Monday, December 29, 2008

Holy Inversion, Batman

Lest you think I'm on any drugs other than caffeine at the moment, I'm not.

Ah, the press the advent of some real winter temps has gathered. By now, even those only acquainted with -40 by way of reading about it online have heard about thermal inversions, ice fog, all that good stuff.

But this morning was a whole new chapter for me.

Conventional wisdom holds that down low is cold, and those living up in the hills in what we call "The Banana Belt" are not so cold. But wind, apparently, plays havoc on the situation. A light breeze was in my neighborhood last night and this morning, mucking the whole thing up, and it was -4 degrees.

Minus four.

I'm not kidding. Down on the valley floor, at my house. It had only been about -12 the evening before.

Even stranger was when I drove UP Ballaine Hill and the thermometer on my car begin to drop off. It was -8 at the top. Of course, once I descended down to Farmers Loop and the University area, the thermometer began to drop down to 'normal' temps.

Now, either I have a bum thermometer or this was a strange localized phenomena. Comments? Some scientificky explanation?

Friday, December 26, 2008

Oh, Tannenbomb

At right: The Happy Light. No, really. It's the actual name.

How embarassing is it to contract a raging bout of SAD in what is easily the wimpiest Fairbanks winter in recent memory?

That question was not rhetorical. It sucks. I've lost at least 453 Alaska points. It is like getting beaten by the Detroit Lions, who I must add, are my home team.

I'm getting my ass kicked by a winter that could have occurred in the Lower 48 in the year that my home team is going to set THE record for being the worst team ever in the recorded history of team sports. Why settle for mere medicocrity when one can find the athletic equivalent of absolute zero?

No 40 below yet. Not once. Barely, maybe an unofficial -29. The propane hasn't stopped flowing due to the cold. No squarish tires in the morning. The dog hasn't once curled up into a ball rather than do her business.

But here I sit, grumpy and fidgety alternating with sluglike, and having not posted since Barack Obama was elected President. This is as bad as my first Alaskan winter, some years ago, when over the course of the dark months I changed my hair color 3 times. I had a housemate cut my hair, but all he knew how to cut was an angled bob. As other housemates also succumbed to SAD, by the end of winter we morphed into this pack of angled bob wearing women with bad home dye jobs.

Ah, even now I feel myself slipping back into the sweet embrace of slugdom. Slugdom, of course, being improved vastly with a bottle of dark, dark beer:

Let's just say that my approach to winter has been Sheaf Stout, fried foods and really bad television series through Netflix.

Flic, (despite her tree-killing tendencies) has remained reasonably sane and cheerful, a state she attributes to her purchase of the "Happy Light." One of my coworkers has one on her desk. Supposedly 15-30 minutes per days "guarantees a positive mood." Yeah, well, go ahead and try it, Happy Light.

Flic has been a very good friend this winter, i.e. a very patient one, though I suspect she is getting tired of my brush offs about the Happy Light. In fact, she made me swear that before I do anything rash (be it relationship or otherwise) that I will buy a light and use it first.

Of course, being perverse and in the throes of SAD, I have another theory: it's been too damn easy this year. See, the reasoning is that when it is as cold and dark as it ought to be, I'm conscious of the necessity of making an effort. In times like this year, with no external factors influencing my behavior, I'm a great big slug. What I need, in that case, is not a Happy Light, but a good healthy dose of -40. A shock to the system, if you will.

We'll see soon, though. If the National Weather Service is right, the temperatures are finally going to drop tonight and stay with us until next week at least.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Dark Time in Fairbanks

Even though we have less than four hours of daylight at this time of year- the holiday season with all of its lights , celebrations, and festivities with friends and family traditionally make late December more a time of light and cheer than a dismal reminder that we still have two more months of cold and dark.

Except this year. This year it is darker than usual in Fairbanks and the reason is the wanton, terrible murder of a gentle, unassuming soul who was always friendly and open to visitors and customers. Daniel Fredrick harmed no one, loved his pets and had many friends and acquaintances. As the long time proprietor of Blondie's Military Surplus, he and his lineage of "Blondie" dog(s) were iconic in this town. In fact, it is probably safe to say, that over the last quarter century, most Fairbanks newbies completed at least one pilgrimage to Blondie's in search of a pair of used and cheap bunny boots. For new arrivals, especially graduate students and neophyte mushers, Fredrick's store was the place to go in order to round out one's new arctic winter kit with those funky, white, but impossible to beat bunny boots. It was also a great place just to poke around in, looking at musty dusty odd pieces of this and that, while having a random sort of conversation with Fredrick.

It's been a number of years since I was in his store, but I drove by it regularly, and seeing its sign somehow always instilled in me a sense of "all is right in this town" - because Blondie's on the corner has just always been part of the scene - at least my scene since I came to this town 20 years ago.

And now it is not. And not because this very kind, slightly odd man closed up one day and went into retirement, but because one, two and possibly three low-lifes decided that it wasn't just enough to rob him. They could have taken all his money, all his cards, all his gear and left him alone. But no, they had to beat and strangle him - even though I am quite sure that initially he welcomed them to his store in same friendly manner he greeted everyone who came in.

Every violent death that occurs in this town and its environs costs all of us a little bit of our humanity. This one is going to extract even more. About the only thing that can be said of this is at least these three were so stupid - or possibly incredibly stupidly arrogant - that they used his cards and were quickly caught. Although this is a heinous crime, it would have been far worse if he had been found dead, with no solid suspects or leads in the case. At least there is reasonable assurance that justice will be done, and that these inhuman useless bits of trash will receive the type of punishment they so richly deserve. There is no excuse for this type of brutal attack, there never is.

Monday, December 22, 2008


T'is nearly the night before Christmas and my tree is dead.

Not slightly brittle, dry and a bit musty, but dead.

Dead: ornaments dragging on the floor and falling off branches which droop and sag. Dead: the softly shurring tinkling, winkling noise as needles shower gently to the floor every time we so much as breathe on it. Dead: its unhealthy and somber shade of brown.

At least I am supposing that is its current color, as I refuse to turn up the lights to really inspect it. Suffice that the Ghost of Tree Past haunts me every time I look over to its corner - I don't need further proof of its deadness exposed in the harsh glare of a full-spectrum light.

This is the second year in a row that my Christmas tree is thoroughly dead even before Christmas Eve.

One might suppose that maybe I went to a bum tannenbaum purveyor, or that I bought it too early. Or put it too close to the woodstove. All excellent questions. And the answer to every one of those is nope, nope, and nope.

Because my blogmate and her S.O. got a tree from the very same place, nearly ten days earlier than mine and have parked theirs right in front of their monitor, and across the room from their wood stove, and, you guessed it, their tree is alive, luscious and vibrantly green.

"Perhaps you did not love it enough", opines CabinDweller's S.O. I laugh manically and throw an ornament (that has rolled off a limp limb) at her head. Didn't love it enough???

Man, I babied that sucker. I didn't make the mistake I did last year - which was to shove it under the dog box and give it a chilly, if not downright freezing, ride home.

Nope, not this time, not this tree. I left the truck engine running while I went and made my choice, so the cab was a cozy 60 degrees or so. It rode up front swathed in its plastic tree bag like some petty Jersey don that ran afoul of Little Nicky Scarfo. Once home, I whisked it into the house, cut several inches off its stump and plopped it immediately into the tree stand filled with fresh water laced with "Keeps-It-Green" (extends tree life! retards needle drop! exclaims the label).

I knew I was in trouble when even before I had finished decorating the tree, the tree had stopped drinking water (retards needle drop! reduces fire hazard!). And I was right. Twelve days later it is deader than dead.

Now I have had real "real" trees (as opposed to the Charlie Brown Alaska trees we all love for their ease in decoration) for several years. Sometimes I have bought them in the first week of December, and one memorable year, I left the tree up til Valentine's Day (though that was due to sloth rather than an especially vigorous tree). Never have I had trees die within two weeks of purchase, except for the past two years.

Which is when I started using "Keeps-it-Green".....hmmmmm.

Friday, December 19, 2008

General Hoosegow-Keeping

Because I am a relatively neat and orderly person who likes to keep lists and because my blog mate appears to have fled the state to go surfing in Mexico or done some other crazed thing in response to SAD - the onerous task of updating the FBI's Little List falls to me.

How appropriate that on or near the date that I first created the list, it's time to note another status change; to wit, John Cowdry's on his way to join his colleagues at the Gray Bar Hotel.

I am thinking that the wife who embroidered the CBC hats might be considering a second run of hats - with a minor addition of yet another "C". That would be CCBC: the Convicted Corrupt Bastards Club.


Santa's The FBI's Little List (First posted in December 2007 - Updated on December 19, 2008)

Tom Anderson : Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Bill Allen: Very, Very, Very Naughty Pled Guilty
Rick Smith: NaughtyPled Guilty
Pete Kott: Naughty and Easy Gray Bar Hotel
Bruce Weyhrauch: Naughty Indicted
John Cowdery: Naughty Indicted, Pled Guilty
Vic Kohring: Naughty Gray Bar Hotel
Ben Stevens: Very Naughty - In the Bag
Ted Stevens: Very, Very Naughty and Haughty - CONVICTED!
Don Young: Naughty and Rude, Under Investigation and Spending $ Like Crazy
Frank Murkowski: Naughty and Slow, Give 'im rope
Jim Clark: Very, Very, Very Naughty Pled Guilty
James C. Hayes: Indicted, Tried and Convicted Gray Bar Hotel
Murilda "Chris" Hayes: Indicted, Pled Out, Gray Bar Hotel

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not Just a Shoe

If I ever get around to compiling a list of defining moments in '08 - the Bush shoe incident will top the list. Seldom has Dubyah given me much to laugh about (lots to cry about, though) during his reign of incompetency, but today's headlines gave me plenty to snicker at.

The act of shoe hurtling is profound. On so many levels.

My first reaction, knowing little about Iraqi culture, was to snort and comment to my attentive canine crew that Dubyah didn't even rate a pie in the face.

But reading further - fortunately the New York Times was astute enough to provide cultural context for its readers - brought me to greater appreciation of the gesture.

Shoe-throwing. The ultimate insult in Iraq. Could it get any better?

And not just one shoe, but two shoes. Muntadar al-Zaidi is my new hero.

Not only do I love the fact that this reporter would stand up and throw his shoes at a man that deserves so much more thrown at him, but that he would do it first with one shoe and a shouted comment, and then with the other (no word as of yet whether reporters now will have to go to press conferences shoeless, or if TSA will implement a ban on all shoes at airports in response to this latest "terrorist" act).

I also greatly appreciate that Iraq has something that is universally understood throughout that country (and I suppose throughout the Arab world) as the insult nonpareil. The US, melting pot that it is, lacks these gestures of ultimacy. We have no single pejorative, no pithy insult or curse that hurtles from deliverer to recipient and leaves no room for alternate interpretation.

My father has always famously (and bitterly) complained that English was a piss-poor language for cursing. He noted that anglo imagination was limited to off-color commentary about sexual intercourse, mothers, and illegitimate offspring, and lacked the breadth of creativity of the Hungarians, who, in addition to the aforementioned subjects, utilize the entire pantheon of Catholic saints, and incorporate their legacy as horse-riding people of the steppes to boot.

How the Iraqi puppet government handles the disposition of their shoe-throwing reporter will be telling. Will it be an all expenses-paid trip to the lovely isle of Cuba on the Gitmo Express? Will he have as his cell mate that other shoe-loving "terrorist" that tried to take down a plane with his sneaks? Prior to the Bush years, no one would seriously consider internment without end as possible for someone who was simply engaging in his right of free expression (which is, after all, nominally what Bush says our government is seeking to secure in Iraq), but nowadays all bets are off.

It takes no stretch of imagination to suspect that Muntadar may pay a serious price for his outburst. One can hope, however, that the court of world opinion will prevail, thus preventing Bush, al-Malaki and their minions from extracting punishment for this very public humiliation. Otherwise, Muntadar might find himself one among the throng of "enemy combatants" rotting away in the tropics.

I realize that by now most will have seen the huge variety of video clips of this incident out on the web, but still, I cant resist embedding one here. It is truly is a fitting coup d' grace to the Bush Era Error.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Empress Sarah

The Empress' New Clothes

About the time I was posting my riff on the the Petite Trianon, my 83-year old father was passing his evenings doing cut & paste old school. Although he chose a different royal as his base upon which to build his Empress Sarah - we hit the same historical period. Clearly, the nut does not fall far from the tree. Here is his handiwork and original captions.

The Empress Sarah After Her $150,000 Makeover