Wednesday, January 18, 2017

About This Blog

When I first started blogging, many of the posts were about blogging itself, as I was learning what this is all about.  But once I got out most of the kinks, figured out how to put up pictures and videos, and how to put up a stat counter and tables, I stopped paying that much attention to the technical details, unless I had new problems.

Also, as things went along, I began to have a better sense of why I was blogging and what I was blogging about.  I figured a page on top would be a good intro for people who wanted to know such things.  I've finally put it up today.  It's the top left tab under the header.  Or just click here.   It links to some of the old posts I've done which help people understand what this blog is about.

I also looked on the right hand column and deleted the "Can't Find It?" reference on the upper right.  It  looked like this:

Can't Find It?
1. Try the search blog button, upper left
2. Try Edit on toolbar, then Find in this Page
3. Try the labels list on the lower right.

I think nowadays people are more used to blogs and know how to find things.  

I've also been wanting to change the copyright announcement there and move to Creative Commons, but it seems that is more complicated than it used to be.  So now I have to figure out which of the six options I'm most comfortable with.  

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

How Close Are Trump's Actions To Putin's Priorities?

Is Putin pulling Trump's strings?  Let's look at some of the signs.

What are Putin's biggest obstacles?

1.  NATO, as weak as it is, is still a threat.  Anything he can do weaken NATO would help him restore the Soviet era power balance in Eastern Europe - Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, etc.

2.   China has a long, long border with Russia and there's always been conflict on that border.  Anything he can do to weaken China's ties with the US would be helpful.

3.   Turkey holds the key to the waterway from southern Russia.  Good relations with Turkey is to Putin's advantage.  Putin's performance in Syria contributed to refugees into Turkey and Europe, destabilizing the EU and threatening Turkey's acceptance into the EU partnership.  But Putin forgave quickly Turkey shooting down a Russian military plane and is making nice to Turkey.

4.   The US Intelligence agencies are always keeping watch on Russia.  The less capable they are, the more power Russia has.

Now, what are some of the things Trump has been promising to do?

1.  NATO is obsolete and doesn't pay its bills according to Trump.  He's going to shake things up.

2.  Trump's been riling China - congratulations call from Taiwan's president,  Secretary of State nominee Tillerman is challenging China's access to nearby islands.   All this looks aimed at making the US-China relations much more fragile and making China's border with Russia weaker.

3.  Trump supports Erdogan and his strongman ways.

4.  National-Security Republican elite fear they are being kept out of Trump administration.

OK, Trump is anti-establishment and we can expect some of his views to be a big change from the past.  But these all seem to line up in one direction - supportive of Putin's agenda.  They are pretty big deals.

And given the help Russia gave Trump in the campaign, and all the Russia friendly appointments, and the most recent news about Russia's leverage on Trump, I'd say that the evidence is lining up to a very dire conclusion.

It took a lot of [for] people to give up their support of Nixon.  They couldn't believe the president would lie, and it meant a change of their whole way of thinking.  But the Watergate committee in the Senate was made up of Republicans as well as Democrats.  While the Republicans made the Democrats prove things, they weren't in denial, and they didn't stonewall the hearings.  This is going to be 'interesting times.'

Monday, January 16, 2017

Snowy Day In Anchorage

The clouds are low and heavy.

The clouds have been spitting snow all day.

This bull moose snacking on BP trees reminded me why I'm here.

Downtown was quiet on this MLK holiday.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

"The copulation of cattle as an enterprise in Ballona was soon mounted" and Other Notes

1.  Mar Vista History

My mother's house is in a part of Los Angeles called Mar Vista and a local realtor there dropped off a flier with a lengthy excerpt from a history of Mar Vista.  When I looked up the source - the Mar Vista Historical Society - I found the whole long and, for some of us, interesting document.

But I have to say that the sentence in this post's title jumped out at me.  One possible explanation is that this part was translated into English, presumably from Spanish, and the the computer stuck in 'copulation' instead of 'breeding.'  But I can't account for the 'mounted.'

I'd note that the excerpt in the real estate flier left out the story in the original of how the Spanish settlers' land grants displace the indigenous people in the area and then after the Spanish American war, the Americans either invalidated outright or set up administrative barriers that effectively dispossessed the Mexican landowners of their property.

2.  Viewing Sourdough Starter As A Pet

It's been a long time since Cocoa died, but we decided against another dog because we didn't think it fair if we were going to be away for longish periods.  But I realized on this trip, that in some ways my
sourdough starter is a kind of pet.  But one that can stay safely in the refrigerator for fairly long periods of time.  But as we were close to returning to Anchorage, I began to wonder how my starter was doing.

When we got home I took it out, let it warm up a bit, then fed it a bit of flour and water.  Soon it had risen in the jar and was actively bubbling.  So I had to do the sourdough starter equivalent of taking it for a walk, I had to make a bread.

The rubber band around the jar shows where the starter was after I fed it.  When it grows like that, it's like a dog jumping and yipping to go for a walk.

I made two breads.  First a baguette and then a second round loaf.  Here's the baguette.

3.  One Step Closer To Filling The Gap

Picture from Mayo Clinic

Back in October I wrote about the post the oral surgeon embedded in my gum.  On the left is a picture from the Mayo Clinic.  In the October post, I talked about the process and there's a picture of my post implanted in my mouth.

It takes time for the post to get connected firmly to the existing jaw bone.  So Friday the oral surgeon checked to see if it was in ok.  Monday I go to my regular dentist who will do a mold for a new tooth.  The oral surgeon was pleased with his work and said no one would notice.

I couldn't help but think about having the dentist give me a green tooth so they would.  After a bit more thought, I was thinking I should have the tooth on the other side pulled too and get vampire like fangs.  It would be great if you could have several different teeth and you could trade them out by yourself.  I suspect the dentist has to do that.  I'll check on Monday.  The dentist had a full display of teeth in the window sill.

The 'flipper' (sort of like a retainer with a tooth on it) that was supposed to fill the hole until all this work is done, was a pain.  It interfered with speech - my tongue would rub against it on the roof of my mouth when I spoke - and it made eating unpleasant.  It might be a good diet tool, but I found it a pain.  So I wasn't too upset when it disappeared somewhere in the house.  If you don't mind a gappy smile, I'd recommend skipping the flipper.  Fortunately, the missing tooth isn't right in front.

On the way home I passed this hoar frosted hedge.  Most of the trees I saw looked like this. Yesterday there was more snow, warmer temps, and all the frost is gone.

3.  Citizens Climate Lobby Meeting

The second Saturday of the month is the international CCL meeting.  The Anchorage chapter meets at UAA.  The speaker was Yareth Bauman, the man who lead the Washington state's initiative for a revenue neutral carbon fee in that state.  It didn't pass, but it got 40% of the vote, and potential opponents with deep pockets, chose not to campaign against it.

You can listen to the podcast of the meeting here.

4.  Shoveling Snow - My Winter Exercise

Yesterday we got about 5 inches of snow, and showering out the driveway and sidewalk was a productive way to get in some good exercise.  People didn't used to have to go to the gym to stay fit, they just walked more and did chores without all sorts of motorized devices.

When I got back from the meeting, there was another inch of snow and it was windy.  Our mountain ash tree tends to keep its leaves as long as it can and the wind had scattered some of them onto my recently shoveled driveway.  But I got out the shovel and did another rep.   I feel great after 30-60 minutes of moving snow around.

By the late afternoon, there was sunshine and clear sky.

Friday, January 13, 2017

"Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It." BUT How To Use It Right?

People can use the bible to support slavery (and oppose it.)  Or justify male domination over women.  Until Luther, the quote about it being easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, was used to condemn the rich until Luther made being wealthy godly.

And so with learning from history.  We can learn the wrong thing if we choose the wrong event, or interpret it inappropriately for today's situation.   People, including myself, have made comparisons between what is happening in the US now with the rise of the Third Reich in Germany.  There are areas where comparisons are justified - such as how to use the media for propaganda.  We can learn something useful today about that.  But that doesn't mean that the writer thinks Trump is going to copy everything else Hitler did, like set up concentration camps, as some people assume.

I got to thinking about this when I read a passage about Hitler's plundering of art and jewels the other day.

Sergeant Major von Rumpel is a gemologist in Anthony Doerr's All The Light One Cannot See.  
"Because of the war [WWII], his job has expanded.  Now Sergeant Major von Rumpel has the chance to do what no one has done in centuries - not since the Mogul Dynasty, not since the Khans.  Perhaps not in history.  The capitulation of France is only weeks past, and already he has seen things he did not dream he would see in six lifetimes.  A seventeenth-century globe as big around as a small car, with rubies to mark volcanoes, sapphires clustered at the poles, and diamonds for world capitals. He has held - held! - a dagger handle at least four hundred years old, made of white jade and inlaid with emeralds.  Just yesterday, on the road to Vienna, he took possession of a five-hundred-and-seventy-piece china set with a single marquise-cut diamond set into the rim of every single dish.  Where the police confiscated these treasures and from whom, he does not ask. . .
"Rumor is that the führer is compiling a wish list of precious objects from all around Europe and Russia.  They say he intends to remake the Austrian town of Linz into an empyrean city, the cultural capital of the world. . .
"The document is real, von Rumpel has heard.  Four hundred pages." [emphasis added]
While All the Light One Cannot See is fiction, Hitler's plan for museum in Linz was real.  And the plundering of art and other valuables was real.

I don't see Trump with plans to plunder art, but it would probably  be safe to say he has his eye on prime real estate around the world for Trump hotels and towers.   His website shows fourteen Trump hotels, half of which are in the US. That leaves lots of countries without Trump hotels yet.  The Washington Post, for example, says he'd like 20 - 30 in China alone.  

As president of the US, he won't have have to steal them, he can just trade American favors for them.  "Sure, we can sell you some jets.  That means jobs for Americans and, I'd sure like that historic castle to be a Trump hotel."

I'd note that Wikipedia says that Hitler didn't steal everything he collected.  He sent one of his art experts
"on trips to Italy and France to buy artworks, which Hitler paid for with his own money, which came from sales of Mein Kampf, real estate speculation on land in the area of the Berghof, Hitler's mountain retreat on the Obersalzberg, and royalties from Hitler's image used on postage stamps.[28] The latter, which was divided with his official photographer Heinrich Hoffmann, amounted to at least $75 million marks over the course of Hitler's reign.[29]
This, however, was not the primary method used to build up the collection."
Did you skip over that quote?  If you did, you missed the part about him getting royalties from having his image on postage stamps!  Wow. Trump's picture on forever stamps.  With him getting royalties for each stamp.  Now that's something to look forward to.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

We Made It To Seattle

We made it by bus to the airport without it raining on us.

I want to say thanks to Theresa at Alaska Airlines for changing our ticket because she was sure we wouldn't make our connection in Seattle.  (We'd changed our flight that was supposed to stop in Portland to one stopping in Seattle because of the weather.  Alaska lets you change flights when there are big weather issues without having to pay the flight change or change in cost of the ticket.)  We learned another big advantage of being MVP on Alaska.  You get a leg up on the waiting list.  I have issues about this airline class system, but if it exists, I'm glad we were on the right side and I apologize to anyone who might have not gotten on because of us.

We got our ticket and you can see the view through the window above as we waited to take off.

The landscape around Portland was pretty white as we flew by Mt. Hood.

But as we got further north, things were looking better and we landed in the sun in Seattle.

Our gate has been changed from C11 to D1 and my wife is waiting for me to finish this so I will. Be back in Anchorage soon if all goes well.

In LAX Travel Chaos Hoping to Get On This Flight -Updated

Our original flight to Seattle was delayed and the checkin person didn't think we'd make our connection to Anchorage, so she put us on the earlier 11:45 am flight which is overbooked, but she thought we might be able to get on when they upgrade people to First Class.

This one is also delayed.  Passengers are just getting off the plane now.  It's 12 noon.

We've been lucky to avoid this sort of mess most of the time.  I do have an appointment in Anchorage at 1pm tomorrow.  Fingers crossed.

UPDATE  12:12 pm -  we now have boarding passes with seats.   On to Seattle with plenty of time to connect to the Anchorage flight.

UPDATE:  4:40pm the follow up to this post is here.  We made it to Seattle.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Diamonds And Volcanoes, Oceans And Space

I wasn't sure what to do with this piece on diamonds.  It was interesting - both because of what it said and because it exposed a gap in my knowledge that probably most people know already.  (Did you?)   I tend to think diamonds and their high prices are due to monopoly and marketing.  Young men are cowed into buying sparkling rings by all the hype about diamonds being forever and the made up tradition of diamond wedding rings.  I'm not making this all up, people have studied this.  The article mentions that diamonds weren't associated with weddings until the 1930s.

But I acknowledge that industrial diamonds probably play an important role in society.  From the USGS:
"Because it is the hardest substance known, diamond has been used for centuries as an abrasive in grinding, drilling, cutting, and polishing, and industrial-grade diamond continues to be used as an abrasive for many applications.  .  . Diamond also has chemical, electrical, optical, and thermal characteristics that make it the best material available to industry for wear- and corrosion-resistant coatings, special lenses, heat sinks in electrical circuits, wire drawing, and advanced technologies."
I actually started yesterday's post with the quote below on diamonds.  That's why yesterday's title was  misleading.  The post was going to be bits and pieces of different things that weren't related and not enough to be a post on their own.  But the post evolved and the photos about the Silverlake walk were enough.  So I cut the diamond reference, but forgot to update the title.

So here's what I edited out yesterday:
"Most diamonds come from depths of 90 to 120 miles beneath the Earth’s surface, Smith said. The only reason they are accessible to us today is because they traveled up through the crust millions of years ago, carried along by rare and powerful volcanic eruptions.
But chemical clues culled from the Cullinan diamond and others like it suggest they were forged at even greater depths than most diamonds — about 224 to 446 miles beneath our feet."
- From an LA Times article on what scientists are learning from diamonds about deep in the earth .

I resurrected the post because last night before going to sleep I picked up my next book club volume - Anthony Doeer's All the Light We Cannot See - and read this:
"A diamond, the locksmith reminds himself, is only a piece of carbon compressed in the bowels of the earth for eons and driven to the surface in a volcanic pipe.  Someone facets it, someone polishes it."
I got the same lesson about diamonds and volcanoes from two different sources on the same day.  Did I ever learn that diamonds were spewed out of the bowels of the earth by volcanoes?  Maybe, but if I did, it didn't stick in my conscious knowledge.  But I was getting a message from someone to pay more attention now.

The original LA Times article is about a scientist studying large diamonds for what they tell us about so deep in the earth - a place, the article tells us, scientists can't reach, so these travelers from this distant region of our own planet offer up clues to what else is there.  And the article says there's a lot more minerals than had been previously thought.

This also got me to thinking.  Voyager has travelled about 12 billion miles from our sun,  about how we can send missions to to explore our solar system, but we on earth,  according to the Smithsonian:
"as of January 22, drilling had only reached a depth of 2,330 feet beneath the seafloor."
That's less than half a mile.  The earth's core is 6,371 kilometers (3,958 mi) according to this extreme tech article.    This site has a lot of clickbait, so checked further.  National Geographic says "about 4000 miles" so it's ok.  [There's an interesting graphic representation of traveling to the center of the earth at this BBC page.]

Is it really harder to drill into the earth than to go out into space?  Or is space just more romantic and better sold - like the diamonds - than earth core exploration?  Perhaps it is simply more difficult.  I found lots of articles comparing exploring space to exploring the oceans (where getting to the earth's core seems to begin).  This article from American Progress suggests it IS 'marketing' or at least what has stirred our exploratory imaginations:
"Yet space travel excites Americans’ imaginations in a way ocean exploration never has. To put this in terms [James] Cameron may be familiar with, just think of how stories are told on screens both big and small: Space dominates, with “Star Trek,” “Star Wars,” “Battlestar Galactica,” “Buck Rogers in the 25th Century,” and “2001 A Space Odyssey.” Then there are B-movies such as “Plan Nine From Outer Space” and everything ever mocked on “Mystery Science Theater 2000.” There are even parodies: “Spaceballs,” “Galaxy Quest,” and “Mars Attacks!” And let’s not forget Cameron’s own contributions: “Aliens” and “Avatar.”
When it comes to the ocean, we have “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” and Cameron’s somewhat lesser-known film “The Abyss.” And that’s about it."
And since this quote mentions 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I should mention that a key character in All The Light We Cannot See is reading Jules Verne's classic story in braille.

Bits And Pieces January 9, 2017

It rained hard before it got light Monday morning.  We had a walking tour through Silverlake planned with friends.  J and my old neighborhood.  Back in the 1970s.  J was working downtown and I was going to school at USC so it seemed like a reasonable location.

It wasn't cool back then.  Just a funky neighborhood.

As I was preparing breakfast, I noticed a car out front of my mom's house.  I went out to take in the garbage can and saw that it wasn't a car.  It was traffic.  This quiet, out of the way street has become a way to beat traffic.  It's insane.  But it's only for a short time in the morning.  Maybe 20 minutes.  But it's sick that there is so much traffic that cars are backed up the block on this out of the way residential street.

There was a fair amount of nostalgia as we walked up and down the hills of streets roamed in our 20s, newly married, and discovering interesting people and places every time we went out.

In a lot of ways, the neighborhood looks remarkably the same.  While in my mom's neighborhood contractors buy old little houses, tear them down, then build lot squeezing villas, there was very little of that on the streets we wandered.  Places had new paint, maybe even a new facade, but most looked like the original buildings we'd wandered past over 40 years ago.

And this neighborhood is as likely to have lost parrot posters as lost dog posters.

The biggest difference I noticed was security.  Rambling hillside apartment buildings that had interesting steps used to be open to the world.  Now, many of them have security gates and locks.  Our building's old inviting opening onto a courtyard with a view, now had a glassed in wall with a door.  Fortunately a tenant came in and let us in so we could look around.  But here's an examples of what I'm talking about.

So many places now have iron gates.

But the neighborhood's funkiness is alive and well.  Here's a fence with little arm chairs and signs on it.  Since this is a nostalgia trip, I've taken the liberty to play around with a few of the photos below in photoshop.  In this case it was to get some closer views of the chairs along with the larger picture of the fence.  But then I played with the color of the sky and the saturation.

And we walked down the Micheltorena stairs.

We stopped at Night Market Song - a Thai place that left my mouth with a satisfying, if low watt,  glow - and wandered on Sunset past this motorcycle shop where our friend fell in love with an old used Vespa.

Much to my amazement, the Free Clinic was still there.  As part of a graduate class, I volunteered as an intake worker there several nights a week for a semester.

It looked a bit tired, so I took some liberties again in photoshop to perk it up a bit.

After a couple of hours of exploring the old stomping grounds, we got back to the car and made one last stop at Barnsdale Park where I took this view of Hollywood from outside the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Hollyhock House.

I've got lots more thoughts, but no more time.  It was good to just go out and have fun for the day after lots of paper shredding, sorting of boxes, and looking through old documents and memorabilia that give a little back story of my family that I never quite understood.  If I have time . . .

Sunday, January 08, 2017

AIFF2016: GayLa Night Filmmakers Bennett Wallace (Real Boy) and Alex Myung (Arrival) Q&A

Back in December I got some video of the Q&A at the Anchorage International Film Festival's GayLa night.  Alex Myung's animated film Arrival opened.  It's a visually beautiful story of a young, Asian-American gay man leaving for the big city and later coming out to his mom.  It got the first runner up award for animation at the festival.

The second film, a feature documentary called Real Boy, follows Bennett Wallace's transition to a boy.  

[You can see the trailers for both films here.]

After the showing, they went on stage together to answer questions.  I've paraphrased the question below.  I got most of the Q&A but I think there were a few more questions I missed.
The first went to Alex.  The Bennett got some, and then it went back to Alex for the last one.

For Alex:

Q1:  Was this how you came out or someone you know?
Q2:  Was it always going to be a film without dialog?

For Bennett:

Q3:  How has the relationships with your parents evolved since the film?
Q4:  Given that the film portrays your cutting yourself, what would you tell kids today who are cutting?
Q5:  Would it have helped you to see a film like this?  [Spoiler:  "It would have changed my life."
Q6:  How did the film come about?
Q7:  How did it feel living your life with the camera on you all the time?  [Spoiler:  "At first I felt I always had to say something really profound.  That didn't last long."  "It was difficult when we filmed in public."
Q8:  How is Joe doing now?

For Alex:

Q9:  I seemed to see a Miyazaki influence, was he a model for you?