard.  The vibrations are a stress increaser.  This is summer in Alaska.  It's short.  I try to spend the whole summer in Alaska and the backyard deck is my sanctuary.  Well, was.  It's very loud out there now.

Fortunately cannabis is legal in Anchorage.  That might take the edge off all this noise for some.  Anyway, here are a few pictures from the deck over the last two days.  There's a relatively small opening between the trees and the roofline.  The planes give plenty of warning that they're coming, though they don't all come directly overhead for a good shot.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Airport Noise Impacts - DNL = "Driving me Nuts Lately"

I wrote Wednesday that the Anchorage International Airport has a temporary new flight plan sending noisy jets over our house throughout the day and night.  In the past we've had three or four week periods like this as they repaired the north-south runway.  But there was always a quiet period during the night.

This year's repairs are scheduled for all summer and next summer and there's no night quiet period either.  (The posting said the heaviest planes would have to use the east-west runway 24/7)

So I looked at their map.

The dotted red lines shows the area labeled:   During Construction 65 DNL Noise Contour  
I added the blue dashes to show how far significant  (at least) noise goes beyond those red dots. I'd also note there are two major hospitals just east of where I ended the blue dots that definitely are affected.

They don't explain DNL, but I have google working for me.  Below is a definition of DNL from MACNoise:
"What is DNL in Terms of Aircraft Noise?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) established DNL as the primary metric for aircraft noise analysis and expressing aircraft noise exposure in the United States. "DNL" is the acronym for Day-Night Average Sound Level, which represents the total accumulation of all sound energy, but spread out uniformly over a 24-hour period.
DNL has been widely accepted as the best available method to describe aircraft noise exposure and is the noise descriptor required by the FAA for use in aircraft noise exposure analyses and noise compatibility planning. It also has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the principal metric for airport noise analyses.
The calculation for DNL considers the time of day an aircraft operated and applies a 10-decibel penalty on aircraft arriving or departing between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.; the output is a numeric value in decibels that represents a 24-hour average noise exposure value. The current federally-established threshold of significance is 65 dB DNL.
While DNL also may be used for non-aviation purposes, the FAA's use of DNL is specific to aircraft noise. The Metropolitan Airports Commission publishes Aircraft Day-Night Level values as "ADNL" to avoid confusion with other uses of "DNL." 
The threshold is 65 dB (decibels) DNL.  That doesn't mean the sound level stays below 65 dB.  It means the average over a 24 hour period is 65 dB.

So if on average you have ten minutes per hour of jets flying over your house, it would appear that decibel level is averaged with the 50 minutes of quiet.   So, from what that definition says, you could have ten minutes of 120 dB per hour and probably still get a 65 dB DNL.  (I'm not sure, I don't know exactly how they calculate. How does the fact that the decibel scale goes up logarithmically affect an 'average'?)


How loud is 65 dB DNL?   Here's a google docs chart that shows you lots of examples.  It puts washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator at 65 dB and electric shaver at 65.  If linking to the google chart is too much of an effort, I've added a chart from SCRIBD that has some extra pages of info.  You can scroll through it and enlarge it.  (Note:  the examples in the Google and SCRIBD charts don't always match exactly, and the SCRIBD charts has different examples on different pages)

As you look at the chart, the numbers aren't going to seem right.   For instance, here are a few examples:

breathing   = 10 decibals
light traffic = 50 decibels
inside subway car = 90 decibels

Is light traffic really only 5 times louder than breathing?  A subway car only 9 times louder?  The answer is no.  And here's why from Science How Stuff Works:
"On the decibel scale, the smallest audible sound (near total silence) is 0 dB. A sound 10 times more powerful is 10 dB. A sound 100 times more powerful than near total silence is 20 dB. A sound 1,000 times more powerful than near total silence is 30 dB. Here are some common sounds and their decibel ratings:"
Here's where the logarithmic scale is important.  Each step of 10 decibels is 10 TIMES louder than the previous step.  So, if light traffic is 40 decibels more than breathing, then that's  10  x 10 x 10 x 10 = 10,000 times louder!

The SCRIBD chart tells us that hearing loss can start at 90 decibels - a subway.  Permanent damage occurs at 140 decibels - a jet engine at 100 feet or a gun shot.

Noise and Health

There's lots of research showing the damaging effects of noise on health - though be careful with what you find online.  I found one article which made pretty broad claims, but the sources cited were extremely limited studies on fairly small populations.  While the claims were probably accurate, the sources listed couldn't be generalized to such broad claims.  So I didn't use it here.

But here's an article* about noise impacts at an airport in Turkey using European standards.  It has this chart which neatly outlines some of the key problems with airport noise.  The metrics are European standards

EffectObservation threshold
MetricValue dB(A)
Ischemic heart diseaseLden70
Sleep patternLn60
Subjective sleep qualityLn40
Mood next dayLn60

Below are the first seven of ten Key Findings from the European Environment Agency report Noise In Europe 2014.

The key messages from this report are:
1. noise pollution is a major environmental health problem in Europe;
2. road traffic is the most dominant source of environmental noise with an estimated 125 million people affected by noise levels greater than 55 decibels (dB) Lden (day-evening-night level);
3. environmental noise causes at least 10 000 cases of premature death in Europe each year;
4. almost 20 million adults are annoyed and a further 8 million suffer sleep disturbance due to environmental noise;5. over 900 000 cases of hypertension are caused by environmental noise each year;
6. noise pollution causes 43 000 hospital admissions in Europe per year;
7. effects of noise upon the wider soundscape, including wildlife and quiet areas, need further assessment;
I'm not sure whether Lden is the same calculation as DNL, but Europe's threshold seems to be 55 dB while ours (US) is 65.

Is this post going to end?

Basically, I've been taking notes here so I have some basis for raising questions about the decision to impose this level of noise on a big chunk of Anchorage for four months.  Two days into this and I'm already on edge.  Jets flying over all night - even with heavy duty ear plugs in - is affecting my sleep and there are all the other stress issues the studies show.  The DNL numbers are one way to measure this, but are they the best way?  The average sound is important for long term steady health impacts.  But in terms of health, I would guess that measuring  the loudest sounds and how often people subjected to them is equally or more important.  It's hard to sleep through occasional 120 dB periods (rock concert is listed as 115 dB)  all night.

I understand the airport makes a lot of money from cargo flights through the airport and disrupting that may encourage cargo companies to fly through Fairbanks instead of Anchorage.  Maybe the heaviest cargo planes that can't use the shorter north-south runway should go through Fairbanks at night.   Maybe they should give a discount to flights that are delayed during a night time east-west runway ban.  I don't know the answer.  But it doesn't look like health and inconvenience played nearly as big a role in their calculations as keeping the money rolling into the airport.  That's not a small matter, or course, but for a big swath of Anchorage to have its summer disrupted by continuous jet noise is no small matter either.  The Municipality's dog noise page tells us that:
"Few things in life are as annoying as having to listen to the constant bark, howl, whine or cry of another person's dog."
Well, constant loud airplane noises can be just as annoying.

 This is my starting point.  Let's see what I find out.

And I would add that it's Friday now.  Thursday night seemed to have fewer flights and with my earplugs I made it through the night ok.

[I've added some pictures of planes from our deck here.]

* I got this through the UAA consortium library, so I'm not sure if you need a library id to get this article.  Here is the citation.  An Anchorage library card would probably work through Loussac. Here's the citation:
Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment Volume 36, May 2015, Pages 152-159 Estimation of airport noise impacts on public health. A case study of İzmir Adnan Menderes Airport

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The New Abnormal

We've all been warned about the 'normalization' of previously unthinkable acts with the president as the main example.  Things that would have destroyed every past president, Trump does daily with (so far)  impunity, because enough Republicans in Congress put their reelection above the good of the United States.  

But I'm noticing something else - ordinary acts of decency, that used to be pretty routine, are now glorified and persons involved are given hero status.  Here are two stories from the ADN in the last two days:

Man helps woman in wheelchair (Link goes to theWashington Post version ADN reprinted)

Bilal Quintyne was on a training run and saw a 67 year old woman stranded in a broken wheel chair.  He stopped and pushed the chair (whose battery had died) home, a 30 minute walk.

We used to expect people to do that sort of thing.  When we arrived in the 1970s, Alaskans knew if they skidded off the road, the next passing pick-up would pull them out of the ditch.  Bilal was on a training run, and pushing the balky wheelchair for 30 minutes would work different muscles maybe, but it wasn't a big departure from what he was doing.  Was it a good thing to do?  Yes, of course.  But not helping would have been shameful.  In the old days helping others in need was expected of us all, like saying please and thank you.

People find engraved bracelet on Seldovia beach and return it to owner

This was in the letters to the editor today.  Again, this used to simply be common decency.  People looking out for each other.  This one is a little different because it's a thank you from the person who got the bracelet back.  So it's not the editor picking up a story and highlighting it.  But there have been others of late, particularly on social media.

The Point

I have mixed feelings here.  On the one hand, these kinds of actions should be everyday occurrences.  Unremarkable.  Simply people helping people because that's what decent people in a decent society do.

On the other hand, it's not a bad thing to remind people that these things are occurring all the time. So, I guess I'd say we should get these kinds of stories - I'm sure they inspire others to copy them - but we shouldn't make these folks out like heroes, like unusual events.  Rather, people who don't do these sorts of things should be pictured as troubled.

And, of course, if someone helps another while taking great personal risks, then, yes, that shows heroism.  But not finding a woman in a broken wheel chair and helping her get home.  Not finding an engraved bracelet and tracking down the owner.  Those should be treated as normal behavior, not heroic acts.

Our perception of things like the prevalence of crime and human decency tend to be anecdotal and emotional, not fact based.  I've written here before that when  highlighting a car crash death, the reporter ought to also mention how many people did NOT die in a car crash that day.  Just to help us keep things in perspective.

I'm all for stories of people doing good deeds, but keeping them in perspective as what a decent citizen is expected to do.  Not making the good samaritans into  heroes doing unexpected goodness.  We shouldn't be making doing good deeps into the new abnormal.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Anchorage International Airport Diverting Jets Over Midtown To Work On North-South Runway

Jets are flying overhead.  Last night throughout the night, the sound of jets.  On and off during the day and again tonight.  So I checked the Anchorage International Airport website.  They're rebuilding the north-south runway which means wee'll get a lot more noisy traffic taking off over Mid-town Anchorage.  It's nice to have the airport ten minutes away when you're flying.  But not when you're in town and the jets are diverted over your house.

Construction Schedule
Construction is planned for two construction seasons: 2018 and 2019.
During the 2018 summer, the runway will be partially closed, and it will be fully closed during the 2019 summer. Modified operations will occur throughout the two construction seasons; during these time periods operations will require heavier cargo aircraft to be shifted to the east-west runways. In order to complete the project, the North/South Runway will be closed and modified operations will occur during construction for approximately two (2) seasons. During construction, the majority of air traffic will be shifted to the east/west runways. Most arrivals will land from the west, and most departures will take off to the east, creating a temporary increase in air traffic and noise over areas east and southeast of the airport. Airport operations will return to normal between construction seasons and once construction is complete. Every effort is being made to reduce noise and impacts to local residents.
2018: To expedite project delivery, construction is scheduled 7 days per week, 24 hours per day, from the middle of June through October 2018. During the 2018 construction season, the North/South Runway will have full or partial closures for brief durations. There will be a three week full closure starting on June 18, 2018. Between these fully closed periods, the shortened runway is anticipated to remain operational. The full length of the North/South Runway will be returned to service for the winter 2018/2019.

[I intended to save this and finish it later, but it seems I hit the publish button instead.  So I cleaned it up a little this morning.]

Here's the next post on this.  It gets into DNL - the metric they use to measure acceptable airport noise and health impacts of noise.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Nicole Stellon O'Donnell's Steam Laundry

My bookclub met here last night.  We'd read Steam Laundry.  I can't recall a book quite like it.
Based on letters and other documents the author found in archives, it tells the story of a woman who, with her two sons, follows her husband to the gold fields of Dawson City in 1898.  The story is told in poems mostly with a letter or two and other documents, like a doctor's prescription.

I want here only to alert you to this wonderful, unique book.  I was skeptical when others described it, but the pages went by too fast.  It's short and can be read in several hours, though it deserves more than one reading.  It's the kind of book that reminds me how much beauty and feeling can be captured in words if one takes the time and has the talent.

Let me direct you to the author's website to learn more.

Our book club hosts (me last night) try to serve some refreshments that directly relate to the book. There wasn't much literal food in these poems.  They were living in the wilderness through the winter.  Potatoes are mentioned.  Caribou strips.  And then there was this:

"In the stewpot
chunks of moose, an onion
with the rot peeled away, the last
of the summer’s potatoes
bubble, and steam soaks the lifted lid,
a perfect moon, dripping
round and hopeful"

I remembered a hunter friend over the weekend and asked if I might be able to get a small amount of moose or caribou.  He had caribou [moose] at 10th & M (a place that butchers and stores the meat of hunters).  So he was only able to get it to me Monday morning.  Two pounds.  I thawed it, cubed it, browned it, then added other ingredients from a recipe I found online.

I understand better now why some hunters hunt.  The meat was dark read, cut easily, and delicious.  We tend not to eat meat, but make exceptions on special occasions.  This was one.  Loussac Library has lots of copies, or better yet, go buy one.  You'll want to savor the words and images.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

When It Comes To Guns, We Don't Need New Laws 'Cause People Will Still Get Guns, But When It Comes To Immigrants, They Think Taking Away The Kids Will Stop Folks

I know logic and consistency don't matter with the Trump administration, but I think about all the NRA folks swatting away any law that might make it harder for some people to get guns, saying, "Criminals will still get guns.'

And I say, no matter what Congress does, immigrants will still come.

Remember the folks who jumped out of the World Trade Center to avoid burning to death?

The people fleeing from countries where they're in daily danger from community and domestic violence have a much greater chance of saving themselves by seeking asylum in the US than the people who jumped out the windows.  And even if they're told about Trump's policies, it sounds better than the fires burning around them at home.

But the Trump administration thinks taking away the kids - and for many this will mean a life of severe psychological damage, particularly for the youngest kids - will stop people from jumping out of the burning countries.

From the NYTimes:
"But advocates inside the administration, most prominently Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior policy adviser, never gave up on the idea. Last month, facing a sharp uptick in illegal border crossings, Mr. Trump ordered a new effort to criminally prosecute anyone who crossed the border unlawfully — with few exceptions for parents traveling with their minor children.
And now Mr. Trump faces the consequences. With thousands of children detained in makeshift shelters, his spokesmen this past week had to deny accusations that the administration was acting like Nazis. Even evangelical supporters like Franklin Graham said its policy was 'disgraceful.'”
How much more of this evil* will the Republicans in the Senate go along with?  Certainly those not running for reelection in November need to stand up to this severely troubled man in the White House.

*I don't use this term lightly, but these people, who seriously advocate separating young children from their parents, are morally incompetent, not to mention that whatever possible short term gain, will be far offset by the long-term damage to these kids.

Read this Twitter thread by a reporter who was forcibly separated from his father as a young child.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Anchorage Pridefest and Parade

Thursday was warm (70s) and sunny.  Friday was gray, Friday night it rained a lot.  But this morning the streets were dry but the clouds were still here.  I biked downtown to get in the Congregation Beth Sholom group at the parade, but I couldn't find them.  So I chained the bike to a tree and waited just before where the groups entered the parade route.  (Why the groups don't have
any body on the streets.)  There were lots of bubbles.

The Royal Court.

Here's Mayor Berkowitz (light blue) near the front of the parade with an APD car behind.

Planned Parenthood.

The Alaska Native Health Consortium.

Anchorage Public Library.


Pride Youth Network

And I joined in when Congregation Beth Sholom arrived.

James was staffing the Full Circle booth and signed up the friend I was with.  They've come a long way from when we subscribed.  Back then they didn't carry Alaska grown stuff, stopping delivery when we were away was tricky, and they didn't deliver to your door.

Brian Conwell was working at the AKDems booth.  He grew up in Dutch Harbor, just graduated from high school, and is headed to Harvard when the summer's over.  This is someone to keep an eye on.  I'll bet we hear his name in the future.

Aaron just arrived in Alaska for the first time ever last week from Chicago.  He's a legal intern at the ACLU.

Kim works with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and I wanted get her take on the Netflix show "13 Reasons Why" which we just finished.  She hasn't seen it yet.  Her organization isn't using it, but she's heard that reactions vary a lot and for some it could well push people to suicide, but she's happy people are talking about suicide.  She said they were getting a lot more people coming to the booth this year.

Bryan was there with his family.  He went to school with my daughter.

Dani was there representing UAA.

Candidates tend to show up for events like this and I got to meet Dimitri Shein who is running as a Democrat for the US House.  This is the race that Alyse Galvin is in as an independent.  Which doesn't mean an Independent Party member, but just no party declared.  But with a recent Alaska Supreme Court ruling, she's running in the Democratic Primary.  Whoever wins - Alyse or Dimitri - will run against Don Young.   

It was cooler than last year and when the breeze picked up, it was getting chilly.  But all that was good for the many, many bubbles.

The hell and damnation guy was there spouting his vitriol against gays, but not too many were paying any attention at all.  I don't understand how so called Christians can interpret Christ's message as intolerant and exclusive and damning.  It's truly a feat of one person twisting the bible's meaning to support his own unchristian views.    I decided he needs to be noted, but I don't need to include a picture.