Saturday, April 18, 2015

"Why Should I Do All The Work?" Mariano Gonzales

Mariano has done a lot of work, so it's not like he's being lazy.  The title will make more sense when you read the artist's statement below. 


If you live in Anchorage, I'd strongly recommend getting to the museum Sunday April 18, 2015, the last day of the Mariano Gonzales exhibit.  It's in the small gallery on the 4th floor.

I took a couple of computer art classes from Mariano and I can only say, he's one of those incredible people who do world class work, live in Anchorage, and most people are totally unaware of their existence.  Don't just take my word. 

Mariano can work in any medium, with incredible craftsmanship.  But it's the concepts and social statements Mariano is making that are always important. 

The titles of the works in this post are (not in this order)
  1. Number 3
  2. Oh Say Can't You See?
  3. Don't Touch My Cheese
  4. A Man In The Shadows
  5. Tsunami
I think you should be able to match them to the right works.  Answer key at the bottom.

A Man In The Shadows is the name of the exhibit.  There are lots of possible meanings of that in this exhibit.  One of the most obvious are the shadows in the the three dimensional works he has.  


I've tried below to give a sense of the next work as a whole and then the details.  This one is full of military vehicles.  I've saved it in higher than normal resolution so you can enlarge it to see it better. 


Here's what Mariano says about the work in this exhibit - particularly the three dimensional pieces. 

Below I tried to capture a sense of the shaped aluminum and the metal frame behind these works. 

And here's one more.  The whole work is in the upper right and the background and other two images are details from the larger work.  There's a lot of amazing stuff in this piece. This one can also be clicked much larger.


Not all the work is in this form.  There are a number of other pieces that have different media - from scrimshaw, to canvas, to silver, and the one below. 


Again, Sunday, today for most who read this, is the last day of the exhibit.  And you can check out the Captain Cook exhibit while you are there.   Though it will be around a lot longer.

By the way, there was a sign that said the work could be purchased through the museum gift shop.  So even if you're not in Anchorage, you can inquire about purchasing one of these pieces.  

Titles Code:

Friday, April 17, 2015

Walker Or Chenault? - A Look At the Showdown Players

Dermot Cole's article in the ADN today, outlines the differences between the governor and the Republican leaders in the legislature over gas pipelines.

On the one hand Cole says the legislators see a partnership between the state and the oil companies.
"The ruling Republican majorities envision the state and the oil companies marching forward — more or less in unison — on a shared pipeline vision, capable of working out any disagreements that might derail the gas pipeline partnership."
 The governor, while fine with this partnership with the oil companies, thinks we should have a back up plan in case things don't work out.  

The legislators don't like this approach.
"They portray his plan for a backup export project as a signal to the oil companies that the state is not committed to its agreement."
They think the governor is trying to shake down the oil companies.  
“'You have made clear your desire to have a parallel project to use as leverage against our Alaska LNG partners in order to force changes in existing contractual terms,' House Speaker Mike Chenault and Senate President Kevin Meyer said in a letter April 10."
But the governor thinks the oil companies and the state, while having some overlapping goals, are still two separate entities negotiating a deal.  The oil companies will eventually decide based on their view of their best interests.  The state of Alaska, he thinks, should do the same.   The oil companies have back up plans if they don't like the final pipeline details.  The state too should have such a back up plan.
"Walker counters that it is not a matter of using leverage against the oil company partners, but of using leverage to protect Alaska. He said the oil companies understand this. Partners or not, many of the key details about the pipeline project have yet to be negotiated and Walker says he is only doing what the oil companies do for themselves — preserving options."

How do we assess which of these positions is sounder? 

One route is to look at the players and figure out their abilities and their loyalities. 

Mike Chenault has,  according to his legislative bio, graduated from Kenai Central High School in  1975. It's not clear what work experience he has.  He's listed as a vice-president of a construction company, he has military service, and has been involved with things like the local chamber of commerce.  He's been in the House since 2001, fourteen years.

You can be smart and learn a lot through experience in the world, without a college degree.  And you can get a college degree and still make bad decisions.  But most people agree that a good college education is worth more in most cases, than a high school degree. People put themselves in debt to get one, and businesses are willing to pay more for employees with degrees, and relatively few people at the top don't have college degrees.

A good college education should help broaden students' horizons by exposing them to a wider range of people than they saw in high school and a wider range of ideas and skills.  A truly good education would also help build a person's ability to reason and use logic as well as introducing them to the field of ethics.  Of course, not everyone who has a college degree got all those benefits.  And I can think of some pretty capable people who didn't get college degrees.  Mark Begich for one.  Bill Allen for another.  (And I don't mean that facetiously.  Allen was a high school drop out who through his own smarts and hard work built a company worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  This old post gives my impressions of him during the Kott trial.) 

I don't know a lot about Chenault's life beyond the bio mentioned above.  But he seems to have spent most of his life on the Kenai.  His actions this session reflect a man who's enjoying his power and not  having to defer to others. (He kicked Rep. Reinbold out of the caucus.  He's opposed the governor on medicaid expansion and this pipeline issue.  He's let approval of the governor's appointments languish and when the governor set a special session to vote on the appointments, he basically ignored it.  He got a great subsidy for a fertilizer company in his own district, even though the state is suffering from a huge budget shortfall this year and basic government programs are being cut.  Just a few examples.)  Rather than be a statesman who is respectful of those who see the world differently, he appears disdainful and petty.   He recently sent a nasty letter to Washington State saying neither they, nor any other entities, could treat Alaska like a colony.

My response was to posit whether 'other entities' included oil companies.  Alaska has a history of being treated like a colony and the oil companies are just the latest colonizers.  And his behavior here - that we shouldn't do anything to upset the oil companies, that we shouldn't have a backup plan as we negotiate with them - reflects someone who either has made a pact with the oil industry, or doesn't realize he's become their lackey.  His partner in the letter to Gov. Walker, was Conoco-Phillips employee and Senate president Kevin Meyer.  If we don't know for sure where his loyalties lie, we do know where his regular paycheck comes from.  The fact that Governor Walker defeated Governor Parnell (and Conoco Phillips attorney)  in November thus upsetting the easy pass for oil companies in the governor's office, likely contributes to the legislators' animosity towards Walker.

Walker, on the other hand, has a  BS degree in Business Management from Lewis and Clark College and his JD from the University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University.)  Practicing law you get to see the inner details of how companies operate. It can be brutal and nasty.  Walker understands that the oil companies' loyalty lies with their shareholders, not with the state of Alaska.

Like a few past Republican governors - Hammond and Hickel come to mind - he's not a patsy for the oil companies.  He understands that the state and oil companies are potential partners in a deal now and then, but in the long term, they have conflicting interests.  The state has an interest in getting the most possible revenue from our natural resources and the oil companies' interest is to do the same.  Some level of cooperation might be beneficial for both parties, but there is a point where each party must look after its own interests separately.

I'd also note that the oil companies spend a fair amount of money helping friendly legislators get elected, and then more for lobbyists to help those legislators figure out how to vote.  We saw how all that worked in 2006 courtesy of FBI tapes that recorded some of those normally out of the spotlight transactions. 

We could think of the legislature is the state's equivalent of a company's board of directors. 

I'm unaware of the state of Alaska paying to get its friends on the boards of directors of any oil companies and then pay for lobbyists to help them make decisions favorable to the state of Alaska.  Furthermore,  when we deal with oil companies, the state's books are public information.  The oil companies' books are mostly closed, even to state negotiators.  It's already a very unbalanced relationship.

I have not looked at the details of the various oil pipeline proposals.  I did, in 2008 hear the arguments for the deal with Trans Canada. But I' haven't stayed informed since then.  So I don't really have a clue which deal is the best.  The money to be invested in the back up plan sounds like a lot, but the numbers involved here are a lot.

I also was there when Byron Mallot talked about Walker's character and decency playing a big role in his becoming his running mate.  I don't see those qualities in Chenault.  He comes across, at least in how the media portray him, as more of a street fighter defending his personal turf. 

That doesn't mean Walker is right.  He's been a long time champion for his pipeline option. 
But all things considered,  it just seems to me that Walker has the interests of the people of Alaska more in mind than do Chenault and Meyer.  His stance with the oil companies is more like 'trust but verify' whereas the Chenault Meyer stance seems to be just 'trust.' 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Big Wheels

At a bike rack at University of Alaska Anchorage today:

Why so big a wheel?  The Unicycling Society of American says:
"For riding outdoors on the street, you can use a 20” freestyle unicycle, or you can use a unicycle with a somewhat larger wheel, say, 24” to 29”.  The larger the wheel, the faster and farther you can ride. Beginners will find it easiest to start on a unicycle with a 20” to 24” wheel.  Smaller children may need to start on a 16” wheel." (emphasis added) says they sell 5000 a year in the US and another 5000 outside the US and their goal is to reach 1% of the population.  The link has the owner pitching to funders about his unicycle business.  He estimates about 1 million unicycles in the US. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

If The Shoe Fits . . .

I'm sure that there are people in every state who think this cartoon was written about their state legislature.  I'm going to be a little more discriminating.  The Democratic caucus in Alaska has so little power, that all the crazy things coming out of our legislature, from the LIO building fiasco to budget cutting frenzy with no concern about revenue raising, to the fact that Erin's Law has not been passed, and on and on, lies at the feet of the Republicans

From Sunday April 12 ADN - Grin and Bear It  (link to current day cartoon)

One of the problems of a lopsided majority is that the majority leaders get used to being able to get their way on everything.  They get used to ignoring the opposition, even when that opposition makes wise suggestions.  They don't have to defend what they are doing, they don't have to pay attention to the details, and so it is easy to start passing very bad legislation. 

Alaska will suffer in the future from decisions being made now, and no one will be accountable. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Bike Break Along Campbell Creek

I took a break from reading student papers yesterday afternoon to check the bike trail along Campbell Creek from Lake Otis to Campbell Airstrip Road. 

All the snow and ice are totally gone from the trail.  But there's still some ice along the creek itself.  But it was nice to be out. 

This spot has flows coming from two directions.  You can see it flowing in from under the ice.


Monday, April 13, 2015

Mike Chenault Doesn't Like Alaska Being Treated Like A Colony

Nathaniel Herz wrote in an ADN article the other day: 

"House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, unveiled a resolution Thursday that takes aim at the state of Washington 'or any entity that would treat this state like a mere colony.'”

My question to Chenault is this:  "Does 'any entity' include oil companies?"

Sunday, April 12, 2015

How Hard Did Republicans Look To Cut The Budget? $20 Million Bragaw Extension Through University Is Still There

According to a press release I got by email Saturday,
"Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) proposed recapturing $19.3 million in funds allocated for the U-Med Access Road.

“Nine community councils from across Anchorage oppose this road.   Anchorage doesn’t want this road, Anchorage doesn’t need this road, and Alaska can’t afford this road,” stated Senator Gardner.

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) offered an amendment to claw back $20 million allocated for the Port Mackenzie Rail extension.  This combined with suspending future obligations of over $80 million will save Alaska approximately $100 million.

“We simply cannot afford another over $100 million mega-project while we are slashing education and putting seniors and kids at risk,” said Senator Wielechowski."
The legislature is whacking school budgets. They're whacking the Alaska Marine Highway, the only 'road' that Southeast Alaska communities have, and many tourists have reservations for this summer.  Yet they have left $20 million on the table for a road the community simply does not want.   And the $20 million Wielechowski proposed to cut, not to mention the future costs these projects would require.

We really need to hear which contractors are hoping to pick up jobs to build the Bragaw extension and why they have such sway with politicians.  We know that DOWL Engineering was in charge of the citizen participation process  and despite overwhelming opposition to the road, they continued to recommend road options.  Yeah, I know, fox guarding the hen house.  We know the $20 million isn't enough to do the road right, just enough to scar the land bad enough that more money will have to be spent to make the road work.   They did get buy-in from UAA and APU and Providence, but that was a complicated and non-public process, so we don't know what kinds of deals they got for going along with the road.  I suspect Providence heads wanted the road all along, and after building the sports center, there were university boosters who wanted the road.  Which is precisely why the people who actually live around the university area should have had more weight.  And should have been allowed to sit in and listen to what the university and hospital said to DOWL. 

But the Republicans aren't hiding their bias to spending to help industry.  From the NewsMiner:
"In a six-minute hearing on the bill, the House Rules Committee extended the $10 million per year tax credit intended for the state’s remaining three refineries to the shuttered Agrium fertilizer plant in House Speaker Mike Chenault’s district. "
Some people have to scrimp, for others, it's "What budget crisis?"

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sea Lion Pulls Fisherman Off Boat, Whales Take Cod Off Lines. Following Loose Threads

It's hard to make sense of the news these days.  (Well maybe always.)  We get snippets, sometimes serious, sometimes not, that are often out of context.  Let's look at a couple of recent stories in the Alaska Dispatch:


1. Fisherman bitten, pulled off boat by sea lion in San Diego's Mission Bay

This man-bites-dog story seems to have been written for News of the Weird. Man holds up fish on boat for trophy picture and seal jumps out of the water and pulls the man in.  It's not clear what happened to the fish;  the article says the man was snatched by the sea lion "while attempting to
From old post on Seal Lfe Center Seward
snatch the large fish."  

What's missing from this story?  There have been a number of stories - including the Time magazine Feb. 18, 2015 story on the massive die-offs of sea lion pups in Southern California. 
"Experts at NOAA say that the culprit is rising ocean temperatures. (On a call with reporters Wednesday, a NOAA climate expert said that they do not believe the stranding increase is tied to climate change.) The warm temperatures are somehow affecting the squid, sardines and other animals that are the core diet of sea lions, perhaps driving the prey deeper into the water or farther offshore. So when mothers swim off to forage from the Channel Islands, where pups are weaned every year, they are having to stay away longer before they can come back.   .   . 

The root cause of the crisis, officials believe, is the odd wind patterns that aren’t cooling the ocean like they normally do. They aren’t certain of what’s behind the lack of cold winds, but they believe the patterns are creating a ripple effect through the food chain. The sea lions, at the top of that chain, are signaling that bigger things may be amiss among the larger marine food web. “There are a lot of puzzles here that we’re trying to put together,” says Nate Mantua, a NOAA climatologist. 'We don’t understand it. It’s a mystery.'”
Why are they dying?
"[T]hey do not believe the stranding increase is tied to climate change."  
But later on it says,
"We don't understand it.  It's a mystery."  
They think that
"warm temperatures are somehow affecting the squid, sardines and other animals that are the core diet of sea lions, perhaps driving the prey deeper into the water or farther offshore."

Is this related to climate change?  They think not, but they really don't know the cause.  But they believe there there's
"a ripple effect through the food chain."  

Was the sea lion that pulled the fisherman overboard particularly hungry because there's a sea lion food shortage?  The story never mentioned that.  And I don't know if this is affecting older sea lions or just the food they feed the pups.  But I suspect there's a bigger story we don't understand yet.

2.  Fish-stealing whales take bite out of black cod harvest in Gulf of Alask

This story goes into much more depth.  It's not a man-bites-dog story at all.  It's not a 'funny' one time event.  Rather it's come up at the North Pacific Fishery Management Council (which is currently meeting in the Hilton in Anchorage April 6-15 and whose agenda is here) and is being taken seriously because the whales are taking, according to federal surveys cited in the article
"under 10 percent of the annual harvest of the more than 360 Gulf of Alaska vessels that fish for black cod."  
They also report, 
"One study found that killer whales can reduce the catch by an average 65 percent."  
I'm guessing that the 65% figure could be for an individual boat, but the impact on the overall fishery is closer to the 10% level.  

Loose thread  (thoughts I want to raise, but don't have time to pursue in depth):  

1.   Seems to me that there's some sort of connection(s) between a hungry seal lion trying to snatch fish from a San Diego fisherman and whales  on cod hooked on long lines from Gulf of Alaska trawlers.  Both incidents involve mammals taking fish from humans.  What else might connect them?

2.  There's a clear human-centric bias here that pits the sea lion and the whales as the criminals, but to what extent does it make sense to ask how much fish are humans taking away from sea mammals and other sea creatures and how is that affecting their available food supply?  To be clear, the article says the sperm whales seem to be thriving and they've learned that the trawlers mean easy pickings.  

3.  Also not mentioned, is that the nearby pollock fishery's halibut by-catch for this year is predicted to be 92% of the allowable Bering Sea halibut for 2015. From an ADN opinion piece by David Bayes:
The International Pacific Halibut Commission has proposed a 70 percent reduction in halibut harvest for the central Bering Sea region, the most recent cut in a steady quota decline. In the meantime, halibut bycatch caps in the region's trawl fisheries have remained largely unchanged for decades. If these numbers hold true for the 2015 season, 92 percent of halibut harvested in the Bering Sea will go overboard as bycatch. You read that right, 92 percent of the allowable halibut catch is caught, smashed in the nets, and then shoveled back into the water. While some portion is allowed to be donated to food banks, millions of pounds each year are discarded. 
So, if you're not worried about starving sea lions or hungry whales (that may actually benefit from the bycatch going back into the sea), you might care about rural Alaskans who depend on halibut fishing for their living and much of their nutrition.

3.  Ocean acidification triggered devastating extinction, study finds

This one is from the LA Times and was republished today in the Alaska Dispatch News.  It looks at a huge marine die off
"the Permo-Triassic Boundary mass extinction event, happened some 252 million years ago, which over the course of about 60,000 years is thought to have wiped out more than two-thirds of land species and more than 90% of marine species on the planet."
[I tend to take explanations of what happened 252 million years ago with a grain of salt.  I have a lot of respect for what scientists can do, but they taking a few clear facts and project a possible story.  They could be spot on, but I can't find the 252 million year old archives on google to support it.] 

I know that ocean acidification is again a problem - this time human, not volcano caused - and it's possible there's a connection between the hungry sea lions and ocean acidification.

I know that when people find a lucrative and satisfying way to earn a living, they get pretty hostile to events that threaten that.  Their perception of the situation narrowly focuses on the personal impact they foresee.  Southerners saw the abolition of slavery as a threat to their way of life, and some are still fighting that battle.  But those of us not so directly affected need to be able to more rationally assess the situation and come up with options that are don't ignore those most impacted (fishers here), but that are best for society as a whole into the future as well as for the planet. 

There's a lot humans don't understand, but I do know that for every 'event'  there are usually many, many factors that play a role.  It's not a clear, A caused B relationship.  But there are a lot of C's, D's, E's, etc. that work, perhaps independently, to influence each other and the major events.  They may slow things down or speed them up.  Their combined impact may be to maintain the status quo, or to tip it in one direction or another. 

But the basic point I wanted to make is that there is usually much, much more to every news report  - whether it's about a shooting, an election, or a marine mammal-human conflict over fish - that doesn't get into the article.  And even when the media doesn't provide the details, readers should be asking for them. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Leaving LA

There were lots of things to do for my mom on this trip.  She's hanging in there well and it's great to have this time with her.  But there was also repair work and administrative changes to do. 

Here are a couple of shots as the plane took off just as it got dark last night. 

These are straight from the camera's memory card.  Just a result of a long lens opening.

And these are the amazing hands of the guy who runs the plumbing desk at local hardware store near my mom's place.  He's got an innate sense of how things work and he makes things happen as economically as possible for the customers.  I took this pictures while he was juggling about six customers at once - finding them the parts they needed even when they didn't know and explaining how they were going to use them.  Teasing them when they went on too long, reminding them that he had other customers.  An amazing man. 

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Great Blue Heron Landing

I'm just experimenting here - trying to find ways to capture this bird landing here.  Think of it as a work in progress, an experiment that will lead to better future pictures.  The small insets just aren't big enough to see much detail, but they show the stages of the landing.  So I added the bigger picture.  I left this higher than normal resolution so you can see it much bigger by clicking on it. 

This too, was at Ballona Creek the other day, where I took the pelican pictures.  From the Washington State Fish and Wildlife:

"Mortality and Longevity
  • Adult great blue herons don't have many predators, though bobcats, coyotes, red-tailed hawks, crows and bald eagles do occasionally kill an adult.
  • Mortality of the young is high: both the eggs and young are preyed upon by crows, ravens, gulls, eagles, and raccoons. Heavy rains and cold weather at the time of hatching also take a heavy toll.
  • Herons may live to be 15 years old, but six to eight years of age is the norm.
  • Great blue herons were nearly hunted to extinction in the late 1800s because of a fashion trend for using their plumes on women's hats. In the 1960s, they were vulnerable to egg-shell thinning as a result of exposure to the pesticide DDT, which lowered reproductive success."