Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Terns Have Returned

The Arctic Tern is one of my favorite Alaska birds.  It's sleek, it can hover (as in this photo) and it travels all the way to the Antarctic for our winter.  And they move so fast that I've never been able to get a decent picture.  But the new camera is changing things.  The pictures will get better. 

Most of the birds haven't arrived yet.  It's still only April.  Mostly there were gulls - like these mew gulls. 

Another mew gull making lots of noise. 

Red necked grebe.

You'll have to make do with bird pictures.  I really didn't want to write about basketball owners, or sexual harassment in the Alaska National Guard.  It was such a beautiful day, and now, at almost 10 pm, it's still quite light out. (I just checked.  Sunset is at 9:59pm today.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Cloud Show

The clouds were putting on a show this afternoon when I went out for an errand.  A nice thing about traveling by bike, there's nothing between you and the sky and you can stop easily to take it all in.  Despite being almost 60˚F (16˚C), there was a cooling, more-than-light breeze and the clouds were moving and reshaping.

The cumulus was up against this other clouds with streaks going up and to the left.  Looked on Wikipedia's cloud page which has been helpful in the past, but couldn't figure out the cloud on the left.

This cloud was hanging over 36th and stretched way out toward the Chugach mountains.

And I passed by where Nino's Italian Eatery used to be.  It looks like the Department of Transportation, which bought the building two years ago,  has removed the building completely now.  Eventually they plan to reconfigure the turn from New Seward from south to west on 36th in this spot.

You can see how fast those clouds were moving.  This picture looks east toward New Seward and 36th.  The sky is mostly blue and it wasn't more than three or four minutes later that I took the other pictures from 36th on the other side of New Seward. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Get Your Bikes Out - Trails Are Clearing

Last week on the Campbell Creek trail east of Lake Otis (south of Tudor) the trail was mostly snow and ice, but today it was clear all the way to Elmore.  I'd show you pictures, but my camera was free of its sound card.  There are even buds starting on a birch tree in front of the house.  People who used last year's cold May - it snowed the 21st - as evidence that global warming wasn't happening, have this year to remind the there's a difference between weather and climate and there can be annual variations.  But overall things are getting warmer each year and I've got some sweet pea seeds I'm soaking overnight to plant outside tomorrow.  (When we got to Anchorage in 1977, the rule of thumb was not to plant anything outside before June 1.)

I don't know how Chester Creek trail is doing;  anyone try that out this weekend?

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Where Are The Most Diverse US Census Tracts? - Chad Farrel at Press Club

Anchorage Press Club conference - Saturday morning panel that I attended. [Paraphrasing what he said quickly, read with caution.]

Starting with Sarah Palin's 2008 comment that Alaska is a microcosm of America which got a lot of flack, including Frank Rich.  Farrel showed up in Alaska to teach sociology and has found that, in fact, the US Census Bureau's 'broad, admittedly crude' categories of ethnicity, that Palin was actually accurate on this one.

  • White
  • Black/African American
  • Latino/HispanicAsian and Pacific Islander
  • Alaska Native/American Indian
  • Biracial/Multiracial

These broad categories miss a lot of the diversity that exists in each category.

Also show the socially constructed nature of race, why I use "Ethno-racial" diversity.

Formula - you could do this analysis with income, age, occupational diversity etc.  Not
just racial.

Get statistics that are intuitive to normal folks.  You get:

1.  Number of groups present in an area
2.  Size relative to one another

Imagine three neighborhoods.
1.  All white (not many left in US)  - no ethno-racial diversity
2.  Mixed, but 99% white - still more diverse than #1
3.  Mixed, all equal sized - high level of diversity

This index takes this factors into account - from 0 - 100.

0 =  just one group
100 = all six groups the same size

And inbetween, lots of variation.

How diverse is Alaska compared to rest of US?

Frank Rich was right in terms of Blacks and Hispanics, but he left out our Native population and bi-racial, multi-racial identity.

Alaska is 5th behind Hawaii, California, Nevada, and New York.  73 72 69 66.3  66.1

Multiple pathways to scoring high.   Where does Alaska rank?


Compared to US as a whole, Alaska ranks a little higher.  Big surge after 1990 - first year Census allowed people to check more than one box.  Resulted in the surge.

Moving to Anchorage

San Francisco (#2 - 77) more diverse than Anchorage. (#30 - 64)

Anchorage (#30) more diverse than Seattle (#43)

Q:  What about military?
A:  Plays a big role.  Military the most diverse social institutions in the country.

More diverse than most Western cities and US.  Gap is widening in 2010 Census from 2000. 

Moving into diversity within the groups.

American Community Survey - Census data collected between the decennial years.  Doesn't count everyone, but one question allows person to identify 'ancestry or ethnic origin' with examples.

Farrel too all the groups with more than 1000 for Anchorage - pooled from five year chunk, bigger sample size.   image

Some people put down "American."  Discussions in my class whether American can be an ethnic group.  (Largest proportion of Americans in Southern states.)

Q:  Yupik didn't hit 1000?
A:  No, but a lot of people didn't fill out the question.

Q:  Did this include Matsu?
A:  Not this one, but the previous data did, which brings the diversity down.

Q:  Sense that Yupik population equals the Athabascan?
A:  Can't really speculate.  Will say ethnic identity is fluid.

Linguistic Diversisty
Anchorage School District 95 different langauges spoken at home.

UAA - lots of student diversity

Why is Anchorage so diverse?  Characteristics of diverse metropolitan areas.  (Not necessarily causes, housing could be consequence.)
Coastal/Border state  √
Large population
Renter households  √
Military presence  √
Immigrant gateway
Immigrant outpost  √
Youthful population  √

Click to enlarge

Guiding Questions:

Neighborhoods - census tracts (not necessarily neighborhoods - about 4000 population)
Use census tracts as a proxy.  Track 11    - cluster of Mountain View, 6, 9.01 (merril field) and 8.01  (Wonder Park).

Three most diverse tracts in US.  The one thing that makes them diverse in Anchorage is the Native population.

Further down the list - most tracts in Anchorage have higher than US average diversity.

High Schools

Parent asked if East High was, based on the tracts diversity, the most diverse high schools.
18,000 public high schools - East, Bartlett, West high schools most diverse in US.
Anchorage high schools more than double diversity of average high school.

Q:  Why higher diversity in high schools than tracts?
A:  1.  immigrants tend to be younger and of child bearing age.

Q:  Schools more diverse because of less residential segregation?
A:  There is segregation, but less than other metro areas in US.  Did study on exposure to diversity by whites and Anchorage is higher.

Next steps:

1.  What are the consequences of diversity?  Can't get at that just with the numbers.  But intergroup contact theory covers this.  Lots of lit.  Exposure to diversity tends to increase tolerance for out groups.  Reduces reliance of stereotypes and prejudice.  Can see individual variations which undermines stereotypes.
2.  How do residents experience and negotiate diversity in their daily lives?   # 1 works if social-economic groups, in the same school class.  Integrated or diverse group working toward the same goal.  Benefit of contact.

But, if inequality layered on top of diversity?  Groups competing for scarce resources - who gets the soccer field at the park?

I've given top down view, but we experience diversity on the ground, and that's where the media comes in.  Journalists have a unique skill set to dig up these stories and how we're negotiating diversity in our daily lives.  We're at the forefront of that trend in the US (increasing diversity).  How we negotiate that trend has implications for the rest of the US. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

DATA, DATA, DATA - Finding and Using and Giving Meaning to Data Available Online from Chrys Wu

 Rough notes, as she said it.  Take this with a big grain of salt.  But there's lots of good info and links in here for using data that's out there. (This was a really good, content rich session.)

Chrys Wu - What to think about when you're thinking about DATA

About me:  

DataKind - using data to advance the public good.  In New York, but you can volunteer around the world.

Altered Oceans - project won the Pulitzer Prize (Note:  I didn't win the prize, just worked on it.)

About You:

Work for NYTimes, Developer Advocate
but lots of other roles before in different organizations.

Election Map, Interactive graphics, technology group - about 300 people considered developers, make it possible for people coming to the website or thru mobile phone.

I'm a little bit of glue and little bit of grease.  Help others get their work done.

My role to solve problems and help people.

Collecting Data
People should know what data is out there.  Where get it.
I work with National pubs, for regional, wait til !&A

Govt. agencies - FRED -  Make friend your friend - terrific trove of economic data
GeoFred - maps
AlFred - archive of economic data -- code for 0380 for Alaska  will pinpoint Alaska
Get exel add-in

US Census Data - PUMS - public use microdata and IPUMS

Gives a lot of insight into what's happening in Alaska.  PUMS what feds are supplying, a sample pad, understand trends in household.
IPUMS - U of Minn. -

National Conference of STate Legislatures - tracks legislation


World Bank - lots of data, particularly on poverty, also good tumblr account

The Internet Archive - SF, Friday around noon - they serve a free lunch and talk about the Internet Archive

Collect tv advertising campaigns, old newspapers, etc. 

Draw from your own well∫

Set up your own data base, 

Cleaning Data

Tabula - how to use - cracks pdfs.

School of Data -

Open/Refine (now googleRefine) can deal with >1 million records
Tutorials for Open/Refine - Github

David Huynh Full Tutorial (2009- still relevant)

Gotchas -
disambiguation (making sure these john smiths are the same or not, which Manhattan, etc)

Excel limits - watch for files with exactly
means they ran out because they exceeded the limits - more data, have to go back and get it.  Get on phone and talk to people.

Q:  How do you clean it, who is smarter?
A:  Call them and discuss it - they like to be alerted.  Pro-publica, data store
they've chosen not to charge for cleaned data from FOIA searches.

Q:  Have you used Gap Minder?  Plug data in and create a movable graphic.
A:  One shortcoming - doesn't allow you to do annotations  - Hans Rosling -

Q:  How village people in Anchorage maintain connections to villages through food - getting village food to urban areas - how might you approach that from a data perspective? Fish and Game doesn't break things out by indigineous groups and non-
A:  Find other overlapping data - can you use place? 

Q:  How do you vet sites?
A:  Generally look at the organizations collecting the data.  Talk directly to the source of first level collection - NGO's, Govt, even campaign reporting.  Pols have to report to agencies.  Even Pro-publica, need to check it out.  The Sunlight Foundation - they're trustworthy - take govt data and make it more usable.
Who entity is, what they're collecting, and the methodology.  Watch out for orgs that take data from different sources and try to mesh it.

Q:  Good tools or sites for government contracts?
A:  USA Spending.gov (from audience)

Q:  Who reviews - like peer review - your stuff?
A:  Times - trust our reporters.  Editors job to check and challenge the reporter.  For those who 'are' the newsroom, constantly check yourself.  I talked to a lot of experts, friends in academia and check with them.

Two ways to look for numbers:

1.  Look for outliers - what's this weird thing?
2.  Look for the numbers that don't change while everything else is changing?  Journalists trained to look for the movement, but maybe the thing that doesn't change is the real story.
3.  Comparisons - how it looks compared to other states?

Amanda Cox  - statistician for NYTimes, worked at Bureau of Labor Statistics - has a fan club of colleagues who love her.  She's spectacular.  Thinks creatively.

Q:  Find what others have done?
A:  IRE - Investigative Reporters and Editors - search  - they will come and train you free.

Q:  Work at museum and we have a big archive we'd like to share.
A:  Digital?  Look at models:
NY Public Library David Reardon
British Library Photostream


Lots of Journalists - Notes from the Alaska Press Club

I'm at the Alaska Press Club conference today.  Here are some session notes.  The first two sessions I really didn't get my computer out.  Consider this a sampling - just to give a sense of what's going on, but I won't get too much in depth.  I might be able to explore some of the larger issues that arise after the conference is over. 

Long-term Narratives
Preston Gannaway - Pulitzer Prize winner

It's hard to talk about this presentation - she's showing photos and talking about her approach.  She's showing a set of pictures about a woman who has terminal liver cancer - she documented their life living with this cancer.

Writing About Sexuality
Benoit Denizet-Lewis
Benoit Denizet-Lewis - New York times - Pulitzer Prize winner

I got into this one toward the end.  He was talking about using chatrooms to make connections with subgroups - he was writing about DL (down-low) gay men in one story. 
And young gays in school in another story.  Also on the complication of many of these issues and the difficulty of covering the issues well. 

Comprehensive Election Coverage   This one I took more notes, but there are also big gaps. 

Sonari Glinton, Jason DeRose, Ed Schoenfeld
Armen Keteyian seems to have gotten on the wrong plane and ended up in Canada

Experience you had working on elections
Sonari - Iowa, going to have rountable of typical Iowa voters.  Women said, I'm worried that Iowa will become a Sharia state.  I'm not real involved in issues, but this one just hit me.  Look, I'm a black man from Chicago and we're not going to talk about Obama being a Muslim.  Once I had been upfront about who I was, it seemed to give the others the freedom to be themselves and to be open.  Developed a really great relationship with them and we still are in contact.

DeRose:  Did you find that when you called her on the Sharia thing, I've heard people say that, did she really believe that or just repeating what she heard.

Glinton:  She was worried that Iowa would change, beyond recognition.  Probably not Sharia law.

DeRose:  As an editor I'm on the road that much.  In Colorado, people thought it was a swing state, at least how it was reported.  About ten days before the election.  Was in the 'swing' county - spent about 45 minutes driving around downtown.  About 3-1 ratio of Obama to Romney signs.  I couldn't find Romney stuff.  Thought, if this is the swingiest county, I don't think Colorado is a swing state.  I think people push the idea - it helps turnout.  They probably knew Obama would take Colorado.  In retrospect, it was never a swing state.  There was no ground game for the Romney side.  You need to do ground level work.  Just driving up and down the downtown streets you can get a sense. 

Glinton - I saw a similar thing in Ohio - that Obama folks were 3-1 on the ground compared to Romney.

DeRose:  Wonder whether national news orgs play up the tightness of the race to keep their audience following it.   We had great ratings because the Obama-Clinton primary race was so close.  Through the roof ratings.  And that might lead other news orgs to play that up when they aren't close.

Schoenfeld, Jason DeRose, Sonari Glinton
Glinton - I feel like polls work.  I've never been to an election where we had people at the wrong spot.  

Schoenfeld:  Fair v Balance - covering a local election, Mayor, School Board, and you know, some of the candidates have no chance of winning.  One person has it together and the other just jumped into the race and isn't prepared.  How do you deal with that, when you know one isn't a serious candidate?

Glinton:  Guy in Illinois always run - genuine nut - but gets 7 or 8%.  Doesn't get invited to the debates.  If 2 candidates, to a reasonable extent you need to cover people that have some chance.  Guy at 35% might have some chance.  Just because no Republican mayor in Chicago since 1939, you still have to recover the Republican.  Barry Goldwater had no chance of winning, but shaped 50 years of politics.  Ross Perot, Ralph Nader, their ideas had a lot of sway on the election.

DeRose:  If his one issue resonates with the 5% and might make the difference if the others are both at 45%.  Journalists are constantly making decisions on what is important and not important.  We're supposed to use our good judgment.  Is this person an idiot?  Then don't put him on the air.  Something in the culture says unless we make it 50%/50% bad, we aren't just shoveling unedited press releases.  It's ok to say that 8 people are on the ballot, but only two are viable.  I'll mention them all, but only do detailed reports on the two key ones.  We aren't just "he says, she says" reporters.  We need to use our as objective as possible judgment to clarify things, use analysis.

You can describe someone's strange affiliation and even if you don't want to say it yourself, you can find someone who will say what you'd like to say.

Using your own judgment is the hard way.  50%/50% balanced is the easy way out.

Q:  Told by my general manager not to bring up personal life.

DeRose:  Part of your job is to bring up those associations.  Ask in the interview.  Extremely pertinent.

Glinton:  Working with Ira Glass on a story, real awakening question from him:  "Oh, I see, you want those people to like/respect you."  You can't be a journalist if you want people to like you.  But, when people see you have integrity, people will respect you.  Oh, people like you because you stab them in the gut.

DeRose:  I covered religion in Chicago and was raised by a particular denomination and I thought the press person would feel comfortable.  Much later he said we were scared shitless because you knew where the bodies were buried.
I don't go to a citizen surgeon to remove my gall-bladder, and I don't go to a citizen-journalist to get my news.

Glinton:  They layoff journalists, but not PR people.
DeRose:  And the journalists who get laid off become PR people and get paid ten times as much.  And then they know how we work and how to counter what we do working for a firm or a politician.

Q:  Some tips?  Never covered elections, not really interested, are there things I need to cover?

Glinton:  Three books:  Boss by Royko,  ?? at Tammany Hall,  Give an idea of political theory and how politics are thinking and about local politics.

DeRose:   and Political Fiction by Joan Didion,  ???  Reporting on her experience of reporting as well as on the race.  It was so not what she was expecting it to be.
Key biographies:

Glinton:  In Iowa I wasn't covering candidates, I was covering issues.
DeRose;  Before candidates start talking, ask people what the issues are.  Go to Chamber of Commerce, PTA, say ten groups, and find out what the issues are.

Schoenfeld:  Moving to other issues.  National organizations besides political parties, like the Koch Brothers, who generate legislation, come up with issues to target a particular demographic and target a candidate.  I see legislation each year that I know came from this or that particular group.  How to monitor this?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Early Birds At Potter Marsh

A beautiful spring day.  It called to get out.  I wanted to go hear Jason LaRose of NPR talk about Ethics in the afternoon in the radio day of the Alaska Press Club conference at 4.  So a quick trip to Potter Marsh seemed a good way to get in a little sunshine.

The marsh is pretty much snow free, though there were some patches below the walkway.   There weren't a lot of birds, but there were some.  And a moose off in the distance eating.

The moose is close to the bottom a little left of center.  I decided the mountains were more interesting than trying to highlight a moose.

This pair of bald eagles were flying east of the north end of the boardwalk. 

As you can see, I'm still struggling with the Canon Rebel.  This northern pintail was far away, but I should have been able to master the little red lights in the auto focus to get the bird and not the background (cropped off) into focus.

A similar problem with this distant bird which, at least in this photo, seems like it can only be a sandhill crane.  The other shots were even less definitive. 

I got home in time to get on the bike to the Press Club conference at Alaska Public Media.  LaRose's topic was ethics and he focused on

  • Anonymity issues
  • Balance
  • Reporters' involvement in the community

I'm afraid that's all I can do tonight.  There's a full day of press club stuff for tomorrow and Saturday. 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

First Dandelion

Walking through our yard today, I found our first dandelion of the year .

Botanical has a long, long discussion of the dandelion.  Here's but a little bit.

"Each bloom is made up of numerous strapshaped florets of a bright golden yellow. This strap-shaped corolla is notched at the edge into five teeth, each tooth representing a petal, and lower down is narrowed into a claw-like tube, which rests on the singlechambered ovary containing a single ovule. In this tiny tube is a copious supply of nectar, which more than half fills it, and the presence of which provides the incentive for the visits of many insects, among whom the bee takes first rank. The Dandelion takes an important place among honey-producing plants, as it furnishes considerable quantities of both pollen and nectar in the early spring, when the bees' harvest from fruit trees is nearly over. It is also important from the beekeeper's point of view, because not only does it flower most in spring, no matter how cool the weather may be, but a small succession of bloom is also kept up until late autumn, so that it is a source of honey after the main flowers have ceased to bloom, thus delaying the need for feeding the colonies of bees with artificial food.

Many little flies also are to be found visiting the Dandelion to drink the lavishly-supplied nectar. By carefully watching, it has been ascertained that no less than ninety-three different kinds of insects are in the habit of frequenting it. The stigma grows up through the tube formed by the anthers, pushing the pollen before it, and insects smearing themselves with this pollen carry it to the stigmas of other flowers already expanded, thus insuring cross-fertilization. At the base of each flower-head is a ring of narrow, green bracts the involucre. Some of these stand up to support the florets, others hang down to form a barricade against such small insects as might crawl up the stem and injure the bloom without taking a share in its fertilization, as the winged insects do."

I think you can see some of those parts in these pictures:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Can Papa Pilgrim Help Us Understand the Nevada Cattle Ranger?

If we glean out the facts from this LA Times piece we learn:

  • "The Bureau of Land Management say Bundy is illegally running hundreds of head of cattle in the 600,000-acre Gold Butte area, habitat of the federally protected desert tortoise."
  • "Bundy, 68, has refused to pay BLM grazing fees since 1993, arguing in court filings that his Mormon ancestors worked the land long before the BLM was formed, giving him rights that predate federal involvement."
  • "Federal officials moved in to remove the animals, but called off the roundup nine days ago, saying they wanted to avoid violence. . ."
  • " dozens of supporters - many armed with rifles and automatic weapons - gathered at the Bundy ranch 90 miles north of Las Vegas."
Nevada's two US Senators see the event from two different ideological frameworks.  Democrat Harry Reid calls Bundy "a domestic terrorist."

Republican Dean Heller calls him "a patriot."

How do we know which is the accurate portrayal of what's going on?  Or if either of them are accurate?  It's just the sort of question that's perfect for this blog and its underlying question of "how do we know what we know?"

We're at that stage were the facts are slowly emerging and the media are trying to figure out which of their stock story lines this story fits.  

Is Bundy the disgruntled individualist illegally using public land and refusing to pay his fair share?  Or is the government unfairly treating a good American citizen?  Or will the media get more traction on this story if they frame it as the poster event that highlights the conservative-liberal ideological split in the US?

I suggest that people tentatively try out different possible explanations.  Lay them out as possible interpretations of the facts, all the while remembering we don't really know all the facts.  We just know the facts that the media have presented.  Why have they presented these particular facts?  Because they fit their preconceived story?  Are the facts even accurate?  What other facts haven't been mentioned yet?

As part of this exercise, I'd offer the story of Papa Pilgrim as told by Tom Kizzia in his book Pilgrim's Wilderness.
It's a similar story that played out in Alaska a dozen years ago.  A large family (17 kids I think) living on private land within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park.  They had bulldozed a road through Park land without permits, crossing a number of streams.  Their buildings seemed to encroach of Park land.

The challenged individual Park employees who came to talk to them about their road and the encroachments.  It was at a time when new legislation had created a number of National Parks on US government owned land in Alaska - land that a number of folks around the state had been living on.  There was a movement of such folks to fight the Federal government's 'takeover' of the land and to enforce their own rights to stay put.  These folks embraced the Pilgrim family as a symbol of true Americans being harassed by the federal government for trying to live the American dream.

This story unfolded on the pages of the local newspapers - covered in depth by one Anchorage Daily News reporter, Tom Kizzia, who had a cabin in McCarthy, a small town inside Wrangell- St. Elias National Park and near to where the Pilgrim family had settled. Here's a post I did on McCarthy in 2008.

Eventually he wrote the book, Pilgrim's Wilderness, which filled in a lot of information that hadn't been available as events were unfolding.  It turned out that Papa Pilgrim (Robert Hale) had been a wealthy teenager in Texas who was dating John Connally's daughter.   The same John Connally who was wounded along with John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963.  The University of Texas, Texas Politics website mentions, in its bio of Connally:
Their eldest, Kathleen, eloped in 1958 at age sixteen and the same year died of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound.
 Kizzia also writes about this event in Pilgrim's Wilderness  Papa Pilgrim, back in 1958 was in the motel room with her when she died.  He claimed her death was an accident, though others believe he killed her.

Later he takes to studying the Bible and over the years interpreting it more and more bizarre ways.  He later marries another 16 year old, when he is older and they have child after child as they wander to New Mexico and eventually to Alaska.

Kizzia finds in police documents - Papa Pilgrim eventually got a plea deal so none of the story was played out publicly in the courtroom - that Papa Pilgrim had been abusing his eldest daughter sexually and many of the other children and his wife physically.

I offer this story, not to say that the Nevada story is the same.  I don't know that.  But there are a lot of similarities.  A family claiming a right to use federal land with a federal agency questioning that right and saying they were trying to enforce the law.  In both situations the feds acted carefully, fearing a violent confrontation.  In both cases, local anti-government activists used the families as symbols of their cause against the government.

There are some differences too.  Bundy's family has been using the land since 1993 at least and claims an even longer family use of it.  The Pilgrim family was only in their Wrangell-St. Elias home a couple of years and in Alaska a little longer.   The Pilgrim family began to alienate their McCarthy neighbors and there was no armed standoff to support them against the feds. 

When my book club discussed Pilgrim's Wilderness last month, most of us had been reluctant to take up the book thinking we already knew the story, yet we were quickly drawn into Kizzia's telling of the story and all the background information about the Pilgrim's that gave much more depth and explanation for what all happened.

We will learn more about what's happening in Nevada, but whether there will be a writer who will eventually dig deeper and fill in the missing facts as Kizzia has, we don't know.  So, for now, I offer Pilgrim's Wilderness as a gripping account of a (at least superficially) similar event in Alaska.  Only time will tell if Bundy will also turn out to be a tyrannical patriarch who uses religion to justify his unjustifiable actions or something more sympathetic, even a hero.    

Monday, April 21, 2014

To Release a Dove, You First Have To Capture And Imprison It

This was the cover of Parade magazine yesterday.  The caption I cut off says:

"The Pontiff released a dove . . ."

Long ago, in Thailand, I participated in releasing little birds as a New Year's activity where you are supposed to gain merit for letting the birds free.

But I couldn't get past the fact that someone first had to catch and imprison the bird so that you could buy it and let it free.  Somehow that seemed to contradict the whole idea of giving it freedom. 

I thought about that when I saw this picture and the caption. 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Anchorage Spring

Ice is melting.

The ravens have been around all winter. 

Some mallards also spent the winter.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

How To Shoplift Without Getting Caught - This Only Works For Whites

In 2005, Larry Summers, then President of Harvard, suggested, in a speech, that the gap between men and women in the sciences, might be due to genetic differences between males and females.

Four years later someone asked a panel of scientists "the Larry Summers" question:
"Does anyone want to explain the genetic difference between men and women which explains why there are more men than women in science?"

Panelist Neil Degrasse Tyson offered to address the question.  Here's what he said:
I’ve never been female, but I have been black my whole life, so let me offer some insights from that perspective because there are many similar social issues related to access to equal opportunity that we find in the black community as well as the community of women in a white male dominated society. . . 
I’ve known I wanted to do astro-physics since I was nine years old.  Since the first visit to the Hayden Planetarium.  So I got to see how the world around me reacted to my expression of these ambitions.

All I can say is, the fact that I wanted to be a scientist and astro-physicist was hands down the path of most resistance through the forces of society.  Any time I expressed that interest to a teacher, they’d say, “Don’t you want to be an athlete?”  I wanted to become something that was outside the paradigm of expectation of the people in power.

So fortunately my depth of interest was so deep, and so fuel enriched, that every one of these curve balls I was thrown and fences that were in front of me, and hills,   I just reached for more fuel and kept going.  Now here I am, one, I think, of the most visible scientists in the land and I want to look behind me and say where are the others who might have done this, and they’re not there.

And I wonder, how, where is the blood on the tracks, that I happened to survive and others did not, simply because of the forces of society that prevented, at every turn.  To the point that I have security following me every time I go through department stores, presuming I’m a thief.  I walked out of a store one time and the alarm went off and so they came running to me.  I walked through the gate at the same time a white male walked through the gate.  And that guy just walked off with the stolen goods, knowing they would stop me and not him.  That’s an interesting exploitation.  What a scam that was. People should do that more often.
So, my life experience tells me that when you don’t find blacks in the sciences, you don’t find women in the sciences, I know these forces in the world are real and I had to survive them to get where I am today.  So before we start talking about genetic differences, you’ve got to come up with a system where there’s equal opportunity.  Then we can have that conversation."  
Here's the video, cued to that part of the discussion:

Tyson's anecdotal stories on this are pretty convincing to me (along with the many similar reports of things like this I've read and heard.)  But here's a more academic version focused on women.

Here's an updated version I posted on Daily Kos.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Indigènitude and Revisiting History

We start out learning that 'history'  is what's written in the history text books.  It's generally a chronological account of what happened in the past.   It's got the names of key people - kings. presidents, rich people, and others who were famous for something in their era.  It's got lots of dates.  It has stories that explain what happened and these stories all manage emphasize and support important cultural values. 

Events that seem to contradict the cultural values - like slavery in the US - are either left
out or written about in a way that sugar coats them or, as with slavery's abolition, made to prove that the cultural values win in the end.

I think most people understand, at least vaguely, that history isn't exactly an accurate account.  We say things like, "History is written by the victors."  And we have terms like 'revisionist history.'  But I think the inculcation of the cultural myths really sticks in the subconscious - unless you are in one of the groups that history (what actually happened) didn't favor.

And I've read a fair amount of challenges to even the notion of history as we know it.  And so, as I read the passage below, I basically understand it and agree, but I imagine a lot of people rolling their eyes and make jokes about academic navel gazing and using terms like psychobabble.

"I have suggested that "history" belongs, significantly, to others.  Its discourses and temporal shapes are idiomatic and varied.  A concept of "historical practice" can help expand our range of attention, allowing us to take seriously the claims of oral transmission, genealogy, and ritual processes.  These embodied, practical ways of representing the past have not been considered fully, realistically, historical by modern ideologies that privilege literacy and chronology.  Historical practice can act as a translation tool for rethinking "tradition," a central process of indigenous survival and renewal.  For example, native claims for recognition, land, cultural rights, and sovereignty always assume a continuity rooted in kinship and place.  It is easy to understand this sense of belonging existentially backward looking - tradition as inheritance, as a "residual" element in the contemporary mix.  However, when conceived as historical practice, tradition is freed from a primary association with the past and grasped as a way of actively connecting different times:  a source of transformation (Phillips, 2004).  A vision of unified history thus yields to entangled historical practices.  Tradition and its many near synonyms (heritage, patrimoine, costumbre, coutume, kastom, adat)denote interactive, creative, and adaptive processes."
But I think this author, James Clifford, is writing about very complex subjects and is using the specialized language of his field.  He's using words a little differently than they are used in every day language.  But because he's writing about topics that tend to fall into what we call social science or humanities, people think they should be able to understand it.  When physicists or biologists get off into specialized language on complex issues, especially when they throw in mathematical formulas, people just accept they don't understand it.  But something like history, we think, should be transparent.

It's so easy to dismiss things we totally don't understand.  The advantage that those working in the natural sciences sometimes have, is that they use tangible experiments that demonstrate what they are talking about.  They can give you email or send a rocket out into space and bring back photos to prove their theory works. 

Why does this even matter?  I haven't read enough to be sure where he's taking this, but for me, it's important to untangle the threads of the histories woven by the dominant groups in society and reweave in the legitimate roles of the people who have been thrown off their land and whose legitimacy has been left out of the patterns of history.  (Boy, that was a forced metaphor!)  I'm particularly intrigued by what he's saying about indigenous peoples.

Things like:

Indigenous people have emerged from history's blind spot. .  .

Today the word "indigenous" describes a work in progress. .  . (p. 13)

Like negritude, indigènitude is a vision of liberation and cultural difference that challenges, or at least redirects, the modernizing agends of nation-states and transnational capitalism.  Indigènitude is performed at the United Nations and the International Labor Organization, at arts and cultural festivals, at political events, and in many informal travels and contacts.  Indigènitude is less a coherent ideology than a concatenation of sources and projects.  It operates at multiple scales:  local traditions (kinship, language renewal, subsistence hunting, protection of sacred sites); national agendas and symbols (Hawai'ian sovereignty, Mayan politics in Guatemala, Maori mobilizations in Aotearoa/New Zealand);  and transnational activism ("Red Power" from the global sixties, or today's social movements around cultural values, the environment and identity, movements often allied with NGO's).  (p. 16)
 Just something to chew on.  

Returns is Clifford's third book on this theme. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Back In Anchorage

It was overcast when we left LA this morning, but was clear over parts of California.  This juxtaposition between the human made patterns and the natural always fascinates me.

Flying over an island in Prince William Sound. 

It was low tide as we flew over the mudflats surrounding Anchorage. 

Our pick-up was going to be later than our arrival, so we walked to Lake Hood to meet them.  While the lake is still icy, there was no snow or ice on our way. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


"Any substance arranged in a thin, open structure could be described as a lamella structure, for example the lace-like marrow found in the center of bones. In architecture, the term refers to a specific type of timber construction; originally developed by Fritz Zollinger in 1908, it was patented as the Zollinger-Bauweise in 1910 and was most commonly used between the World Wars when metal beams were cost prohibitive. The technique may be over a hundred years old, but the look has been adopted by contemporary design.
Originally, lamella was used for barrel-vaulted roofs. Today, designers are taking advantage of the open framework, sinuous lines and lightweight feel for all different types of designs."

We met friends at the Culver City Metro Terminal and walked over to check out the Hayden Tract.  I'd posted a picture of the Samitaur Tower three years ago and two readers left omments that it was by architect Eric Owen  and that the New Yorker had just done an article about the area.  At that time they were building the light rail line and the station wasn't there.

Anyway, we walked over from the station, not the most direct route, and stuck our heads into the first building that someone pointed out as one of the Hayden Tract.  Amelia Feichtner came out to talk to us about the building - an old warehouse that the Cuningham Group reworked to make their office.  The structure in the center is a Lamella structure.

A lot of desks are out in the open, and then there are the containers here and there used as offices - though some are not yet occupied.  

The lamella structure has two separate rooms - the conference room you see, and a video room that you can enter from the back.  Despite its 100 year old history, the way Amelia described it, it sounded like it's still a bit experimental. 

This picture shows the side of the lamella structure and one of the containers used as an office.   As you might imagine, this is an architecture firm.  


Here I'm standing near the lamella structure looking back at the reception area and front door. 

This link gets you to another such structure in Nova Scotia. 

Here's "A Study on Lamella Structure System."  It gives you a detailed look at some of the interlocking pieces. 

We did walk around and back to the Samitaur Tower that caught my eye three years ago.  But we fly home tomorrow after some time with my mom, so this is all I have time for today. 

And here's a little more on the Hayden Tract and some of the buildings there.  Perhaps I'll get a chance to post some of the pictures I took today of other parts of the tract.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Do You Know What's Going On In Your Brain? Some Brief Comments With Links

Some items of interest: 

The Hidden Brain: How Ocean Currents Explain Our Unconscious Social Biases  - A book I'd heard about before and which sounds important for anyone interested in how we know things - a major focus of this blog.  The link takes you to an extensive Brain Pickings review of the book with lots of examples, many of unconscious bias against women.


History of the New York Jazz Museum - this came in the form of a comment on the movie The Wrecking Crew which mentioned it took them a long time to get the film out because of trouble getting rights to use the music.  Howard E. Fischer has the same problem getting out his movie on the history of the Jazz Museum in Manhattan  You can help him out here.  Here are some questions he says, on the website he linked to, that are answered in the movie.

1.    Which musician’s funeral in 1939 attracted 10,000 mourners and an 80-car funeral procession?

2.     How did substance abuse affect these musicians' lives and what Charlie Parker said about it?
3.     What was probably the most significant activity in all their lives that lead to their success?
4.     Which swing musicians influenced beboppers Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis?
5.     How did the jazz environment affect these musicians’ lifestyles and deaths?
6.     How are these musicians celebrated more than 50 years later in the case of one and more 70 years later in the case of the others?

Dispatch/Anchorage Daily News Morph

Aside from just noting that it happened, I've held off on comments.  I had a couple of posts relating to the Daily News that I was working on when the news came out.  I'm still letting the idea settle.  In the meantime, this piece from the Press seems to raise relevant questions:  Good News For People Who Love Bad News.



Monday, April 14, 2014

Lunar Eclipse Part 2

This is where I need a real tripod, not my little table top tripod.   But this first shot - actually it was taken last - is relatively in focus.  But that's because I upped the shutter speed so I could use a faster opening.  And I lost resolution in doing that.  It looks fuzzy.

These are better, but the shutter speed is much slower and I couldn't keep the camera still enough to keep it sharp.

This post began with Shooting the Moon.
Then Lunar Eclipse Part 1.

Lunar Eclipse Part 1

Shooting the Moon

The full lunar eclipse begins in about 30 minutes.

The sky is clear here in LA.  The moon is hanging right off my mom's front porch.

And it was way past time for me to figure out how to use my no-longer-that-new Canon Rebel.  Well, I can do a number of things with it, but taking pictures of the moon was problematic.   On the last flight home I did go through the manual and learned how to do a lot of things, but I was still having trouble figuring out how to set all the features.

I took a couple of pictures.  Great white circle, totally washed out moon.

Opened the manual and tried some things.

Then I decided to do what I do with so many other things - google, "How to take picture of eclipse with Canon Rebel" and bingo, there were a number of websites.

http://www.ehow.com/how_12284202_use-canon-rebel-dslr-moon-eclipse.html was the one I needed to finally get this.  It's not hard.  I just needed someone to show me.  It was finding the A/V button and then spin the little dial on top.  So easy.  So hard to figure out.

I went back out and did some more tests.  I think I'm ready for the eclipse.  This is WAY beyond what I could do with old cameras and eclipses.

An it's warm enough to be outside in shorts and a t.  

Do You Put Your Kids' Pictures Up On Facebook? Should You?

Meeting My Granddaughter
On this blog, my policy is to not post pictures of family without permission or if I do, I try to alter the image.

Partly because I'm naturally an introvert.

Partly because my son, at a certain age, began objecting to having his picture taken, let alone shared.  It was a matter of respecting his wishes, even when I thought he was being a bit extreme.  But he did allow his grandmothers to take pictures, so I could see that he did recognize other people's needs.

Partly because my dissertation was on the concept of privacy.  My findings were that privacy was not so much a psychological need as it was an issue of power.  The power to a) prevent intrusions into your space and
b) control access to and distribution of your personal information.
Given that I saw a world where technology was making it more and more difficult, even impossible, to have control of your personal information, the next best option was that everyone's power to access information be equal throughout society so that everyone, being equally vulnerable, would have the same incentive to respect others' privacy.

That world is becoming more and more real.  No one is immune from cell phone video cameras - including people in positions of authority such as police, politicians, celebrities, teachers, CEO's.   Romney's 47% speech helped change the election when it showed up online.  Annonymous and Edward Snowden have put some of the most powerful and privileged figures of the world on notice that their information is also accessible.

So, with all this background, I've refrained from putting up pictures of family members without permission unless they are adequately altered so they are pretty much unidentifiable.

Part of me says that the new world we're in is making this sort of caution obsolete.  By exposing themselves - like women who began publicly saying they didn't want to live under the tyranny of being judged by how well they cleaned toilet bowls and coiffed their hair, or gays who came out of the closet - they removed the threat of someone else exposing them and gained a level of freedom to be themselves they hadn't had.

But part of me knows that if this exposure is uneven and unequal, these things can come back to haunt you.  But when it comes to my family members, I can't make that decision for them.

Your Kid On Youtube?

And one of my family members sent me a thank you for that yesterday along with this NYTimes article about a woman who put her son's picture on her Facebook page against his wishes - and her followup research and decision on that.
It was a great picture and one I wanted to share with my friends online.
My son, however, was opposed to the idea. “You’re not going to put that on Facebook, are you?” he demanded, flashing me the look my husband and I had long ago named his “dark and stormy.”
Yes, I told him: “You are my child, and I’m proud of you.”
“But it’s my picture,” he said. “And I don’t want it on your Facebook page.”

Read the rest of the article to hear what various so called experts had to say about it.