Alaska Robotics

Archive for the ‘Alaska Robotics News’ Category

AKRN – Victory Chili

Monday, October 20th 2014 by Pat

We visited the Parnell headquarters in Juneau and tried out the victory chili. It was really quite good!

For the record, we weren’t hassled or asked to leave and most everyone played along. It probably helps that I grew up here in Juneau and that among the attendees were my high school government teacher and my best friend’s dad.

Small town.

I’m told that all the credit for the recipe goes to Paulette Simpson.

AKRN – The Deciding Vote

Thursday, October 16th 2014 by Pat

Alaska Robotics News is back! We’re making six shorts leading up to the November 4th elections and sharing some of our distinct op-ed babble through the newly reconstituted Alaska Dispatch News.

News Project Update

Thursday, June 5th 2014 by Pat


Important announcement! Alaskan legislators will give you free walrus pins. Free!

Also, while we’re chatting, remember how we promised six episodes of our series but only produced five? The official line has been that we’re working on it. I don’t think that’s true anymore, we’re not working on it, we’re putting it off.

The original plan was to deliver our final episode right after session ended but the session not-ended. Then it not-ended some more. Then the fanged beast of “real work” decided to bite into our tender haunch.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the fanged beast of “real work” loves haunch.

Now, the reality we’re up against is one of timing. The political excitement in Alaska has been drowned out by the thundering hooves of tourists and it just doesn’t seem like the right time to deliver our final punch.

We’ve decided it will be best to wait and roll out our final episode a little closer to election time, when stakes are higher and more people are paying attention.

I hope you’re ok with this decision, it wasn’t one we made lightly. We want to do good work on this show and didn’t feel like it would be responsible to rush something out between other projects. We have some fun sketches written and even a musical number we’re working on.

This is *quite* the election coming up: Oil Tax Repeals, Marijuana, Minimum Wage and more Dan Sullivans than you can shake a stick at. Plus, a Gubernatorial Three-way!

At any rate, I don’t think this will be the last-last episode. We’re looking into ways to continue producing Alaska Robotics News next session. We’re talking to several media organizations about potential partnerships and we’re trying to decide if it makes more sense to raise funds through another Kickstarter effort, seek funding more directly through sponsors or just go pull an elaborate Tanzanite heist. Probably the latter.

Thank you again for all your support. We’ve had a lot of success with the show and we’re really hoping it’s something people want to see happen again next year. We couldn’t have done it without you.

AKRN – Episode 5

Tuesday, April 22nd 2014 by Pat

Show Opening

News of Alaskans using drones for hunting has lead to new regulations. Finally, a reason to bring back Dron-E, the Digital Robotic Omnipresent News Entity.

The HUD elements used in creating Dron-E came from an After Effects pack provided by Roland at Graphic in Motion. Thanks Roland!

No marmots were harmed in the making of this bit.


The Alaska Dispatch has purchased the Anchorage Daily News which may be the best or worst thing ever depending on who you talk to.

Personally, I’m an avid reader of the Dispatch and I like seeing our news media take a bend toward something more locally owned. Sure, Alice Rogoff is a relative newcomer and has some loose ties to lucrative permanent fund investment deals but she seems genuinely interested in the state and its people.

I’m on board and hopeful that we’ll see good things.

The house passed an exciting minimum wage bill that turned the world upside down for a while. It was a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine a fall initiative and protect against the repeal of last session’s oil tax. I enjoyed hearing so many legislators flip their positions at once. It was opposite day.

To cap it all off, Speaker Mike Chenault quoted former Rep. Ethan Berkowitz during a big floor speech. He invoked the specter of the Veco scandal and shared a photo of Ed Flanagan flashing a giant dollar sign during a meeting. Was the message a threat? A gentle reminder? An abbreviation for F-note?

My reference to an out-of-state intern was a jab at the practice of allowing non-Alaskans to serve on certain boards. It’s not just the notion that Alaskans are too inexperienced or stupid to hold these positions, it’s the much larger problem of overt economic colonialism.

I can see how Rabinow, a former Exxon Pipeline Co. employee, might be naturally inclined to help out his former employer. What I can’t see is why he would want to work on behalf of Alaskans.

Gasline – Buy the Numbers

Many of those lovely quotes were provided by actual economists, advisers and prognosticators on the oil tax.

Many of the beautiful slides we used can be found by clicking through to the documents accompanying the bill. You can really go down the rabbit hole with Basis, be warned…

Tara also put a pretty good math joke in there that reminded me how much math I’ve forgotten since college.

Pure Gavel

You can actually own your favorite gavel episodes. I recommend “Chenault’s Big Speech” or “Dancing with Bob Lynn”

This sketch was inspired by Time Life classics such as…

The wooden gavel phone was an edited photograph by Dori which we pulled from Wikipedia.

Meet the Alaska Legislature

We had a great time putting together this sketch with Rep. Doug Isaacson’s office and I think it showed. I only wish I had more time to spend on the special effects. It’s hard to see the scene with the miniaturized Brenda Hewitt but she’s in there!

Gardnin’ Wild Alaska

Exploding Igloo Productions is back with another of their perennial Alaska reality shows.

If those tater tots look good, you can find them at the Imperial. Just ask for Totchos.

The blood is delicious cranberry juice.

Running with Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux

Let me say this, Gabrielle LeDoux is a good sport.

This was a crazy shoot. It was cold and the rain was coming down hard the whole time. Aaron and LeDoux ran behind the car while Lou hung out the back with a camera and I ran backwards with the cues scrawled on giant pieces of wet cardboard.

We went through multiple takes and LeDoux was more patient with us than we deserved.

I like her idea of more early childhood reading programs in Alaska. It’s a simple concept to grasp that if you don’t learn to read, you can’t use reading to learn other skills. It also makes a snappy tagline, “Learn to Read, Read to Learn.”

This year was supposed to be the education session, I would have liked to have seen more discussion on this bill.

Foundation first, then the house.

Grovel to Grovel

Sunday, April 6th 2014 by Pat

A group of high school students in Anchorage put out a great bit of satire that absolutely shreds the Alaska Legislature and their rubber-legged stance on education funding. This sketch has some subtle gags, nice moustaches and a lot of heart.

Students With a Voice is an organization working to increase the Base Student Allocation and you can find them on Facebook.

Well done Bridget and company!

AKRN – Episode 4

Sunday, March 23rd 2014 by Pat

Episode four is out the door!

Before I get into the show notes, I should address something. I know we’ve been weak on Republican participation. It has everything to do with a dazzling string of unfortunate scheduling conflicts and nothing to do with practiced exclusion. If you’re in the GOP, drop me a line, we have two episodes left and we want you involved.

Show Opening

Lou cut together these Gavel to Gavel clips for the Mega Monster Legislatapocalypse segment last episode and just by chance it ended up looking like a jolly ripper from Rep. Wes Keller and an incredulous reaction by Rep. Mike Hawker.

Please remember our show is semi-fictional, I’m sure legislators don’t fart in real life.

Banana Republic

The term Banana Republic comes from the book, Of Cabbages and Kings, a fictional story about the very real exploitation perpetrated by businesses like the United Fruit Company and suffered by nations like Guatemala.

I haven’t read that book but I’ve lived in Alaska long enough to understand the concept. I know we’re not being gunned down or anything quite so heavy handed but it’s hard to deny the influence of oil companies on our legislative process. There’s more than one greedy sausage finger on the scale. In fact, it could be an entire ham.

There’s of course the VECO scandal where the biggest surprise wasn’t that legislators were on the take but that they were willing to sell us out for so little… Or maybe the biggest surprise was that corrupt legislators were actually prosecuted?

The worst things aren’t envelopes full of cash or slick consulting contracts though, what makes it impossible to change our tune are the more gentle corruptions and small concessions that we’re all complicit in. For example, the lack of any modesty regarding conflicts of interest.

Our governor, the leader of our state, was partner at a law firm that represented Exxon in their Valdez oil spill litigation. He actively worked against the interests of Alaskans on one of the most pivotal issues in our history. We made him governor.

The latest, Parnell has chosen to disregard Alaska Statutes by appointing non-Alaskans to critical state boards. For as much hell as he gives the federal government about sovereignty, he sure doesn’t care if we’re run by oil companies.

Fortunately the legislature will probably clean up those pesky Alaska statutes and this unfortunate misunderstanding will be resolved. Once they knock down the wall to outside governance maybe we can finally get Kenny G. to serve on the state arts council.

Pick. Click. Give. Exxon.

It’s the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill and all of the footage used in this segment was shot during the actual event. The footage is in the public domain, a nice way to preserve an important part of our history. It can be found through the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council.

I also realized that some of you may not be familiar with “Pick. Click. Give.” That program is a very successful gifting program allowing Alaskans to donate a portion of their Permanent Fund Dividend to Alaska non-profits. It’s doing a lot of good.


It’s Lou in a headset, a parody of the ShamWow!

Exxon has done a remarkable job of wiping out their original damages, paying fractional amounts to those who lived long enough to collect. There’s an abundance of Valdez oil spill news today with the 25th anniversary rolling past, soak some of it in.

Senator Mark Begich on the NSA

I wrote quite a bit on this in a previous post if you care to read it.

Aside from that, I just hope you’re thinking about surveillance and what role we want it to play in our future. The tide of big, easy data is rising and it’s going to change us.

Rather than trying to get the genie back in the bottle, I think I’ve decided my hope is for data equality and clear rules of engagement.

I should also note that the Begich segment got some epic press, we were called “obscure” by Yahoo! and I love the animated gifs in that article!

We also received some more general coverage in an article by Mary Catharine Martin at Capital City Weekly. Reading it made me happy, I think she really captured our tone and intent.

Senator Begich on Alaska Robotics News

Monday, March 17th 2014 by Pat

In case you haven’t been keeping up on the news, the frog is boiling.

The NSA, CIA and even local police forces are engaging in massive warrantless surveillance efforts and hiding in the shadows of secret courts.

The concept of consumer rights is out the window and the government is not only gobbling up data on its own citizens but sharing that raw intelligence with foreign entities.

Back in 1972, when some people broke into an office building to read a few documents, the world erupted, a president resigned.

A couple generations past and the burglars are in the building again. Every building. Everywhere. All at once. But this time around, we’re too content to do anything. We’ve slipped into the role of sedentary extras from a dystopian novel about the surveillance state.

I don’t want to think it’s because we’re lazy, maybe it’s just too big to chew on. It’s hard to feel like you’re making progress with an issue this size. That’s why we need to remember the mosquito.

In Alaska, mosquitoes start out small, they buzz around taking little bites and they grow with every meal.  They clump and swarm and find strength in numbers and by the end of summer those things are bigger than helicopters, able to carry away a moose calf.

That is how to approach large issues, small bites.  Talk to your representative. Give something to the ACLU or the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Make a sign. Create a low-budget political satire show and get your state senator to make an appearance. Express your thoughts. Do a dance. Get down tonight.

Episode four is due out next weekend, we just wanted to share the Begich piece early. Thanks to the senator and his great staffers for making it such a fun shoot.

Boring Talk featuring Geran Tarr

Thursday, March 13th 2014 by Pat

Welcome to Boring Talk, the most exciting talk show in town! I recently chatted with Representative Geran Tarr about her work on child sexual abuse legislation, her state budget priorities and the phenomenon of naming bills after people.

Download the MP3

The show is available as audio or video, take your pick!

Alaska Robotics News Screening

Wednesday, March 5th 2014 by Lou


Friday, March 7, 9pm at Gold Town Nickelodeon

See Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of Alaska Robotics News. Admission is $5.

AKRN – Episode 3

Tuesday, March 4th 2014 by Pat