Monday, October 26, 2009

An Excellent Read Can Be Found

@ Alaska Dispatch (linked to on the right in the sidebar) regarding the Point Hope caribou story that blew up last year.  I'd say it's 'fair and balanced' but that would probably skeeve you out in a Faux News kind of way.  It was linked to from the ADN's Newsreader, but probably warranted more prominent display.

Only two parts have been posted so far, but it is a thoughtful, well-written article, neither a lynch job nor a romanticization of village life.  Shades of grey, imagine that.

Most interesting perhaps, is the observation on the issue of 'waste' as regards caribou.  Caribou get a lot of nasty diseases.  Agency types repeat the following often when rural folks bring up the fact that they were taught to leave sick/diseased animals in the field:  the meat will be safe to eat if thoroughly cooked.  They overlook the fact that a good portion of caribou meat consumed out in the villages is eaten raw and frozen (quaq) or dried (not cooked.)  Perhaps after the dust from this settles, it might provide an opportunity for rural residents out there in the range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd to talk with agency types about disease identification and the relative safety of uncooked caribou meat.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Behold - the Germstar

On a recent (forced) trip to the lower 48, I had my first encounter with the Germstar, pictured at right.

It appeared one day in the lobby of my hotel. Apparently, the Purell hand sanitizers that were on every counter and table in the lobby were simply not enough. After all, we are in the middle of a pan(ic)demic.

There it was: jellyfish-esque, menacing. Also incontinent. A steady drip of sanitizer emitted from its bottom. Hotel staff addressed this problem by placing a soft towel, frequently changed, beneath the 'star.

As I waited for the elevator, I mused on its name. Clearly a Star Wars reference... to entice the mind ful less consumer to view hand sanitizer as the Force in this battle against evil germs. But wait.

The Death Star dispensed death. So, uh, wouldn't a Germstar dispense germs??

Oops. Someone in marketing was asleep behind the wheel on that one.

I did not then, nor do I ever during the duration of my stay, use the Germstar. This nets me disapproving frowns (Typhoid Mary!) from my fellow elevator users, who do most liberally use the Germstar, especially after I have punched the button with my germ-encrusted finger.

Really, can there be anything else that will ever demonstrate more thoroughly just what a nation of sheeple this country has become than the H1N1 pan(ic)demic?

On the same trip, I caught a news clip of a CDC spokesperson breathlessly holding a news conference about the 86 children who have so far died of H1N1.

Not to diminish the individual loss of these children, but 86? Out of - what- 250 million people? Don't tell me that the spokesperson doctor didn't know that she was spouting hyper BS. Any high school student with a smattering of math and a basic understanding of percentages can stand up and say that 86 out of 250 million isn't just meaningless, it ain't even in the universe of statistically significant.

We sure don't hear about the 1000s of kids that die annually (flu season or not) of suicide, abuse and neglect. It's easier to fear a microbe than it is to face our collective, civic responsibility for the good of the vunerable in our society.

Just put up a Germstar.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Just in Case Winter Decides to Make an Appearance

Happiness is, or is at least increased, by a new pair of bunny boots.

At right: the old pair.

The old set was beginning to get a bit worn.  The tastefully applied duct tape dates back to a dog (then a puppy) with the usual chewing issues.  As the material of the boot aged, the tops were cracking in random spots.  And, in testament to the wonder that is duct tape, I think that that is the original piece I slapped on there. 

I'd had my the old, first pair of bunnies since 1994 when I still thought I would spend a few more months in Alaska and then move back to the Lower 48.  I bought them off a friend's husband (who had very small feet for a dude.)  They were one of the best outdoor gear purchases I've ever made, landing squarely in the sweet spot of price range and foot happiness.  (Unlike, say, those stupid Sorel Caribous which supposedly are great down to minus 20.  To that I say, "Ha!") Yes, they are ugly.  Funny-looking, check.  Heavy.  Unwieldy.  And yes, they are not suited for all temps, for sure, it needs to be cold to break these out, otherwise, ugh, sweaty feet.

At right:  the old pair, so beaten up that the little valve thing to close the bladder in the boot just finally broke off.  On both boots!

Yes, it is a bit silly to get sentimental about a pair of boots, fergodssakes, but these were the boots of my twenties.  My really, really, fun twenties and very nearly all my thirties.  I got good enough to drive stick shift wearing them (no small feat, a ha ha) and could even run in them, if need be -- for short distances of course, I'm not talking training runs.

I'll not ditch the old pair.  They'll be relegated to the ever-accumulating 'spare gear' stash for visitors and folks who don't have proper equipment.  Despite their increasing decrepitude, they'll still keep somebody's feet warm.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Juneau and Alaska Just Lost a Good Man

Richard "Machine Gun" Foster's  house was pink.

Which is absolutely fitting if you have spent any time in Nome specifically or any place else in Bush Alaska for that matter.  Color schemes are not muted, housing associations and covenants don't hold sway other than folks might get a bit pissed if you drop a Conex and a pile of junked cars on the property line, and one's state representative might just walk around in camouflage pants all the time.

He was most famous for the whole big deal made (federal charges, actually) out of his having unregistered machine guns.  And a 50 mm mortar.  As I reckon it, no Nome jury would have a real problem with that.  They are not your garden-variety Fairbanks gun nutters out there, but probably could relate to having a gun collection.  Who wouldn't want someone like that representing you in Juneau?

Oh, and I highly recommend following the link above to read about his trial on the weapons charges in Nome.  The ADN did us a favor by reposting it. Really, go read it right now.

Did I mention he was a Democrat?  That's the kind of Democrat we have here in Alaska, all you Outside people: gun-toting ones.

I most remember the story of one election night when a reporter went to his house to get his reaction to being reeleected (again.)  It took a bit of knocking on the door, as it was late and Foster probably asleep, but he finally answered the door, all disheveled in an undershirt and his tidy whiteys.  They had a brief interview and it was very business as usual.  Really, who needs clothes for an interview on your doorstep?  Ah, Nome. 

Foster died Tuesday in Seattle while undergoing dialysis.  He was waiting on a kidney transplant.  He'd served as a representative for Western Alaska (a district drawn so huge that it would have been a state in the Lower 48) for as long as I can remember.  But his departure leaves The Lege with one less guy (or gal) who 'gets it' -- who understood Bush Alaska and had been around long enough to remember all the various evolutions of the 'rural-urban divide'.

His approach was the pragmatic one.  One of only a few Democrats in The Lege, he voted with the Republican Caucus - and in return, guaranteed a steady flow of capital projects to the communities he represented.  Not all of us liked it, but I think he still reckoned back to a less partisan time in Juneau and wanted to try to work across party lines.  The dude, was just, well, nice.  So much so that one year he quit the caucus largely over what amounted to hurt feelings about a sandwich.  Eventually, they apologized to him and he rejoined.

He was a pilot and a Vietnam veteran.  He was known for telling stories and jokes, many of the 'pull my finger' variety.  He will be missed -- and Juneau will be a lot less colorful (and authentically Alaskan).  Folks in the wilderburbs and suburbs like to talk about being a "Real Alaskan", but Richard truly was. 

Safe travels, Richard.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Fairbanks Area Election Results: A Poor Showing, Indeed

Another election has come and gone here in the heart of Greater Redneckia, and I must say, we really did not impress.

Oh, I'm not commenting on the outcomes of any particular item (yet) but the fact that our voter turnout just, well, sucked.  For the amount of whingeing and ranting prior to the big day about the great threat to wood boilers posed by clean air, not to mention the creeping socialism of trying to eliminate the ubiquitous plastic shopping bag*, one might expect a vigorous display of participation in the process.  From a town with a significant military presence and a truly impressive number of flag decals on vehicles, one might expect a little more enthusiasm for the most basic act of living in a democracy representative form of gummint.  Ya know, exercise that right that we've supposedly been sending our troops all over to protect?

But no.  As to outcomes, the city sales tax didn't pass which should come as no surprise to anyone with a faint acquaintance with Fairbanks.  I suppose I should be happy, as a not-city resident, but I do have to rely on its services while I am present in the city, which is at minimum five days a week. But fortunately for myself and all those who don't live within its bounds and therefore (do not) pay property tax in the city, Fairbanksans hate taxes so much more than your average tax hating American that they will scuttle any attempt to do something about paying for necessary services like roads and cops and the nice people who run into burning buildings for a living.  So, uh, thanks for the free ride guys.

We have a run-off election for borough mayor to look forward to, and a clearer distillation of the political spectrum around here could not be found in the two candidates left standing:  Luke Hopkins and Tammie Wilson.  Hopkins is, to a certain segment of the local population, the face of creeping socialism, unionism, and flaming liberalism despite his having rolled over on the plastic bag tax issue, being a wood burner himself, and possessing a skilled trade (carpentry.)  In other parts of the world, he might be considered moderate - but well, it's all about location.  Wilson, and this is the funniest description of the other end of the spectrum I've heard recently, is described by the News Minus as a 'private property rights advocate.'  Need I go further? 

*Known in other parts of state as the "scourge of Western Alaska."