Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Enough Cottonwoods? Electronic Health Records, Senior Joy, Climate Illogic

Some reactions to yesterday's Anchorage Daily News.  Nothing earth shattering here.  Don't have time to right now for that.

1.  How essential are electronic health records for treating patients? 

In an article on loss of FCC funding for rural health care, Anchorage Daily News reporter Annie Zak wrote:
"They rely on that connectivity for electronic health records, essential for treating patients."
I remember going to a focus group on electronic health records eleven years ago.  At that time the hospitals here didn't have EHR and were pushing to get them.  And now you can't treat patients without them?  I wonder what all the doctors who practiced medicine before EHR existed would say about this statement  or what all those doctors around the world who don't have electronic health records do?  Shut up shop because they don't have an essential tool for treating patients?

Yes, electronic health records make it easier and faster to get patient medical histories and to share records when referring patients to other doctors.  BUT they are NOT an essential tool for treating patients.  If they are essential in some settings, it's only because hospitals have now made them the only records kept.  But, if worse comes to worse, the doctor can ask the patient like they used to do.  And they also mean that confidential medical records are now highly vulnerable to hackers.  It's not a question of if they are breached, just when.

2.  Does senior joy make older folks irrelevant to the young?

Charles Wohlforth had a piece on Tom Choate who climbed Denali five years ago at age 78.  The article talks about older folks giving up ambition and competitiveness for happiness.  He then writes,
"But Angell noted that his quality [being happy and not competitive)] has the perverse effect [of] getting old people ignored, as if contentment means you don't matter."
He gives an example of being ignored in conversations with younger men.  Wohlforth muses:
"Interesting, isn't it, our tendency to patronize the old as we do the young? It's as if, like children, their joy disqualifies them, indicating they can't understand the true toughness of life. As if they don't know adulthood's difficult struggle for goals and status." 
This seems to me a giant leap to a questionable conclusion.  Is it the joy that disqualifies them?  Is it even joy he means here, or rather contentment?  I suspect other possible explanations.  One, the contented senior doesn't have the need to push himself into the conversation as much.  Or, if it is about the younger men's regard for the older, it's that he's no longer keeping current in all the details they think are important and/or he doesn't have power in the world that matters to them.  This would be more consistent with Wohlforth's earlier (in the article) note that being ignored is a condition shared by women and that form of snubbing is much more about power than it is about joy.

3.  Climate Illogic  

This was a letter to the editor.  It's short.  So I can give you the whole letter:

Is there climate change? Of course. Earth's climate has always been in a state of change. Alaska was once a sub-tropical area that became an arctic environment.
Puny man cannot stop or slow this change. One volcano eruption can put tons of greenhouse gases into the environment. Carbon dioxide is a major greenhouse gas produced by every animal that breathes air. It is used by plants and is needed by them to grow and the plants turn this CO2 back into oxygen that we animals breathe in order to live.
If you want to really make a difference, plant trees, disconnect the natural gas and electricity to your house, throw away your vehicle keys and walk everywhere.
Charles Brobst
Anchorage    [emphasis added]
There's plenty of evidence that while climate has changed over the billions of years of earth's existence, that the last 200 years or so have seen a much more rapid change than in the past and this change coincides with the beginning of the industrial revolution.

But that's not my point here.  First Mr. Brobst tells us that "Puny man cannot stop or slow this hang"  and then he makes a list of how 'you' can make a difference (which I take to mean slow the change.)  All the things he lists seem to imply - give up our modern life style.

So I'm guessing he really means to say, "If you want to stop climate change, we have to go back to the StoneAge."  This is not the case.  We just need to find alternative energy sources, cut back in consumption that isn't sustainable, an be willing to explore alternatives to how we live - and the Stone Age isn't the only alternative.  The impacts of climate change - if we do nothing - is clearly problematic for our economy.  The impact of actions to stop climate change actually improve our economy.

4.  People really do hate cottonwoods

In another letter to the editor, Patricia Wells laments to poor state of the Anchorage Coastal Trail - cracking asphalt, trash, leaves piled up on the trail, trees blocking views.  And then she says it:
"Believe me, we do not need any more cottonwood trees."
I get her sentiment - particularly now when the sticky cottonwood catkins pile up on our deck and stick to your feet as you walk on them, using you as their way into your house.  I've written a few posts on cottonwoods. (I just looked - there are 30 posts with the label 'cottonwood.'  Here's one that takes an alternative look at these trees.)  Ultimately, they are huge trees - an anomaly this far north - which grow fast (also an anomaly here) and clean the air, anchor the soil, provide habitat for birds and other animals.  But I get it.  Besides the catkins now, the fluffy cotton will start littering Anchorage later in the summer.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Graham v MOA #11 - Oral Exams 4 - Jeff Graham Passes New Promotion Exam

Although Jeff Graham won his lawsuit over discrimination in his 2012 promotion exam with the Anchorage Fire Department, the Municipality told him he still had to take the promotion exam now before he would get promoted.

After 2012 he stopped taking the exam because he figured it was futile - they weren't going to promote him.  He'd heard rumors, but they weren't confirmed until he learned that another fire fighter had heard the head of the promotion training and testing in 2012 (and later) say to him and a couple of others at the promotion academy that "As long as I'm in charge of promotion, Jeff Graham will never promote."  He only got a name of someone who heard it directly during the second week of the trial.  But that person agreed to testify.

In any case, Jeff passed the written, practical, and oral portions of the exam this time and ended up number five on the promotion list, which is much longer than the list when he last took the exam.  But five is reasonably high and if the past is a good predictor, there should be at least five openings in the next two years.

So, he hasn't been promoted, but based on the past, I'm reasonably optimistic.

I'm still writing about the 2012 exam and there have been some changes in the exam recently, but from what I've seen, there are still egregious violations of how things should be done.  I'm not sure if Jeff passed because the whole trial experience has given him a better sense of how to prepare for the exam, because there were different people grading the exam, or the word went out to make sure he passes - particularly the oral part of the exam.  And I'm sure there are other possible explanations and that none of these are mutually exclusive.

It's a step forward for Jeff and his career.  But the oral exam is still overly subjective, the scoring sheets are still bizarre, and the training materials say things that really are in conflict with merit principles and evualating someone based on job related issues only.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Tom Wolfe (1930 - 2018)

See Note About the Cover Below*
At the end of my stint as a Peace Corps volunteer, I read Ken Kesey's One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.  I'm not exactly sure anymore what my feelings were about the novel itself, but I was obsessed by the question:  "Who wrote this?  Who is he?  How and why did he write this?"

From Thailand I flew to Hilo, Hawaii to work at the training program for the next group of Peace Corps teachers - Thai 30.

Early on, I encountered a new trainee with a book called Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe.  The title caught my attention.  When I checked it out - I don't remember now if it was on the back cover or just reading the first couple of pages - I realized the book was about Ken Kesey.  This book was going to answer the burning questions that Cuckoo's Nest had ignited in me.

Reading Wolfe is like talking to someone who never pauses - there's no place to interrupt, to say you have to leave; there's just a steady stream of uninterruptible words.   You end up just reading until the end.  Or at least I did.  I probably violated my position as a trainer when I asked the trainee if I could borrow the book.  I don't think I even asked, I think I told him I HAD to read this book.

Here's from pages two and three of the book (online here):

ABOUT ALL I KNEW ABOUT KESEY AT THAT POINT WAS THAT HE was a highly regarded 31-year-old novelist and in a lot of trouble over drugs. He wrote One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1962), which was made into a play in 1963, and Sometimes a Great Notion (1964). He was always included with Philip Roth and Joseph Heller and Bruce Jay Friedman and a couple of others as one of the young novelists who might go all the way. Then he was arrested twice for possession of marijuana, in April of 1965 and January of 1966, and fled to Mexico rather than risk a stiff sentence. It looked like as much as five years, as a second offender. One day I happened to get hold of some letters Kesey wrote from Mexico to his friend Larry McMurtry, who wrote Horseman, Pass By, from which the movie Hud was made. They were wild and ironic, written like a cross between William Burroughs and George Ade, telling of hideouts, disguises, paranoia, fleeing from cops, smoking joints and seeking satori in the Rat lands of Mexico. There was one passage written George Ade—fashion in the third person as a parody of what the straight world back there in the U.S.A. must think of him now:
"In short, this young, handsome, successful, happily-married-three-lovely-children father was a fear-crazed dope fiend in flight to avoid prosecution on three felonies and god knows how many misdemeanors and seeking at the same time to sculpt a new satori from an old surf—in even shorter, mad as a hatter.
"Once an athlete so valued he had been given the job of calling signals from the line and risen into contention for the nationwide amateur wrestling crown, now he didn't know if he could do a dozen pushups. Once possessor of a phenomenal bank account and money waving from every hand, now it was all his poor wife could do to scrape together eight dollars to send as getaway money to Mexico. But a few years previous he had been listed in Who's Who and asked to speak at such auspicious gatherings as the Wellesley Club in Dah-la and now they wouldn't even allow him to speak at a VDC [Vietnam Day Committee] gathering. What was it that had brought a man so high of promise to so low a state in so short a time? Well, the answer can be found in just one short word, my friends, in just one all-well-used syllable:
"And while it may be claimed by some of the addled advocates of these chemicals that our hero is known to have indulged in drugs before his literary success, we must point out that there was evidence of his literary prowess well before the advent of the so-called psychedelic into his life but no evidence at all of any of the lunatic thinking that we find thereafter ! "
I think I gave the trainee his book back the next morning, so my abuse of power was short-lived.  (Whoever I borrowed it from, thank you for having it and letting me read it.)

From Acid Test I went on to Radical-Chic and Mau-Mawing the Flak Catcher.  I suspect that The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby was next and then The Right Stuff,  then Bonfire of the Vanities and I think the last one I read was A Man In Full.  

So, Tom Wolfe, thank you for giving me great reading pleasure over the years and for shaking up the worlds of journalism and novel writing.  Here's a recollection by Paul Elie from The New Yorker of editing A Man In Full.

*The image is from Bookazon.  It's a much later edition than the one I read because it mentions The Right Stuff which didn't come out until 1978.  I know I ran across my own copy recently, but with all the mess here (the workers finished up today, but there's still plenty of stuff piled up in the downstairs bedroom.  I'm hoping much of it leaves the house rather than coming back upstairs), I couldn't find it.  Besides, it might well be on a book shelf in my mom's house in LA.  Or maybe it was really The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby that I saw.

Friday, May 18, 2018

The Death Of Stalin And a Bit More

I just saw The Death of Stalin.  It was a very disturbing film.  Of course, the topic is disturbing, and so perhaps the film was successful.  The film seemed somehow out of sync.  It was in English - mostly British accents, but Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) had an American accent.  And only vaguely looked like Khrushchev.  It didn't seem right in English.

But even more jarring, it was slapstick.

I know too little (maybe that part was also disturbing) about Stalin's last days and the in-fighting that followed his death to judge whether, in fact, the film makers did a good job of their portrayal.  I certainly have never thought of the Soviet leadership in terms of slapstick.

Later:  I wrote that Wednesday night.  I've let it sit a couple of days until I could learn more about the death of Stalin.  This October 2017 Smithsonian article - which notes the (then) upcoming movie - runs through briefly what's known of the last few days of Stalin's life.  It confirms the 'guys' night' atmosphere portrayed in the movie and also the purge of physicians that made it difficult to find a good doctor to call.  The best doctors had all been sent to the Gulag or were on their way.  One of those surrounding Stalin said something like, "If Stalin lives, then the doctor is a good doctor.  If he dies, then Stalin won't know we picked a bad doctor, but we can have the doctor shot."

But I was also disturbed with myself that night.  The woman next to me kept looking at texts.  The light, right next to me, kept pulling me out of the movie.  It's not that big a deal, but people are told over and over again to shut off their phones, or if there is some possible critical call coming in, to sit where they can easily get out and take the call.  The theater was crowded and aisle seats were full, but generally the balcony has lots of room.  Should I say something to the woman?  Should I say something during the movie?  Should I wait for the movie to be over?  Should I just forget about it?  I try to not be accusatory but I also think people should confront, politely and leaving people an opening, about behavior that tends to disturb others for one's own benefit.

At the end I mentally debated if I should say something.  Finally, I said, quietly to the woman, as politely as I could, "Most people consider checking texts during a movie to be rude."  She looked at me upset and said gently, "Did I disturb you?  I'm very sorry.  I was checking my insulin pump monitor."

Boy did I feel like a jerk and I told her I didn't realize that and was terribly sorry for mentioning it. I tried to be polite about it.  I didn't say anything about her specifically and gave her an opening to explain, which she did.  I never would have known what she was really looking at if I hadn't said anything.  Ideally she could have sat on the aisle with her husband next to her and probably no one would have noticed, but aisle seats probably weren't available.

If she ever reads this, I apologize again and thank her for expanding my awareness and reminding me not to jump to conclusions.

But it's one more reminder how easily people judge others based on appearances plus ignorance.   I try to phrase things in ways that give people an out:  "Sir, it appears you turn indicator light isn't working."  "I bet you didn't realize you dropped this paper."  While such an approach calls attention to a violation of a norm, it also gives the guilty a way to ease out of a potentially sticky confrontation and the innocent a way to explain what really happened.  And the observer a way to avoid getting an angry response or looking really callous and stupid.

I think I should see the film again, but only after I read more about the four men who were vying for power around Stalin at the end.

And for those of you with Netflix, I'd strongly recommend the movie Faces, Places.    It's a French documentary about a young photographer who teams up with a much older photographer as they go around France taking pictures of people, the blowing the pictures up into wall size murals and posting them on structures meaningful to the people in the pictures.  A sweet and imaginative story.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Using Super Glue To Seal Cuts

I'm not getting much done today.  The workers are still finishing up.  One cut his thumb and asked for paper towels.  The he went out to his truck and got superglue.  He squeezed the skin over the cut tight and put superglue on and wrapped it in tape.

Is that safe?  Dr. Andrew Weil writes:

"My answer is "It depends." I’ve applied Super Glue on heel cracks and on minor cuts, and it works really well. Its wound-sealing attributes were noted in the Vietnam War, when medics used it before sending troops on to surgery. . ."
He goes on to say that there's now a prescription version that doctors use called Permabond that's a different chemical combination.  But it costs about 20 times more than superglue and you need a prescription to buy it.

Judging from all the hits on google, I'm the last person on earth who knows about this.  Here's a video demonstration by a knife guy - not for the squeamish.

Here's the conclusion of a longer piece at Ask A Pharmacist:

 "Based on all of the above information, I always recommend the medical adhesives over plain superglue. Superglue should really only be used if necessary. If it is going to be used, it should only be on small cracks or small cuts on the skin."
As I read different things that pop up on google, the message tends to be

  • Yes, super glue works
  • Medical super glue is better because
    • Regular superglue may irritate the skin
    • Regular superglue isn't safe for deep cuts

I'm guessing that folks use regular superglue because it's cheaper and more convenient that going to the doctor and you don't have to get a prescription.  The guy today clearly had done this before.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Congressional Republicans Show Signs of Battered Wife Syndrome

Medical News Today says battered women suffer from PTSD but then adds they suffer their own special symptoms as well.
In addition to PTSD, people with battered woman syndrome show symptoms that may be confusing to outsiders.
Those include:
  • learned helplessness
  • refusing to leave the relationship
  • believing that the abuser is powerful or knows everything
  • idealizing the abuser following a cycle of abuse
  • believing they deserve the abuse

Let's look at these one at a time and see how closely they apply to Congressional (and other) Republicans.  Naturally, not all Republicans are the same, but I suspect a good number fall into this category.

Learned Helplessness:  There are countless examples of Republicans unable to act appropriately.  Many Republican members of Congress privately complain about Trump.  He kept changing his position on immigration and they couldn't get a bill passed.  Many were upset with  Trump's imposition of tariff's and then breaking the Iran Nuclear Treaty.   There were the tax cuts that are predicted to raise the national debt to historic highs.  They cringe at his tweets, but are powerless to do anything.

Refusing to leave the relationship:  Actually, many are leaving.  Ballotpedia lists 3 retiring Republican Senators and 24 House members.  Two of the Senators are clearly leaving because of Trump - Corker and Flake.  The House members includes the Speaker of the House.   But the others seem to feel that can't break up the relationship, they have too much to lose.  Maybe they are vested in their prestige, income (payroll and side deals), influence, ideology, or whatever, that they rather stay taking abuse than leave or call out Trump's abusive behavior.

Believing that the abuser is powerful or knows everything:  It's clear they believe he's powerful.  He has the power to give them demeaning nicknames in his tweets and the power to support political opponents in the coming election.  He can sway the Republican base in the primaries.
But you might question their belief in his knowing everything.  Clearly, they don't think much of his knowledge of foreign policy, how government agencies operate, or how to manage his staff, let alone a presidential administration.  But because of social media, he will know anything they say publicly that's critical of the president.  And he'll punish them if he thinks there was any disrespect.

Idealizing the abuser following a cycle of abuse:   Chris Cilliza at CNN lists 11 Republican (one out of five) Senators that Trump has personally attacked.  Yet most of them have put their tails between their legs and made nice to Trump.  (Corker and Flake are exceptions.)

Time, back in July 2015 (!) listed 21 Republicans Trump had tweetsulted,  though many on the list are not current Congress members.

Vice asks, "How Many Insults Will It Take for the Entire GOP to Turn on Trump?"

But they seem to get over it and be charmed by, well, I don't get it myself.

Believing they deserve the abuse:  I don't have evidence of this, though I'm sure some of the more extreme Republicans believe the others deserve the abuse.  And I'm sure many, at least subconsciously, have some guilt for the kinds of compromises they had to make to get to Congress.

How to Get Out Of An Abusive Relationship

Help Guide offers lots of good information, too much to cover here.  But here's one section:

If you’re hoping your abusive partner will change... The abuse will probably happen again. Abusers have deep emotional and psychological problems. While change is not impossible, it isn’t quick or easy. And change can only happen once your abuser takes full responsibility for his behavior, seeks professional treatment, and stops blaming you, his unhappy childhood, stress, work, his drinking, or his temper.  
Trump has not even started to take any responsibility for his behavior.

If you believe you can help your abuser... It’s only natural that you want to help your partner. You may think you’re the only one who understands him or that it’s your responsibility to fix his problems. But the truth is that by staying and accepting repeated abuse, you’re reinforcing and enabling the abusive behavior. Instead of helping your abuser, you’re perpetuating the problem.
A number of folks - both in and out of Congress -  thought that by being involved with the Trump, they could modify his behavior.  The Boston Globe quoted a Romney aide as saying Romney wanted the Secretary of State job so he could influence Trump, as did a whole bunch of people who actually did get positions and have since lost them.  The Hill writes:
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Thursday that he tries to “lead by example” when it comes to influencing President Trump’s behavior and character.
But we know that Ryan has since decided to lead by not running for reelection, a model we all hope Trump will follow.  Actually, many hope he won't be in office that long.  Don't hold your breath.
If your partner has promised to stop the abuse... When facing consequences, abusers often plead for another chance, beg for forgiveness, and promise to change. They may even mean what they say in the moment, but their true goal is to stay in control and keep you from leaving. Most of the time, they quickly return to their abusive behavior once they’ve been forgiven and they’re no longer worried that you’ll leave.
Trump's basic rule is "Attack, Counter-Attack, Never Apologize."  So this is never going to happen.  He may talk sweet when he wants something, but he's never going to admit he's done anything wrong.  And he's more likely to threaten when he wants something.

If your partner is in counseling or a program for batterers... Even if your partner is in counseling, there is no guarantee that he’ll change. Many abusers who go through counseling continue to be violent, abusive, and controlling. If your partner has stopped minimizing the problem or making excuses, that’s a good sign. But you still need to make your decision based on who he is now, not the man you hope he will become.
Yeah, right.  He'll never be in counseling.  The next point is the one members of Congress should focus on.
If you’re worried about what will happen if you leave... You may be afraid of what your abusive partner will do, where you’ll go, or how you’ll support yourself or your children. But don’t let fear of the unknown keep you in a dangerous, unhealthy situation.
They should be afraid.  But Congress and the President is NOT a marriage situation.  Republican members of Congress could actually gather together, get a backbone, even join with Democrats (they did during Watergate), and stop Trump's destructive behavior.  They don't have to leave Congress, they can make him leave the White House.  Though some may find such a move ends their political careers if they are up for reelection in November.  But at least they'll be able to face their grandkids in the future with some pride.

One Last Note

The quote near the top mentioned that battered women "show symptoms that may be confusing to outsiders."  Perhaps this experience with Trump will make some Republican politicians more sympathetic to the plight or battered women, whose decisions to stay with abusers seem counter-intuitive.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Senator Dan Sullivan Defends McCain In Tweet, But Tweeters Call Out His "Both Sides" Nonsense

Then one after another, people remind him that it was a Republican, talking to Republicans, supporting the Republican president who dissed Republican Sen. McCain.

Here are just a few.

For the whole thread go here.

This idea that the blame for the decline in civl discourse in the US belongs equally to both parties is part of the Republican mythology.  Sure, there are people on the left who unnecessarily and harshly insults about people instead of debating issues, but the actual politicians - from Obama and through Congress - tend to be far more respectful and nuanced than the vast majority of the current Republicans.  As loopy as many of  George W. Bush's comments were, his mother brought him up with basic manners and decency.

I'd comment that the last few replies I've received from Sullivan's office have been detailed and thoughtful discussions.  They are general letters based on the topic, but they reflect that his staff, at least, understand more than one side of most issues.  I really think that this 'both sides' comment comes from hearing his fellow Republicans' say this so often that he didn't think it through - that this was a Republican on Republican insult.  Or, he more cynically, he was trying to blame the staffer's disrespect on a general decline that he sees both sides being responsible for.  But there is, and I doubt ever has been, anyone US politician at a high level of government who has every insulted so many people, so often, and with so many lies, as the current president who is a member  of Sullivan's own party.  And to Sullivan's credit, he dropped out of the Alaska Republican Party's Central Committee in protest against Donald Trump and said he would not vote for him.

Why I Keep Saying "VOTE!!!!"

From a Salon interview with 

"Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston. For 30 years, Johnston has covered Trump's life and career, as detailed in the bestselling book "The Making of Donald Trump." His new book is "It's Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America."

"Based just on normal historic averages, the Republicans should lose control of the House by about four seats. They should lose control of the Senate as well, although the map is pretty awful for the Democrats. If Republicans retain control, then I believe what will happen over time is that someone who shares Trump's dictatorial and authoritarian tendencies but doesn't have his baggage -- someone who is a competent manager and just as charismatic -- will eventually arise and you can kiss your individual liberties goodbye. That will take time, but it's the trend we are heading towards.
On the other hand, if enough people go to the polls -- remember, roughly 100 million people did not vote in 2016 -- if the Democrats get organized, if they can persuade the public they have an agenda that goes beyond just getting rid of Trump and they get control of Congress, they will move to impeach him. They need a two-thirds majority in the Senate to convict him, but they will certainly move to have public hearings."
This interview covers a lot of other topics about Trump, why he won, what the media and others didn't do, all of which yield just as important quotes.  But this seems to be the one that everyone can act on - voting and getting others to vote in November and beyond.

I grew up with parents who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930's and taught me that what happened there could happen here.  People forget that Hitler was democratically elected and then started changing the laws to keep his power.  He theme was to make Germany great again after the humiliation of losing WWI and the conditions of the Treaty of Versailles.

But I also feel that most US citizens are basically good people.  If they aren't voting based on politically generated fear or they aren't distracted by all their consumer products and consumer entertainment, they will make better decisions.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Screws And Nails - More Denali

Sanctuary Campground has seven tent campsites.  It's along the Sanctuary River and it's  23 miles into the park.  It's the first place we camped ever in Denali, back in the summer of 1978.  You could drive in back then.

Before May 20, the campground is closed and there's a gate with a long bar that blocks the road into the campground.  But you can park and walk into the campground, which we did.  I got one leg over the bar and as the second leg came over I heard this ripping sound.

I looked back at the bar to see how this happened.

My pants were ripped (that's why I brought another pair), but there isn't a lot of room between my pants and my leg and I was only thinking about the bloody mess I could have made.  Lifting your leg over the bar isn't a slow move that you can just stop - as the rip shows (it happened in less than a second).  We do have first aid stuff in the van, but I'm so glad I didn't need any of that.

While at Sanctuary, I got this picture of a snowshoe hare.  This is a beautiful fur coat worn by its intended owner.

And there's an old cabin at the entrance to the campground but I'd never noticed before how they bear-proofed the door.

I guess that would discourage bears from hitting the door too hard.  But I don't think the screw in the bar blocking the road was intentional.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Arctic Entries - Then And Now - Alaska Story Tellers Share Their Stories

Back in November 2010 we went to see and hear something called Arctic Entries - seven story tellers each with seven minutes to tell their stories.  It was a Cyrano's (the original theater on D St) that held about 90 people.

Here's what it looked like back then at Cyrano's:

Image from the 2010 post on Arctic Entries
Like most things at the old Cyrano's stage, it was intimate.  The guy on stage in the picture is Max [Matt] Rafferty who was one of the hosts this week.  He was stepping down from that role, saying the speakers get seven minutes and he's had seven years.  So he thinks it's time. [UPDATE May 14, 2018:  Barbara Brown has become my new editor, letting me know when typos slip in here.  Thank you Barbara!  I do appreciate it.  Memory is a weird thing.  All I can think of is that Max Rafferty was a politician in California long ago and my fingers without my knowing replaced Matt with Max.  Not even a politician I liked.]

We'd heard it had grown a lot - so much so that tickets at the Discovery theater sold out in minutes.  That seemed like too much work.  But I heard the last one of the season would be held in the Atwood Concert Hall (holds around 1900) so I checked on tickets when I had to go downtown anyway.  I got two tickets, in the upper balcony was all that were left.

Arctic Entries has seven story tellers tell seven minute stories each evening.  They have to be their own stories of their own experiences.  Those are the basic rules.  These are generally everyday folks, not professional story tellers.

The image is from before the story telling began.  The place got packed.  They said it held 1900 people.

They also had a band - Blackwater Railroad from Seward.

But the stories were compelling, even from so far away.  It just wasn't possible to find and talk to individual story tellers afterward.

The theme was "Timelapse" and each story teller represented a different decade.  It began with 2000s and went back to the 1970's.  Then after intermission, it went in the other direction - 1940's to 1960's.

The group was diverse!  Adil Raja is a Pakistani immigrant who talked about winding up in Anchorage and falling in love with Alaska.

Mao Tosi, born in American Samoa, moved to Anchorage as a child, got into sports in high school and spent a couple of years in the NFL until he got injured.  Then he came back to Anchorage and became a community organizer.  He told about how his parents left him, when he was in junior high, to live with his 19 year old brother.  It was through sports and people at school and in the community that he kept away from drugs and graduated from high school.  His message was that the love of strangers that 'saved' him is important and we should all share our love.

Penny Scales Fairbanks is a Fairbanks hairdresser and she was recruited by one of the Arctic Entries organizer after hearing the story when she got her hair done.  She talked about how her brother told her he was gay in the 1980s, living in California.  And then that he was HIV+ and wanted help in telling their parents, and how her father's attitude changed while they were in California being with her brother while he was dying.

Donna Walker, Alaska's current first lady, talked about coming to Alaska in 1976 right after graduating from college to become a recreation director at an Alaska pipeline construction camp in Glennallen.  From there she took a similar job in Valdez where she met Bill Walker.  She said before getting married, she told him she wanted four kids and he said he did too.  Later he admitted that however many kids she said she wanted he would have given the same answer.

Then there was intermission and we moved forward from the 1940's.

Margaret Anderson, born in 1933, talked about growing up in Seward in the 30's and 40's.  On the one hand she said it was a great life for kids back then, but on the other hand, she said she couldn't wait to get on the ship out after high school.  But she came back to Seward and packed her seven minutes with lots of stories.

Carmel Walder talked about spending time with her grandmother in SE Alaska while her parents were having trouble and there she learned about order and calm and harvesting herring eggs and fishing.  She went back to her parents and more chaos, but staying at grandmother's had shown her there was another way to live and she graduated from high school and made a life which now includes her own grandchildren.

And finally, we had Paul Ongtooguk who grew up in Nome and was put into a program in the 1960s where Alaska Native kids were sent to white Christian families to live.  He was sent to Oklahoma.  As disturbed as that program was, he did see another life and got through college and has worked at the University of Alaska Anchorage for many years.

At the end of the program, the hosts unfurled a huge check - no one gets paid for working at Arctic Entries and all the proceeds go to Alaska organizations.  The fall non-profit partner was Hospice and the spring 2018 partner is the Refugee Assistance and Immigration Service (RAIS).  I looked on their website to try to find more on the checks, but couldn't.  I think there was a check for close to $20,000!

Arctic Entries website is here.  And at another page you can find links to most of their old story tellers.  (A few in the first year are missing, presumably they weren't recorded.)