Out There

Conservative? Or Christian?

Posted in politics by Pete on May 19, 2022

People today say, “If I were alive during the civil rights movement I would have marched, I would have picketed, I would have protested, I would have taken a stance against racism.”

What you are doing now is exactly what you would have done then.

Jemar Tisby

To which I say, OUCH! And PREACH IT!!!!!

I don’t have the time I need to write a more full response. But I want to remember these articles so I’m linking here so I can find and maybe respond later. This is Jemar Tisby’s measured, but powerful response that I lifted the above quote from, and it includes several more. Because “The truth shall set you free,” I’ll leave you with one more quote from Dr Tisby, for those who have ears to hear:

You have the opportunity to choose a different path. You have the chance to practice courageous Christianity.

Courageous Christianity does not compromise with racism, it confronts it. Courageous Christianity does not fear human beings, it fears God and acts accordingly. Courageous Christianity is willing to lose funding and donations to stand for the dignity of all people. Courageous Christianity does what is right, not what is popular with a particular constituency.

Courageous Christianity would reject a report that denigrates a college’s own staff and faculty in an effort to score political points with conservatives.

Courageous Christianity honors truth above misinformation and mischaracterization.

Jemar Tisby

Boom.

What is up with Alaska Air?

Posted in commercial by Pete on May 1, 2022

I’m mostly writing this for myself, to keep this all straight as I keep calling Alaska Air back.

I recently bought most of our summer airline tickets for the four of us. That’s a big deal every year, as we typically fly from our home in western AK to Anchorage, to Seattle, and sometimes far beyond like on our student trips. This summer, we’ve been excited to visit Costa Rica, one of Alaska Air’s newest destinations. We’re on a pretty tight budget, so I spent hours and hours looking at flight options and ticket prices. Alaska Air was not the cheapest option, and their only remotely affordable flights are out of the Liberia airport, and we’re ending our trip close to the San Juan airport and a 4 hour drive from the Liberia airport. But let’s face it, we’re all-in with the airline, based on where we live and how often we fly with them, their excellent mileage plan, the free checked bags we get as “club 49” members, and the annual companion fare certificates we get with our Alaska Air-branded credit cards.

American had some flights for around $450 each way, to San Jose or Liberia airports, but they involved spending 12-24 hours in Chicago, or Miami, or Charlotte, or DFW, or sometimes 2 of these places. Air Canada had some similarly priced itineraries, and they went Anchorage to Vancouver to Toronto to Costa Rica. There were also some flights that went from SEA to Mexico City to Costa Rica – those were less than $300 one way. I looked into an affordable return flight from San Jose to Cancun, transfer to Alaska Air there and fly direct to Seattle. Most of these flights involved flying or hanging out in airports for 24-48 hours, which = lousy sleep, which my wife really wanted to avoid.

I decided that one way we could get a decent sleep, without selling the family farm, was to fly on Alaska Air, and use companion fare certificates for as much of our summer travel as possible. Here are the segments we need for our summer travel:

BET-ANC-SEA-LAX-LIR (that’s just getting from home to Costa Rica, one way) – 2 weeks

LIR-LAX-SEA (2 people) and LIR-LAX-ANC-SEA (2 people go back to ANC to get our dog who has been watched by a friend while we’re in CR) – in Seattle for about a month

Then all 4 of us continue with SEA-SIT-ANC-BET (that’s to visit Sitka where one of the kids attends the amazing Sitka Fine Arts Camp). The child will be there 2 weeks, the rest of us a few days. And after leaving Sitka, I need to do our twice annual grocery shopping in Anchorage, so while the other 3 fly straight through to Bethel, I need a few days to shop in Anchorage.

I decided to see how much of this monstrosity I could get on a single companion fare ticket. These aren’t exactly typical round trip tickets. Alaska Air has the great “multi-city” option when booking tickets. This allows you to put in up to 4 different destinations. I’ve done this many times in the past and it really helps us save money as a family of 4. We most often use it for expensive Christmas travel. I spent SO much time looking at these flights and comparing options on Alaska Air with what I could find on Google flights. I think it was around 25ish hours. Here are some of my notes:

And here are the tickets I came up with to use our companion fares on. Remember, Alaska’s multi-city ticketing interface allows up to 4 city pairs.

Two people not retrieving a dog, nor going early to Sitka for summer camp:

  1. ANC-LIR (ANC-SEA-LAX-LIR)
  2. LIR-SEA (LIR-LAX-SFO-PAE Everett)
  3. SEA-SIT
  4. SIT-BET (SIT-ANC-BET)

Two people retrieving a dog:

  1. BET-ANC doctor appointments, drop the dog off, visit friends (this is why we can’t do BET-LIR)
  2. ANC-LIR (ANC-SEA-LAX-LIR)
  3. LIR-ANC (LIR-LAX-ANC) to get the dog
  4. ANC-SEA.

These tickets cost a total of roughly $3,500, and there was about another $1,000 spent on the needed segments not covered by the above tickets, bringing us to a total cost of about $4,500, using both companion fares. All of the flights would have cost over $6,000 without using any companion fares. And the best prices I could find with other airlines still came to at least $5,000 and involved crazy layovers in cities across the country and very little sleep. So I was pleased with my purchase, and I considered the value of each companion fare certificate to be roughly $800. It did mean our last full day in Costa Rica would be spent driving from Alajuela to Guanacaste so we could catch the next morning’s flight out of Liberia. But we wouldn’t have to recheck bags in Cancun, for instance. And we can check our bags for free, and even earn air miles on the flights.

There was one more hurdle to get over. I had to add our dog to the segments he would be on. This is a substantial barrier, one that tripped us up in December when we learned that 2 of the flights I had booked were actually on Horizon, not Alaska Air, and Horizon doesn’t take dogs. We had to scramble and find a teacher nearby who was staying over the winter break and who was willing to dogsit for 2-3 weeks.

Inexplicably, Alaska Air’s website does not allow customers to include a dog in their search for flights. You have to book travel, and then call customer service after its all booked, to try and add the dog to the flights you need. This makes no sense, since Alaska Air already knows how many kennels they can put in the cargo area (our dog is 60 lbs and not going in the passenger area), and they also know which planes can take pets and which can’t. They really should add this functionality to their website, which I otherwise like.

I from the school to add the pet, and was informed the wait time was 10 or 15 minutes, I can’t remember exactly. I waited a few minutes and then the call was dropped (the signal in places in our school is poor). I called back and the new wait time was 20-30 minutes. I put the phone in the gym where the signal is good, and ran back to where I was working so I could finish up. I returned 8 minutes later to bring the phone home and continue waiting, and the phone call had ended 2 minutes prior. So I immediately called a third time and the quoted wait time was something like 4-6 hours! But it gave me a callback option. I put in my number, and sure enough, 6 hours and 51 minutes later I got a call back. A very friendly customer service rep from Anchorage answered. I told her which of the segments needed the dog added to them, and right away we ran into a problem. The BET-ANC first flight already was full of dogs in the cargo area. We checked the other flight that day (Bethel has 2 jets a day to Anchorage) and it was full, too. She helped me change my flight to a day earlier, for 2 of us, while the other 2 kept the original date and we would all meet up in Anchorage. The other flights were all OK and after 15-20 minutes we were all set.

Two days later, we got some warning emails from Alaska Air. One said something about how the flight was too full of pets and we needed to make a change. The other said to call and “confirm payment.” I called and got a 2-3 hour quoted wait time, and this time there was no callback option. I waited on hold for about 2 hours and 20 minutes, and then someone came on the line. We resolved the pet issue right away (the dog was mistakenly listed on both my wife’s ticket and mine, from BET-ANC). The other issue was more complicated. The first of the companion fare tickets listed above was not ticketing, and she said I hadn’t been charged for it. She was obviously tired and not having the best day. At one point I asked her which confirmation code was the one having the problem (because we ended up with like 6 of them with all of our flights), and she said “You’re asking me?” I asked her wasn’t it on the screen she was looking at, and she said she would have to go back to find it and it would be slow, so I was able to look it up as I’d put them all on our calendar. She said I might have to make changes, but she was asking her manager and I should hold. I ended up on hold about 20 minutes, with her checking on me 2 or 3 times. I asked if she just wanted to call me back once it was resolved, because I feared I might get dropped. She said she couldn’t, and that she herself was supposed to be done with her shift and was just waiting for this to be resolved. Finally, at the end, she came on and said it’s all set and we’re good to go, and she took my credit card information which I’d already given the website, but whatever, and she charged the card, and then we hung up.

I walked over and told my wife about this, and she got an important work-related phone call. Toward the end of that call she got a call from 1800-252-7522. Not recognizing it, she didn’t interrupt her work conversation, which ended 20 seconds later. Then she checked her voicemail, and it was Alaska Air saying your ticket isn’t going to work and you need to call us to get it fixed. Argh!!! So the next day, my daughter’s birthday, I tried to call them back and it was another 4-5 hour quoted wait time, with no callback option. I hung up and decided to wait to check “my trips” online and see if the trip is still there or what. I did so today, and the ticket is listed, but when I ask for the details, it says to call them.

I also got an email yesterday from Alaska Air, asking “How was our service? We want to hear from you.” I figured responding to this survey, with a link to this blog post, might allow me to talk to someone with authority at Alaska Air, without having to listen to hold music for most of the day.

My main feedback is this.

  1. What is up with the outrageous hold times and no callback option? I even tried texting and got a reply that said they were too busy and texting was not an option at this time. I googled this topic and saw lots of articles about absurd hold times at other airlines and learned it’s likely due to mass layoffs during the pandemic and they haven’t been able to ramp back up quickly enough.
  2. Add the ability to look for tickets on alaskaair.com while filtering for pets. Why can’t I have it only show me flights with room for a size 400 kennel?
  3. What is the problem with the companion fare tickets I bought? If I got away with something I shouldn’t have been able to, that’s the fault of the website that sold it to me, not mine. It’s not like I got some outrageous deal. As pointed out above, I’m saving about $800 per companion fare ticket – a solid value, but not beyond the pale. And I spent 20+ hours in research before pulling the trigger on that. Further, I spent extra hours on the phone, for no accountable reason, only to be told at the end that we were all good to go with our trip. Then less than 5 minutes later we got a call back that said there was a problem. Even if I was able to book a ticket somehow that the website shouldn’t have allowed, just fix it going forward, and let me keep my ticket. Even if you have to reenter it as a series of one way segments each with it’s own confirmation code, you can’t tell me it’s impossible. It’s a question of will, and customer service.

5/1/22 UPDATE – I used the chat feature to connect with their customer service today. It took about an hour or a bit more for an agent to appear in the chat, but here is a transcript:

Peter Schneidler 04:35 pm
This is about my wife’s ticket ——. I wrote up the whole story here: https://indefinitely.wordpress.com/

Kelsy 04:36 pm
Hi Peter, this is Kelsy in Boise. One moment while I review your message.

Peter Schneidler 04:37 pm
I’m sorry it’s so long!
I can give you a summary, if you like
Peter Schneidler 04:39 pm
The summary is basically that it’s a complex ticket I bought using a companion fare. Alaska emailed us 2 days after we bought it on the Alaska Air website, and the email said to call and confirm payment. I did, and it took almost 3 hours, but the person eventually said we were good to go and the ticket was fine. Then we missed a call less than 5 minutes later that said there was a problem and we had to call them again. The hold times are pretty extreme so I am trying this instead.

Kelsy 04:40 pm
Thank you for the summary! I’m so sorry for the distress this has caused you! Let me take a look at that, may I have your confirmation code please?

Peter Schneidler 04:41 pm
I think the one they were emailing us about is ——–
I bought a ton of tickets the other day, with like 6 different confirmation codes, but I think that’s the one.

Kelsy 04:42 pm
Thank you, I will take a look. I’m still reading over your message, I’m also so sorry about the poor customer service you received when you called in the first time!

Peter Schneidler 04:43 pm
Oh it’s ok. I don’t blame the agents that much. I can’t imagine taking calls for 8 hours, and everyone you talk to has been on hold for HOURS and is already upset before you even start talking. Must be very hard to stay positive.

Kelsy 04:45 pm
May I please have the confirmation codes for one of your other reservations? And do you have multiple companion discounts or was this the only one?

Peter Schneidler 04:46 pm
We have 2 companion fare tickets. Both complex. And not identical. Some of the segments are on all 4 tickets, but not all of them.
Hang on…
——- is the other one
That’s for myself and my daughter Claire
and ——- is for Tammy and our son Jonathan

Kelsy 04:48 pm
Thank you!

Peter Schneidler 04:48 pm
Sure. Thanks for your help!

Kelsy 04:49 pm
You are welcome! And thank you for your patience with me! I will need to reach out to a support desk on this so it may take some time, I apologize!

Peter Schneidler 04:50 pm
OK. Yeah when I called last time that’s what happened, too. After like 20 minutes they said the ticket was OK. But then right after I hung up they called my wife (we missed the call) and left a voicemail saying it wasn’t ok.

Kelsy 04:54 pm
I see. I’m not sure if they gave you any details on the message, but it looks like it was not ticketed because it said there were too many stopovers. Looking at the flights, I think it is because of the first segment, ANC-SEA and your connecting flight SEA to LAX since it is a long layover, our system is registering it as a stopover. But I’m working with support to see what we can do!

Peter Schneidler 04:55 pm
Aha. OK. Yeah I booked that as a city pair of ANC-LIR, not with an official “stopover.”
But my wife hoped to sleep in a hotel and not on the plane, so we took the one that had the longest time in Seattle.
And no they hadn’t given any specifics of what was wrong with it, previously. It seems odd the website would let me buy it if it was against the rules.

Kelsy 05:03 pm
Thank you for waiting! So I have a bit of an explanation that I got from the support desk I was working with. She said the issue was actually that the companion fare is for a round trip, and because your trip is ending in Bethel instead of Anchorage, it makes it invalid for the companion fare rules, and that may be why it failed online since it started to let you book this, but then when it tried to ticket your reservation and it was not actually a valid routing, it failed and did not process.

Peter Schneidler 05:04 pm
aha! ok, interesting
I think I’ve used comp fares on one ways and other non RT routes in the past
But at least we’re getting somewhere
So if I drop the final segment, maybe the ticket can go forward?
The last flight could just go SIT-ANC and leave it at that?

Kelsy 05:05 pm
Yes, she said that should allow it to process!
Peter Schneidler 05:05 pm
OK. Is that a change you can make? Just change the last segment to SIT-ANC instead of SIT-BET. Keep the Sitka flight the exact same, but then I can book the anc-bet separately.

Kelsy 05:06 pm
I think I should be able to! I will be right back, I’m going to try and fix this with the support desk!

Peter Schneidler 05:08 pm
OK. Also interesting is that the other ticket (Claire and Peter) is not RT either, but apparently it’s OK? I’m NOT trying to mess that one up! It just is interesting that the reason —– can’t go through is supposedly because it’s not RT, but ——– isn’t RT either (it starts in BET and ends in SEA).

Kelsy 05:16 pm
I will verify that that ticket is okay, although when I looked at it earlier it was valid and ticketed! I’m sorry about that!

Peter Schneidler 05:17 pm
No it’s ok. I haven’t heard anything about that ticket so I think it’s ok. It just seems odd that 1 is ok and the other isn’t.
Peter Schneidler 05:23 pm
Everything OK?

Kelsy 05:24 pm
Yes! I apologize, I was just about to check in with you. The agent I am working with is trying to get this processed, it is just taking her some time!

Peter Schneidler 05:24 pm
OK, no problem.
I didn’t realize you had to work with an agent. Complicated! : – ) But I’m glad I didn’t have to do hours on hold on the phone this time.

Kelsy 05:25 pm
Something about it is still giving her some issues, so she’s trying to work through that!

Peter Schneidler 05:26 pm
Aha. Let me think what else is different with that ticket. It could be something to do with the short turnaround time in LAX. Only 2h 10m to get through customs and check in for the flight to SFO. She doesn’t care about SFO but was trying to fly into PAE (everett) which is right by her dad’s house.
I wonder if she flew to SEA from LAX, instead of PAE, if that might fix everything.
Peter Schneidler 05:28 pm
There is a 7:20 pm flight to SEA from LAX, I think, that she could do instead if that fixes it.

Kelsy 05:29 pm
It might help! Let’s see, so in place of going from LAX to SFO to PAE on June 8?

Peter Schneidler 05:31 pm
Right. Just LAX to SEA instead, at 7 something pm
We almost did that anyway, but we’ve never landed in Paine field in Everett and she wanted to try it since her dad lives there
But we were nervous about the turnaround time so changing to the 7 something to SEA would give us more time
If that works, can the final ANC-BET segment be put back on there?

Kelsy 05:33 pm
She actually just got it to work, by deleting the ANC – BET segment, do you want us to try the LAX to SEA instead and add ANC to BET and see if that works?

Peter Schneidler 05:34 pm
well, sure, I guess so, if it isn’t too much trouble?
Because that would not cost us any more money. I’d rather not have to buy the anc-bet flight if I don’t have to
Peter Schneidler 05:35 pm
But if it was really hard to do (seems like it was), and she’s afraid it will get messed up by putting it back, then I guess we should just keep it the way you have it.
I don’t know. Sorry it’s such a pain!

Kelsy 05:35 pm
No worries! Well, I’ll ask what she thinks and we can go from there! I’ll let you know.

Peter Schneidler 05:36 pm
Yes, if we can keep the anc-bet segment at the end, that would be great. Flying to Everett isn’t important.

Kelsy 05:42 pm
Thank you for your patience, discussing this option now!
Peter Schneidler 05:42 pm
OK thank you!
Kelsy 05:48 pm
Thank you again Peter! I’m so sorry, she said to do the flights that way it would actually be best for you to book it online to try and keep the ANC to BET and change the LAX to SEA. Since we haven’t taken payment for it your companion fare is still valid if you do want to go that route. Or if you are okay with the stop in PAE and ending in Anchorage, I can issue the ticket the way she had set it up. Sorry about all the waiting! But it is up to you, nothing is finalized so we can use this one or if you would like to build it online you can do that!
Peter Schneidler 05:48 pm
ok hand on one sec
hang on

Kelsy 05:49 pm
Certainly!

Peter Schneidler 05:51 pm
I’m trying to look at the availability right now…

Kelsy 05:52 pm
Certainly. I don’t think I ever mentioned this but she did say the total came to $1743.20.

Peter Schneidler 05:52 pm
I got this result when I ran the multi city request:
Our web server encountered an internal error. It was logged to aid our staff in finding a solution.

Please try your transaction again. If the problem persists, call Alaska Airlines Reservations at 1-800-ALASKAAIR (1-800-252-7522).

Server Name:

Server Time: 5/1/2022 6:52:01 PM

HTTP Request User Host: 172.20.80.1

Error ID: 2FF28760-4725-486D-80A0-76F3B9DFFAF1
I think i should just drop the anc-bet! haha
looks like I broke something

Kelsy 05:53 pm
Oh wow! Okay, we can go ahead and get this issued, so the stop will be in PAE and you will end in ANC on this reservation.

Peter Schneidler 05:54 pm
OK. The price before was $1,723.67, so even though we dropped a segment, the price went up $20. Oh well
I thank you for all your help. Sorry so time consuming!

Kelsy 05:56 pm
No worries! I’m sorry it has taken so long! We normally are not able to make calls from chat, but since I’ve been with you on this I can make an exception to complete the payment with you, is it alright if I take your phone number and give you a call to complete this purchase? Due to privacy laws I cannot accept a payment over chat.

Peter Schneidler 05:57 pm
OK, yes. It wasn’t charged the other day? The lady took my credit card info and I thought we were waiting on the phone while it went through.
But sure. My phone # is 907-477—–. My wallet is at home, but that’s a 2 minute walk. I’ll start heading over.
Peter Schneidler 05:58 pm
Our signal is bad in the school sometimes. I’ll be outside in a minute…

Kelsy 05:58 pm
Since the routing was invalid, our system didn’t complete taking any payments. There may be a pending charge on your card when our system attempted to book this, that pending charge will drop off in a few days, I’m sorry.

Peter Schneidler 05:59 pm
no worries. go ahead and call

Kelsy 06:07 pm
Thank you Peter, I will go ahead and end this chat. -Kelsy

Shortly after this I got her call, and I gave her my credit card information. Then…she couldn’t get the ticket to go through. Even without the final segment (ANC-BET). I don’t believe their assertion that the issue is it has to be a roundtrip ticket. The other pair I bought isn’t. She wasn’t sure what the issue was. She said she talked to several experienced people about it and heard numerous things, including it has to be a roundtrip flight, or our itinerary has too many stopovers, or sometimes it’s just buggy and it works when it shouldn’t or vice versa. She said she will call back after trying some more on her end, and 35 minutes later, she did. I was washing dishes and somehow missed the call! She tried twice. The voicemails said she couldn’t make it work and I could call back or try to rebook it myself online.

Let’s examine those tickets and their ideas about what the problem is. Here are those 2 tickets I bought online again:

Two people not retrieving a dog, nor going early to Sitka for summer camp:

  1. ANC-LIR (ANC-SEA-LAX-LIR)
  2. LIR-SEA (LIR-LAX-SFO-PAE Everett)
  3. SEA-SIT
  4. SIT-BET (SIT-ANC-BET)

Two people retrieving a dog:

  1. BET-ANC doctor appointments, drop the dog off, visit friends (this is why we can’t do BET-LIR)
  2. ANC-LIR (ANC-SEA-LAX-LIR)
  3. LIR-ANC (LIR-LAX-ANC) to get the dog
  4. ANC-SEA.

The top one is the one Alaska Air can’t ticket. But if you look at them, neither is a roundtrip ticket. I’ve bought tickets like these in the past using companion fares. The “too many stopovers” argument was that on the way to LIR from ANC, we have an overnight in Seattle, and they thought the system saw that as another stopover. But it was one of the options the system gave us for our itinerary between ANC and LIR, and we just chose the one with the longest connection so we could try and get some sleep on the way. And note that BOTH pairs of tickets have that same time in Seattle above, so again, why would it work for #2 and not #1?

I guess I need to cancel the top ticket and try to rebook it online. I know this is such a “first world problem” to have, but I’m emotionally done with this process.

7/2 UPDATE – My wife got this email this morning:

I dealt with this right after buying the tickets online, when I called them and they called back and we changed the day of my first flight from BET-ANC, put the dog with me for that flight, and left Tammy’s flight alone. Then we got an email like this and I called and waited forever and then they found the dog was still listed on Tammy’s flight (and on mine). It was supposed to be fixed that time (removed from Tammy’s flight). But apparently not? Ufda! So I guess I will have to call or chat or whatever, again.

Mass Murder in Mariupol, and Putin can only Lie

Posted in politics by Pete on March 19, 2022

The Russian military, at the direction of Vladimir Putin, is brutally killing civilians under seige across Ukraine. But the worst has been in Mariupol. I don’t want to forget this article, so I’m linking to it here. It’s evil, and we all know it. Russians are even trying to claim the wounded and killed people are actors, and that the hospital they hit was actually full of Ukrainian military targets. The Bible describes the devil as the “father of lies.” Putin and his disciples are walking in the devil’s footsteps, and God speed the day when they will join him. There will be justice, in this life or the next.

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1. Age 2. Vaccination – A Simple Narrative about Covid-19

Posted in politics by Pete on November 23, 2021

I found this morning’s NYTimes email interesting. Especially this bit:

In Minnesota, which publishes detailed Covid data, the death rate for fully vaccinated people under 50 during the Delta surge this year was 0.0 per 100,000 — meaning, so few people died that the rate rounds to zero.

Hospitalization rates are also very low for vaccinated people under 65. In Minnesota during the Delta surge, the average weekly hospitalization rate for vaccinated residents between 18 and 49 was about 1 per 100,000.

Wow! These 2 graphs, on their own, would be an effective pro-vaccine PSA.

Source: Minnesota Department of Health

To put that in perspective, I looked up data for some other medical problems. During a typical week in the U.S., nearly 3 people per 100,000 visit an emergency room because of a bicycle crash. The rate for vehicle crashes is about 20 per 100,000.

Covid is the threat on many of our minds. But for most people under 65, the virus may present less risk than a car trip to visit relatives this week. “The vaccination, I think, changes everything,” Dustin Johnston, 40, a photographer in Michigan who plans to gather with family, told The Times.

——————————————————————————-

The email goes on to say that there is still significant risk for senior citizens, even if they are vaccinated. I saw another graph in the Oct 12 NYTimes email that showed that in England, people over the age of 80 who are vaccinated are being hospitalized at about the same rate as unvaccinated folks in their 60s. Here, I looked it up:

All this to say (if you are a typical human who wants the quick and dirty, 10-second narrative that ignores lots of important, pesky details*), it comes down to age and the vaccine. Definitely in that order. If you have both of those on your side, you are very very very unlikely to get seriously ill from Covid. If you have one of them and not the other, you are at some risk depending on how old you are. If you are old AND unvaccinated, then you are at much much higher risk. Am I wrong? This doesn’t seem very complicated, but obviously our whole country is “wrapped around the axle” over these basic facts and simple narratives.

*Details like young people who are immuno-compromised do not seem to have the same “youth” protection.

*One of these risk factors is binary and the other is a sliding scale. An unvaccinated 5 year old is apparently WAY safer than a vaccinated octogenarian.

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You Cannot Mirror or Cast Downloaded Netflix or Prime Video Content

Posted in commercial by Pete on November 8, 2021

So the title kind of says it all. But if you find yourself wondering, and found this page, now you know! You can download video, and you can cast streaming video, but if you try and cast downloaded video…no.

We live in rural Alaska and have outrageously slow, metered, and expensive internet service. Streaming usually just doesn’t work, or it pauses every minute or two. And it leads to shocking internet bills. Without going over our monthly 40 gig limit, our internet bill is about $200 per month. And lately, it works like 25% of the time. Meanwhile, the school is the only decent internet connection in town, clocking in at like 5 mb/sec which is slow by lower 48 standards but blazing fast here.

So the way most bush teachers watch content from Netflix or Disney Plus or whatever is go to school in the evening or on a weekend when the internet isn’t needed there, download the episode or movie onto the relevant app (disney +, prime video, netflix, etc) on a phone, tablet, or a laptop (might have to leave it for an hour or more), and then later you can watch it at home on that same device. My daughter really wanted to watch the epic Lord of the Rings trilogy, on our larger TV screen. So I purchased and downloaded the first one (extended version, 3.5 hours!) onto my little chromebook. The download took a while, but then we were all set. I connected the chromebook to the cheap Roku TV using an HDMI cord. We had homemade pizza, popcorn, and…no video. We had sound, but no picture.

We thought maybe we needed to update the firmware or something. We signed up for Roku and went through 50 steps on the TV using our glacial home internet connection. And I went online and read about the chromecast device, the ROKU device, the ROKU TV’s with ROKU built in, the Amazon Fire Stick device, and many other generic competitors. I know I’m getting old when this sort of thing is painful and slow, instead of easy and fun like it used to be, haha. Long story short, we spent the evening doing this instead of watching “Fellowship of the Ring.” It apparently can’t be done, or not easily or legally, anyway. If you have slow or no internet, you can download video for offline use, but you can NOT get that content onto a larger monitor for offline viewing.

A couple of things I learned. If you have an active wifi or data connection on your device you want to cast the pre-downloaded content from, it will actually just try and stream it, even though you already have it downloaded. If you have no wifi because you turned your wifi off or you are camping or whatever, then it will cast the black screen with the audio. It won’t work, and apparently there is no way around this. It’s interesting because what percentage of the world has fast enough internet to stream with? Us slowpokes are out of luck, and there are quite a few of us, but I suppose our demographic is generally poor and lacking political clout, so it persists.

Here are a few links that were helpful in my research. Surprisingly, it was hard to learn this, which is what made me throw this together, so anyone else in my place can get a thorough answer, quickly.

Results Now! PD that is Cheap and Really Works.

Posted in teaching by Pete on October 23, 2021

Over ten years ago, I was required to read this book by Mike Schmoker called Results Now!

This is not a commercial, and I’m not making any money from this. I just wanted to type something up because I keep referring people to it every so often and every time I have to type it up all over again, so I decided a single blog post that I can link to or copy from would be better.

The book is basically a call for education reform, centered on highly structured PLCs (professional learning communities) characterized by honesty, vulnerability, accountability, kindness, and professionalism. Three or four teachers meeting regularly, being honest with their struggles, and helping each other find solutions. Accessing the decades of combined experience that are right at our fingertips but that 99% of schools are not taking advantage of. All in a structured format of 45 minutes per week (or 30, or 60, whatever the group agrees on), and costs nothing. Each teacher has a role, which can rotate every week, such as the timekeeper, the note taker, accountability (last week you told us about Brian bothering Katie all the time, and we talked about trying XYZ, how did that go?), and everything is timed so it has to be super efficient and on-topic so it doesn’t spill over the allotted time frame.

I’m not a big reader of “teacher books,” but I found this one challenging and inspiring, and never forgot it. I think if educational leaders caught this vision and set up PLCs like this it could truly transform education for both teachers and students, for free.

I know everyone has too much to read already. But that’s the book in a nutshell. It casts a vision for transformative PLCs that accomplish professional development by keeping teachers sane and helping them with anything and everything related to their job (planning, teaching, discipline, talking to parents, talking to admins, etc etc).

Our Political Future: Scary and Depressing

Posted in grim stuff, politics by Pete on October 7, 2021

I read this 9/30/21 “debatable” email from the NY Times today. I thought it raised a lot of good points and rang some alarms that we should heed, and that will be important to be able to look back on, so here it is.

Sobering.

Police Brutality

Posted in politics by Pete on September 9, 2021

This is so bad I couldn’t stay quiet about it. Good work by the AP. Many of these people appear to be criminals, but that does not justify the criminal behavior of the Louisiana State Troopers. And the “something out of the movies” evil enabling and coverup from supervisors, all the way up to the governor of the state! So upsetting, but it must be talked about and acknowledged. We are broken people, and hiding it or pretending makes it worse.

ADHD Videos from Understood.org – a playlist

Posted in teaching by Pete on June 25, 2021

I’m taking classes toward my special education credential, and for one of them we had some options on an assignment that included watching videos on understood.org and talking about what we learned and how we might apply it in our classroom. I watched a bunch of their videos on dyslexia, and then on ADHD. The latter were so good I wanted to just paste in my assignment, for later reference. So here it is.

From this playlist:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL0Kjy0JtEbaTB1ymRv2I9T7GsFYobF4tl

15 videos, total length of 2h 10m.

Before writing the notes on each video (below), I will answer the “What did you learn and how will you use this?” question. I’m writing this at the end, after I wrote the notes, but it makes more sense to me to put it here at the top, so readers don’t have to wade to the bottom for the bottom line. I think one of the main things I gained from the videos was realizing the importance of empathy and compassion for my students with ADHD, and not just viewing it as a volitional behavior problem issue. I think the first video that explained the science behind their current theory about the problems loading and reloading the neurotransmitters like dopamine in each individual neuron was really helpful for me in changing my perspective and helping me to see it as more of a physical health issue, and not just willfulness. Some of us need glasses to see the way we are supposed to, and some need meds to help those neurons synapse the way they are supposed to.

Another thing I’m taking away is the prevalence of this condition. While watching it I kept thinking of specific students I work with, and to my shame, sometimes I thought of ways I’ve been hard on them for not focusing on the subject at hand as hard as I was focused on it. I’m trying to drag them over the finish line to help them get this math concept, and they keep spacing out! But this made me realize they probably didn’t have much control over that, and I responded to them as if they did. So in my classroom going forward, I hope to have more patience and compassion and empathy for my students. Also, I think most of these students don’t have a proper diagnosis due to our remoteness and lack of testing, and an unfilled special ed teacher position for years now probably didn’t help that situation either. I want to be AWARE of ADHD and at least able to try and refer kids for appropriate testing. I need to learn how to even do that, in the context of my school district. Also, I feel more able to talk to parents about ADHD in constructive, helpful ways now. Before I had only a vague understanding and would not have been able to speak about it with any confidence or specificity. Now I think I would actually sit down and watch that first 28 minute video with select parents, because I think they would resonate with it too and see the same things in their child that I saw, from that video. Speaking of empathy, I actually saw myself in a lot of the symptoms described. I’m always moving, I have trouble getting started and figuring out what order to do things in. I’ll often spend my time really inefficiently, and it’s not on purpose, and it often feels almost impossible for me to start doing a task until the urgency is at level 100.

The best single video, for me, was the first one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ouZrZa5pLXk&list=PL0Kjy0JtEbaTB1ymRv2I9T7GsFYobF4tl&index=2, duration 28:14

Tom Brown, ADHD expert, talks about the journey from “behavior problems” to ADD to ADHD, which first began to be widely recognized by doctors in about 1980. He talks about how it is unrelated to intelligence. People with ADHD complain about trouble staying “in tune.” Their attention wanders, and they are easily distracted. They have a harder time than the average person at buckling down and pushing aside the distraction. We all struggle with this at times, but he said for someone with ADHD their struggle is more involuntary and extreme. Hearing this I think about students I’ve had that I’ve been hard on for not having my LASER focus on the subject at hand, and I feel some guilt because maybe these kiddos have attention deficits and it’s not really their fault! He asks the question, how come these kids can focus on certain subjects, but not others? If they’re interested in it, they can focus on it, and if they’re not interested, it really is incredibly difficult for them to attend to. He said it looks like an issue of volitional control, of will-power, but that it isn’t. He said they can attend more easily when they are into the subject at hand, and if there is “a gun to their head,” but that in almost any other context, their focus will wander. Teachers often take this to be willful and get mad at the student, but this is misdirected. He mentions how ADHD is not like pregnancy (you are or you aren’t), but more like depression. Everyone struggles with attending sometimes, and it’s a sliding scale. For students with ADHD, their attention issues have reached a point where it’s really pervasive and disruptive.

He talks about how people with ADHD typically struggle with organization and getting started, figuring out which things to start with and to do in which order. Sleep and alertness is often a problem as well. They can’t “turn their brain off” to get to sleep. I personally relate with some of these symptoms! Finishing their work is tough, too. Better at doing a big chunk of work on something than at chipping away at something over long periods of time. “Everyone has trouble with deadlines sometimes. People with ADD it’s like they can’t get started until it’s an emergency.” Wow! Everything I’ve written in this paragraph, these are things I struggle with as well. I’ve never thought of myself as having ADHD, but this makes me wonder if I’m sort of “on the spectrum.” Figuring out where to start, and in what order to do it, is a real problem for me that impacts me on many levels. 

They often have trouble organizing their thoughts in writing with clarity. Talks about the impact to their emotions, difficulty managing them. This is at 11:55. I really like this part. Some of it reminds me of myself, and some reminds me of students and other people I know. Surges of anger over small events. Obsessively thinking about a disappointing interaction with a person, neurotic like did I do something wrong. Other people might have irrational urgency, like obsessing over something they want to buy, and they will push to get the item even if it’s impractical to do so today, or it will be half the price the next day, or they will need the money for something else later, etc. They will push push push with great urgency until they have it, and by then they might not care that much anyway because they’re already into something else. For others they have anxiety, and perseverating in thinking about hypothetical “what if” scenarios. No one has all of these symptoms, but they are the kinds of things that are common for people with ADHD. 

He talks about how working memory deficits are common with ADHD. People will say their memory is great, the best in their family, but they are talking about their long term memory. The problem with ADHD is short term working memory. “What did I go to the basement for again?” Reading and understanding it in real time, but 30 seconds later they don’t know what they read and they have to read the page again. Some people with ADHD have retrieval deficits. They might know the material, but can only recall it inconsistently. So they might fail a test, and then the next day if they took that test again they would get a much higher grade. Holding one thing in your mind while doing something else is unusually difficult for people with ADHD. 

ALL of these problems “constitute the range of difficulties that people with ADHD” experience. And everyone can have these symptoms, to some extent, but for those with ADHD, they are happening more persistently, beyond voltional control, and it is interfering with their ability to do daily life more than it does for most people. It’s inherited, apparently. 1 in 4 people with ADHD have a parent who had it as well, whether they knew it or not. The other 3 usually had an aunt, uncle, cousin, someone else who had it as well. It doesn’t always pop up in early childhood. For some it’s middle school or even in the 20s. We need to help them work with their strengths, and manage their difficulties. 

He talks about how medication helps 8 out of 10 people with ADHD. Some get a huge benefit, some substantial, some small, and some none. He talks about what they think is happening in ADHD brains (neurons having trouble with snynapses with their neighboring neurons, due to failures in their ability to load and reload with the necessary neurotransmitters). Very interesting, and presented in a way that is very accessible for the layperson. He talks about other ways to help people with ADHD, such as compensatory skills and tools. He talks about the importance of a good evaluation to identify exactly which problems a given child has. What strengths do they have? How can we make a plan to use their strengths, and compensate for their difficulties with new skills and tools, to help them succeed?

The next one was a video about a woman from China, in her mid 20s, studying in the USA. She has always had trouble with reading, and in school in general. She gets tested and is diagnosed with ADHD and dyslexia. She is so relieved to have an answer, to have a reason for her academic struggles, and wants to tell her family back home.

The next one is about a young girl who meets a famous young woman she looks up to, and they both have ADHD and LGBT in common, and it gives the young woman hope and inspiration to meet up and talk about their lives and their struggles.

The next one is about how ADHD is diagnosed. The doctor from the first video is back on this one, and he talks about how there is no one objective test that can 100% identify ADHD. No brain imaging test, no blood test, etc. It takes a battery of tests, an interview with parents and child, using information from other sources, learning about their functioning in everyday life, with a professional who knows about ADHD who can match up their experiences with ADHD or not. 

The next one is also the same doctor, about how to treat ADHD in children. Offering emotional support, behavioral strategies (offering alternative behaviors), medication. The exact treatment depends on the person, their needs and strengths and specific situation. Medication is the most effective method they have. It cures nothing, but it acts like glasses on our eyes, making our neurons synapse properly. Take the glasses off (stop the meds), and the benefits stop. It’s not curing it, but making it work temporarily. 

the next one is a panel of experts talking about ADHD in a live forum. They talk about the mission of Understood.org, which started in 2014 and offers help in English and Spanish, helping parents to be informed and confident, to better help their kids. Connecting parents with each other, and with experts in the field, to get the help and understanding they need. I liked learning about understood.org and what they do. Tom Brown also makes an analogy of the brain as a symphony, and how a brain with ADHD has trouble with the conductor of the symphony, and not necessarily the component parts. Their violin section might be amazing, world-class, but they have a hard time showing or harnessing that because sometimes their orchestra is out of sync. Another analogy is the air traffic controller, managing all of these moving parts at once. Executive functioning is the interconnections within the brain, and how we manage them, which is critical to thriving. There are so many aspects to executive functioning: social, emotional, cognitive, behavioral, physical capacities that all work together to go after our goals, that’s what executive functioning is. Those are like the different sections of the symphony (violins, violas, cellos, percussion, etc).

A woman on the panel talks about moving away from negative talk about ADHD (stopping this or that symptom) and instead talking about building skills. She also talks about how we should have more schools that are built around student interests. Like emphasizing the arts, or sports, or whatever they are into. Not that they get a pass from everything else, but building on what they are already into and have an easier time focusing on. Also promoting executive functioning skills, teaching them explicitly and directly to help kids manage themselves more effectively. Learning better flexibility, pay attention, remember the rules, have self control, etc, through playing games targeting these skills. One way to define ADHD is “the developmental impairment of the brain’s management system.”  Another good thing they said was the hardest time to be a kid with ADHD is jr hi, high school and the first couple of years of college, because that’s when you have the widest array of demands/tasks/challenges that are being asked of you, with the least ability to get out of the tasks that you are not good at. That makes sense to me, and anecdotally kids I’ve worked with struggle so much in those years, and then if they can make it through the first couple of years of college (most drop out), then they can go on and have more success. 

They talk about the value and importance of scaffolding, setting the task in the “just right” difficulty area for them, and moving that as their skills increase. They talk about parent fears about the medication and what it does to them, and how it shouldn’t turn kids “into a zombie.” It requires careful fine tuning to get the right dosage because everyone’s sensitivity to it varies. They also stress the value of specific praise, and the importance of getting teachers and physicians who are familiar with ADHD, so kids aren’t diagnosed and labelled under the old paradigm of “bad behavior” when it’s really a neurochemical issue. He says the average physician in the USA gets about 20 minutes of training in regard to ADHD prior to becoming a practicing physician. They stress the importance of parents connecting with other parents to get support. Understood.org has networking opportunities for parents. They talk about the importance of the parents and caregivers being united as they raise the child, in terms of support, discipline, etc. He says it is so important to be understanding of how hard it is to be in their shoes, and that most of us greatly underestimate it. When we have more empathy, we will be able to connect with them better, and find solutions more effectively. Helping your child have the perspective that everyone goes through some hard things. You can learn resilience and overcome this. You can do hard things, because we all have to at some point, and we will be with you to HELP you get through this, with real empathy and understanding and grace. 

The next video (3:01 in length) repeats a lot of info we heard previously. I’m going to skip the next 2 short videos because they’re getting redundant.  The next I will do is about the medication side effects with ADHD, lasting 2:03. The meds are typically stimulants, and are temporary, lasting only a number of hours after the dosage. So step one is figure out when you need the dose to take effect. Maybe an 8 hour dose when going off to school at 8:30, and then a different dose that only lasts 4 hours that they take at 4:30, and that’s it. This is all based on the child, their sensitivity to the dose, and their schedule. They have to be monitored and fine-tuned, and responsive to any possible negative side effects like loss of appetite or difficulty falling asleep. 

The next one is 3m 19s and talks about if kids outgrow ADHD. The short answer is no. There is more redundant info in this video, from the first 30 minute video I watched. Kids might seem less hyper, but attention deficits will linger. The next is 2:14 and talks about ADHD and anger. She talks about impulsivity with ADHD, and how meds and mindfulness meditation can help. Deep breaths, time out, other ways of disrupting the emotional cycle. She mentions that if the child is getting to the point where they “black out” and don’t remember what they did when angry, that the parents should seek the advice of a professional to get more help for other things that could be going on besides ADHD.

I skipped the last 4 videos because I’m a little bit maxed out with ADHD now, and they were getting pretty redundant toward the end. 

for later comment

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on May 17, 2021

Stuff I don’t want to forget and that could be good songwriting material. : – )

https://news.yahoo.com/gop-leader-claims-no-one-191353219.html

https://news.yahoo.com/mccarthy-ousting-cheney-don-t-132920082.html

Matt 12: 22-37

Adding in more. I’ll make this an open thread and just add outrageous stories as they come. Here is a story about Senator Mitch “Palpatine” McConnell just coming out and saying what we already knew. And politicians wonder why the public regards them as lying, hypocritical, self-serving tools who put the interests of themselves and their party before the country.

Another forked tongue politician. I wonder, seriously, to what extent they deceive even themselves and think they are telling the truth.