Sunday, December 30, 2007

The FBH Best of 2007, Alaska

A Completely Arbitary List of the Best of Alaska Found on that Series of Tubes

For your perusal, the following things blogular, personal and so forth that constitute the best and worst about 2007. We will, of course, entertain suggestions for additions to the list in the 'Comments' section.
  • Best Personal Non-Event: We did not run out of fuel oil at any time this year. Runner up: Flic's house did not burn down.
  • Best of the Web, Short Film: "Buy Back Alaska" courtesy of the snarky folks at Alaska Robotics. Spot on, my brothers, spot on!
  • Best New Alaska Blog: My Fairbanks Life. Oh, there are others that will have to settle for runners up status, like Progressive Alaska or maybe the Muskegger, but this one entertains me even though I at first reckoned it as just another motherhood blog. (Don't come after me all you blogging mama's - it's just that I am not a mama, haven't ever been a mama, and don't know if I ever will be a mama. It's not an area of high personal interest.)
  • Best Item Relating to the Corrupt Bastards Conflagration: The FBI surveillance transcripts, posted by the ADN. Oh, everyone got onboard covering this... the L.A. Times, the Washington Post, the New York Times... but the most damning pieces of evidence were Allen's own (mostly profane) words.
  • Best Post Title Relating to the Corrupt Bastards Conflagration: "Kott with his Hands in the Cookie Jar." Runner up: "FBI to Ben Stevens: Kott-cha!" Yes, this one I'm awarding to my partner in blogging crime, Flic the Bic. I love, love, loved these both and am slightly pissed that I came up with nothing even remotely as good in Ought Seven.
  • Best Result of the Corrupt Bastards Conflagration: The reopening of the petroleum production tax, despite the warnings that Big Oil would pack its bags and leave us if we dared reopen the issue. Sarah Palin, who I find myself liking but not as much as Ishmael, led on this one. It's definitely the highlight of her first term as governor.
  • Best New Eatery, Fairbanks: Silver Gulch's Brew Pub. Sadly, Free Beer Night has gone the way of the dinosaur, but the restaurant that brought about its demise has everything from tasty, yet inexpensive bar food (awesome fries for $3.50; "Scotch egg" for about the same, burger and fries in the $9 buck range -- but you can also go all upscale and order a mighty mighty fine $9 peartini, or the pear gorgonzola pizza or some plus $20 dinner entrees.) Runners up: On's Eggroll, which finally brought Thai food to the Goldstream Valley; Wasabi, the newest attempt at sushi in Squarebanks, down on S. Cushman.
  • Most Malicious Maligning of Mink: Don "A Bridge Doesn't Go Anywhere till You Get to the Other Side" Young. There was so much to choose from, but I opted for the one best displaying that uniquely Young state of mind: "If we continue this we'll be called biting one another, very much like the mink in my state that kill their own," Young said. "There is always another day when those who bite will be killed, too. And I'm very good at that." You can watch his performance here.
  • Best Bar in the Squarebanks Area: The Golden Eagle, located smack dab in the heart of the People's Independent Republic of Ester. $1 beers! I repeat, $1 beers. Add the fact that your dog gets to come to the bar with you, too, the ability to get a burger (which you have to cook yourself) for $4.50, pool tables, and of course, the likelihood of sparkling conversation with people as unwashed, liberal and hippie-ish as yourself. Ivory Jack's, in my neck of the woods, doesn't even come close.
  • Best Party at the CabinDwelling Compound: The Jerry Falwell Goes to Hell Party. Tinky Winky, booze, bean bags, bonfire, black lights, fog machine, dancing ... and a bunch of the cabindwelling crowd. I wish you all could have been there. Sadly, I had to go sleep in The Soob, because of the whole 'go to work in the morning' thing.
  • Men and Women of the Year: The Feds. Seriously, are we a career-making state or what? What many of us suspected, what Ray Metcalfe has been saying just forever but no one in this state ever got a grip on it, be it the law or our press corps, these folks finally kicked down the metaphorical door and shone a light on the denizens within.
  • Best Asskicking Given to a Legislator by His Own Constituents: Think back now to the days before the CBC became an acronym of common household use. Winner: The one administered by District 7 on Mike Kelly. Kelly, if you remember as far back as April, was one of the champions of the advisory vote on amending the state constitution to prohibit not just the State of Alaska, but any municality, from offering benefits to the same sex partners of employees. Problem is, District 7 (my awesome neck of the woods despite having somehow elected Kelly in the first place) voted against any such action and had one of the highest voter turnouts of the ENTIRE STATE. Kelly, undaunted told the press:
"... he'll be using the election results to try to win support for the amendment. Voters in his district opposed the measure by a slight majority, but he said that doesn't change his view.

"I am not one of the legislators that necessarily needed the advisory vote to tell me where I stand on the issue," Kelly said. "I am still where I've been all along."
  • Horniest Alaskan Blog: the Kodiak Konfidential. (I had to give you an award, Ish.)
  • Worst Apparel Choice if You Are a Corrupt Bastard: Monogrammed hats. Say you are engaging in illegal behavior. I know, just suppose! Do you make up a cute nickname for you and your cronies? Do you get cute monogrammed clothing with the initials for you all to wear? Hell to the no! Perhaps this is a white collar crime kind of thing.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Better Late Than Never, the Latest Poll Results

So, apparently people think I ought to fix Francesca. Did I mention how much it is gonna cost? We're talking a ballpark of $650 to pull out her guts and reseal the durned thing in the hopes of ending the oil leak that might cause her to catch on fire some day.

However, Ish of the KoKon had a better suggestion, offering up the idea of the creative use of sheet metal to keep the oil from dripping onto the catalytic converter. Which I might do, at some point, when it's not below zero. Car fixing should be kept to a minimum, no, scratch that, avoided entirely this time of year.

Those of you folks who live in a part of the world where heated garages are not the exception to the rule won't understand that. Trust me, it is no fun trying to work on a vehicle in the winter in Squarebanks. Outside. Many of us aren't just waterless, we're garageless, too.

But you know what I want? One of them there Subaru Brats. One of the dudes at the Anchorage Soob shop took a Brat, installed a lift kit and replaced the original engine with a 5 speed manual Loyale engine. (He said the Brat was underpowered. I can't even imagine how underpowered it might have been if a Loyale engine constitutes an upgrade.) But the end result?

The world's first Subaru light pickup! I want one!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, Alaska Style

What says "I love you, you fishing-obsessed Alaskan weirdo" better than a couple of jars of Pautzke's and ice fishing gear in your stocking?

Pautzke's are THE thing to catch dollies in the falltime. They figure prominently in some of the best fishing memories I have from my days out on the coast. At one time there was always a jar or two somewhere in the house or car or Carhartt jacket pocket - just in case, you know.

Oh, right, if you are not fortunate enough to live here where they are ubiquitous/or just don't fish elsewhere, I'm getting sentimental about jars of bait, said jars pictured above right. But I have to wonder, what is the difference between the green label jar and the red label jar?

I've been in a sort of fishing mourning period since I moved to the Interior, and have really slacked off on the fishing. Which might explain my cranky mental state of late, uh, which is the last 3 years. But the significant other has tried to rally me of late, and we're planning on our first icefishing trip in a few weeks when we both have time off at the same time.

So, a happy and merry holiday-of-your-choice, and hope you found the equivalent of a jar of cured salmon eggs in your stocking, too.

Above right: Two jars of Pautzke's Balls of Fire, which in a stroke of marketing genius, or perhaps merely an indication of a delightfully warped sense of humor, are billed as "Soft But Satisfying."

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Newsflash: Fairbanks is Cold in the Winter

Winter has finally decided to make an appearance at the party, arriving fashionably late but fooling no one.

Or so I thought.

Lawdy! The ink, the air time, the syndicated news stories devoted to such an occurrence. I don't know about you, but having been around in the Clinton era, at least the first one, evil grin plastered to my face, as Mr. Slippy Zipper said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me."

So, having been fooled the first time back in 1992 (year one of my Alaska life) when I was quite shocked when it got miserably cold, I really was prepared when winter decided to show up the next year and every year subsequently. It was sort of like... clockwork.

Oh, lookit there, I went and crabbed about the same thing last year.

But it is quite lovely having a bit of the minus 40s again, isn't it? This afternoon, and had I sufficient limbs and talent to take a photograph with my cellphone's camera while executing a left turn in my car which has a manual transmission, I would have captured the perfect photo for the day. There, paused in front of UAF's electric billboard, stood a cute little Alaska newbie, taking a photo of the temperature displayed there. Minus 36.

We were all there, not there at that corner, but there in the frame of mind where minus 36 was something to shoot a photo of and send back to the people we knew unfortunate enough to live somewhere else. Now, of course, we wait for the thermometer to hit something respectable before doing such a thing, say, at least minus 45.

But here at the CabinDwelling compound, we're sitting at minus 36 tonight, and it was a lovely evening to go out and chop some firewood. The moon is giving us enough light that I didn't even need a headlamp. Bonus too, is that wood splits quite easily at these temperatures.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Musings on the Cabindwelling Lifestyle, IX: Driving an IED

Anchorage, ALASKA: Okay, maybe Francesca the Soob is not, technically-speaking, improvised. But apparently, now, I'm driving back from Anchorage in a vehicle which has the potential to catch on fire.

You've all seen them, at least if you are fortunate enough to live in Alaska, those decrepit vintage old Soobs: the Justy's, the Brats, the DLs, GLs, and Loyales. There are a few pristine, low mileage ones driven by the silver-haired pokey safe drivers - but by and large now, Subarus of the previous era are starting to show their age.

Francesca is an example of the latter situation - beloved, high mileage, underpowered and covered in various progressive bumper stickers. So, while I'm down here in Anchorage, AGAIN, I decided to get her into my favorite shop, Alaska's Independent Subaru Service. Well, the shop had good news and bad news for me. The good: the car runs great, the head gasket is fine, the clutch is good and whoever has been taking care of it (me!) has done a good job. The bad: FIRE. Apparently, the oil leak that I noticed has begun to drip on the catalytic converter. And even engine oil will burn if it gets hot enough. Catalytic converters get very hot.

Oil + hot catalytic converter = Fire.

Maybe.

Right now, we're probably okay, but if it gets worse, well, the guys think it is a good thing that I already carry a fire extinguisher in the car. The problem is, the fix (taking out the motor, resealing) is quite expensive for a 17 year-old vehicle. So Francesca is living on borrowed time.

I'm hoping that I will come across that fabled situation: a elder person who wants to get rid of a low mileage old GL that has sat contentedly in a warm garage and has detailed maintenance records but little in the way of blue book value.

Anyone out there with a Soob that needs a good home? A low mileage, well-kept one?

Above: I want one of these! Photo to be posted soonish, providing the non-occurance of a vehicle fire on my drive back up north.

Friday, December 14, 2007

And You Need To Know....Why???

Ever notice how on all forms (medical, dental, financial etc.) that collect personal information, there is always a "divorced or separated" check box? It's right below the "married" or "single" checkboxes.

Hmmmmm. Does this mean that if someone was once married, they can never be single again? Isn't someone who is divorced single? Unless they moved on to a relationship other than a married one, but that option isn't offered. Nor is "cohabitating" - which could easily be added as an alternative in the marriage checkbox ("married or partnered").

This suggests that what is important in the data collection is not information about someone's basic relationship status. Otherwise, there would be a better range of choices. If it's a space issue, well, it would seem like a yes/no, on/off type of question would be sufficient: either you are married or you are not.

But no, there is always enough room on all these forms to include "divorced or separated". Why is this particular factoid deemed necessary to winnow out? Are those who were once married, but failed to remain in that state, somehow different enough that they should be, well, singled out? That perhaps they aren't a) homosexual b) weird c) selfish d) irresponsible , e) an old maid or f) a playboy, because hey - once they were part of a legally and religiously sanctioned couple!

Can I never again aspire to singleton status because I once tied, and then untied, the knot?

Well, I do refuse that thesis, and I sure as hell refuse to check the divorced box. The days of the social stigmatization that clung to the heels of divorce like a streamer of toilet paper are long gone. It's also time to stop the subterranean ways homophobia creeps through our society. This vestigial limb of social discrimination should have been lopped off long ago. Most def!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

That S**t Dont Stink!

Has anyone else noticed that flower-scented sprays are now standard fixtures in the majority of public restrooms?

I was up at the "But" * last week for some training and while availing myself of their toilet facilities noticed not one, but two, cans of air freshener strategically placed on the paper towel holder. Furthermore, each can was conspicously labeled with stern instructions not to remove them from the restroom.

It struck me then that the thoughtfully-provided can of air freshener has become ubiquitious.

Last time I checked, bathrooms, public and private alike, are used primarily for two functions - the cleansing of various body parts and the evacuation of bodily wastes - the latter of which is often quite odiferous.

After all, poop stinks.

So, while I am all for a certain amount of courteousness to others, should it really come as any surprise to someone entering a bathroom that they might encounter smells that are, well, stinky?

It's not like one plans to hang out any longer than is really necessary in a public restroom anyway - unless of course, one is Larry Craig.

*campus nickname for the Butravitch Building - home of UA Administrative Services

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Not Quite Ready for End Time Player

My quiet Sunday AM spent reading Fall of the House of Bush* went south when I got a stack fire in the woodstove that, at 900 degrees, surpassed any other previously experienced in 20 years by this wood-burning prior cabin dweller. With the roof making ominous creaking noises, and a brand-new double-walled metalbestos pipe scorching hot, and no desire to see my small, but beloved breadbox of a house disappear in its own end-times conflagration, I called our Valley’s finest. Although the arrival of an engine did not escape notice in my neighborhood – with the later consequence of phone messages left offering shelter, clothing, etc. and much grief from 'Dweller – the stack fire was indeed limited to the stack.

Better safe than sorry.

The stack fire will need no explanation to those who use wood to ward off the chill and/or lower fuel costs. However, as I found out today, there are as many theories running around as to what causes massive creosote build-up in stove pipes (even those just cleaned a scant two months ago as mine was) as there are people who stand around (in this case, five) and watch a couple of other volunteer firefighters sweating in their gear trying to re-install a metalabestos pipe after its been pulled to make sure the roof insulation isn’t smoldering. Suffice to say that excessive creosote and the dread chimney fire are as much a part of living economically in the far north as are five-gallon water jugs, blue tarps, and Styrofoam outhouse seats.

All in all – a big shout out to the folks who spent several hours of their Sunday morning making sure I still had a home from which to blog. Thanks guys - you rock! And ‘Dweller, your next Peartinini is on me.

*A recent arrival from my anti-fascist refugee father – from Hungary in ’56 – who having survived his own “end times” under Hitler, Stalin and the rest of the Soviet-era Apparatchiks, knows neocons fascists when he sees them.

Ready, Set, Rapture!

For those of you NOT paying attention, the Rapture Index is pegged at 159 as of December 3, and that means there's been heavy prophetic activity. The Oil Supply/Price, Beast Government, ("the EU pens a new treaty") Wild Weather, Gog (otherwise known as Russia by secularists; "Putin threatens Europe with missiles")and Drought catagories have been the most active of late, with goings-on much depressed in The Antichrist, False Christs (" a gentleman in Florida has made news by claiming to be Christ"), Plagues, Satanism (we can all heave a sigh of relief now that "a lack of activity has downgraded this catagory")and Tribulation Temple sectors.
FYI - anything above 160 on the RI means, according to the site's Rapture Keeper - that its time to fasten your seatbelts - end time is here.

This handy little gauge - billed as the "prophetic speedometer of end-time activity - can be found at http://www.raptureready.com/, and is just perfect for the busy, wired knuckledraggers Evangelical Christians that want to be au courant and totally rapture-ready at a moment's notice.

In addition, the site also offers a comprehensive FAQ list for Evangelicals new to the fold and/or just a little uncertain in their biblical inerrancy. There are thoughtful responses to such 3:00 AM worries as" How can I go to heaven knowing that no one else in my family is saved?" (A. use all that worrying energy to convert them) , and " I am afraid of the end of the world. What should I do?" (A. Get right with God).

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Anchorage, Anchored Down in Anchorage

Does anybody else remember that Michelle Shocked song? One of my favorite ones by her, following closely behind Come Along Way and Prodigal Daughter.

So I'm coming to you live from the belly of the beast, from the epicenter of suburban sprawl Alaska, from the town that sports a Range Rover dealership but doesn't have a single road as bad as the one running in front of my cabin. Some of the people driving those Range Rovers here in the wilds of Anchortown are clad in Patagucci outdoorwear the value of which exceeds that of my Soob, fishing gear, CD collection, books, guns (including the really nice Winchester Model 70 I borrowed) and the PC. Combined.

I speak, of course, of Anchorage. I'm here and so far have not burst into flame or had a seizure or suffered any other ill effects other than I've spent a lot of time trying to find a place to park downtown. I'm sitting here at the Glacier Brewhouse, one of the mitigating places here - you can buy 1 gallon growlers of really good beer here, unlike our brewery up north - and apparently, GBH has wifi like every other place down here in Los Anchorage. And the food at lunch is quite reasonable and really, really good.

I'm having a pint of the Blonde Ale. So cheers, my peoples, and here's to the occasional comforts of Big Bad Anchorage.

Oh, and I haven't seen any machete-wielding maniacs yet or heard anyone shooting at anyone else yet.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Weekend Roundup: Fanchorage It Is

Good morning, my Alaskan friends and those of you unfortunate enough to live elsewhere. I'm calling the poll over, with "Fanchorage" winning soundly in the "Name the Godawful Ugly and Depressing Box Store Complex" contest.

I admit to some sadness, as I didn't come up with that one, but it is a good term nonetheless.

But before I sign off to go scoop dog poop before it gets buried, hit the exercise equipment, split some firewood and start all the other weekend chores, I must share a true story.

So, recently, a certain burly, bearded friend of mine - you know, fixes anything mechanical, works as an operator, drives a Harley, genuine Alaskan dude - spent a weekend in Ranchorage. (That would be Real Anchorage, as opposed to the faux one we have here.) While drinking a few gin and tonics and people-watching through the hotel window, he noticed, and I quote more or less accurately here, "a lot of hot women walking into this bar."

Not to let such an opportunity be lost, he headed down to the bar where he immediately realized that he was in the wrong bar. I speak, of course, of Mad Myrna's, where all the hot chicks were only interested in the other hot chicks.

"I knew it was too good to be true," he admitted. But he stuck around for a few rounds of pool anyway.

Above right: Chore of the day, getting water from the Water Wagon. If you are new to the Squarebanks area and ever wonder why there are so many people driving around with those blue 5-gallon jugs, wonder no more. We're taking the blue jugs to a water source, either in town or out at Fox Creek.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Announcing our First, and Possibly Last, Poll Ever


Now, take a moment and tell me where this picture was taken.

Anchorage? Wasilla? Suburban Insert-Name-of-Major-City-Here?

Nope, nope, and nope. This, my peoples, is a shot taken this morning at Squarebank's own bit of big box store/chain store Hell sprawl out by the Steese Highway. Note the Carl's Jr.1 in the background, which accompanies the Chili's (blag!) and the most recent addition to culinary excellence, yet another McDonald's.

It is also the subject of our first ever poll! What is the best epithet nickname for our shiny new homage to conspicuous consumption? Your choices are at right - and if you have a better one, by which I mean a funnier or nastier one, please share in the comments section.

1Photo taken while driving the Soob in that neck of the (former) woods. Had I more time and the stomach to remain in the area doing laps for better pictures, I would've definitely captured what is to me a new phenomenon: two lane drive-thrus. Seriously, at any given moment of the day, cars are lined up in side by side drive-thrus? When did this become normal?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thankful: An Alaskan Post T-Day List

Happy T-Day my peoples. And not to go all fluffy bunny on ya, but we have many reasons to be thankful, or at the least, much less cranky:

On the personal level, we didn't run out of propane while cooking yesterday's meal. When I ran out to Goldstream Store, I took along a spare bottle because I'd checked the bottle in use and it was rather light. Scary. But getting propane there is dicey; only one employee is on shift at a time, so you have to hit the store at the exact time that no one other than you and said employee are present so the employee can lock up the store, walk out to the big tank, and fill yours. There was no way that was gonna happen yesterday. So, I went home having purchased some mayonnaise (the original reason for the trip) and we broke out the trusty Coleman to conserve the propane for the bird.

A few weeks ago, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed a victory of sorts to the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council which had been fighting to prevent Coeur Alaska from dumping several million tons of mine tailings into Lower Slate Lake. When was the last time Alaskan environmentalists had a victory? I say of 'victory of sorts' because Coeur could go ahead and appeal the decision to the Supreme Court and we all know how long a deep-pocketed resource extraction corporation can keep things in court. [Cough.] Exxon bastards.

Palin. Okay, I admit it, I like her. (But not in that way, pervy dudes out there.) But as a voter who refuses to declare a party but tends to vote for the Dems, I am shocked. Shocked, I tell you. Who, who on earth would have imagined back in the days of Frank the Bank that we'd have a Republican governor who would take on Big Oil and get the PPT raised to 25 percent? Oh sure, she had a unique opportunity because of the Corrupt Bastards trials - but she led on this one. At this point, Alaska Democrats ought to just write off the office of governor for a while.

Palin is so universally popular, she could get caught on video taking a bong hit while wearing a PETA t-shirt at a dinner of farm-raised salmon served at a same-sex couple's commitment ceremony and she'd still get elected. [Ed. note: this sentence became its own paragraph on Nov. 27. Chalk it up to a case of amusing oneself.]

Shishmaref did not get washed out to sea, thanks to the timely arrival of some slush ice. Which is a good thing for everyone except that news crew that went out there to cover the storm's arrival in the fashion of disaster weather journalism down south.

Only 423 days left in G. Dubyah's presidency!

Thanks to the generosity of friends and family, we have muktuk!
Above: Taters boiling on the trusty $10 Coleman which is sitting on a cable reel, outhouse in the background, Christmas tree lights above. Was there ever a more typical Squarebanks scene? I think not. At least 15 CabinDwelling points.

At right: Muktuk! Served yesterday with soy sauce and wasabi. Quyana!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Tagged: Seven Weird Things About Me

The following are brought to you courtesy of Theresa, who tagged me as part of the 'Seven Weird Things About Me' thing. It was difficult to limit myself to only seven:
  1. My second toes are longer than my big toes.
  2. As a kid in the suburbs practicing karate at a pretty traditional Japanese school, they actually taught me the sword kata to assist someone committing seppuku (suicide.) I remember practicing it (the kata) before a belt test.
  3. Not only am I a music addict, I get completely infatuated with songs/albums on occasion and play them repeatedly until I drive everyone around me crazy.
  4. I find women who play bass hot.
  5. I'm convinced that one could have a kicking bluegrass band that adapted classic ska and punk songs. And I plan to take up mandolin before I turn 40.
  6. When brushing my teeth, I also brush my tongue, having being brought up to do so because supposedly it helps keep bad breath at bay.
  7. I'm 25 percent Greek, 25 percent hillbilly (of probable Scots Irish or English extraction) and 50 percent Belgian. The practical consequences of this are olive skin, a certain degree of hirsuteness, and a fondness for bourbon. Flic believes it also brings a certain knack for making biscuits.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Refurbishing underway

With a year and change into this whole blog thing, it's time for a few renovations. So expect to see some weird formatting stuff on occasion - the look is going to change, some of the links are going to change... and sometimes it might look totally FUBARed. Actually, that might occur frequently.

Am proceeding with no exact plan in mind, other than wanting to change the look.

Am not necessarily happy with the readability of the text in the header, but please see above.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Prohibiting Dumpster Diving: can we just toss this lousy idea?

Wow, if you've been following this in the FDNM, or over at the Ester Republic, or wherever else this one has drawn the hue and cry of greater Squarebanksia -- people get really irate when you entertain the notion to stop them from scavenging at the transfer sites.

Sure, in theory you'll get those folks rummaging in the actual trash bins to stop doing so, [insert requisite public health message here], but you'll put a stop to that fine tradition of building a cabin or adding on to your existing one with materials entirely scavenged from the transfer site.

It will also quash my dreams of somehow building a sauna that way. You can't steal a woman's dream like that. What's next? Kicking puppies?

As someone who is now only an occasional, opportunistic (as opposed to a habitual) recycler of unwanted goods, I must add that this one is such a no-brainer that I can't believe anyone is taking the suggestion seriously. But then again, I thought much the same thing before we elected1 G. Dubyah Bush the first time.

As well as the second. The civics lesson here is never assume that an idea is so bad it won't advance to actual implementation. (Hmmm. Iran, anyone?)

For the record, last weekend, we found this nice collection of household wares perfect for the S.O.'s UAF-attending sister. Someone had thoughtfully placed said wares in an empty Miller Lite box in the reuse area.

The sad thing is, the reuse area at the transfer site is the closest thing we have to a proper recycling effort around here. We're keeping perfectly usable stuff out of the landfill, a landfill, I might add, where we now send formerly recycled items from our now sadly minimal recycling program like paper, cardboard and glass. The borough was supposedly working on this, but that effort seems to have withered away.

1Yes, I know, technically we didn't elect him.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To be played over the next Big Oil commercial

Tired, incensed, ready to shoot the teevee the next time one of Big Oil's cinematographically exquisite bits of propaganda comes on?1 Turn down the volume and cue up this tune on your computer, or iPod, or if you are something of a Luddite like me, your CD player.

Play it very loudly. It really makes the experience quite tolerable.

Propaganda, by The Slackers:
So, tell me more about my situation
and evil men, who are coming for my nation
and evil forces, who are coming for my freedom
secret Congress, nobody ever see them from propaganda

(Propaganda)
Now, it's everywhere I look,
it's propaganda (propaganda)
it's just like history books,
propaganda (propaganda),
everywhere I go

Hey, mister, (mister, please)...
would you tell me what you know?
hey, mister,
c'mon tell me what you know?

Since somebody wants to make a confrontation
they won't get no play on your radio station
and they will get no time on the television,
word's been sent down from the owner corporation

Propaganda (propaganda)
now, it's everywhere I go,
it's propaganda (propaganda)
it's on my TV shows,
propaganda (propaganda),
everywhere I go

Hey, mister, (mister please)
c'mon tell me what you know?
Hey, mister,
can tell me what you know?

I'll tell you what I know:

When your Congressmen to your President,
are all businessmen just scheming
and telling who's your enemy and who's your friend
well, I'm not sure that I believe them.

The streetside posters are encouraging me peeping
to report my local terrorists and the company they're keeping

It's propaganda (propaganda)
now, it's everywhere I look,
it's propaganda (propaganda)
man, it's just like in history books,
propaganda (propaganda),
it's everywhere I go.

Well, hey, mister, (mister please)
c'mon tell me what you know?

Now who are they, in Guantanamo Bay, sir?
'cause there ain't no names and no crimes written in my paper
the racial prisioner, who is wondering what his charge is
secret meetings, in taxi cab garages

Propaganda (propaganda)
now, it's everywhere I go,
you know, the propaganda (propaganda)
man, it's on my radio,
propaganda (Propaganda),
everywhere I go.

Hey, mister, (mister please)
c'mon tell me what you know?
hey, mister,
can tell me what you know?
This would also make a fine background to the next State of the Union address. Or progress on the war briefing.

Actually, it would be fine for any number of occasions.

1A la Elvis. I figure this is a real possibility up here. Once, explaining the differences between progressives in Alaska and those from the Lower 48 (and it's not just that many of us eat meat) I summarized saying, "Up here, even the liberals have guns."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

APRN tackles blogs in Alaska, sort of

I tuned into APRN's Talk of Alaska, one of my favorite shows, this morning hoping to hear some interesting discussion on the topics of blogs with Steve "Primal" Heimel.

My hopes, and I'm fully willing to admit that that my reaction may be colored by the onset of seasonal bitchiness disorder, were dashed. The converstation began with a "wow, check out these new things called blogs" tack, followed by a brief stay at the mainstream media v. unchecked amateurs (that would be us) theme, and ended up settling into "are the bloggers being too mean to Vic Kohring?" and staying there.

No, we're not being too mean to Kohring, or any of the other Corrupt Bastards, for that matter. Most of what I have read about the topic hasn't come across as personal attacks, or the 'piling on' phenomena common to those crazy right-wing talk radio types -- it's been pure outrage. And as much as I hate bumper sticker slogans, if you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.

TOA had on Alaskan bloggers Phil Munger and Steve Aufrecht (who have covered the Vic Kohring trial extensively in a way that makes me jealous.) Munger has started a new "Progressive Alaska" blog - welcome, by the way - which I'm looking forward to adding to my daily reading. If anything, perhaps it will mitigate extreme disdain for Wasilla.

I've promised Flic that I will host a Corrupt Bastards party if and when either Uncled Ted or Ben Stevens gets convicted of something. I confess that I'm a little scared at the idea of the possibility that Uncle Ted might get got. Or, as Flic might say, "Kott."

Because yes, he is rather a cranky, old (possibly Corrupt) bastard. But he is our cranky, old, (possibly Corrupt) earmark-bringing bastard. Perhaps the FBI could just settle for Jim Clark? Or according to local rumor, TCC?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Yet Another Thing to Cross off the List

Duct tape? Check.
Blow dryer? Check.
Cool shrinky plastic sheets? Check.
Staple gun? Check.

It's that time again, y'all, for that seasonal rite known as "The Application of the Shrinking Plastic and Duct Tape to All Windows in the Cabin."

If you've never been a nearly broke, cheapskate, transfer-station-frequenting, Cabindwelling-type living in the gods' own special deep freeze1 you probably can't understand how obsessed a person can get with heat loss. One starts out reasonably normal, or at least semi-normal, but then spends winter in a succession of marginally insulated rental cabins.

Signs that your domicile is inadequately insulated:
  • The dog's water dish freezes solid. Inside the cabin in the kitchen.
  • The monitor heater won't get above 58 degrees running on 'high'.
  • The butter you left out to soften doesn't.
  • You stay up late watching tv wearing a knit hat and coat.
  • When you finally inspect the underside of the building, you find insulation. However, all of it is on the ground.
  • You burn through 300 gallons of fuel oil in two months.
  • You run out of fuel oil at 4 a.m., and it's somewhere in the mid -30s, and you know how quickly the temperature is doing to drop indoors that you have no choice but to drive the nearest gas station and fill every empty gas container you own with diesel fuel.

    Because nothing beats perching on a rickety ladder at 4:30 a.m. refilling your fuel tank with five gallon containers.

    Eight years and five rental cabins later, you're blowdrying that neat shrinky plastic stuff to every window box in the house.

    Oh, the duct tape? Right. See, the anemic tape they give you in the window kits can't hack how dry it gets here in the winter. Voila! Another perfect use for duct tape. And the staple gun? That's just to make sure the duct tape doesn't start peeling off either. Like I said, obsessed, with perhaps a touch of hypervigilance.

    Above: Shrinky plastic fun!
    1That would be Squarebanks.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Musing on the CabinDwelling Life, Part VIII: Winter and the Aged Subaru

Or, Coming to Terms With the Fact that Winter is Here and You Can't Drive Without Working Lights and Heat So You Better Get Off Your Butt and Fix Some Stuff.

Well, it's back to plugging the car in at night. Better to build the habit now, lest you forget to on a nice 40 below night and end up stuck until you can manage to heat the car up with a borrowed Redi Heater and a blue tarp.

Not that that has ever happened to me or anything.

As you might have noticed so far, if you're one of those kindly, strange souls who read this odd little blog regularly, I'm not only wordy, I am something of a procrastinator.

So it will come as no big surprise that I have needed to fix a cracked headlight lens for oh, say, about a year. That, and I've been losing fan speeds one by one over the last 3 years and I only had one left.

"One speed works just fine," you're saying. "You drive a 17 year-old Loyale. Deal with it, whiner."

Ah, but what happens when you lose that last speed? Suddenly, you're driving down the road at -35 with no defroster, colder than Hell, one hand responsible for both the steering wheel and stick shift, the other frantically scraping a 5" by 5" square of windshield with your least favorite credit card so you can see the road through your otherwise completely frosted over windshield.

Trust me, you don't want this happening, particularly during morning rush hour on the Seward Highway in Anchorage in the middle of a snowstorm.

Not that that has ever happened to me or anything.

One $65 dollar blower motor resistor, 3 screws, 5 minutes of effort, and I had all four speeds again. Luxury!

The headlight lens finally gave out under the constant assault of road gravel out here. Thereafter, water got into the lens when it rained, causing light bulbs to have a tendency to explode. Frequently. Rather than fix it, I've been buying $9 dollar light bulbs. For a whole freaking year.

And, I might add, inquisitive troopers love an opportunity to pull a person over for driving with one headlight.

Not that that has ever happened to me or anything.

Above: The offending part, the blower motor resistor.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

By which I explain my absence

If this state were an outhouse, we'd be applying a generous portion of lime right now to beat down the stink.

I've been rendered speechless, wordless, rude-gesture-less lately, so buried under the absolute bullshit thrown at regular type folks who just want to pay their damn taxes and not be appalled constantly by the behavior of those we've somehow elected to make decisions ... and not be reminded too often how this is one gargantuan corporatocracy... that I have been unable to even so much as read a blog.

My grammar has gone all to hell, too.

It's the sheer quantity, audacity and ahistorical sensibility of the b.s. proffered by those "Kott with their hands in the cookie jar" -- as one of my fave bloggers pointed out -- it's what we always knew deep down about how deep the political corruption goes in this state. We know our asses are owned. (To use one of the less colorful phrases uttered by Bill Allen on tape.)

I mean, none of the legislators involved even have the decency to be ashamed. They don't even seem to get that it might look bad, notwithstanding the whole unethical thing. Whether it was Kott's 30 grand "per diem" in cash or Kohring's "loan" - they really just don't get it. Are they more clueless than corrupt, or so corrupt they are clueless?

Good God, as I'm writing this post, I can hear in the background another one of Big Oil's ads on television. Because our steady diet of televised industry propaganda won't cease even if it is running only an hour after the news coverage of the spectacularly tentacular scandal that is still unfolding. Psst! Did ya hear? We ought to lower Big Oil's taxes. Seriously. Because they might leave if we don't roll over and play dead during the special session on the PPT.

That's the PPT enacted last year amidst a flurry of promises made and Big Oil money spent.

At right: the CabinDwelling outhouse, stink-free, thanks to fall temperatures. Antlers on outhouse installed by previous residents, who seem to have thought that antlers should be hung randomly on trees and outbuildings around the property. Seriously, you can't wander about without finding yet another set of antlers wired to a tree.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Flic's Baker's Dozen

A non-fiction reading list

With snow on the ground, icy roads, and increasing dark, no question, winter is upon us. Time to crack out the wine, load up the woodstove and settle in for hibernation. Here then to pass time, or for those cabin dwellers lucky enough or with enough Alaska air miles to escape to warmer climes – a reading list of some of my favorite quirky and informative non-fiction books. These are listed in no particular order of preference.

1. The Mummy Congress – Science, Obsession and the Everlasting Dead; Heather Pringle
Full of fascinating factoids about mummies (Victorians consumed a huge percentage of Egypt’s archeological history when they indulged their passion for eating powdered mummies as a restorative and curative), as well as stories about mummification both successful and bungled (the spectacular failure of terrified Russians to successfully embalm Stalin), this book is a totally engrossing read about humans’ everlasting attempts to cheat decay and rot.

2. Skipping Towards Gomorrah: The Seven Deadly Sins and the Pursuit of Happiness in America; Dan Savage. Those of you who have access or interest in Seattle newspapers will know Dan Savage’s , well, savage wit. This book is no different. He takes his readers on a hilarious and intimate exploration of the seven deadlies, as seen through the eyes of some of America’s most fervent followers.

3. Sex with Kings: 500 Years of Adultery, Power, Rivalry and Revenge; Eleanor Herman. Need I say more, the title says it all.

4. Ghetto Nation – A Journey into the Land of the Bling and the Home of the Shameless; Cora Daniels. If there is any doubt that people tend to ooze to the lowest common denominator – this book dispels it. A scathing and insightful look at the rise of “ghetto” which at its most fundamental devalues education, demeans women, and celebrates the worst African American stereotypes, this author, herself an African American woman who grew up in the inner city spares no punches. If you think that having to listen to cell phone conversations about someone’s Chlamydia outbreak while in line for a latte is just rude (actually its ghetto) this book is for you.

5. The 64$ Tomato – How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden; William Alexander. For both long-time and new gardeners in Alaska, this book is an amusing read. It recounts the struggles of an urbanite relocated to a small town in upstate NY to create and nurture a large kitchen garden. I found it hard to relate to the trials endured from inept landscapers, and failed installations of in-ground swimming pools, but the tales of man against woodchucks, moles, and other wildlife made this an entertaining read. Even for piss-poor cabin dwellers, there is something to relate to in this accounting of domestic v. wild.

6. Big Coal: The Dirty Secret Behind America’s Energy Future; Jeff Goodell. Nominally about the resurgence of coal as a major industry under the Bush Administration, this book provides a good overview of the geology of coal and its extraction, including the devastation now wrought by mountain top removal, the history of coal mining in the United States, and the politics and shenanigans of the industry itself – which includes not only the big coal mining companies, but the power companies that burn it, and the railroads that ship it. The last third of the book is devoted to examining the contributions of coal-fired power plants to global warming.

7. Reefer Madness, Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market; Eric Schlosser. An eye-opening treatise on the American government’s manipulation of and corporate America’s contributions to the mainstays of the American underground – drugs (in this book, pot), pornography and illegal immigrant labor.

8. Confederates in the Attic – Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War; Tony Horwitz. A madcap and zany journey alongside some of the South’s most ardent Civil War re-enactors. From the guy who could so convincing bloat (as in dead on the battlefield) that he has many cameo appearances in Civil War movies to his credit, to those that starved themselves to get the authentic look of a Confederate solider, this is the book for a long flight. Totally entertaining.

9. Garlic and Sapphires – The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise; Ruth Reichl. This is a very entertaining look into the life of a creative and brutal food critic for the New York Times. Not only is it amusing to read about her complex efforts at disguise (to foil restaurateurs on the look-out for her visit), but it is a boon in this cuisine-starved town to read about some of the culinary adventures she enjoyed.

10. Chasing Kangaroos- A Continent., a Scientist, and a Search for the World’s Most Extraordinary Creature; Tim Flannery. A well known scientist, down under and elsewhere, Flannery combines a lot of scientific information about ‘roos with a huge amount of amusing oddities about Australia. This is 19th century naturalist writing at its finest, although with modern science and sensibilities. It fostered in this armchair traveler a strong and urgent desire to visit Australia to see not only ‘roos but the fantastic and different vegetation and geography ASAP.

11. Under the Banner of Heaven – A Story of Violent Faith; Jon Krakauer. In my view, by writing this, Krakauer just about redeems himself for that pathetic paean to Chris McCandless he wrote. I once spent a summer in the deeps of Utah in a staunchly Mormon town (including not a few fundamentalists), and after that experience I viewed fundamentalist Mormons as slightly wackier than their mainstream counterparts. Had I known their bloodthirsty and violent past, I doubt I would have been so sanguine. And for any readers who travel to the Yucatan, a visit to the Mormon cake shop in a little townlet south of Mahahual, but not yet to Chetumal is a must do – the cakes are mediocre at best, but where else can you purchase provender made by polygamists – some of those that relocated south and north of the borders when the feds really started cracking down on polygamy.

12. Captured by Aliens – the Search for Life and Truth in a Very Large Universe; Joel Achenbach; Written just a bit before Y2K, this book is a little dated (it features some of the zanies who were prepping for the Armageddon precipitated by the flip of the millennium) but its still a good read about man’s (and woman’s) quest for extra-terrestrials....from scientists at NASA to conspiracy nut theorists who flock to Roswell. It doesn’t omit the Heaven’s Gate debacle either.

13. Random Family – Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx; Adrian Nicole LeBlanc; non-fiction that reads like a novel, this is the story of two women growing up in the Bronx – and their involvement in the real gangsta ghetto life. This isn’t the ghetto of ad agencies and record companies – although superficially it has all the bling, guns, drugs, and baby mamas that commercial ghetto pitches. But unlike Paris and Nicole, who can shed their ghetto-ness when it becomes déclassé, these women are stuck with the ugly life: prison, violent and young death, unwanted pregnancies, single parent child-rearing and a constant struggle for food, safety and a modicum of normalcy within which to raise their kids.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

It Takes a Hill-billy

Or at least hill-billy genes to make good flaky biscuits. Cabin Dweller, being of solid HB stock poo-poos this notion, but the bottom line is, its been my experience that generally, I suck at biscuit making (they come out much like hockey pucks - as verfied by many, including 'Dweller). Some months back, 'Dweller, feeling sorry for my lamentable and laughable attempts at biscuit-making, did coach this East-Coaster - and I do believe some of the genes done plum wore off - pic of latest biscuit efforts at right, and yup they were darn flaky!!*


Actually, these were made from a good old farm receipe from Iowa, from whence my matrilineal ancestors hail...maybe that was the trick - I was just out of my region of origin....


*resulting in my scarfing about 4 of them in a sitting, slathered in butter- bring on the alli!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Greetings from the Lower Kuskokwim

It's beautiful down here. Trees schmees. Who needs 'em?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Is Exercise Really That Bad????

The latest in diet pills brought you by Big Pharma is something called "alli" - with a little horizontal line over the "i" - which I cant reproduce here because I am an html midget.

Sooo, in addition to all the usual promises (although this one -surprise, surprise - claims to be different than all the rest) alli is not simply a pill but a pill with a plan...but all that aside, lets just take a look at its treatement effects* ... lifted from one of their print ads:

'...if you eat too much fat you may experience treatment effects (emphasis in original), including loose or more frequent stools, an urgent need to go to the bathroom, or gas with an oily discharge.'

Gas with an oily discharge?????!!!!! Now wait a minute - it's bad enough having to cut one during a business meeting and ferverntly hoping it wont be a SBD, but piling on the worry that there might be some kind of weird french fry-like stain seeping through the back of the Liz Claiborne and possibly onto the upholstery? Mais non!
Come on sheeple - is doing a little bit more exercise and eating a bit less so much worse than taking a pill that gives one the runs and oily farts? Has this super-size nation gone so low down that there really is a market of people willing to have skid marks in their undies just so they dont have to work to get rid of the excess?
Wow. I can only imagine the groaning and swearing when the ad team got handed the alli specs. But mastery of the glitz, power of the message - alli copy gets one all lathered up about taking one's weight under one's own control (as if getting morbidly obese** in the first place was just an act of god), and in a sort of Nike-esque "Just Do It" kind of fervour distracts from those important caveats (loose stool et al) with catchy visuals and patter. No skid marks there, just cute puppies and can-do women!
*a less startling word perhaps than the troublesome "side effects"
** I can only assume it's those with one leg in the grave that would even consider taking this snake oil

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kott with his Hands in the Cookie Jar!

Four down, how many more to go?

Noticed today in Freddie's that they already have a few aisles of Christmas lights and lighted lawn ornaments on display. The sight of those fat inflatable lawn Santas got me to humming that little ditty in my head - you know the one: He's making a list; Checking it twice; Gonna find out who's naughty or nice, Oh! Santa Claus is coming to town!!!

Well, here is a more au courant version of it (at least for Alaska)

Santa's the FBI's Little List ---

Tom Anderson : Naughty Convicted

Bill Allen: Very, Very, Very Naughty Convicted

Rick Smith: Naughty Convicted

Pete Kott: Naughty and Easy Convicted

Bruce Weyhrauch: Naughty Indicted

Vic Kohring: Naughty Indicted

Ben Stevens: Very Naughty In the Bag

Ted Stevens: Very, Very Naughty and Haughty In the Bag

Don Young: Naughty and Rude In the Bag

Frank Murkowski: Naughty and Slow Give 'im rope

Jim Clark: Very, Very, Very Naughty There's always hope


And for those of you that didnt catch the pic on the ADN site - here is the red hat that was entered into evidence at Kott's trial - an example of the (in)famous Corrupt Bastards Club hat, which as it turns out were VECO hats with CBC hand-embroidered on the back by Kott's girlfriend. How very frat!



Sunday, September 23, 2007

It's hard to keep up a blog

When you have no Internet access at home.

Also, when you now have a proper job where you can't spend time dinking about with your blog.

So, expect limited updates for a little longer. But Flic certainly has a way with a headline, doesn't she?

On a side note, my first nomination for FBH's new Al Swearengen Award (an end of the year thing) goes to Bill Allen, former VECO Grand Poobah. Goddammit!

1000 Words

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

FBI to Ben Stevens: "Kott-cha"

Nothing more needs to be said as former Rep. Pete Kott's trial on bribery, conspiracy, extortion and oh yeah, lets not forget, wire fraud gets underway.

The ADN is doing a great job with coverage - much appreciated by this former cabin dweller who would love to be sitting in the public gallery through this and all subsequent trials of the bagged members of our infamous corrupt bastards club, but alas, lacks the personal wealth sufficient to allow for that much time off.

In listening to today's audio offering on ADN's website- recorded cell phone conversations between Kott and Bill Allen - I was surprised to hear we had, and didnt know, our very own version of Larry the Cable Guy. Hmmmmmmm. Maybe a stand-up comedy circuit would have been a better post-Lege career pursuit for Kott than Barbados prison warden. GET 'ER DONE!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

How global warming is threatening the igloos in Alaska

Not to belabor the whole igloo thing, but...

Greetings from NYC. I am safely ensconced at a friend's house in Brooklyn, where I am enjoying the view of Manhattan and typing away on a Mac Power Book thingey. My friend's husband just published a book, "Father Knows Less" and is getting crazy publicity and doing a whole bunch of readings and signings and stuff.

Oh, and it's been a while, so just in case you've forgotten - Bong Hits for Jesus!

So a couple of days ago I was pleased to note the entire lack of igloo-related questions posed by family members. Not something to opine about every day, but it gets revisited once in a while when I am down here in the Lower 48 and the insta-Alaskan celebrity.

Sooooo. I was watching late night television, cable in fact, when I paused from desperately flipping through channels in search of anything worth watching (hello, Deirdre!) I happened upon some new late night talk show called "Chelsea Lately."

Don't ask, okay?

So, her guest was a young woman in a rather revealing red dress associated with the Playboy empire - I tuned in midway through the segment and it was pretty late, so that's all I know. But the woman, who I assume worked at the Hefner mansion, grew up in Ketchikan, in fact. (I'll refer to her as the Playboy Chick or PBC.) And the PBC mentioned that she had vacationed with her coworkers in Alaska, but that "Heff" (presumably Hefner) hadn't gone. And the host asked, "What? Is he afraid of Eskimos?" And suddenly they were discussing Alaska. So the conversation turned to Alaska, dirt roads, nice place to be from, etc, etc. Usual stuff. But then the million dollar question came from the host.

How is global warming affecting the igloos? She was very concerned about the status of igloos due to global warming. And given how little a lot of folks know about AK, ya know, not surprising.

But the poor former Ketchikan chick - clearly, this was not a topic she had considered. So she gave it her best shot as an impromptu Alaskan ambassador and went the logical route, confirming that indeed, global warming is a problem for the igloos.

Man, I better notify some friends out on the coast - they'll be bummed to hear that their igloos are at risk.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Trapped in the wilds of suburban Detroit

Seriously, help! y'all.

I'm here on the outskirts of the Motor City at my parents' house, in the deep, dark heart of manicured lawns and Edward Scissorhands' style housing.

Not kidding. I could walk out of the house and walk into the neighbors and know the floor plan, because they only used two floor plans for the entire neighborhood. The other floor plan is the one they used across the street.

I survived a family event yesterday, but spent a lot of time explaining the whole 'no running water' thing. I suspect this will decrease the chances that anyone is going to visit Squarebanks (or me) any time soon. But my suburban relatives really had a hard time grasping the nuances of the phrase 'dry cabin.'

Yes, many of us outside city limits have an outhouse.
What do we do at -40? We make it a quick trip.
No, I do not have a shower or plumbed sink.
Hauling water means stopping at the Water Wagon, feeding it some quarters, and driving off with 50 gallons or so of H20.
Yes, that does suck at -40.

I'm quite proud of them. After 15 years, I no longer get the questions about 'Eskimos' living in igloos (they don't, in case you live in Anchorage and haven't found this out yet), polar bears (not around Fairbanks), and whether it is like The Show That Will Not Be Named.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Moose v. Gardener: Insult to Injury

Exhibit A: Apparently, eating the broccoli and brussel sprouts was not enough. A young moose, judging by the hoofprints, decided to sample the swiss chard and collards in the wee hours, but ignored the kale.
I need to learn how to hunt with a bow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Oh Summer, Whereart Thou?

Above: Darla, at her former residence in Kasilof, prior to the Anchorage trailer park, prior to her new home in the Goldstream Valley. Note: We get an additional 50 CabinDwelling points for having a vintage, somewhat running automotive monstrosity parked on the property.
Don't be fooled by the lovely, warm summery days we've had for the last few days. Summer is on the ropes, which means it is time for an evaluation of The Great Big Honking Summer To Do List:
  1. Renovate the decrepit building on the property into a suitable house for chickens. Status: Incomplete, 0 chickens raised.
  2. In a related household compromise, build rabbit hutch and raise rabbits instead. Status: No hutch built, hence, no bunny killing required.
  3. Plant and maintain a decent garden. Status: Sort of. Plants were planted, some even from seed started here at the Compound, but not much has resulted, other than I've become something of an obsessive/compulsive weeder. But there is hope yet in the form of beets, potatoes and carrots.
  4. Build fence for garden to prevent reoccurance of moose caused brussel sprout calamity. Status: Poles are stacked neatly next to garden. 0 homegrown brussel sprouts and broccoli consumed by me, 5 plants consumed by the itinerant moose population.
  5. Pick a vast quantity of blueberries, raspberries and nagoonberries for winter consumption and some terrific blueberry daiquiris. Status: A whopping 10 raspberries picked; several quart bags of blueberries picked by S.O. and sort of in-laws; and, I now know what a nagoonberry is.
  6. Catch salmon this year. Status: 29 reds and a king, quyannakpak, a nice split between fillets, steaks and smoked fish.
  7. Catch halibut Status: S.O. got to go on a charter with friends; halibut vacuum-packed in freezer.
  8. Move freezer to back of house where it is less of an eyesore. Status: Moved. I accidentally unplugged it rendering the remainder of last year's fishing/gathering a pungent blue mess at the bottom of the freezer. Note: if you can't lift a freezer, it is possible to move it by duct taping it shut and rolling it end over end up the hill, through the trees, around the cabin. Also, it is no longer tilty.
  9. Even more razor clamming. Status: 2 trips to Ninilchik, ~ 260 clams in freezer. Dirt is still embedded under my fingernails.
  10. Cut, haul, split firewood for winter. Status: Incomplete. Damn, damn, damn.
  11. Build wood shed. Status: This isn't really necessary yet.
  12. Gravel the muddy path to house, outhouse. Status: Halfway there. I'm on it. Tomorrow, on the day off.
  13. Spray foam under leaky parts underneath cabin. Visqueen underneath. Status: Not even started yet.
  14. Put in window on second story where none exists. Status: Have measured hole in wall.
  15. Retrieve Darla from her home in an Anchorage trailer park. Status: Friend towed her up here, which was cheaper than buying the gas. Note: Darla is a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

One More Item to Check Off the List of Things to Be Done, Lifewise

Wow.

The Cake show at the Blue Loon last night was the best one I've ever been to, ever. I'm in awe.

Years ago, back when the reign of the cassette tape had not yet ended, I used to tell people that I bet that Cake would be amazing to see live. And I was right!

No pics as of yet, won't have any until The Brit gets gets back from caribou hunting, but just imagine hundreds of ecstatic, drunken, dancing Fairbanks people singing along to the show outdoors on a beautiful, late summer night. The Loon had a separate partition for the under 21 crowd, so there were a bunch of thrilled little young things who drove up from Anchorage, where the venues are not so enlightened. There was more body surfing on that side of the fence, and it wasn't that we were more lame on the adult side, but that body surfers tend to make you spill your beer.

Lots of my fellow Goldstream Valley CabinDwelling types were in attendance. I saw quite a number of friends, but it was so crowded that once you lost track of someone, it was pret near impossible to find them.

At one point, lead singer John McRae observed:

"Wow. You're like a medieval village."

The crowd wasn't exactly sure what he meant by that, but chose to take it as a compliment and howled in approval.

You know how cool Cake is? They even covered a Buck Owens' tune.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Cake!

Everyone I know, apparently, is going to see Cake tonight.

Not that that means the show is sold out or anything. I don't know that many people.

But Yay! Cake has been one of my favorite bands since way back in the day, specifically 1994, when I made a cassette copy of the promo disc. Yes, we were still using things called cassettes, all you little young things out there. This was a time when IPods were not even around yet. Devices such as they were like jet packs or flying cars - something that one might read about in a geeky science magazine speculating on the future.

One of my favorite memories of that time, a kinder, gentler, pre-Dubyah one - one when I could still party like a rock star and make it to work, hungover and sleepless - is riding in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of other drunken, smokey 20somethings listening to Cake's first album, Motorcade of Generosity, on a tape-playing boombox as we drove out into the country outside that boozy little town in which I used to live. Since it was a cassette - and this is something that will no doubt shock the little young things who think CDs are an archaic bit of technology - it had a second side. So when we got done listening to Cake, we'd flip the tape over, hit rewind, and listen to the other side, which had my other new discovery at the time, Afro-Peruvian Classics: The Soul of Black Peru.

The two albums fit perfectly. They fit the landscape, and the whole Gen-X thing as much as I despise that stupid stereotype, and the fact that it was summer and we were bundled up so as not to get hypothermic in the back of that truck. (It was summer on the coast, y'all.)

My first favorite Cake song was "Rock and Roll Lifestyle."

"Well, your CD collection looks shiny and costly.
How much did you pay for your bad Moto Guzzi?
And how much did you spend on your black leather jacket?
Is it you or your parents in this income tax bracket?

Now tickets to concerts and drinking at clubs,
Sometimes for music that you haven't even heard of.
And how much did you pay for your rock'n'roll t-shirt
That proves you were there,
That you heard of them first?

How do you afford your rock'n'roll lifestyle?
How do you afford your rock'n'roll lifestyle?
How do you afford your rock'n'roll lifestyle?
Ah, tell me.

How much did you pay for the chunk of his guitar,
The one he ruthlessly smashed at the end of the show?
And how much will he pay for a brand new guitar,
One which he'll ruthlessly smash at the end of another show?
And how long will the workers keep building him new ones?
As long as their soda cans are red, white, and blue ones.
And how long will the workers keep building him new ones?
As long as their soda cans are red, white, and blue ones.

Aging black leather and hospital bills,
Tattoo removal and dozens of pills.
Your liver pays dearly now for youthful magic moments,
But rock on completely with some brand new components.

How do you afford your rock'n'roll lifestyle?
How do you afford your rock'n'roll lifestyle?
How do you afford your rock'n'roll lifestyle?

Excess ain't rebellion.
You're drinking what they're selling.
Your self-destruction doesn't hurt them.
Your chaos won't convert them.
They're so happy to rebuild it.
You'll never really kill it.
Yeah, excess ain't rebellion.
You're drinking what they're selling.
Excess ain't rebellion.
You're drinking,
You're drinking,
You're drinking what they're selling. "

Thursday, August 09, 2007

By Which I Explain My Absence: Insane Road Trip #3

Sheesh, it's been a while my peoples. Since I last sat my butt down and put some thoughts down on... God, I'm old. Does anyone else still think about putting their thoughts down on paper?

Yeah, since Chitina, and the frenzy of Foodsavering of fish, the smoking of fish, and other summer related stuff, all sorts of interesting thing have been happening, but I've had neither the time or the patience to sit down and put all my little rants into a post. It's summer, it's Alaska, and dammit, we'd better enjoy it while it lasts.

And dammit! I never got around to picking raspberries.

I say this because I can already feel summer waning. It got down into the 40s the other night and this great big sissy had to fire up the wood stove.

But, lest we forget, Bong Hits for Jesus!

So, the purchase of the Big Chief smoker has had an interesting effect on my household. Suddenly, the possibility of smoking all sorts of stuff is within my grasp: fish, moose, cornish game hens, cheese, etc. I was so overcome by the possibilities that when I happened upon a smoked clam brine I checked out the tide book and was compelled to drive to Ninilchik again to hit a really good razor clamming tide.

It was a fine trip, if a bit surreal in a sleep deprivation kind of way, and I introduced a good friend to the joy of digging razors. He's better at it than me. Bastard.

Ninilchik Razor Clamming Index:
  • Miles driven: 1200
  • Clams dug by me: 120
  • Miles per clam: 10
  • Miles per gallon: 29ish
  • Gallons per clam: Will someone who likes math help me out here?
  • Beers consumed: 23ish, I think. (It was kind of cold and blustery in a coastal way. Not so nice to hang out and drink beers. I had to switch to bourbon.)
  • Hours on road: 20+
  • Hours clamming: 3.5
  • Hours cleaning clams: 8? 10? It never ends.
  • My height: 5' 5.5"
  • My cohort in clamming's height: 6' 7"
  • Maximum height that a person sitting in The Soob can be and still manage to be comfortable (even with the seats pushed all the way back): 5'10"? 5' 9"? (Whatever it is, it is considerably less than 6' 7".)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Insane Summer Roadtrip #2: Chitina for Sockeye

I'm fresh back from Chitina, the favorite Fairbanksan destination to pursue salmon, but really the only thing fresh is the cooler full of fish. I'm stinky, exhausted and even more farmer tanned than before.

It's like my hands and legs belong to two different people.

So, the first time to Chitina with our merry band of Goldstream folk was quite a success - we all got our quota including the king. Not that I'll claim it had a lot to do with us. With dipnetting, timing and location are everything, so frequently you'll hear about someone getting skunked and another person fishing a short time before or after them going home all ready to finally buy that Foodsaver.

Yay! I finally had a reason to get one. At 2 a.m., however, we had to resign ourselves to leaving some of the fish on ice and continuing to process it this evening.

This urban subsistence thing is new to me and from what I can tell, it means you drive a really long way to try to get the food and because of the time spent enroute, you have to do it at a frenetic pace before you pack up the Soob and drive back in order to get back to work at the wage slave job.

Pictures, you ask? Ha. Someone entrusted me to watch the camera. We no longer own a camera, thanks to me, and I hope whoever found it enjoys the pictures of our fish and the ginormous king that the S.O. caught.

Thus far, we've stocked the chest freezer out back of the cabin with clams, halibut and salmon. Quyannakpak! Next up for our crazy summer season: berries! It should be a good year for them as they've gotten plenty of rain.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Musing on the CabinDwelling Life: Part VII, Yard Art

Stockpile of handy items or junk yard art? You decide.

It's been a long while, my peoples, has it not? Besides clam digging, gardening, beer-drinking and cultivating my farmer tan, damn, I've been working crazy hours. I finally had three days off in a row this week and spent most of them working at home. And, I must add, waaaaaaaaaah.

Bong hits for Jesus.

So, I decided that I'd had it with the totally junky look of the yard and borrowed Flic's pickup truck for a few dumpster runs. Gone now is the accumulation of mattresses in the driveway, along with the unsalvageable plywood, assorted wiring found under the cabin, the busted up garbage cans and rolled up carpet scraps.

My greenie friends can relax, not everything went to the dumpster. I gifted a 1970s era Fluke meter and an oscilloscope that I found under the cabin to an electronics enthusiast (nice term for geek, isn't it?) friend who thought them a great new toy.

However, I found myself in a unique situation when it came to the pile of cabinet doors stacked next to the cabin. Cabindwelling folk are, shall we say, thrifty. Scavenging is widely practiced, sometimes of entire buildings at once, as is its close cousin, dumpster diving. One of the previous occupants of my cabin had found 10 perfectly useable cabinet doors at the transfer station. Useable for what? I don't know, the kitchen cabinets already have doors.

But they were there, waiting, just in case we had an emergency requiring the application of cabinet doors.

Call me wasteful, call me uncreative, but it was time for the cabinet doors to return from whence they came. Back to the transfer they went, a little more weatherbeaten but still in perfectly good useable condition. I hope the nice people who picked them up give them a good home.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Who Are You and What Are You Doing To My Country? Playlist

Me: Mosquito-bitten, farmer-tanned, sleep-deprived. The usual summer state, except it is too early for a beer.

You?

Oh, and for the record, Bong Hits for Jesus.

Had a very fun and outraged political discussion last night and began assembling a mix CD. Haven't posted one in a while, so with little else to talk about, and even less time to post it, here it is, the "Who Are You And What Are You Doing to My Country?" playlist:
  1. State of the Union, by the Cloud Cult
  2. Memorial Day, by The Perceptionists
  3. Rich Man's War, by Steve Earle
  4. Television, the Drug of the Nation, by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy
  5. New World Order, by Ministry
  6. Gas Chamber, by L7
  7. American Idiot, by Green Day
  8. Life Music, Fakts One
  9. Orange Alert, by the Briefs
  10. Fight the Power, Public Enemy
  11. Youth Against Fascism, Sonic Youth
  12. The World's Gone Mad, Handsome Boy Modeling School
  13. It's a Hit, Rilo Kiley
  14. Burn One Down, Ben Harper
  15. Bulls on Parade, Rage Against the Machine
  16. Men of Worth, Mary Black (brilliant bit of back story on this one)1
  17. Your Flag Decal Won't Get You Into Heaven Anymore, John Prine
Suggestions? A few up there are pretty obvious, although I'm quite proud of managing to include songs sampling both Dubya and Dubya's Daddy (#1 and #5) on one mix CD. Thought about including some Ani Difranco or some other relevant artist, but again, sleep deprived.

1"The Archie Fisher-penned "Men Of Worth" has an interesting background. As the liner notes indicate, it was originally composed for a BBC program celebrating the new oil economy but was rejected due its ambivalent message of questioning the wisdom of trading a way of life for easy company money." http://www.rambles.net/black_song.html

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bong Hits For Jesus

Bong hits for Jesus.
Bong hits for Jesus?
Bong hits for Jesus!
Bong.
Hits.
For.
Jesus.
B.
O.
N.
G.
H.
I.
T.
S.
F.
O.
R.
J.
E.
S.
U.
S.

Probably at least six people decided to engage in illegal drug use because I typed that and it passed before their eyeballs. The mere display of such a phrase, by virtue of its insidious power, is a threat to mom, kittens, and the future return of red salmon at Chitina.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Insane Summer Road Trip #1: Ninilchik for Razor Clams

Myself, the S.O., two dogs and a coworker will pile into the Soob on a mad dash (after work) tomorrow to the Kenai Peninsula for one of my favorite summer hunting/gatherings activities: digging razor clams.

And what's a mere 600 miles, anyway?

Digging clams beats fishing for a number of reasons, mostly because they are a heck of a lot easier to get and require nothing more than an enthusiasm for playing in the mud and a clam shovel.

It's been a bit tough to post lately, what with the 1.5 job thing. But a synopsis of all the posts I'm not writing:

The world continues to flumox, amuse and depress, does it not? At the CabinDwelling Compound, beer has served as a remedy of sorts on several occasions. There was the 'Someone Gave us Half a Half Barrel of Silver Gulch' celebration, followed by the 'We Still Didn't Manage to Finish Off The Keg Somebody Gave Us' get together, followed by the 'Significant Other's Birthday' fete.

Besides beer drinking, numerous attempts have been made at the Chicken Coop to Be site. (Attempts made without beer involved for safety reasons.) It's a fixer upper project which means that we'll spend more time fixing it than would be required to just build a damned new one. If we were sensible, we'd just knock the whole thing down and start from scratch. I planned to just nail a few pieces of scrap wood here and there to the frame to make it stable enough to hold press plates and chicken wire. (And keep the birds in. And not collapse on them and kill them before we do.)

Thanks to the delays, (and there are always delays in construction, whether it is half-assed construction like I practice, or the professional kind) - it is getting late to get chicks. After all the talk of our planned Great Chicken Massacre of 2007 - it turns out we might not actually raise them.

The S.O. has suggested a substitute for chickens: Rabbits. I believe I agreed sometime around 1 a.m. to the idea and now face the possibility that we will be killing bunnies this fall. I'll cook rabbit, but I'm not killing any. And yes, there is a story behind that.

But must run off, have to pack up the Soob for two frenetic days of digging razor clams and trying to find a place to fish not entirely overrun by tourists.

Photo above found at http://wdfw.wa.gov.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Suddenly, Everyone is Paying Attention to the Money

Over at Alaskan Abroad, and at the ADN, there is the news that investigators are now looking at contributions to Uncle Ted and Don Young, a.k.a. That Bozo We Keep Inflicting on Ourselves.

Oh, go read the coverage, no need for me to summarize their stuff. Even the big dogs are on the story at the New York Times.

After reading about the latest possible scandal, I took a look at their finances as outlined at open.secrets.org (links over at the right.) How fascinating. For the time period reported, only 23.9 percent of Young's money comes from Alaska. 76.1 percent comes from Outside.

Why Knowles Lost: It Wasn't Just the Anemic Campaign

As part of Job 1.0 today, I met the Governor. And I can now report with certainty why she, not Tony Knowles, is our governor:

Men, even liberal, enlightened types, will vote for a pretty woman over another dude even if said woman is a Republican. The comments I heard from the dudes around the Job 1.0 workplace, on hearing that I would meet/had met Palin amounted to: "Ooh. Palin. Give her a big kiss for me," and "Oooh. Palin." I pointed out that:
  1. Planting one on Palin would not be the best publicity for Job 1.0
  2. She's not really my type
... but they were probably already too lost in typical male fantasizing about that sort of thing to really notice.

Even the woman present at Job 1.0 suggested we have bumperstickers printed that say, "Our Governor is hotter than your Governor."

Even Ish over at KoKon has a case of Governor Lust.

It was with some dismay that I realized that the Republicans merely need to keep running attractive women for governor and we will never elect another Democrat unless they find a more attractive one to run against her.

Tomorrow: chicken coop update. Maybe. Photos. Maybe. If I ever finish the damned thing.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Lege: Is No One Capable of Making a Sandwich?

I realize that times are rough for our legislators. Our expectations are high. One minute we're cutting the amount of time they spend working by 25 percent without cutting their pay; the next, we're expecting them to report when a lobbyist spends more than $15 on them at lunch.

The ADN has a story from the Juneau Empire on the new $15 lunch rule, which I found interesting. The new ethics rules don't stop anyone from getting an expensive meal and drinks on a lobbyist's tab, it just ensures that we, the folks who they are supposedly working for, might know who is getting wined and dined and how well. But the tone of the story was odd, it read like somehow lean times were ahead for the members of The Lege. It listed items on Juneau menus that our employees can have for a lunch with a lobbyist and not report it, along with things that are off limits for secret lunches.

I'm having a bit of trouble working up sympathy as I contemplate my lunch for today, a sandwich composed of whole wheat, peppered chicken, provolone and red onion. Wrapped in wax paper. Ooh, and Gatorade was on sale at Freddie's, so I'm having one of those, too. Big spendah!

It must be a trial to settle for the Baranof's wok-seared tuna, grilled baby lamb chops or dungeness crab cakes. How terrible to have to pass up the pesto-crusted Taku River wild salmon ($25.95) or the Halibut filet and Dungeness crab, ($25.95)! And only two glasses of wine at the Zephyr ($6.50 - $10) on the q.t.?

Hmmm. Wine or food? That would be a tough choice. If I were a legislator, I think I'd pick two glasses of unreported wine for lunch (just to make it through one of those committee meetings.)

I dunno, if I really, really, reaaaaaaaaaly wanted that pesto-crusted salmon, I just might consider ... having it? Reporting it?

Or, more radically, just buying my own damn lunch? If the situation is one of trading legislative favors for future lucrative consulting jobs/careers in corrections, couldn't I just eat on my own dime for appearance's sake, banking on that fat paycheck courtesy of the lobbyist's employer in the not-that-distant future? Hell, I could save the receipts from all the lunches I'm being forced to buy and hand the lobbyist a summary a few years down the line.

Back here in Squarebanks, the sort of real world, I'm still considering asking my boss to only require me to show up 30 hours per week and still pay me for my full 40.