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Showing posts from 2015

Top 5 Posts of 2015

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The year 2015 has been the 25th calendar year of my life, and the 8th of Peter's Publisher. I started blogging soon after I became competent in using the internet, and I've continued to blog for the entirety of my adult life—regardless of whenever I think that started.

If you check out the sidebar of this blog that shows all my posts, you'll notice I've blogged less in 2015 than in any other year since I created the Publisher. I'm a little saddened by that fact, but I do have plenty of excuses: I've been teaching full-time, putting my all into it (and writing about it every now and then on my separate blog Teaching in Lingít Aaní); I went on big, three-week honeymoon over the summer with my wife, a little less than a year after our wedding (only mentioned here on the blog); and we just bought ourselves a home over the course of October and November. (I've been so busy with everything I didn't even share that news on here until now!)

Back in 2011 and 201…

"Christmas Christians" and Reasons to Go to Church

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Christmas has me reflecting on all the church services around the world that must be happening, with millions and millions of people in attendance. It's amazing to think that, even though some Christians recognize Christmas on different dates, December 24th and 25th must be two of humanity's most celebrated days—maybe the most celebrated.

Of the millions of people attending services this Christmas, many have undoubtedly gone to church infrequently over the past several months. Maybe the Christmas service will even be their only one this year. The Wikipedia article Lapsed Catholic lists a number of amusing terms for such people:

I Resent Learners of Fictional Languages

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Let me start by saying that I understand learning a fictional language is a hobby. Many people have hobbies that don't seem to have any particularly useful purpose. I'm sure I have hobbies that some would judge to be a waste of time, and I certainly have plenty of knowledge (including knowledge of fictional worlds) that many would judge to be useless.

Nevertheless, I resent learners of fictional languages. I resent those who learn fictional languages not because I believe their pursuits are harmful, but because they clearly have aptitudes that could be put to exceptionally greater uses.

Unsecured and Freely Available Guns Kill People

Unsecured and freely available guns kill people. It's a scientific fact.
Crazed people commit acts of violence around the world. There are few places, however, where crazed people have freer access to firearms than the United States. Firearms allow violent and mentally unstable people to become far more dangerous.Gun accidents have killed hundreds and thousands of Americans, and many many fewer would have died if guns weren't so ubiquitous and unsecured here. An average of 62 children under age 14 have died every year due to gun accidents for the past several years in the U.S., most of them in their own homes, most of them because adults did not secure their firearms.Studies show that suicides are far more likely to be completed if there unsecured guns in the person's home. Just a lock on the gun case makes suicide less likely to happen—and no, you can't say "Well, a suicidal person will just find another way," because suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts do…

Who Are the Monks and Nuns of the 21st Century?

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Today I finished rewatching the miniseries Pillars of the Earth (based on the great book by Ken Follett) with my wife, and afterward I was struck by the following idea:

In medieval western Europe, monasticism was an important part of many communities, and a large number of people lived as monks and nuns. Today, however, monasticism is virtually nonexistent in much of western Europe, and most everywhere else plays a much smaller role in society with a much smaller number of adherents, at least as a percentage of the population. 

Are there institutions and vocations that hold a prominent place in our world today that will similarly shrink from view centuries from now? There must be. In a sense, I am wondering—who are the monks and nuns of the twenty-first century?

I don't have an answer to this question; I just thought it was interesting to consider. Who knows what sort of shifts in our social structures and career paths might occur centuries from now, or what organizations and profes…

Three Days of Stockholm Tunnelbana Travel

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I have a thing with metro and tram systems. My fascination really grew serious in Strasbourg, where I ended up visiting all of the tram stations within the first month of my college semester there. I then turned my focus back onto the metro in Washington, D.C., and I created a map to track my travels on it during my senior year at Georgetown.

A few weeks ago my wife and I went on our honeymoon (nearly a year after our wedding) and visited Sweden, Norway, and Iceland together. Our first stop was Stockholm, and we bought ourselves 72-hour passes for unlimited travel on the Stockholms Lokaltrafik network. Mostly, we used the Tunnelbana ("tunnel rail") metro system. Here's the map of where we went:


Stockholm is a beautiful city, and using the Tunnelbana was an awesome way to get around it. The map above may not look that impressive, but I think we definitely got our money's worth from the 72-hour cards, and saw much of the center of the city, as well as some of the outsk…

Safeway O Organics Tea Irony

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My wife and I love the O Organics peach oolong tea from Safeway, and we have for a few years now, but this passage on the new label for the tea is pretty rich:



"Doesn't it feel good to know where your food comes from?" Yes, definitely—but there's absolutely no information on the label as to where this tea or its ingredients come from! You just reminded your customers that they like having more information, O Organics and Safeway, but then you gave us none of it. What a disappointment.

Panic vs. Tolerance: Gay Marriage, the Confederate Flag, and Wade Hampton

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Some Americans are panicking right now. Some are panicking about gay marriage becoming legal across the country, which just happened today. Some are panicking about the Confederate Battle Flag losing its official status and being taken out of stores, which has been happening at a rapid pace over the past week. Quite a few are probably panicking about both. Some Alaskans are even panicking about our governor deciding to rename Alaska's Wade Hampton census area, named for a slave-owning South Carolina Confederate who had nothing to do with Alaska.

I'm not just exaggerating, either: I know these people are panicking because they're making extreme comments about the state of our country, the decline of our democracy, and the downfall of society. One of these people is even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

At the root of this panic is a fundamental issue that everybody struggles with: tolerance and open-mindedness. People are panicking because they're struggling to a…

Two Types of Newcomers to Ketchikan

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I've been living back in my hometown of Ketchikan as an independent, out-of-college adult for two years now. In that time, my wife and I have gotten to know a fair number of newcomers to Ketchikan: The town has a pretty high turnover rate for a large portion of residents, whether they work for the Coast Guard, the hospital, in the visitor industry or elsewhere. After some observation and though, I feel I can place most newcomers to Ketchikan in two markedly different categories:

1.  There are those who figure out that Ketchikan is a very limited place, a place that won't give them the opportunity to fulfill their goals and aspirations. They plan out how much time they expect to spend here, and then enjoy that time as best they can before they quickly leave and move on with their lives.

2. There are those who figure out that Ketchikan is an incredibly exceptional place, a place that allows them to live a lifestyle they love, perhaps even that they never knew they wanted. They e…

Totem Heritage Center Timeline of Native History

I wrote up the following timeline for the Totem Heritage Center, an awesome museum in Ketchikan that preserves some of the oldest Tlingit and Haida totem poles in the world. I wrote the original version in 2012 when I first worked at the Heritage Center. Now I've been rehired for this summer, and this is my updated version.

Early 1700s — Haida move north into Lingít Aaní (Tlingit country), begin living on southern Taan (Prince of Wales Island)
1741 — The Alexei Chirikov expedition sees Tlingit, the first European encounter of Northwest Coast people
1774 — Juan Perez leads the first Spanish expedition north of California, likely bringing smallpox to Haida Gwaii and Taan.
1774-1834 — Fur trade ongoing between Natives and Europeans in Southeast Alaska
1793 — George Vancouver circumnavigates and names Revillagigedo Island
Late 1700s — Members of the Taant’a Ḵwáan (Tongass Tribe) move to Dàasaxakw (Village Island)
1830s — Members of the Taant’a Ḵwáan move to Kadúḵx̱uka (Tongass Island)
Mid-180…

"Student Accepted to All Eight Ivy League Schools!"

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I appreciate all high school students who dream big and get accepted to great schools. This is the time of year, though, where headlines frequently tout students who are accepted to all eight Ivy League schools. I have a problem with this.

When I applied to colleges, way back in 2008, I weighed the reasons for applying to every college I chose. Each had different strengths and weaknesses, but I made sure that they would fit my interests, goals and preferences in one way or another. One school I applied to mostly for practice, since the application was free, but even there I thought there was a good chance I would consider going. I applied to eight schools total, and any more probably would have been a little ridiculous. Even using the Common Application, every extra school you choose to will require extra time, effort, and money to apply.

That's where I am unable to understand students who apply to all eight Ivy League schools. The Ivy League is a league in name only when it comes…

Yeah, A Song of Ice and Fire is Orientalist

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Game of Thrones Season Five premieres on April 12th! I'm excited for the show to come back, but I have unfinished business to attend to.

Remember this post?

Daenerys Targaryen as White Savior: Historical Prejudices in Game of Thrones

In the post, I criticized a disgusting "white savior" story line and portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series Game of Thrones. That post has more comments than anything else on this blog, both positive and negative.

Many of the people who commented told me I should keep reading George R. R. Martin's books on which the show is based—A Song of Ice and Fire. Since then, I finished A Dance With Dragons, so I did what they asked.

When you read the books, GRRM clearly does present a complex view on slavery and emancipation: Emancipators aren't always seen as heroes, freedom doesn't always bring happy results, and some people even prefer to be slaves. That nuanced, complicated portrayal is great, and very much in keeping with th…

Tina Fey's Disgusting Native Storyline in The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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My wife recently started watching Tina Fey's new show, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I think it's moderately funny, (not as funny as 30 Rock), but there's one aspect of the show I find astonishing and incredibly disturbing: the storyline with Native characters.

The gag is that rich New York socialite Jacqueline Voorhees (Jane Krakowski) grew up in rural South Dakota with Lakota parents (Gil Birmingham and Sheri Foster). She constantly demeans Native ways and aspires to be a successful white woman in the big city. Multiple flashbacks show her imitating white culture and criticizing whatever values her parents try to instill in her—"values" that are little more than tired stereotypes of Indian Country.

This storyline makes a mockery of forced assimilation. It makes fun of the power of white culture while still exalting white culture as supreme. Anyone who knows Native America knows that forced assimilation is not ancient history: There are still aunties, uncles, a…

The French Revolution and the Super Bowl: Roman Numerals for Years

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I watched the Superbowl today and briefly lamented the Seattle Seahawks' unfortunate loss. (They're Alaska's unofficial NFL team.) After my moment of caring about sports, however, my thoughts returned to something I'd tweeted earlier:


Well, I found out there actually won't be a "Super Bowl L." It'll be officially labelled "Super Bowl 50," basically for the reason in my tweet: "Super Bowl L" would look dumb. In 2017, though, the NFL will return to its Roman numeral ways with Super Bowl LI.

I don't know who originally thought up keeping track of the National Football League's championships with Roman numerals, or what the arguments for it were among those who decided on it 49 or 50 years ago. Regardless, I can understand it was simply a decision based on style and marketing, and it's been a steady tradition kept for 49 years, with only a short interruption next year. Who knows, maybe the practice will end before the Super…

Fun With Duolingo

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Lately I've been having a lot of fun with the website Duolingo. It's a gamified language learning website where you can choose one or more languages to learn, take placement tests if you know something already, and move up a learning tree lesson by lesson.

Before I discovered Duolingo, I used the website Livemocha. It also has many languages to learn (more than Duolingo) and has all sorts of lessons to go through. After Livemocha was bought by Rosetta Stone and revamped their website, though, I lost interest. Tied in with Rosetta Stone's business, it seems to have lost its focus on website accessibility and intuitive learning.

One area in which Livemocha still excels is in pairing learners with native speakers. (Duolingo has no equivalent.) Livemocha facilitates finding, chatting with, and getting feedback from native speakers of whatever language you're learning. You can also give others feedback on submissions in whatever your own native language is. It all goes bac…

West Coast vs. East Coast City Choices, Round One

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Wherever you might live in the United States—north, south, east, west, or middle—it's important to know whether you're a West Coast or East Coast person.

Choose which city you'd prefer to live in out of the following pairs to determine whether you're a West Coast or East Coast. (Keep track of the number you choose on each side.)

*Note: These cities are not meant to be perfect counterparts to each other, just interesting choices.

Here's round one:


Is it East or West that's winning so far? Let's settle the question once and for all in an upcoming round two.

Unhealthy Obsession with the "First Americans"

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Just yesterday I saw National Geographic's current magazine cover at a grocery store checkstand.


There's nothing particularly offensive or disturbing about the cover—or the story in the magazine, I'm sure. (I didn't read it.) Still, I couldn't help but think that this is yet another example of a weird American phenomenon: We are obsessed with finding out who came to the Americas first, when they did it, and how.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I've gotten the feeling over the past few years that Americans (and Canadians too, probably) are far more invested in archaeological finds related to the first people to arrive where they live now than people anywhere else on earth. Non-academic non-archaeologist Americans seriously argue about whether the Bering Land Bridge theory is legitimate or not, or whether people arrived in the Americas 10,000, 15,000, or 20,000 years ago.

Does any other society today have an equivalent? Is there controversy in China concerning the genet…