Thursday, April 30, 2009

There's No Place Like Nome on TV (Yet)

I've often said that getting off the plane in Nome is stepping into a whole, separate reality.

There are many places on earth that I love, but none really can compete with Nome. Dear, boozy, charming, strange, and to be absolutely truthful here, sometimes just heartbreaking Nome. Quirky doesn't quite cover it. Nor does offbeat. And I should be surprised by the recent news I received via our System of Tubes, but the fact is, it is just so ... fitting.

Word via The Internets is that TLC, home to many a reality show, has agreed to pick up a reality show filmed in the town whose best motto is, "It's not the end of the line, but you can see it from here."

Yep. Reality teevee. In Nome. I'm only sad that it comes after the demise of two of the town's older institutions: Fat Freddies and The Glue Pot. (RIP.) The world really missed out on an opportunity to see either of those two places.

A production crew spent some time there this winter getting footage, and it remains to be seen if the network will go beyond the two episodes initially ordered. It also is uncertain if the whole thing will have a touristy gloss or truly capture the unreality of the place.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Silent Spring

It's been a long time since I logged in to blog. Long enough that there have been upgrades and changes to blogspot that I didn't even know about. Even increasingly pointed hints from my blog mate about how she was carrying the water alone didn't bestir me. If anything, 'Dweller's recent grand slam of pointedly funny pieces about La Palinista pushed me even further into blog slothdom.

Partly, my on-line absence has come about from circumstance. I have been on the roam this spring - spending a lot of time suspended above snow-covered vistas in a six-seater - finding my way to other places, mostly places that don't have easily accessible long distance service, let alone an internet hook up. There have been spring carnivals to go to, snow shoe races to run, fiddle dances and potlatches to attend. It's been evenings spent playing cribbage, watching basketball, and westerns that play over and over again in village homes, like Lonesome Dove and Dancing with Wolves.

But mostly, I have been suffering (and still am) from blog-block. Sure, there have been little itches here and there that I have put aside to scratch through postings, but they never amounted to much beyond some random thoughts.

My blogger-block isn't coming from a lack of worthy topics - quite the opposite. It's a veritable smorgasbord out there. I am feeling exactly the same sense of being overwhelmed into stupor as I do when I enter a Barnes and Noble and am faced with all of the 1000s of titles among which to choose just one, or maybe two.

It's sensory overload what with the Alaska political freak show led by La Palinista. Should it be a riff on the thieving sister-in-law who is such a dullard she robs the same place three times in a row (why not just grab the spoons the first time around???), or the growing dust-up between Levi and First Baby Mama over baby Tripp? Will the trash ever stop falling out of the trailer?

Or how about Palin's nauseating protracted use of her Down's Syndrome baby as political prop for her national pretensions? It's hard to overlook that her continued bleating about every child a wanted child totally ignores the fact that Alaska is among the top ten, if not the top five, in the nation for child abuse and neglect. As for educating those wanted children, fuggedabout dat in Alaska - La Palinista turned down the education stimulus funds, and you can betcha that education, domestic violence prevention and enhanced child welfare services are not at the top of her policy check list.

And it just goes on and on. Her ceaseless whingeing about the legal fees she's incurred because of "baseless" ethics violations, and the dupes that are paying into her legal fund. Natch, if she would just do the job she was elected to do, instead of carrying on like the Queen of Preen with a sense of entitlement as big as this state, most of that problem would melt away like the spring snows.

But there is no stopping her. She is a a caricature of a caricature of a caricature. Who could have imagined back in the twilight days of Frank the Bank that - gasp - it is possible to have a governor who is worse than him! Yet here we are in that very situation. Maybe the Queen of Preen doesn't exactly make Frank the Bank look good, but she certainly does make him appear, well, less bad.

Because while he was indisputably arrogant, he at least was politically savvy. Palin on the other hand is not only arrogant, she is a very dim bulb in the political chandelier. Therein lies the mother of all problems: she believes she is a political strategist of the highest order, sort of like the Condy of the Last Frontier. She believes this, I am quite sure, in the very same unquestioning, unshakable manner in which she believes that the Rapture is imminent, and that Alaska is the place to be during the tribulation.

And, it goes without saying - that makes her dangerous, dangerous in ways that Frank the Bank never was.

Oh Crap

Looks like no commercial fishing for kings on the Yukon this summer.

Okay, now, can anyone foresee that there might be a problem in winter 2010? Something similar to this past winter? Maybe, uh, start planning now? Hello? Anyone in state government at home?

The Lower Yukon villages that have relied on commercial fishing for kings for their income (pay the bills, buy gas to go hunting, buy gas to go fishing for other stuff, take care of the winter's bills) may end up hurting again. Top it off with with subsistence restrictions and ... wow.

Of course, many of the upriver folks haven't even had a commercial fishery for kings to rely on to this point. Subsistence fishing restrictions are going to hit the Yukon hard this year.

But hey, don't worry, priorities are in order here on the Last Frontier. At least we're going to be growing more fish to stock lakes in the Fairbanks region. Per yesterday's FDNM:
"The goal is to double the number of fish that are stocked in Interior lakes and ponds to meet increasing demand from Alaska anglers."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Happy Birthday to Us! Number Three.

Okay, technically, we turned three yesterday. This morning I vaguely remembered it was around this time of year (breakup, of course) that I finally just had "had it!" and was annoyed enough by my day job and the state of the world (Bush, Murkowski, etc.) that I started fiddling with Blogspot.

Since then, of course, I've shed the stupid day job and got a proper job, moved out of my dry cabin and mourned the loss of my late great Subaru Loyale, Francesca.

Three years of so-so layout, near endless sentences and not an insignificant number of posts about poop. All anonymously, or semi-anonymously at this point. I figure if I ever have something so earth shatteringly important and had to put it up online, I'd go ahead and out myself.

Y'all might be waiting a while.

But yet, here we are, tiny and humble and grumpy. People still come here, which, honestly, shocks me. I thought I'd share some of the keywords that brought readers to FBH recently:
  • what to do with the slop bucket water in a dry cabin
  • taco king fairbanks
  • fiery blazing handbasket
  • appearnace
  • alaska airline is it on this month of april?
  • sarah palin
  • cougar rock road
  • carolyn mark rumour
  • anchored down in anchorage
  • opec capital
  • libby reynolds iditard
At least 'Maxi Mounds' is off the list after something like a year on it. After Flic posted about, uh, something a while ago, any number of people looking for a ridiculously oversized set of implant boobs kept landing here. I suspect they were more than a bit disappointed.

As for those of you led here by the slop bucket question, the answer is simple: take it out away from the cabin and dump it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Breakup: 100 Years of Attitude

"As the time approaches when we may reasonably hope to be released from our winter quarters, it is a curious fact that everyone seems to be more impatient and irritable than during the winter months. It is possible that the excessively long days now make it more difficult to get a sufficient amount of sleep, and this may account in a measure for the phenomena. Be that as it may, the fact remains that everyone is more or less distraught and uncommunicative. Even the dogs seem to share in the general feeling of gloomy irritability, and from having been as a usual thing extremely affectionate and playful, are now ill natured, quarrelsome, and morose."

-- from "Report of the U.S. Revenue Steamer Nunivak on the Yukon River Station, Alaska, 1899-1901," by First Lieutenant J.C. Cantwell, R.C.S.

Monday, April 20, 2009

At least we'll always have Marmot Day...

Let it not be said by the nattering nabobs of negativism that our Lege accomplished nothing in this recently concluded session. Why, I can think of several accomplishments:
  • On April 18th, state reps voted 38-0 to establish February 2nd as Marmot Day.
  • On April 6th, state reps voted 31-6 to designate the Alaska Malamute as the official state dog.
  • In keeping with the animals theme, the House passed HB 6, which expands the definition of animal cruelty laws to include bestiality.
  • Someone actually noticed that the Board of Fish was leaning even more heavily towards commercial interests. Palin's nominee, Brent Johnson, was rejected 42-16 in a joint session.
  • In a move vaguely reminiscent of the evolution of Alaskan marijuana laws, the Senate passed a bill outlawing the installation of tinted windows in cars and trucks. Note: it was already illegal to drive with them.
  • Minimum wage in Alaska will rise, eventually, to $7.75 an hour and remain at least 50 cents above the federal minimum.
  • It's been a long, difficult road for those who wish to end the scourge of Daylight Savings Time. As FBH readers themselves may know from personal experience, that one hour change twice a year is just hell. When it's been below minus 40 for over a week, and dark, and I truly dread going outside for more firewood, sometimes I remind myself, "Hey, at least tomorrow we don't have to spring ahead an hour." That does offer me some comfort. This legislative effort has stalled numerous times since 1999, but made it through the House as HB19 in 2009. As a public service, we have reprinted the following statement made by one legislator who introduced such a bill in 2002, offered by the bill's author, from a Juneau Empire story:
"It's just another one of those little hassles in life that you don't need," said Rep. Ken Lancaster, a Soldotna Republican and author of House Bill 409 to end daylight-saving time in Alaska. "Twice a year everybody is late for work or forgets to set their clocks," he said. "This year it's on a Sunday, so everybody is going to be late for church."

Actually, daylight-saving time always begins on the first Sunday in April and continues until the last Sunday in October, when clocks are set back to standard time. But the adjustment can be confusing to anyone.

The list could go on and on.

Clearly, the 90 day session is working out for everyone involved. Sarah Palin has 30 less days she needs to spend working on state business, freeing her up to lend herself to various causes near and dear to Alaskans: the outcome of the Texas gubernatorial race, the outcome of the gubernatorial race in Georgia and uh.... a Right to Life event in Indiana. She still had plenty of time to make some thoughtful, considered appointments to state positions: Wayne Anthony Ross, Brent Johnson, Tim Grussendorf, Joe Nelson, Alan Wilson. And hey, let's not forget -- she had time to visit Emmonak Russian Mission.

Never one to get out of a session without getting at least one stupid, ill-informed, offensive remark into the press, Mike Kelly, Mr. Representing My Neck of the Woods Thanks to 5 Stupid Voters, did not disappoint, even though he had 30 less days in which to speak in public on our behalf. Mr. Kelly had what I will from now on refer to his 'Let them cut wood" moment. Blue Oasis picked up on this one from the ADN, and it is just too awesome not to quote:
Saturday began with a confrontation in the House Finance Committee about what to do in regard to high energy costs in rural Alaska. The Legislature is poised to appropriate $9 million statewide for low-income heating assistance programs to assist. But Fairbanks Rep. Kelly said he thought it was supposed to be a one-time appropriation last year, and state revenues have dropped.

He said there are other programs for people who are needy and "not for any layabouts."

"I'd rather tell the guy, go out there and cut your own wood or do something for yourself. ... I don't know how many of the 200-plus villages have a wood supply within a rock toss, but there's a lot of them because I've been to a lot of them," he said.

Rep. Woodie Salmon, a Democrat from the village of Chalkyitsik, angrily responded that there have been millions of dollars in state subsidies for urban energy needs.

"They spent millions and millions of dollars on a coal plant, transmission lines, then they retire off the system, and then they don't help the rural areas," he said.

Kelly is the retired president of Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Alaska Airlines: Last in On Time Arrival

Waiting on Weights and Balances, Not the Weather

I was not shocked to read recently that Alaska Airlines had been ranked last in terms of on time arrival of flights for February 2009.

And it would be really easy to blame it on the truly sucky Alaska weather this winter, except for the fact that it is a bogus excuse. In reality, I think the airlines decision to centralize (out of Seattle) some of its operations is the culprit.

I had the occasion in the last few months to fly a bit out in the wonderful world of Northwest (coastal) Alaska. You know, where there were near constant ground storms and blizzards? Snow up to the roofs? Drives home where people navigated reflector to reflector?

Funny thing is, my flights were not affected by weather. In an example of near miraculous luck, I got where I had to go before it stormed every freaking time. (Then it stormed again.)

However, all my flights on Alaska Airlines left at minimum a half hour late. Funny that. In each case, the delays resulted from the employees at a regional hub trying to sort out the weight and balances with the newly centralized operations hqed in Seattle. The pilot announced over the PA system the reason for our delay and apologized. More than once. We sat in the plane on the runway, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30 minutes ... and waited. And waited longer. The only reason I made my connection back through Anchorage was because that flight was running late, too.

I would've not minded, except that upon leaving Anchorage, the pilot blamed our delay on weather (which was just fine, thank you) in the places from which we departed.

I did a quicky Google search for anything on the centralized operations (and weights and balances) and could only find something on this union site.

Friday, April 17, 2009

(Not) Winning the Battle, Losing the W.A.R.

Beyond the obvious problems with the Wayne Anthony Ross nomination, covered virtually everywhere on the System of Tubes, all I can come up with this morning over cup of coffee number two is:

"What the Hell were they thinking?"

Is someone (and her probable boatload of consultants) so foolish as to pick such a no-go candidate for Attorney General just because he is a raging right wing nutjob? Was his anti-abortion stance enough to get the nod? Surely, they could have found another Republican, a qualified one even, to put up for AG. And since the last guy was something of a bust, maybe even look at his credentials and experience? And maybe, you know, vet him a little bit first?

Is the sum total of what La Palinista will offer in 2012 a strong anti-abortion record? Because the view from up here in wilderburbia is that she doesn't seem much interested in the boring job of being governor of Alaska. Nope, too many political events Outside to hit, so little time...

What we need are special updates on the evening news like the ones we get when Santa is traveling on Christmas Eve. "Do you know where Sarah is right now?" "Well, our special tracker has her somewhere over Indiana tonight, Bob."

It'd be helpful.

I've found one positive thing to say about La Palinista's odd, stumbling campaign for some national office in the future. [cough.]

It has driven the stake through the heart of the mythical West on Ice. Obviously, the Euro-Americans among us are not a bunch of pioneers on the homestead, churning our own butter and hitching up the mule to the plow to tame the Last Frontier. (Well, okay. Flic does keep bees. And there are a lot of guys with beards. And we chop a lot of wood. And a few people keep llamas.)

Nonetheless, this is not Little House on the Tundra no matter how many of us can sing "North to Alaska" from memory. Sing with me! "Way up North. Way up north..."

We are as Jerry Springer as the rest of the Lower 48. Our governor hails from the strip mall capital of Alaska. (The Mat Su Borough also being famous for some of the best pot grown in the United States.) And now that everyone is paying attention, the gold camp tourist version is getting harder to peddle, no matter how hard the desperate Lower 48 Republicans want to believe it. And we have La Palinista and her publicity craving immediate and extended family to thank for that.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

T Bag Day: I Suggest an Alternative Beverage

At right, my peoples, is my T Bag day offering:
a nice, strong cup of coffee in my favorite mug.

Good, sensible stuff: great to wake up to, handy to turn a snoozy drunk into an alert one, a nonthreatening it-is-sort-of-a-date move, an "Ohmigod I have four hours to finish this thing?" necessity.

And, frankly, much better for you than whatever the hell kind of Koolaid the rightwingers have been tripping on for the last couple of weeks. Perhaps the T Baggers just need to have a nice, simple cup of coffee and take ten deep breaths?

I've been working long hours lately, out of town, so I've been only casually following Alaska happenings. But due to the circumstances of fate, I had the unforeseen, uh, pleasure, of seeing a bunch of Fox News during that time. And let me tell ya, those people are worked up about something. I'm not sure what. Maybe it is that they lost the election and still haven't gotten over it.

But clearly, the right wing media machine is foaming and fomenting.

It's kind of like that whole 'wear your gun around town' protest that a bunch of Fairbanks hoopleheads held a couple of months ago. (A 'movement' now complete with its own 'task force'!) People were riled over a bill introduced in Congress (one that even Don Young admitted was going nowhere) that would have required state or federal licenses for gun ownership and given the AG power to track sales. That bill was DOA, but the right wing machine ramped up the rhetoric and agita like it was the Second Coming. (Of Stalin.)

Note to wingnuts: I'm one of those Alaskan lefty gun owners; I didn't buy what you were peddling. I did not strut around all day with any of my guns.

And so the strange right wing freak out continues. Last I checked, Obama gave us a tax cut. Ostensibly this costume party is about taxes, but it is more about ... again, remind me what this is about?