(mostly) Northern roundup

14 November 2008

Kyle Hopkins kicks ASS! Just heard him interviewed on NPR about an Alaska politics article he wrote for the ADN, and I was both thrilled to hear about someone I had lost touch with, and relieved that so sharp a wit is covering the important Stevens-Begich Senate race closely.

Begin obligatory election response: pretty weird that the three most hotly contested (or at least most drawn-out) Senate races were the three states I was most interested in: AK (see above), MN, OR. End obligatory election response.

I’m just starting Rashid Khalidi’s book Resurrecting Empire, which doesn’t seem designed to flagellate liberal guilt so much as actually educate a willing audience about colonialist history from the Eastern Mediterranean to the Indian subcontinent. A good book, and I liked it even more when I found out that he’s almost as dangerous as Bill Ayers.

National Geographic has a ten-page cover article on light pollution out this month, and we happily have our first clear night in about two weeks (not that that’s a record or anything–Alicia tells me that she remembers Kodiak going for something like sixty straight days of rain once, and nobody was talking about records being broken) Still, though, it is crisp and cool tonight. Jupiter looked bright until I saw Venus, and Manaiakalani is setting in the west as Ke ka o ka Makali`i is rising in the east. Even though I know something about how bad light pollution really is, I am reassured that I showed my nephew the same two planets and some of the same stars from the East River about a month ago.

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Once again, I find that when I settle in to my life, finding few things worth blogging about, I am unsuited to change pace when I do bump into something blogworthy. Also, since I haven’t had an iPhone implanted directly into my brain yet, I still need to be near a computer with internet access for long enough to type a post. Tricky.

Anyway, on Wednesday I got to see both the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific in a single day. While transcontinental flights are now so common that almost no one bothers to call them transcontinental anymore, I still think it is pretty cool. At the end of our trip to New York we took off from JFK which, like most other infrastructure in New York City, seems to be much too big, old, and held together by a combination of rust and duct tape to actually survive the traffic it handles. The flight landed at Long Beach, CA, and its airport provided a stark contrast in that regard.

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Offer not avaliable in Alaska

15 September 2008

With what I think many readers will agree is a barely believable level of Alaska buzz in the news these days (missing, unfortunately, some of the most important stories) I just thought I’d toss out a couple of observations and links to Alaska sources, not least of all to show some kind of sympathy to all the national beat reporters currently stuck in Wasilla.

If news about the Permanent Fund Dividend hasn’t gone national yet, it will soon (sorry, Brandee) as it was disbursed late last week. For those unfamiliar with this quaint custom, it refers to a check qualified residents of the state of Alaska get each year. Kind of a reverse income tax. Let me hasten to say that you shouldn’t pack your bags and your parka immediately. First of all, do the simple math that the more people who move there, the smaller the PFD gets. Also, you may not live in Alaska unless you can come to terms with the fact that, at any moment, you may be forced to wear bunny boots. Seriously.

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Volcano, voting, vision

3 August 2007

Title of this post notwithstanding, I still prefer Dewey Decimal.

The 21 July eruption on Kilauea is still going strong, though I haven’t been anywhere I can see it recently. So far, looks like a fairly small amount of lava has been erupted, and it isn’t headed toward my house.

Meanwhile, an encroaching hazard of another kind is receiving somewhat less media attention. Election reform and in particular electronic voting machine oversight seem to be low on the list for discussion, compared with number of dollars raised by candidates.

As I prepare for a talk at work tomorrow night on the history & philosophy of science (I think I hear the yawns starting already), I ran across an outstanding optical illusion on APOD a couple weeks back. As they say, it is a good example of how good we think our perceptions are contrasted with how good they actually are. Or perhaps something deeper, say Benjamin Cohen’s example of teaching his engineering students about what we can perceive and what we can’t.

Kind of reminds me of a poem by Stephen Crane.

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Via Layla, an old friend from Fairbanks, the best campaign sign ever. She punctuated the title as a question, but I think a simple declarative is more appropriate. Living in Alaska can reset your normalcy-meter to all sorts of things that are actually tremendously wierd. And still, nobody believes the truth about the place when you tell them.

This is important

28 September 2006

I just sent emails to both Senators from Hawai`i about the torture bill, encouraging a filibuster. Here’s the link to contact information for all the Senators. Phone numbers and emails.

I don’t know much about legislative strategy, including whether this is the best move or not, but it seems too important to miss a chance.

Here’s my basic text:
I support a filibuster of the torture bill being voted on today. I believe the bill is morally, legally, and strategically reprehensible.

Last night, thanks to the Communications Honor Society at UHH, I finally got to see Good Night and Good Luck and it was creepy how good a job they did in making the dialogue fit two paranoid eras. The Eisenhower clip about habeas corpus was especially timely on this very day.

As a closer, we introduced several friends to Keith Olbermann’s special comment on 9/11. I strongly encourage you to watch these powerful 9 minutes.

The discussion in the car on the way home revolved around whether the movie’s missing elements were complexity of story (me) or just the usual Hollywood melodrama (Elle). Ultimately, I bowed to the superior intellect, though perhaps some more historical context would have been good for those like myself who have a less-than-complete knowledge of McCarthyism.

And just in case the remarks about media “used to distract, delude, amuse, and insulate us,” are tempting to apply narrowly, see how rhetoric is used to single out the US by Newsweek covers for their different distribution regions on Think Progress.

At any rate, to prove that doublespeak and abuse of language for political purposes are older even than George Orwell, this post about Thucydides via Crooked Timber illustrates the historical foundations of such rhetoric as we see right now from lots of government hacks.