30 September 2014

Six Books of Summer Reading

some of my "books read" list
This blog has been politics-heavy lately and will probably continue to be until the November 4th election and even afterward. For now, though, I'd like to take a break to write about reading.

I've been recording the title, author, and date finished of every book I've finished reading since the beginning of my senior year of high school—August 2008. That's over six years of reading records I have now.

I take care to say it's a list of books I finished reading, since there are many other books I began to read or even mostly read that didn't make the list. I don't really have a strict standard for book length, either; some were relatively easy reads that just took a day. Nevertheless, I think the list is dominated by good, full-length books.

My list is now 153 books long, which works out to a grand average of one book finished every 14.51 days, or about 25 books per year. While that rate seems very modest to me, it's above the overall American average of 17 books per year, found by this Pew study. Although I did achieve that rate while doing tons of reading assignments for high school and college courses that didn't lead to finishing books, I also have to admit I've had plenty of leisure time in the past six years—more than I imagine anyone would have while managing a family, a career, and so on.

I doubt I'll be able to keep up that average in the future. In fact, I know my book finishing frequency went down over the past year or more, since my average used to be about one book every 12 days, not 14. Now that I've started my career, I'll have plenty of other things taking up my time. Still, reading is incredibly important, not only for relaxation, but also for work—especially the work of a teacher—and, I think, for maintaining one's sanity amidst all the screens and spoon-fed entertainments of modern first-world life.

Here are the six books I've finished most recently, all read over the course of this summer:

21 September 2014

First Three Sean Parnell Memes

I'm really excited about the Bill Walker-Byron Mallott Unity Ticket for Alaska. To celebrate, I started making a bunch of memes related to Sean Parnell's flawed and failed governorship. Here are the first three:

Feel free to make your own by going on http://www.memecreator.org/ and using this base image (taken from Creative Commons).

30 August 2014

Alaska's District 36 Republican Primary Barely Budged

I voted yes in vain, I guess.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about Alaska's House District 36, the southern southeast region of the state centered on Ketchikan. On August 18th, a day before the election, I wrote urging people to vote yes on ballot measure 1.

A slight majority of Alaskans ended up voting against measure 1, convinced by the Parnell administration and the millions of dollars in campaign money spent by oil companies and their allies. Needless to say, I did not feel like writing about politics after that.

I did, however, notice a striking pattern in some of the other electoral results from that day—the District 36 Republican primary.

18 August 2014

Please Vote Yes on Alaska's Ballot Measure 1

It's our oil! Vote yes and
repeal the giveaway. (source)
I won't mince words. I want Ballot Measure 1 to pass in the election this Tuesday more than I want any other result in 2014's elections.

In my view, Tuesday's vote on Ballot Measure 1 is a question that will massively impact my future, my family's, and that of all Alaskans. A no vote will put that future at risk, threatening the Alaska state government's fiscal solvency and calling its independent democracy into question. A yes vote will put Alaska back on track, preserve the state's finances, and affirm Alaskans' political independence from monied outside interests.

10 August 2014

Alaska District 36 Statistics

District 36 includes the communities
of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Metlakatla,
Saxman, Hydaburg, and Hyder.
I live in Alaska's District 36, newly created after the crazy episode of redistricting that was this and this and this. (Ketchikan used to be in District 1, but apparently someone from Fairbanks managed to change the numbering so it's in their community now.)

As a precursor to the upcoming primary election (August 19th) and general election (November 4th), I thought I should share some statistics about my district related to population and political affiliation—a sort of electoral "getting to know you" piece. (All statistics come from this state source.)

As is true for all of Alaska, the majority of people in District 36 prefer not to identify with a political party. In fact, over 58% of District 36 voters are "undeclared" or "nonpartisan," compared with less than 54% in the whole state. (I am "undeclared." Read this to find out why.)

25.4% of the district's voters are registered Republicans, while only 11.6% are registered Democrats. Again, this is roughly similar to Alaska as a whole, where the rates are 26.9% and 14%, respectively. The largest third party is the Alaskan Independence Party, with 3.3% of voters—yet again almost the same as the state overall. (It's interesting to have your belief in the uniqueness of your community and region undermined by political statistics.)

District 36's precincts (click to enlarge) [source]
The majority of District 36's population lives on Revillagigedo Island, like me. Three precincts in Ketchikan proper, two on North Tongass Highway, one in Saxman and one on South Tongass Highway together contain 77.5% of the district's voters. (The South Tongass precinct does include the 87-person mainland community of Hyder, and the people who live on Gravina Island, just across Tongass Narrows from Revillagigedo.)

The most Republican of Revillagigedo's precincts are North Tongass No. 1 and 2, which are 32.4% and 30.9% registered Republican compared to 8% and 8.2% Democratic, respectively. South Tongass follows closely behind with 30.5% vs. 10%, so the most conservative areas of the island are the ones outside the cities of Ketchikan and Saxman. If you want to find the most Democratic area on the island, don't second-guess yourself: It's Saxman (the island's majority-Tlingit community). In fact, Saxman has exactly the same number of Democrats as Republicans—amazing!—but 64.2% of Saxman voters don't identify with any party, which is fairly higher than the district's average.

Off Revillagigedo there are the communities of Wrangell, Metlakatla, and Hydaburg. Wrangell's statistics are quite similar to the North Tongass precincts, though it has fewer registered Democrats per capita than any other in the district: 28.4% Republican, 7.4% Democratic. Metlakatla and Hydaburg both have more Democrats than Republicans: In Metlakatla it's more even, with 17.8% vs. 14.8%, but Hydaburg has a big Democratic contingent—35.2%—with only 9.5% registered Republican. In fact, you could call Hydaburg the most partisan precinct in the district, as it has the lowest rate of voters identifying as undeclared or nonpartisan (49.3%).

While racial and ethnic details don't accompany these statistics, it's clear that the Democratic Party fares much better in the Alaska Native-majority communities of Saxman (mostly Tlingit), Metlakatla (mostly Tsimshian), and Hydaburg (mostly Haida). In the white-majority areas of Wrangell and Revillagigedo, Republicans consistently dominate—at least among voters who choose to register with a party.

The final fact to reflect on, however, is that most people in District 36—just like most Alaskans—refuse to register with a party. That leaves these voters' general political stances unfathomable, at least as far as these state statistics are concerned.

Let me know if you find anything useful about this information, or if you think I should just get out and talk to people. Please leave a comment!

09 August 2014

The Reason I'm an "Undeclared" Alaska Voter

Alaska voter registration political affiliation options 
"Undeclared" is the most popular political label in Alaska. According to these statistics, almost 37 percent (181,979) of Alaska voters are "undeclared," almost as much as Republicans and Democrats combined (202,237).

When you add those who choose the label "nonpartisan," a full 53.8 percent of Alaska voters (266,072) refuse to register with any political party or group.

While others might try to analyze why this might be the case, I would simply like to share my thoughts. I'm an Alaskan who chose to check myself "undeclared" when I registered to vote. Here's why:

I can't think of myself as "nonpartisan." I clearly choose sides on political issues, and I'll support whatever side I agree with, so I reserve the right to be partisan.

I am also not necessarily an "independent" voter, as the media often labels us, even if that term isn't an official option in Alaska. I will join with groups that support the same cause as me; I don't need to believe I'm a lone individual who has a unique stand on every issue.

Ultimately, the reason I am registered "undeclared" is because I believe that if there was a political party in my region, state, or country whose principles largely aligned with mine, I would join that party enthusiastically and quickly.

As of right now, however, no such party exists—but I'll hold out hope that one could exist in the future.

23 July 2014

French Tourists Take the Road Less Traveled When Visiting Alaska

Working in the visitor industry in Ketchikan, Alaska, you meet a lot of people. The majority of visitors arrive by way of one of a few major cruise lines—Holland America, Princess, Celebrity, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian, Carnival, or more recently, Disney. (Royal Caribbean owns Celebrity, and Carnival owns both Holland America and Princess, so there are even fewer major cruise corporations involved.)

A clear majority of visitors to Ketchikan are also North Americans—vast numbers of Americans, many Canadians, and even a fair number of Mexicans. Add to that the large number of British, Australian, and other Anglophone visitors, and there aren't many visitors left who don't either come from the same continent, speak English, or—in most cases—both.

Out of those I haven't listed yet, I would venture to say that most are European. There are plenty of people who visit speaking South Asian or East Asian languages, but I know many of them are Americans, Canadians, or Australians and simply don't speak English within their family. Out of the Europeans, (excluding the British), Germans predominate, although hearing Eastern European languages is fairly common as well.

For me, as a French speaker living in Alaska who'd like to practice his language skills more often, there's just one big question that comes out of all this:

Where are all the French tourists?

08 July 2014

Bill Cosby vs. Ta-Nehisi Coates: Can't We Just Blame Black People?

Many people in the United States are really attracted to views like these ones, from Bill Cosby. If you don't care to follow the link, it's a rather popular excerpt from a speech Cosby gave, arguing that black people won't speak correctly, won't raise their kids correctly, and don't make education a priority.

The excerpt ends, "We have to start holding each other to a higher standard. We cannot blame the white people any longer." Just look at the comments on the Imgur page in the link: Most are expressing full agreement, and say that Cosby is speaking the "truth."

I disagree. You can't just blame black people or black culture for the inequalities that continue to exist between African Americans and the rest of the United States. To do so is just ignorant.