Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Blast From The Past - Charter for the Development of the Alaska North Slope

This was originally posted on February 2, 2009.  It's been read a few times in the last day or two by people whose computers leave the following tracks: "Alaska State Government."  It's about a fund that was set up at the merger of ARCO and BP that was required to donate a certain amount to the University of Alaska annually.

Just so interested parties know what's being considered by someone in our state government.


When I wrote a post about the Conoco-Philips ads in the ADN some time ago, the "Charter Agreement" came up and I wrote:
I also know that CP makes other contributions to the community such as $100,000 to the Museum in 2007. And there was a $3.68 million gift to the University of Alaska also in 2007. But we need to put an * on that. The University of Alaska press release on the gift also says,
The annual gifts stem from a charter agreement between the oil companies and the state regarding the BP merger with ARCO in the late 1990s. Part of the charter agreement identifies public higher education as a top priority for charitable donations . . .
So a minimum amount of contribution is required by this Charter Agreement that was a condition for the BP-ARCO merger. I called Scott Goldsmith, the author of the ISER report, to find out how to get access to the Charter Agreement.He wasn't sure if he ever actually saw a copy, but said he'd check for it tomorrow. [Update: I also called UAA Advancement and later the UA Foundation called and said they would find the Agreement and email it to me .] On the internet, nearly all references I find about BP or ConocoPhillips contributions to the University have that standard clause in them.
Well, a few days later, I got an email from the University of Alaska Foundation with a copy of the charter. But we were in high gear preparing to go to Thailand and what with the traveling and getting into things here, I didn't get around to posting that agreement. (It's down below) I haven't had a chance to study the whole charter, but I expect there is plenty to chew on.

For the time being, let's just look at the part that discusses community charitable contributions:

D. Community Charitable Commitment. Within three months after the merger is completed, BP and ARCO [what BP wasn't allowed to buy of ARCO because it would have given BP monopolistic power in Alaska eventually became Conoco-Philips if I got this right] will establish a charitable entity dedicated to funding organizations and causes within Alaska. The entity will provide 30% of its giving to the University of Alaska Foundation and the remainder to general community needs. Funding decisions by the entity will be made by BP and ARCO, with the advice of a board of community advisors. BP and ARCO will provide ongoing funding to this entity in an amount that is equal to 2% of BP's and ARCO's combined aggregate net Alaska liquids production after royalty times the price for WTI. Specific entity funding levels will be calculated annually on the same date each year, referencing the liquids production and the average NYMEX WTI prompt month settlement price for the 12 months immediately proceeding the calculation.

So here are some questions I have:
  1. Who monitors these contributions to be sure that they are making the contributions required?
  2. How do members of the public find this out?
  3. Are they contributing what they are required to contribute?
  4. Are they contributing more than they are required to contribute? (If not, can either company seriously claim to make charitable contributions? This was simply a business deal, a required cost of doing business in Alaska and not really charitable donations.)
  5. Who is on these boards and are the meetings announced and public?

A quick Google search got me to the BP website. Searching there for charter agreement I got a copy of the 2007 annual report on the Charter Agreement for 2006. It is four lines over four pages - for the whole charter agreement. Plus a cover letter to Governor Sarah Palin. The part on charitable giving says this:


The BP Board of Community Advisors met in February, 2006, at which time they
reviewed 2005 community spend [sic] and plans for 2006.

BP spent more than $10.2 million in support of community programs in 2006,
consistent with the formula detailed in the Charter.

Approximately $3 million was contributed to the University of Alaska Foundation
(1/3 of community investment).
ConocoPhilips's website gave me this message:
Connection to server failed (The server is not responding.)

Why do I think that is the extent of the oversight? Even BP didn't think it was important enough to proof read it carefully. Am I being too cynical? Did the Governor's office demand back up information so they could see how the 2% times the price of WTI? I don't know. What about all the other issues in the Charter? What sort of scrutiny do they get? Just this brief annual report?

Since I'm pretty busy right now in Thailand, I'm going to have to hold off on pursuing these questions. Though I might send them to my representatives in the State Legislature.

Meanwhile, here is the rest of the Charter. I hope other bloggers and non-bloggers start reading it carefully to see whether the oil companies are living up to the agreement. I guess first we ought to figure out which state agencies are responsible for keeping track.

Charter for Development of ... by Steve on Scribd

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

In Argentina, There Was A Love That People Showed For Each Other

I don't have pictures, because these moments came when I didn't have my camera out, and because I'm hesitant to intrude in intimate moments, but let me give you several examples of the caring I saw among people in Argentina.

1.  People greet each other with hugs that include cheek to cheek contact

I don't know the rules of who hugs who like this.  Certainly family members, but also work colleagues, friends, and even we received this treatment from people.  This contact is male-female, female-female, and male-male.  I think this - I want to say intimacy, but maybe it's because my US cultural perspective sees it that way - physical contact breaks down barriers that handshakes can't.

2.  I saw lots of fathers really enjoying being with their young children

Men would have their kids on their shoulders, or mock battle with them, men would become little kids themselves in their play with their children.  And there was an obvious love that sparkled in the eyes of parent and child and showed in the natural smiles they shared.  I'm not saying there aren't cold fathers in Argentina, just that I saw a lot more pure love showing than I see in the US.

3.  Mate bonding

I've mentioned mate in a few posts already.  It's a kind of tea that Argentines (Uruguayans and Chileans) drink from small gourd cups through metal straws. I guess gourds were the original cups, but they also use ceramic cups.  Everywhere you see people with their mate cups and a small thermos to replenish the hot water.

Bus drivers, people walking down the street, teachers, everybody drinks mate and it's a ritual.  People don't toss their mate cups the way Americans toss their latte cups.
But I'm talking about mate again here because people share their mate.  They share their metal mate straws.  The only thing like it I can think of in the US would be people sharing a joint.  

     Here's the bus driver on one of our tours adding hot water to his mate.

And here he's sharing his mate with the guide.


4.  Airplane Safety Video

AerolĂ­neas had an animated safety video - all the stuff about seat belts, oxygen masks, that we see or hear every time a flight is about to take off.  What made this animation different was that when the mother put the child's oxygen mask over his mouth and nose, the mother lovingly and ever so fleetingly (and unconsciously) she strokes the child's cheek.  And when the mother is shown helping the child get on his life rest, again, she reassuringly tousles his hair.

I've never seen anything like that in an airline safety message before.  And while there are commercials that show that sort of thing, I don't think I've ever seen one as natural as this.  I could be wrong, but I felt like the artist just put the love into the animation and no one objected.  Though it's quite possible they spent hours debating this.  But for me, the outcome was one more example of a human bonding that I saw lots of in Argentina.  (We weren't in Chile or Brazil long enough to make such observations.)

OK, that's it.  In this time of great interpersonal nastiness unleashed by the US president, I thought it important to shine a little lot of these acts of love.  I have no illusions that Argentinians aren't capable of evil - they demonstrated that in the 70s and 80s.  But these moments of caring did catch my attention.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Your Mind Is A Garden - Anchorage Garden Club Garden Tour 2019

I love going on the garden tour each summer.  It gets me to neighborhoods I don't know and it gives me ideas and inspiration to imagine what I could do in my garden (and I'm ok with a small change here or there, I'm not interested in a yard that gets on the tour - I know how much time and Miracle Grow that would take and I'm trying to be organic.).

But I love to see what others have done.

Probably the most endearing garden for me was actually two gardens - neighbors.

The guy lives on the left and the lady lives on the right.  She's the gardener, he's the handyman/laborer.  These planters are on his wall.  His explanation was something like, "She asked if she could put plants along my house and I said sure.  But it was starting to get to sissified so I had to make more macho."  So he used car parts and they look great.

And she's put these monster lilies on his side too.

Her side was more genteel.  No auto or biker parts.  And he was responsible for the wine bottles.  He said a brick edging would be too ordinary.  And in answer to my question, no, he didn't have to drink all the wine first.  Lots of bottles came from a recycling place.  He was worried that they wouldn't make it through the winter, but has found out that they do fine.

It was in this yard we saw this 2017 Oregon eclipse T-shirt and it was only then that it dawned on me that in Argentina we saw zero eclipse merchandise.  Nada.  Kind of nice that people go to see a natural phenomenon without having to turn it into cash.

We also saw this license plate on the tour.  I can imagine a pro and an anti-GOP interpretation, I'll leave it up to each to imagine what it means.

What I love about the Anchorage Garden Club Garden Tours is that they are the opposite of pretentious.  People wear what they have on.  And you can have a garden that, while full of interesting flowers and veggies, can also have a bunch of trucks in the yard too.

This last one was pretty packed with plants in every planter.  If you look closely you can see those giant sunflowers.

And I did spend a few hours in my yard today with the tour as inspiration.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

GCI Sends Us A Bill, ADN Ends Door Step Deliveies

When I went through the mail that had accumulated while we were gone, I came across an envelope from GCI.  Inside was a bill.  For $0.00.

Even odder than the amount, is the fact that we don't have any accounts with GCI.  Our cell phone isn't with them and our home line and internet aren't either.

I did call to check.  The person there suggested our other accounts don't have long distance and that's why.  But they do have long distance.  She said she'd remove us from the list.  But how did we get on the list?  A mystery.

[As I look at it now again, with the picture - do you think Alaska Airlines gave them my information?  I don't think the reservations line people will know the answer and it's Sunday so the administrative offices are closed.  Is it even worth the effort to find out?  There are much more important things to do.  And that's how 'the people' are worn down, by so many, to borrow a word from those fighting racism and sexism, micro-attacks that it's hard to choose our battles intelligently.]

And when our newspaper delivery began again when we got back home, it wasn't at our doorstep.  I had to look around before spotting it at the bottom of the driveway.  It was halfway up the driveway the next day and in the flowerbed the next day.  And a little wet from the rain, despite its plastic wrapper.

With only a few exceptions, our paper has been reachable without stepping out of the house for as long as I can remember.  What gives?  We must have a new carrier.

When the Anchorage Daily News didn't call to check if our delivery had begun again - as they usually do - I called to ask that our carrier go back to doorstep delivery.  (I put in a small tip each time the bill comes to thank the delivery person for getting it on doorstep.)

But I was told the ADN has changed their delivery policy to not having the delivery folks get out of their vehicles.  Driveway delivery.  Well I can deal with that now, but come winter, I don't really want to look through the snow to find the paper, let alone have to get dressed and shoed just to get the paper.  But that's their new rule.

I understand that newspapers are being squeezed.  But these sorts of cost saving measures don't sit well with me.  Do I need a hard copy?  I managed on the trip to read it online.  But I already read way too much online and enjoy holding the paper copy over breakfast.  And doing any of the puzzles on line is a pain.

Apparently I'm not the only one calling about this.  I was immediately put through to a supervisor who was pleasant enough, but the decision he has to defend is not a user friendly one.

Am I getting old and crotchety and resistant to change?  I'm sure that's an element in this, but really.  This is something I'm willing to spend a little extra for, but I don't have that opportunity.  I want to support my local newspaper, and for that reason I'll probably go along with this in the end, but they're making it harder and harder..

And all those leaves in the driveway - it's only July.  I think the heat and the aphid are responsible. It's not fall yet.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Alaska Now Is Like a Home Invasion - What Do You Do When Your Governor Is The Terrorist Destroying Your State?

Imagine people in your house hauling out your furniture, setting off bombs in different rooms, and tearing out the wiring, plumbing, and foundation and nobody can do anything about it.

If someone physically destroys university property, he can be arrested.  But if the governor destroys the university through line-item vetoes, and he's got 22 legislators on his side, we're just screwed.

It's like watching a terrorist in slow motion, like in a dream in which you can't move. This is what's happening in Alaska.  The governor is systematically destroying the state.  This is no hyperbole, no exaggeration.  And we're struggling to figure out how to stop him.

Brother Francis Dunleavy
"JPMorgan Chase JPM  agreed to pay $410 million to settle charges with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for manipulating electricity prices in the same markets Enron used to play its dirty tricks."
And who did the dirty tricks for them?
"Saddled with loss producing assets, the team at the Houston-based principle investments unit developed several bidding strategies which turned out some juicy profits.  Reporting directly to Masters, [Francis] Dunleavy and his team showed how “asset optimization strateg[ies]” managed to  turn out tens of millions of dollars in profits from units that lost millions at market rates."  From Forbes.

Our governor got elected with considerable financial and other backing from his brother Francis and from the Koch brothers (via their Alaskans for Prosperity).  And now he's making our state defenseless in the face of Outside resource extractors by destroying the independent expertise at the university that can challenge rosy corporate reports that assert 'no harm will be done.  The environment will be better when we are finished.'  And destroying the government's ability to monitor what they do.  And setting up a brain drain that will set the state back to Territorial days.

Once in office the Kochs gave him Donna Arduin (who practiced trashing states in Illinois, California, Kansas and Florida) to start taking apart those government structures that people most use - education, health, the Alaska ferry. The university is taking a 40% hit (which will cost much more in federal and private grants.) Even normally conservative Republican legislators have joined with Democrats to put the money back into the budget. But enough Republican legislators (22) held with the governor and the legislature couldn't get the necessary 75% of the legislature to override the governor's vetoes.

There have been protests in the streets, at the legislature. People have overwhelmingly testified against the cuts at every legislative hearing. People have called, emailed, and mailed legislators and the governor.  People are reading the parts of the constitution that talk about impeachment and recall and trying to figure out if the language covers his actions.  The constitution does require the state to " establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions."  The University Board of Regents has already declared financial exigency.
The constitution also says "[t]he legislature shall provide for the promotion and protection of public health."  The Mayor of Anchorage has already declared a Civil Emergency in anticipation of the impacts of the governor's budget cuts on health and safety and homelessness.

Lawyers are, I'm told, working on lawsuits to stop this madness.

Not unlike at the national level, Alaskans are trying to figure out how to stop invaders, who got into the governor's mansion via election,  from destroying the state as we know it.

Our instincts tell us to keep within legal bounds as we watch him cut vital organs out of the university and kill the Alaska Marine Highway - the only 'road' that goes to many communities.  Imagine a governor bombing major highways so they are totally unusable.  That's what he's doing.

Everyone would love to physically remove the governor from our house to stop the damage.  Or twist the arms of enough (8) legislators until they vote to override the vetoes.  When is a coup justified?  We're too used to the rule of law, we don't know what to do when our elected leader, violates all norms of public participation, is set on destroying key institutions, and is immune to the pleas of the overwhelming majority of the population?

Letters to the editors use logic and reason, but our governor's logical assumptions are rooted in the orders he gets from the Koch brothers and their representatives, not the residents of Alaska and their representatives.  His mantra is "balanced budget, $3000 Permanent Fund Dividends, and no taxes" an unworkable formula.

When the dust settles, we'll probably find lots of legal violations on the governor's part.  One of his first moves was to privatize the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and turn it over, in a no-bid contract, to an Outside company with ties to Donna Arduin.  I'm sure there are lots of other acts like that.

While people continue to do battle some of us need to be working on the emergency recovery plans, but I don't think FEMA helps out with human caused disasters. (Well, they do help if someone causes a forest fire, but if your elected officials are the vandals?)

Obviously this is not just an Alaskan dilemma.  The White House has similarly been invaded.  But the attack on the university and its research capabilities is particularly troubling and a warning to people in other states.  This war on public education and science is, at least partially, aimed at making it harder to fight corporate 'expertise.'  This is going to happen in other states if it hasn't already.

Friday, July 26, 2019

We Did A Little Hike The Other Day

We've been buying State Park parking passes every year.  It's sort of like signing up for a gym.  I want to get my money's worth, so I have to get out into the woods regularly.  On the other hand, I don't like driving a lot.

But Prospect Heights isn't far.

Photos are a bit fuzzy.  I'm going to blame it on low clouds and high humidity.

Devil's club berries.

Fireweed's almost gone.  

And at a couple of points the trail was obscured by the grasses.  

It's good to be back in Alaska.  

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Puerto Rico Got Rid Of Its Governor. Alaska, Now It's Our Turn

Puerto Ricans got 25,000 people out in the streets to protest their governor and after about a week he's announced his resignation.

Alaska's governor, apparently taking orders from his Outside handlers, is poised to destroy Alaska as we know it.  As I've written before, the only explanation that makes sense to me is that the Koch brothers want to defund government so that there are no obstacles for Outside corporations to plunder Alaska's resources.  No university scientists to challenge their reports, no government regulators to monitor their activities, no public processes to hinder their profits.  And, based on what happened at the Dunleavy chaired hearings a few years ago on Erin's Law, he personally would like to weaken public schools to the point that people either home school or demand vouchers for private schools, including religious schools.

Our university's Board of Regents has already declared financial exigency because of the budget cuts, and Anchorage's Mayor has declared Civil Emergency because of the impact of cuts on health and safety.

Puerto Rico's population is around 3 million. (Google searches give a variety of numbers, many estimates based on the 2010 census data, plus an AP report from April saying the population has dropped 4% since Hurricane Maria.  So, for my purposes here, 3 million is close enough.)

25,000  is .8% of Puerto Rico's population.  Yes, less than 1%.

Alaska's population was 736,239 in 2018 according to the State Department of Labor.  So, if we go for 1% of our population, that would be 7369.  7000 is a good round number.

So, if all the groups that are working to overturn the Governor's draconian (yes, that term has been used in the past, but this time it's not metaphorical) can get together and we can get 7000 people to rally around the Atwood Building - 550 W 7th Ave - where the governor's Anchorage office is, for a week, maybe we can get the kind of attention Puerto Rico has gotten.  I don't think we can persuade Dunleavy to resign.  He's not paying attention to Alaskans.  But maybe we can get some more momentum for overriding his vetoes and/or impeachment.

Is this an achievable number?  It's a tiny fraction of our population, but when that many people take to the streets, as Puerto Rico has shown, people pay attention.  We don't need the same 7000 people every day.  And if smaller rallies appear in other towns and villages, the world would notice.

Large rallies should be in addition to all the other pressures being put on our politicians to save Alaska form this impending calamity.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Thoughts On Morning Mueller Show

[Since these hearings began at 4:30am Alaska time, I missed the beginning, but these are my thoughts on what I did hear, listening to C-Span and monitoring the Twitter feed with the hashtag "MuellerHearings.  This is for the morning House Judiciary Committee hearings.]

The purpose of this hearing, called by the Democrats, as I understand it, was to highlight key findings from the Mueller report since so few people have read it (including both of my US Senators).  They simply wanted the chance to be able to read key parts and findings.

They were able to do that with Mueller generally affirming their statements with "if it's in the report, I stand by it" and even at times "yes."

Some  key points that were reiterated by the Democrats:

1.  No one is above the law, including the president
2.  The Mueller Report did NOT exonerate the president on obstruction of justice
3.  Sitting president can't be indicted, but an ex-president can

Mueller's rules - Mueller set one basic ground rule - he would not comment on anything that was not already stated in the report.  I'm not completely sure why.  Attorney General Barr had said that Mueller couldn't talk about other things because that would violate Executive Privilege, but that seems like a pretty broad characterization and Mueller, no longer a government employee, has more freedom to answer Congress' questions.

Nevertheless, he decided to stick to just the report and I suspect the Democratic leadership of the committee agreed because that was consistent with their intent to get key points from the report out to the public.

However, the rules at times made him look evasive - "I'm not going to answer that" - and Republican committee members emphasized that he was avoiding answering their questions.  Though he also didn't answer Democrats' questions that went beyond the text of the report.  With very few exceptions.

At one point, near the end, answering the questions of a Democratic Member of Congress, it seemed a little silly.  She was trying to get the point across that while the investigation did not indict the president because it had been determined that a sitting president could not be indicted, that the report said there were other constitutional means to address this.

Q:  What are those other processes?
A:  Not going to say.
Then she mentions impeachment as one and asks again.
A:  I think you mentioned one.
Q:  Is that impeachment?
A:  I'm not going to comment.

Was Mueller a good witness?

In terms of style, no.  He looked very tired.  He frequently asked that questions be repeated.  He spoke hesitantly, with pauses, in a less than firm voice.  A couple of tweets on that:

I think its safe to say at this point the #MuellerHearings are not living up to all the hype. As much respect as I have had over many years for Mueller, after watching him today he should not play himself in the "TV movie."
— Mountain Poet (@mtnpoet) July 24, 2019

Mueller's 75th birthday is coming up in two weeks.  I don't think that a 75 year old can't be a good witness, but I'm guessing he didn't get a lot of sleep last night. Or maybe all week.   And if he has hearing aids, he wasn't wearing them.  And being careful not to stray from his own rules kept him very cautious which appeared to make him look unsure at times.

But I'd also say that I'm a better writer than a speaker.  I too would have paused a lot and sounded hesitant in his situation as I would have  tried to come up with the most accurate answer I could.  It didn't sound like he had practiced sound bytes so he could offer quick, authoritative answers. He wasn't even that good at saying "if it's in the report, I stand by it."   I'm guessing though that had he spoken much more strongly, Republicans would have accused him of being prepped for the hearing.  (Which everyone should do anyway.)

In terms of content, depends on who was listening.    There was no new content for anyone who has read the report, or even rigorously read news coverage of the report.  But it is clear from what I saw on Twitter that Democrats heard what they wanted to hear and Republicans heard what they wanted to hear.

Republicans key points?  (Well here are a couple I remember, I know there were others.)

  • Investigation members biased against Trump
  • There was no finding of collusion
  • If there was obstruction of justice, how come you weren't fired?
  • The person who originated all this -  Misfud who told Papadopoulus about Steele dossier was not prosecuted for lying, so this is all based on nothing
  • Over broad interpretation of obstruction of justice

Rep. Louie Gohmert asked about why the members of the investigation were all Democrats who hated Trump.  Mueller responded in a rare comment beyond the report, that he never asks employees their political affiliation because they are all professionals and put their political feelings aside when working on cases.  I would point out that if no Republicans or Democrats could serve on such an investigation then we would have no investigations at all.  One tweeter said:

I'd also point out that it was a Republican Congress in 1993 that relaxed the Hatch Act which prohibited federal employees from participation in partisan politics:
In 1993, a Republican Congress substantially relaxed the Hatch Act to permit most federal employees to take an active part in partisan management and partisan political campaigns in their own free time. 
Republicans will characterize this as 'blowing up in the Democrats' face' and Democrats will say it highlighted the findings that most people haven't read.

Will it change anyone's minds?  Only those who haven't been paying attention and haven't already taken a stand.  And most of them probably weren't watching.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Warmish, Smoky, Then Rain. First Raspberry

They're early.  Like most things this summer.  But I'm late on a lot of things I need to do, so that's all you get today.

Monday, July 22, 2019

We're Back In This Strangely Warm And Smoky Anchorage

Coming home after a time away means getting back into the routine.

The non-stop from LA is a nearly five hour flight.  (The same as Buenos Aires to Lima)   We didn't get pre-check, but they bumped us up to first class which was nice.  The lights below us kept reminding me we had left LA, not Seattle.  Eventually, the descent began.  It was 3:30am and when I looked out the window, I could see bits of the Chugach peaks and glaciers, though the ground was still fairly dark despite the dawning horizon.

Soon we were home.  It was hot and stuffy when we opened the door.  We dragged our stuff in and found the box of mail our house sitter had gathered.  He also left our fridge with lots of goodies including Korean takeout.  Thanks C!

After sorting some mail - why did GCI send us a bill?  We don't have GCI.  The bill was for $0, but why?  I crashed and slept til about 10am.  The toilet upstairs had been disabled - the note said it kept filling with water, so this was to shut it off.  The deck was full of aphid sap or honeydew - from Wikipedia:

"Honeydew is a sugar-rich sticky liquid, secreted by aphids and some scale insects as they feed on plant sap. When their mouthpart penetrates the phloem, the sugary, high-pressure liquid is forced out of the anus of the aphid. Honeydew is particularly common as a secretion in hemipteraninsects and is often the basis for trophobiosis.[1] Some caterpillars of Lycaenidae butterflies and some moths also produce honeydew.[2]Honeydew can cause sooty mold—a bane of gardeners—on many ornamental plants. It also contaminates vehicles parked beneath trees, and can then be difficult to remove from glass and bodywork. Honeydew is also secreted by certain fungi, particularly ergot.[3]Honeydew is collected by certain species of birds, waspsstingless bees[4] and honey bees, which process it into a dark, strong honey(honeydew honey). This is highly prized in parts of Europe and Asia for its reputed medicinal value. Parachartergus fraternus, a eusocial wasp species, collects honeydew to feed to their growing larvae.[5] Recent research has also documented the use of honeydew by over 40 species of wild, native, mostly solitary bees in California.[6]"

This leaf is full of shiny, sticky honeydew as is the wood of the deck.  In fact the whole deck was sticky as were the deck chairs.  Eventually I hosed it down so we could sit out there.

Also did some serious watering in the yard.  The record high temperatures along with the lack of rain has had a serious effect in the yard. Our house sitter did water the raspberries up on the top of the hill.  It's odd though - parts of the yard look fine - the high bush cranberry is lush and the little ferns are healthy, but in other parts, some are wilted, even crinkly dried out.  And there's new planting work I didn't finish due to the rebuilding of the deck.  Lots of cotton wood shoots here and there.

Emptied suitcases - well we each had a small rollon suitcase and backpack, so not too much.  Found the things that seemed to be missing - a t-shirt I'd bought in Buenos Aires as well as a puzzle for my San Francisco nieta.  (A much easier word to write than granddaughter.)

Then I double checked on Youtube about what I needed to fix the toilet - here's the seal that was the problem - and rode over to get a new seal.

My route to Lowe's let's me bike through the Helen Louise McDowell Sanctuary, which was particularly relaxing yesterday.  The vegetation is shrinking the boardwalk a bit.  Nature landscaped this park, not CarlosThays.  People just added the boardwalks.

Got my new seal and rode home.  Not all the way as wonderful as the Sanctuary.  Also had to ride along Tudor.  But after Buenos Aires and Santiago, Tudor, one of Anchorage's busiest streets, looks pretty rural.  But it was a hot Sunday so there wasn't much traffic.  And the air is still smoky, hazing the mountains in the background.

It's nice to be doing this post on my MacBook instead of the iPad I got for the trip.  Blogger works here without all the bugs it has on the iPad.  But I did figure out some workarounds to make it possible to post, though not easily.  I might do a post on that for people struggling with it.

More to do as we ease back into Alaska.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Moving North, While Remembering South - Carlos Thays, Park Designer

If all goes right, we’ll be in Anchorage tomorrow.

Transition is that time where you brain adjusts from one environment to another.  I’m still, for instance, ready to say Buen DĂ­a and gracias and quiero.   I’m still looking at the dinner bill and computing it in pesos and dollars.  Invisible  membranes reach out from my brain to the many wonderful people we met.  How are they doing?  Feeling their love and sending back mine.

I'm  trying to hold onto Argentina and Chile as long as I can.  To be, at least partially there, as I slide through LA reality and into Anchorage reality.   I looked through my pictures to find some that never got posted, but should.  I’ve got two particular pictures of trees.

Which brought up the name Carlos Thays.  It shows up on streets and in parks all over Argentina.  But until now I haven’t looked him up.  I knew he had designed parks.    From his Wikipedia page:

"Born Jules Charles Thays in Paris, France in 1849,[2] Carlos Thays arrived in Argentina in 1889,[2] after he was recommended by Jean Alphand to Argentine pioneer Miguel Crisol, who contracted Thays to design Sarmiento Park in CĂłrdoba.[1] During     his time in CĂłrdoba Thays became infatuated with the young country and decided to spend the rest of his life in Argentina. After moving to Buenos Aires he was named the city's Director of Parks & Walkways in 1891.[2] This position gave him significant influence over the design of the city's open spaces, and his legacy is still strongly felt in the city's  open spaces today."
Here's the Parque San MartĂ­n, in Mendoza.  I just couldn't keep walking without pulling out my camera, the vision was so striking.

And yes, this is a Thays designed park.  We walked over to this park our first morning of our first visit to Mendoza.  (Mendoza was located perfectly to be our starting point for San Juan and then Santiago and back.)  And I was struck by how beautiful the trees were and how they were located just perfectly.  Here are two pictures from that morning in the park.  Mostly, I was chasing all the birds with my telephoto lens - not very successfully - but I couldn't help notice the trees.

I don't know if Thays designed the landscaping for this river that flows through downtown CĂłrdoba, but he did design Sarmiento Park in CĂłrdoba, so if he's not directly responsible for these trees, I'm sure it's his influence.

One of Thays' largest undertakings was the Parque Tres de Febrero,[2] a sweeping area of open land covering several square kilometers filled with thousands of trees, flowers, many fountains, and monuments in the barrio of Palermo.

Well we stayed in Palermo when we first arrived in Buenos Aires and I was struck by the trees there too.  Here are a couple of pictures from there.

The Wikipedia page doesn't say anything about Thays visiting Santiago, but I'm guessing, from the parks we saw in downtown Santiago, that his influenced reached there as well.

Travel and Leisure has pictures of some of his parks and more about him as well.  I posted a little on the Rose Garden earlier.  He also did the Botanical Garden which we walked around, but never got in - it was closing one time and on our last day, a Monday, it was closed too.

Friday, July 19, 2019

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, . . ."

I knew that title quote above was the opening line of A Tale of Two Cities  but I didn't realize that the first
sentence went on for the rest of the first paragraph.  Here's the rest:
 ",,,it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we ha nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."  
If you are wondering what was happening 'in the present' that caused Dickens to liken the year 1785 to his own times,  the Dickens Museum website tells us:
"A Tale of Two Cities was published at a time when there were considerable diplomatic tensions between Britain and the France of Napoleon III, whose Second Empire regime was not considered very stable by many in Britain. This would doubtless have given a contemporary significance to Dickens’s tale of the French Revolution of 1789."
Dickens' own time, that is when he wrote the the newspaper serial that would become the book, was 1859.  It was also a tumultuous time in Dickens' own life as he divorced his wife and mother of his ten children and split from his long time publisher.

The description of 1785 certainly resonates in today's USA.  But I'd quote one more part from page 2 of the book.  It's after he compares the monarchs of England and France in 1875 and how those in power could not imagine that anything would change.

They took less notice of what was happening in the American colonies, Dickens suggests, than they did of stories of ghosts on Cock Lane.
"Mere messages in the earthly order of events had lately come to the English Crown and People, from a congress of British subjects in America:  which, strange to relate, have proved more important to the human race than any communications yet received through an of the chickens of the Cock-lane brood."

And so we see today far more focus (alas, by the media as well as people - who are influenced by what the media say is important) on Trump's outrageous Tweets and affairs, than on more important imminently momentous matters in the earthly order of events - like climate change.

And I note that Dickens, in 1859, saw the creation of the United States as so important to the human race, as we today fight to keep the idea of democracy alive in North America.

Reading good fiction, I learned as an undergraduate English major, offers us the wisdom of the world's most insightful observers of humanity.  While few completely escape their own times' world views, they do see deeply into the strengths and weaknesses of humans, and those insights are valuable lessons for the present.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

University Of Alaska Cuts Part Of Koch Plan To Cripple Climate Science in Alaska?

Alaska Public Media had a story this morning on how the cuts to the university budget could decimate the climate change research being done by University of Alaska faculty.  Research that is critically important to our understanding of climate change and how fast it is happening.  It's important to the state, but also important to climate change research worldwide.

In a previous post I speculated that the hit Dunleavy made on the University was intended to wipe out expertise that could challenge the reports Outside corporations submit for permitting their extraction of Alaska resources.  That's totally consistent with the goals Dunleavy's patrons - the Koch brothers and others.

But I wasn't thinking big enough.  A hit to the climate change research being done in Alaska would also be consistent with the Kochs' climate change denial agenda.  (See the Koch sponsored climate denial organizations list here, for example.  Or here.)

Right now, the President of the University of Alaska should be tapping foundations and large donors around the country and around the world to help keep the university running until we get rid of our governor.

But it seems to me that saving the climate change research in Alaska should be a top priority and a great way to gather support for the University of Alaska in general.  Alaska is one of the most climate affected states.  Maybe not so much by numbers of people affected, but by the huge physical impact climate change is having on our land, oceans, sub-surface permanent-frost, our glaciers and ocean icepacks.

The Public Media piece featured one climate change researcher from Juneau.  He talked about how his research funding from Outside of Alaska brought in way more money than his salary.  How many other such researchers can there be in Alaska?  Let's make a wild guess of 50 statewide - researchers who are regular UA faculty.

Let's say their average salary and benefits come to $100,000 apiece.  It could be more, but that's an easy round number to work with and will give us a ballpark figure.

$100,000 X 50 = $5,000,000.   In today's world, that's not a lot of money.  Forbes say there are 5000 families in the US with over $100 million - and that's just "cash deposits, securities and life and pension plans." Not real estate or businesses or art.

Surely amount those 5000 there are people who would be willing to pay the salaries of Alaska's climate researchers for a year.  Even if my estimate is way off and we need $10 million, that's chump change for billionaires.

Jim Johnson, how many million dollar donations have you brought to the University since you became president?  Now's the time to huddle with Rasmuaon'a Diane Kaplan to get some leads on where to get the money to save our climate researchers.  Not to mention the other threatened faculty.

Meanwhile, I'd call on retired faculty in the state,  many of whom get good pensions, to volunteer to teach classes for free in the fall if there are gaps in their specialties so that students can get the classes they need to graduate.  I've already sent a message to UAA's chancellor offering to teach and to help sign up others..  (And if we're really lucky, we won't have to because the legislature and the governor will find a way to avoid these big cuts.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Thoughts On Returning To The US After A Month In Argentina

I wrote this yesterday.

I’m over the Pacific just west of Acapulco, about three hours from landing in LA.  We’ve been out of the US for just over a month.  This is the longest stretch out of the US since  twelve years ago when we were in Thailand for three months where I worked as a volunteer with an NGO that helped poor farmers.  .  

As our return was nearing this last week, I began to think about Jews who traveled outside of Germany - or other countries the Nazis would take over - during the 1930s and then returned.  Many, if not most, ended up in concentration camps.  Should I seek political asylum in Argentina?  

No, I’m not a target.  Yet.  For now the targets are people with darker skin than mine.  Jews are in a strange never-never land.  They’re, as always, in the scopes of white nationalists/neo-Nazis, but the president’s son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter converted.  Being pro-Israel is a conservative thing now, probably because of strong Evangelical Christians support of Israel.  So, what happens to Jews who have serious questions about the way Israel is treating its Arab citizens and the neighboring Palestinians?  

But that’s an aside to the terror Trump is causing among Central American immigrants to the US.  This fear isn't unlike what Jews, LGBTQ folks, Communists, Romani, and others felt about the Gestapo arriving at their door.  You can say that they aren't intentionally killing people on the border, but that came later in Germany as well.  People just knew it was bad and they may not see their families again.  Same as now.  This fear affects more than those seeking asylum - a perfectly legal thing to do.  It includes those in the US without documentation, including all the dreamers, and those with papers who could find themselves targets anyway,  The same thing happened in Argentina in the 70s and 80s, and in Chile under Pinochet.  In the later two places the US was supporting the abusive governments.  

And I thought about all this as we lined up in Lima for our last leg of our trip home.  Nearly all the people with us on this plane are NOT native speakers.  I didn’t hear anyone speaking English.  It was all Spanish, maybe some Portuguese.  Many dark skinned people.  We’re on a Boeing 787-8. Maybe 300 people.  How many planes like this fly into the US everyday from the south?  

What does that say about Trump’s policies on the border?  And the ICE raids? (Yes, I realize this past weekend’s raids didn’t actually happen in the scale expected.). Does it mean that all the focus on the border is simply for show?  Does it mean Trump isn’t worried about legal immigrants as he says, just undocumented ones?  Does it mean Democrats ought to acknowledge the many people flying in legally?  Probably all those questions are more complicated than yes/no answers could cover.  Clearly the treatment of people seeking asylum on the border is outrageous and easily preventable if the Trump administration cared at all.  But there’s also a high level of incompetence in the administration, and most likely the contractors for the camps are making a fortune.  

But what happens next?  Are things going to return to normal after the 2020 election?  

Even if the Democrats win the presidency and the Senate, I’m not sure they will.  Trump has pushed the norms of governing in the US so far beyond respect for the law, for decency, for precedents, for freedom of the press, for respect for one’s opposition, that it will be hard.  And Trump and his supporters will fight any loss in the streets and in the courts.  (Or the long shot possibility is that they will lose their steam.  But don't count on it.  They have lots of guns.)

But what if we don’t have a fair election, or a fair enough election, to get rid of Trump and the Republican majority in the Senate?  By that I mean more cyber and other propaganda from abroad and from conservative billionaires.  I mean voter suppression and hacking  voting machines.  Germans didn’t think that Hitler would last, but he meddled with the system, and the burning of the Reichstag, which many think the Nazi's instigated.  And so he stayed in power.  Trump’s majority on the Supreme Court leaves us with no guarantee that justice will be served if elections are challenged.  We already have the Florida election decision that gave Bush the election in 2000, from a less conservative court. And the court majority just recently had no objection to political gerrymandering.  

So asking about returning isn’t the silly question some might think.  And I’ve only been talking about the US.  I haven’t mentioned the catastrophe that is Alaska after Dunleavy’s vetoes weren’t overridden.  

These are dark times.  I guess the main reason to return is to fight to get my state and country back.  

[We didn't seek asylum in Lima.  We're back home.  And I know Argentina will stop dominating my brain very fast.  But it's time to more seriously and intensely work for a better Alaska and USA.]

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Buenos Aires Tour Part 2: San Telmo And More

This is a continuation of our tour of parts of Buenos Aires with Carolina and Belem.  Part 1 which covers La Boca is here. 

While we were with Belen, Carolina had moved the car so it was close to the museum and we then went off to San Telmo market.  Again, we were dropped off and with Caroline walked the open market, saw the church, and bought some home made soap.

 Here’s where we got dropped off, with the church behind this muraled wall.

And across the street was a very spiffy looking apartment building.  


We went in to look at the church.  

 You can learn more about San Telmo - who was born in 1175 and was the patron saint of fishers and sailers in the south of Italy at the church website.

I got fascinated by the floor tiles.  They have this Escher like patterN, and then in a spot of light, I saw that it was made up of pentagonal tiles.  I want these in my house somewhere.  

J liked the tiles out in front of the church.  

Here’s the street market from in front of the church.  

We got to what looked like a larger square that was filled with booths that looked more like a flea market and then up another street passing musicians, a magician, until we got to the San Telmo market.  It was teaming with people.  It’s a regular neighborhood market shops selling all sorts of things - fruits, vegetables - beautiful fresh vegies - meat.  And lots of little places to eat.

On the right, they’re making empanadas.  

We got a couple of vegetarian empanadas - the best I’ve ever had - and a humita chala, which was a mix of corn and onions and something else wrapped in a corn husk.  I am going to have to figure out how they made that because it was delicious.  

I found a Youtube of someone preparing humita chala.  This is not an Argentine version because she adds some spicy sauce at the end, but it’s close enough for now.  

We wandered around a bit more.  At one point a car was trying to figure out where it wanted to go and the car behind it almost touched it and honked.  Hands flew out the windows of the first car.  I was in sympathy with them.  They pulled into a parking place, but someone called out from a window to say they couldnt.  But Belen told them we were just up the street and leaving so they followed us and all was well.

From there we wandered over to ‘the most expensive part of town”. Puerto Madero.  It’s on an island and there are only a couple of bridges there.  Lots of fancy high rise business and residential buildings.  

We stopped and Belen wanted to show us the very fancy Faena Hotel,  in a refurbished old brick building.  We didn’t see much, but this long red space was striking.  There’s a lot of money involved here.    Belen asked for information on a tango show they have.  “It’s not ‘a’ tango show, it’s ‘the best tango show” was the response.  It’s $250 a person.  I asked if that was pesos or dollars.  Dollars.  Is Lady Gaga in it?  Belen smiled.  

Then we got caught in a traffic jam.  Nothing was moving.  Well, sometimes the bridges are pulled up to let boats pass.  In 15 minutes we were off the island and headed by the Colon National Theater and then by the old Synagogue.  

We went through Recoleta - below is the church by the cemetery - and then back to where we are staying.  

It was a gorgeous sunny day, in the upper 60s.  But it got chilly in the late afternoon.  

 We got to talking about how they are building up this business.  It’s hard.  But they both know Buenos Aires well and are warm and helping people.  They seemed to be having as good a time as we were.  It was like good friends were showing us around.  They are willing to just give people basic advice - how to get into town from the airport and find a good place to stay and get a bus pass - to actually arranging everything for people including taking them around to see things.  Carolina also has special connections into some fields like polo.  

i don’t usually make recommendations like this, but if anyone is going to Argentina and wants some help planning their trip, their website is Choice Buenos Aires.  As I said in the previous post, it’s a work in progress.  These women are much better at guiding tours and planning trips than making their website just the way they’d like it.  And they also  have a Facebook page and a Twitter page.   (@aireschoice) 

We had a really wonderful day yesterday.  And tomorrow morning early, we head for the airport and our plane back to the US.  I’m not ready to go back, even though we’ve been here a month.