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Against Senator’s Murkowski’s Moratorium

Today Senator Murkowski used Facebook to announce her call for a moratorium on the admission of Syrian refugees to this country. At 10,000, we’re only proposing to accept a tiny sliver of the FOUR MILLION seeking refuge. I think this moratorium is wrong and wrote the following message to Senator Murkowski:


Dear Senator Murkowski,

It was with sadness that I read your statement urging a moratorium on admission of Syrian refugees to the United States. I’m very disappointed that you turned a deaf ear to our faith community who urged you not to turn away the innocent. You claim you do not support such a thing, but an indefinite moratorium is the same as turning people away. It feeds the impression that “that the American people are no longer sympathetic or welcoming.” You have joined hands with 26 governors and every single Republican Presidential candidate who reject welcoming people at their time of need. Even your own Facebook page now has a number of comments from constituents who have equated all refugees with terrorists.

I believe your stance is a betrayal of the principles in Matthew 25 and of the compassion for immigrants and refugees advocated by Pope Francis. But I understand you cannot govern the country by Catholicism or Christianity. Unlike the leaders of Daesh, we have separation of Church and State.

However, your actions, along with the actions of all others calling for the barring of refugees or making the assumption they are a major security risk are playing in Daesh’s hands. Daesh tells all Muslims that the West is against them. That Muslims will be treated as potential terrorists in the West. That in the end, there is a clash between Islam and Christianity. By giving into the fears of some of your constituents, you have endorsed Daesh’s propaganda.

I’m sorry to sound harsh, but the modest security gains (if any) from the moratorium you are calling for are more than swamped by the propaganda victory for Daesh. Please reconsider your position, especially in view of so many things, including gun violence and auto accidents that take more lives than 9/11 did every single year.


Senator Dan Sullivan is on record as being harsher than Murkowski, as is Representative Don Young. I am sad that my whole delegation has given in to fear.


Daesh/ISIS Goal May Have Been to Turn Europe Against Refugees

“You know what pissed off Islamist extremists the most about Europe? It was watching their very humane, moral response to the refugee crisis. Seeing Europeans line up to help and embrace Muslim refugees infuriated and shattered the worldview of so many Islamist extremists. The Islamist extremist worldview says that we’re separate, different, hate each other and are eternal enemies. Wanna shatter the Islamist extremist worldview? Show them we aren’t separate or different and don’t hate each and can be eternal friends.”

via Why Paris shows that ISIS are losing and we who maintain the ‘greyzone’ are winning | Goldblog.

Interesting article about how a struggling Daesh/ISIS may be using attacks in Europe to get the West to support their view of a binary world. Let’s not give them what they wish for.

Release of the Full TPP Text After Five Years of Secrecy Confirms Threats to Users’ Rights | Electronic Frontier Foundation

Some of the more dangerous threats to the public’s rights to free expression, access to knowledge, and privacy online are contained in the copyright provisions in the Intellectual Property (IP) chapter, which we analyzed based on the final version leaked by Wikileaks two weeks ago and which are unchanged in the final release. Now that the entire agreement is published, we can see how other chapters of the agreement contain further harmful rules that undermine our rights online and over our digital devices and content.

via Release of the Full TPP Text After Five Years of Secrecy Confirms Threats to Users’ Rights | Electronic Frontier Foundation.

A plain English analysis of why the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) is a bad thing for people interested in information flow and/or consumer rights. Please consider writing your Congressional delegation in the next few weeks and ask them to block this agreement.

The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter (Fast Company)

This is easy enough to change; simply refuse to participate in the Misery Olympics. Talk about how the cold gives you a chance to drink tea or hot chocolate all day. Talk about ice skating, or building snowmen. Bundle up and go for a walk outside, knowing that you’ll likely feel warmer and happier after a few minutes. Better yet, go with a friend. Social plans are a great reason to haul yourself out from under the covers.

via The Norwegian Secret To Enjoying A Long Winter.

Interesting account of Tromsø in northern Norway, a town that seems to be as far north as Barrow. It is another place where the Sun sets in November and rise in January. But people there have lower rates of Seasonal Affective Disorder than average.

So, sharing these tips in hopes they’ll help me and you.

NANO Day 4: Pluto Surprises and Web Surprises

Very early this morning, the following item caught my eye on twitter:

It linked to a Sky and Telescope article that offered ten things that surprised the Principle Investigator on the New Horizons probe. I liked it and shared it to Facebook. I was going to link to the article here and offer commentary on surprised/not surprised. But then the link surprised me by going to a 404 error. Sky and Telescope at least has a clever 404 message:

Sky and Telescope 404 message

“Whoops! – You’ve slewed to a target that’s below the horizon. Please wait while we redirect you to our site’s North Star. Slew Faster”

I reported the now broken URL to Sky and Telescope’s Twitter account, but didn’t want to wait to comment on surprises. So I went the main New Horizons web site at http://pluto.jhuapl.edu/ and found this summary of some of the things that surprised the New Horizons team:

New Horizons Team Publishes First Research Paper in Science, Describing Numerous Pluto System Findings

It has a few paragraphs that list some surprises:

“The data returned so far show a surprisingly wide variety of landforms and terrain ages on Pluto, as well as variations in color, composition and albedo (surface reflectivity). Team members also discovered evidence for a water-ice rich crust, multiple haze layers above the surface in Pluto’s atmosphere, and that Pluto is somewhat larger and a bit more ice rich than expected.

“The Pluto system surprised us in many ways, most notably teaching us that small planets can remain active billions of years after their formation,” said Stern, with the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado. “We were also taught important lessons by the degree of geological complexity that both Pluto and its large moon Charon display.”

For me, the biggest surprise is the geological complexity of both Pluto and Charon. When I was growing up in the 1980s, it was doctrine that worlds had to be of a certain size to have any geological activity at all after a short time following their formation. We were told that small bodies had no way of continued heating like the Earth, Venus and larger worlds. So they would grow cold and activity would stop – unless it got smacked by a really large asteroid whose kinetic energy partially melted the surface.

Then came the discoveries of Voyagers 1 and 2 – in particular the irrefutable proof of volcanoes on Io. Here was a moon sized body with a VERY active geological life. I imagine the Voyager team was as stunned as the New Horizons team is now. They put their heads together, shared data with other planetary scientists and came up with a theory since verified by other spacecraft. Io and other largish moons in orbits around gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn have strong tidal forces on them, along with competing pulls from other moons. Since their orbits aren’t perfectly circular, these constant tugs generate a great deal of friction, which results in a heat engine for the interior. So we learned that small bodies can have volcanoes and other activities — IF they orbit a body large enough to induce heat producing tides.

This does not likely seem to be the source of whatever internal heat that is causing Pluto and Charon to resurface themselves. Pluto has a fraction of Earth’s mass and doesn’t appear to have the “oomph” for a lack of a more technical term to be heating the interior of Charon. And it seems to be too small to generate it’s own heat. But both bodies show clear signs of resurfacing withing the last few hundred million years, so SOMETHING is at work, we just don’t know what. I’m really looking forward to any theories the astronomers have. My gut feeling would have been that any resurfacing has to be collision induced, somehow. But if it were that obvious, the New Horizons team would have offered that as an explanation.

My second biggest surprise was that Pluto had enough of an atmosphere to produce haze. The blue sky was knock me over with a feather time, but made sense once the New Horizons team mentioned that Nitrogen is a significant component of what little atmosphere Pluto has. Nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere scatters red and green light pretty well, leaving us with blue in our skies. But I thought that Pluto’s atmosphere was far thinner than even Mars’ atmosphere, so I wasn’t expecting haze visible from space.

One of the surprises in the currently defunct Sky and Telescope article that didn’t surprise me was that Pluto had a heart. We humans love to see patterns whether or not they’re really there. I feel it was inevitable that someone would find some pattern on Pluto worth remarking on.

Something that didn’t surprise the New Horizons team, but surprised me greatly is that Pluto is red. Apparently this has been known for at least a decade from telescope surveys, but I had missed it. It is a completely different mechanism than the iron rusting that makes Mars red.

If you’d like to look deeper into Pluto’s surprises, here are a few more press releases to guide your way:

October 8, 2015
New Horizons Finds Blue Skies and Water Ice on Pluto
September 10, 2015
New Pluto Images from New Horizons: It’s Complicated

August 10, 2005
Atmospheric Escape and Flowing N2 Ice Glaciers – What Resupplies Pluto’s Nitrogen?

July 3, 2015
The ‘Other’ Red Planet

If you’ve been following the New Horizons mission, what has surprised you the most so far?

Shame of a Bad Face Memory

If I only see you a few times a year, chances are good I’ll either not say hi or try to introduce myself to you. This isn’t because I don’t think you matter. Nor is it because I think I’m better than “the little people.” I’m simply afflicted with what seems to me a below average memory for faces. It’s like I live in a world of Cheers where everyone knows my name, but half the time I simply can’t return the favor.

This makes me sad. Especially in my profession and my current role in it. At it’s best, librarianship is a welcoming, caring profession. We acknowledge people, give them a safe place to be, answer their questions and sometime steer them to books and other materials they might like. We do much more of course, but my two current primary areas are technology training and public service. Both areas, but especially technology training, benefit from a good memory for people. I think it helps build confidence that a trainer is both caring and mentally sharp when they remember your name at in-person trainings and conferences.

Not such a good impression when someone walks across the room and addresses you warmly by name and you look blankly at them. Only to find out that they have either taken some of your in person sessions, or worse, are a volunteer on a project you manage remotely. Most people are polite about introducing themselves (again) and reminding me where I know them from. But I feel like I’ve let them down. I can be disappointed when someone I met and found really interesting draws a blank when I saw them again. It’s happened a few times. What usually happens is a moment of sadness, then I remember that if our positions were reversed, I’d be the person with the blank look. I reintroduce myself and we move on. But usually, I’m the one with the blank face – even in situations where the person and I work together a lot online and I really appreciate they work they do.

I have to admit that sometimes I’d love something like a “Google Glass Mark 2 (3?)” that ran continuous facial scans against a photo database of all my contacts. Then I could pretend to be someone with a solid grasp of faces. But then the Big Brother aspect of it all kicks in.

I do what I can when I meet someone. I try to repeat their names a few times in conversation. Sometimes that works. Sometimes not.

So if you know me, but don’t see me every week, please know it’s not arrogance or lack of care that I can’t come up with your name right off. It’s me, not you.

NaNo Day 2: The Joyless Miracle of Air Travel

I live in Alaska off the road system. This means that every time I leave town I either have to fly or take the ferry. For vacations within Southeast Alaska, I have been known to take the ferry. It is a mostly comfortable and civilized way to travel. It is soothing to see the waves and the scenery go by. Sometimes there are whales, sea lions, birds or other wildlife.

For business travel, the ferry is impractical. It takes three days to go from Juneau to Bellingham, Washington. Anchorage is a two day drive from Skagway, where I could take my car to get onto the road system. Today’s pace of life makes such extended travel unreasonable when attending conferences or giving workshops, so I fly.

Air travel is a genuine miracle. A few weeks ago, I traveled from Juneau, Alaska to Washington DC in just 12 hours. This included several hours worth of layovers. Trying to get to DC on a combination of ferry and highway driving would take over a week. One way. Aside from the speed, there are the sights from the plane window – if you have a window seat. You are literally vaulting through the heavens and getting to places on timescales undreamt of by most even 60 years ago. It is a legitimate miracle of the modern age.

And yet, the more I fly, the less I like it. All of the post 9/11 security theater and airports as constitution-free zones is part of it. It adds hours to air travel without visible benefit. It’s made me more careful of what I say or even what I read in airports and on plans. Most of the time, TSA agents are professional and even friendly, but getting the wrong person is a bear. For years, my CPAP machine was flagged on just about every flight for extra screen. This has let up, but now no matter who well I empty my pockets, remember to take off my watch and belt, it seems like the screening machine flags me for a pat down. Usually on my right ankle. I’m trying to be more careful with my socks, but I shouldn’t have to be.

It’s not just the security though. Seats have gotten narrower over the years. I’m probably a bit more sensitive about my personal space than most and I tend to contract rather that fight for my space. So fairly often I’ll spend a flight with my arms scrunched together, trying not to bump arms with the next person. The airlines could space us further apart, but profits. Also, it could just be me, but it seems like there are more cancellations for mechanical issues. I don’t begrudge needed repairs, but air travel feels less consistently reliable than a decade or two ago. Or perhaps this is just a consequence of flying more.

Flying isn’t always miserable. My flight today put me in a window seat with an empty space between me and the other person in the row. That was a treat. But a rare one.

Overall, flying is more of a necessary evil than a joy. Considering the miracle that air travel is, that’s a shame. Or maybe it’s just me.


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