Monday, September 28, 2020

Shaggy Manes - Late September/Early October Gift From Nature

 On my bike ride Saturday, I noticed a patch of lawn where shaggy mane mushrooms had just pushed up out of the ground. 

Shaggy manes turn black when they're past their prime and become inky.  So I was concerned about all the black.  But it turned out to be dirt they'd pushed up as the erupted into the world from underground.  There were probably a couple of dozen in this area.  And it was public land so when I chose a few good ones, I wasn't poaching.  In the pictures above and below here, you can see why they are called shaggy.  

So I continued my bike ride and stopped back to get some mushrooms.  

Here they are, ready to be cleaned. 

Cut up.

And then cooking.  

With a little garlic and onion in butter (a rare treat in our house), they're delicious.  With the second batch I scrambled some eggs in with them.  

To me, these mushrooms are like a free gift from nature.  You just have to come across them at the right time, and they're yours to pick and enjoy.  

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Los Angeles Times Mea Culpa

This is from a long confessional apology by the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times

"For at least its first 80 years, the Los Angeles Times was an institution deeply rooted in white supremacy and committed to promoting the interests of the city’s industrialists and landowners. No one embodied this aggressive, conservative ideology more than Harrison Gray Otis, the walrus-mustachioed Civil War veteran who controlled The Times from 1882 until his death in 1917. The modern notion that journalism’s core precepts include uncovering hard truths and exposing inequity would have been foreign to Otis and other press barons of the last Gilded Age. Far from a mission of “comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable,” his newspaper stood for the raw exercise of power, and he used it to further a naked agenda of score settling, regional boosterism, economic aggrandizement and union busting.

Otis was a Lincoln Republican who had fought on the side of the Union and opposed slavery. But his Times was a newspaper aimed at the mostly Protestant white settlers who migrated to California from the Midwest and the Plains in the decades after it was seized from Mexico in 1848 and admitted to the Union in 1850."

Do you think the fact that the owner of the LA Times (he bought it two years ago) is a person of color has anything to do with this statement?  From the Guardian:

"Patrick Soon-Shiong has spent decades trying to cure cancer and made a biotech fortune in the process, making him one of California’s most successful, enigmatic billionaires.

Born in South Africa to Chinese parents, he rose from humble origins and ended up in Los Angeles where he has thrived as a surgeon, scientist and entrepreneur. “The richest doctor in the history of the world,” Forbes magazine declared in 2014."
The apology goes on to spell out examples of the paper's own institutional racism:

"It was not just that The Times saw fit to hire white men almost exclusively for its newsroom; the stories it told were largely for and about white people, which meant Angelenos weren’t getting an accurate account of their city, region and state at a time of rapid change.

Typical of the paper’s attitude was a 1978 interview in which Otis Chandler airily dismissed Black and Latino readers: “It’s not their kind of newspaper. It’s too big, it’s too stuffy. If you will, it’s too complicated.”

Chandler later stepped back from that, saying the paper was looking for readers in the “broad middle class” and “upper classes” regardless of race or ethnicity. “We are not a paper that’s sought after in the lower-class areas,” he said."
I would like to think this would have been written even if this hadn't been the year of BLM becoming mainstream.  But the apology itself acknowledges the influence of George Floyd's murder.  
The brutal death of a Black man, George Floyd, on May 25 while in the custody of police in Minneapolis shocked the world. It also prompted news organizations like The Times to reflect on how they cover, frame and promote stories at a time when the 24/7 news cycle moves faster than ever. Amid nationwide demonstrations over racial injustice, members of the Los Angeles Times Guild established caucuses for Black and Latino employees. The caucuses have called for improvements in coverage, hiring and career development, a public apology for The Times’ poor record on race, and equal pay. They have insisted, rightly, on reframing and recentering our coverage of communities of color.
 I hope it sets an example for other organizations to reflect on their pasts and redesign their futures.  And the future of the United States.  Here's what the Times pledges:

The Times will redouble and refocus its efforts to become an inclusive and inspiring voice of California — a sentinel that employs investigative and accountability reporting to help protect our fragile democracy and chronicles the stories of the Golden State, including stories that historically were neglected by the mainstream press. Being careful stewards of this new company, privately owned but operated for the benefit of the public, is our first obligation. But that stewardship will also require bold and decisive change. If we are to survive as a business, it will be by tapping into a digital, multicultural, multigenerational audience in a way The Times has never fully done.


Saturday, September 26, 2020

Jerusalema - Take A Happy Break

The LA Times has a story today:

"Singer Zikode said she is thrilled to see so many people around the world dancing to the song.

“When I saw the president [Cyril Ramaphosa] announcing that everyone should celebrate today’s Heritage Day by dancing to ‘Jerusalema,’ I quickly jumped up, raised my hands and shouted!” Zikode said in Zulu.

“I was so happy,” she said. 'God has lifted me up because of the success of this song, and everyone is dancing to my voice.'” 

Just take a break and enjoy the music and enthusiasm.  Better yet, get up and join.  

Below is a video with the composer talking about how amazed he is that this song has taken off like this.  

Sorry about the ads on these, but when you get something going this viral, YouTube encourages you too monetize.  

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Two Netflix Series - Borgen and Away - Feature Mothers In Critically Important Jobs. Plus Rached

I'll try to keep this short.  Trying to write on something a little lighter than the elections. Think of it as notes to readers about Netflix offerings they might want to watch or avoid.  


The ten year old Danish series BORGEN features a woman propelled into the position of prime minister of Denmark.  The new Netflix series AWAY features a woman as the commander of a mission to Mars.  

Both have to deal with sexism in the job (though not all that much) along with the work demands that make  it hard to pay adequate attention to their children - each has a teenage daughter, the Danish prime minister also has a younger son.  

Birgitte Nyborg's constant task is keeping together a coalition of parties with different priorities.  Emma Green, Captain of the Atlas, has an astronaut from India, China (the other woman and mother), England/Ghana, and Russia to keep together.  But there's also her former astronaut husband who has a stroke after liftoff and anxious daughter back on earth to distract her.  

I was struck by how we were watching these two series at the same time and how each treated the difficulties of a married woman in a traditionally male position.   BORGEN flows quickly from crisis to crisis fairly organically while with AWAY the crises - both technical and interpersonal - seem more contrived, and like Indiana Jones, Emma always seems to narrowly escape disaster.   

BORGEN has three seasons and we're near the end of season two.  I thought in the trip to negotiate between the northern Islamic area and the Christian south of a fictional African country, Brigitta's preparation for such a difficult diplomatic trip seemed woefully inadequate.  We only saw the first part of this adventure and if the upcoming summit in Copenhagen falls apart, I won't be surprised.  But the show has a way of giving Brigitta lots of narrow victories.

I think BORGAN is well worth watching.  AWAY is certainly not must see tv, but not a total waste of time.  


This Netflix series is like the most exquisite and decadent dessert in the bakery display case.  The colors are rich, the costumes and sets delicious, the actors arch,  and the camera makes love to it all.    It's noir in technicolor with the appropriate campy creepy music.  There's very little nutrition in this evil concoction. And there's lots of gratuitous gore.  But it's visually pretty spectacular.

It's the back story of Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (which Netflix is also pushing right now.)  

That Cuckoo's Nest connection is probably what made me watch the first episode.  I read Cuckoo's Nest at the end of my Peace Corps time in Thailand and was possessed with the question "Who wrote this?  Why?  How did he know all this stuff?"  And soon after I was working at a Peace Corps training program in Hilo when a new trainee had the book Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.  I read the blurb on the back that said it was about the author of Cuckoo's Nest.  It's not cool to use your position to get favors, but I was so obsessed I asked the trainee if I could borrow the book right then.  I consumed it that night and gave the book back the next day with my curiosity satisfied.  

RACHED really has nothing to do with Cuckoo's Nest.  It's just a gimmick to play off the name recognition of Nurse Rached to produce a highly stylized and visually beautiful, but empty, confection of a series.  It's a wicked distraction from today's COVID and Trump nightmare.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

“This was a time when the phrase gender bias didn’t exist, except gender bias existed,” - Stories of RGB's Law School Classmates

 An article in Slate, The Other Women In RGB's Harvard Law Class  from July of this year looks at the lives of the nine other women in Ruth Bader Ginsburg's Harvard class.  I started pulling out quotes to be teasers for people to read the article.  But what should I be highlighting - the discrimination they faced as women at Harvard Law and getting jobs?  Or should I focus on their accomplishments?  A little of both made sense, but then could I leave any out so I wasn't quoting so much?  Especially after yesterday's post that took a lot from Rosling's book?  

I've gone through and edited out most of what I'd highlighted.  You really should read the original article.  Or, down at the bottom of the article you can listen to it while you're doing something else.

All in all it's compelling reading.  Echoing some themes from the Rosling post

  • Things change so slowly that we don't really see the progress.  But an article like this helps make it clear.
  • Things can be both better and still bad.  The conditions for women are much better today, but there is still much room for improvement.

Carol Brosnahan, born 1934

She was accepted into Wellesley, where she studied economics. Then she took a job on Wall Street, researching investments for wealthy clients. “I wasn’t allowed to meet the clients, because women weren’t supposed to be managing their money,” she recalled.

She stayed at the job for a year, during which she got engaged. “My fiancé said it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to work, but I could go to school,” she said, which is how she began an application to Harvard Law School. 

But while she got along well with many of her male classmates, her professors often singled her out in humiliating ways. She recalled the night when Dean Erwin Griswold asked the women why they were there in law school, taking the place of a man. 

By the fall of 1960, Carol had stopped working altogether. She had three children in under four years. Between the second and third pregnancies, the family moved to the Bay Area for Jim’s job with the U.S. attorney’s office there. When her youngest daughter was still an infant, Carol took the California bar exam—her second certification, after Arizona—as she began to feel she was “going crazy” staying at home. So she took a job with the Continuing Education of the Bar, which provides training and publishes books for practicing lawyers. She began editing and writing books on the law, focused on poverty, bankruptcy, and tenant law. Jim was supportive, but “my husband didn’t change diapers,” she said. “He was a great dad, but the household and the children were my responsibility. It was a lot of juggling and not very much sleep.”

Even as she moved up in the agency, she found that her career growth was limited. “This was a time when the phrase gender bias didn’t exist, except gender bias existed,” she said. Though she had been at CEB more than a decade, she said the director refused to give her the same title as her male colleagues. “And that’s what got me to put my name in for a judge—gender bias.” Eventually, she got a call from a man in Gov. Jerry Brown’s office to inform her she would be appointed to the Berkeley municipal court. “And tell Jim you got this one on your own,” the man said.

Rhoda Solin Isselbacher, 1932–2015 

Her family thinks Rhoda entered Harvard Law as the school’s first-ever pregnant student. She once told an entire lecture hall that she couldn’t be expected to walk to another building to use the women’s restroom (the only one in the entire law school), and instead proposed that she could use the lecture hall’s men’s room, as long as she put a sign on the door. The men agreed. 

Rhoda had child rearing help—from nannies. In 1993, when Ginsburg was named to the bench, Jill Abramson wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal about how the careers of the other women in the class of 1959 were shaping up. Rhoda told Abramson the story of being pulled away from a client meeting to take one of her children to the hospital for a dog bite. “My husband’s a doctor, why isn’t he on his way to the children’s hospital?” she remembered thinking. “But fathers didn’t do that back then.”

In the mid-’70s, Rhoda became in-house counsel at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, then known as the Sidney Farber Cancer Institute. (Rhoda negotiated the deal that led to the name change.) She had recently undergone two years of chemotherapy for breast cancer, and the job felt personal. At the time, biotech was giving rise to knotty legal and ethical questions about patient rights, clinical trials, and intellectual property. “It was a new area of law she spearheaded,” her son Eric remembered. She set up one of the very first patient advocacy programs in any hospital in the country.

After 10 years, Rhoda was forced to resign when Kurt became the founding director of the competing Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. To avoid any conflict of interest, she returned full time to the small law firm where she’d spent most of her career, Epstein, Salloway, and Kaplan—which later became Epstein, King, and Isselbacher.

Virginia Davis Nordin, 1934–2018

After graduating, Virginia found that potential employers were unwilling to take her seriously. She told the Journal in 1993 that in those early interviews, she was often asked if she had plans to get married or have children. “You’d end up discussing your theories on birth control and nothing about your credentials,” she said. She landed a job clerking for a federal judge in San Francisco and went on to work as in-house counsel to a New York shipping company—a job she loved but ended up quitting because, as she told the Journal, her boss sexually harassed her.

Wiltrud F. Richter, born 1935

There were warning signs from the start. During the application process, she was interviewed by a man who cautioned her not to get married and drop out. “Harvard thought it was doing a groundbreaking thing by accepting us. That was made very clear,” she said.

When classes started, she found that no men would even greet her, except for a few fellow Swarthmore graduates and one professor. “Nobody else, literally,” she said. “It was like living on an island by yourself. … They didn’t want women.” Trudy doesn’t remember ever interacting with her fellow female students. She lived alone, sharing a hallway and bathroom with an architecture student. “We exchanged a few words every day,” she recalled. “And that exchange was very important to me because otherwise nobody was talking to me.” Even her professors ignored her, she felt.

Her first job as a lawyer was with a legal services firm, working on its family law cases. She later opened her own practice for low-income clients—handling everything from family law matters to misdemeanor defense. She also represented minors needing approval for abortions, pro bono, and helped women fleeing domestic violence obtain court orders. But she wasn’t able to make enough to even cover malpractice insurance and had to close after a year.

She spent the next decade working for the Disability Rights Center of New Hampshire. While there, she filed an amicus brief with the New Hampshire Supreme Court in defense of a man who was convicted of a crime for having sex with a mentally disabled person under what she believed to be a discriminatory statute. The court agreed with Trudy and ruled that a person with a disability who is genuinely able to consent to sex can do so. Another time, she resolved a case involving two deaf parents and helped spare them from losing custody of their children. “I don’t think anyone would account for my life in terms of major legal successes because of the kinds of clients I had, and the kinds of issues we had,” she said. But she took pride in her “good legal imagination.” 

Her list of championed causes grew long over the decades. She campaigned to end the death penalty in New Hampshire, pushed to have her Unitarian Universalist church convert to solar power, and lobbied for legislative relief to undocumented immigrants. For five years, she supported a family from Bhutan as they transitioned to American life and used her legal training to draft a manual for other volunteers to do the same. The manual remains the one relied on by the church for its refugee program today. In 2018, at age 83, Trudy was arrested for participating in a die-in with the Poor People’s Campaign in New Hampshire. “Overall, it seems to me that the things I’ve done that I’m proudest of have not necessarily always been part of my work as a lawyer,” she said.

Marilyn G. Rose, 1934–2011

 “She had a real passion for serving the underprivileged,” her stepson Tim Childers said. “It was so much a part of her nature.” As a lawyer, she successfully argued a case that redefined how low-income people and people of color across the country could access health care, and its logic undergirds the entire health care law reform movement.

Marilyn never complained to her husband or stepchildren about her experience at Harvard. If anything, Tim and Teresa recall, she seemed to have thrived there. But it was also one of the first places she started advocating for systemic change—in her second year, she was denied membership in Harvard’s all-male public defenders program because women could not be sent to jails to interview male defendants. So she and fellow classmate Eleanor Voss publicly lobbied to have women allowed into the program, arguing that even without access to jails, they could still do plenty of work. Marilyn didn’t end up benefiting from her crusade, but the program opened up to women the year she graduated.

According to her husband, Bobby, Marilyn graduated with honors and then watched male classmates with worse grades land jobs at firms that had rejected her. Some companies openly admitted that they didn’t hire women. So she “had to go work for the government, the only place that offered her a job,” Bobby said. After a stint at the National Labor Relations Board, she transitioned to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the United States Department of Health and Human Services). She found a comfortable fit in the Office for Civil Rights, where she helped desegregate hospitals and mental institutions.

Flora Schnall

After graduating, Flora remembers a frustrating string of interviews. “The only thing that kept me looking was that I knew that Ruth hadn’t gotten a job,” she said. “I felt if Ruth, who was first or second at law school, couldn’t get hired, I just had to keep looking.” Through connections, she landed a job as assistant counsel to Nelson A. Rockefeller when he was governor of New York. “It was just sheer luck,” she said. “I was the only woman in the office, and they wanted a woman in the office.” The job thrilled her. 

Betty Jean Shea, born 1934

Betty Jean was confident she would excel at Harvard, but since she had a friend who had been among an even earlier group of women there, she knew it wouldn’t be easy. “She said it was challenging, but she also said it’s sometimes fun to be the only girl there.” The experience could be fun, Betty Jean said, but for the most part she felt she was ignored by the professors, with the notable exception of Barton Leach and his “ladies’ day,” which left her feeling under attack. Her fellow students were no better, often asking her what she was doing there. “Young men would blithely ask that question to you directly,” she said. “I’d just say, ‘I’m interested in the law, and I couldn’t figure out a better place to go.’ ” She found solidarity with her roommates Flora Schnall and Carol Simon. “We could tell stories and laugh about a great many things that wouldn’t be so easy to laugh at if you didn’t have them with you,” she said. “It made it easier to take it less personally.”


Betty Jean’s first major job after graduation was as an attorney for the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, where she rubbed shoulders with influential New Yorkers. It was the best job she ever had, she said, but even there she faced discrimination: She said that she was hired by a man who felt “uncomfortable” hiring women and did so only to please his more progressive boss. She recalled that once, when attending a luncheon at the all-male New York Stock Exchange, she had to arrive through a freight elevator to a separate entrance, because the regular elevator was “for business, it was for men”—even though she was there to give a speech on a new regulation she had helped draft. Afterward, she called up the president of the New York Federal Reserve, whom she didn’t personally know, to complain. He promised not to send any more speakers to the exchange until they changed the policy. They did,


Alice Vogel Stroh, 1935–2007

Despite having excellent grades, Alice was rebuffed by almost all the firms she applied to. She eventually found an opportunity at the agrochemical company Monsanto, which at the time was looking to hire women. She landed a job in their legal department—one of just a few women at the time doing corporate litigation. She stayed for eight years.

She left the job after she got pregnant, but it’s unclear whether she quit or was simply taking her maternity leave. Her daughter was stillborn. A grieving Alice wrote to Monsanto, telling them she would “not have the joy of being a mother” and asking to return to her job. Monsanto had already filled the position with a man. “She was almost pleading for them to reconsider taking her back,” Elizabeth said. “She had worked so hard to get to where she was, but as soon as she stepped aside to have babies, then that door closed very quickly for her.” She adopted her first of two daughters that same year and left the legal profession to become a full-time mother.

Eleanor Voss, 1936–1958

On Nov. 13, 1958, Voss was riding as a passenger on a motorized scooter when it collided with a taxi cab in a Cambridge, Massachusetts, intersection, killing her. After her death, her friends and classmates from Goucher created a fund, the Eleanor Voss ’56 Fellowship, to send one graduating senior to law school each year. It continues today.

So many good reasons to volunteer or give money or both before November 3.   

Applying Factfulness To Why People Might Vote For Trump Part I

[I thought I would just take a few of the ideas from Rosling's book and them apply them to Trump supporters to see why he still has so many.  But as I started making the list, I realized that so many of the obstacles to good decisions he mentions are relevant.  And because the book has great end of chapter summaries, it's easy to give an outline (though that leaves out most of the examples that help readers understand the points.)  So I'm adding this note on top to say, this post will outline those key points I wanted and I'll do a follow up post applying them to our current political situation.  As I went through them again, I realized they also illustrate problems among those opposing Trump as well.  And I recommend going to the links - particularly to the fact test and to lgapfinder.]

Factfulness::  Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World - and Why Things Are Better Than You Think  by Hans Rosling, starts out with a self test on facts about how the world is doing, which you can take here.  The first question is:

1. In all low-income countries across the world today, how many girls finish primary


 a.  20%

 b.  40%

 c.  60%

In the book he relates the many different places he's given the test - to college students, business people, bankers, doctors, heads of international organizations, Nobel Prize winners, etc.  All the groups, he tells us, scored worse than chimpanzees.  (Who randomly choosing one of three options would get 33% right.)

The questions all relate to how human beings are doing around the world.  He argues they are doing much better than most people think.  And everyone in the West, he argues, think everything is getting worse, because we have mental models of "US" and "THEM" - US being being relatively rich (mostly) Western societies and THEM being the poor starving masses in the rest of the world who will never, ever be able to catch up to how we live in the West.  

Reality, he argues, is much different.  Rather than US and THEM with a giant unbridgeable gap between the two, he presents us with a different model.  One without a gap.  Instead, he says there is US which he calls (income) Level 4, then Level 3, Level 2, and finally THEM in Level 1.  The gap is filled with five billion people.  Levels 1 and 4 have one billion each.  So, most people are in that gap most people mistakenly see.  In fact, the website he and his co-authors (his son and daughter-in-law) set up to present the data they use to convince people their world views are wrong, is called Gapminder.  (Any one who's ridden a subway in Britain or a relatively recent British colony will hear in their heads the warning "Mind the Gap")  

Here's how he describes the levels:

Level 1 - making $1 a day
Five kids, spend hours/day walking barefoot to get water with the single family bucket.  They gather firewood for cooking, little or no access to medical care, the same porridge for every meal. (1 billion people)

Level 2 - making $4 a day
Buy food you didn't grow, raise chickens, sandals for kids, bike, more buckets, less time getting water, gas for cooking, kids can go to school instead of finding firewood. Electricity, but not reliable. Mattress to sleep on. (3 billion people)

Level 3 - $16 from multiple jobs.  Cold water tap. Stable electricity improves kids' homework.  Buys fridge, motorcycle, can travel to better paying job.  (2 billion people)

Level 4 - >$33 a day
Rich consumer.  >12 years education.  You've been on an airplane on vacation.  Hot and cold indoor water.  Can eat out once a month and buy a car.  (1 billion people)

At the Gapminder website on Dollar Street you can see pictures of families at all four levels (it seems that each column is a level) in different countries.  And, of course, you'll notice that there are people living at all four levels in most countries.  

Most of the book talks about why people are so misinformed about facts about the world and how to counteract them.  We have a number of built in human instincts that might have been useful to human beings tens of thousands of years ago, but today can get us into trouble.  We have to learn to control them.  

The Gap Instinct - The tendency to polarize things, to see an unbridgeable gap between rich and poor, them and us.  Remember to:
  • Beware comparisons of averages
  • Beware of comparisons of extremes
  • The view from up here - Things are distorted (as the view from Level 4)

The Negativity Instinct - tendency to see and report on the bad things that happen, not the good.  Remember:
  • Better and bad - things can be getting better and still be bad, it's not either/or
  • Good news is not news - doesn't get reported the way bad news does
  • Gradual improvement is not news - slowly improving conditions aren't newsworthy
  • More news doesn't equal more suffering - often bad news due to better surveillance of suffering, not a worsening.  Our news and social media bring us lots of bad news
  • Beware of rosy pasts - The good old days are much better in hindsight than we people lived them
The Straight Line Instinct  - this is seeing a trend and assuming it will always be that way.  Remember to:
  • Not assume straight lines - many trends are not straight lines but are curves.  We may be only looking at a short part of the line.  (He talks about various trends, but about population particularly for this one.  He argues that as people improve their wealth and move up to a higher level, they have fewer children and that all the population experts agree that at about 11 billion people the world population will level off.  
The Fear Instinct - Frightening things get our attention.  Our natural fears of violence, captivity, and contamination make us systematically overestimate these risks.  To control the fear instinct, calculate the risks.
  • The scary world:  fear v reality - the world seems scarier than it is because it has been filtered by your attention filter or by the media precisely because it is scary
  • Risk=danger x exposure - The risk is not related to how scary something is, but by a) how dangerous it is and b) how much you're exposed to it 
The Size Instinct - Lonely numbers seem impressive (large or small).  How to get things into proportion:
  • Compare - Single numbers alone are misleading.  Look for comparisons (with past numbers, numbers in other locations, etc.)  
  • 80/20 Rule - Generally, a few things account for most of the impact.  Figure out the 20% that's most important
  • Divide - Amounts and Rates tell different stories.  Comparing countries, say, the numbers are misleading.  Look for rates per person instead.  
The Generalization Instinct - Categorization is necessary to survive, but categories can be misleading.  We have to avoid generalizing incorrectly.
  • Look for differences within groups - find ways to break them down into smaller and smaller categories
  • Look for similarities across groups - and ask if your categories are correct
  • Look for differences across groups - do not assume what applies to one group applies to another (what applies to Level 4, for example, applies to other Levels)
  • Beware of "the majority" - Majority just means more than half, there's another 49%
  • Beware of vivid examples - Vivid images are easy to recall, but they may not be representative
  • Assume people are not idiots - When things seem strange, be curious and humble and think.  In what way is this a smart solution?
The Destiny Instinct - Many things (such as people, countries, religion, and cultures) appear to be moving in a constant direction because the change is so slow, but slow changes gradually become big ones.  
  • Keep track of gradual Improvements - small change every year can become a huge change over decades.
  • Update your knowledge - Some knowledge goes out of date quickly.  Technology, countries, societies, cultures, and religions are constantly changing.
  • Talk to Grandpa - think about your values are different from those of your grandparents
  • Collect examples of cultural change - Challenge the idea that today's culture must also have been yesterday's and will be tomorrow's.

The Single Perspective Instinct - A single perspective can limit your imagination, better to look at problems from many angles to get a more accurate understanding.
  • Test your ideas - Have people who disagree with you test your ideas
  • Limited expertise - Don't claim expertise beyond your field.  Be humble about what you don't know.
  • Hammers and Nails - From the saying: "If you give a young child a hammer, he will think everything needs pounding."  If you get good with a tool don't use it too often.  If you have analyzed a problem in depth, you can end up exaggerating its importance.  No one tool is good for everything.  Be open to ideas from other fields.
  • Numbers, but not only numbers -  Love numbers for what they tell you about real lives.
  • Beware of simple ideas and simple solutions - History is full of visionaries who used simple utopian visions to justify terrible actions.  Welcome complications.
The Blame Instinct - He told a story in this chapter about a problem with a pharmaceutical company for not looking for solutions to poor people's diseases.  A student of his suggested someone should punch the CEO in the nose.  He replied, I will see him next week, but if I did that would it solve the problem?  He answers to the board.  Should I punch them in the nose too?  They answer to shareholders who want profits.  Should I go after the shareholders?  Retirement funds hold lots of pharmaceutical stocks that help pay pensions for old folks.  When you see your grandfather next week, maybe you should punch him in the nose.  The desire to find a scapegoat is universal, but things are more complicated.  
  • Look for causes, not villains - spend your energy on understanding the multiple interacting causes, or system, that created the situation.
  • Look for systems, not heroes.  When someone claims to have caused something good, ask whether the outcome might have happened anyway, even if that individual had done nothing.  Give the systems the credit.
The Urgency Instinct - When often rush decisions because of a perceived, but not necessarily true, urgency.  Control this by taking small steps.
  • Take a breath - When your urgency instinct is triggered, your other instincts kick in and your analysis shuts down.  Ask for more time and information.  It's rarely now or never and rarely either/or.
  • Insist on the data - If something is urgent and important, it should be measured.  Beware of relevant but inaccurate data
  • Beware of fortune tellers - Any prediction about the future is uncertain.  Beware of of predictions that fail to acknowledge that.  Ask how often such predictions have been right before.
  • Be wary of drastic action - Ask what the side effects will be.  Ask how the idea has been tested.  Step-by-step practical improvements are less dramatic but usually more effective.

I'll put a link to Part II here when it's ready, but I'm guessing that readers can start applying these instincts to both Trump supporters and opponents.  

Friday, September 18, 2020

Happy New Year

The Jewish New Year begins at sunset this evening.  The passing or Ruth Bader Ginsburg makes it bitter sweet as we mourn her, and ask forgiveness from those we have done wrong.  The next ten days, according to Jewish tradition, is when people's fates for the next year are written.  

Unlike most years, it's a small intimate table for two, though we'll do the initial blessings via zoom with friends and then join services via zoom a little later. Shana Tova.  Happy New Year to all.  May we be able to come together again sometime in the next year.  While it will be 2021 on the Western calendar, we move into 5781 on the Jewish calendar tonight.  

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Bev Beeton, I'm Glad I Got To Know You

 The Anchorage Daily News has an obituary for Beverly Beeton this week.  

I was a faculty member at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) when Dr. Beeton became Provost.  She was a formidable presence.  My description of her at the time was something like this:

"I've never seen her wearing less than $1000, and she speaks like Katherine Hepburn.  Does anybody speak like that naturally?"

My sense was that Dr. Beeton had a one hell of a facade, one that had been carefully developed.  I made a goal of finding the human being behind that facade.  It wasn't a high priority, more like a curiousness.  

One day the opportunity came.  I was chosen to chair the committee that nominated the people who would get honorary degrees.  And Dr. Beeton, as Provost, oversaw that committee.  She invited me out to lunch to talk about how the committee would work.  

A couple of years before that (my dates are a little fuzzy, but it was close to that time) I had gotten a grant to create a class that would focus on women in public administration.  The proposal was to get five prominent women public administrators and give them the freedom to design a class to "pass on the wisdom of women administrators."  We had three women who had been state commissioners, one Native Alaskan woman leader, and a Superior Court judge (who eventually would become an Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice.)  They were given the freedom to design the class and Arlene Kuhner, an incredible English professor, and I would figure out the mechanics of making it work.  

The structure they gave us was a panel of women administrators each week addressing a different topic with lots of time for Q&A. They invited the women administrators and set up the subject, Arlene and I took care of all the academic work, though the five women, if I recall right, got to see some of the work the students did.   It was a great class and I learned a lot.  I recall one of my students, a man from China, telling me afterwards how impressed he was that all these women were so smart and capable and how it made him realize how China was wasting so half its human resources by not giving women equal access to important positions.  

So, at the lunch,  after discussing the committee work, I mentioned the class and how it had been run as a lead in to this question:  "You're the most senior woman administrator at the university (this was before we had any women Chancellors).  You must feel somewhat isolated."  The ice was broken and from then on we had an entirely different relationship.  We talked about that isolation, about the problems of sex discrimination, and lots of other administrative issues.  

I remember one time she told me that she wanted to set up a more objective evaluation system where administrators and faculty would have to develop measurable outcomes.  That was something I had my graduate students do for their jobs in one of my classes.  But I always told my students that it was useful for them to do for their own jobs, but it was impossible to do really well. And it was easy to misuse the results of such measurements.  Especially if someone just focused on the numbers and not the context of the numbers.  There are just too many important, but hard to measure aspects of their jobs. 

My response to Bev (by then she was Bev to me) was that it was a difficult but interesting exercise and suggested that she set up an example of how to do it for her own job as Provost.  Her response was, "My job is just too variable and complex to be able to do that."  My response was, "That's what every other administrator and faculty member will say.  If you can't do it for your own job, then it doesn't seem fair to ask others to do it."  I never heard about that project again.  

But this started out being about getting past the facade and learning about the real human being inside.  After our first lunch and the committee meetings that followed, I was in her office for something and mentioned that my daughter, a Steller Alternative School student at the time, was taking a spring break hiking class in Utah.  I had resisted at first.  Why do Alaskan students need to go to Utah to go hiking?  Well, she countered, we're going to learn about Utah too.  I asked a colleague of mine who was from Utah for an assignment for her.  He suggested she read Wallace Stegner's Mormon Country.  She agreed she would. 

When I explained this to Bev, she really opened up.  She'd grown up in rural Utah in a not particularly academic setting.  She felt very much like she didn't belong there.  She really wanted to get out of Utah, as far away as possible.  She was even a fashion model in New York, I think, for a while - which began to explain her very un-Alaskan high style way of dressing.  She got herself through school.  But essentially became as different a person as she could.  And once I got past that facade, I got to meet a very warm, accomplished, and charming woman.  

We didn't become the kind of friends who see each other out of work  - though I did run into her once on a garden tour.  We didn't have a lot of opportunities to talk about non-university issues.  I only learned from the obituary, for example, that she'd been married twice and had children but we were allies of a sort who liked each other at the University.  

One other observation.  Bev was a smoker.  When the university banned smoking indoors, small knots of people could be seen huddled outdoors in the dead of winter, smoking.  It created a cohort group of people from various parts of the university hierarchy who had smoking in common.  Their basic connection was that they were smokers, but they got to develop other things they had in common as well.  

I haven't seen Bev in years, but my world is poorer knowing she is no longer with us.  

This wandered a bit.  It's memories, not an academic paper.  It is a reminder that there is a human being inside all the people around you.  A person who is hidden behind whatever facade they've intentionally or unintentionally formed.  Try to talk to the human being - especially in these days of high conflict - instead of just to the facade.  

Sunday, September 13, 2020

"What's the point of living . . ."

 Here are a some pictures from recent bike rides.  

This is a tunnel under a road I go on my main bike ride.  As I ride into the dark it takes a second for 
for my eyes to adjust and I have to be careful because sometimes there's someone sleeping in there.  The first graffiti, if it's hard to read, says, "What's the point of living if there isn't any fun?"  The second one says "I don't want to die without any scars."   (You can click on the image to enlarge it.)

Goose Lake, from this point, changes every day.  

Across the parking lot from Goose Lake is a ball field.  This morning as I came by people were carrying their folding chairs for what looked like church services.  They seemed to be sitting distanced, but I didn't really want to get closer to find out details or check on how many had masks.  

After I got home I made the frittata and as I sliced the mushroom, I loved the pattern.  

There's so much to write about, but I don't seem to have the time to say something that hasn't already been said.  This sort of post is probably better for people's mental health anyway.  

Friday, September 11, 2020

Why The Emirates and Bahrain Are Recognizing Israel? Seth Abramson Outlines Red Sea Meeting in 2015 To Coopt Trump

Today it was announced that Israel and Bahrain have agreed to diplomatic ties.  This follows a similar recent arrangement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates.  

I'm sure these deals are happening now, shortly before the election to spruce up Trump's diplomatic victories.  But Seth Abramson has outline a well documented story of how Trump  is being played by those countries rather than Trump arranging these deals.  

So here are a few quotes from Seth Abramson's book, Proof of Conspiracy which begins with this chapter summary:

"In late 2015, after Donald Trump has formally announced his candidacy for president, a geopolitical conspiracy emerges overseas whose key participants are the leaders of Russia, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt.  These six men decide that Trump is the antidote to their ills:  for Russia, U.S sanctions;  for Israel, the lack of Arab allies;  for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt, perceived threats emanating from Iran.  The conspirators commit themselves to doing what is necessary to ensure that Trump is elected.  Trump's presidential campaign is aware of and benefits from this conspiracy both before and after the 2016 election." (p. 1)

Here's a bit more from page 2:

The story of the Red Sea Conspiracy begins with a man named George Nader.  As reported by Hearst in the Middle East Eye, toward the end of 2015 Nader - then an adviser to the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zaey al-Nahyan (know as "MBZ") - convened, with his patron's permission, a summit of some of the Middle East's most powerful leaders.4  Gathered on a boat in the Red Sea in the fall of 2015 were Mohammed bin Salman (known as "MBS:), deputy crown prince of Saudi Arabia, who would shortly become the heir apparent to the throne of the Saudi Kingdom;  MBZ himself, by 2015 the de facto ruler of the Unite Arab Emirates;  Abdel Fattah el Sisi, the president of Egypt;  Prince Salman bin Hamad, the crown prince of Bahrain; and King abdullah II of Jordan.  Nader, the improbable maestro of these rulers' clandestine get-together, intended the plan he posed to the men to include the nation of Libya, but no representative from that nation attended the gathering.5 (p.2) 

The intent of MBZ and MBS according to Abramson (and all the claims he makes are well footnoted with reports from various public sources) is to rearrange the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) by replacing Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar with Egypt, Jordan, and Libya,  This would eliminate its association with the Persian Gulf and

"remaking it as, instead, an alliance constituting 'an elite regional group of six countries, which would supplant  [the GCC and] . . .form the nucleus of [a coalition of] pro-U.S. and pro-Israeli states' in the Middle East.9" (p.3) 

 The intent is a Middle East force that would support the US and be a force against the influence of Turkey and Iran.  Libya and Jordan do not end up in this group.

The chapter, in fact the book, goes on to fill in lots of the details of how this took place and how the Trump administration was involved.  

"According to an opinion piece in the Washington Post, 'If you're the Saudis, the nice thing about Trump is that he lacks any subtlety whatsoever, so you don't have to wonder how to approach him.  He has said explicitly that the way to win his favor is to give him money.  He has established means for you do do so - buying Trump properties and staying in Trump hotels.' 39 (p.8)

"...Trump's financial history with the nations of the Red Sea Conspiracy, as well as the two nations the conspirators seek to improve relations with, Israel and Russia, is long and illustrious.  Trump has properties or other assets in two former Soviet republics, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Israel, and Egypt;  he therefore maintains financial ties to three of the four nations involved in the conspiracy and one that stands to directly benefit from its successes."41 (p.9)

Abrahams suggests this is a strong reason for Trump's resistance to releasing his income taxes.  

Part of chapter one is a biography of George Nader - who organized the "Red Sea Summit" and was a key witness in the Mueller investigation and was arrested in 2018 on child pornography charges and was convicted in 2020.

At the end of the chapter Abramson outlines the goals of the 

"Red Sea Conspiracy, variously referred to by its participants and in the media as the 'grand bargain' or the 'Middle East Marshall Plan."

The hope was to a) elect Trump who would then  b) drop sanctions against Russia who would then c) withdraw support for Iran and Syria.  Abramson then lists the post-bargain expectations:

  1. Isolate US allies Turkey and Qatar (where news media Al Jazeera is based) from the US
  2. Get US assistance against Iran and help Saudi Arabia and UAE become nuclear powers
  3. Get US and Russia to do massive infrastructure development in Middle East and deflect from Israeli-Palestinian debate
  4. Establish pro-Israeli, pro-US military alignments with Sunni Arabs 
  5. Suppression of pro-democracy forces in and out of the US in the face of growing autocracy in Israel and US Arab allies - Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Egypt

Lots of Trump's policies and actions - ignoring the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, scuttling the Iran nuclear deal, moving the US embassy to Jerusalem, the obsequious treatment of Putin, pulling out of Syria - are all consistent with this narrative.  

I have no connection with Abramson other than following him on Twitter and having read the first two books in his Proof series:  Proof of Collusion and Proof of Conspiracy.  Both were like in-depth Cliff-Notes on all the scandals surrounding the Trump presidency.  Detailed descriptions of the characters whose names - like George Nader - show up briefly in the headlines then are quickly forgotten as new names replace theirs.  The books also detail the complicated stories of connections and money that the news media only skim the surface of and most Americans are too distracted to study enough to comprehend.  

I would also note that Proof of Conspiracy has so many endnotes that the publisher left them out of the book and set up a website where readers can get to them.  Without the footnotes the book is 569 pages.  So, I've left the endnotes in the quotations and you can look them up at the link.

I wasn't planning on this post, but with both United Arab Emirates and Bahrain announcing diplomatic relations with Israel less than two months before the election, it seems important that Americans understand that Trump is the pawn here, not the chess master.  

I'd also note that Abramson's third book in the series, Proof of Corruption, just came out this week.  

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Mushrooms And The Buses - More Denali Pictures

 Here are some more pictures from Denali - the Alpine Trail and the Healy Overlook Trail.  

This was the Alpine trail.  Nature's a pretty good landscape artist.  

I'm not sure what these black mushrooms are, but they're pretty cool.  

I think these are puffballs.  

Ever since I read Richard Wright's  The Overstory, I realize that 'rotting' log just doesn't convey the process of giving back life that trees do after they die.  They're homes and food to untold species from small mammals, birds, and too many insects to even think about.  And then they give back all their nutrients and atoms for other trees and plants to use.  "Rot" has too negative an image.  And this is why we compost most of the food scraps from the kitchen.  Watching the compost heap full of scraps and leaves and other green plants slowly turn into rich compost - a factory of worms and all sorts of little critters - transforming the 'waste' into new plant food reminds me every year  that nature doesn't need humans to sustain the planet.  

Best as I can tell from my mushroom field guide is that these tan fungi poking up out of the ground like fingers are possibly strap coral mushrooms or pestle coral mushrooms.  

I just liked the look of this clump of tree trunks on the side of the trail.  

And when we got to a road we thought (correctly) was a shortcut to our car, we passed the bus lot.  It would appear that they are using a lot few buses this summer, even though they are only allowing half as many people on.  We had no interest at all on a bus ride with strangers for hours and hours.  But if this were my first and probably only trip ever to Denali National Park, I might have thought differently.  

There was another row of buses to the left and another to the right.  

Saturday, September 05, 2020

More Denali Pictures and Thoughts

You can drive into the park 12 miles to Savage River.  From there on you need to take the bus or get a special permit to drive.  At Savage River there's a wonderful 2 mile loop trail which I've posted about in the past.  While people stopped in the parking lot, relatively few went on the trail.  And only we had masks ready to pull up if people were nearby.  The first view is from the bridge looking southeast.

There are lots of rocky outcroppings along the trail.  

And lots of lichens.  

The trail comes along Savage River on one side for a mile.  Then you cross a bridge and come back the other side.  You can see the sun on the water despite the mostly cloudy day.  

The Alpine Trail starts near the Savage River campground, and if you take the whole trail, gets you to the Savage River Trail parking lot where the pictures above are from.  We started on the Alpine Trail once and got a ways in, but turned back.  Then we went to where it ends and watched a mother bear and several cubs go up the trail we would have been arriving on had we continued the hike.  

The Alpine Trail is  lovely with totally different terrain and vegetation from the nearby Savage River trail.  Here's a tiny waterfall in the creek you go by.  

And this is from the road driving back to Riley Creek Campground.  This is an example of why you may easily miss the wildlife around you.  There is a herd of caribou in this picture.  No, don't even try.  I could barely spot them in the original higher resolution version of this picture and I knew where to look.  We found them the most common way to see wildlife - see other people looking through binoculars out into the distance.  It took a while with my binoculars until I saw them.  They were the only large animals we saw.  And a ground squirrel and a bunch of tree squirrels.  There was also a golden eagle flying around at this spot.  

Despite the forecast of rain, we had a rainless Wednesday and the sun was making its location known through the clouds enough that we could see our shadows most of the time.  It was a fine day and the campfire at the end led to a delicious meal.  

I look at this picture and it's hard to believe we've had this van since 1998.  It replaced the one we'd originally bought in 1971 after we got married and honeymooned on a road trip from LA to the Great Slave Lake in the Canadian New Territories.  Followed by a summer trip to Mexico, British Honduras, and Guatemala the next summer.  Then we had kids  and didn't take a long trip until we drove up to Alaska.  I remember when we finally sold the first one after 24 years (and my mechanic telling me the holes in the floor couldn't really be repaired), that my son told me that he and his sister got worried.  After all, we'd had the car longer than we'd had them and they were concerned we might get rid of them next.  We finally got new sleeping bags last year, but we still have some stools and a hatchet that were in the original van.  (As I write that I realize they're in the picture.)

And I'd also like to compliment the folks who designed the Riley Creek campgrounds.  The spots of the cars and tents had absolutely no mud even though it had rained a lot before we got there.  And you're a very good COVID distance from the other sites.  Though you have to go into the Mercantile (a small grocery there) to claim your reserved campsite.  But the visitor center is closed.  There are two masked rangers behind plexiglas barriers giving information to tourists, many of whom were not wearing masks.  This was really the most contact with others since early March and only our second outing.  And we only did this to let the carpet guy install our carpet that came last fall, but they held up installing until the kitchen floor was put in.  But the bamboo flooring didn't come til really late.  It got in, but there wasn't time to put in the carpet.  So our life has been on hold to a certain extent since last fall when we started putting as much stuff as we could downstairs so we could clear the upstairs.  Then the virus hit and I didn't want anyone spending a couple of days in the house.  

But we've had time to learn more about how the virus spreads and other friends have had workers in to do things with no bad consequences.  So we decided on the Denali trip to be out of the house while the carpet went in.  But the carpet installer had a longer estimate for the work than the salesman.  So only the living room and the hall were done, not the upstairs bedrooms.  But I'm delighted that this got us up to Denali.  And the carpet looks great and we're going to be very careful about what comes back upstairs and what gets given away or tossed.  

Friday, September 04, 2020

Great Short Denali Trip - Brief Intro

 Left Anchorage Wednesday to let the carpet guy install some carpet that's been long delayed for various reasons and then COVID.  Decided he could do it while we were gone.  Forecast was for rain and we had rain on and off on the road up.  

But as we pulled into our campsite the sun came out.  It was cloudy all day Thursday, but no rain, and the sun was visible thru the clouds most of the time.  Here's a view from yesterday.

It rained during the night but it stopped this morning and we're just back from a hike.  Going to head home.  This is just an appetizer.