Monday, February 25, 2008

An Open Letter to the Folks at KTUU

Dear KTUU,

There is Kaltag.

There are Upper Kalskag and Lower Kalskag.

However, there is no Kalstag.

NOTE: As of 5:30 p.m., the original story and link which mentioned the fictional town of Kalstag, has been changed to reflect the fact that the shooting occured in Kotlik.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ah, Wind, How I've Missed You


Above: A location north and west of Squarebanks. Posted by CabinDwelller, "on the road" yet off the road system.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Good Uses for Modern Technology

Yes, that is my large monitor that is now most effective as a bulletin board. Why would I be using it for a sticky-note parking lot as opposed to a means to reduce eye strain from using my laptop's smaller screen?

Well, because I have thrown in the towl on trying to debug the many and varied problems with this Sony Vaio (word to the wise - add it to the list of laptops to avoid along with Dells and their fiery batteries). Actually, I love the Vaio because it's feather light, which means it does go everywhere with me. The problem is both technological and administrative - the latter a case of the left hand not working with the right.

Because, see, the campus technology store sells Vaios and Macs. You would think then, that the campus Office of Information Technology, our go-to geeks for help, would support Vaios and Macs. And you would be wrong.

They support Macs and Dells (those of the burning batteries and other annoying aspects), but not Sonys. Sooooo, when my Vaio went paws up when I tried to plug in an external hard drive, and - heaven forbid - a printer, I was pretty much SOL. Except that an OIT tech did valiantly work for over three weeks to rebuild my laptop. And that tech did get the printer and hard drive working at the same time. But then my external monitor quit working. So apparently, more than two peripherals is taking a real gamble on this particular model (believe you me, whenever I plug in something else, like my camera or shuffle, I hold my breath -waiting for the whole thing to crap the bed).

At which point, I quit and decided the monitor worked best as a post-it board.

And never mind about the DVD drive that from day one refused to write to read/writable CDs and DVDs - nope it won't write and it won't play DVDs. Since a fix of that magnitude requires sending the whole kit and caboodle back to Sony, I now use, in a nod to that iconic Dilbert cartoon, the DVD drive as a cup holder.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Hayes Chronicles #2: PTL, Squarebanks Style

Remember the days of Praise the Lord, runny mascara and holy(--ier than thou) men like Jim who didn't practice what they preach? The fly on the wall isn't insinuating that LOVCOGIC approached anything near to the likes of a PTL, but there are parallels. Call it PTL, Squarebanks Style.

First, there are the delusions of grandeur that come at a cost to the congregation. Both couples counted on the strength of people's faith and their willingness to trust their religious leaders to do their best to live moral and ethical lives. Second, both couples benefited materially from those faithful -- who, in the case of LOVCOGIC, were willing enough to believe that their charismatic pastor had indeed effected a miracle -- that somehow, just in the nick of time, when the coffers were completely empty, God blessed them with more money to continue construction of their beautiful new church. That the money arrived via fraud, conspiracy and money laundering, and not by divine dispensation I doubt ever occured to anyone in the congregation. Certainly there were suspicions, but when voiced, rapidly and thoroughly squelched by Pastor and Mother Hayes.

So, on the backs of the faithful and the tax payers, here is what Squarebanks' own Bakker-esque couple achieved:
  • a Mercedes and a Jaguar (admittedly used), because a former mayor "deserves a mayor car"*,
  • a Rolex for him, gold and diamond jewelry for her,
  • clothes, manicures, trips, geegaws for them and their family that yearly outstripped by several orders of magnitude their mad money budget allowed by annual earnings and savings,
  • a plasma TV,
  • an ornamental lighthouse (with operational light and fog horn) in front of
  • a new 1/2 million dollar house, trading up from their more modest home of roughly two decades,
  • a new truck,
  • a 21,000 square foot church complete with the James C. Hayes Fellowship Hall,
  • a church sound and projection system a la the megachurches,
  • a $2K fountain out front same church, and
  • enough musical instruments to back up the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

It's never good to sit at the ringside of someone's trainwreck, even a trainwreck of their own making. This was a church built by family -- the father of Mother Hayes, and it had and probably still has a devoted and solid congregation. Not only does the congregation suffer from the fallout of the transgressions of its leaders, but so does a wholly unrelated entity.

Because the collateral damage in this little PTL scandal was Love In the Name of Christ, or Love, Inc... a small social services organization that does a lot of good in this community. It has suffered from the similarity in names (which the fly on the wall is not wholly unconvinced was coincidental) -- as many who were unaware that there were two different "Loves" assumed Love Inc. was the one under investigation by the FBI.

Pride goeth before a fall... an axiom Pastor and Mother Hayes would have done well to have remembered.

* Jim Hayes, during testimony

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Hayes Chronicles #1: Pimp My Bathroom

What’s with the obsession of the nouveau riche, crooked CEOs and other white-collar criminals with tricked-out bathrooms? There’s the Donald with his faucets of gold, and Kozlowski, former CEO of Tyco and now denizen of some federal pen, who showered behind gold-threaded shower curtains worth six grand.

Here, in Squarebanks, the fly on the wall in the recent trial of Jim Hayes, former city mayor and pastor of Lily of the Valley, Church of God in Christ (otherwise referred to by the prosecution as LOVCOGIC), learned that one of the centerpieces of the prosecution’s exhibits were fancy bathrooms for the offices of Pastor and Mother Hayes. No gold here, that’s too uptown for Squarebanks, but the word was that the bathrooms in the newly built church were furnished with “high-end” fixtures (as testimony goes) picked out by the Mrs.

It’s a crap shoot as to what constitutes high-end up here*, that was never really made clear by the prosecution, and the pics were far to murky to really tell whether that was marble on the counters or just some fancy Corian. Regardless, the bathrooms were part of a long list of no-nos that constituted inappropiate use of some of the 3 million of federal money that was granted, not for fancy faucets, but for mentoring and tutoring programs for the kids on Southside. No word from the Pastor or the Mother as to whether the kids got to use the fancy commodes, or if those were off limits.

*especially since a blue foam seat in an outhouse is considered by many, many Fairbanksans to be "high-end".

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Greetings from a Place Not Squarebanks

Although it is pretty cold here, too

Hey y'all, let me just throw out a quick gloat about how I managed to leave the Interior on business at exactly the right time to miss the cold spell. Whoo-hoo!

Not much to tell you from here, but I think I've confirmed the fact that although the Interior gets ridiculously cold, the coast certainly can compete because of: 1) Actual moisture in the air and 2) Wind.

But someone could make a fortune if they came up with an inexpensive kit to put an oil pan heater and block heater on a snowmachine. (Or whatever the equivalent useful item might be.)

I've added two new Alaskan blogs over there on the right, SCAN Alaska and Fairbanks Pedestrian. Give them a look, they're good, wholesome progressive fair guaranteed to lower your cholesterol by 50 points. Or at least they make good reading.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Musings on the CabinDwelling Life, Part XI: Busted!

Greetings from a location far north and west from the usual CabinDwelling environs. I'm sort of on vacation, at least from Squarebanks, although technically I am out here working.

It is near-Fairbanks level cold, with the addition of a bit of moisture and wind. As the saying goes, alapaa, ala-frickin-paa.

So, yes, before I left the Interior, I managed to finally bust the handle of the maul featured in the great big honking photo at the top of the blog.
It was -40ish, which is a great time to split wood because of the fact that everything is more brittle in the cold. But it made the already pretty decrepit handle brittle, too, leading to its not unforeseen demise.

The maul, one we found in the yard and put to use helping on the whole cabin-heating-quest thing, finally crapped out as I was splitting wood for the night. I could feel the thing starting to give, so I tried to split wood as gently as possible to prolong the life of the maul. That didn't work.

I found that it is very difficult to do anything gently with a maul.

There was enough wood split for the next 24 hours or so - but what to do? How to get the wood out of the maul head with as little effort or risk of injuring myself with power tools? As usual, I turned to the very sage Flic. Her suggestion? Throwing the head with the remainder of the handle still in it into the woodstove and let the fire do the work, which sounded a much simpler solution than all those I found online by Googling 'how to replace maul head.' Most of the those sites consisted of a number of dudes arguing about what was the proper and best weight maul head to use.

I'd give you a picture of the maul head in the stove, except for the fact that I'm sitting several hundred miles away from the computer on which the pictures resides. Trust me, it was cool and it was a cinch to install the new handle.

I'll be gallavanting all over the state for the next few weeks, so Flic is going to keep you all entertained while I'm gone.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Alaska Avant-Garde

Having decided it was time that I leaven my (quasi)* cabindwelling life with a little cultcha, I went to a percussion recital the other night up at the U. The big draw about it? It was free.

It was also put on by a new term-funded** music professor who comes to Alaska with an impressive resume. What I know about modern music you could put on the head of a pin with room to spare, but even I could tell this was going to be very “avant-garde".

Despite being a music philistine, I liked two pieces very much, and a third –where only the body, the whole body and nothing but the body was the percussion instrument – was interesting to say the least, but a fourth could have been a viable substitute for waterboarding.

Certainly, no hint of the aural torture about to come was evident – it was merely a very hefty triangle suspended on a tall stand with two microphones strategically placed. Yes, the lowly triangle: best known as the instrument assigned to the most uncoordinated and musically inept kids in the school band. Those of you used to associating little tinker-bell sounds with a triangle, well, let me tell you, the thing is capable of a whole lot more in a register better fit for bats.

As he belabored the triangle with a sharp, rather sinister-looking metal stick, it began emitting the most irritating, high-pitched humming/buzzing I have ever heard. In a flash, I was one with the canine universe – why dogs howl at sirens a mystery no more. It seemed nothing could possibly relieve the unrelenting pressure building in my ears except to throw back my head and let loose one of my best sled dog howls.

Welcome to avant-garde, Alaskan style.

*qualifier: While I don’t live in a cabin per se (it’s a regular little suburban one storey small box) because I have a toilet, running water, and a washer/dryer, in many respects I have yet to shake most of the cabindwelling life off of me – my paltry faculty salary dictates that I still shower at the gym, to as to conserve water and electricity costs, I can’t use my 4-wheel drive currently as I have one odd-sized tire because I can’t afford to replace all four at once, and I have quite a few out buildings constructed solely of material scrounged at the dump.

**U-speak for “you aren’t tenure-track, thus we can pay you for shit and reduce your funding opportunities while extracting all of the same committee, teaching, publication and research commitments out of you as tenure-track”. I know of what I speak because I too occupy this ninth circle of academic hell. Not quite as deep in the shits, though as adjuncts – at least we get to use the word “faculty” when self-describing.