Saturday, August 01, 2015

Sam Daley-Harris, Citizens Climate Lobby, and Japan Summer Festival

Today's Citizens' Climate Lobby international phone meeting (that the Anchorage group calls into from UAA) featured:

Sam Daley-Harris, Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation

How can we maximize the leverage from the media we generate and other actions we take? RESULTS founder and CCL mentor Sam DaleyHarris will join our August call and coach us on best practices to ensure that our actions have the greatest impact with members of Congress. After 15 years with RESULTS, Sam founded the Microcredit Summit Campaign, which he left in 2012 to establish the Center for Citizen Empowerment and Transformation.
As I sit here trying to write, I realize I'm getting blasé about these really good speakers.  They're all so good and the meetings are so efficiently run - the reasons I kept going to meetings - that this has become the expectation.  If the Alaska legislature were 1/3 as efficient and effective, Alaska would be humming with a balanced budget and serious programs for making Alaska a more caring and equitable place.

As we left, they were setting up the Japanese Summer Festival at the Cuddy Center.

The event goes from 12pm to 5pm today and parking's free.  It's on the west end of campus near the Wendy Williamson auditorium.

These two, apparently had their setting up chores done, and were 'going' at it.

There was a table of Ikebana. 

The dining room at the Cuddy has the bazaar.  There was food in various places, music, folks in various kinds of Japanese dress.

And a great sale on Pocky. 

 As I post this, the Japan Day celebration has three and a half hours to go.  And it's a spectacularly beautiful day. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Why Wasn't I Surprised That The Guy Who Killed Cecil The Lion Was A Dentist?

It's been a while since I noticed the DDS on the ends of the names of people who have trophy bears in the Anchorage Airport. 

These are only two bears representing two dentists over a 40 year period so let's not jump to conclusions about dentists. Yet.  .  .
Not all the stuffed bears at the airport had their shooters identified, but a couple that did were hunting or fishing guides.

Dr. Walter Palmer of Minnesota, is reported to have said of the death of Cecil:
“I hired several professional guides, and they secured all proper permits,” read a statement from Palmer to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted.”
He added: “I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt. I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion."
Let's remember that most of us know almost nothing about Dr. Palmer and we're filling in the details to fit our own belief systems.  I think we all have a tendency to believe what we want to believe - those of us reading the stories and Dr. Palmer himself..  He wanted a lion and the guys he contacted said they'd get him one.  How carefully did he look into their credentials?  How would an American hunter even check Zimbabwean credentials?  As for the rest of us, many are blasting some version of the evil hunter killing innocent animals.   Others are praising the good hunters and singling Palmer out as the bad apples that give all hunters a bad rep.

While I'm not likely to let this guy off easily, the real issue to me is: what is it that causes grown men, with a good education to want to go out and kill animals, not for food, but for trophies?  (And a follow up question that I won't explore here, is how this sort of killing connected to killing human beings?)   My representative in Congress is known for his wall full of animal heads and hides. He even missed a key subcommittee vote because he was on safari in South Africa.  I had a student once who explained how hunting was a bonding experience between him and his dad.  I get that, and I'm glad my dad and I bonded over other things, like hiking, books, art, baseball, and movies, rather than killing animals.

Some defend hunting as part of their cultural tradition and point out how hunters help protect the environment where animals live.  I think there's merit to those arguments, up to a point.  There are lots of traditions that modern societies no longer openly practice - like slavery, like beating kids as punishment, like cock and dog fighting,  like burning witches, like exorcising demons, or child labor and marriage.

I look at that picture of Dr. Eberle and wonder what he was thinking at the time.  I too like to shoot animals, but with my camera rather than a gun.  That allows me a connection with the animal, but allows the animal to go on living and for others to enjoy seeing them too.   What causes grown men to want to kill big animals and display them?  Is it some sort of feelings of inadequacy, of lack of power?  Is it part of the DNA  they inherited from ancestors who hunted for survival?

A New Zealand study, done to help government agency prepare to manage hunting on public estates, looked at lots of previous studies to try to determine motivations and satisfactions of hunters.  The basic categories they seem to fall under are:
Decker and Connelly (1989) proposed three categories of motivations; achievement oriented, affiliation oriented, and appreciation oriented.
  • -Achievement oriented hunters are motivated by the attainment of a particular goal,  which may be harvesting an animal for meat, a trophy or a display of skill.
  • -Affiliation oriented hunters participate in hunting with the primary purpose of fostering personal relationships with friends, family or hunting companions.
  • -Appreciation oriented hunters are motivated by a desire to be outdoors, escape
    everyday stress or to relax.
The study goes on to lists a much wider range of specifics, that tend to fall into these categories.  It doesn't seem to get into deeper psychological reasons such as the need to demonstrate power (maybe getting a trophy is the proxy for this) or where these needs come from.  Why some people (mostly men) have such a need to kill animals and others do not.  There's lots to ponder here. 

I'd also note that the Alaska Dental Association strongly opposed the use of dental aides to perform basic dental work in rural Alaska.  Most, I'm sure, believed that dentists would give better care and that aides lacked the extensive training necessary to make critical decisions.  They didn't seem to weigh the benefits of many, many more kids an adults getting very simple basic dental care and education that local aides could provide in an area where few dentists lived.    I think their belief was genuine, but colored by their own conscious or unconscious self interests.  As are most all of our beliefs. One such interest was simply the same as all professional licensing - limiting the amount of competition.  Also dentists could fly out to rural Alaska and see patients and also go hunting and fishing on the side.  That is true of many urban, non-Native Alaskans who provide professional services in rural Alaska.  And my saying it shouldn't cause people to question the motives of people who do such work.  But we should be aware of how such side benefits might bias one's beliefs about what's right and wrong, good and bad.

When it comes to endangered species, there are bigger issues  - like resource extraction that destroys habitat, like overpopulation that impinges on wild habitat for housing and food.  And climate change which is changing the landscape world wide.  We should be concerned with individual abuses such as luring a well known collared lion out of a refuge to be shot.  But the bigger environmental trends are much more impactful and threatening to all living things, including humans.  These are the least immediately visible and seemingly the hardest to fight.  But there are ways and many people are pursuing them.  One just has to look, and the internet makes that easy. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Board of Regents Appoint Jim Johnsen To Be President Of The University Of Alaska

From the University press office:
"With a unanimous vote of all regents participating, the University of Alaska (UA) Board of Regents appointed Dr. James R. Johnsen as the 14th president of the UA system. The vote took place during a special meeting of the board on July 28."  [Note:  the link seems to go to the press releases in general.  I couldn't find a way to link to this specific one.  It's July 28, 2015 if you try to find it later.]

Here is most of the position description the Board put out for this job.  I've bolded those parts that speak to what the president must be or do:

 The board seeks an accomplished, astute and effective leader who can provide strategic, innovative and collaborative leadership for the university.

The Presidency of the University of Alaska is an outstanding opportunity for a leader who enjoys the challenge of moving a  complex  academic  organization  to  greater  levels  of  achievement.
The  board  seeks  a  highly  experienced,  politically savvy leader  who  understands  how  to  advance  agendas  in  higher education  and  to  manage  a  multifaceted  university system.
As  one  of  the  most  influential  and  visible  leaders  in  Alaska,  the  President  of  the  University  of  Alaska  must constantly draw the connections between higher education and the state’s economic viability.  He or she must be a tireless, persuasive advocate willing to travel widely within Alaska to encourage support for education and training beyond high school. The  president  should  be  a  visible  participant  in  national  higher  education  issues  and persuasive  with  federal agencies.
He  or  she  must  be  a  coach  for  chancellors,  a  wise  counselor  for  the  board  and a  trustworthy  resource  for  the legislature. He or she should work effectively with University of Alaska Foundation leaders.
The next President should think  creatively,  develop  collaborative  and  innovative solutions  to  challenging  issues and  be  technologically  informed.  With an approachable style and a genuine respect for others, the next President should be dedicated to earning public and private support for the University of Alaska.
A lot of bureaucratic jargon, not much that's specific.  I mention this because the press release also says:
"The new president’s contract is for five years and provides for an annual salary of $325,000 for the duration of the contract.  An annual performance bonus of up to $75,000 will be tied to mutually-agreed upon metrics which are to be determined by September 30."
Exactly how are they going to get from that job description 'mutually-agreed upon metrics'? 

This sounds like an agreement that says, "If you do these things, you'll get a bonus."  And it can be up to 23% of your base pay.

Let's compare that to what faculty get (as outlined in the United Academics contract):

15.5 Merit Bonuses
In addition to the base salary adjustments provided in this Article, the University may, in its sole discretion, award nonrecurring bonus payments to unit members for extraordinary performance far beyond expectations. If the University determines that merit bonuses will be awarded, the dean/director shall recommend to the provost those unit members whose exemplary performance may warrant a bonus. The provost shall then determine the recipients and amounts of merit bonuses.
The University may provide up to one percent (1%) of the total base payroll for merit bonuses each fiscal year. The one percent (1%) of the total base payroll will be calculated as of July 1 of each fiscal year.
There shall be no merit bonuses during the term of this agreement after December 31, 2016.

Faculty bonuses are not based on mutually agreed on metrics, but at the sole discretion of the university, and they have to be 'extraordinary performance far beyond expectations.' 

It will be interesting to see the process for coming up with the metrics and to see whether they too reflect 'extraordinary performance far beyond expectations.'  Maybe like increase the university revenues by 30% per year.  But fund raising isn't even specifically mentioned in the job description.  It's only hinted at - good relations with the UA Foundation and the legislature.

In any case, we have a new president.  I offer my congratulations to Dr. Johnsen and wish him and the university community all the best.   I'm reasonably convinced he wants to do an outstanding job.  My hope is that a) he is able to do that and b) his definition of an outstanding job overlaps closely with that of faculty, staff, and students.  I wish Dr. Johnsen and the university well. The future of Alaska in many ways depends on how well the university performs.  I will do what I can to assist, including reporting on what I think needs attention.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Anchorage Felt Earthquake 6.2

Felt an earthquake just a little bit ago.  I've been checking and think this is the one:


Click the image to see it better.  It says it was 69 KM SSW of Mt Redoubt Volcano.

I felt it ever so slightly, then after about 15 seconds it began to rumble very clearly and the lamp moved a bit.  And then it slowly faded.  I'd guess it went on for 30 seconds.  The time is UTC- 2:35 am July 29 which would be 7:35pm Alaska time July 28. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

Hello StatCounter, Goodbye Sitemeter (Including How To Add StatCounter And How To Delete Sitemeter)

I've been chronicling my problems with Sitemeter for a while.  My Love/Hate Relationship with Sitemeter and Sitemeter Out of Control  are two examples.  I suspect all the younger more tech savvy folks have abandoned Sitemeter long ago.  It's a story that highlights one of the downsides of capitalism -
Step 1:  clever entrepreneur following his passion creates great product and services his customers well
Step 2:  clever entrepreneur gets a great offer for his product and is tired of all the work he's created for himself, so he sells
Step 3:  new company doesn't really care about the product, just the potential money it can make, or wants to eliminate a rival,  and stops servicing customers and basically ruins the once good product

Sitemeter was created by David Smith, who sold it (as I understand) to My Space who sold it to someone else.  Here's the page that I really liked about Sitemeter and made me reluctant to give it up even when it was slow and then buggy.  It consolidates a lot of information about individual visitors.  It's not that I was trying to pry, but I was trying to get a sense of who was visiting and connecting location, sometimes organization (when it showed in the domain name), what they looked for on google, what post that took them to . . . all that helped me understand what an individual sought and sometimes told me that an agency or company I'd posted about was looking at what I posted about them.   

When I first saw all this information that was gathered on each visitor I was shocked.  But I came to understand that Sitemeter merely reformats the information that my computer has already gathered about visitors.  I like to show this page to people to let them know what kind of tracks they leave when they visit websites. 

But the recent problems - shutting down for nearly a week and selling of client websites and their readers to third parties, like x-vindicosuite - started to bring things to a head.  I quoted this before from a google forum: seems to be "passive DNS replicator", which may be performing a genuine function; but apparently buggy software at sitemeter results in pages with sitemeter counting code on them getting redirected there.
In the screenshot below, you can see the message in the lower left, that things had been sent to this mysterious site.  It was like it was sending stuff through x-vindicosuite before I could see the next Sitemeter page, often slowing things down terribly.  

When I posted about this recently, commenters suggested StatCounter as an alternative, but I had lots of things vying for my attention,  so I procrastinated.  But I finally went there to check how difficult it would be to add StatCounter.  It turns out not difficult at all. 

Here's the StatCounter page that tells you how to put the code into your blogger template  It's pretty straightforward and took me less than five minutes.  

After poking around at StatCounter for a week, I see that the kind of information that I got from Sitemeter is available in different formats, and as I'm getting more familiarized, I think it probably gives me most of the same information in better (ie faster to go through) templates, and it allows me to drill down to more information on a specific visitor if I choose. 

For example, here's an example of one of the pages that tracks visits on Sitemeter.  This one tracks by search word:

StatCounter has several pages that do a similar list, but with a lot more information.  Here's one, for example:

click to enlarge and focus

And I can drill down (magnifying glasses in second column next to "Page Visits" to get more information on any of the specific visitors.

There's actually lots and lots of reports and I still have to figure out all that I can get and what I need and want.  And it shows me how Sitemeter was left to stagnate, while StatCounter found new was to display available data. 

And I also found out why so few actual 'search terms' are visible these days compared to four or five years ago.  StatCounter had a link next to 'search term unavailable' that led me to a 2011 Google page that says: 

"As search becomes an increasingly customized experience, we recognize the growing importance of protecting the personalized search results we deliver. As a result, we’re enhancing our default search experience for signed-in users. Over the next few weeks, many of you will find yourselves redirected to (note the extra “s”) when you’re signed in to your Google Account. This change encrypts your search queries and Google’s results page. This is especially important when you’re using an unsecured Internet connection, such as a WiFi hotspot in an Internet cafe. You can also navigate to directly if you’re signed out or if you don’t have a Google Account.

What does this mean for sites that receive clicks from Google search results? When you search from, websites you visit from our organic search listings will still know that you came from Google, but won't receive information about each individual query. They can also receive an aggregated list of the top 1,000 search queries that drove traffic to their site for each of the past 30 days through Google Webmaster Tools. This information helps webmasters keep more accurate statistics about their user traffic. If you choose to click on an ad appearing on our search results page, your browser will continue to send the relevant query over the network to enable advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns and to improve the ads and offers they present to you."
OK, I'm only four years behind the times, and StatCounter is what is getting me a little more up-to-date.  And even if they can't tell you what the search words were, they can tell you if you ranked high in the search.  For example:

Of course, this will depend on the exact words they used on google.  Other visitors to that page must have used other terms to get there and What Do I Know?  didn't rank high enough to get a note on StatCounter.  (What you see is just the little balloon with the #3 on it, but if you hover the cursor over the #3, you get the popup that says "Your page ranked #3 on Google for the query."

A blogger forum gives instructions on how to remove sitemeter from your blogger template.  It is technical, but not that hard.  They highlight the key script in yellow, so scroll down. 

I've still not deleted Sitemeter, but because of the x-vindicosuite problem, I must.  But I need to copy some of the summary pages for when I left to document the number of hits they say I have had.  I don't know how accurate it actually is, but it's something.  So you can look for the sitemeter logo and tracking numbers (well it just shows a black box now)  in the column on the right above "About Me" if you read this today, but I'll try to delete it in a day or two.  You can check back then to see if I was successful.   Here's a summary screenshot I just did saying there's been 811,778 total unique visits and 1,245,231 page views since I first installed Sitemeter. 

I tried to figure out when I first added Sitemeter to the blog.  My email shows a message from Sitemeter in Feb 2009 thanking me for setting up an account.  But I have a post about my 10,000th visitor in December 2008 based on Sitemeter stats.  I'm guessing I set it up in 2007 sometime.  I started the blog in July 2006. 

Goodbye Sitemeter.  Hello StatCounter

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunshine In The Rain

I went out onto the deck to enjoy how green and wet it is here in Anchorage.  The dahlia was providing it's own sun power in the rain. 

We left a hot and muggy LA last night and followed the northern glow all the way home dropping into the clouds and rain for what seemed a long time before landing.  My guess was that we had maybe 30 seconds from when I could see the ground until the wheels touched down on the runway. 

This picture on the right was looking out the window at the horizontal rain lit up by the plane's lights.  The camera's take on this is different from my eyes' take. 

The airport was jammed at midnight when we arrived.  It was hard to get through the crowd to the steps down to baggage and all three lanes were full of cars picking people up outside of the baggage claim.  I do have to say that Alaska Airline's 20 minute baggage guarantee is great.  We were outside getting into the car less than 20 minutes after we got off the plane.  And that's been true in Anchorage and LA. 

It's nice to be back in some semblance of order - at least where I know where things go and I can find them easily.  As messy as our house is, compared to what we left in LA, it could be in a magazine article on orderly.  It helps having a house sitter you have to clean things up for. 

And the sweet peas I planted by seed in May, and were budding when we left for LA, are starting to bloom.  Nice to be home in the cool, low 60's, so nice after LA's unusually mugginess. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

Traces Of A Life

People's lives tend to be put in brackets of birth date to death date.  Inside those brackets we list basic facts like parents, spouses, kids, employment, and other key achievements or events.  But a life is made up of much more than that and I've been going through the traces of those other things in my mom's life.

There's so much I could write about but there are things my mom wouldn't want on the blog, so I'll just do a couple of examples.

The deer and the squirrel sat on my mom's night stand when I was a little kid and probably longer.  I don't know when they got put away.  I'd forgotten all about them until I found them wrapped up in the back of a drawer.  They're small.  The squirrel could sit on a quarter.  But they were part of our life together, a connection we had over these little animals. 

Another little piece is this temporary pass that was in my step-father's belongings.  He was a good friend of both my parents (and my father continued to have good relations with my mom and step-father after they divorced).  I'm not sure what meaning this particular pass had.  But it's interesting as a connection to the man and to a bit of documentation of history. 

Below is the back of the pass.

Here's part of Thailand Peace Corps Group 19's picture when we got to Thailand and just before we headed off to our assignments in 1967.  My mom wasn't particularly excited to see me off to Asia then, but she never let on until we talked about it much later. 

This is a shot from near the water at Venice beach the other evening.  We finally were able to get some time together, just sitting on the beach enjoying the surf.  There were more dolphins out there.  My mom and I also had a beach bond much of which developed at Venice beach.  She was still using her boogie board in her 70s.  And there are a couple still in the garage. 

And here's a picture she had in her room of my brother Glen, who died in a work accident at age 23.  That had a huge impact on my mom, but she kept working and helping others. but went to the cemetery every week to give him new flowers.  It's actually a picture I took and developed, including burning in the picture of him surfing in the background.  That was before photoshop when you could doctor pictures in the darkroom. 

There's also wedding pictures of my mom an dad, her wedding ring, and thousands of other little things. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

We Need An Emergency Attorney Number Like 911

Given the Sandra Blank incident I mentioned yesterday, it seems like it would be useful to have emergency attorneys available for people being pulled over by police.  We've all heard the adage "A man who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client."  But that's exactly what happens when a cop pulls you over.  For most of us, it's much easier to advocate for others than for ourselves.  We tend to be more emotional than an independent advocate.  And we don't know the law as well.

So, I propose an emergency number, like 911, that people could call when a cop pulls them over and they think it might go badly. 

Let me also say that there are cops and there are cops.  Many become police officers because they sincerely want to protect the public.  Even some of this group, unfortunately, have an image of the bad guy they are protecting the public from, that arises from the prejudicial stereotypes Americans have been saturated with by every part of our culture (media, schools, family, churches, courts).  Another group of cops became cops because they needed a uniform and a gun to make them feel important.  It's way past time for good cops to call out the bad ones, and also to expose the structural barriers to doing that.  Things like the police code of silence.

Meanwhile, here's something on your rights when stopped by the police. 

And an old post on  Our Rights To Film Cops In Public

By the way, California recently passed a SB411 specifically making it legal to photograph or record police in public if someone is where they are legally allowed to be.  From what I can tell, it's waiting for the governor's signature. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Abuse Of Power Dream and Reality

I was standing next to a three foot glass cube in a museum when a man ordered me to do or not do something.  I looked at him and made some small protest comment.  Immediately, he said something like, "OK, you're out of here" and started to escort me to the exit.

That's when I woke up.  Upset.  WTF?  I wasn't doing anything and this jerk guard totally abused his power.   I tried to go back to sleep but I was agitated.

This time the guard grabbed my arm to escort me out.  I looked around to see if anyone was getting this on their phone. 

I'm on the edge of sleep and waking.  This time I demand his identification.  Who are you?  He refused to share his identification.  He wasn't wearing a badge or even a guard uniform.  He grabbed my arm.  I sat on the floor. 

The next time after I demanded his id and he refused - I said loudly to other people in the room, "Make a video."  I said I didn't have to listen to him because I didn't know who he was and he looked just like any museum visitor. 

I bobbed up above the dream surface, got some air, then slid back down under. 

This time I said forcefully, "I'm a museum investigator asked to find the guy who's been harassing museum guests."

This time I surfaced above the dream and stayed awake.  I described the dream to my wife.  Then I hit the snooze button, hoping Morning Edition would put me back to sleep.  But soon we were hearing my dream as a real-life nightmare.  It was bits and pieces of the tape of the Texas police officer harassing a black woman he'd pulled over for not signaling a lane change.  I have to say, as we've been driving around LA, that there are a lot of people who don't seem to know they have a turn signal.  These folks should be pulled over and shown the indicator and told to use it.  It should go on their record, so if they are seen without signaling again, they wouldn't get off so easily. 

But the cop in the tape is way over the line.  And then he tells the lady who is sitting in her car still, to put out the cigarette!  Even if I thought he might have been concerned about her health, I'd say he was way out of line.  That it sounded more like he just got off on his uniform and the ability to order people around. 

I was pissed when I woke up from my dream.  My pseudo guard was way out of line and had no business ordering me around.  But this cop was even worse.  I can imagine the woman, Sandra Bland, was thinking about the days not so long ago that blacks had to take crap from whites in the south and just bite their tongues. 

This Texas cop seems to be keeping the old days alive.  Oh, yeah, as most of you probably already know, the next day Sandra Bland was found dead in a jail cell she never should have been in.  Trying to keep one's cool when one is being humiliated for no reason is not easy.  And how long has this been going on - out of sight of most people - before anyone began taking the victims seriously.  Only the advent of people's video cameras and a platform to play them has caused enough people to seriously protest. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Theodore Bikel Is Gone

When I got to Germany in 1964 for a year at the University of Göttingen, I had a number of record albums, including one with Guela Gill and Theodore Bikel.  During that year I became good friends with a married doctoral student and his wife who lived in the student housing I was assigned to.  When Jurgen heard the Bikel album he went crazy.  He loved it and we played it over and over again.  And, of course, I left the album with them when i went back home.

Years later when we visited Jurgen and Inge, Jurgen had gotten every album Bikel had ever put out and could sing all the songs - particularly those in Yiddish.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I learn about Bikel's death today.  But like my mom, he was in his 90s and has had a good life. 

Here's the only Youtube I could find of a song from my old album.  It's been forever since I heard this.  It's in Spanish, not Yiddish.

[sorry, this is another reposting because Feedburner didn't pick the original up]