Showing posts from April, 2011

"Native-Influenced Districts" - A Redistricting Update

Alaska is not as marred by so much of the history of American violence and repression that Natives in other parts of the United States experienced, but there are still many stories of injustice: Into the 20th century, businesses and other venues in my own town and many others practiced Jim Crow-like discrimination, and Alaska Natives today still experience many difficulties due to historical legacies and continuing disadvantages in a state and country dominated by people of European descent. Besides this, of course, Natives in Alaska have also seen whites invade and take over their lands and resources, just as native peoples experienced elsewhere.

(Images: Above, the Chief Kyan pole in Ketchikan, taken from here, which I wrote about recently. Below, the poles outside the Cape Fox Lodge, in Ketchikan.)

Nevertheless, I feel extremely proud as an Alaskan that Natives in my home state receive the power and respect that they do. Alaska Natives do not live on reservations, save for the Tsim…


I am a big fan of Sporcle, a quiz site that's taken the internet by storm. I think I first heard the name from other students when I first came to Georgetown, but had no idea what they were talking about. Then the founder of the site came and spoke here, and although I didn't go listen to him myself, I read the subsequent article in the Hoya. Afterward, I gradually tried out quizzes on the site more and more, and I've grown to enjoy it immensely.

Sporcle has quizzes about every realm of knowledge, trivial and useful, and not only are there published quizzes, hand-picked for their quality, but a vast reservoir of user-created quizzes also exists to be explored. I personally enjoy geography quizzes the most, and then history quizzes, when they're about topics I like. Quizzes based on things like word play and letters aren't my favorite, but I still play them often enough. Sports trivia would definitely be my worst subject, something I generally try to avoid. I honest…

Senegalese Analogies

Senegalese Analogies: Parallels in Chinese and French Interaction with a West African Nation

Senegal sits at the farthest western edge of the Old World, as far from China as any country in Africa. Unlike other nations in West Africa, Senegal has also consistently maintained close and amicable ties with its former colonizer, France, since it gained independence in 1960. Therefore it should come as no surprise that this relatively small and resource-poor country would generally gain little notice in studies of Sino-African relations. Nonetheless, Chinese nationals living in the Senegalese capital of Dakar have brought attention to China’s influence in the region, in part due to local resentment of the burgeoning Chinese population and their trade activities, as well as the novelty of African “Chinatowns” portrayed in a variety of media outlets. This paper begins at this point of interest by exploring the nature of these migrants’ experiences, as well as Senegalese reactions, comparing t…

The Path to Summer

Over the next 19 days I plan on going through a long and interesting denouement to my second year of college. Currently, I have a research paper on Senegal due tomorrow at midnight. (Perhaps I'll put it on the Publisher, but usually I end up not posting coursework here when I say I might.) After that, I'll be working hard this weekend on my last composition for Advanced French Grammar and Writing, as well as doing my last reading for my China and Africa seminar. Then all I'll have left is finals.

On Monday, my girlfriend and I will celebrate our second anniversary - in person! She's flying into D.C. in the evening and I absolutely can't wait to see her. At that point, we can explore the city and just be happy together, while in my spare time (or probably still most of my time) I'll study for my two final exams, write my two take-home finals, set up some storage for the next 8 months and otherwise just pack. On the 14th, we'll leave D.C. together, and by the…

Alaska Redistricting: Gerrymandering and Racial Divisions

It's that time of the decade again to redistrict state political divisions, and Alaska really has to be one of the simplest states out there to divide: For one thing, we only have one representative in Congress, so there are no worries there, and when it comes to divisions for state senate and house districts, that shouldn't be too hard either. Alaska is so huge, diverse, and under-peopled that, aside from Anchorage, there's never any need for block-by-block city divisions, and communities and regions should be easy to keep together while retaining relatively equal populations in each district. In other words, the regions and areas of Alaska are so geographically distinct that arbitrary divisions are hardly necessary.

But of course, that's not how these things go. Welcome to the convoluted world of the Alaska Redistricting Board, a world in which it seems necessary to fill what should be a commonsensical and neutral process with attempts at gerrymandering, and, as we s…

Noise, Noise, Noise

Unlike the Grinch, I do like toys.
Just like the Grinch, though, I hate hate noise.

Dr. Seuss attempts aside, I find the noise pollution at Georgetown to often be unbearable. From 7am to 10pm, every manner of aircraft will fly over campus, incredibly low of course, since National Airport is just down and across the river, directly in the NW-SE flightpath. I'm glad that DC and Arlington have the curfew, of course, but the fact is I'm not outside as much between 10pm and 7am anyway. The planes have never woken me up in the morning - though I can still of course hear them from my room. Humans have actually been more of a problem with waking me up, and I'm not talking about my roommate. Last year, when I lived on the 3rd floor rather than the 4th, the ROTC woke me up several times on mornings they organized outside my window and did roll call and whatever else. Student tour guides also have very piercing voices, something I've been reminded of now that Georgetown's &qu…

Toxic Attitudes Toward Taxation

For the first time in a long time, I'm pretty proud of Obama.

Over two weeks ago, the President came to Georgetown and talked about energy policy. I was not there to listen to him, because an insane number of people lined up to grab the limited number of tickets to the event available. To me, though, the whole thing didn't seem so important - although I did in fact join the line, only to end up getting turned away. In the end, energy usage is not the be-all end-all of political life, governmental policy, or indeed our own lives. I'm proud that Ketchikan largely runs off of hydropower, and I'm all for energy efficiency, but energy policy doesn't all come from the federal government; indeed, I'd say most of the ways we use energy every day are determined by private citizens and corporations. (Also, it's not particularly in Alaska's interest for the country to go on an all-out anti-oil crusade. See here.)

(Images: two views from my stint waiting in line fo…

The Bottom of the Slippery Slope

Well, every once in a while I think it's acceptable for the blog just to talk about the blog. Let's make it official: With this post. written April 11th, 2011, (AKDT, because even though I'm not home, the blog always runs on AKST/AKDT)...

I now have written as many posts in the year 2011 as I did in the entire year of 2010.

This is to demonstrate that the blog has fully recovered from what will become the unfortunate nadir of 2010 as soon as I write my next post. This equalizing post, however, nevertheless demonstrates that my slippery slope of blog decline has hit its bottom, and from here, the only direction left to go is up.

While I doubt that I will be a heavy blogger this summer - given how busy my summers always are with things important to me but not so relevant to readers - I know that I will have to blog a great deal when in France next fall - certainly more frequently than I'm blogging now, perhaps even daily! Those months should really boost my output, and r…

The Pole in My Pretty Passport

After July 2007, all newly-issued regular U.S. passports bore the same new design. (See here.) I had no idea about this; I'd gotten my passport a few years before in order to go to Japan in the summer of 2005.

Just yesterday though I got my new renewed passport in the mail, and on looking through its pages, I was shocked at what I found.

Yes, two of the pages in this 30-page national document are devoted to Alaska.

What's more, I know that totem pole. I recognized it the moment I saw it as the Chief Kyan pole, in Whale Park, in my own little town of Ketchikan!

It feels really special for an icon in the small corner of the country I call home to be selected for a document every travelling American must have. I must have seen Chief Kyan most every day I went to work last summer, and like other poles in Southeast Alaska, I know the design about as well as you might know famous European paintings.

While the NYT article I linked to above may include some criticisms of the passport …

Rich, Spendthrift and Underdeveloped

Good news:Alaska is reaping huge windfall off Big Oil.

Bad news: Governor Sean Parnell wants to cut the oil taxes, supposedly to increase oil companies' investment in drilling new wells and keeping Alaska's oil production strong - even though this would destroy Alaska's surplus and the facts are that investment is increasing anyway - with no guarantee (and little likelihood) it would increase further if free money was given to the companies.

This sort of proposal can be translated as: Someone has clearly been bought - or, given the relative vacuity of Parnell's cranial capacity - he may simply has been sold on the ideological illogic of it all. I would guess it's a combination.

This sort of proposal is also known as taking money away from Alaskans who deserve the benefits gained from the development of their resources. I say the following without any sense of irony: Palin actually had far more sense than Parnell on this issue, as she supported a tax hike on Big Oil …

Scandinavia and the World: The History of Nations

Today my girlfriend showed me this great webcomic called Scandinavia and the World, which, much to her chagrin, I spent a lot of my evening reading. It really is quite funny, using characters for different countries and smaller political entities of northern Europe and making jokes about history, stereotypes and current events, as well as a creative storyline.

Like I said, I spent a lot of today reading the comic, and I finished the entire thing. From it, I actually learned quite a bit of historical anecdotes and other fun facts, as well as statuses and stereotypes of non-national entities like Greenland, the Faeroes, Scania, the Alands and Bornholm. (I did previously know a bit about such places, and Scandinavian history, but there's a lot you can learn from a Danish artist.)

However, there was something I thought about quite a bit while reading the comic, and that was how tempting - but misleading - it can be to portray history through personalized national figures. Of course, it…

Unpublished Fragments from the Past Three Years

Well, this evening I've decided to undertake a grand project in honor of keeping the blog open, despite what I said yesterday for April Fools. That's right, I am going to publish all of the unfinished posts I've been keeping in my drafts folder here on Blogger for the past three years. The oldest is only a few months younger than the Publisher itself, which will celebrate its third anniversary in just 29 days, on May 1st.

Why publish all these old fragments, one of which is only one sentence long? Well, I reason that, even though they certainly aren't complete posts, they all preserve old memories, unfinished arguments, and the desire to retrieve unwritten thoughts I may never end up remembering. After all, I've done this before, as you can see in the posts bearing the "catch-up" label. These fragments are just the ones that have still been abandoned - until now.

I'm going to proceed through these chronologically, giving the title and date of creation…

Shutting Down the Blog

To hell with it - I'm going to take this piece of crap off the internet.

I mean honestly, who wants to read about my life and ideas? I'm a horrible writer too. I'm taking down the Publisher right now.

Good bye.

Ok, I know that's not a very good April Fool's joke, but I just had to do it.