Friday, April 20, 2018

AK Press Club: Some Afternoon Highlights - Panels on Data and Anonymous Sources

I can't keep up the pace I started this morning.  Here are just some notes

Heather Bryant presented on Using Data.  A great quote went something like, "Data and Fact are synonyms in the dictionary only."

This is a topic I've scratched a number of times.  Heather reminded me of lots of things I've heard before but had forgotten.  Most useful for me was a list of links to resources.
Sorry, the light in the room was bad and even playing with contrast didn't help the image much, but I've listed a bunch below.

DataViz Tools

The Next Panel:

Anonymous Sources  - NPR - KTVA-TV News Director Janis Harper, Managing Editor Sara Goo, CoastAlaska's Ed Schoenfeld.

This really was a panel discussion.  I don't think any of the panelists actually made a presentation.  They just jumped into discussing the topic.  Here are some highlights.  Again, this is rough in the interest of getting this up quickly.  If I have time, I may come back to clean it up a bit.

Reasons people want to be anonymous:

  • People had genuine story and good reason not be be identified
  • People who didn't understand how journalism works 
  • People who saw journalists on TV or movies - someone wanted to be paid for his story or wants something

Examples, of anonymous source

Goo:  I need to understand something even if I can't report it.  Situation where people are ok giving their names, but we think it's not a good idea, that they might not understand the impact.  Case where interviewed someone for print, but when it went online we decided not to put name up because not sure that person agreed to the online use.

Using actors to read out the words in the interview - in a video on drug addicts.
In small communities often hard to get someone that people can't figure out.

Remember the guideline "to do no harm."    

Panelists had already handed out the Fairness section of the NPR ethics code.

Take pressure off source by getting them to help you find a document that has the information in it.  

Examples of getting documents and hard drive data anonymously.  In one case, salacious, but no real wrong doing.  Confirming with others.  

Even in small towns where you think you know people, you can still get used by someone.  Be suspicious about another person and why they're telling me the story.  But if they have documentation, even if the person doesn't have honorable intentions.  Another person's intent was to positively impact someone else.  Or just ask, "Why are you telling me this?  Why me?"

Someone doesn't want to be on the record, you can refuse and say, "just don't tell me."  Because they really want to tell you.  Or someone tells you it's off the record thinking that means you can't report it.  Response:  No, I just need to find another source for the information and not attribute it to you.  

AK Press Club: Libby Casey - How To do Good Video

OK, this session by Washington Post on-air reporter Libby Casey is about using video as part of your news stories.  But she was a reporter in Alaska for many years.   She's talking about how and why to pull out your phone and video.  So here's some video of the speaker.

OK, the disadvantage of the video is that I couldn't track most of the session because I was editing the video and uploading it.  Youtube decided not to recognize my computer today and so I had to search for my password to upload to my Youtube account.  And I didn't listen to the audio because I'm in the session and I don't have earbuds.  I had to sort of just jump in at the beginning.

Since I've been using video on this blog since 2006, most of this is stuff I already know.

Going to drop into the session again now.  Some rules:

  • Can't stage a scene.  
  • But you can take control of an interview.  Tell interviewee where to look, etc.
  • Horizontal or vertical?  Traditionally horizontal.  More complicated now because media like SNAP going vertical.  But still horizontal.  Some going square even.  Never shift partway through.  
  • Need good audio.
  • Keep shot steady - use a mono-pod.  Selfie stick works, table tripods.  Gorillapod.  Also can get stabilizer.  She's talking about things to use with your cell phone.
  • Audio - lavelier mics, good, fit right into your phone.  Audio! website - Smartphone Lab $79.  The more connections you have, the more likely to screw something up.  If you have none of these tools can use headphone or earbuds as way to get the sound to make sure it's good

What makes you so special?  What is your experience that gives you creditability?  Take advantage of what you know, in your community.
Do's and Don'ts

  • Don't worry about production perfection - it's ok raw.  
  • Don't get overwhelmed


  • Authentic
  • Journalism standards
  • Be aware your video can travel - if you are talking trash about neighboring community, they will get that eventually.  

11:20 Questions?

Q:  Working with kids?
A:  Never work alone - work as a team.  Sign permission forms for kids.  Don't need to know more th

Q:  Why stop with FB Live?
A:  First had grant and it ran out, but that wasn't the reason.  Just not getting enough traction right now.  If at protest, that's compelling and people want to share.  Why?  Wish I was there.  Supporting you by sharing.  I want to show this crazy thing happening.  Using periscope more.  Hit and miss to see what works.  Using more watch pages on FB.

Q:  Comments - don't they become overwhelming?
A:  My ?? series not that popular, so not overwhelming.  Can be.  At the post have team of social media people.  Before that I had other pages at FB.  I ended up shutting down my fan page because it was all like, 'you looked good today."  I just didn't want to engage in that.
My FB page - how to be a journalist page.  Put up good stories that don't fit elsewhere.  NRA said media loves mass shootings.  Got to us.  Should we even mention the NRA?  We did, but not until minute 16, not a reaction to them, but it's mentioned.  Just can't keep up with it, I do it on my own. But we do delete mean and demeaning comments.

I had to take some breaks here but you get a sense of the session.

AK Press Club: Tim Evans Investigative Journalism

These are rough notes from my first session at the Alaska Press Club Conference at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Tim Evans - Indianapolis Star

[Tim Evans broke the US gymnastics sex scandal story.]

Your reputation is the most important thing you have.

Don't push things beyond what you can do.  If you don't have the facts, don't do it.  I've got editors who push for stronger language.   Don't cave to the editor.

Try to have no errors, be exactly right.  Little screwups - name misspelled - will be attacked "If you can't spell my name, how can we trust anything you write."  Can't be too careful.  Not going to have two years on a project generally.  Don't be afraid to think small.  Not everything has to be a home run.

When we started gymnastics, Nassar was not on our radar.  Narrowed things down to four coaches.  Looking for situation where someone had done something, then went on to harm someone else.  If gymnastics had not taken any action.  Found coaches who had been reported, no action, went on to harm someone else.  Get beyond hypotheticals, get actual examples.

Given a gun permit despite law where they shouldn't have, caused problem, then did it again.  Police already had four coaches, multiple warnings, did nothing.  Nassar, a doctor, wasn't on the list.  Did the four coaches, and someone saw the story, then started getting calls about Nassar.  The calls were so strikingly similar,  Things he said to them all the same, sounded coached, working together.  We actually backgrounded the victims to make sure they weren't working together.  Their stories were so similar.  Made sure they were on different teams, didn't know each other.  Got two victims to agree, third didn't want to be named (has since come out.)  Editors had strict rules for anonymous stories.

Nassar denied - never penetrated.  That caused response from victims
Got tip Aug 4, story ran Sept 12.  Biggest sports sex scandal in US maybe world history.

I don't have a beat any more - advantages because people know you and give you tips.  Now I helicopter in, don't know squat.  Beat contacts really helpful.  Going to meetings, see people every day.  Staffers.  Spend time with them, they know what's going on.  I don't have that luxury now - harder to develop sources.
Downside - if you're the only people in the meeting, if you skewer someone, you have to deal with them next week.  But if you do it with a little care.   Commissioners filed suit against each other over open meetings,  I knew something was going on.  You're going to ruin our reputation - it's going be on the first page, then it will be dismissed in 3 months and won't get covered.  And we did put it on the first page when it was dismissed.  That helped.  You have to report those kinds of things, be as fair as possible.
Don't pisss off a good source, or people you deal with day in and day out.

Beat - got to maintain good relations.

Investigation - more advocacy.  Have to give both sides, laying out a problem, identifying the causes, how to correct the problem.  Little difficult to shift in and out of that.  Have to stop and think about.  Easy to get more accusatory, but have to pull back.

Q:  At what point do you contact the person you're targeting?

A:  Final interview, wait nervously close to the end.  They could come up with something that blows your story out of the water.  Early, you might ask "what is your policy, I'm just trying to understand?"  I play dumb real well.  We wait to within a few days of publication.
First Start story on child abuse.  State agency lying about kid who died in forster care.  Hard to tell because kids are all anonymous.  Got an insider who gave us a list of kids who died.  20% more than in the report.  Did our investigation, they were short counting.  About a week before, on Thursday, governor said "We just discovered we miscounted."  But we were ready because we'd done our homework and could say they only reported that after we called them.  Can't give them too much time.

Try to get someone else to go with you.  They could have lawyers and others around them.  They'll try to intimidate you, keep you off your questions.  Have someone taking notes.  Two heads better than one.  Can say, "We'll get to that, but now I'm asking this question."  We rehearse our questions, try to anticipate their responses and not get caught off guard.  Worst thing is to ask your million dollar question and they have a good response you aren't ready for and throw you off.  Again, two heads better than none.  You may be there an hour, but really looking for their quick deflection.

Q:  Doing a story what are the factors you consider ,what effects do you want?
A:  1.  Who's going to care?  Gotta know your audience.  In Indiana, lots of gun owners, I am too, so not an issue.  But we began to notice lots of guns.  Laws say you have to be good character which is vague - sheriff can sign you off.  Don't have to have felony, just bad character.  Started looking at gun violence.  Tighter gun laws, not going to work.  But wanted to get them to enforce laws in effect.   Looked at people of 'bad character' who got concealed carry permits and committed crime.  We showed state not doing good job of enforcing law.  We felt good,   Indiana didn't fix the problem, they just hid it by concealing list of concealed permit holders.

All info about permit holders was online including addresses and phone numbers.  when we published in the newspaper they freaked out and cut back.

Q: Impacts of investigative reporting.
A:  We work with the net.  We have big commitment to investigations.  We may work for three weeks and come back and say, this really isn't a big story, won't make an impact, let's move on to something else.  I'm lucky in good newsroom with strong leaders.

Q:  How investigative stories are packaged, put on social media, what's the choreography for that?
A:  Big investigation roll out on Sunday, big headlines.  20, 10 years ago.  Don't think we do it that well at the Star.  Our first Nassar story, probably had 100 links in it.  That got us attention early on.  Highly sourced, well documented.  Can embed documents right into the story.  Had a social media plan for launch of USA gymnastic stuff, designer got faces and Olympic logo, facebook and twitter.  We have a long form template we have to use that isn't very good.  In gymnastic story got much more traffic online as in print.  Center was in Indianapolis, but it was a national story.  USA Today pushed it.  Readership far beyond print reach.
Copy editor because a visual producer, was great.  Digital more important than the print.  Print almost afterthought?

Q:  When did you think about the headline?
A:  Them was "out of balance".  On balance team they mark where they should get off, and Simone marked it with a dollar sign.  Started story in March, first published in August.  Theme came up in June.  Got people helping from USA Network.  First story read like everyone had an input - because they did.

Q:  How did online and print headline differ?
Online to get best SEO, best google search results, online people focused on that.  Might have twisted words a bit to boost search hits.

Q  ???
A:  8-5 shift in the past.  I take every phone call  Work 70 hours.    Roman Finnegan.  Source on child abuse in state system.  He was scattered.  Knew he had a story, but couldn't pin him down.  Said, send me one page email with five key points.  He sent 20 pages.  I finally gave up on him.  He got an attorney and eventually got $9 million settlement and I didn't get the story, pissed me off.  But at certain point you have to cut and run.

Q:  ???
A:  Got to watch it in small market.  I've asked to talk to all employees, and then people want to know what I'm looking at.

Q:  When you devote more resources to investigative project, you have to give something up.  How do you make that decision?
A:  I don't have to make that decision.  It is a huge investment.  We got a lot of clicks.  I could have been writing breaking stories every day and gotten more clicks.  Job is investigative reporter but also do consumer help line.  We got back $1 million through that.  I've done two investigations based on that.

One other thing I want to get to - fact checking is HUGE.  Get detail wrong, diminishes everything else you do.  Most of our stories, take the expert, he takes victims, 3rd person takes another view.  Everyone reads everything and everyone knows everything.  Then one would take lead on writing so one voice, print it out, project on screen and go through it line for line.  Any fact or assertion we  made, we got back make sure we know it's good.  Go back to documents.  Not that don't trust each other, but want to prove before it's out.    Reedited at the end, we go through it all again.  Every assertion, every name, claim in court document, we have to show the others.  Haven't had any corrections or lawsuits.  Credibility is everything you've got.
For print, we're there at night to watch the page proofs, that's an easy place for someone to insert an error.

Q:  How often seek out research grants for investigations?
A:  Not as often as we should.  But did use state law to get access to child abuse stats.  Kaiser reporters, got some travel money.  People dying after minor surgery.  For profit hospitals.  Great opportunity for smaller papers.  Fellowship for narrative investigative project on child welfare.  They're out there.  Will help convince an editor.

A:  Always start with high hope.  Sometimes just can't pin it down.  Used staff to substantiate charges against ??, got close but couldn't prove it, protected records.  Knew it was good story.  Don't give up on your sources.  People may eventually feel they can talk.  Gymnastics people feared career.  I'd just call back and ask if there was any change.  Once the dominoes started to fall, more people will talk.  Some blame victims for not speaking up early.  But that's such an intimate thing if they are victims themselves.  Some will never talk, others will come forward.  Victim shaming really pisses me off. People are ready at their own time.  Every do a rape case?  Questioning is discussing.  People ask how did you get the to talk?  When they are ready, they are happy to talk to someone who would listen.  Parents pushing their kids to say nothing so they don't jeopardize their sports careers.  Lots of remorse.

Q:  Star made a decision on that?
A:  Mixed feelings.  Easy to say if someone arrested or targeted in lawsuit, but this doctor with no malpractice, no complaints, icon in the sport, and we come out of the blue with two women saying he molested me.  Pillar of local and sports community, we had to nail it in the first story.
Just because someone tells you something, that doesn't release you from your liability.  Lawyers there too.

Q:  What are the metrics - official and
A:  Lucky don't have a click quota.  Some beat reporters do have quotas.  We're isolated ab it because of big story.  If  I don't know how they calibrate it.  Clicks are important.
Page views, volume.  Now shifted to time spent on page.  In and out quick hurts you.  Return readers.  Engage time.  Click to other stories from our site.
Investigations 50-100K readers first day.  
Q: What about impacts.  Impacts outside the clicks.  Beyond that change laws, change lives, survivors to say if it weren't for you, he'd still be molesting little girls.  Pulitzer.  Obit - should have one Pulitzer.  Not doing it to get rich or make friends.  WW II vet paid $9000 to fix wife's car, got ripped off, I wrote a story on this, and a couple weeks ago, got the Mustang back all restored, he's 96.  That's the power.  Little things that make it rewarding.

Again, these are rough notes, but should give you an idea of what happens in these sessions.

The Mountains At Sunset

We're getting rid of our popcorn ceiling upstairs and since we have to clear out the upstairs pretty much, we're getting the upstairs painted too.  We just went through all this at my mom's house in LA, but it really needs it.
So I'm trying to get rid of things along the way instead of just moving everything as is.  And working an hour or so a day in the yard as the snow is mostly gone now.  And tomorrow and Saturday I go to the Alaska Press Club conference.

So while I have a backlog of posts I'm working on, they just aren't ready yet.  I didn't get to my bike ride today until 9pm.  Fortunately, our summer light is here already.  The picture below was at 9:30 pm as I was almost home.  Maybe "clouds at sunset" would be more appropriate since there is more sky than mountains.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Bill Passes Alaska Senate Making it Easier and Clearer For Mom To Terminate Parental Rights Of Her Rapist

From the Alaska State Senate Democratic Press Office:

JUNEAU - Today, the Alaska State Senate passed SB 134 by Senate Democratic Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage). The legislation clarifies that a parent who chooses to keep a child conceived through rape can sever ties with their rapist, if approved by the court and in the best interest of the child.

In 1987, the Legislature passed a law allowing a mother to terminate a rapist father's parental rights. This law was inserted in AS 25.23, which focuses on adoption. The current termination statute has confused advocates and attorneys. The Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization, has erroneously interpreted Alaska's statute as pertaining only to adoption cases. Family law lawyers within the state of Alaska have claimed they were not aware of the applicability of existing statutes.

"This does not affect a lot of people in this state but is a huge issue for those impacted people. It is important for a woman who becomes pregnant through rape to be able to be aware of her options," said Sen. Gardner. "Without a clear legal protection, a woman could be forced and locked into a long-term relationship with her abuser."

There are currently 45 states with statutes that allow for the parental rights of rapists to be reduced or terminated.

The legislation passed unanimously in the Senate and moves to the Alaska House of Representatives for further consideration.
Members of the press with questions may contact Alaska Senate Democratic Press Secretary, Noah Hanson at 465-5319.

Initially, one might think this should have happened 60 years ago - when Alaska became a state.  And there was legislation, but apparently it wasn't all that well known by attorneys and there was some confusion whether it only related to adoption cases.  (One judge, according to the testimony, interpreted that way.)

And not everything is cut and dried.  One case was discussed in the hearings at Health and Human Services Committee* in which a 13 year old was in a relationship with a young man 'over majority' who was convicted of statutory rape and served prison time.  But the baby was raised, in part, by the paternal grandparents and was attached to them.

Miles Curtis testified on this in support of the bill.  The child was in the maternal grandparents care until he was eight and only recently into the custody of the paternal parents.  The child didn't want to be with the family, hard on the child, hard on the mother, hard on us financially.  The current law was used against the mother.  Problem wasn't with the abuser, but with the state of Alaska who have taken over the role of the parent.  We would like it so that rapists are never in the best interest of the child.  It won't help our case, but for others in the future it will help.

*Testimony on this bill begins at about 1:36 pm on the video.

I'd note that perhaps one reason it took so long for this bill to be heard (first hearing seems to be April 6, 2018)** is that it was sponsored by two Democratic Senators - Berta Gardner and Tom Begich - in the Republican controlled Senate.
**The video says this hearing was April 6, 2018, though the legislative record says April 9.

The bill now goes to the Democratic controlled House where one would expect it to pass fairly easily.

Here's the complete text of the bill.

I'd note that I haven't done a lot of coverage of the state legislature since I spent a session in Juneau in 2010.  Getting around on the state's BASIS website seems a lot easier than it was - particularly getting the video and audio of hearings.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Kind Of Story You Don't Hear Too Much

From Having Our Say by Sarah L. Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany, with Amy Hill Hearth:
"This is what were told by our Mama:  A fellow named John Logan, who was white, was an army officer called away to fight during the War of 1812.  While he was gone, his wife took up with a Negro slave on their plantation.  She was already the mother of seven daughters by her husband, and her romance with the slave produced two more daughters.  When the husband returned, he forgave his wife - forgave her! - and adopted the two mulatto girls as his own  They even took his last name, Logan.  No one remembers what happened to the slave, except he must've left town in a big hurry.  This slave and his white woman were our great-great-grandparents." (pp. 33-34)

Monday, April 16, 2018

Turnagain Arm Mudflats - A Favorite Beach Walk Has Fewer Rocks, More Mud

There are lots of spots along Turnagain Arm to stop and explore.  On the east side (away from the water) they tend to go up pretty steeply and that's less and less appealing as we get older.  On the west side are favorite spot is a small parking spot near Indian where the bike trail starts.  But where you can get over a small chainlink fence and then over the railroad tracks down to a rocky beach.

Though we discovered yesterday that the rocky part is much more limited than it used to be  It's mostly mudflats now.

Yesterday there was only a thin area that was rocky, right along the where you climb down the boulders from the railroad tracks.  Then it turned quickly to mudflats.

Here's a picture from September 2012 at this same beach.  While it's not the same exact spot, you can see the same mountains in the background.  You can't even see the rocky slope on the left where the railroad tracks are.   The area between the railroad tracks and the mudflats was much greater.

But let's enjoy the amazing textures of the mudflats.

This one is from the road.  I can't remember such a low tide where I couldn't see any water except for in the deeper channels.

As we got over the railroad tracks we found a couple and their dog enjoying a picnic overlooking Turnagain Arm.  It was warmish (high 50s F) and no wind at all.)

And here we are on the railroad tracks (looking south) as we head back.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Prepare For The Coming Fall Of Trump

Trump's past has been glossed over for many, but it seems to be bubbling up in the Justice Department.  If you want to understand how Trump got where he is and why that is soon to undo him, you need to dig deeper than social media and mainstream media.

I'd recommend a few sources of information to get you up to speed if you aren't already there.

This New Yorker article by Adam Davidson steps back then steps forward to explain why even Trump supporters will start having doubts when all the facts about his business dealings come out.  He talks about how, as a reporter in Iraq, he saw the inevitable, but it took the American public much longer to realize we weren't winning there.  Then he talks about studying the Collateralized Debt Obligations and realizing that the banking world was going to come crashing down.  Again before the public did.
"I thought of those earlier experiences this week as I began to feel a familiar clarity about what will unfold next in the Trump Presidency. There are lots of details and surprises to come, but the endgame of this Presidency seems as clear now as those of Iraq and the financial crisis did months before they unfolded. Last week, federal investigators raided the offices of Michael Cohen, the man who has been closer than anybody to Trump’s most problematic business and personal relationships. This week, we learned that Cohen has been under criminal investigation for months—his e-mails have been read, presumably his phones have been tapped, and his meetings have been monitored. Trump has long declared a red line: Robert Mueller must not investigate his businesses, and must only look at any possible collusion with Russia. That red line is now crossed and, for Trump, in the most troubling of ways. Even if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and then had Mueller and his investigation put on ice, and even if—as is disturbingly possible—Congress did nothing, the Cohen prosecution would continue. Even if Trump pardons Cohen, the information the Feds have on him can become the basis for charges against others in the Trump Organization.
This is the week we know, with increasing certainty, that we are entering the last phase of the Trump Presidency. This doesn’t feel like a prophecy; it feels like a simple statement of the apparent truth."

Essentially, when the remaining Trump faithful see behind the curtain, they too will realize they've been swindled.  Eventually it happens to all frauds.  Watch as Toto pulls down the wizard's curtain.

Next, for those of you who have Netflix, the documentary series Dirty Money  ends with an episode on Donald Trump.  For those who have been paying attention there isn't that much new, but as names like Michael Cohen start getting more airtime, this gives some background on them and their relationship with Trump .  Just search for Dirty Money on Netflix, then go to the last episode of that series.  [I don't think I can link you straight to the movie within Netflix since you have to put in your passwords, so the link just goes to Netflix and you have to find Dirty Money episode six yourself.]

If you have more time, Netflix also has a four episode series called Trump: The American Dream.  This one gets much deeper into the Trump story.  (The use of superlatives to describe everything he does goes back a long time.)

Watching these videos will be like reading the program at the opera.  Soon the names and stories of Trump's henchmen and cronies will flash by in the news.  If you read the program now you'll know the backstories of these folks.

Just like with Nixon, there was a majority of Americans who stood by the President, simply because he was the President.  But slowly the circle around him got smaller and smaller as people in his administration were indicted.

At that time the Vietnam War also had the country polarized and those who held onto their belief in the President's innocence the longest were those who didn't want to believe these things about the president who was waging the war they so strongly believed in.

The details will be different this time round, but I suspect the end will be similar.  Nixon was much more traditional, much better informed about how Washington worked (he'd been a member of Congress and Eisenhower's vice president for eight years.)  Trump, I guess, believed that saying  "if you can make it in New York, you can make it anywhere."  He's in way over his head. And he has no self-control.   So his decline will  probably much more volatile.

And here are some posts I did to understand who Trump was back in 2016 that give background into his father and his mentor:

March 13, 2016:  To Know The Son, Know the Dad - So What Can We Learn From Trump's Dad?

June 24, 2016 -  "Roy Cohn was one of the most loathsome characters in American history, so why did he have so many influential friends?"] Roy Cohn was important in Trump's rise to power and appears in the videos.

November 6, 2016:    What A Trump Presidency Would Look Like   -  If you do your homework, some predictions aren't that hard.  I suspect many of you would have made similar predictions.  I'm comfortable pointing out what I said before we knew who won the election.

The Peanut Files

The last two posts (#1)  and (#2) weren't really meant to tease you, but to overcome your natural tendency to actually stop, get a piece of paper and pen, and draw something.  You're surfing the net and your fingers are only supposed to be tapping the keys.  So I wanted to get at least a few of you to break that pattern and draw a peanut.

You can still do that.  I'll leave some space and if you don't scroll down you won't see the peanuts.

I'll put my peanut drawing up again, so you don't see what's below until you've drawn your own peanut.  We can wait while you do that.

Don't scroll down until you've drawn your own peanut.  (Of course, I have no power to stop you from scrolling down, but I think this will mean more if you draw first.)

OK.  Now let's look at some peanuts closely.  Let's start with the ends, because they're different.

One end - the top in the picture above - has a little hook, a parrot beak.  

The other end - on top in this second picture - has what I'm calling a navel, a little dimple.  The two ends of the peanuts are connected by ribs that go from the navel to the hook.  I counted ribs on about five peanuts and there seemed to be nine or ten.  They're not exactly straight.  You can seem them best on the upper photo.

And between the ribs are little weblike patterns, which I assume help make the peanuts harder to crush.  You can see them better in the next picture where I've taken the same peanut and put it through a few different Photoshop filters so that different ridges and edges would be emphasized.

So now my drawing of a peanut looks pretty simplified.  As I wrote in the previous peanut posts - that this isn't really about peanuts, it's about knowing things and about being observant.  But as I was typing this post I was thinking it had much more application than just that.

  • We have the notion I mentioned that when we can label something, we stopping 'seeing' it.  The first time you get a peanut (or meet someone) you check it out to figure out what it is and how to recognize it next time you see it.  But once that's done, we tend not to look too closely.
  • This holds true for all the things we've named (or labeled).  As soon as we recognize it's a peanut we're satisfied.  We don't necessarily go beyond that simple first drawing of a peanut.  Instead they al look the same.  (Remember, in the picture immediately above, they are all the same peanut.)
  • But really the idea of a peanut is much more complicated - the two different kinds of ends where the ribs all meet.  The weblike designs between ribs.  If we look closely we can see that each peanut is unique, though we may have to look pretty closely to see the differences.
  • And I suspect that our ideas about health, ethics, nature, politics, and everything else are also prematurely identified and labeled and then not really examined too carefully after that.  

And you thought this was just going to be about peanuts.  Well, so did I.  But that also helps make my point about looking at things closely opens up new possibilities in areas we thought we knew.  Like when Alaska gained a huge Japanese market for fish roe after a Japanese visitor watched how the salmon were being cut open and the roe was thrown away.  He asked why and Alaska fishers discovered that they were throwing not just roe away, but lots of money, because there was a demand for roe in Japan.

When I tried to find out more about the structure of peanut shells, I wasn't too successful.  Most of what I found was about the molecular structure, not the actual peanut shells themselves.  But there are lots of uses.  In India - peanut ash is used in producing concrete.  And ground peanut shells can also be used to absorb dye from liquids.  And Google has a patent to use ground peanut shells for insulation.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Does Your Peanut Look Something Like This?

Here's a quick peanut drawing I made.  It took less than 30 seconds to draw, color in, and photograph.  So in my last post when I asked you to draw a peanut from memory, I wasn't asking you to spend a lot of time.

This post is for people who missed the last one.  Go back and look at it.  And for people who saw it but didn't make a drawing.  It's just for you, no one else will see it.  I'm trying to give folks a chance to think about what peanuts look like before I post the pictures of the peanuts I took yesterday.

So, here's my quick drawing:

What does yours look like?  I'll either update this post with my peanut photos or put up a whole new post so you can draw without peaking.  (I'm not even labeling this post art - I don't want anyone intimidated by that word.  But it is about knowing.)