Showing posts from 2017

Icelandic and English Language Use in Iceland

Icelandic is a beautiful language, and it's amazing to learn it hasn't changed too much from the Old Norse spoken by Vikings. Icelandic is also, however, an incredibly difficult language to learn.

While other languages descended from Old Norse like Swedish and Norwegian have evolved and simplified greatly, Icelandic retains a complex grammar that's very tough for most English speakers to wrap their minds around. Icelandic verbs are conjugated for tense, mood, person, number, and voice, and then nouns are inflected for gender, number, and case. In other words, we English speakers generally expect verbs to change very little (we change, it changes) and we expect nouns to always stay the same (save for a simple -s for most plurals and -'s for possessives). In Icelandic, those words are constantly shifting, and they do so in a multitude of often-irregular ways.

Given these daunting difficulties, it's understandable if any prospective visitor to Iceland gets a little wo…

Rename Schoenbar Middle School

John Shoenbar never deserved to have a school named after him.

Back in January I went to the Ketchikan City Council and proposed that Ketchikan's flag should be revised or replaced. Now I'd like to offer up another suggestion for the community that no one will probably pay any attention: Schoenbar Middle School should change its name.

There are only two schools in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District named after people—Houghtaling Elementary School and Schoenbar Middle School. Houghtaling was opened in 1961 and named after longtime school board member and local education supporter Bert Houghtaling. The middle school’s name was selected a few years later in 1964. According June Allen, the name Schoenbar was chosen because, ironically, the decision makers at the time did not want to name another school after a person—so they named it after its location on Schoenbar Road.

Naming the middle school after Schoenbar Road, however, effectively named it after John Shoenbar.


Fighting Southeast Alaska's Youth Drain

A few months ago, I read this article about a presentation by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough's new manager, Ruben Duran. Near the end, the article states the following:

I have to admit, this statement annoyed me a little. As a 26-year-old raised in Ketchikan who returned to living and working here as an adult, I believe there's a shortage of people my own age on the island, not people my parents' age. It seems to me that Ketchikan should prioritize attracting Millennials—young working people who will counterbalance the increasing number of residents who are retirement age or older.

Over the last few years, media outlets have highlighted how Southeast has become the oldest region in Alaska, even calling the phenomenon a "silver tsunami." (See here and here.) Apparently, the biggest factor behind this trend is that older people are now better able to keep living in Southeast, rather than being forced to move elsewhere out of necessity, as often happened in the past.…

J.K. Rowling is Ruining Harry Potter's Legacy

Like so many Millennials, reading the Harry Potter series was a memorable and even vital aspect of my childhood. My parents read me the first three books out loud at bedtimes after they first appeared in the U.S. (Prisoner of Azkaban was and remains my favorite book in the series.) My family bought Goblet of Fire immediately when it was released, and I remember working extra hard to read it on my own, even though I was only nine and the thick book dwarfed my hands. I awaited the release of the fifth, sixth, and seventh books in turn, and the darker, more complicated plots of each subsequent book perfectly mirrored my own adolescent development, culminating in the release of Deathly Hallows (taking place when Harry is seventeen) when I was sixteen myself. It is no mistake to say that my peers and I grew up with Harry Potter, and Harry Potter grew up with us.

Part of the beauty of Rowling's Harry Potter series is that it is not a legendarium. It does not create a massive, intricate…

Revising or Replacing Ketchikan’s Flag

I made the following proposal to the Ketchikan City Council this evening, and KRBD Radio mentioned it in this article.

Revising or Replacing Ketchikan’s Flag
Any city can benefit from having a distinctive, well-designed, and widely recognized flag. A city as special as Ketchikan deserves to have a great flag—a distinctive symbol that will succinctly express some aspect of our identity and elicit pride in our community. Updating and promoting the current municipal flag or adopting a new design is a unique chance for the City of Ketchikan to boost community spirit as well as generate economic opportunities.

The current flag of the City of Ketchikan was designed by Daniel Sheets in 1999. It is not a bad flag; it sports distinct Ketchikan colors and a single, easily identified symbol of our community—a salmon. However, this flag is not widely recognized or used, either by the City or by members of the community. It is not featured on the City website, nor flown anywhere around town, (exce…