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.


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, 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.