Thursday, July 31, 2008

That's It, I've Had It

If the weather MUST be rain, rain, and more rain, screw it. What do Squarebanksans cite as the reason to live here despite the serious winter cold? The summer. The summer which usually is warm and frequently sunny. The summer which has not materialized here.

I'm going to Nome. Might as well deal with coastal weather on the coast; at least the fishing is better. Might as well burn up some Alaska Airlines mileage, too, because I suspect that the requirements for awards will continue to sneak upward; that or they go away entirely at some point.

Posting shall be a possibility, but I'm promising nothing at this point. I'm going fishing. And there is a strong possibility of a bar crawl, too.

Back to you, Flic.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

No Longer a Grasshopper

That's right, I'm a freaking ant.

No more of that waiting until late fall to sort the firewood situation. Nope. At right, the woodpile as it now sits in the top of the driveway.

Flic was giving me some guff about how I'd been neglecting my blogular duties of late. In my defense, I just spent a week hauling firewood.

Tell you what though - we are living in what those who like to use the ten cent words might call a "paradigm shift." Fuel oil is crazy expensive. The majority of homes built here in the last three decades were built on the premise of forever cheap oil and the "we don't need no stinking building codes" mentality.

Suddenly, our decades held notions about fuel efficiency, conservation and house size are being challenged by the realities of our pocketbooks. And it is even shaking out in the wood market. Suddenly, the prospect of a wood stove is looking mighty attractive to people. Rod's Saw Shop was so busy with would-be woodcutters that when I called about buying a refurbished saw, I was told they hadn't had time to refurbish any; they had 300 saws they were working on for people. Independent operators are now selling wood for over $300 a cord. I was paying $175 last winter.

It is having ramifications in the housing market. Despite what we're being told in the media about the housing market, I'm seeing a lot of homes for sale out here in the Valley. And as I've houseshopped this year, I've been keeping in mind that the bigger the house, the more I have to spend to heat it. I've also not bothered with far out places I might have considered when gas was $1.30 (only a few years ago.)

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

The day after the Men in Black lit a blow torch under Uncle Ted, the papers are predictably filled with the panderings of fellow politicians and others who have benefited from his dodgy behavior and/or are cut of the same cloth.

Under the lead line, Deserved Respect, the News Minus shamelessly suggests that perhaps this little indictment matter is insufficient reason not to re-elect the not-Senator-for-Life; can we really say we are surprised by that editorial drift? As if the billions he has directed our way should override the fact that he was actively selling our interests to, apparently, the lowest bidder.

As an aside, Stevens is following the same “cheap trick ” vein as Kott. After all, you would think the longest-seated Senator in US history would be more expensive than some renovations to a 1970’s suburban box – oh but I forgot, there is no implied qui pro quo here, these were simply gifts*.

Or, as the (not-so) Honorable Stevens says:” [I] paid every bill that [I] was given”. Ah, but that’s the rub, isn’t it? It's those bills Uncle Ted should have been given by VECO contractors that are causing the problems here. I wonder how much in legal fees that masterful sentence quoted above cost him.

And that’s the thing of it. Lying and obfuscation has become so much the norm in this administration, it's just business as usual. Perhaps it's best said by Dubyah, who had this to say about Senator Stevens back in ’02: “There is no question. You know where he stands in the great Alaskan, and for that matter, the great Texas tradition.” Uh, that tradition wouldn’t happen to involve being deceitful, greedy, arrogant and lackeys of Big Oil, now would it Mr. Prez? Like always recognizes like.

Bottom line is, there is no excuse for cheating or lying. Isn’t that what we teach our kids? It flies in the face of family values they like to espouse for the News Miner and other conservatives to suggest that Stevens' long history of bringing home the bacon is reason to keep him in office. It is not up to Alaskans to mitigate or minimize the severity of a federal criminal indictment through "respectful debate or discussion" as the paper’s editor suggests. There is no discussion to be had.

There is only one person responsible for the loss of respect, privilege and advantage and for the tarnishing – if not outright shellacking – of a career that could have ended very nobly indeed, and that is Ted. Personal responsibility. Another family value.

I always did think that the Anchorage International Airport was a very serviceable name.

*Personally I find the cheap rate at which our legislators and congressional delegation “allegedly” (that’s getting to be a word that is hard to use with a straight face anymore when it comes to the even dozen politicians under investigation) traded influence and votes for to be embarrassing – if you are going to be an “alleged” crook, at least do it in high style, and go for something that is worth hiding offshore.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FBI Boats Barn Door Size Fish: Uncle Ted

I was sleeping in, on a day off, when Flic called from her vacation in Nome. "Did you hear?"

This morning, presumed Senator for Life Ted Stevens was indicted on seven charges of falsifying income. The charges relate to renovations of his house completed and gifts received, detailed so well in the ADN. Cough. VECO. Again.

Who really thought, back when the FBI first kicked open the door on the sad, Big Oil co-opted mess of Alaskan politics, that they might actually get to any of Big Three? Sure, a state representative here, maybe a lobbyist there -- but so long had Senator Ted Stevens, (former) Sen. Frank Murkowski and Rep. Don Young been in charge, not only could no one else really recall anyone else doing the job, we cynical, "Red State" progressives could not imagine that they might actually be vulnerable to anything other than, say, their own mortality.

That's why we call him Senator For Life Ted Stevens.

And it is funny, not in a "ha ha" way, but in a peculiar way, that what might be his undoing is not any of the big stuff like the Abramoff scandal or some of the dodgier fisheries stuff, no, it comes back to Bill Allen and what was the oil industry giant, VECO, our in-state mess.

And that all started in a room at the Baranof Hotel with some of our legislators selling themselves on the cheap, swilling booze and using language more commonly associated with a construction site, all recorded on tape. The FBI has built this case very carefully, starting with the little fish and slowly moving up the food chain. (Edited on 7-29 to remove insane mixed metaphor.)

Time to update Flic's list, which I must confess, forgot to include State Sen. John Cowdery. In our defense, there were so many, who can keep track?

Santa's The FBI's Little List --- (First posted in December 2007 - Updated 7-29-08)
Tom Anderson : Naughty Convicted Gray Bar Hotel
Bill Allen: Very, Very, Very Naughty Plead Guilty
Rick Smith: Naughty Plead Guilty
Pete Kott: Naughty and Easy Convicted Gray Bar Hotel
Bruce Weyhrauch: Naughty Indicted
John Cowdery: Naughty Indicted
Vic Kohring: Naughty Indicted Convicted Gray Bar Hotel
Ben Stevens: Very Naughty In the Bag
Ted Stevens: Very, Very Naughty and Haughty In the Bag Under Investigation and Getting Grumpier by the Minute INDICTED
Don Young: Naughty and Rude In the Bag Under Investigation and Spending $ Like Crazy
Frank Murkowski: Naughty and Slow Give 'im rope
Jim Clark: Very, Very, Very Naughty There's always hope Plead Guilty

Monday, July 28, 2008

Snuffed Out

Women's locker room, Nome Recreation Center

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Leave it to Beavo

Beavo, Bufus and the Bar, otherwise known as the Three B's, original owners of Dexter Roadhouse. Hardcore Nomeites and other visitors need no introduction to the Roadhouse, pictured at right, since they know it well as the place to go after the bars close at 2:00 AM.

Which is exactly where I ended up last night - in the first car to reach the Dexter after the lights came on in the B.O.T.

We did Front Street. Started at the Polar Bar, then worked our way down the row: B.O.T., Breakers, and the Anchor, and then back again - finally winding down (or up) at the B.O.T. where we rocked out under the disco ball winking through a fog of cigarette smoke.

What I drank: (1) Duck Fart (followed by a beer chaser), (1) Margarita (naturally followed by beer), (1) Jagermeister shot (followed by beer, you sense a pattern here), (1) green shot of something wicked strong, ordered on the strength of a tray of them going by in the B.O.T., (another beer), and then finally to wind it up, a T&T at the Dexter Roadhouse that I swear was pure gin.

That finished me. I got roped into a game of bean bags. Fortunately I am familiar with the game thanks to transplanted Nomeites* in Squarebanks. Unfortunately, I had shot past that window of alcohol-induced skill in beanbags, and came nowhere near close to hitting the board, let alone the hole. But I did hit very well our opponents on the other team. But then, my teammate was faring no better, nor were our opponents, so our game dissolved into a bunch of wildly flying beanbags interspersed with much hilarity and booze.

I oozed home about 5:30, but the party was still going strong at the Dexter.

A couple of laps around my guest shack in my PJs (and up and down 1st Ave) to stave off the queasies got me ready to sleep pass out, which I comfortably did by employing an old trick I learned in college: keep one foot on the floor to make the room stand still.

Four hours later I was up. Poured a couple cups of joe in me, downed a couple of aspirin, and headed out to Salmon Lake and Pilgrim River to fish. Hey, the sun was shining, no way I was going to lose a rare sunny day here to a hangover.

Yes, indeed, partied like a rock star Nomeite. And to boot, did it with no one peeing on my shoes, or spraying me with puke. I did, however, have to ask the three questions**.

*here a shout out is due to CabinDweller and her S.O. for introducing me to to the fine art of playing beanbags, either sober or half-shot.
** 1) Do you have a job? 2) Do you have a place to live? c) do you have a criminal record?

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Were Nevil Shute, Stanley Kramer*, George Miller and Mel Gibson once Nomeites?

Miners Camp, West Beach, Nome

You gotta wonder. Australians have a penchant for producing "after-the-apocalypse" movies, but their imagery is pure Nome.

* Author and producer, respectively, of the 1959 classic "On the Beach"; Mel Gibson of course needs no introduction as Mad Max, George Miller wrote and co-directed the Mad Max series.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Gone Fishing

The usual excuse: I've been busy.

Lately, it was dipnetting, that most Squarebanksian of activities. The fishing had slowed down, but following the simple advice of "keep your net in the water" helps.

It wears out a 38 year-old body, though. I swear, an enterprising massage therapist could set up a table right by the landing site or in the campground, and make a killing. I'd have paid for one and gladly.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Somewhere on the Lower Yukon

No plumbing? No problem. Here's an example of the great ingenuity that abounds in bush Alaska: a five gallon bucket, some copper tubing and a Coleman burner hooked up to a conventionally plumbed bathtub and shower. Just read the instructions first, and mind the shower curtain!

Sunday, July 06, 2008

WANTED: Clean Fill

This afternoon when I took the spotted dog for a walk on a trail we frequently use, we found this:

A huge pile of dog shit smack in the middle of the trail

Well, actually we smelled it first. I thought the adjoining dog yard was mighty pungent, but wrote it off to the weather. Nope. It was a huge pile of dog poop, right where we walk, ski, snow shoe, and pick berries. I'd estimate about a 20-dog dog yard winter's worth.

So, I casually stopped by the neighbor's after my walk, and noted that, well, uh, they had dumped all of their dog shit right in the middle of an established trail. True, it's not much used except by a few neighborhood people, and true, it's right on the edge of their property.

I expected to hear something along the lines of: "oh sorry, we didn't realize people were still using this trail and we will find somewhere else on our 40-acre property to dump it."

Instead, I got this, delivered with a totally deadpan face:"We are filling in low spots in the trail."

Poop as fill.

First I have heard of that. Soooooo, what happens when the low spot fills with water as they usually do? How does one "walk" or say, take an ATV, through a low spot filled with poop? Poop not's firm, nor hard, and it gets really, really nasty when wet. How on earth can it fill in anything other than an outhouse hole?

I was- to say the least - dumbfounded. Since I thought she was joking, I at first laughed, but she wasn't. Finally I requested that perhaps another material, such as slash or pecker poles be considered as trail filler, and was advised they would take that under consideration.

Guess I'll be re-routing that trail next weekend.

Another Cabin Dwelling Mystery Explained

OK - so to be precise, I don't live in a cabin anymore - because nearly eight years ago I moved on up and got plumbing (although I didn't move on up to the hills, so I still freeze my bottom off down here in the Valley). Still, in important ways I remain closer to cabin-dwelling than not - one only has to tour my little enclave of Alaska-Appalachia to figure that out - from the press plate-roofed woodshed, to the chicken coop made of dumpster-salvaged wood and scraps.

But whether in cabin or plumbed "bungalow" (a quaint term for the rectangular T-11 box I currently reside in), I have always gardened - and I have always had a lot of containers planted with flowers and veggies. And every single year, they have been dug in by little red rats (aka red squirrels). At first, I assumed they were squirreling stuff away in the planters - so I looked for little caches of sunflower seeds.

None to be found.

Then I assumed they were eating the plant roots - nope, generally what plants didn't get dug out by the little bastards survived. Finally last week, I found out what it is red rats are after in the planters ... salt.

Salt from the liquid fertilizers, salts from the water. As I sat on my deck reading, I watched this particular fellow go from container to container, digging below the soil line and licking (and at times chewing) at the salt line left from years of watering and fertilizing plants. It didn't miss a one, and at every one, it dug in to get to the evaporation line.

Easy enough to fix in coming summers. And no, I don't use .22. They just come back. I tend to prevention rather than intervention. Besides flushing containers to wash out the salts is better for the plants anyway.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

And now for something completely different...


Never doubt that I have some things to add to the latest offering from CabinDweller. Kudos to same for the top drawer and simple web research (nothing legislative staffers or gung ho enviros couldn't have done as well when preparing for and lobbying for this energy rebate deal) that points out some significant omissions in the current proffer of solutions to the great crude energy juggernaut* that is about to roll over us all.

But sometimes it is simply necessary to ignore these shibboleths and just take time to, well, take in chickens.

Chicken-watching: its the new Lexapro for this blogger.

Frequently, the end of the work day finds me sitting in my chicken coop with a glass of wine (or coffee if the evening's plans call for energetic efforts in garden, chopping wood, or socializing), watching chickens.

There is something supremely peaceful, nay zen-like, in observing these birds go about their avian business. There is the highly energetic scratching and shuffling, looking for bugs, grubs and other tasty treats. There is the favored dust pit in coop corner where the hens battle it out for the chance to get down and dirty, and then there is just the simple contemplation of a species born bipedal with no additional means to obtain food except by pecking. Of course, this is true of all birds, but somehow it has intrigued me most with chickens; perhaps this is the outcome of just too much wine in the coop.

Chickens do not deserve their reputation as being very stupid. That is true of the "bred to be dead" Cornish Cross meat birds, who waddle around like mini T-Rexs on steroids, but not true of layers, or your basic barn yard run chicken. Chickens have personalities and they are quite engaging. Then again, perhaps this particular paen to chickens could also be attributed to too much wine, then and now.

Regardless, I do think that sitting with the chickens (not to be confused with running with the bulls or dancing with the wolves) beats Lexapro hands down. Its cheaper, there are no side effects, and no withdrawal. Best of all, there's fresh eggs, and a ready and willing recycle team for weeds, veggies past their prime, stale bread and other leftovers.

* coined by the Brits during their empiric occupation of India; derived from the Sanskrit Jagannatha , one of the many names of Krishna, and referencing the multi-ton chariots carrying statues of Krishna that at times crushed festival participants.