Tuesday, June 27, 2006

As seen from Goldstream Road, Tuesday

The Worst Pavement in All Christendom
Next Five Miles

Okay, to read this authentically, as one might read it while traveling in your Soob or great-big-honking-pickup-truck at 70 miles per hour, scroll down to the bottom picture and read your way back up.

The difference being, primarily, that shortly thereafter you won't hit any teeth-rattling potholes or roll over your office chair.

Or get airborne. I had a conversation last night in which several of us discussed where we had gotten airbone on particular stretches of Goldstream Road.

Of course, I might add something about how this is a state-maintained road (cough)and perhaps suggest that we might fix the roads we have before funding studies/building Bridges to Nowhere or Murkowski's Folly, aka the Stampede Road extension.

I'm not sure what I love above this more: that someone actually used the term "Christendom" in their grafitti, or that whoever did this wrote it so neatly.

Lefty types like me often get accused of being tax-and-spend liberals. (To which I reply, "Better than cut taxes for the richest one percent and continue spending as if you haven't cut revenue.") I have a better idea than both: take care of the stuff you already have, as in, don't let it get into such a state of disrepair that it will cost more to fix it when you finally get off your butt and do so.

I was raised by the world's cheapest man. Seriously, the old blues lyric about pinching a penny till it screamed? My dad. But the one thing the old cheapskate did teach me was to take care of stuff, maintain it regularly, and it will usually last a long time.

And linking this to the gas line issue, because we just need to flog that horse to death, is the admonition that the gas line will bring the state a great big flood of cash at some point, much like the pipeline did.

The state went on a spending spree, some of it good, some of it a waste... but all sorts of places got great buildings and facilities. The only problem is, when the money that built something is gone, there still remains the hidden costs of operating and maintaining whatever it is you built in the first place.
So fix the damn road already, whichever of you state bureaucrats it is in charge of these things, and please already, Murk and the rest of the you, do it before you build any new ones.

Particularly when the local folks don't want a new one in the first place!

However, my rantings aside, I do truly love whoever wrote our on-the-fly traffic report. It's a good warning, because some people (me, for example) drive entirely too fast along that road - and hitting the bad stretches at 70 miles per or more is dangerous.

I find the attention to detail, well, cute, I suppose, particularly how our graffitinist went to the trouble of circling all the bad spots further up in the same metallic silver spray paint and writing the word 'dip.' In one section, you can't even swerve to avoid one, because there is one in the other lane as well.

And, by the time you've seen those, you're probably already smack dab on top of them.

What do you think, is this the work of a diligent, but frustrated, ADOT worker longing to fix the road? (Or one with either: a) a fantastic sense of humor; b) a pragmatic streak?) Could it be a Goldstream Valleyite whose Soob gave out after an unexpected launch?

As Sgt. Esterhaus* used to say, "Let's be careful out there."

*Yes, I am old enough to remember Hill Street Blues.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Gubernatorial Politicking, V. 1: Murkowski's Unintentionally Hilarious Ad

There are days, nay, entire blocks of years, where editorial cartoonists and those who make a living opining are blessed with such crappy* poor examples of governance that they scarcely have to work to come up with the good stuff. By which I might offer up the entirety of the Bush Presidency, the Reagan Years, and some of the more surreal times during the last tenure of Wally Hickel. Oh, and that time God told Scott Ogan how to solve the subsistence issue.

Wow, remember the subsistence "issue?"

Now, I make no living doing this. This is largely a therapeutic endeavor, whereby a simple broke-ass, cabin-dwelling leftie like myself can get all the ranting she might need to do out of her system without the aid of beer and such.

But today, pay or not, is one of those days I refer to as 'gravy.'**

Have you seen the Murkowski ad? The full-page ad that's been running everywhere? Seriously, this is such a poorly thought-out strategy, you'd of thought the Democratic National Committee came up with it. (Now there are some folks who know how to lose an election.)***

It is an actual ad paid for by the Committee to Re-elect Frank Murkowski. Just follow the link above to see it in its splendor, courtesy of the Washington Post blog. Or you could pick up the ADN, FDNM, or Juneau Empire.

Funny what a 58 percent disapproval rate will do to one's approach.

To quote directly from the first nine lines of copy, and please note that the red text was red in the ad:
"I agree. I admit it. I'm a long, long way from perfect. At one time or another, I've made the entire state of Alaska mad at me. Maybe I should consider a personality transplant. But in Alaska, sometimes it takes a strong will to make things happen."

Perhaps what he needs is a job transplant. Not that it should be all that hard to go from working for Big Oil from the governor's office to working for Big Oil from ... Big Oil's offices.

Strong will, my foot. Perhaps, though, the persons coming up with his ad copy confused being an arrogant jerk with 'strong will'. And to cut him some slack, I suppose it is an consequence of all that time in D.C. - he got used to jetting in from D.C. and jetting right back out after a perfunctory set of trapline visits around the state. You know, stop in at the local Rotary, get a grip-and-grin picture into the local paper, give one of those 'We're the greatest place, oh, beautiful, scenic, gorgeous, pristine Alaska. We need to pave it and mine every last inch of it. And drill the Arctic Refuge. Oh, look at the time, gotta jet."

Oh, and speaking of jets. Two words: King Air. Oh, wait, two more: Alaska Airlines. It's not like we've forgotten how you insisted that you needed a jet to travel around, on our dime.

It was not strong will to negotiate a secret deal with Big Oil that screws over Alaska, a deal so poor that The Murk lost most of the top people at the Department of Natural Resources over it. And the Stampede Road business where you skipped the meeting with the locals and sent your wife instead, (although she seems to be a nice woman.) Or how you've gone about trying to dismantle environmental protections to benefit large industrial-scale mining corporations who don't pay a dime in royalties.

I, for one, can't wait for the real election politicking to begin.

* It has come to my attention that I am using the words 'crap' and 'crappy' entirely too often. I will exercise restraint and get the thesaurus out.
** "Why," perhaps you ask? "Has your brand new propane stove arrived yet? Are you finally off that sorry two-burner hot plate?" No. Lowe's, one of those evil box stores that I really try not to shop at, has informed me that it is still somewhere between there and here. And I'll get it some day, they think.
*** I've heard that the reason Fran Ulmer lost had a lot to do with her allowing the DNC folks from Outside "help" her with her campaign...

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Grizzlies and Guns

The News-Minus reports this morning that a brown bear has made the mistake of wandering into a residential area around Mile 4 of Chena Hot Springs Road.

The young grizzly is one of two seen first on May 22nd. Its sibling was shot by a homeowner near the Fairbanks Golf Course when the bear was near a horse corral. I have to say, the way the FDNM story read, the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game guy sounded kind of bloodthirsty and pretty nonchalant about shooting the animals. In his defense, however, upon reading earlier articles, one gets the sense that both bears were getting pretty habituated to people and the ready supply of food present where most folks live. That sort of situation is bad for people and bad for bears.

Many of us live in what John McPhee called the 'wilderburbs' -- and while we are good about keeping a clean camp site when out on the land*, we don't continue those practices once we are back at our homes.

I've been pretty lax myself on keeping the CabinDwelling Compound clean enough for a bear presence. The Goldstream Valley, at least my neck of it, is a rabbit warren of cabins, trailers and such... and most of us don't really think about bears much. It feels very 'settled' there.

Until now. I've been told before that there are a few bears kicking around the GSV, but now I'm gonna be a lot more diligent about food and garbage.**

*Of course there are Noobies who don't know better, and folks who have lived here long enough who should know better.

**This may have something to do with an evening telling bear encounter stories with a group of my fellow ValleyDwellers. I think I heard one too many stories that involved a hungry bear breaking into a cabin. Nothing like a fresh dose of bearanoia!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Summer Roadtrip, v. 1: Los Anchorage

I'm off to that dread suburban hell hole that is Anchorage for a couple of days. A friend is flying me down so I can drive a U-Haul full of stuff back up here.* Apparently, this person has a lot of crap that requires TWO U-Hauls.

But it will give me one entire day, which is entirely enough really, in Los Anchorage and Wastesilla.

Do you detect my oh-so-finely-crafted (and subtle) digs at both places? I'm trying very hard to disguise my dislike of both locations, and before someone accuses me of Bush Snobbery**, let me just say that I tried very hard to live down there a couple of years ago. And it was nice to have all those good restaurants and live music around. However, if I wanted to live on a mile-long stretch of concrete, up to my eyeballs in mini-malls and white people who seem to think that it is still 1983... well, I could move back to the suburb in which I grew up.

Plus, I really can't forgive that area of the state for electing the bunch of faux-conservative, right-wing, mouth-breathing hypocrites that they keep sending to Juneau. Anchorage and its environs dominate state politics by the sheer number of people living there. C'mon, we proved that sterilization works on keeping wolf numbers in check, why not enact an Anchorage control program?? Oh, wait, Murkowski's people believe in shooting wolves from planes instead. That could get messy.

That was joke, folks. Remember? Left-wing liberal tree-hugger here... not big on the shooting of people.

Anyways, what's another 370 miles on the Parks to my personal odometer?

But hey! You should check out Foodstock this weekend at the Howling Dog. Admission is 5 bucks or 5 cans of food.

*Insert requisite lesbian U-Haul joke of your choice.

**This term refers to the (I think warranted) disdain that people who live in rural Alaska feel for Anchorage, its pseudo-Alaska lifestyle, its residents near-total ignorance of Alaska history and culture, and the sort of folks who can afford to buy two thousands dollars worth of Gore-Tex and the like at REI for when they go out to rural Alaska to play. I've seen people with high-tech outdoor wear that in total probably cost more than my Soob. (Okay that last bit, that's more of in the vein of unvarnished gear envy.)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Coffee Consumption Reduces Risk of Liver Cirrhosis

Or, Ha! Pour me another cup of coffee, I had a few beers last night...

Now, I'm a reasonable Alaskan woman. I gave up smoking cigarettes a few years ago, and ceased the non-stop, shall we say, frolicking at bars, and started exercising again and all that healthy crap. But it was all in the spirit of keeping the old carcass running, much as one changes the oil in a Soob regularly ... not so I could be free of all toxins and have the arteries of a twenty year old and delude myself into thinking that I wasn't going to go ahead and die anyway at some point. I never turned into one of those Health Evangelicals, you know who I'm talking about, going about trying to tell everyone else how they ought to live, all, "Bacon is Satan's handiwork."

And they were gonna get my coffee mug away from me when they pried it from my cold, dead fingers.*

For years, coffee was bad for you. BAD! You know how television news goes on these benders about something and its health hazards, and then goes on a mad health craze for something else that is supposedly good for you?

Frankly, I've always felt cheated growing up in the 80s. Gone were the blissful days of guilt-free butter, bacon, sex, cigarette-smoking, cocktails, loud music, etc. Everything that made life truly pleasurable, it seemed, was turning out to be unhealthy (or in the era of AIDS, kill you.) So I've been cooking with olive and grape seed oil. I've relegated bacon to occasional visitor status in the fridge.

To let today's headline speak for itself:
"Coffee Protects Alcohol Drinkers from Liver Disease."

To have ignored one of those shrill health warnings for years and then have it turn out that not only is this particularly Bad Thing not bad for me, but actually good for me... oh, the satisfaction. It's like schadenfreude**. It is a complex emotion that needs its own special word in German.

*At least in the morning. Substitute 'beer mug' at other times. Oh, of course, not at work, not while driving, not while operating heavy machinery, blah blah blah.

** Is there a special German word for this sensation of having been defiantly 'wrong' for years, only to find out that you were not only 'right', but more than right?? Anyone? Bueller?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Why we all need a summer vacation

Man, I just turned around and a week had gone by without my noticing.

Summers, particularly the nice, warm ones we have here in Squarebanks, are just not a great time to have a real job. You know, the kind where you go to work every day and accrue leave gradually until you can finally get your two weeks off per year?* It's becoming increasingly difficult to go to work and stay there when it is beautiful like this.

Don't mind me, it is just the daylight doing its manic work. A few days of sunshine and suddenly I don't even care that the fast mosquitoes are out and another damned squirrel has taken up residence in the cabin roof.

All this, of course, leading to the point that I've been just too busy to post. And the warm, sunny days, and requisite beer drinking, make this particular CabinDweller too fat and happy to really rant about what a crap deal Murkowski's gas plan is. I'm gonna get to it, I tell ya, one day.

But it is a crap plan. Even Wally Hickel, Mr. "You can't just let nature run Wild", thinks it is a crap plan that will make Alaskans assume a greater portion of the price tag and risk - while tying the hands of all three branches of government if Big Oil doesn't behave nicely.

Really, we should just trust their good intentions. Big Oil just wants to take care of us, if we could only just not cause them any trouble or ask too many questions.

I nearly passed out from the strain of rolling my eyes on that previous sentence.

*And if you are particularly unlucky, those two weeks are always spent visiting family back east. And it is not at all unpatriotic to note that all those European countries which certain of our countrymen disparage get four to six weeks off per year!! What the hell?? And I mean that not in the good way.

Monday, June 05, 2006

"What the Hell, Why Not?" Bites Me in the Butt Again

Or, perhaps it was its younger sister, The Law of Unintended Consequences...

As those familiar with my life choices know all too well, my decision-making process usually starts out well with the time-honored approach of logic, but veers off the tracks (usually because of boredom) straight into the oncoming headlight of the question:

"What the Hell, Why Not?"

It's a very simple way to make decisions, large and small, and certainly simplifies those occasions when your friends forget any previous experience with your advice-giving and ask for some more.

A sampling of such:

Q: Should I move to an itty bitty boozy little Alaskan town off the road system?
A: What the Hell, why not?

Q: Should we try to use that old, non-functional satellite dish sitting in the yard at someone's house as a 'lid' of sorts for the pig roast tomorrow, thereby relieving us of the duty of digging the hole as deep as requested by people who know what they are doing? Ya know, just dig halfway and throw the dish on top?
A: What the Hell, why not?

Q: Another beer for you?
A: What the Hell, why not?

And so on. Very simple. Even drunk* people can manage it.

It was with this very sort of considered deliberation that I embarked upon my brilliant and cunning plan to try to fix the formatting issues with this blog. Suddenly, with a mere click of the mouse, all my inexpert tinkering was undone - gone were the links, gone was the resizing, gone was all that trial-and-error stuff. And the dratted graphic** I wanted to display still isn't displaying in the sidebar.

So starting up on the Murkowski gas line plan waits till tomorrow. But as you might expect, it's a bad one.

*Not that I've been drinking. I try not to drunk dial, drunk post, or drunk drive. This is sober idiocy at work here.

** Ed. note, 5:17 p.m.: By God/dess, the power of reading! Lookit, lookit! A graphic.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Where the hell did summer go?

Or, Losing Alaska Cred by Whining About the Weather

[whine]When I glanced out the window at the thermometer yesterday evening, it was showing 35 degrees.

This is the third frost since in a week here at my place in the Goldstream. Can we just get this over with already?

Now, it's not as if getting another hard frost was out of the realm of likely events, this being Fairbanks and all, but the summers here have spoiled me greatly in the two years since I moved back.

I was completely accustomed to freezing my butt off in some of the other places I've lived in Alaska. I can remember one summer where it rained for 57 days in a row. You want to see a town fully of bitchy people? Live with 40-some degrees and misty rain for nearly two months in the supposed summer. That'll get to you quicker than clouds of mosquitos, dust, high prices and no roads connecting to the larger world.

Fairbank's summers, on the other hand, have been delightful, aside from the smoke and dust. You can raise tomatoes, here, for god's/dess'* sake!

Speaking of tomatoes, a friend was kind enough to give me a few spare plants after the frost got mine last weekend. They are sitting, safe and warm, on my window sill in the cabin - luckily, the warning about frost came out before I got around to planting them outdoors. To which I say, Ha! Procrastination pays off!

It's come up to a balmy 40 degrees. Whoo. Looks like the Beer Drinking and Grilling on the Deck is cancelled today. When I get motivated enough, will go uncover the plants outside and see how they survived last night - we're up for another frost tonight.

At least the skeeters are not a problem right now.
*Your choice. The fundies haven't established their theocracy YET.