Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Police Blotter Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I read a small town newspaper.  It has a Police Blotter that describes local police and State trooper activity.  During the period April 30 through May 20 there were five domestic assaults.  Three were committed by women.  This caught my eye.  I read the Police Blotter regularly, and in the past, most domestic assaults were committed by men.  I looked for more information about women offenders.

Women comprise less than 10% of the US prison population: 113,000 vs 1,500,000 men.  However, in the last decade, the percent increase in female prisoners was almost twice that of male prisoners.  The little bit of information provided by the small town  Police Blotter fits a sad pattern.  57.2% of females report sexual abuse before admission to prison versus 16.1 % of males.  69% of these women  reported that the assault occurred before age 18.  These women grew up in a violent environment, and increasingly are turning to violence themselves.  7 in 10 of incarcerated women have minor children; 1,300,000 children who, in turn, have grown up with violence.  73% of family violence victims are female.  This is a deadly cycle.  Women may be striking back but they are not gaining safe ground.  Read more for yourself at http://www.oip.usdoi.gov/bjs

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Nothing Runs Like a Deere

Yesterday I climbed up onto a John Deere tractor and mowed a large field.  I had plenty of time to think about my machine and the work we were doing.  My mind wandered to the past, and to the story of John Deere.  His story is the story of America.  His opportunity for success is what we call the American dream. 

He was born poor, Vermont, 1804.  He apprenticed to a blacksmith.  He moved west in search of opportunity and made his new home in Illinois.  He had an idea for a better plow - highly polished and properly shaped so it would scour itself as it cut furrows.  He took risk.  He made plows for inventory instead of on order.  He imported better steel from England.  He invested money in his business and time in his community, serving in public office and church leadership.  Throughout his long life he never lost sight of his customers' needs.  In his own words, He built a company "dedicated to those linked to the land."  175 years later, it is still true that nothing runs like a Deere. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Wrangell Addendum

There is an 18 hole golf course in Wrangell - USGA rated Moderate to Difficult.  The course, called Muskeg Meadows, is owned and managed by the Wrangell Alaska Golf Club.  You can read about it on their website here.  The site includes photos of the entire course.  You can smell the fresh salt air.  The site also offers a modest history of the course, describing it as a "community" effort.  This is a significant understatement.  Volunteers worked shoulder to shoulder with iron garden rakes smoothing out the fairways for seeding.  Greens fee for all 18 holes is $33.  Better yet, annual membership is only $30, and then you play for $22.50.  Join the club.  Get your airline ticket.  Enter one of their tournaments.  And learn the Raven Rule: if a raven carries off your ball you get a free drop, but only if there is a witness.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plugged In Again

We are back in Wrangell.  Engine trouble.  First time in the 17 years we have owned our boat.  Two men crowded in our engine room trouble shooting and using the language that men use under such circumstances. Too much testosterone. Long walk for me.  Wrangell is one of the oldest towns in Alaska.  Settled first by Tlingits who travelled down the Stikine River.  If you have time to include Wrangell in your travel plans, take a jet boat tour up the river.  You will not regret it.  Here is a website to help you plan your trip.  Russians arrived early in the 19th century to trade in furs.  They were followed by the British who established a Hudson Bay Trading company outpost.  Gold discoveries in the Canadian Cassiar and Klondike districts favored Wrangell merchants and the economy boomed.  Salmon canneries invested in fish traps at the mouths of local rivers, enriching their Washington State owners and depleting the salmon runs.  With statehood in 1959 came state control and the traps were banned.  Logging boomed in the second half of the 20th century.  Wrangell in 2012 is fine.  Population about 2,000.  26 graduated from Wrangell High School yesterday.  This is one of my favorite places.  Lots of energy and initiative.  Friendly.  After two trips to town I am greeted by the locals.

  I visited the Wrangell cemetary.  The head stones told the story - Tlingits, Russians, imigrants from across the United States.  There is one mystery to me - about a dozen graves marked with United States military stones for "Unknown Soldier" and "Unknown Sailor".  How did these remains come to rest here?  When I find out I will let you know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Going Off Grid

We are heading out fishing in the morning.  We will be out of cell phone and marine radio range.  We are in Southeast Alaska.  Tonight in the inner harbor at Wrangell.  Tomorrow turning south to waters where we have fished  king salmon for many years.  We will follow a familiar routine, trolling slowing along a ledge or across a stream current.  We might stop and anchor to set a crab trap. We might just sit and watch the water.  There might be whales, or porpoises, or dolphins.  There will be ravens calling, gurgling, knocking and clucking in their throats.  Maybe a kingfisher.  Certainly eagles and the first of the migrating Rufus hummingbirds.  Early next week we'll return our boat to her stall in Ketchikan.We'll wash the decks, fill the water tanks, dump the ice and plug in to shore power.  We'll hear the bleep bleeping of our arsenal of phones and computers coming back to life.  We'll look at the pictures we took of those magic days of electronic silence  and start planning for our next trip. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Spare the Child

Apparently neither John Edwards or Rielle Hunter have any shame.  Apparently each is so selfish, narcissistic and arrogant that they do not consider the plight of their child.  Money has changed hands.  Recriminations, lies, preposterous dissembling are more important to these two than the fate of the little girl they conceived in their recklessness.  If Edwards is as good a lawyer as his reputation says, he should be able to figure out how to bargain an end to the publicity and accept his fate.  This child has her life ahead of her. The internet will store all the lurid details for her and others to read. It's too bad she will not read that she was conceived in love, that her parents stepped forward to work together to create a stable home for her, or that she brought joy into their lives. John Edwards might not be a criminal. The court will settle that. But he is a moral thug.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My Mothers' Day Message

Perhaps one of your friends will ask for your help with baby lambs.  At about two weeks of age, they need a shot of selenium and an ear tag.  Their long tails need to be docked and the boys, well, the boys need to be castrated.  These procedures require separating the lambs from their mothers (briefly).  You will be assigned a job.  Catching the lambs requires good hand-eye coordination and the ability to hold a squirming baby with four hooves.  (The boys are easier to catch than the girls, who are wily and fast.) Holding the lamb for the procedures requires strength, patience, knowledge of several "holds" to steady the necessary lamb-parts, and the ability to hold a squirming baby with four hooves.  Applying the ear tag requires experience with gripping a tool such as a hole-punch and squeezing steadily while the squirming baby tries to pull ear from pinching object.  Injecting the selenium requires good enough eyesight to see the millimeter markings on the syringe in bright sunlight while the squirming baby tries to pull away - period.  Docking the tails requires experience gripping a tool against the pressure of an expanding rubber ring with a steady hand while the squirming baby becomes frantic.  Castration is like tail docking, except you need to be able to count to two.  The entire undertaking is not for sissies.  The lambs complain bitterly.  The boys, especially, lie on the grass and make pitiful noises.  The mothers are inconsolable.  Behind the fence, they pace wildly bawling for their babies.  When the gate is opened the reunion is spectacular.  Mothers running to and fro.  Babies forgetting their indignities as they listen for just the right baaaa.  And then quiet.  Just the muted sound of rich mothers' milk going down.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Amy Finkelstein

Over 40 years ago, when I was in graduate school, a professor told us his frustration with economics.  He said: "An economist is stranded on an island.  He wants to know if there are rabbits on the island.  He busily goes about his research, looking at vegetation, habitat, water and other resources to determine if rabbits could thrive.  If it was me, I'd look for rabbit droppings."

The John Bates Clark Medal is awarded annually by the American Economic Association to an economist under the age of 40 "who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge".  This year Dr. Amy Finkelstein, a health economist at MIT was the winner. Amy was recognized for her work on the effects on well being and behavior of Medicare and Medicaid.  In economist-speak, she is honored in part because her work is a model of effective use of empirics (as opposed to theory).  She looked for rabbit droppings.  Amy has many other accomplishments.  MIT introduces her here.  If I am going to be stranded somewhere, I choose Amy for my team.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Unintended (Thoughtless) Consequences

In 1990 Washington State produced 100 million pounds of asparagus off 30,000 acres.  The asparagus was shipped locally and through distributors around the country.  For those of my age, asparagus was a seasonal delight.  In the late spring we looked forward to the thick, tender stalks.  In 1991, as part of the War on Drugs, a new law exempted certain crops, including asparagus, from tariffs.  The idea was that the Andean countries would plant asparagus as an alternative to drug crops.  The War on Drugs has produced violence, mayhem and destruction, and not eased the traffic noticeably.  An unintended casualty was the domestic asparagus industry.  In 2010, the Washington State asparagus harvest was a mere 17 million pounds.  The California acreage has declined by a third.  We have raised a generation who think fresh asparagus is pencil thin and dry.  Today farmers are hopeful again.  There are new varieties, and strong prices.  This year they expect to plant 6,000 acres. South American crops still flood the market.  Maybe enough people will remember the taste of truly fresh asparagus, and 7,000 acres will go in next year.