Showing posts from 2014

Collection of Posts for Native American Heritage Month

Alaska's Closest Election: District 36's House vs. Gubernatorial Races

Both District 36's state house race [Chere Klein (R) vs. Dan Ortiz (I)] and the race for Alaska's governor [Sean Parnell (R) vs. Bill Walker (I)] featured one independent candidate and one Republican incumbent or pseudo-incumbent. (While she's never served in office before, Chere Klein effectively assumed the mantle of retired Representative Peggy Wilson, at least among fellow Republicans.) Among other similarities, both races are very close right now and will be decided by absentee and early votes. Along with many Alaskans, I'm very anxious to find out the results.

When considering the races for governor and state house in District 36, I expected most people would consistently vote the party line—or the non-partisan line, as it were: Most everyone voting for the independent Walker/Mallott ticket would also vote for independent Dan Ortiz; those voting for the Republican Parnell/Sullivan ticket would also vote for Republican Chere Klein.

As it turns out, there were man…

Alaska's Closest Election: The District 36 House Race

To tell the truth, I was entirely ready for Dan Ortiz to lose his race to represent Alaska's House District 36. I was even ready to write about it. Instead, he's surprised everyone.

Dan Ortiz was my debate teacher in high school several years ago, and my mentor teacher last year: I began my teaching career, and he retired from his. From the first moments I heard he was planning to run for office as an independent candidate, Dan had my full support.

Still, elections for many years show that Ketchikan and Wrangell—the two biggest communities in District 36—heavily favor Republican candidates. Just two years ago, Republican Peggy Wilson won her house seat with 4131 votes to Democrat Matt Olson's 2332—nearly a two-to-one margin. In addition, Wilson wasn't even the only Republican in the race! She was the incumbent from Wrangell's former district, and Republican Kyle Johansen (Ketchikan's incumbent) ran as an independent.

Vote Independent — Walker and Ortiz

I submitted the following letter to SitNews and the Ketchikan Daily News about two weeks ago, but forgot to post it here for good measure. In any case, it's three days till election day now, and if you haven't voted already, you'd better vote by Tuesday!

Vote Independent — Walker and Ortiz

If there’s anything present American politics teaches, it’s that the party system has failed us. Neither Democrats nor Republicans have been able to set the country on the right track. It’s no wonder George Washington, James Madison, and other Founding Fathers were opposed to political factions. When it comes to balancing budgets, protecting good jobs, making smart healthcare decisions, providing for children’s future, and so many other issues, we need leaders who can move beyond partisanship and rigid ideologies.

Bill Walker and Dan Ortiz are two men who exemplify that kind of leadership. Governor Parnell and the state legislature have sent Alaska spiraling into deficit to the tune of $…

100,000 Views on Peter's Publisher

Yesterday I surpassed 100,000 total page views on this blog since I started it in May 2008. Over nearly six and a half years, that comes out to an average of about 42 page views a day—nothing compared to anything popular on the internet, of course, but I think it's a fair amount. There have now been over a tenth-of-a-million clicks on different articles and pages of my own website! I think that's a noteworthy milestone.

Six Books of Summer Reading

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 …

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 and using this base image (taken from Creative Commons).

Alaska's District 36 Republican Primary Barely Budged

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.

Please Vote Yes on Alaska's Ballot Measure 1

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.

Alaska District 36 Statistics

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 Democrat…

The Reason I'm an "Undeclared" Alaska Voter

"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 sa…

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…

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.

Game of Thrones Season Four is the Worst

——Safe from major spoilers——
If you haven't seen Game of Thrones season four yet, the following references a few different scenes and plot lines, but should not ruin the story for you.
Season four of HBO's Game of Thrones was a huge disappointment for me. It addressed some of my favorite material from George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire—awesome plot twists and scenes that were very fun to read. Nevertheless, the TV series let me down, and I place the blame on David Benioff and D. B. Weiss.

Greek Gods: "Kefi" Isn't Related to "Kefir"

Greek Gods, one of my favorite brands for kefir, has a little story on the back of their bottles:
The Greek word "kefi" refers to enthusiasm and the positive joyful spirit of life. Believed to have been consumed for thousands of years, kefir remains a great addition to any diet. It is delicious and may be beneficial to the body. The Greek Gods kefir is exceptionally creamy, smooth and rich in taste. The only problem—which you might suspect right away—is this:

The word "kefi" has nothing to do with the word "kefir."

The word "kefir" is of unsure origins, but it is known to have come from the north Caucasus region from a complex family of languages entirely unrelated to Greek. The word might have something to do with "foam" (which makes sense)—but nothing to do with joy.

The funniest part, I think, is that Greek Gods is doing exactly the same thing the father did in My Big Fat Greek Wedding—taking any word and creating a false etymolo…

Critique of A Song of Ice and Fire: Magic

I've now written about two themes I really enjoy from George R. R. Martin's book series A Song of Ice and Firehistory and religion. Now I'd like to highlight one aspect of the series that I don't enjoy as much—the magic.

Why don't I enjoy the magic of Westeros and its universe? After all, most all "fantasy" books contain some type of magical creatures or magical powers. Well, I think my disappointment with the magic in the books is that it threatens the gritty realism present in the other aspects of the stories, such as the history and religion. In the politics of the game of thrones, everything is ambiguous: There are no clear good guys and bad guys, no clear dichotomy between good and evil. The same holds true for the religions: Which of the religions is right? Are they all fake? Are any of the gods real? Unfortunately, George R. R. Martin's use of magic in the books undermines this enjoyment.

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: Religion

The fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones premieres tomorrow, and I decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times before about Game of Thrones, leveling criticism, mapping a fanciful comparison, and discussing narrative and history. In this series though, I'm being more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books—two enjoyable ones, and one worthy of critique.

There are two thematic highlights that I really enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire: The first I wrote about was history. Now I'll continue with religion.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.

Non-Profitization of Major Corporations

Here's a brief, rough, unpolished, and unevidenced thought: (You get the idea.)

One small change to how the world economy is structured could make a big difference in bettering democracy and achieving greater economic justice. All I propose is as follows:

All of the huge, multinational corporations around the globe should be beheaded. These major corporations should be forced to become non-profits.

The idea is simple: Create an international mandate to remove owners, investors, and shareholders from a select number of the world's largest companies. Leave everything else intact. All of the profits that these huge companies generate from then on—profits that otherwise would have gone to owners and shareholders—will instead be passed on to employees, consumers, or charities in the form of higher wages, lower prices, or donations.

The companies can continue to invest in themselves to further their interests, but their beheading, so to speak—or their "non-profitization"—wo…

Highlights of A Song of Ice and Fire: History

In preparation for the fourth season of the HBO TV series Game of Thrones, premiering April 6, I've decided to write a series of posts on A Song of Ice and Fire, George R. R. Martin's book series the show is based on.

I've written a few times now on this blog about Game of Thrones, launching a popular critique, mapping a fanciful comparison to Alaska, and musing about narrative and historical theory. This time, however, I'll keep things more straightforward: I'm writing about three themes in the books. Two I heartily enjoy, and one I think is worthy of critique.

Besides the obvious joys of plot twists, dynamic characters, and vivid details, there are two huge highlights that I enjoy in A Song of Ice and Fire—the history and the religion. Let's start with the history.

Note: There won't be any plot spoilers here. I promise.

"Family Visibility" Across Countries and Cultures

One thing I noticed while in Mexico was how many kids there were—riding the metro, walking about with their parents, or even going around trying to sell things. Compare this to the United States, where one typically seems to see children out in public only at child-specific places, like schools, playgrounds, sports fields, and so on. To be sure, Mexico does have a younger population than the U.S., (about 30% of the population under 18, compared to 24% in the U.S.), but what I saw was true in France as well: Both Mexico and France appear to have higher "family visibility" than the U.S.—and I wonder why this is.

"Family visibility" may also vary dramatically between communities: One town might have a culture of more families going for walks, and another might be totally dominated by car culture—even more than usual. It could also vary significantly according to the day of the week: One reason I might have seen so many kids in Mexico City was that I was there on Sund…

Review of Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang

Today I finished reading the graphic novel Boxers & Saints, by Gene Luen Yang. It was a good read—and a quick one—with engaging illustrations and a great concept behind it of viewing the Boxer Rebellion from two intertwined perspectives.

These perspectives are related in two short volumes titled Boxers and Saints. Boxers tells the story of a village boy who comes to lead men into battle as part of the Yihequan, or the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists (the "Boxers"). Saints tells the story of a village girl who converts to Christianity and helps the refugees fleeing the Boxers.

I found a lot of positives in this graphic novel, but I wasn't entirely blown away by it, either. I'd recommend reading it to almost anyone, but let me explain my thoughts first:

Mapping Indigenous Autonyms in Canada

Half a year ago, I wrote about the project "Map of Our Tribal Nations." The map displayed (or attempted to display) all of the indigenous nations that inhabited the lands now making up the Lower 48, naming them by their autonyms (names for themselves in their own languages).

At the time, creator Aaron Carapella promised he would later publish a map of all Canada's indigenous nations and their names. Since then, he has—the Canadian First Nations Map—and afterward he encouraged me to review it. Now I will.

Hygge in Ketchikan, Alaska

Denmark lies at the same latitude as Southeast Alaska. We have the same darkness, and probably some of the same cold winter weather. This is the first time in five years I'm spending the winter in Ketchikan, and I have to say it feels nice. Most people in the world probably wouldn't like spending a winter in Alaska—even in relatively balmy Ketchikan. I, however, have always felt that it was very comfortable here during the dark season, which brings me to the concept of "hygge."

Disputing "Eleanor Roosevelt's" "Great Minds" Quote

A while ago I saw someone share the following quote:

"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people." — Eleanor Roosevelt

From the start, I didn't think this quote sounded like something Eleanor Roosevelt would say. (I would think she was too caught up promoting human rights to get down to categorizing people in a demeaning way like that.) Apparently my hunch was right: The quote is almost surely misattributed. Of course, it's usually very difficult to prove that a particular person never said a certain string of words, but it's certain in this case that they at least did not originate with Eleanor. (This is why I have "Eleanor Roosevelt" in scare quotes in the title.)

While some people may find this quote appealing—and I may have even liked it in the past—now I don't think it's a positive saying at all. Let me explain.

The Continued Rise of Global Uniformities

Last October, I went to Mexico without being able to speak Spanish. I would call my knowledge of the language "less-than-survival level." However, I managed to do pretty well navigating the daily need-to-do tasks I had while in Oaxaca. Why is that? I mean, it could have been far more difficult for me to spend five days in Mexico without knowing the language—but it wasn't. The historian in me has only one conclusion to make: The main reason I managed as easily as I did was because of the continued rise of global uniformities.

In his book The Birth of the Modern World, Christopher Bayly traces what he names "the rise of global uniformities" from 1780 to 1914.

Let's explore what this concept means for all of us.

Quick Alternate Histories: Napoleon Invades Britain

Alternate histories are very easy to imagine: Just find a moment in the past where one changed action or occurrence might have altered the world forever. So far on this blog I have written two other "QAHs," the first about a Franco-German empire and the second about Afro-Eurasians coming to the Americas bringing epidemic diseases long before the "Age of Discovery."

Now I wish to return to the Napoleonic era, also the subject of my Franco-German empire post. I plan to be much more brief this time.


What if, in 1804, Napoleon had launched an invasion of Britain?