Out There

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. : – )



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.

Liz Cheney

Posted in politics by Pete on May 8, 2021

I admire her principled courage, as expressed in this editorial.

I am a conservative Republican, and the most conservative of conservative values is reverence for the rule of law. Each of us swears an oath before God to uphold our Constitution. The electoral college has spoken. More than 60 state and federal courts, including multiple Trump-appointed judges, have rejected the former president’s arguments, and refused to overturn election results. That is the rule of law; that is our constitutional system for resolving claims of election fraud.

While embracing or ignoring Trump’s statements might seem attractive to some for fundraising and political purposes, that approach will do profound long-term damage to our party and our country. Trump has never expressed remorse or regret for the attack of Jan. 6 and now suggests that our elections, and our legal and constitutional system, cannot be trusted to do the will of the people. 

I don’t agree with some of her values, and with some that I do agree with, we disagree about the policy that will get us there. But I can still respect her courage and integrity, along with Adam Kinzinger and other politicians who place their integrity and conscience over the will of their political party. They serve “one nation, under God,” not “…and to the party for which it stands, one party, under God…”

lithium isn’t green

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on May 7, 2021

So this seems like an inconvenient truth.

But the project, known as Lithium Americas, has drawn protests from members of a Native American tribe, ranchers and environmental groups because it is expected to use billions of gallons of precious ground water, potentially contaminating some of it for 300 years, while leaving behind a giant mound of waste.

Lithium is a critical part of what makes electric cars and other “green” tech work.


Gambling for Education

Posted in politics, teaching by Pete on March 29, 2021

OK, this will be a boring post, but it’s interesting to me. This has been a thing for many years in many states, but it is relatively new to Alaska. Here are the exact details. What I found surprising was the huge number of people who choose to pay $100 per raffle ticket. I imagine a deduction from an annual payment is easier to do, psychologically, than actually handing over the cash for the raffle tickets. Also surprising is that 50% of each year’s take goes directly into the current year’s education budget, and 25% goes into an education endowment. That seems backwards and short-sighted. The endowment, compiling interest, is where most of the money should go, so that 10, 20 years later it might be picking up a huge portion of the cost of educating Alaska’s students. *

Also noteworthy is the amount of prize money. 25% of the annual take goes into the raffle fund, and 15% of the raffle fund (prior year rolled over raffle fund + annual interest of 1% + 25% of current year’s total take) is paid out as prizes (8%, 4%, 2%, 1%). Currently the amount of the fund is shooting upward, as the Jan 2020 carryover was about $184,000, and the Jan 2021 carryover was about $358,000. In other words, next year’s prizes will be 50-100% larger. At this rate of increase, the raffle fund will reach a principle of about $2m in 5 or 6 years, and probably faster if the popularity keeps growing. But at some point, the 15% payout may exceed the annual inflow of funds. At $4m, the prizes would be $320,000, $160,000, $80,000, and $40,000, totalling $600,000, and it’s hard to imagine that the annual inflows would equal this. I guess we’ll see. I’d prefer a lot more prizes of smaller values. Say 4%, 3%, 2%, 1%, and .9, .8, .7, .6, .5, .4, .3, .2, .1% even, when the fund passes the $1m mark or so. But I know that people buy tickets based on the big number, so they won’t change that. They want a number big enough to dream on, even if it’s far harder to win.

So what is up with the 1% interest the raffle fund earned in 2020? There are reputable online banks that pay more than double that interest rate, on much smaller principles. I hope the 25% education endowment fund is earning a much higher return than that.

*This reminds me of the difference approaches taken by Norway and Alaska toward their sovereign wealth funds. Alaska’s is older, and Norway sent a delegation to Alaska to study it, but Norway’s is far more aggressive about long term growth, and has therefore far surpassed Alaska, by a score of $1,100 billion to $74 billion.



Start now.

This might be hard to DO, but it’s not hard to understand. Our repeated failure in Alaska in this regard speaks to our short-sighted leadership, and the general character of Alaskans who have prioritized getting a little right now, now, now, over getting much more later. This is partly because of the transient nature of much of the population along the road system. Many people come to Alaska to work, with no intention of staying indefinitely. Work hard, make lots of money, and leave without spending much of it. This has been a common attitude among outsiders in Alaska dating all the way back to the Promyshlenniki (Russian fur traders), and it’s still the case today. This is another benefit to a modest state income tax – these seasonal workers and short-timers would finally contribute to state government.

the precise point of disconnect

Posted in politics by Pete on March 23, 2021

I heard this stat on a 538 podcast today and had to look it up. Here it is, from Pew Research:

74% of Biden supporters say it is a lot more difficult to be Black than White, while a smaller majority of Clinton supporters (57%) said this in 2016. Among Trump supporters, there has been virtually no change since 2016. Currently, 9% say it is a lot more difficult to be Black than White; 11% said this four years ago.

I don’t have the time I need to comment on this at length. But that 9% figure is breathtaking to me. This is one of many crushing graphs from prisonpolicy.org. I encourage you to check that link.

imprisonment rates

Or how about the wealth gap? I wrote about this in July 2020, and here is the money quote from the Brookings Institute:

A close examination of wealth in the U.S. finds evidence of staggering racial disparities. At $171,000, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150) in 2016. Gaps in wealth between Black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. The Black-white wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.

So black folks have an average of 1/10th the money, and are incarcerated about 5x as often as white folks. And 91% of republicans say it is not a lot harder to be black than white in the USA, as of summer 2020. Even if you believe that they are in prison, or poor, entirely and only because of their own personal poor choices, doesn’t this still make their lives hard? Of course it does. What a clear point of disconnection from reality, and it is beyond alarming. 91% of Trump supporters! No wonder people believe the malarkey about the election being stolen by rigged communist voting systems and other nonsense. We have a defcon 5 crisis of truth. The solution does not involve yelling louder or getting angrier than the other team, because at this point no one is listening. And coming to true believers armed with facts like the ones I’ve presented will probably do no good either. I feel challenged to somehow listen to people and earn the trust necessary to be able to share my perspective in a way that they can actually hear it. But at the same time, we can’t control how other people respond. And there is a time to walk away and seek someone else who might have ears to hear.

I *must* stay positive! Bubblegum! Butterflies… Cotton candy????

Posted in fun by Pete on March 20, 2021

A happier post! Phil Keaggy makes me shake my head and helps me lift my eyes up and smile, with my fav version of Be Thou My Vision, and with 2nd Chapter of Acts singing “Time.”

nattering nabobs of negativism

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 20, 2021

I just scrolled through my last several blog posts and realized they are ALL negative. So, one more story on the fallen state of our democracy won’t hurt. This is pretty terrible, and depressing.

Basically, a hard-core former Republican state senator recruited a friend with a similar name to go on the ballot and siphon votes away from the legitimate candidate, and he paid him $44,000 to do so. The real candidate lost by 32 votes, and the sham candidate got 6,382 votes.

On Thursday, Katherine Fernández Rundle, the state attorney for Miami-Dade County, a Democrat, noted that recruiting a sham candidate to deliberately influence an election was not illegal, unless the candidate was also secretly financed.

“Is it an attack on our democracy? Is it a dirty political trick?” she said. “Absolutely.”

At the center of the latest scandal is Mr. Artiles (pronounced are-TEE-less), who before his arrest this week was perhaps best known in Tallahassee, the state’s capital, for resigning from the Senate in 2017, after he cursed at and used a racist slur before a group of Black lawmakers. His political committee had spent money on “consultants” who were models from Hooters and Playboy without any campaign experience.

This apparently happens often in Florida:

“I hope this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said former State Representative Juan-Carlos Planas, known as J.C., who was Senator Rodríguez’s lawyer during the recount and who himself once fought a candidate who had been planted against him: his second cousin, who appeared on the Republican primary ballot as Juan E. “J.P.” Planas.

Senator Rodríguez, 42, lamented that weak enforcement mechanisms continue to allow questionable candidates to make it on the ballot.

It’s time for justice.


Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on March 9, 2021

My family supports a number of charitable organizations with cash donations. And we buy a ton of stuff on Amazon. So my wife uses the smile.amazon.com url for her purchases. The thing is, the amount of the donation is SO small. And they intentionally make it easy for the purchase to not quality. For example, while Amazon Smile was rolled out in 2013, it was not added to their app until 2020. This means all purchases made using tablets and phones and other devices wasn’t generating diddlysquat for charity. We just discovered today that you have to go to the settings of the app and “turn on” Amazon Smile, as detailed here. My wife was dismayed that all of her purchases, since forever, on amazon using her phone apparently generated zero for Pomona Hope. And even better, you have to “renew” this again every 6 months or it will automatically turn back off again. And with browser purchases, if you forget to start at smile.amazon.com, then there is no donation.

All of which makes it clear that generosity is not the intent or the spirit behind the Amazon Smile program. Rather, it is free marketing for the company, as outlined in this piece that is apparently controversial but I completely agree with. If they simply wanted to make it easy for customers to give half of a percent of their purchase to a charity, why do they have to start at the special URL? It could be a simple one-time designation in their account settings. And why did they wait 7 years to integrate it with their app? And why have the setting “expire” on the app every 6 months? Occam’s razor suggests the reason is naked greed and a desire to suppress charitable giving. In the piece linked above (these are admittedly old figures), in 2015, out of total sales of $99.1 billion, Amazon Smile generated $12.9 million for charity, or .00012 or .012%. I believe this means that only about 1/42nd of all sales in 2015 were made under the Amazon Smile umbrella. That is some impressive charitable giving suppression, in what was the third year of the program. As the article points out, Amazon’s techy neighbor Microsoft donated about $500 million (about 40 times more) in that same year. I think a lot of folks who use Amazon Smile assume most other people do too, when apparently it is only like 2.5% of sales. So for Amazon, the math is something like sales * .025 * .005 = charitable giving. At least in 2015. And as others have argued, this is a bargain for them considering the goodwill they generate, and the free advertising they receive from charitable organizations, the vast majority of which make less than $100 per year from the program.

One more thing of note. For ten years or more I have used an “affiliate link” to get to the Amazon home page. I was told by a charity we support that this brought them 3-7% of sales, and they asked us specifically not to use Amazon Smile for this reason. Lately, I spoke with someone at the organization and they said Amazon pulled the plug on this because it is intended for blogs and other orgs that might push specific products, rather than for a charity that isn’t pushing any product in particular.

This commenter nailed it:

“bcole72 says:September 21, 2020 at 7:15 am

Many comments are missing the main point. Amazon is tricking people. The reason it is disingenuous is because it is a cheap marketing ploy, plain and simple. People are more likely to choose amazon for purchases – and to spend more – if they think they are making a difference. It’s the cheapest customer retention tactic they have, just pay 0.5% of sales to keep people loyal. My other point is that Amazon will easily establish an affiliate relationship with organizations that pay in the 6%+ range. 12x more. Organizations should invest their time in working those opportunities instead.”

So why are they willing to pay 12x more for referrals from some orgs, and not charities? Back in the day, I went to amazon through the referral link, and not bn.com or some other competitor, because I wanted to support one of our favorite charities. Any rationalization for the tiny payout for charities, and the much larger payout to “affiliates,” other than greed, I’m not buying.