Out There

outrage for everyone!

Posted in politics, Uncategorized by Pete on January 25, 2019

I found myself entangled in one of those discussions on facebook recently:

Screen Shot 2019-01-25 at 3.19.46 AM.png

I have a lot of respect for the original poster. But as I say in my LOOOONG comment below, I don’t understand why people are dialing back on the outrage. I’m not going to link to all of the different videos and articles and the boy’s statement and everything else. Google if you need it. If there is a single, definitive repository for all of that stuff I’ll link it later. I will comment here and there in red.

Here are the facebook comments from the above post, with numbers for names:

1- Best line: ‘Take away Twitter and Facebook and explain why total strangers care so much about people they don’t know in a confrontation they didn’t witness. Why are we all so primed for outrage, and what if the thousands of words and countless hours spent on this had been directed toward something consequential?’

I can’t really articulate why, but I’ve been up thinking and writing about this for 4 hours, and it feels really important. I get the spirit of the comment and agree there is so. much. wasted. time and energy on social media and there are trolls and endless horrible rants and arguments. But to me this was like, I have to stand up and be counted, against this thing, whether anyone else I know does or not.

2-The public relations team the kids parents hired is top notch!
Really did a good job making blatant racism look like something debatable.
It’s saddening to watch more and more evidence of the true nature of Covington come out while the public discussion dwindles into the centrist myth of “they were both bad”

3-do you have video of what you are talking about? The only video I saw was blatantly racist, but these kids weren’t the one who were saying or doing anything racist, it was a third group.

2-we’ve all seen the videos, the 3rd group is irrelevant to the actions of the boys toward Nathan Philips. A bit of history: Cw sexual violence, brutality.

2-don’t forget, outrage is the product of centuries of colonization and brutally forced assimilation. You can’t observe this action in a vacuum removed from historical context.

Yes. Yes, yes, yes.

2-but don’t worry Covington doest have a history of blatant racism or anything
https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5c472a2de4b0a8dbe1752db5

3-we have not all seen the videos. I have seen one video; in which the same person spouting hate also targeted these young people. When I am no longer at work I will watch the video you shared.

2-I didn’t share a video just two articles, one explaining the historical significance of the song Philips sang and the second further demonstration of the wholesome nature of Covington catholic

2-I’ll explain my stance more clearly: whether or not the boys were provoked is irrelevant.
their actions speak volumes.
Philips claims to have approached the groups in order to diffuse, and was met with blatant racism by the Covington Catholic group.

I believe we should provoke racists. We should bring them to the light then chase them back into their holes.

I’m curious how many more angles we will need for white moderates to call a spade a spade:
“First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice” Martin Luther King Jr

3-The video that I saw did not show the youths doing or saying anything at all. In what way did they display racism? Do you have a video of that?

2-https://youtu.be/sIG5ZB0fw1k

3-I agree with your statement about positive and negative peace. That is why I defend the NFL players who sit or kneel during the National Anthem. I am just very cautious to call anyone racist without proof, since it is such a nasty thing, and I have not seen that proof. Again, I have seen very little on the event in question.

2-Mockingly chanting and pretending to throw a tomahawk may not seem absurdly racist due to mainstream sports appropriation of native culture, but it is. Also, further context would be that until the passing of the American Indian religious freedom act in 1978 it was illegal for native to practice their culture. Children were forced via violence to assimilate. And if you haven’t take a look at the article about the Covington Catholic basketball games, they are no strangers to provocation.

2-51066361_10211400921533493_3830096094763679744_n.jpg

3-No, I agree that that would be offensive, but I don’t clearly see that happening. (I am baffled how anyone is okay with the Washington football teams name and emblem. It is totally unacceptable.) The young man directly in front of Mr. Phillips does nothing to either provoke or backdown.

As I mention further down, the fact that #3 can’t even see what is obvious to #2…that feels like a big deal. And they are really trying, sincerely. It isn’t *super obvious* in the video, but it also isn’t hard to see the chopping here and there especially in the beginning and to hear the “oooooohh, ooohhh” song, both popularized by Atlanta Braves fans in the 1990s.

2-You don’t hear the mocking chant or see the jeers and hand gestures? Of course he didn’t do anything he is the product of a society that has taught him to see himself as superior. Like with any situation it is easier to boil it down to individuals than address a problem as a systemic failure.
Also I should clarify: this situation to me is more important because of the reaction we are witnessing simultaneously, anattempt to say that the Covington group did nothing wrong and also say they were provoked. So which is it? To top that off, I think most people who are calling this racist aren’t upset at the kids themselves, we are the products of our environment, we are mad because we see racism being played down because it is children that are perpetuating it. And you better bet it is because they are white and from wealthier (than most) families.

2-https://www.theroot.com/an-open-apology-to-the-covington-catholic-maga-hat-hara-1831957176?fbclid=IwAR0QXqo57FrXevBa8wpzL4CYEgRTQFo6Fhk-BexZXnoz8gMt961Aq6TdnUc

ME-Hi ____ (I’m not naming them here). I avoided getting into this on my own profile, but then it was hard because some people (not you) said some hurtful things, the worst of which I deleted tonight. I will make a long comment here and maybe I will paste it on the profile on my page as well, I don’t know. I hope I don’t come across as hurtful or like I’m “going after you.” I saw your comment on my profile, and wanted to respond, and I know that you aren’t wanting to get into an ugly troll-exchange on facebook, something I try very hard to avoid. : – ) So all that said, I don’t really understand why everyone has been walking back their outrage. I have watched 3 or 4 different videos and read several articles. I freely admit that my perspective is very shaped by living among and identifying with native americans for the last 15+ years. As Evan stated above, the CONTEXT is so huge for something like this. For an idea of the history and depth of feelings that go into it, the “counterpunch” article he linked to above works well, but you probably already have the general idea as far as literal genocide. If Mr Phillips and his group were white, then I would just say the boys were being really loud and disrespectful by not listening to his song, and why didn’t they just move away from him or whatever. It wouldn’t be nearly as disturbing to me. You mentioned that the boy in front of Mr Phillips does nothing to provoke or back down. And I can see where you’re coming from. He doesn’t appear to move to block Mr Phillips’ path, for example. In the video Evan links to above, you can see the boy in question laughing with his friends before Mr Phillips goes in front of him. But not much else, unless you count the smirk on his face for much of the song, which maybe was him just trying to be strong or save face or not knowing what to do because he is a normal insecure high school kid. I think that might be the one area for me that softened somewhat, is letting go of some of my previous conviction that he was smirking at Mr Phillips and mocking him. Now I’m unsure. But I can’t see how some people are sure that he had pure motives. And I agree with Evan that the student’s statement reeked of the PR firm that handled it and the language did not remotely resemble genuine teen-speak. But most of my outrage wasn’t just for that one boy anyway, it was more for the spirit of the whole scene. The Atlanta Braves style singing is mocking that man’s song and completely disrespectful to the entire native group. It’s bad on TV and in the stadium, but it’s a completely different level when it’s drowning out an elder’s song who is singing a sacred song right in front of you. A song that allegedly includes “We pray you give us peace with these people who only want war and to kill our Nations/Peoples.” The hatchet chops are mocking them as well. (I think you said you didn’t see those in the video? I can kind of see how you missed that – my dad did too. They are more toward the beginning of the video above, and I’ve seen it in a few different videos. They aren’t all doing it together or anything, but several kids are doing it, it’s not ambiguous if you’ve seen it before. It’s the same hatchet chop often seen at Atlanta Braves games in the 90s) All the derisive laughter, the obvious enjoyment of the mockery and the mean-spirited cultural denigration… Isn’t that racism? I always wondered why people liked to go to hangings or lynchings or whatever, and it felt like that to me in my spirit. Add in the real, beyond debate, genocide of the past, and ongoing marginalization and neglect, and you get bitterness for a lot of people, and yes outrage from watching the video. Maybe that is really subjective, but I’m just explaining my feelings of outrage, since that is the whole subject of the article that Josh linked to for this post. I’ve thought about it, and I really haven’t grown less outraged with time as apparently so many others have. Again I agree with Evan’s comment above with the MLK quote about the “white moderates.” And I say this as a lifelong people pleaser – but this to me was on a level where it has to be called out. I know that cultural ignorance is a contributing factor, and a lot of those boys just thought it was all in fun and no big deal. Because they are lacking the contextual knowledge as I mentioned before. I was cringing because I knew that the song was probably sacred to the ones singing it (Imagine a white crowd singing in an exaggerated, mocking “black gospel” way, with mocking hand gestures and laughing their heads off with their 200 white friends toward a small black group in peaceful protest singing Amazing Grace or We Shall Overcome), and that this man is an ELDER, yet they were laughing, yelling, singing over him, “chopping” the air… In my village, if an elder says something (from up front or just 1 to 1) that is just clearly factually wrong, no one corrects them. You might think that is crazy or dumb. It’s certainly a distinctive cultural difference. I was shocked when I first experienced it. I bring it up only to underscore the level of authority and respect that is customary. Going back to the boy – eye contact. Young people, at least in the culture where we live now, are to look down and away, never in the eye, and DEFINITELY never to maintain eye contact like that. Even adults avoid eye contact and never sustain it unless close friends or something. And if an elder walks toward where you are, as he does, then you get out of the way. Move to the side, anywhere to get out of the way. So I just wanted to give some native cultural context in response to what you said about how he didn’t do anything to provoke or back down. I can see from a native perspective that by not moving, by sustaining eye contact, and by smirking during his song…I can see why people are upset with that kid. Not that it would justify death threats or anything like that, that’s terrible. And again, I was a lot more upset with the whole crowd, the disturbing carnival-esque group racism (mob) vibe that was going on. I don’t know what Mr Phillips’ motivation was – it is odd to me that after kind of weaving through the crowd, he just went right up to the boy and played so close to him. What did he hope for? For the boy to move? To stop smirking? I don’t know why he didn’t walk around him if his goal was to sing his song from the top of the monument, as I think he claimed. Or why didn’t he say, “Can I pass by?” But I know a lot of natives would say that the boy should move, automatically and without even thinking, out of the way of the elder. And that an elder shouldn’t have to ask him to move in that situation. But that’s the cultural differences / misunderstanding / ignorance side of things again. I know that was really long. You don’t need to agree. I think I was so bothered by what someone posted on my profile, but didn’t want to respond because I think it would not have been productive in this person’s case, but I was driven to get out what was on my mind somewhere. Thanks for listening if you made it this far.

Further down in the comments…

2-Also to address why people are concerned about this situation: you are witnessing in real time the repetition of history in which the dominant white culture observes an act of racism and says “you provoked us” while marginalized groups are labeled violent for inciting white violence.
We are watching a repeat of the same rhetoric used during the civil rights movement

4-First, this wouldn’t even have been an issue if the liberal media wasn’t pushing their hate Trump agenda. And people wonder why they’re called fake news. Can you imagine what this country would look like if the media outlets were unbiased and spoke truth? These KIDS were targeted because of their hats, that was it. Freedom of speech only exists if you’re a leftist. Any other form of speech is labeled racist or homophobic or whatever other term you want to use. This country is teetering on a civil war and I can guarantee you one thing, it won’t be the socialists/communists who win. Likely the shortest war to ever be fought.

5-They were at the pro life march… I believe these two events were on the same day…these kids were targeted because of the hats they were wearing…and now that more video footage has been released you can see Mr Phillips engaged them..not the other way around….more proof of our liberal fake news media doing what they do best..lie and deceive….you know they are decent people when they are protesting the murder of the unborn…..

———————

There were several more comments on the thread that are not as germane to the topic, like about the language used in the original post. There were also comments on my own facebook profile, as I mention in the titanic post above. One of those comments was really bad, to the point I deleted it tonight. I felt like engaging the person who left it would not be productive. I’ve had heated debates centered on race with this person in the past and it was quickly apparent that it wouldn’t be productive. They carry wounds and prejudices from a life full of experiences and any healing needs to happen from the ones he feels wounded by. Anyway, in his comment among other things he praised the boys for their restraint. Thinking about it now, he probably specifically meant the boy in the staredown with Mr Phillips, surely not the jeering crowd. He said boys (plural) so it hadn’t occurred to me until now that he was thinking of the one stoic boy. I just couldn’t imagine where he was coming from with that observation. Also, note the bold text in comments above, where one person clearly sees racism and the other agrees it would be bad if those things were happening, but they didn’t see it in the video. Here we have numerous videos of the events, yet the whole country is divided about what it means. How can that be?  I think this whole thing is a remarkable example of how people see what they want to see, and I’m sure I’m not immune from it myself. 

Another comment from my profile:  This boy is the one being attacked by the Native American man. Have you seen the full footage? This story has been taken completely out of context. There were two sets of adult groups harassing these kids, who responded positively and with great restraint. There should be libel suits coming and the news outlets should be held responsible for their bad and biased reporting.

——-

Responding to that last comment, after watching it again, I do think Mr Phillips was strangely aggressive with this kid. As I say in the comment above, I don’t know why. And I don’t know what the kid’s motives were or if he was trying to mock, impede, or just didn’t know what else to do. But I would stop short of saying the boy was “attacked.” And it certainly doesn’t excuse the overall mob-like behavior of the crowd. I think user #2 above, his comment fits here:

you are witnessing in real time the repetition of history in which the dominant white culture observes an act of racism and says “you provoked us” while marginalized groups are labeled violent for inciting white violence.
We are watching a repeat of the same rhetoric used during the civil rights movement

Scary! Or am I just being self-righteous and “morally superior” and getting outraged about something inconsequential? I really don’t think so. But I sincerely welcome your (constructive, thoughtful) input.

school reform

Posted in teaching by Pete on September 30, 2018

What is the point of the educational system in place in America today?  There are some very fundamental differences of opinion about this.

Do schools exist to teach our kids?  Yes.  Teach them what?  (Values?  Lists of facts?  How to think?  How to get along?  How to submit to authority?  Which values to have?) For what purpose?  (Job?  College?  Happiness?  Efficiency?)

Do schools exist to prepare kids for life as adults?  How?

Based on your answer to the above, what is the best way for schools to actually accomplish this purpose?

———————————————–

Spending

Our district uses apple products like crazy, for pretty much everything.  Every teacher just got a new macbook air last month.  Every elementary teacher also got a new full-size ipad.  Every student in our school in grades 8-12 has their own macbook pro or macbook air (about 30 kids).  In addition, our school has about 25 more macbook pros and macbook airs that kids use on a rotating basis from the office.  So between teachers and kids, that is roughly 65 macbooks.  I bought my last 2 chromebooks for around $150 each.  I don’t understand why we don’t use chromebooks, and save a ton of money, like most districts are doing around the country.   65 chromebooks at $150 each = less than $10,000.  65 macbooks at $1,200 (this is a guess.  I would imagine we probably paid more than this for the pros, and maybe a bit less than this for the airs?) each = $78,000, for a difference of about $68,000.  This is almost enough to pay for another certified teacher at our site – a big deal considering we currently have 6.75 certified teachers. (I should also mention here that our school does have about 20+ chromebooks that a teacher won in a contest, and those are used on a daily basis as well.) . The other day, one of the top guys in the district called my little samsung chromebook “garbage” when he saw me working on it.  He asked why I wasn’t using the macbook air that I had just received, and I told him I preferred the chromebook, which is the honest truth.  Anyway, the district’s decision to go with apple products just seems wasteful.  I inquired as to whether the 300-400 new macbook airs that the teachers just received (and the new ipads) was grant-funded or something and was told that no, it was just how the district decided to spend it’s money.**

__________________________________________________

I recently saw this in the minutes from a recent LKSD board meeting:

Approved the purchase of the recommended Language Arts materials and resources in an amount not to exceed $982,242 with authorization for additional funding from unreserved fund balance in an amount not to exceed $582,242.

Now, up front I want to say that I have dear friends who have been very involved in the rollout of this curriculum.  This post is not about them.  It’s not even about THIS rollout.  It’s about using this specific example as a springboard for discussion about how/why funding decisions get made in education.  The $1.5ish million mentioned above paid for our new language arts curriculum, the vaunted “Reach for Reading” (RfR) from National Geographic.  Our school just started using this curriculum in August of 2018, in grades k-5 (or 6?).  I know that the fifth grade curriculum alone was like 8-12 heavyish boxes of materials.  4 or 5 boxes of leveled readers, 1 box of “explorer” books, 1 box of teacher editions (4 different volumes), another box with various other materials like the “academic talk” flip book and many others, 2 boxes with the reach into phonics booklets, and more.  Many districts are switching to Reach for Reading, and by all accounts, it is an outstanding curriculum that delivers challenging material with high expectations for achievement, along with differentiated material for ELLs (English Language Learners) and underperforming students.  In LKSD, RfR is replacing a curriculum called “Storytown” that was in wide use across the country, and is probably increasingly on the outs these days.

The thing is, LKSD turns over it’s curriculum on a schedule.  I can’t remember if it’s 6 or 7 years, but the district is constantly rotating through a list, so that 6 or 7 years from right now, we’ll be rolling out another new language arts curriculum at a similar cost, adjusted for inflation and student count.  And keep in mind that the learning curve for the transition to RfR has been steep.  Training in the new curriculum was the main emphasis of the district-wide inservice, which the district spent huge money on, to fly every teacher (300?  400?) to Bethel for 3 days of training – also paying to house and feed them during that time.  I’d guess it cost at least $200,000.**  And most of the teachers are still figuring out how to best use the curriculum.  This period of breaking in a new thing means less effective instruction for our students.

I think this whole process is duuuuummmmmmmmb.

How can Storytown go from being the best possible option for our kids, to being a major problem, in just 7 years?  We face many formidable problems, but Storytown is not one of them.  An above-average teacher could use storytown for the next 10 years and dwarf the progress made by their average peers who are using RfR.  That is my belief.  I’d love to see a study on the actual effects of the 2 side by side, kind of like they discuss here with other factors.  Several times during my 15+ years here, I’ve seen boatloads (literally) of textbooks and other materials taken out of the school to be thrown away.  Some of these were literally never used.  Most were used, but only a few years and they were still in great condition.  But getting anything to/from rural Alaska is very expensive, and our school has one small storage room, so…to the dump it goes.

What if we spent some of that $1.5M to $2M on

  • bonuses for teachers whose students’ test scores went up by a surprising amount?
  • Or on funding effective and inexpensive early childhood education, like parents as teachers programs in every village.
  • Or on bonuses for teachers who stay 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.  Turnover is killing our schools, I believe, way more than outdated curriculum.  Because the learning curve is so steep, in terms of cross-cultural adjustment.  In most rural Alaskan school districts, teachers stay about an average of 2 years, and keep in mind that the replacements are very often 22 years old and just out of college (not super effective teachers).  It’s a bad cycle.
  • Or better teacher housing!  Our building is so old that people literally cannot agree how old it is.  I’ve heard everything from the 30s to the 70s.  It has lead pipes, lead paint in places, and asbestos.  When I drilled into the wall to push a cable through, I found that all of the insulation had fallen down to the bottom couple of feet in the walls.  And there is no room for anyone who wants to have children.  How does that help anyone stay long term, which is what everyone agrees we need?  That $1.5-$2m would be more than enough for a new teacher housing 4-plex at our site.
  • Or how about direct cash compensation to students for good grades, or better yet, higher test scores (go up by X points = Y dollars).  Some districts have already done this, and the results were very promising, and it wasn’t actually expensive relative to the other stuff they had tried.

I’m just brainstorming here, but in 5-10 minutes I’ve come up with a list of things that I’m pretty confident would be at least as good and potentially way better, in terms of ROI, and that “return” based on accomplishing whatever it was you came up with to my question at the top.

And remember, LKSD (and probably most districts) does this every year!  In 2020, Everyday Math is out and we get a new math curriculum.  Our students get very low scores.  Those scores aren’t low because of Storytown or Everyday Math.  We have many challenges, but terrible, unusable curriculum is not one of them.  So why are we spending so much of our limited funding to fix something that isn’t even a problem?  Cynical answer – our test scores are bad, and the administration needs to look like it is taking things seriously and making changes, and it’s easier to change materials than it is to fire people.  Hopeful answer – ????  Incompetence?  People sincerely believe the curriculum is the problem, and is more urgent than our other problems?

**I can understand this maybe if we had more money than we knew what to do with.  But we don’t.  The state of Alaska has been in a budget crisis for a few years now due to falling oil prices, resulting in flat-funding or miniscule annual increases for education.  Our classified staff are in the middle of a 5 year period where their wages have been frozen, because “the money just isn’t there.”  Our certified staff approved a new contract a few years ago that saw our actual pay go backwards, in real dollars, over a 3 year period (village teacher rent increases of 10% per year – these increases were greater than the raises to the salary schedule).

Postal Purgatory

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 18, 2018

My sweet wife’s birthday was a few days ago.  The “big” present I was most excited to give her did not arrive on time.  In fact, it still hasn’t arrived.  When I track said PRIORITY MAIL parcel, I find that it is endlessly traveling between Anchorage and Hope, AK.  I have no idea why it is going to Hope.  The only connection I can make between Hope and Kasigluk is the zip codes are one digit off.  Hope is 99605 and Kasigluk is 99609.  Hope is a tiny ex-mining town on the Kenai Peninsula and the road system, not too far from Anchorage, and Kasigluk is larger and 400 miles from the nearest road.  I checked with the seller and he confirmed my address in Kasigluk, AK  99609.  It has gone to Hope on March 10, 12, 13, 14, and 17…and counting.  Check out this tracking data:

March 8, 2018, 4:38 am
Departed USPS Regional Facility

March 9, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility

March 9, 2018, 3:13 pm
Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  

March 10, 2018, 12:00 pm
Departed USPS Regional Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  

March 10, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility

March 10, 2018, 12:17 pm
Arrived at Post Office
HOPE, AK 99605  

March 10, 2018, 12:22 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
HOPE, AK 99605  

March 10, 2018, 12:23 pm
Departed USPS Destination Facility
HOPE, AK 99605

March 10, 2018, 9:20 pm
Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER

March 11, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility

March 11, 2018, 10:14 pm
Departed USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER

March 12, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility

March 12, 2018, 12:16 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
HOPE, AK 99605

March 12, 2018, 12:16 pm
Forwarded
HOPE, AK  

March 12, 2018, 12:17 pm
Unable to deliver item, problem with address
KASIGLUK, AK 99609  

March 12, 2018, 12:17 pm
Departed USPS Destination Facility
HOPE, AK 99605

March 12, 2018, 9:43 pm
Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  

March 12, 2018, 10:35 pm
Departed USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  

March 13, 2018, 12:01 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
HOPE, AK 99605  

March 13, 2018, 12:02 pm
Unable to deliver item, problem with address
KASIGLUK, AK 99609

March 13, 2018, 12:02 pm
Departed USPS Destination Facility
HOPE, AK 99605  

In Transit to Next Facility
March 13, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility

Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  
March 14, 2018

Departed USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  
March 14, 2018, 9:46 pm

Arrived at USPS Facility
HOPE, AK 99605  
March 14, 2018, 11:38 pm

Departed USPS Destination Facility
HOPE, AK 99605  
March 15, 2018, 11:47 am

March 15, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility
March 15, 2018, 11:49 am

March 15, 2018, 10:14 pm
Arrived at USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER  

March 16, 2018, 1:38 am
Departed USPS Regional Destination Facility
ANCHORAGE AK DISTRIBUTION CENTER

March 17, 2018, 11:36 am
Arrived at Post Office
HOPE, AK 99605

March 17, 2018, 12:11 pm
Arrived at USPS Facility
HOPE, AK 99605

March 17, 2018
In Transit to Next Facility
The item is currently in transit to the next facility as of March 17, 2018.

Which will leave Hope first – Tammy’s birthday gift or the sanity of the local postmaster??  It’s looking…well, you know.

Do I have to say it?

 

Hopeless.

But not to worry.  USPS tracking assures me it will arrive by Monday, March 19, hahaha.

 

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pitch discrimination

Posted in music by Pete on October 25, 2017

This is not a baseball post.  I have been doing a little research into the ability to easily identify, match, and discriminate between 2 musical notes.  I learned that only about 2.5-5% of the population is “medically tone deaf” or amusic (amusia = tone deafness).  Many people are thought to be tone deaf when they are actually not.  I found some helpful links and wanted to compile them in one place for future reference.

Here is a good basic test to see if you are tone deaf.

Here is a very simple tool for improving your “ear” (pitch recognition).

Here is a lengthy and slightly technical article that explores tone deafness and how it is different from poor tone perception and poor singing ability.  Most poor singers fall into one of these latter camps even though they or others may describe them as “tone deaf.”

11 tips for singing in tune.  Nothing very surprising here but a good primer on the basics.

 

Religion, Irreligion, and Gospel through Derek Webb

Posted in music by Pete on October 10, 2017

I wanted to link to something I read – a commentary in 3 parts on 3 Derek Webb songs.  If you haven’t heard of him he is a talented songwriter, the founder of noisetrade (a legal music download site), and former member of Caedmon’s Call, a 90s/2000s Christian band from Texas.  He is known for some controversial songs and liberal positions.  And also known more recently (in the “Christian music industry”) for a scandal – being unfaithful to his wife who also happens to be another talented songwriter. Sadly that relationship is apparently severed.  I haven’t let his issues keep me from enjoying a lot of his music and several of his songs have helped me out over the years.  If you want to check any of it out, start with any of these albums:  “She Must and Shall Go Free,” (tracks like Wedding Dress, Lover) or “Mockingbird.”  Or “The House Show.”

Yesterday I was enjoying listening to a playlist I made of all Derek Webb stuff and it came to the song “Heavy,” which I’ve been getting into but hadn’t figured out all the lyrics yet but as I listened yesterday I was realizing it’s a complicated song that I couldn’t really sing and just tap on the table and agree with.  Not easy listening.  So I did a google search for the lyrics and meaning and stumbled on this link.  I thought it was a good take and wanted to read the rest of the series, which cover 2 other really good songs and can be found here and here.

“100% of the communities in the state of Alaska have state highways”

Posted in politics by Pete on August 11, 2017

This brilliant quote is from Peter Micciche, the republican senator from Soldotna and I believe the current senate chair.  I try not to dwell on politics too much, but this one was so classic I had to put it down for posterity.  It was lifted from this podcast, at the 23:16 mark.  The context was as follows.  The show was about what further cuts could be made to the budget, and how we will fill the deficit going forward (the Senate favors taking from the permanent fund, and the house favors a smaller hit to the PFD coupled with an income tax).

On the topic of further savings/cuts to be made, fellow Republican Senator Cathy Giessel spoke about how over 50% of the costs of the state ferry system was subsidized by the state, and how that needed to change – implying that ferry riders would have to pay more and/or ferry services would need to be cut.  This is a common view from legislators from all parts of the state other than southeast AK, where most of the ferry service happens.  A teacher from Juneau called in shortly after and criticized this view, and made the point that people driving the Glenn Hwy from Palmer/Wasilla (Giessel’s stomping grounds) to Anchorage every day aren’t paying a toll.  Their transportation is subsidized entirely by the state, so isn’t it fair that the Alaska Marine Highway System, the de facto road system of southeast Alaska, be subsidized at it’s current levels?  So then Micciche responded with:

The fact is, the reason why we’re not charging a toll right now, is that a hundred percent of the communities in Alaska have state highways.

Uhhh…no.  Kasigluk where I live has no state highway.  Mekoryuk has no state highway.  Nelson Island has no state highway.  There are approximately 200 villages in Alaska.  The vast majority have no state highway.  I’m pretty confident that actually less than half of the communities in Alaska have a state highway.  Not 100%.  Later he repeated “State roads are in every community.” That is either a huge brain fart or deliberate obfuscation from the Senate chair.  Insert joke here about why I should be surprised about this, but actually I was liking much of what they were saying and how he thought most of the cuts to be made had already happened and they were agreeing that we need to increase revenue (FINALLY!)…but he lost me with that ridiculous statement.  I will post a link to this post on his facebook page and give him a chance to respond.  He knows more about state highway funding than I will ever know, but I can’t see how it could be construed that we have a state highway.

The Alaska Disconnect

Posted in politics by Pete on April 9, 2017

What a great name for a band!  I completely agree with this editorial from Mike Navarre, mayor of Seward.  I remember learning about this very thing in our Alaska History course with Joan Antonson way back in 2001 or 2002.  In case that link gets broken eventually, here is a copy of the editorial.

In debating the state’s fiscal future amid a $3 billion annual budget gap, many Alaskans talk about how more state-supported public services should “pay their own way,” or at least get closer to covering the costs. The users should pick up more of the tab, they say, not the state treasury.

While user fees make sense, such as state park cabin rentals, fishing licenses, driver’s licenses and motor fuel taxes, we need to accept — and apply — that same “pay their own way” reasoning to economic development.

The cold-hard-cash fact is that unless economic development produces more barrels of oil, any new economic activity and its accompanying jobs and students and subdivisions can be a loser for the state treasury. But we can fix that as part of an overall state fiscal plan. Probably not all in one year, but it is fixable.

New jobs are great for people who get hired, for retail and service shops that get additional businesses, and for communities with property taxes and sales taxes to collect the revenues needed to pay the costs of more students, street maintenance, police and fire protection.

But lacking any broad-based state tax, such as income or sales or property tax, the state gets the bills for its share of more students, more roads, more demand on public services, but little to no additional revenues to pay the bills. That’s particularly true as more businesses are establishing themselves outside the jurisdiction of the state corporate income tax code.

With oil, the state collects production tax and a royalty share and property tax and corporate income tax. But what about a new widget factory? An ore smelter? A server farm for cloud computing? A new big box store? Likely sizable property and sales taxes for cities but likely squat for the state. 

It’s our own fault. We didn’t need the money, so we let the problem grow for 40 years.

Our problem has a name: The Alaska Disconnect. A 2003 report from the Institute of Social and Economic Research at the University of Alaska Anchorage explained the problem: “In most states economic development that brings new jobs and payroll generally pays its own way from the perspective of the public treasury. Because of the Alaska Disconnect, economic development in Alaska does not pay its own way — economic development makes the fiscal gap bigger rather than smaller. The notion that economic development alone can close the fiscal gap is unfounded.”

Also in 2003, in a report for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., a group of the fund’s investment advisers made the same point: “Moreover, the state’s revenue structure is such that each additional basic sector job added to the economy … costs more to state finances than what it generates. … The state must also eradicate the growth-inhibiting incentives of the ‘Alaska Disconnect,’ where new non-oil-producing employment is a net drag on state finances.”

As Alaskans discuss and debate, argue and agitate for their favorites pieces — and least favorite pieces — of a long-term, balanced state fiscal plan, don’t dismiss a broad-based state tax, such as income or sales, just because the thought of taxes causes you more stress than coming up short on overhead space for your carry-on bag.

Rather than dismissing tax talk, think about what it means not to have a broad-based tax, especially as Alaska looks to expand its economy beyond oil, looks to reduce our near-total dependence on oil dollars, and looks to attract new investment and jobs for younger Alaskans.

The Alaska Disconnect is a self-inflicted illness. We can solve this one on our own. The cure isn’t painless, but it is long lasting and creates a healthier economy.

We Alaskans have become addicted to a painless system of representation without taxation, and it is destroying our state as we would rather blow up the government, education, and medicaid, than pay an eminently sensible income tax.  The current income tax proposed by the Alaska State House would be the 4th lowest income tax in the 50 states.

Moving from post-election grumbling to prayer

Posted in politics by Pete on March 16, 2017

President Trump has released his proposed budget.  He lost me with the title (pic copied from npr.org just now:

Trump Unveils 'Hard Power' Budget That Boosts Military Spending

My mind right away goes to these passages from Mark 9 and 10:

When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

And to this song that I’ve quoted before – A King and a Kingdom by Derek Webb:

(vs. 1)
Who’s your brother, who’s your sister
You just walked passed him
I think you missed her
As we’re all migrating to the place where our father lives
’cause we married in to a family of immigrants

(chorus)
My first allegiance is not to a flag, a country, or a man
My first allegiance is not to democracy or blood
It’s to a king & a kingdom

(vs. 2)
There are two great lies that i’ve heard:
“the day you eat of the fruit of that tree, you will not surely die”
And that Jesus Christ was a white, middle-class republican
And if you wanna be saved you have to learn to be like Him

(chorus)

(bridge)
But nothing unifies like a common enemy
And we’ve got one, sure as hell
But he may be living in your house
He may be raising up your kids
He may be sleeping with your wife
Oh no, he may not look like you think

Did you know that the word “America” is not actually in the Bible?  Haha.  Nor does it say “seek first to build your empire, and all of these other things will be added to you as well.” As believers we are called to seek the Kingdom of God, to love our neighbors as ourselves and pour our lives (even our money – gasp!) out in love for others (not just the people we prefer) as Jesus did, and not instead do all we can to preserve our own wealth and security.  This is an idol in our culture and a difficult fight and temptation for me as well.  Most of us want comfort and security above all, and therefore we seek an easier way than laying our lives down for others, so we continually reject the suffer-die-rise model of Jesus and the cross.  Just as Peter apparently did in Mark 8, from the New Living Translation:

Jesus Predicts His Death

31Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Manc must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead. 32As he talked about this openly with his disciples, Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things.d

33Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.

34Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 35If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. 36And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?e 37Is anything worth more than your soul?

BOOM!  Jesus is the man.  No no, not THAT man (from “School of Rock”)…

Dewey Finn: Give up, just quit, because in this life, you can’t win. Yeah, you can try, but in the end you’re just gonna lose, big time, because the world is run by the Man.

Frankie: Who?

Dewey Finn: The Man. Oh, you don’t know the Man. He’s everywhere. In the White House, down the hall… Ms. Mullins, she’s the Man. And the Man ruined the ozone, and he’s burning down the Amazon, and he kidnapped Shamu and put her in a chlorine tank! Okay? And there used to be a way to stick it to the Man, it was called rock ‘n roll. But guess what? Oh no. The Man ruined that, too, with a little thing called MTV! So don’t waste your time trying to make anything cool, or pure, or awesome, ’cause the Man is just gonna call you a fat washed up loser and crush your soul. So do yourselves a favor and just GIVE UP!

The challenge for me now is to pray for the man in the white house, for wisdom and true strength (which isn’t about how rich we are or how many nukes we have), humility, and the internal sense of self worth and security to be able to deal in a healthy way with insults and disagreement that are inherent to the political process.  So I guess what I’m trying to say is that for me personally, I’m trying to move from the “freak out about everything that our &$#@$#&$%^! new President is doing and holy cow how/why did people actually vote for and elect this horrible person” stage to the “truly trying to sincerely pray for our leaders” stage.  And I don’t mean praying only that bad things will happen to him, haha.  If we are really living in faith and the reality of God’s greatness and goodness, then we remember that we’re ALL screwups and losers, noone is beyond hope or redemption, and anyone can have a true Damascus Road turnaround experience because of who God is.  So I’m resolving to quit grumbling and start praying.  Now.

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on January 21, 2017

Have you heard of H.L. Mencken?  I hadn’t.  Until I saw this today on my wife’s phone:

Image result for mencken cartoon trump

Which led me to google, where I found these and many, many more with no effort:

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Image result for mencken cartoon trump

And this one which cracks me up, even though I vote Republican pretty often:

Image result for mencken cartoon trump

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

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Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

Image result for 1920 quote president mencken

OK, who in the world was this guy?  Obviously a journalist or writer to have so many quotes out there.  I used one google image search for ALL of those results.  I don’t agree with all of these but they’re fun.  He was probably viewed as a tremendous elitist, understandably so.  Probably highly educated and if I had to guess I’d say a newspaper columnist from the northeast – most likely Boston.  I confess that I share his perspective to some degree, I think because I’ve been so surprised and disillusioned that so many would vote for Donald Trump.  I’m no fan of his opponent in the election, but of the many candidates on the ballot, he seemed clearly the worst choice.  So that “mob of men” quote (fifth from the top) resonates with me these days.

Sexual Assault in Western Alaska

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on November 21, 2016

The rate of sexual assault in Alaska is the highest in all 50 states.  This has been known for quite a while.  The national average is about 27 sexual assaults per 100,000 people.  Alaska comes in at 80.  South Dakota is second-worst, at 70, so Alaska is dominating the nation in this horrible category.  And within the state of Alaska, the rate of sexual assault is highest in western Alaska, at around 370 cases per 100,000 people.  Yes, something like 14 times higher than the national average.  And within Western Alaska, I think it is highest in the Bethel area, where we have made our home since 2003.  Sean Parnell tried to fight this with his “Choose Respect” campaign, as covered by CNN here.

Sexual assault is never ok.  Unwanted sexual advances are not ok.  Not with a family member, a stranger, anyone.  We have to break the cycle by talking about it, openly.  We have to report it.  We have to deal harshly with those who do it, even when it is people we are close to, so we can begin to make headway in breaking the continuous cycle of abuse.  Here are some summary stats from the 2015 Alaska Victimization Survey that found that half of all adult women in Alaska have experienced either intimate partner violence, sexual violence, or both.  This is wrong and we have to fight it.  And anyone who says you shouldn’t make waves or press charges is unfortunately part of the problem.  I know that is a strong stance, but it’s true and it’s right.  Of course I’ve always believed this, but it’s come up again and I wanted to get all these links in the same place and come out publicly against it.