Wednesday, September 20, 2017

1. Bird House 2. Northern Lights Inn Is Out

1.  I didn't realize that the bird was INSIDE the window until J pointed that out.



It was a black capped chickadee and it was trying to figure out how to get out to those trees.  I did wonder how it was sitting on the glass like that.  But it wasn't.  We have shades that you can pull up from the bottom or down from the top.  If down from the top, there are cords which I can't even see in the photo.  It was holding on to that.  

It didn't panic when I went toward the window.  It just flew to a nearby lamp.  I closed the shades and we opened the sliding glass door to the deck and it found it's way out quickly.

2.  I had a chance last night to take a picture of the lot that used to house the old Northern Lights Inn. It's totally gone now.


The four or five story structure has stood there empty since 2002 according to this ADN story from last October. (It has pictures too)  It went down sometime last month.   It seems like the building has been empty for much longer than 15 years.  Builders complain about no available land in the Anchorage bowl.  But places like this remind us it's there.  But the owners aren't ready to do anything with it.






Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Trump Threatens To Kill (At Least) 25.3 Million People

[Note to Readers:  This was meant to be a short response to Trump's comment at the UN this morning about destroying North Korea.  But as I read the whole speech, (which you can read here) I realized that there was a lot more to it than just that comment.  Though that comment certainly stands out.  Analyzing the whole talk is worthwhile.  My initial reaction is: 

  • There are a lot of worthwhile aspirational ideals
  • There are lots of contradictions between those ideals in some places and what he says in other places.
  • There is nothing particularly thoughtful or detailed.  
  • There are some parts that might be revealing of how Trump thinks about the world (though I suspect he tends to 'feel' rather than 'think')
When I tried to find some factual reference for the consequences of the US attacking North Korea, I found a long New Yorker article dated yesterday by Evan Osnos who was in North Korea in August.  The article itself offers a lot of context for North Korea's behavior, for our (mis)interpretations or them and theirs of us.  

So I'm going to stick to the comment on destroying North Korea in this post, recommend the New Yorker  article to readers, and maybe be able to review the speech and the article in separate posts.]

Post starts here:

Trump doesn't exactly say he's ready to kill 25.3 million people.  I doubt he has any idea of the population of North Korea or has visualized what his threat would mean. Here's what he actually said:
"The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime. The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary. That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for. Let’s see how they do."
There are SO MANY different angles one could (and should) address this.  I'm just going to look at the implications of "totally destroying North Korea."  

1.  North Korea had 25.37 million people in 2016.  But experts argue that an attack on North Korea cannot be undertaken without North Korea also attacking South Korea, whose population was estimated to be 51 million in 2016.  

From a long New Yorker article by Evan Osnos, dated September 18, 2017: 
"The Obama Administration studied the potential costs and benefits of a preventive war intended to destroy North Korea’s nuclear weapons. Its conclusion, according to Rice, in the Times, was that it would be “lunacy,” resulting in “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of casualties.” North Korea likely would retaliate with an attack on Seoul. The North has positioned thousands of artillery cannons and rocket launchers in range of the South Korean capital, which has a population of ten million, and other densely populated areas. (Despite domestic pressure to avoid confrontation, South Korea’s President, Moon Jae-in, has accepted the installation of an American missile-defense system called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense, or thaad.)
Some two hundred thousand Americans live in South Korea. (Forty thousand U.S. military personnel are stationed in Japan, which would also be vulnerable.) A 2012 study of the risks of a North Korean attack on Seoul, by the Nautilus Institute for Security and Sustainability, estimates that sixty-five thousand civilians would die on the first day, and tens of thousands more in the days that followed. If Kim used his stockpiles of sarin gas and biological weapons, the toll would reach the millions. U.S. and South Korean forces could eventually overwhelm the North Korean military, but, by any measure, the conflict would yield one of the worst mass killings in the modern age."
Were Trump to really attempt to 'totally destroy North Korea' he would find himself moved high onto the top ten list of the world's mass murderers - along with Stalin, Hitler, and Mao.

There are many ways one can look at this statement.

  • Is it just bluster?  
  • What kind of language is appropriate in the UN?  
  • How will the UN members react?
  • How will North Korea react?
  • Does Trump's behavior give license to others to act badly?


All of these could be discussed seriously.


  • Are there times when bluster is appropriate and inappropriate.  One could argue that Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump might have a lot of similarities and thus can understand each other's bluster.  But that's open to a lot of debate.  
  • One could argue that the UN is overly stuffy and people say what's polite and never confront serious issues and thus some bluster is needed to shake the place up.  I think that might be true on some issues, but frank talk does not equal bluster.  
  • Maybe, as the rest of the paragraph suggests, this 'totally destroy' language is simply to provoke the UN to do its job of ensuring peace.  


I would note that Kim Jong Un might rather like the nickname "Rocket Man."  From the New Yorker  article:
"On an embankment near a major intersection, workers in gray coveralls were installing an enormous red sign that praised the 'immortal achievements of the esteemed Supreme Leader, comrade Kim Jong Un, who built the nuclear state of Juche, the leader in rocket power!'”

Go read the New Yorker article, it's got much more meat than I can add here.  

Monday, September 18, 2017

Sanctuary State - Why It's Harder For Trump To Dominate US Than It Was For Hitler To Dominate Germany


Back in February I did a post called Structural Difference Between US and 1930's Germany That Makes It Harder For Trump which recalled the lessons I learned from my mother who grew up in Nazi Germany and how that helped me see, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Thailand, the stark differences between a centralized national bureaucracy and one where each state had significant independence from the capital.

Screenshot LA Times 9/17/17



Yesterday I was reminded of that lesson once again when I saw this headline for an LA Times story:  State to become a 'sanctuary'.




In a centralized bureaucracy like they had in Nazi Germany or have in Thailand, all government is controlled out of Berlin or Bangkok - education, police, health, everything.

But in the US the federal government is in charge of certain things and states have the power over everything else.  The Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution:

"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
(Article 1 of the Constitution which enumerates the federal powers is not nearly as brief.)


Some of that state independence has eroded as Congress has, over the years, tied federal funding to compliance with the federal mandates.

But individual states, police departments, school districts, can risk the funding if they object strongly enough to the federal demands.  They can, essentially, tell the feds to go to hell.   In this sanctuary case they are telling state employees not to enforce (partially at least*) immigration laws because those are federal, not state, responsibilities.  And in this sanctuary case, it appears that so far, the courts have agreed with the states that the feds can't withhold federal funding to sanctuary cities.  (That's also mentioned in the LA Times story.)

Of course, states rights are a good thing when they protect what you feel is important, but not when they protect things to which you object.  The rights of African-Americans were horrendously violated in the post-civil war south through to Jim Crow and even after the civil rights acts of 1964, on the grounds of 'states rights.'  And the states that have legalized marijuana are improvising a tricky dance with the feds around conflicting laws.

But I'm pleased to see how many Americans are standing up for the rights of immigrants, particularly the DACA folks.  We've come a long way since Japanese-Americans, including US citizens, were incarcerated during WW II, with very little objection from the rest of the population.


*The new sanctuary law in California, the article tells us, does allow some cooperation, mainly regarding immigrants with criminal violations.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Having Trouble Figuring Out What's Politically Correct And What's Just Correct?

I don't see much difference in concept among these events.  But some have been called politically correct while others aren't.  Can you guess which of these events have been labeled 'politically correct' and which ones haven't?



The only distinction I can see is if the action is taken by liberals, it's political correctness.  If by conservatives it's not.

Which just helps demonstrate what I've said all along - political correctness is when someone behaves  a certain way so as not to rile the powers that be.  But the Right has done its PR magic to make it seem that only the Left is politically correct.  When the Right does this, it's just the right thing to do.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Turntable's Working Right Again Thanks To Old Fashioned Craftsman

The turntable is old.  From the sixties, and it had a serious problem:  the arm didn't lift high enough when the record was finished and it scratched its way back.  The only way I could safely listen to a record was to be careful to catch the arm when the record was done.  You know I'm going to miss my cue now and then.

I'm listing to Aftermath as I write this thanks to Jan Ok Han who runs Sunset Service out of his house.  I got his name from Obsession Records a while ago and I finally called him a couple of weeks ago.  He repairs electronic equipment, like turntables, and he also teaches guitar.  When I dropped the turntable off we had a wide-ranging conversation that included a history lesson on Korea and Japan and information on classical guitar in Anchorage.  That's what I meant in the title about old-fashioned techie.  

There are folks at Best Buy or the Apple store who will take time to talk to you about your computer or camera, but Mr. Han is really an artist who takes great interest in and care of items he works on.  He explained to me in detail what he was going to do and today, what he did.  No giant corporation is tracking data in this transaction.  This is an interaction of love (of what he's doing) and trust between the customer and the  craftsman.  There's both the time and interest for there to be a human interaction rather than just a commercial one.  



Here he's showing me his own guitar which he repaired.  He was showing me how the finish where he repaired the hole wasn't perfect.  It was hard to tell.  He doesn't repair guitars for others now.  This one took too long to do for a customer he said.  

David Oistrahk is playing Prokofiev now.  It reminds me of an incredible concert I went to in Florence the year I was a student in Germany.  Oistrakh was magnificent.  There was a standing ovation at the end, but most of the people left.  There were maybe 40 people left in the audience, yet he played another encore.  It was one of those concert experiences when you leave your body and fly with the music.  

Thanks Han for the pleasure of meeting you, for fixing my turntable, and reconnecting me with Oistrahk right now.  

Friday, September 15, 2017

For Something Totally Different - Casting Out Nines

My son-in-law sent me this video.  It's always cool to learn new tricks, especially when they are 'simple.'  I've put quotes around that because this trick is simple up to a point.  The practical part.  The explanation of why it works might need a couple of reviews to catch.

Trust me here and just start watching this.  If you don't like it, just stop.  But you won't stop if you have any curiosity at all.



He does say that people used this trick back in the old days, before calculators. Well, I learned arithmetic before there were cheap, readily available handheld calculators, and I don't remember anyone ever mentioning this.

He explains why the nines don't matter by giving the example of there being seven days in the week so the sevens don't matter.  But he doesn't exactly say that we're just using nine digits (which I guess get us back to zero which also doesn't matter).  I'm assuming that's the link to seven days of the week.    Anyone know if that's right?

Also, anyone know where he comes from?  I'm assuming UK, but what part?  Listen to how he says Monday for example.  That must narrow it down for people who know British dialects.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vietnam War, Fiber Infrastructure, Chinese Language, Community Engagement

I was in meetings most of today and then went to see the Alaska Humanity Forum's preview of Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War.  We saw excerpts of each episode.  As someone who lived through that period, I didn't hear anything new.  There was discussion afterward.  But first AKHF director asked audience members who were veterans to stand.  Then those who were Vietnam veterans to stand.  Then those who had family members of friends who were veterans.  Then questions were asked - "Why did you come here tonight?" was the first one - and we were asked to discuss them with people nearby.  

I was struck, after watching the excerpts that covered soldiers from both sides as well as protesters, that people who protested the war weren't asked to stand.  And one of the audience did make that comment to the whole group.

The series will be worth watching when it comes on - not only for people who lived those years, but more so for those who only know the historical myths of that period.

But that's all excuse for why I haven't posted today and to explain why I'm taking the easy way out and letting you know about some talks coming up in the next few days at the UAA bookstore.
They are all free.
(There's free parking for these events in the parking lot near the bookstore.  And for people who can't make them, the videos will eventually be online, probably here.)


Thursday, September 14 from 5:00 pm-7:00 pm
Darrel Hess presents Leave It To Beaver, Cocaine & God: My Journey to Community Engagement

In  Leave It To Beaver, Cocaine & God: My Journey to Community Engagement Darrel Hess talks about growing up in the shadow of domestic violence, his arrest for selling cocaine to an undercover Alaska State Trooper, coming to terms with his sexual orientation, his relationship with God, and his struggles to find himself and his place in the world.
Today, Darrel Hess works as Anchorage’s Municipal Ombudsman and is a member of the Advisory Council for UAA’s Center for Community Engagement and Learning.   A pillar in the Anchorage community, Darrel Hess has served as Anchorage’s first Homeless Coordinator and was a member of the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission.  He has served on the board of Identity, Inc.  and is the recipient of the 2014 Alaska First Lady’s Volunteer of the Year Award.
Everyone is encouraged to welcome and meet the dedicated and amazing Darrel Hess. 
 
There is free parking for this event in the South Lot, Sports Complex NW Lot, West Campus Central Lot, and Sports Campus West Lot.

Friday, September 15 from 3:00 pm-5:00 pm
Dr. Shinian Wu presents Linguistic Challenges in Learning Chinese
Dr. Shinian Wu presents linguistic challenges and cultural congruence in learning Chinese as a second language. His talk will discuss contrasts between Chinese and English, how languages create socio-cognitive processes in language socialization.

 Dr. Shinian Wu. Professor of English and director of the graduate program in Applied Linguistics, English Department, Grand Valley State University, Michigan.
This event is sponsored with the UAA Confucius Institute. Everyone is welcomed to attend. There is free parking at UAA on Fridays.

 Saturday, September 16 from 1:00 pm-3:00 pm
Dr. Sebastian Neumayer presents Fiber Infrastructure and Natural Disasters
Dr. Sebastian Neumayer, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, UAA, shares his research on the effects of natural disasters on fiber infrastructure. While investigating the survivability of networks in the face of geographically correlated failures, he will discuss algorithms that identify the most vulnerable parts of real-world networks to large-scale disasters.
In addition to his academic research, Sebastian Neumayer will discuss The BTC Ring, an open-source Bitcoin project that integrates jewelry and digital assets. The BTC Ring can mitigate the risk that traditional jewelry has to loss and theft as well as can be used as an alternative to diamond engagement rings.
Everyone is invited to attend this fascinating event and learn how we can better prepare for "natural" environmental and emotional disasters.
There is free parking at UAA on Saturdays.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Falling - A Blue Bridge, Morning Nip, First Yellow Leaves, End of Summer Anchorage Botanical Garden

I woke up and looked out into the backyard.  The sun lit up a a section of yellow cottonwood leaves.  Fall's on the way.  But when I went back out later to catch it in my camera, the light had changed and it wasn't as obviously fall.

Here's a bridge I cross on my most common bike route.  The morning light, as the sun rises later and from a more southernly angle, isn't summer light any more.


OK, so it's not Amsterdam, but the bike rack was full when I visited the dermatologist this morning for a checkup.  It's been a while, but he didn't find anything of interest.



Then after a lunch with a friend, I went off to go home the long way.  I felt sluggish and the bike seemed  particularly clunky, but slowly I got into it and when I got to the cutoff where I had to decide to keep riding further or loop back home, I found myself going for the longer ride.





I turned around at the Campbell Airstrip trail head, but first went to the bridge and listened to the creek a while.  Here is the view from the bridge looking west.




And looking east.  There was a man sitting on a bench near the parking area with his little white dog and we chatted a bit.  He talked about dredging for gold near Nome.  There was a guy from Yugoslavia, he told me, who had a young son, maybe four or five.  One day the guy was going out on the water to dredge and asked the man to watch the boy.  They did some work in the sand and the boy was very helpful.  At the end of the day, he told the boy he worked so hard that he should pay him a dollar.  And the boy looked at him and held out two fingers.  Smart kid, he said.

Then I stopped at the botanical garden on my way home.  Here are some shots as most of the flowers are gone, but there still are many out.











I looked around for the sign that seemed to be connected to this pinkie. I just confirmed with google that this is the flower for that sign.  It's a filapendula Kahome or Meadowsweet.  From the Missouri Botanical Garden:
"Genus name comes from the Latin words filum meaning a thread and pendulus meaning hanging for the root tubers in some species that hang together with threads.
‘Kahome’ is a dwarf form of meadowsweet. It is an upright, clump-forming perennial that typically grows only 8-12” tall and features branched, terminal, astilbe-like panicles (corymbs) of tiny, fragrant, rosy pink flowers in summer. Compound-pinnate, bright green leaves (7-9 lance-shaped leaflets each) provide a fern-like appearance. This is a good foliage plant that is valued as much for its leaves as it is for its flowers."




This one's a Globe Thistle.


And here's a lily finishing out its life cycle.










And the seed pods of a peony.  












This is part of Lile's Garden.  It's a wonderful spot, though at first I was a bit conflicted.  Originally, the garden was dirt paths through the woods with an opening here and there with some planted things in amongst the natural Alaska landscape.  But the Alaska Botanical Garden has worked hard to be more than a bunch of volunteers putting some plots in the wilderness (quite literally.)  And this space is elegant and beautifully designed with a great array of plants and flowers.  Most things are gone now in early September.  I sat down on a bench.  It was cloudy, but felt comfortable enough to sit down and enjoy the garden.  I went to pull my book out of my backpack and that's when I discovered that I must have left it where we had lunch.

Now that I'm home, I checked a little more on this serene (I just saw that ABG uses the same word, so it must be true, right?) spot.  From the Alaska Botanical Garden website:
"Lile’s Garden
This peaceful and serene garden is named in honor of Lile Bernard Rasmuson. Recently completed, it was designed by renowned landscape  architect, Carol R. Johnson, in conjunction with local firm, Earthscape. Plantings and selections were guided by local artist and Garden Designer Ayse Gilbert. Fruit trees hardy to Southcentral Alaska are showcased  here, as well as a  “Gold Medal” Peony collection and Primula collection."
'Renowned landscape artist.'  So I checked on that too.  She's headquartered in Boston.   Check out what other things Carol R. Johnson's company has designed.  We're in good company.

Finally as I was leaving I was struck by the quiet beauty of this ornamental cabbage.



The Thai Kitchen had my book waiting for me.

Monday, September 11, 2017

"...when burdens like poll taxes and literacy tests were imposed on citizens and registering often required a trip to the local courthouse, voter turnout was far higher than it is now."

Here's the quote from the New York Times article:
"Mr. Gardner said he did not necessarily favor imposing new qualifications for registering and voting, but he added that when burdens like poll taxes and literacy tests were imposed on citizens and registering often required a trip to the local courthouse, voter turnout was far higher than it is now."
So who, you are asking, is Mr. Gardner?

He's the Democratic Secretary of State from New Hampshire (who is in charge of voting there) and he's on Trump's commission to investigate voter fraud.

There's lots more to this article, but lets just address this idea first.

When states had poll taxes and literacy tests (which the US Supreme Court at first ignored by ruling these issues  fell under states' rights, but eventually ruled unconstitutional), a relatively few people were actually allowed to vote.

So, yes, if you count 'turnout' as the percentage of people registered to vote who actually voted, turnout was probably pretty high.  But if you count the voting age population, most of whom were blocked from voting because of poll taxes and literacy tests, then actually, the turnout was dismally low.

Carol Anderson wrote in White Rage:
"1898 Williams v. Mississippi 
"the justices approve the use of the poll tax, which requires citizens to pay a fee - under a set of very arcane, complicated rules - to vote.  Although the discriminatory intent of the requirement was well known prior to the justices' ruling, the highest court in the land sanctioned this formidable barrier to the ballot box.  In fact, Justice Joseph McKenna quoted extensively from the Mississippi Supreme Court's candid admission that the state convention, 'restrained by the federal Constitution from discriminating against the negor race,' opted instead to find a method that 'discriminates against its [African Americans'] characteristics' - namely poverty, illiteracy, and more poverty." (p. 36)
 Anderson notes the impact of this decision.
"As late as 1942, for instance, only 3 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot in seven poll tax states." (p. 36)" [emphasis added]
Given that Mr. Gardner is a Democrat, my question is whether he made this statement sarcastically or  whether he was seriously thinking about one of the stated goals of the commission:  to find out why voting turnout is so low.

The article states that the entire New Hampshire Congressional delegation asked Mr. Gardner to resign from the commission, but he refused, asking
"whether any of the legislators had ever quit a congressional committee because they disagreed with the views of another member."
I'm not sure that's a fair analogy because Congress members have an obligation to their constituents and sitting on committees is just one of their responsibilities.  On the other hand,  Gardner was appointed to this commission which is seen by many as a way to push the conservative goal of reconstructing obstacles to voting by black and other people of color who are likely to vote for Democrats.  The leader of the committee is the Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach who has made voter suppression a career goal.  

The New Hampshire congressional delegation's request that Mr. Gardner to resign, according to the article,  came about because:
"the commission’s de facto leader has warmed up for the session by suggesting that the election in November of Senator Maggie Hassan, a New Hampshire Democrat, was rigged. . .
His accusation was based on data from Mr. Gardner’s office showing that 6,540 people in New Hampshire registered to vote on Election Day using out-of-state driver’s licenses to verify their identities, but only 1,014 of the registrants later obtained a New Hampshire license.
Mr. Kobach said that was evidence that the remaining 5,313 registrants were illegal voters from other states — enough voters, he noted, to supply the narrow margins of victory for both Ms. Hassen and Mrs. Clinton."
The article goes on to explain that New Hampshire law allows college students, whose homes may be out of state, to vote in New Hampshire.  They can have out-of-state drivers' licenses as proof of identity.  And most of the incidents where out-of-state licenses were used, were in college towns.


I'm tempted to write, "In this age of fake news . . ." but really, fake news has been part of US history from the beginning.  The difference today is

  • there are more 'publishers' thanks to the internet making everyone a potential publisher, who can spread fake news far and wide
  • there are more 'publishers' and so there are now actually challenges to fake news and people are aware of this phenomenon, whereas in the past, if the three main network television stations or the key newspapers said something, most people didn't have access to the underlying facts that would challenge the 'news'
It's always good to go through these exercises of hearing statements and then getting to see the rest of the context of the story.  It reminds us to always be asking, questioning, and then finding out the whole story.  

Sunday, September 10, 2017

One Story of Irma Refugees: Friend And Her Family Flee Sarasota

I just talked to my friend Lynne.  She moved to Sarasota to be with her then 90 year old dad last year. Lynne has been my guide into the world of blindness and it was with mixed feelings that she decided to leave Alaska.

Sarasota is on the west coast of Florida.  It's low lying, near the water.  And in the path of Irma.  She told me they were looking to get to higher ground - probably a nearby hotel. [UPDATED:  They were in a mandatory evacuation area and had been told to get out.]   But her son called from Seattle and told her to get out of Florida.  She has a cousin in Tennessee.  Her dad, who's pushing 92 now and her older brother weren't sure about the 760 mile drive to Tennessee, but finally agreed.

The three of them, plus Lynne's guide dog, got in the car at 7:30 pm Friday night and drove 20 hours to Franklin, Tennessee.  Dad drove.  Oh year.  The cousins are there.  There on vacation in Hawaii, but they told them they could stay in the house.  They arrived yesterday (Saturday) afternoon about 2:30 Central time.  So now they are adjusting to the new situation.  For a blind person, that's a lot more difficult than for sighted people.  She has to figure out the paths she can take around the house without bumping into things.  And she can't just look into cabinets and closets, she has to feel for things.  And cans of food don't usually have Braille labels.  There are apparently lots of stairs which are harder on her dad than on her.  She just needs to know where they are.  He can see them, but has trouble getting up and down them.  She's still trying to figure out how to connect to the wifi.

But they're out of the storm (for now anyway).  They don't know how long they'll be there or how it will work out when the family gets back.  Their condo is on the ground floor and they're worried about what will be ok when it's over and they get back.

But for now they are safe and adjusting.

[UPDATE Monday Sept 11:  Lynne got word that there's no flooding but the evacuation is still in place and roads are impassable - lots of trees down and still falling.  They're also waiting for the electricity to go back on.  Maybe they'll spend the night somewhere on the road so they don't have such a long drive.]